The War Hoax Redux. How to Start Another War

January 3rd, 2020 by Edward Curtin

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America’s hegemonic military agenda has reached a dangerous threshold: The assassination of  IRGC General Soleimani ordered by Donald Trump on January 2, 2020 is tantamount to an Act of War against Iran.

US Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper described it as a “decisive defensive action” while confirming that the operation ordered by Donald Trump had been carried out by the Pentagon. “The game has changed” said Defense Secretary Esper.  

This incisive article by Edward Curtin first published in June 2019 intimates that Trump’s team of advisors have been working on creating a justification for confronting Iran. According to Edward Curtin “Crazy people do crazy things”. 

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The Trump administration has a problem: How to start another war – this time with Iran – without having a justifiable reason for one.  No doubt members of Trump’s team, led by the war-thirsty and perdurable John Bolton, are working hard to solve this urgent problem.  If they can’t find a justification, they may have to create one. Or perhaps they will find what they have already created.  Whatever the solution, Americans should feel confident that their leaders, together with their Israeli and Saudi bedfellows, are not sitting on their hands.  Crazy people do crazy things.

After the Gulf War in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it slowly became apparent what alternative media and war critics had insisted was the case before and during these wars: That the U.S. government had achieved a propaganda coup by tightly controlling the media access to the truth and by getting the mainstream media (MSM) to do their bidding.  This ex post facto revelation was, of course, not prime time or front page news, but was reported bit-by-bit by critics or was buried deep within the news reports.  While some of the truth arrived, it did so obliquely, and corporate media devotees went back to their gullible and comforting sleep.

Yet once again Americans are being played for fools by the government and MSM.  The open secret, the insider’s fact, is that the U.S. plans to attack Iran if they can seduce enough Americans that they are threatened.  The Trump people know this, the corporate media shills know it, for the Bush-Clinton-Obama scenario, written years ago, is to act as if it weren’t so, to act as if a peaceful solution were being seriously considered. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. all learned better.  The U.S. never seeks a peaceful solution.

As in 1991 and 2003, the MSM play along with Trump, who repeatedly says, or has his spokespeople say, that the decision hasn’t been made and that the U.S. wants peace. Within a few hours this is contradicted and confusion and uncertainty reign, as planned. Chaos is the name of the game. But everyone in the know knows the decision to attack has been made at some level, especially once the propaganda dummies are all in place.  But they pretend, while the media wait with baited breath as they anticipate their countdown to the dramatic moment when they report the incident that will “compel” the U.S. to attack.

The corporate media, however, always avoid the key question: How will the U.S. justify its fait accompli and what is its goal?  This question is too disturbing to broach, for it suggests that the fix is in, the show is rigged, something is rotten in the symbiotic relationship between a government intent on war and a media in that government’s service.

What could, in the eyes of the American people, justify a war against Iran, assuming the Trump administration even cares about justification?   Will Iran attack Israel?  No. Will Iran attack the United States?  No.  Of course not, not least because it can’t, even if it wished to do so, which it clearly doesn’t.  Any such Iranian attack – absurd as such a suggestion is – would give the Trump administration ample justification for a war.

So what is the administration to do now that the news from so many quarters – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. – is so bad?  What, if they are intent on a war with Iran, are they going to do about the absence of a cause for war?  It seems that they are in a dilemma.

“Seem” is the key word. Logically speaking, if there is a war plan, if there is a Bolton/Pompeo/Israeli scenario, then the gun on the wall in the first act of this deadly play, must go off in the final act, no matter how long it takes.  The audience is being primed by the administration and their media mouthpieces to expect a “smoking gun.”  But what might it be?

“Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” George W. Bush said at a staged pseudo-event on October 7, 2002 as he set Americans up for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It was all predictable,  blatant deception.  And the media played along with such an absurdity.  Iraq obviously had no nuclear weapons or the slightest capability to deliver even a firecracker on the U.S.

Now Iran is the Nuclear devil.  Now Iran must be stopped.  Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Iran has been and will be accused of developing nuclear weapons.  Saddam was said to have had them; Iran only developing them, yet both lies need no evidence, just rhetoric.

Nevertheless, it might be claimed that secret “evidence” must be withheld on “national security” grounds or for fear of endangering Iranian informers or their families. Thus a preemptive attack could be justified on the grounds of preventing another “Ground Zero” (a misnomer when applied to the World Trade Center site, but conveniently evocative for stirring nuclear fears).

The American people, still severely shaken by the attacks of September 11, 2001, would surely be alarmed by such a “threat,” especially if it were linked to terrorism (on the high seas? In the air?), which has been the modus operandi of one administration after another.  Aren’t we at war with terror?    But it is a strategy – linking nuclear fears with terrorist fears – that  the Trump administration may be hoping will cover its lack of evidence with emotional blackmail.  But it is a strategy that may not work, since, for some very odd reason, people may prefer facts to fictions.  I emphasize “may.”

Perhaps Trump’s neo-con henchmen’s  best option, therefore, is to promote or create a Tonkin Gulf incident, “unprovoked aggression against American forces,” as Lyndon Johnson put it when he lied to the world in order to get the war he wanted after JFK had been disposed of by the CIA.  It worked in 1964, so it might work again, especially with the help of our special “ally” in the region – Israel.  And today’s attackers won’t be aggressors, they will be terrorists, which seals the deal. Bombs away!

It’s hard to say with certainty what justification the Trump war-crazies will settle on, but time is running out for them.  The news is bad from every corner, so something must be done.

Many years of secret American/Israeli planning for an attack upon Iran can’t be wasted.

The stage is set.  The charade continues.  The MSM keep preparing us for the “smoking gun.” Something’s got to give, and propaganda geniuses are working overtime on delivering us an Oscar-winning justification.

Don’t buy it.

Especially since you’ve heard this before, and I’ve written it.  With a few minor changes and the substitution of Iran for Iraq, this column was published on the morning before George W’s infamous  (the 16 words about uranium from Niger) State of the Union Address on January 28, 2003,  fifty-one days before the invasion of Iraq, and one week before Colin Powell’s lies at the United Nations.

Shocked and surprised should be words eliminated from our vocabularies.

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For an important discussion of various possibilities involving war against Iran, listen to this incisive discussion and realize the danger these madmen are creating.

Provocations in the Gulf of Oman: Will John Bolton Get His War on Iran?

By Michael Welch, Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Pepe Escobar, and Yves Engler, June 16, 2019

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Distinguished author and sociologist Edward Curtin is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/.


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

Michel Chossudovsky

The “globalization of war” is a hegemonic project. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The U.S. military agenda combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states.

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Ethiopia is in the midst of historic change but also on the edge of what some observers fear is a looming crisis ahead of the upcoming elections in May. It’s here where the country’s strategic Chinese partner can be of help, not only in sharing its own socio-political experiences, but also in continuing to invest in Ethiopia too.

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Ethiopia had a pretty rocky year all throughout 2019 as it prepares for elections this upcoming May, which observers are closely following to see whether the ambitious socio-political reforms that Prime Minister Abiy presided over since entering office in early 2018 have enough support to keep his party in power. In order to understand the importance of these elections, the reader must become familiarized with the most significant developments that recently occurred in Africa’s second most populous country.

PM Abiy’s rise to the top has been nothing short of meteoric as this then-41-year-old former intelligence officer was surprisingly elected by the former Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to be its chairman in March 2018 following the resignation of his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn in response to a growing crisis in the Oromia Region. That part of the country is its most populous, plus its titular people comprise the largest ethnic plurality in Ethiopia.

It was therefore extremely symbolic that Abiy was elected since his father is a Muslim Oromo while his mother was a Christian Amhara, the first-mentioned group of which had been clamoring for more political representation in recent years while the latter traditionally ruled over Ethiopia until the end of its civil war in 1991. He was then confirmed by parliament as the country’s newest Prime Minister, after which he immediately set out to undertake a broad range of reforms that changed everything in Ethiopia.

One of PM Abiy’s greatest achievements at home has been to remove the terrorist designation from several prominent opposition groups and invite its foreign-based members back to the country to participate in rebuilding its democracy. He also released many of their supporters from prison and eased state control over the media, which has led to diversity of discourse freely taking place in society. Building off of that, PM Abiy promised to hold multiparty elections that observers expect to be the most democratic in Ethiopia’s history.

On the foreign policy front, PM Abiy swiftly moved to make peace with regional rival and former province Eritrea with which Ethiopia had been engaged in a cold war for nearly two decades at that point following a very bloody border conflict from 1998-2000. This rightly earned him the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year and completely revolutionized the geopolitical situation in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea’s decision to stop arming the Ethiopian opposition groups formerly designated as terrorists greatly facilitated PM Abiy’s peace push at home.

Despite having the noblest of intentions, however, PM Abiy’s ambitious socio-political reforms have inadvertently unleashed such ethno-religious and regional violence that Ethiopia had the world’s largest number of internally displaced people last year at approximately three million. The Amhara Region saw a failed coup attempt and the Sidama Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region overwhelmingly voted to become a separate region in its own right, raising fears about a future chain reaction of fragmentation.

PM Abiy’s response has been to promote his national unifying vision of “medemer” (“synergy”) and to rebrand the EPRDF as the Prosperity Party, though crucially without the participation of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that was considered by many to be the ruling party’s core coalition member since the end of the civil war. The TPLF has been extremely outspoken in its opposition to his reforms and refused to join the Prosperity Party.

As the reader should now be able to see, Ethiopia is in the midst of historic change but also on the edge of what some observers fear is a looming crisis ahead of the upcoming elections in May. It’s here where the country’s strategic Chinese partner can be of help, not only in sharing its own socio-political experiences, but also in continuing to invest in Ethiopia too. China is the country’s largest foreign investor, primarily involved in manufacturing through the establishment of industrial parks, and recently completed a regional railway.

The Djibouti-Addis Ababa Railway pairs perfectly with PM Abiy’s structural reforms to truly open up the Ethiopian economy to the rest of the world. Moreover, China has shown that it’s sympathetic to its strategic partner’s problems at the moment by agreeing to restructure some of its debt during this extremely sensitive systemic transition. This contradicts the fake news narrative spread by some foreign countries that Chinese development loans are so-called “debt traps” that result in recipients “surrendering their sovereignty”.

It can’t be overstated just how crucial Chinese assistance has been in Ethiopia’s economic rise, nor how pivotal of a role it’ll play going forward. China started scaling up its investments in Ethiopia following the end of the country’s civil war in 1991 and then after the conclusion of its border conflict with Eritrea in 2000. Each time, the international community wrote off Ethiopia as a “failed state” because of famine, poverty, and war, but China believed in the country when no one else would. Importantly, it invested billions of dollars to prove it.

The end result is that hunger has decreased, incomes have risen, and the country is comparatively more stable than when China first invested there. In addition, Ethiopia also boasts Africa’s fastest-growing economy. China’s investments in manufacturing and infrastructure served as a catalyst for these achievements, which also add subtance to PM Abiy’s pleas for peace by giving Ethiopians a tangible reason to reconsider any reckless moves that might destabilize their country ahead of the upcoming elections or shortly afterwards.

It’s true that Ethiopia is entering 2020 surrounded by a lot of uncertainty, but it’s not anything that China hasn’t been through before. The People’s Republic had to rebuild the country after the civil war but didn’t have any external assistance to help it. Ethiopia, however, can always count on China to share its socio-political experiences over the decades and to continue investing in it through the Belt & Road Initiative. Both of these friendly outreaches increase the odds that stability will prevail and Ethiopia’s regional rise won’t be derailed.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

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

Featured image is from OneWorld

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The Israeli right is preparing to present a plan to overthrow the Jordanian king after annexing the Jordan Valley in the West Bank to realise the dream of Jordan being converted to Palestine. They aim to establish a confederation between the PA and “Palestinian Jordan” because the Israeli right is interested in annexing the West Bank without the millions of Palestinians within it. Forcing them to head to Jordan.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper revealed in late December the Israeli right-wing’s approaches and plans, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is based on the claims that Israel has major plans for Jordan, but these plans do not include the same king. This is evidenced by several articles and reports written by right-wing Israeli writers this month who all present similar justifications and results, the main of them all is to destroy the peace treaty with Jordan.

Right-wing Israelis believe that annexing the Jordan Valley is a tactical operation aimed at hitting two Israeli birds with one stone: the first is to work to annex the West Bank and cancel the peace agreement with Jordan, and the second is to topple the Hashemite royal family and to embody the dream of Jordan being Palestine.

It is interesting that this dream is shared by all the Israeli right, with all its components and currents, because they are enthusiastic supporters of the idea that Jordan is Palestine. The ruling Israeli right has begun to detest King Abdullah II.

When King Abdullah is shamefully toppled, Israel will be able to complete its annexation of the West Bank and establish a confederation between the Palestinian Authority and “Palestinian Jordan”.

Moreover, according to the Israeli perception, when that happens, the Palestinians in the West Bank will obtain political rights in Jordan.

According to this Israeli theory, when the Palestinian state is established in Jordan, the Palestinians can resolve their issue, put an end to their suffering and stop using armed operations against Israel, because since 1988, Palestinians in the West Bank have been able to obtain temporary Jordanian passports.

It is worth noting that the Israeli approach may contradict Jordan’s interest in reducing the total number of Palestinians in the kingdom because it refuses at the moment to receive Palestinian refugees from Syria in the way it allowed Syrian and Iraqi refugees to seek refuge on its soil.

Perhaps such aspirational Israeli calls towards Jordan are encouraged by the fact that the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is no longer practical or realistic. Meanwhile, there are claims that the alternative solution is the establishment of an Arab Palestinian state east of the Jordan River, which will achieve peace between Israel and Palestine. They also claim that the river can be used to transport goods and products from either side, with the Israeli Jewish state on one side and the Arab Palestinian country on the other, side by side.

There is another Israeli scenario of Jordan hosting more Palestinians and instead of the kingdom becoming a Palestinian republic, they become citizens with full rights in the Hashemite Kingdom.

The return of Gilad Sharon after a long absence was noteworthy. He is the son of the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had strong relations with the late King Hussein, King Abdullah’s father. Gilad Sharon returned to claim that the current Jordanian ling would not dare to oppose the annexation of the Jordan Valley by Israel, because Israel has him by his weak spot and the continuation of his rule depends on Israel. He also said that if the king opened his mouth, Israel would turn off the water tap and leave the kingdom to go thirsty.

All these are efforts to drive the king to cancel the peace agreement with Israel and allow Tel Aviv to remove him.

King Abdullah finds himself caught between the anger of the Jordanian public and Israel. The situation of his government has become really difficult because his country’s budget is suffering, the sources of income are declining, the Gulf states, which have always been a source of support for Jordan, have reduced their aid, and millions of Arab refugees have flocked to the kingdom in recent years.

In spite of the increase of tensions between Jordan and Israel over the past year, security coordination between them continues as usual and the intelligence cooperation is at its best. This raises questions about the king failing to use this card to pressure Israel unless this cooperation serves him and not the kingdom.

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Featured image: Jordan bans Israelis from entering Al-Baqura‏ area – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

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This American Died for Our Lies in Afghanistan

January 3rd, 2020 by Peter Van Buren

It’s common this time of year to write summary articles trying to make sense of the last 12 months; you’ll soon see them popping up everywhere. But all of them will omit one of the most important stories of the year. For the first time in some two decades, America hasn’t started a new war.

A total of 6,857 American service members have died in war since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. George W. Bush began that war, then invaded Iraq in 2003. Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, then immediately expanded the war in Afghanistan. He went on to restart America’s war in Iraq after it was over the first time, launch a new war that turned Libya into a failed state and triggered refugee flows still disrupting European politics, engage the U.S. in Yemen, and abet a humanitarian crisis in Syria. So three full years without a new war is news indeed.

This year also brought mainstream confirmation of the truth behind the Afghan war. The Washington Post, long an advocate for all the wars everywhere, took a tiny step of penance in publishing the Afghanistan Papers, which show that the American public has been lied to every step of the way over the past 18 years about progress in Afghanistan and the possibility of some sort of success. Government officials from the president(s) to the grunt(s) issued positive statements they knew to be false while hiding evidence that the war was unwinnable. The so-called Afghanistan Papers are actually thousands of pages of notes created by the Special Inspector for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog federal agency created to oversee the spending of close to $1 trillion in reconstruction money.

The SIGAR documents (all quotes are from the Post‘s Afghanistan Papers reporting) are blunt.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan—we didn’t know what we were doing,” said Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking. …If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction, 2,400 lives lost. Who will say this was in vain?”

There are plenty of similar sentiments going back a decade, with hints of the same almost to the first months of the conflict. Dead men tell no tales, they say, but the record of lies is as stark, final, and unambiguous as the death toll itself.

But Afghanistan was always supposed to be more than a “kinetic” war. The real battles were for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, with money as the weapon. One of the core lies told to the public, and on the ground in Afghanistan, was that a large portion of the reconstruction money would be spent on education. “We were building schools next to empty schools, and it just didn’t make sense,” a Special Forces officer explained. “The local Afghans said they wanted their kids out herding goats.” Sure, people have to eat, but America would create an Afghan democracy from the primeval mud, with cluster bombs as its Adam, and schools for boys and girls as its Eve.

And it is on that bruised prayer of a lie that Anne Smedinghoff, the only State Department Foreign Service Officer to lose a life in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, died one April morning in 2013 long after the Afghanistan Papers show her bosses in Washington knew the war was unwinnable.

This is what all those lies translated to on the ground. Anne was a diplomat, just 25 years old, assigned by the State Department to create good press in Afghanistan so the people at home could see we were winning. It was a hard fight, her work was supposed to show, but the sacrifices were worth it because we were accomplishing this. This, in the very specific case that destroyed Anne, was handing out unneeded books in front of an unused school building to Afghans who lacked clean water 12 years into America’s longest war so she and (important) more senior people could be photographed doing so. Inside the Beltway, this was called a “happy snap,” photos of Americans doing good with (albeit always in the background) smiling Afghans lapping it up. Yet through a series of grossly preventable micro-errors in security nested like Russian dolls inside the macro-error of what Anne or any American was doing in rural Zabul, Anne’s body was riddled by jagged fragments of steel from an IED.

The school where Anne was killed was “built” by the U.S. in October 2009, only to enjoy a $135,000 “renovation” a few months later that included “foundation work, installation of new windows and doors, interior and exterior paint, electricity and a garden.” The original contractor did miserable work but got away with it in the we’ll-check-later Potemkin world of the Afghanistan Papers. The Army noted as the school opened that “the many smiles on the faces of both men and women showed all were filled with joy and excitement during this special occasion.” That the Afghans in the area likely needed sewage processing to lower infant mortality levels was irrelevant.

The limited official reporting on what happened to Anne bungled most of the details. State clung (as they later did with Benghazi) to the weak tea that the “cause” of Anne’s death was the actions of the bad guys—anything we did up to our very presence on the ground was treated as a kind of minor detail. The desire not to look too deep was underscored by then-secretary of state John Kerry, who said that Anne “tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future,” and enjoined the media into blending Anne’s death into what the entire world now knows was the fake narrative Anne herself died trying to create.

Kerry is an easy target because of his Vietnam-era protests, including his famous statement to Congress in 1971 about that war: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” To the State Department, what mattered in the life and then death of Anne Smedinghoff was never such a question, but simply damage control for what the Afghanistan Papers show was an already-failed story.

Anne was only one of thousands of Americans and literally-only-God-knows how many Afghans who died for our lies in Afghanistan. That’s why the biggest story of 2019 is the one no one is talking about—that for the first time in decades, we seem to be slowing this all down. In 2019, only 34 American service members died in war. In 2009 it was 459; in 2003 it was 526.

Someone will inevitably dismiss my writing here as playing politics with a young woman’s death. But if you read just one more sentence, read this: Anne’s presence in Afghanistan was about politics, and her death delivering books for a photo-op was a political act in support of lies. That thrusts her into the role of symbolism, whether anyone likes it or not, and our job is to determine what it is that she symbolizes and try to learn from it.

On the same day that Anne died, an airstrike inadvertently killed 10 Afghan children.

There are nights it takes a fair amount of tequila to abort thoughts about why no one gets impeached for wasting human lives. I am ashamed to admit that I usually just drink from the bottle. But tonight I’ll use a glass, so I can raise it to Anne. I know she wasn’t the last to die for the Afghan mistake, and that there will be “papers” for places like Libya and Syria, too. But there’s always hope at the bottom of a glass, isn’t there?

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Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent.

Featured image: An April 8, 2013 memorial service for Anne Smedinghoff at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Anne was killed in an insurgent attack on Saturday April, 6. 2013 while traveling to donate books to a school in Qalat, Zabul province. (Photo by Musadeq Sadeq/U.S. State Department)

Turkey has given a copy of Ottoman-era archived documents to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to help Palestinians legally counter the Israeli occupation’s land claims, according to Hebrew news sources.

The archives include tens of thousands of land registries from the Palestinian territories under the Ottoman Empire’s control between the years 1516 to 1917.

“Lawyers from the PA are already using the materials in the archive, in order to undermine Israel’s claim on land around Israel,” and especially in occupied Jerusalem and West Bank, according to “Israel National News.”

Turkish authorities delivered the archives to representatives of the PA in Ankara last year and a part of the archives was later transferred to Bethlehem.

Though the documents in the archives have the potential to shake up the occupation state’s real estate market, nothing has happened so far, it said.

But lawyers from Jerusalem’s Arab neighbourhoods are regularly turning to the archive to find documents that help them in legal battles over claims to many properties, mostly in the Jerusalem area, “Israel National News” said.

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Featured image is from Quds News Network

Qasem Soleimani was assassinated last night in Baghdad by a drone strike ordered by President Trump. The Iranian Commander of the ‘Quds Force’ was killed alongside the leader of the Iraqi ‘Popular Mobilization Forces’, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, aka Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, along with at least 6 persons.

Regional leaders and analysts feel that Trump has crossed a ‘red-line’ by killing such a high-level Iranian official.  This may illicit a comparable attack on a US official of equal stature. This decision by Trump is unprecedented, and many feel demonstrates his chaotic Middle East foreign policy.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said the Pentagon had taken “decisive defensive action” against Soleimani, and confirmed the attack was on the orders of Trump. He added prophetically, “The game has changed,”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed revenge while his Defense Minister, Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami, said their response would be crushing, and the Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, called the strike an “act of international terrorism”.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi condemned the U.S. “assassination,” adding that the killing of the Iraqi militia leader was an act of aggression against Iraq and a breach of the conditions under which American forces operate in the country. This killing is the newest in a long line of US actions which periodically cause the Iraqi government and parliament to debate a final ouster of US troops.

Iraqi protestors broke into the US Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday, lighting fires, throwing stones and spraying Anti-American graffiti on the walls.  While the actual embassy was not breached, there was significant fire damage sustained to the outer walls. The protestors sought revenge for the deaths of 24 Iraqi militia members who were targeted and killed by US airstrikes on Sunday, with dozens of others wounded.  The Khataib Hezbollah is an Iraqi militia on the Iraqi government payroll and had fought alongside the US in the defeat of ISIS.

President Trump has blamed the militia, without any evidence presented, for the death of an American contractor, and the injury of US troops in an unclaimed attack at a military base in Kirkuk on Friday.  On Sunday morning, the US forces conducted F-15 airstrikes on 5 facilities in Iraq and Syria which the Pentagon claims are tied to the militia. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed that Trump ordered the strikes.  The Kataib Hezbollah is an Iraqi militia that operates under the umbrella of the ‘Popular Mobilization Units’ who are an Iraqi government–sanctioned home defense force.

The protestors could be heard chanting, “Death to America” as they burnt US flags and stepped on images of the US Ambassador. The spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, Mohammed Muhi said, “We will not leave these tents until the embassy and the ambassador leave Iraq.”

“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” President Trump said in a tweet. “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”

The Iraqi interior minister, Yassin al-Yasiri, said in an interview near the embassy that the US attacks had prompted this violence.

“These are the dangerous ramifications of this strike,” he said. “What happened today is the danger that we were afraid of, and that the Americans should have been afraid of.”

Condemnation of the US airstrikes continued as the Iraqi Prime Minister, Abdul Mahdi, announced an official three-day mourning period for the Iraqis killed in the strikes, which he called an “outrageous attack”, and the Iraqi Foreign Ministry reiterated the government’s condemnation of the US airstrikes, and the Iraqi government announced on Monday they would be forced to review its relationship with the US.

The US government and the US media identify the Kataib Hezbollah as a ‘Tehran-backed Shite militia’.  Iraq is a Shite majority, and the Iraqi government is Shite dominated and is aligned with its neighbor Iran both culturally and economically.  The militia is made up of Iraqi citizens, who are fighting terrorism on their soil and have died fighting ISIS.  Trump blames Iran for the Friday attack, but he has attacked Iraq which is hosting US troops, and is supposed to be an ally in the war on terror, killing Iraqi soldiers who have no proven connection to the Friday attack.

In December 2018, Trump visited US troops at a base in Iraq but failed to give any notice to the government in Baghdad, who perceived the arrogant slight as a violation of their sovereignty. In February, Trump announced that he wanted US troops to remain in Iraq to watch Iran, which caused former supporters of the US in Iraq to denounce their presence.  Iraq’s President Barham Salih, a longtime diplomat in Washington, said in March,

“We are surprised by the statements made by the U.S. president on the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Trump did not ask us to keep U.S. troops to watch Iran.”

In March the Iraqi parliament debated ousting the US military from Iraq, which fields an estimated 5,200 troops there.

“There is a broad consensus among the various political blocs and national forces to eject foreign presence in all forms,” said Fadhil Jabr Shnein, a deputy in the Iraqi parliament.

Qais al-Khazali, a militia commander claimed the US military presence was intended to serve Israel and not Iraq and called for the US to leave Iraq.

The cancer of the Middle East began with the 2003 invasion of Iraq by President Bush.  The disease that was started has spread and has never received treatment.  Iraq remains a destroyed nation, and the current protestors filling the streets in the thousands since October 1 are demanding electricity, water, schools, jobs, medical care, and security which they have never seen since Saddam Hussein was forcibly removed from office by the US. The US is responsible for the deaths of approximately 655,000 Iraqis as a direct result of the invasion from 2003 to 2006. The US attacks abroad for regime change have since continued, such as Libya, Egypt, and Syria.

The US invasion and decimation of Iraq produced a sectarian divide which the US used as the basis of the new Iraqi version of democracy.  The US imposed a sectarian constitution on Iraq which is the reason the current protesters are in the streets demanding a new secular form of government, which is not run on religious sects and their corresponding parties, as the corrupt Iraqi officials cut up the budget to their advantage, and the determent of the people.

Ilan Goldenberg, former Middle East expert under Obama, and now a scholar with the Center of New American Security, said “Unfortunately, I highly doubt the Trump administration has thought out the next step or knows what to do now to avoid a regional war.”

Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired CIA official and counter-terrorism expert, said “For the legitimacy of the Iranian regime, a forceful response against the U.S. should be expected. The American public needs to understand that we may lose American lives after this act.”

Trump’s critics among the Democrats are fearful this heavy-handed strike may lead to an escalation.

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This article was originally published on Mideast Discourse.

Steven Sahiounie is a political commentator. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

The revolts that have swept over Iraq since 1 October 2019 come at a critical moment of increasing tensions between Iran and the United States, both allies of the Iraqi government.

Rivalry between the US and Iran increases

On August 29, 2019, the International Crisis Group published a report calling for the US-Iran conflict not to be settled in Iraq.

“In June, various rockets were fired at American installations in Iraq, and in July-August, explosions destroyed the storage sites for weapons and a convoy of Iraqi paramilitary groups associated with Iran. These incidents helped push US-Iranian tensions to the brink of confrontation and underlined the danger of the situation in Iraq and the Gulf.

Although the US and Iran have not so far collided directly with each other, they are forcing the Iraqi government to take sides. Iraqi leaders are working hard to maintain the country’s neutrality. But increasing external pressure and internal polarization threaten the survival of the government.

What needs to be done? The US and Iran must refrain from engaging Iraq in their rivalry, as this would undermine Iraq’s weak stability after the fight against ISIS. With the help of international actors, Iraq should maintain its diplomatic and domestic political efforts to remain neutral. ”

For geographical and historical reasons, Iraq is in the eye of the storm. Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran and Tehran’s response put heavy pressure on the Iraqi government, a partner for both. The US expects Baghdad to resist Iran, and Iran expects Baghdad to resist the US. An almost impossible position.

Relations between the US and Iran have always had a dual character in Iraq. There has been cooperation between the two countries since the 2003 invasion to pacify Iraq, and at the same time, relations are very conflicting. The two countries are fighting each other for influence in the Middle East. The withdrawal of the Trump government in May 2018 from the nuclear deal and the reintroduction of US economic sanctions against Iran in November 2018 have created an explosive situation. Halfway through 2019, following Washington’s decision to tighten sanctions, a series of incidents opened the door to a new war that could engulf the entire Middle East.

Iran has used the power vacuum after 2003 to invest heavily in Iraq’s political system, economy and security system. Several Shiite militias and notorious death squads, allied to Iran, such as the Badr Brigades, were integrated into the brutal and sectarian National Police, created by the US. Together with the US, they fought the National resistance movement, while also resisting the presence of the US. The US and Iran also worked closely together during the four-year battle to defeat ISIS (2014-2017). Iranian-affiliated Iraqi Shiite militias formed the core of the Hashd al-Shaabi (popular mobilization forces – PMF), an amalgam of paramilitary forces that responded to Great Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s 2014 call to fight ISIS.

In the aftermath of the 2003 US invasion and the subsequent fight against ISIS, Baghdad has the largest US embassy in the Middle East and the largest number of US troops (more than 5,000) in six currently operating military bases:

  • Forward Operating Base Abu Ghraib is one of the first military bases to be established in Iraq by the United States of America. The base is in Abu Ghraib, in the province of Anbar. It is just 32 km from the center of Baghdad and only 15 km from the international airport of the Iraqi capital.
  • Justice Camp Base Base in Kadhimiya, Iraq. Camp Justice, formerly known as Camp Banzai.
  • Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sykes is located in the northern Iraqi province of Nineve, a few miles outside of Tal Afar. The base was used as an established outpost for combat and tactical operations of the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • Camp Taji, Iraq – also known as Camp Cooke – is in the immediate vicinity, just 30 km from Baghdad. The base is used by coalition forces in Iraq and not just by the United States.
  • Joint Base Balad was one of the many military installations that are maintained and used by the US in Iraq. It was known by multiple names, including Balad Air Base, Al Bakr Air Base, Camp Anaconda or LSA Anaconda. The base is one of the largest of the Americans.
  • Victory Base Complex – also called VBC – is a combination of military installations around Baghdad International Airport. The complex includes 10 bases – Victory Fuel Point, Slayer, Striker, Cropper, Liberty, Radwaniyah Palace, Dublin, Sather Air Base, Logistics Base Seitz and Victory. The most important is Camp Victory. It houses the headquarters for all American operations in Iraq. The camp also includes the Al Faw Palace.

The end of US-Iran detente

The defeat of ISIS and the inauguration of President Donald Trump have put an end to the silent American-Iranian detente in Iraq and this has led to a period of escalating rivalry. In the aftermath of the Iraqi parliamentary elections of May 2018, that rivalry became very clear. Both Washington and Tehran tried to exert influence through their favorite actors. Their disputes over the formation of the government lasted thirteen months and yielded a list of acceptable, but weak figures, who, even within the political parties to which they belong, lack strong support. Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and President Barham Salih, two somewhat isolated politicians, were appointed in October 2018.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi (image on the right) is the personification of the bankrupt and corrupt political regime imposed by US imperialism. He started his career as a member of the Ba’ath party, then became a leading member of the Iraqi Communist Party and then went into exile in Iran as a loyalist to Ayatollah Khomeini. He returned to Iraq on the back of American tanks and joined the puppet government in 2004 as finance minister. He was described by the US Council on Foreign Relations as “a moderate technocrat who is helpful to American interests.” Like his predecessors since 2004, he helped organize the looting of Iraq’s oil wealth to enrich foreign companies, the local ruling oligarchy, and corrupt politicians and their supporters.

The function of the Minister of the Interior, Defense and Justice remained open for eight months, largely as a result of constant rivalry between Iran and the US. The tug-of-war between the two countries has been going on since 2003, because both the US and Iran must approve the composition of a government after every election. This shows that sovereignty for Iraq is still a distant dream.

US policy towards Iran has put strong pressure on the Abdul-Mahdi government. When Washington reactivated the sanctions against Iran in November 2018, the US called on the Iraqi government to stop payments to Tehran for natural gas and electricity and to diversify its energy imports, including through contracts with US companies. Baghdad asked Washington for more time to pursue alternatives for fear of reprisals from Iran and electricity shortages. Temporary respite from the Trump government allowed Baghdad to continue importing gas and electricity from Iran, but the US continued to urge Baghdad to sign energy infrastructure contracts with US companies.

However, Abdel Mahdi concluded a $ 284 million electricity deal with a German rather than an American company. The Iraqi prime minister refuses to abide by US sanctions and still buys electricity from Iran and allows extensive trade between the two countries. This trade produces large amounts of foreign currency that stimulates the Iranian economy. Abdel Mahdi is willing to buy the S-400 and other military hardware from Russia. He has signed an agreement with China to rebuild essential infrastructure in exchange for oil. And finally he tried to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia and showed his intention to distance himself from US policies in the Middle East. All these decisions made Abdul Mahdi extremely unpopular with the US.

Israel also interferes openly in Iraq. The country used its F-35i stealth fighter jets to attack Iranian targets in Iraq in July and August, seriously damaging four Iraqi bases used by Iranian troops and proxies as a supposed repository of Iranian ballistic missiles. The Iraqi government minimized this issue, first attempted to ignore it, and even attempted to let Israel off the hook. It took weeks before Abdul Mahdi announced in a television interview that there were “references” to Israel’s responsibility.

This reluctant position of the regime in Iraq is evidence of the loyalty to the US. There was not even a trace of indignation from the Iraqi government when Netanyahu bragged about bombing Iraq during his election campaign. The US denied any involvement in these attacks, but it is very doubtful that Israel would hit Iraqi targets without at least the consent of Washington. As a result, US military and coalition forces in Iraq must now request official approval before launching air operations, including in the campaign against ISIS.

Another requirement of the Trump administration is for the Iraqi government to dissolve the Iranian-related militias (PMF). Since the defeat of ISIS, these militias have taken control of various regions in Iraq and have also participated in the recent elections. No unit of the public militias was dissolved, on the contrary: In 2016, the government formally integrated the PMF into the security forces and has no effective control over their actions. The Fatah front, a collection of various militias from the PMF, became the second largest formation after the recent elections.

Endemic corruption

Despite the enormous oil wealth in Iraq, 32,9% or 13 million Iraqis live below the poverty line and youth unemployment is 40 percent according to recent figures from the IMF, while young people under 25 make up 60 percent of Iraq’s 40 million inhabitants. Half of all Iraqis are under the age of 18. The overall unemployment rate is estimated at around 23 percent, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics in Baghdad. The Iraqi organization “Al-Nama” estimates the percentage of unemployed women at more than 80%. Employment Rate in Iraq decreased to 28,20 percent in 2018 from 43,20 percent in 2016. Electricity is supplied for 5 to 8 hours a day, water is polluted, there is a failing medical system, education levels are very low, corruption is endemic. These are just a few of the problems that frustrate Iraqis. Politicians never keep their promises. Restoration and improvement projects are promised, but scrapped before the ink has dried up and the money being allocated disappears into corrupt pockets. The oil, which accounts for more than 90% of government revenues, is also the most important commodity on the black market. Criminal networks, including oil ministry staff, senior political and religious figures, are allegedly involved in corruption, in collaboration with Mafia networks and criminal gangs that smuggle oil and generate large profits. The three most disturbing problems for Iraqis are corruption (47%), unemployment (32%) and safety (21%).

Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the Arab world, according to Transparency International reports. The country occupies the 168th of the 180 countries in the corruption index. Deep-rooted corruption in Iraq is one of the factors that has been hampering reconstruction efforts for more than a decade. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has “lost” $ 500 billion during his term of office (2006-2014), according to the Iraqi Integrity Committee (CPI). “Nearly half of the government’s revenues during the eight-year period were “stolen” or “disappeared”, said Adil Nouri, spokesperson for the CPl in October 2015. He called this “the biggest political corruption scandal in the history”. Iraq’s oil revenues amounted to 800 billion dollars between 2006 and 2014, and the Maliki government also received support of 250 billion dollars from various countries, including the US, during that period.

The World Bank ranks Iraq as one of the worst-governed states in the world, and the Iraqi government remains one of the most corrupt regimes in the world. The Iraqi government has so far made little effort to restoring the destroyed cities of its largely Sunni population after the fight against ISIS. It has done little to establish any form of ethnic or sectarian conciliation, and far too much of  the ‘oil wealth’ is consumed by its politicians, officials and a government sector that is one of the best paid and least productive in developing countries.

Corruption, waste of government resources and the purchase of military equipment have increased Iraq’s budget deficit from $ 16.7 billion in 2013, $ 20 billion in 2016 to $ 23 billion for fiscal year 2019. MiddleEastMonitor quoted the head of the parliamentary finance committee Haitham Al-Jubouri on 18 December: “Iraq’s foreign debt amounted to more than $50 billion. More than $20 billion was paid back over the last period”. According to the official, Iraq still owes $27 billion to foreign countries, in addition to $41 billion to Saudi Arabia given as a grant to the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Iraqi lawmaker Majida Al-Tamimi confirmed that Iraq borrowed $1.2 billion in 2005 and $1.4 billion in 2006 from the World Bank and external parties to support investment and bridge the budget deficit. Also the IMF came to the rescue with billion dollar loans that make the country even more dependent on the US and other foreign creditors. It’s not surprising that 78% of the Iraqi people consider the Iraqi economy as “bad” or “very bad”, according to IIACSS polling firm.

The constitution allows Iraqis to have two nationalities, but stipulates that the person appointed to a higher or security position must renounce the other nationality (Article 18, 4). However, no Iraqi official has complied with this Regulation.

Many senior Iraqi officials have dual nationality, including Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (France), former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and former Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (UK) and Parliament President Saleem al-Jibouri (Qatar). Of the 66 Iraqi ambassadors, 32 have dual nationality, as well as an estimated 70 to 100 MPs.

Then there are the ministers in the current Iraqi government with a Western background: Mohamed Ali Al hakim – Minister of Foreign Affairs (UK and US), Fuad Hussein – Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister (the Netherlands and France), Thamir Ghadhban – Minister of Oil and Deputy Prime Minister (UK).

Many officials accused of corruption by the Iraqi authorities have fled the country to escape persecution thanks to their foreign passport, including former ministers Abdul Falah al-Sudani (trade), Hazim Shaalan (national defense) and Ayham al-Samarrai (electricity).

Najah al-Shammari serves as the current defense minister from 2019 onwards in the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi. He is a Swedish citizen who is part of the Mahdi cabinet. The minister is under investigation for benefit fraud for claiming housing and child benefits from Sweden, according to the online news site Nyheter Idag and the Swedish newspaper Expressen. He is charged with “crimes against humanity” in Sweden.

President Barham Salih is a British citizen. A complaint was made against him by “Defending Christian Arabs”, who asked the Advocate General in Scotland to open an investigation against him for “crimes against humanity by giving permission or being complicit in the widespread attack on civilian demonstrations in Iraq that resulted in mass killings, injuries, illegal arrests and kidnapping of people. ”

Civil servants are known to demand bribes up to tens of thousands of dollars to give government contracts or even only to put a signature on a public document; also to arrange a lucrative function for a friend or family member. “Political parties are refusing to leave the cabinet because they will no longer be able to grab hold of the treasury”, a senior member of the ruling coalition told AFP.

Many appointments in the Cabinet, Directors General in Ministries and embassy staff are family members of Moqtada Sadr and Hadi Al-Ameri, the head of the Badr organization, the military wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the two largest parties in the Iraqi Parliament.

Amid the expected rescheduling of the cabinet, positions are already ‘bought’, according to a senior Iraqi official. “A political party is assigned a certain ministry and then sells that ministerial position to the highest bidder”. He described a transaction worth $ 20 million. It is a well-known script: the candidate pays the party for the position and then tries to appropriate as much public money as possible, with which the debt can be paid off. The system is so deeply rooted, observers say, that there is little that Abdel Mahdi can do to stop it.

Iraqi Prime Minister receives many visitors

Donald Trump said in February 2019 that US soldiers must remain in Iraq “to guard Iran.” Two months later, on April 7, Iran’s chief, Ali Khamenei (image on the left), called on Iraqi leaders to ensure that the US military leaves “as quickly as possible.” Meanwhile, a procession of US and Iranian officials came to Iraq to defend their respective interests, including Trump himself during an unannounced visit in December 2018 and, four months later, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with the Iraqi Prime Minister on 17 September to discuss a new military training mission to Iraq. Amid the current uprising, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also arrived in Baghdad on 8 October to discuss escalating tensions between the United States and Iran in the Gulf region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on December 13 for a “decisive” reaction if US interests are endangered in Iraq, following a series of rocket attacks on bases where US forces are housed. The military base at Baghdad International Airport became the target of two missiles on December 12. It was already the 10th attack on that basis since October. “We use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attack by them or their proxies, which harm Americans, our allies or our interests, will be answered with a decisive response from the US,” Pompeo said in his statement.

The US military leadership has also made it clear that the death or injury of an American citizen is a red line that will lead to retaliation. “My fear is that the Iraqi government is not willing to take action, and if there is no willingness to stop this, then we will come to a point where we are pushed into a corner,” said a US military official. “We will not eat rockets all day and keep quietly watching when some of us are killed.” The US has sent between 5,000 and 7,000 extra troops to Iraq.

ISIS is no longer a big problem for Iraq

Iraq has changed so much because of the protest movement, that ISIS may no longer be an important challenge. The sectarian polarization from which ISIS benefited has faded. Moreover, now that many Sunnis have experienced a double trauma due to the draconian control of ISIS and the subsequent military campaign to recapture their territories, most of them no longer want to have anything to do with the terror group. The Iraqi security forces, in turn, have somewhat curtailed their sectarian excesses and forged a better relationship with the Sunnis.

Despite these reasons for optimism, securing peripheral areas where ISIS is still active remains necessary. But that is a task that should be entrusted to the Iraqi armed forces. The government still needs to rebuild the economies and public services of the areas devastated by the war against ISIS so that displaced persons can return. Healing the wounds of this conflict remains difficult. The judicial approach of the Iraqi government after ISIS threatens to deepen the contradictions in the country. “ISIS Families”: Citizens with alleged family ties to ISIS militants, who have been expelled from their homes, are in danger of becoming a permanently stigmatized underclass.

And as if there are not enough problems already, the Iraqi government must also provide an answer to reports that predict bleak economic prospects and a financial crisis in 2020. The military fight against ISIS was expensive and has exhausted the state treasury. The reconstruction of affected areas such as Nineve, Anbar and Salahaddin and the housing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced by the fighting will be even more expensive.

The “lost youth” of Iraq take the future into their own hands

On October 1, young protesters appeared on Tahrir Square in Baghdad to express their dissatisfaction with the unlivable situation in their country. “No future”, “Iraq is done”, “Iraq is finished”, were often heard statements by young Iraqi people, who fled en masse from the country in search of a safe haven where they could build a meaningful future. According to a recent poll, the number of young people who absolutely wanted to leave the country had risen from 17% to 33% between 2012 and 2019. Since the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011, there have been continuous peaceful protests against what the Iraqi anti-occupation movement calls “the second face of the occupation”: the neoliberal economic structures and the sectarian corrupt political structures, a country which remained under control of imperialism. Those protest actions have had no effect so far. But that could soon change.

In the months prior to the October mass demonstrations, university graduates organized sit-ins at various ministries in Baghdad, often together with graduates from other cities. Security forces unleashed hot-water cannons on the sit-ins that were held from June to September.

Instead of giving in to the demands of the young people, the authorities launched a campaign to demolish homes and shops of unemployed and poor workers built on state-owned property in the southern cities of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes, including some who had bought their land from militias or corrupt government officials. Most of them had used up all their savings, had incurred debts or relied on the help of their social network.

On 22 September, a small group of civilian activists in Iraq called to demonstrate on 1 October. They had no idea that their call would result in a general uprising.

The call, which insisted on the need to get out on the street against “the poorly functioning government”, was spread through various social media and was supported by the Al-Hikma Islamic Current, an Islamic Shiite political organization.

The established parties responded differently to the call. The Ba’athists announced that they could seize the opportunity to regain power. Muqtada al-Sadr noted that the end of the current government was near. The Workers Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI) warned the masses against participation in what they saw as protests organized by the Islamic parties. On the eve of October 1, there was a lot of confusion about who exactly was behind the call.

The protest would take place on Tuesday at 10 a.m. – a deliberate choice to distinguish the action from the Friday meetings organized by the Sadrists as well as to disrupt a working day (Friday is Iraq’s closing day). In the first hours of the demonstration on Tahrir Square in Baghdad, there were only a few hundred demonstrators. Most were supporters of the popular former commander of counterterrorism forces, General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, who were angry with the government’s decision to degrade him.

Soon other demonstrators filled the square. Around noon, the government started using violence against the protesters, first in the form of water cannons and tear gas, and later they used live ammunition. When at least 10 protesters were killed after the first day of protest, the uprising spread to all southern Shiite provinces, including the important oil port of Umm Qasr near Basra, reducing economic activity by more than 50 percent. Since the uprising in October, protesters have blocked access to oil fields in the southern cities of Basra, Nasiriyah and Missan and closed the main roads to ports to paralyze the oil trade. On November 2, the blockade of the Umm Qasr port, the most important access to Iraq, had already cost the government nearly $ 6 billion.

Iranian-sponsored Arab Shiite militias joined the government’s security forces and shot the protesters at random. Death squads faced unarmed demonstrators and every day protesters were shot. The government blacked out social media, shut down the internet, and announced a curfew in various cities. The demonstrators erected barricades and burned tires to prevent militia and government forces from entering their neighborhoods. The fight went on. An Iranian-sponsored militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, controlled the main access to Tahrir Square, the central square in Baghdad, and shot at demonstrators who were trying to reach the square. A new militia supported by Iran, Saraya al-Khorasani, attacked the al-Ghazaliya district in Baghdad, bombed a hospital and killed people in their homes.

On October 6, dozens of women and children were killed in Sadr City, the poorest district of Baghdad. Other cities also turned into a battlefield. Protesters set fire to the Islamic Shiite party offices in Nasiriyah and Missan and proclaimed Nasiriyah a city free of government parties. The deterrent effect of the government’s violent repression – along with its allegations of foreign influence – could not stop the protests, on the contrary, more and more people came to the streets. Protesters decided on October 25 to launch a new wave of demonstrations to honor the victims.

In Baghdad, the mobilization was initially motivated by socio-economic motives. The first demonstrators were unemployed youth from the Shiite east side of the city. Many have gone on a general strike to support the protesters and Iraqi unions are organizing events on Tahrir Square to support the protests. In southern Shiite Iraq, teachers’ unions have led a general strike movement in most schools and universities. Civil society students and organizations have also joined the second wave of protest that began on 25 October. Resistance to the political elite includes all social classes. It has become the largest grassroots movement in the modern history of Iraq. Millions of demonstrators take part in the daily actions and demonstrations.

On October 25, protesters and government forces faced each other on the Al-Jumhuriya bridge in Baghdad and two other bridges over the Tigris River that lead to the Green Zone. The demonstrators succeeded in occupying these strategic bridges, where government buildings, villas of top officials, embassies and offices of military mercenaries and other foreign agencies are located. Protesters attempting to move from Tahrir Square to the Green Zone were confronted with extreme violence: government forces used skull-piercing tear gas canisters, sound bombs and live ammunition. The Green Zone covers an area of ​​142 hectares and houses the US embassy of 750 million dollars, which was formally opened in January 2009 with a staff of over 16,000 people, mostly contractors, but including 2,000 diplomats.

The courage and creativity of the mass demonstrators are remarkable. Drivers of tuk-tuks – motorized three-wheeled rickshaws – have transported injured people from Tahrir Square to nearby hospitals. Civil society organizations, trade unions and political groups have set up tents on the square to provide logistical support, medical services, food and water supplies, helmet distribution, educational sessions and more. Doctors, nurses and medical students offer treatment to wounded and sick people on the square day and night. When protesters made a call to bring food to the square, families, restaurant owners, shopkeepers and others outside the camp flooded the protesters with food. The unemployed, the handicapped, members of Baghdad tribes and surrounding areas, academics, the Workers Communist Party of Iraq, the current Al-Sadr party, women’s organizations, opposition members of Parliament, the Iraqi Communist Party – all are involved in the mass demonstrations.

The majority of demonstrators grew up during the US invasion and occupation and the ongoing violence that followed. A banner from a young demonstrator reads: “We are a generation born in your wars, we spent our youth in your terrorism, our adolescence in your sectarianism and our youth in your corruption. We are the generation of stolen dreams and premature aging”. To the question: “How often have you felt so depressed in the past six months that nothing could encourage you?”, 43.7% of Iraqi respondents in the 2019 poll answered: “often” and 39.3% “sometimes” . This says something about the desperation of the Iraqi youth.

Absent in the current protests are the established political parties. These youth protests came as a surprise for them. The influence of well-known clergymen on the course of the protests, such as Great Ayatollah al Sistani and Moqtada al Sadr, has decreased considerably.

Moqtada al Sadr’s attempt to calm down the protesters by announcing that his followers would leave the parliament in solidarity with the protesters did not change the situation much. Protesters criticized the lack of solidarity by the two most important religious institutions in Iraq. They asked: “where is your duty to the Iraqi people, your dedication to piety and faith? Is the anthem played by a lady on the violin worse than killing hundreds of Iraqis?” They referred to an event a few months ago in which both Sunni and Shiite institutions protested against a woman playing the violin during the opening of a sports event in Najaf, because they felt that this was against the “true faith.”

Repression

The protest escalated within a few days with hundreds of deaths and thousands wounded. Party and government offices were set on fire in various cities.

General Qasem Soleimani (image on the right), commander of the forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and architect of the Iranian regional policy visited Baghdad several times since 1 October to discuss the strategy against the uprising with the Iraqi leaders, including Haidi Al Amiri, who heads one of the largest parliamentary blocs in Iraq and the Badr organization supported by Iran.

Most of the deaths are caused by machine gun fire and snipers, randomly in the crowd and on identified protest leaders. Amnesty International stated that security forces in Baghdad had deployed military-grade tear gas shells “to kill demonstrators instead of dispersing them.” These 40 mm shells are, according to Amnesty’s analysis, Serbian Sloboda Ĉaĉak M99 shells, but also M651- tear gas shells and M713 smoke shells produced by the Defense Industries Organization (DIO) of Iran Commissioner Yousra Rajab of the Iraqi parliamentary human rights commission said government forces used CF gas bombs containing poisons that cause blindness, miscarriages in pregnant women, strokes and burns that can lead to death.

The Iraqi army admitted on Monday 7 October that it had shot at demonstrators in Baghdad. “Excessive violence was used and we have begun to hold the commanding officers who have committed these crimes responsible,” the statement said. It was the first time since the outbreak of protests that security forces acknowledged that they had used excessive force.

The government sent the military anti-terrorism troops to Nasiriyah and the situation was initially resolved without further violence. But then came November 28. The security forces raided the demonstrators in Nasiriyah at night, killing at least 46 people and injuring many more.

An eyewitness: “They opened fire non-stop. They recaptured the bridge within five minutes … because they didn’t stop shooting, people ran away. I saw at least five people die before me. Everyone who was shot and killed was left on the street and the troops beat everyone they had captured. I saw them beating people as if they wanted to kill them. It was a catastrophe.

“We ran into houses to hide. The armed forces said through their loudspeakers: “If someone is hiding in a house, come outside or we will blow up the houses”. We had to come out. They were still shooting. They arrested and chased the remaining protesters to al-Habboobi square, the traditional place for the protests. But many residents of the city had gathered there to protect the protesters: men, women and children. The shooting went on until 7 a.m. ”

“The scenes from Nasiriyah this morning look more like a war zone than a city with streets and bridges. This brutal attack is only the last in a long series of fatal events in which Iraqi security forces have acted terribly violently against largely peaceful demonstrators,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East director at Amnesty International.

Security forces have launched a widespread campaign of night-time raids, arresting protesters. While some have vanished without a trace, others were subjected to torture and only released after being forced to sign pledges promising to stop participating in protests.

The security forces also resort to enforced disappearances as a way of creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia among demonstrators. They have targeted medics, lawyers and journalists in particular. In addition, activists and journalists have received warnings that their names would be added to blacklists if they did not stop criticizing the authorities. Security forces have also infiltrated demonstrations, deliberately inciting violence and surveilling activists.

The authorities have systematically prevented information about human rights violations in the context of protests from getting out, including through sustained internet blackouts and the muzzling of government institutions. Paramilitary groups sent their militants to television channels that reported on the protests to destroy their equipment and studios. They attacked wounded protesters in hospitals and kidnapped and threatened journalists, doctors and everyone who supported the demonstrations. The Iraqi Communications and Media Commission issued warnings to five TV channels and decided to close nine others, as a direct result of their coverage of demonstrations. Despite constant reports of kidnappings, arrests and killings, definitive figures and exact information are not available.

Iraqi professor Kamel Abdul Rahim:

“I have never been convinced that Iranian General Qasim Soleimani played a major role in Iraqi politics, but the slaughter committed yesterday (November 28) in al-Nasiriya and Najaf (where at least 69 people were killed) ), a massacre that will no doubt spread to Tahrir Square in Baghdad, is a blatant expression of the way Soleimani views Iraq as an Iranian province. The Iranian ruling administration will never accept its loss in Iraq. They could possibly accept the loss of Yemen or Lebanon and even Syria … but Iraq is the red line.”

“Adel Abdul Mahdi, the generals and the other warlords, the entire political class … they all chose the deadly recipe of Soleimani. We are on the threshold of a bloody phase. The Trump government opted for silence and perhaps approved Soleimani’s plan. After all, there is a great consensus between the two “enemies” America and Iran. The theater for their conflict is Iraq ”.

“Iraqi citizens are the new threat to their common agenda because they oppose this imposed system. The Iraqi citizen has become a burden and the Iraqi people can only count on themselves to bring about change.”

Washington’s silence

Ironically, both Washington and Tehran oppose the protesters’ demand for the abolition of the regime. The position of the US is clear in support of the regime, as evidenced by the telephone conversation that US Foreign Minister Pompeo had with Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi, on the sixth day of the protests, in which he spoke about “the power and depth of the strategic relations between the two countries”, while the blood of the killed protesters had not yet dried up.

The US Department of Foreign Affairs, which is largely concerned with securing the US bases, had initially not commented on the bloody repression of the demonstrators. However, at the end of October, after it was reported that Iran had concluded an agreement with the major Iraqi political parties to keep Mahdi in power and suppress the protests even harder, Washington began to talk about “respecting the demands of the protesters.”

The Atlantic Council, a pro-American think tank on international relations, explains precisely why the US remains so silent about the uprisings in Iraq: “Should the government decide to undertake real reform, it will need support from the international community. On this point, the United States needs to be careful. While calls from the US Embassy to avoid violence are certainly appropriate, it is important to remember that Iraqis are not just tired of Iranian meddling, but anyone’s. While the United States, so far, does not seem to be the focus of the protests, a recent Iraqi opinion poll showed a favorability rating for the United States at 22 percent, which at least was higher than the Iranians, who were at 16 percent. The poll also noted, however, that nearly 43 percent of Iraqis believe the United States influences Iraq in a significant way and that 53 percent believe the 2003 invasion’s purpose was to “occupy Iraq and plunder its wealth.” These numbers suggest that a strong, visible response from the United States could just make things worse.”

An Iraqi uprising initiated by the Shia population

Protests against the Shiite-led government originated in the central and southern provinces of Iraq, which have traditionally been the backbone of Iranian influence in the country. But this is not a Shiite uprising. This is an Iraqi uprising. The Sunni Arabs in Iraq tried to put an end to this system, but failed. Their protests in 2013 led to the emergence of ISIS and the destruction of their cities.

In the capital, sit-ins and strikes by students symbolizes the hope of a young generation that yearns for a non-sectarian policy. But in the south, where militia-backed militias are stronger than the state or the state itself, and where a party or militia can dominate the security apparatus, the anger of the people is even greater.

In Amara, for example, a crowd burned the headquarters of a powerful Iranian-backed militia. Guards opened fire, and during subsequent collisions, demonstrators pulled the wounded commander of the militia out of an ambulance and killed him.

Protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in Najaf, the seat of the powerful Shiite clergy of Iraq. They accused the Iraqi authorities of turning against their own people to defend Iran.

The Guardian reported on 29 November: “In the beginning, only a few dozen people protested,” says a 22-year-old demonstrator in al-Shatrah. “But when the locals heard the bullets and saw that their boys were killed, they left their homes. It became a matter of honor. We decided to free our cities from these parties.”

Many of the most powerful Iraqi politicians and militia commanders come from the south. The youth in the region formed the backbone of the Shiite militias who fought against the Islamic State (ISIS). Anger towards the militias and political parties began, activists say, with the defeat of ISIS, when young men returned from the front lines and discovered that their commanders had become warlords and had accumulated wealth and business contracts.

“So many politicians and officials come from this region, and yet this is a very poor province,” said Mohamed, a human rights activist and anti-corruption campaigner. “During the elections, politicians give people blankets and a few phone cards, give a few men a job with the police, repair a road … that’s how they win votes. After 16 years of Shiite rule, the children now say it was better under Saddam. ”

“Who are the Hashd al Shaabi? Our children were the Hashd. These politicians and commanders climbed on their backs to achieve their goal and gain power and wealth. ”

For Mohamed, “the status of the Shiite clergy has collapsed. If a militia commander now would come to the square, he would be beaten with shoes.” In the south, some of the most bloody incidents have occurred since the uprising began.

Iraq is governed by power sharing between religious and ethnic parties. Each party has their own militias, which are also internally divided and who want to obtain as much economic and political power as possible. Militia leaders who belong to these groups sit on administrative boards and control the ports, borders, oil fields, trade, etc.

The city of Basra is a good example, where the Shi’a Muslim Al-Dawa party controls the Al-Burjisiya oil field, the Sheeba and Al-Muthanna gas fields, the Basra International Airport and the Umm Qasr seaport. Another group, consisting of Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr militia, controls the port of Abu Flous and the railway line. The Sadrist militia controls the stadium of the city and the Al-Shalamcheh border crossing with Iran. Al-Hikma, a Shiite Islamic block, guards the North Al-Rumaila oil field, the port of Al-Maqal and the border crossing with Safwan with Kuwait. Other areas such as the port of Khor Al-Zubair and the rectorate of Basra University are controlled by clans such as the Al-Battat.

Business contracts only go to people or companies that are affiliated with the ruling parties and their militias. Corruption is widespread, law enforcement is completely absent. Political parties and their militias flourish by using state revenues to enrich themselves, ranging from factories and agriculture to tourism, Islamic banking and private schools. Bribes for state contracts with foreign companies are channeled through the parties and militias that control the ministries.

In the predominantly northern Sunni areas of the province of Anbar and Mosul, which were bombed during the war against ISIS, people are not yet en masse on the streets. This is not because of a lack of support, but because of the repressive action against any sign of opposition. Even those in the region who have expressed their solidarity on Facebook are being arrested by security forces, while the authorities have made it clear that anyone who opposes the government will be treated as “terrorist” and ISIS sympathizer.

Regarding the position of the Kurds, the Kurdish leaders fear that they will be on the losing side if any change would occur in the current political system because an amendment to the Iraqi constitution would affect their guaranteed rights. They are therefore not opposed to the Iraqi government and Prime Minister Mahdi.

An uprising of the Iraqi youth

The current uprising was initially dominated by young people between the ages of 17 and 23. The younger generations no longer believe in political parties and the country’s leaders. At Tahrir Square in Baghdad, protesters have set up a “wall of wishes”, Reuters reported on 26 November. “I hated Iraq before October 25, now I am proud of it,” said 16-year-old Fatima Awad. “We used to have no future and no one would protest because everyone was scared. Now we are all gathered in Tahrir Square,” she added.

Unemployment is particularly high among graduates, the vast majority of whom are looking for work in the public sector because the private sector is so weak. Pathogenic factors associated with unemployment are increasing, including suicide, drug addiction and depression. Unemployment has boosted organized crime and has encouraged many young men to join militias.

In addition to the economic slump, the social fabric of Iraq has crumbled since the US-led invasion in 2003. The occupation exacerbated the destruction Iraq had already suffered as a result of the Gulf War of 1991, the bombing campaigns of the 1990s by the United States and the UK , and the murderous economic embargo since 1990. But despite this bleak reality, it is the youth of Iraq who are the driving force behind the ongoing protests.

The hope for a better future not only lives within Iraq, but also among the Iraqis in the diaspora. From Sydney to Toronto and also in Belgium, solidarity campaigns are being organized with the revolts. Sundus Abdul Hadi, an Iraqi-Canadian artist and author wrote in Medium.com on 1 November: “I would say that most of us in the diaspora have been completely seized or even obsessed with what is happening in our motherland. We are with heart and soul with the people in Iraq. Without social media I don’t know what I would do. It gives us the opportunity to make direct contact with people in Iraq, to ​​share their vision and experiences. This I’d say that most of us in the diaspora have been completely absorbed, if not obsessed, with what is going on in our motherland. We are living it, body and soul, with the people in Iraq. If it wasn’t for social media, I don’t know what I’d do. It is giving us an opportunity to connect directly with people in Iraq, to share their vision and experiences. This is in complete contrast to the one-dimensional and one-sided images that came out of the Iraq war in 2003 from embedded journalists. (…) This revolution is also for those of us outside of Iraq, who are displaced or exiled, always longing to return, living in our nostalgias and traumas. It is for the Iraqis that have been robbed of a land to return to, of a homebound future to lay claim to. It is for the Iraqis, like me, who gave birth to children in faraway countries, whispering into their ears that they are Iraqi despite the fact that Iraq is an illusory, mythical place plagued by war and instability.”

At the front of the square, on the edge of the Jumhuriya Bridge, is the 14-storey “Turkish restaurant building” that overlooks Tahrir Square and the Jumhuriya Bridge (which leads to the Green Zone) and is the beating heart of the revolution. It has now been taken over by the young demonstrators who vowed not to leave the building. There are checkpoints at all entrances to the building and Tahrir Square where young volunteers check the possession of weapons that are prohibited at all times on the square. Each floor has a different function: one for the artists and the painters, one for the musicians, one for a library, one for security, etc. The building has been abandoned since 2003 after it was bombed in 2003 and never rebuilt. On all floors there are sleeping places, toilets are built and there is a cleaning service.

A demand for system change and restoration of national identity

Iraq suffers under the capitalist privatization process that pro-consul Bremer introduced after 2003 and was not abolished by successive Iraqi governments. The demonstrators demand – perhaps unknowingly – a return to the welfare state created by the Ba’ath regime, where the Iraqi population had a much higher standard of living than today. The polarization between the elite and the people is caused by the neoliberal economic policy (privatization, job crisis, etc.) and the militarization of the economy.

The most radical demand on Tahrir Square is the dismantling of this entire sectarian, political, Islamic system and an end to the country’s foreign control. This is the first and most important demand. The people want to change the constitution, expel the ruling political parties, abolish sectarian election rules, cancel all treaties with the World Bank. The people want to regain their sovereignty, expel the US army and its bases, expel the Iranian presence, expel the Turkish army, internationalize the issue of the Tigris and the Euphrates. The protesters want a separation of religion and politics. The young Iraqis use words such as citizenship, social justice, as opposed to the religious or ethnic identity that the influential clergy and rulers have imposed on the Iraqi people. The US occupation has done everything to erase the national Iraqi identity and to keep the country ethnically and religiously divided, which has given rise to bloody sectarian conflicts. But that tactic no longer works.

In a piece originally published in German by Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation, Ansar Jasim and Schluwa Sama reported from Tahrir Square. “This is a movement of all of us, your origin does not play a role here, we are all suppressed by one political class,” an activist explains. Posters that prohibit any sectarian language are everywhere. Instead, people make references to elements that have played a unifying role in history, and Islamic and Christian symbols and drawings adorn Tahrir square.

Cuneiform script and figures from the Mesopotamian heritage of the region are also visible. Protesters do not have an exclusive Arab-Islamic identity as before, but want an identity that reflects the diversity of the country. Time and again they talk about all the different social, ethnic and religious groups that are present on the Square.

The demonstrations are supported by all religious and ethnic groups. The Mandaeans support the demands of the protesters and hand out food, the Chaldean Catholic church patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphael I Sako canceled a planned interview in Hungary and chose to “stay in Baghdad during this difficult time.” In a joint statement, Sako and other leaders of Christian communities thanked “the young men and women, the future of Iraq, for their peaceful protests and for breaking the country’s sectarian barriers and emphasizing the Iraqi national identity.”

Arabic next to Kurdish slogans are everywhere on the square. A Kurdish-Arabic tent invites demonstrators for free tea. There is also great solidarity from the Yezidi community, which sends money, but also brings food and water to the square. Even if they do not have a direct, visible presence on the square, they express their support for change that could lead to a renewed Iraqi identity.

But the religious leaders who run the country are not welcome in the square, with some even denouncing Moqtada al Sadr and others who are held co-responsible for the looting of the country. “Don’t ride the wave, Moqtada” is therefore a popular slogan, as well as “In the name of religion, politicians act like thieves!”

the resignation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, an apparent concession to the demonstrators, has not paralyzed the movement. It was too little and too late, they claim. Their demand is an entirely new political system, not the removal of one person.

No to “Muhasasa”

The Iraqi constitution has caused anger among the Iraqi people since 2005 and has given rise to continuous protests. “No to Muhasasa, no to political sectarianism,” protesters in Tahrir Square sang after the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi at the end of November 2019. The divisive constitution has anchored “Muhasasa” in Iraqi society. Muhasasa is the system for distributing public offices, political positions and state resources along ethnic-sectarian lines between parties that are part of the ruling elite of the country.

One of the biggest ailments of the Muhasasa, according to Iraqi demonstrators and experts, is that it has driven the sectarian tensions and broke down the social fabric by putting ethnic-sectarian identities in the foreground.

Although the muhasasa was introduced by the United States after the 2003 invasion, the foundations of the system were laid in the early 1990s by Iraqi opposition groups, which worked out a system for proportionate representation of Sunni, Shiites, Kurds and other ethnic sectarian groups in Iraq.

Prof. Saad Naji Jawad has written extensively about the disastrous Iraqi Constitution. I draw from his analysis. When US pro-consul Paul Bremer ​​arrived in Baghdad in May 2003, he had no prior knowledge of Iraqi politics, but immediately began issuing his 100 orders, many of which are still in force today. Bremer also formed a governing body, the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), consisting of people selected on the basis of sect, ethnic background and, most importantly, their loyalty to the US. It was the first time in Iraq’s history that agreements were made on a sectarian and ethnic basis. 65% of the IGC members had dual nationality.

The IGC appointed a committee to review the draft for a new constitution. This draft was strongly influenced by American political interests and written by American advisers, in particular the Jewish professor Noah Feldman and Peter Galbraith, assisted by two emigrated Iraqis who had the American and British nationality and had not lived in Iraq since childhood. None of the authors was an expert in constitutional law. The document itself was written in English and was poorly translated into Arabic.

The committee lacked representatives of civil society organizations and the committee’s discussions were not made public. The committee appointed advisers, mostly foreigners, whose names were never disclosed. A few days after their appointment, two Sunni members of the editorial committee and an adviser who objected to the proposed draft were murdered. A few days later, another Sunni committee member was kidnapped and killed. The result was that the Sunni representatives stopped their participation and demanded an investigation into the murder of their colleagues.

The important items in the document were not even discussed. However, the Kurdish members had clear ideas about what they wanted and had a team of American and European experts who advised them.

The IGC was asked to approve the constitution and did so with only minor changes. The Council’s main objection was that the new law did not refer to Islam as the state’s official religion, and Article 7 was included at their insistence.

“Sect” is mentioned a number of times in the Constitution (for example, Articles 12 and 20). This divisive word was never included in earlier Iraqi constitutions and its use was rejected by a large number of Iraqis. The only Iraqis who agreed to use the term were those who participated in the political process.

Iraqis were not aware of the details of the document because no public version was available. Some Iraqi constitutional law experts and academics pointed out the dangers of divisive clauses, based on the very few press releases, but these critics were threatened by police and unknown militias.

The constitution stipulates that in the event of inconsistencies between central laws and laws of a regional government, priority is given to the laws of the local government. This is perhaps the only time in modern constitutional history that such a hierarchy has been established. Immediately after the adoption of the constitution, the Kurdish federal region issued its own local constitution, which contained many clauses that contradicted those of the central government, especially regarding the exploitation of national and regional wealth, such as the oil.

Iraqi women were dissatisfied with the Constitution because the 1959 Progressive Personal Status with all its advanced amendments was canceled (Article 41).

In October 2005, Iraqis voted on a permanent constitution that they had not seen, read, studied, discussed or drafted. Even worse is that they voted for an incomplete document. They followed the instructions of their political and religious leaders and the majority did not realize that this document would become a major source of misery.

The provision in the Constitution to keep the central government weaker than the regional authorities has caused a chronic problem for the state. The Iraqi political discourse has centered on ethnicity and religion instead of Iraqi citizenship. The various components within Iraq have great autonomy and pursue an independent foreign policy. For example, there is no objection to the declared alliance policy between the leaders of the Barzani tribes and Israel. An Iraqi politician, such as Al-Alusi, can visit occupied Palestine – at the invitation of the occupying government – and speak and openly call for an alliance with Israel. Al-Alusi was himself one of those responsible for the de-Ba’athification, a decision that blew up the Iraqi state.

No wonder that for the Iraqis this constitution remains controversial. The debate continues about the ambiguity of most articles. The constitution has undermined the unity and survival of the Iraqi state.

The role of the trade unions in the uprising

Trade unions are present in the protests, but not in the forefront. Months before the uprising broke out, public sector employees in Central and Southern Iraq, including textile workers in Diwaniyah, municipal workers in Muthanna and leather workers in Baghdad, formulated demands for better wages and safe working conditions, decent housing and permanent jobs. But these demands have faded into the background since the protests began.

At a meeting in Basra on October 28, trade unions of lawyers, teachers and employees formed a committee that urged other trade unions to support the demonstrator’s demands rather than their own sectoral demands. According to them, the role of the trade unions would be more effective if they would show their solidarity with the demonstrators instead of playing a leading role in the historical uprising.

Most, if not all, trade unions have issued press releases to support the protest movement. The General Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions (GFITU, the only official federation in present-day Iraq, dominated by the Sadrists) called for “solidarity” with the insurrection without asking the workers to participate in the demonstrations. The GFITU advised the demonstrators to “protect public property and maintain good contact with security forces”. The General Federation of Workers’ Unions in Iraq (GFWUI) condemned the government’s violent action and organized pickets outside oil companies and refineries in Basra, Nasiriyah, and Misan, and also held demonstrations in Baghdad and Babel. The GFWUI also set up tents in Nasiriyah and militants brought food and drink for the demonstrators.

In a mass meeting at the Basra Oil Company, the unions demanded an end to the repression. However, the local section promised to continue production and remove the demonstrators who blocked access. The most militant action is done by the unemployed and the poor workers, not by oilworkers, who are severely punished when they strike.

So far, the most precarious demonstrators have received the hardest blows. The poor, the unemployed, the people who have nothing to lose, are the ones who occupy the front lines and defy riot police, militias and even Iranian paramilitary forces. But to bring about real change, the organized working class will have to play a greater role in the movement if the Iraqi people want a state that actually defends their interests.

All social classes participate in demonstrations

On Tahrir Square, bakers, restaurateurs, doctors and nurses, hairdressers, etc., all offer their services free of charge. Families from all classes and neighborhoods are demonstrating together under the hashtag نازل_اخذ_حقي# (I am demonstrating to claim my rights). Hordes of students leave high schools and universities to participate in the protests. Trade unions have joined the uprising. According to a poll conducted last year, 77% of the Iraqi people supported the uprising of 2018 (in Iraqi Kurdistan it was 53%). The support for the current revolution will be probably higher.

But especially the Tuk Tuk drivers have become the symbol of the revolution par excellence. The Tuktuk is a three-wheeled vehicle that serves as a taxi for the poor, but is now a symbol of the revolution itself. Tuktuks are not only depicted on the walls around the square, songs are written about them and even the newspaper of the revolution, which reports on all activities in the square, is called Tuktuk. Tuktuk drivers were previously socially marginalized and discriminated against. They are mostly young, underage drivers who have no other choice than to do this job, given the high unemployment and widespread poverty.

Now they transport wounded demonstrators and also have a logistical function. They are the only vehicles that are allowed on Tahrir square. The increased social recognition is reflected in more and more donations from other protesters, mainly from other social classes. This is necessary, because these young drivers often offer their services free of charge.

Another group on which the Iraqis have changed their opinion since 1 October are the residents of the southern province of Dhi Qar. Some of the most aggressive protests have taken place here, where protesters have set fire to political party offices and have gained a degree of control over the provincial capital Nasiriyah. In the meantime, the demonstrators of Dhi Qar have gained heroic status among their countrymen. This is despite the fact that the inhabitants of the city have had a bad reputation for decades. They are often described as “bad” fruits that have fallen from the “cursed tree.” If someone did something bad somewhere, it was often said that the person “probably comes from Nasiriyah”.

Since the demonstrations started, the people of Nasiriyah were praised for their courage. “We, the Baghdad demonstrators, have been trying to cross the bridge to the Green Zone for weeks,” is a slogan in Tahrir Square. “We are now asking our fellow demonstrators in Nasiriyah to help us do that faster.”

Women are prominently present in the revolution

Women have long been marginalized and silenced by conservative Islamists and now they have decided to finally make themselves heard. They joined the protest movement en masse. In a society where sexes do not normally mix, protesting alongside men means that a taboo has been broken. This is also a revolution against outdated traditions and norms. Men and women walk hand in hand, hug each other and people even kiss. This is unseen. There is no doubt that the uprising is a turning point for women, but the road to their freedom and rights is still full of obstacles. Breaking the artificial barrier between men and women is one of the most beautiful and significant outcomes of this historic uprising. The women come from all sectors of society, with or without headscarves, Muslims, Christians, young people, the elderly, middle-class and working-class women, housewives … they all participate, in the front lines or as logistical supporters. This is a hopeful evolution and no power will be able to reverse it, despite all the efforts and money that political Islam has spent to impose its feudal culture.

The women who demonstrate, offer help and even spend the night on Tahrir Square also feel completely safe. The office of the Iraqi Human Rights Commissioner stated on November 6 that “since the beginning of demonstrations in the various Iraqi provinces, there has been no case of women being harassed despite the participation of thousands of women”.

Iran, the big enemy?

Although Iran itself is threatened by the US and Israel and suffers from a criminal sanctions regime, the country has worked with the US since 2003 to pacify the country and shape the sectarian system. Iranian and American ambassadors have very actively tried to stop any Iraqi attempt at independence. Both the US and Iran must approve the composition of a government after each election in the secure Green Zone. At the same time, the relationships are very conflicting. Both Washington and Tehran fight each other for complete control of Iraq.

It has also become clear that the American mission in Iraq, set up to create a pro-American model for the region and a stronghold against anti-American militantism, has achieved the exact opposite. The defeat of Iraq was intended to illustrate how much the US firepower could intimidate the region and scare off the so-called “rogue states”. Instead, the policy outlined by the neoconservatives, Israel and the oil companies has ironically strengthened Iran’s power, the only regional power to withstand all that pressure, and is now the new “rogue state.” Iran’s regional status has risen in a way that was impossible without this background of failed imperial politics. Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the Iranian Deputy Chairman for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs – at the Conference The Gulf and Future Challenges, held in Abu Dhabi, January 2004 by the Emirate Center for Strategic Research and Studies – clearly explained Iran’s role in the occupation of Iraq. “The fall of Kabul and Baghdad would not have been easy without the assistance of Iran,” Abtahi said about the role of Iranian militias and intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iranian threat is now imminent and pro-American authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have helped to achieve this.

At the beginning of March 2015, several Arab newspapers reported that Ali Younesi, a senior adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, had declared that Baghdad is the capital of “a new Persian Empire”. “Iran has today become an empire as it has been throughout history and the capital is now Baghdad in Iraq, which reflects the center of our civilization and our culture and identity today, as it was in the past”.

The “ISNA” news agency reported on his intervention in a forum in Tehran entitled “The Iranian Identity”. Younesi said that “Iran and Iraq are geographically indivisible. Younesi, who was the minister of information in President Mohammad Khatami’s ‘reform’ government, denounced anyone opposed to Iranian influence in the Middle East :”We will defend all peoples of the region because we consider them to be part of Iran. We will fight Islamic extremism, fight Takfiri, atheists, neo-Ottomans, Wahhabists, the West and Zionism.”

He emphasized the continuation of Tehran’s support for the Iraqi government and sent a clear message to Turkey: “Our competitors, the historical heirs of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Ottomans, resent our support for Iraq.” Younesi also stated in his speech that his country is planning to establish an “Iranian Federation” in the region: “by Iranian Federation, we do not mean to remove borders but that all nations neighboring the Iranian plateau should be close. I do not mean that we want to conquer the world all over again, but that we must regain our historical position to globally think and act Iranian

To understand the ambiguous position of Iran, we must go back to the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1978-79, initially welcomed by the Iraqi government, because for the two countries the Shah was a common enemy. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, however, saw Saddam Hussein’s secular, Arab-nationalist Ba’ath regime as un-Islamic and “an envoy of Satan”. The call by Khomeini in June 1979 to the Iraqi Shiites to overthrow the Ba’ath regime was therefore badly received in Baghdad. In 1979-1980 there were anti-Ba’ath riots in the Shiite areas of Iraq, and the Iranian government provided extensive support to the Iraqi Shiite militants to unleash an Islamic revolution. The repeated calls for the overthrow of the Ba’ath regime and support for Iraqi Shiite groups by the new regime in Iran was increasingly seen as an existential threat in Baghdad. Iranian pan-Islamism and revolutionary Shia Islamism, against secular Iraqi Arab nationalism were therefore central to the conflict between the two countries. Many of the current rulers in Iraq, including former Prime Minister al-Maliki, returned from Iran to Iraq on the back of the American tanks. Revanchist motifs played a major role. Officers from the former Iraqi army were systematically killed on the basis of death lists. Militias like the BADR Brigades, supported by Iran, sometimes worked together with the US to combat armed resistance, in a particularly brutal way. At other times they turned against the US. The US had no choice but to accept this option so as not to sink further into the Iraqi quagmire.

The Iranian discourse reflects ignorance about the reality of the Arab national identity. It is more important to the Iraqi Shiites than their religious identity. For example, in 1980 Khomeini wrongly thought that the Shiites in the Iraqi army would not fight against Iran and that they would choose Iran’s side because of their religious affiliation. But that didn’t happen. Iran does not seem to realize that the socio-religious rules in Iran are incompatible with the less strict religious behavior of Arab Shiites. This is an element of alienation for Shiite Arabs. The various Iranian statements have also angered the Shiites. 24 “battalions” consisting of 7,500 special police units accompanied more than 3 million Iranians arriving in Karbala province in Iraq to participate in the Arbaeen pilgrimage. Most Iraqi Shiites didn’t like that either..

But the Saudi alternative cannot appeal to the Iraqi Shiites either. The expression of Arab identity or Iraqi identity is the opposite of the reactionary definition of Saudi Wahhabism.

The inhabitants of the Shiite provinces also suffered little from the Anglo/American military campaign that befell the Sunni provinces. No Shiite city has undergone the destruction of Falluja, Ramadi, Mosul, Tikrit and other cities.

Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, stated in October 2019 that the uprisings and demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon were fueled by foreign powers, a vision also adopted by the Iraqi government and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Khamenei described the demonstrations in a tweet as “a conspiracy that will have no effect!” According to him, this “conspiracy” was led by the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and remnants of the Ba’ath party, to overthrow the government and install a regime under Washington control. Even the highest Shiite religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, indicated a possible plot in a statement, although he also condemned the violence against the demonstrators.

For months there had been rumors of a US-initiated coup in Iraq. More than two months before the uprising, Qays Khaz’ali, leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia and political party operating in Iraq, said: “There are plans to change the Baghdad government in November, with protests that will break out in October. Protests will not be spontaneous, but organized by factions in Iraq. Pay attention to my words ”

Sharmine Narwani on October 5, 2019: “Al Akhbar newspaper says the Iraqi government heard 3 months ago about of a planned US-backed coup by military officers, followed by street action. Time to be skeptical about events in Iraq? ”

“Protesters confirm the use of snipers in buildings aimed at demonstrators approaching Tahrir Square. During the US coup in Ukraine in 2014, the same method was used to bring about regime change.” So it was insinuated that the snipers shooting at the demonstrators were allied to the US, while the Iraqi army leadership itself admitted that its armed forces are responsible for the death of the demonstrators.

The claim that some Iraqi officers planned a coup has not been proven. Similarly, there are claims that Iran is planning a takeover of power through its militias. That claim cannot be substantiated either.

The story goes that General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, commander of anti-terrorism forces, would have visited various embassies to receive support for large-scale demonstrations that would lead to a military coup. He was dismissed from office based on those rumors. However, this story lacks credibility.

General Al-Saadi, who became an Iraqi national symbol in 2015 after leading his troops to decisive victories in the fight against ISIS, received the respect of the Iraqi people for impartiality in the war between Iran and the United States in the military campaign against IS. While Iran was arming, financing, and training many of the militias that formed the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), al-Saadi had no problem refusing Iranian support during his successful attempt to recapture territories on ISIS. At the same time, the General did not hesitate to express his frustration with the American patrons of Iraq and openly stated in the media: “Sometimes they carried out airstrikes that I had never asked for, and at other times I begged them for airstrikes that never came”. In a country where loyalty to foreign powers could make or break military and political careers, al-Saadi’s refusal to take sides made him unique in the eyes of Iraqis. His resignation was one of the reasons for the current protests.

Moreover, al-Saadi was only the number two in the command structure of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), which is led by General Talib Shaghati. Organizations such as CTS form the core of American strategies in the Middle East to keep the region under control. American forces created and trained and armed CTS during the first years of occupation and General Talib Shaghati has been the head of the CTS since 2007. Shagati’s entire family is housed in the US “for security reasons.” The only possible explanation for the removal of al-Saadi from his position is not that he was planning a coup, but that he placed Iraqi interests above foreign interests.

According to some commentators, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are funding the protests in Iraq, because where else would the funds come from to distribute free food and drink daily to the thousands of men and women who permanently occupy Tahrir Square? This claim ignores the massive support of the people for the revolts and the enormous solidarity that this revolution generates.

PMF Militias in Iraq were created after the fatwa of the high Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani to fight ISIS terrorists, but after the fighting ended, they shifted their focus to politics and control various government institutions and major parts of the country. They became the second largest formation in the Iraqi government after the 2018 elections, the party of Moqtada al Sadr being the largest.

These “people’s militias” have violently imposed their rule all over Iraq in the areas they control. They enrich themselves in every possible way. Bribes are demanded at checkpoints, especially on roads to areas conquered by ISIS. According to a report from the London School of Economics, militias in only one city generated an estimated $ 300,000 a day in illegal taxes. There are also reports of militias organizing a scrap trade around Mosul and carrying material away to sell instead of supporting the reconstruction of the city.

The militias control the seaport of Umm Qasr and the oil industry has not been spared either. In 2015, militias plundered the Baiji oil refinery, formerly the largest in Iraq. More recently there have been allegations of organized smuggling from oil fields around Mosul and Kirkuk. Militias have been smuggling oil in Basra for a long time and some have signed lucrative contracts with international oil companies.

When asked: “Do you have a positive or negative image of the following countries?”, In a 2019 poll, only 38% of the Iraqi Shiite population had a positive perception of Iran, compared to 86% in 2014. It is impossible to blame US propaganda for this sharp fall in Iran’s perception. The same poll mentions the 3 main reasons for this negative perception: 1) Dumping Iraq with cheap products; 2) Dumping Iraq with Drugs; 3) Supporting different non efficient and corrupt governments.

Of course, the US is the main culprit for the current chaos in Iraq, but Tehran also bears a great responsibility for the damage done to the relations between the Iraqi and Iranian people. The current hostility to Iran does not come out of the blue, but is the result of years of discontent because of Iran’s cooperation with the US occupation forces who together helped to protect government leaders and protect the sectarian quota system, and directly intervened on various occasions to cancel parliamentary decisions. Now that IS has been defeated, the Shiites notice that their reward is a country where the population has fallen even deeper into poverty, while the political and religious elites are pampering themselves with dazzling mansions and spacious country houses abroad, a country where some militias are involved in lucrative smuggling of oil, drugs and human trafficking, where dress codes and religious fatwas are forcefully enforced, a population in poverty while the country floats on a sea of ​​oil.

The US and Saudi Arabia will naturally want to use the current uprising to try to push through their own agenda and insist on regime change. America and Israel are engaged in a total war in the region against all areas under Iranian influence. America does not really have control over the thousands of demonstrators, but it exploits every event and every political development when it serves its interests. However, what we do not read in the Western media is that the protests are also directed against the American presence and also against the interference of Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Adel Abdul Mahdi offered his resignation on November 29 after the massacre in Nassiriyah, Najaf and Baghdad.

Western media versus social media

The US and Saudi Arabia do naturally want to use the current revolution to try to push through their own agenda. America and Israel are engaged in a total war in the region against all areas under Iranian influence. America does not really have control over the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, but it exploits every event and every political development when it serves its interests. We only read anti-Iranian rhetoric in Western media. However, what we do not read in the press is that the protests are equally directed against the American presence and against the interference of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel.

Fortunately, there are social media that bring powerful stories and a human face to the struggle, in a way that has never been done before. There have been desperate attempts by the government to stop the spread of eyewitness accounts on social media by shutting down the internet. However, that did not work.

Banners on Tahrir Square read: “No to America, No to Erdogan, No to Iran, No to Barzani, No to Israeli NGOs”.

Iraqi poet, novelist, translator and scholar Sinan Antoon was born and raised in Baghdad and his most recent novel is entitled “The Book of Collateral Damage”. He said on November 26, “What is really important is the restoration of Iraqi identity and a new sense of Iraqi nationalism that transcends sectarian discourse institutionalized by the United States in 2003”.

“Iran has a lot of influence in Iraq and has infiltrated many of the institutions and supported many of the Iraqi militias, but all of that is a product of the US occupation and invasion of Iraq. While Iran is one of the targets of these demonstrators, it’s important to remember that many of the banners and posters on the Tahrir square say “no” to any foreign intervention. So they say no to Iran, no to Turkey, no to Israel, no to the United States.

But of course the mass media in the United States, because of their geopolitical interests and their continued interference in the region, write only about Iran, and no one denies that Iran supports many of the parties in Iraq financially and otherwise and infiltrates Iraqi society in so many ways. But there are all those other dimensions and, unfortunately, the regular media in the US and also in Europe are very short-sighted and only focus on the influence that Iran exerts on the Iraqi regime.

And that’s correct. But Iraqis want their country back and they want sovereignty and they are against all kinds of interventions. And the Iraqi state, since 2003, is very weak. We have Turkish troops in Iraq, in the north, we have American troops. The demonstrators are really aware of all this and they understand very well – at least based on what they say when they appear in the media – that the interests of Iraq and Iraqis come first and that sovereignty is very important. Of course it will not be taken back in one day, but they realize that the Iranian regime is not the only threat and not the only sponsor of certain forces in Iraq. ”

The Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who became famous after throwing two shoes at Bush while shouting, “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog”, told Euronews that protesters are calling for the fall of the political regime. He also said that they do not want other countries to interfere in Iraq. “The government of the American occupation is rejected. This government has brought disaster to the country … today we want the fall of this political regime and the end of this government”, he explained. “We don’t hate Iran, we don’t hate Saudi Arabia, we don’t hate Turkey. But our message is simple: they must stop interfering with our country. The Iraqi people are a free people”, he said.

“All these human losses, the robbery, the crimes of the Green Zone government are the total responsibility of the US government. They have been protecting that gang of thieves since 2003 with their mercenaries and military bases, just to allow multinational corporations to control Iraq’s oil and other resources”, Souad al-Azzawi, an Iraqi environmental scientist, wrote.

Another comment:” Dear Iraqi sisters and brothers, Americans are working very hard to hijack your demonstrations and use them as an excuse to install an American puppet regime in place of the current regime. Please be vigilant and do not allow Iraq to become a battlefield of world and regional powers.”

Following the revelations in the New York Times and the intercept on November 18, the so-called “control” of Iran over Iraq, an authoritative Iraqi opinion maker wrote:

Some questions …

what are those important secrets that America has unveiled and published in the New York Times, which are not known by the Iraqis ??

  • Is it not America that occupied Iraq and destroyed its national institutions, killed, arrested and displaced millions of people?
  • Is it not the US that created the corrupt sectarian political process and wants to protect and continue it?
  • Is it not the US that has worked for years with Iran and its criminal terrorist militias? The US knows exactly how these gangs came to power; after all they stole billions of dollars together, plundered the wealth of the country, kidnapped innocent people and killed them.
  • Is it not America that controls the space, land, air, security and communication with their spies and knows exactly what is going on, even in the living rooms ???
  • Yes, the US knows all the small and big crimes that Iran and its agents have committed against the people of Iraq since 2003 until now. After all, they were deeply involved and pulled Iran into the Iraqi quagmire.

The rebellious people of Iraq do not need such “revelations” because they rebelled for themselves, their homeland and humanity, after their patience was exhausted and they saw no light at the end of the dark tunnel created by America by its brutal occupation of this country.

Maybe these documents cause a scandal in America, and then they can keep silent about their own role in killing a people and the rape of the country over the years. So these documents should not only be a condemnation of Iran, because Iran is only a partner in the crimes against humanity committed by the US. ”

These are just a few examples to disprove the story of the mass media that the uprising would be aimed primarily at Iran, quod non. The US, but also the Iranian leadership, are terrified of an escalation of this conflict and a possible overthrow of the existing regime, from which they both benefit.

Conclusion

A revolt against the government does not require external conspiracy: all domestic factors for protest, revolt and revolution are present. The Iraqi people have a thousand reasons to revolt against the existing regime. The stigmatization of the uprisings in Iraq as a Zionist-American conspiracy or a Ba’athist uprising is unfair to the hundreds of thousands who want to take their future into their own hands and want to get rid of the political system.

The Iraqi people continue to be a pawn in the game of geopolitical power politics, victims of the hunger for profit of the oil companies and corrupt politicians in an occupied country. Iraqis continue to bear the full burden of 29 years of sanctions, wars, misery, death, destruction, chaos and extreme neoliberalism. The people, however, have always remained alert, have constantly opposed the inhumane situation in which they were forced and want a fairer redistribution of the available resources. The past and present protests also have repeatedly opposed the division of the country, foreign interference and the sectarian structures imposed on them.

There is a continuity in Iraq’s popular resistance since 2003. Iraq is not Ukraine, is not Hong Kong. This is yet another uprising against the Green Zone, the fortified castle where the US, but also Iran, determine the rules of the game through the puppet government they have appointed. Any attempt to turn Iraq into the arena of a US war against Iran must be resisted. The people of Iraq cannot cope with another war.

A new Iraq may be coming, but that will not be welcomed by the American occupier, nor by Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Iraqi authorities, Europe and Iran. The people of Iraq will continue to oppose any foreign occupation and foreign interference and strive for a sovereign Iraq. The first condition is that all foreign troops, mercenaries and foreign counselors leave Iraq.

On a personal note: there is a strong “anti-organization” attitude, a general rejection of political structures and a focus on spontaneity. This attitude is understandable given the demonstrators’ fear of being co-opted by dominant political parties. The slogan “no to political parties” is very popular. The Left and trade unionists in the movement should emphasize that workers should organize themselves politically with a clear program to withstand the pressure of the neoliberal state, the economic elites and the dominant political parties and to remain independent. The lack of organization, the lack of clear alternatives, the political division among the demonstrators, have ensured that the protest movements since 2011 have not led to tangible results, with an absolute low point being the support that some Sunni groups have given to the terror group ISIS. Many demonstrators are young and inexperienced, reject everything, even early elections. They think that the political class will easily give up power, and that afterwards Iraqis will be able to rule themselves freely. Iraq is not a sovereign state, but is dominated by well-organized foreign powers, so the demonstrators should be even better organized if they want this revolution to succeed.

Victory for the demonstrators is not inevitable, perhaps not even likely. But it would be the only just outcome. What happens after a popular uprising is never a certainty, but that should not prevent the peace movement from giving its support to the just demands of the Iraqi people. If this rebellion does not produce the desired results, further rebellions will follow. The Iraqi people want to put an end to foreign interference and the corrupt system that has plunged millions into poverty. These protests are the only guarantee for a long-awaited peace in Iraq. Our solidarity with the justified demands of the Iraqi demonstrators is therefore more than necessary.

“Stay on the streets, never go home, because that is the secret of your success”.

*

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Dirk Adriaensens is a member of the executive committee of the BRussells Tribunal. Between 1992 and 2003 he led several delegations to Iraq to observe the devastating effects of  UN sanctions. He was a member of the International Organising Committee of the World Tribunal on Iraq (2003-2005). He is also co-coordinator of the Global Campaign Against the Assassination of Iraqi Academics. He is co-author of Rendez-Vous in Baghdad, EPO (1994), Cultural Cleansing in Iraq, Pluto Press, London (2010), Beyond Educide, Academia Press, Ghent (2012), Global Research’s Online Interactive I-Book ‘The Iraq War Reader, Global Research (2012), Het Midden Oosten, The Times They are a-changin ‘, EPO (2013) and is a frequent contributor to Global Research, Truthout, Al Araby, The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies and other media.

Featured image: Demonstrators are seen in Basra, Iraq, on July 19, 2019. During the protest, demonstrators assaulted journalist Ayman al-Sheikh. (Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani)

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Neo-Liberal Colombia – Where Life Has to Defeat Death

January 3rd, 2020 by Andre Vltchek

In one of the poorest neighborhoods of Bogota, Belen, I saw two people bleeding in the middle of the road. One person was clearly dead. A group of onlookers was moving frantically, shouting loudly. There was an attempt to resurrect an injured man. I asked the driver to inquire whether our help was needed, but he was told something insulting by the locals, and insisted that we leave the scene immediately.

Was it a traffic accident? Or a murder? The driver did not know. He actually did not want to know.

“Look,” he said. “You may be a Russian or Chinese Communist, or whatever, but here, in the middle of this slum, you kind of look like a gringo, and that is a damn big disadvantage to both of us, and to my car. So, if you don’t intend to bury your bones here, we should not stop in the middle of this neighborhood, for too long.”

“I thought they love Gringos in Colombia,” I uttered, sarcastically.

“Down there, yes,” my driver waved his hand towards the financial center of Bogota. “But not here. Not up here.”

Before becoming a driver, this individual used to be a top manager, at one of the biggest South Korean electronics companies operating in Colombia. I have always been having good luck with my drivers. During the Dirty War in Peru I once was driven, for weeks, by a retired and thoroughly broke army general, and in Bulgaria, after the East European collapse, by a former ambassador to the United Nations.

Neo-liberal Colombia has some of the greatest and most bizarre disparities I have witnessed anywhere on Earth.

After filming and photographing in the middle of various tough slums that have mushroomed along the hills ‘above’ the capital, I returned to my hotel.

The underclass continues to grow at a rapid rate (Photo: Andre Vltchek 2019©)

Just a few kilometers away from the misery-stricken dwellings, in a coffee shop of my hotel, a group of upper-class Colombians from Cali was having a casual dinner. The people were loud and I could not avoid overhearing their conversation. They spoke about their dogs having diarrhea, regularly, and how it could actually be stopped or prevented.

“It is outrageous,” one of them lamented. “Poor animal has been shitting and shitting. What is it telling us about the quality of Colombian food and water?”

*

Obviously, someone had enough of such contrasts. Or more precisely, few millions of Colombian people decided that the situation is, should we say, “indigestible”.

And, so, on November 21, 2019, Colombia exploded.

Like Chile did, a few weeks earlier.

The explosion has been spontaneous, angry, and for the extreme right-wing government of President Iván Duque Márquez, very embarrassing. Some would say even, scary. His approval rating hit the bottom, 26%. Not as bad as in Chile, where the admirer of Pinochet’s dictatorship, President Pinera, ended up with just a pathetic 10% support from his citizens. Not as bad, but bad enough.

Imagine that you are presiding over a fundamentalist neo-liberal country with hardly any public education or healthcare, with monstrous disparities, with some 9 U.S. military bases (it really depends how you count them; could be bit less or more), and with a foreign policy which has been shamelessly dictated from the North. Imagine that you still have those semi-active left-wing guerilla movements on your territory, but at the same time your government is simply super-hostile towards anything socialist, Communist, red or pink or even slightly progressive. And that many people in your own country actually strongly dislike the direction in which you are moving the nation.

Imagine that you have all sorts of problems at home, and that the left-wing guerilla movements are not the only issues you have to face here: you also have fascist militias which are murdering and disappearing people, you have those narco-mafias which sometimes have better social programs for the poor than your government does, and you also have the anti-imperialist Venezuela fighting for its survival immediately next door; a country which the United States has been trying to destabilize, ruin and turn into a regressive, oppressive Gulf state.

You have hundreds of thousands of the Venezuelan ‘refugees’ on your territory. Some say millions. People who have been escaping from the monstrous U.S. sanctions and from the outright U.K. and German theft of the Venezuelan gold, and monetary assets. It is scary, isn’t it? You have no idea who these people are. Are they really against the Venezuelan President, Maduro? For decades, millions of your people, Colombians, were crossing the border, escaping misery, seeking a better life in Caracas and Maracaibo. You know why it is now the other way round: because Venezuela has been raped, plundered by your masters in the United States and Europe. And it was done with your help, Mr. Duque. Now nobody knows, what is coming next.

Your people are waking up, rising and starting to demand your resignation, or even the demise of the entire Colombian regime.

What do you do; how do you react?

First you pretend that you are listening. Even that you have some sympathy with your own people. But when you see that the protesters think that all that you offer (actually, not that much) is not enough, you deploy the special forces; you do it the Chilean way; you start using brutal police and military contingents, as well as under-cover para-military units. That is what your masters in the North tell you to do, and you are a good obedient servant of the U.S. government and those several “international organizations” controlled by Washington, including the Organization of American States” (OAS), World Bank, IMF, to name just a few.

Dilan Cruz: Not forgotten (Photo: Andre Vltchek 2019©)

You get a clear and loud message from Mike Pompeo in Washington. You can go ‘all the way’. You can kill, without being criticized. You can torture. This is all in the frame of the Monroe Doctrine, or, as some say, of the Second Operation Condor. As long as the killing and torture are done by the “right” people, against the “wrong” ones, they can never be criticized.

You begin frightening people. People begin getting injured, or even dying.

You killed a boy. A young kid. His name was Dilan Cruz. His entire life was ahead of him. He was only 18 years old. Your forces shot him in the head with a bean bag round.

I went there, where it happened. People waved torn Colombian flags; where Dilan was murdered.

That’s where Colombia is at this moment.

National strikes are shaking the capital and other major cities. Smoke and teargas are filling the air above several major streets. The atmosphere is tense. Nihilist, frightening graffiti is everywhere. The glass at your idiotic, overpriced ‘public’ transportation system (just glorified buses, nothing else) is shattered.

It may be just a beginning. Most likely it is.

Your regime is waiting. Will the demonstrators get tired and return home? If they retreat, fine. If not, it is likely that the state is ready to protect the status quo by crushing them; by killing many, injuring thousands, like in Chile.

In neo-liberal Latin America, which is governed by the U.S. and its “Monroe Doctrine”, human lives are worth nothing. What people demand is listened to, then analyzed, and in the end, used against them.

*

In Bogota, in front of the building of the Attorney General of the Nation (Procuraduria General de la Nacion), hundreds of protesters, mainly indigenous, were blocking a square, despite a heavy police presence in the area.

One of the protest leaders, Mr. Felix Rueda, spoke to me, in front of the camera, while the notorious Colombian police force, “Esmad” (the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron), was slowly closing in on us, controlling all the nearby streets:

“We are victims of the armed conflict. We are people who were hit hard by violence; something we thought would never happen again in this country. I represent the victims. And I fight for human rights. All these people around here are victims of the armed conflict.”

A lady behind him begins to shout:

“Here, almost all of us are victims. We are peasants, with no protection, whatsoever.”

Mr. Rueda continues:

“These people are victims of the state violence; perpetrated by the armed groups.”

I asked him why there are no mass media outlets covering their plight.

“Sometimes they come. But mostly just when we break down some doors, or when someone dies. One person has already died during the last weeks. Many were injured. Again, Colombians are now fighting against Colombians.”

Another woman from the crowd screams at me:

“There are also rapes; girls are being raped, even boys…”

Police, military and the para-military response to the protests in Colombia has been so outrageously tough, so violent, that even some mass media outlets in the West had no choice but to notice and to report the gravest excesses. The Guardianwrote on 11 December, 2019:

“For the past three weeks, Colombia has been racked by demonstrations triggered by widespread discontent with the proposed economic reforms of the rightwing president, Iván Duque, whose approval rating has dropped to just 26% since he took office in August last year.

Protesters are also angry at the lack of support for the historic 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), which formally ended five decades of civil war that killed 260,000 and forced more than 7 million to flee their homes.

In a country which not long ago suffered the highest kidnapping rate in the world – and whose security forces have themselves been implicated in forced disappearances – the videos of police snatching protesters evoked disturbing memories.

According to the national victims’ agency more than 150,000 people were forcibly disappeared between 1986 and 2017, with up to 80,000 still missing. Combatants on all sides of the conflict engaged in the practice.”

Since the beginning of the protests, Colombian forces have been disappearing people from the streets; something that is bringing traumatic memories to the citizens. In one case, a young woman protestor, was grabbed and pulled into an unmarked vehicle. Two people jumped into their car and chased the vehicle, persistently, until the victim was released. This was a well-documented case: “a young woman dragged into an unmarked Chevrolet”. But I was told that there were many other cases, that went unreported and almost unnoticed.

*

I flew to Barranquilla, a city on the majestic River Magdalena. This is where this great Colombian waterway joins the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.

LOSING HOPE: Public mood manifests itself on the walls and buildings of Bogota (Photo: Andre Vltchek 2019©)

This is where one of the greatest novels of the 20thCentury, “Love in the Time of Cholera”, written by the Colombian Communist writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, took place. This is where Florentino Ariza waits for the love of his life, Fermina Daza, for fifty-one years, nine months and four days. This is where he makes love to her, finally, on a river boat, at old age. Looking at the surface of this majestic river, Garcia Marquez, finishes his novel. I always thought that the book was fully connected to Cartagena, but I was explained to, that no; it was linked inseparably to the Magdalena River.

And this is where my friend, one of the most important Colombian journalists, Constanza Vieira, lives.

She picked me up at the airport, together with her partner, drove me to the long, new riverside, where we sat down and spoke for hours about Colombia; her beloved and tortured land.

Her father had met Mao, on two occasions. She knew all about the negotiations between the government and FARC. She is a walking encyclopedia, when it comes to Colombia. But this is not what I wanted to know, this time.

Latin America was in turmoil. The Bolivian government was overthrown in a brutal, fascist coup. Chile and Colombia were rising. Venezuela was fighting for its survival. Where was this country going?

Constanza spoke about corruption under Duque, about Uribe’s crimes, and about the grave violations of human rights in her country:

“Colombia in a setting of South America, is a conservative country; very conservative. It is suffering from one right-wing government after another. Here, the inequality is tremendous, one of the greatest in Latin America. When the protests had erupted here, the governments negotiated with the protesters, but never delivered on what they agreed. Colombia is a neo-liberal country. Now it is being shaken by huge protests. In this context, we have to thank Chile. Because whenever in the past Colombians were demanding true changes, our government would tell us: ‘look at Chile! Chileans and all of us have to be thankful to General Pinochet. The country is so prosperous. Capitalism works! So, the uprising in Chile, where people are rejecting neo-liberalism, is having a tremendous impact on Colombia.” 

The situation in Colombia is truly grotesque, and the cynicism endless. Constanza mentions just one example, which would be hard to even imagine in most of the other countries on the continent:

“In this country, corruption is just enormous. And so are violations of human rights. Now imagine: the government of Duque decided to pay compensation to the victims of human rights violations, as well as victims of corruption – from the budget allocated to public universities!” 

I asked her about the U.S. military bases.

“You see, it is not as simple as it used to be. United States is not staffing the bases with its own soldiers, permanently. The soldiers who come here are usually under-cover. It is often an intelligence unit or two, or these are soldiers who come and go, using local military bases only when they need them.”

As we are parting at the airport, late at night, her partner, a writer, goes back to the “basics” – to Simon Bolivar:

“If you talk to people all over Latin America, the great majority will say that they admire Simon Bolivar. Our great Liberator! But if you listen and look closer, you soon realize that the Bolivarian ideals are being betrayed, almost everywhere, all around us.”

*

Colombia is boiling. There is not just one problem that the country is facing; there are dozens, perhaps hundreds.

While indigenous people have been marching on Bogota, protesting and struggling for their rights and culture to be respected, the coca leaf cultivating farmers (most of them indigenous families) are demanding that their crop finally gets legalized.

All this, while the Colombia peace court is exhuming some 50 bodies in extra-judicial killings cases, presumably committed by the military.

Protesters, mostly indigenous, gathering outside government building in the city (Photo: Andre Vltchek 2019©)

As recently reported by Reuters:

“False positive killings numbered at least 2,248 between 1998 and 2014. The majority of the murders took place during the term of former President Alvaro Uribe, according to the attorney general’s office.”

People were defined as dying in combat, but in reality, they were victims of extra-judicial killings.

Extreme poverty, extra-judicial killings, corruption, unemployment, an embarrassing foreign policy, police brutality, extremely high crime rate – everything is inter-connected. Everything seems to be explosive.

*

One night, all around rebellious Bogota. Graffiti everywhere. Police on high alert. Clusters of people, assembling, then disappearing into the night.

Behind the airport, in the center of a town called Fontibon, there is a meeting of the committee which is organizing one of the strikes. I am being taken there by David Curtidor, a prominent Colombian activist.

He introduced me to Ms. Luz Janneth Zabaleta, a professor of mathematics, who is deeply involved in the organization of the protests. She explained to me:

“Until now, all those government’s so-called reforms were made against the workers, indigenous people and students. This uprising will change everything.”

Her comrade, Arturo Partilla Lizarazo, a labor lawyer passionately supported her words:

“Now Colombia is entering a huge struggle; it is fighting for the dignity of human beings, inhabiting this country. Neo-liberal policies have failed, here and elsewhere. And Colombia is ready to defeat those neo-liberal policies, which have already destroyed so many lives of our people.”

We talk about the former government of President Uribe, which according to both, was basically following a policy of war. We also discuss the awful plight of the common Colombian people, of millions of starving children, the horrendous unemployment rate among young people, and the unimaginable hardship endured by elderly, retired people.

Later, at Parkway, which is a narrow park in the center of the city, I witnessed protesters waving Colombian and Chilean flags. There is live music. Young people are dancing. Units of the riot police are moving along the edges of the park. Are they going to attack? If yes, when? Nobody knows.

I drive through the now empty Bolivar Square, then near the Presidential Palace, barricaded, blocked by the military. Several government buildings are covered by black, protective curtains. Somehow, they look like a funeral halls.

Right next to the government district, there is a red light district’; full of sex workers, pimps and police units. In Colombia, power and misery shamelessly coexist next to each other.

*

On my last day, before departing Bogota for La Paz, Bolivia, I was visited by a legendary educator, German Vladimir Zabala Archila, a liberation theologist who used to work with, among others, with Ivan Illich.

Still very active all-over Latin America, helping to set up revolutionary educational systems in various, particularly indigenous-majority countries, Vladimir is promoting the so-called “Pedagogy of Otherness” (Pedagogia de La Otredad).

Vladimir is an eternal optimist. He believes that Colombia, as well as the entire Latin America, are undergoing tremendous, irreversible transformations:

“We are in the middle of great cultural changes. I can see it even in my own middle-class part of the city. My neighbors, whom I thought were very conservative ladies, are these days banging their pans in the middle of the street, in what is clearly a protest against the system and the government. We call it here “I am scared, but I am marching!”” 

“One of our previous presidents used to say: ‘All we have to do is to become part of the
United States.’ Colombian paramilitary groups infiltrated Venezuela, on behalf of the West. But look now. There is growing solidarity among black and indigenous people in such places like Cali. And even Evo [Morales] was here, marching with us. He is beloved by the people of Colombia.”

“And now?” I asked Vladimir. “Evo… How does it all look from here?”

He does not hesitate:

“We didn’t expect this coup. We were quite certain that Evo’s popularity in Bolivia would protect him. We were confident in Cuban intelligence. We did not think that Santa Cruz would succeed, with its horrible Nazis like Camacho, who are connected with narco-traffickers, and backed by the West…”

But Vladimir is still optimistic, and so am I.

Latin America is waking up. United, as they say here, people can never be defeated. And slowly, reluctantly, Latin American nations are finally trying to unite.

* 

Things will not change overnight in Colombia, but they willeventually change.

As I drive through Bogota, I see anti-government graffiti, I see damaged buildings, the remains of the battles fought between protesters and the security forces. But I also see some strange attempts to infiltrate the rebellion, like the clenched fists that look just too familiar; like Otpor, a symbol of the Western-backed “Color Revolutions”.

It is too early to draw conclusions, but Colombian rebels have to be vigilant. While people are fighting for a new South America, while they are getting injured, while some are even dying, the West is plotting, together with President Duque and his regime; they are analyzing and trying to figure out how to keep things as they have been, for those long stagnant decades. If the government can get away with it, it would give absolutely nothing – zero.

This will be a long and difficult struggle.

Colombia is one of the most damaged places in Latin America; one of the most turbo-capitalist, and one of the most sold out to the West.

On the other hand, its opposition is vibrant and diverse. Its people are amazing; many very brave, educated and determined people.

*

My last day in Bogota, as I was falling asleep, I heard some loud gunshots right in front of my hotel.

After years in Beirut, I was used to such sounds. ‘Celebratory shooting into the air’, I thought, half asleep. But people were screaming, too. Exhausted, I fell asleep.

The next morning, on the way to the airport, I was told by my driver: “At night, they killed a French man, right in front of the entrance to your hotel.”

‘Too many corpses’, I thought. ‘Too many people are dying in Colombia. For whatever reasons, but dying unnatural deaths.’

At the airport, passport control check took almost two hours. Immigration officers were showing absolute and open spite towards the passengers. They were chatting with each other, banging into their mobile phones, even eating. While people waited in endless lines, like cattle. Absolute impunity.

On the Avianca flight from Bogota to La Paz, my neighbor was a typical US lady-apparatchik.

“Where are you from?” she asked me in an arrogant tone of voice, right before take off.

“Russia,” I said.

What?”

“Russia.”

“What’s that?”

“Russian Federation”.

“Oh, Ru-siah!” She gave me a bizarre, pre-programmed, aggressive look.

I was leaving an old US colony for a new one, recently ‘acquired’ one.

The woman who was sitting next to me on the plane, was radiating the unmistakable chill of death. My body began shaking, slightly. But then I recalled the last words of Garcia Marquez’s brilliant novel, written on the shores of the Rio Magdalena:

“The Captain looked at Fermina Daza and saw on her eyelashes the first glimmer of wintry frost. Then he looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.”

My body relaxed. And I was suddenly certain that it will be life, as well as the great passion for it, that will finally liberate Colombia from the appalling embrace of death.

*

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This article was originally published on 21WIRE.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Five of his latest books are “China Belt and Road Initiative”,China and Ecological Civilization”with John B. Cobb, Jr., “Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism”, the revolutionary novel “Aurora” and the 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 Latin America, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website, his Twitter and his Patreon. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

All images in this article are from the author

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No, a War with Iran Won’t Help Trump Win Re-Election

January 3rd, 2020 by Andrew Korybko

One of the most common opinions circulating around the Alt-Media Community after Major General Soleimani’s assassination is that Trump is provoking a war with Iran in order to help win re-election, but this isn’t the case since he first of all doesn’t believe that he’s provoking anything (irrespective of his military’s actions), and secondly, the immediate costs of such a conflict could actually capsize his re-election bid.

***

Trump never made any secret of his hatred for the Iranian government so it’s easy for many observers to agree with the common opinion circulating around the Alt-Media Community after Major General Soleimani‘s assassination that the President is provoking a war with Iran in order to help win re-election. This is the wrong assessment to make since the US military that’s most directly shaping the course of events doesn’t believe that it’s provoking anything (irrespective of objective fact), hence Trump doesn’t think so either. The Pentagon exudes the ideology of American Exceptionalism and is convinced that it has the right to use all means possible to remove Iran and its allied militias (including the PMU’s Kataib Hezbollah that’s integrated into the Iraqi Armed Forces) from Iraq in the interests of “national security”, to which end it and its “Israeli” ally have bombed these units several times over the past month. It doesn’t matter whether this is the “right” or “wrong” policy to have, but simply that it exists and is how such actions are understood by American decision makers.

Given that the US believes that it has the “right” to carry out such attacks, it therefore perceived the PMU’s subsequent large-scale protests outside of its Iraqi Embassy to pose an imminent threat to its citizens inside the world’s largest diplomatic facility. Since Kataib Hezbollah and the rest of the PMU more broadly have excellent working relations with Iran’s IRGC, it was extremely easy for the US to spin the narrative that there “must” have been a “hidden Iranian hand” behind that high-profile incident, which immediately called to mind Obama’s Benghazi moment and thus compelled Trump to respond in the complete opposite way as his predecessor by doubling down on the US’ military units there and proudly boasting that this is his “anti-Benghazi” moment. Making matters worse from the American perspective (which is simply to explain their thought process and not excuse it), the Ayatollah taunted Trump by saying that he “can’t do anything” in response to the President promising that “Iran will be held fully responsible” and “pay a very BIG PRICE” if Americans are killed.

Maj. Gen. Soleimani was certainly already on the US’ “decapitation strike” kill list even before the embassy siege, but that comment might have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and convinced Trump that he needed to assassinate the brilliant anti-terrorist tactician in order to prove the point that he will not tolerate being “talked down to” by his foe. It might sound petty to some and scary to others, but Trump takes his “twitter beef” real seriously, so much so that he just proved that he’s willing to kill in order to defend his international reputation after being publicly mocked. Iran totally miscalculated Trump’s response to the PMU’s embassy siege and the Ayatollah’s taunt, but it must be said that the President wouldn’t have climbed the escalation ladder as brazenly as he did had Iran not abandoned its “nuclear ambiguity” after the 2015 Rouhani-Obama deal. It was ironically because of his predecessor that Trump figured that the maximum costs that Iran could inflict on the US in response to that assassination could be “manageable”/”acceptable”.

As the author wrote in his earlier piece on the topic about how “Major General Soleimani’s Assassination Isn’t Going To Start World War III“, the US could utterly destroy every single one of Iran’s fixed assets (be they bases, cities, or whatever else) if Trump had the political will to do so in “responding” to any conventional tit-for-tat by the Islamic Republic, whether done so “preemptively” because of supposed “intelligence” that it was preparing a missile strike for example or “retaliatory” in the unlikely event that the aforesaid actually occurs. Iran can therefore only respond asymmetrically lest it wants to commit national suicide, which Trump would be more than happy to assist it with if it comes to that. He doesn’t want to do that, but would believe that he has “no choice” should Iran launch a missile salvo against his country’s regional bases, the GCC’s, and/or “Israel’s”. The military costs of such an unprecedented “punishment” against Iran are manageable because the Islamic Republic doesn’t have nuclear weapons, but the short-term political ones could cost Trump his re-election bid.

There’s no doubt that the aforementioned scenario would result in the deaths of countless people, which Trump would surely be blamed for, including the loss of American and especially “Israeli” lives. The short- and medium-term regional chaos that the collapse of the Islamic Republic would generate in the humanitarian, geopolitical, and economic senses would create such uncertainty across the world that the Democrats might easily be able to portray him as even more “evil” than they already make him out to be and thus scare Americans into not voting for him a second time. The US itself wouldn’t be too directly affected since it’s already pretty much energy self-sufficient as it is so possible disruptions in the Strait of Hormuz won’t affect it, though they could cripple the Chinese economy depending on how long they occur. America is therefore relatively “insulated” from the consequences that could transpire in the “worst-case scenario”, though Trump would probably be sacrificing his political future if he went through with that course of events.

The state of affairs is therefore more complex than it might appear at first glance. Trump doesn’t want to start a war with Iran because it could greatly jeopardize his re-election prospects, though he won’t back down if Iran responds conventionally, and he also won’t shy away from ordering more “decapitation strikes” if he can claim that any of its asymmetrical responses were somehow supposedly linked to the country (regardless of where they were allegedly organized). Iran, though, cannot let this assassination go unanswered, so there’s sure to be an escalation of some sort in the coming future. If events quickly climb the escalation ladder, then both Iran and possibly even Trump himself might end up the losers, with only the Democrats and the US’ military-industrial complex cynically emerging as the “winners” (since “Israel” might be wiped out by Iran before the Islamic Republic is destroyed). In hindsight, this makes one wonder who ordered Iran’s militant removal from Iraq in the first place and whether it was a “deep state” plot to entrap Trump by provoking this very scenario.

Trump is wholly responsible for his own actions, but he — just like the Ayatollah — is being pushed in a direction where it’s impossible to back down and still “save face”. Neither men can afford to do so, which makes it likely that a lot more people than just Maj. Gen. Soleimani might be about to die. To remind the reader once more, however, none of this would be happening had Iran not abandoned its “nuclear ambiguity” by agreeing to the 2015 Rouhani-Obama deal, with that event in hindsight being the tripwire that provoked the American military into wantonly escalating tensions with Iran (despite believing that they’re doing so in “self-defense) because they realized that the maximum costs that the Islamic Republic could inflict on it in response to their actions could be “manageable”. The lesson to be learned from all of this is that the possession of nuclear weapons safeguards a country’s sovereignty by enabling it to inflict “unmanageable”/”unacceptable” costs on its foes and thus deter their aggression, failing which leaders on both sides can be manipulated into a serious crisis.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

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

Featured image is from Jared Rodriguez/Truthout

The Pentagon confirmed the United States of America’s responsibility of killing the legendary IRGC Quds Brigade commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone attack near Baghdad Airport.

The Pentagon’s statement didn’t elaborate on the cost on the US itself and its interests in the region, and maybe beyond. It just declared war on 3 countries officially after years of trying to hide behind the consumed slogan of ‘fighting terror’, moving from it to ‘Fighting for Terror’.

Qasem Soleimani was a Major General in the Iranian Army, in case the Pentagon’s officials didn’t know.

The former head of the IRGC and currently the top security adviser in Iran issued a statement vowing to avenge the killing of the Iranian top general. Qasem Soleimani was the legendary fighter on the ground who defeated ISIS and other al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and defended Iran itself and the rest of the world from the growing terrorist forces.

The assassination also killed the Deputy Commander of the Iraqi Security Forces – PMU Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

IRGC Commander Major General Hussein Salami, just a day earlier, warned the USA from crossing any red line in its aggression in the region, seems they did because they wanted to escalate the region towards a regional war.

Obviously, the US President instead of ‘draining the swamp’ he drained the US establishment of any sane thinkers and decision-makers by submitting completely to the Zionist lobby, even someone like George W. Bush or Barak Obama, the guy who dropped tens of thousands of bombs on civilians, wouldn’t carry out such insane assassination, especially with tens of thousands of US troops are within the firing range of the Iranian IRGC-Quds Brigades, and the Iraqi PMU as well.

Whatever excuse the US had is no longer worthy of reading, out of our direct experience in the region, the US should be very worried of the consequences and remain on ultra-high alert until Iran officially says they concluded avenging this killing if they’ll ever ‘conclude’.

What we can confirm is this will be the most costly operation the US ever carried out anywhere in the world: by the cost of money, interests, maybe even personnel, and maybe further, but for sure the response will be much bigger than what the US can afford, that includes its satellite entities depending on its protection.

From the decades-long history of resistance and the people of the region, whenever a commander is killed, the subordinates become more hot-headed and seek revenge. This was demonstrated clearly when the US and its stooges killed the Syrian Minister of Defense Abdallah Rajha in 2012 and a number of top security and army generals and instantly al-Qaeda terrorists were given the green light to storm Damascus from a number of axes. The Syrian Arab Army, instead of collapsing, turned the tide in the opposite direction and secured the Syrian capital moving from one victory to another.

The only strategic outcome of this assassination is seeing the US forces out of Iraq, sooner than thought before, opposite to the hopes of who carried out this operation.

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150115 Long War Cover hi-res finalv2 copy3.jpg

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

Michel Chossudovsky

The “globalization of war” is a hegemonic project. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The U.S. military agenda combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states.

ISBN Number: 978-0-9737147-6-0
Year: 2015
Pages: 240 Pages

List Price: $22.95

Special Price: $15.00

Click here to order.

The US carried out a de-facto act of war against Iran after assassinating Major General Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force in Baghdad last night, but despite the doomsday scenarios that many in Alt-Media are speculating that this will lead to, the commencement of World War III is extremely unlikely for several reasons.

***

The “Decapitation Strike” That Shook The World

Trump’s approval of the US’ assassination of Major General Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force in Baghdad last night amounts to a de-facto act of war against Iran, but it wasn’t the decision of a “madman” or someone whose permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) didn’t think this completely through. Rather, it was a premeditated “decapitation strike” carried out to prove the US’ conventional “escalation dominance” in its regional proxy war with Iran, one which America surely knows will elicit a kinetic response of some sort from the Islamic Republic but which the Pentagon and its regional allies are prepared for. Contrary to the narrative bandied about in Alt-Media, the US didn’t “surrender” the Mideast to Russia and Iran in recent years (who, to be clear, are not “allies”, but anti-terrorist “partners of convenience” in Syria) despite some regional setbacks to its grand strategy, but merely adjusted the nature through which it intends to restore its influence there.

Background Context

Instead of continuing to waste hundreds of millions of dollars a day funding the counterproductive 100,000-strong occupation of Iraq and potentially exposing that many troops (“sitting ducks”) to retaliatory attacks, it decided to scale down its conventional presence there and replace it with highly trained Marines and special forces that operate with the support of targeted missile strikes. It was one such strike earlier in the week against the Popular Mobilization Units’ (PMU) Kataib Hezbollah, which is integrated into the Iraqi Armed Forces, that provoked the group’s supporters (allegedly with the coordination of the IRGC according to the US) into besieging the American Embassy in Baghdad. Trump responded by immediately dispatching troops to the world’s largest diplomatic facility and bragging on Twitter that this was his “anti-Benghazi” moment in a clear swipe at Obama’s notorious failure to protect American diplomats back in 2012 when they were in similar circumstances.

Once the unrest died down following the organizers’ decision to withdraw after they declared that their “message has been heard”, US Secretary of Defense ominously warned that his country could take “preemptive action” if it detects any signals that Iran is supposedly planning more anti-American attacks in Iraq. The Islamic Republic denied that it played any role in the recent events unfolding in the neighboring country, but the US obviously didn’t believe it. It therefore set out to assassinate Maj. Gen. Soleimani in order to send the message that it’s serious about “deterring” any forthcoming allegedly Iranian-connected anti-American attacks seeing as how it blamed him for being involved in the latest ones. It also wanted to put additional pressure on Iran to withdraw from Iraq, but probably expected that it could exploit Tehran’s response to this de-facto act of war as a pretext for further intensifying its pressure campaign through more “decapitation strikes”. This attack therefore dangerously escalated tensions with Iran and made many observers fear the onset of World War III.

Some Words About Maj. Gen. Soleimani

What follows isn’t an excuse for America’s actions, but simply a cold, hard analysis explaining why Trump decided to assassinate Solemani and thus carry out a de-facto act of war against Iran, one which will not lead to World War III despite the fearmongering speculation that’s taken social media by storm ever since. Simply put, Iran misjudged the US’ resolve to regain its lost influence in the region and never thought that it would escalate the situation to this level, hence why Maj. Gen. Solemani had no fear of being killed in the heart of Baghdad despite the US’ conventional air superiority and explicit warnings that it could take “preemptive action” against Iran if it believes that it played any role whatsoever in any forthcoming anti-American attacks. It doesn’t matter whether or not the PMU’s Kataib Hezbollah is justified in seeking the removal of US forces from the country through any means possible or if it coordinates those actions with the IRGC since all that’s important is that the US was looking for a pretext to carry out its calculated “decapitation strike” against Maj. Gen. Soleimani.

A few words about him are appropriate at this point. It was through his leadership that the IRGC greatly assisted the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in its destruction of Daesh. He’s played a larger role than any individual in defeating terrorism in Syria and Iraq, and he was widely respected as among one of the most brilliant unconventional warfare tacticians in recent memory. It was because of his success, however, that he became one of the US’ most hated foes since he contributed to the defeat of Washington’s regional proxy forces and thus was partly responsible for the decline in American influence there lately. He was therefore marked for death by the US, but Trump knew that killing him without any pretext would be an unnecessary escalation so he wanted to save that “ace up his sleeve” for later. Iran knows that the US wants it to withdraw from Syria and Iraq but steadfastly refuses because it has the legal right to remain there at the request of those countries’ internationally recognized governments, but nevertheless, the US thinks that “might makes right” and is trying to force it out.

The Islamic Republic Won’t Commit Suicide

American and “Israeli” strikes against allegedly IRGC-allied PMU forces over the past month or so were intended to achieve that outcome, which naturally prompted those forces to kinetically react by targeting a US base earlier in the week that afterwards served as the pretext for America’s latest attack against Kataib Hezbollah which in turn triggered the embassy siege. There’s no doubt that the US is escalating the situation in contravention of international law and targeting anti-terrorist forces that contributed to the defeat of Daesh, but polemics — while having their “perception management” purposes — are pointless when it comes to analyzing situations as objectively as possible and forecasting what might come next. Therefore, they’re being excluded from this piece going forward. Having gotten that out of the way, it’s now time to turn the article’s attention towards rebutting the fearmongering claims that World War III is about to start after Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s assassination.

Iran has the international legal right to defend itself, and its Supreme Leader already vowed a “harsh revenge” to that end, but it’s extremely unlikely to take the form of direct attacks against the US or its allies. As much as the next phrase is going to trigger many Alt-Media folks, the US military is capable of destroying Iran in minutes so long as it’s willing to bear the regional costs of its actions, both short-term in the sense of casualties and long-term as it relates to the geopolitical future of the Mideast. After proving his commitment to overwhelmingly respond to any anti-American attacks that his government alleges (whether truthfully or not) are carried out with any degree of Iranian coordination, Trump certainly wouldn’t hesitate to bomb Iran itself if missiles were launched from there against his or his allies’ forces. The Islamic Republic knows that it would literally be suicide to do such a thing, and despite what neoconservatives, Zionists, and Wahhabis claim about the Iranian authorities, they aren’t an “apocalyptic death cult” and thus aren’t going to start World War III.

Several Scenarios

There’s no doubt that Iran could inflict very serious damage to its regional foes if it chooses to “go out with a bang” (whether after being provoked to do so or at its own prerogative), but it’s much more likely that its response to Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s assassination will take the form of intensified Unconventional Warfare against their interests. The US and its allies must have clearly foreseen this and will likely blame Iran for anything that happens in the coming days no matter whether it’s truly involved or not, using that as a pretext for more “decapitation strikes” and other similar measures intended to decimate it and its allies’ forces. The nature of conflict between the two sides is therefore asymmetric since the US has conventional dominance whereas Iran has its unconventional counterpart, and both might be put to the test in the event of another US Embassy siege in Baghdad, which is very probable in the coming days seeing as how Iraqi society is seething with rage and can easily assemble a critical mass of protesters to besiege the compound once again.

For as big of a prize as seizing the world’s largest diplomatic facility would be for whoever can take it (be it Iran, Iranian-allied, or otherwise), there’s no way that Trump would let that happen. Just like the Berlin Airlift of the Old Cold War, the US would carry out a Baghdad Airlift if it need be, which could entail leveling entire neighborhoods in order to prevent its enemies from hiding anti-air missiles there for taking down its air assets. One can only speculate how such a scenario would unfold, but there shouldn’t be any question in anyone’s mind about the US backing down, especially not during an election year and definitely not after Trump proudly boasted that this is his “anti-Benghazi” moment. Another potential retaliatory scenario is disrupting energy transit through the Strait of Hormuz, but that would affect more than just the US and surely elicit universal condemnation from everyone except perhaps allied Syria, just like if Hezbollah or other IRGC-allied forces decide to bomb “Israel” (in which case it and the US would certainly respond through military means).

Don’t Expect Russia Or China To Save Iran

It’s “politically inconvenient” for many of Iran’s supporters across the world to accept, but the country doesn’t have any state-based military allies willing to go to war alongside it except perhaps Syria, but the SAA has been utterly devastated over the last 9 years and is now a shadow of its former self. There is also absolutely no way that Russia would allow Syria to actively participate in any state-based military hostilities alongside Iran because doing so would endanger the forces and substantial investments that it has in the Arab Republic nowadays. Speaking of which, Russia isn’t Iran’s ally, but “Israel’s”, though it wouldn’t go to war alongside the self-professed “Jewish State” but rather stay out of any potential conflict between the two (which wouldn’t last long considering that the US’ conventional dominance could crush the Islamic Republic within days if Trump authorized it to be unleashed to its fullest extent and he was willing to accept the previously mentioned costs).

Neither Russia nor China would go to war in support of Iran, though they could be expected to issue very strong statements of condemnation against the US and anyone else who might conventionally attack it (whether “preemptively” or as “retaliation”). This objectively existing and easily verifiable statement of fact will likely take many in Alt-Media by surprise who have been indoctrinated over the past couple of years with fake news “analyses” alleging that those two Eurasian Great Powers are “anti-American” and willing to fight the US in order to “save the world”. That will never happen unless one of them is attacked first (though even in that case, neither would go to war for the other because they’ve made it clear that they’re not “military allies”), which probably won’t happen because of the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), at least not unless the US is able to surmount that “obstacle” through the combination of its anti-missile technology and “Space Forces”. In any case, nobody should expect Russia or China to rush to Iran’s aid and defend it from the US.

Concluding Thoughts

The most likely outcome of Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s assassination is an intensified period of proxy wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen which stays just below the conventional threshold given Iran’s inability to survive an overwhelming US’ “retaliatory” strike if Trump authorized one in response to the unlikely massive missile strike that some speculate Tehran might be preparing. The US might also carry out “surgical strikes” against places in Iran where it might claim other strikes were “organized”, such as if Yemen’s Ansarullah attempt to repeat their successful drone strike against Saudi Aramco from last September. “Decapitation strikes” might therefore become increasingly more frequent and nobody would be safe, not even Hezbollah’s Nasrallah in the worst-case scenario, since the US just signaled that it has the political will to take out “high-value targets”. As all of this unfolds, Russia and China will do their utmost to stay away from any regional fray and definitely wouldn’t intervene to defend Iran. As such, Iran’s expected responses will be purely asymmetrical and not conventional.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

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

Featured image is from OneWorld


150115 Long War Cover hi-res finalv2 copy3.jpg

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

Michel Chossudovsky

The “globalization of war” is a hegemonic project. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The U.S. military agenda combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states.

ISBN Number: 978-0-9737147-6-0
Year: 2015
Pages: 240 Pages

List Price: $22.95

Special Price: $15.00

Click here to order.

The United States is now at war with Iran in a conflict that could easily have been avoided and it will not end well. There will be no declaration of war coming from either side, but the assassination of Iranian Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimaniand the head of Kata’ib Hezbollah Abu Mehdi Muhandis by virtue of a Reaper drone strike in Baghdad will shift the long-simmering conflict between the two nations into high gear. Iran cannot let the killing of a senior military officer go unanswered even though it cannot directly confront the United States militarily. But there will be reprisals and Tehran’s suspected use of proxies to stage limited strikes will now be replaced by more damaging actions that can be directly attributed to the Iranian government. As Iran has significant resources locally, one can expect that the entire Persian Gulf region will be destabilized.

And there is also the terrorism card, which will come into play. Iran has an extensive diaspora throughout much of the Middle East and, as it has been threatened by Washington for many years, it has had a long time to prepare for a war to be fought largely in the shadows. No American diplomat, soldier or even tourists in the region should consider him or herself to be safe, quite the contrary. It will be an “open season” on Americans. The U.S. has already ordered a partial evacuation of the Baghdad Embassy and has advised all American citizens to leave the country immediately.

Donald Trump rode to victory in 2016 on a promise to end the useless wars in the Middle East, but he has now demonstrated very clearly that he is a liar. Instead of seeking detente, one of his first actions was to end the JCPOA nuclear agreement and re-introduce sanctions against Iran. In a sense, Iran has from the beginning been the exception to Trump’s no-new-war pledge, a position that might reasonably be directly attributed to his incestuous relationship with the American Jewish community and in particular derived from his pandering to the expressed needs of Israel’s belligerent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump bears full responsibility for what comes next. The neoconservatives and Israelis are predictably cheering the result, with Mark Dubowitz of the pro-Israel Foundation for Defense of Democracies enthusing that it is “bigger than bin Laden…a massive blow to the [Iranian] regime.” Dubowitz, whose credentials as an “Iran expert” are dubious at best, is at least somewhat right in this case. Qassem Suleimani is, to be sure, charismatic and also very popular in Iran. He is Iran’s most powerful military figure in the entire region, being the principal contact for proxies and allies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. But what Dubowitz does not understand is that no one in a military hierarchy is irreplaceable.  Suleimani’s aides and high officials in the intelligence ministry are certainly more than capable of picking up his mantle and continuing his policies.

In reality, the series of foolish attacks initiated by the United States over the past week will only hasten the departure of much of the U.S. military from the region. The Pentagon and White House have been insisting that Iran was behind an alleged Kata’ib Hezbollah attack on a U.S. installation that then triggered a strike by Washington on claimed militia targets in Syria and also inside Iraq. Even though the U.S. military presence is as a guest of the Iraqi government, Washington went ahead with its attack even after the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said “no.”

To justify its actions, Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense, went so far as to insist that “Iran is at war with the whole world,” a clear demonstration of just how ignorant the White House team actually is. The U.S. government characteristically has not provided any evidence demonstrating either Iranian or Kata’ib involvement in recent developments, but after the counter-strike killed 26 Iraqi soldiers, the mass demonstrations against the Embassy in Baghdad became inevitable. The demonstrations were also attributed to Iran by Washington even though the people in the street were undoubtedly Iraqis.

Now that the U.S. has also killed Suleimani and Muhandis in a drone strike at Baghdad Airport, clearly accomplished without the approval of the Iraqi government, it is inevitable that the prime minister will ask American forces to leave. That will in turn make the situation for the remaining U.S. troops in neighboring Syria untenable. And it will also force other Arab states in the region to rethink their hosting of U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen due to the law of unanticipated consequences as it is now clear that Washington has foolishly begun a war that serves no one’s interests.

The blood of the Americans, Iranians and Iraqis who will die in the next few weeks is clearly on Donald Trump’s hands as this war was never inevitable and served no U.S. national interest. It will surely turn out to be a debacle, as well as devastating for all parties involved. And it might well, on top of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, be the long-awaited beginning of the end of America’s imperial ambitions. Let us hope so!

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This article was originally published on American Herald Tribune.

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

Featured image is from AHT

A personal comment in response to the Trump regime’s assassination of redoubtable Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, a national hero now martyred by US imperial rage.

He represented Iranian resilience and resistance against US state-terrorism, its endless wars of aggression, its rage for global control by brute force — responsible for countless millions of deaths, vast destruction, and human misery globally.

The nation I grew up in long ago no longer exists. Never beautiful, it was world’s apart from today’s permanent US state of war on humanity at home and abroad.

Throughout the post-WW II Cold War period through Soviet Russia’s December 1991 dissolution, I never feared nuclear war.

Mutually assured destruction (MAD) when cooler heads ran things in Washington prevented the unthinkable.

Today’s criminal class in the nation’s capital makes the unthinkable possible — bipartisan hardliners abhorrent of peace, stability, equity, justice, and the rule of law.

They’re unchallenged by a largely ignorant, indifferent public, brainwashed by political and media talking heads, distracted by bread and circuses — while endless wars rage, the nation’s resources used for mass slaughter, vast destruction, conquest and colonization, at the expense of beneficial social change.

Will planet earth be consumed by US arrogance and rage for dominance?

Is catastrophic nuclear war inevitable? Will humanity survive or perish?

Are we doomed by diabolical US rage to force other countries to bend to its will — naked aggression and other hostile actions its favored tactics, multi-world polarity fought tooth and nail, peace and stability considered un-American!

As a boy, youth and young man, I was free from what I fear now — possible global war that could kill us all.

The road to hell pursued by the US ruling class is paved with ill-intentions — abhorrent of what just societies cherish.

In my 9th decade, I fear for younger generations in the US and elsewhere.

Will they match my longevity or perish in a mushroom-shaped cloud or by other destructive means?

Are they doomed by US rage to rule the world unchallenged by whatever it takes to achieve its aims, the human toll of no consequence?

Heaven help us in the new year and what follows. 2020 began with a bang! Is the worst ahead?

In response to Soleimani’s Trump regime assassination, Russia’s upper house Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev called what happened “the worst case scenario,” adding:

Iranian retribution “will not take long…This is very difficult news, a harbinger of new clashes between the Americans and radical Shiites in Iraq.”

“But I will be glad to be proved wrong because wars are easy to start, but very difficult to end.”

A statement by Russia’s Foreign Ministry said:

“We consider the killing of Soleimani as the result of an American missile strike in the vicinity of Baghdad to be a bold step that will lead to increased tension throughout the region,” adding:

“Soleimani was devoted to protecting Iran’s national interests. We express our sincere condolences to the Iranian people.”

Russian expert Dmitry Trenin said Soleimani’s assassination “will not deter Iran. More likely it will further escalate the situation in the region, starting with Iraq” — where it already began by renewed US aggression.

On Friday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced Soleimani’s successor, saying:

“Following the martyrdom of the glorious General Haj Qasem Soleimani, I name Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani as the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

He also declared three days of mourning to honor Soleimani’s leadership, courage, and dedication to defending Iran from the threat of foreign aggression.

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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.

It is about time for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to initiate and actually conduct a probe into war crimes perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced recently that she would launch a full investigation into crimes committed by Israel as soon as the court’s jurisdiction has been established. She said a preliminary investigation initiated in 2015 had provided sufficient material to meet criteria for proceeding with a full probe that could lead to prosecutions.

Bensouda said she has filed a request with judges for an “expeditious” ruling on jurisdiction due to the contested legal status of the Palestinian territories conquered by Israel in 1967.

While Israel is not a signatory of the ICC’s Statute, Palestine applied in 2009 and gained membership in 2012 after its UN membership was upgraded by the UN General Assembly to “non-member observer state”. Palestine has joined other UN and international organisations and signed key treaties since then, strengthening its case with respect to the ICC.

Palestine signed the ICC statute on January 2, 2015. When its membership entered into force on April 1, 2015. The ICC held a ceremony welcoming Palestine as the 123rd state party to the Rome Statute, which was signed in July 1996 and entered into force on July 1, 2002. The European Union welcomed Palestine’s accession.

The Statute designates four international crimes: Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. The ICC has jurisdiction if any of these crimes are committed on the territory of a member state. This is certainly true where the territory of Palestine is concerned.

On January 16, 2015, before Palestine’s membership had entered into force, the ICC prosecutor opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine to determine whether to carry out the full probe. It is on the basis of this investigation that Bensouda intends to proceed. In the view of Bensouda, this confers on Palestine and the Palestinian Authority the right to pursue cases against Israel.

Two previous Palestinian complaints have been problematic. The first was an investigation into Israel’s 2010 attack on Turkish ferryboat, Mavi Marmara, which killed 10 peace activists taking part in a flotilla bound for Gaza. This complaint was dropped early last month.

The second was mounted in August 2014 into Israel’s illegal colonisation of Palestinian territory and onslaught on Gaza that killed 2,100-2,300 Palestinians, 67 Israeli soldiers, five Israeli civilians and one Thai worker. These cases were included in the preliminary probe.

Bensouda decided to take the plunge in 2014 during Israel’s disproportionate assault on Gaza. At that time, she intended her investigation to be entirely independent and focused on crimes defined by the Rome Statute. Unlike other figures critical of Israel actions, she does not regard “Israeli exceptionalism”, or impunity, as a reason for failing to tackle its bad behaviour.

The current focus is on Israeli West Bank settlement activities regarded as illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits colonisation of land conquered in war, Israeli violations in Gaza, abuses by Palestinian Authority security personnel, and Authority pensions for families of Palestinians who have mounted attacks on Israelis.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed Bensouda’s decision to proceed with a full investigation and demanded that proceedings go forward without further delays. “After nearly five years of preliminary examination, the Palestinian people who seek redress in this court expect actions congruent with the urgency and gravity of the situation in Palestine and they rightly demand that these steps are taken without delay.”

Both Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo have said the ICC has no jurisdiction because Palestine is not a “so sovereign state”. Neither Israel nor the US have joined the ICC so they have little direct purchase to exert pressure on the court. Israeli and US opposition to Bensouda’s probe was always expected. While Israel is a constant abuser of Palestinians, the US does its utmost to block efforts to curb Israel or punish it for its illegal actions. Israel and the US are certain to lobby ICC members to oppose and scupper the court’s probe with the aim of defending Israel from the “embarrassment” of having its citizens tried and, finally, found guilty of the “war crimes they have been committing for decades”.

However, the Trump administration, has transformed the US into a rogue state on the international scene. European governments are, in particular, fed up with his withdrawal of the US from well-established global treaties and agreements, including the Paris climate change accord and the six-nation deal to dismantle 90 per cent of Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

On the Palestine-Israel front, Trump has put the nails in the coffin of the long moribund Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Instead of adopting an even-handed approach to negotiations between Palestine and Israel, Trump has done everything in his power to please and court Israel.

He has renounced 70 years of agreed international policy by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shifting the US embassy to the Holy City. Trump has ended all US funding to the UN agency looking after Palestinian refugees and Pompeo has argued that Israeli settlements are not “illegal”.

Trump has recognised Israel’s unilateral annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967, and is expected to do the same once Netanyahu annexes Israeli West Bank colonies and the Jordan Valley.  By taking these steps Trump has, essentially, preempted Palestinian-Israeli negotiations by deciding the fate of Jerusalem, refugees and Israeli settlements, key issues dividing the parties, as well as the Golan.

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United Nations special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer has written to governments to press them to investigate properly evidence that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been subjected to psychological torture.

On December 31 Mr Melzer shared on Twitter a letter that he had sent to the British government shaming its failure to address concerns that Mr Assange had been tortured.

The letter, dated October 29, did not receive a response. He has also written to the United States, Swedish and Ecuadorian governments.

The US is seeking Mr Assange’s extradition to face spying charges. The whistleblower has been detained since his arrest in April at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He had been confined there since 2012 after being granted asylum by the South American country.

At the time Mr Assange was a wanted man in Sweden, having failed to respond to demands for him to return there to face questioning over sexual assault charges. He claimed that Sweden would simply ship him out to a vengeful US, angered by his whistleblowing activities. The assault charges were eventually dropped.

In his tweet Mr Melzer accused the British government of “seriously undermining the credibility of the UK’s commitment to the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, as well as to the rule of law more generally.”

He said that “recurring and serious” due-process violations in Britain have rendered Mr Assange’s case “inherently arbitrary, to the point of making any legal remedies a pointless formality devoid of prospect.”

Mr Melzer called on the government to retract its extradition authorisation and release him from prison “without further delay.”

Anti-war campaigner John Rees told the Star yesterday:

“Obviously it is a very important intervention from a very high-authority source, but it is not news to anyone who has visited Assange in Belmarsh high-security prison, as I have.

“The conditions he is being kept in are unacceptable and there is absolutely no doubt that the prison regime is directly causing deterioration of his health.”

Mr Rees said it was Home Secretary Priti Patel’s responsibility to intervene.

“The judge has already expressed concern that [Mr Assange’s] legal team are not getting access to their client,” he said. “Both these things are of the most serious nature, it jeopardises any fair hearings coming up in February.”

Former Derby North MP Chris Williamson tweeted:

“The UK government’s treatment of Julian Assange continues to shame Britain.”

Mr Melzer’s call comes as journalist Vaughan Smith told RT that an “obviously sedated” Mr Assange said he was “slowly dying here” during a Christmas Eve phone call between the two friends.

Mr Smith said Mr Assange sounded like a shell of the man he once.

“His speech was slurred. He was speaking slowly,” Mr Smith said. “Now, Julian is highly articulate, a very clear person when he speaks. And he sounded awful. It was very upsetting to hear him.”

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Featured image: Julian Assange court sketch, October 21, 2019, supplied by Julia Quenzler.

Two Israeli settlers attacked undercover police officers disguised as Palestinian labourers in an illegal West Bank settlement this week.

Believing the police to be Palestinian workers, the teenage settlers approached them in the Bat Ayin settlement and started to interrogate them. The police refused to answer properly, prompting an attack, Haaretz reported.

One teenager used pepper spray on the undercover cop, and the other started beating them.

They were subsequently arrested and taken in for questioning. According to their lawyer, Moshe Polsky, the two teenage boys were held overnight. Their names were not released because they are minors.

Polsky, who is defending the teenagers on behalf of far-right pro-settlement legal aid group Honeinu, said the boys were under full conviction that the officers were Palestinian, thus attacking them is justified during a “stressful security period”.

He also deplored the police officers for “provoking” the settlers by dressing as undercover Palestinians.

Settlers in Bat Ayin are notoriously anti-Palestinian. Unlike other illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians are not even allowed to enter.

Israel has occupied the West Bank illegally since 1967, and commits various abuses against Palestinian civilians, human rights groups say.

More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in constructions considered illegal under international law.

Along with stealing land, Israeli soldiers and settlers routinely harass Palestinians in the occupied territories in various ways.

Israeli military forces and settlers routinely harass Palestinians in the occupied territories through harming and killing civilians, demolishing homes, poisoning livestock, vandalising property and other forms of violence.

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Originally published in March 2007.

Global Research Editor’s Note:

This interview serves as a reminder regarding the diabolical timeline of America’s hegemonic project. Is Iran the next target “to be taken out”?

All these countries are on the Pentagon’s drawing board.  These seven countries have directly or indirectly been the object of US aggression.

America’s hegemonic military agenda has reached a dangerous threshold: The assassination of  IRG General Soleimani ordered by Donald Trump is tantamount to an Act of War against Iran.

US Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper described the assassination of General Soleimani as a “decisive defensive action” while confirming that the operation ordered by Donald Trump had been carried out by the Pentagon. “The game has changed” said Defense Secretary Esper.

Michel Chossudovsky, January 4, 2019

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General Wesley Clark. Retired 4-star U.S. Army general, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the 1999 War on Yugoslavia .

Complete Transcript of Program, Democracy Now.

Today we spend the hour with General Wesley Clark, the retired four-star general. He was the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the Kosovo War. In 2004 he unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. He recently edited a series of books about famous U.S. generals including Dwight Eisenhower and Ulysses Grant – both of whom became president after their military careers ended.

Complete Video Interview:


Well for the rest of the hour we are going to hear General Wesley Clark on the possibility of a U.S. attack on Iran, the impeachment of President Bush, the use of cluster bombs, the bombing of Radio Television Serbia during the Kosovo War and much more. I interviewed Wesley Clark on Tuesday at the 92nd Street Y in New York.

Short version of video interview:

  • Gen. Wesley Clark. Retired 4-star US Army general. Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the Kosovo War.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, an exclusive hour with General Wesley Clark, the retired four-star general. He was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the Kosovo War. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2004, he unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. He recently edited a series of books about famous US generals, including Dwight Eisenhower and Ulysses Grant, both of whom became president after their military careers ended.

On Tuesday, I interviewed Wesley Clark at the 92nd Street Y Cultural Center here in New York City before a live audience and asked him about his presidential ambitions.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of these generals who run for president?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I like them. It’s happened before.

AMY GOODMAN: Will it happen again?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: It might.

AMY GOODMAN: Later in the interview, I followed up on that question.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you announce for president?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I haven’t said I won’t.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you waiting for?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I’m waiting for several different preconditions, which I’m not at liberty to discuss. But I will tell you this: I think about it every single day.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for the rest of the hour, we’ll hear General Wesley Clark in his own words on the possibility of a US attack on Iran; the impeachment of President Bush; the use of cluster bombs; the bombing of Radio Television Serbia during the Kosovo War under his command; and much more. I interviewed General Clark on Tuesday at the 92nd Street Y in New York.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, let’s talk about Iran. You have a whole website devoted to stopping war.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Www.stopiranwar.com.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a replay in what happened in the lead-up to the war with Iraq — the allegations of the weapons of mass destruction, the media leaping onto the bandwagon?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, in a way. But, you know, history doesn’t repeat itself exactly twice. What I did warn about when I testified in front of Congress in 2002, I said if you want to worry about a state, it shouldn’t be Iraq, it should be Iran. But this government, our administration, wanted to worry about Iraq, not Iran.

I knew why, because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, “Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said, “Well, you’re too busy.” He said, “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” — meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office — “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

AMY GOODMAN: I’m sorry. What did you say his name was?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I’m not going to give you his name.

AMY GOODMAN: So, go through the countries again.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, starting with Iraq, then Syria and Lebanon, then Libya, then Somalia and Sudan, and back to Iran. So when you look at Iran, you say, “Is it a replay?” It’s not exactly a replay. But here’s the truth: that Iran, from the beginning, has seen that the presence of the United States in Iraq was a threat — a blessing, because we took out Saddam Hussein and the Baathists. They couldn’t handle them. We took care of it for them. But also a threat, because they knew that they were next on the hit list. And so, of course, they got engaged. They lost a million people during the war with Iraq, and they’ve got a long and unprotectable, unsecurable border. So it was in their vital interest to be deeply involved inside Iraq. They tolerated our attacks on the Baathists. They were happy we captured Saddam Hussein.

But they’re building up their own network of influence, and to cement it, they occasionally give some military assistance and training and advice, either directly or indirectly, to both the insurgents and to the militias. And in that sense, it’s not exactly parallel, because there has been, I believe, continuous Iranian engagement, some of it legitimate, some of it illegitimate. I mean, you can hardly fault Iran because they’re offering to do eye operations for Iraqis who need medical attention. That’s not an offense that you can go to war over, perhaps. But it is an effort to gain influence.

And the administration has stubbornly refused to talk with Iran about their perception, in part because they don’t want to pay the price with their domestic — our US domestic political base, the rightwing base, but also because they don’t want to legitimate a government that they’ve been trying to overthrow. If you were Iran, you’d probably believe that you were mostly already at war with the United States anyway, since we’ve asserted that their government needs regime change, and we’ve asked congress to appropriate $75 million to do it, and we are supporting terrorist groups, apparently, who are infiltrating and blowing up things inside Iraq — Iran. And if we’re not doing it, let’s put it this way: we’re probably cognizant of it and encouraging it. So it’s not surprising that we’re moving to a point of confrontation and crisis with Iran.

My point on this is not that the Iranians are good guys — they’re not — but that you shouldn’t use force, except as a last, last, last resort. There is a military option, but it’s a bad one.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response to Seymour Hersh’s piece in The New Yorker to two key points this week, reporting the Pentagon’s established a special planning group within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to plan a bombing attack on Iran, that this is coming as the Bush administration and Saudi Arabia are pumping money for covert operations into many areas of the Middle East, including Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, in an effort to strengthen Saudi-supported Sunni Islam groups and weaken Iranian-backed Shias — some of the covert money has been given to jihadist groups in Lebanon with ties to al-Qaeda — fighting the Shias by funding with Prince Bandar and then with US money not approved by Congress, funding the Sunnis connected to al-Qaeda.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I don’t have any direct information to confirm it or deny it. It’s certainly plausible. The Saudis have taken a more active role. You know, the Saudis have —

AMY GOODMAN: You were just in Saudi Arabia.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Hmm?

AMY GOODMAN: You just came back from Saudi Arabia.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Yeah. Well, the Saudis have basically recognized that they have an enormous stake in the outcome in Iraq, and they don’t particularly trust the judgment of the United States in this area. We haven’t exactly proved our competence in Iraq. So they’re trying to take matters into their own hands.

The real danger is, and one of the reasons this is so complicated is because — let’s say we did follow the desires of some people who say, “Just pull out, and pull out now.” Well, yeah. We could mechanically do that. It would be ugly, and it might take three or four months, but you could line up the battalions on the road one by one, and you could put the gunners in the Humvees and load and cock their weapons and shoot their way out of Iraq. You’d have a few roadside bombs. But if you line everybody up there won’t be any roadside bombs. Maybe some sniping. You can fly helicopters over, do your air cover. You’d probably get safely out of there. But when you leave, the Saudis have got to find someone to fight the Shias. Who are they going to find? Al-Qaeda, because the groups of Sunnis who would be extremists and willing to fight would probably be the groups connected to al-Qaeda. So one of the weird inconsistencies in this is that were we to get out early, we’d be intensifying the threat against us of a super powerful Sunni extremist group, which was now legitimated by overt Saudi funding in an effort to hang onto a toehold inside Iraq and block Iranian expansionism.

AMY GOODMAN: And interestingly, today, John Negroponte has just become the number two man, resigning his post as National Intelligence Director to go to the State Department, Seymour Hersh says, because of his discomfort that the administration’s covert actions in the Middle East so closely echo the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, and Negroponte was involved with that.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I’m sure there are a lot of reasons why John would go back to the State Department. John’s a good — he’s a good man. But, you know, the question is, in government is, can you — are you bigger than your job? Because if you’re not bigger than your job, you get trapped by the pressures of events and processes into going along with actions that you know you shouldn’t. And I don’t know. I don’t know why he left the National Intelligence Director’s position. He started in the State Department. Maybe he’s got a fondness to return and finish off his career in State.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about — do you know who the generals are, who are threatening to resign if the United States attacks Iran?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: No, I don’t. No, I don’t. And I don’t want to know.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you agree with them?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I’ll put it this way. On Labor Day weekend of 1994, when I was the J5 — I was a three-star general. I was in the Pentagon. And it was a Saturday morning, and so I was in the office. Walt Kross was the director of the Joint Staff, and he was in the office. And I think it was either Howell Estes or Jack Sheehan who was the J3 at the time. The three of us — I think it was Jack still on the job for the last couple of days. And the three of us were in Shalikashvili’s office about 11:00 in the morning on a Saturday morning, and he had just come back from a White House meeting. And he was all fired up in the way that Shali could be. And he said, “So,” he said, “we will see who will be the real soldiers this weekend! There’s much work to be done! This operation on Haiti has to be completed! The planning must be done correctly, and it must be done this weekend! So we will see who are the real soldiers!”

Then the phone buzzed, and he got up from this little round table the four of us were sitting at to take the call from the White House. We started looking at each other. We said, “Gosh, I wonder where this came from.” I mean, we were all getting ready to check out of the building in an hour or so. We had finished off the messages and paperwork. And we just usually got together because there was normally a crisis every Saturday anyway, and so we normally would come in for the Saturday morning crisis. And so, Shali came back, and so I said to him, I said, “Well, sir, we’ve been talking amongst ourselves, and we’re happy to work all weekend to get all this done, but this is just a drill, right, on Haiti?”

He looked at me, and he said, “Wes,” he said, “this is no drill.” He said, “I’m not authorized to tell you this. But,” he said “the decision has been made, and the United States will invade Haiti. The date is the 20th” — I think it was this date — “of the 20th of September. And the planning must be done, and it must be done now. And if any of you have reservations about this, this is the time to leave.” So I looked at Jack, and I looked at Walt. They looked at me. I mean, we kind of shrugged our shoulders and said, “OK, if you want to invade Haiti, I mean, it’s not illegal. It’s not the country we’d most like to invade. The opposition there consists of five armored vehicles. But sure, I mean, if the President says to do it, yeah, we’re not going resign over it.” And so, we didn’t resign. Nobody resigned.

But Shali was a very smart man. He knew. He knew he was bigger than his job, and he knew that you had to ask yourself the moral, legal and ethical questions first. And so, I’m encouraged by the fact that some of these generals have said this about Iran. They should be asking these questions first.

AMY GOODMAN: General Wesley Clark. He says he thinks about running for president again every day. We’ll come back to my interview with him in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We go back to my interview with General Wesley Clark.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the soldiers who are saying no to going to Iraq right now?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Iraq?

AMY GOODMAN: To going to Iraq. People like First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, first commissioned officer to say no to deploy. And they just declared a mistrial in his court-martial. He will face another court-martial in a few weeks. What do you think of these young men and women — there are now thousands — who are refusing? But, for example, Ehren Watada, who says he feels it’s wrong. He feels it’s illegal and immoral, and he doesn’t want to lead men and women there.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think, you know, he’s certainly made a personally courageous statement. And he’ll pay with the consequences of it.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he should have to go to jail for that?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think that you have to have an effective armed forces. And I think that it’s not up to the men and women in the Armed Forces to choose where they’ll go to war, because at the very time you need the Armed Forces the most is — there will be a certain number of people who will see it the other way. And so, I support his right to refuse to go, and I support the government’s effort to bring charges against him. This is the way the system works.

Now, the difference is, the case that I described with Shalikashvili is, we would have been given the chance to retire. We would have left our jobs. We might not have retired as three-star generals, because we hadn’t done our duty. But we weren’t in the same circumstance that he is, so there wasn’t necessarily going to be charges brought against us.

But an armed forces has to have discipline. It’s a voluntary organization to join. But it’s not voluntary unless it’s illegal. And you can bring — the trouble with Iraq is it’s not illegal. It was authorized by the United States Congress. It was authorized by the United Nations Security Council resolution. It’s an illegitimate war, but not an illegal war.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it’s wrong?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: It’s wrong to fight in Iraq? Well, I think it’s a mistake. I think it’s a bad strategy. I think it’s brought us a lot of grief, and it will bring us a lot more grief. I think it’s been a tremendous distraction from the war on terror, a diversion of resources, and it’s reinforced our enemies. But on the other hand, his case is a moral case, not a legal case. And if you’re going to be a conscientious objector morally like this, then what makes it commendable is that you’ll take your stand on principle and pay the price. If there’s no price to be paid for it, then the courage of your act isn’t self-evident. So he’s taken a very personally courageous stand. But on the other hand, you have to also appreciate the fact that the Armed Forces has to be able to function.

So, you know, in World War I in France, there were a series of terribly misplaced offensives, and they brought — they failed again and again and again. The French took incredible losses. And these were conscript armies. And after one of these failures, a group of thousands of soldiers simply said, “We’re not doing this again. It’s wrong.” You know what the French did? They did what they call decimation. They lined up the troops. They took every tenth soldier, and they shot them. Now, the general who ordered that, he suffered some severe repercussions, personally, morally, but after that the soldiers in France didn’t disobey. Had the army disintegrated at that point, Germany would have occupied France. So when you’re dealing with the use of force, there is an element of compulsion in the Armed Forces.

AMY GOODMAN: But if the politicians will not stop it — as you pointed out, the Democrats joined with the Republicans in authorizing the war — then it’s quite significant, I think, that you, as a general, are saying that this man has taken a courageous act. Then it’s up to the people who are being sent to go to say no.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Yeah. But the courage that we need is not his courage. We need the courage of the leaders in the United States government: the generals who could affect the policy, the people in Congress who could force the President to change his strategy. That’s the current — that’s the courage that’s needed.

AMY GOODMAN: And how could they do that?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, you start with a non-binding resolution in the United States Congress, and you build your momentum from there. And you keep hammering it. The Congress has three principal powers. It has the power to appoint, power to investigate, power to fund. And you go after all three. On all three fronts, you find out what the President needs, until he takes it seriously. I think it’s a difficult maneuver to use a scalpel and say, “Well, we’re going to support funding, but we’re not going to support funding for the surge,” because that’s requiring a degree of micro-management that Congress can’t do.

But you can certainly put enough squeeze on the President that he finally calls in the leaders of the Congress and says, “OK, OK, what’s it going to take? I’ve got to get my White House budget passed. I’ve got to get thirty judges, federal judges, confirmed. I’ve got to get these federal prosecutors — you know, the ones that I caused to resign so I could handle it — they’ve got to get replacements in place. What do I have to do to get some support here?” I mean, it could be done. It’s hard bare-knuckle government.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Congress should stop funding the war?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I think Congress should take a strong stand to get the strategy changed. I don’t think that if you cut off funding for the war, it’s in the — right now that’s not in the United States’ interest. What is in the United States’ interest is to change the strategy in the war. You cannot succeed by simply stopping the funding and saying, “You’ve got six months to get the Americans out.” That’s not going to end the misery in Iraq. It’s not going to restore the lives that have been lost. And it’s not going to give us the power in the region to prevent later threats.

What we do have to do is have a strategy that uses all the elements of America’s power: diplomatic, economic, legal and military. I would send a high-level diplomatic team into the region right now. I’d have no-holds-barred and no-preconditioned discussion with Iran and Syria. And I would let it be known that I’ve got in my bag all the tricks, including putting another 50,000 troops in Iraq and pulling all 150,000 troops out. And we’re going to reach an agreement on a statement of principles that brings stability and peace and order to the region. So let’s just sit down and start doing it. Now, that could be done with the right administrative leadership. It just hasn’t been done.

You know, think of it this way. You’re on a ship crossing the Atlantic. It’s a new ship. And it’s at night. And you’re looking out ahead of the ship, and you notice that there’s a part of the horizon. It’s a beautiful, starry night, except that there’s a part of the horizon, a sort of a regular hump out there where there are no stars visible. And you notice, as the ship plows through the water at thirty knots, that this area where there are no stars is getting larger. And finally, it hits you that there must be something out there that’s blocking the starlight, like an iceberg. So you run to the captain. And you say, “Captain, captain, there’s an iceberg, and we’re driving right toward it.” And he says, “Look, I can’t be bothered with the iceberg right now. We’re having an argument about the number of deck chairs on the fore deck versus the aft deck.” And you say, “But you’re going to hit an iceberg.” He says, “I’m sorry. Get out of here.” So you go to the first officer, and he says, “I’m fighting with the captain on the number of deck chairs.”

You know, we’re approaching an iceberg in the Middle East in our policy, and we’ve got Congress and the United States — and the President of the United States fighting over troop strength in Iraq. It’s the wrong issue. The issue is the strategy, not the troop strength.

AMY GOODMAN: General Clark, do you think Guantanamo Bay should be closed?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: If Congress cut off funds for the prison there, it would be closed. Should they?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think the first thing Congress should do is repeal the Military Commissions Act. I’m very disturbed that a number of people who are looking at the highest office in the land have supported an act which advertently or inadvertently authorizes the admission into evidence of information gained through torture. That’s not the America that I believe in. And the America that I believe in doesn’t detain people indefinitely without charges. So I’d start with the Military Commissions Act.

Then I’d get our NATO allies into the act. They’ve said they don’t like Guantanamo either. So I’d like to create an international tribunal, not a kangaroo court of military commissions. And let’s go back through the evidence. And let’s lay it out. Who are these people that have been held down there? And what have they been held for? And which ones can be released? And which ones should be tried in court and convicted?

You see, essentially, you cannot win the war on terror by military force. It is first and foremost a battle of ideas. It is secondly a law enforcement effort and a cooperative effort among nations. And only as a last resort do you use military force. This president has distorted the capabilities of the United States Armed Forces. He’s used our men and women in uniform improperly in Guantanamo and engaged in actions that I think are totally against the Uniform Code of Military Justice and against what we stand for as the American people.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that President Bush should be impeached?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think we ought to do first thing’s first, which is, we really need to understand and finish the job that Congress started with respect to the Iraq war investigation. Do you remember that there was going to be a study released by the Senate, that the senator from Iowa or from Kansas who was the Republican head of the Senate Intelligence Committee was going to do this study to determine whether the administration had, in fact, misused the intelligence information to mislead us into the war with Iraq? Well, I’ve never seen that study. I’d like to know where that study is. I’d like to know why we’ve spent three years investigating Scooter Libby, when we should have been investigating why this country went to war in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a complaint against Donald Rumsfeld, General Miller and others in a German court, because they have universal jurisdiction. Do you think that Donald Rumsfeld should be tried for war crimes?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I’d like to see what the evidence is against Rumsfeld. I do know this, that there was a lot of pressure put on the men and women in uniform to come up with intelligence. I remember — I think it was either General Sanchez or General Abizaid, who stated that we don’t need more troops — this is the fall of 2003 — we just need better information. Well, to me, that was immediate code words that we were really trying to soak these people for information.

And it’s only a short step from there to all the kinds of mistreatment that occur at places like Abu Ghraib. So we know that Al Gonzales wrote a couple of really — or authored, or his people authored and he approved, a couple of outrageous memos that attempted to define torture as deliberately inflicted pain, the equivalent of the loss of a major bodily organ or limb, which is — it’s not an adequate definition of torture. And we know that he authorized, to some degree, some coercive methods, which we have — and we know President Bush himself accepted implicitly in a signing statement to a 2005 act on military detainees that he would use whatever methods were appropriate or necessary. So there’s been some official condoning of these actions.

I think it’s a violation of international law and a violation of American law and a violation of the principles of good government in America. There have always been evidences of mistreatment of prisoners. Every army has probably done it in history. But our country hasn’t ever done it as a matter of deliberate policy. George Washington told his soldiers, when they captured the Hessians and the men wanted to run them through, because the Hessians were brutal and ruthless, he said, “No, treat them well.” He said, “They’ll join our side.” And many of them did. It was a smart policy, not only the right thing to do, but a smart policy to treat the enemy well. We’ve made countless enemies in that part of the world by the way we’ve treated people and disregarded them. It’s bad, bad policy.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask — you’re a FOX News contributor now?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Oh, at least.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you what you think of the dean of West Point, Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, together with a military interrogator named Tony Lagouranis and the group Human Rights First, going to the heads of the program 24, very popular hit show on FOX, to tell them that what they’re doing on this program, glorifying torture, is inspiring young men and women to go to Iraq and torture soldiers there, and to stop it?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: And not only that, but it doesn’t work. Yeah, Pat Finnegan is one of my heroes.

AMY GOODMAN: So what do you think about that?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I think it’s great.

AMY GOODMAN: And have you been involved in the conversation internally at FOX, which runs 24, to stop it?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, as far as I know, they actually put out a call to all the writers in Hollywood. My son’s a writer, and he was one of them who got a call. They were all told: stop talking about torture. It doesn’t work. So I think it was an effective move by Pat Finnegan.

AMY GOODMAN: So you support it?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: General Wesley Clark. I’m interviewing him at the 92nd Street Y. We’re going to come back to the conclusion of that interview in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: General Wesley Clark recently edited a series of books about famous US generals: Grant, LeMay, Patton and Eisenhower. When I interviewed him at the 92nd Street Y, I asked him a question about the presidency of General Dwight Eisenhower

AMY GOODMAN: 1953 was also a seminal date for today, and that was when Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of Teddy Roosevelt, went to Iran and led a coup against Mohammed Mossadegh under Eisenhower.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: People make mistakes. And one of the mistakes that the United States consistently made was that it could intervene and somehow adjust people’s governments, especially in the Middle East. I don’t know why we felt that — you can understand Latin America, because Latin America was always an area in which people would come to the United States, say, “You’ve got to help us down there. These are banditos, and they don’t know anything. And, you know, they don’t have a government. Just intervene and save our property.” And the United States did it a lot in the ’20s. Of course, Eisenhower was part of that culture. He had seen it.

But in the Middle East, we had never been there. We established a relationship during World War II, of course, to keep the Germans out of Iran. And so, the Soviets and the Brits put an Allied mission together. At the end of World War II, the Soviets didn’t want to withdraw, and Truman called their bluff in the United Nations. And Eisenhower knew all of this. And Iran somehow became incorporated into the American defense perimeter. And so, his view would have been, we couldn’t allow a communist to take over.

AMY GOODMAN: But wasn’t it more about British Petroleum?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Oh, it’s always — there are always interests. The truth is, about the Middle East is, had there been no oil there, it would be like Africa. Nobody is threatening to intervene in Africa. The problem is the opposite. We keep asking for people to intervene and stop it. There’s no question that the presence of petroleum throughout the region has sparked great power involvement. Whether that was the specific motivation for the coup or not, I can’t tell you. But there was definitely — there’s always been this attitude that somehow we could intervene and use force in the region. I mean, that was true with — I mean, imagine us arming and creating the Mujahideen to keep the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Why would we think we could do that? But we did. And, you know, my lesson on it is, whenever you use force, there are unintended consequences, so you should use force as a last resort. Whether it’s overt or covert, you pay enormous consequences for using force.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about what you think of the response to Jimmy Carter’s book, Peace, Not Apartheid.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I’m sorry to say I haven’t read the book. And it’s one of the things I’ve been meaning to read, and I just haven’t. I will tell you this, that we’re in a very, very difficult position in Israel. I say “we,” because every American president has committed to the protection and survival of the state of Israel. And I think that’s right. And I certainly feel that way, and I’m a very strong supporter of Israel.

But somehow we’ve got to move off top dead center in terms of these discussions with the Palestinians. And this administration has failed to lead. They came into office basically determined not to do anything that Bill Clinton did. I think that was the basic guideline. And so, they have allowed unremitting violence between Israel and the Palestinians with hardly an effort to stop that through US leadership. And now, it’s almost too late. So Condi was over there the other day, and she didn’t achieve what she wanted to achieve, and people want to blame the Saudis. But at least the Saudis tried to do something at Mecca by putting together a unity government. So I fault the administration.

Jimmy Carter has taken a lot of heat from people. I don’t know exactly what he said in the book. But people are very sensitive about Israel in this country. And I understand that. A lot of my friends have explained it to me and have explained to me the psychology of people who were in this country and saw what was happening in World War II, and maybe they didn’t feel like they spoke out strongly enough, soon enough, to stop it. And it’s not going to happen again.

AMY GOODMAN: General Clark, I wanted to ask you a tough question about journalists.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, now, that would be the first tough question you’ve asked me tonight.

AMY GOODMAN: There are more than a hundred journalists and media workers in Iraq who have died. And particularly hard hit are Arab journalists. I mean, you had Tariq Ayoub, the Al Jazeera reporter, who died on the roof of Al Jazeera when the US military shelled Al Jazeera, then went on to shell the Palestine Hotel and killed two reporters, a Reuters cameraman and one from Telecinco in Spain named Jose Couso. Many Arab journalists feel like they have been targeted, the idea of shooting the messenger. But this tough question goes back to your being Supreme Allied Commander in Yugoslavia and the bombing of Radio Television Serbia. Do you regret that that happened, that you did that?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: No, I don’t regret that at all. That was part of the Serb command and control network. And not only that, I was asked to take out that television by a lot of important political leaders. And before I took it out, I twice warned the Serbs we were going to take it out. We stopped, at one news conference in the Pentagon, we planted the question to get the attention of the Serbs, that we were going to target Serb Radio and Television.

AMY GOODMAN: RTS.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Yeah. And that night, in fact, Milosevic got the warning, because he summoned all the foreign journalists to come to a special mandatory party at RTS that night. But we weren’t bombing that night. We put the word out twice before we actually I did it.

AMY GOODMAN: You told CNN, which was also there, to leave?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I told — I used — I think I used CNN to plant the story and to leak it at the Pentagon press conference. But we didn’t tell anyone specifically to leave. What we told them was it’s now a target. And it was Milosevic who determined that he would keep people there in the middle of the night just so there would be someone killed if we struck it. So we struck it during the hours where there were not supposed to be anybody there.

AMY GOODMAN: But you killed civilians.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Six people died.

AMY GOODMAN: I think sixteen. But I think it’s the media — it’s the beauticians, the technicians. It was a civilian target.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Yeah, they were ordered to stay there by Milosevic. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: But it was a civilian target.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: It was not a civilian target. It was a military target. It was part of the Serb command and control network

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of Amnesty International calling it a war crime?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think it was investigated by the International Criminal Tribunal in Yugoslavia and found to be a legitimate target. So I think it’s perfectly alright for Amnesty International to have their say, but everything we did was approved by lawyers, and every target was blessed. We would not have committed a war crime.

AMY GOODMAN: Upon reflection now and knowing who died there, the young people, the people who worked for RTS, who — as you said, if Milosevic wanted people to stay there, they were just following orders.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, it was a tragedy. But I’ll tell you something. If you want to talk about tragedies, how about this one? We bombed what we thought was a Serb police station in Kosovo. We saw the Serb vehicles. We flew unmanned aerial vehicles over it. And we did everything we could to identify it. And we found that there were Serb police vehicles parked there at night, so we sent an F-16 in, dropped two 500-pound laser-guided bombs and took it out. We killed eighty Albanians who had been imprisoned by the Serbs there. They were trying to escape, and the Serbs locked them up in this farmhouse and surrounded them with vehicles. So, I regret every single innocent person who died, and I prayed every night that there wouldn’t be any innocent people who died. But this is why I say you must use force only as a last resort.

I told this story to the high school kids earlier, but it bears repeating, I guess. We had a malfunction with a cluster bomb unit, and a couple of grenades fell on a schoolyard, and some, I think three, schoolchildren were killed in Nish. And two weeks later, I got a letter from a Serb grandfather. He said, “You’ve killed my granddaughter.” He said, “I hate you for this, and I’ll kill you.” And I got this in the middle of the war. And it made me very, very sad. We certainly never wanted to do anything like that. But in war, accidents happen. And that’s why you shouldn’t undertake military operations unless every other alternative has been exhausted, because innocent people do die. And I think the United States military was as humane and careful as it possibly could have been in the Kosovo campaign. But still, civilians died. And I’ll always regret that.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think cluster bombs should be banned?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: You know, we used, I think 1,400-plus cluster bombs. And there’s a time when you have to use cluster bombs: when they’re the most appropriate and humane weapon. But I think you have to control the use very carefully. And I think we did in Yugoslavia.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, the US has rejected an international call to ban the use of cluster bombs. On Friday, forty-six countries were in Oslo to develop a new international treaty to ban the use of cluster munitions by — I think it’s 2008. Would you support that?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, you know, people who are against war often make the case by trying to attack the weapons of war and stripping away the legitimacy of those weapons. I’ve participated in some of that. I’d like to get rid of landmines. I did participate in getting rid of laser blinding weapons. And I was part of the team that put together the agreement that got rid of laser blinding weapons. I’d like to get rid of nuclear weapons. But I can’t agree with those who say that force has no place in international affairs. It simply does for this country. And I would like to work to make it so that it doesn’t. But the truth is, for now it does. And so, I can’t go against giving our men and women in uniform the appropriate weapons they need to fight, to fight effectively to succeed on the battlefield, and to minimize their own casualties.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll have to leave it there. I thank you very much, General Wesley Clark.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: General Wesley Clark. I interviewed him at the 92nd Street Y, the cultural center here in New York, on the publication of the Great General Series, on Grant, LeMay, Patton and Eisenhower.

America’s War for Global Domination

January 3rd, 2020 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Author’s Note 

The following  text was presented at the Society for the Defense of Civil Rights and Human Dignity (GBM), Berlin, 10-11 December, 2003 and Humboldt University, Berlin, 12 December 2003.

Written 16 years ago in the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq (March-April 2003), the article identifies “the next phase of the US led war”, including Washington’s longstanding intent to wage war on Iran. It also focusses on Tel Aviv’s plan to “create a Greater Israel” which is tantamount to destroying Palestine. 

It addresses the issue of “False Flags” and the role of the media in spreading war propaganda. 

Sixteen years later, America’s hegemonic military agenda has reached a dangerous threshold: The assassination of  IRGC General Soleimani ordered by Donald Trump on January 2, 2020 is tantamount to an Act of War against Iran.

US Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper described it as a “decisive defensive action” while confirming that the operation ordered by Donald Trump had been carried out by the Pentagon. “The game has changed” said Defense Secretary Esper.  

How to reverse the tide of war?

Forcefully undermine the media propaganda apparatus which seeks to justify “humanitarian wars” under the banner of responsibility to protect (R2P).

Impeach all criminals in high office including POTUS as well the entire Congressional apparatus which pays lip service to US led wars.

Target the powerful economic interests which sustain America’s war without borders including Wall Street, Big Oil and the Military Industrial Complex

How to Restore Democracy? 

“To reverse the tide of war, military bases must be closed down, the war machine (namely the production of advanced weapons systems like WMDs) must be stopped and the burgeoning police state must be dismantled. More generally we must reverse the “free market” reforms, dismantle the institutions of global capitalism and disarm financial markets.

The struggle must be broad-based and democratic encompassing all sectors of society at all levels, in all countries, uniting in a major thrust: workers, farmers, independent producers, small businesses, professionals, artists, civil servants, members of the clergy, students and intellectuals.

The antiwar and anti-globalisation movements must be integrated into a single worldwide movement. People must be united across sectors, “single issue” groups must join hands in a common and collective understanding on how the New World Order destroys and impoverishes.” (M. Chossudovsky, December 2003)

No easy undertaking. Topple the hegemonic project.

Regime Change in America? 

Michel Chossudovsky, January 4, 2020

 

****

We are at the juncture of the most serious crisis in modern history.

The Bush Administration has embarked upon a military adventure which threatens the future of humanity.

The wars on Afghanistan and Iraq are part of a broader military agenda, which was launched at the end of the Cold War. The ongoing war agenda is a continuation of the 1991 Gulf War and the NATO led wars on Yugoslavia (1991-2001).

(Prof Michel Chossudovsky together with Admiral (ret) Elmar Schmaehling, Humboldt University, Berlin, December 2003)

The post Cold War period has also been marked by numerous US covert intelligence operations within the former Soviet Union, which were instrumental in triggering civil wars in several of the former republics including Chechnya (within the Russian Federation), Georgia and Azerbaijan. In the latter, these covert operations were launched with a view to securing strategic control over oil and gas pipeline corridors.

US military and intelligence operations in the post Cold War era were led in close coordination with the “free market reforms” imposed under IMF guidance in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Balkans, which resulted in the destabilization of national economies and the impoverishment of millions of people.

The World Bank sponsored privatization programmes in these countries enabled Western capital to acquire ownership and gain control of a large share of the economy of the former Eastern block countries. This process is also at the basis of the strategic mergers and/or takeovers of the former Soviet oil and gas industry by powerful Western conglomerates, through financial manipulation and corrupt political practices.

In other words, what is at stake in the US led war is the recolonization of a vast region extending from the Balkans into Central Asia.

The deployment of America’s war machine purports to enlarge America’s economic sphere of influence. The U.S. has established a permanent military presence not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has military bases in several of the former Soviet republics on China’s Western frontier. In turn, since 1999, there has been a military buildup in the South China Sea.

War and Globalization go hand in hand. Militarization supports the conquest of new economic frontiers and the worldwide imposition of “free market” system.

The Next Phase of the War

The Bush administration has already identified Syria as the next stage of “the road map to war”. The bombing of presumed ‘terrorist bases’ in Syria by the Israeli Air Force in October was intended to provide a justification for subsequent pre-emptive military interventions. Ariel Sharon launched the attacks with the approval of Donald Rumsfeld. (See Gordon Thomas, Global Outlook, No. 6, Winter 2004)

This planned extension of the war into Syria has serious implications. It means that Israel becomes a major military actor in the US-led war, as well as an ‘official’ member of the Anglo-American coalition.

The Pentagon views ‘territorial control’ over Syria, which constitutes a land bridge between Israel and occupied Iraq, as ‘strategic’ from a military and economic standpoint. It also constitutes a means of controlling the Iraqi border and curbing the flow of volunteer fighters, who are traveling to Baghdad to join the Iraqi resistance movement.

This enlargement of the theater of war is consistent with Ariel Sharon’s plan to build a ‘Greater Israel’ “on the ruins of Palestinian nationalism”. While Israel seeks to extend its territorial domain towards the Euphrates River, with designated areas of Jewish settlement in the Syrian heartland, Palestinians are imprisoned in Gaza and the West Bank behind an ‘Apartheid Wall’.

In the meantime, the US Congress has tightened the economic sanctions on Libya and Iran. As well, Washington is hinting at the need for a ‘regime change’ in Saudi Arabia. Political pressures are building up in Turkey.

So, the war could indeed spill over into a much broader region extending from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian sub-continent and China’s Western frontier.

The “Pre-emptive” Use of Nuclear Weapons

Washington has adopted a first strike “pre-emptive” nuclear policy, which has now received congressional approval. Nuclear weapons are no longer a weapon of last resort as during the cold War era.

The US, Britain and Israel have a coordinated nuclear weapons policy. Israeli nuclear warheads are pointed at major cities in the Middle East. The governments of all three countries have stated quite openly, prior to the war on Iraq, that they are prepared to use nuclear weapons “if they are attacked” with so-called “weapons of mass destruction.” Israel is the fifth nuclear power in the World. Its nuclear arsenal is more advanced than that of Britain.

Barely a few weeks following the entry of the US Marines into Baghdad, the US Senate Armed Services Committee gave the green light to the Pentagon to develop a new tactical nuclear bomb, to be used in conventional war theaters, “with a yield [of up to] six times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb”.

Following the Senate decision, the Pentagon redefined the details of its nuclear agenda in a secret meeting with senior executives from the nuclear industry and the military industrial complex held at Central Command Headquarters at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. The meeting was held on August 6, the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, 58 years ago.

The new nuclear policy explicitly involves the large defense contractors in decision-making. It is tantamount to the “privatization” of nuclear war. Corporations not only reap multibillion dollar profits from the production of nuclear bombs, they also have a direct voice in setting the agenda regarding the use and deployment of nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has unleashed a major propaganda and public relations campaign with a view to upholding the use nuclear weapons for the “defense of the American Homeland.”

Fully endorsed by the US Congress, the mini-nukes are considered to be “safe for civilians”.

This new generation of nuclear weapons is slated to be used in the next phase of this war, in “conventional war theatres” (e.g. in the Middle East and Central Asia) alongside conventional weapons.

In December 2003, the US Congress allocated $6.3 billion solely for 2004, to develop this new generation of “defensive” nuclear weapons.

The overall annual defense budget is of the order of 400 billion dollars, roughly of the same order of magnitude as the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Russian Federation.

While there is no firm evidence of the use of mini-nukes in the Iraqi and Afghan war theatres, tests conducted by Canada’s Uranium Medical Research Center (UMRC), in Afghanistan confirm that recorded toxic radiation was not attributable to ‘heavy metal’ depleted uranium ammunition (DU), but to another unidentified form of uranium contamination:

“some form of uranium weapon had been used (…) The results were astounding: the donors presented concentrations of toxic and radioactive uranium isotopes between 100 and 400 times greater than in the Gulf War veterans tested in 1999.” www.umrc.net

The Planning of War

The war on Iraq has been in the planning stages at least since the mid-1990s.

A 1995 National Security document of the Clinton administration stated quite clearly that the objective of the war is oil. “to protect the United States’ uninterrupted, secure U.S. access to oil.

In September 2000, a few months before the accession of George W. Bush to the White House, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) published its blueprint for global domination under the title: “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.”

The PNAC is a neo-conservative think tank linked to the Defense-Intelligence establishment, the Republican Party and the powerful Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) which plays a behind-the-scenes role in the formulation of US foreign policy.

The PNAC’s declared objective is quite simple – to:

“Fight and decisively win in multiple, simultaneous theater wars”.

This statement indicates that the US plans to be involved simultaneously in several war theaters in different regions of the World.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney had commissioned the PNAC blueprint prior to the presidential elections.

The PNAC outlines a roadmap of conquest. It calls for “the direct imposition of U.S. “forward bases” throughout Central Asia and the Middle East “with a view to ensuring economic domination of the world, while strangling any potential “rival” or any viable alternative to America’s vision of a ‘free market’ economy” (See Chris Floyd, Bush’s Crusade for empire, Global Outlook, No. 6, 2003)

The Role of “Massive Casualty Producing Events”

The PNAC blueprint also outlines a consistent framework of war propaganda. One year before 9/11, the PNAC called for “some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor,” which would serve to galvanize US public opinion in support of a war agenda. (See this)

The PNAC architects seem to have anticipated with cynical accuracy, the use of the September 11 attacks as “a war pretext incident.”

The PNAC’s reference to a “catastrophic and catalyzing event” echoes a similar statement by David Rockefeller to the United Nations Business Council in 1994:

“We are on the verge of global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept the New World Order.”

Similarly, in the words Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book, The Grand Chessboard:.

“…it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus [in America] on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstances of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter was one of the key architects of the Al Qaeda network, created by the CIA at the onslaught of the Soviet Afghan war (1979-1989).

The “catastrophic and catalyzing event” as stated by the PNAC is an integral part of US military-intelligence planning. General Franks, who led the military campaign into Iraq, pointed recently (October 2003) to the role of a “massive casualty-producing event” to muster support for the imposition of military rule in America. (See General Tommy Franks calls for Repeal of US Constitution, November 2003).

Franks identifies the precise scenario whereby military rule will be established:

“a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event [will occur] somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event.” (Ibid)

This statement from an individual, who was actively involved in military and intelligence planning at the highest levels, suggests that the “militarisation of our country” is an ongoing operational assumption. It is part of the broader “Washington consensus”. It identifies the Bush administration’s “roadmap” of war and “Homeland Defense.” Needless to say, it is also an integral part of the neoliberal agenda.

The “terrorist massive casualty-producing event” is presented by General Franks as a crucial political turning point. The resulting crisis and social turmoil are intended to facilitate a major shift in US political, social and institutional structures.

General Franks’ statement reflects a consensus within the US Military as to how events ought to unfold. The “war on terrorism” is to provide a justification for repealing the Rule of Law, ultimately with a view to “preserving civil liberties.”

Franks’ interview suggests that an Al Qaeda sponsored terrorist attack will be used as a “trigger mechanism” for a military coup d’état in America. The PNAC’s “Pearl Harbor type event” would be used as a justification for declaring a State of emergency, leading to the establishment of a military government.

In many regards, the militarisation of civilian State institutions in the US is already functional under the facade of a bogus democracy.

War Propaganda

In the wake of the September attacks on the World Trade Center, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld created to the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), or “Office of Disinformation” as it was labeled by its critics:

“The Department of Defense said they needed to do this, and they were going to actually plant stories that were false in foreign countries — as an effort to influence public opinion across the world. (Interview with Steve Adubato, Fox News, 26 December 2002.)

And, all of a sudden, the OSI was formally disbanded following political pressures and “troublesome” media stories that “its purpose was to deliberately lie to advance American interests.” (Air Force Magazine, January 2003, italics added) “Rumsfeld backed off and said this is embarrassing.” (Adubato, op. cit. italics added) Yet despite this apparent about-turn, the Pentagon’s Orwellian disinformation campaign remains functionally intact: “[T]he secretary of defense is not being particularly candid here. Disinformation in military propaganda is part of war.”(Ibid)

Rumsfeld later confirmed in a press interview that while the OSI no longer exists in name, the “Office’s intended functions are being carried out”. (Quoted in Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Secrecy News, Rumsfeld’s press interview can be consulted here).

A number of government agencies and intelligence units –with links to the Pentagon-remain actively involved in various components of the propaganda campaign. Realities are turned upside down. Acts of war are heralded as “humanitarian interventions” geared towards “regime change” and “the restoration of democracy”. Military occupation and the killing of civilians are presented as “peace-keeping”. The derogation of civil liberties –in the context of the so-called “anti-terrorist legislation”– is portrayed as a means to providing “domestic security” and upholding civil liberties.

The Central Role of Al Qaeda in Bush’s National Security Doctrine

Spelled out in the National Security Strategy (NSS), the preemptive “defensive war” doctrine and the “war on terrorism” against Al Qaeda constitute the two essential building blocks of the Pentagon’s propaganda campaign.

The objective is 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.

…Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction (…)

The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our civilian population, in direct violation of one of the principal norms of the law of warfare. As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction- and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, (…). To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.”12 (National Security Strategy, White House, 2002)

To justify pre-emptive military actions, the National Security Doctrine requires the “fabrication” of a terrorist threat, –ie. “an outside enemy.” It also needs to link these terrorist threats to “State sponsorship” by the so-called “rogue states.”

But it also means that the various “massive casualty-producing events” allegedly by Al Qaeda (the fabricated enemy) are part of the National Security agenda.

In the months building up to the invasion of Iraq, covert ‘dirty tricks’ operations were launched to produce misleading intelligence pertaining to both Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Al Qaeda, which was then fed into the news chain.

In the wake of the war, while the WMD threat has been toned down, Al Qaeda threats to ‘the Homeland’ continue to be repeated ad nauseam in official statements, commented on network TV and pasted on a daily basis across the news tabloids.

And underlying these manipulated realties, “Osama bin Laden” terrorist occurrences are being upheld as a justification for the next phase of this war. The latter hinges in a very direct way:

1) the effectiveness of the Pentagon-CIA propaganda campaign, which is fed into the news chain.

2) The actual occurrence of “massive casualty producing events” as outlined in the PNAC

What this means is that actual (“massive casualty producing”) terrorist events are part and parcel of military planning.

Actual Terrorist Attacks

In other words, to be “effective” the fear and disinformation campaign cannot solely rely on unsubstantiated “warnings” of future attacks, it also requires “real” terrorist occurrences or “incidents”, which provide credibility to the Washington’s war plans. These terrorist events are used to justify the implementation of “emergency measures” as well as “retaliatory military actions”. They are required, in the present context, to create the illusion of “an outside enemy” that is threatening the American Homeland.

The triggering of “war pretext incidents” is part of the Pentagon’s assumptions. In fact it is an integral part of US military history.(See Richard Sanders, War Pretext Incidents, How to Start a War, Global Outlook, published in two parts, Issues 2 and 3, 2002-2003).

In 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had envisaged a secret plan entitled “Operation Northwoods”, to deliberately trigger civilian casualties to justify the invasion of Cuba:

“We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba,” “We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington” “casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.” (See the declassified Top Secret 1962 document titled “Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba”16 (See Operation Northwoods here).

There is no evidence that the Pentagon or the CIA played a direct role in recent terrorist attacks, including those in Indonesia (2002), India (2001), Turkey (2003) and Saudi Arabia (2003).

According to the reports, the attacks were undertaken by organizations (or cells of these organizations), which operate quite independently, with a certain degree of autonomy. This independence is in the very nature of a covert intelligence operation. The «intelligence asset» is not in direct contact with its covert sponsors. It is not necessarily cognizant of the role it plays on behalf of its intelligence sponsors.

The fundamental question is who is behind them? Through what sources are they being financed? What is the underlying network of ties?

For instance, in the case of the 2002 Bali bomb attack, the alleged terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiah had links to Indonesia’s military intelligence (BIN), which in turn has links to the CIA and Australian intelligence.

The December 2001 terrorist attacks on the Indian Parliament –which contributed to pushing India and Pakistan to the brink of war– were allegedly conducted by two Pakistan-based rebel groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba (“Army of the Pure”) and Jaish-e-Muhammad (“Army of Mohammed”), both of which according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) are supported by Pakistan’s ISI. (Council on Foreign Relations, Washington 2002).

What the CFR fails to acknowledge is the crucial relationship between the ISI and the CIA and the fact that the ISI continues to support Lashkar, Jaish and the militant Jammu and Kashmir Hizbul Mujahideen (JKHM), while also collaborating with the CIA. (For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Fabricating an Enemy, March 2003)

A 2002 classified outbrief drafted to guide the Pentagon “calls for the creation of a so-called ‘Proactive, Pre-emptive Operations Group’ (P2OG), to launch secret operations aimed at “stimulating reactions” among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction — that is, for instance, prodding terrorist cells into action and exposing themselves to ‘quick-response’ attacks by U.S. forces.” (William Arkin, The Secret War, The Los Angeles Times, 27 October 2002)

The P2OG initiative is nothing new. It essentially extends an existing apparatus of covert operations. Amply documented, the CIA has supported terrorist groups since the Cold War era. This “prodding of terrorist cells” under covert intelligence operations often requires the infiltration and training of the radical groups linked to Al Qaeda.

In this regard, covert support by the US military and intelligence apparatus has been channeled to various Islamic terrorist organizations through a complex network of intermediaries and intelligence proxies. In the course of the 1990s, agencies of the US government have collaborated with Al Qaeda in a number of covert operations, as confirmed by a 1997 report of the Republican Party Committee of the US Congress. (See US Congress, 16 January 1997). In fact during the war in Bosnia US weapons inspectors were working with Al Qaeda operatives, bringing in large amounts of weapons for the Bosnian Muslim Army.

In other words, the Clinton Administration was “harboring terrorists”. Moreover, official statements and intelligence reports confirm links between US military-intelligence units and Al Qaeda operatives, as occurred in Bosnia (mid 1990s), Kosovo (1998-99) and Macedonia (2001). (See Michel Chossudovsky, War and Globalisation, The Truth behind September 11, Global Outlook, 2003, Chapter 3)

The Bush Administration and NATO had links to Al Qaeda in Macedonia. And this happened barely a few weeks before September 11, 2001, Senior U.S. military advisers from a private mercenary outfit on contract to the Pentagon, were fighting alongside Mujahideen in the terrorist attacks on the Macedonian Security forces. This is documented by the Macedonian press and statements made by the Macedonian authorities. (See Michel Chossudovsky, op cit). The U.S. government and the Islamic Militant Network were working hand in glove in supporting and financing the National Liberation Army (NLA), which was involved in the terrorist attacks in Macedonia.

In other words, the US military was collaborating directly with Al Qaeda barely a few weeks before 9/11.

Al Qaeda and Pakistan’s Military Intelligence (ISI)

It is indeed revealing that in virtually all post 9/11 terrorist occurrences, the terrorist organization is reported (by the media and in official statements) as having “ties to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda”. This in itself is a crucial piece of information. Of course, the fact that Al Qaeda is a creation of the CIA is neither mentioned in the press reports nor is it considered relevant to an understanding of these terrorist occurrences.

The ties of these terrorist organizations (particularly those in Asia) to Pakistan’s military intelligence (ISI) is acknowledged in a few cases by official sources and press dispatches. Confirmed by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), some of these groups are said to have links to Pakistan’s ISI, without identifying the nature of these links. Needless to say, this information is crucial in identifying the sponsors of these terrorist attacks. In other words, the ISI is said to support these terrorist organizations, while at same time maintaining close ties to the CIA.

September 11

While Colin Powell –without supporting evidence-pointed in his February 2003 UN address to “the sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network”, official documents, press and intelligence reports confirm that successive US administrations have supported and abetted the Islamic militant network. This relationship is an established fact, corroborated by numerous studies, acknowledged by Washington’s mainstream think tanks.

Both Colin Powell and his Deputy Richard Armitage, who in the months leading up to the war casually accused Baghdad and other foreign governments of “harboring” Al Qaeda, played a direct role, at different points in their careers, in supporting terrorist organizations.

Both men were implicated –operating behind the scenes– in the Irangate Contra scandal during the Reagan Administration, which involved the illegal sale of weapons to Iran to finance the Nicaraguan Contra paramilitary army and the Afghan Mujahideen. (For further details, see Michel Chossudovsky, Expose the Links between Al Qaeda and the Bush Administration)

Moreover, both Richard Armitage and Colin Powell played a role in the 9/11 cover-up. The investigations and research conducted in the last two years, including official documents, testimonies and intelligence reports, indicate that September 11 was an carefully planned intelligence operation, rather than a act conducted by a terrorist organization. (For further details, see Centre for Research on Globalization, 24 Key articles, September 2003)

The FBI confirmed in a report made public late September 2001 the role of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence. According to the report, the alleged 9-11 ring leader, Mohammed Atta, had been financed from sources out of Pakistan. A subsequent intelligence report confirmed that the then head of the ISI General Mahmoud Ahmad had transferred money to Mohammed Atta. (See Michel Chossudovsky, War and Globalization, op.cit.)

Moreover, press reports and official statements confirm that the head of the ISI, was an official visit to the US from the 4th to 13th of September 2001. In other words, the head of Pakistan’s ISI, who allegedly transferred money to the terrorists also had a close personal relationship with a number of senior Bush Administration officials, including Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, whom he met in the course of his visit to Washington. (Ibid)

The Antiwar Movement

A cohesive antiwar movement cannot be based solely on the mobilization of antiwar sentiment. It must ultimately unseat the war criminals and question their right to rule.

A necessary condition for bringing down the rulers is to weaken and eventually dismantle their propaganda campaign.

The momentum of the large anti-war rallies in the US, the European Union and around the world, should lay the foundations of a permanent network composed of tens of thousands of local level anti-war committees in neighborhoods, work places, parishes, schools, universities, etc. It is ultimately through this network that the legitimacy of those who “rule in our name” will be challenged.

To shunt the Bush Administration’s war plans and disable its propaganda machine, we must reach out to our fellow citizens across the land, in the US, Europe and around the world, to the millions of ordinary people who have been misled on the causes and consequences of this war.

This also implies fully uncovering the lies behind the “war on terrorism” and revealing the political complicity of the Bush administration in the events of 9/11.

September 11 is a hoax. It’s the biggest lie in US history.

Needless to say, the use of “massive casualty producing events” as pretext to wage war is a criminal act. In the words of Andreas van Buelow, former German Minister of Technology and author of The CIA and September 11:

“If what I say is right, the whole US government should end up behind bars.”

Yet it is not sufficient to remove George W. Bush or Tony Blair, who are mere puppets. We must also address the role of the global banks, corporations and financial institutions, which indelibly stand behind the military and political actors.

Increasingly, the military-intelligence establishment (rather than the State Department, the White House and the US Congress) is calling the shots on US foreign policy. Meanwhile, the Texas oil giants, the defense contractors, Wall Street and the powerful media giants, operating discreetly behind the scenes, are pulling the strings. If politicians become a source of major embarrassment, they can themselves be discredited by the media, discarded and a new team of political puppets can be brought to office.

Criminalization of the State

The “Criminalization of the State”, is when war criminals legitimately occupy positions of authority, which enable them to decide “who are the criminals”, when in fact they are criminals.

In the US, both Republicans and Democrats share the same war agenda and there are war criminals in both parties. Both parties are complicit in the 9/11 cover-up and the resultant quest for world domination. All the evidence points to what is best described as “the criminalisation of the State”, which includes the Judiciary and the bipartisan corridors of the US Congress. .

Under the war agenda, high ranking officials of the Bush administration, members of the military, the US Congress and the Judiciary have been granted the authority not only to commit criminal acts, but also to designate those in the antiwar movement who are opposed to these criminal acts as “enemies of the State.”

More generally, the US military and security apparatus endorses and supports dominant economic and financial interests – i.e. the build-up, as well as the exercise, of military might enforces “free trade”. The Pentagon is an arm of Wall Street; NATO coordinates its military operations with the World Bank and the IMF’s policy interventions, and vice versa. Consistently, the security and defense bodies of the Western military alliance, together with the various civilian governmental and intergovernmental bureaucracies (e.g. IMF, World Bank, WTO) share a common understanding, ideological consensus and commitment to the New World Order.

To reverse the tide of war, military bases must be closed down, the war machine (namely the production of advanced weapons systems like WMDs) must be stopped and the burgeoning police state must be dismantled. More generally we must reverse the “free market” reforms, dismantle the institutions of global capitalism and disarm financial markets.

The struggle must be broad-based and democratic encompassing all sectors of society at all levels, in all countries, uniting in a major thrust: workers, farmers, independent producers, small businesses, professionals, artists, civil servants, members of the clergy, students and intellectuals.

The antiwar and anti-globalisation movements must be integrated into a single worldwide movement. People must be united across sectors, “single issue” groups must join hands in a common and collective understanding on how the New World Order destroys and impoverishes.

The globalization of this struggle is fundamental, requiring a degree of solidarity and internationalism unprecedented in world history. This global economic system feeds on social divisiveness between and within countries. Unity of purpose and worldwide coordination among diverse groups and social movements is crucial. A major thrust is required which brings together social movements in all major regions of the world in a common pursuit and commitment to the elimination of poverty and a lasting world peace.

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On Human Rights Day, 10 December 2003, Michel Chossudovsky was awarded The 2003 Human’s Rights Prize of the Society for the Protection of Civil Rights and Human Dignity (GBM). [details deutsch ] Photos of GBM event in Berlin, click here

The German Text of this article was published by Junge Welt: Vortrag von Michel Chossudovsky Neuordnung der Welt Der Krieg der USA um globale Hegemonie (Teil 1)  Die Gesellschaft zum Schutz Von Bürgerrecht Und Menschenwürde (GBM), 10 December 2003

Note: Some of the hyperlinks of  the article first published in December 2003 may be inactive or unavailable.

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The creatures that lurk through the corridors of power in Washington DC have refined corruption to the point where almost anything goes and almost no one is ever held accountable. Traditionally, Congressmen reward their various constituencies by inserting riders into larger pieces of legislation that grant money, exemptions or favors to certain groups or individuals. It is sometimes referred to as “pork.” The recent bloated omnibus spending bills totaling $1.4 trillion, which passed through Congress and were signed off on by President Donald Trump, were for the shameless denizens of Capitol Hill a gold mine. The process was so corrupt that even some Senators like Ted Cruz joked that “Christmas came early in Washington. While you were with your family, while you were shopping for Christmas, the lobbyists were spending and spending. I present to you, the massive omnibus bill that Congress is voting on.”

And no one is more corrupt in Congress than some of those at the top of the food chain, where the Speaker and the Minority leader in the House and the Majority and Minority leaders in the Senate have the final say on what gets cut and what remains. The lugubrious Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is one of the most adept at milking the system to buy his continued reelection in a state where he is actually not very popular, with an approval rating of only 37%. Within the current spending bill he has managed to include more than $1 billion worth of federal spending and tax breaks for some choice constituencies among the Kentucky voters. A tax break for the state’s whisky distillers alone came to a projected $426 million for 2020 and there were also breaks for the state’s thoroughbred horse industry as well as hundreds of millions of dollars more for new federal construction.

One can only wish that politicians would actually commit themselves to doing good for the American people, but the sad reality is that they spend so much time raising and distributing money that they only respond to constituents with the deepest pockets or those who make the most noise. Rarely does anyone actually read the bills that are being voted on. Part of the omnibus spending bills was the $738 billion dollar defense policy component, and, as in the case of the larger amounts intended to keep the federal government funded, the devil is frequently found in the details.

One part of the defense spending is called the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act,” which is intended to punish Syria and its President Bashar al-Assad with sanctions for alleged crimes committed during the country’s eight year civil war. The Caesar Act is named after a Syrian military photographer who reportedly took and then smuggled tens of thousands of photographs out of the country that provided evidence for claims that war crimes had been carried out by the Syrian government. “Caesar” eventually wound up in Washington where he briefed sympathetic lawmakers on the regime’s alleged crimes.

The Caesar Act will impose new sanctions on Syrian leaders and also on companies, states and even individuals that support the Assad government militarily, financially or technically. It will include placing new sanctions on Russia and Iran. Enab Baladi, a website run by opponents of the al-Assad government praised the move, writing that “[The bill] imposes sanctions on military contractors and mercenaries who are fighting for the Syrian government, Russia, Iran, or any of the parties against which sanctions have been previously imposed.” It also observes that the act would be a “deterrent” for anyone seeking to work with or help the al-Assad regime. The US, for its part, has pledged to support international prosecution of criminals in the Syrian government.

The use of sanctions is reminiscent of recent US action directed against Iran, Russia and Venezuela. Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the White House have been boasting of how Iran’s economy is being destroy through economic warfare and it is clear that the intention is to do the same to Syria. The United States has been destabilizing Syria since the passage of the Syria Accountability Act in 2004. It imposed sanctions on the country even before the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, and they were regularly expanded by the Obama administration prior to the 2016 election.

Treasury Department sanctions have frozen assets of the Syrian government and also of hundreds of companies and individuals. They also ban most interactions with Syria by any US person, which means that anyone traveling to Syria and returning to report favorably on the al-Assad government can be plausibly prosecuted for providing a service to the regime.

To be sure no one is completely blameless amidst the turmoil that has engulfed Syria since 2011. Respectable organizations including Human Rights Watch have been able to identify some of the victims in the Caesar photos and have verified tales of torture and abuse, though it must be observed that fake photos and false testimony are easy to obtain.

But the Syrian regime response to the uprising against its authority is only part of the story, as the violence was fomented largely by Saudi Arabia, and Gulf States and the United States. And by far the worst atrocities against civilians have been committed by the groups actively or tacitly supported by the US, Turkey, the Gulf States and the Saudis, many of which have cooperated openly with the genuine terrorist groups that have been operating in Syria.

There also has to be some question raised about the general credibility of attacks directed against the al-Assad government. It has recently been revealed that both the United Nations Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the US media were pressured to cover-up the fact that Syria did not use chemical weapons against its own civilians in terrorist infested areas. A Newsweek reporter even resigned when he wrote a story seeking to expose the scandal. The magazine had refused to print the piece.

The US sponsored Syrian National Council has been most active in spreading reports about regime activity, much of which has been proven to be little more than propaganda. Caesar’s trip to Washington in 2015 to show his photos was, in fact, sponsored by the SNC and there is a whole series of fabrications spread by a number of groups supported by those who desire regime change in Damascus.

Consider for a moment the Oscar Award winning White Helmets, “the story of real-life heroes and impossible hope.” The group, which cooperates with the terrorist groups operating in its area, travels to bombing sites with its film crews trailing behind it. Once at the sites, with no independent observers, they are able to arrange or even stage what is filmed to conform to their selected narrative. Exploiting their access to the western media, the White Helmets thereby de facto became a major source of “eyewitness” news regarding what was then going on in those many parts of Syria where European and American journalists were quite rightly afraid to go, all part of a broader largely successful “rebel” effort to manufacture fake news that depicts the Damascus government as engaging in war crimes directed against civilians

The mainstream media is a major part of the problem as it generally only reports stories, like the White Helmets, that denigrate the Syrian government and its allies. Watching the recent BBC reporting of the Syrian Army’s push into Idlib province one learns that “Russian backed Syrian groups are attacking Idlib and creating a humanitarian crisis with 230,000 civilians fleeing the fighting.” The only problem with the coverage is that it does not really make clear that Idlib is terrorist occupied territory. Nor does it say where the civilians are fleeing to – nearly all have headed for the safety of Syrian government held areas.

And particularly for those strivers in Congress who are out hustling for money rather than finding out what is really going on in the world, it might be wise to recollect how gullible the Solons on the Potomac have been in the past. Going back to Ahmed Chalabi, who more than any single individual led the US government to believe that the invasion of Iraq would be a cakewalk, there has been a series of disastrous policy choices made after swallowing whole cloth lies and fabrications made by interested parties. Chalabi provided false intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties of the Iraqi government to al-Qaeda. It turned out that he was working for several of the sides in the conflict that ensued, including the Iranian government.

And then there is the Magnitsky Act, sponsored by Russia-phobic Zionist Senator Ben Cardin and signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, which continues to be expanded and exploited by virtue of 2016’s Global Magnitsky Act to intervene in countries that are alleged to be human rights violators. In its original iteration, the Magnitsky Act, sanctioned individual Kremlin officials for their treatment of alleged whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, arrested and imprisoned in Russia. Billionaire Bill Browder has sold a contrived narrative which basically says that he and his “lawyer” Sergei Magnitsky uncovered massive tax fraud and, when they attempted to report it, were punished by a corrupt police force and magistracy, which had actually stolen the money. Magnitsky was arrested and died in prison, allegedly murdered by the police to silence him.

Browder and his apologists portray him as an honest and honorable Western businessman attempting to operate in a corrupt Russian business world. Nevertheless, the loans-for-shares scheme that made him his initial fortune has been correctly characterized as the epitome of corruption by all parties involved, an arrangement whereby foreign investors worked with local oligarchs to strip the former Soviet economy of its assets paying pennies on each dollar of value. Along the way, Browder was reportedly involved in money laundering, making false representations on official documents and bribery.

Browder, who renounced his US citizenship in 1997 reportedly to avoid taxes, has been a frequent visitor to Capitol Hill where he tells congressional committees all about the corrupt and evil President Vladimir Putin. He is also a darling of the completely corrupted mainstream press because he is saying what they want to hear.

So, is the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act just another bit of nonsense, like Chalabi and Magnitsky? Probably, and all it will do is punish the Syrian people by trying to wreck the country’s economy while also limiting the ability of Americans to go independently to the region and see for themselves what is actually going on. It will prolong the pain being experienced by all involved while the legitimate government in Damascus seeks to restore its pre-war borders. It is, unfortunately, a prime example of the United States government in action.

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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 (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is 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.

A New Year and a New Trump Foreign Policy Blunder in Iraq

January 3rd, 2020 by Medea Benjamin

It’s a new year, and the U.S. has found a new enemy—an Iraqi militia called Kata’ib Hezbollah. How tragically predictable was that? So who or what is Kata’ib Hezbollah? Why are U.S. forces attacking it? And where will this lead?

Kata’ib Hezbollah is one of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) that were recruited to fight the Islamic State after the Iraqi armed forces collapsed and Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, fell to IS in June 2014. The first six PMUs were formed by five Shiite militias that all received support from Iran, plus Muqtada al-Sadr’s Iraqi nationalist Peace Company, the reincarnation of his anti-occupation Mahdi Army militia, which he had previously disarmed in 2008 under an agreement with the Iraqi government.

Kata’ib Hezbollah was one of those five original Shiite militias and it existed long before the fight against IS. It was a small Shiite group founded before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and was part of the Iraqi Resistance throughout the U.S. occupation. In 2011, it reportedly had 1,000 fighters, who were paid $300 to $500 per month, probably mainly funded by Iran. It fought fiercely until the last U.S. occupation forces were withdrawn in December 2011, and claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that killed 5 U.S. soldiers in Baghdad in June 2011. Since forming a PMU in 2014, its leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, has been the overall military commander of the PMUs, reporting directly to the National Security Adviser in the Prime Minister’s office.

In the fight against IS, the PMUs proliferated quickly. Most political parties in Iraq responded to a fatwa by Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani to form and join these units by forming their own. At the peak of the war with IS, the PMUs comprised about 60 brigades with hundreds of thousands of Shia fighters, and even included up to 40,000 Sunni Iraqis.

In the context of the war against the Islamic State, the U.S. and Iran have both provided  a great deal of military support to the PMU and other Iraqi forces, and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga have also received support from Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif in New York in September 2014 to discuss the crisis, and U.S. Ambassador Stuart Jones said in December 2014, “Let’s face it, Iran is an important neighbor to Iraq. There has to be cooperation between Iran and Iraq. The Iranians are talking to the Iraqi security forces and we’re talking to Iraqi security forces… We’re relying on them to do the deconfliction.”

U.S. officials and corporate media are falsely painting Kata’ib Hezbollah and the PMUs as independent, renegade Iranian-backed militias in Iraq but they are really an official part of the Iraq security forces. As a statement from the Iraqi prime minister’s office made clear, the U.S. airstrikes were an “American attack on the Iraqi armed forces.”  And these were not just any Iraqi military forces, but forces that have borne the brunt of some of the fiercest fighting against the Islamic State.

Open hostility between U.S. forces and Kata’ib Hezbollah began six months ago, when the U.S. allowed Israel to use U.S. bases in Iraq and/or Syria to launch drone strikes against Kata’ib Hezbollah and other PMU forces in Iraq. There are conflicting reports on exactly where the Israeli drones were launched from, but the U.S. had effective control of Iraqi airspace and was clearly complicit in the drone strikes. This led to a campaign by Shia cleric/politician Muqtada al-Sadr and other anti-occupation parties and politicians in the Iraqi National Assembly to once again call for the expulsion of U.S. forces from Iraq, as they successfully did in 2011, and the U.S. was forced to accept new restrictions on its use of Iraqi airspace.

Then, at the end of October, U.S. bases and the Green Zone in Baghdad came under a new wave of rocket and mortar attacks. While previous attacks were blamed on the Islamic State, the U.S. blamed the new round of attacks on Kata’ib Hezbollah. After a sharp increase in rocket attacks on U.S. bases in December, including one that killed a U.S. military contractor on December 27, the Trump administration launched air strikes on December 29 that killed 25 members of Kata’ib Hezbollah and wounded 55. Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi called the strikes a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and declared three national days of mourning for the Iraqi troops that U.S. forces killed.

The U.S. attacks also led to massive protests that besieged the U.S. Embassy and former U.S. occupation headquarters in the Green Zone in Baghdad. U.S. forces at the embassy reportedly used tear gas and stun grenades against the protesters, leaving 62 militiamen and civilians wounded. After the siege, the Trump administration announced that it would send more troops to the Middle East. Approximately 750 troops are expected to be sent as a result of the embassy attack and another 3,000 could be deployed in the next few days.

The U.S. retaliation was bound to inflame tensions with the Iraqi government and increase popular pressure to close U.S. bases in Iraq. In fact, if Kata’ib Hezbollah is indeed responsible for the rocket and mortar attacks, this is probably exactly the chain of events they intended to provoke. Incensed at the Trump administration’s blatant disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and worried about Iraq being dragged into a U.S. proxy war with Iran that will spiral out of control, a broad swath of Iraqi political leaders are now calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The U.S. military presence in Iraq was reestablished in 2014 as part of the campaign against the Islamic State, but that campaign has wound down substantially since the near destruction and reoccupation of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in 2017. The number of attacks and terrorist incidents linked to the Islamic State in Iraq has declined steadily since then, from 239 in March 2018 to 51 in November 2019, according to Iraq researcher Joel Wing. Wing’s data makes it clear that IS is a vastly diminished force in Iraq.

The real crisis facing Iraq is not a growing IS but the massive public protests, starting in October, that have exposed the dysfunction of the Iraqi government itself. Months of street protests have forced Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi to submit his resignation–he is now simply acting as a caretaker pending new elections. Severe repression by government forces left over 400 protesters dead, but this has only fuelled even greater public outrage.

These demonstrations are not just directed against individual Iraqi politicians or against Iranian influence in Iraq but against the entire post-2003 political regime established by the U.S. occupation. Protesters blame the government’s  sectarianism, its corruption and the enduring foreign influence of both Iran and the U.S. for the failure to invest Iraq’s oil wealth in rebuilding Iraq and improving the lives of a new generation of young Iraqis.

The recent attack on Kata’ib Hezbollah has actually worked in favor of Iran, turning Iraqi public opinion and Iraqi leaders more solidly against the U.S. military presence. So why has the U.S. jeopardized what influence it still has in Iraq by launching airstrikes against Iraqi forces? And why is the U.S. maintaining a reported 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq, at Al-Asad airbase in Anbar province and smaller bases across Iraq? It already has nearly 70,000 troops in other countries in the region, not least 13,000 in neighboring Kuwait, its largest permanent foreign base after Germany, Japan and South Korea.

While the Pentagon continues to insist that the U.S. troop presence is solely to help Iraq fight ISIS, Trump himself has defined its mission as “also to watch over Iran.” He told that to U.S. servicemen in Iraq in a December 2018 Christmas visit and reiterated it in a February 2019 CBS interview. Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has made clear that the U.S. does not have permission to use Iraq as a base from which to confront Iran. Such a mission would be patently illegal under Iraq’s 2005 constitution, drafted with the help of the United States, which forbids using the country’s territory to harm its neighbors.

Under the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, U.S. forces may only remain in Iraq at the “request and invitation” of the Iraqi government. If that invitation is withdrawn, they must leave, as they were forced to do in 2011. The U.S. presence in Iraq is now almost universally unpopular, especially in the wake of U.S. attacks on the very Iraqi armed forces they are supposedly there to support.

Trump’s effort to blame Iran for this crisis is simply a ploy to divert attention from his own bungled policy. In reality, the blame for the present crisis should be placed squarely on the doorstep of the White House itself. The Trump administration’s reckless decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and revert to the U.S. policy of threats and sanctions that never worked before is backfiring as badly as the rest of the world predicted it would, and Trump has only himself to blame for it – and maybe John Bolton.

So will 2020 be the year when Donald Trump is finally forced to fulfill his endless promises to bring U.S. troops home from at least one of its endless wars and military occupations?  Or will Trump’s penchant for doubling down on brutal and counterproductive policies only lead us deeper into his pet quagmire of ever-escalating conflict with Iran, with the U.S.’s beleaguered forces in Iraq as pawns in yet another unwinnable war?

We hope that 2020 will be the year when the American public finally looks at the fateful choice between war and peace with 20/20 vision, and that we will start severely punishing Trump and every other U.S. politician who opts for threats over diplomacy, coercion over cooperation and war over peace.

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Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

Featured image: US Embassy in Iraq under siege. Credit: Creative Commons

War, Rape and Patriarchy: The Japanese Experience

January 3rd, 2020 by Yuki Tanaka

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Last week supporters of Palestinian human rights were buoyed by the announcement from the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court that she had decided to open a formal investigation of Israel for war crimes in the occupied territories, including the ongoing settlement project in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the onslaught in 2014 called Operation Protective Edge. She is also investigating Hamas and Palestinian militant groups for war crimes.

“There is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.

“You can’t gainsay the fact that at least at a symbolic level, something significant happened,” says Norman Finkelstein, who is an expert on the ICC. “A Rubicon has been crossed. Or to put it in other terms, an American red line has been crossed, because the U.S. has said, Open an investigation and we destroy you.”

Because of the international politics of the issue, Finkelstein says that hopes for a just formal outcome are likely to be dashed by the court. He believes that the case will be dismissed on a technical ground, under tremendous pressure from Israel and the U.S.

The opportunity the case presents is in shaping public opinion, Finkelstein said in an interview: for advocates for Palestinian rights to make their case as the Hague mulls the legal one. “Pressure can come from both sides.”

Fatou Bensouda (image on the right) is going to be subjected to the same sort of vilification that Israel and its friends brought to bear ten years ago on Judge Richard Goldstone, who after accusing Israel of targeting civilians in Gaza in a UN Human Rights Council report was smeared with a broad brush, notably Alan Dershowitz saying that he was a traitor to the Jewish people. Ostracized at times even within his South African Jewish community, Goldstone later recanted some of the charges.

Finkelstein is soon to publish a book about Bensouda’s failure to prosecute an earlier referral on Palestine to the ICC, involving Israel’s killing of 10 passengers on board the aid boat the Mavi Marmara, which was under sail to Gaza from Turkey in May 2010 when Israeli commandoes boarded the vessel in international waters in the middle of the night.

That case was brought to the ICC by the Comoros Islands because the boat sailed under a Comoros flag. But after a years-long preliminary investigation, Bensouda refused to launch a formal investigation, and sided with Israeli arguments about the aggressive conduct of passengers and crew on the boat, as somehow justifying lethal force.

Bensouda experienced broad criticism over that ruling, Finkelstein says– from officials inside the ICC, from the human rights community, from an article by John Dugard, a professor of international law with great standing, and from the impending publication of Finkelstein’s own book, titled J’Accuse.

Bensouda’s latest decision of December 20 was to launch an investigation in a second case, a 2015 referral by Palestine, and Finkelstein sees it as an effort to “recuperate” her loss of reputation in the Mavi Marmara ruling.

Part of the reputational damage was critics threshing Bensouda’s record in the Gambia. “She was the attorney general under the Gambian military junta,” Finkelstein says. “Richard Goldstone was a judge under apartheid South Africa, but Dugard tells me it’s totally different. Goldstone had an exemplary record as a judge in South Africa. She had a filthy record.”

The 112-page document that Bensouda published in announcing her decision to investigate war crimes looks very good with respect to the crime of Israeli settlements, Finkelstein says. The document offers “10,000 pieces” of evidence on the illegality of the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that go to show what everyone knows, Israel has taken over lands that were supposed to provide the territory for a Palestinian state under international law and colonized those lands with more than 600,000 Jewish settlers.

Bensouda’s argument that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza during the Operation Protective Edge onslaught five years ago that killed more than 2200 Palestinians, including 500 children, is less specific. “If you read her statement, you would think that Hamas committed as many, if not more war crimes than Israel during Protective Edge,” Finkelstein says.

Some on the left have exulted in the ICC ruling and said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former army chief of staff Benny Gantz (who has bragged of bombing Gaza back to the “stone age”) may be charged with war crimes for that assault. “I’m very dubious about that. The likelihood that they’re going to actually be convicted approaches zero,” Finkelstein says.

All the same, Israel is shaken by the announcement and a battle has begun. “There’s a legal battle but there’s also going to be an overt battle, the battle of public opinion. So yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu goes to the Wailing Wall and says that the ICC is guilty of anti-Semitism,” Finkelstein says. “Now the other side can say, oh, is it anti-Semitism to say that Israeli settlements are illegal? Anti-Semitism to say that the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem are occupied, Palestinian territory?”

Finkelstein’s pessimism about the ultimate outcome is based on the fact that Bensouda gave herself an out. Noting that the court’s jurisdiction over these issues is disputed by Israel, Bensouda requested an opinion on two crucial jurisdictional questions from the court – called the Pre Trial Chamber – in the next 120 days before actually beginning her investigation.

“The jurisdictional question breaks down into two parts. Does this entity called the state of Palestine qualify as a state that is competent to lodge a referral or complaint with the ICC,” Finkelstein summarizes. “Question number two, they have to decide what is the territorial jurisdiction of the court in this case, which means they have to decide what are the territorial dimensions of this thing called the state of Palestine.”

Finkelstein is very worried that Bensouda has kicked these questions over to the Pre Trial Chamber because it is headed by a Hungarian judge, Péter Kovács, who repeatedly sided with Israel on issues in the earlier Mavi Marmara case.

Bensouda herself opens the door to Kovács to dismiss Palestine’s standing to bring the case in the first place in this paragraph:

The scope of the Court’s jurisdiction in the territory of Palestine appears to be in dispute between those States most directly concerned–Israel and Palestine. A number of other States have also expressed interest and concerns on relevant issues. Notably, Palestine does not have full control over the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its borders are disputed. The West Bank and Gaza are occupied and East Jerusalem has been annexed by Israel. Gaza is not governed by the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, the question of Palestine’s Statehood under international law does not appear to have been definitively resolved.

“I would bet your bottom dollar and mine that Kovacs will never ever say Palestine’s a state. Of the other two judges [on the PTC] he only needs one more vote,” Finkelstein says.

Israeli has already posted clever challenges to Palestinian standing, says Finkelstein. “A lot of it is a crock of shit, but they quote statements from the international community and the Palestinians, that two states is an aspiration not a reality. So if it’s not a reality, how can they call on the ICC to investigate? They’re not a state!”

Israeli officials have also seized on the fact that Palestine cited the 1947 UN partition resolution as a basis for the complaint. That resolution designated Jerusalem as outside the Jewish and Arab states that were to be established: “a corpus separatum.” Israel used this citation against Palestine, Finkelstein says: “They themselves acknowledge that Jerusalem is not part of the Palestinian state.”

I pointed out to Finkelstein that if the court throws out the Palestinian case on these grounds, it will leave the occupation in place, with Palestinians as non-entities in any official framework. Israeli will settlers continue to gobble up their lands, but Palestinians have no recourse under Israeli law or in international courts.

“The ICC can rule on the settlements if the U.N. Security Council refers it to them. And that won’t happen,” Finkelstein adds. The U.S. will veto.

Finkelstein sees the real force of the case in the court of public opinion. It will continue to drive a wedge in U.S. politics by putting pressure on the Democratic Party leadership. He says:

There are two poles now in the world. As everyone knows, the center has collapsed. One pole has said, fuck the rule of law. So they don’t care about the fact that Israel now is an apartheid state or as Lincoln would say a nation that’s half free, half slave. So the Palestinians don’t have anything– and let’s move on. Just like Modi now did with the new law in India saying only Hindus can get citizenship; they don’t care about the law. And that’s Trump.

On the other hand, the other pole actually has become more beholden to the law in the face of this assault by the Alt right. The law has been now become their big weapon.

And so the Democratic Party, given its base, can’t possibly defend a state that is half slave and half free.

The Democrats don’t want to acknowledge what is de facto the case, Israel has annexed those territories. Because if they are part of Israel and the Palestinians don’t have rights of citizenship, they’re living in a slave state.

So the Democratic Party wants the veneer that the situation is still in limbo, that there is still a possible peace process that hasn’t been resolved because if they don’t have that veneer, they’re now part of the alt right that says we don’t give a shit about the Palestinians.

I told Finkelstein that a Democratic president could put pressure on Israel.

“A Democratic president would be just like Obama,” Finkelstein said, disagreeing, “and say that there shouldn’t be international interference, it has to be resolved between the Israelis and Palestinians, we can only play the role of an honest broker and so on, and so forth. Unless it’s Bernie.”

Finkelstein points out the lengths that Obama went to to neutralize international law against settlements and other Israeli crimes in occupied territories. “Remember, it was [then-Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton who took pride in the fact that she personally killed the Goldstone report. The Biden administration would do the same.”

I concluded by asking Finkelstein to say where he is hopeful.

“The battle is going to be played out behind closed doors and in the court of public opinion, and if Palestinians and their allies mount a significant enough public relations campaign, demanding it, it will put the PTC [pre trial chamber of the ICC] under the spotlight and it will put Bensouda under the spotlight.

“Otherwise, if you let the normal workings of the court unfold, the Palestinians will lose everything.”

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Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-06.

Policing, Facial Recognition and Targeting Privacy

January 3rd, 2020 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

The chances for those seeking a world of solitude are rapidly run out.  A good case can be made that this has already happened.  Aldous Huxley’s Savage, made famous in Brave New World, is out of options, having lost to the Mustapha Monds of the world.  State and corporate regulation of life, surveillance and monitoring, are reviled only in the breach.  And, like Mond, we are told that it is all for the better.

Facial recognition is one such form, celebrated by the corporate suits and the screws of the prison system alike.  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is a keen devotee, and it is telling that his company has now reached a level of influence that it can actually write the legislation on its own facial surveillance technology.  Whether Congress or other parliaments pass it is another thing, but political representatives are always up for rent when required.  What matters is selling them the right template of faux protections and safeguards that will enable them to sleep more soundly at night.

The critics come across as Cassandras and killjoys but they are trenchant and convincing.

Artificial intelligence expert Luke Stark argues that, at a technical level, facial recognition systems possess “insurmountable flaws connected to the way they schematize human faces.”  Gender and race categorisations are not only created but re-enforced, a point highlighted by Amazon’s own Rekognition system.  The risks of using such technology, Stark expounds, is “reminiscent of hazardous nuclear technologies.”

Evan Greer continues in the same vein, looking at a world of saturation surveillance with some despair.  “The use of computer algorithms to analyse massive databases of footage and photographs could render human privacy extinct.”  Greer has no need for the qualifier there.

Such concerns keep falling on the stubbornly deaf ears of those in power.

Those like Bezos have software and systems to sell, coated in save-the-world gloss; authorities are seeking products to purchase that are affordable and supposedly effective.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, for instance, uses Rekognition on some level.  On January 15, 2019, a sternly worded letter from a coalition of 85 different groups and organisations took issue with this tendency, rebuking Bezos and the buccaneering tendencies in the facial recognition market.  “By continuing to sell your face surveillance product to government entities, Amazon is gravely threatening the safety of community members, ignoring the protests of its own workers, and undermining public trust in its business.”

This tendency became all too real this year, with an announcement by the Indian government that plans to install a national facial recognition system were being implemented.  The inspiration behind such a measure is characteristic.  Authorities find themselves stretched.  There are few hands to achieve their objectives.  In this case, law enforcement authorities claim to be starved of resources, funding and foot soldiers.  Technological options which stress speed, data compilation and comparisons are being sought as a remedy.

The country’s National Crime Records Bureau, operating within the purview of the Home Ministry, expressed interest in tendersfor what would be the world’s first central facial recognition surveillance system.  The NCRB is matter fact and businesslike in describing the intentions of the program.  “This is an effort in the direction of modernising the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification and dissemination among various police forces and units across the country.”

There is no shortage of contenders for such a system, though indigenous variants were a bit slow in coming.  Indian homeland security, like other markets, is thriving.  Atul Rai, who features in a BuzzFeed contribution, is one such exponent. He is CEO of Staqu Technologies, which specialises in data analysis and facial recognition.  His company have been happy to work with the police to digitize musty, filed records lost in papered chaos.  But his approach is sinister in its confidence.  “America had Palantir.  China had SenseTime.  India didn’t have a single brand like that in this space.  So we wanted to be that.”  To be that involved training “our model on the Indian facial ecosystem.”

Problematically, the NCRB never saw fit to raise the issue with policy makers, a point deemed more significant for the finding by the Indian Supreme Court in 2017 that privacy is a fundamental right.  (The jurisprudence prior to this decision had been divided on this point.)  The case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs Union of India dealt with a petition concerning the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, an Indian biometric identity scheme.  The nine judges found that, “The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.”

As Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia policy director at the open-internet advocacy group Access Now warns, “It is deeply concerning that [the NCRB] have done this without any policy consultation and there’s not even a policy document.  There’s no clarity on what problems they are trying to solve”.  Vidushi Marda, lawyer and researcher at Article 19 and Carnegie India, has been wise to the language being used in selling the program; “safety”, “security” and “crime prevention” pepper the platform with arresting confidence.  But according to Marda, it is even more threatening than Aadhaar. “Unless we get plastic surgery at the same time, there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Even then, the confident types in government are convinced that plastic surgery modifications can be defeated with the assistance of sketches, pictures published in newspapers, CCTV camera footage, and images from public and private video feeds.

The Indian context is particularly important, given the nationalist ambitions of Narenda Modi’s government, and those of his Bharatiya Janata Party.  Social and military control is central to their politics, with minorities high up the list of targets.  The quasi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir has been rescinded; detention camps are being built with the intention of keeping 2 million people in the north-eastern state of Assam under watchful eye.

While the options for solitude may be thinning at a goggling rate, pockets of resistance against biometric technologies can be found.  There are those within the mother ship that is Amazon who fear abuse.  There are legislatures and local councils in the United States digging in against the adoption of such technologies.  The European Parliament has been showing concern; Sweden found itself falling foul of the Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation in using facial recognition in schools.  But the Indian move suggests that facial recognition continues to hold cash strapped bureaucrats and corporate technologists in thrall.

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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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Trump began 2020 with a bang by authorizing more US combat troops to the Middle East.

It’s already ablaze from endless US wars of aggression on nonbelligerent states threatening no one.

The new deployment is an ominous new year’s beginning, perhaps escalating US regional forever wars ahead, including the likelihood of more Pentagon terror-bombing strikes in Iraq.

What Trump OK’d ignored Iraqi furor over last Sunday attacks on Kata’ib Hezbollah paramilitaries, connected to the country’s Popular Mobilization Forces that are part of Iraq’s military, killing 27, wounding many others.

On Tuesday, a Kata’ib Hezbollah statement said “(t)he next step will consist of passing a law to expel the occupying forces and their followers from Iraq,” adding:

“We stress the necessity for the parliament to vote on the departure of US forces that are embroiled in spilling the blood of Iraqis.”

Other parliamentarians and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urge the same thing, wanting hostile US occupation of the country ended.

According to former US regional diplomat Robert Ford, “the ball has moved in a direction down the field in a way not helpful to a sustained American presence in Iraq.”

Regional analyst Abbas Kadhim believes expulsion of US forces from Iraq is certain, saying:

“I don’t see any member of parliament, particularly in the Shiite bloc, that would stand and vote against” legislation ordering it.

Thousands of US troops occupy the country, along with thousands more so-called private military contractors, consisting of paramilitary hired gun mercenaries and civilians working for US corporations — exploiting Iraq and its people for profit.

On New Year’s eve, US war secretary Mark Esper tweeted the following:

With Trump’s authorization, “I (ordered) the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the @82ndABNDiv to the @CENTCOM area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq.”

“Approximately 750 #Soldiers will deploy to the region immediately & additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days.”

“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action (sic) taken in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today.”

“The (Trump regime) will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world (sic).”

The Hill and other US media reported that around 4,000 US troops are on standby for possible deployment to the Middle East.

Fox News said the US army’s  82nd Airborne Division’s alert brigade was “issued orders to deploy rapidly to Kuwait amid the unrest in Baghdad” — citing three unnamed US war department officials, adding:

“The entire brigade ha(s) a 96-hour alert window to deploy” its paratroopers.

What’s going on is polar opposite how US regional personnel can best be protected.

Their security depends on ending US regional wars, closing US Middle East bases, bringing Pentagon troops home, and declaring a new era of peace and stability over endless US wars of aggression.

Post-9/11 alone, they devastated countries attacked, massacred millions of their people, enraged their survivors, and created a generation of US-haters in nations victimized by its aggression.

Instead of prioritizing peace and stability to the war-torn region and elsewhere, Trump and hardliners infesting his regime appear hellbent for greater regional war.

On New Year’s eve, he falsely accused Iran of “orchestrating an attack on the US embassy in Iraq (sic),” adding:

“They will be held fully responsible…They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a warning, it is a threat.” Does he have more US regional aggression in mind?

Iran had nothing to do with enraged Iraqis who broke into the US Baghdad embassy compound Tuesday, chanting: “Death to America” — in response to Sunday’s Pentagon terror-bombing strikes, an act of aggression against the sovereign state.

Separately, Trump urged Iraqis to challenge Iranian/Iraqi ties that benefit both countries, saying:

“(T)his is your time (sic),” claiming it’s for their “freedom (sic)” — denied them by endless US war, genocidal sanctions, occupation, installation of puppet rule, and exploitation.

In response to false Trump regime accusations of Iranian involvement in Tuesday’s storming of the heavily fortified Baghdad Green Zone, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the following:

“We are facing a kind of American obscenity and repetitive miscalculation.”

The “impudence of (US) authorities is at such a level that after slaughtering at least 25 people, wounding many Iraqi people, inflicting financial damages on Iraq and violating the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, they (Americans) are now blaming the Islamic Republic of Iran for the protests from the Iraqi people against their own ferocious measures in a blatant and cheap act of pinning the blame on others,” adding:

“On the one hand, the Americans have ignored the Iraqi nation’s liberality and pursuit of independence, and on the other hand, they have forgotten their role in supporting Saddam and in creating daesh (ISIS) and the consequent massacre and depredation of the Iraqi people, and have apparently failed to remember that they are still deemed by the people of Iraq to be ‘occupiers.’ ”

Iran’s UN envoy Majid Takht-Ravanchi said Trump regime “anti-Iranian accusations are made to divert attention from the recent brutal (Sunday) killings, and also from 17 years of occupying Iraq which has resulted in” mass slaughter of its people and vast destruction.

He stressed that Kata’ib Hezbollah and other Popular Mobilization Units “are purely Iraqi groups…under the control of (its) government,” not Iranian proxies, adding:

They “played an important role in fighting against and defeating ISIL terrorists and now (are the) most important guarantee against revitalization of this (US-supported) terrorist group.”

Regional prospects in the new year aren’t encouraging.

Deploying more US combat troops to Iraq increases chances for greater conflict instead stepping back from the brink for peace and stability in this war-torn part of the world.

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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 Mideast Discourse

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The Caesar Act is one of the main topics discussed by the Media and Political Advisor in the Syrian Presidency Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban in a thorough must watch and learn from interview with Kamal Khalaf of Al-Mayadeen News channel.

Dr. Shaaban discusses and addresses the pressuring issues and recent developments relating to Syria

The shift from unipolar world to a multipolar world, the US sanctions including the passing of the Caesar’s Act, the Turkish invasion and the Syrian Arab Army’s military operation to clean Idlib from NATO terrorists, the oil and gas, and many other topics.

How will the Syrian government respond and what is underway, including two new revelations for the first time.

Arab Souri

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The junta ruling the United States of America is taking advantage of its financial power it possesses based on the petrodollar trade, its military power in uniforms and covert operations stretching worldwide, and worse its propagandists in the mainstream media whitewashing demonizing its enemies, allowing it to commit crimes against the rest of the world and against its own people with no remorse, just to amass more money, more wealth, and kill more people…

It has resorted to all what it has in its arsenal  against Syria, yet it is not able to break this small nation.

The interview took place in Damascus and was recorded by Al-Mayadeen on 25 December 2019.

The following is the interview in Arabic with English subtitles, followed by the transcript of the English translation and the Arabic transcript of the interview.

The transcript of the English translation

Kamal Khalaf  Today when we came to Damascus, the streets of Damascus were decorated with celebrations and there was joy that we were afraid you will be late for this live episode, because of this congestion, happy holidays.

Dr. Buthaina Shaaban: Happy Holidays, truly, what you mentioned Mr. Kamal is very important, I have not seen Damascus decorated as I saw it tonight, and I think this is a beautiful and natural reaction from the Syrian people after all the attempts of sedition between Muslims and Christians, this year I felt that the Syrian people are telling the whole world that we are all Christians and we are all Muslims.

KK: The Algerian people today bid farewell to a great figure, Ahmed Qayed Saleh, chief of staff of the Algerian army, in a sensitive circumstance and he also saved Algeria, as many Algerians say, from a major crisis, I know the depth of the relationship between Syria and Algeria and how Algeria stood with Syria, the relationship with Syria has not changed during all the years of war.

DBS: True, and I’d like through your honorable screen to condole the Algerian government and people of losing this great personality and today the Algerian people have given testimony to this leader, they gave testimony against all attempts at sedition when demonstrations were appearing in the streets and various talks about the Algerian army and its stand against the people or the people’s stand against the army, today the Algerian people put an end to all these sayings and proved that they all had nothing to do with reality, the people gathered around the army and God bless Qayed Saleh, who will remain a model for those who really saved their country and left.

KK: We begin our episode, our viewers Damascus is currently under the biggest campaign of American pressure and not only the signing of the American president a few days ago the Law of Caesar to punish Syria, but the law comes within a multifaceted campaign, these include expanding the tasks of the chemical attack investigation team for the first time in the organization’s history, assigning the team the task of identifying specific names, as well as the (U.S.) administration blatantly obstructing the returning of the Syrian refugees from neighbouring countries and returning Arab relations with Syria. What are the direct economic and political implications of Caesar’s law on Syria?

What does Damascus think of the foundations of the law, and what are the ways and options to counter the U.S. pressure campaign? What does the heightened pressure on Syria have to do with the strategy of extreme pressure on Iran and what is happening in Both Lebanon and Iraq? During this episode, we also look at the most prominent developments on the ground and political in Syria.

These topics are presented directly to Dr. Buthaina Shaaban tonight. I welcome you again and start with the Caesar Act. Today, the Syrian people have anxiety, they have concerns, we listened through the people we meet on social media, fearing or worried of the passing of Caesar’s bill by the United States President on Syria. Is there really something to worry about this law that has direct implications for the lives of Syrian citizens?

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban: The truth is that this law is an episode of the pressure campaigns on Syria that started from 2011 to today,and I remember when we went to Geneva in 2014 and met With Wolf Blitzer from CNN, the first question he asked me about this “Caesar” was that he collected photos and testimonials… Etc. But as you know, this law has been presented more than once before Congress and didn’t move in Congress, I think until it had the support of the Zionist lobby and the AIPAC, It doesn’t make sense to be anyone, whoever it is, and I think they didn’t intentionally reveal the character of this “Caesar” because they know that he is just a small tool, but the real work was done by the lobbies against Syria and the Republican and Democratic parties, because it was assigned to the United States defense budget for 2020, which accounts for more than one-third of the U.S. budget and no one can put this law in this budget unless it is from the military or the Zionist lobby, so for us as a Syrian government it is part of all the pressure attempts and all the attempts they tried to take over Syria, but they could not, and this law will not be able to get Syria.

There is no doubt that it is a criminal and unjust law that has nothing to do with international legitimacy or international law, nor respect for state sovereignty, but the Syrian people who have been going through these years know how to face all these challenges.

KK: Do you know who Caesar is? Is he a real character?

DBS: No, we don’t know who Caesar is, surely not. We don’t know, but they said they were the Syrian Task Force that embraced this law, as they call it, from the agents they choose and pay them whoever they are, names do not matter.

KK: Isn’t it remarkable that even the United States has not revealed his name even though he is in the United States, he ultimately has full protection if he exists…

DBS: Sure, I don’t think they didn’t reveal his name out of fear for him, I think maybe the credibility will disappear once and for all if they reveal his name, I think they know he’s a small tool, they didn’t reveal his name, not out of fear (for him) but so that they don’t lose credibility at all. Now the character remains vague and some belief remains that there is a part of the real, they are all fabrications such as chemical (attacks) fabrications and all the fabrications they have fabricated like White Helmets… There’s nothing new about it.

KK: The foundations of the law, the photographs submitted to Congress on which the draft of severe sanctions bill known as Caesar was built, what do you think of them? How factual is it?

DBS: These pictures, as I said, since 2014, any sane person who looks at these images finds that there are a million problems, and since then I have read more than one article saying that Qatar has funded this project, financed the fabrication of these photos and financed the whole story in order to reach Congress and pass a law. The problem is that it was passed by a law, previously through The Executive Order issued by Obama in the form of a presidential order, and an Executive Order is less effective than a law, but now they have turned it into law, i.e. any future administration will abide by this law against Syria. But we rely not on good intentions or on the easing of sanctions, we depend on ourselves, and we will mention in the course of the episode, God willing, that Syria, despite all this suffering, we have twice the number of pharmaceutical factories that we had in 2011, we have drug factories that didn’t even exist, like a drug for treating cancer. The more we face a challenge, the more we focus on strengthening the industrial structure, the agricultural structure, the educational structure and the health structure.

KK: Does it mean turning the crisis into an opportunity?

DBS: God willing.

KK: Allow us to see the highlights of this law in this summary:

Trump signed Caesar’s Law and was included in the 2020 U.S. defense budget, imposing new measures against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian state with its institutions and allies.

Imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of Syria and on Syrian ministers, deputies and citizens, companies and factories, particularly in related infrastructure and military industry.

The sanctions apply on those who supply Syrian airlines with spare parts and maintenance, those who participate in reconstruction projects run by the Syrian government and anyone who supports the energy sector in Syria.

The law consistently mentions Russia and Iran and threatens to impose sanctions on them linked to Syria’s support. It clearly states that sanctions will be imposed on Iranian and Russian officials who support the ‘regime.’

Under the name of humanity and the rescue of civilians, the law authorizes the Secretary of State to support organizations and prosecute people accused of crimes.

The project excludes non-governmental organizations providing assistance in Syria and around this exception many questions about the identity and mission of these organizations.

The law leaves the door open for lifting sanctions if Damascus agrees to negotiate and thereby concede away from the Russian and Iranian support, or if the President finds that lifting sanctions is in favor of U.S. national security.

America declares war on Syria and its allies with the strategy of extreme pressures and the law of Caesar within them, but Newton’s physical law confirms that each reaction has a reaction equal to the amount and reverses it in the direction, how will Syria respond?

KK: How will Syria respond? What economic measures or plans can you face?

DBS: For the truth, what I have heard and what I have read about this law is nothing new. They put all this pressure on us, our allies, our aviation, the Central Bank (Of Syria) and the officials and the government, they put all this pressure on us.

Perhaps today they think that if they exert greater pressure, Syria will accept U.S. terms. They may raise the pressure as a pressure sheet on Syria, but from experience, they should have known that this would not be useful to the truth.

KK: What are the American conditions, Doctor? What do they want? The real purpose of this law?

DBS: I believe that since the beginning of this war on Syria, the main objective is to confiscate the independent national decision and to have Syria in the host of the countries that are subject to the American decision and not to rule itself. I think that this is the problem that the United States is experiencing not only with Syria but with all the countries that it imposes sanctions on, whether it’s Venezuela, Bolivia, China or Russia, this is the main focus.

The United States, as a dominant pole in the world today, is beginning to fear for its position and is punishing all countries that, by certain alliances, could form other poles in the world.

KK: Are there any demands beyond the crisis in Syria towards the Arab-Israeli conflict? The Deal of the Century? The settlement of the Palestinians..?

DBS: We have no (communication) channel between us and the United States and there is no negotiation on any subject at all, whether, by the Deal of the Century or any other subject, They may need through this Jordan and Egypt, while you see the procedures for the Golan and for Jerusalem all arbitrary actions stemming from the Zionist interest. But for us, there is no dialogue in this regard at all.

KK: Only from the experiences of other countries, for example, JASTA (act) towards Saudi was to withdraw funds from Saudi, there were sanctions on Libya after the Lockerbie plane crash, there were sanctions on Iraq after the first Gulf War, there were sanctions on Sudan, all of which ended with a deal in which they asked this or that regime to make a series of concessions, often related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and to (stop) support for liberation movements such as in Libya and elsewhere, so I asked this question about what is required of Syria?

DBS: We don’t have any information what is required, but I think the difference between this law and JASTA and Lockerbie is that this law is trying to punish Syria’s allies, who support Syria, also, as you mentioned in the introduction, it mentioned Iran and Russia more than once in punishing parties that could help Syria in reconstruction.

KK: Could this include China as well as other countries?

DBS: It might, but I think all of these countries have procedures as well, alliance procedures with each other and action measures. I don’t think these sanctions being drafted by the United States will last long, I do not think that states will abide by them for long, because all the states we have mentioned are affected by these sanctions. None of these countries wants to go into direct conflict with the United States but I see action against this current as valid as President Putin said yesterday, he said we are not seeking a military alliance with China but trust with China is very strong and we will contribute to all industrial and technical products with China.

There is a world that is being formed, allied and works, but not to confront who imposes these sanctions. But I think in the short term these sanctions will lose its impact.

KK: Some may consider expanding sanctions to other entities and other countries as a weakness of this law, but on the other hand, is there coordination between you and allies: Iran, Russia, China, and possibly other countries in the face of these sanctions?

DBS: Sure, of course, there is coordination at many levels between us and our allies, and there is a common understanding and understanding between us and our allies about where the world is today and what the United States is doing in this world, and there is great resentment and a vision of what we should all do. So I don’t think all this pressure from the United States will work at all in any file you want from Syria, it’s not going to work.

KK: Today, Doctor, you are telling the Syrian people that Caesar’s law will not change anything?

DBS: No, it won’t change anything. True because since the beginning of the crisis, all the items I have read in Caesar’s Law have nothing new at all: Boycott, ban spare parts and (sanctions on) the central bank and officials, all of them. They are already punishing allies who wanted to send us oil, medicine or food, all of this exists.

I didn’t see anything new in this law. We have to pay attention to the media; they create a media aura about any action to win the war before it begins. In fact, part of this law is a psychological war, especially the way it was drafted.

KK: We hear in the street that after the passage of Caesar’s law, the exchange rate of the dollar will rise to a record level against the Syrian pound.

DBS: The dollar has nothing to do with Caesar or the economic level, there is no economy that goes negatively or positively in a day and night, these are speculations of exchange companies, when they say that the dollar reached the price of 850 Lira you find that in the market no one sells or buys at this price, all of it is just talk on paper, it has nothing to do with the reality of the Syrian economy.

I met with colleagues in charge of the economy and they told me today the economy is 50 times better than it was in 2011, the reality of economic reality is much better than it was at the beginning of the crisis. There is work going on in agriculture, industry, in enterprises and institutions, there is strong work because we know that we must be self-sufficient in everything and we must rely on ourselves.

KK: This is very reassuring, Doctor, especially for Syrians with expectations of the effects of this law, but the law comes amid tremendous U.S. pressure and a firm application of the strategy of extreme pressure on Iran. Is there a relationship between the strategy of extreme pressure on Iran and the passage of Caesar’s law on the one hand, and also is there a connection to what is happening in Iraq and Lebanon? Are these things connected?

DBS: I would like to tell you, Mr. Kamal, that I see the world as one square, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, China, Venezuela and Libya, all one square and there are strategies put in place to break up our countries from within to prevent communication and solidarity between our nations. What is happening in Lebanon and what is happening in Iraq is undoubtedly against Syria, against Lebanon, against Iraq, against Libya, and against all these countries.

They have resorted to methods to break up our societies from within. It is true that there is no doubt that people have right demands and that they have the right to revolt against corruption and against the absence of services, this is their right, but these revolutions did not bring all countries to a better level, including what happened in Syria, did Syria become better because of what some called and took to the street to destroy institutions and destroy factories, is this a way that leads to more freedom, more democracy and more prosperity?

AS: The sanctions and economic pressure exerted on Syria, Lebanon and other countries is mainly aimed at creating a state of popular restlessness and thus the emergence of social classes to claim their rights.

DBS: Thus, the creation of government puppets of the United States of America, we return to the subject of independent national decision. What these governments want, for example, Adel Abdul Mahdi (Iraqi Prime Minister) now resigns, he signed with China two months ago for $10 billion and to pay Iraqi oil, i.e. to exchange Iraqi oil, he opened the Albu Kamal crossing (with Syria) despite all the American pressure, he stood against the Deal of the Century at the United Nations and call for the right of return to the Palestinians, these are the principles and prescriptions that caused these moves against Adel Abdul Mahdi. We all felt that when this Iraqi government came, it was more independent of the United States of America, and that’s what the United States doesn’t want, all the United States wants today is to have a subordinate government in Iraq, a subordinate government in Lebanon, a subordinate government in Syria, in Libya, to hand over this area to Israel to become an Israeli space as they normalize (with Israel) today, this is the real goal of all of this.

Kk: I also have two points about Caesar’s law, but before that, the German Firil Center for Studies publishing objectives related to Caesar’s law, we will present a summary of these goals as stated by the German Study Center.

Prolonging the Syrian crisis and hindering the reconstruction process and reducing the role of Iranian, Russian, Chinese and other companies, in short, Trump wants his share in reconstruction, says the Center for Studies.

Also, pressure Syria and Russia to secure the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria and prevent Russia’s expansion in the eastern regions and the (Syrian) Jazeera region, and limit its presence to the bases of Hmeimim and Tartus.

Among the goals to further disintegrate Syrian society in preparation for the 2021 elections.

The law exempts NGOs operating in Syria that provides humanitarian aid to those in need in the occupied territories by Turkey and the United States, these areas will not suffer from economic crises like other areas liberated by the Syrian army and we will see the flow of aid to them more, here will show the economic and living difference which will push, according to the American conviction, the pro-Assad street to move against him, and as a result of economic pressures and threats of submitting Syrian officials to war crimes courts, the Syrian state will make political and military concessions, including bowing to separatist projects.

What do you think of these targets, Doctor?

DBS: These objectives are correct, prolonging the Syrian crisis, trying to pounce on Russian influence and expansion in the region that they consider a threat. These are all correct objectives, but as a result where these goals want to reach? It expresses blatant interference in the affairs of states and the attempt to impose a new colonial hegemony on our state, that is the reality of the matter. They are also concerned that Russia is now on the Mediterranean Sea and as a key partner in Syria, it also has excellent relations even with America’s allies, starting to build relationships and sell weapons even to America’s allies.

The whole international track is worrying for the United States of America. The United States of America sees itself today as no longer the only pole in the world, there are economic, military, geopolitical and regional movements that suggest that the world is heading towards a multipolar world.

So we see this irritating move from the United States of America, whether for Jerusalem or for the Golan, for the Deal of the Century, or for Venezuela, take what you want from what the United States is doing, are irritated movements that try to say that I am the only power in the world and I will remain the only power in the world, this will not happen because the course of economic, political and intellectual progress of the whole world will not allow the USA to remain so, until today the United States is a military and financial force, without a doubt, and the main reason is the Gulf states selling oil in dollars if the dollar fell today the United States would fall or if the oil was sold in non-dollar.

Two weeks ago, I attended an important conference in Beijing called the South-South Dialogue and the Development of Human Rights, and there were important speakers from Africa, Asia and Latin America, you feel that all these speakers are very angry at the Use of Human Rights by the United States to interfere with state affairs.

I gave my speech and I see the representative of Venezuela, the representative of Nigeria and the representative of Tanzania come to me and say to me, “I have spoken on behalf of all of us, we love you and this is what we have to do. Everyone demanded that the Countries of the North also be invited to this Conference and that the Bill of Human Rights be redrafted so that the Countries of the South have an opinion and a voice because they did not have a voice in the drafting of the Bill of Human Rights or in the use of the Bill of Human Rights which is used by America.

What I would like to say is that the world is maturing with important thinking in order to get rid of this American military and political hegemony and colonial domination, in which today the sanctions constitute as one of the most egregious aspects of this hegemony.

KK: A point related to the law of (Caesar) before we talk about other issues in the Syrian and regional affairs, how true is the impact of what is happening in Lebanon, especially with regard to the actions of banks in Lebanon on the Syrian economy?

What we have heard in Syria is that one of the important causes of the current crisis is what is happening in Lebanon, especially the banking issue, is this accurate?

DBS: I think no one has an accurate statistic about what is going on, but you know that I say and believe that everything that is happening in Lebanon affects Syria and everything that is happening in Syria affects Lebanon, and this is a fact that we are very close countries, the two people are very close to each other, the exchange between Syria and Lebanon is on daily bases, and no doubt a lot of Syrian money went to the Lebanese banks in this war on Syria, what happened in Lebanon may have an impact on the Syrian economy, but not so much that cannot be overcome, I do not think that this is a fundamental reason or disruption to the course of the movement and progress of the Syrian economy.

KK: We go back to the United States, directly and accurately, is the United States the reason why Syrian-Arab relations are not back to normal?

DBS: I think this is because of the absence of an independent national resolution in many Arab countries, unfortunately, this is possible, we know in the meetings before, the United States is distributing a statement either at the Non-Aligned Summit or in the Arab League or at the Conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, distributes statements to countries and force them to say what it wants.

It is not only preventing the relationship with Syria, but the course of normalization today with the Israeli enemy and the nonsense that we hear that they were like that before, yesterday I was reading how Shimon Peres got a Palestinian visa to enter Palestine, how they think and how to convince those people (of normalization).

We really do not want this version of Arab action, we want a formula similar to our relationship with Algeria, to be a country of resistance, a resistance environment that believes in the Arab-Arab relationship, capable of being independent. This is the future we aspire to with the Arab countries, and God willing, this future will be achieved.

KK: It is (the United States) that prevents the return of refugees. On this subject I will link what we read from the German Center Firil a little while ago, I was struck by the topic of preparing for the 2021 elections, one aspect of U.S. pressure on Syria is to put pressure on Syrian society because the United States has a bet in the 2021 presidential election. Also, the issue of the return of refugees is said to be in the same context, is that true?

DBS: I think they are betting that by not allowing refugees to return to Syria, they may be able to control more of the results of the 2021 presidential elections. However, more than a year ago, I read the publications of the Israeli National Security Center, which explained when the refugees had begun to return and suddenly measures were taken to prevent them from returning and measures were taken in Jordan, where they were not allowed to work and suddenly they were allowed to work, in Turkey and other countries, I read that the non-return of refugees is very important to Israel, because in Jordan, for example, there is a proportion of Syrian refugees and it is changing the demographic nature of Jordan, as well as in Lebanon, it is changing the demographic nature of Lebanon, it also impoverishes Syria by cadres and professional people, these are strategic calculations of first and last objective.

KK: Not including using them as a vote tank in the upcoming (presidential) elections?

DBS: The report of the Center for Israeli National Security Studies did not have this subject, but there is no doubt that this topic is in the minds of Western countries, I think it is time for them to know that they cannot undermine the footsteps of the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian people, who have sacrificed all these sacrifices to be their voice independent and to be able to choose who they want to govern.

KK: The process of returning refugees continues, albeit in varying proportions.

On the subject of Arab relations, there were signs of a new Saudi approach, has this topic reached a certain level?

DBS: No, it did not reach a certain level, just words and attempts remained in its place, there is no serious path.

KK: Why? The United States and the American decision?

DBS: I think that the Gulf states are not capable, even during the war some of these countries were sending us whispers that “we wish to win the war because we know that without Syria, we will not have a future, but we cannot say that.”

Kk: Like: our hearts are with you and our swords are on you.

DBS: Yes, our hearts are with you, our swords are on you, and we are forced to raise our swords on you. Mr. President always says that we understand that this is the case, we cannot change this situation. The goal of war in the whole world and these sanctions and all the labor of countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East is about the independent national decision, what was Evo Morales’ fault? He was an independent man, Lula de Silva, what was the issue with Lula de Silva? is that he was an independent man of the U.S. decision, it is therefore very important to bear in mind that what the United States is always doing is based on its attempt to maintain the hegemony of one pole over the world and that all the course of events and peoples in the world today is to get rid of this path and to create a new reality leading to a multipolar world, and that is what will happen. These are difficulties on the way, no problem.

KK: In the chemical file, one of the pressures on Syria, this program has already discussed it in detail, but there is a very serious point that may be similar to the American Law of Caesar, which is to give additional powers to the investigation and fact-finding team with regard to chemical attacks, these powers have not been taken by the (OPCW) organization in its history to the extent that today even Russia says that this is not the job of the organization but the job of the United Nations Security Council, you will not deal with this fact-finding team, but I would like to know in this process the chemical issue, where will it eventually reach?

DBS: The subject of the chemical file there is a fundamental problem in the world (mainstream) media, because the world media is under the control of those who run the chemical file and the White Helmets and the war on Syria, what has been published in the last three months about the chemical dossier and what you have also displayed in your episode on Al-Mayadeen is enough for this (OPCW) organization to lose its credibility in the eyes of the people, because as I’ve seen, the team that did the fact-finding on the ground is not the team that wrote the report, the last article written by Tarek Haddad in Newsweek was a startling article, one person who was adopted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to write the report, and the scientists who checked and investigated and said what was on earth had no opinion whatsoever and many of them came out and talked to WikiLeaks, Tarek Haddad resigned from Newsweek and spoke heartily about the lies that were fabricated about Syria and the chemical file, if there was any justice or shame in the world, such an organization would lose its legitimacy directly because of what it did in Syria.

KK: A member of the team leaked a letter and sent an email saying that “many things were presented in the episode, but the investigation we conducted is different from the report submitted to the Security Council or the United Nations.” But wasn’t there a force that stopped the investigation team? In other words, even the objection of Russia and other countries, and even the leaked letter of a member of the team?

DBS: Today more than one letter and more than one person called for a review, and now the truth is, there is a group from Alternative Media from Britain, France, Australia and Canada doing excellent work to correct the course of this media lie, but they do not listen to either for these or for others.

KK: Does the United States control the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons?

DBS: Sure, without a doubt, it is within the pressure as they passed Caesar’s law, they’re continuing. The White Helmets were given the Oscars Award, and they’re real criminals who worked with terrorist organizations and some of the White Helmets recently showed footage of how they were wrapping women in white gauze and telling them to pretend to be dead and how they brought the children. They put movies on the screens how they lied in all their reports, that’s part of the global path that we have to face and be patient with and no doubt we’ll get rid of it in the future.

KK: There is also a battle that took place a few days ago in the Security Council over a draft resolution to introduce humanitarian aid across the Syrian border, the purpose of this law, which was opposed by a Sino-Russian double veto and why was it rejected so categorically?

DBS: Unfortunately, Kuwait is an Arab country and one of those who adopted this law against Syria, unfortunately…

KK: Although you stood with Kuwait (during the Iraqi invasion).

DBS: We stood with Kuwait as the saying goes, “Everyone works with their origins,” unfortunately. But this law aims to introduce aid across the border without permission and without the knowledge of the Syrian government, that is, they can enter weapons and enter what they want, and exclusively to areas where there are terrorists.

Kk: As has been the case with attempts to bring convoys from Colombia to Venezuela.

DBS: Exactly, not to areas under the control of the Syrian government, this is a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of a state, and we cooperate with the United Nations from the beginning, distribute aid and do all the work that the United Nations monitors and participates in. As for China’s stand against this draft resolution, it is important, Russia could have used its veto alone, but China’s stand and perhaps some do not pay attention to the importance of this stand against this draft resolution to say that we are against the violation of the sovereignty of states, and we will stand against this violation. This latter position is very important by China, of course, and by Russia, of course, but for China because it is part of what China is trying to do to show the difference between those who believe in participation, equality, respect for states, respect for the sovereignty of nations and those who try to violate the sovereignty of nations.

KK: China, Russia and the Syrian government have a fear of this security council bill to introduce aid.

DBS: Weapons, not just aid.

KK: Bypassing Syrian sovereignty?

DBS: Sure, no doubt. But how do they justify that they want to get aid into areas controlled by terrorists? How can they tell us that they are here in Syria to fight ISIS and to fight terrorism while all their goal in life is to provide assistance to terrorists, to areas and to areas controlled by terrorists?

Today, as the battle of Idlib began, today they are crying out for the civilians, while all the atrocities and crimes committed by the terrorists against our people in Idlib, Aleppo and everywhere have not condemned any of these acts.

KK: I have a little time left and I have three points, you mentioned the issue of Idlib, what is the purpose of the military operation, although it will really stop as we heard some reports today, and is the fact that the escalation in Idlib is linked to the battle in Tripoli in Libya?

DBS: Why am I laughing now? Because I remember when we stopped the military operation in Idlib a while ago, there was a scheme and then it stopped, they asked me did you stop the military operation because Russia said that the military operation should be stopped? When we start the military operation, they say that we started the military operation because Russia asked you to start the military operation…

Kk: But is there coordination?

DBS: Certainly there is coordination, and The Russian air force is supporting the Syrian army in Operation Idlib, but I want to insist that the battle stops, starts or continues according to military and strategic considerations that evaluate gain and loss at this moment or at another moment, it is not linked to what is happening in Libya, this operation has nothing to do with that, we, of course, regret that the Government of Erdogan is trying to wreak havoc in Syria, Libya and everywhere, but the battle of Idlib is aimed at liberating Idlib, a continuation of the battles fought by the Syrian Arab Army to liberate every inch of Syrian territory, God willing.

KK: The U.S. theft of Syrian oil, this is a subject that worries the Syrians, there is a sense of bitterness among the Syrians, especially after Trump said that there is 45 million dollars a month coming from this oil and this will not leave it, we even heard voices from the United States itself saying that this is against American law, what are you doing about this, oil and wheat as well?

DBS: Yes, oil and wheat, the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, and this is what I say for the first time, is examining what legal measures we can take on an international level in order to bring a case against the United States of America, because it is actually stealing Syrian oil and violating Syrian sovereignty.

Even the CNBC reporter who met me a few days ago told me what you said to President Bashar al-Assad when he said that Trump is the most transparent president? How do you explain this? I told him it is because Mr. President says the United States in its history plunders the wealth of the people but it does not say so, but today Trump said the Iraqi oil is for me and the Syrian oil is for me, regardless of respect for the sovereignty of states and respect that this wealth belongs to the Syrian people.

What I would like to say is that Syrian oil and Syrian territory will be liberated from the Americans, the Turks and from everyone.

KK: You are preparing a legal file on this matter.

DBS: Yes, hopefully, we are preparing a legal file in this matter to sue the United States for the theft of Syrian oil.

KK: There is a major political, security and military battle in the eastern Mediterranean over gas and oil in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey went to Libya for this, Egypt has formed a Mediterranean forum with a group of countries, there is a demarcation of the border, Lebanon will start exploring after a while also and has a problem with Israel, where is Syria in this matter?

DBS: I will also say this for the first time, Syria has begun to explore with Russian companies about Syrian oil and gas in the Mediterranean.

KK: You have begun?

DBS: We started, yes, of course, this is national riches and the Syrian government has been doing work for years and has been preparing for this exploration.

Kk: I was saying that Lebanon will start while you began.

DBS: We have come a long way and started exploring in the Mediterranean.

KK: In the gas fields?

DBS: In fields belonging to the Syrian Arab Republic.

KK: Doctor, the Constitutional Committee, where did it stop?

DBS: It stopped because there is a delegation of the Turkish regime that wants to do what it wants, and we, after all the sacrifices made by the Syrian army and people, will not be the future of Syria except as the Syrian people want, and the Syrian constitution will only be what the Syrian people want.

MM: Dr. Buthaina Shaaban, Media and Political Advisor in the Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic, the time is very late, we had a lot of questions that we did not ask. Thank you very much.

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Old Money and New Questions in AMLO’s Mexico

January 3rd, 2020 by Asad Ismi

It’s been nearly a year since the “leftist firebrand” Andrés Manuel López Obrrador (AMLO) took office as Mexican president, promising to end official corruption and state-linked violence, redistribute wealth to the poor and promote Indigenous rights. Shortly into his term, AMLO famously declared that neoliberalism is “dead” in his country—a four-decade-old elite consensus appeared in real danger from the newly elected National Regeneration Movement Party (MORENA) government.

But a series of economic policy choices since then—not least of them the quick Mexican ratification of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), or “New NAFTA”—have some of AMLO’s supporters wondering whose side he is on. The president’s attempts to satisfy the country’s oligarchs on one hand, and labour and Indigenous groups on the other, appears to have moved MORENA to the political centre rather than moving the country out of its disastrous neoliberal quagmire.

As an economic nationalist, López Obrador has long opposed NAFTA and threatened to discard it if elected. So it came as a surprise to many of his supporters that Mexico was the first country to ratify CUSMA, on June 19, only seven months into his presidency. Neither Canada nor the U.S. had ratified the “New NAFTA” when this issue of the Monitor went to print. The Canadian federal elections and the start of impeachment hearings against President Trump make it even less clear when that might happen.

“This fast-tracking is wrong and a mistake,” says Eladio Abundiz, national co-ordinator of the Authentic Labour Front (FAT in Spanish), a progressive and independent Mexican union, and one of the founding organizations in the Mexican Network of Action Against Free Trade (RMALC). “We do not understand why Lopez Obrador ratified this agreement right away without consultation with labour unions and other affected sectors such as farmers, and without bargaining for better conditions.”

Abundiz was in Canada at the end of September for a speaking tour organized by the United Steelworkers (USW), Common Frontiers, the International Centre for Workers Solidarity (CISO) in Montreal, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). In an interview with him after his Toronto presentation, Abundiz tells me he supports the president, “and we brought him to power and also he was always opposed to NAFTA. We asked the Mexican senate to hold hearings on CUSMA so that we could present some of our concerns about its impacts on labour. But there were no hearings.”

Those concerns, from the FAT and others in Mexico, include problems with the new deal’s labour chapter and its provisions on the environment. “The agreement allows mining and other companies to destroy the country’s environment without penalty,” he says. Many resource firms operating in Mexico are based in Canada. But Abundiz is particularly worried about the auto bargain reached in CUSMA, which he calls a “disaster” for Mexico’s auto sector.

Under the rules of origin in the “New NAFTA,” which must be met by automakers in order for cars and car parts to cross borders tariff-free, by 2023, 40-45% of all auto parts must be produced in factories that pay at least US$16/hour. According to Abundiz, this will mean a greater share of vehicles will be produced in the United States or Canada, where the wage condition is already met, than in Mexico, where the average auto wage is currently just over $3/hour.

“This $16 an hour wage rule does not make any sense,” he says, “because the only reason car companies come to Mexico is to take advantage of the low wages.”

CUSMA does contain a clause that appears to be a victory for Mexican workers. The agreement requires that Mexico:

“Provide in its labour laws the right of workers to engage in concerted activities for collective bargaining or protection and to organize, form, and join the union of their choice, and prohibit, in its labour laws, employer domination or interference in union activities, discrimination, or coercion against workers for union activity or support, and refusal to bargain collectively with the duly recognized union.”

Implementation of this clause would mean that non-democratic, state-sanctioned “company” unions, which organize 75% of the unionized workforce, can no longer exist.

However, CUSMA provides no effective enforcement mechanism to ensure this labour reform holds. Mexican company unions are already taking action to halt its implementa- tion, while U.S. Democrats are pushing the Trump administration to strengthen the clause.

“Four hundred and thirty legal cases have been lodged against the Mexican government by the corrupt corporatist unions to stop the implementation of the labour reforms contained in CUSMA,” Abundiz explains. “Given this, the United Autoworkers (UAW) in the U.S. is very concerned that the Mexican government does not have enough money to implement the labour reform. You can imagine the Mexican state having to fight 430 [expensive] cases in the courts.”

López Obrador’s rush to ratify CUSMA and his disinterest in the concerns of Mexican labour unions can be explained by his closeness to the notoriously corrupt Mexican corporate oligarchy that he periodically rails against. The president’s powerful chief-of-staff, Alfonso Romo, is a case-in-point.

A millionaire business tycoon from the affluent northern city of Monterrey, Romo is the former head of VECTOR Casa de Bolsa, the largest fund management company in Latin America. In July, AMLO’s treasury secretary, Carlos Urzúa, resigned in spectacular fashion, sending a letter to the president in which he complained that Romo, “a man of the extreme right” who “came to admire Augusto Pinochet” had more control over the country’s finances than he did.

Romo’s power was increased again, significantly, in February 2019 when the president appointed him head of a new Council for Investment Promotion, Employment and Economic Growth. The purpose of the council is to stimulate economic growth through the convergence of the private, public and social sectors working together.

“This council is a key conjuncture of forces, a crucial point of union between the private sector and López Obrador’s cabinet,” explains James Cypher, professor of economics at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas in central Mexico. “Romo comes from old Monterrey money…and the Monterrey capitalists have been pushing a very right-wing ideology since [the 19th century].” Romo is a strong believer in private enterprise and has said he wants to make Mexico “a paradise for investment.”

“López Obrador thinks that he can find the way to unify opposites — business and labour,” Cypher continues. “Much of his intellectual framework comes from Lázaro Cárdenas, Mexico’s President from 1934 to 1940. Cardenas was able to walk that fine line when he often had Mexican business in his pocket and he often was opposed to Mexican business, but he got results.”

Cardenas is known for nationalizing Mexico’s oil industry and implementing agrarian reform, for example.

While López Obrador also hopes to prioritize a state-run expansion of the oil sector, it’s his emphasis on corporate investment that worries Isabel Altamirano-Jiménez, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Indigenous Feminist Studies at the University of Alberta and a member of the Indigenous Zapotec Nation from the Tehuantepec Isthmus in Oaxaca, Mexico.

“López Obrador came to power with a lot of hope that things were going to change for the better and he had a lot of public support. But a lot of people in Mexico now feel that they have been let down by him as his many progressive promises have been postponed,” she tells me. “The most important segment that feels alienated in this sense is the Indigenous population. He made a lot of promises to improve conditions for native communities, but so far the pol- icies he has been pushing involve more corporate development on Indigenous lands.”

For Altamirano-Jiménez, the president has failed especially to restrain mining companies whose activities have harmed many Indigenous communities in Mexico.

“López Obrador promised that the laws around mining activities would be revised in order to force mining companies to respect Indigenous rights and protect the environment, but that has not happened. Instead he is pushing for corporate investment, particularly in southern Mexico where most of the Indigenous population lives. We see López Obrador’s contradictory stance, which advocates on the one hand respect for Indigenous rights and on the other hand pushes for corporate development, with talk about making some areas free investment zones with no official regulation.”

The Mexican president’s “signature infrastructure project” is the Maya Train, a proposed 1,500-kilometre rail connection through Mexico’s Mayan heartland in the Yucatan Peninsula, to bring tourists to Indigenous villages. Construction on the route has already started despite the absence of an environmental assessment — Lopez Obrador claims Mother Earth granted him permission — and is scheduled to conclude by the end of AMLO’s six-year term.

“This train is going to cross several southern states and disturb important protected areas and Indigenous com- munities,” says Altamirano-Jiménez. The route will go through the only un- spoiled ancient forests on the Yucatan Peninsula and put at risk endangered species such as the black howler monkey. “The project is being put forward without consultation with native communities. The people have been left out and for López Obrador’s government, it is business as usual.”

In spite of his apparent drift toward the political centre, it would be premature to pass judgment on López Obrador this early into his government’s term. Altamirano-Jiménez notes the president took office “with a set of political and economic conditions already defined, including CUSMA. So even if he wanted to implement some of his promises, it would not be that simple to do so.”

Ratifying the “New NAFTA” negoti- ated by his neoliberal predecessor had one benefit of allowing the Morena government to move on to other pri- orities. AMLO inherited an economy that has been ravaged by 40 years of corrupt and violent right-wing rule; no president could be expected to reverse the damage in six years. But according to Cypher, the president’s balancing act—between supporting business and workers—is unlikely to bear fruit.

“No leader has been able to reconcile the opposed interests of workers and capitalists as López Obrador is trying to do,” he tells me, adding it is easy to imagine a scenario where the president goes in one direction and the oligarchs split the other way. “The situation in Mexico is very volatile.”

*

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This article was originally published on the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (page 41).

Asad Ismi is an award-winning writer and radio documentary-maker. He covers international politics for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Monitor (CCPA Monitor), Canada’s biggest leftist magazine (by circulation) where this article was originally published. Asad has written on the politics of 64 countries and is a regular contributer to Global Research. For his publications visit www.asadismi.info.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

50 bombas nucleares USA da Turquia para Aviano

January 2nd, 2020 by Manlio Dinucci

“Cinquenta ogivas nucleares estariam prontas para mudar da base turca de Incirlik, na Anatólia, para a base USAF de Aviano, em Friuli Venezia Giulia, já que os EUA desconfiam cada vez mais da lealdade à NATO do presidente turco Erdogan”: relata a ANSA citando o que foi declarado pelo general aposentado da Força Aérea dos EUA, Chuck Wald, numa entrevista à Bloomberg, em 16 de Novembro. O facto da ANSA e alguns jornais falarem sobre este assunto, mesmo tarde, ainda é positivo. Isto confirma o que il manifesto documentou há muito tempo. “Parece provável – escrevemos em 22 de Outubro (mas a ANSA ignorou a notícia) – que, entre as opções consideradas em Washington, há a transferência de armas nucleares dos EUA da Turquia para outro país mais confiável. Segundo o Atomic Scientists Bulletin (EUA), a base aérea de Aviano pode ser a melhor opção europeia do ponto de vista político, mas provavelmente não tem espaço suficiente para receber todas as armas nucleares da Incirlik. O espaço poderia, no entanto, ser obtido, dado que já havia começado em Aviano, o trabalho de reestruturação para acolher as bombas nucleares B61-12 ».

Baseado no que foi relatado pela ANSA, o coordenador nacional dos Verdes, Angelo Bonelli, pergunta ao governo se confirma a notícia e traz imediatamente o problema à avaliação do Parlamento, pois que a Itália seria “transformada no maior depósito de armas nucleares da Europa e este silêncio do governo italiano é inaceitável”. Na realidade, não é só o governo que está calado, mas o próprio Parlamento, onde a questão das armas nucleares dos EUA em Itália, é tabu. Levantá-la significaria questionar a relação de sujeição da Itália aos Estados Unidos.

Assim, a Itália continua a ser a base avançada das forças nucleares USA. Segundo as últimas estimativas da Federação de Cientistas Americanos, em cada uma das duas bases italianas e nas da Alemanha, Bélgica e Holanda, actualmente existem 20 bombas B61 perfazendo um total de 100 mais 50 em Incirlik, na Turquia. No entanto, ninguém pode verificar quantas são na realidade. Das estimativas resulta que os USA estão a diminuir o seu número, o que está longe de ser tranquilizador. Eles estão a preparar-se para substituí-las pelas novas bombas nucleares B61-12. Diferentemente da B61, lançada verticalmente, a B61-12 segue em direcção ao alvo, guiada por um sistema de satélite e também tem a capacidade de penetrar no subsolo, explodindo em profundidade para destruir os bunkers dos centros de comando. O programa do Pentágono planeia, a partir de 2021,  construir 500 bombas B61-12 com um custo de aproximadamente 10 biliões de dólares. Não se sabe quantas B61-12 serão instaladas em Itália, nem em que bases, provavelmente não só em Aviano e Ghedi. Como mostra o mesmo anúncio do projecto, publicado pelo Ministério da Defesa, os novos hangares de Ghedi poderão hospedar 30 caças F-35 com 60 bombas nucleares B61-12, o triplo das actuais B-61 (il manifesto, 28 de Novembro de 2017).

Ao mesmo tempo, os USA estão a preparar-se para instalar mísseis nucleares terrestres (entre 500 e 5.500 km) em Itália e em outros países europeus, semelhantes aos Euromísseis eliminados pelo Tratado INF, assinado em 1987 pelos USA e pela URSS. Acusando a Rússia (sem qualquer prova) de tê-lo violado, os USA retiraram-se do Tratado, começando a construir mísseis da categoria proibida: em 18 de Agosto eles testaram um novo míssil de cruzeiro e, em 12 de Dezembro, um novo míssil balístico, este último capaz de atingir o objectivo em poucos minutos. Ao mesmo tempo, estão a fortalecer o “escudo antimísseis” na Europa. Na sua “resposta assimétrica”, a Rússia começa a instalar mísseis hipersónicos que, capazes de atingir uma velocidade de 33.000 km/h e de manobrar, podem perfurar qualquer “escudo”.

A situação em que nos encontramos é, portanto, muito mais perigosa do que demonstra a notícia já alarmante da provável transferência de bombas nucleares USA de Incirlik para Aviano. Nesta situação, domina o silêncio imposto pela vasta coligação política bipartidária responsável pelo facto da Itália, país não nuclear, albergar e estar preparada para usar armas nucleares, violando o Tratado de Não Proliferação que ratificou. Essa responsabilidade torna-se ainda mais grave, pelo facto da Itália, como membro da NATO, se recusar a aderir ao Tratado sobre a Proibição de armas nucleares (Tratado ONU), votado por uma grande maioria da Assembleia Geral das Nações Unidas.

Manlio Dinucci

 

Artigo original em italiano :

50 bombe nucleari Usa dalla Turchia ad Aviano

Tradutora: Maria Luísa de Vasconcellos

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In the year 2019 the world was marked with a number of emerging and developing crises. The threat of terrorism, conflicts in the Middle East, expanding instability in South America, never-ending military, political and humanitarian crises in Africa and Asia, expansion of NATO, insecurity inside the European Union, sanction wars and sharpening conflicts between key international players. One more factor that shaped the international situation throughout the year was the further collapse of the existing system of international treaties. The most widely known examples of this tendency are the collapse of the INF and the US announcement of plans to withdraw from the New START.

Meanwhile, the deterioration of diplomatic mechanisms between key regional and global actors is much wider than these two particular cases. It includes such fields as NATO-Russia relations, the US posture towards Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, unsuccessful attempts to rescue vestiges of the Iran nuclear deal, as well as recent setbacks in the diplomatic formats created to de-escalate the Korean conflict.

Syria and The Middle East 

One of the regions of greatest concern in the world, is the Middle East. The main destabilizing factors are the remaining terrorist threat from al-Qaeda and ISIS, the crises in Libya, Syria and Iraq, the ongoing Saudi invasion of Yemen, the deepening Israeli-Arab conflict, and a threat of open military confrontation involving the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf. These factors are further complicated by social and economic instability in several regional countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran.

After the defeat of ISIS, the war in Syria entered a low intensity phase. However, it appears that the conflict is nowhere near its end and the country remains a point of instability in the region.

ISIS cells are still active in the country. The announced US troop withdrawal appeared to be only an ordinary PR stunt as US forces only changed their main areas of presence to the oil-rich areas in northeastern Syria. Washington exploits its control over Syrian resources and influence on the leadership of the Syrian Kurds in order to effect the course of the conflict. The Trump administration sees Syria as one of the battlegrounds in the fight against the so-called Iranian threat.

The province of Idlib and its surrounding areas remain the key stronghold of radical militant groups in Syria. Over the past years, anti-government armed groups suffered a series of defeats across the country and withdrew towards northwestern Syria. The decision of the Syrian Army to allow encircled militants to withdraw towards Idlib enabled the rescue of thousands of civilians, who were being used by them as human shields in such areas as Aleppo city and Eastern Ghouta. At the same time, this increased significantly the already high concentration of militants in Greater Idlib turning it into a hotbed of radicalism and terrorism. The ensuing attempts to separate the radicals from the so-called moderate opposition and then to neutralize them, which took place within the framework of the Astana format involving Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia, made no progress.

The Summer-Fall advance of the Syrian Army in northern Hama and southern Idlib led to the liberation of a large area from the militants. Nevertheless, strategically, the situation is still the same. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, controls most of the area. Turkish-backed ‘moderate militants’ act shoulder to shoulder with terrorist groups.

Turkey is keen to prevent any possible advances of the government forces in Idlib. Therefore it supports further diplomatic cooperation with Russia and Iran to promote a ‘non-military’ solution of the issue. However it does not seem to have enough influence with the Idlib militant groups, in particular HTS, to impose a ceasefire on them at the present time. Ankara could take control of the situation, but it would need a year or two that it does not have. Therefore, a new round of military escalation in the Idlib zone seems to be only a matter of time.

Syria’s northeast is also a source of tensions. Turkey seized a chunk of territory between Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad in the framework of its Operation Peace Spring. The large-scale Turkish advance on Kurdish armed groups was halted by the Turkish-Russian ‘safe zone’ agreement and now the Syrian Army and the Russian Military Police are working to separate Kurdish rebels from Turkish proxies and to stabilize Syria’s northeast. If this is successfully done and the Assad government reaches a political deal with Kurdish leaders, conditions for further peaceful settlement of the conflict in this part of the country will be created. It should be noted that Damascus has been contributing extraordinary efforts to restore the infrastructure in areas liberated from terrorists by force or returned under its control by diplomatic means. In the eyes of the local population, these actions have an obvious advantage over approaches of other actors controlling various parts of Syria.

Israel is another actor pursuing an active policy in the region. It seeks to influence processes which could affect, what the leadership sees as, interests of the state. Israel justifies aggressive actions in Syria by claiming to be surrounded by irreconcilable enemies, foremost Iran and Hezbollah, who try to destroy Israel or at least diminish its security. Tel Aviv makes all efforts to ensure that, in the immediate vicinity of its borders, there would be no force, non-state actors, or states whose international and informational activities or military actions might damage Israeli interests. This, according to the Israeli vision, should ensure the physical security of the entire territory currently under the control of Israel and its population.

The start of the Syrian war became a gift for Israel. It was strong enough to repel direct military aggression by any terrorist organization, but got a chance to use the chaos to propel its own interests. Nonetheless, the rigid stance of the Israeli leadership which became used to employing chaos and civil conflicts in the surrounding countries as the most effective strategy for ensuring the interests of the state, was delivered a blow. Israel missed the moment when it had a chance to intervene in the conflict as a kind of peacemaker, at least on the level of formal rhetoric, and, with US help, settle the conflict to protect its own interests. Instead, leaders of Israel and the Obama administration sabotaged all Russian peace efforts in the first years of the Russian military operation and by 2019, Tel Aviv had found itself excluded from the list of power brokers in the Syrian settlement. Hezbollah and Iran, on the other hand, strengthened their position in the country after they, in alliance with Damascus and Russia, won the war on the major part of Syrian territory, and Iran through the Astana format forged a tactical alliance with Turkey.

Iran and Hezbollah used the preliminary outcome of the conflict in Syria, and the war on ISIS in general, to defend their own security and to expand their influence across the region.  The so-called Shia crescent turned from being a myth exploited by Western diplomats and mainstream media into a reality. Iran and Hezbollah appeared to be reliable partners for their regional allies even in the most complicated situations.

Russia’s strategic goal is the prevention of radical Islamists from coming to power. Russia showed itself ready to enter dialogue with the moderate part of the Syrian opposition. Its leadership even demonstrated that it is ready to accept the interests of other actors, the US, Israel, Kurdish groups, Turkey, Iran, and Hezbollah, if this would help in reaching a final deal to settle the conflict.

Summing up the developments of 2019, one might expect that the current low-intensity state of the Syrian conflict would continue for years. However, several factors and developments could instigate the renewal of full-fledged hostilities:

  • A sudden demise or forceful removal of President Bashar al-Assad could create a situation of uncertainty within the patriotic component of the Syrian leadership;
  • Changes within the Russian political system or issues inside Russia which could lead to full or partial withdrawal of support to the Syrian government and withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria;
  • A major war in the Middle East which would turn the entire region into a battlefield. In the current situation, such a war could only start by escalation between the US-Israeli-led bloc and Iran.

Iran and The Persian Gulf. The War on Yemen

The Persian Gulf and the Saudi-Yemen battleground are also sources of regional instability. In the second half of 2019, the situation there was marked by increased chances of open military confrontation between the US-Israeli-Saudi bloc and Iran. Drone shoot-downs, oil tanker detentions, open military buildups, and wartime-like rhetoric became something common or at least not very surprising. The US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel point to Iran as the main instigator of tensions.

Iran and its allies deny responsibility for the escalation reasonably noting that their actions were a response to aggressive moves by the US-Israeli-Saudi axis. From this point of view, Iran’s decision to limit its commitments to the already collapsed Nuclear Deal, high level of military activity in the Persian Gulf, shoot down of the US Global Hawk spy drone, and increased support to regional Shia groups are logical steps to deter US—led aggression and to solidify its own position in the region. Iran’s main goal is to demonstrate that an open military conflict with it will have a devastating impact to the states which decide to attack it, as well as to the global economy.

The US sanctions war, public diplomatic support of rioters, and the Trump administration’s commitment to flexing military muscle only strengthen Tehran’s confidence that this approach is right.

As to Yemen’s Houthis, who demonstrated an unexpected success in delivering retaliatory strikes to Saudi Arabia, they would continue to pursue their main goal – achieving a victory in the conflict with Saudi Arabia or forcing the Kingdom to accept the peace deal on favorable terms. To achieve this, they need to deliver maximum damage to Saudi Arabia’s economy through strikes on its key military and infrastructure objects. In this case, surprising missile and drone strikes on different targets across Saudi Arabia have already demonstrated their effectiveness.

The September 14 strike on Saudi oil infrastructure that put out of commission half of the Saudi oil output became only the first sign of future challenges that Riyadh may face in case of further military confrontation.

The unsuccessful invasion of Yemen and the confrontation with Iran are not the only problems for Saudi Arabia. The interests and vision of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East have been in conflict for a long time. Nonetheless, this tendency became especially obvious in 2019. The decline of influence of the House of Saud in the region and inside Saudi Arabia itself led to logical attempts of other regional players to gain a leading position in the Arabian Peninsula. The main challenger is the UAE and the House of Maktoum.

 Contradictions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned into an open military confrontation between their proxies in Yemen. Since August 29th, Saudi Arabia has provided no symmetric answer to the UAE military action against its proxies. It seems that the Saudi leadership has no will or distinct political vision of how it should react in this situation. Additionally, the Saudi military is bogged down in a bloody conflict in Yemen and struggles to defend its own borders from Houthi attacks.

The UAE already gained an upper hand in the standoff with Saudi Arabia in the economic field. This provided motivation for further actions towards expanding its influence in the region.

During the year, Turkey, under the leadership of President Recep Erdogan, continued strengthening its regional positions. It expanded its own influence in Libya and Syria, strengthened its ties with Iran, Qatar, and Russia, obtained the S-400, entered a final phase in the TurkStream project, and even increased controversial drilling activity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Simultaneously, Ankara defended its national interests -repelling pressure from the United States and getting off with removal from the F-35 program only. Meanwhile, Turkish actions should not be seen as a some tectonic shift in its foreign policy or a signal of ‘great friendship’ with Russia or Iran.

Turkish foreign policy demonstrates that Ankara is not seeking to make ‘friends’ with other regional and global powers. Turkey’s foreign policy is mobile and variable, and always designed to defend the interests of Turkey as a regional leader and the key state of the Turkic world.

Developments in Libya were marked by the strengthening of the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and backed by the UAE, Egypt, and to some extent Russia. The LNA consolidated control of most of the country and launched an advance on its capital of Tripoli, controlled by the Government of National Accord. The LNA describes its main goal as the creation of the unified government and the defeat of terrorism. In its own turn, the Government of National Accord is backed by Turkey, Qatar, the USA and some European states. It controls a small part of the country, and, in terms of military force, relies on various militias and even radical armed groups linked with al-Qaeda. Ankara signed with the Tripoli government a memorandum on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, it sees the GNA survival as a factor which would allow it to justify its further economic and security expansion in the region. This clash of interests sets conditions for an escalation of the Libyan conflict in 2020.

Egypt was mostly stable. The country’s army and security forces contained the terrorism threat on the Sinai Peninsula and successfully prevented attempts of radical groups to destabilize the country.

Central Asia

By the end of the year, the Greater Middle East had appeared in a twilight zone lying before a new loop of the seemingly never-ending Great Game. The next round of the geopolitical standoff will likely take place in a larger region including the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Consistently, the stakes will grow involving more resources of states and nations in geopolitical roulette.

The threat that faces Central Asia is particularly severe since the two sets of actors have asymmetrical objectives. Russia and China are rather interested in the political stability and economic success of the region which they view as essential to their own political and security objectives. It is not in the interest of either country to have half a dozen failed states in their immediate political neighborhood, riven by political, economic, and religious conflicts threatening to spread to their own territories. In addition to being a massive security burden to Russia and China, it would threaten the development of their joint Eurasian integration projects and, moreover, attract so much political attention that the foreign policy objectives of both countries would be hamstrung. The effect would be comparable to that of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on the US political and military establishment. The monetary price of these wars, the sheer political distraction, wear and demoralization of the armed forces, and the unfortunately frequent killings of civilians amount to a non-tenable cost to the warring party, not to mention damage to US international “soft power” wrought by scandals associated with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and “black sites”. Even now, shock-waves in the US military hierarchy continue to be felt regarding the court-martialed senior-ranking US Navy “SEAL” commando charged for the wanton killing of civilians in Northern Iraq during the US military’s anti-ISIS operations.

By contrast, this dismal scenario would be enough to satisfy the US foreign policy establishment which, at the moment, is wholly dominated by “hawks” determined to assure the continuation of US hegemony.  Preventing the emergence of a multi-polar international system by weakening China and Russia is their desire.  This sets the stage for another round of great power rivalry in Central Asia. While the pattern is roughly the same as during the 19th and late 20th centuries—one or more Anglo-Saxon powers seeking to diminish the power of Russia and/or China—the geography of the battlefield is considerably larger for it encompasses the entirety of post-Soviet Central Asian republics.  Also included is China’s province of Xinjiang which has suddenly attracted considerable Western attention, manifested, as usual, by concern for “human rights” in the region.  Historically, such “concern” usually precedes some form of aggressive action. Therefore the two sets of great power actors—the US and other interested Western powers on the one hand, with Russia and China on the other—are locked in a standoff in the region.

Afghanistan

The key security problem is militancy and the spread of terrorism. The US and its NATO partners remain unable to achieve a military victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban reached a level of influence in the region, turning it into a rightful party to any negotiations involving the United States. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that a fully-fledged peace deal can be reached between the sides. The Taliban’s main demand is the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country. For Washington, conceding to this would amount to public humiliation and a forceful need to admit that the superpower lost a war to the Taliban. Washington can achieve a military victory in Afghanistan only by drastically increasing its forces in the country. This will go contrary to Trump’s publicly declared goal – to limit US participation in conflicts all around the world. Therefore, the stalemate will continue with the Taliban and the US sitting at the negotiating table in Qatar, while Taliban forces slowly take control of more and more territory in Afghanistan.

Besides fighting the US-backed government, in some parts of the country, the Taliban even conducts operations against ISIS in order to prevent this group from spreading further. Despite this, around 5,000 ISIS militants operate in Afghanistan’s north, near the border with Tajikistan. Member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization are concerned that ISIS militants are preparing to shift their focus to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Russia. The terrorists are infiltrating CIS states, incorporating with organized crime, creating clandestine cells, brainwashing and recruiting new supporters, chiefly the socially handicapped youth and migrants, [and] training them to carry out terrorist activities. The worsening situation in Central Asia contributes to the spread of radical ideas. Now the main threat of destabilization of the entire Central Asian region comes from Tajikistan. This state is the main target of militants deployed in northern Afghanistan.

Destabilization of Central Asia and the rise of ISIS both contribute to achievement of US geopolitical goals. The scenario could devastate Russia’s influence in the region, undermine security of key Russian regional ally, Kazakhstan, and damage the interests of China. The Chinese, Kazakh, and Russian political leadership understand these risks and engage in joint efforts to prevent this scenario.

In the event of further destabilization of Central Asia, ISIS sleeper cells across the region could be activated and a new ISIS self-proclaimed Caliphate could appear on the territory of northern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan. Russia and China would not benefit from such a development. In the case of China, such instability could expand to its Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, while in Russia the main targets could be the Northern Caucasus and large cities with high numbers of migrant laborers from Central Asian states.

Armenia now together with Georgia became the center of a US soft power campaign to instigate anti-Russian hysteria in the Caucasus. Ethnic groups in this region are traditionally addicted to US mainstream propaganda. On the other hand, the importance of the South Caucasus for Russia decreased notably because of the strong foothold it gained in the Middle East. 2020 is looking to be another economically complicated year for Georgia and Armenia.

China Challenges the US 

Throughout 2019, China consolidated its position as a global power and the main challenger of the United States. From the military point of view, China successfully turned the South China Sea into an anti-access and area-denial zone controlled by its own military and moved forward with its ambitious modernization program which includes the expansion of China’s maritime, airlift, and amphibious capabilities. The balance of power in the Asia-Pacific has in fact shifted and the Chinese Armed Forces are now the main power-broker in the region. China appeared strong enough to fight back against US economic and diplomatic pressure and to repel the Trump Administration’s attempts to impose Washington’s will upon Beijing. Despite economic war with the United States, China’s GDP growth in 2019 is expected to be about 6%, while the yuan exchange rate and the SSE Composite Index demonstrate stability. The United States also tried to pressure China through supporting instability in Hong Kong and by boosting defense aid to Taiwan. However, in both cases, the situation appears to still be within Beijing’s comfort zone.

The Russia-China Partnership

An interesting consequence of US-led pressure on China is that Washington’s actions provided an impetus for development of Chinese-Russian cooperation. In 2019, Moscow and Beijing further strengthened their ties and cooperation in the economic and military spheres and demonstrated notable unity in their actions on the international scene as in Africa and in the Arctic for example.

As to Russia itself, during the year, it achieved several foreign policy victories.

  • The de-facto diplomatic victory in Syria;
  • Resumption of dialogue with the new Ukrainian regime and the reanimation of the Normandy format negotiations;
  • Improvement of relations with some large European players, like France, Italy, and even Germany;
  • Implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project despite opposition from the US-led bloc;
  • Implementation of the Turkish Stream project with Turkey;
  • Strengthening of the Russian economy in comparison with previous years and the rubble’s stability despite pressure from sanctions. Growth of the Russian GDP for 2019 is expected to be 1.2%, while the Russia Trading System Index demonstrated notable growth from around 1,100 points at the start of the year to around 1,500 by year’s end.

The salient accomplishment of the Russian authorities is that no large terrorist attack took place in the country. At the same time, the internal situation was marked by some negative tendencies. There was an apparent political, media, and social campaign to undermine Chinese-Russian cooperation. This campaign, run by pro-Western and liberal media, became an indicator of the progress in Chinese-Russian relations. Additionally, Russia was rocked by a series of emergencies, corruption scandals linked with law enforcement, the plundering of government funding allocated to the settlement of emergency situations, the space industry, and other similar cases.

A number of Russian mid-level officials made statements revealing their real, rent-seeking stance towards the Russian population. Another problem was the deepening social stratification of the population. Most of the citizens experienced a decrease in their real disposable income, while elites continued concentrating margin funds gained through Russia’s successful actions in the economy and on the international level. These factors, as well as fatigue with the stubborn resistance of entrenched elites to being dislodged, caused conditions for political instability in big cities. Liberal and pro-Western media and pro-Western organizations exploited this in an attempt to destabilize the country.

The Militarization of Japan

Militarization of Japan has given the US a foothold in its campaign against China, Russia, and North Korea. The Japan Self-Defense Forces were turned into a fully-fledged military a long time ago. Japanese diplomatic rhetoric demonstrates that official Tokyo is preparing for a possible new conflict in the region and that it will fight to further expand its zone of influence. The Japanese stance on the Kuril Islands territorial dispute with Russia is an example of this approach. Tokyo rejected a Russian proposal for joint economic management of four islands and nearby waters, while formally the islands will remain within Russian jurisdiction -at least for the coming years. Japan demands the full transfer of islands a term which is unacceptable to Russia from a military and political point of view. The social and economic situation in Japan was in a relatively stable, but guarded state.

US-North Korea Relations

Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea reached a stalemate after the North Korean leadership claimed that Washington was in no hurry to provide Pyongyang with acceptable terms and conditions of a possible nuclear deal. The example of the US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran also played a role. The positive point is that tensions on the Korean Peninsula de-escalated anyway because the sides sat down at the negotiation table. Chances of the open military conflict involving North Korea and the United States remain low.

Kashmir

In February 2019, the Indian-Pakistani conflict over the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir put the greater region on the brink of a large war with potential for the use of nuclear weapons. However, both India and Pakistan demonstrated reasonable restraint and prevented further escalation despite an open confrontation between their militaries which took place at the same moment. Meanwhile, the February escalation demonstrated the growing power of Pakistan. In the coming years, look to Jammu and Kashmir as a point of constant instability and military tensions, with very little chance that the sides will find a comprehensive political solution to their differences.

The Extension of ISIS in Southeast Asia

The threat of terrorism is another destabilizing factor in the region. In 2019, ISIS cells made several attempts to strengthen and expand their presence in such countries as Malaysia and Indonesia. Law enforcement agencies of both countries are well aware of this threat and contribute constant and active efforts to combat this terrorism and radicalism. It should be noted that Malaysia is in conflict with the Euro-Atlantic elites because of its independent foreign policy course. For example, its government repeatedly questioned the mainstream MH17 narrative and officially slammed the JIT investigation as politicized and nontransparent. So, the leadership of the country is forced to be in a state of permanent readiness to repel clandestine and public attempts to bring it into line with the mainstream agenda.

The European Union

While the European Union is, theoretically, the world’s biggest economy using the world’s second most popular currency in international transactions, it remains to be seen whether, in the future, it will evolve into a genuine component of a multi-polar international system or become a satellite in someone else’s—most likely US—orbit. There still remain many obstacles toward achieving a certain “critical mass” of power and unity. While individual EU member states, most notably Germany and France, are capable of independent action in the international system, individually they are too weak to influence the actions of the United States, China, or even Russia. In the past, individual European powers relied on overseas colonial empires to achieve great power status. In the 21st century, European greatness can only be achieved through eliminating not just economic but also political barriers on the continent. At present, European leaders are presented with both incentives and obstacles to such integration, though one may readily discern a number of potential future paths toward future integration.

Continued European integration would demand an agreement on how to transfer national sovereignty to some as yet undefined and untested set of European political institutions which would not only guarantee individual rights but, more importantly from the point of view of national elites, preserve the relative influence of individual EU member states even after they forfeited their sovereignty. Even if the Euro-skeptics were not such a powerful presence in EU’s politics, it would still be an insurmountable task for even the most visionary and driven group of political leaders. Such a leap is only possible if the number of EU states making it is small, and their level of mutual integration is already high.

The post-2008 Euro zone crisis does appear to have communicated the non-sustainability of the current EU integration approach, hence the recent appearance of “two-speeds Europe” concept which actually originated as a warning against the threat of EU bifurcation into well integrated “core“ and a less integrated “periphery”. In practical terms it would mean “core” countries, definitely including Germany, France, and possibly the Benelux Union, would abandon the current policy of throwing money at the less well developed EU member states and, instead, focus on forging “a more perfect Union” consisting of this far more homogeneous and smaller set of countries occupying territories that, over a thousand years ago, formed what used to be known as the Carolingian Empire. Like US territories of the 19th century, EU states outside of the core would have to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” to earn membership in the core, which would require them to adopt, wholesale, the core’s political institutions.

The deepening disproportion of EU member state economies, and therefore sharpening economic disputes, are the main factor of instability in Europe. The long-delayed withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the union, which is finally expected to take place in 2020, might trigger an escalation of internal tensions over economic issues which might blow up the EU from the inside. Other cornerstones of European instability are the extraordinary growth of organized crime, street crime, radicalism, and terrorism, most of which were caused by uncontrolled illegal migration and the inability of the European bureaucracy to cut off the flows of illegal migrants, integrate non-radicalized people into European society, and detect all radicals and terrorists that infiltrate Europe with migrants.

The situation is further complicated by the conflict in Ukraine and the destruction of international security treaties, such as the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and its planned withdrawal from the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). These developments go amid constant military and political hysteria of micro-states and Poland instigated by the Euro-Atlantic elites. The EU bureaucracy is using this state of hysteria and ramping up speculations about a supposed military threat from Russia and an economic and political threat from China to distract the public and draw attention away from the real problems.

Russia and Africa

The return of Russia as the diplomatic and military great power to Africa marked a new round of the geo-economic standoff in the region. The apparent Russian-Chinese cooperation is steadily pushing French and British out of what they describe as their traditional sphere of influence. While, in terms of economic strength, Russia cannot compete with China, it does have a wide range of military and diplomatic means and measures with which to influence the region. So, Beijing and Moscow seem to have reached a non-public deal on a “division of labor”. China focuses on implementation of its economic projects, while Russia contributes military and diplomatic efforts to stabilize the security situation, obtaining revenue for its military and security assistance. Moscow plays a second violin role in getting these guaranteed zones of influence. Terrorism is one of the main threats to the region. The Chinese-Russian cooperation did not go without a response from their Western counterparts that justified their propaganda and diplomatic opposition to Beijing-Moscow cooperation by describing Chinese investments as “debt-traps” and the Russian military presence as “destabilizing”. In 2019, Africa entered into a new round of great powers rivalry.

US “Soft Power” in Latin America. Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico

The intensification of US “soft power” and meddling efforts, social, economic tensions, activities of non-state actors, and organized criminal networks became the main factors of instability in South America. Venezuela and Bolivia were targeted by US-backed coups. While the Venezuelan government, with help from China and Russia, succeeded in repelling the coup attempt, Bolivia was plunged into a violent civil conflict after the pro-US government seized power. Chile remained in a state of social economic crisis which repeatedly triggered wide-scale anti-government riots. Its pro-US government remained in power, mainly, because there was no foreign ‘democratic superpower’ to instigate the regime change campaign. Actions of the government of Colombia, one of the key US regional allies, undermined the existing peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and forced at least a part of the former FARC members to take up arms once again.

If repressions, killings, and clandestine operations aimed at the FARC members committed to the peace continue, they may lead to a resumption of FARC-led guerrilla warfare against the central government. The crisis developing in Mexico is a result of the growth of the drug cartels-related violence and economic tensions with the United States.

The right-wing Bolsonaro government put Brazil on track with the US foreign policy course to the extent that, the country worked with Washington against Venezuela, claiming that it should not turn into ‘another Cuba’. A deep economic crisis in Argentina opened the road to power for a new left-centric president, Alberto Fernandez. Washington considers South America as its own geopolitical backyard and sees any non pro-US, or just national-oriented government, as a threat to its vital interests. In 2020, the US meddling campaign will likely escalate and expand, throwing the region into a new round of instability and triggering an expected resistance from South American states. An example of this is the situation in Bolivia. Regardless of the actions of ousted President Evo Morales, the situation in the country will continue escalating. The inability of the pro-US government to deliver positive changes and its simultaneous actions to destroy all the economic achievements of the Morales period might cause Bolivia to descend into poverty and chaos causing unrest and possibly, a civil war.

Hybrid Warfare

During 2019, the world superpower, led by the administration of President Donald Trump, provided a consistent policy designed to defend the interests of US domestic industry and the United States as a national state by any means possible. This included economic and diplomatic pressure campaigns against both US geopolitical competitors and allies. The most widely known Trump administration move of this kind was the tariff war with China. However, at the same time, Washington contributed notable efforts in almost all regions around the globe. For example, the United States opposed Chinese economic projects in Africa, Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Europe, tried to limit exports of the Russian defense industry, pressured NATO member states who did not want to spend enough on defense, and proposed that US allies pay more for the honor and privilege of provided “protection”.

The US Economy in Crisis 

Additionally, Trump pressured the Federal Reserve Board of Governors into lowering interest rates and announced plans to lower interest rates even further to weaken the dollar in order to boost national industry and increase its product availability on the global market. These plans caused strong resistance from international corporations and global capitalists because this move may undermine the current global financial system based upon a strong US dollar. This straightforward approach demonstrated that Trump and his team were ready to do everything needed to protect US security and economic interests as they see them. Meanwhile, it alienated some “traditional allies”, as in the case of Turkey which decided to acquire Russian S-400s, and escalated the conflict between the Trump Administration and the globalists. The expected US GDP growth in 2019 is 2.2%. The expected production growth of 3.9% reflects the policy aimed at supporting the real sector. In terms of foreign policy, the White House attempted to rationalize US military presence in conflict zones around the world. Despite this, the unprecedented level of support to Israel, confrontation with Iran, China, and Russia, militarization of Europe, coups and meddling into the internal affairs of sovereign states remain as the main markers of US foreign policy. Nevertheless, the main threat to United States stability originates not from Iranians, Russians, or Chinese, but rather from internal issues. The constant hysteria in mainstream media, the attempt to impeach Donald Trump, and the radicalization of different social and political groups contributes to destabilization of the country ahead of the 2020 presidential election.T

Dangerous Developments in 2019

The year 2019 was marked by a number of dangerous developments. In spite of this, it could have been much more dangerous and violent. Political leadership by key actors demonstrated their conditional wisdom by avoiding a number of open military conflicts, all of which had chances to erupt in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, South America, and even Europe. A new war in the Persian Gulf, US military conflict with North Korea, an India-Pakistan war -none of these were started.  A peaceful transfer of power from Petro Poroshenko to Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine allowed for the avoidance of a military escalation in eastern Europe. China and the United States showed their restraint despite tensions in the Asia-Pacific, including the Hong Kong issue. A new global economic crisis, expected for some time by many experts, did not happen. The lack of global economic shocks or new regional wars in 2019 does not mean that knots straining relations among leading world powers were loosened or solved. These knots will remain a constant source of tension on the international level until they are removed within the framework of diplomatic mechanisms or cut as a result of a large military conflict or a series of smaller military conflicts.

Chances seem high that 2020 will become the year when a match will be set to the wick of the international powder keg, or that it will be the last relatively calm year in the first quarter of the 21st century. The collapse of international defense treaties and de-escalation mechanisms, as well as accumulating contradictions and conflicts among world nations give rise to an especial concern.

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The Decline of Democracy in the 21st Century

January 2nd, 2020 by Prof Rodrigue Tremblay

“In general, unfortunately, the qualifications required to gain power and keep it have almost no connection with those required to govern with competence and impartiality.” – Jean-François Revel (1924-2006), French author and philosopher. (In ‘Ni Marx ni Jésus’, 1970, p. 68).

“The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of a private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism —ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd American President (1933-1945). (In a speech to Congress, on April 29, 1938).

“The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”- John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd American President, 1797-1801. (In ‘A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law’, 1765).

“Men’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but men’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary”. – Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), American Protestant theologian. (In ‘The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness’, 1944).

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy? —A Republic, if you can keep it.”- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), US Founding Father. (A lady’s question and Franklin’s answer: at the close of the Constitutional Convention, in 1787).

Democracy, as President Abraham Lincoln phrased it at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1863, is “the government of the people, for the people, and by the people”. It is a political system that guarantees an individual’s basic human rights and freedoms (of thought, conscience, speech, religion, assembly, petition and of the press, etc.). — It guarantees due process and equality before the law. — It makes the government accountable to the people and it forbids a government from subjecting individuals to arbitrary prison, slavery or bondage, etc. — In a democracy, a person is able to speak his or her mind and express political preferences with reasonable safety.

Historically, the legal principle of Habeas Corpus, which originated in England in the 12th century, was a great step toward liberty and freedom in democracies, because it forbids unlawful arrest and detention or imprisonment, without due process.

Democracy is a system, which is based on the fundamental principle that political power in a society comes from the sovereignty of people, and not from abstract deities and from their convenient interpreters on Earth (kings, emperors, etc.). In a democracy, people in government govern with the consent of the people. Benjamin Franklin made the concept perfectly clear when he wrote, “In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns”.

However, the democratic system is not perfect and it constantly runs the risk of being corrupted and subverted. — “Democracy”, said Winston Churchill in 1947, “is the worst form of Government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. — In reality, representative democracy is a fragile form of government. It cannot be taken for granted. It requires special conditions and constant vigilance to exist and to last, lest it perish in the hands of dictators or of different types of oligarchies.

— It is based on three fundamental principles:

1- that people, through the majority rule, should be the deciding final authority, in elections or referendums, and in the respect of political minorities;

2- that people should be equal under the law, and

3- that there should be constitutional rules and political and legal institutions to make sure that the first two principles are respected.

Historically speaking, democracy is by no means a natural form of government. Dictatorship, especially totalitarian dictatorship, relies on violence and brute force, and on the government of a single man or an oligarchy, to exert absolute governmental control over the people. Throughout history, indeed, it has allowed kings, emperors, demagogues, despots and autocratic men, and their oligarchies, to usurp absolute power, to subjugate the people and to eliminate any opposition and other political parties, but their own.

In reality, no democracy is immune to an authoritarian push. That is why a democracy, to survive, must be defended and protected by the people, by unbiased medias, by intellectuals and thinkers, and, above all, by a democratic constitution and a non corrupt judiciary system.

The second half of the 20th century saw a big  jump in the number of democracies

The first half of the 20th Century was plagued with two world wars and a severe economic depression. The economic problems and poverty, which resulted from the First World War (1914-1918) and which were endemic in many countries created a fertile ground during those times for dictators and autocrats of all kinds. During that period, the percentage of democratic countries did not surpass 31 percent. At the end of World War II, in 1945, there were a total of 137 autocracies against only 12 true democracies in the world, (i.e. with a democratic constitution, protection for civil liberties, free elections and an independent judiciary).

Things changed dramatically during the second half of the 20th century. This was a development the world had never seen before. The number of democracies exploded. The United Nations was established in 1945 with the mission of preventing future wars. Some 50 countries became the first signatories, although not all of them endorsed democracy as a political system. Nevertheless, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the basic concept of democracy by stating unequivocally that: “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.”

During that crucial period, there were two important geopolitical developments:

– First, from 1945 into the 1960s, under pressures from the United States and other countries, strong independence movements liberated former colonies from previous colonial political systems. This process of decolonization took place in Africa, but also in Asia, especially in India, which is today the most populous democracy in the world. This led to the creation of new states, and many of them adopted the democratic system.

– Secondly, the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, and its subsequent dissolution, led to another dramatic increase in the number of new states and new democracies in Eastern Europe.

No less than 14 of the former Soviet republics became independent states, besides Russia. However, only a handful of them (the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) are truly democratic and hold free and fair elections. Some of the new states, however, are de facto autocratic regimes (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan) and they hold only symbolic elections. Among the five other former Soviet republics, a few have become more democratic (Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan and Armenia), but they are still a mixture of democracy and authoritarianism.

The number of true democracies in the world has declined since 2006

Researchers at Stanford University have recently sounded the alarm: Without American moral leadership, they say, democracy everywhere is in danger of a free fall. Political scientist Larry Diamond, for one, has published a new book, “Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency”, in which he describes how liberty is under assault in the United States and abroad, by a rising trend toward authoritarianism, and how democracies globally have weakened or failed. He notes, for example, that as recently as 2006, 62 percent of all nations were functioning democracies, while that number, by 2017, had dropped to 51 percent. He sees a danger that the 21st century could be defined, one day, by the “rise of the autocrat”.

Why is this so? One culprit, among others, is economic and financial globalization, which has weakened democratic governments in their capability to solve domestic economic problems.  Globalization has also produced important economic structural changes, which have spurred the growth of technology and of new industries, but which have left some groups of workers behind, especially in old industries, resulting in a process of deindustrialization and a loss of high-paying jobs.

Another cause of democratic decline in some countries may be due to a nationalist backlash against globalization having gone too far, too fast. Many nations have increasingly more porous national frontiers, which have increased the flows of immigrants and refugees from abroad, and which have persuaded some people that “democracy does not work well for them and that it no longer promotes their interests”.

A certain democratic regression has also been observed, over the most recent decades, with the tendency in some nations to entrust to technocrats or to judges the task ex officio of solving some contentious social and political problems, rather than to establish public commissions of inquiry, as it was the custom in the past.

In some countries, indeed, especially within the European Union, important political powers have shifted from national governments to unelected technocrats, at the center, thus creating a democratic deficit. This has frustrated the will of the people, alienated them and undermined their faith in their own politicians. People in the U.K., for instance, want out of the EU essentially because they want to regain control over their borders. In some other countries, as it is the case in Canada, for example, since 1982, large chunks of political power have been transferred to what has been called a government of judges, which consists in leaving to the judiciary decisions, which should normally be the responsibility of elected governments.

Another factor, related to the two causes mentioned above, could be tied to the rise of inequalities of income and wealth in some countries and the growing role of big money in domestic politics, so much so that some talk about a ‘democracy for the rich’. It is a fact that economic and financial globalization has reduced global inequality between nations, but it has also increased inequality within the most industrialized nations.

In the United States, for example, the winners of globalization have used their exploding riches to influence the U.S. government—not to compensate the losers of globalization but to lower taxes for themselves—thus adding political to economic reasons for increased inequality. The increased and destabilizing political polarization, which can be observed in the U. S. and in some other countries, can be seen as a popular response to the infinite greed of some capitalists lacking a social conscience.

Conclusion

The observed decline of democracy in this century appears to be both an economic and a political problem. If the retreat from democracy is to be stopped and hopefully reversed, both economic and political solutions will have to be found. Complacency and denial could only make matters worse.

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International economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book “The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, of the book “The New American Empire”, and the recent book, in French « La régression tranquille du Québec, 1980-2018 ».

Please visit Dr. Tremblay’s site: http://rodriguetremblay100.blogspot.com/ where this article was originally published. Professor Rodrigue Tremblay is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

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Perhaps I read too many alternative articles on too many internet sites, but with all the counter-perspective information (counter to the MSM), my information addled brain is waiting for one of several events (or a combination thereof).

Essentially there are three ideas, all related, as to where the future of humanity lies.  All the scenarios are negative from lesser to greater degrees depending on whose blog or news post is being considered.

Climate change

Science has clearly demonstrated through long observation of current events and by studying historical records (recorded in ice and sediment deposits around the world) that the climate is changing.  Not only is the concern about ‘global warming’ as about all the consequences that are already meeting science’s predictions on an accelerated basis.  Environmental concerns are also widespread about chemical pollution changing the parameters of existence for many life forms.

In one sense I am not waiting for climate change as it is already well underway.  What I am waiting for is the point where the people in power realize there will be no easy fixes, no easy survival for either the poor masses or their huddled wealthy colleagues.  Perhaps then something may be attempted to ameliorate the situation.

Or, climate change may simply continue its inexorable path, generally ignored by those in power (as demonstrated by the various COP meetings) until a major tipping point is reached (as it has in the Amazon basin, see this). Adaptation at a local level will be the only means of survival.  Mother nature will continue on in her own indomitable way regardless.

Economic collapse

There are many blogs and pundits theorizing that the enormous mountain of hidden debt and disappeared money (see Catherine Austin Fitts and Mark Skidmore for the latter, see this) will one day collapse into nothingness, leaving the US$, many other currencies, and the global economy seriously broken.  The scenarios presented range from a week or so up to many decades to try and recover our current consumer oriented lifestyle (if indeed that became the goal).

That is obvious bad news for everyone, but it can also be considered to be good news.  If the US$ loses its global fiat reserve status through a colossal debt collapse, its power to interfere and sanction other countries would be null and void.  What remains is wondering if the initial response would be military, a terrible option leading to the third degree I am waiting for.

Nuclear war

With nine nuclear armed states and thousands of nuclear warheads (down from the approximate 70 000 during the first Cold War) ready for launch, any regional war,  any coercive war, any simply belligerent power grab, would more than likely reach an active nuclear threshold.  I’m not really waiting for that as it hangs over our heads (maybe literally?) all the time and has done so for seven decades.

India and Pakistan could start it off against each other.  The US-Israeli empire could start it off against Iran.  The U.S. could take out its rage at its decline by attempting a first strike attack.  The U.S. may see its hegemony blocked by China and Russia and try to make a “limited” first strike, stupidly believing there would be no counter attack.

Regardless, the many scenarios are all deadly for the planet.  Nuclear winter, high radiation levels, and the lack of any remaining technological society would mean the end for humans and most species on earth.

No easy fixes

For anyone digging deep into these scenarios it becomes evident that they are all related.  The bottom line is the psychopathic drive for power, the unleashed greed of the corporate mindset, and the insouciant attitude of most western populations, carefully inculcated through a lifetime of media attention to infotainment, celebrity status, and consumer consumption.

There are no easy fixes to any of these although the actual solution to the problems are rather simple.  It is people’s reaction to the requirements of the solutions that make it “difficult and complex,” a phrase politicians and corporate heads love to use in order to hide their lack of attention to any solution at all.

In the meantime….

While these scenarios swirl through my mind and I sometimes become very cynical and pessimistic about the human species and its chances for survival in the long run, I do not hide from the issues that are more common, more personal, more local.  On a human scale, smaller projects are easier to deal with and perhaps with enough care and attention – and enough awareness – the smaller projects could coalesce into larger and larger benefits until a clean, clear way forward is available.

There are so many topical subsets to be concerned about:  racism, homophobia, xenophobia, local environmental projects, drugs, crime, homelessness, poverty, militarized surveillance,  and on.  There are also larger projects such as militarism, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and the colonial settler ideas still predominant in the so called ‘western’ and ‘developed’ countries.

Keep in mind that many of these smaller and associated larger problems are also essential for the corporate-military-bankster powers in order to keep people divided in ignorance and intolerance.  The mainstream media is the manufacturer of much of that ignorance and intolerance.

Many options are available to help others and keep ones mind from going numb and/or insane.  So in the meantime, write letters, make presentations, educate, donate funds, go to protests – whatever your personal comfort level is.  Also in the meantime, lead an active life, whatever form that takes, personalize it.  It will be different for different people – arts, sports, social groups, music, schooling or studies of some sort, or maybe simply getting out and walking around your neighbourhood and getting to know people.

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Jim Miles is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: People hold signs during the March for Science in Melbourne, Australia on April 22, 2017. (Photo: Takver/flickr/ccc)

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Shutter the Gigantic US Embassy in Iraq

January 2nd, 2020 by Adam Dick

This week, amid protests by people upset with United States intervention in Iraq, individuals forced their way into and damaged the US embassy compound in Baghdad. In response, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper declared on Tuesday that 750 additional US troops would be deployed immediately to the Middle East, and it was reported that anonymous US officials said thousands more could be sent there soon.

Here is another option to consider: End US intervention and sanctions, along with the threat of both, that stir up resentment toward the US in Iraq and elsewhere. Announcing the relocating and major downsizing of the huge US embassy in Iraq would help show the US is serious about following through.

If the US embassy in Iraq were intended to accomplish peaceful and diplomatic tasks, it would be much smaller, in line with the size of other embassies in countries with similar characteristics in areas such as population size and levels of trade and travel between them and America. Instead, in Baghdad the US has its largest embassy, even larger than US embassies in Mexico and Canada, two countries that share long borders with America and have very much larger amounts of trade and travel between them and America.

Built by the US government after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the US embassy in Baghdad is an important part of the continuing US government effort to exert control in the country and the larger region. Indeed, then-US House of Representatives member Ron Paul (R-TX) included the continuing presence of the gigantic embassy in Baghdad as part of his explanation of why President Barack Obama’s 2011 announcement of the withdrawal of some US troops from Iraq was of much less significance than many reports then suggested. Paul wrote in a November of 2011 editorial:

Some 39,000 American troops will supposedly be headed home by the end of the year. However, the US embassy in Iraq, which is the largest and most expensive in the world, is not being abandoned. Upwards of 17,000 military personnel and private security contractors will remain in Iraq to guard diplomatic personnel, continue training Iraqi forces, maintain “situational awareness” and other functions. This is still a significant American footprint in the country.

Eight years later, the embassy remains and rampant US intervention in both Iraq and the larger region persists. Instead of continuing the policy of intervention, President Trump could implement the policy reversal Paul endorsed in his editorial. Paul wrote: “I have long said that we should simply declare victory and come home.” That would be nice. However, escalation appears to be in the cards.

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 “The current situation in Syria is precisely caused by the erroneous actions of some countries.  It is these countries that should really reflect on and answer the series of questions before us.  If they really care about the Syrian people and the humanitarian situation in Syria, why don’t they vote for the Russian draft resolution?  They have every opportunity to fulfill their promise to the Syrian people.  This also shows once again that their concern is hypocritical and they are pursuing typical double standard, which is a concrete manifestation of politicizing humanitarian issues.”  (China’s Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun)

In 1990, when the USSR was collapsing, and China not yet a world power, the US succeeded in manipulating the Security Council to pass Resolution 678 which led to the destruction of the infrastructure necessary to support human life in Iraq.

Again, in 2011, before Putin and Xi Jinping became heads of state in Russia and China, the West succeeded in manipulating the Security Council to pass Resolution 1973 which “authorized” the destruction of Libya, ostensibly for “humanitarian” purposes. Or as Indian Ambassador Puri said, “Responsibility to Protect” was used as a camoflage to “bomb the hell out of Libya.” Libya is now also an incubator of terrorism.

Soon thereafter, in fact within months,  Syria began suffering destabilization, social chaos, and great concern for “human rights violations” in Syria was voiced in the Security Council.  This time, Russia and China were aware of the ploy, and the three historic double vetoes, cast by Russia’s late Ambassador Vitali Churkin and China’s former Ambassador Li Baodong, prevented the “humanitarian corridor” (in reality a Trojan Horse) the West tried to force through Syria.

However much one might have hoped that the demolition of state structures in the Middle East would have ended there, in the six years since those famous double-vetoes had been cast, the vicious attempt to turn Syria into a failed state, or a demolished state, (such as Iraq and Libya have become, facilitating the theft of their oil and other resources) the struggle continues, Syrians are dying, fleeing the rubble of what had been their homes, their lives destroyed in this ruthless, incessant war, as Russia and China are now attempting to prevent Syria from descending into intolerable ruin, which  will inevitably result if President Assad falls in the vile game of regime change.

Syria: “humanitarian aid” used as a camouflage for invasion

After the famous double-vetoes by Russia and China in 2013,  one would have hoped that the situation in Syria would have stabilized.  Instead, the conflict is escalating.  Though humanitarian aid is crucially needed by the Syrian victims of this proxy war, the fact that “humanitarian aid” is used by the West as a camouflage for invasion, leading to regime change, has been exposed.  Thus, two draft resolutions were presented at the Security Council on December 20, one by Germany, Belgium and Kuwait and one by Russia and China.  Both draft resolutions were vetoed.

The Syrian representative, Mr. Talouh stated:

“great regret over the  obstinacy of certain Council members, notably the co-pen holders, in pursuing an unbalanced approach that led to a proposal that, because of its content, is a departure from declared humanitarian purposes.  In addition, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been manipulating data;  assistance falls into the hands of armed terrorists, rather than those who actually need it.  Al-Nusra Front, for one, depends on humanitarian assistance coming in from Turkey.”

Mr. Talouh asked “how those who claim to be concerned at the people of Syria can turn a blind eye to the pillaging of gas and the occupation by American forces.”  He emphasized that the “focus of humanitarian assistance for Syria is in Damascus,” further emphasizing that his  “Government is the main partner in humanitarian endeavors. National sovereignty must be respected.”

Unilateral Sanctions on Iran. Threats Directed against China 

Though the trajectory of the West in 2011 seemed to be the destruction of Iraq, Libya, Syria, and ultimately Iran, prior to those famous double-vetoes by Russia and China in 2013, it is possible that the West never abandoned that deadly trajectory.

Now, with unilateral sanctions on Iran creating chaos and misery for the people of Iran, and the US evidently attempting to reproduce in China the “full court press” that Sean Gervasi brilliantly demonstrated played so decisive a role in the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the prognosis, on a global scale is dismal.  This NED supported “Full Court Press” on China includes: the instigation of terrorist and separatist movements in Xingjang, the prolonged provocation of “color revolution” in Hong Kong (there are 1,000 U.S. diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Hong Kong – why are so many needed in that tiny location?), the sale, by the US of fighter jets to Taiwan, the infamous enlistment of Tibet’s Dalai Lama by the CIA, etc.

The territory of China is being assaulted on the West, East, South and North.

Though the Chinese leadership are undoubtedly aware of the menacing thrust, it will require the strategy of genius to halt this “full court press.”  On a global scale, the proxy conflict in Syria is a miniscule example of what may become a global conflict between the forces of progress and the reactionary powers imposing Milton Friedman’s neoliberal “economic genocide” as far as their military enables them to do,  with the enticing lure of pillage an irresistible seduction, regardless of the risk of global annihilation, should actual (and inevitably nuclear) war ensue.

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Carla Stea is Global Research’s correspondent at United Nations Headquarters, New York, N.Y. She is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

Featured image is from edgarwinkler / Pixabay

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O fascismo brasileiro é racista, não nacionalista

January 2nd, 2020 by Yuri Martins Fontes

A professora Marilena Chauí, em recente artigo sobre o novo movimento ultrarreacionário (que ascendeu e já dá mostras de cair), afirma que essa extrema direita neoliberal não deve ser denominada “fascista”, pois que pratica o enfraquecimento do Estado (conforme receita do Consenso de Washington), o entreguismo do patrimônio nacional, e não o “nacionalismo” (como no fascismo clássico ítalo-germânico, da primeira metade do século XX).

Contudo, nesse quesito (talvez secundário para o cerne de seu artigo), parece-me que a engajada filósofa e mestra – que já formou tantas gerações na USP, inclusive a minha – ora se equivoca.

Fascismo: face do capitalismo em tempos de descontrole social

O fascismo não passa de uma carta na manga capitalista, usada nos tempos em que a farsa eleitoral – dita “democracia liberal” – não funciona para seus propósitos de conservação do lucro imediato. Apela-se então para o ódio ao Outro, à violência xenófobo-racial e de gênero, à culpabilização midiática de tudo o que é diferente ou que propõe algo distinto do quadro lastimável que está posto. Com isso, alcançam justificar um maior controle social da população (ou, mais especificamente, dos trabalhadores).

Se nos anos 1930 as potências capitalistas estavam em conflito, e o capital ainda tinha certa “nacionalidade”, dando espaço para a aparente característica “nacionalista” do fascismo, agora a situação é outra. A nova gestão neoliberal do capital é “global”, e já não permite tais desavenças internas.

Uma disputa intercapitalista, neste momento de crise estrutural do sistema, poderia ter como consequência uma prolongada recessão, problema já colocado pela disputa comercial entre as duas atuais maiores potências geopolíticas: Estados Unidos e China. Ainda que se possa objetar que a China não é capitalista (e de fato não o é em sua reformista distribuição planejada da riqueza interna), em se tratando do comércio exterior, o governo nacional-desenvolvimentista chinês atua no mercado internacional respeitando, como não poderia deixar de ser, as regras impostas pelo capitalismo hegemônico.
E, inclusive, atua com mais destreza e organização que os próprios países “internamente” capitalistas, dada sua capacidade de planejamento social e regulação da moeda. Por esse motivo, aliás, os chefões do “centro” do sistema querem agora mudar as regras (“centro” dirigido desde Washington, mas conformado também pelas potências menores que compõem as forças dirigentes da economia – Grupo dos 7 –, e cujo braço militar é a nuclear e intrusiva OTAN”.

O fascista é racista, não nacionalista

Em seus fundamentos centrais, o fascismo (que chegou a ser sofisticamente nomeado, na Alemanha, de “nacional-socialismo”), não é nem “nacional”, nem muito menos “socialista.

A identificação maior entre os doentes do espírito, seus adeptos, dá-se sobretudo em torno de um anticientífico e banal discurso “racial” – tão verdadeiro quanto a planitudedo nosso planeta ou a imparcialidade jornalística.

O fascismo é um instrumento do capitalismo para tempos de crise. No passado, o chamado fascismo clássico teve uma face “nacional”, pois a empresa capitalista não tinha ainda sua administração unificada, havendo interesses nacionais na disputa pela liderança (prerrogativa somente das potências, pois que Estados periféricos como o nosso jamais puderam desenvolver um efetivo “nacionalismo”, quando muito patriotadas abstratas que, em se observando, sempre apontam para interesses de fora, desde o colonizador europeu até o atual neocolonizador ianque).

Contudo, no contemporâneo capitalismo neoliberal, com regras e finanças mundiais praticamente unificadas, o grande capital é todo ele sócio entre si. Não à toa os grandes bancos e empresas-chave de nações e regiões centrais do capitalismo (EUA, Europa, Japão) não quebram: pois sua falência abalaria o andar da máquina conjunta do sistema-mercado.

Quanto às nações dominantes – as que dirigem a “globalização” no sentido das vantagens competitivas de suas corporações –, é possível encontrar em seu fascismo ainda hoje elementos que podem ser tidos como minimamente “nacionalistas” – vide Trump e suas tentativas, em grande medida fracassadas, de protecionismo das “nacionais” corporações transnacionais (o que não significa proteção do povo estadunidense).

No Brasil e na periferia do capitalismo, porém, essa forma autoritária e irracional de governo (vale reiterar, instaurada pelo capital em tempos de desestruturação social, quando a desmoralizada “democracia formal” se vê ameaçada eleitoralmente), o fascismo nada tem de “nacionalista” – e mesmo uma Odebrecht pode vir a falir.

Na periferia capitalista o fascismo mostra mais sua cara

Em uma nação com um processo de independência tão incompleto como o Brasil (estenda-se à América Latina como um todo), a prática fascista tem de ser – e é – necessariamente diferente.

Por essas bandas, a revolução de independência nunca avançou o aspecto da “política formal”, legando ao país uma posição profundamente dependente – e subalterna – nos âmbitos econômico, militar, geopolítico, judiciário…

Veja-se hoje o Brasil do futuro: uma nação piada-feita em que as próprias elites do funcionalismo estatal (!) judiciário-parlamentar-militar, em conluio com patrões externos e agências de espionagem estatais, sacrificam nosso próprio patrimônio e “nossas” próprias empresas estratégicas (de capital majoritário nacional) em troca de míseras propinas e premiações-vergonha no vistoso palco exterior.

Nossos capos da máfia capitalista interna – associados menores do capital internacional – não têm o mínimo interesse em bravatas “nacionalistas”, inclusive porque, introjetando historicamente seus papéis de vassalos, vivem das esmolas de sua prática entreguista.

Aspectos do fascismo: essa enfermidade do capitalismo

Efetivamente, é na crueza da periferia do capitalismo – como já alertou o genial pensador Florestan Fernandes – onde se pode, antes e com mais nitidez, observar as consequências desastrosas do atual sistema. Do mesmo modo o fascismo, face grave dodesastre moderno-burguês, pode também por aqui ter melhor verificados seus fundamentos.

Entendo que o fascismo deve ser analisado em sua complexidade de caracteres, como uma enfermidade social e do espírito que, fundada em disparatados misticismos, conduz a atitudes irracionais: violentas, bestiais, desonestas, anticientíficas. E isso, tanto no plano individual, como no social: um modo de comportamento patologicamente covarde que, por temer exageradamente a força do Outro (que em sua limitação intelectual praticamente desconhece), o agride por trás.

Individualmente, é um estado de espírito raso, pueril, medroso, tumor psíquico que por vezes degenera para uma perversa situação social; em casos agudos, torna-se uma prática econômica e de poder político extremamente autoritária, segundo a qual se submete a “totalidade” da sociedade. Trata-se, portanto, como bem ressalta Marilena Chauí, de um regime totalitário: como o é todo regime neoliberal (com ou sem o tal teatro eleitoral).

Seu objetivo essencial é a defesa das estruturas cambaleantes do capitalismo em crise, ainda que nessa escalada (que passa necessariamente por elementos irracionais presentes no imaginário popular), o projeto fascista costume fugir ao controle “racional” de seus acionistas, causando prejuízos ao próprio capital que o promoveu.

União Europeia: de patrocinadora à crítica do fascismo que incendeia

Um exemplo da caótica fuga de controle – típica do fascismo – é o que presenciamos agora na Amazônia, mais e mais dilacerada a cada estupidez do Nero vira-lata que ocupa o posto jogral no governo.

Como hoje é público e bem-sabido, o ultradireitista – fascista – brasileiro foi “eleito” mediante um prolongado golpe, trama complexa que em sua frente midiática contou, desde o princípio, com o apoio da imensa máquina de propaganda das transnacionais de comunicação (com destaque para as corporações europeias ligadas aos poderosos membros do G7 e OTAN: BBC, EFE, Reuters, AFP, Figaro, El País).

Tais empresas de comunicação das potências da UE (em grande medida bancadas por seus governos fortes que vêm questionando a “capacidade brasileira de gerir a Amazônia”) atuam, cada vez mais íntimas, nos territórios nacionais periféricos (todas já com edições, senão em português, ao menos em castelhano).

“Curiosamente”, desde o começo do golpe, todas essas corporações apoiaram abertamente a “primavera latino-americana”, armação focada na nossa espetaculosa “luta contra a corrupção” (em verdade, uma sabotagem da ascensão do reformismo nacionalista que se gestava por aqui). Seus editoriais, por anos e anos, saíram sempre na franca defesa do enfraquecimento de nossos Estados nacionais (e em prol, obviamente, do fortalecimento de seus próprios Estados).

Assim, de arautos da liberdade contra a “ditadura” (eleita e reeleita) de Chávez, os conglomerados europeus (estatais ou patrocinados por seus Estados fortes) passaram então à crítica severa do “populismo” (eleito e reeleito) dos Kirchner, até chegarem, quando sentiram espaço pra isso, à desaprovação dos “desvios pessoais” do (eleito e reeleito) lulismo. Um interesseiro manifesto midiático contra o poder eleitoral dessa tendência nacional-reformista que crescia voltada à Eurásia, à revelia da Europa Ocidental enfraquecida.

Com efeito, a aliança dos BRICS – que faz tremer a Europa – encarna o poder desse projeto por maior autonomia nacional (real independência) e pelo enfrentamento do G7 (multipolaridade geopolítica).

Brasil: fascismo de elites apátridas

A lenda perversa da “raça superior” (presente também em tantas religiões que vêm sendo esquecidas pelos deuses), decerto continua a existir como parte central do dogma fascista: essa doutrina pautada pelo ódio ao Outro, pela culpabilização daquele que é diferente (a quem se acusa pelos próprios fracassos pessoais ou do sistema).

Entretanto, no Brasil (e em tantas nações inconclusas como a nossa), esses “escolhidos” do sistema nada têm de “nacionalistas”, posto que nossas classes dominantes (seio em que procriam tais vermes), são apátridas: brasileiras somente de nascença, por acaso, por “azar”, quem sabe até mesmo pela “seleção de futebol”, mas sempre que possível em busca de uma segunda nacionalidade que a alije ainda mais do povo – mestiço, negro, indígena – a que despreza e com o qual nunca se identificou (espelhando-se sempre no fenótipo e cultura europeus).

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Em suma, a pretensa “superioridade vital” do fascista (o “eleito” da religião do capital) é um dogma que se mantém. Porém, no Brasil (e demais seminações), essa “irmandade”, que identifica o fascista, não se dá com a “nação”, mas com aqueles que lhes parecem “mais brancos” do que ele, ou seja, com os que vêm de fora, da “gringa”, como se diz. Jamais com o povo brasileiro.

Yuri Martins Fontes

Publicado inicialmente no site ALAI, o 23 de Outubro de 2019

Foto: Reprodução

Yuri Martins Fontes : Filósofo, doctor en historia de América Latina (Universidad de San Pablo), pos-doctorado en ética marxista y en historia del trabajo, es profesor, investigador y escritor; autor de “Marx na América” (Alameda, 2017), e “História e Lutas Sociais” (EDUC, 2019). Coordina al Núcleo Práxis de la USP y colabora regularmente con medios críticos independientes.

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White Supremacy = Capitalism

January 2nd, 2020 by Cheikh Amma Diop

Introduction

The term ‘white supremacy’ (WS) is being used a lot these days, finding a home in many discussions on social media and in activist circles. Definitions of WS largely fall into two categories, that it is a belief system or that it is an elitist, inequitable hierarchy (see above). Such definitions tend to be descriptive only, seldom if ever offering a history-based analysis, which would necessarily emphasize the emergence and revolutionary political innovations of capitalist elites in medieval Europe, particularly England (11th– 16th century c.e.). This, of course, begs the question as to how an effective counter strategy can be executed in the absence of such radical analysis.

The Color Game

It is first necessary to explain the meaning and significance of the use of ‘color’, in this case ‘black and white’, in the context of socio-political analysis. Why do European-American capitalists (EACs) and their European capitalist brothers (ECs) use ‘white’ to describe Europeans and their ascendants around the globe? Why do they designate ALL non-Europeans as “black”? The answer is found in the academic term “differentiation of oppression.”

Capitalism originated in England about 500 years ago after a long evolutionary process that began with the Norman invasion in 1066 c.e. Subsequent to their successful invasion and colonization, Norman elites led by William the Conqueror faced the challenge of dominating and exploiting the newly conquered population, who were resistant and significantly outnumbered them. Thus, they needed to devise strategies and tactics to undermine peasant solidarity in the face of a common colonizing enemy and exploiter.

This was accomplished in England, the birthplace of capitalism, in a variety of ways including

  1. Overturning customary law especially regarding peasant land tenure and substituting elite-friendly common law (the courts).
  2. Monopolizing free access to natural resources, especially land (enclosure).
  3. Implementing the legal concept of dominium or ‘absolute private property’, which blocked communal oversight and/or intervention.
  4. Creation of a management/supervisory buffer class (“middle class”).
  5. Violent coercion.

After successfully conquering the peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean in the 16th and 17th centuries, ECs (from England, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, et al) were tasked with the same challenge, sustainably dominating and exploiting an angry, disenfranchised majority. The obvious solution was to use much the same strategies and tactics used successfully in England and Continental Europe where they faced the same problem. It was one thing for ECs/EACs to take advantage of their colonial political organization (capitalism) and superior military technology to successfully conquer another people. It was quite another thing, however, to hold that power. They had to find a viable way to keep their subjects distrustful of and at odds with each other.

The forays of European capitalist agents into Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, and East Asia including India, Japan, China and the Pacific Islands, led them to a remarkable discovery, that the skin color of most of the world’s peoples are varying degrees of brown rather than the albinism characterized by most Europeans and, again, they found themselves to be heavily outnumbered. Seizing upon this physiological difference, Feudal lords and the capitalist lords they evolved into created various narratives regarding the non-European brown majority on the planet to justify their lawless, violent activities that characterised the emergence of capitalists and capitalism.

The White Supremacy narrative (WSN) has several elements that are closely interrelated including:

  1. Race/Color – ‘White’ skinned (European) people are superior to ‘Black’ skinned (Afrikan and other non-European) people.
  2. Religion – The European version of Christianity is superior to non-European religions and spiritual systems.
  3. Culture – European culture is superior to non-European cultures.

A hierarchy of exploitation was created using various pseudo political constructs including – race/color, culture, lifestyle, gender, age, religion and nationality. Moving up in the hierarchy eases exploitation and increases one’s political and economic opportunities. Academics call this the “differentiation of oppression” because the level and intensity of exploitation is not the same for everyone. Consequently, people are much more likely to focus on “moving on up” by any means necessary, including exploiting other landless wage laborers, rather than making fundamental change in the society.

EACs/ECs insist by way of the WSN that Afrikans and other non-Europeans, that is, “blacks,” can be and in fact, must be exploited more than Europeans, that is, “whites”. In fact, the level and intensity of exploitation of ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ is further differentiated WITHIN each respective political construct. Thus, darker ‘blacks’ are exploited more than lighter ‘blacks’ and lighter ‘whites’ (e.g. northern Europeans) are less exploited than darker ‘whites’ (e.g. southern Europeans). Therefore, as can be surmised from the foregoing, the purpose of WS and other interrelated tactics is to facilitate and sustain the exploitation of the masses of the people by a tiny group of elite European-American men.

Obviously, the ‘color game’ must be rejected as an illegitimate tool used by EACs/ECs to maintain their dominance, however, Afrikans in America and around the globe should reject it for another very important reason. The forced acceptance of the pseudo political construct ‘black’ has all but erased the ancestral identities of far too many Afrikans in the Americas and throughout the Diaspora, e.g. Igbo, Ashante, Akan, Wolof, Fon, Yoruba, Ngola, et al.

Elite European and European-American Men Dominate and Control Global Capitalism

According to Forbes magazine, as of 2019 there are 2,208 billionaires on the planet.

By continent:

  • Asia – 719
  • North America – 631
  • Europe – 559
  • South America – 85
  • Oceania – 35
  • Afrika – 25

Adding North America, Europe and South America captures most billionaires of European ascent:

  • 631 + 559 + 85 = 1,275

Therefore, over half of the 2,208 billionaires in the world are of European ascent.

According to Bloomberg magazine the wealthiest families on the planet in 2018 were as follows:

  1. Walton, Walmart, $151B, U.S.
  2. Koch, Koch Ind., $99B, U.S.
  3. Mars, Mars, $90B, U.S.
  4. Van Damme, Anheuser-Busch, $54B, Belgium
  5. Dumas, Hermes, $49B, France
  6. Wertheimer, Chanel, $46B, France
  7. Ambani, Reliance Ind., $43B, India
  8. Quandt, BMW, $43B, Germany
  9. Cargill/Macmillan, Cargill, $42B, U.S.
  10. Boehringer, Boehringer Ingelheim, $42B, Germany
  11. Albrecht, Aldi, $39B, Germany
  12. Mulliez, Auchan, $37.5B, France
  13. Kwok, Sun Hung Kai Properties, $34B, China
  14. Cox, Cox Ent., $34B, U.S.
  15. Pritzker, Hyatt Hotes, $34B, U.S.
  16. Lee, Samsung, $31B, South Korea
  17. Rausing, Tetra Pak, $31B, UK
  18. Thomson, Thomson Reuters, $31B, Canada
  19. Johnson, SC Johnson, $28B, U.S.
  20. Dassault, Dassault Grp, $28B, France
  21. Duncan, Enterprise Products, $26B, U.S.
  22. Hoffman, Roche, $25B, Switzerland
  23. Hearst, Hearst Corp, $25B, U.S.
  24. Lauder, Estee Lauder, $24B, U.S.
  25. Ferrero, Ferrero, $23B, Italy

(Source: Bloomberg)

European families (includes the U.S., Europe and Canada) constitute a whopping 88% of the world’s richest families! Non-European families in China, India and South Korea, make up the remainder. Clearly, something other than an egalitarian, meritocracy has determined the ownership, management, control and distribution of resources on much of the planet. This comes as no surprise when one becomes familiar with the historical origins and subsequent development of capitalism.

The emergence of capitalism in England 500 years ago was an imperial scheme marked by violence, colonialism, the monopolization of natural resources especially land and the overthrow of customary communal law, which presented a legal road block to the efforts of feudal lords to sustain and expand their power, status and privilege.

Norman feudal lords used several revolutionary tactics to maintain and expand their wealth extraction from their English colonial subjects including:

  1. Enclosure stripped peasants of their customary rights ensuring free access to land by constructing physical and legal barriers around common and ‘waste’ land from which peasants extracted resources for day-to-day life, thereby forcing formerly self-sufficient people into life or death dependency.
  2. Absolute private property (dominium), a legal concept adopted by Norman feudal lords from imperial Rome, which removed privately owned land and resources from communal management and control, thereby eliminating barriers to the maximum extraction of wealth.
  3. Leased Land, created by the elite-friendly common law, gradually replaced freehold, copyhold, etc., thereby removing peasant’s access to land under customary law.

Thus, the landless wage laborer was born, forced into life-or-death dependency upon the capitalist owned and controlled market.

Keep in mind that capitalism only existed in Europe, specifically England in the 16th century. This means that ECs had a tremendous advantage over their competitors on the European continent and elsewhere who had yet to make the revolutionary changes necessary to enable them to compete.

By way of the capitalist elite owned and controlled courts and legal system, the illegitimate colonial activities of capitalists were now “legal”, which helped to diffuse resistance to the new political system. This new legal environment set the stage for the emergence of the industrial revolution in England beginning in earnest in the 17th century. Feudal elites on the European mainland quickly adopted the new political system of capitalism in order to economically compete. ECs then aggressively spread capitalism to the Americas, the Caribbean, Afrika and Asia by violence and legal chicanery.

ECs mercilessly invaded, conquered, enslaved and colonized the people of Afrika, the Americas and the Caribbean. Their objective was to capture new lands and peoples to exploit. They outlawed the cultures and systems of governance of the conquered people and installed capitalism. The people and their lands were renamed and, in many cases, national borders were redrawn, often arbitrarily. Clearly, such actions must be seen as illegitimate.

To this day, the ascendants of the ECs who invaded the Americas are firmly in power and have ensured that the ‘nations’ of the Americas remain firmly integrated into global capitalism. Therefore, these ‘nations’ must be viewed for what they are -capitalist colonies dominated by elite European men and their zombie followers in central and South America. The same holds true for the ‘nations’ of the Caribbean and Afrika.

Returning to the chart above, we see that EACs make up 40% of the world’s richest families, followed by France at 16% and Germany at 12%. The primary position of the U.S. is largely explained by the destruction of its major economic competitors in Europe and Asia during World War 2 and changes in the financial architecture of U.S. and global capitalism.

The destruction of the industrial infrastructure of Europe, southwest Asia and parts of East Asia, especially Japan, Korea, China and the South Pacific Isles is well known. Less well known is the initiative by EACs/ECs to construct and dominate the financial architecture of global capitalism. Today, they control a whopping 82% of the world’s foreign currency reserves. This means that the dollar and the Euro are used predominately in international trade, especially for the purchase of petroleum and its derivatives, another clear indication of the extent to which elite European men dominate global capitalism today.

The Bretton Woods Conference

In July 1944, the Bretton Woods Conference was held in Bretton Woods, NH that included 730 delegates from 44 ‘nations’:

  • The Americas (19): United States, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iceland, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
  • Europe (10): Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, United Kingdom and Yugoslavia.
  • Afrika (4): Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia and South Afrika.
  • Asia (5): British Raj, China, Iran, Iraq and the Soviet Union
  • The Caribbean (3): Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti.
  • Pacific (3): Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

The Bretton Woods conference (image above) was held when the outcome of the war had been decided in favor of the ‘allies’.  The conference was an initiative of the treasury departments of the U.S. and the UK.

The stated goals of the conference were:

  1. Promote stability of exchange rates and financial flows (International Monetary Fund).
  2. Organize and manage speedy reconstruction in the aftermath of the war and promote economic development, especially through loans to rebuild infrastructure (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development – IBRD).

Representatives pledged to peg their exchange rates to gold, make their currencies convertible and were required to subscribe to the IMF’s capital in order to receive funding for reconstruction from the IBRD. The underlying goals of the conference were also to promote ‘open markets’, which meant lowering barriers to trade and the international movement of capital. Thus, the fundamental building blocks of the financial architecture of global capitalism were put in place by 44 ‘nations’ dominated by EACs/ECs, the ‘victors’ in the aftermath of a devastating war that killed tens of millions of people.

The U.S. took upon itself the role of leading the capitalist world, referred to as ‘the free world’ by the Dominant Capitalist Narrative (DCN), which at the time was composed of 44 capitalist nations and their colonies. To do so, EACs aggressively intervened in the affairs of other ‘nations,’ particularly those who had not yet agreed to integrate their political economies into the capitalist owned and controlled system. To do so, they massively expanded their military reach and aggressively intervened in the Americas, the Caribbean, South West Asia and East Asia, which was a huge drain on the treasury. EAC’s direct military involvement in the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975) in particular had a tremendous negative impact on their financial and political capital.

The Bretton Woods system began to fall apart in the 1960s as nations began to compete economically with the U.S. as they shook off the effects of WW2. Nations started demanding that their dollar reserves be converted to gold as agreed because it was suspected that the U.S. was overleveraged, that it had printed more dollars than the value of its gold reserves. Others decided to leave Bretton Woods altogether (France, West Germany, Switzerland). Bretton Woods would remain in effect until 1971 when the Nixon Administration ended the convertibility of the dollar to gold as required by the Bretton Woods agreement. This made the dollar a floating currency (also called fiat) whose value is determined by market events.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), another very important component of the financial architecture of global capitalism was founded in Brussels in 1973, two years after the ‘Nixon Shock’. Representatives from 239 banks in 15 countries, worked to transition toward a more reliable and automated messaging system. The SWIFT network makes it possible for financial institutions to send and receive transaction information.

Since the dollar is the world’s leading reserve currency (62%) and the Euro is second at 20%, most international currency transactions must pass through SWIFT, which is a privately owned cooperative. Remember that one of the key features of capitalism is absolute private property meaning that such property is legally immune from community or communal intervention. This gives EACs/ECs tremendous leverage over global financial transactions. The financial transactions of governments, corporations, institutions and individuals who use the dollar and/or the Euro all must pass through the SWIFT network.

EACs/ECs have had considerable success in pressuring SWIFT to block nations, institutions and individuals that violate illegal, unilateral sanctions imposed by the U.S.

The Petro Dollar

The formation of the ‘U.S.-Saudi Arabian Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation’ in 1974 by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger established another key component of the architecture of global capitalism, the petro dollar.

“The Commission was established on the heels of the Arab oil embargo and price increases. The embargo emphasized that closer U.S.-Arab ties were needed. The oil price increases gave Saudi Arabia a substantial amount of petrodollars, which could be used for development purposes.

The Commission was perceived as an important mechanism for:

  1. Fostering closer political ties between the two countries through economic cooperation.
  2. Assisting Saudi industrialization and development while recycling petro-dollars.
  3. Facilitating the flow to Saudi Arabia of American goods, services, and technology.”

Report by the Comptroller General of the United States: U.S.-Saudi Arabian Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation’ (March 1979)

In July 1974, U.S. Treasury secretary William Simon traveled to Saudi Arabia to negotiate an agreement to:

“…neutralize crude oil as an economic weapon and find a way to persuade a hostile kingdom to finance America’s widening deficit with its newfound petrodollar wealth.

The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending.” – Andrea Wong, “Behind Saudi Arabia’s 41-Year U.S. Debt Secret”, Bloomberg (May 2016).

Saudi monarchs agreed to the arrangement under the stipulation that their large purchases of U.S. treasury bonds be kept secret.

“By December 1974 the US Treasury had signed an agreement in Riyadh with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, whose mission was, “to establish a new relationship through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with the (US) Treasury borrowing operation. Under this arrangement, SAMA will purchase new US Treasury securities with maturities of at least one year,” explained Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Jack F. Bennett, later to become a director of Exxon.” – F. William Engdahl, “From Golden Dollar to Petro Dollar to Narco Dollar” (Sept. 2016)

Saudi Arabia’s agreement to only accept the U.S. dollar for petroleum purchases pressured the remaining members of OPEC, many of whom were absolute monarchies like the House of Saud and thus required protection from their unhappy people, to follow suit in 1975. Thus the free-floating, fiat dollar became, in effect, backed by petroleum and the military.

The recycling of petrodollars is as follows:

  1. From oil consuming “nations” to oil producing “nations” for the purchase of petroleum and its derivatives.
  2. From oil producing “nations” to businesses and financial institutions in America and the UK through the purchase of government treasury bonds and military weapons and equipment.
  3. From American and UK financial institutions to oil consumers by way of direct loans, which enable them to buy petroleum and its derivatives from oil producers.

The fact that the U.S. dollar’s value is free-floating and constantly recycled internationally permits EACs to print money without fear of inflation thereby enabling their pursuit of endless war, entangling weaker nations in ‘debt traps, unrestrained market speculation and manipulation, and other malign strategies and tactics that would otherwise be a prohibitive drain on the economy.

Summary

The domination of global capitalism by elite European and European-American men has resulted in European-American capitalists occupying the top of the global capitalist pyramid followed by their European brothers.

The “White Supremacy Narrative” (WSN) should be rejected because it uses pseudo political constructs such as, race/color, to justify tactics that differentiate the level and intensity of exploitation of landless wage laborers under capitalism. EACs/ECs assigned the pseudo political term “black” to Afrikans and all non-Europeans and the term “white” to all Europeans. It is not merely a belief but a tried-and-true tactic used to sustainably dominate the proverbial 99%.

The forced acceptance of the pseudo political term “black” has damaged the connection between Afrikans in the Diaspora and their Afrikan identities, thus the connection with their ancestors is compromised. Today, far too many of the ascendants of enslaved Afrikans in the Diaspora find no value in identifying with their original identities, such as Ngola, Fon, Oromo, Igbo, Yoruba. Many also find no value in identifying merely as Afrikans.

The differentiation of oppression is indispensable to an elite minority in dominating a resistant majority. It effectively pits wage laborers who occupy different positions in the capitalist hierarchy against each other. They are coerced into focusing their attention and resources on surviving and “moving up the ladder” rather than on fundamentally changing the system.

The WSN is but one tactic in the hegemonic tool kit of EACs/ECs. Others include endless war, institutionalized colonialism, slavery and sexism. They have evolved their tactics over the 500 years since the birth of their revolutionary political system in England. They continue to dominate every area of life in the colonies aka nations created by their ancestors, especially their currencies and thus their economies. The aim of such domination continues unchanged, that being, to maintain the power, privilege and status of elite European men.

EACs found themselves in the driver’s seat in the aftermath of World War 2 due to the massive destruction of the manufacturing infrastructure of their competitors around the globe. They along with their European capitalist brothers established the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development through coercive agreements at the Bretton Woods Conference (1944), which established currency exchange rates relative to gold and ensured that elite European-American men were the prime beneficiaries of the reconstruction boom.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) another very important component of the financial architecture of global capitalism was founded by ECs in Brussels in 1973, two years after the Nixon administration ended the convertibility of the dollar to gold. Thus, all international transactions involving the dollar and the Euro must pass through the SWIFT network giving elite European men (capitalists) tremendous power and leverage over “independent nations.”

EACs created the petrodollar in 1974 with the ‘U.S.-Saudi Arabian Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation’. In this agreement, Saudi elites agreed to only accept the dollar in payment for its petroleum products and use its burgeoning petrodollar reserves to purchase U.S. Treasury notes, weapons and military equipment. In return, EACs committed to military aid and assisting with economic development, which has resulted in the seemingly permanent entrenchment of millions of advisors, technicians, consultants and contractors from Europe and America.

The recycling petrodollar allows EACs to print money without fear of inflation thus enabling their pursuit of “full spectrum dominance”, that is, superiority in every possible combat environment, against any “enemy” without suffering defeat (Joint Vision 2020, America’s Military Planning For Tomorrow, National Defense University, Institute for National Strategic Studies, 2000). EACs are estimated to have 800-1,000 military bases in dozens of ‘countries’ around the globe (Jules Dufour, “The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases”, Global Research, July 2007).

The chokehold that EACs and their European brothers have on the financial architecture of global capitalism make possible such a tremendous projection of power beyond U.S. borders and relentless military interventions such as the illegal invasion of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, ongoing bombing campaigns in Somalia, Iraq and Syria. EACs/ECs are able to impose crippling economic sanctions on targeted ‘governments’, institutions and individuals, effectively blocking them from international transactions using the petrodollar and the Euro, e.g. Cuba, Russia, Iran, Somalia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, Syria, China, et al.

The emergence of global regional powers over the past 25 years is changing the geopolitical landscape, favoring Greater Asia led by China and Russia. They and other regional powers are determined to end their subservience to elite European men by de-dollarizing and decoupling their economies from global capitalism, which will, of course, take time. In the meantime, they are engaging in currency swaps, barter, futures trading, import substitution, economic diversification and so on to lessen the control that elite European men have over their political economies.

The de-dollarization and decoupling project is picking up steam globally and will, undoubtedly continue until the goal is achieved, that being, sovereignty and self-reliance. These initiatives cannot be stopped short of EACs/ECs waging a catastrophic global war that would dwarf the ‘world wars’ of the 20thcentury in its destructiveness. The ongoing efforts by capitalist colonies to free themselves from the hegemony of elite European men will have major negative impacts on the economies of capitalist “nations.”

But that’s another story for another time.

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Cheikh Amma Diop is a geopolitical analyst, activist and reggae artist living and working in the Washington, DC metro area. He is currently conducting a literature review of the historical origins of capitalism in preparation for a book tentatively entitled “Debunking the Most Popular and Dangerous Myths About Capitalists and Capitalism.” He can be reached at [email protected] 

Sources

  1. The Agrarian Problem in the 16th Century, R. H. Tawney (1912)
  2. Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development In Pre-Industrial Europe, Robert Brenner (1974)
  3. A Crisis of Feudalism, R. H. Hilton (1985)
  4. The Decline of Serfdom in Medieval England, R. H. Hilton (1969)
  5. English Feudalism and the Origins of Capitalism, George Comninel (2000)
  6. The Origins of Capitalist Development: a Critique of Neo-Smithian Marxism, Robert Brenner
  7. The Origin of Capitalism in England 1400 – 1600, Spencer Dimmock (2014)
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Since mid-2018, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been stricken with another Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak largely impacting the northeastern region of the vast mineral-rich nation in Central Africa.

EVD has its origins in the DRC during the late 1970s when the deadly Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) strain became known to the country and the world.

The epidemic which has been mainly concentrated in the provinces of North Kivu, Ituri and South Kivu, has been difficult to address on a medical level due to the lack of an adequate healthcare and educational system. Despite the enormous strategic mineral wealth of the country of some 81 million people, the historical legacy of imperialism remains a major factor in stifling genuine economic growth and social development.

Since the discovery of this highly contagious disease there have been several major outbreaks in the DRC and other African countries. The largest pandemic occurred in three West African states from late 2014 to early 2016. These nations were Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Conakry.

After the West African pandemic was declared over, there were approximately 28,000 cases documented resulting in more than 11,000 deaths. The rapid spread of the disease took a tremendous toll on the people of these three countries along with neighboring states which were compelled to mobilize limited medical resources to prevent the entry of EVD across their borders.

Statistical information compiled by the DRC Health Ministry and various humanitarian organizations indicates that the present outbreak is the second largest in the history of the disease. Due to security concerns on various levels, healthcare workers and researchers have not been able to travel freely in some sections of the affected areas.

A report issued during late December 2019 by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors without Borders) places the current outbreak within its historical context saying:

“During the first eight months of the epidemic, until March 2019, more than 1,000 cases of Ebola were reported in the affected region. However, between April and June 2019, this number doubled, with a further 1,000 new cases reported in just those three months. Between early June and the beginning of August, the number of new cases notified per week was high, and averaged between 75 and 100 each week; since August, this rate has been slowly declining, with just 70 cases identified throughout all of October. The latest figures provided by DRC Ministry of Health via World Health Organization are 3,371 total cases; 3,253 confirmed cases and 2,228 total fatalities. While there are positive signs that the number of cases is slowly reducing, the outbreak remains a serious public health concern, and it is unclear when it may end.” (See this)

There has been more than one occasion over the last 18 months when the current EVD pandemic in DRC appears to have been arrested. Nonetheless, other cases surfaced placing additional fears within the medical community and the general population of the disease spreading to broader geographic areas.

MSF in its conclusion to the report referenced above leaves the reader with an unsettling observation: “Overall, the geographic spread of the epidemic appears to be unpredictable, with scattered small clusters potentially occurring anywhere in the region. This pattern, along with the lack of visibility on the epidemiological situation, and the risk of flare-ups in former hotspots, is both extremely worrying and makes ending the outbreak even more challenging.”

Compounding the medical crisis in the eastern DRC provinces impacted by the EVD pandemic are the ongoing conflicts pitting rebel groups against the military forces of the central government in Kinshasa. President Felix Tshisekedi took office last year and has worked out a coalition arrangement with the forces which remain loyal to former head-of-state Joseph Kabila.

Nevertheless, outside of these working relationships at the highest governmental levels there are attacks being carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in North Kivu in the city of Beni, where in late December, 23 people were reportedly hacked to death. The ADF originated in Uganda. However, the group which claims to be at war with both the DRC and Ugandan governments is aggressively waging a war on the civilians in the border regions between the two countries.

Similar problems exist in neighboring Central African Republic (CAR), a former French colony which has undergone considerable political and social turmoil in recent decades. Former President Francois Bozize has returned to the country after fleeing amid a military coup led by the Seleka group which seized control of the government in 2013. Seleka is a Muslim-dominated organization which sprang up in response to the plight of the minority Islamic population in the country of 4.6 million people.

A spokesman for Bozize says he is planning to re-enter CAR politics by running for president in the upcoming 2020 elections. Considering the contentious sectional divisions which have been a reality since 2013, a campaign by Bozize could prompt the resumption of armed conflict in the capital of Bangui.

The World Food Program (WFP) reports in an assessment of the current humanitarian situation in the CAR that:

“Floods affected at least 25,000 people in and around Bangui in late October, as well as in Ouaka, Basse Kotto, Mbomou and Ouham prefectures. More than 10,000 homes were destroyed across the affected areas. The humanitarian community mobilized to meet the most urgent needs of the affected populations. The humanitarian situation in CAR remains alarming. A three percent increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is due in part to new displacements of more than 20,000 people in Birao following armed clashes at the beginning of September. The number of IDPs in CAR has again exceeded the symbolic threshold of 600,000.”

These two states, the DRC and CAR, although facing different problems, share similarities in relationship to the protracted internal conflicts hampering the ability of the state and society to resolve outstanding issues. Present in the DRC and CAR are United Nations mandated peacekeeping missions which are authorized by the Security Council in cooperation with African Union member-states and their regional affiliates.

However, these UN missions have only been partially effective. The overriding nature of the instability of post-colonial African states remains unresolved.

West Africa: Political and Regional Conflicts in Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger

Internal divisions inherited from European colonialism and the contemporary neo-colonial character of international relations, are by no means confined to Central Africa. In the West Africa region the states of Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger are reflective of the general crises of instability and underdevelopment.

Cameroon has been rocked by sectional conflict pitting regions of the oil-producing state which were colonized Britain and France against each other. In southern Cameroon a secessionist movement has arisen calling for the partitioning of the country.

Considering the prevailing rhetoric related to regional and continental unity in Africa, it is highly unlikely that such a position could gain diplomatic support among the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). At present there is much curiosity over the proposal for the abandonment of the CFA franc zone currency system for a regional medium of exchange known as the “ECO.” Several governments have expressed an interest in moving towards this regional currency.

There are criteria for the conversion from the CFA franc pegged to the Euro to a stand alone ECO. An article published by the VOA pointed out that:

“The key demands for entry are to have a deficit of less than 3 percent of gross domestic product, inflation of 10 percent or under and debts worth less than 70 percent of GDP. Economists say they understand the thinking behind the currency plan but believe it is unrealistic and could even be dangerous for the region’s economies which are dominated by one single country, Nigeria, which accounts for two-thirds of the region’s economic output. Nigeria’s Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed told AFP ‘there’s still more work that we need to do individually to meet the convergence criteria’.” (See this)

Although Nigeria is the largest economy in the West Africa region and one of the leading states on the continent as whole with a population (200 million) which by far outstrips all other AU nations, the country remains embroiled in the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast. President Muhammadu Buhari, now in his second term of office, stated while running in 2015 that he would eliminate the Boko Haram threat within six months. Obviously this has not materialized as the regional impact of the putative “Islamist” movement has extended into Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Niger, a former French colony, is the source of the world’s fourth largest production of uranium. The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has a presence inside the country along with Paris which is coordinating regional military forces to pursue the targeted “terrorist threat.” Insurgents have launched several high-profile attacks on establishments frequented by westerners. In 2017, four AFRICOM Green Berets were killed in Niger under circumstances which have not yet been fully explained.

AFRICOM is building drone capability in Niger while spreading the military and intelligence capability of Washington across the continent. These developments related to the continuing interference of France and the U.S. in West Africa does not bode well for continental unity based upon a program of empowering the majority of workers, farmers and youth.

Joint military operations between France, the European Union (EU), AFRICOM and NATO are annual occurrences in West Africa. Questions of the viability of the ECO aside, there can be no genuine independence and unity in any region of Africa with the growing presence of imperialist military units.

The Need for a Fundamental Break with Neo-colonial Arrangements

Therefore, taking into consideration the internal conflicts still raging across various regions within AU member-states, coupled with the incapacity of existing governments to stabilize the situations in Central and West Africa, an approach is required which relies on the strategic positioning, mineral wealth, energy resources and human capital of the more than one billion people on the continent. Such a political program would require the empowerment of the working class, farmers and youth as the principal agents of developmental transformation.

The contradiction between African development and imperialism remains a stark reality well into the 21stCentury. Europe and subsequently North America were built into world powers due to their exploitation of Africa through the centuries-long Atlantic slave trade, colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism.

To reverse this ongoing disadvantageous situation for Africa, a severing of the tentacles of dependency is required. The AU member-states must build up their economic, political, technological and military capabilities independent of the imperialist states.

Once these decisions are made on a continental level the resolution of internal conflicts based upon issues of language, religion, ethnicity and social status, can be envisioned. The ultimate objective is the establishment of a unified Africa based upon socialist planning and sustainable economic reconstruction.

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Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

All images in this article are from the author

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US Military Bases in Turkey and Qatar May be Removed for Security Reasons

By Steven Sahiounie, January 02, 2020

The US government has long faced a dilemma in dealing with Turkey and Qatar, who pose as partners on the global stage. The US has maintained relations with both while being increasingly concerned with their malign behavior.

Both support the Muslim Brotherhood, finance terrorists, promote extremist ideologies such as Radical Islam, and openly host and partner with Hamas and al-Qaeda. Turkey and Qatar are ‘brothers in arms’ and share an affinity for Radical Islam that shapes their regional engagement.

The West’s Present “Misconduct” Has a Long History. America’s Proclivity for War

By James ONeill, January 02, 2020

One of the persistent themes of western political leaders is that they support the notion of “the rule of law”. By this they generally mean the system of law as developed by western nations, and in the international context the formulation over the past 120 years or so of international law.

By this of course, they mean “their law”. Any deviation from this by non-western nations is to be deplored and where appropriate punished.

The UN Predicted Gaza Would be “Unliveable” by 2020. Israel’s Deliberate Plan to “Destroy Life” in Palestine?

By Tania Hary, January 02, 2020

While revelers around the world are making new year’s resolutions for 2020, in the Gaza Strip, a different kind of assessment is taking place as Palestinians try to determine whether, or how, they can survive the next 10 years. In 2012, the United Nations published a report whose title asked a jarring question: “Gaza in 2020: A Liveable Place?” The report surmised that without fundamental change and collective effort, the strip would become “unliveable” in only eight years’ time.

Palestinians Decry ICC Prosecutor’s Delay of Israeli War Crimes Investigation

By Prof. Marjorie Cohn, January 02, 2020

Bensouda filed a 112-page document with the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber. She found a reasonable basis to believe that Israeli forces committed the war crimes of willful killing, willfully causing serious injury to body or health, disproportionate use of force, transfer of Israeli civilians into the Palestinian territory of the West Bank, and the killing of over 200 Palestinians during demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza fence. She also cited a reasonable basis to investigate possible war crimes by Palestinians, including intentional attacks against civilians, using civilians as human shields, and the commission of torture and willful killing.

Syria, Washington and the Kurds. “The Rojava Dream is Dead”

By Prof. Tim Anderson, December 31, 2019

With the defeat of ISIS and Nusra, the exposure of the ‘White Helmets’ and the various Chemical Weapons stunts, and with the collapse of ‘Rojava’, Washington is fast running out of options in Syria. Syria is winning, but the big power has not yet given up. Knowing that it is losing, it still acts to prolong the endgame and punish the Syrian people.

Nullify Government Tyranny: In 2020, Harness the Power of Your Discontent

By John W. Whitehead, December 31, 2019

Government corruption, tyranny and abuse have propelled us at warp speed towards a full-blown police state in which egregious surveillance, roadside strip searches, police shootings of unarmed citizens, censorship, retaliatory arrests, the criminalization of lawful activities, warmongering, indefinite detentions, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, police brutality, profit-driven prisons, and pay-to-play politicians have become the new normal.

Here’s just a small sampling of the laundry list of abuses—cruel, brutal, immoral, unconstitutional and unacceptable—that have been heaped upon us by the government over the past two decades.

The 2020 Imperative: Freedom of Speech. Cease Being Mesmerised by Demons.

By Julian Rose, December 31, 2019

We have a vast global communication network at our fingertips, a significant part of which has long since been hijacked by the purveyors of ‘the daily matrix’. But another part of which still manages to operate within a spectrum that gives a possibility for what we refer to as ‘freedom of speech’.

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How Low Can You Go?

January 2nd, 2020 by Philip A Farruggio

This writer has always been told, since childhood, that I was a ‘funny guy’. I was, and is, able to bring humor to everyday occurrences. Having attempted at times to do ‘Stand Up comedy’ way back when, the thought of making a career of it always crossed my mind. In 1992, with my college buddy, Jay D. securing the ‘Morning Man’ spot on WABC Radio in NYC, I did some improvisational bits live on air. My character, Dino, a ‘wiseguy’ boss of a Brooklyn crew who happened to be married to a  domineering Jewish wife, went over well. So well that many who listened to the interplay between host Jay and myself figured that the creator of the Sopranos HBO series, who happened to be from the metro NYC area, must have gotten his ideas from us. Who will ever know?

Fast forward twenty years. Having heard of an amateur comedy contest in Saint Augustine Fl, one hour’s drive from my home, I decided to ‘take the plunge’. I signed up for the contest and was told that each contestant would have 8 minutes on stage. Being a writer and always looking for some bits of truth entangled in humor, I wrote my shtick. One such segment would be based upon my own experiences with needing a slew of dental work. In my bit I explained how, with the fact that so many of us have no dental coverage or very little of it, this is how a visit to a dentist’s office in the very near future would look:

Dentist (while surveying my mouth, to his dental assistant who is taking notes): Ok, number 10 $ 350, number 21 $1100, number 19 $1100 plus another $1000. The night in question soon arrived, and I was nervous, having waited 30 years in between comedy club gigs. I got to the place and surveyed the crowd. There were 37 people sitting at tables around the stage. The MC met me and told me that I would be the first to go on… not the best of situations. He assured me that he himself, a professional comedian, would ‘warm up’ the audience before introducing me. I sat on a bar stool off to the left of the audience, sweating profusely. The MC began, doing strictly ‘Tit and Fart jokes’. The audience was in stitches! I knew that I was in trouble… and was I! He finished up, introduced me for my 8 minutes and on  I went. Well, one lady, sitting up front to my left, just laughed at everything I tossed out. The other 36 people…. dead silence! My mouth was so dry I was surprised I could last the eight minutes. I did, went back to my bar stool, sat for ten minutes and got the hell out of there!

There has been an epidemic throughout our nation that is more deadly than any flu or opioid addiction. Simply said it is this low brow culture that has inculcated all walks of life. With a carnival barker in the White House, nastiness and insults flung far and wide, Amerika is the laughing stock of the industrialized world. Moe, Larry and Curly  are the linchpins of what was once the most humorous of nations. If Mort Sahl ever attempted to go on stage nowadays he would most likely be tar and feathered!

The cerebral humor of the late George Carlin, while still cherished by those of us who actually study history and appreciate such dissent, is not what the doctor ordered anymore. We are now a totally low brow nation with some exceptions. Poking fun at weaknesses in human beings replaces weaknesses in character of those in power. Howard Stern and the late Don Imus made this pathway to a low class country their focal points. Locker room humor, something many of us, this writer included, love to inject in private interplay, is now front and center. President Cheetos is only another ( and terrible) symptom of this tragic loss of high culture. Those who stand with their stupid red MAGA baseball caps and signs, shouting obscenities in response to his own, are the ‘ bastard children’ of this low class Amerika. As with those fools, thugs and assholes in 1930s Germany, wearing their brown and black uniforms, Zig Heiling as they destroyed Jewish citizens, their businesses and synagogues, so too are we approaching that Rubicon… maybe even in 20/20.

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Philip A Farruggio is a contributing editor for The Greanville Post. He is also frequently posted on Global Research, Nation of Change, World News Trust and Off Guardian sites. He is the son and grandson of Brooklyn NYC longshoremen and a graduate of Brooklyn College, class of 1974. Since the 2000 election debacle Philip has written over 300 columns on the Military Industrial Empire and other facets of life in an upside down America. He is also host of the ‘It’s the Empire… Stupid‘ radio show, co produced by Chuck Gregory. Philip can be reached at [email protected].

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In remarks during Pyongyang’s yearend Plenary Meeting, Kim Jong-un said his government will continue development of strategic weapons because of US hostility toward the country, adding he’ll no longer be bound by an ICBM test moratorium.

Pyongyang’s KCNA news agency quoted him saying the following:

“We can not give up the security of our future just for the visible economic results and happiness and comfort in reality now that hostile acts and nuclear threat against us are increasing and nothing has changed between the days when we maintained the line of simultaneously pushing forward the economic construction and the building of nuclear force and now when we struggle to direct our efforts to the economic construction owing to the US gangster-like acts,” adding:

“We will never allow the impudent US to abuse the DPRK-US dialogue for meeting its sordid aim but will shift to a shocking actual action to make it pay for the pains sustained by our people so far and for the development so far restrained.”

“In the past two years alone when the DPRK took preemptive and crucial measures of halting its nuclear test and ICBM test-fire and shutting down the nuclear-test ground for building confidence between the DPRK and the US, the US, far from responding to the former with appropriate measures, conducted tens of big and small joint military drills which its president personally promised to stop and threatened the former militarily through the shipment of ultra-modern warfare equipment into south Korea.”

“Under such condition(s), there is no ground for us to get unilaterally bound to the commitment (of no further nuclear and missile tests), the commitment to which there is no opposite party, and this is chilling our efforts for worldwide nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”

“There is no need to hesitate with any expectation of the US lift of sanctions even now that we had a close look into the real intention of the US.”

If its hostile policy towards the DPRK continues, there will never be the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, he stressed.

“We will reliably put on constant alert the powerful nuclear deterrent capable of containing the nuclear threats from the US and guaranteeing our longterm security” — stressing that the DPRK’s deterrent actions will depend on US policies toward the country.

Last spring, Kim set a yearend deadline for Trump to engage in good faith evenhanded talks, adding he’d only only agree to another summit if the US agrees to “constructive…improvement of relations…with a proper attitude and (willingness to seek) proper solutions…”

As a new year begins, he’s gotten no positive signs from Washington.

Two summits with Trump (in 2018 and 2019) failed because of one-sided White House demands in return for empty promises — sure to be breached based on evidence of how the US operates.

Both right wings of the one-party state demand other nations bend to Washington’s will, what the scourge of imperialism is all about — enforced by endless wars of aggression, economic terrorism, and other hostile actions.

Ahead of Kim’s yearend deadline,  DPRK Deputy Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song said: “It is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get.”

In his Plenary Meeting remarks, Kim said Pyongyang will unveil a “new strategic weapon” soon — perhaps an upgraded ICBM.

In response on Tuesday, Pompeo said the Trump regime is “hopeful that…Chairman Kim will make the right decision and…choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war.”

Pompeo, other US officials, and establishment media ignore that neither Kim, his father or grandfather ever attacked another nation preemptively throughout North Korean history.

The DPRK supports peace and stability in East Asia and elsewhere, its nonbelligerent policy polar opposite how the US operates globally — perpetually at war with invented enemies.

When the Korean peninsula was divided post-WW II, a tragic error, the US created the myth of a DPRK threat as a pretext for preemptively attacking the country.

Today, its nuclear and missile deterrents are solely for self-defense because of the genuine threat of US aggression.

US Indo-Pacific imperial policies are all about containing and co-opting North Korea and China — maintaining adversarial relations instead of cooperative ones.

It’s how the US operates globally, using sticks, not carrots, in pursuit of its aims.

A Final Comment

Establishment media claims of a DPRK Christmas “gift” to the US it would consider provocative proved empty.

The year ended quietly on the Korean peninsula.

Based on DPRK history, whatever Kim intends ahead militarily, it’ll surely only be efforts to prepare the nation’s defense capabilities against possible hostile US actions.

Earlier he said his country might seek a “new path” if the Trump regime continues making unacceptable demands with no reciprocal concessions.

He also said they’ll “never be denuclearization on the Korean peninsula” as long as hostile US policies continue.

His government “will steadily develop necessary and prerequisite strategic weapons for the security of the state until the US rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK and lasting and durable peacekeeping mechanism is built.”

What hasn’t existed between both countries since the 1940s is highly unlikely ahead with hardliners in charge of US foreign policy.

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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.

One of the persistent themes of western political leaders is that they support the notion of “the rule of law”. By this they generally mean the system of law as developed by western nations, and in the international context the formulation over the past 120 years or so of international law.

By this of course, they mean “their law”. Any deviation from this by non-western nations is to be deplored and where appropriate punished.

The epitome of this approach was to be found in the Nuremberg trials and their Japanese equivalent that followed victory in the Second World War. The waging of war was declared to be the supreme international crime. The chief American counsel at the Nuremberg Tribunal, Robert Jackson, stated that the Nuremberg trials placed “international law squarely on the side of peace as against aggressive warfare.”

The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials may be seen in retrospect as the apogee of the concept that waging war was an offence against humanity. Since 1945 the major western powers, notably but not exclusively limited to the United States, have waged almost continuous war.

This has mostly been directed at countries that lack the ability, military or otherwise, to fight back.

Neither is this a new phenomena. Wikipedia has an astonishing list of wars involving the United States going back to the Revolutionary War of 1775-1783 and continuing almost unabated up to the present day. With unintentional humour, World War Two is listed as a “United States-Allied victory.”

As any student of that war knows, the vast bulk of the fighting and the casualties, took place on the eastern front between Germany and its allies and the Soviet Union. The war had been waging for more than two years before the Americans became a formal party. Total American losses during World War II were just over 407.000, fewer than Russia lost in the battle of Stalingrad alone (478,000 killed or missing) over a period of five months.

The West’s proclivity for war continued unabated after the end of World War Two. The Korean War (1950-53), the Vietnam War 1945-1975), Afghanistan (2001-?, Iraq 2003- ?) and Syria (2008 – ?) are only some of the better known conflicts. There were constant lesser battles carried out by the United States and its allies, particularly in the Caribbean and Latin America, seen (by the United States) as part of its own sphere of influence since the Munro doctrine was first proposed in December 1823.

One of the outstanding features of these post-World War II invasions, occupations, or warfare by other means, is that they have shown a diminishing degree of success. Where they have been unsuccessful on the battlefield, the United States has continued to wage economic and financial war on its foes.

The classic illustration of this is the Korean War, the origins and conduct of which has always been grossly misrepresented by the West. It is however, instructive on a number of levels. The North-South boundary was drawn by two United States functionaries following the defeat of the occupying Japanese in 1945. The Soviet army, which occupied the North following the end of the war, withdrew in 1948. The United States, which occupied the South, has never left and today sees South Korea as an essential element in its encirclement of China.

There are literally hundreds of United States military bases in proximity to or aimed at China, yet the western media are solely preoccupied with alleged Chinese “aggression” actual or potential. Apart from its multiple military bases, the United States regularly carries out military exercises with its regional allies such as Japan and Australia that are thinly disguised preparations for waging war on China. One such regular exercise practices blockading vital Chinese trade routes through the Straits of Hormuz.

The Korean War was instructive on a number of levels. The invasion of the North by United States and Allied troops reached the Chinese border, which threatened the new PRC. We now know that the United States military command sought President Truman’s consent to
use their virtual monopoly of nuclear weapons (certainly China had none) to bomb the PRC.

The primary objective was to reinstate the Chiang Kai Shek Government that had fled to what was then called Formosa following its defeat in the Chinese Civil War.

The intervention of the PRC in the Korean War was decisive. United States and Allied troops were rapidly expelled from the North. What was instructive also however was that the United States used its overwhelming air superiority to effectively destroy North Korea’s civilian infrastructure and food producing capacity.

This was instructive on a number of levels. Not only was the destruction of civilian targets a monumental war crime (for which they hung Germans following the Nuremberg trials), but there has never been legal accountability for these crimes. Again, this precedent is instructive for the actions and lack of accountability for American war crimes to this day.

Despite enormous Western pressure, most of it illegal under international law, the North Koreans have survived to this day. There is still no peace treaty to formally end the war, although it is now more than 66 years since the armistice. North Korea is now a nuclear armed power and in this writer’s view any expectation that they will disarm is delusional.

Those nuclear weapons, and the military protection of Russia and China are the major deterrent to further United States aggression in the region.

Vietnam was a similar defeat for United States imperialism in the region. Again, a long war (1945-1975) fought first by the French and then by the United States and its Western allies following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu In May 1954.

Although the United States did not use nuclear weapons, they employed a full range of other chemical and biological mechanisms, the use of which were again war crimes perpetrated on a civilian population. The consequences of this chemical and biological warfare persist to the present day in the form of ravaged agricultural land, and most distressingly, children still being born with deformities directly attributable to the chemical and biological warfare agents employed by the United States throughout the war.

Again, in what is by now a manifestly common pattern, the perpetrators of these war crimes remain completely immune from prosecution, notwithstanding token prosecutions of low level military officers such as Lieutenant William Calley for the My Lai massacre. An article in the United States publication Foreign Policy (21 May 2019) in titled “America Loves Excusing its War Criminals” is a perfect encapsulation of the reality.

More recently two other major wars illustrate a number of facets, including deceptive motivations for the wars; persistent lying about the realities following the invasions; and the extraordinary difficulties by the victim nations in dislodging the invaders, even decades later.

The two wars in question are Afghanistan (2001 – to the present and counting) and Iraq (2003 to the present and counting). In both cases the ostensible justification for the invasion were blatant lies. Ron Susskind’s book on Bush’s Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill (The Price of Loyalty 2004) revealed how the decision to invade Afghanistan was made well before the purported reason of the events of 11 September 2001. Rather, the invasion and occupation had more to do with Afghanistan’s strategic location and the oil routes from the Caspian Sea basin than any alleged role by Osama bin Laden who was alleged (falsely) to have orchestrated the use of aeroplanes to destroy public buildings in New York and Washington.

In Iraq’s case the monstrous lies told and repeated ad nauseam by loyal allies, was Saddam Hussain’s “weapons of mass destruction.”

It is not difficult to perceive recurring patterns here. Countries that are strategically located with valuable resources become the object of invasion, occupation and the theft of those resources and suffering enormous civilian casualties (well over 1 million people in the case
of both countries). None of the allegations ever bear any resemblance to the truth.

Similarly, in another recurring pattern, none of the perpetrators of these monstrous activities ever face a court holding them to account for their crimes. There are of course many examples. When one examines the record of invasions, occupations, demonstrable lies uttered in justification, and ongoing theft of natural resources it is impossible to reconcile this history with the “rules based international law” mantra so solemnly repeated by western leaders.

There are however, some encouraging signs that this era of lawless banditry may be approaching its end days. I refer here to the rapid rise of China, or more accurately, the reemergence of China as the dominant power in the world.

Through a variety of initiatives, of which the BRI is the biggest and best known (and significantly, opposed by the United States and Australia). There are a variety of other economic and political initiatives that are of a truly transformative nature. Their very successful present and likely future trends are a major reason the United States is using every weapon in its political, economic and financial arsenal to oppose and undermine these predominantly Chinese led initiatives.

In this writer’s view, that attempted sabotage will ultimately fail, although at considerable cost to a number of nations. As we enter 2020 however, these initiatives, from China in the East to Russia in the West and beyond, offer the best prospect of a stable world than the past disastrous two centuries of western dominance have proved to be.

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James O’Neill is an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Featured image is from NEO

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Canada, Israel and the UN Security Council

January 2nd, 2020 by Hanna Kawas

Canadian activists have compiled a study of Canada’s 2019 voting record at the United Nations on resolutions [see list below] that document and censure Israeli violations of international law.

There was much fanfare made about Canada’s orphan “yes” vote at the UN General Assembly this year on “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” resolution. But in the broader context of the other 17 resolutions calling out Israel’s war crimes, that Canada either voted against (15) or abstained on (2), this lone vote can only be seen as deceptive and hypocritical.

Justin Trudeau, explaining his government’s vote to Canadian Zionists, stated:

“The government felt that it was important to reiterate its commitment to a two-states-for-two-peoples solution at a time when its prospects appear increasingly under threat.”

However, if the Trudeau government was really committed to a “two-states-for-two-peoples solution,” it is inconceivable that at the same time they also voted against:

  1. A resolution to support the work of the “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” that affirms the UN “has a permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until the question is resolved in all its aspects”;
  2. The “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” resolution that calls “on Member States not to recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regards to Jerusalem”;
  3. “The Syrian Golan” resolution that “Demands once more that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions”;
  4. “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources” resolution;
  5. The resolution that condemns the “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” and reaffirms the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”; and
  6. The resolution concerning “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” that expresses “grave concern about the continuing systematic violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel.”

And finally, why would Canada vote against a resolution to uphold the rights of “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities,” unless it supports Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and the “Greater Israel Project”?!

Some observers have speculated that Canada’s lone vote was motivated by Trudeau’s desire to obtain a seaton the UN Security Council. Over a year ago, then Foreign and now Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland was quotedas follows during a visit to Israel:

“She also mentioned Canada’s current bid for one of 10 non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council for 2021-2022, which she hoped would allow Canada to serve as an ‘asset for Israel and… strengthen our collaboration’.”

So, this is what Canada plans to do if it gets sufficient votes for a seat, be an “asset for Israel”?

Canada is relying on the votes, and possible lobbying, of some Arab reactionary regimes to get the backing required for the Security Council seat; one example is Jordan.

Just last month during a visit, “Jordan’s King Abdullah II told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the Middle Eastern kingdom supports Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.” This was according to Jordan’s ambassador to Canada, Majed Alqatarneh, who also said Jordan “believes it is important that Canada have a seat on the Security Council.”

Canada also seems to be counting on the support of certain diplomatic circles from the US; former US ambassador to Ottawa, Bruce Heyman stated:

“For me, today, when the U.N. General Assembly is all together, a Canadian seat on the U.N. Security Council is more important than ever.”

We tell Mr. Trudeau that instead of your objective of getting a seat at the UN Security Council, you may end up with a seat in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. If the “two-states-for-two-peoples solution… prospects appear increasingly under threat,” it is because of Canada’s (and others) unconditional support for Israeli occupation, war crimes, and apartheid.

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Hanna Kawas is Chairperson of the Canada Palestine Association and co-host of Voice of Palestine.

Featured image is from The Palestine Chronicle

India’s Infringement over Nepal Border Area

January 2nd, 2020 by Ishaal Zehra

As Nepal prepares to fix a date for holding talks with India to resolve the border issue, the seriousness of resolve on Indian side and depth of the issue must be realized.

The history of demarcation of India-Nepal border began on March 4th, 1816, after the signing of the “Sugauli Treaty” between the then British India and the state of Nepal, which declares River Mahakali, of Nepal, as the border-line between both the countries. The Treaty was expected to resolve the border issues, but it did not. Even after such a long time, the dispute regarding the border and the no-man’s land area is being ensued now and then in different areas of Nepali border. The reason for the continuation of such dispute is that the rivers, counted on as border, diverged from their courses several times in the past. Interestingly, around 600 Km of the border is defined by rivers. Mechi in the East, Mahakali in the West and Naryani in the Susta area, and the unavailability of old maps and documents to revise demarcations has made the situation more significant. The Central government of India deputed its Para-military security guards of special services bureau (Shastra Seema Bal) along the border where as to counter guard the Nepali side of border-line, presence of Nepali security is almost nil!. Taking advantage of the ignorant attitude of Nepalese towards border guard, India started encroachment of the border land. She has said to encroach over 61,000 hectares in 26 of the bordering districts, by now. There has been a lot of hue and cry over the encroachment by Nepali people which unfortunately never fell on the deaf ears of the giant called India.

India surrounds Nepal from the East, West and South. There is a 1,808 km long border (September 2019 Wikipedia shows as 1,758 km) between Nepal and India, where out of 75 districts adjoining Indian territory, 26 have been encroached, marking 71 areas of disputes altogether. The major ones include Kalapani- Limpiyahura, Susta, Mechi and Tanakpur. There is often found an opportunistic overtone in both countries regarding the ownership of such disputed border points. Hence, to resolve the issue, an India-Nepal Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee has been set up in motion which is still to find a reasonable solution for this false encroachment issue.

The encroachment by India started right after the Indo-Sino border war of November 1962. After facing defeat the Indian army set-up a camp inside Nepali’s territory at Kalapani to monitor the Chinese activities. But now they claim that the area belongs to them. However, reports prepared by Buddhi Narayan Shrestha, former director general of the Department of Survey Nepal, corroborates that the maps of 1850 and 1856 prepared by the Survey of India with the participation of Nepalese authority clearly states that the river originates from Limpiyadhura, 16 km North-West of Kalapani, which proves that Kalapani belongs to Nepal. But India refuses to accept those maps as proof. They say that the map prepared by them in 1875 should be considered as proof which shows river Mahakali origin is beyond Kalapani. Interestingly, the said map does not have Nepal’s certification.

The other disputed area situated in the East of Naryani River, is the Susta area, which is the tensest area owing to encroachment. Some time ago, over one thousand Indian villagers backed by Indian border police force (SSB) had forcibly entered the Nepali territory in Susta. They completely destroyed sugarcane in about ten hectares of land and also manhandled men and women. Where the locals of Susta complain such incidents are rampant in the area. The main reason behind the dispute is the changing course of Naryani River, over the past decades. The river has said to change its course towards the Nepalese side in the West. India has encroached about 14,500 hectares of the reclaimed land because of this. The intrusion happened in stages over a period of decades. According to reports, lands disputes among locals are usually won by Indian nationals who have the support of the armed Indian Border Police Force – the Seema Sashastra Bal. Considering the situation, the people of Nepal had launched a “save Susta campaign”. The organizers requested students of Nepal to join them and launch a valley wide campaign from Nepal’s capital Katmandu. The purpose of the campaign was to inform the world about the wicked plans of her “polite” neighbor India. Actually the reason to start off the border dispute at Susta side is that Susta is surrounded by Indian Territory on three sides -the North, South and East, and on the West it is the Naryani River. Hence, cutting off Susta from its mother land becomes much easier for India to occupy it which will pave her closer to the “Greater India” dream of Hindus.

The other most talked about point of dispute is Mechi. India’s disapproval of “Junge pillers” as the main boundary pillars has sparked the Mechi border dispute. The map published by the British India right after the Sauguli Treaty clearly indicates those pillars to be the main boundary pillars. Even history is evident that British had erected those pillars as monuments of Nepal-India border. But the credit goes to the Indian desire of getting control over weak and tiny neighbours which made her to incite the dispute by denying the original Sauguli Treaty signed by the British and the Nepal Kingdom.

According to the official records, Nepal covers a total area of 147,181 Sq Km. But in reality, the territory of Nepal is gradually shrinking because of the increasing encroachment by India. The Maoists Young Communist league (YCL) once submitted a memorandum to the Indian embassy Katmandu, demanding immediate return of the encroached land by the Indians in Susta area but later the political havoc in Nepal made everything go vanish for some time. They demanded that scientific demarcation of the border land must be done as per historical maps, the encroached territories should be given back to Nepal and the bilateral bordering area should be regulated. The district level of Nepal and India earlier agreed not to allow the use of encroached land for any purpose and put the issue at the central level for the resolution of the problem. But despite the agreement Indian farmers have been cultivating in the disputed area.

The Nepal-India joint Technical level Boundary Committee has supposed to have completed 97% of the task of strip-mapping the border, as per 1874 Persian map adopted by the committee. According to them all the disputes, except Susta and Kalapani, have been resolved. But when the border is traced in the field, many instances of encroachment are found. The unwisely decision of Nepalese side of accepting the Persian map as the basis of demarcation has made them deprived of 1630 hectares of their own land, which now lies in Indian territory. The border committee somehow, could not act the way it ought to. It failed to take firm decisions regarding border disputes at several places, such as the presence of Indian Paramilitary force in Kalapani since 1962.

India has many interests in Nepal to fulfill which it has gradually made her strong political, diplomatic, economic and cultural influence there, all due to RAW’s efforts. Her main strategy is to keep Nepal instable and always dependent towards India. In this regard, she has supported arms to the establishment as well as anti-establishment groups in Nepal, according to the former Prime Minister BP Koirala’s biography. India has a history for formulating efforts on multiple fronts to weaken the already fragile country to facilitate its swallowing. It is high time when all the Nepalese, currently divided among various political affiliations, should come together against the onslaught, instigated by India, in Nepalese territory and understand the game-plan of their hegemonic neighbor. And India also should realize that the flame she has ignited in Nepal can very well extend to its own northern flank and the unstable southern part as well. Keeping in mind the on-going protests in India on account of CAB and changed status of Kashmir and Ladakh, this possibility is too real and near both.

Author’s note: This research article appeared in author’s blog in the year 2009, unfortunately still stands accurate. Updated the figures and current situation India is facing at home.

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While revelers around the world are making new year’s resolutions for 2020, in the Gaza Strip, a different kind of assessment is taking place as Palestinians try to determine whether, or how, they can survive the next 10 years. In 2012, the United Nations published a report whose title asked a jarring question: “Gaza in 2020: A Liveable Place?” The report surmised that without fundamental change and collective effort, the strip would become “unliveable” in only eight years’ time.

The report was released just months before the second of three Israeli military operations that would be launched in Gaza over a period of six years. Following the third operation, Protective Edge, in 2014, with its massive toll in human life and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure, UN officials subsequently warned that the strip would actually become unlivable by 2018. The predictions of the Gaza 2020 report had not factored in military operations of such magnitude.

Nonetheless, on the eve of 2020, people are asking what became of the UN’s predictions – as if at the stroke of midnight, the specter of unlivebility may or may not come true. Yet by all accounts, and according to the indicators chosen by the UN, life in Gaza is palpably worse now than it was in 2012. For example, the unemployment rate went from 29% when the report was written to 45% today, with the rate at more than 60% among young Palestinians.

Dishearteningly, the capacity for electricity production in the strip has remained unchanged over the past eight years, despite increased demand as the population grew from 1.6 million to nearly two million. Electricity supply even got worse given that Egyptian lines have been out of operation since early 2018. Power is available for just half the day – an improvement over certain periods, but nowhere near reasonable for 2020. Aquifer water is 96% undrinkable, as predicted. Households spend precious income on purchasing drinking water, which is not always safe; and given that many families cannot afford to purchase water, water-borne illnesses, especially among children, are widespread.

Israel, through its control over movement, has played a central and intentional role in this decline. Israeli citizens are told that it’s “all Hamas’s fault,” which may help them to sleep better at night, but belies the truth of the story. Gaza has been gradually cut off and isolated by Israel over decades; and in 2007, when Hamas took power in the strip, Israel all but hermetically sealed off the territory.

Israeli officials made a calculus – quite literally – that applying pressure would help it achieve its political goals in Gaza. At points, Israel limited entrance of food and, for the past 12 years, has targeted sectors of the economy with policies like arbitrary limits on fishing and access to farmlands, on entrance of inputs for manufacturing, and on marketing and export of goods. Several military operations later, though, some Israeli officials acknowledged that their “calculus” was way off. Particularly following Protective Edge, many noted that the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground was actually a liability for Israel.

The army’s head of intelligence even cited the UN’s Gaza 2020 report in a Knesset Committee hearing in early 2016, telling Knesset members that economic activity was needed to head off the UN’s prediction that the strip would become unlivable by 2020. He called economic activity “the most important restraining factor” and said that without an improvement in conditions on the ground, Israel would be the first to experience the blowback. This type of logic became common among Israeli officials, from the defense ministry to the prime minister himself, even though these individuals had actively overseen policies that were designed to do the exact opposite.

This logic translated into meager policy changes. In 2012, the fishing limit was just three nautical miles from the shore, then rose to six miles in 2015, then to 15 miles in some parts today. Unlike in 2012, when no goods were permitted to exit Gaza to be sold in its traditional markets in the West Bank and Israel, today an array of goods can go to the West Bank and some products can also be sold in Israel. In 2012, an average of just 22 truckloads of goods exited Gaza, while in 2019 it was more than 10 times that amount, or 240 truckloads monthly. In 2012, construction materials were barely allowed in for international organizations, while today, materials can enter for the private sector under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism.

However, while these micro changes gave some relief to Palestinians in Gaza, they have not reversed the strip’s macro deterioration. Rather than attempting to transform the situation, Israel and other regional actors are simply searching for a new calculus to achieve “quiet” by making Gaza more survivable.

In line with this objective, Egypt began regularly operating the Rafah Crossing with Gaza in 2018, after keeping it mostly closed for five years. Qatar also stepped forward with massive financial support in 2018 and 2019, paying for fuel for electricity generation at the strip’s only power plant, supporting construction projects, and giving cash payments to poor families. Other donors – European countries, Gulf states, and others – continued substantial funding to UNRWA and to dozens of other international and local organizations, providing critical aid and bridging gaps caused by cuts in U.S. funding.

Is this the massive effort that the UN envisaged was needed to change course and make Gaza liveable? Far from it. It is the bare minimum required to keep people’s heads just above water, absent of real economic development, prospects for future growth, or a commitment to human rights.

The Israeli policy changes, the increase in truckloads, and the aid money have all gone to keeping things just good enough so as not to allow a massive outbreak of disease, and to calm a potential uprising by those thirsty for water. No one should be breathing a sigh of relief, however, as the “quiet” cannot erase the hunger felt by thousands of Palestinian families suffering food insecurity. And it does not mask the desperation of young men who are fleeing the strip in search of a better life.

It is an illusion to think that this situation is manageable. No one should be sleeping soundly at night until there is a significant shift in approach, whereby civilians are not held hostage to the actions of their de facto government, and are not turned into fodder for the election campaigns of failing Israeli politicians. There have been substantive efforts by the international community and even some policy changes from Israel, but there has never been a fundamental decision on the part of Israel to actually let people live in Gaza, rather than just survive.

Human beings are not machines, and many of the indicators that make life worth living cannot be found in a UN report. Yes, people need water, electricity, jobs, and healthcare to get by – but what about the things that are harder to measure? The need for freedom, the ability to plan one’s life, to feel hopeful about the prospects for one’s children, and to feel safe in one’s home?

In that sense, the Gaza 2020 report and Israeli officials who tried to follow its prescriptions fell very short. But the UN officials who warned that Gaza would become unlivable by 2018 were onto something. In 2018, the floodgates of hopelessness in Gaza were pried open as people realized that the plan is to preserve their isolation with no prospect of a resolution to the conflict. Through their protests at the Great March of Return, young Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority of the population, showed the world that it is not just food and water that they need to survive. They need freedom, dignity and hope.

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Tania Hary is the executive director of Gisha, an Israeli NGO founded in 2005, whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents.

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Trump Regime Torture and Abuse of Chelsea Manning

January 2nd, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

In March 2019, Manning was  imprisoned for invoking her constitutional right of silence.

She courageously refused to be part of the Trump regime’s effort to frame and imprison Julian Assange longterm for the “crime” of truth-telling investigative journalism the way it’s supposed to be.

Released in May following expiration of the grand jury she justifiably refused to cooperate with, she was straightaway subpoenaed to testify before a new grand jury — imprisoned again for invoking her right of silence.

Earlier she said the following:

“I will not comply with this, or any grand jury. Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system,” adding:

“The grand jury’s questions pertained to disclosures from nine years ago, and took place six years after an in-depth computer forensics case in which I testified for almost a full day about these events. I stand by my previous public testimony.”

“I will not participate in a secret process that I morally (and legally) object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.”

“…I resent being forced to endanger myself by participating in this predatory practice.”

The hostile US grand jury system “undermine(s) the integrity of public discourse with the aim of punishing those who expose any serious, ongoing, and systemic abuses of power by” officials in Washington.

In response to each question asked, she said the following:

“I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, and other statutory rights.”

Constitutionally protected rights in the US aren’t good enough — for her and anyone else dark forces in Washington want framed and imprisoned for political reasons.

Due process and equal protection under law are null and void in the US, state-sponsored police state repression replacing it.

Manning is one of thousands of abused political prisoners held captive indefinitely in the US gulag prison system.

On December 30, UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer accused the Trump regime of torturing Manning, releasing a letter he wrote in November last year.

Calling her indefinite detention unlawful, he demanded her release, tweeting that her continued captivity “amount(s) to torture & should be discontinued & abolished without delay.”

Last March, her lawyers called her unconstitutional detention “pointless, punitive and cruel,” stressing she won’t change her mind about refusing to participate in state-sponsored crucifixion of Julian Assange.

She’s currently being punitively fined $1,000 a day for remaining silent.

Her unacceptable detention is “incompatible with the international human rights obligations” the Trump regime is required to obey under international law, said Melzer.

A yearend Manning tweet described her last decade from 2010 – 2019, as follows:

“- 77.76% in jail

– 11.05% in solitary confinement

– 51.23% fighting for gender affirming care

– 100.00% being true to myself no matter what

– 0.00% backing down

#HappyNewYear”

Melzer’s letter dated November 1 ran six pages. Here’s what he said:

“I have the honor to address you in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 34/19.”

“In this connection, I would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information I have received regarding the use of civil contempt sanctions to detain and fine, Ms. Chelsea Manning, allegedly to coerce compliance with grand jury procedures.”

“She is currently detained in William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia.”

“Ms. Manning was the subject of an urgent appeal sent by my predecessor on 30 December 2010 (UA 20/2010), with regard to allegations of prolonged solitary confinement during her pre-trial detention, reportedly imposed in an effort to coerce her to testify against her will.”

“In follow-up to the reply by your Excellency’s Government to that letter, and after holding several discussions with the then Legal Advisor of the Government and key officials from the Departments of Defence and State, a further letter was sent to the Government on 16 June 2011 (AL 8/2011).”

“The letter expressed concern over the refusal by the relevant authorities to allow private, unmonitored and privileged communications in accordance with the terms of reference and working methods of the mandate.”

“Furthermore, concern over restrictive conditions for prisons visits and for interviews with inmates was the subject of a press statement by the mandate holder on 12 July 2011.”

“Convicted and sentenced to 35 years of imprisonment in 2013, Ms. Manning’s sentence was commuted to 7 years of total confinement in January 2017.”

“While I welcome Ms. Manning’s subsequent release in May 2017, I am deeply concerned at the new allegations outlined below.”

“According to the information received:”

“In March 2019, Ms. Manning was summoned to appear and give testimony before a federal grand jury convened in the Eastern District of Virginia.”

“The grand jury was reportedly assembled for the purpose of investigating numerous reporters, national security journalists, domestic and international publishers and freedom of information activists.”

“Ms. Manning objected to the subpoena and raised a number of legal challenges to its legitimacy.”

“On 8 and 16 May 2019, having unsuccessfully requested the subpoena to be withdrawn or quashed, she was found to be in civil contempt of the court’s order to appear before the grand jury.”

“Since then, Ms. Manning has been confined at William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, with the aim of coercing her to testify.”

“In addition, she has been subject to a daily fine, for the first thirty days at a rate of USD 500 and thereafter at the rate of USD 1,000 for each day she refuses to give testimony.”

“The duration of such coercive detention is reportedly limited to the duration of the grand jury, namely 18 months, but could be perpetuated indefinitely with the subsequent establishment of successive grand juries.”

“While I do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, I express serious concern at the reported use of coercive measures against Ms. Manning, particularly given the history of her previous conviction and ill-treatment in detention.”

“It is my understanding that the practice of coercive deprivation of liberty for civil contempt under the Recalcitrant Witness Statute, 28 U.S.C § 1826, involves the intentional infliction of progressively severe mental and emotional suffering for the purposes of coercion and intimidation at the order of judicial authorities.”

“Indeed, victims of prolonged coercive confinement have demonstrated post-traumatic symptoms and other severe and persistent mental and physical health consequences.”

“Based on these elements, I conclude that such deprivation of liberty does not constitute a circumscribed sanction for a specific offense, but an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

“In my view, such measures do not fall under the ‘lawful sanctions’ exception of Article 1 CAT, but are contrary to the absolute, non-derogable and peremptory prohibition of torture and, therefore, should be discontinued and abolished without delay.”

“More specifically, the practice of coercive detention appears to be incompatible with the international human rights obligations of the United States under, inter alia, Articles 1, 2, 15 and 16 of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), as well as under Articles 2, 7 and 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); ratified by the United States of America in 1994 and 1992 respectively.”

“I would also draw the attention of your Excellency’s Government to paragraph 8a of Human Rights Council Resolution 16/23, which reminds States that ‘Intimidation and coercion, as described in article 1 of the Convention against Torture…can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or to torture.’ ”

“In connection with the above alleged facts and concerns, please refer to the Annex on Reference to international human rights law attached to this letter which cites international human rights instruments and standards relevant to these allegations.”

“As it is my responsibility, under the mandate provided to me by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to my attention, I would be grateful for your observations on the following matters:”

“1. Please provide any additional information and/or comment(s) you may have on the above-mentioned allegations.”

“2. Please provide information concerning the factual and legal grounds for subjecting Ms. Manning to continued deprivation of liberty and daily fines, especially after her categorical and persistent refusal to give testimony demonstrates the lack of their coercive effect.”

“3. Please provide information on how such coercive measures, which do not constitute circumscribed criminal sanctions, but which appear to intentionally inflict progressively severe suffering and financial pressure for the purpose of coercing individuals to testify against their conscience, are compatible with the international human rights obligations of the United States and, most notably, the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and ill-treatment as provided for, inter alia, in the ICCPR and the CAT (Convention Against Torture).”

“4. Please explain what are the legal consequences when it is demonstrated that the contemnor is not coercible and will not testify against his or her conscience, thus defeating the purported purpose of his or her incarceration?”

“5. Please provide information on the measures taken to ensure the physical and mental integrity of Ms. Manning, as required under ICCPR and CAT.”

“I would welcome receiving clarification to these questions at your earliest convenience, as the allegations described in this letter warrant urgent attention, and may have serious adverse consequences for Ms. Manning’s rights and integrity.”

“This communication and any response received from your Excellency’s Government will be made public via the communications reporting website within 60 days.”

“They will also subsequently be made available in the usual report to be presented to the Human Rights Council.”

“While awaiting a reply, I recommend that Ms. Manning’s current deprivation of liberty be promptly reviewed in light of the United States’ international human rights obligations.”

“Should my assessment regarding its purely coercive purpose be accurate, I recommend that Ms. Manning be released without further delay, and that any fines disproportionate to the gravity of any offense she may have committed be cancelled or reimbursed.”

“I intend to publicly express my concerns in the near future as, in my view, the information upon which my concerns are based is sufficiently reliable to indicate a matter warranting prompt attention.”

“I also believe that the wider public should be alerted to the potential human rights implications of these allegations.”

“Any public expression of concern on my part will indicate that I have been in contact with your Excellency’s Government’s to clarify the issue/s in question.”

“Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.”

Nils Melzer

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

The letter includes an annex with information on relevant international laws, norms and standards, explaining the Trump regime’s breach of its international and constitutional obligations.

Manning and countless others are political prisoners in America, languishing longterm under cruel and inhumane conditions — enduring solitary confinement, poor medical care, and other forms of abuse.

Howard Zinn called dissent “the highest form of patriotism,” adding:

“(I)f patriotism means being true to the principles for which your country is supposed to stand, then certainly the right to dissent is one of those principles.”

“And if we’re exercising that right to dissent, it’s a patriotic act.”

“One of the great mistakes (about) patriotism…is to think (it) means support for your government, (ignoring America’s Declaration of Independence principle that says) when governments have become destructive (of life, liberty and equality). it is the right of the people…to alter or abolish” them.

Former political prisoner Marilyn Buck called prisons warehouses to “disappear the unacceptable, depriv(ing) captives of their liberties, their human agency, and to punish (and) stigmatize prisoners through moralistic denunciations and indictment based on bad genes – skin color (ethnicity, or other characteristics) as a crime,” adding:

Countless thousands in the US aren’t imprisoned because they’re “criminals, but because they’ve been accused of breaking (a law) designed to exert tighter social control and state repression,” scapegoating, demonizing, and criminalizing them for their beliefs and activism.

Police state brutality locks them in cages for advocating peace over war, for courageously resisting injustice, defending freedom, equality, and human rights, and believing another world isn’t just possible but essential for a world safe and fit to live in.

Post-9/11, it’s increasingly harsh and unjust. Imprisonment for political views in the US resembles how Dante’s Inferno described hell, saying:

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” the fate of political prisoners in the US gulag prison system at home and abroad.

Suffering from late-stage uterine cancer, Buck was released in mid-July 2010, perishing three weeks later.

Human rights lawyer Lynne Stewart was released from political imprisonment on New Year’s day 2014 after being given  months to live because of terminal breast cancer.

On March 8, 2017, she died from cancer and complications from a massive stroke days days earlier, followed by mini-strokes.

I knew Lynne and wrote the following on her passing:

She was a people’s lawyer, a human and civil rights champion, a justice warrior, framed by the Bush/Cheney regime for doing the right things.

Never backing off from or shunning controversy, she championed the rights of the poor, underprivileged, and others rarely afforded due process unless lucky to have an advocate like her.

Practicing human rights law for 30 years, she knew the risks, yet courageously took them.

The US notoriously honors its worst and punishes its best, the fate of Lynne, Marilyn, Julian, Chelsea, and countless others less well known.

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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.

Israeli forces demolished two houses 0n Wednesday belonging to Palestinian families in the Silwan neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

After two years of construction, the al-Khalialeh families had made ready their houses to move into in the near future, their relative Jamal al-Khalialeh told Middle East Eye.

The two families were shocked to wake up on the first day of the new year to hear that Israeli bulldozers accompanied by military forces were demolishing the two houses.

They were not at the scene when Israeli security forces had earlier broken into the two properties, local media reported.

“They had an Israeli court hearing at 10am to look into the issue of demolishing the houses, but at 8:30 am they were surprised to hear the demolishing vehicles had come to knock down their houses,” said Jamal.

The two houses are 100 metres square and located next to each other.

The first house is owned by Wafa al-Khalialeh with her husband and their seven children. The second house belonged to Mohanad al-Khalialeh and his wife and their two children.

Both families declined to comment for MEE, as they were still in a state of shock.

Jamal said that the families’ lawyer had managed to get a halt decision from an Israeli judge at around 9:15am but that the Israeli authorities had refused to stop the demolition.

“They started demolishing at around 9am and said that they cannot leave the house half demolished as it is unsafe for the public,” Jamal said.

‘Nearly impossible to obtain building permits’

The demolishment of the houses was carried out based on the basis that “building without permit” had occurred.

Israel rarely issues building permits for Palestinians in East Jerusalem or in Areas B and C of the occupied West Bank.

Since Jewish settlements are allowed to grow in the same area, many Palestinians consider the policy an effort to “Judaise” the areas by preventing Palestinian construction.

The Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan is a hotbed of Israeli settler activity, often promoted by the right-wing Elad settler group.

Ali Jaabis, an activist in Silwan, told MEE that despite supporting their building application with documents from regulated lawyers, and the architecture meeting the proscribed conditions, “it is nearly impossible for Palestinians of Jerusalem to obtain building permits” from the Israeli authorities.

Israel’s military occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised internationally.

The government has named Jerusalem Israel’s “eternal, undivided capital”, but Palestinians consider its eastern sector the capital of any future state.

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

In a significant development for Israeli accountability, Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), seeks to launch an investigation into war crimes committed in Palestine. But she has established an unnecessary and politically suspect condition to slow down the process.

Following a five-year preliminary examination, Bensouda found a reasonable basis to mount an investigation of “the situation in Palestine.” She is “satisfied that (i) war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip . . . (ii) potential cases arising from the situation would be admissible; and (iii) there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.”

Bensouda began the preliminary examination six months after Israel’s July 2014 “Operation Protective Edge,” during which Israeli military forces killed 2,200 Palestinians, nearly one-quarter of them children and more than 80 percent civilians.

In a preliminary examination, the Office of the Prosecutor decides whether: the crimes fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC; there are genuine national proceedings; and beginning an investigation would further the interests of justice and the victims.

In an investigation, the prosecutor develops evidence, identifies suspects, and applies for arrest warrants and summons to appear before the Court.

Bensouda Asks Court to Decide Whether It Has Jurisdiction

Bensouda filed a 112-page document with the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber. She found a reasonable basis to believe that Israeli forces committed the war crimes of willful killing, willfully causing serious injury to body or health, disproportionate use of force, transfer of Israeli civilians into the Palestinian territory of the West Bank, and the killing of over 200 Palestinians during demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza fence. She also cited a reasonable basis to investigate possible war crimes by Palestinians, including intentional attacks against civilians, using civilians as human shields, and the commission of torture and willful killing.

The prosecutor could have commenced the investigation without asking the Court’s permission. Bensouda determined “that the Court does indeed have the necessary jurisdiction in this situation.” But given the “unique and highly contested legal and factual issues,” particularly the issue of “the territory within which the investigation may be conducted,” she asked the Pre-trial Chamber for a ruling on “the scope of the territorial jurisdiction” of the ICC under the Rome Statute. Bensouda wants confirmation that the “territory” subject to investigation “comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.” She recommends that the jurisdictional issue be “resolved without undue delay.”

Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute. The ICC, however, can exercise jurisdiction over nationals of a non-party if they commit crimes in the “territory” of a state party. In 2012, Palestine was recognized as a non-member observer State to the United Nations under General Assembly Resolution 67/19. Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute and became a member of the States Parties of the International Criminal Court.

The State of Palestine, which welcomed Bensouda’s decision to start an investigation, noted that the ICC prosecutor “has jurisdiction over the occupied territory of the State of Palestine, given that Palestine is a State Party to the Rome Statute and that the State of Palestine granted the Prosecutor jurisdiction to look into crimes committed in its territory.”

Israel contends that “a sovereign Palestinian State does not exist, and that the precondition to the Court’s jurisdiction thus cannot be fulfilled. This is because sovereignty over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remains in abeyance, and the Palestinian entity manifestly fails to meet the criteria for statehood under general international law.” In his legal opinion, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit wrote, “the Palestinian Authority lacks effective control over the territory concerned (and in claiming that the territory is occupied by Israel, essentially concedes that that is so).” He claims that because there is no sovereign Palestinian state, there is no “territory” over which the Court can exercise jurisdiction.

However, Israel is occupying the Palestinian territories, which does not give Israel sovereignty over them. Al-Haq, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al-Mezan) and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) issued a joint statement saying, “Israel does not have sovereign authority, but de facto administrative authority premised on actual and potential effective control in terms of military presence and substitution of authority…” Moreover, “…Israel, the Occupying Power, exercises extra-territorial jurisdiction in the occupied Palestinian territory for purposes related to the protection of the occupied population due to the fact that the area is under its temporary control and military occupation. This does not in any way give Israel sovereign rights over the territory,” they wrote.

Why Did Bensouda Delay the Investigation?

The issue of territorial jurisdiction is “a redundant and moot point” that amounts “to an unnecessary delay in the progression of the situation to full investigation,” the Palestinian organizations noted. Since jurisdictional issues are usually decided during the preliminary examination, the groups asked why “the question of territorial jurisdiction has only now come to the fore?”

After Bensouda indicated she wished to open an investigation, she was lambasted by the Israeli press, which branded her “public enemy number one.”

Bensouda may fear additional repercussions if she proceeds with the investigation without a jurisdictional ruling from the Court. In April 2019, after she asked the Court to open an investigation into war crimes committed by Afghan and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the United States revoked her visa. The Court then denied Bensouda’s request to launch the investigation, citing the “interests of justice.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to take further action against investigators who participate in an ICC investigation.

Although Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute, the United States never ratified it. In fact, George W. Bush withdrew the U.S.’s signature from the statute in 2002. Congress then enacted the American Service-Members’ Protection Act to prevent prosecution of U.S. armed forces in the ICC. One provision, called the “Hague Invasion Act,” authorized the use of force to extricate any U.S. or allied national detained by the ICC. The Bush administration blackmailed 100 countries that were parties to the statute by forcing them to sign bilateral immunity agreements pledging not to turn over U.S. persons to the ICC or the U.S. government would withhold foreign aid to them.

Bensouda’s term will expire in 2021 and the Court’s consideration of the jurisdictional issue could extend beyond her service. That may lessen any negative consequences she might suffer.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted Bensouda for her intention to initiate an investigation, charging her with denying “the truth when she says that the very act of Jews living in their ancestral homeland, the land of the Bible, that this is a war crime.” Likewise, Netanyahu’s political rival Benny Gantz said that “the Israeli army is one of the most moral militaries in the world” and “the Israeli army and State of Israel do not commit war crimes.”

In fact, there is overwhelming evidence of Israel’s commission of war crimes, including willful killing; willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health; unlawful and wanton, extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity; and intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population.

Moreover, by the end of 2018, Israel had unlawfully transferred 628,000 Israeli settlers to settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The Rome Statute lists as a war crime, “The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

“After 71 years of continuing Nakba and 52 years of military occupation, the time has come to end impunity for Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the furtherance of its aggressive colonization of Palestinian territory,” the Palestinian human rights organizations declared. Nakba, which is Arabic for “catastrophe,” refers to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, as 750,00 Palestinians fled or were evicted from their homes from 1947 to 1949 during the creation of Israel. In 1967, after the Six-Day War, Israel militarily occupied the Palestinian territories.

Accountability for Israeli war crimes is long overdue. The ICC should immediately ratify Bensouda’s investigation.

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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 a member of the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. She is a frequent contributor to global Research. 

Featured image is from IMEMC

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The US government has long faced a dilemma in dealing with Turkey and Qatar, who pose as partners on the global stage. The US has maintained relations with both while being increasingly concerned with their malign behavior.

Both support the Muslim Brotherhood, finance terrorists, promote extremist ideologies such as Radical Islam, and openly host and partner with Hamas and al-Qaeda. Turkey and Qatar are ‘brothers in arms’ and share an affinity for Radical Islam that shapes their regional engagement.

The Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey is the home of the US Air Force 39th Air Base Wing and houses US nuclear weapons. Turkey has been a member of NATO for over 60 years but has not always seen eye-to-eye on US military operations, such as the US partnership with the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia in northeastern Syria.  The Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar is home to the US Central Command, which serves as headquarters for US military operations across the Middle East.

Two vitally important US military bases, but both hosted by countries which are at odds with the US ‘war on terror’.

The Middle East stands divided into 2 camps: the Turkish-Qatari partnership pitted against the Saudi-Emirati clan. While all are Sunni Muslim majorities, and US allies, the division between the 2 camps lies in the adherence to the doctrine of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Saudi-Emirati clan has denounced the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists, along with Egypt, Syria, and Russia; however, the Turkish-Qatari partners have embraced the doctrine and are promoting it. The US Congress and President Trump have periodically discussed whether the US should join those outlawing the group, but have not taken that step yet, and the Muslim Brotherhood operates offices and mosques across the US freely. The Diyanet Center of America, which is said to be the largest Islamic campus in the Western Hemisphere, was built by Turkey, dedicated by Erdogan, and is located in Maryland.

Erdogan’s AKP party has a long connection with the Muslim Brotherhood, and after his 2007 election, he began to publically identify with the Islamist group. Conversely, the Muslim Brotherhood does not operate offices in Qatar, as they are forced to promote the ideology and interests outside of Qatar’s shores.  Even though the US designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997, still Erdogan has close ties to the group and their leadership. When the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, won the Presidency of Egypt in 2012 Erdogan cheered and rushed to establish trade agreements between the 2 nations.

Turkey and Qatar operate as a tag-team in the world of financing terror.  When a financer of terror is publically exposed in one country, he simply takes up residence in the other and thus remains free to operate regardless of the charges or evidence, and with the cozy relationship with the US, both countries are operating as safe-havens.

The Radicals that have been sheltered in Qatar and Turkey have openly anti-American views, support armed resistance and extremist ideology; however, they seemingly can get away with this behavior right under the nose of their American allies. The US administrations have so far refused to face the problem and pursue an approach to counter those activities or to take appropriate action in the event Turkey and Qatar do not want to change their ways.  Their present behavior is jeopardizing the long-term military alliance with the US.

In blatant disregard for US interests, Erdogan bought the Russian S-400 air defense system, and Qatar is in negotiations to follow suit.  US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has threatened Turkey with sanctions. The US can invoke the ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’, which would allow Trump to levy sanctions on Turkey for the buying of Russian defense equipment.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the UAE broke all ties with Qatar in June 2017, and began a land, sea and air blockade of Qatar, after charging the Emir with the support of terrorism, collaborating with Iran, and creating chaos in the Middle East.  The US has not taken steps to demand Qatar to stop financing terror.

The US Department of Defense is rumored to have studied options in the region, which would see the closing of Incirlik and Al-Udeid bases, and the relocation of the 2 facilities to countries which are not harboring, supporting, and defending terrorists and the doctrine of Radical Islam, which is a political ideology, and not a religion or sect. Safer locations such as Bulgaria and Bahrain have been studied.

The Turkish media are either outright state-owned and operated, or at the very least are state-controlled.  Al Jazeera Arabic and English are both state-owned. The content of these media promote sectarian hate-speech at times and are pro-regime with a distinct bias against Saudi Arabia. Public awareness campaigns in the US have begun to inform the public that what those media are broadcasting could be disinformation at times.

Turkey and Qatar have been sending weapons, cash and now mercenaries to Libya to prop up the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Sarraj. While the US and others are trying to promote negotiations for peace, the terrorists flooding in from Turkish ships and the weapons landing in Qatari planes are detrimental to the process.  The US is now considering designating Turkish and Qatari officials who are sending funds or arms to Libya, and this may include the Muslim Brotherhood. The US Treasury Department can sanction individuals and entities that are involved in terror and financing terror, and pressure can be brought to bear on Erdogan and the Emir to stop the practice.

Ankara and Dohar can change their image as sponsors of terror, and global investors would be more comfortable with their rehabilitated image. The US has the tools to pressure the pair into changing their ways, but whether the political will exists to do so is in question.

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This article was originally published on Mideast Discourse.

Steven Sahiounie is a political commentator. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Mideast Discourse.

Iraq: America’s Other “Longest War”

January 2nd, 2020 by Thomas L. Knapp

As the calendar prepared to flip from 2019 to 2020, protesters stormed the US embassy in Baghdad.  As I write this, the action — a response to US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria which killed at least 25 and wounded more than 50 — hasn’t yet become a reprise of the Iran hostage crisis of 40 years ago, but it’s eerily reminiscent.

Although few Americans seem to notice, Iraq is arguably the second-longest war in US history.

Mainstream media often refer to the 18-year US occupation of Afghanistan as “America’s longest war.” That claim is wrong on its face.

Setting aside a century of “Indian wars” and two decades of involvement in Vietnam prior to the 1965 escalation, the Korean War handily takes the “longest war” prize:  It began in 1950 and has merely been in ceasefire status, with occasional flare-ups and no final settlement, since 1953. If wars were people, the Korean War would be collecting Social Security.

The US war in Iraq is approaching its 28th birthday, also with no end in sight.

It began in January of 1991 with Operation Desert Storm (“the liberation of Kuwait” from Iraqi occupation). The 12 years between that “mother of all battles” and the 2003 US invasion were punctuated by US bombings to facilitate a Kurdish secession movement in the north,  protect persecuted Shiites in the south, and provide convenient distractions from assorted Clinton administration peccadilloes.

Following the short, sharp conventional fighting phase of the invasion, the war remained a very hot conflict — a combination of civil war and anti-occupation insurgency — for years following US president George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished” announcement in May of 2003.

A brief cooling period accompanied Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, but by 2014 American troops (and “civilian contractors,” i.e mercenaries) were once again arriving to intervene in the new regime’s fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The airstrikes which sparked the current protests were carried out in response to a rocket attack on a regime military base in which one of the aforementioned American mercenaries was killed.

The bigger picture:

The US government is using Iraq as a staging area for its ongoing actions in Syria and against Iran (which it blames for this specific rocket attack and for its backing of militias in Iraq in general).

US president Donald Trump talks a good “let’s get out of all these stupid wars” game. But in actuality he has increased, and continues to increase, the size of US military deployments to, and the tempo of US military operations in, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Several thousand US troops remain in Iraq and the war looks likely to stretch into a fourth decade.

There is, of course, an alternative: Trump could put his money where his mouth is and begin withdrawing US troops from the region instead of continuing to pour American blood and treasure into a series of conflicts which should never have happened in the first place.

Peace on Earth? Maybe not. But the US going home and minding its own business would be a good start.

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Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

Featured image: US Stryker vehicle hit by a deeply buried improvised explosive device while conducting operations just south of the Shiek Hamed village in Iraq., 2007. Public domain.

Russian and Chinese warships joined Iran’s Navy and Revolutionary Guards vessels on Friday for four days’ worth of maritime exercises in the Gulf of Oman and the northern Indian Ocean, simulating search and rescue, anti-piracy and shooting drills.

The US Navy is concerned that the recent lull in hostilities with Iran following this summer’s string of escalatory actions in the form of tanker sabotage attacks, ship seizures and drone shootdowns may be repeated, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has said.

“I think they’re going to continue to perform provocative actions over there,” Modly said, speaking to Reuters on Friday. “And I think they’ll look at every opportunity they can to do that,” he added, without offering any more details.

“There’s nothing that suggests to me, short of a regime change there, that you have a different tone set from the leadership, that would suggest to me that they’re going to stop doing what they’ve been doing,” Modly explained.

The top Navy official also complained about how the US’s ‘response’ to Iran has forced it to take its eye off more serious adversaries, like China.

“As they start creating mischief over there…our reaction is we send an aircraft carrier over there for 10 months,” Modly said. “What does [the Iran deployment] do to our carrier readiness? It degrades readiness the longer it’s over there,” he complained.

Joint Drills

On Friday, units of the Iranian Navy and Revolutionary Guards were joined by Russian and Chinese warships for maritime security drills which Iranian officials said proved that their country could not be isolated. The drills, set to run until Monday, are the first of their kind for Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Friday that the drills made clear the three countries’ “broader commitment to secure vital waterways” amid US efforts to build a regional ‘maritime security coalition’ known as ‘Sentinel’. Tehran proposed a regional maritime coalition in September which excluded outsiders the US and

Tensions between the US and Iran have subsided in recent months, even though verbal back-and-forth threats and warnings have continued. Relations the two countries, which enjoyed a thaw toward the end of the Obama administration thanks to the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015, worsened dramatically in May 2018 after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and slapped Iran with several rounds of energy and banking sanctions. In May 2019, Tehran began scaling back its commitment to the nuclear deal, citing its European signatories’ apparent inability to secure its interests. The country maintains, however, that it has no intention of pursuing weapons of mass destruction, saying such arms run counter to the country’s Islamic faith

Also in May, the US announced that it would be deploying a carrier strike group to the Middle East to counter an unspecified ‘Iranian threat’ against its interests in the region. This was followed by a series of sabotage attacks, tanker seizures and the shootdown of a $220 million US drone over the Strait of Hormuz in June, with tensions between the two countries escalating to the brink of war.

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150115 Long War Cover hi-res finalv2 copy3.jpg

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

Michel Chossudovsky

The “globalization of war” is a hegemonic project. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The U.S. military agenda combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states.

ISBN Number: 978-0-9737147-6-0
Year: 2015
Pages: 240 Pages

List Price: $22.95

Special Price: $15.00

Click here to order.

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Australia Burns: Fireworks, Bush Fires and Denial

January 2nd, 2020 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

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Public Rage in Baghdad over US Terror-Bombing Strikes

January 2nd, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

In response to last Sunday’s terror-bombing strikes by Pentagon warplanes that killed over two dozen Kata’ib Hezbollah members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, wounding many others, Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi called what happened “a dangerous aggravation which endangers the security of Iraq and the region.”

On Monday, Iraqi paramilitaries vowed to retaliate against what happened.

Iraq’s National Security Council denounced US aggression as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, vowing to “revise its relations” with the US.

Israel’s Netanyahu “congratulated” Pompeo on the mass slaughter and destruction incident.

Iran called it a “clear example of (US) terrorism.” Russia accused the Trump regime of “inflam(ing) the situation.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow wasn’t informed of the attacks in Iraq and Syria in advance — heightening regional tensions.

Anti-US public outrage followed. Hundreds of protesters in Baghdad broke into the US embassy compound in the heavily-fortified Green Zone.

According to AP News, they broke through the gate used by vehicles to enter the compound, smashed security cameras, and set a reception area ablaze.

An AP reporter on the scene said “flames (were) rising from inside the compound and at least three (armed) US soldiers were on the roof of the main embassy building…their guns pointed at the protesters,” adding:

“There was a fire at the reception area near the parking lot of the compound, but it was unclear what had caused it. A man on a loudspeaker urged the mob not to enter the compound.”

They came within 200 meters of the main building, tear gas used against them. A sign placed on a compound wall said: “America is an aggressor.”

Protesters chanted: “Down, Down USA!” “Death to America.” “Death to Israel.” Outside the US embassy, they hurled water and stones over its walls.

They raised Popular Mobilization Unit flags,” taunting embassy security staff, said AP.

They sprayed graffiti on walls and windows, supporting militia fighters.

“(H)undreds of angry protesters set up tents outside the embassy. As tempers rose, the mob set fire to three trailers used by security guards along the embassy wall,” said AP.

Iraqi soldiers and police sent to the scene “were forced back by the protesters who blocked their path.”

Things erupted after mourners held funerals for militia fighters killed in a Baghdad neighborhood.

There was no immediate State Department or Pentagon response to the US embassy compound breach.

According to Reuters, “(t)he US ambassador to Iraq and other staff were evacuated from their embassy in Baghdad for their safety on Tuesday, Iraqi officials said, as thousands of protesters and militia fighters outside the gate denounced US air strikes in Iraq.”

Video images showed large crowds of Iraqis in Baghdad marching peacefully in response to the Pentagon’s Sunday terror-bombing strikes.

Iraqi Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia leader Qais al-Khazali was quoted by Reuters, saying:

“Americans are unwanted in Iraq. They are a source of evil and we want them to leave.”

AFP News tweeted: “Several thousand protesters demonstrate(d) in front of the US embassy in Baghdad over US air strikes that killed more than two dozen paramilitary fighters at the weekend.”

Prime Minister Mahdi urged protesters to leave the US diplomatic compound and stay away, saying violence committed will be punished.

Sunday Pentagon aggression heightened tensions in Iraq, Syria and Iran more than already.

Likely retaliation by Iraqi militia fighters will probably be followed by further US aggression, risking greater hostilities in the war-torn region.

The only solution is ending US occupation of Iraq and Syria, along with its endless regional wars of aggression. The same goes for all its war theaters.

Sustained mass public anger is the only chance of achieving these objectives that won’t happen any time soon under the rosiest of scenarios.

Most important is what’s entirely absent — mass US anti-war protests nationwide.

There’s no sign of what’s vitally needed, public resistance for peace, equity and justice.

Warhawks Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bush/Cheney and Obama are gone, succeeded by warrior president Trump, fueling Washington’s addiction to endless wars of aggression against nonbelligerent nations threatening no one.

We have a choice. End them or risk eventual nuclear immolation by accident or design.

A Final Comment

An offensive NYT article headlined: “This Has Been the Best Year Ever,” saying:

“For humanity over all, life just keeps getting better.”

Citing advances in modern technology, etc., the Times ignored endless US wars of aggression.

Ongoing in multiple theaters, they’ve taken millions of lives post-9/11, no resolution of them in prospect.

In the US and West, neoliberal harshness created impoverished millions, living from paycheck to paycheck, struggling daily to get by, social justice in these countries eroding — on the chopping block for elimination.

It wasn’t always this way. I’m old enough to remember the interregnum of relative peace and stability from end of WW II in summer 1945 until US aggression on North Korea began in June 1950.

The US has been permanently at war since that time, the nation’s resources increasingly going for militarism, warmaking, corporate handouts, and tax cuts for the rich — while popular needs go begging.

On Tuesday, Trump falsely accused Iran of “orchestrating an attack on the US Embassy in Iraq,” adding:

“They will be held fully responsible.” Does he have another US war of aggression in mind?

If 2019 was “the best year ever,” heaven protect us from likely greater horrors ahead — especially if the Trump regime initiates hostilities against Iran.

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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.

Netanyahu Seeking Immunity from Prosecution?

January 2nd, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

According to the Times of Israel, citing a Channel 13 report, Netanyahu “has made a final decision to ask the Knesset to grant him immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases and informed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in writing of his intention,” adding:

He’s “willing to face criminal prosecution, but only after he leaves political life.”

Edelstein’s office refuted the report, a spokesperson saying: “No request was made.”

Before yearend Tuesday evening local time, Netanyahu must formally request Knesset immunity or forgo the chance of getting it, a majority MK vote needed.

Indicted by Israeli attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, he’s charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, serious offenses.

At a days earlier Hanukkah event, he turned truth on its head, saying: “Immunity isn’t against democracy (sic). Immunity is a cornerstone of democracy (sic).”

It’s a mute point in Israeli fantasy democracy, the real thing nonexistent in the apartheid state from inception.

Seeking Israeli High Court of Justice support for immunity from prosecution, Netanyahyu falsely equated Mandelblit’s indictment with interfering in “who can run the country and who can’t.”

Under Israeli law, it’s up to a special Knesset committee to decide if the body would vote up or down on immunity. It hasn’t been created as yearend approaches.

If March election results again fail to form a new government, disposition of charges against Netanyahu could be delayed months longer — unless Israel’s High Court rules on the issue.

Hard evidence shows he’s guilty of multiple counts. The longer justice is delayed, the longer it’s denied.

Israeli police and state prosecutors recommended Netanyahu be indicted. Mandleblit published detailed information on charges against him.

He’s hellbent to avoid prosecution that will likely convict and imprison him. He falsely called charges against him “rigged,” opposition elements conspiring against him (sic).

According to a new Channel 12 poll, 51% of Israelis oppose immunity. Only 33% support it.

According to Israeli Law Professor Suzie Navot, immunity is unlikely for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, only for minor offenses under Israeli law, explaining:

Immunity for Knesset members is “mainly to protect their freedom of speech, for instance, (regarding) offenses such as incitement, racism, support for terrorism, libel.”

“Israel doesn’t put MKs on trial for such offenses. That’s the core of immunity — to prevent MKs from being put on trial for things they say.”

“This is called functional immunity, which protects parliamentarians from prosecution for things they did in fulfilling their parliamentary work. This kind of immunity exists all over the Western world.”

Israeli law enacted in 1951 states:

“A Knesset member shall bear no criminal or civil responsibility, and shall be immune from any legal proceeding, in respect to a vote, an oral or written expression of opinion, or any other act, in and outside the Knesset, if such vote, expression of opinion or act, pertains to or is directed toward the carrying-out of his (or her) mandate as a member of the Knesset.”

The above does not apply to major charges Netanyahu faces.

Haaretz editors slammed him, saying he’s “exploiting his position in an attempt to evade justice.”

“He has dragged Israel into three election rounds only because he’s refused to” step down and face accountability, leaving the country in “political deadlock,” adding:

“Requesting immunity is a cowardly act by someone who has something to hide.”

“Parties colluding with such a request demonstrate their disdain toward the value of equality before the law and the rule of law.”

“That is why the coming election will revolve around this issue. Will Israel return to the path of normalcy, or will it give refuge to a prime minister trying to evade justice by using his immunity?”

Israel’s High Court is considering whether Netanyahu should step down as prime minister given serious charges against him.

He said neither Supreme Court justices or Israel’s attorney general should decide who serves as prime minister.

On Tuesday, the Jerusalem Post said Israel’s High Court delayed ruling on whether Netanyahu can remain prime minister, a morning session ending with no decision.

Based on what was discussed, it appeared the justices “prefer to stay out of the issue,” the broadsheet reported. A ruling up or down doesn’t appear imminent.

If after third-round March elections Netanyahu is still unable to gain majority 61-seat coalition support, what’s most likely based on previous election results, perhaps his ability to avoid prosecution and remain prime minister will be weakened or lost.

For now, things remain in limbo at yearend.

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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 Shutterstock

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Sat. Jan. 4 National Day of Action U.S. Troops Out of Iraq!

January 2nd, 2020 by Answer Coalition

On Saturday, January 4 the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK and others are calling on people from around the United States to organize local demonstrations to demand: NO MORE U.S. TROOPS TO IRAQ OR THE MIDDLE EAST! U.S. OUT OF IRAQ NOW! and NO WAR/NO SANCTIONS ON IRAN!

SIGN ON AS AN ENDORSER HERE!

In response to the massive protests in Iraq following the latest U.S. aerial assault that killed scores of Iraqis, Donald Trump has ordered 750 more U.S. troops to the Middle East and potentially 3,000 more. This is in addition to the 5,200 U.S. troops already stationed in Iraq. Every U.S. president over the last 28 years has ordered the bombing of Iraq. The decision by Donald Trump and the Pentagon to launch new air assaults against Iraqis in the past week ignited nationwide resistance by Iraqis who want to reclaim their full sovereignty and do not want Iraq to be used in a U.S. war on Iran.

More than a million Iraqis have died during the past 28 years as a consequence of U.S. occupation, bombings and sanctions. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops have either been killed or suffered life-changing wounds. The U.S. government has spent more than $3 trillion dollars in the on-going occupation and bombing of this oil-rich country. Instead of taking the United States out of this endless war, Trump is building up U.S. forces in the region and threatening a war with Iran.

Initiators for this call include the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK, Popular Resistance, World Beyond War and many other anti-war and peace organizations. If you want to add your name as an endorser click here.

To find an event near you or to have an event listed click here!

Demonstrations will also take place on Saturday, January 4 in the following cities.

  • The White House – Washington D.C.
    12noon at the White House
  • Albuquerque, NM 
    2pm at Kirtland Airforce Base, San Mateo and Gibson Blvd
    Initiated by ANSWER Albuquerque
  • Chicago, IL 
    12noon at Trump Tower
    Initiated by ANSWER Chicago
  • Los Angeles, CA 
    1pm at Pershing Square
    Initiated by ANSWER LA
  • New York City, NY 
    11am at Time Square
    Initiated by ANSWER New York
  • San Francisco, CA 
    12noon at Powell and Market
    Initiated by ANSWER San Francisco

  • Arlington, MA 
    12noon at Broadway Plaza, Mass. Ave. and Medford St
    Initiated by Arlington United for Justice with Peace (AUJP)
  • Seattle, WA
    2pm at Westlake Park
    Initiated by ANSWER Seattle
  • Atlanta, GA
    3pm 
    at Little Five Points
    Initiated by ANSWER Atlanta
  • Denver, CO
    Event details to be announced
    Initiated by ANSWER Denver

Further details for each city will be released soon and more cities will be announced. To find an event near you or to have an event listed click here!

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Featured image is from Oxfam International

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Donald Trump: “I Will Take the Oil”

January 1st, 2020 by Global Research News

“I would take away their wealth, I would take away their oil. Just take all the wealth.

You heard me. I will take the oil.”

A compilation video of Donald Trump quotes about ‘taking Iraqi oil’ by Abizaid N. Alqassier published on Arabic language social media in November 2016. The statements were made during Trump’s election campaign. 

“It is likely that such a Trump desire to ‘take Iraq’s oil’ repeated over and over before Trump became President, and now repeated the day after his inauguration, could easily inspire some Iraqis to target the 5,000 US troops currently in Iraq if Iraqis believe that the new US President is serious about taking their oil.”

This “ideology” justifying “stealing the oil” is now being applied to Syria.

And the mainstream media applauds.

Syria is now considering launching a lawsuit against the United States at the ICC, accusing the US of stealing Syrian oil.

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In his 2019  “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) Christmas message Pope Francis  focussed on the “darkness in human hearts”: “There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ.” Pope Francis did not elaborate on the underlying causes of “darkness” nor did he acknowledge the crisis within the Catholic Church.  

From the inception of his Vatican mandate in March 2013 until the sex scandal revelations in early 2018, Pope Francis was portrayed by the Western media and the international community as a left leaning champion of “Liberation Theology” committed to World peace and global poverty alleviation.
 .
In 2018,  the former Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò  intimated in an eleven page Testimony that Pope Francis  was involved (from the outset of his papacy in March 2013) in the coverup of sex abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Vigano says that Pope Francis should step down from the papacy.
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In his 2018 Testimony, Archbishop Vigano describes the prevailing situation within the Church. He acknowledged that:

Bishops and priests, abusing their authority, have committed horrendous crimes to the detriment of their faithful, minors, innocent victims, and young men eager to offer their lives to the Church, or by their silence have not prevented that such crimes continue to be perpetrated. … We must have the courage to tear down the culture of secrecy and publicly confess the truths we have kept hidden.”

Archbishop Vigano’s statements (which remain to be fully corroborated) directed against Pope Francis pertain to a pattern of alleged abuse (including pedophilia) committed within the Catholic Church to which Pope Francis had casually “turned a blind eye”.

But there is “More than Meets the Eye”.  Who Was Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he became Pope? 

Prior to his election by the papal conclave, the role of Jorge Maria Bergoglio in Argentina’s “Dirty War” was known and documented.  It was known to the US State Department. It must have been known to one or more of the 115 “Cardinal Electors” of the Papal Conclave which convened at the Sistine Chapel on March 12, 2013. Needless to say, both the Catholic Hierarchy and the international community turned a blind eye. And the media through “omission” has remained silent.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio not only supported the military dictatorship, he also played a direct and complicit role in the “Dirty War” (la guerra sucia”) in liaison with the military Junta headed by General Jorge Videla, leading to the arrest, imprisonment, torture and disappearance of progressive Catholic priests and laymen who were opposed to Argentina’s military rule.

“While the two priests Francisco Jalics y Orlando Yorio, kidnapped by the death squads in May 1976 were released five months later. after having been tortured, six other people associated within their parish kidnapped as part of the same operation were “disappeared” (desaparecidos).”

In a bitter irony, the two priests sent to the torture chamber were committed to the Theology of Liberation against which Bergoglio at the time was firmly opposed.

Lest we forget, shortly after his investiture in March 2013,  Pope Francis was described by the British media of having brought “Liberation Theology into the Vatican”, in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi.

That was a nonsensical statement (“fake news”): In 1976, Bergoglio’s intent (in liaison with the military junta) was to crush Liberation Theology.

In 2005, human rights lawyer Myriam Bregman filed a criminal suit against Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, accusing him of conspiring with the military junta in the 1976 kidnapping of two Jesuit priests.

Several years later, the survivors of the “Dirty War” openly accused Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of complicity in the kidnapping of  priests Francisco Jalics y Orlando Yorio as well six members of their parish (who were disappeared),  (El Mundo, 8 November 2010)

(Image Left: Jorge Mario Bergoglio and General Jorge Videla)

All this was known prior to his investiture. Why was it not revealed to the broader public? Catholics around the World are totally unaware of  “Who Was Pope Francis I”, Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

The following article was first written in March 2013  following the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I by the Vatican conclave. Minor edits were added in May 2013.

Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, January 1, 2020 

“Washington’s Pope”? Who is Pope Francis I? Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Argentina’s “Dirty War”

by Michel Chossudovsky

March 14, 2013

The Vatican conclave has elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I

Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio? 

In 1973, he had been appointed “Provincial” of Argentina for the Society of Jesus.

In this capacity, Bergoglio was the highest ranking Jesuit in Argentina during the military dictatorship led by General Jorge Videla (1976-1983).

He later became bishop and archbishop of Buenos Aires. Pope John Paul II elevated him to the title of cardinal in 2001

When the military junta relinquished power in 1983, the duly elected president Raúl Alfonsín set up a Truth Commission pertaining to the crimes underlying the “Dirty War” (La Guerra Sucia).

The military junta had been supported covertly by Washington.

US. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger played a behind the scenes role in the 1976 military coup.

Kissinger’s top deputy on Latin America, William Rogers, told him two days after the coup that “we’ve got to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long.” … (National Security Archive, March 23, 2006)

“Operation Condor”

Ironically, a major trial opened up in Buenos Aires on March 5, 2013 a week prior to Cardinal Bergoglio’s investiture as Pontiff. The ongoing trial in Buenos Aires is: “to consider the totality of crimes carried out under Operation Condor, a coordinated campaign by various US-backed Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s to hunt down, torture and murder tens of thousands of opponents of those regimes.”

For further details, see Operation Condor: Trial On Latin American Rendition And Assassination Program By Carlos Osorio and Peter Kornbluh, March 10, 2013

(Photo above: Henry Kissinger and General Jorge Videla (1970s) 

The military junta led by General Jorge Videla (left) was responsible for countless assassinations, including priests and nuns who opposed military rule following the CIA sponsored March 24, 1976 coup which overthrew the government of Isabel Peron:

 “Videla was among the generals convicted of human rights crimes, including “disappearances”, torture, murders and kidnappings. In 1985, Videla was sentenced to life imprisonment at the military prison of Magdalena.”

Wall Street and the Neoliberal Economic Agenda

One of the key appointments of the military junta (on the instructions of Wall Street) was the Minister of Economy, Jose Alfredo Martinez de Hoz, a member of Argentina’s business establishment and a close friend of David Rockefeller.

The neoliberal macro-economic policy package adopted under Martinez de Hoz was a “carbon copy” of that imposed in October 1973 in Chile by the Pinochet dictatorship under advice from the  “Chicago Boys”, following the September 11, 1973 coup d’Etat and the assassination of president Salvador Allende.

Wages were immediately frozen by decree. Real purchasing power collapsed by more than 30 percent in the 3 months following the March 24, 1976 military coup. (Author’s estimates, Cordoba, Argentina, July 1976). The Argentinean population was impoverished.

Under the helm of Minister of Economy Jose Alfredo Martinez de Hoz, central bank monetary policy was largely determined by Wall Street and the IMF. The currency market was manipulated. The Peso was deliberately overvalued leading to an insurmountable external debt. The entire national economy was precipitated into bankruptcy.

(See Image right: From left to right: Jose Alfredo Martinez de Hoz, David Rockefeller and General Jorge Videla)

Wall Street and the Catholic Church Hierarchy

Wall Street was firmly behind the military Junta which waged “The Dirty War” on its behalf. In turn, the Catholic Church hierarchy played a central role in sustaining the legitimacy of the military Junta.

The Order of Jesus –which represented the Conservative yet most influential faction within the Catholic Church, closely associated with Argentina’s economic elites– was firmly behind the military Junta, against so-called “Leftists” in the Peronista movement.

“The Dirty War”: Allegations directed Against Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio

Condemning the military dictatorship (including its human rights violations) was a taboo within the Catholic Church.  While the upper echelons of the Church were supportive of the military Junta, the grassroots of the Church was firmly opposed to the imposition of military rule.

In 2005, human rights lawyer Myriam Bregman filed a criminal suit against Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, accusing him of conspiring with the military junta in the 1976 kidnapping of two Jesuit priests.

Several years later, the survivors of the “Dirty War” openly accused Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of complicity in the kidnapping of  priests Francisco Jalics y Orlando Yorio as well six members of their parish,  (El Mundo, 8 November 2010)

(Image Left: Jorge Mario Bergoglio and General Jorge Videla)

Bergoglio, who at the time was “Provincial” for the Society of Jesus, had ordered the two “Leftist” Jesuit priests and opponents of military rule  “to leave their pastoral work” (i.e. they were fired) following divisions within the Society of Jesus regarding the role of the Catholic Church and its relations to the military Junta.

While the two priests Francisco Jalics y Orlando Yorio, kidnapped by the death squads in May 1976 were released five months later. after having been tortured, six other people associated with their parish kidnapped as part of the same operation were “disappeared” (desaparecidos). These included four teachers associated with the parish and two of their husbands.

Upon his release, Priest Orlando Yorio “accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over [including six other people] to the death squads … Jalics refused to discuss the complaint after moving into seclusion in a German monastery.” (Associated Press, March 13, 2013, emphasis added),

“During the first trial of leaders of the military junta in 1985, Yorio declared, “I am sure that he himself gave over the list with our names to the Navy.” The two were taken to the notorious Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) torture center and held for over five months before being drugged and dumped in a town outside the city. (See Bill van Auken, “The Dirty War” Pope, World Socialist Website and Global Research, March 14, 2013

Among those “disappeared” by the death squads were Mónica Candelaria Mignone and María Marta Vázquez Ocampo, respectively daughter of the founder of of the CELS (Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales) Emilio Mignone and daughter of the president of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Martha Ocampo de Vázquez. (El Periodista Online, March 2013).

María Marta Vásquez, her husband César Lugones (see picture right) and Mónica Candelaria Mignone allegedly “handed over to the death squads” by Jesuit “Provincial” Jorge Mario Bergoglio are among the thousands of “desaparecidos” (disappeared) of Argentina’s “Dirty War”, which was supported covertly by Washington under “Operation Condor”. (See memorialmagro.com.ar)

In the course of the trial initiated in 2005:

“Bergoglio [Pope Francis I] twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court, and when he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive”: “At least two cases directly involved Bergoglio. One examined the torture of two of his Jesuit priests — Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics — who were kidnapped in 1976 from the slums where they advocated liberation theology. Yorio accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over to the death squads... by declining to tell the regime that he endorsed their work. Jalics refused to discuss it after moving into seclusion in a German monastery.” (Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2005 emphasis added)

The Secret Memorandum

The military government acknowledged in a Secret Memo (see below) that Father Bergoglio had accused the two priests of having established contacts with the guerilleros, and for having disobeyed the orders of the Church hierarchy (Conflictos de obedecencia). It also stated that the Jesuit order had demanded the dissolution of  their group and that they had refused to abide by Bergoglio’s instructions.

The document acknowledges that the “arrest” of the two priests, who were taken to the torture and detention center at the Naval School of Mechanics, ESMA, was based on information transmitted by Father Bergoglio to the military authorities. (signed by Mr. Orcoyen)

(see below).

While a former member of  the priests group had joined the insurgency, there was no evidence of the priests having contacts with the guerrilla movement.

“Holy Communion for the Dictators” 

The accusations directed against Bergoglio regarding the two kidnapped Jesuit priests and six members of their parish are but the tip of the iceberg. While Bergoglio was an important figure in the Catholic Church,  he was certainly not alone in supporting the Military Junta.

According to lawyer Myriam Bregman:  “Bergoglio’s own statements proved church officials knew from early on that the junta was torturing and killing its citizens”, and yet publicly endorsed the dictators. “The dictatorship could not have operated this way without this key support,” (Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2005 emphasis added)

(Image right: General Jorge Videla takes communion. Date and name of priest unconfirmed)

The entire Catholic hierarchy was behind the US sponsored military dictatorship.  It is worth recalling that on March 23, 1976, on the eve of the military coup:

Videla and other plotters received the blessing of the Archbishop of Paraná, Adolfo Tortolo, who also served as vicar of the armed forces. The day of the takeover itself, the military leaders had a lengthy meeting with the leaders of the bishop’s conference. As he emerged from that meeting, Archbishop Tortolo stated that although “the church has its own specific mission . . . there are circumstances in which it cannot refrain from participating even when it is a matter of problems related to the specific order of the state.” He urged Argentinians to “cooperate in a positive way” with the new government.” (The Humanist.org, January 2011, emphasis added)

In an interview conducted with El Sur, General Jorge Videla, who is now [passed away in May 2013] serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity confirmed that:

He kept the country’s Catholic hierarchy informed about his regime’s policy of “disappearing” political opponents, and that Catholic leaders offered advice on how to “manage” the policy. 

Jorge Videla said he had “many conversations” with Argentina’s primate, Cardinal Raúl Francisco Primatesta, about his regime’s dirty war against left-wing activists. He said there were also conversations with other leading bishops from Argentina’s episcopal conference as well as with the country’s papal nuncio at the time, Pio Laghi.

“They advised us about the manner in which to deal with the situation,” said Videla” (Tom Henningan, Former Argentinian dictator says he told Catholic Church of disappeared Irish Times, July 24, 2012, emphasis added)

It is worth noting that according to a 1976 statement by Archbishop Adolfo Tortolo, the military would always consult with a member of the Catholic hierarchy in the case of the “arrest” of a grassroots member of  the clergy. This statement was made specifically in relation to the two kidnapped Jesuit priests, whose pastoral activities were under the authority of Society of Jesus “provincial” Jorge Mario Bergoglio. (El Periodista Online, March 2013).

In endorsing the military Junta, the Catholic hierarchy was complicit in torture and mass killings, an estimated “22,000 dead and disappeared, from 1976 to  1978  … Thousands of additional victims were killed between 1978 and 1983 when the military was forced from power.” (National Security Archive, March 23, 2006).

The Role of the Vatican

The Vatican under Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II played a central  role in supporting the Argentinian military Junta.

Pio Laghi, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to Argentina admitted “turning a blind eye” to the torture and massacres.

Laghi had personal ties to members of the ruling military junta including  General Jorge Videla and Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera.

(See image left. Vatican’s Nuncio Pio Laghi and General Jorge Videla)

Admiral Emilio Massera in close liaison with his US handlers, was the mastermind of “La Guerra Sucia” (The Dirty War). Under the auspices of the military regime, he established:

“an interrogation and torture centre in the Naval School of Mechanics, ESMA [close to Buenos Aires], … It was a sophisticated, multi-purpose establishment, vital in the military plan to assassinate an estimated 30,000 “enemies of the state”. …  Many thousands of ESMA’s inmates, including, for instance, two French nuns, were routinely tortured mercilessly before being killed or dropped from aircraft into the River Plata.

Massera, the most forceful member of the triumvirate, did his best to maintain his links with Washington. He assisted in the development of Plan Cóndor, a collaborative scheme to co-ordinate the terrorism being practised by South American military régimes. (Hugh O’Shaughnessy, Admiral Emilio Massera: Naval officer who took part in the 1976 coup in Argentina and was later jailed for his part in the junta’s crimes, The Independent, November 10, 2010, emphasis added)

Reports confirm that the Vatican’s representative Pio Laghi and Admiral Emilio Massera were friends.

(right: Admiral Emilio Massera, architect of “The Dirty War” received by Pope Paul VI at the Vatican)

The Catholic Church: Chile versus Argentina

It is worth noting that  in the wake of the military coup in Chile on September 11,1973, the Cardinal of Santiago de Chile, Raul Silva Henriquez openly condemned the military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet. In marked contrast to Argentina, this stance of the Catholic hierarchy in Chile was instrumental in curbing the tide of political assassinations and human rights violations directed against supporters of Salvador Allende  and opponents of the military regime.

The man behind the interfaith Comité Pro-Paz was Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez. Shortly after the coup, Silva, … stepped into the role of “upstander,”a term the author and activist Samantha Power coined to distinguish people who stand up to injustice—often at great personal risk—from “bystanders.”

… Soon after the coup, Silva and other church leaders published a declaration condemning and expressing sorrow for the bloodshed. This was a fundamental turning point for many members of the Chilean clergy… The cardinal visited the National Stadium and, shocked by the scale of the government crackdown, instructed his aides to begin collecting information from the thousands flocking to the church for refuge.

Silva’s actions led to an open conflict with Pinochet, who did not hesitate to threaten the church and the Comité  Pro-Paz. (Taking a Stand Against Pinochet: The Catholic Church and the Disappeared pdf)

Had the Catholic hierarchy in Argentina  and Jorge Mario Bergoglio taken a similar stance to that of Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez, thousands of lives would have been saved.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was not, in the words of Samantha Power, a “bystander”. He was complicit in extensive crimes against humanity.

Neither is Pope Francis “a Man of the People” committed to “helping the poor” in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi, as portrayed in chorus by the Western media mantra. Quite the opposite: his endeavors under the military Junta, consistently targeted progressive members of the Catholic clergy as well as committed human rights activists involved in grassroots anti-poverty programs.

In supporting Argentina’s “Dirty War”, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has blatantly violated the very tenets of Christian morality which cherish  the value of human life.  Author’s message to Pope Francis: “Thou shalt not kill”

“Operation Condor” and the Catholic Church

The election of Cardinal Bergoglio by the Vatican conclave to serve as Pope Francis I will have immediate repercussions regarding the ongoing “Operation Condor” Trial in Buenos Aires.

The Church was involved in supporting the military Junta.  This is something which will emerge in the course of the trial proceedings.  No doubt, there will be attempts to obfuscate the role of the Catholic hierarchy and the newly appointed Pope Francis I,  who served as head of Argentina’s Jesuit order during the military dictatorship.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio:  “Washington’s Pope in the Vatican”? 

The election of Pope Francis I has broad geopolitical implications for the entire Latin American  region.

In the 1970s, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was supportive of a US sponsored military dictatorship.

The Catholic hierarchy in Argentina supported the military government. The Junta’s program of torture, assassinations and ‘disappearances” of thousands of political opponents was coordinated and supported by Washington under the CIA’s “Operation Condor”.

Wall Street’s interests were sustained through Jose Alfredo Martinez de Hoz’ office at the Ministry of Economy.

The Catholic Church in Latin America is politically influential. It also has a grip on public opinion. This is known and understood by the architects of US foreign policy as well as US intelligence.

In Latin America, where a number of governments are now challenging US hegemony, one would expect –given Bergoglio’s track record–  that the new Pontiff Francis I as leader of the Catholic Church, will play de facto, a discrete “undercover” political role on behalf of Washington.

With Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis I  in the Vatican –who faithfully served US interests in the heyday of General Jorge Videla and Admiral Emilio Massera–  the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Latin America can once again be effectively manipulated to undermine “progressive” (Leftist) governments, not only in Argentina (in relation to the government of Cristina Kirschner) but throughout the entire region, including Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

The instatement of  “a pro-US pope” occurred a week following the death of  president Hugo Chavez.

“Regime Change” at the Vatican

The US State Department routinely pressures members of the United Nations Security Council with a view to influencing the vote pertaining to Security Council resolutions.

US covert operations and propaganda campaigns are routinely applied with a view to influencing national elections in different countries around the World.

Similarly, the CIA has a longstanding covert relationship with the Vatican.

Did the US government attempt to influence the outcome of the election of the new pontiff?

Firmly committed to serving US foreign policy interests in Latin America, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was Washington’s preferred candidate.

Were undercover pressures discretely exerted by Washington, within the Catholic Church, directly or indirectly, on the 115 cardinals who are members of the Vatican conclave?

Who is Pope Francis I, Interview of Michel Chossudovsky with Bonnie Faulkner, Guns and Butter, KPFA Pacifica

Global Research TV (GRTV) Interview with Michel Chossudovsky


Author’s Note

From the outset of the military regime in 1976, I was Visiting Professor at the Social Policy Institute of the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Argentina. My major research focus at the time was to investigate the social impacts of the deadly macroeconomic reforms adopted by the military Junta. 

I was teaching at the University of Cordoba during the initial wave of assassinations which also targeted progressive grassroots members of the Catholic clergy.

The Northern industrial city of Cordoba was the center of the resistance movement. I witnessed how the Catholic hierarchy actively and routinely supported the military junta, creating an atmosphere of  intimidation and fear throughout the country. The general feeling at the time was that Argentinians had been betrayed by the upper echelons of the Catholic Church.

Three years earlier, at the time of Chile’s September 11, 1973 military coup, leading to the overthrow of the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende,  I was Visiting Professor at the Institute of Economics, Catholic University of Chile, Santiago de Chile.

In the immediate wake of the coup in Chile,  I witnessed how the Cardinal of Santiago, Raul Silva Henriquez –acting on behalf of the Catholic Church– courageously confronted the military dictatorship of general Augusto Pinochet.

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50 bombe nucleari Usa dalla Turchia ad Aviano

December 31st, 2019 by Manlio Dinucci

«Cinquanta testate nucleari sarebbero pronte a traslocare dalla base turca di Incirlik, in Anatolia, alla base Usaf di Aviano, in Friuli Venezia Giulia, in quanto gli Usa diffiderebbero sempre più della fedeltà alla Nato del presidente turco Erdogan»: lo riporta l’Ansa citando quanto dichiarato dal generale a riposo Chuck Wald della US Air Force in una intervista all’agenzia Bloomberg il 16 novembre. Il fatto che l’Ansa e alcuni giornali ne parlino, anche se in ritardo, è comunque positivo. Ciò conferma quanto documenta da tempo il manifesto. «Appare probabile – scrivevamo il 22 ottobre (ma l’Ansa allora ignorò la notizia) – che, tra le opzioni considerate a Washington, vi sia quella del trasferimento delle armi nucleari Usa dalla Turchia in un altro paese più affidabile. Secondo l’autorevole Bollettino degli Scienziati Atomici (Usa), la base aerea di Aviano può essere la migliore opzione europea dal punto di vista politico, ma probabilmente non ha abbastanza spazio per ricevere tutte le armi nucleari di Incirlik. Lo spazio si potrebbe però ricavare, dato che ad Aviano sono già iniziati lavori di ristrutturazione per accogliere le bombe nucleari B61-12».

In base a quanto riportato dall’Ansa il coordinatore nazionale dei Verdi, Angelo Bonelli, chiede al governo se conferma la notizia e di portare immediatamente il problema alla valutazione del parlamento, poiché l’Italia verrebbe «trasformata nel maggiore deposito di armi nucleari d’Europa e questo silenzio del governo italiano è inaccettabile». Il governo intanto fa sapere che «la notizia è priva di fondamento». Non spiega però perché i maggiori esperti Usa di armi nucleari ritengano la base di Aviano «la migliore opzione europea dal punto di vista politico» per il trasferimento delle bombe da Incirlik. Il governo continua quindi a tacere e lo stesso fa il parlamento, perché la questione delle armi nucleari Usa in Italia è tabù. Sollevarla vorrebbe dire mettere in discussione il rapporto di sudditanza dell’Italia nei confronti degli Stati uniti.

L’Italia continua così ad essere base avanzata delle forze nucleari Usa. Secondo le ultime stime della Federazione degli scienziati americani, in ciascuna delle due basi italiane e in quelle in Germania, Belgio e Paesi Bassi vi sarebbero attualmente 20 B-61, per un totale di 100 più 50 a Incirlik in Turchia. Nessuno però può verificare quante siano in realtà. Dalle stime risulta che gli Usa stiano diminuendo il loro numero, fatto tutt’altro che tranquillizzante. Essi si preparano infatti a sostituirle con le nuove bombe nucleari B61-12. A differenza della B61 sganciata in verticale, la B61-12 si dirige verso l’obiettivo guidata da un sistema satellitare ed ha inoltre la capacità di penetrare nel sottosuolo, esplodendo in profondità per distruggere i bunker dei centri di comando. Il programma del Pentagono prevede la costruzione a partire dal 2021 di 500 B61-12, con un costo di circa 10 miliardi di dollari. Non si sa quante B61-12 verranno schierate in Italia né in quali basi, probabilmente non solo ad Aviano e Ghedi. Come risulta dallo stesso bando di progettazione pubblicato dal ministero della Difesa, i nuovi hangar di Ghedi potranno ospitare 30 caccia F-35 con 60 bombe nucleari B61-12, il triplo delle attuali B-61 (il manifesto, 28 novembre 2017).

Allo stesso tempo, gli Usa si preparano a schierare in Italia e altri paesi europei missili nucleari a gittata intermedia (tra 500 e 5500 km) con base a terra, analoghi agli euromissili eliminati dal Trattato Inf firmato nel 1987 da Usa e Urss. Accusando la Russia (senza alcuna prova) di averlo violato, gli Usa si sono ritirati dal Trattato, cominciando a costruire missili della categoria prima proibita: il 18 agosto hanno testato un nuovo missile da crociera e il 12 dicembre un nuovo missile balistico, quest’ultimo in grado di raggiungere l’obiettivo in pochi minuti. Contemporaneamente stanno rafforzando lo «scudo anti-missili» sull’Europa. Nella sua «risposta asimmetrica» la Russia comincia a schierare missili ipersonici che, in grado di raggiungere una velocità di 33.000 km/h e di manovrare, possono forare qualsiasi «scudo».

La situazione in cui ci troviamo è quindi molto più pericolosa di quanto dimostri la già allarmante notizia del probabile trasferimento delle bombe nucleari Usa da Incirlik ad Aviano. In tale situazione domina il silenzio imposto dal vasto schieramento politico bipartisan responsabile del fatto che l’Italia, paese non-nucleare, ospiti e sia preparata a usare armi nucleari, violando il Trattato di non-proliferazione che ha ratificato. Responsabilità resa ancora più grave dal fatto che l’Italia, quale membro della Nato, si rifiuta di aderire al Trattato sulla proibizione delle armi nucleari votato a grande maggioranza dall’Assemblea Generale delle Nazioni Unite.

Manlio Dinucci

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Help Global Research Make It to 2020 and Beyond

December 31st, 2019 by The Global Research Team

Dear Readers,

As we’re sure most of you will agree, 2019 has been a tough year for a lot of people for many different reasons. Undeniably, this has been another year of crisis, characterized by the plight of war, economic dislocation and environmental degradation to name but a few.

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Donald Trump and America’s Criminal Wars

December 31st, 2019 by Patrick Martin

On Friday, the New York Times published leaked videos and photos documenting US war crimes in Iraq. The material included a photo of a dozen US Special Operations soldiers posing with the corpse of a teenager they had just murdered.

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, holding up the teenager’s head as if he were a slaughtered deer, had moments before killed the injured and captive teenager by repeatedly stabbing him.

Gallagher was exonerated for the murder of the teenager by a military court and then pardoned by President Donald Trump for a string of other crimes that were part of a homicidal rampage during his deployment.

The photo and accompanying videos are reminiscent of the shocking 2004 photos of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison. But while 15 years ago the White House, Congress and the media made pronouncements deploring the depraved treatment of Iraqi prisoners—while suppressing the bulk of the incriminating photos and covering up for the masterminds of torture such as President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld—today the lead perpetrator of this war crime is praised as a “hero” by the American president.

The military brass and the Times object to Trump’s glorification of Gallagher in large part because it illuminates the fact that the mass murder and destruction carried out in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and other countries targeted by Washington are not the deeds of “bad apples,” but rather crimes of US imperialism.

In an appearance Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” program, National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien defended Trump’s intervention in the Gallagher case.

“Ultimately, the president as commander in chief has said that he’s got the back of our men and women in uniform,” O’Brien said. “Look,” he continued, “it’s very troubling that we send folks out that have to make split-second decisions dealing with terrorists… And what the president has said is we’re going to stand behind our warriors.”

The Times report, based on a leak of internal Navy investigative materials, gives a grisly picture of the activities of Gallagher, one of a trio of war criminals who were pardoned by Trump in November.

Gallagher was not making a “split-second decision” when he used his hunting knife to execute a teenage prisoner. He escaped conviction on murder charges only after a dubious military trial in which a medic in his unit unexpectedly took responsibility for the death, after having been given immunity from prosecution. Gallagher was convicted only of posing for a photograph with the body of the victim, a trophy-taking action that is a crime under the Geneva Conventions.

Video recordings of interviews conducted during the investigation into Gallagher by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) give a harrowing portrait of his war-zone conduct over a lengthy period. Hardened soldiers and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan describe their former unit chief as “freaking evil,” “toxic” and “perfectly OK with killing anybody that was moving.” They recount Gallagher killing civilians, including children, and prisoners, culminating in the incident for which he was prosecuted.

The Times was given access to both investigative interviews and thousands of text messages exchanged by many of the 22 members of Alpha Platoon, Seal Team Seven. The scale of the leak demonstrates the widespread opposition within the military brass itself to Trump’s intervention to overturn any administrative punishment of Gallagher, a clear case of illegal “command influence” to rig the outcome of a military judicial proceeding.

Trump stepped in with an order on November 15 that pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Matt Golsteyn and First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, as well as Gallagher, and reversed the decision of the Navy to penalize Gallagher, who has now retired, by reducing his rank and stripping him of his Seal pin. When Navy Secretary Richard Spencer objected to this interference in the military chain of command, Trump fired him.

Trump’s critics within the ruling elite particularly objected to his statement, in an October tweet announcing that he would review the three war crimes cases, “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!”

They opposed this statement only because it is too bald an admission of the real role of the American military, particularly the tens of thousands of Special Forces troops like the Seals and the Army’s Delta Force, recruited and trained to be ruthless assassins. Prosecutions are extremely rare, and likely to be nonexistent going forward based on the precedent set by Trump.

Trump expects to enlist Gallagher, Golsteyn and Lorance in his reelection campaign. He paraded the war criminals at a campaign donors’ function this month, and Gallagher was photographed with Donald Trump Jr. at the Turning Point USA Student Action Conference, an assemblage of fascist-minded youth addressed by the president on December 21. This is part of his effort to base his reelection on appeals to the most violent and reactionary elements of the state apparatus, including the police, Border Patrol, and military Special Forces, and to fascistic elements and disoriented social layers within the electorate.

Gallagher and his wife Andrea also posed for photos with the president during the visit, and reportedly gave him a gift to express their appreciation for the pardon—a black-and-white flag of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured in Mosul, Iraq. The gift certainly symbolized the connection between the war criminal in chief, Donald Trump, and his accomplice and instrument, Gallagher. Mosul was targeted for nonstop bombardment by US artillery, rockets and warplanes, which reduced the city to rubble and killed tens of thousands of people.

Gallagher may be the personification of homicidal violence, an individual for whom killing became an obsession. But Trump took incalculably more innocent lives through his orders as “commander in chief” to destroy cities like Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

And Trump is not an aberration. He follows a long series of presidents who could and should have stood trial for war crimes. These include, to name only the most recent, the elder George Bush for the Persian Gulf War and the US invasions of Panama and Somalia; Bill Clinton for military intervention in the former Yugoslavia and bomb and missile attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan; Bush junior for the Iraq War and the invasion of Afghanistan; Barack Obama for continuing these wars and launching new attacks in Libya and Syria and drone warfare around the world.

Gallagher too is in no way exceptional. Crimes like his, and even worse, are the hallmark of all imperialist wars of conquest against impoverished and oppressed nations. From the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, to the atrocities at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, to the murder of 16 Afghan civilians by Sergeant Robert Bales in 2012, the US military has demonstrated its capacity for brutality and wanton violence.

These war crimes were carried out on a bipartisan basis, under Democratic and Republican presidents, supported and generally covered up by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. It is worth pointing out that the House Democrats have not impeached Trump for pardoning war criminals, let alone for ordering mass murder in Iraq and Syria, and in the ongoing drone warfare across North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. They have chosen, instead, to impeach Trump for not sufficiently backing war crimes in Ukraine and undermining the longstanding US operation to arm Ukraine and turn it into a military spearhead against Russia.

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5G Wireless Technology Is War against Humanity

December 31st, 2019 by Claire Edwards

This important article was first published by Global Research in February 2019.

Disclosure about 5G — and its considerable risk for humanity — is occurring within the United Nations. This is thanks to longtime UN staff member and whistle-blower Claire Edwards, who recently contacted me with this powerful story which touches all of humanity and our shared future. Watch the interview above, or on YouTube here or on Facebook here. – Josh del Sol Beaulieu

***

The first eight months of WWII with no fighting was called The Phoney War. Using millimetre waves as a fifth-generation or 5G wireless communications technology is a phoney war of another kind.

This phoney war is also silent, but this time shots are being fired – in the form of laser-like beams of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from banks of thousands of tiny antennas[1] – and almost no one in the firing line knows that they are being silently, seriously and irreparably injured.

In the first instance, 5G is likely to make people electro-hypersensitive (EHS).[2] Perhaps it was sitting in front of two big computer screens for many of the 18 years I worked at the UN that made me EHS. When the UN Office at Vienna installed powerful WiFi and cellphone access points – designed to serve large, public areas – in narrow, metal-walled corridors throughout the Vienna International Centre in December 2015, I was ill continuously for seven months.

I did my best for two and a half years to alert the UN staff union, administration and medical service to the danger to the health of UN staff of EMR from these access points, but was ignored. That’s why, in May 2018, I took the issue to the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres[transcript]. He is a physicist and electrical engineer and lectured on telecommunications signals early in his career, yet asserted that he knew nothing about this. He undertook to ask the World Health Organization to look into it, but seven months later those public access points remain in place. I received no replies to my many follow-up emails.

As a result, I welcomed the opportunity to join the effort to publish an International Appeal to Stop 5G on Earth and in Space because it was clear to me that, despite there having been 43 earlier scientific appeals, very few people understood the dangers of EMR. My experience as an editor could help ensure that a new 5G appeal, including the issue of beaming 5G from space, was clear, comprehensive, explanatory, and accessible to the non-scientist. The International Appeal to Stop 5G on Earth and in Space is fully referenced, citing over a hundred scientific papers among the tens of thousands on the biological effects of EMR published over the last 80 years.[3]

Having spent years editing UN documents dealing with space, I know that outer space is hotly contested geopolitically and any untoward event involving a military satellite risks triggering a catastrophic response.[4] Space law is so inadequate – just one example is the complexity of space liability law[5],[6] – that we could really call the Earth orbits a new Wild West. China caused international consternation in 2007 when it demonstrated an anti-satellite weapon by destroying its own satellite. Space debris is the main concern among space-faring nations, with a so-called Kessler syndrome positing a cascade of space debris that could make the Earth orbits unusable for a thousand years.[7] Does launching 20,000+ commercial 5G satellites in such circumstances sound rational to you?

I live in Vienna, Austria, where the 5G rollout is suddenly upon us. Within the last five weeks, pre-5G has been officially announced at Vienna airport and 5G at the Rathausplatz, the main square in Vienna, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors to its Christmas market each December and skating rink each January, which are special treats for children. Along with birds and insects, children are the most vulnerable to 5G depredation because of their little bodies.[8]

Friends and acquaintances and their children in Vienna are already reporting the classic symptoms of EMR poisoning:[9] nosebleeds, headaches, eye pains, chest pains, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, tinnitus, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, and cardiac pain. They also report a tight band around the head; pressure on the top of the head; short, stabbing pains around the body; and buzzing internal organs. Other biological effects such as tumours and dementia usually take longer to manifest, but in the case of 5G, which has never been tested for health or safety, who knows?[10]

Seemingly overnight a forest of 5G infrastructure has sprouted in Austria. In the space of three weeks one friend has gone from robust health to fleeing this country, where she has lived for 30 years. Each person experiences EMR differently. For her, it was extreme torture so she and I spent her last two nights in Austria sleeping in the woods. Interestingly, as she drove across southern Germany, she suffered torture even worse than in Austria, while in northern Germany she had no symptoms at all and felt completely normal, which suggests that there has been as yet no 5G rollout there.

There are no legal limits on exposure to EMR. Conveniently for the telecommunications industry, there are only non-legally enforceable guidelines such as those produced by the grandly named International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, which turns out to be like the Wizard of Oz, just a tiny little NGO in Germany that appoints its own members, none of whom is a medical doctor or environmental expert.[11]

Like the Wizard of Oz, ICNIRP seems to have magical powers. Its prestidigitation makes non-thermal (non-heating) effects of EMR exposure disappear into thin air, for taking into account the tens of thousands of research studies demonstrating the biological effects of EMR would invalidate its so-called safety guidelines.[12] It has bewitched the International Telecommunication Union, part of the UN family, into recognizing these guidelines.[13] And one little email sent to ICNIRP in October 2018 to submit Professor Martin Pall’s comments on ICNIRP’s new draft guidelines conjured up an immediate explosion of interest in the sender’s online presence – which had hitherto attracted none – from companies and individuals worldwide, one country’s immigration authorities, the office of the Austrian Chancellor (head of government), a firm of lawyers in Vienna and even Interpol![14],[15]

I hope that people read and share our Stop 5G Space Appeal to wake up themselves and others quickly and use it to take action themselves to stop 5G. Even eight short months of this 5G Phoney War could spell catastrophe for all life on Earth. Elon Musk is set to launch the first 4,425 5G satellites in June 2019 and “blanket” the Earth with 5G, in breach of countless international treaties. This could initiate the last great extinction, courtesy of the multi-trillion-US-dollar 5G, the biggest biological experiment and most heinous manifestation of hubris and greed in human history.10

People’s first reaction to the idea that 5G may be an existential threat to all life on Earth is usually disbelief and/or cognitive dissonance. Once they examine the facts, however, their second reaction is often terror. We need to transcend this in order to see 5G as an opportunity to empower ourselves, take responsibility and take action. We may have already lost 80 per cent of our insects to EMR in the last 20 years.[16] Our trees risk being cut down by the millions in order to ensure continuous 5G signalling for self-driving cars, buses and trains.[17] Are we going to stand by and see ourselves and our children irradiated, our food systems decimated, our natural surroundings destroyed?

Our newspapers are now casually popularizing the meme that human extinction would be a good thing,[18],[19] but when the question becomes not rhetorical but real, when it’s your life, your child, your community, your environment that is under immediate threat, can you really subscribe to such a suggestion? If you don’t, please sign the Stop 5G Appeal and get active in contacting everyone you can think of who has the power to stop 5G, especially Elon Musk[20] and the CEOs of all the other companies planning to launch 5G satellites, starting in just 20 weeks from now. Life on Earth needs your help now.

The transcript of my exchange with the UN Secretary-General of 14 May 2018 follows.

Staff member:Mr. Secretary-General

UN staff have repeatedly been told that they are the most important resource of this Organization.

Since December 2015, the staff here at the Vienna International Centre have been exposed to off-the-scale electromagnetic radiation from WiFi and mobile phone boosters installed on very low ceilings throughout the buildings. Current public exposure levels are at least one quintillion times (that’s 18 zeros) above natural background radiation according to Professor Olle Johansson of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

The highly dangerous biological effects of EMFs have been documented by thousands of studies since 1932 indicating that we may be facing a global health catastrophe orders of magnitude worse than those caused by tobacco and asbestos.

Mr. Secretary-General, on the basis of the Precautionary Principle, I urge you to have these EMF-emitting devices removed immediately and to call a halt to any rollout of 5G at UN duty stations, because it is designed to deliver concentrated and focused electromagnetic radiation in excess of 100 times current levels in the same way as do directed energy weapons.

In line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, to “Protect, Respect and Remedy”, 5G technologies MUST be subjected to an independent health and safety assessment before they are launched anywhere in the world.

There is currently an international appeal (https://www.emfscientist.org/index. php/emf-scientist-appeal) signed by 237 EMF scientists from 41 nations urging the UN and particularly the WHO to exert strong leadership in fostering the development of more protective EMF guidelines, encouraging precautionary measures, and educating the public about health risks, particularly risk to children and fetal development.

Mr. Secretary-General, we have a unique opportunity here at the UN Office at Vienna. Since our medical records are digitized, you have the possibility of releasing data on a closed population exposed to off-the-scale levels of electromagnetic radiation to establish if there have already been abnormal health consequences for the UN staff here in the last 28 months.

I urge you to do so and stop any 5G rollout in these buildings immediately.

Thank you.

UN Secretary-General:Sorry, because you are talking to someone who is a little bit ignorant on these things. You’re talking about the WiFi systems?

Staff member:On the ceilings of these buildings, WiFi boosters and cell phone boosters were installed without consultation, without information to staff in December 2015. Now, if you understand electromagnetic radiation, the signal is – if you cannot get a signal from your mobile phone, the signal goes to maximum strength and that then bounces off metal walls affecting the body multiple times at maximum exposure levels. So the situation here is extremely dangerous. I have heard anecdotally of many people who have had health problems. I don’t know if they are related but the Precautionary Principle would dictate that we use our medical records to look into this and that we remove these dangerous devices immediately. Thank you.

UN Secretary-General:Well, I’m worried because I put those devices in my house. [Laughter & applause]

Staff member:Not a good idea!

UN Secretary-General: This I will have to – I confess my ignorance on this but I’m going to raise this with WHO [World Health Organization] – which I think is the organization that might be able to deal with it properly for them to put someonetheir staff or organizations to work on that because I must confess I was not aware of that danger – [humorously] to the extent that I put those things in the rooms of my housein the ceiling.

Staff member:I would suggest that everybody start looking into this issue and particularly into 5G, which 237 scientists from 41 countries consider a threat that is far worse than the tobacco and asbestos threats of the past.

UN Secretary-General:Well, maybe I have learned something completely new. I hope it will be very useful to me but I confess it is the first time I hear about it.

*

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This article was originally published on Take Back Your Power.

Claire Edwards, BA Hons, MA, worked for the United Nations as Editor and Trainer in Intercultural Writing from 1999 to 2017. Claire warned the Secretary-General about the dangers of 5G during a meeting with UN staff in May 2018, calling for a halt to its rollout at UN duty stations.  She part-authored, designed, administered the 30 language versions, and edited the entirety of the International Appeal to Stop 5G on Earth and in Space (www.5gspaceappeal.org) and vigorously campaigned to promote it throughout 2019. In January 2020, she severed connection with the Appeal when its administrator, Arthur Firstenberg, joined forces with a third-party group, stop5ginternational, which brought itself into disrepute at its foundation by associating with the Club of Rome/Club of Budapest eugenicist movement. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Notes

[1] Delos, Peter. “The Way to a New Phased Array Radar Architecture.” TechTime: Electronics & Technology News. January 15, 2018. Accessed January 1, 2019. https://techtime.news/2018/01/ 15/analog-devices-phased-array-radar/. “Although there is a lot of discussion of massive MIMO and automotive radar, it should not be forgotten that most of the recent radar development and beamforming R&D has been in the defense industry, and it is now being adapted for commercial applications. While phased array and beamforming moved from R&D efforts to reality in the 2000s, a new wave of defense focused arrays are now expected, enabled by industrial technology offering solutions that were previously cost prohibitive.”

[2] “Electrosensitive Testimonials.” We Are The Evidence. 2018. Accessed January 1, 2019. http://wearetheevidence.org/adults-who-developed-electro-sensitivity/. “WATE intends to expose the suppressed epidemic of sickness, suffering and human rights crisis created by wireless technology radiation; elevate the voice of those injured; defend and secure their rights and compel society and governments to take corrective actions and inform the public of the harm.”

[3] Glaser, Lt. Z. “Cumulated Index to the Bibliography of Reported Biological Phenomena (‘effects’) and Clinical Manifestations Attributed to Microwave and Radio-frequency Radiation: Report, Supplements (no. 1-9).” BEMS Newsletter B-1 through B-464 (1984). Accessed January 1, 2019. http://www.cellphonetaskforce.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Zory-Glasers-index.pdf. Lt. Zorach Glaser, PhD, catalogued 5,083 studies, books and conference reports for the US Navy through 1981.

[4] “Space Sustainability: A Practical Guide.” Secure World Foundation, 2014, 21. Accessed January 1, 2019. https://swfound.org/media/206289/swf_space_sustainability-a_practical_guide_2018__1.pdf.

“However, as more countries integrate space into their national military capabilities and rely on space-based information for national security, there is an increased chance that any interference (either actual or perceived) with satellites could spark or escalate tensions and conflict in space or on Earth. This is made all the more difficult by the challenge of determining the exact cause of a satellite malfunction: whether it was due to a space weather event, impact by space debris, unintentional interference, or deliberate act of aggression.”

[5] “Space Law: Liability for Space Debris.” Panish, Shea & Boyle LLP. 2018. Accessed January 1, 2019. https://www.aviationdisasterlaw.com/liability-for-space-debris/. “Filing a lawsuit against SpaceX for space debris is a little different than one against the commercial industry or state-sponsored launch. Since SpaceX is a private company, injured parties can file claims directly against the establishment in accord with the state’s personal injury laws. For the claim to be successful, the plaintiff will have to prove that SpaceX was negligent in some way that caused the space debris collision. Space law is notoriously complex, making it very difficult for injured parties to recover for [sic] their damages in California.”

[6] Von Der Dunk, Frans G. “Liability versus Responsibility in Space Law: Misconception or Misconstruction?” University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law: Space, Cyber, and Telecommunications Law Program Faculty Publications 21 (1992). Accessed January 1, 2019. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/spacelaw/21/?utm_source=digitalcommons.unl.edu/spacelaw/21&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages.

[7] Kessler, D. J., P. M. Landry, B. G. Cour-Palais, and R. E. Taylor. “Aerospace: Collision Avoidance in Space: Proliferating Payloads and Space Debris Prompt Action to Prevent Accidents.” IEEE Spectrum 17, no. 6 (1980): 37-41.

[8] Morgan, L. Lloyd, Santosh Kesari, and Devra Lee Davis. “Why Children Absorb More Microwave Radiation than Adults: The Consequences.” Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure 2, no. 4 (December 2014): 197-204. Accessed January 1, 2019. https://www.sciencedirect.com/ science/article/pii/S2213879X14000583. Highlights: (1) Children absorb more microwave radiation (MWR) than adults. (2) MWR is a Class 2B (possible) carcinogen. (3) The fetus is in greater danger than children from exposure to MWR. (4) The legal exposure limits have remained unchanged for decades. (5) Cellphone manuals warnings and the 20 cm rule for tablets/laptops violate the “normal operating position” regulation.

[9] Electro Hypersensitivity: Talking to Your Doctor. PDF. Canadian Initiative to Stop Wireless, Electric, and Electromagnetic Pollution. http://weepinitiative.org/talkingtoyourdoctor.pdf.

[10] FCC Chairman on 5G: “We won’t study it, regulate it, have standards for it.” Youtube. June 20, 2016. Accessed January 1, 2019. www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bwgwe01SIMc. Notes in video: Ultra-high frequency radiation (24 to 100 GHz or more); aimed and amplified signals; massive deployment of towers; worth billions; no standards, no testing; sharing with satellite and military operations; all areas (including rural areas) to be saturated with radiation; all local deployments to be fast-tracked; everything to be microchipped.

[11] Dariusz Leszczynski, PhD. “Is ICNIRP Reliable Enough to Dictate Meaning of Science to the Governmental Risk Regulators?” Between a Rock and a Hard Place (blog), April 8, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019. https://betweenrockandhardplace.wordpress.com/type/gallery/. “The major problems of ICNIRP are: (1) it is a “private club” where members elect new members without need to justify selection; (2) lack of accountability before anyone; (3) lack of transparency of their activities; (4) complete lack of supervision of its activities; (5) skewed science evaluation because of the close similarity of the opinions of all members of the Main Commission and all of the other scientists selected as advisors to the Main Commission.”

[12] Matthes, Rüdiger. “EMF Safety Guidelines: The ICNIRP View.” International Telecommunications Union Workshop on Human Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields, May 9, 2013. Accessed January 1, 2019. https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/climatechange/emf-1305/Documents/Presentations/s2part1p1-Rued igerMatthes.pdf.

[13] ITU Telecommunication Development Sector Study Group 2: Session on Modern Policies, Guidelines, Regulations and Assessments of Human Exposure to RF-EMF. Session 1: Recent Activities on Human Exposure to RF-EMF in ITU and ICNIRP, Geneva, Switzerland. October 10, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019. www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Study-Groups/2018-2021/Pages/ meetings/session-Q7-2-oct18.aspx. “Session 1 will discuss some of the recent activities held in ITU and describe the latest updates to the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection) guidelines.”

[14] Martin L. Pall, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences, Washington State University. Response to 2018 ICNIRP Draft Guidelines and Appendices on Limiting Exposure to Time-Varying Electric, Magnetic and Electromagnetic Fields (100 KHz to 300 GHz). October 8, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019. www.5gexposed.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/FINAL-Martin-L-Pall-Response-to-2018-Draft-Guidelines-8.10.18.pdf.

[15] Cooperation Agreement Between The International Criminal Police Organization Interpol and The International Telecommunication Union. Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-18) Dubai 29 October–16 November 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019. https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-s/md/18/pp/c/S18-PP-C-0047!!MSW-E.docx. “2. In implementing the Agreement, each Party shall act within their respective areas of competence. More specifically, the implementation of the Agreement by ITU shall not exceed beyond its mandate pertaining to building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, in accordance to Plenipotentiary Conference Resolution 130 (Rev. Busan, 2014) and to its role on child online protection in accordance to Plenipotentiary Conference Resolution 179 (Rev. Busan, 2014), whereas the implementation of the Agreement by INTERPOL shall not exceed its mandate as defined by article 2 of its Constitution which include activities pertaining to cybercrime and online child exploitation”. (emphasis added)

[16] Hallmann C.A., M. Sorg and E. Jongejans. “More than 75 per cent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas.” PLOS One 12, no. 10 (2017): e0185809. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185809&type=printable. Accessed January 1, 2019.

[17] Laville, Sandra. “Millions of Trees at Risk in Secretive Network Rail Felling Programme.” The Guardian, April 29, 2018. Accessed January 1, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/ apr/29/millions-of-trees-at-risk-in-secretive-network-rail-felling-programme.

[18] May, Todd. “Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?” The New York Times, December 17, 2018. Accessed January 1, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/17/opinion/human-extinction-climate-change.html.

[19] Davis, Nicola. “Falling total fertility rate should be welcomed, population expert says: figures showing declining birth rates are ‘cause for celebration’, not alarm.” The Guardian, December 26, 2018. Accessed January 3, 2019. www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/26/falling-total-fertility-rate-should-be-welcomed-population-expert-says.

[20] “Planet Earth: Worldwide 5G Radiation from Orbit?” Letter from Claus Scheingraber, Roland Wolff and others to Elon Musk. June 18, 2018. Brunnthal, Germany. “… We are sure that your satellite project is already at an advanced stage. But even if much money has been invested, one should consider that it is only a matter of time until the fact of damaging health potential of mobile communications – and especially of 5G-mobile communication – can no longer we overlooked. Therefore we emphatically recommend not to implement the satellite project.” (Letter in German) (Letter in English)

This article was first published by Sott.net and Global Research in December 2016.

The simmering tit-for-tat has kept the issue of election meddling burning bright in the national spotlight, fueled even further by the belief among U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia wanted to help Donald Trump capture the presidency. Yet neither country is a stranger when it comes to directly trying to sway the election of other nations. In fact, the U.S. has a long and stunning history of attempting to influence foreign presidential electionsrecent research by political scientist Dov Levin shows. 

Levin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie-Mellon University, found that the U.S. attempted to influence the elections of foreign countries as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000.

Comment: That’s just till 2000! The US has gone nuts since then.

Often covert in their execution, these efforts included everything from CIA operatives running successful presidential campaigns in the Philippines during the 1950s to leaking damaging information on Marxist Sandanistas in order to sway Nicaraguan voters in 1990. All told, the U.S. allegedly targeted the elections of 45 nations across the globe during this periodLevin’s research shows. In the case of some countries, such as Italy and Japanthe U.S. attempted to intervene in four or more separate elections.

Levin’s figures do not include military coups or regime change attempts following the election of a candidate the U.S. opposed, such as when the CIA helped overthrow Mohammad Mosaddeq, Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, in 1953.

Comment: If we add those in, we’re looking at the entire Earth having suffered from US meddling.

He defines an electoral intervention as “a costly act which is designed to determine the election results [in favor of] one of the two sides.” According to Levin’s research, that includes: peddling misinformation or propaganda; creating campaign material for preferred candidates or parties; providing or withdrawing foreign aid, and; making public announcements that threaten or favor certain candidates. Often, it also includes the U.S. covertly delivering large sums of cash, as was the case in elections in Japan, Lebanon, Italy, and other countries.

To build his database, Levin says he relied on declassified U.S. intelligence as well as a number of Congressional reports on CIA activity. He also combed through what he considered reliable histories of the CIA and covert American activity, as well as academic research on U.S. intelligence, diplomatic histories of the Cold War, and memoirs of former CIA officials. Much of America’s meddling in foreign elections has been well-documented – Chile in the 1960sHaiti in the 1990s. But Malta in 1971? According to Levin’s study, the U.S. attempted to “goose” the tiny Mediterranean island’s economy in the months leading up to its election that year.

Much of the America’s electoral meddling occurred throughout the Cold War as a response to containing Soviet influence through the spread of supposed leftist proxies, the findings suggest. And to be clear, the U.S. wasn’t the only one trying to sway foreign elections. By Levin’s count, Russia attempted to interfere in other countries’ elections 36 times between the end of World War II and the end of the 20th century, bringing the total number of electoral interventions by the two countries to 117 during that period.

Comment: That’s why it was cunningly smart of the US deep state to take this tack when it became apparent to them this time last year that Trump was going to win and their globalist agenda was going to take a hit: Russia (the USSR) has a track record of doing this, so it’s sort of plausible-ish that Putin has revived the practice (he hasn’t – he doesn’t need to).

Yet even after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the U.S. continued its interventions abroad, including elections in Israel, former Czechoslovakia, and even Russia in 1996, Levin found. Since 2000, the U.S. has attempted to sway elections in Ukraine, Kenya, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, among others.

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