Archive | September 26th, 2017

Bolivia’s Morales Rejects Trump’s Travel Ban on Venezuela

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  • Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro and Bolivia President Evo Morales.
    Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro and Bolivia President Evo Morales. | Photo: EFE
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The head of state rejected Trump’s actions, saying that this decision violates the OAS Charter.

President Evo Morales of Bolivia has slammed the interventionist policies of U.S. President Donald Trump against Venezuela, attacking the administration’s mixed messages.

RELATED‘The Tougher, the Better’: Trump’s New Anti-Venezuela ‘Travel Ban’ Explained

“A few days ago Trump supported dialogue in Venezuela. Now he acts like the boss and announces a political wall that prohibits the entry of Venezuelans to the U.S,” Morales tweeted.

He also expressed his support for the Bolivarian government, asserting that Venezuela “has a policy of internationalism, with solidarity and brotherhood; and not of interventionism or coup.”

The head of state rejected Trump’s actions, saying that this decision violates the OAS Charter.

“By attacking Venezuela, Trump attacks Latin America and violates the OAS Charter with the complicity of its employee (Luis) Almagro,” Morales said in another tweet. According to the OAS Charter, the American states consecrate an order of peace and justice, promoting solidarity and defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the countries.

On Sunday, the White House announced that Venezuela, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Chad were to be included in a new list of countries banned from traveling to the United States due to their lack of security or lack of cooperation with U.S. authorities.

OPINIONUN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Intervention Expert

In the case of Venezuela, the new decree is aimed at “certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members,” according to the White House press office. The new directive prevents Venezuelan officials involved in state security, law enforcement and migration functions from entering the United States. Immediate family members’ ability to enter the U.S. as nonimmigrants on business, tourist and tourist/business visas will also be suspended.

The sanctions, according to Washington, were imposed because the Venezuelan government “does not cooperate to verify if its citizens pose threats of national security or public security, does not adequately share information related to public security and terrorism,” nor does it provide collaboration “with respect to receiving their nationals subject to final orders of expulsion from the United States.”

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UN ‘Still Stinks of Sulfur’ Says Venezuela Foreign Minister Arreaza

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  • Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.

    Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. | Photo: Reuters

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The Venezuelan official condemned repeated threats made against his country by the U.S. government.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza recalled the words of former President Hugo Chavez, saying that the podium still “stinks of sulfur” as he opened his speech before member nations at the 72nd U.N. General Assembly in New York City, condemning repeated threats made by U.S. President Donald Trump against his sovereign, free nation.

RELATED: Trump Adds Venezuela and North Korea to Travel Ban

Arreaza slammed Trump’s imposing statements made at the same podium days earlier, saying that his demeanor was reminiscent of a world emperor wielding “dictatorial powers” and making “unilateral threats” against the guiding principles of the U.N. Charter.

Whereas Trump lashed out at Venezuela, calling the administration of President Nicolas Maduro a “socialist dictatorship” that destroyed a once wealthy country, Arreaza reminded the U.S. president — a man who only received enough popular votes to claim second place in last year’s U.S. presidential campaign — that Venezuela has held 22 elections in the past 18 years. The feat, he noted, demonstrates the good faith of Venezuelan democracy.

Arreaza said that four months of political violence had been effectively stopped by the July 30 vote to the National Constituent Assembly and praised the opposition for their decision to participate in upcoming regional elections.

In regards to U.S. imposed sanctions on his nation, Arreaza noted that the measures aim to provoke undemocratic change in the Bolivarian government, emphasizing that the United States had absolutely no moral ground to stand on in respect to police and human rights abuses detailing abuses against Indigenous, African-American and immigrant populations in the United States.

RELATEDBolivia’s Morales Rejects Trump’s Travel Ban on Venezuela

He sent “condolences to the people suffering from the hurricanes and natural disasters in the region” and reiterated that the people of Venezuela will continue to do everything they can to help the region, noting that President Maduro has sent aid to several Caribbean nations, including Cuba, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda and earthquake-stricken Mexico.

The foreign minister, speaking against climate change said, “Let’s not change the climate, let’s change the system.”

The Deputy Foreign Minister of Nicaragua Maria Rubiales de Chamorro, in a firm statement before the U.N. body said, “Nobody wants military intervention by the United States … Nobody is asking for U.S. to intervene in Latin America or the Caribbean.”

Opening the last day of the General Assembly debate, Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa reiterated Latin American opposition to intervention in the region without naming any country by name. “Intervention has only left a trail of violence in our region,” adding a condemnation of the U.S. blockade against Cuba.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump announced that Venezuela will be added to the list of countries banned from traveling to the United States. The new decree is aimed at “certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members,” according to the White House press office.

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Washington Post Pushes More Dubious Russia-bashing

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By Robert Parry | Consortium News 

Some people are calling the anti-Russian hysteria being whipped up across the U.S. mainstream news media a new “golden age of American journalism,” although it looks to me more like a new age of yellow journalism, prepping the people for more military spending, more “information warfare” and more actual war.

Yes, without doubt, President Trump is a boorish and dangerous demagogue, now highlighted by his reckless speech before the United Nations last week, his schoolyard Tweet taunts toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and his ugly denunciation of black athletes for protesting against police killings of often unarmed African-Americans.

And, yes, I know that some people feel that the evidence-lite and/or false allegations about “Russian meddling” are the golden ticket to Trump’s impeachment. But the unprofessional behavior of The New York TimesThe Washington Post and pretty much the entire mainstream media regarding Russia-gate cannot be properly justified by the goal of removing Trump from office.

Ethically in journalism, the ends – however much you might wish them to succeed – cannot justify the means, if those means involve violating rules of evidence and principles of fairness. Journalism should be a place where all sides get a fair shake, not where some get a bum’s rush.

But the U.S. mainstream media has clearly joined the anti-Trump Resistance and hates Russian President Vladimir Putin, too. So, we are given such travesties of journalism as appeared as a banner headline across the front page of Monday’s Washington Post, another screed about how Russia supposedly used Facebook ads to flip last November’s election for Trump.

The article purports to give the inside story of how Facebook belatedly came to grips with how the “company’s social network played a key role in the U.S. election,” but actually it is a story about how powerful politicians bullied Facebook into coming up with something – anything – to support the narrative of “Russian meddling,” including direct interventions by President Obama and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a key legislator regarding regulation of high-tech industries.

Finding the ‘Evidence’

In other words, Facebook was sent back again and again to find what Obama and Warner wanted the social media company to find. Eventually, Facebook turned up $100,000 in ads from 2015 into 2017 that supposedly were traced somehow to Russia. These ads apparently addressed political issues in America although Facebook has said most did not pertain directly to the presidential election and some ads were purchased after the election.

Left out of the Post’s latest opus is what a very small pebble these ads were – even assuming that Russians did toss the $100,000 or so in ad buys into the very large lake of billions of dollars in U.S. political spending for the 2016 election cycle. It also amounts to a miniscule fraction of Facebook’s $27 billion in annual revenue.

So the assertion that this alleged “meddling” – and we’ve yet to see any evidence connecting these ads to the Russian government – “played a key role in the U.S. election” is both silly and outrageous, especially given the risks involved in stoking animosities between nuclear-armed Russia and nuclear-armed America.

Even the Post’s alarmist article briefly acknowledges that it is still unclear who bought the ads, referring to the purchasers as “suspected Russian operatives.” In other words, we don’t even know that the $100,000 in ads over three years came from Russians seeking to influence the U.S. election. (By comparison, many Facebook advertisers – even some small businesses – spend $100,000 per day on their ads, not $100,000 over three years.)

But this diminutive effort by “suspected Russian operatives” doesn’t stop the Post from going on and on about “fake news” and “disinformation,” albeit again without offering evidence or specifics of any Russian “fake news” or “disinformation.”

It has simply become Official Washington’s new groupthink to say that everything linked to Russia or its international TV network RT is “fake news” or “disinformation” even though examples are lacking or often turn out to be false accusations themselves.

For instance, there is nothing in the Post’s article acknowledging that nothing from the various Democratic email disclosures, which have been blamed on Russia (again without real evidence), has been identified as untrue. So, how can truthful information, whether you like how it was obtained or not, be “fake news” or “disinformation”?

Falsehood as Fact

But Monday’s Post exposé simply asserts the claim as flat fact. Or as the article asserts: “what Russian operatives posted on Facebook was, for the most part, indistinguishable from legitimate political speech. The difference was the accounts that were set up to spread the misinformation and hate were illegitimate.”

In responsible journalism, such an accusation would be followed by a for-instance, giving an example of “the misinformation and hate” that the “Russian operatives” – note how they have been magically transformed from “suspected Russian operatives” to simply “Russian operatives” – were disseminating.

But there is no example of the Russian “misinformation and hate,” a classic violation of the reporting principle of “show, don’t tell.” In this story, it’s all tell and no show.

Indeed, what is shown in the article is often contradictory to the story’s conclusion. The article says, for instance, “A review by the company found that most of the groups behind the problematic pages had clear financial motives, which suggested that they weren’t working for a foreign government. But amid the mass of data the company was analyzing, the security team did not find clear evidence of Russian disinformation or ad purchases by Russian-linked accounts.”

So, Facebook initially – after extensive searching – did not find evidence of a Russian operation. Then, after continued pressure from high-level Democrats, Facebook continued to scour its system and again found nothing, or as the Post article acknowledged, Facebook “had searched extensively for evidence of foreign purchases of political advertising but had come up short.”

That prompted Warner to fly out to Silicon Valley to personally press Facebook executives to come up with the evidence to support the Democrats’ theory about Russia paying for carefully targeted anti-Clinton ads in key districts.

The Post’s article reported that “Finally, [Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex] Stamos appealed to Warner for help: If U.S. intelligence agencies had any information about the Russian operation or the troll farms it used to disseminate misinformation, they should share it with Facebook. The company is still waiting, people involved in the matter said.”

Under Pressure

Still, faced with extraordinary pressure from senior Democrats, Facebook finally delivered the desired results, or as the Post reported, “By early August, Facebook had identified more than 3,000 ads addressing social and political issues that ran in the United States between 2015 and 2017 and that appear to have come from accounts associated with the [St. Petersburg, Russia-based] Internet Research Agency.”

So, the ads covering three years, including post-election 2017, only “appear” to be “associated” with some private Russian operation that only allegedly has ties to the Kremlin. And the total sums of the ad buys are infinitesimal compared to what it actually takes to have any real impact on Facebook or in a U.S. presidential election.

If the context of this story were changed slightly – say, it was about the U.S. government trying to influence public opinion in another country (which actually does happen quite a bit) – the Post would be among the first news outlets to laugh off such allegations or dismiss the vague accusations as a conspiracy theory, but since these allegations fit with the prejudices of the Post’s editors, an entirely different set of journalistic standards is applied.

What the article also ignores is the extraordinary degree of coercion that such high-level political pressure can put on a company that recognizes its vulnerability to government regulation.

As Facebook has acknowledged in corporate filings, “Action by governments to restrict access to Facebook in their countries could substantially harm our business and financial results. It is possible that governments of one or more countries may seek to censor content available on Facebook in their country, restrict access to Facebook from their country entirely, or impose other restrictions that may affect the accessibility of Facebook in their country for an extended period of time or indefinitely. …

“In the event that access to Facebook is restricted, in whole or in part, in one or more countries or our competitors are able to successfully penetrate geographic markets that we cannot access, our ability to retain or increase our user base and user engagement may be adversely affected, we may not be able to maintain or grow our revenue as anticipated, and our financial results could be adversely affected.”

Avoiding Reality

In other words, another way to have framed this story is that powerful politicians who could severely harm Facebook’s business model were getting in the face of Facebook executives and essentially demanding that they come up with something to support the Democratic Party’s theory of “Russian meddling.”

The Democratic leaders wanted this finding as an explanation for Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat, rather than going through the painful process of examining why the party has steadily lost ground in white working-class areas across the country.

What is missed in these Russia-bashing articles is that the Democratic brand has been sinking for years, including massive losses in statehouses across the country as well as in Congress. The party’s decline was not a one-off event with Donald Trump suddenly snaking away with significant parts of the white working class because the Russians bought some Facebook ads.

However, instead of looking in the mirror, national Democrats demanded that Facebook executives ferret out whatever tiny or imaginary information there might be about some Russians buying Facebook ads – and then allow those coerced findings to be fed into the excuse industry for why Hillary Clinton lost.

And, what about the Post’s repeated accusations about Russia engaging in “disinformation” and “fake news” without offering a single example? Apparently, these assertions have become such articles of faith in the U.S. mainstream media that they don’t require any proof.

However, honest journalism demands examples and evidence, not just vague accusations. The reality is that the U.S. government has stumbled again and again when seeking to paint RT as a disinformation outlet or a vehicle for undermining American democracy.

For instance, the Jan. 6 report on alleged Russian “cyber operations,” released by Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, included a lengthy appendix, dated from 2012, which decried RT for such offenses as allowing a debate among third-party presidential candidates who had been excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates; covering the Occupy Wall Street protests; and citing the environmental dangers from “fracking.”

The idea that American democracy is threatened by allowing third-party candidates or other American dissidents to have a voice is at best an upside-down understanding of democracy and, more likely, an exercise in hypocritical propaganda.

False Accusations

Another misfired attempt to discredit RT came from Obama’s Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel, who issued a Dipnote in April 2014, which helped establish the narrative of RT as a source of Russian disinformation.

For instance, Stengel claimed that RT reported a “ludicrous assertion” that the United States had spent $5 billion to produce Ukraine’s “regime change” in February 2014.

But what Stengel, a former managing editor of Time magazine, apparently failed to understand was that RT was referring to a public speech by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013, in which she told them that “we have invested more than $5 billion” in what was needed for Ukraine to achieve its “European aspirations.” In other words, the RT report wasn’t “ludicrous” at all.

Nuland also was a leading proponent of “regime change” in Ukraine who personally cheered on the Maidan demonstrators, even passing out cookies. In an intercepted pre-coup phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland discussed who should run the new government and pondered with Pyatt how to “glue” or “midwife this thing.”

So, Stengel was the one disseminating false information, not RT.

Similarly, senior U.S. politicians, including Hillary Clinton, and the U.S. mainstream media have falsely asserted that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies signed off on the Russia-did-it hacking claims.

For months, that canard was used to silence skepticism. After all, how could you question something that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed to be true?

But it turned out that – as DNI Clapper, himself a hardline Russia-basher, belatedly acknowledged – the Jan. 6 report on the alleged Russian hacking was the work of “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies, the CIA, FBI and NSA, and the “assessment” itself admitted that it was not asserting the Russian conclusion as fact, only the analysts’ opinion.

The New York Times finally retracted its use of the fake claim about “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” in late June 2017 although it wouldn’t let the lie lie, so instead the Times made misleading references to a “consensus” among U.S. intelligence agencies without using the number.

Recent studies by former U.S. intelligence experts have punched more holes in the certainty by raising doubts that the email downloads could have been accomplished over the Internet at the recorded speeds and more likely were achieved by an insider downloading onto a thumb drive.

Deciding What’s Real

So who is guilty of “fake news” and “disinformation”?

One positive from the current PBS series, “The Vietnam War,” is that despite its bend-over-backwards attempts to make excuses for the “good faith” decisions by U.S. politicians, no one can watch the series without encountering the chasm between the upbeat Official Story being peddled by the U.S. government and the ghastly on-the-ground reality.

Yet, given how little accountability was meted out then for journalists who served as conveyor belts for pro-war propaganda in Vietnam – or more recently over the fraudulent reporting that rationalized the U.S. aggressive war against Iraq – it is perhaps not surprising that similar false group thinks would coalesce around Russia now.

Careerist journalists understand that there is no danger in running with the pack – indeed, there is safety in numbers – but there are extraordinary risks to your career if you challenge the conventional wisdom even if you turn out to be right. As one establishment journalist once told me, “there’s no honor in being right too soon.”

So, for the Post reporters responsible for the latest journalistic violation of standards – Adam Entous, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg – there will be no penalty for the offense of telling about Russia’s alleged “disinformation” and “fake news” – rather than showing, i.e., providing actual examples. When it comes to Russia these days – as with the Vietcong in the 1960s or Iraq in 2002-03 – you can pretty much write whatever you want. All journalistic standards are gone.

Yet, what is perhaps most insidious about what we are seeing is that – in the name of defending democracy – the U.S. mainstream media is trampling a chief principle of the Enlightenment, the belief that the marketplace of ideas is the best way to determine the truth and to create an informed populace.

The new U.S. mainstream media paradigm is that only establishment-approved views can be expressed; everything else must be suppressed, purged and punished.

For instance, if you question the State Department’s narrative on alleged Syrian government sarin attacks – by noting contrary evidence that points to staged incidents by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate – you are called an “apologist” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

If you question the one-sided State Department narrative regarding the Ukraine coup in 2014 – indeed even if you use the word “coup” – you are denounced as a “Kremlin stooge.”

No ‘Other’ Side

It is now not okay to even consider the other side of these stories, just as it was anathema to suggest that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government may have been telling the truth in 2002-03 when it declared repeatedly that it had destroyed its WMDs. That made you a “Saddam apologist.”

The hostility toward Americans who dare question the current anti-Russian hysteria was highlighted by an article last Thanksgiving Day by one of the authors of the new Post article, Craig Timberg.

In another front-page Post story, Timberg allowed an anonymous group called PropOr Not to malign the professionalism and patriotism of 200 Web sites, including our own Consortiumnews, that were lumped together in a McCarthyistic smear that they were somehow guilty of disseminating “Russian propaganda.”

The unnamed accusers – granted anonymity by the Post – acknowledged that they had no evidence that the sites were part of some grand Russian conspiracy but made the judgment based on PropOrNot’s analysis of the Web sites’ content.

In other words, if you questioned the State Department’s narratives on Ukraine or Syria – regardless of how well-supported those critiques were – you got smeared as a “Russian propagandist” – and the Post, which didn’t even bother to contact the accused, considered that sort of analysis to be worthy of its front page.

The story fed into another frenzy about the need to use algorithms and artificial intelligence to hunt down and suppress or purge such dissenting views from the Internet, supposedly to protect the sanctity of American democracy and spare Americans from exposure to “fake news.”

So, well-meaning Americans who may hope that Russia-gate will somehow bring down Trump are getting recruited into a movement that intends to silence dissent and allow the U.S. establishment to dictate what information you will get to see and hear.

And that officially approved “information” will surely lead to new global tensions, more military spending. and additional warfare up to and possibly including nuclear war with Russia.

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Obfuscating the Truths of Vietnam

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By S. Brian Willson | CounterPunch 

I have hesitated to comment on the instructive discussion on VFP’s Full Disclosure page about the Burns-Novick Vietnam PBS series because I am not watching it. I have enjoyed reading many of the comments, and have communicated with people who have seen advance screenings.

In 2014, I heard Burns’ publicly discuss his pending PBS Vietnam series. He responded to a question about Agent Orange with a “safe” position that damage to human beings from the chemical herbicide was scientifically inconclusive. This was not surprising given that Burns is a popular, established film maker of various aspects of history from jazz, to baseball, to the Civil War. However, any deep threat to the US American basic “good guy” self-image would likely curtail his continued popularity, not likely to lend itself to corporate funding on PBS, whether from Bank of America, the Rockefeller or Koch Brothers.

Any treatment of the US War against the Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians that does not establish the historic foundation of the US criminal invasion, occupation, and destruction of an innocent country, murdering and maiming millions – profound moral issues – flunks authentic history. And, equally, if the presentation ignores the US creation of a fictional puppet government in the South that was so unpopular that the US was forced to deploy 3 million troops and massive airpower to protect it from the Vietnamese people themselves, it will fail miserably to do justice to genuine history.

Despite this history, Viet Nam is still commonly called a “Civil War” of relative “equivalencies”, a preposterous representation suggesting an “enemy” of basically poor people 8-10,000 miles distant on their own ground who for some unknown reason might threaten the wealthy US with bombs or naval and ground invasions, or….. ? And to represent that the war was “begun in good faith by decent people”, ignores the revelations of the Pentagon Papers.

Thus, Burns’s and Novick’s 18-hour “The Vietnam War” series severely obfuscates the most significant great truths of the US war – that “The Vietnam War” was and remains a Great Lie. Provoking national discussion about the war is important, but for it to be acceptable to a national PBS audience, the producers had to assure that in the framing the US remains basically the good guy against evil.

The honest portrayal of a people who wanted authentic autonomy from a stream of colonial intervenors seems outside our capacity to embrace, and certainly we were not able to comprehend the deep Vietnamese commitment to do whatever they believed necessary to rid itself of its latest occupier. Instead, the US created and funded a fictitious government with a corresponding enemy to justify our intervention against the shadowy, deceitful, evil, though tenacious “communists”. This US policy was intended to prevent a successful “Third World” post-WWII revolutionary movement that possessed the potential to spread to other restive peoples.

Without establishing this fundamental immoral foundation to the history of the US intervention, this Burns-Novick documentary history safely avoids provoking the US American people into an overdue, painful self-examination of its cultural “DNA”. Our geltanshauung was cast as a divinely guided “predestination” for goodness in 1630 when Puritan John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared “that we shall be as a city upon a hill” and “the eyes of all people are upon us”.

We are reminded of such arrogance in “Founding Father” Thomas Jefferson’s hypocritical words penned in the 1776 Declaration of Independence that claimed “all men are created equal”, yet a few words later declared the King of England using the “merciless Indian savages” to attack with “known rule of warfare” the new settlors with “undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions”.

Let’s see…. those words describe well our behavior in Viet Nam, genocidal behavior then, as in Viet Nam, off limits for US to consider.

*The US destroyed more than 60 percent of Viet Nam’s 21,000 inhabited, undefended villages, including use of unprecedented 8 million tons of bombs and 370,000 tons of napalm, murdering 4 to 5 million, leaving a decimated landscape with 26 million bomb craters and as many as 300,000 tons of unexploded ordnance that continue to kill and injure thousands every year;

*USAF manuals instructed the intentional bombings of the “psycho-social structure” of Viet Nam such as pagodas and churches (950 of them), schools (over 3,000) and hospitals and maternity wards (1,850, many with large red crosses painted on their roofs);

*US and South Vietnamese pilots were trained to “cut people down like little cloth dummies” during daytime raids;

*US employed the most intensive use of chemical warfare in human history, spraying 21 million gallons of lethal poison leaving millions deformed, sick and dead, now with third generation birth deformities;

*The US used torture in every southern province to extract confessions;

*The US imposed free fire (genocide) zones over 75 percent of the South, mass murdering villagers on the ground, etc.

In fact, our behavior was unspeakable, but similar to what our forebears did against our Indigenous inhabitants. Viet Nam was no aberration.

Yes, the PBS series will present much important history for the viewers through its artful selection of dramatic war footage and wide-ranging interviews with Vietnamese and US Americans. It will indeed educate and raise questions….as long as the storyline essentially preserves the US as the better of two basically equivalent fighting forces. It admits making terrible mistakes, but not crimes, implying or expressing justification for our intervention against evil – here the convenient Cold War Pavlovian “communist” bogeyman.

This PBS series is being aired as the US deepens its atrocious pattern of perpetual war around the globe since Viet Nam, the chess pieces continually moving from Viet Nam to almost everywhere else under a philosophy of “full spectrum dominance”. This includes use of the ultimate wholesale terror from the sky using missile-laden drones.

The nature of US behavior in Viet Nam, and in the little understood tragic Korean war more than a decade earlier, and in virtually all countries in which it intervenes, covertly or overtly, is virtually ungraspable to the majority of US Americans. In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr delivered his anti-Vietnam War speech, declaring that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government”. Hmm!

Without a willingness to honestly address our long pattern of immoral and criminal military and covert interventions to preserve essentially selfish, narcissistic values, utilizing deceit and grotesque barbaric techniques, when and how might the US people be awakened to discover a political consciousness of mutual respect? The Burns-Novick series will produce healthy debates about the US War in Southeast Asia, but it will tragically steer clear of revealing, while obscuring, the Grand Lie of the war itself, even as the documentary is touted by observers and viewers as monumental history. What a lost opportunity!

So, as people are glued to this intriguing PBS series, they will nonetheless continue to shop, their government will continue to bomb, and the warmakers will continue to get richer. Nothing changes.

S. Brian Willson, USAF Combat Security Police Officer, Viet Nam, 1969.

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How to End the Korea Crisis

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By Ron Paul 

The descent of US/North Korea “crisis” to the level of schoolyard taunts should be remembered as one of the most bizarre, dangerous, and disgraceful chapters in US foreign policy history.

President Trump, who holds the lives of millions of Koreans and Americans in his hands, has taken to calling the North Korean dictator “rocket man on a suicide mission.” Why? To goad him into launching some sort of action to provoke an American response? Maybe the US president is not even going to wait for that. We remember from the Tonkin Gulf false flag that the provocation doesn’t even need to be real. We are in extremely dangerous territory and Congress for the most part either remains asleep or is cheering on the sabre-rattling.

Now we have North Korean threats to detonate hydrogen bombs over the Pacific Ocean and US threats to “totally destroy” the country.

We are told that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is a “madman.” That’s just what they said about Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad, and everyone else the neocons target for US military action. We don’t need to be fans of North Korea to be skeptical of the war propaganda delivered by the mainstream media to the benefit of the neocons and the military industrial complex.

Where are the cooler heads in Washington to tone down this war footing?

Making matters worse, there is very little understanding of the history of the conflict. The US spends more on its military than the next ten or so countries combined, with thousands of nuclear weapons that can destroy the world many times over. Nearly 70 years ago a US-led attack on Korea led to mass destruction and the death of nearly 30 percent of the North Korean population. That war has not yet ended.

Why hasn’t a peace treaty been signed? Newly-elected South Korean president Moon Jae-in has proposed direct negotiations with North Korea leading to a peace treaty. The US does not favor such a bilateral process. In fact, the US laughed off a perfectly sensible offer made by the Russians and Chinese, with the agreement of the North Koreans, for a “double freeze” – the North Koreans would suspend missile launches if the US and South Korea suspend military exercises aimed at the overthrow of the North Korean government.

So where are there cooler heads? Encouragingly, they are to be found in South Korea, which would surely suffer massively should a war break out. While US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was bragging that the new UN sanctions against North Korea would result in a near-complete blockade of the country (an act of war), the South Korean government did something last week that shocked the world: it announced an eight million dollar humanitarian aid package for pregnant mothers and infant children in North Korea. The US and its allies are furious over the move, but how could anyone claim the mantle of “humanitarianism” while imposing sanctions that aim at starving civilians until they attempt an overthrow of their government?

Here’s how to solve the seven-decade old crisis: pull all US troops out of [South] Korea; end all military exercises on the North Korean border; encourage direct talks between the North and South and offer to host or observe them with an international delegation including the Russians and Chinese, which are after all Korea’s neighbors.

The schoolyard insults back and forth between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un are not funny. They are in fact an insult to all of the rest of us!

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on How to End the Korea Crisis

Trump’s UN Speech on Venezuela – Some Hidden Key Themes

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  • A protester hold a sign reading "Stay out of Venezuela Trump"
    A protester hold a sign reading “Stay out of Venezuela Trump” | Photo: EFE
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Since military officers now control U.S. foreign policy, the logic they apply to geopolitics is preeminently military too.

In parallel to the political train wreck of anti-Chavismo in Venezuela, the U.S. Establishment faces its own variety of internal chaos and conflict.

OPINION: Venezuela: US Occupation Has Already Begun and Is Being Conducted by ExxonMobil

The main event on the first day of the 72nd annual session of the United Nations Organization’s General Assembly was the speech by Donald Trump. He duly confirmed what was expected from him, with his self-interested “central focus” falling on North Korea, Iran and Venezuela in support of the U.S. geopolitical siege agenda.

A Far from Romantic Introduction

If Donald Trump has demonstrated anything almost a year since being elected U.S. president it is above all his domestic political weakness and his foreign policy incoherence.

The contradictions with regard to his electoral campaign promises, for example the dispatch of more troops to Afghanistan when he had promised to withdraw them during the election campaign, added to the rapid dismantling of his initial political team, evince not just the strong internal power struggle over control of U.S. foreign policy, but the current president’s caliber too.

An article by Daniel Larison in the American Conservative tries to explain Trump’s constant contradictions, so assiduously exploited by Fox News and CNN, “As I’ve observed before, this is a man who believes in nothing but himself, and he has no firm convictions, so he can be manipulated by whomever he happens to be speaking with at the moment.”

Larison goes on, “1) Trump generally doesn’t understand or care about policy substance; 2) he doesn’t feel any obligation to honor commitments he has made; 3) he will get rolled in any negotiation he enters into because all that interests him is the appearance of successful deal-making.”

RELATED: US Sanctions Against Venezuela Could Backfire: Cuban Observer

These three points partially define the framework of Trump’s actions. For him, sending troops to Afghanistan does not betray any ideological precept, while stating that he will destroy North Korea embodies nothing of political substance, nor does asserting that Iran’s government is a “corrupt dictatorship” just like Venezuela, all these at once and provoking more suspicion than agreement.

Showing political muscle so that the U.S. appears to be the invincible global police officer, grown stronger since the turn of the century, is as important as what it covers up, namely the lack of power to achieve its objectives which is then compensated for by imposing a narrative keeping alive the possibility of a confrontation with strategic rivals.

For Trump, Venezuela specifically, is regarded in this same way. As a negotiator, he sees a highly viable political, economic and financial opportunity, duly agreed with those in control of US foreign policy. The potential domestic political and energy costs of more aggressive sanctions towards Venezuela’s oil and financial sectors, or of a direct military intervention, complicate, at least for now, living up to the inflated reality of his speech to the UN General Assembly.

Militarizing US Foreign Policy

Contrary to the Obama adminstration, characterized by an equilibrium between civil and military senior figures in charge of US foreign policy, the Trump administration, on this issue has tilted very quickly towards the military.

Writer and former New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer, argues that “Ultimate power to shape American foreign and security policy has fallen into the hands of three military men: General James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense; General John Kelly, President Trump’s Chief of Staff; and General H.R. McMaster, the National Security Adviser.”

Kinzer evaluates that moment in the Trump administration as the culmination of a “slow motion military coup” aimed at controlling the US government against the “political crazies” that entered the White House on Trump’s coattails. Events suggest the imposition of a de facto government also composed of crazies.

This profile, homogenizing Trump as a single strategy administration, under the thumb of armaments and oil corporations, conspiring behind the scenes, looks like it has become a permanent fixture of U.S. diplomacy.

Trump’s speech to the U.N. makes clear that his rhetoric is dictated by the neoconservatives, effectively the political party of the military-industrial complex, for which H.R. McMaster and John Kelly are its most promising investments and, too, the doctrine of permanent war as the gun-sight aimed at the emerging bloc of Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela, among others.

OPINION: Variations on Trump and Venezuela

All of them weighty players located over important energy and mineral resources which the military-industrial complex, the U.S. economy’s mainstay, needs to be able to keep going.

The military profile of the current U.S. administration means the strings pulling the unconventional warfare against Venezuela all start in the White House.

Trump’s aggressive, bellicose, uncouth tone is also an expression and a symptom of the desperation of an immense apparatus of accumulation crying out for help to ensure its long-term survival. As the writer known as The Saker notes, the neoconservatives represent “a hegemonic tendency within Wall Street, the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, the mainstream news media, and their doctrinal program, the Project for a New American Century and the doctrine of Full Spectrum Dominance are navigational charts projecting global exceptionalism, a hyper-warlike agenda and total, absolute deregulation of Wall Street and the Federal Reserve”

Too much is at stake and Venezuela, being part of “the U.S. hemisphere” is the safest bet.

Nikki Haley Places Her Bets – Is the Solution Military?

Since military officers now control U.S. foreign policy, the logic they apply to geopolitics is preeminently military too. The “national priorities” of the United States as a nation (or what remains of it) are marginalized in the medium term, being substituted by “military priorities” devoted mainly to the methods of making war and very little to how to administer what follows.

The three supreme military chiefs, however, have focused on tasks well beyond bringing some “discipline” to the White House. Their tentacles stretch into the Department of State, to the point of installing a parallel Secretary of State, to the detriment of Rex Tillerson. This individual is a spokesperson for the hyper-warlike agenda of the chiefs at the center of government. She is Nikki Haley, ex-Governor of South Carolina, someone inexpert on foreign policy issues.

The neoconservative magazine the National Review hits the nail on the head with regard to these recent changes and this spokesperson tries to simplistically characterize a whole emerging bloc of countries via a single siege agenda, “Haley has become the leading American voice for human rights and against tyranny.”

Haley is the perfect ventriloquist’s dummy to undermine Rex Tillerson’s State Department and unify the foreign policy agenda from the US pulpit at the United Nations. Philip Giraldi, writing in the American Conservative media outlet asserts that Haley not only works independently of Donald Trump but, “is firmly in the neocon camp, receiving praise from Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and from the Murdoch media.”

Another dangerous development behind the scenes is that, during the Colombian President’s visit to Washington, Senator Lindsey Graham offered military arms and support to Juan Manuel Santos in the event of armed conflict with Venezuela. Haley too was at the dinner conspiracy held by Trump in New York last September 18th accompanied by the same General Kelly who, in 2015, made clear his intention to invade Venezuela on “humanitarian” grounds.

Symbolic Framework, Exceptionalism and Maneuvers to Wreck Dialogue

The political dialogue begun in the Dominican Republic as a result of the National Constituent Assembly has provoked a series of actions to wreck it.

The New York dinner’s main course were the phony hearings by Luis Almagro of the OAS with NGOs and corrupt Venezuelans protected by the U.S., in coordination with Zeid Al Hussein, UN High commissioner for Human Rights, aimed at paving the way to send Nicolas Maduro to the International Criminal Court for “crimes against humanity.”

A few days beforehand, they tightened the screws of the financial blockade against CITGO, PDVSA’s subsidiary in the US, curtailing its lines of credit so as to cut its profits and the repatriation of dividends back to Venezuela, even outlawing the Treasury Department’s own licenses following Trump’s executive order. Likewise, tons of food and medicines are unable to enter Venezuela because US banks, like Citibank, will not process payments from importers.

RELATED: Standoff in Venezuela

Haley not only has close relations with Zeid, she also seeks from her U.N. post, via various means of extortion evident from last April right up until last July to force UN agencies, the OAS and regional “partners” of the ad hoc Lima Declaration group of countries, as well as internal Venezuelan opposition figures, to strengthen the financial and diplomatic ring fence around Venezuela, as a response to the talks in the Dominican Republic, an initiative supported by the UN, by governments of the European Union and by some regional governments acting as mediators.

The National Review article already mentioned, also makes clear what Haley is playing at within the U.N., “She is someone who is prepared to publicly pressure corrupt and ineffective U.N. agencies such as the Human Rights Council for their hypocrisy and anti-Semitism, while reaffirming the U.S. alliance with Israel in a way that is normally the business of the Secretary of State.”

From the Human Rights Council, the Haley-Zeid duo have reasserted their determination to ensure Venezuela’s isolation. The different means employed run from building a case against President Maduro in the International Criminal Court to the feint at activating the Palermo Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. They form part of a recipe that apart from never getting a solid result has also failed to alter the course of world geopolitics and should be seen as an effort to carry existing sanctions to a new, more delicate level.

The U.N. General Assembly opened with a hyper-warlike speech from Donald Trump and a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Lima Declaration group of countries and constitutes a golden opportunity to take new steps to further the interventionist agenda, clearing the way to take the “Venezuelan problem” to the U.N.’s highest level, the Security Council, just as was done on Libya and Syria before.

While parallel coercive criminal measures are activated against the Chavista leadership, that route is still strewn with obstacles as, too, is the placing Venezuela as a permanent issue before the UN Security Council. The pieces in place on the chess board at the moment suggest that the most feasible option in the short term is to consolidate the case arguing that Venezuela is a failed State, using the corporate media, U.N. agencies and the U.S. Congress to justify more aggressive unilateral action in the economic and financial sphere.

Beyond what appearances and public rhetoric suggest, calibrating objectives against Venezuela requires the U.S. to get around the roadblocks of the traditional multilateral institutions, or at least to combine them with informal structures like the Lima Declaration group so as to free itself of the restrictions of international law and ultimately to take the law into their own hands.

The case of Syria serves as an example of how even after ignoring international law to invade a country via unconventional means, future hybrid wars need still more flexible global institutions, deregulated, expeditious, stripped of control by Nation States, erasing military, diplomatic and political frontiers within a given theater of operations.

Without that state of affairs being yet fully developed and despite the U.N. being an institution that has served U.S. geostrategic interests very well, nothing could prevent Syria’s authorities using the U.N. to ironclad the talks and negotiations in Astana. Across the Atlantic, Venezuela has received support from U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and from the Human Rights Council.

That explains the reason for Nikki Haley’s “recommendations” to reform the UN, broached in the run-up to this year’s General Assembly, namely, to dismantle the agencies that block or criticize the exceptionalist agenda of the US, with special attention to UN bodies where Venezuela, Russia, China, Iran and Syria exercise key influence.

A Developing Conclusion

While U.S. political strategy defines itself more sharply, both for the players and interests of the U.S. military-industrial complex in the background and also in terms of the objectives pursued in relation to Venezuela in the current context, the content Trump’s U.N. speech should neither be ignored nor taken lightly.

The symbolic frame (of military design) in which they are trying, for now, to set up Venezuela before the world’s most important political forum is that, in Venezuela, no political solution is possible, only a military one. Descriptions like “narco-State” and “dictatorship” express the kinds of narrative by means of which they seek to hide that Venezuela ended a violent political cycle by means of a Constituent electoral process and that in less than a month’s time regional elections will be held with the participation of the political opposition and, too, that talks are in progress with anti-government political players so as to stabilize the country economically against domestic and foreign aggression.

RELATED: VenezuelaRejects Imposition of Sanctions by Canada

None of that figured in Trump’s speech to the U.N. The three military chiefs, who are the real U.S. government now, up the ante trying to pressure partner countries and neutral countries among the world’s nations to accompany their anti-political violent agenda against Venezuela. They do so in all the multilateral bodies where they have influence.

Among themselves, refusal to recognize the Venezuelan State and breaking it, have become points of honor. No mechanism of negotiation and political stabilization, either via elections or dialog, alters their stance, unless it means a defeat for Chavismo. This is not only on account of the war they want to inflict on Venezuela out of their own basic economic need, but also because the premise from which their financial blockade and diplomatic siege starts is based on regarding as illegitimate any political scenario that recognizes Chavismo as Venezuela’s government.

Behind the fetish of “restoring democracy” mentioned by Trump in relation to Venezuela, lies no other policy. His very tone verged on a virtual declaration of war. The multiple fronts the US has opened up around the world using that same narrative, transformed into devastating wars, are clear evidence of that.

Immediately, Venezuela still has the same president and is bidding to overcome its economic challenges by broadening its relations with Russia, China and Iran in the framework of a global financial and economic megaproject which threatens dollar hegemony along with the trade rules and financial institutions that support it. Trump’s aggressive outburst is also symptomatic of how Venezuela has responded to his sanctions and of how highly sensitive it is in geostrategic terms to engage with a financial architecture beyond US control.

In the meantime, Nikki Haley will continue attacking Venezuela, Russia, Iran and North Korea, while H.R. McMaster and John Kelly operate behind the scenes manipulating their ventriloquist’s dummy from South Carolina. The so-called “Axis of Evil,” none of whose Presidents’ took part in the event, thus clearly downplaying the importance of the UN for Presidents Putin, Xi Jinping, Maduro and Rouhani, emerged strengthened by Trump’s disastrous performance. This has placed the US in a weak political position, incapable of offering a foreign policy generating trust and confidence among the world’s nations.

Along with all this, Trump is waiting to make another speech written for him by the very people who took over from him a few months ago.

And there is nothing more dangerous than a group of frustrated, heavily armed war criminals.

 

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on Trump’s UN Speech on Venezuela – Some Hidden Key Themes

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Intervention Expert

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  • Zeid Ra
    Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. | Photo: Reuters
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The president of the National Constituent Assembly rightly said that the Jordanian prince “endorses the violence of the Venezuelan right against the people.”

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the Jordanian prince in charge of U.N. human rights issues, again poisons the Venezuelan situation to give a further respite to the agenda of intervention against the country.

RELATEDVenezuela Delivers 10.4 Tons of Aid to Earthquake-Ravaged Mexico

In tune with Luis Almagro’s troupe at the Organization of American States, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, currently the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, uses his current position in the multilateral organization as an international pivot in order to once again criminalize the Bolivarian government of Venezuela.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza denounced this at the U.N. Human Rights Council on Sept. 11, in which he spoke of a campaign orchestrated and led by the United States government with the intention of justifying a kind of “humanitarian tutelage” from the political, diplomatic and military point of view on Venezuela.

But the most important part of their curriculum is the active participation in forced interventions that culminated in humanitarian disasters within different countries. Al Hussein is not only the son of the Hashemite dynasty that governs the Kingdom of Jordan, but was educated in the elite universities of Europe and was the ambassador of his monarchic country in the U.S., Mexico and the U.N. Hence his position as head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is a celebration for Western elites by origin, race and political ties with Washington.

And that Al Hussein is the man who, following the failure of OAS head Luis Almagro, now tries to raise the level of the offensive against the country at a time and place in which Venezuela has a legitimate voice and vote in the same Council of Human Rights, of which he is a member and which he has previously chaired.

During the 1990s, the Jordanian prince served as the diplomatic chief of the United Nations Protection Force, which served as a military agency allied to NATO during the war in Yugoslavia, manufactured from the outside, for “humanitarian assistance,” “victim relief,” and the creation of “security zones” at airports and border areas of what we now know as Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Unoprofor was at that time a “humanitarian channel,” an instrument that reappears this time in the anti-Chavista tonic of both, Democratic Unity Roundtable and the U.S.-allied governments, which after the financial sanctions of the Donald Trump administration take center stage as part of the foreign intervention disguised as “humanitarian aid,” a big lie. Al Hussein has proven experienced in setting up these border intervention scenarios and lobbying within the U.N. to implement these measures as part of a “consensus” under the tutelage of the U.S. elite through multilateral agencies.

RELATEDVenezuela Rejects Imposition of Sanctions by Canada

As Mision Verdad previously noted: “But the Jordanian leader’s resume does not end there. He has also been a representative of the Security Council to lead the last phase of U.N. humanitarian interventions in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo: African nations battered by mercenary wars for more than a decade, Zeid was there again to give international legitimacy to the criminal financial sanctions imposed by the United States and the U.N. Security Council as the only valid way for the ‘failed states’ to get out of their situation.”

The president of the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, previously a foreign minister, rebuked Al Hussein for his biased statements and reports against Venezuela and denounced the new influence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Of course, it is not the first time that the Jordanian prince has lashed out against Venezuelan sovereignty. His constant accusations about human rights are used by local and international media as a pretext to poison the advances of the Bolivarian government in this matter, in addition to legitimizing the anti-Chavez violence promoted by both the First Justice and Popular Will political parties used as laboratories of the opposition coalition MUD, as well as by the U.S. government itself and the U.S. corporations and banks that pressure it.

This instrumentation of human rights is evident in the last report of the high commissioner in which he uses as references the rigged data of NGOs on Venezuelan soil, allies of the MUD as Provea and Penal Forum (financed by NED and USAID gringos) as well as the facts presented by the opposition media and the processes of “investigation” of the previous administration of the public ministry commanded by the fugitive Luisa Ortega Diaz.

Based on the exposition by those actors, experts in the creation of false files and the promotion of foreign intervention to the detriment of Venezuelan sovereignty, Al Hussein calls government actions within the framework of the color revolution a “repression policy” and its armed phase of anti-Chavismo that took place in the streets of Venezuela from April to August this year.

In relation to the above, the president of the ANC rightly said that the Jordanian prince “endorses the violence of the Venezuelan right against the people.”

Both the promotion of the report and its presentation at the opening of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, which stated that “my research suggests the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed,” has a clear attempt to overshadow the participation of the diplomatic delegation of Venezuela in Geneva, thus supporting the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, another promoter of “humanitarian interventions,” signaling “mockery.”

This has its counterpart in the OAS, which is again on the scene to accompany what was said and done in Geneva, with the opening of hearings on alleged crimes against humanity that the Bolivarian government supposedly committed against the Venezuelan population, an agenda that responds to the “Popular Will” political party of Leopoldo Lopez that tries to recover the political offensive from an international case whose objective is to extend the sanctions against Venezuela. Al Hussein has been photographed several times with Lilian Tintori (Lopez’s wife) and has had direct contact with Luis Almagro regarding Venezuela and was is one of the main defenders of Lopez. These are signs that link him directly to the mega-loser of the primaries of yesterday: Popular Will.

Along with the Almagro agenda, this new Al Hussein diplomatic offensive against Venezuela must be understood as part of the large-scale international strategy of expanding U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan economy and finances and legitimizing anti-Chavismo intentions of neutralizing the ANC, which serves as a counterweight to interventionist plans. Likewise, the tone and geopolitical importance have been to diminish and manipulate President Nicolas Maduro’s term in office on the basis of “human rights.”

 

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Intervention Expert

North Korea Says US Declared War, May Take Countermeasures

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    The DPRK’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. | Photo: Reuters
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“The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York.

The foreign minister of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has said U.S. President Donald Trump declared war on his country adding that Pyongyang reserves the right to take countermeasures.

RELATED‘The Tougher, the Better’: Trump’s New Anti-Venezuela ‘Travel Ban’ Explained

“The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York.

“We will have every right to take countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country,” he added.

U.S. bombers flew in international airspace east of the DPRK on Saturday, in another provocative move which has included military exercises on the Korean peninsula with South Korea and joint military exercises with Japan.

In his remarks to the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 19, Trump called Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong Un, a “rocket man on a suicide mission,” and Sunday included the country, along with Venezuela and Chad on the U.S. travel ban list.

Trump also announced Thursday the widening of U.S. sanctions against the DPRK, banning U.S. companies and institutions from financing and facilitating trade with the country.

Prompted by the U.S., the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted its ninth round of sanctions against Pyongyang in early September to counter its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on North Korea Says US Declared War, May Take Countermeasures

Germany at a turning point

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Image result for Chancellor Angela Merkel CARTOON
By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

The elections to the German Bundestag on Sunday throw up big surprises. Chancellor Angela Merkel will lead the next coalition government, too – her fourth successive win – but in all other respects, the results signify that Germany’s post-World War II politics is at a turning point.

First and foremost, the two mainstream parties that have dominated German politics have now come to represent only 53% of the electorate. The level of fragmentation is stunning for a country that is synonymous with the ‘middle path’. Second, Merkel’s CDU (Christian democrats) has lost support and her coalition partner SPD (social democrats) suffered a humiliating defeat. Third, the right-wing nationalist AfP – reviled as ‘neo-Nazis’ – won over 13% votes and secured 94 seats in the 709-member Bundestag, the first time such a thing is happening in Germany’s post-World War II political history.

Then, there are the sub-plots. The SPD has vowed to sit in the opposition, which means Merkel may have to form the next government with the rightist CSU (Christian socialists) and leftist Green Party as coalition partners, which makes an improbable alliance of convenience. The CDU-led government’s economic policies are likely to be subjected to pulls and counter-pulls from the two coalition partners CSU and Green Party, which are at loggerheads ideologically.

Interestingly, AfP’s main support base happens to be the former communist East Germany and, thus, an ‘East-West’ divide is surfacing after the German unification a quarter century ago.

Again, CDU lost popular support for the wrong reasons. Under the CDU-led government, the German economy did remarkably well. What cost Merkel heavily has been her refugee policies, which have been perceived as appeasement of Muslims opening the door to an influx of Islam in Germany. Merkel eventually took a tougher line on deportations but it was too little, too late. The issues of asylum, integration and deportation and the perceived ‘Islamisation’ of Germany dogged Merkel’s entire election campaign.

The ultra-nationalist AfD framed its campaign on the provocative platform, “Islam does not belong to Germany.” The party’s program calls for a ban on minarets and considers Islam to be incompatible with German culture.

The AfD leader Alexander Gauland has openly called for Germans to reclaim their history: “We have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars.” The outgoing foreign Minister and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel warned voters ahead of the poll against having “real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since the end of World War Two”. Germany’s Central Council of Jews said its worst fears had come true in Sunday’s election.

The German policies are almost certain to be affected. Merkel will be under pressure to step up deportation of refugees. The AfD has tasted blood and sensing the national mood, it will surely intensify the ultra-nationalist campaign. Surely, the German discourse is poised to become much more homophobic, much more anti-migrant, much more-anti-Muslim. This will cast shadows on Germany’s relations with Turkey.

Again, Merkel’s approach to Russia will be keenly watched. The AfD – like most ultra-nationalists in Europe, is, ironically, “pro-Russia”. If the Russian strategy has been to discredit western democracies and break them into shambles, there ought to be quiet satisfaction in Moscow over what is unfolding in Germany.

At any rate, a weakened Merkel is not a bad thing for Moscow. (President Vladimir Putin and Merkel had an uneasy personal relationship.) Merkel will now be more susceptible from pressures from the German industry, where Russia has influential lobbyists, for normalization of business ties with Moscow.

The biggest impact of the German election will be felt on European integration processes. Merkel has been out on the back foot and she was a flag-carrier EU integration. Germany’s influence within the EU weakens in the period ahead. And, without a strong axis with Germany, France alone cannot lead European integration. In sum, coming on top of Brexit, EU will be rudderless without Germany’s leadership under an assertive Merkel.

Posted in GermanyComments Off on Germany at a turning point

Italy Ramps Up Weapons Supplies to Saudi Arabia in Spite of EU Calls for Embargo

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Image result for Saudi Arabia CARTOON
Sputnik 

European countries such as Italy continue to increase arms exports to Saudi Arabia in spite of European Parliament resolutions calling for an embargo on sales to Riyadh in light of violations of human rights and international law in Yemen.

A recent European Parliament resolution which calls for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia is no deterrent to Italy, which continues to increase its arms sales to the Middle East despite concerns that the flow of weapons is contributing to instability there.

Enrico Piovesana, an Italian journalist and director of the Center for Monitoring of Arms Expenditures (MILEX), told Sputnik Italiathat Italy’s exports have risen dramatically.

“According to the most recent data, for 2016, income from arms exports doubled in comparison with the previous year, from €7.9 billion ($9.4 billion) to €14.16 billion. This figure is even more impressive if we compare it with data for 2014: €2.6 billion.”

“This is significant growth, and the Italian foreign ministry considers it a triumph: in its last report, it said that this sector has finally emerged from the [economic] crisis thanks to the flexibility of its supply.”

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Italy was the world’s eighth largest arms exporter in 2016.

Italy is also third on the global ranking of arms exporters by number of countries to which it exports, Piovesana said.

“Saudi Arabia is the sixth largest client for Italian weapons producers,” he explained.

The non-binding resolution passed by the European Parliament on Wednesday is the third call in two years by EU parliamentarians to enforce EU Council rules on the arms export control and impose an embargo on exports to Saudi Arabia.

On September 5, the UN Human Rights Office issued a report recording violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law which occurred in the two-and-a-half years since Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners launched a bombing campaign in Yemen to overthrow the Houthi rebels who ousted former President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Between March 2015 and 30 August 2017, at least 5,144 civilians have been documented as killed and more than 8,749 injured, according to the UN figures. Some 3,233 of the civilians killed were reportedly killed by Coalition forces, whose airstrikes continued to be the leading cause of civilian casualties.

Giorgio Beretta, an analyst from the Union of Italian Disarmament Associations, told Sputnik that Italian-made bombs are known to have been used in airstrikes on civilians.

“The UN report talks about documentation confirming the use of Italian bombs in civilian areas in Yemen. These are bombs manufactured by the Italian company RWM, which were produced and exported with the permission of the Italian government. Both the Gentiloni government and the previous Renzi government gave permission for the export of these bombs.”

“Some EU countries, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, have suspended the supply of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. Other countries, such as Germany, decided to suspend the supply of weapons that could be used by Saudi Arabia in the conflict with Yemen. The UK, France and Italy continue to deliver supplies. In 2016, Italy delivered nearly 20,000 aerial bombs worth more than €411 million, which is the country’s largest supply of bombs since the end of World War II. It is absolutely clear that this is a political decision,” Beretta said.

Saudi Arabia has become the world’s second largest arms importer after India, with an 8.2% share in the market. While Italy has increased its supplies, they are still dwarfed by the US, which exports 52% of Riyadh’s imports, and the UK, which exports 27%, according to the SIPRI.

“It should be noted that that Italy is not the largest supplier to Riyadh. Trump signed a contract to sell $110 billion million of weapons to the Saudis. But nevertheless, supplies from the EU are important since there are European components in many military systems that Saudi Arabia buys.”

Beretta said that the European Parliament’s resolution and the EU Council’s Common Policy on arms exports are rather toothless in the face of lobbying from arms producers.

“International norms, as well as EU norms, don’t provide for sanctions for those who violate the International Arms Trade Treaty, as well as for those who contradict EU position. This is a big mistake, but it’s not surprising [because] these same countries exerted strong pressure to prevent the introduction of sanctions measures. At the international level, the only competent authority that can actually impose or remove sanctions is the UN Security Council. At the EU level, this is the EU Council.”

“However, there is another way: in the case of Riyadh, if one of the member countries violates the embargo, another country may legally refuse to sell arms to them. For example, if the UK violates this possible embargo, Italy could stop supplying arms to London. It can break the vicious circle. But let’s not forget that lobbyists and large arms corporations will exert pressure and try to prevent sanctions measures for violators of the embargo,” Beretta warned.

Posted in Europe, Italy, Saudi ArabiaComments Off on Italy Ramps Up Weapons Supplies to Saudi Arabia in Spite of EU Calls for Embargo


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