Archive | December 15th, 2017

Understanding Zionism and the Liberation of Palestine

NOVANEWS

It’s been almost one hundred years since the Balfour Declaration and we are still trying to “understand” Zionism and Jewish supremacy in Palestine.

For a long time, what stood in the way of full understanding is the desire in Jewish intellectual circles on the left to fuse Zionism and Socialism in the belief that such a fusion would achieve so-called “Jewish national and social redemption” and at the same time be universally humanist toward Palestinian Arabs — in other words, the desire to view Zionism as “complicated” and give it validation through a critical perspective while at the same time insisting on its invaluable contribution to Jewish national development.

At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the Zionist delegation, “well versed in Western diplomacy and psychology”, rested their claims over Palestine on the promise contained in the Balfour Declaration as well as on various religious, historic and humanitarian “rights”. At the time, these Zionists, while careful to continue to use the term Jewish “national home” rather than Jewish state, contended that a Jewish Palestine with Jewish capital and know-how would be to the benefit of backward Arabs, ‘long oppressed by the Turks.”

This Ashkenazi man’s burden extended to indigenous Arab Jews as well, who at the time were a small minority in Palestine before their forced emigration to Israel in the 1950s from other Arab countries. Regardless of deceptive declarations around British aims in Palestine, Zionist goals were never “the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous population” that Great Britain supposedly espoused in a Nov 8, 1918 communiqué representing the British and French governments that was proclaimed throughout the Levant, including Palestine.

The majority of Jews in the world today are Ashkenazim, tracing their ancestry to Europe. In Israel, however, Sephardic Jews, who descend from Jews in Spain and North Africa, and Mizrahi Jews, who descend from Middle Eastern (i.e., Arab) Jews, account for “just over half (52%) of the Jewish population. There is also a small population (approximately 125,000) of Ethiopian Jews who account for 1% of the Israeli Jewish population.”

Smadar Lavie, author of Wrapped in the Flag of Israel, writes about:

… the paradox that allows the majority of the world to ignore the Mizrahi problem in Israel. While 85% of world Jewry are Ashkenazim, they mainly reside in the diaspora. 15% of world Jewry are Mizrahim, and almost all of them reside in Israel. I discuss the implications of this paradox on the Israeli Ashkenazi Left’s ability to hide its racism when this Left talk with pro-Palestinian NGOs in the West and with the Palestinian national elite in the WB and Gaza… Nothing is going to move toward resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict without taking into account Israel’s Mizrahi majority and their continual support of Israel’s ultra-nationalist Right, stemming out of the racist history of Israel’s Zionist Left.

The Mizrahim have a history of inequality in Israel, “based on the eugenics ideologies and practices of the Ashkenazi establishment”, with the Israeli Labor Party openly referring to the 1990s Jewish emigration to Israel by Ashkenazim from the former Soviet Union as the “white ‘alliya” meant to redeem the Jewish state from Mizrahization.

But again, we have a “complicated” situation here:

… The third generation of Mizrahim in Israel, those born in the 1970s whose parents and grandparents immigrated to Israel with the large wave of immigration in the 1950s, has mixed feelings toward its Mizrahi identity. For many, the lines between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim are blurring. Mizrahim and Ashkenazim, for the most part, study together, are enlisted together in the army, and often marry one another [On this last point, Lavie says, “All current demographers — some even of the Ashkenazi Zionist species — debunk “mixed marriages” between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim as a myth. Present rate of such marriages is 24–28%”.]

The Jewish state is in the business of brainwashing its Jewish citizens of all backgrounds (as well as Jews worldwide, the vast majority of whom are Ashkenazim). Renee Leavy, manager of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) South Florida’s social media campaign, writes:

Judaism teaches, that we should be willing to sacrifice our lives rather than commit murder, commit adultery or worship idols. [But] How many [Jewish] teenagers, especially those who grew up in the Israeli school system who have been brainwashed to believe that Arabs are subhuman are capable of thinking like that?

To help us understand the ins-and-outs of Zionism fully, the shameful realities of Israeli Jewish society, including Apartheid, had to be called out, one by one, dissected and analyzed, their “complications” often obscuring the heart of the matter — Palestinian suffering and dispossession — and putting the focus on Jewish identity politics.

Today in discourse about Palestine we have new “complications” having to do with internal differences among Israeli Jews and with the imperative of being consistent ethically and intellectually.

Ran Greenstein, author of Zionism and its Discontents: A Century of Radical Dissent in Israel/Palestine, expressed these new dynamics in a Facebook status as “Two self-defeating pseudo-radical strategies of ‘call out’ politics in Israel/Palestine”:

(1) conflating Zionism with ‘Zionists’, thereby excluding those willing to act on the basis of opposition to current Israeli state practices (post-1967), because they do not share a critique of earlier historical practices. Result: elevating the radical leftist credentials of the caller out (call outer?), while diminishing the potential for a broader action-based front here and now. And

(2) refusing to protest current manifestations of racism and state oppression (towards Palestinians, African asylum seekers and others), together with ‘white’ leftists, because of the historical sins of the Zionist left against Mizrahim. Result: elevating the radical Mizrahi credentials of call-out activists, who end up serving as useful idiots for the Israeli state and its oppressive practices at present.

We have catchphrases in the above (“conflating Zionism with Zionists”? Really?) that may make us feel clever but that needlessly complicate, in my view, our understanding of Zionism and Zionists (past and present) and the strategies that ought to be open for all those struggling to achieve Palestine’s liberation.

It is true that recognition of the brutalities of the ongoing Jewish-state-Nakba and explanations of its cause, which have been taking place among activists on social and alternative media for a long time now, have not translated into policies or concerns in the United States and the EU (let alone in Israel) for the well-being of Palestinian Arabs. Chances are good that joining a “broader action-based front”, admirable and exhilarating as this movement is, will also fail to question the normative principles and narratives associated with Zionism — i.e. Jewish supremacy in Palestine.

This is because, beyond self-interest politics, I believe that at the heart of the resistance of Western countries to justice in Palestine is the underlying and pervasive concern for Ashkenazi Jews, stemming from the trauma of the holocaust.

This position is ingrained even as it flies in the face of the very international laws these Western countries have themselves put in place.

The context of broader global social dynamics can work only if we address the particularity of the Jewish nationalist movement in Palestine — i.e., both its colonial and Jewish supremacist character — leading us to a position that embraces “the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous population” of Palestine.

It will not work if we begin making distinctions between Zionism and Zionists! Ran Greenstein writes,

“These people [liberal-left tendencies (Meretz in Israel, J Street in the USA, and many unaffiliated individuals and organizations)]define themselves as Zionist but deviate, to some extent at least, from some of the core policies pursued by mainstream Zionist movements and the State of Israel… There is no need for perfect agreement on all issues, tactical collaboration would serve us well.”

The core policy in the liberation of Palestine is that of return, which means the end of the Jewish state. Any Zionist who espouses the Zionist core ideology that Palestine belongs to Jews worldwide and not to its indigenous inhabitants, regardless of religion or ethnicity, is a Zionist without a difference in my view. Tactical alliances with such Zionists are bound to lead to another decade or two of obfuscation regarding the “rights” of Ashkenazi Jews to Palestine.

Fighting to make Israel “Jewish and Democratic”, rather than one truly democratic state for all, is a no starter for the liberation of Palestine. As Wayne Kraft, an American BDS activist, wrote on Facebook:

Those who believe that the occupation must be ended first to alleviate the most savage abuses must contend with the fact that the occupation has only been strengthened throughout all attempts to resolve and end it. That is, if the two-state solution is the only possible solution (interim or otherwise), well, it doesn’t appear to be possible.

The end of Israel— i.e., the end of Jewish Supremacy in Palestine is not only the ultimate goal; it is the only goal that will bring justice and liberation to Palestine after all these decades.

 

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Zionism: The Ideological Cover-up to Jewish Colonization of Palestine

NOVANEWS

The benign-sounding term “settler” or “settlement” is used so often in the news without reference to Jewish colonization of Palestine that the world often loses sight of the immoral nature of the Zionist project in Palestine. The term is used to describe Jews moving illegally to the West Bank, and commandeering land that belongs to Palestinians. Waves of Jews moving to Israel are no longer called colonists or even settlers in the news media, but rather immigrants. 

Palestine is the only and last active act of settler colonialism. Since the creation of the UN, “more than 80 former colonies [including several in the Arab world] comprising some 750 million people have gained independence since the creation of the United Nations.”

Why the exception in the case of Palestine? Because the ideological driving force behind the process, Zionism, is the most virulently and insidiously powerful force on the planet. Over the course of the past one hundred years — i.e., since the Balfour Declaration, Zionism has successfully manipulated imperial powers, first Britain and now the United States, and also instrumentalized Christianity, as well as Judiasm, to serve its political purpose.

As John Berger put it:

“Certain voices across the world are raised in protest [against the Jewish state]. But the governments of the rich, with their world media and their proud possession of nuclear weapons, reassure Israel that a blind eye will be cast on what its soldiers are perpetrating.”

Colonialism justifiably has a bad name. When Third World Quarterly published an article titled “The Case for Colonialism”, voices rose sharply demanding “retraction, to fire the journal editors, even to fire author and to revoke his PhD.” In that piece, Bruce Gilley argues controversially that Western colonialism was, “as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found.”

Because of the moral questions raised by Western colonialism, the truth about the colonial nature of the Zionist project in Palestine has long been suppressed — consider, for example, the repulsion generated when a course was proposed at UC Berkeley titled “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis”.

But despite the strong veil of Zionist hasbara that shielded the moral degeneracy of Zionism from view, the paradigm of Israel as a settler-colonial project did gain traction. When that happened, the attitude among pro-Israel and Zionist voices took on the same point of view as that expressed in the Third World Quarterly article.

“Settler colonialism conveys an unarguable sense of delegitimization, racial exclusion and financial exploitation”, wrote Arnon Degani in a Sep 2016 Haaretz opinion piece, titled: “Israel Is a Settler Colonial State — and That’s OK.”

…arguing for the comparability of Israeli history to that of the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, pulls the rug from under the agenda of singling out Zionism and its deeds as particularly evil… Israel, though, is probably heading more towards an arrangement similar to that of South African settler colonialism: a consolidation into a democratic republic in which the Whites are recognized as sons of the land and yet still enjoy many of the privileges they accumulated during Apartheid. In Israel, from the left (Haaretz’s own Gideon Levy and Rogel Alpher) and right (President Reuven Rubi Rivilin, MK Yehuda Glick), there is growing sentiment in favor of pursuing this particular one state settler colonial road.

The case being made here by Degani and his ilk is that Israeli Jews will still come out on top if Israel pursues the “one state settler colonial road”. They will be recognized as “sons of the land”, just as white settlers are in the U.S. or Canada, etc. have been, and “yet still enjoy many of the privileges they accumulated during Apartheid.” Clearly, this is a contention filtered through a Jewish supremacist ideology that is dismissive of the human rights of non-Jews.

BDS, on the other hand, is aimed at ending the three-tiered regime of injustice that has ruined Palestinian society since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948: 1) the military occupation and colonization of the Palestinian — and other Arab — territory occupied by Israel in 1967; 2) the system of institutionalized and legalized racism within Israel against non-Jews, and 3) the persistent denial of the internationally-sanctioned rights of the Palestine refugees, especially their right to return to their homes of origin and to reparations.

As Omar Barghouti observes,

“Moral reconciliation between conflicting communities is impossible if the essence of the oppressive relationship between them is sustained.”

And, in the case of Palestine, not even recognized.

And as long as the fundamental racism and moral blindness of Zionism continues to be obscured – as in negative references to “right-wing Zionism” rather than to plain Zionism or Jewish supremacy – the monumental ideological cover-up to Israel’s crimes against Palestinians will endure.

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Witness Report, Video: Nazi War Crimes Against Palestinian Youth in Hebron

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Image result for STAR OF DAVID AS NAZI LOGO CARTOON

International Solidarity Movement 

al-Khalil, Occupied Palestine – Witness accounts and video footage confirm that the Nazi army has been and is committing war crimes in dealing with the current wave of protests against the occupation, colonization, and ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

On Friday, December 8, 2017 around 4:30 PM, ISM activists clearly witnessed and filmed a unit of of around 40 Nazi soldiers and commanders in the H1 area of Hebron – which, according to the 1997 Hebron agreement, should be fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority – intentionally injuring the backs, shoulders, and heads of two randomly arrested teens. Much of this occurred after they had been handcuffed, blindfolded, and were held in custody. … Full article

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The massacre of children and others at El Mozote

NOVANEWS

Garden next to church in El Mozote where hundreds of child victims lie buried.

Thirty-six years ago, from December 10-12, 1981, the armed forces of El Salvador massacred hundreds of children in the town of El Mozote and surrounding communities. Last week El Salvador’s government divulged the results of the first official register of the victims who died in that massacre. Of 978 victims executed, 553 or 57% were under 18 years of age and 477 were 12 and under. Twelve infants died in their mothers wombs. Henceforth, at El Salvador Perspectives, we will refer to this atrocity as the “Massacre of Children and Others at El Mozote.”

As it covers the trial, the online periodical El Faro has offered us another view into the lives of the victims. A photogallery at the site shows ordinary objects of life in the village. The objects were recovered during the course of exhumations locating the bodies of the army’s massacre. Like the artifacts from Pompeii or Joye de Ceren, these items from everyday life give us a glimpse into the pre-disaster lives of the victims.

On this 36th anniversary, president Salvador Sanchez Ceren traveled to El Mozote for the first time during his presidency. In his speech, the president spoke of a debt to the victims, of the government’s efforts to invest in the zone as a form of reparations through public works, a health clinic, and cultural activities. The president indicated there were plans to construct a center devoted to historic memory so the events at El Mozote would not be forgotten. Despite his reference to historic memory, however, the president made no indication that the military would be required to open its archives from the time. He also made no mention of the current trial proceedings where former military commanders are charged with responsibility for the massacre of children and others at El Mozote.

Criminal law in El Salvador talks about those who are the material authors of a crime, the ones who pulled the trigger, and the intellectual authors of a crime, the ones who gave the orders for the crime. There have been previous trials in El Salvador for the material authors of such crimes as the murder of the Jesuits, a housekeeper and her daughter in 1989, or the murders of the four US churchwomen in 1980. But the current trial in the courtroom in San Francisco Gotera is the first full trial of the intellectual authors of atrocities committed during the civil war. For that reason, as well as the magnitude of the crime of a massacre of hundreds of children and others, the trial is historic.

The El Mozote criminal prosecution has developed a momentum and a seriousness not seen in any other case involving war crimes from the time of El Salvador’s civil war. It is a momentum pushed by the zealous efforts of the human rights lawyers for the victims who have called witness after witness to the stand to describe the loss of their families at the time. I have seen the coverage of the suit  and the commentary about it in social media increasing as each new witness takes the stand. In small steps, the country is starting to confront what justice means for a military command which ordered its soldiers to massacre children.

 

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What does Trump’s Jerusalem decision actually mean?

NOVANEWS

 US President Donald Trump at the white house, November 28, 2017 [Samuel Corum/Facebook]
By Hassan Ben Imran | MEMO 

“We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past… Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital.” So said Donald Trump last week.

With such logical fallacies and ignorance of basic legal facts, as well as the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, the US President decided that it is time for a new “formula” and recognised “Jerusalem as the capital of Israel”. He overlooked the fact that Israel is far from being “like every other sovereign nation.”

No sovereign nation in modern times has ever declared independence following the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population; and no sovereign nation has broken international law concerning Jerusalem in order to annex it and claim the city as the eternal capital of the Jewish people. Trump would be totally correct in his assumption had he been talking about any ordinary sovereign nation, but certainly not Israel.

In 1967, Israel completed its occupation of Palestine, including East Jerusalem; it is still the occupying power. Everything that Israel does in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, is done to make the occupation permanent. This colonialism peaked in 1980 when the Knesset (Israeli parliament) amended the Basic Law (5740 – 1980) to annex East Jerusalem and declare that “[t]he complete and united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel”.

With a sense of self-guilt, Israel worked hard to gain international recognition of its “new capital”. Knowing the grave legal and political consequences of such an ill-advised move, even its closest allies refused to acknowledge this “capital”. It was only in 1995 that the US Congress decided (or perhaps was made to decide) to recognise the Israeli annexation, although successive US Presidents have signed a six-monthly waiver to delay the implementation of the Congress decision. Israel had to wait until there was someone like Donald Trump in the White House to make the formal announcement.

The status of Jerusalem under international law

Few cities have received as much international attention as Jerusalem. This has entrenched its status in international law.

Despite the Israeli and now, sadly, the US efforts to change the status of Jerusalem through domestic legislation, media campaigns and diplomacy, several UN resolutions have affirmed and reaffirmed the opposite of what Israel sought. International law is clear on this; no state may claim, exercise or show any aspect of sovereignty over any territory through occupation.

After the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel began a systematic campaign to force out its Palestinian citizens and change its identity, even before formally annexing the territory. This was condemned by all, including the UN Security Council, where the US abstained and did not use its veto power.

In 1971, the UN Security Council issued Resolution 298 “[deploring] the failure of Israel to respect the previous resolutions adopted by the United Nations concerning measures and actions by Israel purporting to affect the status of the City of Jerusalem” and “[Confirming] in the clearest possible terms that all legislative and administrative actions taken by Israel to change the status of the City of Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties, transfer of populations and legislation aimed at the incorporation of the occupied section, are totally invalid and cannot change that status.”

It was so firm a stance by the Security Council that the US refrained from blocking it. One resolution after another came from the Council, the top decision-making body in the UN structure whose resolutions are meant to be binding on all the member states of the international organisation, reaffirming the same position. The most recent was Resolution 2334 passed in December 2016 rejecting the Israeli measures related to settlements, including those in East Jerusalem, and recognising those measures as grave breaches of international law.

Furthermore, in its Advisory Opinion on the Construction of the Wall in 2004, the International Court of Justice affirmed that East Jerusalem, as a part of the occupied West Bank, is an occupied territory that belongs to the Palestinians who are entitled to self-determination.

The status of East Jerusalem as an occupied Palestinian Territory has been affirmed and upheld by almost all of the UN member states, the exception being Israel, of course, and possibly now the US following Trump’s announcement.

Can Trump change the legal status of Jerusalem?

It is ironic that the only positive aspect of Trump’s decision was that he avoided using the term so loved by the Israelis: “complete and united Jerusalem”. This was used by Israel in its 1980 annexation legislation. This is not entirely reassuring, however, as it could be manipulated given that he mentioned Jerusalem with no further detail in the full knowledge that Israel annexed the eastern sector of the city.

The major risk here is the creation of customary law recognising the “undivided” status. International Customary Law, a source of international law according to the ICJ Statute, has two essential elements which, if fulfilled, may change the legal status of Jerusalem: state practice and opinio juris. As clarified in the North Sea Continental Shelf cases, state practice has to be frequent, repetitive and consistent, as well as being conducted or used by a significant number of states participating (given the size of the international community, the practice does not have to encompass all states or be completely uniform, there just needs to be a significant degree of participation). Opinio juris is the belief that an action was carried out as a legal obligation with the full awareness of its legal consequences, which must be in existence in order for the custom to be regarded as law.

International law is about the agreement of the relevant or involved parties, and the US has been the broker of the Palestine-Israel peace process, making it a directly-involved party. As such, the US seems to fulfil both requirements, state practice and opinio juris. Even so, there has to be a significant number of states following the new US measures in order to be able to contest the current legal status of Jerusalem. The US might be pushed by the pro-Israel Lobby to exert pressure on states relying on its military assistance or financial aid to recognise the new “status quo”. This would certainly embed Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land further and encourage the state to violate international law even more than it does now.

Probable consequences

This would have dire consequences, not only for the peace process, but also the city of Jerusalem and its Muslim and Christian population. It would encourage the Israeli authorities to annex more of the occupied Palestinian territories, change their identity and complete the ethnic cleansing of their people. Even the Muslim and Christian religious authorities in Jerusalem might not be safe and could be merged with those of the occupation.

This would be even worse if other countries are forced by circumstances to follow America’s lead on the issue. Countries which depend on US aid or military protection are vulnerable to pressure from the Trump administration.

Moreover, in a worst-case scenario, the weakness of the current Palestinian leadership may lead it to proceed with the peace process under the “new terms” which keep Jerusalem off the negotiation agenda.

What is to be done?

Trump’s dangerous move needs to be met with a serious response from the Palestinians and all those who believe in the justness of their cause. The Palestinian leadership, along with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which is the official Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, should take the issue to the UN General Assembly, and file a complaint to the Security Council. There should also be a request through the UN General Assembly for an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice on the new US measures.

Clear resolutions or even statements from intergovernmental organisations, such as the EU, Organisation of Islamic Coordination (OIC), Non-Aligned Movement and Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) affirming the status of the city as occupied territory and refusing to accept the US move would halt any possibility for any change in Jerusalem’s legal status. It would also discourage other countries from giving-in to US pressure.

The ICJ has jurisdiction to settle international disputes and adjudicate on contentious issues. Palestine or Jordan may bring the case to the ICJ on the basis that the US has breached international law in a move which has a direct impact on them both. Even if the US refuses to appear before the Court, this would weaken its position.

And within the US itself?

Article VI, Clause II of the US Constitution states that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land”. Despite the federal government enjoying sovereign immunity according to US law, there are several exceptions that could apply in this case. President Trump is obviously breaching treaties, such as the UN Charter and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, that are, according to Article VI, Clause II of the Constitution, “a supreme Law of the Land” and so he should be held to account under US law.

In conclusion, Donald Trump’s announcement about Jerusalem is an attack on international law and reinforces the sense that the “law of the jungle” rules in the Middle East. The international community has both the institutions and the tools to ensure the application of international law; it is time for them to be activated.

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Medics, Observers and a Journalist Face 50 Years in Prison in First Trial of J20 Inauguration Protests

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By Amy GoodmanDemocracy Now! 

Image result for TRUMP JUSTICE CARTOON

Final arguments are underway today in Washington, DC, in a case that could shape the future of free speech and the right to protest in the United States: the first trial of the nearly 200 people arrested during President Donald Trump’s inauguration. As demonstrators, journalists and observers gathered in Northwest DC after the inauguration on January 20, some separated from the group and vandalized nearby businesses and vehicles. Police officers then swept hundreds of people in the vicinity into a blockaded corner in a process known as “kettling,” where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area. The first so-called J20 trial could go to a jury as early as today, and involves six people, including one journalist, Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist. The defendants face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of destruction of property. Evidence against the defendants has been scant. We get an update from Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout the first J20 trial.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with an update on a case that could shape the future of free speech and the right to protest in the United States. Final arguments are underway today in Washington, DC, for the first trial of the nearly 200 people arrested during President Trump’s inauguration. As demonstrators, journalists and observers gathered in Northwest DC after the inauguration, on January 20th, some separated from the group and broke windows of nearby businesses and damaged cars. Police officers then swept hundreds of people in the vicinity into a blockaded corner in a process known as “kettling,” where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area.

The first so-called J20 trial could go to a jury as early as today, and involves six people, including one journalist, Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist. The defendants face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of destruction of property. Evidence against the defendants has been scant from the moment of their arrest. Earlier this week, Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz threw out the felony charge of inciting a riot for the six people on trial now, meaning they now face up to 50 years in prison instead of up to 60.

This comes as police conduct on Inauguration Day has come under scrutiny by the ACLU, and the chief detective in this case is a police union official who tweeted that police showed great restraint during the inauguration.

Well, for more, we go to Washington, DC. We’re joined by Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout this first J20 trial.

Jude, welcome back to Democracy Now! Explain what has happened so far and the significance of the judge throwing out the charge.

JUDE ORTIZ: Right. Thank you so much for having me on again.

So, since I was on last, the prosecutor has rested their entire case with all the so-called evidence against the defendants, and then the defense has also put on their witnesses to — like as part of their right to have witnesses come and testify on their behalf. That process for the defense was very short, about only about half a day in court. And then, now it’s into the like final arguments stage. So the prosecutors had their argument first, and then each of the defense attorneys for the defendants are putting on their arguments. This morning at 9:30, there will be the final two defendants, will have their closing arguments, and then the prosecutor will do a rebuttal. Then there will be some more kind of like legal housekeeping to do, before it goes to the jury.

So, the judge throwing out the inciting a riot charge was a huge development in the case. It’s something that after the prosecutor rests their case, defense attorneys will almost always file a motion to have the charges dismissed. In DC, it’s called a motion for judgment of acquittal. And it’s a formality, for the most part. It’s rarely ever successful. So it was really notable that one of the most significant charges against the defendants, not only in this trial bloc, but also in the case as a whole, was found, in this case, at least, to have no evidentiary basis at all. So, basically, the judge said that the state did not meet the burden of proof, and that charge therefore was dismissed, and the jury will not have to deliberate on that one at all.

AMY GOODMAN: So, but explain what that means, because we’re talking about numerous cases that will follow this one. Does this judge preside over all of these cases if the inciting to riot remains in the other cases?

JUDE ORTIZ: At this point, the judge is assigned to all the other cases. It’s important to note that there’s another case that is scheduled for this coming Monday for seven defendants, but that one probably will not be happening on Monday, because the jury will still be deliberating on this case. So, it’s unclear when the second trial will begin. It’s looking like it might be in January. And then, on March 5th of next year, all the way through October of next year, are all the remaining trials. And starting in May, there’s a trial scheduled for every single week. But the judge has indicated that her rotation, her job assignment, is switching from criminal court to family court as of January 2nd, so there will be a new judge or judges beginning in 2018.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you see this case as so significant for free speech in the United States?

JUDE ORTIZ: So, on January 20th, the police rounded up everyone who they can get a hold of in this vicinity. The police commander who testified at the beginning of the trial, or towards the beginning of trial, was very clear, both in his testimony as well as recordings from the police radio, that they were interested in the protest — it was an anti-fascist, anti-capitalist march — and they responded to that kind of preemptively by having around a hundred riot cops and their like lieutenants and sergeants, whatnot, there at Logan Circle, where the protest was scheduled to depart from and begin. And that commander said that rather than doing what is typical in DC, where they do rolling road closures to facilitate the exercise of free speech, instead they showed up with numerous vans full of riot police, and then they followed the march and began, pretty much immediately, to start to crack down on the march. That commander repeatedly used the word “anarchist” to describe everybody who was there. And that officer — or, that commander and other officers talked about everybody being like one group with nefarious intent.

So, from the outset, because of the alleged politics of the march and of the people who were there, the police responded in this very heavy-handed manner that culminated in them rounding everybody up and mass-arresting people. And the prosecutor has continued that by going forward with these charges against everyone. So, when that is the kind of method of operations, for the police going hand in hand with the prosecutor, that sends a very chilling message to anybody who’s interested in going out in the streets and voicing dissent, especially dissent to Trump, dissent to the rise of fascism, dissent to white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, like all these other like very devastating systems of oppression.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude, Assistant US Attorney Qureshi, the second-ranking prosecutor, who made closing arguments, said, in those arguments, a street medic was guilty by being present, and asked, “What do you need a medic with gauze for? She was aiding and abetting the riot. That was her role,” Qureshi said. Respond to that.

JUDE ORTIZ: So, that’s an entirely ludicrous claim. Medics have been at protests across the country for decades to be able to provide first aid type of care to people who are injured in various ways. One of the most notable ways people get injured at protests, as your listeners and viewers know, is by actions from the police. On January 20th, there was a massive amount of pepper spray deployed by police on people, sometimes directly in the face, sometimes on the side or from behind. And we saw this in trial through body cam — body-worn camera videos. There’s also a lot of body-worn camera videos of police knocking people down from behind with their batons. One of the officers who testified ran his bike directly into a protester. And so, there’s all these different ways that the people who are out there like in the streets can get injured very easily. There’s also the elements to deal with. In January, it was very cold, for the January 20th inauguration protest. Lots of different reasons why you’d have medics there in order to like render aid to people who get injured.

That prosecutor said that the supplies that were there kind of show that the medics, in general, were kind of like prepared for war, which is a — it’s as insulting as it is ludicrous to say that people who were out there in the streets were prepared for war, especially when you saw the Department of Homeland Security helicopter video showing all the police operations that were happening there on Inauguration Day, how the police took this like paramilitary approach, that was also supported by the National Guard in order to like corral people and use chemical and projectile weapons against people. So, if there was any kind of warlike conditions, that was coming from the police and from the government, and not from people who were there to render aid.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about some of the videos submitted as evidence in this case by federal prosecutors. This includes video by the Canadian YouTuber Lauren Southern, who the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as, quote, “tiptoe[ing] at the precipice of outright white nationalism.” Southern was there on January 20th, Inauguration Day, and was kettled during the protest, but was allowed to leave without being arrested. Prosecutors also submitted video evidence from the right-wing militia group Oath Keepers, who infiltrated protest planning meetings and secretly recorded them. Prosecutors also presented video from the discredited far-right group Project Veritas, just one day after The Washington Post reported Project Veritas had tried to dupe them with a false story of sexual misconduct by a woman undercover pretending to be a victim of Roy Moore. Go into this and why this matters, Jude Ortiz.

JUDE ORTIZ: It’s appalling to see so much of the state’s — the prosecution’s case and their so-called like evidence coming from overtly far-right sources. So, the Project Veritas video that you mention, it did come out in the courtroom as like a main piece of evidence, exactly like one day after that story broke. And one would think that that would kind of discredit or like cast into doubt like the kind of truthfulness or the usefulness of that evidence. The prosecutor and the police officer who was testifying about it gave no indication that the source of it was at all even a question mark or some cause of concern. The state, through various witnesses, the detectives who like testified about the video and whatnot, admitted that they did no kind of forensic investigation or examination of the tape to make sure that it wasn’t doctored in some way. Project Veritas, of course, is notorious for doctoring in the editing of their videos. And they were presented to the jury as one of their main pieces of evidence, and especially with the idea of conspiracy.

And so, when so much of the so-called evidence against these defendants and the defendants at large depends on this kind of so-called like investigative work of far-right actors, it really shows how the state itself, but with their police investigators, undercover cops infiltrating political protest planning meetings, the undercover and plainclothes police who were present on the march and like in the streets that day — all of these different like state actors were not able to find the evidence that would substantiate the charges the prosecutor has been so ferociously pursuing, and so they have to supplement that and really kind of create the evidentiary base through drawing on the far right.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the main detective working full time on the J20 case, Greggory Pemberton. On Inauguration Day, January 20th, he tweeted DC police officers used a, quote, “inspiring amount of restraint” and showed “professionalism.” Last November, he also tweeted about, quote, “disingenuous ‘activists’ who peddle lies and falsehood.” During the J20 trial, defense lawyers played this clip of an interview Pemberton gave to the far-right media outlet One America News Network, praising President Trump.

GREGGORY PEMBERTON: He certainly has a message of law and order, and he really is appealing to a lot of police officers. … Police officers want to hear that someone is going to come in and not allow this divisive, vitriolic rhetoric of this false narrative that all police officers are inherently criminal racists that are out here committing crimes against the citizens, and that they’re going to come in and put a stop to that.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude Ortiz, as we wrap up, can you respond to the significance of his involvement with the case and what he’s saying here?

JUDE ORTIZ: Yes. The detective, Pemberton, has claimed that he has looked through hundreds of hours of videos, hundreds of times, since January 21st. It’s been his full-time job, his only assignment. He was able, through that review, to present various compilation boards of photographs, as well as videos and PowerPoints, to give to the jury for their deliberations, that claims to have documentation of the location of each of the defendants all throughout the march, and presenting this as if that’s something that, like, being present like in the streets is a sign of guilt and is evidence of guilt of all these charges.

So it’s a tremendous amount of work that is like put in for these like very politically motivated way — or, reasons. And those political motivations are pretty clear when you look at his Twitter feed, with all of the far-right and pro-Trump things that he has promoted, like through retweets and through likes and through his own comments on Twitter. He claimed on the stand that that was only in the kind of exercise of his position as a board member of the police union. But whether that’s true or whether it’s his own personal opinions, those opinions that are put forward are very much in favor of like right-wing causes and very much against liberal or progressive, like radical-left causes and movements. And he’s even done very inflammatory and insulting things, like saying “black lies matter” — L-I-E-S — instead of “Black Lives Matter,” and discounting that entire movement, that has been so prominent in responding to police violence and brutality across the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, shortly after winning the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump tweeted his thoughts on dissent. He tweeted, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag–if they do, there must be consequences–perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” Your final comment, Jude Ortiz?

JUDE ORTIZ: I think comments like that show the kind of concerted effort and nature of repression of social movements in the United States. I want to clarify that: I mean like left social movements. The right social movements, that have become more prominent and public under Trump, have been facilitated by the state. We’re seeing that in places like Charlottesville. We’re seeing that in places like St. Louis and all across the country. People need to recognize like how things are shifting, and be ready to be out in resistance, to dissent and to not be scared away. And this case is a very important part of that.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude Ortiz, I want to thank you for being with us, member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout this first J20 trial. And we’ll keep you updated on this and other trials as they go on.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the movement to impeach President Trump, where does it stand, from Congress to counties, cities, towns across the United States? Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Blood and Roses” by The Smithereens. The lead singer, Pat DiNizio, died on Tuesday at the age of 62. And a shout-out to the classes that are visiting Democracy Now! today for today’s broadcast: Brooklyn Prep High School and Asian American Writers’ Workshop.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Medics, Observers and a Journalist Face 50 Years in Prison in First Trial of J20 Inauguration Protests

Could Eliminate Child Poverty Twice Over

NOVANEWS

By Rachel West

Image result for child poverty cartoons

This article was originally published at TalkPoverty.org

Congressional Republicans are rushing to finalize their tax legislation before the holidays. They haven’t held a single hearing, in part because their plan is one of the least popular pieces of legislation ever. It’s easy to see why: The Senate version of the bill would raise taxes on most families making $75,000 or less per year by 2027, while tying a big bow on permanent tax cuts for millionaires and large corporations. And after years of panicking over the size of the deficit, Republican leaders are now planning to balloon it by a whopping $1.5 trillion over the coming decade.

That tells you a lot about Congress’ priorities — especially since, for less than the cost of the Republican tax plan, Congress could eliminate child poverty in the United States. Twice.

According to the US Census Bureau, the 5.7 million poor families with children would need an average of $11,400 more to live above the poverty line in 2016. In total, the income needed to boost these families — along with the additional 105,000 children who were not living with their families — above the federal poverty level is about $69.4 billion per year in today’s dollars. Over ten years, that adds up to about 46 percent of what Congress plans to spend on its tax plan. There would be so much money left over after we boosted these kids out of poverty that the United States could also pay tuition and fees for all of them to get an in-state education at a four-year public university, and it still wouldn’t costs as much as the tax plan.

If Congress wanted to really let loose, and spend just 12 percent more than the tax bill does — for a total of $1.74 trillion — we could completely eliminate all poverty in America.

But instead of reducing poverty in the United States, Congressional Republicans are chipping away at the existing programs that support low-income people. Congress was so fixated on repealing the Affordable Care Act this summer that it ran out of time to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which insures 9 million kids. It has been 73 days since CHIP’s funding expired, and more than half of states could run out of money in the first months of 2018. Some are already paring back services in preparation.

And now, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his fellow Congressional Republicans have announced that their next priority is cutting critical programs such as Medicaid, which provides health care to 2 in 5 US children, and Social Security, which is the nation’s largest children’s anti-poverty program. To pave the way for these cuts, Ryan and friends are already rolling out poisonous rhetoric that paints low-income families as lazy and idle — even though Census data show that most families with children living in poverty do work, and are just being paid so little they can’t make ends meet.

These policies are obviously cruel. But, for a group of lawmakers who fancy themselves business-minded, they’re also stunningly financially irresponsible. Child poverty costs the United States a lot of money: an estimated $672 billion per year in lost productivity, worse health outcomes, and increased criminal activity.

Instead, congressional Republicans are choosing to saddle the nation’s kids with debt — the very thing they’ve repeatedly accused past administrations of doing — to finance a massive giveaway to the wealthy.

Posted in USAComments Off on Could Eliminate Child Poverty Twice Over

Trump’s First Year Sets Record for US Special Ops, Deploying to 149 Countries

NOVANEWS

By Nick TurseTomDispatch

Soldiers engage in a training exercise in Fort Irwin, California, on August 28, 2016. (Photo: the US Army)
Soldiers engage in a training exercise in Fort Irwin, California, on August 28, 2016. (Photo: The US Army)

“We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world, militarily, and what we’re doing,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in October. That was in the wake of the combat deaths of four members of the Special Operations forces in the West African nation of Niger. Graham and other senators expressed shock about the deployment, but the global sweep of America’s most elite forces is, at best, an open secret.

Earlier this year before that same Senate committee — though Graham was not in attendance — General Raymond Thomas, the chief of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), offered some clues about the planetwide reach of America’s most elite troops. “We operate and fight in every corner of the world,” he boasted. “Rather than a mere ‘break-glass-in-case-of-war’ force, we are now proactively engaged across the ‘battle space’ of the Geographic Combatant Commands… providing key integrating and enabling capabilities to support their campaigns and operations.”

In 2017, US Special Operations forces, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, deployed to 149 countries around the world, according to figures provided to TomDispatch by US Special Operations Command. That’s about 75% of the nations on the planet and represents a jump from the 138 countries that saw such deployments in 2016 under the Obama administration. It’s also a jump of nearly 150% from the last days of George W. Bush’s White House. This record-setting number of deployments comes as American commandos are battling a plethora of terror groups in quasi-wars that stretch from Africa and the Middle East to Asia.

“Most Americans would be amazed to learn that US Special Operations Forces have been deployed to three quarters of the nations on the planet,” observes William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. “There is little or no transparency as to what they are doing in these countries and whether their efforts are promoting security or provoking further tension and conflict.”

Growth Opportunity

“Since 9/11, we expanded the size of our force by almost 75% in order to take on mission-sets that are likely to endure,” SOCOM’s Thomas told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May. Since 2001, from the pace of operations to their geographic sweep, the activities of US Special Operations forces (SOF) have, in fact, grown in every conceivable way. On any given day, about 8,000 special operators — from a command numbering roughly 70,000 — are deployed in approximately 80 countries.

“The increase in the use of Special Forces since 9/11 was part of what was then referred to as the Global War on Terror as a way to keep the United States active militarily in areas beyond its two main wars, Iraq and Afghanistan,” Hartung told TomDispatch. “The even heavier reliance on Special Forces during the Obama years was part of a strategy of what I think of as ‘politically sustainable warfare,’ in which the deployment of tens of thousands of troops to a few key theaters of war was replaced by a ‘lighter footprint’ in more places, using drones, arms sales and training, and Special Forces.”

The Trump White House has attacked Barack Obama’s legacy on nearly all fronts. It has undercut, renounced, or reversed actions of his ranging from trade pacts to financial and environmental regulations to rules that shielded transgender employees from workplace discrimination. When it comes to Special Operations forces, however, the Trump administration has embraced their use in the style of the former president, while upping the ante even further. President Trump has also provided military commanders greater authority to launch attacks in quasi-war zones like Yemen and Somalia. According to Micah Zenko, a national security expert and Whitehead Senior Fellow at the think tank Chatham House, those forces conducted five times as many lethal counterterrorism missions in such non-battlefield countries in the Trump administration’s first six months in office as they did during Obama’s final six months.

A Wide World of War

US commandos specialize in 12 core skills, from “unconventional warfare” (helping to stoke insurgencies and regime change) to “foreign internal defense” (supporting allies’ efforts to guard themselves against terrorism, insurgencies, and coups). Counterterrorism — fighting what SOCOM calls violent extremist organizations or VEOs — is, however, the specialty America’s commandos have become best known for in the post-9/11 era.

In the spring of 2002, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, SOCOM chief General Charles Holland touted efforts to “improve SOF capabilities to prosecute unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense programs to better support friends and allies. The value of these programs, demonstrated in the Afghanistan campaign,” he said, “can be particularly useful in stabilizing countries and regions vulnerable to terrorist infiltration.”

Over the last decade and a half, however, there’s been little evidence America’s commandos have excelled at “stabilizing countries and regions vulnerable to terrorist infiltration.” This was reflected in General Thomas’s May testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The threat posed by VEOs remains the highest priority for USSOCOM in both focus and effort,” he explained.

However, unlike Holland who highlighted only one country — Afghanistan — where special operators were battling militants in 2002, Thomas listed a panoply of terrorist hot spots bedeviling America’s commandos a decade and a half later. “Special Operations Forces,” he said, “are the main effort, or major supporting effort for US VEO-focused operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, across the Sahel of Africa, the Philippines, and Central/South America — essentially, everywhere Al Qaeda (AQ) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are to be found.”

Officially, there are about 5,300 US troops in Iraq. (The real figure is thought to be higher.) Significant numbers of them are special operators training and advising Iraqi government forces and Kurdish troops. Elite US forces have also played a crucial role in Iraq’s recent offensive against the militants of the Islamic State, providing artillery and airpower, including SOCOM’s AC-130W Stinger II gunships with 105mm cannons that allow them to serve as flying howitzers. In that campaign, Special Operations forces were “thrust into a new role of coordinating fire support,” wrote Linda Robinson, a senior international policy analyst with the RAND Corporation who spent seven weeks in Iraq, Syria, and neighboring countries earlier this year. “This fire support is even more important to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a far more lightly armed irregular force which constitutes the major ground force fighting ISIS in Syria.”

Special Operations forces have, in fact, played a key role in the war effort in Syria, too. While American commandos have been killed in battle there, Kurdish and Arab proxies — known as the Syrian Democratic Forces — have done the lion’s share of the fighting and dying to take back much of the territory once held by the Islamic State. SOCOM’s Thomas spoke about this in surprisingly frank terms at a security conference in Aspen, Colorado, this summer. “We’re right now inside the capital of [ISIS’s] caliphate at Raqqa [Syria]. We’ll have that back soon with our proxies, a surrogate force of 50,000 people that are working for us and doing our bidding,” he said. “So two and a half years of fighting this fight with our surrogates, they’ve lost thousands, we’ve only lost two service members. Two is too many, but it’s, you know, a relief that we haven’t had the kind of losses that we’ve had elsewhere.”

This year, US special operators were killed in IraqSyriaAfghanistanYemenSomalia, and the Sahelian nations of Niger and Mali (although reports indicate that a Green Beret who died in that country was likely strangled by US Navy SEALs). In Libya, SEALs recently kidnapped a suspect in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. In the& Philippines, US Special Forces joined the months-long battle to recapture Marawi City after it was taken by Islamist militants earlier this year.

And ev this growing list of counterterror hotspots is only a fraction of the story. In Africa, the countries singled out by Thomas — Somalia, Libya, and those in the Sahel — are just a handful of the nations to which American commandos were deployed in 2017. As recently reported at Vice News, US Special Operations forces were active in at least 33 nations across the continent, with troops heavily concentrated in and around countries now home to a growing number of what the Pentagon’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies calls “active militant Islamist groups.” While Defense Department spokeswoman Major Audricia Harris would not provide details on the range of operations being carried out by the elite forces, it’s known that they run the gamut from conducting security assessments at US embassies to combat operations.

Data provided by SOCOM also reveals a special ops presence in 33 European countries this year. “Outside of Russia and Belarus we train with virtually every country in Europe either bilaterally or through various multinational events,” Major Michael Weisman, a spokesman for US Special Operations Command Europe, told TomDispatch.

For the past two years, in fact, the US has maintained a Special Operations contingent in almost every nation on Russia’s western border. “[W]e’ve had persistent presence in every country — every NATO country and others on the border with Russia doing phenomenal things with our allies, helping them prepare for their threats,” said SOCOM’s Thomas, mentioning the Baltic states as well as Romania, Poland, Ukraine, and Georgia by name. These activities represent, in the words of General Charles Cleveland, chief of US Army Special Operations Command from 2012 to 2015 and now the senior mentor to the Army War College, “undeclared campaigns” by commandos. Weisman, however, balked at that particular language. “US Special Operations forces have been deployed persistently and at the invitation of our allies in the Baltic States and Poland since 2014 as part of the broader US European Command and Department of Defense European Deterrence Initiative,” he told TomDispatch. “The persistent presence of US SOF alongside our Allies sends a clear message of US commitment to our allies and the defense of our NATO Alliance.”

Asia is also a crucial region for America’s elite forces. In addition to Iran and Russia, SOCOM’s Thomas singled out China and North Korea as nations that are “becoming more aggressive in challenging US interests and partners through the use of asymmetric means that often fall below the threshold of conventional conflict.” He went on to say that the “ability of our special operators to conduct low-visibility special warfare operations in politically sensitive environments make them uniquely suited to counter the malign activities of our adversaries in this domain.”

US-North Korean saber rattling has brought increased attention to Special Forces Detachment Korea (SFDK), the longest serving US Special Forces unit in the world. It would, of course, be called into action should a war ever break out on the peninsula. In such a conflict, US and South Korean elite forces would unite under the umbrella of the Combined Unconventional Warfare Task Force. In March, commandos — including, according to some reports, members of the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 — took part in Foal Eagle, a training exercise, alongside conventional US forces and their South Korean counterparts.

US special operators also were involved in training exercises and operations elsewhere across Asia and the Pacific. In June, in Okinawa, Japan, for example, airmen from the 17th Special Operations Squadron (17th SOS) carried out their annual (and oddly spelled) “Day of the Jakal,” the launch of five Air Force Special Operations MC-130J Commando II aircraft to practice, according to a military news release, “airdrops, aircraft landings, and rapid infiltration and exfiltration of equipment.” According to Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Dube of the 17th SOS, “It shows how we can meet the emerging mission sets for both SOCKOR [Special Operations Command Korea] and SOCPAC [Special Operations Command Pacific] out here in the Pacific theater.”

At about the same time, members of the Air Force’s 353rd Special Operations Group carried out Teak Jet, a joint combined exchange training, or JCET, mission meant to improve military coordination between US and Japanese forces. In June and July, intelligence analysts from the Air Force’s 353rd Special Operations Group took part in Talisman Saber, a biennial military training exercise conducted in various locations across Australia.

More for War

The steady rise in the number of elite operators, missions, and foreign deployments since 9/11 appears in no danger of ending, despite years of worries by think-tank experts and special ops supporters about the effects of such a high operations tempo on these troops. “Most SOF units are employed to their sustainable limit,” General Thomas said earlier this year. “Despite growing demand for SOF, we must prioritize the sourcing of these demands as we face a rapidly changing security environment.” Yet the number of deployments still grew to a record 149 nations in 2017. (During the Obama years, deployments reached 147 in 2015.)

At a recent conference on special operations held in Washington, DC, influential members of the Senate and House armed services committees acknowledged that there were growing strains on the force. “I do worry about overuse of SOF,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Republican. One solution offered by both Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Republican Senator Joni Ernst, a combat veteran who served in Iraq, was to bulk up Special Operations Command yet more. “We have to increase numbers and resources,” Reed insisted.

This desire to expand Special Operations further comes at a moment when senators like Lindsey Graham continue to acknowledge how remarkably clueless they are about where those elite forces are deployed and what exactly they are doing in far-flung corners of the globe. Experts point out just how dangerous further expansion could be, given the proliferation of terror groups and battle zones since 9/11 and the dangers of unforeseen blowback as a result of low-profile special ops missions.

“Almost by definition, the dizzying number of deployments undertaken by US Special Operations forces in recent years would be hard to track. But few in Congress seem to be even making the effort,” said William Hartung. “This is a colossal mistake if one is concerned about reining in the globe-spanning US military strategy of the post-9/11 era, which has caused more harm than good and done little to curb terrorism.”

However, with special ops deployments rising above Bush and Obama administration levels to record-setting heights and the Trump administration embracing the use of commandos in quasi-wars in places like Somalia and Yemen, there appears to be little interest in the White House or on Capitol Hill in reining in the geographic scope and sweep of America’s most secretive troops. And the results, say experts, may be dire. “While the retreat from large ‘boots on the ground’ wars like the Bush administration’s intervention in Iraq is welcome,” said Hartung, “the proliferation of Special Operations forces is a dangerous alternative, given the prospects of getting the United States further embroiled in complex overseas conflicts.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Trump’s First Year Sets Record for US Special Ops, Deploying to 149 Countries

Moazzam Begg speakers for Stop the War

NOVANEWS 

Image result for ISIS LOGO

Stop the War Logo

Why we need an anti-war government – tour of public meetings

The world is facing grave dangers as 2017 is drawing to a close. Wars are escalating in Afghanistan and Yemen, assaults on Palestinian rights are intensifying, and the threat of nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula is continuing. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently stated that the use of nuclear weapons is now likelier than ever.
It is in this context that Trump is expected to visit Britain in February next year. Stop the War is already planning a tour of large public meetings across the country which are going to address these issues. These events will be held in opposition to Trump’s visit and will discuss why we need an anti-war government.
Meetings are already being planned in Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Luton, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Manchester, Oxford and York, with a wide range of speakers including Lowkey, Brian Eno, Chris Williamson MP, Gary Young, Maya Evans, Moazzam Begg, speakers from Young Labour and others. We’ll be sending out more details about the meetings soon.

 

  • In 2014, British police arrested Begg on charges of alleged terrorist activities during the Syrian civil war. Charges were later withdrawn and he was released when the prosecution became aware that MI5 had known of, and consented to, his travel to Syria.

 

* Moazzam Begg – claims I trained Jihadi John are a smear campaign
By: Sophie Jamieson
Ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg says Isil is used as a …
www.telegraph.co.uk 

Posted in UKComments Off on Moazzam Begg speakers for Stop the War

USA: “Being Detained Feels Like the Abuse I Tried to Escape”:

NOVANEWS

“Being Detained Feels Like the Abuse I Tried to Escape”: A Korean Survivor Speaks Out From Immigration Detention

By Yihwa Kim and Translated and Edited by Hyejin ShimTruthout 

(Photo: Gerolamo Auricchio / EyeEm / Getty Images)

(Photo: Gerolamo Auricchio / EyeEm / Getty Images)

Yihwa Kim is a Korean woman who fled her home country, South Korea, because of the extreme and prolonged domestic and sexual violence she suffered at the hands of her father and his various connections. She has been detained since April 2017 for seeking asylum in the United States. In November, her right to a bond hearing was denied by a judge who was a former prosecutor for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). During her hearing, this judge openly said that he sympathized with the prosecuting attorney for DHS and understood his position. With no end in sight to her detention — which has resulted in further trauma, medical neglect and the deterioration of her health — on December 1, Kim chose to withdraw her application for asylum in the US.

Within weeks, she will be forcibly returned to South Korea. At her December 1 hearing, she said: “Being forced to return to Korea is an act of suicide for me. But being imprisoned for another potential two or three years, like some others here … and to get no help for my medical conditions while I am detained … I don’t think dying in here is right, either.”

What follows is a translation of Kim’s firsthand account of her ordeal in the US detention system.

***

I still don’t know exactly why I was selected out for an extensive search and interview at the San Francisco airport when I arrived in April 2017. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers that apprehended me treated me disrespectfully, asking intrusive but unrelated questions about the purpose of my visit. Then, they sent me to a very small interrogation room without a window. Because I am claustrophobic, I begged them not to put me in that room. But no one paid attention to my pleas. They questioned me for hours, went through every item in my bags, and inspected them over and over before detaining me for the night. That night, I slept on a chair. The next day, the interrogation continued for several hours.

No interpreter was provided for me, let alone a lawyer. In that situation, most of what I agreed to do next was based on what the officers led me to do. When I was told that I would be sent back to Korea, I told them that I did not want to go back because I came to the US to escape my abusive father. So, they told me to apply for asylum. I didn’t know what it would entail, but I followed their instruction. The result was that I was sent to a detention center. I later found out that I could have been given humanitarian parole instead of detention, but since the Trump administration [took over], most of those in similar situations as me have been detained.

The first detention center that I was sent to was in Richmond, California. When I tried to ask for help from the guards, they threatened me with solitary confinement. For a while, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, at least not until I met a visiting lawyer who introduced me to a couple of Korean Americans. That is how I also learned about the Asian Women’s Shelter, [whose members] visited and helped me. But after about three months, I was sent to Mesa Verde Detention Center, a private immigration detention center in Bakersfield, California. On the day I was transferred, I was forced to get up at 4:30 am and moved around all day. The van we were transported in had no windows, which triggered my claustrophobia. Although I could get some air when the door was opened to receive more detainees, the inside of the van became suffocating and extremely hot under the July sun. We detainees were not given any water, food or bathroom breaks. I felt sick and nauseous, and had a hard time breathing. In the last three or four hours of the trip, all of us women were screaming and crying for help. One woman from El Salvador had severe panic attacks, and another woman from China was vomiting for hours. And no one listened to us or helped us. When we finally arrived at the new detention center, I was unconscious.

Here in Mesa Verde, I think that there are about 200 women. I am the only Korean, although there are about 16 more Asians. The officers and guards do not even know the difference between North and South Korea, or between Koreans and Chinese people. I found that the gap between American and Korean cultures was deep. I feared that even a Korean interpreter wouldn’t be able to find the exact English words to describe my life in Korea … And it’s not just words; any behavior or body language can be misunderstood.

I have been suffering from hepatitis, as well as other medical conditions that cause me much pain and discomfort. I don’t get any proper medical treatment inside the center. Most of the pills they provide for other symptoms — such as cold, fever and headache — could worsen my liver condition, so I cannot take them. The food rations are also intolerable: Not only do we get a very small amount, but the vegetables we are given also exude a bad stench and are inedible.

Detention officers often yell at detainees, discriminate against them based on their race and ethnicity, taunt them and sexually harass them. When I have tried to ask for better conditions, they have targeted me, calling me a North Korean slave, comparing me to an insect. Medical staff are just the same as the guards. Once, a detention center doctor (although I did not approve a check-up from him) touched my body, especially my chest. Another time, I had my left hand wrapped with a bandage due to an injury. An officer made me unwrap it, asked me to hold my two hands together, wrapped around them with the bandage like he was handcuffing me, and laughed at me. It was humiliating. One told me that I should act more submissively due to the fact that I was a Korean woman — a remark that not only stereotypes Korean women, but was also an attempt to subjugate me. Social workers make weekly visits to detainees to check if any of the officers abuse their power. They are sometimes kind to us, making conversation with us about our lives inside the detention center. But they also demoralize and put me down. They constantly tell me that I am not important, and that no one would care where I was.

I have been detained for eight months. From how I have been treated, I feel that the United States is a country that not only practices racial discrimination, but also operates a kind of “race elimination” policy. I never committed any crime against this country and was a normal Korean citizen before this. I am from a respectable family, and my lineage goes back to those who were involved in the founding of the South Korean government. I came seeking safety and refuge. But here, my rights have been violated and thrown away like a piece of trash. I feel that there would be no difference between being in an American detention center and being in a prisoner-of-war camp.

The Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse has launched a fundraiser to provide emergency funds for Yihwa Kim. This will help to ensure Yihwa’s safety and independence from her family in South Korea upon being forcibly removed from the US. Donate to her support fund here.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY HYEJIN SHIM

Hyejin Shim is a bilingual domestic violence advocate with Asian Women’s Shelter in San Francisco. She is an organizer and cofounder of Survived and Punished, and is also a member of the Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse.

YIHWA KIM

Yihwa Kim is a domestic and sexual violence survivor from South Korea who unsuccessfully sought asylum in the United States.

 

Posted in USA, South KoreaComments Off on USA: “Being Detained Feels Like the Abuse I Tried to Escape”:


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