Archive | February 21st, 2017

Gaza: Life under Siege


Dear friends and colleagues

PCHR will resume working on the narratives.

This year coincides with the tenth anniversary of the illegal and inhumane collective punishment of two million people who live on the 365 square kilometer area that is the Gaza Strip. The PCHR continuously documents and reports on the illegality of the siege to raise awareness and foster accountability, but these reports do not emphasize the personal, the human story and the real pain and suffering of the two million Gazans. The narratives are dedicated to the latter, they seek to highlight the intolerable suffering of ordinary people as a result the siege by giving the victims a face and a voice and telling their own personal story.

 الوصف: narative

Life under Siege: Artist of War

Mohammed Abu Hashish, a young and skilled Gazan sculptor, matured in very harsh conditions due to the occupation. He had to overcome many obstacles and, instead of surrendering, decided to portray his anguish and grief in high-end art pieces.

Mohamed was born in Rafah on November 11, 1988 and raised in a big family consisting of a father, a mother, three girls and four boys. Like most kids in Gaza he studied at UNRWA schools, where he started to develop a passion for art at an early age and revealed it by drawing humble pieces on the board. At the time, artistic skills were given no attention nor encouragement in school and his decision to study fine arts at al-Aqsa University did not bring him any recognition by society either. However, his talent was quickly recognized by his professor, who offered him a job at his private interior design business. With his help, Mohammed developed connections with other interior architects in the country, gained experience, opened his own atelier and started giving arts classes to school children.

His journey was put on hold during the 2014 offensive, which had a major impact on Mohammed’s life on both a personal and professional level. His family lost a son, Hani, who for Mohammed “wasn’t just a brother or a friend; he was also my assistant in work”. The connection the two brothers had was indescribable, Mohammed said with his eyes full of tears.

The family received the news of Hani’s death on Monday July 23 2014, during Iftar time. They were asked to go to the hospital to identify the body. Hoping and praying to god not to find his brother in the hospital’s mortuary, he recognized Hani’s black shirt and navy pants, reminding him of the last time he saw his brother. Mohammed adds with a shiver how “the bodies were carbonized, and unrecognizable”. As he describes, “the structure of the skull was absent, the head’s skin was torn apart, there was no body, just a part of one shoulder, the spine, one leg and another half of a leg.” Mohammed’s eyes were full of tears, while saying that “if I knew he would leave the house and never comeback, I wouldn’t have let him go”.

For a while Mohammed gave up on life and could not do any art – it seemed as if life had stopped. However, he already had an idea for an exhibition before the war, inspired by the emotional experience of finding a baby’s dead body while burying his own grandmother. The experience of losing his brother and seeing the humiliating condition his body was in, strengthened his feeling that every human being deserves to live and be buried in dignity. After a year of grieve, Mohammed returned to his atelier and started a project of producing pieces of hands and feet made of beeswax. The texture of beeswax portrayed honesty to him and he thought that the dimensions and aesthetics of it would resemble the human body, particularly as the color is very close to the human skin. Inspired by his dead brother, Mohammed did not want the project to focus on his personal experience only, but to be devoted to civilian victims of war in general. He created nine pieces from beeswax, which became to be the art pieces for his exhibition “Karamat”.

الوصف: narative2

The exhibition’s title derived its meaning from human dignity, and honor, resembling the Palestinians daily struggle for values the Occupying Power tries to take from them. Karamat reflected the brutal and sad reality Palestinians live in today. The importance of the exhibition was not only to display art, but to show the personal human shock Mohammed and hundreds of families have faced. The 2014 Israeli offensive resulted in the killing of 2,216 Palestinians – of whom many were buried with their body parts missing. No one on earth would tolerate burying a sibling, relative or a friend with half of their body missing. The sophisticated pieces reflect the passion, anger and frustration triggered by war. They symbolize the concept of life and death.

Despite the closure, the tragic consequences of the restricted freedom of movement and hard living conditions, Mohammed participated in several local and international exhibitions and workshops. Among them are: “Our Diaries in Gaza”, which was exhibited in Amman; “Traces”, an exhibition held in Ramallah; and “Blooming Ideas”, which was shown in Gaza, Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine. For his outstanding contribution to the sculptural field, he won Gaza’s First Festival prize for Fine Arts in 2010. His latest and most important exhibition, Karamat, was held in cooperation with the Qattan foundation and the French Cultural Center. Despite the severe restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods by the Israeli forces, Israel was unable to stop Mohammed in his ambition to reveal his artwork to the world.

PCHR seeks to emphasize cases like Mohammed’s to show how the closure affects their everyday life. They are civilians asking for their fundamental rights. The notion of human rights is regularly being violated as Palestinians are subjected to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The collective punishment imposed by Israel as well as the 2014 offence had disastrous consequences on the lives of about 1.8 million people.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human RightsComments Off on Gaza: Life under Siege

The Did-You-Talk-to-Russians Witch Hunt


Exclusive: Democrats, liberals and media pundits – in their rush to take down President Trump – are pushing a New McCarthyism aimed at Americans who have talked to Russians, risking a new witch hunt, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In the anti-Russian frenzy sweeping American politics and media, Democrats, liberals and mainstream pundits are calling for an investigative body that could become a new kind of House Un-American Activities Committee to hunt down Americans who have communicated with Russians.

Red Square in Moscow with a winter festival to the left and the Kremlin to the right. (Photo by Robert Parry)

The proposed commission would have broad subpoena powers to investigate alleged connections between Trump’s supporters and the Russian government with the apparent goal of asking if they now have or have ever talked to a Russian who might have some tie to the Kremlin or its intelligence agencies.

Such an admission apparently would be prima facie evidence of disloyalty, a guilt-by-association “crime” on par with Sen. Joe McCarthy’s Cold War pursuit of “communists” who supposedly had infiltrated the U.S. government, the film industry and other American institutions.

Operating parallel to McCarthy’s Red Scare hearings was the House Un-American Activities Committee (or HUAC), a standing congressional panel from 1945-1975 when it was best known for investigating alleged communist subversion and propaganda. One of its top achievements was the blacklisting of the “Hollywood Ten” whose careers in the movie industry were damaged or destroyed.

Although the Cold War has long been over – and Russia has often cooperated with the U.S. government, especially on national security issues such as supplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan – Democrats and liberals seem ready to force Americans to again prove their loyalty if they engaged in conversations with Russians.

Or perhaps these “witnesses” can be entrapped into perjury charges if their recollections of conversations with Russians don’t match up with transcripts of their intercepted communications, a tactic similar to ones used by Sen. McCarthy and HUAC to trip up and imprison targets over such secondary charges.

Ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has already encountered such a predicament because he couldn’t recall all the details of a phone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on Dec. 29, 2016, after Flynn took the call while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.

When Obama administration holdovers at the Justice Department decided to gin up a legal premise to go after Flynn, they cited the Logan Act, a law enacted in 1799 to prohibit private citizens from negotiating with foreign adversaries but never used to convict anyone. The law also is of dubious constitutionality and was surely never intended to apply to a president-elect’s advisers.

However, based on that flimsy pretext, FBI agents – with a transcript of the electronic intercept of the Kislyak-Flynn phone call in hand – tested Flynn’s memory of the conversation and found his recollections incomplete. Gotcha – lying to the FBI!

Under mounting media and political pressure, President Trump fired Flynn, apparently hoping that tossing Flynn overboard to the circling sharks would somehow calm the sharks down. Instead, blood in the water added to the frenzy.

Iran-Contra Comparison

Some prominent Democrats and liberals have compared Trump-connected contacts with Russians to President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal or President Reagan’s Iran-Contra Affair, an issue that I know a great deal about having helped expose it as a reporter for The Associated Press in the 1980s.

President Ronald Reagan, delivering his Inaugural Address on Jan. 20, 1981.

The key difference is that Iran-Contra was an unconstitutional effort by the Reagan administration to finance an illegal war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government in defiance of a congressional ban. The Trump-connected communications with Russians – to the degree they have occurred – appear to have been aimed at preventing a new and dangerous Cold War that could lead to a nuclear holocaust.

In other words, Iran-Contra was about enabling a paramilitary force to continue its brutal marauding inside a country that was no threat to the United States while the current “scandal” is about people trying to avoid hostilities between two nuclear superpowers, an existential threat that many mainstream and liberal pundits don’t want to recognize.

Indeed, there is a troubling denial-ism about the risks of an accidental or intentional war with Russia as the U.S. media and much of Official Washington’s establishment have lots of fun demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin and jabbing the Russians by shoving NATO troops up to their borders and deploying anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe. For some crazy reason, the Russians feel threatened.

False Narratives

This Russia-bashing and Russia-baiting have been accompanied by false narratives presented in the major U.S. newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, to justify increased tensions.

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

For instance, the Post’s senior foreign affairs writer Karen DeYoung on Friday described the civil war in Ukraine this way: “That conflict began when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014, then backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in what has become a grinding war, despite a deal to end it, called the Minsk agreement, negotiated with Putin by the leaders of France and Germany.”

But DeYoung’s synopsis is simply not true. The crisis began in the fall of 2013 when Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of what he regarded as a costly and unacceptable association agreement with the European Union, a move which prompted protests by Ukrainians in Kiev’s Maidan square.

The Obama administration’s State Department, U.S. neocon politicians such as Sen. John McCain, and various U.S.-backed “non-governmental organizations” then stoked those protests against Yanukovych, which grew violent as trained ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi street fighters poured in from western Ukraine.

In early 2014, a coup to overthrow the democratically elected Yanukovych took shape under the guidance of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who were caught in a phone call in late January or early February 2014 conspiring to impose new leadership inside Ukraine.

Nuland disparaged a less extreme strategy favored by European diplomats with the pithy remark: “Fuck the E.U.” and went on to declare “Yats is the guy,” favoring Arseniy Yatsenyuk as the new leader. Nuland then pondered how to “glue this thing” while Pyatt ruminated about how to “midwife this thing.”

On Feb. 20, 2014, a mysterious sniper apparently firing from a building controlled by the ultranationalist Right Sektor killed both police and protesters, setting off a day of violence that left about 70 people dead including more than a dozen police.

The next day, three European governments struck a deal with Yanukovych in which he agreed to early elections and accepted reduced powers. But that political settlement wasn’t enough for the U.S.-backed militants who stormed government buildings on Feb. 22, forcing Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives.

Instead of standing by the Feb. 21 agreement, which the European nations had “guaranteed,” Nuland pushed for and got U.S. allies to accept the new post-coup regime as “legitimate,” with Yatsenyuk becoming prime minister and several top government posts given to the ultranationalists and neo-Nazis.

Spreading Violence

In the ensuing days, the right-wing violence spread beyond Kiev, prompting Crimea’s legislature to propose secession from Ukraine and readmission to Russia, whose relationship to the peninsula dated back to Catherine the Great.

Nazi symbols on helmets worn by members of Ukraine’s Azov battalion. (As filmed by a Norwegian film crew and shown on German TV)

Crimea scheduled a referendum that was opposed by the new regime in Kiev. Russian troops did not “invade” Crimea because some 20,000 were already stationed there as part of a basing agreement at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol. The Russians did provide security for the referendum but there was no evidence of intimidation as the citizens of Crimea voted by 96 percent to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a move that Putin and the Russian duma accepted.

Eastern Ukrainians tried to follow Crimea’s lead with their own referendum, but Putin and Russia rejected their appeals to secede. However, when the Kiev regime launched an “Anti-Terrorism Operation” against the so-called Donbass region – spearheaded by ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi militias – Russia provided military assistance so these ethnic Russians would not be annihilated.

Karen DeYoung also framed the Minsk agreement as if it were imposed on Putin when he was one of its principal proponents and architects, winning its approval in early 2015 at a time when the Ukrainian military was facing battlefield reversals.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 7, 2014. (U.S. State Department photo)

But Assistant Secretary Nuland, working with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and the Ukrainian parliament, sabotaged the agreement by requiring the Donbass rebels to first surrender which they were unwilling to do, having no faith in the sincerity of the Kiev regime to live up to its commitment to grant limited autonomy to the Donbass.

In other words, Kiev inserted a poison pill to prevent a peaceful resolution, but the Western media and governments always blame the Minsk failure on Putin.

If Karen DeYoung wanted to boil all this history down to one paragraph, it might go: “The Ukraine conflict began when U.S. officials supported the violent overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych, prompting Crimea to rejoin Russia and causing ethnic Russians in the east to rise up against the U.S.-backed coup regime in Kiev, which then sought to crush the rebellion. The Kiev regime later torpedoed a peace deal that had been hammered out by Russian, Ukrainian and European negotiators in Minsk.”

But such a summary would not have the desired propaganda effect on the American people. It would not present the U.S.-backed side as the “white hats” and the pro-Russia side as the “black hats.”

The simple truth is that the story of Ukraine is far more complex and multi-sided than The Washington Post, The New York Times and most mainstream U.S. news outlets want to admit. They simply start the clock at the point of Crimea’s rejection of the post-coup regime and distort those facts to present the situation simply as a “Russian invasion.”

A Whipped-Up Hysteria

The major media’s distortion is so egregious that you could call it a lie, but it is a lie that has proved very useful in whipping up the current anti-Russian hysteria that is sweeping Official Washington and that has given birth to a New Cold War, now accompanied by a New McCarthyism that deems anyone who doesn’t accept the “groupthink” a “Russian apologist” or a “Moscow stooge.”

Wintery scene at Red Square in Moscow, Dec. 6, 2016. (Photo by Robert Parry)

Since last November’s election, this New McCarthyism has merged with hatred toward Donald Trump, especially after the outgoing Obama administration lodged unproven accusations that Russia undercut Hillary Clinton’s campaign by hacking into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and those of her campaign chairman John Podesta – and slipped that information to WikiLeaks.

Those emails showed how the DNC undercut the rival campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders and revealed the contents of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street banks as well as pay-to-play aspects of the Clinton Foundation, information that Clinton wanted to keep from the voters.

But no one thought the emails were a major factor in the Clinton-Trump race; indeed, Clinton blamed her stunning defeat on FBI Director James Comey’s last-minute decision to reopen and then re-close his investigation into security concerns about her use of a private email server as Secretary of State.

But the script on how Clinton lost was flipped during the Trump transition as President Obama’s intelligence agencies floated the Russia-hacked-the-election scenario although presenting no public evidence to support the claims. WikiLeaks representatives also denied getting the material from Russia, suggesting instead that it was leaked by two different American insiders.

A Ministry of Truth

Still, during the post-election period, the anti-Russian hysteria continued to build. In November, The Washington Post highlighted claims by an anonymous group called PropOrNot accusing some 200 Web sites, including and other major independent media outlets, of disseminating Russian “propaganda.”

New York Times building in New York City. (Photo from Wikipedia)

The New York Times joined in the frenzy by calling for leading technology companies to marginalize Web sites that are deemed to be publishing “fake news,” a vague term that was applied not just to intentionally false stories but to information that questioned official narratives, no matter how dubious those narratives were. The New McCarthyism was morphing into a New Orwellianism.

The movement toward a Ministry of Truth gained further momentum in December when Congress passed and President Obama signed a military authorization bill that included a new $160 million bureaucracy to identify and counter alleged “Russian propaganda.”

The anger of Democrats and liberals toward President Trump in his first month has added more fuel to the Russia-bashing with some Democrats and liberals seeing it as a possible route toward neutralizing or impeaching Trump. Thus, the calls for a full-scale investigation with subpoena power to demand documents and compel testimony.

While the idea of getting to the full truth has a superficial appeal, it also carries dangers of launching a witch hunt that would drag American citizens before inquisitors asking about any contacts – no matter how innocuous – with Russians.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, HUAC also claimed that all it wanted was the truth about whether some Americans were allied with or sympathetic to Moscow. Sen. Joe McCarthy offered a similar rationale when he was trying to root out “disloyal” Americans with the question, “are you now or have you ever been a communist?”

That Democrats and liberals who hold the McCarthy era in understandable disdain would now seek to rekindle something similar reeks of rank opportunism and gross hypocrisy – doing whatever it takes to “get Trump” and build an activist movement that can revive the Democratic Party’s flagging political hopes.

But this particular opportunism and hypocrisy also carries with it the prospect of blindly ramping up tensions with Russia, diverting more taxpayer money into the Military-Industrial Complex and conceivably sparking – whether planned or unplanned – a nuclear Armageddon that could eliminate life on the planet. Perhaps this anti-Trump strategy should be rethought.

Posted in RussiaComments Off on The Did-You-Talk-to-Russians Witch Hunt

Steve Bannon is preparing Trump for a holy war

[Editor’s note: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, is a nutjob, someone who should be kept far, far away from the corridors of power; however, under Trump, he has been allowed to become the centre of power. This essay by C. B. Anthony examines Bannon’s recent past and provides an insight into the man’s disturbing politics and worldview. Ian]

Middle East Eye
Steve Bannon is preparing Trump for a holy war

by Charles B. Anthony

Sometimes a seemingly innocuous speech can potentially set the direction of the US presidency long before the Oval Office incumbent even declares they are running for office. Thus it is with the current White House administration – and Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist.

In July 2014, Bannon gave a 49-minute speech and Q&A to a conference hosted by the Human Dignity Institute as part of its coverage of the rise of Europe’s religious right.

Beamed live from Los Angeles – via Skype – into a small conference room tucked away inside the Vatican, Bannon declared that “the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis… We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict.”

The HDI proved a receptive audience. A lobby group for a “Christian voice” in European politics, its founder is former politician Benjamin Harnwell, who describes his stint as a European MP “as being in a direct spiritual warfare against the devil” and who believes that there is nothing really far-right about Marine Le Pen and the Alternative for Deutschland.

“We’ve come partly off-track in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union,” continued Bannon. “In the 21st century, we are facing “a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, [and] a crisis of capitalism.”

Bannon advocates “enlightened capitalism of the Judeo-Christian West”, based on the “underlying spiritual and moral foundations of Christianity”.

But it’s under attack, he told the HDI, from “crony capitalism” – or what Bannon calls “state-controlled capitalism” – and “libertarian capitalism” – two disturbing brands that fail to morally manage wealth creation and distribution in an ethical way.

And who is to blame for this? Bannon identified the increasing secularisation of the West, a creeping secularism that has “sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals.”

But Trump’s chief strategist also sees two other threats to the Judeo-Christian West on the horizon. And his response to each is shaped by religion.

Bannon’s problem with Islam

The first is Islam. Bannon believes that the West is “at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism” and that the West should respond by taking “a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam”.

In July 2016, Bannon was interviewed by John Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent who is now an anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist, on record as having said that American Muslims “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.” During that conversation, Bannon asked:

“Have we held back the dogs of war? Are we actually confronting and combating radical fundamental Islam in the United States of America and in places like our allies in France and the United Kingdom?”

Bannon, let’s not forget, is the author of a film script called The Islamic States of America, which argued that Islamists were taking over the US with help from mainstream media outlets, American Jews, FBI and the White House. He went on:

“Do you believe we have to prosecute this as a war, and we have to take care of this fifth column – there’s clearly a fifth column here in the United States – that needs to be dealt with immediately?”

Then, in 2010, Bannon told Avi Davis – a senior fellow at the American Freedom Alliance, an organisation concerned with “advancing the values and ideals of Western Civilization” – that “Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of submission.”

It has the makings of an Islamophobic perfect storm, which will have disastrous consequences for the American Muslim community

Islam is a religion that Bannon believes needs to be suppressed. He told that audience in the Vatican:

“If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West’s struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world.”

Bannon’s words should be seen in the light of every executive order currently signed, or before, Trump. The Muslim ban. The proposed ban on the Muslim Brotherhood. The removal of white nationalists from the counter-extremism programme, to instead focus solely on Islam. And that’s just in the first few weeks of office, all making for an Islamophobic perfect storm which will have disastrous consequences for the American Muslim community.

Who else does Bannon have in his sights?

But Bannon is not content with taking on the Muslim world. He also has his sights set on China.

In a February 2016 interview that Bannon hosted with theologian Thomas D Williams (who runs Breitbart’s operation in Rome), Bannon said:

“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China. Right? They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”

Bannon then adds that the one thing the Chinese fear more than America and capitalism is Christianity.

China, he says, is “one of the most vibrant Christian churches in the world… devout evangelicals, devout mainstream Protestants, and devout Catholics that are below the surface in China… it is a vibrant, vibrant, vibrant, Christian environment” which is “going to play into all this geopolitics.”

A month later Bannon would declared with certainty, in an interview with conservative movement historian Lee Edwards, that “we’re [America] going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years… there’s no doubt about it.”

The signs that Trump’s on board

If you chose to take on Islam and China, then you need a big army. At that 2014 HDI conference, Bannon called for a Christian militia, saying that they were at “the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict.”

He urged the church to become “militant” and “fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”

Fast forward to February 2017. With Trump in office, Bannon has now manoeuvred himself onto the National Security Council, influencing the administration’s national security and foreign policy.

Meanwhile Trump is speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he tells the audience that he will “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a 60-year-old tax code law that helps separate religion and politics in the United States.

Trump’s speech was a vision of religious nationalism, dominated by the two key themes of religion and militarism and intended to tee up a forthcoming “religious freedom” executive order.

Trump describes terrorism as a “fundamental threat to religious freedom” adding: “Freedom is not a gift from government… Freedom is a gift from God. Faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas and to lock arms at home.”

This heady brew of nationalism and religion, combined with the intended destruction of the Johnson Amendment, carries all the hallmarks of Bannon: politicise and radicalise religion – then gain support for a global confrontation with its enemies.

Bannon – and the Republican worldview – is also shaped by the legacy of Ronald Reagan, of whom he is a huge admirer, keeping a photo of the 40th president of the United States above his desk.

In July 1980, Reagan was the first politician to say “God bless America” during a nomination acceptance speech, winning over evangelical Christians. In 2004, politicised by the 9/11 attacks, Bannon wrote and directed In the Face of Evil, a documentary that lionised Reagan and his inner circle for taking on the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union.

Bannon’s vision for Trump is not too dissimilar to the description given of Reagan in the film’s trailer: “In mankind’s most bloodiest and barbaric century, came a man who with a vision, an outsider, a radical, with extreme views, of how to confront evil.”

Who going to help Bannon in this fight?

Bannon told that audience at the Vatican: “If we do not bind together as partners with others in other countries then this conflict is only going to metastasize.”

Where will these allies come from? Although critical of Russian state-capitalism, Bannon sees potential in a future alliance with Putin: “We, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what he’s [Putin] talking about as far as traditionalism goes – particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism – and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing.”

Would Moscow team up with Washington in Bannon’s war? MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance seems to think so, arguing that Bannon is attempting to “align the United States and Russia together in a Christian war against Islam.” Putin might face a dilemma if Tehran, which is on the receiving end of war talk from the White House, is goaded into crossing a red line that is then used to justify military action.

But Israel, which wants sanctions against Iran, could make a good bedfellow. Although accusations of anti-Semitism have plagued Bannon, he has always been a staunch supporter of Israel due to its strong militarised religious nationalism and opposition to what he would refer to as radical Islam.

Other allies could include France’s Marine Le Pen, whose National Front party shares Bannon’s hatred for “financial globalisation and Islamist globalisation”. She is currently in the lead, according to polls, for the first round of presidential voting in April.

Then there is Geert Wilders, an Islamophobic Dutch MP and regular Breitbart contributor, whose Freedom Party (PVV) party looks set to take the majority of seats in the Dutch Parliament later this year.

Bannon believes conflict began in 2008

Bannon’s obsession with conflict is reflected too in his obsession with a chilling social theory.

TIME Magazine reported that during the early 2000s, Bannon became fascinated with The Fourth Turning, a book by generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe. The authors predict that American institutions are reborn every 80 years: from the American Revolution (1775 – 1783) to the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) to the Second World War (1939 – 1945).

Each of these events consists of a four-part cycle, repeated over and over by successive generations:

  1. Fall into crisis
  2. Embrace institutions
  3. Rebel against institutions
  4. Forget the lessons and start the next crisis, which in turn destroys and rebuilds institutions

In 2010, Bannon was inspired to produce the documentary Generation Zero, in which he depicted the 2008 financial crisis as a warning that the next Turning was near. According to TIME, Bannon “seemed to relish the opportunity to clean out the old order and build a new one in its place.”

Indeed, in a speech to the Liberty Restoration Foundation in 2011, Bannon said: “We had the revolution. We had the civil war. We had the Great Depression and World War Two. This is the great Fourth Turning in American history, and we’re going to be one thing on the other side.”

So when Robert Reich, who served in the Clinton administration, says that if left “unsupervised by people who know what they’re doing Trump and Bannon could… bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust” – he isn’t being hysterical.

If Bannon was a Muslim then he wouldn’t be let anywhere near the White House, never mind left with the keys. Instead the world would unite in calling him an extremist and hate preacher. There would be a global urgency to stopping him from further radicalising people for his ultimate goal of global jihad.

But instead the focus is on the Trump circus, as Twitter theatrics take the sting out of what really is a dark, twisted nihilistic force pulling the levers of power in the Oval Office.

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” said Roger “Verbal” Kint, aka Keyser Soze, at the end of The Usual Suspects.

In the coming months, the checks and balances of American democracy are going to be tested like never before – and will need to react quickly in the current climate.

As Bannon told the New York Times about the first few weeks of the Trump administration: “We are moving big and we are moving fast… we didn’t come here to do small things.”

Bannon is driving America, and potentially the rest of the world, off a cliff. It’s going to be terrifying to watch.

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Massive Escalation: US Launches 4 Sub Based ICBMs Off China Coast


And the world has to worry about Iran?

A Trident II missile breaks water after firing from a submarine. (US Navy photo)
A Trident II missile breaks water after firing from a submarine. (US Navy photo)

The US Navy has test-fired four nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from a submarine in the Pacific Ocean amid simmering tensions with Russia, China and North Korea.

Four Trident ll D missiles were launched successfully from an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine in the Pacific Test Range over a three-day period since Thursday, the US Navy said in a statement.

“An Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine assigned to Submarine Group 9 completed a Follow-on Commander’s Evaluation Test (FCET) Feb[ruary] 16, resulting in four successful test flights of Trident II D5 missiles,” the statement added.

The test launch of the nuclear capable missile system was part of regular tests that “are conducted on a frequent, recurring basis to ensure the continued reliability of the system,” said John Daniels, a spokesman for the Strategic Systems Program, which oversees the Ohio-class Trident submarine program.

The “test flights were not conducted in response to any ongoing world events or as a demonstration of power,” Daniels said.

Trident ll D is a submarine-launched ballistic missile that can carry multiple thermonuclear warheads. They are deployed with the American and British navies.

Read More: ‘Trump not to resume nuclear treaty with Russia’

The US Navy has test-fired four nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from a submarine in the Pacific Ocean amid simmering tensions with Russia, China and North Korea.

Four Trident ll D missiles have been launched successfully from an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine in the Pacific Test Range over a three-day period since Thursday, the US Navy announced.

The test launch of the nuclear capable missile system was part of regular tests that “are conducted on a frequent, recurring basis to ensure the continued reliability of the system,” said John Daniels, a spokesman for the Strategic Systems Program, which oversees the Ohio-class Trident submarine program.

The “test flights were not conducted in response to any ongoing world events or as a demonstration of power,” Daniels said.

Trident ll D is a submarine-launched ballistic missile that can carry multiple thermonuclear warheads. They are deployed with the American and British navies.

The tests come days after North Korea announced the successful test of its long-range ballistic missile in the Sea of Japan and after Russia reportedly deployed cruise missiles in violation of a 1987 treaty between Washington and Moscow.

US President-elect Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Last month, US President Donald Trump told Russian leader Vladimir Putin he does not want to renew a 2010 nuclear arms reduction treaty between Washington and Moscow because the deal was bad for the United States.

During his first call as president with Putin on January 28, Trump said the New START treaty favored Russia, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing current and former US officials with knowledge of the call.

New START gives both countries until February 2018 to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, the lowest level in decades. However, it does not limit the number of operationally inactive nuclear warheads that remain in the high thousands in both the US and Russian stockpiles.

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Syrian War Report – February 20, 2017: Turkey Further Pushes Its Plan For Raqqah Offensive


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…from SouthFront

Pro-Turkish militants and the Turkish army have still been facing difficulties in breaking ISIS defenses around al-Bab. Turkey-led forces have failed to seize Qabasin and Bzaah, and retreated from almost all areas seized inside al-Bab. Intense fighting is ongoing.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, continued its operation against ISIS terrorists east of the Kuweires Airbase, outflanking Deir Hafer from the northern direction.

The Syrian army has liberated a number of sites along the Homs-Palmyra highway from ISIS and is now in about 13km from the Palmyra triangle, an important logistical site near the western gates of Palmyra. However, government forces still have to liberate at least Jazar fields, the Hamrah Mount and the Hayal Mount in order to at least partly secure their flags before the storm of Palmyra.

Fighting has been ongoing in the Manshiyah neighborhood of the city of Daraa in southwestern Syria. According to pro-militant sources, 30 government troops, including 12 officers, had been killed, 2 battle tanks, two 23mm guns and a buldozer belonging to the Syrian army had been destroyed. The joint forces of the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) had allegedly captured a 14,5mm gun and tank projectiles. However, the militant advance faced a deadlock and now sides are engaged in a positional warfare in an urban area.

Turkey has suggested to the United States two plans of an operation to “liberate” the city of Raqqah from ISIS, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on Saturday. According to the report, the Turkish military chief Hulusi Akar had submitted the proposals to his US counterpart Joseph Dunford. Then, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said that Turkey will not get directly involved in an operation to liberate Syria’s Raqqa from ISIS, but instead it will provide tactical support. “The United States, Turkey along with local forces, civilian forces, the FSA and other militias… they are at the forefront while we are at the back,” Yıldırım told reporters in Munich where he is attending a security conference. In other words, Turkey’s involvement in the operation remains unclear.

Turkey launched a military intervention in Syria in August 2016, deploying troops and heavy military equipment, backed up by warplanes across the border in an operation allegedly aimed against ISIS terrorists. However, another clear goal of this move was to prevent expansion of the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria along with the Turkish border. This creates significant tensions between US-backed Kurdish forces involved in the ongoing operation against ISIS in the Raqqah countryside and Turkish forces.

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Global arms trade at highest level since Cold War


Daily Sabah
US, Russia account for more than half of global arms trade, which hit highest level since Cold War

Worldwide arms trade has risen to its highest level since the Cold War in the last five years, driven by a demand from the Middle East and Asia, a study said Monday.

Between 2012-2016, arms imports in terms of volume by countries in Asia and Oceania accounted for 43 percent of global imports, a 7.7 rise compared to the previous 2007-2011 period, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

“Transfer of major weapons in 2012-16 reached their highest volume for any five-year period since the end of” the Cold War, the independent institute said in a statement.

The share of Asia and Oceania in international imports was slightly higher (44 percent) between 2007 and 2011.

The share of countries in the Middle East and the Gulf monarchies jumped from 17 percent to 29 percent, far ahead of Europe (11 percent, down seven points), the Americas (8.6 percent, down 2.4 percentage points) and Africa (8.1 percent, down 1.3 points).

“Over the past five years, most states in the Middle East have turned primarily to the USA and Europe in their accelerated pursuit of advanced military capabilities”, said Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

“Despite low oil prices, countries in the region continued to order more weapons in 2016, perceiving them as crucial tools for dealing with conflicts and regional tensions,” he added.

SIPRI said worldwide arms imports and exports over the last five years have reached a record level since 1950.

Saudi Arabia was the second largest importer of weapons in the world (up 212 percent), behind India, which unlike China, does not have a production at national level yet. India accounted for 13 percent of global arms imports between 2012 and 2016, while second-placed Saudi Arabia stood at 8 percent.

The think tank estimated that India acquired 68 per cent of its arms from Russia, five times more than what the Asian heavyweight bought from the US. India was tipped to remain a major importer due to its failure to develop an indigenous arms industry, SIPRI said.

Saudi Arabia’s main suppliers were the US – which accounted for half of the Gulf monarchy’s imports – Britain and Spain.

China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Algeria were the other biggest importers.

The United States remains the top weapons exporter with a 33 percent market share (up 3 point), ahead of Russia (23 percent, down 1 point), China (6.2 percent, up 2.4 points) and France (6.0 percent, down 0.9 points) passing Germany (5.6 percent, down 3.8 points).

These five countries account for almost 75 percent of global exports of heavy weapons.

The US sold arms to at least 100 countries, far more than any other major exporter. Combat aircraft and missile defense systems were among its most lucrative products.

Russia sold arms to 50 states, although over two thirds of its exports went to India, Vietnam, China and Algeria.

France’s boost in the export ranking is a result of important contracts signed with Egypt, which acquired Mistral-style warships and Rafale combat aircraft.

Aude Fleurant, head of the armaments program at SIPRI, told AFP that “competition is fierce among European producers” with France, Germany and Britain in the lead.

Europe accounted for 11 per cent of global imports, down by over a third compared to the 2007-2011 period in the wake of defense cuts.

The region of Asia and Oceania accounted for 43 per cent of all imports in the period with Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines increasing their demand for naval vessels, submarines and combat aircraft.

The Middle East’s combined share stood at 29 per cent – almost double compared to the 2007-2011 period.

“Over the past five years, most states in the Middle East have turned primarily to the US and Europe in their accelerated pursuit of advanced military capabilities,” Wezeman said.

Imports declined in Latin America, notably by Venezuela and Colombia, while Mexico bucked the trend.

Africa also saw imports dip, with Algeria accounting for almost half of the region’s imports.

The arms transfers database does not include small arms and is based on public sources ranging from national and regional newspapers to specialized international journals, as well as government and industry reports.

SIPRI uses a five-year cycle to even out fluctuations caused by a big order during any specific year.

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Nazi backing unrest in Syria for Golan Heights


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PressTv User

The Tel Aviv regime does not want peace and tranquility in Syria in order to pursue its agenda, which is “balkanization” of the Arab country, says Jim W. Dean, a managing editor of the Veterans Today from Atlanta.

“The Israelis want to keep [the insurgency and violence in Syria] going because they were hoping as part of the balkanization, that they would get formal control over the Golan Heights,” Dean said.

So, the analyst said, “we’re still going to have die-hard that are going to do everything they can to disrupt this (Syria peace talks).”

In a Facebook post on September 11, 2016, Akram Hasson, Israeli lawmaker of the Knesset, criticized the Tel Aviv regime for providing al-Nusra Front Takfiri terrorists with logistical and medical support in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held one of his cabinet meetings in the occupied Golan Heights on April 17, 2016, ruling out the possibility of returning the territory to Syria.

Dean also pointed to the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the war on Syria and their support for militant groups fighting against the Syrian government, arguing that Doha and Riyadh sought to secure their own interests in Syria.

“The Saudis and Qatar wanted their energy pipelines through north Syria; so, they could sell their oil and gas directly into Europe and then the US wanted to take that energy market away from Russia because the sales of those energy are helping Russia modernize its economy and rebuild its military,” he said.

Takfiri terrorists prepare to fire a home-made mortar launcher during a major assault on Syrian government forces West of Aleppo city on October 28, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

But countries like Jordan are worried about the impact of destabilization of Syria on their own stability, Dean asserted.

“There is a growing international consensus that using these proxy terrorists is a bigger danger” and a few governments who want to destabilize Syria, should not be allowed to accomplish their mission, he said.

Elsewhere, the analyst pointed to recent comments made by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, who questioned the role of the United States and its so-called military engagement against terrorist groups in the war-torn Arab country.

It is “unusual” for a UN diplomat to express his views in this way, but the main difference that made the recent round of Syria peace talks in the Kazakhstan capital, Astana, successful is that “the US was not involved in this time,” Dean said.

De Mistura argued that the success of Syria peace talks came as a result of the influence of Russia and Turkey on warring factions on the ground, but “the US who was a party in the negotiations was not able to have its proxy forces comply with the agreements,” he added.

Referring to important advancements by the Syrian military forces against foreign-backed militants, he noted, “The delay [of Syria peace talks] is going to work for the Syrian government and the tripartite group” – Russia, Turkey and Iran – because “the political talks could last a long time but the military component against the terrorists is rolling on day by day.”

Meanwhile, Michael Lane, founder of the American Institute for Foreign Policy from Washington, said that the situation on the ground in Syria has given President Bashar Assad the upper hand in recent peace negotiations with militant groups.

“Assad is in his strongest position he has been in years,” Lane noted.

Observers believe that the liberation of the northern city of Aleppo – one of main bastions of Takfiri terrorists – by the Syrian forces in late 2016 has been a tremendous victory for the Damascus government and gives it an upper-hand in future peace talks.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that the triumph in Aleppo is a “huge step” in bringing the war in Syria to an end.

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75 years later, Japanese Americans recall pain of internment camps


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Seventy-five years ago on Sunday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which authorized the imprisonment of Japanese Americans.

by Melissa Fares

Joyce Nakamura Okazaki was 7 years old in 1942 when her family left their Los Angeles home and reported to a World War Two internment camp for Japanese Americans in California’s remote desert.

She recalls crowded rooms filled with cots and embarrassment that the toilets at Manzanar War Relocation Center had no privacy. “Like Nazi Germany, we Japanese Americans were put into concentration camps,” said Okazaki, now 82, while recognizing that detainees were not killed or tortured.

“We were constantly under threat if we went near the barbed wire fences.”

Seventy-five years ago on Sunday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which authorized the imprisonment of Japanese Americans.

Some 120,000 were held at 10 camps because of fears that Japanese Americans were enemy sympathizers. The United States had entered World War Two after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor about three months earlier.

Photos from the era show their dislocation and loss of freedom: Neatly dressed men in jackets and ties queuing on city streets next to luggage and sacks on their way to camps. A mother cradling a baby as she perches atop a bundle. Dusty and desolate barracks. A detainee driving a tractor in a prison camp field.

To commemorate the period, a year-long exhibition of photos, many by famed photographers Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, and artifacts opened Friday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Okazaki’s experience is captured in a photograph of her and her sister in their mother’s embrace at Manzanar, an image preserved in a Library of Congress archive.

Okazaki recalls a life of fear in the camp. “With barbed-wire fences and guard towers and sentries with rifles manning them, you become scared,” she said.

Some Japanese Americans see parallels between the internments and President Donald Trump’s executive order last month banning travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries.

“How you react to the Muslim ban today is how you would have reacted to the imprisonment of my grandparents and parents 75 years ago,” Representative Mark Takano, whose family was interned in the World War Two-era camps, said in Congress last month.


Former detainee Kanji Sahara recalls arriving at a camp at Santa Anita Park horse racetrack, just a half hour from his Los Angeles home, when he was 8.

“We were told to report to our local Christian church. There were 10 or 15 buses waiting there for us,” Sahara, now 82, said.

“As I got off the bus, I could see rows and rows of horse stables and barracks in the parking lot. That’s where we lived.”

The track was a temporary “assembly center” for more than 18,000 people, including future “Star Trek” actor George Takei.

After six months, Sahara and his family were transported to their permanent camp in Jerome, Arkansas. This time, they traveled by train.

“There were guards at the end of each car and the shades were drawn,” Sahara recalled of the trip.

But life in Jerome was an improvement.

“That’s the first thing I noticed – how many people lived in a barrack in Jerome compared to Santa Anita where we could barely move,” he said.

“I was like, ‘Hey! We’re coming up in the world.’”

Sahara and his family were allowed to leave the camp when he was 11, in 1945. Okazaki and her family left in July 1944. Their families were required to swear a loyalty oath to the United States to regain their freedom.

Okazaki objects to the term internment and prefers incarceration or imprisonment. “I was not an internee because I am a citizen. The definition of internment refers to enemy aliens in time of war,” she said.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to grant reparations to surviving internees. They received $20,000 and an apology.

Click on to see a related photo essay >>>

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Syria Peace Process Must Confront State-Sponsored Terrorism


The Debate – Syria Solution

by  Jim W. Dean, VT Editor

de Mistura had been criticized for representing the U.S. interest primarily during the peace talks

[ Editor’s Note:  I saw something in de Mistura’s comments that no one else did. Sure, the obvious thing was his focus on pointing out that the U. S. had actually hindered all past ceasefires because it did not have effective control over its various proxy ground forces.

He rightfully gave all the success credit to Russia and Turkey for their actually being able to “influence” their respective surrogates to comply. Iran he unfairly ignored in spite if its having supported Hezbollah’s steadfast fighting beside the Syrian Army that played a key role in tipping the tide of the war in the Syrian people’s favor.

But woven into de Mistura’s comments was how the US overtly continued support for its terrorist proxies. The simplest example of that has been US refusal to bomb al-Nusra elements, claiming that would risk killing Free Syrian Army “opposition” fighters mixed in with them. Kerry was acting like we all had fallen off a watermelon truck and had not figured out that their “mixing” was specifically designed to prevent al-Nusra from being bombed.

Why would the U.S. stick its neck out for these murderers? For starters, think about a secret deal the U.S. might have made with Saudi Arabia that, under no circumstances, would the U.S. attack the Saudis’ proxy terrorists if King Salman kept the funding and reinforcements going into them.

The goal there was to assure that Assad would never be able to exert control over the whole country, until the terror supporters found some way to get rid up him and collapse the country into the Balkanized version they could control. You might have noticed how public Assad was recently in his announcing that the Syrian Army would continue fighting until every inch of Syria had been liberated. That was his answer to the Balkanizers.

Can Trump evolve up from his Reality TV show mode?

Staffan de Mistura was challenging Trump not to step into Obama’s shoes and keep this American charade going, with what I saw as a hint that if he did repeat Obama’s patterns, then there would be no choice but to put the issue of member UN states engaging in proxy terrorism squarely on the table as the biggest threat to world peace and stability.

So far the Trump administration is attempting to hang blame for world terrorism on the Iranians, which will go over like a lead balloon, and in effect show that Trump DOES want to step into Obama’s shoes of playing the “good terrorist, bad terrorist” game.

We give Trump credit for his claim to want to cooperate in fighting terrorism, to wipe it out in concert with Russia. But leaving the Iranians out of the deal, when they have done more to fight terrorism than the U.S, and then having the gall to put the terror monkey on their backs, is showing the hand of Mr. Bannon’s holy war against IslamJim W. Dean ]

…with Michael Lane

– First aired  …  February 19,  2017 –

Is the United States really interested in getting rid of Daesh or not in Syria? This has been a question that the Syrian government in the past has posed to Washington, as well as the Russians and the Iranians. However now it is the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who is posing the question to the US, basically asking Washington to declare its stance when dealing with DAESH.

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Ethiopia: From peaceful protest to armed uprising

Rebels in northern Ethiopia

By Graham Peebles

What began as a regional protest movement in Ethiopia in November 2015 is in danger of becoming a fully-fledged armed uprising.

Angered and exasperated by the government’s intransigence and duplicity, small guerrilla groups made up of local armed people have formed in Amhara and elsewhere, and are conducting hit-and-run attacks on security forces. Fighting at the beginning of January in the north-western region of Benishangul Gumuz saw 51 regime soldiers killed, the independent news outlet ESAT News, based in Europe and the United States, reported, and in the Amhara region a spate of incidents has occurred, notably a grenade attack on a hotel in Gondar and an explosion in Bahir-Dah.

In what appears to be an escalation in violence, in Belesa, an area north of Gondar, a fire-fight between “freedom fighters”, as they are calling themselves, and the military resulted in deaths on both sides. There have also been incidents in Afar, where people are suffering the effects of drought: two people were recently killed by security personnel and others were arrested. The Afar Human Rights Organisation told ESAT that the government has stationed up to 6,000 troops in the region, which has heightened tensions and fuelled resentment.

Given the government’s obduracy, the troubling turn of events was perhaps to be expected. However, such developments do not bode well for stability in the country or the wider region, and enable the ruling regime to slander opposition groups as “terrorists”, and implement more extreme measures to clamp down on public assembly in the name of “national security”.

Until recently those calling for change had done so in a peaceful manner; security in the country – the security of the people – is threatened not by opposition groups demanding that human rights be observed and the constitution be upheld, but by acts of state terrorism, the real and pervasive menace in Ethiopia.

Oppressive state of emergency

Oromia and Amhara are homelands to the country’s two biggest ethnic groups, together comprising around 65 per cent of the population. Demonstrations began in Oromia: thousands took to the streets over a government scheme to expand Addis Ababa onto Oromo farmland (plans later dropped), and complaints that the Oromo people had been politically marginalised. Protests expanded into the Amhara region in July 2016, over the appropriation of fertile land in the region by the authorities in Tigray – a largely arid area.

The regime’s response has been consistently violent and has fuelled more protests, motivated more people to take part, and brought suppressed anger towards the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to the surface. Regional, issue-based actions quickly turned into a nationwide protest movement calling for the ruling party, which many view as a dictatorship, to step down, and for democratic elections to be held.

Unwilling to enter into dialogue with opposition groups, and unable to contain the movement that swept through the country, in October 2016 the government imposed a six-month state of emergency. This was necessary, the prime minister claimed, because “we want to put an end to the damage that is being carried out against infrastructure projects, education institutions, health centres, administration and justice buildings”. He added that “we put our citizens’ safety first”.

The extraordinary directive, which has dramatically increased tensions in the country, allows for even tighter restrictions to be applied (e.g. post an update on Facebook about the unrest and face five years imprisonment) and is further evidence of both the government’s resistance to reform and its disregard for the views of large sections of the population.

The directive places stifling restrictions on basic human rights, and, as Human Rights Watch states, goes “far beyond what is permissible under international law and signals an increased militarised response to the situation.”

Among the 31 articles of the directive, “Communication instigating protest and unrest” is banned. This includes using social media to organise public gatherings. Also banned is “Communication with terrorist groups”, which doesn’t mean the likes of Islamic State group but relates to any individual or group whom the regime define as “terrorists”, i.e. anyone who publicly disagrees with it.

Both ESAT and Oromia Media meet the terrorist criteria, as defined by the EPRDF, and are high up the excluded list. Public assembly without authorisation is not allowed. There is even a ban on making certain gestures “without permission”. Specifically, crossing arms above the head to form an X, which has become a sign of national unity against the regime, and was bravely displayed by Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa, at the Rio Olympics.

If anyone is found to have violated any of the draconian articles they can be arrested without charge and imprisoned without due process. The ruling regime, which repeatedly blames so called “outside forces” for fuelling the uprising – Eritrea and Egypt are cited – says the new laws will be used to coordinate the security forces against what it ambiguously calls “anti-peace elements” that want to “destabilise the country”.

Shortly after the directive was passed, the government arrested 1,645 people, the New York Times reported, of which an astonishing 1,220 “were described as ringleaders, the rest coordinators, suspects and bandits.”

All of this is taking place in what the ruling regime and its international benefactors laughably describe as a democracy. Ethiopia is not, nor has it ever been, a democratic country. The ruling EPRDF, which, like the army, is dominated by men from the small northern Tigray region (6 per cent of the population), came to power in the traditional manner: by force. Since its assumption of power in 1992 it has stolen every “election”.

No party anywhere legitimately wins 100 per cent of the parliamentary seats in an election, but the EPRDF, knowing that its  principle donors – the USA and UK – would back the result anyway, claimed to do so in 2015. The European Union, also a major benefactor, did criticise the result. However, much to the fury of Ethiopians around the world, President  Barack Obama, speaking declared that the “elections put forward a democratically elected government”.

Government reaction

Since the start of the protests the government has responded with force. Nobody knows the exact number of people killed –  500, according to Human Rights Watch, possibly thousands. Tens of thousands have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, probably tortured, definitely mistreated; family members of protesters, journalists and opposition politicians are intimidated and routinely persecuted. And while 10,000 people have recently been released, local groups estimate a further 70,000 remain incarcerated and the government has initiated a new wave of arrests in which young people have been specifically targeted.

Among the list of violent state actions – none of which has been independently investigated – the incident at Bishoftu, which many Ethiopians describe as a massacre, stands out. On 2 October millions of ethnic Oromos gathered to celebrate at the annual Irreecha cultural festival. There was a heavy, intimidating military presence, including an army helicopter; anti-government chants broke out, people took to the stage and crossed their arms in unity. In response, the security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas into the crowd.

The number of casualties varies depending on the source; the government would have us believe that 55 people died, though local people and opposition groups claim 250 people were killed by the security forces. The ruling regime makes it impossible to independently investigate such incidences or to verify those killed and injured, but Human Rights Watch states that, “based on the information from witnesses and hospital staff… it is clear that the number of dead is much higher than government estimates”.

A week after the nightmare at Bishoftu, the ruling party imposed a state of emergency – another ill-judged pronouncement that has entrenched divisions, strengthened resolve and plunged the country into deeper chaos. Such actions reveal a level of paranoia, and a failure to understand the impact of repressive rule. With every controlling, violent action the government takes, with every innocent person that it kills or maims, opposition spreads, resistance intensifies and resolve grows stronger.


The Ethiopian revolt comes after over two decades of rule by the EPRDF, a party whose approach, despite its democratic pretensions, has been intensely autocratic. Human rights, mentioned in the liberally worded constitution, are totally ignored: dissent is not allowed nor is political debate or regional secession – a major issue for the Ogaden region, which is under military control.

There are no independent media – all media are state owned or controlled, as is access to the internet. Journalists who express any criticism of the ruling regime are routinely arrested, and the only truly autonomous media group, ESAT, is now classed as a terrorist organisation. Add to this list the displacement of indigenous people to make way for international industrial farms; the partisan distribution of aid, employment opportunities and higher education places; the promulgation of ethnic politics in schools; and the soaring cost of living, and a different, less polished Ethiopian picture begins to surface than the one painted by the regime and donor nations – benefactors who, by their silence and duplicity, are complicit in the actions of the EPRDF government.

People have had enough of such injustices. Inhibited and contained for so long, they have now found the strength to demand their rights and stand up to the bully enthroned in Addis Ababa. The hope must be that change can be brought about by peaceful means and not descend into a bloody conflict. For this to happen the government needs to adopt a more conciliatory position and listen to the people’s legitimate concerns.

This unprecedented uprising may be held at bay for a time, restrained by force and unjust legislation, but people rightly sense this is the moment for change. They will no longer cower and be silenced for too much has been sacrificed by too many.

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