If anything was made clear during the Vice Presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence it’s that neither man knows much about the Iranian nuclear program. And neither do the fact-checkers tasked with judging the candidates’ own statements about it.
During the course of 90 excruciating minutes, Tim Kaine accused Iran of “racing toward a nuclear weapon” and repeatedly boasted that his running mate Hillary Clinton was responsible for “stopping” that “nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.” Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s veep pick Mike Pence kept insisting that the Iran deal, signed by six world powers and Iran in July 2015, effectively guaranteed that “Iran will someday become a nuclear power because there’s no limitations once the period of time of the treaty comes off.”
None of these claims is even remotely true.
Obviously, claims put forth by both Kaine and Pence rest on a wholly false presumption: that Iran is/was desperately trying to acquire nuclear weapons and has/had an active “nuclear weapons program” to achieve that goal.
As I have written endlessly:
International intelligence assessments have consistently affirmed that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. What Iran does have, however, is a nuclear energy program with uranium enrichment facilities, all of which are under international safeguards, strictly monitored and routinely inspected by the IAEA. No move to divert nuclear material to military or weaponization purposes has ever been detected. This is consistently affirmed by U.S., British, Russian, and even Israeli intelligence, as well as the IAEA. In fact, the IAEA itself has said there is “no concrete proof” Iran’s nuclear program “has ever had” a military component.
Eventually, due to the distinct and consistent lack of evidence for any nuclear weapons program, the United States echo chamber sidelined accusations of an active militarization program in favor of the round-about, jargon-laden claim that Iran was “intending to obtain the capability” to make nukes, rather than actually trying to make nukes. This, conveniently, put Iran in the position of having to prove a negative, despite being under the strictest IAEA inspection regime in history and providing access to its facilities above and beyond what was required by law.
The rhetorical bait-and-switch was plain for all to see when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admitted in 2012, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.” For good propagandistic measure, however, he added, “But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that’s what concerns us.”
Around the same time, an unnamed U.S. intelligence official told the Washington Post that no decision had even been made in Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, explaining, “Our belief is that they are reserving judgment on whether to continue with key steps they haven’t taken regarding nuclear weapons.”
Early the following year, Panetta begrudgingly reaffirmed this assessment on Meet The Press. “What I’ve said, and I will say today,” Panetta told Chuck Todd, “is that the intelligence we have is they have not made the decision to proceed with the development of a nuclear weapon. They’re developing and enriching uranium. They continue to do that.” He added, “I think– I think the– it’s a clear indication they say they’re doing it in order to develop their own energy source.” The NPT guarantees signatory states the right to enrich uranium for nuclear energy production. There is nothing illegal or sinister about this and Iran has operated its enrichment program openly and under IAEA safeguards.
Panetta, in response to Todd’s repeated goading, eventually disputed the entire premise so often repeated by politicians and pundits: “I can’t tell you they’re in fact pursuing a weapon because that’s not what intelligence says we– we– we’re– they’re doing right now,” he said.
U.S. intelligence assessments have consistently affirmed this. In 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Congressional committee, “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” This finding has been repeated year in and year out.
Even the final report on outstanding allegations made by the United States and Israeli governments by the IAEA, released last December, was sensationalized to the point of absurdity. At most, the agency found, the “Possible Military Dimensions” of its nuclear energy program or the “Alleged Studies” that Iran had long been accused of conducting turned out to be merely “feasibility and scientific studies”(of nuclear and non-nuclear technology that has proven civilian uses), not active procedures or policies directed at making atomic bombs.
Moreover, and more importantly, this supposed research involved absolutely no diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful uses, and therefore were not violations of either Iran’s commitments under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA or a breach of the NPT itself.
By actually assessing the facts, it is beyond clear that, despite decades of alarmism, hype and hysteria, Iran never violated the NPT, and there has never been any evidence of the existence of an “Iranian nuclear weapons program.”
Beyond this, Tim Kaine’s claims that Hillary Clinton was the driving force behind diplomacy with Iran are absurd. Quite the contrary, the breakthrough for talks – that is, the Obama administration deciding to drop the “zero enrichment” demand that had soured diplomatic efforts since 2005 – occurred despite Clinton’s insistence that Iran be denied their inalienable nuclear rights. This shift in policy was due primarily to the efforts of John Kerry, both as Senate Foreign Relations Chair during Obama’s first term and then as Secretary of State after Clinton left the office.
But Kaine wasn’t alone in his mistakes. Even fact-checkers didn’t get their facts straight.
For instance, in response to Kaine’s claim that Clinton “worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot,” PBS National Security Correspondent Mary Louise Kelly wrote this:
The deal slowed but does not eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium enriched uranium, to dramatically cut its stockpile of low enriched uranium, and to allow international inspectors to visit nuclear facilities — in exchange for relief from sanctions.
Again, Iran didn’t have a nuclear weapons program for anyone to eliminate. Furthermore, there is no such thing as “medium enriched uranium,” according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. There’s only low and high – Iran has never, ever, enriched uranium close to weapons-grade levels. Also misleading is Kelly’s assertion that the deal allowed “international inspectors to visit nuclear facilities,” considering that IAEA inspectors already had access to Iran’s nuclear infrastructure long before the deal was struck.
Other fact-checkers – from ABC to the New York Times – were similarly wrong on the facts, as noted by longtime Iran watcher Ali Gharib:
Hillary Clinton didn’t help to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program because the talks weren’t about eliminating Iran’s nuclear weapons program because Iran didn’t have a nuclear weapons program at that time to eliminate. Kaine, therefore, did exaggerate Clinton’s role: he credited her with participating in talks that didn’t actually do what he said they did.
Pence’s insistence that the Iran deal failed at its primary mission was also wholly false. “The goal was always that we would only lift the sanctions if Iran permanently renounced their nuclear [ambitions],” said Pence, adding, “They have not renounced their nuclear ambitions. When the deal’s period runs out, there is no limitation on them obtaining weapons.”
Everything about this is wrong. Iran has publicly, repeatedly and consistently renounced any and all interest in acquiring nuclear weapons on legal, strategic and moral grounds for literally decades. Therefore, the phrase “their nuclear ambitions,” which Pence uses as a dog whistle for “pursuit of nuclear weapons,” doesn’t mean what Pence thinks it does.
As Gharib has also pointed out, Iran’s commitment not to obtain nukes goes well beyond the stipulations of the Iran deal. Even after the terms expire (and some of the most important ones never do), “having a nuclear weapons program will still be prohibited not only by Iran’s signature to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but also by express promises the country made as part of the nuclear deal itself. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran deal’s formal name) says, ‘Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.’ It’s plain as day, right there in the first paragraph. And there’s no sunset clause on that pledge; it stays in force forever.”
The facts are plain, and are essential when discussing issues like this. But when it comes to Iran and American politics, there is no depth to which the propaganda won’t sink, with fact-checkers being dragged down with it.
Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy is part of a coalition with all of the companies and organizations that are signatories to this letter.
August 23, 2016
Mr. Daniel H. Schulman
President and CEO
2211 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95131
Dear Mr. Schulman,
We are writing to urge you to extend PayPal’s services to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza thereby removing a major limitation on the Palestinian technology sector, one of the only bright spots in the overall economy. More importantly, extending PayPal services would resolve the current discriminatory situation whereby PayPal’s payment portal can be accessed freely by Israeli settlers living illegally (per international humanitarian law) in the West Bank while it remains unavailable to the occupied Palestinian population.
PayPal’s absence is a major obstacle to the growth of Palestine’s tech sector and the overall economy. While other payment portals are available, there is no replacement for the trust and familiarity that PayPal inspires among potential users, particularly those that are unfamiliar with Palestine-based companies. Without access to PayPal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments for business and charitable purposes. Moreover, PayPal’s absence is problematic for the overall Palestinian economy as tech is one of the only sectors with the potential to grow under status quo conditions of the Israeli occupation which severely restricts the internal and cross-border movement of goods and people. Indeed, by entering the Palestinian market, PayPal has the opportunity to make a significant contribution toward alleviating the destabilizing unemployment rates of over 25% in the West Bank and 40% in Gaza.
We have been told that PayPal is concerned about the compliance investments required to enter the Palestinian market. We believe such costs have been greatly overestimated. The U.S. Treasury Department has spent a great deal of time working with the Palestine Monetary Authority to strengthen safeguards against abuse. PayPal currently operates in over 203 countries including places with major problems of corruption and terrorism like Somalia and Yemen. We are confident that Palestine will prove a much easier place to profitably do business than these and other markets that PayPal has already entered.
In addition to business reasons, there are also ethical reasons for PayPal to enter the Palestinian market. PayPal’s decision to launch its service in Israel for Israeli bank customers means that it inadvertently made its services freely available to Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians living in close proximity to those settlers do not, however, have access as PayPal doesn’t work with Palestinian banks and Palestinians are unable to establish Israeli bank accounts. We believe a company like PayPal, whose actions in North Carolina reaffirmed its commitment to equal rights, would agree that people living in the same neighborhood ought to have equal rights and access to its services regardless of religion or ethnicity.
We understand that entering a new market can be complex and would be more than happy to work with you, the Palestinian Monetary Authority, and any other necessary officials to pave the way for PayPal’s entry to the Palestinian market.
We very much look forward to hearing from you and working with you to ensure that Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others are free to participate in global commerce. Our point of contact in this matter is Ehsaneh Sadr, 408-306-2559, email@example.com.
Gaza Sky Geeks
Partners for Sustainable Development
Applied Information Management (AIM)
National Beverage Company
Palestine Tourism and Investment Company
Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy
Bethlehem Business Incubator
Advanced Technologies for Business
Al Nasher Technical Services
Baskalet game studio
Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC)
Siniora Food Industries Company (Siniora)
Unipal General Trading Company (Unipal)
Medical Supplies and Services Company (MSS)
National Aluminum and Profiles Company (NAPCO)
Arab Palestinian Shopping Centers (BRAVO)
Palestine Automobile Company (PAC)
Sky Advertising, Public Relations, and Events Management Company (Sky)
Arab Leasing Company (ALC)
Arab Palestinian Storage and Cooling Company (APSC)
Content Tech Inc.
BETHLEHEM – The Hamas movement called a visit by an International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel this weekend “pointless and useless” on Monday, after the delegation declined to include the Gaza Strip in their visit.
“It is regrettable that the ICC delegation yielded to the demands of the Israeli occupation to exclude the Gaza Strip from the delegation’s schedule, despite the fact that the Gaza Strip was the main site of Israeli crimes in 2014,” a statement released on the movement’s website said.
Various human rights groups have charged Israel with international war crimes and submitted several cases to the ICC related to Israel’s devastating 51-day assault on the Gaza Strip in 2014 that culminated in the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians. Meanwhile, critics have questioned the ICC’s ability to bring justice on issues related to Palestine in the face of Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the court, and have even faulted the ICC itself with playing a key role in the slow process of holding Israel accountable.
“As a result, Hamas considers the delegation’s visit pointless and useless. The visit has caused more pain and suffering for the families of victims who counted on the ICC to bring justice to them and bring the Israeli killers before the court.”
The fierce condemnation by Hamas, the de facto rulers of the blockaded Gaza Strip, came as the Palestinian Authority (PA)-governed occupied West Bank welcomed the delegation of the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to the city of Ramallah on Saturday.
They were scheduled to meet with the committee that is charged with following up on ICC investigations, the state-run television network Palestine TV, and a Palestinian newspaper, according to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). On Sunday, the delegation will travel to the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank to attend an academic meeting at Bethlehem University. Meanwhile, the OTP also plans to visit Israel.
“The State of Palestine had officially requested the OTP visit Gaza, though it was declined. We hope that on their next visit the ICC delegation will visit other areas of the Occupied State of Palestine, including Hebron and the Jordan Valley,” the PLO’s ICC Higher National Committee said Friday.
The ICC’s decision to skip visiting the besieged Gaza Strip comes after the small Palestinian territory was was bombarded by a wave of Israeli airstrikes in recent days, and after Israel imprisoned activists aboard an all-female flotilla that attempted to reach Gaza this past week.
The flotilla was the fourth of its kind since 2010, when the first Freedom Flotilla was brutally attacked by Israeli naval forces, who killed ten Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara ship.
No Israelis were ever charged for the killings on the Mavi Marmara, despite a case being filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging Israeli officials with war crimes.
Meanwhile in August, the Israeli military closed 13 criminal investigations into cases of Israeli soldiers committing violations against Palestinian civilians during the 2014 Gaza war, without imposing any punitive measures, while some 80 incidents were closed without opening a criminal investigation.
The 51-day Israeli offensive, termed “Operation Protective Edge” by Israeli authorities, resulted in the killings of 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of whom were children, according to the United Nations.
According to a UN report, there were incidents in which hundreds of Gazans were killed at the same time, many belonging to the same family, when Israeli air forces bombed residential buildings — credible allegations that the incidents amounted to war crimes. … Full article
After a visit to Hebron in 1996, the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said wrote, “The present situation cannot last, there are too many inequities and injustices at the heart of Palestinian life.” Two decades on, there is no end in sight to the wretched conditions he deplored back then. On the contrary, they have grown worse.
Not even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s controversial decision to attend the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres was enough to bring about a token suspension of the daily torment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Immediately after his return to Ramallah, Israel declared Tel Rumeida, a neighbourhood in the Governorate of Hebron, to be a closed military area.
As is always the case when such closures are imposed, Palestinian students and residents who attempted to attend classes or go about their daily affairs were told to return to their homes until the 600 illegal Jewish settlers living in Hebron had observed their religious festivities. These celebrations are expected to last several days and so the ancient Ibrahimi Mosque was also closed to Muslim worshippers for six days.
Like their Muslim compatriots who are routinely denied access to their mosques, Christian Palestinians in Bethlehem and Jerusalem must also have permits to worship in their churches from which they are separated by the eight-metre high “security” wall. Before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Christians made up 18 per cent of Palestine’s population. Today, they account for less than 1.5 per cent. For reasons of political correctness, western politicians and church leaders have turned a blind eye to the real causes of this exodus; they have chosen instead to look for a scapegoat in alleged “persecution by Muslims”. That is palpable nonsense and plays into Israel’s nefarious hands.
In Hebron, life is far from normal for its 200,000 Palestinian inhabitants at the best of times. Every aspect of their lives is overshadowed by the activities of the settlers who now live illegally among them, with full military protection courtesy of the Israel Defence Forces. Palestinians must contend with the hideous road blocks and military checkpoints that swamp the old city and its environs. Recent reports confirm that more than 1,000 residential apartments have been vacated because of the harassment affecting the local Palestinian population. This was entirely predictable; Israel’s closure of more than 800 commercial businesses was meant to do exactly that — make life so intolerable for the locals that they will leave “of their own accord”. In Zionist terminology this is known rather sinisterly as “silent transfer.”
Elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, the system of inequity and injustice described by Edward Said is no less punitive. The predominantly farming community in Qalqiliya has been virtually encircled by Israel’s apartheid wall, with farmers separated from their land. More than 170,000 men, women and children are similarly locked in by the wall in Bethlehem. Former US President Jimmy Carter found it appalling that they had to obtain “permanent resident” permits from the occupation authorities in order to continue living in their own homes.
It does not take much to recognise the similarities between the Israeli permit system and the hated South African Pass Laws. Just as it was illegal for black Africans to enter designated “white areas” in South Africa so too is it illegal for Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip to visit Jerusalem, for example, without military permission. At present, the general rule is that only those aged 45 years or over are considered for a permit. While there are, of course, subtle differences, the South African jurist John Dugard has pointed out that the common features between South African apartheid and Israel’s version are discrimination, repression and territorial fragmentation.
Under these repressive and degrading conditions it was only a matter of time before a third intifada erupted in the occupied territories. Israel’s determination to seize Palestinian land for its settlements; its closure and desecration of religious sites; and its extrajudicial killings have all provided the combustible mix that has fuelled the intifada for the past year. The sheer number of settlers (more than half-a-million) and military checkpoints scattered across the West Bank (more than 500) also make the conditions ripe for anger and disaffection to fester.
Throughout their long struggle against Zionist colonisation, Palestinians have staged several uprisings. Once in motion these have never been easy to suppress. Being the weaker of the two parties militarily and politically, the Palestinians have on every occasion suffered untold human and material losses. Yet, for every successive generation, it has been considered to be a price worth paying for their freedom from Israel’s brutal military occupation.
The nature and course of the uprisings have always been unpredictable. This is especially the case today since there is no single political faction that has emerged clearly to lead or coordinate events on the ground. In the absence of any serious political initiative, and given Israel’s determination to maintain its occupation and dominance over the Palestinians, it is only reasonable to expect the current intifada to continue well into the future. In this regard, Edward Said was right: there will be no end to Palestinian efforts to end the prevailing system of inequity and injustice of a kind which only happens in occupied Palestine.
The United States has called for trying Russia for committing war crimes in Syria. Secretary of state John Kerry said in Washington on Friday, “Russia and the (Syrian) regime owe the world more than an explanation… These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes. And those who commit these would and should be held accountable… We also need to keep the pressure up on Russia with respect to the implementation of the Minsk agreement (on Ukraine). And we… make it clear publicly that if we cannot implement Minsk in the next months or arrive at a clear plan as to exactly how it is going to be implemented… then it will be absolutely necessary to roll over the sanctions (against Russia).”
To be sure, the sub-zero temperature in US-Russia relations has dipped by another ten degrees centigrade. Even in the height of Cold War, when the former Soviet Union used to be an ‘evil empire’, Washington had never sought that the Kremlin officials should be tried for war crimes. Nor had the Soviet Union.
Even after killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, Libyan and Afghan civilians and the wanton destruction of those countries in the past decade or so, and even though the US is actively taking part in the war in Yemen, Moscow never demanded that George W. Bush or Barack Obama – or even Hillary Clinton – should be tried as war criminals.
What has come over Kerry? He sounds a frustrated man who’s lost his cool. He realizes that his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov outwitted him, whereas he’d thought he’s clever by half.
The US hoped to somehow preserve the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra in order to spearhead one more final push for ‘regime change’ in Syria – if not under the Obama presidency, at least under the next president. Indeed, Lavrov saw through Kerry’s ploy – ultimately, Kerry, a clever politician with some experience in diplomacy, couldn’t be a match for the immensely experienced career diplomat and intellectual in Lavrov. So, Lavrov played along with a poker face and entrapped ‘John’ in a peace agreement that Pentagon would never approve, which actually aimed at making mincemeat out of Nusra.
On the other hand, Kerry feels frustrated that President Barack Obama was not willing to open a parallel track of military intervention in Syria, which, he thought, would have given a much-needed swagger to his diplomatic track. Kerry belongs to the old school of power brokers in Washington, who subscribe to the notion that the Marines lead the way for diplomats. (He was a Marine himself once.)
But Kerry did not realise that the ground beneath the American feet had shifted in the Middle East. The US’ relations with Turkey as well as Saudi Arabia, the two key regional powers who fuelled Syrian conflict, are today embittered to the point that Washington is playing solo in the amphitheatre although the orchestra has walked out on the conductor. (Sabah )
What intrigues me is why Kerry wants only the Russian and Syrian leaders to be tried for war crimes. Why not Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as well, who commands the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps? But then, Kerry cannot utter that four-letter word – Iran – because the engagement with that country is supposed to be the finest legacy of Obama presidency. Yet, had it not been for the IRGC, which sacrificed so heavily in blood and treasure, the Syrian government could never have gained the upper hand in the fighting. (Times of Israel )
The third fascinating aspect of Kerry’s apocalyptic remark is that he seems to suggest that the US still intends to win the war in Syria. After all, it is a consistent trait of history that the winner dispatches the defeated to the war crimes tribunal – be it Slobodan Milosevic or Saddam Hussein.
Put differently, does Kerry mean that the US intends to defeat Russia in a war? Is it his prognosis that World War III is round the corner? Doesn’t he comprehend that the total annihilation of his own country in a nuclear showdown with Russia would make all this talk about war crimes irrelevant?
Kerry must be feeling frustrated that the Nobel went to the Columbian president! What a way to end a distinguished career in politics and diplomacy when there is no grand recognition for the good work done! Kerry leaves the stage of international diplomacy an embittered man.
Lavrov is unlikely to respond. What can he say, after all? Kerry overreached to reverse the tide of history and the result was fairly predictable. No matter his valiant attempts, he couldn’t erase the geopolitical reality that the US is a power in retreat. Not only in the Middle East, but also in Asia-Pacific.
The sight of a superpower walking into the sunset is never a pleasant sight. It was the case with Rome, Byzantines, Spain, Portugal, France, Britain. Look at the latest tiding from the South China Sea. (Wall Street Journal )
The struggles of the middle class are something Hillary Clinton once admitted in a paid speech she is “far removed” from, thanks to the “fortunes” she and her husband “enjoy,” a WikiLeaks-posted email shows. She also admitted she “did all she could” for Wall Street to prosper.
These are just two excerpts from the numerous paid speeches Clinton gave to Wall Street giants behind closed doors between 2013 and 2015.
“I’m kind of far removed because the life I’ve lived and the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy,” Clinton told members of Goldman-Black Rock in February 2014. “I am not taking a position on any policy, but I do think there is a growing sense of anxiety and even anger in the country over the feeling that the game is rigged.”
Her remarks would never have seen the light of day, but an email found among over 2,000 “Podesta emails” has now shone a spotlight on what Clinton was telling Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and others in between her job as Secretary of State and the current presidential campaign.
“Team, attached are the flags from HRC’s paid speeches we have from HWA. I put some highlights below. There is a lot of policy positions that we should give an extra scrub with policy,” Tony Carrk, the research director of the Clinton campaign, wrote in the email to John Podesta, the campaign chairman, and others on January 25, 2016.
“HWA” stands for Harry Walker Agency, which calls itself “an exclusive speakers bureau” that has been representing Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill “for over a decade.”
The agency also arranged Hillary Clinton’s speeches, which earned $675,000 from three events at Goldman Sachs and reportedly $3 million for speaking at banks and financial firms.
Carrk “flagged” some 25 excerpts that he titled, presumably highlighting the parts the campaign had to take care of: “CLINTON ADMITS SHE IS OUT OF TOUCH,” “CLINTON SAYS YOU NEED TO HAVE A PRIVATE AND PUBLIC POSITION ON POLICY,” and “CLINTON ADMITS NEEDING WALL STREET FUNDING” to name a few.
Clinton’s links to Wall Street is something that she and her team have been trying to downplay since the start of her presidential campaign in April 2015.
However, excerpts from her speeches, most of which she gave in front of Goldman Sachs people, show the scale of her “cozy relationships” with Wall Street.
“When I was a senator from New York, I represented and worked with so many talented principled people who made their living in finance,” Hillary Clinton said in a speech at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd in San Diego in September 2014. “But even though I represented them and did all I could to make sure they continued to prosper, I called for closing the carried interest loophole and addressing skyrocketing CEO pay.”
Prior to that, in 2013, Clinton was telling Goldman Sachs that running for office has its downsides, such as for example “bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives.”
“You know, the divestment of assets, the stripping of all kinds of positions, the sale of stocks. It just becomes very onerous and unnecessary,” she said, adding that is “part of the problem with the political situation.”
In 2014 speeches, Hillary Clinton expressed her pro-Keystone pipeline views, the opinion she appeared to have changed just recently.
Clinton has been known to have to changed her mind on big issues in recent years. However, in 2013 she told a housing trade group that she has “a public and a private position.”
“If everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least,” she said. “So, you need both a public and a private position.”
In her other speeches, which also surfaced from the recent WikiLeaks dump, Clinton discussed countries such as Saudi Arabia, which she said “exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth” and Libya, where she said “they can’t provide security.”
She also spoke about the UK and the EU, predicting “some pretty unpredictable leaders and political parties coming to the forefront in a lot of countries.”
Clinton has long been under intense pressure to release transcripts of her paid speeches to corporations.
A poll released in June showed that nearly 60 percent of surveyed voters wanted transcripts of her speeches released.
The neoconservative president of the U.S.-taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy [NED] has called for the U.S. government to “summon the will” to engineer the overthrow of Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that the 10-year-old murder case of a Russian journalist should be the inspiration.
Carl Gershman, who has headed NED since its founding in 1983, doesn’t cite any evidence that Putin was responsible for the death of Anna Politkovskaya but uses a full column in The Washington Post on Friday to create that impression, calling her death “a window to Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin autocrat whom Americans are looking at for the first time.”
Gershman wraps up his article by writing: “Politkovskaya saw the danger [of Putin], but she and other liberals in Russia were not strong enough to stop it. The United States has the power to contain and defeat this danger. The issue is whether we can summon the will to do so. Remembering Politkovskaya can help us rise to this challenge.”
That Gershman would so directly call for the ouster of Russia’s clearly popular president represents further proof that NED is a neocon-driven vehicle that seeks to create the political circumstances for “regime change” even when that means removing leaders who are elected by a country’s citizenry.
And there is a reason for NED to see its job in that way. In 1983, NED essentially took over the CIA’s role of influencing electoral outcomes and destabilizing governments that got in the way of U.S. interests, except that NED carried out those functions in a quasi-overt fashion while the CIA did them covertly.
NED also serves as a sort of slush fund for neocons and other favored U.S. foreign policy operatives because a substantial portion of NED’s money circulates through U.S.-based non-governmental organizations or NGOs.
That makes Gershman an influential neocon paymaster whose organization dispenses some $100 million a year in U.S. taxpayers’ money to activists, journalists and NGOs both in Washington and around the world. The money helps them undermine governments in Washington’s disfavor – or as Gershman would prefer to say, “build democratic institutions,” even when that requires overthrowing democratically elected leaders.
NED was a lead actor in the Feb. 22, 2014 coup ousting Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych in a U.S.-backed putsch that touched off the civil war inside Ukraine between Ukrainian nationalists from the west and ethnic Russians from the east. The Ukraine crisis has become a flashpoint for the dangerous New Cold War between the U.S. and Russia.
Before the anti-Yanukovych coup, NED was funding scores of projects inside Ukraine, which Gershman had identified as “the biggest prize” in a Sept. 26, 2013 column also published in The Washington Post.
In that column, Gershman wrote that after the West claimed Ukraine, “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” In other words, Gershman already saw Ukraine as an important step toward an even bigger prize, a “regime change” in Moscow.
Less than five months after Gershman’s column, pro-Western political activists and neo-Nazi street fighters – with strong support from U.S. neocons and the State Department – staged a coup in Kiev driving Yanukovych from office and installing a rabidly anti-Russian regime, which the West promptly dubbed “legitimate.”
In reaction to the coup and the ensuing violence against ethnic Russians, the voters of Crimea approved a referendum with 96 percent of the vote to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a move that the West’s governments and media decried as a Russian “invasion” and “annexation.”
The new regime in Kiev then mounted what it called an “Anti-Terrorism Operation” or ATO against ethnic Russians in the east who had supported Yanukovych and refused to accept the anti-constitutional coup in Kiev as legitimate.
The ATO, spearheaded by neo-Nazis from the Azov battalion and other extremists, killed thousands of ethnic Russians, prompting Moscow to covertly provide some assistance to the rebels, a move denounced by the West as “aggression.”
In his latest column, Gershman not only urges the United States to muster the courage to oust Putin but he shows off the kind of clever sophistry that America’s neocons are known for. Though lacking any evidence, he intimates that Putin ordered the murder of Politkovskaya and pretty much every other “liberal” who has died in Russia.
It is a technique that I’ve seen used in other circumstances, such as the lists of “mysterious deaths” that American right-wingers publish citing people who crossed the paths of Bill and Hillary Clinton and ended up dead. This type of smear spreads suspicion of guilt not based on proof but on the number of acquaintances and adversaries who have met untimely deaths.
In the 1990s, one conservative friend of mine pointed to the Clintons’ “mysterious deaths” list and marveled that even if only a few were the victims of a Clinton death squad that would be quite a story, to which I replied that if even one were murdered by the Clintons that would be quite a story – but that there was no proof of any such thing.
“Mysterious deaths” lists represent a type of creepy conspiracy theory that shifts the evidentiary burden onto the targets of the smears who must somehow prove their innocence, when there is no evidence of their guilt (only vague suspicions). It is contemptible when applied to American leaders and it is contemptible when applied to Russian leaders, but it is not beneath Carl Gershman.
Beyond that, Gershman’s public musing about the U.S. somehow summoning “the will” to remove Putin might — in a normal world — disqualify NED and its founding president from the privilege of dispensing U.S. taxpayers’ money to operatives in Washington and globally. It is extraordinarily provocative and dangerous, an example of classic neocon hubris.
While the neocons do love their tough talk, they are not known for thinking through their “regime change” schemes. The idea of destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia with the goal of ousting Putin, with his 82 percent approval ratings, must rank as the nuttiest and most reckless neocon scheme of all.
Gershman and his neocon pals may fantasize about making Russia’s economy scream while financing pro-Western “liberals” who would stage disruptive protests in Red Square, but he and his friends haven’t weighed the consequences even if they could succeed.
Given the devastating experience that most Russians had when NED’s beloved Russian “liberals” helped impose American “shock therapy” in the 1990s — an experiment that reduced average life expectancy by a full decade — it’s hard to believe that the Russian people would simply take another dose of that bitter medicine sitting down.
Even if the calculating Putin were somehow removed amid economic desperation, he is far more likely to be followed by a much harder-line Russian nationalist who might well see Moscow’s arsenal of nuclear weapons as the only way to protect Mother Russia’s honor. In other words, the neocons’ latest brash “regime change” scheme might be their last – and the last for all humanity.
A Neocon Slush Fund
Gershman’s arrogance also raises questions about why the American taxpayer should tolerate what amounts to a $100 million neocon slush fund which is used to create dangerous mischief around the world. Despite having “democracy” in its name, NED appears only to favor democratic outcomes when they fit with Official Washington’s desires.
If a disliked candidate wins an election, NED acts as if that is prima facie evidence that the system is undemocratic and must be replaced with a process that ensures the selection of candidates who will do what the U.S. government tells them to do. Put differently, NED’s name is itself a fraud.
But that shouldn’t come as a surprise since NED was created in 1983 at the urging of Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director William J. Casey, who wanted to off-load some of the CIA’s traditional work ensuring that foreign elections turned out in ways acceptable to Washington, and when they didn’t – as in Iran under Mossadegh, in Guatemala under Arbenz or in Chile under Allende – the CIA’s job was to undermine and remove the offending electoral winner.
In 1983, Casey and the CIA’s top propagandist, Walter Raymond Jr., who had been moved to Reagan’s National Security Council staff, wanted to create a funding mechanism to support outside groups, such as Freedom House and other NGOs, so they could engage in propaganda and political action that the CIA had historically organized and paid for covertly. The idea emerged for a congressionally funded entity that would serve as a conduit for this money.
In one undated letter to then-White House counselor Edwin Meese III, Casey urged creation of a “National Endowment,” but he recognized the need to hide the strings being pulled by the CIA. “Obviously we here [at CIA] should not get out front in the development of such an organization, nor should we appear to be a sponsor or advocate,” Casey wrote.
The National Endowment for Democracy took shape in late 1983 as Congress decided to also set aside pots of money — within NED — for the Republican and Democratic parties and for organized labor, creating enough bipartisan largesse that passage was assured.
But some in Congress thought it was important to wall the NED off from any association with the CIA, so a provision was included to bar the participation of any current or former CIA official, according to one congressional aide who helped write the legislation.
This aide told me that one night late in the 1983 session, as the bill was about to go to the House floor, the CIA’s congressional liaison came pounding at the door to the office of Rep. Dante Fascell, a senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a chief sponsor of the bill.
The frantic CIA official conveyed a single message from CIA Director Casey: the language barring the participation of CIA personnel must be struck from the bill, the aide recalled, noting that Fascell consented to the demand, not fully recognizing its significance – that it would permit the continued behind-the-scenes involvement of Raymond and Casey.
The aide said Fascell also consented to the Reagan administration’s choice of Carl Gershman to head NED, again not recognizing how this decision would affect the future of the new entity and American foreign policy.
Gershman, who had followed the classic neoconservative path from youthful socialism to fierce anticommunism, became NED’s first (and, to this day, only) president. Though NED is technically independent of U.S. foreign policy, Gershman in the early years coordinated decisions on grants with Raymond at the NSC.
For instance, on Jan. 2, 1985, Raymond wrote to two NSC Asian experts that “Carl Gershman has called concerning a possible grant to the Chinese Alliance for Democracy (CAD). I am concerned about the political dimension to this request. We should not find ourselves in a position where we have to respond to pressure, but this request poses a real problem to Carl.
“Senator [Orrin] Hatch, as you know, is a member of the board. Secondly, NED has already given a major grant for a related Chinese program.”
Neocon Tag Teams
From the start, NED became a major benefactor for Freedom House, beginning with a $200,000 grant in 1984 to build “a network of democratic opinion-makers.” In NED’s first four years, from 1984 and 1988, it lavished $2.6 million on Freedom House, accounting for more than one-third of its total income, according to a study by the liberal Council on Hemispheric Affairs that was entitled “Freedom House: Portrait of a Pass-Through.”
Over the ensuing three decades, Freedom House has become almost an NED subsidiary, often joining NED in holding policy conferences and issuing position papers, both organizations pushing primarily a neoconservative agenda, challenging countries deemed insufficiently “free,” including Syria, Ukraine (in 2014) and Russia.
Indeed, NED and Freedom House often work as a kind of tag-team with NED financing “non-governmental organizations” inside targeted countries and Freedom House berating those governments if they crack down on U.S.-funded NGOs.
For instance, on Nov. 16, 2012, NED and Freedom House joined together to denounce legislation passed by the Russian parliament that required recipients of foreign political money to register with the government.
Or, as NED and Freedom House framed the issue: the Russian Duma sought to “restrict human rights and the activities of civil society organizations and their ability to receive support from abroad. Changes to Russia’s NGO legislation will soon require civil society organizations receiving foreign funds to choose between registering as ‘foreign agents’ or facing significant financial penalties and potential criminal charges.”
Of course, the United States has a nearly identical Foreign Agent Registration Act that likewise requires entities that receive foreign funding and seek to influence U.S. government policy to register with the Justice Department or face possible fines or imprisonment.
But the Russian law would impede NED’s efforts to destabilize the Russian government through funding of political activists, journalists and civic organizations, so it was denounced as an infringement of human rights and helped justify Freedom House’s rating of Russia as “not free.”
Another bash-Putin tag team has been The Washington Post’s editors and NED’s Gershman. On July 28, 2015, a Post editorial and a companion column by Gershman led readers to believe that Putin was paranoid and “power mad” in worrying that outside money funneled into NGOs threatened Russian sovereignty.
The Post and Gershman were especially outraged that the Russians had enacted the law requiring NGOs financed from abroad and seeking to influence Russian policies to register as “foreign agents” and that one of the first funding operations to fall prey to these tightened rules was Gershman’s NED.
The Post’s editors wrote that Putin’s “latest move … is to declare the NED an ‘undesirable’ organization under the terms of a law that Mr. Putin signed in May . The law bans groups from abroad who are deemed a ‘threat to the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation, its defense capabilities and its national security.’
“The charge against the NED is patently ridiculous. The NED’s grantees in Russia last year ran the gamut of civil society. They advocated transparency in public affairs, fought corruption and promoted human rights, freedom of information and freedom of association, among other things. All these activities make for a healthy democracy but are seen as threatening from the Kremlin’s ramparts.
“The new law on ‘undesirables’ comes in addition to one signed in 2012 that gave authorities the power to declare organizations ‘foreign agents’ if they engaged in any kind of politics and receive money from abroad. The designation, from the Stalin era, implies espionage.”
However, among the relevant points that the Post’s editors wouldn’t tell their readers was the fact that Russia’s Foreign Agent Registration Act was modeled after the American Foreign Agent Registration Act and that NED President Gershman had already publicly made clear — in his Sept. 26, 2013 column — that his goal was to oust Russia’s elected president.
In his July 28, 2015 column, Gershman further deemed Putin’s government illegitimate. “Russia’s newest anti-NGO law, under which the National Endowment for Democracy … was declared an “undesirable organization” prohibited from operating in Russia, is the latest evidence that the regime of President Vladimir Putin faces a worsening crisis of political legitimacy,” Gershman wrote, adding:
“This is the context in which Russia has passed the law prohibiting Russian democrats from getting any international assistance to promote freedom of expression, the rule of law and a democratic political system. Significantly, democrats have not backed down. They have not been deterred by the criminal penalties contained in the ‘foreign agents’ law and other repressive laws. They know that these laws contradict international law, which allows for such aid, and that the laws are meant to block a better future for Russia.”
The reference to how a “foreign agents” registration law conflicts with international law might have been a good place for Gershman to explain why what is good for the goose in the United States isn’t good for the gander in Russia. But hypocrisy is a hard thing to rationalize and would have undermined the propagandistic impact of the column.
Also undercutting the column’s impact would be an acknowledgement of where NED’s money comes from. So Gershman left that out, too. After all, how many governments would allow a hostile foreign power to sponsor politicians and civic organizations whose mission is to undermine and overthrow the existing government and put in someone who would be compliant to that foreign power?
And, if you had any doubts about what Gershman’s intent was regarding Russia, he dispelled them in his Friday column in which he calls on the United States to “summon the will” to “contain and defeat this danger,” which he makes clear is the continued rule of Vladimir Putin.
Palestinian associations in 1948 Palestine were closed by Israeli police and Shin Bet agents on Thursday, 6 October in a series of raids in Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm. The associations allegedly are linked to the northern Islamic movement, the Palestinian religious and political organization banned nearly a year ago by Israeli officials. The leader of the Islamic Movement is Raed Salah, currently imprisoned and well-known for his advocacy in defense of Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as his participation in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza.
Palestinian organizations across political lines condemned both the banning of the Islamic Movement and the raids on the community organizations and media institutions. The four Palestinian entities forcibly shuttered on Thursday were the Higher Commission to Support Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, Q Press in Umm al-Fahm, the Midad Psychometry Institute and Al-Medina newspaper.
The Higher Arab Follow-Up Committee labeled the attacks “a new sign of a systematic scheme to suppress the rights of the Arab community, a repression that applies to all walks of life… We renew our rejection of the decision to ban the activities of the Islamic Movement, and at the same time warn of the danger of the use of the Islamic Movement’s activities as a new pretext to suppress even more freedoms and silence the voice of the Arab people, who are fighting against the Israeli racist policies targeting our presence on our ancestral land.”
The Al-Alam media association denounced the closures and raids on Al-Medina, Q Press and other institutions and the confiscation of their computers, linking the raids to an ongoing escalation against Palestinian organizing in 1948 Palestine, among Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, in particular the campaign of arrests and harassment targeting the National Democratic Assembly (Tajammu’/Balad party).
The Freedoms Commission of the Higher Follow-Up Committee said that “these three institutions, added to the 23 already prohibited, are independent institutions that provide a variety of services for our people… How can an institution like the Midad Psychometry Institute to qualify students for exams, which tutors thousands of secondary school students, contribute to conflicts over Al-Aqsa Mosque? How can the fact that 69 students of the Midad Institute were admitted this year to study medicine in Israeli universities be a cause of conflict over the Al-Aqsa Mosque?” The statement noted the ongoing attacks on the National Democratic Assembly and the investigations targeting Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka, as well as the 104th demolition of the village of Al-Araqib and the displacement of its people on the same morning of 6 October as reflections of one policy. “This government has declared outright war on the Palestinian people inside, taking advantages of the wars in the region to implement its plans against our people in our homeland, and the Palestinian people in general,” said the statement.
The suppression of Palestinian political activity among the Palestinians of ’48 (who hold Israeli citizenship, and constitute 20% of the population of the Israeli state) is nothing new; in the first 20 years of occupation, from 1948 to 1966, Palestinian citizens lived under martial law which in many ways served as the precursor to the present-day scheme in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Since that time, the banning and violent suppression of Palestinian political activities, as well as the targeting of Palestinian political leaders for arrest and imprisonment, has not ceased. From the Al-Ard movement prohibited in the 1950s, to the Land Day protests against land confiscation met by Israeli fire, to the killing of Palestinians at the launch of the second Intifada – not to mention the imprisonment of prominent Palestinians like Salah, Said Naffaa, Ameer Makhoul and others, and the targeting of cultural workers like Dareen Tatour, the Israeli state has been firmly committed to the suppression of Palestinian existence and political organizing in 1948 Palestine. These acts of political repression accompany ongoing land confiscation, racism and discrimination, defunding of communities and institutions and over 50 racist laws targeting Palestinian existence on their land.