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Syria’s Survival Is Blow to Jihadists

By Alastair Crooke | Consortium News | September 8, 2107

Syria’s victory in remaining still standing – still on its feet, as it were – amid the ruins of all that has been visited upon her, marks effectively the demise of the Bush Doctrine in the Middle East (of “the New Middle East”). It signals the beginning of the end – not just of the political “regime change” project, but also of the Sunni jihadi project which has been used as the coercive tool for bringing into being a “New Middle East.”

Just as the region has reached a geopolitical inflection point, however, so too, has Sunni Islam. Wahhabi-inspired Islam has taken a major hit. It is now widely discredited amongst Sunnis, and reviled by just about everyone else.

Just to be clear how linked were the two projects:

In the wake of the first Gulf War (1990-91), General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, recalled: “In 1991, [Paul Wolfowitz] was the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy … And I had gone to see him (…)

“And I said, ‘Mr. Secretary, you must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm.’

“And he said: ‘Yeah, but not really, because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, and we didn’t … But one thing we did learn is that we can use our military in the region?—?in the Middle East?—?and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes?—?Syria, Iran, Iraq?—?before the next great superpower comes on, to challenge us.’”

Wolfowitz’s thinking was then taken up more explicitly by David Wurmser in his 1996 document, Coping with Crumbling States (following on from his contribution to the infamous Clean Break policy strategy paper written by Richard Pearle for Bibi Netanyahu earlier in the same year). The aim here for both these seminal documents was to directly counter the allegedly “isolationist” thinking of Pat Buchanan (now arisen again in parts of the U.S. New Right and Alt-Right).

Libertarian writer Daniel Sanchez has noted: “Wurmser characterized regime change in Iraq and Syria (both ruled by Baathist regimes) as ‘expediting the chaotic collapse’ of secular-Arab nationalism in general, and Baathism in particular. He [asserted that] ‘the phenomenon of Baathism,’ was, from the very beginning, ‘an agent of foreign, namely Soviet policy’ … [and therefore advised] the West to put this anachronistic adversary ‘out of its misery’ – and to press America’s Cold War victory on toward its final culmination. Baathism should be supplanted by what he called the ‘Hashemite option.’ After their chaotic collapse, Iraq and Syria would be Hashemite possessions once again. Both would be dominated by the royal house of Jordan, which in turn, happens to be dominated by the US and Israel.”

Influencing Washington

Wurmser’s tract, Coping with Crumbling States, which together with Clean Break was to have a major impact on Washington’s thinking during the George W. Bush administration (in which David Wurmser also served). What aroused the deep-seated neocon ire in respect to the secular-Arab nationalist states was not just that they were, in the neo-con view, crumbling relics of the “evil” USSR, but that from 1953 onwards, Russia sided with these secular-nationalist states in all their conflicts regarding Israel. This was something the neo-cons could neither tolerate, nor forgive.

Both Clean Break and the 1997 Project for a New American Century(PNAC) were exclusively premised on the wider U.S. policy aim of securing Israel. The point here is that while Wurmser stressed that demolishing Baathism must be the foremost priority in the region, he added: “Secular-Arab nationalism should be given no quarter” – not even, he added, “for the sake of stemming the tide of Islamic fundamentalism”. (Emphasis added).

In fact, America had no interest in stemming the tide of Islamic fundamentalism. The U.S. was using it liberally: It had already sent in armed, fired-up Islamist insurgents into Afghanistan in 1979 precisely in order to “induce” a Soviet invasion (one which subsequently duly occurred).

Asked, much later, in view of the terrorism that subsequently occurred, whether he regretted stoking Islamic extremism in this way, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbig Brzezinski replied:

“Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.’”

Fired-up Sunni radicals have now been used by Western states to counter Nasserism, Ba’athism, the USSR, Iranian influence, and latterly to try to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. One former CIA official in 1999, described the thinking at the time thus:

“In the West, the words Islamic fundamentalism conjure up images of bearded men with turbans and women covered in black shrouds. And some Islamist movements do indeed contain reactionary and violent elements. But we should not let stereotypes blind us to the fact that there are also powerful modernizing forces at work within these movements. Political Islam is about change. In this sense, modern Islamist movements may be the main vehicle for bringing about change in the Muslim world and the break-up of the old ‘dinosaur’ regimes.” (Emphasis added).

Protecting the Emirs

Precisely: This was what the Arab Spring was about. The role allocated to Islamist movements was to break up the nationalist-secular Arab world (Wurmser’s “Secular-Arab nationalism should be given no quarter”), but additionally to protect the kings and Emirs of the Gulf, to whom America was obliged to tie itself – as Wurmser explicitly acknowledges – as the direct counter-party in the project of dissolving the nationalist secular Arab world. The kings and emirs of course, feared the socialism that was associated with Arab nationalism (— as did the Neocons).

Dan Sanchez perceptively writes (well before Russia’s intervention into the Middle East), that Robert Kagan and fellow neocon, Bill Kristol, in their 1996 Foreign Affairs article, Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy, sought to inoculate both the conservative movement and U.S. foreign policy against the isolationism of Pat Buchanan:

“The Soviet menace had recently disappeared, and the Cold War along with it. The neocons were terrified that the American public would therefore jump at the chance to lay their imperial burdens down. Kristol and Kagan urged their readers to resist that temptation, and to instead capitalize on America’s new peerless pre-eminence … [that] must become dominance wherever and whenever possible. That way, any future near-peer competitors would be nipped in the bud, and the new ‘unipolar moment’ would last forever … What made this neocon dream seem within reach, was the indifference of post-Soviet Russia.”

And, the year after the Berlin Wall fell, war against Iraq marked the début of the re-making the Middle East: for America to assert uni-polar power globally (through military bases); to destroy Iraq and Iran; to “roll-back Syria” (as Clean Break had advocated) – and to secure Israel.

Russia Is Back

Well, Russia is back in the Middle East – and Russia is no longer “indifferent” to America’s actions – and now “civil war” has erupted in America between those who want to punish Putin for spoiling America’s unipolar moment in the region so thoroughly, and so finally – with Syria – and the other policy orientation, led by Steve Bannon, which advocates precisely the Buchanan-esque U.S. foreign policy which the neocons had so hoped to despoil (… plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose).

It is very plain however, that one thing has changed: Sunni jihadists’ long “run” as the tool of choice for re-making the Middle East is over. The signs are everywhere:

The leaders of the five emerging market BRICS powers have for the first time named militant groups based in Pakistan as a regional security concern and called for their patrons to be held to account:

“We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, (Islamic State) …, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir,” the leaders said in the declaration. (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will need to take note).

Similarly, an article published in an Egyptian newspaper written by Britain’s Middle East minister, Alistair Burt, suggests that London now whole-heartedly supports the Sisi regime in Egypt in its war on the Muslim Brotherhood. Burt attacked the M.B. for links to extremism, while emphasizing that Britain has imposed an outright ban on any contact with the organization since 2013 – adding that “now is the time for everyone who defends the Brotherhood in London or Cairo to put an end to this confusion and ambiguity.” Not surprisingly, Burt’s remarks have been greeted with profound pleasure in Cairo. … Full article

September 8, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

U.N. Enablers of ‘Aggressive War’

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 8, 2017

Many people still want to believe that the United Nations engages in impartial investigations and thus is more trustworthy than, say, self-interested governments, whether Russia or the United States. But trust in U.N. agencies is no longer well placed; whatever independence they may have once had has been broken, a reality relevant to recent “investigations” of Syrian chemical weapons use.

There is also the larger issue of the United Nations’ peculiar silence about one of its primary and original responsibilities, shouldered after the horrors of World War II – to stop wars of aggression, which today include “regime change” wars organized, funded and armed by the United States and other Western powers, such as the Iraq invasion in 2003, the overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011, and a series of proxy wars including the ongoing Syrian conflict.

After World War II, the Nuremberg Tribunals declared that a “war of aggression … is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

That recognition became a guiding principle of the United Nations Charter, which specifically prohibits aggression or even threats of aggression against sovereign states.

The Charter declares in Article One that it is a chief U.N. purpose “to take effective collective measures … for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace.” Article Two, which defines the appropriate behavior of U.N. members, adds that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…”

However, instead of enforcing this fundamental rule, the United Nations has, in effect, caved in to the political and financial pressure brought to bear by the United States and its allies. A similar disregard for international law also pervades the U.S. mainstream media and much of the European and Israeli press as well.

There is an assumption that the United States and its allies have the right to intervene militarily anywhere in the world at anytime solely at their own discretion. Though U.S. diplomats and mainstream journalists still voice outrage when adversaries deviate from international law – such as denunciations of Russia over Ukraine’s civil war – there is silence or support when a U.S. president or, say, an Israeli prime minister orders military strikes inside another country. Then, we hear only justifications for these attacks.

Shielding Israel

For instance, on Friday, The New York Times published an article about Israel conducting a bombing raid inside Syria that reportedly killed two Syrians. The article is notable because it contains not a single reference to international law and Israel’s clear-cut violation of it. Instead, the article amounts to a lengthy rationalization for Israel’s aggression, framing the attacks as Israeli self-defense or, as the Times put it, “an escalation of Israel’s efforts to prevent its enemies from gaining access to sophisticated weapons.”

The article also contains no reference to the fact that Israel maintains a sophisticated nuclear arsenal and is known to possess chemical and biological weapons as well. Implicit in the Times article is that the U.S. and Israel live under one set of rules while countries on the U.S.-Israeli enemies list must abide by another. Not to state the obvious but this is a clear violation of the journalistic principle of objectivity.

But the Times is far from alone in applying endless double standards. Hypocrisy now permeates international agencies, including the United Nations, which instead of pressing for accountability in cases of U.S. or Israeli aggression has become an aider and abettor, issuing one-sided reports that justify further aggression while doing little or nothing to stop U.S.-backed acts of aggression.

For instance, there was no serious demand that U.S. and British leaders who organized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, should face any accountability for committing the “supreme international crime” of an aggressive war. As far as the U.N. is concerned, war-crimes tribunals are for the little guys.

This breakdown in the integrity of the U.N. and related agencies has developed over the past few decades as one U.S. administration after another has exploited U.S. clout as the world’s “unipolar power” to ensure that international bureaucrats conform to U.S. interests. Any U.N. official who deviates from this unwritten rule can expect to have his or her reputation besmirched and career truncated.

So, while harshly critical of alleged abuses by the Syrian military, U.N. officials are notoriously silent when it comes to condemning the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Israel and other countries that have been “covertly” backing anti-government “rebels” who have engaged in grave crimes against humanity in Syria.

The U.S. and its allies have even mounted overt military operations inside Syrian territory, including airstrikes against the Syrian military and its allies, without permission of the internationally recognized government in Damascus. Yet, the U.N. does nothing to curtail or condemn these clear violations of its own Charter.

Breaking the Independence

The reason is that, for much of this century, the U.S. government has worked to bring key agencies, such as the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), under U.S. control and domination.

This drive to neutralize the U.N.’s independence gained powerful momentum after the 9/11 attacks and President George W. Bush’s launching of his “global war on terror.” But this effort continued under President Obama and now under President Trump.

In 2002, after opening the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and effectively waiving the Geneva Convention’s protections for prisoners of war, Bush bristled at criticism from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary C. Robinson.

Soon, Robinson was targeted for removal. Her fierce independence, which also included criticism of Israel, was unacceptable. The Bush administration lobbied hard against her reappointment, leading to her retirement in 2002.

Also, in 2002, the Bush administration engineered the firing of OPCW’s Director General Jose Mauricio Bustani who was viewed as an obstacle to the U.S. plans for invading Iraq.

Bustani, who had been reelected unanimously to the post less than a year earlier, described his removal in a 2013 interview with Marlise Simons of The New York Times, citing how Bush’s emissary, Under-Secretary of State John Bolton, marched into Bustani’s office and announced that he (Bustani) would be fired.

“The story behind [Bustani’s] ouster has been the subject of interpretation and speculation for years, and Mr. Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, has kept a low profile since then,” wrote Simons. “But with the agency [OPCW] thrust into the spotlight with news of the Nobel [Peace] Prize [in October 2013], Mr. Bustani agreed to discuss what he said was the real reason: the Bush administration’s fear that chemical weapons inspections in Iraq would conflict with Washington’s rationale for invading it. Several officials involved in the events, some speaking publicly about them for the first time, confirmed his account.”

The official U.S. explanation for getting rid of Bustani was incompetence, but Bustani and the other diplomats close to the case reported that Bustani’s real offense was drawing Iraq into acceptance of the OPCW’s conventions for eliminating chemical weapons, just as the Bush administration was planning to pin its propaganda campaign for invading Iraq on the country’s alleged secret stockpile of WMD.

Bustani’s ouster gave President Bush a clearer path to the invasion by letting him frighten Americans with the prospect of Iraq sharing its chemical weapons and possibly a nuclear bomb with Al Qaeda terrorists.

Dismissing Iraq’s insistence that it had destroyed its chemical weapons and didn’t have a nuclear weapons project, Bush launched the invasion in March 2003, only for the world to discover later that the Iraqi government was telling the truth.

Compliant Replacements

In comparison to the independent-minded Bustani, the biography of the current OPCW director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, a career Turkish diplomat, suggests that the OPCW could be expected to slant its case against the Syrian government in the current Syrian conflict.

Not only has Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, been a key player in supporting the proxy war to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but Uzumcu also served as Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, which has long sought regime change in Syria and has publicly come out in favor of the anti-government rebels.

Another one-time thorn in the side of the U.S. “unipolar power” was the IAEA when it was under the control of Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, an Egyptian. The IAEA challenged the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq having a nuclear program, when one really didn’t exist.

However, being right is no protection when U.S. officials want to bring an agency into line with U.S. policy and propaganda. So, early in the Obama administration – as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was pushing for a hardline on Iran over its nascent nuclear program – the U.S. government engineered the insertion of a pliable Japanese diplomat, Yukiya Amano, into the IAEA’s top job.

Before his appointment, Amano had portrayed himself as an independent-minded fellow who was resisting U.S.-Israeli propaganda about the Iranian nuclear program. Yet behind the scenes, he was meeting with U.S. and Israeli officials to coordinate on how to serve their interests (even though Israel is an actual rogue nuclear state, not a hypothetical or fictional one).

Amano’s professed doubts about an Iranian nuclear-bomb project, which even the U.S. intelligence community agreed no longer existed, was just a theatrical device to intensify the later impact if he were to declare that Iran indeed was building a secret nuke, thus justifying the desire of Israeli leaders and American neoconservatives to “bomb-bomb-bomb” Iran.

But this U.S. ploy was spoiled by Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning’s leaking of hundreds of thousands of pages of U.S. diplomatic cables. Among them were reports on Amano’s hidden collaboration with U.S. and Israeli officials; his agreement with U.S. emissaries on who to fire and who to retain among IAEA officials; and even Amano’s request for additional U.S. financial contributions.

The U.S. embassy cables revealing the truth about Amano were published by the U.K. Guardian in 2011 (although ignored by The New York Times, The Washington Post and other mainstream U.S. news outlets). Despite the silence of the major U.S. news media, Internet outlets, such as Consortiumnews.com, highlighted the Amano cables, meaning that enough Americans knew the facts not to be fooled again. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’sDid Manning Help Avert War with Iran?”]

A Collective Collapse

So, over the years, there has been a collective collapse of the independence at U.N.-related agencies. An international bureaucrat who gets on the wrong side of the United States or Israel can expect to be fired and humiliated, while those who play ball can be assured of a comfortable life as a “respected” diplomat.

But this reality is little known to most Americans so they are still inclined to be influenced when a “U.N. investigation” reaches some conclusion condemning some country that already is on the receiving end of negative U.S. propaganda.

The New York Times, CNN and other major U.S. news outlets are sure to trumpet these “findings” with great seriousness and respect and to treat any remaining doubters as outside the mainstream. Of course, there’s an entirely different response on the rare occasion when some brave or foolhardy human rights bureaucrat criticizes Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Then, the U.N. finding is just a sign of anti-Israeli bias and should be discounted.

In the far more frequent cases when a U.N. report is in line with U.S. propaganda, American journalists almost never turn a critical eye toward the quality of the evidence or the leaps of logic. We saw that happen this week with a thinly sourced and highly dubious U.N. report blaming the Syrian government for an alleged sarin incident on April 4. A major contradiction in the evidence – testimony given to OPCW investigators undercutting the conclusion that a Syrian warplane could have dropped a sarin bomb – was brushed aside by the U.N. human rights investigators and was ignored by the Times and other major U.S. news outlets.

But what is perhaps most troubling is that these biased U.N. reports are now used to justify continued wars of aggression by stronger countries against weaker ones. So, instead of acting as a bulwark to protect the powerless from the powerful as the U.N. Charter intended, the U.N. bureaucracy has turned the original noble purpose of the institution on its head by becoming an enabler of the “supreme international crime,” wars of aggression.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

September 8, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Illinois governor candidate ditches running mate in Israel boycott row

RT | September 8, 2017

Illinois governor candidate Daniel Bliss has dropped Carlos Ramirez-Rosa as his running mate following Rosa’s alleged support of a Palestinian group calling to boycott Israel.

Rosa’s support for the Palestinian-led ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) movement was the reason he was dropped from the ticket, Biss said in a statement.

BDS calls for companies to stop doing business with Israel over its occupation of Palestinian territories.

The Democratic state senator wrote that Rosa told him he opposed the group prior to being chosen. Rosa’s position on the issue then changed, Biss claimed.

“I strongly support a two-state solution. I support Israel’s right to exist, and I support Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. I also care deeply about justice for Palestinians, and believe that a vision for the Middle East must include political and economic freedom for Palestinians,” Biss wrote, adding “That’s why I oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS, as I believe it moves us further away from a peaceful solution.”

In a Facebook post, Rosa wrote that while he and Biss “both oppose pursuing BDS at the state level, the difference of opinion we have on the role the BDS movement plays at the federal level would make it impossible to continue moving forward as a ticket.”

Rosa did not immediately respond to RT’s request for comment.

Before Biss made his decision to drop Rosa, he lost the endorsement of Democratic Congressman Brad Schneider, who cited Rosa’s “past comments about the United States support of our ally Israel, and his affiliation with a group that is an outspoken supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.”

Schneider was referring to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a political organization, which passed a resolution supporting BDS.

Rosa joined DSA in March.

“I said, if someone could run for president of the United States and say ‘I’m a democratic socialist,’ then, hell, I can come out of the closet. I’ve come out of the closet before,” Rosa told the Chicago Reader, referring to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Rosa, 28, is the first openly gay Latino to serve on Chicago’s City Council. He is also the youngest current alderman.

“I was asked to join the ticket to even more strongly advocate for the critical issues facing this state, such as medicare for all, a $15 living wage today, affordable childcare, and free college tuition,” Rose wrote in his statement.

On Friday, Biss announced his new running mate – Democratic State Congresswoman Litesa Wallace.

“As a woman of color, she understands that justice and opportunity are not equally distributed and in fact are not available to many. As a champion for social and economic justice, she’s a proven fighter for the issues and people that Illinois government so often forgets about,” Biss said of Wallace in a video statement.

Wallace’s views on BDS were not immediately clear.

The international community has long called for a two-state solution in the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians where the two peoples would eventually live in separate states. Israel had formally agreed to the two-state solution but has yet to take any practical steps to make it happen.

In August, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Israel’s continued construction of settlements on what the UN recognizes as Palestinian territories was illegal and a “major obstacle” to achieving a two-state solution and peace with the Palestinians.

Read more

Israel is ‘key driver’ of Palestinian hardships in occupied territories – UN report

Israel Army stages mock war against Hezbollah, biggest exercise in 20yrs

September 8, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 3 Comments

Venezuelan State Reopens Investigations into Hundreds of Suspected Rural Activist Assassinations

By RACHAEL BOOTHROYD ROJAS | Venezuelanalysis | September 7, 2017

Bogota – Three hundred unresolved cases of rural land activists allegedly murdered at the hands of hired assassins will be re-opened by Venezuela’s Public Prosecution service in an effort to root out impunity for politically motivated crimes.

The measure was agreed in a high level meeting between the National Ombudsman’s office, the Public Prosecution service, the Public Defense, the Ministry of Eco-socialism and Water, the National Land Institute, and the Foundation for Victims of Politically Motivated and Rural Assassinations.

More than three hundred rural activists are estimated to have been killed at the hands of rightwing paramilitaries since 1999, when many land activists began to take collective action following the election of leftist president Hugo Chavez.

Most of the victims have been government supporters allegedly targeted for organizing in favor of the Land and Agrarian Development Law, passed by Chavez in November 2001. The legislation is aimed at breaking up the country’s centuries-old, privately-owned landed estates and allows rural workers to occupy unused land. While popular with rural communities, it has been strongly opposed by the country’s landowners.

Justice for murdered campesinos and activists has long been a demand of rural social movements such as the the Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Current. Despite the government’s official support for land reform, movements have strongly criticized state institutions for their lack of teeth in protecting social movement leaders from reprisals, as well as for failing to prosecute those responsible for political assassinations. To date, only a handful of cases have resulted in the successful prosecution of hired killers, while not a single landowner has been brought to trial.

The latest decision to reopen the cases means that some families will now have a second chance to win justice for their loved ones, after the majority of the cases were initially abandoned by the state prosecution, due to alleged lack of evidence.

Mate Garcia, a spokesperson for the Foundation for Victims of Politically Motivated and Rural Assassinations and daughter of murdered activist Armando Garcia, who was killed in 2002, welcomed the initiative as positive step.

“We are very hopeful about this work-group, where all of the cases of violence in our countryside are being taken up,” she said.

Garcia also confirmed that her organization had presented a series of recommendations to the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), which is currently holding session to draft up a new Constitution for the country.

Since being nominated as new Attorney General in August, Tarek William Saab has vowed to rid the state prosecution of impunity and combat classism in the Venezuelan justice service. He has accused his predecessor, Luisa Ortega, of having covered up violent political crimes and corruption during her ten year stint in office.

Ortega fled into self-imposed exile in August after an investigation was brought against her by the Supreme Court for “grave misconduct”. Ortega says she is the victim of political persecution due to her public break with the government of Nicolas Maduro earlier in March.

September 8, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Hillary Clinton: a Woman Scorned

By Robert Fantina | CounterPunch | September 8, 2017

It seems that very little time passed after her defeat in the 2016 presidential election before Hillary Clinton decided that the world had waited long enough for her understanding of that defeat. Advance copies of her new book, which will be released to the public on September 12, have been made available to select readers (this writer NOT being one of them), and some pearls of wisdom have been disclosed.

Let’s look first at a bit of history. Clinton has long been seen as the power behind the throne, beginning with orchestrating her husband’s comeback after his defeat for re-election as governor of Arkansas. Perhaps it was then that the taste of power proved so overwhelming as to become almost an obsession.

Yet it wasn’t only power that drove her; the pursuit of wealth has long been a motivating force for the former First Lady. From questionable investments with her husband’s donors back in their Arkansas days, to earning hundreds of thousands of dollars for single speeches to corporate leaders, Clinton learned that money and power go hand-in-hand, and are an irresistible combination.

Her time as the United States’ First Lady was not uneventful; she worked on President Clinton’s failed health care policy, and became the first First Lady in history to testify before a grand jury. Then, toward the conclusion of her husband’s second term, she ‘surprised’ all and sundry by announcing what absolutely everyone expected: that she would seek a Senate seat in New York.

Although there was some criticism that she undercut NY elected officials who might otherwise have run, and that her main claim to fame was that she was married to a president, the voters of NY installed her as their junior senator.

From there, it seemed, it would be just a hop, skip and a jump to the White House, and in 2007, again surprising no one, she announced her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. The road to the White House seemed clear.

It did, at least, until that upstart from Illinois entered the picture. With his youth, newness to the national scene, opposition to the war that Clinton had voted for, and a gift for oratory, it wasn’t long until Senator Barack Obama vanquished candidate Clinton, was nominated and elected, becoming the first African-American elected to the presidency.

But like a good corporate soldier, Clinton got on board, endorsing him at the convention, and campaigning for him. She then served as his Secretary of State, assisting him in destabilizing the Middle East, killing countless people and engendering more hatred toward the U.S.

As President Obama’s second term drew to a close, all was in place for her coronation. But Clinton is nothing if not pragmatic. She knew that there were large swaths of the electorate – Republican, Democratic and Independent – who despised the very sight of her. There might even be a sufficient number of them to deny her the nomination! What was a corrupt, power-hungry candidate to do?

Enter, the ‘Super Delegates’. While the primary season is ostensibly the time for the members of each party to indicate their choice for the party’s nomination, such trivialities as democracy and the will of the people must not stand in the way of the mighty Hillary Clinton. No, let the peons have their fun, voting in those little booths with the curtains, believing that pulling the lever actually means something. Behind the scenes, the Democratic Party would allow the head honchos to be king-makers, or rather, queen-makers, thwarting the will of the people, and doing the will of Clinton.

And, just to be sure, recruit Florida ‘Representative’ Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, then chairman of the Democratic National Committee (she was later forced to resign), to further tip the scales in Clinton’s favor, sealing the fate of the candidacy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

It seemed like the stars were all aligning for a Clinton coronation: the deck stacked in the Democratic Party, and the Republicans actually nominating Donald Trump – DONALD TRUMP! – as their candidate. Certainly, any wayward Democrats, those who had voted for Sanders, along with many Republicans and all Independents, would vote the Clinton ticket to prevent such a travesty as a Trump presidency.

Alas, no. Election night came and went, and with it, the dreams and aspirations of Hillary Clinton. True, she did receive the popular vote, but there does seem to be some kind of poetic justice in knowing that the system defeated her, after she manipulated her system, the Democratic Party, to defeat Bernie Sanders.

And now, according to information from her much-anticipated book, Clinton has pointed the finger of blame at Sanders, and former FBI director James Comey, who had the audacity to question Clinton’s use of private email servers when doing highly confidential government business. The blame is to be attributed anywhere but to the person to whom it rightly belongs (check out the mirror, Hillary).

Oh, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!

But let’s do a reality check, just for a moment.

As was mentioned, Clinton was perhaps the most polarizing candidate in modern history. There are those on one side who see her as a savior, a beacon of hope, showing that the glass ceiling can be destroyed, and all can be made right in the world, if only she can assume her destiny as President of the United States.

On the other side of the coin, however, are those who hold strongly to the belief that she is evil incarnate, the devil in a pantsuit, and there is no one, no, not even Donald Trump, who would be worse and more dangerous in the White House than she.

What could she have done differently? We’ll make a short list:

  • Not manipulate Democratic Party nominating rules to skew the results.
  •  Avoid the ‘race car’ image; we all know how racing cars are covered with the logos and names of the companies that sponsor them. While Clinton stopped short of actually wearing such logos, she was as beholden to U.S. corporate giants as any racecar driver.
  • At least give the appearance that she cares about the working, and non-working, man and woman. Supporting every corporate scheme ever introduced, and hob-nobbing with millionaires and billionaires, makes it difficult to portray oneself as a champion of the people.
  • Give some attention to the wants and needs of U.S. citizens. Filling the coffers of the so-called charitable ‘Clinton Foundation’ with millions of dollars in donations from foreign countries does not support this concept

Of course, for Hillary Rodham Clinton to accomplish these tasks, she would need to be a different person. Not a new life script, but a new leading lady. Leopards cannot change their spots. There are numerous other pithy clichés that could be used, but we will spare the reader; he/she can come up with enough of their own.

If anyone thought that Clinton would fade into the woodwork after her Electoral College defeat, they were sadly mistaken. As long as there is money to be made, and the possibility, however remote, of grasping the seat of ultimate U.S. power, she will continue to make herself heard. Heaven help us all!

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

September 8, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Protests against UK arms sales to UAE at arms expo

MEMO | September 8, 2017

Campaign groups are teaming up tomorrow to protest against UK arms sales to the UAE in front of one of the largest arms expos in the world at the London ExCel Centre.

Activists and campaigners from the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) will be joining a host of other campaigning organisations such as the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) at the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition (DSEI) arms fair to protest against millions of dollars of arms trade with a regime, activists describe as being a notorious human rights violator.

The week of campaigning, which began with a protest against Israeli arms sales, will see crowds of people calling on the UK government to end arms sales to the UAE. The trade deals with Britain are said to involve highly sophisticated and invasive cyber surveillance technology which the UAE government uses to spy on its own citizens, and weaponry used to commit war crimes in Yemen.

Campaign groups say that between 2012 and 2016 the UAE was listed as the world’s third largest importer of weaponary; during this period, the UK licensed around £350 million worth of arms for export to the UAE. At the same time the UAE has become increasingly dismissive towards international treaties, human rights laws and UN conventions.

The UAE’s war in Yemen, which has caused untold death and destruction, is a major focal point for protestors. The Gulf alliance has been charged with committing war crimes in Yemen, where they hold a significant naval, ground and air presence. It was also recently revealed that UAE forces have been running clandestine prisons where there have been numerous reports of extreme torture.

Campaigners also claim that within their own borders, the Emirati authorities have committed numerous human rights violations against their own citizens and foreign nationals. Human rights organisations have documented numerous cases of torture, arbitrary detention, lack of freedom of speech and repression of political dissidents in the UAE.

The UK-registered BAE systems, who will be vying for new trade deals at the ExCel Centre is thought to have provided the cyber surveillance technology which was used in connection with the enforced disappearance of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor.

Campaigners are calling on the British government to revise their close trading relationship with the UAE. They say that by providing arms and weaponry to this authoritarian regime, the UK is being complicit in war crimes and human rights violation. Furthermore they say that the trade deal between the two nations is set to increase as the UK leaves the EU and having set itself an ambitious target of doubling bilateral trade to up to £25 billion by 2020.

September 8, 2017 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

While Trump tweets, Putin steals a march on North Korea

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | September 8, 2017

The message from the two-day Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) conference, which concluded in Vladivostok on Thursday, is that Russia’s “pivot to Asia” in recent years, in the downstream of Western sanctions against it, has become a core vector of its foreign policies.

The EEF began modestly in 2015 with the agenda of showcasing the “new reality” of a role for the Russian Far East in the economic integration of the Asia-Pacific region. But this year’s EEF waded into the critical regional security issue of North Korea.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed, inter alia, that a North Korean delegation would attend the EEF event. He said, “As I understand, the DPRK’s delegation to the EEF consists of representatives of the economic bloc. We (Russia) also have representatives of our economic ministries and departments here. So I think, meetings within the profile structures of the two countries will take place.”

This comes at a time when administration of US President Donald Trump is stepping up its rhetoric and demanding more sanctions against North Korea. Curiously, South Korean President Moon Jae-In also attended the EEF conference, taking time off to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok on Wednesday.

Moon may well be quietly admiring of Putin for saying things upfront about North Korea which he is unable to do himself. When talking to the media in Xiamen on Tuesday following the BRICS summit, Putin had done some plain speaking regarding North Korea. Notably, he said:

“Everyone remembers well what happened to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Hussein abandoned the production of weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless… Saddam Hussein himself and his family were killed… Even children died back then. His grandson, I believe, was shot to death. The country was destroyed… North Koreans are also aware of it and remember it. Do you think that following the adoption of some sanctions, North Korea will abandon its course on creating weapons of mass destruction? “Certainly, the North Koreans will not forget it. Sanctions of any kind are useless and ineffective in this case. As I said to one of my colleagues yesterday, they will eat grass, but they will not abandon this program unless they feel safe.”

After meeting Moon, Putin again urged that dialogue is the only way out of the crisis. Putin is well aware that Moon has a pivotal role in preventing US President Donald Trump from taking military risks, and he cannot be unaware that some fractures have appeared lately in the US-South Korea alliance. Significantly, Moon said at his press conference with Putin on Wednesday:

“Mr. President and I have also agreed to build up the basis for the implementation of trilateral projects with participation of the two Koreas and Russia, which will connect the Korean Peninsula and the Russian Far East… We have decided to give priority to the projects that can be implemented in the near future, primarily in the Far East. The development of the Far East will promote the prosperity of our two countries and will also help change North Korea and create the basis for the implementation of the trilateral agreements. We will be working hard on this.”

To jog memories, Moscow has, in the past, mooted certain infrastructural projects involving North Korea that might hold the potential to stabilize the region: an extension of the Trans-Siberian railway system into South Korea via North Korea; a gas pipeline connecting South and North Korea with the vast Russian oil and gas fields in the Far East; and transmission lines to take surplus electricity from the Russian Far East to the Korean Peninsula.

South Korean companies are involved in Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 energy projects and are currently discussing with Russia the delivery of liquefied natural gas. South Korean shipyards are hoping to build 15 tankers to transport gas from the Yamal LNG plant in the Russian Far East.

Putin stated at the press conference with Moon that “Russia is still willing to implement trilateral projects with the participation of North Korea.” He flagged the above three projects specifically and added, “The implementation of these initiatives will be not only economically beneficial, but will also help build up trust and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

The big question is whether there was some form of contact between the delegations of North and South Korea on the sidelines of the EEF conference in Vladivostok. Russia, the host country, is uniquely placed to play the role of facilitator.

At any rate, Moscow is willing to undertake a mediatory role between the two Koreas, which no other world capital today can perform. It can talk to Pyongyang to raise its comfort level and integrate North Korea in regional cooperation, while also easing South Korea’s existential angst. Moscow’s trump card is its privileged communication channels to Pyongyang and its common interests with Seoul (and Beijing, and Tokyo) in avoiding a catastrophic war.

In the given situation, Russian diplomacy becomes optimal. While bringing about peace, it also holds the potential to create wealth and shared prosperity, which provides the bedrock for regional stability and helps the development of the Russian Far East. Incidentally, Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang, the point person for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, also attended the EEF meet.

Putin arrived in Vladivostok from China where he held detailed discussions with President Xi Jinping on Monday regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula. A high degree of Sino-Russian coordination on North Korea is already evident.

Any Russian peace initiative on North Korea will be a reflection on the failure of leadership in Washington. The Trump administration is unlikely to view such a scenario with equanimity, given its far-reaching implications for the US-led system of alliances in the Far East.

September 8, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

New fires in Rohingya village refute Myanmar government claims

Press TV – September 8, 2017

Journalists who have toured villages in a crisis-stricken state in Myanmar have reported new fires burning in a village that has been abandoned by Rohingya Muslims, casting further doubt on government claims that the Muslims are burning down their own homes.

About two dozen journalists monitoring the developments in northern Rakhine State on a government-controlled trip reported on Thursday seeing new fires in Gawdu Zara Village.

They also reported seeing pages ripped from Islamic texts that were scattered on the ground. Among the buildings on fire was a school. Cattle and dogs wandered through the remains.

Myanmar’s government has been claiming that the Muslims are responsible for the fires and the destruction. However, the reporters who visited five blackened, obliterated, and deserted villages on Thursday said there had been no Muslims in the village to light any fires.

“They burned their own houses and ran away,” claimed local police officer Aung Kyaw Moe, referring to the Rohingya Muslims.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar refers to Rohingya as immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for generations.

Thousands of people from the Muslim minority group have already escaped Rakhine to neighboring Bangladesh amid a government crackdown. The burning down of the homes of the Rohingya makes it less likely for them to return.

Earlier, Bangladeshi government sources said Myanmarese forces were laying down mines on a section of the border to prevent the return of the Muslims. But Muslims have been using that path to move in the opposite direction — into Bangladesh — and several explosions have already been heard. A number of civilians, including children, have been reported maimed.

Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has dismissed the widespread reports of government and mob violence against the Rohingya as a misinformation campaign.

Her response to the crisis has sparked calls to have her Nobel Peace Prize taken back.

The crisis response director for Amnesty International has called Suu Kyi’s response to the crisis “unconscionable.”

There have been numerous reports of rape, murder, and arson against the Muslim population in Rakhine since a government siege began on the state late last year.

Prior to that, the Muslims were frequent targets of Buddhist mobs. Tens of thousands of Rohingya were driven from their homes in another wave of violence in 2012.

Death toll may be way higher, says UN

Meanwhile, Yanghee Lee, the United Nations (UN)’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, has announced that more than 1,000 people may already have been killed in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, most of them Rohingya Muslims.

“Perhaps about a thousand or more are already dead,” the UN official said on Friday. “This might be from both sides but it would be heavily concentrated on the Rohingya population.”

The Myanmarese government says 400 people have died so far.

UN agency says 270k Rohingya have fled

The UN’s refugee agency said some 270,000 Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee state-sponsored violence in Myanmar and seek refuge in neighboring Bangladesh since August 25.

“An estimated 270,000 refugees arrived in Bangladesh in the last two weeks,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan on Friday.

“They burnt our house and drove us out by shooting. We walked for three days through the jungle,” said one refugee who arrived from Myanmar to Bangladesh in a fishing boat, braving a five-hour voyage through rough seas in the Bay of Bengal with his family.

September 8, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | | Leave a comment