Archive | October 27th, 2017

Somalia Accepts Assistance From Foreign Destabilizers


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Delegates from nearly 50 countries, as well as representatives from major international organizations met in London yesterday to attend the Somalia Conference and discuss signs of progress in a country that has been devastated by 21 years of war. The British Foreign Office described the goals of the conference in anticipation of the event:

The Somalia conference in London aims to capitalize on the significant progress made over the past year and to agree coordinated international support for the government of Somalia’s plans to build political stability by improving security, police, justice and public financial management systems.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud seized the opportunity to call upon assembled heads of governments, foreign investors and international financiers to secure the funding needed to spearhead Somalia’s security and development challenges. “We need support; we need assistance and investment; and we need protection from those who try to knock us over.”

With the United States pledging to provide $40 million in additional funds to develop Somalia’s security sector, stabilize the country and provide humanitarian assistance on top of the UK’s commitment of $54 million to assist Somalia in it’s fight against international terrorism, and piracy, it looks like Somalia left the conference with it’s gift basket full.

Somalia has a recent history of accepting assistance from countries that have helped create the problems Somalia must confront.

As early as 2001 former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speculated, “Somalia has been a place that has harbored al Qaeda and, to my knowledge, still is.” Early plans to conduct military strikes in Somalia as part of America’s “war on terror” were initially abandoned “because of insufficient intelligence”. In 2006 the United States provided training, drones and military equipment to Ethiopian troops to oust the Islamic Courts Union, a group American intelligence officials theorized had connections to an East African Al-Qaeda cell. Headed at the time by Sheik Sharif Ahmed, the United States sought to destroy the Islamic Courts Union and the Sheik himself. Once the nascent order established by the Islamic Courts Union was toppled, Al-Shabaab, the feared islamist group conference attendees vowed to help dismantle, sought to fill the power vacuum. In a policy u-turn Washington decided to support newly elected President Sheik Sharif Ahmed, the leader they overthrew three years earlier and then train and arm his security forces to confront the mushrooming enemy. In 2009 Secretary of State Hilary Clinton flew to the US Embassy in Nairobi to confirm the United State’s support for Somalia’s new leader and pledge assistance in developing the country’s security forces. Within months Somalia was receiving US training and military equipment to assist the transitional government in it’s fight against the islamist organization, Al-Shabaab.

The origins of Al-Shabaab are rooted in the 2006 intervention. After the Islamic Courts Union was defeated by US backed Ethiopian forces hardline members splintered from the movement, merged with disparate groups of radical islamists and formed Al-Shabaab. In a policy u-turn Washington decided to support the leader they previously overthrew and then train and arm his security forces to confront the mushrooming enemy.

In addition to setting the stage for Al-Shabaab the United States implementation of “preventative counter insurgency operations” in the Horn of Africa have by some estimates resulted in the killing of 42 civilians. Detailed analysis by The Nation’s Jeremy Schahill reveal the extent to which the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the CIA have been carrying out a covert war in the country with lethal consequences for enemies and non-enemies alike. On January 7, 2007 the United States carried out it’s first military strike on Somalia after tracking a suspected Al-Qaeda convoy with a predator drone which was reported to have killed militants responsible for the 1998 embassy bombings. A third air-strike three days later was reported to have had different results.

4-31 total reported killed
4-31 civilians reported killed, including 1 child
Heavy civilian casualties were reported in airstrikes on Hayi near Afmadow, on Hayi, 250km northwest of Ras Kamboni, and other parts of southern Somalia, in confusing reports which may conflate activity by US and other forces. An elder told Reuters 22-27 people had been killed, while a Somali politician told CBS News that 31 civilians ‘including a newlywed couple’ had been killed by two helicopters near Afmadow, while Mohamed Mahmud Burale told AP that at least four civilians were killed on Monday evening in Hayi, including his four-year-old son.

The young Yemeni Farea Al-Muslimi’s testimony before a Senate hearing on drones last month illustrates the counter productivity of American drone and air strikes in countries associated with the war on terror. Muslimi, whose village had been bombed by drones a week before the hearing described how these operations increased the numbers of people who sympathized with extreme islamists rather than preventing the growth of anti-American sentiments.

What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.

AQAP’s power and influence has never been based on the number of members in its ranks. AQAP recruits and retains power through its ideology, which relies in large part on the Yemeni people believing that America is at war with them . . .

I have to say that the drone strikes and the targeted killing program have made my passion and mission in support of America almost impossible in Yemen. In some areas of Yemen, the anger against America that results from the strikes makes it dangerous for me to even acknowledge having visited America, much less testify how much my life changed thanks to the State Department scholarships. It’s sometimes too dangerous to even admit that I have American friends.

With President Mohamoud lined up to receive an additional $95 million from the United States and the UK to help Somalia combat terrorism, one wonders if terrorism in Somalia is not a self-fulfilling prophecy. The United States main target in Somalia continues to be Al-Shabaab as African Command General Carter Ham reported before the American Forces Press Service. Yet Al-Shabaab was non-existent before America began it’s “classic proxy war” by assisting Ethiopia in its invasion of Somalia in 2006. Furthermore it was not until 2007 that leaders of the islamist group affiliated themselves with Al-Qaeda, six years after the United States identified Somalia as part of the war on terror.

President Mohamoud will receive the support, assistance, investment and protection he sought at yesterday’s Somalia Conference. Unfortunately he will be receiving it from those largely responsible for creating the conditions that threaten “to knock [Somalia] over”.

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The Crack-Up: Donald Trump and the Fourth Great Shattering


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When the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., published his bestseller The Disuniting of America in 1991, he didn’t seriously entertain the worst-case scenario suggested by the title. At the time, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were imploding, while separatist movements in Quebec, East Timor, Spain’s Basque country, and elsewhere were already clamoring for their own states. But when it came to the United States, Schlesinger’s worries were principally focused on the far smaller battlefield of the American classroom and what he saw as multiculturalism’s threat to the mythic “melting pot.” Although he took those teacup tempests seriously, the worst future Schlesinger could imagine was what he called the “tribalization of American life.” He didn’t contemplate the actual dismemberment of the country.

Today, controversies over hate speech and gender justice continue to roil American campuses. Add these to the almost daily evidence of disintegrative pressures of every sort. These, however, are probably the least important conflicts in the country right now, considering the almost daily evidence of disintegrative pressures of every sort: demonstrations by white supremacistsmass shootings and police killings, and the current dismantling of the federal government, not to speak of the way cities and states are defying Washington’s dictates on immigration, the environment, and health care. The nation’s motto of e pluribus unum (out of many, one) is in serious danger of being turned inside out.

A country that hasn’t had a civil war in more than 150 years, where secessionist movements from Texas to Vermont have generally caused merriment not concern, now faces divisions so serious, and a civilian arsenal of weapons so huge, that the possibility of national disintegration has become part of mainstream conversation. Indeed, after the 2016 elections, predicting a second civil war in the United States — a real, bloody, no-holds-barred military conflict — has become all the rage among journalists, historians, and foreign policy pundits across the political spectrum.

Particularly after Charlottesville, the left warns that President Trump and his extremist allies are inciting are intent on inciting the “alt-right” toward violence against a broad swath of his administration’s opponents. The right is convinced, particularly after the shooting of Louisiana Republican Congressman Steve Scalise, that the “alt-left” is armed and ready to revolt alongside “Mexican murderers and rapists.” Foreign Policy columnist Thomas Ricks has been taking the temperature of national security analysts on the likelihood of a future civil war.  In March, their responses averaged out to a 35% chance — and that number’s been climbing ever since. A sign of the times: Omar El Akkad’s American War, a novel about a second civil war, has been widely reviewed and has sold well, though whether readers are taking it as a warning or a how-to manual is not yet clear.

Sure, most Americans don’t yet fall into irreconcilable factions. But if you consider the transformation of Yugoslavia from vacation spot to killing field in two short years after 1989, it’s easier to imagine how a few demagogues, with their militant supporters, could use minority passions in this country to neutralize majority sentiments. All of which suggests why the “American carnage” that Trump invoked in his inaugural address could turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Of course, it’s not just Donald Trump. Globally speaking, the fledgling American president is more symptom than cause. The United States is just now catching up to much of the rest of the world as President Trump, from his bullying pulpit, does whatever he can to make America first in fractiousness.

When it comes to demagogues and divisiveness, however, he has plenty of competition — in Europe, in the Middle East, indeed all over our splintering planet.

The Multiplication of Division

The recent referendum on independence in Catalonia is a reminder that a single well-timed blow can break apart the unitary states of Europe as if they were nothing but poorly made piñatas. True, it’s not clear how many Catalans genuinely want independence from Spain.  Those who participated in the referendum there opted overwhelmingly in favor of secession, but only 42% of voters even bothered to register their preference. In addition, the announced relocation of 531 companies to other parts of the country is a sobering reminder of the potential economic consequences of secession. However the standoff may be resolved, though, separatist sentiments are not about to vanish in Catalonia, particularly given the Spanish government’s heavy-handed attempts to stop the vote or the voters.

Such splittism is potentially contagious. After Britons narrowly supported Brexiting the European Union (EU) in a referendum in 2016, the Scots again began talking about independence — about, that is, separating from their southern cousins while remaining within the EU. Catalans have a different dilemma. A declaration of independence would promptly sever the new country from the European Union, even as the move might spread independence fever to other groups in Spain, particularly the Basques.

The British and the Catalans have delivered something like a prolonged one-two punch to the EU, which until recently had been in continuous expansion: from six member states in 1957 to 28 today. Losing both Great Britain and Catalonia would mean kissing goodbye to more than one-fifth of that organization’s economic output. (According to 2016 numbers, the United Kingdom contributes 2.7 trillion euros and Catalonia 223 billion euros to the EU’s 14.8 trillion euro gross domestic product.) That’s the economic equivalent of California and Florida peeling off from the United States.

The question is whether the British and Catalan votes are the culmination of a mini-trend or the beginning of the end. Although Brexit actually gave a boost to the EU’s popularity across its member states (including England), Brussels continues to experience pushback from those states on immigration, financial bailouts, and the process of decision-making.

Euroskeptic movements like the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany and the Freedom Party in Austria have met with growing success and rising voter support, even in Euro-friendly countries. In that continent’s future lie: a possible Czexit as a right-wing billionaire takes over as prime minister of the Czech Republic and looks to create a governing coalition with a vehemently anti-immigrant and anti-EU partner; a Nexit if Euroskeptic Geert Wilders succeeds in expanding his political base further in the Netherlands; and even an Italexit as voters there have bucked the “Brexit effect,” with 57% now favoring a referendum on membership.

Outside actors, too, have been hard at work. The Kremlin under Vladimir Putin relishes a weaker EU, if only so that its own immediate neighbors — Ukraine and Georgia — will stop leaning westward. Donald Trump has similarly embraced the Euroskeptics in a bid to spread to Europe what former top adviser Steve Bannon has termed the “deconstruction of the administrative state” to Europe.

Those who might enjoy an EU-style frisson of schadenfreude look at Europe’s ills as a case of the chickens coming home to roost. Many European governments supported the American-led conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria that have shattered the Greater Middle East, sending refugees by the hundreds of thousands toward the EU. One crucial result: anti-immigrant sentiment and Islamophobia have fueled far-right “populist” parties across Europe.  In the process, the continent is threatened with being torn apart at the seams in an echo of the developments in the countries from which the refugees are streaming.  Think of it as the war on terror transposed to a different key.

This parallel could be seen in a particularly poignant fashion in the independence referendum in Kurdistan that was held just before the Catalan vote. Iraq has been at risk of disintegration ever since the United States invaded in 2003 and removed the tyrannical but unifying hand of Saddam Hussein from the tiller of state. Proposals to divide the country into three autonomous parts presided over by Kurds, Sunnis, and Shia began circulatingin Washington within years of the invasion, then-Senator Joe Biden’s “soft-partition plan” being perhaps the best known of them.

The Kurds made Biden’s proposal a reality by carving out their own autonomous region in the northern part of Iraq. Now, after a referendum that secured overwhelming support (with a turnout of more than 70%), the Kurds, with their peshmerga forces, are trying to make the divorce official. The Iraqi military has been on the move to stop them and now two American-trained and armed militaries face off against each other in that explosive region.

The Turks and Iranians similarly eye the effort to secede with considerable wariness in light of Kurdish autonomy movements in their own countries. Syria too, despite the recent military victories of the Russian-backed government in Damascus, remains divided with a de facto Kurdish state of Rojava in its north. And it’s not just the Kurds. Libya is in the midst of a civil war. In devastated Yemen, various conflicts continue, all aggravated by an intervention and brutal air campaign sponsored by the Saudis and other Gulf States with the assistance of Washington. And Saudi Arabia and Bahrain face significant Shia challenges within their borders.

Elsewhere in the world, too, the center is anything but holding, as things threaten to fall apart. Around Russia, frozen conflicts — in Ukraine and Georgia — have paralyzed states that otherwise might make a bid to join the EU or NATO. In China, separatist movements burn on a low flame in Xinjiang and Tibet. The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya is just one of many problems of fragmentation in Myanmar. Secessionist movements are gaining momentum in Cameroon and Nigeria. In Brazil, three southern states are mobilizing to secede from the rest of the country.  In the Philippines, a Muslim terror insurgency in southern Mindanao took and held much of a major city for months on end.

In the past, secession was all about creating new, smaller nation-states. The most recent wave of division, however, may not stop with the breakdown of states into smaller pieces.

Three Great Shatterings

Nationalism is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to the consolidation of the French nation in the nineteenth century, for instance, the inhabitants of the country thought of themselves as Bretons, Provençals, Parisians, and the like. Contrary to various founding myths, the nation didn’t exist from time immemorial. It had to be conjured into existence — and for a reason.

The nineteenth century witnessed the first great modern shattering as people weaponized the new concept of “nation” and companion notions of ethnic solidarity and popular sovereignty in their struggles against empires. The revolutions of 1825 in Greece and Russia, the 1848 “spring of nations” throughout Europe, the subsequent unification of Germany and Italy — all were blows against the empires presided over by the Habsburgs, the Romanovs, and the Ottoman sultans.

World War I then dispatched those weakened empires to their graves in one huge conflagration. After the war ended, a Middle East of heterogeneous nation-states and a new group of independent Balkan countries emerged from the defunct Ottoman Empire. Imperial Russia briefly fragmented into dozens of smaller states until the Soviet Union glued them back together by force. The house of the Habsburgs fell and the Central European countries of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary crawled out from under the wreckage.

The second great shattering, which stretched across the middle span of the twentieth century, accompanied the collapse of the colonial empires. The British, French, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, and German overseas colonies all achieved independence, and a new global map of nation-states emerged in Africa, Asia, and to a lesser extent Latin America where decolonization had largely occurred a century earlier.

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism in Europe in the early 1990s precipitated the third great shattering. Gone suddenly was the subordination of national priorities to larger ideological structures. The countries of Eastern Europe voted their way out of the Soviet bloc. The Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia all collapsed with varying degrees of violence and suffering, producing more than 20 new UN members. Further afield, Eritrea, East Timor, and South Sudan were able to secure their independence in part because the end of the Cold War meant that the international community could permit a freer exercise of self-determination. (During the nearly half-century of the Cold War, the only new splinter state welcomed into the United Nations was Bangladesh.)

The end of empire, of colonialism, and of the Cold War thrice shattered and remade the map of the world. You could certainly argue that the fracturing taking place today is nothing but the continuation of those three transformations. The Cold War demanded the unity of Europe (and the unity of its component parts), so only in the post-Cold War era could Catalans and Scots explore the option of independence with any hope of success. The emergence of Kurdistan had been made possible by the breakdown of the arbitrary Middle East borders created in the aftermath of World War I, and so on.

Historical change isn’t ever going to wash over the world in one even wave. That’s a hard reality to which North Koreans, who still live in a semi-feudal, putatively Communist, and fiercely nationalist state, can attest.

The Fourth Great Shattering

Yet the most recent events undoubtedly represent not just a fourth great shattering, but one that falls into a new category entirely. The current divisions in the United States have little to do with empires or possibly even the Cold War. The debates over the EU’s viability center on the obligations Europeans have to each other and to those arriving as refugees from distant conflicts. The forces threatening to tear apart nation-states elsewhere suggest that this elemental unit of the international system may be nearing the end of its shelf life.

Consider, for instance, the impact of economic globalization. The expansion of trade, investment, and corporate activity has long had the effect of drawing nations together — into cartels like OPEC, trade communities like the European Union, and international institutions like the International Monetary Fund. By the 1970s, however, economic globalization was eating away at the exclusive prerogative of the nation-state to control trade or national currencies or implement policies regulating the environment, health and safety, and labor.

At the same time, particularly in industrialized countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, income inequality increased dramatically. The wealth gap is now worse in the United States than in Iran or the Philippines. Among the top industrialized countries, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the gap between the richest 10% of the population and the poorest 10% has grown appreciably larger.

Even among countries where inequality has dropped because of government efforts to redistribute income, the perception has grown that globalization favors the rich, not the poor. Fewer than half of French respondents to a 2016 YouGov poll believed that globalization was a force for good — even though income inequality has fallen in that country since the 1970s. Having once reduced tensions among countries and strengthened the nation-state, economic globalization increasingly pits peoples against one another within countries and among countries.

Other forms of globalization have had a similar effect. Facebook and Twitter, for instance, have connected people in unprecedented ways and provided a mechanism to mobilize against a variety of societal ills, including dictators, trigger-happy police, and sexual harassers.  But the other side of the ability to focus organizing efforts within digital affinity groups is the way such platforms Balkanize their users, not by ethnicity as much as by political perspective.  Information or opinions challenging one’s worldview that once appeared in the newspaper or occasionally on the evening news get weeded out in the Facebook newsfeed or the Twitter stream of one’s favorite amplifiers. Ethnic cleansing by decree has been largely overtaken by ideological cleansing by consent. What’s the point of making the necessary compromises to function in a diverse nation-state when you can effectively secede from society and hang with your homies in a virtual community?

Given the polarizing impact of economic and technological globalization, it’s no surprise that the politics of the middle has either disappeared or, because of a weak left, drifted further to the right. Donald Trump is the supreme expression of this stunning loss of faith in centrist politicians as well as such pillars of the institutional center as the mainstream media.

Since these figures and institutions delivered an economics of inequality and a foreign policy of war over the last three decades, the flight from the center is certainly understandable. What’s new, however, is the way Trump and other right-wing populists have stretched this disaffection, which might ordinarily have powered a new left, to encompass what might be called the three angers: over immigration, the expansion of civil rights, and middle-class entitlement programs. Fueled by a revulsion for the center, Trump is not simply interested in undermining his political opponents and America’s adversaries. He has a twin project, promoted for decades by the extreme right, of destroying the federal government and the international community.

That’s why the fourth great shattering is different. In the past, people opposed empires, colonial powers, and the ideological requirements of the Cold War by banding together in more compact nation-states. They were still willing to sacrifice on behalf of their unknown compatriots — to redistribute tax revenues or follow rules and regulations — just on a smaller scale.

Nationalism hasn’t gone away. Those who want to preserve a unitary state (Spain) as well as those who want out of the same state (Catalonia) appeal to similarly nationalist sentiments. But today, the very notion of acting in solidarity with people in a territorial unit presided over by a state is fast becoming passé. Citizens are in flight from taxes, multiculturalism, public education, and even the guarantee of basic human rights for all. The fourth great shattering seems to be affecting the very bonds that constitute the nation-state, any nation-state, no matter how big or small.

The Future of Dystopia

In 2015, before the Brexit vote and before Donald Trump emerged as the frontrunner in the Republican Party primary, I published an “essay” at TomDispatch in which a geo-paleontologist (a field I made up) looked backward from 2050 at the splintering of the international community.

“The movements that came to the fore in 2015 championed a historic turn inward: the erection of walls, the enforcement of homogeneity, and the trumpeting of exclusively national virtues,” he observed with the benefit of history I hadn’t yet experienced. “The fracturing of the so-called international community did not happen with one momentous crack. Rather, it proceeded much like the calving of Arctic ice masses under the pressure of global warming, leaving behind only a herd of modest ice floes.”

That piece later became my dystopian novel, Splinterlands, which spelled out in more detail how I imagined those fracture lines would widen over time until geopolitics became micro-politics and only the very smallest units of community were able to weather the global storm (including, of course, the literal storm of climate change). Dystopian novels are supposed to be warnings, but let me assure you of this: dystopian novelists rarely want their predictions to come true. I’ve watched, horrified, as the words of Splinterlands seemed to leap off my pages and into the world in 2017.

I’m no Cassandra. I don’t believe that this fourth great shattering is inevitable. Empires, colonialism, and the Cold War are largely things of the past. But the fracturing of that hitherto indivisible unit of the world community — the nation-state — could still be arrested.

It’s not particularly popular to defend the state these days in the United States. Even before Trump came to power, the American state was radically expanding its surveillance capabilities, its war-making capacities, and — among other grim developments — its punitive policies toward the poor. No surprise then that Trump’s promise to deconstruct the federal government struck such a chord among voters, even some on the left.

But the alternative to the current state should not be the non-state. The real alternative is a different state, one that is more democratic, more economically just and sustainable, and less aggressive. For all of its institutional violence and bureaucratic flaws, the state is still the best bet we have for protecting the environment, stretching out a safety net for all, and providing equitable education opportunities to everyone, not to mention its ability to band together with other states to tackle global problems like climate change and pandemics.

French king Louis XIV famously said, “L’etat, c’est moi.” Today, thanks to the first three shatterings, across much of the globe the state is no longer Louis XIV or a colonial administration or a superpower overlord. The state is — or at least should be — us. If we lose the state in a fourth great shattering, we will lose an important part of ourselves as well: our very humanity.

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Expansion of Imperialist US “War on Terror” in Africa Preceded Deadly Attacks in Niger and Somalia


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We look at the US military presence in Africa and what happened during the ambush of US Special Forces by militants in Niger, in which five Nigerian soldiers were killed along with four US Green Berets. The incident is now the subject of a military and FBI investigation. At least 800 US servicemembers are currently stationed in the country to support a French-led mission to defeat militants in West Africa. Meanwhile, Somalia continues to recover from a massive bombing in Mogadishu that killed at least 358 people. We speak with Horace Campbell, who is currently spending a year in West Africa as the Kwame Nkrumah chair at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana. Campbell is a peace and justice scholar and professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University. We are also joined by Mark Fancher, an attorney and frequent contributor to Black Agenda Report, where his new article is headlined “US Troop Deaths in Niger: AFRICOM’s Chickens Come Home to Roost.”


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to the US military presence in Africa and what happened during the ambush of US Special Forces by militants in the West African nation of Niger, which is now the subject of a military and FBI investigation. During a press conference Monday, Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, laid out a timeline of the Niger attack on October 4th, in which five Nigerien soldiers were killed along with four US Green Berets, after their 12-member Army Special Forces unit accompanied 30 Nigerien forces on a reconnaissance mission to an area near the village of Tongo Tongo, about an hour north of the capital. They reportedly ended up spending the night there, and when they left the next morning to return to their base, they encountered about 50 enemy fighters. This is General Dunford.

GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD: So, early in the morning of 3rd October, as I mentioned, US forces accompanied that Nigerien unit on a reconnaissance mission to gather information. The assessment by our leaders on the ground at that time was that contact with the enemy was unlikely.

Mid-morning on October 4th, the patrol began to take fire as they were returning to their operating base. Approximately one hour after taking fire, the team requested support. And within minutes, a remotely piloted aircraft arrived overhead. Within an hour, French Mirage jets arrived on station. And then, later that afternoon, French attack helicopters arrived on station, and a Nigerien quick reaction force arrived in the area where our troops were in contact with the enemy.

During a firefight, two US soldiers were wounded and evacuated by French air to Niamey, and that was consistent with the casualty evacuation plan that was in place for this particular operation. Three USsoldiers who were killed in action were evacuated on the evening of 4 October. And at that time, Sergeant La David Johnson was still missing. On the evening of 6th October — 6 October, Sergeant Johnson’s body was found and subsequently evacuated.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Dunford’s description underscored how long the attack dragged on. He said when he realized the body of Sergeant La David Johnson was missing, he made a call to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and got immediate approval to bring the, quote, “full weight of the US government to bear” in order to locate the missing soldier. Dunford defended the broader American mission in Niger, saying USforces have been in the country intermittently for more than two decades. At least 800 USservicemembers are currently stationed in the country to support a French-led mission to defeat the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram in West Africa.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as Republican Senator John McCain, chair of the Armed Services Committee, threatened to issue a subpoena in order to speed up the release of details about the attack. On Monday, Johnson’s widow spoke out on Good Morning America about her husband’s death, saying she’s upset about remarks President Trump made during a condolence call. Myeshia Johnson reaffirmed she and others heard Trump say, “He knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.” She said it, quote, “made me cry even worse,” and noted the president also struggled to remember her husband’s name.

MYESHIA JOHNSON: It made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said — he couldn’t remember my husband’s name. The only way he remembered my husband’s name, because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him. And that’s when he actually said “La David.” I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name. And that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name?

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, Florida Congressmember Frederica Wilson said she heard the call in which President Trump told Johnson’s widow he, quote, “knew what he signed up for … but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” Over the weekend, Trump called Wilson “wacky” in a series of tweets, without once mentioning La David Johnson or offering condolences to his family. That was the day of the funeral.

Meanwhile, Somalia continues to recover [after] a massive bombing in Mogadishu that killed at least 358 people and wounded over 400 others, [and] a roadside bomb exploded on Sunday, killing 11 people. The explosions come after the Trump administration stepped up a US campaign against al-Shabab in Somalia. In March, Trump declared Somalia a so-called zone of active hostilities, giving wide latitude to military leaders to launch airstrikes and ground assaults. In May, that led to the first US combat death in Somalia since 1993, when Navy SEAL officer Kyle Milliken was killed in an assault on an al-Shabab radio station. In August, a raid by US soldiers and Somali troops on a village outside Mogadishu left 10 civilians dead, including three children.

For more, we’re joined by two guests. In Detroit, Mark Fancher is with us, an attorney, frequent contributor to the Black Agenda Report. His latest article, “US Troop Deaths in Niger: AFRICOM’s Chickens Come Home to Roost.” Joining us via Democracy Now! video stream from Luanda, Angola, is Horace Campbell, currently spending a year in West Africa as the Kwame Nkrumah chair at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana. He is a peace and justice scholar and professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University.

We want to welcome you both. Professor Campbell, let’s begin with you. You’re on the continent. You’re in Africa. Can you respond to what has happened in Niger and put it in a larger context of US-Africa policy right now?

HORACE CAMPBELL: Greetings from Luanda, and greetings to all the people who want peace.

What is happening with the United States’ presence in Africa is similar to the United States’ presence in the United States itself. That is, the lives of African people do not matter. The United States of America is involved in a duplicitous war on terror in Africa, when on the streets of the United States of America black people are being terrorized. At the same time, the United States is in a dubious alliance with France, that wants to instigate ideas about terror in order to save capitalism in France.

So, this relationship between the United States and France, in what is called fighting war on terror in the Sahel, comes six years after the United States, France and Britain went into Libya to destroy that country, because that country wanted to create the basis for the unification of Africa and an African currency. Last year, President Obama said that going into Libya was the biggest mistake of his presidency. Later, in October of 2016, the British Parliament had a report that said that going into Libya was based on lies. The only government that did not respond was the French government, that mobilized those who are called al-Qaeda to fight against Gaddafi. The same French government that mobilized the so-called al-Qaeda forces in Mali, in Niger, is mobilizing within the United Nations to get African Union, to get five countries in Africa — Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger — to support France, to get the United Nations to send millions of dollars in this so-called fight against terrorism.

The challenge for us in the peace and justice movement is to oppose both the United States and France in this so-called war on terror. What the people of West Africa need is money for reconstruction, health, housing, employment and changing the natural environment, so that the millions of youth can get jobs. It makes no sense for the United States of America to be spending $100 million to build a base in Agadez, in Niger, where France has already a military base, and France is using the United Nations in the so-called multidimensional peacekeeping force in this so-called war on terror. What we need is for a massive campaign to get the truth about why these people are in Niger, Mali and Chad, because there is no war on terror going on when they finance the so-called terrorists to overthrow the government of Libya.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Professor Campbell, if you could — you’ve talked about France and the United States and their role. Most Americans were not aware that there were this many troops, American troops, in Africa. But could you also contrast or compare the French role and the US role to China’s increasing role in Africa and the strategy that China is using, as well?

HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, in the case of France and the United States of America, both cannot compete with China. In the case of Niger, Niger provides 75 percent of the electricity needs of France, because it produces uranium; 7.5 percent of the world’s production of uranium comes from a French company in Niger. In 2010, in 2008, 2010, China promised to invest billions of dollars in oil production in Niger. The president of Niger at the time, Mamadou Tandja, had accused France of financing those who are called terrorists. He was overthrown in a coup d’état. Both the United States and France and other members of the European Union are opposed to the Chinese presence in Africa, because where in a country like Djibouti the United States has 4,000 troops, China has spent $5 billion building a state-of-the-art port and has spent $10 billion building a railway from Djibouti to the capital city of Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa. There is no possibility of the United States of America and Western Europe competing with China in Africa.

Africans do not want this competition over their territory. What Africans want is a demilitarization of the continent and for the duplicitous role of France, the European Union and the United States to end in this so-called war on terror. The African people want money for reconstruction, so that in a country such as Somalia, every cent that is being used for fighting the war on terror could be spent in building schools, and then the police operation could be used against al-Shabab. We can only deal with terror when we demilitarize it and treat the extremists in Africa in isolating them from the communities of young people, who are fed up with the alienation because there’s unemployment and low standards of living for the African people.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Campbell, we have to break, but we’re going to come back to this discussion, and we’ll be joined by Mark Fancher and find out specifically in Niger about the US building a drone base there and how many drone bases are being built across Africa. Right now the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is taking a trip to South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “For All We Know” by Abbey Lincoln, here on Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We continue to examine the US military presence in Africa and what happened during the ambush of US Special Forces by militants in the West African nation of Niger, which is now the subject of a military and FBI investigation. I want to bring into the discussion Mark Fancher, an attorney and frequent contributor to Black Agenda Report. His latest article is titled “US Troop Deaths in Niger: AFRICOM’s Chickens Come Home to Roost.” We’re also — we’re also joined by — from Luanda, Angola, by Horace Campbell, Institute of African Studies professor at the University of Ghana. Mark Fancher, the “chickens come home to roost,” explain.

MARK FANCHER: Well, the USAfrica Command is something that was created in or about 2007. At the time, it was clear from its design that it was intended as a way for the United States to use military methods to carry out its imperialist agenda in Africa without having to run the risk of suffering US casualties. The idea was that US military forces would be placed in strategic locations in Africa for the purpose of training, advising and directing the armies of African countries, essentially, to carry out missions for the United States. So it was a, you know, they-could-have-their-cake-and-eat-it-too sort of a situation, where they could engage certain hostile forces in combat and not have to worry about US troops dying.

It has not worked out that way. We have just seen within the past month the fact that there are US troops that are at risk as a result of this. It was inevitable. Any time that you introduce violence into a situation that requires the construction of infrastructure and attending to the needs of the poor, you’re going to run into this kind of thing. So, it was, in a very real sense, their chickens coming home to roost. They did not escape.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Fancher, can you talk about what the US troops are doing right now in Niger? I’m surprised many a number of senators, although apparently they’ve been briefed several times this year — that at least 800 US soldiers are in Niger right now. Can you talk about why a drone base is being built? Can you talk about where Agadez is, what they’re doing both in Niger and in other places in that region?

MARK FANCHER: Well, it’s not just Niger. What many people also don’t know is that this level of military presence can be found in many countries throughout Africa — most of them, as a matter fact. Since 2007, the United States has been expanding its reach and has been planting small groups of people in various different locations, not always with what would be regarded as military bases, but as embassy-based operation centers, where they carry out military training and different operations using African armies. So, it’s no different in Niger. And the use of drones is just an extension of the basic idea of carrying out reconnaissance missions, and sometimes actual attacks, without putting US troops at risk. So, this is very much par for the course.

And I really think it’s important to really understand what has happened in Africa over the last 10 years. In 2007, when AFRICOM was created, the presence of terrorists, to the extent that we see them now, was — there was nothing comparable. The presence, if any, was minimal. What was going on in Africa at the time was that you had organizations like the Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta, or MEND, which had engaged in very militant kinds of attacks on US oil installations, breaking up pipelines, kidnapping USoil company and Western oil company personnel, and issuing a threat in 2006 that they could not guarantee the safety of either the facilities of oil companies in and about Nigeria and in that region or the people who were sent there to work on them. It was at that moment that the United States decided that it was going to set up this special command, which was unprecedented, for Africa exclusively.

You know, you also see what was happening during that period was what they branded as piracy off the coastal waters of Somalia. These were fishermen whose waters had been contaminated by people who had come in and had plundered and raided their fishing facilities and had made them unable to engage in a livelihood. And in retaliation, they began to attack those boats and ships that were coming through those waterways, which was a major international shipping lane.

So, these twin concerns about access to the coastal region in Somalia, the oil that was being produced in the Niger Delta and in the Gulf of Guinea, those were the primary drivers for the creation of AFRICOM. And the more that the US military established a presence in that region and throughout Africa, the more terrorism tended to grow.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Mark Fancher, I wanted to ask you about another key event in the history of Africa, the recent history of Africa, which was the US participation in the overthrow of Gaddafi and the situation in Libya. To what degree did the total destabilization of Libya and the — Libya is now, in essence, a failed state — have an impact on the growth of extremism and terrorist groups in other parts of Africa?

MARK FANCHER: Oh, it had a huge impact. And if you look at the infamous emails of Hillary Clinton, which are available at the State Department’s website, you see an email exchange where State Department personnel are talking very frankly about their conversations with Sarkozy about his interest in overthrowing Gaddafi because he wanted two things. One, he wanted to eliminate the threat of a pan-African currency, gold-backed currency, that Gaddafi wanted to establish, because he was afraid that it would devalue the franc. And he also wanted access to Gaddafi and Libya’s oil fields. That was the bottom line for why they went after Gaddafi in the way that they did.

And in order to do it, AFRICOM stepped in and played a major role in recruiting local forces within Libya to attack Gaddafi. They chose to establish relationships with some of the worst elements in Libya. In fact, one of the groups that they established a relationship with was one which, by its very name, said that its mission was to eliminate black people from Libya. And so they gave guns, heavy artillery, to all kinds of people in Libya, with the hope and expectation that they would, you know, carry out this overthrow of the Libyan government and assassinate Gaddafi. That played itself out, but those weapons were still there. And —

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Horace Campbell, we just have 30 seconds. Your final comment in talking about what’s happened in this latest attack in Niger — also five Nigeriens were killed — not to mention what happened in Somalia with over 358 dead?

HORACE CAMPBELL: I want to follow up on the point about what happened in Libya and why the progressive forces must continue to press for a United Nations investigation in what happened in Libya. I spelled all this out in my book, Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya.

What is happening in Niger is a continuation of what happened in Libya. France is in deep crisis. France is over — has taken over as undersecretary of peacekeeping forces in the United Nations. France tried to put a resolution through the United Nations Security Council to get more money for France in Niger, in Chad, in Mali and Burkina Faso.

AMY GOODMAN: Horace Campbell, we’re going to have to leave it there, and Mark Fancher, as well, but we’ll do Part 2 and post it online at

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Why Native American Women Are Going After Europe’s Banks to Divest From Big Oil


By Shannan StollYES! Magazine 

Delegation members outside of Credit Suisse bank in Zurich, Switzerland before their meeting. Pictured left to right: Michelle Cook, Tara Houska, Autumn Star Chacon, Wasté Win Young and Dr. Sarah Jumping Eagle.

Delegation members outside of Credit Suisse bank in Zurich, Switzerland before their meeting. Pictured left to right: Michelle Cook, Tara Houska, Autumn Star Chacon, Wasté Win Young and Dr. Sarah Jumping Eagle. (Photo: WECAN International)

Last December, calls to defund the Dakota Access pipeline and “Stand with Standing Rock” led individuals to divest millions of dollars from banks extending credit to that project. As cities and tribes got involved, that amount increased to now more than $4 billion.

Seattle was the first, then more cities followed, and the movement to defund Big Oil is still growing. In May, Indigenous leaders launched a new campaign, the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, targeting four proposed tar sands pipelines. The strategy is to stop banks’ financial commitment before ground is broken. One of these projects — TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline — was terminated earlier this month.

Now, the movement that began at Standing Rock has gone global, since much of the DAPL funding came from overseas banks. Some European banks such as BNP Paribas have taken steps to stop funding fossil fuel projects that trample Native peoples’ rights. Others such as Norway’s DNB and ING have done some divesting.

Last week, a delegation of Indigenous women returned from a trip to Europe where they met with leaders of financial institutions in Norway, Switzerland, and Germany, the “home bases for several of the world’s largest financial and insurance institutions supporting dangerous extraction developments,” according to the delegation’s news release. The delegation was organized by Indigenous women leaders in partnership with the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network.

Jackie Fielder, who is Mnicoujou Lakota and Mandan-Hidatsa, was a member of that women’s delegation. Fielder is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes and a campaign coordinator of Lakota People’s Law Project as well as an organizer with Mazaska Talks. Others in the delegation included LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Michelle Cook, and Tara Houska.

In this interview, Fielder talks about divestment, the delegation’s trip to Europe, and what’s next for the movement to defund fossil fuel projects that threaten Indigenous peoples.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Shannan Stoll: One thing connecting the delegation of women that went to Europe was that you were all involved in the Standing Rock movement. Could you tell me about your involvement with Standing Rock and the divestment movement?

Jackie Fielder: I have a connection to the Dakota Access pipeline specifically because Mnicoujou is a band within the Cheyenne River [Sioux] Tribe, and Cheyenne River is, alongside Standing Rock, suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the illegal approval of the Dakota Access pipeline.

I got involved because I am the result of what happens when you protect water — my grandparents grew up along the Missouri River — and I have had a passion for following the money when it comes to injustices like these.

At the end of DAPL, I was trying to find a way to get involved or support the movement from afar. I was in San Francisco at the time of the camp and was really committed to my work in the Bay Area and didn’t want to tear away from it.

In late January, I saw Seattle commit to moving its money away from Wells Fargo. This was a result of Indigenous-led ground actions and a four-month-long pressure campaign led by Matt Remle and Rachel Heaton, who are the co-founders of Mazaska Talks. I was inspired by [their] work, and I said “this has to happen in San Francisco.” Over the course of a month I started a campaign and made a Facebook page called San Francisco Defund DAPL Coalition. … We wanted to put San Francisco’s money where their solidarity was. … We got a resolution on the table [of the city council], and it passed unanimously.

How has the divestment movement grown since Standing Rock? Is divestment working?

Yes. Since Standing Rock, more than a dozen cities have taken some form of action to move their money out of Wall Street. These include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Eugene, Missoula, Santa Fe, Denver, Colorado Springs, Minneapolis, Chicago, D.C., Charlotte, and others.

We know divestment is working because Energy Transfer sued our partner Greenpeace, and other partners, … and their SLAPP [strategic lawsuit against public participation] suit included a quote that says:

The damage to our relationships with the capital markets has been substantial, impairing access to financing and increasing their cost of capital and ability to fund future projects.

So it’s working to the extent that they’re having a tough time with capital markets and having a tough time funding future projects. And that’s exactly what we want.

What was the purpose of this trip?

The purpose was to demand European banks divest from fossil fuel companies that violate Indigenous peoples’ right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, as outlined in the United Nations declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples.

We met with [major banks] and asked them to exclude Energy Transfer, Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, and other fossil fuel companies that have violated Indigenous peoples’ rights to deny or grant permission for projects on their territories and that fund tar sands pipeline expansion.

Why was it important that women in particular carry this message to Europe?

I think because Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth, is feminine. Indigenous women have been the backbone of this particular resistance movement, but also in general, of tiospaye, family units, in Lakota nations. And Indigenous women — as well as [being] traditionally the backbone of their families, they often are the ones to call out injustice when they see it immediately. We saw that at Standing Rock. LaDonna has a story in which she describes how there were bulldozers going over the sacred burial sites, and the men were just so in shock that they didn’t know what to do. And LaDonna said, “Well push [the men] out of the way and tell the women to stop it.” And that’s what happened. Women got arrested: doctors, mothers, sisters. They are a force to reckon with. And I think that that’s why we were meant to carry this particular message to Europe.

The specific places you traveled were Norway, Switzerland, and Germany. Why were those the targets?

These European nations and their institutions have some of the world’s highest standards for Indigenous rights, creating an opening for delegates to call for firm action by banks and investors of these nations to uphold high standards and become an international model for justice and accountability.

What did you learn from the trip?

We got to understand how European, specifically Norwegian, Swiss, and German, people think about Indigenous people, environmentalism, and their relationships to banks. For example, Norway is lauded as the prime example of a green, progressive country. However, there is a $1 trillion oil fund behind the economic and social equality over there. And the Swiss bank, they manage money from sketchy leaders. You know, they held Nazi money. They’re a really good example of showing how neutrality in instances of injustice helps oppressors maintain their hold on oppressed people.

With respect to Germany, there is a lot of potential for people to hold their banks accountable. For example, Deutsche Bank is one of, if not the biggest, financers of the companies behind the tar sands pipelines that we’re focused on. And they were really interested to hear what we had to say.

But they are — like many of the banks — really hesitant to do anything radical, which in their world means stepping away from fossil fuels. And that’s not what we’re asking. BNP Paribas just set a standard while we were there — right before Tara was going to meet with them — that they would stop financing tar sands, Arctic drilling, and fracking. That sends a message to the rest of the banks that it is possible to stop funding destruction and climate change. This also follows other banks that pulled out of the Dakota Access pipeline funding.

I think that Europe is ready — because at this point the United States is not going to do this with the current administration. Europe is ready to lead the world, if they want to, in a green path and one that upholds Indigenous peoples’ rights and human rights.

What’s next for the divestment movement?

Our next move is to meet with insurers and credit rating agencies in order to really understand why a company like Enbridge has an “A” credit rating. But Enbridge has one of the worst, if not the worst, record in the United States and Canada for oil spills.

According to LaDonna, there are more than 200 camps around the world. We have fossil fuel and desecration projects around the world, and there are big financers behind these projects. The next thing for the divestment movement is to keep continue growing. … We are going to continue building our alliances across the world and we’re going to bring this specific divestment movement that is Indigenous led to a level we haven’t seen since South African apartheid.

Mazaska Talks has been organizing a Divest the Globe campaign. What are you asking people to do?

On October 23 and 24 and 25, 92 banks that belong to the Equator Principles Association are meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to discuss Indigenous peoples’ right to “free, prior, and informed consent.” Starting on Monday, we are calling for three days of action around the world that makes the connection between banks and desecration projects, whether that’s the tar sands pipelines and the banks that finance those, a deforestation project, coal mines, or a local refinery. We want to raise the public’s awareness and to raise the banks’ awareness that we are well aware of who is financing these projects, and — whether it’s a sit-in, vigil, nonviolent direct action, art space, or teach-in — we want people to meet the community where it’s at and educate one another about the relationship between these banks and these fossil fuel projects.

Why the focus on making the campaign global?

The financing of fossil fuels over green power is a global issue. The events at Standing Rock opened the world’s eyes to the system that we’re operating under. Indigenous peoples are the canaries in the coal mine. There are companies that are willingly financing the destruction of our planet — not just Standing Rock’s only source of water. This has always been much bigger than just a single tribe or single people.

I am excited to see people realize that this is going to happen to everyone at some point. Whether that’s in a week, as is happening with these hurricanes and fires and natural disasters, or whether it’s going to happen to their grandchildren who will have to live on a planet that is two degrees hotter and with freshwater as scarce as it [will be]. I’m excited to work with people on solutions that honor our role as stewards to the Earth and our duty to provide a cleaner, less violent, and cooler planet to the next seven generations.

These banks are only making decisions on a quarterly basis. They’re not making their projections based on the next seven generations. That’s why they’re happily financing these projects that are so short-sighted and not even economically viable.

Divestment is a way to obtain accountability and do it in a way that also invests in our future. When we take our money out of Wall Street, we put it into community banks, into green banks, into credit unions that … fund growth in the community.

But divestment is not the only tactic that we, as Indigenous people or just people who care about the planet, need to use. But it is certainly going to be the engine behind the just transition from fossil fuels to green energy.

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A People’s Recovery: Radical Organizing in Post-Maria Puerto Rico


By Juan Carlos Dávila

Residents form a human chain to load supplies to a truck at the Rio Abajo community in Utuado on October 17, 2017. (Photo: Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty Images)

Residents form a human chain to load supplies to a truck at the Rio Abajo community in Utuado on October 17, 2017. (Photo: Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty Images)

After Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, most telecommunications services collapsed, particularly cell phones and internet providers. People struggled for days to contact their loved ones, and although there have been some improvements, making a call, sending a text message, and connecting to the Internet is still a challenge in most areas.

Only certain analog and satellite telephones managed to survive the category-four hurricane, and the landline of Cucina 135, a community center located next to San Juan’s financial center, was one of them.

“Having a phone line was an invaluable resource,” said Luis Cedeño, spokesperson for El Llamado, an organization focused on providing support and unifying social movements in Puerto Rico. El Llamado (The Call) is supported by the Center for Popular Democracy and is led by a group of organizers from different sectors, including artists, communicators, social workers and student leaders.

The second day after the hurricane, El Llamado began calling Puerto Ricans in the diaspora from the landline of Cucina 135 to organize relief efforts independent of government agencies or big NGOs like the Red Cross. Cucina 135 is based in a small house that has been converted into a communal kitchen and meeting space. El Llamado now oversees Cucina 135, which serves as a gathering point for activists in a post-Maria Puerto Rico where they can exchange information and coordinate relief efforts. The main concern of organizers coming into the space was the mobilization of thousands of US troops to the island who were not distributing the much-needed aid, but controlling it. Meanwhile, prices soar and people go hungry.

In the rural town of Utuado, about 65 miles inland from San Juan, the military presence is widely visible. The US Army has established a checkpoint at the entrance of the small urban center in this mountain town. Troops were posted three days after the hurricane hit. Still, more than a week later (I visited the town on Oct. 2), residents less than a mile away from the checkpoint had only received one FEMA meal box that contained two bottles of water.

Leonilda Maldonado Guzmán is a resident of Utuado. When I interviewed her, she talked to me about the abandonment she feels: “It’s like we don’t exist. In Utuado, we feel abandoned, because no help has arrived. There’s elderly people here. Most of us can’t communicate with our families. We don’t have medicine. Nobody has come to help. My house is damaged. I have asthma. I have many health problems.”

Responding to this official neglect, El Llamado is currently supporting more than 20 grassroots initiatives that range from debris cleaning brigades to agricultural projects to communal kitchens, including one in Utuado that identifies as a Center of Mutual Support (CAM in Spanish).

The CAMs fight hunger while striving to raise the political consciousness of participants.

Five of these centers have opened their doors since the hurricane. The first one appeared in the city of Caguas; the organizers’ philosophy is to encourage communities to unite and become self-sustaining, “The CAM is the proposal of a new municipality and a new country. The CAM is the new municipality of Caguas… through structures like this, of people participation, I know that we can construct other things,” said Giovanni Roberto, a former student leader at the University of Puerto Rico and current coordinator of the CAM in Caguas, which serves about 600 meals per day. Since 2013, Roberto has run a project called Comedores Sociales (“Social Diners”) that seeks to provide food to university students who struggle financially. This served as a foundation for the establishment of the CAM.

In the long term, the objective of the CAMs is to build popular power from within the communities and eventually move Puerto Rico away from its colonial dependency to the United States. Currently, Puerto Rico imports about 88 percent of its food, and, because of the Jones Act, supplies can only arrive on US vessels. This means that even aid cannot come from countries other than the United States. The colonial status creates a major humanitarian problem, particularly after a catastrophe like Hurricane Maria, when Puerto Ricans are facing shortages of water, food and medicine on a daily basis.

Before Hurricane Maria, most activism in Puerto Rico was centered around the issue of the $74 billion debt and opposition to the 2016 Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). The latter established a seven-member unelected oversight board that controls Puerto Rico’s finances. However, activists opposing the payment of the debt and PROMESA were focusing on hunger and poverty prior to Hurricane Maria. The catastrophe accelerated efforts already underway as the economic crisis and precarious position for the masses of Puerto Ricans is worsening even more.

After a community breakfast in Río Piedras, I sat down with Marisel Robles, a spokesperson from the group Promises Are Over (SALP in Spanish). SALP has been organizing against PROMESA since President Barack Obama signed it into law. Presently, Robles is one of the coordinators of the Olla Común (Common Pot), another CAM initiative. As some volunteers cleaned the support center, and others began preparing the meal for the next day, Robles stated, “Hunger was already being discussed, and the level of poverty was being discussed. But after the hurricane hit us so hard, the veil of everything was lifted.” The Common Pot in Río Piedras has around 30 volunteers that coordinate the distribution of 150 breakfast meals per day from Monday through Saturday.

But the Common Pot should not be mistaken for a cafeteria, as Scott Barbés Caminero, coordinator of the CAM and member of the SALP, emphasized when addressing residents of Río Piedras before breakfast, “The Center of Mutual Support is not a cafeteria. It is a space where we come to help each other in light of a situation where the government collapsed after Hurricane Maria,” Barbés Caminero said. The Common Pot operates under an egalitarian system, which organizers call Sistema de Aportación (Contribution System). And while all comers are welcome to have breakfast, the objective is that everyone becomes involved with the project by volunteering for work, donating food items or contributing money. “If we all are doing this, Puerto Rico would be advancing,” said one man as he waited in line for breakfast.

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US Withdrawal From UNESCO: The Problematic History of US Legislation on I$raHell and Palestine


US Withdrawal From UNESCO: The Problematic History of US Legislation on Israel and Palestine

By Carly A. KrakowTruthout 

A picture taken on October 12, 2017 shows the flags flying in front of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris. The United States said on October 12, 2017 that it was pulling out of the UN's culture and education body, accusing it of 'anti-Israel bias' in a move that underlines Washington's drift away from international institutions. (Photo: Jacques Demarthon / AFP / Getty Images)

A picture taken on October 12, 2017 shows the flags flying in front of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris. The United States said on October 12, 2017, that it was pulling out of the UN’s culture and education body, accusing it of “anti-Israel bias” in a move that underlines Washington’s drift away from international institutions. (Photo: Jacques Demarthon / AFP / Getty Images)

The October 12 announcement that the US will withdraw from UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a shortsighted, damaging and hyperbolic move from the Trump administration, but just the latest in a series of harmful policies, isolationist on the surface but driven by a dangerous nationalist and militarist approach. When compared to other recent Trump edicts — such as the January executive order restricting citizens of seven countries from entering the US (the “Muslim Ban”), the June announcement that the US will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement or most recently, the destructive decision to “decertify” the Iran Nuclear Deal — US withdrawal from UNESCO (quickly followed by Israeli withdrawal) initially appears to less urgently threaten US stability, particularly since the US will retain UNESCO membership through December 2018. When the context of the withdrawal and the history of US-UNESCO relations are analyzed, however, this action’s symbolic impact and repercussions are alarming — and reveal a problem with roots deeper than the Trump administration’s latest antics.

US Congress, Israel and Palestinian Statehood

Heather Nauert, US State Department spokesperson, cited “concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO” to justify the withdrawal. The move was lauded by many right-wing members of Congress, consistent with UN-phobic policies. The first point, “mounting arrears,” refers to the US decision to stop funding UNESCO in 2011 under the Obama administration (eliminating approximately one-fifth of UNESCO’s budget), which led to loss of the US vote at the organization and UNESCO budget cuts.

Discontinued payment is inextricably linked with the State Department’s third point, alleged “anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.” The 2011 decision to halt UNESCO funding arose when the organization granted membership to the state of Palestine. UNESCO was the first UN agency in which the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) sought full member status, following the state of Palestine’s September 2011 application for full UN membership.

US legislation from 1990, enacted under the George H.W. Bush administration, established that any UN agency that recognizes Palestinian statehood becomes ineligible to receive US funding. Public Law 101-246 states: “No funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any other Act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.”

Meanwhile, Public Law 103-236, enacted in 1994 under the Clinton administration, forbids “voluntary or assessed contribution to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”

What is the history behind this US legislation, which appears to blatantly and unabashedly oppose possible recognition of Palestinian statehood?

The US as an “Indispensable Middleman”?

Proponents of Public Laws 101-246 and 103-236 argue that the laws prevent Palestinian attempts to “circumvent the Middle East peace process … to gain unilateral recognition of statehood.” Closer analysis of the laws and the political climate in which they arose suggests, however, that the laws — and failure to amend them to reflect the changed political climate in the over 20 years that have passed — impede rather than facilitate resolution. Possible recognition of Palestinian statehood is now considered essential to peace, not a threat to peace.

Public law 101-246 arose in the lead-up to the 1991 Madrid peace conference, convened by the US and Soviet Union (already near complete dissolution). Despite public perception of an unprecedented degree of Palestinian success at Madrid, as political economist Sara Roy argues, the Palestinians found themselves in a “weak position” after the conference. Then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir believed, as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe puts it, that “the status quo was Israel’s best strategy,” and was utterly reluctant to participate.

“Plans for a new wave” of Israeli settlements, designed to “double the Jewish population in the occupied territories in four years,” violating previous promises, were introduced in the lead-up to Madrid, and as Israeli historian Avi Shlaim notes, were “not just incompatible with the peace process,” but were “designed to wreck it.” An emerging internal divide between Fatah and Hamas — which presented itself as a “counterhegemonic force” to Fatah as the Palestinian economy suffered under Israeli control — contributed to peace process stagnation following Madrid.

In the context of the US-Soviet Cold War struggle for global dominance, the US succeeded in assuming “the role of the sole and indispensable middleman and broker” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as historian James Gelvin writes, and the Madrid conference was one of several key opportunities to solidify this role.

George H.W. Bush did attempt to leverage US funding to pressure Israel to meet international demands to restrict its settlement expansion in 1992. Shlaim describes an unprecedented “American-Palestinian axis” achieved at Madrid, due largely to the Palestinians’ strong performance and moderate approach, an approach the US arguably found closer to its own position than Israel’s intransigent stance spearheaded by Shamir.

However, as Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, wrote in 2011, “Congress was not entirely behind White House efforts related to Madrid.” Hence Public Law 101-246 came about during the Madrid era, and Public Law 103-326 during the Oslo peace process era — ensuring that whatever progress was made in the US-Palestinian relationship, this progress would be legally impeded from culminating in recognition of a Palestinian state by UN bodies. Or, at least UN bodies would only be able to do so while losing sizable US contributions to their budgets.

The 2011 decision to stop funding UNESCO paved the way for the Trump administration to enact a full withdrawal.

2011 was not the US’s first rift with UNESCO. In 1984, the Reagan administration withdrew, also on the grounds that the organization was too critical of Israel, compounded by fears in the midst of the Cold War that UNESCO was “corrupt and too susceptible to Moscow’s influence.” The US rejoined UNESCO in 2002, under George W. Bush’s administration.

In 2011, even after halting funding for UNESCO in retaliation for recognition of Palestinian statehood was legalized, Friedman notes, Congress was not “simply the helpless victim of a law passed 21 years ago during a much different era. If members of [the] 112th Congress wanted to, they could pass new legislation … to avoid a cut-off in funds.” The realistic chances of a congressional amendment were for the 112th congress, and remain for the 115th congress, extremely slim. The Obama administration, in favor of UN involvement, reportedly sought loopholes to continue US funding for UNESCO, but was unsuccessful.

The 2011 decision to stop funding UNESCO paved the way for the Trump administration to enact a full withdrawal. And the 2011 cessation of funding was facilitated and mandated by 1990s peace-process-era legislation seeking to stymie international recognition of Palestinian statehood. In spite of US opposition, the Palestinians have made strides toward international recognition: gaining non-member observer state status at the UN in 2012 and joining the International Criminal Court in 2015.

Though the Trump administration’s action is characteristically provocative, when the US’s historical relationships with both UNESCO and Israel are considered, withdrawal under Trump appears to be more an inevitability than a shock.

UNESCO as a Microcosm of International Politics?

The perspective that the US’s UNESCO withdrawal is the culmination of a long-term problem is supported when UNESCO’s internal politics are taken into account. Just a day after the US and Israeli withdrawals, Audrey Azoulay, the French candidate for UNESCO director-general, defeated the Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari. Given the ongoing Saudi Arabia-Qatar conflict, which escalated into a full-scale Gulf diplomatic crisis in June 2017, is it possible that the timing of the US withdrawal from UNESCO had something to do with desire to ensure the failure of the Qatari candidate?

The history of US legislation on Palestine demonstrates a fundamental US discomfort with a strong, unified Palestinian front.

Qatar and the US have long cooperated militarily, even as Qatar is a primary benefactor for Hamas, the ruling faction of the Gaza Strip designated by the US as a terrorist organization. Qatar-US relations have suffered, however, since Trump lashed out at Qatar for allegedly funding terrorism, a hypocritical accusation amidst US ally Saudi Arabia’s history of funding terrorists.

Given this context, it is significant that the US and Israeli withdrawals from UNESCO come directly on the heels of the Palestinian Hamas-Fatah unity agreement, signed the same day as the UNESCO withdrawals, and giving rise to the Palestinian “prospect of negotiating with Israel with a single voice.” The history of US legislation on Palestine demonstrates a fundamental US discomfort with a strong, unified Palestinian front — unity that makes the possibility of an internationally recognized Palestinian state more within reach.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s current director-general, questioned the timing of the withdrawals, remarking, “Why now, I don’t know, in the midst of elections.”

The point of this article is not to suggest that Qatari leadership of UNESCO would have been superior or inferior to French leadership. (Qatar has its own problematic history of involvement in international institutions.) It is noteworthy, however, that as of October 10, Qatar’s al-Kawari was the leading contender, with France’s Azoulay in second place, a development that elicited a statement the following day from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, deeming al-Kawari “unqualified” and anti-Semitic. Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Israel’s UNESCO envoy, called al-Kawari’s initial lead “bad news for the organization,” but on October 9 noted “anything can happen” as the election progresses.

We are in Trump’s era of unprecedented support for Israel, including UN ambassador Nikki Haley’s dogged championing of Israel without any apparent effort to appear balanced. It is significant, therefore, that the US withdrawal from UNESCO — on the grounds that UNESCO has demonstrated an intolerable anti-Israel bias — came about at precisely the same time as the director-general elections, and immediately following the Hamas-Fatah unity deal, which marks the first significant development toward a unified Palestinian negotiating entity in years.

In the Israeli-Palestinian context, the US has a history dating back to the Cold War of prioritizing its own involvement in a leadership capacity over sustainable resolution and peace, at times appearing to perpetuate conflict — and thereby extending its own need for involvement and opportunity for dominance — under the guise of “conflict resolution.”

Trump has proven himself willing and able to do Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bidding — as long as this bidding also serves Trump’s agenda — and more than willing to trample on US interests to promote grandiose policy moves that he perceives as opportunities to flex his muscles, whatever the cost. US withdrawal from UNESCO also reflects a history of US bias against the Palestinians and an unwavering commitment to Israel, regardless of cost, that predates Trump, and that has its claws firmly entrenched in US politics.

Short-Term Antics, Long-Term Damage

As the president and CEO of The Met in New York, Daniel H. Weiss stated, although UNESCO “may be an imperfect organization, it has been an important leader and steadfast partner” in worldwide cultural preservation.

UNESCO has been the subject of other controversies, such as the decision to deem sites representative of Japan’s Meji industrial revolution World Heritage Sites, amidst criticism from China and South Korea over the sites’ historical associations with forced labor and oppression. But no UNESCO decision has provoked the same level of ire as its actions regarding Israel and Palestine.

In May 2017 a UNESCO resolution criticized Israeli activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and defined Israel as an “occupying power,” a fact that has already been established according to international law, but was nevertheless met with outrage from Israel.

Most recently, in July 2017, UNESCO voted to recognize the old city of Hebron in the West Bank and Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian Heritage Sites. The resolution did not declare Hebron exclusively Muslim, Palestinian or Arab, but rather recognized its geographic location in Palestine, and significance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As Odeh Bisharat argued in Haaretz, the resolution declared Hebron “holy to three faiths and located in Palestine. Period.” Israel has several UNESCO World Heritage Sites of its own.

Clearly there is more than initially meets the eye when it comes to the US withdrawal from UNESCO. The meaning behind this decision extends further back than 2011’s cessation of US funding for UNESCO following Palestinian accession to the organization as a full member.

Now that the Qatari candidate for director-general has been defeated and the US and Israel have put on a dramatic show, will the US rejoin UNESCO before its withdrawal becomes official in December 2018? Or will Trump follow in Reagan’s footsteps and opt for an extended absence from the organization? This, of course, depends largely on UNESCO’s actions under new leadership in the months ahead, whether Trump and Netanyahu feel the organization sufficiently acquiesces to pressure to shift towards a pro-Israel stance, and whether the organization is willing to prioritize such a stance over its mission in the realms of education, science, culture and communication.

Is the US withdrawal from UNESCO another example of a Trump regime shock tactic, or a long time coming? The answer is twofold. Yes, the withdrawal is reflective of more destructive and shortsighted Trump antics. And — also yes — the policy is indicative of a long, problematic history of US-Palestinian relations, one that appears to have the ability to negatively impact US stability now, in “Trump’s America” more than ever.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZI, UNComments Off on US Withdrawal From UNESCO: The Problematic History of US Legislation on I$raHell and Palestine

War As Business in Colombia Threatens Venezuela’s Security

  • Alberto Mejia, Commander of the Colombian National Army, talks to a peasant during the army
    Alberto Mejia, Commander of the Colombian National Army, talks to a peasant during the army’s arrival to an area that was previously occupied by FARC rebels. | Photo: Reuters
A military under the orders of a U.S. government that has declared Venezuela to be a potential military objective is a serious threat to its national security.

On Oct. 5, Colombian anti-narcotics police and soldiers murdered nine rural workers and wounded 50 more in a sweep to forcibly eradicate illicit crops in the Tumaco municipality of the department of Nariño.

RELATED: Colombia Attorney Pledges for Forced Eradication of Coca Crops

The Colombian government is not complying with point four of the peace agreement signed in Havana with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, guerrillas which, although not completely satisfactory, proposes the substitution of illicit crops rather than the use of force. This latest massacre in Tumaco demonstrates the Colombian elite’s lack of commitment to peace.

The warlike attitude of Colombia’s security forces is rooted in two things that directly concern Venezuela, since they also define Colombia’s actions toward its neighbor. One is the Colombian authorities supine obedience to the United States and the other is their need to continue a state of war as a business that has generated so much money for Colombia’s economy and especially for its armed forces.

U.S. government pressure on the Colombian State has been twofold, first for Colombia to cooperate in destabilizing the Venezuelan government and second not to abide by the peace accords with the FARC guerrilla and instead continue with the U.S. anti-narcotics model. The link between the two was clear from the speech by Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Colombia last August.

As in the case of the camps for putative Venezuelan refugees announced by the Colombian government, one of the main motivations is the funding assigned to war and its related businesss activities. Each year the U.S. contributes millions of dollars to Colombia for various reasons, all linked to war. This year the U.S. Congress approved US$74 million more than last year, making a total of US$450 million which could be suspended unless Colombia follows U.S. orders.

The new military doctrine of the Colombian army has discovered in the so called “system of permanent threats” its excuse to continue treating war as a business even after the signing of the peace agreeement with the FARC guerrillas and the bilateral ceasefire with the ELN guerrillas. In January 2016, marking 15 years of the U.S. funded Plan Colombia, the country’s then Minister of Defense announced that by his reckoning the so called post-conflict could cost around US$3 billion. It is hoped that money will be provided by the U.S., making the pending business much bigger than its predecessor which has already surpassed the Marshall Plan for Europe several times over.

The Colombian army follows U.S. orders

Colombian rural families that depend on growing coca leaf, along with cocaine’s end users, are the most vulnerable links in the chain of the cocaine business, for which events like the massacre in Tumaco increase the drug’s price. Both end users and the rural families that grow the leaf just to survive get killed, but cocaine continues to be a great business whose profits sustain the capitalist economy and its narco-states.

Ten days after the Tumaco massacre the Afro-Colombian leader José Jair Cortéz was murdered, also in the Tumaco municipality, when he returned home anxious for his wife’s health. He had received death threats over a long time resulting from the large number of economic interests that converge in that area. According to his comrades from the local Community Council of the Autonomous People of Alto Mira and Frontera, the only support Cortéz got from the Colombian government’s National Protection Unit was a bullet proof vest and a mobile phone.

RELATED: FARC Militant Turned Social Leader Killed in Colombia

For Colombian sociologist Camilo Álvarez, “The anti-narcotics strategies applied in Colombia are burdened with the feeling that “only the gringos win” because the cocaine price rises when its costs go up, because anti-narcotics spraying destroys crops, and because they control our sovereignty.” Alvarez also thinks the Colombian government should do more to subordinate the armed forces to its peace policies, referring specifically to point four of the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas which establishes the substitution of crops and rural development as an alternative method to outright eradication.

The Colombian government’s apparent non-compliance with this point is a threat to Colombia itself and to the whole region, given that it is in line with Donald Trump’s threat of decertification. It noted “Ultimately, Colombia is not designated because the Colombian National Police and Armed Forces are close law enforcement and security partners of the United States in the Western Hemisphere, they are improving interdiction efforts, and have restarted some eradication that they had significantly curtailed beginning in 2013.” Trump expressly excluded the Colombian government from his remarks. That is why the indignant protests in Colombia this week included expressive slogans like “Peace shouldn’t cost lives!” or “Stop screwing us around!”

A military under the orders of a U.S. government that has declared Venezuela to be a potential military objective and is ready to kill even its own citizens so as to carry on profiting from war is at once a tragedy for the people of Colombia and a serious threat to Venezuela’s national security.

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Private Prisons in US Turn a Profit, Ruin Black Lives

  • Inmates were escorted by a guard through San Quentin state prison in California.
    Inmates were escorted by a guard through San Quentin state prison in California. | Photo: Reuters.
Mass Incarceration is a billion-dollar industry which exploits prisoners who are predominately Black and non-white Latinx people for profit.

The U.S. is currently home to the largest prison population in the world at a staggering 2.3 million incarcerated people. Many believe that mass incarceration will ensure our safety through harsher methods; however, mass incarceration is especially detrimental to communities of color.

RELATEDReport: 60% of US Female Inmates Still Awaiting Trial

Mass Incarceration refers to the growth of the prison population that has increased by 500 percent within the past 30 years. The Prison Industrial Complex is a term that describes the overlapping interests found in the government and industry through which mechanisms such as surveillance, policing and imprisonment are seen as solutions to economic, social and political issues.

The PIC greatly assists in the maintenance of the authority of people who get their power through racial and economic privileges. This prison complex is notorious for being heavily influenced by institutional racism. These private prisons are substantially beneficial for the prisons, private prison lobbyists and affiliated corporations.

Institutional racism plays a significant role in the perception of non-white people. Stereotypes make people of color more susceptible to mass incarceration. These stigmas distort the way police officers and other officials affiliated with the law perceive and misinterpret Black and brown people and mistreat them, including racial profiling. The dissimilar perceptions of Black and white people by police authorities perpetuate differences that advance institutionalized racism in the U.S.

The impact that mass incarceration of Black people in the U.S. includes social, political and economic factors. Exploitation of non-whites by the PIC in the late 20th century and early 21st century resulted in increased profits for private prisons, a reinforcement of systemic oppression and institutional racism, the racialization of crime and social death.

Private prisons are a billion-dollar industry which exploit prisoners who are predominately Black and non-white Latinx people for profit. These prisons are run by private companies and have been on the rise since the mid-1980s, especially following the crack epidemic during the Ronald Reagan administration. Over half of U.S. states today depend on for-profit prisons holding approximately 90,000 inmates each year.

Racial profiling perpetuates white supremacy and the subordination of non-white people. For instance, oppressed nationalities living in marginalized communities have been receptors of police misconduct and a heavy police presence in their neighborhoods.

Black men are arrested and imprisoned for non-violent offenses at a much higher rate than white men, while violent crimes are generally at an all-time low. Police officers wander about and arrest people in neighborhoods of color more so than white ones. Black people are disproportionately imprisoned for committing the same crimes as whites.

Policies and laws put into place as a result of the war on drugs included mandatory minimum prison sentences and an increase in the number of police in predominately Black communities. Black people were being arrested and imprisoned for extended periods of time for crimes they may or may not have committed due to the increased presence of police in their neighborhoods. Stigmas of Blacks doing drugs more than whites also played a role in increased arrests of nonwhites. albeit the fact that studies have proven that Blacks and whites commit drug offenses at roughly equal levels.

RELATEDTexas Inmates Donate US$53,000 of Commissary Money to Houston’s Hurricane Harvey Victims

Human Rights Watch’s “Targeting Blacks: Drug Law Enforcement and Race in the U.S.,” stated that in seven states, 90 percent of drug offenders sent to prison consists of solely African-Americans. Sentences for Black and brown people are frequently much harsher than sentences for white people for committing the same crime.

The racialization of crime and mass incarceration plays a key role in the systemic oppression of Black people. The criminal justice system preserves legally enforced racism and segregation, seeing that African-Americans are policed, prosecuted, convicted and marginalized at a much higher rate than white people. The PIC backed by systems of institutional racism also consistently ensure that profits continue to be made from the forced labor of incarcerated people and using their convicted crimes to justify this neo-slavery as punishment.

Dependence on the criminal justice system and neoliberal colorblindness has also resulted in coded language to describe racialized statistics of accused crime and punishment without needing to explicitly mention race; an instance of this would be the racialized term “welfare queens” coined by Reagan in reference to African-American women and anti-Black stereotypes about them.

Social death — when a certain group of people is outcasted from society — ensures a life filled with detriment for convicts, especially non-white convicts. Although many formerly incarcerated people are able to integrate back into society, the burden they carry of having been a convict has material consequences and is virtually permanent for the rest of their lives.

An end to the war on drugs would significantly reduce the impact of mass incarceration. Nonviolent drug offenders would be released from prisons, minimizing the prison population, and other measures could be taken to deal with them and other nonviolent offenders.

More rehab centers could be built and strengthened for addicts that need them, as well as reform programs that assist addicts in overcoming their addictions and/or safely consuming their substances with medical supervision. A process such as this is used in Portugal, where all drugs are decriminalized and the drug mortality rate is currently among the lowest in the world. Drug abusers must be seen as patients worthy of rehab and assistance as opposed to criminals that should be locked up.

Another potential solution to the devastating effects of mass incarceration is to allow former convicts to be able to vote, receive housing and jobs without being discriminated against because of their criminal record. These solutions would also assist in removing the stigma of being a convict and would influence our society to be more empathetic of those that were previously incarcerated.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Private Prisons in US Turn a Profit, Ruin Black Lives

US Reps Pass “Harshest Sanctions Ever” Against North Korea

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave field guidance to the machine plant managed by Jon Tong Ryol in this undated photo released by North Korea
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave field guidance to the machine plant managed by Jon Tong Ryol in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang April 1, 2015. | Photo: Reuters
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a crippling sanctions act against North Korea over its nuclear program that would also heavily target China.

The United States House of Representatives have passed a bill titled the ‘The Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act’ that would level the “harshest sanctions ever” against North Korea.

RELATED:  Russia ‘Opposes’ Latest Massive US-Led War Games in Waters off Korea, Japan

The bill’s name comes from Otto Warmbier, a U.S. college student that died shortly after his custody in North Korea.

Warmbier, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, was arrested for stealing a political poster from a staff-only area of his Pyongyang hotel, which is a major crime in North Korea. He was charged with committing hostile acts against the state and sentenced to 15 years hard labor. In June, Warmbier was released with severe neurological damage of an unknown cause. He was taken to University of Cincinnati hospital where he died shortly after arrival.

The bill was put forward to “impose the most far-reaching sanctions ever directed at North Korea,” according to Andy Barr, a Republican Congressman who introduced the bill to the House floor.

Not only do the new round of sanctions target North Korean ventures, but it would also ban any company that does business with North Korea from doing business with U.S. companies.

“In short, foreign financial institutions that deal with anyone involved in these areas will face a clear choice: They can either do business that will ultimately benefit North Korea or they can do business with the United States,” Barr said during the hearing. “They cannot do both. The goal is to incentivize foreign banks to sever ties to anyone involved in the North’s economic activity and ultimately cut off Pyongyang’s access to the resource it needs in pursuit of its nuclear ambitions.”

China is the main target of the hefty sanctions, as China is the primary business patron of North Korea.

The sanctions will focus especially on North Korea’s main exports, oil and textiles.

The bill also allows U.S. President Donald Trump the ability to lift the sanctions based on certain contingents.

RELATED: UK’s Boris Johnson: Trump ‘Duty’ Is to Prepare for War with North Korea

“Renaming this legislation the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act won’t bring him back. But it will remind the world that there is nothing to be gained and everything to lose by working with such an evil regime,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy after the bill was passed.

The bill will now have to be passed in the Senate and signed into law by President Trump to take effect.

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Syrian Deputy FM Thanks Iran for Anti-Terrorism Fight

  • Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad
    Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad | Photo: Reuters
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that if Iran had awaited orders from the U.S. government, the Islamic State group would have penetrated Baghdad.

Faisal al-Meqdad, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister, said his country is indebted to Iran for it’s firm support in the fight against terrorism

RELATED:  As ISIS Flees, Syrian Troops Find Arms Cache From US, NATO

The remarks came during a meeting in Tehran with Ali Akbar Velayati, senior advisor to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Iran has provided both military advice and diplomatic support in the fight against terrorist groups operating in Syria and Iraq. While military advisors have aided in delivering victories against terrorists in the region, which have included the capture of sophisticated Islamic State group weapons produced by western nations, diplomacy has been employed to help mediate peace talks. In Syria’s case, this has resulted in peace negotiations taking place in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Meqdad continued to explain that the current U.S. administration’s decision to deny certification of Iran’s compliance to 2015 nuclear deal has rallied global support in opposition to yet another hardline stance taken by President Donald Trump.

He added that sanctions imposed on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRGC, by the U.S. government have also contributed to straining relations between the two countries.

Velayati, for his part, asked, “Our common question is why the Americans have set up 12 bases on Syrian soil without authorization from the government of the country? It is, however, obvious that their goal is to disintegrate Syria.”

He went on to assert that “As the Americans have been defeated in Iraq, they will also be defeated in Syria. Despite U.S. efforts to sow discord among the countries of the resistance front, the bloc is getting more resilient every day.”

RELATED:  How Most of the U.S. Left Failed Syria

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, who is attending the 13th meeting of the Iran-South African Joint Commission, scoffed at remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson which included that “Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home.” The U.S. top official added that the “the foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control.”

Zarif responded by saying that Iran’s anti-terrorist fighters “are already in their homes,” noting that had Iran awaited orders from Tillerson or the U.S. government, the Islamic State group would have penetrated Baghdad and Erbil.

He went on to say that “unlike the U.S. that sees its interest in division and discord, the Islamic Republic of Iran sees its interests in cooperation and collaboration with regional countries.”

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