Archive | November 13th, 2020

About to Have His Day in Court, This ISI Journalist Wants to Know If He’s on the US ‘Kill List’

About to Have His Day in Court, This American Journalist Wants to Know If He’s on the US ‘Kill List’

Award-winning war reporter Bilal Abdul Kareem, who says he has been the target of numerous U.S.-led airstrikes, was also wounded by Syrian tank fire while covering the country’s civil war.

by: Brett Wilkins,

Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American journalist, believes he may be on the U.S. government's "kill list." (Photo: Bilal Abdul Kareem/Twitter)

American  journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem wants to know if he is on the U.S. “kill list.” (Photo: Bilal Abdul Kareeem/Twitter)

An American journalist who alleges he has been targeted for assassination for his reporting on Syria’s civil war will challenge his apparent inclusion on the U.S. “kill list” in federal court next week.

Bilal Abdul Kareem, a Peabody Award-winning war reporter from Westchester County, New York who has worked for major international media outlets including CNNSky News, and the BBCwill ask a federal court in Washington, D.C. on Monday whether U.S. intelligence marked him for death because of his coverage of the nine-year conflict in Syria. As part of his work, Kareem conducted interviews with members of various armed groups, including militants targeted as the enemy by the U.S.-led coalition that invaded Syria in 2014. 

“I have always believed part of being an American meant if you were accused of doing something, you would be given the opportunity to plead your case in court.”
—Bilal Abdul Kareem, journalist

Kareem narrowly escaped being killed in five separate U.S. airstrikes in 2016, including an attack on his office and two strikes on vehicles in which he was traveling. Kareem was also wounded when he and his crew came under fire from a Syrian army tank while reporting for Sky News in Idlib last year. 

A lower court initially upheld Kareem’s right to bring the case, however it dismissed it after the government claimed the proceedings would require disclosure of “state secrets.” Now on appeal, the central question before the court is whether the government can secretly authorize the assassination of American citizens without judicial review.

“I have always believed part of being an American meant if you were accused of doing something, you would be given the opportunity to plead your case in court,” said Kareem. “But now, here I am, standing at the courthouse doors and the U.S. government is trying to deny me that opportunity. In Syria, in one of the most violent wars the world has seen, I try to champion the American ideals of justice, transparency, and accountability.”

“I hope the court will see fit to uphold those same rights—my rights—here at home,” he said. 


Reprieve@Reprieve
PRESS RELEASE: Bilal Abdul Kareem – award-winning African American journalist – will challenge the US government in court on Monday after narrowly escaping 5 US drone strikes in Syria in 2016.

Jennifer Gibson, an attorney who works on cases involving extrajudicial assassination for the U.K.-based international human rights advocacy group Reprieve and who is representing Kareem, accused the Trump administration of “asking the courts to jettison the right to due process, a value which sets America apart from dictatorships.”

“The executive should not be allowed to act as judge, jury, and executioner unchecked,” Gibson asserted. “In a country founded on the rule of law, Americans must have a right to challenge a secret death sentence.” 

Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer who also represents Kareem, said that “this case presents one of the most profound issues of human rights in our lifetime.”

“Even George Orwell could not have imagined a lawyer from the ‘Department of Justice’ standing up in court to say the U.S. president may order the CIA to execute an American journalist in total secrecy, without any judicial oversight,” he added.

In 2018, journalist Matt Taibbi, then working for Rolling Stone, offered this profile of Kareem, including a look at the possibility he was placed on the U.S. government’s targeted assassination list:

Although Kareem projects a sense of humor—”Most of my drama revolves around having a big mouth; I got it from my mother,” he said in a recent interview—he has no illusions about the forces he is up against.

“You take a Black guy who’s a Muslim and he’s on a kill list he’s trying to get himself off. What are the chances of that? I don’t really have a lot of optimism,” he told Syria Direct in July. “At the end of the day, it would be a long and messy court battle for them to have to prove anything. But why should they even go through all of that when they can just cross state secrets and finish me?”

“You take a Black guy who’s a Muslim and he’s on a kill list he’s trying to get himself off. What are the chances of that? I don’t really have a lot of optimism.”
—Kareem

In May 2012, the New York Times revealed the existence of a secret Obama administration “kill list”—formally known as the disposition matrix—that included an unspecified number of U.S. citizens deemed mortal enemies in the so-called War on Terror. One of the men on the list, U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was assassinated in a joint CIA and military drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. His son, 16-year-old Colorado native Abdulrahman al-Awkal, was killed in a similar strike the following month.

When pressed on why an innocent American teenager had been killed, a senior Obama adviser said the boy should have “had a more responsible father.” 

“Turns out I’m really good at killing people,” Obama once boasted, according to the 2013 Mark Halperin and John Heilemann book Double Down. “Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.” 

President Donald Trump has his own assassination list, as the January 2020 drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani reminded the world. In the first major atrocity of his administration, U.S. and UAE special forces raided the village of Yakla in Yemen in January 2017— killing 23 civilians including 10 children, among them Anwar al-Awlaki’s daughter (and Abdulrahman’s little sister), 8-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki, who died slowly and painfully after being shot through the neck.

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Massive Protests in Peru Against ‘Legislative Coup’ That Ousted President Martín Vizcarra

“All of Peru is fired up, we’re all very angry,” said one protester. 

byKenny Stancil,

Demonstrators hold signs saying "Merino is not my president" during a protest against newly appointed interim president Manuel Merino on November 12, 2020 in Lima, Peru. Merino, who was head of National Congress, replaced President Martín Vizcarra after he was ousted by lawmakers over allegations of corruption. (Photo: Renzo Salazar/Getty Images)

Demonstrators hold signs saying “Merino is not my president” during a protest against newly appointed interim president Manuel Merino on November 12, 2020 in Lima, Peru. Merino, who was head of National Congress, replaced President Martín Vizcarra after he was ousted by lawmakers over allegations of corruption. (Photo: Renzo Salazar/Getty Images)

Thousands of Peruvians have taken to the streets this week to protest the interim government of newly appointed President Manuel Merino, a member of Peru’s center-right Popular Action Party who as head of Congress played a key role in ousting his predecessor, Martín Vizcarra, in what critics are calling a “legislative coup.”

As The Washington Post reported earlier this week, the removal of Vizcarra on Monday was “based on still-unproven bribery allegations,” which critics called “a congressional coup staged by Machiavellian legislators desperate to halt his anti-corruption and political reform campaigns.”

While Vizcarra is no leftist like Bolivia’s Evo Morales, his popular anti-corruption efforts jeopardized legislators’ “pocketbooks and threatened to end many of their political careers,” the Post noted. 

The Guardian reported earlier this week that a previous attempt to oust Vizcarra in September “failed to get enough votes,” but this week’s impeachment trial unfolded “as Peru is reeling from one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, which has left its economy in recession and caused mass unemployment.”

To help answer the question, “What’s going on in Peru?” researcher and analyst David Griscom appeared Friday on The Michael Brooks Show and offered this snapshot of the situation:

Since Vizcarra was forced out, protesters have clashed with police forces that teleSUR reported are increasingly violent toward citizens. 

According to the Guardian, at least 11 people, including journalists, have been wounded as of Friday, some from rubber bullets. 

“The clashes, and other more peaceful protests in the capital Lima and other cities,” the news outlet reported, “are piling pressure on a fragmented Congress” as well as Merino, who was inaugurated on Tuesday under circumstances that the vast majority of the country considers illegitimate. 

José Vega, a protester in Lima, told the Guardian that “all of Peru is fired up, we’re all very angry.”

“They treat us poorly,” he continued. “We’ve only come to protest against injustice … We are all feeling pain.”

“We’re in the streets spontaneously and peacefully defending Peruvian democracy from an abuse by Congress,” Gino Costa, a lawmaker from the progressive Morado party who joined Thursday’s protests, told the Guardian.

Vega added: “I’m saying to everyone, let’s not give up.”

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Aldi flouts mandatory PPE for staff.

Jenny JupeCannon Hill and Highbury

Aldi flouts mandatory PPE for staff. Shopped in Aldi opposite the cricket ground for the first time in six months. Won’t be going back! Security guard and shop assistant wandering round the store with no PPE, as mandated by Government and agreed by the City Council. Their excuse – I can’t breathe if I wear a mask and giggled! What’s wrong with a visor?

Spoke to the area manager and insisted they do something about it to protect their customers. Birmingham could be on the edge of tier three – who knows? Cases in Edgbaston, in particular, are high. Aldi – you need to comply!

Posted in Crime and Safety 

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Trends in Congress spell hope for Palestinians

KATHRYN SHIHADAH 

Trends in Congress spell hope for Palestinians

They can change the story about Israel in Congress (Top row, left to right: Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13), Cori Bush (D-MO-01), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16); bottom row, left to right: Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07))

Capitol Hill has for years been a no-questions-asked, pro-Israel fortress, with Israel advocates pushing out people like like Paul Findley, Pete McCloskey, and Cynthia McKinney when they spoke out about Palestinian human rights. Now that tide may be turning, and Israel partisans are not happy.

by Kathryn Shihadah

Before the elections, If Americans Knew assembled our election-year Scoreboards for the Senate and the House to give voters an idea of where candidates stand on the issue of justice for Palestinians. 

We told you who sponsored and cosponsored legislation, and how each Congress person voted on each bill related to Israel; and we provided the amount of money and endorsements each received from pro-Israel organizations. We then calculated a “pro-Israel score” to sum up each person’s performance over the past two years (spoiler: most of them, Democrat and Republican, scored very, very high on the pro-Israel metric).

Perhaps most eye-opening about the Scoreboards is the sheer quantity of pro-Israel legislation that the two houses of Congress entertained. As we’ve reported, the number of bills and resolutions reached almost one hundred.

All of this might suggest that support for Israel – despite its multitude of human rights abuses, its discrimination, and the damage it has done to Americans – is here to stay.

But the devil, as they say, is in the details – the winners and losers (both old and new), the rhetoric, and campaign spending tell the story.

‘The Squad,’ with Representative Ilhan Omar at the podium, 2019, Washington
‘The Squad,’ with Representative Ilhan Omar at the podium, 2019, Washington (TOM WILLIAMS/CQ ROLL CALL VIA AP IMAGES)

The young and the restless

Several newly-elected Congress members give reason for Palestine advocates to feel hopeful.

If “several” sounds meager in an ocean of 535 Congress members, consider the sea change initiated by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) and her bold colleagues, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07).

These four women – “the Squad” – gave President Trump fits, as they refused to sit quietly and ride the learning curve. They have been flipping the script on Capitol Hill ever since, insisting that Congress actually begin to address the needs of the marginalized, instead of doing the bidding of the powerful (like Israel). They don’t always play nice, they are not always “ladylike,” and they do not hold back.

As a result, they have come under numerous attacks and attempts to misrepresent who they are. Despite that, all were re-elected with resounding numbers.

In the Minnesota primaries, Ilhan Omar prevailed over her pro-Israel opposition, Antone Melton-Meaux – in spite of the $2 million his campaign spent, much of it donated by rightwing individuals and organizations (at least $500 thousand from pro-Israel PACS, and an undisclosed amount from pro-Israel conservative billionaire Seth Klarman). Omar survived vilification and Israeli disinformation campaigns, as well as schemes to overthrow her, winning her district with 64% of the vote.

Rashida Tlaib also successfully faced a well-funded primary opponent, then beat her challenger last week with an impressive 78% of the vote. Like Omar, Tlaib weathered sizable attempts by pro-Israel power brokers and media to take her down because she supports the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement and because as a Palestinian-American, she lends a face and voice to the people of Palestine.

Ayanna Pressley, who has come out strongly against Israel’s annexation plans and other Israel-related issues, took a whopping 87% of her district in the general election.

And Ocasio-Cortez took 69% of her district after taking a stand on conditional aid to Israel and declining to participate in an event celebrating the legacy of former Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, who had initiated the “break the bones” policy against Palestinian men, women, and children.

No doubt these women will continue shaking things up on Capitol Hill, and Israel partisans will do their best to malign them in any and every way possible.

Newcomers

Newcomer Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16), a middle school principal, appears poised to join with the Squad in speaking truth to power, as he told Jacobin magazine:

We have to have honest conversations about the humanitarian crisis taking place through the occupation of the Palestinian people. It’s a crisis that America has been complicit in through bolstering Netanyahu and his far-right government while doing next-to-nothing in terms of holding him accountable. 

jamaal Bowman israel congress
Jamaal Bowman (John Minchillo/AP)

(Gaza’s nearly two million inhabitants struggle under a brutal blockade, now in its fourteenth year, in which Israel withholds the most basic necessities, including medicinefood, and building materials. Children face malnutrition and mental health issues.)

Bowman has also called for aid to Israel – over $10 million per day – to be conditional on its compliance with international law (as per the Leahy Laws). This policy position would have been political suicide a few years ago, but today in Democratic circles, is mainstream.

As important as Bowman’s policy positions is his district: Bowman ousted sixteen-term incumbent and Israel hawk Eliot Engel in what the Yonkers Times described as a “David beats Goliath moment.”

A newcomer to politics beat an entrenched legislator who was backed by “nearly the entire Democratic Party establishment,” including New York Gov. Cuomo, Hillary Clinton, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

(Rep. Eliot had been openly using his chairmanship of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee to advocate for Israel – see this.)

Cori Bush (cdn.sitetheory.io)

Bowman won both the primary and the general election by a landslide, despite reportedly $3 million of pro-Israel donations to defeat him.

Another newcomer to Washington who will fit right in with the intrepid young crowd, Cori Bush (D-MO-01) prevailed in her primary and destroyed her opponent in the general election. 

A woman of color, Bush is an outspoken defender of the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement. BDS is based on the principle that that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.

Bush went on record before she won the primary: 

In our current geopolitical economy, money talks far louder than speech alone. This is why nonviolent actions like the BDS movement are so important – and why the effort to mischaracterize and demonize the BDS movement by its opponents is so urgent.

Support for BDS has, until recently, been almost heretical, but Bush proves that today it is electable.

israel congress
Mondaire Jones (www.gannett-cdn.com)

Mondaire Jones (D-NY-17) who is black and gay, won the seat vacated by staunch Israel partisan Nita Lowey, who is retiring. Lowey had periodically bragged about using her chairmanship of the extremely powerful Appropriations Committee to funnel money to and for Israel (see videos of some of her speeches here.)

Jones, on the other hand, walks a fine line, self-describing as both a friend to Israel and a supporter of Palestinian rights.

He opposes Israeli settlement and demolition of Palestinian homes, but also opposes BDS. It remains to be seen whether Israel or justice will win out for Jones. Either way, he is a far cry from Lowey’s fanatic support for a foreign country.

These decisive victories – the Squad, Bowman, Bush, and (possibly) Jones – indicate Americans’ growing willingness to to vote for candidates not supported by the usual dominant special interests – and the Israel lobby is one of the most powerful and pervasive.

Never too late

Change on the Israel/Palestine issue has been afoot among veteran Congress members as well.

Political analyst Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute believes the US is experiencing “an important shift generationally and ideologically within the Democratic Party” on the issue of Palestinian rights. 

Al Jazeera credits Sen. Bernie Sander (D-VT) with recently getting the ball rolling on the issue of Palestinian rights. (Previously, people like Paul Findley (R-IL), Pete McCloskey (R-CA), Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), and Gus Savage (D-IL) had taken the lead on this, until Israel partisans pushed them out.)

Over a year ago, as an Independent presidential candidate, Sanders uttered the previously inconceivable words on aid to Israel: “I would say that some of the $3.8 billion should go right now to humanitarian aid in Gaza” (he was subsequently pushed out of the presidential race).

In February, 33 Representatives – led by Mark Pocan (D-WI-02) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) – signed a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling on the US to resume humanitarian aid to Palestine and to pressure Israel to end its illegal blockade of Gaza.

That second demand – ending the blockade – was unprecedented, in that it recognized not just Palestinian need, but Israeli responsibility.

Nevertheless, all 33 of the letter’s signatories were reelected last week. (A few years ago, such an action could have disastrous results – just ask Beto O’Rourke.)

Mark DeSaulnier, D-CA
Mark DeSaulnier

Among the signatories was Mark DeSaulnier (D-Ca), who also supported bills upholding Americans’ right to boycott and blocking the use of US funds to torture Palestinian children. He was re-elected with about 75 percent of the vote.

In June, 191 House Democrats signed another letter, this one to the Israeli government, cautioning Israel against its plan to annex parts of the Palestinian West Bank – an act that would violate international law.

Last December, over 100 Dem House members signed a letter denouncing the Pompeo/Trump announcement that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are not “per se inconsistent with international law” (they are).

These are among a number of letters coming out of this Congress on the Israel/Palestine issue. Some directly supported Palestinian rights, others at least declined to support Israel’s every whim.

To be sure, the wording in many of the letters was less-than confrontational, but the fact that they contained criticism at all is stunning.

israel congress
Betty McCollum (www.sierraclub.org)

(While a group of House Republicans and another in the Senate also signed letters supporting Israel and its Prime Minister regardless of his actions, one Republican, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, dared to oppose the $38 billion to Israel, and was massively attacked by Israel partisans for doing so.)

Any discussion of Palestinian advocacy would be incomplete without mention of Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), who has worked for years to bring justice to the people of Palestine.

Most recently, she authored H.R.2407, a bill seeking to block the use of US military aid funds to detain and torture Palestinian children. 

McCollum’s district has retained her services since 2001.

Pro-Israel push-back

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports that, for the 2020 election cycle, total contributions from pro-Israel organizations came in at over $28 million – almost double that of 2018 (for a total of $172.5 million since 1990).

This increase in campaign donations makes sense, given Israel’s popularity needs a shot in the arm, especially among Democrats. 

Pew Research reports that the percent of Democrats supporting Israel, which for years hovered in the low forties, has recently plummeted to just 27 percent (Republican support has climbed from the upper forties to 79 percent).

The Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) was created to address this very issue: to counter, in the words of New York Jewish Week, “the drift — if not dive — away from support for Israel within the party.” 

DMFI president Mark Mellman described the organization’s mission:

the overwhelming majority of elected Democrats are pro-Israel and we [DMFI] intend to keep it that way…there is a small group of outliers who are trying to change that and we are here to do battle with them.

Elsewhere, he compared pro-Palestine legislators to a cancer, stating that DMFI would make sure the “few discordant [read: not pro-Israel”] voices” in Congress don’t “metastasize into a bigger problem.”

Mellman was disappointed to see that out of about forty candidates DMFI supported on the national level, just 22 won (several races have not been called yet) – but he was gratified that at any rate, Congress will have what he views as plenty of pro-Israel legislators next year.

DMFI and other pro-Israel organizations have their work cut out for them: the climate is changing for Israel, as evidenced by noteworthy essay by Jewish journalist Peter Beinart, a well-known “liberal Zionist.” He wrote in the New York Times in July,

Israel has all but made its decision: one country that includes millions of Palestinians who lack basic rights. Now liberal Zionists must make our decision, too. It’s time to abandon the traditional two-state solution and embrace the goal of equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. It’s time to imagine a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state. 

Support for Israel has also been slipping among conservatives: today only 43% of Republicans are “very favorable” toward Israel. 

Conservatives used to favor support for Palestinian rights until the  pro-Israel neocons took over, and this view may be starting to return as they learn more about the issue and the cost to Americans. Among evangelicals, for example, support for Palestinian rights is growing as its members become aware of the facts. (Not long ago a poll found that only 30% supported Israel above Palestinians.)

Many in the pro-Palestine community have known about the situation for years; most believe that Israel (and its top ally, the US) has never expected, or even attempted a “solution” with two equal states. In the age of smartphones and YouTube, Israel is no longer able to keep its secret: it’s just stringing Palestinians along.

While the 2020 congressional elections may not birth an immediate or dramatic change in Israel policy, they will continue the trajectory toward justice – an arc that bends slowly but ultimately must reach its destination.

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Senior Trump Official: Politicians Get ‘Very Rich’ by Supporting ‘Israel’

ALISON WEIR  

Senior Trump Official: Politicians Get ‘Very Rich’ by Supporting Israel

Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor in a meeting with Israeli army officials. (Ha’aretz)

Col.Douglas Macgregor, one of several Trump loyalists recently installed at the Pentagon, says the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States is trying to drag America into war

By Amir Tibon, reposted from Ha’aretz

Senior U.S. Defense official Douglas Macgregor, who was recently installed at the Pentagon by partisan loyalists of President Donald Trump, has come under fire for saying that American politicians become “very, very rich” by supporting Israel, with pro-Israeli organizations calling his remarks “antisemitic.”

In 2019, Washington was rattled after Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) virtually made the exact same remark, tweeting that support for Israel in the United States was “all about the Benjamins,” referring to Benjamin Franklin, whose image appears on $100 bills.

Omar was denounced by members of Congress from both parties, and was accused of spreading antisemitism by Jewish American organizations, as well as by Trump.

However, as of Saturday morning, leading Republican senators, who denounced Omar’s comments almost immediately in 2019, had all remained silent about Macgregor’s comments.

Macgregor, a retired Army Col., went even further than Omar, bluntly claiming that politicians who support Israel are only driven by money, and that the pro-Israeli lobby in the U.S. is trying to drag America into war.

Macgregor was appointed adviser to Trump’s new acting secretary of defense, Christopher Miller.  His appointment is part of a purge of professional, non-partisan leaders in the Department of Defense, and their replacement by fervent Trump loyalists, which has been taking place since Trump was projected to have lost the presidential election to Joe Biden last week.

Macgregor’s remarks regarding the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby in the U.S. were first reported on Friday by CNN. The network quoted an interview Macgregor gave last year, in which he said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “has his hands out for money from the Israeli lobby, the Saudis and others.”

Speaking about Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, who like Pompeo is a strong supporter of the Israeli right-wing and the settlements enterprise, Macgregor said: “Mr. Bolton has become very, very rich and is in the position he’s in because of his unconditional support for the Israeli lobby. He is their man on the ground, in the White House.”

When asked whether politicians who are known for their support for Israel, such as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), want to go to war with Iran, Macgregor replied: “You have to look at the people that donate to those individuals.”

He added that AIPAC has “enormous quantities of money that over many years have cultivated an enormous influence in power in Congress.”

Earlier this year, Trump had nominated Macgregor as U.S. ambassador to Germany, but his nomination was stalled after media outlets reported on statements that he made in which he criticized the German government.

It remains unclear why Trump has pushed in recent days for a complete leadership overhaul at the Pentagon. One possible explanation suggested by several leading U.S. media outlets is that the defeated Trump wants to complete the withdrawal of all American forces out of Afghanistan, and potentially also out of Syria, before leaving office. Macgregor has expressed support for such moves in the past.

Slamming Macgregor’s remarks, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), one of the most prominent Jewish members of Congress, wrote on Twitter: “The only appropriate response from this White House to these antisemitic comments from someone with a distorted idea of the Holocaust must be a swift firing and complete condemnation.”

Echoing Deutch’s sentiments, Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League warned that “There is no place in our government for these ugly, antisemitic conspiracy theories that wealthy Jews are controlling the government.”

AIPAC, considered the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., called Macgregor’s comments “ill-informed and illegitimate” and said that his words will not deter the organization from continuing its work.


Editor’s note: The Times of Israel reports:

In a 2012 interview with the Russian state outlet RT, Macgregor said the pro-Israel lobby had “enormous influence” and wanted military action to be taken against Iran.

“I think the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC] and its subordinate elements or affiliated elements that represent enormous quantities of money that over many years have cultivated an enormous influence in power in Congress,” he said.

“I think you’ve got a lot of people on the Hill who fall into two categories — one category that is interested in money and wants to be reelected, and they don’t want to run the risk of the various lobbies that are pushing military action against Iran to contribute money to their opponents,” Macgregor said.


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‘Israel’ says teen fell and died as he fled soldiers. Witness Describes Gruesome Violence

CONTACT@IFAMERICANSKNEW.ORG 

Israel says teen fell and died as he fled soldiers. Witness Describes Gruesome Violence

Amer Snobar (DCI-Palestine)

Amer Snobar’s friend, who was at the scene, says he was beaten to death by officers wielding clubs. The army denies killing him

By Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, reposted from Ha’aretz

Amer Snobar, a 17-year-old from a down-on-its-luck family in the West Bank village of Yatma, was killed on Saturday night three weeks ago, after midnight. His incident occurred opposite the entrance to Hugo Chavez Hospital in the town of Turmus Ayya, north of Ramallah. Snobar had been helping a friend whose car had broken down. The friend, Sahar Najar, also 17, says that six Israel Police officers emerged from a white van, seized Amer and beat him with clubs until he fell to the ground and died.

Najar accompanied us this week to the site of his friend’s death and reenacted the events. The police van had been trailing them as they pushed the stalled car (with the aid of another vehicle) near the entrance to Turmus Ayya. Najar, wary of any contact with the Israelis, was able to escape and hide behind a nearby building. The van, however, blocked Snobar, and six officers – Najar thinks they were from the Yasam riot police unit – emerged and started to beat him with clubs. The pummeling went on for about 10 minutes. For the first few minutes, Najar heard his friend’s shouts, but then they grew faint and stopped.

The Israel Defense Forces stated the following day that it was their forces that had been pursuing Snobar, but that he apparently tripped or lost consciousness and struck his head, and that that is what caused his death.

At the site where Snobar was killed, on the shoulders of the internal road near the entrance of Turmus Ayya, next to Hugo Chavez Hospital, there is no place where one could fall and be killed by hitting his head, as the army maintains. The IDF also stated that the soldiers summoned an ambulance and tended to Snobar until it arrived. Snobar died in a Palestinian ambulance on the way to the Government Hospital in Ramallah (the Chavez hospital is currently receiving only coronavirus patients). People who saw the body related that there were contusions on the head and chest and that the teenager was covered in blood.

Who killed him? Or, perhaps, what killed him? And why?

The dead youth’s family live in an isolated house in the heart of an olive grove at the edge of Yatma – north of Turmus Ayya – which one arrives at by means of a pothole-ridden dirt road. The house is the epitome of meagerness; flies buzz about in the shabby living room.

Sahar Najar at the spot where his friend Amer Snobar died.
Sahar Najar at the spot where his friend Amer Snobar died.Credit: Alex Levac

The bereaved father, Abd al-Rahim, a tiler of 54 whose permit to work in Israel was immediately revoked when his son was killed – the usual Shin Bet security service procedure with bereaved Palestinian families – and who was left devastated by both those events, is sitting in the living room. His face is a picture of pain and despair. There isn’t one photograph of his dead son in the room. Only a poster outside indicates that this is a house of mourning.

Amer was the eldest child – Abd al-Rahim and his wife, Mohadiya, have another son and four daughters. Amer attended school only until the 8th grade, when he began helping his father provide for the family by collecting scrap metal and selling it. What did he dream of being when he’d grow up? “In this land there are no dreams,” Amer’s uncle, Mahdi Snobar, interjects.

On Saturday evening, October 24, Amer told his father that his friend Sahar had called to say that he needed his help, because his car was stuck. The hour was late, Sahar’s car wasn’t legally owned by him and Abd al-Rahim told his son not to go. But Amer waited until his father dozed off and left. He drove Sahar’s second car, which is also illegal.

Snobar beaten soldiers
Abd el-Rahim Snobar. He had told his son not to go out that Saturday night, so Amer waited until his father dozed off before sneaking off to help his friend. (Ha’aretz/Alex Levac)

Abd al-Rahim woke up around midnight and Mohadiya told him that Amer had left not long before. He called his son, but there was no response, so he called Sahar, who told him, “Soldiers arrested Amer. I managed to get away.” Sahar said Abd al-Rahim should go quickly to Turmus Ayya, a few minutes’ drive from Yatma, to try to get Amer released. Together with two neighbors, Abd al-Rahim rushed to Turmus Ayya, but by that time there were large army forces at the site who brandished weapons and refused to let them approach.

After about a quarter of an hour, a Palestinian ambulance arrived. The driver told Abd al-Rahim to follow him to the Government Hospital in Ramallah. The paramedic said that Amer was in serious condition, but wouldn’t allow the father to see him inside the ambulance. At the hospital he waited for about 15 minutes before a physician gave him the bitter news. His son was dead. He saw the body, its upper part covered with blood.

“It was a lynching,” Mahdi, the uncle, told us.

Abd el-Rahim Snobar at his home.
Abd el-Rahim Snobar at his home.Credit: Alex Levac

The following day, the head of the Arab media division of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Avichay Adraee, published the following post on his Facebook page in Arabic: “Don’t believe the Palestinian lie! The truth about what happened in Turmus Ayya! During the night the security forces operating in the Binyamin region received a report of an Israeli vehicle at which stones were thrown near Turmus Ayya. In response, the army arrived at the scene and started searches to locate the perpetrators. When the forces entered the village, two suspects fled.

“During their flight, one of them fell to the ground and lost consciousness as a result of striking his head. Contrary to Palestinian reports, the young person was never beaten and the army did not approach him before he fell to the ground, but on the contrary, tried to assist him with medical treatment, resuscitation and first aid.” Adraee posted a photograph showing the injured teenager lying on the ground, being treated by Israeli soldiers.

According to Defense for Children International, an autopsy was performed on Amer Snobar’s body at An-Najah National University Hospital in Nablus. The results have not yet been published officially, but the NGO reports that the autopsy concluded that he died of suffocation. It also identified significant contusions and wounds in his chest and stomach, according to the organization.

What, then, happened on that night at the entrance to Turmus Ayya? Only Mustafa, Sahar Najar’s father, was home – in another poverty-stricken dwelling in Yatma – when we visited. He’s been wheelchair-ridden for nine years, since a rock fell on him, crushing his back, while he was herding sheep.

His son hasn’t been home since the night his friend was killed, we’re told. Sahar is deeply traumatized, Mustafa said, and is also afraid to come to the village because of the accusatory looks he gets from the bereaved family of his childhood friend. The Snobar family blames Sahar for having called Amer out of his house late at night and perhaps also for the fact that he succeeded in getting away while his friend was killed.

In the meantime, Sahar is taking refuge in his sister’s house in Mughayyir, a village near Turmus Ayya. At the time of Amer’s funeral, he was under interrogation by the Palestinian police, and he did not visit the Snobars’ mourning tent, for fear of the family’s reaction. He and Amer had been friends since preschool.

Sahar Najar. Since his friend’s death, he’s been afraid to show his face in Yatma, as he thinks Amer’s family blames him.
Sahar Najar. Since his friend’s death, he’s been afraid to show his face in Yatma, as he thinks Amer’s family blames him.Credit: Alex Levac

We met at the entrance to Hugo Chavez Hospital, where the events occurred. The hospital, with its elegant, modern exterior, was donated by the late president of Venezuela as an ophthalmic center, but currently serves the Palestinian Authority as a hospital for coronavirus patients. (People without face masks could be seen walking about inside the hospital this week.)

Sahar Najar arrives in a tattered T-shirt, looking frightened and stunned. He speaks softly, is sparing in his words, his eyes are red, probably from lack of sleep. We go to stand exactly in the place where his friend fell after being beaten, according to his account. A few steel pipes from a nearby workshop hang from the fence by the roadside where everything happened. The hospital’s gate is directly opposite, across the road.

Najar relates that he left home in his old Peugeot 205, a mashtuba – a vehicle that has been erased from official records and has no license number or insurance, and thus not permitted on the road – at about 8 P.M., on the way to visit his sister. He, too, like his late friend, collects and sells scrap metal. At the entrance to Turmus Ayya the car stalled, and he was unable to start it. He called Amer and asked him to come in his other mashtuba, a Hyundai. Amer took time in arriving, and in the meantime Najar waited in his sister’s house. The stalled car stood at the Turmus Ayya junction, on Highway 60, and the friends decided they would push it into the village and try to start it up there.

They used the Hyundai to push the Peugeot. When they reached the traffic circle at the village’s entrance, they saw an army jeep pass by. Then the police van appeared. As Najar ran to hide behind a nearby building, the van passed Amer and its occupants got out and began hitting him. Najar says he peeked out from behind the wall where he was hiding and saw the policemen (or, apparently, soldiers) beating him with clubs until he collapsed. He heard Amer shouting, “Leave me alone, leave me alone,” until he fell silent.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit stated on the day after the incident that the forces arrived on the scene in the wake of a report about stone throwing and about two suspects who were seen fleeing: “Apparently, during their escape, one of the suspects lost consciousness, collapsed and struck his head. He was not hit by IDF forces. The force at the site as well as military medical forces administered first aid to the injured person. Following lengthy efforts at resuscitation, the suspect was pronounced dead. The troops did not come into contact with the suspect before he fell and did not shoot at him.”

This week, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit issued an expanded statement: “During the night of 25/10, a report was received that stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle near the village of Turmus Ayya in the area of the Binyamin Territorial Brigade. IDF fighters who were operating in the area sped to the site and launched searches for suspects. As troops entered the outskirts of the village, two suspects began to flee on foot. Apparently, during the flight one of the suspects lost consciousness, collapsed and struck his head. The force at the site and military medical personnel administered first aid to the injured person. Following lengthy resuscitation efforts, the suspect was pronounced dead.

“We emphasize that he was not hit by IDF troops or by other forces at any stage, and the forces’ initial contact with him occurred during the medical treatment he was given.”

The spokeswoman of the Shai (Samaria and Judea) District police, Shlomit Bakshi, stated that no police force was in Turmus Ayya that night.


Gideon Levy is a Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. Levy joined Haaretz in 1982, and spent four years as the newspaper’s deputy editor. He is the author of the weekly Twilight Zone feature, which covers the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza over the last 25 years, as well as the writer of political editorials for the newspaper. Levy was the recipient of the Euro-Med Journalist Prize for 2008; the Leipzig Freedom Prize in 2001; the Israeli Journalists’ Union Prize in 1997; and The Association of Human Rights in Israel Award for 1996. His new book, The Punishment of Gaza, has just been published by Verso Publishing House in London and New York.


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Nagorno-Karabakh War is over. What now?

Azerbaijani and Armenian forces halt their operations and keep the positions that they currently control. The sides also agreed on exchange of prisoners of war.By South Front -November 10, 20203780

…from SouthFront.org

Russian peacekeepers are deploying to Nagorno-Karabakh after a permanent ceasefire was established in the region at 00:00 local time on November 10. 1,970 troops, 90 armored personnel carriers and 380 units of other equipment are set to be deployed in the region. The core of the peacekeeping contingent will be units of the 15th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade.

According to the statement signed by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani and Armenian forces halt their operations and keep the positions that they currently control. The sides also agreed on exchange of prisoners of war.

Additionally, Baku and Yerevan agreed on the following steps:

– Armenia should return control of the Kalbajar district to Azerbaijan by November 15, and the Lachin district by December 1, 2020. The 5km-wide Lachin corridor will be kept to ensure the connection of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.  The town of Shusha remains in the hands of Azerbaijan. In addition, by November 20, Armenia should return control of the Agdam district and a part of the Gazakh district to Azerbaijan.

– Russian peacekeepers are deployed for the period of five years with an automatic renewal for an additional five-year period, if none of the parties to the agreement decides to withdraw from it.

– A peacekeeping center will be created to monitor the ceasefire and the implementation of the agreements.

– In the next three years, the sides will agree on a plan for the construction of a new traffic route between Stepanakert and Armenia along the Lachin corridor. When the route is created, the Russian peacekeeping contingent will be re-deployed to protect it.

– Internally displaced persons and refugees will return to Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding areas under the supervision of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

– All economic and transport links in the region will be unblocked. Armenia will take steps to provide transport links between the Azerbaijani mainland and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. This will be overseen and secured by Russian border guards. It is planned to ensure the construction of new transport communications for this purpose.

Azerbaijani President Aliyev also stated that the Turkish side would participate in the peacekeeping mission. Likely, the Turks will be involved in the peacekeeping center.

It should be noted that the ceasefire deal was officially announced late on November 9, just a few hours after Azerbaijan shot down a Russian Mi-24 helicopter, which was escorting a convoy of forces of the 102nd Russian military base near the village of Eraskh inside Armenia.

The foreign ministry as well as the top military and political leadership of Azerbaijan, including the president and defense minister, immediately admitted the incident offering their apologies and proposing compensation to the Russian side.  According to Baku, the helicopter was shot down by mistake in a time of tension and Armenian provocations.

Open military conflicts always set conditions for various incidents involving forces deployed even in a relatively close proximity to the combat zone. The unprecedentedly rapid and straight reaction of Azerbaijan demonstrates that Baku was not interested in an escalation with Russia.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan saw Armenia as a direct participant of the Nagorno-Karabakh war despite attempts of the Armenian leadership to pretend that Azerbaijan was in a war with forces of the self-proclaimed Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Republic only.

On the other hand, the location of the village of Eraskh is far from the actual combat zone. Therefore, there is a small possibility that this was a Turkish-instigated provocation/demonstration of force that should somehow warn and deter Russia from intervening into the Karabakh war on the side of Armenia.

This may be compared with the Turkish posture in Syria, when its warplane shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane in the first months of the Russian military operation there in 2015. Nonetheless, it should be noted that this Turkish demonstration led to little results and the Russian operation there turned the tide of the war to the favor of the allied government of Bashar al-Assad.

Expectedly, the November 10 peace led to a deep political crisis in Armenia, with chaos in the parliament and the strengthening of calls to dismiss Pashinyan from his post. In its own turn, the Pashinyan group fiercely resists this scenario pretending that it was not responsible for the loss in the war.

In fact, the outcome of the current Nagorno-Karabakh war was inevitable taking into account the foreign and internal policy posture of Soros-linked Prime Minister Pashinyan and his inner circle that seized power as a result of the coup in 2018. SouthFront in detail forecasted the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and its outcome in its analysis “Crisis in Armenia and Balance of Power in South Caucasus” released in June 2018.

Currently, the pro-Western Armenian elites will try to keep their power justifying the Karabakh defeat by some “insurmountable obstacles” and the lack of support from Russia. Pro-Western Armenian media has already started blaming Russia for the alleged betrayal.

If the Pashinyan clique somehow remains in power and succeeds in promoting its agenda, the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the conflict zone and the full loss of Karabkah for the Armenians will become inevitable within the next 5 years.

Posted in Armenia, AzerbaijanComments Off on Nagorno-Karabakh War is over. What now?

Covid Ignoramuses

BY EVE OTTENBERG

Photograph Source: michael_swan – CC0

On election night, one exit poll revealed that 48 percent of respondents believed the government had done a good job, including coping with Covid-19. In other words, 48 percent of respondents are imbeciles who approved of what happened that day: 1100 coronavirus deaths and 94,000 new cases. Only four in 10 voters ranked the pandemic as their top concern. If the election disclosed one thing it’s that about half of all Americans have their heads in the sand regarding the pandemic and are likely blithely, provincially unaware that no other country on earth has failed as miserably as the U.S. to contain the disease.

It’s also a good bet that most of those Trump voters would guffaw in belligerent disbelief at the news that countries like left-governed New Zealand, semi-socialist Vietnam, vaguely communist China and other non-white countries like South Korea and Taiwan eradicated this plague and that people in those lands get to lead normal lives. Their children go to school, they go to work, they frequent bars and restaurants, their hospitals are not swamped by critically ill patients, nor do they run the risk of contracting a potentially lethal, chronic and disabling disease every time they visit the supermarket. How to account for such American ignorance, stupidity and insularity? Well, back in the early twentieth century, H. L. Mencken dubbed the U.S. a boobocracy. He was right then, and his verdict holds up today. American morons are everywhere. Their views on covid prove it.

On November 4, while all eyes were riveted on election results, this plague killed over 1600 Americans, and there were over 100, 000 new cases. Two days later, there were 121,000 new cases. Later, over 135,000 new cases in one day. And new infections and deaths zoomed up and up at that pace, or faster, thereafter. At this rate, according to one medical expert, we could have one million dead by late February. For that you can thank Trump’s mass murdering policy of herd immunity, and the one third of voters who told pollsters that they believed the economy’s urgency drubbed the pandemic’s. Roughly 50 percent of Americans wear masks; that’s not enough to stop the virus. But those unmasked multitudes don’t care, so long as their God-given right to infect others is not infringed.

With over 10 million U.S. covid cases, this pestilence has now killed over 240,000 Americans. A month ago, experts cited excess deaths statistics to prove the true number was then over 300,000 dead, so by now it’s more. Whichever it is, it’s too many. It far exceeds the covid death rate of any other country. Indeed, the world gapes in horror as the U.S. fumbles the pandemic, just as it watched in dismay as the U.S. fumbled Hurricane Katrina. In fact, covid is Trump’s Katrina. Not just because it cost him votes, but because apparently, like Bush with the hurricane, Trump was far too incompetent to do anything about the catastrophe other than make it worse. Bush’s ineptness let a great American city drown. Trump’s ignorance and abysmal instincts have cost the U.S. even more, and 10 months into it, the debacle just roars on.

Why? Well, this is the country where, in August, as covid percolated poisonously through the Midwest, 250,000 bikers converged on Sturgis, South Dakota, for a summer shindig. They didn’t wear masks, and they didn’t socially distance. And lots of them got sick. Now they have angry, acrid regrets. According to the New York Times, “Sturgis council members who approved the rally have been bombarded with death threats.” The event caused roughly 250,000 coronavirus infections nationwide. All of this was completely predictable. The bikers who went to Sturgis behaved like irresponsible children. Some of them paid the price. So did plenty of other people.

The bikers’ fecklessness mirrored Trump’s. After he hosted a super-spreader soiree for his radical right-wing supreme court nominee, numerous guests contracted covid, including Trump and Chris Christie. They knew they could get sick, but they couldn’t resist the fantasy that things would “go back to normal.” How stupid is that? This virus has made blindingly clear its power to relegate normal to paradise lost, as any adult knows. Normal is over for the foreseeable future, until we get a good, tested, reliable vaccine. The Trump regime’s infantile “I want, I want, I want, gimme parties, gimme cameras, gimme glitzy, crowded blow-outs,” had a perfectly foreseeable outcome. It’s a miracle none of those overgrown toddlers were intubated and died. Or maybe some were. If so, you can be sure we won’t hear about it.

So now what can Biden do? He can negotiate with the lame-duck Trump regime for a national mask mandate tout de suite. He has also named his coronavirus task force. Otherwise, he probably must wait till January. His moves then will hopefully include finally revving up the National Defense Authorization Act to its fullest potential to produce protective gear for medical workers – most of them reusing masks in the covid-crammed hospitals of Trump country. He should assure that vaccine distribution plans are ready and not enfeebled by the malicious neglect that plagued testing. He should fix testing and contact tracing once and for all.

Regarding economic impacts, Biden should back up those states and localities that have to impose targeted lockdowns, as Utah just did, by releasing funds to support workers and small businesspeople thus idled, by executive order if necessary. He must try to pass another stimulus with unemployment dollars, basic income, money for cities and states and a full-fledged rent and mortgage moratorium, and even rent forgiveness. And to atone for his wretched 1994 crime bill, which he now acknowledges was a mistake, Biden should do everything possible to release nonviolent and elderly felons from those disease-infested pits – the prisons. These are only some of the weapons in a president’s arsenal against this plague. It is high time, past time they were deployed.

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Damn Moderates

BY ANDREW LEVINE

Photograph Source: Senate Democrats – CC BY 2.0

The world owes Donald Trump thanks. But for him, our next president would be Donald Trump, and “moderate” Democrats – spineless defenders of the pre-Trumpian status quo and of the interests of the kinder-gentler wing of the ruling class — would have done even more harm than they did.

Needless to say, this is not how liberal media see it. As soon as the election was called, they went on the offense. Within a day or two, watching MSNBC and CNN became unbearable, worse even than listening to NPR or reading the drivel of most New York Times and Washington Post columnists.

Stephanie Rule, Claire McCaskill, Dana Bush and a few others were among the first to go on the attack, but within hours and with very few exceptions, they all followed suit – blaming not themselves and their politics, but the politics of leftists within the Democratic fold for the fact that the “blue tsunami” they were all expecting failed to materialize.

Because genuine progressives have nowhere else to go without marginalizing themselves, there is a large and growing left wing within the Democratic Party at the national and state levels. This drives establishment Democrats and their media flunkies crazy. They have to pretend that it does not however, that all Democrats are ultimately on the same page, because, at some level, they realize that, having nothing of interest to offer themselves, they would be nowhere without the progressives they abhor.

That realization goes only so far, however; witness their efforts to make advocacy of even the most anodyne versions of socialism taboo again.

Mainstream Democratic politicians have so far been more restrained than the pundits and experts on the cable networks, perhaps because, with two runoff Senate elections in the offing, they don’t want to shoot themselves in the foot. The best-known exception, so far, is a moderate not long out of the CIA, Abigail Spanberger.

She is not alone, however; others are chomping at the bit. It is hard to say whether this is because moderates go where the money is or because it is in their nature. What is clear is that Pelosiite-Schumerian Democrats, and Democrats even more retrograde than they, having honed their skills by going after foreign leaders, Vladimir Putin especially but not only, who resist American world domination, have become adept at demonizing their rivals.

This is a useful addition to their skill-set. The military-industrial-national security state complex has been calling for years for a new or revived Cold War and Democrats have been even happier than Republicans to oblige.

Too bad for them, though, that genuine progressives are a lot harder to cast in a disparaging light than Russian oligarchs or Chinese “communists” out on the capitalist road. But those who want to keep both duopoly parties on the wrong side of the class struggle have no choice but to take up the challenge.

To be sure, with the federal judicial system packed with retrograde judges, many of them Trump appointees, and with more than seventy million Americans having voted for Trump just a few weeks ago, there is still a chance that Trumpian skullduggery will somehow lead to the nullification of the results of the November 3 election.

However, the chances of that are slim and getting slimmer. A few Republican bigwigs, even The Wall Street Journal editorial page, have already come around to the view that Trump should be gracious in defeat. Good luck with that.

Trump’s obduracy hardly matters, however. He still has his base, but the monolith is cracking, and so far at least, there seems to be no way to stop it. Trumpian judges can’t or won’t, much to the Donald’s dismay.

However, we are not out of the woods by any means. For the time being, nearly all GOP Senators and Representatives, and many administration officials, continue to shame themselves by remaining under Trump’s thumb. As long as they remain conspicuously base and servile, the Trump base will remain conspicuously deplorable. Mayhem and civil strife therefore still lie ahead, and the consequences could be ugly.

This is one reason why the joy that followed the announcement of Trump’s defeat is giving way to apprehension. Another reason is that the realization that the election did not go well for Democrats is sinking in.

Had Joe Biden, riding an anti-Trump wave, not gotten at least 279 Electoral College votes (as of this writing, 45 more all but certain Biden Electoral College votes remain to be called), we would now be staring catastrophe in the face. Instead, we are looking at a post-Trumpian future in which Trumpism is unvanquished and in which our pre-Trumpian past could well derail hope for urgently needed fundamental change.

The Biden-Harris victory staved off disaster, and it is not inconceivable that much good could come from it – if, and only if, a militant left opposition makes it impossible for the administration not to go along.

For that to be the case, what happens outside the government will likely be more important than what happens within; it generally is. But what happens within matters too, which is why, in addition to Trump’s defeat, we can also rejoice in the fact that “the squad” survived the November election, and that there will be perhaps as many as a dozen more legislators in the next Congress who hold views similar to theirs.

Reactionary plutocrats and white Evangelicals dug deep in their pockets to forestall that possibility. This time, they lost. But there is no guarantee that they always will; plutocrats’ pockets are deep and religious fervor is hard to defeat.

Democrats will retain control of the House too, but there will be fewer of them in it than there now are. The ones who will be gone will hardly be missed by those who want to move the country beyond the Clintonite horizons of the mainstream Democratic Party, but the consensus view among liberal commentators was that Democrats would substantially increase the size of their caucus As it turned out, they diminished it.

Democrats were also expecting to “flip” a bunch of Senate seats, enough to make Mitch McConnell go back to his old Kentucky home where he could spend his days catching flies by some placid pond. That isn’t going to happen either. The best progressives can hope for now is a fifty-fifty split and therefore, if all Democrats tow the party line, to tied outcomes that would result in Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote.

How the internal business of the Senate would be organized would then have to be negotiated. This is not a cheery prospect because Democrats are spineless pushovers while Republicans are hard asses. Maybe, though, with the stakes so high, Democrats will somehow find the strength within themselves to work something acceptable out.

To get to a fifty-fifty split, Democrats will have to win two runoff elections in Georgia. If they fail, McConnell will be able to call the shots even with Biden in the White House, and we can forget about undoing the harm he has done to the federal judiciary, and forget about pursuing anything like a progressive legislative agenda too.

This is why winning those elections in January is the new Job Number One. It won’t be easy, but with Stacey Abrams leading the charge, it just might happen.

There is no prospect, though, of undoing the fact that Democrats failed to flip the many state legislatures that were supposed to turn blue this time around. Therefore, as the 2020 census results come in, Republicans, not having to contend with significant legal or statutory constraints and showing flagrant disregard for (small-d) democratic values, will again gerrymander Congressional and other legislative districts to their hearts’ content.

In theory, voters in democracies choose their representatives, not the other way around. However, in this respect as in so many others, American democracy is “exceptional.”

It would therefore be fair to say that beyond the main thing, which was of course to send the Donald packing, that, for the most part, Democrats fucked up.

Trump blames everybody but himself whenever things don’t go his way; and when he accuses an opponent of X, Y, or Z – of corruption, for example – it is virtually certain that he is guilty as sin of X, Y, or Z himself.

Mainstream Democrats are not all that different. Like Trump, they cast blame away from themselves when things go wrong; and, when they do so, they are nearly as likely to be wrong as he is. Thus, they are falling all over themselves now, blaming AOC and the other good guys, and giving moderates a pass.

In truth, though, when Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and other party honchos quashed the Sanders and Warren campaigns — and especially when the “iconic” James Clyburn engineered a Biden victory in South Carolina, breathing new life into Biden’s flailing campaign — they all but made what became of the predicted “blue tsunami” inevitable.

Damn them for that; damn all the moderates; and damn Clyburn most of all.

Where are iconoclasts when we need them! And when, for that matter, will Democrats stop relying on South Carolina, a state full of conservative African Americans and incorrigible white supremacists, a state that they have no hope of carrying anytime soon anyway, to choose their nominee?

The short answer is: when the Democratic Party is led by real progressives, not by those who favor their own interests and the interests of the obscenely rich over the preferences of the actual and potential voters Democrats ostensibly represent.

It was easy, this time, for moderates to prevail. All they had to do was identify moderation with relief from the Trumpian maelstrom.

After all, in times such as these, who does not crave peace and quiet? Especially now, with a socially distanced holiday season looming, calling for anything more demanding than kumbaya unity seems almost as hardhearted as denying Tiny Tim and the other Cratchits their Christmas dinner. Even Scrooge couldn’t pull that off.

But the struggle must go on because a prolonged period of Bidenesque normalcy is a recipe for trouble ahead. The social and political order that we have been living under for the past quarter century or more is what made Trump or someone like him possible — and, if not inevitable, then the next closest thing.

More likely than not, Trump will soon no longer be a factor. Word is out that he wants to run for president again in 2024. That may be hard for him to do, though, even if he is still able, because if even a pale semblance of justice prevails, he will be doing time then at some Club Fed.

If we have learned anything from these past four years, it is that “it can happen here” is not just a cautionary tale but a live possibility. Unless we change the underlying conditions in ways that make that possibility far more unlikely than it evidently now is, it is more likely than not that what we have just gone through will before long recur. Then the danger will be that our next Führer wannabe may not be quite as disposed to doing himself in as Trump has been.

We dodged the bullet, sort of, this time, but we cannot count on dodging the next one or the one after that. This being the case, there is some urgency, even while still in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s defeat, in reflecting on what made what can happen here actually happen.

Blame the institutions; blame rightwing propagandists; blame respectable corporate media too for giving Trump and his co-thinkers free publicity and a respectful hearing. And, although the terminally “woke” are too goody-goody to say it, also blame the direct victims of Trumpian nativism and racism who went over to Trump’s side.

By some accounts, that would be as many as twenty percent of African American men and a larger percentage of Latinos.

The problem, it seems, is not just elderly, CIA sponsored, Cuban-American counter-revolutionaries in Miami and a few other enclaves, their children and grandchildren, and their class brothers and sisters, the dregs of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie.

Latinos in the West and Southwest are also part of the problem, not all that many of them except perhaps in south Texas, but enough to slow down the rise of progressive politics in LatinX communities. Class interests and family traditions don’t account for their moral recalcitrance, their willingness to make common cause with the enemies of “the wretched of the earth.” What, then, does?

There are many explanations at hand; not all of them without merit. There is merit too in the idea that, as Tolstoy put it, “tout comprendre, c’est tout pardoner,” to understand all is to forgive all. In this case, though, I have to go with Jean-Paul Sartre’s declaration of contempt for victims who respect their executioners.

It goes without saying that none of this lets the more than seventy million, mostly white, dunderheads who voted for Trump off the hook. Trump conned them – conning the vulnerable is one of the few things he does well – but even so.

After Trump, no one can reasonably deny that the fascist temptation runs deep in the Land of the Free. There is no way to think soundly about the good and the bad in moderation without taking this sad fact into account.

Barry Goldwater was famously taken to task for reciting a line written by Karl Hess that was inserted into the Arizona Senator’s Republican convention acceptance speech in 1964: “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Hess was an under-appreciated political theorist who, unlike Goldwater, was more an anarchist than a conservative.

I confess that I have never quite seen what is supposedly so awful in those words, though of course, in the first part at least, it all depends on what those who say or hear them mean by “liberty.” Free marketeers like Goldwater mean, roughly, freedom from constraints on private ownership and market transactions. On the left, since even before the French Revolution, the term has had more to do with how able persons are to do what they want than with how unconstrained by laws or other persons they may be, with non-domination, and with autonomy, the freedom to act in accord with our own rational choices.

The second part seems both unambiguous and unexceptionable. Moderation in the face of injustice is part of the problem, not of the solution. Moderation in opposition to fascism, not only in the original sense of the term, but also in the sense that describes the authoritarian impulses that Trump and his co-thinkers admire is certainly no virtue.

Influenced in part by the Democratic Party’s leaders and their media toadies, large swathes of the Democratic Party’s rank-and-file think otherwise. Their intentions are beyond reproach. But they are sadly, even dangerously, mistaken. In the face of a continuing Trumpian threat, with or without the direct involvement of Trump himself, moderation is certainly no virtue.

***

What then is to be done in these final two months of the Trump era, with some large chunk of the seventy million plus MAGA voters still unchastened and unenlightened, and with a moderate Democratic administration about to take over?

Plainly, the most important thing for now is to win those two runoff elections. If Democrats don’t, Republicans will control the Senate for at least for the next two years. From that perch, they will obstruct, obstruct, and obstruct some more.

More broadly, disempowering Trumpians should take precedence over everything else, because it is key to everything else worth doing. All the forces that were arrayed against Trump should therefore now double their resolve and focus on defeating Mitch McConnell and others in the Greater Evil Party who side with him; that would be nearly every Republican on Capitol Hill.

This is eminently doable. For anyone less retrograde than, say, Mitt Romney, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are more palatable candidates than Biden; and Mitch McConnell, though less odious than Trump, is every bit as vile.

Trump is and ought to be an object of contempt, but McConnell’s politics – Republican politics — is evil, and therefore so is McConnell himself. Kumbaya Democrats and corporate liberal pundits go on about how important it is that we all come together “across the aisle.” This is pure, unadulterated, moderate bullshit.

Drive that point home and voilà: the struggle against Democrats who want to restore the status quo ante and not to change it fundamentally, as is desperately needed, can resume.

After that, it is crucial to insist – to Biden and the others – that the Donald, Don Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, Ivanka especially, and Trump’s most perfidious cronies and underlings be held accountable, not just for the crimes they committed that fall under the jurisdiction of the State of New York, but for their many federal crimes as well.

Obama and Eric Holder and Biden too deliberately gave George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and other Bush era war criminals a pass. For liberal spin doctors twelve years ago, this was a wise and noble act – the country had to move on. In truth, it was what made Obama’s drone assassinations and other extra-judicial killings, the deportations he ordered, and his war on whistle blowers and others who embarrassed him and Hillary Clinton – Julian Assange, for example, and Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and others – possible. It was the Obama administration’s Original Sin.

Now is a time to impress upon Biden that this will not be acceptable in 2021. True justice for Trump and the others may be beyond human reach, and our legal system is ill-equipped to handle more than a small fraction of the crimes for which they ought to be held to account. But shame on Biden and shame on us if Trump and the others get off scot-free. Trump should die a broken and impoverished man. “What is to be done?” Make that happen.

It would be well to enlist Kamala Harris in that cause. She is a moderate too, though not nearly as egregiously as Biden is, and she has much to answer for – by, among other things, coming out in support of fracking and continuing to pander to AIPAC.

I must say, though, that since Biden picked her to be his running-mate, her performance has not been half bad. Better her at the top than Biden himself.

For now, she seems on track to become our first female president. Confining attention just to feasible alternatives, we could do better – Elizabeth Warren would be better, for example – but we could also do a hell of a lot worse; in 2016, we very nearly did.

Then, finally, now would be a good time to take up serious organizing around two initiatives, both of which are eminently defensible in their own right, because they would make the political order more just and more (small-d) democratic, and both of which would raise Republicans’ hackles in ways that would keep their odiousness in the public eye even after they break free, if they ever do, from Trump’s stranglehold.

The first is DC statehood or, if getting to that point seems too complicated, finding some less complicated way to end “taxation without representation” for a population larger than Wyoming’s and Vermont’s, and not much smaller than Alaska’s, North and South Dakota’s, and Delaware’s.

If they want it, Puerto Rican statehood should also be pursued. Because anti-LatinX nativism runs high in our country, especially after Trump, this would be more difficult to enact. But if Republicans really do want LatinX votes, they would have a hard time now, after this last election especially, putting their bigotry front and center.

The other initiative I have in mind would be to put resources into getting recalcitrant states to sign on to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. A Constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College would be better of course, but, for now, going the Compact route seems more feasible.

The Compact is an agreement among signatories to award all their Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the overall popular vote in the fifty states and the District of Columbia. It would go into effect only when it would guarantee that outcome; in other words, when the signatories would be able to cast 270 Electoral College votes.

As of now, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington are on board, as is the District of Columbia. That amounts to 189 Electoral College votes altogether. The number would be 195 had the governor of Nevada not vetoed legislation that would bring that state too into the compact.

Meanwhile, the measure has passed through at least one legislative chamber in Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Oregon. Were they and Nevada all to join, it would be necessary only to pick up three votes more.

With the 2020 election still fresh in peoples’ minds, with the popular and Electoral College votes out of line twice just in this century, and with the concern that this would happen again this year, now would be an excellent time to ratchet up the pressure.

These are suggestions all Democrats should find congenial, and they should be able to garner support more broadly than that. I would not be surprised if even some Republicans in state legislatures around the country would get on board.

Moderate Democrats should be especially eager to take these initiatives on, even if only out of self-interest. After all, they won’t always have a Donald Trump around to save them from themselves.

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