War Lies Versus Peace And Justice

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Patterns have long since emerged. We know that each illegal war of conquest is prefaced by a Public Relations campaign that demonizes the target country’s leader and its government as it lies about on-the-ground realities. Muammar Gaddafi, for example, was presented to Western media consumers as a lunatic and despot. The Western narratives, however, were contradicted by the fact that he earned broad-based support from Libyans, all of whom enjoyed public services such as free healthcare and schooling, and a high standard of living.

The same demonization campaign is being waged against the hugely popular Dr. Bashar al-Assad, the democratically elected President of Syria. Terrorist embedded propagandists teach us that he is an evil dictator who kills his own people, and that “he must go”; however, credible evidence inverts this logic.

Henry Lowendorf, a member of the Executive Board of the U.S Peace Council’s Peace and Fact-Finding Delegation to Syria, recently returned from Syria, reports, that, “What we saw (in Syria) goes against everything we read in the United States.” He repudiates the Western media’s demonization campaign against the government of President Assad and the Syrian Arab Army in these words:

“When you go to Syria, which I did last month, the popularity of the government and the Syrian Arab Army is rampant. It’s not out of some dream fantasy. It comes obviously from the government and the army being the only thing between living a secular life on the one hand and the hatred and violence of ISIS and the various other terrorist groups underwritten by the terrorist Saudis and US and their allies on the other. The refugees who don’t leave Syria do not flee to the terrorist side, they flee to the government side, in huge numbers. So would all of us in similar circumstances. Syrians do not want their country turned into Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, or any of the other countries the US has liberated.” [i]

The reality is an inversion of the propaganda lies fed to Western audiences. In fact, President Assad must stay, for the sake of civilization, and for the sake of destroying Western-backed terrorism. Each time Empire succeeds in destroying another country, the problem of terrorism worsens, as might be expected. The destruction of Libya, for example, set the stage for the attempted destruction of Syria. Weapons stolen from Libyan armouries, thanks to the invasion, were covertly shipped to Syria — all beneath the radar of the U.S Congress. A recently declassified Department of Defense document [ii] indicates that:

“Weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles were shipped from the Port of Benghazi, Libya, to the Port of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria”

And none of this is accidental. Sustainable Western open-source documentation demonstrates that the growth of terrorism is willful, and according to Western plans.

The propaganda lies, the false flags, the terrorist-embedded NGOs , and the use of terrorist proxies to criminally destroy one country after another, is not only empowering terrorism world-wide, but it is also leading us to engineered conflict with nuclear-armed countries, in particular, Russia.

Whereas the propaganda lies further the causes of barbarity and ignorance, we need a redirection towards the polar opposite: towards trajectories that support civilization, progress, and the rule of law.

Prof. Chossudovsky explains in “America’s ‘Humanitarian War’ against the World” that:

“What is consequently required is a massive redirection of science and technology towards the pursuit of broad societal objectives. In turn, this requires a major shift in what is euphemistically called ‘US Foreign Policy’, namely America’s global military agenda.”

We need to shift from Death Industries of the Military Industrial Complex, to Life Industries that serve, rather than destroy, humanity. We also need a strong anti-war movement based on a broad-based support of the truth, and a broad-based rejection of the “governing” lies

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The Populist Uprising Isn’t Over; It’s Only Just Begun

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Clinton and Trump
Clinton and Trump

The summer ends with a growing lament among progressives. Tom Frank’s cutting voice sums it up:

“And so ends the great populist uprising of our time, fizzling out pathetically in the mud and the bigotry stirred up by a third-rate would-be caudillo named Donald J Trump. So closes an era of populist outrage that began back in 2008, when the Davos dream of a world run by benevolent bankers first started to crack. The unrest has taken many forms in these eight years — from idealistic to cynical, from Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party — but they all failed to change much of anything. And now the last, ugliest, most fraudulent manifestation is failing so spectacularly that it may discredit populism itself for years to come.”

Like many on the left, Frank has few hopes for Hillary Clinton. She’ll be the ultimate Davos moderate, he predicts, collecting neo-conservatives and Republican elites, negotiating backroom deals to “get things done.” The elites, shaken by the Sanders insurgency and the Trump rise, are now back in the saddle.

But Frank is waving the white flag when the struggle has only just begun. One needn’t have illusions or hopes about a Hillary Clinton presidency to think that the old order can’t be sustained. Both elites and dissenters tend, I believe, to underestimate the scope and the devastation of the establishment failure both at home and abroad.

America is a rich country, awash in entertainment. People have little time and few outlets for real political education. Labor and the left are weak. The Democratic Party is a fundraising and recruitment machine, not a source of political education. The truly desperate tend to be isolated, locked up and kept out of sight.

But what we’ve seen in this election — and in the elections of 2008 and 2012 — is that Americans are catching onto the game. They are working harder and losing ground. They suffered through the Great Recession, and have witnessed the wars without end and without victory. They’ve seen their kids graduate from college and come back home burdened by debt. Poor people of color are in many cities more segregated and in worse condition than they were in the Jim Crow South. They are casting about for a change.

Trump is too much the buffoon, too unstable, too risible and too bigoted to be the agent of that change. But unless the establishment cuts a much better deal with the bulk of Americans, we’ll keep on moving.

The likelihood is that the Clinton presidency will be tumultuous.

  1. No Honeymoon: On the left, there are fewer hopes about Clinton than about Barack Obama. The pressure will begin even before she takes office in what is likely to be a battle royal in the lame duck session of Congress as Obama tries to force through his TPP trade deal.
  2. New Energy: If the Sanders supporters stay engaged, there could be an organizational form — his OurRevolution and his institute — that can do what a political party should do: educate and mobilize around progressive issues; recruit and support truly progressive candidates. This insurgency may continue to grow.
  3. New Generation: It can’t be forgotten how overwhelmingly Sanders won young voters. He not only won three of four millennial voters in the Democratic primaries, he won a majority of young people of color voting. Some of this was his message. Much of it was the integrity of someone consistent in his views spurning the big money corruptions of our politics.These young people are going to keep moving. They won’t find answers in a Clinton administration. We’re gong to see more movements, more disruptions, and more mobilizations — around jobs, around student debt, about inequality, around criminal justice, immigration, globalization, and climate and more.
  4. New Coalitions: Sanders and Trump clearly have shaken the coalitions of their parties. Trump combined populism with bigotry and xenophobia to break up the Republican establishment’s ability to use the latter to support their neoliberal economics. Sanders attracted support of the young across lines of race, challenging the Democratic establishment’s ability to use liberal identity politics to fuse minorities and upper middle class professionals into a majority coalition. Clinton fended off the challenge, but the shakeup has only begun.
  5. New Ideas: The Davos era has failed. There is no way it can continue down the road without producing more and more opposition. This is now the second straight “recovery” in which most Americans will lose ground. Already the elite is embattled intellectually on key elements of the neo-liberal agenda: corporate globalization, privatization, austerity, “small government,” even global policing. Joe Stiglitz suggests that the Davos era is over, but that is premature. What is clear is that it has failed and the struggle to replace it has just begun. And that waving the white flag because Trump is besmirching populism mistakes today’s farce for history’s drama.

 

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A U.S. Government Hooked on, Obsessed with, Perpetual War

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the wars must end

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America has a government that is taking this country in a direction in which the vast majority of its people don’t want to go. It continues to pour massive amounts of the country’s wealth into building and maintaining a vast military empire when, at the same time, critically important domestic needs remain unfunded or underfunded.

War is so deeply embedded in the psyche of this government that extracting it would take a minor miracle. The neocons and war hawks that infest our nation’s capital have an insatiable thirst for war, they can’t get enough; they are the major facilitators and proliferators of endless war.

As a result our nation’s major foundations are eroding because this government assigns a far greater priority to building and using weapons of war rather than rebuilding our crumbling national infrastructure or restoring our once world class education system.

Here’s an article that deals with the most important issues facing America today, based on the opinions of Americans. A survey by Google indicated that the top two issues were immigration and same-sex marriage, with foreign policy at the end of the list. Another by Gallup showed the economy at the top and foreign affairs, once again, near the bottom.

When polls continue to indicate that the majority of Americans do not support this agenda of war why then isn’t this issue higher on these opinion lists and is far below those such as immigration and same-sex marriage? That just doesn’t make sense. I guess this is what is called “out of sight, out of mind.” While the issue should be getting lots of time on the media people are not at all informed because these ratings-crazy media is too busy reporting Trump’s latest barrage of insults.

When is the last time we’ve heard a discussion in the media about the very extensive, extremely costly, military network of bases that our government maintains around the world; one that, coupled with the endless wars, has cost American taxpayers many trillions of dollars? Does this media ever tell us about the massive amount of money that is being poured into the furnaces of war; and that this is the reason why there are little to no funds available for our many domestic needs? No, this subject is not to be discussed, it is off limits.

Here are some very interesting statistics about the history of wars in which our government has been engaged since the year 1900. During the 20th century the only years in which America was not involved in any wars were from 1935 to 1940; then 1976, 1977 and 1978; and, lastly, 1997. Therefore, in this period of 100 years, our various governments were involved in wars 90% of the time. Absolutely astounding!

If we are ever going to take this country in a new direction then we need to remove this albatross of war from around America’s neck; and to do things differently we must finally learn from our past mistakes. To begin that process let’s review what has happened in the past so that we will not keep making the same mistakes again and again.

We have a government that initiates totally unnecessary, unjustifiable wars and then either loses them or our military is held to a standstill. In the Vietnam War the U.S. military was forced to leave that country; in Iraq, the biggest military mistake and debacle in U.S. history, our forces could not defeat a guerilla army. In Afghanistan, when we went to war against the Taliban, which played no part in the 911 attack and posed no real threat to America, our military again was held to a standstill. Not a shining record for the most powerful military in the history of the world.

Now there is a war raging in Syria with the U.S. military right in the middle of the action, raining massive amounts of bombs down on that country to supposedly defeat ISIL and Daesh; but close observers have determined it’s largely to remove President Assad from power because he refuses to allow our allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to construct a gas pipeline going through his country and then on to Europe.

This is a war in which Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have a formidable military force in the air and on the ground. The U.S. also has numerous allied nations supporting its operations. This situation is so tenuous and volatile that we could see World War III erupt at any time; it is that dangerous and more. And yet the vast majority of the people of this country have no clue as to what is going on because they are not being informed by either the American media or the government.

In the category of totally unconscionable we have this government continuing to sell many billions of dollars of military weaponry to Saudi Arabia and supporting it in its vicious attacks on the tiny country of Yemen. The Saudi’s have brought great devastation upon that country and its civilian population. The highly respected journalist, Andrew Cockburn, recently said, “We are part of that,” it is our war, it is shameful.”

Talk about the dangers of a possible World War III. We now have a president and government that are trying to intimidate both Russia and China. Let’s put it this way; if you want to choose the two countries in this world that you should never, ever intimidate and take provocative steps against, it is Russia and China. That is what’s referred to as courting total disaster.

There is not just one Super Power in this world as Mr. Obama and others like to say; rather, there are three, the U.S. plus Russia and China; all three have powerful nuclear arsenals and each could easily blow up much of the world. And these are the countries that Mr. Obama and his military advisers want to intimidate?

If we had followed a rational, non-aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East for all these past decades there would have never been an Iraq war, it is almost certain that 911 would never have happened, and we would not be talking about the great threat of terrorism coming from those who are seeking retaliation and revenge against America.

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U.S. Weapons Sales Are Drenched in Yemeni Blood

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Saudi Arabia is using billions in U.S. aid to fund their onslaught of innocent civilians in Yemen, but it’s not too late for Congress to stop this madness.

When Pope Francis visited the U.S. Congress in September 2015, he boldly posed a moral challenge to his American hosts, asking: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”

“Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money,” he solemnly concluded. “Money that is drenched in blood.”

In this case, it’s innocent Yemeni blood.

During his almost eight years in office, President Obama has approved a jaw-dropping, record-breaking $110 billion in weapons sales to the repressive Saudi regime, all with Congressional backing.

“In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade,” Pope Francis said. Our lawmakers have failed miserably at heeding the Pope’s call.

Manufacturers such as Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and McDonnell Douglas have been pushing these sales to offset military spending cuts in the United States and Europe. These weapons manufacturers spend millions on lobbying, filling the campaign coffers of both Republicans and Democrats.

In addition to that lobbying power, U.S. officials were pressured to placate Saudi Arabia after the Obama administration made a deal with its adversary, Iran. That appeasement came in the form of a level and quality of arms exports that should’ve never been approved for a repressive regime with an atrocious human rights record.

Saudi Arabia is the number one exporter of radical Islamic extremism on the planet. Fifteen of the 19 Sep. 11 hijackers were radicalized Saudi citizens. The regime oppresses religious minorities, women, LGBT people, and dissidents, while dozens of non-violent participants in their own Arab Spring protests face execution, usually by beheading.

The Pentagon says that providing the Saudis with F-15s bombers, Apache helicopters, armored vehicles, missiles, and bombs supports Saudi Arabian defense missions and helps promote stability in the region. But since March 2015, the Saudis have being using these weapons offensively to intervene in neighboring Yemen.

Their relentless onslaught has killed thousands of innocent civilians, decimated Yemen’s infrastructure, and left more than 21 million people — that’s four out of five Yemenis — desperately in need of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations has said that Saudi air strikes on civilian targets likely constitute war crimes and calls the situation in Yemen a catastrophe.”

Despite this carnage, the Obama administration just announced an additional $1.15 billion in Saudi weapons sales.

In the week following that announcement, the Saudis bombed a Yemeni potato chip factory, a school, a residential neighborhood, and a Doctors Without Borders-run hospital. Most of the dead and wounded were women and children.

But it’s not too late for Congress to stop this madness.

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The Case for Revolution

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(image by the Che Guevara files)LicenseDMCA

Of course, it’s simple to call out for Revolution. It’s fun, in a cool sort of Che Guevara kind of way. But the reality is in its finality, dark and foreboding. In a hot summer day, in a small Cuban jail cell sort of way. America is unconscious in a media induced coma. We have seen from Wiki leaks, national networks presenting news, no differently than George Orwell had predicted. Wiki leaks exposed the plain truth, the DNC rigged the primary elections from the start and demonstrated that this country is no more of a democracy than North Korea.

Donald Trump is the control in the experiment, appealing to the mobs fears and darker motives. Disguising the truth, blaming immigrants for taking American jobs. When it wasn’t immigrants”it was billionaires, like Donald Trump who took American jobs and shipped them overseas. You see, Bill and Hillary Clinton never could have foreseen the exodus of American jobs caused by NAFTA. How could they have predicted it? Autoworkers making $26 per hour in Detroit replaced by $ 5.00 an hour in Mexico and yet, the prices for these cars”continue to rise.

NAFTA, GATT & the WTO are the foundation stones of Neoliberalism. These alone, by themselves make the case for Revolution valid. Neoliberalism is a fancy intellectual term for fascism. Under Neoliberalism there is only one right granted to humanity. That right is the ownership of property. Free speech, freedom of assembly, even equality under law”all make believe. So when the Republicans preach for vouchers for private schools they are preaching neoliberalism. You are only entitled to the schools you can pay for. When Democrats preach Obamacare they are saying you are only entitled to the Healthcare you can afford. You are only what you own and if you own nothing, society owes you nothing.

How wonderful it must be to exclude humanity from the equations of life. Cold and calculating, hungry children, broken men and women searching for jobs that have been shipped away under the guise of free trade.

Fredrich Hayek, the father of Neoliberalism said: “It is not difficult to deprive the great majority of independent thought. But the minority who will retain an inclination to criticize must also be silenced…. Public criticism or even expressions of doubt must be suppressed because they tend to weaken pubic support…. When the doubt or fear expressed concerns not the success of a particular enterprise but of the whole social plan, it must be treated even more as sabotage.”

This is the foundation stone. George Orwell said: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face–for-ever.”

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Hayek is saying that Orwell is absolutely correct, and so what?

Our charges, complaints and usurpations? Detroit, Youngstown, Baltimore, Iraq, Afghanistan. Bush Vs. Gore, Wall Street, Citizens United, 9/11, militarized police, perpetual war, the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Home foreclosures were up 81% in 2009 and what aid and comfort was offered to the people by the Federal Government? The President who rescued the banks and large corporations, by fully refunding them. Then spoke eloquently about only assisting responsibleconsumers. Nine million homes were lost and the President’s assistance program (HARP) only assisted those homeowners current in their mortgage payments. Sorry little boy, sorry little girl, your mommy and daddy weren’t responsible enough”so get out! Go live in the street!

The carnage and destruction of lives meted out in domestic policy holds no equal in American history. The carnage and destruction meted out by US foreign policy, holds no equal. While the Third Reich claimed foreign lands for Lebensraum ( Living Space) US foreign policy seeks Nehmen Speicherplatz (Taking Space) The foreign policy of our government is murder, pillage and theft of wealth. The world’s policeman has become the world’s gangster.

At a current cost of 6 Trillion dollars, not including future costs. Estimates of body counts from “The War on Terror” could be as high as two million dead. Not including, US involvement in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. Three million Iraqi refugees, two million Syrian refugees and the millions uncounted. 50,000 US causalities in the war on terror plus, twenty- two veterans each day, who take their own lives.

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The sheer madness of it, the magnitude, a government which has destabilized an entire region of the globe for profit, while defending the dollar hegemony. While at the same time abandoning the vast majority of the American populace. Abandon you’re labels and definitions, they are now defunct. Liberal to what? Democratic”Party? Republican what? Conservative of what? Defending life and supporting war? Defending the working man, without even a clear position on the minimum wage?

The waters are rising. That is a not a theory, it’s a fact. The temperature is only going one direction, If the naysayers are correct, we’ll needlessly sacrifice fossil fuels to make our economy cleaner. If the naysayers are wrong” If there is a five percent chance the naysayers might be wrong, we face a long-term societal decline.

The fossil fuel industry is prepared to ride this planet into her grave to maintain share price. Under Neoliberalism, government is subservient and amicable to industry. Barack Obama, accomplished what three Republican Presidents before him had tried and failed to do. Repeal Richard Nixon’s ban on deep water oil drilling off the coastal waters of the United states. Was that Liberal or was that Conservative? Can a Government honestly support renewables and big oil?

How can you win a war about taking stuff, when there is always more stuff to take?

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Why Solidarity Between the Movement for Black Lives and Palestine Makes Sense

NOVANEWS

By David Palumbo-Liu

(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)

(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)

The recent release of a policy platform by the Movement for Black Lives has drawn both expressions of solidarity, as well as disavowals and strident criticism. The policy statement is a remarkable document, as it not only continues the spirit of the 2015 statement signed by over a thousand Black activists, intellectuals and cultural workers after Israel’s 2014 attacks on Gaza but also proposes for the first time a comprehensive set of policies backed by clearly spelled-out rationales. The 2015 statement read in part:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing) — and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States — we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.

The list of signatories then included scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Organizational signers included the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-oldOrganization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.

Now, in the Movement for Black Lives platform we see the same spirit, this time forming the foundation of what will be one of the most important political documents of the 21st century: “In response to the sustained and increasingly visible violence against Black communities in the U.S. and globally, a collective of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the country have come together with renewed energy and purpose to articulate a common vision and agenda. We are a collective that centers and is rooted in Black communities, but we recognize we have a shared struggle with all oppressed people; collective liberation will be a product of all of our work.”

Crucially, the platform’s support of Palestinian rights, its endorsement of theBoycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and its condemnation of anti-boycott repression is directly linked to the larger issue of US foreign policy — especially its military budget. The platform describes these things as increasing and facilitating oppression and injustice both abroad and domestically, as much-needed resources are siphoned out of Black and poor communities:

Resources and funds needed for reparations and for building a just and equitable society domestically are instead used to wage war against a majority of the world’s communities…. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people.

The blowback for making such statements has been vociferous and pointed. As detailed by AlterNet, Mondoweiss, The Electronic Intifada and others, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Boston and others have issued statements of condemnation. What is common to much of the criticism of the policy platform are the charges that it tries to liken persecution of Black Americans to the situation of Palestinians. For instance, the JCRC says: “We are deeply dismayed by elements of this platform, specifically the co-opting and manipulation of a movement addressing concerns about racial disparities in criminal justice in the United States in order to advance a biased and false narrative about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. To conflate the experiences of African-Americans and Palestinians oversimplifies complex matters and advances false equivalencies that diminish the unique nature of each.”

In other words, the Council decries the very spirit of solidarity that the Movement for Black Lives platform takes as essential.

This line of defense is not at all new. In 2013, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat asserted, “The problem is, and this is for Hispanic and Asian Americans and African Americans, they see themselves as minorities. If you look at polling on attitudes of African Americans, there is a much higher percentage of sympathy with Palestinians.”  He warned of the danger that US minorities might regard Palestinians as being similarly disadvantaged and said the Jewish community needs to “make it clear, this is not a civil rights issue. It’s rather a very different conflict in which violence is being used and Israel’s right to be a state is questioned.”

And as recently as January 2016, David Bernstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, wrote:

The BDS movement has successfully injected the anti-Israel cause into these intersecting forms of oppression and itself into the interlocking communities of people who hold by them. So it’s increasingly likely that if a group sees itself as oppressed, it will see Israel as part of the dominant power structure doing the oppressing and Palestinians as fellow victims. That oppressed group will be susceptible to joining forces with the BDS movement…. Indeed, the growing acceptance of intersectionality arguably poses the most significant community relations challenge of our time.

And yet when Rachel Gilmer, the author of much of the portion of the platform that deals with Israel-Palestine visited the area, she was convinced of the “intersection.”Haaretz reports Gilmer’s reaction to her trip:

Going this past May was so transformative. Seeing all the parallels between black and Palestinian struggles…. Gentrification [in the United States] parallels home demolition [in Israel and the West Bank]. Going to the apartheid wall and seeing how it broke up communities… it’s the same systems of patriarchy, imperialism and colonialism that we’re up against.

Why is the claim that the common causes of Black Americans and Palestinians are centered on rights, and that the broader view that social justice issues for people of color in the US “intersect” with those of the Palestinians such an important one for critics of the platform and others to disarm? In addition to attempting to break up acts of solidarity between a growing and increasingly vocal set of minority populations in the United States and the Palestinians, those who are making the claim that “this is not a civil rights issue” are trying to cut away the core of theBoycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, which declares its rootedness in human rights and sees its cause as anti-racist: “Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.” Seeing how BDS has from its inception been influenced by struggles for Black liberation introduces a much needed historical depth to this topic and allows us to see that calls for solidarity are not merely the upshot of contemporary political fashions.

The conjunction of Black activist, Jewish and Palestinian struggle has a long and critical history, as documented thoroughly in Keith Feldman’s essential book, A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America. Feldman notes that between roughly 1960 and 1985: “Struggles over hegemony in the United States became entangled with transformed relations of rule in Israel and Palestine, that is, when US civil rights and antiwar struggles, Zionist settler colonization and Israeli military and administrative occupation, and Palestinian narratives of dispossession, dispersion, and resistance were forged, felt, and thought together.”

As we follow the developments of these debates over the flexibility, or rigidity of language and consequently solidarity, we should be mindful of this legacy.

A critical point of convergence is not just how these projects overlap conceptually, but also legally, in terms of international human rights discourse. Their common complaints are indeed legible in the language of human rights and thus, have a legitimate ground for world attention. The appeal to rights — civil, political and human — clearly links the Black and Palestinian causes today under the umbrella of international human rights, as found, for example, in the United Nations “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” which begins in Article 1: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Thus, the issue of Black and Palestinian rights are in fact firmly established within rights discourse.

Yet, when this issue of common rights and common appeals to rights is raised, critics of the notion that Black and Palestinian rights can be taken together, often insist on some notion of “equivalence.” When they do so, critics of this form of solidarity miss how concepts like apartheid are not meant to apply only when there is perfect equivalence between each supposed case of apartheid but when two cases share common features that are parts of the declared definition of apartheid. For example, in its criticism of the platform, J Street writes: “The characterization of Israel as an “apartheid state” is also misleading and unhelpful. The best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the occupation is to address the unique and specific circumstances and conditions underlying them, without insistence on fitting them within the ill-fitting framework of a different conflict from a different time and place.”

What J Street wishes to do is to dismiss out of hand a “framework” that sets up the definition of apartheid in the first place. Once one does that, the term itself disappears. The Movement for Black Lives and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement instead insist that looking at the definition of “apartheid” one finds it an appropriate label for both what went on during apartheid in South Africa and what is going on now in Palestine. In short, the frame is not “ill-fitting” at all. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court states clearly: “The crime of apartheid means inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

The issue is not to argue whether or not racist and exclusionary practices in US or Israel-Palestine are exactly the same in all ways as those found in apartheid South Africa — it is whether or not in those countries we find “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups,” and there clearly is a case to be made that we do. But J Street and others wish to preemptively take that word off the table altogether, and by so doing remove a powerful and legitimate critique based again on rights and international law.

The issue becomes more complex and more heated when the term “genocide” is used. In its statement on the Movement for Black Lives, T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights declared:

While we agree with many of the policy recommendations, we are extremely dismayed at the decision to refer to the Israeli occupation as genocide. We are committed to ending the occupation, which leads to daily human rights violations against Palestinians, and also compromises the safety of Israelis….

However, the military occupation does not rise to the level of genocide — a term defined as “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” While we agree that the occupation violates the human rights of Palestinians, and has caused too many deaths, the Israeli government is not carrying out a plan intended to wipe out the Palestinians.

In response, Rabbi Brant Rosen notes:

The claim that Israel is committing “genocide” against the Palestinians undeniably pushes all kinds of buttons for many Jews. But there are also Jews and Israelis who feel it is not an inappropriate word to use, particularly in regard to Israel’s regular military assaults against Gaza. Likewise, while the BDS call is extraordinarily controversial for many Jews, there are also Jews who respect it as a legitimate call for nonviolent resistance from over 150 Palestinian civil society organizations. And it is simply not true to claim, as T’ruah does, that “the BDS movement (rejects) Israel’s right to exist.” On the contrary, the goal of the BDS call is equal rights for Palestinians as well as Jews.

Rosen said he also wonders why T’ruah did not engage the Movement for Black Lives in discussion: “If they were to be true to their own articulated values, T’ruah should have reached out to them, engaged with them and tried to understand where they were coming from, thus opening a real dialogue.” However, according to Rachel Gilmer, the Black activist cited above who wrote this portion of the Movement for Black Lives platform:, “Using the word genocide wasn’t a haphazard piece of work…. It was a yearlong process of bringing together 60 organizations about our vision for the world as black people. We’ve been in community with Jewish Voice for Peace, If Not Now and individual Jewish people who are against the occupation.”

The issue of nomenclature is thus key to this discussion — it may, in fact, not be a matter of legal definition so much as worldview and the capacity to forge solidarity based on the latter.

Finally, in its reference to “false equivalencies,” the JCRC distorts the entire nature of the political work at hand. In fact, as the Dream Defenders’ “Statement on the Condemnation of M4BL Platform by Some Pro-Israel Groups” asserts:

…the basic understanding that the state violence we experience is directly tied to the violence facing Black and Brown communities in Palestine and around the world. While our struggles are not identical, we recognize that we are up against the same systems…. The Dream Defenders remain committed to a world in which ALL people are free. As Black people fighting for our freedom, we are not thugs and our Palestinian brothers and sisters are not terrorists. For the children who are met with tear gas and rubber bullets as they walk home from school, for the families of those we have lost to police violence, for the communities devastated by economic violence and apartheid walls, we fight. To all those who believe in a world in which all people are free, join us. For those who no longer stand with Black people because of this belief, goodbye. We do not need nor want you in our movement.

In response to the Movement for Black Lives policy platform, the BDS movementdeclared, “We pledge to firmly and consistently stand in solidarity with our black sisters and brothers in the United States and around the world by supporting the demands and policy proposals in this platform,” adding that “the BDS movement is deeply inspired by the US Civil Rights Movement and the many struggles by Blacks and other people of color for racial and economic justice.”

One cannot place too much emphasis on this fact: Solidarity is not based on identity or any demand that each struggle have exactly the same root and set of goals. It is not premised on exact equivalences and historical sameness. How could anything be premised on that without being solipsistic, and entirely self-interested?

What we are witnessing, with the release of this brilliant and inspiring document, is a recognition of the need to form lines of solidarity.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA0 Comments

US War Crimes or “Normalized Deviance”

NOVANEWS

Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt

Sociologist Diane Vaughan coined the term “normalization of deviance as she was investigating the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986. She used it to describe how the social culture at NASA fostered a disregard for rigorous, physics-based safety standards, effectively creating new, lower de facto standards that came to govern actual NASA operations and led to catastrophic and deadly failures.

Vaughan published her findings in her prize-winning book, The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture and Deviance at NASA, which, in her words, “shows how mistake, mishap, and disaster are socially organized and systematically produced by social structures” and “shifts our attention from individual causal explanations to the structure of power and the power of structure and culture — factors that are difficult to identify and untangle yet have great impact on decision making in organizations.”

When the same pattern of organizational culture and behavior at NASA persisted until the loss of a second shuttle in 2003, Diane Vaughan was appointed to NASA’s accident investigation board, which belatedly embraced her conclusion that the “normalization of deviance” was a critical factor in these catastrophic failures.

The normalization of deviance has since been cited in a wide range of corporate crimes and institutional failures, from Volkswagen’s rigging of emissions tests to deadly medical mistakes in hospitals. In fact, the normalization of deviance is an ever-present danger in most of the complex institutions that govern the world we live in today, not least in the bureaucracy that formulates and conducts US foreign policy.

The normalization of deviance from the rules and standards that formally govern US foreign policy has been quite radical. And yet, as in other cases, this has gradually been accepted as a normal state of affairs, first within the corridors of power, then by the corporate media and eventually by much of the public at large.

Once deviance has been culturally normalized, as Vaughan found in the shuttle program at NASA, there is no longer any effective check on actions that deviate radically from formal or established standards — in the case of US foreign policy, that would refer to the rules and customs of international law, the checks and balances of our constitutional political system and the experience and evolving practice of generations of statesmen and diplomats.

Normalizing the Abnormal

It is in the nature of complex institutions infected by the normalization of deviance that insiders are incentivized to downplay potential problems and to avoid precipitating a reassessment based on previously established standards. Once rules have been breached, decision-makers face a cognitive and ethical conundrum whenever the same issue arises again: they can no longer admit that an action will violate responsible standards without admitting that they have already violated them in the past.

This is not just a matter of avoiding public embarrassment and political or criminal accountability, but a real instance of collective cognitive dissonance among people who have genuinely, although often self-servingly, embraced a deviant culture. Diane Vaughan has compared the normalization of deviance to an elastic waistband that keeps on stretching.

Within the high priesthood that now manages US foreign policy, advancement and success are based on conformity with this elastic culture of normalized deviance. Whistle-blowers are punished or even prosecuted, and people who question the prevailing deviant culture are routinely and efficiently marginalized, not promoted to decision-making positions.

For example, once US officials had accepted the Orwellian “doublethink” that “targeted killings,” or “manhunts” as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called them, do not violate long-standing prohibitions against assassination, even a new administration could not walk that decision back without forcing a deviant culture to confront the wrong-headedness and illegality of its original decision.

Then, once the Obama administration had massively escalated the CIA’s drone program as an alternative to kidnapping and indefinite detention at Guantanamo, it became even harder to acknowledge that this is a policy of cold-blooded murder that provokes widespread anger and hostility and is counter-productive to legitimate counterterrorism goals — or to admit that it violates the UN Charter’s prohibition on the use of force, as UN special rapporteurs on extrajudicial killings have warned.

Underlying such decisions is the role of US government lawyers who provide legal cover for them, but who are themselves shielded from accountability by US non-recognition of international courts and the extraordinary deference of US courts to the Executive Branch on matters of “national security.” These lawyers enjoy a privilege that is unique in their profession, issuing legal opinions that they will never have to defend before impartial courts to provide legal fig-leaves for war crimes.

The deviant US foreign policy bureaucracy has branded the formal rules that are supposed to govern our country’s international behavior as “obsolete” and “quaint”, as a White House lawyer wrote in 2004. And yet these are the very rules that past US leaders deemed so vital that they enshrined them in constitutionally binding international treaties and US law.

Let’s take a brief look at how the normalization of deviance undermines two of the most critical standards that formally define and legitimize US foreign policy: the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions.

The United Nations Charter

In 1945, after two world wars killed 100 million people and left much of the world in ruins, the world’s governments were shocked into a moment of sanity in which they agreed to settle future international disputes peacefully. The UN Charter therefore prohibits the threat or use of force in international relations.

As President Franklin Roosevelt told a joint session of Congress on his return from the Yalta conference, this new “permanent structure of peace … should spell the end of the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balance of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries — and have always failed.”

The UN Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of force codifies the long-standing prohibition of aggression in English common law and customary international law, and reinforces the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy in the 1928 Kellogg Briand Pact. The judges at Nuremberg ruled that, even before the UN Charter came into effect, aggression was already the “supreme international crime.”

No US leader has proposed abolishing or amending the UN Charter to permit aggression by the US or any other country. And yet the US is currently conducting ground operations, air strikes or drone strikes in at least seven countries: Afghanistan; Pakistan; Iraq; Syria; Yemen; Somalia; and Libya. US “special operations forces” conduct secret operations in a hundred more. US leaders still openly threaten Iran, despite a diplomatic breakthrough that was supposed to peacefully settle bilateral differences.

President-in-waiting Hillary Clinton still believes in backing US demands on other countries with illegal threats of force, even though every threat she has backed in the past has only served to create a pretext for war, from Yugoslavia to Iraq to Libya. But the UN Charter prohibits the threat as well as the use of force precisely because the one so regularly leads to the other.

The only justifications for the use of force permitted under the UN Charter are proportionate and necessary self-defense or an emergency request by the UN Security Council for military action “to restore peace and security.” But no other country has attacked the United States, nor has the Security Council asked the US to bomb or invade any of the countries where we are now at war.

The wars we have launched since 2001 have killed about 2 million people, of whom nearly all were completely innocent of involvement in the crimes of 9/11. Instead of “restoring peace and security,” US wars have only plunged country after country into unending violence and chaos.

Like the specifications ignored by the engineers at NASA, the UN Charter is still in force, in black and white, for anyone in the world to read. But the normalization of deviance has replaced its nominally binding rules with looser, vaguer ones that the world’s governments and people have neither debated, negotiated nor agreed to.

In this case, the formal rules being ignored are the ones that were designed to provide a viable framework for the survival of human civilization in the face of the existential threat of modern weapons and warfare — surely the last rules on Earth that should have been quietly swept under a rug in the State Department basement.

The Geneva Conventions

Courts martial and investigations by officials and human rights groups have exposed “rules of engagement” issued to US forces that flagrantly violate the Geneva Conventions and the protections they provide to wounded combatants, prisoners of war and civilians in war-torn countries:

The Command’s Responsibility report by Human Rights First examined 98 deaths in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. It revealed a deviant culture in which senior officials abused their authority to block investigations and guarantee their own impunity for murders and torture deaths that US law defines as capital crimes.

Although torture was authorized from the very top of the chain of command, the most senior officer charged with a crime was a Major and the harshest sentence handed down was a five-month prison sentence.

US rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan have included: systematic, theater-wide use of torture; orders to “dead-check” or kill wounded enemy combatants; orders to “kill all military-age males” during certain operations; and “weapons-free” zones that mirror Vietnam-era “free-fire” zones.

A US Marine corporal told a court martial that “Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency”, nullifying the critical distinction between combatants and civilians that is the very basis of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

When junior officers or enlisted troops have been charged with war crimes, they have been exonerated or given light sentences because courts have found that they were acting on orders from more senior officers. But the senior officers implicated in these crimes have been allowed to testify in secret or not to appear in court at all, and no senior officer has been convicted of a war crime.

For the past year, US forces bombing Iraq and Syria have operated under loosened rules of engagement that allow the in-theater commander General McFarland to approve bomb- and missile-strikes that are expected to kill up to 10 civilians each.

But Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network has documented that US rules of engagement already permit routine targeting of civilians based only on cell-phone records or “guilt by proximity” to other people targeted for assassination. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has determined that only 4 percent of thousands of drone victims in Pakistan have been positively identified as Al Qaeda members, the nominal targets of the CIA’s drone campaign.

Amnesty International’s 2014 report Left In The Dark documented a complete lack of accountability for the killing of civilians by US forces in Afghanistan since President Obama’s escalation of the war in 2009 unleashed thousands more air strikes and special forces night raids.

Nobody was charged over the Ghazi Khan raid in Kunar province on Dec. 26, 2009, in which US special forces summarily executed at least seven children, including four who were only 11 or 12 years old.

More recently, US forces attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, killing 42 doctors, staff and patients, but this flagrant violation of Article 18 of the Fourth Geneva Convention did not lead to criminal charges either.

Although the US government would not dare to formally renounce the Geneva Conventions, the normalization of deviance has effectively replaced them with elastic standards of behavior and accountability whose main purpose is to shield senior US military officers and civilian officials from accountability for war crimes.

The Cold War and Its Aftermath

The normalization of deviance in US foreign policy is a byproduct of the disproportionate economic, diplomatic and military power of the United States since 1945. No other country could have got away with such flagrant and systematic violations of international law.

But in the early days of the Cold War, America’s World War II leaders rejected calls to exploit their new-found power and temporary monopoly on nuclear weapons to unleash an aggressive war against the USS.R.

General Dwight Eisenhower gave a speech in St. Louis in 1947 in which he warned, “Those who measure security solely in terms of offensive capacity distort its meaning and mislead those who pay them heed. No modern nation has ever equaled the crushing offensive power attained by the German war machine in 1939. No modern nation was broken and smashed as was Germany six years later.”

But, as Eisenhower later warned, the Cold War soon gave rise to a “military-industrial complex” that may be the case par excellence of a highly complex tangle of institutions whose social culture is supremely prone to the normalization of deviance. Privately, Eisenhower lamented, “God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.”

That describes everyone who has sat in that chair and tried to manage the US military-industrial complex since 1961, involving critical decisions on war and peace and an ever-growing military budget. Advising the President on these matters are the Vice President, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, several generals and admirals and the chairs of powerful Congressional committees. Nearly all these officials’ careers represent some version of the “revolving door” between the military and “intelligence” bureaucracy, the executive and legislative branches of government, and top jobs with military contractors and lobbying firms.

Each of the close advisers who have the President’s ear on these most critical issues is in turn advised by others who are just as deeply embedded in the military-industrial complex, from think-tanks funded by weapons manufacturers to Members of Congress with military bases or missile plants in their districts to journalists and commentators who market fear, war and militarism to the public.

With the rise of sanctions and financial warfare as a tool of US power, Wall Street and the Treasury and Commerce Departments are also increasingly entangled in this web of military-industrial interests.

The incentives driving the creeping, gradual normalization of deviance throughout the ever-growing US military-industrial complex have been powerful and mutually reinforcing for over 70 years, exactly as Eisenhower warned.

Richard Barnet explored the deviant culture of Vietnam-era US war leaders in his 1972 book Roots Of War. But there are particular reasons why the normalization of deviance in US foreign policy has become even more dangerous since the end of the Cold War.

In the aftermath of World War II, the US and UK installed allied governments in Western and Southern Europe, restored Western colonies in Asia and militarily occupied South Korea. The divisions of Korea and Vietnam into north and south were justified as temporary, but the governments in the south were US creations imposed to prevent reunification under governments allied with the USSR or China. US wars in Korea and Vietnam were then justified, legally and politically, as military assistance to allied governments fighting wars of self-defense.

The US role in anti-democratic coups in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Brazil, Indonesia, Ghana, Chile and other countries was veiled behind thick layers of secrecy and propaganda. A veneer of legitimacy was still considered vital to US policy, even as a culture of deviance was being normalized and institutionalized beneath the surface.

The Reagan Years

It was not until the 1980s that the US ran seriously afoul of the post-1945 international legal framework it had helped to build. When the US set out to destroy the revolutionary Sandinista government of Nicaragua by mining its harbors and dispatching a mercenary army to terrorize its people, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) convicted the US of aggression and ordered it to pay war reparations.

The US response revealed how far the normalization of deviance had already taken hold of its foreign policy. Instead of accepting and complying with the court’s ruling, the US announced its withdrawal from the binding jurisdiction of the ICJ.

When Nicaragua asked the UN Security Council to enforce the payment of reparations ordered by the court, the US abused its position as a Permanent Member of the Security Council to veto the resolution. Since the 1980s, the US has vetoed twice as many Security Council resolutions as the other Permanent Members combined, and the UN General Assembly passed resolutions condemning the US invasions of Grenada (by 108 to 9) and Panama (by 75 to 20), calling the latter “a flagrant violation of international law.”

President George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher obtained UN authorization for the First Gulf War and resisted calls to launch a war of regime change against Iraq in violation of their UN mandate. Their forces massacred Iraqi forces fleeing Kuwait, and a UN report described how the “near apocalyptic” US-led bombardment of Iraq reduced what “had been until January a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society” to “a pre-industrial age nation.”

But new voices began to ask why the US should not exploit its unchallenged post-Cold War military superiority to use force with even less restraint. During the Bush-Clinton transition, Madeleine Albright confronted General Colin Powell over his “Powell doctrine” of limited war, protesting, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Public hopes for a “peace dividend” were ultimately trumped by a “power dividend”sought by military-industrial interests. The neoconservatives of the Project for the New American Century led the push for war on Iraq, while “humanitarian interventionists” now use the “soft power” of propaganda to selectively identify and demonize targets for US-led regime change and then justify war under the “responsibility to protect” or other pretexts. US allies (NATO, Israel, the Arab monarchies et al) are exempt from such campaigns, safe within what Amnesty International has labeled an “accountability-free zone.”

Madeleine Albright and her colleagues branded Slobodan Milosevic a “new Hitler” for trying to hold Yugoslavia together, even as they ratcheted up their own genocidal sanctions against Iraq. Ten years after Milosevic died in prison at the Hague, he was posthumously exonerated by an international court.

In 1999, when UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Secretary of State Albright the British government was having trouble “with its lawyers” over NATO plans to attack Yugoslavia without UN authorization, Albright told him he should “get new lawyers.”

By the time mass murder struck New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the normalization of deviance was so firmly rooted in the corridors of power that voices of peace and reason were utterly marginalized.

Former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz told NPR eight days later, “It is never a legitimate response to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done. … We must make a distinction between punishing the guilty and punishing others. If you simply retaliate en masse by bombing Afghanistan, let us say, or the Taliban, you will kill many people who don’t approve of what has happened.”

But from the day of the crime, the war machine was in motion, targeting Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

The normalization of deviance that promoted war and marginalized reason at that moment of national crisis was not limited to Dick Cheney and his torture-happy acolytes, and so the global war they unleashed in 2001 is still spinning out of control.

When President Obama was elected in 2008 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, few people understood how many of the people and interests shaping his policies were the same people and interests who had shaped President George W. Bush’s, nor how deeply they were all steeped in the same deviant culture that had unleashed war, systematic war crimes and intractable violence and chaos upon the world.

A Toxic Culture

Until the American public, our political representatives and our neighbors around the world can come to grips with the normalization of deviance that is corrupting the conduct of US foreign policy, the existential threats of nuclear war and escalating conventional war will persist and spread.

This deviant culture is toxic in its disregard for the value of human life and for the survival of human life on Earth. The only thing “normal” about it is that it pervades the powerful, entangled institutions that control US foreign policy, rendering them impervious to reason, public accountability or even catastrophic failure.

The normalization of deviance in US foreign policy is driving a self-fulfilling reduction of our miraculous multicultural world to a “battlefield” or testing-ground for the latest US weapons and geopolitical strategies. There is not yet any countervailing movement powerful or united enough to restore reason, humanity or the rule of law, domestically or internationally, although new political movements in many countries offer viable alternatives to the path we are on.

As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warned when it advanced the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 3 minutes to midnight in 2015, we are living at one of the most dangerous times in human history. The normalization of deviance in US foreign policy lies at the very heart of our predicament.

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Washington Hawks Prey On Syrian Killing Fields

NOVANEWS

Official Washington loves to show heartbreaking images of wounded Syrian children with the implicit message that it’s time to invade Syria and impose “regime change” (rather than commit to peace talks), a dilemma addressed by Michael Brenner.

By Michael Brenner

The Syrian imbroglio is the most complex politico-military conflict of modern times. In terms of number of players, diversity of interests and purposes, intermingling of sectarian and secular ideologies, multiple connections with external parties, and harlequin patterned battlefield, the field of action is unique. Only the Spanish Civil War exhibited a similar mix of elements, although it was simplicity itself by comparison to Syria.

A unique, complicating feature of the Syrian conflict is that the behavior of various leaders appears to follow no discernible logic. Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Crown Prince Mohammed al-Salman of Saudi Arabia, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey are not just dogmatic autocrats; their actions are dictated more by emotion than reason.

Syrian women and children refugees at Budapest railway station. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Syrian women and children refugees at Budapest railway station. (Photo from Wikipedia)

As for the United States, the Obama administration flails about with no evident strategy in a vain effort to square circles. That places it in the untenable position of allying with Al Qaeda to unseat the Assad regime and, above all, to thwart Russia.

Hence, we provide diplomatic cover, weapons indirectly via the CIA “rat line” to its subordinate partners, and tacit approval of overt Turkish and Saudi material support for the jihadis which includes sophisticated anti-armor TOWs and Man-Pads (portable anti-aircraft weapons) originating in the United States. No one in official Washington feels obliged to answer the most elementary questions about the probity of such a policy. Indeed, almost no one poses it.

If one were to reach for a metaphor to depict this singular state of affairs, one might imagine a six-team match of all-in rugby played in a crowded shopping mall without rules or umpires or time limit.  Tactical alliances are as fluid as are the side deals made by riders in the notorious Palio in Siena.

The core…

Read more

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NED, the Legal Window of the CIA

NOVANEWS

For 30 years, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has been sub-contracting the legal part of illegal CIA operations. Without rousing suspicions, it has put in place the biggest network of corruption in the world, bribing trade unions and management syndicates , political parties both on both the Right and Left so that they defend the interests of the United States instead of their members. In this article, Thierry Meyssan describes the extent of this system.

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In 2006, Kremlin denounced the proliferation of foreign associations in Russia, some of which would have participated in a secret plan, orchestrated by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to destabilise the country. To prevent a “colour revolution”, Vladislav Surkov drew up strict regulation over these non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In the West, this administrative framework was described as a “fresh assault on freedom of association by Putin the “Dictator” and his adviser”.

This policy has been followed by other States who in their turn, have been labelled by the international press as “dictators”.

The US government guarantees that it is working towards “promoting democracy all over the world”. It claims that the US Congress can subsidize NED and that NED can, in turn and wholly independently, help directly or indirectly, associations, political parties or trade unions, working in this sense anywhere in the world. The NGOs being, as their name suggests, “non-governmental” can take political initiatives that ambassadors could not assume without violating the sovereignty of the States that receive them. The crux of the matter lies here: NED and the network of NGOs that it finances: are they initiatives of civil society unjustly repressed by the Kremlin or covers of the US Secret Services caught red-handed in interference?

In order to respond to this question, we are going to return to the origins and function of NED. But our first step must be to analyze the meaning of this official US project: “exporting democracy”.

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The puritans that founded the United States wanted to create a “radiant city” whose light would illuminate the whole world. They considered themselves the missionaries of a political model.

What Democracy?

The US, as a people, subscribes to the ideology of their founding fathers. They think of themselves as a colony that has come from Europe to establish a city obeying God. They see their country as “a light on the mountain” in the words of Saint Mathew, adopted for two centuries by most of their presidents in their political speeches. The US would be a model nation, shining on top of a hill, illuminating the entire world. And all other people in the world would hope to emulate this model to reach their well-being.

For the people of United States, this very naïve belief implies without more that their country is an exemplary democracy and that they have a messianic duty to superimpose it on the rest of the world. While Saint Mathew envisaged propagating faith exclusively through the example of a righteous life, the founding fathers of the United States thought of illumination and propagating their faith in terms of regime change. The English puritans beheaded Charles I before fleeing to the Netherlands and the Americas, then the patriots of the New World rejected the authority of King George III of England, proclaiming the independence of the United States.

Impregnated by this national mythology, the people of the United States do not perceive their government’s foreign policy as a form of imperialism. In their eyes, it is all the more legitimate to topple a government that has the ambition to take the form of a model which is different from theirs and thus evil. In the same way, they are persuaded that due to the messianic mission that has been thrust upon them, they have arrived to impose democracy by force in the countries that they have occupied. For example, at school they learn that GIs brought democracy to Germany. They do not know that history indicates quite the opposite: their government helped Hitler to topple the Republic of Weimar and set up a military regime to fight the Soviets. This irrational ideology prevents them from challenging the nature of their institutions and the absurd concept of a “forced democracy”.

Now, according to President Abraham Lincoln’s formula, “democracy is the government of the people, by the people for the people”.

From this point of view, the United States is not a democracy but a hybrid system where executive power is returned to the oligarchy, while the people limit its arbitrary exercise through legislative and judicial powers that can check it. Indeed, while the people elect Congress and some judges, it is the states of the federation that elect executive power and the latter appoints the high judges. Although citizens have been called to determine their choice of president, their vote on this matter only operates as a ratification, as the Supreme Court pointed out in 2000, in Gore v. Bush. The US Constitution does not recognize that the people are sovereign, because power is divided between them and a federation of states, in other words, between the leaders of the community.

As an aside, we observe that in contrast, the Russian Federation’s Constitution is democratic – on paper at least. It declares: “the holder of sovereignty and the sole source of power in the Russian Federation is its multinational people.” (Title I, Ch. 1, art.3).

This intellectual context explains that the US supports its government when it announces that it wants “to export democracy”, even if, its own constitution signals that it is not one. But it is difficult to see how it could export something it does not possess and does not wish to have at home.

For the last thirty years, this contradiction has been supported by NED and given specific form through destabilizing a number of States. With a smile that a clean conscience blesses upon them, thousands of activists and gullible NGOs have violated the people’s sovereignty.

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A Pluralist and Independent Foundation

In his famous speech on 8 June 1982 before the British Parliament, President Reagan denounces the USSR as “the empire of evil” and proposes to come to the aid of dissidents over there and elsewhere. He declared: “We need to create the necessary infrastructure for democracy: freedom of the press, trade unions, political parties and universities. This will allow people the freedom to choose the best path for them to develop their culture and to resolve their disputes peacefully”. On this consensual basis of the struggle against tyranny, a commission of bipartisan reflection sponsored the establishment of NED at Washington. This was established by Congress in November 1983 and immediately financed.

The Foundation subsidizes four independent structures that redistribute money abroad, making it available to associations, trade unions and members of the ruling class, and parties on the right and left. They are:

- Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI), today renamed American Centre for International Labour Solidarity (ACILS), managed by the trade union AFL-CIO;
- Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), managed by the US Chamber of Commerce;
- International Republican Institute (IRI), run by the Republican Party;
- National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), run by the Democratic Party.

Presented in this manner, NED and its four tentacles appear to be anchored in civil society, reflecting social diversity and political pluralism. Funded by the US people, through Congress, they would have worked to a universal ideal. They would be completely independent of the Presidential Administration. And their transparent action could not be a mask for secret operations serving undeclared national interests.

The reality is completely different.

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In 1982, Ronald Reagan established NED in partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia to topple the “Empire of Evil”.

A Drama produced by the CIA, MI6 and ASIS

Ronald Reagan’s speech in London took place in the aftermath of scandals surrounding revelations by Congressional Committees enquiring into the CIA’s dirty-trick coups. Congress then forbids the Agency to organize further coups d’etat to win markets. Meanwhile, in the White House, the National Security Council (NSC) looks to put in place other tools to circumvent this prohibition.

The Commission of Bipartisan Reflection was established prior to Ronald Reagan’s speech, although it only officially received a mandate from the White House afterwards. This means it is not responding to grandiloquent presidential ambitions but precedes them. Therefore, Reagan’s speech is only rhetorical dressing of decisions already taken in principle, and meant to be implemented by the Bipartisan Commission.

The Chair of the Bipartisan Commission was the US Special Representative for Trade, who indicates that she did not envisage promoting democracy but, according to current terminology, “market democracy”. This strange concept is in keeping with the US model: an economic and financial oligarchy imposes its political choices through the markets and a federal state, while parliamentarians and judges elected by the people protect individuals from arbitrary government.

Three of NED’s four peripheral organizations were formed for the occasion. However, there was no need to establish the fourth, a trade union (ACILS). This was set up at the end of the Second World War even though it changed its name in 1978 when its subordination to the CIA was unmasked. From this we can extract the conclusion that the CIPE, IRI and NDI were not born spontaneously but were engineered into being by the CIA.

Furthermore, although NED is an association under US law, it is not a tool of the CIA alone, but an instrument shared with British services (which is why Reagan announced its creation in London) and the Australian services. This key point is often glossed over without comment. However, it is validated by messages of congratulations by Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Howard during the 20th anniversary of the so-called “NGO”. NED and its tentacles are organs of an Anglo-Saxon military pact linking London, Washington and Canberra; the same goes for Echelon, the electronic interception network. This provision can be required not only by the CIA but also by the British MI6 and the Australian ASIS.

To conceal this reality, NED has stimulated among its allies the creation of similar organizations that work with it. In 1988, Canada is fitted out with a centre Droits & Démocratie, which has a special focus first on Haiti, then Afghanistan. In 1991, the United Kingdom established the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD). The functioning of this public body is modelled on NED: its administration is entrusted to political parties (eight delegates: three for the Conservative Party; three for the Labour Party; and one for the Liberal Party and one for the other parties represented in Parliament). WFD has done a lot of work in Eastern Europe. Indeed in 2001, the European Union is equipped with a European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), which arouses less suspicion than its counterparts. This office is EuropAid, led by a high official as powerful as he is unknown: the Dutchman, Jacobus Richelle.

Presidential Directive 77

When US parliamentarians voted for the establishment of NED on 22 November 1983, they did not know that it already existed in secret pursuant to a Presidential Directive dated 14 January.

This document, only declassified two decades later, organizes “public diplomacy” a politically correct expression to designate propaganda. It establishes at the White House working groups within the National Security Council. One of these is tasked with leading NED.

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Henry Kissinger, administrator of the NED. A “representative of civil society”?

Consequently, the Board of Directors of the Foundation is only a transmission belt of the NSC. To maintain appearances, it has been agreed that, as a general rule, CIA agents and former agents could not be appointed to the board of directors.

Things are nonetheless no more transparent. Most high officials that have played a central role in the National Security Council have been NED directors. Such are the examples of Henry Kissinger, Franck Carlucci, Zbigniew Brzezinski, or even Paul Wolfowitz; personalities that will not remain in history as idealists of democracy, but as cynical strategists of violence.

The Foundation’s budget cannot be interpreted in isolation because it receives instructions from the NSC to lead action as part of vast inter-agency operations. It merits mention that funds are released from the International Aid Agency (USAID), without being recorded in NED’s balance sheet, simply for “non-governmentalizing”. Furthermore, the Foundation receives money indirectly money the CIA, after it has been laundered by private intermediaries such as the Smith Richardson Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation or even the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

To evaluate the extent of this programme, we would need to combine the NED’s budget with the corresponding sub-budgets of the Department of State, USAID, the CIA and the Department of Defense. Today, such an estimation is impossible.

Nonetheless, certain elements we know give us an idea of its importance. During the last five years, the United States has spent more than one billion dollars on associations and parties in Libya, a small state of 4 million inhabitants. Overall, half of this manna was released publicly by the State Department, USAID and NED; the other half had been secretly paid by the CIA and the Department of Defence. This example allows us to extrapolate the US’s general budget for institutional corruption that amounts to tens of billions of dollars annually. Furthermore, the equivalent programme of the European Union that is entirely public and provides for the integration of US actions, is 7 billion euro per year.

Ultimately, NED’s legal structure and volume of its official budget are only baits. In essence, it is not an independent organization for legal actions previously entrusted to the CIA, but it is a window through which the NSC gives the orders to carry out legal elements of illegal operations.

The Trotskyite Strategy

When it was being set up (1984), NED was chaired by Allen Weinstein, then by John Richardson for four years (1984-88), finally by Carl Gershman (from 1998).

These three men have three things in common:
- They are Jewish;
- They were active in the Trotsky party, Social Democrats USA; and
- They have worked at Freedom House.

There is a logic in this: hatred of Stalinism led some Trotskyites to join the CIA to fight the Soviets. They brought with them the theory of global power, by transposing it to the “colour revolutions” and to “democratisation”. They have simply displaced the Trotsky vulgate by applying it to the cultural battle analysed by Antonio Gramsci: power is exercised psychologically rather than by force. To govern the masses, the elite has to first inculcate an ideology that programmes their acceptance of the power that dominates it.

The American Centre for the Solidarity of Workers (ACILS)

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Known also as Solidarity Centre, ACILS, a trade union branch of NED, is easily its principal channel. It distributes more than half the Foundation’s donations. It has replaced the previous organizations that served during the Cold War to organize non-communist trade unions in the world, from Vietnam to Angola, by-passing France and Chile.

The fact trade unions were chosen to cover this CIA programme is a rare perversity. Far from the Marxist slogan, “Proletariats from all countries – unite”, ACILS brings together US working class trade unions in an imperialism that crushes workers in other countries.

This subsidiary was led by Irving Brown, a flamboyant personality, from 1948 until his death in 1989.

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In 1981, Irving Brown places Jean-Claude Mailly as an assistant to André Bergeron, the Secretary General of the Force Ouvrière (FO). The latter will acknowledge financing its activities thanks to the CIA. In 2004, Mailly becomes the Secretary General of the FO.

Some authors swear that Brown was the son of a white Russian, a companion of Alexander Kerensky. What we know for sure, is that he was an OSS agent, (i.e. an agent of the US intelligence service during the Second World War); and he participated in establishing the CIA and NATO’s Gladio network. However, he refused to lead it, preferring to focus on his area of expertise, trade unions. He was based at Rome, then Paris and never at Washington. So he had a significant impact on Italian and French public life. At the end of his life, he also boasts that he did not stop directing the French trade union, Force Ouvrière behind the scenes, and that he pulled the strings of the Student trade union UNI (where the following are active: Nicolas Sarkozy and his ministers François Fillon, Xavier Darcos, Hervé Morin and Michèle Alliot-Marie, as well as the President of the National Assembly, Bernard Accoyer and the President of the majoritarian parliamentary group, Jean-François Copé), and to have personally formed on the left, members of a Trotsky-ite break away group which included Jean-Christophe Cambadelis and the future Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

At the end of the nineties, members of the confederation AFL-CIO requested accounts of ACILS’s actual activity, while its criminal character had been fully documented in a number of countries. One could have thought that things would have changed after this great outpouring. Nothing of the sort occurs. In 2002 and 2004, ACILS has participated actively in a failed coup d’Etat in Venezuela to oust President Hugo Chavez and in a successful one in Haiti in toppling Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Today, ACILS is directed by John Sweeney, the former president of the confederation AFL-CIO, which itself also originates from the Trotskyite Party – Social Democrats USA.

The Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)

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CIPE focuses on the dissemination of liberal capitalist ideology and the struggle against corruption.

The first success of CIPE: transforming in 1987 the European Management Forum (a club of CEOs of big European companies) into the World Economic Forum (the club of transnational ruling class). The big annual meeting of the world’s economic and political who’s who in the Davos Swiss ski resort contributed to creating a class membership that transcended national identity. CIPE makes sure that it does not have any structural ties with the Davos Forum, and it is not possible – for the moment – to prove that the World Economic Forum is an instrument of the CIA. On the contrary, the heads of Davos would have much difficulty explaining why certain political leaders have chosen their Economic Forum as the locus for acts of the highest importance if there were not operations planned by the US NSC. For example:
- 1988: it is at Davos – not the UN – that Greece and Turkey made peace.
- 1989: it is at Davos that the two Koreas on the one hand held their first summit at the ministerial level and the two Germany’s on the other hand held their first summit on the reunification.
- 1992: it is again at Davos that Frederik de Klerk and the freed Nelson Mandela come together to present their common project for South Africa for the first time abroad.
- 1994: still more improbable, it is at Davos, after the Oslo Accord, that Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat come to negotiate and sign its application to Gaza and Jericho.

The connection between Washington and the Forum is notoriously through Susan K. Reardon, former director of the Association of Professional Employees of the Department of State, having become director of the Foundation of the US Chamber of Commerce which manages CIPE.

The other success of the Centre for International Private Business is Transparency International. This “NGO” was officially established by Michael J. Hershman, an officer of US military intelligence. He is furthermore, a CIPE director and today Head of Recruitment of FBI informants as well as Managing Director of the private intelligence service Fairfax Group.

Transparency International is first and foremost a cover for economic intelligence activities by the CIA. It is also a media tool to compel states to change their legislation to guarantee open markets.

To mask the origin of Transparency International, the CIPE makes and appeal to the savoir-faire of the former press officer of the World Bank, the neo-conservative Frank Vogl. The latter had put in place a Committee of individuals that have contributed to creating the impression that it is an association born of civil society. This window-dressing committee is led by Peter Eigen, former World Bank Director in East Africa. In 2004 and 2009, his wife was the SPD candidate for the Presidency of the German Federal Republic.

Transparency International’s work serves US interests and cannot be relied upon. Thus in 2008, this pseudo NGO denounced that PDVSA, Venezuela’s public oil company, was corrupt; and on the basis of false information, placed it last in its global rankings of public companies. The goal was evidently to sabotage the reputation of a company that constitutes the economic foundation of the anti – imperialist policy of President Hugo Chavez. Caught in the act of poisoning, Transparency International refused to respond to questions from the Latin American press and to correct its report. Furthermore, it is astonishing when we recall that Pedro Carmona, the CIPE correspondent at Venezuela, had been briefly put in power by the USA, during a failed coup d’Etat in 2002 to oust Hugo Chavez.

To some extent, focussing attention on economic corruption enables Transparency International to mask NED’s activities: corrupting the ruling elite for Anglo-Saxon advantage.

The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)

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The goal of IRI is to corrupt the parties of the Right, while the NDI deals with left wing parties. The first is chaired by John McCain, the second by Madeleine Albright. So these two personalities should not be considered ordinary politicians, a leader of the opposition and a retired dean. Rather, as active leaders of the NSC programmes.

To contextualize the principal political parties in the world, IRI and NDI have renounced their control over l’Internationale libérale and l’Internationale socialiste. They have thus created rival organizations: the International Democratic Union (IDU) and the Alliance for Democrats (AD). The first is chaired by the Australian, John Howard. The Russian, Leonid Gozman of Just cause (Правое дело) is its vice-president. The second is led by the Italian Gianni Vernetti and co-chaired by the Frenchman, François Bayrou.

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IRI and NDI are also supported also by political foundations linking them to big political parties in Europe (six in Germany, two in France, one in the Netherlands and another one in Sweden). Furthermore, some operations have been sub-contracted to mysterious private companies such as Democracy International Inc which has organized the recent rigged elections in Afghanistan.

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Tom McMahon: former vice head of Rahm Emanuel and currently head of NDI. He came to France to organise the primaries of the Socialist Party.

All this leaves a bitter taste. The US has corrupted most of the big political parties and trade unions all over the world. For sure, the “democracy” that they promote consists in discussing local questions in each country – hardly ever societal questions such as women’s rights or gay rights – and it is aligned with Washington on all international issues. The electoral campaigns have become shows where NED picks the cast by providing the necessary financial means to some and not to others. Even the notion of variation has lost meaning since NED promotes alternatively one camp or another provided it follows the same foreign and defense policy.

Today, in the European Union and elsewhere, one laments the crisis of democracy. Those responsible for this are clearly NED and the US. And how do we classify a regime such as the US regime where the Leader of the Opposition, John McCain, is in fact a leader of the National Security Council? Surely not as a democracy.

The Balance of the System

Over time, USAID, NED, their satellite institutions and their intermediary foundations have produced an unwieldy and greedy bureaucracy. Each year, when Congress votes on the NED’s budget, animated debates arise on the inefficiency of this tentacular system and rumours that funds have been appropriated to benefit US politicians in charge of administering them.

To achieve sound management, a number of studies have been commissioned to quantify the impact of these financial flows. Experts have compared the sums allocated in each state and the democratic ranking of these states by Freedom House. Then they calculated how much they needed to spend (in dollars) per inhabitant to improve the democratic ranking of a State by a point.

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Tomicah Tillemann, adviser to Hillary Clinton for civil society and emerging democracies, supervises NED’s apparatus in the State Department.

Of course, all this is only an attempt at self-justification. The idea of establishing a democratic mark is not scientific. In some ways, it is totalitarian, for it assumes that there is only one form of democratic institutions. In other ways, it is infantile for it established a list of disparate criteria which it will measure with fictional coefficients to transform a social complexity into a single figure.

Furthermore, the vast majority of these studies conclude that it is a failure: although the number of democracies in the world has increased, there would be no link between democratic progress and regression on the one hand and the sums spent by the NSC on the other. On the contrary, it confirms that the real objectives have nothing to do with those indicated. However, those running USAID cite a study by Vanderbilt University, according to which only the NED operations co-financed by USAID have been effective because USAID manages its budget rigorously. Thus it is not surprising that this individual study has been financed by …. USAID.

Be that as it may, in 2003, on its twentieth anniversary, NED drew up a political account of its action, evidencing that it has financed more than 6,000 political and social organizations in the world, a figure that has not stopped increasing from that time. NED claims to have single-handedly set up the trade union Solidarnoc in Poland, Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia and Otpor in Serbia. It was pleased that it had created from scratch Radio B92 or the daily Oslobodjenje in the former Yugoslavia and a series of new independent media in the “liberated” Iraq.

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In December 2011, Egyptian authorities search the offices of the NDI and IRI in Cairo. The documents that were seized are most important to understand US interference since the “nest of spies” was removed from Teheran in 1979. Charged with spying, the NED leaders are tried. Here: Robert Becker (Director of NDI, Cairo) at the opening of the trial. The documents prove that NED is wholly responsible for and manipulated the pseudo revolution that took place in Tahrir Square. This resulted in more than 4,000 deaths to hoist the Muslim Brotherhood to power.

Changing Cover

After experiencing global success, the rhetoric of democratization no longer convinces. By using it in all circumstances, President George W. Bush has depleted it of meaning. Noone can seriously claim that the subsidies paid by NED will make international terrorism go away. The claim that the US troops have toppled Saddam Hussein to offer democracy to Iraqis, cannot be asserted more persuasively.

Furthermore, citizens all over the world that fight for democracy have become distrustful. They now understand that the aid offered by NED and its tentacles is in fact aimed at manipulating and snaring their country. This is why they are increasingly refusing the contributions “with no strings or sticks attached” offered to them.

Also, US heads from different channels of corruption have tried to silence the system once again. After the CIA dirty tricks and the transparency of NED, they envisage creating a new structure that would replace a discredited package. It would not be managed by trade unions, management and the two big parties, but by multinationals on the model of the Asia Foundation.

In the eighties, the press revealed that this organization was a CIA cover to fight communism in Asia. It was then reformed and its management was entrusted to multinationals. (Boeing, Chevron, Coca-Cola, Levis Strauss etc…). This re-styling was enough to give the impression that it was non- governmental and respectable – a structure that never stopped serving the CIA. After the dissolution of Russia, it was replicated: the Eurasia Foundation, whose mandate extends covert action to the New Asian states.

Another issue that sparks debate is if the contributions for “promoting democracy” would have to take the exclusive form of contracts to carry out specific projects or subsidies with no duty to reach targets. The first option offers better legal cover but the second is a much more efficient tool of corruption.

Given this panorama, the requirement laid down by Vladimir Putin and Vladisl Surkov to regulate the funding of NGOs in Russia is legitimate even if the bureaucracy they have set up for doing so is outrageous and difficult to satisfy. The instrument of NED, put in place under the authority of the US NSC not only fails to support attempts at democracy all over the world but poisons them.

Translation
Anoosha Boralessa

Posted in USA0 Comments

US Hawks Advance a War Agenda in Syria

NOVANEWS

Exclusive: The U.S. government, having illegally sent American troops into Syria, is now threatening to attack the Syrian military if it endangers those troops, an Orwellian twist that marks a dangerous escalation, explains Daniel Lazare.

By Daniel Lazare

War, like politics, is filled with surprises. While the focus in Syria has been on a U.S.-backed rebel offensive in Aleppo that has succeeded in turning tables on Bashar al-Assad’s government, a new and unexpected flashpoint has developed 200-plus miles to the east where U.S. jets are engaged in a dangerous showdown with Syrian warplanes near the city of Hasakah.

The trouble began on Wednesday when, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Kurdish forces advanced on the pro-government National Defense Forces that controls portions of the city. When the NDF responded with arrests, the fighting took off.

President Barack Obama walks through the Rose Garden to the Oval Office following an all-appointees summer event on the South Lawn, June 13, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama walks through the Rose Garden to the Oval Office following an all-appointees summer event on the South Lawn, June 13, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This is not the first time that Kurdish and government forces have clashed in Hasakah, which is divided among Kurds, Arabs, Aramaic-speaking Assyrians, and a small number of Armenians. But what makes the latest confrontation so serious is that the U.S. quickly upped ante by scrambling two F-22 fighters to intercept a pair of Syrian Su-24s bombing Kurdish positions.

NBC News reported that the jets came within a mile of one another on Thursday and were in visual contact before the Syrian aircraft left the scene. U.S. jets chased away two more Su-24s the next day as well.

Noting that the Kurdish units are part of a U.S.-backed coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces and that U.S. Special Operations forces were in the area at the time, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis, a Navy captain, said that the U.S. was resolved to protect the safety of both.

“We view instances that place coalition personnel at risk with the utmost seriousness” he declared, “and we do have the inherent right of self-defense when U.S. forces are at risk.”

“As we’ve said in the past,” he added, “the Syrian regime would be well-advised not to interfere with coalition forces or our partners.”

Such statements are little less than Orwellian since the United States has essentially invaded Syria by inserting military forces without Syrian government permission in violation of international law. What Davis was saying, therefore, is that the U.S. will prevent Syria from protecting its own forces on its own soil, which was rather like the Wehrmacht condemning Poland for daring to defend its own territory in September 1939.

A Pro-War Establishment

The upshot is the latest example of how Washington’s vast pro-war foreign-policy establishment continues to get its way despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to limit military involvement in the Middle East. Establishment of a no-fly zone in northern Syria has long been a neocon priority. Indeed, Hillary Clinton, a neocon favorite at this point, reiterated her call for a no-fly zone as recently as April during a televised debate with Bernie Sanders.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Obama has opposed a no-fly zone because it would draw the U.S. into a direct conflict with the Assad government and likely its Russian and Iranian backers as well. But now with the U.S. promising to continue patrolling the skies over Hasakah, he finds himself backing into a no-fly zone regardless.

The confrontation begs the question of who is really calling the shots with regard to Syria, the President or well-placed hawks whose specialty is maneuvering the White House into doing their bidding.

It also raises the question of the role of the Clinton presidential campaign. The White House is obviously coordinating closely with Clinton’s campaign headquarters, and with prospects of a landslide victory that will give Democrats control of both houses of Congress plus the presidency, the stakes couldn’t be higher. But since a quick and easy victory over Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies would vindicate the neocon position, the issue is whether pro-Hillary forces are pulling strings to make events in Syria go her way as well.

This is not conspiracy mongering but simply the way policy in Washington is made. Hawks and doves are constantly jockeying for advantage with Obama standing haplessly in the middle. Moreover, the hawks seem to be winning since U.S. foreign policy has turned distinctly more robust since the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in late July.

Around the time that retired four-star Marine General John Allen was warning America’s enemies, “You will fear us,” and Gold Star parent Khizr Khan was telling Trump to go home and read the Constitution, Obama gave Ashton Carter, his interventionist Secretary of Defense the go-ahead to bomb ISIS positions in Libya.

On July 31 – three days after Clinton gave her acceptance speech – Syrian rebels led by Al Nusra, the local Al Qaeda affiliate, launched its powerful offensive in Aleppo.

Whether or not Washington OK’d the offensive – citing reports of massive arms shipments to the rebels, the well-informed Moon of Alabama website argues persuasively that it did – there is no doubt that it encouraged and helped coordinate a powerful propaganda campaign that has followed in its wake.

Omran Daqneesh, the dazed and dirt-encrusted five-year-old boy who has become “a symbol of Aleppo’s suffering,” according to The New York Times, is one example of how the campaign has borne fruit. Lina Sergie Attar’s powerful Aug. 13 Times opinion piece, “Watching My Beloved Aleppo Rip Itself Apart,” was another, while the rabidly anti-Assad Guardian has hardly let a day go by without running a heart-rending tale about this or that horror that Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin have visited on Syria’s civilian population. (Examples here, here, and here.)

U.S. Media on the Bandwagon

Context, balance, and plain accuracy have fallen by the wayside as various media outlets hop on the pro-war bandwagon. Why, for example, focus on one the fate of one child in rebel-held eastern Aleppo when the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the mainstream media’s favor go-to source for Syrian casualty figures, reports that virtually the same number of civilians have died from random rebel shelling of government-held western Aleppo as from Syrian or Russian aerial bombardment in the east, i.e. 163 versus 162?

U.S.-backed Syrian "moderate" rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]

U.S.-backed Syrian “moderate” rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]

While trumpeting the fate of Omran Daqneesh, who was shaken but apparently not seriously hurt, why has The New York Times failed to report the plight of 12-year-old Abdullah Issa, whose throat was slit last month by members of a U.S.-backed rebel force known as Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki because he had allegedly fought on the government side?“We are even worse than ISIS,” the fighters bragged before finishing the boy off. Yet even though the entire gruesome image was caught on video, the “paper of record” has refused to report a single word.

The same goes for Lina Sergie Attar’s stirring Times op-ed. Although it invokes the infamous 2013 Queiq River massacre to describe the suffering that Assad has heaped upon the people of Aleppo, it fails to mention that the slaughter was most likely the work of Al Nusra. Why spoil a good story with the facts?

Much the same can be said for Hasakah where The Wall Street Journal blandly reported that “Syrian government bombers had been striking Kurdish positions near the city of Hasakah, where the U.S. has been backing Kurdish forces in the fight against Islamic State,” also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.

Since the U.S. is battling the Islamic State, the quintessence of evil, its role must be above reproach while the Syrian government is plainly up to no good.

Nonetheless, the questions continue to multiply. If U.S. military personnel are helping the Kurds battle ISIS, why are the Kurds fighting with pro-government forces instead? Since the Syrian Observatory says they started the fight, did the Americans do anything to restrain them or call them off? Or did they encourage them to attack in order to provoke a wider conflict? What, moreover, happens if the U.S. ends up downing a Syrian plane? Clinton will cheer. But what happens if Russia decides to join in the fray?

Making Clinton Happy

A happy romp in the skies over Hasakah would serve the Clinton campaign well. It would show that toughness pays, as Clinton has repeatedly argued. But the trouble with war is that it is rarely goes according to plan.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, the Syrian conflict grows more complicated by the day. Syria and Russia are battling ISIS, Al Nusra, and other Islamist groups while the U.S. is battling ISIS as well while indirectly aiding Al Nusra by channeling arms to allied Islamist groups with which it shares weaponry and coordinates battlefield tactics. The U.S. has so far steered clear of conflict with Assad, although Hasakah may signal a change of heart.

Turkey’s megalomaniacal President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, opposes ISIS but supports Al Nusra outright – “it should not be considered as a terrorist organization” since it opposes Islamic State, he declared in a recent interview – but reserves his real enmity for the America’s Kurdish allies.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are battling Assad in Hasakah but at the same time fighting alongside Assad’s forces against U.S.-backed rebels in Aleppo. China has declared its support for Assad and has even sent military advisers to help his regime in its fight with the rebels, thereby introducing yet another explosive element into the mix.

This is more intervention than one small country can handle, and tripwires are therefore multiplying. Obama’s aggressive actions in Hasakah may help Clinton against Trump but they could all too easily blow up in the administration’s face. War, indeed, packs just as many surprises as politics.

Posted in Syria, USA0 Comments

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