Archive | December 9th, 2016

Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo

syrianarmy2-510x309

Syrian Army helicopters dropped leaflets on parts of eastern Aleppo on Sunday warning anti-government fighters to surrender while they still had the chance. Hundreds of jihadists have already laid down their weapons and surrendered while a hardline corps of deadenders continue to fend off the  rapidly advancing army.

The situation is looking increasingly hopeless for the ragtag group of insurgents that have lost  more than half the territory they held in just the last week. Every attempt they’ve made to break through Syrian Army lines has been repelled leaving them to defend a few shrinking districts where they will either surrender or die.

On Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov delivered an ultimatum to the remaining militants that clarified the position of the Syrian government and its allies. he said:

Those groups which refuse to leave eastern Aleppo will be treated as terrorists.  By refusing to walk out from eastern Aleppo they will in fact go ahead with armed struggle. We will treat them accordingly, as terrorists and extremists, and support the Syrian army in its operation against such armed gangs.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has made every effort to stop the fighting to protect US-backed jihadists that are trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Unfortunately, a proposal that was accepted by both Kerry and Lavrov concerning the withdrawal of fighters in Aleppo, was rejected by higher-ups in the Obama Administration ending the prospects for a negotiated settlement. Lavrov expressed his frustration in comments to the media where he said:

They have withdrawn their document and have a new one. Our initial impression is that this new document backtracks, and is an attempt to buy time for the militants, allow them to catch their breath and resupply. The same thing happened with our agreement of September 9. It’s difficult to understand who makes decisions there, but apparently there are plenty of those who want to undermine the authority and practical steps by John Kerry.

According to Reuters, “the Syrian Foreign Ministry said it would now accept no truce in Aleppo, should any outside parties try to negotiate one.” Meanwhile,  “Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on Monday calling for a week-long ceasefire.” Simply put, this is the end of the line for the US-backed terrorists that have laid to waste much of the battered country and killed more than 400,000 people. And while Aleppo may not be the decisive turning point in the ongoing conflict, it does put all of the main population centers and industrial hubs back under regime control.

More important, the recapturing of Aleppo is a major setback for Washington and its jihadist-breeding allies. (US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar) US plans for redrawing the map of the Middle East to meet its economic and geopolitical objectives has been defeated by a courageous and determined coalition (Syria, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah) that has methodically routed or exterminated the foreign-backed opposition and reestablished both state security and the sovereign authority of the elected government to control its own affairs.

On Tuesday morning, AMN News reported that the Syrian Army had captured 85 percent of East Aleppo. Dozens of insurgents have been killed in sporadic fighting while hundreds more have surrendered.  It appears that the battle of Aleppo is about to end and the Syrian Army is on the “verge of total victory.”

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Washington Post Appends “Russian Propaganda Fake News” Story, Admits It May Be Fake

NOVANEWS

 
propornot

In the latest example why the “mainstream media” is facing a historic crisis of confidence among its readership, facing unprecedented blowback following Craig Timberg November 24 Washington Post story “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say“, on Wednesday a lengthy editor’s note appeared on top of the original article in which the editor not only distances the WaPo from the “experts” quoted in the original article whose “work” served as the basis for the entire article (and which became the most read WaPo story the day it was published) but also admits the Post could not “vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s finding regarding any individual media outlet”, in effect admitting the entire story may have been, drumroll “fake news” and conceding the Bezos-owned publication may have engaged in defamation by smearing numerous websites – Zero Hedge included – with patently false and unsubstantiated allegations.

It was the closest the Washington Post would come to formally retracting the story, which has now been thoroughly discredited not only by outside commentators, but by its own editor.

The apended note in question:
 Editor’s Note: The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda. A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of The Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some sites from its list.

As The Washingtonian notes, the implicit concession follows intense and rising criticism of the article over the past two weeks. It was “rife with obviously reckless and unproven allegations,” Intercept reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ben Norton wrote, noting that PropOrNot, one of the groups whose research was cited in Timberg’s piece, “anonymous cowards.” One of the sites PropOrNot cited as Russian-influenced was the Drudge Report.

The piece’s description of some sharers of bogus news as “useful idiots” could “theoretically include anyone on any social-media platform who shares news based on a click-bait headline,” Mathew Ingram wrote for Fortune.

But the biggest issue was PropOrNot itself. As Adrian Chen wrote for the New Yorker, its methods were themselves suspect, hinting at counter-Russian propaganda – ostensibly with Ukrainian origins – and verification of its work was nearly impossible. Chen wrote “the prospect of legitimate dissenting voices being labelled fake news or Russian propaganda by mysterious groups of ex-government employees, with the help of a national newspaper, is even scarier.”

Criticism culminated this week when the “Naked capitalism” blog threatened to sue the Washington Post, demanding a retraction.

Now, at least, the “national newspaper” has taken some responsibility, however the key question remains: by admitting it never vetted its primary source, whose biased and conflicted “work” smeared hundreds of websites, this one included, just how is the Washington Post any different from the “fake news” it has been deriding on a daily basis ever since its endorsed presidential candidate lost the elections?

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Rather Than Exposing Propaganda, The Washington Post Shows How It’s Done

NOVANEWS
wikiLeaks-logo-01

As the Hillary Clinton campaign slogged toward victory in the long primary campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders, word came from WikiLeaks that it had scored a trove of hacked emails to and from the Democratic National Committee. Among other things, they proved that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, along with their organizations, had been working hand-in-glove to skew the primaries in Clinton’s favor.

The day before the party’s convention opened in Philadelphia on July 24, Wasserman-Schultz had to resign her post or face a floor revolt. Sanders delegates were so angry at what they were learning from WikiLeaks about the sabotage of their candidate that hundreds walked out on the second day of the convention, tossing away their delegate credentials over the security fence and vowing never to support Clinton.

In short order, the DNC and the Obama administration-led intelligence establishment began claiming, with no hard evidence, that the source of WikiLeaks’ explosive emails was “the Russians.” While denied by WikiLeaks, it was a charge that Clinton made ad nauseum on the campaign trail and in her three televised debates with Trump, using it as an all-purpose excuse for tough questions about her self-dealing as secretary of State, her lucrative off-the-record speeches to Wall Street bankers, or the DNC’s thumb on the scale in the primaries.

Mainstream news organizations were quick to adopt this “Russia did it” trope, which despite the lack of proof has only grown more widely accepted since Trump’s stunning election-night victory.

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say

The Washington Post (11/24/16) says that 200 websites on a list produced by a shadowy group are “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda”—but editors later insist that they didn’t print the list themselves.

Then the Washington Post(11/24/16) took things a giant step further, publishing an explosive exposé claiming that, as its headline put it, “Russian Propaganda Effort Helped Spread ‘Fake News’ During Election, Experts Say.”

The Post’s story was based on a long list of online news sites purported to be either working directly for Moscow or else “useful idiots” unwittingly spreading Russian propaganda. Incredibly, the list included respected sites like Polk Award-winner Robert Parry’sConsortium News, former LA journalist Robert Sheer’sTruthdig, the news aggregator site Truth-Out.org and the highly regarded financial news site Naked Capitalism.

The aim of the conspiracy that involved these and scores of other sites was reportedly to boost Trump’s chances of winning the the presidency, while simultaneously undermining American support for democracy and creating “the appearance of international tensions” and “fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.”

Post technology reporter Craig Timberg reported that a “nonpartisan” team of  “experts” calling themselves PropOrNot used “sophisticated” but unexplained analytical tools and methodologies to identify “more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans.”

Timberg added, “On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”

These numbers, not verified by PropOrNot, sound wildly exaggerated. After all, there are only 250 million adult Americans, probably less than half of whom use Facebook. Meanwhile, some of the sites on that list of propaganda peddlers would be pleased to have daily hits reach five figures.

Craig Timberg

Washington Post‘s Craig Timberg: Russian propaganda was aimed at “sowing distrust in US democracy and its leaders.”

Many of the stories circulated by these sites, Timberg charged, were “fake,” containing just enough truth to seem credible. He explained how Russia’s

increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery—including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts—were echoed and amplified by right-wing sites across the internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers.

Never mind that reputable US journalists left and right needed no Russian guidance to suspect Clinton’s private email setup was illegal, or that her health might be cause for concern. Or that a candidate who had received millions of dollars for  speeches delivered in secret to top global bankers would be willing to give them a lead role in setting economic policy (as President Obama did on assuming office in 2008.)

And certainly Clinton herself, with her campaign calls for establishment of a US-enforced no-fly zone over Syria and for more US troops and offensive armaments along Russia’s borders, was doing quite well without Russian help ramping up voters’ fears of a new Cold War or worse.

The PropOrNot approach conflates these well-grounded concerns with spurious stories of the sex-trafficking pizza parlor ilk t0 form a single disinformation juggernaut. As the organization’s “executive director” told the Post:

The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy…. It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign…. It worked.

“Executive director” here is in quotes because, in a staggering lapse of journalistic ethics and standards, the Post allowed PropOrNot’s entire staff to remain anonymous. Nor did Post editors require Timberg to afford any of the sites PropOrNot maligned as Russian propaganda tools a chance to respond—a basic requirement of responsible journalism.

In what surely has to be one of the weakest excuses ever offered for granting anonymity while making defamatory statements about others, Timberg wrote that this was to protect PropOrNot’s members from “being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”

Efforts by FAIR to elicit comment from Timberg or his superiors, national editor Cameron Barr and editor Marty Baron, were unsuccessful. They referred questions to Post VP for communications and events Kris Coratti, who would only email this justification for not giving the sites on the blacklist a chance to respond: “The Post did not name any of the sites on PropOrNot’s list of organizations.”

Editor's note on the Washington Post's PropOrNot story

The Washington Post‘s editor’s note.

Almost two weeks after its article ran, the Post ran a sort of correction in the form of an editorial comment in italics pasted on top of the online edition of Timberg’s November 24 piece (where only those looking for the by then old original story would find it). In that note, the editors say that the paper

did not name any of the sites [on PropOrNot’s blacklist], does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of the Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some of those sites from its list.

Of course, the damage was already done, as the original article achieved widespread circulation via the Post’s wire service; it would be up to all those news organizations that bought and ran the story, or reported their own versions of it, to make any correction.

Meanwhile, the facile dodge of “we didn’t name the sites” ignores the reality that the Post had prominently showcased PropOrNot and let its name vouch for the heretofore unknown group’s credibility. The paper didn’t have to run the list; anyone with a smartphone could do a Google search, find PropOrNot’s website as the first listing, go to the homepage and find a link button headed “The List.”

And apparently plenty of readers did that. While thanks to the Post’s grant of anonymity, PropOrNot’s hidden principals remained safe from inquiring reporters and Russian hackers alike, editors of sites named on its McCarthyite hit list quickly found themselves deluged with venomous calls and emails. As Jeffrey St. Clair, a co-founder and editor of CounterPunch.org, another site listed prominently as a propaganda tool, recalls, “The morning after the Post published its article, I found 1,000 emails in my inbox, mostly hate mail and death threats.”

Timberg tried to lend his credulous article a sheen of credibility by including a second source of other “independent analysts” also making claims of an epic Russian propaganda conspiracy, but this was a study by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), a hoary relic of the ’50s still mired in McCarthyite thinking and run by Russophobe veterans of the Reagan and Bush administrations. At least FPRI’s funding, leadership and the study’s authors were identified, but no one could mistake them or the organization for being “independent.”

In any event, the Post’s story was really all about PropOrNot’s list and, in contrast to FPRI, the organization remains fully opaque. What is PropOrNot trying to hide? One possibility: The Pentagon. The Defense Department is, after all, spending billions of dollars a year on information warfare, and has, under Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, been promoting the idea of Russia as an existential threat to the US.

One indication of some level of Pentagon involvement is the curious role of Joel Harding, whose own blog identifies him as a retired longtime military intelligence officer specializing in “information operations, strategic communication and cyberwarfare”—in other words, psychological warfare and propaganda. Harding, who   denied (via an email conversation with me) any connection to the 30 or 40 “volunteers” alleged to be working at PropOrNot, is nonetheless the only named “analyst” whose work is cited as a rationale for listing any of the sites on PropOrNot’s list. (The other sites just feature links to the sites themselves.)

One of the sites Harding “analyzed” for PropOrNot and labeled as a major purveyor of Russian propaganda was an obscure site called YourNewsWire.com, which features some news about the US and Russia, as well as conspiracy theories about vaccine links to autism and proof of an afterlife.

To Inform Is to Influence: Russia Useful Idiots Proliferate Russian Propaganda

Joel Harding’s blog (9/2/16), on the basis of which PropOrNot listed CounterPunch
 as a purveyor of Russian propaganda. It was later removed from the list.

The other was a remarkably shoddy September 2 analysisof an article inCounterPunch, in which Harding mocked one the contributor whose self-identification as a socialist contradicted, in Harding’s view, CounterPunch’s claim be the “voice of the authentic American left” — without mentioning or perhaps noticing that the author’s bio also mentioned he was a Canadian. When CounterPunch editor Joshua Frank wrote to PropOrNot complain about his site’s being labeled as Russian propaganda (he attached a story he had written criticizing Russia’s role in Syria), PropOrNot said they would remove CounterPunch from their list.

What makes him appear to be more closely allied with or part of PropOrNot’s anonymous team than he admits, however, is a bylined article that appeared on his own site on November 18, six days before PropOrNot’s public debut in the Washington Post. Under the prescient headline “Russian Propaganda Sites: Is It Propaganda or Not?,” Harding offered a preview of the as yet unannounced PropOrNot.com’s “List,” itself dated November 9. This preview list contained 178 names, a bit shorter than the final list’s 200.

While claiming no connection to PropOrNot, Harding said via email, without elaborating, that “some of its people may have been students of mine.” Harding said during this email conversation that he was on his way to the commissary at the US Army’s Ft. Belvoir, a suburban DC base that’s home to INSCOM, the Army’s “information operations” command, and ARCYBER, its cyber command post.

Could PropOrNot possibly be linked to a US military psychological warfare program? Hard to say, harder to prove. But it’s a question worth exploring.

New Yorker: The Propaganda About Russian Propaganda

The New Yorker‘s Adrian Chen (12/1/16) notes that PropOrNot’s criteria for
“Russian propaganda” would encompass “nearly every news outlet in the world.”

Adrian Chen, a staff writer at the New Yorker (12/1/16), offered interesting insight into the genesis of Timberg’s Washington Post article. He said he had received an anonymous email from “The PropOrNot team” in late October saying that as a “newly-formed independent team of computer scientists, statisticians, national security professionals, journalists and political activists, dedicated to identifying propaganda—particularly Russian propaganda targeting a US audience,” they had developed a list of 200 such news sites. They said that they had brought it to the attention of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who had recommended they contact Chen.

Chen said he was wary of dealing with an unidentified group, and so claimed he was “too busy.” They asked if he would connect them with “folks at the NYTimesWaPoWSJ and anyone else who you think would be interested.” He passed.

The Post’s Timberg, however, took the bait, and after his piece appeared, the Post promoted it aggressively. Between the Washington Post’s wire service and AP, it spread virally to many other newsrooms and papers across the country, running as the lead story on November 25 in the Philadelphia Inquirer and prominently, too, at USA Today, and getting mentions on CBS,PBS, ABC and other news programs.

Meanwhile, however, alternative media were quick to fight back. TheIntercept (11/26/16) ran a blistering accusation of the Post that accused the paper of promoting an organization that “embodies the toxic essence of Joseph McCarthy, but without the courage to attach individual names to the blacklist.”

Matt Taibi, in Rolling Stone, condemned Timberg’s “astonishingly lazy report,” adding, of the Post’s use of a shadowy group to malign 200 news sites without a single identified spokesperson, “Most high school papers wouldn’t touch sources like these.”

By November 30, PropOrNot, saying it had been challenged by many journalists, but still remaining anonymous, issued a press release announcing that  it was “reviewing” its methodology. The group said that it would stop listing news sites that were open about who they were and that were running actual news. They also said they would stop using techies to evaluate whether news sites were propaganda organs or not.

The Post, however, despite its “editor’s note” preface, is still standing by a tawdry story reminiscent of Red Channels in the 1950s. So is Timberg, whoon November 30 enthusiastically cited his earlier piece in reporting on a House/Senate conference working on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, that approves $160 million to “identify propaganda and counter its effects.”

Timberg wrote that the measure, originally produced last spring, had earlier focussed upon propaganda in foreign countries, but he says, enthusiastically linking to his own article of six days earlier: “The context shifted in recent months as independent experts [those PropOrNot guys!] warned that Russia was carrying out an intensive propaganda campaign during the US election season.”

That should make the folks behind PropOrNot happy. On their own site, while claiming they aren’t trying to censor anybody, they call on the FBI and DOJ to open “formal investigations by the US government, because…we strongly suspect that some of the individuals involved have violated the Espionage Act, the Foreign Agent Registration Act and other related laws.”

The irony is that in purporting to expose Russian propaganda manipulation of the media, the Washington Post has provided a graphic demonstration of how the whole propaganda thing works.

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How War Propaganda Keeps on Killing

NOVANEWS
 
Barack Obama, George W. Bush

A key reason why American foreign debacles have been particularly destructive mostly to the countries attacked but also to the United States is that these interventions are always accompanied by major U.S. government investments in propaganda. So, even when officials recognize a misjudgment has been made, the propaganda machinery continues to grind on to prevent a timely reversal.

In effect, Official Washington gets trapped by its own propaganda, which restricts the government’s ability to change direction even when the need for a shift becomes obvious.

President George W. Bush announcing the start of his invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

President George W. Bush announcing the start of his invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

After all, once a foreign leader is demonized, it’s hard for a U.S. official to explain that the leader may not be all that bad or is at least better than the likely alternative. So, it’s not just that officials start believing their own propaganda, it’s that the propaganda takes on a life of its own and keeps the failed policy churning forward.

It’s a bit like the old story of the chicken that continues to run around with its head cut off. In the case of the U.S. government, the pro-war or pro-intervention “group think” continues to run amok even after wiser policymakers recognize the imperative to change course.

The reason for that dilemma is that so much money gets spread around to pay for the propaganda and so many careers are tethered to the storyline that it’s easier to let thousands of U.S. soldiers and foreign citizens die than to admit that the policy was built on distortions, propaganda and lies. That would be bad for one’s career.

And, because of the lag time required for contracts to be issued and the money to flow into the propaganda shops, the public case for the policy can outlive the belief that the policy makes sense.

Need for Skeptics

Ideally, in a healthy democracy, skeptics both within the government and in the news media would play a key role in pointing out the flaws and weaknesses in the rationale for a conflict and would be rewarded for helping the leaders veer away from disaster. However, in the current U.S. establishment, such self-corrections don’t occur.

Russian President Vladimir Putin after the military parade on Red Square, May 9, 2016 Moscow. (Photo from: http://en.kremlin.ru)

Russian President Vladimir Putin after the military parade on Red Square, May 9, 2016 Moscow. (Photo from: http://en.kremlin.ru)

A current example of this phenomenon is the promotion of the New Cold War with Russia with almost no thoughtful debate about the reasons for this growing hostility or its possible results, which include potential thermonuclear war that could end life on the planet.

Instead of engaging in a thorough discussion, the U.S. government and mainstream media have simply flooded the policymaking process with propaganda, some of it so crude that it would have embarrassed Joe McCarthy and the Old Cold Warriors.

Everything that Russia does is put in the most negative light with no space allowed for a rational examination of facts and motivations – except at a few independent-minded Internet sites.

Yet, as part of the effort to marginalize dissent about the New Cold War, the U.S. government, some of its related “non-governmental organizations,” mainstream media outlets, and large technology companies are now pushing a censorship project designed to silence the few Internet sites that have refused to march in lockstep.

I suppose that if one considers the trillions of dollars in tax dollars that the Military Industrial Complex stands to get from the New Cold War, the propaganda investment in shutting up a few critics is well worth it.

Today, this extraordinary censorship operation is being carried out under the banner of fighting “fake news.” But many of the targeted Web sites, including Consortiumnews.com, have represented some of the most responsible journalism on the Internet.

At Consortiumnews, our stories are consistently well-reported and well-documented, but we do show skepticism toward propaganda from the U.S. government or anywhere else.

For instance, Consortiumnews not only challenged President George W. Bush’s WMD claims regarding Iraq in 2002-2003 but we have reported on the dispute within the U.S. intelligence community about claims made by President Barack Obama and his senior aides regarding the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria and the 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.

In those two latter cases, Official Washington exploited the incidents as propaganda weapons to justify an escalation of tensions against the Syrian and Russian governments, much as the earlier Iraqi WMD claims were used to rally the American people to invade Iraq.

However, if you question the Official Story about who was responsible for the sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, after President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and the mainstream media pronounced the Syrian government guilty, you are guilty of “fake news.”

Facts Don’t Matter

It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s been confirmed in a mainstream report by The Atlantic that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper advised President Obama that there was no “slam-dunk” evidence proving that the Syrian government was responsible. Nor does it matter that legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has reported that his intelligence sources say the more likely culprit was Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front with help from Turkish intelligence.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh

By straying from the mainstream “group think” that accuses Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of crossing Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons, you are opening yourself to retaliation as a “fake news” site.

Similarly, if you point out that the MH-17 investigation was put under the control of Ukraine’s unsavory SBU intelligence service, which not only has been accused by United Nations investigators of concealing torture but also has a mandate to protect Ukrainian government secrets, you also stand accused of disseminating “fake news.”

Apparently one of the factors that got Consortiumnews included on a new “black list” of some 200 Web sites was that I skeptically analyzed a report by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that while supposedly “Dutch-led” was really run by the SBU. I also noted that the JIT’s conclusion blaming Russia was marred by a selective reading of the SBU-supplied evidence and by an illogical narrative. But the mainstream U.S. media uncritically hailed the JIT report, so to point out its glaring flaws made us guilty of committing “fake news” or disseminating “Russian propaganda.”

The Iraq-WMD Case

Presumably, if the hysteria about “fake news” had been raging in 2002-2003, then those of us who expressed skepticism about Iraq hiding WMD would have been forced to carry a special marking declaring us to be “Saddam apologists.”

Washington Post's editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.

Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.

Back then, everyone who was “important” in Washington had no doubt about Iraq’s WMD. Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt repeatedly stated the “fact” of Iraq’s hidden WMD as flat fact and mocked anyone who doubted the “group think.”

Yet, even after the U.S. government acknowledged that the WMD allegations were a myth – a classic and bloody case of “fake news” – almost no one who had pushed the fabrication was punished.

So, the “fake news” stigma didn’t apply to Hiatt and other mainstream journalists who actually did produce “fake news,” even though it led to the deaths of 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. To this day, Hiatt remains the Post’s editorial-page editor continuing to enforce “conventional wisdoms” and to disparage those who deviate.

Another painful example of letting propaganda – rather than facts and reason – guide U.S. foreign policy was the Vietnam War, which claimed the lives of some 58,000 U.S. soldiers and millions of Vietnamese.

The Vietnam War raged on for years after Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and even President Lyndon Johnson recognized the need to end it. Part of that was Richard Nixon’s treachery in going behind Johnson’s back to sabotage peace talks in 1968, but the smearing of anti-war dissidents as pro-communist traitors locked many officials into support for the war well after its futility became obvious. The propaganda developed its own momentum that resulted in many unnecessary deaths.

A Special Marking

In the Internet era, there will now be new-age forms of censorship. Your Web site will be excluded from major search engines or electronically stamped with a warning about your unreliability.

Journalist Robert Parry

Journalist Robert Parry

Your guilt will be judged by a panel of mainstream media outlets, including some partially funded by the U.S. government, or maybe by some anonymous group of alleged experts.

With the tens of millions of dollars now sloshing around Official Washington to pay for propaganda, lots of entrepreneurs will be lining up at the trough to do their part. Congress just approved another $160 million to combat “Russian propaganda,” which will apparently include U.S. news sites that question the case for the New Cold War.

Along with that money, the House voted 390-30 for the Intelligence Authorization Act with a Section 501 to create an Executive Branch “interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence,” an invitation to expand the  McCarthyistic witch hunt already underway to intimidate independent Internet news sites and independent-minded Americans who question the latest round of U.S. government propaganda.

Even if a President Trump decides that these tensions with Russia are absurd and that the two countries can work together in the fight against terrorism and other international concerns, the financing of the New Cold War propaganda — and the pressure to conform to Official Washington’s  “group think” — will continue.

The well-funded drumbeat of anti-Russian propaganda will seek to limit Trump’s decision-making. After all, this New Cold War cash cow can be milked for years to come and nothing – not even the survival of the human species – is more important than that.

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A Major Setback for the Middle East Peace Process….

NOVANEWS

Jewish state plans to unplug the muezzins

Map of Middle East

By Stuart Littlewood 

Here’s another dastardly twist in the religious hate war against Muslims in the Holy Land.

According to a report by The Times, mosques in the city of Lod are threatened with having their loudspeakers, which call the faithful to prayer five times a day, shut down. The first call is at 4.45 am and this is a nuisance to non-Muslim residents, so much so that the mayor recently suggested broadcasting a Jewish prayer to drown out the Muslim adhan. Imagine the pre-dawn cacaphony! No, he’s not exactly the brightest fairy-light on the Christmas tree.

The argument is that hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens routinely suffer from the noise caused by the muezzin’s calls, it’s getting them down and freedom of religion shouldn’t be allowed to undermine their quality of life.

However, a bill going through the Knesset banning the use of outside broadcast equipment by houses of worship, which had the support of prime minister Netanyahu, was stopped in its tracks when it dawned on some members that the wording could backfire on religious Jewish communities who use a siren to mark the start of the Sabbath on Friday evenings. So it’s back to the drawing board on this one. Personally I’d prefer the naturally mellifluous voice of the muezzin from a distant minaret to the electronically amplified and distorted version. It should still disturb the sleep of a useful number of Israelis, especially if muezzins punctuate their performance with an occasional blast from a musical instrument like the bugle.

This is not the first time that the dark forces of Zionism have tried to silence the Muslims of this city. Lod was originally a Canaanite town and in ancient times became the old Arab city of Lydda. Its importance grew under Ottoman rule and the British mandate and by 1948 it had become a key trading centre with an airport and rail hub and nearly 20,000 inhabitants – 18,500 Muslim and 1,500 Christian. The UN’s Partition Plan of 1947 allocated Lydda to a future Arab state.

But in July 1948 Israeli terrorist troops seized Lydda, shot up the town and drove out the population as part of their ethnic cleansing programme. In the process they silenced 426 men, women, and children…. permanently. 176 of them were slaughtered in the town’s main mosque. See here for the lurid details.

Those who survived were forced to walk into exile in the scalding July heat leaving a trail of bodies — men, women and children — along the way. And who was the perpetrator of this foul massacre? None other than the great hero of the Six Day War, Moshe Dayan.

The assault on Lydda was witnessed by two American news correspondents. One recorded that “practically everything in their way died. Riddled corpses lay by the roadside.” The other wrote that he saw “the corpses of Arab men, women and even children strewn about in the wake of the ruthlessly brilliant charge”.

Christians, especially English Christians (and indeed Swedish, Portuguese, Romanian, Georgian and Maltese) will be aware that these outrages were committed in St George’s home town. He was born and buried in Lydda.

Israeli troops carried away 1,800 truck loads of loot. Jewish immigrants then flooded in and Lydda was given its Hebrew name, Lod.

So Israelis have no right to be there in the first place. Nor Ben Gurion airport, formerly Lydda airport. All was stolen in the murderous terror raid.

There’s an amusing story where an irate airline passenger wrote: “This morning (6 May 2003) on a flight from Rome to Tel Aviv, after landing the pilot announced in the microphone: ‘Welcome to Palestine’. I think this is the most disgusting thing for a pilot to say.”

It led to a long and acrimonious argument on the forum with many demanding dire punishment for the Alitalia pilot. It seems an Air France pilot had said something similarly shocking. Had he been sacked I’d have enjoyed chairing his employment tribunal. I salute that unnamed Alitalia pilot. And the Air France one.

So next time you fly into Ben Gurion, if the pilot doesn’t announce over the tannoy the greeting: ‘Welcome to Lydda and Palestine. And may St George protect you!’ remember to whisper it to yourself. Whisper being the operative word seeing as how Israelis tend to get twitchy when confronted with the truth.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on A Major Setback for the Middle East Peace Process….

Brutal US Colonialism in Puerto Rico

NOVANEWS

Image result for Puerto Rico FLAG

“No ambition to oppress them”?

By Leftist Critic 

Recently, I’ve been reading Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, a book by veteran New York Timescorrespondent Stephen Kinzer, which focuses on US-backed coups from 1893 (Hawaii) to Iraq (2003). In the book, Kinzer devotes only fourteen pages to Puerto Rico, a small island nation controlled by the murderous empire of the United States. On page 94, he declares that “most Puerto Ricans” understand that the US, despite colonial “misdeeds,” harbors “no ambition to oppress them.” He goes on to say that most want to continue ties with the US and that colonial rule has been “relatively benign,” meaning it was partially beneficial to islanders. In his view, this hasn’t led to a “violent backlash” because of US efforts to take “direct political responsibility” to govern the island, and even floats the idea that there could be a reasonable case that US control over the island has made it “better off”! Kinzer ends optimistically, saying that “a happy end to the long story” would not only take away stigma of US citizens from “ruling another people” but would tell them that “toppling of foreign regimes need not end badly.” Such words, like this, reek of apologism for imperialism and existing US colonialism in Puerto Rico. In this article, using quotes from Kinzer’s own book, I plan to prove that US rule in the island nation has not been “relatively benign,” but that the US imperialists should not be seen as engaging in “nice” oppression, with “no ambition,” of Puerto Rico’s citizens.

On May 12, 1898, seven US warships appeared off the coast of San Juan. They soon began their bombardment, firing over 1,300 shells, met by a Spanish response of about 400 shells, killed a dozen people and one US soldier.1 The small island nation of Puerto Rico comprises of an island 3,515 square miles across, called Borinquen by many native residents, three inhabited islands (Vieques, Cuelbra, and Mona), and 140 other small reefs, islands, and atolls. For over 400 years, the island was an established Spanish colony (1493-1898), with the indigenous Taino nation pushed into forced labor as part of the encomienda system. It was not until the early nineteenth century that Puerto Rico would be integrated into the international capitalist economy.2

The island, which exported commodities such as coffee and tobacco, became a sugar colony, supported by the country’s Creole elite, with 276 sugar plantations dotting the island’s landscape.3 As the sugar industry thrived, thousands of white wage laborers and enslaved blacks suffered in the “sugar haciendas,” or plantations, concentrated near Ponce, Guayama, and Mayaguez.4 The number of enslaved black laborers, who were mistreated, abused, and overworked despite “favorable” laws, reached into the tens of thousands, numbering 17,890 in 1828.5 They were chosen over wage laborers as more profitable for the sugar industry.6 It would not be until 1873 that slavery would be abolished in the Spanish empire, but the exploitation would not end, continuing under the system of apprenticeship, for example.7

About two months before the US warships arrived, Puerto Rico had elected a new government. The Spanish, likely in a measure to stave off revolt, had offered the Puerto Ricans political autonomy.8 They didn’t want rebellions like the Lares Uprising (Grito de Lares) in 1868 or the Attempted Coup of Yauco (Intentona de Yauco) in 1897 which were strongly pro-independence and opposed to Spanish colonial rule. On March 27, 1898, Luis Munoz Rivera’s Liberal Fusion Party was elected in a legislative body, created with agreement from the “liberal” Spanish government, of the island’s autonomous government.9 However, this would not last. On July 25, US marines from the Glouchester gunboat waded ashore, raising a US flag above a customs house after a short exchange of firearms.10

As Kinzer puts it, after the US flag fluttered in the breeze above the customs house, the “United States effectively took control of Puerto Rico” with every institution of Spanish colonial control, and the autonomous Liberal Fusion Party government, would quickly disappear. The objective of the US imperialists like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who declared that “Puerto Rico is not forgotten [in this war] and we mean to have it” came to be true, with US trade routes protected and a naval base established on the island.11While some Puerto Ricans welcomed the US presence, this quickly changed, as the US seizure of the island nation became “legal” with the Treaty of Paris.12

The imposition of US imperialism on Puerto Rico began in 1898 as the island was declared a colony. Luis Munoz Rivera, the former leader of the island before the US arrived, declared that “we are witnessing a spectacle of terrible assimilation… our present condition is that of serfs attached to conquered territory.”13 The “individual freedom” that was promised, was not delivered upon, with the US instead engaging in exploitation which, as Martinquis revolutionary Frantz Fanon said about all colonizers, was part of a spiral of “domination, exploitation and looting.”14

The bank on the island was transferred to US investors, who printed Puerto Rican dollars, pegged to the US dollar, replacing the Spanish peso. Other banks were established on the island by investors such as the American Colonial Bank, which opened in 1899. As a result, new taxes were imposed. The following years, as US military troops remained in place as an occupying force, the US Congress passed the Foraker Act which put the Puerto Rican assembly under direct US control.15 As the people of the island nation had “no liberty, no rights, no protection,” as civil rights campaigner Julio Henna once put it, four US corporations took over land on the island for mass production and farming.16 This was reinforced by one of Insular Cases, which some say established “political apartheid,” Downes v. Bidwell (1901) in which the Supreme Court held that Puerto Rico wasn’t a foreign country, allowing Congress to treat it like a dependent colonial possession.

In later years, the island nation forced “permanent uncertainty” in its political status. In 1910, foreign banks began foreclosing on land in Puerto Rico, and the island became an official protectorate in 1913 with the existing naval bases reinforcing economic and ideological interests.17 By World War I, with the imposition of US citizenship with the Jones Act, 18,000 Puerto Ricans were conscripted to fight in the forces of empire as 200 Puerto Ricans were arrested for refusing to participate. Such imposition did not end there. From 1920 to 1923, Moncho Reyes ruled as the Governor on the island, declaring English as the only official language, not Spanish, and that the US flag is the only one to be flown across the island. He was only forced out by corruption scandals. This was accompanied the Balzac v. Porto Rico (1922) case, in which the Supreme Court said that provisions of the US constitution did not apply to a “territory” that was not a US state. In the following years, more and more of the island was controlled by US corporations, including 80% of the farms, and half of the arable land!

By the 1930s, medicine went to war on the island’s inhabitants. In 1931, Dr. Cornelius P. Rhoads injected patients on the island with live cancer cells, with thirteen people dying. He bragged about killing them, calling for a “tidal wave or something to totally exterminate the population” and saying that the island’s inhabitants were “the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever inhabiting this sphere.” He went on to head the US Army’s Biological Weapons division, serve on the Atomic Energy Commission, and sent memos to US military leaders expressing the opinion that Puerto Rican supporters of independence should be “eradicated” with the use of germ bombs! This was only a prelude, in a sense.

Henry Laughlin, superintendent of the US Eugenics Record Office, pushed the Model Eugenical Sterilization Law, targeting “socially inadequate” people for sterilization in 30 US states and Puerto Rico. On the island itself, in 1936, Law 116 entered into force by making sterilization legal and free for women, with no alternative plan of birth control, backed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation18, the Puerto Rican government, and Human Betterment Association. It was voluntary, only in theory, with employer discrimination and a dearth of other options giving women the incentive to participate, coupled with the veneer of being “feminist” and sometimes a lack of informed consent. This was done after scientists conducted research experiments on Puerto Rican women who had taken birth control pills, with a high amount of estrogen. Such an approach was rejected by the Catholic Church, which supported sterilization instead. By the 1970s, this horrendous practice ended, with more than one-third of Puerto Rico’s female population of childbearing age undergoing the procedure.19

At the same time, repression of the island’s spirit and feelings for independence intensified. On October 24, 1935, police at the campus of the University of Puerto Rico confronted nationalists, resulting in the death of four nationalists and one police officer, in what has been called the Rios Piedras massacre, what police chief E. Francis Riggs declared was part of his “war to the death against all Puerto Ricans.” In response to this action, the nationalist party called for a boycott to all actions held while Puerto Rico was a part of the United States.

The nationalist party continued its actions on the island. On March 21, 1937, it peacefully marched to Ponce. As they requested a permit, it was denied, and as they continued the action, police cordoned off unarmed demonstrators, then firing upon them from multiple directions, killing a total of 21 and wounding 140-200 people, in what has been called the  Ponce Massacre. As “hysteria and near civil war swept the island” with nationalists arrested and hunted on sight, 23 nationalists and four police officers were arrested for participation in the massacre, with the ACLU even investigating the matter, finding that the protesters were not armed and had been surrounded by the police.

As the years passed, the US strengthened its hold on the island. By 1940, 80% of the country’s arable land was US-owned. In 1939, the US began bombing on the island of Culebra (which it later fully occupied until protests in the 1970s forced it to move operations to Vieques), and two years later, it began the occupation of Vieques, an island of 7,000 inhabitants. As William Blum, a renowned critic of US foreign policy, writes, from 1940 to 2000, the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, had to endure years of “target practices and war games” which included dropping depleted uranium and napalm.20 This led to the island’s drinking water to be reportedly poisoned and resulted in the land being “contaminated by radioactivity.”

Even as US military officials outrageously said that they could only have a bombing range on that island since one on the East Coast would be too close to population centers, President Bill Clinton promised that the US would stop using the bombing range in 2005.21  With international pressure and local protests, the bombing range stopped being used in 2003, but was accompanied by the closing of the Roosevelt Roads naval facility, the following year, almost to make residents “regret” their decision. Still, this was another victory against the empire. Such bombing on Vieques and Culebra islands was not the only imposition. From 1948 to 1957, Law 53, also called Le Ley de Mondonza or “gag law,” made it illegal to support or say anything construed as pro-independence, with a penalty of ten years in prison.

As the Cold War started, by arrogant imperialists who didn’t want to have friendly relationships with the Soviets after World War II, the imperialists began their “charm offensive” to the world stage. US leaders were recognizing that “ruling an impoverished colony in the Caribbean made the United States look bad.”22 Of course, they could only say this, feeling assured that those in the Puerto Rican government, like Luis Munoz Martin, the “Father of Modern Puerto Rico,” were accommodationist to US imperial power, even pushing for Law 53 and by the 1950s, at least, was clearly a symbol of an organ of the machine of colonial control.

In the UN, the US government attempted to stifle criticism of US colonial control by working on changing the country to a commonwealth. Diplomats saw the island helping in the anti-communist Korean War as a vital “political association” which respects individuality and culture of the island, and declaring that the occupation was legal. As the diplomats frankly admitted, declaring colonial control of the island nation as “free choice” of the residents would head off attacks “by those who have charged the United States government with imperialism and colonial exploitation.” While the “Soviet bloc” argued correctly that self-government didn’t exist in Puerto Rico, diplomats claimed they had a “strong case” of moving Puerto Rico from the list of non-self-governing territories (discussed more in the following paragraph), even as they felt difficulties would arise in the “usual anti-colonial propaganda by Iron Curtain countries,” along with other factors.

This veneer was first reinforced by the Constitutional Referendum in 1952, which approved a constitution proposed in 1950 by the US Congress, stripped of social democratic measures before it was approved, after negotiation with the accommodationist leaders on the island, including Governor Marin. Not surprisingly, independence was never offered as an option, showing that the motive of the US could have been to douse revolutionary feelings. The second reinforcement was on November 27, 1953, when the US imperialists achieved a victory which allowed “approval” of the commonwealth status of the island. The passing of Resolution 748, in the UN’s General Assembly, after a push of US hegemony, made it clear that the US was given sanction to determine the “status of territories under its sovereignty.” Years later, the US imperialists have tried to soften the push for independence by allowing multiple plebiscites on the island to “decide” its fate, but none of these considered that the island is a colony and needs to have self-determination, as asserted in UN General Assembly resolution 1514, described later in this article.

This may be the basis of Kinzer’s claim that colonialism in Puerto Rico has been “benign” and that US imperialists had “no ambition” to oppress the island’s inhabitants. Some may even think the idea the island is under “self-rule” or a change in its status, means that neocolonialism is in place. These are both incorrect. For neocolonialism to be present, the island would have to be under indirect colonial control. Such domination, unlike direct colonial control of the past keeping people politically and economically exploited, often used by Britain, France, and the United States, would require formal recognition of political independence even with domination by political, economic, social, military, and other means.23

This “norm” of neocolonialism, which exists under imperial rivalry, and assists profitable enterprises, is not the case in Puerto Rico.24This is because the island is not formally an independent political entity. As recently as October 2016, the Supreme Court held that while the island nation functioned as a separate sovereign entity for certain purposes, the authority to govern the island derives from the US Constitution, saying that the US Congress still has the supreme authority over the island.25

This is buttressed by the case of United States v. Sanchez in 1993, in which a US Court of Appeals which said that Congress may unilaterally repeal the constitution of Puerto Rico, and a congressional committee report in 1997 declaring that the island is “subject to the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and laws passed by Congress,” even including the rescinding of the current “commonwealth” status! Hence, while the current government in Puerto Rico is, officially, a separate political entity from the United States, the US is still the imperial overlord of the island. By extension, this means that the officially deemed US “territories” in Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, and Northern Marinas Islands are colonies, along with arguably Hawaii.26 Hence, for these “territories,” colonialism, rather than neocolonialism, is at work, a subset of imperialism.

Efforts by US imperialists to repress or weaken resistance was abundantly clear. The FBI, the secret “internal” police of the murderous empire, spent forty years (1936-1976) working to repress, disrupt, and surveil the independence movement (“independentista”) in Puerto Rico. This included surveillance of renowned nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos from 1936 until his death in 1965.27 Specifically, the FBI kept files, illegally, on 140,000 pro-independence individuals! Even Governor Marin, the founder of the Popular Democratic Party, and later pliant puppet leader, was originally under surveillance until the FBI changed its mind, trying to protect him from threats. Years later, FBI director Louis J. Freeh admitted that his agency engaged in “egregious illegal activity, maybe criminal action” and violated the civil rights of those on the island. This suppression was only part of the story. The island’s police, FBI, and US Army intelligence had dossiers on 100,000 Puerto Ricans, 75,000 who were under “political” surveillance. Apart from the police provocateurs who assassinated independentistas,15,000 Puerto Ricans (of the 75,000) had extensive police files for political activity.

There were other forms of US domination. In 1976, the US put in place Section 936 of the internal revenue code, which allowedUS companies to operate on the island without paying any corporate taxes. This was released years later when there was a huge pharmaceutical boom on the island, and the provision was replaced by Section 30A, which had similar language, in 2006. In 1979, Jimmy Carter, trying to engage in a “significant humanitarian gesture” mainly to fend off criticism of the United States, commutedthe sentences of four Puerto Rican nationalists who participated in the 1950 and 1954 actions, described in the next paragraph, saying they had served enough time in prison.28

Clearly, the FBI’s brutal streak did not end, with surveillance of Puerto Rican independence activists still occurring in 1995. Ten years later, in 2005, the FBI murdered a Puerto Rican independence leader named Ojeda Rios in a shootout.29 This outraged many islanders. The following year, the FBI engaged in violent raids on the island. And two years later, an FBI/NYPD anti-terrorism task force targeted three independentistas living in the US mainland, currently, handing them subpoenas.30 This clearly shows that the crackdown on independentistas has not ended in the slightest.

Such impositions were not met without resistance. In 1934, sugar workers went on strike, and gained a few wage concessions, one of the victories for the small island nation. Two years later, on February 23, 1936, Riggs, on the island to protect colonial investments, was killed by nationalist Elias Beauchamp, accompanied by Hiram Rosado, who were, in turn, murdered by police, within hours and without trial! This killing was one of the times that Puerto Ricans would engage in what Fanon called “counterviolence” and recognized that the “colonized men liberates himself in and through violence.”31 Flash forward to 1950. On October 30, there were uprisings in Ponce, Jayuya, Utado, Naranjito, and elsewhere, led by Campos. These uprisings were brutally crushed, some by National Guardsmen flying planes and firing down upon the crowd as ordered by Governor Martin, a reliable US puppet leader.32 The revolutionary spirit would not die. In 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists struck at the heart of the empire: they attempted to kill President Truman.33 While the action was not successful, there was no doubt that the anti-colonial struggle by Puerto Ricans was connected to that of other peoples as Campos said before being arrested in 1950:

… it’s not easy to give a speech when we have our mother laying in bed and an assassin waiting to take your life… The assassin is the power of the United States of North America. One cannot give a speech while the newborn of our country are dying of hunger; while the adolescents of our homeland are being poisoned with the worst virus of them all, the virus of slavery… They must go to the United States to be the slaves of the economic powers, of the tyrants of our country… One cannot easily give a speech when this tyrant has the power to tear the sons right out of the hearts of Puerto Rico mothers to send to Korea, or into hell, to kill, to be the murderers of innocent Koreans, or to die covering a front for the Yankee enemies of our country, for them to return insane to their own people or for them to return mutilated beyond recognition… It’s not easy… We have called together here those who want the union of our brothers, of our Latin American brothers, and, very specially, the Cubans, all the people of the Antilles, the Haitians, the Dominicans, for all of them who love the independence of Puerto Rico as their very own, because as long as Puerto Rico is not free, every single one of those nations feels mutilated.

By the 1950s, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was starting to fade from the political landscape. By the 1960s, it was being replaced by armed revolutionary groups, like the Los Macheteras, with the latter engaging in counterviolence. In 1954, this was proven to be true when Campos led a group of 37 nationalists who fired on Congressmen from the house balcony, with many taken into custody after a two-hour gun battle.34 Campos would die years later, in 1965, after being tear gassed, tortured, and beaten in prison.35

By the 1960s, the equation was changing. Between 1955 and 1960, seventy-seven newly independent nations had been admitted to the UN, which formed an alliance to push for the adoption of resolution 1514 in the General Assembly in 1960. The resolution, initially proposed by Nikita S. Khrushchev of the USSR, declared that the “colonial situation in all its forms and manifestations” had to be remedied, with eighty-nine countries voting in favor. There were only nine abstentions (and no votes against) by the U.K., US, Western-backed apartheid South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, France, Australia, and the Dominican Republic, then controlled by the US-backed Rafael Trujillo. The latter was assassinated in 1961, with the CIA, without consent of the State Department, giving the assassins rifles and other firearms, as noted in pages 70-85 of the Rockefeller Commission’s report in 1975.

In the US, with the development of the “New Left”, social movements began to gain steam. The Young Lords Party, originally a gang in Chicago, re-organized itself as a pro-Puerto Rican organization, in 1968, that took a strong anti-imperialist position. In their principles, they argued that they had been colonized for five hundred years, first by Spain, then the United States, making them the “slaves of the gringo” and rejecting Puerto Rican rulers who were “puppets of the oppressor… who keep our communities peaceful for business,” instead of pushing for a socialist society, and ultimately against machismo, a fundamentally feminist position.

Like the Black Panthers, they supported armed self-defense and had free breakfast programs to support the community while increasing their base of support. In 1969, the Black Panthers reached out to them, the Brown Berets fighting for Chicano liberation, and anti-racist Young Patriots who tried to support young, white migrants who came from Appalachia, to create the first “rainbow coalition.” The name of the coalition was later taken by black opportunist Jesse Jackson, Jr. in a failed effort to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and push for political reforms. Years later, the Lords changed their name to the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), pushed for a revolutionary party, and fell apart in 1975 after FBI disruption, infighting and other factors.

The Puerto Ricans are not alone. Starting in 1972, the UN Special Committee on Decolonization (The Committee of 24) condemned the status of Puerto Rico, recognizing that the Commonwealth status is untenable, with US investors getting preferential treatment, and that the island should be independent from the supposedly “benign empire” of the United States. Due to the more than 33 resolutions calling for Puerto Rico’s independence by the Committee of 24 since 1972, building off of resolution 1514, it has been tarred by the US. In 1968, only five years into its existence, US diplomats declared that the Committee had become “anti-Western” because it criticized US imperialism and supported “independentistas” in Puerto Rico. Such criticism didn’t stop the Committee. Recently, the Committee concluded that the US violated Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination to be an independent nation. Specifically, representatives from Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Iran have talked about independence for the island nation and relinquishing US colonial rule, with some witnesses talking about how the island was illegally taken and under corporate control. Latin America clearly did not abandon the island. Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, former Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, and Raul Castro of Cuba have all supported the island’s independence.

Other organizations that have argued for independence include the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) founded by Latin American states in Carcas, Venezuela in 2011. Clearly, the Democratic and Republican parties, along with the island’s two major political parties (The Popular Democratic Party and the New Progressive Party) do not support independence.36 The island’s governors, under the constitution of the Puerto Rican “commonwealth,” five from the Popular Democratic Party (Luis Muñoz Marín, Roberto Sánchez Vilella, Rafael Hernández Colón, Sila Calderón, and Aníbal Salvador Acevedo Vilá) who want to maintain the current status of the island, five from the New Progressive Party (Luis A. Ferré, Carlos Romero Barceló, Pedro Rosselló, Luis Fortuño, Alejandro García Padilla, and newly elected Ricky Rosselló), who want the island to be a US state, have stayed within acceptable bourgeois opinion. While some may be liberal and others conservative, through all eleven of the governors, there has been concentration of corporate power on the island and maintenance of the colonial relationship. While some could claim the referendum in 2012 “solved” the status of the island, less than half supported statehood, with most, instead, wanting a change to the status quo.

In 1975, when Cuba pushed to give special status for the island for the Puerto Rican independence movement, the US balked with anger. Such a response is predictable. Deep down, the imperialists of the US are afraid of Puerto Rican independence. If the country became independent, it is possible that Vieques couldn’t become a bombing range again, the US couldn’t store nuclear weapons there, plan for strikes on Cuba, use the island to intercept “enemy” signals, and so on.37 Even some diplomats tried to say that if the island is separated from the US, the residents would be jeopardizing their “paramount interests in economic, social, education… [and] political matters.” This is reflexively talking about what US and foreign capitalists would lose, instead of referring to the real needs of Puerto Ricans.

The question remains: where do we stand now? Undoubtedly, the coverage of the island by the bourgeois media focuses on “unpayable debt.” The island is, as writer Nelson Denis argued (with likely feminist implications), the “battered spouse of the Caribbean.” An article last fall by Linda Backiel, in the Monthly Review, is vital in explaining the current situation. She writes that the dire straits of the island, $73 billion of debt, is not a surprise, since it has been “sacked by colonial powers for half of a millennium.” She goes on to say that IMF officials were paid $400,000 to make recommendations about the island’s economic crisis, which is ridiculous considering that the island has no access to financing from the World Bank, IMF, or elsewhere because it is a colony. Backiel adds that Article VI, section 8 of the island’s constitution, payment of interest and debt is the first priority, coupled with the country “running on bonds” held by US banks such as Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and Bank of America, along with numerous venture and hedge funds.

She then writes that “the vultures are circling” the small island nation, with the island in crisis, even as human misery caused by colonialism is ignored and over 45% of the people live below the poverty line, with the country seeming on the verge of economic collapse. If this occurs, it could threaten the “propaganda value” of the island and its economy, destroyed in part by the collaboration of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party and US Congress, leaving the Popular Democratic Party to “clean up” the mess. She closes by saying “in the battle between soul and capital, who will win? Until the people of Puerto Rico organize to defend their soul; it is not even a stalemate: Black is playing with nothing but pawns.” Other accounts affirm this assessment of the situation in Puerto Rico.38

In the most recent election cycle, the island’s precarious state got some play. Bernie Sanders, the “nice” imperialist running for the Democratic nomination, declared in June of this year that the US cannot “continue a colonial-like relationship with the people of Puerto Rico,” and saying he would offer it three options: becoming a state, enhancing its territorial rights, or becoming an independent country, which is no different than the previous plebiscites ordered by the US government.39 Predictably, he didn’t mention Resolution 1514, the efforts of the Committee of 24, or actions by Puerto Ricans to engage in counterviolence, instead posing himself as a “savior” of the island, an act of racist and imperialist positioning.

Jill Stein of the Green Party had a similar statement on the subject; however, she more clearly called out colonial exploitation, even calling for a bailout of the island.40

What Vladimir Lenin wrote in 1917 in his book, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism is relevant here, as related to the island’s debt and plans for “restructuring.” Lenin writes that concentration of production leads to monopoly especially in the US, which was described, even then, as an “advanced country of modern capitalism.”41 In the island nation, the spreading of monopoly, specifically of “monopolist combines of big capitalists” or “gigantic monopolist combines” into every sphere of life would likely get a boost under a Trump administration.42 If he follows his cost-benefit formulation of “solving” the world’s problems, he would support debt restructuring, but let the “bondholders take a hit.” Even if this sounds “anti-business,” it is likely that his plan, whatever that is, would move away from the populist rhetoric and benefit the same economic actors, reinforcing the “world system of colonial oppression” manifested in capitalism, with “world marauders” like the United States “armed to the teeth.”43 It is also possible the newly-elected Puerto Rico Governor Rosselló will clash with Trump, but what happens in that realm remains to be seen.

At the present, Puerto Rico stands at a crossroads. US control of the island, which has never enjoyed real sovereignty, arguably led to a colonial mentality where Puerto Ricans feel they cannot engage in true self-rule, despite a strong nationalist sentiment. As a result, due to economic dependence on the US, and 25% unemployment, many are not supportive of independence from the US. These feelings are reinforced by existing assimilation showing that people haven’t been decolonized, with the possible compromise of Puerto Rican strong identity and culture. With the advent of neoliberal policies on the island, accommodationist Puerto Rican leaders, as described earlier, and blatant efforts to tamp down demands for independence, it hasn’t got any better.

According to the most recent report by the military establishment in September, there are 142 military personnel, 7,598 reservists, and 1,922 civilian personnel, coming to a total of 9,662!44 Such personnel are clearly used as a way of asserting colonial dominance. Still, Puerto Ricans have not remained silent, with continuing resistance to colonial rule. One example of this would be the student strikes which shut down the university system in the country and were repressed brutally. Either the status quo of neoliberal and capitalist exploitation can remain, or there can be a challenge and destruction to the existing colonial system, ending over 520 years of colonial rule (1493-2016) by the Spanish, then the United States. That is the choice at hand.

There is no doubt that Puerto Rico should be freed from colonial shackles of the murderous empire and its corporate clients. Negotiation may lead to a situation of neocolonialism, like in a number of African countries, where a national bourgeoisie on the island is subservient to the US, not changing the existing relationship between the US and the island nation. While the Puerto Rican people ultimately have to decide their fate, it is clear that decolonization, when part of a real liberation struggle, is “always a violent event,” as Fanon put it, where the colonized masses engage in violence, such as guerrilla warfare, to push for the demolition of the colonial system and allow for the emergence of a new nation.45 In the current economic situation, such counterviolence, which undermines the role of the US as “barons of international capitalism” and demands the independence of island from the imperial behemoth, could erupt once again.46

As one stands in solidarity with Puerto Rico in resisting “a monster where the flaws, sickness and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions,” what Fanon wrote in 1961 is apt to this island nation at the crossroads: “we must shake off the great mantle of night which has enveloped upon us, and reach for the light. The new day which is dawning must find us determined, enlightened and resolute.”47

  1. Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s History of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2006), 45. [↩]
  2. Francisco Scarano, “The Origins of Plantation Growth in Puerto Rico,” Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 57-59. [↩]
  3. Scarano, 56-58. [↩]
  4. Scarano, 58-60, 61, 63-64, 66. [↩]
  5. Scarano, 62-65. [↩]
  6. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present (New York: HarperCollins, 2003, Fifth Edition), 532. This was not done without resistance in Puerto Rico, in terms of slave revolts, in the 1520s and 1530s. [↩]
  7. Scarano, 66. French abolition of slavery in its colonies in 1794 (while re-established in Haiti in 1802 by Napoleon in failed attempt to stop revolution, which succeeded in 1804 after twelve years) set off panic among Puerto Rican planters. [↩]
  8. Kinzer, 44. [↩]
  9. Ibid. [↩]
  10. Kinzer, 45. [↩]
  11. Kinzer, 44 [↩]
  12. Kinzer, 45, 46, 48, 70, 80; Zinn, 312, 408; Ziaudin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies, Why Do People Hate America? (New York: The Disinformation Company, 2002), 43. [↩]
  13. Kinzer, 91. [↩]
  14. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 2004 reprint, originally published in 1961, 14. [↩]
  15. Kinzer, 91-92. [↩]
  16. Kinzer, 92. [↩]
  17. Kinzer, 92, 104, 107, 108, 215, 300. [↩]
  18. Anti-abortion activists have even used this to criticize Planned Parenthood, with a lawyer for such a group, Casey Mattox, writing that Planned Parenthood worked with the government of Puerto Rico to sterilize women, which was not voluntary, and was a major part of the island’s sterilization program. Of course, Mattox uses it to argue against contraceptive use instead of developing it into a criticism of US imperialism.
  19. Some have argued that feminists on the US mainland too often framed the discussion around the idea that “Puerto Rican women are victimized and need to be saved,” denying the action of Puerto Rican feminists in support of the measure, and deny the possibility of “Puerto Rican feminist agency” (see pages 31-34 of Laura Briggs’s “Discourses of ‘Forced Sterilization’ in Puerto Rico: The Problem with the Speaking Subaltern”). Be that as it may, parts of this argument come very close to apology for US imperial and colonial action, such as imposed sterilization. Saying this does not deny that Puerto Rican women didn’t act in their best interests and engaged in sterilization in order to improve their own conditions. However, as said in the article, women had little choice but to engage in this procedure, so they didn’t even have “agency,” a word also used to throw off certain analysis, especially of a radical kind, or free choice to engage in all possible birth control measures if they wished to do so. [↩]
  20. William Blum, Rogue State (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000), 98. [↩]
  21. Blum-Ibid. [↩]
  22. Kinzer, 92-93. [↩]
  23. Jack Woodis, Introduction to Neo-Colonialism:The New Imperialism in Asia, Africa, & Latin America (New York: International Publishers, 1969, second printing, originally published in 1967), 13, 16, 28, 32-33, 43-47, 49, 58, 61, 68-69. [↩]
  24. Woddis, 50, 68-69. [↩]
  25. The Court’s majority opinion, written by “liberal” Justice Elena Kagan, declared in flowery words that the colonial relationship is “unique” and built on the “island’s evolution into a constitutional democracy exercising local self-rule,” while admitting that the US Congress stripped the Puerto Rican constitution of social democratic qualities before it was approved since US colonies are “not sovereigns distinct from the United States” as noted on pages 2, 3, 10-11, 15 of the decision. Even Stephen Breyer, who accepted that federal power was the governing authority over US states and colonies, posited the “self-rule” argument, claiming that the island was self-ruling, citing numerous sources including the horrid Resolution 748. The dissenting opinion of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not not challenge, fundamentally, the court’s ruling, only saying that the matter warrants attention to future cases. Clarence Thomas had a similar opinion, only saying that he felt the decision would be a negative precedent on law governing indigenous peoples in the United States.
  26. The US also controls uninhabited islands in the Pacific including Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Navassa Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island. They could be effectively considered part of the US colonial system.
  27. The FBI began its close attention on the island in 1936 when a local US attorney said that Campos was publishing articles insulting the US and giving “public speeches in favor of independence.” His influence was so widely recognized that when he refused to go to his parole officer, the Roosevelt administration didn’t order him back to prison for fear that there would be unrest on the island.
  28. In September 1999, Bill Clinton would commute the sentences of eleven Puerto Rican nationalists, which sparked anger among police officers, numerous leading Democrats, and numerous Republicans. Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton opposed this move, expressing her opposition.
  29. See articles on this from Democracy Now!, USA Today, Associated Press, and Socialist Worker just for examples of differing reactions among those on the internet. [↩]
  30. From 1936 to 1995, the FBI generated 1.5 to 1.8 million pages on Puerto Rican independence activists! [↩]
  31. Fanon, 44, 47. [↩]
  32. Sardar and Davies, 96. [↩]
  33. Chronicle of America (Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 755, 758. The surviving man from this action, who was not killed in a gun battle with police officers, was sentenced to life imprisonment instead of being killed. [↩]
  34. Chronicle of America, 765. [↩]
  35. Laura Briggs, wrote in her article, as mentioned in an earlier footnote, that Campos was opposed to radicals who pushed for birth control on the island (along with independence), started by the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, and other efforts. This, in and of itself, would not be surprising, as machismo is widely cemented in many Latin American societies and reflected itself in liberation struggles. Despite this major flaw, it still worth recognizing his struggle in resisting US colonialism on the island nation of Puerto Rico, making him a hero to many. [↩]
  36. Politically, the Republicans would likely oppose statehood due to the large number of Puerto Ricans voting for the Democratic Party in presidential elections. [↩]
  37. In 1977, some diplomats claimed that the US could not place nuclear weapons on the island if it became a state. Whether this is actually true is not known.
  38. See articles on The Real News, The Hill, Democracy Now!, Telesur English, Mother Jones, Common Dreams, and Dissident Voice, of course
  39. Sanders is also on record for rejecting the neoliberal debt restructuring in place. However, due to his imperialist stance on foreign policy, there is no guarantee his debt restructuring would be any better overall.
  40. The Green Party of the United States has a plank on their platform declaring that the people of the island have the right to self-determination and independence, release of Puerto Rican political prisoners, environmental cleanup of Vieques, that the island’s debt is “unpayable” and that decolonization had to be supported as the “first step for the Puerto Rican people to live in a democracy.” Even the Communist Party USA, a political party that became rightist after the Hungarian “Revolution” in 1956 and with its call for a left-liberal inclusive coalition against the right-wing in the US instead of actively organizing people for socialism, declared in its 2006 “Road to Socialism” that the island nation composes an “oppressed national minority” who are mostly working class, dependent on the US, and says there needs to be a “free and independent Puerto Rico.” This is even further left, strangely enough, then the Socialist Party USA. In their recent platform, the party only calls for Guam, Puerto Rico, indigenous nations, and D.C. to have congressional representation, the similar to a position held by the Democratic Party. [↩]
  41. Vladimir Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (New York: International Publishers, 1972 reprint of 1939 English translation, originally published in 1917), 16-17, 20, 22, 32. [↩]
  42. Lenin, 25, 28, 31, 35, 58, 60, 62, 82. [↩]
  43. Lenin, 10-11. [↩]
  44. The “Military and Civilian Personnel by Service/Agency by State/Country (Updated Quarterly)” excel spreadsheet report from September 2016 is used here. That’s around the same number of personnel in the state of Delaware, which isn’t a colony in the slightest (although it is occupied indigenous land), which is telling. [↩]
  45. Fanon, 1, 10, 26, 30. [↩]
  46. Fanon, 38. [↩]
  47. Fanon, 235-237. [↩]

Posted in USA, South AmericaComments Off on Brutal US Colonialism in Puerto Rico

The case against Blair is more compelling than his case was for invading Iraq

NOVANEWS
Image result for Tony Blair CARTOON
By Nasim Ahmed 

The British Labour party voted down a motion seeking to hold former UK prime minister Tony Blair accountable for misleading parliament during the run up to the 2003 Iraq War by 439 votes to 70 earlier this week. Many would have shared the disappointment expressed by Alex Salmond, former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), who put the motion forward.

Commenting on the overwhelming defeat, he said: “This vote demonstrates that those who voted against this cross-party motion have failed to learn any lessons from history and from the Chilcot report. It is like deja vu, it was the Tory and Labour front-benches that took us into the illegal war and it is the Tory and Labour front-benches again who have failed to hold the former prime minister to account.”

It has become clear, if it wasn’t already, that parliament is very unlikely to vote for any measure that would hold Blair and the British government to account for the Iraq invasion. Newly released documents revealing that the Chilcot inquiry itself was designed to “avoid blame” and reduce the risk to individuals and the government facing legal proceedings, is further proof that the British state is more interested in burying mistakes in layers of bureaucracy, and is not very troubled by accusations of war crimes.

The fact that the campaign to hold Blair to account has been fruitless, thus far, should not surprise anyone. It’s simply another reflection of powerful institutions, including nation states, avoiding scrutiny. Institutions and individuals of great power, despite commonly held notions of rule of law and transparency, operate in spaces that are beyond the rule of law. Though there is much to be said about the impunity gap that exists in the way powerful states operate, this is yet another example of a colonial hangover.

At play also is the misplaced belief that the office of the British prime minister, a standard bearer of democracy, freedom and human rights, is incorruptible. Blair may have been economical with the truth – he may have even misled parliament – but there is no way the former prime minister behaved in a manner warranting impeachment, or so the logic of the powerful goes.

Tyrants behave this way – it is a characteristic of third world countries and illiberal democracies. However, be that as it may, the Prime Minster of Great Britain has to be safeguarded from such opprobrium. Few would have failed to recognise the Orientalist undertone, whereby third world and developing economies are lectured on principles that are not applied in the liberal, democratic West.

The reality of course is that the case against Tony Blair is far more compelling than Mr Blair’s case was for bombing Iraq. Going to war, we are told, is the toughest decision an MP makes. Their decision is made on conviction not doubt, and least of all lies and plagiarised reports presented as facts. Or so we are led to believe.

And yet, when presented with facts that leave no doubt and no ambiguity that Mr Blair had indeed misled government in making his case for war, the same MPs are unmoved. One has to say they are unconcerned about righting the grave mistake which they helped bring about and the British parliament has learnt little if anything from Iraq.

MPs that voted down this motion were likely of the opinion, mentioned repeatedly during the parliamentary debate, that the Chilcot report is sufficient as an exercise in government accountability. They believe that setting new processes and tweaking institutions of government and setting up new checks and balances through the creation of a national security council will add a layer of protection and steer parliament’s decision-making to better effect.

These steps, however, will not ensure that Iraq does not happen again. Putting aside the fact that Britain also foolishly bombed Libya and ousted Colonel Gaddafi, there is a lot that could be said about this false hope, not least that it does not address the fact that another charismatic and ambitious prime minister who is hell-bent on going to war will still be able to create the conditions that could persuade MPs to vote for an illegal war. During the debate, Salmond challenged the Cabinet Secretary as to whether any of the changes that were implemented to protect against another Iraq scenario would have made a difference had they existed in the build-up to the Iraq War, his response was an emphatic “no”.

To the millions that have died as a direct result of the decision to go to war and the millions more that continue to be gravely impacted, tweaking decision-making process to avoid future injustice is less of a concern than seeking justice. They would not have failed to notice that a parliament that was so easily convinced over the most serious of all decisions – to wage war – was so readily willing to close the door to accountability. I suspect that unlike most of the MPs who voted in line with their party, they read the report by the Cambridge academic Dr Glen Rangwala.

Titled fittingly “The deliberate deception of parliament”, the report was the basis of many of the charges levelled at Mr Blair. In it, Dr Rangwala unequivocally shows that the former prime minster made statements that were untrue and deliberately misled parliament.

The academic contrasted Blair’s parliamentary statements with promises and statements he made to former US president George Bush and senior members of his cabinet. Citing numerous email exchanges between Blair and neoconservative figures in Washington, Dr Rangwala makes a robust case against Mr Blair, which one assumes even the late Robin Cook would have found more convincing than Blair’s case for war. MPs that obligingly voted for the war have a moral duty, surely, to ask what Mr Cook knew at the time to cause him to vote against the war; were they just gullible and naïve, or did Mr Cook just possess more humanity?

In any case, the evidence cited by Dr Rangwala is, to say the least, incriminating. He writes that, from late 2001 to March 2003, Mr Blair made three interrelated statements repeatedly to the House of Commons: Firstly, that no decision had been taken to use military force against Iraq; secondly, that military action could be avoided by Iraq’s disarmament of its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons (that did not exist in the first place for it to be disarmed) and; thirdly, that regime change was not the goal of UK government policy.

Citing evidence presented in the Chilcot report, he goes on to add that Mr Blair was deliberately misleading the House of Commons. Mr Blair backed up his claims about the need for Iraq’s disarmament by asserting that there was conclusive evidence of Iraq’s possession of “weapons of mass destruction,” and that these weapons were a threat to the UK’s national security. All these crucial points, the Cambridge lecturer states, contradicted the intelligence assessments that had been put to Mr Blair.

The report then goes on to debunk Mr Blair’s infamous line that “no decision has been taken” about action against Iraq when, in fact, the Chilcot report reveals that from December 2001, Mr Blair had been proposing an invasion of Iraq to the US administration and had been offering UK military support for that invasion.

The most incriminating of all the revelations is that there was a clear contradiction between what Mr Blair told parliament and what his real intentions were. Having already decided to support the neoconservative agenda for the Middle East and go to war with Iraq in order to change the regime, Mr Blair spent nearly two years manufacturing the case for war; massaging intelligence data, developing the “evidence” and argument to win over the UN, major allies and to bring the British parliament on board.

A year before the war, Mr Blair emphasised to then-President Bush and senior members in his office that “we need a strategy for regime change that builds over time… I think we need a roadmap to getting rid of Saddam… Getting rid of Saddam is the right thing to do.”

He said this while being conscious of the fact that regime change was illegal and could not be sold to the public, and so the former prime minister devised tactics of propaganda, commenting: “We must look reluctant to use force… show that we have made every effort to avoid war,” all while he fixed the evidence in pursuit of a policy that was agreed on years before the invasion in March 2003.

The fact that Mr Blair has been allowed to get away with causing mayhem and destruction on a genocidal scale should not surprise anyone. Gaps of impunity are carefully created and managed in the international system for the likes of Mr Blair to pursue agendas that would normally be blocked by a properly functioning democratic system.

What in another context is morally corrupt and criminal behaviour deserving of the highest reprimand is reduced to nothing more than a technical problem that requires fixing. For Mr Blair to truly face justice in this world, it was always going to require more than a token parliamentary vote in the UK. The evidence against Blair is marked in history, and now it is only a matter of time to see whether he will ever be held to account in his lifetime.

Posted in UKComments Off on The case against Blair is more compelling than his case was for invading Iraq

The Heirs of Meyer Lansky Want Compensation from Cuba. They Shouldn’t Get a Dime.

NOVANEWS
By Jack Colhoun 

Meyer Lansky

The heirs of Meyer Lansky, the impresario of the North American Mafia gambling colony in Cuba (1933-1958) are betting on a big payback from the negotiations between the United States and Cuba to normalize relations between the two countries. Compensation claims by U.S. citizens or businesses for properties nationalized by the Cuban revolution are among the issues under discussion.

Lansky’s daughter Sandi, her son Gary Rapoport, and her brother Paul have filed a compensation claim against Cuba for the Riviera Hotel and Casino with the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. The Cuban revolution confiscated the Riviera and other Mafia-owned properties after it toppled the gangster-linked regime of General Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

“It was through my grandfather’s hard work that the hotel was built,” Rapoport told the U. K. Daily Mail Online on December 23, 2015. “We are his natural relations . . . . By right, it should be our property.” He says the Riviera is valued at $70 million. The Tampa Bay Tribune, Reuters, and Haaretz have also covered the story.

The Riviera, which overlooks the Straits of Florida, was the crown jewel of Lansky’s casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in Havana. When the Riviera opened in December 1957, it was the largest Mafia-owned hotel-casino outside Las Vegas. The hotel’s 440 double rooms were booked solid for the winter season of 1957-1958.

However, the narrative that the success of the Riviera was the product of Meyer Lansky’s “hard work” is undercut by Lansky’s own assessment of his arrangement with Batista. Lansky talked candidly about his years in Cuba with Israeli national security writers Dennis Eisenberg, Uri Dan, and Eli Landau for their admiring biography Meyer Lansky: Mogul of the Mob (Paddington Press, 1979). (Lansky lived in Israel in 1970-1971 to avoid tax evasion charges in the United States.)

Lansky pitched his plan to Batista to open Mafia owned casinos and nightclubs in Cuba in 1933. Lansky promised to make Batista, who had just come to power in a coup d’etat, a partner. Batista and his inner circle would get regular payments from the Mafia gamblers. In return, the gangsters would be allowed to operate without interference from Cuban authorities. With a handshake and an abrazo, Lansky and Batista laid the foundations of the Cuban gangster state.

“Working on the well-known principle that it’s better to use other people’s money than your own, Lansky persuaded Batista to have the Cuban government help finance the venture,” Eisenberg, Dan, and Landau wrote. “The [Cuban] government agreed to back every dollar invested on the island by foreigners with a dollar of its own and to give every hotel that cost more than one million dollars the precious prize of a gambling license . . . and the casino hotels would not have to pay Cuban taxes.”

The Riviera was one of four new hotels with casinos, which opened in Havana between 1955 and 1958. Cuban development banks subsidized 50 percent of Lansky’s $14 million Riviera project; Lansky-linked investors provided the rest. Senator Eduardo Suarez Rivas, brother of Batista’s Minister of Labor Jose Suarez Rivas, was secretary of the Compania de Hotels La Riviera de Cuba, which operated the Riviera.

The Mafia gambling colony was the cornerstone of the Cuban gangster state. The gangsters’ graft bound Batista, his inner circle, senior security officers, and the Mafia together in the defense of one of the most repressive regimes in Latin America. As a CIA report put it, “In return for the loyalty they gave him, Batista always backed his security services. In times of crisis, he often suspended civil guarantees . . . and gave the services a free hand.”

The days of the North American gangsters in Cuba were numbered when Batista fled into exile on January 1, 1959. In 1958, Fidel Castro’s July 26th Movement had denounced the Mafia radio broadcasts from its guerrilla redoubt in the Sierra Maestra for turning Havana into a center of commercialized vice – gambling, prostitution, and drugs. When Castro arrived in Havana on January 8, he vowed to “clean out all the gamblers.” The Riviera and other gangster-owned properties were nationalized, and the Mafia gamblers returned to the United States.

To regain control of its casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in post-Castro Cuba, the Mafia waged a covert war on the Cuban revolution. The gangsters regrouped with their Cuban political allies, now in exile in the United States. The Mafia subsidized Cuban exile leaders and supplied arms to Cuban exile commando groups for attacks on Cuban targets from speedy boats and small aircraft. The gangsters also plotted with the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro.

In 1959, Lansky volunteered to arrange the assassination of Castro in a meeting with the CIA, according to Doc Stacher, a life-long Lansky associate. “He [Lansky] indicated to the CIA that some of his people who were still on the island, or those who were just going back, might assassinate Castro,” Stacher told his Israeli biographers. “Meyer Lansky thought that if Castro would be eliminated there was a good chance for Batista to make a comeback . . . He told them [CIA officers] he was quite prepared to finance the operation himself.” From 1960 to 1963, the CIA and the Mafia plotted covertly to assassinate Castro.

To portray Lansky as an aggrieved victim of Cuba is to stand history on its head. There should be no compensation for the heirs of the former Mafia gamblers in Cuba.

Posted in USA, CUBAComments Off on The Heirs of Meyer Lansky Want Compensation from Cuba. They Shouldn’t Get a Dime.

Frenzied mob of Nazi Jews demand ethnic cleansing in New York ‘VIDEO’

NOVANEWS

Image result for NAZI WAR IN GAZA CARTOON

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Will America’s War with Iran Continue?

NOVANEWS
Image result for IRAN-USA FLAG
By Donald Liebich 

The United States has been at war with Iran for over thirty five years. Sometimes the war has been hot, sometimes cold, sometimes overt, and sometimes covert. Throughout this time period relations between the two countries have been hostile with very little diplomatic contact between officials of the two governments. In 2008, Barack Obama ran against Hillary Clinton on a platform of diplomatic engagement with Iran in opposition to her statements of being able to “totally obliterate Iran”.

Upon entering office, Obama, continuing America’s penchant for coercive diplomacy, doubled down on sanctions against Iran hoping that by causing economic hardship for ordinary Iranians he could pressure Iran to change its policies, particularly with respect to the development of nuclear capabilities. The strategy failed as Iran not only continued its peaceful nuclear development, but in many ways accelerated it. By his second term Obama, prioritizing addressing the nuclear proliferation issue, began negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue in conjunction with Germany, France, United Kingdom, Russia and China. (EU3 + 3) The negotiations resulted in the signing in July 2015 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which limited Iran’s nuclear program in return for removal of economic sanctions. The agreement was endorsed by the UN Security Council in an action that requires member states to carry out the agreement.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has affirmed on numerous occasions that Iran has largely lived up to its obligations under the JCPOA. Obama has taken some executive action to live up the JCPOA by loosening the impact of the sanctions. The administration has approved the sale of aircraft and aircraft parts to Iran by Boeing and this week the US approved a license for Airbus to sell over 100 aircraft to Iran. However, the basic legal structure of sanctions remains in place. Obama has not moved as aggressively as he did in Cuba to increase U.S. business involvement in Iran, a step which would make the nuclear deal more difficult to reverse by engaging the business lobby in the issue.

With the current sanctions authorization legislation set to expire on December 31, 2016, House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Iran Sanctions Extension Act by an overwhelming majorities (419 -1 and 99-0). Opponents of the JCPOA in the U.S. have argued in justifying this action, which is a clear violation of the JCPOA, that Iran has engaged in other “nefarious” activities, such as supporting the Assad in Syria, supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi tribe in Yemen, developing ballistic missiles and in general resisting U.S. influence in the Middle East. The Senate has said that it will take up this bill in the rump session of Congress in December. Although Obama has indicated that he will veto the bill, the bipartisan support in Congress for sanctions extension means that a veto override is likely. Obama’s best option for preserving the nuclear deal is to fight a delaying action to “kick the can” down the road to the next administration where a Republican controlled Congress may be reluctant to create a big foreign policy problem for President Trump so early in his administration.

As on many issues, it is unclear what President Trump’s position will be on the JCPOA. During the campaign he condemned the JCPOA as a “horrible contract”, but acknowledging that it was a contract, vowed to renegotiate it. Renegotiating the agreement is probably not possible. The JCPOA is the result of complicated, intertwined negotiations over a long period of time. Reopening talks in an atmosphere of mistrust and recriminations likely means that the whole agreement would collapse. A number of senior Congressmen and potential officials in a Trump led government, having received large speaking fees, are closely tied with the Mujahidin-e-Khalq (MEK), an exiled Iranian opposition group with an odd Islamist/Marxist ideology. The MEK, having allied with Saddam Hussein during Iran-Iraq war, has the distinction of being more unpopular in Iran than the U.S. They will push a hard line approach under a Trump administration..

The agreement, however, is not totally dependent on the U.S. Even if the U.S. withdraws from the agreement, Iran, under the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, and Russia, China and the EU have indicated that they will continue to abide by it. As it has in the past, the U.S. will likely use secondary sanctions on European companies to deter them from conducting business with Iran. This strategy will probably not be effective with Russia, India and China who have taken steps to disconnect their economy from the U.S. dominated and dollar denominated neo-liberal economic system. It remains to be seen how U.S. allies in Europe will react to being pressured to act against their own national interest.

The political situation in Iran will also have an influence on how U.S./Iran relations play out. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said that if sanctions are extended Iran will “respond”. What the response will look like depends, in large measure, on the outcome of the May 2017 presidential elections. Incumbent President Rouhani has maintained a position that engagement with the West will benefit Iran diplomatically and economically. Because sanctions have, in large measure, remained in place and because Iran has been slow to reform its economic system, the benefits have not met public expectations. The opposition have attacked the policy of engagement with the West. Faced with these political threats, Rouhani may be forced to tack to the right and abandon the JCPOA, kick out the IAEA inspectors and expand the nuclear program. In that case the undeclared war with Iran will continue with all of the uncertainties and potential for disastrous consequences.

Don Liebich spent his work career with the US Navy Nuclear Submarine service and Sysco Corp. He and his wife, Marcia, have traveled to the Middle East numerous times in the past ten years. Mr. Liebich has conducted seminars and taught courses on Islam: God and his Prophet, Christian Fundamentalisms, US Middle East foreign policy and Iran. Don & Marcia live in Hailey, ID.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on Will America’s War with Iran Continue?


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