Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Richard Hardigan, Christopher Black, Janine Bandcroft November 22, 2018

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


November 22, 2018

Last week's resignation of Israel's defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman and withdrawal of his party's support for the coalition government of prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has not only sown political turmoil in the country, but also signals dangerous days ahead for Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories.

The ultra-right wing Lieberman left the government in protest over Netanyahu's Gaza cease fire agreement with Hamas, and already even more extreme members of the prime minister's razor thin coalition majority are pushing for harsher measures against both the eight month-long Great March of Return in Gaza and Palestinian protesters generally.

Richard Hardigan is a journalist, university educator and activist who in 2014 traveled to the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement to experience firsthand life on the other side of Israel's infamous "security fence". The result is his recently released book, 'The Other Side of the Wall: An Eyewitness Account of the Occupation in Palestine'.

Richard Hardigan in the first half.

And; four years on from the Western-backed coup and overthrow of the democratically elected government in Ukraine, the war against the eastern regions refusing to cede to the Poroshenko regime is stalemated. The determination of the separatist Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples Republics to forge their own way was reinforced at the November 11th elections that saw record turnouts and overwhelming support for the People’s Councils.

But, the vote was immediately dismissed by America and the European Union as a "sham election", rigged by Russia and its proxies in eastern Ukraine.

Christopher Black is a Toronto-based criminal lawyer best known for his involvement in a number of high-profile, international war crimes cases. He's also a poet, essayist, and novelist who's latest book is, 'Beneath the Clouds'. Black's articles on international law, politics and World events appear at New Eastern Outlook among other places, and his latest, 'The Donbass Dilemma' examines the election and international reaction to it.

Christopher Black in the second half.


And Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour with the Left Coast Events Bulletin of some of the good things to be gotten up to in and around our town in the coming week. But first, Richard Hardigan and looking at the other side of Israel's wall.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

Monday, November 19, 2018

Filling Norway's Majestic Fjords with Mine Tailing Waste

Hundreds Of Millions Of Tons Of Mine Tailings Are To Be Dumped Into Norway's Fjords

by Keiko Norway Team


Oct 21, 2018

Despite public outcry, Norway has decided to stick with plans to dump mine tailings into the majestic fjords, “Førdefjorden” in Sogn and Fjordane and “Repparfjorden” in Finnmark.

Mine tailings, known as "gruveavfall" in Norwegian, are what remain after mining for minerals and metals. Gruveavfall actually quite literally means mine (gruve) garbage (avfall) and can contain chemicals and hazardous materials. The plan is to dump an immense amount into these fjords, with 250 million tons of tailings in Førdefjorden alone!

The fight against mine tailing dumpings in Norway has been long and ongoing. In 2016, 80 activists even chained themselves to the Nordic Minings machinery alongside Førdefjorden. All together they were fined over 1 million kroner.

Many people are understandably concerned and angry. These activities threaten the beautiful fjords and, most importantly, the life that resides in and around them.

These fjords are homes to many animals including orcas, cod, spiny dogfish, eels and multiple species of birds, mammals and fish.

Norway is one of only 5 countries in the world that still allows the dumping of tailings into the ocean and the 4 other remaining countries are even slowly beginning to change their opinion. The government in Norway often promotes the country as clean and respectable with a high focus on a sustainable future, but dumping tailings is not sustainable in any way.

Both of these fjords hold wild salmon.

One can only imagine the damage these tailings will have on spawning areas. The large mass of the tailings will lay almost immediately on the ocean floor, suffocating and killing marine life.

The mining industry also uses different types of chemicals to perfect their product. These chemicals are mainly Magnafloc 155, Magnafloc 1707 and Lilaflot D817M. Even worse, it is believed that, due to heavy currents inside the fjords, tailing particles may be carried over great distances. Scientists are concerned that these chemicals will not break down effectively and may spread to marine life.

These waters have no barriers. What goes on in these fjords will potentially also effect others outside of Norway’s borders.


What You Can Do:


Nussir is the name of the company planning to dump tailings in Repparfjord while Nordic Mining plans to dump tailings in Førdefjorden. We hope you will urge them to stop this destructive practice by contacting them through e-mail.

Nussir: info@nussir.no
Nordic Mining: post@nordicmining.com

You can also contact:
Prime Minister Erna Solberg: postmottak@smk.dep.no
Minister of Climate and Environment- Ola Elvestuen: postmottak@kld.dep.no

-Keiko Norway Team

Killers of Millions: The Real History of the Great War

The WWI Conspiracy

by James Corbett - The Corbett Report


November 19, 2018

PART ONE: TO START A WAR


INTRODUCTION

November 11, 1918.

All across the Western front, the clocks that were lucky enough to escape the four years of shelling chimed the eleventh hour. And with that the First World War came to an end.




From 10 o’clock to 11 — the hour for the cessation of hostilities — the opposed batteries simply raised hell. Not even the artillery prelude to our advance into the Argonne had anything on it. To attempt an advance was out of the question. It was not a barrage. It was a deluge.

[. . .]

Nothing quite so electrical in effect as the sudden stop that came at 11 A. M. has ever occurred to me. It was 10:60 precisely and — the roar stopped like a motor car hitting a wall. The resulting quiet was uncanny in comparison. From somewhere far below ground, Germans began to appear. They clambered to the parapets and began to shout wildly. They threw their rifles, hats, bandoleers, bayonets and trench knives toward us. They began to sing.

Lieutenant Walter A. Davenport, 101st Infantry Regiment, US Army

And just like that, it was over. Four years of the bloodiest carnage the world had ever seen came to a stop as sudden and bewildering as its start. And the world vowed “Never again.”

Each year, we lay the wreath. We hear “The Last Post.” We mouth the words “never again” like an incantation. But what does it mean? To answer this question, we have to understand what WWI was.

WWI was an explosion, a breaking point in history. In the smoldering shell hole of that great cataclysm lay the industrial-era optimism of never-ending progress. Old verities about the glory of war lay strewn around the battlefields of that “Great War” like a fallen soldier left to die in No Man’s Land, and along with it lay all the broken dreams of a world order that had been blown apart. Whether we know it or not, we here in the 21st century are still living in the crater of that explosion, the victims of a First World War that we are only now beginning to understand.

What was World War One about? How did it start? Who won? And what did they win? Now, 100 years after those final shots rang out, these questions still puzzle historians and laymen alike. But as we shall see, this confusion is not a happenstance of history but the wool that has been pulled over our eyes to stop us from seeing what WWI really was. This is the story of WWI that you didn’t read in the history books. This is The WWI Conspiracy.

PART TWO: THE AMERICAN FRONT

 

  

Framing Migrants as 'Human Shields'

Migrant Caravan: Branding Migrants 'Human Shields' Has a Deadly Motive

by Neve Gordon/Nicola Perugini - The Conversation


November 19, 2018

The “migrant caravan” is making its way towards the US border – and is facing countless obstacles and much opposition along the way.

Most recently, protests erupted when a large group of the migrants reached the Mexican border town of Tijuana.

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump was quick to join the clamour, accusing them of causing “crime and big problems in Mexico”:




The Mayor of Tijuana, Mexico, just stated that “the City is ill-prepared to handle this many migrants, the backlog could last 6 months.” Likewise, the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it. They are causing crime and big problems in Mexico. Go home!

The men, women and children in the caravan are travelling as a large group because in the past individuals and small groups who have fled central America to escape political violence or to find a better livelihood have been kidnapped by traffickers and drug gangs. Travelling en masse offers them a degree of protection.

US president Donald Trump has long lambasted the migrants. He first characterised them as “invaders”, who sheltered among their ranks “unknown Middle Easterners”. Later, Trump admitted that this thinly veiled attempt to portray the migrants as terrorists was not based on any “proof” but nevertheless went on to calm the public by declaring that the US military would be waiting for the caravan at the Mexican border. Initially announcing that he would send as many as 5,200 troops, he later upped this number to a possible 15,000 soldiers.

US secretary of state, Michael Pompeo, joined the bandwagon, warning the American people that the migrants are “putting women and children in front of this caravan to use as shields as they make their way through”.




As if to add credibility to this claim, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) then released a factsheet stating that among the marchers are hundreds of individuals who “have criminal histories”, and adding that, in Central America, they have put “women and children to the front to act as human shields as the caravan pushes against [the Guatemalan] military forces”. 

An old story


Interestingly, the president, secretary of state, and DHS did not pluck these allegations out of thin air. They are simply repeating claims made in a 2014 report published by the US right-wing Tea Party organisation.

The report described the movement of migrants as an “offensive whereby the southern borders of America are being swarmed”, adding: “This offensive is an invasion, not led by troops, but by divisions of mothers, children and young adults marching north from Central America and Mexico”. It went on:

“Civilian women and children are directly marched into the target nation so that permanent settlement locations may be secured for more advancing insurgents. In effect, the civilians become political human shields for the insurgents coming in behind them, which are part of a much larger (and more dangerous) offensive.

The use of military vocabulary – “invasion”, “divisions”, “insurgency”, “offensive” and “human shields” – to describe such migrants is, of course, calculated. It aims to prepare the ground for the way they will be treated once they reach the US border.

Consider the expression “human shields”. According to international law, human shields are civilians or prisoners of war whose bodies are deployed to illegally protect a legitimate military target. Whether they do so voluntarily or are forced to do so, the law states that they cannot “render an area immune from attack”.

Welcome to America: members of the migrant caravan 
reach the border wall in Tijuana, Mexico. EPA Images

Consequently, voluntary shields who die during an attack are responsible for their own deaths because they put themselves in harm’s way. Similarly, when involuntary shields die, those deploying them rather than those killing them are to blame. In armed conflicts, when civilians are used as shields by state militaries, they lose or risk losing the protections bestowed on them by international law. 

Legitimate targets


By using such language, Pompeo and the DHS potentially achieve two things. First, they cast the migrant caravan as an enemy that is willing to deploy human shields – a legitimate target for military action rather than a group of innocent and vulnerable individuals. Second, they suggest that if these migrant “human shields” die, it is those who use them as shields – rather than the US authorities – who must be held responsible.

Pompeo and the DHS are not alone in their attempts to frame migrants as legitimate military targets. Hungary and the Czech Republic have also categorised migrant children as “human shields”, claiming that their parents are using them to facilitate their efforts to enter Europe.

Significantly, the use of “human shields” is also something that is projected almost exclusively on to non-white migrants, another attempt to portray them as “barbaric” people who fail to understand and respect the civilised norms of international law.

Much like the rebels in Syria, Houthis in Yemen, and Palestinian protestors in Gaza, migrants are now widely depicted as deliberately violating the distinction between combatant and non-combatant, purportedly shielding themselves behind “women and children” in order to gain an advantage against state militaries. Consequently, such migrants are depicted as perpetrators of a war crime – even though they are not waging an armed struggle and, in many cases, are simply trying to escape one.

And so by attempting to make a better life for themselves, migrants are transformed into military targets, people who can be legitimately injured or killed. As the migrant caravan works its way north, and is further demonised for doing so, the world should reflect on this and how one of the pillars of international law – the category of civilian – is being eroded.
 

Putin's Reverses Forward on IL-20 Shootdown

Putin Meets Netanyahu Without Minders - Reverses IL-20 Facts, Defends Israel Attack, Again

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears


November 19, 2018

Moscow - President Vladimir Putin has announced a change of Russian policy in Syria after disclosing it to the Israeli Prime Minister when they met in Paris on November 11. Benjamin Netanyahu reported in Israel that what Putin said was “very important”.

With Netanyahu, Putin was not accompanied by Russian officials and the interpreter was an Israeli. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the meeting was a “short talk”, but gave no other detail. The Kremlin website did not report it at all. The Kremlin press office refuses to clarify why Putin and Netanyahu met with only Netanyahu’s interpreter present.

The next day, on the president’s return to Moscow, the Kremlin website reported that Putin informed the members of the Security Council “about several of his brief meetings on the sidelines of the events in Paris”. The Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other senior officials had not accompanied Putin to Paris, so the Monday meeting was their first opportunity to hear what had been said.



In Paris on November 11, left to right: President Vladimir Putin, Israeli interpreter, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The presence of the interpreter signals that Putin was speaking in Russian to make substantive points, not small talk in which he is able to speak in English with Netanyahu, who is fluent in English. Photo: https://www.jpost.com/ The Kremlin press office has been asked to identify the interpreter; it refuses.



In Moscow on November 12, visible from left to right: Sergei Ivanov; Sergei Naryshkin; Sergei Lavrov; Nikolai Patrushev; President Putin; Valentina Matviyenko; Anton Vaino; Vladimir Kolokoltsev; and Sergei Shoigu. Source: http://en.kremlin.ru/

From Moscow Putin flew to Singapore for a state visit, and for a summit meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). There he also held bilateral meetings with most of the major leaders attending the summit (except for Australia). On the last day, November 15, Putin gave an informal briefing to Russian journalists. One of them asked: “Did you discuss an opportunity for a more detailed meeting during your short contact with Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris? Is it possible to hold such a meeting in the next few months?”


Putin’s report of what had been discussed with Netanyahu was published on 
the Kremlin website; in Tass and RIA-Novosti; and published by Vzglyad
No Russian commentaries have followed in the press.

Putin answered that he and Netanyahu “did speak about the tragedy that took place in Syria. I am referring to the loss of our aircraft and the death of our people, our servicemen. Israel’s position is known and understandable. They believe they are not responsible for this tragedy. Naturally, we talked about this and some other issues linked with bilateral relations, the situation in the region as a whole and in Syria in particular. Specific dates for a potential bilateral meeting were not discussed.”

The telltale words are “tragedy” (repeated); “understandable”; and Putin’s repetition of the Israeli “[belief] they are not responsible…”

Accompanying Putin in Singapore were his spokesman Peskov; foreign affairs advisor Yury Ushakov; and Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Economic Development. Again, as in Paris, Shoigu and Lavrov were not with Putin. Their absence, particularly Shoigu’s, is significant because Putin’s report of what he had discussed with Netanyahu reveals that Putin had returned to the interpretation he had given after the downing of the Ilyushin-20 during an Israeli attack on Syria on September 17; all fifteen Russian crew on the electronic surveillance plane were killed. Putin’s interpretation was explicitly dismissed by Shoigu and the Defence Ministry – with strategic consequences for Israel.

Putin’s first response to the loss of the Il-20 had been to hold the Israelis harmless and to describe what had happened as a “tragedy”. “When people die, especially in such unfortunate circumstances,” Putin said at a Kremlin press conference the next day, “it is always a tragedy”.

“It is always a tragedy,” Putin went on – “a tragedy for all of us, for the nation and for the families of our people who lost their lives…
In this case, it is more a chain of tragic circumstances because an Israeli fighter did not down our aircraft. It goes without saying that we must get to the bottom of this. Our attitude towards this tragedy is set forth in a statement by our Defence Ministry, and has been fully coordinated with me. As for reciprocal action, this will be primarily aimed at ensuring additional security for our military and our facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic. These steps will be seen by everyone.”

The facts of the Israeli attack were quite different, and the Defence Ministry took unprecedented steps to explain what they were. These included three detailed briefings by the Defence Ministry — on September 18, September 23, and September 24. They were accompanied by a categorical statement of Israel’s culpability by Defence Minister Shoigu on September 18.

“The responsibility for the downing of the Russian aircraft and the death of its crew lies solely with Israel. .. we reserve the right to take retaliatory steps.”

At the end of that day Shoigu repeated his message so that the Israelis would understand the difference between what Putin was telling them and what the Stavka, the Russian Defence Ministry and General Staff, had decided, overruling the President. “It’s clear to any specialist,” Shoigu was emphatic, that

“the strike was delivered using our Ilyushin-20 as cover, because they [the Israelis] thought the Syrian air defence systems would not act in that direction… We have informed today our Israeli colleagues, and I have also informed personally the Israeli Defense Minister [then Avigdor Lieberman], that such actions will not be left unanswered by us.”

The same day the Foreign Ministry also issued this statement: “[the Foreign Ministry has] regarded as irresponsible and unfriendly the actions of the Air Force of Israel, as a result of which under a strike by the Syrian air defenses the Russian Il-20 plane has been downed, and 15 Russian servicemen have died. It has been noted that the Russian side will take all necessary measures to stop the threat to life and safety of the Russian military rendering assistance to the Syrian people in the fight against terrorism.”

For details of the Israeli attack and the Russian reaction, click to read this and this.

Taking Israel’s side, Putin had tried to dissemble, concealing the conflict with his ministers and the General Staff. He did not call his Security Council into session for a consensus discussion; he also avoided meeting Shoigu and Lavrov. The outcome was the Stavka’s initiative — implementation by Russia of a no-fly zone for fresh Israel Air Force attacks on Syria at the range of the combination of Russian and Syrian S-300 and S-400 missile batteries. Together, their defensive and missile interception range is more than 400 kilometres.


DETECTION AND STRIKE RANGES FOR THE RUSSIAN AIR DEFENCES OF SYRIA 



The red zone is the maximum strike range of the S-400s based at Khmeimim; the blue zone is the maximum zone of detection by the Russian radars and other sensors on the ground at Khmeimim. The Tartous base is on the coast 60 kilometres due south. Both ranges can of course be extended by reconnaissance and strike aircraft flying out of Khmeimim; the operations centre at Tartous coordinating Russian Navy deployments; and additional Russian aircraft flying out of Iran. Source: http://warnewsupdates.blogspot.com

“The Syrian Armed Forces”, Shoigu had declared on September 18,

“will be supplied with the advanced S-300 air defense missile system within two weeks. It is capable of intercepting air threats at a range of more than 250 kilometers and simultaneously hitting several aerial targets…
Command posts of the Syrian troops and military air defense units will be equipped with [the] automatic control systems, which have been supplied only to the Russian Armed Forces. This will ensure the centralized management of all Syrian air defense forces and facilities, monitoring of the situation in the airspace and prompt target designation.”

Shoigu intended the double reference to the range of the S-300 and to centralized command-and-control. He meant that the S-400 radars already installed for the defence of the Russian air base at Khmeimim and the naval base at Tartous would extend Syrian air defence to a range of more than 400 kilometres. Shoigu also announced what the Israeli Air Force should expect if they attempted to enter this zone: “Russia will jam satellite navigation, on-board radars and communication systems of combat aircraft, which attack targets in the Syrian territory, in the regions over the waters of the Mediterranean Sea bordering with Syria.”

This Russian no-fly zone transformed Israeli’s freedom of military operations in the region; the effect was not only to stop them against Syrian targets, but also over Lebanon. It also transformed US aerial operations in and out of Iraq, Jordan and the Al-Tanf base in southeastern Syria. The Stavka’s move announced by Shoigu was an unprecedented shift in the balance of power in the region.

Netanyahu sought a direct meeting with Putin in an attempt to overcome the new obstacle and to restore the status quo ante. Shoigu, Lavrov and the Stavka were able to frustrate that. As Putin told the Russian press in Singapore,

“we have not planned [meeting with Netanyahu] so far… Specific dates for a potential bilateral meeting were not discussed.”

By meeting Netanyahu in Paris, Putin was able to sidestep the Stavka, and give Netanyahu what he was asking for. Putin gave him the assurance that Russian air defences in Syria will not enforce a no-fly zone for the Israel Air Force so long as it sticks to Syrian and Iranian targets and promises not to repeat its ambush of the Il-20.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Solving the 'Greatest Crime on Earth'

Greatest Crime on Earth

by David Swanson - Let's Try Democracy


November 19, 2018

Remarks at No Bases Conference in Dublin, Ireland, November 18, 2018

I’m willing to bet that if I asked everyone in Ireland whether the Irish government should take orders from Donald Trump, most people would say no. But last year the Irish Ambassador to the United States came to the University of Virginia, and I asked her how allowing U.S. troops to use Shannon Airport to get to their wars could possibly be in compliance with Irish neutrality.

She replied that the U.S. government “at the highest level” had assured her it was all perfectly legal. And she apparently bowed and obeyed. But I don’t think the people of Ireland are as inclined to sit and roll over on command as their ambassador.





Collaboration in crimes is not legal.

Bombing people’s houses is not legal.

Threatening new wars is not legal.

Keeping nuclear weapons in other people’s countries is not legal.

Propping up dictators, organizing assassins, murdering people with robotic airplanes: none of it is legal.

U.S. military bases around the world are the local franchises of the greatest criminal enterprise on earth!

***

And NATO involvement doesn’t make a crime any more legal or acceptable.

A lot of people in the United States have trouble distinguishing NATO from the United Nations. And they imagine both of them as murder-laundering operations — that is, as entities that can render mass murder legal, proper, and humanitarian. A lot of people think the U.S. Congress possesses this same magical ability. A presidential war is an outrage, but a Congressional war is enlightened philanthropy. And yet, I have not found a single person in Washington, D.C. — and I’ve asked Senators and street vendors — not a single person who tells me they would give the slightest damn if Washington was being bombed whether it was being bombed at the order of a parliament, a president, the United Nations, or NATO. The view is always different from under the bombs.

The U.S. military and its European accomplices make up some three quarters of the world’s militarism in terms of their own investment in wars plus their dealing of weapons to others. Attempts to claim that an external threat exists have reached ludicrous levels. I can’t imagine weapons companies would like anything more than some intra-NATO competition. We need to tell advocates of a European military that you can’t oppose U.S. madness by imitating it. If you don’t want to buy more weapons on Trump’s orders, the answer is not to run off and buy even more under another name. This is a vision of a future dedicated to high tech barbarism, and we don’t have time for it.

We don’t have the years left to be monkeying around with medieval balances of power. This planet is doomed as a habitable place for us, and the hell that is to come can be lessened only by outgrowing the acceptance of war.

The answer to Trump is not to outdo him but to do the opposite of him.


A tiny fraction of what just the United States spends just on foreign bases could end starvation, the lack of clean water, and various diseases. Instead we get these bases, these toxic instigators of war encircled by zones of drunkenness, rape, and cancer-causing chemicals.

War and preparations for war are the top destroyers of our natural environment.

They are a top cause of death and injury and destruction.

War is the top source of the erosion of liberties.

The top justification for government secrecy.

The top creator of refugees.

The top saboteur of the rule of law.

The top facilitator of xenophobia and bigotry.

The top reason we are at risk of nuclear apocalypse.

War is not necessary, not just, not survivable, not glorious.

We need to leave the entire institution of war behind us.

We need to create a world beyond war.

People have signed the declaration of peace at worldbeyondwar.org in more countries than the United States has troops in.

People’s movements are on our side. Justice is on our side. Sanity is on our side. Love is on our side.

We are many. They are few.

No to NATO. No to bases. No to wars in distant places.

Hating Assange Makes Strange Bedfellows: "Resistance" Sacks with Trump

The "Resistance" Struggles to Justify Support for Trump's Prosecution of Assange

by Caitlin Johnstone - Rogue Journalist


November 18, 2018

Ever since suspicions were confirmed that the Trump administration is indeed working to prosecute and imprison WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing authentic documents, the so-called “Resistance” has been struggling to explain exactly why it is so enthusiastically supportive of that agenda.

And when I say struggling, I am being very, very generous.

When news broke that a court document copy-paste error had inadvertently exposed the fact that the Trump administration is pursuing an agenda which experts of diverse political persuasions agree would have devastating effects on the freedom of the press, #Resistance pundit and DC think tank operative Neera Tanden responded by tweeting,

“Never mess with karma”. 


As of this writing if you do a Twitter search for the words “Assange” and “karma” together, you will come up with countless Democratic Party loyalists using that concept to justify their support for a Trump administration assault on the press that is infinitely more dangerous than the president being mean to Jim Acosta.

The trouble with that of course is that “karma”, as far as observable reality is concerned, is not an actual thing. It’s a Hindu religious concept that is supported by no more factual evidence than the Roman Catholic claim that a priest literally turns bread and wine into the body and blood of a Nazarene carpenter who died thousands of years ago. A Democratic pundit using the concept of “karma” to justify enthusiastic support for Trump’s fascistic attack on press freedoms is exactly the same as a Republican pundit using “God wills it” to justify the existence of poverty, and it is just as intellectually honest.

But it’s also the best argument these people have got.

I mean, think about it. There’s really no other way you can justify supporting a Trump administration agenda–an administration you claim to oppose–in a prosecution with legal implications that are severely detrimental to the free press, which you claim to support.

The only way to justify it is with some vague, abstract notion that Assange is just “getting what he deserves” since the 2016 WikiLeaks publications of Democratic Party likely contributed to Trump’s electoral victory over Hillary Clinton, and the only way to reify that vague, abstract notion is with an appeal to some imaginary metaphysical principle, i.e. karma.

But, again, that is not a thing.

There is no invisible eight-armed deity floating around behind the scenes arbitrating and distributing the consequences of WikiLeaks drops, and there is no rational argument that the Trump administration prosecuting Assange is desirable because Assange “deserves” it. The fact of the matter is that these people are supporting Trump’s fascism in the most toxic ways possible, they are utterly incapable of defending that support with any intellectual honesty, and the self-proclaimed “Resistance” would be more aptly named “the Assistance”.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald described this phenomenon as follows:

"But the grand irony is that many Democrats will side with the Trump DOJ over the Obama DOJ. Their emotional, personal contempt for Assange – due to their belief that he helped defeat Hillary Clinton: the gravest crime – easily outweighs any concerns about the threats posed to press freedoms by the Trump administration’s attempts to criminalize the publication of documents.

"This reflects the broader irony of the Trump era for Democrats. While they claim out of one side of their mouth to find the Trump administration’s authoritarianism and press freedom attacks so repellent, they use the other side of their mouth to parrot the authoritarian mentality of Jeff Sessions and Mike Pompeo that anyone who published documents harmful to Hillary or which have been deemed “classified” by the U.S. Government ought to go to prison.

"…It is this utterly craven and authoritarian mentality that is about to put Democrats of all sorts in bed with the most extremist and dangerous of the Trump faction as they unite to create precedents under which the publication of information – long held sacrosanct by anyone caring about press freedoms – can now be legally punished."

And indeed this is exactly what has been happening. Check out the joyous celebrations in online comments sections from when the news broke that the Trump administration has brought sealed charges upon Assange (here, here, or here for example) for a taste of where the “blue wave” zeitgeist is at right now. Their hatred for Assange has overpowered not only their hatred for Trump, but the most important ways in which they are meant to be resisting him.

When you find yourself supporting conflicting principles, it’s a sure sign that you were never guided by principle to begin with.

And this is really the lesson we can take from all this. The noxious strain of American liberalism which promotes Russia conspiracy theories, supports the prosecution of government transparency advocates, and only attacks Trump as an idea rather than actually resisting his actual policies was never about any principle of any kind. There were preexisting agendas against Russia, alternative media, WikiLeaks, and government transparency long before Trump took office, and all of those agendas have been systematically advanced by the powerful using the “us vs them” herd mentality of the McResistance. These people aren’t supporting the prosecution of a leak publisher because of their ideological values, they are supporting it because that’s what powerful manipulators want them to do.

Trump’s despicable prosecution of Assange, and corporate liberalism’s full-throated support for it, has fully discredited all of mainstream US politics on both sides of the aisle. Nobody in that hot mess stands for anything. If you’re still looking to Trump or the Democrats to protect you from the rising tide of fascism, the time to make your exit is now.
____________________________

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US Coalition Air Bombing Campaign Kills Dozens of Civilians Syria Claims

23 Civilians Killed in US-Led Coalition Airstrikes on Deir Ezzor Countryside

by R.Raslan/Mazen - SANA News


November 15, 2018

Deir Ezzor, The US-led International coalition warplanes on Thursday renewed airstrikes targeting citizens’ houses in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.

Local sources told SANA that the int’l coalition warplanes launched several airstrikes against residential neighborhoods in al-Boubadran and al-Sousa villages in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, claiming the lives of 23 civilians and the destruction of residential houses in the villages.

The new massacre was committed in less than 24 hours after destroying 4 houses in al-Sha’afa village in the southeastern countryside of Deir Ezzor which resulted in the martyrdom and injury of a number of citizens. More than 60 civilians were killed and hundreds of people were displaced due to the destruction of their houses in al-Sha’afa village two days earlier.

Yesterday, the int’l coalition targeted Hajin city and al-Sha’afa village with cluster bombs causing the martyrdom of a number of citizens and the injury of many others in addition to inflicting huge material damage to residents’ houses and properties.

Pop Culture and Black America

Stan Lee: Unpacking the Complex World of Pop Culture and Black America

by TRNN


November 18, 2018

Pop Culture has generally been defined by outsider culture. Marvel Comics’ creator Stan Lee personified this with X-Men & Black Panther.

On the occasion of his passing, Todd Burroughs, Eddie Conway, and Kalima Young examine Lee’s complex legacy





 


Funding Forever War

America’s Permanent-War Complex

by Gareth Porter - American Conservative


November 15, 2018

Eisenhower's worst nightmare has come true, as defense mega-contractors climb into the cockpit to ensure we stay overextended.

Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk

What President Dwight D. Eisenhower dubbed the “military-industrial complex” has been constantly evolving over the decades, adjusting to shifts in the economic and political system as well as international events. The result today is a “permanent-war complex,” which is now engaged in conflicts in at least eight countries across the globe, none of which are intended to be temporary.

This new complex has justified its enhanced power and control over the country’s resources primarily by citing threats to U.S. security posed by Islamic terrorists. But like the old military-industrial complex, it is really rooted in the evolving relationship between the national security institutions themselves and the private arms contractors allied with them.

The first phase of this transformation was a far-reaching privatization of U.S. military and intelligence institutions in the two decades after the Cold War, which hollowed out the military’s expertise and made it dependent on big contractors (think Halliburton, Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI). The second phase began with the global “war on terrorism,” which quickly turned into a permanent war, much of which revolves around the use of drone strikes.

The drone wars are uniquely a public-private military endeavor, in which major arms contractors are directly involved in the most strategic aspect of the war. And so the drone contractors—especially the dominant General Atomics—have both a powerful motive and the political power, exercised through its clients in Congress, to ensure that the wars continue for the indefinite future.

♦♦♦


The privatization of military and intelligence institutions began even before the end of the Cold War. But during the 1990s, both Congress and the Bush and Clinton administrations opened the floodgates to arms and intelligence contractors and their political allies. The contracts soon became bigger and more concentrated in a handful of dominant companies. Between 1998 and 2003, private contractors were getting roughly half of the entire defense budget each year. The 50 biggest companies were getting more than half of the approximately $900 billion paid out in contracts during that time, and most were no-bid contracts, sole sourced, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

The contracts that had the biggest impact on the complex were for specialists working right in the Pentagon. The number of these contractors grew so rapidly and chaotically in the two decades after the Cold War that senior Pentagon officials did not even know the full extent of their numbers and reach. In 2010, then-secretary of defense Robert M. Gates even confessed to Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin that he was unable to determine how many contractors worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which includes the entire civilian side of the Pentagon.

Although legally forbidden from assuming tasks that were “inherent government functions,” in practice these contractors steadily encroached on what had always been regarded as government functions. Contractors could pay much higher salaries and consulting fees than government agencies, so experienced Pentagon and CIA officers soon left their civil service jobs by the tens of thousands for plum positions with firms that often paid twice as much as the government for the same work.

That was especially true in the intelligence agencies, which experienced a rapid 50 percent workforce increase after 9/11. It was almost entirely done with former skilled officers brought back as contractor personnel. Even President Barack Obama’s CIA director Leon Panetta admitted to Priest and Arkin that the intelligence community had for too long “depended on contractors to do the operational work” that had always been done by CIA employees, including intelligence analysis, and that the CIA needed to rebuild its own expertise “over time.”

By 2010, “core contractors”—those who perform such functions as collection and analysis—comprised at least 28 percent of professional civilian and military intelligence staff, according to a fact sheet from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The dependence on the private sector in the Pentagon and the intelligence community had reached such a point that it raised a serious question about whether the workforce was now “obligated to shareholders rather than to the public interest,” as Priest and Arkin reported. And both Gates and Panetta acknowledged to them their concerns about that issue.

Powerfully reinforcing that privatization effect was the familiar revolving door between the Pentagon and arms contractors, which had begun turning with greater rapidity. A 2010 Boston Globe investigation showed that the percentage of three- and four-star generals who left the Pentagon to take jobs as consultants or executives with defense contractors, which was already at 45 percent in 1993, had climbed to 80 percent by 2005—an 83 percent increase in 12 years.

The incoming George W. Bush administration gave the revolving door a strong push, bringing in eight officials from Lockheed Martin—then the largest defense contractor—to fill senior policymaking positions in the Pentagon. The CEO of Lockheed Martin, Peter Teets, was brought in to become undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office (where he had responsibility for acquisition decisions directly benefiting his former company). James Roche, the former vice president of Northrop Grumman, was named secretary of the Air Force, and a former vice president of General Dynamics, Gordon R. England, was named the secretary of the Navy.

In 2007, Bush named rear admiral J. Michael McConnell as director of national intelligence. McConnell had been director of the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996, then became head of the national security branch of intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Not surprisingly McConnell energetically promoted even greater reliance on the private sector, on the grounds that it was supposedly more efficient and innovative than the government. In 2009 he returned once again to Booz Allen Hamilton as vice chairman.

The Pentagon and the intelligence agencies thus morphed into a new form of mixed public-private institutions, in which contractor power was greatly magnified. To some in the military it appeared that the privateers had taken over the Pentagon. As a senior U.S. military officer who had served in Afghanistan commented to Priest and Arkin, “It just hits you like a ton of bricks when you think about it. The Department of Defense is no longer a war-fighting organization, it’s a business enterprise.”

♦♦♦


The years after 9/11 saw the national security organs acquire new missions, power, and resources—all in the name of a “War on Terror,” aka “the long war.” The operations in Afghanistan and Iraq were sold on that premise, even though virtually no al Qaeda remained in Afghanistan and none were in Iraq until long after the initial U.S. invasion.

The military and the CIA got new orders to pursue al Qaeda and affiliated groups in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and several other African countries, parlaying what the Bush administration called a “generational war” into a guarantee that there would be no return to the relative austerity of the post-Cold War decade.

Drone strikes against targets associated with al Qaeda or affiliated groups became the common feature of these wars and a source of power for military and intelligence officials. The Air Force owned the drones and conducted strikes in Afghanistan, but the CIA carried them out covertly in Pakistan, and the CIA and the military competed for control over the strikes in Yemen.

The early experience with drone strikes against “high-value targets” was an unmitigated disaster. From 2004 through 2007, the CIA carried out 12 strikes in Pakistan, aimed at high-value targets of al Qaeda and its affiliates. But they killed only three identifiable al Qaeda or Pakistani Taliban figures, along with 121 civilians, based on analysis of news reports of the strikes.

But on the urging of CIA Director Michael Hayden, in mid-2008 President Bush agreed to allow “signature strikes” based merely on analysts’ judgment that a “pattern of life” on the ground indicated an al Qaeda or affiliated target. Eventually it became a tool for killing mostly suspected rank-and-file Afghan Taliban fighters in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, particularly during the Obama administration, which had less stomach and political capital for outright war and came to depend on the covert drone campaign. This war was largely secret and less accountable publicly. And it allowed him the preferable optics of withdrawing troops and ending official ground operations in places like Iraq.

Altogether in its eight years in office, the Obama administration carried out a total of nearly 5,000 drone strikes—mostly in Afghanistan—according to figures collected by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

But between 2009 and 2013, the best informed officials in the U.S. government raised alarms about the pace and lethality of this new warfare on the grounds that it systematically undermined the U.S. effort to quell terrorism by creating more support for al Qaeda rather than weakening it. Some mid-level CIA officers opposed the strikes in Pakistan as early as 2009, because of what they had learned from intelligence gathered from intercepts of electronic communications in areas where the strikes were taking place: they were infuriating Muslim males and making them more willing to join al Qaeda.

In a secret May 2009 assessment leaked to the Washington Post, General David Petraeus, then commander of the Central Command, wrote, “Anti-U.S. sentiment has already been increasing in Pakistan…especially in regard to cross-border and reported drone strikes, which Pakistanis perceive to cause unacceptable civilian casualties.”

More evidence of that effect came from Yemen. A 2013 report on drone war policy for the Council on Foreign Relations found that membership in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen grew from several hundred in 2010 to a few thousand members in 2012, just as the number of drone strikes in the country was increasing dramatically—along with popular anger toward the United States.

Drone strikes are easy for a president to support. They demonstrate to the public that he is doing something concrete about terrorism, thus providing political cover in case of another successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Donald Trump has shown no interest in scaling back the drone wars, despite openly questioning the stationing of troops across the Middle East and Africa. In 2017 he approved a 100 percent increase in drone strikes in Yemen and a 30 percent increase in Somalia above the totals of the final year of the Obama administration. And Trump has approved a major increase in drone strikes in Afghanistan, and has eliminated rules aimed at reducing civilian casualties from such strikes.

Even if Obama and Trump had listened to dissenting voices on the serious risks of drone wars to U.S. interests, however, another political reality would have prevented the United States from ending the drone wars: the role of the private defense contractors and their friends on Capitol Hill in maintaining the status quo.

♦♦♦


Unlike conventional bombing missions, drone strikes require a team to watch the video feeds, interpret them, and pass on their conclusions to their mission coordinators and pilots. By 2007 that required more specialists than the Air Force had available. Since then, the Air Force has been working with military and intelligence contractors to analyze full-motion videos transmitted by drones to guide targeting decisions. BAE, the third-ranking Pentagon contractor according to defense revenues, claims that it is the “leading provider” of analysis of drone video intelligence, but in the early years the list of major companies with contracts for such work also included Booz Allen Hamilton, L-3 Communications, and SAIC (now Leidos).

These analysts were fully integrated into the “kill chain” that resulted, in many cases, in civilian casualties. In the now-famous case of the strike in February 2010 that killed at least 15 Afghan civilians, including children, the “primary screener” for the team of six video analysts in Florida communicating via a chat system with the drone pilot in Nevada was a contract employee with SAIC. That company had a $49 million multi-year contract with the Air Force to analyze drone video feeds and other intelligence from Afghanistan.

The pace of drone strikes in Afghanistan accelerated sharply after U.S. combat ended formally in 2014. And that same year, the air war against ISIS began in Iraq and Syria. The Air Force then began running armed drones around the clock in those countries as well. The Air Force needed 1,281 drone pilots to handle as many “combat air patrols” per day in multiple countries. But it was several hundred pilots short of that objective.

To fulfill that requirement the Air Force turned to General Atomics—maker of the first armed drone, the Predator, and a larger follow-on, the MQ-9 Reaper—which had already been hired to provide support services for drone operations on a two-year contract worth $700 million. But in April 2015 the Air Force signed a contract with the company to lease one of its Reapers with its own ground control station for a year. In addition, the contractor was to provide the pilots, sensor operators, and other crew members to fly it and maintain it.

The pilots, who still worked directly for General Atomics, did everything Air Force drone pilots did except actually fire the missiles. The result of that contract was a complete blurring of the lines between the official military and the contractors hired to work alongside them. The Air Force denied any such blurring, arguing that the planning and execution of each mission would still be in the hands of an Air Force officer. But the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Office had published an article in its law review in 2010 warning that even the analysis of video feeds risked violating international law prohibiting civilian participation in direct hostilities.

A second contract with a smaller company, Aviation Unlimited, was for the provision of pilots and sensor operators and referred to “recent increased terrorist activities,” suggesting that it was for anti-ISIS operations.

The process of integrating drone contractors into the kill chain in multiple countries thus marked a new stage in the process of privatizing war in what had become a permanent war complex. After 9/11, the military became dependent on the private sector for everything from food, water, and housing to security and refueling in Iraq and Afghanistan. By 2009 contractors began outnumbering U.S. troops in Afghanistan and eventually became critical for continuing the war as well.

In June 2018, the DoD announced a $40 million contract with General Atomics to operate its own MQ-9 Reapers in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. The Reapers are normally armed for independent missile strikes, but in this case, the contractor-operated Reapers were to be unarmed, meaning that the drones would be used to identify targets for Air Force manned aircraft bombing missions.

♦♦♦


There appears to be no braking mechanism for this accelerating new reality. U.S. government spending on the military drone market, which includes not only procurement and research and development for the drones themselves, but the sensors, modifications, control systems, and other support contracts, stood at $4.5 billion in 2016, and was expected to increase to $13 billion by 2027. General Atomics is now the dominant player in the arena.

This kind of income translates into political power, and the industry has shown its muscle and more than once prevented the Pentagon from canceling big-ticket programs, no matter how unwanted or wasteful. They have the one-two punch of strategically focused campaign contributions and intensive lobbying of members with whom they have influence.

This was most evident between 2011 and 2013, after congressionally mandated budget reductions cut into drone procurement. The biggest loser appeared to be Northrop Grumman’s “Global Hawk” drone, designed for unarmed high-altitude intelligence surveillance flights of up to 32 hours.

By 2011 the Global Hawk was already 25 percent over budget, and the Pentagon had delayed the purchase of the remaining planes for a year to resolve earlier failures to deliver adequate “near real time” video intelligence.

After a subsequent test, however, the Defense Department’s top weapons tester official reported in May 2011 that the Global Hawk was “not operationally effective” three fourths of the time, because of “low vehicle reliability.” He cited the “failure” of “mission central components” at “high rates.” In addition, the Pentagon still believed the venerable U-2 Spy plane—which could operate in all weather conditions, unlike the Global Hawk—could carry out comparable high-altitude intelligence missions.

As a result, the DoD announced in 2012 that it would mothball the aircraft it had already purchased and save $2.5 billion over five years by foregoing the purchase of the remaining three drones. But that was before Northrop Grumman mounted a classic successful lobbying campaign to reverse the decision.

That lobbying drive produced a fiscal year 2013 defense appropriations law that added $360 million for the purchase of the final three Global Hawks. In Spring 2013, top Pentagon officials indicated that they were petitioning for “relief” from congressional intent. Then the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, California Republican Buck McKeon, and a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia, wrote a letter to incoming Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on May 13, 2013, pressing him to fund the acquisition of the Global Hawks.

The Pentagon finally caved. The Air Force issued a statement pledging to acquire the last three Northrop Grumman spy planes, and in early 2014, Hagel and Dempsey announced that they would mothball the U-2 and replace it with the Global Hawk.

Northrop spent nearly $18 million on lobbying in 2012 and $21 million in 2013, fielding a phalanx of lobbyists determined to help save Global Hawk. It got what it wanted.

Meanwhile, Northrop’s political action committee had already made contributions of at least $113,000 to the campaign committee of House Armed Services Committee Chairman McKeon, who also happened to represent the Southern California district where Northrop’s assembly plant for the Global Hawk is located. Representative Moran, the co-author of the letter with McKeon, who represented the northern Virginia district where Northrop has its headquarters, had gotten $22,000 in contributions.

Of course Northrop didn’t ignore the rest of the House Armed Services Committee: they were recipients of at least $243,000 in campaign contributions during the first half of 2012.

♦♦♦


The Northrop Grumman triumph dramatically illustrates the power relationships underlying the new permanent-war complex. In the first half of 2013 alone, four major drone contractors—General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing—spent $26.2 million lobbying Congress to pressure the executive branch to keep the pipeline of funding for their respective drone systems flowing freely. The Center for the Study of the Drone observed, “Defense contractors are pressuring the government to maintain the same levels of investment in unmanned systems even as the demand from the traditional theatres such as Afghanistan dies down.”

Instead of dying down, the demand from drones in Afghanistan has exploded in subsequent years. By 2016, the General Atomics Reapers had already become so tightly integrated into U.S. military operations in Afghanistan that the whole U.S. war plan was dependent on them. In the first quarter of 2016 Air Force data showed that 61 percent of the weapons dropped in Afghanistan were from the drones.

In the new permanent-war complex the interests of the arms contractors have increasingly dominated over the interests of the civilian Pentagon and the military services, and dominance has became a new driving force for continued war. Even though those bureaucracies, along with the CIA, seized the opportunity to openly conduct military operations in one country after another, the drone war has introduced a new political dynamic into the war system: the drone makers who have powerful clout in Congress can use their influence to block or discourage an end to the permanent war—especially in Afghanistan—which would sharply curtail the demand for drones.

Eisenhower was prophetic in his warning about the threat of the original complex (which he had planned to call the military-industrial-congressional complex) to American democracy. But that original complex, organized merely to maximize the production of arms to enhance the power and resources of both the Pentagon and their contractor allies, has become a much more serious menace to the security of the American people than even Eisenhower could have anticipated. Now it is a system of war that powerful arms contractors and their bureaucratic allies may have the ability to maintain indefinitely.

Gareth Porter is an investigative reporter and regular contributor to The American Conservative. He is also the author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

When Extra-judicial Killing Isn't Enough: A Selective Death Penalty Bill Proposed Garners New Support in Israel

In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians

by Ramzy Baroud - Dissident Voice


November 17th, 2018

Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is escalating his war on the Palestinian people, although for reasons almost entirely related to Israeli politics.

He has just given the greenlight to a legislation that would make it easier for Israeli courts to issue death sentences against Palestinians accused of carrying out ‘terrorist’ acts.

Netanyahu’s decision was made on November 4, but the wrangling over the issue has been taking place for some time. The ‘Death Penalty’ bill has been the rally cry for the Israel Beiteinu party, led by ultra-nationalist Israeli politician and former Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, during its 2015 election campaign.

But when Lieberman attempted to push the bill in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) soon after the forming of the current coalition government in July 2015, the draft was resoundingly defeated by 94 to 6 with Netanyahu himself opposing it.

It has been defeated several times since then. However, the political mood in Israel has shifted in ways that has obliged Netanyahu into conceding to the demands of the even more hawkish politicians within his own government.

As Netanyahu’s coalition grew bolder and more unhinged, the Israeli Prime Minister joined the chorus. It is time “to wipe the smile off the terrorist’s face,” he said in July 2017, while visiting the illegal Jewish settlement of Halamish, following the killing of three settlers. At the time, he called for the death penalty in “severe cases.”

Ultimately, Netanyahu’s position on the issue evolved to become a carbon copy of that of Lieberman. The latter had made the ‘death penalty’ one of his main conditions to join Netanyahu’s coalition.

Last January, the Israel Beiteinu’s proposed bill passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset. Months later, on November 4, the first reading of the bill was approved by Israeli legislators, with the support of Netanyahu himself.

Lieberman prevailed


This reality reflects the competing currents in Israeli politics, where the long-reigning Israeli Prime Minister is increasingly embattled, by accusations from within his coalition and outside of being too weak in his handling of the Gaza Resistance.

Coupled with the tightening ring of police investigation pertaining to corruption by Netanyahu, his family and closest aides, the Israeli leader is pounding on Palestinians with every possible opportunity to display his prowess.

Even the likes of former Labor Party leader, Ehud Barak, is attempting to resurrect his failed career as a politician by comparing his past violence against Palestinians with the supposedly weaker Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is “weak”, “afraid” and is unable to take decisive steps to rein in Gaza, “therefore he should go home,” Barak recently said during an interview with Israeli TV Channel 10.

Comparing his supposed heroism with Netanyahu’s ‘surrender’ to Palestinian Resistance, Barak bragged about killing “more than 300 Hamas members (in) three and a half minutes,” when he was the country’s Defense Minister.

Barak’s sinister statement was made with reference to the killing of hundreds of Gazans, including women, children and newly graduated police cadets in Gaza on December 27, 2008. That was the start of a war that killed and wounded thousands of Palestinians and set the stage for more, equally lethal, wars that followed.

When such ominous comments are made by a person considered in Israel’s political lexicon as a ‘dove’, one can only imagine the vengeful political discourse championed by Netanyahu and his extremist coalition.

In Israel, wars – as well as racist laws that target Palestinians – are often the outcome of Israeli politicking. Unchallenged by a strong party and unfazed by United Nations criticism, Israeli leaders continue to flex their muscles, appeal to their radicalized constituency and define their political turfs at the expense of Palestinians.

The Death Penalty bill is no exception


The bill, once enshrined in Israeli law, will expectedly be applied to Palestinians only, because in Israel the term ‘terrorism’ almost always applies to Palestinian Arabs, and hardly, if ever, to Israeli Jews.

Aida Touma-Suleiman, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and one of a few embattled Arab members of the Knesset, like most Palestinians, understands the intentions of the bill.

The law is “intended mainly for the Palestinian people,” she told reporters last January.

“It’s not going to be implemented against Jews who commit terrorist attacks against Palestinians, for sure,” as the bill is drafted and championed by the country’s “extreme right.”

Moreover, the Death Penalty bill must be understood in the larger context of the growing racism and chauvinism in Israel, and the undermining of whatever feeble claim to democracy that Israel possessed, until recently.

On July 19 of this year, the Israeli government approved the Jewish ‘Nation-state Law’ which designates Israel as the ‘nation state of the Jewish people’, while openly denigrating the Palestinian Arab citizens of the state, their culture, language and identity.

As many have feared, Israel’s racist self-definition is now inspiring a host of new laws that would further target and marginalize the country’s native Palestinian inhabitants.

The Death Penalty law would be the icing on the cake in this horrific and unchallenged Israeli agenda that transcends party lines and unites most of the country’s Jewish citizens and politicians in an ongoing hate-fest.

Of course, Israel has already executed hundreds of Palestinians in what is known as “targeted assassinations” and “neutralization”, while killing many more in cold blood.

So, in a sense, the Israeli Bill, once it becomes law, will change little in terms of the bloody dynamics that governs Israel’s behavior.

However, executing Palestinians for resisting Israel’s violent Occupation will further highlight the growing extremism in Israeli society, and the increasing vulnerability of Palestinians.

Just like the ‘Nation-state Law’, the Death Penalty bill targeting Palestinians exposes Israel’s racist nature and complete disregard for international law, a painful reality that should be urgently and openly challenged by the international community.

Those who have allowed themselves to ‘stay on the fence’ as Israel brutalizes Palestinians, should immediately break their silence.

No government, not even Israel, should be allowed to embrace racism and violate human rights so brazenly and without a minimum degree of accountability.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. He is athor of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle and his latest My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story. He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com.
Read other articles by Ramzy, or visit Ramzy's website.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Rotten Peach: Georgia's Tainted Governor

What We Must Do Now: Abrams, Georgia & Something Extraordinary

by Greg Palast - Palast Investigative Fund


November 16, 2018

Days ago, I received a call from Stacey Abrams’ lead attorneys. Our investigative team had “gold,” as they put it, for litigating the election: Expert analysis proving 340,134 voters were wrongly purged.

Plus, we had, on camera, victims of the purge, including the 92-year-old cousin of Martin Luther King. But I’m a journalist, not a campaign operative. I could only offer my reports and my affidavit filed in federal court in Common Cause v. Brian Kemp.

Stacey Abrams, Palast review Georgia
Purge list 2014 – Photo Zach D Roberts

With Stacey Abrams no longer in the race for Governor, we are now free to open our files to her new voting rights group, Fair Fight Georgia.

Did you note that Abrams cited our story of 92-year-old Christine Jordan purged from the voter rolls? That should give “Governor-elect” Kemp pause. Because that’s the signal that this heartbreaking story will become the hammer to smash the Kemp-created Jim Crow machine.

(And Ms. Jordan is up to the task, telling me she’s willing to take the fight into federal court, “If somebody will help me walk there.”)

The immediate weapon will be litigation against the State of Georgia to show that the election was hopelessly tainted, which, under Georgia statute, could result in a court throwing out the whole rotting dung-heap of an election. That is why Abrams technically did not concede, but rather dropped her claim to office. (Lawyers will understand that she has to maintain “standing.”)

Abrams vocally took up the issue of the massive purge of voters – and intends to defend those purged. This is what’s really historic about her candidacy. Yes, Abrams is the first African-American woman nominated for governor by the Democratic Party. More revolutionary is that she is the first Democratic candidate to demand an end to racist ethnic cleansing of the voter rolls. (If Al Gore had taken that stance in 2000, maybe Stacey would be Governor today – and, hey Al, they’d be calling you Mr. President.)

Our investigation produced the facts – and the names and addresses of the 340,134 voters wrongly purged for supposedly moving out of Georgia or out of their congressional districts – but never moved an inch.

We are now free to hand over those lists to the Abrams litigation team, the NAACP, the SCLC, ACLU and others who are opening courtroom fronts. We are talking with them all.

“It’s Jim Crow all over again.”

 Co-Plaintiffs Palast and Helen Butler are suing Brian Kemp
Photo by Zach D Roberts

And my own suit against Kemp and his successors continues in Atlanta federal court with my co-plaintiff, Helen Butler, Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples Agenda. That group was founded by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, now 97. When I described to him the details of Brian Kemp’s voter-roll trickery, he said, “It’s Jim Crow all over again.”

There was no despair in Lowery’s voice about America’s new backsliding on civil rights. Rather, he and Helen are up for the fight.

If Rev. Lowery and Christine Jordan are up for it, can we do anything but join?

And the battlefront is wide. While we’re suing in Georgia, attorneys for the Palast Investigative Fund have also filed notices of suit in 25 other states that employ the Kemp-Kobach voter-erasing games. (Yes, Kris Kobach is the man in Kemp’s shadow. Kobach provided Kemp with 106,000 of the names Kemp wrongly purged. Surprised?)

Kemp’s “Getaway” Scheme


Why did Stacey Abrams have to end the fight over the count? Because Kemp not only planned his crime carefully – and make no mistake, knowingly preventing citizens from voting is a crime – Kemp also had a brilliant “getaway” scheme.

I saw it firsthand in DeKalb County on Election Day. I knew that some portion of the 340,134 voters wrongly purged would attempt to vote anyway as is their right under federal law. Any American that signs a statement that he or she is a citizen and provides a local address has the right to vote “provisionally.”

This was Abrams’ hope. If courts would order the counting of provisional ballots of those wrongly purged, she’d be governor. The GOP clearly thought of that. So, to being with, they simply refused to count the provisional ballots.

But worse — and this is as brilliant as it is evil and illegal – officials simply refused to give voters provisional ballots.

So, you have to hand it to the Kemp forces: you can’t have a court order the counting of ballots that were never cast: Like the ballot never cast by Yasmin Bakhtiari of Atlanta—illegally refused a provisional ballot though she wouldn’t leave the polling station for two hours – until her third plea for a ballot was rejected.

And this is where our work is also helpful to rights litigants: we have gathered the names of victims and their stories. We even have an official caught on camera refusing a legitimate request for a provisional ballot.)

I have been investigating Brian Kemp for five years. And I remember in 2014 shocking a Legislator, Stacey Abrams, with Kemp’s purge lists. She told my al Jazeera audience that she was furious that “our Secretary of State” was spending his time attacking the voter rolls.

Little did I imagine they’d be squaring off years later, and Kemp’s voter-roll monkey business would be decisive in the ugliest way.

Back in 2014, Abrams was most concerned that Kemp was operating vampire-style, “stealthily” purging voters in a secretive operation.

And that’s where investigative reporting comes in – and I’m not talking about insider gossip and leaks – but the years of work to extract the secret purge files, and to analyze reams of data that can tell a story. And today is when it pays off… not whether it helps this candidate or that, but whether the facts – those brave bits of truth – can speak.

I know a lot of my Democratic friends will be unhappy that their candidate lost. But don’t miss the power of this moment: you can say, you were here when the new rights movement was born.

Greg Palast has written four New York Times bestsellers, including Armed Madhouse, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, now a major non-fiction movie, available on Amazon — and can be streamed for FREE by Prime members!

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