Archive | August 19th, 2020

Nazi regime Fears the Worst in ICC Investigation of War Crimes

by RAMZY BAROUD

When International Court of Justice (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, confirmed last December that the Court has ample evidence to pursue a war crimes investigation in occupied Palestine, the Israeli government responded with the usual rhetoric, accusing the international community of bias and insisting on Israel’s ‘right to defend itself.’

Beneath the platitudes and typical Israeli discourse, the Israeli government knew too well that an ICC investigation into war crimes in Palestine could be quite costly. An investigation, in itself, represents an indictment of sorts. If Israeli individuals were to be indicted for war crimes, that is a different story, as it becomes a legal obligation of ICC members to apprehend the criminals and hand them over to the Court.

Israel remained publicly composed, even after Bensouda, last April, elaborated on her December decision with a 60-page legal report, titled: “Situation in the State of Palestine: Prosecution Response to the Observations of Amici Curiae, Legal Representatives of Victims, and States.”

In the report, the ICC addressed many of the questions, doubts and reports submitted or raised in the four months that followed her earlier decision. Countries such as Germany and Austria, among others, had used their position as amici curiae – ‘friends of the court’ – to question the ICC jurisdiction and the status of Palestine as a country.

Bensouda insisted that “the Prosecutor is satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation into the situation in Palestine under article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, and that the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza (“Occupied Palestinian Territory”).”

However, Bensouda did not provide definitive timelines to the investigation; instead, she requested that the ICC’S Pre-Trial Chamber “confirm the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine,” an additional step that is hardly required since the State of Palestine, a signatory of the Rome Statute, is the one that actually referred the case directly to the Prosecutor’s office.

The April report, in particular, was the wake-up call for Israel. Between the initial decision in December till the release of the latter report, Israel lobbied on many fronts, enlisting the help of ICC members and recruiting its greatest benefactor, Washington – which is not an ICC member – to bully the Court so it may reverse its decision.

On May 15, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, warned the ICC against pursuing the investigation, targeting Bensouda, in particular, for her decision to hold war criminals in Palestine accountable.

The US slapped unprecedented sanctions against the ICC on June 11, with President Donald Trump issuing an ‘executive order’ that authorizes the freezing of assets and a travel ban against ICC officials and their families. The order also allows for the punishing of other individuals or entities that assist the ICC in its investigation.

Washington’s decision to carry out punitive measures against the very Court that was established for the sole purpose of holding war criminals accountable is both outrageous and abhorrent. It also exposes Washington’s hypocrisy – the country that claims to defend human rights is attempting to prevent legal accountability by those who have violated human rights.

Upon its failure to halt the ICC legal procedures regarding its investigation of war crimes, Israel began to prepare for the worst. On July 15, Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz, reported about a ‘secret list’ that was drawn up by the Israeli government. The list includes “between 200 and 300 officials”, ranging from politicians to military and intelligence officials, who are subject to arrest abroad, should the ICC officially open the war crimes investigation.

Names begin at the top of the Israeli political pyramid, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his current coalition partner, Benny Gantz.

The sheer number of Israeli officials on the list is indicative of the scope of the ICC’s investigation, and, somehow, is a self-indictment, as the names include former Israeli Defense Ministers – Moshe Ya’alon, Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett; current and former army chiefs of staffs – Aviv Kochavi, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot and current and former heads of internal intelligence, the Shin Bet – Nadav Argaman and Yoram Cohen.

Respected international human rights organizations have already, repeatedly, accused all these individuals of serious human rights abuses during Israel’s lethal wars on the besieged Gaza Strip, starting with the so-called ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in 2008-9.

But the list is far more extensive, as it covers “people in much more junior positions, including lower-ranking military officers and, perhaps, even officials involved in issuing various types of permits to settlements and settlement outposts.”

Israel, thus, fully appreciates the fact that the international community still insists that the construction of illegal colonies in occupied Palestine, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the transfer of Israeli citizens to occupied land are all inadmissible under international law and tantamount to war crimes. Netanyahu must be disappointed to learn that all of Washington’s concessions to Israel under Trump’s presidency have failed to alter the position of the international community and the applicability of international law in any way.

Furthermore, it would not be an exaggeration to argue that Jerusalem’s postponement of its plan to illegally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is directly linked to the ICC’s investigation, for the annexation would have completely thwarted Israel’s friends’ efforts aimed at preventing the investigation from ever taking place.

While the whole world, especially Palestinians, Arabs and their allies, still anxiously await the final decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber, Israel will continue its overt and covert campaign to intimidate the ICC and any other entity that aims to expose Israeli war crimes and to try Israeli war criminals.

Washington, too, will continue to strive to ensure Netanyahu, Gantz, and the “200 to 300” other Israeli officials never see their day in court.

However, the fact that a “secret list” exists is an indication that Israel understands that this era is different and that international law, which has failed Palestinians for over 70 years, may, for once, deliver, however a small measure of justice.

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The Space Wars Have Begun

by T.J. COLES

Artist rendering of ground and space based laser weapons. Image: US Air Force.

“Space is now a distinct warfighting domain,” says the U.S. Defense Space Strategy.

Last week, corporate media repeated U.S. military propaganda: that Russia had “tested new technologies that could lead to so-called ‘killer satellites’” (ABC); the U.S. and Britain “accused Russia of testing a weapon-like projectile in space that could be used to target satellites in orbit” (BBC); “the US has publicly accused Russia of testing an ‘orbit weapon’” (CNN); “The launch could represent a step towards the militarisation of space”(Sky News); and so on.

SOME CONTEXT

These reports invert the chronology of events and omit the U.S. agenda to dominate space. Like China’s verified destruction of its own weather satellite in 2007, Russia’s alleged maneuvers in space are—if true—a response to what the Pentagon calls “Full Spectrum Dominance”: “dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment.” This was a Clinton-era doctrine (1993-2001) which continues into the present. The Bush administration (2001-09) extended the policy, going from domination to “ownership”: Like the battles of old, “whoever owned the high ground owned the fight.” So-called Ballistic Missile Defense, which is supposedly designed counter nuclear weapons-carrying ICBMs, are actually missiles with the potential for first-strike capacity.

There is a way to stop Chinese and Russian anti-satellite tests: sign a treaty outlawing space weapons. But doing so would also prevent the U.S. from testing its own anti-satellite and other weapons, i.e., from “dominating” and “owning” space.

Beginning 2001, “China, at first alone but later with Russia, … made several proposals” to the UN Conference on Disarmament “on possible elements for a future treaty banning the weaponization of space,” says Arms Control Today. That’s not because the Chinese or Russian elites are good people who want peace, but rather because they know that they cannot complete with U.S. space domination. In 2002, Bush withdrew from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty 1972 and provoked Russia by constructing a missile system in Eastern Europe. In June of that year, Russia and China proposed a treaty committing signatories to “[n]ot place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying any kinds of weapons.” It was rejected by the U.S.

In 2010, President Obama (2009-17) launched the world’s first known, orbiting and geosynchronous space weapon—it had the capacity to do both and the military denied that it was a space weapon—the X37B, which had suspected anti-satellite capabilities.

In February 2018, the USAF Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, told Congress: “We own the high ground of air and space. We project decisive combat power forward with our joint team to defend America’s interests and our allies worldwide.” At the end of the year, Russia was accused by the U.S. of doing what the U.S. had done a decade earlier vis. the X37B: orbiting a potential space weapon. Making diplomatic efforts to defend against Full Spectrum Dominance, Russia and China continued their efforts to ban the weaponization of space. The U.S. continued its policy of “domination” and “ownership.”

BLOCKING PEACE

Notions of Full Spectrum Dominance and ownership of space mean that the U.S. rejects every effort at the UN General Assembly to strengthen the Outer Space Treaty 1967. In November 2018, Russia introduced a draft treaty, “No first placement of weapons in outer space” (A/C.1/73/L.51). The second draft passed, with 128 nations voting in favor and 12 against, including the U.S. and Britain. In November 2019, the General Assembly reported: “The Committee approved, by a recorded vote of 175 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, the draft resolution ‘Prevention of an arms race in outer space’ (document A/C.1/74/L.3).”

But the General Assembly, unlike the Security Council, has no enforcement mechanism, meaning that the U.S. can and does ignore the result of the vote.

The draft resolution “Further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space” (document A/C.1/74/L.58/Rev.1) was also approved, though the UN noted: “The representative of the United States reiterated his delegation’s opposition to the Chinese‑Russian draft treaty presented to the Conference on Disarmament.” In January 2020, the U.S. Space Force joined in Global Lightning, the annual exercise that sees Russia potentially getting nuked by U.S. forces. It is in this broader context that Russia is alleged to have tested an anti-satellite weapon.

CLAIMS VS. REALITY

“Russia conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon,” claims the Space Command (not to be confused with the Space Force). If this is true, the U.S.’s legal objection is unclear. As noted, the U.S. has rejected multiple efforts to ban anti-satellite weapons, so Russia has a legal right to test weaponry. This is against the spirit of the Outer Space Treaty 1967, but so are U.S. activities in space, such as the launch and test of the X37B. Either way, Russia rejects the claim as false. “On July 15, Russia injected a new object into orbit from [its satellite] Cosmos 2543,” the U.S. Space Command continues. The only evidence for this claim is a website: Space-Track.org.

But, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency, U.S. space policy includes spoofing: “Spoofing deceives the receiver by introducing a fake signal with erroneous information.” How do we know that the Space-Track.org returns regarding Russia’s alleged probe were not spoofs?

Notice that the U.S. is not concerned about Chinese or Russian dominance in space. U.S. planners are aware that neither Russia nor China has the financial or technological means to dominate space. Rather, they are concerned about Sino-Russian capacity to limit U.S. operational freedoms; in other words to scupper U.S. attempts at Full Spectrum Dominance. The Defense Intelligence Agency does not mention Chinese or Russian space dominance, but rather, how those countries “view counter-space capabilities as a means to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness.” Likewise, the Defense Space Strategy says: “China and Russia each have weaponized space as a means to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness and challenge our freedom of operation in space.”

CONCLUSION

In addition to nuclear war/accident and climate change, space weaponization poses a terminal threat. If and when something goes seriously wrong, national tensions will rise to the point of escalation and potential accident involving nuclear weapons. Furthermore, military planners are aware of this yet they do nothing to stop it: quite the contrary.

One UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) document casually notes: “By 2050, space-based weapons systems … could include nuclear weapons.” Another states: “nuclear possession may lead to greater adventurism and irresponsible conventional and irregular behaviour, to the point of brinkmanship and misunderstanding.” As noted above, Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) is a potential first-strike weapon. A third MoD document states: “the development of strategic BMD systems is likely to continue along multiple technical tracks by the major powers” (emphases in original).

Anti-satellite (AS) weapons expert, Nancy Gallagher, calls AS war without nuclear weapons “a mirage”: “Should a satellite be struck by a piece of space debris during a crisis or a low-level terrestrial conflict,” says Gallagher, “leaders might mistakenly assume that a space war had begun and retaliate before they knew what had actually happened.”

Time is getting short, threats are multiplying.

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Russiagate, Nazis, and the CIA

by ROB URIE


The political success of Russiagate lies in the vanishing of American history in favor of a façade of liberal virtue. Posed as a response to the election of Donald Trump, a straight line can be drawn from efforts to undermine the decommissioning of the American war economy in 1946 to the CIA’s alliance with Ukrainian fascists in 2014. In 1945 the NSC (National Security Council) issued a series of directives that gave logic and direction to the CIA’s actions during the Cold War. That these persist despite the ‘fall of communism’ suggests that it was always just a placeholder in the pursuit of other objectives.

The first Cold War was an imperial business enterprise to keep the Generals, bureaucrats, and war materiel suppliers in power and their bank accounts flush after WWII. Likewise, the American side of the nuclear arms race left former Gestapo and SS officers employed by the CIA to put their paranoid fantasies forward as assessments of Russian military capabilities. Why, of all people, would former Nazi officers be put in charge military intelligence if accurate assessments were the goal? The Nazis hated the Soviets more than the Americans did.

The ideological binaries of Russiagate— for or against Donald Trump, for or against neoliberal, petrostate Russia, define the boundaries of acceptable discourse to the benefit of deeply nefarious interests. The U.S. has spent a century or more trying to install a U.S.-friendly government in Moscow. Following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the U.S. sent neoliberal economists to loot the country as the Clinton administration, and later the Obama administration, placed NATO troops and armaments on the Russian border after a negotiated agreement not to do so. Subsequent claims of realpolitik are cover for a reckless disregard for geopolitical consequences.

The paradox of American liberalism, articulated when feminist icon and CIA asset Gloria Steinem described the CIA as ‘liberal, nonviolent and honorable,’ is that educated, well-dressed, bourgeois functionaries have used the (largely manufactured) threat of foreign subversion to install right-wing nationalists subservient to American business interests at every opportunity. Furthermore, Steinem’s aggressive ignorance of the actual history of the CIA illustrates the liberal propensity to conflate bourgeois dress and attitude with an imagined gentility. To the point made by Christopher Simpson, the CIA could have achieved better results had it not employed former Nazi officers, begging the question of why it chose to do so?

On the American left, Russiagate is treated as a case of bad reporting, of official outlets for government propaganda serially reporting facts and events that were subsequently disproved. However, some fair portion of the American bourgeois, the PMC that acts in supporting roles for capital, believes every word of it. Russiagate is the nationalist party line in the American fight against communism, without the communism. Charges of treason have been lodged every time that military budgets have come under attack since 1945. In 1958 the senior leadership of the Air Force was charging the other branches of the military with treason for doubting its utterly fantastical (and later disproven) estimate of Soviet ICBMs. Treason is good for business.

Shortly after WWII ended, the CIA employed hundreds of former Nazi military officers, including former Gestapo and SS officers responsible for murdering tens and hundreds of thousands of human beings, to run a spy operation known as the Gehlen Organization from Berlin, Germany. Given its central role in assessing the military intentions and capabilities of the Soviet Union, the Gehlen Organization was more likely than not responsible for the CIA’s overstatement of Soviet nuclear capabilities in the 1950s used to support the U.S. nuclear weapons program. Former Nazis were also integrated into CIA efforts to install right wing governments around the world.

By the time that (Senator) John F. Kennedy claimed a U.S. ‘missile gap’ with the Soviets in 1958, the CIA was providing estimates of Soviet ICBMs (Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles), that were wildly inflated— most likely provided to it by the Gehlen Organization. Once satellite and U2 reconnaissance estimates became available, the CIA lowered its own to 120 Soviet ICBMs when the actual number was four. On the one hand, the Soviets really did have a nuclear weapons program. On the other, it was a tiny fraction of what was being claimed. Bad reporting, unerringly on the side of larger military budgets, appears to be the constant.

Under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act passed by Congress in 1998, the CIA was made to partially disclose its affiliation with, and employment of, former Nazis. In contrast to the ‘Operation Paperclip’ thesis that it was Nazi scientists who were brought to the U.S. to labor as scientists, the Gehlen Organization and CIC employed known war criminals in political roles. Klaus Barbie, the ‘Butcher of Lyon,’ was employed by the CIC, and claims to have played a role in the murder of Che Guevara. Wernher von Braun, one of the Operation Paperclip ‘scientists,’ worked in a Nazi concentration camp as tens of thousands of human beings were murdered.

The historical sequence in the U.S. was WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, to an economy that was heavily dependent on war production. The threatened decommissioning of the war economy in 1946 was first met with an honest assessment of Soviet intentions— the Soviets were moving infrastructure back into Soviet territory as quickly as was practicable, then to the military budget-friendly claim that they were putting resources in place to invade Europe. The result of the shift was that the American Generals kept their power and the war industry kept producing materiel and weapons. By 1948 these weapons had come to include atomic bombs.

To understand the political space that military production came to occupy, from 1948 onward the U.S. military became a well-funded bureaucracy where charges of treason were regularly traded between the branches. Internecine battles for funding and strategic dominance were (and are) regularly fought. The tactic that this bureaucracy— the ‘military industrial complex,’ adopted was to exaggerate foreign threats in a contest for bureaucratic dominance. The nuclear arms race was made a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the U.S. produced world-ending weapons non-stop for decades on end, the Soviets responded in kind.

What ties the Gehlen Organization to CIA estimates of Soviet nuclear weapons from 1948 – 1958 is 1) the Gehlen Organization was central to the CIA’s intelligence operations vis-à-vis the Soviets, 2) the CIA had limited alternatives to gather information on the Soviets outside of the Gehlen Organization and 3) the senior leadership of the U.S. military had long demonstrated that it approved of exaggerating foreign threats when doing so enhanced their power and added to their budgets. Long story short, the CIA employed hundreds of former Nazi officers who had the ideological predisposition and economic incentive to mis-perceive Soviet intentions and misstate Soviet capabilities to fuel the Cold War.

Where this gets interesting is that American whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was working for the Rand Corporation in the late 1950s and early 1960s when estimates of Soviet ICBMs were being put forward. JFK had run (in 1960) on a platform that included closing the Soviet – U.S. ‘missile gap.’ The USAF (U.S. Air Force), charged with delivering nuclear missiles to their targets, was estimating that the Soviets had 1,000 ICBMs. Mr. Ellsberg, who had limited security clearance through his employment at Rand, was leaked the known number of Soviet ICBMs. The Air Force was saying 1,000 Soviet ICBMs when the number confirmed by reconnaissance satellites was four.

By 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the CIA had shifted nominal control of the Gehlen Organization to the BND, for whom Gehlen continued to work. Based on ongoing satellite reconnaissance data, the CIA was busy lowering its estimates of Soviet nuclear capabilities. Benjamin Schwarz, writing for The Atlantic in 2013, provided an account, apparently informed by the CIA’s lowered estimates, where he placed the whole of the Soviet nuclear weapons program (in 1962) at roughly one-ninth the size of the U.S. effort. However, given Ellsberg’s known count of four Soviet ICBMs at the time of the missile crisis, even Schwarz’s ratio of 1:9 seems to overstate Soviet capabilities.

Further per Schwarz’s reporting, the Jupiter nuclear missiles that the U.S. had placed in Italy prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis only made sense as first-strike weapons. This interpretation is corroborated by Daniel Ellsberg, who argues that the American plan was always to initiate the use of nuclear weapons (first strike). This made JFK’s posture of equally matched contestants in a geopolitical game of nuclear chicken utterly unhinged. Should this be less than clear, because the U.S. had indicated its intention to use nuclear weapons in a first strike— and had demonstrated the intention by placing Jupiter missiles in Italy, nothing that the U.S. offered during the Missile Crisis could be taken in good faith.

The dissolution of the USSR in 1991 was met with a promised reduction in U.S. military spending and an end to the Cold War, neither of which ultimately materialized. Following the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, the Cold War entered a new phase. Cold War logic was repurposed to support the oxymoronic ‘humanitarian wars’— liberating people by bombing them. In 1995 ‘Russian meddling’ meant the Clinton administration rigging the election of Boris Yeltsin in the Russian presidential election. Mr. Clinton then unilaterally reneged on the American agreement to keep NATO from Russia’s border when former Baltic states were brought under NATO’s control.

The Obama administration’s 2014 incitement in Ukraine, by way of fostering and supporting the Maidan uprising and the ousting of Ukraine’s democratically elected President, Viktor Yanukovych, ties to the U.S. strategy of containing and overthrowing the Soviet (Russian) government that was first codified by the National Security Council (NSC) in 1945. The NSC’s directives can be found here and here. The economic and military annexation of Ukraine by the U.S. (NATO didn’t exist in 1945) comes under NSC10/2. The alliance between the CIA and Ukrainian fascists ties to directive NSC20, the plan to sponsor Ukrainian-affiliated former Nazis in order to install them in the Kremlin to replace the Soviet government. This was part of the CIA’s rationale for putting Ukrainian-affiliated former Nazis on its payroll in 1948.

That Russiagate is the continuation of a scheme launched in 1945 by the National Security Council, to be engineered by the CIA with help from former Nazi officers in its employ, speaks volumes about the Cold War frame from which it emerges. Its near instantaneous adoption by bourgeois liberals demonstrates the class basis of the right-wing nationalism it supports. That liberals appear to perceive themselves as defenders ‘democracy’ within a trajectory laid out by unelected military leaders more than seven decades earlier is testament to the power of historical ignorance tied to nationalist fervor. Were the former Gestapo and SS officers employed by the CIA ‘our Nazis?’

The Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act came about in part because Nazi hunters kept coming across Nazi war criminals living in the U.S. who told them they had been brought here and given employment by the CIA, CIC, or some other division of the Federal government. If the people in these agencies thought that doing so was justified, why the secrecy? And if it wasn’t justified, why was it done? Furthermore, are liberals really comfortable bringing fascists with direct historical ties to the Third Reich to power in Ukraine? And while there are no good choices in the upcoming U.S. election, the guy who liberals want to bring to power is lead architect of this move. Cue the Sex Pistols.

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Tear Gas and Thugs at the BLM Protests in Portland

by BETTE LEE

On the 59th night of BLM protests on July 25th at the federal courthouse, I was one of the thousands of protestors who went there. It took me a while to struggle through my fears of getting infected with the virus and the limits to my mobility due to old age and hip arthritis.  But like so many others, I could no longer stay home.  I knew from my previous experiences at many protests over the years, against war, racism, ICE, inequality, and exploitation of workers, that the police were extremely violent, often attacking us with little or no provocations.   What was new was that the police had been attacking the BLM protestors non-stop for 58 nights with tear gas, pepper spray, flash grenades, and “non-lethal” munitions.  In contrast to their long history of using violence against non-violent protestors, the Portland police were seen protecting and fraternizing with white supremacist groups like the Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys at their rallies in this whitest of all US cities.   When Mayor Ted Wheeler appeared at a protest last week, he was booed by many there, who called out “Tear gas Ted.”   Later that night, Wheeler got a big dose of his own “medicine.”

The recent deployment of over 100 federal troops to Portland under “Operation Diligent Valor” by Trump added more fuel to the already fired-up protestors.  Trump claims that he sent the feds there to protect federal facilities and officers against “violent anarchists,” but the reality is this:  they have been deployed as an occupying army to crush the protests.  Since their arrival in early July, unidentified federal thugs in camouflage have grabbed BLM protestors off the streets, putting them in unmarked vehicles, and detaining them for hours without charge.   They have also escalated the violence at the nightly BLM protests at the (In)justice Center and the Federal Courthouse, working with the Portland police to attack non-violent protestors with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, flash grenades, and “non-lethal” projectiles.  The videos of their actions pepper-spraying people at point blank, firing an impact munition at 26 year-old Donovan La Bella , causing a skull fracture which required an emergency surgery, beating and pepper-spraying Chris David, a 53-year old Navy Vet who was just standing there, and attacking non-violent protestors night after night with copious amounts of tear gas and pepper spray have not only intimidated and terrorized people, but also enraged them.

So far, Homeland Security and the Trump administration have refused to withdraw the federal thugs despite lawsuits filed by Oregon’s attorney general, the ACLU, state legislators and activist groups.   Many of us can no longer remain silent as these accounts of daily violence by the police and feds make clear that what is at stake is not only racial injustice and inequality, but also an attack on our 1st Amendment right to free speech and civil rights.

I was heartened to see so many recent newcomers like the “Wall of Moms,” the dads, veterans, teachers, union workers, nurses, doctors and healthcare workers at the protest, as well as the die-hards who had been at the frontlines for 58 nights.   Their presence makes it much harder for Trump, his supporters and critics of the BLM protestors to separate us into “good” vs. “bad” protestors, or to demonize us all as “violent anarchists.”  The government, police and law enforcement agencies have a long history of suppressing many political movements for social change in the past by using this strategy of criminalizing our right to dissent and by deploying police and law enforcement violence to crush the resistance.

Now is the time for us to meet this challenge to protect our rights and to resist being under the boot of a fascist police state.  The stakes are high as what happens in Portland will soon be replicated in other cities as Trump threatens to send more federal troops to Chicago, Seattle, Albuquerque and other cities to squash the BLM movement and our demands for justice and equality for all.

As the crowds grew in numbers throughout the night, we sang and chanted words which have become mantras:   “No justice, no peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Hands up, don’t shoot!” “Feds go home,” “Stay together, stay tight!”  “Feds stay clear, the moms are here!”  Light projections of George Floyd’s last words flashed across the JC building.  “I can’t breathe.   Everything hurts.  Please don’t kill me.  Mama, I’m through.”   We read them in silence, while others were chanting “Black Lives Matter”  over and over again.   Other messages flashed by, “The power of the people is greater than those in power,” “The Revolution is Live,” “Black Lives Matter.”

There were thousands of us around midnight.  We were there at this nightly ritual of resistance, waiting for the inevitable to happen.   Several protestors were trying to pull down the metal fence, which had been reinforced recently.   After much effort, some succeeded in breaching the fence at one location.   We heard the disembodied voice announcing over the loudspeaker:   “This is the Portland Police” declaring a “riot” and ordering us to disperse immediately or be subjected to chemical attacks and arrests.   The protestors booed and yelled, “Fuck the police!  Feds out of Portland!”  in response.   Then the attacks began.   Loud explosions went off, and clouds of tear gas rapidly spread down the streets from SW 3rd and Salmon.  People were screaming and running, ignoring shouts of “Don’t run!”

Despite my old legs and hip arthritis, I managed to run through the waves of tear gas.  For a few terrifying moments, my eyes were burning, and I was blinded and disoriented.   Luckily, I was helped by the amazing medics, who treated my eyes with a saline solution.   I saw them treat other protestors injured by pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets.  The feds and cops came running towards us, and chased us further and further downtown.  None of the protestors who were standing with me had done anything wrong, but the feds and cops kept firing tear gas at us.   I saw a few people being arrested near the Apple store downtown.  Dozens of police cars with sirens blasting, blue lights flashing, sped down the streets.   It was scary how quickly Portland had been transformed from the City of Roses to “Little Beirut.”  Then the police and feds marched off, got into their cars, and drove off.   It was a surreal scene—the streets were suddenly empty and quiet again, as if nothing had happened.   But we know better.   Our resistance is growing, and we will be back!

All photos by Bette Lee.

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Moderna Shows All Those Lazy Unemployed Workers How to Really Rip Off the Government

by DEAN BAKER

Moderna, a relatively new biotech company, has generally been seen as the leading U.S. contender to develop a coronavirus vaccine, although it trails several Chinese companies. Whether or not its vaccine pans out, it should certainly get an award for milking the government.

It was the big winner in initial contracts, getting $483 million back in April for developing a vaccine. While that may have seemed adequate to get it through both the development and testing process, the company decided to go back to the trough and have the government pay $472 million for the Phase 3 testing of the vaccine.

Together these payments virtually guarantee that the company will make a substantial profit on its development and testing of the vaccine.  Yet, Moderna will still get a patent monopoly on the vaccine, which will allow it to charge people in the United States and elsewhere in the world as much as it wants for the vaccine.

Some simple arithmetic shows that Moderna almost certainly has made a profit already. The company reported having 892 employees at the end of the 2019. Let’s suppose that they paid each one $20,000 a month for the three months between signing the contract and when they had their first round of clinical tests. (It was actually more like two months.) That would come to $53,520,000. If we double this for equipment and other inputs, we get $107,040,000.

The Phase 3 trials are projected to involve 30,000 people. Recent research indicates that the average per person cost in a Phase 3 trial for vaccines is $10,000. That would come to $300 million. Let’s raise this by 50 percent because Moderna is in a hurry, that gets us $450 million.

Since the government paid $483 million for the pre-clinical research and $472 million for the Phase 3 trials, it looks like Moderna is making a healthy profit on both. Yet, the government is still giving Moderna a patent monopoly, which means that it will arrest anyone who tries to produce the vaccine without Moderna’s permission.[1]

If we go back to Econ 101, the rationale for the government granting patent monopolies to drug companies or anyone else is to give them incentive for doing research and developing new products. The monopoly will allow them to both recoup research costs and compensate them for the risk that they won’t have a successful product.

The Moderna story won’t fit here. It was already compensated for its research costs by the government. Furthermore, it has zero risk. If its vaccine turns out to be ineffective or have harmful side effects, the company has already been paid for its work.

The patent monopoly means that we are paying Moderna twice. We first picked up the tab for the research and the testing and now we are giving the company a monopoly so that it can charge and people around the world as much as it wants for the vaccine.

This should be a huge scandal, but I guess everyone knows that drug companies rip us off. Besides, economists and media types are too busy worrying about unemployed workers getting too much money.

Notes.

[1] To save literalists some trouble, people don’t actually get arrested for patent violations. They get served with an injunction telling them to stop violating the patent. They would then get arrested for defying the injunction, if they continued to produce the vaccine without Moderna’s permission.

Posted in USAComments Off on Moderna Shows All Those Lazy Unemployed Workers How to Really Rip Off the Government

What’s Going on in Portland

by DAVID ROVICS

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

I have been a resident of Portland, Oregon since 2007. So I have been hearing from more people than usual lately, all asking the same question: what’s going on in Portland?

I find myself struggling to give any kind of an answer to this question. As with any substantive answer to a question, so much depends on how broad an effort we want to make in putting it into a sensible context, in terms of both time and space. So I thought I’d make a little stab at that, for what it’s worth. But to answer the two really simple questions that are, I think, what most people are looking for: is Portland under martial law? I’d say more like a little test run at this point. And is there are a revolution going on there? No, at least not yet, but time speeds up at such historical junctures, so you never know what’s around the corner.

The US is more stratified economically than ever since the Age of the Robber Barons, and that’s well before the pandemic. We have 4% of the world’s population but something like a quarter of the world’s prisoners, most of them people of color, even though the country overall has a white majority. We’re experiencing an out-of-control pandemic with health care systems collapsing under the strain from New York to Louisiana, which is also overwhelmingly impacting people of color. As this is all happening, a veto-proof super-majority made up of both ruling parties has just passed an even bigger military budget than the record military budget of last year, nearly as big as the rest of the world’s military budgets put together. They could agree on that, but whether they can agree on a strategy to prevent the 28 million evictions all the business press is predicting will be coming in the next two or three months is an open question. And most of the country’s cities are too busy spending close to half of a typical budget on their police force, while increasing numbers of their populations move into their cars and tents.

Putting Portland into some relevant, pre-pandemic context: it’s the biggest city in a state with a long history of institutional racism, that was founded as a white homeland. It didn’t develop much of a Black community until the labor shortage during World War 2, around the time so many of the cheap, wooden, now extremely over-priced apartment complexes around town were built. The city of Portland has lost most of its Black population since 2000, according to census data. A recent headline announced that the average Black family in the US could not afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in the city of Portland at the market rate, like the one I write from now. Portland is the most rent-burdened city in the US and has a deeply, institutionally racist police department, that has actual bona fide Nazis in it, and this police department has in some years held the national record for killing the most Black people per capita of all police departments in the country. Lining every major road you will find hundreds of people living in tents, their misery in plain view to passersby. Somewhat less visible are the many car-dwellers also lining every major road in the city.

Portland, like Minneapolis, being a majority-white metropolis with a long history of white supremacist organizing, also has a strong history of antifascist resistance as well, which has frequently taken the form of physical confrontations on the streets, in which the police generally act in support of the white supremacists, while attempting to maintain a fig leaf of neutrality to satisfy the press and the liberals.

Despite the dire situation in terms of basic human rights in the United States, with the food banks busier than ever, tens of millions unemployed, the press talking about 1 in 4 children suffering food insecurity, decreasing lifespans, etc., you won’t generally find widespread opposition to this situation expressed in the streets of cities across the country. Lots of people killing themselves and killing each other, and getting involved with political campaigns, but when it comes to large-scale street protest or campaigns of civil disobedience in the US over the past several decades, they have been focused mainly on things other than what we might call “bread and butter” issues. In the most rent-burdened city in the country, you will rarely find a tenants rights protest with more than a few dozen people at it. The ethnic cleansing of the city – losing more than half of the city’s Black population – elicits barely a peep in terms of protests at City Hall or in the state capital. Equality of condition, otherwise known as human rights, is of no consequence, it seems. But, true to the ideals we grow up with in the textbooks, clear-cut examples that someone has been discriminated against in the process of attempting to pursue their basic human rights may give rise to fairly large-scale civil disobedience — for example, when someone is killed just for being Black and on their way home from work, or bombed just for being Iraqi while hiding in a bomb shelter, or killed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like for going to a suburban high school or elementary school when a mass murderer decides to pay a visit. Blatant racial discrimination, blatant imperialism of the sort that involves the military, or other forms of “senseless killing,” gets response.

People or entire countries that are perceived to have been given a “fair chance” but who failed to make a go of it elicit less sympathy. If you’ve been priced out of San Francisco and you had to move to Portland, that’s just how things work. If you were involved with the drug trade or burglarizing a suburban home when you were killed, you shouldn’t have gotten involved with crime in the first place. If you were actively resisting the occupying army rather than hiding in a bomb shelter, you’ll find much less solidarity from the progressives of the west.

Some exceptions to the theme in recent decades in terms of large-scale civil disobedience have included the uprising in Indian country in 2016, the Black Lives Matter movement, Occupy Wall Street, and the global justice movement (known by some as the anti-globalization movement) of the late 1990’s – though the main emphasis of that movement was about global trade being fair for everyone, especially in the Global South, with the quality of life of the struggling working class in the north often seeming like an afterthought.

In my more hopeful moments, I think that what sometimes appears to be getting off the ground now is a movement that is – under the pressure of all the fissures exposed by the pandemic and the government’s inadequate response to it, both in terms of the public health emergency and the economic crisis it presents — really trying to come face to face with the basic inability of our long-standing capitalist system to ever be the framework within which we might solve any of these basic problems – police brutality, institutional racism, war, society-wide health care, or pretty much anything else good. The “bad apples” theory of reality is officially out the window, the structural problems too big to wrap up in a flag. This was particularly true in first several weeks following the murder of George Floyd, and then once again, at least here in Portland, since Oregon Public Broadcasting officially broke the story that it’s not just local cops tear-gassing everyone, but also federal agents, and they’re randomly abducting people from the sidewalks in the middle of the night as well.

When I look around me over the past two months, especially on a good day, what I see is all the energy and all the numbers that we ever had on the streets under the banners of Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, protests against ICE’s child abductions, and the youth climate and anti-massacre movements of recent years, put together. And probably most of the people who actually participated in those movements, from the looks of the crowds, with a particular emphasis on Black Lives Matter. And lots of these people, along with much of the press and many mainstream politicians, are openly questioning the bad apple theory, and looking at racism the way Black Lives Matter does, as a deeply institutional, fundamental, foundational question in the US. This then leads sensible people to ask the same questions others have been asking for so long – if Black lives matter, then what about affordable housing, given that the lack of it affects Black people so disproportionately. If Black lives matter, then what about the minimum wage, which so many Black workers are perpetually stuck at. What about state funding of education for state schools, rather than funding them with local taxes, thus ensuring apartheid in education? So many questions are being asked more loudly than they have been in a very long time.

Of course, as all of this is happening, so is Trump and his march to fascism, with all his popular support and all the specially-appointed, acting heads of his departments, accountable to no one but him, such as the the Homeland Security guy in charge of the surge of federal agents across the country occurring now. And as impressive as it is to see many thousands of Portlanders pouring out into the streets day after day lately, when I think of the sorts of mass movements that have managed to topple dictators, even relatively unpopular dictators, they have involved sustained crowds of hundreds of thousands or millions of people in the streets, not for a day or a few days, but for months. And even then, victory is far from guaranteed. But these were the kinds of crowds that led to Ben Ali fleeing Tunisia and Mubarak fleeing Egypt. This is the kind of crowd that saw the overturning of the coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002.

This sort of movement may be right around the corner, I’m not making any predictions. The last time this country has seen any kind of sustained movement on that kind of scale, with that kind of militancy, was in the 1930’s. We’ll know it’s here when there are so many people marching in Portland that we shut down all the bridges and all the highways at the same time, not just one or two – and we do that day after day, and the same thing is happening in all the other major cities across the country. When the police are quitting their jobs, some of them are joining us, and their departments are being disbanded anyway. When armies of citizens are taking control of the fancy hotels, filling them with people in need of housing, and staffing them with people who can provide for their needs and help them recover from the trauma of the lives they had to live under capitalism.

What a more likely future could involve is the outpouring of opposition to the presence of federal agents that is coming from more liberal quarters waters down the more radical voices that had been coming to the fore, and this whole thing somehow gets turned into another tool for use by both the Democratic and Republican party elites. As righteous and altogether good is the idea of kicking the police out of the police stations and taking them over, as was done for a time in Minneapolis and Seattle, the ongoing street battles night after night to that aim in the center of Portland are causing massive, long-lasting trauma to a whole lot of people, and can easily play into Trump’s fascist takeover agenda, amplified by Fox and Friends. On the other hand, actually having the kind of movement that might cause the emptying out of the police stations to occur could also put a big damper on the fascist takeover plans, as well, if it were to succeed and spread.

It’s a precipice, the stakes are very high, and as exhilarating as the current moment is, I’m not feeling especially optimistic. But you don’t win if you don’t try.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on What’s Going on in Portland

An Attack on Edward Said’s Legacy

by LAWRENCE DAVIDSON

Photograph Source: Briantrejo – CC BY-SA 3.0

I traveled to Israel and the Occupied Territories in the early 2000s with the progressive group Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. We made an effort to gain insight into most of the players in the conflict, and so a series of interviews was arranged with members of the Israeli right wing. I remember that one of them was Caroline Glick, an ardent American-Israeli Zionist. She lectured us on the positive personal relationships allegedly prevalent between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

It was an interesting and somewhat embarrassing experience. Glick and I are both American and both Jewish. Growing up, I had this understanding that American plus Jewish always meant being anti-racist. To be so was, in my mind, the prime lesson of modern Jewish history. What being anti-racist meant to Glick was unclear. She spent the better part of an hour giving us a defense of Israeli-Jewish treatment of Palestinians based on the classic “some of my best friends are Black” (read Palestinian) defense. In the words of the New York Times journalist John Eligon, this line of argument “has so often been relied on by those facing accusations of racism that it has become shorthand for weak denials of bigotry—a punch line about the absence of thoughtfulness and rigor in our conversations about racism.” And so it was with Glick, who explained that she, and many other Israeli Jews, had Palestinians who do small jobs for them and are treated well, and that this proves a lack of cultural and societal racism. It was such a vacuous argument that I remember feeling embarrassed for her.

Things haven’t gotten much better when it comes to Ms. Glick’s worldview. She is now a senior columnist at Israel Hayom (Israel Today, a pro-Netanyahu newspaper owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson) and contributor to such questionable U.S. outlets as Breitbart NewsShealso directs the Israeli Security Project at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. There can be little doubt that she continues to see the world through the distorting lens of a particularly hardline variant of Zionism.

Glick’s Attack on Edward Said’s Legacy 

Recently, Caroline Glick launched an attack on the legacy of the late American-Palestinian scholar and teacher Edward Said. Entitled “Edward Said, Prophet of Political Violence in America,” it was recently (7 July 2020) published in the U.S. by Newsweek—a news magazine with an increasingly pro-Zionist editorial stand. As it turns out, one cannot find a better example of how ideology can distort one’s outlook to the point of absurdity. Below is an analysis of Glick’s piece in a point-by-point fashion. Ultimately, the ideological basis for her argument will become clear.

1. Glick begins by resurrecting a twenty-year-old event. “On July 3, 2000, an incident occurred along the Lebanese border with Israel that, at the time, seemed both bizarre and … unimportant. That day, Columbia University professor Edward Said was photographed on the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese side of the border with Israel throwing a rock at an Israel Defense Forces watchtower 30 feet away.” She goes on to describe this act as “Said’s rock attack on Israel” and the “soldiers protecting their border.”

We need some context to put all of this in perspective: Israel is an expansionist state, and the original Zionist aim (as presented to the Paris Peace Conference following World War I) was to incorporate parts of southern Lebanon into what is now Israel. Southern Lebanon also briefly became a staging area for Palestinian retaliatory attacks into Israel. Thus, Israel invaded Lebanon multiple times only to be forced to withdraw in the face of resistance led by Hezbollah, a strong Lebanese Shiite militia in control of much of southern Lebanon.

Said relates that during his 2000 visit to the Lebanese border with his family, he threw a pebble (not a “rock”) at a deserted Israeli watchtower (no Israeli soldiers were “defending their border”).  Said saw this as a symbolic act of defiance against Israeli occupation. Over the years stone throwing by Palestinian youth had become just such a symbolic act. And, it was from their example that Said might have taken his cue.

2. However, Glick wants to draw highly questionable consequences from Said’s act. She tells us that “with the hindsight of 20 years, it was a seminal moment and a harbinger for the mob violence now taking place in many parts of America.” By the way, the “mob violence” in America she is referring to is the mass protests against police brutality that followed the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on 25 May 2020.

3. Now that sounds a bit odd. How does Glick manage this segue from Edward Said’s symbolic stone toss in the year 2000 to nationwide inner-city rebellions against police brutality in 2020 America? Here is the contorted sequence she offers:

a. Said was a terrorist because he was an influential member of the alleged “terrorist organization,” the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). “Terrorist organization” is a standard Zionist descriptor of most Palestinian organizations. Actually, the PLO is the legally recognized representative of the Palestinian people and as such has carried on both a armed and a diplomatic struggle to liberate Palestine from Israeli Occupation. In 1993, the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist. This made little difference to the Zionist right wing who, like Glick, continued to use the terrorist tag for propaganda purposes. It is to be noted that all liberation movements are considered to be “terrorist” by those they fight against. And, indeed both sides in such a struggle usually act in this fashion on occasion. Certainly, Israel is no innocent in this regard.

b. For Glick, Said’s alleged terrorist connection transforms his “rock attack” into a terrorist act. This is simply an ad hominem assertion on Glick’s part. There is no evidence that Said ever engaged in any act, including the tossing of stones, that can sanely be characterized as terrorism.

c. Glick tells us that, at the same time Said was ‘committing a terrorist attack’ on Israel, he was also “the superstar of far-Left intellectuals.” It is hard to know what she means here by “far-Left.” It is seems to be another ad hominem slander. Said was a scholar of Comparative Literature and, when not in the classroom, he advocated for the political and human rights of oppressed Palestinians—how “far-Left” is that?

d. Nonetheless, Glick goes on to assert that as a “far-Left” academic, Said waged a “nihilistic” and “anti-intellectual” offensive against Western thought. He did so in a well-known work entitled Orientalism published in 1978.

What does Orientalism actually say? Using mostly 19th century literary and artistic examples, the book documents the prevailing Western perception of the Near East and North Africa, which stands in for the Orient. This perception reflects a basically bipolar worldview—one which, according to Said, reserved for the West a superior image of science and reason, prosperity and high culture, and for the Orient an inferior somewhat mysterious and effeminate image of the “other” fated for domination by the West. Over time this view became pervasive in the West and influenced not only literary and artistic views of the Orient, but also impacted political, historical, anthropological and other non-fictional interpretations. Having helped create a superior sense of self, this orientalist perception served as a rationale for Western world dominance. It should be said that whether one agrees with every one of Said’s details or not, there is no doubt his well researched and documented work has made most scholars more aware of their biases.

e. Glick refuses to see Orientalism asjust an influential academic work. Instead, in what appears to be a pattern of illogical jumps, she claims that “in Orientalism, Said characterized all Western—and particularly American—scholarship on the Arab and Islamic worlds as one big conspiracy theory” designed to justify empire. This then is the heart of Said’s alleged “nihilistic” repudiation of Western scholarship. She particularly points to Said’s claim that “From the Enlightenment period through the present every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist and almost totally ethnocentric.” While this is a far-reaching generalization, it basically reflects an equally pervasive, very real Western cultural bias. What Glick describes as a “conspiracy theory” is Said’s scholarly demonstration of how that bias has expressed itself. And, it should be noted that such pervasive biases are not uniquely American nor even Western. Chinese, Japanese, Arab/Muslim, Hindu and Jewish civilizations have their own variants of such biases. Yet, it is Said’s effort to expose and ameliorate the orientalism of the West that seems to madden Caroline Glick.

f. For Glick, Said’s suggestion that both past as well as many present scholars have culturally biased points of view of the Orient becomes an accusation that any “great scholar” with a classical Western worldview “is worse than worthless. If he is a white American, he is an agent of evil.” Glick is now building a real head of steam and her account becomes more and more grotesque. She now claims that Said’s work is “intellectual nihilism.” How so? Because it “champions narrative over evidence.” What Glick is implying here is that Said’s work is an anti-Western screed presented without evidence. This is demonstrably wrong, but nonetheless provides a platform for Glick’s further assertion that Said’s fantastical narrative is told in order to “manipulate students to engage in political violence against the United States.”

What Is This All About?

Caroline Glick makes repeated illogical jumps. As egregious as these are they actually point the way to her larger ideological agenda.

+ Said is a terrorist because he opposes Israel and supports the Palestinians. Participation in the PLO is her proof of this.

+ Because Said is a terrorist, his throwing of a stone at the southern Lebanese border is a terrorist attack against Israel and its defense forces.

+ Somehow, Said’s throwing the stone was also “a harbinger for the mob violence now taking place in many parts of America.” The connector here is Said’s tossing of an intellectual “rock”—his thesis presented in Orientalism.

+ Just as his “rock attack” was terroristic, so Said’s book, Orientalism, is itself an act of terrorism as well as a “nihilistic” project.

+ It is all these nasty things rolled into one because it calls into question established cultural assumptions that had long underpinned colonialism and imperialism, and which also just happens to underpin Israel’s claim to legitimacy.

+ But there is more. Glick tells us, “Said’s championing of the Palestinian war against Israel was part of a far wider post-colonialist crusade he waged against the United States. The purpose of his scholarship was to deny American professors the right to study and understand the world [in an orientalist fashion] by delegitimizing them as nothing but racists and imperialists.”

+ And finally, “Orientalism formed the foundation of a much broader campaign on campuses to delegitimize the United States as a political entity steeped in racism.”

Conclusion

Glick’s attack on Edward Said’s legacy is beset with leaps of illogic. So let me conclude this analysis with my own leap, hopefully a logical one, to an explanation of what may be Glick’s larger agenda. Glick is attempting to turn the ideological clock back to a time before decolonization. Specifically, she wishes to resurrect an overall acceptance of Western colonialism as a benevolent endeavor whereby progress and civilization was spread by a superior culture.

Why would she want to do this? Because if we all believe this proposition, then Israel can be seen as a legitimate and normal state. After all, Israel is the last of the colonial settler states—the imposition of Western culture into the Orient. It rules over millions of Palestinian Arabs as the result of a European invasion made “legal” by a colonial document, the Balfour Declaration, and its acceptance by a pro-colonial League of Nations. Our post-colonial age in which Edward Said is a “superstar intellectual,” is seen as a constant threat to Zionist Israel’s legitimacy.

Edward Said’s legacy provides a strong theoretical foundation for understanding why the Western imperialists thought and acted as they did, and hence helps both Western and non-Western peoples to confront their own modern historical situation. However, Glick cannot see any of this except through the Zionist perspective. Thus, Said’s legacy is just part of an anti-Israeli conspiracy—an attack on those scholars who support the legitimacy of an orientalist point of view and of the Zionist state.

She also suggests that Said’s undoing of historically accepted biases lets loose the “mob violence” seen in the U.S. There is no evidence for this, but it may be Glick’s roundabout way of undermining student support for Palestinian rights on American campuses.

Ultimately, what Glick is interested in is preserving the image of Israel as a Western democratic enclave in an otherwise uncivilized sea of Arab and Islamic barbarians. That fits right into the traditional orientalist belief system and justifies the continuing U.S.-Israeli alliance. Said has successfully called that perspective into question. Hence Glick’s assault on his legacy.

Finally, Glick’s present attack on Said, and her attempt to tie his work into the protests that followed George Floyd’s murder, shows how frightened the defenders of one racist state, Zionist Israel, become when their principle ally, the United States, comes under attack for racist practices. Said as a “superstar” foe of all racism becomes the lighting rod for that fear.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, LiteratureComments Off on An Attack on Edward Said’s Legacy

How Bad is the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act?

by CHARLES PIERSON

Image Source: DOD Updater Private – CC BY-SA 4.0

Somehow, Congress couldn’t find the time last week to renew extended unemployment benefits or the federal moratorium on evictions. Congress had something more pressing to think about than 30 million unemployed Americans: the Pentagon budget. On July 21 and 23, the House of Representatives and the Senate approved their versions of the Pentagon’s annual spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. To paraphrase Douglas Adams’ comment about the universe, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 is big. Really big. Weighing in at $740.5 billion, the NDAA for FY 2021 casts its Brobdingnagian shadow over the military budgets of the next eleven countries combined.

It didn’t need to be that big. Earlier in the week, the House and Senate rejected amendments to the NDAA which would have reduced next year’s Pentagon budget by 10%. A 10% cut would have made $74 billion available for responding to the coronavirus pandemic and other needs of people who aren’t generals.

The NDAA for Fiscal Year 2021 gives the Pentagon $2½ billion more than last year’s NDAA. This will surprise no one who has noticed that defense spending has increased every year under President Donald Trump, relentless fighter against “endless wars.” Senate Republicans are trying to sneak an additional $21 billion for the military into the latest coronavirus relief bill. Eleven billion dollars of that will go straight to defense contractors.

Gargantuan the 2021 NDAA undeniably is. At the same time, the $740.5 billion figure is misleadingly low. Richard Escow points out (Counterpunch, July 7, 2020) that each year’s NDAA excludes the intelligence budget, the Department of Homeland Security budget, and a healthy chunk of the Department of Energy budget devoted to nuclear weapons.

Antiwar Amendments Disappear Like Magic!

Its monstrous size is not the only troubling thing about the NDAA.

Last year’s House version of the NDAA included several much-needed progressive amendments, including several antiwar amendments, which were stripped in conference. This year, progressives are having an even tougher time getting antiwar amendments into the NDAA. Here’s how the NDAA addresses (or fails to address) some major world conflicts.

Yemen

Since 2015, the US has helped a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates kill as many as 12,000 civilians in Yemen. The US has provided intelligence sharing, target spotting, arms sales, spare parts for coalition aircraft, and (until November 2018) in-flight refueling of coalition warplanes—all without the consent of Congress. Some lawmakers have been attempting to reassert Congress’ Constitutional prerogative as the sole branch of government with the power to take the US to war. On April 16, 2019, President Donald Trump vetoed an historic War Powers Resolution passed by Congress which would have forced the US either to end its assistance to the coalition or obtain authorization from Congress. Experts believe that without US assistance, the Saudi war effort would be crippled or impossible.

Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, introduced an amendment to last year’s NDAA which would have cut off US funds to assist the Saudis, Emiratis, and their coalition partners. Khanna’s amendment made it into the House version of the NDAA for FY 2020, but was stripped in conference. This year, Khanna has introduced a similar amendment. Khanna’s amendment was approved by the House Armed Services Committee on July 1 and is included in the FY 2021 NDAA passed by the full House on July 23.[1]

Another amendment introduced by Representative Khanna and adopted by the House requires the administration to issue an annual report describing the logistical support, military equipment, military training, and services the US has provided to the Saudi-led coalition.[2]

The report will also describe the war’s impact on humanitarian assistance entering Yemen. Good. Maybe the report can explain why the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has decided to abandon Yemenis, including children, to die of starvation and disease. USAID cut $73 million in humanitarian aid for Yemen in March, affecting 80% of Yemen’s people. The US says that the move is necessary because Yemen’s Houthi rebels divert humanitarian assistance. Relief experts, however, say that that problem can be addressed without canceling the bulk of Yemen’s aid.

The cruelty of the US move is staggering. Scott Paul of Oxfam America writes that “Due to a funding shortfall exacerbated by USAID’s suspension, six million Yemenis, including three million children, will lose access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services.” Hassan El-Tayyab, a Middle East specialist at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, says that “Yemen needs $1 billion to make it through the end of the year.”

The coronavirus pandemic has struck an already malnourished and immunocompromised population. Saudi bombing has destroyed much of Yemen’s sanitary and medical facilities, in violation of international humanitarian law prohibiting the targeting of hospitals. The UN hesitates to deliver a full-throated condemnation of Saudi war crimes because it can’t risk provoking the Saudis into cutting off the pittance of aid they provide Yemen.

Afghanistan

As of July 2, the US had 8,600 troops in Afghanistan. Trump has said that he wants to reduce that number. But in the case of America’s longest-running war, Congress—including Democrats—is making the belligerent Trump look like a Dove. On July 1, by a vote of 60-33, the Senate tabled an amendment to the NDAA from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) which would have removed all US troops from Afghanistan and rescinded the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Afghanistan.

The House has gone a step further. DefenseOne notes that the House Armed Services Committee “outright prohibited the use of funds to cut the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan below 8,000 unless the administration submits a series of counterterrorism certifications that are impossible for any nation to meet” (i.e., that US troop withdrawal would not strengthen the Afghan Taliban).

Germany

The president also wants to withdraw 9,500 of the 35,000 US troops currently stationed in Germany. However, the House Armed Services Committee adopted, 49-7, an amendment which prohibits the Trump Administration from reducing the number of troops in Germany unless the Pentagon certifies the troop reduction will not harm the security of the US or its allies—a condition impossible to meet. The amendment has been included in the House version of the NDAA.

Iran

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress to prohibit President Trump from launching a war with Iran without Congressional authorization. On January 3, 2020, Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani was assassinated in a US drone strike. A War Powers Resolution on Iran passed shortly thereafter as tensions between the US and Iran looked like they would escalate to full out war. President Trump vetoed the resolution on May 6. The Senate was unable to muster the two-thirds supermajority necessary to override the president’s veto.

That resolution was unconnected to the NDAA. An amendment to the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2021 meant to block war with Iran absent Congress’ approval was introduced by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), but failed to make it into the House version of the bill.

Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) has also introduced an amendment—not to the NDAA, but to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2021—meant to prevent war with Iran. This amendment (and two other amendments from Representative Lee which would rescind the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force) has been adopted by the House Appropriations Committee. (Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 AUMF. Her colleagues should have listened to her.)

Veto?

There is one provision shared by the House and Senate versions of the NDAA which we have not touched on. It requires the renaming of US military bases named after Confederate military figures, of which there are an embarrassing number. President Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA if this provision is in the final bill. Someone should set President Trump’s mind at rest. We can give new names to our military bases. We can topple the statues of racists long dead. Unfortunately, racism in America isn’t going away anytime soon.

Notes.

1) A Senate amendment cutting off funding to the Saudi-led coalition was introduced on June 30, 2020 by Senator Bernie Sanders, but was blocked from receiving a floor vote by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman James Inhofe (R-OK). 

2) One of Khanna’s proposed amendments unfortunately did not make it out of the House Armed Services Committee. According to Mother Jones, the amendment “would have taken $1 billion from a fund for the next generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and put it toward pandemic preparedness * * *.”

Posted in USAComments Off on How Bad is the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act?

The Gulf War, 30 Years and Counting

by TOM CLIFFORD

General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. and President George Bush visit US troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day, 1990 – Public Domain

Beijing.

The consequences are still reverberating three decades on, obviously in Iraq and the Middle East but also further afield, after Saddam Hussein became the first Arab leader to invade another Arab nation.  On Thursday, August 2, 1990, at about 2am, 100,000 Iraqi troops and 700 tanks smashed through Kuwaiti border posts. Saddam then announced that the emir of Kuwait had been deposed and the emirate was now Iraq’s nineteenth province.

This was his second invasion of a neighbor. In September 1980 he invaded Iran believing that the rule of the ayatollahs, and their Shia branch of Islam, posed a clear and present danger to Iraq’s Sunni-dominated government.

Much of the Iranian army and air force was dependent on US spare parts and these had dried up after the fall of the Shah in 1979. Saddam believed it would be a piece of cake as much of Iran’s heavy weaponry and air power would be unusable. Initially his forces were successful, driving deep into Iran. But the Iranians fought back, launched human wave attacks against Iraqi artillery and trench warfare, reminiscent of WWI, ensued. Stalemate. The war finally ended in 1988 under a United Nations-brokered ceasefire with neither victorious, both exhausted. Kuwait had initially lent the Iraqi leader US$14 billion to help finance the conflict. Saddam believed that this debt should be written off. Kuwait refused and demanded prompt payment.

When the guns of August were unleashed in 1990 it took the UN, still catching its breath since the recent end of the Cold War, four months to take action. Eventually, on November 29, 1990, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 678 authorizing the use of military force. It charged that Iraq was refusing to comply with international demands and was in flagrant contempt of the Security Council. It declared that unless Iraq withdrew by January 15, 1991, member states were authorized “to use all necessary means” to force compliance. There were 12 votes in favor, two against (Cuba and Yemen), and one abstention (China).

Iraq’s closest ally in the Gulf had, ironically, been Kuwait. The country was the top financier of the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980.  Saddam considered that Kuwait owed Iraq a huge debt of gratitude.

In examining the run-up to the war, the importance of one agreement is often overlooked. In 1975 Iran and Iraq signed the Algiers Accord. This agreement of convenience suited both Saddam, who was increasingly in power but not in office until 1979, the year the Shah was overthrown. It demarcated their disputed borders and allowed Saddam to crush the Kurds in the north of Iraq who had been getting help from Iran. But it also de facto established the Shah as the Gulf’s policeman. This was a role that Saddam cherished but was not yet ready for. When the Shah was overthrown, Saddam, with the blessing of Washington, became the policeman.

Saddam felt he had saved the Gulf sheikhdoms and was worthy of greater respect. Above all, he wanted more money. But the price of oil was falling. Kuwait had raised its oil production from the Opec quota of 1.5 million barrels a day to 1.9 million just weeks before the invasion. This further lowered the oil price from US$18 (then $30.40) to US$14. A US$1-a-barrel fall cost Saddam US$1 billion a year. He felt a sense of grievance and that he was being short-changed and losing face.

Saddam also accused Kuwait of stealing its oil by boring at a slant northwards along their frontier. Kuwait haughtily dismissed these claims. Saddam was not convinced and accused the emirate of blatantly stealing the resources of the nation whose armies saved it from Iran’s revolution. Saddam was the policeman. Now he wanted to be the law. Images of invasion, human hostages, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, anti-aircraft flak, Scud and Cruise missiles, wailing sirens, and billowing dark smoke from burning oil wells flooded our TV screens.

It was these images being viewed on TV in a fretful post-Tiananmen China that led to a radical overhaul of the nation’s military. TV news showing Cruise missiles hitting their designated targets with pinpoint accuracy both impressed and alarmed the Beijing leadership. Their military ideology and planning underwent a dramatic change. The airpower and new technology deployed by the US in the campaign to liberate Kuwait spurred China’s reevaluation of the People’s Liberation Army’s modus operandi. It launched China on a path to upgrade its armed forces, militarize the South China Sea, establish the so-called String of Pearls up to the Horn of Africa and set up missile bases along its east coast giving it command of sea approaches.

It may well be that the most understated legacy of events 30 years ago is not to be found in the shifting sands of the Gulf.

Posted in Middle East, USAComments Off on The Gulf War, 30 Years and Counting

Belarus

Alexander Lukashenko Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from ...

By: craig Murray

There is a misperception in western media that Lukashenko is Putin’s man. That is not true; Putin views him as an exasperating and rather dim legacy. There is also a misperception in the west that Lukashenko really lost the recent election. That is not true. He almost certainly won, though the margin is much exaggerated by the official result. Minsk is not Belarus, just as London is not the UK. Most of Belarus is pretty backward and heavily influenced by the state machinery. Dictators have all kinds of means at their disposal to make themselves popular. That is why the odd election or plebiscite does not mean that somebody is not a dictator. Lukashenko is a dictator, as I have been saying for nigh on twenty years.

My analysis is that Lukashenko probably won handily, with over 60% of the vote. But it was by no means a free and fair election. The media is heavily biased (remember you can also say that of the UK), and the weak opposition candidate was only there because, one way or the other, all the important opposition figures are prevented from standing.

The West is trying to engineer popular opinion in Belarus towards a “colour revolution”, fairly obviously. But they are on a sticky wicket. Western Ukraine was genuinely enthusiastic to move towards the west and the EU, in the hope of attaining a consumer lifestyle. Outside of central Minsk, there is very little such sentiment in Belarus. Most important of all, Belarus means “White Russia”, and the White Russians very strongly identify themselves as culturally Russian. We will not see a colour revolution in Belarus. The West is trying, however.

Unlike many of my readers, I see nothing outrageous in this. Attempting to influence the political direction of another country to your favour is a key aim of diplomacy, and always has been. I was a rather good exponent of it on behalf of the UK government for a couple of decades. The BBC World Service has always been FCO funded and its entire existence has been based on this attempt to influence, by pumping out propaganda in scores of languages, from its very inception. The British Council is not spending millions promoting British culture abroad from a pure love of Shakespeare. Government funding is given to NGO’s that aim to influence media and society. Future leaders are identified and brought on training and degree courses to wed them to pro-British sympathies.

I do not have any trouble with any of that. It is part of what diplomacy is. It is of course amusing when the British state works itself into a frenzy over Russia carrying out exactly the same type of activity that the British do on a much larger scale. But it is all part of an age old game. If I were Ambassador to Belarus now, I would have no moral qualms about turning up to support an anti-Lukashenko demo. It is all part of the job.

There is of course a murkier aspect of all this, where activities are hidden rather than open. The British state funded Integrity Initiative’s work in secretly paying foreign media journalists, or creating thousands of false social media identities to push a narrative (the latter also undertaken by MOD and GCHQ among others), is more dubious. So is MI6’s more traditional work of simply suborning politicians, civil servants and generals with large bundles of cash. But again, I can’t get too worked up about it. It is the dirtier end of the game, but time-honoured, with understood boundaries. Again, my major objection is when the UK gets ludicrously sanctimonious about Russia doing precisely what the UK does on a far larger scale.

But then we get into a far darker area, of assassinations, false flag shootings and bombings and false incrimination. Here a line is crossed, lives are destroyed and violent conflict precipitated. Here I am not prepared to say that time honoured international practice makes these acts acceptable. This line was crossed in the Ukraine; for reasons given above I do not think that the tinder exists to trigger the striking of such a spark in Belarus.

I should be very happy to see Lukashenko go. Term limits on the executive should be a factor in any decent democracy. Once you have the levers of power, it is not difficult to maintain personal popularity for many decades, barring external shock; popularity is not the same as democratic legitimacy. I should state very plainly, as I have before, that I think it was absolutely wrong of Putin to outstay his two terms, irrespective of constitutional sophistry and irrespective of popular support.

The ideal would be for Lukashenko to go and for there to be fresh elections, as opposed to the Venezuelan tactic of the West just announcing a President who has never won an election. The best result for the people of Belarus and for international stability would be the election of a reform minded but broadly pro-Russian candidate. Putin has used the crisis to re-assert the “union” of Russia and Belarus – signed 20 years ago this is a single market and free trade area. Few would doubt, crucially including few Belarussians, that the future of Belarus lies with integration with Russia rather than the EU.

History’s greatest criticism of Putin will be his failure to diversify the Russian economic base and move it from raw commodity exporter to high value added economy. His aims for Belarus will be to ensure it fits neatly with the template of massive commodity exports controlled by a tight knit and highly wealthy oligarchy. Putin will have no interest in the economic reforms Belarus needs.

My expectation is that Lukashenko will hang on, reorienting the economy back towards Russia. Putin’s long term policy goal has always been the reintegration into Russia of majority Russophone areas of the old USSR. That has been his policy in Ukraine and Georgia. Belarus is a major prize. He will seek to bind Belarus in tighter, probably through increased energy subsidy (Putin’s economic arsenal is very limited). Getting rid of Lukashenko is going to move up Putin’s to do list; I give it three years. The current demonstrations in Minsk have no major economic or social effect, and will pass.

UPDATE 17 AUGUST

I just wrote the following in response to a comment below, and I think it usefully explains an important bit of my thinking: and not just on Belarus.

I think the difference between myself and many of my readers is that while we both recognise “western” government as plunder by the capitalist elite exploiting the working class and a fake democracy controlled by a media serving the elite, you and others seem to think that governments are a lot better just because they are anti-Western.
Whereas I believe that many anti-Western governments – Lukashenko, Assad and yes Putin – are also plunder by the capitalist elite exploiting the working class and a fake democracy controlled by a media serving the elite. Just organised a bit differently. And with a still worse approach to civil liberties.

Posted in BelarusComments Off on Belarus


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