Archive | June 24th, 2018

Funding for the US Military

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Funding for the US Military: Public Barred from National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Senate Committee Markup

It appears to have been no coincidence that when President John F. Kennedy’spoke to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27,1961, ten days after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, he tacitly referred to the Joint Chiefs and the CIA who had orchestrated the Cuban invasion and then lied to gain his approval for military action.   

In that speech, Kennedy expressed what became a quintessential JFK quote:

the very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.  We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweigh the dangers which are cited to justify it.” 

On May 24th, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) met behind closed doors and  approved the massive 1140 page National Defense Authorization Act  (NDAA S 2987 ) of 2019  by a 25-2 vote which authorizes ‘funding and provides activities for the US military.’  At the same time, the Committee‘s l0 page Executive Summary  and its 654 page Committee report were released explaining ‘details’ of the $716 billion legislative package.   

While the Committee dutifully heard public testimony on the NDAA including Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on April 26th , once the SASC subcommittees began their mark up on May 21 and May 22 and the Full SASC met to begin its two day mark-up on May 23 and May 24th,  all SASC consideration of the NDAA was declared “SECRET” as committee doors were sealed shut preventing all public and press attendance.  

Screenshot from US Committee on Armed Services

There is, of course, a stark difference between public testimony at a legislative hearing which generally focuses on gathering information and opinions on the pending legislative; while a ‘markup’ is when the elected body debates, amends or rewrites the proposed legislation.  It is when the public gets to see its electeds in action; asking intelligent questions, exhibiting a grasp of the issues and otherwise strutting their stuff so the folks back home know there is a vigorous participant with their sleeves rolled up…or not.   

In fact, the word “SECRET” is not included in the Senate’s official Glossary of Terms although ‘closed session’ may be invoked for obvious sensitive matters such as Impeachment.  So let’s assume that the SASC mandarins decided in a massive overreach of their Constitutional authority to hold every single word, every utteranceall 1140 pages worth of discussion and debate of the committee mark up in complete and total SECRECY making no careful thoughtful distinction as to what truly constitutes a ‘national security’ matter – there is no public record available on the SASC website of the committee members discussing or making that determination.   

The SASC website offers no video of either the subcommittees or the full committee meeting  going through the motions of formally declaring their meetings SECRET under the guise of national security, much as Kennedy forewarned more than fifty years ago.  In fact, there is no video available for public view at all proving that the SASC even met on the prescribed dates, that a quorum was present or that they conducted the business they claim to have conducted.  Is it beyond the realm of possibility that a conference call linking all SASC members substituted for a real-time old-fashioned, public committee meeting?   

Neither is there a video on the SASC website of any of the debate or discussion that took place during the mark up nor evidence of the 25-2 roll call vote which precludes us from knowing who the two opposing votes were.   In other words, every iota of debate or amendments offered and every vote taken as well as all discussion were conducted in SECRET which sounds more like a Banana Republic or an authoritarian state of which the US frequently accuses other countries.  

There is little doubt that the American public would have benefited from SASC discussion on certain unmentionables like DOD’s missing $2.3 Trillion,  DARPA projects,  the military role in cyberspace,  the “secret space” program and weaponizing space,  cost overruns, military monitoring of extraterrestrial flights,  long term impacts of AI or other ‘dark’ op programs – but wasn’t that always part of the intent.  

While the Executive Summary reads like preparation for modern day Punic Wars, it is the shortest and easiest read of the available documents.   Once you get past the militaristic mumbo-jumbo, consists mostly of a compilation of funding targets.   Here are some items that caught my attention:

$69 B     Overseas Contingency Ops 

$7.6 B    Assorted F35 Funding   

$5.2 B    Afghanistan

$1.2 B    R&D for AI, space and emerging technology  

$850 M  Train/equip Iraqi forces to counter ISIS

$500 M  Israel’s Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling weapon systems

$300 M  Train/equip ‘vetted’ Syrian opposition 

$200 M  Ukraine ‘legal security assistance’

as well as increased funding for the following:

$150 M    DOD research w/commercial tech industry and academia 

$110 M    Space Constellation efforts

$  75 M    University research

$  20 M    Quantum Information Sciences

$  15 M    DARPA Microelectronics research

Meanwhile, the full House Armed Services Committee (HASC) met in a public yet tightly controlled setting on May 9th to mark up their version of the NDAA with a publicly available video of the entire committee meeting using an expedited voting process to address hundreds of amendments.  

One of the House NDAA amendments which passed unanimously  on May 24th was that no AUMF (Authority for Use of Military Force) exists that gives the President authority to launch a military strike on Iran.

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The US and EU Quarrel, But Remain United Against Russia and China

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Video: The USA and the EU Quarrel, But Remain United Against Russia and China

By Manlio Dinucci, June 14, 2018

The meeting of 29 Defense ministers (for Italy Elisabetta Trenta, 5 Stelle), on June 7, unanimously decided to strengthen the anti-Russisa command structure by more than 1,200 personnel; to set up a new Joint Force Command for the Atlantic, based in Norfolk (USA), against “Russian submarines that threaten maritime communication lines between the United States and Europe”; to set up a new Logistics Command, based in Ulm (Germany), as a “deterrent” against Russia, with the task of “moving troops faster across Europe in any conflict”.

Cameroun: The Battle of Languages Serves Colonial Masters

By J. B. Gerald, June 14, 2018

Captured from German interests during WWII by the Free French the Camerouns were divided into British Cameroun to the North and French Cameroun to the South. At its Independence from France January 1, 1960, French Cameroun became the Republic of Cameroun or Cameroun as we know it. To the North, under plebiscite, the southern portion of British Cameroun voted to join the French speaking Republic of Cameroun, while the northern (Muslim) portion of British Cameroun voted to join English speaking Nigeria.

Syria’s President Assad Says US, French, Turks, Israeli Troops Are Occupying Forces

By Press TV, June 14, 2018

Assad made the remarks on Wednesday during an interview with the al-Alam News Network, where he stressed that Syria’s position is to support “any act of resistance, whether against terrorists or against occupying forces regardless of their nationality.”

Good Bye to All That: Donald Trump and the End of the U.S. Global Empire

By Roy Morrison, June 14, 2018

The retreat from U.S.leadership on trade, economics, military security, climate change and ecological protection by Donald Trump is leading in the short term to a world that will emerge as more chaotic, more violent, more polluted, with dictators more emboldened and the poor more desperate.

The Kim-Trump Summit. Geopolitical Implications

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky and Michael Welch, June 15, 2018

In this interview recorded the morning after U.S. President Trump’s ‘historic’ meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-Un of the Democratic Republic of Korea, Professor Michel Chossudovsky of the Centre for Research on Globalization gives his assessment of the meeting, outlines the threat of a reunified Korean peninsula to U.S. military and economic interests, comments on the coincidence of the G7 and other international summits taking place in the same week, and elaborates on the cross-cutting economic alliances which are challenging U.S. autonomy in the region.

Rep. Ro Khanna Says Fellow Democrats Should Support Diplomacy with North Korea

By Adam Dick, June 14, 2018

On Monday, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), joined by 14 fellow Democratic United States House of Representatives members, sent a letter toPresident Donald Trump supporting Trump pursuing diplomacy and “incremental progress” with North Korea. The letter also expresses concern about efforts toward peace being hindered by people — both Republican and Democrat, and both inside and outside the Trump administration — seeking “to scuttle progress by attempting to limit the parameters of the talks, including by insisting on full and immediate denuclearization or other unrealistic commitments by North Korea at an early date.”

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“Voices from Syria” and “The Dirty War on Syria”: Mark Taliano and Tim Anderson Analyze the War on Syria

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Voices from Syria by Mark Taliano and The Dirty War on Syria by Tim Anderson: Purchase these two essential books on Syria for one low price, click here to purchase.

Voices from Syria, by Mark Taliano

Mark Taliano talks and listens to the people of Syria. He reveals the courage and resilience of a Nation and its people in their day to day lives, after more that six years of US-NATO sponsored terrorism.

“Syria is an ancient land with a proud and forward-looking people, to which we sent mercenaries, hatred, bloodshed and destruction.

Syrians welcomed me to their country as one of their own. These are their stories; these are their voices.”

Reviews:

Mark Taliano exposes the barbarity of Washington’s latest regime change aspirations. The West’s political spin is laid bare in the words of the Syrian people.

Felicity Arbuthnot, Veteran Middle East War Correspondent.

Canadian Mark Taliano has brought together an excellent mix of anecdotes and analysis to create a very accessible short book on the terrible Syrian conflict. It should serve as a primer for all those who feel curious, dissatisfied or cheated by the near monolithic war chorus of the western corporate media.

Mark is one of those few westerners who took the trouble to travel to Syria during this war, to talk to Syrians of all ranks and see for himself the human reality of this country which, in 2011, became the latest target of the Washington-led coalition.He deftly mixes stories from soldiers, doctors, politicians, clerics and ordinary citizens with his prior reading. That reading includes the invaluable insights of a new generation of investigative journalists, in particular Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley. Start with Mark’s first chapter ‘In Their Own Voices’ and you won’t put it down. He humanises the Syrian people, their culture and their nation in a way that is normally not permitted at wartime.

Tim Anderson, Distinguished Author and Senior Lecturer of Political Economy, University of Sydney, Australia

The Dirty War on Syria: Washington, Regime Change and Resistance, by Tim Anderson

The Dirty War on Syria has relied on a level of mass disinformation not seen in living memory. In seeking ‘regime change’ the big powers sought to hide their hand, using proxy armies of ‘Islamists’, demonising the Syrian Government and constantly accusing it of atrocities. In this way Syrian President Bashar al Assad, a mild-mannered eye doctor, became the new evil in the world.

As western peoples we have been particularly deceived by this dirty war, reverting to our worst traditions of intervention, racial prejudice and poor reflection on our own histories. This book tries to tell its story while rescuing some of the better western traditions: the use of reason, ethical principle and the search for independent evidence.

Reviews: 

Tim Anderson  has written the best systematic critique of western fabrications justifying the war against the Assad government. No other text brings together all the major accusations and their effective refutation. This text is essential reading for all peace and justice activists.

-James Petras, Bartle Emeritus Professor, University of Binghampton, New York.

Anderson’s excellent book is required reading for those wanting to know the true story of the imperialist proxy war waged on Syria by the U.S. and its Western and Middle Eastern puppet states. This account could also be titled “How to Destroy a Country and Lie About it”. Of course Syria is only one in a long line of countries destroyed by Washington in the Middle East and all over the Global South for more than a century.

Anderson’s analysis is particularly useful for dissecting the propaganda war waged by the U.S. to hide its active support for the vicious Islamic fundamentalists it is using in Syria. In spreading this propaganda the U.S. has been aided not only by the West’s mainstream press but also by its prominent so-called human rights organizations.

-Asad Ismi, International Affairs Correspondent for The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Monitor.

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G7 Summit – Another Trump Reality Shows?

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Bartlett Pierces the Fog of War Lies and Omissions at Toronto’s Al-Qud’s Day Rally

By Mark Taliano, June 11, 2018

Investigative reporter Eva Bartlett – one of many outstanding speakers at the event — lived in Palestine for about three years, where she was active in peaceful resistance movements against Israel’s criminal oppression of native Palestinians. Her testimony resonates with evidence-based truth, in stark contrast to monochromatic mainstream media messaging, which is wrapped around permanent state, largely unspoken, imperial policies.

“American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family” by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

By Edward Curtin, June 11, 2018

The Kennedy name attracts the mainstream media only when they can sensationalize something “scandalous” – preferably sexual or drug related – whether false or true, or something innocuous that can lend credence to the myth that the Kennedys are lightweight, wealthy celebrities descended from Irish mobsters.  This has been going on since the 1960s with the lies and cover-ups about the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother Robert, propaganda that continues to the present day, always under the aegis of the CIA-created phrase “conspiracy theory.”  A thinking person might just get the idea that the media are in league with the CIA to bury the Kennedys.

Crimes Against the Earth

By Dr. Andrew Glikson, June 11, 2018

This scientific projection is holding true: it is estimated that, to date, some 150,000 to 400,000 people world-wide have perished each year due to direct and indirect effects of global warming1. This includes, for example, 1833 people in New Orleans, possibly up to 5000 in Puerto Rico, 6329 by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippine―the list goes on. Although these events have been documented in detail, the silence in most of the mainstream media regarding the connection between global warming on the one hand and the rising spate of hurricanes, storms and fires on the other, is deafening. 

The Geostrategy that Guides Trump’s Foreign Policies

By Eric Zuesse, June 11, 2018

This is today’s financial world — a world in which billionaires control the future directions of commodities-prices, and thus manipulate markets, and even determine the economic fates of nations. It’s not the myth of capitalism; it is the reality of capitalism. It functions by means of corruption, as it always has, but the corrupt methods constantly evolve.

Torture, Starvation, Executions: Eastern Ghouta Civilians Talk of Life Under Terrorist Rule

By Eva Bartlett, June 11, 2018

When I visited eastern Ghouta and the Horjilleh center for displaced people just south of Damascus—people mostly from Ghouta now—I asked about their lives under the rule of Jaysh al-Islam and others, including why they had been starving in the first place. The reply was, as I and others  heard in eastern Aleppo, Madaya, and al-Waer, the terrorists stole aid and controlled all food, only selling food at extortionist prices which ordinary people could not afford.

G7 vs. G6+1 – The War of Words

By Peter Koenig and Press TV, June 11, 2018

Trump pulling out from the final G7 statement is just show; the usual Trump show. He signed it, then he pulled out. We have seen it with the Iran Nuclear Deal, with the North Korea meeting, on and off, with the tariffs – first – about two months ago – the tariffs were on for Europe, Mexico and Canada, as well as China – then they were off for all of them – and now they are on again…

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U.S. Covert Support to ISIS Terrorists

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Breaking: ISIS Terrorists Are Only Present in US-controlled Areas in Syria – Russian MoD

By Leith Aboufadel, June 10, 2018

The spokesman noted that the Russian Defense Ministry was bewildered by “verbal manipulations” of Mattis regarding the situation in Syria, stressing that the expansion of the Daesh terror group to Syria had become possible due to “criminal omission” of the United States and the international coalition.

Violence with Impunity: The Unending Tragedy of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine

By Michael WelchSean Clinton, and Prof. Yakov M. Rabkin, June 10, 2018

The violence endured by the Palestinian population has reached a level of carnage unequaled since the 2014 Gaza War.

This past week, Argentina withdrew its football team from a World Cup warm-up event in protest to Israel’s actions against Palestinians in Gaza.

For Lasting Peace, President Moon Must Lead South Korea Out of America’s Orbit

By Stuart Smallwood, June 09, 2018

It didn’t take much for the leaders of the two Koreas to put an end to the decades-long culture of crisis pervading the Korean Peninsula. With a phone call, a quick drive to the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone, and a public embrace, South Korean President Moon Jae-inand North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un emphasized the absurdity of the barrier wedged between a people with a common history, culture and language.

Al Shabaab and ISIS-Daesh: Why Did an American Sacrifice His Life for AFRICOM in Somalia?

By Andrew Korybko, June 09, 2018

Al Shabaab’s killing of an American soldier in southern Somalia brings AFRICOM back into the limelight and restarts the conversation about why US troops are even still there in the first place.

US Challenges Russia to Nuclear War

By Eric Zuesse, June 09, 2018

Now that the United States (with the cooperation of its NATO partners) has turned the former Soviet Union’s states other than Russia into NATO allies, and has likewise turned the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact allies into America’s own military allies in NATO, the United States is finally turning the screws directly against Russia itself, by, in effect, challenging Russia to defend its ally Syria. The US is warning Syria’s Government that Syrian land, which is occupied by the US and by the anti-Government forces that the US protects in Syria, is no longer really Syria’s land.

A Better Idea than Russia Returning to the G7

By Stephen Lendman, June 09, 2018

NAFTA and similar trade deals are hugely destructive, eliminating millions of jobs, offshoring countless numbers of them to low-wage countries, notably once-high-wage manufacturing ones, replaced by largely temp employment paying poverty wages.

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Holocaust Survivor and Palestinians’ Rights Lawyer Felicia Langer Dies in Exile at 87

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Felicia Langer fought, first in Israel and then from Germany, for the enforcement of international law from which Israel excepted itself

Felicia Langer (9 December 1930 – 21 June 2018)

I never met her, only called her two or three times in her place of exile, but I well remember what she was for me and most of my generation in our brainwashed youth: a symbol of hatred for Israel, a public enemy, a reviled, outcast traitor. That’s how we were taught to regard her and a few other early dissidents, and we neither questioned nor cared why.

Now, at 87, she has died in exile; her image glows brightly in my eyes through the distance of time and space. Felicia Langer, who died in Germany Thursday, was a hero, a pioneer and a woman of conscience. She and a few of her allies never got the recognition here that they deserved; it’s not clear they ever will.

In a place where “alumni” of a murderous Jewish terror organization are welcomed — one a newspaper editor, another an expert on religious law — and where self-declared racists are accepted as legitimate participants in the arena of public debate as they are nowhere else, there is no room for courageous justice warriors who paid a high personal price for trying to lead a camp that never followed.

Langer was a Holocaust survivor from Poland who studied law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After the occupation, was the first to open a law office dedicated to defending its Palestinian victims. In this, she followed an illustrious tradition of Jews who fought injustice in South Africa, Latin America, Europe and the United States.

Image result for felicia langer

Here, her sense of justice brought her into conflict with her state. Occasionally she even succeeded: In 1979, in the wake of her petition, the High Court of Justice blocked an expulsion order against Nablus Mayor Bassam Shakaa. A year later, the Jewish underground attached a bomb to his car that destroyed his legs, and Israeli justice came to light.

Langer was a pioneer among Israeli lawyers of conscience who came out for the defense of the rights of the occupied population, but she was also the first to throw in the towel, closing her law office in 1990 and going into exile. In a 2012 interview with documentary filmmaker Eran Torbiner, she explained: “I left Israel because I could no longer help the Palestinian victims with the existing legal system and the disregard for international law that was supposed to protect the people whom I was defending. I couldn’t act. I was facing a hopeless situation.” She told The Washington Post she “couldn’t be a fig leaf for this system anymore.”

She said she didn’t switch battlefronts, only her place on the front, but the front is currently at its lowest point. The occupation is entrenched as never before and nearly all of its crimes have been legitimized.

Langer came to the conclusion that things were hopeless. Apparently she was right. The fight in the military courts was doomed to failure. It has no prospect of success because the military courts are only subject to the laws of the occupation and not to the laws of justice. The proceedings involve nothing more than hollow and false legal ritual.

Even the civil legal system, headed by the vaunted High Court of Justice, has never come down on the side of the victims and against the crimes of the occupation. Here and there restraining orders have been issued, here and there actions have been delayed. But in the annals of the occupation, Israel’s Supreme Court will be remembered as the primary legitimizer of the occupation and as an abject collaborator with the military. In such a state of affairs, perhaps there really was nothing for Langer to do here. That is a singularly depressing conclusion.

What did this brave and courageous woman fight against? Against torture by the Shin Bet security service at a time when we didn’t believe that such torture existed, yet it was at the peak of its cruelty. She fought against the expulsion of political activists, against false arrests, against home demolitions. Above all, she fought for the enforcement of international law from which Israel decided to except itself on unbelievable grounds. That’s what she fought and that is why she was considered a public enemy.

In her old age, her grandson told her that ultimately the Palestinians will win and will get a state of their own. “You won’t see it, but I will,” he promised his grandmother. In the end, the grandson will be disappointed, just as his distinguished grandmother was.

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Felicia Langer, A Great German-Israeli Human Rights Lawyer, Passed Away

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Postedby: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

A great Israeli-German Jew passed away. Her death represents a significant loss to the Palestinian people’s struggle for justice, human rights, and self-determination. She and her late husband Mieciu, who died in 2015, stood for the other, the better Israel after they emigrated to Germany. They rejected colonialism, Israeli wars, Land theft, torture, apartheid, ethnocentric nationalism, chauvinism and countless violations of human rights and international law.

Felicia’s life and work were massively attacked both in Israel and in Germany because she campaigned for justice and equal rights and treatment for the Palestinian People. She was the first of her kind who defended so-called Palestinian “terrorists” in Israeli courts. She has had some successes, but before Israeli military courts, which are kangaroo courts in principle, she was unsuccessful. Such “defeats” can be considered successes for every honorable lawyer. Nor was she ever able to accept the racist-Zionist ideology that is so revered and defended in Israel and by Zionists in Germany.

Felicia’s commitment to justice and human rights has granted her several awards. In addition to the Alternative Nobel Prize, she was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit 1st class by the then German Federal President Horst Köhler. The ensuing smear and defamation campaign of the Zionist and pseudo-Jewish Israeli lobby is one of the worst ever initiated by the Zionist Lobby in Germany against a German-Jewish human rights lawyer. Some of these German and Israeli “men of honor” tried to force President Horst Köhler to revise his decision while threatening to return their Federal Cross of Merit. These extortion methods are today part of the standard repertoire of the Zionist Israeli lobby in the political opinion struggle in Germany.

Felicia Langer is highly respected and revered by the Palestinians like no other Israeli-German citizen. Only Yasser Arafat is more adored. Both the Palestinian Authority and the city of Tübingen, where she lived in exile,  should set up a memorial place for this great German-Israeli woman. Germany is rightly proud of its culture of remembrance, and Felicia Langer is an important one of them.

Until shortly before her death, we were in close telephone contact. The title of her last book came up during a telephone conversation. Felicia was also an excellent advisor before the publication of my book on the Human Rights of Palestinians when the international public was tranked of the so-called peace process, elaborated in 1993 by Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli diplomats in Oslo, and signed in the garden of the White House. The resulting reality could not have been crueler and more disastrous for the Palestinians. Felicia foresaw this.

Felicia Langer is one of the few outstanding Israeli-German personalities who have sacrificed themselves to the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian people to the last breath, and whose memory should remember by all three peoples. Their tireless commitment to Palestinian justice and human rights should always be considered an inspiration and a societal obligation to their political actions.

Felicia, Rest in Peace (R.I.P.)

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Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice

 

 

 

 

 

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An Elite Coalition Emerges Against a Trump-Kim Agreement

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Media coverage of the Trump-Kim summit has highlighted a political reaction that threatens to torpedo any possible U.S-North Korean agreement on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, says Gareth Porter.

 

An implicit coalition of corporate media, Democratic partisans and others loyal to the national security state are actively hostile to any agreement that would endanger the continuation of the 70-year-old Cold War between the United States and North Korea.

The hostility toward Donald Trump on the part of both corporate media (except for Fox News) and the Democratic Party establishment is obviously a factor in the negative response to the summit. Trump’s dysfunctional persona, extremist domestic strategy and attacks on the press had already created a hyper-adversarial political atmosphere that surrounds everything Trump says or does.

But media coverage of the Singapore summit shows that something much bigger and more sinister is now in play: a consensus among foreign policy and national security elites and their media allies that Trump’s pursuit of an agreement with Kim on denuclearization threatens to undo seventy years of U.S. military dominance in Northeast Asia.

Those elites are determined to resist the political-diplomatic thrust of the Trump administration in negotiating with Kim and have already begun to sound the alarm about the danger Trump poses to the U.S. power position. Not surprisingly Democrats in Congress are already aligning themselves with the national security elite on the issue.

The real concern of the opposition to Trump’s diplomacy, therefore, is no longer that he cannot succeed in getting an agreement with Kim on denuclearization but that he will succeed.

The elite media-security framing of the Trump-Kim summit in the initial week was to cast it as having failed to obtain anything concrete from Kim Jong-un, while giving up immensely valuable concessions to Kim. Almost without exception the line from journalists, pundits and national security elite alike compared the joint statement to the texts of previous agreements with North Korea and found that it was completely lacking in detail.

Ignoring Kim’s Concessions

Thus The Washington Post quoted a tweet by Richard Haas, chairman of the über-establishment Council on Foreign Relations, that the summit “changed nothing” but “makes it harder to keep sanctions in place, further reducing pressure on North Korea to reduce (much less give up) its nuclear weapons and missiles.”

The New York Times cited the criticism of former CIA official Bruce Klingner, now at the Heritage Foundation, that the joint statement failed to commit North Korea to do as much as promised in agreements negotiated in 1994 and 2005. And CNN reported that the Joint Declaration “did not appear to make any significant progress” in committing the North Koreans to complete denuclearization, citing the use of the word “reaffirmed” in the document, which it opined “highlighted the lack of fresh commitments.”

Those criticisms of the joint statement conveniently ignored the fact that Kim had already made the most significant concession he could have made in advance of detailed negotiations between the two states when he committed North Korea to ending the testing of both nuclear weapons and long-range missiles in April following meetings with then CIA Director Mike Pompeo earlier in the month. That commitment by Kim meant that North Korea was entering negotiations with the United States before it had achieved a credible threat to hit the United States with an ICBM armed with a nuclear weapon.

The fact that no mention of Kim’s centrally important concession can be found in any of the reports or commentaries on the summit underlines the scarcely hidden agenda at play. Mentioning that fact would have pointed to understandings that Pompeo had already reached with Kim and his envoy to Washington before the summit and were not reflected in the brief text. Pompeo actually confirmed this in remarks made in Detroit on June 18, which only Bloomberg news reported.

Furthermore, the trashing of the summit also employed the politically motivated trick of deliberately ignoring the vast difference between a joint statement of the first ever meeting between the two heads of state and past agreements on denuclearization reached after weeks or months of intensive negotiations.

What really alarmed and even outraged the media and their elite national security allies, however, was that Trump not only announced that he would suspend U.S.-South Korean joint exercises or “war games” as long as the North Koreans were negotiating in good faith on denuclearization, but even called the exercises “very provocative.”

One journalist and commentator after another, including CNN and the Times’ Nicholas Kristof, denounced that description as “adopting” his adversary’s “rhetoric” about the exercises. In a podcast with former National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor, former NSC official Kelley Magsamen, now at the Democratic Party’s Center for American Progress, rather than acknowledging that a vital principle of diplomacy is to put oneself in the position of one’s opponent, charged that Trump had “internalized the language of our adversaries.”

The media and critics deploring Trump’s willingness to suspend the joint U.S.-South Korean war games have portrayed it as a betrayal of the security alliance with South Korea. But that claim merely dismisses the desires of South Korean President Moon and betrays ignorance of the history of U.S.-South Korean war games.

Been Called ‘Provocative’ Before

When Trump called the drills “provocative,” he was merely expressing the same view that some U.S. officials adopted as long ago as the mid-1980s. These officials also called the exercises “provocative,” according to a State Department official interviewed by historian Leon Sigal for his authoritative account of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with North Korea.

Donald Gregg, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993, observed in an interview with Sigal that the North Koreans mobilized their forces at great expense every time the drills, called “Team Spirit,” were held in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who was an Army general and chief of U.S. military intelligence in Korea in the early 1990s, later confirmed to Sigal that the North Koreans would “go nuts” during the annual Team Spirit exercises. Part of the reason for that extreme North Korean anxiety about the drills was that the United States routinely flew nuclear capable B-52s over South Korea as part of the exercises – a practice resumed in recent years after a long hiatus and no doubt reviving the trauma of the U.S. devastation of North Korea from 1950-53.

Ambassador Gregg had supported the idea of suspending the annual Team Spirit exercise in 1992 as part of a proposed effort to get North Korea to change its mind about wanting nuclear weapons. Furthermore the South Korean government itself formally announced in January 1992 that the Team Spirit exercises were being suspended in light of “progress” on North-South nuclear issues. Furthermore, the Clinton administration cancelled Team Spirit drills each year from 1994 to 1996 in an effort to demonstrate the U.S. seriousness in pursuing an agreement with North Korea for an end to its production of plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Trump leaving Singapore. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

The provocative character of the joint U.S.-South Korean military drills became even more pronounced after North Korea began testing nuclear weapons and then intercontinental ballistic missiles. In 2015, the U.S. and South Korea adopted a new war plan codenamed OPLAN 5015, which calls for surgical strikes on North Korea’s nuclear and missiles sites and command-and-control facilities, as well as “decapitation” raids targeting senior North Korean leaders, according to the South Korean Yonhap News Agency.

Although the U.S. Command in South Korea has always insisted that all joint exercises are defensive in nature, press reports said that the war plan, which could only be based on a first strike strategy, would be the basis of the publicly announced Ulchi Freedom Guardian war games scheduled for August 2017.

What the national security elite and their media allies are really upset about is the real possibility that Trump will succeed in negotiating a denuclearization deal with North Korea that includes a formal end to the Korean War.  That could complicate the Pentagon’s continuing strengthening of the U.S. military posture vis a vis China.

Fareed Zakaria, CNN’s establishment foreign policy pundit, recalled the Pentagon’s aim during the Clinton administration to maintain at least 100,000 U.S. troops in Northeast Asia, and worried that, if the U.S. military alliance with South Korea is deemphasized, the U.S. would “fall below that threshold.”

Ian Bremmer, the CBS News national security pundit, explained that Trump’s willingness to suspend military exercises means that “the United States is probably going to be a much more marginal player at the end of the day in this region.”

Magsamen suggested a similar concern about Trump weakening the alliance with South Korea in an interview with Vietor, commenting that

“a lot of us…see the North Korean challenge in a broader context vis a vis our adversaries, like China and Russia.”

These are early indications of a showdown between Trump and the elite alliance arrayed against him. Senate Democrats can be expected to push back against any agreement that portends possible withdrawal from South Korea, as indicated by the bill proposed by Senators Chris Murphy and Tammy Duckworth to forbid troops withdrawal without Pentagon approval.

If his opponents are dissatisfied with the agreement Trump negotiates, the Senate probably wouldn’t ratify a treaty to end the Korean War that Pyongyang would certainly demand. The most promising diplomatic development in East Asia in seven decades could thus be nullified by the shared interests of the loose coalition in preserving a status quo of tension and possible war.

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Reflections on the Poor People’s Campaign in Michigan

NOVANEWS

Activists project the need for a broad based coalition of popular forces

 

Featured image: Poor People’s Campaign of Michigan rally outside the Department of Treasury on June 11, 2018

Six weeks of rallies, mass demonstrations and civil disobedience concluded in Michigan on Monday June 18 when hundreds of participants in the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) moved their events to the city of Detroit, the most populated municipality in the state.

This effort is part of a national mobilization to place emphasis on the plight of the growing numbers of impoverished people in the United States. 

Issues related to income inequality, environmental racism, state repression, union organizing among service employees, massive water shutoffs and contamination, the need for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, the struggle against imperialist war and militarism, among others, were the focus of discussions and protests. 

The first five weeks of the PPC of Michigan took place around the state capitol building in Lansing where a Republican right-wing dominated legislature and governor has enacted a myriad of reactionary laws which have overturned decades of guarantees for job security, pensions, organizing rights for unions, civil rights and local control of governments. Over the last decade, over 50 percent of the African American residents of the state have at some point lived under emergency management.

This emergency management system is designed to systematically disenfranchise municipalities with majority African American inhabitants. A bank-led executive is appointed with authority to essentially break contracts and overrule regulations adopted by the elected officials of the area.

Image on the right: Abayomi Azikiwe co-chairing a rally at the Poor People’s Campaign in Lansing, Michigan on June 11, 2018

Only the coercive payments on debt service, avaricious loans and bonds, which reinforce the capacity of finance capital to dictate the terms of urban life in the modern period, are the principal tasks of the emergency managers. These individuals had no experience whatsoever in administering public services and were beholden to no one except the multi-national corporations and banks.

Taking it to the Streets    

Perhaps the highlight of the PPC in Lansing was the character of the June 11 actions where members of D15, demanding a sharp hike in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local One, Communications Workers of America (CWA), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Lecturer’s Employee Organization (LEO), members of the UAW, joined with community activists from across Michigan for a rousing march and rally.

The June 11 action began with a lunch and pre-rally at a local area church. Participants then marched to the Department of Treasury building where another speak out was held. 

One of the speakers was Yvonne Jones of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), who represented the Moratorium NOW! Coalition in their effort to redirect hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal Hardest Hit Funds for the originally intended purpose of keeping working and poor people in homes. Lisa Franklin of Warrior on Wheels, a People Living with Disabilities advocacy group, drew attention to the failure of the state of Michigan and the U.S. to provide accessibility to all of its residents.

Other speaks were Aurora Harris of the LEO which has been in a protracted struggle for a contract providing a living wage and affordable healthcare benefits for University of Michigan at Dearborn instructors. Jennine Spencer, a homeowner and community organizer from the eastside of Detroit, briefly chronicled her ongoing efforts to maintain a home in light of exorbitant property tax rates and encroaching gentrification. 

The day of action ended after a one mile march to the headquarters of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). Several demonstrators sat in outside the building while four members of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition went in to put forward the demand for the utilization of federal funds given to the state to save people’s homes. Several people were arrested and charged with blocking the entrance to the building. 

Over $300 million has been turned over to the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) which has used the funds to seize properties through the courts. Many of these homes have been razed as opposed to being rehabilitated for human habitation. 

The DLBA is the focus of an ongoing federal grand jury investigation for bid rigging involving demolition contracts. All the while the DLBA is continuing to operate in the same fashion totally disregarding the essential needs of the people of the city.

Officials from MSHDA maintained that they were legally unable to use the federal funds to save all homes that are facing the auction block. However, during the period of emergency management and bankruptcy in Detroit, the design for the funds was shifted dramatically towards what is called “blight removal.” Many in Detroit feel that this is just another manifestation of the forced ethnic cleansing of the more than 80 percent African American population. 

The last Michigan day of action was held in Detroit where hundreds took to the streets during business hours marching on the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department demanding an end to service terminations. Earlier in the year, the DWSD announced that 17,000 households and small businesses were in arrears and subject to shutoffs. 

After leaving the DWSD building, demonstrators walked to Campus Martius, the center of corporate control, and later occupied the area taking water out of the year-round running fountain (with 100 jets) in order to illustrate the waste of resources by the billionaires at the expense of the working class and poor. Later 23 people were arrested for blocking the entrance of Quicken and Loans headquarters owned by billionaire ruling class magnate of Detroit Dan Gilbert.  Later the Q-Line hybrid coaches were deliberately stalled by dozens of people going both north and south. 

Where Do We Go From Here?: Chaos or Community

This question was posed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his final book published in 1967. It was Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which proposed the PPC of 1968. 

Tragically Dr. King was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis on April 4, 1968 while he was in the city to support a sanitation workers’ strike which had paralyzed the municipality. Many believe that the highest echelons of the ruling class and the capitalist state were responsible for his death. 

Some five decades later the number of people living in poverty in the U.S. has actually increased although statistics indicate that the proportion of people living in immiserating circumstances has ostensibly been reduced. Nonetheless, the criteria for determining poverty require re-examination.  

Official figures indicate that the unemployment rate is at 3.8 percent. Yet the Labor Participate Rate (LPR) remains at only 62.7 percent of the eligible workforce. (Source)

According to an article published earlier this year in New York Magazine these statistics projecting the lowest official unemployment rate in more than a decade does not reflect the actual conditions facing working families. The writer Eric Levitz notes that households are swamped in debt with marginal prospects for significant income increases.

The reports emphasize that:

“Now, Deutsche Bank economist Torsten Slok has added two new, (profoundly) disconcerting data points to the pile: The percentage of families with more debt than savings is higher now than at any point since 1962, while the median American family’s net worth is lower than it’s been in nearly a quarter-century…. So, this is what a ‘good’ economy now looks like in the United States: shrinking household wealth; soaring middle-class debt; wage growth that can’t keep pace with the rising costs of housing, health care, and higher education; job growth concentrated in part-time positions; widespread retirement insecurity; and more wealth-less households than America has seen for 56 years.”

A panel discussion was held on June 21 during the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) Annual Meeting held in Oak Park, a suburb right outside Detroit. The three featured speakers were leaders within the PPC: Crystal Bernard, a youth organizer; Yexenia Vanegas, a Detroit school teacher; and Rev. Ed Rowe, Pastor Emeritus of Central United Methodist Church downtown. 

Rev. Edward Pinkney of Berrien County Michigan demonstrates alongside the Poor People’s Campaign in Detroit on June 18, 2018

The discussion centered on evaluating the success and weaknesses of the PPC in Michigan as well as nationally. All three panelists recognized the need to continue organizing around the major areas of concern within the PPC: environmental justice, racist repression, the elimination of poverty and gender oppression–demands which are often conveyed as requiring a “moral revival” in the U.S. 

Through interactions between the panelists and the audience it was suggested that the coalition built by the PPC in Michigan over the last few months consisting of fighting labor unions, housing activists, environmental justice organizations, those groups opposing imperialist war and militarism, cultural workers and progressive youth be strengthened and expanded. In addition, the civil disobedience activity which resulted in the arrests of approximately 100 people over a period of six weeks pre-figured the potential for larger efforts involving thousands and tens of thousands which could shutdown central cities at critical points of production, services and commerce.

Also the role of the corporate and government-controlled media outlets in their lack of coverage of the PPC reinforced existing notions of censorship and bias against those concerns impacting the working class and nationally oppressed. With specific reference to Detroit, Flint, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Highland Park and other cities, the existence of a movement aimed at addressing the plight of the poor contradicts the contrived narrative of the for-profit and purported publically-funded press agencies. 

This, of course, requires the development of deeper ties within distressed communities and population groups. Such an approach will ultimately lead to long-term solutions in the overall movements to transform the existing capitalist order towards full social equality, self-determination and economic justice.   

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Donald Trump Is No Friend to the North Country

NOVANEWS

Sometimes metaphor, man, and myth arrive one right after the other.

This past weekend, a taconite ship ran aground in Duluth Harbor, nearly crashing right into the Canal Park seawall. The name of this ill-fated ship? American Spirit.

The symbolism was hard to miss, for, the same week, the Lake Superior port city was to receive another patriotic vessel on an ill-plotted course through ever-shallower waters. Ostensibly in support of GOP congressional candidate Pete Stauber, Donald Trump will hold a campaign event in Duluth tonight. It is, in fact, an event in support of Donald Trump, who will happily tell everyone how great things are (very great!) and who they should thank (you get one guess).

Buffer the bluster. Here are a half-dozen reasons why Trump is more foe than friend to that region and its people.

Labor: Mines gave northern Minnesotans jobs, but it was unions that won wages to lift them out of poverty. The Trump administration is decidedly pro-CEO (see: his tax bill slashing the corporate income tax by 40 percent) and openly hostile to workers. In February 2017, Vice President Mike Pence met with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to plot taking union-killing “right-to-work” laws national. Last fall, Trump’s Department of Labor snuffed out a union-led board to advise the feds on necessary safety measures for workers in the field. Because in Trump’s America, the only thing that deserves safety is profit margins.

Environment: These days, the North Country’s outdoors employs far more people than its mines. Trump, the ultimate indoorsman, trusts scientific “input” from Fox News, the businessmen who golf his courses, and, as it turns out, from anyone who gives his daughter a house. After the election, the Chilean billionaire owner of Antofagasta mining group bought a $5.5 million house in Washington, D.C. and leased it to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. This spring, Trump’s Interior Department reinstated canceled leases for Twin Metals, Antofagasta’s proposed Minnesota copper-nickel mine. If acid backwash ruins the Boundary Waters, maybe Ivanka and Jared will show up with mops and sponges.

Canada: Our neighbors to the north stubbornly refuse to admit to a “trade deficit”… which Trump, in a private meeting with Republican donors, admitted he simply made up. (There’s actually a $2 billion surplus running the other way.) No matter; Trump wants to tax Canadian steel and aluminum and set off a tariff slap-fight. That’s especially bad news for Duluth, where about a third of port traffic is bound for Canada. Minnesota sends grain and taconite north, and in return, gets products Canada’s now threatening to tax right back. Among them: Canadian whiskey, including Fireball, Minnesota’s most-consumed hard liquor.

Steel: Trump’s trade war certainly looks like old-fashioned patriotic protectionism. (Though some of the steel we import from Canada comes from hundreds of millions’ worth of Minnesota iron exported to Canada; see how that works?) But be warned: The Trump Organization might not be first in line to buy American. Just a decade ago, Trump built a hotel in Las Vegas with Chinese steel, and outfitted another in Chicago with Chinese aluminum. The president’s cynical attempt to “save” American manufacturing is only necessary because financiers like him turned their backs on it to save money.

Opioid inaction: In St. Louis County, where the president’s visiting today, heroin and opioid overdose deaths more than doubled from 2011 to 2015, and most of the county’s 144 overdoses last year occurred in Duluth. Trump knows just what this crisis needs: a border wall, deportations, kicking people off Medicaid, and the death penalty for drug dealers, just a few of the ideas he floated in a rambling speech in March. Those, and “really great advertising,” which he swears would convince people never to try drugs in the first place. To Trump, addiction isn’t a public health crisis. It’s a marketing opportunity to prove “Just Say No” needed better posters.

The elite’s elite: Northern Minnesotans were supposed to like Trump because he shot them straight and wasn’t a “D.C. insider,” like Hillary Clinton. They got something different all right. Gone is the petty corruption inherent in bureaucracy. In its place is something humble, hard-working northern Minnesotans probably hate even more: Wall Street fat cats. His cabinet secretaries criss-cross the country in private jets and spend seven figures redecorating their offices. EPA Director Scott Pruitt hired his disgraced banker friend to turn “Superfund” environmental clean-up sites into a developers’ sweepstakes. Jared Kushner takes lunches with hedge fund billionaires, while Don Jr. and Ivanka strike business deals with China. Trump’s consumer “protection” board is standing up for payday lenders and Wall Street speculators. Meanwhile, the guy in charge keeps taking golf trips on the company credit card, only the “business” is the United States’ budget, and the golf course is usually one he owns.

Expect Trump to bring up any or all of the above topics in his speech in Duluth. And to lie about them, to brag about all he’s done, to tell these downtrodden people how lucky they are to have him. They need him as much as they need a ship stuck in the harbor.

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