Archive | March 10th, 2020

Democrats Boycott AIPAC, all but Michael Bloomberg

By PressTV – Iran –

Several Democratic presidential candidates have ruled out attending the annual America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference this weekend, a clear sign of frustration over the Israeli lobby’s influence in Washington.

Bernie Sanders@BernieSanders

The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people. I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference. 1/2104K10:34 PM – Feb 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy20.8K people are talking about this

Democratic hopefuls Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar announced this week they will not be attending the annual pro-Israel event which be held Sunday at the Walter E. Convention Center in Washington DC.

Bernie Sanders@BernieSanders · Feb 23, 2020

The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people. I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference. 1/2

Bernie Won Iowa + New Hampshire + Nevada@TheBirmingham6

This Documentary is worth watching

“Occupation of the American Mind” – Narrated by Roger Waterspic.twitter.com/ONv9TeNbvC1,12412:42 AM – Feb 24, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy565 people are talking about this

The candidates said they will instead address the convention via video conference. Former Vice President Joe Biden will also send a video message to the annual confab, which is expected to attract 18,000 delegates.

IfNotNow@IfNotNowOrg

Our statement on the news that both @PeteButtigieg and @amyklobuchar are joining @BernieSanders and @ewarren in not attending @AIPAC‘s conference.

This is a watershed moment and a major victory against the bigotry that AIPAC has legitimized for decades. #SkipAIPAC

View image on Twitter

8,4538:56 PM – Feb 26, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy2,623 people are talking about this

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren had earlier boycotted the annual conference altogether.

Rabbi Andy Kahn@rabbiandykahn · Feb 25, 2020Replying to @rabbiandykahn

When leaders in the Jewish community are willing to share space with Pence, Pompeo, Myers, and others whose support for Israel is based in antisemitism and who have long track records of racism, homophobia, and misogyny, they make the opposite statement. 3/4

Rabbi Andy Kahn@rabbiandykahn

“Being in the room” is analogous to legitimation of all present. Our leadership shouldn’t be legitimizing these people, nor should they be criticizing those who refuse to. #SkipAIPAC 4/41674:07 PM – Feb 25, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy20 people are talking about this

In a tweet last week, Sanders denounced AIPAC as a platform to “express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”

he Vermont senator stirred controversy during last week’s Democratic debate, in which he called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a reactionary racist.”

Sanders calls Israeli premier Netanyahu a 'reactionary racist'

Sanders calls Israeli premier Netanyahu a ‘reactionary racist’

US Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist.”

Progressive groups urged presidential candidates to boycott the AIPCA conference, criticizing the lobby group for pushing for unconditional support of Israel and promoting the government of Netanyahu.

“This is a watershed moment and a major victory against the bigotry that AIPAC has legitimized for decades,” said Dani Moscovitch, co-founder of IfNotNow, a Jewish-American advocacy group for Palestinian human rights.

“Even moderates in the Democratic Party are now refusing to attend a conference by a right-wing lobby that allies with bigots just to shield the Israeli government from any consequences for denying the Palestinian people freedom and dignity,” he said.

MoveOn, a progressive group, also called on all candidates to “promote peace and diplomacy” by boycotting the pro-Israel group.

JVP Action, the political advocacy arm of the Jewish Voice for Peace that opposes bigotry and oppression, said that AIPAC’s power is “waning.”Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is the only Democratic candidate who has announced he will be attending the conference in person.

“To characterize AIPAC as a racist platform is offensive, divisive, and dangerous to Israel – America’s most important ally in the Middle East – and to Jews,” Bloomberg said on Tuesday.

A number of other prominent Democrats are still on the schedule, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

On the Republican side, Democratic skepticism has been countered by an eagerness to express support for AIPCA.

President Donald Trump has been trying to portray his Democratic opponents as hostile to Israel in an attempt to court Jewish voters.

AIPAC heavily lobbies the US Congress for continued US support for Israel, including $3.3 billion in annual aid to the regime.

The pro-Israel group recently had to apologize for attacking Democratic members of Congress as “radicals” and “anti-Semitic.”

ABOUT PRESS TVPressTV – IranPress TVPress TV is a 24-hour English language news and documentary network, affiliated with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

IRIB is state-owned but independent of the Iranian government in its management and is the only legal TV and radio broadcaster inside Iran. IRIB’s head is appointed directly by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and is considered to be close to the country’s conservative political faction. Press TV is headquartered in Tehran with offices and bureaus around the world; including London, Beirut, Damascus, Kabul, and the Gaza Strip.

Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, CampaignsComments Off on Democrats Boycott AIPAC, all but Michael Bloomberg

Did Turkey Just Sacrifice Their Own Troops to Protect Al Qaeda?

By Matthew J.L. Ehret 

by Matthew Ehret for VT Canada

After 33 Turkish troops were killed in a Syrian army offensive on February 27 amidst the current Russia-backed campaign to liberate Idlib, Erdogan responded by laying the blame entirely on Russia and Syria – successfully avoiding all mention of the uncomfortable fact that Turkey has been protecting radical terror networks not only in Idlib but across Syria as a whole for years.

During this time, Islamist forces within Turkey favorable to Assad’s overthrow have been attempting to play a complex game of geopolitics for which they are totally unqualified.

Turkey in over its head

One of the most wild-card members of NATO, Turkey had originally been preparing itself to gain entry into the European Union with the promise of being granted local control across the Middle East as a loyal member of the New World Order. This ambition for a revived Ottoman Empire made Erdogan an enthusiastic proponent of regime change in the Middle East, and as journalist Eva Bartlett has documented for years, resulted in Turkey’s role as a supplier of logistics, military hardware, training, and monetary support to the various terrorist groups masquerading as anti-Assad regime freedom fighters.

When this policy nearly resulted in Turkey being wiped off the map after shooting down a Russian jet in Syrian airspace on November 24, 2015 (the claims that it had flown into Turkish airspace have long been debunked), Erdogan began to change his tune first sending a letter of apology to Putin on June 27, 2016, whereby it began to change its behavior dramatically. For this shift in policy, Turkey was thanked by Washington with a nation-wide coup d’etat effort launched by followers of the strange CIA-asset Fethullah Gülen on July 15, 2016.

This hefty serving of humble pie brought a dose of sanity to Turkey which toned down its pro-regime change rhetoric, opened up diplomatic channels with Syria and Russia, cut down many of its ISIS supporting operations (especially its role as primary purchaser of oil stolen by ISIS from Syrian oilfields), and settled with a more benign role in the region… but not entirely.

Part of the 2017 Astana negotiations (and later Russia-Syria-Turkey-Iran negotiations in Sochi) involved Turkey’s establishment of 12 military observation posts in Idlib province which increased Turkey’s already significant Idlib military installations to 29.

What they were doing there was never addressed in the western press but in 2017 Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition Against ISIL stated at a Middle East Policy forum that “Idlib province is the largest al-Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.” In a rare moment of cogency in 2014, even rambling Joe Biden admitted that Turkey was a major sponsor of ISIS (for which he was duly slapped and then apologized). All signs of that sort of honesty have long disappeared from Biden’s mind, leaving Tulsi Gabbard as the only presidential figure today who has raised this uncomfortable fact.

In opposition to Ankara’s demands that the current anti-terrorist Idlib operation be halted going so far as to threaten war with Russia, Syrian-Russian forces have continued full speed with great success knowing that if this last zone of insurgents is cleansed then all remaining terrorist threats to the region can be properly addressed and reconstruction can begin.

It isn’t a secret that this reconstruction would be guided in large measure by a new partnership with Russia and China in the region which have offered billions of dollars, and engineering assistance for years guided by the Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI’s designs run directly through Iran, Iraq, and Syria- all of whom would be transformed by this multi-trillion dollar initiative.

Returning to the crisis today

In response to Ankara’s howling threats, Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded by clearly making two points: 1) Turkey has avoided following through on its part of the 2018 Sochi agreement on Idlib which demanded a separation of terrorists from moderates which it entirely failed to do and 2) Turkish military made no effort to convey their location which is odd considering an active military operation was in place. Either way, as Lavrov stated, “the Syria Army certainly has [the] full right to retaliate and suppress the terrorists.”

In response to the Turkish deaths, Ankara invoked Article 4 of NATO convening a meeting of all 29 Ambassadors of NATO allies which he hoped would result in a no-fly zone over Idlib and Patriot air defense backing. To increase the pressure, Erdogan even tried to blackmail NATO allies by playing the immigrant card by permitting for the first time in four years an opening of their northern frontier to the millions of Syrian refugees who wish to go to Europe by land and sea.

After the 2015-2016 immigration crisis that saw millions of refugees flood into Europe from war-torn nations of Syria and Libya, Turkey agreed to close its northern frontier in resulting in 3.7 billion Syrian refugees in camps suffering through cold winters, low sanitation levels and often food scarcity.

Erdogan’s threats didn’t result in his desired outcome as NATO merely released a written message of condemnation of the offensive, but nothing more. To this point, military analyst Scott Ritter commented that “At a time when NATO is focused on confronting Russia in the Baltics, opening a second front against the Russians in Syria is not something the alliance was willing to support at this time.”

It is unknown how Europe will respond to this new onslaught of refugees, but the fact is there isn’t much they can do to turn back Russian and Syrian forces or sabotage the success of the Idlib operation at this point in the game. If European countries wish to get the best results to this long drawn out game, the best thing they could possibly do is accept the flux of immigrants with open arms and ignore Ankara’s cries of indignation.

By giving Russia and Syria space to properly extinguish terrorism from Idlib, the Middle East will come that much closer to genuine stabilization and full reconstruction can begin. This, in turn, would create a positive dynamic of growth and stability that would usher in a homecoming of Syrian refugees living abroad who would proudly take part in their nations’

Posted in Russia, Syria, TurkeyComments Off on Did Turkey Just Sacrifice Their Own Troops to Protect Al Qaeda?

Damascus and Haftar’s Libyan National Army Deepen Ties, Share Hatred of Turkey

By South Front 

Syria, Libya discuss bilateral relations, means to reactivate them in different domains (source):

Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign and Expatriates Minister Walid al-Moallem on Sunday received an official Libyan delegation co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Abdul-Rahman al-Ahiresh and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister at the Libyan Government, Abdul-Hadi al-Hawaij.

Talks during the meeting dealt with the bilateral relations between the two countries and means to reactivate them in different domains in a way that meets the aspirations of the two brotherly peoples and the historic relations binding them and ensures the continued coordination for facing the similar pressures and challenges that target them, on top the Turkish outrageous aggression against the sovereignty of both countries and their independence and the foreign interference in their internal affairs.

The Foreign and Expatriates Minister underlined the great importance paid by Syria to its relations with the brothers in Libya due to the special status of this relation according to the Syrians.

He affirmed that the circumstances and challenges facing the two countries prove today more than ever that these relations should be in their best status in order to face the foreign ambitions, on top of which in the current time, the Turkish aggression on both the brotherly countries and what it poses of threat against their sovereignty and against the Pan-Arab security.

Minister al-Moallem reviewed the latest field developments in the domain of combating terrorism which is backed by foreign parties, on top the Turkish regime, asserting that Syria will continue to combat this terrorism till restoring security and safety to all of its territories and till the withdrawal of all the occupying and illegitimate foreign forces which violate the Syrian sovereignty and usurp the resources of the Syrian people and impose policies that threaten Syria’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity.

Al-Moallem underlined the importance of coordination between the two countries in the field of combating terrorism in a way that serves the national and Pan-Arab interests of both countries.

The Libyan delegation, for its part, expressed the happiness of the Libyan people over the advance achieved by Syria in its war against terrorism and in its standing in the face of the terrorist groups which are backed by Turkey and others, hailing the achieved triumphs and the security which has prevailed across the Syrian territories thanks to the steadfastness and determination of the Syrian people, army and leadership.

The Libyan delegation also reviewed the latest developments of the situations in Libya, particularly the Turkish ambitions there, and sending thousands of mercenaries to Libya, in addition to the attempts to undermine its unity and territorial integrity, and to violate its sovereignty by Turkey and other states which want to usurp its resources.

Members of the delegation also stressed the determination of the Libyans to face the foreign interferences and ambitions till restoring the situations to normality and till realizing the aspired-for security and prosperity.

Following the meeting, a memo of understanding was signed between the Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry and the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation regarding the reopening of headquarters of diplomatic missions and the consulate and coordinating the two countries’ stances at the international and regional forums, particularly in standing in the face of the Turkish interference and aggression against the two countries and exposing its expansionist and colonial policies, in addition to enhancing cooperation in all spheres.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Damascus and Haftar’s Libyan National Army Deepen Ties, Share Hatred of Turkey

See-Saw battle continues for Syria’s Idlib province

Russia has not supported closing Syrian air space to Turkish air power. Why not?

By Jim W. Dean, Managing Editor 

…from Southfront

[ Editor’s Note: It has been a busy day on the Idilb battle front with the Syrian counter attack attempting to recover Saraqeb and open the M5 highway again. And then we find the Turkish backed jihadis counterattacking in South Idlib after the SAA forces there have been hammered by drone attacks for several days prior.

As Southfront notes below, Erdogan’s plan seems to be to try control as much of Idlib as possible before the the meeting with Erdogan next week.

We finally have claims of the Syrian air defenses finally taking down the Turkish combat drones to which the Syrians have taken most of their loses in men an equipment.

The world was surprised that the Russian command did not seem much of a help while watching this go on for almost a week and turning the battlefield situation around.

Erdogan is still putting the jihadis out in front to keep Turkish casualties down, which shows that politically he does not want to have a lot of funerals back home. And lastly we had Turkish fighter planes sortie into Syria safely today, a sign the Russia air defense is for Russian forces only, which comes as no surprise  Jim W. Dean ]

– First published … March 01, 2020 –

On March 1, the Syrian Army and Hezbollah launched a counter-attack on Turkish-led forces in the area of Saraqib retaking the villages of Jawbas, San, Dadikh and Kafr Battikh, and forcing Turkish-backed militants to retreat from the eastern part of Saraqib itself.

According to pro-government sources, Syrian artillery and air forces were carrying out an active bombing campaign in support of this attack. Russian warplanes were also involved.

These developments took place amid the heating up air war over Greater Idlib. Turkish state media reported that Turkish artillery and drones had targeted Al-Nayrab military airport operated by the Syrian military near Aleppo city.

The Turkish Armed Forces targeted the Syrian regime’s military airport in Aleppo, according to local sources on Sunday.

Al-Nayrab military airport, on the outskirts of Aleppo city center, was known as one of the bases that the Assad regime frequently used in the attacks against the Turkish Armed Forces and civilians in Idlib, northwestern Syria.

The Turkish Armed Forces used armed drones and fire support vehicles to target the airport, making it out of service, the sources said.

The regime army transported aircraft and equipment to Al-Nayrab from the Kuweires military airport in eastern Aleppo, which was targeted by Turkish forces the previous day, it added. Local sources said the regime’s range of action has been further restricted as the Al-Nayrab military airport has been made unusable,” Anadolu Agency reported.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that Al-Nayrab military airport is mostly used as a logistical hub for ground forces, rather than the military airbase.

At the same time, Syrian air defense repelled a drone attack on Hama Airbase and intensified its operations against Turkish combat drones operating in the area.

According to Russian media, Syrian forces shot down 6 Turkish UAVs. Syrian media claims that 3 Turkish UAVs were downed. However, the visual evidence allows to confirm one Turkish combat UAV (Anka) downed in eastern Idlib.

According to Russian state media,Turkish F-16 fighter jets two times violated Syrian airspace over Idlib on March 1. This version says that Turkish fighter jets were responsible for downing of 2 Syrian Su-24 earlier today. Syrian pilots safely ejected from the warplanes and landed in the government-held area.

Later on March 1, reports appeared that a third Syrian warplane was targeted by Turkish forces. However, these reports remain unconfirmed.

The recent developments demonstrate that if Turkey continues avoiding employing its own troops in a direct fighting, its forces appear to be not able to deliver a swift and devastating blow to the Syrian Army and achieve the goal declared by its top leadership: to force Syrian troops to retreat from all the areas liberated from al-Qaeda since October 2018.

It is likely that Turkey is trying to deliver as much damage as it could to strengthen its negotiating positions before March 5, when Erdogan is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the situation in the region.

At the same time, Turkey is trying to get support from the EU by sending migrants to Europe and blackmailing the bloc with a new migration crisis.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on See-Saw battle continues for Syria’s Idlib province

Holocaust in Hookah Shops

By Carol Duff, MSN, BA, RN 

Health Editor’s Note: German murderer had a message for Americans. He also left a 24-page manifesto….Carol


Gunman who killed 10 left 24-page racist manifesto

by Justin Huggler

The Telegraph

Ten people were killed in Germany overnight by a far-Right gunman who attacked two shisha bars in the western town of Hanau before turning his gun on himself. The dead reportedly included a pregnant woman.

The shooter, a 43-year-old German national named on social media as Tobias Rathjen, left behind a 24-page manifesto which makes clear the motives behind the killings were racist. He calls for the extermination of several peoples in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia.

Although he does not emphasize the issue of religion, most of the countries he names all have Muslim majority populations. He also shows signs of paranoia and espouses conspiracy theories.

His body was found with the murder weapon beside it when police stormed his apartment not far from the site of one of the shootings. The body of a 72-year-old woman identified as his mother was also found in the apartment.

Police believe Rathjen may have killed her before turning his gun on himself. The shootings targeted shisha bars frequented by immigrant communities in Hanau, a commuter town east of Frankfurt. Justin Huggler details how the attacks were carried out.

Posted in GermanyComments Off on Holocaust in Hookah Shops

Victories continue to mount against pro-Nazi defamation campaign

Victories continue to mount against pro-Israel defamation campaign

bY: Nasim Ahmed

Pro-Israeli protestors at a rally outside Downing Street during Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the UK on September 9, 2016

Pro-Israeli protesters at a rally outside Downing Street during Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the UK on September 9, 2016 [Anadolu Agency]

Libelling human rights activists who expose the brutal reality of Israel’s seemingly never-ending military occupation of Palestine has been the standard modus operandi of anti-Palestinian groups. This tactic has been relatively successful in recent years because a number of western governments, including Britain’s, view vocal support for Palestine and opposition to Israel’s brutal occupation through the lens of “Palestinian terrorism” and not, as one would expect, within the context of the legitimate right to resist occupation as well as oppose racism. Moreover, a controversial “working definition of antisemitism” which conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish hostility, has empowered advocates of Israel to defame critics of the Zionist state and the racist ideology that underpins it.

While both of these factors can be said to have had a chilling effect on free speech across Europe and the US when it comes to exposing Israel’s crimes, there is good reason to believe that despite the current hostility wherein universities and public institutions cave in to pressure and clamp down on pro-Palestinian activism, challenging the organised defamation campaigns by Israel’s network of civil society organisations can bear fruit. One such organisation is UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLfI).

recent challenge was made against UKLfI by Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), which is dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. DCIP successfully sued the lawyers’ group at the High Court of Justice in London after UKLfI published blog posts on its website and sent letters to institutional donors alleging that DCIP had strong “links” to a “designated terrorist group”. It was, alleged DCIP, “a well-orchestrated political and media misinformation campaign” carried out since 2018.

As far as DCIP is concerned, UKLfI is part of a network of Israeli groups and their global partners “with the support of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs” which has led “targeted and organised defamation campaigns to delegitimise humanitarian and human rights organisations” working in Palestine.

READ: Why is a right-wing Israeli group coming to London to advocate destroying Palestinian lives?

While the full extent of UKLfI’s role in this network is unclear, the goal of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs is not. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally tasked the ministry to marshal pro-Israel sympathisers and to create covert, anonymous groups to target pro-Palestine activists, often with the help of professional political consultants. Since the ministry’s launch, Israel has put together a million-dollar war chest and troll army that’s said to number 15,000 to take down pro-Palestinian groups.

Last month, DCIP claimed that it was the target of a fierce defamation campaign involving Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry, NGO Monitor and UKLfI. It was all intended, said DCIP, to block the human rights group from giving evidence at the UN Security Council in New York. DCIP senior adviser for policy and advocacy Brad Parker described the campaign at length in an article titled, “I was meant to talk about Palestinian kids at the UN. Israel forced me out”.

DCIP’s legal victory at the High Court is one of a number of similar victories against the pro-Israel, anti-Palestine lobby. In February, Britain’s Jewish Chronicle was forced to apologise to a Labour activist for libelling her over alleged “anti-Semitism”. The Electronic Intifada reported that the community newspaper admitted on its website that it had published “allegations about Mrs Audrey White” which were “untrue”.

UK Lawyers for Israel [Facebook]

UK Lawyers for Israel [Facebook]

The libel settlement was apparently reached after the UK’s press regulator ruled in December that the right-wing, pro-Israel newspaper, which published four articles about White, had been “significantly misleading” and that it had also engaged in “unacceptable” obstruction of the investigation.

Last year, the JC issued an apology to the trustees of Interpal, a British registered charity which provides humanitarian relief and development aid to Palestinians in need, and also agreed to pay damages. Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail and MailOnline, published full apologies and paid £120,000 in damages last year, again to the trustees of Interpal, along with their legal costs for similar defamatory claims. In February, UKLfI published a statement by Interpal’s trustees on its website pursuant to section 15(2) of the Defamation Act 1996”.

The JC has been a major player within Israel’s network of anti-Palestinian groups. Back in 2014 it apologised and paid substantial damages to Human Appeal International after accusing it of being a designated entity in the US and claiming falsely that it supported suicide bombings. In the same year, the JC had to apologise to the Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Paying substantial sums in damages is said to have pushed the JC towards financial ruin. Last year it was reported that the paper had required a major cash injection by “community-minded individuals” to avoid closure. In February, the weekly title announced that it would be merging with the Jewish News “to secure the financial future of both newspapers.” According to the Electronic Intifada, the group that owns the Jewish Chronicle’s newspaper and website operates at a loss of more than $2 million per annum, while the Jewish News has liabilities of more than $1.9 million.

READ: UK Lawyers for Israel admits Palestinian children’s rights NGO does not have links to terror groups

In the US, meanwhile, a pro-BDS grocery store has won a major legal victory against Israel advocates over its decision to boycott Israeli products on moral grounds. The win for the supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign was seen as an embarrassing defeat for Israel advocates in the decade-long legal battle to sue Olympia Food Co-op.

As with the DCIP case, lawyers acting on behalf of Olympia Food Co-op said that the lawsuit against the store was part of a broad and growing pattern of activism seeking to suppress anyone supportive of Palestinian rights. The Centre for Constitutional Rights, which represented Olympia Food Co-op during the ten-year legal battle, denounced the campaign to drown out pro-Palestinian voices as the “Palestine Exception” to free speech.

Another case highlighting the fact that the legal route can bear fruit is that of the UN-accredited British organisation advocating on behalf of Palestinian refugees. In 2019 a British court ordered World-Check, a subsidiary of Reuters, to pay compensation to the chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), Majed Al-Zeer, for listing the organisation as a terrorist group on its global online database. According to Al-Zeer, the PRC’s work in exposing Israel’s responsibility for the plight of refugees and its legal duty under international law had made the centre a target of the Israeli government.

With Israel entrenching its occupation further and locking six million people under an oppressive system, the targeting of human rights groups by its network of civil society organisations is likely to become more prevalent. Instead of demanding an end to Israel’s brutal takeover of Palestine and suppression of Palestinian rights, the pro-Israel groups will become even more fanatical and frantic in their attempt to silence and eliminate legitimate human rights work. Following the DCIP victory at the High Court in London, this should be seen as an opportunity to challenge the anti-Palestine lobby where it knows that it cannot win: in a court of law.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Campaigns, Human Rights, UKComments Off on Victories continue to mount against pro-Nazi defamation campaign

How ‘Bernie Bros’ Were Invented, Then Smeared as Sexist, Racist and unAmerican as Borscht

by JONATHAN COOK

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

The Democratic presidential nomination race is a fascinating case study in how power works – not least, because the Democratic party leaders are visibly contriving to impose one candidate, Joe Biden, as the party’s nominee, even as it becomes clear that he is no longer mentally equipped to run a local table tennis club let alone the world’s most powerful nation.

Biden’s campaign is a reminder that power is indivisible. Donald Trump or Joe Biden for president – it doesn’t matter to the power-establishment. An egomaniacal man-child (Trump), representing the billionaires, or an elder suffering rapid neurological degeneration (Biden), representing the billionaires, are equally useful to power. A woman will do too, or a person of colour. The establishment is no longer worried about who stands on stage – so long as that person is not a Bernie Sanders in the US, or a Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

It really isn’t about who the candidates are – hurtful as that may sound to some in our identity-saturated times. It is about what the candidate might try to do once in office. In truth, the very fact that nowadays we are allowed to focus on identity to our heart’s content should be warning enough that the establishment is only too keen for us to exhaust our energies in promoting divisions based on those identities. What concerns it far more is that we might overcome those divisions and unify against it, withdrawing our consent from an establishment committed to endless asset-stripping of our societies and the planet.

Neither Biden nor Trump will obstruct the establishment, because they are at its very heart. The Republican and Democratic leaderships are there to ensure that, before a candidate gets selected to compete in the parties’ name, he or she has proven they are power-friendly. Two candidates, each vetted for obedience to power.

Although a pretty face or a way with words are desirable, incapacity and incompetence are no barrier to qualifying, as the two white men groomed by their respective parties demonstrate. Both have proved they will favour the establishment, both will pursue near-enough the same policies, both are committed to the status quo, both have demonstrated their indifference to the future of life on Earth. What separates the candidates is not real substance, but presentation styles – the creation of the appearance of difference, of choice.

Policing the debate

The subtle dynamics of how the Democratic nomination race is being rigged are interesting. Especially revealing are the ways the Democratic leadership protects establishment power by policing the terms of debate: what can be said, and what can be thought; who gets to speak and whose voices are misrepresented or demonised. Manipulation of language is key.

As I pointed out in my previous post, the establishment’s power derives from its invisibility. Scrutiny is kryptonite to power.

The only way we can interrogate power is through language, and the only way we can communicate our conclusions to others is through words – as I am doing right now. And therefore our strength – our ability to awaken ourselves from the trance of power – must be subverted by the establishment, transformed into our Achilles’ heel, a weakness.

The treatment of Bernie Sanders and his supporters by the Democratic establishment – and those who eagerly repeat its talking points – neatly illustrates how this can be done in manifold ways.

Remember this all started back in 2016, when Sanders committed the unforgivable sin of challenging the Democratic leadership’s right simply to anoint Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential candidate. In those days, the fault line was obvious and neat: Bernie was a man, Clinton a woman. She would be the first woman president. The only party members who might wish to deny her that historic moment, and back Sanders instead, had to be misogynist men. They were supposedly venting their anti-women grudge against Clinton, who in turn was presented to women as a symbol of their oppression by men.

And so was born a meme: the “Bernie Bros”. It rapidly became shorthand for suggesting – contrary to all evidence – that Sanders’ candidacy appealed chiefly to angry, entitled white men. In fact, as Sanders’ 2020 run has amply demonstrated, support for him has been more diverse than for the many other Democratic candidates who sought the nomination.

Mia Farrow@MiaFarrow

So important what @ewarren is saying to @maddow about the dangerous, threatening, ugly faction among the Bernie supporters. Sanders either cannot or will not control them.15.9K3:19 AM – Mar 6, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy7,688 people are talking about this

How contrived the 2016 identity-fuelled contest was should have been clear, had anyone been allowed to point that fact out. This wasn’t really about the Democratic leadership respecting Clinton’s identity as a woman. It was about them paying lip service to her identity as a woman, while actually promoting her because she was a reliable warmonger and Wall Street functionary. She was useful to power.

If the debate had really been driven by identity politics, Sanders had a winning card too: he is Jewish. That meant he could be the United States’ first Jewish president. In a fair identity fight, it would have been a draw between the two. The decision about who should represent the Democratic party would then have had to be decided based on policies, not identity. But party leaders did not want Clinton’s actual policies, or her political history, being put under the microscope for very obvious reasons.

Weaponisation of identity

The weaponisation of identity politics is even more transparent in 2020. Sanders is still Jewish, but his main opponent, Joe Biden, really is simply a privileged white man. Were the Clinton format to be followed again by Democratic officials, Sanders would enjoy an identity politics trump card. And yet Sanders is still being presented as just another white male candidate, no different from Biden.

(We could take this argument even further and note that the other candidate who no one, least of all the Democratic leadership, ever mentions as still in the race is Tulsi Gabbard, a woman of colour. The Democratic party has worked hard to make her as invisible as possible in the primaries because, of all the candidates, she is the most vocal and articulate opponent of foreign wars. That has deprived her of the chance to raise funds and win delegates.)

Tulsi Gabbard @TulsiGabbard

.@DanaPerino I’m not quite sure why you’re telling FOX viewers that Elizabeth Warren is the last female candidate in the Dem primary. Is it because you believe a fake indigenous woman of color is “real” and the real indigenous woman of color in this race is fake?33.3K10:02 PM – Mar 3, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy12.1K people are talking about this

Sanders’ Jewish identity isn’t celebrated because he isn’t useful to the power-establishment. What’s far more important to them – and should be to us too – are his policies, which might limit their power to wage war, exploit workers and trash the planet.

But it is not just that Democratic Party leaders are ignoring Sanders’ Jewish identity. They are also again actively using identity politics against him, and in many different ways.

The ‘black’ establishment?

Bernie Sanders’ supporters have been complaining for some time – based on mounting evidence – that the Democratic leadership is far from neutral between Sanders and Biden. Because it has a vested interest in the outcome, and because it is the part of the power-establishment, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is exercising its influence in favour of Biden. And because power prefers darkness, the DNC is doing its best to exercise that power behind the scenes, out of sight – at least, unseen by those who still rely on the “mainstream” corporate media, which is also part of the power-establishment. As should be clear to anyone watching, the nomination proceedings are being controlled to give Biden every advantage and to obstruct Sanders.

But the Democratic leadership is not only dismissing out of hand these very justified complaints from Bernie Sanders’ supporters but also turning these complaints against them, as further evidence of their – and his – illegitimacy. A new way of doing this emerged in the immediate wake of Biden winning South Carolina on the back of strong support from older black voters – Biden’s first state win and a launchpad for his Super Tuesday bid a few days later.

It was given perfect expression from Symone Sanders, who despite her surname is actually a senior adviser to Biden’s campaign. She is also black. This is what she wrote: “People who keep referring to Black voters as ‘the establishment’ are tone deaf and have obviously learned nothing.”

Symone D. Sanders@SymoneDSanders

People who keep referring to Black voters as “the establishment” are tone deaf and have obviously learned nothing.37.7K11:42 PM – Mar 3, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy8,157 people are talking about this

Her reference to generic “people” was understood precisely by both sides of the debate as code for those “Bernie Bros”. Now, it seems, Bernie Sanders’ supporters are not simply misogynists, they are potential recruits to the Ku Klux Klan.

The tweet went viral, even though in the fiercely contested back-and-forth below her tweet no one could produce a single example of anyone actually saying anything like the sentiment ascribed by Symone Sanders to “Bernie Bros”. But then, tackling bigotry was not her real goal. This wasn’t meant to be a reflection on a real-world talking-point by Bernie supporters. It was high-level gaslighting by a senior Democratic party official of the party’s own voters.

Survival of the fittest smear

What Symone Sanders was really trying to do was conceal power – the fact that the DNC is seeking to impose its chosen candidate on party members. As occurred during the confected women-men, Clinton vs “Bernie Bros” confrontation, Symone Sanders was field-testing a similar narrative management tool as part of the establishment’s efforts to hone it for improved effect. The establishment has learnt – through a kind of survival of the fittest smear – that divide-and-rule identity politics is the perfect way to shield its influence as it favours a status-quo candidate (Biden or Clinton) over a candidate seen as a threat to its power (Sanders).

In her tweet, Symone Sanders showed exactly how the power elite seeks to obscure its toxic role in our societies. She neatly conflated “the establishment” – of which she is a very small, but well-paid component – with ordinary “black voters”. Her message is this: should you try to criticise the establishment (which has inordinate power to damage lives and destroy the planet) we will demonise you, making it seem that you are really attacking black people (who in the vast majority of cases – though Symone Sanders is a notable exception – wield no power at all).

Symone Sanders has recruited her own blackness and South Carolina’s “black voters” as a ring of steel to protect the establishment. Cynically, she has turned poor black people, as well as the tens of thousands of people (presumably black and white) who liked her tweet, into human shields for the establishment.

It sounds a lot uglier put like that. But it has rapidly become a Biden talking-point, as we can see here:

Bo Erickson CBS@BoKnowsNews

NEW: @JoeBiden responds to @berniesanders saying the “establishment” is trying to defeat him.

“The establishment are all those hardworking, middle class people, those African Americans…they are the establishment!” @CBSNews

View image on Twitter

9,8679:58 PM – Mar 4, 2020 · Los Angeles, CATwitter Ads info and privacy5,026 people are talking about this

The DNC’s wider strategy is to confer on Biden exclusive rights to speak for black voters (despite his inglorious record on civil rights issues) and, further, to strip Sanders and his senior black advisers of any right to do so. When Sanders protests about this, or about racist behaviour from the Biden camp, Biden’s supporters come out in force and often abusively, though of course no one is upbraiding them for their ugly, violent language. Here is the famous former tennis player Martina Navratilova showing that maybe we should be talking about “Biden Bros”:

Bernie Sanders@BernieSanders · Mar 6, 2020

.@JoeBiden must accept responsibility for his surrogate telling our campaign co-chair Senator @NinaTurner that she doesn’t have standing to invoke the words of Dr. King. That is unacceptable and Joe must apologize to Nina and all the people of color supporting our campaign.

Martina Navratilova@Martina

Sanders is starting to really piss me off. Just shut this kind of crap down and debate the issues. This is not it.1,14210:08 PM – Mar 6, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy181 people are talking about this

Being unkind to billionaires

This kind of special pleading by the establishment for the establishment – using those sections of it, such as Symone Sanders, that can tap into the identity politics zeitgeist – is far more common than you might imagine. The approach is being constantly refined, often using social media as the ultimate focus group. Symone Sanders’ successful conflation of the establishment with “black voters” follows earlier, clumsier efforts by the establishment to protect its interests against Sanders that proved far less effective.

Bernie Sanders@BernieSanders

Billionaires should not exist. https://twitter.com/nytpolitics/status/1176459557473804297 …NYT Politics@nytpoliticsBernie Sanders is unveiling a proposal for a new wealth tax on the richest Americans, including a steep tax on billionaires that could greatly diminish their fortunes https://nyti.ms/2mm9QB9 114K1:01 PM – Sep 24, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy34.4K people are talking about this

Remember how last autumn the billionaire-owned corporate media tried to tell us that it was unkind to criticise billionaires – that they had feelings too and that speaking harshly about them was “dehumanising”. Again it was aimed at Sanders, who had just commented that in a properly ordered world billionaires simply wouldn’t exist. It was an obvious point: allowing a handful of people to control almost all the planet’s wealth was not only depriving the rest of us of that wealth (and harming the planet) but it gave those few billionaires way too much power. They could buy all the media, our channels of communication, and most of the politicians to ringfence their financial interests, gradually eroding even the most minimal democratic protections.

That campaign died a quick death because few of us are actually brainwashed enough to accept the idea that a handful of billionaires share an identity that needs protecting – from us! Most of us are still connected enough to the real world to understand that billionaires are more than capable of looking out for their own interests, without our helping them by imposing on ourselves a vow of silence.

But one cannot fault the power-establishment for being constantly inventive in the search for new ways to stifle our criticisms of the way it unilaterally exercises its power. The Democratic nomination race is testing such ingenuity to the limits. Here’s a new rule against “hateful conduct” on Twitter, where Biden’s neurological deficit is being subjected to much critical scrutiny through the sharing of dozens of videos of embarrassing Biden “senior moments”.

Ben Collins@oneunderscore__

Twitter expanding its hateful conduct rules “to include language that dehumanizes on the basis of age, disability or disease.”https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2019/hatefulconductupdate.html …Updating our rules against hateful conductAn update on our hateful conduct policyblog.twitter.com5999:36 PM – Mar 5, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy817 people are talking about this

Yes, disability and age are identities too. And so, on the pretext of protecting and respecting those identities, social media can now be scrubbed of anything and anyone trying to highlight the mental deficiencies of an old man who might soon be given the nuclear codes and would be responsible for waging wars in the name of Americans. Twitter is full of comments denouncing as “ableist” anyone who tries to highlight how the Democratic leadership is foisting a cognitively challenged Biden on to the party.

Neera Tanden@neeratanden · Mar 6, 2020Replying to @matthewstoller

This is really beneath you.

Ryan Grim@ryangrim

Maybe the Dem insiders are all wrong, but it’s true that they are saying it. Some are saying it out loud, including Castro at the debate and Booker here: https://twitter.com/reedzeta/status/1236028066968690688 …1,9069:34 PM – Mar 6, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy512 people are talking about this

Russian ‘agents’ and ‘assets’

None of this is to overlook the fact that another variation of identity politics has been weaponised against Sanders: that of failing to be an “American” patriot. Again illustrating how closely the Democratic and Republican leaderships’ interests align, the question of who is a patriot – and who is really working for the “Russians” – has been at the heart of both parties’ campaigns, though for different reasons.

Trump has been subjected to endless, evidence-free claims that he is a secret “Russian agent” in a concerted effort to control his original isolationist foreign policy impulses that might have stripped the establishment – and its military-industrial wing – of the right to wage wars of aggression, and revive the Cold War, wherever it believes a profit can be made under cover of “humanitarian intervention”. Trump partly inoculated himself against these criticisms, at least among supporters, with his “Make America Great Again” slogan, and partly by learning – painfully for such an egotist – that his presidential role was to rubber-stamp decisions made elsewhere about waging wars and projecting US power.

Neera Tanden@neeratanden

I’m just amazed by this tweet, which has been tweeted plenty. Did @_nalexander and all the people liking this not know that Mueller laid out in the indictments of a number of Russians and in his report their help on social media to Sanders and Trump. Help Sanders has acknowledged https://twitter.com/_nalexander/status/1202470778014486528 …Nicole Alexander Fisher@_nalexanderAre we just going to ignore that Hillary Clinton, today, just implied that Bernie Sanders is also a Russian asset?2,5162:24 PM – Dec 8, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy1,269 people are talking about this

Bernie Sanders has faced similar smear efforts by the establishment, including by the DNC’s last failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – in his case, painting him as a “Russian asset”. (“Asset” is a way to suggest collusion with the Kremlin based on even more flimsy evidence than is needed to accuse someone of being an agent.) In fact, in a world where identity politics wasn’t simply a tool to be weaponised by the establishment, there would be real trepidation about engaging in this kind of invective against a Jewish socialist.

One of the far-right’s favourite antisemitic tropes – promoted ever since the publication of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion more than 100 years ago – is that Jewish “Bolsheviks” are involved in an international conspiracy to subvert the countries they live in. We have reached the point now that the corporate media are happy to recycle evidence-free claims, cited by the Washington Post, from anonymous “US officials” and US intelligence agencies reinventing a US version of the Protocols against Sanders. And these smears have elicited not a word of criticism from the Democratic leadership nor from the usual antisemitism watchdogs that are so ready to let rip over the slightest signs of what they claim to be antisemitism on the left.

But the urgency of dealing with Sanders may be the reason normal conventions have been discarded. Sanders isn’t a loud-mouth egotist like Trump. A vote for Trump is a vote for the establishment, if for one of its number who pretends to be against the establishment. Trump has been largely tamed in time for a second term. By contrast, Sanders, like Corbyn in the UK, is more dangerous because he may resist the efforts to domesticate him, and because if he is allowed any significant measure of political success – such as becoming a candidate for president – it may inspire others to follow in his footsteps. The system might start to throw up more anomalies, more AOCs and more Ilhan Omars.

So Sanders is now being cast, like Trump, as a puppet of the Kremlin, not a true American. And because he made the serious mistake of indulging the “Russiagate” smears when they were used against Trump, Sanders now has little defence against their redeployment against him. And given that, by the impoverished standards of US political culture, he is considered an extreme leftist, it has been easy to conflate his democratic socialism with Communism, and then conflate his supposed Communism with acting on behalf of the Kremlin (which, of course, ignores the fact that Russia long ago abandoned Communism).

The Hill@thehill

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Let me tell this to Putin — the American people, whether Republicans, Democrats, independents are sick and tired of seeing Russia and other countries interfering in our elections.”50211:15 PM – Feb 21, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy464 people are talking about this

Antisemitism smear at the ready

There is a final use of weaponised identity politics that the Democratic establishment would dearly love to use against Sanders, if they need to and can get away with it. It is the most toxic brand – and therefore the most effective – of the identity-based smears, and it has been extensively field-tested in the UK against Jeremy Corbyn to great success. The DNC would like to denounce Sanders as an antisemite.

In fact, only one thing has held them back till now: the fact that Sanders is Jewish. That may not prove an insuperable obstacle, but it does make it much harder to make the accusation look credible. The other identity-based smears had been a second-best, a make-do until a way could be found to unleash the antisemitism smear.

The establishment has been testing the waters with implied accusations of antisemitism against Sanders for a while, but their chances were given a fillip recently when Sanders refused to participate in the annual jamboree of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a prominent lobby group whose primary mission is to ringfence Israel from criticism in the US. Both the Republican and Democratic establishments turn out in force to the AIPAC conference, and in the past the event has attracted keynote speeches from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

But Sanders has refused to attend for decades and maintained that stance this month, even though he is a candidate for the Democratic nomination. In the last primaries debate, Sanders justified his decision by rightly calling Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “racist” and by describing AIPAC as providing a platform “for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights”.

Trump’s Vice-President, Mike Pence, responded that Sanders supported “Israel’s enemies” and, if elected, would be the “most anti-Israel president in the history of this nation” – all coded suggestions that Sanders is antisemitic.

But that’s Mike Pence. More useful criticism came from billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who is himself Jewish and was until last week posing as a Democrat to try to win the party’s nomination. Bloomberg accused Sanders of using dehumanising language against a bunch of inclusive identities that, he improbably suggested, AIPAC represents. He claimed:

“This is a gathering of 20,000 Israel supporters of every religious denomination, ethnicity, faith, color, sexual identity and political party. Calling it a racist platform is an attempt to discredit those voices, intimidate people from coming here, and weaken the US-Israel relationship.”

Where might this head? At the AIPAC conference last week we were given a foretaste. Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi of the UK and a friend to Conservative government leader Boris Johnson, was warmly greeted by delegates, including leading members of the Democratic establishment. He boasted that he and other Jewish leaders in the UK had managed to damage Jeremy Corbyn’s electoral chances by suggesting that he was an antisemite over his support, like Sanders, for Palestinian rights.

His own treatment of Corbyn, he argued, offered a model for US Jewish organisations to replicate against any leadership contender who might pose similar trouble for Israel, leaving it for his audience to pick up the not-so-subtle hint about who needed to be subjected to character assassination.

Chief Rabbi Mirvis@chiefrabbi

WATCH: “Today I issue a call to the Jews of America, please take a leaf out of our book and please speak with one voice.”

The Chief Rabbi speaking to the 18,000 delegates gathered at the @AIPAC General Session at their Policy Conference in Washington DC4973:00 PM – Mar 3, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy381 people are talking about this

Establishment playbook

For anyone who isn’t wilfully blind, the last few months have exposed the establishment playbook: it will use identity politics to divide those who might otherwise find a united voice and a common cause.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating one’s identity, especially if it is under threat, maligned or marginalised. But having an attachment to an identity is no excuse for allowing it to be coopted by billionaires, by the powerful, by nuclear-armed states oppressing other people, by political parties or by the corporate media, so that they can weaponise it to prevent the weak, the poor, the marginalised from being represented.

It is time for us to wake up to the tricks, the deceptions, the manipulations of the strong that exploit our weaknesses – and make us yet weaker still. It’s time to stop being a patsy for the establishment.

Posted in USAComments Off on How ‘Bernie Bros’ Were Invented, Then Smeared as Sexist, Racist and unAmerican as Borscht

Coronavirus vs. the Mass Surveillance State: Which Poses the Greater Threat?

by JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

“If, as it seems, we are in the process of becoming a totalitarian society in which the state apparatus is all-powerful, the ethics most important for the survival of the true, free, human individual would be: cheat, lie, evade, fake it, be elsewhere, forge documents, build improved electronic gadgets in your garage that’ll outwit the gadgets used by the authorities.”

—Philip K. Dick

Emboldened by the citizenry’s inattention and willingness to tolerate its abuses, the government has weaponized one national crisis after another in order to expands its powers.

The war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on illegal immigration, asset forfeiture schemes, road safety schemes, school safety schemes, eminent domain: all of these programs started out as legitimate responses to pressing concerns and have since become weapons of compliance and control in the police state’s hands.

It doesn’t even matter what the nature of the crisis might be—civil unrest, the national emergencies, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters”—as long as it allows the government to justify all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security.

Now we find ourselves on the brink of a possible coronavirus contagion.

I’ll leave the media and the medical community to speculate about the impact the coronavirus will have on the nation’s health, but how will the government’s War on the Coronavirus impact our freedoms?

For a hint of what’s in store, you can look to China—our role model for all things dystopian—where the contagion started.

In an attempt to fight the epidemic, the government has given its surveillance state apparatus—which boasts the most expansive and sophisticated surveillance system in the world—free rein. Thermal scanners using artificial intelligence (AI) have been installed at train stations in major cities to assess body temperatures and identify anyone with a fever. Facial recognition cameras and cell phone carriers track people’s movements constantly, reporting in real time to data centers that can be accessed by government agents and employers alike. And coded color alerts (red, yellow and green) sort people into health categories that correspond to the amount of freedom of movement they’re allowed: “Green code, travel freely. Red or yellow, report immediately.”

Mind you, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese surveillance state had already been hard at work tracking its citizens through the use of some 200 million security cameras installed nationwide. Equipped with facial recognition technology, the cameras allow authorities to track so-called criminal acts, such as jaywalking, which factor into a person’s social credit score.

Social media credit scores assigned to Chinese individuals and businesses categorize them on whether or not they are “good” citizens. A real-name system—which requires people to use government-issued ID cards to buy mobile sims, obtain social media accounts, take a train, board a plane, or even buy groceries—coupled with social media credit scores ensures that those blacklisted as “unworthy” are banned from accessing financial markets, buying real estate or travelling by air or train. Among the activities that can get you labeled unworthy are taking reserved seats on trains or causing trouble in hospitals.

That same social credit score technology used to identify, track and segregate citizens is now one of China’s chief weapons in its fight to contain the coronavirus from spreading. However, it is far from infallible and a prime example of the difficulties involved in navigating an autonomous system where disembodied AI systems call the shots. For instance, one woman, who has no symptoms of the virus but was assigned a red code based on a visit to her hometown, has been blocked from returning to her home and job until her color code changes. She has been stuck in this state of limbo for weeks with no means of challenging the color code or knowing exactly why she’s been assigned a red code.

Fighting the coronavirus epidemic has given China the perfect excuse for unleashing the full force of its surveillance and data collection powers. The problem, as Eamon Barrett acknowledges in Fortune magazine, is what happens after: “Once the outbreak is controlled, it’s unclear whether the government will retract its new powers.”

The lesson for the ages: once any government is allowed to expand its powers, it’s almost impossible to pull back.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the government thus far has limited its coronavirus preparations to missives advising the public to stay calm, wash their hands, and cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze.

Don’t go underestimating the government’s ability to lock the nation down if the coronavirus turns into a pandemic, however. After all, the government has been planning and preparing for such a crisis for years now.

The building blocks are already in place for such an eventuality: the surveillance networks, fusion centers and government contractors that already share information in real time; the government’s massive biometric databases that can identify individuals based on genetic and biological markers; the militarized police, working in conjunction with federal agencies, ready and able to coordinate with the federal government when it’s time to round up the targeted individuals; the courts that will sanction the government’s methods, no matter how unlawful, as long as it’s done in the name of national security; and the detention facilities, whether private prisons or FEMA internment camps, that have been built and are waiting to be filled.

Now all of this may sound far-fetched to you now, but we’ve already arrived at the dystopian futures prophesied by George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report.

It won’t take much more to push us over the edge into Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, in which the majority of humanity is relegated to an overpopulated, diseased, warring planet where the government employs technologies such as drones, tasers and biometric scanners to track, target and control the populace.

Mind you, while these technologies are already in use today and being hailed for their potentially life-saving, cost-saving, time-saving benefits, it won’t be long before the drawbacks to having a government equipped with technology that makes it all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful——helped along by the citizenry—far outdistance the benefits.

On a daily basis, Americans are relinquishing (in many cases, voluntarily) the most intimate details of who we are—their biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)—in order to navigate an increasingly technologically-enabled world.

Consider all the ways you continue to be tracked, hunted, hounded, and stalked by the government and its dubious agents:

By tapping into your phone lines and cell phone communications, the government knows what you say. By uploading all of your emails, opening your mail, and reading your Facebook posts and text messages, the government knows what you write. By monitoring your movements with the use of license plate readers, surveillance cameras and other tracking devices, the government knows where you go. By churning through all of the detritus of your life—what you read, where you go, what you say—the government can predict what you will do.

By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists—and in turn, the government—will soon know what you remember. By mapping your biometrics—your “face-print”—and storing the information in a massive, shared government database available to bureaucratic agencies, police and the military, the government’s goal is to use facial recognition software to identify you (and every other person in the country) and track your movements, wherever you go. And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.

Of course, none of these technologies are foolproof.

Nor are they immune from tampering, hacking or user bias.

Nevertheless, they have become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The ramifications of a government—any government—having this much unregulated, unaccountable power to target, track, round up and detain its citizens is beyond chilling.

Imagine what a totalitarian regime such as Nazi Germany could have done with this kind of unadulterated power.

Imagine what the next police state to follow in Germany’s footsteps will do with this kind of power. Society is rapidly moving in that direction.

We’ve made it so easy for the government to watch us.

Government eyes see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet.

Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line.

Chances are, as the Washington Post has reported, you have already been assigned a color-coded threat assessment score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about your potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether you’ve had a career in the military, posted a comment perceived as threatening on Facebook, suffer from a particular medical condition, or know someone who knows someone who might have committed a crime.

In other words, you’re most likely already flagged in a government database somewhere.

The government has the know-how.

Indeed, for years now, the FBI and Justice Department have conspired to acquire near-limitless power and control over biometric information collected on law-abiding individuals, millions of whom have never been accused of a crime.

Going far beyond the scope of those with criminal backgrounds, the FBI’s Next Generation Identification database (NGID), a billion dollar boondoggle that is aimed at dramatically expanding the government’s ID database from a fingerprint system to a vast data storehouse of iris scans, photos searchable with face recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.

Launched in 2008, the NGID is a massive biometric database that contains more than 100 million fingerprints and 45 million facial photos gathered from a variety of sources ranging from criminal suspects and convicts to daycare workers and visa applicants, including millions of people who have never committed or even been accused of a crime.

In other words, innocent American citizens are now automatically placed in a suspect database.

For a long time, the government was required to at least observe some basic restrictions on when, where and how it could access someone’s biometrics and DNA and use it against them.

That is no longer the case.

The information is being amassed through a variety of routine procedures, with the police leading the way as prime collectors of biometrics for something as non-threatening as a simple moving violation. The nation’s courts are also doing their part to “build” the database, requiring biometric information as a precursor to more lenient sentences. And of course Corporate America (including Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) has made it so easy to use one’s biometrics to access everything from bank accounts to cell phones.

We’ve made it so easy for the government to target, identify and track us.

Add pre-crime programs into the mix with government agencies and corporations working in tandem to determine who is a potential danger and spin a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports using automated eyes and ears, social media, behavior sensing software, and citizen spies, and you having the makings for a perfect dystopian nightmare.

This is the kind of oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought crime package foreshadowed by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Phillip K. Dick.

Remember, even the most well-intentioned government law or program can be—and has been—perverted, corrupted and used to advance illegitimate purposes once profit and power are added to the equation.

In the right (or wrong) hands, benevolent plans can easily be put to malevolent purposes.

Surveillance, digital stalking and the data mining of the American people add up to a society in which there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence.

This is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.

It turns out that we are Soylent Green.

The 1973 film of the same name, starring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson, is set in 2022 in an overpopulated, polluted, starving New York City whose inhabitants depend on synthetic foods manufactured by the Soylent Corporation for survival.

Heston plays a policeman investigating a murder, who discovers the grisly truth about the primary ingredient in the wafer, soylent green, which is the principal source of nourishment for a starved population. “It’s people. Soylent Green is made out of people,” declares Heston’s character. “They’re making our food out of people. Next thing they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food.”

Oh, how right he was.

Soylent Green is indeed people or, in our case, Soylent Green is our own personal data, repossessed, repackaged and used by corporations and the government to entrap us.

Without constitutional protections in place to guard against encroachments on our rights when power, technology and militaristic governance converge, it won’t be long before we find ourselves, much like Edward G. Robinson’s character in Soylent Green, looking back on the past with longing, back to an age where we could speak to whom we wanted, buy what we wanted, think what we wanted, and go where we wanted without those thoughts, words and movements being tracked, processed and stored by corporate giants such as Google, sold to government agencies such as the NSA and CIA, and used against us by militarized police with their army of futuristic technologies.

We’re not quite there yet. But that moment of reckoning is getting closer by the minute.

In the meantime, we’ve got an epidemic to survive, so go ahead and wash your hands. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. And stock up on whatever you might need to survive this virus if it spreads to your community.

We are indeed at our most vulnerable right now, but as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s the American Surveillance State—not the coronavirus—that poses the greatest threat to our freedoms.

Posted in USA, HealthComments Off on Coronavirus vs. the Mass Surveillance State: Which Poses the Greater Threat?

Turkey’s Failed Gamble in Syria

by CONN HALLINAN

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest gamble in Syria’s civil war appears to have come up snake eyes. Instead of halting the Damascus government’s siege of the last rebel held province, Idlib, Turkey has backed off, and Ankara’s Syrian adventure is fueling growing domestic resistance to the powerful autocrat.

The crisis began on Feb. 25, when anti-government rebels, openly backed by Turkish troops, artillery, and armor, attacked the Syrian Army at the strategic town of Saraqeb, the junction of Highways 4 and 5 linking Aleppo to Damascus and the Mediterranean. The same day Russian warplanes in Southern Idlib were fired upon by MANPADS (man portable air-defense systems), anti-aircraft weapons from Turkish military outposts. The Russian air base at Khmeimim was also attacked by MANPADS and armed Turkish drones.

What happened next is still murky. According to Ankara, a column of Turkish troops on its way to bring supplies to Turkish observer outposts in Idlib were attacked by Syrian war planes and artillery, killing some 34 soldiers and wounding more than 70. Some sources report much higher causalities.

But according to Al Monitor, a generally reliable on-line publication, the column was a mechanized infantry battalion of some 400 soldiers, and it wasn’t Syrian warplanes that did the damage, but Russian Su-34s packing KAB-1500Ls, bunker busting laser guided bombs with 2400 lb warheads. Syrian Su-22 fighters were involved, but apparently only to spook the soldiers into taking cover in several large buildings. Then the Su-34s moved in and brought the buildings down on the Turks.

The Russians deny their planes were involved, and the Turks blamed it all on Damascus, but when it comes to Syria, the old saying that truth is the first casualty of war is pretty much a truism.

Erdogan initially blustered and threatened to launch an invasion of Idlib—which, in any case, was already underway—but after initially remaining silent, Rear Adm. Oleg Zhuravlev said that Russia “cannot guarantee the safety of flights for Turkish aircraft over Syria.”

The Turkish President is a hardhead, but he is not stupid. Troops, armor and artillery without air cover would be sitting ducks. So the Turks pulled back, the Syrians moved in, and now Russian military police are occupying Saraqeb. Russia has also deployed two cruise missile armed frigates off the Syrian coast.

But for Erdogan, the home front is heating up.

Even before the current crisis, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) has been demanding that Erdogan brief the parliament about the situation in Idlib, but the President’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) voted down the request. The rightwing, nationalist Good Party—a CHP ally— made similar demands, which have also been sidelined.

All the opposition parties have called for direct negotiations with the Assad government.

The worry is that Turkey is drifting toward a war with Syria without any input from the Parliament. On Feb. 12, Erdogan met with AKP deputies and told them that if Turkish soldiers suffered any more casualties—at the time the death toll was 14 dead, 45 wounded—that Turkey would “hit anywhere” in Syria. To the opposition that sounded awfully like a threat to declare war.

Engin Altay, the CHP’s deputy chair, said “The president has to brief the parliament, Idlib is not an internal matter for the AKP.” Altay has also challenged Erdogan’s pledge to separate Turkey from the extremist rebels, like Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an affiliate of al-Qaeda. “Is this even possible?” he asked, “There is no way to distinguish these from each other.”

Turkey made an agreement with Russia in 2018 to allow it to set up observation posts in Idlib if it pledged not to support extremists like Tahrir al-Sham , but Ankara has facilitated the entry of such groups into Syria from the beginning of the war, giving them free passage and supplying them with massive amounts of fertilizer for bombs. In any case, the extremists eliminated any so-called “moderate” opposition groups years ago.

“Turkey said it would disassociate moderate elements from radicals,” says Ahmet Kamil Erozan of the Good Party, “but it couldn’t do that.’

The Kurdish-based progressive People’s Democratic Party (HDP) parliamentarian Necdet Ipekyuz charged “Idlib has become a nest for all jihadists. It has turned into a trouble spot for Turkey and the world. And who is protecting these jihadists? Who is safeguarding them?

Erdogan has jailed many of the HDP’s members of parliament and AKP appointees have replaced the Party’s city mayors. Tens of thousands of people have been imprisoned, and tens of thousands dismissed from their jobs. The media has largely been silenced through outright repression—Turkey has jailed more journalists than any country in the world—or ownership by pro-Erdogan businessmen.

But body bags are beginning to come home from a war that looks to a lot of Turks like a quagmire. The war is costly at a time of serious economic trouble for the Turkish economy. Unemployment is stubbornly high, and the lira continues to fall in value. Polls show that a majority of Turks—57 percent—are more concerned with the economy than with terrorism. While Turks have rallied around the soldiers, before the recent incident more than half the population opposed any escalation of the war.

And Turkey seems increasingly isolated. Erdogan called an emergency session of NATO on Feb. 28, but got little more than “moral” support. NATO wants nothing to do with Syria and certainly doesn’t want a confrontation with Russia, especially because many of the alliance’s members are not comfortable with Turkey’s intervention in Syria. In any case, Turkey is not under attack. Only its soldiers, who are occupying parts of Syria in violation of international law, are vulnerable.

The Americans also ruled out setting up a no-fly zone over Idlib.

Erdogan is not only being pressed by the opposition, but from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) within his own ruling coalition. The MHP, or the “Gray Wolves,” have long represented Turkey’s extreme right. “The Turkish nation must walk into Damascus along with the Turkish army,” says Devlet Bahceli, leader of the MHP.

Erdogan has no intention of marching on Syria’s capital, even if he could pull it off. The President wants Turkey to be a regional player and occupying parts of Syria keeps Ankara on the board. But that line of reasoning is now under siege.

Turkey’s allies in the Syrian civil war are ineffective unless led by and supported by the Turkish army. But without air cover, the Turkish army is severely limited in what it can do, and the Russians are losing patience. Moscow would like the Syria war to end and to bring some of its military home, and Erdogan is making that difficult.

Moscow can be difficult as well, as Turkey may soon find out. The two countries are closely tied on energy, and, with the sanctions blocking Iranian oil and gas, Ankara is more and more dependent on Russian energy sources. Russia just built the new TurkStream gas pipeline across the Black sea and is building a nuclear power plant for Turkey. Erdogan can only go so far in alienating Russia.

Stymied in Syria and pressured at home, Erdogan’s choices are increasingly limited. He may try to escalate Turkish involvement in Syria, but the risks for that are high. He has unleashed the refugees on Europe, but not many are going, and Europe is brutally blocking them. He may move to call early elections before his domestic support erodes any further, but he might just lose those elections, particularly since the AKP has split into two parties. A recent poll found that 50 percent of Turks say they will not vote for Erdogan.

Or he could return to his successful policies of a decade ago of “no problems with the neighbors.”

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The Killing and Raping Game in Kenya and the Despots Who Run It

by KENNETH GOOD

Photograph Source: DEMOSH – CC BY 2.0

Politics in Kenya is dominated by rapacious elites consumed with the looting of state resources, using violence to avoid any possible accountability. Elections serve as key points of entry and consolidation in this system for both ruling and competing elites, and are manifestations of corruption, fraud, and repression. Both President Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy William Ruto, were indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, for organising and supporting the huge violence that occurred during elections in 2007-2008: the case collapsed as witnesses absconded or died.

Impunity accompanies the looting of the state, and according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), lies ‘at the heart’ of Kenya’s governance. Impunity for politicians suspected of state plunder, was a ‘national tradition’ in the country, which both ‘raise[d] the stakes’ for incumbents and, as transgressors went unpunished, ‘contributed to its continued use’: politicians who have been publicly named for their role in political violence remained in parliament and were appointed to cabinet, notably said HRW, in the cabinet of President Mwai Kibaki. Some of those named for fomenting violence through the 1990s and in 2002, continued in parliament in 2007-2008 (‘Ballots to Bullets’, March 2008). Daniel arap Moi, president 1978-2002, died on 4 February, aged 95, was ‘one of Africa’s most ruthless autocrats’, wrote Adekeye Adebajo (Business Live, 9 February 2020). Before he finished as much as $4 billion went to his family and allies (The Economist 8 February 2020)

Violence takes many forms. The manipulation of the poor and unemployed was a common initiator. As Daniel Howden instanced in 2013: ‘political barons marshalled armies drawn from the young and unemployed’ and set them against their rivals with guns and machetes. In Central province then, politicians incited militias to attack supporters of rivals and populations unlikely to vote for them. It also took the flagrant form of planned, organised direct brutality by police. Killings totalled some 1,300 people in 2013, with reputable groups reporting that police had directly targeted people uninvolved in demonstrations, firing live rounds and gas canisters into the flimsy shacks of the poor.

The accumulation of great wealth in conditions of wide and deep poverty was a form of violence in itself. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assessed Kenya’s Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) around 2016 at .377 (below highly inequitable South Africa on .428 and Botswana on .431, not to say very equitable Iceland on .846). It also found that 36% of Kenya’s population experienced ‘multidimensional poverty’, and 46% of those people suffered ‘intense deprivation’, according to its Human Development Report 2016. Kenya’s gross national income (GNI) per capita was $2,881 at purchasing power parity. President Uhuru Kenyatta stood at or near the country’s pinnacle. He had acquired what was termed the ‘fabulous wealth’ of his father, founding President Jomo Kenyatta, and regularly features on the lists of the wealthiest Africans. His family was said to own half a million acres of land, and has interests in banking, property, an airline and a television network, according to The Economist in 2013.

Organised, unscrupulous accumulation has raged. After independence in 1963, according to John Githongo, Kenyatta and his Kikuyu inner circle, ‘steadily plundered the country’. His death in 1978 was followed by the rule of Daniel arap Moi, who declared that his philosophy was walking in the “Footsteps”. When he stood down at the end of 2002, he and his cronies had then looted some $3 billion. His successor, Mwai Kibaki, ‘pledged to root out corruption’, but his ‘Mount Kenya mafia’ of Kikuyu politicians simply replaced Moi’s Kalenjin syndicate.

While the ruling elite enjoyed access to state resources and foreign aid, the poor had grown into ‘an army of discontent’: most survived on a dollar a day, and the bulk of Nairobi’s population ‘lived in fetid slums.’ The Luo of western Kenya ‘felt especially aggrieved’, from exclusion from power for forty years and long government neglect. In the approach to national elections at the end of 2007, ‘a tidal wave of resentment [arose] against the Mount Kenya mafia,’ according to Martin Meredith in 2011. Raila Odinga, son of Oginga Odinga, stood as a candidate in a Nairobi constituency that included the large Kibera slum, and could credibly appear as a champion of the poor and marginalised.

When so much flows from winning elections, the costs, financial and otherwise, are extremely high. The ruling elite protects its position in part by extending the spoils system to all MPs. The 500 or so parliamentarians (National Assembly and Senate) are among the highest paid in the world, enjoying a monthly salary in 2013 of about $10,000, plus generous perks and benefits. For those lucky enough to be employed, the average incomes were below $2,000 a year. And it deploys violence on a wide, regular and variegated scale.

Extrajudicial Killings, Assassinations and Disappearances

Particular forms of violence target specific individuals and groups. One such is extrajudicial killings. Mathare is a low-income district of Nairobi, and the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) issued a report in mid-August 2017 ‘documenting dozens of extrajudicial killings by police over the past two years.’ The Centre said there had been a ‘normalization’ of these actions, as ‘entrenched impunity continues’ (as noted by Maria Burnett, HRW Africa in August 2017).

Killings are sometimes flagrant. The shooting of Oscar Kingara and John Oulo came in a car on a busy street in central Nairobi in March 2009: ‘the assailants kept firing into the air to keep bystanders away until they were sure both men were dead’. Kingara was the founder and director of the Oscar Foundation, and Oulo was its programme coordinator. The Foundation provided free legal aid clinics, and it had ‘made its name investigating police abuses’: since 2007 it had reported 1,721 extrajudicial killings, and 6,452 enforced disappearances by police. Many of these killings were allegedly by members of the shadowy Mungiki gang, which Xan Rice said had been used by President Kibaki’s party during the 2007 electoral violence. Kingara and Oulo had briefed Philip Alston, a UN special rapporteur, during his investigations in Kenya in February 2009. Alston found strong evidence of ‘systematic, widespread and carefully planned extrajudicial executions undertaken on a regular basis.’ He noted that the Mungiki gang were actually police acting on the explicit orders of their superiors. And he praised the analyses done by the Oscar Foundation (Rice, Guardian Online, 6 March 2009).

Political assassinations are another area where Kenyan state agencies excel. One of the first killings in independent Kenya occurred on 24 February 1965, when Pio Gama Pinto, a left-wing journalist and associate of Vice President Oginga Odinga, was shot dead in his Nairobi home: this was a time of rising Cold War tensions in the country, and increasing pressures on Odinga from within the ruling party (Odinga, Not Yet Uhuru, 1965, 250-300). Tom Mboya, shot on 5 July 1969, and J.M. Kariuki, murdered in March 1975, were two others.

A recent killing was Chris Msando, one of the most senior officials of the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), who had a key role developing a new electronic ballot and voter registration system. He was one of only ‘a handful of people in Kenya who knew both the login information and the physical location of the servers that w[ould] run the highly digetised [2017] election.’ He was kidnapped, tortured and murdered, and his mutilated body abandoned in a forest outside Nairobi, just before the polls opened. Msando had received death threats, had reported them to the police, but had no security protection. His body was reportedly missing an arm and was still bleeding at the morgue, as reported by Naniala Nyabola and Jason Burke in Aljazeera and Guardian, 1 August 2017.

And there is the violence directed at the people en masse as voters and citizens. Corruption, elitist tribalism and electoral turmoil are here interlinked and regularised. Late in the 2007-2008 election, it appeared that change unanticipated by the incumbents was occurring: Kibaki’s cronies were being thrown out in the parliamentary polling, Odinga’s party was capturing 95 out of a total of 210 seats, and winning in six out of eight provinces. The old guard around President Kibaki set about rigging the result in the presidential race. By 30 December glaring disparities were evident in the voting figures released at constituency level and those presented by the electoral commission in Nairobi. Kibaki was declared winner by only 232,000 votes (enough to avoid a second round) and hurriedly sworn in. According to John Githongo (quoted by Michela Wrong 2009 and by Meredith), the Mount Kenya mafia possessed ‘a huge network of civil servants, intelligence agents, generals and police chiefs to do their bidding.’

‘High-level politicians from all sides’ mobilised ethnic militias for violence in which, over thirty days, more than 1,000 people were killed and 3,000 injured. In protracted talks, Kibaki and Odinga reached a settlement where the former remained president and the latter would be prime minister in a coalition government. Adekeye Adebajo said that the country ‘came within a whisker’ of being plunged into civil war (Business Live, 9 February 2020). From within a wider pool, the looting continued.

The 2017 Presidential Elections

Donors had given some $24 million to a new electronic voting system for 2017. On 11 August the IEBC announced that Kenyatta had won another five-year term with over 54% of the vote. Observer groups, including the Carter Centre, led by ex-State Secretary John Kerry, rushed to endorse the results, and declared they had no evidence of significant fraud. Departing soon after, Kerry praised the IEBC for “an extraordinary job”, and even felt able to admonish the opposition to “get over it and move on.”

On 18 August Odinga, leader of the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA), petitioned the Supreme Court to annul the vote. He claimed that nearly half of all votes cast had been tampered with: secret, unofficial polling stations had transmitted false votes to the IEBC; NASA’s official observers had been expelled from polling stations in Kenyatta’s strongholds. On 29 August, the registrar of the Supreme Court reported that some five million votes were unverified.

Soon after, the six-judge bench of the Supreme Court, in a four-two decision, ruled that the vote had been hacked and manipulated in favour of the incumbent. The electoral commission had committed “illegalities and irregularities”. The election was invalid, and they ordered a new vote within 60 days (Jason Burke, 2 September 2017).

Many noted that the courts in Kenya had long been subservient to the executive. Odinga accurately hailed an “exceptional example for all of Africa”: it would certainly be impossible to imagine a similar decision being made, for instance, in Botswana, where the judiciary regularly defers to presidential power (When the present writer was declared a prohibited immigrant in Kenya in 2005, he appealed on the grounds of freedom of speech enshrined in the constitution, but the High Court determined that the President had the power to do what he did, and nothing more was to be said.) There were many “fundamental decisions” that now had to be made, including “who will conduct the next election?’ It was clear, Odinga said, that “the entire electoral commission is rotten,” quoted by Burke 2 September 2017.

In Kenya, as in many other African countries, power is highly centralised in the presidency, facilitating the execution of violence. During the two-stage 2017 presidential elections, in August and the re-run on 26 October, severe assault was directed at women and girls. Rape by state security agents occurred. As before, the state deployed large numbers of well-equipped paramilitary units in opposition areas in anticipation of violence, and to mete it out themselves, as deterrent and punishment: they carried guns, batons, tear gas cannisters, and often wore helmets and body armour.

In a report of 14 December that year, ‘They Were Men in Uniform’, HRW identified the police as perpetrators. In investigations carried out between September and November 2017, HRW reported widespread violence directed at the vulnerable both for their gender and their ethnicity: to ‘punish the individual and their communities for the way they voted’ and their suspected allegiances. They documented cases of vaginal and anal rape, gang rape, mass rape, and rape with an object. ‘About half’ of their reported cases were gang rapes. Sexual violence was intended to have, a wide and ‘devastating impact’: many experienced injuries and other consequences leaving some unable to work, care for themselves and for families, or handle schooling. ‘Profound mental trauma’ was common. With their history of human rights abuses, contacting the police was not a viable option for most victims.

The Report provides graphic details of the assaults endured by the victims, and makes clear that the rapist police aimed at political repression. This was what Josephine Anyango experienced in Nairobi on 5 October 2017: “It was the Saturday after Uhuru was announced the winner. Guns were ringing all over. There was tear gas all over. They broke the gate to our plot. They were men dressed in uniform. They were just beating people…They were saying, ‘Come out now and throw stones.’ I heard women crying, saying, ‘Don’t rape me’. Three came to my house, beat me seriously, and raped me.”

Rose Otieno, 37, was in her house with her five children on the night of 11 August. She said that two men dressed in green and black uniforms, boots and helmets, broke into my house. “One asked me to say, ‘I don’t support Raila, I support Uhuru’. I refused. The one with the gun slapped me and told me to shut up. The other said, ‘Let’s teach her a lesson.’ He raped me in the presence of my children.”

Georgina Musa went to buy groceries on Saturday afternoon 12 August, when she “saw three policemen. They wore helmets, had guns and teargas. I started running…One ripped off my clothes. I told him, ‘I could be your mother.’ He slapped me, kicked me, and raped me as the others were watching. They took 200 shillings ($2) from me. One told me, ‘Go and tell Baba [Odinga]’”

Doris Syombua was at her bar on the night of 11 August, and she was trembling with fear. Three policemen in uniform broke the door and entered. “One raped me in the front [vaginally] and the other at the back [anally].”

In about one-third of the cases documented by HRW, women and girls were raped in the presence of other family members including young children.

Jackline Mkamburi was at home with her three children and husband on the night of 11 August. Three men wearing police uniforms burst in. They raped her before her husband and children. They said, “This is our government and there is nothing you can do to us.”

Several women in Dandora in Nairobi told HRW that their rapists threatened, ‘We will come back in the night to rape and kill’.

The assaults were devastating. Most survivors experienced heavy pains and aches. On 11 August at about 11 a.m., Gladys Moraa went to help her neighbour’s young child who had been hit with a teargas cannister. Amid confusion, she tripped and fell. “A police officer kicked me on my upper back with his booted feet. I couldn’t move. He raped me and left. Another one came, kicked me on the stomach and back, and raped me. I thought I would die.” Grace Kungu was raped on 12 August on her way from work. “They took me to an unfinished building and all four raped me in front and behind. Since that day…I take pain killers all the time.”

Many of the women and girls interviewed by HRW spoke of ‘feelings of shame, anger, hopelessness, self-hatred, fear and anxiety, sleeplessness, and suicidal thoughts.’ Janet Kiptoo, 16 years, and her 15-year-old cousin, Darlene Chemutai, were raped by two men at gunpoint. The men beat, harassed, and tortured them for almost two hours. She told HRW: “I don’t know if it will ever end. I have no peace…I should just die.”

‘Almost all survivors’ worry if their rapists had infected them with HIV, and that ‘their families will find out that they are rape victims. The women were particularly concerned ‘about the emotional state of children who had witnessed the sexual violence.’ Their traumas were compounded by the fact that ‘many of them suffer alone in silence’.

Pamela Wambua was raped by four GSU men at gunpoint on 11 August. She said: “I remember the rape all the time. It disturbs my mind…It’s like you are in a different world”.

The country’s history of impunity negates people’s confidence in the police. Grace Kungu did not report her assault to the police because “They are the same people who rape us.” Neema Abdul never went to the police. “The men who raped me wore green uniform. They stole my phone and 15,000 shillings” ($146). Purity Onyancha went to the police to report her daughter’s rape. “The police said if I don’t know the rapist, they won’t open a file… I realised we were not going to get help, so I told my daughter we leave.”

The denial and the immunity continued. HRW launched their report, ‘They Were Men in Uniform’, in Nairobi in mid-December 2017, and Senior Researcher, Agnes Odhiambo, detailed their findings. The Inspector General of Police, Joseph Boinnet, stated that the organisation had fabricated their evidence, and rejected the report out of hand.

But the evidence came from disparate sources and was huge. Mathare was a district of densely packed shacks, home to some 250,000 poor people. The MSJC ‘counted 803 reports’ of police killings in the community between 2013-2015, and had ‘documented dozens of these’. A survey by the International Police Association, an American group, ranked the Kenyan police as the third worst in Africa, after those in Congo DRC and Nigeria, The Economist, 10 March 2018.

HRW’s study of police violence in the August stage of the 2017 elections estimated that some 67 people had probably been killed then nationally, 33 killed in Nairobi alone. Most shot or beaten to death, others killed by teargas and pepper-spray fired at close range. The government’s so-called ‘Contingency Plan’ had identified ‘hotspots’, where violence was most likely: these were ‘all opposition strongholds in ethnic majority Luo and Luhya areas.’ Police and paramilitaries were deployed ‘in large numbers…ahead of the polling.’ Such deployments, HRW said, fuelled political tensions, and ‘exacerbated the unrest that followed the announcement of the results’. The protests which resulted faced shootings and people being ‘beaten to death on the street and in house-to-house searches’. The ‘hotspots’ were actually the informal settlements or shanty towns, among them Mathare, Kibera, Dandora, where 2.5 million of Nairobi’s 3 million population, lived: heavily deprived communities, where typhoid and cholera were common, and unemployment was around 50%. HRW reported that police destroyed cameras and phones, beat photographers, and arrested journalists. ‘In many cases,’ victims and family members did not report violations and deaths ‘because they feared retribution from police’ (‘“Kill Those Criminals”: Kenya’s August 2017 Elections’, (n.d.) 2-4 and 12.

The Worsening of the Oppression

Legally and politically, nothing improved following the annulment. On the account of two senior American diplomats, in the approach to the second round of the presidential election at the end of October, and its aftermath, the Kenyatta government and its supporters ‘waged an onslaught against both the courts and the IEBC. Judges were threatened, with one surviving an assassination attempt. IEBC commissioners were menaced or offered bribes’. Kenyatta won the re-run, but the diplomats felt that Kenyatta and Odinga each commanded roughly half the electorate. Turnout was only 38%, partly because Odinga had withdrawn in protest against the absence of change in the IEBC which he had previously identified as essential. He concentrated on staging a swearing-in of himself as a so-called ‘People’s President’. The government reacted with ‘fury’, said the diplomats, to these theatricals: NASA officials were ‘harassed, threatened, detained, and deported’. Nairobi’s three main TV stations were taken off the air when they attempted to broadcast Odinga’s event. The Inspector General of Police repeatedly refused to comply with orders to release detainees and cease all unconstitutional actions. Kenyatta and Ruto, they said, were challenging the rule of law and embracing dictatorial rule. Mark Bellamy and Johnnie Carson (Guest Column, allAfrica.com 27 February 2018).

The Roots of Violence, Authoritarianism and Oppression

The roots of conflict lie decades deep in Kenyan society: stemming most actively from the ascendancy of a Kikuyu landed, ‘Loyalist’ elite in the last decades of settler colonialism, and the associated uprising of landless Kikuyu striving for ‘Land and Freedom’, the Mau Mau movement. But it had deeper origins much earlier, in the beginnings of Kenya colony. The conquest and control of Kenya was brutal, characterised by systematic killing and destruction, and the seizure of crops and stock. By the late 1920s, government and settlers in Kenya had forced the African population to play its assigned role as a cheap wage-labour force. By 1952 some 9,000 settlers had exclusive rights to 16,700 square miles of land, while several million Africans tried to exist on congested reserves, as contract labourers on white farms, and as un- and semi-skilled labourers in the towns.

The former were largely the constitutional-nationalists in the Kenya African Union (KAU), formed in 1945, while the latter were a disparate formation of Kikuyu ex-servicemen some of whom had close trade union connections: Fred Kubai and Makhan Singh of the East African Trade Union Congress held an 18-day general strike in Nairobi in May 1950. A polarisation grew between the moderate nationalist KAU, and the young militants, particularly over secretive political mobilisation. Kenyatta had returned home in 1946 after 13 years absence, and assumed the presidency of KAU: he believed that politics was for elders and that the young militants endangered society.

At midnight on 20-21 October 1952 a State of Emergency was declared by Governor Evelyn Baring. It was intended to decapitate Mau Mau, but Kenyatta, deeply opposed to militancy, was an immediate detainee. Not for the last time, colonialism got it badly wrong: Kenyatta was far from being “the leader to darkness and death”. Arrested too were Bildad Kaggia, Fred Kubai and Achieng Oneko. Of the five members of KAU’s national executive arrested then, three were trade union leaders, and further arrests followed of many lower-level organisers in Nairobi. The effects of these losses were to deprive the Mau Mau movement of skilled personnel with experience in modern political organisation, and to narrow the composition of the insurgents: to poor peasants, unskilled workers, and people with only basic primary education. (The historical material here builds on ‘Kenya’ ch.2 in Good, The Struggle of Democratisation Against Authoritarianism in Contemporary Africa, 2019.) By the end of 1952, 121 loyalist Kikuyu had been murdered (David Anderson, Histories of the Hanged, 2005, 70). Fearful and outraged, well-armed settlers initiated a wide-scale, extra-judicial open season against Kikuyu.

But it was an unplanned uprising, and Britain had taken the militants by surprise. They had few weapons and no established lines of supply. They had a strong network of support among the Kikuyu, but no military structures, no initial strategy, and no established forest bases (Anderson, 68). Britain’s imperial military power was overwhelming. When the Emergency was declared, Britain had a cruiser stationed off Mombasa. As of June 1953, it had deployed a squadron of Lincoln heavy bombers, an armoured car division, eleven battalions of British, East African and Kenyan troops, totalling over 10,000 soldiers; a police force of 21,000, and the paramilitary Kikuyu Home Guard: the British and Kenyan governments were utilising ‘a force of well over 50,000 against the insurgents’ (Barnett and Njama, Mau Mau From Within, 1966, 312). Yet Dedan Kimathi, a leading Mau Mau commander, was not captured until October 1956.

The Struggle in the Forests

An aggressive colonial strategy followed the arrival of a new Commander-in-Chief, General Sir George Erskine, in June 1953. Five tracks were cut into the Aberdares by Royal Engineers and forced Kikuyu labour, and battalion-strength bases were established within the forest fringe from which sweeps and cordon operations were launched. Military power was only part of the offensive. The oppression of the general population was deepened. The Kikuyu reserve became a Special Area where anyone failing to halt when challenged could be shot, and in the forests of Mt Kenya and Nyandarua, all unauthorised Africans were to be shot on sight. In addition, in ‘a 100-mile strip of land, from one to three miles in width, lying between the forests and the reserve, huts and granaries were burned, peasants evicted and crops slashed.

After almost a year and a half of fighting, with vastly superior power and extreme political ruthlessness, the government had not defeated the guerrillas (Barnett and Njama, 225, 330). But by the last half of 1954, the forest fighters were increasingly isolated and divided. They were critically short of arms. Importantly, they were being alienated from the Kikuyu peasantry, enduring the full weight of colonial repression (Barnett and Njama, 375). By the end of 1955 only some 1,500 fighters remained in the Aberdares. Kimathi was captured in October 1956, after which he was tried, hanged and buried in an unmarked grave in quick succession.

The Swynnerton Plan and the Gulag

Britain’s anti-colonial war took place on many inter-related fronts. Caroline Elkins believes that in total some 320,000 people were detained (Britain’s Gulag, 2005, xi). A massive Villagization of the Kikuyu was enforced. 800 enclosed villages were established throughout Kikuyu territory, controlled by a Home Guard of 15,000 in early 1953, cutting off the Mau Mau-fish from the water of a supportive free peasantry. A Loyalist was then a Kikuyu who served on the British side against Mau Mau, and received in return ‘the best of everything’, in grants of large and fertile land, trading licences, tax exemptions and, not least, ‘carte blanche to settle old scores with Mau Mau neighbours’ (Elkins, 72).

The creation of Britain’s Loyalists dove-tailed with the programme to promote a class of rich peasants and aspirant rural capitalists as long-term social bulwark against the landless peasantry in the central highlands. This programme took full shape in the Swynnerton Plan for African commercial agriculture in December 1953. It consolidated land and conferred legal ownership on recipients, and poorer Kikuyu ‘knew full well’ that this would ‘benefit their wealthier, loyalist neighbours and lead inevitably to their own further impoverishment.’ Colonialism was creating ‘permanent socioeconomic divisions within Kikuyu society…along the fault line between loyalist and Mau Mau’ (Elkins, 127). Divisions not absent today between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga and their respective supporters.

Still the defeat of Mau Mau did not come quickly or easily. Operation Anvil on 24 April 1954 detained Nairobi’s entire African population, and screened all Kikuyu, Embu and Meru. This was the start of Britain’s Gulag, a complex process built on brainwashing and torture, with a pipeline of screening and classification, parts of it manned by life-determining hooded loyalist invigilators (Elkins, ch.5). Yet even ‘behind the wire’, Mau Mau tried to maintain their political consciousness and their organisation, within a system where violence was ‘intrinsic’ (Anderson, 2005, 316). ‘Humiliation, concentrated, continuous and consistent’ was the principal operational element (words of Kaggia, Kubai, Joseph Murumbi and Oneko, Barnett and Njama, 9). In the course of the Emergency, 1,090 Kikuyu were sent to the gallows, double the number of insurgent executions in French Algeria then, and ‘many more than in all the other British colonial emergencies’, Malaya, Cyprus, et.al, at this time (Anderson, 7). Additionally, Britain claimed to have killed 11,000 Mau Mau in action: measures of their great capacity to endure and resist. By October 1956 they had lost 17,000, most killed in action, casualties ‘heavier than any regular army could have sustained’ (Julie Macarthur, Dedan Kimathi on Trial, 2017, 275). Altogether, Elkins suggests that ‘perhaps hundreds of thousands’ of Kikuyu were killed (xiv).

The price of the repression was huge, especially through the socio-political costs of the elevation of the loyalists, and the gulf created between them and the militants. Timing was still critical before Britain could confidently devolve power to the moderate/constitutional nationalists. The State of Emergency remained in force until January 1960. Only in June 1955 were political parties permitted, then only at district level. No parties at all were allowed in Central province. British colonial policy was to ‘prolong the State of Emergency in Kenya and to delay the release of some of us until long after the Emergency ended.’ The Restriction Order imposed on Kaggia was not revoked until 17 November 1961. A collaborative leadership was given priority to establish its social base, and it would ensure that ‘none of the ex-detainees had any chance of coming to the top’ (Kaggia, Roots of Freedom, 1975, 120-182).

Kenyatta was brought home by slow stages. From Lokitaung, in the far north, he was moved to Lodwar, then to Maralal. On 14 August 1961 he arrived home in Gatundu in Kiambu. The cadre of colleagues assembled around Kenyatta at the top of the (now) Kenyan African National Union (KANU), formed 27 March 1960, were solidly moderate and anti-militant. Former rebels like Kaggia, Kubai and Waruhiu Itote (ex-General China) were briefly accorded junior ministries in Kenyatta’s first government. But the gulf between them and him was total. After earlier declaring that his would not be ‘a gangster government’, in September 1962 he affirmed: “Mau Mau was a disease which had been eradicated, and must never be remembered again” (Kenyatta, Suffering Without Bitterness, 1968, 147,189). General elections next year swept Kenyatta into high office. Britain’s aim of handing power to constitutional nationalists had finally been achieved.

Kenya remained tied to Britain by many economic, military and strategic arrangements. Whites did not flee from Kenya as the colons did then from Algeria: about 400,000 settlers left Algeria between March and June 1962, and eventually out of a colon population of one million, about 900,000 departed. The numbers of settlers in Kenya initially dropped from some 61,000 in 1960, but remained at 42,000 in 1965. Britain retained influence.

But the militants did not easily forget the price paid by ordinary people. Kaggia soon resigned as parliamentary secretary in education, saying he “found it very difficult to forget the freedom fighters who gave all they had, including their land, for the independence we are enjoying.” Kaggia, Odinga, and Pinto were all critical of Kenyatta’s own acquisition of large farms. Kenyatta both endorsed the normality of naked self-interest and publicly ridiculed Kaggia’s militant principles and solidarity with the poor: speaking with him before a large meeting in Murang’a in April 1965: “We were together with Paul Ngei in jail. If you go to Ngei’s home, he has planted a lot of coffee and other crops—what have you done for yourself? If you go to Kubai’s home, he has a big house and a nice shamba—Kaggia what have you done for yourself?” (quoted in Good, 1968, ‘Kenyatta and the De-Organisation of KANU’, 132-133). Pinto was killed in Nairobi on 24 February just two months earlier. In the middle of the year, Odinga finally broke with Kenyatta and the ruling party, resigned as Vice President, and helped form the Kenya People’s Union (KPU).

It remains difficult for Raila Odinga, NASA and their supporters to follow John Kerry’s uninformed advice of 2017 to ‘move on’. The past is not really passed. Thousands of survivors of the forest fighting and the detention camps were then pressing claims for compensation from Britain for what they had endured: 5,000 of them were awarded 20 million British pounds in 2013, and 40,000 others were claiming 200 million more (Cahal Milmo, Independent Online, 23 November, 2014).

The Continuance of the Repression

There was no letup in the killing of the poor in Nairobi at the end of 2019 and early 2020. Since Christmas Day police shot dead at least eight people in Mathare, Kasarani and Majengo, as they ‘continued to kill crime suspects and protesters in cold blood’. As HRW showed, there was ‘a longstanding pattern of excessive force and unlawful killings in Nairobi’s low-income neighbourhoods.’ Legitimate protest at lamentable living conditions and against authority’s brutality was suppressed. Among the eight victims were Peter Irungu, 19, and Brian Mung’aru, 20, both shot dead while kneeling and pleading with police. Then on 26 December police attacked a protest over the young men’s killing, using live ammunition, tear gas and beatings. In a protest on 15 January in Kasarani over bad road conditions, police fired on protesters and residents, and shot dead Stephen Machurusi, 19, while kneeling and pleading for his life. He was trying to get to work, uninvolved in the demonstration, but according to a witness, one officer “just shot him at close range in the chest”. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) announced on 24 January that they had recorded abuses and killings by police numbering 3,200 in 2019. This was being done in the name of ‘maintaining law and order in Nairobi’s informal settlements’ (HRW, ‘No Letup in Killings by Nairobi Police’, 20 February 2020).

The Controllers of the Killing Game

Prominent among their number, not just for his longevity, was the recently deceased Daniel arap Moi. He made his mark quickly. He pushed through a one-party state in 1982, and when a coup attempt followed by air-force personnel, he arrested the entire 2,000-strong force: some ‘were never seen again’. Ruthlessness prevailed. Thousands of activists were consigned to underground torture chambers in Nyayo House in central Nairobi, and a popular foreign minister, Robert Ouko, ‘was killed in one of Moi’s residencies in 1990.’ He acquired large tracts of farmland in the Rift Valley. The West tolerated his repression as ‘a bulwark against communism’. When the Soviet Union collapsed, he restored multipartyism, and won elections in 1992 and 1997. His legacy will persist beyond 4 February: corruption, tribalism and, as noted, the unrelenting repression of the poor. ‘Most of today’s top politicians served under him’, including Uhuru Kenyatta since 2013 (The Economist, 8 February 2020 and Reuters, Guardian Online, 4 February 2020).

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