Archive | October 30th, 2017

Defending Zionist impunity in UK: The case of Rabbi Zvi Solomons and Lord Greville Janner

Rabbi Zvi Solomons and Greville Janner

By Gilad Atzmon

When the British Zionist zealots figured out that their smear campaign against me had gone nowhere and Reading Festival was not going to surrender to their relentless pressure, they decided to mobilise. They deployed their special weapon: the sleazy orthodox Rabbi Zvi Solomons, who was available since he was sacked by his congregation in 2016, which he then sued.

The problematic rabbi played his part. He has able to tick every box in the Hasbara book, from verbal smears to proper harassment. On the day of my talk, he and his rebbetzin wife even visited the Fairtrade shop at the community centre where I was presenting my talk and attempted to intimidate the staff by shoving a camera in front of their faces. This shouldn’t surprise us: if it looks like a settler and behaves like a settler, it may as well be a settler. However, the British town of Reading is not in the West Bank and that kind of vile behaviour is not what well mannered Britons expect from religious clerics.

Forty-eight hours before I was scheduled to talk, the rabbi circulated a letter to the local councillors in Reading’s councillors, the local press and other parties involved. In the letter the rabbi wrote:

I wish to express on behalf of my community [as mentioned above, the rabbi doesn’t have a community, he was dismissed] my great distress that RISC [Reading International Solidarity Centre] are allowing a meeting to be held to promote Gilad Atzmon’s latest book.

The rabbi promised to “provide examples” of Gilad Atzmon’s “hateful, anti-Semitic output”.

However, the rabbi failed to present a single cogent argument. Those who examined his accusations found them misleading, unfounded and duplicitous. But he did succeed in providing insight into the problematic Jewish institutional attitude to shonda (shame) in relation to Jewish sex predators.

Rabbi Solomons accused me of being an “anti-Semite” for pointing at the troubling and embarrassing fact that the British press omitted from its coverage that Lord Greville Janner was the head of the Jewish community at the time that the British press wrote that he was engaged in gross predatory behaviourtowards young British children.

Here are Rabbi Solomons’s words, taken from his message to the local press, Reading councillors and the leader of Reading Borough Council.

On this page, Atzmon uses the trope of Jewish power and the trope of the Jew as the child-abuser. Here are selected quotations which are anti-Semitic in nature; I have coloured the anti-Semitic elements red [shown below in blue – to avoid confusion with hyperlinks]:

“The Daily Telegraph and other press outlets list the sex abuse allegations against Lord Janner, a 27-year Labour MP. But there is one thing The Telegraph and other British press outlets fail to mention. They omit the fact that at the time Lord Janner was allegedly sexually abusing young British orphans, sometimes, actually in his marital bed, he was the head of the British Jewish community.

“Between 1978 and 1984 Lord Janner was the chairman of Board of Deputies of British Jews, a body with claims to represent British Jewry.”

I admit, I fail to see what I am accused of. The rabbi doesn’t dispute the facts. At the time Lord Janner was allegedly molesting young orphans in his marital bed, he was the chairman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. As such, he was de facto the leader of British Jewry. What is anti-Semitic about me pointing out that fact? The rabbi doesn’t accuse me of not telling the truth; quite the opposite – he sees me as a “hateful character” for actually sticking to the truth.

Rabbi Solomons continues quoting me as he desperately attempts to identify my “anti-Semitsm”.

While inflicting Shoah on British orphans, Lord Janner was a prominent advocate of holocaust education. He was the chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, the president of the Commonwealth Jewish Council, and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress.

“Specifically,” the rabbis asks, “why would this have been relevant?”

Here the rabbi is suggesting that Lord Janner was the leader of British Jews at the same time he reportedly raped kids is somehow irrelevant. I actually believe that this information is so relevant that not a single British outlet knew how to handle it.

“And why does Atzmon use the word shoah (holocaust) in the second paragraph? This is obvious anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Solomons continues.

Is it really too complicated for the Rabbi to understand why the shoah is relevant? At the time Lord Janner reportedly molested young orphans and inflicted a personal shoah on each of them, he was the chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust. I guess that in Rabbi Solomons’s mind, the shoahis Jews-only territory.

Solomons concludes his point by quoting me yet again:

If Jewish power is the capacity to silence the discussion of Jewish power, in the case of Lord Janner it also managed to delete the fact that Britain’s suspected arch sex offender was also the leader of the Jewish community.

To which the rabbi comments, “Imagine if Atzmon were to say this about any other ethnic minority.”

I guess that by now it will surprise no one that Rabbi Solomons lies compulsively. This is an obvious and deliberate attempt to deceive councillors and the local press since he conceals that in the next paragraph I addressed his supposed question.

Here are my words:

At the least, all these prominent Jewish organisations ought to issue an apology or at least admit to gross misjudgement in letting a person who was a suspected paedophile remain a leader of prominent Jewish institutions for almost five decadesWould the English church enjoy such impunity? Would the British Muslim community get away with any of its leaders being associated with buggery and paedophilia? I’ll let you ponder this one.

Many Britons are perplexed and angered by the intense whitewash surrounding Lord Janner and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse shambles.

Rabbi Solomons’s message provides us with precious insight into the dark forces operating behind the scene and suppressing truthfulness and justice. The rabbi’s message is obvious: looking into Lord Janner’s possible misconduct involves a head on war with the Jewish leadership and institutions; it interferes with their sense of total impunity. As we know, most British Jewish leaders and institutions kept silent about Lord Janner. Rabbi Zvi Solomons is stupid enough to unveil the sinister and orchestrated matrix that is involved in this concealment campaign.

Posted in UK1 Comment

October 1917: the defining event of our epoch

Proletarian issue 80 (October 2017)
Proletarian, issue 80

What is the significance of the events in Russia one hundred years ago for workers in Britain today?
The anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution is the most significant date in the proletarian calendar. It is an event our party has celebrated every year since its founding. At that meeting, we bring together members and supporters from around the country and mark the continued development and growth of our organisation, while reminding ourselves of just what it is we are working towards.

Lenin and 1917: a new era

Over the years, the speakers at our meetings have examined in great detail all the most important aspects of the October Revolution. They have paid tribute to the men and women workers who carried out the revolution, and to the leading role of the Bolshevik party – the revolutionary organisation in whose footsteps we hope to follow, which enabled the workers to understand their enemy and to organise themselves to defeat it.

Importantly, in the present climate, our speakers have repeatedly stressed the vital role played by revolutionary theory – especially the immense theoretical contribution of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who advanced Marxist science by adding to it a precise definition of imperialism (the final stage of decaying capitalism) and who detailed the ways in which imperialism affects the struggle of workers and peasants of all countries for their liberation and social emancipation.

It was Comrade Lenin who created the template for a revolutionary party, working out in the furnace of intense class struggle the essential elements of communist organisation that enabled workers to make their efforts effective. All parties that are serious about overthrowing capitalism and building socialism still follow these organisational tenets today.

Lenin was also a master of strategy and tactics. He solved many important questions, such as the peasant question and the national question, by clearly and precisely explaining their relationship to the socialist revolution. He demonstrated the need for the proletariat to maximise its forces by galvanising as many allies for each phase of the struggle as possible, and showed how it was both possible and necessary to take on the various enemies of socialism one at a time rather than all together.

Unlike Trotsky and his modern-day followers, Lenin did not play at revolution, and was not at all interested in heroic failures. He understood that what was at stake was nothing less than the future of humanity, and he taught the working class how to think and act so it could win.

Correct theoretical understanding was what enabled the Bolsheviks to see their way clearly and navigate the turbulent waters of the class struggle. It was the combination of correct theory with disciplined organisational practice that created an unstoppable force for change in the Russian empire a century ago. This is the true legacy of Comrade Lenin, and it is one which continues to reverberate throughout the world.

Our party’s interest in October is not merely academic or historical; we are not professors, fans or armchair ‘experts’ on October, but modern-day revolutionaries, working to repeat the feat of the Bolsheviks a hundred years on and therefore doing everything we can to learn what October has to teach us. We have, after all, set ourselves the same task as the Bolsheviks did: namely, of applying Marxist-Leninist science to present-day problems of organisation, strategy and tactics in order that we might help the British working class to gather the forces it needs to emancipate itself from capitalist slavery.

The October Revolution marked the beginning of the era in which imperialism will be replaced by socialism; it shaped our world and put the ruling class on notice that capitalism’s days are numbered. No matter what reverses the socialist movement has suffered, the future of humanity is a communist future, which will be arrived at through defeating capitalism and establishing socialism (the lower stage of communism) all over the world.

Lenin summed up the first mighty step that Russian workers had taken on behalf of workers everywhere in a short speech he gave in 1918, when the revolution was barely half a year old: “We are entitled to be proud and to consider ourselves fortunate that it has come to our lot to be the first to fell in one part of the globe that wild beast, capitalism, which has drenched the earth in blood, which has reduced humanity to starvation and demoralisation, and which will assuredly perish soon, no matter how monstrous and savage its frenzy in the face of death.” (Prophetic words, Pravda, 2 July 1918)

The smashing of tsarism and imperialism by the workers and peasants of Russia and the Russian empire, the successful building of a planned socialist economy by the united Soviet workers and peasants, and the smashing of the ‘invincible’ Nazi war machine by the Soviet armed forces, partisans and peoples – these earth-shaking achievements of workers who had set themselves free from the shackles of capitalist exploitation and servitude lit a flame that still burns, continuing to light the path for workers and oppressed peoples everywhere.

Stalin: harbinger of doom for the capitalist class

Our detractors accuse us of many things: of being a tiny and irrelevant clique; of being a historical re-enactment society; and especially (and most dreadfully, to their distorted vision) of being Stalinists.

As Comrade Stalin himself always pointed out, there really is no such thing as ‘Stalinism’. Stalin himself was a Marxist-Leninist, albeit an outstanding one. Still, we wear this supposed insult as a badge of honour, for Josef Vissarionovich Stalin – Uncle Joe, as British workers affectionately nicknamed him during WW2 – was nothing more or less than Lenin’s most faithful pupil and truest successor. He was a master implementer of Marxist-Leninist science, an expert dialectician and tactician, an indefatigable fighter for the socialist cause, and, while he lived, a wise and beloved teacher and leader not only to the Soviet peoples but to all the workers and oppressed of the world.

As head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) (CPSU(B)) and leader of the world’s first socialist state – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) –Comrade Stalin presided over some of humanity’s greatest achievements to date: achievements made all the more remarkable because they were carried out by pioneers who were navigating in unchartered waters. The work of these pioneers finally proved in practice the correctness of Marxism’s projections about what the working classes would be capable of once the capitalist ruling class and anarchic capitalist production had been removed from the scene.

The incredible achievements of Soviet industrialisation and collectivisation have been well documented by us, as has the provision of exemplary social facilities for workers that were the first of their kind, and the envy of the world. While workers in the capitalist countries were enduring the misery of the terrible economic crisis of the 1920s and 30s, Soviet workers were enjoying the fruits that came to them as a result of the abolition of class exploitation and the construction of a planned socialist economy: the elimination of hunger, poverty and homelessness; the liberation of women; the end of national oppression and of wars for plunder.

Millions upon millions of previously downtrodden and destitute workers were actively engaged in the creation of a new socialist culture, as their creative power was unleashed and they found themselves the masters and makers of a new world.

When we put aside all the thousand and one nonsensical prejudices with which we have been carefully indoctrinated and evaluate sensibly the role played by Comrade Stalin’s leadership, and by the Bolshevik party during Stalin’s time at the helm, it becomes clear that his role was pivotal to the Soviet Union’s successes.

And when we understand all this, it becomes clear just why it is that workers all over the capitalist world are taught to revile the name of Josef Stalin; why so many historians, journalists and academics are paid such good wages for making up obscene and ridiculous lies about him and about the Soviet Union he led.

While Stalin lived, the world socialist movement had an undisputed leader, whom the mass of the oppressed could look to for guidance and assistance. Our movement was united and achieved victory after victory, putting the fear of god into capitalists and imperialists everywhere, and letting them know that their days were most definitely numbered.

The Soviet Union won the second world war, which had been forced upon it by the rapacious imperialists, and completely smashed the allegedly invincible Nazi war machine. As the Red Army forced the fascists back towards Berlin, it freed country after country from occupation, and cleared the way for the forces of popular resistance to form socialist governments across liberated eastern Europe.

Despite suffering horrendous material losses during the war and sacrificing 27 million of their citizens in the fight against fascism – the flower of that first proud generation of Soviet men and women –the Soviet people rebuilt their devastated towns and cities at a pace that exceeded the earlier drives to industrialisation and collectivisation– a pace that, at the time, had itself seemed impossibly fast. Both before and after the war, the USSR gave unstinting support to national-liberation movements in the superexploited colonial and semi-colonial countries.

While Stalin lived, and while the Soviet Union was guided by such a leader, and by a party founded on Marxist-Leninist science, there was nothing the workers of the USSR could not achieve and no force on earth that could defeat them. Workers everywhere had a motherland and the world revolution had a base from which it could take confidence and support.

No wonder the bourgeoisie hated Stalin then, and no wonder they hate him still. No wonder his legacy leaves them incandescent with rage. No wonder they are so desperate to inculcate revulsion at the very sound of his name amongst workers. J V Stalin represents everything our rulers fear most: the death of their power and privilege; the end of their dominion over the people and resources of this earth. He represents the bright future of humanity – and the certainty that there is no place for rich exploiters in that future.

Josef Stalin, more than any other individual, was and remains the capitalist class’s harbinger of doom.

Upholding the banner of October

That is why true Marxists continue to laud the leadership of both Lenin and Stalin, as well as the party they led, and to hold up the phenomenal achievements of the Soviet people as the inspiration for everything we do. Together, they have given us something that can never be taken away: they have shown us the strength of workers’ power and given us incontrovertible proof of our ability to do without rulers. They have given us incontrovertible proof that socialism truly is the next step on mankind’s long progress from primitive to higher communism.

If every oppressed person in the world understood the achievements of Soviet socialism during the period of Lenin and Stalin’s leadership, capitalism would be vanquished within the year.

Even with the advances made by revisionism since the death of Comrade Stalin: the restoration of capitalism to the land of the Soviets and the east European people’s democracies; the degeneration of so much of the world communist movement and the consequent demoralisation and disarray that still characterises the workers’ movement in much of the world, the imperialist bourgeoisies, although apparently riding high, have found that their triumph has been short-lived.

The October Revolution put them all on borrowed time: the salvos of October opened the era of the demise of imperialism and the transition to socialism, and, no matter how circuitous the route that gets us there, or how long it takes for the final victory over the final capitalists to arrive, socialism is most certainly humanity’s next destination.

The USSR was living proof that all the apparently insoluble problems of our world – poverty, hunger, homelessness, disease, racism, war, inequality, impending ecological catastrophe and more – can in fact be solved by means of the simple application of technology, resources, manpower and planning, if only we are prepared to do what is necessary to free our world from the control of commodity production and everything that goes with it: the insanity of capitalist market forces and the unquenchable thirst of the capitalist ruling class for ever-greater profit.

The experience of those pioneers of socialist revolution and construction, summed up for us in the works of Comrades Lenin and Stalin, and in a plethora of Soviet textbooks, novels and eye-witness accounts, is a precious legacy that our party works hard to preserve and to bring to the attention of class-conscious workers, sure in the knowledge that an understanding of what they are capable of is key to raising the confidence of the British proletariat after decades of the decline and demoralisation of the working-class movement.

No other avowedly socialist, communist or revolutionary organisation in Britain has seriously set itself this task; no other organisation in Britain consistently asks of all its activities: ‘Will this bring us closer to revolution?’ That is what makes our party unique and allows us to claim that we are the true voice of the British proletariat, despite our small size and (as yet) weak links with the working masses.

Our task is urgent

The insatiable drive to maximise profits, and the need to oppose all threats to its domination of world markets (such as the independent and anti-imperialist Brics or Shanghai Cooperation Organisation groupings), is pushing our rulers ever closer towards a cataclysmic third world war with Russia or China or both – a war which is bound to have the most severe consequences for British workers. (See Joti Brar, The Drive to War Against Russia and China, 2017)

We cannot expect that in such a war the casualties will only be concentrated elsewhere, as they have been during Britain’s recent wars in the middle east and Africa. If our rulers send British bombers to towns and cities in Russia and China, we can expect those countries to return fire with full force.

This is not doom-mongering, but a simple statement of fact. Such wars are the inevitable consequence of the world crisis of capitalism. As Lenin pointed out to workers who were suffering the terrible trials of the first world war: “War cannot be abolished unless classes are abolished and socialism is created.” (Socialism and War, September 1915)

It was to try to escape earlier overproduction crises that the imperialists went to war in 1914 and 1939, as they strove to hold on to their colonial territories or to gain new ones at each other’s expense. During those wars some 100 million working-class lives were lost, and unimaginable wealth was destroyed – wealth that encapsulated the labour of millions upon millions of workers. (See CPGB-ML, World War One: An Interimperialist War to Redivide the World, 2015)

To the prospect of waste on such an insane scale, we must also add the prospect of imminent environmental catastrophe, which has the potential to destroy as many or even more lives – or even to leave the earth entirely uninhabitable for humans. The environmental problems we face have been brought about by capitalism’s rapacious activities and are being daily exacerbated by the cut-throat drive to increase profits.

Despite all the dire warnings from scientists about the scale of the problem and the urgent need for coordinated and unified action by the governments of the world, the profit motive stands like a ghost between humankind and its ability to stop the juggernaut of climate change that is heading towards us. Put plainly: the capitalists are simply unable to change their destructive behaviours or to plan on the necessary scale.

Imperialism is a paper tiger

It can seem that the task we have set ourselves is simply too big; that our enemies are too numerous and too powerful. But beneath its seemingly impregnable walls, the fortress of imperialist power has crumbling foundations. As Chairman Mao famously expressed it: “imperialism is a paper tiger”. (US imperialism is a paper tiger, 14 July 1956)

The world war of 1914-18 was a terrible and senseless waste, but it also revealed the inherent weaknesses of the imperialist system and stirred the masses of Europe to action. The Bolsheviks were able to harness this anger constructively, and Russia left the war in 1917 after the socialist revolution finally enabled the workers and peasants to fulfil their demands for land, bread and peace.

Comrade Lenin laid down two essential objective conditions for a successful revolution: first, that the ruling class should be unable to rule in the old way, and second that the working class should no longer be willing to be ruled in the old way. Such situations arise as inevitably as the crises that plague economic production within the world capitalist system, and we can today see the contradictions once again maturing towards a revolutionary situation in Britain and many other countries. (See Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder, 1920)

The deepest-ever crisis of overproduction is creating splits and schisms amongst our rulers, as they argue over the best way to keep their failing system alive. Should they be following policies of market protectionism or of unfettered free trade? Should austerity be intensified or somewhat ameliorated? (All, of course, are agreed that austerity is needed if British capitalism is to be saved.) Is there really a need for all these wars, or could the same regime-change objectives be met using other means? (Again, the objectives themselves are not really in dispute.)

The constant infighting and mud-slinging between the representatives of the various bourgeois factions as they jostle for control is resulting in a chain of extremely educative exposures about the workings of the state machine: the workings of the judiciary, for example, or the activities of the secret services, or just the fact that the real running of the bourgeois state is carried on by unelected elites behind doors that are firmly closed to the working class.

In their haste to throw mud at one another, the capitalists are being unusually careless in what they let slip to the rest of us, and many topics that are usually passed over in silence by the capitalist media are now being openly discussed. In such an atmosphere, workers cannot but start to lose their respect for the hitherto sanctified organs of bourgeois power, and no amount of forced teaching of ‘British democratic values’ in our schools will be able to reverse this trend. Practice is teaching us the truth of Lenin’s observation: “Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich – that is the democracy of capitalist society.” (The State and Revolution, 1917)

Meanwhile, the capitalists’ need to pass the burden of the crisis onto the backs of the workers via an accelerated programme of austerity, following as it does a 40-year programme of slow chipping away at Britain’s welfare and social provision, is massively accelerating the impoverishment of ever-wider sections of the working class, bringing untold stress and lowering the living standards of most, and creating a simmering cauldron of barely suppressed rage in the process.

This rage is bound to boil over at some point. When it does, the ruling class will continue to do everything in its power to direct workers’ anger down channels that are harmless to the system but extremely detrimental to the workers themselves.

They will go to ever more extreme lengths to persuade workers to blame one another for the problems capitalism has created: to further scapegoat immigrants (health tourists and job stealers), the unemployed (welfare scroungers), old people (leeching baby boomers), young people (entitled millennials), or any other subsection of the working class. They will continue to incite hatred against the people of the countries they are targeting for their wars and to try to persuade us to blame those people for the decline in manufacturing jobs or in our living standards.

This turning of workers’ rage against other workers – the age-old strategy of divide and rule – has been the secret of every minority exploiting class’s ability to hold onto power. It has certainly been key to the present-day exploiters’ ability to preserve their system for a full century after the Russian proletariat gave them their marching orders.

Exposing these machinations and overcoming these divisions will be the key to the success of the revolutionaries. That is why Marx and Engels in 1848 ended the Communist Manifesto with these famous lines: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!

In the course of their struggle for the correct theory and for organisational unity, workers will gain confidence and discover what they are capable of. Lenin summed up the experience gained by such struggles in a lecture in January 1917: “Only struggle educates the exploited class. Only struggle discloses to it the magnitude of its own power, widens its horizon, enhances its abilities, clarifies its mind, forges its will.” (Lecture on the 1905 Revolution, our emphasis)

Lenin laid down another condition for a successful revolution: that there should be a party or organisation willing and able to take state power. That is where the revolutionaries come in. We cannot control the pace at which the contradictions of capitalism develop and the objective revolutionary situation matures. But we can and must prepare our forces in the full knowledge that that situation is maturing and our organisation will be desperately needed if the opportunity is to be grasped and its potential transformed into reality. In short, if humankind is to be saved from another fifty or a hundred years of capitalist insanity.

The British working class today is demoralised and disunited. The communist forces in Britain are small and weak. Nevertheless, there is no future for humanity other than a communist future, so the work must be done to reinvigorate our movement and build a force that is capable of harnessing the collective power of the working class. This work must be done by those who understand that it is needed, and the number of those who understand this must be constantly increased.

Our work is to build a party that can bring this understanding to ever-wider sections of the working class. A party that can help workers see their way clearly and direct their rage constructively – enabling them ultimately to smash the machinery of the capitalist state and replace it with the organs of workers’ power. Only by taking full control of all planning and production will British workers be able to coordinate their efforts to solve society’s problems and build a decent life for all.

The socialist revolution is the first step workers must take if humanity is to have a chance of dedicating the necessary time and resources to solving such pressing problems as hunger, poverty, inequality and war, and of ameliorating the worst effects of climate change. We communists understand that this is no game. It is our firm intention to become a force fit for the crucial battles to come.

The centenary of October comes at an important moment for our party. We have been growing steadily over the last few years, working hard to develop a professional and serious culture of meaningful study combined with militant activism, and our organisation is taking its first small steps in the direction of becoming a real force on the streets of Britain. Although we are still pitifully small, we are growing, even while Britain’s plethora of Trotskyite and revisionist groups are shedding members by the bucket-load and slowly sinking into the social-democratic quagmire they have dug for themselves.

As the only true upholders of the banner of October in Britain – the banner of revolutionary socialism; the banner of Lenin and Stalin – we invite all those who wish to bring revolution to Britain to join our ranks. Join us and do your part in bringing the message to workers in Britain: the tide is turning in the class struggle and the communists are on the march once more. Alone we are powerless; together we are an unstoppable force!

In the words of Comrade Lenin: “Let the [fake] ‘socialist’ snivellers croak, let the bourgeoisie rage and fume, but only people who shut their eyes so as not to see, and stuff their ears so as not to hear, can fail to notice that all over the world the birth pangs of the old, capitalist society, which is pregnant with socialism, have begun.” (Prophetic words, 1918)

Posted in RussiaComments Off on October 1917: the defining event of our epoch

Anti-war movement resolves: “No cooperation with war crimes”


Stop the War            Coalition

The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) submitted the resolution below to the Annual General Meeting of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) on 25 April, and it was passed near unanimously.  In addition it had the full support of the StWC officers.  Lalkar is pleased to reproduce this resolution, which has now become a part of the mobilisation programme of the anti-war movement in this country and marks a landmark in the political development of the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement.



No cooperation with war crimes

This conference condemns Britain’s continued involvement in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and calls for the immediate recall of all British troops from both these countries.

While the City of London’s financial elite sought to benefit by joining arms with the US to seize Iraq’s oil wealth and manipulate her domestic and foreign policy to their advantage, this conference affirms that the entire bloody debacle has always been contrary to the interests of the vast majority of British workers, who have consistently demonstrated their opposition to this modern-day Anglo-American colonial crusade.

Since 2004, more than 1.5 million wholly innocent Iraqi men, women and children have been slaughtered as a result of the illegal invasion and occupation of their country. This can only be termed genocide. In addition, more than 4 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes as internal and external refugees, and the resultant dislocation of Iraq’s cultural, political and economic life is near total.

In Afghanistan, tens of thousands of people have been murdered, and the country’s infrastructure smashed to pieces as a result of the Anglo-American oil monopolies’ quest to control the routes of projected pipelines.

This conference notes with shame the fact that ‘our own’ British imperialist Labour government has been a key player in planning and perpetrating these heinous war crimes against the Iraqi and Afghan peoples.

Conference notes that many British workers were browbeaten, by a compliant political and media establishment, into accepting these wars on entirely false premises (Afghan responsibility for the 11 September attacks, Blair’s ‘45 minute’ claim about Iraqi WMD, etc) that sought to paint Afghanistan and Iraq, rather than Anglo-American imperialism, as the aggressors. Thus the necessary ground was laid to send British and US soldiers (workers in uniform) to do the bankers’, oil magnates’ and armament manufacturers’ dirty work.

This conference believes that war fought to enforce subjection and servitude upon another nation is morally abhorrent; to fight and die in such a cause is demoralising, corrupting and meaningless.

This conference realises that, although individually powerless, collectively, British workers do have the power to stop the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, since the government and corporations cannot fight them without us.

This conference therefore resolves that the coalition will do all in its power to promote a movement of industrial, political and military non-cooperation with all of imperialism’s aggressive war preparations and activities among British working people.

Union mobilisation remains key to the success of such a policy, and this conference instructs the incoming Stop the War steering committee to campaign vigorously among trade unions to encourage them to adopt a practical policy encouraging their members to do everything not to support illegal wars or occupations, directly or indirectly; and to render every support to members victimised for taking this principled stand.

This conference welcomes the magnificent examples set by such signal actions as:

·       2002/3: FBU strike action immediately preceding the invasion of Iraq, which threatened the entire enterprise.

·       Jan 2003: Fifteen Aslef train drivers refused to move arms from Glasgow factories to Glen Douglas base on Scotland’s west coast (which remains NATO’s largest European arsenal, and from where they were bound for the Gulf).

·       9 Aug 2006: Protesters occupied the Derry offices of Raytheon when Israel invaded Lebanon, to “prevent the commissioning of war crimes by the Israeli armed forces using weapons supplied by Raytheon”.

·       May Day 2008: tens of thousands of US west coast dockers defied court injunctions to strike in protest against US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite the decision of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) leadership to withhold official sponsorship for the strike.

·       Dec 2008: Smash EDO demonstrators occupied and disabled production at Brighton-based missile-delivery system manufacturer EDO (recently acquired by Armament Giant ITT) during Israel’s massacre of Gazans.

·       Feb 2009: Norwegian Train drivers staged a national stoppage to protest the Israeli massacre in Gaza.

·       Resolutions asking Bectu media workers to resist the transmission of imperialist war propaganda will be considered at the union’s forthcoming congress.

Posted in Middle East, Politics, UKComments Off on Anti-war movement resolves: “No cooperation with war crimes”

Britain Drops 3,400 Bombs in Syria and Iraq – and Says No Civilians Killed

Middle East Eye analysis reveals extent of RAF attacks in Iraq and Syria

Typhoon f2 zj910 arp

Royal Air Force drones and jets have dropped more than 3,400 bombs and missiles on Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria, an investigation by Middle East Eye has revealed, yet the British government maintains that there is “no evidence” they have killed a single civilian.

The vast quantities of ordnance dropped since the start of Operation Shader against IS in 2014 seriously undermines the claim by ministers that the RAF has not caused any civilian casualties in the three-year-long bombing campaign, and has prompted calls for an investigation.

The Ministry of Defence does not routinely release statistics on the numbers of weapons used over Iraq and Syria, but an MEE analysis has combined weekly updates of operations in the region and information collated by campaign group Drone Wars.

It shows that up to the end of September, UK forces had dropped at least 3,482 bombs and missiles in the battle against IS, including 2,089 Paveway IV bombs and 486 Brimstone missiles from Typhoon and Tornado jets.

RAF Reaper drones have also fired 724 Hellfire missiles at IS targets.

The figures are conservative as MoD updates sometimes do not specify the number of bombs or missiles used in a strike, and last night MoD officials admitted that a further 86 bombs and missiles had been dropped in recent weeks.

The weapon of choice for RAF jets is the Paveway IV precision-guided bomb, but they have also fired large numbers of the more accurate Brimstone missile, which was originally designed as an anti-tank weapon but has been used extensively by the RAF to target IS snipers and vehicles.

The government describes the Brimstone as the most accurate weapon available that can be fired by aircraft, and they are conservatively estimated to cost £100,000 each; heavier Paveway IV bombs are estimated to cost £30,000 each, and Hellfire, fired by the Reaper drone fleet, cost £71,300 each.

IS is in retreat in Iraq and Syria after a US-led bombing campaign that saw the RAF fly more than 8,000 sorties and kill more than 3,000 IS militants. A spike in weapons releases came earlier this summer, when RAF Typhoons and Tornadoes joined the coalition and Kurdish effort to liberate Mosul.

Islamic State regularly used “human shields” in built-up areas, but despite this and the scale of the ordnance dropped by the RAF, the MoD maintains it has “no evidence” that its strikes have caused any civilian casualties – a position now roundly rejected by defence analysts and opposition parties.

“Our armed forces are among the best in the world, so they will be among the most discerning and accurate when it comes to targeting,” Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, told MEE.

“However, it is, at the very best, implausible that our heavy involvement could not have caused civilian deaths. We must not knock our armed services, but, equally, the government has to be honest in its assessment of damage caused in conflict.”

The US Air Force, which leads the anti-Islamic State coalition, says it has caused 786 civilian deaths in the three-year air war, but despite saying the air war is the “most challenging fight in decades”, the RAF has made so such assessment.

Earlier this month, the minister of state for the British armed forces, Mark Lancaster, told parliament that the government “had been able to discount RAF involvement in any civilian casualties”.

The RAF says it takes all steps to minimise civilian casualties, but it has conducted more than 1,600 strikes in Iraq and Syria – more than any other coalition country except the US.

Reacting to the figures, military aviation experts and campaigners have said that it is no longer credible for the MoD to maintain that has not killed any civilians.

Samuel Oakford, a spokesperson for Airwars, a group that monitors civilian casualties from international air strikes in the region, told MEE: “The UK’s claim that no British air strikes in Iraq or Syria have led to civilian deaths has always been difficult to believe.

“Based on the coalition’s own civilian casualty reporting, it is extremely unlikely that a coalition member as active as the UK would have not had a hand in a single civilian death.

“As the campaign continues into its fourth year and more data about British involvement such as this is compiled, the MoD’s claim is becoming increasingly absurd.”

Over the course of the last 12 months the focus of the air battle against IS, which the MoD calls Daesh, has shifted from the Iraqi city of Mosul, which fell in July, to Raqqa in Syria.

But MEE analysis shows that the overwhelming majority of RAF weapons released took place against IS fighters in Iraq with 3,000 strikes, while a total of 482 bombs and missiles were dropped over Syria, prompting fears of blowback in the UK.

“Turning a blind eye to the consequences of air strikes and pretending they are somehow now ‘risk free’ is naive in the extreme,” said Chris Cole, director of campaign Drone Wars UK.

“Unless we begin to understand and acknowledge the true cost of our ongoing wars in the Middle East, we are likely to pay a high price in the future.”

Zero casualties

Airwars, which works with the RAF and US Air Force to report suspected civilian casualties, says that at least 5,600 civilians have been killed by coalition strikes.

In July there were reports that Iraqi soldiers used bulldozers to hide the bodies of hundreds of civilians killed in the final days of the battle for Mosul.

MEE’s analysis shows that during the fight for the Iraqi city, RAF Typhoons and Tornadoes dropped dozens of Paveway IV bombs on IS fighters in the city.

However, the MoD does not have troops on the ground in the region carrying out battle damage assessment of sites struck by RAF munitions.

Instead it carries out the assessments from video evidence captured from the air, a technique that has been dismissed as ineffective by other coalition allies.

The RAF says it takes “all possible precautions to avoid civilian casualties”, but Amnesty International has previously expressed serious concerns about the air war’s toll on civilians. In a report earlier this year, it found the battle for West Mosul had caused a “civilian catastrophe”.

Civilians were being ruthlessly exploited by IS, which had moved them into conflict zones, used them as human shields, and prevented escape. They were also being subjected to “relentless and unlawful attacks” by Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition.

A source in the RAF told Middle East Eye: “Given the ruthless and inhuman behaviour of our adversary, including the deliberate use of human shields, we must accept that the risk of inadvertent civilian casualties is ever present, particularly in the complex and congested urban environment within which we operate.”

The source added that all missions were “meticulously planned” and there was no suggestion that UK forces have committed war crimes.

However, there are fears that by failing to fully address the issue of civilian casualties, the MoD is not presenting the full picture of Britain’s campaign against IS.

Iain Overton, the executive director of Action on Armed Violence, said: “If the RAF can claim zero civilian casualties, then the argument for more air strikes stands.

“They can justify such by pointing at the issue of proportionality and IHL [international humanitarian law], they can claim that their kills are ‘clean’. Perhaps they are, but they don’t present the evidence to prove they are – not meaningfully.”

The MoD said in a statement on Wednesday: “Only by defeating Daesh for good will we reduce the threat to us here at home. British forces have crippled Daesh since 2014 and the RAF will continue to strike the terrorists hard where they plan their campaign of hate in both Syria and Iraq.

“We have no evidence that RAF strikes have caused civilian casualties.

“We recognise the challenge faced by coalition pilots in close urban fighting against a ruthless terrorist enemy that uses civilians as human shields, but are clear that to do nothing would leave cities in the hands of Daesh brutality.

“We do everything we can to minimise the risk through the rigorous targeting processes and the professionalism of our RAF crews.”

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Workers Say NAFTA’s Neoliberal Foundations Need to Be Dismantled From the Left — Not the Right


Image result for NAFTA CARTOON

Rejecting both economic nationalism and free-market fundamentalism, workers across North America are building transnational solidarity and demanding labor rights for all.

Last week, nearly 60 representatives of unions and civil society organizations from Mexico, Canada and the United States gathered in Chicago for a two-day meeting to discuss strategies for collaboration as their governments renegotiate the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The meeting was coordinated by the United Electrical Workers (UE), UCLA Labor Center and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, an international civic education institution affiliated with Germany’s Left Party. While many Mexican unions are dominated by the government, only the country’s more independent and democratically run labor organizations attended.

“We’re discussing what kinds of relationships can be built, either bi-nationally or tri-nationally,” Benedicto Martínez, a national co-coordinator of Mexico’s Frente Auténtico del Trabajo, or Authentic Labor Front (FAT), told In These Times. “At the forefront of our vision would be the rights of people, including better wages, better education, better healthcare and immigration rights.”

Critics argue that NAFTA has accelerated the global “race to the bottom,” where governments dismantle workplace and environmental protections in order to attract capital investment.

“NAFTA has had many negative impacts. Big companies come to Mexico accommodated by the government as workers’ rights are constantly violated,” Julia Quiñones, coordinator of the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s, or Border Workers’ Committee (CFO), told In These Times.

CFO organizes maquiladora workers in the northern Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Chihuahua. The foreign-owned maquiladoras along the US-Mexico border, which produce goods for export, embody the most pernicious aspects of “free trade”: exploiting low-paid, majority-women workers and polluting their surroundings.

Quiñones explained that maquila workers often face sexual violence from their managers, are exposed to dangerous chemicals, work 12- to 14-hour days and are frequently fired or blacklisted for trying to organize.

“Nobody benefits from these trade deals other than corporations,” said Kari Thompson, UE’s director of international strategies, in an interview with In These Times. “Not working people, not the environment, not women, not people of color, not farmers.”

The tri-national participants in last week’s Chicago gathering protested outside the Mexican Consulate Friday afternoon, calling on the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto to listen to the demands of Mexico’s workers in the NAFTA renegotiations. Adhering to neoliberal orthodoxy, Peña Nieto’s negotiators say that more trade, not more labor protections, will benefit workers.

“We’re denouncing the fact that independent, democratic unions like the ones we represent are not being heard,” Víctor Enrique Fabela Rocha of the Sindicato de Telefonistas (Telephone Operators Union) told In These Times. “We want a strong labor component in NAFTA. We want decent work as expressed by the International Labor Organization.”

In particular, the consulate protesters demanded Mexico raise its minimum wage. They argue that the increase would not only benefit Mexican workers, but also workers in the United States and Canada, by making it less profitable for companies to move production to Mexico. The current minimum wage in Mexico is roughly $4 per day.

Abraham Garcilazo Espinosa, a mineworker from Mexico City and representative of the Sindicato Minero (the National Union of Miners and Metalworkers), told In These Times that the wage disparity in the mining industry is especially glaring.

“In Canada and the US, miners are doing the same thing we do in Mexico, often for the same companies, but Mexican miners are making a lot less money,” he said. “The work requires the same level of specialization, training and risk in all three countries, but with very different wages.” While the median monthly income of mineworkers in the United States and Canada is about $2600, in Mexico it’s about $600.

Prompted by President Donald Trump, the NAFTA renegotiations began in August and are expected to continue into 2018. As part of his “America First” vision, which has been widely criticized for racist and xenophobic overtones, Trump wants to reverse the US trade deficit with Canada and Mexico.

“We think NAFTA is a bad deal, absolutely,” Thompson says. “But just because Trump wants to renegotiate this deal doesn’t mean he actually has the interests of working people in mind.”

Two key demands of the organizers who gathered in Chicago — ending corporate protections like the undemocratic Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and making it easier for workers in all three countries to form unions — are not on the Trump administration’s agenda.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has complained that the hostile legal environment for unions in the United States compared to Canada creates unfair labor market competition between the two countries. In response, Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill last month that would prohibit states from passing anti-union “right-to-work” laws.

Although Canada has fewer legal obstacles to forming unions, activists there say guest workers from Mexico and other countries are routinely exploited.

“Canada bills [its guest worker program] as a best-practice model of labor mobility, but the workers have no mobility. They get fired if they speak up and have no recourse,” said Evelyn Encalada, a founding member of the Canadian nonprofit Justice for Migrant Workers who participated in last week’s meeting. “We want all workers in North America to have mobility, labor rights and the right to have rights,” Encalada told In These Times.

The transnational solidarity on display last week is based on relationships that have developed over several years. The FAT and UE have been in a strategic alliance — consisting of worker-to-worker exchanges and cross-border organizing — since NAFTA’s original negotiations began in 1992. This August, the UE also entered into a new cooperation agreement with the progressive Canadian union Unifor.

The Mexican unionists who visited Chicago hope to draw international support for activists with Sitrajor, the independent union of employees at the left-leaning Mexico City newspaper La Jornada. After Sitrajor staged a five-day strike to defend wages and benefits this summer, the company that owns the paper fired two of the union’s leaders. Activists say the dismissals were retaliatory and are calling for the fired workers to be reinstated.

“International solidarity has been fundamental for the survival of our union in recent years,” explained Garcilazo Espinosa of the Sindicato Minero. His union’s leader, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, was forced to flee to Canada in 2006 after the Mexican government — which he openly criticized — accused him of corruption and issued an arrest warrant. An appeals court overturned the warrant in 2014 for lack of evidence.

Garcilazo Espinosa told In These Times the Sindicato Minero has withstood repression with the help of labor organizations around the world, including the United Steelworkers and the global union federation IndustriALL.

The organizers at last week’s gathering agree that transnational labor solidarity is better for workers than Trump’s brand of nationalism. “I don’t know who invented those lines called borders, but everything Trump is saying about putting up a wall — we’re completely against all of that,” said Martínez.

“If we just try to fight against these trade deals within the silos of our own individual organizations,” Thompson warned, “then the corporations will win.”

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The FBI Is Once Again Profiling Black Activists Because of Their Beliefs and Their Race


By Janine JacksonFAIR 

Over a hundred people gathered in front of the home of recent NYPD victim Dwayne Juene in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on August 19, 2017; to protest the killing of the mentally ill by NYPD. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Over a hundred people gathered in front of the home of recent NYPD victim Dwayne Juene in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on August 19, 2017. (Photo: Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)

Janine Jackson: Demonstrations continue in St. Louis, Missouri, over the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of first degree murder charges in the 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith. Very likely some protesters would tell you they are distraught and angry, not just about this case, but about the undeniable fact that US law enforcement rarely pay any penalty for murdering black people, whatever the circumstance. According to an FBI intelligence assessment recently leaked to Foreign Policy, that may make those people “black identity extremists.”

The report, written up by Foreign Policy’s Jana Winter and Sharon Weinberger, was dated August 3, nine days before the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The report assesses that

it is very likely black identity extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African-Americans spurred an increase in premeditated retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement, and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.

If that sounds to you like a set-up — a pretense by which anyone protesting police brutality is ipso facto guilty of extremism that calls for action by the “counterrorism division” of the country’s most powerful law enforcement — well, you aren’t alone with those concerns.

Nusrat Choudhury is senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. They’re pursuing the issue. She joins us now by phone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Nusrat Choudhury.

Nusrat Choudhury: Thank you so much for having me.

What can we say about how the FBI seems to be defining “black identity extremists,” and the vagueness of that term, that we’re all sort of laugh/crying about, could that be the point of it, in some way?

Well, the report is disturbing on so many levels, not the least of which is that it’s a red flag that the Bureau is once again profiling black activists because of their beliefs and their race. And we know that there’s a long history in this country of the FBI using the fear of threats, real or perceived, as a cover for profiling black people, and in particular black civil rights leaders and activists. This report doesn’t make sense, and it raises that red flag that this is happening, yet again, to today’s modern-day black civil rights movement leaders.

I’m going to ask you a little about that history, but what, on the face of it, is what they’re calling evidence for the existence of — I mean, the assessment says, we’re talking about criminal activity; that’s different from protected activity, but what is their evidence for the existence of a “black identity extremist” movement, and then the definition of that as a violent movement?

Right. So the definition is so confusing that it’s really hard to discern, but it seems to be circular. The FBI talks about six separate violent incidents in this internal report, and then appears to assume, it literally “makes a key assumption,” that those incidents were ideologically motivated. And then it even contradicts itself to acknowledge that those six incidents appear to have been influenced by more than one ideological perspective. Yet it concludes that there is some kind of unitary “black identity extremist” threat, I would say a so-called threat.

And what this does is raise lots of questions from the public, from black people, black activists, and certainly the ACLU, and that’s why the public needs to know: What does this term even mean, what’s the basis for it, and what’s the FBI doing after creating this designation? That’s why we have joined with the Center for Media Justice in filing a Freedom of Information Act request, seeking all documents that use this term, as well as other terms that have historically been used as a guise for surveilling black people and black activists.

We know that the general public responds differently when you label something “terrorism,” when you label something “extremism,” and that that impact is meaningful. You know, this sounds like kind of Alice in Wonderland: “If I stab you and you object, you are an anti-stabbing extremist.” But we know from history that a tool doesn’t have to be precise to be used: You don’t have to sharpen a knife if you’re going to use it as a club. So what are the concerns about the way this new designation — even if everybody kind of scoffs at it — how do we think it might potentially be used?

The FBI, when it releases a report like this internally, that kind of labeling of a so-called threat can be the basis for additional surveillance, investigations and law enforcement activity. So creating this new label, even on the basis of these flawed assumptions, these conclusions that don’t make sense on the face of the report, could lead to further surveillance and investigative activity, not just by the FBI, but even by other federal, state and local law enforcement who share information with the FBI.

So for good reason, black people and especially black activists are really concerned. They want to know what this is being used to do, and they have really good reasons to fear that it’s going to be used to promote further law enforcement scrutiny of their First Amendment–protected activities, and even potentially result in racial profiling.

You mentioned the relevant history here. Can you tell us some of that history, which doesn’t go — it starts in the past, but it continues up to the present. What is some of the FBI’s history in this regard, that raise questions for folks?

The federal government and the FBI in particular kept files on civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s and ’70s. We know that even more recently, since 9/11, that the federal government, including the FBI, kept information on American Muslim civil rights leaders and academics. As recently as 2005 and 2006, state law enforcement were exposed for infiltrating and monitoring peaceful political protests.

So there’s this history of targeting people because of their race, as well as because of their beliefs, and often at that intersection are black activists, more recently also American Muslim leaders and activists. This is a history we know so well, and the exposure of this report needs to be a catalyst to get more information, and really just to demand that this stop.

And I know folks will be thinking COINTELPRO, which is, of course, a program against black activists in the ’50s and ’60s and even into the ’70s, most famously known for targeting Martin Luther King, but also taking aim at other civil rights organizations.

Absolutely. And that history is a long, sordid one; it has been exposed. It involved extensive surveillance of people who were deemed “black extremists” or “black nationalists” in that covert FBI COINTELPRO program. But creating a new label and just extending that type of surveillance to the modern day, we know what the harms are, and that’s not what the federal government should be doing.

We also know that people within federal, state and local law enforcement have been raising concerns about far-right violence, and about violence by white nationalists and white supremacists, those types of threats. So at a moment when there are many people in the intelligence community stating that those threats are on the rise, why is the FBI creating a new designation for a so-called threat of “black identity extremists,” without sound methodology or conclusions that the threat even exists?

I certainly see the problem that a lot of folks are pointing out, saying that they’re lumping together various groups. And I also, though, appreciate the comments of Hari Ziyad on Afropunk. They talked about our desire to find a meaning in the violent/nonviolent distinction, and they said — one of the cases that the assessment cites is Micah Johnson, who killed police officers. And Ziyad says:

Because there aren’t too many Micah Johnsons, we reason, “extremists” like him can continue being unethically bombed by robots as long as we don’t get bombed too. But black people always get bombed, literally and figuratively, in an anti-black world, and no amount of distance between us and black “extremists” will change that.

In other words, the supposed safety that we’re offered, if we are not like those extreme black people, doesn’t exist. And it seems to me an important point, because I think, again, those who are not immediately impacted may buy the idea that they aren’t going after black people, they aren’t going after black activists, only violent people, and that seems an important distinction to kind of play with, or to at least interrogate.

I think that’s right, and the public wants safety; people want law enforcement to focus on true threats, and true threats of violence, right? But what the FBI is doing is talking about “extremism,” and what is that? People are allowed to have beliefs, and there’s a lot of evidence out there that just having a radical or extreme idea does not show that people will actually engage in violent conduct. But using that label with broad brush strokes, and linking it to black identity, is exactly the kind of overbroad categorization that can lead to racial profiling, and targeting people because of their beliefs.

Finally, you note that the ACLU, along with the Center for Media Justice, have filed a FOIA request, a kind of what-the-heck-is-going-on-here request. What are you hoping to learn, and what’s our way forward?

This FOIA is a tool really for the public. And the Center for Media Justice, which consists of black activists and folks who are really at the forefront of doing that protest work, they are partners with us in this effort. We’re hoping to get documents that will shed light on exactly how this term is being used, how often it’s being used, what other types of investigations or surveillance have been conducted as a result of the creation of this kind of designation.

And in the past, similar FOIA efforts have shown that the FBI has mapped racial and ethnic communities, and given more insight into exactly what the FBI is doing with the dramatic and vast tools at its disposal. So we’re hoping to get that information. If we don’t, we will push for that information, using the tools that the Freedom of Information Act provides.

We’ve been speaking with Nusrat Choudhury from the ACLU Racial Justice Program. You can follow their work online at Nusrat Choudhury, thank you so much for joining us today on CounterSpin.

Thank you so much for having me.

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Neo-Nazis Target College Campuses in Recruitment Drive


By Eleanor J. Bader

A flyer put up at the Texas Women's University for the white supremacist group the National Bloc. (Photo courtesy of Justin Cook)

A flyer put up at the Texas Women’s University for the neo-Nazi group the National Bloc. (Photo courtesy of Justin Cook)

The messages are not subtle: “Make America White Again”; “Imagine a Muslim-Free America”; “Are You Sick of Anti-White Propaganda in College? You Are Not Alone. Take Your Country Back.”

They’re signed by a handful of neo-Nazi groups — Identity Evropa [sometimes spelled Europa], The Right Stuff and Vanguard America — and they aim to inspire students to oppose multiculturalism and efforts to promote diversity. Their specific targets are feminists, anti-racist assemblies including Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ activists and organizations, and those in support of immigrant rights. Bigotry against Muslims and Jews provides the foundational pillar for their rage and resentment.

“Our movement is almost 90 percent young White men who know they are screwed if things don’t start improving,” a July 2017 article on states. “We are de facto not a White advocacy group as much as we are a Young White Men’s Advocacy group…. Minorities have explicit advocacy groups. Jews have just about everything. Young White Men do not have any money or political power…. or even deep-pocketed supporters. But then, they never have. Young White Men have always had to make up for this disadvantage through their enthusiasm, energy and ambition. They have always had to rise up and take what was theirs.”

At the core of this delusion is the fact that US demographics are changing and the US and Europe will soon join the rest of the world in being majority non-white. Three years ago, in fact, 50.2 percent of American children under the age of five were African American, Asian, Latinx or mixed race; by 2060, projections suggest that 56 percent of the US population will be of color, a stark contrast to 1965, when the population was 85 percent Caucasian.

Recruiting on College Campuses

Perhaps surprisingly, many white college students have proven receptive to arguments about the beleaguered white male. Neo-Nazi darling Richard Spencer, the 39-year-old Duke University graduate school dropout credited with coining the term “alt-right,” explains his rationale for targeting males in this age group: “People in college are at this point in their lives where they are actually open to alternative perspectives…. You need to get them while they’re young. I think rewiring the neurons of someone over age 50 is effectively impossible.”

Part of the right’s appeal is situational, says Ryan Lenz, senior writer at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, since many young white men have a hard time seeing themselves as privileged. “Many were born in a time of recession and are taking out college loans that they might not be able to pay back,” he told Truthout. “They give a welcome ear to anyone speaking about white pride and white superiority.”

Bader campus 2

A neo-Nazi flyer posted at Texas Women’s University. (Photo courtesy of Justin Cook)In addition, because neo-Nazis position themselves as underdogs, they prey on student sympathies because many young adults automatically side with those on society’s lowest rungs. “They purport to be a fresh political voice looking for a moment in the public square,” Lenz said. It’s a claim that at first blush can appear reasonable. Only later, he says, will the “alt-right” recruiters’ actual goal become apparent — to, in his words, “undo a system of pedagogy that accepts tolerance as truth.”

Indianapolis therapist Carol Hornbeck notes that many white adolescents and young adults are susceptible to this recruitment strategy because it is an invitation to avoid confronting their own status or position. “Unless young men have feminist or progressive family members, they can be oblivious to their privilege,” she said. “For those who attend a liberal arts college, this can mean they are completely unprepared to have their identities challenged.”

What’s more, she continues, many students finish college only to find themselves underemployed, and if white male students have not developed an understanding of their own privilege and how structures of oppression benefit them, they may be drawn to false arguments about how they are disadvantaged.

“When someone comes along and tells them it’s not their fault, but rather women and people of color have taken what should have been theirs, you’ve got a perfect set-up for reactivity,” Hornbeck said.

And they do react. Since the start of the Trump presidency, hundreds of campuses — public and private, two- and four-year — have been targeted by neo-Nazi recruiters. Here’s a smattering: American University, Arizona State, Auburn, Bates, Cal State, Clark, Emerson, Georgetown, Georgia State, Ohio State, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Davis, The University of Texas-Austin, St. Olaf, Texas Women’s University, Texas Christian, The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, The University of Washington, The University of Virginia, Rochester University, Southern Methodist, and countless more.

A Vanguard America flyer posted at Texas Women's University. (Photo courtesy of Justin Cook)

A Vanguard America flyer posted at Texas Women’s University. (Photo courtesy of Justin Cook)Texas has been particularly hard hit — Vanguard America launched its Texas Offensive in February 2017 — but virtually every state has seen some “alt-right” outreach. Indeed, on campus after campus, students, faculty and staff have found posters and stickers with “white pride” messages. While a few schools have welcomed speakers like Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos, most have avoided direct engagement with “alt-right” stars, since the inevitable confrontations have a negative impact on recruitment and retention.

David P. Angel, president of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts — the first US university to offer a Ph.D. in Holocaust Studies — for example, issued a short statement shortly after the campus was stickered with messages, including “Look Around White Man, Your Culture is Being Eroded.”

Angel’s two-paragraph response declared that, “We at Clark University refuse to be a platform for this hate speech…. Let us join together and denounce these racist views loudly and without qualification. We combat hate by raising our voices and by reaffirming the values of diversity, inclusion and respect that bring strength to our community.”

Of course, the strategies by which students and faculty will raise those voices differ across states, campuses and communities.

Texas Activists Respond

Peter, an undergraduate at the University of Texas-Austin has little patience for statements that are unaccompanied by action. A member of the Autonomous Student Network (ASN), he reports that since Trump’s election, Identity Evropa has plastered racist leaflets on the UT campus approximately twice a month and has coalesced with other neo-Nazis to hold rallies and marches in different parts of the city. ASN has opposed them at every turn.

A flyer for Vanguard America posted at Texas Women's University. (Photo courtesy of Justin Cook)

A flyer for Vanguard America posted at Texas Women’s University. (Photo courtesy of Justin Cook)“If we want people in our communities to be safe, it is up to anti-fascists to stop their propaganda campaigns and recruitment,” he told Truthout. “The police won’t do it. We don’t egg the fascists on, but we do weekend patrols, put up anti-racist posters, and confront hate-mongers when they march in Austin or show up on campus. When we learned that UT had hired a fascist as a cook, we doxed him.”

Resisting fascism, however, has utilized a variety of diverse strategies. At Texas Woman’s University (TWU), the nation’s largest university primarily for women (87 percent of the student body is female), Vanguard America has reached out to potential recruits on campus twice since August. Sarah Gamblin, associate professor of dance, says that after the first stickering at the end of summer, a group of students and campus staff came together to remove the leaflets and signs. Later, a student group distributed hearts and flowers with messages like “TWU does not support hate” and “TWU loves diversity.”

“The chancellor and the upper-level administrators liked this response,” Gamblin says.

However, the white supremacist group was not yet finished with TWU: A second leafleting by Vanguard America took place on October 6. This time, the posters included several messages. The most overt depicted an Aryan-looking man: “The time has come where mere words must give way to action. Join the Fight. Take Back What is Rightfully Ours.”

“There was no public acknowledgment of this second postering from the TWU administration,” Gamblin reports. “People seem to believe that the best response is to ignore them.

TWU graduate student Justin Cook, who teaches first-year composition classes on campus, disagrees with this strategy and joined several other students and faculty members to remove the messages as soon as they noticed them. “TWU is majority women and has a large population of students of color. As an instructor, I could not in good conscience have my students walk past these hurtful posters,” he said. “Of course, this raises age-old questions about free speech on campus, a subject that is always fraught.”

A Reactionary Moment

A white supremacist flyer posted at Texas Women's University. (Photo courtesy of Justin Cook)

A neo-Nazi flyer posted at Texas Women’s University. (Photo courtesy of Justin Cook)While free speech debates will undoubtedly continue to unfold, the reality of neo-Nazi recruitment efforts is both terrifying and grim.

“The ‘alt-right’ has found a shocking number of men who are receptive to their message,” SPLC’s Ryan Lenz said. Equally disturbing, despite blatant sexism, a small number of women are also entering the “alt-right” ranks. Take Ayla, a Utah mother of six whose “Wife with a Purpose” blog encourages female subservience and advises white women that it is their patriotic duty to procreate with white men.

“The ugly reality comes down to how white people see their place in the world,” Lenz said. “For some college students, joining a white nationalist group is a way to give the middle finger to the culture. It’s a reactive backlash to the multiculturalism, tolerance and equality that they’ve heard promoted throughout their lives.”

Mounting an effective resistance to counter this reactionary current remains one of the biggest challenges of our time.

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Stop Warrantless Searching of Our Emails, Chats and Browser Data


By Rainey Reitman

Image result for NSA SPY CARTOON

Congress is poised to vote on extending or reforming NSA surveillance powers in the coming weeks, and one issue has risen to the forefront of the fight: backdoor searches. These are searches in which FBI, CIA, and NSA agents search through the communications of Americans collected by the NSA without a warrant. This practice violates the Fourth Amendment. But the government argues that since the NSA originally collected the communications under statutory surveillance powers, the government doesn’t need a warrant to search through them later. This is a “backdoor” around the Constitutional rights that protect our digital communications.

But we have a chance to shut and lock that backdoor, so that government agents don’t access the communications of Americans without proving probable cause to a judge.

The USA Liberty Act introduced this month is considered the most viable NSA reform package, and privacy champions on the Hill were able to insert some safeguards against warrantless search into the initial draft. FBI agents who know about a crime and are searching someone’s communications to obtain evidence and build up a case will have to go to a judge and get a warrant before accessing those communications. That’s a good step.

But it isn’t the full reform we need. That’s because the USA Liberty Act won’t extend the warrant protections to NSA or CIA agents, who we know routinely search this vast database of communications. If the FBI is merely poking around the database trying to look for criminal activity but isn’t investigating a specific crime, they won’t be required to get a warrant. And “foreign intelligence gathering” — a notoriously broad and vague term in the government’s parlance — will also be exempt from this warrant requirement.

Accessing American communications should require a warrant from a judge. The reform in the USA Liberty Act is an effort to move in that direction, but it leaves a policy that’s open to abuse. Under the current legislative draft, NSA agents can still read emails of Americans and pass “tips” to domestic law enforcement, all without judicial oversight.

EFF is asking members, friends, and concerned citizens to raise their voices over this issue. Please call your members of Congress and tell them that we won’t tolerate exceptions to our Fourth Amendment rights

We have shown many times over the last few years that calls can make a huge difference. And this is the moment: the Judiciary Committee in the House is considering revisions to the bill right now. This is the time to put pressure on the House if we want to see the backdoor search loophole shut.

Visit to speak out.

Any and all original material on the EFF website may be freely distributed at will under the Creative Commons Attribution License, unless otherwise noted. All material that is not original to EFF may require permission from the copyright holder to redistribute. 

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Seeking Sanctuary in Columbus


Image result for US government's immigration policy. CARTOON

ICE wants to deport a 40-year-old mother of three who has lived more than half her life in the US, and most of that in Columbus, Ohio.

But Edith Espinal isn’t going.

This month, she sought sanctuary at the Columbus Mennonite Church, whose congregation decided unanimously to continue a tradition of opening their doors to the victims of the US government’s immigration policy.

“Today, Columbus, Ohio, truly becomes a sanctuary city,” Rubén Castilla Herrera, an organizer with the Ohio Interfaith Immigrant and Migrant Justice Coalition, told a crowd of people gathered at the church as Espinal arrived. “We need policy and legislation, but ultimately, sanctuary comes from the people.”

Back in September, Espinal — who came to the US from Mexico with her family when she was still a teenager — decided the risk of going to a check-in meeting at ICE headquarters was too great, and she took refuge in the church.

After a well-publicized press conference — which came the same day that the Trump administration announced it would cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — ICE seemed to relent, offering the option of applying to stay in the US permanently. Espinal returned to her family.

But at the end of September, she learned at a meeting with ICE agents that the appeal had been denied. Espinal was presented with the choice of buying a plane ticket to Mexico or being taken into custody on the spot.

She bought a ticket on a flight leaving October 10, but the following week, Espinal returned to Columbus Mennonite Church, and she has been living there ever since.

Churches have historically been a site of sanctuary because ICE’s policy — on paper, anyway — is to restrict its agents from locations deemed “sensitive,” including places of worship, schools, medical treatment facilities and other public places. Under Trump, though, there are plenty of stories to show this policy isn’t being honored.

The congregation of the Columbus church, with the support of activists and community members around Columbus, is vowing to protect Espinal. In the 1980s, the church offered refuge to those fleeing violence in Central America during the era of the US-backed dirty wars.


Just as the Columbus Mennonite Church is no stranger to sanctuary, Edith Espinal is no stranger to political activism. According to, Espinal was among the DREAM30 activists who took part in a civil disobedience action at the US-Mexico border to protest US immigration policies. She has been in removal proceedings since.

Espinal and her family have spoken out for immigration reform, and she has worked with the Central Ohio Worker Center, reports. “Her and her family have been on the streets fighting, marching and speaking for immigrant justice. Now, it’s time for us to show up her and her family.”

ICE has tried to put pressure on Edith by targeting her son, Brandow Espinal Gonzalez, who is also undocumented.

Though the immigration court hearing on his status isn’t due to take place until 2020, Brandow was being required to check in with ICE every two weeks. For each meeting, community members, faith leaders and activists met outside ICE headquarters in downtown Columbus to ensure his safety.

Last week, the Espinals and their supporters were able to celebrate a small victory — Brandow was told that he wouldn’t have to check in with ICE again for another six months.

As family advocate Mohammad Abdollahi said. “This shows that the community support is really working, that ICE knows that this family has a lot of support, and there’s a lot of people vying for them to be released and allowed to be reunited as a family.”

Brandow was excited to tell his mother the good news in her sanctuary at the church. “So many times I’ve seen her cry, now I can see her smile, for now,” he told a reporter. “They were using me to get to my mom.”


Now the Espinal family and its supporters are hoping that the solidarity campaign connected to Edith’s sanctuary will win justice.

The example of Javier Flores Garcia gives them hope. The Philadelphia man sought sanctuary to protect his family at the Arch Street United Methodist Church in early November of last year, fearing that deportation to Mexico was imminent.

This month, thanks to the efforts of his family and supporters, he was granted “deferred action” on the expulsion, which will let him live and work in the US while awaits approval of his US visa, which protects victims of violent crimes like Garcia, who was stabbed in 2004.

Remaining in sanctuary can be difficult personally, because it means being away from family, work and the community. But Espinal is determined to stay for her family. “What would you do if you were forced to be separated from your family?” she said to one reporter. “I think that most people would do what they could to be with their children.”

This is the path that Edith Espinal has chosen to take in Columbus, and it is also the choice of other immigrants, whether they seek refuge in a church or another “sensitive location;” whether public or private.

As community members, we must be able to provide these spaces and give support to our neighbors, regardless of their citizenship status.

The success stories of the sanctuary movement have lessons for us to draw in proposing options and safety to undocumented immigrants fearing deportations in the future. Awareness of these stories will impact the decisions of other immigrants facing the threat of deportation and being taken from their families. Since Edith Espinal’s case came to a head, another person has chosen sanctuary in Ohio.

We need a grassroots mobilization to defend immigrants, uniting their struggle with those of Black and Brown communities against police brutality, of refugees, of Indigenous people and the victims of US imperialism in all its forms.

Edith Espinal’s strength and courage should inspire us and help us move forward.

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Trump’s Nuclear Dreams: Nightmares Past and Present


By Rebecca GordonTomDispatch 

Donald Trump is escorted by a protocol official as he prepares to take the lectern to address the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 19, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Donald Trump is escorted by a protocol official as he prepares to take the lectern to address the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 19, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Preventing a nuclear war between the United States and North Korea may be the most pressing challenge facing the world right now.

Our childish, ignorant, and incompetent president is shoving all of us — especially the people of Asia — ever nearer to catastrophe. While North Korea probably hasn’t yet developed the missiles to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland, it certainly has the capacity to reach closer targets, including South Korea and Japan.

But what can ordinary people do about it? Our fingers are far removed from the levers of power, while the tiny digits of the man occupying the “adult day care center” we call the White House hover dangerously close to what people my age used to call “the Button.” Nevertheless, I think there may still be time to put our collective foot on the brakes, beginning with the promise of a bill currently languishing in Congress.

Meanwhile, many of us who were born in the post-World War II years are re-experiencing nightmares we thought we’d left safely in the past.

Duck and Cover

I was born seven years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Like the rest of my generation of Americans, I grew up in the shadow — or perhaps more accurately, the glow — of “the Bomb” (which, in those days, we did indeed capitalize). I remember the elementary school ritual of joining a line of neat, obedient second-graders crouching on knees and elbows against a protective concrete hallway wall, hands covering the backs of our necks. I remember coming home from school, recounting that day’s activities to my mother and watching as she rushed to the bathroom to vomit — her all-too-literal gut reaction to a world in which her children were being prepared in school for global annihilation.

In class, we saw civil defense films produced by the government, like the one that encouraged us to “set aside a small supply of canned goods” in makeshift basement shelters. “They’re safe from radioactivity,” the narrator assured us, as a lovely, young, white mother confidently placed the last can firmly on the cupboard shelf. (The film was far less enlightening about what to do once that “small supply” ran out.) Other movies reminded us that we should always be aware of the location of the nearest fallout shelter or taught us how to duck and cover.

By 1961, my family had moved from rural New York State to Washington, DC, where my mother got a job with the brand new Peace Corps. Everywhere in my new city I saw the distinctive black-and-yellow signs indicating fallout shelter locations. The student body at Alice Deal Junior High School was too big for hallway drills. Instead, at the appointed time, we would all be herded into the auditorium, where a solemn-faced principal would describe the secret underground shelter where we would all be safe, should the Soviets actually launch a nuclear attack on our country. I remember bursting out laughing, while my homeroom teacher fixed me with an angry stare. Who was the principal kidding? We lived in Washington, the number one political target of any potential Soviet nuclear strike. Even then, I was aware enough to know that, whether above ground or under it, we would either fry immediately or die of radioactive poisoning thereafter.

In my family, we joked about bomb shelters. We knew they wouldn’t save us. So I remember being shocked when, in the early 1960s, we visited the family of a friend of my mother’s named Yarmolinsky. We kids were all sent out to play behind their suburban Virginia home, where my brother and I stumbled upon a large dome in the middle of the woods. “What’s that?” we asked our new friends.

“Oh, that’s our fallout shelter,” one of them replied.

I was stunned. The Yarmolinskys lived just a few miles from Washington and yet they had their own fallout shelter! What I didn’t know then was that the father, Adam Yarmolinsky, at the time a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and one of his “whiz kids,” was the architect of a “complicated domestic [program] to expand the construction of fallout shelters in American homes.”

Indeed, “shelter morality” became one of the favorite ethical issues of the day. The question was: What responsibility would people who had the sense to build such shelters before an attack have for people who failed to do the same? In 1962, Life magazine published a cover story urging the government to build mass shelters in order to avoid just such a future division between “haves” and “have-nots.” It quoted a Mrs. Florence Ergang who said, “I am dismayed at shelter morality. It is natural to protect one’s family, but my ethics dictate that my neighbors be protected too.”

Even today, students in college political science or business ethics classes sometimes wrestle with the “fallout shelter exercise” (although the quandary it lays out undoubtedly seems to them like a scene from ancient history). In that exercise, students are asked to decide which individuals — a Latina sex worker and her infant son, a white male biologist, and so on — should be allowed to remain in a fallout shelter with limited space and supplies. There’s even a fallout shelter game for your cell phone where the characters are a bit more multicultural than in the civil defense films of the 1950s — although all three women pictured on the home screen still wear little-girl skirts.

As an adolescent, I knew all the words to satirist Tom Lehrer’s “Who’s Next.” (“First we got the bomb, and that was good/’cause we love peace and motherhood…”) I read the nuclear thriller Failsafe, the grim, end-of-everything novel On the Beach, and that peculiar mixture of racism and nuclear terror, Robert Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold, in which a nuclear blast sends the author’s self-reliant, libertarian hero into a dystopic future “America.” There, Black people oppress the white population — to the point of regarding young white women as culinary delicacies. Yes, the science fiction writer who gave the world Stranger in a Strange Land and taught hippies how to “grok” (to understand something deeply and intuitively) also created that perfect fictional confection of the fears of comfortable white people of the 1960s.

It’s hard to explain, especially to those who were born after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, taking with it the immediate fear of nuclear holocaust, what it was like to grow up in the knowledge that such a war was coming within your lifetime. It’s hard to describe what it was like to lie awake at night waiting for the sound of the sirens that would let us all know it was happening. During those long nights, I hid a transistor radio under my pillow, turning it on repeatedly to reassure myself that the pop-rock station I disdained during the daytime was still transmitting top 40 hits, not duck-and-cover instructions.

My morbid preoccupations weren’t unusual in that era. The constant threat of nuclear war formed the background radiation for the childhood of a whole generation. All my friends, many of whose parents worked for the federal government, shared my fears. When we said good night on the phone, my high school boyfriend and I sometimes wondered aloud if we’d see each other the next day. Our adolescent reckoning with our own mortality became a confrontation with the mortality of our species. We lived with a curious wartime consciousness, in which we planned for our futures while knowing that there might be none to plan for.

A Dose of Reality

So much for the never-realized fears of the baby boomers. How likely is Donald Trump not just to revive them, but to start a nuclear war with North Korea in 2017? Several indicators suggest that the danger isn’t as great as some of us may fear.

Trump has yet to follow through on his August 9th threat to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea, should it again threaten to attack the United States. Nor has he implemented his breathtaking guarantee at the United Nations that, should North Korea “force” us “to defend ourselves or our allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy” it. In both cases, as political scientist Steven Brams has pointed out, Trump’s rhetoric left the location of his nuclear tripwire so vague that even he may not know where it is or when it might be crossed. As recently as October 13th , according to the New York Times, North Korean officials “renewed their threat to launch ballistic missiles near Guam, an American territory in the western Pacific.” There has been no response from Trump, so we can only assume that, whatever he means by a North Korean threat, that isn’t it. Fortunately for the world, it seems that he’s treating such promises the way he treats all his utterances — as infinitely subject to reinterpretation or even retraction.

The president’s threats to use nuclear weapons may well be another instance of his well-documented “negotiating” tactics, in which he launches a bargaining process with a preposterous starting position in order to make the merely outrageous appear like a reasonable compromise.

Even in the case of another US adversary that may have sought nuclear weapons in the past — Iran — Trump has not been as decisively destructive as he could have been. Although he has railed endlessly against the six-nation nuclear agreement with Iran, negotiated in large part by President Obama, he didn’t tear it up recently (as he has often promised to do). Rather, he punted the problem to Congress, simply refusing to certify that Iran is abiding by the agreement, in spite of International Atomic Energy Agency assurances that it is. For a man who has an obvious urge to wield autocratic power, Trump is surprisingly willing to dilute it to get credit with his base while avoiding genuine action.

Those are modestly hopeful signs — although it’s hardly a hopeful sign of anything that the world is reduced to reading an American president’s words as if they were so many throws of the I Ching. Unfortunately, we must also consider ways in which Trump’s presence in the White House makes nuclear war more likely.

He has repeatedly expressed a personal fascination with nuclear weapons, although he seems to have little idea of what their actual use might mean. In March 2016, for instance, he told The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News that he might even consider using nuclear weapons in Europe, which he called “a big place,” as if some parts of it might be legitimate nuclear targets. And he added, “I’m not going to take cards off the table.” At an MSNBC town hall that same month, he proposed using nuclear weapons against the “caliphate” of the Islamic State. Nuclear weapons directed against guerrilla fighters? That makes so much sense!

When Chris Matthews suggested that Japanese citizens might be nervous on hearing a presidential candidate bring up the use of nuclear weapons, Trump responded by asking, “Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?” It might be a reasonable question, if someone other than Donald Trump had been asking it.

When word first surfaced that his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called him a “moron,” some of us wondered which of Trump’s many displays of ignorance had occasioned the label. Now we know. It seems to have been the president’s suggestion, at a July 2017 national security briefing, that the United States should increase its current nuclear arsenal of around 4,000 warheads by a factor of 10.

The advisers Trump seems to respect the most at the moment are generals or former generals, including his chief of staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Commentators (including some on the liberal end of the spectrum) like to think of this coterie of military men as the “grown-ups” in the Trumpian room. I’m not convinced, but even if they are more temperamentally suited to governing than this president, they have a tendency, not surprisingly, to reach first for military solutions to diplomatic problems.

Mattis, for example, has warned of “a massive military response” to any North Korean threat to the US or its allies. “We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea,” he told the reporters in September, “but as I said, we have many options to do so.” Similarly, when ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked McMaster, “[J]ust to be clear, threats alone will not provoke a US military response, will they?” the general replied, “Well, it depends on the nature of the threat, right?” McMaster then essentially argued that, because Kim Jong-un has had family members killed and is cruel to the North Korean people, he must be too unstable to understand how mutually assured destruction (a Cold War nuclear strategy with the apt acronym MAD) is supposed to work. Oddly enough, another communist dictator, Joseph Stalin, who presided over party purges and the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens, seemed to comprehend the concept well enough, but those inscrutable Asians are apparently altogether different.

Even retired General Kelly has recently said that North Korea simply cannot be allowed to have “the ability to reach the homeland” with nuclear-armed missiles, “cryptically telling reporters,” according to CNN, that “if the threat grows ‘beyond where it is today, well, let’s hope that diplomacy works.'”

* Trump’s civilian advisors aren’t much better. In September, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley told CNN’s State of the Union that the administration “wanted to be responsible and go through all diplomatic means to get [the North Koreans’] attention first.” But, she warned, “if that doesn’t work, General Mattis will take care of it.” Lest listeners should be confused about how he’d “take care” of that country, she explained as bluntly as the president had: “If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed.”

Certainly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has repeatedly brought up the need to keep communication channels open to North Korea, even in the face of Trump’s tweeted advice “that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.” Nevertheless, he seems to expect diplomacy to “fail.” On October 15th, Tillerson explained to CNN that “those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.” Until? Why does he assume bombs will fall? And exactly who does he expect to drop the first one? Is he talking about a possible US first strike?

It’s as if the entire administration has accepted the inevitability of an otherwise optional war. If you want an analogy, consider the way George W. Bush’s administration maintained the pretext of being open to negotiations with Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein until it launched its preordained invasion and the first bombs and cruise missiles began to hit Baghdad on March 20, 2003.

Trump wants to rule by command. The niceties of the Constitution, the law, and the doctrine of the separation of powers have made this harder than he thought. So far, his attempts to run the country by executive order have largely failed, with his “third one’s the charm” Muslim ban once again stalled in the courts. Even his latest move to dismantle Obamacare by ending federal premium subsidies won’t take immediate effect. Indeed, it already faces legal challenges from at least 18 states.

He’s frustrated. Why can’t he just wave a hand, like Jean-Luc Picard, commander of the Starship Enterprise, and order his underlings to “make it so”?

As it happens, there is one realm in which the Constitution, the legal system, and Congress make no difference, one realm where he can do exactly that. He, and he alone, has the power to order a nuclear strike. The more that what remains of law and custom can still prevent him from ruling by fiat elsewhere, the more likely he may be, as Senator Bob Corker has warned us, to put the world “on the path to World War III” and to the first use of such weapons since August 9, 1945.

Pull His Fingers Off the Button

Congress would still have time to stop this madness, if it had the courage to do so. There are a number of actions it could take, including passing a law that would require a unanimous decision by a specified group of people. (For example, officials like the secretaries of state and defense together with the congressional leadership for a nuclear first strike.

Better yet, Congress could reassert its long-abdicated constitutional right to declare war. It could, for example, approve a simple piece of legislation introduced in January by Representative Ted Lieu of California. According to the Congressional Research Service, his bill, House Resolution 669, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017, “prohibits the president from using the Armed Forces to conduct a first-use nuclear strike unless such strike is conducted pursuant to a congressional declaration of war expressly authorizing such strike.”

Congress should act while there is still time. Removing Trump’s ability to unilaterally launch a nuclear attack might ease some fears in Pyongyang. And the rest of us might once again be able to sleep at night.

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