Saturday, July 15, 2017

Moving Beyond Israeli: NDP Candidate Challenges Canada's Political Default Position

NDP Leadership Candidate Niki Ashton Supports Palestinian Rights

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

July 14th, 2017

Sometimes silence in politics speaks louder than words.

Israel lobby groups’ response (or lack thereof) to NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton’s recent support of Palestinian rights suggests they believe previous criticisms backfired.

Two months ago B’nai B’rith attacked Ashton for attending a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and a subsequent Facebook post commemorating the Nakba, which saw 750,000 Palestinians driven from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947/’48. The self-declared ‘human rights’ organization published a press release titled “B’nai Brith Denounces MP Niki Ashton for Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists.” Rather than harming Ashton, the attack solidified support amongst the Left and youth within the party. B’nai B’rith’s smear generated significant media attention, but Ashton refused to back down.

In response the Manitoba MP told the Winnipeg Free Press she felt obligated to “speak out in the face of injustice” and “I have consistently spoken out for peace and justice in the Middle East, including for Palestinians.”

A few days after accusing her of “Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists” B’nai B’rith CEO Michael Mostyn took another shot at Ashton. Clearly writing to the Toronto Sun’s editors and his own organization’s donors, Mostyn linked Ashton’s position on Palestine to sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement, which most NDP members probably support. On top of this own-goal, Mostyn opened the door for a rejoinder by the president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. In his response Thomas Woodley described Ashton’s promotion of the Palestinian cause as an outgrowth of her “support for indigenous rights in Canada” — for every NDP member Mostyn swayed against Ashton I’d bet Woodley convinced fifty to favour her.

Since the dust-up at the end of May, B’nai B’rith – and other Israeli nationalist groups – have remained silent regarding Ashton. Yet when asked a question about Martin Luther King during an official party leadership debate six weeks ago Ashton went out of her way to link those campaigning for Palestinian rights to the US civil rights leader. Then, in a widely circulated FightBack interview at the end of June Ashton decried the NDP’s purge of pro-Palestinian candidates in the 2015 federal election campaign as “totally unacceptable”. She also called “justice for Palestine … a key issue” and referenced “the Nakba”.

Last week Ashton was part of a fundraiser in London, Ontario, put on by five prominent Palestinian solidarity activists, while this week she put out an appeal for individuals to join the party titled “End the Gaza Blockade”. It stated:

Today marks three years since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day Israeli military offensive on Gaza. … Ashton has demonstrated that she will show leadership and will never hesitate when standing up for Palestinians.

In the past B’nai B’rith has labeled lesser transgressions “support for terrorism” or “anti-Semitism”. Their silence on Ashton’s recent moves is deafening. B’nai B’rith is effectively conceding that their previous attacks backfired and they now fear drawing further attention to Ashton’s position since it would likely strengthen her standing among those voting for the next NDP leader.

According to a February poll of 1,000 Canadians, most progressive Canadians back Palestinian rights. Eighty-four percent of NDP supporters said they were open to sanctioning Israel, when they were asked in the context of the UN Security Council denouncing settlement building in the West Bank: “Do you believe that some sort of Canadian government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable?”

While somewhat of a long shot at the start of the race, Ashton now has a reasonable chance of becoming leader of the NDP. According to a July 5 Mainstreet poll of 1,445 party members, 22.6 per cent of those asked supported Charlie Angus as their first choice candidate while 20.4 per cent backed Ashton. 7.5 per cent chose both Jagmeet Singh and Peter Julian (who has since dropped out of the race) as their top choice and 6.1 per cent went for Guy Caron while 35.9 percent had not made up their minds. Ashton is far and away the favourite among NDP millennials.

The first ever pregnant major party leadership candidate in Canadian political history has gained this support by speaking truth to power and taking a principled position on an issue most politicians have shied away from. And, she has demonstrated that the purpose of Israeli nationalist attacks is to silence them, not to have a debate. In fact, real debate is what organizations like B’nai B’rith fear the most because the more people know about Israel and the Occupied Territories, the more they support the Palestinian cause.

The prospect of the NDP electing a leader taking explicitly pro-Palestinian positions obviously concerns B’nai B’rith. But, their bigger worry should be the growing number of progressives who consider Israel lobby attacks a mark in favour of a politician.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation. Read other articles by Yves.

Russia: Answering Western Propagandists

Lavrov Gives Quick History Lesson to Journalist Who Suggests Russia Has Violated NATO's Trust

by Russia Insider

July 14, 2017
Russia's Foreign Minister gives misinformed journalist an earful

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov regularly crosses swords with journalists, television pundits and other parasites. It's never a fair fight—but is that really Lavrov's fault? Nein.

What we find so endearing about Sergey is that he's not your typical diplomat who mutters something incoherent and then pulls the fire alarm when confronted with an obnoxious question. Lavrov knows how to throw down. And the results are always devastating and highly educational.

This was certainly the case yesterday in Berlin, where Lavrov answered media questions about Russia's relationship with Europe.

One journalist in particular had a creative suggestion: Maybe Russia could cancel its upcoming military exercises with Belarus in order to restore mutual trust with NATO?

Buckle up, because Sergey Lavrov is about to give you a crash course in "mutual trust" between Russia and NATO:

Question: Russia-NATO relations are complicated. Both sides are accusing each other of provocations. There is talk of Europe’s remilitarisation. Russia is planning to hold large-scale military manoeuvres with Belarus, West 2017, in September. Maybe it should cancel or postpone these exercises so as to restore mutual trust?

Sergey Lavrov: Discussions of the scale of military exercises, confidence-building measures and efforts to reduce mutual suspicion are only possible on the basis of cooperation. On August 8, 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, Mikheil Saakashvili’s Georgia attacked South Ossetia. Russia, which had a peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia under an OSCE mandate, called for holding an extraordinary meeting of the Russia-NATO Council. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected the call and said that the council would be suspended, that its doors were closed to Russia, and that they will not talk with us. Everyone admitted in late 2008 that it was the wrong decision to make. It was decided that the Russia-NATO Council must work under any conditions and that it was especially important during a time of crisis.

The same mistake was made again after the developments in Kiev’s Maidan. The West suspended cooperation and contacts within the Russia-NATO Council. We had several joint programmes, including on the joint fight against terrorism. Russia, Germany and France were working on the STANDEX programme to create the technology for stand-off detection of explosives at the entrance to public places. It was a unique project, but it has been suspended. Our cooperation in Afghanistan was put on ice as well. Attempts have been made to revitalise the council. I believe that ambassadorial-level talks are scheduled to take place today.

We know how preparations for meetings with Russia are discussed at NATO. The predominant feature is not a desire to hold business-like discussions or to search for ways to reduce tension and normalise relations, but as a desire of the Russia-hating minority who call for punishing Russia for what is happening in Ukraine, which they describe as unacceptable aggression, annexation and occupation. If this is what they want to use the Russia-NATO Council for, then we need not attend its meetings. We will see whether common sense will prevail over the anti-Russia choir at the meeting that will be held today.

advertisement We definitely do not want to increase tension in Europe. But we know that the bloc’s military infrastructure is being deployed on our border. Canada, Germany and the UK are doing this in the Baltics and the United States in Poland, and this involves the delivery of a huge number of heavy weapons. What matters is not that they are only sending one battalion each or that they say we should not worry. This situation involves certain symbols and makes us think about historical analogies.

A year ago, President of Finland Sauli Niinisto proposed that Russian and NATO planes fly with their transponders operating. Finland, although it is not a NATO member, wants to see a tranquil situation in the Baltic Sea area. We put the idea on paper, added a few more details and presented this initiative at the Russia-NATO Council a year ago. But things are not moving. NATO, which keeps talking about reducing tension and coming to agreements, are not enthusiastic about this idea. Russia has been accused of violating agreements, while we say that NATO is building up its strength and has advanced far beyond the limits that are set out in the Russia-NATO Founding Act. We have called for our military personnel to meet within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council to show on the map where each country concerned has its forces in Europe. This will allow us to compare our potentials and to deal with this issue professionally rather than engage in doubletalk.

It is very important to resume the analysis and comparison of our military doctrines, which NATO has suspended as well. It has been shelved. We are open for cooperation and ready to resume this work. But are our partners ready as well? We will not cajole them into resuming negotiations. Everyone must decide for themselves.

Deaths by the Minute in Yemen

Yemen: The War That Isn’t Happening Even as It’s Happening

by Luciana Bohne - CounterPunch

July 14, 2017

The manipulation of news and the distortion of reality are the most powerful weapons in the hands of power. They can make a whole reality disappear. Yemen’s, for example. A child dies in Yemen every ten minutes from preventable causes, UNICEF reported in June.

These deaths are only part of a humanitarian catastrophe, among the worst in the world, including a rampaging cholera epidemic, to which the witness of the overwhelming majority of the West’s warmongering Goebbelist media pretends to be deaf, mute, and blind.

Photo by Felton Davis | CC BY 2.0

 Nevertheless, information is accessible. There are sporadic exceptions to the conspiracy of silence in officialdom and the media. The week of July 10, The Independent published in the “Voices” section the appeal of Wael Ibrahim, an aid worker in Yemen:

“It is going to take years to restore any infrastructure like health services, and rewire the city [Sana’a] for electricity. We need more people to talk about Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia, backed by the US and Britain, began bombing Yemen, the poorest country in the region, on 23 March 2015—without a Security Council resolution, as has been the tradition for launching western wars since Bill Clinton’s 1999 Kosovo War (the bombing of Serbia).

The stated objective of the Anglo-American backing of the Saudi attack was the restoration of Yemen’s US-supported government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s, which fled to Saudi Arabia under the mounting pressure of the Houthi Shia rebels, accused by the United States of being pawns of Iran, or, dismissively, plain Iran-supported.

Boggles the mind to think of the blithe moral logic that justifies the support of the United States for a (largely faked) uprising in Syria when Iran is not allowed to assist Houthis in Yemen, fighting an authentic civil war, unlike the so-called Free Syrian Army and their hordes of 80% foreign al-Qaeda and Isis allied invaders of Syria’s sovereign state in 2011.

The hypocrisy of empire, one supposes: supporting rebels in one case and the legitimate government in another.

For this reason—Iran’s backing—the Saudis blockade the air and the ports of Yemen to check the flow of Iranian arms shipments to the rebels, adding to the infamy of the war the infamy of an economic siege—infamy because the largest number of victims in this tactic to encircle Iran are civilians, which is another tradition respected by the sorry, deceptive War on Terror.

The blockade also checks the “flow” of food and medicines and other health necessities, with devastating consequences, as we shall see.

Few honest observers doubt that the war in Yemen, instigated by the Obama administration and their British junior partners in the Cameron cabinet, is a war of strategy in which the real target is Iran. As in Iraq in 2003, the British partnership is invaluable because of its long experience in the “management” of former colonies the likes of Iraq and Yemen, when the port of Aden was a central and crucial traffic point in the business of running the British empire, which consisted of two thirds of the planet.

Claiming that Iran destabilizes the region, against the evidence of a chronic history of interference and aggressions there by the US & Co., Trump’s national security advisor asserted in a statement in January: “As of today, we are putting Iran on notice.” Yemen, thus, is the unfortunate country inconveniently placed by geography between Iran and Western objectives, bombed, economically besieged, its currency in collapse—the war tactics of the feudal Middle Ages.

Since March 2015, 3.2 million Yemenis have been displaced; 13,000 civilians have been casualties (UN official count); 2 million children cannot attend schools; nearly 15 million people have no access to basic medical care.

Last October, a Saudi bomb struck a funeral in Sana’a, killing 114 people (in some reports, 140) and injuring 613 out of 750 mourners in just one such civilian massacre of many—including in marketplaces and refugee camps—prompting United Nations experts to say the Saudis had violated international law, among other reasons because they attacked twice, while the funeral hall was still littered with wounded from the first attack, killing the wounded and first responders. In March, a Saudi airstrike killed 40 Somali refugees in a boat, fleeing the war torn country; more recently a market on the Saudi border was struck, killing six children.

Saudi airstrikes have destroyed schools, hospitals, and vital infrastructures such as electric grids and water supplies all classic crimes against humanity and war crimes.

King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KS Relief), founded by the lately departed King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in 2015, claims categorically that Saudi Arabia “has no intention of killing civilians.” Instead, they intend to “regain the will of the Yemeni people, taken by force” by Houthi rebels.

KS Relief has hired a British PR firm to spread good tidings about Saudi humanitarian assistance to Yemen: “We’re here to help,” Indeed, KS Relief has allocated more than $3 billion for assistance to Yemen: “number one donor for aid and development in Yemen,” KS Relief boasts. But, though they deny it, the aid is distributed through various filters, including UN agencies, with secret restrictions as to whom, where, and when. At any rate the campaign for “hearts and minds” in Yemen, sounds as grotesque as its erstwhile precedent in the American war in Vietnam: bomb first, then supply a bandage.

Andrew Smith, for the British Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), told The Independent, a propos Saudi aid to Yemen,

“Any aid that is helping people is to be welcomed, but the best thing that the Saudi regime can do for the people of Yemen is to stop the brutal bombing campaign that has killed thousands and brought millions to the edge of starvation.”

Out of 27 million people in Yemen, 20 million are food-insecure, famished in other words. Wael Ibrahim refers to statistics released by UN and other agencies:

“As the conflict goes on I’m seeing more and more poverty. There are 20 million people needing help in a population of 27 million people. I’ve seen famine-like conditions such as children with red streaks in their hair – a sign of malnutrition, and an alarming number of people at therapeutic feeding centres.”

Yet, we hear hardly a whimper of protest against this immense suffering among that portion of the American public—the radical left included– which so exercises the vocal cords on behalf of human rights when and where alleged violations coincide with Western intentions of regime change and occupation.

It is puzzling indeed why officials are not instructing the media to manufacture consent for a crusade of human rights in Yemen as they did for Libya and Syria to cover their real intentions. Can they not find a “demon” to raise righteous indignation? An ethnic group, whose human rights are hideously violated by the “demon”? Why is the war in Yemen such a low-profile conflict?

Pardon my cynicism, but the absence of instrumental justification feels like a ghost that refuses to do the job of haunting. Possibly, something too embarrassing could become public knowledge. Possibly a lucrative alliance could suffer.


The American and British weapons industry profit from the war in Yemen—as do, no doubt, all the members of the NATO alliance and beyond. The Obama administration sold on the world’s weapons market $200 billion worth of arms over eight years, the largest US weapons sale since WW II–over $100 billion to Saudi Arabia alone. The Trump administration has also distinguished itself for a vulgar display of fetishistic attachment to the kingdom of satraps. In June, the US Senate approved (53 for; 47 against) Trump’s April arms sale of $110 billion to Riyadh: $500 million in precision-guided munitions.

Britain’s war industries thrive on the suffering of Yemen. British Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) reported in The Independent in July:

“The UK has licensed £3.3 bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Right now, UK made fighter jets are being flown by UK-trained military personnel and dropping UK-made bombs on Yemen. The UK is not just a bystander in this war, it is an active participant.”

“Partners in crimes” would me more accurate: as mentioned, the British government is training the Saudi Air Force for airstrikes in Yemen, at the same time that Theresa May is withholding a report-study of Riyadh’s “ties to extremism.” The Saudi pilots are being trained to drop cluster bombs, “precisely” in theory, made in and sold by Britain. Cluster bombs are WMDs if used on civilian centers. They are allowed only for maiming and killing enemy soldiers. The beauty of recent wars is that “army” has become a nebulous concept. So, anything goes.

In the last few days, the British High Court has denied a request by CAAT, calling for the government’s suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, “pending the [judicial] review into if the sales are compatible with UK and EU arms export law,” as Andrew Smith wrote for CAAT in The Independent, following the denial.

Apparently the arms and military equipment sales to Saudi Arabia–aircraft, helicopter, drones, cluster bombs, and missiles–DO violate the laws of Britain and European Union, otherwise why would the court reject the request for a Judicial Review of the government’s practice?

Such is the absent zeal of western institution for protection of human rights that we should remember this infamous decision when next we are being seduced by the bloodhounds in the media into supporting the faux-crusades for random and selective human rights in the world by heartless and mercenary paladins.

To be fair, two thirds of the British public opposes arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Jeremy Corbyn agrees with the majority, calling the petro-monarchy’s intervention in Yemen “an invasion,” in an interview with Al Jezeera English.

While the crimes in Yemen are being assiduously ignored by the media and covertly aided by governments, their effects are accumulating. An outbreak of cholera is claiming more lives. One person per hour is dying of the water-borne disease. Wael Ibrahim laments in his Independent piece:

“These are the appalling conditions that caused the cholera outbreak in Yemen – I should know, I live here. There is untreated sewage on the streets of Sana’a. Driving near the airport I simply cannot breathe because of the stench.”

This situation carries the horrifying echo of what happened in Iraq in the 1990s, under the sanction regime inflicted by the senior Bush and continued by Bill Clinton, for a total of thirteen years. After bombing Iraq’s water-supply installations during the Gulf War, the US effectively (and possibly deliberately) poisoned the water by sanctioning the importation of purifying chlorine. As is notorious by now, 500,000 children under the age of five perished. Clinton’s ghoulish Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, admitted on CBS that such deaths had been “worth it.” The sanctions on Iraq had been pronounced on an August 6th, the month and day of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Many noted this sadistic coincidence, denouncing the sanctions as a second Hiroshima bomb—this time dropped on Iraq.

The cholera infection, marked by violent diarrhea, is caused by ingestion of water contaminated by fecal matter. The outbreak in Yemen first manifested itself in October 2016, but between April and June of 2017, it became rampant. According to the United Nations’ World Health Organization, 300,000 Yemenis are already infected. 1,500 people have died, 55% of them children. Hospitals are full with patients showing symptoms. Clean water, sanitation, and healthcare—the means to check the epidemic—are woefully scarce.

And no one yet asks, “Is it/was it worth it?” Perhaps the question will come up later, when counting the dead will do no harm to the progress of that virtual crime, officially known as the “foreign policy” of the United States in the “Middle East,” an abstract map to the planners—not a territory within which people live and will suffer from the plans.

Me? Oh, I turn to literature when speechless at the horror of it all. Who better than Sartre? Without ellipsis, synthesized, from the long passage in his first novel, Nausea:

“The nausea is not within me. I feel it out there. I am within it. I feel it out there in the wall, in the suspenders, everywhere around me. A monster? A giant carapace? Sunk in the mud? A dozen pairs of claws or fins laboring slowly in the slime? The monster rises. At the bottom of the water.”

Luciana Bohne is co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at:
More articles by:Luciana Bohne


Wael Ibrahim’s report on cholera in Yemen

Britain training Saudi pilots

US Senate Backs Trump’s Weapon Sale to Saudi Arabia

Life Beneath Bombs and Blockade

Cholera Epidemic in Yemen

Britain’s High Court Decision on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

Trump’s Weapons’ Sale to Saudi Arabia

Jeremy Corbyn’s Stand on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia   

Friday, July 14, 2017

Israel's 'Algeria Moment'

Israel’s ever-more sadistic reprisals help shore up a sense of victimhood 

 by Jonathan Cook 

11 July 2017 

When Israel passed a new counter-terrorism law last year, Ayman Odeh, a leader of the country’s large minority of Palestinian citizens, described its draconian measures as colonialism’s “last gasp”. He said:

“I see … the panic of the French at the end of the occupation of Algeria.”

The panic and cruelty plumbed new depths last week, when Israeli officials launched a $2.3 million lawsuit against the family of Fadi Qanbar, who crashed a truck into soldiers in Jerusalem in January, killing four. He was shot dead at the scene.

The suit demands that his widow, Tahani, reimburse the state for the compensation it awarded the soldiers’ families. If she cannot raise the astronomic sum, the debt will pass to her four children, the oldest of whom is currently only seven.

Israel is reported to be preparing many similar cases.

Like other families of Palestinians who commit attacks, the Qanbars are homeless, after Israel sealed their East Jerusalem home with cement. Twelve relatives were also stripped of their residency papers as a prelude to expelling them to the West Bank.

None has done anything wrong – their crime is simply to be related to someone Israel defines as a “terrorist”.

This trend is intensifying. Israel has demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop paying a small monthly stipend to families like the Qanbars, whose breadwinner was killed or jailed. Conviction rates among Palestinians in Israel’s military legal system stand at more than 99 per cent, and hundreds of prisoners are incarcerated without charge.

Israeli legislation is set to seize $280 million – a sum equivalent to the total stipends – from taxes Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, potentially bankrupting it.

On Wednesday Israel loyalists will introduce in the US Senate a bill to similarly deny the PA aid unless it stops “funding terror”. Issa Karaka, a Palestinian official, said it would be impossible for the PA to comply: “Almost every other household … is the family of a prisoner or martyr.”

Israel has taken collective punishment – a serious violation of international law – to new extremes, stretching the notion to realms once imaginable only in a dystopian fable like George Orwell’s 1984.

Israel argues that a potential attacker can only be dissuaded by knowing his loved ones will suffer harsh retribution. Or put another way, Israel is prepared to use any means to crush the motivation of Palestinians to resist its brutal, five-decade occupation.

All evidence, however, indicates that when people reach breaking-point, and are willing to die in the fight against their oppressors, they give little thought to the consequences for their families. That was the conclusion of an investigation by the Israeli army more than a decade ago.

In truth, Israel knows its policy is futile. It is not deterring attacks, but instead engaging in complex displacement activity. Ever-more sadistic forms of revenge shore up a collective and historic sense of Jewish victimhood while deflecting Israelis’ attention from the reality that their country is a brutal colonial settler state.

If that verdict seems harsh, consider a newly published study into the effects on operators of using drones to carry out extrajudicial executions, in which civilians are often killed as “collateral damage”.

A US survey found pilots who remotely fly drones soon develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress from inflicting so much death and destruction. The Israeli army replicated the study after its pilots operated drones over Gaza during Israel’s 2014 attack – the ultimate act of collective punishment. Some 500 Palestinian children were killed as the tiny enclave was bombarded for nearly two months.

Doctors were surprised, however, that the pilots showed no signs of depression or anxiety. The researchers speculate that Israeli pilots may feel more justified in their actions, because they are closer to Gaza than US pilots are to Afghanistan, Iraq or Yemen. They are more confident that they are the ones under threat, even as they rain down death unseen on Palestinians.

The determination to maintain this exclusive self-image as the victim leads to outrageous double standards.

Last week the Israeli supreme court backed the refusal by officials to seal up the homes of three Jews who kidnapped Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old from Jerusalem, in 2014 and burnt him alive.

In May the Israeli government revealed that it had denied compensation to six-year-old Ahmed Dawabsheh, the badly scarred, sole survivor of an arson attack by Jewish extremists that killed his entire family two years ago.

Human rights group B’Tselem recently warned that Israel has given itself immunity from paying compensation to all Palestinians under occupation killed or disabled by the Israeli army – even in cases of criminal wrongdoing.

This endless heaping of insult upon injury for Palestinians is possible only because the west has indulged Israel’s wallowing in victimhood so long. It is time to prick this bubble of self-delusion and remind Israel that it, not the Palestinians, is the oppressor.

Banning Occupied Territories Products: Ontario and CFIA Move Against "Products of Israel" Wine

Wines from Occupied Territories Labeled 'Product of Israel' Removed from Ontario Shelves


July 14, 2017

In an attempt to protect accurate consumer labeling information, the Ontario Liquor Control Board and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ordered the products labeled 'Product of Israel' but produced in the Occupied Territories removed, says Dr. David Kattenburg.

David Kattenburg is a Winnipeg-based science educator, broadcaster and web publisher. He has traveled to and reported on the situation in occupied Palestine. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Shelter-In-Place: Return to Doomsday Mountain

Preparing for Doomsday: A Shelter-in-Place Mentality Is the New American Normal

by William J. Astore - TomDispatch

July 13, 2017

Has there ever been a nation as dedicated to preparing for doomsday as the United States? If that’s a thought that hasn’t crossed your mind, maybe it’s because you didn’t spend part of your life inside Cheyenne Mountain. 

That's a tale I’ll get to soon, but first let me mention America’s “doomsday planes.”

Last month, troubling news emerged from U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) that two of those aircraft, also known as E-4B National Airborne Operations Centers, were temporarily disabled by a tornado, leaving only two of them operational. And that, not surprisingly, caught my attention.

Maybe you don’t have the world’s end on your mind, not with Donald Trump’s tweets coming fast and furious, but I do. It’s a kind of occupational hazard for me. As a young officer in the U.S. Air Force in the waning years of the Cold War, the end of the world was very much on my mind. So think of this piece as the manifestation of a disturbing and recurring memory.

In any case, the reason for those doomsday planes is simple enough: in a national emergency, nuclear or otherwise, at least one E-4B will always be airborne, presumably above the fray and the fallout, ensuring what the military calls “command and control connectivity.” 
Tomgram: William Astore, Returning to Cheyenne Mountain
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: If you’re already a TD subscriber, then yesterday you got my biannual email importuning you for money (my least favorite part of the TomDispatch year and undoubtedly yours, too). But since this site doesn’t take advertising and doesn’t have a secret stream of funds, you’re the ones who really do keep it going. So a million thanks to those of you who have already sent in contributions! As for those of you who are regular readers but don’t get our pieces by email, take just a moment, if you can, to read my message and consider donating by clicking here. Much appreciated. Tom]

My childhood was a nuclear one and I’m not talking about the nuclear family. I’m thinking of those duck-and-cover moments when, with air raid sirens screaming outside, we went under our school desks, hands over head, to test out our readiness for a Cold War nuclear exchange and the coming of the end of the world. Even at that young age, I suspect, we understood just how pathetic those desks and our hands were as defenses against an atomic blast, but that mattered little. It was so in the spirit of the era -- and not just when it came to children either.

I’ve never, for instance, forgotten an illustration from Paul Boyer’s classic book, By the Bomb’s Early Light, on the American nuclear fallout (of a cultural sort) that followed the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as World War II ended and the subsequent Cold War nuclear arms race began. Boyer found that illustration in How to Survive an Atomic Bomb, a 1950 book that caught the spirit of its moment. It showed a natty-looking man wearing one of the signature fedoras of that time, its brim partially over his eyes. The caption for it went: “If you are caught outdoors in a sudden attack, a hat will give you at least some protection from the ‘heat flash.’” Women were similarly urged to wear stockings and long-sleeved dresses just in case their day happened to be interrupted by a Russian nuclear strike.

Think of these as 1950s fashion tips for the apocalypse as American fears of a nuclear conflagration grew in those years. As a Federal Civil Defense Agency pamphlet of the time typically suggested, if a nuclear blast occurred, you could “jump in any handy ditch or gutter... drop flat on ground or floor... to lessen the chances of being struck by falling and flying objects, flatten out at the base of a wall, or at the bottom of a bank.” Or you could simply “bury your face in your arms.” Whatever you did, however, the one thing you weren’t to do, the agency suggested, was “lose your head” -- and whatever bureaucrat offered that pungent advice undoubtedly didn't mean it literally.

In those years, when it came to the apocalypse, you might say that this country did indeed lose its head. One witness to that was retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and TomDispatch regular William Astore. He spent significant parts of his military career in the late 1980s locked inside a mountain (so much better than a ditch or gutter if you were seriously thinking about making it through the end of life as we knew it). He’s never forgotten his professional experience of the nuclear mindset in this country and, in a later lockdown moment filled with rising apocalyptic fears, he naturally finds himself thinking about it again.

One small note, however, on Americans and doomsday: when it comes to the apocalypse, we turn out not to be equal-opportunity employers. Against nuclear war and the apocalyptic terror attacks of our national fantasy life, we’ve been all too ready to lock ourselves down over the years in stunning ways. Against another potential kind of apocalypse, however, we’re not even willing to take the simplest actions. Quite the opposite, when it comes to climate change -- what we used to call “the weather” and now “extreme weather” -- our new president and his crew are unlocking doors everywhere and welcoming doomsday to take up residence in our land, our streets, our houses. Tom  

Preparing for Doomsday: 

A Shelter-in-Place Mentality Is the New American Normal

by William J. Astore


The E-4B and its crew of up to 112 stand ready, as STRATCOM puts it, to enable America’s leaders to “employ” its “global strike forces” because... well, “peace is our profession.” Yes, STRATCOM still references that old SAC motto from the glory days of former Strategic Air Commander Curtis LeMay who was so memorably satirized by director Stanley Kubrick in his nuclear disaster film, Dr. Strangelove.

The Pentagon reassuringly noted that, despite those two disabled planes, the E-4B’s mission -- including perhaps the implementation of a devastating nuclear strike or counter-strike that might kill tens of millions and even cause a “nuclear winter” (a global nightmare leading to a billion deaths or more) -- could be accomplished with just two of them operational. Still, relieved as I was to hear that, it did get me thinking about the other 190 or so nations on this planet. Do any of them have even one “doomsday” plane to launch? And if not, how will they coordinate, no less survive, the doomsday the U.S. government is so willing to contemplate and ready to fund?

When it comes to nuclear weapons and what once was called “thinking about the unthinkable,” no other nation has as varied, accurate, powerful, deadly, or (again a word from the past) “survivable” an arsenal as the United States. Put bluntly, the nation that is most capable of inflicting a genuine doomsday scenario on the world is also the one best prepared to ride out such an event (whatever that may turn out to mean). In this sense, America truly is the exceptional nation on planet Earth. It’s exceptional in the combination of its triad of nuclear weapons, its holy trinity of sorts -- nuclear missile-carrying Trident submarines, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers still flown by pilots -- in the thoroughness of its Armageddon plans, and especially in the propagation of a lockdown, shelter-in-place mentality that fits such thinking to a T.

My Lockdown, Shelter-in-place, Cold War Moment

Once upon a time, I thought I was exceptional, or at least exceptionally well protected. My job as an Air Force software engineer granted me regular access to the innards of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, America’s nuclear command center. In the 1960s, the complex had been tunneled out of granite at the southern edge of the Front Range of mountains, dominated by Pike’s Peak, near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

I can still remember military exercises in which the mountain would be “buttoned up.” That meant the command center’s huge blast doors -- think of bank vault doors on steroids -- would be swung shut, isolating the post from the outside world. I don’t recall hearing the word “lockdown” in those days (perhaps because back then it was a term generally applied to prisons), but that was certainly our reality. We sheltered in place in that mountain redoubt, the most literal possible version of a Fortress USA. We were then cut off (we hoped) from the titanic blasts and radioactive fallout that would accompany any nuclear attack, most likely by that Evil Empire, the Soviet Union. In a sense, we were a version of a doomsday plane, even if our mountain couldn’t be sent aloft.

My tour of duty lasted three years (1985-1988), the specifics of which I’ve mostly forgotten. But what you don’t forget -- believe me, you can’t -- is the odd feeling of having 2,000 feet of granite towering over you; of seeing buildings mounted on huge springs intended to dampen the shock and swaying caused by a nuclear detonation; of looking at those huge blast doors that cut you and the command center off from the rest of humanity (and nature, too), theoretically allowing us the option both of orchestrating and surviving doomsday.

I sometimes think the decision in the 1960s to bury a command center for nuclear war under megatons of solid granite was America’s original lockdown moment. Then I remember the craze for building small, personal, backyard bomb shelters in the 1950s. There was a memorable Twilight Zone episode from 1961 in which neighbors fight bitterly over who will take refuge in just such a shelter as the threat of nuclear war looms. Indeed, the idea of a mountain of a bomb shelter to keep out nuclear war was no more anomalous in those years than Donald Trump’s “big, fat, beautiful wall” to keep out Mexicans is today. Both capture a certain era of fear, whether of exploding nukes or rampaging immigrants, and an approach to that fear -- controlling it by locking it out and us in -- that was folly then and is folly now.

For soon after Cheyenne Mountain was completed, the Soviets developed improved missiles sufficiently accurate and powerful to obliterate the command center. Assuming Trump’s dream wall was ever completed, immigrants would assuredly develop the means to subvert its intent as well. But no matter: Cheyenne Mountain became a symbol of American resolve as well as fear, the ultimate shelter, just as Trump’s wall has become a symbol of a different sort of resolve and fear. (Keep “those people” out!)

Eventually decommissioned, Cheyenne Mountain lives on as a manifestation of an American bunker mentality in the age of doomsday that’s suddenly back in vogue. Or rather what’s in vogue now is not the militarized mountain I remember, which was dark, dank, and depressing, or those crude, tiny, private backyard nuclear shelters of the 1950s, but a craze that fits a 1% era with a bizarre billionaire as president. A new urge is growing among the ultra-wealthy for what are, in essence, privatized mini-Cheyenne Mountains for the super-rich. Think: billionaire bunkers with all the perks of “home,” including a pet kennel, a gun safe, and a small gym, as well as “12-and-a-half-foot ceilings, sumptuous black leather couches, wall art featuring cheerful Parisian street scenes, towering faux ferns, and plush carpets.” Surviving doomsday never looked so good.

And who can blame the richest among us for planning to outlast doomsday or a Trumpocalypse in the style to which they are already accustomed? With the world’s “doomsday clock” ticking ever closer to midnight, seeking (high-priced) shelter from the storm has a certain logic to it. If it’s not full-scale nuclear war that beckons, then perhaps major climate catastrophe and social collapse. As Naomi Klein recently put it at The Intercept, “high-end survivalists” from Silicon Valley to Wall Street are “buying space in custom-built underground bunkers in Kansas (protected by heavily armed mercenaries) and building escape homes on high ground in New Zealand.” I don’t normally pity the Kiwis, but I will if legions of doomsday-fleeing uber-rich start hunkering down there like so many jealous dragons guarding what’s left of their gold.

The Department of Homeland Security Card: Don’t Leave Home

Remember those old American Express card commercials with the tag line “Don’t leave home without it”? If America’s Department of Homeland Security had its own card, its tag would be: “Don’t leave home.”

Consider the words of retired General John Kelly, the head of that department, who recently suggested that if Americans knew what he knew about the nasty terror threats facing this country, they’d “never leave the house.” General Kelly, a big bad Marine, is a man who -- one would think -- does not frighten easily. It’s unclear, however, whether he considers it best for us to "shelter in place" just for now (until he sends the all-clear signal) or for all eternity.

One thing is clear, however: Islamic terrorism, an exceedingly modest danger to Americans, has in these years become the excuse for the endless construction and funding of an increasingly powerful national security state (the Department of Homeland Security included), complete with a global surveillance system for the ages. And with that, of course, goes the urge to demobilize the American people and put them in an eternal lockdown mode, while the warrior pros go about the business of keeping them “safe” and “secure.”

I have a few questions for General Kelly: Is closing our personal blast doors the answer to keeping our enemies and especially our fears at bay? What does security really mean? With respect to nuclear Armageddon, should the rich among us indeed start building personal bomb shelters again, while our government continues to perfect our nuclear arsenal by endlessly updating and “modernizing” it? (Think: smart nukes and next generation delivery systems.) Or should we work toward locking down and in the end eliminating our doomsday weaponry? With respect to both terrorism and immigration, should we really hunker down in Homeland U.S.A., slamming shut our Trumpian blast door with Mexico (actually long under construction) and our immigration system, or should we be working to reduce the tensions of poverty and violence that generate both desperate immigrants and terrorist acts?

President Trump and “his” generals are plainly in favor of you and yours just hunkering down, even as they continue to lash out militarily around the globe. The result so far: the worst of both worlds -- a fortress America mentality of fear and passivity domestically and a kinetic, manic urge to surge, weapons in hand, across significant parts of the planet.

Call it a passive-aggressive policy. We the people are told to remain passive, huddling in our respective home bunkers, sheltering in place, even as America’s finest aggressively strike out at those we fear most. The common denominator of such a project is fear -- a fear that breeds compliance at home and passivity before uniformed, if often uninformed, experts, even as it generates repetitive, seemingly endless, violence abroad. In short, it’s the doomsday mentality applied every day in every way.

Returning to Cheyenne Mountain

Thirty years ago, as a young Air Force officer, Cheyenne Mountain played a memorable role in my life. In 1988 I left that mountain redoubt behind, though I carried with me a small slab of granite from it with a souvenir pen attached. Today, with greying hair and my very own time machine (my memories), I find myself returning regularly to Cheyenne Mountain, thinking over where we went wrong as a country in allowing a doomsday-lockdown mentality to get such a hold on us.

Amazingly, Barack Obama, the president who made high-minded pleas to put an end to nuclear weapons (and won a Nobel Prize for them), pleas supported by hard-headed realists like former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, gave his approval to a trillion-dollar renovation of America’s nuclear triad before leaving office. That military-industrial boondoggle will now be carried forward by the Trump administration. Though revealing complete ignorance about America’s nuclear triad during the 2016 election campaign, President Trump has nevertheless boasted that the U.S. will always be “at the top of the pack” when it comes to doomsday weaponry. And whether with Iran or North Korea, he foolishly favors policies that rattle the nuclear saber.

In addition, recent reports indicate that America’s nuclear arsenal may be less than secure. In fact, as of this March, inspection results for nuclear weapons safety and security, which had been shared freely with the American public, are now classified in what the Associated Press calls a “lockdown of information.” Naturally, the Pentagon claims greater secrecy is needed to protect us against terrorism, but it serves another purpose: shielding incompetence and failing grades. Given the U.S. military’s nightmarish history of major accidents with nuclear weapons, more secrecy and less accountability doesn’t exactly inspire greater confidence.

Today, the Cheyenne complex sits deactivated, buried inside its mountain, awaiting fresh purpose. And I have one. Let’s bring our collective fears there, America. Let’s bury them under all that granite. Let’s close the blast doors behind us as we walk out of that dark tunnel toward the light. For sheltering in place shouldn’t be the American way. Nor should we lock ourselves down for life. It would be so much better to lockdown instead what should be truly unthinkable: doomsday itself, the mass murder of ourselves and the destruction of our planet.

A retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and history professor, William Astore is a TomDispatch regular. He blogs at Bracing Views.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 William J. Astore

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Majority Wrongs: A Canadian Media Lynching of Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr: The majority isn’t always right

by Toula Drimonis, The Rule of Law - The Ricochet

July 12, 2017  

So what if 71 per cent of Canadians don’t support the Khadr settlement?

According to those who oppose it, the government’s decision to settle out of court was wrong and hasty. The image of our Prime Minister “handing out” a significant “payout” to a “terrorist” circulated in a few editorial cartoons and was evoked by more than a few politicians and pundits. The truth is far from those damaging optics. The Canadian government didn’t willingly “hand out” anything. Omar Khadr, who as a child had been left to rot in a jail cell in Guantanamo, subjected to torture and the whims of a U.S. kangaroo court, deserved better.

Regardless of his guilt or innocence (this National Observer op-ed by former prosecutor Sandy Garossino lays out how flimsy the military evidence and the prosecution case against Khadr actually was), regardless of people’s personal feelings or discomfort with the decision, he was a Canadian citizen who was owed protection and extradition back home.

The results of an Angus Reid poll released this past Monday, showing that 71 per cent of Canadians feel the federal government made the wrong decision in settling the lawsuit and compensating him financially, have been somehow touted as irrefutable proof that this majority opinion is right.

It isn’t.

The Canadian government didn't “hand over” $10 million to Khadr. It was sued and it lost. Repeatedly. Canada had a moral and legal obligation to defend the human rights of a Canadian (a child soldier and a minor, might I remind you) and it repeatedly failed. This boy was abandoned in a prison for a decade with very little evidence of his guilt and a confession obtained by torture, yet our government did nothing. On the contrary, it was complicit in the repeated violation of his human rights.

In 2004, Khadr sued the federal government for $20 million for wrongful imprisonment and in 2010 the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that our government had acted unconstitutionally by allowing the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects to be violated. The Supreme Court would rule in his favour a total of three times. Even the International Criminal Court in the Hague, recognizing the limited culpability of children as combatants, concluded that the U.S. (and Canada by doing nothing to protect Khadr) had violated international law and the Geneva Conventions.

In short, the writing was on the wall and it had become obvious that Khadr was going to win, and would likely get the $20 million he had sued for. Settling out of court for $10 million was the right thing to do. Delaying this case further would continue to drag it out at taxpayer’s expense, and at great risk. As it stands, a significant amount of the money awarded to Khadr will go to his lawyers.

Despite the facts being crystal clear as to why he was awarded compensation, the Angus Reid results have reignited a debate about whether a majority of Canadians somehow know better than the Supreme Court justices, whose ruling the government relied on for their decision.

This appeal to the majority is a fallacious argument. It implies that just because something enjoys popular support it must be legally or morally correct precisely because it enjoys popular support. An argumentum ad populum falsely gives ammunition to populism and to people who have decided to focus on and respond to bad optics, politically motivated arguments, or the simple notion that someone’s feelings about a decision should override facts and the laws of the land.

If nothing else, history has taught us that the correct conclusion cannot always be arrived at by popular sentiment, which can often be manipulated by propaganda, populist opinion, and/or intimidation. In fact, the opposite has often proven to be quite true. If not for court rulings, women and black citizens would have never been allowed to vote when they were granted the franchise. Do you know what else a majority of Canadians currently support? The death penalty, a values test for immigrants, and all three major pipelines currently being debated. Do you still think the majority of Canadians are right?

The Khadr case was a complex one that made headlines in this country for over a decade. In many instances, however, Canadians haven’t read past the headlines. Supreme Court rulings aren’t the stuff of light reading and attention spans are short these days. Throw in emotionally charged words like “terrorism,” “radicalization,” and “military vets,” stir in populism and a prisoner with an Arabic name who was recruited by Al Qaeda and you’ve got a story where the optics don’t work for many people and public sympathy is hard to come by.

But Supreme Court judges don’t rule on optics or their personal feelings about a case. They rule on the letter of the law. And the law is very clear. Children are protected by international law in situations of armed conflict. To date, no international tribunal has prosecuted an individual for warlike acts committed when that individual was still a minor. All Canadians are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No exceptions. It’s either all Canadians or none. Keeping these two things in mind it’s easy to understand why the decision by the SCC was unanimous. There isn’t anything to dispute. Given their past rulings, the Trudeau government had no choice but to apologize and compensate him.

A majority of Canadians not agreeing with the ruling offers no proof of moral superiority or legal legitimacy. Not all opinions are created equal, particularly in such a complex legal case. What a layperson feels shouldn’t offer proof of anything. Seventy-one per cent of Canadians might disagree with compensating Khadr, but let’s remember that 100 per cent of Supreme Court justices ruled in his favour. That needs to count for something, otherwise what’s the point of deferring to an expert on any subject matter; particularly one so convoluted and complex and easily manipulated for political advantage?

Codifying Genocide: UK Courts Allow Saudi Arms Sales Continue

UK Court Allows Saudi Arms Sales as May Suppresses Damning Report


July 11, 2017

The U.K. High Court has dismissed a challenge to the British government's arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Campaign Against Arms Trade filed a court challenge that argued selling weapons to Saudi Arabia violates international law and Britain's own export licenses. Britain and the U.S. are supporting the devastating Saudi war on Yemen.

Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, which brought the case, says the arms deal makes Britain complicit in Saudi Arabia's devastating bombing of Yemen.

When Peace, Compassion and Understanding for West Asia?

Peace and Compassion

by Mazin Qumsiyeh - 

July 12, 2017

US envoy Jason Greenblat and US Ambassador to Israel Friedman (both racist Jews who support ethnic cleansing and colonialism and have more loyalty to Israel than the US) meet Palestinian rulers in Ramallah. The same day Israeli occupation forces invade Jenin and murder 17 year-old Aws Salameh and 20 year-old Saad Salah. Israeli forces also injure many more throughout illegally occupied Palestinian areas, including 13 year old Jerusalemite Nour Hamdan who lost his eye to an Israeli sniper.

Same day as Mr. Netanyahu pushed a bill for the Knesset that want to emphasize Israel as the state of the Jewish people (not a state of its citizens) and thus increase discrimination against the indigenous people of Palestine.

I finally have my luggage after returning from the USA a week ago through Jordan. We find it deplorable that we natives of this land are forbidden from using the only international airports in Palestine (renamed Israel) since 1948. When will this injustice be rectified?

When will Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their homes and lands? When will "Israel" be held to account for its crimes against humanity (so well documented)? When will the world understand that Israel/USA attempts to create havoc in Western Asia (the news of Syria, Qatar, Yemen etc) will not help hide the centrality of the Palestinian question?

Peace in Jerusalem/Palestine is central to Peace in the world. Oppression and greed eventually come to a dead end. International law, democracy, justice, and human rights must be more than words uttered by hypocritical "leaders". But ultimately it is us the people who need to get our act together to have peace in our heart and compassion for others less fortunate than we are.

We must have RESPECT for ourselves, others, and the environment (the motto of the Palestine Museum of Natural History at Bethlehem University,

Two samples of my lectures which speak of diagnosis, therapy, and prognosis

Israel shuts down beaches polluted by sewage from besieged Gaza Strip

Brace Yourselves for Costly Palestinian Solidarity

This Palestinian village had solar power — until Israeli soldiers took it away

Why Palestine is Still the Issue

Stay Human

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sins of the Son: Trump Saga's Second Chapter

Forgetting the ‘Dirty Dossier’ on Trump

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

July 10, 2017

Exclusive: The new Russia-gate furor is over Donald Trump Jr. meeting a Russian who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton, but the Clinton team’s Russian cash-for-trash search against Trump Sr. is all but forgotten, writes Robert Parry.

Yes, I realize that the editors of The New York Times long ago cast aside any journalistic professionalism to become charter members of the #Resistance against Donald Trump. But the latest frenzy over a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who was dangling the possibility of information about the Democrats receiving money from Russians represents one of the more remarkable moments of the entire Russia-gate hysteria.

Essentially, Trump’s oldest son is being accused of taking a meeting with a foreign national who claimed to have knowledge of potentially illegal activities by Trump’s Democratic rivals, although the promised information apparently turned out to be a dud.

Yet, on Monday, the Times led its newspaper with a story about this meeting – and commentators on MSNBC and elsewhere are labeling Trump Jr. a criminal if not a traitor for hearing out this lawyer.

Yet, no one seems to remember that Hillary Clinton supporters paid large sums of money, reportedly about $1 million, to have ex-British spy Christopher Steele use his Russian connections to dig up dirt on Trump inside Russia, resulting in a salacious dossier that Clinton backers eagerly hawked to the news media.

Also, the two events – Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer and the Clinton camp’s commissioning of Steele’s Russia dossier – both occurred in June 2016, so you might have thought it would be a journalistic imperative to incorporate a reference or two to the dossier.

But the closest the Times came to that was noting: “Political campaigns collect opposition research from many quarters but rarely from sources linked to foreign governments.” That would have been an opportune point to slide in a paragraph about the Steele dossier, but nothing.

The Times doesn’t seem to have much historical memory either. There actually have been a number of cases in which American presidential campaigns have ventured overseas to seek out “opposition research” about rivals.

For instance, in 1992, President George H.W. Bush took a personal role in trying to obtain derogatory information about Bill Clinton’s 1970 student trip to Eastern Europe, including to Moscow.

That effort started out by having senior State Department officials rifle through the passport files of Clinton and his mother, looking for a purported letter in which some Republican operatives thought Clinton might have renounced his U.S. citizenship.

Bush and his team were called out on that caper, which became known as “Passport-gate.” During the Oct. 11, 1992 debate, Clinton even compared Bush’s tactics to Joe McCarthy’s during the 1950s Red Scare. But the Bush campaign didn’t let the issue entirely go.

Czech-ing on Bill

In the days after the debate, phone records revealed a flurry of calls from Bush’s campaign headquarters to Czechoslovakia, another stop on Clinton’s student tour. There were also fax transmissions on Oct. 14 and 15, 1992, according to a later official investigation.

 Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton debating with 
President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

On Oct. 16, what appears to have been a return call was placed from the U.S. Embassy in Prague to the office of ad man Sig Rogich, who was handling anti-Clinton themes for the Bush campaign.

Following those exchanges, stories about Clinton’s Prague trip began popping up in Czech newspapers. On Oct. 24, 1992, three Czech newspapers ran similar stories about Clinton’s Czech hosts. The Cesky Denik story had an especially nasty headline: “Bill Was With Communists.”

The Czech articles soon blew back to the United States. Reuters distributed a summary, and The Washington Times, over three consecutive days, ran articles about Clinton’s Czech trip. The Clinton campaign responded that Clinton had entered Czechoslovakia under normal procedures for a student and stayed with the family of an Oxford friend.

Despite those last-minute efforts to revive Clinton’s loyalty issue, the Democrat held on to defeat Bush in a three-way race (with Ross Perot).

You also could go back to Republican contacts with South Vietnamese officials to sabotage President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968 and similar meetings with Iranian emissaries to frustrate President Jimmy Carter’s Iran hostage negotiations in 1980, including a curious meeting involving senior Ronald Reagan campaign aides at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C.

But the Steele dossier is a more immediate and direct example of close Hillary Clinton supporters going outside the United States for dirt on Trump and collaborating with foreign nationals to dig it up – allegedly from Kremlin insiders. Although it is still not clear exactly who footed the bill for the Steele dossier and how much money was spread around to the Russian contacts, it is clear that Clinton supporters paid for the opposition research and then flacked the material to American journalists.

The Mystery Dossier

As I wrote on March 29, “An irony of the escalating hysteria about the Trump camp’s contacts with Russians is that one presidential campaign in 2016 did exploit political dirt that supposedly came from the Kremlin and other Russian sources. Friends of that political campaign paid for this anonymous hearsay material, shared it with American journalists and urged them to publish it to gain an electoral advantage. But this campaign was not Donald Trump’s; it was Hillary Clinton’s. 

The luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow

“And, awareness of this activity doesn’t require you to spin conspiracy theories about what may or may not have been said during some seemingly innocuous conversation. In this case, you have open admissions about how these Russian/Kremlin claims were used.

“Indeed, you have the words of Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, in his opening statement at [a] public hearing on so-called ‘Russia-gate.’ Schiff’s seamless 15-minute narrative of the Trump campaign’s alleged collaboration with Russia followed the script prepared by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele who was hired as an opposition researcher last June [2016] to dig up derogatory information on Donald Trump.
“Steele, who had worked for Britain’s MI-6 in Russia, said he tapped into ex-colleagues and unnamed sources inside Russia, including leadership figures in the Kremlin, to piece together a series of sensational reports that became the basis of the current congressional and FBI investigations into Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow.

“Since he was not able to go to Russia himself, Steele based his reports mostly on multiple hearsay from anonymous Russians who claim to have heard some information from their government contacts before passing it on to Steele’s associates who then gave it to Steele who compiled this mix of rumors and alleged inside dope into ‘raw’ intelligence reports.

“Besides the anonymous sourcing and the sources’ financial incentives to dig up dirt, Steele’s reports had numerous other problems, including the inability of a variety of investigators to confirm key elements, such as the salacious claim that several years ago Russian intelligence operatives secretly videotaped Trump having prostitutes urinate on him while he lay in the same bed in Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton used by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

“That tantalizing tidbit was included in Steele’s opening report to his new clients, dated June 20, 2016. Apparently, it proved irresistible in whetting the appetite of Clinton’s mysterious benefactors who were financing Steele’s dirt digging and who have kept their identities (and the amounts paid) hidden. Also in that first report were the basic outlines of what has become the scandal that is now threatening the survival of Trump’s embattled presidency.”

The Trump Jr. Meeting

So, compare that with what we know about the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York City, which Donald J. Trump Jr. says he agreed to because someone was claiming knowledge about Russian payments helping Hillary Clinton.

Sergei Magnitsky

Trump Jr. said Russian lawyer Natalie Veselnitskaya “stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

According to Trump Jr.’s account, Veselnitskaya then turned the conversation to President Vladimir Putin’s cancellation of an adoption program which had sent Russian children to American parents, a move he took in reaction to the so-called Magnitsky Act, a 2012 punitive law passed by the U.S. Congress in retaliation for the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian jail.

The death became a Western cause célèbre with Magnitsky, the accountant for hedge-fund executive William Browder, hailed as a martyr in the cause of whistleblowing against a profoundly corrupt Russian government. After Magnitsky’s death from a heart attack, Browder claimed that his “lawyer” Magnitsky had been tortured and murdered to cover up official complicity in a $230 million tax-fraud scheme involving companies ostensibly under Browder’s control.

Because of Browder’s wealth and political influence, he succeeded in getting the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress to buy into his narrative and move to punish the presumed villains in the tax fraud and in Magnitsky’s death. The U.S.-enacted Magnitsky Act in 2012 was an opening salvo in what has become a new Cold War between Washington and Moscow.

Only One Side Heard

The Magnitsky narrative has now become so engrained in Western geopolitical mythology that the storyline apparently can no longer be questioned or challenged. The New York Times reports Browder’s narrative as flat fact, and The Washington Post took pleasure in denouncing a 2016 documentary that turned Browder’s version of events on its head.

Financier William Browder (right) with Magnitsky’s 
widow and son, along with European parliamentarians.

The documentary, entitled “The Magnitsky Act. Behind the Scenes,” was essentially blocked for distribution in the West, with the European Parliament pulling the plug on its planned premiere in Brussels shortly before it was scheduled for showing.

When the documentary got a single showing at the Newseum in Washington, a Washington Post editorial branded the documentary Russian “agit-prop.”

The Post sought to discredit the filmmaker, Andrei Nekrasov, without addressing his avalanche of documented examples of Browder’s misrepresenting both big and small facts in the case. Instead, the Post accused Nekrasov of using “facts highly selectively” and insinuated that he was merely a pawn in the Kremlin’s “campaign to discredit Mr. Browder and the Magnitsky Act.”

The Post concluded smugly:

“The film won’t grab a wide audience, but it offers yet another example of the Kremlin’s increasingly sophisticated efforts to spread its illiberal values and mind-set abroad. In the European Parliament and on French and German television networks, showings were put off recently after questions were raised about the accuracy of the film, including by Magnitsky’s family.
“We don’t worry that Mr. Nekrasov’s film was screened here, in an open society. But it is important that such slick spin be fully exposed for its twisted story and sly deceptions.”

Given the fact that virtually no one in the West was allowed to see the film, the Post’s gleeful editorial had the feel of something you might read in a totalitarian society where the public only hears about dissent when the Official Organs of the State denounce some almost unknown person for saying something that almost no one heard.

What the Post didn’t want you to know was that Nekrasov started off his project with the goal of producing a docu-drama that accepted Browder’s self-serving narrative. However, during the research, Nekrasov uncovered evidence that revealed that Magnitsky was neither a “lawyer” nor a whistleblower; that the scam involving Browder’s companies had been exposed by a woman employee; and that Magnitsky, an accountant for Browder, was arrested as a conspirator in the fraud.

As the documentary unfolds, you see Nekrasov struggling with his dilemma as Browder grows increasingly abusive toward his erstwhile ally. Nekrasov painfully concludes that Browder had deceived him.

But, don’t worry, as a citizen in the Free World, you probably will never have to worry about viewing this documentary, since it has been effectively flushed down the memory hole. Official references to Magnitsky are back in the proper form, treating him as a Martyr for Truth and a victim of the Evil Russians.

Plus, if you rely on The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN and the rest of the U.S. mainstream media for your news, you won’t have to think about the far more substantive case of the Steele Dossier in which Hillary Clinton’s allies spent gobs of money seeking out sources in Russia to serve up dirt on Donald Trump.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Pilger: Palestine Still the Issue

Palestine Is Still the Issue

by John Pilger

July 7, 2017

This is an abridged version of John Pilger's address 

to the Palestinian Expo 2017 in London. 

When I first went to Palestine as a young reporter in the 1960s, I stayed on a kibbutz. The people I met were hard-working, spirited and called themselves socialists. I liked them. One evening at dinner, I asked about the silhouettes of people in the far distance, beyond our perimeter.

"Arabs", they said, "nomads". The words were almost spat out. Israel, they said, meaning Palestine, had been mostly wasteland and one of the great feats of the Zionist enterprise was to turn the desert green.

They gave as an example their crop of Jaffa oranges, which was exported to the rest of the world. What a triumph against the odds of nature and humanity's neglect.

It was the first lie. Most of the orange groves and vineyards belonged to Palestinians who had been tilling the soil and exporting oranges and grapes to Europe since the eighteenth century. The former Palestinian town of Jaffa was known by its previous inhabitants as "the place of sad oranges".

On the kibbutz, the word "Palestinian" was never used. Why, I asked. The answer was a troubled silence.

All over the colonised world, the true sovereignty of indigenous people is feared by those who can never quite cover the fact, and the crime, that they live on stolen land.

Denying people's humanity is the next step - as the Jewish people know only too well. Defiling people's dignity and culture and pride follows as logically as violence.

In Ramallah, following an invasion of the West Bank by the late Ariel Sharon in 2002, I walked through streets of crushed cars and demolished houses, to the Palestinian Cultural Centre. Until that morning, Israeli soldiers had camped there. I was met by the centre's director, the novelist, Liana Badr, whose original manuscripts lay scattered and torn across the floor. The hard-drive containing her fiction, and a library of plays and poetry had been taken by Israeli soldiers. Almost everything was smashed, and defiled.

Not a single book survived with all its pages; not a single master tape from one of the best collections of Palestinian cinema.

The soldiers had urinated and defecated on the floors, on desks, on embroideries and works of art. They had smeared faeces on children's paintings and written - in shit - "Born to kill". Liana Badr had tears in her eyes, but she was unbowed. She said, "We will make it right again."

What enrages those who colonise and occupy, steal and oppress, vandalise and defile is the victims' refusal to comply. And this is the tribute we all should pay the Palestinians. They refuse to comply. They go on. They wait - until they fight again. And they do so even when those governing them collaborate with their oppressors.

In the midst of the 2014 Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer never stopped reporting. He and his family were stricken; he queued for food and water and carried it through the rubble. When I phoned him, I could hear the bombs outside his door. He refused to comply.

Mohammed's reports, illustrated by his graphic photographs, were a model of professional journalism that shamed the compliant and craven reporting of the so-called mainstream in Britain and the United States. The BBC notion of objectivity - amplifying the myths and lies of authority, a practice of which it is proud - is shamed every day by the likes of Mohamed Omer.

For more than 40 years, I have recorded the refusal of the people of Palestine to comply with their oppressors: Israel, the United States, Britain, the European Union.

Since 2008, Britain alone has granted licences for export to Israel of arms and missiles, drones and sniper rifles, worth £434 million.

Those who have stood up to this, without weapons, those who have refused to comply, are among Palestinians I have been privileged to know:

My friend, the late Mohammed Jarella, who toiled for the United Nations agency UNRWA, in 1967 showed me a Palestinian refugee camp for the first time. It was a bitter winter's day and schoolchildren shook with the cold. "One day ..." he would say. "One day ..."

Mustafa Barghouti, whose eloquence remains undimmed, who described the tolerance that existed in Palestine among Jews, Muslims and Christians until, as he told me, "the Zionists wanted a state at the expense of the Palestinians."

Dr. Mona El-Farra, a physician in Gaza, whose passion was raising money for plastic surgery for children disfigured by Israeli bullets and shrapnel. Her hospital was flattened by Israeli bombs in 2014.

Dr. Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist, whose clinics for children in Gaza - children sent almost mad by Israeli violence - were oases of civilization.

Fatima and Nasser are a couple whose home stood in a village near Jerusalem designated "Zone A and B", meaning that the land was declared for Jews only. Their parents had lived there; their grandparents had lived there. Today, the bulldozers are laying roads for Jews only, protected by laws for Jews only.

It was past midnight when Fatima went into labour with their second child. The baby was premature; and when they arrived at a checkpoint with the hospital in view, the young Israeli soldier said they needed another document.

Fatima was bleeding badly. The soldier laughed and imitated her moans and told them, "Go home". The baby was born there in a truck. It was blue with cold and soon, without care, died from exposure. The baby's name was Sultan.

For Palestinians, these will be familiar stories. The question is: why are they not familiar in London and Washington, Brussels and Sydney?

In Syria, a recent liberal cause - a George Clooney cause - is bankrolled handsomely in Britain and the United States, even though the beneficiaries, the so-called rebels, are dominated by jihadist fanatics, the product of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the destruction of modern Libya.

And yet, the longest occupation and resistance in modern times is not recognised. When the United Nations suddenly stirs and defines Israel as an apartheid state, as it did this year, there is outrage - not against a state whose "core purpose" is racism but against a UN commission that dared break the silence.

"Palestine," said Nelson Mandela, "is the greatest moral issue of our time."

Why is this truth suppressed, day after day, month after month, year after year?

In Israel - the apartheid state, guilty of a crime against humanity and of more international law-breaking than any other - the silence persists among those who know and whose job it is to keep the record straight.

In Israel, so much journalism is intimidated and controlled by a groupthink that demands silence on Palestine while honourable journalism has become dissidence: a metaphoric underground.

A single word - "conflict" - enables this silence. "The Arab-Israeli conflict", intone the robots at their tele-prompters. When a veteran BBC reporter, a man who knows the truth, refers to "two narratives", the moral contortion is complete.

There is no conflict, no two narratives, with their moral fulcrum. There is a military occupation enforced by a nuclear-armed power backed by the greatest military power on earth; and there is an epic injustice.

The word "occupation" may be banned, deleted from the dictionary. But the memory of historical truth cannot be banned: of the systemic expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. "Plan D" the Israelis called it in 1948.

The Israeli historian Benny Morris describes how David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, was asked by one of his generals: "What shall we do with the Arabs?" The prime minister, wrote Morris, "made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand". "Expel them!" he said.

venty years later, this crime is suppressed in the intellectual and political culture of the West. Or it is debatable, or merely controversial. Highly-paid journalists and eagerly accept Israeli government trips, hospitality and flattery, then are truculent in their protestations of independence. The term, "useful idiots", was coined for them.

In 2011, I was struck by the ease with which one of Britain's most acclaimed novelists, Ian McEwan, a man bathed in the glow of bourgeois enlightenment, accepted the Jerusalem Prize for literature in the apartheid state.

Would McEwan have gone to Sun City in apartheid South Africa? They gave prizes there, too, all expenses paid. McEwan justified his action with weasel words about the independence of "civil society".

Propaganda - of the kind McEwan delivered, with its token slap on the wrists for his delighted hosts - is a weapon for the oppressors of Palestine. Like sugar, it insinuates almost everything today.

Understanding and deconstructing state and cultural propaganda is our most critical task. We are being frog-marched into a second cold war, whose eventual aim is to subdue and balkanise Russia and intimidate China.

When Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin spoke privately for more than two hours at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, apparently about the need not to go to war with each other, the most vociferous objectors were those who have commandeered liberalism, such as the Zionist political writer of the Guardian.

"No wonder Putin was smiling in Hamburg," wrote Jonathan Freedland. "He knows he has succeeded in his chief objective: he has made America weak again." Cue the hissing for Evil Vlad.

These propagandists have never known war but they love the imperial game of war. What Ian McEwan calls "civil society" has become a rich source of related propaganda. Take a term often used by the guardians of civil society - "human rights". Like another noble concept, "democracy", "human rights" has been all but emptied of its meaning and purpose.

Like "peace process" and "road map", human rights in Palestine have been hijacked by Western governments and the corporate NGOs they fund and which claim a quixotic moral authority.

So when Israel is called upon by governments and NGOs to "respect human rights" in Palestine, nothing happens, because they all know there is nothing to fear; nothing will change.

Mark the silence of the European Union, which accommodates Israel while refusing to maintain its commitments to the people of Gaza - such as keeping the lifeline of the Rafah border crossing open: a measure it agreed to as part of its role in the cessation of fighting in 2014. A seaport for Gaza - agreed by Brussels in 2014 - has been abandoned.

The UN commission I have referred to - its full name is the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia - described Israel as, and I quote, "designed for the core purpose" of racial discrimination.

Millions understand this. What the governments in London, Washington, Brussels and Tel Aviv cannot control is that humanity at street level is changing perhaps as never before.

People everywhere are stirring and are more aware, in my view, than ever before. Some are already in open revolt. The atrocity of Grenfell Tower in London has brought communities together in a vibrant almost national resistance.

Thanks to a people's campaign, the judiciary is today examining the evidence of a possible prosecution of Tony Blair for war crimes. Even if this fails, it is a crucial development, dismantling yet another barrier between the public and its recognition of the voracious nature of the crimes of state power - the systemic disregard for humanity perpetrated in Iraq, in Grenfell Tower, in Palestine. Those are the dots waiting to be joined.

For most of the 21st century, the fraud of corporate power posing as democracy has depended on the propaganda of distraction: largely on a cult of "me-ism" designed to disorientate our sense of looking out for others, of acting together, of social justice and internationalism.

Class, gender and race were wrenched apart. The personal became the political and the media the message. The promotion of bourgeois privilege was presented as "progressive" politics. It wasn't. It never is. It is the promotion of privilege, and power.

Among young people, internationalism has found a vast new audience. Look at the support for Jeremy Corbyn and the reception the G20 circus in Hamburg received. By understanding the truth and imperatives of internationalism, and rejecting colonialism, we understand the struggle of Palestine.

Mandela put it this way: "We know only too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."

At the heart of the Middle East is the historic injustice in Palestine. Until that is resolved, and Palestinians have their freedom and homeland, and Israelis are Palestinians equality before the law, there will be no peace in the region, or perhaps anywhere.

What Mandela was saying is that freedom itself is precarious while powerful governments can deny justice to others, terrorise others, imprison and kill others, in our name. Israel certainly understands the threat that one day it might have to be normal.

That is why its ambassador to Britain is Mark Regev, well known to journalists as a professional propagandist, and why the "huge bluff" of charges of anti-Semitism, as Ilan Pappe called it, was allowed to contort the Labour Party and undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader. The point is, it did not succeed.

Events are moving quickly now. The remarkable Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) is succeeding, day by day; cities and towns, trade unions and student bodies are endorsing it. The British government's attempt to restrict local councils from enforcing BDS has failed in the courts.

These are not straws in the wind. When the Palestinians rise again, as they will, they may not succeed at first - but they will eventually if we understand that they are us, and we are them.

John Pilger's film, 'Palestine Is Still the Issue', can be viewed on this website.
Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger