It had been five years since I last ventured into the Occupied Territories, the shrinking Palestinian homelands. I had stood speechless at the misnomered separation wall, essentially a cement corral and a menacing blight on the landscape of the Holy Land. I had seen the oasis of Jericho become barely more than an imposing hotel where peace conferees and aid agents hide in style from the peace they are unarguably not advancing. I had witnessed how a simple crossroad, Qalandia, outside Jerusalem had become a fenced-in channel through which Palestinians waiting to be inspected by young Israeli guards are humiliated and delayed, only to sometimes be turned back. I had noted increasing numbers of women covering themselves in colorless, suffocating garb. (What their message was and to whom it was addressed, I couldn’t understand.) I had found it embarrassing to revisit families living under occupation who’d earlier spent hours with me remembering martyrs and imprisoned sons, detailing routine violence by an encroaching Jewish population, the armed colonists, and explaining the unpredictability of Israeli military procedures. I had stood with neighbors gazing helplessly as a family’s dwelling was demolished by a three-story high Israeli bulldozer. I‘d sat in a van with anxious Palestinians waiting to enter their homeland at the Jordan-Israeli border, watching in pained silence while happy travelers from a busload of American students casually tossed a football back and forth while their passports were processed.
Following the 1993 Oslo Accord—we can’t call it a peace treaty — one might have glimpsed the tricolor Palestinian banner posted somewhere on the dry hills between the Allenby Bridge and Abu Dis at the entry to Jerusalem. By 2010, there was no sign of that flag, except perhaps one painted on that foreboding cement wall– on the Palestinian side.
Even with bleak news continually seeping from inside the occupation, even with the risks of reporting on Israel’s suffocation and murders of Palestinians, I had promised a dear friend that I’d revisit her this winter. Laila remains there year after year. A psychologist, her skills are in increasing demand by the traumatized population.
Travelers not Palestinian can reach Ramallah and return to Amman in Jordan in one day. Within two days I’d be able to witness the latest changes, encroachments and destruction, and also pass an evening with Laila, this extraordinarily cheerful and resolute soul.
I never reached Ramallah, not physically. Resting after my arrival from Abu Dhabi at a friend’s home in Amman, I picked up a newly published volume her book club had recently discussed, Return: A Palestinian Memoir, by Ghada Karmi. I knew the author’s earlier work but I‘d not expected this, her second memoir, to be so gripping.
There are numerous memoirs by Palestinians, most notably Out of Place by Edward Said, another by his own sister, one by poet Suheir Hammad, by Randa Jarrar and many others, now extending into three generations. (Most are in English, the majority by women.)
One wonders how many more impassioned, compelling chronicles we need to inform us of the ongoing drama and injustices in their homeland. Yet, opening the pages of this ‘return’ I found myself following Karmi’s chronicle as if it were a crime story. (At one level it is a crime story.) Unlike many narrators of Israeli crimes, this book begins as an account of ‘soft’ crimes, those by Palestinian officials and the United Nations in complicity with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in their charade of possessing power and winning justice.
I myself had witnessed the gradual transformation of returned Palestinian leaders into a corrupt and impotent club of (mainly) men hanging out in Ramallah pretending to lead, but actually serving as front for independence, their putative authority extending no further than the boundary of this city of NGOs, foreign schools and upscale restaurants. I also witnessed diaspora Palestinians returning to Gaza City after 1993, investing in their forthcoming state, “a Mediterranean Hong Kong”, only to depart within a decade, embittered and often more deeply religious, returning to homes in Austin, Texas and Brooklyn, New York.
Here was a well informed doctor and an experienced leader in the Palestinian diaspora coming to Ramallah not as a visiting correspondent, but with a prestigious insider’s ID. Karmi left a medical career in London to take a job as a UN appointee in the PA’s Ministry of Media and Communications. She was eager to join her compatriots, reasoning, “I would be at the heart of things, and would learn the inner workings of the institution that organized life in the Occupied Territories, although they were under Israeli control” …. happy she “would not join the host of marginal researchers, foreign experts and hangers-on who cluttered the numerous non-governmental organizations in the West Bank.” That was 11 years ago, in 2005, when both Gaza and the West Bank were under the new PA. Surely as a Palestinian born in Jerusalem to a well regarded family, a longtime activist for justice and statehood, Karmi had reason to be optimistic.
“What the hell was I thinking of?” is the opening line of the first chapter of Return uttered as her plane was touching down. This trip would be the culmination of many visits to Karmi’s mythical homeland. Her misgivings and evidence of a doomed mission on her first day at work aside, Karmi persisted, perhaps deciding early on that this could at least be the basis of another book, although this memoir appeared in 2015, a full decade after the assignment she describes–surely an indication of the time the author needed to come to terms with what she experienced and to recount them with such candor. (Anyone committed to the Palestinian cause would have difficulty abandoning it, even when facing censure and personal loss.)
With commendable skill, Karmi forges ahead detailing the routine of Palestinian Authority life, recalling word-for-word dialogues among sophisticated dining businessmen, diplomats, drivers and office colleagues that reveal the competition, the conflicts, the jealousies, the pretenses and disillusionment, the jockeying for favors, and just keeping one’s job. And keeping aid flowing.
The malice of Israeli policy is well known, so too the incompetence and duplicity of Palestinian officials. Karmi is not the first to admit the PA is dysfunctional and an utter failure in the quest for statehood. But she exposes the problems with such candor and literary skill that the reader is committed to follow her to the end.
I found myself feeling emotionally involved, without rancor or impatience, in the personalities Karmi introduces me to. Perhaps this is the result of the author’s respect for these people and her genuine curiosity in the issues they discuss, whether with an office worker, or with a co-founder of the Hamas movement who himself comes across to us as more sincere than Mahmoud Abbas or other PA officials. (Even while questioning this Gaza leader’s strategies, Karmi offers a stunningly convincing rationale for the resistance to which he and his compatriots are committed.)
Our author employs the same technique when chronicling her exchanges with her father in Amman. A learned man in religion, history and culture, Hassan Karmi held Britain and the USA largely responsible for the success of the Zionist plan; he argues with his daughter in defense of the heightened role of religion in Arab lives. In her recounted dialogues, the author expresses genuine doubts about the Hamas leader’s or her father’s positions on the subject at hand, while allowing their argument to prevail, at least for the purpose of edifying us, her readers. This literary strategy Karmi applies throughout her memoir, and with striking affect.
Karmi also invokes those visits with her ailing father to record her personal history and to expose problems she finds with Arab family values, exploring the expectations and challenges of women like herself. In this respect, this memoir is not only the story of a professional woman, but also the chronicle of a daughter, a wife and a mother.
As I proceed through this Palestinian memoir, I happen to be reviewing two very different productions related to Palestinian life– one a film, the other a theoretical analysis. The documentary film, Speed Sisters, opening February 2017, is by the Arab-Canadian director Amber Fares. Speed Sisters features five young and feisty Palestinian women who while living under occupation, become car racing enthusiasts–the first all-women race car driving team in the Middle East–independent, bold, and free. The women’s indulgence in cars is understandable, given the bleakness of Israeli occupation, but hard to imagine alongside what’s in Karmi’s story. The other production is the ninth book by Steven Salaita whose brilliance and insight were evident even before he was denied a university appointment by a Zionist-influenced discriminatory university dean. Salaita’s Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine is an exploration of shared experiences of Palestinians and Native Americans where the author lays out conceptual ground between American Indian and Indigenous studies and Palestinian studies through concepts of settler colonialism, ‘indigeneity’, and state violence. It’s a groundbreaking study into what should have been obvious decades ago
These three stories may seem at odds with one another. Yet we can see them as continually evolving meanings of what it means to be Palestinian.
“No ambition to oppress them”?
Recently, I’ve been reading Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, a book by veteran New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer, which focuses on US-backed coups from 1893 (Hawaii) to Iraq (2003). In the book, Kinzer devotes only fourteen pages to Puerto Rico, a small island nation controlled by the murderous empire of the United States. On page 94, he declares that “most Puerto Ricans” understand that the US, despite colonial “misdeeds,” harbors “no ambition to oppress them.” He goes on to say that most want to continue ties with the US and that colonial rule has been “relatively benign,” meaning it was partially beneficial to islanders. In his view, this hasn’t led to a “violent backlash” because of US efforts to take “direct political responsibility” to govern the island, and even floats the idea that there could be a reasonable case that US control over the island has made it “better off”! Kinzer ends optimistically, saying that “a happy end to the long story” would not only take away stigma of US citizens from “ruling another people” but would tell them that “toppling of foreign regimes need not end badly.” Such words, like this, reek of apologism for imperialism and existing US colonialism in Puerto Rico. In this article, using quotes from Kinzer’s own book, I plan to prove that US rule in the island nation has not been “relatively benign,” but that the US imperialists should not be seen as engaging in “nice” oppression, with “no ambition,” of Puerto Rico’s citizens.
On May 12, 1898, seven US warships appeared off the coast of San Juan. They soon began their bombardment, firing over 1,300 shells, met by a Spanish response of about 400 shells, killed a dozen people and one US soldier.1 The small island nation of Puerto Rico comprises of an island 3,515 square miles across, called Borinquen by many native residents, three inhabited islands (Vieques, Cuelbra, and Mona), and 140 other small reefs, islands, and atolls. For over 400 years, the island was an established Spanish colony (1493-1898), with the indigenous Taino nation pushed into forced labor as part of the encomienda system. It was not until the early nineteenth century that Puerto Rico would be integrated into the international capitalist economy.2
The island, which exported commodities such as coffee and tobacco, became a sugar colony, supported by the country’s Creole elite, with 276 sugar plantations dotting the island’s landscape.3 As the sugar industry thrived, thousands of white wage laborers and enslaved blacks suffered in the “sugar haciendas,” or plantations, concentrated near Ponce, Guayama, and Mayaguez.4 The number of enslaved black laborers, who were mistreated, abused, and overworked despite “favorable” laws, reached into the tens of thousands, numbering 17,890 in 1828.5 They were chosen over wage laborers as more profitable for the sugar industry.6 It would not be until 1873 that slavery would be abolished in the Spanish empire, but the exploitation would not end, continuing under the system of apprenticeship, for example.7
About two months before the US warships arrived, Puerto Rico had elected a new government. The Spanish, likely in a measure to stave off revolt, had offered the Puerto Ricans political autonomy.8 They didn’t want rebellions like the Lares Uprising (Grito de Lares) in 1868 or the Attempted Coup of Yauco (Intentona de Yauco) in 1897 which were strongly pro-independence and opposed to Spanish colonial rule. On March 27, 1898, Luis Munoz Rivera’s Liberal Fusion Party was elected in a legislative body, created with agreement from the “liberal” Spanish government, of the island’s autonomous government.9 However, this would not last. On July 25, US marines from the Glouchester gunboat waded ashore, raising a US flag above a customs house after a short exchange of firearms.10
As Kinzer puts it, after the US flag fluttered in the breeze above the customs house, the “United States effectively took control of Puerto Rico” with every institution of Spanish colonial control, and the autonomous Liberal Fusion Party government, would quickly disappear. The objective of the US imperialists like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who declared that “Puerto Rico is not forgotten [in this war] and we mean to have it” came to be true, with US trade routes protected and a naval base established on the island.11 While some Puerto Ricans welcomed the US presence, this quickly changed, as the US seizure of the island nation became “legal” with the Treaty of Paris.12
The imposition of US imperialism on Puerto Rico began in 1898 as the island was declared a colony. Luis Munoz Rivera, the former leader of the island before the US arrived, declared that “we are witnessing a spectacle of terrible assimilation… our present condition is that of serfs attached to conquered territory.”13 The “individual freedom” that was promised, was not delivered upon, with the US instead engaging in exploitation which, as Martinquis revolutionary Frantz Fanon said about all colonizers, was part of a spiral of “domination, exploitation and looting.”14
The bank on the island was transferred to US investors, who printed Puerto Rican dollars, pegged to the US dollar, replacing the Spanish peso. Other banks were established on the island by investors such as the American Colonial Bank, which opened in 1899. As a result, new taxes were imposed. The following years, as US military troops remained in place as an occupying force, the US Congress passed the Foraker Act which put the Puerto Rican assembly under direct US control.15 As the people of the island nation had “no liberty, no rights, no protection,” as civil rights campaigner Julio Henna once put it, four US corporations took over land on the island for mass production and farming.16 This was reinforced by one of Insular Cases, which some say established “political apartheid,” Downes v. Bidwell (1901) in which the Supreme Court held that Puerto Rico wasn’t a foreign country, allowing Congress to treat it like a dependent colonial possession.
In later years, the island nation forced “permanent uncertainty” in its political status. In 1910, foreign banks began foreclosing on land in Puerto Rico, and the island became an official protectorate in 1913 with the existing naval bases reinforcing economic and ideological interests.17 By World War I, with the imposition of US citizenship with the Jones Act, 18,000 Puerto Ricans were conscripted to fight in the forces of empire as 200 Puerto Ricans were arrested for refusing to participate. Such imposition did not end there. From 1920 to 1923, Moncho Reyes ruled as the Governor on the island, declaring English as the only official language, not Spanish, and that the US flag is the only one to be flown across the island. He was only forced out by corruption scandals. This was accompanied the Balzac v. Porto Rico (1922) case, in which the Supreme Court said that provisions of the US constitution did not apply to a “territory” that was not a US state. In the following years, more and more of the island was controlled by US corporations, including 80% of the farms, and half of the arable land!
By the 1930s, medicine went to war on the island’s inhabitants. In 1931, Dr. Cornelius P. Rhoads injected patients on the island with live cancer cells, with thirteen people dying. He bragged about killing them, calling for a “tidal wave or something to totally exterminate the population” and saying that the island’s inhabitants were “the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever inhabiting this sphere.” He went on to head the US Army’s Biological Weapons division, serve on the Atomic Energy Commission, and sent memos to US military leaders expressing the opinion that Puerto Rican supporters of independence should be “eradicated” with the use of germ bombs! This was only a prelude, in a sense.
Henry Laughlin, superintendent of the US Eugenics Record Office, pushed the Model Eugenical Sterilization Law, targeting “socially inadequate” people for sterilization in 30 US states and Puerto Rico. On the island itself, in 1936, Law 116 entered into force by making sterilization legal and free for women, with no alternative plan of birth control, backed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation18, the Puerto Rican government, and Human Betterment Association. It was voluntary, only in theory, with employer discrimination and a dearth of other options giving women the incentive to participate, coupled with the veneer of being “feminist” and sometimes a lack of informed consent. This was done after scientists conducted research experiments on Puerto Rican women who had taken birth control pills, with a high amount of estrogen. Such an approach was rejected by the Catholic Church, which supported sterilization instead. By the 1970s, this horrendous practice ended, with more than one-third of Puerto Rico’s female population of childbearing age undergoing the procedure.19
At the same time, repression of the island’s spirit and feelings for independence intensified. On October 24, 1935, police at the campus of the University of Puerto Rico confronted nationalists, resulting in the death of four nationalists and one police officer, in what has been called the Rios Piedras massacre, what police chief E. Francis Riggs declared was part of his “war to the death against all Puerto Ricans.” In response to this action, the nationalist party called for a boycott to all actions held while Puerto Rico was a part of the United States.
The nationalist party continued its actions on the island. On March 21, 1937, it peacefully marched to Ponce. As they requested a permit, it was denied, and as they continued the action, police cordoned off unarmed demonstrators, then firing upon them from multiple directions, killing a total of 21 and wounding 140-200 people, in what has been called the Ponce Massacre. As “hysteria and near civil war swept the island” with nationalists arrested and hunted on sight, 23 nationalists and four police officers were arrested for participation in the massacre, with the ACLU even investigating the matter, finding that the protesters were not armed and had been surrounded by the police.
As the years passed, the US strengthened its hold on the island. By 1940, 80% of the country’s arable land was US-owned. In 1939, the US began bombing on the island of Culebra (which it later fully occupied until protests in the 1970s forced it to move operations to Vieques), and two years later, it began the occupation of Vieques, an island of 7,000 inhabitants. As William Blum, a renowned critic of US foreign policy, writes, from 1940 to 2000, the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, had to endure years of “target practices and war games” which included dropping depleted uranium and napalm.20 This led to the island’s drinking water to be reportedly poisoned and resulted in the land being “contaminated by radioactivity.”
Even as US military officials outrageously said that they could only have a bombing range on that island since one on the East Coast would be too close to population centers, President Bill Clinton promised that the US would stop using the bombing range in 2005.21 With international pressure and local protests, the bombing range stopped being used in 2003, but was accompanied by the closing of the Roosevelt Roads naval facility, the following year, almost to make residents “regret” their decision. Still, this was another victory against the empire. Such bombing on Vieques and Culebra islands was not the only imposition. From 1948 to 1957, Law 53, also called Le Ley de Mondonza or “gag law,” made it illegal to support or say anything construed as pro-independence, with a penalty of ten years in prison.
As the Cold War started, by arrogant imperialists who didn’t want to have friendly relationships with the Soviets after World War II, the imperialists began their “charm offensive” to the world stage. US leaders were recognizing that “ruling an impoverished colony in the Caribbean made the United States look bad.”22 Of course, they could only say this, feeling assured that those in the Puerto Rican government, like Luis Munoz Martin, the “Father of Modern Puerto Rico,” were accommodationist to US imperial power, even pushing for Law 53 and by the 1950s, at least, was clearly a symbol of an organ of the machine of colonial control.
In the UN, the US government attempted to stifle criticism of US colonial control by working on changing the country to a commonwealth. Diplomats saw the island helping in the anti-communist Korean War as a vital “political association” which respects individuality and culture of the island, and declaring that the occupation was legal. As the diplomats frankly admitted, declaring colonial control of the island nation as “free choice” of the residents would head off attacks “by those who have charged the United States government with imperialism and colonial exploitation.” While the “Soviet bloc” argued correctly that self-government didn’t exist in Puerto Rico, diplomats claimed they had a “strong case” of moving Puerto Rico from the list of non-self-governing territories (discussed more in the following paragraph), even as they felt difficulties would arise in the “usual anti-colonial propaganda by Iron Curtain countries,” along with other factors.
This veneer was first reinforced by the Constitutional Referendum in 1952, which approved a constitution proposed in 1950 by the US Congress, stripped of social democratic measures before it was approved, after negotiation with the accommodationist leaders on the island, including Governor Marin. Not surprisingly, independence was never offered as an option, showing that the motive of the US could have been to douse revolutionary feelings. The second reinforcement was on November 27, 1953, when the US imperialists achieved a victory which allowed “approval” of the commonwealth status of the island. The passing of Resolution 748, in the UN’s General Assembly, after a push of US hegemony, made it clear that the US was given sanction to determine the “status of territories under its sovereignty.” Years later, the US imperialists have tried to soften the push for independence by allowing multiple plebiscites on the island to “decide” its fate, but none of these considered that the island is a colony and needs to have self-determination, as asserted in UN General Assembly resolution 1514, described later in this article.
This may be the basis of Kinzer’s claim that colonialism in Puerto Rico has been “benign” and that US imperialists had “no ambition” to oppress the island’s inhabitants. Some may even think the idea the island is under “self-rule” or a change in its status, means that neocolonialism is in place. These are both incorrect. For neocolonialism to be present, the island would have to be under indirect colonial control. Such domination, unlike direct colonial control of the past keeping people politically and economically exploited, often used by Britain, France, and the United States, would require formal recognition of political independence even with domination by political, economic, social, military, and other means.23
This “norm” of neocolonialism, which exists under imperial rivalry, and assists profitable enterprises, is not the case in Puerto Rico.24 This is because the island is not formally an independent political entity. As recently as October 2016, the Supreme Court held that while the island nation functioned as a separate sovereign entity for certain purposes, the authority to govern the island derives from the US Constitution, saying that the US Congress still has the supreme authority over the island.25
This is buttressed by the case of United States v. Sanchez in 1993, in which a US Court of Appeals which said that Congress may unilaterally repeal the constitution of Puerto Rico, and a congressional committee report in 1997 declaring that the island is “subject to the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and laws passed by Congress,” even including the rescinding of the current “commonwealth” status! Hence, while the current government in Puerto Rico is, officially, a separate political entity from the United States, the US is still the imperial overlord of the island. By extension, this means that the officially deemed US “territories” in Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, and Northern Marinas Islands are colonies, along with arguably Hawaii.26 Hence, for these “territories,” colonialism, rather than neocolonialism, is at work, a subset of imperialism.
Efforts by US imperialists to repress or weaken resistance was abundantly clear. The FBI, the secret “internal” police of the murderous empire, spent forty years (1936-1976) working to repress, disrupt, and surveil the independence movement (“independentista”) in Puerto Rico. This included surveillance of renowned nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos from 1936 until his death in 1965.27 Specifically, the FBI kept files, illegally, on 140,000 pro-independence individuals! Even Governor Marin, the founder of the Popular Democratic Party, and later pliant puppet leader, was originally under surveillance until the FBI changed its mind, trying to protect him from threats. Years later, FBI director Louis J. Freeh admitted that his agency engaged in “egregious illegal activity, maybe criminal action” and violated the civil rights of those on the island. This suppression was only part of the story. The island’s police, FBI, and US Army intelligence had dossiers on 100,000 Puerto Ricans, 75,000 who were under “political” surveillance. Apart from the police provocateurs who assassinated independentistas,15,000 Puerto Ricans (of the 75,000) had extensive police files for political activity.
There were other forms of US domination. In 1976, the US put in place Section 936 of the internal revenue code, which allowed US companies to operate on the island without paying any corporate taxes. This was released years later when there was a huge pharmaceutical boom on the island, and the provision was replaced by Section 30A, which had similar language, in 2006. In 1979, Jimmy Carter, trying to engage in a “significant humanitarian gesture” mainly to fend off criticism of the United States, commuted the sentences of four Puerto Rican nationalists who participated in the 1950 and 1954 actions, described in the next paragraph, saying they had served enough time in prison.28
Clearly, the FBI’s brutal streak did not end, with surveillance of Puerto Rican independence activists still occurring in 1995. Ten years later, in 2005, the FBI murdered a Puerto Rican independence leader named Ojeda Rios in a shootout.29 This outraged many islanders. The following year, the FBI engaged in violent raids on the island. And two years later, an FBI/NYPD anti-terrorism task force targeted three independentistas living in the US mainland, currently, handing them subpoenas.30 This clearly shows that the crackdown on independentistas has not ended in the slightest.
Such impositions were not met without resistance. In 1934, sugar workers went on strike, and gained a few wage concessions, one of the victories for the small island nation. Two years later, on February 23, 1936, Riggs, on the island to protect colonial investments, was killed by nationalist Elias Beauchamp, accompanied by Hiram Rosado, who were, in turn, murdered by police, within hours and without trial! This killing was one of the times that Puerto Ricans would engage in what Fanon called “counterviolence” and recognized that the “colonized men liberates himself in and through violence.”31 Flash forward to 1950. On October 30, there were uprisings in Ponce, Jayuya, Utado, Naranjito, and elsewhere, led by Campos. These uprisings were brutally crushed, some by National Guardsmen flying planes and firing down upon the crowd as ordered by Governor Martin, a reliable US puppet leader.32 The revolutionary spirit would not die. In 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists struck at the heart of the empire: they attempted to kill President Truman.33 While the action was not successful, there was no doubt that the anti-colonial struggle by Puerto Ricans was connected to that of other peoples as Campos said before being arrested in 1950:
… it’s not easy to give a speech when we have our mother laying in bed and an assassin waiting to take your life… The assassin is the power of the United States of North America. One cannot give a speech while the newborn of our country are dying of hunger; while the adolescents of our homeland are being poisoned with the worst virus of them all, the virus of slavery… They must go to the United States to be the slaves of the economic powers, of the tyrants of our country… One cannot easily give a speech when this tyrant has the power to tear the sons right out of the hearts of Puerto Rico mothers to send to Korea, or into hell, to kill, to be the murderers of innocent Koreans, or to die covering a front for the Yankee enemies of our country, for them to return insane to their own people or for them to return mutilated beyond recognition… It’s not easy… We have called together here those who want the union of our brothers, of our Latin American brothers, and, very specially, the Cubans, all the people of the Antilles, the Haitians, the Dominicans, for all of them who love the independence of Puerto Rico as their very own, because as long as Puerto Rico is not free, every single one of those nations feels mutilated.
By the 1950s, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was starting to fade from the political landscape. By the 1960s, it was being replaced by armed revolutionary groups, like the Los Macheteras, with the latter engaging in counterviolence. In 1954, this was proven to be true when Campos led a group of 37 nationalists who fired on Congressmen from the house balcony, with many taken into custody after a two-hour gun battle.34 Campos would die years later, in 1965, after being tear gassed, tortured, and beaten in prison.35
By the 1960s, the equation was changing. Between 1955 and 1960, seventy-seven newly independent nations had been admitted to the UN, which formed an alliance to push for the adoption of resolution 1514 in the General Assembly in 1960. The resolution, initially proposed by Nikita S. Khrushchev of the USSR, declared that the “colonial situation in all its forms and manifestations” had to be remedied, with eighty-nine countries voting in favor. There were only nine abstentions (and no votes against) by the U.K., US, Western-backed apartheid South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, France, Australia, and the Dominican Republic, then controlled by the US-backed Rafael Trujillo. The latter was assassinated in 1961, with the CIA, without consent of the State Department, giving the assassins rifles and other firearms, as noted in pages 70-85 of the Rockefeller Commission’s report in 1975.
In the US, with the development of the “New Left”, social movements began to gain steam. The Young Lords Party, originally a gang in Chicago, re-organized itself as a pro-Puerto Rican organization, in 1968, that took a strong anti-imperialist position. In their principles, they argued that they had been colonized for five hundred years, first by Spain, then the United States, making them the “slaves of the gringo” and rejecting Puerto Rican rulers who were “puppets of the oppressor… who keep our communities peaceful for business,” instead of pushing for a socialist society, and ultimately against machismo, a fundamentally feminist position.
Like the Black Panthers, they supported armed self-defense and had free breakfast programs to support the community while increasing their base of support. In 1969, the Black Panthers reached out to them, the Brown Berets fighting for Chicano liberation, and anti-racist Young Patriots who tried to support young, white migrants who came from Appalachia, to create the first “rainbow coalition.” The name of the coalition was later taken by black opportunist Jesse Jackson, Jr. in a failed effort to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and push for political reforms. Years later, the Lords changed their name to the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), pushed for a revolutionary party, and fell apart in 1975 after FBI disruption, infighting and other factors.
The Puerto Ricans are not alone. Starting in 1972, the UN Special Committee on Decolonization (The Committee of 24) condemned the status of Puerto Rico, recognizing that the Commonwealth status is untenable, with US investors getting preferential treatment, and that the island should be independent from the supposedly “benign empire” of the United States. Due to the more than 33 resolutions calling for Puerto Rico’s independence by the Committee of 24 since 1972, building off of resolution 1514, it has been tarred by the US. In 1968, only five years into its existence, US diplomats declared that the Committee had become “anti-Western” because it criticized US imperialism and supported “independentistas” in Puerto Rico. Such criticism didn’t stop the Committee. Recently, the Committee concluded that the US violated Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination to be an independent nation. Specifically, representatives from Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Iran have talked about independence for the island nation and relinquishing US colonial rule, with some witnesses talking about how the island was illegally taken and under corporate control. Latin America clearly did not abandon the island. Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, former Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, and Raul Castro of Cuba have all supported the island’s independence.
Other organizations that have argued for independence include the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) founded by Latin American states in Carcas, Venezuela in 2011. Clearly, the Democratic and Republican parties, along with the island’s two major political parties (The Popular Democratic Party and the New Progressive Party) do not support independence.36 The island’s governors, under the constitution of the Puerto Rican “commonwealth,” five from the Popular Democratic Party (Luis Muñoz Marín, Roberto Sánchez Vilella, Rafael Hernández Colón, Sila Calderón, and Aníbal Salvador Acevedo Vilá) who want to maintain the current status of the island, five from the New Progressive Party (Luis A. Ferré, Carlos Romero Barceló, Pedro Rosselló, Luis Fortuño, Alejandro García Padilla, and newly elected Ricky Rosselló), who want the island to be a US state, have stayed within acceptable bourgeois opinion. While some may be liberal and others conservative, through all eleven of the governors, there has been concentration of corporate power on the island and maintenance of the colonial relationship. While some could claim the referendum in 2012 “solved” the status of the island, less than half supported statehood, with most, instead, wanting a change to the status quo.
In 1975, when Cuba pushed to give special status for the island for the Puerto Rican independence movement, the US balked with anger. Such a response is predictable. Deep down, the imperialists of the US are afraid of Puerto Rican independence. If the country became independent, it is possible that Vieques couldn’t become a bombing range again, the US couldn’t store nuclear weapons there, plan for strikes on Cuba, use the island to intercept “enemy” signals, and so on.37 Even some diplomats tried to say that if the island is separated from the US, the residents would be jeopardizing their “paramount interests in economic, social, education… [and] political matters.” This is reflexively talking about what US and foreign capitalists would lose, instead of referring to the real needs of Puerto Ricans.
The question remains: where do we stand now? Undoubtedly, the coverage of the island by the bourgeois media focuses on “unpayable debt.” The island is, as writer Nelson Denis argued (with likely feminist implications), the “battered spouse of the Caribbean.” An article last fall by Linda Backiel, in the Monthly Review, is vital in explaining the current situation. She writes that the dire straits of the island, $73 billion of debt, is not a surprise, since it has been “sacked by colonial powers for half of a millennium.” She goes on to say that IMF officials were paid $400,000 to make recommendations about the island’s economic crisis, which is ridiculous considering that the island has no access to financing from the World Bank, IMF, or elsewhere because it is a colony. Backiel adds that Article VI, section 8 of the island’s constitution, payment of interest and debt is the first priority, coupled with the country “running on bonds” held by US banks such as Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and Bank of America, along with numerous venture and hedge funds.
She then writes that “the vultures are circling” the small island nation, with the island in crisis, even as human misery caused by colonialism is ignored and over 45% of the people live below the poverty line, with the country seeming on the verge of economic collapse. If this occurs, it could threaten the “propaganda value” of the island and its economy, destroyed in part by the collaboration of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party and US Congress, leaving the Popular Democratic Party to “clean up” the mess. She closes by saying “in the battle between soul and capital, who will win? Until the people of Puerto Rico organize to defend their soul; it is not even a stalemate: Black is playing with nothing but pawns.” Other accounts affirm this assessment of the situation in Puerto Rico.38
In the most recent election cycle, the island’s precarious state got some play. Bernie Sanders, the “nice” imperialist running for the Democratic nomination, declared in June of this year that the US cannot “continue a colonial-like relationship with the people of Puerto Rico,” and saying he would offer it three options: becoming a state, enhancing its territorial rights, or becoming an independent country, which is no different than the previous plebiscites ordered by the US government.39 Predictably, he didn’t mention Resolution 1514, the efforts of the Committee of 24, or actions by Puerto Ricans to engage in counterviolence, instead posing himself as a “savior” of the island, an act of racist and imperialist positioning.
Jill Stein of the Green Party had a similar statement on the subject; however, she more clearly called out colonial exploitation, even calling for a bailout of the island.40
What Vladimir Lenin wrote in 1917 in his book, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism is relevant here, as related to the island’s debt and plans for “restructuring.” Lenin writes that concentration of production leads to monopoly especially in the US, which was described, even then, as an “advanced country of modern capitalism.”41 In the island nation, the spreading of monopoly, specifically of “monopolist combines of big capitalists” or “gigantic monopolist combines” into every sphere of life would likely get a boost under a Trump administration.42 If he follows his cost-benefit formulation of “solving” the world’s problems, he would support debt restructuring, but let the “bondholders take a hit.” Even if this sounds “anti-business,” it is likely that his plan, whatever that is, would move away from the populist rhetoric and benefit the same economic actors, reinforcing the “world system of colonial oppression” manifested in capitalism, with “world marauders” like the United States “armed to the teeth.”43 It is also possible the newly-elected Puerto Rico Governor Rosselló will clash with Trump, but what happens in that realm remains to be seen.
At the present, Puerto Rico stands at a crossroads. US control of the island, which has never enjoyed real sovereignty, arguably led to a colonial mentality where Puerto Ricans feel they cannot engage in true self-rule, despite a strong nationalist sentiment. As a result, due to economic dependence on the US, and 25% unemployment, many are not supportive of independence from the US. These feelings are reinforced by existing assimilation showing that people haven’t been decolonized, with the possible compromise of Puerto Rican strong identity and culture. With the advent of neoliberal policies on the island, accommodationist Puerto Rican leaders, as described earlier, and blatant efforts to tamp down demands for independence, it hasn’t got any better.
According to the most recent report by the military establishment in September, there are 142 military personnel, 7,598 reservists, and 1,922 civilian personnel, coming to a total of 9,662!44 Such personnel are clearly used as a way of asserting colonial dominance. Still, Puerto Ricans have not remained silent, with continuing resistance to colonial rule. One example of this would be the student strikes which shut down the university system in the country and were repressed brutally. Either the status quo of neoliberal and capitalist exploitation can remain, or there can be a challenge and destruction to the existing colonial system, ending over 520 years of colonial rule (1493-2016) by the Spanish, then the United States. That is the choice at hand.
There is no doubt that Puerto Rico should be freed from colonial shackles of the murderous empire and its corporate clients. Negotiation may lead to a situation of neocolonialism, like in a number of African countries, where a national bourgeoisie on the island is subservient to the US, not changing the existing relationship between the US and the island nation. While the Puerto Rican people ultimately have to decide their fate, it is clear that decolonization, when part of a real liberation struggle, is “always a violent event,” as Fanon put it, where the colonized masses engage in violence, such as guerrilla warfare, to push for the demolition of the colonial system and allow for the emergence of a new nation.45 In the current economic situation, such counterviolence, which undermines the role of the US as “barons of international capitalism” and demands the independence of island from the imperial behemoth, could erupt once again.46
As one stands in solidarity with Puerto Rico in resisting “a monster where the flaws, sickness and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions,” what Fanon wrote in 1961 is apt to this island nation at the crossroads: “we must shake off the great mantle of night which has enveloped upon us, and reach for the light. The new day which is dawning must find us determined, enlightened and resolute.”47
- Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s History of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2006), 45. [↩]
- Francisco Scarano, “The Origins of Plantation Growth in Puerto Rico,” Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 57-59. [↩]
- Scarano, 56-58. [↩]
- Scarano, 58-60, 61, 63-64, 66. [↩]
- Scarano, 62-65. [↩]
- Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present (New York: HarperCollins, 2003, Fifth Edition), 532. This was not done without resistance in Puerto Rico, in terms of slave revolts, in the 1520s and 1530s. [↩]
- Scarano, 66. French abolition of slavery in its colonies in 1794 (while re-established in Haiti in 1802 by Napoleon in failed attempt to stop revolution, which succeeded in 1804 after twelve years) set off panic among Puerto Rican planters. [↩]
- Kinzer, 44. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Kinzer, 45. [↩]
- Kinzer, 44 [↩]
- Kinzer, 45, 46, 48, 70, 80; Zinn, 312, 408; Ziaudin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies, Why Do People Hate America? (New York: The Disinformation Company, 2002), 43. [↩]
- Kinzer, 91. [↩]
- Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 2004 reprint, originally published in 1961, 14. [↩]
- Kinzer, 91-92. [↩]
- Kinzer, 92. [↩]
- Kinzer, 92, 104, 107, 108, 215, 300. [↩]
- Anti-abortion activists have even used this to criticize Planned Parenthood, with a lawyer for such a group, Casey Mattox, writing that Planned Parenthood worked with the government of Puerto Rico to sterilize women, which was not voluntary, and was a major part of the island’s sterilization program. Of course, Mattox uses it to argue against contraceptive use instead of developing it into a criticism of US imperialism.
- Some have argued that feminists on the US mainland too often framed the discussion around the idea that “Puerto Rican women are victimized and need to be saved,” denying the action of Puerto Rican feminists in support of the measure, and deny the possibility of “Puerto Rican feminist agency” (see pages 31-34 of Laura Briggs’s “Discourses of ‘Forced Sterilization’ in Puerto Rico: The Problem with the Speaking Subaltern”). Be that as it may, parts of this argument come very close to apology for US imperial and colonial action, such as imposed sterilization. Saying this does not deny that Puerto Rican women didn’t act in their best interests and engaged in sterilization in order to improve their own conditions. However, as said in the article, women had little choice but to engage in this procedure, so they didn’t even have “agency,” a word also used to throw off certain analysis, especially of a radical kind, or free choice to engage in all possible birth control measures if they wished to do so. [↩]
- William Blum, Rogue State (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000), 98. [↩]
- Blum-Ibid. [↩]
- Kinzer, 92-93. [↩]
- Jack Woodis, Introduction to Neo-Colonialism:The New Imperialism in Asia, Africa, & Latin America (New York: International Publishers, 1969, second printing, originally published in 1967), 13, 16, 28, 32-33, 43-47, 49, 58, 61, 68-69. [↩]
- Woddis, 50, 68-69. [↩]
- The Court’s majority opinion, written by “liberal” Justice Elena Kagan, declared in flowery words that the colonial relationship is “unique” and built on the “island’s evolution into a constitutional democracy exercising local self-rule,” while admitting that the US Congress stripped the Puerto Rican constitution of social democratic qualities before it was approved since US colonies are “not sovereigns distinct from the United States” as noted on pages 2, 3, 10-11, 15 of the decision. Even Stephen Breyer, who accepted that federal power was the governing authority over US states and colonies, posited the “self-rule” argument, claiming that the island was self-ruling, citing numerous sources including the horrid Resolution 748. The dissenting opinion of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not not challenge, fundamentally, the court’s ruling, only saying that the matter warrants attention to future cases. Clarence Thomas had a similar opinion, only saying that he felt the decision would be a negative precedent on law governing indigenous peoples in the United States.
- The US also controls uninhabited islands in the Pacific including Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Navassa Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island. They could be effectively considered part of the US colonial system.
- The FBI began its close attention on the island in 1936 when a local US attorney said that Campos was publishing articles insulting the US and giving “public speeches in favor of independence.” His influence was so widely recognized that when he refused to go to his parole officer, the Roosevelt administration didn’t order him back to prison for fear that there would be unrest on the island.
- In September 1999, Bill Clinton would commute the sentences of eleven Puerto Rican nationalists, which sparked anger among police officers, numerous leading Democrats, and numerous Republicans. Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton opposed this move, expressing her opposition.
- See articles on this from Democracy Now!, USA Today, Associated Press, and Socialist Worker just for examples of differing reactions among those on the internet. [↩]
- From 1936 to 1995, the FBI generated 1.5 to 1.8 million pages on Puerto Rican independence activists! [↩]
- Fanon, 44, 47. [↩]
- Sardar and Davies, 96. [↩]
- Chronicle of America (Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 755, 758. The surviving man from this action, who was not killed in a gun battle with police officers, was sentenced to life imprisonment instead of being killed. [↩]
- Chronicle of America, 765. [↩]
- Laura Briggs, wrote in her article, as mentioned in an earlier footnote, that Campos was opposed to radicals who pushed for birth control on the island (along with independence), started by the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, and other efforts. This, in and of itself, would not be surprising, as machismo is widely cemented in many Latin American societies and reflected itself in liberation struggles. Despite this major flaw, it still worth recognizing his struggle in resisting US colonialism on the island nation of Puerto Rico, making him a hero to many. [↩]
- Politically, the Republicans would likely oppose statehood due to the large number of Puerto Ricans voting for the Democratic Party in presidential elections. [↩]
- In 1977, some diplomats claimed that the US could not place nuclear weapons on the island if it became a state. Whether this is actually true is not known.
- See articles on The Real News, The Hill, Democracy Now!, Telesur English, Mother Jones, Common Dreams, and Dissident Voice, of course
- Sanders is also on record for rejecting the neoliberal debt restructuring in place. However, due to his imperialist stance on foreign policy, there is no guarantee his debt restructuring would be any better overall.
- The Green Party of the United States has a plank on their platform declaring that the people of the island have the right to self-determination and independence, release of Puerto Rican political prisoners, environmental cleanup of Vieques, that the island’s debt is “unpayable” and that decolonization had to be supported as the “first step for the Puerto Rican people to live in a democracy.” Even the Communist Party USA, a political party that became rightist after the Hungarian “Revolution” in 1956 and with its call for a left-liberal inclusive coalition against the right-wing in the US instead of actively organizing people for socialism, declared in its 2006 “Road to Socialism” that the island nation composes an “oppressed national minority” who are mostly working class, dependent on the US, and says there needs to be a “free and independent Puerto Rico.” This is even further left, strangely enough, then the Socialist Party USA. In their recent platform, the party only calls for Guam, Puerto Rico, indigenous nations, and D.C. to have congressional representation, the similar to a position held by the Democratic Party. [↩]
- Vladimir Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (New York: International Publishers, 1972 reprint of 1939 English translation, originally published in 1917), 16-17, 20, 22, 32. [↩]
- Lenin, 25, 28, 31, 35, 58, 60, 62, 82. [↩]
- Lenin, 10-11. [↩]
- The “Military and Civilian Personnel by Service/Agency by State/Country (Updated Quarterly)” excel spreadsheet report from September 2016 is used here. That’s around the same number of personnel in the state of Delaware, which isn’t a colony in the slightest (although it is occupied indigenous land), which is telling. [↩]
- Fanon, 1, 10, 26, 30. [↩]
- Fanon, 38. [↩]
- Fanon, 235-237. [↩]
The movement against South African apartheid was perhaps the most universal and popular movement in the western world in the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands protested in a multitude of ways—from letter-writing campaigns to shantytown occupations of city squares and college campus greens. Institutions of all types, from churches to universities, from corporations and banks to city halls, were forced to remove their investments from companies doing business with the racist South African regime, ultimately forcing that regime to end its racist legal system. Even the right wing Reagan and Thatcher regimes were ultimately forced to end their support for Pretoria’s racist system and grudgingly go along with the popular will.
However, as Ron Nixon’s new book, titled Selling Apartheid, makes clear, the South African regime was not going to go down without a fight. In addition to police and military actions of varying brutality, the regime hired advertising men to sell their brand of repression to people and governments around the world. The campaign he describes involved a cynical manipulation of emotions about race, implied white supremacist chauvinism, and outright lies. Advertising campaigns presented South Africa as a tourist destination full of beauty and the perfect climate (which it had) with absolutely no mention of the racial discrimination built into its social and political systems. Glossy photo spreads were bought in newspaper and magazines and television programs were made and sold to television networks in the United States and Britain. These shows were then shown to the unsuspecting viewer as if they were made by agencies independent of the apartheid government and their only agenda was tourism.
In a particularly cynical move, the South African government was able to buy off a few African-Americans over the years in what was ultimately a vain attempt to convince Black Americans that apartheid was okay. The first of these individuals was a former supporter of the Black resistance movement in South Africa, Max Yergan. In what can only be described as a complete sell out, Yergan went from working with early members of what would become the primary resistance organization against apartheid—the African National Congress(ANC)—to giving speeches in the United States and Africa aimed at convincing his audiences that apartheid helped Blacks. Once a committed left-winger, Yergan came under pressure during the McCarthy era in the United States, became an informer for the FBI, and turned against his friends in South Africa; friends that included freedom fighters Nelson Mandela and Joseph Tambo. Yergan was but the first of a few such individuals who would follow in his treacherous footsteps.
The bottom line for the white South African regime and the United States was money. Several US companies had millions invested in South African industry. These companies took advantage of the cheap labor (and maximized profits resulting from that labor) and minimal regulations offered by the Pretoria regime. In turn, they either supported or at the least, tacitly accepted the racism and brutality that defined the apartheid system. Consequently, it was these corporations and financial institutions that were targeted by the anti-apartheid movement’s divestment campaign. Churches, universities, and other institutions that had investments in such companies were ultimately convinced to drop those investments. Sometimes that convincing was purely of a moral plea, other times it required a concerted effort that combined direct action, monetary boycotts, and legislative pressure.
As an advocate of the current campaign against Israeli apartheid, it was more than interesting to compare the similarities in the campaign waged against the movement against South Africa’s apartheid and that currently waged against the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement of today. Residents of western nations are constantly barraged with imagery that attempts to portray the Tel Aviv government as a beacon of fairness and democracy in the Middle East. Furthermore, one is constantly told that the Palestinians who resist the occupation of their lands and the ever-present system of discrimination are nothing but terrorists. This latter phenomenon was also the case in South Africa. Indeed, the ANC was not removed from the US list of “terrorist” organizations until 2008, more than fifteen years after apartheid met its well-deserved end. Of course, there are specific differences between the two systems of separation referred to here, but the essential fact apartheid is true for the historic South African regime and the current Israeli one.
Ron Nixon’s text is an essential addition to the volume of work on South Africa’s apartheid regime. Rich in detail, it provides the reader with an extended look at the nature of propaganda in modern society. A one-time journalist for the New York Times, Nixon makes his argument with facts and writing that is both accessible and engaging. In doing so, he exposes the moral vacuousness of those who propagandized for the racists of South Africa not because they necessarily believed in apartheid, but because they made money from doing so. Furthermore, in his telling Nixon doesn’t just rake the white South African regime over the coals, he also points his pen at the equally deserving US and British governments, especially those of Reagan and Thatcher. In terms of how the world seems to work, Selling Apartheid is a tawdry yet familiar tale.
The following text is an excerpt of a forthcoming E-Book entitled Voices From Syria, by Mark Taliano.
Taliano focuses on the broad issue of Media Disinformation and America’s Wars: Liars Versus Truthers. According to the author, the “Progressive Left” has been coopted.
Voices From Syria is slated to be launched by Global Research publishers in December.
* * *
Well-documented facts pertaining to the 9/11 wars, all supported by sustainable evidence, have barely made inroads into the collective consciousness of Western media consumers.
The War on Syria is no exception. Despite the presence of five years of sustainable evidence that contradicts the Western narratives, people still believe the “official” lies.
One of the more prevalent lies about the dirty war on Syria, for example, is that there are so-called “moderate rebels”. This false cover for certain terrorists groups furnishes Western powers with pretexts for illegally arming and supporting terrorism in Syria.
Syrian resident Lilly Martin describes the crimes committed by the so-called “moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) on August 4, 2013, in Ballouta, a small village near Latakia, Syria:
The FSA went house to house killing everyone in their path. Whole families were wiped out. One pregnant woman was seized and her stomach cut open and the fetus hung in a tree. There were many survivors, despite the fact that 220 dead bodies were later counted at the hospital in Latakia. The survivors made their way to an empty school in Latakia and took shelter there until the village could be freed by the Syrian Arab Army on August 17, 2013.
During the sectarian massacre, 100 small children and a few females were kidnapped by the FSA. They were taken as captives to Selma, which was and still is occupied and held by the FSA. The children and females were tortured. They were all held underground without sunlight. One boy had his eyes gouged out, and another boy was shot through the head.
About 2 weeks later the FSA used those children to create a video. They drugged the 100 children and arraigned them in poses on the floor to appear dead. They created many videos using their captives as actors. The video was sent via cell phone to a contact person in Damascus. It was that person who later uploaded the famous Sarin Chemical attack video on YouTube.com
Martin explains further, that on May 7, 2014,
after 9 months of captivity, 44 of the original 100 kidnap victims were released from Selma to a hospital in Latakia. Their release was part of the deal which also released terrorists in the Old City section of Homs. However, the remaining kidnap victims continue to be held in Selma. On May 8th some of the captives began to give testimonies about their time in captivity in Selma with the FSA. They said most of the terrorists were Syrian but that they did occasionally hear foreign languages spoken. From other sources, we know that Selma was home to many Australian terrorists, especially from the Sydney area, which also had ties to Latakia. Those Australians would be able to speak Arabic with a Syrian accent, and also speak English very well.
The notion that these un-Islamic murderers are somehow “moderate”, is patently absurd, yet the “Big Lie” is sustained in the West by a “consensus of ignorance” which is protected by what Prof Michel Chossudovsky describes as an “American Inquisition”. Beneath the protection of this psychological operation, the engineered enemy is Islam, and the Global War On Terrorism (GWOT) has become a brand to disguise imperial wars of aggression as “humanitarian”.
Thus, huge sums of public monies are diverted from worthwhile, domestic projects such as healthcare schools and roads, to support a criminal Project for a New American Century (PNAC) that is globalizing death, poverty, and destruction as the U.S led empire tries to impose a unilateral model of control over the world.
The U.S is said to be “exceptional”, and therefore the rightful ruler. Manifest Destiny writ large.
Dissent is suppressed within the framework of corporate media monopolies. Predominant narratives are supported by corrupt “NGOs” – totally bereft of objectivity — and intelligence agency “fronts”. Real investigative journalism offering historical context and legitimate evidence are relegated to the fringes, far outside the domain of the broad-based “consensus of misunderstanding.”
The “Progressive Left” has been co-opted. So-called “progressives” (presumably unwittingly) support Canada’s close relationships with Wahabbi Saudi Arabia, Apartheid Israel, and even the foreign mercenaries currently invading Syria (ie ISIS and al Nursra Front/al Qaeda, and all the “moderates”).
The foundational sources upon which the pretexts for war are built and perpetrated are taboo topics, despite longstanding evidence that the official narratives explaining the crimes of 9/11 – and the subsequent “Gladio B” operations — are flawed. The truth is seen as “heresy”, and fact-based narratives are derided as “conspiracy theories”.
Thus, a firm foundation of lies that serves as a sanctified justification for global war and terror, remains strong.
But the stakes are high, as Western hegemony presses us closer and closer to a real prospect of widespread nuclear war. Already, the use of nuclear weapons is being “normalized” through the introduction of “mini-nukes” into the equation, and the blurring of lines between conventional and nuclear war.
“The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations outlines the procedures governing the use of nuclear weapons and the nature of the relationship between nuclear and conventional war operations.
The DJNO states that the:
‘use of nuclear weapons within a [war] theater requires that nuclear and conventional plans be integrated to the greatest extent possible’ (DJNO, p 47, italics added, For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 )
The implications of this ‘integration’ are far-reaching because once the decision is taken by the Commander in Chief, namely the President of the United States, to launch a joint conventional-nuclear military operation, there is a risk that tactical nuclear weapons could be used without requesting subsequent presidential approval. In this regard, execution procedures under the jurisdiction of the theater commanders pertaining to nuclear weapons are described as ‘flexible and allow for changes in the situation …’ ”
The taboos need to be lifted, and all of the repeated lies need to be contradicted.
The War on Syria is not a “civil” war; the “uprising” was not “democratic”; Assad does not “starve his own people”; Assad does not “bomb his own people”, and, of course, there are no “moderate” terrorists.
The initial uprisings were marred by foreign-backed violence perpetrated against innocent people, soldiers, and police. Peaceful grassroots protests were hijacked by these murderous foreign-backed elements (as was the case in Ukraine) – all consistent with “hybrid war” as elaborated by Andrew Korybko.
The illegal sanctions imposed by the West – which benefit the terrorists and punish Syrian citizens – coupled with terrorist practices of theft and hoarding of humanitarian aid – are responsible for the starvation.
Assad is a democratically elected reformer, and hugely popular with Syrians, not a brutal dictator. Claims that he “kills his own people” were further debunked when the so-called “Caesar photos” evidence was proven to be a fraud. Many Syrians criticize Assad for not carpet bombing terrorist occupied areas (as US occupiers did in Fallujah, for example). Syrians sometimes refer to Assad as “Mr. Soft Heart”.
Unfortunately, though, the well-documented truth is not yet widely accepted. We need to shatter the “Inquisition” which serves to protect the criminal cabal perpetrating and orchestrating this global catastrophe. Truth and justice must prevail over lies and crimes. Currently, the opposite is the case.
Copyright © Mark Taliano, Global Research, 2016
Dublin – Last Sunday Britain remembered yet again its soldiers which were “killed in past and present” wars. This annual British event – Remembrance Sunday – is their annual “fuck you” to the world. It basically is a defence of the British Empire and the willing executioners it sent out to the four corners of the world. It’s insensitivity towards the peoples Britain conquered and condemned is so breathtaking that it begs a bloody response.
And when Britain’s role in the 21st century Arab slaughter is taken into account – the sight of Britain’s military shamelessly looking for respect is nothing less than the sabotage of morality. It makes a mockery of international solidarity and international equality. It is not a nation remembering but a nation defecating – defecating on the universal rights of men and women everywhere. It is a pure crime parading as pure innocence.
Britain’s ruling class was profoundly embarrassed by Brexit. Ever since the vote to “leave” Europe – this establishment has been at pains to express its love for Europe and the globe. Yet every year this social class recalls with pride the British rape of the world. Indeed this ruling class has steadfastly refused to apologise for its historical and contemporary acts – choosing instead to institutionalise its rapaciousness. Brexit may be an embarrassment for this class – but not war. On the contrary – war is policy – a perennial policy.
Just how long has war been British policy? Since it’s unification in 1707 Britain has been at war more or less nonstop somewhere in the world. From the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-13) to the destruction of Libya and Syria (2011-16) the British have been in the business of killing foreigners. In a light hearted book All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Around To (2013) the writer Stuart Laycock concludes that Britain has invaded 90% of the world’s countries. That is: out of nearly 200 countries – only 22 have escaped British terror. However being light hearted about this will not stop the killing machine.
In contrast the writer Richard Gott in his book Britain’s Empire (2011) looks very closely at this trail of blood and guts. For him it is not a joke for Brits to laugh at. But is a problem to deal with. And overcome. He looks for the victims of British terror and their resistance to British rule so as to gain a liberating view of the past and therefore of the present. Once the revolt and resistance is included and embraced – an alternative to Empire becomes possible. By seeing Britain clearly and by rising up against it – Britain’s victims gave and give birth to a better world. This is one of the great stories – if not the greatest story – of the modern world. One that we cling to today in the face of a resurgent Empire.
In a revealing remark Gott claims that this global struggle against British violence can be summed up in one story – that of Ireland.
“No colony in their Empire gave the British more trouble than the island of Ireland. No subject people proved more rebellious than the Irish. From misty start to unending finish, Irish revolt against colonial rule has been the leitmotif that runs through the entire history of Empire, causing problems in Ireland, in England itself, and in the most distant corners of the British globe.”
And if this is so – we contend that this Gaelic/Global rebellion against Britain is embodied in the life of one Irishman: Bobby Sands. If Ireland is the cutting edge of freedom from Britain everywhere – then Bobby Sands is the diamond that cuts deeply into the rock of British rule everywhere.
Born in Belfast in 1954 and dead 27 years later – Sands lit up the world from inside a British dungeon. He died because he refused to be broken by Britain. He died because he had more integrity and courage than Britain’s entire military history. He died because he rejected the criminalisation of resistance – resistance to Empire. He died with nine other Irish men on hunger strike. Sands was not only the leader of the striking prisoners – he was the leader at that moment of the entire global fight against injustice. From inside a prison cell he touched the four corners of the world.
Not only was Bobby Sands a leader in the political revolution – he was also a leader in the cultural revolution. His lust for freedom was not just a material thing. It was also a mental thought. One he put into words: words that fit perfectly into the art of Che and Mao. In his Writings from Prison (1997) he sings to us as he deconstructs the British gulag. Without needing to break down the walls that imprisoned him – he walked free. And in that cultural sense (indeed in every sense) he was freer than and greater than any of the mercenaries and sepoys that have died for Britain. Fidel Castro said Bobby Sands was more valuable than Jesus Christ. And he was right.
We remember the working class hero from Belfast – the IRA volunteer – who will always be an example for the world. In Bobby’s words:
“I was a skeleton compared to what I used to be but it didn’t matter. Nothing really mattered except remaining unbroken. I rolled over once again, the cold biting at me. They have nothing in their entire imperial arsenal to break the spirit of one single Republican political prisoner-of-war who refuses to be broken, I thought, and that was very true. They can not or never will break our spirit. I rolled over again freezing and the snow came in the window on top of my blankets.
“Tiocfaidh ár lá,” I said to myself. “Tiocfaidh ár lá.”
“Tiocfaidh ár lá” means in English “Our day will come”.
Aidan O’Brien is a hospital worker in Dublin, Ireland.
The Syrian Presidential Political and Media Advisor Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban said that Syria’s upcoming victory is a victory for the axis of resistance and all the states which believe in the sovereignty of states.
Dr. Shaaban was speaking in the First Media Forum launched by the Journalists Union on Wednesday at the Conferences Hall at Damascus University on the occasion of the 46th anniversary of the Correctionist Movement, in which the Advisor talked about her book “Ten Years with Hafez al-Assad 1990-2000”.
In reply to the audience’s questions, Dr. Shaaban affirmed that Syria is committed to establishing good relations with all countries of the world without deviating from national principles and interests which form the compass for any policy or decision.
In reply to a question, the Advisor confirmed that there are no secret talks with the United States, expressing Syria’s readiness to open channels of communication with US in a way that suits Syria’s national interests and sovereignty, adding “But the US administration was not able to deliver on its agreement with the Russian Federation. How can it open any files with others?”
On the importance of historical documentation of events in Syria, she said that the young generation has the right to know the Syrian policy away from the Western media which is separated from the Syrian reality completely.
“We are currently observing and studying and we are not making any judgments now, but the signs so far are good,” the Advisor said speaking about the statements of the new US president.
She hoped that the new US administration’s policy will be “balanced and sensible” and takes into account the historical stage through which the world is passing.
The Advisor pointed out that “few companies are in charge of western media and 90 percent of the Arab media are owned by Saudi Arabia and held by those who are targeting Syria and want to destroy it. That’s why we have to find media and research centers that are not controlled by Western media.”
In a press statement following the event, Information Minister Mohammad Ramez Tourjman said that the historical stages documented in the book clarify the reasons for targeting Syria in order to liquidate the Palestinian cause, the right to return and the occupied Golan.
The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel, by Alison Weir
Alison Weir’s relatively short book covers the history of Zionism in the United States from the last decades of the 19th century until the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. (She is working on a second volume that will carry this history to the present.) Its brevity does not mean, however, that it is in any sense superficial, as it brings out key historical information, all well-documented, that sets the stage for the troubled world in which we now live. While histories of Zionism have usually focused on Europe, Weir shows that American adherents of this ideology have been far more important than generally has been recognized
The basic theses of this book are encapsulated in the title and subtitle. The history of how American Zionists used America to create Israel was “hidden” in two respects. First, it was “hidden” in the sense that American Zionists often worked behind the scenes. More importantly, however, that history is known but has been kept hidden from the general public, who rely on the mainstream media, and exists almost exclusively in works produced by small publishers—often of a scholarly bent—read by only a few. As Weir points out, those who have tried to bring this information to the general public have suffered both venomous verbal attacks and economic threats that quickly silence the message and often destroy the messenger. This treatment obviously serves to prevent others from doing likewise—“Pour encourager les autres.”
America’s support for Israel ran “against our better judgment” in the sense that American foreign policy experts of the era covered by this work recognized that support for Zionist goals would damage American national interest and that this support only came about because of the political power of American Zionism.
While Weir is not a professional historian, she has intensively studied the literature on this subject for years, much of it rather arcane, as well as spending considerable time traveling in the region. Having a Ph.D. in history myself, I would like to point out that the writing of history does not require any specialized talents as are needed in such fields as theoretical physics or medicine, so that intelligent, hardworking laypersons can often produce works of great value. Weir does not purport to have pored over primary sources to discover new information, which is the hallmark of the professional historian’s craft, but rather synthesizes information from existing published studies that are largely unknown to the general public. Moreover, she brings to her work knowledge of the land and the peoples which she has picked up from her travels.
For those who still might find her background insufficient for her task, it should be further added that Israel apologist Alan Dershowitz, who lacks as far as I can tell any college degree in history, manages to produce works on Israel that are picked up by major publishers who would not think of publishing anything done by most academic historians. It might be added that academic historians, who specialize in monographs, would be loath to produce a comparable account of this subject from Weir’s perspective, since it would do little for their careers and might serve as their professional death knell.
While the book’s narrative is very readable and the key points can easily be digested by the average reader, it is nonetheless well-documented. To satisfy the more academic reader, the book has a section of extended endnotes longer than the narrative. I found the endnotes section valuable not only for confirming and expanding upon the content of the narrative but also in serving as a point of departure for additional research. I often switched from my Kindle book to a Web search, coming up with names of related books and articles that I would like to peruse, should I ever have the time to venture to a research library.
The work goes over a large number of little known but very important topics to demonstrate the powerful influence of Zionism over American foreign policy. Space, naturally, precludes me from discussing all the topics in detail so I have focused on those which seem to deal most directly with the major themes of the book.
The early political influence of Zionism is illustrated by the fact that in 1887 a Jewish American was made ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which then controlled Palestine and was thus considered by Zionists as the key country with which to deal. This set the precedent of a Jewish ambassador to this country that was continued for the next 30 years, by which time the Zionist search for outside support had turned elsewhere.
The book brings up the central importance of Louis Brandeis and his disciple Felix Frankfurter in advancing the interests of Zionism. Brandeis was a noted social and economic reformer who was a Zionist and happened to be very close to President Wilson, who would put him on the Supreme Court in 1916, the first Jew to hold such a position. Even after joining the Supreme Court, Brandeis used this access to Wilson to promote Zionist interests, sometimes acting as a go-between for Wilson and British Zionists.
Brandeis would head the international Zionist Central Office during the teens but, perhaps even more significant, he would be a leading member of a secret society, the Parushim, the Hebrew word for “Pharisees” and “separate,” which covertly advanced the interests of Zionism in the United States and Europe. The Parushim was founded in 1913 by a University of Wisconsin philosophy professor, Horace M. Kallen, who ironically is considered to be the father of cultural pluralism in the United States. Obviously this idea conflicted completely with his support for the creation of a Jewish exclusivist state, but it is a contradiction that is rather commonplace among many Jews and liberal gentiles alike.
Kallen was regarded by some as first promoting the idea for what became the Balfour Declaration, which would set the stage for the modern state of Israel. He promoted this scheme in 1915 when the U.S. was still a neutral. He told a British friend that this would serve to bring the United States into World War I. It should be pointed out that at that time, despite serious diplomatic issues regarding German submarine warfare, the great majority of the American people wanted to avoid war and Wilson would be re-elected president in November 1916 on the slogan “He kept us out of war.” Kallen’s idea for advancing the Zionist goal, however, soon gained traction.
Frustrated in their efforts to achieve a Jewish homeland in Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, the American Zionists turned toward Britain to bring this about. In 1916 as World War I dragged on indecisively, Zionist leaders promised the British that in return for a Jewish homeland in Palestine—which the British could expect to gain from the Ottomans as one of the spoils of a victorious war—American Zionists would work to bring the United States into the war on behalf of Britain and its allies. Many British strategists at the time, such as Winston Churchill, believed that such an event would turn the tide for victory. Weir holds that it “appears” that the Zionists’ activity was one factor in bringing America into the war  and cites a number a number of reputable books and leading contemporary figures—such as then-British Prime Minister Lloyd George—that held that Zionists carried out their side of the bargain by pushing the United States into war.
The Balfour Declaration was a letter, dated November 2, 1917 (and coming out in the press one week later), from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Walter Rothschild, a British Zionist leader, officially stating that Britain would use its “best endeavours to facilitate the achievement” of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine.
Now even to give attention to the Balfour Declaration in a history of World War I is somewhat outré; to claim that it caused the United States to enter war is one of those ultra-taboos. Although my Ph.D. was in American history with a focus on diplomacy (and a minor in 20th Century European history), never did I come into contact with anything about the Balfour Declaration in my college studies (which, granted, did not deal with the Middle East). I only knew about it from reading what the mainstream historical profession would regard as disreputable authors.
Reference to the Balfour Declaration and the Zionist role in it was considered one of the daring things done by the iconoclastic Israeli “New Historian” Tom Segev who discussed it in his book, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate (2000). In a lecture on his book that I heard at the University of Maryland in 2002, Segev, though acknowledging that the British goal was winning over Jews to their side , derided the idea of any real Jewish power, attributing that mode of thinking to “anti-Semitism.” In 2010, Segev expressed this view in a review of a new book on the Balfour Declaration: “Obviously there was no ‘Jewish power’ controlling world affairs, but Weizmann  successfully pretended that the Jews were in fact turning the wheels of history. For once, the anti-Semitic image of the Jews proved useful — they were believed to be so maliciously dangerous that one would do best to acquire them as allies rather than as enemies.”
Although Segev is a daring historian who often rejects the Zionist myths on the creation of Israel, in this case he essentially relies on a classic Zionist-constructed strawman, which involves greatly exaggerating the view that the Zionists (and Jews in general) don’t like. It is highly doubtful that the British foreign office believed that Jews were so powerful as to be “turning the wheels of history.” (If that had been the case, one would think that the British would have offered Jews much more than Palestine from the very start of the war.) Furthermore, as noted earlier, Weir does not subscribe to anything like this Zionist strawman in regard to the Balfour Declaration, or anything else, I should add.
However, what is important is not only whether the American Zionists were able to bring the United States into a war, but that they made a solemn promise to a foreign country that they would try to do so. As a matter of fact, since Zionists such as Brandeis knew much about Wilson’s thinking and undoubtedly were kept abreast on what Germany was likely to do (it being well-known that Germany was suffering from the British “starvation” blockade and that politically powerful voices there wanted to retaliate by pursuing a harsher submarine policy toward neutrals such as the U.S.), they may have realistically thought in 1916 that there was a good chance that the United States would shortly go to war whether they interceded or not, which meant it would be a wise move to make such a deal and be able to get credit for a result that was not of their own making.
It is also of significance that the American Zionists promised to push the U.S. into war not because they believed that it was in their own country’s national interest—as was the case for a number of prominent Americans such as former President Theodore Roosevelt—but solely for what they considered to be in the interests of world Jewry. Ascribing “dual loyalty” to any Jews is regarded as a classic anti-Semitic canard. In this case, however, the American Zionists’ position did not even rise to the level of “dual loyalty,” being purely singular in that it evinced no apparent concern whatsoever for American interests.
Linked to the Balfour Declaration, Weir points out that “American Zionists may also have played a role in preventing an early peace with the Ottoman Empire.” In 1917, the U.S. State Department had heard that the Ottomans were becoming weary of the war, and it decided to send a secret mission to explore the possibility of detaching the Ottoman Empire from its alliance with the other Central Powers. Such a separate peace would likely leave the Ottoman Empire (or Turkey as it would become shortly) in control of its Asian possessions, which would mean that since Britain would not gain Palestine, no home for Jews could emerge there.
This mission was headed by former Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, who, though Jewish, was not a Zionist. However, he was persuaded by Zionists such as Brandeis protégé Felix Frankfurter, who was a member of the mission’s delegation, to abandon the effort. In a meeting with Morgenthau, Chaim Weizmann, a leading British Zionist who was alerted by American Zionists as to the danger posed by Morgenthau’s mission, also played a major role in stopping the potentially-peacemaking mission, as is indicated in Weir’s endnotes.
Other obstacles to the Zionists’ goal in Palestine would also arise soon after the end of the war in November 1918. Important Christian Americans who were intimately involved in the Near East and supported self-determination for the Arabs recognized that this could not take place if the Zionists were able to set up an ethnic Jewish enclave on Arab land. They went to the Paris Peace Conference which, among a number of issues stemming from World War I, would deal with the territorial settlement.
As a result of the divergent views on the future status of the territory to be given up by the Ottoman Empire, President Wilson decided to send an investigatory commission to the region, which became known as the King-Crane Commission. In line with Wilson’s goal of national self-determination, the commission sought to discover how the region’s inhabitants wanted to be governed, and they overwhelmingly expressed opposition to a Jewish home in Palestine.
Weir points out that “Zionists through Brandeis dominated the situation, however, and the report was suppressed until after the Peace Accords were enacted.” At the Paris Peace Conference, Weir writes, “[t]he U.S. delegation was forced to follow Zionist directives.”
One minor criticism here is that the reader might incorrectly get the impression that the King-Crane Commission dealt solely with Palestine, while it actually involved all the territories severed from, or expected to be severed from, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). The issue of Palestine made up about half of the report on “Syria,” which also included present day Syria and Lebanon. The other two geographical sections of the report were “Mesopotamia” and “Non-Arabic speaking portions of the Former Ottoman Empire (Asia Minor).” Thus the suppression of the commission’s report was likely due not only to opposition by Zionists, but also to other interested parties disturbed by its findings in areas other than Palestine. These parties would include the British, French and Greeks.
In regard to the report’s description of Palestine, however, Weir’s presentation was completely on the mark. The King-Crane report reflected extreme opposition to Zionism expressed by those Muslims and Christians who lived in Palestine as well as by those who lived in neighboring areas.
Weir points out that during the inter-war period, when Palestine was governed by Britain under a League of Nations mandate, which was intended to prepare the country for eventual independence, the American Zionists moved away from openly pushing for the establishment of an exclusivist Jewish state in Palestine since this ran counter to the temper of the times—which reflected American opposition to militant nationalism and dual loyalty, and respect for majority rule and national self-determination. Instead, Zionists focused on the development of Jewish institutions in Palestine, which would serve as a basis for a Jewish state. Zionist leaders, such as David Ben-Gurion, still viewed American support as key to their establishment of a Jewish state.
With World War II on the horizon, Zionists began to return directly to their goal of a Jewish state. A precursor of the current Israel lobby, the American Zionist Emergency Council (AZEC), began in 1939. In order to pressure the U.S. government to support a Zionist state, AZEC worked to establish more than 400 local committees under 76 state and regional branches to promote this goal. These committees distributed Zionist pamphlets, circulated petitions, and engaged in letter writing campaigns to promote the Zionist cause. AZEC also funded books, articles and academic studies for this same purpose.
By the end of World War II, Zionist efforts gave them considerable power in American politics. In order to appeal to the general American populace, they stressed the needs of the many Jewish European refugees, connecting the refugee problem to Palestine, the latter destination purportedly being the only solution to their existing homelessness. By this humanitarian argument, Zionists could thus appeal to many Americans who did not necessarily believe the Zionists’ contention that Jews had a historical right to control Palestine.
As Britain opted to turn over the troublesome issue of Palestine to the United Nations in 1947, Zionists pushed for a partitioning of Palestine between Jews and the indigenous Palestinian population. The partition plan discriminated in favor of the Zionists, since while the Jewish population comprised about 30 percent of Palestine’s population, the plan would award them with 55 percent of the land. And the Zionists’ real goal was not to be content with that amount but to also grab the remainder.
U.S. State Department officials strenuously opposed the partition plan, looking upon this approach as both contrary to America’s professed principle of national self-determination and its vital interests in the Middle East, where a vast majority of the governments and their people were vehemently opposed to Zionism. A leading State Department official in this opposition was Loy Henderson, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs. Zionists viciously attacked him, demanding his removal and even threatening his family. The State Department chose to move him elsewhere and in 1948 President Truman named him Ambassador to Nepal, which kept him far away from anything to do with Palestine.
Removing Henderson, however, did not make the State Department favorable toward transforming any part of Palestine into a Jewish state. Among the higher level opponents were the head of the State Department‘s Division of Near Eastern Affairs, Gordon P. Merriam; Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, who later became Secretary of State; and George F. Kennan, the State Department‘s Director of Policy Planning, noted as the architect of America’s containment policy against Soviet Communism.
The State Department was not the only part of the executive branch of the United States government that opposed the Zionist goal for Palestine. The newly-created CIA reported in 1947 that the Zionists were seeking goals that would be harmful to both Jews and “the strategic interests of the Western powers in the Near and Middle East.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff opposed partition and expressed the prescient fear that the Zionist aim was to involve the U.S. in their conflict with their Middle East enemies.
Despite this opposition from a consensus of foreign policy and national security experts within his own government, Truman opted to support the Zionist partition plan for political reasons, relying heavily on the views of his domestic political advisor, Clark Clifford, who maintained that the Jewish vote and financial backing were necessary to win the presidential election in 1948. Truman‘s Secretary of State George Marshall, noted for the famed Marshall Plan that helped to rebuild devastated Western Europe, and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal remained staunchly opposed to what they regarded as Truman’s willingness to sacrifice vital national security interests on the altar of domestic politics.
Weir points out that a number of wealthy Zionist Jews provided financial support for Truman’s presidential campaign in 1948, which may put us in mind of Zionist mega-donors of today such as Sheldon Adelson. One of these backers was Abraham Feinberg who funded Truman’s epic whistle-stop train campaign. Truman would give Feinberg credit for his victory. As quid pro quo, the Truman administration remained inert when the CIA later reported that Feinberg was involved in illegal gun-running to Zionist groups in Palestine.
I should add that while Truman has become something of an idol for recent historians, he was looked upon during his time as being driven by what would benefit his own political interest. As the redoubtable journalist H. L. Mencken quipped about Truman’s 1948 campaign: “If there had been any formidable body of cannibals in the country he would have promised them with free missionaries, fattened at the taxpayer’s expense.” In Truman’s defense, however, it should be pointed out that two of his key opponents in the 1948 presidential election, Republican Thomas Dewey and the left-wing Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace, Franklin Roosevelt’s former Vice-President, were both staunchly pro-Zionist.
Weir describes a number of Zionists who maintained personal contact with Truman and likely played a role in shaping his policies. David K. Niles, Truman’s executive assistant, was regularly briefed by the head of the Washington Office of the Zionist Organization of America and was believed to be passing top-secret information to the Israeli government. Truman’s long-time friend and former business partner, Eddie Jacobson, was a staunch Zionist with close access to Truman who would describe his information to be of “decisive importance.” Sam Rosenman, a political advisor to Truman, screened State Department memos to Truman.
Although the United States had announced its support for the partition of Palestine, it was apparent that the partition plan still lacked the necessary two-thirds vote to pass in the UN General Assembly. Consequently, the Zionists were able to get a delay in the vote and used that time to intimidate or bribe opponents to reverse their positions.
For example, Weir notes that Wall Street financier and perennial presidential adviser Bernard Baruch threatened war-torn France that it would be denied aid from the United States if it voted against partition. David Niles was able to get rubber baron Harvey Firestone to tell the Liberian president that he would terminate his planned expansion in his country if it did not vote in favor of partition. Haiti was promised economic aid if it would change its vote and support the measure. Costa Rica’s President Jose Figueres was said to have received a blank checkbook to get his country’s vote.
As a result of this behind the scenes skullduggery, the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947, voted in favor of the adoption and implementation of the partition plan as UN General Assembly Resolution 181. Although this resolution is widely believed in the United States to have created Israel, Weir correctly points out that it “was of limited (if any) legal impact” since General Assembly resolutions, as opposed to those of the Security Council, are not binding on member states. Although the resolution recommended that the UN Security Council implement the partition, it never did.
The effect of the General Assembly’s resolution, however, was to increase the fighting in Palestine. While the Zionist myth would have it that the Jews in Palestine were simply a peaceful community set upon by violent Arabs intent on genocide, Weir points out that Zionist military forces had been covertly preparing for war for some time. They had amassed extensive armaments, some of it coming illicitly from the U.S., and their troop numbers exceeded those of their foes even after five Arab governments had joined the fray. The traditional Zionist portrayal of Israel’s war for independence (which, of course, prevented independence for the Palestinians) as a David versus Goliath conflict in which the Jews miraculously overcame overwhelming odds is pure fiction, but it is still believed in many quarters today and continues to generate sympathy for Israel. On May 15, 1948, Zionists announced the establishment of their new state of Israel, for which they did not establish any boundaries.
A quick aside here: somewhat ironically, in my view, Weir barely touches on the United States decision to recognize Israel. Moreover, what does exist is largely in the endnotes. Although there will be a second volume to Weir’s history, and the cut-off point for this volume has to be somewhere, still the fact that the book does make reference to events in 1948 would seem to have made it appropriate to discuss in some detail the issue of America’s quick recognition of Israel.
A number of interlocking organizations operated in the U.S. to raise money for Zionist paramilitary groups in Palestine, though this goal was kept secret. These organizations were under the direction of the leader of the Irgun Delegation, Hillel Kook, who operated under the name of Peter Bergson. During World War II, these organizations purported to be trying to alert people to the genocide of European Jews and trying to rescue those still alive. By promoting this purpose these organizations were able to attract substantial public support, including from those who would be repulsed by their funding of terrorist activities, which, Weir implies, was their real intent. The latter, she maintains, was made manifest by the organizations’ failure to actually rescue Jews from Europe.
The Irgun group engaged in numerous public activities to raise money, one of the most successful being a pageant entitled “We Will Never Die!” which, woven within the backdrop of the Nazi genocide, celebrated the Jewish contribution to Western civilization. Written by Ben Hecht, an Academy Award-winning screenwriter, the pageant included such Broadway and Hollywood celebrities of the era as Edward G. Robinson, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Leonard Bernstein. Forty thousand attended the extravaganza’s New York performances. It went on to play in a number of other large American cities. The group produced a number of other plays and rallies, one of which featured a young Marlon Brando, and raised $1 million.
Some American Zionists, Weir observes, actually planned terrorist activities outside of Palestine in order to influence developments there. One such terrorist activity conceived by a group of American Zionists headed by an Orthodox Rabbi named Baruch Korff consisted of a plan to drop bombs along with threatening leaflets on the British foreign office in London, or anywhere in London if that were too difficult. The airplane pilot sought for this task, however, went to the Paris Police—he and Korff both being in France at the time—and Korff was arrested. Powerful people rushed to Korff’s defense and the charges were dropped. Korff thus was able return to his former activities in America as if nothing had happened. With this particular event thrown down the Orwellian “memory hole,” Korff resurfaced over two decades later as a public figure close to President Richard Nixon, influencing the latter’s Middle East policies.
The amount of money raised for Zionist groups in the United States during these years is impossible to calculate accurately, but it would be enormous. Weir writes that between 1939 and May 1948 the Jewish Agency for Israel alone raised the equivalent of $3.5 billion in today’s dollars.
David Ben-Gurion, then de facto leader of the Jewish community in Palestine, realized that the international concern for Jewish refugees could be used to advance the cause of a Jewish state by making it appear that no other safe refuges for Jews existed. Weir illustrates this deception by a discussion of the famous ship Exodus, which carried Holocaust survivors to Palestine when the British were not allowing illegal immigration there.
Weir points out that what is generally unknown to the public is that the French were willing to take in those Exodus refugees but Ben-Gurion rejected that solution, forcing those survivors to remain on board the ship for seven months. Weir quotes historian Baruch Kimmerling on the significance of the Exodus affair: “Ben-Gurion‘s strategy in the Exodus affair paid off. The fate of the refugee ship attracted considerable and sympathetic attention around the world, and served the Zionist cause well. Few observers at the time knew that many of the refugees from the Exodus had applied for immigration visas to the United States, and were hardly anxious to settle in Israel . . . . By dramatizing the fate of the survivors, in whom he had little interest except as future residents of the state he was building . . . Ben-Gurion helped to make Israel the world’s chief power broker over Jewish affairs.”
Weir includes a brief reference to Leon Uris’s bestselling 1958 novel on the Exodus ship, and though it falls outside the chronological purview of this volume, I would add that the impact of the already mythologized Exodus event was greatly magnified by Uris’s book, which sold over 7 million copies and was turned into a blockbuster movie in 1960 by Otto Preminger, a leading film director of the era. The film has been identified by many commentators as having greatly enhanced support for Israel in the United States by Jews as well as gentiles and in the view of some scholars this movie has had a lasting effect on how Americans view the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Weir even acknowledges that it had initially shaped her thinking on the subject.
While the pro-Zionist propaganda that inundated the American media played up the existence of Jewish refugees who allegedly sought to come to Israel, there was little popular attention paid toward the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were being driven from their homeland as a result of Zionist massacres and other forcible expulsion measures. A State Department study in March 1949 found the American public was “unaware of the Palestine refugee problem, since it has not been hammered away at by the press or radio.”
To underscore the importance of what Weir presents on this subject, it should be pointed out that until fairly recently, Israel’s denial of ever having expelled the Palestinians dominated the public discourse in the U.S. It was alleged that when Arab armies were about to invade the newly-declared state of Israel, Palestinians left their homes in the new Israel at the behest of their leaders, expecting to return with the victorious Arab armies. Beginning in the 1980s, however, Israel’s so-called “New Historians,” relying on newly released Israeli documents, exploded this myth. They concluded that the major cause of Palestinian flight was Israeli military action, which included terrorist massacres and the fear of them.
Even without the discovery of this Israeli documentary evidence, or any other documentary evidence for that matter, the use of the cui bono test would strongly point to Zionist culpability for the removal of the native Palestinians. For the Zionists planned to create a state that was both democratic and Jewish. This would be impossible if a large number of non-Jewish people, who were largely hostile to Zionism, resided within the country. From this fact, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the emptying of Palestine in 1948 was not a serendipitous development from the perspective of the Zionists, but one that was intentionally brought about by them.
Weir observes that U.S. State Department experts at the time were aware of Israel’s inhumane actions and sought to take action to at least moderate Israel’s effort to achieve a permanent removal of Palestinians. The State Department threatened to withhold $49 million of unallocated funds from an Export-Import Bank loan to Israel if it did not allow at least 200,000 refugees to return to their homes. Although Truman sympathized with the Palestinians’ plight, and in early 1948 even briefly considered backtracking from the partition and supporting a UN trusteeship for the entirety of Palestine, he ultimately prevented the State Department’s move from being implemented.
Weir points out that those in the mainstream media who attempted to alert the American people to the reality of the dispossession of the Palestinian people were effectively prevented from doing so by pro-Zionists. The latter relied on hurling the career-destroying charge of “anti-Semitism” and threatening economic measures to harm any media outlet that would dare to disseminate information they deemed to be too negative toward Israel.
The individual whom the Zionists caused to fall the farthest was Dorothy Thompson. Weir deserves much credit here for pulling this once well-known figure out of the Orwellian memory hole. Thompson happens to have been one of the principal figures in my doctoral dissertation titled, ”The Intellectual Wellsprings of American World War II Interventionism, 1939-1941.” And I have added a few additional points to what Weir has in her book to illustrate the high reputation Thompson had at one time.
Thompson was an early and persistent critic of Nazism. She had an interview with Hitler in 1931 before he had become German Chancellor, which was made into a book. Thompson portrayed Hitler and Nazism in a negative light and in 1934, the now Nazi government of Germany expelled her when she attempted to visit the country. From 1934 onward, the bulk of her writing dealt with the danger posed by Nazism to the Western democracies. After the start of World War II in Europe in September 1939, Thompson was a staunch interventionist who initially advocated greater American aid to the allies but by the latter part of 1941 she was advocating American entrance into the war.
In 1939, Time Magazine named Thompson the second most popular and influential woman in America behind Eleanor Roosevelt. She spoke out about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Jews in Europe, and urged a relaxation of immigration restrictions so the U.S. could be a safe haven for Jews under threat in Europe. She also was a strong supporter of Zionism.
In early 1945 she took a trip to Palestine where she saw firsthand Jews oppressing Palestinians. She came to realize that the Zionists sought to create a Jewish exclusivist state, not one that would include all of its current inhabitants. Her criticism of Zionism led to charges against her of “anti-Semitism” and even pro-Nazism, as absurd as that was given her background. As a result of this all-out Zionist attack, newspapers began to drop her columns. Especially harmful was her loss of an outlet in New York City—where she had received a large proportion of her income—when the New York Post dropped her column with no other major New York City daily being willing to pick it up. Her radio program and speaking engagements also disappeared. Despite these problems, Thompson would not back away from her criticism of Zionism. And she continued to do so in the dwindling number of newspapers that still took her column, which did not end until 1958.
It is significant that the black-out of Dorothy Thompson has continued after her death, and perhaps even become worse. In the effort to make the subject of American history more inclusive, recent historians have often added women who were little known in their own eras, whereas Thompson who had been an important figure remains unmentioned. It seems likely that she has remained largely unmentioned both for what she had to say about Zionism and also by the fact that she was blacklisted by pro-Zionists, the power of whom one is not allowed to publicly acknowledge. (This contrasts with those Americans who were blacklisted for being pro-Communist, who are now often praised as martyrs because of this treatment.)
To conclude the review, it should be emphasized that this concise book should be of value to a wide audience. The general reader with little background knowledge should easily pick up a number of key points that serve to dispel the many myths that loom large today in the mainstream media, while even those individuals familiar with the subject are almost guaranteed to profit from little known facts, especially in the notes section, that should augment their knowledge. And it is essential that many more Americans become aware of this knowledge if America’s position is to change regarding Israel and the Middle East in general. Such a change is essential not only to bring about some degree of justice for the Palestinians but in order to extricate the United States from the debilitating regional conflicts that its close connection with Israel has entailed. It will be interesting to see how Weir, in her forthcoming volume, deals with the problems America has faced in more recent years that ineluctably derived from the events described in this work.
 Alison Weir, Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel, (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014), Kindle Edition, Kindle Location 364. Weir contends that there were a number of factors that caused the United States to enter World War I in April 1917, some of which she lists, and that “Zionism appears to have been one of those factors.”
 Some historians have diluted this Jewish factor, attributing motivation to British foreign policy goals in the Near East. A Jewish homeland allegedly could serve as a buffer zone that would protect the Suez Canal.
 Chaim Weizmann was a leading figure in the Zionist movement who served as President of the Zionist Organization and later as the first President of Israel.
 Tom Segev, “‘View With Favor’, Review of The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Jonathan Schneer, International New York Times, August 20, 2010, accessed December 13, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/books/review/Segev-t.html.
In other parts of his review, Segev’s analysis is impressive. For example he writes: “The Balfour declaration thus finds its place among a multitude of fruitless schemes and indulgent fantasies, except, of course, that in this case, surprisingly, the British by and large kept their word. For at least two decades they allowed the Zionist movement to bring hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants into Palestine, and these new arrivals set up hundreds of settlements including several towns, as well as the political, economic, military and cultural infrastructure of the future state of Israel. But if Israel’s existence originated with the British, so did the Palestinians’ tragedy.”
 The controversial House-Grey memorandum, developed with Britain in February 1916, stated that at an appropriate time Wilson would call for a peace conference. If the Allies accepted the offer and Germany rejected it or acted intransigently at the conference, the United States would go to war against Germany. And if Germany accepted the offer and a peace conference did take place, the settlement would not be unfavorable to the Allies. Wayne S. Cole, An Interpretive History of American Foreign Relations (Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press, 1968), 363
 Weir, Against Our Better Judgment, Kindle Location 449.
 The Wikipedia entry for “Ottoman Empire,” states that the “’Ottoman Empire’ and ‘Turkey’ were often used interchangeably, with ‘Turkey’ being increasingly favored both in formal and informal situations. This dichotomy was officially ended in 1920–23, when the newly established Ankara-based Turkish government chose Turkey as the sole official name,” accessed December 13, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_Empire .
 Weir, Against Our Better Judgment, Kindle Locations 2668-2669 .
 The King-Crane Commission was originally created as the American Section of the Inter-Allied Commission on Mandates in Turkey, which was also to include British and French members, and be like a number of other fact finding missions stemming from the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. These two countries failed to participate. Ken Grossi, Maren Milligan, and Ted Waddelow, Restoring Lost Voices of Self-Determination: Background to the Commission, August 2011, Part of the King-Crane Commission Digital Collection, Oberlin College Archives, accessed December 13, 2015, http://www.oberlin.edu/library/digital/king-crane/intro.html .
 Weir, Against Our Better Judgment, Kindle Locations 502-503.
 Weir, Against Our Better Judgment, Kindle Location 505.
 The King-Crane Commission Report, August 28, 1919, http://www.hri.org/docs/king-crane/. The report includes discussions of territory intended to have been taken from Turkey in the Treaty of Sevres, which Turkey never accepted and was not implemented.
 Quoted in Weir, Against Our Better Judgment, Kindle Location 798.
 Wallace had no chance of winning the election but Truman’s backers feared that he could syphon off enough liberal votes in large Northern and Midwestern states to enable Dewey to win the election. The issue of Israel did not play a role in Strom Thurmond’s 1948 campaign in the South, which focused on states’ rights and racial issues.
 Quoted in Weir, Against Our Better Judgment, Kindle Location 894.
King-Crane Commission Report, August 28, 1919.
 Jeremy R. Hammond, “The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel,” Foreign Policy Journal, October 26, 2010, accessed December 13, 2015, http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/10/26/the-myth-of-the-u-n-creation-of-israel/.
 More than this, the UN General Assembly, after the vote, created another committee that came to quite different conclusions. Jeremy Hammond writes: “The Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question was established by the General Assembly shortly after the issuance of the UNSCOP report in order to continue to study the problem and make recommendations. A sub-committee was established in turn that was tasked with examining the legal issues pertaining to the situation in Palestine, and it released the report of its findings on November 11. It observed that the UNSCOP report had accepted a basic premise ‘that the claims to Palestine of the Arabs and Jews both possess validity’, which was ‘not supported by any cogent reasons and is demonstrably against the weight of all available evidence.’ With an end to the Mandate and with British withdrawal, ‘there is no further obstacle to the conversion of Palestine into an independent state’, which ‘would be the logical culmination of the objectives of the Mandate’ and the Covenant of the League of Nations. It found that ‘the General Assembly is not competent to recommend, still less to enforce, any solution other than the recognition of the independence of Palestine, and that the settlement of the future government of Palestine is a matter solely for the people of Palestine.’’’ Hammond, “The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel.”
 Marlon Brando was very close to Jews before he became a movie star and later donated a considerable amount of money to Zionist causes. He expressed more negative views of Jews toward the end of his life. See: Allan M. Jalon, “How Marlon Brando Became Godfather to the Jews,” Forward, September 16, 2015, accessed December 13, 2015, http://forward.com/culture/320671/how-marlon-brando-became-godfather-to-the-jews/; Danielle Berrin, “Marlon Brando and the Jews,” Jewish Journal, July 30, 2014, accessed December 13, 2015, http://www.jewishjournal.com/hollywoodjew/item/marlon_brando_and_the_jews.
 Weir, Against Our Better Judgment, Kindle Locations 1249-1256.
 The movie had an all-star cast (and a very popular, award winning theme song), which included: Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Peter Lawford, Sal Mineo, and Lee J. Cobb.
 Weir, Against Our Better Judgment, Kindle Locations 1370-1371.
 Stephen John Sniegoski, “The Intellectual Wellsprings of American World War II Interventionism, 1939-1941,” (PhD diss., University of Maryland-College Park, 1977).
My research on Thompson included a visit to the archival collection of her papers at the George Arents Research Library at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, in 1976, where I perused some material dealing with her break with American Jews, which was outside the scope of my dissertation.
 Thompson’s correspondence in her manuscript collection at Syracuse University illustrates her importance. The Overview of the Collection states: “Correspondents include authors (John Gunther, Wallace Irwin, Alfred M. Lilienthal, Edgar A. Mowrer, Vincent Sheehan, Johannes Urzidil), literary figures (Jean Cocteau, Rose Wilder Lane, Thomas Mann, Rebecca West), politicians and statesmen (Bernard M. Baruch, Winston Churchill, Ely Culbertson, Ralph E. Flanders, Felix Frankfurter, Charles de Gaulle, Cordell Hull, Clare Boothe Luce, Jan Masaryk, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman).” Overview of the Collection, Dorothy Thompson Papers, Syracuse University Libraries, accessed December 13, 2015, http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/t/thompson_d.htm.
 Thompson’s relationship with American Jews actually began to sour toward the end of the war before the emergence of the issue of Zionist mistreatment of Palestinians. She differed with the Jewish establishment regarding her opposition to the Anglo-American incendiary bombing of German cities, which involved the killing of tens of thousands of civilians, and also the demand for a Carthaginian peace with Germany that was reflected in the Morgenthau Plan. She viewed these actions as violating the alleged idealistic purpose of the war, whereas many Jews sought punishment of the German people because of what the Nazis had done to their co-religionists.
By Dominic Basulto | July 10, 2016
Chances are, if a story about Russia appears on the cover of a major Western magazine, it’s not good news. Most likely, there’s been an international scandal, a breakout of geopolitical tensions, the resumption of Cold War hostilities, or some nefarious Russian plot to bring the entire free world to its knees.
Russophobia — or the unnatural fear of Russia — generally leads magazine editors to choose the most over-the-top images to convey Russia as a backwards, clumsy, non-Western and aggressively malevolent power. Unfortunately, that’s led to a few rules of thumb for anyone trying to create a magazine cover featuring Russia. You can think of these rules as the dark art of making an anti-Russian magazine cover:
OPTION 1: Go with the Russian bear
This is a no-brainer, actually, and pretty much the default option for any magazine editor. The symbol of the Russian bear is universally understood to be the symbol of Russia, so it’s an immediate attention-grabber that readers will grasp quickly. After all, for centuries, Western satirists have used the Russian bear as a symbol of imperial aggression.
Given the latest round of U.S.-Russian tensions over the Ukraine crisis, the key is to make the Russian bear look as scary as possible. Take the May/June 2016 cover from Foreign Affairs, for example:
The cover title seems relatively harmless — “Putin’s Russia: Down But Not Out.” But check out the image of the bear — it’s bloodied and still relatively menacing, despite being bruised and battered — check out the red, bloodshot eyes and the sharp claws. Definitely not someone you’d want to mess with, even after a few shots of vodka.
And Foreign Affairs is not the only magazine to go the full bear with the cover. Ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, Bloomberg BusinessWeek went with what has to be the scariest, most menacing Russia bear that’s ever appeared on the cover of a magazine. The magazine shows a malevolent bear on a pair of skis wearing a Russian hockey jersey, armed to the teeth (literally), with the headline: “Is Russia Ready?”
This Olympic cover immediately calls to mind a cover story TIME ran on Russia (then the Soviet Union) ahead of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics — “Olympic Turmoil: Why the Soviets Said Nyet.” Here you have a menacing (and slightly psychotic-looking) Russian bear chewing on the Olympic rings:
There are other options, of course, if you don’t want to go with the anthropomorphic bear. In late 2014, The Economist pulled off a story about “Russia’s Wounded Economy” after Western sanctions and falling oil prices — it showed a bear stalking through the wintry, Siberian snow with bloody footprints:
But you probably want to emphasize either the claws or teeth of the Russian bear, right? So here’s a terrifying image of a Russian bear “welcoming” U.S. President Barack Obama to Moscow:
OPTION 2: Go with Vladimir Putin
The next best choice after using the Russian bear is the image of Vladimir Putin. After all, in the minds of most Western readers, Putin is Russia and Russia is Putin.
If you’re ready to head down this road, then an image of an evil James Bond villain, hatching a diabolical plot to take over the world, might work. This 2014 Newsweek cover of Putin, showing him and the menacing sunglasses, is a classic:
To play up the Soviet spy background of Putin, you could try using an image of him wearing sunglasses in a grim-looking Red Square (Gray Square!):
A variant of the James Bond villain look is the classic “moody Putin” look that’s been around for almost a decade. This image somehow captures the Western perception of Russia as a vast, unsmiling wasteland full of snow, ice and a vast moral void. Who better to run that country than an unsmiling dictator? What started it all was this TIME magazine cover naming Putin as “Person of the Year”:
From there, the moody, unsmiling Putin image took off. Pull your camera angle back from the close-up of Putin’s face and you get this — “the unsmiling tsar”:
Which, of course, led to the cover of this 2015 book by Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times:
Of course, the moody, unsmiling, sour-looking Putin can be updated to make him look like a gangster:
Or a Mario Puzo-style mafia don:
If you really want to grab the reader’s attention, though, go for the shirtless Putin. The shirtless Vladimir Putin is a classic Internet meme, of course. (Google: Shirtless Putin hummingbird hamster) The meme of a shirtless Putin doing manly things is so popular that “The Simpsons” even used the image of a completely naked Putin on horseback (bareback?) around the time of the Crimea crisis:
Look long enough, and you start to see images of shirtless Vladimir Putins Photoshopped on top of everything. So it’s perhaps no big surprise that the shirtless Vladimir Putin has ended up on the cover of a few major magazines, including this classic Economist cover where he’s shirtless on top of a Russian tank:
And shirtless while playing poker:
But, if you want an image of Putin, and you also want to keep things classy, how about a mashup of Putin and a classic symbol of Russian culture, like ballet or ice skating? In 2014, The New Yorker pulled off a cover of Putin, pirouetting through the air during the Sochi Winter Olympics, while a bunch of Putin yes-man clones give him top marks for his performance:
And, here’s another cover featuring Putin as an ice skater, this time from The Economist:
But here’s the twist — note the fallen Russian figure skater on the ice and the suggestion that the Sochi Olympics were basically a giant personal ego project for Putin. (Also note the subtext of the imagery — whereas Putin usually opts for “macho” sports like hunting, swimming and hockey, this cover shows him as a slightly effeminate ice skater. Look at the hands!!!)
OPTION 3: Go with a classic image of Russia, slightly twisted
If you’re tired of using the Russian bear image and you’re concerned that putting Vladimir Putin on the cover of your magazine might create a few unsavory possibilities for your editorial team (Russian spies! Russian mafia! Russian hooligans!), there’s the old standby — the matryoshka image. This, of course, conveys the enigmatic nature of Russia — the old “riddle inside an enigma wrapped in a mystery” of Winston Churchill:
But why stop there? To convey the threatening nature of all things Russia, maybe it’s just easier just to come out and show the Russian missiles, tanks, weapons and troops directly:
What all these magazine covers have in common, of course, is their Russophobia. These magazine covers are not so much different from the images that appeared a hundred years ago, when Russia really was an enigma unknown to the West. In fact, the image of Russia as a big, clumsy and aggressive state dates all the way back to the 16th century, and not much seems to have changed since then.
There’s always been a sense in Western media circles that a giant power in the middle of the Eurasian landmass posed a threat to someone — and maybe to everyone:
Although, in all fairness, the image of the Russian bear is probably preferable to the image of the Russian octopus:
Which leads to the obvious question — Are these images of Russia from 100 years ago really so much different from the images appearing today in Western mass media?
At a time when the Kremlin has called on the Culture Ministry to investigate anti-Russian propaganda and Russophobia in the West, this question isn’t very hard to answer.
Dominic Basulto is the author of the new book Russophobia.
The following is the Foreword to FFF’s newest ebook CIA & JFK: The Secret Assassination Files by Jefferson Morley, which is being released today at Amazon.com
I learned about Jefferson Morley in 2008, when I read a series of articles he had written about an ongoing Freedom of Information lawsuit that he had filed against the Central Intelligence Agency. The lawsuit sought the release of files relating to a CIA agent named George Joannides. The CIA steadfastly resisted (and today continues to resist) the disclosure of these documents.
In the months leading up to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Joannides had secretly served as a CIA conduit for an anti-Castro group known as the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil, or the DRE, which was being secretly funded by the CIA. Immediately after the assassination, Joannides secretly authorized the group to initiate a publicity campaign advertising Lee Harvey Oswald’s connections to Communism, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. Thus, as Morley would later point out, the CIA authorized and funded the very first conspiracy theory in the Kennedy assassination.
For some reason, the CIA kept its relationship to the DRE secret from the Warren Commission, the official federal agency that was charged with investigating the Kennedy assassination. Later, in the 1970s, when the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations was reinvestigating the assassination, the CIA called Joannides out of retirement to serve as the CIA’s liaison with the committee, once again keeping his relationship with the DRE secret from investigators.
In the 1990s, in response to the public outcry over official secrecy in the Kennedy assassination generated by Oliver Stone’s movie JFK — a movie that posited that the U.S. national-security state orchestrated the assassination of President Kennedy and framed Oswald for the crime — Congress called the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) into existence. Its mission was to ensure that federal agencies, including the CIA, release all records relating to the Kennedy assassination.
Once again, the CIA kept Joannides’s role with the DRE secret.
A 2009 article in the New York Times entitled “C.I.A. Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery,” quoted U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim, who had chaired the ARRB in the 1990s: “I think we were probably misled by the agency. If we had known of his [Joannides’] role in Miami in 1963, we would have pressed for all the records.”
Later, a November 25, 2013, Boston Globe article entitled “Troves of Files on JFK Assassination Remain Secret” by John Bender, quoted Tunheim: “It really was an example of treachery. If [the CIA] fooled us on that, they may have fooled us on other things.”
Robert Blakey, the staff director for the House Select Committee in the 1970s, declared, “If I’d have known his role in 1963, I would have put Joannides under oath — he would have been a witness, not a facilitator.
It was Jefferson Morley, a former reporter for the Washington Post, who detailed the CIA’s Joannides secret in an article entitled “Revelation 19.63,” which appeared in the April 12, 2001, issue of the Miami New Times. It was Morley who doggedly spent years in litigation in the attempt to force the CIA to release its Joannides files to the American people.
I was so intrigued by the Joannides story and so impressed by Morley’s integrity and perseverance that I wrote a series of articles on the subject, which were posted on the website of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Morley and I later became friends.
When he approached me about a year ago to explore the possibility of publishing CIA & JFK: The Last Assassination Secrets, I was excited. Upon reading the manuscript, I didn’t hesitate.
The Future of Freedom Foundation has published four books relating to the Kennedy assassination: The Kennedy Autopsy by Jacob Hornberger; JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment by Douglas P. Horne, who served on the staff of the ARRB; Regime Change: The Kennedy Assassination by Jacob Hornberger, and The CIA, Terrorism, and the Cold War: The Evil of the National Security State by Jacob Hornberger.
All four books have met with resounding sales success, collectively selling more than 10,000 copies. In fact, a year-and-a-half after publication, the first two books are still on Amazon’s list of its top 100 best-selling ebooks in 20th-century American history. The third — Regime Change — is ranked #98 in Amazon’s top 100 best-selling “short reads” in History. The fourth and most recent is ranked #14 in Amazon’s top 100 best-selling ebooks on Political Freedom and #14 on Amazon’s top 100 best-selling “short reads” in Politics and Social Sciences.
Thus, Morley’s new book fits perfectly within this particular genre, and I am confident that readers will find it as valuable and enjoyable as our other books, if not more so.
Those who are looking for conspiracy theories in Morley’s book will be disappointed. This book doesn’t posit any conspiracy theories. What it does do is detail deception and deceit on the part of the CIA relating to certain fascinating aspects of the Kennedy assassination, especially the Joannides saga. As one reads through the book, however, the inevitable one-word question will arise within the mind of the reader: Why? Why the longstanding and continued deceit, deception, and secrecy on the part of the CIA relating to the Kennedy assassination?
Morley runs JFKfacts.org, which I consider to be the best website relating to the JFK assassination. Filled with fascinating articles and vibrant, even-handed debates and discussions, I visit it practically every day. Its popularity attests to the widespread and deep interest that people still have in the Kennedy assassination.
While the ARRB secured the release of tens of thousands of secret official records relating to the Kennedy assassination during the 1990s, for some reason the law provided for a period of 25 years for all JFK-assassination-related records to be released. That period of time expires in October 2017, and the National Archives, which holds the still-secret records in its possession, has already begun preparing the thousands of pages, many of which are CIA documents, for release at that time.
However, there is one caveat: Notwithstanding the lapse of more than 50 years since the Kennedy assassination, the law empowers the president to delay release of records on a finding of “national security.”
Will the CIA plead “national security” and seek an extension of time for release of its JFK-assassination-related records? Morley is leading the way to bring the matter to the attention of the public, in the hope that the same type of public outcry in the 1990s against continued CIA secrecy in the Kennedy assassination will prevent the continued suppression of the records set to be released by the National Archives in 2017.
Hopefully, CIA & JFK: The Secret Assassination Files will contribute to the fight against continued CIA secrecy in the Kennedy assassination. The Future of Freedom Foundation is pleased and honored to be part of its publication.
A review of Brad Schreiber’s Revolution’s End
America is a Haunted House.
– Peter Levenda, author of Sinister Forces
There is probably no other historical era more misunderstood by Americans than the 1960s and 1970s. From the political assassinations of major political figures and political assassinations of ordinary civil rights and antiwar activists to the emergence of government secret intelligence programs designed to monitor and ultimately crush dissent in the United States, most Americans remain vaguely, if at all, aware of how this hidden history impacts our lives today. And this lack of awareness has unfortunately allowed for these same forces to deal some crushing blows to our “democracy.”
The American public learned of the FBI’s Cointelpro and the CIA’s Operation CHAOS and MKUltra through the Senate Hearings on government intelligence abuses led by Senator Frank Church in 1975 as well as through the work of independent journalists after the break-in of FBI offices in Media Pennsylvania in 1971.1 These government and journalistic investigations brought to light an array of systematic abuses of government authority against Americans, partially illuminating the covert and ruthless attacks against the movements of the era.
The Johnson administration’s failure to deliver on its promises of genuine and meaningful civil rights reforms led to a series of urban riots beginning in Harlem in 1964 and were followed by those in Watts, Detroit and Newark as well as in a host of other cities across the country. These riots terrified the establishment and prompted the government to create programs designed to federalize local police departments rather than address the underlying social problems that gave way to the riots in the first place.2 Through the Law Enforcement Assistance Act of 1965 and the subsequent Omnibus Safe Streets Crime bill signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) was created as a mechanism to launch an unprecedented “War on Crime.”3 The purpose of the LEAA was ostensibly “violence prevention. ” The LEAA funded the creation and training of SWAT teams in Los Angeles in order to destroy the Black Panther Party and other perceived political threats. The LEAA funded “anti-violence” research in prisons and hospitals and worked alongside the CIA’s MK ULTRA program engaging in such delightful activities as drug experimentation, surgical, and chemical lobotomies on prisoners and psychiatric patients. LEAA funds also went into the school system and developed testing of young black children to “predict” whether or not these children would become violent in the future.4 (For more information of how the LEAA funded projects in schools that led to the psychiatric drugging of Black and poor children, please see the work of psychiatrist Peter Breggin).
The other widely misunderstood factor in the development of America’s police state is the relationship between the deepening of America’s involvement in a genocidal enterprise called the Vietnam War and the growth and over-determination of the American National Security State on political life in the US. While it is a fact that the United States lost the Vietnam war, the lessons learned by the military/intelligence establishment were employed in future counter-insurgency campaigns in El Salvador and Iraq and in the United States as well.5
This is where Brad Schreiber’s Revolution’s End: The Patty Hearst Kidnapping, Mind Control, and the Secret History of Donald DeFreeze and the SLA comes in. Revolution’s End is a careful examination of the relationships among various government intelligence, police and prison agencies that colluded to create a synthetic terror group called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Their assassination of Oakland School Superintendent Marcus Foster and subsequent kidnapping of heiress and closet revolutionary Patricia Campbell Hearst dominated the news cycle for years. While other researchers of the shadow state have examined the SLA and the Patty Hearst trial in depth such as Paul Krassner and Mae Brussell, Schreiber’s exposure of government involvement in the creation of the SLA is nothing short of explosive.
Schreiber was handed a folder full of documents from Dick Russell, the legendary journalist and author of The Man Who Knew Too Much. These documents came from private investigators working on Patricia Hearst’s defense team including the private detective and former Las Vegas police officer Lake Headley who was hired by Dr. L.S. Wolfe, father of slain SLA member Willie Wolfe. Schreiber utilizes the contents of that file to great effect. They include startling facts such as Patti Hearst’s pre-SLA relationship with Donald Defreeze (the petty thief, turned LAPD informant, turned provocateur and fake revolutionary). Using a college friend’s student ID, Hearst was allowed to visit Defreeze in prison at the Vacaville Psychiatric Unit as a part of a project called the Black Cultural Association (BCA). BCA was ostensibly a rehabilitative project but in effect it was a behavior modification program run by Colston Westbrook, a former CIA officer who worked with Pacific Architects and Engineers, a known CIA front company that was responsible for building the prison interrogation centers (PICS) in Vietnam as part of the CIA’s deplorable Phoenix program. The Phoenix program was a covert CIA coordinated program of counter-insurgency/counter-subversion against the South Vietnam’s civilian population.6 And here lies one of Schreiber major achievements, exposing a direct link between the Vietnam pacification program as Phoenix was euphemistically coined, and America’s pacification program at home.
The BCA received many visits from a prison rights group largely associated with another shady “revolutionary” movement of the era The Venceremos Organization, a Maoist group based out of Stanford and at the time led by English Professor H. Bruce Franklin. Venceremos had originally had a Chicano leadership but this leadership was displaced in the wake of the split of the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU). BARU included H. Bruce Franklin and Bob Avakian. Having formed the organization after the destruction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Franklin and Avakian split over disagreements about the role of armed struggle in the United States. Venceremos, was, along with the August 7th Guerrilla movement, the bases from which the SLA drew its white cadre. In the last few years before the dissolution of Venceremos, many of its members became involved with the United Prisoners Union (UPU) created by Popeye Jackson.7 It is within these circles that Patti Hearst becomes connected with Vacaville and Defreeze. During the visits to Vacaville, Patty Hearst was able to carry on a sexual relationship with Defreeze with the blessing of Westbrook. As Schreiber tells it, as Defreeze starts to become more unhinged as his treatments continue at the hands of the Vacaville prison authorities, he gradually changes his identity to that of Cinque, the Black revolutionary. He speaks of violence and kidnapping to Hearst. She becomes understandably unnerved and breaks off the relationship with Defreeze. Here according to Schreiber begins the plotting of revenge against Hearst. Importantly, Schreiber points out that Vacaville as a psychiatric hospital was a way station for inmates going on to serve their sentences in other facilities. The vast majority of them were passing through receiving their “treatment” and then moving on. Defreeze, in contrast, stayed at Vacaville for well over a year which was highly unusual. Defreeze’s situation even caught the attention of “thorn in the side of the CIA” Congressman Leo Ryan who investigated Defreeze’s case and the prison authorities use of mind control experiments.
Defreeze, a failed criminal, who couldn’t find consistent work to take care of his children and who had been handled by the forces of the state for a number of years was sent on a mission at the behest of Colston Westbrook, to assassinate the first Black superintendent of a public school district in the United States, Dr. Marcus Foster.
Schreiber points out that the political targeting of Marcus Foster was beyond bizarre. Foster’s assassination has never been fully explained. SLA members Russ Little and Joe Remiro were convicted of the crime but Schreiber reveals that it was Nancy Ling Perry and Patricia Soltysik along with Cinque (Defreeze) that actually riddled Foster’s body with nine cyanide tipped bullets. Schreiber speculates that the reason that Foster was targeted by Westbrook was that public schools were coming under attack for doing too well a job at educating Black and other minority children. After his election in 1966, Governor Reagan’s California launched a crusade against political activism in schools regarding them (along with the California prisons) as a breeding ground for radicalism.8
Schreiber casts Donald Defreeze in a rather compassionate light. A failed criminal, Defreeze like thousands of others, was recruited by the LAPD to become an informant and provocateur. This is the story of thousands of others who are pressured with time in prison for noncooperation. Or if they were in prison, they often were threatened with chemical or physical psychosurgery or indefinite solitary confinement. Yes, many did it for the money but as Schreiber points out Defreeze hardly earned a living from what was paid to him by the LAPD’s Criminal Conspiracy Section (CCS).
The one revelation that nearly made me fall out of my chair as I was reading it was the revelation that according to Schreiber’s research, the SLA was created within the California Department of Corrections (CDC) as an interracial prison gang that would spy on the other gangs and provide intelligence to the leadership of the CDC. There were chapters of the prison SLA at San Quentin, Vacaville, and Soledad. Inmate Robert Hyde, a long term prisoner, was pressured to become the head of the prison SLA and he was told to inform on any legal action inmates were planning against the CDC regarding abuses against prisoners. Hyde decided that becoming an informant inside the prison was a death wish so he refused. Eventually Hyde appeals to the FBI for help. At a certain point, Hyde was informed that there was to be an SLA formed outside of the prison to infiltrate dissident groups. Schreiber then discusses the effect of the assassination of George Jackson and the effect that it had on the climate inside the California prison system.
Schreiber provides many other fascinating insights into the formation and eventual destruction of the SLA. He points out that most of the left viewed the SLA with great suspicion, accusing the SLA of having been created by the CIA. So their mission to infiltrate the left was largely a failure. However, in the Bay Area, there were many in the urban poor communities that helped hide them from the police. Schreiber highlights how the SLA was able to artfully manipulate the media into broadcasting their communiques including the demand that William Randolph Hearst fund the People in Need (PIN) program. Hearst spent millions to fund this food distribution program that led to chaotic scenes of distribution workers tossing palettes of food off of truck beds to angry and hungry people.
On the fateful night of May 17th 1974 in a house in South Central Los Angeles, located, as Schreiber points out, a mere 3 miles from the epicenter of the Watts Riots, six SLA members lost their lives. Nancy Ling Perry, Camille Hall, and Patricia Soltysik died from gunshots wounds. Angela Atwood and Willie Wolfe died from smoke inhalation. Defreeze reportedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Schreiber goes into the serious inconsistencies of the official reports of the SLA deaths. His research shows that, in fact, the SLA members were not given a chance to come out alive. Nancy Ling Perry, it would later be shown, was shot in the back presumably as she was trying to turn herself in. He also found evidence that incendiary/explosive devices were thrown into the house by the LAPD. Given the secret origins of the SLA and Defreeze’s relationship with the LAPD and the CDC, it is very plausible that the LAPD had decided ahead of time that there would be no peaceful resolution to the standoff.
Lastly, Schreiber makes a critical point that the live television broadcast of the police shootout and bombing of the South Central Los Angeles SLA hideout was the introduction of the LAPD SWAT team to America’s night time television viewing audience. The live broadcasting of the LAPD destruction of the SLA could be seen as a terrifying prelude to our current War on Terror.
Revolution’s End is a remarkable book. However, it would have been even better if Schreiber had included some of the documents he cites. More thorough footnoting would have improved it as well. However, footnoting would have made it a less readable book. I hope that Schreiber (if he hasn’t already) made copies of the documents he possesses and donates them to a local university or library. The information age has inundated the public with information/disinformation overload. And due to increasing government restrictions with regard to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), documents like these are becoming more difficult to get your hands on and they are just too precious for any one person to keep to themselves.
Revolution’s End is a highly readable book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in unearthing the secret history of government repression in America. Schreiber had to decide where to go in-depth. His focus on the background of Defreeze and Westbrook are laudable choices as is his focus on the assassination of Dr. Marcus Foster. There are many threads of research that can and should be followed up on including Congressman Leo Ryan and his research into the mind control experiments in prisons, and the post SLA creation New World Liberation Front (NWLF) which according to Schreiber was credited with many more domestic bombings than the Weather Underground. One wonders what shadowy origins the NWLF had. Schreiber’s book is a great contribution to the study of the government repression and the shadow state. Importantly, it has the capacity to inspire people, especially young people, to learn about this history in depth and allow this history to inform their analysis of what is happening today.
- United States Senate. Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate, (94th Congress, Second Session, Report No. 94-755) Government Printing office; April 23, 1976.
- Horne, Gerald. 1997. The Fire this Time: The Watts Riots and the 1960s. De Capo Press.
- Thompson, Heather Ann. Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. New York: Pantheon Book. p. 18-21.
- Breggin, P. R. and Breggin, G. R. (1994). The War Against Children: How the Drugs, Programs, and Theories of the Psychiatric Establishment Are Threatening America’s Children with a Medical ‘Cure’ for Violence. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
- Valentine, Douglas. 2016. The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World. New York, NY: Clarity Press.
- Valentine, Douglas. 2000. The Phoenix Program. iUniverse: Lincoln, NE.
- For a fascinating inside look at the rise and fall of Venceremos at Stanford, see Max Crawford’s The Bad Communist, a thinly veiled “fictional” account of Crawford’s time with Venceremos at Stanford. It includes detailed of the gruesome murder of Black Panther Fred Bennett supposedly at the hands of James Carr at the Venceremos training compound in the Santa Cruz Mountains. After the book was published in 1979, Crawford exiled himself to Paris for a while to escape the heat generated after he published his book.
- Rosenfeld, Seth. 2012. Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals and Reagan’s Rise to Power. New York: NY, Farrar, Giroux, and Strauss.
Kara Z. Dellacioppa is chair of the sociology department at California State University, Dominguez Hills. She is the author of This Bridge Called Zapatismo: Building Alternative Political Cultures in Mexico City, Los Angeles, and Beyond (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009) and co-editor of Cultural Political and Resistance in the 21st Century: Community-Based Social Movements and Global Change in the Americas (Palgrave, 2011).
The following historical booklet of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement was originally released in 1984 in English and Arabic by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Committee, based in Damascus, Syria, and is now being made available online for download and distribution by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.
While focusing on depictions of Palestinian art created inside Israeli prisons – often on pillowcases, with smuggled and secreted materials, and removed covertly from the prison walls – the booklet also contains facts and descriptions about the situation faced by Palestinian prisoners in 1984.
Some of the art in this book was also featured in the Made In Palestine exhibition, which debuted in 2003 at the Station Museum in Houston, Texas. Its curator, James Harithas, was introduced to the broad spectrum of Palestinian art by featured artist Samia Halaby, whose new book of artwork commemorating the massacre of Kufr Qassem is soon to be released. (Some of the artists featured here are also included in Halaby’s work, Liberation Art of Palestine, which traces prisoners’ art as part of the overarching stream of liberation art produced by Palestinian artists in the movement.) Zuhdi al-Adawi, one of the artists featured in the booklet, traveled to New York City in 2006 for the opening of the exhibition. The film, Crayons of Askalan, also features some of these works and the story of Palestinian prisoner artists.
The booklet contains excerpts from the London Sunday Times’ 1977 investigation into torture in Israeli prisons, the same investigation that helped to bring the torture of Rasmea Odeh and Palestinian women prisoners to a Western audience. It includes an overview of the various prisons were Palestinian political prisoners were held at the time of publication in 1984, the forms of torture used under interrogation, living conditions in prisons, medical mistreatment and prisoners’ resistance. It ends with a call to people around the world to take action to support Palestinian prisoners, “form support committees everywhere,” and “unite all efforts to help secure the just demands of these prisoners and condemn the inhumane Zionist practices,” a call to action that remains just as critical today as it was 32 years ago.
The book is available for view and download below in PDF.
Download PDF (Palestinian Art Behind the Bars, 1984)
A group of ex-U.S. intelligence officials is warning President Obama to defuse growing tensions with Russia over Syria by reining in the demonization of President Putin and asserting White House civilian control over the Pentagon.
ALERT MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: PREVENTING STILL WORSE IN SYRIA
We write to alert you, as we did President George W. Bush, six weeks before the attack on Iraq, that the consequences of limiting your circle of advisers to a small, relatively inexperienced coterie with a dubious record for wisdom can prove disastrous.* Our concern this time regards Syria.
We are hoping that your President’s Daily Brief tomorrow will give appropriate attention to Saturday’s warning by Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova: “If the US launches a direct aggression against Damascus and the Syrian Army, it would cause a terrible, tectonic shift not only in the country, but in the entire region.”
Speaking on Russian TV, she warned of those whose “logic is ‘why do we need diplomacy’ … when there is power … and methods of resolving a problem by power. We already know this logic; there is nothing new about it. It usually ends with one thing – full-scale war.”
We are also hoping that this is not the first you have heard of this – no doubt officially approved – statement. If on Sundays you rely on the “mainstream” press, you may well have missed it. In the Washington Post, an abridged report of Zakharova’s remarks (nothing about “full-scare war”) was buried in the last paragraph of an 11-paragraph article titled “Hospital in Aleppo is hit again by bombs.” Sunday’s New York Times totally ignored the Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s statements.
In our view, it would be a huge mistake to allow your national security advisers to follow the example of the Post and Times in minimizing the importance of Zakharova’s remarks.
Events over the past several weeks have led Russian officials to distrust Secretary of State John Kerry. Indeed, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who parses his words carefully, has publicly expressed that distrust. Some Russian officials suspect that Kerry has been playing a double game; others believe that, however much he may strive for progress through diplomacy, he cannot deliver on his commitments because the Pentagon undercuts him every time. We believe that this lack of trust is a challenge that must be overcome and that, at this point, only you can accomplish this.
It should not be attributed to paranoia on the Russians’ part that they suspect the Sept. 17 U.S. and Australian air attacks on Syrian army troops that killed 62 and wounded 100 was no “mistake,” but rather a deliberate attempt to scuttle the partial cease-fire Kerry and Lavrov had agreed on – with your approval and that of President Putin – that took effect just five days earlier.
In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov deal. We can assume that what Lavrov has told his boss in private is close to his uncharacteristically blunt words on Russian NTV on Sept. 26:
“My good friend John Kerry … is under fierce criticism from the US military machine. Despite the fact that, as always, [they] made assurances that the US Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, supported him in his contacts with Russia (he confirmed that during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin), apparently the military does not really listen to the Commander in Chief.”
Lavrov’s words are not mere rhetoric. He also criticized JCS Chairman Joseph Dunford for telling Congress that he opposed sharing intelligence with Russia, “after the agreements concluded on direct orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama stipulated that they would share intelligence. … It is difficult to work with such partners. …”
Policy differences between the White House and the Pentagon are rarely as openly expressed as they are now over policy on Syria. We suggest you get hold of a new book to be released this week titled The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by master historian H. W. Brands. It includes testimony, earlier redacted, that sheds light on why President Truman dismissed WWII hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur from command of U.N. forces in Korea in April 1951. One early reviewer notes that “Brands’s narrative makes us wonder about challenges of military versus civilian leadership we still face today.” You may find this new book more relevant at this point in time than the Team of Rivals.
The door to further negotiations remains ajar. In recent days, officials of the Russian foreign and defense ministries, as well as President Putin’s spokesman, have carefully avoided shutting that door, and we find it a good sign that Secretary Kerry has been on the phone with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And the Russians have also emphasized Moscow’s continued willingness to honor previous agreements on Syria.
In the Kremlin’s view, Russia has far more skin in the game than the U.S. does. Thousands of Russian dissident terrorists have found their way to Syria, where they obtain weapons, funding, and practical experience in waging violent insurgency. There is understandable worry on Moscow’s part over the threat they will pose when they come back home. In addition, President Putin can be assumed to be under the same kind of pressure you face from the military to order it to try to clean out the mess in Syria “once and for all,” regardless how dim the prospects for a military solution are for either side in Syria.
We are aware that many in Congress and the “mainstream” media are now calling on you to up the ante and respond – overtly or covertly or both – with more violence in Syria. Shades of the “Washington Playbook,” about which you spoke derisively in interviews with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg earlier this year. We take some encouragement in your acknowledgment to Goldberg that the “playbook” can be “a trap that can lead to bad decisions” – not to mention doing “stupid stuff.”
Goldberg wrote that you felt the Pentagon had “jammed” you on the troop surge for Afghanistan seven years ago and that the same thing almost happened three years ago on Syria, before President Putin persuaded Syria to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction. It seems that the kind of approach that worked then should be tried now, as well – particularly if you are starting to feel jammed once again.
Incidentally, it would be helpful toward that end if you had one of your staffers tell the “mainstream” media to tone down it puerile, nasty – and for the most part unjustified and certainly unhelpful – personal vilification of President Putin.
Renewing direct dialogue with President Putin might well offer the best chance to ensure an end, finally, to unwanted “jamming.” We believe John Kerry is correct in emphasizing how frightfully complicated the disarray in Syria is amid the various vying interests and factions. At the same time, he has already done much of the necessary spadework and has found Lavrov for the most part, a helpful partner.
Still, in view of lingering Russian – and not only Russian – skepticism regarding the strength of your support for your secretary of state, we believe that discussions at the highest level would be the best way to prevent hotheads on either side from risking the kind of armed confrontation that nobody should want.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that you invite President Putin to meet with you in a mutually convenient place, in order to try to sort things out and prevent still worse for the people of Syria.
In the wake of the carnage of World War II, Winston Churchill made an observation that is equally applicable to our 21st Century: “To jaw, jaw, jaw, is better than to war, war, war.”
* In a Memorandum to President Bush criticizing Colin Powell’s address to the UN earlier on February 5, 2003, VIPS ended with these words: “After watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Fred Costello, Former Russian Linguist, USAF
Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C. Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.)
Todd Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)
Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA, (ret.)
Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer
Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat