Saturday, October 25, 2014

Son of Gadhafi to Lead Fight Against ISIS Affiliate in Libya?

Will Seif al Islam Lead the Expulsion of the ISIS Affiliate, Al Fajr Libya?

by Franklin Lamb - CounterPunch

With the Abu Baker al-Siddiq Brigade, Zintan, Libya

A second interview by this observer with Seif al Islam Gadhafi, formerly the heir apparent to his father Moammar, was sought and finally arranged as a follow up to an earlier one focusing of my interest in the Imam Musa Sadr case. That case involves a great crime against a great man and conciliator and his historic cause, and exposes those who betrayed him in Lebanon and two other countries while swearing their personal devotion and shedding crocodile tears over the past 36 years.

That research is nearing completion and publication awaits DNA results from body samples more credible than the ones offered by the Bosnia laboratory two years ago and immediately demonstrated to be fraudulent.

The story of why that particular lab was chosen and by who goes to the essence of the current stonewalling campaign with respect to informing the public about what exactly happened to Imam Sadr and his partners on 8/3l/1978 in Tripoli, Libya. It also identifies who instructed Gadhafi to kill them over the strong objections from the PLO’s Yassir Arafat who spoke with Gadhafi and tried to save the trio of Lebanese Shia.

But our discussion soon turned to other subject as Seif’s jailers may have taken seriously my joke that if they extended the original 20 minutes I was granted to two hours, I would deliver to them 10 US Visas and they could fill in any names the might choose. Truth told, of course I could not even get myself a passport renewal as former US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman reportedly sneered at a US Embassy Christmas party a few years back, “Lamb will serve ten years hard time in the Feds for hobnobbing with terrorists (Hezbollah in those days…who knows today?) when we get him back home.”

I admit that Jeff and I both have a problem with Hezbollah. His is because Hezbollah just may liberate Palestine and mine is that Hezbollah needs to do more in Lebanon and use 90 minutes of Parliament’s time, where it has the power, to grant Palestinian refugees in Lebanon the right to work and to own a home. But that is also another story and Hezbollah continues to report that they are ‘working on the problem but it’s politically complicated.”

Meanwhile, Da’ish (IS) is metastasizing fast in Libya through its main affiliate al Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) and plans to add Tripoli, to its Islamic Caliphate along with Baghdad, Damascus, Amman and Beirut during the coming months and if necessary, years. This, according to Seif al Islam and representatives of the Zintan brigades based southwest of Tripoli as well as two representatives of other tribes and militia moving toward supporting the still vital Gadhafi regime remnants.

Libya may be the lowest hanging ripe fruit within easy reach of Da’ish (IS) and its growing number of affiliates, according to US Ambassador Deborah Jones during a recent visit to the US Embassy in Malta, to discuss her own problems in Libya which include the 8/31/14 take-over by al Fajr Libya (FL) of the US embassy compound barely a month after it was evacuated and moved to Tunisia for the second time since February of 2011. Secretary of State John Kerry reassured the media in Washington recently that “the embassy was not really closed, but had moved out of Libya”.

One Religion Professor at Tripoli University joked last week that “Kerry is correct, the US embassy is here but it’s in a state of occultation. We can’t see it but it’s around and watches us.” A Libyan photographer who was at the embassy compound when Al Fajr Libya (FL) arrived reported that the Da’ish (IS) affiliate had moved into buildings inside the embassy complex claiming that they would ‘protect it’ as they carted off boxes of documents for ‘safe keeping.’ FL is described by a former Dean at Tripoli U. as between al Nusra and Da’ish (IS) with a fragile partnership between the two and presenting to the public “ A Good cop-Bad cop tag-team with differences to be worked out once all the infidels are vanquished.

Libya, as with the Arab Maghreb, is on the cusp of a new wave of Islamist groups, and is moving beyond al-Qaeda of Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Abdelmalek Droukdel, to Baghdadi’s ISIS and its widely perceived logical offshoot ISIM being planted in North Africa and the Sahel. The threat of the Da’ish (Islamic State is already deeply anchored and expanding in the now lawless Libya, according to UN envoy Bernardino León. Several Libyan organizations recently announced their loyalty to IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. This has confirmed a speculation that IS has penetrated Libyan public institutions. The Ansar al-Sharia group, affiliated with ISIS, has declared authority during the last several days over the coastal city of Darna which is located strategically between Benghazi and the Egyptian border – just 289 km (179 miles) and 333 km (206 miles), respectively.

Countless militia are forming, merging, changing names and lying low as perceived interests dictate. Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria was retitled, revitalized and repackaged to enhance its appeal on social media as has the Furqan Brigade of the AQIM in Tunisia. Ansar Al-Sharia is another one becoming very active.The Uqba bin Nafi Brigade, has just declared allegiance to ISIS as has the Islamic Caliphate in the Islamic Maghreb. al-Ummah Brigade, which operates out of Libyan coasts and airports, another is Al-Battar is attracting pro-ISIS elements. Majlis Shura Shabab al-Islam (the Islamic Youth Shura Council), or MSSI. According to Libyan sources and journalist Adam al-Sabiri, writing in Al Akbar, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asked these elements to deploy to the Libyan front to counter the attacks by the Libyan army led by Khalifa Haftar as part of Operation Dignity seeking to “purge Libya of terrorists.”

Libyan friends, some from three years ago, advise that more people have been killed in the past three years than during the 2011 revolution and they now fear a Somalia-like “failed state” given all the weapons, lawlessness, and growing number of Islamists. The South of Libya has not been spared the lawlessness, as tribal battles continue for control of a lucrative smuggling trade. Friends point out that the country no longer even bothers to celebrate the National Holiday commemorating the 10/23/2011 “total liberation of Libya.” “It’s a cruel joke” my friend Hinde advised as she explains that many Libyans yearn for the stability of the Gadhafi days. “Maybe wanting to turn the clock back is the same in Iraq and Egypt and Syria?” she wondered.

“The rampant regional, ideological and tribal conflicts are worse than the rule of the dictator,” said Salah Mahmud al-Akuri, a doctor in Benghazi. “Some Libyans are looking back to the old regime.”

Amidst all the chaos, Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni claimed last week that groups loyal to the IS, such as al Fajr Libya, are presently in control of the city of Derna and other Libyan towns and have begun summoning townspeople to public squares to witness declarations of fealty to Da’ish (IS), even beginning their signature public executions. Libya’s “government” claims that its “army” is preparing to expel Fajr Libya (FL) and retake the capital, as more militia rush to join FL. Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani’s said in a statement this week that he gave orders to the government forces to “advance toward Tripoli to liberate it and to free it from the grip of al Fajr Libya”.

The Libyan embassy in Washington told a House Foreign Affairs committee staffer that they expect that residents in Tripoli will launch “a civil disobedience campaign until the arrival of the army.” Walking around the former “Green Square” this observer saw no signs of this rather he observed citizens stocking up on necessities or packing their cars. Later, Thani added, military forces in the strife-torn country “have absolutely united to also recapture Libya’s second city Benghazi from the local IS affiliate, al Fajr Liyba (FL). Leading one to wonder whether the Libyan “army” will fare better than Maliki’s did in Mosul and Anbar.

According to students and staff at Tripoli University, (known as Fatah University during the Gadhafi decades) a few of whom this observer first met in the summer of 2011, and who lived the political events in their country since while some of their friends and relatives, as in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, are preparing to leave and start a new life somewhere. Hasan, a Gadhafi supporter I was with nearly daily three years ago in Tripoli still curses what, “NATO did this to our country. The Gadhafi regime was changing as you know Franklin, but the reformers were prevented from making the changes that Seif al Islam and his associates got their father to agree to. Remember when Saif said “My father wants to live in a tent where he is most happy and write a history of the Jamahiriya (land of the masses). He will offer advice but have just a ceremonial role out of politics? You remember that? We believed Seif didn’t we?. Anyhow, khalas!, Libya is finished! NATO gave it to Da’ish just as they gave Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to Iran.”

Libya is now moving beyond al-Qaeda of Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Abdelmalek Droukdel, to Baghdadi’s ISIS and its widely perceived logical offshoot Islamic State in the Islamic Maghreb (ISIM-Damis) now expanding in North Africa and the Sahel. Former rebels who fought against Gadhafi have formed powerful militias and seized control of large parts of Libya in the past three years.

Back in mid-august of 2011, the late American journalist Marie Colvin and I stood on the balcony of the Corinthia Hotel opposites the still empty Marriott where some kid was practicing sniping from the roof, at my expense, as I pointed out to Marie a body floating just off the beach of the Mediterranean across the road. We walked over and examined it and decided while it was dressed in religious garb the man may have been an army deserter; there were increasing numbers in those days, because of his military style boots.

We alerted some militia guys driving along the corniche who said they would report the body and before long an ambulance did arrive. Two of the militia waded out waist deep and pulled in the bloated body to shore, unlaced his tan leather boots while holding their noses from the stench. They then threw the new boots in the back of their pick-up and drove off with no more than a smiling ‘shukran habibis’ (thanks dears). Later that day Marie and I counted a column of 143 pickups with AK-47 jubilant fist waving rebels entering along the coastal road toward downtown Tripoli having come from battles in the east around Misrata.

In the next few days we discussed how there seemed to be countless ‘free-cigarettes, $200 on the first of each month and your personal Kalasnikov’ militia popping up like mushrooms after a summer rain. Three years ago one of their battle cries was “Death to Gadafi—Yes to Freedom!” Today one hears around Tripoli another slogan from the lips of young men many of whom may be the same, chanting, “Death to the kafirs (disbelievers,” or infidels) Yes to Islam!Abas (that’s all!”

Seif el Islam still resides at his cell in Zintan which, even though jail is jail, has been upgraded from when he was captured in the Sahara making his way toward Niger and his finger was cut off as a warning.

Seif, has proposed talks and is ready to participate in bringing together Libya’s warring parties and aiding the transition to what he claims he was working on before the February 17, 2011 uprising in Benzhazi which quickly spread.

Seif’s team would likely include his father’s cousin and confident Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, former Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kane, long-time Libyan diplomat, the widely respected Omar el Hamdi now is Cairo, and Seif’s sister Aisha, now living with his mother and children in the Gulf.

Seif has no illusions of returning Libya to the past, but argues that elements of the former regime deserved to be heard. “We were in the process of making broad reforms and my father gave me the responsibly to see them through. Unfortunately the revolt happened and both sides made mistakes that are now allowing extreme Islamist group like Da’ish to pick up the pieces and turn Libya into an extreme fundamentalist entity in their regional plans.”

With respect to Seifs trials, whether ins the Tripoli courthouse or at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the odds of either happening anytime soon, ior at all, are fading as negotiations for an arrangement are reportedly progressing.

A solution is being sought, according to sources at the Justice Ministry in Tripoli because there are many problems with Seifs case which was supposed to begin earlier this year, and the case has been criticized by a number of international actors. Not least for which how Libya and the ICC have handled their cases. For example, Human Rights Watch has accused the Libyan government of failing to provide adequate legal representation and the ICC it has been unable to compel the Libyan government to allow it access — just one of many challenges to the ICC’s legitimacy in recent years.

Meanwhile it is likely that Seif’s jailers, who increasing respects and admires him, may have other ideas that would enhance their own standing in Libya. In addition, certain NATO countries are said to be privately discussing with Washington, Paris London and Bonn the idea of finding a role for Seif and certain of his associates and family members in “the new Libya.”

According to Seif, and former regime officials, several NATO countries have sent messages claiming they did not intend for his father to be killed but were searching during the summer of 2011 for a refuge for his father in Africa. Seif does not believe them.

Seif al Islam still has substantial influence among tribes still loyal to Gaddafi as well as former regime officials in the army and government. The delegation Seif could assemble, including Ahmad Gadaff al-Dam, would benefit from the latter’s still strong connections with Arab governments, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as some European countries.

More on this and other subjects related to Seif and the growing international recognition over the need for expulsion of Islamists from Libya, and a possible significant role for Seif, are expected to be discussed publicly soon.

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (

Maintaining Healthy Canadian Dissent

After Ottawa, dissent more critical than ever

by Ricochet

Now is the time to “commit sociology”

Since Wednesday’s shooting, the notion that “Canada will never be the same again” has picked up steam. This cliche carries with it potentially dangerous implications.

What happens next is not inevitable. It will be determined by Canadian society and by the political decisions that are taken in the weeks and months ahead. We must not succumb to Islamophobia and racism. We need not fall in line with Harper’s war abroad or new restrictions on civil liberties at home.

In the wake of one gunman’s rampaging attack on Parliament Hill, media representations of events have both short- and long-term consequences. In the digital age, the pressure for outlets to produce instant news and clickbait headlines can have toxic consequences. We can and must do better than breathlessly rushing to publish “unconfirmed reports” or lazily repeating racist tropes in place of sober analysis.

This attack, and the one on Canadian soldiers in St. Jean sur Richelieu, Quebec, two days earlier, came the very week that the Harper government was introducing legislation to grant expanded powers to CSIS. We must not allow the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to become another victim of these attacks. Successive Canadian governments have already implemented repressive legislation in the name of fighting terror, yet measures such as security certificates and secret trials have not made us safer.

Rather than stoking or amplifying prejudices and fears, the role of media in these times should be to provide verified information and present alternative perspectives, especially from Arab, Muslim and other racialized communities. History reminds us of the extreme danger that lies in scapegoating or holding collectively responsible any minority group for the pathologies and crimes of individuals.

Successive Canadian governments have already implemented repressive legislation in the name of fighting terror, yet measures such as security certificates and secret trials have not made us safer.

We have powerful evidence from south of the border that the so-called War on Terror is a self-perpetuating disaster. New wars, occupations and drone attacks have wreaked havoc and only expanded the breeding grounds for new fundamentalist groups bent on committing sectarian atrocities and encouraging terrorist actions.

Some pro-war voices will argue it’s too soon to talk about Canadian foreign policy. Nonsense. Only the willfully ignorant neglect root causes, and reporting and analyzing the death and destruction wrought by bombs and bullets in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Gaza in no way diminishes our sympathy for the victims of Wednesday’s shooting in Ottawa.

The media has, for the most part, failed to be critical of the Harper government’s militarism. After this week’s crimes, there will be increased pressure to limit critiques of Canadian state violence — whether as part of NATO bombing missions overseas or against Indigenous nations here — in the name of unity. But however united we are in feeling disgust, shock or grief, there can be no unity behind the Harper government, its corporate agenda or its reckless and aggressive foreign policy. Doubling down on this sabre rattling is not our only option. A decade ago, the Spanish people gave us an example of a powerful alternative. After the 2004 Madrid subway attacks and the right-wing government’s clumsy efforts to link them to Basque separatists, millions mobilized in the streets against the government, and then at the ballot box to throw the government out of power.

Contra Harper, now is the time to “commit sociology.” It is also the time to commit criminology, to commit history and of course to commit journalism.

We need dissent, reasoned analysis and critical debate now more than ever. And that is what Ricochet will strive to provide over the coming days. We hope you’ll join us.

Raising the Black and Orange: Hither Comes Halloween

The Orange and Black

by Will Durst

Here it comes. Creeping down dark alleys. Overturning garbage cans and spooking black cats. The scariest day of the year. With the exception of your next birthday, that is. Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve. The night preceding All Saint’s Day. Time to carve a gourd.

Besides being an excellent excuse to gorge on candy corn and toffee apples it is also an occasion used by many religions to honor deceased relatives by placing lighted candles on the graves of the dead. Probably where that whole ghosts and witches and ghouls and devils thing got started. How pink princesses, Ninja Turtles and Mickey Mouse got thrown into the mix, is anyone’s guess.

Supposedly, Celtic pagans (or is it pagan Celtics) originated the merrymaking way back in the BCs with something called Samhain, a harvest festival halfway between the autumnal equinox and the Winter Solstice. Designed as a blowout before the onset of winter, (Winter is coming!) it featured much feasting and not a little drinking, if you catch my drift. There very well may have been carousing. Not to mention reveling and frolicking. These were pagans, after all.

Then around the 8th century, Catholics introduced All Saints Day into their liturgical calendar to honor dead saints: just happening to coincide with the extant partying. So all good little Christians could still have their fun honoring dead people; but do it in the name of the Lord instead of some Wicker Guy destined to burn up in a big bonfire. If you can’t beat em, conjoin em.

Today Halloween has morphed into a hodgepodge of ever evolving rituals including scary movies and wearing costumes and traipsing door to door begging for treats and threatening to play tricks if none are given. Behavior, seemingly leaked over from Halloween’s holiday neighbor: Election Day.

In some municipalities the orange and black has become nothing less than a loosely organized bacchanalia. (named after Bacchus, one of the old gods of which we previously spoke) Entire districts of whole towns given over to mass feasting and much drinking and very definitely- carousing. Because we are the neopagans. Of course, for those living in San Francisco and New Orleans, Halloween is redundant.

It is a murky and confusing time, which may come from October and November stemming from the words eight and nine, but being the tenth and eleventh months of the year. For this we can thank Julius, that wacky Emperor, who altered the Roman calendar from 10 months to 12, naming one of them after himself. And his buddy Augustus. It was a Caesar thing. Like a salad.

Then, when Halloween ends, the black and orange will be taken down and the red and green will go up. And every third radio station will begin playing non- stop Christmas songs. Another Christian celebration merging with a pagan one.  Saturnalia was held following the solstice to celebrate the dragon not eating the sun, and the return of the light. Again: pretty much exactly what Christmas is all about.

Then down the line, there will New Year’s Eve, and both it and Christmas and Thanksgiving, will all be observed by a whole lot of feasting and not a little drinking. Not to mention carousing, reveling and frolicking. Oh, my, yes, there will be frolicking. Anyone beginning to detect a pattern here?

Copyright © 2014, Will Durst.

Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed political comic. Go to for more about the documentary film “3 Still Standing,” at the Austin Film Festival this week and a calendar guide to personal appearances such as his hit one- man show “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG”. 

Kiev Coupsters Promise Winter War for Eastern Ukraine

Ukraine Restarts War on Eastern Regions Sources Say

by Michael Collins - War is a Crime

The Kiev government of U.S. puppet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is about to restart the failed attempt to subdue the southeastern region of the country known as Novorussia according to highly credible sources. (Image)

Colonel Igor Strelkov, a native Russian, helped create and led the Novorussian forces during the critical phases of resistance to the Kiev regime. At the height of his success, he left active command and was replaced by local leaders. As Strelkov sees it:

[An] "Endless flow of [Ukraine government] military columns moves towards Donetsk and Makeevka areas and towards Gorlovka area. Troops are being moved at ever increasing pace.

"At the same time they engage in massive use of heavy MLRS fire, heavy artillery and tactical missiles “Tochka-U” (SS-21 Scarab B) [a tactical ballistic missile - see Ukraine Firing Ballistic Missiles - Obama-Kerry Say Nothing].
"The number of victims among the population during this so-called truce is higher than it was in the period of active hostilities one month ago. Igor Strelkov, Important Statement, 20.10.2014 (click "Show More" for full text)

Strelkov believes that heavily populated areas of Donetsk and Makeyevka are the targets. The Kiev government will create a false-flag, according to this scenario, with the aim of a "swift and decisive" victory. If things go according to plan, the largest population area of Novorussia will be under putative Ukrainian government control.

The Saker, whose blog Vineyard of the Saker is a leading source of news and analysis on Novorussia, endorsed Strelkov's analysis. Over the past weeks, Saker and other sources outlined the ever-weakening position of the Ukraine central government based on a collapsing economy and a very bleak outlook on the future by citizens. He suggests, "Starting a major war might well be the only way to save the Poroshenko regime which currently is in free-fall." Russia Insider, Oct 23

The Saker notes that a defeat may be as good as a victory for Ukraine if it draws Russia into military assistance for the major population areas under attack. Contrary to the claims of Operation Mockingbird style propaganda machine in the mainstream media, Putin is not an absolute dictator. He faces pro US and EU oligarchs who want give the West whatever it wants in return for their own gains and right-wing nationalists who see Putin's failure to intervene to assist Novorussia as bordering on treason.

Should Ukraine gain a military advantage by devastating civilian areas, the pressure on Putin to intervene will be overwhelming. A Russian intervention would achieve the overall goal of restarting the Cold War and filling the coffers of the U.S. military industrial complex.

Shortly after his election in late May, President Poroshenko beefed up the "anti terrorist operation" (ATO) against the eastern Ukraine, particularly the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Under his predecessor, interim acting President Olexander Turchynov, ATO troops were greeted on occasion by derisive citizens who stood their ground and cajoled them into abandoning their equipment. When U.S. favorite Poroshenko took over, the ATO, more accurately anti-citizen operation, ramped up with heavy artillery attacks on towns and cities killing and maiming civilians and destroying homes and critical infrastructure.

The rapidly formed Novorussian militias quickly became a highly motivated and effective fighting force aided by supplies spirited across the Russian border. The headlong attacks by Ukraine regular troops and fascist irregulars (punitive battalions) were encircled by Novorussian forces creating cauldrons where Ukraine soldiers had two choices - death or surrender. This successfully repeated tactic resulted in a shift of momentum plus a string of impressive victories for the resistance resulting in a desperately sought ceasefire by Poroshenko in September.

Provoking Russian Military Intervention and the Grand Prize

The U.S. led the effort to create a virulently anti Russian government in Ukraine through years of fieldwork and funding. The Euromaidan protests and extremist government installed after those protests were the culmination of decades of U.S. foreign policy. Finally, the Cold War - military industrial complex patrons and front men achieved their goal. Ukraine was soon to join the European Union, then NATO, and Russia would be contained as a regional, not global power.

To understand how a great power reacts to a hostile power's incursion in its territory, recall the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis after it was discovered that the government of the USSR had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. We nearly had a nuclear war. What twisted logic occupied the Obama administration and his two war loving secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry? Certainly, they didn't want nuclear war. Obama even said that no U.S. ground troops would not assist the Ukraine government. What Obama did say was Russian action risked a new Cold War. This was echoed throughout the country by a congressional chorus of the usual male hysterics.

And, what does a new Cold War mean? A payday beyond dreams for defense firms and their major investors. As Gore Vidal pointed out, there is just one party, the property (money) party. It has Republican and Democratic wings. However, on the big issues, everyone agrees -- the threat of war, even a cold one, is good for the war business and its major investors. Think of the new Cold War as socialism for the very rich while successive administrations offer the vast majority of citizens a healthy dose of survival of the fittest.

Creative Commons 3.0

Reflections on Liberty: The Less Free World of Western Imperialism

Freest Under Czech Communism!

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

Milan Kohout is a thinker, performer, and professor. He was born in Czechoslovakia, where he lived before signing of ‘Charter 77’, and immigrating to the United States, where he became a naturalized US citizen.

Mr. Kohout got thoroughly disappointed with capitalism, and the Western regime.

For years and decades he has been performing all over the world, confronting Western imperialism, racism, capitalism and all the world’s religions, particularly Christianity, frontally.

The Discussion took place on October 12, 2014, in Klikarov, a small village in West Bohemia. Vltchek came to Czech Republic in order to give a political lecture at the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts in the city of Pilsen, where Kohout teaches.

Both of them drove to a tiny and remote village of Klikarov, in West Bohemia, where they sat by a fishpond, and engaged in a discussion about toxicity of Western imperialism, capitalism and European/US propaganda.


ANDRE VLTCHEK (AV): You are one of the few artists in the West who is taking direct action against Western imperialism, against unbridled capitalism, and against the religions. How and when did you choose this particular form of art?

MILAN KOHOUT (ML): It is obviously from the days when I was part of the so-called ‘Second Culture’, the Czech Underground; the era that was called by the West a ‘totalitarian system’ or, the Czechoslovak socialist system. ‘Second Culture’ was the movement that shaped our own creativity as well as the meaning of art. In those days we were expelled from the official culture, or from the ‘first culture’. So we rebelled. It was a deeply political movement by definition, and it produced political art.

AV: You often say, very correctly, that those of you who signed “Charter 77”, and those of you who were involved in the underground/opposition movement during the Cold War, were actually socialists, some even Marxists. That includes you. You are definitely a left-wing intellectual. That is a clear paradox: the West was ‘selling you’, promoting you, as a group of anti-Communists. Could you talk about this paradox?

MK: There has been, of course, such a paradox, a great paradox, because most of the people from the underground movement, of the ‘second culture’, were actually deeply supportive of leftist values. Like sharing everything, instead of collecting things. We believed in the common ownership of property and the means of production. But we never thought about it from a theoretical angle – we did not realize that our values were actually leftist, philosophically. So while we were fighting against the so-called Communist government, we were actually true Communists!

Btw, when I say this to my fellow ‘Charter-77’ comrades who have never left this country, they often get very pissed off – they don’t want to admit it.

AV: You actually said that even Vaclav Havel, who at some point fully sold out and began supporting Western imperialism – went to Washington where he gave servile speeches in exchange for standing ovations from the representatives of the regime – that even Havel, when he was member of your movement, actually shared those leftist ideals.

MK: But of course! Some of his philosophical views were actually Marxist!

AV: So what happened? How did people like him actually change?

MK: After the revolution I was very proud of Vaclav Havel, because he proclaimed publicly that he wasn’t going to live in a Presidential mansion. He lived in his modest apartment, drove his own car to his office, everyday… I felt that he had become a marvelous role model…

AV: He even rode his pushbike around the Presidential castle…

MK: Yes… He became something of a true ‘folk hero’, or the ‘people’s President’. Then something changed his mind… Probably part of it was that historically he was from a bourgeois family.

AV: One of the richest in Prague…

MK: Yes, from a very, very rich bourgeois family… And he of course used to say ‘I don’t want to reclaim my property and the social status of my former family’, but something must have changed. I guess that advisors, after he became the President, started to push ideas that if he continued living this sort of ‘leftist lifestyle’, he would interfere with the capitalist direction in which the country was moving. They most likely told him that he would be seen as sabotaging ‘freedom’ and ‘economic growth’… And also, probably, high political position corrupts… And so he began to change, slowly but surely. He actually collected all the former properties of his family, in so-called ‘restitutions’. He began supporting the imperialistic US foreign policy, a fact that I found extremely embarrassing… Then later, something even more bizarre happened: he lost connection with real life: he began living in a greenhouse of the chosen people, or something like that.

AV: Which brings me to the subject that we have already discussed earlier: no matter what problems Czechoslovakia faced in the Soviet-era, the country was decisively on the side of the oppressed people, all over the world. Czech and Slovak engineers, doctors, teachers – they did some incredible work for humanity, for people in Africa, Asia…

MK: As the Cubans have been doing…

AV: Yes. But now, looking back, it appears that a huge percentage of people were, during the Communist era, actually dreaming about joining the West and indirectly or even directly, become part of the global oppressive apparatus. Now when so many former progressive dissidents turned around as Havel did, now when the country got divided and both parts had determinedly joined the Western imperialist and economic structures, it is obvious that the Czech and Slovak republics are doing absolutely nothing positive for the rest of the world, anymore.

Are people happy? Is it what they really wanted?

MK: Even here, people are being exploited by ‘foreign investment’.

I really don’t understand what is going on in the minds of the people here, in the Czech Republic.

Of course, certain ‘selected parts of the society’, those who own something, those who are so-called successful in business, those who have become very rich, they are naturally very happy with the direction. And these people own the media and they are promoting this right-wing system. But I think that the poor people are starting to wake up from their dream, that ‘if they could liberate themselves from the totalitarian system’, they would start to live ‘free lives’, a ‘joyful existence’.

None of the dreams have really come true. For most of people, life now is much more horrible than it was under socialism.

AV: When you say horrible, we have to remember that the Czech Republic is still a very rich country. And it, at least for its own citizens, offers a sort of Social Democratic mattress; a cushion… There is free medical care of a relatively very high quality, free education, subsidized culture and excellent and cheap public transportation all over the country. What changed for worse?

MK: Before the so-called ‘Velvet Revolution’, people complained about not having access to certain types of information, or certain cultural products, including certain films. They were not allowed to travel abroad, whenever they wanted, etcetera. But they didn’t realize that their dignity of life was much, much better then, than it is nowadays. They didn’t realize that when capitalism enters, they would start to feel anxieties, very deep existential anxieties… They would start being terrified that they would lose jobs.

They are now forced to trade their human dignity for keeping their jobs.

Now they have to kiss the backsides of their bosses much more than they would have had to, under Communism.

It is all very interesting, as people used to have certain advantages, which were of course created, built and established by socialist movements throughout history. And they sort of forgot, having those values and advantages, that…

AV: They took things for granted?

MK: They did take things for granted. They did not even realize that they had some great things, that they had great lives. Suddenly, when they began losing them, they realized that something was going terribly wrong. Some people are now very disappointed.

I spent a year in Moravia with my wife. It has the highest unemployment rate in the country, and you can hear big complaints there.

It is very interesting: this shift from a socialist system to a capitalist one. Under socialism, Czechoslovakia produced everything, literally from needles to locomotives.

AV: Nuclear reactors, airplanes, big riverboats…

MK: Yes! Everything… From nuclear reactors to clothing: everything was produced here. Food was produced here. It was a self-sustaining country.

Now everything has changed! All the national industries have gone. Sold or stolen by those…

AV: …or downgraded. The airplane industry is gone; factories that used to export locomotives all over the world were bought by Western multi-nationals and are now producing railroad cars…

MK: Yes… Everything is sort of gone, and as it was privatized, production moved east, and so-called Western ‘investment’ moved into the country, building those ‘slave-labor’, huge production halls, where people work like in those Charlie Chaplin films, like in “Modern Times”.

So it is a real pity that people totally misunderstood the word ‘freedom’.

AV: Do you suggest that there was more freedom here, some 30 years ago than there is now?

MK: Depends for whom. But I used to say to my students at Tufts University in Boston, when I was asked ‘when I felt most free’… I always told them: “During the ‘totalitarian system’ in Czechoslovakia!”

AV: Or more precisely, during the so-called totalitarian system…

We see the same thing in China, right now. You performed in China, and my work too, is often shown there.

In many ways, artists are more free there, than in the West. In Beijing, artists address much more important issues, and make an enormous impact on society, than those who are working in London or in New York.

MK: Yes, I know that from my own experience. I curated a big festival of performing arts, in Beijing, about 4 years ago. I was very surprised by how deeply critical some of their work was there. While I read in the Western propaganda media, that Communist China censors, sends people to jail because of their critical voices, etcetera. It was all quite different from what I witnessed there.

AV: Also, from our own experience in Czechoslovakia… I am trying to connect these dots… In Czechoslovakia, as you pointed out earlier, people complained that some types of information were not readily available. But also, at the same time, information in Communist Czechoslovakia, mattered. In the present-day, in the pro-Western and capitalist Czech Republic, information means very little, and people can actually change very little, even if they do have access to information.

MK: Under the socialist, of what the West called a ‘totalitarian system’, people complained… We complained… But we always found a way to get the information that we were looking for. And we were very proactive in getting hold of information. And then we valued what we got; we really studied that information, we really processed it. And we had plenty of time. We had the real luxury of time, under the socialist system. So you could enjoy reading books, listening to music, watching films…

AV: Sometimes even at the workplace, because it seems that nobody really worked too hard.

[Both laughing]

MK: Well, the meaning of life is not some sort of slave labor, is it? In theory, it was actually part of that socialist or communist system – to increase the quality of life. So, it was all about a quality of life, but not necessarily the quantity of things consumed.

On the other hand, the capitalist economic system is based on ‘markets’. Its ideologues say that such a system provides many more goods. ‘Stuff’, you know… Yes, but the price is that the quality of life gets dramatically reduced.

AV: You then have 3 cars, 5 phones, but you don’t really need them.

MK: You don’t need them, and you don’t have time to live. You are permanently terrified of losing your job, or of many other things.

AV: So you fight all this, and you use your art, your performances to attack the stupidity of life under capitalism. You are also attacking religious dogmas, which are very closely connected to all this – to power, exploitation, oppression… And you are attacking imperialism. What responses do you get from all over the world, because you do not just perform here, but also in the United States, all over Europe, in China, Israel and in many other places. Are you filling the gap? Do you feel that people are longing for such art, such political and engaged performances?

MK: I think so. I have gotten very positive responses, a fact that actually keeps me going. Sometimes people just approach me on the street and say: “Your art is great. It increases our awareness about this and that stupidity!” I don’t even know how many people are affected by my pieces…

My performances, my art –is also the result of the so-called ‘second culture’. It is an art form, which does not require much funding. It does not require permanent spaces, like theatres, where it can be performed. It is an art form, which uses mainly your own body, and you have your body at your disposal, always. It is performed in the context of life itself: on the streets or at railway stations. So, you are part of this life, and you create situations, raise awareness about something, criticize something… and then real people begin to react… people around you turn into participants… from the audience, they change into participants… While in real theatre, there is the actor and there is the audience, and there is that ‘fifth wall’ as they call it. During my performances, there is no wall. It’s a direct art. It’s like a fusion of art and life.

I always say: in the theatre, the actor pretends that he is in pain, while a performer like me actually really experiences pain.

Performance art is really wonderful. It has been here since the onset of the human race.

AV: Milan, you are taking direct action in many parts of the world. You have been attacking Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. You have been attacking Czechs for how they treat Roma people. You almost single-handedly helped to dismantle that wall of shame that was erected in Usti nad Labem, in order to separate white Czechs and Gypsies/Roma… You are throwing raw meat at the priests in the churches, to highlight the crimes against humanity committed by Christianity. You are invading the shopping centers and malls; mock-praying to the God of Mammon. You do many things that other people would never dare to do. Do you ever get arrested, intimidated or even attacked?

MK: Oh yes, many times! I had been arrested many times. I have even had to face court, when I did that famous piece in Boston, at the beginning of the mortgage loan scandal. When the banks were selling those loans to poor people and those people could not afford to pay the mortgages and then ended up committing suicide. So I decided to do a performance in front of the headquarters of the Bank of America, which was one of the most horrible, disgusting institutions at that time; cheating the people… So I placed a set of nooses in front of the bank, and I had a sign there: ‘nooses on sale’. My message was: If you come here to apply for a loan, also buy a noose’.

AV: Just in case…

MK: Just in case! But the police came, they arrested me; they took it deadly seriously… The city filed criminal charges against me, and I had to attend court hearings for several months. The case was: ‘City of Boston vs. Milan Kohout’. And they came up with some 150 year-old law, which stated that you couldn’t sell the stuff in front of a bank house. That law has apparently only been applied once, during those 150 years. But it was clear that they were trying to find something against me… In the end I was acquitted. My case generated enormous media attention, including from the National Public Radio.

AV: Milan, both of us are travelling intensively all over the world. You clearly see the danger coming from Western imperialism. Do you take the threat seriously? Do you agree that Western imperialism is increasingly in control of the planet; a fact that could lead to extremely tragic consequences?

MK: Absolutely! I have lived in the US for 26 years, so I have witnessed the period of time when the US power became very aggressive. And I realized that it was very logical and connected to the decomposition of the Eastern Block. After the Communist block collapsed, the West suddenly had no opposition. There was suddenly a great vacuum with no opposition, and they filled it immediately, with their aggressive business interests, because it is clear that at the ‘top of the pyramid’ is an economic dictatorship. It was suddenly a tremendous opportunity to enslave hundreds and hundreds of millions of people. And they did it!

AV: And this country – Czech Republic – from where we are discussing the world right now, is suddenly part of this Western regime… It is collaborating again.

MK: But of course…

AV: It is not a victim, anymore, as it wanted to be seen in the past… It is part of the oppressor’s club. Do people realize this? Is there any discussion, any debate regarding this issue?

MK: I am pleased to say that some people, including those in academia, are beginning to realize it. But it is a very recent development. In the meantime, this aggressive capitalist regime has taken over almost all the means of production, as well as the mass media. And they are brainwashing adults, as well as young children. They are permanently terrifying them with twisted lies about the Communist times, and those young brains of course believe what they are told, because that’s the information that is given to them. And they are so, so brainwashed, those young kids, that it is almost unbelievable! The propaganda has created some Orwellian dogmas like, that, ‘in Communist days people all wore gray clothes and walked slowly down the streets like zombies’… Complete nonsense! It was not at all like that! Because many aspects of life under Communism were much freer than they are now!

AV: And much more fun…

MK: Much more fun! The quality of life, as we mentioned, was much higher, especially compared to this capitalist slavery!

AV: But there is now a global opposition; a coalition of countries that are resisting the diktats of the West: there is Latin America, Russia, China, South Africa, Iran, even some small countries like Eritrea. And this opposition is becoming very powerful, because it counters with great brains, and with an increasingly powerful media. Both of us belong to that opposition. Do people here, in the Czech Republic, but also in Poland where you often teach, realize that they have ended up on the wrong side of history, by joining the West?

MK: Some people probably do, already, but not yet the majority.

But back to the arts: its great duty is the task of artists to create such awareness. Artists have to teach people. Fuck all that aesthetic, cognitive and the conceptional profile of the artwork! And let’s get back to engaged, political art, because there is an incredible need for it, nowadays. There is still hope that this disaster that has been taking place for the last 30 years can be reversed. For us to fight now is to fight for the very survival on this Earth!

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. The result is his latest book: “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. ‘Pluto’ published his discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. His feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” is about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Media and Empire: The ‘Dissident’ Smear of Gary Webb

The Dark Alliance of Media and Empire: The ‘Dissident’ Smear of Gary Webb

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

I assume that most of the rapidly dwindling number of people who read this blog have already read Tarzie’s takedown of The Intercept’s curiously CIA-slanted smear of Gary Webb, who revealed the Agency’s instrumental involvement in the 1980s crack epidemic that devastated America’s inner cities in order to fund the illegal Contra war in Nicaragua.

(As an aside, I’d like to note that the flood of crack into America was not of course confined to the inner cities, although that was indeed its epicenter. Over time, it crept out into that rural “heartland” where, in Gore Vidal’s immortal phase, “chiggers burrow and Jesus saves,” and destroyed the lives of many “good old boys” along with the ghetto dwellers who were the primary targets. One of these old boys was a close friend of mine, a good-hearted, “unharmful gentle soul” damaged by a violent upbringing who got hooked on crack and ended up in the absolute hellhole of the American prison complex. This was a sweet, music-loving, friend-supporting man who’d never hurt a single person in his life, who spent his time in prison trying to mediate between the racist gangs — paying the price for it with beatings and threats — trying to walk the line and being scorned for it by guards and prisoners alike. All this for a quiet, diversionary high he could have gotten from a couple of legal six-packs every night, if not for the insidious addictive nature of the product the CIA pushed into the hands of the pushers. This is one of the main things that drive my rage against the murderers and liars who strut upon the national and international stages, pretending to be pious leaders: the fate of good people like my friend, ordinary people, people filled with love, with dreams, who just want to get beyond whatever torments their pasts have inflicted upon them and enjoy their time, their friends, their children, their lovers, but are instead crushed like bugs beneath the bootheels of imperial policy. It’s things like this that make me want to say: Damn these killers and liars to hell, whatever their party or professed ideals may be.)

Anyway, in his original piece, Tarzie committed the increasingly rare sin of genuine journalism by investigating and debunking, point by point, The Intercept’s ugly spin on Webb’s work — work which was later confirmed by the CIA itself. Now Tarzie is back with a follow-up on the continuing disparagement of Webb’s work by the Establishment media (covering its own spotty posterior for its original collaboration with CIA smears) in a new piece, with links to several other important stories on the case. Both pieces are well worth reading, if you haven’t already.

II. The Oligarch’s Code Revisited

Speaking of The Intercept, and the billionaire oligarch behind this doughty bastion of ‘dissent,’ what has Pierre Omidyar’s favorite religious neo-fascist been up too, after Pierre’s money helped him into power? Why, fomenting war at one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear flashpoints, of course!

We speak of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has spent the months since his election in May stoking the flames in Kashmir, the disputed border region between India and Pakistan: a flashpoint that has already sparked three wars and numerous standoffs between the two nuclear-armed rivals. Modi and his minions now boast of his bellicosity in the new stirring of the hornet’s nest:

“The message we have been given from the prime minister’s office is very clear and precise,” said a senior Indian Home Ministry official. “The prime minister’s office has instructed us to ensure that Pakistan suffers deep and heavy losses.”

In his first extensive comments on the violence, Mr Modi told a political rally on Thursday, when 1,000 Indian mortars rained across into Pakistan, that “it is the enemy that is screaming”.

“The enemy has realised that times have changed and their old habits will not be tolerated,” he said.

We have written here before of our ‘dissenting’ oligarch’s profitable alliance with Modi, such as in this excerpt (see original for links):

Who is Modi? What sort of politician has America’s leading bankroller of dissent given his copious support to? Pankaj Mishra has written one of the best articles that I've seen on the situation. From the Guardian:

Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation inspired by the fascist movements of Europe, whose founder's belief that Nazi Germany had manifested "race pride at its highest" by purging the Jews is by no means unexceptional among the votaries of Hindutva, or "Hinduness". In 1948, a former member of the RSS murdered Gandhi for being too soft on Muslims. The outfit, traditionally dominated by upper-caste Hindus, has led many vicious assaults on minorities. A notorious executioner of dozens of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 crowed that he had slashed open with his sword the womb of a heavily pregnant woman and extracted her foetus. Modi himself described the relief camps housing tens of thousands of displaced Muslims as "child-breeding centres".


His record as chief minister is predominantly distinguished by the transfer – through privatisation or outright gifts – of national resources to the country's biggest corporations. His closest allies – India's biggest businessmen – have accordingly enlisted their mainstream media outlets into the cult of Modi as decisive administrator; dissenting journalists have been removed or silenced.

Omidyar has acquired impenetrable “liberal” cred since he decided to bankroll some of America’s leading adversarial journalists — including Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Matt Taibbi — to the tune of a cool quarter of a billion dollars. Yet, although some of these journalists continue to produce some informative work (Taibbi has a good piece in the Guardian this week on America’s two-tier justice system), one might be forgiven for suspecting that Omidyar is using them as something along the lines of human shields to cover some of his less salubrious activities — such supporting religious fascists like Modi, and working hand-in-glove with Washington to engineer a ‘regime change’ in Urkraine that relied heavily on avowed neo-fascist factions to force the issue.

For more on this, see Omidyar and the Oligarch’s Code: Enabling Extremism, Monetizing Dissent, which draws heavily on the incisive reporting that Mark Ames has been doing on Omidyar at Pando Daily.

Putin Pointing Fingers: US Blamed for Destabilizing the World

Putin Lashes Out At US, West For Destabilizing World

by RT

Vladimir Putin lashed out at the United States and the West for destabilizing the world order of checks and balances for its own gains. He also accused the West of inflaming the situation in Ukraine and said Russia is not interested in building an empire.

The Russian President delivered a fierce broadside aimed at the United States in a speech for the Valdai Club in Sochi, which is an informal group of scholars. He hit out at Washington for behaving without regard to the rest of the world's interests

“The system of international relations needed some changes, but the USA, who believe they were the winners of the Cold War, have not seen the need for this.”

He added that the US has been trying to create the world “for their own gains." The Russian President added that because of this, regional and global security had been weakened.

During his speech, Putin used the Russian version of the Latin phrase, “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi” (what is allowed for god, is not allowed for cattle,) alluding to the double standards used by Washington.

President Putin Speaks at 4:30 seconds

US sponsoring Islamic extremism

Putin also touched on the issue of the growth of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and also accused the West of, "turning a blind eye," to the encroachment of international terrorism into Russia and Central Asia. Putin believes the US has played a considerable role in sponsoring the growth of Islamic extremism, using the example of Washington's funding of the Mujahidin in the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980's, which eventually gave birth to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

“It never ceases to amaze me how our partners have been guilty of making the same mistakes time and again. They have in the past sponsored Islamic extremists who were battling against the Soviet Union, which took place in Afghanistan. It was because of this the Taliban and Al-Qaeda was created,” the president added.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) is the latest terrorist organization, which is destabilizing the world and Putin was scathing of countries that have been helping to fund the Islamist militants by buying cut price oil they are selling.

“Terrorists have been selling oil at really low prices and those countries who have been buying it and then selling it on, are financing terrorism, which will eventually come back to bite them,” the Russian President said.


Putin all for Nuclear cuts

Relations between Russia and the US have been plummeting for months; however Vladimir Putin accused the US of using the EU to further its own gains against Russia. He hit out at the numerous sanctions that have been imposed on Moscow, saying, "This was a mistake, which has a knock-on effect on everyone."

“The USA, which has implemented sanctions against Russia, is sawing at the branches, upon which they are sitting,” President Putin added.

The reduction of nuclear arsenals was another issue, which was high on the agenda for the Russian President and once again, he was not afraid of having a dig at Washington for their reluctance to cut the number of nuclear missiles. He mentioned that unfortunately many countries see the only way to preserve their sovereignty is, "To make a nuclear bomb."

The reduction in nuclear arsenals was initially proposed by the Obama administration and Putin admitted it had potential, before talks about decreasing weapons stockpiles collapsed.

"Russia has been all for the continuation of talks about the reduction of nuclear arsenals," and according to President Putin, "Moscow is ready for serious talks, but without “double standards."


Genie out of the bottle

Perhaps Putin's harshest criticism was reserved for the West's creation of color revolutions and "controlled chaos," which he a likened to "letting the genie out of the bottle," with particular reference to Ukraine.

"We have been trying to discuss the Ukraine issue with the EU for a long time, but we were told this was none of our business. They then put two countries against each other, which has led to countless destruction of infrastructure. When I asked why did they do this, they just shrug their shoulders and don’t have an answer," Putin added.

President Putin made reference to the ‘Bear’ defending its territory to take a swipe at the US for its continued encroachment towards Russia’s territory. “He is considered the owner of the Taiga, but he, I know for a fact, does not want to go to a different climatic zone, as it is uncomfortable for him there. However, he will not give it to anyone else; I think that this should be clear,” he said.

The Russian President said that there is no truth whatsoever in claims from the West that Russia is interested in empire building and that Moscow is looking to destabilize the world order. With relations between Russia and the West at a very low ebb, Putin also hinted Russia will look to develop allies further afield.

"Russia has made its choice – we want to develop our economy and develop democratic values. We work with our counterparts in the Shanghai Cooperation, the BRICS union for example. We want our opinions to be respected likewise. We all need to be cautious to not make hasty and dangerous steps. Some of the players on the global front have forgotten about the need for this," he said in another barb directed at Washington.

Soldier: "Stop the Killing"

Stop the Killing

by Kathy Kelly - VCNV

On August 9, 1983, three people dressed as U.S. soldiers saluted their way onto a U.S. military base and climbed a pine tree. The base contained a school training elite Salvadoran and other foreign troops to serve dictatorships back home, with a record of nightmarish brutality following graduation.

That night, once the base's lights went out, the students of this school heard, coming down from on high, the voice of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

"I want to make a special appeal to soldiers, national guardsmen, and policemen: each of you is one of us. The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God's words, 'thou shalt not kill.' No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you; in the name of God I command you to stop the repression."

The three in the tree with the loudspeaker weren't soldiers – two of them were priests. The recording they played was of Archbishop Romero's final homily, delivered a day before his assassination, just three years previous, at the hands of paramilitary soldiers, two of whom had been trained at this school.

Fr. Larry Rosebaugh, (who was killed in Guatemala on May 18, 2009), Linda Ventimiglia, and Fr. Roy Bourgeois, (a former missioner expelled from Bolivia who was later excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church because of his support for women’s ordination) were sentenced to 15 -18 months in prison for the stirring drama they created on the base that night. Romero's words were heard loud and clear, and even after military police arrived at the base of the tree and stopped the broadcast, Roy Bourgeois, who would later found a movement to close the school, continued shouting Romero's appeal as loudly as he could until he was shoved to the ground, stripped, and arrested.

As we approach the nightmare of renewed, expanded U.S. war in Iraq, I think of Archbishop Romero’s words and example. Romero aligned himself, steadily, with the most impoverished people in El Salvador, learning about their plight by listening to them every weekend in the program he hosted on Salvadoran radio. With ringing clarity, he spoke out on their behalf, and he jeopardized his life challenging the elites, the military and the paramilitaries in El Salvador.

I believe we should try very hard to hear the grievances of people in Iraq and the region, including those who have joined the Islamic State, regarding U.S. policies and wars that have radically affected their lives and well-being over the past three decades. It could be that many of the Iraqis who are fighting with Islamic State forces lived through Saddam Hussein’s oppression when he received enthusiastic support from the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Many may be survivors of the U.S. Desert Storm bombing in 1991, which destroyed every electrical facility across Iraq.

When the U.S. insisted on imposing crushing and murderous economic sanctions on Iraq for the next 13 years, these sanctions directly contributed to the deaths of a half million children under age five. The children who died should have been teenagers now; are some of the Islamic State fighters the brothers or cousins of the children who were punished to death by economic sanctions?

Presumably many of these fighters lived through the U.S.-led 2003 Shock and Awe invasion and bombing of Iraq and the chaos the U.S. chose to create afterwards by using a war-shattered country as some sort of free market experiment; they’ve endured the repressive corruption of the regime the U.S. helped install in Saddam’s place.

The United Nations should take over the response to the Islamic State, and people should continue to pressure the U.S. and its allies to leave the response not merely to the U.N. but to its most democratic constituent body, the General Assembly.

But facing the bloody mess that has developed in Iraq and Syria, I think Archbishop Romero’s exhortation to the Salvadoran soldiers pertains directly to U.S. people. Suppose these words were slightly rewritten: I want to make a special appeal to the people of the United States. Each of you is one of us. The peoples you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a person telling you to kill, remember God's words, 'thou shalt not kill.'

No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you …I command you to stop the repression.

The war on the Islamic State will distract us from what the U.S. has done and is doing to create further despair, in Iraq, and to enlist new recruits for the Islamic State. The Islamic State is the echo of the last war the U.S. waged in Iraq, the so-called “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion. The emergency is not the Islamic State but war.

We in the U.S. must give up our notions of exceptionalism; recognize the economic and societal misery our country caused in Iraq; recognize that we are a perpetually war-crazed nation; seek to make reparations; and find dramatic, clear ways to insist that Romero’s words be heard: Stop the killing.
This article first appeared on Telesur English.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (

Fighting the TPP with Ralph

Op-Ed Against TPP 

by Ralph Nader and Koa Tasaka (Asahi Shimbun) -

We got the following op-ed published in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun this week, co-signed by Ralph Nader from Public Citizen and Koa Tasaka from Consumers Union of Japan. It was written in response to a column that made unsubstantiated claims about TPP and consumers.

In its September 08, 2014 editorial, Asahi Shimbun argued that “Japan, U.S. should consider consumers, not industries, in reaching TPP deal.”

As consumer movement leaders in the U.S. and Japan, we agree that it is crucial that both countries prioritize consumer interests. However, we strongly disagree with the editorial’s unsupported assumption that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as it is currently being negotiated would benefit consumers.

What is important to consumers? Healthy and safe food. Banking and insurance services that protect their financial well-being. Affordable medicines and health care. Access to an open Internet and privacy protections. A clean environment.

From what we know about the TPP text, it would undermine these critical consumer priorities, not promote them.

Consider who has had the greatest influence on the TPP. Almost all of the 500 official U.S. private sector trade “advisors” represent corporate interests. While agribusiness, Wall Street, and pharmaceutical interests have had special access to the process and negotiating text, representatives from consumer, health, and other public interest organizations have been left in the dark. Even members of the U.S. Congress cannot easily access the draft text. Similarly in Japan, elected members of the Parliament are unable to provide any constructive input to the negotiations.

Due to the extreme secrecy of the negotiations, it is impossible to know everything damaging to consumers that may be included in the TPP text. However, leaked draft texts of some of the chapters have confirmed that the TPP rules would benefit large multinational corporations at the expense of consumers.
The leak of the TPP’s environmental chapter shows that the U.S., which is not a party to United Nation conventions such as the Climate Change Convention or the Biological Diversity Convention, will do everything it can to use TPP to continue to avoid rules suggested by the international community.

Also, a leak of the TPP’s investment chapter indicates that it will include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a controversial system that grants foreign investors the right to sue governments in extrajudicial tribunals to demand taxpayer compensation for domestic policies or government actions that may diminish the investors’ future “expected profits.”

This brazen infringement of national sovereignty has been used under NAFTA and other treaties by corporations to attack toxics bans, nuclear energy phase-outs, tobacco regulation, unsafe food import bans, financial stability measures, water and timber policies, mining safety rules, fracking bans, and more. The cases are heard by three private-sector lawyers, many of whom are in a conflict of interest as they rotate between serving as “judges” and suing governments for corporations.

These cases cannot be appealed and there is no limit on what the tribunals can order governments to pay. This is corporate supremacy run amuck.

Under U.S. trade agreements alone, governments have been ordered to pay more than $430 million in compensation to corporations – with $38 billion more in claims now pending. And in some cases governments have also eliminated important consumer safeguards to avoid paying more. Or, to avoid threatened challenges, governments have been “chilled” from taking action, such as after R.J. Reynolds threatened Canada when it was considering stronger tobacco regulation. ISDS is not the only anti-consumer aspect of the TPP.

As well, a leaked draft of the Intellectual Property chapter revealed that TPP would expand the scope of medicine patents and strengthen drug monopolies, increasing the consumer price of crucial drugs. The TPP would also require countries to allow the importation of food that does not meet domestic safety standards. Under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary chapter, food labels providing important information for consumers could be challenged as a trade barrier, including labels for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This is completely unacceptable in Japan, where we are asking for better protection of biological diversity, and Japan’s mandatory labeling rules should be improved, not challenged.

Despite the lessons learned from the global financial crisis, the TPP’s Financial Services chapter would limit our governments’ ability to regulate to preserve financial stability and protect consumers’ hard-earned savings. Draconian copyright provisions pushed by Hollywood could jeopardize consumers’ access to information on the Internet.

These are just a few examples of crucial consumer policies that could be jeopardized by the TPP in its current corporate dominated form.

So, yes, the U.S. and Japan have an obligation to protect consumer interests within an open democratic process. However, the TPP negotiations are achieving the opposite, posing a dire threat to consumer protection and the public interest. That is why many of the largest consumer organizations in the U.S. and Japan are vehemently opposed to the TPP’s dictatorial impacts.

Ralph Nader, Public Citizen
Koa Tasaka, Consumers Union of Japan

October 23, 2014 (私の視点)TPP 消費者への深刻な脅威だ ラルフ・ネーダー、田坂興亜

朝日新聞は、英文サイトに掲載した9月8日付の社説(本紙は7日付朝刊)で、TPP(環太平洋経済連携協定)は消費者にメリットをもたらすという前 提でTPPに賛同するような姿勢を示したが、日米両国の消費者運動の主導的立場にあるものとしてTPPが内包する問題を提起したい。

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dissecting Stephen Harper's Reaction

Ottawa Killings: Who Wins? Russell Brand The Trews (E174)

by Russell Brand

Reaction to the violence in Ottawa involving the killings of two officers. Canada's prime minister has called the most recent shooting "the country's second terrorist attack in three days."

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Produced & directed by Gareth Roy. Thanks to Jimi Mackay: @jimimackay
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Canada's Failure of Accountability Highlighted in D.C. Hearing

Washington, D.C. hearing to spotlight the Canadian Government’s failure to prevent harm and ensure justice for mining-affected communities abroad

by MiningWatch Canada

(Ottawa) - The Canadian Government has failed to respond to a decade’s worth of recommendations to prevent and provide effective recourse for harms related to Canadian mining operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a report by the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability ( that will be presented in a public hearing before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, October 28th.

MiningWatch Canada, Osgoode Hall’s Justice and Corporate Accountability Project ( (JCAP) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice ( (CCIJ) will make presentations at the hearing. The Commission has requested the presence of the State of Canada, but it is not clear if they will participate.

According to documented evidence, systematic abuses have been taking place against Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, workers and the environment involving Canadian companies operating in Latin America and the Caribbean with strong support from the Canadian government. The report calls on the Canadian government to take measures to help prevent further harm, including to stop directing overseas development aid and diplomatic services toward the promotion of large-scale mineral extraction overseas. Further, it should enact legislation such that Crown corporations, particularly those that finance and hold equity in companies, comply with international Indigenous and human rights obligations. The report also underscores the need for legally binding standards and effective recourse to address the negative impacts that mining is having on communities, workers and the environment because voluntary standards and other existing measures fall short.

This hearing is part of the 153rd Period of Sessions of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights ( (IACHR). The IACHR is a regional human rights body and an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States. It holds hearings twice a year, in the fall and in the spring.

In October 2013, the IACHR heard from the Working Group on Mining and Human Rights in Latin America ( about systematic Indigenous and human rights violations against mining-affected communities. The Working Group profiled 22 case studies involving Canadian companies with strong support from the Canadian state and observed a troubling pattern of abuses.

This hearing comes on the heals of the defeat of Ombudsman Bill (Bill C-584) in the Canadian House of Commons ( . Tabled by Quebec MP Ѐve Péclet, the bill called for the creation of an independent extractive sector ombudsman with power to investigate and make recommendations regarding the human rights impact of Canadian mining companies operating abroad.

WHAT: IACHR Hearing: Impact of Canadian Mining Activities on Human Rights in Latin America

WHO: Representatives from MiningWatch Canada, Osgoode Hall’s Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) will make presentations. The Commission has requested the presence of the State of Canada, but it is not clear if they will participate.

WHEN & WHERE: Tuesday, October 28 from 10:45am to 11:45am in the Ruben Dario Room (Eighth Floor), Inter American Commission on Human Rights ( (1889 F St. N.W., Washington D.C.). The event will likely be videotaped and livestreamed for which available links will be provided prior to the hearing.

* Ian Thomson, Coordinator, Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability, ithomson(at), tel. 613-235-9956 ext. 222
* Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, jen(at), (613) 569-3439
* Shin Imai, Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University and a director of the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP), simai(at), (416) 736-5274

Report: Human Rights, Indigenous Rights and Canada's Extraterritorial Obligations (

Police State North: Can Ottawa Attack Kill Canadian Democracy?

Police-State Rhetoric and the Ottawa Attack

by Murray Dobbin - CounterPunch

[Ed.'s note: Reuters reports: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday increased police powers and further rights curtailment in wake of Ottawa Parliament attack Wednesday Oct. 22. ZeroHedge - ape]

Powell River, British Columbia - I expect that the reaction of most Canadians to the deadly attack on Parliament Hill (the home of our Parliament Buildings which house both the Senate and the Commons) was similar to mine: a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, a reaction that was not political but just human. My next reaction was: it has finally happened, as if I knew it had to in these days of the ‘war on terror.’ Given Canada’s recent role in the Middle East it is a miracle it hasn’t happened before.

All sorts of clichés seem to come to mind in moments like this – a “loss of innocence” being one of them. And to some extent this is accurate. Those who have visited Ottawa and the Parliament Buildings will remember by how quiet and benign is the sensibility of the place – with a huge stretch of lawn separating the street from the magnificent stone edifice, dominated by a soaring tower. It is almost bucolic. People regularly picnic on the lawn and play Frisbee. They also engage in demonstrations against the government of the day, or for some policy they care passionately about. There has been a deliberate attempt over the decades to make people feel that this really is their place (even if in terms of progressive public policy it rarely has been).

I think that what makes such terrorist incidents so profoundly disturbing is that they involve ordinary Canadians who suddenly transform into killing monsters effectively willing to commit suicide. For what? Sudden shootings never seems quite so disconcerting when the person is clearly unbalanced or somehow provoked by circumstances. But someone killing for a religion is new and inexplicable. It leaves people off balance.

But the loss of innocence this is only partly accurate because it is now increasingly a myth and the “ownership” of the place even more of a delusion. While not exclusively the fault of the current prime minister, Conservative Stephen Harper, many will put the largest part of the blame on his efforts to transform Canada from a moderate, middle power with a history of virtually inventing UN peacekeeping, into a shrill, warmongering nation ever ready to rattle its (insignificant) sabre at any opportunity.

It’s not who we feel we are, but it’s what have become in the world

We may never know whether this attack has anything to do with ISIS and Canada’s decision to join the bombing campaign (six fighter bombers for six months) and send military advisors to Iraq. But just last week another Islamist convert ran over and killed a Canadian soldier in Montreal (injuring a second soldier) – and he did so explicitly as revenge for Canada’s role in fighting ISIS. The demonic nature of Islamist terror is that the now-dead terrorists didn’t have to have any actual connection with ISIS. All they had to do was “believe,” listen to and read the ISIS propaganda and take matters into his own hands. These are sleeper agents that the mother ship doesn’t even know exist.

Stephen Harper is a man with undeniable psychopathic tendencies and as such he is very likely the biggest risk-taker in Canadian political history. This plays itself out at every level and his recklessness, while it too often pays off, can also have severe blow-back. A few commentators have pointed to Harper’s recklessness and rhetorically asked just why no one in his government seemed to take seriously the ISIS threat to take the fight to Canada. According to a report in the National Post, on September 21st, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani “…urged ISIS supporters to kill Canadians, Americans, Australians, French and other Europeans…Rely upon Allah …Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict.”

Harper, in what has become a standard adolescent response to events in the Middle East, bravely declared he would not be “cowed by threats while innocent children, women, men and religious minorities live in fear of these terrorists.” In a to-hell-with-the-consequences determination and despite a laughably minuscule force, off we went to war yet again. And all for domestic political consumption. To their credit the opposition parties in Parliament, the NDP and the Liberals, voted against the mission for most of the right reasons: what was the mission, what were the expectations of success, how was success even being defined, and why six months when virtually all analysts suggest the ISIS threat will be with us for a very long time. Not one of these questions was answered and instead the questioners were treated to the usual contempt from our narcissistic prime minister.

We are supposed to learn as children that actions have consequences so I suppose we are left to conclude that current leaders of the Anglo-industrialized countries (in particular) were badly neglected by their parents. A monstrous and catastrophic failure of imagination on the part of the West has led us to this point. The first failure belonged to Zbigniew Brzezinski one of the key architects of the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Before the US armed, financed and trained the then-handful of religious zealots opposed to the godless Soviets, they were a threat to no one.

In an interview that appeared in CounterPunch in 1998 Brzezinski revealed his limited imagination when asked if he regretted creating Islamic terrorists: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”

The answer is in.

And the failure of imagination is replicated year after year in the White House and in the Strangelovian world of NATO – and now Canada. Imperial hubris, willful ignorance and breathtaking incompetence accompany it on its journey to permanent catastrophe. And Stephen Harper has, as he likes to say, been punching above his weight in this dance of idiots. He enthusiastically bombed Libya, handing over thousands of tonnes of sophisticated weapons to another branch of radical Islamists, he gives Israel absolute carte blanch in its savaging of Palestinians (In the last invasion of Lebanon, Israel deliberately targeted a UN bunker with over a dozen bombing runs, killing a Canadian soldier. Harper refused to comment.) and he tweaks the tail of the ISIS tiger.

The more frightening interpretation of Harper’s mentality relates to his determined expansion of the security and surveillance state in Canada. His efforts to equate environmentalists with terrorism and treason, his abuse of power in targeting of dissent from any quarter, his relentless attack on the institutions of democracy suggest that he may just welcome the political aftermath: a population more willing to give up its civil liberties, more prone to stay home rather than demonstrate and a Parliament more willing to increase funding and authority to security agencies. A member of Canadian Security and Intelligence Service our CIA equivalent – said in response to the shooting: “This will change everything.” He was a little too eager in his pronouncement, perhaps anticipating a greater role, more resources and new laws to control dissent.

And, of course, he didn’t mean it would change our irresponsible foreign policy. Every effort will be made to portray an amateurish attack, facilitated by a stunningly incompetent security service, as a game changer. We will see in the months ahead if Canadian citizens are up to the challenge of rejecting this self-serving police state rhetoric.

Murray Dobbin, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years. He now writes a bi-weekly column for the on-line journals the Tyee and He can be reached at