Archive | September 24th, 2014

OBAMA’S UN AMBASSADOR ADMITS FIGHT AGAINST ISIS DESIGNED TO TAKE OUT ASSAD IN SYRIA

NOVANEWS

The CIA’s hydra: ISIS, al-Nusra and FSA

by KURT NIMMO

Obama’s United Nations ambassador Samantha Power told Chuck Todd of NBC on Sunday the real purpose of the fight against ISIS is to overthrow al-Assad and the Syrian government.

Power said the “moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) will receive an “infusion of support” in its battle against both ISIS and the Syrian government which is, according to Power and the United States, “backed by Hezbollah, Iran, Russia, etc.”

CIA’s Hydra: FSA, al-Nusra and ISIS

Omitted from the discussion is the fact ISIS, al-Nusra and the FSA have merged forces.

“We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front by attacking the Syrian Army’s gatherings in… Qalamoun,” Bassel Idriss, the commander of an FSA-aligned rebel brigade, told the Lebanese Daily Star earlier this month.

The FSA has lost troops to al-Nusra and other hardcore Islamist groups for more than a year.

In June al-Nusra and ISIS joined forces at Albu Kamal in Syria and al-Qaim in Iraq.

“Fighters feel proud to join al-Nusra because that means power and influence,” Abu Ahmed, the commander of an FSA brigade near Aleppo, told The Guardian in May of 2013.

In September, 2013, one of the largest FSA brigades, the 11th Division, joined al-Nusra.

“This means that the FSA has suddenly lost serious amounts of loyal fighters… it’s basically being swallowed up by Nusra,” an Al Jazeera correspondent in Antakya, Turkey, reported on September 21, 2013.

Reuters, citing sources inside Syria, reported other members of the FSA have joined ISIS.

The Ahl al-Athar, Ibin al-Qa’im, and Aisha factions within the FSA pledged allegiance to ISIS in July, according to Zaman Alwasl, a newspaper based in Homs.

“Al Nusra Front and the state [ISIS] will fully control FSA brigades, fusing them within their extreme and Jihadi ideologies,” the newspaper reported.

Supporting ISIS to Fight ISIS

Obama and Power are attempting to keep the illusion alive that there is a distinction between al-Nusra, ISIS and the FSA when in fact all are creations of U.S., British and Israeli intelligence.

On Sunday The New York Times carried a report saying Iraqis – from people on the street to officials in the highest level of government – believe the CIA is behind ISIS. They fear the manufactured ISIS threat will be used to reintroduce troops in Iraq.

Last August the leader of al-Nusra, Abu-Mohammad al-Jolani, met with two CIA officers and the Saudi deputy minister of defense Prince Salman bin Sultan in Amman, according to former Austrian general, Matthias Ghalem, who quoted Colonel Ahmed al-Naameh, head of the rebel Revolutionary Military Council in southern Syria.

Al-Naameh said two deputies of Robert Stephen Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, also attended the meeting. It was decided al-Nusra and the FSA would cooperate in the proxy war to depose al-Assad and turn Syria into a failed state like Iraq and Libya.

Ford played a key role in orchestrating the Syrian “resistance” and was and underling to Iraq ambassador John Negroponte, who during his tenure organized death squads in Iraq in a coordinated effort to destabilize the country.

“Since the opening of a new US base in the desert in southwest of Jordan in November 2012… CIA operatives and US special operations troops have covertly trained the militants in groups of 20 to 45 at a time in two-week courses,” al-Alam reported.

In June Aaron Klein reported the U.S. military had trained ISIS terrorists in Jordan.

Previously the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported Americans training “Syrian rebels,” although it was not clear if the Americans worked for private firms or were with the U.S. Army.

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UK MPs to be recalled from recess to discuss ISIL

NOVANEWS
 

The British parliament is expected to be recalled from recess to discuss London’s joining the US-led airstrikes against the ISIL Takfiri group in Iraq.

British media reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister David Cameron is set to recall lawmakers for discussions as early as September 26.

According to reports, Cameron is to ask lawmakers to support British airstrikes against ISIL Takfiri militants in Iraq and not in Syria.

Cameron would need the parliament’s approval before joining the US-led strikes against the ISIL terrorist group.

This comes as Cameron is due to meet his Iraqi counterpart, Haider al-Abadi, in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session, to discuss a possible British involvement in the ISIL airstrikes.

Cameron said on Tuesday that Britain “cannot opt out of” a fight against the ISIL militants.

Meanwhile, the United States along with France and its Arab allies is carrying out airstrikes against the Takfiri group. Britain has provided arms to Iraq’s Kurdish fighters who are battling along with Iraqi forces in the northern parts of Iraq.

According to reports, the United States and five Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan – have carried out at least 200 airstrikes against the ISIL militants operating inside Syria.

The ISIL terrorists control large areas of Syria’s east and north. The ISIL sent its Takfiri militants into Iraq in June, seizing large parts of land straddling the border between Syria and Iraq.

According to a CIA source, more than 15,000 foreign fighters from more than 80 countries have gone to Syria to join militant groups. Two thousand of the fighters are believed to be Westerners, including at least 500 British nationals.

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150,000 demand recount, revote of Scottish referendum

NOVANEWS

Workers sort votes cast in the Scottish independence referendum in the city of Aberdeen on September 18, 2014.

Workers sort votes cast in the Scottish independence referendum in the city of Aberdeen on September 18, 2014.

More than 150,000 people have signed petitions demanding a recount or a new vote of the Scottish independence referendum after videos have emerged allegedly showing evidence of vote fraud.

Nearly 90,000 people had signed a petition on the global platform change.org by Tuesday morning, and a separate petition on 38degrees.org.uk had over 63,000 signatories.

The 38degrees.org.uk petition called for an independent recount of all votes cast in last week’s independence referendum.

This is while the change.org petition demanded a revote of the Scottish referendum, in which “each vote shall be counted by two individuals, one of whom should be an international impartial party without a stake in the vote.”

According to Kirstie Keatings, who created the change.org petition, there has been “countless evidences of fraud” documented during the independence poll.

The petitions were launched after several video clips went viral on the Internet showing examples of potential vote fraud during the Scottish referendum.

Among the clips, one woman appears to place a bundle of “yes” votes onto the “no” pile, while another video footage shows piles of “yes” votes lying on a table designated for “no” votes.

In addition, election observers from a Russian monitoring agency slammed the referendum procedure as fraudulent.

Georgy Fyodorov, head of the Association for the Protection of Electoral Rights, reported that “there were more yes votes during the vote count.” Fyodorov also argued that the “no” campaign “resorted to every violation imaginable.”

Russian polling expert Igor Borisov also stated that the voting procedure was “last century,” adding it was “impossible to see what (was) going on at [polling tables]” and that ballot boxes were “lying around… without any protection.”

On September 18, Scottish voters cast their ballots in the independence referendum, which resulted in a 55-45 percent vote against breaking away from the UK.

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UK’s home secretary urged to act on Zio-Nazi threat

NOVANEWS

British MP George Galloway (file photo)

British MP George Galloway (file photo)

British Home Secretary Theresa May must take action against the growing threat of violent Zionist extremists, says British lawmaker and Press TV host George Galloway.

The Bradford West MP urged May to do so in a letter on Tuesday, saying the same measures used against terrorists must be applied to Zionist extremists.

Galloway also demanded adequate protection for people at risk of further attacks by Zionist extremists.

The British lawmaker wrote the letter after a firebomb attack last week on Rabbi Ahron Cohen, an active campaigner against Zionism, outside his home in Salford, a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester.

Cohen’s car was destroyed after it was set on fire following a failed attempt to explode the fuel tank. Nobody was hurt in the attack.

Cohen responded to the attack by saying that “If everybody resorted to violent activity, the world would be a very terrible place to live in. People are entitled to discuss their views but it has to be done in a civilized manner.”

In a separate incident last week, Galloway received on September 17 a mail death threat at the houses of the British parliament.

Galloway was also violently attacked last month on a street in Notting Hill, west London. His attacker, whom the Galloway described as a pro-Zio-Nazi fanatic, has been arrested and appeared in court to face charges. Zio-Nazi Islamophobic Neil Masterson, a former BBC manager, had posted angry messages about Islam and Galloway during the days leading up to the incident.

British media have linked the attacks on Galloway and Cohen to their recent remarks in which they slammed the Zio-Nazi regime for the atrocities it committed in its military onslaught on the besieged Gaza Strip.

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FEAR

NOVANEWS

Dr: Teresinka Pereira

 

Lies arriving from all places

coming to the water surface

like bodies of decapitated men,

opening the way to justify

the cruelty done in name

of old and new religions

which inspire terrorism.

It is a provocation for a

new and modern Inquisition,

and personal tragedies,

negative passions, while

fear spreads around

like fire in a dry forest.

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Wake Up America ”3”: To Fight the Unpredictable Effects of Climate Change, We Need an Unpredictable Movement

NOVANEWS
Report on Flood Wall Street Direct Action
by ARUN GUPTA

New York City.

In April 1990 I helped organize the Earth Day Wall Street Action. More than 1,500 activists from the United States and Canada traveled to New York on the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day with the goal of halting the New York Stock Exchange for a day. We got close, with hundreds of protesters and cops clashing in front of the exchange doors. We wanted to expose corporations wrapping themselves in the façade of environmentalism and identify them as criminals responsible for scorched-earth business practices.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting a return, and on  Monday, September 22, I ventured down to the financial district for the Flood Wall Street Direct Action. The following are impressions of what happened today, not the back story to the organizing. And they are more tactical than strategic observations.

Foremost, the turnout exceeded everyone’s expectation. Many thought a thousand people or less would show up. By the time the march left Battery Park in Southern Manhattan the count was 2,500. There seemed to be a lack of coordination on the part of direct action organizers, while the NYPD took a surprisingly hands-off approach. It still lined the streets with interlocking metal barricades, so the protest only made it as far as Broadway, around the iconic bull sculpture, before settling in for the day. Activists trickled in all day and the consensus was 3,000 people took over the streets at the peak.

However, there was no organized system like a spokescouncil or general assembly to encourage them to stay put and decide the next steps. Nor were there resources like food, blankets, and water to enable a large enough number of people to hunker down, which would make the cops hesitant to arrest them all.

There was a large media presence, including many mainstream media outlets. Flood Wall Street drew in more participants thanks to the Sunday march that drew an estimated three hundred thousand. The march was timed to influence the U.N. Climate Summit on Sept. 23. The international nature of the summit and the media pack helped limit the NYPD’s notorious aggression.

There was a world of creative art, but not much affinity group organizing. Some artists were hired to coordinate the art. Paying them to produce quality art was part of the media and image strategy for the Sunday march. That’s perfectly fine. Movements should pay people for their labor, although there has to be limits to avoid professionalizing. This was the most money-rich protest I have ever seen. There were three Jumbotrons on the Sunday route, and one organizer said they usually cost $10,000 a pop. Art making was also central to Flood Wall Street. I would speculate focus on visual symbols led the art to be overdeveloped and may have compounded the underdevelopment of strategic organizing for the direct action. The Monday protest was fun. There were huge banners, parachutes, giant balls of carbon, bands, costumes, and performers. But the strategy was little more than a mass sit down in the streets.

The NYPD strategy was to outlast the protesters, and it worked. Cops were blasé about activists disassembling metal barriers. They would not rush to fight them, like they always used to. Often they didn’t notice because there were so few cops on the lines. They would come over after ten minutes or so, retrieve the metal sections and reassemble them. All day long there were scattered gaps in the barricade line, enabling a free flow of people in and out of the area. Thus, there was no kettling, which is highly unusual for a mass direct action.

The cops had red lines, but otherwise were willing to cede more physical and tactical ground than normal. They let the crowd have Broadway around the bull for nearly four hours. Around 3:45 p.m., before the Stock Exchange closing bell, everyone marched up to Wall St. They tried to push east to the Stock Exchange and Federal Hall, where the George Washington Statue is located. There were only a few police at the first line of barricades. A little organization and the protesters could have easily pushed through. Getting through the second line and into Wall Street would have been much tougher, but not impossible.

I watched as protesters momentarily breached the barricade, cops grabbed one guy, and pulled him through. Normally that’s the moment when cops pile on and injure the protester. Instead, they just tossed him into the crowd on the sidewalk. No arrest and no beat down.

As the shoving matched intensified, the NYPD white shirts deployed their fists and a few blasts of a chemical irritant, probably pepper spray. It’s easy to tell how much of a threat the NYPD considers a protest by how many commanders, who wear the white shirts, it deploys. At the Wall Street barricade I counted nearly twenty white shirts at one point. They are notorious for pounding on people with their bare fists; they don’t need any surplus military gear to punish and intimidate. For a few seconds, during the height of shoving, two white shirts slammed their fists on the hands of protesters to loosen their grip on the metal barricades. Seconds later chemical spray wafted through the air, instantly forcing the protesters back. It had an unusual floral smell.

The combination of police waiting out activists and the lack of organization and support meant by 6:30 p.m. about 75 percent of people in the streets had drifted away. I did so as well at this time. Less than an hour later at a close-by bar, where many Flood Wall Street organizers had decamped, I got word arrests were happening. There was apparently a decision to engage in orchestrated civil disobedience. I told numerous people at the bar the arrests were happening, but most everyone already seemed to know and they did not seem overly concerned about returning right away. One well-respected organizer was not pleased that many of the main Flood Wall Street organizers left the streets to go to the bar.

During the whole day multiple squadrons of fifty to a hundred burly cops, whose mission is to squelch protesters quickly, were stationed at different points a block or so away from the action. There was not the overwhelming force of past protests with thousands of cops. One activist told me he heard two cops talking in the bathroom at a restaurant. They said 90 percent of cops were at the U.N. I talked to one community affairs cop who claimed they were taking a “calmer” approach. He said it was more effective compared to aggressive policing that is the norm, but it seemed like he was parroting the official line. He acknowledged this strategy was determined from on high.

Why was the NYPD so hands off? I haven’t seen anything like it in 25 years of protest in New York. There are the factors like the U.N. Climate Summit, the heavy media presence, the legacy of Occupy Wall Street, and space created by the large parade on Sunday. (Calling that event a protest is inaccurate.) Post-Ferguson many police departments probably realize over-reaction can backfire. The NYPD learned that with the Union Square pepper spray incident in September 2011that catalyzed city-wide support for the Zuccotti Park occupation, and then the Brooklyn Bridge arrests a week later that turned the movement into a nationwide phenomenon.

Additionally, there are New York City specific factors like the cops who killed Eric Garner in July on Staten Island and Mayor Bill de Blasio rehiring Bill Bratton as police commissioner. Bratton, of course, instituted the unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policing in the nineties in New York that de Blasio opposed in his surprise election victory last year. Bratton favors “Broken Windows” policing. It’s a smaller net than stop and frisk, but it’s still racially biased in practice without being based on any evidence that arresting pan handlers, graffiti artists, and turnstile jumpers reduces violent crime. Taking a light hand against Flood Wall Street enables de Blasio to score points with the public and media, while insulating his administration from criticism that it’s making only cosmetic changes to biased policing policies. To be fair, de Blasio may even be serious about curbing the NYPD’s penchant for violence.

Since the burden is on the NYPD to prove it has reformed its heavy-handed ways, the light police response should be seen as what it is: a one-off event. Additionally, while there was a more enthusiastic spirit at the end of the direct action today among veteran activists, there is a consistently lower level of organization over the last fifteen years of direct actions since Seattle.

One activist, Laurie Arbiter, summed up the feeling of many activists why actions like Flood Wall Street are on the frontlines of the climate justice fight. “It was unpredictable,” she said, unlike the Sunday march that felt scripted to many. “Climate change is unpredictable as well.” In other words, while marches are important and necessary, mass organized political chaos in the streets is more likely to destabilize the status quo, bringing forth a new social equilibrium.

Twenty-five years is a long time to wait. It’s almost the same exact amount of time since James Hanson warned Congress in 1988 that there was near certain proof that carbon dioxide emissions were the prime culprit in global warming. The Monday action was only the first phase of what will have to be an ever-more powerful movement to flood Wall Street once and for all.

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Wake Up America “2”: The Racial Crisis in American Society

NOVANEWS
Ferguson: A Taste of Things to Come
by NAFEEZ AHMED

The shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, a district of St. Louis County in Missouri, and the spate of civil unrest that followed, could set a precedent for the future of American society according to a senior Iraq war veteran and Pentagon defence analyst. Terron Sims, an African American active in local Democratic politics who had previously served five years in the United States Army, told me during an interview last month that without a fundamental cultural and institutional change in American policing across the country, the US could see more Ferguson-type events in the near future.

In an interview in Washington DC where Sims is president of the North Virginia Black Democrats and on the Board of Principals at the Truman National Security Project, I asked him whether the Ferguson crisis offered a taste of things to come.

“This is a taste of the present, my friend. We’re already here. This is America, today,” said Sims. “And if we don’t deal with the root cause in terms of widespread racial discrimination against black people, this will be our tomorrow.”

The Ferguson crisis has sparked a national debate on the culture of policing in the US toward black communities, as well as the increasing militarization of the police due to a federal Pentagon programme providing military-grade equipment to local police forces at little or no cost.

Last Tuesday, Lt. Col. Jon Belmar, the top police officer in St. Louis County, justified the extensive deployment of military-grade equipment to respond to Ferguson unrest. “Had we not had the ability to protect officers with those vehicles, I am afraid that we would have to engage people with our own gun fire,” Belmar told USA Today. “I really think having the armor gave us the ability not to have pulled one trigger… I think the military uses armor to be able to provide an offensive force, and police departments use trucks like that so they don’t have to.”

The recent provision of three grenade launchers, 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle to the Los Angeles School police department prompted civil rights and education groups to write to the US Defense Department demanding an end to the federal supply programme to the LA school system. One unidentified police official reportedly said that the weapons were needed “for the safety of staff, students, and personnel” and that the grenade launchers and armored vehicle would only be used in “very specific circumstances,” but did not elaborate on the nature of those circumstances.

In contrast, Terron Sims, a West Point Military Academy graduate and company commander during the 2003 Iraq war, said, “Police conduct in Ferguson is a travesty and wake-up call. There are simply no circumstances in the US where the use of military-grade equipment could ever be justified to police civilian communities.” During his Iraq service, Sims was principal civil military officer responsible for liaising with civilians and civilian authorities in Baghdad. He went on to become deputy chief of the US Army’s Joint Training Readiness Center at Fort Polk, finally serving as a senior Pentagon analyst before retiring into civilian life. “Our squadron had an exemplary record”, Sims said. “We had to deal with far worse than what the cops on the streets of Ferguson were facing. I’m talking about US troops faced with swarms of angry civilians who look at you as invaders. Riots? Protests? You name it. But we had to be disciplined. My squadron didn’t use force against a single civilian. In fact, part of my job was making sure that our squad worked with and alongside the civilians in Tisa Nissan district, in Baghdad, to ease the transition from a military-run institution to civilian-led government.”

During our interview, Terron Sims could barely conceal his disgust at the behaviour of police officers in Ferguson toward civilian protestors. “I can’t speak for the whole US army in Iraq, but if our squadron could do it, I don’t understand why American cops can’t.” The problem, he said, is that racism continues to be a major problem in American police forces: “This is about an entrenched culture of policing that doesn’t work with and alongside communities. Instead, we have police officers roaming around seeing the local community as outsiders, or even worse, as a homogenous enemy. The cops that are capable of shooting peaceful, black Americans don’t have relationships with the black community. They don’t have any outreach.”

I asked him how the police should have handled the situation. “The first thing I would’ve done if I was the police chief was reach out to black community leaders,” he said. “Get their take on things and work with them to restore justifiable confidence in the police’s ability to actually behave lawfully and accountably. But obviously in this case, the police clearly don’t have the first idea who the community leaders are. But to be honest, if I was the police chief, I’d be asking myself hard questions about how I’d allowed it get to this point in the first place.”

Sims is hardly an ‘anti-establishment’ activist. A believer in the political process, he is currently outreach director for the Arlington County Democratic Committee and chairman of the Veterans and Military Families Caucusfor the Democratic Party of Virginia. In that context, his verdict on what Ferguson means for the state of America today is damning. “The shooting of Michael Brown did not come out of the blue,” he told me. “Let’s not beat about the bush here. It came about through a deepening culture of unaccountable racism. And it’s not just about police racism. Obviously in Ferguson we’re looking at years of police repression targeted largely at black people, but it goes deeper than that.”

Police repression, Sims explained, must be understood as part of a wider racial crisis in American society. “You look at a place like Ferguson and you see rampant unemployment, poverty and illiteracy in the black community. These trends have persisted and worsened for years. And there’s no money to improve things,” said Sims. “Local government is not investing in education. It’s not investing in jobs, in infrastructure. But Ferguson is not an isolated case. Shootings of innocent black people in the US by cops is at epidemic levels. That follows on the back of massive inequalities between white and black people across America.”

It is now widely recognized that the racial divide in the United States has worsened in recent decades along economic lines. In 1970, 33.6 percent of blacks and 10 percent of whites were impoverished. In 2012, 35 percent of blacks lived in poverty, compared to 13 percent of whites. While 5% of white Americans are unemployed, more than double — 11% — are black. Nearly three quarters of whites own their own home, compared to just 43% of blacks. And in the last 25 years, the wealth gap between whites and blacks has nearly tripled. Median household wealth for whites is about $91,400, but a measly $6,400 for black people.

Economic inequalities are compounded by the acceleration in police repression of black and ethnic minority communities over the last two years. Official police records demonstrate that, notwithstanding deficiencies in the way information is catalogued, the victims of police shootings are overwhelmingly male, heavily young, and disproportionately black.

A startling independent report into “extrajudicial killings” of black people in the US by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) — an activist organization with chapters in Atlanta, Detroit, Fort Worth-Dallas, Jackson, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, and Washington, DC — raises deeper questions. The report released in May 2013 — months before the outbreak of violence in Ferguson — found that an African American male is killed every 28 hours by US police or vigilantes, with little or no accountability. In 2012, a total of 313 black people were unlawfully killed in this way.

The report contextualizes this systematic violence against black communities by US police forces as part of a wider system of racist repression in which local police departments are entwined with a network of domestic security structures encompassing “the FBI, Homeland Security, CIA, Secret Service, prisons, and private security companies, along with mass surveillance and mass incarceration.” Together, this domestic national security apparatus “wages a grand strategy of ‘domestic pacification’” through endless “containment campaigns” against groups designated as problematic or dangerous to the system.

The MXGM analysis coheres disturbingly well with mounting evidence of Pentagon contingency planning for “domestic insurgencies” triggered by social, economic, or food shocks, or natural disasters. US federal government planning documents suggest that the Pentagon’s role in militarizing local police forces is linked to growing concerns about domestic civil unrest due to the state coming under increasing strain from elevated climate, energy and economic risks.

My in-depth investigation last month into the Pentagon’s controversial Minerva research initiative has, for instance, exposed how the US Defense Department is funding universities to develop complex new data-mining tools capable of automatically ranking the threat level from groups and individuals defined as politically “radical.” Such tools, which according to NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake could feed directly into the algorithms used to fine-tune the CIA’s drone kill lists abroad, are increasingly being used to assess threats from activist and civil society groups in the US homeland.

In a society where racial tensions are intensifying, this dynamic inevitably affects marginalised black and ethnic minority communities disproportionately. Police forces end up being brought into black communities “with the marching orders, equipment and the mentality of an occupying army that inevitably results in systematic extrajudicial killings of citizens without respect for their human rights,” the MXGM report found. “The adoption of military tactics, equipment, training, and weapons leads to law enforcement adopting a war-like mentality,” concurred journalist Adam Hudson on the MXGM report’s conclusions. “They come to view themselves as soldiers fighting against a foreign enemy rather than police protecting a community.”

Given the extent of America’s racial divide, does this suggest that the civil rights movement has failed? I put the question to Terron Sims. “It’s not that the movement has failed — it’s that it’s not over,” he told me. “In Ferguson, the conditions have been brewing for a while. Black people are being shot all across America, but the reason it hasn’t kicked off everywhere is because the demographics aren’t the same. Ferguson has a fairly sizeable and concentrated black population, unlike with the shooting of Trayvon Martin for instance in a district in Florida, where the black community is more dispersed and certainly more affluent than in St. Louis.”

Indeed, Ferguson represents a microcosm of these problems, with wealth inequalities markedly worse than the national average. For example, census figures for 2012 in St. Louis County show that nearly half of all African American men are unemployed, compared to just 16 percent for white men.

“At those levels of poverty and inequality, with no jobs available and nothing to do all day, that’s a serious level of despair and hopelessness,” said Sims. “You prod and proke a situation like that, and it’s going to start simmering. You shoot a kid in the street in a situation like that for no good reason, well then it’s going to explode.”

For Sims, the only solution is for black communities to mobilise socially and politically: “Part of the reason there’s no money going into these communities is because there are no black political representatives on the scene advocating for those communities. That needs to change. We need to compel change by engaging with these institutions.”

If nothing is done to address these bigger, deeper issues of racial discrimination and inequality, does Ferguson represent the future of the United States?

“Of course it could”, said Sims. “I’m not saying Fergusons could happen everywhere, but for sure, if things continue as they are, there’ll come a point where the combination of unaccountable, rampant and racist police repression will inflame community tensions in circumstances of growing levels of deprivation and hopelessness. And that’s where race riots could become far more of a norm than we might expect. So unless something changes, yes, Ferguson is our future.”

 

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Wake Up America ‘1’: The Persistence of Mass Incarceration

NOVANEWS
New Stats Show We Have Not Turned the Corner
by JAMES KILGORE

Over the last four years, “we have turned the corner” has become the dominant narrative on mass incarceration. The basis for this optimism appeared sound. From 2009-2012, total prisoner numbers were down nationally for the first time since the late 1970s, with the figures for Blacks behind bars also declining. Moreover, people in surprising places were making conciliatory noises. Attorney General Eric Holder grabbed some new handles- champion of employment access for people with felony convictions and promoter of lighter sentences for those with drug offenses. Some New Jim Crow discourse even crept into his rhetoric. The New York Times consistently peppered their op-ed pages with condemnation of the bloated US carceral state, proclaiming in a May 10 piece that “The American experiment in mass incarceration has been a moral, legal, social and economic disaster. It cannot end soon enough.”

To top it off, the right wing joined the “softer on crime” fray. Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich sparked a conservative anti-imprisonment drift through their Right on Crime organization which decried the excessive use and cost of punishment. Then Rand Paul followed suit, standing shoulder to shoulder with Cory Booker to back a Redeem Act which would ease criminal penalties for juveniles. In the background a steady stream of popular advocacy combined with legislative and financial re-thinks appeared to be making major inroads into criminal justice orthodoxy. But last week, carceral optimism gave way to a much harsher reality.  The Bureau of Justice’s annual statistical report on national prison population revealed that incarceration numbers were up for the first time since 2009. The rise was a mere 0.3% but even this slight uptick may have burst the bubble of the new paradigm.

In fact, this miniscule upswing in prison population likely highlights much deeper contradictions that were there all along. Fourteen states hit new record high prison populations in 2013, while 31 states recorded an increase in prison admissions. To make matters worse, several icons of decarceration recorded population upturns.  Texas with the largest prison system in the country, has been perhaps the most widely marketed example of decarceration, dropping its prison population by 3.5% from 2011 to 2012 alone.  Yet for 2013 the Lone Star State led the reverse trend, with its count rising from 157,900 to 160,295 prisoners. Similarly, California, the second biggest state system and also a leading driver of population decrease in previous years, showed a slight expansion, from 134,211 to 135,981.

For, Judy Greene, Director of the anti-mass incarceration research group Justice Strategies, the figures for Texas and California reflected that the changes in previous years had been “narrowly felt in a handful of states.” She pointed out that between 2010 and 2012, more than 90% of the prison population reductions took place in three states, California, New York and Texas. With the failure of California and Texas to continue on the path toward decarceration, the rest of the country essentially continued with carceral business as usual. Predictably, the overall racial disproportionality also remained profound, with Black males of all ages still six times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts and two and a half times more likely to be locked up than Latinos.  The racial disparity in incarceration rates for Black women remained less dramatic, registering at about twice that of whites.

Some Good News

Sandwiched between the news of statistical reversal rested a few positive trends.  For the first time in recent years, total population in the Federal prison system declined, falling from 217,815 to 215,866. But the Feds are a small slice of the pie, constituting about 10 % of all those behind bars in the US.

In addition, a few states with consistent records of reducing prison populations continued on track. Star decarceration performers like New York and New Jersey, which have seriously reduced admissions through changes to sentencing and drug policy as well as easing parole conditions, both posted their seventh consecutive year of prison population decline.

Perhaps the other positive was in the realm of immigration. While not covered in the Bureau of Justice report, locking up immigrants has become a key component of mass incarceration in the 2000s.  In that regard, deportations did decline in 2013 after hitting a record level of over 400,000 in 2012. Moreover, felony convictions for immigration offenses also fell slightly, although average daily population in detention centers was up from 32,194 to 33,811. Still, the administration’s failure to implement comprehensive immigration reform, coupled with the 50,000 plus unaccompanied children on the border, hardly makes this issue a source of faith in the process and pace of change.

Concerns About The Change Process

Ultimately, the report along with events like those in Ferguson, Missouri, reinforced the concerns of many anti-mass incarceration campaigners that current changes were not digging deep enough to yield long lasting results.  Peter Wagner, Director of the Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Initiative, highlighted the need for states “to decide whether the people they are sending to prison really need to be there” and the corresponding issue of deciding which people “currently in prison can go home.” Instead, he lamented, states are continuing to hike “the number of people they send to prison for new offenses and violations of parole and decreasing the number of people they let out.”

Author and activist Ruthie Gilmore, who currently is associate director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at CUNY, argued that the BOJ statistics have exposed the shortcomings of “opportunists” who have “blown up real solidarity.” She maintains that moderate reforms have promoted “the delusion that it’s possible to cherry pick some people from the prison machine” rather than undertake a broad restructuring of the communities which have been devastated by mass incarceration.  Mariame Kaba, head of Project NIA which practices transformative justice as a foil to youth incarceration in Chicago communities, concurred with Gilmore, stressing that “the rationale for and logic of punishment is unchanged. The targets of our punishment mindset also remain overwhelmingly black and poor.”

Kaba points out that the discourse has altered but policy seems to have lagged behind. “Talk and actions are not the same thing,” she said, “there is a need to move beyond awareness and take steps to address mass incarceration in real ways.”

What are the “real ways”?

The question is: what are these “real ways”?  Mainstream reformers have pushed for a number of changes: laws to reform harsh sentencing policies, especially for drug offenses.  Reentry has been another area of emphasis, with the Feds alone having put over $100 million into Second Chance Act initiatives to smooth the return for those coming home from prison. Relaxing drug laws, including the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, may have some impact, especially in the Federal system where more than 50% of the population has drug offenses. But in the state institutions, which hold over 85% of the nation’s prison population, only 16% are locked up for drug convictions while more than 50% have cases involving violence. To date, few reformers want to consider releasing or easing up on sentencing for those convicted of violent crimes.  Even many reentry initiatives avoid people with convictions for violent crimes.

Greene argues that it still boils down to serious sentencing reform which would go beyond merely those with drug convictions. The need, she argues, is to  “both to sharply reduce the number of people we send to prison and to shorten the inordinate amount of time those sent to prison have to serve before they are released.” Gilmore extends the sphere of change to focus on “the foundations on which mass incarceration has been built – structural racism and structural poverty and the capitalism that is devouring the planet.”

Convergence of Agendas?

One certain outcome of this statistical shift will be heightened debate amongst those involved in efforts to roll back the US prison system. As Gilmore put it, “the fact that prison numbers rose in 2013 is a testament to the deep fragmentation of social justice work in the USA.”  While a year ago, a so-called “convergence of agendas” looked a likely prospect, the Bureau of Justice report in the wake of high profile police violence and failed immigration policies, foretell an intensified struggle between those who argue that the system is broken but can be fixed and those who like Mariame Kaba contend that “reform is not enough, that we need much more urgent and radical (as in getting to the root of the problem) solutions. This is the only way that we will successfully address mass criminalization.”

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Wake Up America ‘1’: The Persistence of Mass Incarceration

Donors Will Fail Gaza Again

NOVANEWS
Broken Promises, Shattered Lives
by NICOLA NASSER

On 12 October, Cairo is due to host a conference, sponsored and chaired by Egypt and Norway, of international and Arab donors for the reconstruction of Gaza. This is their ostensible aim. But the reasons that the donors cited for not fulfilling earlier pledges, made in Paris in 2007 and Sharm El-Sheikh in 2009, still exist.

This means that the donors who attend the upcoming Cairo conference will probably make the same pledges they made at the two previous conferences and then once again fail to fulfil them.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian people under blockade in Gaza will remain in suspense, waiting for the next aggression to be unleashed on them by the Israeli occupation, purportedly in order to eliminate the causes that the donors cite for recycling their pledges for the reconstruction of Gaza that is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.

Fulfilment of the donors’ old/new pledges is still contingent politically on the imposition of the status quo in the West Bank on Gaza. This entails security coordination with the occupying power, the pursuit and elimination of all forms of resistance to the occupation, rendering all reconstruction activities subject to the approval of the Israeli security regime, and much more.

Even should these conditions be met, the donors’ fulfilment of their pledges will remain contingent on the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) continued commitment to negotiations as its sole strategy, and to the agreements that led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

All the evidence indicates that the PLO and the PA have spearheaded the battle to impose the donors’ conditions on their behalf. Beneath the rubric of “legitimacy”, “the national project” and “the single central authority” that “alone holds the powers to make decisions on war and peace,” the PLO and PA have demonstrated that they are ready to abide by the donors’ political conditions.

The irony is that Israel has never met the conditions it compelled the donors to impose, not just in order to proceed with the reconstruction of Gaza, but also on the PA in general.

Israel has never renounced violence. It repeatedly wages war and unleashes its instruments of state terrorism against the Palestinians under occupation. It has flagrantly and repeatedly violated every agreement signed with the PLO. It has not even reciprocated the PLO’s recognition of Israel, nor has it officially acknowledged the Palestinians’ right to establish a Palestinian state.

Currently, the occupation authorities are threatening to dissolve the Palestinian national reconciliation government if it does not assert its full authority over Gaza. The message was driven home by PA Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa, who said that there would be no reconstruction unless his government can fully assert its control over Gaza.

However, all the evidence also indicates that the resistance is there to stay in Gaza and that its powers to resist the imposition of the donors’ conditions — on it and on Gaza — are increasing.

The only possible way to read all of the foregoing, and other facts, is that the reconstruction of Gaza under such conditions and circumstances will be deferred until further notice and that deferring reconstruction and linking it to a process of cloning the West Bank model in Gaza is actually a strategy that paves the way for yet another invasion of Gaza.

It is also a fact that reconstruction needs in Gaza are accumulating as a result of this strategy. Destruction in Gaza did not begin with the response to action against this strategy in 2007. The reconstruction of Gaza’s airport and seaport, for example, has been pending since the occupation destroyed these facilities in 2002. Reconstruction dues from the destruction wrought by the Israeli assaults on Gaza in 2008-2009 and 2012 are also continuing to accumulate.

A recent report by the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) estimates that it will cost around $8 billion to rebuild what was destroyed during the last Israeli attack on Gaza. The report says that this process would take five years if the occupation authority were to “fully” lift the embargo on Gaza, which is hardly likely to happen soon.

Clearly, the reconstruction of Gaza requires a new Palestinian strategy, one that draws a line between the grants donors offer and their political conditions, and that rejects once and for all any Palestinian commitment to those degrading conditions that, as the years since the so-called “peace process” began have proven, have brought more destruction than construction, and have served as the chief incubator of Palestinian divisions and not brought even a minimum degree of national benefit.

At the same time, any new government that emerges from a national partnership must embrace resistance against the occupation. The current national reconciliation government, with its six-month term and its principle tasks of preparing for presidential and legislative elections, is by definition an interim government and is not qualified to shoulder heavy and long-term burdens such as the reconstruction of Gaza and securing the end of the blockade.

Both of these tasks are humanitarian and national goals that are higher than any political or factional disputes. Yet the Palestinian presidency’s determination to toe the line with the donors’ conditions, which make no distinction between humanitarian needs and political ends, is a strategy that fails to discriminate between national needs and factional interests. It is a strategy that protracts the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.

Unfortunately, the need to separate politics — factional or otherwise — from the humanitarian issue does not appear to be on the agenda of either foreign and Arab donors, or of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in spite of the letter he sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on 30 July declaring Gaza a “disaster zone” in the grips of a “dangerous humanitarian crisis.”

This “dangerous humanitarian crisis” is the product of forms of collective punishment that were inflicted against the people of Gaza before the Palestinian rift and that grew worse afterwards. Any Palestinian assent to continuing to adhere to donors’ political conditions, which are responsible for perpetuating the collective punishment, is a form of Palestinian complicity in subjecting the people of Gaza to this punishment. The time has come for all Palestinian leaders to exonerate themselves from all charges of complicity in such punishment.

The collective punishments that have been and continue to be visited on Gaza are not acceptable, even on the pretext of punishing Hamas. Under the Geneva Conventions and before international criminal law they constitute a war crime inflicted on the civilian inhabitants of Gaza, who are protected by international humanitarian law, at least in theory.

To insist that Gaza’s reconstruction be linked to the reinstatement of the “full” authority of the Palestinian presidency and the PA over Gaza, and to the donors’ political conditions which, in fact, are the conditions of the occupying power, is merely another way to say that the reconstruction of Gaza should be linked to the imposition of Fatah’s factional agenda on Gaza.

It also means that civilians in Gaza are to be collectively punished for the factional disputes that Fatah has with Hamas, in which case it becomes very difficult to avoid pointing fingers of accusation at Palestinian complicity in the ongoing collective punishment of the people of Gaza, and more difficult yet to defend any possible Palestinian contribution to the perpetration of such a war crime.

As long as the current situation persists, reconstruction of Gaza will remain pending indefinitely, and the reconstruction burden will only grow. Eventually, the people of Gaza will have no alternative but to look for salvation through other means that they, alone, can control. The Palestinian presidency and its faction must decide to free themselves once and for all from their financial and political dependence on donors and the sterile “peace process” that has so far wrought only death, destruction and division.

It is not too late to opt for the national alternative, which is still available given good intentions, to save the people of Gaza, national unity, the resistance, and decision-making autonomy.

This alternative entails following through on implementation of the mechanisms for national reconciliation, activating the unified command framework for the PLO, agreeing on a new Palestinian strategy based on the principles of partnership and resistance, and creating a new national unity government committed to this strategy and qualified to shoulder such enormous tasks as the reconstruction of Gaza and lifting the blockade.

All of the foregoing requires no more than honest introspection, the prevalence of national conscience, and political free will.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, GazaComments Off on Donors Will Fail Gaza Again

The Absurdity of US Policy in Syria

NOVANEWS
Only a Truce in Syria Can Stop ISIS
by PATRICK COCKBURN

If the United States and its allies want to combat the Islamic State jihadists (IS, formerly known as Isis) successfully, they should arrange a ceasefire between the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the non-IS Syrian opposition. Neither the Syrian army nor the “moderate” Syrian rebels are strong enough to stop IS if they are fighting on two fronts at the same time, going by the outcome of recent battles. A truce between the two main enemies of IS in Syria would be just that, and would not be part of a broader political solution to the Syrian crisis which is not feasible at this stage because mutual hatred is too great. A ceasefire may be possible now, when it was not in the past, because all parties and their foreign backers – the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran – are frightened of the explosive advance of the Islamic State. US Secretary of State John Kerry told the US Security Council on Friday that there is room for everybody “including Iran” in an anti-IS coalition.

President Obama was much criticised for admitting that he had no strategy to cope with IS and, despite his address to the nation on 10 September, he still does not have one. Assuming he is not going to send a large US land army to the region, he lacks a credible and effective local partner in either Syria or Iraq with the necessary military force to take advantage of air strikes, even if they are intensified in Iraq and extended to Syria.

Mr Obama won the assent of the House of Representatives last week to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria who are supposedly going to fight both Assad and IS. This is essentially a PR operation, since IS forces 30 miles from Aleppo are poised to move against the last rebel strongholds, while the Syrian army is close to regaining control of the city itself.

Likewise in Iraq, air strikes can only do so much. The government in Baghdad and the Iraqi army are still Shia-dominated and, however much the Sunni in Iraq dislike IS, they are even more frightened of its opponents. The US will try to split Sunni tribes and neighbourhoods away from the fundamentalists as it did in 2007, but there were then 150,000 US troops in the country and al-Qa’ida in Iraq was much weaker than IS. At the same time, it will find it difficult to advance further because, aside from
Baghdad, it has already seized the areas where live the 20 per cent of Iraqis who are Sunni Arab. In Syria at least 60 per cent of the population are Sunni Arabs, meaning that IS’s natural constituency is much bigger.

The case for a ceasefire in Syria is cogently argued by Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beirut in a paper entitled “To Confront the Islamic State, Seek a Truce in Syria”. He rightly says that “both the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the more moderate armed rebels arrayed against it are stretched thin, bleeding badly and in an increasingly vulnerable position …. Each has self-serving reasons to suspend military operations to confront the looming jihadist threat from the east.”

The Syrian army suffered heavy defeats at the hands of IS in July and August, though these were little reported in the West. Mr Sayigh cites figures of 1,100 government soldiers dead in July alone. It has long been clear that the army was short of combat troops and could only fight one front at a time. Mr Assad appears to have calculated that the rise of IS would be to his political advantage because most of the world would prefer him to the fundamentalists. But he underestimated the military strength of IS since they captured Mosul on 10 June.

No truce is likely to happen unless there is pressure on both sides by their outside backers – notably the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Much would depend on how realistic they are: the US and Saudi Arabia still want the departure of Assad, but this has been very unlikely since the second half of 2012. Demanding this at the Geneva II talks in February effectively killed off any diplomatic framework for negotiations to

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end the conflict. Critics of multilateral ceasefires argue that this would mean accepting that the Assad government stay in place, but the Syrian government is not departing in any case. The Assad government may believe that it is gradually reasserting its authority over the rest of the country, but these advances are at a snail’s pace and its grip on ground regained is fragile. The Syrian army might not be able to withstand an all-out offensive by IS.

IS is growing stronger while its opponents in Syria are weakening. It is recruiting fast in all parts of its caliphate: Mr Sayigh cites opposition reports that it began training 6,300 recruits in Iraq in July alone. A study by the National Security Adviser’s office in Baghdad showed that in the past, where jihadis took over an area with 100 fighters, they could recruit between 500 and 1,000. IS seems prepared for air strikes, evacuating its fighters and heavy weapons from buildings where they are identifiable. US air power did not win the war in Afghanistan and is even less likely to do so in Iraq or Syria.

A ceasefire in Syria would remove one of IS’s strongest cards, which is the fear of the Sunnis that, bad though IS may be, the alternative of government re-occupation is even worse. For its part, the government may fear no longer being able to face Syrians with a stark choice between Assad and jihadis who chop off heads.

The restoration of a more normal civilian life in Syria would be an immense advance. Some of the 3 million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced people out of a total population of 22 million would be able to go home. There might be a re-emergence of more moderate individuals and groups marginalised or driven underground since 2011.

At the moment, the political landscape in Syria must look good from the point of view of IS. Its opponents are divided. The US is backing a group of moderates who barely exist and wants to weaken the Assad government. In the past week some of the heaviest fighting in Syria has been IS’s attack on the Kurdish enclave of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, close to Turkey. It is defended by the fighters of the YPG Kurdish militia who are the Syrian branch of the mainly Turkish Kurd PKK which the US labels as “terrorist”.

US policy has an Alice in Wonderland absurdity about it, everything being the opposite of what it appears to be. The so-called “coalition of the willing” is, in practice, very unwilling to fight IS, while those hitherto excluded, such as Iran, the Syrian government, Hezbollah and the PKK, are the ones actually fighting. A truce between the government and moderate rebels in Syria would enable both to devote their resources to fighting IS, as they need to do quickly if they are to avoid defeat.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on The Absurdity of US Policy in Syria

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