Daniel Ellsberg Praises Chelsea Manning After She Is Jailed Again


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U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been sent back to jail after refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Manning had been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in Virginia’s Eastern District to appear for questioning about her 2010 leak to WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of State Department and Pentagon documents about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning was imprisoned from 2010 to 2017 for the leak. President Obama commuted her sentence before he left office. We speak with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg about the significance of Chelsea Manning’s actions.


AMY GOODMAN: U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been sent back to jail after refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Manning had been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in Virginia’s Eastern District to appear for questioning about her 2010 leak to WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of State Department and Pentagon documents about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning was in prison from 2010 to 2017 for the leak. President Obama commuted her sentence before he left office. Chelsea Manning briefly spoke to reporters on Friday on her way into court.

CHELSEA MANNING: So, this is a contempt hearing. It’s a sealed hearing. The public isn’t allowed. The proceedings are going to happen in secret. The filings are sealed. So, can’t really talk about the specifics of what’s going on, beyond what we explained in the statement. But, you know, I’m pretty confident that we have a basis and a grounds on which to oppose this.

REPORTER: And you said in your statement you’re prepared to go to jail for this?

CHELSEA MANNING: If it comes to that, yeah. If it comes to that, you know, it comes to that. If it comest to going — you know, I might not leave here today, you know, free, so…

AMY GOODMAN: In a written statement, Chelsea Manning later said, quote, “I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury. Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.

“The grand jury’s questions pertained to disclosures from nine years ago, and took place six years after an in-depth computer forensics case, in which I testified for almost a full day about these events. I stand by my previous public testimony,” she wrote.

Well, on Sunday, Democracy Now! spoke with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg at his home in California.

DANIEL ELLSBERG: This is a continuation of seven-and-a-half years of torture of Chelsea Manning, in an effort to get her to contribute to incriminating WikiLeaks, so that they can bring Julian Assange or WikiLeaks to trial on charges that would not apply to The New York Times. It’s been speculated for years now that the secret charges, if they did exist — and apparently they do exist — against Julian Assange were under the same charges that I was first — the first person to be prosecuted for, back in 1971: violations of the Espionage Act, conspiracy and theft. It would be the same cases brought against me.

Unfortunately, bringing that against a journalist is even more blatantly a violation of the First Amendment, freedom of the press. And although Donald Trump has made it very plain he would love to prosecute and convict The New York Times, he doesn’t have the guts to do that, to do what he wants, fortunately, because it would be so obviously unconstitutional, that although his base would be happy with it and he would be happy with it, he would get into too much trouble constitutionally. So he wants to find charges against Julian that would be different from mine, because if he brought the same charges that he brought against me — in this case, against a journalist — it would clearly be found unconstitutional.

And so, Chelsea, having failed to give them what they wanted over seven-and-a-half years here she was incarcerated, or since, or in the grand jury — namely, false incriminating charges against WikiLeaks — they’re resorting again to torture, which does work at getting false confessions. That’s what it’s for. That’s what it mainly does. They want her to contradict her earlier sworn testimony many times, that she behaved in relation to WikiLeaks exactly as she would have to The New York Times or The Washington Post, to whom she went first, before going to WikiLeaks. And they didn’t pick up on what she was offering, so she went to WikiLeaks. But she took sole responsibility, not to spare them, but because that was the truth. And she tells the truth.

She’s a very patriotic person. I know no one more patriotic, actually, willing to risk and even give her own freedom, her own life, in order to preserve our constitutional freedoms and the Constitution. I admired her then. I admire her now. And right now she’s refusing to take part in basically a conspiracy against press freedom in this country, led by the president of the United States and the secretary of state.

AMY GOODMAN: Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, speaking on Sunday to Democracy Now! Ellsberg went on to talk about the historical significance of Chelsea Manning’s actions.

DANIEL ELLSBERG: We know the questions that were asked Chelsea in the day that she spent in the grand jury, and also were asked another witness, who did testify, David House. In both cases, they were asked only about their relations with WikiLeaks in 2010, nine years ago, long before the very controversial, and properly controversial, actions of WikiLeaks in the last year or two.

This was when WikiLeaks was putting out what Chelsea gave them, the video of “Collateral Murder,” which I urge people to look at. Now, I’m sure very few have seen that in the last nine years. What they are witnessing is a very typical, by all reporting, act of murder. And I say that as a former Marine operations officer who taught the laws of wars to battalion, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, at Camp Lejeune. And I would hope that anyone that I taught would recognize in that film that what they’re watching is a war crime, is murder. Not all killing in war is murder, but some of it is. And she revealed it.

U.S.SOLDIER1:Clear. Clear.

U.S.SOLDIER2:We’re engaging.

U.S.SOLDIER1:Should have a van in the middle of the road with about 12 to 15 bodies.

U.S.SOLDIER2:Oh, yeah, look at that. Right through the windshield! Ha ha!

DANIEL ELLSBERG: She also revealed massive, widespread torture being conducted by our Iraqi allies, with our knowledge and complicity, going on into President Obama’s term, from George W. Bush. So there’s a lot of resentment against her in the intelligence community and in the Army, in general, about the shameful things that she revealed. Also assassination squads, death squads, and corruption, in general, that we condoned in our allies, among dictators, like Ben Ali of Tunisia, who was forced out by nonviolent protest on the basis of Chelsea Manning’s revelations through Le Monde.

AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Ellsberg, speaking Sunday to Democracy Now!about Chelsea Manning. Ellsberg himself faced life imprisonment after leaking the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War. He was a high-level Pentagon official who obtained the papers while working at the RANDCorporation.

When we come back, we’ll speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.

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Is a War With Iran on the Horizon?


Here’s the foreign policy question of questions in 2019: Are President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, all severely weakened at home and with few allies abroad, reckless enough to set off a war with Iran? Could military actions designed to be limited — say, a heightening of the Israeli bombing of Iranian forces inside Syria, or possible U.S. cross-border attacks from Iraq, or a clash between American and Iranian naval ships in the Persian Gulf — trigger a wider war?

Worryingly, the answers are: yes and yes. Even though Western Europe has lined up in opposition to any future conflict with Iran, even though Russia and China would rail against it, even though most Washington foreign policy experts would be horrified by the outbreak of such a war, it could happen.

Despite growing Trump administration tensions with Venezuela and even with North Korea, Iran is the likeliest spot for Washington’s next shooting war. Years of politically charged anti-Iranian vituperation might blow up in the faces of President Trump and his two most hawkish aides, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, setting off a conflict with potentially catastrophic implications.

Such a war could quickly spread across much of the Middle East, not just to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the region’s two major anti-Iranian powers, but Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and the various Persian Gulf states. It might indeed be, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested last year (unconsciously echoing Iran’s former enemy, Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein) the “mother of all wars.”

With Bolton and Pompeo, both well-known Iranophobes, in the driver’s seat, few restraints remain on President Trump when it comes to that country. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, President Trump’s former favorite generals who had urged caution, are no longer around. And though the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution last month calling for the United States to return to the nuclear agreement that President Obama signed, there are still a significant number of congressional Democrats who believe that Iran is a major threat to U.S. interests in the region.

During the Obama years, it was de rigueur for Democrats to support the president’s conclusion that Iran was a prime state sponsor of terrorism and should be treated accordingly. And the congressional Democrats now leading the party on foreign policy — Eliot Engel, who currently chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin, the two ranking Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — were opponents of the 2015 nuclear accord (though all three now claim to have changed their minds).

Deadly Flashpoints for a Future War

On the roller coaster ride that is Donald Trump’s foreign policy, it’s hard to discern what’s real and what isn’t, what’s rhetoric and what’s not. When it comes to Iran, it’s reasonable to assume that Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo aren’t planning an updated version of the unilateral invasion of Iraq that President George W. Bush launched in the spring of 2003.

Yet by openly calling for the toppling of the government in Tehran, by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement and reimposing onerous sanctions to weaken that country’s economy, by encouraging Iranians to rise up in revolt, by overtly supporting various exile groups (and perhaps covertly even terrorists), and by joining with Israel and Saudi Arabia in an informal anti-Iranian alliance, the three of them are clearly attempting to force the collapse of the Iranian regime, which just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

There are three potential flashpoints where limited skirmishes, were they to break out, could quickly escalate into a major shooting war.

The first is in Syria and Lebanon. Iran is deeply involved in defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (who only recently returned from a visit to Tehran) and closely allied with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite political party with a potent paramilitary arm. Weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu openly boasted that his country’s air force had successfully taken out Iranian targets in Syria. In fact, little noticed here, dozens of such strikes have taken place for more than a year, with mounting Iranian casualties.

Until now, the Iranian leadership has avoided a direct response that would heighten the confrontation with Israel, just as it has avoided unleashing Hezbollah, a well-armed, battle-tested proxy force. That could, however, change if the hardliners in Iran decided to retaliate. Should this simmering conflict explode, does anyone doubt that President Trump would soon join the fray on Israel’s side or that congressional Democrats would quickly succumb to the administration’s calls to back the Jewish state?

Next, consider Iraq as a possible flashpoint for conflict. In February, a blustery Trump told CBS’s Face the Nation that he intends to keep U.S. forces in Iraq “because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is the real problem.” His comments did not exactly go over well with the Iraqi political class, since many of that country’s parties and militias are backed by Iran.

Trump’s declaration followed a Wall Street Journalreport late last year that Bolton had asked the Pentagon — over the opposition of various generals and then-Secretary of Defense Mattis — to prepare options for “retaliatory strikes” against Iran. This roughly coincided with a couple of small rocket attacks against Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and the airport in Basra, Iraq’s Persian Gulf port city, neither of which caused any casualties. Writing in Foreign Affairs, however, Pompeo blamed Iran for the attacks, which he called “life-threatening,” adding, “Iran did not stop these attacks, which were carried out by proxies it has supported with funding, training, and weapons.” No “retaliatory strikes” were launched, but plans do undoubtedly now exist for them and it’s not hard to imagine Bolton and Pompeo persuading Trump to go ahead and use them — with incalculable consequences.

Finally, there’s the Persian Gulf itself. Ever since the George W. Bush years, the U.S. Navy has worried about possible clashes with Iran’s naval forces in those waters and there have been a number of high-profile incidents. The Obama administration tried (but failed) to establish a hotline of sorts that would have linked U.S. and Iranian naval commanders and so made it easier to defuse any such incident, an initiative championed by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, a longtime opponent of war with Iran.

Under Trump, however, all bets are off. Last year, he requested that Mattis prepare plans to blow up Iran’s “fast boats,” small gunboats in the Gulf, reportedly asking, “Why don’t we sink them?” He’s alreadyreinforced the U.S. naval presence there, getting Iran’s attention. Not surprisingly, the Iranian leadership has responded in kind. Earlier this year, President Hassan Rouhani announced that his country had developed submarines capable of launching cruise missiles against naval targets. The Iranians also began a series of Persian Gulf war games and, in late February, test fired one of those sub-launched missiles.

Add in one more thing: in an eerie replay of a key argument George Bush and Dick Cheney used for going to war with Iraq in 2003, in mid-February the right-wing media outlet Washington Times ran an “exclusive” report with this headline: “Iran-Al Qaeda Alliance may provide legal rationale for U.S. military strikes.”

Back in 2002, the Office of Special Plans at Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, under the supervision of neoconservatives Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, spent months trying to prove that al-Qaeda and Iraq were in league. The Washington Times piece, citing Trump administration sources, made a similar claim — that Iran is now aiding and abetting al-Qaeda with a “clandestine sanctuary to funnel fighters, money, and weapons across the Middle East.” It added that the administration is seeking to use this information to establish “a potential legal justification for military strikes against Iran or its proxies.” Needless to say, few are the terrorism experts or Iran specialists who would agree that Iran has anything like an active relationship with al-Qaeda.

Will the Hardliners Triumph in Iran as in Washington?

The Trump administration is, in fact, experiencing increasing difficulty finding allies ready to join a new Coalition of the Willing to confront Iran. The only two charter members so far, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are, however, enthusiastic indeed. Last month, Prime Minister Netanyahu was heard remarking that Israel and its Arab allies want war with Iran.

At a less-than-successful mid-February summit meeting Washington organized in Warsaw, Poland, to recruit world leaders for a future crusade against Iran, Netanyahu was heard to say in Hebrew: “This is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.” (He later insisted that the correct translation should have been “combating Iran,” but the damage had already been done.)

That Warsaw summit was explicitly designed to build an anti-Iranian coalition, but many of America’s allies, staunchly opposing Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord, would have nothing to do with it. In an effort to mollify the Europeans, in particular, the United States and Poland awkwardly renamed it: “The Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East.”

The name change, however, fooled no one. As a result, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo were embarrassed by a series of no-shows: the French, the Germans, and the European Union, among others, flatly declined to send ministerial-level representatives, letting their ambassadors in Warsaw stand in for them. The many Arab nations not in thrall to Saudi Arabia similarly sent only low-level delegations. Turkey and Russia boycotted altogether, convening a summit of their own in which Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Iran’s Rouhani.

Never the smoothest diplomat, Pence condemned, insulted, and vilified the Europeans for refusing to go along with Washington’s wrecking-ball approach. He began his speech to the conference by saying: “The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.” He then launched a direct attack on Europe’s efforts to preserve that accord by seeking a way around the sanctions Washington had re-imposed: “Sadly, some of our leading European partners… have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions. We call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”

That blast at the European allies should certainly have brought to mind Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s disparaging comments in early 2003 about Germany and France, in particular, being leaders of the “old Europe.” Few allies then backed Washington’s invasion plans, which, of course, didn’t prevent war. Europe’s reluctance now isn’t likely to prove much of a deterrent either.

But Pence is right that the Europeans have taken steps to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In particular, they’ve created a “special purpose vehicle” known as INSTEX (Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges) designed “to support legitimate trade with Iran,” according to a statement from the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Great Britain. It’s potentially a big deal and, as Pence noted, explicitly designed to circumvent the sanctions Washington imposed on Iran after Trump’s break with the JCPOA.

INSTEX has a political purpose, too. The American withdrawal from the JCPOA was a body blow to President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and other centrists in Tehran who had taken credit for, and pride in, the deal between Iran and the six world powers (the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China) that signed the agreement. That deal had been welcomed in Iran in part because it seemed to ensure that country’s ability to expand its trade to the rest of the world, including its oil exports, free of sanctions.

Even before Trump abandoned the deal, however, Iran was already finding U.S. pressure overwhelming and, for the average Iranian, things hadn’t improved in any significant way. Worse yet, in the past year the economy had taken a nosedive, the currency had plungedinflation was running rampant, and strikes and street demonstrations had broken out, challenging the government and its clerical leadership. Chants of “Death to the Dictator!” — not heard since the Green Movement’s revolt against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection in 2009 — once again resounded in street demonstrations.

At the end of February, it seemed as if Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo had scored a dangerous victory when Zarif, Iran’s well-known, Western-oriented foreign minister, announced his resignation. Moderates who supported the JCPOA, including Rouhani and Zarif, have been under attack from the country’s hardliners since Trump’s pullout. As a result, Zarif’s decision was widely assumed to be a worrisome sign that those hardliners had claimed their first victim.

There was even unfounded speculation that, without Zarif, who had worked tirelessly with the Europeans to preserve what was left of the nuclear pact, Iran itself might abandon the accord and resume its nuclear program. And there’s no question that the actions and statements of Bolton, Pompeo, and crew have undermined Iran’s moderates, while emboldening its hardliners, who are making I-told-you-so arguments to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.

Despite the internal pressure on Zarif, however, his resignation proved short-lived indeed: Rouhani rejected it, and there was an upsurge of support for him in Iran’s parliament. Even General Qassem Soleimani, a major figure in that country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the commander of the Quds Force, backed him. As it happens, the Quds Force, an arm of the IRGC, is responsible for Iran’s paramilitary and foreign intelligence operations throughout the region, but especially in Iraq and Syria. That role has allowed Soleimani to assume responsibility for much of Iran’s foreign policy in the region, making him a formidable rival to Zarif — a tension that undoubtedly contributed to his brief resignation and it isn’t likely to dissipate anytime soon.

According to analysts and commentators, it appears to have been a ploy by Zarif (and perhaps Rouhani, too) to win a vote of political confidence and it appears to have strengthened their hand for the time being.

Still, the Zarif resignation crisis threw into stark relief the deep tensions within Iranian politics and raised a key question: As the Trump administration accelerates its efforts to seek a confrontation, will they find an echo among Iranian hardliners who’d like nothing more than a face-off with the United States?

Maybe that’s exactly what Bolton and Pompeo want. If so, prepare yourself: another American war unlikely to work out the way anyone in Washington dreams is on the horizon.


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“The Violence Elliott Abrams Supported Is Unspeakable”


Janine Jackson: Difficult as it is to believe, there are many people for whom Elliott Abrams’ appointment as Donald Trump’s special envoy to Venezuela is their first introduction to the man a recent Washington Post headline described as “trailed by mistrust.”

Abrams’ public record in Latin America and elsewhere, as an official under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, ought to be central in any reporting on his current Venezuelan adventure. But it only really got on media’s front burner when Abrams’ was confronted with it by Rep. Ilhan Omar in a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, an exchange then subsumed in media’s “Hot Controversy of the Day” framework.

Joining us now today to talk about some of Elliott Abrams’ keenly relevant and not-that-old history, is Jon Schwarz. Contributor to many outlets, he now writes for the Intercept. He joins us now by phone from Brooklyn. Welcome to CounterSpin, Jon Schwarz.

Jon Schwarz: Thank you so much for having me on to talk about this. It’s an extremely grim story, but also extremely important.

After the exchange with Representative Omar, Elliott Abrams sent a message to the Washington Post that described his role in the Reagan administration, saying, “It’s a remarkable record of support for Latin democracy, of which Representative Omar is obviously unaware and in which she is uninterested.” And he added, “That was clear from her conduct, which constituted attacking rather than questioning a witness.”

The idea that Omar was speaking from ignorance—set aside her purported incivility as the conduct with which we should be concerned—but the idea that she was factually wrong, that she doesn’t know her history; for reporters to let that stand, as if to say, “who’s right depends on who you like”—it feels like an abdication of duty.

So I wanted to ask you to talk about Elliott Abrams’ public record, some of which you have revisited recently. We don’t have time to do it all justice, but what leaps to mind when you hear Abrams tout his “support for Latin democracy”?

Yeah, well, Elliott Abrams supported Latin American democracy pretty much like Jeffrey Dahmer supported all the people that he brought to his apartment. That seems like a crazy thing to say, to people who are not familiar with Abrams’ history. It actually is not.

I’m choosing Dahmer specifically because a famous forensic anthropologist visited Guatemala to help excavate the mass graves there, many of them from the 1980s, when Abrams was helping to support the Guatemalan government, and make sure it had all the arms and training that it needed for its military. And that anthropologist said this: “You know, it’s a shame that Jeffrey Dahmer never came here to Guatemala, because if he had, he would have ended up as a general.”

The violence that Elliott Abrams supported in Latin America during the 1980s, particularly in El Salvador and Guatemala, is unspeakable. Human beings literally do not have the words to describe this kind of thing, and all we can do is use the limited vocabulary that we do have to try to communicate it.

Right. And I think in particular, when Omar was asking him about El Salvador, if we can start with that, because it isn’t just that he describedwhat happened in Salvador as, I think his words were a “fabulous achievement,” I’m not sure, but just that for years afterwards, he continued to deny that any horrors had taken place, right?

That’s right. Elliott Abrams, in the early 1990s, was asked about his involvement with US policy towards Central America, and El Salvador specifically. And he called what happened in El Salvador a “fabulous achievement.”

Well, here’s part of the “fabulous achievement.” Elliott Abrams became assistant secretary of State for human rights and humanitarian affairs on December 12, 1981. Literally when he walked into his office, the Salvadoran military, which was just off of being trained and armed by the United States, was conducting one of the most notorious mass slaughters anywhere on Earth over the past 40 years or so.

This took place in El Mozote, which is a small town near the Honduran border in the mountains of El Salvador. It was kind of My Lai times two or three; around a thousand people were killed, men, women and children. Every woman over the age of maybe ten was raped before being murdered. It was as gruesome as pretty much anything in human history.

So he walks into office, as the assistant secretary of State—let me say this again—for human rights and humanitarian affairs, and he snaps into action and covers it up.

I really actually want to talk about language here, because it’s almost as if—this stuff that you’re talking about is on the record. It isn’t that folks deny that these things actually happened. It’s as if, “Yes, they happened, but you have to look at it through a particular lens.”

So I want to say, you almost don’t have to hide this record of what Elliott Abrams did in Latin America, if you are going to at the same time say that, for example, in Venezuela, “Well, we’re gonna push for a coup for democracy,” and you’re just gonna say those words with a straight face.

And so in some ways, the lying—and you’ve written about this—the lying and the PR and the massaging of the truth is as much a part of what we need to know about Elliott Abrams as what he actually supported.

Yeah, just the language is remarkable. It is like someone saying, “Well, I’m a doctor, so I’m going to shoot you in the face for your health.” And the El Mozote story, this is very much a media story. One of the things that Abrams and his compatriots in the Reagan administration did, when Raymond Bonner—Raymond Bonner was a New York Times reporter—got into El Mozote, he broke the story of what had happened there six or seven weeks afterward.

And the Reagan administration did everything they possibly could to try to knock the story down. They attacked Raymond Bonner personally. And they succeeded. They went straight to his editors at the New York Times and they got him pulled off of his assignment in Central America, brought back to New York, put on a desk that was a clear demotion. And it really just derailed his career, frankly, for decades.

And so that’s what happens when you report the truth in the New York Times: If you’re going up against Elliott Abrams, you’re going to be punished, and punished severely.

And that record of his involvement with the press is part of his record, and for some folks, as you’ve noted, it isn’t just that he…well, I mean, it is that he attacks them, but it’s also that he kind of breaks ’em, you know. Reporters that are trying to rely on him as a source and trying to report reality from areas in which he has influence, some of them just get kind of worn down, it sounds like.

Yeah, I read about one who was working for the Washington Post and had to deal with Abrams. And she later said, “They said that black was white…. Although I’d used all of my professional resources, I had misled my readers.” And she just found dealing with them so unbearable and exhausting that she quit to write novels.

And then, I guess I have to come back to, you’ve started to talk about, or you’ve indicated some of the actual horrors—horrors is the right word for what was done under US auspices and with US support in Salvador, in Guatemala, in….

We could also talk about Nicaragua, for example. And let’s talk about, actually, Nicaragua, because that will be another example that for many folks might be, “Oh wait, he has something to do with Iran/Contra….”

But this brings us back to: Journalists are now going to be going to Abrams, quoting him as a source. And these are journalists who have to know that he has a record of lying—and proudly lying—to Congress about US involvement in Nicaragua.

That’s right. What he’s best known for, if he’s known for anything, is that he pled guilty of two counts of withholding information from Congress about the Iran/Contra affair. And when this happened, everybody kind of thought, “Well, that’s it. You can’t lie to Congress and return to the US government at some point.”

And that’s the funny thing about Elliott Abrams. He was pardoned by George Bush I, as George Bush I was on his way out the door after losing to Bill Clinton in 1992. Now, he pardoned a whole bunch of Iran/Contra people; one of them was Abrams, so his record was wiped clean. And that was the end of his career in the Reagan administration, but he would return later on for George W. Bush, and do pretty much the same stuff.

Which is funny, because they thought maybe he couldn’t get Senate approval, but they found a way around that.

Yeah, that’s right. So they put him on to National Security Council positions, again with names in his titles involving human rights and democracy.

And it’s kind of like John Bolton, who is Trump’s National Security Advisor. Like, it would be very tough to get a Bolton nomination through the Senate. And so you can stick these people on the National Security Council, which does not require that kind of approval.

And they can have enormous, enormous influence, which I think we’re seeing right now. Now Abrams is being covered in the context of Trump administration policy in Venezuela. And we’re seeing, for example, stories about whether or not weapons might be smuggled in humanitarian supplies. And it’s almost as if, ”Let’s come to that as though it’s a new thing,” you know, with regards to Abrams.

Missing the history is always a bad idea for media, but when it comes to Abrams, it really means missing the story.

It is incredible. It is like reporting on Elvis Presley and being like, “Is it possible that this fellow might like to sing some songs?” Like, this is what Elliott Abrams does; of course you have to expect they’re going to be smuggling arms in the humanitarian supplies. He did that in the past, he’s in charge now, probably that’s what he has in mind.

Nowhere along the line did he say, “That was a mistake; I’m changing my ways,” you know?

Yeah, exactly. If he were truly remorseful for what he did in the past, he would not be getting hired again.

Let’s come back to media; I wonder if I can ask you, because I do think it’s the big story in some ways: In a recent piece, you reminded readers about when Elliott Abrams was on Charlie Rose with Allan Nairn, and he kind of said, “Here’s what I’m about, and here’s how you should deal with it.” Can you remind us of that story?

Yes, so this was 1995. Abrams was on the Charlie Rose Show with Allan Nairn, who is one of the best and most knowledgeable reporters about US foreign policy. And Nairn said that George Bush I—this was, again, 1995—had talked about putting Saddam Hussein on trial for crimes against humanity. And Nairn said, like, “That’s a good idea, but if you’re serious, you’re going to have to be even-handed, and so you’re going to have to prosecute people like this guy that I’m on the show with, Elliott Abrams.”

And Elliott Abrams found this idea preposterous, and chuckled about it, and said, like, “Well, you know, if you want to do that, that would mean putting all the American officials who won the Cold War in the dock.”

And that actually is a pretty fair point from Abrams. It’s not like he somehow fooled Ronald Reagan, that he fooled George W. Bush. I mean, they knew what he was doing. He was doing what they wanted him to do.

And this is US foreign policy; this is what it’s like. There are doves and there are hawks, but the difference between them is not that great. And if you were going to put the hawks on trial, if you’re going to be honest about it, you’re going to have to put a lot of the doves there, too.

And so, to me, this kind of stuff is always likeMurder on the Orient Express,right? So somebody ended up dead. And the question is, “Well, who killed them?” The story is, there are, well, I think there’s 13 possible suspects on the train, 13 passengers. The answer is, they all did it.


They all committed the crime. Abrams sees that as a very powerful defense, and it is. Like, the US foreign policy elite does not like the idea of all of them going to jail together.

I kind of feel that elite media co-sign that line of thinking, you know? That they sort of play both sides in terms of their foreign policy coverage. “This is for grownups,” you know? You just gotta accept as access to the conversation that, you know, “We kill people and we do that to protect our stuff.” And then out of the other side of their mouths, they say, “This is for the babies. Don’t you care about the poor babies?” I mean….

Well, why don’t you care about the babies like we care about the babies?

Exactly. I just finally….for those of us trying to make sense of the world with media, how do you even do that? I mean, you can’t rely on corporate press.

I would encourage everybody to watchGame of Thrones. There are a lot of great scenes in Game of Thrones which I think demonstrate how these people look at the world, particularly the character of Tywin Lannister, where he’s like, “Look, somebody has to rule the world. Here we are. We’re ruling it. Anybody who is going to run the world is going to have to do this kind of stuff, so get over it! And in the end, it’s for the best, for everyone.”

And that really is how the US media see things, you know. And if you push them on how they don’t really seem to care about a lot of babies on Earth, they’ll retreat to that perspective, like, “Look, this is just the way the world is, suck it up and deal with it.”

Right. Well, I guess, finally, for those of us who don’t subscribe to that, we need to find other outlets for our conversations, and other folks to include in those conversations.

Yeah. The good news is that we have 99 percent of humanity on our side. So hopefully, eventually, that will count for something.

We’ve been speaking with Jon Schwarz; you can find his work on a variety of issues on TheIntercept.com. Jon Schwarz, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

Thank you, thank you and thank you to everybody listening. This truly is an important story, and I think that it really deserves everyone’s attention.


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This Jew Tells Speaker Pelosi: “You May Well Prove Ilhan Omar Correct”


Unfortunately, all the vague media references to Rep Omar’s so-called “anti-Semitic remarks” obscure how truthful and non-hateful those comments were

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) poses for photographs with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and her family in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol January 03, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly still considering a symbolic “show vote” in Congress on an anti-Semitism and “hate” resolution – which would offer all the authenticity and honesty of a Soviet show trial. If Pelosi proceeds, it will prove Rep. Ilhan Omar’s point about the inordinate influence wielded over Congress by the “Israel-right or-wrong”/AIPAC lobby and its power to stifle criticism of Israel.

The anti-Omar resolution, whether mentioning Omar or not, was originated by two Democrats who are among Congress’s most longstanding pro-Israel diehards: Reps. Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey. Both endorsed Bush’s Iraq invasion. Both opposed Obama’s Iran nuke deal. Both supported Trump’s move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

“A large number of proud Jewish Americans—raised to believe in civil liberties and open discussion—are appalled by the campaign to muzzle Rep. Ilhan Omar, as well as Speaker Pelosi’s role in it. We’re also appalled that human-rights-abusing Israel is virtually off-limits to debate.”

I’m a proud Jew raised in a liberal family that supported civil rights and human rights. My experience growing up during the 1950s and 1960s was typical of many Jewish Americans. Like many Jews with this background, I’ve grown increasingly ashamed of Israel.

For 40 years, Israel has been ruled mostly by a series of right-wing governments – more and more openly racist and abusive of Palestinian rights. It’s not the land of tree-planting, kibbutzim and “a country treating its Arab minority nicely” that we were sold as youngsters.

That’s why a large number of proud Jewish Americans—raised to believe in civil liberties and open discussion—are appalled by the campaign to muzzle Rep. Ilhan Omar, as well as Speaker Pelosi’s role in it. We’re also appalled that human-rights-abusing Israel is virtually off-limits to debate.

Most Jews—the likes of Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner excepted—empathize with the refugee experience. Only a rare few cannot be impressed by the life story of Omar, who fled civil-war-torn Somalia and came to the U.S. as a refugee at age 12, knowing only two English phrases: “hello” and “shut up.” Now a Muslim Congresswoman, she’s recently faced hateful bias and threats.

Rep. Omar has made a simple and undeniable point – that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the funding it influences exert extraordinary power over Congress. Disputing that point is flat-earther terrain. The Capitol Hill farce of an “anti-hate” resolution would provide still more evidence on behalf of her argument.

Unfortunately, all the vague media references to Rep Omar’s “anti-Semitic remarks” obscure how truthful and non-hateful those comments were. You can see a series of her recent tweets here.

Progressive Jews are rushing to her defense because of tweets like this one that speak for us in a way few members of Congress ever have:  “Being opposed to Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic. I am grateful to the many Jewish allies who have spoken out and said the same.”

In his Washington Post column “The dishonest smearing of Ilhan Omar,” Paul Waldman devastatingly countered the recent attack on Omar over her comment at a town hall: “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

The initial media frenzy in February over two of Omar’s tweets was so huge that it obscured the fact that the uproar was sparked by a total of seven words – and six of those words are the refrain of a famous Puff Daddy song.

It began when Omar retweeted Glenn Greenwald’s comment about GOP congressional leader Kevin McCarthy’s “attacking the free speech rights” of Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib for criticizing Israel – to which Omar, a known critic of money in politics, simply added the Puff Daddy refrain:  “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” (Benjamins refer to $100 bills.) When a tweeter asked her who Omar thinks is funding politicians to defend Israel, Omar responded with a one-word tweet: “AIPAC!”

The feeding frenzy over these two flippant but truthful tweets forced Omar to apologize (something Trump has not been forced to do over hundreds of dishonest, racist and/or threatening ones).

Yet if you spend a day on Capitol Hill and talk (off-the-record) with a member of Congress about this topic, you’ll hear plenty about AIPAC’s awesome clout and its ability to unleash “Benjamins”  to bully Congress.  Books and articles have documented this truism.

According to the New York Times, AIPAC allies now want to oust Ilhan Omar from Congress and hope to “punish Ms. Omar . . . with a primary challenge in 2020.”

When the well-funded Israel-right-or-wrong lobby comes after her, we’ll likely see a massive counter-movement of progressive Jews and non-Jews “Standing with Omar” – and through the Internet, matching the other side Benjamin for Benjamin.

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Trump Tracked Journalists and Rights Advocates at Border

‘Outrageous Violation of First Amendment’: Leaked Docs Reveal Trump Tracked Journalists and Rights Advocates at Border

Monitoring and intimidation program denounced by one reporter as “deeply disturbing.”

At the San Ysidro port of entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer escorts a detainee to a processing area (Photo: Donna Burton, CBP, Flickr)

The government is keeping a list of journalists and “instigators” that were involved with the so-called migrant caravan from the last months of 2018 and early 2019 in a database.

“The government cannot use the pretext of the border to target activists critical of its policies, lawyers providing legal representation, or journalists simply doing their jobs.”

That’s according to reporting from NBC7 San Diego Wednesday evening that showed how the President Donald Trump administration is targeting opponents to its deportation and immigration policies.

The reporting is based on documents provided to the local NBC affiliate by a “Homeland Security source on the condition of anonymity.” Dated Jan. 9, the documents–entitled “San Diego Sector Foreign Operations Branch: Migrant Caravan FY-2019, Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators and Media”–offer details of a program called “Operation Secure Line.”

The source said the documents or screenshots show a SharePoint application that was used by agents from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and some agents from the San Diego sector of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

Each person identified in the document has a headshot followed by their name, date of birth, role in the caravan, “country of commencement,” and the date of their interview (or prospective interview) by government officials.

View image on Twitter

CBP told NBC7 in a series of statements that the agency believed the targets of the list were involved in border violence, and thus needed to be monitored.

“Criminal events, such as the breach of the border wall in San Diego involving assaults on law enforcement and a risk to public safety, are routinely monitored and investigated by authorities,” said CBP’s statement.

In comment to Buzzfeed News immigration reporter Hamed Aleaziz, ICE distanced itself from the program, saying, “it is hard to support this activity.”

Hamed Aleaziz


A senior ICE official not involved told me after reading this:

“Not knowing what they really wanted to accomplish it is hard to support this activity. It starts to smack of a dictatorship or the persecution of actors and press during the “red scare.”https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html 

A number of people on the list told NBC7 that they remembered being pulled aside for questioning at the border on multiple occasions during trips to cover the caravan’s journey north.

“Two people in plainclothes came down and took me to another room,” said freelance photojournalist Ariana Drehsler, referring to a stop when crossing back into the U.S.. “They questioned me in a small room, asking me questions about the shelter, what was I seeing there, who was I working for.”

Drehsler told NBC7 that she was given secondary screenings three times out of the dozens of times she crossed the border to report on the caravan.

Kevin Gosztola

· Mar 7, 2019
Replying to @kgosztola
Officials in Trump administration put alerts on passports and kept “at least three photojournalists and an attorney from entering Mexico to work.” https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html …

Leaked Documents Show the Government Tracking Journalists
The documents detail an intelligence-gathering effort by the United States and Mexican authorities, targeting more than 50 people including journalists, an attorney, and immigration advocates.


View image on Twitter

Journalists on the list also reported being detained and stopped by Mexican officials. Kitra Cahana, who, like Drehsler, is a freelance photojournalist, said she faced issues traveling from Canada to Mexico in January that ultimately resulted in her being put in a room at Mexico Customs with other detainees for 13 hours.

“I wasn’t allowed to be in communication with anyone,” said Cahana. “I wasn’t allowed to contact my embassy.”

In the end, Mexican authorities denied Cahana entry into the country.

“It was very confusing,” Cahana added, “because my Spanish is quite limited and no one there really spoke English.”

Another freelance photographer, Go Nakamura, told Buzzfeed News that CBP officials questioned him on his background and whether he recognized people in pictures they showed him.

“He asked me, do I recognize any of the faces,” said Nakamura. “I didn’t recognize any of the faces, so I said, ‘no.'”

BuzzFeed News


“It starts to smack of dictatorship”

The US compiled a secret list of journalists, attorneys, and activists to question at the borderhttps://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/salvadorhernandez/government-list-journalists-border-immigration-question?bftwnews&utm_term=4ldqpgc#4ldqpgc 

Journalists, progressives, and legal advocacy organizations expressed outrage over the list.

“This is an outrageous violation of the First Amendment,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Esha Bhandari, in a statement to NBC7. “The government cannot use the pretext of the border to target activists critical of its policies, lawyers providing legal representation, or journalists simply doing their jobs.”

Sue Udry, executive director of Defending Rights and Dissent, said on Thursday that it was time for Congress to step in.

“This document provides clear evidence that the government is targeting people based on their First Amendment-protected activities,” Udry said. “The U.S. border has become a Constitution-free zone, and CBP is an agency out of control.”

“Incredibly concerning overreach,” tweeted activist Mark Riffenburg.

Mark Riffenburg


Incredibly concerning overreach from the Trump administration here. Creating lists of journalists, and activists has historically never ever been a good thing.

Matt Pearce 🦅


Wow. Big scoop by @nbcsandiego: The Trump administration created a “secret database of activists, journalists, and social media influencers tied to the migrant caravan and in some cases, placed alerts on their passports.” https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html 

“Deeply disturbing,” WIRED writer Steve Silberman wrote on Twitter, adding: “You can imagine how much more stuff like this is happening, and will happen, until the GOP is removed from power.”

Steve Silberman


Deeply disturbing: Trump administration creates secret database of journalists and attorneys covering immigration issues at the border. You can imagine how much more stuff like this is happening, and will happen, until the GOP is removed from

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Sparked by Ilhan Omar’s ‘Valid Criticism’ of I$raHell

Sparked by Ilhan Omar’s ‘Valid Criticism’ of Israel, House Overwhelmingly Passes Broad ‘Anti-Hate’ Resolution

“We’re happy to see a resolution that condemns real bigotry, rather than going after Rep. Ilhan Omar and her vision of a world free of racism and oppression.”

“This is a dangerous waste of time,” Heidi Hess, co-director of CREDO Action, said in a statement. (Photo: C-SPAN/Twitter)


The House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a non-binding Democratic resolution condemning anti-Semitism, white supremacy, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry.

The final tally was 407-23, with 234 Democrats and 173 Republicans voting yes. All of the no votes were Republicans, and one GOP member—Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)—voted present.

Though the resolution does not mention Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) by name, progressive critics perceived the measure as an implicit rebuke of the congresswoman over her criticism of the Israeli lobby and government.

“While valid criticism of Netanyahu, AIPAC, and Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians are being falsely attacked as anti-Semitism, threats by white supremacists are continuing.”
—Rabbi Alissa Wise, Jewish Voice for Peace.

While advocacy groups that have mobilized in defense of Omar applauded House Democrats’ far-reaching condemnation of hatred and bigotry, they were quick to note that the resolution is far from perfect.

“As the anti-Omar resolution was transformed into a broader ‘anti-hate’ resolution—with plenty of rhetoric that progressives support—it unfortunately found no room to say: ‘Criticism of Israel cannot be equated with anti-Semitism.’ That was the message of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in their defenses of Omar,” said Jeff Cohen, co-founder of RootsAction.org. “Let’s hope the resistance to the original resolution marks a turning point in Congress’ blind support for Israel’s subjugation of Palestinians.”

Linda Sarsour—executive director of MPower Change, a broad coalition of Arab and Muslim groups that helped organize support for Omar—said that it is now time to “get back to work against the rise of white nationalism that threatens all of our communities and build a government and policies that respects every resident of this nation.”

“We are a movement that unequivocally rejects anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, and all forms of bigotry, and expect the same from Democratic leadership,” Sarsour said. “It’s a new day where we no longer will accept attacks on our free speech and stifling of necessary debate on Israeli government policies against Palestinians.”

Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, echoed Sarsour’s warning about white nationalism, saying, “While valid criticism of Netanyahu, AIPAC, and Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians are being falsely attacked as anti-Semitism, threats by white supremacists are continuing.”

“And we all know who white supremacists have their sights set on: Black people, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, and more,” Wise concluded. “We’re happy to see a resolution that condemns real bigotry, rather than going after Rep. Ilhan Omar and her vision of a world free of racism and oppression.”


With a final vote expected as early as Thursday evening, House Democrats released the full text of their resolution condemning anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and Islamophobia.

While the text does not mention Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted it is “not about her,” progressive advocacy groups perceived the resolution as a rebuke of the congresswoman over her criticism of the Israeli lobby.

“This is a dangerous waste of time,” Heidi Hess, co-director of CREDO Action, said in a statement before the text was made public. “Democrats should be spending their time in Congress investigating the purveyors of hate in the Trump White House, not pushing platitudes in order to implicitly condemn one of their own.”

Hess also warned of the unintended consequences of the resolution.

“The next time Rep. Ilhan Omar faces a disingenuous smear, Democratic leaders in the House should have her back, and refuse to police or shame her in order to silence legitimate debate over American foreign policy,” she said.

Watch the floor debate on the resolution:

As Common Dreams reported, Democratic leaders are facing intense backlash from Jewish organizations and their own members, who have pushed back against the resolution both in public and during heated closed-door meetings.

After appearing to indefinitely postpone the resolution Wednesday night, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced on Thursday that he would push ahead with a vote despite internal opposition and grassroots protests.

“All Americans should support statements denouncing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this resolution was introduced to silence legitimate criticism of domestic support for the discriminatory and segregationist policies of a foreign government that receives billions of American taxpayer dollars.”

On Twitter, the youth-led Jewish advocacy group IfNotNow credited grassroots pressure with ensuring that “the new House Resolution [is] more inclusive: it now condemns anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and racism, while correctly blaming the rise of such bigotry on white nationalism and white supremacy.”

“It is not a perfect resolution,” IfNotNow added. “Its timing still clearly associates it as a rebuke to Ilhan Omar. It, unfortunately, enshrines U.S. support for the Israeli government, which maintains the fifty-one-year military occupation of the West Bank and siege of the Gaza Strip.”

Read the full text of the resolution:

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Khanna, Ocasio-Cortez Condemn US-Backed Regime Change in Venezuela


Khanna, Ocasio-Cortez Among Progressive Democrats to Condemn US-Backed Regime Change in Venezuela

“Our government should change course in its policy toward Venezuela. Unilateral measures and violent threats only threaten to stoke chaos and instability.”

Vice President Mike Pence greets people after speaking about  Venezuela at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church on August 23, 2017 in Doral, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Over a dozen progressive House Democrats on Thursday condemned the Trump administration’s “unacceptable” push for regime change in Venezuela.

The comments came in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and signed by Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), and 13 other House Democrats.

“President Donald Trump and other senior United States (U.S.) officials have generated alarm in Venezuela and throughout the region with actions and statements—such as the recent threat that ‘all options are on the table’—which indicate a pursuit of American military-led regime change,” reads the letter.

“Here’s the mistake we make: We’re quiet when these interventions are happening. Instead, we need to speak up right in the beginning when we see signs of interventionism that are going to make situations worse.”
—Rep. Ro Khanna
The progressives also slammed the Trump White House for “crippling” millions of ordinary Venezuelans with unilateral sanctions.

“[T]he president’s recent economic sanctions threaten to exacerbate the country’s grave economic crisis, causing immense suffering for the most vulnerable in society who bear no responsibility for the situation in the country,” the letter states.

Khanna, who spearheaded the letter, urged his Democratic colleagues to unite against U.S.-backed regime change and sanctions in an interview with HuffPost on Thursday.

“Here’s the mistake we make: We’re quiet when these interventions are happening,” said Khanna, who has been an outspoken opponent of U.S. interference in Venezuela. “That was a mistake in Iraq, that was a mistake in Libya. Then afterwards we say, ‘These interventions were a mistake and how do we rectify it?’ Instead, we need to speak up right in the beginning when we see signs of interventionism that are going to make situations worse.”

The progressives’ letter comes as Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser John Bolton continue to lob threats at Venezuela’s elected President Nicolás Maduro.

In an interview with Telemundo Wednesday night, Pence reiterated the White House’s support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, but said there is “no timeline” on the U.S. push for regime change.

Trump’s Venezuela envoy Elliott Abrams—whose role in U.S.-backed massacres and genocide and Latin America during the 1980s has come under scrutiny since his appointment in January—said during a Senate subcommittee hearing on Thursday that the administration is planning to “expand the net” of sanctions against Venezuelan institutions.

While condemning the Maduro government for violence against protestors and “disregard of the rule of law,” House progressives said the Trump administration’s meddling is “making life worse for ordinary Venezuelans” and urged the White House to support peaceful negotiations.

“Unilateral measures and violent threats only threaten to stoke chaos and instability,” the letter concludes. “Instead, the U.S. must abide by its obligation under the Organization of American States (OAS) Charter to abstain from using armed force or ‘any other form of interference or attempted threat” against another state. We urge you to support efforts by Uruguay, Mexico, and the Vatican to promote dialogue and help Venezuelans resolve their own problems.”

Read the full letter, which was first obtained by HuffPost:

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Venezuelan people mobilize against U.S. aggression ‘Video’


Image result for venezuela cartoon

Zionist propaganda

Contrary to U.S. propaganda, the Venezuelan government is directly delivering food to millions of families. Community-based militias are mobilizing to defend their homeland in preparation for a possible military intervention by the Trump administration and its right-wing allies. Gloria La Riva interviews those mobilizing at the base of Venezuelan society. This is the reporting you never see in the U.S. corporate media.

There are important actions taking place this Saturday, Feb 23 to say No War on Venezuela. Then all will unite for a National March on Washington on March 16 to say #HandsOffVenezuela. Visit http://www.ANSWERcoalition.org for march details.


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U.S. ‘humanitarian aid’ to Venezuela is media show aimed at provoking clash


Image result for HAND OFF VENEZUELA

Elliot Abrams, Trump’s point man for regime change in Venezuela, is on his way to the South American country’s Colombian border. Abrams was previously convicted for his lies and facilitation of the Iran-Contra scheme, which delivered drug money, weapons and political cover to right-wing death squads in Central America. Restored to foreign policy under President George W. Bush, Abrams had advanced knowledge of the 2002 failed coup in Venezuela, which used a false-flag operation of snipers shooting into an opposition protest to spread violence and chaos. This time, we’re supposed to believe, Abrams is returning to Latin America in the name of humanitarianism, democracy and human rights.

Abrams’ arrival highlights the likelihood of a provocation this weekend. At minimum, the goal is to provide fresh imagery for the international media to increase the pressure on the Maduro government. But there is also the possibility of a triggering incident to provide justification for military conflict between Venezuela and the far-right governments of Brazil and Colombia, and potentially the deployment of U.S. Special Forces.  The stage has been carefully set for weeks, and the standoff is scheduled to come to a head on Saturday, Feb. 23 — a deadline that self-declared “interim president” Juan Guaidó set for the admission of U.S. “aid.”

The New York Times just published from the border crossing a completely one-sided dispatch, which portrays the Maduro government as cruelly depriving starving people of needed food — for some unknown reason except President Maduro’s pride. The Times report, while admitted that the “aid” is “not that much,” omits that both the UN and Red Cross have said it does not meet the definition of humanitarian, which has to be neutral, apolitical and requested by the receiving country.

Diosdado Cabello, leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, spoke to the press in Plaza Bolivar in Caracas after a mass rally against the U.S.-backed coup attempt on Feb. 19. He explained:

The U.S. says it will provide food for 20,000 persons. The Bolivarian Revolution, despite the blockade and blocking of our bank accounts and our ability to purchase food, provides food directly to 6 million families. It is shameful for them to say they will bring 70 tons of food when the Bolivarian Revolution, just in our Andean Region, we provide 12,000 tons of food. It is just a TV show, a media show — because they don’t care about our people.

The Venezuelan government has taken the stand that it will not accept fraudulent “aid” from the very countries that are at the same time looting its assets, in colonial fashion, and preventing it from importing food. At the urging of the United States, in late 2017 Belgian financial services firm Euroclear froze $1.65 billion of Venezuelan public funds — including $450 million of cash — that the government was attempting to use to purchase food and medicine. In January, the Bank of England seized $1.2 billion worth of Venezuelan gold. CITGO, the subsidiary of Venezuela’s state oil company in the United States valued at $9 billion, was also seized and turned over to Juan Guaidó.

Venezuela has not rejected aid from its international friends. Venezuelan Health Minister Carlos Alvarado announced last week the arrival of 933 tons of medicines and medical supplies from China, Cuba, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Earlier this week, President Maduro announced that 300 tons of Russian aid is scheduled to arrive soon. This is more than ten times the amount being “offered” by U.S. AID, whose director has been giving militant speeches calling for regime change in Venezuela.

Anti-war forces have to be on high alert in the event of an incident at the border this weekend that will trigger an avalanche of negative reporting to demonize the government of Venezuela. Such incidents are crucial elements of any war drive, as history has shown time and again. There are rallies around the United States scheduled this weekend that will provide an immediate counterpoint to this war propaganda. On March 16, a National March on Washington will declare “Hands Off Venezuela!” in front of the White House; this will be a crucial rallying point for all anti-war forces in the United States. All out to Feb. 23 and March 16!

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Dispatch from Venezuela: the government’s massive food distribution apparatus

Dispatch from Venezuela: the government’s massive food distribution apparatus

Volunteers pack food at a CLAP food distribution center for the elderly and disabled who need delivery to their homes. Antímano neighborhood on the outskirts of Caracas, Feb. 16, 2019. Gloria La Riva, Liberation photo

Editor’s Note: this article was written on Feb. 22 as the author, Gloria La Riva, made her way to the Colombian border crossing, to observe the standoff there. 

A visit to any social project, walking the streets, seeing Venezuela with one’s own eyes, shatters the demonized images that the U.S. government and media are projecting of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Outrageous lies against the government of President Nicolas Maduro are being published or broadcast on a daily basis by the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, etc., to paint a picture of “humanitarian crisis.” Their role is to justify the U.S. aggression.

Gladys, a woman of retired age recognized me and stopped me in the street yesterday afternoon. I had been a guest on one of the most popular national TV morning shows, speaking of the anti-war efforts in the United States in defense of Venezuela.

She said emphatically, “Please tell the truth so they hear it in the media over there. Tell the truth. We are not starving. Yes, it is true, we have shortages, but the fault is of the United States that has restricted us so. There have been so many lies about us.”

She added, “Even my daughter who lives in Spain called me and said, ‘Mama how many dead people are there?’ That was so ridiculous, I had to hang up on her.”

This battering ram of false propaganda hides a more insidious truth: The U.S. government is the biggest reason for the shortages, with the strangling sanctions it has imposed. Major Venezuelan and U.S. corporations have engaged in a concerted production, an act of war, and in this war the attacks are increasing daily.

This week a medical shipment from Qatar paid for by the Maduro government, was seized by Spain on its way to Venezuela and returned to Qatar.

The seizure of Venezuela’s CITGO property in the U.S. alone will cost the country over $7 billion. The country’s bank accounts are frozen, the Bank of England refuses to release Venezuela’s gold.

Under such conditions, other governments would have collapsed long ago.

Resistance and international solidarity

The government of President Nicolas Maduro has gone into overdrive to help the population resist the economic war, by expanding the scope and reach of the historic missions begun by the revolution’s leader Hugo Chavez.

This expansion didn’t happen overnight. It has been unfolding in the last three years, although certainly at an accelerated pace in recent months.

Education, healthcare, housing, and food sustenance are the pillars of Venezuela’s development towards socializing larger sections of the economy.

Despite scenes of empty shelves of U.S. television, there is not a scarcity of food in Venezuela. Private supermarkets and pharmacies are chock full of products. The problem is that they are largely inaccessible. The problem is the sky-high prices in private markets. A chicken costs 10,000 Bolivares (Bs). while the minimum wage is 18,000 bs.

Vegetable and fruit stands abound on the sidewalks. Most are run by people with limited means. Those prices are much more affordable.

Three years ago, Maduro launched the CLAP program to provide a vital supply of food to six million families, through a system of community organization, census and distribution.

One neighbor in a major housing community, Carmen Requena, showed me the latest CLAP monthly box she received. An architect, she lives alone. Her box contained six pounds of rice, six pounds of black beans, two pounds of lentils, two liter bottles of oil, two bags of milk, 2.2 pounds of sugar, 10 pounds of corn flour, the essential ingredients of arepas, mayonnaise, catsup, two cans of tuna fish. The total cost 500 Bs. The official rate of exchange is 3,000 Bs per 1 USD.

CLAP supplies include chicken, meat, and 36 eggs per month. Instead of 10,000 Bs for a chicken in the private market, the CLAP cost for all the added animal protein is 500 Bs.

CLAP is not just a simple delivery from a truck. There is a high level of community organization, also called CLAPs, within the Communal Councils (consejo comunal). The CLAP coordinator is elected in the community, like all responsible position of the councils.

I attended an evening CLAP meeting in the Caracas parish of Antímano of three CLAPs in which 207 families take part. All the families there are covered, 65,000. The coordinators and families were working closely together to make sure the numbers were exact. And this was in the dark in a schoolyard, each group using the light of a cell phone. The lack of light didn’t dampen their spirit.

The parish census is part of a citywide survey in all of Caracas to assure the exact number of recipients. After completion the CLAPs will be delivered every 15 days instead of monthly, and it is being applied nationally.

As Diosdado Cabello, Vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV, and President of the National Constituent Assembly, said about the U.S. demand that its military rations of 70 tons of “aid” be accepted by Venezuela: “It is shameful that the U.S. says they want to bring 70 tons, when just in the Andean region alone, we deliver directly 12,000 tons of food. It is a media show.”

Assuring rice supply with expropriation, Vietnamese solidarity

Riding a bus with Venezuelans to Táchira to counter the U.S. Trojan horse operation, we pass immense fields of rice, a large agricultural complex and silos of rice storage.

Fernando Avila explains, “when the Mari company that produces rice began to suppress its own rice production in league with the opposition, the state took control of the factory by the designation of necessity. It is very high quality and now that rice is being used in the CLAP deliveries.”

Yesterday on TV with a team of Vietnamese agronomist and diplomats present, both countries announced a major aggressment to help Venezuela grow rice on a self-sustaining basis.

Russia ships medicine, other countries to help also

Maduro has made clear that Venezuela has the money to buy medicines that the country needs. But again, the purchases are being blocked by Washington’s dictates. Venezuelan government bank accounts and the seizure of the country’s oil reserves in the U.S. are a deliberate weapon to turn Venezuela into an impoverished country.

President Maduro announced on Feb 21 that a shipment from Russia had just arrived of 7.5 tons of essential medicines for cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses. It is part of Russia’s shipments of 300 tons of medicines and equipment. Despite its hostility to the Bolivarian Revolution, the European Union agreed to send medicines through the UN as well. More has recently arrived from China, Cuba and others.

Maduro explained: “Every week in a permanent way the medicines are coming. Who pays? The Venezuelan government. We are not beggars. We are paying for all our obligations. But how criminal it is that the U.S. imperialist government that is blocking our medicines. Trump is violating the human rights of the Venezuelan people when he blocks the entry of medicine.”

One woman I became friends with on the bus on our way to Táchira, Liuska said, “It is more than just our oil the U.S. wants. They are attacking us because of our effort to make a new society.”

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