Since the re-election on the 20th of March of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso for a controversial third term, the government of the Republic of Congo has been criticised by the international community for its alleged bombing of ‘civilian neighborhoods’, following post-election terrorist attacks in the country’s capital, Brazzaville. In reality, however, the West African nation is currently fighting the early stages of a US/French or NATO-backed insurgency – an attempt by NATO to destabilize a country moving closer to the BRICS sphere of influence. In this report, I examine the geopolitical and historical background of a West African political crisis of global significance.
In the aftermath of presidential elections on the 20th of March, which saw the controversial re-election of President Denis Sassou Nguesso with over 60 percent of the vote, there has been increasing instability in the Republic of Congo. Opposition candidates have vociferously contested the election results. This contestation has been encouraged by the French Government, the European Union, and the United States, who have all backed opposition candidates, in particular, Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, who came in second during the elections with 15% of the vote.
On the nights of the 4th and the 5th of April, terrorists attacked the country’s capital city Brazzaville killing seventeen people. Six police stations, two customs control stations, and the city hall were burned down. The terrorists were members of the Ninja Nsiloulhou organisation which is headed by Pastor Ntoumi, an old enemy of the president, and supporter of the losing opposition candidate Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas.
Brutal crackdown on civilians?
On the 5th of April immediately after the attacks, the Congolese military conducted an anti-terrorist operation in the region of Pool, in the South of the country – a stronghold of the Ninja Nsilouhou terrorists and their political representatives. The terrorists had fought against Sassou-Nguesso’s forces during the civil war of 1998 to 2002. The Ninja Nsilouhou militia are composed of sectarian adventurists and mercenaries with connections to American and French intelligence.
Pastor Ntoumi, who is from the majority Congo ethnic group, has formed a new and surprisingly well-equipped army the Forces armées républicaines pour l’alternance au Congo (FARLC), the Republican Armed Forces for Regime Change in Congo. Ntumi’s forces have no economic programme for change. They are, rather, more concerned with ousting the Northern Mbochi from power, the president’s ethnic group, a minority in the country.
Western imperial domination of Africa has traditionally relied on empowering minority ethnicities and tribes. However, over time, many of those regimes have overcome tribal divisions; thus depriving imperialism of the advantages of keeping subject nations divided. Although the Mbochi only constitute 12 percent of the country’s population, they occupy over 40 percent of government posts – a source of ethnic tension currently being instrumentalised by imperialism.
Amnesty International’s history of lies and war propaganda
Given the hostility of Western governments to the reelection of Sassou Nguesso, it should not be surprising to find that the first reaction of the French establishment media to the Congolese government’s crackdown on the Ninja terrorists came in the form of a condemnatory report by Amnesty International. The human rights organisation strongly condemned what it described as the bombing of civilian targets by the Congolese military. However, Amnesty International’s report admits that the organization did not have access to the area in question and that they have not been able to confirm any of the accusations made by their anonymous sources in the Pool region.
The government of the Republic of Congo has issued a firm condemnation of Amnesty International’s report, stating that the dossier is not based on any evidence. Furthermore, Amnesty’s accusations have been contradicted by the Catholic humanitarian organization Caritas – who have also visited Pool and have not documented any military targeting of civilians. One of the lies told by Amnesty International about the Congolese military operation in Pool has already been exposed.
The human rights organisation claimed that a primary school in Soumouna was bombed. However, photographs dated from the 18th of April prove that the school was not bombed. One of the key ‘sources’ for Amnesty’s report is Monsignor Louis Portella, a close confidante of Pastor Ntumi, the aforementioned terrorist tracked by the Congolese military.
Amnesty’s report has provided ammunition for the opposition’s anti-Nguesso rhetoric , who are referring to the anti-terrorist operation in Pool as “genocide.” Although widely considered to be a reliable, objective and respectable organisation, Amnesty International has a long history of legitimising war propaganda on behalf of the United States and its allies.
The human rights group was instrumental in the assassination of Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkumra when he was being targeted by the CIA. Amnesty International have been accused of complicity in Nkumra’s assassination; they have also been accused of complicity in the death of Patrice Lumumba, first president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Zbigniew Brzezinski (former U.S National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter) was among the former board members of Amnesty International; this was at a time when the human rights organisation was publishing reports condemning the democratic government of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the CIA-backed Mujahadeen, part of Brzezinski’s ‘Arc of Crisis’ strategy, massacred the Afghan population with little or no criticism from Amnesty International.
Amnesty International’s record in exposing the crimes of Zionism is no better; the organisation helped cover up Israeli massacres in Shabra, Shatila, and Jenin in 1982.
In 1986, the human rights organisation published a damning report against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua which was used by the Reagan administration to justify more aid to the contra terrorists who would eventually destroy that country.
In the run-up to the Gulf War in 1991, Amnesty International colluded with the US military in orchestrating a fake story about Iraqi soldiers taking 312 newborn babies out of incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and throwing them on the floor. The story, which shocked the world, provided the propaganda the US government needed to bomb Iraq – a bombing followed by crippling sanctions that murdered over 500,000 babies; it was the beginning of the destruction of the Middle East’s wealthiest and most advanced countries. The story was entirely fabricated by the US military. Amnesty International was the key agency behind the fraud – a dirty lie created to justify war and genocide.
Amnesty International colluded in the demonisation of Hugo Chavez by US-backed Putschists in the run-up to the 2002 coup in Venezuela. During years of brutal Apartheid rule in South Africa, Amnesty never condemned the brutal racist system.
In 2011, Amnesty International validated fake reports of ‘African mercenaries’ in Libya who were said to be committing massacres. The reports, entirely fabricated, were used to justify war against Africa’s richest and most democratic nations, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and an ongoing refugee crisis of catastrophic proportions.
Since the outbreak of NATO’s war against Syria, Amnesty International has produced nothing but lies and calumny against the democratic institutions of the Syrian Arab Republic. With a record like that, it is hardly surprising to find Amnesty International publishing another damning report against an African government Western imperialism is attempting to overthrow by force. (Read more here)
Why must Sassou Nguesso go?
Although nominally independent from France since 1958, the republic of Congo did not embark upon a true path of independence until the accession to power of Marien Ngouabi in 1968. For 9 years until his assassination in 1977, Ngouabi laid the basis for Africa’s first socialist state. The charismatic communist leader managed to align the People’s Republic of Congo with both the USSR and China, in spite of the ideological split between the Soviet revisionists and Maoist China.
Ngouabi also formed close links with Cuba. The communist revolutionary, who had an advanced degree in physics, was passionate about education and was arguably the greatest leader of African national liberation; but the dream came to a tragic and abrupt end in 1977 when he was murdered by a group of army officers most likely led by Joachim Yhombi-Obango; the assassination had the blessing of French and American intelligence. Both countries resumed diplomatic relations with Congo-Brazzaville immediately after Ngouabi’s murder.
Opango was deposed in 1978 by Denis Sassou-Nguesso; the new leader collaborated to a large extent with French neocolonial interests – a policy euphemistically referred to as ‘la Françafrique.’ Rumours about Nguesso’s role in the murder of Ngouabi have proliferated over the years, but there is still no conclusive evidence linking him to the communist leader’s death.
With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the French government forced the Congolese state to open up to multi-party-ism – a disastrous policy which led to the highly corrupt reign of French puppet Pascal Lissouba until Denis Sassou-Nguesso resumed power again in 2002 after a four-year civil war. Over the last decade, President Nguesso has brought the country closer to China, Russia, Brazil, and Cuba – old cold war allies (Brazil excepted) in anti-colonialist struggle.
Building blocks of independence
Although Denis Sassou-Nguesso is certainly no angel and his regime may be guilty of serious crimes over the years, he does have some notable achievements under his belt; he has managed to restore peace to a war-torn country. His government has also overseen a period of steady economic growth. President Sassou Nguesso has initiated major economic projects designed to build up the country’s industrial base. In the next few months, an oil pipeline between Point Noire, Brazzaville and Oyo will be built by the Russian government. Moscow will also help construct two major hydroelectric dams in Sounda and Cholet. The Sounda region in the isolated north of the country is now connected with a new highway.
The Sassou-Nguesso administration has overseen significant advances in transport provision. Brazzaville’s state-of-the-art Maya Maya airport hosts a largely state-owned airline EC AIR, providing new direct transport routes to major world commercial destinations such as Dubai. The Maya Maya airport is set to become the biggest and busiest airport in Central Africa. The upgrading of the airport was carried out by Chinese company Weihei International, Economic and Technical Cooperative Co.Ltd.
In Pointe Noir, the country’s second principal city, the Augustino Neto airport is currently under construction. On the 22nd of February 2016, the Congolese government signed a contract with the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), for the construction of a new deep sea port in Pointe Noire. The port is expected to lead to significant economic development in the country. At the contract signing, the Chinese ambassador to the Republic of Congo reiterated his country’s commitment to the industrialization of the Congolese economy.
New road networks are under construction throughout the country. A monumental road and rail bridge is will connect Brazzaville and Kinshasa, as part of the Trans-African Highway Network. The Chinese are reportedly planning the construction of a new railway line from Brazzaville in the South to Ouesso in the North and from Djambala in the centre of the country to Pointe Noire on the coast; the project promises to be a major boost to trade and industrial development.
Many new public administration buildings are under construction in the country’s capital as part of the government’s drive to strengthen the efficiency of state institutions, improving public services and affirming national sovereignty. Sassou-Nguesso’s administration also intends to construct a 4 km bridge across the Congo River connecting Brazzaville to Kinshasa, capital of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Congolese government plans to reduce dependence on oil export revenues by developing its agricultural industry. Meetings between the Congolese minister of agriculture and his Brazilian counterpart took place in both Brazil and the Republic of Congo in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Japan has also significantly increased investment in the Congolese Republic agribusiness.
As part of its preparations for hosting the Panafrican Music Festival, new cultural centres, theatres and cinemas are scheduled to be built. The new Sports Complex currently under construction in Kintélé will enable the country to host events of international stature, increasing investment revenue and promoting job creation.
Although modest, the Congolese government has shown some commitment to reducing poverty by building over 10,000 new social units. The country, which currently has only one university named after Marien Ngouabi, is soon to have another when the Denis Sassou Nguesso university is completed in Kintele.
Sassou-Nguesso’s administration has initiated an ambitious project to provide free potable water to the country’s population. The project named ‘Water for All’ is being implemented in conjunction with Brazilian company Asperbras – one of the world’s leading specialists in the provision of public service infrastructure and heavy industry equipment. Asperbras is also constructing fourteen top-class hospitals throughout the country as part of the government’s project ‘Health for All‘.
Since the visit by Brazilian president Lula Ignacio da Silva to Brazzaville in 2007 (he opened Brazil’s first embassy in the country) Brazzaville and Brasilia have strengthened ties. There have been several visits by Congolese ministers to Brazil and the presidents of the two countries have met twice since 2012.
Nguesso’s government has benefited from significant Chinese investment in the oil industry. The Chinese have also invested in the construction of major industrial projects such as the business center in Mpila, and impressive viaducts in Brazzaville and Talangai.
Although the ruling Party of Labour abandoned their adherence to Soviet revisionist Marxism-Leninism in 1992, embracing official social-democracy and multi-party politics, Nguesso has continued to maintain strong ties with left-leaning countries such as Cuba, Brazil, China, and Russia.
The Western media portray Nguesso as a corrupt, power-hungry dictator siphoning off the country’s resources for his own clan or tribe, and some of these accusations may, in fact, be true. But the infrastructural projects mentioned above show that the country is building the basis of national independence through Chinese, Russian, and Brazilian investment in heavy industry. Such investment threatens Western neocolonial interests; those interests require the maintenance of Africa in a state of constant underdevelopment and dependence so that its natural resources can be pillaged by Western corporations.
Nguesso’s ties with Cuba go back to the Cold War era when the Caribbean nation played a key role in African liberation struggles – a fact acknowledged by Nelson Mandela. Cuba’s socially-oriented economy has been subject to incessant demonisation for over half a century by the international corporate press, but not even they can deny the extraordinary achievements of the Cuban government in the provision of free education and health care of the highest standard.
The Republic of Congo’s Party of Labour has shown some fidelity to Ngouabi’s Marxist principles by sending 280 students to Havana to train as doctors. Cuban educators have been invited to the Congo to bring pedagogical methodologies with a view to improving the country’s education system.
The Empire’s strategic horizon: war
In April 2012, the French Ministry of Defense published a report ‘Horizons stratégiques’ that described the future of French interests in Africa. The report stated that competing powers such as China, India, Russia and Brazil, coupled with the rise of Pan-Africanist nationalism, pose the greatest threat to French interests on the continent.
The report indicates that problems such as ethnic conflict and religious terrorism will require the continued military presence of French troops in Africa and that those troops will liaise, not with sovereign states, but local private contractors. In other words, the future of French neocolonial interests in Africa depends on the fomentation of civil wars and the total privatisation of African nation-states.
Over the past 5 years, I have maintained that Western imperialism in this era is proceeding on the basis of leftist symbology. The CIA-backed Arab Spring people-power coups of 2011 testify to that fact. But the Arab Spring was only the beginning. Mathieu Pigasse the director of the Lazard Bank, confidante of President Hollande, and proprietor of the newspaper Le Monde, stated in 2012 that he wanted to see the Arab Spring ideology spread all over Africa. French companies, he argued, would in future only deal with ”civil society” organisations, rather than ”corrupt” African governments. What that ultimately means is that the oligarch Pigasse wants to see all African nation-states erupt in chaos so that their resources can be privatised by Western banks and corporations in the name of freedom, democracy, and the oligarchy’s newest slogan ‘popular revolution’.
The pseudo-leftist opposition media in France have been at the forefront of disinformation about the Republic of Congo. They frequently express outrage at the French government for supporting such a ‘genocidal’ regime in Africa, when in fact the French and U.S. governments are supporting its opponents.
We have already mentioned the lies validated by Amnesty International about Colonel Gaddafi’s recruitment of ‘African mercenaries’ who were reported to have massacred ‘peaceful demonstrators’ during the 2011 insurgency in Libya.
Similar stories have recently been concocted by powerful French interests. But some of those lies have backfired. The former director of the French giant oil company ELF Loïc Le Floch-Prigent and his lawyer Norbert Tricaud have been brought before a French court for defamation after they claimed French mercenary Patrick Klein had been recruited by the Congolese government to massacre political opponents. Klein has denied the accusations and taken Le Floch-Prigent to court for defamation.
It is interesting to note that attorney Norbert Tricaud has managed to recruit the granddaughter of Marien Ngouabi in his campaign to accuse President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of her grandfather’s assassination; yet in his interviews,Tricaud completely ignores the role of the CIA and French intelligence in Ngouabi’s murder. Nor is there any mention of the fact that Ngouabi’s French wife, the grandmother of Tricaud’s client, was in fact a French spy! No French or American officials have ever been prosecuted for the assassination of African leaders, in spite of the fact that the secret agencies of the United States and France were behind the murder of dozens of African revolutionaries and heads of state.
Tricaud claims, in one of his interviews, to be a lawyer engaged in the struggle against slavery and indigenous rights. He refers repeatedly to the government of Sassou-Nguesso as a ‘dictatorship’ notwithstanding the fact that Sassou-Nguesso’s administration was the first in Africa to pass laws giving rights to indigenous pygmy peoples, who for centuries have been enslaved by Bantou colonial settlers. It is important to study the deceptive methodology used by people like Tricaud. He appears to be critical of Western foreign policy of propping up of dictators in Africa, while simultaneously promoting imperial military intervention in the guise of humanitarianism.
On his Facebook page Norbert Tricaud (the man determined to find out who killed the communist revolution Marien Ngouabi) boasts of lobbying on behalf of the ultra-right wing General Mokoko with an advisor of US Secretary of State John Kerry, and various ‘NGOS’. Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko attempted a coup d’Etat against the government of the Republic of Congo earlier this year and claimed to have the French government on his side.
A video posted on line shows Mokoko in the offices of Sylvain Maier planning a coup d’etat against Sassou-Nguesso with DGSE (French secret service) agent. In the film, the French secret service agent warns Mokoko” if you betray me, I’ll kill you” The DGSE agent hands over flight tickets and an envelope of cash to Mokoko. The DGSE agent explains how French intelligence will orchestrate the media coverage of the coup d’etat so as to convince Congolese citizens that Mokoko is a democrat. He also explains how French intelligence will organise the post-coup state of emergency and military curfew, joking that ”most African’s are cowards” and will turn to the Putschists for protection.
The video was shot in the offices French lawyer Sylvain Maier, who has been prosecuted for money laundering.
Radio France Internationale, French state media, were able to confirm the authenticity of the video and did their best to distract from the disgraceful proof of the French neo-colonial conspiracy by claiming that the document was being used by the dictator to discredit a ‘serious’ opponent.
Also on his Facebook page, Tricaud calls for a ‘humanitarian corridor’ in Pool, to ‘protect civilians’. The phrase ‘humanitarian corridor’ was coined by Dr. Bernard Kouchner in 1968, when France was attempting to create a client state in Biafra, Nigeria. Kouchner, who had set up ‘Doctors without Borders’ called for such a corridor to be established in the country so as to help the civilians allegedly bombed by the Nigerian government. Ultimately thousands of weapons were smuggled in ambulances to the French-backed insurgents.
Norbert Tricaud recently joined a delegation of 19 Congolese politicians to lobby the US congress and the National Endowment for Democracy, a think tank closely linked to the CIA and a chief sponsor of ‘civil society’ led ‘popular uprisings’. These meetings prove that US/French-backed regime change in Brazzaville is now at an advanced stage of planning. Denis Sassou-Nguesso will indubitably become the next African leader to face mass media demonization and information warfare as a proxy war of aggression waged by mercenaries in the pay of France and the United States looks increasingly likely.
Sassou-Nguesso’s emphasis on heavy industry, public infrastructure, strengthening the authority and role of the state, while attracting more investment from emerging global powers, are the factors that have made him an enemy of the Empire. In his inauguration speech, Denis Sassou Nguesso pledged to combat corruption and nepotism. He said this term would be the beginning of a major rupture with the past. The Congolese president may have been referring to the fact that the balance of power in the world is shifting in favour of China, Russia, and the BRICS world order, and that such a seismic shift in the distribution of imperial power is good news for Africa.
Although, French government representative Jean-Luc Borloo unctuously described the president’s speech as a ”monument of vision,” it is clear that the French government and media establishment are backing the pseudo-opposition and their terrorist militia in a desperate attempt to save the old, crumpling, and utterly rotten colonial order.
The current concrete choice facing the people of Congo Brazzaville is relative peace and economic progress under Sassou Nguesso or chaos, war and death under his Western-backed opponents.
Congolese citizens would be well advised to ignore the Western-backed conspiracy theories surrounding Marien Ngouabi’s death and follow instead the path of Sassou Nguesso, who, despite his many shortcomings and alleged crimes, is doing more to revive the spirit of Marien Ngouabi than any of his opponents. The question now is not who killed Ngouabi but who among the country’s youth will fulfill his legacy.
In a remarkable spectacle of money-grubbing over arms deals, this month saw a parade of Western leaders jettisoning any pretense of upholding vaunted “liberal values” to court despotic Mideast regimes.
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister who sent liberal hearts aflutter when he was elected in November, with his espousal of feminism among other progressive causes, is the latest Western leader to show where real priorities lie. Trudeau signed off on an $11 billion deal with Saudi Arabia to export armored vehicles to the blood-soaked repressive regime.
With astounding cynicism, the 44-year-old Canadian premier said he was duty-bound to fulfill the arms contract drawn up by the previous administration as “a matter of principle” in order to demonstrate that his country’s “word means something in the international community.”
This week also saw US President Barack Obama in Saudi Arabia where he glad-handed King Salman and other Gulf monarchs, lauding them as partners in maintaining regional stability and fighting against terrorism. Conspicuously, Obama made little or no mention of human rights violations in the oil-rich kingdom where mass beheadings are a common method of capital punishment.
Western media talked about “strained relations” between Obama and his Saudi hosts. But underlying the superficial optics it was business as usual. Big business. US military affairs publication Defense One reported that high on Obama’s agenda was securing a $13 billion contract for warships and submarine-hunting helicopters with the House of Saud.
Before Obama touched down in Riyadh, his administration had angered American families by announcing that it would veto a bill going through Congress that could enable relatives of the 9/11 terror attacks to sue the Saudi rulers for their alleged involvement in sponsoring that atrocity. The topic didn’t even arise for discussion during Obama’s visit, indicating the president’s real concerns in meeting the Saudi and other Gulf rulers.
France has also nabbed market share from Western rivals in the Persian Gulf where over the past year Paris has sold billions of dollars’ worth of its Rafale fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Similar prevarication over human rights is brazenly shown by the British government of David Cameron in its arms dealing with Saudi Arabia and the wider region. The Saudi-led war in Yemen has been a boon for British sales of bombs and missiles, even though as many as 9,000 Yemenis have been killed over the past year, many of them civilians from aerial bombing by Saudi warplanes.
Britain’s foreign minister, Philip Hammond, has dismissed condemnations by human rights groups in regard to Yemen, claiming that British weapons exports meet tough standards of international law. Britain, like Canada and other Western governments, makes the cynical claim that its military exports are not used for “internal repression” and that if it is proven that weapons are being used to kill civilians in Yemen then trade licenses will be canceled.
So what is Saudi Arabia dropping on Yemen? Cuddly British-made toys?
Duplicity of Western governments doing business with despotic regimes is nothing new. The Middle East’s absolute monarchs have long been a staple of American and other Western so-called “defense industries.” In 2010, the Obama administration signed a $60 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia – the biggest in US history.
During the 1980s, Britain under Margaret Thatcher won a comparable mammoth contract with Saudi Arabia known as the Yamamah deal.
Massive arms sales to tyrannical regimes give the real meaning to hackneyed euphemisms spouted by the likes of Obama, Cameron, Hollande and Trudeau, when they cite “regional partners for stability.” What they mean by stability is uninterrupted orders for weapons.
What is new, though, is the lack of discretion in how the West now pursues arms deals in the Mideast.
Western governments are apparently falling over themselves to bid for business. Yet this unseemly rush for arms selling is sharply at odds with not only intensifying repression within Middle Eastern “partner” regimes; it has also become abundantly clear that some of these same regimes are directly responsible for sponsoring terrorism in the region. The case of Saudi Arabia and its sponsorship of Wahhabi terror proxies in Syria, Libya and Iraq is perhaps the most glaring.
Part of the burgeoning Western race for arms business is related to the historical demise of their capitalist economies and the emergence of military industries as key components in whatever remains of gutted manufacturing sectors.
No doubt, critics will point out that Russia is also a major arms supplier to Middle Eastern regimes. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia is indeed a prominent weapons exporter to the region and globally.
However, there is an important distinction. Western governments never cease to proclaim democracy, human rights and international law as foundational policies. Washington, London, Paris and so on continually invoke such rights as criteria by which they sanction, censure and even invade other countries to ostensibly uphold.
What is therefore more transparent than ever from Western countries soliciting arms deals in the Middle East is their shameless, sordid hypocrisy.
That Canada’s fresh face of “liberal values,” Justin Trudeau, has joined the throng of Western leaders cutting deals with tyrants and dictators just goes to show how cosmetic Western noble pretensions are.
Why should citizens in these countries believe anything that their governments tell them on any issue? Their governments all too evidently do not have a scrap of integrity or principle.
Official Western treachery, duplicity and hypocrisy have become a chronic condition that is no longer veiled by lofty rhetoric, as it once was. So-called liberal values are being stabbed in the back – left, right and center.
The longstanding Israeli/Palestinian peace process is the greatest hoax in modern times, repeating on and off for decades, dead-on-arrival each time, accomplishing nothing.
Obama hopes to lay the groundwork for another round of sham talks after he leaves office. France proposed an international conference in Paris this summer, presenting general ideas and principles only. Solutions remain elusive.
Months of John Kerry’s mediated talks collapsed in April 2014. America is no honest broker, one-sidedly supporting Israel, spurning Palestinian rights.
France’s position is no different. Israel rejects Palestinian self-determination. Liberation depends on resistance, not more talks achieving nothing.
A Paris meeting later this week is expected to involve high-level international diplomats, according to Palestinian ambassador to France Salman al-Harfi.
Israeli and Palestinians representatives aren’t attending. Objectives include agreeing on a way to achieve Palestinian statehood within pre-1967 borders, Jerusalem as a shared capital for both states, and resolving the right of return issue.
Mahmoud Abbas’ draft Security Council resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements was withdrawn. It wasn’t a serious effort in the first place, having no chance to pass.
Netanyahu criticized the French initiative. Israel rejects Palestinian self-determination. It wants full control over future talks – to manipulate them to its advantage.
It long ago declared Jerusalem its exclusive capital, categorically rejects the right of diaspora Palestinians to return home.
It wants endless war and turbulence. Peace and stability defeat its imperial aims.
On Saturday, it approved stealing another 1,250 acres of privately owned Palestinian land, declared “state land” under full military control.
It’s intended for expanding illegal settlements – more proof Israel wants continued conflict, not peace.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Hamas said it rejects the France-sponsored international peace conference between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which is scheduled to take place on May 30 in Paris.
“We consider it a waste of time and a free service for the Israeli government that continues its daily violations against the Palestinians,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Anadolu Agency on Saturday.
Abu Zuhri also warned against agreeing to any deal that would harm the Palestinians and their national interests.
In March, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas affirmed his support for the French proposal.
Peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators collapsed in April 2014 over Israel’s refusal to release a group of Palestinian political prisoners despite earlier pledges to do so.
The Israeli regime plans to close off all entry points to the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip ahead of a Jewish holiday.
According to the Israeli army, the crossings to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be sealed off on Friday and Saturday, the days of the so-called Passover holiday, over security concerns.
The decision on the blockades was made after “an evaluation of the security situation,” an Israeli military spokesperson said without elaborating.
The Israeli decision to block pathways comes as a move to bar Palestinians from the al-Aqsa Mosque in August 2015 caused a major outcry on the part of the Palestinians. The Israel-occupied territories have been the scene of tensions ever since.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also said that security measures will be tightened ahead of the holiday.
Soldier in execution released
Israel also released from custody on Friday a soldier charged with manslaughter after shooting a wounded Palestinian. A military statement said Elor Azria was released home for the Passover holiday.
Azria, who also holds French citizenship, was charged on Monday with manslaughter and unbecoming conduct over the March 24 killing that took place in the southern West Bank city al-Khalil (Hebron).
A widely circulated video showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying on the ground, shot along with another man after allegedly stabbing and moderately wounding a soldier minutes earlier.
Azria, who was not at the scene during Sharif’s alleged attack, then shoots him in the head without any apparent provocation. His lawyers argued he thought the Palestinian was wearing explosives.
Palestinian Authority halts UN bid
With Israel tightening its measures, the Palestinian Authority however said a push for a UN resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement expansion will be put on hold.
Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki announced on Thursday that the Palestinians supported a French initiative to hold an international conference in May in an effort to revive so-called peace talks.
The Palestinians initially planned to get the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that would condemn continued Israeli settlement construction as an obstacle to peace.
Earlier reports had said that the Palestinian Authority had been under pressure from France and other countries to stop its efforts to push for the UN resolution.
French officials told President Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinian bid was unlikely to succeed because the US would veto the resolution even if it received enough votes from other members.
In his Thursday remarks, Maliki said Palestinian and French leaders agreed during meetings in Paris a few days ago that the French initiative should move ahead and not be jeopardized “in any way” by the resolution.
Senior Israeli and Palestinian officials have said that the Egyptians, the Jordanians and the Saudis were not keen to see the draft resolution move forward at this time.
Regime change, the term hundreds of millions hear on the nightly news is rendered innocuous by the sheer repetitiveness. But regime change is almost always accompanied by death and destruction, and after effects that affect us all, no matter where in the world it occurs. The overthrow of Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 by an American president and co-conspirators is truly a case for an international tribunal. Here’s a starting lineup for an international war crimes double header.
Every time I think of Barack Obama’s former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, images of her gloating and bragging over Libya flood into my mind’s eye. Then my mind races cognitively, to a culvert in a ditch near the town of Sirte, to a bruised and bloodied figure, staring up and fearful of his captors, just before they kicked and beat him, then riddled his body with bullets, Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al- Gaddafi’s life surely passed before his eyes. In the blink of a US drone electronic eye, the most powerful man in Africa was dethroned, and the Middle East was set on fire. History will inquire, “Who was it that set a whole people adrift in the world?” Well I have history’s answer.
Exhibit A: A US President Misleads His People
On March 28th, 2011 the Obama White House issued this transcript of the American president’s address to the people he swore to lead and protect. Within this insulting and misleading address, there are many lies and reversals of fact, but there are also great truths as well. For instance, the nations complicit in the violent coup d’é·tat in Libya were named by Obama, they were: the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Qatar along with the United Arab Emirates. Each of these nation’s geo-political interests in Libya and Gaddafi can be traced directly to big business or US surrogacy, this is irrevocable and irreconcilable. The involvement of US, UK and European agents inside Libya, the levers put in place to unseat the standing Libyan government, are just now coming into the daylight. I’ll shine more light on these further on, but right now characterizing the unmitigated audacity of Barack Obama is important. Not only did the US president mislead the American people on March 28th, 2011, his character would not allow him to pass up the opportunity to brag about how swiftly and decisively he had acted. On the mandate for unseating Gaddafi, the president said:
“It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country -– Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.”
This statement is key for understanding the truth of not only Libya, but Syria, Ukraine, and even for policies as far back as the NATO agenda in Bosnia. In a caveat to this, Obama also frames a hidden strategy beneath by discussing what we now know as the larger European tragedy. The president claims “our interests” were served by preventing:
“A massacre (that) would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful –- yet fragile -– transitions in Egypt and Tunisia.”
Not only did Barack Obama and his administration sell this lie to the American people, he also committed one of his worst political mistakes ever.
“Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
This was 2011, take note of this. The Obama team now openly professed a US and coalition plan to take down Gaddafi, they foretold of a larger scheme, the Arab Spring and western expansionism that grips the world today. Violence on a horrific scale, instigated by the Bush and Obama administrations. The refugee crises, which are clearly “ordained” in the quotes above as “warnings”, these were in fact part of a regional plan of destabilization.
Exhibit B: Obama – the Little Big Man 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin is not often wrong, but his statement last week about Barack Obama being “strong” enough to admit the mistake of Libya, it’s dead wrong. Barack Obama is not at all strong. He’s a decent actor, and can read a teleprompter like nobody’s business. Being strong in the Putin sense, it means serving the people, and not the hidden masters of the policy universe. In a now famous interview with Fox News anchor, Chris Wallace, Obama admits not planning for the aftermath of the ousting of Gaddafi was his biggest mistake as president. Obama says (via the transcript) on being asked “Worst mistake?”, by Wallace:
“Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.”
This is not the statement of a strong president, it is weak and pitiful in so many respects. The man cannot even come to grips with a truth, let alone take responsibility. “Probably”, the “right thing to do”, “think” – the whole snippet hints at lying or misdirect. Wallace never returns to the issue, the “central issue”, as it were, for America’s role in world terror and upheaval. The “facts” of Barack Obama’s regime change agenda contravene any suggestion Libya was simply an error. Most Americans are completely unaware of the battle in the US Congress to forestall this coup.
“Despite its failure to obtain legal approval from Congress, the Obama administration continued to provide the bulk of the military support for the NATO operation until the overthrow of Gadaffi in October. Before the official termination of Operation Unified Protector, US Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder said that “the United States led in this operation… It led in the planning of the operation, it led in getting the mandate for the operation, and it led in the execution of the operation… the United States conducted more sorties than any other country in this operation, twenty six percent.”
Barack Obama, with the adamant support of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Neocons like Arizona’s Sen. John McCain, and military industrial complex lap dog, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, ousted Gaddafi circumvented the people of the United States of America. For those wondering at my vehemence here, General Dynamics and the US Navy will name a new destroyer after Levin, just in case any out there are reticent in disbelief of my assertions. The arrogance, the insolence of these people staggers the imagination, but I must frame another constituent’s part in America’s export of revolution. Obama was not owning up to a mistake in Libya, he was sliding past a question by a sellout Fox reporter. The only reason for him even answering the question was to insert a tenant of plausible deniability later on.
Accept Open Society or Else
No one reading this report will be surprised to hear George Soros’ Open Society Foundations is neck deep in this regime change. The man who essentially got Obama elected in the first place, he and his NGO have been implicated in many political machinations. This Arizona Daily Independent opinion piece casts a blistering light on John McCain, the aforementioned Levin, and a neocon system of levers most are aware of, but know not how to confront. I’ve not the space to go into McCain’s shady past here, but his face on crisis has been adequately established. It was the Soros connection to the defense spending champion that caught my eye.
George Soros’ gift of $100 million dollars to Human Rights Watch did not make big news back in 2010. Human Rights Watch was thrilled though. A few months later, Human Rights Watch reported on the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging both Muammar Gaddafi, and his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi with crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch’s position in this strategy was to validate and provide presidents for a tribunal, at least in my view. This quote from the report by HRW is telling:
“Should the court issue an arrest warrant for Gaddafi, it would not be the first warrant for a sitting head of state by an international court. In 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued its first indictment against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo.”
Almost immediately after ICC head prosecutor Moreno Ocampo issued an arrest warrant for the Gaddafis on 7 June 2011, 30 nations recognized the Libyan rebels of the NTC as the legitimate government of the country. A key in understanding how collusion and influence parlay uprisings is in understanding how the Open Society Foundations grants and meetups operate. Central to the legitimacy of Gadaffi’s overthrow, was the notion he was a tyrant and a killer. Legitimacy for the White House agenda comes in many forms.
Legality: The Ultimate Lie
In December of 2005 the Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor was part of a Soros backed roundtable series, which was an initiative of OSI and the Security and Peace Initiative, which is a joint initiative of the Center for American Progress and an interesting think tank, The Century Foundation. The goals of these organizers, was ostensibly described in the title of published essays by these think tank elites, “Restoring American Leadership: 13 Steps to Improve Global Cooperation.” I believe it was the purpose of these meetings to establish Moreno Campo’s legitimacy and position within the greater scheme of things. After these meetings, and the associated United Nations meetups back then, the ICC played an ever-increasing and interesting role. Please remember, the Center for America Progress is funded by not only Soros, but Bill and Melinda Gates, huge corporations, and even the government of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE should ring bells for their part in the coalition to overthrow Gadaffi.
Subsequent Open Society Foundations rhetoric and policy showed us the ICC’s mission. First in Uganda, then in the crucial case of Sudan, the ICC allegedly became the tool of Soros and the people behind him. While I do not always agree with the controversial activist Lyndon LaRouche, there’s no denying his insight and investigations often bear fruit. In this report from 2008, the implications are black and white in this press release:
“The Soros organization also directly funded another agency at the Hague, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which prosecuted and judicially murdered Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.”
Yugoslavia rises from the mist once again. I’ve drummed on the notion of “templates” enacted by western leadership, on think tanks and their roles, and Yugoslavia in the Clinton era was a crucial turning point. The “legality” in all this, the big lie of democracy’s validity as a new quasi-religious crusade, this is where Soros funding, American leadership role playing, and regime-policy change meet globally. Gadaffi was essentially assassinated. His son is now under a death sentence in Libya, and the old school Cold War warriors want to install a king in his place. It’s all illegality made to look legal, Soros the Nazi sympathizer transformed into the philanthropist. It’s Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the biggest killer of innocent civilians since Idi Amin.
In conclusion, the question I began with remains; “Who was it that set a whole people adrift in the world?” Why the very people swearing oaths to protect us, that’s who. The champions of industry, the philanthropist, their paid for brain trusts, the money has bought out the entire democratic system of governance. The world has the true war criminals by the scruff of the neck now. But the wrong men and women will die, just as sure as I am writing this. The mission of Soros, his NGO, and the elites in power in the west is the eradication of the idea of the sovereign state. Killing Gaddafi was central to this goal.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe.
In his novel ‘Journey to the end of the night’ Louis-Ferdinand Céline provocatively described the soldiers who had died in the First World War as ‘idiots’. The French writer was referring to the fact the soldiers had given their lives for a cause that was not their own- a futile slaughter of the poor for the benefit of the rich. In the book’s many pertinent reflections on the human condition, the Céline notes how, in modernity, the street has come to constitute the place of dreams. “Que fait-on dans la rue, le plus souvent ? On rêve. C’est un des lieux les plus méditatifs de notre époque, c’est notre sanctuaire moderne, la Rue – what do we most often do in the street, we dream. It is the most meditative place of our time, it is our modern sanctuary.”
Since the French government recently introduced legislation reforming labour laws, a new ‘spontaneous’ and acephalous, social movement has taken root throughout French cities- the ‘Nuit Debout- Up All night’ movement. As the title suggests, the social movement is taking place at night time and one of its slogans is ‘Rêve général !’ – general dream, which is a pun on ‘grève générale’-general strike. So, instead of calling for a general strike in order to bring the government to its knees, the activists are calling for dreaming in the streets!
The movement took off after the release on February 23 of journalist Francois Ruffin’s film ‘Merci Patron’- ‘Thank you boss’, a firm critical of French plutocracy.
Although the film criticizes the avarice of contemporary capitalism, it does not treat the relationship between monopoly capitalism, foreign wars of conquest in the service of capital accumulation, class warfare and mass media disinformation.
Nor does Ruffin’s film expose and denounce the complicity of all corporate French media outlets in war crimes and genocide in the Middle East and throughout Africa, through the dissemination of lies and disinformation about the role of Western imperialism in these wars. There is no mention of the fact that the reason President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast was kidnapped in 2010 by French commandos- his country bombed and his character assassinated- was due to the fact that he defied the powerful Club de Paris, the circle of French bankers who control the African neo-colony’s money; Gbagbo had proposed that the Ivory Coast print it’s own currency- a bold move which would have enabled the resource-rich country to build up its own industrial base independent of colonial interests.
Although there is a stand at the place de la Republique claiming to expose the detrimental role of French policy in Africa, there is no real information of what that role is, nor have any of the pan-Africanist intellectuals who have written on the topic been invited to speak and sell their books. The ‘Nuit Debout’ movement is predominantly white and middle class.
Ruffin’s film also fails to point out how French bosses in the cereal industry colluded with terrorism against the people of Libya when they secretly met in Paris with Libyan traitors in November 2010 to organise the bombing and destruction of Africa’a richest and most democratic country.
The French ruling class are not just guilty of destroying centuries of social gains by French workers, they are complicit in genocide and crimes against humanity. So why is Ruffin silent about that fact?
Ruffin writes for ‘leftist’ publications which supported the NATO-backed ‘rebels’ in Libya- rebels who were in fact Al-Qaeda terrorists in the service of NATO. In 2011 the ‘left-wing’ Monde Diplomatique published an article on Libya declaring that there was no doubt about the ‘brutality of the regime’, in spite of the fact all of the crimes imputed to Colonel Gaddafi were carried out by the Takfiri ‘rebels’.
Ruffin and the dishonest publications he writes for are all complicit in the genocide waged by NATO against the people of the Southern Hemisphere states, from the Middle East and Africa to Latin America.
No, none of these uncomfortable realities are depicted in Ruffin’s ‘anti-capitalism.’ Instead, we have ultra-leftist slogans, petty-bourgeois irony and the mindless occupation of a public square by youths, who have neither the education nor the experience necessary to understand the structural reasons and deeper implications of the labour reform they claim to oppose.
The ‘Nuit Debout’ movement is certainly not spontaneous, nor is it grass-roots and acephalous as so many pundits claim.
On the contrary, it is the result of decades of careful policy analysis by US imperial ideologues. Since the undemocratic dissolution of the USSR in, 1991, the United States has perfected a regime change technique commonly referred to as ‘colour revolutions’. The strategy involves co-opting leftist slogans and symbols to serve a right-wing agenda. Lenin and the Bolshevik party had repeatedly denounced Leon Trotsky for utilizing this counter-revolutionary technique both before and after the October Revolution. It has now become a standard tool of US foreign policy.
The manipulation of youthful naivety and rebellion for the purposes of either overthrowing a foreign government hostile to US interests or creating a ‘left-wing’ opposition movement in imperial countries designed to kill all real opposition- this is a strategy which every would be activist needs to study if he wishes to engage in movements capable of real, social, political and economic change.
The ‘Nuit Debout’ movement is being led by petty-bourgeois, bohemians with little or no understanding of contemporary capitalism. The movement is organized on the same principals as the US backed colour revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring- empty slogans, idiotic puns and political infantilism. Although we cannot yet prove it, the use of the clenched fist as the movement’s logo coupled with cretinous slogans, are strongly reminiscent of strategies and tactics of CANVAS, the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Actions and Strategies, a regime change youth training organization close to the CIA.
The ruling class in France have evidently spent more time reading Marx than their would-be opponents. For the objective allies of monopoly capitalism in Europe today are the likes of François Ruffin and the other leading bourgeois leftist ideologue of this movement Frédéric Lordon- both of whom mask the reactionary nature of their pseudo ‘anti-capitalism’ or, to be more precise, their ‘anti-neoliberalism’, with a mixture of convoluted semantics, pseudo-intellectualism and ultra-leftist sloganeering.
There are thousands of real, grass-roots organizations in France, and they get much of their information from independent media such as Meta TV, Cercle Des Voluntaires, Reseau Voltaire and many more. Real proletarian analysis of capitalism is provided by communist organizations such as OCF , and URCF. Coherent bourgeois critique of French and EU imperialism is provided by the political party UPR.
The ‘Nuit debout’ activists talk about a ‘convergence of struggle’ yet journalists and activists from these genuinely popular organisations have been forcibly escorted from the Place de la Republique and denounced as ‘fascists’. Antifa is an organisation which purports to fight fascism but spends most of its time attacking all genuine anti-imperialist activists by blackening their name with the label ‘fascist’.
Antifa have been active again in the ‘Nuit Debout’movement where genuine French anti-imperialists such as Sylvain Baron have been forcibly evicted from the square.
This writer repeatedly pointed out in 2011 that the failure of the left to understand the reactionary ideology of the Arab Spring and the role of US agencies in its planning and execution, would have dire consequences for progressive politics. Now, similar techniques are being used throughout the world in order to criminalize real anti-capitalist agitation and create the conditions of military dictatorship. The objective allies of that strategy are petty bourgeois ‘anti-capitalists such as François Ruffin and Frédéric Lordon; these are the phastamagorical, would-be intellectuals who shine in the streets of the nocturnal, metropolitan dream world so eloquently depicted by Céline.
The representation of imperialism’s foreign wars of aggression as ‘revolutions’ and ‘humanitarian interventions’, coupled with an infantile advocacy of vacuous concepts such as ‘social Europe’- this is the nefarious role played by these post-modern ‘revolutionaries’, who are the very avant-garde of reactionary imperialism. A malady when this writer denounced it in 2011, pseudo-leftism has now morphed into a serious planetary pandemic. If this form of leftism did not exist, imperialism would have had to invent it. The ‘Nuit Debout’ movement is now spreading throughout the world. Pseudo-leftist media will zealously present this movement as a global painting of Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ when sadly, it is rather more of a sinister version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
The soi-disant ”anti-fascists” in this movement denounce as ”fascists” those who expose corporate media lies used to justify the crimes of NATO’s foreign wars-the foreign wars of capital accumulation waged by the same corporations imposing austerity and class war at home; but it is they who are the fascists, it is they who are the enemies of the working class!
Ideological confusion is the great political illness of our time. Céline describes war and illness as the two ‘infinities of nightmare’. One could describe the two contemporary ‘infinities of nightmare’ as the proliferation of wars of aggression and the triumph of capitalist repression due to the political illness of ultra-leftist cretinism, which has taken over the labour movement in the last 30 years. Until our youth emancipate themselves from the pernicious influence of controlled opposition and pseudo-leftist ideology- which turns them into useful idiots of monopoly capitalism rather than revolutionaries- their good natured activism is tragically destined to precipitate civilization’s journey to the end of the night.
An RT France reporter who was broadcasting live from the scene of protests over labor law on Paris Republic Square via Periscope has been threatened by the Blocus Paris (Siege of Paris) movement via Facebook with bodily harm; the post however was later removed.
On April 14, the journalist was broadcasting live from the scene of anti-labor law protests on Republic Square via Periscope.
One of the participants of the movement Blocus Paris (Siege of Paris), Helana Berkane, took a picture of the correspondent and published it on the group’s Facebook page calling for other members of the movement to physically assault him.
The post was later removed, but the RT team had already made a screenshot of the message.
“He is filming for his Periscope here, and hides behind the police when we speak to him. Let’s beat the mother****r,” the post reads.
According to the RT website, comments on the post “took the threats even further, with calls to “catch this Putinist cretin”, “make the poor scum miserable” and “send him to the Gulag.”
The picture was shared by the Mouvement Inter Lutte Indépendant (Independent movement for internal fight) with similar assaults.
The work of the journalist was also criticized by a photojournalist Louis Witter, who tweeted that while filming a “mere protest,” some journalists are dressed as if for battle.
RT France filed a complaint to the French police for “threats submitted in writing, picture or other form”, after which the posts were removed.
The channel says this is not the first time that RT France reporters have been confronted by individuals from the anti-fascist movement. Ten days ago, another member of the RT team was the subject of an attempted assault during the ongoing protests.
It should be mentioned that during the “mere protests”, which have been going on in the country since March 31, protesters have been using fireworks and stones while police have resorted to using tear gas to disperse the crowd.
(Second of two articles)
A recent two-part series in The New York Times laid out in detail the pivotal role that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played in President Obama’s decision to join in France and Britain’s 2011 military campaign against long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The Times articles make the case that Clinton bears a heavy part of the responsibility for the tragic, increasingly chaotic aftermath of that campaign in which Gaddafi was ousted and killed.
As the Times summaries of the articles put it, Gaddafi’s fall “seemed to vindicate Hillary Clinton. Then militias refused to disarm, neighbors fanned a civil war, and the Islamic State found refuge,” leaving Libya “a failed state and a terrorist haven.”
While neocons, right-wingers and humanitarian interventionists back in 2011 were seeking regime change in Libya, there was one non-governmental organization that was alone among progressive groups in mobilizing public opinion around the world in support of military action in Libya in the form of a no-fly zone.
And this wasn’t just any organization, but the fast-growing, on-line advocacy giant Avaaz.org, which in 2011 had 7 million members and today boasts 43.1-million members in 194 countries. As such, the New York City-based Avaaz is, as we noted in a previous article, the largest and most influential Internet-based, international advocacy organization on the planet.
Through its members’ petitions and a full-page ad last June in The New York Times, Avaaz has for the last few years been pushing for a no-fly zone in Syria, as have assorted neocons and war-hawks in congress and think-tanks who favor military operations to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. Hillary Clinton (but not other presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump) is a staunch advocate for a no-fly zone and regime change in Syria.
Like Clinton and other interventionists, Avaaz — in advocating for a no-fly zone in Syria — has not been chastened by what its advocacy wrought in Libya. Some of the same arguments for a no-fly zone that Avaaz made for Libya, it has made again over the last few years for Syria. This, despite as we noted in that earlier article, that top U.S. generals have warned that a no-fly zone in Syria is a “high-risk operation..a violent combat action that results in lots of casualties,” civilian and military.
It’s instructive to examine Avaaz’s no-fly zone advocacy for Libya in 2011 to get a handle on the organization’s continued thinking that — barring a diplomatic settlement growing out of a current tentative ceasefire in Syria — more war, under the cover of humanitarian intervention, would somehow save more civilians’ lives.
Call for No-Fly Zone in Libya Did Not Turn Out Well for Libyans in Aftermath of U.S./NATO Attacks
In its call for a no-fly zone in Libya in 2011, Avaaz submitted to the United Nations a petition containing 1,202,940 signatures gathered on-line. Demonstrating Avaaz’s impact, 90% of those were collected in just a two-day period between March 15 and 17 of that year, when its reported membership was a more modest, but still impressive, seven million.
And we now know what a sage piece of advocacy that was — as Libya experienced not only a no-fly zone, but U.S./NATO forces’ bombardments, the ousting and killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffy, the rise of ISIS, the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the flood of refugees from the chaotic, failed country that Libya is today.
Even at the time Avaaz was gathering all those signatures back in 2011 in support of a no-fly zone in Libya, there were critics who wondered why a U.S.-based non-governmental organization felt it had to stand up with neocons and war-hawks in advocating for an action that violated Libya’s sovereignty and was likely to lead to more violence against the Libyan people.
As John Hilary writing in The Guardian presciently warned in March 2011: “Little do most of these generally well-meaning activists know, they are strengthening the hands of those western governments desperate to reassert their interests in north Africa…A no-fly zone would almost certainly draw NATO countries into further military involvement in Libya, replacing the agency of the Libyan people with the control of those governments who have shown scant regard for their welfare…”
Hilary, executive director of War on Want, the U.K.-based charity that fights poverty and economic injustice, further noted, again presciently: “Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian — putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.”
Noting that support for a no-fly zone in Libya was at that time “rapidly becoming a key call of hawks on both sides of the Atlantic,” (just as has been the case in more recent years regarding Syria) Hilary commented: “The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck — those who usually oppose wars” [such as Avaaz] “are openly campaigning for more military involvement.”
On-line progressive organizations constantly seek signatures on petitions calling on the U.S. or other governments to adopt or change or reject certain policies. But Hilary pointed out that calling for a no-fly zone crosses a line into dangerous territory. As he wrote:
“The issue exposes the core of the problem with internet activism: instead of changing the world through a lifetime of education, it aims to change the world through a single click of the mouse. The impacts might be benign, when lobbying a government to stop causing harm. But a positive plan of action in a situation such as Libya requires more thought. Calling for military intervention is a huge step — the life and death of hundreds of thousands of people might hang in the balance. The difference between the ease of the action and impact of the consequence is great.”
Avaaz’s Justification for No-Fly Zone in Libya
It’s worth examining the Libya experience to get some idea of how Avaaz sees using military action to achieve what it contended would be civilian-saving humanitarian results.
Looking back, in calling for a no-fly zone Avaaz appeared to fully accept and spread the Gaddafi-will-systematically-murder-all-opponents line that western governments were trumpeting as the justification for intervention, stating in its March 15, 2011 message to members: “Right now Gaddafi’s forces are crushing the rebellion town by town” and noted that “brutal retribution awaits Libyans who challenged the regime. If we don’t persuade the U.N. to act now, we could witness a bloodbath.”
Avaaz went on to say that while it “is deeply committed to non-violence… enforcing a no-fly zone to ground Gaddafi’s gunships is one case where UN-backed military actions seems necessary.”
On March 17, 2011, just two days into flooding the U.N. Security Council with petitions containing 1,172,000 signatures, Avaaz enthusiastically reported (exclamation point and all) that the United Nations had agreed to take “‘all necessary measures’ short of an invasion to protect the people of Libya under threat of attack, including a no-fly zone!” It seems Avaaz’s expressed deep commitment to nonviolence had expanded beyond a no-fly zone to encompass “all necessary measures” — and Libya was soon on the receiving end of all those necessary measures.
When it was promoting a no-fly zone for Libya, Avaaz — as with its current Syria campaign — did receive pushback from some members. The organization felt it necessary to respond at some length on-line to the criticism before the no-fly zone was put into effect and the onslaught against Libya began.
Avaaz’s then-campaign director Ben Wikler (who is now with MoveOn.org), in an on-line posting responding to John Hilary’s Guardian article quoted above, outlined a number of reasons and procedures Avaaz used in taking up the cause of a no-fly zone for Libya. Among his points:
- “The call for a no-fly zone originated from Libyans – including the provisional opposition government, Libya’s (defected) ambassador to the UN, protesters, and youth organizations…Avaaz staff are in close and constant contact with activists inside Libya and have been repeatedly asked to move forward on this campaign.”
- “In some ways,” Wikler wrote, “we work a lot like journalists… talking to people and weighing the facts before we form conclusions. However, our staff’s personal conclusions also have to pass the test of our membership being strongly supportive of any position we take.”
In the Libya case, though, it would seem that Avaaz scarcely considered the potential negative aspects of military action — such as, when you “win,” what happens afterwards.
- According to Wikler, a random-sample poll taken before the petition was promulgated on-line, showed that “84% of [Avaaz] members supported this campaign, while 9% opposed it. Since launching it, we’ve found intense support for the campaign from around the world.” Avaaz says that petition ideas such as a no-fly zone campaign “are polled and tested weekly to 10,000-member random samples—and only initiatives that find a strong response are taken” to the wider membership. The organization has not disclosed who within Avaaz was the main instigator of the petitions for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria. Generally speaking, Avaaz says here’s how its petitions develop: “… Avaaz staff don’t set an agenda and try to convince members to go along with it. It’s closer to the opposite: staff listen to members and suggest actions they can take in order to affect the broader world. Small wonder, then, that many of our most successful campaigns are suggested first by Avaaz members themselves. And leadership is a critical part of member service: it takes vision and skill to find and communicate a way to build a better world.” Although this doesn’t say so, certainly on a matter of such import and controversy as a no-fly zone the final call would logically come from executive director Ricken Patel.
- Avaaz staff played “a key role in consulting with leading experts around the world (and most of our staff have policy as well as advocacy backgrounds) on each of the campaigns we run, and Libya was no exception.” This begs the question: Who were these experts, and did Avaaz seek out critics of such an action?
- On the question of whether imposing a no-fly zone would lead to a full-blown international war in Libya, Wikler downplayed the possibility at the time: “No-fly zones can mean a range of different things. Some analysts and military figures [none named by Wikler] have argued that it would require a pre-emptive attack on Libya’s anti-aircraft weapons. Others [again, none named], however, contend that merely flying fighter planes over the rebel-controlled areas would ensure that Qaddafi wouldn’t use his jets to attack eastern Libya, because he knows his air force is weaker than that of Egypt or NATO states. The best solution is the one that reduces civilian deaths the most with the least violence. Things might not turn out as expected, but while there are potential dangers to an international war, there are certain dangers to civilians if things continue without a no-fly zone.” [Emphasis added.]
Calling for military action seems a very risky calculation for an advocacy group to make, given even its own nodding recognition that the action it supports might bring on an international war or other “things… not expected.” And to discuss such an issue in a mere one sentence and conclude that the risk is worth it — and after the petition is already out there — is not indicative of a transparent, all-cards-on-the-table process that make for well-informed potential petition signers.
At the very least, now with the benefit of hindsight, you would think that the Libya experience would give Avaaz some second thoughts about supporting a no-fly zone in what top U.S. generals quoted in our previous article have described as the even riskier environment of Syria. But no such soul-searching is evident in Avaaz’s campaign for a Syrian no-fly zone.
For this and the previous article, we submitted a series of questions to Avaaz media personnel and campaign directors, with an emphasis on obtaining specifics as to the organization’s rationale for supporting no-fly zones in Libya and Syria — including whether the tragic outcome in Libya had figured at all in Avaaz’s consideration of whether to call for a no-fly zone in Syria. After requests (and reminders) on five occasions in November, December and January, we finally received a response on February 11 from campaign director Nell Greenberg, but that addressed only a few of our specific questions. Our follow-up questions, submitted on February 12, have gone unanswered.
As with the other questions we submitted to Avaaz personnel, the organization did not answer whether the Libya experience made the organization’s leaders think twice about taking up the Syria no-fly zone issue. It was possibly obscurely referencing the Libya no-fly zone when Greenberg stated to us: “Much of what you’re asking for are reflections on past campaigns given the geopolitical landscape today. But based on the way we work, I cannot tell you how any Avaaz member would feel today about a past campaign without going back and asking them.”
Our follow-up question made it clear that we were not asking how any individual Avaaz member might feel about the Libya campaign today, but rather how Avaaz’s leaders felt about proposing a no-fly zone for Syria when the Libya military action had turned out so disastrously. To date, Avaaz has not responded to any of our follow-up questions.
- Regarding whether a no-fly zone would violate Libya’s national sovereignty, Wikler in March 2011 stated: “National sovereignty should not be a legitimate barrier to international action when crimes against humanity are being committed.” Then in perhaps a foreshadowing of the organization’s call for a similar action in Syria, Wikler added: “If you strongly disagree, then you may find yourself at odds with other Avaaz campaigns as well.”
Wikler concluded his defense of the call for a Libyan no-fly zone by saying: “All told, this was a difficult judgment call. Calling for any sort of military response always is. Avaaz members have been advocating for weeks for a full set of non-military options as well, including an asset freeze, targeted sanctions, and prosecutions of officials involved in the violent crackdown on demonstrators.
“But although those measures are moving forward, the death toll is rising. Again, thoughtful people can disagree – but in the Avaaz community’s case, only 9% of our thoughtful people opposed this position [84% approved] – somewhat surprising given that we have virtually always advocated for peaceful methods to resolve conflicts in the past. We think it was the best position to take given the balance of expert opinion, popular support, and most of all, the rights and clearly expressed desire of the Libyan people.”
The figure of 84% approval from a sampling of Avaaz members seem astounding — and raises the issue of whether the questions were worded in the most emotional ways that would produce such an overwhelming result (along the lines of — Gaddafi is slaughtering, and will slaughter, everyone in his path and we must act now to avert a bloodbath). It also raises the question of whether Avaaz offered any counterpoints that a no-fly zone could lead to a wider war and end up killing, maiming and displacing thousands of civilians.
Regardless of the numbers, relying on partisan civilian sources in embattled areas for tactics or military solutions of any sort is both a dubious and frightening proposition and hardly seems the role for an advocacy organization to undertake.
Avaaz’s Origins: Founders and Funders
Even in the U.S. progressive community, Avaaz is far less well-known than its sister advocacy organization MoveOn.org. To put Avaaz in perspective, a little background is in order.
Avaaz was created in 2006 and officially launched in 2007 by MoveOn.org Civic Action and the little known and closely affiliated global advocacy group Res Publica, Inc. Its initial significant financial backing came from liberal philanthropist George Soros and his Open Society Foundations (then called Open Society Institute).
Avaaz’s individual founders included three of its current officers/directors — Ricken Patel, Eli Pariser and Thomas Pravda — as well as Thomas Perriello, Andrea Woodhouse, Jeremy Heimans, and David Madden. (More about them later.)
If you don’t know much about Avaaz, or think about it as I long did as a non-U.S. entity (actually, its headquarters is in New York City), that is not so surprising since many of its campaigns are targeted to specific countries other than the United States, and only a little over 5 percent of its 43.1 million members are U.S.-based. (A member being anyone who has ever signed an Avaaz petition — and that includes me.) Still, even that small U.S. percentage equates to 2.3 million people — a number that would be the envy of most U.S. activist organizations. (By way of comparison, Avaaz’s affiliated member organization MoveOn.org claims more than 8-million members.)
The U.S. membership in Avaaz is about the same as the German membership (2.2 million), and far less than France with 4.3 million and Brazil with a whopping 8.8 million members. Other nations with more than one million Avaaz members include Italy (2.1 million), Spain (1.8 million), the United Kingdom (1.6 million), Mexico (1.4 million), Canada (1.2 million). India has 991,000 members and Russia 901,000. Overall, Avaaz claims members in 194 countries, with its smallest membership — 81 — in the British overseas territory of Montserrat, population 5,100.
Avaaz is organized under the name the Avaaz Foundation, a 501(c)(4) non-profit lobbying organization, with its headquarters in Manhattan. It describes itself as having “a simple democratic mission: To close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.”
In its most recent Form 990 filing with the Internal Revenue Service, signed in September 2015 for tax year 2014, Avaaz reported contributions totaling $20.1 million and net assets of $7.6 million. Avaaz, which says that it is entirely member funded, had previously stated that it accepts no single contribution of more than $5,000, but that was not the case in 2014 as the organization reported that 18 individuals had contributed amounts ranging from $5,000 to $15,383. The contributors were not identified by name in the filing. Since around 2010, the organization is on record as not accepting corporate or foundation donations — although it did receive grants totaling $1.1 million from George Soros-connected foundations in the three years before that.
In response to our inquiry about Avaaz funding and the organization’s early link to Soros, campaign director Nell Greenberg responded:
“With regards to Avaaz funding, this movement was founded with the ideal of being completely self sustaining and democratic. 100% of the Avaaz budget comes from small online donations…Avaaz has never taken a contribution from a government or a corporation, and since 2009 has not solicited any contributions from charitable foundations.”
She continued: “We did receive seed funding from George Soros and the Open Society Foundation, but not after 2009. No corporation, foundation or board member has influence on the organization’s campaign directions or positions. This is hugely important to ensuring that our voice is exclusively determined by the values of our members, and not by any large funder or agenda.”
Of Avaaz’s four current officers/directors, only executive director Ricken Patel was listed as full-time, with annual pay of $177,666 for 2014. Chairman Eli Pariser; treasurer Thomas Pravda, and secretary Ben Brandzel are not day-to-day employees and all received no compensation in 2014. Of Avaaz’s 77 employees, the five highest-compensated staff members after Patel received salaries ranging between $111,000 and $153,000.
For its various domestic and overseas campaigns, Avaaz reported providing $3.2 million in grants to U.S. organizations and $932,000 to foreign organizations in 2014. Reported grants of more than $5,000 came in five categories, with the largest recipients being the U.S. Fund for UNICEF ($1 million for education for Syrian refugees), and the Rain Forest Trust ($1 million for “conservation of land and species”).
To help combat the Ebola virus, Avaaz provided $500,000 to the International Medical Corps, $350,000 to Save the Children and $300,000 to Partners in Health. For organizing for the September 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City, Avaaz provided $27,500 to Align and $10,000 to New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). Rounding out the list, a $10,000 grant went to Amazon Watch for “protection of the Amazon.”
For activities outside the United States, Avaaz spent most heavily in Europe on campaigns, advertising and consulting — $6.2 million, with South America a distant second at $685,000 for consulting services, followed by East Asia and the Pacific with $553,000 for campaigns and consulting services. Expenditures in five other regions ranged from $45,000 to $270,000.
Avaaz reported that the foundation is still comprised of the same two member organizations — MoveOn.org Civic Action and Res Publica, Inc. (U.S.) — which were the original founding groups.
Res Publica, a 501(c)(3), lists the same Manhattan address as the 501(c)(4) Avaaz and presumably provides unspecified assistance to Avaaz. Back at Avaaz’s beginning, the three principals in Res Publica were the aforementioned Patel, Pravda and Perriello. The three men had all served with the International Center for Transitional Justice, which “assists countries pursuing accountability for past mass atrocity or human rights abuse.” Also in those early days, according to some accounts, Avaaz listed the Service Employees International Union and Australia-based GetUp.org.au as co-founding organizations, but they seem to have long since been out of the picture.
In Res Publica’s most recent Form 990 filing with the IRS for 2013, Patel is listed as executive director, Pravda as treasurer, and Vivek Maru as secretary. All received no compensation. Contributions for 2013 totaled $963,895, of which $846,165 was from “Government grants” for unspecified purposes. The organization reported that it “provides strategic advice to other non-profit organizations… [and] also provides educational and action-based e-mail campaigns to citizens in every country via its website.” It also reported supporting projects “through fiscal sponsorship, that focused on online security and Internet freedom for repressed communities globally…”
Here are profiles of Avaaz co-founders and past and current officers:
Eli Pariser: Avaaz Chairman and Co-founder
Eli Pariser was executive director of MoveOn.org from 2004 through 2009 when the organization experienced explosive growth, and has been its board president since then. MoveOn, in the words of an on-line Pariser biography, “revolutionized grassroots political organizing by introducing a small-donor-funded and email-driven model that has since been widely used across the political spectrum.”
In addition to being a founder of Avaaz and currently serving as its chairman, the Brooklyn-based Pariser has been a member of the boards of Access and the New Organizing Institute. A best-selling author and former fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, Pariser is co-founder and executive of the on-line media company Upworthy. He is also currently a member of the advisory board of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs.
We would note that Pariser appears to be one of the few Avaaz founders and officers whose background is almost entirely in on-line activism, while some others have governmental or otherwise overseas experience working in programs in high poverty and/or war-torn countries.
We submitted several questions to Pariser on March 9, but he has not responded as of this writing.
Ricken Patel: Avaaz Executive Director and Co-founder
Prior to the founding of Avaaz in 2007, the Canadian-born Ricken Patel consulted for a number of international and well-established non-profit organizations — the International Crisis Group, the United Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation, Harvard University, CARE International, and the International Center for Transitional Justice. He worked in several countries including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan and Afghanistan. He also was the founding executive director of Avaaz-affiliated Res Publica, which among its past projects “worked to end genocide in Darfur.” As executive director of Avaaz since its begining, Patel is the face of the organization and has been termed “the global leader of online protest” by The Guardian.
Thomas Pravda: Avaaz Treasurer and Co-founder
Through two of its co-founders — Tom Perriello and Thomas Pravda — Avaaz has connections to government officialdom in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Perriello (discussed below) is now with the State Department as U.S. special envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa.
Pravda is currently serving as the (unpaid) treasurer and a director for Avaaz, while at the same time holding down a post as a diplomat with the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly known as the Foreign Office. He is also co-founder and officer in Res Publica.
As the Foreign Office is “responsible for protecting and promoting British interests worldwide,” this could raise conflict-of-interest possibilities regarding U.K. and U.S. foreign relations and military issues that might be taken up by Avaaz. This would include the organization’s advocacy for a no-fly zone in Syria, in which both the U.S. and U.K. would be expected to participate. Our research, though, found no example of anyone raising a specific issue about Pravda’s dual role as U.K. diplomat and Avaaz officer, but this relationship looks problematic on the face of it.
Pravda’s self-provided biography shows he has been with the Foreign Office since October 2003, and with Avaaz since 2006, and that he was also an advisor to the U.S. State Department in 2009-2010 regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In his diplomatic assignments Pravda has worked on E.U. trade and development policy; as an advisor to the Special Representative for Climate Change, and as the U.K. Representative in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has also consulted extensively on political, security, research and advocacy issues for such institutions as the U.S. State Department, the United Nations Development Program, the International Center for Transitional Justice and Oxford Analytica.
Ben Brandzel: Avaaz Secretary and Co-founder
In addition to currently serving as the (unpaid) secretary for Avaaz, Ben Brandzel is the founder and director of OPEN (Online Progressive Engagement Network), described as an alliance of the world’s leading national digital campaigning organizations. Besides being a founding board member and former senior campaigner at Avaaz, Brandzel is the chief founding advisor for OPEN member groups in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland. He also served as the original advocacy director for MoveOn.org and in 2009-2010 directed new media campaigns and fundraising for President Obama during the health reform campaign. He writes frequently on digital organizing and transnational movement building.
Tom Perriello: Avaaz Co-founder
If I were going to name one chief suspect among Avaaz’s founders as the architect of its no-fly zone advocacy in Libya and Syria, it would be Tom Perriello. More than anyone else connected with Avaaz from its earliest days, Perriello, since leaving the organization — first for Congress and then for the think-tank world before going to the U.S. State Department — has shown himself to be a reliable advocate for war: For continuing the war in Afghanistan, for bombing Libya and ousting Gaddafi, and for taking military action to support Syrian rebels and remove Assad from power.
Perriello champions “humanitarian intervention” and lauded the NATO bombing campaign in Libya — before the U.S./NATO “victory” there and before the country subsequently went all to hell — as a prime example of how this approach can succeed .
We asked Avaaz whether Perriello’s thinking had influenced the organization’s campaigns for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria, and received a stern denial from Avaaz’s Greenberg: “Tom Perriello, specifically, was an Avaaz board member at the founding of the organization but has not been on the board since December 2009, and has had no role in Avaaz’s Syria campaigns.”
Perriello’s career, like some others with Avaaz, has been more one of public service through established organizations than of activism. According to an on-line biography, in 2002-2003 Perriello was special advisor to the international prosecutor of the Special Court of Sierra Leone, and then served as a consultant to the International Center for Transitional Justice in Kosovo (2003), Darfur (2005) and Afghanistan (2007). In 2004, he co-founded Res Publica with Patel and Pravda. Perriello has also been a fellow at The Century Foundation and is a co-founder of DarfurGenocide.org. He said in his on-line bio that he had “spent much of his career working in West Africa and the Middle East to create strategies for sustainable peace, and he was involved in the peace processes that helped end the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.”
A Democrat, Perriello was elected to Congress from Virginia’s 5th District in 2008. (It would appear from the statement we received from Avaaz that if Perriello left the organization in December 2009 then he was still on the Avaaz board during his first year in Congress.)
In his one term, Perriello was a staunch supporter of the global war on terror, the military appropriations to continue U.S. wars, and keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Defeated in his 2010 bid for reelection, Perriello went on to serve as president and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and counselor for policy also at Center for American Progress, a Democratic party-supporting think tank. From 2014 to the present he has been with the State Department, first as the Special Representative to the Secretary of State for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and since last summer as the U.S. special envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa. Although said not to be involved with Avaaz currently, his humanitarian intervention philosophy seems alive and well at Avaaz with its calls for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria.
In this excerpt from his 2012 article on humanitarian intervention, Perriello sounds absolutely eager to send in the bombs wherever “egregious atrocities” are occurring and human beings are suffering. And this, as Perriello writes, would give “progressives” the “opportunity… to expand the use of force to advance key values.” Following are two paragraphs from Perriello’s article that give the flavor of the “humanitarian intervention” philosophy he advocates. It would certainly be helpful if Avaaz would tell us if it subscribes to its co-founder’s rather bloodless and creepy prescription for advancing progressives’ “key values.”
“Operational developments since the end of the Cold War have substantially improved our capacity to wage smart military operations that are limited in time and scope and employ precise and overwhelming force,” Perriello wrote. “This presents progressives with an opportunity—one that is too often seen as a curse—to expand the use of force to advance key values. Our technical capacities, ranging from accuracy of systems intelligence to smart weaponry, now allow for previously impossible operations. Today, we have the ability to conduct missions from the air that historically would have required ground troops. And we possess an admittedly imperfect but highly improved ability to limit collateral damage, including civilian casualties. Among other things, this means fewer bombs can accomplish the same objectives, with early estimates suggesting that the Libyan air campaign required one-third the number of sorties as earlier air wars…
“We must realize that force is only one element of a coherent national security strategy and foreign policy. We must accept the reality—whether or not one accepts its merits—that other nations are more likely to perceive our motives to be self-interested than values-based. But in a world where egregious atrocities and grave threats exist, and where Kosovo and Libya have changed our sense of what’s now possible, the development of this next generation of power can be seen as a historically unique opportunity to reduce human suffering.”
Imagine the nerve of those other nations Perriello refers to — failing to see that the United States selflessly engages in “values-based” bombing: Bombs for a better world.
Andrea Woodhouse: Avaaz Co-founder
Another Avaaz co-founder, Andrea Woodhouse, describes herself as a development professional, social entrepreneur and writer. She has worked in many countries experiencing conflict and political transition, including Indonesia, Timor Leste, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Burma/Myanmar. In Indonesia, she reported working on one of the largest anti-poverty programs in the world, which she said became the model for a national program of post-conflict reconstruction and state-building in Afghanistan. She has worked for the World Bank and the United Nations and was a founder of the World Bank’s Justice for the Poor program.
Jeremy Heimans: Avaaz Co-founder
According to an on-line biography, Jeremy Heimans in 2005 co-founded GetUp, an Australian political organization and one of that country’s largest campaigning communities. It has campaigned for same-sex marriage and in support of Julian Assange of Wikileaks. In addition to being an Avaaz co-founder, Heimans in 2009 co-founded Purpose, an activist group that launched several major new organizations including All Out, a two-million member LGBT rights group.
David Madden: Avaaz Co-founder
David Madden, another Avaaz co-founder, is a former Australian Army officer and World Bank and United Nations employee. With Jeremy Heimans, he co-founded GetUp. Madden has worked for the World Bank in Timor Leste, and for the United Nations in Indonesia. In 2004, Madden was one of the founders of Win Back Respect, a web-based campaign against the foreign policy of U.S. President George W. Bush.
George Soros’s Role in Avaaz Early Years
For the last few years, various on-line bloggers have questioned whether Avaaz is somehow doing the bidding of philanthropist George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, or of the U.S. government (or portions thereof). (See an example here.)
There is no question that there was a close connection between Avaaz and Soros and his organizations dating back to Avaaz’s early days, but what — if anything — does that translate into today?
As noted earlier, in one of the few of my questions that Avaaz answered directly, there was an acknowledgement of early Soros “seed money” to Avaaz, but a denial of any continuing involvement with the organization.
Of all individuals or organizations outside the Avaaz structure, though, Soros’s foundations played the most significant role in helping get Avaaz off the ground with generous grants. Additionally, the Open Society Institute (the previous name of the Open Society Foundations) served as Avaaz’s “foundation partner” on campaigns of joint interest, most notably in connection with the Burmese Democracy Movement.
Avaaz still has a Soros connection — notably, as indicated above, Eli Pariser serving on an Open Society advisory board. And both Avaaz and Soros seem to share an antipathy to what they characterize as Russian aggression as exemplified by Avaaz’s sometimes over-the-top statements about Russia in Syria. (For example, as noted in our previous article, Ricken Patel holding Putin’s government responsible for being complicit with the Assad government in “coordinating atrocities” and “targeting the assassinations of journalists” in early 2012. Also, see this September 30, 2015 Avaaz posting using flimsy evidence to accuse Russian planes of deliberately bombing civilian neighborhoods.)
Donations by Soros’s Foundations
Over a three-year period beginning in 2007, Soros’s foundations — either directly or passed through Res Publica — gave Avaaz a total of $1.2 million.
In 2007, the Open Society Institute gave $150,000 to Res Publica for general support for Avaaz, and $100,000 for Avaaz’s work on climate change.
In 2008, Open Society Institute again gave a total of $250,000 to Res Publica — with $150,000 of that again for general support for Avaaz and the remaining $100,000 for Avaaz’s climate change work.
The following year, Soros was even more generous to Avaaz. His Foundation to Promote Open Society in its Form 990 filing for 2009 (page 87) reported giving a total of $600,000 to Res Publica for Avaaz’s use — $300,000 for general support and $300,000 for climate campaigning.
Avaaz increased its ties to the Soros organization in 2008 by selecting the then-named Open Society Institute (OSI) as its “foundation partner” to oversee some $325,000 in donations that Avaaz had received from its members — in just four days — to support the Burmese Democracy Movement.
Avaaz said it was linking up with OSI — “one of the largest and most respected foundations in the world” — for the purpose of OSI monitoring Avaaz’s grant awards and expenditures. OSI was “taking no overhead on the funds we are granting to Burmese groups” for technology, organizing, support for the regime’s victims and victims’ families, and international advocacy.
In June 2009, OSI reported that its Burma Project grantees — including Avaaz — had rallied global support around democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. On that occasion, Avaaz partnered with the Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now! Campaign to collect more than 670,000 signatures asking for UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s support for Aung San Suu Kyi and some 2,000 other political prisoners.
From available information, it does not appear Soros or his foundations have contributed financially to Avaaz or directly engaged in projects with the organization in the last five to six years. And Avaaz itself says the Soros financial connection ended in 2009. Whether the substantial assistance Soros’s foundations gave Avaaz in its first three years of existence carries any lasting influence, though, is certainly hard to show.
Avaaz’s Impressive Record of Advocacy
As noted in our previous article, even allowing for organizational self-hype, Avaaz has an impressive record of advocacy — a record that mostly seems off-kilter with its no-fly zone advocacy in Libya and Syria. For example, here are some other Avaaz campaigns not previously mentioned:
- Avaaz has played a prominent role in a number of actions directed at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
- Avaaz was a key player in a successful campaign (including a petition with more than 1.7 million signatures, coupled with occupations and protests at some 15 Barclays bank branches across the United Kingdom) to pressure Barclays to divest its $2.9 million holdings in an Israeli defense contractor, Elbit Systems.
Avaaz received plaudits from the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for its role in that campaign. Elbit Systems is the major Israeli-based arms and security company that manufactures drones used in surveillance and attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. It also provides electronics for the “apartheid wall” being constructed on the West Bank.
- A petition directed to the government of Israel and to the U.S. Congress netted 185,000 signatures in support of the portion of President Obama’s Cairo speech in June 2009 in which he said: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”
- In 2011, some 1.6 million people — more than 300,000 of them in just the first two days — signed an Avaaz petition to European leaders and U.N. member states, urging them “to endorse the legitimate bid for recognition of the state of Palestine and the reaffirmation of the rights of the Palestinian people. It is time to turn the tide on decades of failed peace talks, end the occupation and move towards peace based on two states.”
- In March 2013, at the time of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC’s) annual conference and congressional lobbying days in Washington, D.C., Avaaz joined with Jewish Voice for Peace to erect hundreds of anti-AIPAC posters across Metro stations in central D.C. The signs read: “AIPAC does not speak for me. Most Jewish Americans are pro-peace. AIPAC is not.”
- Through its petitions, Avaaz has strongly opposed governmental surveillance of U.S. citizens, and has defended Wikileaks and national security whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.
- In April 2011, amid news reports of Manning’s brutal treatment while imprisoned at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia before facing a court martial for providing classified documents to Wikileaks, almost 550,000 people signed an Avaaz petition to President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The petition, headlined “Stop Wikileaks Torture,” called on those officials “to immediately end the torture, isolation and public humiliation of Bradley Manning. This is a violation of his constitutionally guaranteed human rights, and a chilling deterrent to other whistleblowers committed to public integrity.”
- A December 2010 Avaaz petition, calling “the vicious intimidation campaign against Wikileaks” by the U.S. and other governments and corporations “a dangerous attack on freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” produced 654,000 signatures — more than 300,000 of those in the first 24 hours the petition was circulated on-line.
- In June 2013, just days after the first reports of the National Security Agency’s illegal worldwide spying appeared, some 1.38 million people signed a petition, headlined “Stand with Edward Snowden,” to President Obama. The petition read: “We call on you to ensure that whistleblower Edward Snowden is treated fairly, humanely and given due process. The PRISM program is one of the greatest violations of privacy ever committed by a government. We demand that you terminate it immediately, and that Edward Snowden be recognized as a whistleblower acting in the public interest — not as a dangerous criminal.”
- In April 2012, some 780,000 people signed an Avaaz petition to members of Congress, and another to Facebook, Microsoft and IBM (with 626,000 signers), to drop their support for the Internet surveillance bill known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The bill, the petition stated, would place “Our democracy and civil liberties… under threat from the excessive and unnecessary Internet surveillance powers” that it would grant to the U.S. government without requirement of a warrant.
- In the face of widespread hunger strikes at the Guantanamo Bay prison in 2013, Avaaz gathered 690,000 signatures on a petition to transfer the 86 men who had already been cleared for release, and to appoint a White House official whose responsibility it would be to close down the prison. Said the petition: “This shameful complex is a scourge on humanity, is destroying lives, and fuels hate across the world. Close it down!”
- Avaaz is also in the front ranks on various other issues — fighting global warming, seeking an end to U.S. and European arms sales to Saudi Arabia, protecting rain forests, saving endangered species, promoting clean energy, challenging Rupert Murdoch’s bid for a greater media monopoly in the United Kingdom, defending human rights in a number of countries, etc.
In none of those other campaigns do we see Avaaz proposing military action of any sort. Why this anomaly when it came to Libya and now Syria? Especially, when military action’s aftermath turned out so badly in Libya, and when even the nation’s leading generals say a Syria no-fly zone would escalate the war and endanger the very civilians Avaaz has the stated goal of protecting?
John Hanrahan, currently on the editorial board of ExposeFacts, is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of Government by Contract and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He wrote extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.
They met in Hiroshima, Japan, in the first city on Earth that had been subjected to nuclear genocide. They were representing some of the mightiest nations on Earth: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – the so-called Group of Seven (G7). And at the end of their encounter, they called for “a world without nuclear weapons”.
I am talking about the foreign ministers of seven countries with the largest economies on Earth.
Read carefully the names of these countries, one by one! For decades and centuries, the world has been trembling imagining their armed forces and corporations. Lashes administered by their colonial rulers have scarred entire continents, tens of millions were enslaved, and hundreds of millions killed, billions robbed.
Even now, if we all listen carefully, we can clearly hear the victims screaming, in agony: the native people of Canada and United States, the colonized people of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. For centuries, the entire world has been in shackles, on its knees, humiliated, plundered and destroyed.
G7! How many billions of victims from all corners of the world, made those countries so ‘grand’?
To ensure that the pillage could continue uninterrupted, the West together with those “honorary whites” (a term that the South African apartheid regime invented exclusively for the Japanese people) created several aggressive and belligerent pacts, including NATO, calling them, of course, “defensive” alliances. It came as no surprise: remember that in the lexicon of the Empire of Lies, war is called peace, while aggression is always defined as defense. But this I have already described in detail, in my 820-page book “Exposing Lies of the Empire”.
Now foreign policy tsars of the “G7” were standing shoulder to shoulder again, in Hiroshima, of all places, and only a few days after the 71st anniversary of the nuclear blast. Making predictable declarations and self-glorifying speeches.
The weather was good, partly sunny, with excellent visibility. But was the world really able to see through the thick fog of Machiavellian cynicism and lies, dispersed all over the Planet by those grinning rulers of the world?
On April 11, 2016, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) issued a written declaration on nuclear disarmament:
“We reaffirm our commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that promotes international stability”.
Seriously? No one around those ministers fell; nobody was seen to be rolling on the floor, shaking from uncontrollable laughter. Obviously, a joke repeated thousands of times loses its luster.
But that was not all. The text of the declaration continued:
“This task is made more complex by the deteriorating security environment in a number of regions, such as Syria and Ukraine, and, in particular by North Korea’s repeated provocations.”
What exactly were we reading? What was between the lines? Were we being told that the United States needs all of its 6,970 nuclear weapons to antagonize Syria and North Korea, while sustaining the fascist regime in Ukraine?
Just to put things into perspective: two Communist countries with nuclear capability have really negligible stockpiles of nuclear weapons, compared to the West and G7. China has 260 and North Korea (DPRK) approximately 15. In comparison, France has 300 and the U.K., 215.
In 2016, the population of China stands at 1.382 billion, while that of France is less than 65 million. China has more than 21 times more people to defend, but despite that, France has more nuclear weapons.
The comparison gets even more ridiculous between North Korea and the U.K.
The figures quoted above are the latest “official” statistics, taken from the World Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Report, updated as recently as on March 2, 2016.
It would also be appropriate to recall that North Korea has never invaded any foreign country. Also China (PRC), apart from two brief border clashes, has never been involved in any large-scale military conflict. Not once has it colonized or destroyed a foreign land. Both France and the U.K. have been plundering on all of the planet’s continents, for centuries. Later, in the 20th Century, the United States ‘took over’ the reigns of imperialism from the old and ‘traditional’ European colonialist empires.
One statement is actually correct: there is that deteriorating security environment in a number of regions, but only due to the covert as well as direct aggressions of NATO and the G7 countries.
But it would be even more honest to declare: “We are sorry, we really cannot disarm, because if we would, it would become much more difficult to loot and to control the world.”
Before dispersing, the G7 party did what its members enjoy doing the most: lashing at China.
As Reuters reported:
“Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies said they strongly opposed provocation in the East and South China Seas, where China is locked in territorial disputes with nations including the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan… Earlier on Monday, the G7 foreign ministers said after meeting in the Japanese city of Hiroshima that they opposed “any intimidating coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions”.”
The US is habitually implementing that ‘good old’ British ‘divide and rule’ strategy. In Asia, it uses its ‘client’ states, particularly the Philippines, Japan and South Korea to isolate and provoke both China and DPRK. This policy is so dangerous that many here believe that it could eventually trigger the Third World War.
This time, China has fired back, almost immediately. At a news briefing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang declared:
“If the G7 wants to continue playing a major role in the world, it should take an attitude of seeking truth from the facts to handle the issues the international community is most concerned with at the moment.”
The Western military build-up in the Asia Pacific region, the military maneuvers conducted jointly by the US and South Korea, as well as the continuous militarization of Japan, are definitely some of the topics that are making most of the Asian continent both ‘concerned’ and frightened.
Predictably, the DPRK remained the main punch bag of the G7. The ministers never explained exactly why the world should be petrified of North Korea. Such fear should apparently be taken for granted, especially after the long decades of intensive and vicious Western and South Korean propaganda.
But back to the statement of the ministers:
“We condemn in the strongest terms the nuclear test on January 6 and the launch using ballistic missile technology on February 7, March 10 and March 18 conducted by North Korea. It is profoundly deplorable that North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests in the 21st century.”
Of course, building defenses against the combined NATO and G7 aggressions is one of the most deplorable crimes, it calls for capital punishment!
Shamelessly, after spreading verbal toxins, all seven ministers went to the grounds of the monument and museum dedicated to the victims of “Hiroshima A-bomb”.
The Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida led the pack. Under the bizarre leadership of his government, Japan has been doing its absolute best to betray Asia, and to antagonize its neighbors. In the most servile and shameful way, it has fully accepted the Western dictates, increased the volume of its own hysterical propaganda campaign against China and DPRK, and has begun to bolster its military.
Why? Just to please its masters, those ‘noble and superior Westerners’!
By now, Japan is not even what its Prime Minister Shinzō Abe wants the world to believe that it is: a conservative nation governed by a nationalist government.
Japan has no spine, just as it has no foreign policy. It fully takes orders from the United States. And as I was told repeatedly by one of the employees of the NHK: “No major media outlet in Japan would dare to broadcast anything important, related to international affairs, that hasn’t appeared previously on at least one of the major US networks.”
Looking at Japan’s past, “conservative nationalists” used to be, for instance, some of the greatest writers like Yukio Mishima, a man who ended his life in 1970 by committing a ritual suicide, protesting Japan’s unabashed submission to the West. Japan’s Prime Minister Abe is definitely a ‘conservative’, but is he really a Japanese nationalist? He is defending the interests of Washington much more than those of his own country. Perhaps, “honorary white and one of G7 leaders” would be the most fitting term to define him.
Now, according to the official NATO website: “Japan is the longest-standing of NATO’s “partners across the globe”.
It is also one of the nations that are shamelessly plundering the world through its brutal corporations.
And so they stood there – seven ministers from some of the most aggressive countries on Earth.
They stood on the turf that was, more than 70 years ago, burned to ashes, in just a few seconds after the nuclear explosion.
They said again and again how much they would like to disarm, how much they would like to see the world free of nuclear weapons.
What they didn’t say was that they never would disarm, voluntarily.
And they never clarified how they actually made it to that exclusive G7 club: because of the unbridled plunder during their colonial history, and because of the modern-day global corporate pillage, as well as their mining and oil “investments”. And of course because of the “world order”, imposed by force and all sorts of weapons, nuclear and conventional, on the rest of the Planet.
Instead of Group of Seven, this pack should be simply called ‘GS’ – the Group of Shame.
The ministers stood for some time in front of the flame burning at the monument to Hiroshima A-bomb victims. They posed for the cameras. Then they went away, sat down at some table, and wrote the official declaration on nuclear disarmament, ‘explaining’ why they cannot abandon their tools of coercion. And that declaration turned out to be nothing more than yet another monumental pile of lies!
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”.
The parliamentary Syrian elections taking place in Syria this week prove once more the indomitable resilience of the Syrian people, who are resisting one of the most brutal neo-colonial wars in modern history. Since foreign backed, unknown snipers opened fire on protesters and police on the 17th of March in the city of Daraa, the people of Syria have been defending their country from an armed invasion of brutal, and drugged, Takfiri death squad – all financed by Israel, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and NATO.
The objective of the terrorist invasion of Syria is to conquer the country, by pitching Sunni fanatics against their Shia and Christian brethren. The broader goal of NATO’s genocidal war is to balkanize the proud, multi-cultural and highly united, Arab nationalist states. This strategy of chaos is being carried out in accordance with Israel’s geopolitical objectives in the Middle East, which requires breaking up and destroying all Arab nations contiguous to Israel; this ensures the regional and global supremacy of the Jewish State. It is a long and dirty war, one which could drag on for several decades.
Zionism’s plans for the region are incontrovertibly demonstrated by two documents in particular: the 1982 paper published by the Israeli government official Oded Yinon entitled ‘A Strategy For Israel in the 1980s’, and the 1996 US neo-con document ‘A Clean Break: a New Strategy for Securing the Realm’. Both these testaments prove that Israel intends to destroy all countries who refuse to submit to Zionism’s regional hegemony. Syria has always been at the forefront of anti-Zionist resistance.
The elections today prove to the world once more that Syria is a democracy, and that it is far more democratic than any of the countries waging war against it. The will of its people is sovereign, inalienable and inviolable. Most importantly, the elections cogently illustrate the triumph of national liberation over neocolonialism, of people-power over tyranny.
There are well-intentioned youths in Paris demonstrating for democracy against anti-popular legislation and the power of money over politics. But these youths have no understanding of the real reasons why their liberties and social security are being stolen from them. They have no idea of the genocide the French and American governments are orchestrating throughout the Southern Hemisphere nations of this planet. They have no idea that they are being led by the same ‘intellectuals‘ who support this colonial war against Syria.
If the ‘nuit debout’ democracy movement in Paris is to become radical, to demand real social change, it will be that moment when they wave in solidarity the flags of the Syrian Arab Republic in Place de la Republique, and proclaim that Syria is a democracy and that the French people must call for ‘regime change’ here and not in Damascus. Until people understand who the real tyrants are, there will be neither peace nor justice in the world.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front party, has called Angela Merkel’s talks with Turkey over the migrant deal “real treason,” saying Erdogan’s government shows “unacceptable leniency” towards Islamic State and “buys oil from terrorists.”
Le Pen has described the recent deal with Turkey as “a serious democratic problem.”
Last month, EU leaders and Turkey agreed a plan aimed at opening a “safe and legal” route to the EU for Syrian refugees. Under the deal, sealed on March 20, Ankara is to take back all migrants and refugees, including Syrians, who cross the Aegean Sea and enter Greece illegally. In return, the EU will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey, rewarding Ankara with a fast visa-free travel regime, advancement in EU membership talks and – last but not least – more money.
“First of all, Frau Merkel did not possess the necessary powers [to strike the deal]. Secondly, she went against the will of the majority of the people in Europe. She conducted talks with Erdogan on unacceptable conditions, such as the €6-billion subvention, visa-free travel for Turks, and even Turkey’s admission to the EU – something that France has been strongly against. This is real treason and betrayal of the people,” the far-right National Front (FN) leader said in an exclusive interview with LifeNews.
“France’s National Front has long been saying that Erdogan’s government shows unacceptable leniency towards Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). I’m talking about Turkey buying oil from terrorists. We strongly resist Turkey’s integration with the EU, and we insist on respect for freedom of choice, and the French people’s refusal to follow the direction imposed by Frau Merkel,” Le Pen said.
“Today Turkey is establishing relations with Islamic fundamentalists. This goes against the interests of our country. Besides, I’m sorry to say it: Turkey is not a European country, neither historically, nor culturally and geographically. This means it has no business being part of the European Union,” she added.
Last month, the FN leader described Turkey’s request for the EU to provide it with an extra € 3 billion ($3.3 billion) to deal with the refugee crisis as blackmail.
“We have become so weak due to the removing of our [EU] borders that we have given in to Turkey’s blackmail,” Le Pen told RTL.
Last week, President Erdogan warned that Turkey won’t take back Syrian refugees if the EU doesn’t fulfill its promises, according to Reuters. It was previously reported that the Turkish president had threatened to flood the European Union with migrants, should Ankara not be offered enough cash to help curb the influx.
The first deportations started in Greece in early April amid repeated warnings by human rights groups that Turkey is “not a safe third country for refugees.”
In December, the Russian Defense Ministry released evidence it said unmasks the vast and illegal oil trade by Islamic State. It points to Turkey as the main destination for the smuggled oil, implying Ankara’s leadership in aiding the terrorists. However, the ministry said that since the start of Russia’s anti-terrorist operation in Syria on September 30, Islamic State’s income from oil smuggling has been significantly reduced. Erdogan has denied that Turkey procures oil from anything other than legitimate sources.
Le Pen has praised the Russian military mission in Syria, saying: “It’s a relief for us to see Islamic State retreat, and how Russia has succeeded where the EU has totally failed.”
“Russia’s presence in Syria has helped Europe a lot. Of course, our minister of foreign affairs has appropriated the success of airstrikes against Islamic State targets. In reality, the merit is due solely to the Russian troops,” she told LifeNews.
Le Pen said she had long been calling on France to restore diplomatic relations with Syria. “Despite harsh criticism of Bashar Assad’s government, it is the lesser evil in comparison with ISIS. We need to stabilize Syria, to strengthen through diplomacy the government system, which currently appears to be in ruins, with all the power in IS’ hands. We need to maintain high-level relations between the Syrian and French intelligence services. This will help us prevent terrorist acts in France.”