Saturday, June 09, 2018

B.C.'s "Rule-Breaker" Oil Tanker Traffic

To protect the ocean and coastal communities, US and Canada must tackle 'rule-breaker' oil barges

by National Observer

June 8, 2018

June 8th is World Oceans Day, when people around our blue planet celebrate and honour the ocean, which connects us all.

This year, those of us lucky to live in the northwest corner of North America along some of the most pristine and productive waters left on earth, have little to celebrate.

With his decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers project, Prime Minister Trudeau has committed Canadian taxpayers to a high-risk investment, coastal communities to a risk of oil spills, and the rest of the world to increasing climate calamities. 

Photo: April Bencze, Heiltsuk Nation

Trudeau is committed to tripling the capacity of the aging pipeline that connects the vast reserve of tar-like bitumen in Alberta with a marine terminal in Burnaby, BC.

The oil tankers would ply some of the most navigationally challenging waterways — critical to endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales as well as the cultural fabric of the First Nations and tribal governments dependent on the Salish Sea for their sustenance and time-honoured traditions.

While the Kinder Morgan (now Trudeau’s) Trans Mountain pipeline may be the new threat on the block, it’s far from the only one disturbing the region. Communities in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia have faced an onslaught of some of North America’s largest oil and coal export infrastructure proposals along the Columbia River, Fraser River and the Salish Sea.

Key to the success in defeating those outrageous efforts has been the coalition of First Nations, tribal governments and coastal communities who would have been left to shoulder the risks to their health and safety.

The Salish Sea is already at risk from the existing 60-year-old Kinder Morgan pipeline. One oil tanker a week transits the Salish Sea to California, and the pipeline connects to refineries in Washington State which could also be used as crude oil export terminals.

Aside from this traffic, oil is also transported between Burnaby and refineries within the Salish Sea and Alaska in Articulated Tug-Barges (ATBs), with far less regulation and oversight.

 Articulated Tug Barge Nathan E. Stewart off the north coast of B.C., 
Oct. 14, 2016. Photo by Kyle Artelle, courtesy of Heiltsuk Nation

Most shipping safety measures have focused on preventing catastrophic oil spills from large tankers. However, under-regulated oil barges and articulated tug barges, which move vast quantities of oil and other fuels through the Salish Sea and through BC’s infamously treacherous Inside Passage, that is otherwise subject to a tanker ban, require immediate attention. Some analysts estimate that the amount of petroleum products moved by ATBs from Vancouver to WA refineries runs into millions of gallons.

A 2014 Congressional Research Service report describes articulated barges as “rule breakers” within the maritime industry because they operate with smaller crews. Not all of these ATBs are even required to take pilots. Some employ captains with local knowledge, but that doesn’t add more eyes at the helm.

The economic advantages of smaller crew sizes and the lack of pilotage account for the rapid adoption of articulated barges and the lag in regulatory oversight. But the environment is put at risk.

October 13 will be the second anniversary of the sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart, an articulated tug barge that ran aground and sank near Bella Bella, B.C. Fortunately, it didn’t have oil cargo, but the 29,000 gallons of fuel and lube oil that spilled significantly impacted an important harvesting area for the Heiltsuk First Nation. As a result, a large area remains under harvesting closures to commercial shellfish fisheries. The Heiltsuk community was left to grieve a catastrophic loss that may take generations to heal. Any compensation they may win will never make up for the despoiling of their once-pristine food source.

Cleanup crews on the beach with the sunken Nathan E. Stewart 
ATB in the background. Photo by April Bencze, courtesy of Heiltsuk Nation

The Transportation Safety Board recently determined that the second mate had fallen asleep due to the extended work hours required by these undermanned vessels.

And on Nov. 26 last year, the articulated barge Jake Shearer, which had replaced the sunken barge Nathan E. Stewart, lost power and almost grounded, yet again in an part of Heiltsuk Territory that is exceptionally biologically rich. In addition to 125,000 gallons of fuel, that tug barge held more than 790,000 gallons of oily cargo. In its Channel 16 distress call to Prince Rupert Coast Guard Radio, the Jake Shearer crew claimed to be carrying 3.4 million gallons. It was only the heroics of the crew that kept it from grounding. Both U.S. articulated barges were transiting between Washington refineries and Alaska through Canadian waters with exemptions from Canadian pilotage laws.

Barges and articulated tug barges carry tonnes of oil to fuel ships as well as diluted heavy Alberta bitumen to Salish Sea refineries. Concerns around bitumen’s propensity to sink have been heightened with the sevenfold increase in tankers expected to result from the Trans Mountain pipeline.

There has also been a troubling number of barge incidents in endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat. Between 2011 and 2013, there were seven serious incidents involving towed barges in Rosario Strait as well as numerous others on the Canadian side of our shared waters in the past two years.

The track record and frequent use of articulated tug barges deserves immediate regulatory attention. The Washington State Department of Ecology reports that in 2016 articulated tug barges and barges made 1,169 and 4,349 calls in the Salish Sea, respectively. They clearly create more risk exposure as compared to tankers that made only 574 calls.

These phantom tankers need to be brought to the public’s attention regardless of the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers project, but it will take cross-border collaboration to address this bilateral threat.

All coastal residents, whether Canadian or American, share one coast and one ocean. We face the same risks. We should act as one — and we increasingly are.

This is why today, on Oceans Day, the undersigned organizations are launching a common portal as our contribution to facilitating shared action, across differences and across borders.

World Oceans Day is a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future. Let’s try make June 8 something to celebrate. By working together, we can and will protect our shared ocean. 

Co-authors of this article are: Fred Felleman, Friends of the Earth; Stephanie Hillman, Sierra Club Washington State; Ingmar Lee; Krista Roessingh, Pacific Wild; Ana Simeon, RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs); Caitlyn Vernon, Sierra Club BC

Lebanese Foreign Ministry Stops Residency Visas for United Nations Workers Over Syria Repatriation Interference

Lebanon FM Orders Visa Block for UNHRC Amid Syria Refugee Row

by PressTV

June 8, 2018

Lebanon's Foreign Ministry has ordered to suspend residency applications for the staff of the UN refugee agency accusing the organization of discouraging Syrian refugees in Lebanon from returning their country.

"Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Gebran Bassil issued instructions... to stop the requests for residency presented to the ministry and (those already submitted) for the UNHCR in Lebanon until further notice," a statement by the ministry said on Friday.
"Bassil asked for the study of other progressive measures... in the case that the UNHCR is determined to pursue the same policy," the statement added.

On Thursday, Bassil said the UNHCR has discouraged refugees in the Lebanese border town of Arsal from returning home by asking them questions about potential situation they may experience in Syria, including the likelihood of military conscription, security issues and poor accommodation.

"We sent a mission that verified that the UNHCR is intimidating the displaced who wish to return voluntarily," the Lebanese foreign minister tweeted.

However, Nadim Mounla, an aide to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said Bassil's decision was "unilateral" and "not representative of the Lebanese government's position."

Mounla predicted Bassil would have to cancel his decision, noting that the foreign minister "did not consult the prime minister nor the other ministers, including those most directly affected by the issue."

The UNHCR also said the foreign ministry has not officially notified the agency of the decision.

A UNHCR spokesman, William Spindler, denied Bassil's accusations, saying, 
"We do not discourage or oppose returns taking place based on an individual decision."
"But in our view, conditions in Syria are not yet conducive for an assisted return, although the situation is changing and we are following closely," Spindler added.

Lisa Abou Khaled, another UNHCR spokesperson, said the agency had not been notified of suspension of residency permits for its foreign staff.

She noted that the majority of the UNHCR's 600 staff in the country are Lebanese, but did not specify any number.

Nearly 1.5 million Syrian refugees have been living in Lebanon since 2011, making up a quarter of the country’s population.

Last month, Lebanon's head of the General Security agency Major General Abbas Ibrahim said Lebanese and Syrian officials are working together to facilitate the return of thousands of refugees who want to return to Syria. 

A Lebanese official says Beirut and Damascus are working together 
for the return of thousands of Syrian refugees.

The official did not give a timeframe for the return of refugees, but noted that some parts of the plan will take place in the short term.

In April, nearly 500 Syrian refugees returned to Syria from the Shebaa area of southern Lebanon under the supervision of Lebanon's General Security in coordination with Syrian officials.

The UNHCR, however, said it was too early for returns to begin, noting that the agency was not involved in the process due to the prevailing humanitarian and security situation in Syria.

The UNCR's position infuriated Bassil, warning that Lebanon could "re-evaluate" the UN agency's operation in the country.

The UNHCR had announced last December that than 50 percent of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in extreme poverty and are highly vulnerable than ever before. 
The UN's refugee agency says more than 50 percent of the 
Syrian refugees in Lebanon are now living in extreme poverty.

Lebanon is set to form a new government after the country's parliamentary elections in May.

Many Lebanese officials, including President Michel Aoun, are demanding that the government facilitate the return of the Syrian refugees, arguing that the Syrian government has managed to purge many areas of terrorists and the refugees can now safely return to their homes.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hariri has expressed opposition to any forced eviction of refugees.

A conference co-hosted by the UN and the EU later in April said that conditions for the return of refugees have not been fulfilled yet, noting that voluntary repatriation may not take place in safety and dignity.

Razan al-Najjar Observance Shattered: Four More Gazans Slain by Israeli Snipers

Four More Palestinians Killed in Eleventh Week of Non-Violent Gaza Protests 


June 9, 2018

Palestinian protesters honored Razan al-Najjar, the 21 year-old medic who the Israeli military murdered during last week’s protests, as she was giving first aid to the wounded along the Gaza border.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Razan, Jordan, and Gazan Killings Continue

Jordanian protests, Razan, Undeclared Nuclear Weapons and more

by Mazin Qumsiyeh -

June 8, 2018

Jordanian protests put the king “between a rock and a hard place”

Part of the problem in my humble opinion is previous mistaken policies like saddling Jordan with debt that only serves Israel-US interests including the environmentally devastating “Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal” and the use of Jordanian soil to channel Saudi and US support to groups in Syria that wanted to topple a government creating large influx of Syrian refugees to Jordan (only 40% of the financial burden is covered by UN and Western aid).

Three* Martyrs including a 15 year old boy in Gaza today (plus 550 inured).

The Story of Razan who was barely 21 when she was murdered by Israeli occupation snipers

BDS win: Argentina ‘calls off’ controversial World Cup warm-up against Israel

Knesset disqualifies bill seeking equal status for Jews and Arabs!

Learn Arabic from home from teachers in the isolated Gaza Strip - See more at:

Palestinian culture of Sumud:

The Tamimi family of Nabi Saleh

Excellent discussion: Motion to Take Note Moved by Lord Steel: That this House takes note of the situation in the Palestinian Territories:

@ 11:40:53

Video: Stitching Palestine, a trailer

Video: A Disturbed Earth digs deep into the grounds of history through family story, state archives and collective memory to unearth a story about a village that once stood. Patches of testimony, remembered parts of songs and fragments of archival material, present a story that lives in the imaginary and is as real as the concrete of the refugee camps.

Video excerpt

Crowd-funding Campaign

Which country in the Middle East has undeclared Nuclear weapons? Which country in the Middle East has undeclared biological and chemical capabilities? Which country in the Middle East has no outside  inspections? Which country jailed its nuclear whistleblower for 18 years? All the answers to these questions are found here:

[*Fourth fatality reported in Gaza today, (June 8, 2018)]

Stay Human

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Founder, and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
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Thursday, June 07, 2018

Intervention This Week: Dissecting John Oliver's Venezuela AgitProp

Leftist Crushes John Oliver's Venezuelan Episode

by Mike Prysner - Empire Files

7 Jun 2018

The week of Venezuela's presidential election, John Oliver dedicated an ENTIRE episode of "Last Week Tonight" to the country, full of distortions and highly misleading to progressive-minded people. Responding to Oliver's major points, Empire Files producer Mike Prysner walks us through the most glaring omissions and misrepresentations.

This response is an essential guide for progressives to understand the reality in Venezuela, most common myths used to discredit the Chavez movement, and role of the US government.

Mike Prysner is an Iraq war veteran and journalist. He spent a month in Venezuela during the height of the protest movement in 2017, covering the riots and economic crisis. He has been a Venezuela solidarity activist since 2006. Watch the many documentaries and interviews he produced from Venezuela at

FOLLOW // @MikePrysner // @EmpireFiles

Australia's Renewable Energy Policy - It's No Joke!

Honest Government Ad | Australia's Renewable Energy Policy

by The Juice Media

May 28, 2018

The Australien Government has made an ad about its renewable energy policy, and it's surprisingly honest and informative.

  Tell the Federal Government to get out of the way of renewables:

Produced by Patrons of the Juice Media

Shout outs to our Patron Producers: Dirk Kelly, Amel Tresnjic, Waeress, Nicholas-B, Richelle-R, Anna Hathis, Rumpole c cat, Tom Mettam, Anon-H

Ways you can support us to keep making videos:
🔹 Become a Patron:
🔹 Tip us on PayPal:
🔹 Other options:

CREDITS: - Written & created by Giordano - Performed by Ellen x voice by Lucy - Thanks to Geoff Tosio and Adso for script input - Matt N, Ben Wild & Dbot and Dave for quality controls - Thanks to Arf for Liddell animation: - Music by StockSounds: - Outro music by Triple7Music:
  • FURTHER READING: These are sources I've found really helpful in learning about Renewables (I'll keep adding to this list):
  • TRANSLATIONS: - Danish by Mabeli - French by Julie - Serbian by Tamara

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Kabul's Dry Holes: A Parched City Digs In

Digging Deeper

by Kathy Kelly -

June 5, 2018

Here in Kabul in early June, outside the home of several Afghan Peace Volunteers, a large drilling machine is parked on what was once a lovely garden. To this now muddy patch, workers will soon arrive for another noisy, dusty day of digging for water.

The well dried up a week ago. As of today, the household has no water.

Ongoing battles between militants, government forces, and international allies have destroyed much of Kabul’s water infrastructure, forcing people to drill their own wells.

Across Kabul, numerous households face similar water shortages. With an average annual rainfall of just fourteen inches, Kabul’s water table has been falling each year. The current population, estimated around 4.5 million, is expected to reach 9 million by 2050.

The estimated groundwater potential is enough to supply only 2 million inhabitants with water. Alarming reports say that drought now afflicts twenty-one of Afghanistan’s thirty-four provinces.

Rural families in drought-stricken areas watch their crops fail and their livestock die of dehydration. In desperation, they flee to urban areas, including Kabul, where they often must live in squalid, sprawling refugee camps. In the city, an already inadequate sewage and sanitation system, battered by years of war, cannot support the soaring population rise.

Droughts in other countries have led to violent clashes and civil wars. It’s difficult to imagine that Afghanistan, already burdened by forty years of war, will escape eventual water wars.

The most sophisticated and heavily armed warring party in Afghanistan is the U.S. military. Despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars on non-military aid to Afghanistan, the United States has done little to improve Afghanistan’s infrastructure or alleviate its alarming water crisis.

President Donald Trump’s interest in what’s happening under the ground in Afghanistan is focused exclusively on the U.S. capacity to extract Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, estimated to be worth trillions of dollars.

Ordinary Afghans could be forgiven for feeling paralyzed and defeated by controlling elites who ignore their most basic human needs. Yet every day, Afghan communities reject continued war and call for peace.

On May 13, a single-file procession of Pashto men started off on a 400-mile trek along dusty roads from Helmand to Kabul, to call for the Afghan government and the warring parties to end the war.

The participants are asking the Afghan government and militants to stop fighting.

They are walking during Ramadan, the month when observant Muslims fast from food and water between sunrise and sundown, becoming ever more mindful of people who lack water and food.

During the past three weeks, throngs of people in cities and towns along their route have shown solidarity with the walkers.

My young Afghan friends show steady resilience in the face of war and destitution. They are growing up with a keen sense of the importance of water for life and the essential need to share resources. They also know the importance of resisting those who menace people with military might.

In this unpredictable time, I can’t help but wonder at Afghan people, scarred by war, facing drought and impoverishment, digging deep into their rich cultural and historical resources to take a lead in efforts to abolish war and build a better world.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence. While in Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

A version of this article initially appeared in The Progressive. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Murdering Razan al-Najjar Will Not Kill Movement Cousin Vows

Cousin of Palestinian Medic Killed by Israel Speaks Out


June 5, 2018

Palestinian nurse Razan al-Najjar was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper in Gaza while she was wearing a white medic’s uniform and had her hands raised. Dalia al-Najjar says her cousin “Razan showed everyone what it is to want freedom.” She tells TRNN’s Ben Norton,

“Everyone is joining the protests because people want their freedom, and it’s a legitimate right for them to ask for it.”

Joining us today to discuss this horrific tragedy in Gaza is Razan’s cousin, Dalia al-Najjar

"To the Moon, Alice": Koreas' Road to the Impossible Does Not Pass Through Washington

For Lasting Peace, President Moon Must Lead South Korea Out of America’s Orbit 

by Stu Smallwood - Anti

June 05, 2018 

It didn’t take much for the leaders of the two Koreas to put an end to the decades-long culture of crisis pervading the Korean Peninsula.

With a phone call, a quick drive to the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone, and a public embrace, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un emphasized the absurdity of the barrier wedged between a people with a common history, culture and language.

It was the United States’ aversion to diplomacy that encouraged Moon and Kim into one another’s arms on May 26th, and it may ultimately have been the impetus needed for South Korea to take the lead in ensuring this peace process — a top priority of the current administration — is a success.

Moon’s agreement to meet with Kim so soon after Trump unilaterally called off the Singapore summit was nothing short of an act of defiance against the US administration, something no South Korean president before him would have had the domestic backing to do.

With images of their embrace broadcast around the world, North Korea’s genuine interest in diplomacy became undeniable and the onus was immediately put on the United States to reopen the summit. Failure to do so would throw into stark relief what few politicians, media members or regular South Korean people have been willing to acknowledge — that the United States has been the most to blame for antipathy between the two Koreas since the Korean War.

Forced to follow suit, Trump eventually declared the summit will go ahead after all. Though his decision should be applauded, the process remains a lengthy one with no clear end in sight — at least not a positive ending — if America alone is permitted to determine its outcome. After all, it is extremely risky to trust the United States, and the North Koreans know it.

America: An Unreliable Diplomatic Partner with a History of Duplicity

The stated aim of this whole process is, of course, peace through North Korean denuclearization — something the US establishment remains skeptical Kim will ever do. Yet while the North’s commitment to nukes is often stated as the reason why this initiative won’t end successfully, in truth it is America’s long-standing policy of North Korean regime change as well as its overall record of duplicity, betrayal and general lawlessness around the world that makes it impossible for Kim to completely believe any security guarantees the Trump administration may offer as the process moves forward.

The most recent examples involving Libya and Iran stand as more than enough evidence of this, and North Korea also has its own experience with the US failing to abide by agreements — particularly when the George W. Bush administration was in power. The provocative military drill earlier in May and the aggressive rhetoric of top US officials over the past few weeks leading up to the summit cancellation only served to highlight that the US establishment may be wholly disinterested in making a fair deal and sticking to it.

It therefore makes no sense for Kim Jong-un to simply lay down his nuclear shield for what are likely to be ephemeral security and economic guarantees from the US that can be canceled or obstructed on a whim by a future hostile administration or congress. And if the reaction of the establishment media to the diplomatic process is any indication of a Washington consensus, there’s no reason for North Korea to think any deal dependent on the long-term commitment of the United States will stand the test of time.

So even though the peace process will go nowhere if America is to be the Great Decider, it is safe to assume that Kim Jong-un isn’t just doing this for a lark. Conditions have changed internationally and on the Korean Peninsula since North Korea’s last serious attempt to come in from the cold. Internationally, Kim must be aware that America is bleeding out its influence around the world — a fact that is increasingly obvious as economically powerful nations that normally go along with American sanctions begin to push back when it hurts their own economies. At the same time — and more critically — North Korea finally has a negotiating partner in South Korea that has an unprecedented ability and apparent inclination (proven by Moon and Kim’s impromptu second meeting) to be an independent actor in the peace process.

The Path to the Impossible: How Peace Became an Option in South Korea

The president of South Korea completely flipped the script by agreeing to meet Kim on the North Korean side of the DMZ on May 26th. In doing so, he proved to the South Korean people that they no longer have to passively accept the foreign policy whims of the United States. As a result, South Koreans woke up to the prospects of peace after going to bed frustrated, disappointed and concerned due to Trump’s abrupt cancellation of the summit.

Moon has been empowered by the rapidly changing political dynamics in South Korea. The entire sequence of diplomatic events between the two Koreas leading up to the significant meeting on May 26th would have been purely unthinkable little more than a year ago. After all, Moon is the president that wouldn’t have been had the right-wing Park Geun-hye not been impeached in March last year.

As Park Geun-hye’s bizarrely and ineptly corrupt administration collapsed upon itself, it brought down with it the entire political establishment that dominated politics in the country since the age of military dictatorship — an establishment intimately aligned with the United States. The crimes of Park’s predecessor, the hawkish Lee Myung-bak, were also later exposed and he too now sits behind bars waiting for sentencing. With the anti-North Korean old guard suddenly rendered to the fringes of politics, the younger generation has begun to take control of its political fate and won’t be fooled by the classic red-baiting tactics of the past.

Moon Jae-in easily won the subsequent 2017 presidential election and has enjoyed a remarkably high approval rating so far, particularly since the peace process began. The right wing is divided, conquered and completely irrelevant. A high number of South Koreans say they trust the motives of Kim Jong-un and so many approve of the peace process that at least one local politician affiliated with Moon’s party is using it as a backdrop to his campaign in the upcoming local elections. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest Moon might just have the most backing a democratically elected leader has ever had to fulfill a key administrative goal — and there are four years remaining on his term. He will need to use every bit of this leverage to see the peace process to a successful end.

Peace Requires South Korean Independence

With the hyenas from within put down, the South Korean president may now focus on the enemies of peace from without — the United States military establishment and, in particular, officials like John Bolton at the very top of a Trump administration that bears an increasingly striking resemblance to that of George W. Bush.

It was the latter administration that oversaw the destruction of the last nuclear agreement, a development that convinced the North to go nuclear and nixed the Sunshine Policy peace initiative Moon played a part in as chief presidential secretary to former president Roh Moo-hyun. President Moon is therefore very aware of what he is up against.

While Moon’s political backing at home will protect his flank, inter-Korean cooperation will serve as the vanguard as the South Korean president advances against these enemies of peace. It’s still early days, but a nascent web of trust is being woven between the Koreas that will be increasingly difficult to break. They won’t stop working together simply because Trump or other American officials say they shouldn’t.

The two Koreas can therefore collaborate to keep the US at the table with a dogged willingness to ignore or overcome the many challenges likely to be mounted by the American establishment — just as they did with the recent meeting in the DMZ. In doing so, they will eliminate any pretext for the US to drop out of the peace process without alienating the South.

The actions of the Trump administration around the world admittedly suggest it cares little about angering allies by starting trade wars or incentivizing them to strengthen their diplomatic and economic ties with supposed American rivals. Yet there may come a point where enough dominant voices in Trump’s inner circle recognize that axing the peace process could push South Korea — a crucial foothold in America’s mission to militarily encircle China — too far beyond US influence for comfort.

Still, even if the US remains sincere, it will take ironclad security guarantees to convince North Korea to denuclearize, as Russian President Vladimir Putin rightly stated in late May. This is where South Korea must take the lead.

A good start might be the South Korean government publicly declaring that, not only does South Korea decide when war happens on the Korean Peninsula (as Moon already asserted last September), its military will never be a part of a preemptive strike on North Korea, and no future invasion of North Korea will be permitted from South Korean soil. They might also unilaterally ban all future military drills near the inter-Korean border that have threatened Korean stability in the past.

All of these guarantees will require significant changes to the current relationship between the South Korean and American militaries, something Moon can carry through by taking advantage of his political clout at home. He can also use his domestic leverage to work around the US and encourage multilateral security initiatives with China and Russia that, taken as a package, could serve as insurance for North Korea if, or when, the US fails to live up to its side of any future deal.

Could America Backing Out be the Path to True Korean Independence?

However, given the hawkish and domineering nature of the US administration, it seems just as likely that they will refuse anything short of outright North Korean capitulation and eventually back out of talks.

This wouldn’t have to be the end of the game though, because doing so would only confirm to South Koreans that they have little further to be gained by marrying their security to the imperial agenda of the United States. A resulting surge in anti-American sentiment and the continued desire for peace among the South Korean electorate could set the stage for a divorce from America that President Moon alone has the power to lead.

If the US attempts to punish South Korea for their peace initiative and Moon carries his level of public support to a majority victory in the 2020 national assembly elections, it could result in a dramatic departure from America’s shadow — perhaps even the nullification of the US-Korean alliance and the banishing of US troops from South Korean soil.

This may sound like pure fantasy, but consider the possibility that peace with North Korea is Moon’s lifelong goal and something to which he has devoted much of his political career. He already expressed the position during his presidential campaign that South Korea "…should adopt diplomacy in which it can discuss a US request and say no to the Americans." His statement at the first inter-Korean summit in the DMZ on April 26th was an even more explicit acknowledgment that the Koreas may inevitably be forced to go it alone for peace:

"Today we have dispersed the dark clouds of war from the Korean Peninsula and opened a new path to peace, prosperity and unification.
"Though we must move forward with the support and cooperation of the international community, we have both agreed that it is South and North Korea who must take the lead in deciding the fate of the Korean people.
"We also both agree that the historic duty to create a new global order rests with us." *

Moon may therefore be ready and willing if there comes a point when South Korea is forced to actively work against the US and seek additional help from other emerging global powers to push diplomacy with the North forward.

South Korea’s drift outside America’s orbit could also be expedited by an increasingly desperate US establishment lashing out as it loses its hold on the peace process and South Korea, further exposing itself as a malign force in Northeast Asia.

This would merely be an acceleration of a natural development required of South Korea in the long term. China is by far South Korea’s number one export market (accounting for twice the volume of trade to the US) and its greatest source of tourism revenue. It is becoming increasingly untenable for the South, with a military still under the command of the US in wartime, to continue serving as a bastion in the American containment of China. The US standing in the way of the peace process could be enough to wake up South Koreans to the inevitability of their situation.

The anti-peace right-wing suddenly lost its grip on South Korean politics due to the ineptitude and corruption of the Park Geun-hye administration. In the same sense, the Trump administration appears to be accelerating the decline of American influence around the world with its heavy-handed approach to diplomacy and trade policy. If this trend continues on the Korean Peninsula, the peace process may end up being the most significant chapter yet in the decline of the American empire.

* (quote translated by author)

Stu Smallwood lived in South Korea for eight years from 2008-2016 and has a (useless) MA in Asian Studies from Sejong University in Seoul. He currently works as a Korean-English translator based out of Montreal, Canada. His writing has appeared at Global Research and the Hankyoreh.
He can be reached by email at stuartsmallwood[at] or through his little-used Twitter handle @stu-smallwood.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Betty Krawczyk, Pablo Ouziel, Christina Nikolic June 7, 2018

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

June 7, 2018

Prime Minister Trudeau has enjoined the Great Canadian Petroleum War. Announcing the purchase, and promise of completion, of the contentious Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Extension pipeline project, the federal government effectively sided-up with Alberta's "blue-eyed sheiks" and their allies in the transnational oil trade against the province of British Columbia, Canada's gateway to the Pacific, and the entirety of the World's environmental community.

But, even before Justin "Crudeau" made his Faustian bargain, federal agencies were already deployed at the service of the now outgoing Texans, arresting scores of citizens standing in the way of its pipeline's progress using "injunctions" granted by BC's own judiciary.

Listen. Hear.

Betty Krawczyk knows more than most about being arrested. The activist, essayist, Green and Work Less Party candidate, and author renowned in BC as the "Environmental Grandmother", has proven sand in the machine of social injustice and ecological destruction for more than fifty years.

From the front lines of the anti-segregation movement in her native Louisiana and resisting America's war against Vietnam, to the forests of Clayoquot Sound and highway expansion through Eagleridge Bluffs, Betty has stood defiant in the face of bad laws and the systems perpetuating them.

Her book titles include: 'Clayoquot: The Sound of My Heart', 'Lock Me Up Or Let Me Go: The Protests, Arrest and Trial of an Environmental Activist', 'Open Living Confidential: From Inside the Joint.', 'This Dangerous Place: My Journey Between the Passions of the Living and the Dead', and 'Betty, Blue Belle and Bitch', and she blogs from her site, Betty's Early

Betty Krawczyk in the first half.

And; last week Mariano Rajoy, Spain's controversial, and confrontational, Prime Minister was unceremoniously drubbed from office in a vote of no confidence. The leader of the People's Party had taken a hard line against separatists in Catalonia, but corruption, more than Rajoy's ham-handed response to the Catalan constitutional crisis, is responsible for his sudden and dramatic fall from grace.

Dr. Pablo Ouziel is a Post-Doctoral fellow at UVic whose project in progress is, ‘Towards Democratic Responses to the Crisis of Democracy in Spain: Forms of Participatory and Representative Civic Engagement.’

Pablo Ouziel and an upside down Spain in the second segment.

And; Victoria greentrepreneur and horticulturalist extraordinaire, Christina Nikolic will be here at the bottom of the hour with the Left Coast Events Bulletin of some of the good things to get up to in and around our town in the coming week. But first, Betty Krawczyk and girding our legal loins for B.C.'s Great Pipeline War.

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

Regresso: 'Salvador Option' Returns to Central America

The Salvador Option: the US is Once Again Supporting Death Squads in Central America 

by Brett Wilkins - CounterPunch

June 5, 2018

The United States has been quietly funding and equipping elite paramilitary police units in El Salvador accused of extra-judicially murdering suspected gang members, according to a forthcoming United Nations report reviewed in advance by CNN.

Beginning with George W. Bush in 2003, successive US administrations have provided tens of millions of dollars in aid for Salvadoran military and police in support of the government’s “Mano Dura” (“Firm Hand”) security program, an aggressive campaign to combat out-of-control gang violence in a country with one of the world’s highest homicide rates.

Photo by Alison McKellar | CC BY 2.0

“Mano Dura” aid increased significantly during the Obama administration, which compared the effort to Plan Colombia, the decades-long anti-drug campaign in which billions of US aid dollars funded mafia-like army units that, along with allied paramilitary death squads, kidnapped, tortured and murdered thousands of innocent civilians with impunity. As was the case with Plan Colombia, the new UN report will accuse Salvadoran security forces, in this case some of its elite police units, of “a pattern of behavior by security personnel amounting to extrajudicial executions” and a “cycle of impunity” in which such killings go unpunished.

One police unit, the Special Reaction Forces (FES), killed 43 suspected gang members during the first half of 2017, according to the UN report. While FES officers were executing suspects in the streets, the US government continued to fund and equip the unit. Washington’s total assistance increased from $67.9 million in 2016 to $72.7 million last year. The deportation of members of MS-13 — formed in Los Angeles by young Salvadoran refugees fleeing civil war in a homeland ruled by a US-backed military dictatorship — and other gangs has further exacerbated the crisis.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in San Salvador assured CNN that “the US government takes allegations of extrajudicial killings extremely seriously,” that it has “consistently expressed concerns” regarding human rights abuses and that it heavily vets units receiving aid. These assurances ring hollow to many Salvadorans who recall how the Ronald Reagan administration covered up horrific human rights violations in order to keep military aid flowing to the anti-communist military regime during the 1980s civil war.

That aid, which included forming, training, funding and arming military death squads, began during the Carter administration and dramatically increased under Reagan. Officers, troops and police were trained in kidnapping, torture, assassination and democracy suppression at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), also known as the School of Coups and School of Assassins because it produced so many of both.

SOA graduates and other US-backed Salvadoran security forces planned, ordered and committed the most heinous atrocities of the 12-year civil war, including the kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of four American nuns and church volunteers in 1980, the assassination of the country’s beloved Catholic archbishop, Oscar Romero, that same year and themassacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989. After the four churchwomen were slain, the Reagan administration undertook a shameful effort to place blame on the victims.

The most notorious Salvadoran army unit, the Atlacatl Battalion, was created in 1980 at the SOA and hailed as “the pride of the United States military team in El Salvador.” As a rite of passage its new troops collected roadkill carcasses — “dogs, vultures, anything,” according to one former member — and boiled them into a soup they all drank. Atlacatl Battalion’s human victims fared even worse than the dead animals its recruits consumed. The unit committed countless massacres, including the slaughter of 117 men, women and children at Lake Suchitlan in 1983 and the mass murder of 68 civilians, many of them children, at Los Llanitos the following year.

But even these massacres paled in comparison to Atlacatl’s deadliest crime, the wholesale slaughter of more than 900 villagers, mostly women, children and the elderly, at El Mozote on December 11, 1981. There, soldiers shot, stabbed, hacked, smashed, and hung helpless villagers to death. They gang-raped women and girls before killing them. They skewered babies on bayonets. They dropped large rocks on the bellies of pregnant women. When the raping and murdering finished, they burned El Mozote to the ground, reducing the village to what one witness called “a moving black carpet” of scavenging vultures, flies and dogs feasting on the victims.

The day after El Mozote made front page headlines in the US, President Reagan officially certified that El Salvador was “making a concerted and significant effort to comply with internationally recognized human rights,” and was working to “bring an end to the indiscriminate torture and murder of Salvadoran citizens.” Meanwhile, Elliott Abrams, then a State Department human rights official who was later convicted in the Iran-Contra scandal before serving as a special assistant to President George W. Bush, helped lead an effort to deny the El Mozote massacre ever happened.

US aid to El Salvador was doubled, and heinous atrocities continued through the end of the civil war.

It wasn’t just El Salvador. The United States also supported or covered up death squad activity throughout Central and South America in the 1970s and ‘80s. In Guatemala, it backed right-wing military dictators including Efraín Ríos Montt, who recently died facing genocide charges, as well as brutal death squads like the army’s elite Kaibiles unit, which tortured, raped and murdered more than 200 villagers at Dos Erres in December, 1982.

In Honduras, Reagan’s ambassador, John Negroponte, supervised the creation of the notorious Battalion 316, which was tasked with eliminating students, academics, labor unionists, clergy, journalists, indigenous rights activists and others deemed a threat to the dictatorship. Negroponte also played a key role in supporting the US-backed Contra army as it waged a terrorist war against the people of Nicaragua.

It also wasn’t just in the past. After a 2009 military coup deposed the progressive Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya, Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton backed the repressive right-wing regime even as reports of its brutality, which included forced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions of opponents, were revealed. Despite the assassination of high-profile critics including the environmental activist Berta Cáceres, the Obama administration lavished the Honduran coup regime and its murderous security forces with tens of millions of dollars in military and other assistance.

The United States has long operated or supported death squads, from the CIA’s Phoenix Program in Vietnam (40,000 killed) through the implementation of the “Salvador option” during the recent invasion and occupation of Iraq. The latter effort was run by Col. James Steele, a decorated veteran of Central America’s dirty wars, including a stint training Salvadoran death squad units during the civil war. Unsurprisingly, secret prisons, torture and extrajudicial killings became commonplace throughout occupied Iraq.

It now appears that the “Salvador option” has made its way back home from halfway around the world, further terrorizing guilty and innocent alike in what was already one of the most frightful corners of the planet.
Brett Wilkins is editor-at-large for US news at Digital Journal. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace.
More articles by:Brett Wilkins

What Is Left (and Where)?

Capitalism and Democracy: Where Is The Left?

by Christopher Black - NEO

June 2, 2018

The elections in Italy have pulled the veil back from the face of capitalist democracy and shown it to be a sham, a con game run by capital, with the stronger capitalists ever plotting the demise of the smaller ones and all of them plotting to stab the working majority in the back while fleecing their pockets to make, through systematised theft, something called profit.

Except in the socialist nations, working people have no say whatsoever in the control of the economy and their well-being.

They are forced instead to play an insulting game in which various parties of capital offer them candidates to choose from, in what are called “elections,” but which in fact are selections, that is, a system of appointing, through the illusion of the popular will, pre-selected candidates of capital to carry out capital’s agenda while candidates that represent the interests of the majority who have to work for a living are not permitted to be heard or are marginalised and ridiculed.

In Italy the real socialist left, the Italian Communist Party, has been reformed and performed modestly in the elections but its recent reappearance in the swamp of populist, liberal and right wing parties was too late to prevent the sad charade that is taking place with the 5 Star Movement making a coalition deal with the right wing Northern League party to form a government only to have their nominee of finance minister blocked by the intervention of Germany, resulting in a fracturing of the coalition, and cries of Berlin tyranny when it is the tyranny if German and Italian capital working together that has produced this mess.

The Italian press are pretending to be shocked by this German intervention, made so directly and openly in thwarting the so-called democratic will of the people while the Germans complain about the irresponsible Italians threatening the euro, the EU and German capital’s control of Europe.

Meanwhile in France President Macron, the messenger boy for French and German capital, and selected by them against the will of the working people, is trying to force through what are termed politely “reforms,’ a euphemism for all out class war against working people by capital to make their lives poorer, more difficult, more miserable in order to enrich the rich.

When one person steals something from a citizen it is called robbery but when the entire citizenry is robbed by a few, the word used is not robbery but “labour flexibility.” And it is always the working men and women who have to be more “flexible,” never the capitalists.

Again, in France, the series of strikes by unions to try to protect themselves from this robbery are hobbled by still weak political support from the French left. To defeat the “reforms” a general strike is necessary to bring down the Macron government as some labour leaders have called for, a revolutionary development if it took place but there is no strong organised political organisation to effectively organise and maintain such an action. The French Communist Party has joined in marches and adds its support to the struggle but it is not the powerful force it once was since it discredited itself by joining government of capital in the past with the good intentions of having a say at the table, but only succeeded in giving ground to capital to carry out “austerity,” the word they use all the time for the deliberate impoverishment of the people.

In Britain, whose working class has been devastated for 40 years by the combined austerity assault of the Tories and so-called Labour Party, the majority vote to leave the European Union is being thwarted at every step by the very people that arranged the vote under pressure from British and foreign capital that benefits from Britain remaining in the EU while free speech is trampled on.

Canada, whose working class, usually mislabelled a “middle class,” has suffered increasing cuts to services and a degradation of living standards since the fall of the USSR, is embroiled in the scandal of the government decision to use tax payers money to build a pipeline for an American oil company that takes Canadian oil out of the ground for next to nothing and wants it shipped to ports on the west coast to sell to China. Canadians will not benefit from this project whatsoever and oppose it but the party in power sees their role as agents for American oil instead of the people they were elected by.

The American political system, always a spectacle, has descended into a cartoon democracy in which there is no real choice for the people and when they participate in that charade and choose one of the two candidates for leader forced on them, each as corrupt and criminal as the other, are insultingly told their “choice” was arranged by Russia, while 45 % of them according the United Way, live in real poverty in a country where they have to pay for everything.

We can go on like this with all the capitalist democracies but the point is that all these games are designed to enrich one class at the expense of the other. And what is the response in the former socialist states in Europe and the USSR, in the former social democratic countries turned into neo-liberal cesspools, as people wallow in the mess the capitalists have brought them in the wake of their false promises and illusions but to move towards fascism or its bedfellow, monarchy.

But where is the Left to re-establish the socialist movement in the face of the universal repression and carry on the struggle for social, economic and political justice that can only exist under socialism.

Jose Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, author most famously of Blindness, and member of the Portuguese Communist Party, stated in 2004 or so that,

“The left has no fucking idea of the world it’s living in.” 

The statement was a deliberate challenge to all the workers parties the world over, including his own, that went unanswered then and remains unanswered. The question is not of ideology, good intentions, or correct analysis of the situation for the good intentions are there among many, as is the analysis, and Marx has never been more right than today. It is more a matter of daring to take action, to take steps to enter into the situation in a serious way.

I don’t have the answers to this, but it has to be asked, again; what are we doing in the face of the sustained war on working people that has become a war of scorched earth?

In Cuba we are present, commandante, in China, North Korea, in Venezuela, in Vietnam. Yes, but where are the rest of us? And we are told, “We are weak?” But why are we weak? Or, “We are growing.” Very good, but why aren’t we growing more quickly? “They control the media.” Yes, they do. So where is ours? “They are jailing and murdering us.” Why do we let them?

In other words, why are too many of us sitting doing nothing when real and difficult but necessary work needs to be done? Where are you my friends? Where is the Left?

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Monday, June 04, 2018

An Environmental Defenders Guide to Understanding Injunctions and the Meaning of Contempt

Pipeline protesters and court ordered injunctions 

by Betty Krawczyk - Betty's Early Edition

May 19, 2018

So many of the pipe line protesters at Burnaby Mountain simply don’t seem to understand the implications of court ordered injunctions. There should have been some sort of “Black Hole” for the protesters as there was in the Clayoquot Sound during the logging blockades.

The Black Hole was a camping spot for the protesters willing to be arrested. Before arrest, we were told everything we needed to know about injunctions, specifically, about how injunctions are a judicial procedure rather than a law.

This means that an injunction is an order handed down by a single judge.

Kennedy Stewart who was arrested alongside Elizabeth May on March 23, is of course, correct when he stated that contempt of court is “uncoded”. That means contempt of court isn’t in the Canadian criminal code.

But what does that mean, it isn’t in the criminal code? What does it matter? It matters a heck of a lot.

The Canadian criminal code encompasses the entire body of law that has been developed for hundreds of years, slowly changing as it borrows from the legal statutes of other countries. I have great respect for the Canadian criminal code. It protects all citizens from arbitrary punishments by a single judge. But I have no respect for the judiciary of British Columbia who refuse to afford the protection of the criminal code for a special group of people…those who practice civil disobedience.

Instead of protecting the constitution and the rule of law, our BC judges give out injunctions to corporations that strip environmental protesters of this right of equal protection under the law. Under arrest by injunction the protester cannot put forth the argument of necessity before the judge because the only argument that judge will hear is one of:

“Were you at the protest site? Did you refuse to move when ordered to do so by the police? Yes? Guilty of contempt of court, and if you object we may elevate that to Criminal Contempt”.

But how else could law enforcement bodies punish peaceful protesters who disrupt other claimants by their activities? By applying the criminal code, the way every other challenge to the law in Canada is addressed.

For instance, what did the protesters actually do in Burnaby? They got too close to a corporation defined red line. Fine. That’s what the criminal code is for. If protesters were charged like all other citizens, they would probably be charged with mischief. Got in the way of a logging truck? Okay, arrest him or her for being a nuisance, for blocking a road; there are detailed punishments for these actions in the criminal code. And in this scenario the judge must hear arguments of necessity with some seriousness.

But, no. In the case of civil disobedience BC judges choose to bypass the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. They choose instead to use a special judicial expediency to favor one group of people (corporations) over real citizens who are concerned about our environment.

They do this when they grant the applying corporation an injunction in the first place.

The judges should be ashamed. BC is becoming known as the province that rules by injunctions. It’s a lazy way to apply the law and justice is never served when our judges appear to be so biased.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Breaking the Embargo: United in Solidarity for Julian Assange

United in Solidarity for Julian Assange


June 2, 2018

It has been months since Julian's internet access and visitation rights at the embassy were abruptly revoked by the Ecuadorian government.

In response supporters swiftly organized #ReconnectJulian, a 10-hour-long online vigil event where friends and supporters of Julian came together to speak for the voiceless.

We are now once again organizing a massive event in support of Assange and WikiLeaks.

This collaboration has birthed #Unity4J - An upcoming series of events taking place on the first weekend of each month.

The stakes go far beyond Assange's personal rights and freedoms, recent diplomatic and legal actions regarding Wikileaks and its emissaries have an enormous potential to set a dangerous precedent regarding press freedom and the publication of secret or suppressed documents in pursuit of an informed public and representative accountability. 

#Unity4J will feature numerous high profile speakers giving testament to their support for and experience with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in a call for Julian to be reconnected to his loved ones and the world, while advocating for safe passage from his arbitrary detention.

The ongoing deprivation of Julian Assange's human rights is an untenable situation and a failure of international law and the governments of the West to uphold justice. In a world of divide and conquer, uniting people is the ultimate act of resistance. Therefore, we must bring together ALL public figures who support Julian and WikiLeaks, regardless of their political views or party affiliation. Putting aside our personal politics in order to create a diverse line-up of advocates who support our message will give us the ability to reach the largest audience possible. The baton of previous generations who fought for the freedom of their counterculture icons has passed to us, and it is our turn to raise our voices in a unified and sustained protest until Julian’s rights are restored.