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Hier — 27 octobre 2020American Herald Tribune

American Militarism Marches On: No Discussion or Media Coverage of Washington’s War Against the World

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Nearly everyone has heard the comment attributed for former Clinton consigliere Rahm Emanuel that one should never let a good crisis go to waste. The implication of the comment is that if there is a major crisis going on the cover it provides permits one to do all sorts of things under the radar that would otherwise be unacceptable. That aphorism is particularly true in the current context as there are multiple crises taking place simultaneously, all of which are being exploited to various degrees by interested parties.

One of the more interesting stories carefully hidden by the smoke being generate by civil unrest, plague and personal scandals is the continued march of American militarism. The story is particularly compelling as neither main party candidate is bothering to talk about it and there is no discussion of foreign policy even planned for the final presidential debate. Last week eccentric multi billionaire Elon Musk announced that he and the Pentagon are developing a new 7,500 m.p.h. missile capable of delivering 80 tons of military cargo nearly anywhere in the world in under an hour. It would undoubtedly be a major advanced capability catering to those military planners who envision continued U.S. intervention worldwide for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, agreement on a new START treaty that would limit the proliferation of some hypersonic weapon systems is stalled because the White House wants to include China in any deal. Beijing is not interested, particularly as Donald Trump is also claiming that Beijing will pay for the multi-trillion dollar stimulus packages that the United States will ultimately require to combat the coronavirus “… because this was not caused by our workers and our people, this was caused by China and China will pay us back in one form or another. We’re gonna take it from China. I tell you now, it’s coming out of China. They’re the ones that caused this problem.”

Indeed, China and Russia continue to be the boogeymen trotted out regularly to scare Americans. Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s State Department issued a statement warning that “some foreign governments, such as those of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation, seek to exert influence over U.S. foreign policy through lobbyists, external experts, and think tanks.” Why the statement was issued at this time, so close to elections is unclear, though it is possibly an attempt to line up possible scapegoats if the electoral process does not produce results acceptable to whomever loses. In fact, Russia and China hardly find a place on the list of those who fund lobbyists and think tanks.

Also of interest is another story about how Washington has chosen to interact with the world, one involving both enemy du jour Iran and Venezuela. Readers will undoubtedly recall how the United States seized in international waters four Greek owned but Liberian flagged tankers loaded with gasoline that were bound for Venezuela. The tankers were transporting more than a million gallons of fuel to economic basket case Venezuela, a country which is in its sad condition due to sanctions and other “maximum pressure” imposed by Washington, which has also sanctioned Venezuela’s own oil industry. The fuel was seized based on unilaterally imposed U.S. sanctions on Iranian sale or export of its own petroleum products, a move intended to strangle the Iranian economy and bring about an uprising of the Iranian people. As the sanctions imposed by Washington are not supported by the United Nations or by any other legal authority, the seizure is little more than exercise of a bit of force majeure that used to be called piracy.

Even though foreign and national security policy has not really been discussed in either the Biden or Trump campaign, there is general agreement in both parties that Venezuela is a rogue regime that must be replaced while Iran is an actual, tangible threat due to its alleged misbehavior in the Middle East. It has been dubbed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the “number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world.” Saner voices have observed that neither Venezuela nor Iran threaten the United States in any way and that the U.S. and Israel continue to kill many more civilians than Iran ever has, but they have been drowned out by the media talking heads who constantly spout the established narrative.

Well, the alleged Iranian fuel has arrived in New Jersey and a legal battle for custody of it has begun.  The fuel had been removed from the Greek tankers and transferred to other tankers for removal to the United States but the complication is that the Trump administration must now prove its case for forfeiture before the oil can be sold. The U.S. justification for seizing the cargoes is the claim that the fuel was an asset of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the Treasury, Justice and State Departments have conveniently designated a foreign terrorist organization. But that contention is disputed by the cargoes’ owners, who claim to have nothing to do with the IRGC. They include other energy exporters and shippers in the Middle East, namely Mobin International Limited, Oman Fuel Trading Ltd and Sohar Fuel Trading LLC FZ. They have filed a motion for dismissal and are seeking return of the fuel plus additional compensation for the losses they have suffered. One has to hope they win as it is the United States that is in the wrong in this case.

The entire saga of the tankers and the fuel is symptomatic of the undeclared economic warfare that the United States now prefers to use when dealing with adversaries. And there is considerable evidence to suggest that Washington is trying to goad Iran into responding with force, providing the U.S. government with a plausible rationale for responding in kind. President Trump has directly threatened Iran in an October 9th public statement in which he promised the Iranians that “If you fuck around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are gonna do things to you that have never been done before.”

So, Washington’s aggression directed against much of the world continues with a national election less than two weeks away but no one is talking about it. That would seem odd in and of itself, but the sad part is that it is deliberate collusion on the part of government and media to make sure the voting public remains unaware the extent to which the United States has in reality become a pariah, a full-time bully in its foreign relations.

*(Top image: President Donald J. Trump salutes Marine One from the Blue Room Balcony of the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, following his return from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Credit: Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

*This article was originally published on the Strategic Culture.

À partir d’avant-hierAmerican Herald Tribune

Iran Seeks to Confuse the United States?

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Those who have been waiting for the elusive October Surprise that will upset the apple cart on election day are admittedly running out of time. The media’s unwillingness to even consider that the antics of Hunter Biden just might constitute an embarrassment of major proportions or even something worse has done much to kill that story. And the old tried and true expedient of starting a little war somewhere is also proving to be a false hope as no one appears ready to provoke the righteously wrathful Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by ponying up a casus belli. Maybe there is still time for a false flag operation, but even that would require more prior planning than the White House appears capable of.

There is, however, one area that might just be exploitable to create a crisis, though it much depends on whether a tired public is willing to go one more round over the issue of “foreign election interference.” And yes, the Russians are presumed to be involved, on this occasion, as they always are, joined by the ever-vengeful Iranians.

On Wednesday Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe held a news conference at which he laid out details of the most recent dastardly plot against American democracy. He described how Iran and Russia both obtained American voter registration data, apparently through publicly accessible databases and through purchases of email lists. Though no actual votes have been altered, they are using that information “to influence the presidential election as it enters its final two weeks.” Ratcliffe elaborated how “This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine…confidence in American democracy.”

Ratcliffe focused mostly on Iran, saying that it had been identified as the source of what he described as a claimed 1,500 “spoofed emails” routed through Estonia that “seek to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump.” Iran was also blamed for other material, to include a video encouraging the casting of illegal ballots both domestically and overseas. Additional intelligence suggests that Iran is planning to take more steps to influence the election in the coming days, though what those measures could possibly be was not revealed.

Other government sources elaborated, indicating that Iranian intelligence has been credited with the sending of the email messages going out to Democratic voters in four states, including hotly disputed Pennsylvania and Florida. The emails falsely claimed to be from the alleged far-right group Proud Boys which has been much in the news.  Their message was that “we will come after you” if the recipients fail to vote for Donald Trump.

It doesn’t take much to realize that threatening messages relating to voting for Trump allegedly coming from a source described as “racist” would undoubtedly motivate most registered Democratic voters to do the opposite, but that seems to have escaped the analysts of the Directorate of National Intelligence. And one must also ask why Tehran would want the re-election of a president who has been unremittingly hostile, including imposing crippling sanctions, withdrawing from a beneficial nuclear agreement, and assassinating a leading Revolutionary Guards general. Even U.S. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer appears to have figured that one out, saying “It was clear to me that the intent of Iran in this case and Russia in many more cases is to basically undermine confidence in our elections. This action I do not believe was aimed... at discrediting President Trump.”

The anti-Trump New York Times has, of course, another, more sinister interpretation, suggesting that “…it may also play into President Trump’s hands. For weeks, he has argued, without evidence, that the vote on Nov. 3 will be ‘rigged,’ that mail-in ballots will lead to widespread fraud and that the only way he can be defeated is if his opponents cheat. Now, on the eve of the final debate, he has evidence of foreign influence campaigns designed to hurt his re-election chances, even if they did not affect the voting infrastructure.”

The Times also notes a broader conspiracy by the dreadful Persians, explaining how “Iran has tinkered at the edges of American election interference since 2012, but always as a minor actor. Last year, it stepped up its game, private cybersecurity firms have warned. They have caught Iranian operatives occasionally impersonating politicians and journalists around the world, often to spread narratives that are aimed at denigrating Israel or Saudi Arabia, its two major adversaries in the Middle East.” Again, however, the article provides no explanation of what Iran could possibly hope to gain from the minimal “tinkering” it might be able to engage in an American election in which billions of dollars will be spent by Democrats and Republicans who are viciously attacking each other without any outside help.

Ratcliffe had less to say about Russia but U.S. media coverage of the story included a referral to a recent account of how the U.S. military’s Cyber Command helped take down a network developed by Russian hackers called TrickBot that had been used in ransomware attacks directed against companies as well as cities and towns across the United States. It also reported how “In recent days, another Russian hacking group called Energetic Bear, often linked to the F.S.B. — one of the successors to the Soviet Union’s K.G.B. — appears to have focused its attention on gaining access to state and local government networks. That has caught the attention of federal investigators because, until now, the group had largely targeted energy firms, including public utilities.”

There was, however, no evidence that either hacking group was being directed against voter systems, so Russia’s inclusion in the front-page Times story headlined “Iran and Russia Seek to Influence Election in Final Days, U.S. Officials Warn” has to be considered questionable editorial judgment. Perhaps scaremongering would be a better description. In any event, the story itself is much ado about nothing. Iran’s sending out 1,500 emails if that actually occurred, would have zero impact. Likewise, the claimed existence of alleged Russian hacking groups that have done nothing directed against voters or balloting systems with only a few days left until the election would appear to be an electoral tactic rather than exposure of any genuine threat. One might even describe it as a bit of deliberate disinformation.

*(Top image: Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe. Credit: The Hill/ YouTube)

Greasing the Way for Political Change in Libya

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Oil Pact.  On September 18, 2020, Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar and Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Libya Ahmed Maiteeq agreed to establish a joint committee controlling the fair distribution of oil export revenues. The accord greatly benefits both sides, particularly the Libyan people living in the conflict zone. Oil is the only source of income in Libya that allows the remnants of Muammar Gaddafi's social system to function.

As soon as the agreement's ink was dry, Libya's oil monopolist, the state-owned National Oil Company (NOC), lifted the emergency oil freeze at the production fields and ports.  Then, in just a week's time, Libya's oil production nearly doubled.  According to Bloomberg News, Libya then pumped 500,000 barrels of oil a day, up from the previous week's 300,000 barrels a day as the International Energy Agency noted.  Most Libyan oil fields and ports had been closed since January because of military operations. Before the internal strife got out of hand,  Libya had exported about 1.2 million barrels per day.  (Domestic consumption is slightly more than 220,000 barrels a day.)

Straws in the Wind, or Real Change?  Increased oil production indicates that the country's petroleum business doesn't fear destabilizing, renewed hostilities. Moreover, the resumption of oil pumping and export shows some success in internal politics.  Prior to the September oil agreement, in August 2020, the parties to the Libyan conflict declared a truce. For two months now, there have been no active combat operations in Libya. But how sustainable can a truce be?

First, as noted, oil production is advancing by leaps and bounds, one sign of increased steadiness.

Although a number of Maiteeq's fellow members in the Government of National Accord of Libya criticized the oil deal, and some (such as Khaled al-Mishri, head of Libya's Supreme State Council) reportedly even tried to prevent the agreement from being signed, no one could stop its implementation.

Most likely, the reason for the disagreement within the GNA over the Maiteeq-Haftar deal is an internal struggle. Previously, the current GNA Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj announced his desire to resign by early November. The question then arises, who will replace him? Ahmed Maiteeq made a bid for leadership with his agreement with Haftar.

Another possible sign of change within the Government of National Accord may be the release of foreign hostages held by the GNA.

Sheikh Faraj Balq, coordinator of Libyan tribes and cities in the western region, said recently that "the mother of war in Libya is taking place today because the Government of National Accord in Tripoli continues to detain many foreign citizens in its prisons”. In particular, he mentioned two Russian sociologists, Maxim Shugaley and Samer Sweifan, arrested by the GNA forces in May 2019.  They have yet to be released.

According to the coordinator of tribes and cities of western Libya, it was the arrest of these two sociologists that led to the "Russian presence" in Libya on Khalifa Haftar's side.

If the Russians are released, it will be a clear signal that the GNA is seeking peace, and hopes to reset relations with Moscow.  Additionally, another sign would be that Turkey, supporting the GNA, negotiates with Moscow on Libya, rather than continue the conflict.

Leadership Change?  Ahmed Maiteeq is a symbol of possible alterations in the Government of National Accord.

A successful politician, he is associated with Libyan business, having studied in the UK.  He is considered a pragmatist, not a religious fanatic. Unlike al-Mishri, he is not directly associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Unlike another aspirant for leadership within the GNA, Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, he cannot be accused of torture or collaborating with militia gangs and armed Islamists.

Maiteeq has also adeptly positioned his foreign policy.  Perhaps not a chameleon, nevertheless, he is warmly welcomed in Washington, DC, European capitals, Ankara, and Moscow. This makes him a unique politician for Libya, capable of fruitful negotiations with all the countries  having an interest in Libya.

The oil deal with Haftar for Maiteeq shows he can conduct effective diplomacy and, when necessary, compromise for the sake of the country's interests, even with the GNA's worst enemy. The mere fact that the agreement is being implemented also speaks for Maiteeq's ability to achieve something that others could not.

For an effective, long-lasing political settlement, Libya needs leaders such as Maiteeq - ones who are flexible, pragmatic and effective. If we see Ahmed Maiteeq ascending to key positions in the new leadership of the GNA, it means that the GNA has embarked on a reconciliation course.

Certainly, with all the disparate groups in play, reconciliation is needed.

You Can't Tell the Players, Even With a Scorecard.  The GNA, with Islamist groups supporting it, has been battling the LNA and its government in Tobruk, supported by the Libyan parliament, the House of Representatives. Complicating matters, Libya’s eastern-based government aligned with warlord Khalifa Haftar resigned September 13 amid rising protests in a number of cities over deteriorating living conditions and corruption, the Tobruk-based parliament announced on its website.

Tripoli is supported by the Islamist regimes of Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt, which is hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, as are Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, had all taken Tobruk's side.  As had France.

Now, negotiations between the warring parties in Libya are taking place in Morocco and Switzerland. Since August, a truce has been in effect, announced by Fayez Sarraj and Speaker of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh.

Under peaceful conditions, various groups and political forces that had previously united against Haftar have become rivals. The main thing that united them was the presence of a strong and dangerous enemy. But, with sweeping changes, things may become different.  It is quite possible that the GNA could change more greatly than it did during the war, thanks to Maiteeq's peace initiatives.

What Was Up Is Now Down?  Moscow's and Ankara's agreements may create a basis for sustainable peace in Libya, but it is clear that the US will then be pushed to the periphery of the political process, as it has been done in Syria.

On the other hand, the aggravation of the conflict has allowed the Russians and Turks to take key positions in Libya, while the peace negotiations gives other actors, including Washington, a chance to defend their interests through diplomatic means.

But what's really important is that the long-suffering people of Libya, where the civil war has been going on for almost 10 years, are interested in peace.

The Communist Party of China: Putting the People First

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Among other items “proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,” the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “… human beings shall enjoy freedom … from want.”

The UDHR preamble goes on to state that “fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person … have [been] determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”

Article 25(1) outlines what each human should rightfully be availed of:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Accordingly, anyone lacking the rights listed in article 25(1) would be construed in some level of poverty.

Fortunately, the UN has committed itself to Ending Poverty, and it claims that it has made strides in that direction since 2000. However, Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, threw a monkey wrench into the narrative that extreme poverty is nearing eradication based on the World Bank’s measure of extreme poverty. His report finds that more accurate measures indicate only a slight decrease in the fight against poverty in the past thirty years.

The current UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, in his September 2020 report pointed to challenges in dealing with poverty such as the COVID-19 pandemic and “how climate change will have devastating consequences for people in poverty.”

In the capitalist United States, 2019 statistics revealed that 10.5 percent of Americans live in poverty, a drop of 1.3 percent from 2018 — the lowest published rate since such estimates began in 1959.

Currently, the poverty situation is exacerbated by COVID-19 along with the fact that there are about 26 million Americans without health coverage (2019 figures).

Capitalist Canada, which has universal medical care, also continues to struggle with poverty. This is apparent from the proliferation of tent cities — indicative of homelessness. Sadly, this poverty is not always greeted with compassion for the downtrodden.

Regardless of a plethora of western-based billionaires and several western companies listed in the Fortune 500, there is a moral argument to be made that a society that permits the poor to sink in a sea of plenty is, to put it mildly, an unfulfilled society.

Imagine instead a place where everyone has a home, water and ample nutritious food, adequate clothing, and no one needs to fear becoming injured or ill and not receiving medical care. If a nation were to achieve becoming a compassionate society where the basic needs of all are met, should it not be shouted from rooftops across the globe? Shouldn’t other countries be exploring how they could achieve such human rights for all its citizens?

However, there is no need to merely imagine because there is such a place soon to be free of poverty. But the rooftops elsewhere are largely silent. Why? Because such a monumental feat is not being feted by the capitalist countries of the world. In fact, the self-proclaimed leader of the so-called Free World (albeit not free of poverty) has made the eradicator of poverty the enemy du jour.

In the US, the descriptor “Communist” is used as a pejorative by president Donald Trump and his officials.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said, “We gave the Chinese Communist Party and the regime itself special economic treatment, only to see the CCP insist on silence over its human rights abuses as the price of admission for Western companies entering China.”

The self-admitted liar, cheater, and thief Pompeo alleges the contradiction that the CCP could be simultaneously pulling people out of poverty and committing human rights abuses. Why should anyone believe him?

Since the 1980s, the Communist Party of China had lifted over 700 million people out of poverty. Now, China is nearing its goal to eliminate absolute poverty in 2020. Chairman Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the CCP Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has not wavered in ridding the country of poverty despite the imposition of COVID-19.

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Xi has been feted by Chinese media for his visits and concern for poor villagers.

Poverty alleviation was a priority in his roughly 80 domestic inspections over the past eight years. These trips took him to some of the country’s most remote and impoverished areas.

He once cited an old Chinese adage: “Great leaders of nations treat their people like a father loves his son and an elder brother loves his younger sibling. They will be saddened to hear of their people’s hardship or toil.”

Xi’s personal history is one of having endured years of poverty, having spent much of his youth living with rural peasants. This experience contributed to Xi’s focus on poverty elimination.

Xi knows well that poverty is incompatible with socialism. Accordingly, the CCP has identified the factors causing poverty in various areas and devised for each case a custom poverty relief plan. The plans are then followed up on to ensure effective outcomes.

In Chinese history, the Mandate of Heaven justifies the ruler. The people are above the king whose rule is based upon the support of the people. To continue to rule, the king must ensure that the people are protected and provided for. This was reflected in Xi’s statement, “Poverty alleviation must have genuine effects that can win the approval of the people and stand the test of practice and history.”

Poverty is not just being fought on the Chinese homefront, China is also involved in the global anti-poverty fight, helping developing countries grow their economies and improve their people’s livelihoods. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has helped develop the economy of countries, creating employment and enhancing people’s lives.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce reports that “Chinese companies’ non-financial direct investment in 54 countries along the Belt and Road grew by over 33 percent to reach 72.18 billion yuan in the first seven months of 2020.”

The World Bank estimates that worldwide the Belt and Road initiative could help lift about 7.6 million people from extreme poverty and 32 million from moderate poverty.

The Leading Nation

Although China is already the world’s biggest economy, it is the eradication of poverty that places China at the forefront of global nations. Leaders in other countries would do well to learn what is applicable from the Chinese experience and provide for the needs of the populace. As their nations are signatories to the UDHR, they have committed themselves to this undertaking.

Many challenges still face China and the CCP. As the ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

China sees the elimination of poverty as a necessary step in becoming a moderately prosperous society in all facets.

*(Top image: Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations via video on Sept. 21, 2020. Credit: Xinhua/Ju Peng)

American Media Stated that a High-Level American Official Visited the Syrian Capital, Damascus, and Met with Government Officials

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This visit is the first of its kind for an American official meeting with officials in the Syrian government since the outbreak of the crisis 9 years ago. Citing officials from Donald Trump’s administration, the US official is "Kash Patel", a deputy assistant to Trump and the top White House counterterrorism official.

"Patel" has visited Damascus early this year and discussed with Syrian officials the file of American citizens who disappeared in Syria during the war, and the possibility of searching for them, especially the independent American journalist "Austin Tice" and the American therapist, "Majd Kamalmaz."

"Tice" went missing in 2012 while he was in "Daraya" area, Damascus countryside after the armed factions took control over it. No information has been received about him except for a video clip published by his kidnappers, who appear to be takfiri factions, while "Kamalmaz" disappeared in 2017 in the vicinity of Damascus and has not been heard from since.

The US administration officials have not met government officials in Syria since the outbreak of the Syrian war, as the US administration in 2012 under “Obama” has cut off all relations with Damascus, while “Trump” administration continued to antagonize the Syrian government and imposed severe sanctions against it, most notably the Caesar Act. However, the file of disappeared Americans in Syria remained present as a factor pushing the US administration to communicate, even secretly, with Syrian government officials.‌‌

*(Top image: Kash Patel. Credit: CBS News)

Behind the Masquerade

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Since the beginning of this year - of infernal subterfuge and chaotic transformation of civilised society - one of the few ways to assess the truth of what is happening, what is being done and by whom, is in a resort to “science”. While science in its broader sense merely means “knowledge”, I’m restricting my assessment to strictly scientific matters where there is only one truth.

I have long believed in such a scientific principle, that despite varying and opposing views on a certain matter, there can only be one single objective truth; black cannot be white, even though it may be subjectively perceived as it. We do not live in a “post-truth world”- at least where physical, chemical and biological sciences are concerned.

While all “scientists” should subscribe to this principle, and must do so if scientific truth is to have any meaning at all, it is self-evident that a range of interpretations can be applied to a single issue. Statistics is notorious for such variations, despite its ability to draw definitive conclusions from a mass of data. The conclusion that something is “beyond reasonable doubt” is hard to argue with, though some unreasonable people will always maintain that the 0.1% of doubt remaining cannot be dismissed. Media somehow also have a habit of focusing excessively on these exceptions that prove the rule, magnifying them out of all proportion in the minds of their audiences.

One could cite many cases of this phenomenon in the general presentation of the Coronavirus epidemic, but one stands out – the claim that catching the virus does not make you immune to catching it again. For months this claim was based on the reporting of one person who had allegedly caught it twice, but just recently I heard it said that there were five cases of apparent re-infection recorded. Out of 35 million cases around the world, that equates to a chance of one in seven million of suffering re-infection.

This may seem like an idiotic abstraction, but its seriousness is in the way it has worked to twist the whole narrative about the development of natural immunity following infection with Sars-CoV-2. In any discussion about immunity to the virus, doubts are raised about whether such immunity is actually created by infection, based entirely on these alleged cases of re-infection. Scientifically there is little reason to suppose that this virus would not produce an immune response, and that consequently a vaccine would not work. The clinical effects of the immune over-reaction or cytokine storm are all too well documented.

The issue is not straightforward however, even if an incredible amount is known about the mechanisms of immunity and the genetics and properties of the virus. Similarly it may be difficult to prove the case on infection-fatality rates when comparing the novel Coronavirus with other respiratory illnesses, and when assessing the seriousness of the current “second wave” in Europe, which is quite evidently far less lethal than the initial epidemic. 

So while the political manipulation of statistics on infections and deaths leads the way in spreading fear and false narratives about the danger of the SARS-2 virus, prosecuting a clear scientific case on the true situation facing us is not straightforward. Better to do so on an issue where the science is straightforward and clear-cut, and where governments’ dishonesty and misrepresentation of that science can be exposed as a pointer to its overall credibility and possible hidden agendas. And it is the issue of masking that defines this scientific credibility gap as clearly as any.

Simply put, the pure science on masks is clear cut, putting them on the front line in the Coronavirus disinformation war. That the cartoon heading this article was pulled from the relatively liberal Melbourne Age illustrates how this issue has created new fault lines that cut across the normal political divide. This is also evident in the way that masking is now being put at the forefront of “messaging” about controlling the virus in countries around the world, and none more so than here in Victoria, Australia.

As noted before, Australia has functioned as something of a test case for the Coronavirus epidemic, taking measures to control and prevent its spread way beyond the apparent necessity. Those measures bore fruit in the recent budget, which forecast a breathtaking $1.2 Trillion of debt and a deficit of several hundred billions. It is an indication of the extraordinary times we live in that the announcement of this economic apocalypse barely caused a ripple on share markets, nor induced the expected apoplexy amongst economists.

The Coronavirus epidemic is pretty well over here, as Melbourne’s “second wave” that led the world slowly peters out. It seems especially perverse that just at this point we should be told (in Victoria) we must wear masks, and no longer – from this week – just any old mask, scarf or bandanna. Those who won’t or can’t will be fined, or will be victims of vigilante actions from indignant members of the public, who believe that their three months of penitence will be squandered by the “selfish and stupid” actions of the “law breakers”. We must do this because otherwise the Virus will come back, and all our sacrifices will be for nothing.

As we see the introduction of mandatory mask wearing in countries around Europe now purportedly suffering “second waves” like Victoria, and the public’s acceptance of it, it becomes harder than ever to persuade people that this is all a masquerade. The recent declaration from the head of the US CDC that masks may be even more effective than vaccines in controlling the Virus is so extreme and such complete nonsense that it should have broken the spell. Instead most media have picked on Donald Trump’s antics as further confirmation that his disdain for masks was why he caught the virus.

But the science is clear – masks don’t work, because they can’t; if you can breathe through a mask then virus particles can pass through it too. Amongst the many “Emperor’s New Clothes” events of recent years this must be the most extravagant, as in some strange act of mass global hypnosis leaders and people around the world mandate and adopt mask-wearing in an imaginary fight against the virus.

People who were only recently railing against the veil and the niqab for denying the rights of women, or rallying under the banner of “I can’t breathe” for Black Lives Matter, now voluntarily muzzle and asphyxiate themselves in the name of “law-abiding citizens”, and turn on dissenters as if they were the plague.

It seems almost too late to change now; the science has been rendered meaningless in the face of false belief and fear, sentiments beautifully encapsulated by Michael Leunig in several cartoons illustrating his disdain for masks and the effect they have on social relations. That his acute social commentary on such an apparently apolitical matter has drawn abuse and censorship simply confirms the message, and the belief that “masking” is a political tool unrelated to infection control.

The science of respiratory protection was brilliantly explained recently by two American Occupational Health and Safety specialists, interviewed by an independent TV host Del Bigtree after a short video the women posted on social media went viral. They have become concerned at the increasing recommendation and mandating of masks not simply because they see them as ineffective against airborne viruses, but because wearing masks is actually a health hazard.

Even lightweight masks restrict your breathing, causing a rapid build-up of carbon dioxide and reduction of oxygen in the air under the mask, which leads to headaches, tiredness and other serious effects, particularly if worn for longer periods. These effects are well known and included in advice for workers using masks against dust and allergens, but are equally applicable to healthcare workers’ protection against infective organisms.

Compounding the danger, masks not only fail to protect the wearer or those around from airborne virus, but also reduce their resistance to infection. Should you be in an environment where virus particles are actually present in the air, conditions inside the mask will increase your susceptibility to infection.

Given the simple science on the physics of mask materials, and their demonstrable inability to stop virus particles and droplets from being breathed in or out by the wearer, we must ask why scientific and health advisors have recommended their use, and why occupational health and safety specialists have not questioned this potentially damaging recommendation. As I have observed before, some experts actually have done so - none more so than Raina Macintyre, who studied the efficacy of surgical masks amongst health workers during the flu season in Beijing and found them of no use whatsoever in preventing infection. It is astonishing that Macintyre seems to have forgotten this research and now helps to promote mask wearing by both public and health-care workers.

But Macintyre’s change of heart echoes that of the WHO, which now seems to recommend mask wearing by the public – as described by its new “special envoy” David Nabarro in a recent interview. Earlier in the year the WHO was less equivocal, and advised against the wearing of masks by the public:

 “In guidance issued on 6 April,5 WHO said that medical masks should be reserved for health workers. Most spread of the covid-19 virus is from known cases and requires contact with droplets from a cough or sneeze or infected surfaces. It said that “there is currently no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting, including universal community masking, can prevent them from infection with respiratory viruses, including covid-19.” Wearing masks in the community can also give people a false sense of security, it said, and lead to them neglecting other measures, such as hand hygiene and physical distancing.”

What the WHO failed to say, then and now, is that wearing masks makes normal friendly human relations impossible, and should be adopted only in the most extreme of situations - and where masks actually work, such as in a bushfire to prevent inhalation of burning particles. The science of behavioural psychology may not be as precise or certain as simple physics, but we should hardly dismiss this vital aspect of mandatory masking. While the effects of COVID19 infection are limited and mostly minimal for children, the psychological effects of growing up in a world without “face to face” contact may be devastating and long lasting.   Just ask the specialists from “SPI-B” who advised the UK government on how to use the “fear factor” to encourage public compliance.

But for a less scientific and more human look at the psychology of health and immunity, advice from the holistic health centre associated with the Marseilles Infection unit of Prof Raoult inspires us to realise we can fight this masquerade, without masks and without fear. (Sadly just in French)

Palestine and the Other Philby

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*This reading of history is substantially but not wholly based on Elizabeth Monroe’s book (London:  Quartet Books, 1973). With the exception of Kim Philby’s references to his wife, his father, and his once best friend, Nicholas  Elliott, all the quoted material is taken from the book. 

The young generation may never have heard of Kim Philby, so a few words by way of introduction are necessary.  Philby was at Cambridge University in 1934 when he was recruited as a Soviet agent. He went to Spain to report the civil war before being recruited by M16 in 1940, rising to senior positions,  including control of the Soviet desk, even as he handed Britain’s secrets to his Soviet controller. By 1949 he was head of intelligence at the British embassy in Washington, which,  through his close friendship with James Jesus Angleton, the head of the CIA’s special operations section,  gave him insights into American secrets as well, and perhaps the secrets themselves.

In 1951, Guy Burgess and Donald McLean, both friends of Philby and his colleagues in the British intelligence community in the US,  and both Soviet agents,  defected.  Philby also came under suspicion and was compelled to resign, before being cleared of any wrongdoing by Prime Minister Harold MacMillan in 1955. 

In 1956 Philby moved to Beirut as a correspondent for the London Observer. A Soviet defector having pointed the finger at him again,  MI6 sent another old friend and colleague,  Nicholas Elliott, to Lebanon in 1963 to question him.  They had one meeting, during which Philby verbally confessed but refused to put anything down in writing.  Before their planned second meeting,  Philby made his way at night to the docks where a Soviet freighter took him to Odessa.  Honored by the Soviet government,  he lived in  Moscow until his death in 1988.

Philby is ranked as the most successful of all cold war agents.  The information he passed on led to the death of hundreds of people,  including armed men sent into Albania to overthrow the Stalinist government of Enver Hoxha and a defector who tipped off the British consulate in Istanbul.  Soviet agents got to him and once back in Moscow, he and his family disappeared forever.  

Philby expressed no regret for any of this, on the basis that these victims of the spy game knew, like him, what they were letting themselves in for.  He even provided information to the Soviet Union on his wife Aileen (“bourgeois and philistine”),  his old friend Nicholas Elliott (“ugly and rather pig-like”) and even on his father, Harold St John Philby, which is where the central point of this article begins.

If Philby made his way into the intelligence community and then journalism with such ease it was because he was ‘one of us,’ the privileged elite which ran Britain. His father was also ‘one of us,’ even if generally out of tune with what his government was doing.  Whereas Kim concealed who he really was, Harold spoke openly,  critically and often angrily,  irrespective of the effect on his listeners.  He would never have been a good choice for the intelligence community, but he did serve the government after 1918, holding down numerous positions in Iraq,  Transjordan (as it then was) and Saudi Arabia.

If he irritated senior figures wherever he went he was always respected for his knowledge, his explorations and his close and useful personal connection with the Saudi monarch,  Abd al Aziz ibn Saud.   

Even when serving the government Philby used his spare time to explore Arabia.  He crossed the fearsome desert expanse known as the ‘empty quarter (ruba’ al khali), he looked for (and found) evidence of ancient cities and culture.  He also amassed collections of rare specimens of butterflies and birdlife, many ending up in British museums.

Privately, Philby ran two families, one in England and one in Riyadh.  At the age of  60, having become a Muslim,  he accepted the ‘gift’  of a girl of 16 from the Saudi king and went on to have several children with her.  He was still running his other home and wife, Dora, in England,   seeing her only when he visited or she visited him.  As illegal and as abhorrent as it would be in England for a man of Philby’s age to take as a wife a girl of 16,  it was probably unremarkable in Saudi culture.

His Cambridge background, his butterfly and bird collecting and his life-long love of cricket established Philby as a conventional upper-middle-class Englishman but there was this other maverick side, often intemperate and deeply critical of imperialism,  in particular Britain’s policies in the Middle East,  establishing him as another kind of conventional Englishman, strongly individual and eccentric by the standards of others.  The two sides lived somewhat awkwardly with each other throughout his life. 

Philby was immediately hostile to the post-1918 mandates system,  which he regarded as a “fig leaf” for French and British imperialism.  In Iraq and Syria, it was clear to him that both Britain and France had betrayed their promises of national governments to be established on the basis of the free choice of the indigenous people.  The exception in this stream of thinking was Palestine.

Charged with going to the Hijaz to smooth over differences with the Sharif Husain of Mecca - now self-proclaimed king of the Hijaz as well -  over British policy on Palestine and the rising power of  Abdul Aziz ibn Saud,  Philby got somewhere on the first issue,  Husain seeming to understand “that the British wished to settle some Jews in Palestine,” but he was immovable on the second.   Abdul Aziz ibn Saud was preparing to pounce on the Hijaz,  driving Husain and his family into exile,  and forbade Philby from making a side trip to the Saudi kingdom in Najd (central Arabia) before returning to Cairo.

On Palestine Philby was inconsistent. If the Iraqi and Syrian people were to be given the right to their own government through the free choice of their people,  why not the people of Palestine? From official quarters the answer was clear if usually muffled: because we intend to give Palestine to zionist settlers and until they reach a majority, independence has to be withheld. 

In Britain Philby sat on a League of Nations Union committee alongside academics, politicians and Zionists charged with coming up with a model mandate for Palestine.  Although the British government and the Zionist movement knew what they wanted in Palestine,  a Jewish state at the expense of the Palestinians  (as Balfour had made clear in public statements),   the Zionist intention from the start to get rid of the Palestinians through ‘transfer’ was concealed by the zionists and bypassed as a subject for polite conversation by the British government.    

Far from speaking against the zionist colonization of Palestine, Philby and T.E. Lawrence, forever linked in British minds with the struggle for Arab independence,  believed, as Elizabeth Monroe has written, that “an injection of Jewish brains and money into the Arab world would improve Arab chances of successful independence.” 

Thus swayed by Zionist thinking, Philby was supported by Chaim Weizmann,  whom he later took tea within London,  when he applied for a position in Palestine,  only to be turned down because of advice to the High Commissioner that he was argumentative and would prove to be a nuisance.

Philby’s views on Palestine were nothing if not inconsistent with each other and with his general support for Arab independence. He regarded the Balfour Declaration as “an act of betrayal for whose parallel, the shekels and the kiss and all the rest of it,  we have to go back to the Garden of Gethsemane.”  

At the same time, he thought British governments should reaffirm the declaration because Jews had a “perfect right” to settle in Palestine on “a basis of equality with the existing population.”   Transjordan, he thought, would only be too happy to accept Jewish investment and immigration into a territory that should never have been separated in the first place.  He never budged from his belief that the Jews had it in them to benefit the Arab world as long as – the critical qualification – they dropped any wish to dominate. Of course,  Weizmann and others in the Zionist leadership gave endless assurances that this was the last thing they had in mind.

Philby frequently tried to bring Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud around to his way of thinking on Palestine. The king shared the general Arab view that to take land from the indigenous population of Palestine and give it to Zionist settlers was unjust.  He opposed partition when it was proposed in 1937 (the Peel plan)  and said that even if all other Arab states recognized a Jewish state he never would,  a statement of contemporary relevance given the recognition of Israel by the UAE and Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s scarcely concealed dealings with Israel.  

In 1939 Philby showed how poorly he understood Abdul Aziz ibn Saud on the question of Palestine. During a meeting in London with Professor Lewis Namier,  Jewish and a Zionist,  he said the king would come on board with British policies in the Middle East (as against the growing influence of Germany and Italy) if he were given money and weapons.

Namier suggested a meeting with Weizmann to see what might be arranged.  When Namier, Philby, and Moshe Shertok (later Sharett), political secretary of the Jewish Agency,  met Weizmann on October 8, Philby proposed that if the zionists could come up with a 20 million pound ‘subsidy’ for the king,  they could be given western Palestine,  with the exception of the ‘Vatican City’ in east Jerusalem.  At the same time, they should commit themselves to help secure Arab unity and independence (outside Palestine of course), which in Philby’s view was only attainable under Abdul Aziz’s leadership.

According to Weizmann, the conversation included references to “considerable transfers of the Arab population”: hedging his position, he said there was not much the Zionists could do to advance the situation politically, apart from which they were bound by their “loyalties” to Britain and France. 

Forever chasing money,  Philby no doubt saw some coming to him if this scheme could be pulled off.  He presented it to Abdul Aziz on January 8, 1940, when, in his own understanding, the king did not turn it down,  saying only that he would give an answer at the appropriate time.  In truth, the king was probably taken by surprise and did not like what he was hearing.  Philby misconstrued silence as consent,  wrote to his wife about the king agreeing, and was sufficiently indiscreet to mention it to Syrians in the king’s entourage.

In February, 1940, Weizmann contacted him from Washington to see how things we going. “Slowly,” Philby had to respond, while remaining confident that the king  was “quite favorably inclined towards the proposal and is just thinking about how it can be worked out without producing howls of anger among certain Arab elements.”  While Weizmann worked on the Americans, the plan would have to wait for the king to work out how to overcome Arab objections.

In 1940 and 1942 Weizmann saw President Roosevelt and,  in the second of these years,  Churchill as well.  In  Weizmann’s account,  Churchill talked of wanting to make Abdul Aziz the “boss of bosses”  in the Middle East “provided he settles with you.” This was an opportunity for Weizmann to try and dovetail the Zionist-Philby plan with what the Americans and British were both thinking.  

In August,  1942, Roosevelt sent Colonel Harold B. Hoskins to the Middle East as the head of a mission to engender goodwill. At a time the Middle East was unanimously hostile to the zionist presence in Palestine,  not much goodwill was going to be generated by the plan which came out of the Hoskins mission,  which was to admit 500,000 Jews into Palestine and set up a binational state as part of a Levant Federation that would include all of historic Syria.

In 1943 Roosevelt sent a message to the Saudi king that both “Arabs and Jews” would be consulted over the future of Palestine.   In August Hoskins was sent to Saudi Arabia to see if the king would agree to meet Weizmann. When he made the suggestion the king blew up.  In Elizabeth Monroe’s summary of the occasion, “he hated Weizmann personally because the latter had impugned his character by offering a bribe of 20 million pounds if he would accept Arab settlers from Palestine.”

Furthermore,  the king had been told the payment would be guaranteed by Roosevelt,  which was certainly due to Weizmann’s campaigning. The king was so incensed at the offer and the involvement of the US president “in such a shameful manner” that he never brought it up again in his discussions with Hoskins.   Hoskins went to London, where he “disabused” Weizmann and Namier of the idea that Philby’s views represented the Saudi king’s.  Philby persisted in believing that if Hoskins had approached the king with a firm offer on behalf of the US and British governments it would have been accepted.  Of course, with oil being drilled in commercial quantities since 1938,  the money on offer would soon be eclipsed by the vast sums flowing into the kingdom.

With partition passed by the UN General Assembly and the situation in Palestine worsening, the king could hardly bring himself to listen to the bad news coming by radio from Jerusalem.  Tears would come to his eyes. He agreed to meet members of an Anglo-American Commission bent on linking “Jewish victims of Nazi persecution everywhere” to the zionist colonization of Palestine.   The king distrusted Philby when it came to Palestine so he was not at the meeting, at which Abdul Aziz told his visitors that “if the immigration of Jews continues and their possessions in Palestine increase, they will become one of the most powerful governments, equipped with arms and wealth and everything else. They will be against the Arabs and at the same time [will be] difficult for them.”

With the British leaving Palestine,  he said a continued British mandate would be better than a triumph for the Jews or an enlarged kingdom for King Abdullah of Jordan, then conspiring with the Zionist leadership.

With the Arab states under foreign domination, and  the Arab League newly formed and ineffectual,  Philby came to admire “the courage and fanaticism of the Jews as much as I deplore the futility of the Arabs.” It was no wonder that many in Saudi court circles regarded him as a zionist spy,  a British intelligence agent, or a communist. As Philby’s son Kim was a committed communist and at the time was handing secrets from inside MI6 to the Soviet Union, there was certainly irony in their suspicions. 

Philby needed to be in Saudi Arabia for further desert explorations and to make money from his various commercial ventures.  He must have known that if he pushed the king any further on the question of Palestine he would be putting his own interests at risk.  He continued to argue for the right of the Arabs to run their own affairs.  All the Arabs, that is, except the Palestinians.

Bully-Boy Minister’s Christmas Message to UK Universities….

Gavin Williamson ef951

Gavin Williamson is Education Secretary in the screwball government of Boris Johnson. And he has just threatened universities that they could have their funding cut if they don’t adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism before Christmas.

Williamson wrote to vice-chancellors last week saying he was “frankly disappointed” that there were still “too many disturbing incidents of anti-Semitism on campus and a lack of willingness by too many universities to confront this”, and that the number of universities adopting the definition “remains shamefully low”.

“These providers are letting down all their staff and students, and, shamefully, their Jewish students in particular,” he said.

He insists that adopting the IHRA definition “is morally the right thing to do” - and he underlines morally! “You should have no doubt: this government has zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism. If I have not seen the overwhelming majority of institutions adopting the definition by Christmas then I will act.”

Williamson is asking officials to consider directing the Office for Students (OfS) to impose a new regulatory condition of registration or suspend funding for universities at which anti-Semitic incidents occur and which haven’t signed up to the definition. “While many universities have rightly been quick over the summer to demonstrate their readiness to take action against other forms of racism, it is frankly disturbing that so many are dragging their feet on the matter of anti-Semitism.

“The repugnant belief that anti-Semitism is somehow a less serious, or more acceptable, form of racism has taken insidious hold in some parts of British society, and I am quite clear that universities must play their part in rooting out this attitude and demonstrating that anti-Semitism is abhorrent.”

The OfS said they will explore with the Department for Education what practical steps should be taken to ensure the IHRA definition’s wider adoption. But Universities UK were more cautious: “We recommend universities do all they can to tackle anti-Semitism, including considering the IHRA definition, whilst also recognising their duty to promote freedom of speech within the law.” And that last bit is what Williamson ought to have considered before stupidly going off the deep end.

Individual right of free expression in all higher education institutions

Williamson’s first problem is his ignorance. He’s completely at odds with the opinion of top legal experts who were asked for their views by Free Speech on Israel, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. In a nutshell, those in public life cannot behave in a manner inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of expression which applies not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or anyone else.

There is a further obligation to allow all concerned in public debate “to express their opinions and ideas without fear, even if these opinions and ideas are contrary to those defended by the official authorities or by a large part of public opinion, or even if those opinions and ideas are irritating or offensive to the public”.

Read Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Mr Williamson, which says that everyone has the right to freedom of expression including “freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”

Also, check Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says the same sort of thing, subject of course to the usual limitations required by law and respect for the rights of others.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee recommended that before accepting the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism, two caveats should be included:

  • It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent.
  • It is not anti-Semitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent.

The Government, in its eagerness to appease the Zionist lobby, dropped the caveats saying they weren’t necessary.

Eminent human rights lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC also criticised the definition. Firstly, it wasn’t a legally binding so didn’t have the force of a statutory one. And it couldn’t be considered a legal definition of anti-Semitism as it lacked clarity. Therefore any conduct contrary to the IHRA definition couldn’t necessarily be ruled illegal.

Secondly, the language was far too vague to be useful as a tool.  In Tomlinson’s view the Government’s decision to adopt the IHRA Definition was simply a freestanding statement of policy, a mere suggestion. No public body is under an obligation to adopt or use it, or, given the unsatisfactory nature of the definition, should be criticised for refusing.

He warned that if a public authority did decide to adopt the definition then it must interpret it in a way that’s consistent with its statutory obligations. In particular, it cannot behave in a manner inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

A further obligation put on public authorities is “to create a favourable environment for participation in public debates for all concerned, allowing them to express their opinions and ideas without fear, even if they are contrary to those defended by the authorities or by a large part of public opinion”.

So, in Tomlinson’s opinion the IHRA Definition doesn’t mean that calling Israel an apartheid state that practises settler colonialism, or advocating boycott, divestment or sanctions (BDS) against Israel, can properly be characterized as anti-Semitic. Furthermore, a public authority seeking to apply the IHRA Definition to prohibit or punish such activities “would be acting unlawfully.”

Government’s ‘naive stance’

Retired Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Stephen Sedley, also offered advice criticising the IHRA working definition for lack of legal force. “At the same time, it is not neutral: it may well influence policy both domestically and internationally.”

He added that the right of free expression, now part of our domestic law by virtue of the Human Rights Act, “places both negative and positive obligations on the state which may be put at risk if the IHRA definition is unthinkingly followed”. Moreover the 1986 Education Act established an individual right of free expression in all higher education institutions “which cannot be cut back by governmental policies”.

Sedley was of the view that the IHRA definition is open to manipulation and “what is needed now is a principled retreat on the part of government from a stance which it has naively adopted in disregard of the sane advice given to it by the Home Affairs Select Committee.”

Williamson’s second problem is his prejudice. He’s a fanatical Israel worshipper and far from neutral in the hype surrounding anti-Semitism in the UK. In January 2018 when he was defence secretary he addressed an audience of over 250 Conservative Friends of Israel and supporters, including 50 parliamentarians, telling them that “Britain will always be Israel’s friend” and praising Israel as a “beacon of light and hope, in a region where there is so much hatred and hurt”. He added: “We shouldn’t underestimate how difficult it is to keep that light bright and burning”.

Recalling his visit to Israel as a teenager, he said: “What I found was a liberal, free, exciting country that was so at ease with itself, a country that absorbed and welcomed so many people. That made an enormous impression upon me”.

Williamson condemned the “completely unreasonable…sheer simple hatred” channelled towards Israel and asked: “If we are not there to stand up for a country, whose views and ideals are so close, or are simply our own, what are we as a nation? What are we in politics, if we cannot accept and celebrate the wonderful blooming of democracy that is Israel?”

Achingly funny. And highlighting the UK’s role in the creation of Israel, he said: “Britain and Israel have an amazing relationship. We would like to think that we were very much at the birth of the nation, and very much helped it in terms of its delivery and coming into the world”.

He said that Britain and Israel have “a strong and firm relationship of working together. It’s a relationship of partners….  It’s a partnership of equals. A partnership of friends”.

So hopelessly brainwashed.

Then, in April 2018 at a similar meeting to celebrate the regime’s 70th anniversary Williamson waxed lyrical describing Israel as a “light unto the nations” and adding that not only do Israel and Britain face shared security threats, “our relationship is underpinned by a shared sense of values: justice, compassion, tolerance”. He emphasised that Israel is a “liberal, free and exciting country” and that the UK-Israel relationship is the “cornerstone of so much of what we do in the Middle East”.

Breaching the Ministerial Code?

But Gavin Williamson is not the only Government minister to threaten our universities in this crude manner. A year ago Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick vowed to take action against universities and "parts of local government" who, he said, had become "corrupted" by anti-Semitism. He directed his attack on the universities who receive public money but "choose not to accept our IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and use it when considering matters such as disciplinary procedures".

Writing in the Sunday Express, he added: "I will use my position as Secretary of State to write to all universities and local authorities to insist that they adopt the IHRA definition at the earliest opportunity.

"I expect them to confirm to me when they do so. Failure to act in this regard is unacceptable and I will be picking up the phone to Vice Chancellors and local government leaders to press for action, if none is forthcoming."

According to Wikipedia Jenrick’s wife was born in Israel and their children are brought up in the Jewish faith. He told the Board of Deputies he would not tolerate local authority approved BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaigns against those profiteering from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. "Local authorities should not be wasting time and taxpayer’s money by dabbling in foreign policy or pursuing anti-Israel political obsessions, but instead focusing on delivering first class local public services." The same could be said of his colleague Williamson’s pro-Israel obsession - and his own – when they should be getting on with governing Britain, but of course they are exempt from their own rules.

Both Jenrick and Williamson appear to fall foul of the Ministerial Code. The first two paragraphs are enough to banish them to outer darkness, one would have thought.

1.1 Ministers of the Crown are expected to maintain high standards of behaviour and to behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety.

1.2 Ministers should be professional in all their dealings and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect. Working relationships…. should be proper and appropriate. Harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the   Ministerial Code and will not be tolerated.

Elsewhere the Code decrees that “ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests” and they are expected to observe the Seven Principles of Public Life. The Principle of Integrity states that holders of public office “must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence their work”.

That suggests to me they ought to be slung out on their ear and never allowed near the levers of power again. But nobody in government is principled enough or has the balls to do it.

What do you think?

*(Top image: Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson holds the Daily Covid-19 Press Conference with Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries in 10 Downing Street. Credit: Pippa Fowles/ No 10 Downing Street.)

Nothing Hurts Like the Truth

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Around 7:20 a.m. on Saturday, August 28, 1976, a car carrying U.S. military advisers in Tehran had a suspicious accident. The passengers of the car, surprised by the accident, were suddenly attacked by a Kalashnikov handgun. After investigations by SAVAK (King of Iran's security service) it was revealed that the attack was carried out by the MEK.

The information about these U.S. advisers was transferred to the MEK by the USSR security service.

The news was widely reflected on in and out of Iran, with the SAVAK and other military forces focusing their activities on the MEK, but the MEK was busy planning for the future.

It was later that more information was leaked from the MEK: information that Massoud Rajavi was secretly linked to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and requested $300 million from Gorbachev. In fact, Rajavi had sought financial support for action against Americans who, according to the Marxist ideology of MEK, were the leaders of global imperialism. But things did not go as Rajavi hoped.

At that time, the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse and had fallen to its knees. Later, Rajavi's letter to Gorbachev was published, the text of which can be viewed in the Stanford University Archive.

After the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Rajavi was nominated as the most senior member of the Organization to take up the parliamentary seat in Tehran in 1979, but did not win the election. In those days, Islamic figures had become more popular with the Iranian people. Disappointed with his lack of power, Rajavi resorted to the organization's past methods and launched armed and terrorist actions against the people of his country. Many innocent people, including the president and senior Iranian officials, were among the victims of these terrorist attacks. The MEK, a terrorist organization, killed 12,000 of their fellow Iranians.

These terrorist attacks and street riots eventually led to Rajavi flee from Iran to France and eventually to Iraq. In Iraq, he collaborated with Saddam Hussein, who was fighting a direct war against Iran. That is, an Iranian organization worked with the enemy to fight against Iran. This is how Rajavi's friendship with Saddam was formed.

Rajavi tried, with Saddam's backing and his share of Iraqi oil sales, to provide himself with a regular, meticulous and strategic army to attack Iran; he persuaded Saddam to invade Iran, assuring him that Iran was weak, and that an Iraqi invasion would be successful, and bring about the defeat of Iran.

Six days after the signing of UN Security Council Resolution 598 by Iran and Iraq, Saddam again relied on the MEK and announced another attack on Iran and launched a new operation with MEK’s full cooperation. Rajavi had promised Saddam that he would conquer Tehran with his self-made army, many of whose soldiers were women, within a week. The so-called Forough Javidan Operation, which ended within 4 days, was a complete failure for the MEK.

The MEK's return to Camp Ashraf in Iraq marked the beginning of a new phase in the organization's sectarian life. Rajavi and his wife, Maryam, blamed their own soldiers for the defeat, accusing them of being more concerned about the welfare of their families than of defeating Iran. They strongly encouraged family separations, believing that without these emotional ties, their dedication to war would be greater. This resulted in the break-up of many families.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam, the MEK, which saw itself at a disadvantage, having lost a major ally, rejected its initial ideology as a Marxist organization against Western imperialism and extended a hand of friendship to the US. But their history of assassination and treachery against their own country and the Iraqi people was an unforgivable sin that made Europe and the U.S. hesitant to accept them. Their biggest problem became their designation as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and many European countries. But through effective money-laundering, bribery and effective lobbying, they were able to solve this problem.

The MEK was forced to leave Iraq on September 9, 2016, and is now rallying in Tirana, Albania, with the support of United States’ and Saudi oil dollars. They continue to live the communal life of the past and live in sectarian militias, but now they wear civilian attire, to mask their true purpose, pretending to be a lobbying organization only.

With the start of the Trump administration, America's reliance on the MEK doubled. Trump's close associates, such as his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and his former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, spoke at MEK annual meetings, and even Trump himself, in violating the JCPOA by withdrawing from it, cited an article whose author is a fake writer created by the MEK.

Since then, the organization's lobbying with the Republican Party has grown, and the MEK's promises of meetings and communications with the Republicans have created the illusion that the organization could be an alternative to the Iranian government. Although these politicians could easily have determined the Iranian community's view of the Mojahedin by simply searching the Internet, the sums of money they are paid to speak at these conferences blind them to the truth. They make statements that have no basis in fact. Trump, meanwhile, softened his talk about regime change in Iran, claiming, incredibly, that the United States was in no way seeking it.

This unconditional friendship of the Republicans with the MEK contradicts the views of many European and American experts who have repeatedly pointed to the true nature of the MEK as a terrorist cult.

Ms. Nathalie Goulet is a French politician and representative of the Orne department in the French Senate. She said: ‘What is the guarantee that a group contaminated by the blood of six American advisers and who collaborated with the enemy in the war against their country, will not take armed action against France if they were deported from France?’

MEPs have no doubt about the terrorist and sectarian nature of the MEK. They discussed the danger of the presence of the MEK in Europe at a roundtable at the European Parliament on October 4, 2018.

A leopard cannot change its spots. After settling in Albania, Mojahedin-e Khalq resorted to the United States to try to sanitize its ugly image; the Americans trusted them.

Today, reading or hearing pronouncements and analysis from MEK is a distasteful experience, one that leaves the reader or listener with no reason to believe the lies that MEK tells.

Maryam Rajavi may be a charismatic woman, but her appearance and demeanor do not hide the ugly stains of treason that she wears.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had taken tough measures for the Mojahedin Khalq Organization because their political game had no rules!

Such a volatile history is a serious warning to the U.S. government: How confident can the U.S. be as it puts its trust in a terrorist organization? If another agreement is reached between Iran and the United States, will the MEK then launch more terrorist activities against the United States?

Bahrainis Believe Mossad's Visit to Manama Ushers a New Era of Restricted Freedoms

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Following the recent normalisation of relations signed in Washington last month, Yossi Cohen, head of the Zionist entity’s Mossad intelligence agency, visited Manama, and met with intelligence and security chiefs to discuss "issues of common interest", according to a statement published by the Bahrain News Agency.

Cohen has been cited as a key figure in coordinating, engineering and planning the normalization deal, signed at a festive White House ceremony. In recent years, he reportedly shuttled on numerous surreptitious visits to the Gulf monarchies to build closer clandestine ties.

The Mossad chief told Zionist media in late September that the move signifies "the breaking of a glass ceiling that existed in our relations with Arab states", adding the accords were achieved through long years of "contacts managed very, very delicately."

The Bahrainis have; however, reacted outrageously at the government's move to formalize ties, and quickly turned the Arabic hashtag #بحرينيون_ضد_التطبيع [  [Bahrainis against normalisation] into the most popular hashtag (was used by more than 100 million social media users). Besides, hundreds have breaved the threat of arrest and torture by taking to the streets despite heavy-handed restriction on freedom of peaceful assembly.

Shiekh Hussain A Daihy, deputy chair of Al Wefaq (Bahrain's largest opposition bloc), said that the normalization agreement was engineered by the Mossad, which planned the whole operation to undermine regional stability, adding that the only gain that the Zionist entity is hoping to achieve is to form a regional security alliance against Iran, as Netanyahu stated, after he succeeded in turning Iran into an 'enemy'.

Washington, London and other allies of Bahrain have long averted their eyes to the widespread breaches of human rights such as extrajudicial killings and torture of peaceful pro-democracy and anti-government demonstrators, opposition leaders, peaceful critics, and rights activists.

Now, almost a decade after the bloody crackdown on Bahrain's pro-democracy demonstrations of 2011, the authorities' police mentality and its cooperation with the Zionist entity's intelligence to suppress the peaceful dissents has become quite evident. Hence, the question is: what will happen to the remaining freedoms in Bahrain?!

The Zionist entity, through the Mossad, has been indeed exercising its vicious role in Bahrain for a long time by selling the autocratic government surveillance technology and programs of censorship to pursue and hack political and human rights activists and dissidents' mobile phones.

Bahrainis believe that the US-brokered deal was nothing but a political gift to Trump and Netanyahu aiming at pulling them out of the ocean of troubles they are drowning in. Nonetheless, the cheap gift that Manama has received could be deemed as a green light to promote its punitive vindictive measures and alleged sovereignty claims, through which 4000+ prisoners of conscience have been held behind bars merely because they dared to demand basic freedoms.

Over the past 10 years, i.e. since mid-March 2011, Manama has been carrying out an unrelenting campaign of judicial and administrative retribution, credible allegations of torture, politically-motivated mass dismissals of workers from jobs and students from university, arbitrary arrests, unfair trials before special military courts mostly on patently political charges, citizenship revocation, etc.

Consequently, a new era of restricted freedoms and increased governmental control is expected to undermine Bahrain's political, social, cultural, educational and economic stability. The Mossad's visit indeed means that control over civil society organizations, individuals and other actors would be severely tightened.

Colonel Alexander Vindman's Revenge

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During last year’s impeachment process directed against President Donald Trump, Congress obtained testimony from a parade of witnesses to or participants in what was inevitably being referred to as UkraineGate. It centered around an investigation into whether Trump inappropriately sought a political quid pro quo from Ukrainian leaders in exchange for a military assistance package.

The prepared opening statement by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, described as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council (NSC), provided some insights into how decision making at the NSC actually works. Vindman was born to a Jewish family in Ukraine but emigrated to the United States at age three. He was commissioned as an army infantry officer in 1998 and served in some capacity in Iraq from 2004-5, where he was wounded by a roadside bomb and received a purple heart. Vindman, who speaks both Ukrainian and Russian fluently, has filled a number of diplomatic and military positions in government dealing with Eastern Europe, to include a key role in Pentagon planning on how to deal with Russia.

Vindman, Ukrainian both by birth and culturally, clearly was a major player in articulating and managing U.S. policy towards that country, but at that time it was sometimes noted that he did not really understand what his role on the NSC should have been. As more than likely the U.S. government’s sole genuine Ukrainian expert, he should have become a good source for consideration of viable options that the United States might exercise vis-à-vis its relationship with Ukraine, and, by extension, regarding Moscow’s involvement with Kiev. But that is not how his statement before congress, which advocated for a specific policy, read. Rather than providing expert advice, Vindman was concerned chiefly because arming Ukraine was not proceeding quickly enough to suit him, an extremely risky policy which had already created serious problems with a much more important Russia.

Part of Vindman’s written statement (my emphasis) is revealing: “”When I joined the NSC in July 2018, I began implementing the administration’s policy on Ukraine. In the Spring of 2019, I became aware of outside influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency. This narrative was harmful to U.S. government policy. While my interagency colleagues and I were becoming increasingly optimistic on Ukraine’s prospects, this alternative narrative undermined U.S. government efforts to expand cooperation with Ukraine.”

Vindman was also interested in promoting a policy that would limit any damage to the Democratic Party. Note the following additional excerpt from Vindman’s prepared statement to Congress: “…. I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine…. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”

So Alexander Vindman clearly was pushing a risky alternative policy that had not been endorsed by either the president of the United States or the secretary of state, who were and still are the responsible authorities for making decisions relating to foreign and national security issues. It is therefore tempting to conclude that Vindman was an integral part of the Washington inside-the-beltway Deep State, which believed the solution to the Ukraine problem was to send arms to Kiev to enable an attack on Russia that would in turn weaken President Vladimir Putin. Along the way, Vindman attempted to make the absurd claim that the political situation in Kiev was somehow important to U.S. national security, asserting that “Ukraine is a frontline state and a bulwark against Russian aggression.” He did not care to ask the inevitable next question, “Aggression against whom?” The combined visions of Russia as an aggressive, expansionistic power coupled with the brave Ukrainians serving as a bastion of freedom is so absurd that it is hardly worth countering.

It is perhaps not surprising to learn that Colonel Vindman is at it again, joining the chorus of former government officials who are seeking to bring about the defeat of Donald Trump in November. And this time around he has the useful bully pulpit provided by the  and , which have featured a Times  co-authored by him followed by  as well as another article based on yet another interview with .  op-ed revealed that Vindman has not learned anything about how the government works since he made the statement to Congress last year. In a piece entitled “Trump Has Sold Off America’s Credibility for His Personal Gain: From China to Ukraine, this president has acted at odds with American foreign policy. Imagine what he could do with four more years” it cites Vindman’s perspective that “…the president and his associates asked officials in Kyiv to deliver on Mr. Trump’s political interests in exchange for American military aid needed to defend Ukraine… This was not a unique instance of Mr. Trump’s personal priorities corrupting American foreign policy. As the 2020 election grew closer, the president increasingly ignored the policies developed by his own government and instead pursued transactions guided by self-interest and instinct.”

Colonel Vindman is wrong in not realizing that when it comes to foreign policy “his own government” is the president whose decisions are binding, whether one likes it or not. And he also fails to understand that bilateral international agreements and understandings are a process of horse trading, with favors being done by both sides. Trump was certainly within his rights to want to know about possible illegal activity carried out by the son of a former Vice President.

The Atlantic piece, written by editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg, former Israeli prison guard and now leading anti-Trump malcontent, quotes Vindman and editorializes as follows: “’President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin,’” he says. Useful idiot is a term commonly used to describe dupes of authoritarian regimes; fellow traveler, in Vindman’s description, is a person who shares Putin’s loathing for democratic norms. But do you think Russia is blackmailing Trump? “’They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don’t have to use it,’” he says. “’They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him. He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him. He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and balances. So he’ll try to please Putin.’” Vindman continues, “’In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for—it just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.’”

It is very easy to despise what passes for foreign policy in the Trump White House, but the alternative of rule by agenda-driven bureaucrats like Colonel Alexander Vindman is even more unpalatable from a constitutional point of view. His original testimony before Congress, wrapped in an air of sanctimoniousness and a uniform, should be regarded as little more than the conventional thinking that has produced foreign policy failure after failure in the past twenty years. Russia the perpetual enemy requiring “friends” like Ukraine with little regard for the actual threat level or the potential consequences. The fact that Vindman is how exploiting a bully pulpit on the largely discredited New York Times while also getting into bed with the scoundrel Jeffrey Goldberg should tell one all that is necessary to know. Trump is right about ending America’s love affair with foreign wars, even though it is a subject that neither he nor Joe Biden will be discussing. Vindman is little more than an apologist for why those useless wars are promoted and are continuing.

*(Top image: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Credit: Buzz News/ YouTube)

*This article was originally published on UNZ Review.

Travesty!

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This morning I was catching up as usual on the ever-reliable Craig Murray’s day-to-day reports of what passes for a trial at the Old Bailey under the shabby standards now governing British justice. I’m talking of course about the trial to extradite Julian Assange which is nearing its nauseating climax.

Craig has been extraordinarily dedicated and resourceful in bringing out the truth from a cruelly ‘fixed’ process to which public access has been suppressed.

Here is an extract from his piece ‘Where Is My Final Assange Report?’ which for me sums up the disgraceful performance put on to appease the American administration in their lust for revenge for having their vile secrets exposed. Murray’s words are a chilling indictment.

“….In that courtroom, you were in the presence of evil. With a civilised veneer, a pretence at process, and even displays of bonhommie, the entire destruction of a human being was in process. Julian was being destroyed as a person before my eyes. For the crime of publishing the truth. He had to sit there listening to days of calm discussion as to the incredible torture that would await him in a US supermax prison, deprived of all meaningful human contact for years on end, in solitary in a cell just fifty square feet.

“Fifty square feet. Mark that out yourself now. Three paces by two. Of all the terrible things I heard, Warden Baird explaining that the single hour a day allowed out of the cell is alone in another, absolutely identical cell called the “recreation cell” was perhaps the most chilling. That and the foul government “expert” Dr Blackwood describing how Julian might be sufficiently medicated and physically deprived of the means of suicide to keep him alive for years of this.

“I encountered evil in Uzbekistan when the mother brought me the photos of her son tortured to death by immersion in boiling liquid. The US government was also implicated in that, through the CIA cooperation with the Uzbek Security Services; it happened just outside the US military base at Karshi-Khanabad. Here was that same evil paraded in the centre of London, under the panoply of Crown justice.”

And who is the Justice Secretary responsible for this nasty charade? Robert Buckland. If anyone deserves a good smacking he surely does.

And so does the journalism profession if they still have the nerve to call themselves that. The Assange case is about journalism – true journalism; why weren’t the mainstream insisting on access and covering it?

*(Top image: Lord Chancellor. Credit: Number 10/ Flickr)

How to Bet on Your Favourite Sports

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For many sports fans, being able to place a bet on their favourite sport adds an extra layer of excitement to the game. From cricket and boxing to football and horse racing in the UK, you can also use your knowledge of a favourite sport to potentially back the winner. But if you’re new to sports betting, where do you start? Here’s our essential guide on how to bet on your favourite sports.

Do your research

As a fan, you’ll naturally have an insider’s view of your favourite sport. And this means you probably know the big players or racers, their recent form and their potential – or not – to go all the way. If you’re new to sports betting, then using this knowledge to focus on just one sport will give you a head-start. Studying the form of the teams, racehorses or players is going to help you decide where to place your bet, so research past performances and wins, as well as any weaknesses or glitches, to give you a clearer picture of where and how to place your money.

Understand the odds

The odds given by a bookmaker to a racehorse or team indicates their theoretical chances of winning. The lower the odds – 3.1, say – then the greater the chance they have at winning, while the higher the odds, the more of an outsider they become.

The favourite or the outsider

In all horse races and sports matches, there’s always going to be the favourite as well as the underdog and this is where the fun sets in. You may decide to play it safe and go with the favourite and that could be a good strategy, as when it comes to horse racing, roughly a third of the favourites will romp first past the post. But using the knowledge you’ve gained from studying the form, as well as weighing up the odds, means you may identify a higher odds horse or underdog team that could prove an upset on the day. And should they win, then you are set to make a bigger return.

Choose your bet

If you are new to sports betting, start simple with one of the most popular bets – bet to win but depending on your chosen sport, there will be a range of bet types you can choose from. Once you have decided on the bet, how much you want to wager and where you want to place it, there are several ways to do so. You can phone a bookmaker directly or visit the bookmaker shop to place your bet in person. If you are at a horse race meet, you can even place your bet trackside. And one of the most convenient ways to place a bet is online, where you will often find the most competitive odds.

Know your limit

Our final ‘how to’ is to know your budget limit – and stick to it. ‘Never bet money you cannot afford to lose’ are wise words and it is also a good idea to keep tabs on your bet amounts as you go along and when you reach your set limit, stop. It is never a good idea to try to recoup your losses either, so always be prepared to step away. There is always another day to scoop that win.

An Ammunition Depot of Al-Nusra Exploded in Idlib Countryside, Syria

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An ammunition depot belonging to the militants of the "al-Nusra" front exploded in the vicinity of "Ma'arat al-Ikhwan" town, northern countryside of Idlib, resulting in killing and injuring a number of militants who were inside and around the scene. The targeted depot is one of  Al-Nusra's largest depots in Idlib countryside.

The information about the reason for the explosion is contradictory, as the sources suggested that it was due to "an IED planted by unknown armed men inside the depot."

Months ago, ​​Jabal Al-Zawiya in Idlib countryside had a similar explosion of weapons and ammunition depot belonging to the "Turkistan Islamic Party" militants in the village of Al-Taybat, west of Jisr Al-Shughur city, which resulted in killing 6 militants. The armed groups' websites claimed that the explosion was due to the poor storage of ammunition.

The northern countryside of Aleppo also had an explosion of a weapons depot belonging to one of the Turkish-backed armed factions in the vicinity of Azaz about a month ago, and it was due to a huge fire that broke out in the adjacent Bab al-Salama camp and extended to reach the depot.‌‌

US Is the Top Human Rights Violator in the World, and It’s Not Even Close

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Few things are more politicized and distorted in the United States than the subject of human rights. Over the last two generations, the U.S. political class and its conduits in the corporate media have weaponized human rights to serve an imperialist agenda. NGOs such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International tend to focus much of their time crafting human rights narratives on matters of critical importance to the U.S. Department of State. Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and a host of countries have been condemned by these organizations for alleged human rights violations. Since 2018, China has been targeted for the same treatment.

China is accused of detaining millions of Xinjiang-based Uyghurs in “concentration camps.” Thanks to Ajit Singh and The Grayzone, we know that the sources for these allegations are far from reliable. We know that the principle source for all things Xinjiang in the U.S. is Adrian Zenz, a far-right Christian fundamentalist who believes he is led by God to overthrow the Communist Party of China. We know that the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders responsible for the study that conducted a total of eight total interviews to derive conclusions of mass Uyghur internment is heavily funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a CIA-linked organization. We also know that the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) currently leading the charge to demonize China on human rights issues is sponsored by military contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

The primary concern of institutions such as ASPI is not the issue of human rights, but rather the creation of an atmosphere of war that will service its donors in the U.S. weapons industry. This is exactly what the propagation of the “Uyghur oppression” narrative has achieved. While relying completely on speculation, faulty satellite imagery, and testimonies from Uyghur-exile groups funded by the NED, the successful penetration of the baseless claim that China is detaining millions of Muslims in camps has played an important role in building up public support in the U.S. for a New Cold War against China. U.S. public opinion of China has dropped significantly over the past year. The U.S. has used the Uyghur human rights narrative to successfully sanction businesses and Communist Party of China officials in Xinjiang.

When U.S. officials accuse other countries of human rights violations, what comes afterward is always far worse than the allegations. After 9/11, U.S. intelligence agencies accused Saddam Hussein of stockpiling non-existent Weapons of Mass destruction. The U.S. went on to invade Iraq in 2003—a war that caused the death of over one million Iraqi civilians and poisoned thousands more with toxic depleted uranium. In 2011, Muammar Gaddafi was accused of “murdering his own people” only to have Libya transformed into a failed state following a more than six month bombing campaign by NATO to protect a jihadist insurgency. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons “on his own people.” Syria has been mired in an endless war with both the U.S. and its regional allies which has left hundreds of thousands of dead, millions displaced, and nearly one-third of its oil-rich and water-rich territory occupied by the U.S. military.

These examples are just a few of many that demonstrate why the U.S. is the chief human rights violator in the world. However, it is important to note that how the United States conducts itself abroad is a reflection of the myriad of ways that it violates the human rights of people living in the United States. Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Sandra Bland, and Michael Brown are just a few of hundreds of examples of Black Americans that have been killed by police officers without redress. An average of 1,000 people in the United States are killed by police officers each year. Unlike the U.S.-led Xinjiang narrative, it is well-documented that over 2 million people reside in U.S. prisons and that nearly three-quarters of that prison population is Black, Latino, or Native American.

The U.S. is home to a quarter of all prisoners in the world. Around 80,000 of these prisoners are held in solitary confinement, a practice of prolonged isolation that the U.N. has firmly declared to be an act of torture. Research suggests that solitary confinement is directly linked to a host of psychological maladies from psychosis to suicide. Solitary confinement also causes lasting structural damage to the brain, especially in the hippocampus region responsible for memory and spatial awareness. Widespread use of solitary confinement in the U.S. is not a benign practice but one that specifically targets racial groups. Over forty percent of all male prisoners in solitary confinement are Black American. The world has long known that the U.S. engages in torture abroad at CIA black sites and Guantanamo Bay Prison but fewer are aware of how torture is commonplace in the U.S.’ numerous prisons.

For decades, the U.S. has accused countries such as China of the very policies that make up the foundations of its domestic and foreign policy. U.S. elites have accused China of suppressing free speech but say little about the NSA’s massive surveillance program or the attempted extradition of a non-citizen in Julian Assange for publishing documents relating to U.S. war crimes. China has been accused of sterilizing ethnic minorities yet U.S. officials have failed to scrutinize documented cases of sterilization within U.S. immigration detention centers or its mistreatment of Muslim citizens since the War on Terror was declared in 2001. The Economist has accused China of using its anti-poverty campaign to build loyalty to the Communist Party of China but has yet to call out Joe Biden or Donald Trump for ignoring the needs of the forty percent of people in the U.S. who have virtually no disposable income. China is routinely accused of possessing an “aggressive” foreign policy by the same policy makers and thought leaders who have kept the U.S. at war for more than two-hundred years of its existence.

The ideology of American exceptionalism has created the illusion that the U.S. deserves to hold a monopoly on the issue of human rights. American exceptionalism presumes that the United States is the model example for countries and peoples all over the world. However, the days when the world was forced to bow to the U.S. are over. Most of the world sees the U.S. as the biggest threat to human rights and a peaceful existence. The U.S.’s human rights track record suggests that the world is correct, and it is the entire planet that suffers when issues such as war, climate change, poverty, and racism are blamed on China rather than addressed with solidarity and cooperation at a global level. 

More on the Anti-Semitism Scam: Jewish Students Get Protected Status

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In both the United States and Europe there has been an increase in the passage of laws that are intended to protect Jews. Indeed, one might say that one of the few growth industries in Donald Trump’s United States has been the protection of Jewish citizens and their property from a largely contrived wave of anti-Semitism that is allegedly sweeping the nation. Even while potentially catastrophic developments both in the Middle East and the United States continue to unfold, the threat of anti-Semitism continues to find its way into much of the news cycle in the mainstream media.

A survey conducted last month in all fifty states was released with the headline “First-Ever 50-State Survey On Holocaust Knowledge Of American Millennials And Gen Z Reveals Shocking Results. Disturbing Findings Reveal Significant Number Of Millennials And Gen Z Can't Name A Single Concentration Camp Or Ghetto, Believe That Two Million Or Fewer Jews Were Killed And A Concerning Percentage Believe That Jews Caused The Holocaust.”

The survey is based on the premise that detailed knowledge of the so-called holocaust should be an essential part of everyone’s education. Currently, 12 states already require holocaust instruction in their public school curricula, though that includes five of the six biggest states, and recently passed federal legislation will eventually fund holocaust education everywhere in the U.S.  But, of course, the real back story that one must not mention is that the standard holocaust narrative is at least as much fiction as fact and it is employed regularly to create special benefits and protections for both Jews in general and also for the State of Israel. That is why the usual sources in the media become outraged whenever it seems that the propaganda is not effective.

The ignorance of the holocaust story inevitably received wide play in the mainstream media but there are a number of things that all Americans should know about the anti-Semitism hysteria that drives the process. First of all, the extent to which there is actual anti-Semitism and the background to many of the incidents has been deliberately distorted or even ignored by the press and by the government at all levels. Anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews for either their religion or their ethnicity, but many of the so-called anti-Semitic incidents are actually related to the policies advanced by the state of Israel. Organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which have a vested interest in keeping the number of anti-Semitic incidents high, deliberately conflate the two issues in their reports.

In its 2018 report, ADL reported “1,879 acts,” in the United States during the course of the year. It is not a particularly large number given the size and population of the U.S. and also with respect to what is included. There were certainly some physical attacks, including two shooting incidents at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, but most of the incidents were much less kinetic, including shouting and name calling on university campuses between groups supportive of and opposed to Israel’s repression of the Palestinians.

Europe is way ahead of the game when it comes to punishing so-called holocaust denial or anti-Semitism, which now includes any criticism of Jews and/or of Israel. As one critic put it, Europeans generally can exercise something like free speech, but the speech is limited by certain rules that must be observed. Three weeks ago, the French nationalist writer and critic of Jewish power Hervé Ryssen was jailed for the fifth time for the crime of “hate speech.” He faces up to 17 months in prison for having been found guilty of “…insult, provocation, and public defamation due to origin, ethnicity, nationality, race, or religion.” In 2016 he was imprisoned for 5 months, in 2017 for 6 months and in 2018 for one year on similar charges. He also had to pay a 2000 Euros fine to the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. In January 2020, Ryssen was found guilty of “contesting the existence of crimes against humanity,” i.e. questioning the so-called holocaust which labels him as a négationniste, a “holocaust denier.”

Ryssen has written numerous books on Jewish power in Europe and on Israel. His scholarship has rarely been questioned, but his willingness to speak out sometimes boldly on issues that are forbidden has put him in prison more often than not. Curiously, the French law against vilifying ethnic groups and religions has de facto only rarely been applied to protecting either Christians or Muslims. Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo continues to "blaspheme" against both religions without any intervention from the authorities, but it is careful not to make fun of Jews.

The United States is clearly moving in the direction of France, at least insofar as the Jewish community and Israel are concerned. But it is also refreshing to note that a revived progressive wing of the Democratic Party is engaging in a bit of pushback. Three weeks ago, 162 Democratic congressmen plus one Republican and one independent actually voted against an amendment intended to "Protect Jewish Students from Antisemitism at School."

The vote took place on Sept. 16th, and was over a Republican proposed amendment to the  Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act (H.R.2574). The amendment designated anti-Semitism to be a form of discrimination included in the bill and would allow private citizens to file lawsuits claiming damages under the Civil Rights Act's Title VI, focusing particularly on education programs. In spite of the considerable level of opposition, unfortunately the amendment still passed by a vote of 255 to 164.

According to the Concerned Women for America  (CWA), a group that lobbied for the added language, “The amendment ensures that recipients of federal education funding act against anti-Semitism in our communities. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) on college campuses is one of the ways such discrimination is being displayed.” The bill allows suits directed against any program receiving federal money if it can be claimed that one is the victim of discriminatory practices that negatively affect a protected class more than another class. Previously, the protected classes were identified as “race, color, or national origin,” but Jews and, by extension, Israel are now also protected. The specific additional language that was inserted was: “In carrying out the responsibilities of the recipient under this title, the employee or employees designated under this section shall consider antisemitism to be discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin as prohibited by this title.”

In practice, the new legislation will mean that Jewish students or their families or proxies can use Civil Rights legislation to sue educational institutions if they are made uncomfortable by the presence of critics of Israel. The real targets are groups like BDS, which have obtained some traction on university campuses and have been targeted by both the Israeli government and domestic Israel Lobby organizations. But, of course, the real danger is that once protected status is granted to one chosen group that promotes the interests of a foreign government there is no control over how “hate speech” will be defined and the consequences for American fundamental liberties will be catastrophic, moving far closer to the European model of freedom limited by “rules.”

Assaulting Science in the Name of Science

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There is a battle going on over who and what most credibly represents science. As the months pass, the contest over science is integral to the acrimony concerning the nature of COVID-19. In February of this year the UN’s World Health Organization, an agency largely funded by Bill Gates, bestowed the name, “COVID-19” on the supposedly new coronavirus.

Many powerful interests have combined to argue that science justifies the government-led initiatives to impose, for instance, economic lockdowns, social distancing, mandatory masking, and a future of compulsory vaccines. A growing international movement of people, however, is coming to see that the impositions being done in the name of fighting COVID-19 are not scientific at all. Instead we are in the midst of a propaganda war aimed at inciting fear and even panic.

Josh Mitteldorf has written an illuminating essay about this struggle over who really speaks on behalf of the scientific method.  From his analysis he concludes, “never before 2020 have so few people with so little scientific credentials claimed to speak for the scientific community as a whole; and never has the public been asked to modify our daily lives and sacrifice our livelihoods on such a scale.”

https://joshmitteldorf.scienceblog.com/2020/10/01/the-men-who-speak-for-science/

After describing “COVID-19 and the Perversion of Science,” Mitteldorf lists ten of the lies and deceptions pushed on us without the backing of scientific authority. Mitteldorf writes,

Here are ten messages that are essential pieces of the standard COVID narrative, but which are unfounded in actual science. Stay tuned for a detailed rebuttal of each.

1. “The origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was one of many random events in nature in which a virus jumps from one species to another.”

2.“Chloroquine kills patients and is too dangerous to use against COVID”

3.“The Ferguson model warned us of impending danger in time to take action and dodge a bullet.”

4.“American deaths from COVID: 200,000 and counting”

5.“New cases of COVID are expanding now in a dangerous Second Wave”

6.“Masks and social distancing are keeping the virus in check in our communities”

7.“Dr Fauci and the CDC are guiding our response to COVID according to the same principles of epidemic management that have protected public health in the past.

8.“Asymptomatic carriers are an important vector of disease transmission, which must be isolated if we are to stop the spread of COVID”

9.“The lower death rates now compared to April are due to protective measures such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and limited travel.”

10. “With enough resources, pharmaceutical scientists can develop a vaccine in a matter of months, and provide reasonable assurance that it is safe.”

This list of false claims pushed on us by a small clique is far from complete. The inducement of fear and panic is the primary strategy for getting people to go along with the imposition of such monumental changes in our lives. The task of arousing fear is performed by a compliant media that 24/7 exaggerates the severity of COVID-19 while predicting more terrible calamities to come.

As University of Ottawa Professor, Michael Chossudovsky reports in Global Research.ca, “The Fear Campaign Has No Scientific Basis.”

https://www.globalresearch.ca/what-is-covid-19-sars-2-how-is-it-tested-how-is-it-measured-the-fear-campaign-has-no-scientific-basis/5722566

Professor Chossudovsky founded the Global Research.ca site shortly following the 9/11 fiasco in 2001. The site is rich with articles based on scientific analysis that cuts against the power-serving reports on mainstream media. For a survey of recent articles on Global Research.ca, which is based in Montreal, see

https://www.globalresearch.ca/most-popular

Professor Chossudovsky presents a video overview of the misnamed pandemic at

https://www.globalresearch.ca/video-covid-gate-the-political-virus/5722504

One of the major stories outlined in this array of Global Research stories is that there is really no method to determine who is “infected” with the virus and who is not. Indeed the results of the PCR test are virtually meaningless. Accordingly, the whole story line of the number of cases increasing towards the need to impose a second set of lockdowns is specious. It is nothing but calculated disinformation.  See, for instance, 

https://www.globalresearch.ca/covid19-pcr-tests-scientifically-meaningless/5717253

and

https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-covid-19-numbers-game-the-second-wave-is-based-on-fake-statistics/5725003

and

https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-covid-19-numbers-game-the-second-wave-is-based-on-fake-statistics/5725003

A related essay by Michael Thau is entitled, “NY Times: Up to 90% Who’ve Tested COVID-19 Positive Wrongly Diagnosed! TRUTH: A Whole Lot Worse?

By now it is well known that the rules for registering deaths were altered in many countries to clear to way for gross exaggerations of COVID-19 death statistics. Moreover, hospital administrators were given financial rewards for going along with the deception. One of the web sites where this story is explained is the Children’s Health Defense at

https://childrenshealthdefense.org/news/if-covid-fatalities-were-90-2-lower-how-would-you-feel-about-schools-reopening/

The alteration of laws, policies and practises in many countries to create the condition for major overcounts of COVID-19 deaths is well known. The phenomenon has been widely reported in alternative media. See for instance.

https://off-guardian.org/2020/05/05/covid-19-is-a-statistical-nonsense

The available data on the inflation of case numbers as well as morbidity rates attributed to COVID-19 are founded in fraud, misinformation, lies and specious assumptions. Hence it can be said that the real threat to the public comes not from a killer virus, whose true lethality so far is no more serious than the annual flu. Rather we are dealing with a vile political virus, a massive political deception, being pushed on us by a combination of Big Pharma and globalist financiers. These financiers, as best personified by racketeer Bill Gates, have deep roots in Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and even in the enormous wealth-generating capacities of Communist China.

Literally billions of people worldwide are being placed in harm’s way based on a lavishly financed manipulation of media outlets and public officials. The lockdowns, the muzzling with masks, as well as the “immunity passport” vaccines, are meant to advance a number of goals, most of which have little to do with public health. They are meant to further enrich the rich by ruthlessly assaulting the middle class and further impoverishing the poor.

This agenda extends to schemes to robotize almost everything and to inject into humans chip nanotechnology. The injection of biotechnological interfaces into our DNA will help make us more docile, obedient and compliant so we can be made to conform to the engineering requirements of AI, Artificial Intelligence. Already some of the COVID vaccines are being designed to transform us humans into GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms.

https://blog.nomorefakenews.com/2020/10/07/what-could-they-put-in-the-covid-vaccine/

The political emergency misrepresented as a viral emergency is creating the necessity for close collaboration between scientists and lawyers. This partnership is welcome and necessary. It is a vital means of defending the great mass of humanity from the many-faceted assault presently being aimed our way.

Increasingly those most effective in defending against the assault combine the tools of scientific evaluation with expertise in international criminal law. Increasingly concepts like crimes against humanity and the Nuremberg Principles are being brought to the analysis of what is being forced on us based on the perversion of science, not the expression of science.

One of the most authoritative interventions combining rigorous science with legal acumen comes from a German-based Coronavirus Investigation Committee that began its deliberations in July. This Committee is seeking international collaborators in all countries.

The spokesperson in the video is a lawyer licensed to practise in Germany and California. He is Dr. Reimer Fuellmich who puts forward a blockbuster of a presentation rich in data, scientific analysis and legal interpretation. I consider this presentation to be the most incisive analysis to date of what must be done to hold the culprits accountable for “the biggest crime against humanity ever.”

http://youtu.be/kr04gHbP5MQ

Another important case, combining the contributions of legal practitioners and scientific experts, is being pressed against the state government of Ohio by the lawyer, Tom Renz. The video highlights a very informative discussion between Renz and the well-known investigative journalist, Jon Rapport.

Rappaport is a veteran reporter on health issues who has long been very critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Fauci played a controversial role in aspects of the HIV-AIDS controversy that many see as still unresolved. As he is doing in the present crisis, Fauci pushed aside health regulations to disseminate the very expensive supposed remedy, AZT. AZT turned out to be lethal for many of those that received this poisonous and untested false remedy.

I especially appreciate Rappaport’s ability in this video to boil down complex issues into simple, plain language. Tom Renz explains his own lead role in the case with similar clarity. Clearly, Renz is preparing to wage the good fight for genuine public health based on the application of science rather than on the denigration of science in the cause of societal corruption.

https://www.bitchute.com/video/rybZHEmjn47a/

Several hundred doctors in Belgium organized themselves to submit two letters presenting their own highly critical assessment of the coronavirus abuses imposed by their own government.

https://docs4opendebate.be/en/open-letter/

Rocco Galati has mounted a case in the Superior Court of Ontario accusing many public officials and government broadcasters, including the CBC, of many criminal violations against the Canadian constitution and international law. The first video is spoken largely in English. When the conversation turns to French, a written translation appears in subtitles.

http://youtu.be/ghka1b3aPVk

Here is a conversation between Ezra Levant and Rocco Galati.

http://youtu.be/7y0qU-p0xQU

Here is an interview with Galati by Bright Light News.

http://youtu.be/9fb0EQx-9_8

The interview is posted on the web site, End Calgary Lockdown

https://endcalgarylockdown.com/#facts

One of the subjects raised by Galati is the lack of any scientific justification for masking, let alone mandatory masking as ordered by some governments. Galati observes, “masks are the props of the masquerade.” This masquerade is based on disguising a political epidemic as a viral epidemic.

One of the most widely cited international experts on masking is a retired physicist from the University of Ottawa, Dr. Denis Rancourt. Here is Denis as filmed in a video where he is the esteemed guest of US Senator Ron Paul.

http://youtu.be/awNrRiQCOdA

Here is that report that Prof. Rancourt wrote for the Ontario Civil Liberties Association in its intervention with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, the WHO.

http://ocla.ca/ocla-letter-who/

I distributed paper copies of the Ontario Civil Liberties document to all City Councillors in the Lethbridge Municipal Government in Alberta Canada weeks before the elected officials voted to approve mandatory masking. I have yet to receive a response specifically addressing the content of the document I sent these elected officials.

There are several articles on masking in the Global Research.ca collection of popular essays for the month of September.

https://www.globalresearch.ca/most-popular

These articles on different aspects of the masking issue include the following:

https://www.globalresearch.ca/back-school-without-masks-social-distancing-advises-sickkids-hospital/5719018

https://www.globalresearch.ca/face-masks-pose-serious-risks-healthy/5712649

https://www.globalresearch.ca/watching-cdc-nist-destroy-own-reputations/5724421

https://www.globalresearch.ca/plain-truth-about-masks/5724961

The masking issue is becoming a matter of life and death. The number of cases is growing where individuals have been killed, severely beaten, arrested, incarcerated, and probably tortured for the alleged crime of not wearing a mask or not wearing a mask in the regimented fashion. Why is this violence against those who opt not to wear masks becoming so dangerous?

My colleague in the Media Department of New York University, Prof. Mark Crispin Miller, has written a detailed article entitled “Masking Ourselves to Death.” The author begins the article by introducing accounts of some of the crimes committed by pro-maskers. Some of these individuals, both police and civilian, have been socialized to embark on violent power trips.

Here is Prof. Miller’s commentary on the push towards mandatory masking as one of the pointed moving edges of the accelerating political virus.

https://truthbarrier.com/masking-ourselves-to-death-new-essay-by-mark-crispin-miller-phd/?fbclid=IwAR0Mp9Uv0IwYRXfFsNOaeqrzh9bhVUBvgdR3qc6fDle2-ikBxJB_UmLOl_0

Prof. Miller is running into heavy opposition from powerful interests able to exercise their influence in mass media and apparently also in the administration of New York University. The media’s hit jobs against Dr. Miller are widespread including at

https://nypost.com/2020/09/23/nyu-student-wants-professor-fired-over-anti-mask-comments/

and at

https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/nyu-student-calls-for-professors-firing-after-he-urged-masks-are-propaganda/2631450/

A petition has been mounted in the case by the defenders of Prof. Miller, free speech and academic freedom. The petitioners are calling on NYU’s administrators to serve the interests of independent scientific research, publication and pedagogy rather than push forward the self-interested agendas of powerful political lobbies.

Please consider signing this petition in support of Prof. Miller and the principles of academic freedom.

https://www.change.org/p/under-attack-at-nyu-mark-crispin-miller-needs-your-support-for-academic-freedom?signed=true

The petition itself touches on issues similar to those raised by the administration of the University of Lethbridge in its attack on me and on open academic debate in 2016. In recent years the perversion of academic governance in order to control what can or cannot be articulated on university campuses is becoming epidemic in scope. The authors of the petition exclaim,

We see Prof. Miller’s situation as a flashpoint in the struggle not just to reclaim but to protect free speech and free inquiry. NYU officials have no right to intervene in Prof. Miller’s courses or message his students surreptitiously undermining his integrity as an instructor. They have no right to deprive him of the courses he was hired to teach and they should not join in a public smear campaign against the very rights they should uphold at a university. 

This kind of abuse pressed against a senior, tenured and well published university professor is an aspect of the contemporary assault on science presently plaguing society. One of the major emerging issues concerns the question of whether governments the world over can impose mandatory vaccines on citizens in the name of a public health emergency. It turns out the Alberta Public Health Act already has a provision for government-ordered mandatory vaccines. Please see section 38 in the following:

https://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/Acts/P37.pdf

See especially pages 27-44

It seems the former NDP government of Premier Rachel Notley inserted the provision on mandatory vaccination without seeking significant public consultation. Alberta’s current Health Minister, Tyler Shandro, indicated in mid-September that he favours “repealing” the enactment enabling compulsory vaccinations.

https://www.660citynews.com/2020/09/17/ucp-looking-at-removing-mandatory-vaccine-powers/

I have been publishing articles on the misnamed pandemic since the subject mushroomed into prominence last winter. Some of these articles have been published at Global Research.ca. See

https://www.globalresearch.ca/author/anthony-hall

My most recent contribution to GR.ca is “The Perversion of Science to Clear the Way for the Imposition of Compulsory Vaccines” at

https://www.globalresearch.ca/perversion-science-clear-way-imposition-compulsory-vaccines/5724718

I have written two major pieces on the crisis, one highlighting the integration of military and public health initiatives in the genesis of a coronavirus that seems to have some attributes of an engineered bioweapon.

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/programs/national-microbiology-laboratory.html

I was especially interested in the role of Canadian centers for military and medical research on viruses in both Winnipeg and Lethbridge.

https://ahtribune.com/world/3930-who-or-what-started-the-wuhan-coronavirus.html

I “follow the money” on the issue of the economic implication of the lockdowns in

https://ahtribune.com/world/covid-19/4346-following-the-money.html

For those who read German this 20,000 word article has been translated and published at

https://www.contra-magazin.com/?s=Anthony+Hall

Turkey Sends Leaders of the Syrian Factions to Azerbaijan

Saif Abu Bakr e0011

Turkish intelligence sent two leaders of the Syrian Turkish-backed armed factions to Azerbaijan in order to control their members and punish everyone who does not comply with the orders.

According to sources, Turkey is trying to obliterate the reality of the Syrian militias' presence in Azerbaijan by banning circulation news on them, cutting off contact with their families, and preventing them from publishing their photos on social media, and this matter what made it send the leaders to Azerbaijan to adjust these practices.

The sources pointed out that the two leaders who arrived in Azerbaijan are "Saif Abu Bakr" of  Al-Hamzat Division, and "Fahim Issa" of the Sultan Murad Division. Their mission is to control their members, prevent them from fleeing, and convince those who wish to return to Syria to stay until the contracts concluded with them are terminated.

In addition, there are Turkish restrictions about checking the members' phones and preventing them from communicating with agencies or filming, which has become a red line for Turkey, providing that the armed men are allowed to have phones only for communicating with their families every two or three days for a short time.

However, the number of Syrian militants sent by Turkey to fight in Azerbaijan since the beginning of the conflict there amounted to about 1500 members sent in two batches, noting that a third batch is currently being equipped in the Turkish camps exceeding 1200 members.‌‌

John Stauber: “Elections Are Essential to Continued Social and Political Control by The Corporate Elite Through Their System of Two-Party Oligarchy”

John Stauber Credit Cecilia Nguyen f94e1

Mohsen Abdelmoumen: We are on the eve of the American presidential elections. Don't you think that the USA has never been as divided as it is today?

John Stauber: The American Empire is collapsing from within.  The huge divisions - rich versus the rest of us, white versus colored, young versus old, religious extremists versus rational thinkers, xenophobes versus internationalists, urban versus rural, elite versus populist, radical versus reactionary, etc. - have never been so pronounced.  This is the result of decades of the nation falling apart, especially since the 1960s and the horrific American war in Vietnam.

I remember well the period of 1965 to 1973 when the United States was rocked by riots across America and scores of Blacks were gunned down by armed National Guard amid burning urban centers.  At the same time hundreds of thousands of 19-year-old male draftees, mostly poor and disproportionally non-white, were being sent to Vietnam and killed millions of Vietnamese peasants in genocidal bombings, napalming and chemical warfare, such that the military grunts themselves revolted against that bipartisan horror.  The Civil Rights, Peace, Social Justice, Feminist, Ecology and Counter-Culture movements grew strong and united millions of young Americans in activism against their parents’ and grandparents’ racist policies, stifling conformity to corporate America, destruction of the natural world and Cold War militarism.  In response the US unleashed its police and secret police, gunning down Black Panthers, and infiltrating and destroying movements via its Cointelpro program.

The divisions of that period were the roots of today’s.  Indeed, each and every cause of the upheavals of half a century ago is greater now.  The apocalyptic visions of 1960s Left economists, science fiction seers, ecologists and anti-war activists are now our daily reality.  No matter the result of the 2020 election, the divisions will worsen because these crises will worsen.  We are living in a period that appears equatable with the strife and turmoil, disruption and suffering, of the Great Depression and World War II, and it’s getting worse, now threatening the biosphere itself.

As divided as America is, it will become even more so in the months and years ahead because neither the election of Biden nor the re-election of Trump will be uniting.  Both the Democrats and the Republicans are girding for a political struggle that will likely have the election winner undetermined on November 3rd, and a protracted fight between the Trumpists and the Biden forces in the courts and streets seems guaranteed.  Whichever is sworn in as President in January 2021 will be rejected as illegitimate by the other’s followers.   

Corporate capitalism over the past half century has created an oligarchy that has rotted away the American economy and is shattering Earth’s ability to sustainably support us.   Racism and racial hatreds have always been endemic to America, but when the pieces of the economic pie get smaller and smaller for everyone there is amplification of racial fears and hatreds.  These divisions serve to prevent people from focusing on the oligarchic system itself and uniting to bring it down and replace it with one that serves people and the planet.

Both Parties are owned by and beholden to the corporate elite who rule America, both serve Wall Street and the American military industrial empire, and together they squash any party that dare question or oppose corporate capitalism.  They are aided by their media corporations, the major propaganda arm of the ruling elite and promoter of the capitalist economy.  

It’s a simplistic but highly effective system of control and looting, and most Americans feel helpless and thus respond by not voting.  Trump voters hate the Democrats, and Democrat voters hate the GOP, and the super-rich smirk as their control and power increases whoever wins.  The COVID pandemic has been an injection of steroids into these divisions, collapsing small businesses and throwing tens of millions of working and middle class people into an economic and psychic depression.  For the elite the pandemic has facilitated a massive theft and looting as they have gobbled up more and more control and wealth from both the governmental and private sector.

Isn't Trump an isolated president when we see how he has dismissed his advisors since his investiture?

As you know, I could foresee Trump beating Hillary Clinton, especially living here in the US Midwest in a battleground swing state which he won to cement his victory.  The depths of his extreme depravity, narcissism, bigotry, xenophobia and hubris were perhaps unimaginable. The most alarming aspect is that he stands a chance of winning re-election again, losing the popular vote of course, but cobbling together enough states to take the Electoral College.  Most of his older, white male base has remained loyal to him.

There has never been an American politician as isolated as Donald Trump except for Nixon in his final days, but it doesn’t seem to matter as long as the GOP politicians and GOP dominated judiciary stand with him, and the military and national security state rally around him.  He can always bring new toadies in to replace the ones he kicks out or burns out.  

How do you explain that a great country like the United States could only find "Crazy Joe" as an alternative to Donald Trump?

16 years ago I co-wrote a book titled “Banana Republicans” that described how the reactionary Republican Party managed to game the system to dominate the Democrats and control so much power in America.  Remember, the Democrats aren’t really an opposition party anyway, since both parties serve the corporate oligarchs who fund and own them.  The Democrats’ ineptness and failure to fight effectively against the Republicans stems from the fact that ultimately both serve Wall Street, the military Empire, and the capitalist system that is impoverishing people and Nature and enriching a tiny elite.  

The only thing that annoys those who control the Democrats more than losing an election, is the idea that the progressive left would actually gain power within their Party.  They want Bernie Sanders to be with them, in other words, to bring in votes, but they will never be with Bernie Sanders.  The progressives are sheepherders for votes and window dressing for their party, they will never control it.  When Sanders appeared to be emerging as the winner of the primary elections, Obama and the Clintons worked behind the scenes to undercut him and swing his opponents to Biden, which apparently was easy to do.  Sanders is not a fighter, he caved to their tactics like some over the hill boxer taking a dive.

Why has the American Left never been able to be an alternative to the mammoth parties that are the Republicans and the Democrats?

The so-called Old Left was driven out of the Democratic Party in the 1940s and 1950s.  The New Left of the 1960s and 1970s never established itself in the Democratic Party which detested it and supported the war on Vietnam.  1972’s McGovern Campaign was the closest the Left came to power within the Democrats.  When the far Right seized power in the Reagan Revolution of 1980, the response of the Bill and Hillary Clinton wing was to mimic them and fully embrace global American capitalism.

The foundation-funded NGOs and the billionaire Democrats of the Democracy Alliance coopt young radicals into supporting the Democratic Party.  The 2000 campaign of Ralph Nader and the 2016 and 2020 primary campaigns of Bernie Sanders showed some life for a Left in politics, but ultimately the Democrats buy up or repress any effort to create a socialist independent Party.  Their progressives appear fully committed to the two-party Oligarchy and their role in it as ineffective reformers.   Each of the 50 states has different and difficult rules for getting on the ballot which makes it easy to prevent a national Party from arising, especially since to be visible in political campaigns requires massive amounts of money.  

Trump has incited such hatred from both Democrats and Republicans that the neocons like Bill Kristol are united with the Leftists like Chomsky and Sanders in fighting against what is openly labeled an attempted fascist theft by Trump of the 2020 election.  Clearly the corporate oligarchy much prefers Biden over the crazed autocrat Trump, but it can live four more years with Trump, too.  

The bottomline is that the two party oligarchy has made it all but impossible for a Left to arise, and the Democrats’ progressives are fine with that because they foolishly believe that someday they will control the Democratic Party.  The professional leadership of the progressives make six figure salaries working in millionaire and billionaire funded NGOs, or in politics or the media.  The successful cooptation of young leaders by the Democrats and their funders has helped ensure that no strong independent party can rise at the national level.  

In your opinion, what good are elections in the United States when the real decision-makers are the oligarchy that rules the United States and the world?

I have come to the conclusion that elections primarily exist to provide the appearance of democracy while thwarting real democracy.  They divide people into one of two capitalist-driven political business operations, the Democrats or the Republicans.  Elections result in billions being poured into corporate media to purchase paid propaganda, and the media corporations make sure that only the oligarchy’s two Parties receive any positive coverage.  Elections are essential to continued social and political control by the corporate elite through their system of two party oligarchy.  A majority of voters don’t vote, probably because they see the process as not serving their interests, but there is no unity of opinion and certainly no movement-building among non-voters at this time. 

Can we speak of democracy and democratic elections in today's America when we know the weight of the different lobbies that are the military-industrial complex, big pharma, etc.?

Corporate lobbyists are the government, essentially.  The lobbyists and PR hacks who are paid millions to write laws and funnel campaign money to politicians are mostly former politicians, their aids, government bureaucrats, retired military officers and PR people hired for the job of lobbying.  They are paid much, much more money for this than they were ever paid in government jobs.  It is impossible to separate the elected politicians, the government agencies, the judges, the lobbyists, the corporate rich, and the corporate media, they are all mutually benefitting cogs in the machine that rules and runs America’s political system on behalf of the super rich.  Democracy it is not, but it goes to great lengths with the help of the media to convince the public that it is their government, not the oligarchy’s.

The United States continues its policy of imperialist interference in countries by fomenting coups, supporting dictators like Bolsonaro or thugs like Guaido. In your opinion, when will the United States stop interfering in the affairs of sovereign states?

The United States will never stop its bipartisan interfering in the affairs of other countries, it is essential to the global corporate empire to keep doing so, to control resources and to destroy successful examples of people rising up against corporate hegemony.  The American warfare state exploits patriotism and nationalism to further control the populace, and America’s wars are hyped and sold by corporate media and become nationalist circuses and control mechanisms for domestic politics. 

In your opinion, isn't there a need to have a multipolar world free of US hegemony?

Indeed, that would be refreshing, yes.

How do you explain the weight of Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and advisor, who is the architect of Israel's standardization with certain Arab countries and the designer of the "deal of the century"?

From the start, Trump turned to his immediate family to be his closest and most trusted operators and representatives, like some episode of The Godfather.  Kushner, like Trump, is not a politician but a rich, crude and powerful elitist.  Support for the government of Israel is sacred to both the Democrats and Republicans, and Kushner and Trump have not run into much Democratic criticism in their wheeling and dealing with Israel, the nation that manipulates and affects US politics more than any other.

According to OXFAM, between 1990 and 2015, the richest 10% of the world's population were responsible for 52% of cumulative CO2 emissions and the richest 1% are responsible for twice as many emissions as the poorest half of humanity. How do you analyze the fact that the richest 1% of the world's population pollute more than the rest of humanity? Don't you think it is urgent to overcome this deadly capitalist system?

The early 21st century is the apex so far of industrial capitalism, funneling more and more of the world’s natural and economic wealth to a tiny percentage of maximum consumers who gobble it up.  The Earth clearly cannot afford the rich, and it is beyond urgent that we abolish this system of irresponsible consumption destroying people and the planet.  Unfortunately, corporate advertising and PR propaganda has deeply seeded the belief that the highest human goal, the guarantee of our happiness, is maximum individual consumption; this cultivated greed has the masses looking to the super rich as their ideal, thus coveting multiple homes, cars, gadgets, and the hedonistic lifestyle of the rich and famous they see on big and small screens.  We are seeing how this capitalist propaganda - that greedy consumption is the highest good - is resulting in the collapse of the climate and the Earth’s ecosystems, as well as the systemic poisoning of our water, air and our own bodies with toxins.  

Is it an inevitability for humanity to live under a capitalist system that constantly feeds on imperialist wars? How do you explain the exponential increase in inequality in the world?  

Corporate capitalism is the system that has come to dominate, control and define the world, and its engine is revving faster and faster as the interlocked crises of poverty, war and environmental destruction worsen.   It is very difficult to see how humanity turns this around, since governments now are controlled by a rich ruling elite that benefits from this destruction and is adept at propaganda and both outright and covert thuggery to prevent revolutionary change.

Donald Trump failed miserably in managing the Covid-19 crisis while Cuba succeeded and even helped other countries by sending medical teams around the world. Don't you think that Trump's failure will influence the result of the elections? And how do you explain that a superpower like the United States is failing to manage this pandemic?

One would expect that the hundreds of thousands of deaths, a number growing larger by the hour still, would cause Americans to blame Trump and reject him.  However, the state of the American divide and psyche is such that Covid-19 is viewed through politics.  Trump labeled the pandemic both a hoax and also a deadly tactic from China; he has suggested a deliberate release of a killer virus.  Which is it?  It is neither, and those two assertions are a contradiction, but in the fascist thinking of Trump it’s all about circus and emotion and anti-science xenophobia, and his huge cult thrives on such idiocy.  While Trump made no serious attempt to manage the crisis in January and February when it was still possible, the Democrats too dropped the ball, consumed like Trump by election year politics, their impeachment charade.  They too ignored what was obvious in January to many of us, that Covid-19 would become a global pandemic.  

America’s 50 states function like separate nations in many important ways, and devoid of national leadership it has been up to each state to try and manage the pandemic, and many have followed Trump’s ignorant lead in decrying mask-wearing and blaming foreigners for infecting America.  Where I live in the Midwest you see who supports Trump and who doesn’t by whether they wear a mask.  Half don’t, even though the pandemic is the worst here at this time.

Trump’s branding of the pandemic as a hoax, his derisive refusal to wear masks, his insistence that it would just go away, his efforts to insinuate that this “China virus” was somehow an attack on the US, all reveal his sociopathic narcissism.  He saw Covid-19 as a threat to his re-election campaign, something to manage politically but not scientifically.   Amazingly, as with seemingly all issues, his cultish base has followed his lead.  Rationally one would expect that Covid-19 alone, his bungling of it, would cause him to lose the election.  However, Trump consistently defeats conventional logic, and how it plays out is a guess.

Covid-19 has plunged the poor, working and middle classes into desperate economic collapse that is just beginning to be felt, but that impact too may wash off him as he heightens his appeal to race and nationalism to whip up his base in the dozen or so contested states that will determine if Trumpism, like the pandemic itself, grows in the years ahead.

2020 has been a very bleak year in America, and is promising to get worse.  If Trump does lose the election and is removed from office, the Democrats have no policies to address these interlinked crises, and the Dems will continue to wage foreign interventions while pursuing the same neoliberal economic policies that thwart national health care, keep the poor down, defund the working class, and funnel most money to the super rich.  The reform minded progressives like Sanders or AOC have no real power in their party, but they will help keep down the rise of any new populist Left party that would unite Americans against the capitalist system dragging us along on its economic and environmental death trip.

Now Trump has Covid and the election chaos has heightened.  What do you see happening as a result?

The inevitable was announced October 1, Trump himself has contracted Covid, as has his wife, campaign manager, press secretary and dozens of staff and top Republicans, all tied to a “super-spreader” event at the White House.  After just 3 nights in a government hospital Trump insisted on going home to the White House the evening of October 5, downplaying the seriousness of Covid still, and still refusing to wear a mask.  Clearly, he has become a very desperate candidate, and he is trying to macho his way through this personal and political crisis, playing as usual to his rabid cult base, wanting to appear some sort of superman in the face of the pandemic.  His reckless behavior endangers his followers and especially those closest to him, but he clearly doesn’t care about infecting others.   How it will all play out in the weeks left to Election Day on November 3rd is anyone’s guess, we will all see.

Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen

Who is John Stauber?

John Stauber is a US citizen who spent 40 years as an independent activist and investigative writer before retiring.  He has co-authored six books exposing hidden corporate and government propaganda including the bestsellers Toxic Sludge Is Good for You (1995), Trust Us We’re Experts (2001) and Weapons of Mass Deception (2003).

Disagreement in the Security Council over OPCW Report

Jose Bustani OPCW Syria UN 2aabe

In its last session, the Security Council witnessed a major disagreement among its members after requesting to present a report of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that confirms Syria's abandonment of chemical weapons. Six countries rejected the report and voted not to present it.

The aforementioned report belongs to the former Director-General of (OPCW), "José Bustani". Russia has submitted a request to present it as a support and confirmation of Syria's acquittal of the alleged chemical attacks that took place during the war years, revealing that the investigations that are being conducted are impartial and unprofessional.

The United States of America, Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, and Estonia rejected the Russian request and voted against the presentation of this report, noting that Russia is presiding over the sessions of the Council for this month.

In response, Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, addressed the officials who refused to hear the report: “Today you entered the history of the Security Council, which has never voted on the presence or absence of the briefers presented by the country presiding over the session.”

Despite the opposition of the aforementioned countries, Nebenzia presented the report and decided to read it himself for the representatives of the member states.

The report states that "investigations into the use of chemical weapons have become a major challenge for the organization, and there are many questions regarding accusations of using this weapon in Syria, related to the impartiality and professionalism these investigations were based on due to the pressures exerted by some countries."

According to Bustani's report, his dismissal in 2002 from being Director-General of (OPCW) "was orchestrated by the United States, and the dismissal was recognized later as illegal by the International Labor Organization."‌‌

*(Top image: Jose Bustani. Credit: The Grayzone News)

Facing Down Israel's Stooges at the Heart of Our Parliament

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A debate in Parliament recently on the Occupied Palestinian Territories drew some very silly remarks from the 'usual suspects'.

It was opened in commonsense vein by Stephen Kinnock who said: "It is so vital and urgent that the rule of law be brought to bear as the foundation upon which a viable and sustainable Palestine can be negotiated and built—a Palestine that protects the rights of its citizens and lives in peace with its neighbours.​

"The illegal Israeli settlements.... cause violence on a daily basis and they are a flagrant breach of international law, yet they continue and expand. In 2018, we marked 25 years since the signing of the Oslo accords. That moment in 1993 was meant to herald a new and lasting era of peace and co-existence—the beginning of a genuine two-state solution—but since then, the number of illegal settlers has increased from 258,000 to more than 610,000. Fifty thousand homes and properties have been demolished, and an illegal separation barrier has been built that carves up the West Bank and brutally disconnects towns, cities, families and communities from each other."

'This Israeli Government will continue on their current path....  further annexation'

Labour's Jeff Smith kept the show on a sane level by reminding the House that Israel's accords with the UAE and Bahrain have led only to a suspension of trouble, not an end. "Netanyahu has said that the plans for annexation remain on the table, and many of us fear that his Government could still bring those plans into practice".

You can count on it. That is the Zionist Project's main purpose.

"The single message that I took away from a visit to the West Bank—the one thing that came from many human rights groups and a range of people on the ground including diplomats and strong supporters of Israel—is that unless there are consequences for their actions, this Israeli Government will continue on their current path. That means, ultimately, moves towards further annexation and the end of a two-state solution."

But from there the debate went downhill to the extent that a colleague, Elizabeth Morley, decided to write to the most irritating participants. It's a classic put-down and, I think, well worth sharing with readers. Elizabeth wrote:

Dear MPs,

Thank you all for taking part in this debate. 

It was disappointing but not surprising that both the Minister and those who declare themselves Friends of Israel ostensibly pay only lip service to peace, justice, and the rule of international law where Israel is concerned. FoIs invariably shift blame onto the Palestinians, urging HMG to apply more pressure on them than on Israel.

To Mr Crabb, concerned about the threat of violence and death for Jewish Israeli citizens, I would suggest he force himself  to try and extend his concern to non-Jewish Israelis too, let alone to Palestinians in the Occupied territory.

Mr Wakeford wondered if new elections in Palestine would "bring not only an impetus for negotiation, but hope for the Palestinian people to move forward and find peace in the middle east?" Has he forgotten what happened after Hamas won the legislative election in 2006 with an overwhelming majority?  The so-called free world refused to accept that outcome, thereby facilitating a further 15 years of violence.

To Mr Howell I would say settlements are not just unhelpful, they are illegal. His remark that it is Palestinians ramming Israeli cars that makes the settlements necessary is nothing if not laughable. 

Mr Moore, possibly blinded by his support of Israel, says "Violence against Jews in the region had been taking place even before the state's establishment in 1948". He should remember that in the same period the non-Jews of Palestine had suffered violence both from the British Mandatory and from the Jewish terror gangs who committed atrocity after atrocity right up to the declaration of the State of Israel. As for his remark that: "For millennia, Jews lived in the west bank, known as the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria", he should recall that the proportion of Jewish to non-Jewish Palestinians in what was fondly known as the Holy Land before the Balfour Declaration was approx. 5% to 95%! Regarding his comments on Gaza, would he consider his life would have improved after Israel withdrew settlers but destroyed its infrastructure, polluted its land and waters, restricted access to electricity and water, made it unfit for human occupation and, to use David Cameron's phrase, turned Gaza into "an open-air prison camp" surveilled night and day from land, sea and air? Finally, as for "Palestine—meaning modern-day Israel" - no, it does not!

Mr McCabe is worried about Palestinian text books. Has he ever studied Israeli textbooks? I assume not. So let him, and others who are similarly worried, read the recent study by Prof. Avner Ben-Amos of Tel Aviv University's School of Education which shows that the occupation barely figures in Israeli school textbooks, in which Palestinians are all but invisible, while at the same time the Jewish control and the Palestinians' inferior status appear as a natural, self-evident situation that one doesn't have to think about. The Bible is used as a historical source and as a moral justification for Jewish occupation of the West Bank. [See https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-in-israeli-textbooks-the-palestinians-are-all-but-invisible-1.8933768]

Mr Largan follows up his cynical remark about Palestine recognition by describing Hamas as "openly committed to the genocide of Jewish people". I would suggest he and others of that persuasion (Mr McCabe included) brush up their somewhat flimsy knowledge about Hamas and its history.

Mr Clarke-Smith says: "Conflict is in no way as clearcut as it is so often presented, just as the settlements issue requires greater nuance than some are willing to provide." To him I would say: On the contrary, "the conflict"  IS clear cut! It started with the Balfour Declaration, which gave a free ticket to foreign Jews to take over Palestine. Let him "nuance" the history of Palestine beyond all recognition!

Good to see the Minister dismissed Mr Shannon's puerile attempt to divert attention to Iran.

I have copied in my MP. Unfortunately he did not take part in the debate. Nevertheless, I am confident that he would have agreed with those who urged HMG to recognise Palestine, ban settlement goods and cease trade with companies profiting from the Occupation.

Thank you for your attention."

Crabb is an especially sad case. He's Parliamentary Chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), a lobby group at the centre of UK government which in 2014 claimed to include 80% of Conservative Party MPs. An utterly shameful state of affairs when you consider what message is sent by eagerly waving the flag of a brutal, lawless and racist regime that has few friends outside the conceited Westminster and Washington 'elites'.

He is also a Christian who believes in the practical value of prayer.  But if he's such a dedicated supporter of the Zionist Project which god does he pray to?

In 2017 he told the Jewish Chrinicle: "My interest in supporting Israel through CFI is less to do with faith and much more to do with basic values about liberalism, tolerance, democracy and freedom. When you put yourself on the side of Israel you are putting yourself on the side of those values, which as a Conservative I believe are the essential underpinnings of prosperity in the modern world.

“You cannot fail to be impressed by Israel as a beacon of freedom and liberalism."

Funny man. Israel's 'values' don't include letting the Palestinians have their freedom or even the slightest sniff at the underpinning of prosperity.

And he recently wrote: "As I have emphasised to you on numerous occasions in the past, the way forward is for a renunciation of violence and terror by Hamas and a resumption of full peace talks. It was very encouraging to see Israel and the United Arab Emirates reach a ground-breaking peace agreement over summer and this has to be the way forward. It is tragic that the Hamas leadership remain determined to turn Gaza into a terrorist statelet, rather than a prosperous home for Palestinians."

The way forward is, and always has been, compliance with international law and UN resolutions and an end to Israel's illegal and vicious military occupation which, as even Crabb must see, deprives Palestinians of any hope of prosperity.

Mrs Morley, I think, would have pointed out to Crabb (as she did to someone else) that if he and his colleagues truly want peace - which I personally doubt because that's the last thing their adored Israel wants - they are "doing all the wrong things, namely:

- failing to recognise Palestine;

- failing to sanction Israel for its decades long illegal occupation of Palestine and its ongoing crimes against Palestinian life;

- failing to hold Israel to its obligations under international law as regards the return of refugees;

- failing to stop selling lethal weapons to Israel which are used to maim and murder Palestinians, including children.

By not banning settlement products, HMG actively assist those who support the illegal Israeli settlements whose main aim is the displacement, disenfranchisement, elimination by any means of the Palestinian people on their own land.

In fact HMG are for ever tilting the balance in Israel's favour in countless other ways. And no amount of peace deals with Israel's other Arab nations will make any difference."

Managing it, never solving it

And I'd be saying to Mr Crabb, if you are seriously interested in Christianity you should connect with the Christian churches out there instead of constantly hobnobbing with the Zionist Tendency. And I do mean the real Christians, those in the front line battling the jackbooted mayhem in the Holy Land.

And he ought to acquaint himself with the Kairos Document. Eleven years ago a group of Christian Palestinians issued “a cry of hope in the absence of all hope”, reflecting their country’s decades of suffering under brutal Israeli occupation.

They said they had reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people because international decision-makers contented themselves with ‘managing’ the crisis rather than solving it. The situation was, and still is, destroying human life and that must surely be of concern to the Church.

“We call out as Christians and as Palestinians to our religious and political leaders, to our Palestinian society and to the Israeli society, to the international community, and to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Churches around the world.”

Eight years later, in 2017, came an Open Letter from Christian Palestinians to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement. It was a heart-rending cry for help from the National Coalition of Christian Organisations in Palestine (NCCOP) saying the situation for Palestinians was “beyond urgent”.

They were concerned that States and churches were still dealing with Israel on a business-as-usual basis and ignoring the criminal reality of the military occupation. After all, the world’s churches had come together in opposition to apartheid in South Africa and helped to defeat it. So why hadn’t they done the same for Palestine?

Then came a third Red Alert "standing on the cliff-edge looking into an abyss".  On the 10th anniversary of their first warning document, Kairos Palestine reached out to world’s Churches yet again, saying that life in Palestine had deteriorated even further under another decade of illegal occupation.

  • “The oppression is more aggressive and brutal.”
  • “Our imprisoned and besieged sisters and brothers in Gaza, non-violently gathered for the March of Return, were the targets of a bloody and deadly response.”
  • “Settlements continue to expand.”
  • “Threats to annex the Jordan Valley and the settlements themselves grow without a word of condemnation from the major powers.”
  • “We are experiencing the continued dispossession of our land, our freedom and our human rights.”
  • “Add to this, three more appalling developments:

– US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel;

– the US Secretary of State’s announcement that the US government no longer deems West Bank settlements to be ‘inconsistent with international law’;

– and the State of Israel’s recent adoption of their Nation State Law which clearly reveals that de facto apartheid has become de jure apartheid.”

  • “The failure of the peace process is further evidence that the current status quo is unsustainable.”

The statement went on: “There are still many who use the Bible to justify the occupation and who unquestioningly support the State of Israel. And, for the most part, the global Church is failing us. We are standing as if on the edge of a cliff, looking into an abyss.”

The essential point of their 2017 Open Letter was that time had run out: it was beyond urgent. And it ended with the chilling words: “This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land.”

So did the efforts of these Palestinian clergy, Christ’s front-line troops who daily face hostility, abuse and physical danger, finally get through to our comfy Holy Joes here in the UK's leafy suburbs? Has the penny dropped that the wellspring of their faith, the birthplace of Jesus, is being stolen and may be lost for ever if Israel gets its way?

How has the World Council of Churches responded to all those urgent pleas from Palestine? Did the message percolated down through the ranks? And have our spiritual leaders, those upstanding ‘men of the cloth’, been mobilising their troops? They promised to study and analyse. “We want churches in Palestine to know that their perspective is heard and it is vitally important,” said the WCC’s general secretary. “We will continue with the same passionate spirit to work on specific objectives, strategies and partners for advocacy to end the occupation and to work for just peace in Palestine and Israel.”

Or was it all bollox?

Rejecting Christian Zionism

Meanwhile, if Mr Crabb is the true, prayerful Christian he claims to be he'll be eager to read The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism by the Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches in Jerusalem in 2006. It says among other things:

    "We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message.

   " We reject the alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States [add the UK] that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine.

    "We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that support these policies as they promote racial exclusivity and perpetual war.

    "We call upon all Churches that remain silent, to break their silence and speak for reconciliation with justice in the Holy Land.

   " We call upon all people to reject Christian Zionism and other ideologies that privilege one people at the expense of others.

    "We are committed to non-violent resistance as the most effective means to end the illegal occupation."

And Palestinians - Muslim and Christian - are one people. Don’t anyone forget that.

“A man is known by the company he keeps”, said Aesop the legendary storyteller. So what is Mr Crabb, who prays a lot, doing wedded to an organisation that celebrates the Israeli regime's cruel and criminal ambition to crush its Palestinian neighbours, including their Christian communities, who have always been in that land?

*(Top image: Stephen Kinnock speaking in the Commons)

Rudy Gobert and the Infectious Disease of the Uyghur “Genocide” Myth

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Some may know Rudy Gobert as the Utah Jazz center who, back in March 2020, made a mockery of COVID-19 by coughing and touching the microphones of reporters. Gobert and several other Jazz players would end up testing positive for COVID-19. Now Gobert is once again back in the media spotlight for reasons other than basketball. This time, the French basketball player is being showered with praise by the U.S. and European establishments after sharing an Instagram post from French actor Omar Sy denouncing China’s so-called oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. Sy’s post regurgitated the commonly repeated narrative that millions of Uyghurs languish in “concentration camps” as part of a targeted campaign of anti-Muslim genocide.

Gobert and Sy are not alone in believing that China is detaining its Uyghur population in “concentration camps.” This narrative has become a staple of the U.S. and West’s overall anti-China policy over the past two years. Allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang have led the United States in particular to level sanctions on Communist Party of China officials as well as companies in Xinjiang that serve as suppliers to major U.S. corporations. Thus, no one will be forcing Gobert to apologize for his political stance on the issue. In fact, the World Uyghur Congress immediately issued a statement on Twitter to Gobert thanking him for his “courage and empathy.”

But what is the World Uyghur Congress and the other so-called experts claiming the existence of genocide in Xinjiang? Most of them are connected to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its related institutions. Take the World Uyghur Congress. The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) was established in Germany in 1996 initially as the World Uyghur Youth Congress (WCYU) by Omer Kanat and Dolkun Isa. Kanat worked as a senior editor for Radio Free Asia for ten years between the years 1999 and 2009. Radio Free Asia was literally created by the CIA in the 1950s to subvert the post-revolution social order in China while the WUC received grants in the sum of nearly one million dollars in 2019 from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a soft power institution linked to the CIA.

The NED has provided millions in overall funds to so-called Uyghur human rights groups based in the United States and the West. These groups are supported by a network of think-tanks and foundations that have attempted to legitimize claims of Uyghur genocide with academic “research.” The most widely cited academic is Adrian Zenz. Zenz is a Christian fundamentalist who is opposed to gender equality and believes he is “led by God” to take down the Communist Party of China. He works for the Jamestown Foundation and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, both of which credit their genesis to the U.S. government and the CIA.

In other words, Zenz is little more than a mouthpiece of the U.S. empire when it comes to China. His body of work includes making sensational claims that China is sterilizing Uyghur women through birth control policies and detaining the Uyghur population in “concentration camps” by the millions. Neither of these claims have been backed by solid evidence. The Uyghur population in China has increased exponentially between the years 2010-2018. Furthermore, a number of Muslim majority countries have supported China’s policy of de-radicalization in Xinjiang while not a single U.S. or Western source has been able to verify claims that China is locking away Uyghurs in “concentration camps.”

The negation of the political reality in Xinjiang is by design. Plenty of opportunities have been afforded to U.S. and Western journalists to investigate the situation in Xinjiang for themselves. Reuters, perhaps the chief promoter in the corporate media of the Uyghur genocide myth, traveled to the region in 2019. Their report was largely dismissive of findings that the “concentration camps” they speak of are actually reeducation and employment centers meant to assist those caught in the exploitative trap of terrorist organizations like the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), recently renamed the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP). TIP committed regular acts of terrorist violence on China’s soil from 1990-2016, killing hundreds if not thousands of people.

Often missing from the U.S. and Western narrative on Xinjiang is that so-called scholars such as Zenz are directly connected to both terrorist organizations responsible for separatist violence in Xinjiang and U.S. military contractors. Istiqlal TV, for example, is an Uyghur-exile network based in Turkey that regularly hosts leaders from TIP in its programming. This media organization is where Zenz derived his conclusion that millions of Uyghurs are detained in Xinjiang. Another favorite source of Adrian Zenz, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), is sponsored by weapons manufacturers such as Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman. It should come as no surprise that much of the so-called “mapping” data of detention centers in Xinjiang has been exposed as nothing more misread satellite images of schools and other public institutions.

The ASPI and the other handful of sources linked to the military industrial complex reveal just how politized the term “genocide” has become. The great Edward Herman's book The Politics of Genocide encapsulates the hypocrisy of the U.S. and West’s crusade against China’s Xinjiang policy. One set of rules regarding genocide apply to the U.S. and Western powers, while another set entirely to China. U.S. and Western leaders can promote claims as fact so long as the sources are close to their own military and intelligence apparatuses. Meanwhile, the U.S. and the West never have to answer for their own well-documented participation in genocide and torture.

The list of examples of U.S. and Western-sponsored genocide is too large to list in full here, but they include the mass torture campaign at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp (of which Rushan Abbas, Uyghur exile activist, and former DoD translator, was a full participant), the ongoing genocide of indigenous peoples in North America and Australia, the U.S.’ mass incarceration and wonton murder of Black Americans by the national security state, and the tens of millions of people killed and displaced in Muslim majority countries by U.S. and Western wars since the War on Terror was declared in 2001. The U.S. and Western way of life is steeped in Eurocentric racism which forms the roots of its promotion of ethnic strife, division, and racism in Xinjiang. U.S. and Western officials support the break up of Xinjiang into its own “nation” called East Turkistan. This “nation” would be led by the likes of Al-Qaeda affiliated Uyghur forces currently fighting the Syrian government in places like Idlib.

Rudy Gobert’s comment on Xinjiang is an exemplary case of the ways in which the quest to maintain U.S. and Western hegemony has been cloaked in concern for a mythical genocide in China. The truth is that China’s growing influence in the world is behind the increased interest in Xinjiang from imperial powers thousands of miles away. Xinjiang is the heartland of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a multilateral and multitrillion-dollar infrastructure plan that involves over 120 nations. Neither the U.S. nor its Western junior partners can offer such a plan to the rest of the world. When it comes to U.S. and Western narratives regarding Xinjiang, it is important to return to the source. Rudy Gobert and many others would find a better use of their time looking into and opposing the crimes of their own governments rather than serving as cheap geopolitical missionaries for the U.S. Department of State.

*(Top image: Rudy Gobert. Credit: Vivint Smart Home/ YouTube)

US Middle East Policy: The Wrong Track Leads to Grave Consequences

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Up to now, the foreign policy of the successive US administrations towards the Middle East has been characterized by an ever-growing dominance of pro-Israel organizations, mainly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  In turn, this pro-Israel dominance over the mechanisms of decision making has grown in line with the moves by pro-Israel organizations to overwhelm Capitol Hill. On the other hand, the Anti-Israel lobby in the United States can be assessed as very limited in its impact on US politics both in volume and resources.

For the past seven decades all US Presidents, without exception - and the overall majority of Capitol Hill lawmakers as well as a percentage of think tanks, media, and academics - have adopted Israel as their central ally in the Middle East. This embedded bias cries out for a comprehensive review of Israel lobby groups in the US. In fact, there are three key groups: first comes the largest pro-Israel US lobby: ‘Christians United for Israel’; second comes the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which directly lobbies the US Congress; third comes the ‘Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’, which is the main link between the Jewish community and the executive branch of the US government. This network has been quite influential on US decision-making and justifies itself on a deep-rooted but bizarre notion that Israel (with half its subjects disenfranchised) is an oasis of democracy in the Middle East!

In the perspective of Israeli-ally-adopted circles, the countries of the region can be classified into first class, second, and even third-class allies, in accordance with their weight when it comes to US strategic interests. The realm of history shows that the people of the Middle East have been simple merchandise to the leaders at Capitol Hill. This ally-classification-based characteristic of US Middle East policy has deep roots in US history, itself based on race since the dawn of the British and French colonies in North America, and then into the American civil war and beyond. Today, the “Black Lives Matter” movement is an undeniable example of the race-based character of US society and politics.

Generally speaking, it can be said that Republican administrations have adopted a military-first approach to the ME region. On the other side of US politics, Democrat administrations have been linked to the so-called “peace treaties” of the ME, regardless of whether those treaties have helped the region’s people.

These days, the United States is reshaping its ME alliances not to secure the security and stability of the region, but to best serve the personal interests of President Donald Trump in the American political arena. Recent examples of this are the Emirati and Bahraini recognition of Israel.

These types of action tell us that US administrations do not have the will or intention to change their failed strategy, no matter whether those administrations are Republican or Democrat. The failed wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria have facilitated the entry of Russian and Chinese influence, emphasizing the costs of US policy failure. The legitimacy problems of Israel have not improved, with half the people living under Tel Aviv rule effectively disenfranchised and even Israeli groups like Yesh Din calling the regime in the West Bank one of apartheid. No amount of ‘peace agreements’ with Gulf monarchies can cover that fact. Nevertheless, recent events tell us that US administrations will continue with their blind-fold, without much of a chance at a re-evaluation of the seven-decade alliance with Israel, or of re-evaluating alliances with the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf, the worst of in all human rights abuse and lack of democracy.

The failures of the US approach go deeper, due to the ever-growing sum of resources committed to the Middle East's ‘security’ objectives. Despite the standing differences in policy, the successive administrations of US Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump have all dug deeper with military power, economic sanctions, relying on Gulf allies to launch, fund, and trigger division and war. The best witnesses in this respect are the roles Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are playing in the Libyan conflict and in the regional geopolitics. As soon as Donald Trump assumed duties in the White House, the Gulf monarchies got the green light to pay the US treasury for the wars they launch and the political turmoil they generate, from Yemen to Libya and through Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Algiers, and Morocco.

In this regard, the Saudi royals have played the local hegemon role while Qatar and UAE have emerged as additional warmongers and strife-funders, stirring conflict in the region. The Saudi monarchy is still fighting acknowledgment of its responsibility for funding and guiding terrorism on US soil, through the events of 9/11. This early role by a key US regional ally paved the way to the turmoil the region experiences today. An important question is when and how the Persian Gulf monarchies will acknowledge their responsibility for the ME turmoil.

Without exception, successive US administrations claim that their regional Middle East goal is the eradication of al Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL). However, US security objectives are quite deceptive as ISIL and al Qaeda have been playing the role of ‘natural selectors’; allowing and at time encouraging them to inflict bloodshed and trauma to regional peoples and states. US policy objectives do aim at limiting Iranian influence in some strategic locations, and also at placing pressure on Iran so that its leadership might crumble, or at least dramatically alter its regional policy. That has not occurred. This is yet another failed regional strategy. Successive US administrations have employed resources in pursuit of what they call these ‘strategic objectives’. In reality, the same failed approach has led Washington from one quagmire to the other. At the dawn of this century, this failed approach began with the disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, concocted by George Bush Junior and UK leader Tony Blair orchestrated proven-later-fabulous Weapons of Mass Destruction. In neither country, after many years, has the US been able to consolidate its dominance.

The subsequently failed approaches adopted the tactics of empowering so-called ‘regional allies’, either through direct support or by providing those ‘allies’ with training, arms transfers, and intelligence. This has enabled those ‘allies’ to launch proxy wars on behalf of the United States.

However, when it comes to these tools, it is obvious that US proxy groups in Syria have a variety of titles. Yet all such groups have the US green light to intervene directly in bloodshed and chaos. The same has applied to Yemen and Libya. Nevertheless, on the ground, none of these US proxy wars have come even close to fully serve US strategies. On the contrary, the proxy wars have brought US administrations shame and disgrace. In Afghanistan, US proxy wars led to the rise of the Taliban. After decades of misguided intervention in Afghanistan, the Trump administration is doing its best to escape that quagmire through negotiations with the Taliban. Those negotiations were made through back door channels provided by Bahrain and Qatar; the same financiers of other US adventures.

The so-called US security allies in the region, particularly the Persian Gulf monarchies, were never meant to admit that the proxy-wars they launched on behalf of the US were driving the region into greater chaos. The proxy wars and the so-called Arab Spring became the Gulf monarchies’ approach towards toppling independent governments, through the use of terrorist groups which received direct guidance and were openly funded and armed by Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the overall supervisor of the proxy-war-campaign, Saudi Arabia.  Thus, the Gulf monarchies used conflict and instability to pursue greater regional influence and in attempts to push aside regional adversaries. But the wishes of those monarchies have turned into nightmares, pushing them into the same US-orchestrated quagmires, with no end in sight.

The current Washington strategy has been sealed by the Trump Administration’s latest diplomatic incursion into ‘peace accords’. Actually, Trump is using these accords as fodder for his re-election campaign. In fact, the Israeli-UAE and Israeli-Bahrain ‘peace accords’ are more about Iran than peace. They do not change the balance of forces in the region. Such agreements actually escalate tension in the Persian Gulf by forcing the Islamic Republic of Iran to take a defensive position against any possible new intervention or provocation. The new accords raise the risk of war. Meanwhile, the Palestinian people, who lost and are losing their land, will face additional pressure to accept an abusive deal imposed by the extreme-right Israeli parties. Yet they are not going away.

In their capacity as privileged Arab states, the Gulf monarchies are making it clear that they no longer care for the Palestinian cause. Today the two-state solution and the ‘Arab Peace Initiative’, once endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 at the Beirut Summit and re-endorsed at the 2007 and at the 2017 Arab League summits, have become unfeasible with Israeli Premier Netanyahu’s publicly and openly declared a bid for a Jewish state which will absorb the major parts of the West Bank, leaving almost no land for the long-promised Palestinian state. That is why the Palestinians see the recent deal as a betrayal by the UAE, Bahrain, and the other Gulf monarchies. The Palestinians are already pushed into the corner as Trump goes on with his ‘peace treaty’ war plans, blatantly biased towards Israel. The Trump and the Jewish state advocates of these agreements will go beyond reality and claim that the previous peace processes failed and a new approach is needed. Closer relations between Israel and the Persian Gulf monarchies, they say, could provide greater security for the Jewish state and, potentially, greater willingness to compromise by other Arab and African countries.

For the Palestinians, now is the time to face the fact that the accords have been shaped by the Israelis and a Trump Administration which shows no interest in a fair resolution of the Palestinian problem. The two-state solution has had its gravestone marked. That means, as past Israeli leaders have feared, the spectacle of an openly apartheid Israel. Rather than delivering peace, deals in support of this apartheid are most likely to exacerbate Palestinians’ sense of hopelessness and despair. That will only generate greater problems for the future. Trump’s so-called ‘peace accords’ are nothing but leverage to the interests of Trump, Netanyahu, and the Gulf monarchies. Such accords are a reverse gear shift in the region’s geopolitics. Through these accords, the Persian Gulf monarchies, themselves democratically illegitimate, will deepen their paranoia that the Islamic Republic of Iran is their prime enemy rather than Israel. The rest of the Gulf monarchies may well come to the US ‘peace’ table soon.

Regardless of Netanyahu’s cases of fraud and his decreasing popularity in Israel, the Israeli leader has for the past two decades been the master political operator, with his pledge to annex parts of the West Bank and the Syrian Golan. Netanyahu is insisting on Israel’s claim for sovereignty over any occupied territory. The UAE in its accord made no real mention of Israeli withdrawal from the lands it has occupied in the 1967 war. For decades, this ‘wished for’ withdrawal has been the central Arab demand for normalizing relations. Yet through new ‘peace accords’ Israel seems to have gained a type of recognition it has been looking for. Instead of the main point of leverage being the Palestinian demand for their own state, the ‘peace accords’ seem to have deprived the Palestinians of their dream. The recognition that would have been delivered through a real peace settlement has now been offered at no cost. Yet most of the world still considers the annexation of occupied lands as illegal. Trump has a positive story to sell in his re-election campaign, but there is no advance for this region.

A better Middle East approach for the US would be to concentrate on how to promote human well-being and end the proxy wars by placing restraints on the Persian Gulf monarchies and revising the failed strategies of exploiting conflict after conflict. When proxy interventions come to an end, the US will be no longer have to invest in more of the same.

Paradoxically, the only achievement for US administrations has been that the multiple failures have led the Capitol Hill to a point of no return, where the only real move in their own interest is to prevent further spillovers taking place. No matter whether the forthcoming administration is Republican or Democrat, Capitol Hill strategists will have to face this legacy of failure and contemplate how to abandon the ‘sinking ship’ approach. Engagement in the Middle East only based on restraining the Persian Gulf monarchies from promoting further terrorism and sabotaging regional economies as they themselves defeat that terrorism will only lead the US deeper into its self-created quagmire.

*(Top image: Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the US Congress, March 3, 2015, an unusual privilege. Credit: Official Photo by Caleb Smith/ Speaker John Boehner/ Flickr)

Netanyahu’s Dirty Laundry Tells All

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Staff in Washington D.C.’s Blair House, where the U.S. president houses his V.I.P. foreign guests, report that they have begun counting towels and robes after visitors depart. Soap and shampoo resupply is also being closely monitored and a metal detector has been installed in the downstairs breakfast room to prevent silverware losses. The heightened security comes in the wake of revelations regarding the all-too-frequent visits by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been accused of regularly arriving at Blair House with multiple suitcases and bags containing many months’ worth of his dirty laundry, all of which he has washed, dry cleaned and pressed at U.S. taxpayer expense. While most visitors choose to deal with their soiled linen as a private matter, Bibi evidently is quite happy to have his washed for him in Washington.

Apart from the Netanyahu behavior demonstrating his complete contempt for his hosts, the prime minister appears to have an established track record when it comes to questionable behavior. He and his wife Sara have been the targets of several long-running corruption investigations in Israel, some of which remain unresolved. It is the latest in a series of crimes involving Israeli leaders, which have included the rape conviction of former President Moshe Katsav.

But more to the point, it is difficult to avoid the belief that the Jewish state and its hundreds of front organizations operating in the United States are basically both corrupting and impoverishing the United States one bite at a time. My father used to have a typical New Jersey expression describing someone who is obnoxiously persistent in trying to taking advantage of you. He called such behavior “getting pecked to death by a duck.” Lacking a sharp beak, one hardly notices the duck’s endeavors until it kills you. Israel and its proxies are the duck that is bleeding the United States one peck at a time.

There are, of course, the big-ticket items that make the news briefly like the more than $4 billion in annual military assistance that Israel gets, mostly guaranteed for the next ten years. Israel is now seeking $8 billion more on top of that to thank it for making friends with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in a politically motivated White House ceremony. Israel enjoys a number of tax breaks, co-production arrangements and trade concessions that almost certainly amount to more than $10 billion annually in a one-way cash flow to America’s “best friend and greatest ally.” The 1985 United States free trade agreement with Israel alone has benefitted the Jewish state by $144 billion, which is the U.S. deficit on the trade between 1985 and 2015.

One might note in passing that Israel is quite capable of defending itself, to include a nuclear arsenal and the means to deliver it, while its Jewish citizens enjoy a European standard of living, to include free public education through college and state provided medical care that is in part funded by American taxpayers.

But it is on the duck pecking level that the penetration and corruption of the United States becomes clearer. It seems that every week one notes a couple of articles here and there that reveal how Israel and its friends wield tremendous power at all government levels and also in the media. One that resonated in the past couple of weeks described how Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, has signed a bill authorizing the state’s department of motor vehicles to  bearing the legend “Florida Stands With Israel.” The Israeli-American Council (IAC) immediately praised the “heartwarming expression of solidarity” which “affirms the strong bond between the State of Florida’s citizens and the Jewish State of Israel. This kind of warmth is why Florida has always been a leading destination for Israeli-Americans.”

Now, DeSantis is no novice when it comes to the sucking up to Israel game. He has been playing the Israel and anti-Semitism cards throughout his political career. In 2018, as a Congressman running for governor, he attacked his opponent Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum during their gubernatorial race as not being a “friend of Israel.” Earlier, as a Congressman, DeSantis sponsored in 2013 the Palestinian Accountability Act which called for the withholding of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. In 2017, he co-founded the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus.

When DeSantis ran for governor, he predictably promised to be the most pro-Israel governor in America and that the “first delegation [he] would lead would be to the state of Israel.” He then took his entire cabinet with him as part of a 75-person taxpayer funded delegation on a six-day boondoggle at the end of May 2019, meanwhile boasting that “Today I’m pleased to report that I’m keeping that promise. Our delegation will bring business, academic and political leaders to help strengthen the bond between Florida and Israel.” He held a meeting of his Cabinet in the American Embassy in Jerusalem during his visit, the first time that such a meeting has ever been held by a state government on foreign soil. During the meeting he ostentatiously signed a legislative bill “combating anti-Semitism.”

And now one can buy license plates extolling the parasitic relationship with Israel, surely a unique expression of dual loyalty not exhibited by any other state in the union. The Florida relationship is also a perfect example of how Israel’s friends go about setting up mechanisms that will benefit the Jewish state. Israel will be selling its products and services to Florida, enabled by a government in place that is promoting the process and will steer contracts in its direction. In return, Florida will get little or nothing as Israel is a tiny market and has no particular need for anything that the Sunshine State produces.

All such trade agreements are designed to enrich Israel. Another interesting example of how this works at the state level and the abuse that it can produce has recently surfaced in Virginia, where a so-called Virginia-Israel Advisory Board (VIAB) has actually been funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia taxpayers to promote and even subsidize Israeli business in the state, business that currently runs an estimated $500 million per annum in favor of Israel. Grant Smith of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRMEP) has done considerable digging into the affairs of VIAB. He has observed how “VIAB is a pilot for how Israel can quietly obtain taxpayer funding and official status for networked entities that advance Israel from within key state governments.”

And then there is Congress, where a bill has been introduced that will enable Israel to block any U.S. arm sales to the Middle East that it does not approve of, a nearly complete surrender of American sovereignty to the Jewish state. And there is also the Congressman Brad Sherman of California story. Brad, who is Jewish, would very much like to replace recently defeated coreligionist congressman Eliot Engel as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The committee, of course, deals with Israeli issues and Engel was widely regarded as one of the Jewish state’s staunchest friends in Congress. So what did Brad do? He approached a number of Jewish groups to help the process along. In a zoom event hosted by the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) he confirmed that “You went to bat for Eliot Engel in a huge way, and demonstrated that you understood how important that chairmanship is… And I won’t compare myself to my good friend Eliot Engel, except to say that when it comes to having one’s heart in the right place, Eliot and I are in the exact same place.” If Brad succeeds, and he probably will, whose interests will he be serving in an important government office? Some might regard such behavior as treasonous.

Also out of California comes the story of some new legislation to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism, much in the media of late together with the shocking news that many Americans are unable to name even a single so-called Nazi death camp or to parrot alleged “facts” about the holocaust. What is described as “holocaust education” is already mandatory in a number of states where studying the American Revolution is apparently optional. Jewish groups have infiltrated boards of education to “advise” on suitable textbooks, which present a positive narrative relating to Israel while also depicting claimed Jewish victimhood. It is now also likely that holocaust education will become mandatory nationwide due to recent congressional passage of the Never Again Education Act.

At the end of August, California Assembly Bill 331 “took a major step toward [California] becoming the first state in the country to mandate completion of an ethnic studies course as a requirement for high school graduation.” Reports of “anxiety and outrage” in the Jewish community over the first draft of the bill had led the members of the 16 member California Legislative Jewish Caucus to quickly move to insert “guardrail” language into the text. The new language will “…prohibit the teaching of any curriculum that promotes bias, bigotry or discrimination, including against Jews or Israelis.”

The issue might seem relatively clear cut, but there was of course a hidden agenda, which was to block any consideration of the plight of the Palestinians or the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which, it was feared, would become part of the curriculum. And the inclusion of “Israelis” as a protected group pretty effectively prohibits any discussion of Israel at all, except, presumably, in positive terms. In California schoolrooms, one can criticize the behavior of the United States or Mexico but anything negative about Israel will be forbidden. And California is not alone. Twenty-nine states currently either ban or otherwise punish the promotion of BDS, largely due to the effective lobbying by Israeli partisans at the legislative level in those states.

So everywhere anyone turns, there is Israel, Israel, Israel. So, what’s a little dirty laundry between the “best friends” in the whole wide world? Maybe. But alternatively, it just might be that we Americans are getting pecked to death and all the Trumps and Bidens do is grin and smile while our country is being systematically screwed by a foreign country aided by a domestic lobby that is only in the game to take whatever it can. Wake-up America!

*This article was originally published on UNZ Review.

Prisoner of Conscious Ali Al-Hajji Begins Hunger Strike to Protest against Manama’ Consistent Denial of Medical Treatment

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Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam Al Saegh has reported that the prisoner of conscious Ali Al-Hajji is back on hunger strike to protest against the endemic medical negligence that Bahrain's political detainees face in the notorious Jaw Central Prison.

According to Al Saegh, the prison authorities have withheld the medication of Al-Hajji, who is a victim of torture and constant harassment.

Al-Hajji previously spent more than two months on a hunger strike, between late 2018 and early 2019, after being denied permission for urgent dental surgeries.

Since the outbreak of COVID 19, activists have been launching a campaign on social media platforms in solidarity with thousands of political prisoners denied medical treatment and basic health necessities, calling for the necessity of working to immediately and unconditionally release them, before it is too late.

Dozens of complaints by detainees reveals that this measure has become one of the typical forms of torture, reprisal, and extrajudicial  killing practiced by the Bahraini authorities, amid the significantly deteriorating and unhygienic conditions of the prison, and the lack of legal accountability of those involved with these inhumane practices.

In a letter written by Al-Hajji from prison, he said that he has been enduring a continuous medical care negligence for the past two years over an infectious skin disease that the prison administration is fully aware of.

The denial of adequate sunlight and the isolation practice (whereby they are locked for consecutive 23 hours a day) have led dozens of detainees to get infected with scabies

Scabies is a skin infestation caused by a parasitic mite known as the Sarcoptes scabies and it has rapidly spread due to suffocating overcrowding that exceeds the prison capacity.

Untreated, this contagious mite reproduces on the upper layer of the skin causing severe itching, pimple-like skin rash, unbearable pain and permanent scarring.

According to a report published by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Bahrain's total prison population reaches over 4,000, i.e. a rate of 301 prisoners per 100,000 of the national population.

It is noteworthy to mention that Jaw Prison’s inmates drink water in Clorox bottles, eat meals on nylon bags, endure insects and rats' infestation and suffer from leakage of stagnant water.

Family visits have been severely limited in the last years, and following the Corona pandemic outbreak, they have been totally cancelled, so the inmates are not provided with new clothes by their families.

Manama has repeatedly been accused by various rights bodies of blatantly violating dozens of inmates' right to medical treatment, ahead of its heavy-handed clampdown on the peaceful opposition since February 2011.

Since 2011, many of those peacefully exercising their inalienable rights to freedom of expression have endured arbitrary detention, unfair trials, cruel torture, degrading prisons conditions and medical negligence.

For instance, Hussein Deif, who is serving a 10-year sentence in prison, suffers from sickle cell anaemia and has been diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Also, Naji Fateel who suffers from spinal and other injuries resulted from torture, is denied required operations along with Elias al-Mullah, who has not been provided with necessary immunity medication.

High-profile opposition leader, Sheikh Hassan Mushaima, who needs regular screening tests after recovering from lymphoma, is not receiving proper treatment.

For his part, Abdul-Jaleel Singace, political figure, suffers from severe chest pain and other complications as a result of prolonged hunger strike and months of medical negligence as the prison authorities cancelled scheduled appointment with a heart specialist.

At, least 4 deaths have been recorded due to this wilful medical negligence.

Muhammad Sahwan, a former inmate, died of sudden cardiac arrest inside Jaw prison, on March 16, 2017, as a result of the denial of necessary treatment for 80 shrapnel in his back, legs, and head by police with birdshot pellets from a shotgun, which date back to 2011. The victim had not received appropriate care during the period of his arbitrary detention, despite multiple requests to the prison administration.

Besides, Abdul-Aziz al-Abbar, a victim of torture and former prisoner of conscience, passed away in April 2014 after being denied medical treatment for wounds resulted by shotgun pellets, which had penetrated his brain and led him to go into a prolonged coma in hospital before his death.

Al-abbar's family then refused to receive his body and sign the death certificate until they ''gets an official report that Abdul-Aziz died from shotgun pellets.''

The prevalence of medical negligence in prisons confirms Bahrain's failure to guarantee prisoners’ rights as stipulated by international and local laws.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, aka Mandela Rules, stresses on the prisoners' right to receive treatment; Bahrain, however, arbitrarily withholds medication for prisoners as a form of reprisal.

Bahrain is also party to the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic and Cultural Rights, but theses treaties have never been respected by Manama.

The policy of impunity and the absence of judicial oversight of detention centres make this inhumane practice prevalent in Bahrain's prisons.

Instead of cooperating in effective initiatives for the betterment of the detainees' health conditions, especially those suffering from chronic or incurable diseases such as cancer; Bahrain's Ministry of Interior, along with the General Secretariat for Grievances and the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR), persistently ignore these human rights infringements.

Will the Israel-US “New Wars” Succeed in Weakening Hezbollah?

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When conventional military war failed to defeat the Lebanese Hezbollah, Israel and the US adopted different tactics in the art of war whilst avoiding overt conflict in the public eye. The new tactics, whilst not excluding traditional warfare, include a group of wars or actions based on irregular formations, terrorist acts, chaos, sanctions, electronic platform warfare, media wars, propaganda, fake news, the division of society, starvation policy and engaging the enemy from within, to weaken Hezbollah before attacking and finishing it off. This is “fifth generation war”; it is the hybrid war against Hezbollah.

The United Nations delivered a message to Hezbollah from Israel stating that killing any Israeli soldier or officer would push Israel to hit ten Hezbollah targets and centres in different regions of Lebanon. Israel has provided the maps, offices and locations it intends to target, according to a leading source familiar with the matter. 

Hezbollah replied to this message, that the bombing of ten targets in Lebanon will trigger an immediate response against ten Israeli military targets, command and control centres and other offices affiliated to the Israeli government. Precision missiles will be launched against Israel – said the message – without prior warning.

The Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, had announced that he would kill an Israeli soldier in return for Israel killing a Hezbollah member in Syria while targeting a centre of the joint forces in the vicinity of Damascus. Since that day, that is, since July 2020, Israeli jets have not struck any Iranian command target in Syria. Furthermore, the Israeli army has been asked to conceal itself in its barracks to avoid triggering Hezbollah’s announced process of retaliation.

The commander of the IDF’s Northern Command, Major General Amir Baram, stated, “Israel is keen not to be dragged into a large-scale war with Hezbollah. It is fundamentally a war that both sides wish to avoid.”

Israel’s leaders no longer brandish the threat to take Lebanon back to the Stone Age by bombing and destroying the entire infrastructure and whole villages and cities as it did in the 2006 war. This is because Hezbollah has achieved a balance of deterrence: Israel has acknowledged that Hezbollah has missiles that can strike any target anywhere in Israel with enormous destructive power and precision.

Consequently, the theory – introduced by Hezbollah’s opponents in Lebanon to say the international community can protect Lebanon and not a heavily armed domestic group – that ”Lebanon is strong due to its weakness and incapacity to defend itself” has fallen. Indeed, the balance of deterrence has forced Israel and its ally the US to back down from the use of military force, without necessarily abandoning the project to weaken or defeat Hezbollah. This is what has pushed this strategic alliance (US and Israel) to shift towards “soft and hybrid warfare”. This new approach creates windows of opportunity to direct a military strike on Hezbollah to defeat it when the right time comes. That is possible only when Hezbollah becomes weak and without allies, supporters or a society protecting it, and indeed if Hezbollah fails to confront this hybrid war.

In 2006 during the second Israeli war on Lebanon, Israel did not achieve its goals because its intelligence failed to predict Hezbollah’s missile capabilities and readiness to hold its ground. The first surprise came at Wadi Al-Hujair with the Kornet anti-tank missiles and later with surface-to-surface missiles (when the class corvette Saar-5 was hit). Also, Hezbollah possessed the electronic capabilities to break through to the Israeli drones and other capabilities, which enabled it to know a large number of pre-prepared operations and targets in Israel’s bank of objectives. Israel has since modified its electronic protection with more advanced technology. However, electronic warfare continues: it is an ongoing battle with measures and countermeasures on both sides.

That is why it was necessary to introduce « hybrid warfare ». It needed another more effective approach to attack Hezbollah, more comprehensive. Let us take, for example, what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented in 2018 and a few days ago to the United Nations General Assembly about the presence of Hezbollah missiles near Beirut airport and others in the Jnah area in the Lebanese capital. In the first attempt of Netanyahu, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil reacted by inviting Country Ambassadors to visit the site. In the second most recent case, Hezbollah invited the local and international press to visit the site and to confirm the falsity of Netanyahu’s claim. However, did Netanyahu lose the two rounds against Hezbollah or did he reach his desired objective?

I asked a Lebanese leader within the “Axis of the Resistance”: How many out of the 194 representatives at the United Nations saw Nasrallah’s response to Netanyahu’s lie? The immediate answer did not wait: “”Maybe one, two – very few. “”

Consequently, the Israeli prime minister won the disinformation war, and the powerful Zionist lobby helped him in the international media to publish his colourful pictures and folkloric output and to overlook Hezbollah’s point of view. It is likely that Netanyahu aimed in his media war to amplify the already existing negative international and domestic public opinion against Hezbollah: though in Europe, most of the leaders of the old continent have refused to consider Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, resisting the tremendous US pressure to join the US-Israeli objective. 

In Lebanon, there is a well-known saying: “There are people who, if we anoint them with filtered honey, only hate us more. Others, if we wound them and cut them to pieces, love us the more.” Lebanese society is divided between those who support Hezbollah and those who hate and voice their hatred of Hezbollah. 

Whoever ideologically or by conviction supports Hezbollah will maintain the same position and never budge. As for those who support Hezbollah only circumstantially, some will turn against it or voice their criticism, particularly on social media. Many within the Lebanese Christian camp, particularly those who support the Tayyar al-Watani al-Hurr (the Free National Movement- FNM), no longer take into consideration that Hezbollah prevented the election of a President for two and a half years to impose – successfully – the FNM leader, General Michel Aoun, as President, notwithstanding domestic and international opposition. Instead, due to the US brainwashing campaign claiming that Hezbollah supports corruption or is responsible for corruption or is the ally of the Speaker Nabih Berri accused of corruption, a growing number of the FNM supporters fail to recognize the US-Israel hybrid campaign and give no more extended consideration to the alliance of two minorities (Shia and Christian) in the Levant. The expensive US economic sanctions and the decades of US-allies Lebanese-corrupted politicians overwhelm any reasoning. Daily life necessities become the priority, and alliances become marginal. The hybrid war against Hezbollah forced the society that supports the group to be entrenched and on the defensive.

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COVID-19: the Swedish Model

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Sweden’s approach to controlling the COVID19 epidemic is often presented as an independent model and perhaps a laissez faire counter to the hard ‘lockdown’ approach attributed to China, the UK and the USA. However this is to confuse the symptoms with the causes. On closer examination, the Scandinavian country shared much with the neoliberal approaches of the UK and the USA (both of which, in their bewilderment, flipped from one extreme to the other). This was not the mid-20th century social democratic Sweden, famous for its welfare state and egalitarianism, but rather a 21st century Sweden, which had ‘integrated’ the remnants of its social democracy into a corporate driven neoliberalism. Major privatisations and ‘market oriented’ reforms had been carried out in the health sector, affecting primary health care and presented as ‘free choice models’ in which ‘the money follows the patient’” (Dahlgren 2008).

In face of the epidemic Sweden nominally adopted most of the conventional public health aims, such as social distancing and hygiene measures, imposing only limited restrictions such as travel bans and limits on public gatherings. However, unlike the preventive health emphasis of most public health systems, it relied on individual compliance and limited testing. Later the state felt obliged to impose additional measures, such as wider testing and extended travel bans, before public discontent forced an official inquiry into the strategy. After six months Sweden’s death rate (575 per million) was, with that of the UK (610) and the USA (545), amongst the worst on earth, and 5 to 20 times those of its Scandinavian neighbours. Further, by August it was clear that Sweden’s economy had suffered as much damage as that of its neighbours, with an 8.6% slump in the second quarter (Baker 2020).

Comparing Sweden with neighbouring Nordic states (Finland, Norway and Denmark) makes good sense both because they are “culturally, economically, politically and geographically similar” and because they took differing approaches where “15 million people have been assigned to a lockdown, while a further 10 million [in Sweden] have been asked to simply act responsibly” (Franks 2020). Sweden’s neoliberalism helped drive the stress on voluntarism and individual responsibility, with a sub-text of ‘herd immunity’. This is an emphasis which, at the time of writing, was under consideration in the crisis-ridden USA (Abutaleb and Dawsey 2020). Sweden’s second wave of infections may have appeared less dramatic, but that was mainly because its first wave was so large. To properly understand the ‘Swedish model’ we should examine policy and practice in a little detail, before moving to outcomes and criticism.

  1. Aims, policy and practice

The Swedish government recognised the COVID19 epidemic, adopting conventional themes of social distancing and hygiene to reduce pressure on health systems; but it delayed its reactions and tried to make a virtue out of the themes of uncertainty, voluntarism and individual responsibility. It never had a ‘let it rip’ policy and practice, as some have suggested. Many have observed that “Swede’s were not free to go about their lives as normal” (Duckett and Mackey 2020). There were some early ad hoc government measures: on 11 March public gatherings of more than 500 people were banned, on 14 March the government advised against “non-essential” international travel (on 27 March this became a ban on travel to the EU) along with a number of economic subsidy and social security initiatives (GOS 2020).

In early March Sweden recorded its first infections and first death, but a more considered strategy was not announced until 6 April, when 780 Swedish COVID19 deaths had been recorded (Worldometer 2020). Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced COVID-19 “as a disease that constitutes a danger to society, opening the possibility of extraordinary communicable disease control measures”. He declared the government’s aim was “to reduce the pace” of the spread of the virus; “to flatten the curve, so that large numbers of people do not become ill at the same time” (GOS 2020: 6 April). Löfven stressed “the right measures at the right time”, suggesting a reactive and not a precautionary approach. He “weighed” measures to reduce the virus spread against “their effects on society and public health in general”, saying these measures would be “reviewed constantly”. An important feature of the government’s approach was that “every person in Sweden needs to take individual responsibility”, while the state mobilised health resources and economic subsidies (GOS 2020: 6 April). This set in train a model which constantly stressed the responsibility of individuals, employers and the community, downplaying the protective role of the state.

Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnall is said to have argued for ‘herd immunity’, where mass infections are supposed to generate immunity amongst the great majority, except those who are stricken down with illness or death. Tegnall denied that this was a government objective. However, email exchanges obtained by Swedish journalists show that he had indeed discussed it in the days after the WHO declared a global pandemic. He wrote to colleagues, “one point would be to keep schools open to reach herd immunity faster”. In response to Finland’s modelling, which suggested that closing schools might reduce COVID19 infections amongst elderly people by 10%, Tegnall responded “10% might be worth it?” (Henley 2020a). Anders Bjorkman, a professor of infectious diseases, said the government “did not want to put it bluntly, but seeking herd immunity was always inherent in the Swedish strategy” (Habib 2020). The actually measured uptake of antibodies was not encouraging. By late May the Public Health Agency of Sweden announced that, in late April, 7.3% of Stockholm residents had developed COVID19 anti-bodies. That was similar to findings in France and Spain, and led the WHO to warn against dependence on herd immunity as a strategy (Habib 2020).

Most science was against the notion of herd immunity as a strategy, unless it were coupled with an effective and safe vaccine. A paper in late July summed it up this way: herd immunity with vaccine could be a “very successful strategy … COVID19 vaccines will be essential in the future for reducing morbidity and mortality and inducing herd immunity” (Filtenborg-Frederiksen, Zhang; Foged and Thakur 2020). In August WHO Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Michael Ryan warned that reliance on herd immunity was not an answer. He pointed out that, as at August, “we are nowhere close to the levels of immunity required to stop this disease transmitting. We need to focus on what we can do now to stop transmission and not live in hope of herd immunity being our salvation” (ABC News 2020). Academic biologist Sarah Pitt said that people misunderstand herd immunity, and that the possibilities vary depending on the virus. For example, herd immunity to measles cannot be achieved by natural infection, as “not enough people naturally became resistant to produce herd immunity” (Pitt 2020). Hence the ongoing reliance on measles vaccine. Studies of COVID-19 showed that, even in areas where there were large numbers of cases, “less than 10 per cent of the population show evidence of an immune system response from the infection” (Pitt 2020).

Within the framework of a reactive and “individual responsibility” strategy, Swedish policy and practice was adaptive. New measures were rolled out, in an incremental way. On 9 April Health Minister Lena Hallengren and head of the Public Health Agency Johan Carlson announced several protective measures: new powers in the Communicable Diseases Act, restrictions on dispensing medications, a limit on public gatherings of more than 50 persons, visit bans at aged care homes and an expansion in COVID-19 testing (GOS 2020: 9 April). Other measures followed, in reactive fashion: on 16 April the travel ban to the EU was extended; on 12 May there were new measures to strengthen aged care and those with health conditions; on 14 May the EU travel ban became a travel ban for all countries. Yet by mid-April COVID19 deaths in Sweden were “far exceeding the tolls of its nearest neighbours”. In response, Anders Wallensten, the country’s deputy chief epidemiologist, claimed that the number of new cases was starting to decline and he was “cautiously positive” Sweden was approaching its peak (Henley 2020a). His optimism was misplaced. Over the next two months the death toll would quadruple to more than 5,000.

Government and health officials became increasingly defensive. In late April Anders Tegnall asserted that Sweden had “flattened the curve”, a necessary achievement until a vaccine was available. He maintained that closing borders was “ridiculous”, that they could only react to the little that they knew about the virus (as opposed to precautionary and preventive measures), repeating that the government’s voluntarism was “the core” of its strategy. He said individual responsibility was working, pointing out that the winter epidemics of influenza and norovirus (which causes gastroenteritis) had “dropped consistently” as a result of voluntary social distancing, less travel and sanitary measures. He maintained the government had not put lives at risk: “there has been an increase, but it is not traumatic so far” (Paterlini 2020). At that time there were about 2,000 deaths. Throughout, Tegnall kept insisting that face masks were “pointless” (van Leeuwen 2020b). Yet discontent grew over the large numbers dying.

Towards the end of April Minister Hallengren told the WHO that her government had followed the general guidelines of social distancing and stay at home, relying on voluntarism. They had maintained a “flexible” approach while increasing their intensive care facilities (Hallengren 2020a). In late May Hallengren maintained she had never wanted a “full lockdown”, but blamed the deaths in elderly care homes on a “society wide failure”. Using the theme of personal responsibility she attempted to deflect from governmental failures, pointing to relative ‘success’ in compliance through voluntary measures: long distance travel was down 96% during the Easter period and 84% had reported social distancing over April-May. It would be “unreasonable” for the government to assume all responsibility for the deaths, she asserted (Löfgren 2020).

This individual compliance theme was reinforced by a government media release of mid-June: travel within the Stockholm region was down 40% and “more than eight in ten Swedes are keeping a greater distance from others”. Nevertheless, “new restrictions may be issued”, the statement said, which could include bans on visits to old peoples’ homes, bans on gatherings and rules regarding bars and cafes. Even if some restrictions were lifted “this does not mean that life can return to normal”, she said (GOS 2020: 18 June).

By early August Tegnall admitted that spread of the infection to older people was happening far more in Sweden than in the neighbouring countries; but he maintained the official aversion to preventive measures (Holroyd 2020). Once again, prevention was rejected in favour of the supposed need to act on certainties; but there were few certainties. The Public Health Authority claimed it could not act on unknown factors: “since the virus is new, we still do not know enough about which groups are at risk of severe illness”. The government maintained that citizens should individually decide to stay and work at home, to not create large gatherings and to seek assistance if they had COVID19 symptoms (Holroyd 2020). Nevertheless, bans on entry to Sweden were maintained and, in some respects, extended (GOS 2020: 13 August).

A key problem with Swedish understandings and responses was that levels of testing were low; testing was only encouraged for those with symptoms. By late May, according to Our World in Data (one of several sites which compiles information from official sources), Sweden had carried out 23.64 tests per 1,000 people as of 24 May, compared with 31.88 in Finland and 44.75 in Norway (Habib 2020). Some residents with symptoms complained that it was difficult to get tested; and without a test they were not able to receive proper care. Some reported that this lack of testing was reflective of a general attitude that the virus wasn’t a serious threat (Bendix and Baker 2020).

In any event, the government fell short of its goal of 100,000 tests by mid-May. This was in part due to the fact that healthcare was not free until individual patients reached a so-called ‘high cost ceiling’. Further, a medical referral was required and testing was still only encouraged for those with symptoms (The Local 2020a). Tests were increased in early June, hitting a weekly record of 49,200 tests, up from 36,500 the previous week. More infections were detected (Reuters 2020). In June Sweden began to offer free testing, but still only for those showing symptoms; contact tracing of the infected was then carried out (AFP 2020)

By late June the WHO listed Sweden among 11 countries which had “accelerated transmission” which, if left unchecked “will push health systems to the brink once again” (NZ Herald 2020). Over July-August testing rates in Sweden still seemed lower than that of its neighbours, and far less than that of Denmark; though comparisons were difficult as Sweden’s published data on testing was less up to date than that of others (Norrestad 2020).

  1. Outcomes and criticisms

The outcomes of the Swedish approach can be measured in health and economic terms. For the first six months of the epidemic the health results were very poor. By late July infections and deaths had fallen substantially, to hundreds and several per day, respectively (Our World In Data 2020). However Sweden still had “the 7th highest per-capita death rate in the world … [and] about ten times larger than its Nordic neighbours. Outbreaks spread to aged care facilities and the vulnerable” (Duckett and Mackey 2020). Sweden experienced by far the highest number of COVID19 infections and deaths amongst the Nordic countries, as shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1: COVID-19 in the Nordic states

Country/

COVID

Popn million

Deaths/million

23 Aug 2020

Tests/million

23 Aug 2020

Sweden    

10.1

574

101K

Denmark  

5.7

107

370K

Finland     

5.5

60

98K

Norway    

5.4

48

110K

Iceland     

0.341

29

570K

Source: Worldometer 2020, 23 August

Even by late March Sweden’s approach was being judged harshly in the medical literature. A Lancet editorial observed that

“many countries are still not following WHO’s clear recommendations on containment (widespread testing, quarantine of cases, contact tracing and social distancing) and have instead implemented haphazard measures .. the initial slow response in countries such as the UK, the USA and Sweden now looks increasingly poorly judged … denial and misplaced optimism … globally many people are afraid, angry, uncertain and without confidence in their national leadership” (The Lancet 2020: 1011).

An important rationale for limiting state quarantine measures was to preserve the Swedish economy, consistent with the neoliberal emphasis on the corporate sector. Many of the early state interventions were subsidies to maintain economic activity. A number of corporate media stories suggested that Sweden’s higher infection rates might help develop ‘herd immunity’ and that Sweden might be “suffering less severe economic trauma than most major European nations” (Birrell 2020). However this was hardly the case, if we compare with its neighbours. By August Sweden had a less serious economic collapse than the EU average, but was faring no better than the other Nordic states (SBC 2020).

An early economic survey of Denmark and Sweden, over March-April, showed that spending dropped strongly in both countries, but almost as much in Sweden (25%) as in Denmark (29%), despite their different quarantine measures (Andersen, Hansen; Johannesen and Sheridan 2020: 13-16). By mid-June the government foreshadowed a 6 per cent fall in GDP for the year (GOS 2020: 18 June) but by July predictions had worsened. Analysts began to point out that Sweden’s economy was “suffering just as badly as their neighbours with heavier lockdowns” (Duckett and Mackey 2020). Official figures showed that Sweden’s GDP fell 8.6% during the second quarter of the year, more than that of Denmark’s 7.4% crash and Finland at minus 3.2% (Baker 2020). Calendar adjusted, compared with Q2 in 2019, Sweden’s GDP decreased by 8.2 percent (SBC 2020). The EU contraction was greater, at 12.1% in the Euro area and 11.9% in the EU (Eurostat 2020). Nevertheless, compared to its immediate region, Sweden’s voluntary social distancing and stay at home measures, combined with travel bans and international isolation, seem to have led to equivalent damage.

The large numbers of infections and deaths shook Swedish public opinion, which had initially backed the government. In a late April survey of 1,600 Swedes, 31% of respondents rated the nation’s response to the outbreak as not forceful enough, while 18% were neutral and 51% considered the response forceful enough. Interestingly, those 50 years or older (and more at risk of the disease) were most supportive of the government while only 40% of 15-29 year olds thought the government response had been sufficient (Wengström 2020). Yet by late June an Ipsos survey showed confidence falling in the government’s management of the epidemic. It fell 11 points to 45%, since April, and backing for the national public health agency had also fallen by 12 points (Henley 2020b). Those satisfied with the government’s response to the pandemic fell to 38%, while the approval rating of Prime Minister Löfven dropped 10 points (Henley 2020b). Ipsos analyst Nicklas Källebring concluded that “the view of authorities’ capabilities has taken a clear negative turn.” The Ipsos poll confirmed an earlier study by Novus pollsters which showed only 45% of voters held a high degree of confidence “in the government’s capacity to handle the crisis”, compared to 63% in April (Henley 2020b).

The Swedish government’s voluntarist, neoliberal approach provoked an ongoing storm of internal as well as external criticism. Even after government officials had admitted failures in protecting older people (Holroyd 2020), one of their key stated aims, some softer critiques argued that more time was needed to assess the approach. This came especially from those concerned to protect the economy. So German-born economist Andreas Ortmann was cautious,  recognising by August that Sweden had “one of the worst [death rates] in the world” and that its economic performance “doesn’t seem much better than Denmark’s”. However he noted that Sweden’s deaths had fallen to “close to zero” [Sweden was still averaging a few deaths per day] while many other countries were experiencing a second wave of infections and deaths (Ortmann 2020). Another critique, observing that Sweden had imposed a new round of restrictions in summer pointed out that, after this, “its economy has suffered less than the European average in recent months, but at least as much and possibly more than its Nordic neighbours” (Milne 2020).

Others gave a harsher assessment. In mid-April a group of 22 doctors, virologists and researchers criticised the public health agency in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, using the conventional public health recommendations. “The approach must be changed radically and quickly … it is necessary to increase social distance. Close schools and restaurants. Everyone who works with the elderly must wear adequate protective equipment. Quarantine the whole family if one member is ill or tests positive” (Henley 2020a).

The Communist Party of Sweden (SKP) accused the government of putting at risk the lives of thousands of workers by not closing down non-essential production in different sectors in the country”. They pointed out that the government had created “support packages of 1,300 billion Swedish Krone (USD 130.16 billion) to big banks and monopolies”, while “even the most basic aid has been denied to the working population.” At the same time special police units had been trained to “deal with protests at government insensitivity” during the epidemic (Peoples Dispatch 2020).

Swedish-Chilean Professor of Epidemiology Dr Marcello Ferrada de Noli said the government’s approach had been a “conclusive disaster”, as official data on infections and deaths testified. He said there were three key failures, an epidemiological failure, an ethical defeat with “thousands of unnecessary deaths” and a huge loss of “international prestige and credibility”, from a state which in the past had a reputation of being a “humanitarian power”. Tegnall’s claims about weakening the virus and developing ‘herd immunity’ were all erroneous. Historical studies of epidemics had demonstrated that the “basic concept of quarantine remains completely valid” and that ‘herd immunity’ for this virus could only be achieved “with the help of an ad-hoc vaccine” (Ferrada de Noli 2020).

Similarly, Dr Lena Einhorn, virologist and prominent critic, refuted claims of ‘herd immunity’, saying of the autumn period, “if Sweden doesn’t change its policy, we won’t see the same thing — because the elderly are better protected — but the numbers will go up”. She argued for mandatory use of face masks in crowded areas and contact tracing for all infected people (Milne 2020).

The poor health and economic outcomes, consistent criticisms and shifts in public opinion, reinforced by parliamentary opposition and partial admissions of failure by the government, led to the 1st July announcement of an official inquiry into the government’s approach to the epidemic. In a fairly relaxed schedule, former judge Mats Melin was asked to deliver an interim report by 30 November 2020, and a final report by 31 October 2021 (GOS 2020: 1 July).

  1. The model and its consequences

By the time the Swedish parliamentary inquiry began, the government had some new arguments in defence of its approach. The ‘curve’ of new cases and new deaths had begun to flatten. How could this be best explained? Graphs 1 and 2 below, using official data (via OurWorldinData 2020), trace Sweden’s daily new infections and new deaths, between February and August 2020. They show a strong surge in infections from early-March to early-July, and a gradual fall off through July and August.

Graph 1: Daily new COVID19 cases in Sweden, 1 February to 22 August 2020

Daily new COVID19 cases in Sweden 979d5

Graph 2: Daily new COVID19 deaths in Sweden, 1 February to 22 August 2020

Daily new COVID19 deaths in Sweden 9b779

Sweden was managing to flatten its curve but many questioned the cost (Fiore 2020). Chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell announced that “the Swedish strategy is working”, while Norwegian Professor of Immunology Anne Spurkland pointed to social factors including summer and the closure of schools, adding “perhaps Sweden has finally gotten better control over the disastrous spread of the virus in nursing homes”. Almost half of Sweden's 5,730 deaths were in elderly care homes (Fiore 2020). Tegnell argued that there was “a relationship between the very quick drop of the last few weeks and the increasing immunity in many parts of Sweden” (Milne 2020). But this claim was not backed by antibody tests. Further, by late September, a second wave of infections had appeared and the government was about to impose some additional, short term restrictions (Tegnell 2020).

In mid-July Karin Tegmark Wisell, head microbiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, said most of the population remained vulnerable. According to the agency’s data, about 10% of people in the capital Stockholm, the worst affected area, had developed antibodies, and only 17.6% of the 140,000 who volunteered for free antibody tests gave a positive result (Rolander 2020). That 10% was very close to antibody studies elsewhere (Pitt 2020).

However tests have also discovered the existence of non-specific immunity, where T-cells begin to deal with the virus without specific anti-bodies. Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and Karolinska University Hospital found that “about 30% of people with mild or asymptomatic COVID showed T-cell-mediated immunity to the virus, even though they tested negative for antibodies”. Those involved in the study could not link this phenomenon to Sweden’s decline in cases (Fiore 20202). European studies of immunity and antibodies suggest that “immune response to SARS-CoV-2 involves both cell-mediated immunity and antibody production” but that, given the low levels of both, it is “unlikely that population immunity levels reached by winter 2020-2021 will be sufficient for indirect protection” (ECDC 2020).

Dr Mozhu Ding, epidemiologist at the Karolinska Institute, said the decline in cases is “likely to be a combination of measures taken by individuals, businesses and a widespread information campaign launched by the government” (Fiore 2020). Dr Ding pointed out that, even without a ‘lockdown’ order, “many businesses allowed employees to work from home, and universities are offering distance courses to the students … individuals are also taking personal hygiene more seriously “(Fiore 2020). The generally improved survival rates may also be linked to evolving better treatments.

Underlining the ongoing appeal of Sweden’s ‘model’ to neoliberals Washington, with a seemingly intractable second wave of infections and deaths, was said to be considering a Swedish style ‘herd immunity’ approach (Abutaleb and Dawsey 2020). Meanwhile Sweden’s high rate of infections, like that of the USA, led to travel bans from its neighbours (Ellyatt 2020). Norway required Swedes to quarantine for 10 days when entering Norway, while Denmark also maintained restrictions on Swedes (Fiore 2020).

In summary, the Swedish approach to the COVID19 public health crisis was neither laissez faire nor social democracy, but rather an extended neoliberal model, with an emphasis on voluntarism (in quarantine measures and testing) and ‘user pays’ health care privatisation, delaying state interventions for as long as possible. Travel bans and limits on public gatherings were imposed, but lack of information on the virus (e.g. on the extent of asymptomatic transmission) was used as a pretext to delay state interventions. This contrasted with the more widely accepted precautionary and preventive measures. Sweden showed little if any benefit from this approach and its health outcomes were amongst the worst in the world. That is why, by July 2020, public opinion and opposition politicians forced an official inquiry into the ‘Swedish model’.

----------

References

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Pitt, Sarah (2020) ‘What will happen if we can't produce a coronavirus vaccine? And is herd immunity the answer?’, The Conversation, 15 August, online: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-15/coronavirus-herd-immunity-unlikely-without-vaccine/12559298

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Rolander, Niclas (2020) ‘Swedish PM Defends Covid Plan as Immunity Fails to Catch On’, Bloomberg, 15 July, online: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-15/sweden-says-latest-covid-immunity-not-enough-to-protect-citizens

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*(Top image: Swedish PM Stefan Lofven. Credit: European Union 2016 - European Parliament)

What They Are Not Talking About: War and Peace, Healthcare and Jobs Are Non-Issues

trump biden debate b0333

Watching the network news on television or reading about current events in the newspapers seemingly transports one to an alternate universe where nothing seems to make sense. The profit driven news cycle in the United States is admittedly a poor mechanism for actually gaining an understanding of what is going on, but seven days of Ruth Bader Ginsburg worship hardly addresses what is ailing the country, particularly as questions about how she earned many millions of dollars while serving as a judge as well as some unsavory aspects of her career have been carefully buried.

A friend who is a retired U.S. Army general made an interesting comment several days ago, observing that when it comes to politics and voting patterns the so-called “silent majority” is indeed silent. What he meant was that many Americans who hold currently unpopular conservative views will not respond honestly to a call from an unknown pollster regarding voting intentions. This is particularly true of the current campaign in which Donald Trump is being reviled by the media and depicted by the Democrats as no less than a threat to American democracy. Biden by way of comparison pretty much gets a free pass, to include forgiveness for his frequent faux pas and mental lapses. In other words, Trump is being framed as someone poised to mount a totalitarian takeover of the United States, which in and of itself would disincline many voters to indicate openly that they would support him over Biden.

My friend was suggesting that the polls on the upcoming election just might be more than usually wrong. I would add to that the general vapidity of what one might expect from the presidential debates, which are similarly being framed in such a fashion as to avoid any topics that might really matter. But the polls do reveal two things. First, that there is a lack of any confidence in the integrity of politicians at all levels, and second, that jobs and healthcare are the principal concerns of nearly all voter demographics as they directly impact on quality of life.

Healthcare is admittedly a complicated issue given the fact that the entire system in the United States would have to be reformed, with considerable government intervention. The respected British medical journal The Lancet recently published “Measuring universal health coverage based on an index of effective coverage of health services in 204 countries and territories”. The study revealed, to no one’s surprise, that the United States has by far the world’s most expensive medical care, at around $9,000 per person per year while at the same time delivering poorer results than virtually any other industrialized nation. Medical expenses are in fact a leading cause of personal bankruptcy by Americans.

So, what are the two parties saying about health care? The Republicans want to overturn so-called Obamacare and replace it with something else which they cannot describe while the Democrats insist that they want to keep Obamacare in place while also blaming the president for the response to the coronavirus. That’s it. There is plenty of blame to go around on Covid-19 and Obamacare is in fact a bad program. It is good if the government is footing the bill for you, but anyone who is paying for his or her own insurance has seen the rates treble and even quadruple since the program became active. It has become a gold mine for the health care industry, which now assumes that it can charge whatever it wants and the suffering customer will be obliged to pay for it. That there is no effective regulation of health care is due to the fact that Big Pharma and other providers have completely corrupted Congress through political donations to make sure that the highly profitable status quo remains untouched.

And when it comes to the other great concern, “The Economy,” which means jobs, the two major parties have even less to say since they know deep down that they have both conspired in the gutting of America’s industrial and manufacturing infrastructure.

But another area dear to my own heart which the parties have been silent about is Foreign Policy, which also subsumes National Security, a related issue that the opinion polls do not specifically address. Both parties are strong on issuing position papers that refer to supporting allies, meaning Israel followed by everyone else, confronting threats from Russia and China, and maintaining the world’s number one military. Beyond that it gets a bit vague. We have recently learned from a possibly unreliable source named Bob Woodward that President Trump sought to assassinate Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad but was talked out of. Trump did order the assassination of senior Iranian General Qassim Soleimani, whom he and Secretary of State have recently described as the “world’s leading terrorist,” which is manifestly untrue. Is assassinating foreign leaders something that the United States wants to engage in? Why is no one talking about it?

And then there are the “hot wars” being fought in Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. None of those wars benefit from a constitutionally mandated declaration of war by Congress and they have cost the U.S. taxpayer trillions of dollars. Shouldn’t that be under discussion? Or the “maximum pressure” economic wars being waged against Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and Iran? Those “wars” have collectively killed tens of thousands of civilians and have done nothing to enhance the security of the United States. Shouldn’t Trump and Biden be talking about that?

Instead, we will see much finger pointing and hear a lot about how dangerous a win by either presidential candidate will be, all couched in general terms based on a lot of “what-ifs.” But what the American public needs, particularly the silent majority, is a viable plan for decent and affordable healthcare similar to what most of the rest of the world enjoys. And a new government also must act decisively to challenge corporate offshoring interests to bring manufacturing jobs back home. But most of all, the United States needs peace after nineteen years of spreading chaos all over the globe. End the wars and bring the troops home. Do it now.

*(Top image credit: Sky News Australia/ YouTube)

*This article was originally published on the Strategic Culture.

The Navalny Poisoning Hoax. Who Are the Instigators?

Navalny Poisoning Hoax f1b2e

From the start, the alleged Navalny poisoning was riddled with contradictions and should have raised eyebrows by every politician and journalist.  Being discharged from the Charité Clinic in Berlin, Navalny went into attack mode against President Vladimir Putin. As it seems, this will be his role designed to him by the intelligence agencies. In a couple of days, the Navalny hype will be over. One can only blame Putin for the alleged poising once. If Navalny had the guts, he would return to his homeland and fight Putin politically.

The whole poisoning hoax stinks to high heaven. If Navalny would have been really poisoned, he and his companions, not to speak of all the other passengers in the plane, would have been poisoned too. None of them was. What a surprise? His "poisoning" was of the same sort as the one of the Spripals. There was nothing. Since their recuperation, they have disappeared. Are they still alive?  The fooling of the public works only once, and the British MI5 has a long history of leading the public astray.

There are further inconsistencies in the case. Navalny's backers even found water bottles in his apartment, which were allegedly also poisoned. How could they bring them openly to Germany? How could the whole Navalny entourage travel to Germany without any restrictions, especially under Corona restrictions? They could even go back and force. By the way, Navalny was apparently poisoned drinking a cup of tea before boarding a plane, which he would take him to Moscow. The plane had to make an emergency landing because Navalny started screaming on board. But the pictures of these incidents seemed staged and unrealistic.

After the landing in Omsk, Navalny was medically treated. Russian doctors found nothing special. All of a sudden, Navalny's entourage claimed that he should be brought to Berlin. Why Berlin? Why not France, Great Britain, or the United States? As it turned out, the Navalny case's fallout was the killing of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The first one among the political class to call for an end to Nord Stream 2 was Norbert Röttgen, a mouthpiece of the trans-Atlantic network, severely anti-Russian as another Russophobe German politician Katrin Göring-Eckardt called for a stop to the pipeline. When it goes against Russia, the Greens are at the helm.

Although the Russian government offered his cooperation and demanded proof of the alleged poisoning, the German government did not provide any hard evidence. They pretended it had sent them to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in Den Haag/Netherlands, but the organization referred the Russian back to the Germans. So far, evidence could not be provided by the Germans, just rumors.

The stop of Nord Stream 2 would damage not only German national interest but also the Russian one.  Canceling the project, Germany would have to pay Billions of Euros compensation to the companies, and Germany would lose every credibility as a serious trade partner. Over a year, U. S. President Donald Trump has been putting enormous pressure on the German government to cancel the project. Instead, Germany should buy expensive U. S. fracking gas. If the Germans succumb to U. S. blackmail, it will demonstrate to the world that Germany is still a U. S. colony and not sovereign.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas cut the worse figure. He is the main agitator against Russia. Maas used his video speech at the United Nations to attack Russia to deliver "evidence" of the Navalny's poisoning. Russia can't contribute anything to it because Navalny wasn't poisoned. Since Maas was appointed to his job, anti-Russian rhetoric increased. Together with other politicians from the Christian Democratic Party and the Greens, Germany follows a hostile policy towards Russia. The German side refused to answer three letters of Russia's request to provide evidence of the "poisoning." Maas seems to have a complex about his childish appearance. Perhaps that's why he haves like a snip. If Angela Merkel lets Maas go on like this, the German-Russian relationship will be completely screwed up. A long tradition, established by former Chancellor Willy Brandt and his adviser Egon Bahr will go down the drain. Only the U. S. will profit from such a deterioration in relations.

*(Top image credit: Clemens Bilan/  EPA/ TASS)

Assange Will Face Cruel and Degrading Prison Conditions If Extradited to The U.S., Further Defence Witnesses Testify

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Expert testimony has further shed light on the harsh and degrading treatment Julian Assange can expect if extradited to the United States.

Prosecutors on behalf of the U.S. government had criticised earlier witnesses for relying upon second-hand reports on the pre- and post-trial “regimes” Assange will be held under if sent to America – namely from the Bureau of Prisons (BOP)the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In response, Assange’s defence team produced four further witnesses at the fourth and final week of extradition hearings taking place at London’s Old Bailey – American attorneys Yancey Ellis and Lindsay Lewis, prison sentencing advocate Joel Sickler and former BOP prison warden Maureen Baird.

Ellis, a partner at the law firm Carmichael Ellis and Brock PLLC, was first to take the virtual stand via video-link on Monday (September 28).

Having represented a number of clients as both a lawyer and a public defender, he told the Old Bailey he was “very familiar” with the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia – also referred to as the Alexandria Detention Center (ADC) – where both prosecution and defence agree Assange will be held in the pre-trial detention period if extradited.

Given that Assange is wanted on 17 charges of the Espionage Act and in relation to matters of U.S. national security, Ellis said the WikiLeaks publisher will likely be held at the “X-Block” – a special wing of the jail dedicated to inmates who are held in what is known as “administrative segregation”.

The technique is used to isolate prisoners from the remainder of the rest of the prison population – alongside another measure referred to as SAMs, special administrative measures – so that America’s state secrets are not spread beyond the inmate in question.

Many authorities have have labelled the measures as no different to prolonged solitary confinement – especially as they are more stringent than “restricted housing” – leading them to question its moral and legal basis.

If placed under such measures, Lewis said Assange would be confined to a 50-square-foot cell for 22 to 23 hours a day. He would have no access to natural air or sunlight for the duration of his incarceration, nor would he be able to communicate with anyone outside his legal representation or a monthly 30-minute visit from a pre-approved family member.

His testimony directly contradicts declarations provided to the court by U.S. Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg who claimed the ADC does not use solitary confinement and who asserted, contrary to all available evidence, that Assange would be able to communicate with prison-mates through the doors and windows of adjacent cells.

When asked at re-examination if this was truly the case, Ellis said: “The short answer is not really,” adding that the doors of the cell were made of thick steel and the windows of transparent and thick plexiglass, with no slots or holes.

He said: “I have tried to speak to my clients through these doors and it is very difficult, even when standing several inches away. I find it implausible that inmates could really communicate in this way, unless they constantly screamed at loud volumes.”

The statements were re-affirmed by Sickler, a litigator who has worked in prison advocacy for nearly 40 years, going on to be the head of Justice Advocacy Group LLC.

He said that SAMs would not only be imposed prior to any trial, but post-sentencing as well if Assange is convicted – the outcome would likely mean decades without any meaningful human interaction.

If this were to be to the case, prosecution and defence again agreed this would most likely be served at the “super-max” ADX Florence prison facility in a remote region of Colorado – given it was purpose-built to house high-profile SAMs inmates.

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Its former prison warden Robert Booth previously described it as “a clean version of hell” and “a fate worse than death.”

Sickler said his clients frequently begged him not to be sent there, adding that severe mental health deterioration is frequently experienced due to the prolonged isolation.

Kromberg, in his declarations, further claimed that Assange would have access to a number of group activities and therapy – an assertion that was denied by all four defence witnesses, given the highly restrictive nature of SAMs restrictions.

Baird, who held a number of warden positions with the BOP, including at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center where she oversaw a number of SAMs prisoners, described Kromberg’s assertions as “baffling”.

“The main premise of assigning SAMs is to restrict a person’s communication and the only way to accomplish this is through isolation,” she wrote in her witness statement.

“For example Mr. Kromberg lists a variety of programs available to inmates assigned to the ADX. I don’t doubt all of these programs exist, but I believe they are available only to a select group of inmates housed at that facility.

“Even if the warden, unit team, lieutenant or captain wanted to allow SAMs inmates to participate in certain group programs, they do not have the legal authority to sanction such an action.”

Baird further rubbished the notion that Kromberg presented that suggested SAMs inmates had the ability to “step-down” their restrictions, stating that in all her experience of reviewing such applications they would always be rejected.

The same was said by Lindsay, a New York-based attorney who represents the notorious cleric Mostafa Kamel Mostafa – also known as Abu Hamza – and she even went further to state that Kromberg had misled the court, as was the case when the U.K. extradited her client in 2012 after an eight-year legal battle.

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The U.S. government had made representations to British courts and the European Court of Human Rights that Abu Hamza – a double arm amputee who is blind in one eye and suffers from diabetes and a skin condition – would not be sent to the ADX Florence if extradited and that he would undergo a full medical examination on arrival. Both promises were promptly not lived up to following deportation.

Lindsay told the court he has been held under SAMs since his arrival in 2012 and has been held at the ADX Florence since 2015 where he remains.

The European Court of Human Rights had mulled the decision to bar his extradition on the grounds that signatories to the convention such as the U.K. were forbidden under article 3 that prohibits torture and “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” but the courts proceeded once assurances from the U.S. government had been received.

In Assange’s case, no assurances have even been made and in fact it is admitted that he will “likely” be sent to the ADX in Colorado – a further flouting of international law if permitted.

The case continues.

*(Top image: Julian Assange's defence produced four expert witnesses at the fourth week of proceedings at the Old Bailey – Yancey Ellis, Joel Sickler, Maureen Baird and Lindsay Lewis (inset, left to right) – who testified that the WikiLeaks publisher will face degrading punishment if extradited to the United States.)

*This article was originally published on Tareq Haddad's website.

Carolyn L. Karcher: “Zionism Was Always A Settler Colonial Ideology”

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Mohsen Abdelmoumen: You participated in the march on the Pentagon in October 1967 against the Vietnam War.  What do these historic moments represent for you?

Carolyn L. Karcher: The Vietnam War and the mass movement against it transformed my consciousness and changed my life.  Although I grew up in Japan and did not come to the US until entering Stanford University in 1962, I attended an American school in Japan that gave me the standard indoctrination.  I believed the US was a beacon of democracy with the mission of imparting its benefits to other countries and saving them from oppressive governments.  The Vietnam War shattered this belief.  The October 1967 march on the Pentagon was the third demonstration against the war in which I participated, but it was the one that marked the beginning of my political re-education.  During the night I spent at the Pentagon, I saw soldiers with gas masks and fixed bayonets knocking peacefully seated demonstrators on the head with their rifle butts and kicking them with their heavy boots, while the march’s leaders reiterated instructions for us to remain passive and not resist.  What got me through that terrifying experience was the conviction that the press would inform the American public of how US soldiers had treated citizens exercising their constitutional rights, and that the incident would lead to an inquiry and redress.  Instead, the next day’s headlines in the Washington Post read: “Troops use restraint against violent crowd.”  It would take years before the US press finally started to report the truth about the war and to portray anti-war protesters more sympathetically.  I would never again read the mainstream press uncritically.

U.S. imperialism continues its wars around the world, ravaging countries and massacring people. In your opinion, why isn't there a fighting anti-war movement like the one we experienced during the Vietnam War?

Broad public opposition to US plans to go to war in Vietnam on the side of, and later in the place of, the French began long before what we think of as the “fighting anti-war movement.”  In 1954 this opposition prevented President Dwight D. Eisenhower from launching a conventional military invasion of Vietnam, obliging him to resort instead to incremental covert methods.  In 1964 the US public voted overwhelmingly against the pro-war presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and in favor of the ostensibly anti-war candidate Lyndon Johnson, who, unbeknown to the public, was already seeking a pretext for a full-scale military assault on Vietnam.

The better-known anti-war movement of the Vietnam era that responded to Johnson’s betrayal of his electoral promises started on college campuses.  It progressed from teach-ins to disruption of the Selective Service test and its draft deferments for college students to draft card burning to campaigns against the production of napalm and other weapons, and it won the support of millions, as exhibited in huge demonstrations.  The campus-based activism converged with the mass movement for African American rights, as epitomized by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)’s January 1966 statement against the Vietnam war and by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful April 1967 “Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam.”  The anti-Vietnam war movement reached its apogée and achieved its most decisive impact as militant opposition to the war erupted within the military itself, generating more than 300 antiwar newspapers, prompting tens of thousands of desertions, inspiring acts of sabotage on navy ships and aircraft carriers, as well as “fragging” (killing of unpopular officers) on the ground in Vietnam, and ultimately forcing the army and navy to withdraw, because whole units refused to fight.

The lesson the US government learned from the Vietnam War was that it was dangerous to rely on a conscript army to wage prolonged imperialist wars.  The army is now professional, made up of volunteer soldiers who are recruited mostly from low-income communities.  To ensure sufficient recruitment, scholarship programs that used to enable large numbers of low-income students to attend college have been drastically cut, inducing such students to seek scholarships from the army in return for military service.  Obviously, it is much easier to propagandize and intimidate volunteer professional soldiers.  Yet even under these conditions, soldiers who served in Iraq returned home to found Iraq Veterans against the War, modeled after Vietnam Veterans against the War, and others have joined Veterans for Peace.   Moreover, during the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, greater numbers of Americans marched against it than against the Vietnam war at its height.  Even though most families are no longer directly affected by US wars abroad, as they were by the Vietnam War, a majority of the public still opposes these wars.  And the army is still looking for ways to prevent the emergence of another “fighting anti-war movement,” by minimizing the use of US troops and relying primarily on bombing, drones, mercenaries, proxies, and foreign troops.  Perhaps its most effective tactic has been to keep its wars spread over the entire globe, yet invisible.  How can a “fighting anti-war movement” mobilize against wars that it can’t see?

You wrote the two books “The First Woman in the Republic: A Cultural Biography of Lydia Maria Child” and “A Refugee from His Race: Albion W. Tourgée and His Fight against White Supremacy”.  In these books, you are interested in the issue of slavery and segregation by evoking the life story of two historical personalities known for their fight against racism. Can we say that the United States is a racist country?

What launched me on the research that led to these two books was the political re-education prompted by the Vietnam War and the movement against it.  I realized that I had never learned the true history of my own country.  Growing up in Japan, I had never been exposed either to the American race problem, which, simultaneously with the Vietnam War, was exploding in Black urban rebellions across the US, including in Washington, DC, where I was now living.  To fill this gap in my education, I began reading about slavery and the antislavery, or abolitionist, movement.  I was thrilled to find in abolitionists like Lydia Maria Child the precursors of my peers in the anti-Vietnam War movement.  The abolitionists, too, believed deeply in the American ideals of freedom and equality proclaimed in the US Declaration of Independence.  They, too, were outraged to discover how crassly their fellow Americans violated these ideals.  They, too, articulated searing critiques of American hypocrisy, as well as probing analyses of white racism.  They, too, dedicated their lives to making their country fulfill its ideals, often defending the rights of African Americans in the teeth of mob violence by white supremacists.  The antislavery movement provided the first model in US history, however imperfect, of racial integration and joint struggle for justice.  It culminated in the Civil War and the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments abolishing slavery and granting equal citizenship and voting rights to all American men.

The forces of white supremacy were too powerful to yield even to military and legislative defeat, however.  In the ex-slave states, white supremacists formed paramilitary organizations like the Ku Klux Klan that launched a campaign of terrorism against African Americans and their white allies, through which they overthrew the new democratically elected governments and introduced forms of neo-slavery worse than the original.  In the North, as the public came to understand that only a prolonged military occupation of the South could stem white supremacist violence, war weariness and a desire for national reconciliation—which could only be achieved by sacrificing justice for African Americans—caused white sympathy to shift away from the emancipated slaves toward white Southerners.  Codifying this shift, the US Supreme Court reinterpreted the post-Civil War amendments to mean their opposite and nullified other civil rights laws as unconstitutional.  Albion W. Tourgée’s life encapsulates this turbulent history.  Converted to abolitionism by the fugitive slaves he met while soldiering in the Union army during the Civil War, Tourgée participated in North Carolina’s Reconstruction, helped write an egalitarian constitution for the state, and braved death threats by the Klan while serving as a Superior Court judge.  After the overthrow of Reconstruction forced him to return to the North, he tried to reanimate the abolitionist movement by writing a series of novels about the aborted struggle for freedom and justice in which he had engaged alongside African Americans.  Subsequently, he joined with African Americans in founding an interracial civil rights organization, campaigning against lynching, which claimed hundreds of lives a year in the 1890s, and challenging the ideology of segregation in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, which he argued pro bono.  The Supreme Court’s infamous verdict justifying segregation validated white supremacy as the law of the land.  It reigned uncontested for almost half a century, until the Court repudiated Plessy in Brown v. Board of Education.

Although the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s produced many advances, systemic racism still pervades the US, causing glaring disparities between whites and people of color in health care, education, housing, employment opportunities, and access to voting.  In her book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” the scholar Michelle Alexander has also pointed out that prison has replaced slavery and segregation as a means of keeping African Americans locked into inferior status and deprived of civil and voting rights.  The persistence of racism is further apparent in the policies the Trump administration has instituted to restrict immigration and asylum, for example by imprisoning and deporting immigrants of color and separating them from their children.

Today we are seeing another climactic battle between the forces of white supremacy on one side and the champions of equality on the other side.  I take a great deal of hope in the scale and duration of the anti-racist protests inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement across the country, the unprecedented numbers of whites who have been participating in them, the well-thought-out demands the leaders have formulated, and the support they have received from city governments, the liberal media, and large portions of the general public.  I take hope as well in the vigorous solidarity protests with which Americans of all races responded to Trump’s Muslim ban and anti-immigrant policies.

How do you explain the fact that in the United States the police kill citizens of color with impunity, as we saw with the assassination of George Floyd and many others?

In the South, the police as an institution evolved out of the slave patrols whose job was to prevent slaves from stealing, running away, or conspiring to revolt.  There, racism was built into policing from the start, since it gave poor white non-slaveholders an investment in both the slave system and whiteness.  Racism operated more subtly in other parts of the country, where the police served to protect the rich and their property against the “dangerous classes.”  These classes included immigrant groups who were not perceived as white, as was initially the case for the Irish, Italians, Slavs, Jews, and others.  By breaking up labor strikes and by helping to repress immigrant groups lower in the scale than one’s own, policing could offer a route to upward mobility and acceptance as white. 

Although police forces are more racially diverse today, with African American, Latinx, and Asian members, the upper ranks are overwhelmingly white, and racism continues to shape policing.   The military plays an equally pernicious role in shaping policing.  Police forces receive the army’s excess weapons—a major reason for the militarization of policing.  In addition, many soldiers come home from Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere to find jobs as police officers (or prison guards).  Their military training in armies of occupation teaches them to shoot first and ask questions later, as well as to treat the foreign peoples whose countries they occupy with contempt.  Reinforcing this pattern, ever since September 11, 2001, the US has been sponsoring a police exchange program with Israel, viewed as the country that has had the most experience dealing with terrorism.  As Jewish Voice for Peace has noted, the two countries trade “worst practices” in this “deadly exchange” program.  Clearly, the model Israel provides of an occupation army only encourages militarized, racist policing. 

The US fosters a sense of impunity in its troops by refusing to join the International Criminal Court and by thwarting efforts to punish soldiers who commit rape or war crimes.  The police maintain their own impunity through powerful unions that lobby politicians and hire expensive lawyers to defend members against any charges of malfeasance.  Ironically, police and prison guard unions are the only ones that have not been decimated by anti-union policies. That is what enabled them to win a case at the US Supreme Court that granted the police “qualified immunity” from prosecution, amounting in essence to unqualified impunity.

In lieu of prosecuting the police, which almost never succeeds, municipalities pay indemnities—at taxpayers’ expense—to the families of victims of police shootings, as the city of Louisville, Kentucky, recently did to the family of Breonna Taylor.  This practice calms the anger of the victims’ communities but imposes no financial penalty on the police, leaving them without any incentive to reform.

Currently, protesters are demanding the elimination of “qualified immunity,” an end to military weaponry for the police, drastic cuts in police budgets, reallocation of funds toward social programs aimed at solving the problems poor people face, and in some cases the very abolition of the police.  City councils are responding much more positively to such demands than in the past, influenced by the shocking brutality of George Floyd’s murder, as captured on the video that the whole world has seen, by the police’s blatant violence against protesters, even under the spotlight of the media and an aroused public, and by the scale, duration, and multiracial character of the protests.

What is your analysis of this great worldwide solidarity movement after the assassination of George Floyd?

No doubt the graphic video of George Floyd’s murder and the inspiring photos and media coverage of the protests here in the US have sparked worldwide sympathy, but this could not have grown into an actual solidarity movement without recognition that other countries have their own George Floyds.  Certainly, Palestinians have long been pointing out that the Israeli police, military, and settlers treat them as brutally as the US police treat African Americans and kill them with even more impunity.  Arab and African citizens of France, too, experience frequent police brutality, as well as ghettoization, discrimination, and entrapment in inferior schools—and unlike the US, France has never tried to correct these conditions through affirmative action policies.  In India, Dalits (untouchables) have traditionally met with violence at the hands of the upper castes, and these days the Modi government has empowered both the police and Hindu mobs to terrorize Dalit and Muslim communities.  Many other countries offer similar examples of oppressed groups that have every reason to identify with George Floyd and the solidarity movement his murder generated.

There will soon be presidential elections in the United States. What is your opinion on Donald Trump's presidency? In your opinion, wouldn't Trump's re-election be a potential danger? Why has the American Left failed to be an alternative to Donald Trump?

Donald Trump’s presidency has been catastrophic not only for the US but for the entire world.  He has already flouted the Constitution, eviscerated our democratic institutions, turned agencies meant to protect workers, consumers, public health, and the environment into their opposite, and rolled back regulations promoting clean air, clean water, higher emissions standards, pollution control, etc.  Today he called for schools to teach “patriotism” rather than “left-wing propaganda” that makes students ashamed of their country. Were Trump to be re-elected, he would gut all remaining constitutional protections and inaugurate a full-blown fascist regime.  A Trump victory would help bring fascists to power in many other countries as well.  Such a development would end all hope of saving the planet from devastating climate chaos.

It is not quite accurate, however, to say that the American Left has failed to provide an alternative to Donald Trump.  On the electoral level, Bernie Sanders articulated a very clear alternative to Trump that won a large following, especially among the youth.  One reason he lost to Joe Biden is that many voters feared a self-proclaimed socialist could not defeat Trump and believed Biden had the best chance of doing so.  Although the Left is not strong enough to win a presidential election, it has never been stronger in my lifetime.  An increasing number of extremely progressive candidates are winning election to the House of Representatives and to state and city governments.  Mass movements for racial and environmental justice are helping to define progressive legislation, as with the call for defunding the police, mentioned in #4, above, and the Green New Deal.  These movements will continue to exert pressure on Biden and the Democratic party establishment if we succeed in defeating Trump.

The revival of the American Left stands in sharp contrast to the marked decline of the Left in France, where it always used to be much stronger than in the US.

How do you explain the catastrophic management of the Covid-19 crisis by the Trump administration?

Trump does not believe in science, as he has indicated by denying that climate change is taking place.  For Trump, profits are paramount—his own and those of his cronies and donors.  He is determined to keep share prices high, since he is convinced that his re-election depends on a buoyant stock market and economy.  Thus, he refuses to countenance any measures that would cause an economic slowdown, such as closing factories, businesses, and schools to prevent the spread of Covid-19.  He depends for electoral campaign donations on industries and businesses that want to maintain their profits at all costs.  For example, Trump’s dependence on—and personal investments in—the pharmaceutical industry have led him not only to favor a US race to develop a vaccine that can be patented and sold for a high price, but to promote drugs like hydro chloroquine that have been shown to have harmful rather than beneficial effects.  Similarly, he has defined the meat industry as “essential” to the US economy, with the result that meatpacking plants can stay open despite having become Covid-19 hot spots.  While invoking the Defense Production Act to keep meatpacking plants open, he has refused to invoke it to mandate the production of personal protective equipment, which would not generate comparable profits.  Besides his obsession with profits, Trump sees everything in partisan political terms.  That is why he undermines and countermands governors and mayors who are Democrats, depriving their states and municipalities of resources and encouraging his followers to disobey local orders to wear masks and avoid congregating in bars, churches, and campaign rallies.  Trump’s white supremacist and anti-immigrant views give him every incentive to allow Covid-19 to continue raging in African American, Latinx, and Native American communities, which have been suffering from hugely disproportionate infection and death rates.  Finally, Trump’s disparagement of the media as purveyors of “fake news” has had the desired impact on his core supporters, who base their views regarding the pandemic only on the same right-wing TV channels, talk shows, and social media platforms that Trump himself feeds on.

You wrote the book “Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation” in which you evoke the path of certain Jewish personalities who rejected Zionism. How do you explain that these personalities, although Jewish, have turned away from Zionism?

“Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism” is a collection in which forty Jews of diverse backgrounds, nearly all of whom received a Zionist upbringing, tell their individual stories of personal transformation.  The contributors are rabbis, professors of Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, other academics, journalists and media specialists, lawyers, health professionals, social workers, activists, and recent graduates.  They range in age from their seventies to their twenties.  They each recall how and why they stopped believing in the premise of Zionist ideology: that the solution to antisemitism was for Jews to have a state of their own, which they could control and which would privilege them over non-Jews.  They then describe the different roads they each traveled from a Zionist worldview to activism in solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis striving to build an inclusive society founded on justice, equality, and peaceful coexistence. 

These narratives reveal a number of reasons why the authors lost faith in Zionism: (1) the authors saw the brutality of the Israeli occupation with their own eyes for the first time; (2) they met and formed warm relationships with Palestinians and heard from them about the Nakba; (3) they came to recognize the contradiction between the Jewish ethical principles they had been taught—love your neighbor, love the stranger, pursue justice, repair the world—and Israel’s cruel treatment of Palestinians; (4) they confronted the censorship and silencing Zionist authorities use to maintain faith in Israel as a democratic haven for the Jews—and the vilification to which these authorities subject dissenters; (5) as Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews, some faced blatant discrimination in Israel that belied Zionist ideology’s claim to offer all Jews a refuge from persecution; (6) as progressives, many discovered that the racial equality and religious tolerance they uphold in the US are not practiced in Israel, and that Israel has joined the US in supporting the reactionary regimes against which progressives have fought in Vietnam, South Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere.

The book’s introduction and afterword set these narratives in historical context.  The introduction explains why Zionism arose in the late 19th century.  The movement originated among Russian Jews who, like my mother’s parents, were enduring pogroms at the hands of state-sanctioned mobs.  To escape the pogroms and the persecution they were suffering, one and a half million Russian Jews emigrated to America, as did my maternal grandparents.  Tens of thousands more joined the Bund, a militantly socialist Jewish organization that urged workers to fight for liberation where they lived, rather than emigrate.   Only a tiny minority embraced the Zionist view that Jews could best achieve permanent safety by taking refuge in the biblical homeland of the ancient Israelites.  Zionism did not gain full ideological expression or significant traction until the Viennese Jew Theodor Herzl published “The Jewish State” (1896) in response to the explosion of anti-Jewish hysteria in France.  Herzl concluded that Jews could never escape antisemitism as long as they lived as minorities in ethnically homogeneous states—hence that they must found a homogeneous state of their own.  “The Jewish State” makes clear that Herzl conceived of this as a colonizing endeavor.  Although he considered other sites for it, he chose Palestine because it would appeal more to the Jewish settlers he hoped to attract.

Contrary to Herzl’s expectations, however, the vast majority of Jews rejected Zionism.  The orthodox denounced it as impious because it substituted nationalism for religion, conquest for the Messiah’s rule of universal brotherhood.  Liberal Reform Jews agreed, but also denounced it because they feared it would endanger Jews’ integration as equal citizens in their home countries.  Bundists denounced it because it substituted a fictitious Jewish unity for class struggle and a Jewish state for socialism.  Some opponents of Zionism additionally foresaw that European Jewish settlement of Palestine would arouse Arab enmity and plunge the region into perpetual warfare.

What turned the tide in favor of Zionism was the rise of Nazism, culminating in the Holocaust.  The decimation of European Jews, combined with the refusal of the US and European countries to admit Jewish refugees, finally convinced most Jews that the Zionists were right—Jews indeed needed Israel as a refuge from the threat of another Holocaust.

Once Zionism won widespread acceptance, it gradually took over all synagogues, rabbinical schools, Jewish community centers, and other institutions.  In the process, it became so intertwined with Judaism that few could see any difference between the two.  Zionism and loyalty to Israel became pillars of Jewish identity.  Consequently, most contributors to “Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism” underwent agonizing conflicts before renouncing Zionism.

Just as Nazism and the Holocaust turned the tide in favor of Zionism, however, Israel’s drift to the extreme right and its increasingly brazen violations of international law and Palestinian human rights are now turning the tide against Zionism.  More and more Jews, especially but not exclusively among the young, are rejecting Zionism and Israel and working in solidarity with Palestinians.  In the process, they are redefining Jewish identity and rediscovering Judaism.

How do you explain that at a time when Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, etc. are normalizing their relations with the Zionist entity of Israel, Western citizens are mobilizing in BDS to boycott Israeli products?

The Arab countries that are normalizing their relations with Israel are absolute monarchies.  They, like Israel, perceive Iran as their main threat, and Israel is useful to them as a supplier of arms, surveillance technology, and intelligence (hitherto sub rosa).  From what I understand, Arab citizens across the Middle East have always been very sympathetic to the Palestinians and would be happy to join the BDS movement if it were up to them.  Western citizens, on the other hand, have been blinded by Israeli propaganda until quite recently.  Thanks to social media, Israel is no longer able to prevent citizens of Western countries from learning the truth about the crimes it is committing against the Palestinian people.  The Palestinian diaspora in Europe and the US is also playing an increasingly important role in educating Western citizens about the oppressive conditions under which Palestinians are forced to live, and many organizations are providing opportunities to travel to the region and meet Palestinian activists.  These new developments have encouraged left-leaning citizens to embrace the Palestinian cause, just as they previously embraced the cause of Black South Africans.

What is your opinion on the policy of apartheid of the Palestinian people practiced by the Zionist entity of Israel and how do you explain that the UN and all international organizations turn a blind eye to Israel's crimes?

Zionism was always a settler colonial ideology.  The goal of creating a refuge for (European) Jews in a land inhabited by Palestinian Arabs necessarily involved expelling the indigenous population.  In the US, of course, European settlers waged exterminating wars against native peoples and corralled the survivors into reservations.  That process occurred over several centuries when the Western world fully supported colonialism.  In contrast, the founding of Israel occurred when colonialism had fallen into disrepute and formerly colonized countries were winning independence.  Hence, Israel could not expel the entire population of Palestine.  It has been seeking instead to confine Palestinians to smaller and smaller enclaves, on the model of South Africa’s Bantustans.  In the occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli apartheid functions much like the South African equivalent, in that different legal systems apply to Palestinians, who are tried in military courts, and to Israeli Jewish settlers, who are tried in civilian courts.  Israeli apartheid is more extreme, however, barring Palestinians from using the same roads that Israeli Jews do.  In 1948, Israel, the system is more like Jim Crow in the US, in that Palestinians are subjected to more than 50 discriminatory laws, as well as to segregation in schools and housing.  Apartheid is built into the concept of a “Jewish state,” which by definition excludes, subordinates, or marginalizes non-Jews.  But Israel also has a pragmatic reason for keeping Palestinians separate from Israeli Jews.  Its policies of dehumanizing Palestinians and stereotyping them as terrorists can only work if Israeli Jews do not interact with Palestinians, except through the barrel of a gun.

Israel has managed to maintain its impunity from international censure through clever propaganda, exploitation of European and US guilt for the Holocaust, and most recently a campaign to define criticism of Israel as antisemitism.  These tactics are beginning to wear thin, however, as more and more information about Israel’s crimes is coming to light and as more and more progressives, including Jews, are turning against Israel.  Some of these progressives work for international organizations and are influencing them from within. 

Moreover, the UN cannot fairly be said to “turn a blind eye to Israel’s crimes.”  The UN Security Council has repeatedly tried to pass resolutions censuring Israel and failed only because of the US veto.  It succeeded in December 2016 when the outgoing Obama administration abstained from censuring a resolution that denounced the building of settlements in occupied territory as a violation of international law.  The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has vocally condemned Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.  The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as its name indicates, was created specifically to alleviate the plight of Palestinians and has warmly championed them.  That is why the Israelis hate both UNRWA and UNHRC and why the Trump administration has cut off its funding for UNRWA.  On a much smaller scale than UNWRA, the World Bank has been engaged in the Palestinian territories since 1992, providing grants out of its own income, supplemented by other donor Trust Funds in support of projects in water, sanitation, municipal services, education, self-employment, and health, including most recently a project to address urgent health needs from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The weight of the Zionist lobby in the United States, such as AIPAC, is often mentioned. How do you explain this major influence?

The Zionist lobby includes a wide range of Jewish organizations, some of which predate Zionism and originally served to protect American Jews against discrimination and antisemitism, as did the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), or to provide charity to poor Jews, as did the United Jewish Appeal (UJA).  At its inception, the ADL realized that it could not effectively fight antisemitism without fighting racism of all kinds and that it could not protect Jews against discrimination unless it sought to protect African Americans and other oppressed minorities.  Since Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, however, all these Jewish organizations, and many new ones with right-wing agendas, have made the defense of Israel their primary mission.  They mobilize opposition to speakers, campus events, student groups, academic programs, faculty members, or any others they deem anti-Israel, and they often achieve their ends by suing or threatening to sue, or by inducing large donors to threaten to cut off funding.

AIPAC was founded in 1951 specifically as a pro-Israel political lobby but did not gain unrivaled power until after the 1967 war.  It recruits and nurtures candidates for political office, raises money to support their electoral campaigns, and until recently succeeded in scaring politicians away from taking controversial positions on Israel by recruiting candidates to run against them and inundating the offending politicians with negative publicity.  Politicians brave enough to resist AIPAC generally met defeat at the polls.

The good news is that the Zionist lobby is slowly losing the influence it used to exert.  Though the harassment continues, universities are now able to hire and retain professors whose teaching and research focuses on Palestine, and groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) are attracting more and more members and forming coalitions with other progressive student organizations.

On the political front Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential candidacy demonstrated that criticizing Israel no longer doomed a politician.  In 2018 two extremely progressive pro-BDS Muslim candidates, Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American, and Ilhan Omar, a hijab-wearing Somali immigrant, won election for the first time, and when AIPAC tried to defeat them in 2020 by the usual means, it failed miserably.  Meanwhile, two new pro-Palestinian candidates have just won their primaries. 

These developments reflect a clear shift in public sentiment away from unquestioning support for Israel and toward greater sympathy for Palestinians.

Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen

Who is Carolyn L. Karcher?

Carolyn L. Karcher is professor emerita of English, American studies, and women’s studies at Temple University, where she taught for twenty-one years and received the Great Teacher Award and the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2002.  She is the author of Shadow over the Promised Land: Slavery, Race, and Violence in Melville’s America (1980); The First Woman in the Republic: A Cultural Biography of Lydia Maria Child (1994); A Refugee from His Race: Albion W. Tourgée and His Fight against White Supremacy (2016); and  Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation (2019). She has also edited scholarly reprints of works by several 19th-century writers, including Tourgée’s novel about Black Reconstruction in North Carolina, Bricks Without Straw.

Trump Confirms U.S. Is Israel’s “Protector”

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For many years the security framework in the Middle East has been described as a bilateral arrangement whereby Washington gained access to sufficient Saudi Arabian oil to keep the energy market stable while the United States provided an armed physical presence through its bases in the region and its ability to project power if anyone should seek to threaten the Saudi Kingdom. The agreement was reportedly worked out in a February 1945 meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, just as World War 2 was drawing to a close. That role as protector of Saudi Arabia and guarantor of stable energy markets in the region later served as part of the justification for the U.S. ouster of the Iraqi Army from Kuwait in 1991.

After 9/11, the rationale became somewhat less focused. The United States invaded Afghanistan, did not capture or kill Osama bin Laden due to its own incompetence, and, rather than setting up a puppet regime and leaving, settled down to a nineteen-years long and still running counter-insurgency plus training mission. Fake intelligence produced by the neocons in the White House and Defense Department subsequently implicated Iraq in 9/11 and led to the political and military disaster known as the Iraq War.

During the 75 years since the end of the Second World War the Middle East has experienced dramatic change, to include the withdrawal of the imperial European powers from the region and the creation of the State of Israel. And the growth and diversification of energy resources mean that it is no longer as necessary to secure the petroleum that moves in tankers through the Persian Gulf. Lest there be any confusion over why the United States continues to be involved in Syria, Iraq, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump remarkably provided some clarity relating to the issue when on September 8th he declared that the U.S. isn’t any longer in the Middle East to secure oil supplies, but rather because we “want to protect Israel.”

The comment was made by Trump during a rally in Winston-Salem, N.C. as part of a boast about his having reduced energy costs for consumers. He said “I like being energy independent, don’t you? I’m sure that most of you noticed when you go to fill up your tank in your car, oftentimes it’s below two dollars. You say how the hell did this happen?… While I’m president, America will remain the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world. We will remain energy independent. It should be for many many years to come. The fact is, we don’t have to be in the Middle East, other than we want to protect Israel. We’ve been very good to Israel. Other than that, we don’t have to be in the Middle East.

The reality is, of course, that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has been all about Israel for a very long time, at least since the presidency of Bill Clinton, who has been sometimes dubbed the first Jewish president for his deference to Israeli interests. The Iraq War is a prime example of how neoconservatives and Israel Firsters inside the United States government conspired to go to war to protect the Jewish State. In key positions at the Pentagon were Zionists Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. Feith’s Office of Special Plans developed the “alternative intelligence” linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda and also to a mythical nuclear program that was used to justify war. Feith was so close to Israel that he partnered in a law firm that had an office in Jerusalem. The fake intelligence was then stove-piped to the White House by fellow neocon “Scooter” Libby who worked in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

After the fact, former Secretary of State Colin Powell also had something to say about the origins of the war, commenting that the United States had gone into Iraq because Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld bought into the neoconservative case made for doing so by “the JINSA crowd,” by which he meant the Israel Lobby organization the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

And if any more confirmation about the origins of the Iraq War were needed, one might turn to Philip Zelikow, who was involved in the planning process while working on the staff of Condoleezza Rice. He said “The unstated threat. And here I criticize the [Bush] administration a little, because the argument that they make over and over again is that this is about a threat to the United States. And then everybody says: ‘Show me an imminent threat from Iraq to America. Show me, why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us?’ So I’ll tell you what I think the real threat is, and actually has been since 1990. It’s the threat against Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don’t care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it’s not a popular sell.”

So here is the point that resonates: even in 2002-3, when the Israel Lobby was not as powerful as it is now, the fact that the U.S. was going to war on a lie and was actually acting on behalf of the Jewish State was never presented in any way to the public, even though America’s children would be dying in the conflict and American taxpayers would be footing the bill. The media, if it knew about the false intelligence, was reliably pro-Israel and helped enable the deception.

And that same deception continued to this day until Trump spilled the beans earlier this month. And now, with the special security arrangement that the U.S. has entered into with Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the ability to exit from a troublesome region that does not actually threaten American interests has become very limited. As guarantor of the agreement, Washington now has an obligation to intervene on the behalf of the parties involved. Think about that, a no-win arrangement that will almost certainly lead to war with Iran, possibly to include countries like Russia and China that will be selling their military equipment contrary to U.S. “sanctions.”

*(President Donald J. Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk during a bilateral meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House. Credit: Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

*This article was originally published on UNZ Review.

How Football Has Maintained Its Status and Popularity Throughout History

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Football is by far one of the most popular sports, with fan bases reaching billions of people worldwide. Betting on the sport attracts even more people, especially when there are great tips out there, such as football tips for tonight's games. It is, perhaps, the only sport played in every nation, either professionally or casually. Of course, football isn't the only sporting activity out there. However, the game remains increasingly relevant. But how can this be? If you are wondering how football has maintained its status and popularity throughout history, wonder no more. This article has all the details.

  • Different countries host tournaments

The organizers and governing body of football competition, FIFA, have always facilitated the hosting of football tournaments in different nations. This way, the football vibe keeps traveling around the world.

Every four years, FIFA shuffles the hosting-rights to different countries; this way, citizens of the host nation become more football-conscious. Also, the hosting nations generate income from tourists and experience economic growth by creating football-related jobs.

  • Women inclusivity

Football is one of the very few sports where women actively participate and make a huge impact. Participation isn't only at the national level, but also at the club level. Some women's football clubs and associations include CAF (Africa), UEFA (Europe), and CONCACAF (North America & Central America). These clubs make it possible for women to grow, even when their nation is not active in sports development.

  • The kids are encouraged

When it comes to kids, football isn't sitting on the sidelines. Clubs even have an academy for young talents who show interest in football. Once the children are involved, you can bet that their parents are on the same bandwagon. From as young as age 10, kids are already developing their skills through football and growing up to become professionals.

Still on the topic of kids; the fact that football itself is easy to understand even for kids is another reason the game is popular. There is a well-defined goal, which is to score. More so, as there are no extremely complicated rules, everyone can join the discussion and cheer - including a five-year-old.

  • Scholarships

Academic scholarships are not the only aids flying around these days. A handful of football associations award students with budding talents. While they may be highly competitive, a student who gets a sports scholarship is awarded full tuition waivers, free books, and stipends all through their stay in school. This way, they have a good shot at having a successful career and, of course, makes football continuously relevant.

  • Offshoots & virtual reality

Football is the only sport in the world with so many offshoots (or adaptations). Examples include Futsal, beach soccer, indoor soccer, street football, swamp football, football, etc. These many adaptations don't only increase the relevance of the game, but they also create opportunities for people to be part of something greater.

Also, if you are a fan of video games, you know how much relevance football has pooled through virtual reality entertainment. Many video game players are not active football participants; some of them don't even watch football at the stadium or on television. Yet they know the ins and outs of the game, including the latest transfer deals. Some others even engage in sports betting, despite not being major foot fans.

Question RT More!

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The RT headline speaks volumes: “China’s Forced Rape and Slave Labor Being Excused.” The right-wing RT Eat the Press host Steve Malzberg presents the ludicrous-on-its-face charge that China has some preponderant influence over American corporations. Why ludicrous? Because ever since Donald Trump lost the vote and won the presidency in that bastion of democracy, the United States, the media wonks and White House apparatchiks have stepped up an unrelenting demonization of China. Thus China is blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic, blamed for trade frictions, accused of intellectual property theft (this while Trump tries to purloin Chinese social media phenom TikTok), criticized for undermining democracy in Hong Kong, alleged to engage in aggressive posturing in the South China Sea, and China is asserted to pose a national security risk because of Chinese apps and cutting-edge technology, such as 5G. Simultaneously, the American Establishment continues to stoke interethnic conflict in China’s Xinjiang province, an area where the US and its CIA have long sought to undermine Chinese sovereignty. [1]

http://youtu.be/8RMqAVDf-qk

All of this is being pushed by American corporate media, but it is now joined by RT via Malzberg and his guest Justin Danhof, the general counsel for the “conservative” National Center for Public Policy Research. The NCPPR is “dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems.” In other words, it is a right-wing think tank. It is aligned with:

  • the corporate lobbyist group, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC);
  • a project that bombarded senior citizens with “fright mail”;
  • the ill-reputed right-wing lobbyist Jack Abramoff;
  • anti-environmental protection groups and the climate-change skeptics;
  • GroupSnoop, a site that attacks progressivist groups such as the Center for American Progress, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Center for Media & Democracy;
  • several right-wing foundations that fund NCPPR.

Danhof is also a a policy advisor for the right-wing Heartland Institute. The Heartland Institute is criticized for its climate-change skepticism. It is also loosely affiliated with the deceptively named National Endowment for Democracy — in actuality, a CIA front for instigating coups.

Malzberg and Danhof — and RT through providing the platform — castigate Disney, one of the Big 5 media oligopolies in the US, for seeking profit in wicked China. Danhof criticized the Disney movie Mulan because it was shot in “ZIN-JING.”2 Why is that a problem?

Danhof, an advocate for capitalism, claims,

That is where the Chinese Communist Party has forced labour camps of a minority Muslim population known as the Uyghur, okay? So Disney moralizes and proselytizes us in the United States of America over its quote systematic racism and Black Lives Matter while they are burning our cities down. But they turn a blind eye to actual slave labor … and there is forced rape here…

Sheesh! What is this guy talking about? Proselytizing? More than 39,000 mosques are in China, with 25,000 mosques in Xinjiang. And “forced rape”? Statutory rape aside, whoever heard of consensual rape?

For some reason these two conservatives turned the conversation to protests in the US. It seems they had three targets to try and topple in the interview: China, corporations that do business with China, and BLM.

As for burning the cities down? Who and why? That the state and its police use agents provocateurs is so well known that one should always be skeptical of casting blame without evidence. Besides, what caused the protests to mushroom? If police were not murdering Black people3 and if there were a fair distribution of the wealth in the country, the call of the streets would not have beckoned with such widespread appeal to the marginalized, disenfranchised, immiserated, and social-justice advocates among the citizenry. I suggest that the government in the US and many western nations could learn a thing or two from China in eliminating poverty, thereby quelling simmering unrest.

Malzberg and Danhof seem incapable of drawing the palpable causal link between the police murders and protests. If there were jobs with decent wages for all and were the police peaceably and without prejudice upholding the law, then there would be no fillip for mass protests. The no-brainer solution to the protests, burning, window-smashing, destruction, and looting (committed by whoever: state actors, protestors, or criminal elements) is stop police killings of people and provide a decent living for the people of the nation, as is required by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the US is a signatory.4 To focus only on the aftermath in a system that promotes capitalist enrichment and turns a blind eye to egregious inequality and mass impoverishment instead of focusing on the capitalist government mismanagement of the state of the nation is backwards and obtuse.

And horrors! Danhof informs us that the protestors support Marxism in America. This is simple-mindedness to the extreme. To merely toss out a political-economic label is a non sequitur. It has no logical basis. If it did have a logic, then people of a different politico-economic leaning, for example socialists, could merely state — “that’s capitalism” — to present their disagreement. This is hardly compelling argumentation from whichever angle. Nonetheless, an open-minded, skeptical comparison of the economies and the economic trajectories between Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and US Capitalism should prove quite revealing — for those who are not of the capitalist or petite bourgeoisie classes in the US.

Danhof, with Malzberg chuckling in agreement, talks of human rights abuses right in front of people’s eyes. The video showed no such human rights abuses. A genocide of Uyghurs? As CGTN informs, “… the Uygur people, had always enjoyed preferential population policies. In the four decades between 1978 and 2018, the Uygur population in Xinjiang doubled, from 5.6 million to 11.7 million.” Uyghurs are found throughout China, and I have never noticed any animosity to them. In particular, many are prominent for owning and operating restaurants and food stands that are quite popular.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry in a release stated, “Issues in Xinjiang are nothing about human rights, ethnicity or religion, but combating violence, terrorism and separatism.”

How the US combats terrorism versus China’s handling of terrorism

What is not disputed is that Xinjiang has suffered terrorism. This is also true of the US (which also wreaks most of the terrorism elsewhere in the world). How China responds to terrorism is starkly at odds with how the US responds. In the below two videos, two westerners living in China (unlike Danhof and Malzberg) discuss the responses to terrorism.

http://youtu.be/EovpQE6dZeE

http://youtu.be/y6grvHceQsQ

The right-wing think-tank functionary Danhof claims that the Chinese Communist Party is “one of the greatest propaganda machines in history of mankind.” Presumably that includes womankind as well.

Combating disinformation on Uyghurs in Xinjiang

http://youtu.be/DiND51lxyuI

http://youtu.be/Wb-MNi8E-TA

Danhof calls this a “hypocrisy issue.” Hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing the opposite. Americans criticizing others while ignoring the plank in their eyes is quite condemnatory. Danhof falsely claims, again without evidence, a genocide of Muslims in Xinjiang; yet, according to professor Gideon Polya, the Zionist-backed US genocide of Muslims has resulted in 32 million avoidable deaths in 20 countries since the American 9-11.5 The heinous crimes of the American state against Muslims are too numerous for this article to extensively list. To briefly state some of the more recent outstanding human rights abuses, there is the Abu Ghraib prisoner torture and abuse in Iraq, the Bagram prisoner torture and abuse in Afghanistan, the Guantanamo Gulag prisoner torture and abuse, extraordinary rendition, the occupation of Syrian territory and theft of its oil, supporting the Saudi genocide and starvation of Yemenis, participation in the violent overthrow of the Libyan government giving rise to slavery and impoverishment in what heretofore was the richest country in Africa, and complicity in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the slow-motion genocide against Palestinians. Thus, Danhof ignores his own backyard and appeals to hypocrisy when he criticizes Chinese human rights abuses, without an iota of evidence, while ignoring the indisputable litany of US human rights abuses, including those in the US homeland, which Danhof belittles.

The need to demand that RT adhere to its stated principles

Given the paucity of rigorous reporting in news media, especially among state and corporate media, RT has for the most part been a necessary and much appreciated breath of fresh air. For this media consumer, RT, CGTN, and Press TV (of those media that I am most aware) are among the most credible of news media.6

RT has a slogan it promotes: “question more.” It is excellent advice, and RT on-air personalities should abide by it. However, episodes like this one hosted by Malzberg make “question more” seem like an empty slogan. There was no questioning by the media critic Malzberg. There was no asking for evidence. It was an example of what does not pass the most basic journalistic muster. By all means report about concentration camps, rapes, genocides, and other crimes in China, the US, Canada, wherever. Such outrages against humanity must be reported. Malzberg, contrariwise, takes exception to revealing the monstrous crimes of the US. Malzberg again, as is his wont, without evidence accuses Assange of illegal hacking and opines: “Assange should be locked up for what he did.” Assange is the victim of kangaroo court proceedings in the Britain for exposing, among other war crimes, an incident where US helicopters gunned down journalists and civilians walking on a street in Iraq. A conscience-bound journalist would applaud the exposure of crimes against his fellow journalists, but not Malzberg.

To iterate, these horrific crimes must be reported and brought to public awareness. However, scrupulous viewers will, and must, demand evidence for the commission of crimes. The famous scientist Carl Sagan insisted: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Although this Malzberg-hosted episode accused China of propaganda in the extreme, in actuality, this RT episode was not only propagandic by definition but worse, it was rife with disinformation. Through presenting unquestioning propaganda on its channels RT insults its viewers and undermines its integrity.

As RT anchor Rick Sanchez is fond of saying: “It is time to do news again.” That means questioning more and demanding evidence of itself, its presenters, and guests.

ENDNOTES

  1. Read Thomas Laird, Into Tibet: The CIA’s First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa (2003).
  2. What kind of China expert is Danhof anyway? He cannot even pronounce the name of China’s largest province correctly.
  3. Whites and other ethnicities are murdered by police as well, but Blacks are killed disproportionately relative to Whites.
  4. Article 25(1) of the UDHR reads, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family…”
  5. Gideon Polya, US-Imposed Post-9/11 Muslim Holocaust & Muslim Genocide (Korsgaard Publishing, 2020): xxvii.
  6. The Real News has had quite a drop off since the departure of many on-air personalities and Democracy Now! can be highly problematic; e.g., falling for the contrived Russiagate fiasco and its pro-imperialist orientation toward the attack on Syria.

Enemies Lists on Display at the United Nations

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The opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York each September is generally notable for its two weeks of speeches by heads of state, foreign ministers and other government officials addressing their own fellow citizens through the medium of a world forum. This year was no exception except for the fact that the coronavirus pandemic meant that most speakers were not live, instead delivering their messages by means of pre-recorded videos.

Most of the speeches were bland, boasting of achievements back at home, and utterly predictable. Many also praised the United Nations as a gathering place where all nations could learn to get along. There were, however, some exceptions, with certain spokesmen using the bully pulpit to deliberately target regimes and foreign leaders for criticism, or even to deliver thinly veiled threats.

U.S. president Donald Trump spoke on Tuesday via a pre-recorded video. His speech was remarkable in that it pulled no punches regarding several nations that Washington appears to have on its “enemies list.” China was particularly pummeled by Trump in what the New York Times described as a “strongly worded” speech. It included describing the coronavirus as Chinese to support the not altogether convincingly demonstrated White House argument that the virus was created and weaponized by the Wuhan lab before being clandestinely released to infect an unsuspecting world.

After praising the great job his administration had done against the virus, certainly a questionable assertion, claiming that “We have waged a fierce battle against the invisible enemy — the China virus,” Trump went on to lay all the blame for its spread on Beijing, saying “As we pursue this bright future, we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China.

“In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world. China condemned my travel ban on their country, even as they cancelled domestic flights and locked citizens in their homes.

“The Chinese government and the World Health Organization — which is virtually controlled by China — falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease.

“The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions.”

It was virtually a declaration of war that included a liberal helping of the usual Trumpean misrepresentation of facts. China was mentioned a total of twelve times in a fifteen-minute speech and none of the references were friendly. President Xi Jinping of China spoke after Trump and described the coronavirus as a “crisis shared by everyone.” He did not apologize and instead claimed his nation of 1.4 billion people had acted responsibly to combat the Covid-19 disease caused by the virus. He concluded that “Any attempt of politicizing the issue or stigmatization must be rejected.”

Trump then went on to touch bases on the remainder of his enemies list, saying “We also know that American prosperity is the bedrock of freedom and security all over the world. In three short years, we built the greatest economy in history, and we are quickly doing it again. Our military has increased substantially in size. We spent $2.5 trillion over the last four years on our military. We have the most powerful military anywhere in the world, and it’s not even close.

“We stood up to decades of China’s trade abuses. We revitalized the NATO Alliance, where other countries are now paying a much more fair share. We forged historic partnerships with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to stop human smuggling. We are standing with the people of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela in their righteous struggle for freedom.

“We withdrew from the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal and imposed crippling sanctions on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. We obliterated the ISIS caliphate 100 percent; killed its founder and leader, al-Baghdadi; and eliminated the world’s top terrorist, Qasem Soleimani.”

Trump, again characteristically mixing fact with fiction, did not mention that the U.S. economy, the claimed “bedrock of freedom and security all over the world,” is suffering both from the consequences of the coronavirus as well as from an unsustainable level of government debt. He did mention that he had recklessly thrown more money at a bloated military establishment and left hanging the possibility that it would be used to bring “freedom” to the oppressed citizens of countries like Cuba and Venezuela.

And, of course, Iran has a special place in Trump’s reckoning. It is the “leading state sponsor of terror” and had a top official who was the “world’s top terrorist,” both of which assertions are palpably false as is the claim that the “Nuclear Deal” was “terrible.” It was, on the contrary, supportive of America’s national security interests as well as a real step forward to avoid a possible deadly regional confrontation in the Middle East.

Trump did not mention Israeli war crimes, nor those of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be speaking before the General Assembly next Tuesday and it can be safely predicted that he will warn about Iran’s threat to the world due to its alleged secret program for a nuclear weapon. Ironically, Israel has a secret program that has produced an estimated 200 nuclear weapons and has never allowed its scientific facilities to be inspected. Iran, unlike Israel, is a signatory to the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and does permit inspections. Inspectors agree that it has no nuclear weapons program.

A far more threatening "like a mad dog too dangerous to bother" Israel once entertained setting up a so-called Samson Option in which it would use nuclear weapons as a first response to any powerful conventional enemy that might attack it or even to prevent a rival like Iran from obtaining its own nuclear arsenal. Variations on the Option have included destroying most of the capitals in Europe and the Middle East if the Jewish state were about to be overwhelmed by an enemy.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, the speech by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on the following day echoed some of the points made by Donald Trump. The 84 year old King, reading from a prepared speech, delivered what has been described as “a scathing attack on Iran” that urged the international community to develop a "comprehensive solution" to Tehran's alleged "sponsorship of terrorism".

Salman told his audience that “The Kingdom’s hands were extended to Iran in peace with a positive and open attitude over the past decades, but to no avail. Our experience with the Iranian regime has taught us that partial solutions and appeasement did not stop its threats to international peace and security" which have included "expansionist activities" and the support of "terror networks" throughout the region that are spreading "chaos, extremism and sectarianism".

Saudi Arabia's effort to blame regional instability on Iran alone is hardly convincing. The Kingdom’s own regional policies and human rights record have been widely criticized, to include secret trials and extensive use of capital punishment, the genocidal war in Yemen that the U.N. itself has described as the “world’s worst humanitarian disaster,” the 2017 kidnapping of then-Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

So, it was all business as usual at the United Nations. China loomed large on the enemies list of the United States while the U.S. and the Saudis together threatened the Iranians. There is a parable about “he who casts the first stone…” with the implication that many who are prepared to denounce others have their own sins to conceal. That is certainly true relating to the speeches by U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman.

*(Top image: President Trump Addresses the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.)

The Death of Andre Vltchek, A Passionate Warrior for Truth

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For decades, Andre Vltchek, an old-school journalist and artist (but a young man) who traveled the world in search of truth and who always stood up straight, tried to revolve the world and encourage people to revolt against injustice. In this age of arm-chair reporters, he stood out for his boldness and indefatigable courage. He told it straight. This irritated certain people and some pseudo-left publications, who sensed in him a no bullshit fierceness and nose for hypocrisy that frightened them, so they stopped publishing his writing. He went where so many others  feared to tread, and he talked to people in places that were often the victims of Western imperialistic violence. He defended the defenseless and encouraged their defense.

Now he is dead.  He died in the back seat of a chauffeur driven rental car on an overnight drive to Istanbul, Turkey. He was sleeping, and when his wife attempted to wake him upon arrival at their hotel, she couldn’t.  He was 57-years-old.

Let him sleep in peace, but let his words ring out, his passionate cries for justice and peace in a world of violent predators.

Those who knew him and his work feel a great, great loss. His friend and colleague Peter Koenig wrote this touching goodbye.

As Koenig says, Vltchek was always defending those around the world who are considered disposable non-people, the Others, the non- whites, victims of Western wars, both military and economic, in places such as West Papua, Iraq, Syria, Africa, etc. He had a chip on his shoulder, a well justified chip, against the one-sided Western media and its elites that were always lecturing the rest of the world about their realities.

He was recently in the United States, and here is what he wrote:

But notice one thing: it is them, telling us, again, telling the world what it is and what it is not! You would never hear such statements in Africa, the Middle East, or Asia. There, people know perfectly well what it really is all about, whether it is about race or not!

I have just spent two weeks in the United States, analyzing the profound crises of U.S. society. I visited Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, New York, and Boston. I spoke to many people in all those places. What I witnessed was confusion and total ignorance about the rest of the world. The United States, a country which has been brutalizing our Planet for decades, is absolutely unable to see itself in the context of the entire world. People, including those from the media, are outrageously ignorant and provincial.

And they are selfish.

I asked many times: “Do black lives matter all over the world? Do they matter in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and do they matter in West Papua?” I swear, I received no coherent answer.

Somebody has to tell them… Somebody has to force them to open their eyes.

A few years ago, I was invited to Southern California to show my documentary work from Africa (my feature documentary film Rwanda Gambit, about West-triggered genocides in both Rwanda and later in the Democratic Republic of Congo), where millions of black people are dying, in order for the vast majority of the U.S. whites to live in piggish opulence.

But before I was allowed to present, I was warned: ‘Remember, people here are sensitive. Do not show too much of brutal reality, as it could disturb them.’

Hearing that, I almost left the event. Only my respect for the organizer made me stay.

Now I am convinced: it is time to force them to watch; to see rivers of blood, which their laziness, selfishness, and greed have triggered. It is time to force them to hear shouts of the agony of the others.

But as everyone knows, it is nearly impossible to force people to open their eyes and ears when they are dead set against doing so.  Andre tried so hard to do that, and his frustration grew apace with those efforts that seemed to fall on deaf ears.

He was a relentless fighter, but he was a lover, too.  His love for the people and cultures of the world was profound.  Like Albert Camus, he tried to serve both beauty and suffering, the noblest of vocations. A lover of literature and culture, the best art and beauty ever produced, he was appalled at the way so many in the West had fallen into the pit of ignorance, illiteracy, and the grip of propaganda so tight that “what is missing is life. Euphoria, warmth, poetry and yes – love – are all in extremely short supply there.”

He sensed, and said it, that nihilism rules in the United States beneath the compulsive consumerism and the denial of the violence that the U.S. inflicts on people across the world. It was selfishness run amok. Me me me. It was, he felt, soul death, the opposite of all the ostensible religiousness that is a cover story for despair. He wrote:

It has to be stopped. I say it because I do love this life, the life, which still exists outside the Western realm; I’m intoxicated with it, obsessed with it. I live it to the fullest, with great delight, enjoying every moment of it.

Poetry, music, great literature, these he loved as he fought on the barricades for peace.

I urge you to read his article, Love, Western Nihilism and Revolutionary Optimism.

He was a rare and courageous man.  Let us ring bells in his honor.

Here’s a Kenneth Rexroth poem for Andre, the fighter with the poet’s heart:

No Word

The trees hang silent

In the heat….

Undo your heart

Tell me your thoughts

What you were

And what you are….

Like the bells no one

Has ever rung

Are You Feeling Safer? ‘War of the Worlds’ Pits U.S. and Israel Against Everyone Else

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The media being focused on an upcoming election, coronavirus, fires on the West Coast and burgeoning BLM and Antifa unrest, it is perhaps no surprise that some stories are not exactly making it through to the evening news. Last week an important vote in the United Nations General Assembly went heavily against the United States. It was regarding a non-binding resolution that sought to suspend all economic sanctions worldwide while the coronavirus cases continue to increase. It called for “intensified international cooperation and solidarity to contain, mitigate and overcome the pandemic and its consequences.” It was a humanitarian gesture to help overwhelmed governments and health care systems cope with the pandemic by having a free hand to import food and medicines.

The final tally was 169 to 2, with only Israel and the United States voting against. Both governments apparently viewed the U.N. resolution as problematical because they fully support the unilateral economic warfare that they have been waging to bring about regime change in countries like Iran, Syria and Venezuela. Sanctions imposed on those countries are designed to punish the people more than the governments in the expectation that there will be an uprising to bring about regime change. This, of course, has never actually happened as a consequence of sanctions and all that is really delivered is suffering. When they cast their ballots, some delegates at the U.N. might even have been recalling former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s claim that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children due to U.S. imposed sanctions had been “worth it.”

Clearly, a huge majority of the world’s governments, to include the closest U.S. allies, no longer buy the American big lie when it claims to be the leader of the free world, a promoter of liberal democracy and a force for good.  The vote prompted one observer, John Whitbeck, a former international lawyer based in Paris, to comment how “On almost every significant issue facing mankind and the planet, it is Israel and the United States against mankind and the planet.”

The United Nations was not the only venue where the U.S. was able to demonstrate what kind of nation it has become. Estimates of how many civilians have been killed directly or indirectly as a consequence of the so-called Global War on Terror initiated by George W. Bush are in the millions, with roughly 4 million being frequently cited. Nearly all of the dead have been Muslims. Now there is a new estimate of the number of civilians that have fled their homes as a result of the worldwide conflict initiated by Washington and its dwindling number of allies since 2001. The estimate comes from Brown University’s “Costs of War Project,” which has issued a report Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States Post-9/11 Wars that seeks to quantify those who have “fled their homes in the eight most violent wars the U.S. military has launched or participated in since 2001.”

The project tracks the number of refugees, asylum seekers applying for refugee status, and internally displaced people or persons (IDPs) in the countries that America and its allies have most targeted since 9/11: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya and Syria. All are predominantly Muslim countries with the sole exception of the Philippines, which has a large Muslim minority.

The estimate suggests that between 37 and 59 million civilians have become displaced, with an extremely sharp increase occurring in the past year when the total was calculated to be 21 million. The largest number of those displaced were from Iraq, where fighting against Islamic State has been intermittent, estimated at 9.2 million. Syria, which has seen fighting between the government and various foreign supported insurgencies, had the second-highest number of displacements at 7.1 million. Afghanistan, which has seen a resurgent Taliban, was third having an estimated 5.3 million people displaced.

The authors of the report observe that even the lower figure of 37 million is “almost as large as the population of Canada” and “more than those displaced by any other war or disaster since at least the start of the 20th century with the sole exception of World War II.” And it is also important to note what is not included in the study. The report has excluded sub-Saharan Africa as well as several Arab nations generally considered to be U.S. allies. These constitute “the millions more who have been displaced by other post-9/11 conflicts where U.S. forces have been involved in ‘counterterror’ activities in more limited yet significant ways, including in: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia.”

Yemen should be added to that list given U.S. military materiel assistance that has enabled the Saudi Arabian bombing attacks on that country, also producing a wave of refugees. There are also reports that the White House is becoming concerned over the situation in Yemen as pressure is growing to initiate an international investigation of the Saudi war crimes in that civilian infrastructure targets to include hospitals and schools are being deliberately targeted.

And even the United States Congress has begun to notice that something bad is taking place as there is growing concern that both the Saudi and U.S. governments might be charged with war crimes over the civilian deaths. Reports are now suggesting that as early as 2016, when Barack Obama was still president, the State Department’s legal office concluded that “top American officials could be charged with war crimes for approving bomb sales to the Saudis and their partners” that have killed more than 125,000 including at least 13,400 targeted civilians.

That conclusion preceded the steps undertaken by the Donald Trump White House to make arms sales to the Saudis and their allies in the United Arab Emirates central to his foreign policy, a program that has become an integral part of the promotion of the “Deal of the Century” Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Given that, current senior State Department officials have repressed the assessment made in 2016 and have also “gone to great lengths” to conceal the legal office finding. A State Department inspector general investigation earlier this year considered the Department’s failure to address the legal risks of selling offensive weapons to the Saudis, but the details were hidden by placing them in a classified part of the public report released in August, heavily redacted so that even Congressmen with high level access could not see them.

Democrats in Congress, which had previously blocked some arms sales in the conflict, are looking into the Saudi connection because it can do damage to Trump, but it would be far better if they were to look at what the United States and Israel have been up to more generally speaking. The U.S. benefits from the fact that even though international judges and tribunals are increasingly embracing the concept of holding Americans accountable for war crimes since the start of the GWOT, U.S. refusal to cooperate has been daunting. Last March, when the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague authorized its chief prosecutor to open an investigation into U.S. crimes in Afghanistan the White House reacted by imposing sanctions on the chief prosecutor and his staff lawyer. And Washington has also warned that any tribunal going after Israel will face the wrath of the United States.

Nevertheless, when you are on the losing side on a vote in a respected international body by 169 to 2 someone in Washington should at least be smart enough to discern that something is very, very wrong. But I wouldn’t count on anyone named Trump or Biden to work that out.

*(President Donald J. Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk during a bilateral meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House. Credit: Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

*This article was originally published on the Strategic Culture.

Whither Libya?

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On September 18, 2020, Vice Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya, Ahmed Maitiq announced an agreement on resuming the country's oil exports.  Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libya Libyan National Army (LNA), with whom the pact had been reached, confirmed Maitiq's statement.

Despite the advantages to the war-torn, ravaged country, the deal between eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar and the Tripoli government's deputy prime minister, Ahmed Maitiq, prompted negative reaction from Maitiq's allies, many of whom the West supports.

So far, Libya has lost about $9 billion because of a blockade of its oil exports, largely as the result of local tribes claiming that the distribution of oil revenues throughout the country has been uneven.  In the past, all oil revenues went to the Central Bank and were then parceled out to the country's various regions.  The ethnic groups in Libya's east and south (where the main oil fields are located) believed that a significant amount of the petroleum income went to Islamists controlling Tripoli, Libya's capital.  However, the UN-backed Government of National Accord blamed Haftar's LNA for blocking oil exports. 

This is not a new issue.  The January 2020 Berlin Summit (Turkey, Russia, Egypt, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with the UAE, Algeria, China, the Republic of the Congo, the United Nations, European Union and African Union) wrestled with the fair distribution of oil revenues.

The Maitiq-Haftar agreement, supported by the native tribes, seems to have resolved the matter.  A joint commission would be established to control oil production and the distribution of oil revenues between the two sides in the civil war.  This would open the door for the free flow of petroleum funds into Libya and the resolution of pressing economic problems.  The latter have led to weeks of protests in Libya's west and east.

This arrangement could well lead to further negotiations between the warring sides, possibly ending the long running conflict.  This oil arrangement, if it holds up, could help create conditions for a sustainable inter-Libyan political dialogue.  This is especially important for the entire region's stability.  Just a few months ago, Egypt was ready to intervene in neighboring Libya.

This pact between Maitiq and Haftar seems to have been a catalyst for change in the Government of National Accord (GNA).  Many figures, most notably Khaled al-Mishri, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, opposed it. A successful agreement weakens that opposition.  Especially so, since Ahmed Maitiq demonstrated that he could  conduct effective negotiations with the opposing side in a serious conflict.  Given this success, he seems to be an effective diplomat on whom to bet.

The chances for Ahmed Maitiq to assume the position of Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya after Fayez al-Sarraj, the incumbent's resignation, are increasing.  Simultaneously, Maitiq's people are likely to occupy key positions in the joint committee on oil exports, thereby providing powerful leverage in influencing domestic politics.

Maitiq's advantages are that he is a secular businessman and respected politician.  He is not a powerless figurehead like Fayez Sarraj, a warlord like Fathi Bashagha, or a Brotherhood backer like Khaled al-Mishri.  Ahmed  Maitiq appears to be a compromise figure who could coordinate the peace process between the GNA and the LNA.

Yet the opposition won't go quietly.  According to the Voice of America (VOA), " A news conference at which Maitiq was to explain the oil production agreement ended abruptly when supporters of a Tripoli militia prevented him from speaking. Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported that partisans of Islamist Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga blocked both the deal and the media event."  Continuing, VOA noted "The foreign minister of the interim government in eastern Libya, Abdul Hadi al Hwiej, told Arab media that he thought Turkey was responsible for torpedoing the oil deal. The agreement included a stipulation that no oil money would be used to fund mercenaries or agreements with Ankara."

Still on point in its analysis, the VOA concluded "Arab media reported that Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who recently announced his intention to step down by the end of October, rejected the deal made by his deputy, Maitiq."  Still, "Libya analyst Aya Burweila, a visiting lecturer at the Hellenic National Defense College, told VOA that Friday's deal was a "breakthrough for conflict resolution" since "traditionally antagonistic parties" from both east and west "cooperated" to make it, but that "a minority of spoilers and actors, who have profited from the staggering corruption and lack of transparency in Libya, are up in arms over the agreement."

Australia’s First Police State

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‘Fascist’ has been grossly overused and misused.  It is hard to put a finger on what is going on in the Australian state of Victoria.  Fascistic comes close,  but a police state within the shell of a democracy, definitely. 

A state of emergency, declared across the state in March,  was recently extended for a further six months.  The city of Melbourne was declared a disaster zone in early August and that too was extended.  The powers of suppression and control given to the police under these laws are unprecedented in Australian history. 

Yet again it has to be stressed.  There is no medical reason for these impositions.   The health situation does not warrant the declarations of states of emergency and disaster.  There is a health crisis but only in the aged care homes in Melbourne where nearly all Victorians have died.   There are ‘clusters’ of infections but nothing that adds up to a crisis anywhere else across the state.    

Only very recently did the ABC, the national broadcaster, pose this question: did these people die ‘from’ the virus or ‘with’ it?  Yet for eight months the government and the media have been telling the public that COVID-19 sufferers died ‘from’ the virus. As the media is equally guilty of this fundamental misrepresentation, it is asking no questions about this particular deceit.  The concealment of other causes of death – probably the major causes -  amongst the elderly and medically vulnerable is yet another one.   The alleged threat to the lives of the young is another one.  Across Australia,  noone under the age of 30 has died in the past eight months, and only two in their 30s.  True to form the Victorian government omitted any mention of other medical problems. The claim by the Premier, Daniel Andrews, that a man in his 20s had died is not supported by the statistics.

Thrown into a panic approaching hysteria,  the people of Victoria have shut their minds down and surrendered their wills to the will and wishes of one man, Daniel Andrews.  For reasons impossible to explain they seem mesmerized by him.   They do whatever he tells them,  enabling him to play a cat and mouse game, by promising to ease the restrictions one day and threatening to tighten them the next.  Like the mouse frozen with fear,  they are too frightened to squeak.  

The fact that Murdoch is after Andrews is enough for his ‘liberal’ defenders to present criticism as nothing but a rightist plot against their man and to justify  his violations of the civil and human rights they purportedly have lived by until now.  They can grate their teeth but it is they who have allowed rightwing commentators to make the running and speak the truths they have ignored for eight months. 

The powers now given the police allow them to enter homes without the owner’s permission and without a warrant.   They can smash in doors with a battering ram, not to arrest serial killers or drug barons but to manacle people for posting support for a demonstration on Facebook.   They are massing in force across Melbourne to crush entirely peaceful protests and to arrest anyone breaching any law the government has introduced.    Some of the most shocking examples have attracted attention globally, but are of concern  to the Victoria police  only because of the poor “optics.”  

In further legislation before the parliament,  Andrews is now trying to give himself the power to appoint anyone in Victoria or across Australia as an ‘authorized person’  with powers of arbitrary arrest and detention.   This at least has aroused legal opposition, forcing him to reconsider even while still bent on pushing the legislation through.  Outside Victoria his tactics, not surprisingly have the support of another martinet and authoritarian control freak, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. 

Melbourne has been closed off to the outside world.  There are no international flights in or out.  Victorians cannot travel across borders into neighboring states and the city’s five million people, under curfew, are not permitted to move than five kilometres from their homes, and then only for the purposes of shopping and exercise.  Police are stopping and manacling anyone who walks too far. Snitches have a police hot line to report them  Approved by Andrews,  the police have erected a ‘ring of steel’ around the city, closing off all road exit and entry points.  Those attempting to slip through are liable to a $5000 fine.  

Andrews has eased some of the restrictions in the country.  

In their officially sanctioned ‘bubbles’ a small number of friends can meet for coffee.  Like small children let out of school five minutes early,  or the work gang cringing under the overseer’s lash, they are so grateful for Dan’s small mercies.  These are the tactics of the hostage taker and in line with the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ the victims are identifying with their captor.  

Andrews’ earnest-at-all-times face hides  a clever and calculating political operator who has spent all his working life inside the party machine.  His clear lack of genuine empathy with the victims of the massive suffering he has caused may arise from the fact that he has never lived in the real world of hard work and sacrifice over many years in building up the businesses he destroyed overnight.  

Perhaps the virus finally liberated the inner authoritarian. As Andrews knows he is right, rather than just thinks it, perhaps he is genuinely deluded.  Perhaps he knows he has screwed up, has gone too far to retreat but has the confidence to try and bluff his way through. That seems doubtful but who would know?  The earnest face and the suburban North Face top hides everything.

Perhaps Andrews is just an antipodean cog in the wheel of Klaus Schwab’s ‘fourth industrial revolution.’  Schwab,  the chief executive of the World Economic Forum (WEF), is selling the pandemic as an “opportunity” for corporations and global institutions such as the WEF to reshape the world, once the debris of destroyed small businesses has been cleared away.   This is what he calls ‘’the great reset’’ or the ‘’fourth industrial revolution.’’

It is worth bearing in mind the consequences of the first – in the early 19th century – because the parallels are close.  Humans were sacrificed to the machine.  Now they are to be sacrificed to a fully digitalized transhumanized/dehumanised/nanotechnocratic/vaccinated new world order based on surveillance, compliance and the binding of access to government services to willingness to submit to government control.  Aldous Huxley and George Orwell could never have imagined it.   

Is it mere coincidence that the Melbourne Age newspaper recently ran an interview with a leading union sellout of the 1980s who spoke of the ‘’opportunity’’ Andrews now has to remake Victoria?  

There is an interesting footnote to all of this. In October 2014,  six weeks before Daniel Andrews was voted into government, the Age newspaper reported on planning by the Melbourne City Council for a ‘flu pandemic that in the “first wave” could take the lives of 10,000 people.  Transport, schools and office blocks would have to be shut down and sports events canceled.  ‘Social distancing’ including restrictions on funerals would have to be observed.   

Developed after the outbreak of avian ‘flu in 2008, the council’s Pandemic Action Plan gives six possible locations for the establishment of mass vaccination centres,  where people would have to produce documents showing that they are in the priority groups.   The aged are not mentioned as one of them.  All levels of government were said to be involved in planning this response (Aisha Dow, “Deadly flu pandemic could shut down Melbourne, the Age, October 14, 2014).  There is no mention of international influence, most likely from the WHO, in the planning for this pandemic but its input into government thinking is virtually certain. 

There is no point in putting any contrary material before those blindly following  Andrews’ lead.  Inconvenient facts, statistics, analyses and contexts that undermine the government’s narrative and expose Andrews’ misrepresentations are abused as the work of conspiracy theorists. 

Protesters are accused of putting lives at risk when Andrews has destroyed the livelihoods of ten of thousands of people and put the actual lives of many others at risk, through the denial of regular medical services for the chronically ill,  physically and mentally.

In this testing time, many people living according to ‘liberal’ principles have gone to water. The government’s handling of the pandemic has brought on the greatest crisis in Victorian history but Andrews’ acolytes are refusing to think for themselves and are even justifying the government’s violations of civil and human rights.  

There is a class element in all of this.  The destruction of the concept of class and its manifestation in organized labor were both prerequisites of a globalized economy. 

What responses to the virus have shown us that class was only driven underground,  resurfacing now in the complete lack of empathy of the protected and financially secure ‘liberal’ middle class with the plight of those who have suffered,   workers who have lost their jobs and the owners of small businesses that have been destroyed by government decisions.   The notion of class might have to be redefined but the virus has made it plain that it is still there.

The federal and state governments are making these people pay for the consequences of what they have done.  Just now the federal government has introduced the biggest shakeup in bankruptcy laws to ‘help’ mostly small businesses.   Driven to the edge of bankruptcy by government policies, they will now be able to trade while insolvent and – here goes the positive spin – take more control over their debts.  The point has to be repeated – these debts are the consequence of government action but governments are not going to pay. Instead,  insolvent businesses with liabilities of less than $1 million will be allowed to trade for a full 20 days, giving them time to come up with a debt restructuring plan.  This is all reported approvingly by the media, as if small businesses should be grateful to the governments that have destroyed them.   It is truly disgusting but not one word of outrage is coming from the media.  

Many of the businesses Andrews has destroyed will never be able to rise again.  Their owners have lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of his arbitrary actions.  If the people do not know about this it is because the media run by the same ‘liberal’ class has been protecting the Premier, rather than protecting them.  Only now is it opening up to some limited criticism of the man.  

Class actions have been launched, a Supreme Court case has been initiated by a cafe owner whose business has been destroyed and in time it is probable that a commission of inquiry will be held into the government’s reaction to the virus. 

If it is a genuine inquiry and not a political setup, Andrews will enter history as the man who brought the state of Victoria to its knees and came close to destroying it as a functioning social and economic body. A very unhappy outcome for a man of promise and achievement until he led the state into this dead end.

*(Top image: Australian Premier Daniel Andrews. Credit: Sky News Australia/ YouTube)    

The Unexpected Poisoning and the Unsuspecting Victims

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When the BBC’s “Salisbury Poisonings” went to air in the UK, it seemed inevitable that it would be screened in Australia, giving us at least a chance to prepare for this new propaganda onslaught. But just as it was “unclear” why the BBC had chosen to screen it in June, or for that matter to produce the “drama based on true events” in the first place, so it was hard to imagine what particular event or circumstance would make the rather ridiculous “Russian Novichok” story relevant again. One might have thought it foolish to remind people of it in case they weren’t so easily fooled a second time round, though for many people in Australia the first time mostly passed them by. “Putin did it again” was about the extent of their memory of the Skripal affair.

But the Salisbury Poisonings did appear, heralded by a flurry of promotional clips – Yulia falling sideways on the park bench – Nick Bailey shouting “do NOT go in that door” – Dawn Sturgess spraying Novichok perfume on her wrist. It was immediately clear that the dramatic recreation of events that may or may not have happened would be more emotionally persuasive than the “true story” – whatever that was.

Recognising that the screening of the drama by SBS TV, on four successive nights from the 24th of August, could make it harder than ever to persuade people the story was a hoax, I wrote to SBS suggesting forcefully that there should be some sort of introduction before the first episode with a caution such as “SBS does not necessarily endorse the position of the UK government on Russian culpability for the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury” – or something of that kind. Naturally my request was accompanied by several thousand words of explanation on why the story could not possibly be true, and observations that the only “true events” it portrayed were those that the unwitting residents of Salisbury actually experienced, in their belief that “Putin’s poison” was out there and might kill them or their children. Broadcasting this dramatization I said, would discredit SBS’ reputation as a reliable news presenter. Or should!

I sent the letter on August 20th, copying it to some parliamentarians and interested parties. That very same day, SBS news carried the story of Alexei Navalny’s “episode” on a flight from Tomsk and claims he had been poisoned, perhaps by something in the tea he had drunk at the airport. The story developed over the weekend with a bizarre twist – that a German plane would fly to Omsk and take him to a hospital in Berlin, following the request of “his family” – which evidently included anti-Putin activist Jaka Bisilj of the Cinema for Peace. Bisilj seems to have a special relationship with the Charite’ hospital in Berlin, where he had taken a Pussy Riot member in 2018. Nevertheless the rapidity of his response to Navalny’s unexpected poisoning was surprising!

This in fact seems to be the nub of it, because Navalny’s sudden collapse, heard though not seen on the plane from Tomsk, appears not just to have been expected but even planned. Rather oddly this was exactly 80 years to the day after the attack on Leon Trotsky “on Kremlin orders”, with an ice-pick. More to the point however is the strange similarity to Jaka Bisilj’s previous “rescue” of Pyotr Verzilov, who claimed he was poisoned by GRU agents in Moscow on September 11th 2018. In that case however, German doctors failed to find any toxins in his system. They knew better this time.

Verzilov had been imprisoned for a protest during the Football World Cup final on July 15, a week after the death of Dawn Sturgess, when anti-Russian sentiment was once again being stoked in the UK. Also coincidentally, Verzilov’s claims of being poisoned by the GRU in Moscow came just days after the “exposure” of alleged GRU agents Petrov and Boshirov as the Salisbury assassins, which the British presented as some sort of “gotcha” moment. When the two guys came forward in a high profile interview on RT, that should have been the end of it, but Western media made mincemeat of them for their unpolished performance and embarrassment at being caught out, while completely ignoring the simple fact of it – as if we could believe Russian secret agents would reveal themselves on TV without even a credible excuse as cover.  

The double lives of Petrov and Boshirov – or Mishkin and Chepika as Eliot Higgins has “identified” them, became a key battleground in the “Novichok war” and central to the remarkable disinformation campaign still being run against “the Kremlin” and Vladimir Putin. The whole raison d’etre of the Atlantic Council and NATO friendly network called “EUvsDisinfo” is to spread disinformation about Russian intentions and actions to enable the relentless prosecution of NATO interests and agendas against Russia and her allies. We can reasonably portray this effort as “a conspiracy” – a covert campaign of disinformation which presents Russia as the conspirator, invalidating her attempts to expose Western duplicity and lies.

To choose between these conflicting claims of disinformation one must decide whose conspiracy is more likely, and evaluating “coincidences” may be the only method available. So when it appears that some events have a relation in timing and nature, that shouldn’t be dismissed as “mere coincidence” from either point of view. In this case, CCTV photos showed Petrov and Boshirov walking in Salisbury, looking in a coin dealer’s shop “just minutes after their assassination attempt”, and also showed them walking along Wilton Road, which coincidentally is only a few hundred yards from the Skripal’s house.

 It is surprising to realise that the whole credibility – or “incredibility” of the UK’s claims against Russia rests on that single “coincidence”.

The inference that Petrov and Boshirov were heading for Sergei Skripal’s house, where it is alleged they applied Novichok to the door handle, could have been justified by some additional forensic or photographic evidence, but there is simply nothing more to link them to the alleged act (which itself is no more than “hearsay”) than there would be to link some other random members of the public passing in the vicinity of Skripal’s house around that time.  Equally, publishing a picture of a Nina Ricci perfume bottle allegedly found by Charlie Rowley four months later, which was either picked up in Queen Elizabeth Gardens after being discarded by the assassins, or found new in its sealed package in a charity bin, does not link the bottle or its contents to the two Russian visitors in any way. There is no “chain of custody”, and barely even a coincidence given the four-month time gap.

So discussion of the toxicity of Novichok, where and whether it was present in Salisbury and who was affected by it, becomes entirely irrelevant if no connection can be made to Russia and the Kremlin.

However, when we consider what coincidences may point to a conspiracy by those making the accusations against Russia, the evidence is considerable. In the case of the – alleged – Salisbury Poisonings, the UK government’s  covert objectives were to further its strategic aims from Syria to Crimea, and from the Russian Presidential election in March to the World Cup in June, with the general objective of changing public perceptions of Russia’s actions and of its President. Putin’s dogged pursuit of International Law and Russia’s peaceful interests were a serious roadblock to Imperial expansion and aggressive projects abroad, particularly in Syria.

For months before the Salisbury Operation, there was much focus on the Syrian Army’s drive to liberate the Eastern outskirts of Damascus from their violent Islamist occupiers, portrayed in Western media as a desperate humanitarian crisis needing intervention. Russian military police oversaw the corridors to bring the trapped residents to the safety of Syrian government held territory, while the White Helmets and their terrorist partners set up the scene for the Douma “chemical attack”. While there is some evidence this was planned for mid-March, the establishment of Russia as a state that would use a chemical weapon in Europe cleverly framed Russia to then be portrayed as a willing collaborator with Syria’s “murderous dictator”.

 That the whole thing was a pack of lies illustrates the depth of deceit by the US/UK/French-led coalition, which planned it all and then launched a concerted missile attack on Syria. That this pack of lies continues to be told by Western states and their media, despite all evidence that exposes the truth, is the measure of where we now stand, as we face another chemical weapon hoax in the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny.

The circumstantial and coincidental connection between the Salisbury Skripal hoax and the alleged Chlorine attack on Douma, events which bizarrely were under discussion at the OPCW simultaneously, as well as in the UK’s Foreign Office, is fairly obvious and one might say “highly likely” to indicate a coordinated operation.

But when it comes to the “Navalnychok” Operation, the circumstances make such a causal connection “beyond reasonable doubt”. While there may be other strategic opportunities from the operation – in Belarus for example – the barely concealed intent to sabotage the Nordstream gas project makes this latest act by the Atlantic coalition a defining moment in the hybrid war on Russia. Not only does the intent to cut Germany’s contract with Russia, pursued by some German politicians and aggressively prosecuted by Mike Pompeo, explain why it was Germany that insisted on rescuing Navalny, but the recycling of the debunked “Novichok” myth further incriminates all those governments who colluded in the UK’s Salisbury hoax.

What remains under suspicion, but unproven, is the degree to which this recycling of the “chemical weapon” by the intelligence agencies of the NATO coalition and their disinformation think tanks was an operation planned before the creation of “The Salisbury Poisonings” in the back offices of the BBC and those of the Institute for Statecraft. How else can we explain the extraordinary coincidence here in Australia that allowed the story of Navalny’s poisoning to feature in SBS news bulletins immediately after the viewers’ heads were filled with the story of the deadly Novichok “contagion” in Salisbury two and a half years earlier?

 SBS didn’t act on my request of course, nor reply until mid-September, noting that:

“the series was presented as a dramatisation of the events in Salisbury, which is subject to different editorial standards to our news coverage”. SBS considered that: “Viewers would have understood that the series, while based on true events, was not being presented as reportage”.  And “The focus of the series was on the bravery, resilience and, in some cases, personal tragedy of the unsuspecting locals, who were affected by the crisis.

How long before the unsuspecting viewers understand that they have been poisoned?

Should You Get an Economics Degree?

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An economics degree is given to students who have finished a university or college program focusing on economics. In this program, you’ll learn about market trends, economic issues, and the techniques used in forecasting. You’ll also take classes in how to apply the principles of economics to industries such as healthcare, education, and energy.

Choosing the Right Program

This is one of the most popular majors at many business schools, but you can’t choose any program. Think about your career goals and academic needs before choosing a program. Look at the courses each program offers. For example, some let you specialize in certain areas, like macro or microeconomics. No matter what program you choose, you’ll likely need to take out private student loans to help pay for school. They can be a good way to bridge the gap between what you can afford, and the financial aid offered to you.

Whether or not you get a formal degree, you might decide to further your knowledge with online business courses. Some are free while other are available at low costs. You can also look for education programs through organizations or associations. Look at local universities or colleges in your area for options such as certificate programs, seminars, and courses. They might not give you a formal degree, but they can increase your knowledge while enhancing your resume. Plus, they might prepare you to get a formal degree later.

Degrees to Choose From

Some associate degrees offer the necessary training, but for many entry-level jobs, you can expect to need at least a bachelors. However, if you get a Ph.D. or master’s degree, you’ll likely have better job opportunities. That’s especially true if you want to get an advanced position. If you want to work for the federal government once you graduate, you’ll likely need to get a bachelor’s and have at least 21 semester hours in economics, plus three hours of calculus, statistics, or accounting. And if you hope to teach in this field, you’ll likely need a Ph.D. However, if you just want to teach in a community college or high school, a master’s degree may work. If your school has a career counselor, talk to them about your goals and which option might be the best fit for your needs.

What Can You Do with it?

Many people who get a degree in this field will work as economists. There are employment opportunities in government, academia, business, and private industries. Plus, local, state, and federal governments employ these professionals. But others work in technical consulting or scientific research. Once you have more experience, you might choose to work as a professor, instructor, or teacher. You’ll likely specialize in a certain area. You might be a financial, international, industrial, organizational, monetary, or labor economist. No matter what your specialization, you have to have a working general knowledge of the field. You may decide to work in a related area as well, including:

  • Public policy analyst
  • Consultant
  • Market analyst

Financial analyst

It's a Military Not a “Peace” Alliance

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States often sign peace agreements in the aftermath of ferocious wars or tensions with their enemies. Was Bahrain at war against "Israel" or has it ever waged a war against it? We all know the crisis Netanyahu and Trump are facing and their dire need to announce such an illusory achievement, even if temporarily, but what are the gains made by Bahrain?! Nothing!

This fake government of Bahrain has never ever thought about Jerusalem or the Palestinian cause and has proven once again how fragile it is to refer to such a vicious enemy to fortify its throne from the alleged danger of its peoples, who it calls "Iran".

Indeed, the Persian Gulf vassal monarchies of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have been allied with the apartheid Zionist entity since their creation by the British Colonialism in the aftermath of WWII, hence, the so-called Abraham deal isn't new under the sun and would change nothing. Those fabricated states are puppets manipulated by the Empire to impose its hegemony in the West Asia region, nothing more, nothing less.

The administration of the White House of lies and hypocrisy, who has been turning deaf ears and blind eyes to the ongoing crackdown and human rights infringements against Bahrain's pro-democracy seeker since February 2011, cares only about its interests in the Gulf. It sells surveillance technologies and advanced arms, at exorbitant prices, to the ruling tribes so that they can silence any dissent who dream of freedom and democracy.

In Bahrain, particularly, there are thousands of George Floyd, who have been for decades suffocating, marginalized, deprived and suppressed. None of the officials has ever heard their voices but rather fabricated nonsense dramas to retaliate against them. That's what has obviously happened with Bahrain's top political leader, and head of largest opposition bloc Al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman, who is meanwhile serving a life sentence in prison on politically motivated charges linked to a meditation, which was supposedly initiated and sponsored by Washington.

Definitely, the brokered agreement, which has been signed without the people being consulted, is unconstitutional because those who granted Bahrain's constitution its legitimacy made sure that it endorses the Palestinian cause and entirely boycott the usurp entity due its illegitimate existence and to its apartheid criminal history and the atrocities it has committed against our nations.

Bahrain is the fourth Arab regime, and I stress on the word "regime" not the "nation", to formulate diplomatic relations with the apartheid entity, after Egypt in 1979, Jordan in 1994 and the United Arab Emirates in August this same year. Just like all the agreements that preceded, it is in vain. To say it clearly, those vassal leaders of fake governments have crowned their illegitimate brother as their god of retaliation against their own helpless people!

What have Egypt and Jordan benefit from their normalization but the annexing of their lands and the plundering of their water and oil, and the destruction of Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria!

Let’s be optimistic about those who have signed fruitful agreements with the enemy, the agreements between their blood and their guns, I meant the honorable resistances of Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Those emblems of steadfastness have taught the colonialists unforgotten lessons that this land is ours and never to humiliation.

*(Top image: President Donald J. Trump poses for photos with the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani of Bahrain Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House. Credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The Julian Assange Trial: the Mask of Empire Has Fallen

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The concept of “History in the making” has been pushed to extremes when it comes to the extraordinary public service being performed by historian, former UK diplomat and human rights activist Craig Murray.

Murray – literally, and on a global level – is now positioned as our man in the public gallery, as he painstakingly documents in vivid detail what could be defined as the trial of the century as far as the practice of journalism is concerned: the kangaroo court judging Julian Assange in Old Bailey, London.

Let’s focus on three of Murray’s reports this week – with an emphasis on two intertwined themes: what the US is really prosecuting, and how Western corporate media is ignoring the court proceedings.

Here, Murray reports the exact moment when the mask of Empire fell, not with a bang, but a whimper:

“The gloves were off on Tuesday as the US Government explicitly argued that all journalists are liable to prosecution under the Espionage Act (1917) for publishing classified information.” (italics mine).

“All journalists” means every legitimate journalist, from every nationality, operating in any jurisdiction.

Interpreting the argument, Murray added, “the US government is now saying, completely explicitly, in court, those reporters could and should have gone to jail and that is how we will act in future. The Washington Post, the New York Times, and all the “great liberal media” of the US are not in court to hear it and do not report it (italics mine), because of their active complicity in the “othering” of Julian Assange as something sub-human whose fate can be ignored. Are they really so stupid as not to understand that they are next?

Err, yes.”

The point is not that self-described paladins of “great liberal media” are stupid. They are not covering the charade in Old Bailey because they are cowards. They must keep their fabled “access” to the bowels of Empire – the kind of “access” that allowed Judith Miller to “sell” the illegal war on Iraq in countless front pages, and allows CIA asset and uber-opportunist Bob Woodward to write his “insider” books.

Nothing to see here

Previously, Murray had already detailed how “the mainstream media are turning a blind eye. There were three reporters in the press gallery, one of them an intern and one representing the NUJ. Public access continues to be restricted and major NGOs, including Amnesty, PEN and Reporters Without Borders, continue to be excluded both physically and from watching online.”

Murray also detailed how “the six of us allowed in the public gallery, incidentally, have to climb 132 steps to get there, several times a day. As you know, I have a very dodgy ticker; I am with Julian’s dad John who is 78; and another of us has a pacemaker.”

So why is he “the man in the public gallery”? “I do not in the least discount the gallant efforts of others when I explain that I feel obliged to write this up, and in this detail, because otherwise the vital basic facts of the most important trial this century, and how it is being conducted, would pass almost completely unknown to the public. If it were a genuine process, they would want people to see it, not completely minimize attendance both physically and online.”

Unless people around the world are reading Murray’s reports – and very few others with much less detail – they will ignore immensely important aspects plus the overall appalling context of what’s really happening in the heart of London. The main fact, as far as journalism is concerned, is that Western corporate media is completely ignoring it.

Let’s check the UK coverage on Day 9, for instance.

There was no article in The Guardian – which cannot possibly cover the trial because the paper, for years, was deep into no holds barred smearing and total demonization of Julian Assange.

There was nothing on The Telegraph – very close to MI6 – and only a brief AP story on the Daily Mail.

There was a brief article in The Independent only because one of the witnesses, Eric Lewis, is one of the directors of the Independent Digital News and Media Ltd which publishes the paper.

For years, the process of degrading Julian Assange to sub-human level was based on repeating a bunch of lies so often they become truth. Now, the conspiracy of silence about the trial does wonders to expose the true face of Western liberal “values” and liberal “democracy”.

Daniel Ellsberg speaks

Murray provided absolutely essential context for what Daniel “Pentagon Papers” Ellsberg made it very clear in the witness stand.

The Afghan War logs published by WikiLeaks were quite similar to low-level reports Ellsberg himself had written about Vietnam. The geopolitical framework is the same: invasion and occupation, against the interests of the absolute majority of the invaded and occupied.

Murray, illustrating Ellsberg, writes that “the war logs had exposed a pattern of war crimes: torture, assassination and death squads. The one thing that had changed since Vietnam was that these things were now so normalized they were classified below Top Secret.”

This is a very important point. All the Pentagon Papers were in fact Top Secret. But crucially, the WikiLeaks papers were not Top Secret: in fact they were below Top Secret, not subject to restricted distribution. So they were not really sensitive – as the United States government now alleges.

On the by now legendary Collateral Murder video, Murray details Ellsberg’s argument: “Ellsberg stated that it definitely showed murder, including the deliberate machine gunning of a wounded and unarmed civilian. That it was murder was undoubted. The dubious word was “collateral”, which implies accidental. What was truly shocking about it was the Pentagon reaction that these war crimes were within the Rules of Engagement. Which permitted murder.”

The prosecution cannot explain why Julian Assange withheld no less than 15,000 files; how he took a lot of time to redact the ones that were published; and why both the Pentagon and the State Dept. refused to collaborate with WikiLeaks. Murray: “Ten years later, the US Government has still not been able to name one single individual who was actually harmed by the WikiLeaks releases.”

Prometheus Bound 2.0

President Trump has made two notorious references to WikiLeaks on the record: “I love WikiLeaks” and “I know nothing about WikiLeaks”. That may reveal nothing on how a hypothetical Trump 2.0 administration would act if Julian Assange was extradited to the US. What we do now is that the most powerful Deep State factions want him “neutralized”. Forever.

I felt compelled to portray Julian Assange’s plight as Prometheus Bound 2.0. In this poignant post-modern tragedy, the key subplot centers on a deadly blow to true journalism, in the sense of speaking truth to power.

Julian Assange continues to be treated as an extremely dangerous criminal, as his partner Stella Moris describes it in a tweet.

Craig Murray will arguably enter History as the central character in a very small chorus warning us all about the tragedy’s ramifications.

It’s also quite fitting that the tragedy is also a commentary on a previous era that featured, unlike Blake’s poem, a Marriage of Hell and Hell: GWOT and OCO (Global War on Terror, under George W. Bush, and Overseas Contingency Operations under Barack Obama).

Julian Assange is being condemned for revealing imperial war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet in the end all that post-9/11 sound and fury signified nothing.

It actually metastasized into the worst imperial nightmare: the emergence of a prime, compounded peer competitor, the Russia-China strategic partnership.

“Not here the darkness, in this twittering world” (T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton). An army of future Assanges awaits.

*(Top image: NYC Assange Trial Protests. Credit: Pamela Drew/ Flickr)

 *This article was originally published on Asia Times.

A Peace Deal Like No Other: Much Ado About Nothing, But Act 2 Is Coming Up

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It is odd that the White House is gloating over its claimed peace agreement in the Middle East at the same time as one of the signatories is bombing Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. It all suggests that peace in the region will exclude designated enemies and the friends of those enemies, since the ties among the three parties – Israel, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain – is transparently in part an offensive alliance directed against Iran and its friends, to include Syria and Lebanon. A significant amount of the horse trading that preceded the gala signing ceremony in the White House involved who would get what advanced American weapons down the road. The UAE wants F-35 fighter bombers while Israel is already asking for $8 billion for more top-level weapons from the U.S. taxpayer to maintain its “qualitative edge” over its new found friends.

For the more sagacious readers who chose to ignore what took place, a short recap is in order. Last Tuesday President Trump hosted a White House signing ceremony during which Israel established formal ties with the two Arab states. The agreement was dubbed the Abraham Accord because it purports to build on the foundation provided by the fraternity, as one might put it, of the three Abrahamic religions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. More specifically, it created the mechanism for diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties between Israel and the two Arab countries. It should be observed that both the UAE and Bahrain are close to being client states of the U.S. Bahrain is in fact the home port of the U.S. Fifth Fleet that operates in the region and it also hosts headquarters of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). Both countries have long had de facto semi-secret relations with Israel on security issues and Israelis have been able to travel to them as long as they do not do so on an Israeli passport. And they both also know that the road to improving already good relations with Washington passes through Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally attended the ceremony, together with the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain. Trump enthused “We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history” and presented a replica gold key to the White House to Netanyahu. It is not known if the two Arab ministers received anything beyond a “don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”

The president observed that the two Arab nations were the third and fourth to normalize relations with Israel, following on Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, and predicted that five more Arab countries might soon also recognize Israel. Oman and Qatar, which hosts the major U.S. airbase at Al-Udeid, are likely to be next in line as both have close ties to the United States and have never exhibited much hardline anti-Israeli fervor. The claim made before the signing, that Israel would stand down on its plan to annex much of the Palestinian West Bank as a quid pro quo for the agreement was not discussed at all, nor was it part of the document. It is generally believed that Israel will wait until after the U.S. election to make its move.

The Palestinians, who have been on the receiving end of Israeli nation-building were not invited. There were some demonstrations by Palestinians in Gaza and Ramallah denouncing the signing as it took place, together with chanting that “Palestine isn’t for sale.” Indeed, Palestinians are more-or-less invisible in Washington, having had their representational office closed by Trump in 2018 after he had been shown a fabricated video by Netanyahu in which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appeared to be calling for the murder of children. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also viewed the video and informed the president that it was an obvious fabrication, but Trump was convinced by it.

The U.S. media, always inclined to applaud anything that advances Israeli interests, registered its approval of the agreement. And there were calls for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Trump for his miraculous achievement, not as ridiculous as it sounds as it is at least as well deserved as the one that was given to Barack Obama. Trump the peacemaker has a nice ring to it, and it quite possibly pay off for the president in terms of votes and political contributions. Indeed, if one looks at the White House ceremony dyspeptically, it becomes clear that the whole event was staged for political purposes to advance GOP interests in the upcoming election. If it changes anything on the ground at all it actually worsens the chances for peace in the region. The UAE and Bahrain are now locked into a unified effort to oppose Iran by military force if necessary, with open support from Israel plus covert aid from Saudi Arabia as well as the full backing of the United States.

One might reasonably argue that the agreement was a win for Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain, as they have succeeded in obliging the U.S. to support their own regional security interests for the foreseeable future. The media, defense contractors and politicians bought and paid for by Israel will be able to assert that the U.S. must retain significant forces in the region to defend Israel and friendly Arab states against the largely fictitious “Iranian menace.” It is unfortunately a major setback for United States efforts to limit its exposure to any and all political developments in an increasingly unstable the Middle East. If the White House had really wanted to disengage from the quagmire that it has found itself in, it was an odd way to go about it.

And the Palestinians are left with nowhere to go, the presumption being that with lessening Arab support they will be reduced to begging Israel (and the U.S.) for a deal that will reduce them to the status of helots. That conclusion just might make them desperate and could trigger a new and even more bloody intifada.

The downside of the agreement is already beginning to play out as the United States is preparing to unilaterally impose sanctions on Iran that will include possible seizure of Iranian ships in international waters, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also warned Russia and China against trying to sell weapons to Tehran. One might well ask, how exactly does Pompeo propose to do that? Will he shoot down Russian transport planes or sink Chinese and Russian flagged ships? How does one go from being crazy to being batshit crazy, and what about all those Americans and others who would prefer not to be on the receiving end of a nuclear exchange?

Trita Parsi, who follows the situation in the Middle East closely, has suggested that Pompeo might even be planning an October Surprise, which might amount to some kind of provocation or even a false flag operation that would result in open conflict with Iran with the U.S. arguing that the fighting is both lawful and defensive in nature.

Such a suggestion might be considered insanity, but there are signs that the U.S. in heightening its delegitimization campaign against Iran. Unconfirmable allegations from anonymous U.S. government sources are surfacing about an alleged Iranian plot to kill the U.S. Ambassador in South Africa. And, as of Saturday, Washington is now implementing its new sanctions regime and there is a distinct possibility that an Iranian vessel in the Persian Gulf might be seized, forcing Iran to respond. The U.S. Navy has already intercepted four Greek flagged tankers in the Atlantic Ocean on their way to Venezuela, claiming they were carrying Iranian petroleum products, which were then confiscated. Given the demonstrated propensity to use armed force, anything is possible. The thinking in the White House might be that a containable war against a recognized enemy might be just the ticket to win in November. Of course, once the fighting starts it might not work out that way.

*(Top image: President Donald J. Trump, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyanisigns sign the Abraham Accords Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House. Credit: Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

*This article was originally published on UNZ Review.

To Madam the UN

Michelle Bachelet UNHRC 4b72a

Dear Madam the UN,

You have been talking a lot about my country, Algeria, for some time now, and I must confess to you that if your opinions have never convinced me, as I know you are so far removed from any notion of justice and equity, I want reaction when my homeland is affected. And this is what you do with your legendary subjectivity, obeying a purely imperialist and neo-colonialist agenda that aims at nothing more and nothing less than the dismantling of my country. This is how the gesticulations of your "experts" who claim to be "alarmed" by a so-called "oppression" in Algeria prompted me to take up the pen to write you this missive. As usual, when you point your sights at a country, you bring out the great game of "human rights", "democracy" and "freedom of speech", and you allow yourself to give lessons. It's the same method you've been using for ages and, of course, you don't change a winning team, don't you? How many countries haven't they tasted your deadly poison? Your hands are filled with the blood of the peoples massacred by your imperialist masters and whom you have endorsed.

Explain to us why you have never been alarmed by the fate of the people Vietnamese, Palestinian, Lebanese, Yugoslavian, Afghan, Sahrawi, Yemeni, Sudanese, Syrian, Libyan, and so on! or the Iraqi people when a high-ranking U.S. official pulled out a urine test tube as a WMD sample to incite you to endorse the war against Iraq. Not only did you not worry about the fate of all these peoples, but you turned a blind eye to their massacre. Do you take umbrage at the damage done to the peoples by the sanctions imposed by your Security Council on countries that do not comply with the injunctions of US imperialism, such as Cuba, which has been under embargo since 1962? No, of course not. Nor do you care about sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, Yemen, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iraq and many others. Where is your conscience when the USA is fomenting Coups d'Etat in Latin America or in Ukraine, or recently in Belarus? Where were you when Pinochet took power in Chile and tortured and exterminated thousands of Chileans, what did you say when the military junta seized Argentina and the opponents were thrown into the void from the helicopters? Were you outraged by the abject apartheid practiced during years in South Africa? We didn't hear you more when the terrorists were slaughtering my people and when Algeria was isolated from the world? Where were you when a puppet-like Juan Guaido proclaimed himself President of Venezuela and took money from the Venezuelan people, while President Maduro was elected by his people in one of the most exemplary elections on the planet, according to former US President Jimmy Carter? You are alarmed about Algeria today but why weren't you worried at the time of Bouteflika? Simply because Bouteflika and his gang of thugs filled the coffers of Western banks, ruining Algeria without you taking offense. You have come to terms with his reign because you are as corrupt as he is. You waited for the Algerian people to rise up on a certain February 22nd to take an interest in them, rubbing your hands together in the belief that you were witnessing a new wave of the Arab spring. You really believed that the Algerian people were going to burn down their country, but they taught the world a lesson by peacefully getting rid of a corrupt president. What is happening today in Algeria does not concern you at all, it is a matter that concerns only Algeria and Algerians. You support "Algerian" renegades and traitors who have sold their souls by appealing to you to intervene in our internal affairs. You rely on certain forces ranging from separatists to terrorists for a very clear agenda: to break up the country by dismantling it. And it is no coincidence that the oligarchs currently imprisoned have allied themselves with occult forces operating abroad that are well paid by these same oligarchs. These two antinational and treacherous forces, some of which have contacted you recently, have the same objective: the oligarchs will not be able to get out of prison and will not be able to play any political role with their allies in the occult forces based abroad if Algeria does not collapse.

Regarding the detainee component, you did not take offense at the fate of journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal who remained on death row for decades, nor for this other journalist who only did his job, namely Julian Assange, who risks being extradited to the United States to be judged there while he is an Australian citizen, nor for those buried alive that are Marouane Barghouti, Leonard Peltier, Ahmad Saadat, George Ibrahim Abdallah, and so many others that I can’t mention here as they are numerous. What did you say or do when Bobby Sand and his comrades died while on hunger strike in the jails of the infamous Margaret Thatcher, a great friend of Augusto Pinochet, the assassin of Salvador Allende? Nor were you alarmed to see Ignacio Lula imprisoned under false pretexts to prevent him from being elected president, while President Dilma Rousseff was ignominiously impeached. Nor are you outraged for the Palestinian children imprisoned in the jails of your master Israel and who are subjected to various physical and psychological tortures, including sexual abuse. But, of course, U.S. imperialism and Israel are untouchable. I defy you to tell us whether any of your courts have tried a single American or Israeli official for the crimes against humanity and war crimes that he has committed. And these crimes are well known to all, I have listed some of them above, but the list could go on and on. With you, the victim becomes the tormentor and the tormentor becomes the victim. You have even come to support terrorists including the White Helmets, the Alkarama Foundation and the Rachad movement, etc.! Have you murmured against the murders of unionists and social workers in Colombia or Brazil, of journalists killed around the world because they are doing their job? You didn't make a move because you serve the interests of a plutocracy, an oligarchy that is above all laws and allows itself everything it wants. Rather than the United Nations, you should be called the Organization of the Plutocrats. So, I solemnly say it to you and to your sprawling organizations, those institutions fed by taxpayers' money such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which has no "human right" other than the name: hands off! Hands off Algeria! You have no legitimacy, neither moral nor political, to give lessons and try to destabilize my beloved homeland by using subterfuges and maneuvers that we know only too well.

After this overview of some of the innumerable crimes that you have supported, let's talk about your own scandals, which don't impress me because I know that you are part of the matrix of imperialism, you are even its legal executor. Let's relate some of your scandals that range from fraud to rape to corruption and kickbacks. Thus, many press organs report the rapes of which thousands of women and children are victims each year by UN collaborators, both civilian and military. With impunity, soldiers or employees of the peacekeeping force exchange food rations for fellatio and even rape young girls and children. Frauds are committed in obtaining contracts for reconstruction in the destroyed countries, with thousands of dollars in kickbacks, and whistleblowers are relentlessly punished for denouncing fraudulent actions, with your organization practicing omerta. Let us remember the scandals linked to the "oil for food" program, at the time when Iraq was under embargo, when some people received barrels of oil for "services rendered". Let us also remember the cholera scandal in Haiti in 2010 which had been imported by the Nepalese Blue Helmets and which caused more than 2000 deaths. The worst is that you have rejected the compensation claims of victims of the epidemic transmitted by Blue Helmets. Several years ago, I wrote an article on the hidden reports of the WHO, organization under Bill Gates' thumb, which was read by thousands of people and is still read today. This article dealt with the devastating effects of the US depleted uranium bombings on the health of the Iraqi population and whose reports were censored by your organization the WHO. I will end this chapter by talking about the libations that all your officials and diplomats engage in during the various sessions, some participants being completely drunk. And these are the people who pretend to give lessons to the whole world!

Some personalities have become the conscience of humanity and interfere in the Algerian affairs while they know nothing about this country, its history and culture. Let each one take care of his own country and his own people! All of you, as long as you are, you don’t support the Algerian people, you support a hidden agenda! The peoples have no need of you, and I say this as an Algerian citizen who knows some of your organizations that have proven that they are completely indifferent to the fate of the people. These people experience social oppression as a direct result of the domination of the world oligarchy, which has ruined entire civilizations. So, Madam the UN, stop treating us like sub-humans and "Untermenschen", stop interfering in our affairs and using false pretexts! Leave us alone! And then, do a great service to all mankind by self-dissolving you and disappearing. The world will be better. Take with you your accomplice the NATO that you serve every time it is engaged in the dirty destructive wars, take along all the useless organizations at the same time, from the African Union to the Arab League and the European Union. All these institutions eat up taxpayers' money to maintain armies of completely useless bureaucrats. And while I'm at it, I suggest you give up your buildings to the homeless who abound in your "democratic" countries. For example, cede your New York building to the homeless, many of whom being veterans of the imperialist wars and who have been abandoned after having served you as cannon fodder. Offer your headquarters to associations that help the homeless and unemployed who are victims of the neoliberal policies of your imperialist masters.

In any case, hands off Algeria! This country has a long history and obtained its independence at the cost of great sacrifices and centuries of fighting. For your general culture, know that my homeland is the cradle of the First Man. This land is bigger than you. So, go play somewhere else. This cry that is in me resonates with my ancestors. Stop your hypocrisy and your so-called human rights of variable geometry. You want to turn us into refugees and then play the big heart by distributing "humanitarian" aid to us as you do with all the peoples whose countries have been devastated with your green light. Your masters make wars, you close your eyes and you make humanitarian bandages by distributing grains of rice. If something happens to Algeria, you will be responsible! But remember that despite your perfidious maneuvers and the felony you have spread all over the world, of course, you will always find traitors committed to the cause of imperialism and neo-colonialism, but you will also find citizens and patriots who will defend the land of their ancestors.

A word to the wise is enough, Madam the UN!

*(Top image: Michelle Bachelet, United Nations, High Commissioner for Human Rights; 17 September 2020. Credit: UN Photo / Jean Marc Ferré/ Flickr)

Will the US “Snapback” UN Sanctions on Iran?

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On 21 May 2018, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued an ultimatum to Iran making twelve demands that it must satisfy before the US called off its “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions.  For example:

“Iran must stop [uranium] enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing. This includes closing its heavy water reactor.”

“Iran must end support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

“Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.”

More than two years later, despite the “maximum pressure” from the US and the human misery and death it has caused in Iran, no progress has been made towards Iran satisfying any of Pompeo’s twelve demands.  It is difficult for President Trump to claim that his Iran policy has been a success.

And to make matters worse, there is the looming threat that on 18 October 2020 – two weeks before he seeks re-election – an arms embargo on Iran, originally imposed in June 2010 by the Security Council, is scheduled to be lifted and Iran will be free to import conventional arms.   

Small wonder then that the US has been moving heaven and earth in an attempt to prevent this happening.  The first effort to do so – by proposing a Security Council resolution extending the embargo indefinitely– failed with US having one only one supporter out of other 14 members of the Council.  A second effort is now in progress using the so-called “snapback” procedure in the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

What is the JCPOA?

On 14 July 2015, Iran signed the JCPOA with the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US) and Germany.  In it, Iran accepted very severe restrictions on its civil nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions – those imposed

  • unilaterally by the US,
  • unilaterally by the EU, and
  • by the UN in seven Security Council Resolutions (1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, 1929 and 2224) passed in the previous ten years.

The primary objective of these UN resolutions was to force Iran to cease uranium enrichment, which was its right as a party to the NPT.  The sanctions imposed by them were mostly directed at curtailing Iran’s nuclear programme and at punishing individuals associated with it.  They were not aimed at the general population of Iran, unlike those imposed unilaterally in 2012 by the US and the EU. 

Resolution 1747, passed in March 2007, banned Iran’s transfer of arms from its territory and Resolution 1929 passed in June 2010, imposed a conventional arms embargo on Iran.

JCPOA endorsed by the Security Council

On 20 July 2015, the Security Council endorsed the JCPOA unanimously in Resolution 2231 (which incorporates its full text as an annex).  Article 2 of 2231 calls upon

“all Members States, regional organizations and international organizations to take such actions as may be appropriate to support the implementation of the JCPOA, including by taking actions commensurate with the implementation plan set out in the JCPOA and this resolution and by refraining from actions that undermine implementation of commitments under the JCPOA;”

Article 7(a) terminated the seven Security Council resolutions above when the JCPOA came into effect on 16 January 2016, lifting the sanctions imposed by them. 

As we will see, the US is now attempting to re-activate them using the “snapback” procedure prescribed in the JCPOA and, by so doing, to re-impose the sanctions prescribed in them, including the arms transfer restrictions of Resolutions 1747 and 1929.  If the US succeeds, Iran will also be banned from enriching uranium.

Arms transfer restrictions on Iran

Iran expected all arms transfer restrictions would end permanently in the negotiations that led to the JCPOA.  According to US Secretary of State John Kerry, who headed the US negotiating team, in June 2010 when the arms embargo was imposed, Iran was promised that it would be lifted once Iran entered into negotiations (see his press conference on the day the JCPOA was signed).

However, in the negotiations, although Russia and China supported the lifting all arms transfer restrictions, the US backed by France, Germany and the UK opposed.  The compromise agreed and incorporated in the JCPOA (and in Section B of Resolution 2231) was that the existing restrictions (broadly speaking) would remain in place for another five years from the agreement’s “adoption day”, which was 18 October 2015.

As matters stand at the moment, therefore, Iran will be free to import and export arms after 18 October 2020.

Security Council rejects extension of arms embargo

In an attempt to prevent this happening, in August 2020, the US circulated a draft Security Council resolution to extend the arms transfer ban “until the Security Council decides otherwise”.  However, in a vote in the Security Council on 14 August 2020, the US was not merely defeated it was humiliated.

It got the support of only one member of the 15-member body, leaving it far short of the minimum nine YES votes necessary for the resolution to be passed.  The sole supporter of the US was the Dominican Republic.  Eleven members of the Council – Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and Vietnam – abstained.  Russia and China voted against. 

Pompeo initiates “snapback” procedure

Having failed to get support in the Security Council for the extension of the arms transfer ban, the US is now attempting to invoke the “snapback” procedure prescribed in the JCPOA (Article 36-37) and Resolution 2331 (Paragraphs 10-12). 

Under this procedure, it is possible that the UN sanctions against Iran, which were lifted by terminating seven Security Council resolutions when the JCPOA came into effect, can be re-imposed at a stroke by re-activating those resolutions. 

To invoke the “snapback” procedure, “a JCPOA participant State” (of which more later) must notify the Security Council of “an issue that the JCPOA participant State believes constitutes significant non-performance of commitments under the JCPOA” (Paragraph 11 of Resolution 2231).  Note that the complaining State doesn’t have to present evidence to justify its complaint. 

Mike Pompeo travelled to the UN headquarters in New York on 20 August 2020, to meet the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the then chair of the Security Council, the Indonesian permanent representative, Dian Triansyah Djani, and he handed them letters giving them formal notice that the US believes that Iran is in non-compliance with its JCPOA commitments.

At a press conference afterwards, Mike Pompeo said:

“I notified them that the United States is initiating the restoration of virtually all UN sanctions on Iran lifted under UN Security Council Resolution 2231. This process will lead to those sanctions coming back into effect 30 days from today.”

Following this formal notification, under the “snapback” procedure:

  • A Security Council resolution, which backs the maintenance of the status quo with UN sanctions lifted, must be proposed and voted on.
  • If this Security Council resolution fails to pass, UN sanctions will be re-imposed 30 days after the formal notice of non-compliance was given.

In this instance, such a resolution will not pass because the US will veto it.

On the face of it, therefore, the UN sanctions against Iran that were lifted on 16 January 2016 will be re-imposed on 20 September 2020, 30 days after the formal notice of non-compliance was given.  That happens to be a few days before President Trump is due to address the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.

US no longer a JCPOA participant?

It is true that 13 members of the Security Council – all of them apart from the Dominican Republic and the US itself – have written to the President of the Council asserting that the US cannot invoke the “snapback” procedure since it is no longer a “participant” in the JCPOA. 

It is difficult to argue against this proposition, since on 20 May 2018 President Trump gave orders to his Secretary of State to “take all appropriate steps to cease the participation of the United States in the JCPOA”.  When challenged about this at his press conference, Pompeo replied:

“2231 gave every one of the participant states the right to execute snapback unconditionally.”

He has a point there since Paragraph 10 of Resolution 2231 defines the US, along with China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the EU and Iran as “JCPOA participants” – and Resolution 2231 hasn’t been amended to reflect the fact that, on the orders of its President, the US has ceased “participation” in the JCPOA.

Be that as it may, it’s not clear that the 13 objectors can prevent a Security Council resolution being proposed and voted on, which backs the maintenance of the status quo with UN sanctions lifted (though the US may have to propose such a resolution itself if all of the other 14 members refuse to do so).

There is a procedural mechanism which the 13 can use to block this happening – the US veto doesn’t apply in procedural matters – but if not, the US will ensure that the resolution doesn’t pass by vetoing it and, as a result, under the “snapback” procedure the UN sanctions will be re-imposed.

If matters pan out like this, we could arrive at a situation where the US insists that the UN sanctions have been re-imposed through a valid process prescribed in the JCPOA (and, according to Mike Pompeo at his press conference, the US “will vigorously enforce them”) whereas 13 other members of the Security Council regard the process as invalid and therefore the UN sanctions remain lifted.  How that situation could be resolved is not clear.

US ceases compliance with the JCPOA

The JCPOA came into effect on 16 January 2016, the IAEA having certified that Iran had taken the steps necessary to restrict its nuclear programme.  This triggered the lifting of US, EU and UN sanctions.  From then on, the IAEA issued quarterly reports on Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA.  Its tenth such report on 9 May 2018, like all its predecessors, confirmed Iran’s compliance, the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stating:

“Iran is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime under the JCPOA, which is a significant verification gain. As of today, the IAEA can confirm that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented by Iran.”

For more than two years, Iran had been in full compliance with the JCPOA.

The day before, on 8 May 2018, President Trump had announced that the US was going to cease compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA and re-impose the unilateral US sanctions on Iran which were lifted on 16 January 2016.  The latter is in clear violation of Security Council Resolution 2231 under which all UN member states are required to “take such actions as may be appropriate to support the implementation of the JCPOA”.  This included the commitment by the US in the JCPOA (Annex II) “to cease the application of, and to seek such legislative action as may be appropriate to terminate, or modify to effectuate the termination of, all [US] nuclear related sanctions”.

Iran ceases compliance with the JCPOA

Over the following year, while the US increased the economic pressure on Iran relentlessly in violation of the agreement, Iran remained in full compliance.  It looked to Germany, France and the UK for political support and for help in countering US sanctions – but it has looked in vain.

Theoretically, France and Germany and the UK were then (and still) are in favour of maintaining the JCPOA.  But the three of them have provided the US with an excuse for violating it by continuously echoing the US complaints that it doesn’t cover the full range of Iran’s alleged sins and therefore needs to be modified.  And they have done nothing to help Iran trade with the outside world, meekly accepting the damage to their own trade with Iran as a result of US sanctions. 

After a year of renewed US sanctions, with the three European states proving to be of no help, the prospects for Iran looked bleak: US sanctions were hurting and there was no obvious way out.  So, Iran adopted a more aggressive stance.  On 8 June 2019, it announced that it would no longer be bound by the JCPOA's limits on heavy water and low-enriched uranium, while emphasising that the steps it proposed to take would be easily reversible – and would be reversed if other parties to the JCPOA came into compliance.  Over the following eighteen months, Iran gradually extended its breaches of its commitments under the JCPOA – see, for example, Timeline of Iran’s JCPOA breaches by the Arms Control Association.

In his formal notice to the Security Council, Mike Pompeo quoted these breaches as evidence that Iran is in non-compliance with its JCPOA commitments.  Had the US remained in full compliance, it’s a racing certainty that these breaches would never have occurred – and that today the JCPOA would be functioning as intended.

*  *  *  *  *

The US re-imposition of its unilateral sanctions undermined the bargain at the heart of the JCPOA, namely, that Iran accepted severe restrictions on its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions.  In those circumstances, it was understandable that Iran refused to be bound by those restrictions indefinitely.  If the US succeeds in re-imposing the UN sanctions as well, that would destroy the bargain altogether, in which case Iran would most likely ignore these restrictions altogether.

Would a Biden administration restore the JCPOA?

If President Trump is replaced by President Biden in November, it is possible that the JCPOA could be restored.  This would require the new administration to lift US sanctions and, if the UN sanctions have been re-imposed by the “snapback” mechanism, to vote for a Security Council resolution lifting them again.

The 2020 Democratic Party Platform says the following on Iran:

“Democrats will call off the Trump Administration’s race to war with Iran and prioritize nuclear diplomacy, de-escalation, and regional dialogue. Democrats believe the United States should not impose regime change on other countries and reject that as the goal of U.S. policy toward Iran.

“We believe the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) remains the best means to verifiably cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb. The Trump Administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA isolated us from our allies and opened the door for Iran to resume its march toward a nuclear weapons capacity that the JCPOA had stopped. That’s why returning to mutual compliance with the agreement is so urgent.

“The nuclear deal was always meant to be the beginning, not the end, of our diplomacy with Iran. Democrats support a comprehensive diplomatic effort to extend constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and address Iran’s other threatening activities …”.

Biden’s foreign policy adviser, Antony Blinken, said something similar to CBS News on 19 May 2020:

“If Iran moves back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, I would re-enter the JCPOA as a starting point to work alongside our allies in Europe and other world powers to extend the deal’s nuclear constraints.”

This seems to imply that a Biden administration would not demand that the JCPOA be amended to put further restrictions on Iran as a condition for “returning to mutual compliance” with the JCPOA.  In that case, Iran may respond positively and reverse its JCPOA breaches.  Multi billion dollar compensation by the US for two and a half years of unjustified economic warfare against Iran would also be appropriate.

*(Top image: Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, prepares to meet with UN Security Council President Dian Triansyah Djani at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, on August 20, 2020. Credit: State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain)

How USA and Turkey Plunder and Loot Syria with Impunity

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Turkey Loots Syria, then Disrupts Safe Water Supply  

Turkey has been plundering the Syrian infrastructure for years.  Beginning in late 2012 and continuing through 2013 some 300 industrial factories were dismantled and taken to Turkey from Aleppo, the industrial capital of Syria. "Machinery and goods were loaded on trucks and carried off to Turkey through the Cilvegozu and Ceylanpinar crossings. Unfortunately, 'plundering' and 'terror' have become permanent parts of the Syrian lexicon when explaining their saga."

In October 2019 Turkish forces invaded Syria and now occupy a strip of land in north east Syria. The area is controlled by the Turkish military and pro Turkish militia forces misnamed the "Syrian National Army". Turkish President Erdogan dubbed the invasion "Peace Spring" and said the goal was to create a "safe zone". The reality was that 200 thousand Syrians fled the invasion and over 100 thousand have been permanently displaced from their homes, farms, workplaces and livelihoods.

The industrial scale looting continues. As reported recently in the story headlined Turkish-backed factions take apart power pylons in rural Ras Al-Ain: "Reliable sources have informed SOHR that Turkish-backed factions steal electricity power towers and pylons in 'Peace Spring' areas in Ras Al-Ain countryside."

Turkey now controls the border city of Ras al-Ain and the nearby Allouk water treatment and pumping station.  This is the water station supplying safe water to the city Hasaka and entire region. The Turkish forces are using water as a weapon of war, shutting down the station to pressure the population to be compliant.  For over two weeks in August, with daily temperatures of 100 F,  there was no running water for nearly one million people.

With no tap water, civilians were forced to queue up for hours to receive small amounts from water trucks. Unable to buy the water, other civilians took their chances by drinking water from unsafe wells. According to Judy Jacoub, a Syrian journalist originally from Hasaka, "The residents of Hasaka and its countryside have been pushed to rely on unsafe water sources ....Many residents have been suffering from the spread of fungi, germs and dirt in their hair and bodies as a result of using well water that is not suitable for drinking and personal hygiene. The people of Hasaka remain vulnerable to diseases and epidemics because of the high temperatures and spread of infectious diseases. If the situation is not controlled as soon as possible, the spread of Corona virus will undoubtedly be devastating."  A hospital medical director says many people are getting sick from the contaminated water. 

Judy Jacoub explains what has happened most recently: "After Syrian and international efforts exerted pressure on the Turkish regime, 17 wells and three pumps were started . The main reservoirs were filled and pumping was started toward the city neighborhoods.  However, despite the Turkish militia's resumption of pumping water again, there is great fear among the citizens."

USA Loots Syrian Oil and Plunders the Economy

The USA also has occupying troops and proxy / puppet military force in north east Syria. The proxy army is misnamed the "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF). How they got that name is revealing. They took on this name as they came under the funding and control of the US military. As documented here, US Army General Ray Thomas told their leadership, "You have got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourselves besides the YPG?’  Then, he explained what happened: "With about a day’s notice they declared that they are the Syrian Democratic Forces. I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put democracy in there somewhere."

There are numerous parties and trends within the Syrian Kurdish community. The US has been funding and promoting the secessionist element, pushing  them to ally with Turkish backed  jihadists against the Damascus government.  The violation of Syrian sovereignty is extreme and grotesque.

Prior to the war, Syria was self-sufficient in oil and had enough to export and earn some foreign revenues. The primary oil sources are in eastern Syria, where the US troops and proxy forces have established bases. It is desert terrain with little population.

To finance their proxy army, the US has seized control of the major Syrian oil pumping wells. It is likely that President Trump thinks this is brilliant bold move - financing the invasion of Syria with Syrian oil.

In November 2019 President Trump said, “We’re keeping the oil... The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.”  Recently, it was revealed that a "Little known US firm secures deal for Syrian oil". Delta Crescent Energy will manage and escalate the theft of Syrian oil.

What would Americans think if another country invaded the US via Mexico, set up bases in Texas, sponsored a secessionist militia, then seized Texas oil wells to finance it?  That is comparable to what the US is doing in Syria.

In addition to stealing Syria's oil, the US is trying to prevent Syria from developing alternate sources. The "Caesar sanctions" on Syria threatens to punish any individual, company or country that invests or assists Syria to rebuild their war damaged country and especially in the oil and gas sector.

The US establishment seems to be doing everything it can to undermine the Syrian economy and damage the Syrian currency. Due to pressure on Lebanese banks, plus the Caesar sanctions, the Syrian pound has plummeted in value from 650 to 2150 to the US dollar in the past 10 months.

North east Syria is the breadbasket of the country with the richest wheat and grain fields. There are reports of US pressuring farmers to not sell their wheat crops to the Syrian government. One year ago, Nicholas Heras of the influential Center for New American Security argued "Assad needs access to cereal crops in northeast Syria to prevent a bread crisis in the areas of western Syria that he controls....Wheat is a weapon of great power in this next phase of the Syrian conflict."   Now, it appears the US is following this strategy. Four months ago, in May 2020,  Syrian journalist Stephen Sahiounie reported, "Apache helicopters of the US occupation forces flew low Sunday morning, according to residents of the Adla village, in the Shaddadi countryside, south of Hasaka, as they dropped ‘thermal balloons, an incendiary weapon, causing the wheat fields to explode into flames while the hot dry winds fanned the raging fire.

After delivering their fiery pay-load, the helicopters flew close to homes in an aggressive manner, which caused residents and especially small children to fear for their lives.  The military maneuver was delivering a clear message: don’t sell your wheat to the Syrian government."


To better loot the oil and plunder the Syria economy, in the past weeks the US is sending more heavy equipment and military hardware through the Kurdish region of Iraq.

In the south of Syria, the US has another base and occupation zone at the strategic Al Tanf border crossing. This is at the intersection of the borders of Syria, Iraq and Jordan. This is also the border crossing for the highway from Baghdad to Damascus. The US controls this border area to prevent Syrian reconstruction projects from Iraq or Iran. When Syrian troops have tried to get near there, they have been attacked on their own soil.

Meanwhile, international funds donated for "Syrian relief" are disproportionally sent to support and assist the last strong-hold of Al Qaeda terrorists in Idlib on the north west border with Turkey.  The US and its partners evidently want to sustain the armed opposition and prevent the Syrian government from reclaiming their territory.  

Flouting International Law and the UN Charter

The USA and Turkey have shown how easy it is to violate international law. The occupation of Syrian land and attacks on its sovereignty are being done in broad daylight. But this is not just a legal issue. Stopping the supply of safe drinking water and burning wheat fields to create more hunger violate the most basic tenets of decency and morality. 

With supreme hypocrisy, the US foreign policy establishment often complains about the decline in the "rule of law". In actuality, there is no greater violator than the US itself.  

In his speech to the UN Security Council,  Syrian Ambassador Ja'afari decried this situation saying "international law has become like the gentle lamb whose care is entrusted to a herd of wolves."

*(Top image: President Donald J. Trump talks with President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the leaders lounge at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. Credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The West Killed and Displaced Muslim Multitudes, Becomes So Worried with the Plight of the Uighurs

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A Beijing-Brussels-Berlin special: that was quite the video-summit.

From Beijing, we had President Xi Jinping. From Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel. And from Brussels, President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The Chinese billed it as the first summit “of its kind in history”.

It was actually the second high-level meeting of the Chinese and European leadership in two months. And it took place only a few days after a high-level tour by Foreign Minister Wang Yi encompassing France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway, and the visit by the powerful “Yoda” of the State Council, Yang Jiechi, to Spain and Greece.

The Holy Grail at the end of all these meetings – face-to-face and virtual – is the China-EU investment treaty. Germany currently heads the EU presidency for six months. Berlin wanted the treaty to be signed at a summit in Leipzig this month uniting the EU-27 and Beijing. But Covid-19 had other plans.

So the summit was metastasized into this mini videoconference. The treaty is still supposed to be signed before the end of 2020.

Adding an intriguing note, the mini-summit also happened one day before Premier Li Keqiang attended a Special Virtual Dialogue with Business Leaders, promoted by the World Economic Forum (WEF). It’s unclear whether Li will discuss the intricacies of the Great Reset with Klaus Schwab – not to mention whether China subscribes to it.

We are “still committed”

The mini EU-China video summit was quite remarkable for its very discreet spin. The UE, officially, now considers China as both an essential partner and a “strategic rival”. Brussels is adamant on its will to “cooperate” while defending is notorious human rights “values”.

As for the investment treaty, the business Holy Grail which has been under negotiation for seven years now, Ursula von der Leyen said “there’s still much to be done”.

What the EU essentially wants is equal treatment for their companies in China, similar to how Chinese companies are treated inside the EU. Diplomats confirmed the key areas are telecoms, the automobile market – which should be totally open – and the end of unfair competition by Chinese steel.

Last week, the head of Siemens, Joe Kaeser, threw an extra spanner in the works, telling Die Zeit that “we categorically condemn every form of oppression, forced labor and threat to human rights”, referring to Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

That caused quite a stir. At least 10% of Siemens business is generated in China, where the company is present since 1872 and employs over 35,000 people. Siemens was forced to publicly state that it is “still committed” to China.

China has been Germany’s top trade partner since 2017 – ahead of France and the US. So it’s no wonder alarm bells started to ring, on and off. It was in January last year that the BDI – the Federation of German Industries – first defined China as a “systemic competitor”, and not only as a “partner”. The concern was centered on market “distortions” and the barriers against German competition inside China.

The mini video-summit took place as the trade war unleashed by Washington against Beijing has reached Cold War 2.0 proportions. EU diplomats, uncomfortably, and off the record, admit that the Europeans are caught in the middle and the only possible strategy is to try to advance their economic interests while insisting on the same panacea of human rights.

Thus the official EU demand this Monday – unreported in Chinese media: allow us to send “independent observers” to Xinjiang.

Those Uighur jihadis

So we’re back, inevitably, to the hyper-incandescent issue of Xinjiang “concentration camps”.

The Atlanticist establishment has unleashed a ferocious, no holds barred campaign to shape the narrative that Beijing is conducting no less than cultural genocide in Xinjiang.

Apart from United States government rhetoric, the campaign is mostly conducted by “influencer” US thinks tanks such as this one, which issue reports that turn viral on Western corporate media.

One of these reports quotes “numerous firsthand accounts from Uighurs” who are defined as “employed” to perform forced labor. As a result, the global supply chain, according to the report, is “likely tainted with forced labor”.

The operative word is “likely”. As in Russia is “likely” interfering in US elections and “likely” poisoning opponents of the Kremlin. There’s no way to verify the accuracy of the sources quoted in these reports – which happen to be conveniently financed by “multiple donors interested in commerce in Asia.” Who are these donors? What is their agenda? Who will profit from the kind of “commerce in Asia” they are pushing?

On a personal level, Xinjiang was at the top of my travel priorities this year – then laid to rest by Covid-19 – because I want to check by myself all aspects of what’s really goin’ on in China’s Far West.

As it stands, US copycat “influencers” in the EU are having free reign to impose the narrative about Uighur forced labor, stressing that the clothes Europeans are wearing “could” – and the operative word is “could” – be made by forced laborers.

Don’t expect the Atlanticist network to even bother to offer context in terms of China fighting terrorism in Xinjiang.

In the old al-Qaeda days, I visited and interviewed Uighur jihadis locked up in a sprawling prison set up by the mujahideen under commander Masoud in the Panjshir valley. They had all been indoctrinated by imams preaching in Saudi-financed madrassas across Xinjiang.

More recently, Uighur Salafi-jihadis have been very active in Syria: at least 5,000, according to the Syrian embassy in Beijing.

Beijing knows exactly what would happen if they return to Xinjiang, as much as Moscow knows what would happen if Chechen jihadis return to the Caucasus.

So it’s no wonder that China has to act. That includes closing madrassas, detaining imams and arresting – and “re-“educating” – possible jihadis and their families.

Forget about the West offering context about the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), which declared an Islamic Emirate, ISIS/Daesh-style, in November 2019 in Idlib, northwest Syria. TIP was founded in Xinjiang 12 years ago and has been very active in Syria since 2011 – exactly the same year when they claimed to be responsible for a terror operation in Kashgar which killed 23 people.

It’s beyond pathetic that the West killed and displaced Muslim multitudes – directly and indirectly – with the “war on terror” just to become oh so worried with the plight of the Uighurs.

It’s more enlightening to remember history. As in the autumn of 821, when princess Taihe, sister of a Tang dynasty emperor, rode in a Bactrian camel, her female attendants following her in treasured Ferghana horses, all the way from the imperial palace in Chang’an to the land of the Uighurs.

Princess Taihe had been chosen as a living tribute – and was on her way to wed the Uighur kaghan to cement their peoples’ friendship. She came from the east, but her dress and ornaments were from the west, from the Central Asian steppes and deserts where she would live her new life.

And by the way, the Uighurs and the Tang dynasty were allies.

 *This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Demonstrations Near the Turkish Points Demanding the Turks to Get Out

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Near several Turkish observation points in Hama and Aleppo countrysides, hundreds of Syrian civilians gathered in a protest demanding the exit of Turkish forces from the area.

Local sources said that the protesters demonstrated in front of the Turkish points in "Murk", "Sorman" and "Tal Tokan" in Hama countryside, flying the Syrian flags and pictures of President Al-Assad, and demanding the exit of the Turkish forces from these points.

A video showed members of the Turkish point in "Murk" firing tear gas at the demonstrators, with the aim of dispersing them after they raised slogans against the Turkish presence, and several cases of suffocation were recorded among civilians.

A number of residents demonstrated as well in front of the Turkish point in the vicinity of "Al-Eis" town, Aleppo southern countryside, raising slogans rejecting the Turkish presence.

The Turkish points in Hama countryside, along with some points in Idlib and Aleppo countrysides, are among the points that the Syrian army cordoned off after its massive military operation that was stopped last March and resulted in controlling the areas extending from Aleppo western countryside to Idlib southern countryside and Hama northern countryside, which secures all the areas surrounding the international "Aleppo-Damascus" road, making the Turkish points deployed in those areas ineffective due to their encirclement.

Democrats Go All-Out for Israel: Joe Is a Zionist and Kamala Panders to Jewish Donors

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Those of us who have longed for an end to America’s military engagement in the Middle East have hoped for a candidate who was not tied hand and foot to Israel, which is the root cause of the badly-broken and essentially pointless U.S. foreign policy in the region. But the real tragedy is that in spite of Israel’s near-constant interference in government process at all levels in the United States, no candidate will mention it except in the most laudatory fashion. It will be praised as America’s best friend and closest ally, but the price the U.S. has paid for all that balderdash while it has simultaneously been turning itself into the slave of the Jewish state will never surface.

The Democratic Party leadership is owned by Israel through its big Jewish donors whose billions come with only one string attached, i.e. that the Jewish state must be protected, empowered and enriched no matter what damage it does to actual U.S. interests. Number one Israeli-American billionaire donor Haim Saban has said that he has only one interest, and that is Israel. How such a man can have major influence over American foreign policy and the internal workings of one of its two major parties might be considered the death of real democracy. At the Israel America Council’s National Conference Nancy Pelosi explicitly put Israel’s interests before America’s: “I have said to people when they ask me if this Capitol crumbled to the ground, the one thing that would remain is our commitment to our aid…and I don’t even call it aid…our cooperation with Israel. That’s fundamental to who we are.”

Jews are not surprisingly considerably over-represented in the Democratic Party Establishment. The influence of powerful Jewish Democrats recently insured that there would be no criticism of Israel, nor mention of Palestine, in the party platform for November’s election. So extreme is the virulence of some Jews against the Palestinians that a liberal Zionist Rabbi Mark Winer speaking at a Joe Biden rally in Florida recently denounced “progressives” as infected with the “anti-Semitism virus” over their support for Palestinian rights and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. No one even sought to challenge him. Another progressive Zionist Rabbi Jill Jacobs tweeted about how liberals have to embrace Israel to avoid offending Jews. She wrote: While Israel is likely the most divisive issue in the progressive world, setting a litmus test that one cannot consider oneself pro-Israel, or support two states, would divide the vast majority of Jews from the left. Not what we need when fighting white nationalism.

So-called white nationalists therefore appear to be the preferred enemies of progressive Jews, requiring one to close ranks even – or perhaps especially – when Palestinians are being brutalized. Joe Biden does not venture into that extreme-think zone, but he has made his loyalties clear. He has said that “You don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist. I am a Zionist.” More recently he has denounced Trump as “bad for Israel.” And to demonstrate his bona fides, he kicked Democratic Party Palestinian-activist Linda Sarsour under the bus when she appeared on a DNC convention panel discussing how to appeal to Muslim voters. Biden’s campaign office issued a statement saying that he “…has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform. She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”

With that lead in, it is difficult to imagine how Biden would suddenly recognize the humanity of the long-suffering Palestinians, to include those who are, like he claims to be, Catholic. Biden is close to AIPAC and has spoken at their annual convention a number of times. He is opposed to putting any pressure on the Jewish state at any time and for any reason, which presumably includes not even protecting U.S. interests or the lives and property of American citizens.

Biden also worked for President Barack Obama and was a colleague in office of Hillary Clinton. Both did the usual pander to Israel and neither was particularly well disposed to the Palestinians, though Obama talked the talk of a man of peace so effectively that he was awarded a Nobel Prize. Bear in mind that Obama personally disliked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but he increased the money from the U.S. Treasury going directly to Israel to $3.8 billion per annum and guaranteed it for ten years, an unprecedented move. The fact is that money was and is illegal under American law due to the 1976 Symington Amendment, which banned any aid to any country with a nuclear program that was not declared and subject to inspection under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Obama, who claims to be a “constitutional lawyer,” surely was aware of that but rewarded Israel anyway.

One can expect nothing from Kamala Harris. Her husband is Jewish and she has made her career in California by sleeping with power brokers and pandering to Israel. She, like Biden, has been a fixture at the AIPAC annual conference. She has already made her mark with the party’s pro-Israel crowd by having a conference call with 1800 Jewish Democratic donors, during which she repeatedly assured them a Biden-Harris Administration will never resort to cutting current levels of aid over any “political decisions that Israel makes,” adding personally “…and I couldn’t agree more.” She promised to demonstrate what she described as “unwavering support” for Israel. She also reminded the donors that Joe Biden had been behind the “largest military aid package” to any country ever when President Obama signed off on the $38 billion package in 2016.

Optimists point to the fact that the Democrats have now elected a number of congressmen who are willing to criticize Israel and they also cite opinion polls that suggest that a majority of registered Democrats want fair treatment for the Palestinians without any major bias in favor of the Jewish state. In spite of a news blackout on stories critical of Israel, there is broad understanding of the fact that the Israelis are serial human rights abusers. But those observations matter little in a situation in which the top of the party, to include those who manage elections and allocate money to promising prospective candidates, identify as strongly and often passionately friends of Israel. That is not an accident and one can assume that major effort has gone into maintaining that level of control.

How exactly this fissure in the Democratic Party will play out after November is anyone’s guess and, of course, if Trump wins there will be an autopsy to find out who to blame. Israel certainly won’t be looked at because no one is allowed to talk about it anyway, but some progressives at least will demand a review of a foreign policy platform that was heavy on intervention and global democracy promotion and light on getting along with adversaries, making it largely indistinguishable from that of the Republicans.

Israel for its part has played its cards carefully. It knows that either Biden or Trump will do whatever it wants, but it has deferred its planned annexation of much of the Palestinian West Bank, which will now take place after the election. It did that knowing that otherwise some liberals in the Democratic Party might try to turn Israel into an issue and split the Jewish community while also alienating Jewish donors and some Jewish voters if the annexation had taken place. After November 3rd, no matter who wins Israel will benefit and will have a free hand to do anything it wishes to the Palestinians. Or perhaps one should say the “remaining Palestinians” until they are all gone.

*(Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) delivers remarks at the 2017 AIPAC Policy Conference. Credit: AIPAC/ YouTube)

*This article was originally published on UNZ Review.

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