Saturday, February 02, 2019

Macron's Marching Orders: "Coups de Feu à la Tête"

GILETS JAUNES: Macron’s State-Sanctioned Violence against Civilians is Condemned by Doctors and Human Rights Groups

by Vanessa Beeley - 21st Century Wire

February 1, 2019

The Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, recently visited Paris to discuss issues of human rights violations relating to the Gilets Jaunes (GJ) or Yellow Vest protests that were sparked in France on the 17th November 2018.

The protests, that began peacefully descended into state violence against civilians from the 24th November onwards.

“The heightened tensions that persist now in France have triggered my concern and I consider that there is an urgent need to appease the situation” Mijatovic said after her visit.

The face of French Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner,
with images of civilians injured by Police violence, superimposed. (Photo: Twitter)

Mijatovic was particularly alarmed by the increasing number of civilians and bystanders seriously injured by the use of the LBD40 “flashball” bullet and the Grenades d’encerclement or GLIF4 grenades. To date, 159 people have been hit in the head by the LBD40 rubber bullets, causing fractured jaws, 17 loss of eyes, one induced coma and many other serious and debilitating injuries.

According to an article in France 24, France’s legal advisory body, the Council of State, was due to examine an urgent request by the CGT trade union the French Human Rights League on Wednesday to ban police from using the hand-held launchers, which fire rubber projectiles roughly the size of golf balls.”

Lawyers of victims of state-sanctioned violence against protestors have also called for the banning of the GLIF4 grenades which contain 25g of TNT and can contain 10g rubber pellets, capable of shredding flesh if used at close quarters, as you can see in the following video filmed in Dijon during recent GJ protests. A policeman nonchalantly throws a grenade at a nearby GJ who is immediately seen hopping in pain after detonation:

The LBD40 is described as a “sub-lethal” weapon but the injuries they have inflicted upon civilians during the GJ protests contradict this description. Police officers are cautioned to only use the “flashball” in cases of absolute necessity, where they are strictly “proportional” to the situation – they should be fired at least 10 meters from their target and never aimed at the head. Below is one of the infractions being signalled to the French Interior Ministry by independent journalist, David Dufresnes.

The protestor was hit in the face by an LBD40 bullet during Acte IX of the protests in Nimes. He suffered a fractured jaw, 3 upper teeth were torn out and his lower teeth were displaced. “The CRS (civilian reserve police) didn’t allow us to rejoin the firemen and they told me that it was for my own good” said the injured GJ.

French police using the LBD40 bullet during GJ protests. (Photo: Valery Hache)

French Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, has defended the use of the LBD40 bullets despite the mounting tally of horrifying mutilation of civilians as a result of their use. In defiance of the release of a Police laboratory investigation that declared the GLIF4 grenade to be too dangerous for use in crowd control situations, Castaner has declared that they will continue to be used by Police controlling the GJ protests “until stocks are used up” without specifying the amount of remaining stocks. The French government is in violation of recommendations from internal and external human rights investigative bodies.

An article in Le Monde revealed that 9,228 LBD40 bullets have been fired during the two months of GJ protests. a collective of activists against state violence in France, have calculated that this number equates to 1000 shots per week or 838 bullets fired during each protest, which are held weekly. 123 bullets fired per day from November 17th to 31st of January 2019. 159 civilians have now been hit in the head by the LBD40 bullets.

Desarmons also make the claim that most of the bullets do hit their target and the weapons are extremely accurate so this would suggest a far higher number of injured among the GJs than the 2-3000 recorded by most analysts. What is rarely discussed by state-aligned media is the psychological trauma suffered by civilians who have been mutilated or have witnessed the hideous effects of these bullets often fired at close range into crowds.

If anyone were in any doubt over the brutality of the policeman behind the gun in many instances, please watch this video recorded in Nantes during Acte XI (January 26th 2019). Police violently arrest a civilian who was carrying a small hammer. Witnesses urge the police to stop “its shameful” “he is bleeding” “you don’t have the right to do that”. Those filming the use of disproportionate force are pushed back to a “security distance of 50 meters” and told to stop videoeing.

The following video shows the moment after war correspondent, Florent Marcie, is hit in the face by a LBD40 bullet that leaves a deep hole in his cheek. In later interviews, Marcie describes how he has survived multiple war zones without injury only to be targeted by the National Police in France as he is covering peaceful protests. One of the witnesses describes how he was the target but the bullet passed over his left shoulder and hit the journalist in the face.

A Doctor’s Petition to Prohibit Police use of LBD40s and GLIF4 Grenades

Doctor Laurent Thines is a professor of neurosurgery at Besancon general hospital. Thines has launched a petition demanding a moratorium on the use of “sub-lethal” arms to highlight the extreme risk of their use.

In an interview with Inter, Dr Thines explained why he had been persuaded to intervene.

“I am not a politician, above all I am a doctor and a citizen of France – I was so shocked, as a neurosurgeon, by the seriousness of the wounds inflicted upon peaceful protestors”. 

Although Besancon itself has not witnessed the extreme use of the LBD40, Thines has seen the reports of surgeons across France on head injuries treated in their hospitals. Thines describes the injuries as equivalent to war wounds or the result of a serious traffic incident.

“I would like to transmit the voice of the medical staff, because I am quite surprised that they have not yet taken a stand against the violence even though they are at the frontlines to treat the serious injuries” the Doctor told Inter.

Thines tells Inter that the petition has raised 65,000 signatures to date from medical staff, including paramedics who have to deal with the injuries at the scene. “We cant remain silent” Thines said “..what we are witnessing is intolerable both medically and from a humanitrian point of view”. Thines has the view that the Minister of Interior, Castaner, has a political agenda behind his drive to strike fear into the GJs and to dissuade them from demonstrating.

“We demand the immediate prohibition of the use of these arms so we can ascertain the associated risk. We either have to ban these weapons during “law and order” operations or impose stricter rules on their use. [..] When we study the recent statistics, 50% (of protestors) have received head injuries, while it is forbidden to target the head!” Dr Thines.

Another doctor, Larbi Benali, based at Bordeaux University, specialist in legal medicine, did not sign the petition but considers it to be a very good initiative. “that will enable a real debate on the subject of these weapons” Benali told Inter. Speaking about the the cases of two people seriously injured in the eye that Benali personally studied, the doctor stated:

“It is the use of these weapons and the training of the security forces that must be questioned. It is necessary to train the police and to sensitise them to the dangers of this kind of weapon. Too often, the police and gendarmes who use these LBDs do not have a true understanding of the consequences of a shot that is taken at too close range and not from the regulatory distance”

In 2016, Benali took part in a study on the risk of the “Flashballs” (now replaced by the LBD40) – The hazardous nature of Flash-Ball®: A case of cranioencephalic trauma and a literature review. This scientific article appeared in the legal medicine review but never prompted a public debate in governmental circles. The following is taken from the summary of the report:

For two decades, Flash-Ball® is commonly used by police forces in France as a sub-lethal weapon. Injuries due to Flash-Ball® are regularly relayed in media but remain poorly described in the literature. However, we report the case of a healthy 34-year-old male victim of a Flash-Ball® shot outside a sporting fixture. This young man presented serious craniocerebral injuries with a left temporal fracture, moderate cerebral oedema, fronto-temporal haemorrhagic contusion along with an extra-dural haematoma and subarachnoid haemorrhage requiring neurological and rehabilitation care for two months leaving important sequelae. Although the risk is obviously lower than with firearms, authors report a case demonstrating that Flash-Ball® may cause serious physical injuries particularly after a headshot but also death. (Emphasis added)

The White March – 2nd February 2019 


Acte XII – photo of Jerome Rodriguez, GJ spokesperson, 
who was targeted by a GLIF4 grenade before being hit in the eye 
by an LBD40 bullet on 26th January 2019.

The following is a translation of the announcement of a march in honour of those injured in GJ protests since the 17th November 2018.

Justice for the Victims of State-sanctioned Brutality. Acte XII -Saturday 2nd February across France. Paying homage to the mutilated, the wounded and the “disappeared”.

Paris route for march: départ Place Félix Eboué en direction de République l. Félix Éboué > Av Daumesnil > Rue Moreau > Hôpital 15/20 > Bastille > Bd Beaumarchais > République

After a short speech the wounded Gilets Jaunes will lead the march. During the march there will be a pause to demand the prohibition of weapons such as Flashball LBD40 and the GLIF4 grenades.

The march will be peaceful and without any violence.

Protestors are asked to wear eye patches, bandages and to put fake blood on the bandages in honour of those who have been mutilated and injured.

This will be a national hommage to the Gilets Jaunes victims.

Paris and all cities of France will collectively pay their respects to the wounded, the Gilet Jaunes victims, injured in their thousands and dozens mutilated for life.

Even though protesting is a right for all French citizens, even though the demonstrations are declared in advance across France – in Paris and in every provincial town, Macron’s government sanctions police repression and extreme violence against the movement. The arms used by the “forces of order” against the demonstrators are Flashball bullets LBD40, GLIF4 grenades – Grenades d’encerclement.

Associated with a “kettling” strategy that shuts down any exit route for the protestors (so they find themselves surrounded by police forces) the use of these arms, targeting the head with Flashballs, result in very serious injuries that are described by the medical teams as “war wounds”.

Many have had their lives permanently turned upside down by state violence. Some have lost hands, others an eye.

Psychologically the repercussions are profoundly painful and it will take a long time to recover from the trauma. The families and the friends of the victim are also affected.

Their life is permanently ruined, they are simple, peaceful citizens of this country who were exercising their right to protest against a capitalist dictatorship which refuses to allow them to live a dignified life.

For more than two months the people who come out into the streets are met with governmental repression. Since the 17th November 2018 we have been on the streets but we have not been listened to.

Every weekend, the same weapons are used, in the full knowledge of their effect on human lives. The circumstances do not justify their use (remember the fireman injured in Bordeaux. The BAC fired at him even though he had his back to them, he was leaving the protest peacefully by a side street)

We demand that Macron brings an end to the repression of the legal citizen protests of the Gilets Jaunes and prohibits the use of LBD40 Flashball bullets and GLIF4 grenades immediately.

“The Powerful will stop dominating us when the “little people” stop crawling” – translation of the poster created by Jerome Rodrigues for Acte XII.


The Council of State (Conseil d’Etat, highest administrative jurisdiction ) officially declined to forbid or even suspend the use of LBD40 bullets, despite all available evidence that are being used against all rules of police engagement and are causing terrible mutilation to civilians, risking life in many cases.

The Council of State effectively dismissed all evidence of Police violations of their own regulations and infractions against civilians. So, Acte XII will go ahead in the knowledge that there is a high risk of further injuries and targeting of civilians by the forces of law and order with weapons described as “sub-lethal” but lethal when misused.


Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team. Please support her work at her Patreon account.

READ MORE FRANCE NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire France Files


Friday, February 01, 2019

Facts, Fiction, and the Death of Marie Colvin

Marie Colvin, Homs and Media Falsehoods about Syria

by Rick Sterling - Dissident Voice

January 20th, 2019

In April 2014 I was part of an international delegation which visited Syria for five days. The delegates came from many different countries. Among the notables were the Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire, a Syrian-British heart surgeon and Julian Assange’s father.

We spent time in Damascus, then traveled by bus to Latakia and then Homs. In each city we had meetings with political, religious and social leaders but also had time to wander about and talk with people on the streets.

Peaceful Homs Street
Photo: Rick Sterling

In Latakia, I met Lilly Martin, an American woman who married a Syrian and has lived there, raising a family for the past twenty-five years. She told me how wrong the western media coverage was. Contrary to media claims, she said protests in Latakia were violent from the start. After the first outbreak of violence, Syrian police and military were ordered to not carry weapons. Protesters continued to burn and destroy government offices with incidents of knifing and shooting unarmed police.

When we visited Homs I was struck by how normal it looked. The streets were full of people and the city looked fine. It was dramatically different than the images portrayed in western media. It was only when we were driving out of Homs that we passed an area where there was widespread destruction and battle damage. There was a sharp contrast between most of the city and the few neighborhoods where battle had raged.

Homs, Syria (Photo: Rick Sterling)

The American journalist Marie Colvin died in February 2012 in one of those neighborhoods. It was called Baba Amr. Ten days after her death, the militants and remaining civilians had all departed Baba Amr. It’s unfortunate that Marie Colvin did not talk with Lilly Martin or visit the majority of Homs where the war was not raging. It could have provided much needed balance to her perspective.

Marie Colvin and Homs

According to many of her colleagues, Marie Colvin was charming and courageous, ambitious and fun to be with. She had a knack for including personal details, descriptions and emotions that engaged the reader. Unfortunately, Colvin’s reports and interviews from Syria were inaccurate and a huge distortion of the situation.

It is useful to examine Colvin’s reporting now, seven years later, because there is a wave of new articles, books and movies about her and how she died in Syria.

Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy were smuggled into Syria from Lebanon in February 2012. They spent some days in the town of Al Buwaydah and then were taken into the city of Homs using a drainage culvert to avoid Syrian Army checkpoints.

Their guides and minders for the trip were from the Farouq Battalion associated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Beginning in the Fall 2011, militants from the Farouq Battalion set up checkpoints, killed security and soldiers and gradually took control of the Homs neighborhood called Baba Amr. They called it a “liberated zone”.

By the time Marie Colvin and other journalists arrived, most of the civilians had fled the fighting to stay with friends and family in other parts of the city.

Colvin and Conroy spent a few days in Baba Amr but then left through the tunnel when it was rumored that Syrian forces were going to attack. After learning that the attack did not take place, the journalists made the difficult journey back into Baba Amr. The second morning after returning, Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Olchik died as the Syrian forces launched mortar and missile attacks.

Biased and Inaccurate Reporting from Syria

Marie Colvin’s reports and interviews from Syria were broadcast widely in the UK and USA. She wrote an article titled “A vet is only hope for Syrian wounded“. The article begins “Wounded civilians arriving at a makeshift clinic in the Syrian city of Homs are relying on a vet to save their lives because there is no doctor to treat them.” As documented in Conroy’s book, they were not in Homs; they were in the town Buwaydah when they observed a vet working as a medic. Actually, there were hundreds of doctors performing medical duties and treating civilians and soldiers injured in the conflict in Homs.

Colvin’s major story for the Sunday Times was titled “Final dispatch from Homs, the battered city“. It begins by describing a “widows basement” with 300 “frightened women and children trapped in the horror of Homs”. The report of 300 women and children is an exaggeration. Another journalist estimated half that number which is likely an exaggeration itself, since the photos and video show fewer than 50 women and children.

Colvin continued her report saying, “The widows’ basement reflects the ordeal of 28,000 men, women and children clinging to existence in Baba Amr.” This is a huge falsehood; there was a tiny fraction of that number of civilians remaining in the neighborhood. Paul Conroy wrote as follows:

“It became increasingly unbelievable that there were an estimated 28,000 people still living in Baba Amr. I hadn’t seen a single one.” (page 188, “Under the Wire”)

The night before her death, Marie Colvin did live interviews on BBC, Channel 4 and CNN. The CNN interview began by showing video of a baby dying from a shrapnel wound. CNN believed Marie Colvin was an eye-witness to the baby’s death. Anderson Cooper asked Colvin what it was like to be in the room. Marie Colvin replied that the room was chaotic and the baby’s death heartbreaking.

She dramatized the situation by speaking about the baby’s grandmother being a volunteer in the room when the baby arrived. However, Colvin was not in the room at all. Marie Colvin and the media activists were shown the video on a laptop computer by their FSA guide. (page 155, “Under the Wire”).

In her CNN interview Colvin described Baba Amr as,

“28,000 civilians, men, women and children, hiding, being shelled, defenseless…. There are no military targets here…. So it’s a complete and utter lie that they (Syrian military) are only going after terrorists…. The Syrian Army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.” 

In reality, Baba Amr was the primary base for militants of the Farouq Battalion. If there was an “utter lie”, it was pretending that this was primarily a civilian neighborhood.

The Syrian Reality Which Colvin Did Not Report

Like most western coverage of Syria, Colvin’s reporting did not provide important context such as the following:

* How the conflict began in Homs. An eyewitness reported “From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”

* How Baba Amr was taken over. In October 2011 militants from the Farouq Battalion set up checkpoints within Baba Amr, attacked and killed Syrian Army soldiers and other security forces, and killed or expelled government supporters. The process was similar to what was documented by a civilian in Aleppo: “Nine days from my window in Aleppo“.

* Attacks on infrastructure. In December 2011, militants blew up the pipeline to Homs’ oil refinery, a major source of oil for the country.

In mid January, an Arab League report documented the results of their investigation. They said:

The Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries.
Examples of these acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.

Militants in Baba Amr destroyed government tanks and used their own tank to attack government forces.

Abu Sa’eed, Free Syrian Army Unit Commander

On 2 February 2012, FSA militants attacked a government checkpoint, killing ten soldiers and taking another 19 as prisoners. That was evidently the last straw for the government. The next day, February 3, the intense bombardment of Baba Amr began.

Promoting External Intervention

Marie Colvin’s reports from Baba Amr had a political goal of spurring Western intervention. This is made clear in emails to her Sunday Times editor. “It is sickening that the Syrian regime is allowed to keep doing this …. I think again to focus on Baba Amr, 28,000 defenceless under shelling….” (pp 196-197, “Under the Wire”).

Her reports were missing crucial facts, sensationalized the suffering on one side, ignored the suffering on the other side and demonized the government which was the target for overthrow.

Amateur Video Homs

In her interview with CNN, Colvin used the video of the dying little baby to urge western intervention. “That baby probably will move more people to think, ‘What is going on, and why is no one stopping this murder in Homs that is happening every day?”

In her final article for the Sunday Times Colvin says,

“In Baba Amr, the Free Syrian Army (FSA)…. have virtually unanimous support from civilians who see them as their defenders.” 

This claim is highly dubious. The vast majority of civilians had left Baba Amr. All that were left were family members of FSA militants and others who had nowhere to go.

The bias in Marie Colvin’s reports and interviews was not unique. On the contrary, nearly all NATO and Gulf state reporting on Syria has been biased. Stephen Kinzer would later write “The media are misleading the public on Syria.” Patrick Cockburn would later write that “Nearly everything you have read about Syria and Iraq could be wrong“.

How Marie Colvin Died

It is claimed that Marie Colvin was intentionally targeted by the Syrian government. This is unlikely. Her death brought opprobrium on Damascus and helped the militant opposition. A few months after Marie Colvin’s death, a prominent British journalist reported that the same Syrian rebels tried to get him and his team killed. “I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.”

It is also claimed that Syrian intelligence determined the location of Marie Colvin by identifying a satellite phone signal used in her interviews. This is false. Colvin told her editor at the Sunday Times that the Thuraya satellite phones did not work. For her Skype interviews she used the same antenna uplink used night and day by media activists in Baba Amr.

Marie and Remi were working in a battle zone, guided and effectively embedded with armed insurgents. Their deaths were another tragic consequence of the war.

Ten days after Colvin’s death, the militants and remaining civilians withdrew from Baba Amr. There was no massacre, just a street parade and celebration in other parts of Homs.

Syrian Journalists Killed (Photo: Rick Sterling)

The deaths of Marie Colvin and Remi Olchik sparked many tributes and widespread publicity. Largely unknown in the West, hundreds of Syrian journalists have also died in the conflict. In a sense, they are all victims of the proxy war on Syria. In another sense, the equivalence is not fair. The war has been encouraged by some and imposed on others.

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist who grew up in Canada but currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. He can be reached at
Read other articles by Rick.

Rejecting the Institution of War in Afghanstan

Defying War and Defining Peace in Afghanistan

by Kathy Kelly - VCNC

January 29, 2019

On January 27th, 2019, the Taliban and the U.S. government each publicly stated acceptance, in principle, of a draft framework for ongoing negotiations that could culminate in a peace deal to end a two-decade war in Afghanistan.

As we learn more about the negotiations, it’s important to remember others working toward dialogue and negotiation in Afghanistan. Troublingly, women's rights leaders have not, thus far, been invited to the negotiating table. But several have braved potential persecution to assert the importance of including women in any framework aiming to create peace and respect human rights.

A young medical graduate student told me she was deprived of schooling during the Taliban era.

Following deadly attacks in their home province, initiators humbly walked, sometimes hundreds of miles, asking people to reject the institution of war. 

“If government doesn’t protect women’s basic rights,” she said, “we could lose access to health care and education.”

“The war was started by men, the war will be ended by men,” an aide to Rula Ghani, the wife of President Ashraf Ghani, recently told a Reuters reporter. “But it’s the women and children who suffer the most and they have a right to define peace.”

In 2018, the UN expressed alarm at the increased use of airstrikes by U.S. and Afghan forces which caused a rising death toll among women and children. In the run-up to the past week of negotiations and even during the negotiations, attacks and counter attacks between the warring parties killed dozens of civilians, including women and children. Both the Taliban and the U.S. seemed intent on showing strength and leverage by demonstrating their willingness to slaughter the innocent.

Another group not represented at the negotiating table is the “People’s Peace Movement,” Beginning in May of 2018, they chose a path which pointedly eschews attacks, revenge or retaliation. Following deadly attacks in their home province of Helmand, initiators of this movement humbly walked, sometimes even barefoot, hundreds of miles, asking people to reject the entire institution of war. They’ve urged an end to revenge and retaliation and called on all warring parties to support a peace process. Their journeys throughout the country have become venues for informal hearings, allowing opportunity for people to collectively imagine abolishing war.

We in the U.S. have much to learn from Afghan women human rights advocates and the People’s Peace Movement regarding the futility of war.

Since 2001, and at a cost of 800 billion dollars, the U.S. military has caused irreparable and horrific losses in Afghanistan. Afghan civilians have endured invasion, occupation, aerial bombings, ground attacks, drone warfare, extensive surveillance, internal displacement, soaring refugee populations, environmental degradation and the practice of indefinite detention and torture. How would U.S. citizens bear up under even a fraction of this misery?

It stands to reason this litany of suffering would lead to increased insurgent resistance, to rising support for the Taliban, and to spiraling violence.

By late 2018, even a top military commander, Army General Scott Miller, told CNN the U.S. had no chance of a military victory in Afghanistan. He stated the fight will continue until there is a political settlement,

Danny Sjursen, an exceptionally honest Major General and author, wrote in December 2018 the only thing left for the U.S. military to do in Afghanistan was to lose.

Major General Sjursen was correct to concede inevitable U.S. military defeat in Afghanistan, but there is something more U.S. people can and should do. Namely, pay reparations for 17 years of suffering we’ve caused in Afghanistan. This is, as Professor Noam Chomsky once said, “what any civilized country would do.”

Some might counter the U.S. has already provided over $132 billion dollars for reconstruction in Afghanistan. But, did that sum make a significant difference in the lives of Afghan people impoverished by displacement and war? I think not.

Since 2008, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, has submitted quadrennial reports to the U.S. Congress detailing ways waste, embezzlement, fraud and abuse have consistently resulted in failed reconstruction efforts.

Sopko and his teams of researchers and analysts offered a chance for people in the U.S. to see ourselves as we're often seen by an increasingly cynical Afghan public. But we seldom even hear of the SIGAR reports. In fact, when President Trump heard of these watchdog reports during his first Cabinet meeting of 2019, he was infuriated and said they should be locked up!

It's telling that SIGAR was preceded by SIGIR, (the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction) which filed similarly critical yet largely unnoticed reports.

U.S. citizens often regard their country as a civilized nation that goes to war against demonic tyrants. Dr. Martin Luther King held forth a different vision. He urged us to see the humanity of other so-called enemies, to ask how we’re seen by other people, and to thereby gain a needed understanding of our own weaknesses.

If we could hear from other people menaced by militarism, including ours, if we could see how our wars have contributed to terrorism, corruption and authoritarianism that has turned the U.S. into a permanent warfare state, we might find the same courage that inspires brave people in Afghanistan to speak up and resist the all-encompassing tyranny of war.

We might find ourselves guided by an essential ethical question: how can we learn to live together without killing one another? If we finally grasp the terrible and ever-increasing urgency of this lesson, then we might yearn to be trusted global neighbors who humbly pay reparations rather than righteously bankroll endless wars.

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

US Escalation, As Venezuelans Head to Streets for Saturday Showdown

US escalates threats against Venezuela

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

1 February 2019

A little more than a week after the US-orchestrated coup began in Venezuela with the self-proclamation of right-wing politician Juan Guaidó as “interim president,” tensions within the country continue to rise and the threat of a direct US military intervention has escalated.

Washington’s immediate recognition of Guaidó, whose action was coordinated with US officials beforehand, and its subsequent dismissal of the government of President Nicolas Maduro—elected in 2018 in a poll boycotted by the right-wing opposition—as “illegitimate,” have been followed by punishing sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry as well as repeated threats of US intervention.

Valero, the second-largest US importer of Venezuelan crude, announced on Thursday that it was stopping all purchases of the country’s oil because of the US sanctions, which block all revenues from Venezuelan oil exports from flowing back to the country.

A company executive acknowledged that there were still “some holes to fill in our supply plan,” but that the sweeping US sanctions—described by some analysts as the “nuclear option” —made continued business impossible.

The purpose of the sanctions is to crater the already crisis-ridden Venezuelan economy in order to create the conditions for a military coup or US intervention. The impact will be felt by millions of workers and impoverished layers of the population in a further acceleration of skyrocketing inflation, the scarcity of basic goods, a further slashing of social programs and more layoffs and shutdowns.

Venezuelan President Maduro issued a video statement Wednesday directed to the people of the United States, charging that a “campaign has been prepared to justify a coup d’etat in Venezuela that has been set, financed and actively supported by the Trump administration.”

“As they cannot invent that Venezuela and Maduro have weapons of mass destruction … they now invent lies every day, false news, to justify an aggression against our country,” he continued.

He urged the people of the United States to “not allow another war like Vietnam in Latin America,” warning that if the US intervened militarily, “they will have a much worse Vietnam than you could imagine.”

Speculation that the US is preparing to use military force was sparked Monday by US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s appearance at a press briefing announcing the US oil sanctions carrying a yellow notepad on which the words were written, “5,000 troops to Colombia.”

Colombia, which borders Venezuela, has a right-wing government which constitutes Washington’s closest ally in South America. The only country on the continent designated a “global partner” of NATO, Colombia has provided the US military with virtually unrestricted access to its military bases.

In December of last year, during precisely the same period in which Guaidó was visiting Colombia, Brazil and Washington to coordinate the coming coup, US Navy Admiral Craig Faller, the chief of US Southcom, the Pentagon’s command overseeing operations in Latin America, was also in Bogota for discussions with the country’s president and top military brass.

The threat of a US military intervention has been raised continuously by the Trump administration, with the US president threatening a “military option” for Venezuela in 2017 and then repeatedly raising the possibility with both his military and intelligence chiefs as well as selected Latin American heads of state.

Since the launching of the coup operations with Guaidó’s swearing himself in as “interim president,” Trump and his top aides have repeatedly declared that “all options are on the table,” while threatening unspecified dire consequences should the Venezuela government seek to suppress the coup.

Among the schemes floated by US officials is the opening of a “humanitarian corridor” into Venezuela for the ostensible purpose of sending in food, medicine and medical supplies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last week that the US was appropriating a paltry $20 million for that purpose, but Washington is also attempting to shift all assets and bank accounts that it can lay hold of into the hands of Guaidó.

The patent hypocrisy of Washington’s supposed “humanitarian” concerns is underscored by the absence of any such proposal for a “corridor” for food and medicine into Yemen where at least 14 million people are on the brink of starvation as the result of a US-backed Saudi bombing campaign and blockade of the impoverished Arab country.

The Trump administration’s newly appointed special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, the veteran US war criminal who played a leading role in defending the near-genocidal repression by US-backed dictatorships in Central America and in organizing the illegal CIA “contra” terrorist war against Nicaragua, floated the “humanitarian corridor” proposal Wednesday, declaring that “it is something we are looking at.”

Mauricio Claver-Carone, the right-wing anti-Castro activist elevated to the position of senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council, was somewhat more explicit, telling reporters that Washington was looking for “the best peaceful way” to deliver aid to Venezuela, but was “exploring many options” and would not rule out military intervention to open up a “corridor.”

On Thursday, Guaidó and his supporters unveiled their “Country Plan” for Venezuela which could have been—and in all likelihood was—drafted by the US State Department and the Republican Party. The “interim president” proclaimed that its main emphasis was “No more social control, no more depending on subsidies,” an end to “regulation” and the “lifting of controls that strangle national production.”

The plan listed among its aims “reinserting the country into the concert of free nations of the world,” i.e., restoring the unfettered domination of US imperialism over Venezuela.

It called for “re-establishing the mechanisms of the market and economic freedoms which permit society to organize itself in an autonomous manner to solve its problems,” a formulation that means the unrestricted exploitation of Venezuela by both domestic and foreign capital.

It promises to “promote international investments within a regulatory framework that generates confidence and effective protection of private property.”

It further calls for all state-owned enterprises to be opened up to private investment “especially in the provision of social services” and for attracting “in a significant manner, private national and international capital” to take over PDVSA, the state-owned oil corporation.

Thursday also saw a demonstration of PDVSA workers outside the company’s headquarters in Caracas in opposition to the US oil sanctions. The president of the state-owned company, Manuel Quevedo, an army major general, denounced Washington for its “shameless theft” of PDVSA’s US-based subsidiary Citgo and charged that Guaidó and the right-wing opposition “wants to sell off all of the resources of the Venezuelan people and has offered 50 percent of the oil industry to the United States.”

Quevedo added that in its coup operation in Venezuela, Washington was following “the same script as in Libya.”

US officials have made no secret that control over Venezuelan oil, and its denial to Russia and China, which both have major investments in PDVSA, are the driving force of the coup. In a Fox News interview on Monday, Bolton declared that if Washington’s regime change operation succeeds, “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

Maduro has called for the opening up of “dialogue” with both the right-wing opposition and the Trump administration, while also supporting the call by Mexico and Uruguay for the convening of an international conference to seek a mediated resolution of the Venezuelan crisis. Guaidó, acting on the orders of the State Department, has ruled out any such negotiated settlement.

At the same time, the Venezuelan president has made visits to military bases and sought to shore up his support within the armed forces command. The military top brass has served as the principal pillar of so-called “Bolivarian Socialism,” which combined social welfare measures funded by now dwindling oil revenues with unprecedented profits for finance capital and the fostering of a whole new capitalist ruling layer, the boliburguesia, which enriched itself from government contracts, financial speculation and corruption.

The Maduro government has reportedly reached out to Venezuelan businesses, offering concessions on foreign exchange regulations and import controls that would boost profits. These attempts at winning support have apparently provided little result, as the predominant layers of the capitalist ruling class are banking on regime change.

The government is not able, however, to make any appeal to the Venezuelan working class, which is overwhelmingly opposed to imperialist intervention, but has grown increasingly hostile to the Maduro government, which has imposed the full burden of the country’s deep economic crisis on workers while carrying out repressive measures against strikes and protests.

For his part, Guaidó is viewed with suspicion and contempt by Venezuelan workers, who recognize him as a representative of the old right-wing parties of the country’s ruling oligarchy, which seek to suppress the working class and the oppressed layers of Venezuelan society. Far from “democracy” and “freedom,” these layers promise a bloody dictatorship along the lines established by Pinochet in Chile and Videla in Argetina. Revealingly, the latest rally called Wednesday by Guaidó was in a wealthy district in eastern Caracas and attended by a small crowd composed largely of wealthy reactionaries.

Mass rallies have been called for Saturday in Caracas by both Guaidó and the Maduro government, setting the stage for a potential confrontation.

The Greater Stakes of Legitimizing Venezuela Coup

Former UN Expert: US Sanctions in Venezuela Largely Responsible for Crisis, Possible “Crime Against Humanity”

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News 

January 28, 2019

“What’s at stake is the enormous, enormous natural resources of Venezuela. And I sense that if Venezuela had no natural resources no one would give a damn about Chavez or Maduro or anybody else there.” — Former UN official Alfred de Zayas

In a comprehensive interview with the U.K.-based outlet The Independent, former special UN rapporteur Alfred de Zayas claimed crippling U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela for the past several years are illegal and amount to “economic warfare” against the Bolivarian Republic.

De Zayas also asserted, U.S. sanctions targeting Venezuela could amount to “crimes against humanity” under international law, share much of the responsibility for the current economic crisis in Venezuela, and have resulted in needless deaths of Venezuelans.

De Zayas, who completed his term at the UN less than a year ago, has been critical of the U.S. sanctions regimen — which began in earnest in 2015 when former President Barack Obama declared Venezuela a “national security threat” without evidence. Since then, President Donald Trump has intensified sanctions and has also openly mulled a military intervention in the country, which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

Notably, this is not the first time that de Zayas has spoken up about the dangerous consequences of U.S. sanctions. Last September, de Zayas presented an explosive report he had helped compile to the UN Human Rights Council, showing that “economic warfare,” and sanctions in particular, practiced by the U.S. and its allies have greatly exacerbated Venezuela’s economic crisis. The U.S. had withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council a few months prior to the release of de Zaya’s report, citing the body’s alleged bias against Israel. 

Though de Zayas also blamed the Venezuelan government, led by President Nicolás Maduro, for overdependence on oil, poor governance and corruption, his report called for the International Criminal Court to investigate economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. against Venezuela as a possible crime against humanity per Article 7 of the Rome Statute.

In his report, which de Zayas claims has been largely ignored by the UN since its release, the former UN rapporteur wrote:

“Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns….Twenty-first-century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees.”

De Zayas went on to the tell The Independent that “sanctions kill” and discussed how these measures disproportionately affect the poorest of society and often cause deaths from the resulting shortages in food, medicine and other essential goods. He also told The Independent that these tactics aimed at a country’s most vulnerable civilians were intended to coerce economic chaos and regime change in Venezuela.

Challenging the narrative, only to be ignored

In his interview, de Zayas opened up about why he felt that the UN and much of the international community had ignored his findings despite the fact that he was the first UN official to visit and report from the country in 21 years:

“When I come and I say the emigration [of Venezuelans to other countries] is partly attributable to the economic war waged against Venezuela and is partly attributable to the sanctions, people don’t like to hear that. They just want the simple narrative that socialism failed and it failed the Venezuelan people.”

Indeed, de Zaya’s past report and recent interview are at odds with the narratives commonly promoted by many media outlets and even some prominent NGOs, which lay the entirety of the blame for the country’s economic crisis on the Maduro-led government.

De Zayas, who was also formerly the UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, added:

“When I came back [the UN and media were] not interested. Because I am not singing the song I’m supposed to sing so I don’t exist … And my report, as I said, was formally presented but there has been no debate on the report. It has been filed away.”

He also recounted to The Independent that he had been given the “cold shoulder” by top UN officials, including then-UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, because they “are only interested in a rapporteur who is going to … do grandstanding, is going to condemn the government and ask for regime change. And I went there to listen. I went there to find out what’s actually going on.”

Ultimately, de Zayas — a Cuban-born American citizen — felt that the U.S.’ methods of “persuasion” were largely responsible for the decision of top UN officials to ignore his report. The former UN official noted:

“I’ve seen that happen in the Human Rights Council, how the United States twists arms and convinces countries to vote the way they want them to vote, or there will be economic consequences, and these things are not reflected in the press.”

However, some incidents to this effect have received coverage in recent years.

“No one would give a damn”

De Zayas also pulled no punches went it came to discussing the U.S.’ true motives for waging “economic warfare” and last week’s decision by the Trump administration to recognize the unelected 35-year-old politician of the CIA-linked, U.S.-funded Popular Will party, Juan Guaidó, as the “legitimate” interim president of Venezuela:

“What’s at stake is the enormous, enormous natural resources of Venezuela. And I sense that if Venezuela had no natural resources no one would give a damn about Chavez or Maduro or anybody else there…
“If you crush this government and you bring in a neoliberal government that is going to privatize everything and is going to sell out, a lot of transnational corporations stand to gain enormous profits and the United States is driven by the transnational corporations.”

De Zayas then added:

“The business of the United States is business. And that’s what the United States is interested in. And they can’t [currently] do business with Venezuela.”

Given his nuanced perspective on the crisis in Venezuela, it seems that de Zayas’ recent remarks — much like his past report on the country — will go ignored by the UN and the international media for challenging the “simple narrative” that not only manufactures consent for U.S.-backed regime change in Venezuela but also absolves the U.S. of responsibility for the country’s current crisis.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile. 

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

INSTEX: Finding a Euro Route Around Iran Sanctions

France, Germany, UK Launch a New 'Non-Dollar' Mechanism to Trade with Iran, But Will It Work?

by Patrick Henningsen - 21st Century Wire

January 31, 2019

Money talks, and no one knows this better than the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s how the Trump Administration communicates with its enemies, as well as with its allies – through the application powerful long-range financial instruments. But Europe is moving in for another attempt at breaking Washington’s blockade of Iran.

After ripping up the JCPOA Iran Nuclear Deal in May 2018, the US began constructing a comprehensive global economic blockade designed to starve and break the Iranian economy.

Of course, no one is happier about this than Israel (arguably, the architect of the JCPOA sabotage), along with regional rival Saudi Arabia.

If Washington choking-off Iran wasn’t enough, it has also also vowed to sanction anyone who dared to trade with Iran. In the fall of 2018, Europe tried to bypass this by devising an alternative clearing mechanism for financial transactions for avoiding using the US dollar, called the “Special Purpose Vehicle” (SPV). When the US nixed it, it seemed any chance for an economic lifeline for Iran was off the table.

Still, Europe seems to be determined to try and bypass the ramparts of American economic statecraft.

This week France, Germany and the UK have announced the creation of a new payment system is called INSTEX – short for ‘Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges’, to be based in Paris. This new improved version of the previous ‘SPV’ vehicle, now ready to facilitate “legitimate trade” with Iran by bypassing any US dollar transactions, and with an initial focus on crucial goods like food and medical supplies. Later on, organisers hope to expand its capabilities to cover all goods and services.

In their official joint statement, the working group have indicated that they will seek to expand the number of countries using this new channel.

Corporate Concerns, Fears

In light of this week’s INSTEX announcement, the question now remains whether of not Mnuchin’s sanctions armada will pursue European countries attempting to bust Washington’s unilateral measures. While the INSTEX may provide the framework for a viable work-around, it is still yet to be seen just how many companies will want to risk drawing the gaze of Washington’s financial Eye of Mordor. In other words, a company like Thyssenkrupp could deliver product to Iran via INSTEX, but by doing so they may risk losing their access to the lucrative US market – should Washington decide to punish the German corporation for its insubordination.

No doubt firms will be deploying teams of lobbyists to Washington in search of exemption wavers. This same risk applies to small to medium size enterprises too, although smaller players cannot afford Washington’s pay-to-play lobby game.

Multipolar Weakness

Immediately after the initial Special Purpose Vehicle, or “SPV” idea was floated in Brussels this past fall, the US immediately began threatening to sanction anyone who defied its decree by continuing to trade with Iran. France, Germany and the EU itself, had vowed to bust Trump’s Iran sanctions through the SPV. This is an important concept, because it signals the first deliberate move by major state actors to move away from the US dollar as a world reserve currency.

The reserve currency issue is paramount because it’s one of the fundamental prerequisites in transitioning from a unipolar world order with America in the cat bird seat, to establishing what many analysts and international relations scholars refer to as a ‘multipolar world order’ with power-sharing arrangements among ‘multiple equals.’ Naturally, the US was having none of it, and proceeded to threatened to sanction the international inter-bank financial messaging clearing system known as SWIFT, based in Belgium.

Trump’s éminence grise and master of the coin, the US Treasury Secretary Dept’s resident Little Finger, Steve Mnuchin, then threw down the gauntlet to the Brussels rebellion saying,

“We have advised SWIFT that it must disconnect any Iranian financial institutions that we designate as soon as technologically feasible to avoid sanctions exposure.” 

And that was that. No more SPV for the Europe’s multipolar crusaders.

Will INSTEX meet a similar fate? That depends on whether the European partners have the political will and determination to see this initiative through to the end.

Washington is certain to launch a counter move in order to try and intimidate western corporations from participating in trade with Iran, so onus is really on France, Germany and the UK to prove they have the stones to stand to Trump and be ready to elevate this issue to the UNSC level – and openly challenge the US on principle, and international law, something they have not yet been willing to do, and thus reducing any independent EU actions to remain merely symbolic and ‘good natured’, but never implemented to the point of being effective.

They could start by asking Washington and Tel Aviv to present the evidence that they claim to have and which proves that Iran is in breach of the JCPOA by still pursuing a nuclear weapon.

To date, no such evidence has been produced, other than a bizarre off-Broadway show and Powerpoint presentation delivered by Bibi Netanyahu. Team Europe has to be ready to tell Trump: put up, or shut up, and we’ll see you in court. If they aren’t, then their status as an offshore outpost of the US will persist.

Worse than that, the EU will continue to be a paper tiger in terms of its federalist foreign policy aspirations. If Brussels and its member states are unable to pursue a foreign policy independent of Washington’s, then it will be another nail in the coffin of the European Project.

Patrick Henningsen is an American writer and global affairs analyst and founder of independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire, and is host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR). He has written for a number of international publications and has done extensive on-the-ground reporting in the Middle East including work in Syria and Iraq.

READ MORE IRAN NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Iran Files


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

May Novichok Narrative a Shambles As Government Moves to "Renovate" Skripal Evidence

British Government Demolishes Skripal House, Roof Falls in on Theresa May as Evidence Grows that Sergei Skripal Poisoned Himself by Accident

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

January 17, 2019

Moscow - The British state broadcaster BBC and other media have disclosed that the Salisbury house (lead image) owned by Sergei Skripal is to be partially demolished and rebuilt over the next four months.

A Wiltshire Council notice to residents in the neighbourhood of the Skripal home is the source of the news reports.

The January 4 notice, a media briefing by the Wiltshire Council, and a press release by a spokesman at the Ministry of Defence do not say how much of the house will be reconstructed.

“We are working with the site owner, Wiltshire Council and other partners to ensure that the house will be fully repaired and returned to a fit state to live in,” the anonymous Defence Ministry official was quoted as saying by the Salisbury Journal.

The British Government, London and Wiltshire police, and media reports have claimed that a fast-acting, lethal nerve agent was administered to the handle of the front-door of the Skripal house eleven months ago, on March 4. The alleged attackers have been identified by Prime Minister Theresa May as two Russians. No allegation nor evidence has been reported to date that they or their poison penetrated inside the Skripal residence.

Two senior Wiltshire Council officials, Tracy Daszkiewicz, Director of Public Health and Protection, and Alistair Cunningham, coordinator of the recovery programme, were asked to clarify how much of the Skripal house will be replaced. Replying today through spokesman David Perrett, they said “there are no plans to demolish the property at 47 Christie Miller Road. The roof and garage roof are being removed and replaced.”

Because the front-door handle was the sole identified site of the attack, and decontamination has been under way for eleven months, the two officials were asked to explain their reason for the reconstruction.

“Every decontamination site is different”, Perrett responded.

“Each one has a tailored decontamination plan. As you would expect this site is more complex than others… we are taking a highly precautionary approach and that is why the clean-up work is so extensive and meticulous.
It is vitally important we are thorough on all the sites so that local residents can be fully confident that each one is safe when returned to use.”

Perrett added: “In the more contaminated sites some hard surfaces might be removed.”

Angus Macpherson, the Wiltshire police commissioner, told the press on Monday that Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who entered the Skripal house on the evening of the poison attack and who was hospitalized later for nerve agent exposure, returned to active duty this week. Bailey has told the BBC he has “lost everything” in his house. Commissioner Macpherson, together with Daszkiewicz and Cunningham, were asked to say if the Bailey house is also to be demolished and why. Through Perrett, they answered.

“Sgt Bailey’s house has been fully cleaned. There are no plans to demolish this property.”

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia fell ill in the centre of Salisbury town several hours after leaving their home in the afternoon of March 4. They did not return to the house before they were hospitalized. A BBC reconstruction of their departure and the alleged door-handle attack was published on November 22. The BBC claims the door handle was sprayed with a nerve agent for “a matter of seconds”; and that minutes later Sergei Skripal touched the handle bare-handed, on his way out of the house. In the BBC reconstruction, Yulia Skripal was shown as wearing gloves and as not touching the door-handle.

BBC photographic reconstruction of the Skripal front-door handle 
at the alleged instant of attack. Source: -- min.44:54.

Both Skripals have been released from hospital. Public statements, including one filmed appearance and telephone calls, have been made by Yulia. Sergei has made no statement; no telephonic or photographic evidence of his condition has been published.

The Skripal poisoning case, and Prime Minister May’s charge that Russian government agents were to blame, have triggered international concern and sanctions against the Russian state. According to May’s House of Commons statement on March 14,

“there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.” 

No British prosecution indictment of attempted murder has been presented to a court nor have charges of a criminal conspiracy by the Russians been tested by a British judge.

In September, when decontamination works were under way at the Skripal home, the Guardian reported:

“there has been speculation that the house may be knocked down but it is not believed a final decision has been made on its long-term future.” 

The Wiltshire Council statements this morning suggest the final decision has been made to reconstruct the Skripal house and to “clean” the Bailey house.

In November, during the BBC interview with Bailey, the police detective said that accompanied by at least one, possibly two other police officers, garbed in “full forensic suits” with gloves and face masks, he had inspected the Skripal house late in the evening of March 4. According to Bailey, “the house was in darkness. It just looked normal. There was nothing untoward”. The police trio left the house, took off their forensic gear, “bagged them up”, and returned to the police station.

Left: Wiltshire police stand guard, unprotected, in front 
of poisoned door-handle; Skripal’s study to right of door. 
Right: Sgt Bailey’s police car is examined by investigators.

Bailey subsequently reported to the BBC that “everything the kids owned, we lost all that, the cars, we lost everything.”

There has been no report that the Wiltshire police station where Bailey’s forensic suit, gloves and mask were returned before he went home and then developed symptoms requiring hospitalization, has been demolished as part of the decontamination process. None of the locations where the Skripals spent time before their collapse, including a car park, pub, and restaurant has been demolished. Local authorities have issued bulletins confirming that following expert checks and decontamination procedures, they are safe for public use.

The London hotel, where the alleged Russian poison attackers stayed together before they travelled to Salisbury for their alleged attack, has also been reported by the police and media to have revealed nerve agent traces. “Novichok was found in bedroom”, reported the Telegraph last September.

The newspaper also reported that no part of the 
hotel has been demolished.

According to Perrett of the Wiltshire Council, at the present time “there are only two remaining sites being cleaned, Mr Skripal’s house at Christie Miller Road, Salisbury, and Charlie Rowley’s residence at Muggleton Road, Amesbury.” Rowley survived later exposure, on June 30, to the poison in a bottle which he found abandoned and took home. His partner, Dawn Sturgess, to whom Rowley presented the bottle, died following her exposure.

“All other sites,” said the Wiltshire Council spokesman, “have been cleaned and handed back to their owners.”

The destruction of the main roof of the Skripal house and of the roof above Skripal’s study is the first evidence that the alleged nerve agent has been found in the interior, far beyond the range which the alleged Russian agents’ spray could have penetrated. The demolition plan also covers areas of the interior which Bailey did not reach in his March 4 inspection.

Forensic sources believe this is circumstantial evidence for two new conclusions. The first is that the poison was inside the Skripal house and inside Sergei Skripal’s study before the alleged attack on the door handle. Until and unless the British authorities explain why they are demolishing the roofs and other interior property, which only Sergei Skripal, not Sgt Bailey, could have contaminated on March 4, the sources believe no other inference is probable.

The second conclusion is that it was Skripal who exposed himself to a poison he was handling inside the house. That he did so by accident is likely; the accident theory was first reported here, on March 25, 2018.

The only independent British investigator of the affair, Rob Slane, has announced that he is retiring from the case. Here is his last word.

“Even as I was finishing this piece off, yet another round of nonsense was unleashed; this time, the news that the roof of 47 Christie Miller Road (including the roof of the study) is to be taken off and replaced. Remember, we’re talking about a substance that can be cleansed with baby wipes. Remember, we’re talking about a substance that apparently breaks down after 80 minutes of exposure to the air. But 11 months later, it is again so deadly, that a whole roof needs replacing!
Of course the media is not bothering to ask the obvious questions about this action, such as: How exactly could the roof timbers have become contaminated? Who could have contaminated them? D.S. Bailey? But why would he have been in the attic? Why is the ceiling/roof in Zizzis [restaurant] not being replaced? Why has the roof in The Mill [pub] not been dismantled? What was really in the attic? Obvious questions, yet none of them will be asked.

In conclusion, I think it abundantly clear that what we have been told about what took place on 4th March in the beautiful city of Salisbury is not, in fact, true. It is clear that something else happened, and much of what we have seen since then has been theatre and an attempt to cover up what actually took place.”

What Is Democracy? A New Film by Astra Taylor

What Is Democracy?

by Astra Taylor - Zeitgeist Films

January 31, 2019

Coming at a moment of profound political and social crisis, What Is Democracy? reflects on a word we too often take for granted.

What Is Democracy?

US Release Date: January 16, 2019

Directed by Astra Taylor 

Synopsis: Director Astra Taylor’s idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spans millennia and continents: from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor. Featuring a diverse cast—including celebrated theorists, trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, and former prime ministers—this urgent film connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, in order to provoke and inspire. If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means.

French Foreign Lesson: Macron's Egyptian Protest Repression Primer

French President Macron visits the hangman of Cairo 

by Will Morrow and Alex Lantier - WSWS

30 January 2019

President Emmanuel Macron’s trip to Cairo on Sunday for talks with Egypt’s bloodstained military dictator General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was a barely veiled threat, tacitly endorsed by governments around the world, against the working class.

For eleven weeks, hundreds of thousands of “yellow vest” protesters in France have marched every weekend to demand higher living standards, tax increases for the wealthy, and an end to repression and militarism.

But the financial aristocracy will make no concessions to workers’ social and political demands.

Rather, it is preparing a drastic intensification of repression of social protest amid a universal turn of the capitalist class around the world towards authoritarian forms of rule.

The meaning of Macron’s visit to Sisi is unmistakable. Sisi is infamous for his resort to mass murder to drown in blood revolutionary struggles of the working class that erupted in Egypt in 2011. During the 2013 coup against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, his troops shot thousands in broad daylight on the streets of Egypt’s cities. Since then, more than 60,000 people have been jailed, as the Sisi junta carries out mass show trials of its opponents and resorts to systematic torture, documented by human rights groups, of thousands of political prisoners.

Macron’s claim Sunday night that he is visiting the hangman of Cairo so that he can “speak more openly” about “human rights” is ludicrous. Sisi banned the sale of yellow vests in Egypt last year for fear that mass protests would spread from France to Egypt. Macron’s meeting with Sisi doubtless concentrated on a feverish discussion of repression.

Faced with a parasitic financial oligarchy that cannot and will not make concessions, the working class faces a political struggle that can have one of only two outcomes: revolution or counterrevolution.

In Cairo, Macron made clear France would continue arming Sisi to the teeth against the Egyptian workers. French sales of Rafale fighters and other military hardware to Sisi are to continue despite Macron’s mealymouthed comments on human rights.

“I would differentiate between the two subjects,” he said.
“They are not linked for us and they never were.”

Asked about Amnesty International’s report that French armored vehicles were used in the 2013 repression in Egypt, Macron said France “foresaw they would be used for military purposes.” He claimed that there is “no possible ambiguity” in French weapons sales, that they are intended for the “defense of Egyptian territory against external enemies,” not against the Egyptian people.

Who does Macron think he is kidding? 

French armored vehicles serve to repress the workers not only in Egypt, but also in France—since Macron took the hitherto unprecedented step of deploying armored vehicles against the “yellow vests.”

As Macron escalates repression in France and showers Cairo with weaponry, Sisi can take Macron’s toothless remarks as a green light to use French arms for further crackdowns in Egypt.

The authoritarian regimes and police-state policies of the capitalist class are now facing a challenge from the working class. After over a quarter century of imperialist war in the Middle East since the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and a decade of European Union (EU) austerity after the 2008 crash, the mechanisms used to suppress the class struggle are collapsing.

Jerome Rodrigues - Highly Visible Gilets Jaunes

A global upsurge of the class struggle, of which the 2011 uprising in Egypt was a forerunner, is underway.

The beginning of 2019 has seen a wildcat rebellion by 70,000 autoworkers in Matamoros, Mexico, the largest strike on the North American continent in 20 years, as well as strikes and anti-austerity protests across Europe, and continued mass “yellow vest” demonstrations in France.

On January 14, after nationwide demonstrations in December, a general strike of 700,000 public sector workers in Tunisia brought the country to a standstill, as tens of thousands in Tunis chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime.”

Last week, Sisi met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whose government has arrested hundreds and killed dozens since protests began last month over the rising cost of bread and other basic commodities.

As masses of workers and youth internationally enter into struggle, it is critical to draw the lessons of Macron’s trip to Cairo. Macron’s hailing last year of French fascist dictator Philippe Pétain, or German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s endorsement of neo-Nazi riots in German cities, are not isolated accidents. Faced with a challenge from below, the ruling class will seek to use the most ruthless methods.

[Damn Their Eyes - "Defense Balls" Head Shots (via Frenchly)]


The French ruling elite’s response to the “yellow vest” protests has been to launch mass arrests and repression on a scale unseen in metropolitan France since the Nazi Occupation.

Over 5,000 protesters have been arrested, including more than 1,700 on a single day on December 8.

At least four protesters have had their hands blown off by police stun grenades, another 20 have lost eyes from police bean-bag bullets, and one person has been permanently deafened.

Jerome Rodrigues - May Lose Eyesight

Photos have emerged showing riot police in Paris carrying Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifles loaded with live ammunition, and a furious debate is ongoing in the French ruling class about attempting to implement the repressive policies pioneered by Sisi in Egypt against the “yellow vests.”

On January 7, Luc Ferry, a former education minister and self-proclaimed “philosopher,” lashed out on radio against the “yellow vests,” demanding that the military fire live ammunition at them:

“We have the fourth largest army in the world, and it is able to put an end to these c—ts,” he said.
“These kinds of thugs … from the extreme right, the extreme left and from the housing estates that come to hit the police—enough!”

This statement sums up the sentiments prevailing not just in the ruling classes of France, but of the whole world, who see the turn to dictatorship and repression as the only means to prop up the increasingly hated capitalist system.

The most basic needs of the working class today, including the defense of the most fundamental democratic rights, cannot be met outside of a frontal assault on the fortunes and prerogatives of the capitalist class—a struggle of the international working class for the expropriation of the ruling class and the building of socialism.