Tag Archive | "USA"

In Iran and North Korea, Trump Is Playing with Nuclear Fire


NOVANEWS

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which spearheaded a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The significance of this award cannot be underestimated.

Donald Trump‘s bombastic and frightening threats against North Korea and Iran may portend a catastrophic attack that could impact the entire world.

The US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing 210,000 people. During the week following the bombings, thousands of survivors experienced a unique combination of symptoms, Susan Southard wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

Their hair fell out in large clumps, their wounds secreted extreme amounts of pus, and their gums swelled and bled. Purple spots appeared on their bodies, signs of hemorrhaging beneath the skin. Infections ravaged their internal organs. Within a few days of the onset of symptoms, many people lost consciousness, mumbled deliriously and died in extreme pain; others languished for weeks before either dying or slowly recovering.

In the face of Trump’s nuclear threats, the danger the world faces is immeasurable.

Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

On July 7, more than 120 countries approved the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which requires ratifying countries “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The treaty also prohibits the transfer of, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

Fifty-three countries officially signed the treaty, and three have already ratified it, which makes them parties to the accord. Ninety days after 50 countries ratify it, the treaty will enter into force.

However, the five original nuclear-armed countries — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — boycotted the treaty negotiations and the voting. North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, which also have nuclear weapons, refrained from participating in the final vote as well. In October 2016, during negotiations, North Korea had voted for the treaty.

The State Department issued a statement saying,

“The United States does not support and will not sign the [treaty].”

Trump Threatens to Blow Up the Iran Deal

Meanwhile, Trump is moving the world closer to nuclear war, threatening North Korea with destruction and attempting to blow up the nuclear deal with Iran. The day before the new treaty was concluded, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacked; that amounted to a threat to commit genocide.

Peace prize historian Oeivind Stenersen said the Nobel committee intended “to send a signal to North Korea and the US that they need to go into negotiations. The prize is also coded to support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.”

The Iran deal is embodied in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It rescinded the punishing US and international sanctions on Iran, amounting to billions of dollars of relief. In return, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program.

Under the US Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president must determine every 90 days whether Iran remains in compliance with the JCPOA and whether it still serves US interests. The next 90-day period ends on October 15. Trump will reportedly refuse to certify that Iran is compliant with the agreement on October 12, in spite of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s finding that Iran is in compliance.

If Trump refuses to certify that Iran is compliant with the JCPOA or determines the agreement is not in the national interest, Congress will then have 60 days to act. If Congress reimposes sanctions, it would likely cause the JCPOA to unravel. Iran would then proceed with a program to develop nuclear weapons.

The White House has signaled that Trump will urge Congress not to reimpose sanctions, but rather hopes Congress will pass new legislation beyond the scope of the original deal.

“If Congress complies, such unilateral action to change a multilateral agreement will effective kill it,” Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state for political affairs and US lead negotiator for the JCPOA, wrote in The New York Times.

Moreover, if Trump’s actions scuttle the Iran deal, it will send a dangerous message to North Korea that the United States cannot be trusted to abide by its multilateral agreements.

Both Trump’s threats against North Korea and his undermining of the JCPOA could lead to nuclear war.

US Violates Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear states to eliminate their nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states to refrain from acquiring them. In 2005, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told the Institute for Public Accuracy,

“The US government is not adhering to Article VI of the NPT and we show no signs of planning to adhere to its requirements to move forward with the elimination — not reduction, but elimination — of nuclear weapons.”

In 1996, the International Court of Justice stated in an advisory opinion,

“There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

But the nuclear powers have ignored that decision.

And in spite of UN Security Council Resolution 687, which established a weapons-of mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, Israel maintains a formidable nuclear arsenal.

“The nuclear weapons states, governed by political realists, basically have no trust in law or morality when it comes to national security,” international law expert Richard Falkwrote, “but base their faith in the hyper-rationality of destructive military power, which in the nuclear age is expressed in the arcane idiom of deterrence, an idea more transparently known in the Cold War Era as Mutually Assured Destruction (or MAD!!).”

Indeed, Trump is planning a $1 trillion rebuilding of the US nuclear weapons program.

Only the US Has Used Nuclear Weapons

The United States is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons. On the day of the Hiroshima bombing, 19-year-old Shinji Mikamo was on the roof of his house helping his father prepare it for demolition when he saw a huge fireball coming at him. He heard a deafening explosion and felt a searing pain throughout his body. It felt as if boiling water had been poured over him. His chest and right arm were totally burned. Pieces of his flesh fell from his body like ragged clothing. The pain was unbearable. Shinji was three-quarters of a mile from the epicenter of the bomb. He survived, but most of his family perished.

Shinji’s daughter, Dr. Akiko Mikamo, author of Rising From the Ashes: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness, told a Veterans for Peace Convention that 99 percent of those who were outdoors at the time of the blast died immediately or within 48 hours.

This should serve as a cautionary note to Trump — and Congress — that there is no trifling with nuclear weapons.

“The Calm Before the Storm”

Yet during a photo opportunity he staged with military leaders after meeting with them to discuss North Korea and Iran, Trump issued an ominous warning:

“You guys know what this represents? … Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

What storm?

“You’ll find out.”

Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, told The Hill that Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal “will trigger a process that very likely will lead to the collapse of the deal.”

Parsi said on Democracy Now!,

“The buzz here is that there’s going to be a very significant ramping up, an escalation, in the region against Iran, potentially including shooting down Iranian airplanes, sinking Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf, targeting Iranian troops or Iranian-allied troops in Iraq and in Syria.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are reportedly counseling Trump to certify that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

But Trump has consistently criticized the Iran deal, probably because it was concluded on Barack Obama‘s watch and Israel is dead set against it.

In any event, Trump is playing with fire — nuclear fire — in both North Korea and Iran. We must pressure the White House and Congress members alike, and hope that cooler heads prevail. The stakes are unbearably high.

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The Killers


NOVANEWS
 
police-US-killer-cops

“The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.” D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature

Individual U.S. Presidents come and go, but the Oval Office is reserved for the Killer-in-Chief. If, as these war-mongers like to say, “the buck stops here,” then our latest incarnation of a “leader,” Donald Trump, has in a few months accumulated enough guilt to last endless lifetimes. There are no excuses. While the headlines scream distractions from the bloodbath, Trump and his “team” are slaughtering innocents in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and countless other places off the American public’s radar.

That’s the way the story goes. That’s the way it always has gone. That’s the way the public and the killers want it to go. Pure innocents, killers at heart. The victims out of sight.

Let me retract that statement about guilt. Our chieftains feel no guilt; they seek the job because they lack a sense of guilt.  They relish killing, but always wash their hands and deny responsibility.  Or say “we didn’t mean it.”  They lie.

Forget the “deep state” for the moment, forget Obama’s and Bush’s and Clinton’s blood-stained hands, forget Obamacare and Trump’s ultimatums to Republicans, forget Neil Gorsuch, forget March Madness, and forget your forgetting.

Remember this: In the past few day in Mosul, Iraq, the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump, slaughtered 200-300 civilians, mostly women and children, through airstrikes. Read this article by Jason Ditz. This technological terror included a single strike against a large building that killed more than 130 civilians: This massacre is just one of many in recent weeks across the region in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Read further in this article by Bethan McKernan.

American exceptionalism has always justified the killers – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Trump has ably succeeded his predecessors in this divine right to kill. The recent dead in Mosul just add to the total waged against Iraq since this criminal war was launched by George W. Bush on March 19, 2003.

Focus on Trump’s tweets or his hair or his face all you want, but if you look at his hands you will see they are covered in blood. He is an able Killer-in-Chief.

Tolstoy once said that the difference between state violence and rebel violence is the difference between bullshit and horseshit. He was right. The same can be said of our glorious leaders.

Bob Dylan first sang in 1963: “For you don’t count the dead/When God’s on your side.”

But some of us are counting, Mr. Trump.

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From Nuisance to Threat: The High Cost of Truth


NOVANEWS
 
truth

When one gives so much scarce time and energy from one’s life to a large and unknown public, one needs to know that it is sufficiently appreciated to be a worthwhile use of one’s time and energy. This is especially the case when there are large costs associated with the commitment.

I am convinced that the US, and probably the entire Western world, that is, the American Empire, has entered an era in which respect for truth does not exist in public and private institutions. We have been watching this develop for some time. Think, for example, back to August 3, 2002, a recent time in terms of our present predicament, but a time prior to political consciousness of anyone younger today than 33 years old. In the summer of 2002, the world was being prepared by propaganda for a US invasion of Iraq. On August 3 of that year, the prestigous British publication,

The Economist, summed up the consensus of ruling opinion in two sentences: “The honest choices now are to give up and give in, or to remove Mr. Hussein before he gets his [nuclear] bomb. Painful as it is, our vote is for war.”

As Lewis Lapham, myself and others asked at the time, what bomb? The only evidence of a bomb was fabricated and known to be fabricated. The UN weapons inspectors concluded that the infamous Weapons of Mass Destruction were a creation of US propaganda. President George W. Bush eventually acknowledged that Iraq had no such weapons. US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the lies he was deceived by the Bush regime into telling the UN about Saddam Hussein’s WMD are a stain on his career.

Despite the 2003 US invasion known to have been based entirely on lies, US troops were not pulled out of Iraq until 2011, and whether or not they were pulled out, they are back in Iraq now. None of these facts has had any impact on the good opinion that Washington and the media have of themselves.

Unchastened, Washington and its presstitutes lied about Libya and destroyed that prosperous country. They lied about “Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people,” and would have destroyed Syria also had it not been for the Russians.

Blocked by Russia, Obama, Hillary, and Victoria Nuland turned on Russia, first overthrowing the democratically elected government in Ukraine, and when Crimeans voted practically unanimously to reunite with Russia, the Obama regime and its media whores falsely alleged “Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

This false charge, repeated endlessly still today by the Western presstitutes, became the justification for economic sanctions against Russia that Washington imposed on its European vassals, entirely at their expense, which shows what craven cowards European governments are. If Washington orders “jump,” the UK Prime Minister, the German Chancellor, the French President ask, “How High?”

One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected president was his commitment to normalizing relations with Russia and reconsidering the continuation of NATO a quarter century after its purpose ceased to exist with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Trump’s commitment constituted a direct threat to the power and profit of the US military/security complex, whose $1,000 billion annual budget requires a major threat that only Russia can provide.

Consequently, Russia and its president have been demonized. American propaganda, bald-faced lies, spread fear of Russia and Putin throughout the American Empire. The Empire’s response to those who confront the propaganda with the facts is to denounce those with the facts as “Russian agents” or “Putin’s dupes.”

The hatred of Russia that has been inculcated by the neocons and presstitute media has resulted in Republican Senator John McCain, representing Arizona (to the disgrace of Arizonians), calling on the Senate floor Republican Senator Rand Paul, representing Kentucky, a person who “is now working for Vladimir Putin” for objecting to tiny Montenegro being made a NATO member.

http://news.antiwar.com/2017/03/15/sen-john-mccain-rand-paul-is-working-for-vladimir-putin/

When this website was included on a list of 200 Russian agent/dupe websites by a secret, undisclosed group called PropOrNot, I wondered whose money was behind this entity as well hidden as an offshore money laundering operation. I made a joke of it, which amused the Russians.

As no one knows what PropOrNot is, the site has no credibility. So the forces for war moved up several levels to Harvard University Library. On that website someone posted what is essentially the PropOrNot list. Harvard does not say that the list is vetted or explain why anyone should believe it. The list is attributed to a Melissa Zindars, an assistant professor of communication and media at some unnamed institution. It is a list, she says, that she uses in her class to teach students how to avoid “fake and false news.” In other words, the list reflects her own ignorance and biases.

As one reader observed, Melissa tells on her own indoctrination by the presstitute, CIA-serving US media: “I read/watch/listen very widely, from mainstream, corporate owned sources (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes) as well as The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and various local and alternative sources with different political perspectives (Truth-Out).”

So here we have the Western world informed by Harvard University Library of who is safe to read on the basis of an unknown young woman’s biases. Those safe to read are the lying presstitute media who serve the cause of war and the police state.

When you witness this level of total corruption at what pretends to be America’s finest university, and it is on top of the 24 years of nothing but lies from the previous three two-term presidents, who between them have murdered and dislocated millions of people in numerous countries, and not been held accountable for even one of the millons of lives destroyed, you cannot avoid realizing that for the United States and its corrupt vassal states, Truth is something to be avoided at all costs.

When Trump collapsed under pressure and fired his National Security Adviser, Gen. Flynn, he unintentionally gave credence to the charge that any and all who think well of normalized relations with the other major nuclear power are “Russian agents,” and that to be a “Russian agent” means that you are guilty of treason and deserve to be impeached if you happen to be the President of the United States.

The consequence of Flynn’s removal from office has been to enable the Russophobic forces to define as treason the desire for detente with Russia. If this had been imposed on US presidents during the First Cold War, probably life on earth would not exist today.

What is scary about the US and Europe is not merely the gullibility and insouciance of such a large percentage of the populations. What is very frightening is the willingness of the media, government officials, military, and members of professional organizations to lie for the sake of their careers. Try to find any shame among the liars that their lies expose humanity to thermo-nuclear annihilation. It is not to be found. They don’t care. Just let me have the Mercedes and the McMansion for another year.

The Saker, an observant being, says that the color revolution being conducted by the neoconservatives, the Democratic Party, the presstitutes, the liberal/progressive/left, and by some Republicans against President Trump is “de-legitimizing the entire [democratic] political process which brought Trump to power and upon which the United States is built as a society.”

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46658.htm 

The consequence, says The Saker, is that “the illusion of democracy and people power” has been destroyed both domestically and abroad. The propaganda picture of “American Democracy” has lost its believability. As the false picture crumbles, so does the power that was based on authority constructed by propaganda.

The Saker asks: do we face an endless horror or a horrible end?

As George Orwell said decades ago, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

This is the way the criminals who rule us see it, and it is the way their whores in the media see it. If you tell the truth in America, you are a purveyor of fake news and possibly a traitor.

As long as you support this site, I will continue to face the obvious consequences. Perhaps Neo will turn up.

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Asking Foolish Questions About Serious Issues


NOVANEWS

by  Dr: Richard Falk

 Image result for Clinton campaign CARTOON

When the Clinton campaign started complaining about Russia interfering in US elections by hacking into the DNC I was struck by their excesses of outrage and the virtual absence of any acknowledgement that the United States has been interfering in dozens of foreign elections for decades with no apparent second thoughts. CNN and other media brings one national security expert after another to mount various cases against Putin and the Kremlin, and to insist that Russia is up to similar mischief in relation to the upcoming French elections. And never do they dare discuss whether such interference is a rule of the game, similar to espionage, or whether what was alleged to have been done by the Russians might lead the US political leaders and its intelligence agencies to reconsider its own reliance on such tactics to help sway foreign elections.

 

Is this selective perception merely one more instance of American exceptionalism? We can hack away, but our elections and sovereign space are hallowed ground, which if encroached upon, should be resisted by all possible means. It is one thing to argue that democracy and political freedom are jeopardized by such interference as is being attributed to Moscow, and if their behavior influenced the outcome, it makes Russia responsible for a disaster not only in the United States but in the world. The disaster is named Trump. Assuming this Russian engagement by way of what they evidently call ‘active measures’ occurred is, first of all, an empirical matter of gathering evidence and reaching persuasive conclusions. Assuming the allegations are to some extent validated, it hardly matters whether by what means the interference was accomplished, whether done by cyber technology, electronic eavesdropping, dirty tricks, secret financial contributions, or otherwise.

 

What is diversionary and misleading is to foster the impression that the Russians breached solemn rules of international law by disrupting American democracy and doing their best to get Trump elected or weaken the Clinton presidency should she have been elected. The integrity of American democratic procedures may have been seriously compromised, and this is deeply regrettable and should be remedied to the extent possible, but whatever happened should not be greeted with shock and consternation as if some inviolate international red line had been provocatively crossed.

 

There are three appropriate questions to pose: (1) what can we do to increase cyber defenses to prevent future intrusions, and restore domestic confidence that elections in the United States reflect the unimpeded will of the citizenry and are not the result of machinations by outsiders? (2) do we possess the means to ascertain the impact of such intrusions on the outcome of the 2016 national elections, and if such investigation points beyond a reasonable doubt to the conclusion that without the intrusion Clinton would have won, should that void the result, and impose on Congress the duty to arrange for a new emergency electoral procedure for selecting a president free from taint (especially if the Trump campaign aided and abetted the Russian intrusion)? (3) are there ways to bolster norms against interventions in the internal affairs of sovereign states that offer protection against such interference? Note that giving convincing answers to these questions is not a simple matter, and requires serious reflection and debate.

 

To illustrate the moral and political complexity we can consider the core dilemma that is present for a government with a dog in the fight. Suppose the Kremlin had reason to believe that a Clinton presidency would lead to a new cold war, would it not have been reasonable, and even responsible, for Russians leaders to support Trump, and if the situation were reversed, shouldn’t the US do all it can do to avoid the election of a belligerent Russian leader? Wouldn’t millions of people have been thankful if Western interference in the German elections of 1933 were of sufficient magnitude to avoid the triumph of the National Socialist Party?

 

 

There are good and bad precedents arising from past international behavior, especially if established by important states by repeated action, that then empower others to act in a similar manner. Without governmental institutions to oversee political behavior, the development of international law proceeds by way of international practice. Thus when the United States claims the right to interfere and even engage in regime-changing interventions, we greatly weaken any objections when others do the same sort of thing. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The logic of reciprocity contributes to a normative process that reflects international practice as much as it does international lawmaking treaties.

 

Some equally serious and worrisome parallel issues are raised by recent disclosures of serious cyber attacks by the US Government on the North Korean nuclear program. The American media and government officialdom treat the conduct of cyber warfare against North Korea’s nuclear program as something to be judged exclusively by its success or failure, not whether its right or wrong, prudent or reckless. We interfered with the North Korean nuclear program without seeking authorization from the UN, and certainly without any willingness to tolerate reciprocal behavior by others that disrupted any of our nuclear activities.

 

It can be plausibly argued that North Korea and its wily leader, Kim Jong-un, are dangerous, reprehensible, and irresponsible, and that it is intolerable for such a government to possess nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. That such a circumstance creates a ‘right of exception,’ suspending international law and considerations of reciprocity, would seem a far more responsible way to proceed, preserving a sense that the US is normally respectful of and accountable to international law, but North Korea poses such a dire threat to humanity as to make all means of interference acceptable. But apparently so intoxicated by geopolitical hubris the thought never occurs to either our leaders or the compliant mainstream media that puts out its own version of ‘fake news’ night after night. It is instructive to realize how bipartisan is this disregard of the relevance of international law to a sustainable world order. These new disclosures relating to North Korea assert that Trump ‘inherited’ an ongoing cyber war program from Obama, who had in earlier years been unabashedly complicit with Israel’s cyber efforts to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.

 

Does it serve the interests of the United States to set the rules of the game in international relations with respect to nuclear policy, making little pretense of being bound by the standards imposed on other sovereign states, especially those non-nuclear states accused of taking steps to acquire the weaponry? The tigers control the mice, and the idea of a rule of law that treats equals equally is completely foreign to the American mindset in the 21st century when it comes to the role of hard power, security policy, and grand strategy in international life, but interestingly, but much less so in the context of trade and investment. This distinction is worth pondering.

 

In other words when it comes to security policy and grand strategy, there are two basic rules of contemporary geopolitics that contravene the golden rule of ethical behavior:

 

         Rule #1: Do not allow others to do unto you what you frequently do to others (the Russian hacking discourse);

 

         Rule #2: Do unto other what you would never accept others doing unto you (cyber attacks on Iran and North Korea).

 

It is arguable that this normative assymetry is the only way that world order can be sustained given the absence of world government, or even a strong enough UN to enact and implement common behavioral standards in these domains traditionally reserved for sovereign discretion. A golden rule governing the way states are expected to act toward one another with respect to war/peace issues is certainly currently situated in global dream space. If this is so or so believed, let us at least lift the fog of self-righteous rhetoric, plan to defend our political space as well as we can, and rethink the unintended consequences of interfering in foreign elections and engaging in regime-changing interventions.

 

At least, let us not deceive ourselves into believing that we are responsible custodians of peace and decency in the world. Do we really have grounds for believing that Donald Trump is less dangerous to the world than Kim Jong-un or the Supreme Guide of Iran? Even if their outlook on political engagement overlaps and their swagger is similar, the US is far more powerful, has alone used nuclear weapons against civilian targets and overthrown numerous foreign governments, including those elected in fair and free elections, and has its own house in a condition of disorder, although despite all this admittedly humanly far more desirable than the order experienced within totalitarian North Korea.

 

Is it not time for the peoples of the world to rise up and put some restraints on the strong as well as the weak? The UN veto power confers on the most powerful states a constitutional free ride when it comes to compliance with international law and the UN Charter. In effect, the UN back in 1945 institutionalized a topsy-turvy structure that curbs the weak, while granting impunity to the predatory behavior of the strong.

 

If we grant that this is the way things are and are likely to remain, can’t we at least look in the mirror, and no longer pretend to be that innocent damsel that can only be protected by slaying the dragons roaming the jungles of the world. Trump had his singular moment of truth when he responded on February 4th to Bill O’Reilly’s assertion that Putin was “a killer”: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country is so innocent.” And unlike Trump’s frequent journeys into dark thickets of falsehood that are dismissed by the injunction “let Trump be Trump,” when the man speaks truly for once, his words were scorched, and erased even from the influential media blackboards of the alt right.

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Official Washington Tips into Madness


NOVANEWS

Exclusive: President Trump responded to evidence-lite accusations from Democrats about his ties to Russia with his own air-filled allegations about President Obama wiretapping Trump Tower, as Robert Parry shakes his head.

By Robert Parry

The intensifying hysteria over Russia has pushed Official Washington over the edge into outright madness. On one side of this asylum, you have the Democrats, neoconservatives and mainstream media, while on the other, you have the embattled Trump administration. Both sides have been making grave allegations with little or no evidence to support them.

President Donald Trump delivering remarks at CPAC on Feb. 24, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

The Democratic/neocon/MSM side has pushed the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians to put the real-estate mogul in the White House, but there is, as yet, no evidence that such a thing happened.

Even one of the top advocates feeding this Russia frenzy, New York Times correspondent Thomas L. Friedman, acknowledged on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “I agree, there is no evidence,” but then added: “which is why we need a special prosecutor or an independent commission to get to the bottom of it.”

But that is not how investigations are supposed to work. You’re supposed to have evidence of wrongdoing and then examine it in the investigative phase to see if the evidence withstands scrutiny. What Friedman is suggesting is more like a “fishing expedition” or a “witch hunt.”

The drip-drip of this investigative water torture finally got to President Trump last week as he flew down to his winter home at Mar-a-Lago. He joined the crazy melee early Saturday morning by sending out a flurry of tweets accusing President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in New York City in the weeks before the Nov. 8 election. Trump also offered no evidence while demanding an investigation to get to the bottom of this.

By contrast, in all the major investigations that I have handled as an investigative reporter, such as Oliver North’s secret White House paramilitary operation; the related Nicaraguan Contra drug trafficking scandalRichard Nixon interference with President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968; and Ronald Reagan’s campaign sabotage of President Jimmy Carter’s Iranian-hostage negotiations in 1980 – there was substantial evidence from eyewitnesses and documents supporting the suspicions before the story was published.

At no point would I have argued that just because Oliver North met a Contra leader that it was time to investigate whether he and his Reagan administration superiors were breaking the law. I first found multiple insiders, including people in the U.S. government and the Contra movement, describing how North was running his back-channel war. In some of these investigative situations, we had two dozen or so sources describing detailed aspects of these operations before we made any allegations in print.

Now the argument is that because some people suspect something, even without evidence, major investigations are warranted. That is usually what a conspiracy theory sounds like. Someone claims not to understand how something could have happened a certain way and thus a full-scale inquiry is needed into some highly unlikely and speculative scenario.

Opening Salvos

In the case of the Russia investigation, the opening salvos came from President Obama’s intelligence agencies, which alleged that Russia had “hacked” Democratic emails and slipped the contents to WikiLeaks, but the agencies offered nothing in the way of U.S. government evidence to support that supposition.

President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2015. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The two reports that were issued were heavy on the word “assesses” – which in intelligence jargon usually means “guesses” – but short on anything that could be checked out or verified.

The Jan. 6 report, issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, admitted as much, saying, “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks representatives denied getting the two batches of Democratic emails from Russia, suggesting that two different American insiders had leaked the material.

Yet, despite this dubious send-off, the “scandal” careened into the area of “secondary” offenses, such as the conversation between Trump’s National Security Adviser-designate Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak which was intercepted by the National Security Agency on Dec. 29, 2016.

Rather than redact Flynn’s name as “minimization” procedures usually require for an American citizen who is inadvertently picked up on an intelligence wiretap, the transcript was given to the FBI which then tested Flynn’s memory of the conversation and found it wanting.

The Flynn case should be of particular concern to civil libertarians because it shows how NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s warning of a “turnkey tyranny” could work, with the Surveillance State monitoring phone calls and then finding flimsy legal excuses to justify an FBI probe – in Flynn’s case the never-tested-in-court 1799 Logan Act was used – and then manufacturing the crime of lying to the FBI if a person’s memory doesn’t match with the NSA transcript.

For Flynn, who was on vacation in the Dominican Republic when Kislyak called and thus didn’t have his usual support network with him, the immediate penalty for lacking total recall of the conversation was to lose his job. But there is still pressure for him to be prosecuted.

Similar demands have come from Democrats who want Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and face prosecution for perjury over his clumsy answer to a question about the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia to which Sessions claimed he had not met with Russians (although it turned out he had two conversations with Kislyak, one a group meeting with several ambassadors at the Republican National Convention and the other in his Capitol Hill office with aides present.

Again, there is no evidence that Sessions conspired with Kislyak on any plans to have the Russians undercut Hillary Clinton’s campaign, an unlikely possibility in either of the two settings. But Sessions is under fire for lying about the seemingly innocuous meetings – and there are demands that the Sessions-Kislyak contacts be investigated, too. In this Russia case, the absence of evidence appears not to be evidence for the absence of a special prosecutor.

On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also said he was unaware of evidence that the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russians.

Moderator Chuck Todd asked, “Does intelligence exist that can definitively answer the following question, whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials?”

Clapper: “We did not include any evidence in our report, and I say, ‘our,’ that’s N.S.A., F.B.I. and C.I.A., with my office, the Director of National Intelligence, that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report.”

Todd: “I understand that. But does it exist?”

Clapper: “Not to my knowledge. … at the time [of the report in early January], we had no evidence of such collusion.”

Bill Clinton Echoes

In many ways, what is happening now to Trump reminds me of the situation in 1992-93 at the start of Bill Clinton’s presidency when Republicans were furious that they had lost the White House after 12 years of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. They considered Clinton an unworthy interloper and sought to cripple his presidency from the outset by pursuing one investigation after another.

President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea parade down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1997. (White House photo)

During the campaign, President Bush and his team even suggested that the Arkansas governor may have been a KGB mole because of a student trip to Moscow in 1970. The idea was to portray the trip to the Soviet Union as prima facie evidence of Clinton’s disloyalty even though there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by Clinton.

Back then, Bill Clinton countered that smear by accusing the elder President Bush of stooping to the tactics of Sen. Joe McCarthy, the infamous Red-baiter from the 1950s. But today’s Democrats apparently feel little shame in whipping up an anti-Russian hysteria and then using it to discredit Trump, who – like Bill Clinton in 1992 – is being forced to fend off vague accusations that he is some kind of Manchurian candidate.

However, unlike Bill Clinton who seemed able to “compartmentalize” between governing as president and sparring with Republicans over their unending accusations, Trump lashed out in a flurry of Twitter messages accusing President Obama of wiretapping phones at Trump Tower.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” Trump said. “Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Trump added: “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

In making this extraordinary charge against his predecessor, Trump offered no evidence to back it up, leaving the impression that he may have gleaned this information from the right-wing Breitbart News web site which published an article summarizing claims by conservative radio talk show hosts. Trump and White House officials then called for an investigation into Obama’s alleged wiretapping.

Obama’s spokesman Kevin Lewis responded with a statement of dubious veracity, saying: “neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.” However, Obama did more than surveil at least one U.S. citizen; he had an American Al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki not just put under surveillance but killed by a drone attack in 2011 in Yemen.

Reacting to all these crazy exchanges, a Wall Street Journal editorial even managed to make some sense. Entitled “Washington Goes Nuts,” the editorial said:

“What the country desperately needs are some grown-ups to intervene, discover the facts, and then lay them out to the American people,” both regarding any untoward contacts between Russian officials and Trump’s advisers and whether the Obama administration crossed any lines in its zeal to nail Trump’s team over Russia.

The Journal’s editors expressed hopes the congressional intelligence committees could step up and perform this function. But the problem with the Journal’s idea is that it will be hard, if not impossible, to find the requisite “adults” in Official Washington where traditional standards of evidence and fair play have long since disappeared.

Posted in USAComments Off on Official Washington Tips into Madness

Perfidious Albion


NOVANEWS

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By Andre Vltchek | OffGuardian 

Here it goes again! The same old tired and predictable tune, the same recognizable chorus. Once again the world is told what to think and what to believe. The world is also given both rhythm and leitmotif, so the grotesque and crooked dance could begin.

Who could resist, really? The lyrics of the tune are recited in perfect English, and with that air of moral and cultural superiority, which is supposed to disperse all doubts.

On February 19, 2017, RT published the following:

The Telegraph, as a favored mouthpiece for British intelligence service disinformation, is a part of psychological warfare operation against Russia, said independent journalist Martin Summers. Another accusation is being thrown at Russia as a British newspaper published a story about Moscow being allegedly behind a plot to kill Montenegro’s Prime Minister last October… According to the article, Russia wanted to overthrow the country’s government to stop them joining NATO.

So now it is Montenegro. Yesterday it was Crimea, Donbas, and the US elections. Evil Russia again! Evil China, evil socialist Latin American countries, evil Syria, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, South Africa, North Korea, Philippines, evil all those who are laughing at the notion of Anglo-Saxon superiority.


This time I’m actually not intending to write some long, philosophical essay on the subject of “shamelessness of British propaganda”. I’m just taking a short break from my 10 thousand-word ‘paper’ for the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS); a paper analyzing the impact of the 1917 Soviet Revolution on the world.

I just want to state what I believe should be so obvious, but somehow isn’t, at least to billions of people all over the world: “Those British blokes running the mainstream media outlets and global propaganda network really cannot be trusted. For centuries, no other country brought more grief to the planet, destroyed more lives, ruined more nations and cultures, and stole more natural resources from the ‘natives’, than the United Kingdom.” All this was done with a straight face, all explained and justified by the most advanced propaganda apparatus on earth, all ‘morally defended’. The entire twisted concept of British-style ‘justice’ was first introduced at home, and then exported to many corners of the globe.

It went on for several long centuries, and it goes on until now: the rapists are introducing globally accepted moral codes. Mass murderers are running international courts of justice. Notorious liars and thieves are teaching the world about ‘objectivity’. Gurus of disinformation are even ‘educating’ their own children, as well as the children of elites from all parts of the world, in their ‘prestigious’ factories of indoctrination – schools and universities.

Of course there are some countries that have tried very hard to outdo the UK in terms of brutality, greed and tactics of deception. It is worth mentioning such candidates for genocidal world leadership like France, Germany, Spain and lately the United States. They really have been competing determinately and zealously, but despite all their efforts, they never truly managed to come close to the forerunner.

Please, just think about all this, if you haven’t already done it for years. Then wash your eyes thoroughly, and look anew at those tabloids and ‘serious publications’ that are printed in the UK. Look at the indoctrination television channels. If you are still able to retain at least some detachment and common sense, please compare what they are saying and writing and showing, with the reality outside your own window, wherever on this Planet you may be.


For many years I worked all over the world, on all continents, in some 160 countries. For many years, I was told stories, shown evidence, about the most monstrous and barbaric crimes that the Brits have been committing almost everywhere on this Planet.

To compile even some semi-complete list, one would need to compose at least a sizable brochure, if not an entire book. Let’s just mention a few of the most obvious horrors that ‘Great’ Britain is responsible for: Slave trade and destruction of entire huge parts of Africa with tens of millions people directly or indirectly killed. Monstrous occupation of the ‘Sub-continent’, with tens of millions of lives lost (including those in several artificially triggered famines). Ransacking of large parts of China, murdering and participating in breaking the most populous nation on earth. Brutal attacks against the young Soviet state. Horrid treatment of colonized peoples of the island nations, from Oceania (South Pacific) to the Caribbean. Gassing, bombing, literally exterminating people of the Middle East, from what is now Iraq and Kuwait, to Palestine. There were invasions of Afghanistan and the ‘reign of terror in Kabul’ in 1879. There were many other things, many nightmarish crimes, of course, but today I’m being brief…

In the “New World”, consisting of countries like the US, Canada and Australia, the most terrible massacres of the native people were committed by the first and second generation of Europeans, mainly the Brits.

Britain actually never ceased to commit crimes against humanity. Since WWII it has been tutoring the United States, strategically and ideologically, in the art of how to run the Empire and how to manufacture unanimity inside the West itself, and even among the population of the colonized nations (in the neo-colonialist context).

It has also been involved in some of the vilest acts in modern history, related to countries like Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo as well as entire areas of Asia Pacific and the African Great Lakes.

Again, that’s only a brief and incomplete summary.


Having experience with occupying huge parts of the world for centuries, knowing first-hand how to ‘pacify’ the natives, the Brits gradually developed and then passed on to the rest of the Western world their highly effective and successful indoctrination methods. These were eventually spread further – mainly among the elites of the colonized nations. As a result, fully standardized global perceptions evolved, and were implemented and upheld until this very moment. They included the general worldview, ‘principles’ and ‘moral standards’, law and justice (including such concepts as ‘human rights’), and even the set of overall values.

The English language (especially well articulated; spoken with certain recognizable and ‘acceptable’ accents) became the main linguistic tool embodying both truth and authority.

News presented in a certain ‘objective’ way and with a certain accent (or acceptable set of accents) became subconsciously, for the great majority of people, much more trustworthy than that which would be delivered by individuals whom a great Polish journalist, anthropologist and philosopher Ryszard Kapuscinski used to define as ‘the others’.


This ‘perfect’, seemingly bulletproof system produces intellectual laziness, submissiveness, even servitude. It is successfully upholding the status quo.

Lies are mounting on top of lies, and even the most obvious fabrications lately do not get challenged, except in some marginal and ‘extremist’ (defined by the Western regime) outlets.

The colonialist empire managed to survive. It is now fully in charge. It dominates the psyche of both the colonizers and the colonized. Advances that were made by liberation and independence struggles, by the anti-colonialism fighters during the post-WWII era, have been skillfully annulled. Then, it was officially declared, “colonialism is over”.

At some point, the Anglo-Saxon demagogues invented ‘political correctness’, one more highly effective tool designed to neutralize and ‘pacify’ any serious resistance. Political correctness claims that all nations and races are equal; it is even glorifying those ‘little people’ and almost all ‘cultures of the under-developed nations’, at least verbally, while in reality the Empire keeps plundering and manipulating the planet, as it has been doing for ages. In the colonies, the only individuals who are gaining are the elites; those morally corrupt rulers of the deprived and still enslaved world.


As in the past, the regime pragmatically chooses its enemies, and it then applies the most proven and spiteful tactics, launching defamation campaigns, dehumanizing citizens and leaders of adversary states, creating often phantasmagoric but highly effective conspiracy theories.

The British media, the British propagandists, in fact the entire British establishment, had reached absolute perfection in the field of mind-control and brainwashing.

How else, otherwise, would anyone in his or her sane mind trust the words of those who are responsible for tens of millions, perhaps for hundreds of millions of lost human lives in all corners of the world?

How could the primary architects of our insane global arrangement be taken seriously, unless they managed to fully indoctrinate their ‘subjects’?

Some would suggest that we are living in a world where the ‘normality’ could be found only in an insane asylum; where the only place for a decent man or a woman could be behind some barricade, or behind bars.

However, not many would have such thoughts, as even reflections are now almost fully standardized and controlled. So much glorified freedom has been reduced to just a handful of personal, very limited, often self-serving choices that one is still allowed to make while being generally fully locked within the existing system.

This British, European, in fact Western obsession with controlling, with ruling over everything in this world, has actually fully derailed natural human evolution. Instead of much higher aspirations, instead of optimistic attempts to build an egalitarian, compassionate and joyful society, our humanity is once again stuck in some master-slave morass, in something that appeared to be on its way out even during some periods of the 19th century, and definitely later, in the 20th century.


How to fight this nightmare? I wrote it many times before, and I have to repeat it again: To change things, one has to first understand reality. But it is not only about knowing the facts; it is mainly about how to analyze them, how to perceive the world and essential events.

We are being bombarded, in fact flooded with information, data and ‘facts’. What is missing is a totally new approach towards sorting and analyzing the reality within which we live.

The Empire is not withholding the facts. It is doing something much more sinister: it is depriving people of learning how to analyze them in the most logical ways.

Let us begin with absolute basics: “Mass murderer cannot be a judge”. “Indoctrinator and brainwasher cannot be a teacher”. “Those who are shackling, enslaving billions, should not be allowed to preach about freedom.”

The reality is: we have a handful of deranged, mentally disturbed nations and cultures that have been subjugating, raping and robbing entire nations and continents, still in charge of our beautiful but already terribly scarred Planet.

These morally defunct nations have no compassion left, and no real rationality. This fact they have proven again and again. One million victims, tens of millions of victims – it means nothing to them, as long as they can continue to rule. Ruined nature, disappearing islands, poisoned air, it matters nothing to them. People turning into indoctrinated, intellectually and emotionally uniformed cattle; good, who cares?

It is an extremely unsettling reality, but reality it is. The sooner we recognize it for what it is, the better.

‘Great’ Britain should sit down on its ass and cry in horror, recalling all crimes it has been committing, imagining the concentration camps it built in Africa and elsewhere, recalling the famines it triggered in India and elsewhere, remembering all those innocent people it murdered on each and every continent. It should be howling from shame, because of the nihilism it has been spreading, while ruining enthusiasm, beautiful dreams and hopes of our human kind.

It should stop and weep in horror, picturing instructions it provided to countries like South Africa, the United States or Rwanda – instructions that brought terrible bloodbaths, instead of harmony and progress to our world.

Why all this terror? Just so the UK and its cohorts could continue to rule! It is not about greed only, or natural resources, it is about control.


I don’t want their analyses, anymore. I don’t want their news, their films, their books, and their propaganda materials. Even in the dark solitude of some cave, one could understand the world much better than when reading their disinformation sheets, or when watching their indoctrination channels. All this is just designed to confuse people, to make them passive and submissive. Their announcers as well as their writers are like some sad lobotomized robots: there is no life, nothing new, nothing daring or revolutionary in their words. They function, somehow: they move, they eat, shit, repeat what they are expected to say, but they are not alive.

They only smear, but don’t inspire. If there is any optimism, it is always false, pre-approved, and mass-produced.

If you think about it, it all actually makes sense: A torturer cannot be a visionary, or an idealist.

Compared to China or Iran, the UK is a relatively young culture. But it feels old, tired, spent, and obsolete. Too many crimes and too many lies can exhaust and depress even a young person.

Were England a person, operating in a normal society, it would be either in prison or in a mental institution. The same could be said about the rest of the West.

We have nothing to learn from some murderous maniac, do we? The only concern should be: how to put a straightjacket on such an individual, how to prevent him from killing and harming others, and how to do it as quickly as possible.

I also highly doubt that with such a background and monstrous track record, our dangerous maniac should be allowed to interpret the world publicly, to teach people, and to even participate in the discussions touching the most essential issues facing our planet!

Posted in USAComments Off on Perfidious Albion

Why New US National Security Adviser is a Worrying Signal to Russia, World


NOVANEWS

Commenting on the recent appointment of US Army Lt. Gen. Herbert Raymond McMaster as the next US president’s national security adviser after the resignation of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, RIA Novosti political analyst Alexander Khrolenko provides his reasons why it should be viewed as a “worrying signal to Russia and the world.”

“How useful for the US Herbert McMaster will be in the role of the national security adviser remains to be seen. However his reputation of a commander has already been engraved in stone,” Khrolenko writes in his article for RIA Novosti.

He calls the appointment of McMaster, whom the US media describes as “the US Army’s leading warrior-intellectual,” a “worrying signal to Russia and the world.”

Khrolenko points to an article written by Politico’s national security correspondent Bryan Bender on the “secret US army study that targets Moscow,” which at the time was overseen by Army Lt. Gen. McMaster.

U.S. President Donald Trump looks toward his new National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster after making the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017
© REUTERS/ KEVIN LAMARQUE
U.S. President Donald Trump looks toward his new National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster after making the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017

“Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster has a shaved head and a gung-ho manner that only add to his reputation as the US Army’s leading warrior-intellectual, one who often quotes famed Prussian general and military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz. A decade ago, McMaster fought a pitched battle inside the Pentagon for a new concept of warfare to address the threat from Islamist terrorists and insurgents in Afghanistan, Iraq and other trouble spots. Now, his new mission is more focused. Target: Moscow,” Bender wrote for Politico back in April.

It was McMaster, the author noted, who was the first to tell the Senate Armed Services Committee that “it is clear that while our Army was engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia studied US capabilities and vulnerabilities and embarked on an ambitious and largely successful modernization effort.”

McMaster, the author said, was not just simply critical of his colleagues, but put together a manual on the Ukrainian war theater entitled Russia New Generation Warfare Study.

“The high-level but low-profile effort is intended to ignite a wholesale rethinking — and possibly even a redesign — of the Army in the event it has to confront the Russians in Eastern Europe,” he further said.”It is expected to have a profound impact on what the US Army will look like in the coming years, the types of equipment it buys and how its units train,” he suggested.

McMaster, as head of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at Fort Eustis, Virginia therefore “is responsible for figuring out what the Army should look like in 2025 and beyond.”

His effort is expected to become “the most dramatic rethinking since the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

“These are the kind of issues the US Army hasn’t worked since the end of the Cold War 25 years ago,” the author quotes retired General Wesley Clark, who served as NATO commander from 1997 to 2000, as saying.

While addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee, McMaster then said that “Russia possesses a variety of rocket, missile and cannon artillery systems that outrange and are more lethal than US Army artillery systems and munitions.”

Meanwhile, Bender quoted retired General Wesley Clark as saying that Russia’s tanks “are so improved that they are “largely invulnerable to anti-tank missiles.”Bender also noted that US military and intelligence officials worry that “Moscow now has the advantage in key areas. Lighter armored vehicles like those the Army relied on heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan are highly vulnerable to its new weapons. And main battle tanks like Russia’s T-90 —thought to be an anachronism in recent conflicts — are still decisive.”

As well as about “the combination of unmanned aerial systems and offensive cyber and advanced electronic warfare capabilities,” which “depict a high degree of technological sophistication.”

“Eloquent comparison,” Khrolenko says, taken that Russia and US had never met as adversaries on a battlefield.

“Those in Pentagon now think that Russia’s efforts on modernization of its nuclear forces and the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and in Syria will lead to serious changes in the US ground troops. And the new US president’s national security adviser is able to seriously boost the militarization of US,” RIA Novosti correspondent says.

In his analysis of the new US national security adviser, Khrolenko also refers to the article of Defense One on McMaster’s Russia New Generation Warfare Study.

“Speaking recently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., McMaster said that the two-year-old conflict [in eastern Ukraine] had revealed that the Russians have superior artillery firepower, better combat vehicles, and have learned sophisticated use of UAVs for tactical effect. Should US forces find themselves in a land war with Russia, he said, they would be in for a rude, cold awakening,” the outlet quotes him as saying.“We spend a long time talking about winning long-range missile duels,” said McMaster. But long-range missiles only get you through the front door. The question then becomes what will you do when you get there.

“Look at the enemy countermeasures,” he said, noting Russia’s use of nominally semi-professional forces who are capable of “dispersion, concealment, intermingling with civilian populations…the ability to disrupt our network strike capability, precision navigation and timing capabilities.” All of that means “you’re probably going to have a close fight… Increasingly, close combat overmatch is an area we’ve neglected, because we’ve taken it for granted.”

Commenting on the above remarks, Khrolenko therefore notes that “Ukrainian realities bring McMaster back to military concepts and anti-guerilla strategies on a qualitatively new level, a level of foreign policy decisions.” The Aim of such decisions will be direct and indirect containment of Russia without drawing the US into the Third World War.

“If we extrapolate the longstanding experience of the new US national security advisor and his views on the US’ foreign policy, we could foretell high probability of new military conflicts in various parts of the planet in the nearest future. I also suggest that the new Pentagon’s chief, James Mattis will be eager to support hybrid concepts and military solutions of his co-thinker,” he finally stated.

Posted in USAComments Off on Why New US National Security Adviser is a Worrying Signal to Russia, World

North Dakota Senators Approve Bills Targeting DAPL Protests


NOVANEWS
  • A modified "No Trespassing" sign is seen in the opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball.
    A modified “No Trespassing” sign is seen in the opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball. | Photo: Reuters
The proposed laws seek to criminalize and increase penalties for common protest practices used by the water protectors against the Dakota Access pipeline.

At least three bills have been approved by North Dakota’s Senate in response to actions carried out by the Dakota Access pipeline protesters last year which saw violent confrontations between water protectors and law enforcement officials.

OPINION: How Will Native Tribes Fight Dakota Access Pipeline in Court?

The new bills, which sailed through the Republican-controlled Senate Thursday, seek to increase penalties for those accused of inciting riots or participate in ones that include more than 100 people. Inciting riot carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years, while participating in one could land protesters in jail for a year.

Another bill makes it a crime to trespass or protests on “public safety zones” that can be declared as such by the state’s governor. Demonstrators who “pose a threat” to the public and protest in those zones would also face jail time.

The Republican senators behind the bills made it clear that the proposed laws are a response to the Dakota Access protesters who used common protest practices in their action against the pipeline.

Water protectors chained themselves to construction equipment and blocked roads used by construction trucks for Energy Transfer Partners, the firm behind the pipeline.

“I have no doubt that the vast majority of the people at the DAPL protest are peaceful,” said Senator Kelly Armstrong, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging support for the bills.

“But there is a strong minority and contingent that has not always acted peacefully and our laws have proven to be inadequate down there in regards to felony prosecution.”

IN PICTURES: Protesters Vow to Resist Trump’s Keystone XL, DAPL Advance

Another bill also seeks to ban adults from wearing masks in most cases. Supporters of the bill argue that protesters at Standing Rock wore masks in order not to be identified by police officers.

“We all have a right to free speech … but we do not have a right to evade prosecution of a crime,” Republican Senator Janne Myrdal told reporters. Many protesters did wear masks to protect them from the heavy tear gas police unleashed against them during confrontations.

Some might have used face cover to avoid identification and later arrest by the local police force, which has been accused of brutal practices against the Native American protesters.

The Dakota Access pipeline was stopped by the administration of Barack Obama in December following months of protests by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe water protectors and their allies, who argued that the pipeline was being built on sacred lands and could damage their water sources.

The action against the US$3.8 billion pipeline has attracted more than 300 Native American tribes from across the United States in a show of unity that is being called historic. However, the contentious project was revived by President Donald Trump just a week after he took office in what the tribe said was a payback for his supporters in the oil industry.

Posted in USAComments Off on North Dakota Senators Approve Bills Targeting DAPL Protests

Steve Bannon is preparing Trump for a holy war


NOVANEWS
[Editor’s note: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, is a nutjob, someone who should be kept far, far away from the corridors of power; however, under Trump, he has been allowed to become the centre of power. This essay by C. B. Anthony examines Bannon’s recent past and provides an insight into the man’s disturbing politics and worldview. Ian]

__________
Middle East Eye
Steve Bannon is preparing Trump for a holy war

by Charles B. Anthony

Sometimes a seemingly innocuous speech can potentially set the direction of the US presidency long before the Oval Office incumbent even declares they are running for office. Thus it is with the current White House administration – and Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist.

In July 2014, Bannon gave a 49-minute speech and Q&A to a conference hosted by the Human Dignity Institute as part of its coverage of the rise of Europe’s religious right.

Beamed live from Los Angeles – via Skype – into a small conference room tucked away inside the Vatican, Bannon declared that “the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis… We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict.”

The HDI proved a receptive audience. A lobby group for a “Christian voice” in European politics, its founder is former politician Benjamin Harnwell, who describes his stint as a European MP “as being in a direct spiritual warfare against the devil” and who believes that there is nothing really far-right about Marine Le Pen and the Alternative for Deutschland.

“We’ve come partly off-track in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union,” continued Bannon. “In the 21st century, we are facing “a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, [and] a crisis of capitalism.”

Bannon advocates “enlightened capitalism of the Judeo-Christian West”, based on the “underlying spiritual and moral foundations of Christianity”.

But it’s under attack, he told the HDI, from “crony capitalism” – or what Bannon calls “state-controlled capitalism” – and “libertarian capitalism” – two disturbing brands that fail to morally manage wealth creation and distribution in an ethical way.

And who is to blame for this? Bannon identified the increasing secularisation of the West, a creeping secularism that has “sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals.”

But Trump’s chief strategist also sees two other threats to the Judeo-Christian West on the horizon. And his response to each is shaped by religion.

Bannon’s problem with Islam

The first is Islam. Bannon believes that the West is “at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism” and that the West should respond by taking “a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam”.

In July 2016, Bannon was interviewed by John Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent who is now an anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist, on record as having said that American Muslims “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.” During that conversation, Bannon asked:

“Have we held back the dogs of war? Are we actually confronting and combating radical fundamental Islam in the United States of America and in places like our allies in France and the United Kingdom?”

Bannon, let’s not forget, is the author of a film script called The Islamic States of America, which argued that Islamists were taking over the US with help from mainstream media outlets, American Jews, FBI and the White House. He went on:

“Do you believe we have to prosecute this as a war, and we have to take care of this fifth column – there’s clearly a fifth column here in the United States – that needs to be dealt with immediately?”

Then, in 2010, Bannon told Avi Davis – a senior fellow at the American Freedom Alliance, an organisation concerned with “advancing the values and ideals of Western Civilization” – that “Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of submission.”

It has the makings of an Islamophobic perfect storm, which will have disastrous consequences for the American Muslim community

Islam is a religion that Bannon believes needs to be suppressed. He told that audience in the Vatican:

“If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West’s struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world.”

Bannon’s words should be seen in the light of every executive order currently signed, or before, Trump. The Muslim ban. The proposed ban on the Muslim Brotherhood. The removal of white nationalists from the counter-extremism programme, to instead focus solely on Islam. And that’s just in the first few weeks of office, all making for an Islamophobic perfect storm which will have disastrous consequences for the American Muslim community.

Who else does Bannon have in his sights?

But Bannon is not content with taking on the Muslim world. He also has his sights set on China.

In a February 2016 interview that Bannon hosted with theologian Thomas D Williams (who runs Breitbart’s operation in Rome), Bannon said:

“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China. Right? They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”

Bannon then adds that the one thing the Chinese fear more than America and capitalism is Christianity.

China, he says, is “one of the most vibrant Christian churches in the world… devout evangelicals, devout mainstream Protestants, and devout Catholics that are below the surface in China… it is a vibrant, vibrant, vibrant, Christian environment” which is “going to play into all this geopolitics.”

A month later Bannon would declared with certainty, in an interview with conservative movement historian Lee Edwards, that “we’re [America] going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years… there’s no doubt about it.”

The signs that Trump’s on board

If you chose to take on Islam and China, then you need a big army. At that 2014 HDI conference, Bannon called for a Christian militia, saying that they were at “the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict.”

He urged the church to become “militant” and “fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”

Fast forward to February 2017. With Trump in office, Bannon has now manoeuvred himself onto the National Security Council, influencing the administration’s national security and foreign policy.

Meanwhile Trump is speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he tells the audience that he will “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a 60-year-old tax code law that helps separate religion and politics in the United States.

Trump’s speech was a vision of religious nationalism, dominated by the two key themes of religion and militarism and intended to tee up a forthcoming “religious freedom” executive order.

Trump describes terrorism as a “fundamental threat to religious freedom” adding: “Freedom is not a gift from government… Freedom is a gift from God. Faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas and to lock arms at home.”

This heady brew of nationalism and religion, combined with the intended destruction of the Johnson Amendment, carries all the hallmarks of Bannon: politicise and radicalise religion – then gain support for a global confrontation with its enemies.

Bannon – and the Republican worldview – is also shaped by the legacy of Ronald Reagan, of whom he is a huge admirer, keeping a photo of the 40th president of the United States above his desk.

In July 1980, Reagan was the first politician to say “God bless America” during a nomination acceptance speech, winning over evangelical Christians. In 2004, politicised by the 9/11 attacks, Bannon wrote and directed In the Face of Evil, a documentary that lionised Reagan and his inner circle for taking on the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union.

Bannon’s vision for Trump is not too dissimilar to the description given of Reagan in the film’s trailer: “In mankind’s most bloodiest and barbaric century, came a man who with a vision, an outsider, a radical, with extreme views, of how to confront evil.”

Who going to help Bannon in this fight?

Bannon told that audience at the Vatican: “If we do not bind together as partners with others in other countries then this conflict is only going to metastasize.”

Where will these allies come from? Although critical of Russian state-capitalism, Bannon sees potential in a future alliance with Putin: “We, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what he’s [Putin] talking about as far as traditionalism goes – particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism – and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing.”

Would Moscow team up with Washington in Bannon’s war? MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance seems to think so, arguing that Bannon is attempting to “align the United States and Russia together in a Christian war against Islam.” Putin might face a dilemma if Tehran, which is on the receiving end of war talk from the White House, is goaded into crossing a red line that is then used to justify military action.

But Israel, which wants sanctions against Iran, could make a good bedfellow. Although accusations of anti-Semitism have plagued Bannon, he has always been a staunch supporter of Israel due to its strong militarised religious nationalism and opposition to what he would refer to as radical Islam.

Other allies could include France’s Marine Le Pen, whose National Front party shares Bannon’s hatred for “financial globalisation and Islamist globalisation”. She is currently in the lead, according to polls, for the first round of presidential voting in April.

Then there is Geert Wilders, an Islamophobic Dutch MP and regular Breitbart contributor, whose Freedom Party (PVV) party looks set to take the majority of seats in the Dutch Parliament later this year.

Bannon believes conflict began in 2008

Bannon’s obsession with conflict is reflected too in his obsession with a chilling social theory.

TIME Magazine reported that during the early 2000s, Bannon became fascinated with The Fourth Turning, a book by generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe. The authors predict that American institutions are reborn every 80 years: from the American Revolution (1775 – 1783) to the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) to the Second World War (1939 – 1945).

Each of these events consists of a four-part cycle, repeated over and over by successive generations:

  1. Fall into crisis
  2. Embrace institutions
  3. Rebel against institutions
  4. Forget the lessons and start the next crisis, which in turn destroys and rebuilds institutions

In 2010, Bannon was inspired to produce the documentary Generation Zero, in which he depicted the 2008 financial crisis as a warning that the next Turning was near. According to TIME, Bannon “seemed to relish the opportunity to clean out the old order and build a new one in its place.”

Indeed, in a speech to the Liberty Restoration Foundation in 2011, Bannon said: “We had the revolution. We had the civil war. We had the Great Depression and World War Two. This is the great Fourth Turning in American history, and we’re going to be one thing on the other side.”

So when Robert Reich, who served in the Clinton administration, says that if left “unsupervised by people who know what they’re doing Trump and Bannon could… bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust” – he isn’t being hysterical.

If Bannon was a Muslim then he wouldn’t be let anywhere near the White House, never mind left with the keys. Instead the world would unite in calling him an extremist and hate preacher. There would be a global urgency to stopping him from further radicalising people for his ultimate goal of global jihad.

But instead the focus is on the Trump circus, as Twitter theatrics take the sting out of what really is a dark, twisted nihilistic force pulling the levers of power in the Oval Office.

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” said Roger “Verbal” Kint, aka Keyser Soze, at the end of The Usual Suspects.

In the coming months, the checks and balances of American democracy are going to be tested like never before – and will need to react quickly in the current climate.

As Bannon told the New York Times about the first few weeks of the Trump administration: “We are moving big and we are moving fast… we didn’t come here to do small things.”

Bannon is driving America, and potentially the rest of the world, off a cliff. It’s going to be terrifying to watch.

Posted in USAComments Off on Steve Bannon is preparing Trump for a holy war

Basic Income as a Neoliberal Weapon


NOVANEWS
  • A large poster in a square in Geneva, Switzerland, promoting the idea of a universal basic income
    A large poster in a square in Geneva, Switzerland, promoting the idea of a universal basic income | Photo: Reuters
There are a wide range of notions of what a BI system might look like. Devotees of free market capitalism have their own vision.

In April of this year, the Ontario government is expected to release details of a pilot project that will study the effects of a very limited and rather dubious attempt at Basic Income or BI. As with similar experiments in Finland and the Netherlands, nothing approaching a universal payment will be put in place. Rather, a sampling of the poorest people will be provided with a very modest allowance, with fewer bureaucratic strings attached than under existing systems of income support.

OPINION: Workless Utopias and the Return of the Future

These experiments are really focused on the impacts that the measures will have on the people being tested, with a major focus on to what extent “labor market participation,” which really means readiness to take low paying jobs, is enhanced. In truth, it’s really poor people who are being evaluated and not a system of BI. For that to happen, the impact of introducing the measure on a massive scale would have to be assessed. The results for the people being tested are probably quite predictable. If those in poverty are given an increased payment with less intrusion into their lives, we may expect that they will be somewhat better off. The real issue is what kind of a BI would be implemented across an entire political jurisdiction and what impacts would such a measure how on society as a whole.

There are a wide range of notions of what a BI system might look like. Devotees of free market capitalism have their own vision. The right wing U.S. political scientist, Charles Murray, advocates a meager universal payment and stresses vehemently that this must replace entirely the other elements of social provision. The liberal to radical left supporters of a progressive BI counter with models that are anything from modestly redistributive to radically transformative, some even dreaming of a universal and very adequate payment that would rob capitalism of any capacity to economically coerce workers. The problem with all of these plans is that, despite thoroughly good intentions, they fail to address the actual practical possibilities of their being implemented. It is just assumed that fairness and social justice can be introduced by way of a social policy initiative.

RELATED: India Considers Universal Basic Income to Eradicate Poverty

Before we consider the prospects for a BI that would improve lives and reduce poverty, we should examine the factors that have shaped existing systems of income support. If we go back to the roots and consider the English Poor Laws, we see a peasantry being driven off the land in the 1500s and forced to enter a newly created job market. An oversupply of labor served the interests of the employers of the day but total abandonment of the unemployed led to dangerous levels of social unrest. The solution the State came up with was a system of provision that might enable people to survive but that was as inadequate as possible so as to continue to drive people into the lowest paying jobs. Modern systems of welfare and social assistance have continued with this approach and are marked by meager payments and bureaucratic intrusion into peoples’ lives.

As the neoliberal agenda took root and intensified and, as employers sought to lower wages and increase the rate of exploitation, a systematic degrading of income support systems was carried out in all countries that had the elements of a welfare state in place. This led to a scramble for the worst jobs and an explosion of low wage and precarious employment. From the standpoint of the architects of neoliberalism, this has been an enormously successful and profitable strategy. Yet the advocates of a progressive BI imagine that all this can be put behind us simply by somehow convincing governments to adopt a social policy that will make everything rational and fair. They don’t ask themselves why the neoliberal powerbrokers would give up decades of gains by providing income adequacy and, in doing so, increase workers’ bargaining power massively. They don’t ask how, with our unions and movements significantly weakened by the neoliberal attack, we could force the employers and the state to make such a vast concession.

RELATED: Ecuador’s Correa: ‘Neoliberalism Has Failed, Not Socialism’

The danger of not dealing with such issues lies in the above-mentioned right-wing version of BI. When the exploiters and enablers who gather at Davos consider the policy, they realize that it has enormous possibilities for them. With a whole progressive lobby laying down a welcome mat, they can now work on very different brand of BI. A meager and dwindling payment can be provided that in no way interferes with the flow of workers into the low-wage sector. Moreover, if they extend the payment to the working poor, it becomes a de facto wage top-up for employers. The struggle for living wages is now undercut. The most exploitative employers know that their workers are being paid out of the tax revenues and they are under little pressure to raise wages. Governments can freeze of even lower minimum wages and a general lowering of wages sets in.

At the same time as neoliberal BI is used to grease the wheels of super-exploitation, another key element of the neoliberal agenda, privatization, is facilitated. The BI payment, as free market advocates have long suggested, is given in place of the other elements of social provision. As public healthcare, social housing and much else beside are gutted, BI transforms those who receive it into “customers” shopping through the privatized rubble of the social infrastructure. It is, of course, quite possible to design on paper a BI model that is adequate and that does not involve cutbacks in other areas but the question is which version is more likely, based on prevailing economic and political agendas and the present balance of forces in society.

Rather than trust to the Davos crowd and hope “the 1%” develops a taste for social justice, a far better approach would be to build the social movements and struggles that can defend past gains and work for expanded and accessible public services. Rather than hope neoliberal governments will offer us a social policy end-run around austerity, far better to press for income support systems that offer full entitlement, adequate payments and that are no longer based on bureaucratic intrusion and moral policing.

Basic Income is a false hope and a pathway to the commodification of social provision that, while it may be paved with good intentions, leads to a destination entirely to the liking of those who design and operate the neoliberal order.

 

Posted in USAComments Off on Basic Income as a Neoliberal Weapon

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