Archive | May 15th, 2014

Spying is Meant to Crush Citizens’ Dissent, not Catch Terrorists


The Big Secret Behind the Spying Program

Global Research

While many Americans understand why the NSA is conducting mass surveillance of U.S. citizens, some are still confused about what’s really going on.

In his new book, No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald writes:

The perception that invasive surveillance is confined only to a marginalised and deserving group of those “doing wrong” – the bad people – ensures that the majority acquiesces to the abuse of power or even cheers it on. But that view radically misunderstands what goals drive all institutions of authority. “Doing something wrong” in the eyes of such institutions encompasses far more than illegal acts, violent behaviour and terrorist plots. It typically extends to meaningful dissent and any genuine challenge. It is the nature of authority to equate dissent with wrongdoing, or at least with a threat.

The record is suffused with examples of groups and individuals being placed under government surveillance by virtue of their dissenting views and activism – Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, anti-war activists, environmentalists. In the eyes of the government and J Edgar Hoover’s FBI, they were all “doing something wrong”: political activity that threatened the prevailing order.

The FBI’s domestic counterintelligence programme, Cointelpro, was first exposed by a group of anti-war activists who had become convinced that the anti-war movement had been infiltrated, placed under surveillance and targeted with all sorts of dirty tricks. Lacking documentary evidence to prove it and unsuccessful in convincing journalists to write about their suspicions, they broke into an FBI branch office in Pennsylvania in 1971 and carted off thousands of documents.

Files related to Cointelpro showed how the FBI had targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, black nationalist movements, socialist and communist organizations, anti-war protesters and various rightwing groups. The bureau had infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them.

Those revelations led to the creation of the Senate Church Committee, which concluded: “[Over the course of 15 years] the bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilate operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of first amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.”

These incidents were not aberrations of the era. During the Bush years, for example, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed, as the group put it in 2006, “new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups“. The Pentagon was “keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database”. The evidence shows that assurances that surveillance is only targeted at those who “have done something wrong” should provide little comfort, since a state will reflexively view any challenge to its power as wrongdoing.

The opportunity those in power have to characterise political opponents as “national security threats” or even “terrorists” has repeatedly proven irresistible. In the past decade, the government, in an echo of Hoover’s FBI, has formally so designatedenvironmental activists, broad swaths of anti-government rightwing groups, anti-war activists, and associations organised around Palestinian rights. Some individuals within those broad categories may deserve the designation, but undoubtedly most do not, guilty only of holding opposing political views. Yet such groups are routinely targeted for surveillance by the NSA and its partners.

One document from the Snowden files, dated 3 October 2012, chillingly underscores the point. It revealed that the agency has been monitoring the online activities of individuals it believes express “radical” ideas and who have a “radicalising” influence on others.


The NSA explicitly states that none of the targeted individuals is a member of a terrorist organisation or involved in any terror plots. Instead, their crime is the views they express, which are deemed “radical“, a term that warrants pervasive surveillance and destructive campaigns to “exploit vulnerabilities”.

Among the information collected about the individuals, at least one of whom is a “US person”, are details of their online sex activities and “online promiscuity” – the porn sites they visit and surreptitious sex chats with women who are not their wives. The agency discusses ways to exploit this information to destroy their reputations and credibility.

The NSA’s treatment of Anonymous, as well as the vague category of people known as “hacktivists”, is especially troubling and extreme. That’s because Anonymous is not actually a structured group but a loosely organised affiliation of people around an idea: someone becomes affiliated with Anonymous by virtue of the positions they hold. Worse still, the category “hacktivists” has no fixed meaning: it can mean the use of programming skills to undermine the security and functioning of the internetbut can also refer to anyone who uses online tools to promote political ideals. That the NSA targets such broad categories of people is tantamount to allowing it to spy on anyone anywhere, including in the US, whose ideas the government finds threatening.

Greenwald told Democracy Now yesterday:

People are aware of J. Edgar Hoover’s abuses. The nature of that series of events is that the United States government looks at people who oppose what they do as being, quote-unquote, “threats.” That’s the nature of power, is to regard anybody who’s a threat to your power as a broad national security threat.


There has already been reporting that shows that—the document, for example, in the book that shows the NSA plotting about how to use information that it collected against people it considers, quote, “radicalizers.” These are people the NSA itself says are not terrorists, do not belong to terrorist organizations, do not plan terrorist attacks. They simply express ideas the NSA considers radical. The NSA has collected their online sexual activity, chats of a sexual nature that they’ve had, pornographic websites that they visit, and plans, in the document, on how to use this information publicly to destroy the reputations or credibility of those people to render them ineffective as advocates. There are other documents showing the monitoring of who visits the WikiLeaks website and the collection of data that can identify who they are. There’s information about how to use deception to undermine people who are affiliated with the online activism group Anonymous.

Recent stories show that Greenwald is right:

And it’s not just spying …

The government may treat anyone who challenges its policies as terrorists.  For example:

The indefinite detention law may be used against American dissenters. Specifically, the trial judge in the lawsuit challenging the law had asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Chris Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge.

Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead writes:

No matter what the Obama administration may say to the contrary, actions speak louder than words, and history shows that the U.S. government is not averse to locking up its own citizens for its own purposes. What the NDAA does is open the door for the government to detain as a threat to national security anyone viewed as a troublemaker. According to government guidelines for identifying domestic extremists—a word used interchangeably with terrorists, that technically applies to anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in order to criticize the government.

Daniel Ellsberg notes that Obama’s claim of power to indefinitely detain people without charges or access to a lawyer or the courts is a power that even King George – the guy we fought the Revolutionary War against – didn’t claim (And former judge and adjunct professor of constitutional law Andrew Napolitano points out that Obama’s claim that he can indefinitely detain prisoners even after they are acquitted of their crimes is a power that even Hitler and Stalin didn’t claim.)

And the former top NSA official who created NSA’s mass surveillance system says, We are now in a police state“.

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History: The Power Struggle in Ukraine and America’s Strategy for Global Supremacy

Global Research

In 1997, former US security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski published a book entitled The Grand Chessboard that attracted considerable attention and treated America’s strategy for global supremacy. By chessboard, Brzezinski meant Eurasia, the enormous land mass comprising two continents and containing the majority of the world’s population.

According to the core thesis of the book, “America’s capacity to exercise global primacy” depends on whether America can prevent “the emergence of a dominant and antagonistic Eurasian power.” Brzezinski then concluded: “Eurasia is thus the chessboard on which the struggle for global primacy continues to be played.”

One should recall these lines in the course of studying the events of the last weeks in Ukraine. Should the Western-oriented Viktor Yushchenko–a man bound to the US by a myriad of political and economic ties–succeed in becoming president, then the US would occupy a strategically important, possibly crucial position on Brzezinski’s global chessboard.

If one regards American foreign policy towards Russia over the last 15 years in its entirety, then one finds one noteworthy constant. Independent of the ups and downs of bilateral relations–at times close, on other occasions strained–the US has worked systematically to contain the collection of states that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union. For more than four decades, the Soviet Union had formed the most important obstacle to the unrestricted world domination of American imperialism–now the US was at pains to ensure that under no circumstances could Russia ever play a remotely comparable role.

The first Iraq war in 1991 already undermined to a large extent the influence of Moscow in the Middle East. The same process took place in the Balkans following the war on Serbia in 1999 in the Balkans. In 2001, in the context of the Afghanistan invasion, the US established military bases for the first time in former Soviet republics and emerged as a presence in Central Asia. Since then, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and to some extent Azerbaijan have allied themselves to the US. One year ago, they helped lift a rabidly pro-Western regime to power in Georgia. In Europe, most members of the former Warsaw Pact, including the former Baltic Soviet republics, have now joined NATO and the European Union. Should Ukraine now switch to the Western camp, Russia would be largely isolated.

In his book of seven years ago, Brzezinski had already referred in this respect to the relevance of Ukraine. Its secession, he wrote, would drastically curtail Russia’s geopolitical options. “Even without the Baltic states and Poland, a Russia that retained control over Ukraine could still seek to be the leader of an assertive Eurasian empire…. But without Ukraine and its 52 million fellow Slavs, any attempt by Moscow to rebuild the Eurasian empire was likely to leave Russia entangled alone in protracted conflicts with the nationally and religiously aroused non-Slavs, the war with Chechnya perhaps simply being the first example.”

The Stratfor news web site, which has close links to the American intelligence apparatus, revived this analysis following the recent struggle for power in Ukraine. In an analysis of recent events, Stratfor concludes that the secession of Ukraine not only weakens Moscow with regard to foreign policy, but also, “without Ukraine, Russia’s political, economic and military survivability are called into question.” The Stratfor report continues: “To say Russia is at a turning point is a gross understatement. Without Ukraine, Russia is doomed to a painful slide into geopolitical obsolescence and ultimately, perhaps even non-existence.”

With nearly 50 million inhabitants, Ukraine is, after Russia, by far the biggest of the successor states of the Soviet Union. Russia has about three times as many inhabitants. Ukraine is connected to Russia not only by a lengthy common history, extending back to the Kiev Rus in the ninth Century, but also close economic relations. Russia is by far its largest trading partner. During the past 300 years, the largest part of today’s Ukraine was either Russian or Soviet national territory, or both. During this period a considerable exchange of population took place. Seventeen percent of the Ukrainian population are of Russian descent and nearly half the population speaks Russian. The heavy industry of the Eastern Ukraine, developed under the Soviet regime, is closely linked with its Russian counterpart. The dissolution of these links would have damaging consequences for both countries.

An additional factor is the strategic significance of Ukraine. Eighty percent of Russian gas and oil exports to Europe–its most important source of foreign exchange–flows through Ukrainian pipelines. The main base of the Russian Black Sea fleet, Sebastopol, is also situated on Ukrainian national territory.

“It would not take a war to greatly damage Russian interests, simply a change in Ukraine’s geopolitical orientation. A Westernised Ukraine would not so much be a dagger poised at the heart of Russia as it would be a jackhammer in constant operation,” according to Stratfor. A possible consequence, according to the news service, is a more aggressive foreign policy on the part of Russia as well as powerful domestic shocks in the course of which “millions of people could die.”

The parallels to the Balkans are obvious here. The break-up of Yugoslavia left the country in ruins, wracked by continuous ethnic tensions and hatred, which regularly erupt into violence. Corrupt regimes with connections to organised crime predominate, and bitter poverty and unemployment are widespread. Germany and the US went to considerable lengths to promote the downfall of Yugoslavia, by supporting the independence of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. The mini-states, which resulted from the break-up of Yugoslavia, are incapable of independent economic or political existence, but can, however, be manipulated and controlled by the Great Powers as desired.

The war against the remnants of Yugoslavia served to finally smash the last remaining political structure in the region that retained a certain political independence–notwithstanding the reactionary character of the Milosevic regime. It is characteristic that the movement, which eventually brought the pro-European Union and US regime to power in Belgrade, now serves as a model for the opposition in Kiev.

Asserting influence on Ukraine

For a long time, the aim of American foreign policy has been to drive a wedge between Russia and Ukraine and draw the latter into NATO. (I will not deal here with the role of European powers; that requires its own article.) In 1997, Brzezinski referred in his book to “[T]he growing American inclination, especially by 1994, to assign a high priority to help Ukraine sustain its new national freedom.”

In January 2003, the US Ambassador in Kiev, Carlos Pascual, gave a lecture to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on American-Ukrainian relations. He posed the question: “Should Ukraine belong in the Euro-Atlantic community?” and answered without reservation in the affirmative.

John Herbst, who replaced Pascual as ambassador in September 2004, made the same point at his confimation hearing before a US Senate committee. He stated that “Ensuring the integration of Ukraine into the Euro-Atlantic community” was a critical foreign policy goal.

Herbst promised, “If confirmed, I will make it a priority to do what I can to ensure that the Ukrainian authorities allow for a level playing field for presidential candidates and that election preparations and the election itself are carried out in a free and fair manner. Having an electoral process that meets OSCE [Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe] standards and a result that reflects the will of the people is vital to the success of Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO and to move closer to the European Union.”

The irony of these remarks can scarcely have been lost on the assembled senators. At the time of the hearing, Herbst represented the US as ambassador to Uzbekistan, whose autocratically dominant president, Islam Karimov, a former secretary of the Communist Party, maintains friendly relations with Washington. Despite the fact that Uzbek elections do not correspond in the slightest to OSCE standards and opposition parties have been banned for 10 years, Karimov receives several hundred million dollars annually from America. In return, he put a military base at the disposal of the US for its war against neighbouring Afghanistan. When Herbst left his post shortly after the senate hearing in Tashkent, Karimov awarded him the “Order of Friendship,” while the departing ambassador praised the president as “a very strong and wise person.”

While Herbst’s references to “free and fair” elections were nothing more than empty rhetoric, his promise to interfere with all his might in the Ukrainian elections was meant with utter seriousness. In the past two years alone, the American government has spent more than 65 million dollars to help the Ukrainian opposition to power. This has been confirmed within the past few days by government representatives. Additional millions came from private donators such as the Soros Foundation, and European governments.

Naturally, these funds flowed indirectly to political parties. As the US government stresses, they were made available to serve in general the “promotion of democracy.” It is an open secret that such funds benefited the opposition almost exclusively. The money went to institutes and non-governmental organisations that advise the opposition, assist it with the most modern technical aids and advertising techniques, and train election helpers. Visits paid by opposition leader Yushchenko to American politicians were also financed with these funds. Also funded in the same manner were the voter opinion polls, which were then held up as proof of election fraud by the government camp.

As well as exercising a general influence in the elections ,these funds also serve to deepen corruption. Even if one excludes direct bribery, such sums in a country where average monthly wages are between $30 and $100 must have a corrupting effect. Whoever has access to the financial means available to the opposition is able to ascend socially. Yushchenko was able to profit personally from this process. He sits on the supervisory board of the International Centre for Policy Studies, a think tank financed by US government funds.

How the change of power in Ukraine was prepared

While the US has sought for a long time to remove Ukraine from the sphere of Russian influence, its support for the opposition around Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko is of more recent origin. More precisely, this opposition only developed when serious tensions emerged between the US government and long-time Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.

Kuchma, who replaced Leonid Kravchuk in 1994 as president, was quite prepared to work closely with the US and the European Union. He cooperated fully with the International Monetary Fund, expressed himself in favour of European Union membership and even lodged a formal request in May 2002 for NATO membership. Ukraine also sent its own troops to Iraq, to support the American occupation of the country.

Kuchma was always forced, however, to maintain a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, he worked against the break-up of Ukraine into an eastern region oriented to Russia and a western half of the country that looked to the West–a threat that hung in the air continuously after Ukraine established its independence. On the other hand, he had to take into account the country’s strong economic dependence on Russia. In particular, the Ukrainian power supply depends nearly completely on Russian oil and gas.

Kuchma made absolutely clear, however, that he was determined to maintain the independence of Ukraine, which is the guarantor of the wealth of the national elite. The dissolution of the Soviet Union, which had been sealed by Kuchma’s predecessor Kravchuk together with the Russian president Boris Yeltsin and Belarus’s Stanislav Shushkevic at the end of 1991, created the conditions for the concentration of social wealth in the hands of a few clans of oligarchs. This policy of “unrestrained privatisation” swept through Ukraine and Russia during the 1990s and was unreservedly supported by the Great Powers.

Kuchma is closely connected with the oligarch clan of his hometown Dnipropetrovsk, which is led by his son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk. Pinchuk is regarded as the boss of the oligarch clans of Donetsk and is the second-richest man in of the country after Rinat Achmetov.

The leader of the opposition, Viktor Yushchenko, stood loyally at the side of Kuchma during the period of privatisation. In 1993, he took over as president of the Ukrainian central bank and acted as the country’s contact man for international finance. In 1999, he was appointed prime minister by Kuchma. The second leading figure in the opposition, Yulia Tymoshenko, followed in the wake of Kuchma’s Dnipropetrovsk clan into high government office. She was a member of the Yushchenko government and made millions through dealing in natural gas.

Kuchma dismissed Yushchenko in April 2001. His policy of opening the country up to international capital through reform of the energy sector encountered resistance from the clans of oligarchs in the east of the country. After a temporary solution, Kuchma finally appointed the scion of the Donetsk clan, Viktor Yanukovich, as prime minister.

Nevertheless, the US still refused to exclude any and all cooperation with Kuchma and Yanukovich. In the autumn of 2003, both men visited the US. Kuchma met with President George W. Bush, while Yanukovich was received by Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials. A year before, a meeting of ministers in Prague had agreed upon a timetable for Ukraine’s admission into NATO.

However, tensions developed that finally pushed Kuchma more closely in the direction of Moscow and were crucial in the decision by the US to give substantial support to the opposition candidate.

First, there was the so-called Kolchuga affair. Two years ago, Washington accused Kuchma of personally certifying sales of the early warning system Kolchuga to Iraq.

In contrast to conventional radar systems, the Ukrainian early warning system works passively and cannot be located by the airplanes it has detected. With a range of 800 kilometres, it is considered to be the most effective of its kind. Iraqi defence batteries would have been able to detect oncoming US planes without giving away their own location.

Supported by the US accusations, a Kiev judge launched an investigation into Kuchma’s activity on suspicion of corruption, misuse of power and arms trafficking with Iraq. He was supported by the Ukrainian opposition. The supreme court, however, intervened to stop the procedure.

Kuchma always rejected the accusations made by the US government, and no proof was ever found that the Kolchuga system was supplied to Iraq. Nevertheless, relations between Ukraine and the US deteriorated in 2002 as a result of the affair. Kuchma tried once again to improve relations in the following year by dispatching Ukrainian troops to Iraq–a decision that met with broad popular opposition.

Oil and gas

A second point at issue is the control and use of Ukraine’s oil and gas pipelines. For Russia, Ukraine is the most important transit country for its oil and gas exports. The large pipelines, built since the 1970s, linking Soviet oil and gas fields and western Europe, make their way across Ukrainian territory. For their part, the US and the European Union have sought for some time to establish a transportation route for oil from the Caspian region that bypasses Russia, using Ukraine for this purpose.

A pipeline has been built extending from Odessa to Brody, connecting the Black Sea to the Polish border. Caspian oil can now be pumped through Georgia to the Black Sea, and after a short transit by sea directly to Polish refineries, and from there to Europe. Both Russia and the bottleneck represented by the Bosporus strait are bypassed en route.

The pipeline, 674 kilometres in length, was completed in May 2002, with the support of the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown, and has since then stood empty. The pipeline is waiting for oil from the Caspian region as well as the connecting pipeline in Poland, which still has to be built.

Eventually, the Ukrainian government negotiated with Russian oil companies over use of the pipeline in the reverse direction. Russian oil could thereby be shipped from Odessa over the Black Sea and exported to the world market. For a period of five months, a section of the pipeline was actually used for this purpose. Then alarm bells began to ring in Washington. Cheney personally pressed Yanukovich during his visit to Washington to refuse to agree to the use of the pipeline in the opposite direction. In February of this year, the cabinet in Kiev finally passed an appropriate resolution. Since then, the pipeline has been inoperative.

The influence of Russian energy companies in Ukraine is also regarded with concern by Washington. Two years ago, ambassador Carlos Pascual sharply criticised the Gazprom company (which has links to the Russian state) at a meeting of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. One has the impression, he said, that Russian companies received investment possibilities “without paying the full value of the assets that they are investing in, which is not good for Ukraine.”

Herbst went on: “[T]here are a couple of examples recently that, I think, are to Ukraine’s strategic disadvantage, particularly in the gas and oil sector. In the recent agreement that was signed between Gazprom and Naftogaz [Ukraine’s national gas and oil company] on the development of an international consortium, that agreement…specifically states that those two companies together must decide on any management proposals for an international consortium to control Ukraine’s international gas transit system. In other words, Gazprom has a veto over what Ukraine wants to do in the management of its gas transit system. Gazprom cannot be happier: This has been one of the things that they have been seeking to get since 1992.”

There can be no doubt that Washington’s interests will be better protected by Yushchenko than by Yanukovich, who is supported by Moscow. In addition, Yushchenko has emphasised his attachment to the values of “the rule of law” and the free-market economy–shorthand for security and guarantees for foreign investment funds.

Conflicts between the Great Powers

US ambitions for global supremacy are encompassing ever-larger parts of the globe. In the course of the struggle for the Ukrainian presidency, American and Russian interests have clashed in a manner and sharpness that vividly recall the period of the Cold War. Following the bloody conflict in the Balkans and the forcible subjection of Iraq, Ukraine and Russia itself threaten to become the scene of violent struggles.

European–and above all, German–interests are also directly affected by the change of power in Ukraine, and, in the longer term, the two rising Asiatic great powers, China and India, are also involved. In addition to purely geostrategic criteria, another issue just as important for the world economy of the twenty-first century lies at the heart of this conflict–control of the worldwide power supply of oil and gas. In this respect, the significance of the issues fought out in Ukraine recall the conflicts that erupted in Europe at the start of the twentieth century over control of mineral resources.

If one considers the fact that the European Union receives nearly 20 percent of its oil and 44 percent of its gas imports from Russia, with 80 percent of these products passing through Ukrainian pipelines, then the significance of the balance of power in Ukraine for the economic future of Europe becomes clear.

As is well known, conflicts over the mineral ore reserves of Lorraine and the coal of the Ruhr district contributed largely to the outbreak of the First World War. The situation with regard to international energy and transport routes is just as explosive today. For the time being, the disputes are still being conducted on a political level, characterised by manoeuvres and tactical shifts. But all the conditions for a further escalation are present. America’s strategy for supremacy threatens to plunge mankind into a maelstrom that will make the current Iraq war appear relatively benign.

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New York Times War on Truth

Global Research
Why Everyone Should Occupy US 1% Corporate Media: They Lie

The so-called “newspaper of record” is an establishment broadsheet. It represents wealth, power and privilege.

It’s America’s lead instrument of state propaganda. It marches in lockstep with official US policy.

It’s a virtual Washington house organ. A lying machine. A de facto ministry of state misinformation.

Vital truths are buried. Managed news rubbish substitutes. Core journalistic ethics are violated. Readers are systematically lied to.

They deserve better. They’re cheated on what matters most. They’re betrayed.

It bears repeating what previous articles stressed. All the news fit to print isn’t fit to read.

Famed Chicago columnist Mike Royko (1932- 1997) once said “no self-respecting fish would (want to) be wrapped in a Murdoch paper…” Or the NYT he might have added.

Its war on truth persists. It’s regular daily fare. It’s featured. It’s deplorable. It’s longstanding. It’s fundamental Times policy.

When America wages lawless aggression or plans it, Times correspondents, contributors and editors march in lock step.

When Washington replaces democratic leaders with despots, official Times policy endorses what demands denunciation.

Ukraine is Exhibit A. In February, Washington elevated fascist putschists to power. They replaced democratic leadership.

They did so illegitimately. Times editors cheerled their lawlessness. They continue doing so.

They pretend fascist extremists are democrats. They bury truth in the process. They systematically turn it on its head.

They twist reality to fit US policy. They irresponsibly bash Putin daily.

On May 12, they headlined “What Mr. Putin Can’t Control.” They claimed legitimate free, fair, open democratic Eastern Ukrainian referendums were “farcical.”

They blamed Putin for US-instigated Ukrainian crisis conditions. He’s gone all-out to resolve them diplomatically. Not according to Times editors.

They lied claiming his real aim is “to transform Ukraine into a federation under a weak and neutral Kiev government permanently dependent on Russia.”

He’ll impose “unacceptable demands…Ukraine is broke…(He’s) claiming unrealistically large payments to continue supplying natural gas.”

His hand isn’t “all aces. He must be aware that any Russian military drive into southeastern Ukraine would entail bloody resistance” and much more.

“…Mr. Putin is not immune to the damage done to his reputation, especially in Germany, the European country he seems to care most about.”

Fact: Putin has no territorial ambitions.

Fact: He respects Ukrainian sovereignty.

Fact: He does so for all nations.

Fact: He supports real democracy.

Fact: He opposes coup d’etat illegitimacy.

Fact: So should everyone.

Fact: He made no “unacceptable demands.”

Fact: He “claim(s) (no) unrealistically large” gas payments.

Fact: In mid-April, he said Ukraine’s gas debt reached a “critical” level.

Fact: It was unpaid for three months.

Fact: He wants addressing it prioritized.

Fact: He wants payment for natural gas provided.

Fact: Companies don’t supply products and services free of charge.

Fact: Or nations from state enterprises.

Fact: Since Soviet Russia’s dissolution, Moscow guaranteed Ukraine cut-rate-priced natural gas.

Fact: Uninterrupted transit through its territory was assured.

Fact: Russia fulfilled all its contractual obligations.

Fact: Ukraine putschists violated theirs systematically.

Fact: Russia continued providing unprecedented natural gas discounts.

Fact: From 2009 to today, they totaled $17 billion. Plus another $18.4 billion incurred by Kiev as a minimal take-or-pay fine.

Fact: Russia subsidized Ukraine’s economy generously.

Fact: It went way out of its way doing it.

Fact: Since 2009, it provided $34.4 billion.

Fact: It helped preserve stability and credibility.

Fact: It saved jobs.

Fact: Russia alone showed this type generosity.

Fact: EU nations denied support.

Fact: So did Washington.

Fact: They seek to exploit.

Fact: They’re imposing harsh IMF diktats.

Fact: They’ll wreck Ukraine’s economy.

Fact: They’ll hollow it out entirely.

Fact: They’ll deeply impoverish millions in the process.

Fact: They want Ukrainian resources plundered.

Fact: They want its state enterprises sold to Western corporate predators and fire sale prices.

Fact: They created a huge Ukrainian trade imbalance.

Fact: It exceeds $10 billion.

Fact: It’s two-thirds of Ukraine’s 2013 deficit.

Fact: It negatively affects Ukraine’s ability to fulfill its contactual obligations for Russian natural gas.

Fact: Moscow alone is forced to bear an unreasonable burden.

Fact: Ukraine’s gas debt grows monthly.

Fact: It’s done so by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Fact: No longer.

Fact: Beginning mid-May, supplies provided must be pre-paid.

Fact: Overly generous discounts ended.

Fact: They should have long ago.

Fact: Gazprom deserves fair prices.

Fact: What other customers pay.

Fact: It’s not in business to be cheated.

Fact: Don’t expect Times editors to explain.

“The OSCE must set out its road plan as soon as possible, and the Germans, above all others, must make clear to Mr. Putin that they won’t be lulled by more false promises,” they said.

“(T)hat unless he clears the way for presidential elections on May 25, gets his minions in southeastern Ukraine in line and really pulls back his armies, the European Union and the United States will impose sanctions that will cut Russia off for a long time from Western sources of technology, arms and finance.”

Fact: On May 7, Putin and OSCE head Didier Burkhalter met.

Fact: They discussed roadmap principles.

Fact: They did so to resolve Ukraine’s crisis diplomatically.

Fact: They did what Washington deplores.

Fact: Steps proposed include halting hostilities, deescalating tensions, establishing dialogue, and holding free, fair, open democratic elections.

Fact: On the one hand, Putin called planned Ukrainian presidential elections “a movement in the right direction.”

Fact: On the other, he said they’ll “settle nothing if all Ukrainian citizens will not understand how their rights will be guaranteed after” elections are held.

Fact: Kiev putschists reacted negatively to OSCE principles.

Fact: They scorn diplomacy.

Fact: They abhor responsible national dialogue.

Fact: They want their way imposed.

Fact: They want fascist rule.

Fact: Washington is going all-out to perpetuate conflict.

Fact: Planned May 25 Kiev elections will be farcical when held.

Fact: Obama wants pro-Western stooges running Ukraine.

Fact: He wants ordinary Ukrainians having no say.

Fact: He wants Russian diplomatic conflict resolution efforts scuttled.

Fact: He wants total US control.

Fact: He wants Ukraine made another NATO member state.

Fact: He wants US bases encroaching on Russia’s borders.

Fact: He wants long range multiple nuclear armed missiles targeting its heartland.

Fact: He wants Russia eliminated as a major rival.

Fact: He wants pro-Western puppet governance replacing its sovereign independence.

Fact: He wants its resources plundered.

Fact: He wants its people exploited.

Fact: He scorns diplomacy.

Fact: He deplores democracy.

Fact: He tolerates none at home or abroad.

Fact: He prioritizes confrontation.

Fact: He substitutes belligerence for peaceful conflict resolution.

Fact: He’s the most ruthless leader in US history.

Fact: He’s the most dangerous by far.

Fact: He exceeds the worst of his predecessors.

Fact: He’s ideologically over-the-top.

Fact: He’s recklessly out-of-control.

Fact: He risks igniting WW III to achieve his objectives.

It bears repeating. Don’t expect New York Times editors to explain. Endorsing what demands condemnation matters more.

So does daily Russia bashing. Times policy is on the wrong side of history. World peace hangs in the balance.

A Final Comment

John Pilger’s 2003 documentary “Breaking The Silence: Truth And Lies In The War on Terror” exposed US “war on terror” Big Lies.

Washington’s actions “have nothing to do with fighting terrorism,” he said. They’re “part of an opened-ended war” on freedom.

It rages for unchallenged US “global dominance…” It’s for plundering world resources. It reflects state terrorism writ large.

Pilger asked:

“What are the real aims of this war and who are the most threatening terrorists?”

“Who is responsible for far greater acts of violence than those committed by the fanatics of Al-Qaeda, crimes that have claimed many more lives than September 11th and always in poor, devastated, faraway places?”

His documentary revealed “rapacious imperial power.” It’s about “terrorism that never speaks its name.” Because it’s “our terrorism,” he stressed.

It masquerades as humanitarian intervention. Big Lies substitute for truth.

Pilger’s latest article headlined “Break the Silence: a World War is Beckoning.”

“Why do we tolerate (it) in our name,” he asked? Why do we permit such risk?”

Post-WW II, Western enemy names changed over time. They ranged from “communism to Islamism…”

It’s “any society independent of western power and occupying strategically useful or resource-rich territory.”

It’s leaders are systematically eliminated. Pro-Western stooges replace them.

“Washington’s role in Ukraine is ­different only in its implications for the rest of us,” said Pilger. It’s heading things toward possible world war.

“We in the west are backing neo-Nazis in a country where Ukrainian Nazis backed Hitler.”

Like ravaged and destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, Washington turned Ukraine “into a CIA theme park run by CIA director John Brennan in Kiev, with ‘special units’ from the CIA and FBI setting up a ‘security structure’ that oversees savage attacks on those who opposed the February coup.”

Russian-speaking Ukrainians are endangered. They’re “fighting for survival.” Their enemy is headquartered in Washington.

It maintains satellite branches in other Western capitals, Kiev and elsewhere.

Post-911, things changed. They did so horrifically for the worst. Washington bears full responsibility. Rogue EU/Israeli partners share it.

Lunatics make policy. Madness reflects it. “Rampant militarism now rules,” said Pilger. Liberty is “hemorrhaging” in plain sight.

War on humanity threatens everyone. Potential nuclear war looms. It begs the question, said Pilger. “W)hy do we tolerate” the unthinkable?

Why does madness prevent responsible policy? Daily events should scare everyone.

Upside down reality threatens humanity. Criminality is rewarded. Doing the right thing is punished.

Warmakers win peace prizes. Peace advocates are scorned. They’re targeted for elimination.

Today is the most perilous time in world history. It bears repeating. World peace hangs in the balance.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

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

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

Posted in USAComments Off on New York Times War on Truth

Does I$raHell Have a Right to Exist as a Jewish State?


Ali Abunimah on Reality Asserts Itself (3/5)

Mr. Abunimah says no state exists as an absolute right, but there is a people’s right to self-determination –   May 15, 14

 Ali Abunimah is co-founder of the award-winning online publication The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. His latest book is titled The Battle for Justice in Palestine. Based in Chicago, he has written hundreds of articles on the question of Palestine in major publications including The New York Times, The Guardian and for Al Jazeera.



Does Israel Have a Right to Exist as a Jewish State? - Ali Abunimah on Reality Asserts Itself (3/5)

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network and welcome back to Reality Asserts Itself.

We’re continuing our series of interviews with Ali Abunimah. He’s the founder/codirector of Electronic Intifada, one of the world’s important sites for news and analysis about Palestine.

Thanks for joining us again.

And as I mentioned before, Ali is also the author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, a new book, and in 2006 Our Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

So we’re going to pick up the discussion about Ali’s book. And in chapter two, Ali discusses does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state. And here’s a quote from that chapter:

States either exist or do not exist, as other states either recognize them or they do not. But no other state has claimed the abstract right to exist. If Israel is indeed a normal state among the nations, as its Zionist founders wished it to be, then it has no greater “right to exist” than East Germany, Czechoslovakia, South Vietnam, or the Soviet Union. All those states dissolved, and there’s no one with any standing to bring a case in any form demanding they be resurrected on any abstract right to exist separate from their legitimate residents’ right to self-determination.

So the right of the Jewish state to exist is usually stated as something based in something–what they would say would be unique, which is the Holocaust, or the genocide against Jews in World War II, that–they would argue, I would say, defenders of the Jewish state, that this isn’t like a Soviet Union or any of these other places; because of this genocide, Jews need this state to defend them because of hundreds and, you know, even thousands of years of discrimination in Europe. So what do you make of that argument? ‘Cause they do see the Israeli state as an exceptional case.

ALI ABUNIMAH, COFOUNDER, ELECTRONIC INTIFADA: Well, I actually discuss all those claims in the book and, I think, address them fairly systematically.

But a basic point is that, of course, historically Zionism began–yes, it began as a response to the systematic persecution that Jews faced in Europe. It was rejected by most Jews at the time, and, in fact, for many decades. But it started long before the Holocaust. I mean, the Holocaust would be a sort of a post hoc justification for Zionism, given that the two are separated by many decades.

But I question the claim that the way for Jews to have security and to feel secure is through an exclusivist state that requires so much violence against the Palestinians. And it required immense violence to create it, because, of course, Palestinians were the majority in the area that became Israel. And it requires immense violence to maintain it, because I think Israel’s struggle over the past few decades has been, really, to conceal from the world the amount of violence that is needed to maintain an exclusivist state in a geographic area that didn’t have a Jewish majority, and today, where Jews are at most 50 percent of the population, if not already a minority.

And so this requires you to think about different ways of organizing life so that you don’t have this constant combat to maintain the supremacy of one group over another.

JAY: Well, just to give the argument, I know people–and, obviously, anyone who watches The Real News–not me, but those that support a Jewish state will give the argument, it could happen again, what happened in Europe. And, actually, you can see the rise of fascism in Europe again in Ukraine and in France, and also in Germany and other places. And this idea that’s fairly deeply rooted because of what happened during World War II, certainly in the Israeli public opinion, to some extent in Jews outside of Israel and North America, that there’s this place of refuge–and there’s certainly this idea that this tiny little state is surrounded by this far, far larger Arab population, and only through having essentially a militarized state could you have a safe haven. I mean, that’s the psyche.

ABUNIMAH: Well, there’s a number of claims there. First of all, you have to examine from a moral and ethical point of view the notion that Jewish Americans or Jewish Canadians should have a spare country as an insurance policy when the creation and maintenance of this spare country comes at a brutal price and brutal suffering of its indigenous people, who have to be expelled, kept as refugees, corralled in ghettos like Gaza or Qalqilya, treated as second-class citizens, and constantly demonized. Is that ethically a price that anyone should be asked to pay as an insurance policy for people living quite comfortably in Montreal or Chicago or other parts of the world? I think that’s questionable.

The other point is that even if one accepts the premise, there’s a basic contradiction in the Israeli narrative, or the Zionist narrative, of Israel as a safe haven and a final refuge for Jews should, you know, things go bad in other parts of the world, and the propaganda message that Israel is under constant threat, constantly beset by enemies, whether it’s Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza or Iran’s nuclear weapons, and is always on the brink of destruction. I mean, it can’t be both. It can’t be both a safe place and, you know, this dangerous place.

And to the extent that, you know, Israel has become, really, the most dangerous place in the world for Jews, one has to examine what are the dynamics, what are the structures, what are the realities that perpetuate conflict and bloodshed and hostility, and I would argue, and I do argue, that it is the effort to create and maintain an exclusivist state at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian population, a colonial state, and therefore the way to undo this hostility is through decolonization, is through going forward to a situation and, in a sense, returning to a situation where Jews and Palestinians can be part of the same entity, and to do away with this notion of Palestinians as a demographic threat, which is how the Israeli mainstream talks about them in which I understand to be really racist language. But it’s how even many liberal supporters of a Jewish state talk, you know, that we have to maintain a Jewish majority.

What’s the price of maintaining it? How do you do that? What remedies do you have if Palestinians have too many of the wrong kind of baby? It creates an ugliness and a violence that I think many liberal Jewish supporters of Israel in this country and around the world have refused to recon with. And they think that this can all just be wished away by continuously repeating these slogans about two states living side by side in peace and never having to reckon with the reality of what ethnic segregation means in Palestine. It means ethnic cleansing. It means violence. It means racist laws. It means constantly viewing Palestinians as a presence that pollutes the land.

JAY: The idea of the need for a Jewish state, not a secular state, not a modern democratic state–as many people say, you can’t have a modern democratic state and an ethnic-based state. Now, Israel’s not the only one. You have the Islamic Republic of Iran and you have Pakistan and other countries that consider themselves religious-based, and it amounts to a large extent ethnic-based–certainly in Iran it does. I think the Iranians see it as much a Persian state as they do an Islamic state, and their laws are like that, in the sense that if you’re of any kind of Iranian descent, if you have Persian blood in you, if you are Canadian and go back to Iran, they will consider you Iranian one way or the other.

ABUNIMAH: But that’s not–you know, I always find it interesting when people defend Israel based on comparisons with countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or Iran as if those are models that anyone, you know, aspires to or defends in terms of–. You know, Israel compares itself to Western liberal democracies. It doesn’t say, we’re like Iran or we’re like Saudi Arabia.

But, you know, the claim that Israel is–you know, that, for example, the law of return that you’re alluding to is just like a law that says that somebody of Irish descent can go back and get an Irish passport is a fallacy that I take on in the book. The example of Ireland comes up all the time. Ireland has a law that says, if you have one grandparent born on the island of Ireland, then you can go and claim Irish citizenship. And some people say, well, this justifies things like Israel’s law of return for Jews. No, it’s totally different, because the Irish law doesn’t contain any provision that you have to be Catholic or you have to be Celtic or some other ethnoreligious criteria. If you’re Protestant from the North, if your grandparent was Protestant from the North, if your grandparent was, you know, from any kind of background, you qualify, whereas the Israeli law is designed to give privileges to people Israel identifies as Jewish, wherever they are in the world, and specifically to deny them to Palestinians who are born in the country or whose parents or grandparents are born there. So, you know, I’m not here to defend other states and to say that other states are our models.

JAY: No, I was actually going to make a point that the Israeli state is as backward as these other states. But what I was going to go on to say is that as backward as it is, as nondemocratic as it is, it does seem now very, very deeply rooted in the Israeli-Jewish psyche that this whole narrative of what Israel is needs to be a Jewish state. And what I’m getting at is, even though I don’t think that meets any modern definition of what a democracy is, is it not a fact that whatever is going to be worked out in this kind of next sort of historical phase in terms of Palestinian-Israeli relations, that it somehow is going to have to be accommodated? Or do you think it’s possible for Israeli Jews to get over that? ‘Cause right now it doesn’t look like it.

ABUNIMAH: Well, I agree with you absolutely that right now it doesn’t look like it. But the point I make in the book is that in analogous situations it never looks like it. I mean, the argument I make in the book is that whites in South Africa were absolutely resistant to the notion of a one person, one vote system. If you look at the surveys of white South Africans in the 1980s and into the early 1990s–remember, this month, April 1994, April 2014, it’s 20 years since the first democratic election in South Africa. But up until 1990, ’91, ’92, the vast majority of white South Africans were saying, well, we’ll accept some kind of federation or some kind of group accommodation, but we absolutely will not accept a one person, one vote system, because that will be the end of us. And it was consistent. The same in Northern Ireland.

And what I trace in the book is that actually these positions that seem pervasive and entrenched among the ruling group actually can dissolve fairly quickly and be replaced by new narratives that are much more conducive to a more peaceful and just future. In South Africa, whites were able to embrace the idea of the Rainbow Nation. We can talk–and I do in the book–about the reality versus the vision, but they no longer said, we must have apartheid or we’ll be thrown into the sea. That changed. And in Northern Ireland, they traced a similar change in the thinking of Ian Paisley, who is the most sectarian, most anti-nationalist, anti-Catholic leader, demagogue, who opposed every accommodation and then switched 180 degrees and started talking about a shared past and a shared future. So those changes can come very rapidly.

JAY: Okay. In the next segment of our interview, we’re going to talk about what kind of changes might have to take place amongst the Palestinians. I was in Ramallah a few years ago and I was kind of taken aback at the number of beautiful condos and villas I saw there. The issue of a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli struggle/conflict is also an issue of the introduction of neoliberalism and modern forms of capitalism in Palestine itself. So we’re going to talk about that, and then we’re going to move on to what solutions might look like on Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Does I$raHell Have a Right to Exist as a Jewish State?


Posted in UkraineComments Off on NAZI MASSACRE IN ODESSA

Rasmea Odeh: Repression of a Palestinian Community Leader

Photo by Bill Chambers at November 2013 arraignment in Detroit

By Bill Chambers

On June 10 in Detroit, Rasmea Odeh, a 66 year old Chicago Palestinian and Arab community organizer, will start her trial for allegedly “lying” on her twenty year old citizenship application about an over forty year old conviction in an Israeli military court. If found guilty, she could face up to ten years in federal prison, an immediate revocation of her citizenship, and deportation from the United States. Given Odeh’s stature in the Palestinian and Arab community in Chicago as a tireless organizer for women and immigrant rights, these years old charges only indicate the extremes the government is willing to go to suppress Palestinian activists.

Odeh was arrested at dawn at her Chicago-area home by agents of the Department of Homeland Security and charged with immigration fraud. The indictment claims she did not disclose on her immigration application that she was arrested and convicted by an Israeli military court 45 years ago and then held in Israeli jails from 1969 until 1979.

In 1969, the Israeli military arrested Odeh in Ramallah. She was taken to an Israeli detention center, where she was subject to torture and sexual assault. Odeh was charged for her alleged association with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group that the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, and for suspected involvement in two bombings in Jerusalem, one of which killed two civilians. Odeh was tortured into making a confession and has always maintained her innocence of the charges.

Odeh was processed by an Israeli military court system that routinely bypasses due process holding Palestinians without charge or trial for months and years. In a monthly detention report from Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner support and human rights organization, this same system today holds over 5,000 prisoners, with over 200 being children. Odeh was convicted, like the vast majority of Palestinians in the military court system, and sentenced to life in prison. Her home was destroyed by the Israeli military after the verdict. Odeh spent ten years in prison before receiving a pardon and being released by Israel as part of a prisoner exchange.  She went to Jordan, became a lawyer and continued to be an activist for Palestinian rights.

In 1994, she traveled to Detroit, obtaining her U.S. citizenship in 2005. From Detroit, she came to Chicago and joined the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), a social services organization, as their Associate Director and Community Adult Women Organizer. The AAAN utilized her broad experience with women’s and workers’ unions, family and domestic violence groups, human right centers and the Red Cross. She is founder of the organization’s Arab Women’s Committee which now includes over 600 members and earlier this year, Rasmea received the “Outstanding Community Leader Award” from the Chicago Cultural Alliance. Odeh has devoted her time to working with Arab immigrant women, establishing projects related to civil and human rights, social justice and community economic development. She has promoted literacy and political education and organized workshops on domestic violence and anti-Arab expression.

Odeh’s arrest also appears to be related to the case of the 23 Palestinian and anti-war activists subpoenaed to a grand jury in 2010. Well-known Palestinian and anti-war activists around the Midwest had their homes raided by the FBI when the U.S. attorney alleged that they had provided material support to foreign terrorist organizations in Palestine. There have been no indictments against the 23 activists, presumably because of a lack of evidence.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas is leading the ongoing investigation against the 23 and on the day of Odeh’s arrest, he was present in the courtroom consulting with the prosecutor.

Jonas also played a leading role in prosecuting the leaders of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) while he was trial attorney for the Department of Justice Counter-terrorism Section. He helped convict the Holy Land Five and secured up to 65-year prison sentences. This is the case that the ACLU described as having “violated the fundamental rights of American Muslims’ charitable giving in accordance with their faith, seriously undermining American values of due process and commitment to First Amendment freedoms.” Since the Supreme Court turned down the appeal of the HLF case in 2012, Ghassan Elashi, the HLF Chairman, remains in the “Little Guantanamo” of Illinois.

It was no accident that Barry Jonas was present in the courtroom on the day of Odeh’s arrest given he is a major player in a series of cases like Sami al-Arian, Abdelhaleem Ashqar, and Mohammad Salah that have targeted Palestinian activists and organizers for “material support for terrorism.”

On November 13, 2013 Odeh was arraigned and pled not guilty at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, in Detroit, her original city of U.S. residence. Over 100 supporters from multiple cities in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin protested outside the courthouse. Rallies of support also took place in Oakland, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Tampa, Gainesville, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City.

The official start of Odeh’s trial is June 10th in Detroit despite many months of groups organizing in Chicago and across the country to get the charges dropped. A guilty verdict that could lead to ten years in federal prison, revocation of her citizenship, and deportation from the United States is designed to put an end to her organizing for Palestinian and Arab community rights.

Ramea Odeh’s case is one more example of the federal authorities continuing to search for ways to intimidate and silence those who are effective advocates for Arab American communities, and who speak out for Palestinian rights.

Statements of supporhave been made by over 100 organizations throughout the country including American Friends Service Committee, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, CAIR-Chicago, Center for Constitutional Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, Students for Justice in Palestine National and the US Palestinian Community Network. More than 3,000 people have signed an online petition for the charges to be dropped.

For an update on her case from her attorney, Jim Fennerty, and others – come to the CAIR-Chicago event “Criminalizing Immigrants: The Case of Rasmea Odeh on May 19.

For ongoing updates on her case, to donate to her legal fund, and to get transportation information for attending her trial in Detroit. Go to the Rasmea Odeh Support site.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USAComments Off on Rasmea Odeh: Repression of a Palestinian Community Leader

Independent Report on The Massacre and Fire in Odessa, May 2, 2014

Global Research

Independent report on massacre and fire in Odessa (May 2, 2014).

Ultras and “Right Sector” thugs attack the House of Trade Unions and burn people alive with Molotov cocktails.

Neo-Nazi militants work jointly with local police. 116 peaceful supporters of federalization fell victim to mass murder.

Ukrainian authorities and deputies of Neo-Nazi “Svoboda” party in Parliament wish the victims “to burn in hell”.


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What or who will Bring Back Our Girls?


The deep roots of the kidnapping crisis in Nigeria

#BringBackOurGirls has gone massively viral in the social media world, as people around the globe clamor for action to save hundreds of school-age girls abducted from their school in Nigeria. The girls were abducted by the group Boko Haram, a self-described Muslim group that ostensibly advocates an “Islamic” state in the North of Nigeria. The roughly 230 girls said to be missing were abducted from their school three weeks ago creating a major national issue that emerged into an international conversation following the arrest of a leader of a protest movement calling on the government to take action.

Tensions surrounding government action have increased markedly ever since Boko Haram leaders have announced that they plan on selling some of the girls. The Nigerian government has so far appeared ineffective, unable to find where exactly the girls are being held, which has prompted a significant number of petitions and a Twitter firestorm demanding U.S. or European military forces step in to rescue the girls.

The impulse is understandable. However, like many of the humanitarian crises in Africa that have become international campaigns, this situation has significant roots which western military intervention cannot solve and will only exacerbate.

Would they find them?

The first issue is whether or not any military force can actually rescue these girls. The Nigerian military has failed so far to locate them in the vast northeastern part of the country, where they have a fairly limited presence. The area  is a stronghold for Boko Haram.

However to assume U.S. (or European) military might can just swoop in and rescue them in a daring raid is at the very least improbable. Similar to the situation in the hunt for Joseph Kony, these vast underdeveloped areas offer numerous places to hide. Further they are a part of a broader region that also includes Cameroon and Chad, further expanding the target area.

The girls are almost surely spread across a variety of hard to find places, and the most likely outcome is that some set of them will be found and following that the others will be killed. At even the most optimistic, as the BBC admits, it could take literally months if not longer to locate the various hiding places.

Would intervention solve the problem?

In short: no. Understanding the Boko Haram phenomenon means understanding Nigeria much more deeply. The immense poverty in Nigeria—in 2011 it was estimated that 92 percent of the population lived on less than two dollars a day—has a regional character and is worse in the northern part of the country. Further what development does exist is also regionally unbalanced. Overlaid on top of this are other social conflicts that further intensify the regional divide.

The election of President Goodluck Jonathan was followed by significant social unrest; presidents usually come from the more impoverished North to maintain the precarious regional unity. However, President Jonathan is from the South which only further highlights the divide.

The government has waged a significant effort to combat Boko Haram, both sides have committed atrocities, and the status quo is essentially unchanged.

Boko Haram itself is able to thrive in this atmosphere. They are aided by the fact that Nigerian politicians often use ethnic and religious appeals to wage their power struggles which further exacerbate conflicts between, for instance, pastoralists and farmers. In the context of deep and seemingly inescapable poverty and social struggle of various types inflected with religious rancor, politically alienated groups like Boko Haram can and do find a hearing among those looking for a way out of the morass.

Further there are other issues at play. One is that further “security assistance” to Nigeria will strengthen the hand of the very same government that is already implicated as an instrument in North-South division. This means deepening the conflict not lessening it. Further Western intervention on behalf of said government could have the same effect.

Even on the off chance either of these options does save the abducted girls, it would most likely do nothing to solve the underlying issues, and perhaps make them worse. This might mean more girls being kidnapped, and will assuredly mean more devastating attacks across Nigeria. This is exactly what has played out over and over in the various campaigns to capture Joseph Kony. The campaigns have led to lots of killing, but have solved no problems, hence the recurring script.

What can help?

Of course none of this is very comforting; many people want to do something to help in such a terrible situation. There will be those who view anti-intervention arguments like ours and say “There is always a reason not to do something.” Indeed, and in this case several very good reasons. If we learned anything not just from the Kony situation, but from the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, military intervention, and particularly that of Western origin, is not a sword that can simply cut through the thorny social and economic issues in post-colonial states.

The only way to eliminating groups like Boko Haram is to isolate them in a meaningful way. Nigeria needs an actual development plan that eliminates poverty, deals with regional inequities, combats corruption, provides services  and privileges ecological protection and rehabilitation. It is the broader social context of the country that allows Boko Haram to operate and continually launch deadly attacks and mount large-scale, brazen kidnapping operations.

Obviously the Nigerian government is one of the most disgustingly neo-colonial on the continent, where a tiny super elite steals billions and billions of wealth while allowing the rest of the country to live in squalor and poverty. It is responsible for the situation in the North; its failings allow groups like Boko Haram to grow and it will not solve the societal problems in a way that can stop Boko Haram or others of their ilk.

The elites don’t need more weapons or more money; they need to be removed from power. As long as this does not happen the girls of the Nigerian north won’t be safe, the Niger delta will remain polluted and the slums of Lagos will continue to be a massive human rights catastrophe.


Posted in AfricaComments Off on What or who will Bring Back Our Girls?

UC-Riverside student gov’t passes Israeli divestment resolution


Victory for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement

By Arman Azedi

April 23, students celebrate passage of UCR divestment bill by student government
Photo: Arman Azedi

The author is a PSL member and Students for Justice in Palestine organizer at UC Riverside.

On April 23, the student government at University of California, Riverside passed a resolution that called on the UC administration to withdraw investments from companies that are profiting from the Israeli-enforced apartheid system in Palestine. The campaign to get the resolution passed was led by the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at UCR.

The bill was part of the larger international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement called BDS, which encourages individuals, corporations, and institutions to avoid business with Israel until it respects the right of return for Palestinian refugees, ends ethnic discrimination and withdraws its military from illegally-occupied Palestinian territory. In both goals and tactics, the BDS movement is similar to the divestment efforts against South African apartheid, which was seen by many as one of the decisive factors in pressuring the country to end its own apartheid.

Though the student senate produced a divided 8-7 vote on the divestment resolution, it was undoubtedly supported by UCR’s student population. About 150 students attended the senate meeting, nearly 120 of who were present to support the divestment bill. In addition to the SJP, which spearheaded the effort to pass the resolution, 75 student organizations endorsed the bill. Representatives from Chicano, Asian Pacific, Sikh, Native American, and LGBTQ student programs attended the senate meeting at which it was passed to give public testimony to support the Palestinian struggle and comment on the moral righteousness of divesting.

This is the second time UC Riverside has approved a divestment bill. One bill was passed and then rescinded a year ago when a number of pro-Israel students claimed they were “marginalized” by the passage of the resolution, making it apparent that even acknowledging the human rights of Palestinians was upsetting the traditional comfort and privilege Zionists enjoy.

Within the UC system alone, student representatives at UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, and UC Irvine have passed divestment resolutions. Students at UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, San Diego State University, and countless other campuses are working earnestly to do the same. For the time being, divestment resolutions at universities are public statements from students to administrations. But the anti-apartheid movement is gaining ground quickly, and, as it was with South Africa in the 1980s, soon university officials nationwide will have no option but to acknowledge the demands of their student populations and divest.


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Victory Day: Fighting fascism then and now


Honoring the heroic sacrifices of the Soviet peoples

Soldiers of the Leningrad Front during the Siege of Leningrad

With the conflict in Ukraine escalating every day, May 9, Victory Day—the day to celebrate the defeat of Nazism—looms as a potential flash point. In a display of the Ukrainian right wing’s true allegiances, the coup government in Kiev has canceled the annual Victory Day parade in Kiev.

The muted celebration signals a turning point for a country that was ground zero for the Holocaust and other horrors of Nazism. Rather than celebrating May 9 as a major holiday, the rightist government has called for a day of prayer. Their supposed motivation is to avoid “provocations” on a holiday that celebrates Ukraine’s Soviet history. In other words, the new Ukrainian government fears the powerful memory of World War Two.

Why does the coup government fear the legacy of World War Two? What does it have to hide?

What the Ukrainian government has to fear is the lasting legacy of internationalism and sacrifice in the name of anti-fascism.

Heroic sacrifice unforgotten

The history of the Soviet Union’s involvement in World War Two is often obscured or down-played in the United States, thanks to decades of Cold War spin. Popular documentaries on the History Channel and in school textbooks essentially gloss over Soviet fighting, preferring instead to dwell on D-Day and air-raids, which occupied most of the United States’ time during the conflict. History begins with the September 1939 invasion of Poland, skips to Pearl Harbor, then to D-Day and finally to Hitler’s suicide and the fall of Nazi Germany.

This history is an embellishment which plays up the United States’ involvement which at the expense of telling the story of Soviet contributions to the fight against Nazi Germany.

Most military historians agree that it was the Soviet Union’s immense sacrifice and steadfast and determined fighting that won World War Two, known as the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union and most former Soviet Republics.

Despite taking massive casualties, the Soviet Union rallied in the early stages of an unexpected German-led invasion and heroically defended key cities after invading armies reached the gates of Moscow, Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg) and Stalingrad (now called Volgograd).

Nazi invasion largest in history

The Nazi invasion, codenamed Operation Barbarossa, threw 3.8 million troops into a vast front stretching across the border of the Soviet Union—across all of Europe—making it the largest invasion in history. The troops, who had been moved from recently-defeated France, were divided into three army groups (north, center and south) under the command of Hitler himself. Army Group North was tasked with capturing the key strategic city of Leningrad, which was the base of the Atlantic Soviet Fleet and a major industrial center. Army Group Center had orders to capture Moscow, which, while less strategically important than other cities—among them Leningrad—would have been a major blow to Soviet morale as the fall of the Soviet capitol city. Army Group South aimed to capture the Ukraine—the Soviet Union’s breadbasket akin to the Midwestern United States—and eventually reach oil-rich the Caucusus region.

The invasion was the first stage of Generalplan Ost, or Master Plan East, which was the Nazi plan to conquer and settle Eastern Europe as a “racially-pure” frontier for a vast Nazi empire. The strategy outlined in Generalplan Ost entailed the enslavement and eventual total elimination of most Slavic and other “undesirable” peoples: Jews, Roma, Latagalians, Czechs, Estonians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Poles and Belarusians. Since Russians did not live entirely within the planned border of the New Order frontier, the Nazis did not plan on their complete physical extermination, preferring instead to physically eliminate 50-60 percent of the Russian population and deport the remainder to Western Siberia.

In other words, the Nazi invasion posed a grave threat to all peoples living in the Soviet Union. It was not a struggle between Germans and Russians. It was a struggle of the diverse, multiethnic and multinational Soviet Red Army versus brutal fascist invaders intent on the complete annihilation of most people in Eastern Europe.

Seige of Leningrad

Army Group North’s siege of Leningrad is a perfect illustration of the true character of this grim struggle. The siege, lasting well over two years, claimed the lives of over 1 million civilians due to shelling, starvation, disease and cold after German and Finnish armies cut off all roads and railroads to the city, stopping all food, medicine and fuel bound for Leningrad. All told, the encirclement and Siege of Leningrad took over 4 million casualties, making it the most deadly siege in history.

The Siege of Leningrad is also a perfect illustration of the sacrifice and heroism of the peoples of the Soviet Union. To alleviate the starving of the citizens of Leningrad—trapped behind front lines after the city was encircled—the Soviets were forced to find new ways to keep up the popular resistance to Nazi aggression. Leningrad, which stands on a thin strip of land sandwiched between the Baltic Sea on one side and Lake Ladoga on the other, was only accessible by water. The Soviets responded to the encirclement by ferrying across ammunition, food and other supplies Lake Ladoga in warm months.

During winter months, on the other hand, the Soviets faced the more serious problem of getting supplies across the lake as it froze, making it impassable for boats. They responded by establishing the “Road of Life,” a convoy train where trucks would drive across the frozen Lake Ladoga. Drivers would inch across the surface of the lake’s icy surface with one foot literally out the doors of their trucks, ready to jump out if their trucks fell through the ice into the 700-foot deep frozen lake. These convoys would leave in the dead of night within range of German artillery, carrying supplies in and evacuating civilians and injured defenders on their way out.

The Road of Life helped keep the defenders supplied and the people of Leningrad fed through the Siege, which lasted from September of 1941 to January of 1944.

Sacrifices like these were common, showing the steadfast resolve of the people of the Soviet Union to defend themselves and their country. Soviet resistances in Odessa, Ukraine, Crimea and elsewhere saw fierce fighting as the Red Army fought to the bitter end time and time again to stop the onslaught of invading Nazi armies. Even when those armies lost, partisan brigades sprung up during the first days of the invasion to carry on the fight behind enemy lines.

By the end of the war, the fighting claimed the lives of 27 million Soviets, 15 million of whom were civilians who died from atrocities at the hands of the Nazi occupiers.

Soviet fighting defeats fascism

The Soviet Union did most of the heavy lifting during the Second World War. The initial invasion of 1941 stalled at the gates of Moscow and Leningrad, but the steadfast defenses there led to major victories, notably at the Battle of Moscow.

There, the Red Army successfully defended the Soviet capitol, dealing a major blow to the morale of Nazi armies, who assumed the war would be won within weeks of the invasion (Hitler famously predicted that “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure [the Soviet Union] will come crashing down.”). Repelling the invaders at Moscow was only the beginning. It would take four more years of brutal fighting to push back the Nazi armies.

The five-month Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-1943 would ultimately be the turning point for the Great Patriotic War, paving the way for the major victory in the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history. More importantly, it marked the end of the Nazi advance and the beginning of the Soviet advance into Nazi-occupied Eastern and Central Europe.

Successful initiatives like Operation Bagration, where the Nazis were driven out of Belorussia and eastern Poland in just a month in the summer of 1944, and the liberation of Ukraine, also in 1944 created momentum which allowed the Red Army to crash deep into the heartland of Nazi Germany, reaching Berlin in April of 1945.

Along the way, they liberated the notorious death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau and other concentration camps where the Nazis had put into effect the early stages of Generalplan Ost in attempt to realize their New Order.

These great victories spelled the ultimate global triumph over fascism: after the Soviets’ arrival in Berlin, hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops were moved to the Soviet-Manchurian border, where they swept into Japanese-occupied China on August 9, 1945. This proved decisive in forcing Japan’s surrender, since Manchuria held many of Japan’s factories after they had been moved to avoid US bombing raids. Manchuria also was the base for a significant part of Japanese heavy industry, where vital supplies of coal, steel, electricity and more than half of Japan’s synthetic fuel were produced. The Soviet liberation of Manchuria proved catastrophic for Japan and was decisive in forcing the Japanese Empire’s surrender.

The grave danger of global fascism threatened people around the world. Thanks to the sacrifices by many nations of the Soviet Union, that danger was crushed, but at the cost of millions of lives heroically sacrificed in defense of socialism. It would take decades for the Soviet Union to recover from the intense devastation wrought by the invasion: roads and railways lay twisted and destroyed after four years of intense fighting; the millions of lives lost left countless families missing loved ones and the Soviet economy desperately short of labor power; the waste laid to farmland and equipment and to factories left the Soviet economy so badly damaged that it spent nearly a decade after the war’s end rebuilding Central and Eastern Europe.

Because of these sacrifices, though, the Holocaust was cut short and Nazi designs in Eastern and Central Europe were aborted. Hitler could not turn back westward to attempt again to invade England or invade Africa and the Middle East in earnest.

As a result of these defeats, Nazi Germany faced chronic resource shortages—especially of much-needed oil—because the Red Army halted the German advance into the Caucusus.

After the defeat at Stalingrad, Nazi Germany had to devote most of its military and economic resources to fighting off the advancing Red Army despite these resource shortages. Consequently, the Nazi war effort was already in dire straits by the time of D-Day in June, 1944.

People around the world owe a great deal to the tremendous heroism of the Soviet war effort. Victory Day is a day of pride and remembrance of the great sacrifices made both for the defeat of fascism and the construction of socialism. People around the world should continue to unite to honor this legacy.


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