Archive | October 10th, 2019

Jewish Settlers Rule the Roost in ‘Israel’: But at What Price?

Jewish Settlers Rule the Roost in Israel: But at What Price?


Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sept. 3, 2019. (PHOTO CREDIT SEBASTIAN SCHEINER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES) 4.51111111111 Votes 4.50

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 2019, pp. 31-32

From the Diaspora

By Ramzy Baroud

ISRAELI JEWISH SETTLERS are on a rampage in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. While settler violence is part of everyday routine in Palestine, the violence of recent weeks is directly linked to the Sept. 17 general elections in Israel.

The previous elections, on April 9, failed to bring about political stability. Although Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu is now the longest-serving prime minister in the 71-year history of the country, he was still unable to form a government coalition.

Tarnished by a series of corruption cases involving himself, his family and aides, Netanyahu’s leadership is in an unenviable position. Police investigators are closing in on him, while opportunistic political allies, the likes of Avigdor Lieberman, are twisting his arm with the hope of exacting future political concessions.

The political crisis in Israel is not the outcome of a resurrected Labor or invigorated central parties, but the failure of the Right (including far-right and ultra-nationalist parties) to articulate a unified political agenda.

Illegal Jewish settlers understand well that the future identity of any right-wing government coalition will have lasting impact on their colonial enterprise. The settlers, however, are not exactly worried, since all major political parties, including that of the Blue and White, the centrist party of Benjamin Gantz, have made the support for Jewish colonies an important aspect in their campaigns.

The decisive vote of the Jewish settlers of the West Bank and their backers inside Israel became very clear in the last elections. Subsequently, their power forced Gantz to adopt an entirely different political stance since April.

The man who, on April 7 (two days before the last elections), criticized Netanyahu’s “irresponsible” announcement regarding his intention to annex the West Bank, is now a great supporter of the settlements. According to the Israeli news website, Arutz Sheva, Gantz vowed to continue expanding the settlements “from a strategic point of view and not as a political strategy.”

Considering the shift in Gantz’s perspective regarding the settlements, Netanyahu is left with no other option but to up the ante, as he is now pushing for complete and irreversible annexation of the West Bank.

Annexing the West Bank, from Netanyahu’s viewpoint, is a sound political strategy. The Israeli prime minister is, of course, oblivious to international law, which sees Israel’s military and settler presence as illegal. But neither Netanyahu, nor any other Israeli leader, for that matter, have ever cared about international law whatsoever. All that truly counts for Israel is Washington’s support, which is often blind and unconditional.

According to the Times of Israel newspaper, Netanyahu is now officially lobbying for a public statement by U.S. President Donald Trump to back Israel’s annexation of the West Bank.

Although the White House refused to comment on the story, and an official in Netanyahu’s office claimed that it was “incorrect,” the Israeli right is on the fast track to making that annexation possible.

Encouraged by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman’s comment that “Israel has the right to retain some of the West Bank,” more Israeli officials are speaking boldly and openly regarding their intentions of making that annexation possible.

Netanyahu had, himself, hinted at that possibility in August during a visit to the illegal settlement of Beit El. “We come to build. Our hands will reach out and we will deepen our roots in our homeland—in all parts of it,” Netanyahu said, during a ceremony celebrating the expansion of the illegal settlements to include 650 more housing units.

Unlike Netanyahu, former Israeli justice minister and leader of the newly formed United Right, Ayelet Shaked, didn’t speak in code. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, she called for the full annexation of Area C, which constitutes nearly 60 percent of the West Bank. “We have to apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria,” she said, referring to the Palestinian land using biblical designations.

Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan, however, wants to go the extra mile. According to Arutz Sheva and The Jerusalem Post, Erdan has called for the annexation of all illegal settlements in the West Bank and the ouster of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas as well.

Now situated at the center of Israeli politics, Jewish settlers are enjoying the spectacle as they are being courted by all major political parties. Their increased violence in the West Bank is a form of political muscle-flexing, an expression of dominance and a brutish display of political priorities.

“There’s only one flag from the Jordan to the sea—the flag of Israel,” was the slogan of a rally involving over 1,200 Jewish settlers who roamed the streets of the Palestinian city of Hebron (Al-Khalil) on Aug. 14. The settlers, together with Israeli soldiers, stormed al-Shuhada street and harassed Palestinians and international activists in the beleaguered Palestinian city.

Just a few days earlier, an estimated 1,700 Jewish settlers, backed by Israeli police, stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, more than 60 Palestinians were wounded when Israeli forces and settlers attacked worshippers.

The violent scene was repeated in Nablus, where armed women settlers stormed the town of al-Masoudiya and conducted “military training” under the protection of the Israeli occupation army.

The settlers’ message is clear: we now rule the roost, not only in the West Bank, but in Israeli politics as well.

All of this is happening as if it is entirely an Israeli political affair. The PA, which has now been dropped out of American political calculations altogether, is left to issue occasional, irrelevant press releases about its intention to hold Israel accountable according to international law.

But the guardians of international law are also suspiciously absent. Neither the United Nations, nor advocates of democracy and international law in the European Union, seem interested in confronting Israeli intransigence and blatant violations of human rights.

With Jewish settlers dictating the political agenda in Israel, and constantly provoking Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, violence is likely to grow exponentially in the coming months. As is often the case, this violence will be used strategically by the Israeli government, this time to set the stage for a final and complete annexation of Palestinian land, a disastrous outcome by any count.

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Middle East Ranks High in President Trump’s Foreign Policy Failures


U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during campaign rally at Southern New Hampshire ¬University Arena in Manchester, NH, Aug. 15, 2019. (PHOTO BY LEV RADIN/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES)1111111111

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 2019, pp. 26-27

History’s Shadows

By Walter L. Hixson

RANKING OF PRESIDENTS is always fraught with subjectivity, and it is still a bit premature to render a final judgment on Donald Trump. If the economy plummets, or alternatively blossoms in the next few months or years, views of him could change.

When it comes to foreign policy, however, the verdict is already in, virtually no matter what happens from here. Trump has earned a failing grade—and Middle East policy ranks high on the list of his failures. As the campaign season gains momentum, here are my top three reasons why President Trump may be the worst foreign policy president in all of American history.

Reason No. 1: Withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement (2015) on Climate Change.

When civil war-battered Syria signed on to the Paris Treaty in November 2017, Trump’s announcement of unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the accord earlier that year made it official that the United States alone—among all the nations of the world—would not participate in combating the scientifically verified, potentially devastating, and daily snowballing effect of climate change. This is the single most reckless, damaging and rudderless action taken by Trump. If he is reelected, the American people will be voting for nothing less than the destruction of life as we know it on planet Earth.

Reason No. 2: Abandoning Arms Control Treaties with Iran and Russia. One of the great achievements of the right-wing Ronald Reagan presidency was the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987, which eliminated an entire class of intermediate range missiles in Europe and, moreover, established rigorous verification procedures on compliance. One of the great achievements of the centrist Barack Obama presidency was the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, more formally the JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in which Iran agreed to rigorously verifiable limitations on its ability to enrich uranium for bomb-making capacity in return for lifting of U.S.-sponsored international economic sanctions.

The born-rich real estate tycoon president with zero foreign policy experience summarily terminated both treaties.

Other members of the U.N. Security Council (China, Russia, Britain, France) as well as the European Union signed off on the deal with Iran—which has shown remarkable restraint thus far in response. Like many others, Iran appears to be awaiting the outcome of the 2020 election before deciding precisely what direction to go.

Trump’s termination of the INF Treaty frees Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as the venerable U.S. military-industrial complex to rev their engines and restart the nuclear arms race, which has been quiescent for decades. Another critical treaty with Russia, the New START Treaty, also denounced by Trump, expires in 2021.

Termination of these arms control agreements rank near the top of Trump’s foreign policy failures because, well, as the old bumper sticker read, “One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.”

Reason No. 3: Recognizing Jeru­salem as the “Eternal Capital” of Israel and the Golan Heights as Israeli Territory. Because of the overweening influence over the U.S. Congress and the American public of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—one of the top two or three lobbies in the country—all too many Americans may not find these actions, or the termination of the Iran deal, objectionable, but anyone with broader knowledge of the Middle East conflict understands that Trump is playing with dynamite.

As readers of this magazine well know, Jerusalem is a holy city for Christians and Muslims as well as Jews and cannot be dominated by any one if there is ever to be hope of peace. Under the moribund two-state solution, East Jerusalem was to be the capital of a Palestinian state.

As the U.N. and the international community have repeatedly affirmed, Israel has no legitimate claim to either the Golan Heights (annexed from Syria in 1967) or the West Bank, both of which it nonetheless has been settling for decades in blatant violation of international law. Trump is not the first president to bow to AIPAC and Christian fundamentalists on Middle East policy, but he has taken it to a new level by signing off on Israel’s sole occupation of Jerusalem.


The top three above strike me as the most serious Trump foreign policy failures because their consequences can be catastrophic. But there is a litany of failure on the part of this president, who is both arrogant and amateurish, a potentially lethal combination.

Trump has alienated all of Africa by calling it a continent full of “shithole” countries; he has done nothing to calm the India-Pakistan dispute playing out today in Kashmir, at the risk of escalation between two nuclear-armed powers; he has given little rhetorical support to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong while launching a trade war with China; he has anointed a new ruler who can’t actually come to power in Venezuela; and he has inspired neo-fascist movements all over the globe, as men such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte praise his leadership.

I actually had high hopes for Trump making a breakthrough with Kim Jong-un but his diplomacy—if that’s what you call the three highly publicized meetings with Kim—has done nothing but give visibility and legitimacy to a ruthless autocrat. A deal can be secured if the United States and its allies offer a trade along the lines of terminating off-shore military maneuvers, which make Kim feel threatened, in return for denuclearization, but for reasons known only to Trump he has chosen to strike up a pointless friendship legitimating a petty dictator while achieving no tangible results.

Where on this list, some may wonder, is Trump’s indifference to Russian meddling in American elections? While clearly it is true that Russia does meddle—the fact of the matter is, so do we—all over the world. So, while it is not “fake news,” Russian meddling is also not an existential threat to world peace as are the issues discussed above. Sorry, Democrats, Russia did not decide the election—the Electoral College and too many naïve American voters did that to themselves.

Competition may still exist for the dubious achievement of being ranked the worst overall president in American history, but in foreign relations Trump is well on his way to claiming the top spot.

History’s Shadows, a regular column by contributing editor Walter L. Hixson, seeks to place various aspects of Middle East politics and diplomacy in historical perspective. Hixson is the author of Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict (available from Middle East Books and More), along with several other books and journal articles. He has been a professor of history for 36 years, achieving the rank of distinguished professor.

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Chris Keates standing down as NASUWT general secretary

Veteran union leader to stand down after 15 years at the helm

By Will Hazell

Chris Keates NASUWT

Chris Keates is to stand down as general secretary of the NASUWT union after 15 years at the helm.

Ms Keates was elected as the teaching union’s first female general secretary in 2004, and was re-elected unopposed by the membership in 2009 and 2014.

Dave Kitchen, the NASUWT national president, said: “After 15 years as NASUWT general secretary, and far longer as an NASUWT member of staff and union activist, Chris Keates has advised the national executive of her retirement plans and that she will not be standing again for re-election.

“The process of electing her successor has started and pending the outcome of that process, and in the interim, Chris remains in post, so for the present it is business as usual.

“At the appropriate time, tribute will be paid to Chris for the work she has done and her years of service to the NASUWT and its members. Consequently, no further statements will be made at this time.”

Ms Keates joined the staff of the NASUWT in 1998 in a senior role with responsibility for policy co-ordination and development, and was appointed as NASUWT deputy general secretary in 2001.

She taught history and humanities in Birmingham secondary schools from 1971 to 1994.

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Every town is Attica

By Jodi Dean

Every town is Attica

Attica Pop Up Museum, Geneva, NY, Sept.8. Liberation Photo.

On September 8, a People’s History Museum was assembled outside the gates of the Attica Correctional Facility to commemorate the anniversary of the Attica Rebellion. For two hours, visitors from throughout central and western New York toured the exhibit, sharing testimonials to the damaging effects of the extensive U.S. carceral system on prisoners, families, and communities. They rallied together outside the penitentiary gates with chants of “Brick by brick, wall by wall, Attica has got to fall” and “Inside, outside, all on the same side.”

The museum was produced by the Geneva Women’s Assembly. GWA’s Laura Salamendra emphasized why it was important for GWA to organize the event. “We work with a lot of women in our community who feel the effects of mass incarceration. Life is hard enough when you’re poor, with no childcare, no transportation and a pile of legal fees. We need to stop shaming woman for their abusive partners, their addictions and the choices we make for keeping food on the table. Mass incarceration is a community problem that needs a community solution.”

Sponsors and participants included the groups Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier, the New York Poor People’s Campaign, the Committee on U.S. Latin American Relations at Cornell University, and the Geneva branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Bill Martin, the JUST coordinator, said that his group decided to attend the commemoration because “the struggle at Attica and the struggle to close Attica are one. This rally represents what you can see everywhere:” people from all over coming out to put a stop to the aggressive and expanding U.S. prison system.

PSL’s Rob Maclean linked recent problems with police in Geneva to larger issues facing the region. He said, “A Geneva police officer, Jack Montasanto, was recently arrested after choking a woman unconscious inside the police station and on camera, during booking. Despite this brutal assault he was only charged with a class E misdemeanor, this in a city well-known around the region for over-policing, overcharging, and a department that is an important cog in the machinery of mass incarceration, funneling people from our communities, shipping our neighbors out to be warehoused in places like Attica. Most towns in upstate NY are in one way or another economically dependent on a police and prisons system that is out of control.”

The theme of the exhibit was “Every Town is Attica.” Through images, stories, poems, and remembrances, the exhibit depicted the ways that Attica casts its shadow throughout New York, the United States, and the world. “The exhibit is the first phase of a long-term project to collect stories that can educate the public on the history of Attica and its relationship to present day mass incarceration struggles in New York,” explained GWA’s Hannah Dickinson.

Suzanne Flierl Krull from the New York Poor People’s Campaign said that it was important to her to participate in the event because of her own family’s connections to the Attica uprising. Her uncle both prosecuted some of the inmates involved and later recommended that the charges be dropped in the interest of justice. “I have learned much, though, in my study of the Attica uprising and my family’s relationship to it. I have moved away from fear of unknown ‘criminals’ sending death threats to those I love, to fear of a system that perpetuates racism and continues to create environments that ultimately cause riot and bloodshed. We must hear the stories and learn the important lessons of Attica. Then we must demand real, sustainable, and systemic change. I hope this collection of stories will help to do just that.”

Another organizer with the Poor People’s Campaign, Becca Forsythe of Elmira, told about the death of Gary Strobridge, also of Elmira. The events leading to Strobridge’s death are still under investigation. What is clear is that he was having a mental health crisis and that police were called to the scene. “When we send police to a mental health crisis, we criminalize illness and demonize the person suffering,” Forsythe said. “Why weren’t trained professionals on hand who understand mental illness? Fight poverty…not the poor!” Forsythe pointed out that almost a quarter of Chemung County’s 88,681 residents report having more bad mental health days than good one. “There are a lot of reasons for that. Maybe it’s the fact that more than 30% of us have housing insecurity, almost 15% have a disability, a third of us live in a food desert, a quarter of us have experienced food insecurity this year, and almost half of us don’t even have a high school diploma.”

One of the collected pieces was written by Shawn Hudson from the Soundview section of the Bronx: “My hood is one big cell block just like Attica due to heavy police surveillance and presence. Right across the street from my building the Monroe projects are lit up due to the NYPD’s flood lights concentrated on everyone.” “Just like many people failed to see the humanity of those inmates that rebelled in Attica” Hudson continued, “people fail to see the humanity of those that live in my community.”

Another piece, by Melissa Rodney of New York City, noted the connection between mass incarceration and the current escalation of deportations. Immigrants are also prisoners. “Afraid to leave home and not make it back. Imprisoned by an archaic system of rules that determine the dreams of success based on a birth certificate,” she wrote.

Tim Shenk’s contribution talked about a friend locked up in a county correctional facility. His friend was “secretly documenting all of the abuses he could gather from other inmates, which put him in a precarious position.” Shenk said that his friend called him once he was released. After Shenk said, “You’re a free man,” his friend responded “As free as you can be in a racist capitalist society.” Shenk concluded that “Attica, and the whole prison system, lay bare the reality of that racist capitalist system. There is no true freedom for those of us without property, without a total transformation of that system.”

Ithaca students interning at the Committee on U.S. Latin American Relations spoke about the impact of U.S. economic and military expansionism on policing in Latin America. Rebekah Jones observed that U.S. approaches to poverty and crime are now being implemented throughout the region. “We must take responsibility for that.” Daniela Rivero added that this affects “communities in Latin American in the same ways that over policing and unequal resource distribution affects communities in the United States in that they make for conditions under people are incarcerated both in immigration detention centers and in prisons.”

This is the second year that the pop up People’s Museum has appeared at Attica. Concluding the event, Salamendra reminded the assembled that even though every town is Attica, what is most important is that “Attica means fightback.”

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U.S. war machine pushes the planet toward climate catastrophe

By Marcus Nells

This article is based on a talk given at the August 24 “Eco-Socialism Conference: For the Planet to Live, Capitalism must End,” hosted and organized by the Albuquerque branch of the PSL.

Anyone concerned with climate change and the ecological crisis we face has to be concerned with the United States military for several reasons.

The most obvious reason is that the U.S. military’s carbon footprint is gigantic. If the U.S. military was a country, it would be a bigger greenhouse gas emitter than 140 other countries, and there’s only 195 countries in the world!

This should not come as a surprise. It takes a lot of oil and gas to keep the U.S. empire’s 800 military bases running, not to mention their navy and air fleets which are scattered across the globe. In 2017 alone, the military purchased 260,000 barrels of oil per day. Just one of its jets uses about 3,334 gallons per hour, about what the average car driver uses in seven years.

On top of that, U.S. military bases—both foreign and domestic–are among the most polluted places in the world. Jet and rocket fuel frequently contaminate sources of drinking water and aquifers, like right here in Albuquerque, NM. All three military bases in New Mexico have contaminated the water in nearby areas, and all three have refused to correct the problems. The U.S. Navy recently dumped 94,000 gallons of hazardous fuel into a Virginia waterway that empties straight into the Atlantic Ocean.

Retired congressperson John Dingell recently stated that, “almost every military base in the U.S. is contaminated.” In fact, the military has 39,000 contaminated sites on over 19 million acres of land in the United States alone! Nine hundred of those sites are designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as Superfund sites. And we haven’t even begun talking about the bases outside of the United States.

The Department of Defense produces more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined.

The United States has conducted more nuclear tests than all other countries in the world combined. These tests have made parts of the planet almost uninhabitable, like parts of the Marshall Islands.

What is worse than the U.S. empires far flung bases are their actual wars. From the so-called Indian Wars to the genocidal war against Iraq, the U.S. military leaves a path of destruction that endures for generations, from the annihilation of native ecosystems and agricultural systems to the physical liquidation of millions of human beings.

It is abundantly clear that the U.S. military is the most destructive force, militarily and environmentally, in the world.

While the U.S. military is the single largest organizational consumer of hydrocarbons in the world, recently it has been running around boasting about “greening” some of its operations. No one should be fooled by this. We know that the answer isn’t a green capitalist war machine. The answer is no capitalist war machine!

To understand why a green war machine is not part of a response to climate change, we have to understand what the ruling class mobilizes the military for in the first place.

The U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are deployed for one reason and one reason alone: to threaten, bully and punish any state or movement that exercises too much independence and dares to stand in the way of corporate profits. The military is the fist that allows the global system of capitalism to keep going. In other words, the military’s function is to preserve the system of accumulation and exploitation that is destroying the planet. Greening it won’t change it’s function.

If the effects of climate change are not reversed, it will lead to greater instability, which will bring a militarized response from the ruling elites. They are building walls around the United States to keep the global masses out. They are arming themselves to the teeth to preserve the United States at the center of global power in scenarios of global climate crisis. The military budget annually is now almost $1 trillion. A new scramble to dominate and exploit the resources opened up by receding ice and permafrost is now underway.

This preparation for conflict is giving rise to a new arms race. The U.S. is withdrawing from all Cold War era weapons treaties. They are upgrading their nuclear stockpile and weaponizing space. This is very serious.

The potentially devastating impacts from climate change mean we have to radically reorganize society so that working people are in charge, not the rich, and we must do this quickly! There is no way to fathom a path toward climate justice, sustainability and people’s power without taking on the global security threat of the U.S. military.

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Evo Morales, providing leadership in times of adversity

By Enrique Moreno Gimeranez

Evo Morales, providing leadership in times of adversity

Carbon monoxide from Amazon fires. NASA/JPL-Caltech [Public domain]

Originally posted on Granma. 

While other South American leaders stood idly by, and delayed operations to fight fires days after the flames began to spread across the Brazilian Amazon, the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, personally led efforts to confront the tragedy in the area of Chiquitanía, located in the country’s southeast, between Gran Chaco and Amazonía.

In a Twitter message, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla emphasized the Bolivian leader’s actions in the face of an environmental disaster, writing, “We recognize the leadership of President Evo and the brothers in Bolivia, who are confronting fires in their area of the Amazon. They can count on our solidarity and support…”

The indigenous President has adopted significant measures to protect Mother Earth from the flames that have affected more than 700,000 hectares in Bolivia. First was the key step of creating an Environmental Emergency Cabinet in Roboré, in the department of Santa Cruz, charged with evaluating the situation, facilitating help, and attending to the most urgent needs of the population and nature impacted by the fires, according to the country’s Ministry of Communications.

Official Bolivian reports indicate that working in the area are 1,800 soldiers, 450 police, 21 ambulances and 42 water trucks with their crews, as well as a large number of doctors and volunteers, for a total of more than 4,000 persons. This coordinated response has contributed to preventing any loss of human life, to date.

Some 2,000 residents and firefighters have been provided medical assistance, although no severe cases have been reported, according to statements by the country’s Health Minister, Gabriela Montaño.

Also deployed were veterinary personnel to aid domestic and wild animals, and refuge centers were created for the area’s fauna. A report on RT indicated that seven aircraft are fighting the fires, among these a Boeing 747 Super Tanker leased by the Morales government.

Of course, criticism from the opposition was not long in coming, but quickly lost steam given the preliminary results of measures taken by the President, who tweeted, “I thank the press for visiting Chiquitanía to verify the struggle underway against the fires. Together we confirmed a reduction in the number of hotspots over the last few days, from 8,000 to 162.”

Morales has provided a personal example of the attitude required to overcome a natural disaster: cooperating with the firefighting brigades; coordinating the Emergency Cabinet’s work; inspecting affected areas from the air; holding meetings with residents; and temporarily suspending his campaign as the Movement to Socialism (MAS) candidate for President in the upcoming October elections, given the difficult situation in Chiquitanía. He has additionally declared an “ecological pause” in affected areas, which includes a prohibition on land sales, and accepted international aid, which is still insufficient.

No less important is his call for a meeting, to address the fire emergency, of foreign ministers from the Amazon Treaty Cooperation Organization’s (OTCA) member countries, which includes Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

The Bolivian government, and its President in particular, have promoted the hashtag #UnidadEnLaAdversidad (UnityInAdversity), sharing news on the fires via social media. A good maxim for a sister people confronting a great challenge – a difficult task that requires the best from human beings, and especially unity to fight the flames and begin the recovery.

The Amazon’s importance for the world

–   The Amazon rainforest covers 7.4 million square kilometers, 5% of the world’s continental land surface, including areas in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

–   The Amazon River is the largest in the world, carrying an average of 230,000 cubic meters of water per second, 20% of the fresh water on the planet.

–   Indigenous groups, with great cultural and linguistic riches, account for 17% of the population in the region. These native peoples have always used the rainforest’s resources in a sustainable manner thanks to their knowledge of its biodiversity and ecosystem.

–   Amazonia is a region of great geopolitical importance both nationally and internationally, given the scarce, strategic resources it holds, its environmental importance, and cultural patrimony.

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US conducts ground launch cruise missile test

By Ian Gamble

US conducts ground launch cruise missile test

Aug. 18 flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, Calif. | From DOD video by Scott Howe

On Aug. 18, less than three weeks after scrapping the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF), the U.S. launched a ballistic cruise missile from San Nicholas Island, Calif. The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) of flight. The test would have been banned under the INF treaty.

San Nicholas Island is the former home to the Nicoleño tribe of Native Americans, massacred by Russian fur traders in 1811 before the remaining population was forcibly relocated to the nearby Spanish Mission.

The Channel Islands and Ventura County have long been at the center of U.S. militarism. Naval Base Ventura County is a sprawling military installation consisting of three separate facilities. Pt. Hueneme is the only deep-water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco and has long been used as a staging ground for ships in the Pacific. During and after WWII, Pt. Mugu was where the majority of new missiles and weapon systems were tested.

San Nicolas Island is currently the main location for rocket and weapons systems testing and was on the short list for locations to test the first nuclear bombs. The remaining islands have passed through the U.S. military’s control and still have smaller installations located on them. It is dark yet fitting that a group of islands whose human population was brutally murdered for profit is now being used to test weapons systems that one day may be used in the murder of all life on Earth.

Signed in 1987 with the Soviet Union, and later expanded to include former Soviet states, the INF banned launching land-based nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,000 kilometers. The treaty resulted in the dismantling of over 2,600 missiles and was one of the first treaties to be predicated on reducing the stock of arms instead of imposing a ceiling on their production. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and NATO have long maintained that Russia was in violation of the INF — which the Russian government denies — the excuse the U.S. has used to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty.

The dissolution of the INF was preceded by two other events that may shed light on the intentions of the Trump administration. In February 2018, the Pentagon released a new Nuclear Posture Review, outlining U.S. nuclear strategy. In this document, the Trump administration has proposed expanding the use of nuclear weapons as a response to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” to its interests or those of its allies.

Preparing for ‘great power conflict’

While the report does not specify exactly what constitutes a “significant” attack, it includes as threats to U.S. interests cyber, chemical and biological attacks. In addition, the NPR stated that the U.S. is preparing for what it describes as great power competition or conflict, which can only be taken as a call to arms against Russia and China.

In January, it was announced that low-yield “tactical” nuclear weapons were already rolling off assembly lines. Arms control experts believe that the world is on the verge of a renewed nuclear arms race. As the only country to have used nuclear weapons on a civilian population, U.S. withdrawal from the INF marks a significant escalation in tensions in the world, and further positions the U.S. as an unreliable negotiating partner.

All of this points to the U.S. foreign policy goal of maintaining worldwide hegemony no matter the cost to human lives or the environment. As the U.S. empire falls into decline, it will stop at nothing to rescue its dominant role in the world, which is why we must bury the U.S. empire once and for all.

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Former Colombian guerrillas rearm as government undermines Peace Accords

By James Jordan

Former Colombian guerrillas rearm as government undermines Peace Accords

A new phase of armed conflict in Colombia has emerged with the declaration by some former leaders of the FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army) that they are reorganizing and rearming as an insurgent force. Iván Márquez (aka Luciano Marín Arango) made the announcement in a press conference Thursday, August 29, 2019. Among those appearing with Márquez were Jesús Santrich (aka Seuxis Pausias Hernández Solarte) and El Paisa (ala Hernán Darío Velásquez Saldarriga).

Márquez had been a FARC-EP commander and lead negotiator of the peace accords implemented in 2016 between the FARC-EP and the Colombian government. Both Santrich and El Paisa, also FARC-EP officers, were part of the negotiating team. Márquez had already abandoned the peace process and his seat in the Congress to go into hiding in April 2018. He cited rising violence against social movements and former insurgents, the noncompliance of the government with the accords, and the arrest of Santrich for narco trafficking. That arrest was requested by the U.S. government, who petitioned for his extradition, based on unsubstantiated evidence and testimony of paid informants. It was perceived as a way to circumvent agreements about reincorporation of FARC-EP personnel into civilian life. Santrich was released from prison in May but went into hiding because of multiple threats against him.

The reformation of this new version of the FARC-EP represents a profound split among the former combatants. The new FARC (Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Common) political party has reiterated its commitment to the peace accord and nonviolent struggle. The National Political Council of the FARC released a statement in response to the Márquez declaration saying:

This morning a video spread through social media of Iván Márquez, surrounded by a reduced group of old commanders and grassroots guerrillas of the extinct FARC-EP, read a large document with which they intend to justify together the return to arms, in contradiction of what we agreed and signed in Havana, Cuba, with the Colombian state.

El Partido … FARC … [does] not share in any of the terms of said elocution. The Peace Accords embody the culmination of the Colombian people’s old desire for an end to the armed conflict. … To proclaim the armed struggle in Colombia today constitutes a delirious mistake. …

It is certain that the fulfillment of the Accords on the part of the State marches at an elephantine pace. … No one denies that important sectors and interests exist that work incessantly against the pact. But revolutionaries confront adversity with optimism. …

The war cannot be the destiny of the nation. We will continue here, disposed to give all for the peace and social justice.

The announcement by Marquez and his comrades had a starkly different tone. It begins with a pointed referral to the roots of the FARC-EP. The insurgency was formed to defend peasant communities from a campaign of unilateral assaults by the Colombian Armed Forces in the 1964 offensive against the autonomous zone of Marquetalia. These attacks had been urged on by the U.S. Pentagon. Márquez declared:

We announce to the world that we have begun the second Marquetalia under the universal right of the world’s people to rise up in arms against oppression. We look to coordinate efforts with the guerrilla of the ELN [National Liberation Army — another guerrilla force reputed to have around 5,000 members]. The objective is not the soldier nor the police respectful of the popular interests. It will be the oligarchy, this exclusive and corrupt and violent mafia oligarchy that believes it can continue and continue barring the door to the country’s future. …

Our beginning has to be with the installation in the Nariño Palace [Colombia’s executive branch seat] of a new government placed there by a great coalition of forces for life, a constituent assembly sufficiently representative and with clear guarantees of actuation of a definitive impulse for the structural transformations that Colombia requires. …

Since the peace accord of Havana and the naïve disarming of the guerrilla, nothing has changed, the massacres do not cease, more than 500 [social] leaders and more than 150 guerrilleros have been assassinated.

According to some observers, the situation is even worse than what Márquez described. The Patriotic March (Marcha Patriótica) popular movement for a just peace reports that since the implementation of the peace accord in late November 2016, over 700 social movement leaders and 137 former insurgents were murdered. That means that every 25 to 30 hours in Colombia, a social movement leader or former insurgent is killed. The murders are carried out mostly with impunity by members of paramilitary death squads and the Colombian Armed Forces. Around 40 percent of the victims of political killings are Afro-Colombians and indigenous persons. Additionally, forced displacement of most rural communities continues unabated. In the first four months of 2019 alone, at least 40,000 persons were displaced.

The failure of the Colombian government to honor the commitments it agreed to in the peace accords is well documented. According to the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, 31 percent of the components of the peace accord have not even begun to be implemented. Overall, only 23 percent of the agreements have been fulfilled.

Humberto de la Calle and Sergio Jaramillo were the lead Peace Accord negotiators for the Colombian government. They released a statement in response to the Márquez declaration that said:

Without forgetting the primary responsibility that falls to Iván Márquez and his companions for these deeds, we remind … the Government that its permanent attacks on the process and the risks of judicial destabilization that they carry with them, could bring various [FARC-EP] commanders to mistaken decisions.

In an interview with CNN, Jaramillo said:

The government tends to say, whenever it’s addressing the international community, that it will implement the agreement. But when you actually look at what’s going on, that’s not what’s happening. … Take the first point, which was rural development. They agreed to set up a fund with 3 million hectares to distribute to small workers, campesinos, and none of that has happened. We agreed to give titles to formalize 10 million hectares. … Fifty-five percent of the Colombian countryside has no titles. People can’t access credits. It makes life much more difficult and dangerous because it makes it easier to take away their property. What the government is doing on that front is almost nothing. … [If the peace process collapses] It will be absolutely terrible. … Today we have 7 million … internally displaced persons in Colombia. … The government tried some very aggressive moves against the peace process which were completely unnecessary. For example, the president decided to veto a critical transitional justice bill that had already gone through the review of the Constitutional Courts. … And what ended up happening … was the government was thoroughly defeated in Congress. It is actually the Congress and the Colombian courts … keeping the peace process alive.

The attacks of the Duque administration on the peace accord are prodded on by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. The president and various White House officials have repeatedly called on Colombia to abandon agreements for crop substitution, land redistribution, and rural development, insisting on violent eradication of crops with illicit uses and aerial spraying with glyphosate (Monsanto’s RoundUp Ultra) of coca growing communities. This has been a primary cause of violence against rural communities and their leaders. Despite the insistence by the Trump administration that these measures are necessary to end cocaine production, the reality is that in 2017, cocaine production in Colombia rose to record levels, and rose again, another 13 percent, in 2018. The Trump administration has also led attacks against the Special Jurisdiction for Peace tribunals, seeking to circumvent them by petitioning for the extradition to the U.S. of former FARC-EP insurgents. The impact of these policies weakens the peace process and could help plunge Colombia back into civil war.

The White House responded to the Márquez announcement by accusing Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro of being behind the rearming of the new FARC-EP. No credible evidence was given, nor was mention made of proven activity of Colombian paramilitaries in Venezuela working with the right wing to try and overthrow the elected government.

Photo: James Jordan

Cathy Rojas is active in the New York City Colombia solidarity movement and the ANSWER anti-war coalition, as well as a leader of the newly formed U.S. and Canadian Coalition for Peace in Colombia. When asked her comments regarding the Márquez declaration, Rojas responded:

We understand that under the political genocide conducted by the state, re-arming to some seems like the only successful form of self-defense. Nevertheless, we will continue to support the struggle for true peace in Colombia, a peace that will also hold the state and the paramilitary accountable, a peace that will look beyond violence as that caused by the gun, but also acknowledge the violence caused by poverty, displacement, and U.S. imperialism.

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Cuba: U.S. government earmarks millions to hinder Cuban medical cooperation

By Cuban Ministry of Foreign AffairsA

Note: Following is a statement by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs on one of the increased blockade measures, including lawsuits against Cuba arising from the implementation of Title III of the Helms-Burton law.Originally posted on Radio Rebelde.

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement strongly rejecting a USAID program against Cuban medical cooperation. Cuban News Agency reproduces the full text of the statement:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly denounces and condemns the recent aggression against Cuba by the Government of the United States through a USAID program aimed at financing actions and the search for information to discredit and sabotage the international cooperation provided by Cuba in the area of health in dozens of countries and for the benefit of millions of people. It is an effort that adds to the gross pressures exerted against various governments to hinder Cuban cooperation and to previous efforts of the same purpose, such as the special parole program aimed at the theft of human resources trained in Cuba.

The core of the immoral slander consists in alleging, without any foundation, that Cuba engages in human trafficking or the practice of slavery and in attempting to denigrate the meritorious work that hundreds of thousands of Cuban health professionals and technicians in various countries, particularly in the Third World, have voluntarily carried out throughout history.

This is an insult to the bilateral and intergovernmental cooperation programs, all legitimately established between the Cuban government and the governments of dozens of countries, which have been consistent with the United Nations guidelines on South-South cooperation and have responded to the health requirements that those governments themselves have sovereignly defined.

It is an attempt against a solidarity effort that has received the recognition of the international community and the specific praise of the highest executives of the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization.

These lies are revealing of the low moral standing of the U.S. government and the politicians who are in the business of aggression against Cuba. The campaign has millions of dollars in funds and the complicity of several major media outlets and, in particular, unscrupulous reporters who sacrifice their supposed impartiality and objectivity to serve the political interests of the U.S. government.

For decades and even today, in those nations with the most unfavorable economic conditions, this cooperation has been and is being offered as a gesture of solidarity, whose expenses are covered almost entirely by Cuba. Similarly, and in line with the United Nations conceptions of cooperation among developing countries, it is offered in several nations on the basis of complementarity and partial compensation for services rendered.

It consists of a totally fair and legitimate exchange among developing countries, many of which have natural wealth, economic dimensions or higher levels of industrial development than Cuba, but lack the human resources that our State has managed to generate; dedicated professionals and humanists willing to work in the most difficult conditions; and the concepts of health coverage that years of successful experience have allowed us to build.

The Cuban technicians and professionals who participate in these programs do so absolutely freely and voluntarily. During the fulfillment of their mission, they continue to receive their full salary in Cuba and also have a stipend in the country of destination, along with other forms of compensation.

In cases in which Cuba receives compensation for the cooperation provided, these collaborators have the merit of providing a highly valuable, fair and totally legitimate contribution to the financing, sustainability and development of the free and massive health system that is accessible to each and every Cuban, as well as to the cooperation programs that are deployed in many parts of the world.

Access to health is a human right and the United States commits a crime by denying it or obstructing it with political motives or aggression.

Havana, 29 August 2019

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U.S. trying to slam door on 350,000 Chinese students?

By Sebastian Miscenich and Chris Banks

U.S. trying to slam door on 350,000 Chinese students?

Photo by Suuuuummer. Attribution: ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In a speech this week, Christopher Ford, head of the U.S. State Department’s international security bureau, detailed how denying Chinese undergraduate and graduate students visas is part of the government’s 21st century foreign policy reorientation toward “great power competition” with China.

Ford stated that denying and restricting visas to Chinese students, especially in tech sectors, is viewed as a way to curtail “technology transfer.”

Imperialist propaganda regularly paints the United States as the victim of Chinese technological theft, which is then cited as the reason for aggressive U.S. policies. Ford, however, in a rare moment of honesty, disposed of this myth. In his speech he stated that any acquisition of technology by China for its own development, “by means both fair and foul,” [author’s emphasis] represents a geopolitical competitive challenge that requires an “effective response.” In other words, it is not alleged stealing that is viewed as a threat, but more fundamentally China’s technological development and know-how in general.

From this imperialist viewpoint, the 350,000 Chinese foreign students now legally attending U.S. universities – one-third of all foreign students – are a growing security risk for whom the very act of learning constitutes a form of “technology transfer” that must be curbed.

The Trump White House, acting on the anti-China consensus among all U.S. political elites, announced in 2018 that it would impose limitations on visas to Chinese students, and considered halting them altogether. American universities have been outspoken critics of this policy, fearful of losing out on billions of dollars that Chinese students pay in tuition annually.

Recently, Arizona State University found itself caught up in the U.S. government’s war on Chinese students and scholars.

In August, nine Chinese ASU students attempting to re-enter the United States to continue their studies under their visas were detained at Los Angeles International Airport and deported by Customs and Border Protection. University officials maintain that the students were academically eligible to return. CBP did not give any reason why the students were sent back, prompting the university’s president Michael Crow to write letters to the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.

There was no due process. The deported students were investigated, like numerous others, simply because they were Chinese and pursuing advanced degrees that might lead, in the words of Ford, to “technological acquisition” by China. Customs officials searched and reviewed the students’ personal electronic devices, deemed them “inadmissible,” and forced them to pay for their own plane tickets back to China.

Around the same time, ASU, along with 15 other American colleges, quietly closed its Confucius Institute. The Confucius Institute was a cultural center dedicated to the promotion of the Chinese language and culture. It received its funding from the Chinese government’s educational ministry and operated in coordination with ASU’s Chinese language program.

In an act of political blackmail, the United States Department of Defense refused to continue to fund ASU programs while the Confucius Institute remained on campus. The university, recipient of millions in military and other government grants, duly complied.

Without the Confucius Institute, ASU student perceptions of China and Chinese culture will largely be shaped by the Chinese Language Flagship Program, funded by the Department of Defense. ASU students can now expect to take their Chinese language and cultural courses with an even bigger dose of regime-change politics.

What is fundamental to the racist events at ASU and U.S. government policy in general is the thoroughly colonial view that China must be punished for daring to develop any scientific and technical know-how, and that the act of learning itself by Chinese students is now seen as a dangerous provocation.

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