Thursday, February 27, 2014

Palestinian man killed in West Bank as report decries excessive force: Amnesty International concluded that Israeli forces have used excessive force against Palestinians in the West Bank, leading to the deaths of dozens of Palestinian citizens.

By Jonathan Cook

February 27, 2014 "Information Clearing House - The first bullet struck 16-year-old Samir Awad in his left leg. He staggered away as fast as he could, but was too slow. A second round slammed into his left shoulder, exiting from the right side of his chest. Then, moments later, a third bullet penetrated the back of his skull and exited from his forehead.

The live rounds were fired by a group of Israeli soldiers guarding a section of Israel’s separation barrier built on the lands of Samir’s village in the occupied West Bank. The wall has been used by Israel to make large areas of the town of Budrus’ farmland inaccessible to the villagers.

On the day he died in January 2013, Samir and his friends had celebrated the end of the school term by walking into the hills along a path close to the steel barrier, said Ayed Murrar, head of Budrus’ popular struggle committee. An army patrol, laying in wait, ambushed them. Samir was grabbed as his friends fled. When moments later he managed to break free, the soldiers opened fire.

Samir’s friend, Malik Murrar, who witnessed the shooting, said: “How far can an injured child run? They could easily have arrested him. Instead they shot him in the back with live ammunition.”

Samir’s story is one of several harrowing accounts of killings of Palestinian civilians told in a report “Trigger-happy“, published Thursday by Amnesty International.

The international human rights organisation said the evidence suggests Samir’s death was an extra-judicial execution, which constitutes a war crime under international law.

“It’s hard to believe that an unarmed child could be perceived as posing imminent danger to a well-equipped soldier,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Dozens killed, hundreds wounded

The report identifies a pattern of behaviour by Israeli soldiers of shooting live ammunition at unarmed Palestinians, sometimes as they are fleeing. Over the past three years of Amnesty’s study, dozens of Palestinians have been shot dead in the West Bank and hundreds seriously wounded. Thousands more have sustained injuries from rubber-coated bullets and tear gas.

The number of casualties rose dramatically last year, with 25 Palestinians in the West Bank, four of them children, killed by live rounds – more than the total in the previous two years of the study combined.

Many were targeted during largely non-violent weekly demonstrations in more than a dozen Palestinian villages in the West Bank against the separation barrier Israel has built on their land. The wall has entailed the confiscation of hundreds of hectares of farmland on which the inhabitants depend.

Ayed Murrar attributed the rise in killings to a fear in the army that unrest is growing in the occupied territories and may lead to a new intifada, or popular uprising, against the occupation.

“They want to make an example of us to stop others from adopting our way of mass protest against the occupation. They want to keep us submissive and passive.”

Last summer Nitzan Alon, the Israeli commander in charge of the West Bank, warned that Israel was facing a wave of unrest unless peace talks were revived.
‘All kinds of resistance’

But as the recent US-brokered negotiations have faltered, senior Palestinian officials in the West Bank have called for a return to “all kinds of resistance” against Israel, including popular protests. Last Friday dozens of Palestinians were reported to have been injured by Israeli soldiers firing rubber-coated bullets and tear gas canisters against demonstrators opposed to Israel’s wall.

Other kinds of popular protest have also emerged over the past year, including Palestinian groups setting up encampments to reclaim land Jewish settlers have grabbed in Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank.

In the latest example this month, soldiers beat and arrested protesters as they removed a camp named Ein Hijleh in the Jordan Valley, which had been established to highlight Israeli efforts to annex the valley as part of the peace talks.

And 13 Palestinians in Hebron were injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers last week when 2,000 demonstrators marched down Shuhada Street, the city’s main street, which Israel has closed to Palestinians for the past 20 years.

The Amnesty study did not include Gaza, where Israel usually claims Palestinian civilians killed by its forces were “collateral damage” during military operations. The report notes that this context of armed conflict does not apply to the casualties in the West Bank.

In many West Bank locations, said Amnesty, Palestinian residents face “collective punishment”, with Israeli forces declaring areas to be “closed military zones”, blocking access roads, launching night raids where sweeping arrests are made, using excessive force against protesters and bystanders, and damaging residents’ property.

Amnesty says Israeli soldiers’ decision to fire live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at Palestinian civilians who pose little or no immediate threat to them raises troubling questions about the army’s undeclared rules of engagement.

The report dismisses claims by the Israeli military justifying its harsh actions on the grounds that Palestinians have thrown stones at soldiers. It said “stone-throwing poses little or no serious risk to Israeli soldiers”, and chiefly serves as an “irritant”. The stones are thrown from too far away to harm the soldiers, who in any case are usually too well-protected to suffer injury.

Israeli human rights groups have long criticised the army’s repressive methods towards Palestinian protests against the occupation. In the late 1980s, during the first popular uprising, Israel’s defence minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, publicly urged soldiers to “break the bones” of any Palestinians they caught.

During the early stages of the second intifada, beginning in late 2000, the Israeli army again resorted to massive use of force. In three weeks during October 2000, before Palestinian factions started taking up arms, Israeli military records show soldiers fired one million live rounds.

Amnesty describes the Israeli army’s use of force against Palestinians in its three-year study as “unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal”. It adds that in all the cases it examined, including Samir’s death, there was no evidence the Israeli soldiers’ lives were under threat.

“The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy,” Luther said.
Shot in the back

In addition to 45 unarmed Palestinians shot dead with live ammunition over the past three years, many of them at protests, another 261 have been seriously injured, including 67 children. Several were shot in the back, indicating they had been targeted as they were fleeing.

Many more civilians have been injured by means other than live rounds. Amnesty cites as “astonishing” the fact that in three years Israeli soldiers have wounded 8,500 Palestinians with rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas. Among that number were 1,500 children.

Sarit Michaeli of B’Tselem, an Israeli group monitoring abuses in the occupied territories, said her organisation had been distributing video cameras to Palestinians as a way to help document the use of violence by soldiers and settlers. In December, B’Tselem released video footage shot by Muhammad Awad, a Palestinian in the village of Beit Ummar, showing a soldier firing a tear gas canister into his chest. He had to be treated in hospital.

Amnesty criticises the lack of proper investigations by the army of the many incidents it records, calling the response “woefully inadequate” and lacking in “independence and impartiality”. The human rights group says it cannot identify a single case of a member of the Israeli security forces being convicted of “wilfully killing” a Palestinian in the occupied territories for the past 25 years.

According to figures compiled by Yesh Din, another Israeli human rights group, only four soldiers have been convicted of negligent manslaughter and another of negligence in the past 13 years. None was discharged from the army or received a prison sentence of more than a few months.

Michaeli was herself injured last July when a police officer fired a rubber-coated bullet at her from close range while she was filming a demonstration in Nabi Saleh.

“It’s clear there is a policy from the commanders of turning a blind eye when open-fire regulations are violated. When I recently spoke to the officer investigating my case, he said that there had been no developments – that was six months after the events happened. When the security services know the policy is to do nothing, there is no deterrence.”

Requests by Amnesty to meet army officials to discuss the cases in its report were rejected. The Israeli defence ministry was unavailable for comment when approached by Al Jazeera.

An Israeli army statement said: “The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] holds itself to the highest of professional standards and trains and equips itself as such. When there is any suspicion of wrong doing, or breach of discipline, the IDF reviews, investigates and takes action where appropriate.”
Numbed to aggression?

A recent academic study of Israeli soldiers’ testimonies suggested their operational routines quickly numbed them into treating harassment and aggression towards Palestinians as normal. The young soldiers came to enjoy a sense of power and their ability to impose “corrective punishment”.

Avner Gvarayahu of Breaking the Silence, a group of former soldiers who compile testimonies of soldiers’ abuses, agreed. He said the real rules of engagement issued by commanders were “flexible” and allowed soldiers to open fire on civilians.

“Soldiers are educated by the army to see the conflict as a zero-sum game: It’s either us or them. Then every Palestinian comes to be seen as a threat, as a potential terrorist, whether they are young or old, man or woman, able-bodied or disabled. They are all the enemy.”

Gvarayahu, who once commanded a special operations unit, said the army command also approved of what he called “revenge attacks”, raids on random Palestinian communities in retaliation for the deaths of Israelis. “There is no way these kinds of attacks can be carried out by ordinary soldiers without authorisation from the very top. I think the decision even comes from the political level.”

He said political and military leaders established the norms of behaviour within the army.

“Remember that the current defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, when he was the chief of staff [in 2002], said the army’s job was to ‘burn into the consciousness’ of the Palestinians their defeat. The only aim one can infer from that is that the army’s role is to use force to make the Palestinians weak and compliant.”
Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

For Black History Month: Honor WEB Dubois's epic book, BLACK RECONSTRUCTION

Now more than ever the truth of Dubois' master work needs to be studied and taught. Today we have the re-establishment of Jim Crow and legal racism with our KKK Supreme Court and a Southern-based white supremacist Republican party (but it's not just in the south and not exclusively republican party based). To justify this, a new body of neo-Confederate lies is
being propagated. The North won the civil war, but the southern narrative won the propaganda war.

Here are two excerpts from Wikipedia. Wikipedia?! Yes, these entries are actually fairly good, and since I'm lazy I'll use them. But, if you haven't read Black Reconstruction, you should. Any decent, humane policies regarding hospitals and public health, social welfare, labor laws, and similar issues that originated in the southern states came from the Reconstructionist, democratic & multi-racial governments of 1865-1877 (a crooked deal over the 1876 presidential election led to the removal of Union troops in 1877, and the beginning of whites-only terrorism in the American south).

His Bio:

William Edward Burghardt "W. E. B." Du Bois (pronounced /duːˈbɔɪz/ doo-BOYZ; February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a relatively tolerant and integrated community. After graduating from Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

Du Bois rose to national prominence as the leader of the Niagara Movement, a group of African-American activists who wanted equal rights for blacks. Du Bois and his supporters opposed the Atlanta Compromise, an agreement crafted by Booker T. Washington which provided that Southern blacks would work and submit to white political rule, while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic educational and economic opportunities. Instead, Du Bois insisted on full civil rights and increased political representation, which he believed would be brought about by the African-American intellectual elite. He referred to this group as the talented tenth and believed that African Americans needed the chances for advanced education to develop its leadership.

Racism was the main target of Du Bois's polemics, and he strongly protested against lynching, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination in education and employment. His cause included people of color everywhere, particularly Africans and Asians in their struggles against colonialism and imperialism. He was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to free African colonies from European powers. Du Bois made several trips to Europe, Africa and Asia. After World War I, he surveyed the experiences of American black soldiers in France and documented widespread bigotry in the United States military.

Du Bois was a prolific author. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, was a seminal work in African-American literature; and his 1935 magnum opus Black Reconstruction in America challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that blacks were responsible for the failures of the Reconstruction era. He wrote the first scientific treatise in the field of sociology; and he published three autobiographies, each of which contains insightful essays on sociology, politics and history. In his role as editor of the NAACP's journal The Crisis, he published many influential pieces. Du Bois believed that capitalism was a primary cause of racism, and he was generally sympathetic to socialist causes throughout his life. He was an ardent peace activist and advocated nuclear disarmament. The United States' Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned his entire life, was enacted a year after his death.

About the book:

Black Reconstruction in America is a book by W. E. B. Du Bois, first published in 1935. It is revisionist approach to looking at the Reconstruction of the south after its defeat in the American Civil War. On the whole, the book takes an economic approach to looking at reconstruction. The essential argument of the text is that the Black and White laborers were divided after the civil war on the lines of race, and as such were unable to stand together against the white propertied class. This to Du Bois was the failure of reconstruction and the reason for the rise of the Jim Crow laws, and other such injustices.

In addition to creating a landmark work in early U.S. sociology, at the time Dubois’ historical scholarship and use of the techniques of primary source data research on the post war political economy of the former Confederate States’ were equally ground-breaking. He performed the first systematic and rigorous analysis of the political economy of the reconstruction period of the southern states; based upon actual data collected during the period. In chapter five, Du Bois argues that the decision by slaves on the southern plantations to stop working was an example of a General Strike. This type of rhetoric is in concert with his arguments throughout the book that the Civil War was largely a war fought over labor issues.

This research completely disestablished the anecdotal, racist bromides which had come to form the basis of the so-called “scholarship” of the reconstruction period. Dubois’ research discredited forever the notion that the post-emancipation and post-Appomattox south had degenerated into either economic or political chaos, and had been kept in a state of chaos by the armed forces of the Union, through their military occupation.

On the contrary, the reconstruction state governments had for example, established their states’ first, universal primary education systems. They did this because the reconstruction state constitutions (which they had written) had, for the first time, established as a right, the free public primary schooling of their states’ children. These governments had also been the first to establish public health departments to promote public health and sanitation, and to combat the spread of epidemic disease that is inherent in the semi-tropical climate of the south.

And when the redeemer government’s seized power in later years and re-wrote these states’ constitutions to reestablish “race law” and the Jim-Crow system, they did not touch the education and public health and welfare laws and constitutional principles that the reconstruction governments had established.

[PS: the racist state government that took over after the Northern troops pulled out in 1877 took away all human rights of the freed slaves, but kept a lot of the reconstructionist reforms (modified to suit whites, of course). Today, however, the Southern Republicans who have become the new Dixiecrats are demolishing any decent humanitarian polices even for white people.]

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Eradicate the Jewish state. Nearly every right-wing leader in Israel cynically exploits the fear of the country's 'eradication' for his or her own political needs.

By Gideon Levy | Feb. 16, 2014 | 6:00 AM | 15

The chilling call of the above headline can be heard, with few exceptions, in just two countries: Iran and Israel. In the former, it is roared at mass rallies, as a debased means of incitement; in the latter, the sentiment is ascribed to half the world, as a poor scare tactic.

Let’s set aside Iran – these rallies also call for the destruction of the United States, and the tone of its leaders has changed.

In Israel, the issue is the deep-seated existential angst and the campaign of fear and incitement that intensifies it: Nearly every right-wing leader cynically exploits the fear of Israel’s “eradication” for his or her own political needs.

In both Iran and Israel is an awareness that the threat is an idle one.

No one else in the world speaks of Israel’s destruction. They may criticize Israel unduly, they call for boycotting and isolating the state, and they fight the fact of the occupation. They call for a regime change, or at least a change in tone – but no one speaks seriously about Israel’s elimination.

A European parliamentarian who dares to question the water crisis of the Palestinians in the territories would not, it goes without saying, conceive of eliminating Israel. Intellectuals who call for a boycott of Israel do not envision its disappearance.

Businessmen who cut ties with Israeli companies that are tainted with the occupation are not thinking about destroying the state. Peace and human rights activists, leaders of the BDS movement and even the most extreme-left columnists – none of them seeks Israel’s destruction.

Nearly all the leaders of the Arab states, too, have long since made their peace with the existence of Israel, and even the majority of Palestinians know that the dream of driving the Israelis into the sea, if it ever existed, will never come true.

With the exception of a few anti-Semitic players, marginal and deluded, no one thinks about it. It is only we Israelis who cling to the concept: Caution, annihilation ahead.

A highly armed regional power, with nearly every kind of weapon at its disposal, economically and scientifically advanced, recognized by most of the countries in the world, a member of nearly every important international organization and with global influence that far outstrips its size, an ally of the world’s sole superpower, claims that its existence is under threat. That’s bullshit.

The international battle now is over the character of the state, and above all over its morality. Just as no one thought of eradicating South Africa, but only of changing the regime, or the Soviet Union, Iran or North Korea, so too no one is thinking about eliminating Israel.

Even the people calling for the establishment of a secular, democratic, binational state aren’t talking about the state’s eradication, but rather only about changing its character.

This elimination is an Israeli invention that ostensibly serves Israel’s purposes. By means of this weapon, Israelis can return to the place where they are most comfortable: in the role of the victim. If the world seeks to destroy us, then we are always right.

What can one say about a state that is at risk of eradication? That it has the license to do anything necessary in order to save itself. And what can one say about the world that rises up to destroy it? That it is dangerous and unjust. But that world, including part of the Arab world, embraced Israel after the signing of the Oslo Accords. What happened then to the plans for Israel’s destruction?

In the background, of course, is the memory of the Holocaust, and it, too, is exploited fully. “Israel’s destruction” recalls that which can never be forgotten, the death camps and the gas chambers.

It also recalls something that Golda Meir once told Shulamit Aloni: that after the Holocaust, Jews are permitted to do anything. If the world says eradication, Israel can say occupation, disinheritance and elimination. But the world did not say eradication, and Israel cannot say occupation, disinheritance and elimination.

Once again, the issue is being out of touch with reality. The Israelis who ask themselves anxiously whether the state will still exist 20 years from now, and dream of getting a second passport, should be asking a different, no less weighty question: about the character of their state, whose dangers lie mostly within.

But few ask this question. We are too busy with the issue of existence to deal with principles. Warning: imaginary existential danger ahead.

Is the U.S. Backing Neo-Nazis in Ukraine?

Exposing troubling ties in the U.S. to overt Nazi and fascist protesters in Ukraine.

By Max Blumenthal

February 25, 2014 "Information Clearing House - As the Euromaidan protests in the Ukrainian capitol of Kiev culminated this week, displays of open fascism and neo-Nazi extremism became too glaring to ignore. Since demonstrators filled the downtown square to battle Ukrainian riot police and demand the ouster of the corruption-stained, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich, it has been filled with far-right streetfighting men pledging to defend their country’s ethnic purity.

White supremacist banners and Confederate flags were draped inside Kiev’s occupied City Hall, and demonstrators have hoisted Nazi SS and white power symbols over a toppled memorial to V.I. Lenin. After Yanukovich fled his palatial estate by helicopter, EuroMaidan protesters destroyed a memorial to Ukrainians who died battling German occupation during World War II. Sieg heil salutes and the Nazi Wolfsangel symbol have become an increasingly common site in Maidan Square, and neo-Nazi forces have established “autonomous zones” in and around Kiev.

An Anarchist group called AntiFascist Union Ukraine attempted to join the Euromaidan demonstrations but found it difficult to avoid threats of violence and imprecations from the gangs of neo-Nazis roving the square. “They called the Anarchists things like Jews, blacks, Communists,” one of its members said. “There weren’t even any Communists, that was just an insult.”

“There are lots of Nationalists here, including Nazis,” the anti-fascist continued. “They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.”

One of the “Big Three” political parties behind the protests is the ultra-nationalist Svoboda, whose leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, has called for the liberation of his country from the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” After the 2010 conviction of the Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk for his supporting role in the death of nearly 30,000 people at the Sobibor camp, Tyahnybok rushed to Germany to declare him a hero who was “fighting for truth.” In the Ukrainian parliament, where Svoboda holds an unprecedented 37 seats, Tyahnybok’s deputy Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn is fond of quoting Joseph Goebbels – he has even founded a think tank originally called “the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center.” According to Per Anders Rudling, a leading academic expert on European neo-fascism, the self-described “socialist nationalist” Mykhalchyshyn is the main link between Svoboda’s official wing and neo-Nazi militias like Right Sector.

Right Sector is a shadowy syndicate of self-described “autonomous nationalists” identified by their skinhead style of dress, ascetic lifestyle, and fascination with street violence. Armed with riot shields and clubs, the group’s cadres have manned the front lines of the Euromaidan battles this month, filling the air with their signature chant: “Ukraine above all!” In a recent Right Sector propaganda video [embedded at the bottom of this article], the group promised to fight “against degeneration and totalitarian liberalism, for traditional national morality and family values.” With Svoboda linked to a constellation of international neo-fascist parties through the Alliance of European National Movements, Right Sector is promising to lead its army of aimless, disillusioned young men on “a great European Reconquest.”

Svoboda’s openly pro-Nazi politics have not deterred Senator John McCain from addressing a EuroMaidan rally alongside Tyahnybok, nor did it prevent Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland from enjoying a friendly meeting with the Svoboda leader this February. Eager to fend off accusations of anti-Semitism, the Svoboda leader recently hosted the Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine. “I would like to ask Israelis to also respect our patriotic feelings,” Tyahnybok has remarked. “Probably each party in the [Israeli] Knesset is nationalist. With God’s help, let it be this way for us too.”

In a leaked phone conversation with Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine, Nuland revealed her wish for Tyahnybok to remain “on the outside,” but to consult with the US’s replacement for Yanukovich, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, “four times a week.” At a December 5, 2013 US-Ukraine Foundation Conference, Nuland boasted that the US had invested $5 billion to "build democratic skills and institutions" in Ukraine, though she did not offer any details.

“The Euro-Maidan movement has come to embody the principles and values that are the cornerstones for all free democracies,” Nuland proclaimed.

Two weeks later, 15,000 Svoboda members held a torchlight ceremony in the city of Lviv in honor of Stepan Bandera, a World War II-era Nazi collaborator who led the pro-fascist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B). Lviv has become the epicenter of neo-fascist activity in Ukraine, with elected Svoboda officials waging a campaign to rename its airport after Bandera and successfully changing the name of Peace Street to the name of the Nachtigall Battalion, an OUN-B wing that participated directly in the Holocaust. “’Peace’ is a holdover from Soviet stereotypes,” a Svoboda deputy explained.

Revered by Ukrainian nationalists as a legendary freedom fighter, Bandera’s real record was ignominious at best. After participating in a campaign to assassinate Ukrainians who supported accommodation with the Polish during the 1930’s, Bandera’s forces set themselves to ethnically cleanse western Ukraine of Poles in 1943 and 1944. In the process, they killed over 90,000 Poles and many Jews, whom Bandera’s top deputy and acting “Prime Minister,” Yaroslav Stetsko, were determined to exterminate. Bandera held fast to fascist ideology in the years after the war, advocating a totalitarian, ethnically pure Europe while his affiliated Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) carried out a doomed armed struggle against the Soviet Union. The bloodbath he inspired ended when KGB agents assassinated him in Munich in 1959.

The Right Connections

Many surviving OUN-B members fled to Western Europe and the United States – occasionally with CIA help – where they quietly forged political alliances with right-wing elements. “You have to understand, we are an underground organization. We have spent years quietly penetrating positions of influence,” one member told journalist Russ Bellant, who documented the group’s resurgence in the United States in his 1988 book, “Old Nazis, New Right, and the Republican Party.”

In Washington, the OUN-B reconstituted under the banner of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), an umbrella organization comprised of “complete OUN-B fronts,” according to Bellant. By the mid-1980’s, the Reagan administration was honeycombed with UCCA members, with the group’s chairman Lev Dobriansky, serving as ambassador to the Bahamas, and his daughter, Paula, sitting on the National Security Council. Reagan personally welcomed Stetsko, the Banderist leader who oversaw the massacre of 7000 Jews in Lviv, into the White House in 1983.

“Your struggle is our struggle,” Reagan told the former Nazi collaborator. “Your dream is our dream.”

When the Justice Department launched a crusade to capture and prosecute Nazi war criminals in 1985, UCCA snapped into action, lobbying Congress to halt the initiative. “The UCCA has also played a leading role in opposing federal investigations of suspected Nazi war criminals since those queries got underway in the late 1970’s,” Bellant wrote. “Some UCCA members have many reasons to worry – reasons which began in the 1930’s.”

Still an active and influential lobbying force in Washington, the UCCA does not appear to have shed its reverence for Banderist nationalism. In 2009, on the 50th anniversary of Bandera’s death, the group proclaimed him “a symbol of strength and righteousness for his followers” who “continue[s] to inspire Ukrainians today.” A year later, the group honored the 60th anniversary of the death of Roman Shukhevych, the OUN-B commander of the Nachtigall Battalion that slaughtered Jews in Lviv and Belarus, calling him a “hero” who “fought for honor, righteousness…”

Back in Ukraine in 2010, then-President Viktor Yushchenko awarded Bandera the title of “National Hero of Ukraine,” marking the culmination of his efforts to manufacture an anti-Russian national narrative that sanitized the OUN-B’s fascism. (Yuschenko’s wife, Katherine Chumachenko, was a former Reagan administration official and ex-staffer at the right-wing Heritage Foundation). When the European Parliament condemned Yushchenko's proclamation as an affront to "European values," the UCCA-affiliated Ukrainian World Congress reacted with outrage, accusing the EU of "another attempt to rewrite Ukrainian history during WWII." On its website, the UCCA dismissed historical accounts of Bandera's collaboration with the Nazis as "Soviet propaganda."

Following the demise of Yanukovich this month, the UCCA helped organize rallies in cities across the US in support of the EuroMaidan protests. When several hundred demonstrators marched through downtown Chicago, some waved Ukrainian flags while others proudly flew the red and black banners of the UPA and OUN-B. "USA supports Ukraine!" they chanted.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Do Americans want to know that Israel is waging war on Africans?

Feb 23, 2014 09:56 am | David Sheen

In December 2013, the Israeli Knesset circumvented a three-month old High Court ruling, quashing the law that criminalized all African asylum-seekers in the country. In its place, the Netanyahu government instituted a new policy to corral the Africans onto an ethnic-cleansing assembly line that forces them into a dead-end desert detention center, where they are pressured to self-deport.

Since December, tens of thousands of African asylum-seekers in Israel have taken to the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to protest the government’s master plan to expel them all by the end of the decade. For all of their considerable efforts, they have not managed to convince the Israeli people or their elected representatives to end the efforts to expel them and examine their refugee status claims instead.

Under these circumstances, it seems that the only possible political development that could force the Israeli government to put an end to its war on the Africans is a massive outpouring of international support for their cause.

On January 22, activists in dozens of cities around the world protested in front of Israeli embassies, in solidarity with the Africans, echoing their demands for freedom. But the plight of the asylum-seekers still remains largely unknown outside of Israel and diasporas African emigre communities.

For the last four years I have been doggedly reporting on this story from the corridors of the Knesset and the streets of south Tel Aviv. In the coming month, I will travel across the United States and Canada, speaking and screening slides at university campuses and community centers across the continent, trying to raise awareness about the ruthless persecution that African asylum-seekers are facing in Israel.

I invite you to come hear what I have to say and decide for yourself whether these people are deserving of protection, or whether they should be abandoned to their fate.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Open Letter to President of Venezuela Soon, the Battle for Venezuela by ANDRE VLTCHEK

from Counterpunch
Weekend Edition February 21-23, 2014
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Open Letter to President of Venezuela
Soon, the Battle for Venezuela

They are already sewing your funeral gown, Venezuela. They are now ready to welcome you back to that world of the lobotomized, destroyed nations that are fully submissive to Western political and economic interests – Indonesia, Philippines, Paraguay, Uganda, Kenya, Qatar, Bahrain, and almost the entire Eastern Europe. There are so many places like that – it is impossible to list them all.

They want you back in their deadly embrace; they want you to be corrupt and hopeless, as you were before the “Bolivarian Revolution”.

They want you to be the top oil exporter, but with all those horrific slums hanging, like relentless nightmares, over your cities. They want your elites and your military top brass to speak English, to play golf, to drive luxury cars and to commit treason after treason, as they used to commit treason for decades, before your brave predecessor, President Hugo Chavez, began serving and literally saving the poor, in Venezuela and all over Latin America.

Those who are planning to destroy you, those who belong to the so called ‘opposition’, in their heads, are already portioning you; they are dividing your beautiful body – fighting over which parts should be taken where and by whom. They are arguing which pieces of you should stay at home, and what should be taken abroad – a leg, an arm, and your deep melancholic eyes, the color of the profound pools under the mighty waterfalls of Canaima. They want to sell your jet-black hair, as black as those evenings in the mountains, or like that endless night sky above Ciudad Bolivar.

They want everything, all that is under your skin as well as what is deep inside your body. They want your skin, too, as well as your heart.

They want your dreams, which are almost everybody’s dreams – the dreams of all those people from all over the world, people that have been oppressed, and humiliated, for centuries, up to today. They want to take your dreams and to step on them, dirty them, spit on them and to crush them.

But it is not over; it is all far from being over. You are loved and admired, and therefore you will be defended. By all means – we who love you will not be ungenerous; we will not be negotiating the price!

For many men and women, for millions all over the world, you used to be a girl; a brave, rebellious, wonderful young woman… then suddenly you became a mother and then you turned to a motherland – for all those who lacked one until this very moment. For me, too, you became a motherland… for me too!


I am not a Venezuelan citizen. I wish I could be, but I am not. But I have fought for Venezuela, in my own way, through my reports and speeches, through films and in my books. I fought ever since Hugo Chavez became the President, ‘my President’.

And I am proud that I fought. And now, when Venezuela is once again under vicious attack, I want to stand firmly by her side, by the side of her Revolution, by the side of El Processo, and of her great Presidents – both Chavez and Maduro!

And I want to say this, and I will say this loudly, carajo: I don’t care what passport is hanging from my pocket, but Caracas is now my capital, and Caracas is what we are going to defend, if we have to. Because in Caracas, we will be fighting for Havana, for Harare and Johannesburg, for Cairo and Calcutta, for the tiny atoll nations in the Pacific Ocean, for Hanoi, for Beijing, and even for Moscow, Asmara, La Paz, Valparaiso, Quito, Managua and for so many of the other independent, freedom-loving places of this wonderful world.

The violent activities undertaken by those so-called ‘protesters’ in Caracas have to be stopped, immediately, and if necessary, by force.

‘The opposition’ has been paid from abroad, as it has been paid, in the past and now, in China, in Eastern Europe, in Syria, Ukraine and in Thailand, as it has been paid everywhere else in the world, where the West could not manage to easily strip those ‘rebellious’ countries of all their riches, while keeping them humiliated, and on their knees.


As you are contemplating your next step, Mr. President Nicolas Maduro, as Venezuela is once again bleeding, as none of us knows what the next day may bring, I am leaving Indonesia, flying to Thailand. (For now it is Thailand, but I soon may change my course).

Thailand is not Venezuela, but their government also introduced free medical care and free education, and other basic social services. People responded – by supporting progress. They have been supporting it for years, through ballots.

But the elites intervened and the army intervened. There was a coup, and there are now voices shouting that ‘the people cannot be trusted’, otherwise they will always be voting for this administration, read: for progress.

The West is firmly behind the elites and against progress. Thai feudal leaders are fully trusted in Washington, in London, and even in Tokyo. It is because they have totally sold out their souls, because they fully lost all their shame during the Vietnam War. They fully participated in the horrible slaughter of the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people, and they even eagerly murdered their own people: revolutionaries, Communists and students.

The West likes it when such despots hold the reins of power. They like people like Duvalier, Trujillo, Videla and Pinochet – and their equivalents – on all the continents and in every country.

In Thailand they are now supporting the ‘opposition’, as they supported the ‘opposition’ in Chile before 1973 or in China before Tiananmen Square. As they are right now supporting ‘the opposition’ in Venezuela! Everything that can damage or destroy a rebellious country, Communist or non-aligned, goes!

It does not matter how many millions will die in the process. As long as a rebellion, or a fight for independence, can be crushed, Western imperialism and neo-colonialism will sacrifice any amount of human lives, especially the lives of those ‘un people’, just to borrow from the Orwellian lexicon.

I am soon leaving Indonesia, Comrade President Maduro. Indonesia is the country about which I have written books and made films, including a recent film for TeleSur.

Here, too, the West disliked the progressive President, Sukarno, who used to scream in face of the US Ambassador: “To hell with your aid!” Sukarno was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. Some would call him the Asian Chavez, and they would not be too far off the mark.

And so in 1965, the West teamed up with the local military and religious cadres, supplying them with lists of those ‘who had to be killed’. What followed was one of the bloodiest coups in human history: between one and three million Communists, intellectuals, trade unionists, teachers and people belonging to the Chinese minority, were slaughtered. Culture was destroyed. The spine of the country was broken. It is broken right until now. It is terrible, a terrifying sight!

Now Indonesia is a servile, nauseating place, corrupt, both financially and morally. Its people are only there to supply multi-national companies and the local ‘elites’ with raw materials, and a low quality uneducated cheap work force.

It is exactly what the West wants to turn Venezuela into – the Latin American Indonesia, or even more frighteningly, the Latin American version of the African horror story – the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Venezuela’s riches under and above the ground, are so numerous, and its land so fertile, its rainforests endless. Foreign companies and governments from the North simply cannot stop shaking from the lowest type of desire; unable to contain their unbridled greed.

The West, of course, does not come and say: We will rob you and rape you. They sing some stereotypical tunes about freedom and democracy. But anyone in Venezuela who wants to know what will happen to their country if the ‘opposition’ takes over, should go to Indonesia and see with his or her own eyes. Or should at least remember what occurred in the Chile of 1973, because in Chile, the US replicated its horrible Indonesian formula.

It is all connected and inter-connected, comrades, although Western mass media does not want us to know any of this.


Venezuela has to fight back! It is under siege and you were democratically elected, Mr. President. You have a mandate, and an obligation to defend your people.

I have worked in almost one hundred and fifty countries. And I have seen the horrors of those places that fell into the hands of Western usurpers: directly or indirectly. I have worked in places as diverse but broken as Paraguay, Honduras, Egypt, Bahrain, Kenya, Uganda, Philippines, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Marshall Islands.

Countries are so often punished for their great leaders!

In Congo, Patrice Lumumba decided to dedicate his life to feeding the children of the continent, to use the enormous natural wealth of his country for the good of his citizens. He despised colonialism and he openly repeated his accusations again the former colonial masters (the Belgians murdered ten million Congolese people during the reign of the Kind Leopold II) and against the neo-colonial clique. And he was murdered; after the Belgians, North Americans, Brits and others joined forces and decided that ‘such behavior’ could not be tolerated.

Now the DRC, country which has some of the greatest natural wealth on this planet, has the lowest ‘Human Development Index’. Brutal Western allies in Africa – Rwanda and Uganda – have plundered DRC since 1995, on behalf of Western companies and governments. By now around eight million people have died. I made a film about it. Needless to say, nobody in Europe or in the United States wants to see it!

It is all because of Coltan, Diamonds, Uranium and Gold. But it is also, undeniably, because Congo once so proudly stood up against imperialism and foreign oppression. The Empire almost never forgives!

The Empire never forgave Yugoslavia, another founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, breaking it apart and bathing it in blood. It never forgave Russia, supporting an awful despot and alcoholic, Boris Yeltsin in his determined efforts to ruin what was left of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and by murdering thousands of Russian people during the siege of Russian ‘White House’.

It never forgave China, or North Korea, or Zimbabwe.

The list goes on, and it is endless.

Please, do not allow this to happen to Venezuela!

Allende, Sukarno and others, fell, and their countries fell, because they assumed that despite everything, despite the West murdering hundreds of millions of people all over the world, for many centuries, it would actually not be as brutal in this particular day and age, it would at least spare cities such as Santiago or Jakarta.

Then, when millions of Indonesian women had been gang-raped, when their breasts were ‘amputated’, when victims had to dig their own graves before being killed… when Chilean women were violated by dogs, under the supervision of ‘English speaking investigators’ as well as old German Nazis from Colonia Dignidad, when people were “disappeared”, tortured, thrown alive from the helicopters… Mr. President, it was too late… Too late to fight!


I saw enough of this. As a war correspondent, as a man who was searching for the truth on all continents, writing about the most devastated cities and nations, I managed to absorb so much pain and suffering that I hope it gives me at least some right to write this letter, this appeal, and to urge you: “Do not allow this to happen to Venezuela.”

Those who are opposing you will not stop – they will go all the way, if allowed. They have been engaged in a disinformation campaign, suspiciously similar to the one before the “9/11” in Chile, 1973. The ‘strikes’ and ‘insecurity’ are also similar to those provoked in Chile and Indonesia before their coups. And like elsewhere, in Venezuela there is also a group of ‘economists’ and ‘business people’, ready to reverse the course of the country, immediately, were the counter-revolution to succeed.

It is great business to oppose you! Tens of millions of dollars are poured into the coffers of those who want to overthrow the government of Venezuela… of Cuba… of China… of Iran, Bolivia, Ecuador, and so many other countries…

But Venezuela is now so high, perhaps at the top, of the Western mafia-style hit list.

In my recent essay: “How the West Manufactures ‘Opposition Movements’”, I gave a list of countries where all this is happening right now – an attempt to use local gangs to overthrow totally legitimate governments only because they are defending the interests of their people.

Mr. President, your country – Venezuela – is much more than a beautiful place inhabited by brave people. It is also a symbol of hope, and as Eduardo Galeano once told me in Montevideo: “To take away hope is worse than murdering a person.”

Do not allow them to choke this hope: the hope of the Venezuelan people, and the hope of millions all over the world.

If you have to fight, please fight! And we will join you; many of us will. Because what your predecessor and friend, Hugo Chavez, started, is what billions all over the world desire and dream of.

Venezuela, your Venezuela and my Venezuela, gave free books to the poor, free medical care, education, and housing to all needy people. Not as some sort of charity, but as something they deserve, have right to. Venezuela built cable cars, libraries and childcare care posts to help working mothers, where only naked misery reigned before. Venezuela educated and inspired some of the greatest musicians on earth. It stood against imperialism; it redefined, together with Cuba, what is ‘heart’ and what is ‘courage’.

Now our Venezuela cannot fail. It cannot fall. It is too big, too important. Perhaps, the survival of the human race depends on the survival of Venezuela and the countries related to it.

After Hugo Chavez died, or as many believe was killed in cold blood, I visited TeleSur in Caracas. In the center of the city, there was a photo of Chavez, sweating, clearly suffering from chemotherapy, but clenching his fist: “Here, nobody surrenders!”

And a short distance away, there was another poster only showing a sprinkle of blood on a white background. ‘Chavez from his heart’, it read. Chavez was endorsing Maduro, posthumously.

President Maduro, let’s defend our Venezuela! Please let us not allow this revolution to fail. Let us do it by reason and by force! Let us do it for every tiny village destroyed by drones, for children dying from depleted uranium, for the ‘Cuban 5’, for those who died from the horrors of modern-day imperialism, in Congo, Angola, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Chile, and in dozens of other ruined countries.

Let us defend Venezuela for the sake of the humanity. No pasaran! This time, let us make sure that the fascist forces will not be allowed to advance!

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. He has just completed the feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bill Moyers on The Deep State

BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company long time insider Mike Lofgren on what he calls the big story of our times – the Deep State.

MIKE LOFGREN: It is, I would say, the red thread that runs through the history of the last three decades. It's how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion of our civil liberties, and perpetual war.
...[sponsors and advertising...

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. If you’ve read the espionage novels of John le Carré, you know that no other writer today has so brilliantly evoked the subterranean workings of government, perhaps because he himself was once a British spy. Le Carré has a name for that invisible labyrinth of power. He calls it the “Deep State.” And now an American you're about to meet in this broadcast has seized on that concept to describe the forces he says are controlling our government, no matter the party in power.

But Mike Lofgren’s no intelligence agent, although he had a top secret security clearance. He’s a numbers man, a Congressional staff member for 28 years with the powerful House and Senate Budget Committees. Over the years, as he crunched those numbers, he realized they didn’t add up. Instead, they led him to America's own Deep State, where elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests.

Mike Lofgren was so disgusted, he not only left Capitol Hill, he left the Republican Party and wrote this book, “The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted.” Now, at our request, and exclusively for, he has written “Anatomy of the Deep State.” You’ll want to read it as soon as we finish this conversation. Mike Lofgren, welcome.

MIKE LOFGREN: Good to be here again, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: This is a difficult subject to talk about. It would be easier if it were a conspiracy you were describing. But that's not the case, is it?

MIKE LOFGREN: No. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. This is not some cabal that was hatched in the dark of night. This is something that hides in plain sight. It's something we know about, but we can't connect the dots, or most people don't connect the dots. It's kind of a natural evolution when so much money and political control is at stake in the most powerful country in the world. This has evolved over time.

BILL MOYERS: And you call it the real power in the country.

MIKE LOFGREN: Correct. It is a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state. Everyone knows what the military-industrial complex is, since Eisenhower talked about it in his farewell address.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence whether sought or unsought by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

MIKE LOFGREN: Everyone knows Wall Street and its depredations. Everyone knows how corporate America acts. They're both about the same thing. They're both about money, sucking as much money out of the country as they can. And they're about control, corporate control and political control.

BILL MOYERS: You said this, in your judgment, is the big story of our time.

MIKE LOFGREN: It is the big story of our time. It is, I would say, the red thread that runs through the history of the last three decades. It's how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion of our civil liberties, and perpetual war.

BILL MOYERS: You write that the “secret and unaccountable Deep State floats freely above the gridlock between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is the paradox of American government in the 21st century.”

MIKE LOFGREN: Well, that's just the thing. The common narrative of the last five years, and on a superficial level it's right, is that government is broken. It's dysfunctional. It's gridlocked. Well, that's true. And that is the visible the government, the constitutional government we learn about in Civics 101. And it is gridlocked.

But somehow, Obama can go into Libya. He can assassinate US citizens. He can collect all our phone records without a buy or a leave from anyone. He can even bring down a jet carrying a president of a sovereign country without asking anyone's permission. And no one seems to connect the two, the failure of our visible constitutional state and this other government that operates according to no constitutional rules or any constraint by the governed.

BILL MOYERS: You go on to say, though, that it's not just the executive branch that is the heart of this, that it's just one of the several constituencies that make up what you call the Deep State.

MIKE LOFGREN: Well, it's all the national security functions of the government. It's the Pentagon. It's Homeland Security. It's the State Department. It's also Treasury because they have a kind of symbiotic relationship with Wall Street.

BILL MOYERS: For one thing, they control the flow of money.

MIKE LOFGREN: Absolutely. That's why there's such a flow not only of money, but of personnel between Wall Street and the Treasury Department. There's other aspects of government. There's a portion of the judiciary-- a small portion of the judiciary, the so-called Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts. Most of Congress doesn't even know how they operate.

BILL MOYERS: Talk a little more about the nexus, the connection, between the national security state and Wall Street. Because this is a theme that runs through your essay.

MIKE LOFGREN: Do you know that about 30 blocks north of here there is a restaurant that will sell you a truffle for $95,000. Also in New York, Christie's sold at auction a painting by Francis Bacon for $142 million. Now a parallel situation with the national security state. The NSA spent $1.7 billion to build a facility in Utah that will collect one yottabyte of information. That's as much information as has ever been written in the history of the world.

It costs $400 by the time the Pentagon finishes paying contractors to haul one gallon of gasoline into Afghanistan. That’s a real extravagant amount of money. In both cases of the national security state and the corporate state, they are sucking money out of the economy.

As our infrastructure collapses, we have a Tinkertoy power grid that goes out every time there's inclement weather. Tens of millions of people are on food stamps. We incarcerate more people than China, an authoritarian state with four times our population. Does anyone see the disparity between this extravagance for the Deep State and the penury that is being forced on the rest of the country? That isn't a natural evolution. Something made it happen.

We're having a situation where the Deep State is essentially out of control, it’s unconstrained. Since 9/11 we have built the equivalent of three Pentagons around the DC metropolitan area, holding defense contractors, intelligence contractors, and government civilians involved in the military-industrial complex. There are over 400,000 contractors, private citizens, who have top-secret security clearances.

BILL MOYERS: And they are heart and soul of the Deep State, as you describe it.

MIKE LOFGREN: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: They're being privatized. Which means the power shifts from accountable officials to unaccountable contractors.

MIKE LOFGREN: About 70 percent of the intelligence budget goes to contracts.

BILL MOYERS: How new is this? I mean, back in 2010, the Washington Post published a stunning investigation of what the editors called "top-secret America” I mean, we have known about this, have we not?

MIKE LOFGREN: Yes, we know about this, but the intelligence functions of the government are too important to outsource in the manner we have. It's something where absolute discretion is needed and absolute trust that they are not violating civil liberties. And to put this kind of a burden, if you will, on private-contract employees is, I think, become a great disservice.

BILL MOYERS: You say that you came to question this. It took you a while. It was a gradual enlightenment that took place. You were dealing with big numbers and particular details in the budgets that all of these agencies were sending to you when you were on Capitol Hill, right? You were seeing the numbers?

MIKE LOFGREN: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: And you-- what was happening to the numbers?

MIKE LOFGREN: At the end of 2001 is-- we appropriated a lot of money and it didn't seem to be going to Afghanistan, the approximate source of the 9/11 attacks. It seemed to be going to the Persian Gulf region. And I said, "What's going on here? Saddam Hussein didn't bring down the twin towers." So, the little light went on. And I began to sort of disenchant myself from the normal group think that tends to take over in any organization.

BILL MOYERS: Group think? At some point in your essay, you talk about how groupthink drives the Deep State.

MIKE LOFGREN: It absolutely does, just as it tends to drive any bureaucratic organization.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean by groupthink?

MIKE LOFGREN: Well, the psychologist Irving Janis called it groupthink. It's a kind of assimilation of the views of your superiors and your peers. It's becoming a yes man. And in many respects, it's an unconscious thing.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, remember what Upton Sinclair once said "It's difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it."

MIKE LOFGREN: That is certainly part of it

BILL MOYERS: You describe Washington as clearly and obviously the headquarters of the Deep State. But talk about some of the others who are in the game.

MIKE LOFGREN: Wall Street is, perhaps, the ultimate backstop to the whole operation. Because they generate so much money that they can provide second careers for a lot of the government operatives. They're going to make more money than they ever dreamed they would on Wall Street. And I think a good example of that is the most celebrated soldier of the last decade David Petraeus. What did he do when he retired? He went to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a Wall Street buyout firm with $90 billion in assets under management.

BILL MOYERS: You describe him as a kind of avatar of the Deep State.

MIKE LOFGREN: He is, in a way. Because he now represents both ends of it. We see now our present-day Cincinnatus did not pick up the plow when he lay down the sword.

BILL MOYERS: Cincinnatus was the Roman who left his farm to become a general in the war. When the war was over, he went back to be a farmer. That doesn't happen today.

MIKE LOFGREN: No, it doesn't. The vast majority of generals seem to end up on the boards of defense contractors.

BILL MOYERS: Talk a little bit about what you call this strange relationship between Silicon Valley and the government, and how it fits into the Deep State.

MIKE LOFGREN: Well, the National Security Agency could not do what it does, the CIA could not do what it does, without Silicon Valley. Now, Silicon Valley, unlike the defense contractors, mostly sells to private individuals and to companies. It's not a big government vendor. However, its services are necessary. And de facto, they have become a part of the NSA's operations. I'm sure the CEOs of some of these companies try to obscure the fact that this has mostly been voluntary for many years.

BILL MOYERS: You mean the surveillance?

MIKE LOFGREN: The surveillance.

BILL MOYERS: The gathering of information of unknowing citizens.

MIKE LOFGREN: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: For commercial purposes, though.

MIKE LOFGREN: Precisely. They've done it themselves and they've assisted the NSA through a FISA court order.

BILL MOYERS: Foreign Intelligence--

MIKE LOFGREN: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. So, this has been going on for quite a while. Yet now, like Inspector Renault, they are "shocked, shocked" to find out. But I think their main shock is that they're now starting to lose market share in foreign countries.

BILL MOYERS: These moguls, as you call them, pass themselves off as libertarians.

MIKE LOFGREN: Oh, they do. They make a big pretense about being libertarians and believing in the rugged individualism and so forth. But they've been every bit as intrusive as the NSA has been, in terms of collecting your data for commercial purposes, rather than so-called national security purposes.

But they're in it just as heavily as the NSA is. And they somehow manage to get the intellectual property laws rigged so that you are theoretically subject to a fine of up to $500,000 for jail breaking your phone.

BILL MOYERS: Which means?

MIKE LOFGREN: Which means if you don't like the carrier on your phone that the manufacturer dictates you shall have and you change it without authorization you don't have the right to something you bought.

BILL MOYERS: Could this symbiotic and actual relationship between Silicon Valley and the government reflecting the Deep State, explain the indulgence Washington has shown Silicon Valley on matters of intellectual property?

MIKE LOFGREN: Absolutely. People no longer necessarily own their property that they buy if they're buying it from Silicon Valley. They simply have a kind of lease on it.

BILL MOYERS: If, as you write, the ideology of the Deep State is not democrat or republican, not left or right, what is it?

MIKE LOFGREN: It's an ideology. I just don't think we've named it. It's a kind of corporatism. Now, the actors in this drama tend to steer clear of social issues. They pretend to be merrily neutral servants of the state, giving the best advice possible on national security or financial matters. But they hold a very deep ideology of the Washington consensus at home, which is deregulation, outsourcing, de-industrialization and financialization. And they believe in American exceptionalism abroad, which is boots on the ground everywhere, it's our right to meddle everywhere in the world. And the result of that is perpetual war.

BILL MOYERS: And you say it is shadowy and more ill-defined. More ill-defined than what?

MIKE LOFGREN: It's more ill-defined than simply saying Wall Street or saying the military-industrial complex, or saying Silicon Valley, or the corporations. It's a symbiosis of all of the above.

BILL MOYERS: Here's your summing-up quote: "As long as appropriations bills get passed on time, promotion lists get confirmed, black or secret budgets get rubber stamped, special tax subsidies for certain corporations are approved without controversy, as long as too many awkward questions are not asked, the gears of the hybrid state will mesh noiselessly." Is that the ideology?

MIKE LOFGREN: That is a government within a government that operates off the visible government and operates off the taxpayers. But it doesn't seem to be constrained in a constitutional sense by the government.

BILL MOYERS: Is there a solution to the way the system works now?

MIKE LOFGREN: I think we're starting to see some discord in the ideology of the factions that make up the Deep State. We're seeing Silicon Valley jump ship. They are starting to protest against the NSA. We're seeing the Tea Party bailing out against the Deep State. They may be wrong on many economic issues. But I don't think they're necessarily wrong on this one.

BILL MOYERS: So the public could be growing wise?

MIKE LOFGREN: I think they are. There's a much more vivid debate going on in the country about surveillance ever since the revelations by Edward Snowden.

BILL MOYERS: Mike Lofgren, thank you very much for being with me.

MIKE LOFGREN: It’s good to be here, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: Thanks to the journalist Lee Fang, we have another revelation into how the Deep State enterprise works. Writing for the Republic Report, a non-partisan, non-profit that investigates money in politics, he takes up that controversial trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership that President Obama is trying to push through Congress with minimum debate and no amendments. Controversial because some of its provisions reportedly enable corporate power to trump representative government, even go around domestic courts and local laws. One is said to prevent governments from enacting safeguards against another bank crisis, another to empower corporations to sue governments for compensation if, say, environmental protections, or regulations on tobacco and drugs interfered with future profits.

Because of the secrecy we don’t know everything that’s in the draft agreement. Senator Elizabeth Warren calls it “a chance for these banks to get something done quietly out of sight that they could not accomplish in a public place with the cameras rolling and the lights on.”

Which brings us to two officials chosen by President Obama to lead those trade negotiations. Lee Fang reports that they received multi-million dollar bonuses as they left giant financial firms to join the government. Bank of America gave this man, Stefan Seelig, more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to become the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. And this man, Michael Froman, got over $4 million when he left Citigroup to become the current US trade representative. Now, both are no doubt honorable men – they are all honorable men – but when push comes to shove, and the financial interests of huge corporations are on the table, we can only hope they will act as independent men, not faithful servants of the Deep State. But given the secrecy, we may never know.

According to Fang, many large corporations with a strong incentive to influence public policy give executives bonuses and other incentive pay if they take jobs within the government. Among them: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, the Blackstone Group, Fannie Mae, Northern Trust. Citigroup even provides an executive contract that awards additional retirement pay upon leaving to take a “full time high level position with the US government or regulatory body.” I'm not making this up. You get a bigger incentive if you leave Wall Street to go regulate Wall Street. So it is the fox is groomed for the chicken coop, and the Deep State grows fat on its prey.

Coming up on Moyers & Company, a powerful new book breaks the code of "Dog Whistle Politics."

IAN HANEY LÓPEZ: Dog whistle politics doesn't come out of animus at all. It doesn't come out of some desire to hurt minorities. It comes out of a desire to win votes. And in that sense, I want to start using the term strategic racism. It's racism as a strategy. It's cold, it's calculating, it's considered, it's the decision to achieve one's own ends, here winning votes, by stirring racial animosity.

And here's a hard, difficult truth. Most racists are good people. They're not sick. They're not ruled by anger or raw emotion or hatred. They are complicated people reared in complicated societies.

They're fully capable of generosity, of empathy, of real kindness. But because of the idea systems in which they're reared, they're also capable of dehumanizing others and occasionally of brutal violence.

BILL MOYERS: At our website,, remember to read the complete text of Mike Lofgren’s essay, “Anatomy of the Deep State,” and then tell us what you think. I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Towards Another Coup in Venezuela?; US Support for Regime Change in Venezuela is a Mistake

From Portside Moderator

Belen Fernandez; Mark Weisbrot
February 19, 2014

The government has everything to lose from violence in the demonstrations, and the opposition has something to gain. Protests are initiated by ultra-right factions of the opposition in the hope of an eventual systemic overhaul. When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the U.S. government says it is.

Protesters light fires during an anti-government demonstration in Caracas, on Feb. 19, 2014., Leo Ramírez/AFP // The Tico Times,

Towards Another Coup in Venezuela? - Belen Fernandez in Al Jazeera
US Support for Regime Change in Venezuela is a Mistake - Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian (UK)

Towards Another Coup in Venezuela?

Protests are initiated by ultra-right factions of the opposition in the hope of an eventual systemic overhaul.

By Belen Fernandez

February 19, 2014
Al Jazeera

Five days after violent anti-government incitement in Venezuela led to the deaths of three people, the US State Department issued a press statement declaring: "The allegations [by President Nicolas Maduro] that the United States is helping to organise protestors. is baseless and false. We support human rights and fundamental freedoms - including freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly - in Venezuela as we do in countries around the world."

Of course, US commitment to such freedoms is called into question by its own operating procedures, which have included police beatings of peaceful protesters and the incarceration and torture of whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

Maduro might - meanwhile - be forgiven for associating the US with efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government given said country's intimate involvement in the 2002 coup d'etat against Maduro's predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez - not to mention its general history of fomenting opposition to less-than-obsequious Latin American regimes.

George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor at Drexel University and the author of "We Created Chavez: A People's History of the Venezuelan Revolution", remarked to me yesterday that, although "there's no reason to think that the US is directly involved in organising or calling these protests. we need to bear in mind that [it] continues to fund the very same opposition groups that have participated in violent, anti-democratic actions before and that continue to do so".

The great cake famine

The opposition cites insecurity, food shortages, and inflation as factors driving the protests.

However, pinning the blame for all of Venezuela's ills on chavismo - the left-wing political ideology developed by Chavez and continued by Maduro - is transparently disingenuous. Or rather, it would be transparently disingenuous if the dominant international media were not intent on parroting opposition propaganda.

In 2010, for example, the New York Times horrified the world with the news that Venezuela under Chavez was deadlier than Iraq. As noted in Richard Gott's Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, "much of the violence stemmed from the police itself (the highest crime rates were registered in the states of Miranda, Tachira and Zulia, where opposition governors ruled and controlled the local police forces)".

Since such details complicate the vilification of Chavez and company, they're often deemed unworthy of reporting. So is the fact that Honduras - neoliberal lap dog of the US - happens to be far deadlier than Venezuela, Iraq, and every other nation on earth.

As for the issue of food shortages, it's instructive to take a look at a recent episode of Al Jazeera's The Stream featuring an appearance by elite right-wing Caracas blogger Emiliana Duarte. Asked to elaborate on the circumstances of daily existence in Venezuela, Duarte launches into a sob story about having to visit 10 different supermarkets the previous year during a quest to bake a cake.

In addition to highlighting the sort of absurd hysterics that typify the Venezuelan opposition, the cake-baking anecdote constitutes less than persuasive evidence of the supposedly brutal tyranny under which Duarte and her socioeconomic cohorts are forced to reside.

Perpetual opposition ruckus about the government's alleged control of the media - which is said to be thwarting proper transmission of the protests - meanwhile - fails to account for the fact that the vast majority of Venezuelan media is privately owned. In 2012, the BBC noted that a mere 4.58 percent of television and radio channels belonged to the state.

Regarding Maduro's decision to indefinitely block the far-right Colombian news channel NTN24 from transmitting in Venezuela, Ciccariello-Maher commented that, "while we should be very concerned any time a media outlet is blocked, however briefly, we should also remember that the private media is far from neutral" and that "this is a government that has seen a coup d'etat led by the private media".

Indeed, the narrative spun by anti-Chavez outlets during the 2002 coup was instrumental to its initial success.

Polarisation by whom?

On the occasion of Chavez's last landslide victory in 2012, Keane Bhatt listed some aspects of the man's legacy thus far in a blog post for the North American Congress on Latin America: "[In the pre-Chavez years of] 1980 to 1998, Venezuela's per capita GDP declined by 14 percent, whereas since 2004, after the Chavez administration gained control over the nation's oil revenues, the country's GDP growth per person has averaged 2.5 percent each year.

At the same time, income inequality was reduced to the lowest in Latin America, and a combination of widely shared growth and government programmes cut poverty in half and reduced absolute poverty by 70 percent - and that's before accounting for vastly expanded access to health, education, and housing."

Such improvements might be of more interest to the majority of Venezuelans than, say, Duarte's cake saga. Although Chavez is relentlessly cast in the mainstream media as a "polarising" figure, the fact is that the late president laboured to reduce the already existing polarisation of Venezuelan society by reducing the income gap and offering the poor masses some acknowledgement as human beings.

The doom-and-gloom squawking of the elite in response to the effective anti-polarisation campaign of the chavistas has merely been a natural reaction to a perceived threat against formerly entrenched positions of arbitrary privilege.

As for the current opposition efforts against Maduro, it's not difficult to see that US support for regime change in Venezuela is itself quite polarising - both domestically and continentally.

While the Mercosur member states - Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela - have condemned the violent "attempts to destabilise [Venezuela's] democratic order", US Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned "this senseless violence" and exhorted the Maduro government "to provide the political space necessary for meaningful dialogue with the Venezuelan people".

To be sure, it's more convenient to blame Maduro for the phenomenon of "senseless violence" than to ponder, say, the practice of assassinating civilians with US drones. That the anti-chavista crowd is cast in the role of "the Venezuelan people" also raises the question of what the millions of people who support the government qualify as.

Initiated by ultra-right factions of the opposition, this bout of violence was far from "senseless"; it did, after all, have a point. And that point, as usual, was to agitate on behalf of an eventual systemic overhaul and the deliverance of Venezuela into the imperial embrace.

[Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin Magazine.]

US Support for Regime Change in Venezuela is a Mistake

The US push to topple the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro once again pits Washington against South America

By Mark Weisbrot

February 18, 2014
The Guardian (UK)

When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is. Not surprisingly, that's not the way Latin American governments generally see it.

On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on the past week's demonstrations in Venezuela. They described "the recent violent acts" in Venezuela as "attempts to destabilize the democratic order". They made it abundantly clear where they stood.

The governments stated:

their firm commitment to the full observance of democratic institutions and, in this context, [they] reject the criminal actions of violent groups that want to spread intolerance and hatred in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a political tool.

We may recall that when much larger demonstrations rocked Brazil last year, there were no statements from Mercosur or neighboring governments. That's not because they didn't love President Dilma Rousseff; it's because these demonstrations did not seek to topple Brazil's democratically-elected government.

The Obama administration was a bit more subtle, but also made it clear where it stood. When Secretary of State John Kerry states that "We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors," he is taking a political position. Because there were many protestors who committed crimes: they attacked and injured police with chunks of concrete and Molotov cocktails; they burned cars, trashed and sometimes set fire to government buildings; and committed other acts of violence and vandalism.

An anonymous State Department spokesman was even clearer last week, when he responded to the protests by expressing concern about the government's "weakening of democratic institutions in Venezuela", and said that there was an obligation for "government institutions [to] respond effectively to the legitimate economic and social needs of its citizens". He was joining the opposition's efforts to de-legitimize the government, a vital part of any "regime change" strategy.

Of course we all know who the US government supports in Venezuela. They don't really try to hide it: there's $5m in the 2014 US federal budget for funding opposition activities inside Venezuela, and this is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg - adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars of overt support over the past 15 years.

But what makes these current US statements important, and angers governments in the region, is that they are telling the Venezuelan opposition that Washington is once again backing regime change. Kerry did the same thing in April of last year when Maduro was elected president and opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles claimed that the election was stolen. Kerry refused to recognize the election results. Kerry's aggressive, anti-democratic posture brought such a strong rebuke from South American governments that he was forced to reverse course and tacitly recognize the Maduro government. (For those who did not follow these events, there was no doubt about the election results.)

Kerry's recognition of the election results put an end to the opposition's attempt to de-legitimize the elected government. After Maduro's party won municipal elections by a wide margin in December, the opposition was pretty well defeated. Inflation was running at 56% and there were widespread shortages of consumer goods, yet a solid majority had still voted for the government. Their choice could not be attributed to the personal charisma of Hugo Chávez, who died nearly a year ago; nor was it irrational. Although the past year or so has been rough, the past 11 years - since the government got control over the oil industry - have brought large gains in living standards to the majority of Venezuelans who were previously marginalized and excluded.

There were plenty of complaints about the government and the economy, but the rich, right-wing politicians who led the opposition did not reflect their values nor inspire their trust.

Opposition leader Leopoldo López - competing with Capriles for leadership -has portrayed the current demonstrations as something that could force Maduro from office. It was obvious that there was, and remains, no peaceful way that this could happen. As University of Georgia professor David Smilde has argued, the government has everything to lose from violence in the demonstrations, and the opposition has something to gain.

By the past weekend Capriles, who was initially wary of a potentially violent "regime change" strategy - was apparently down with program. According to Bloomberg News, he accused the government of "infiltrating the peaceful protests "to convert them into centers of violence and suppression".

Meanwhile, López is taunting Maduro on Twitter after the government made the mistake of threatening to arrest him: "Don't you have the guts to arrest me?" he tweeted on 14 February:

Hopefully the government will not take the bait. US support for regime change undoubtedly inflames the situation, since Washington has so much influence within the opposition and, of course, in the hemispheric media.

It took a long time for the opposition to accept the results of democratic elections in Venezuela. They tried a military coup, backed by the US in 2002; when that failed they tried to topple the government with an oil strike. They lost an attempt to recall the president in 2004 and cried foul; then they boycotted National Assembly elections for no reason the following year. The failed attempt to de-legitimize last April's presidential election was a return to this dark but not-so-distant past. It remains to be seen how far they will go this time to win by other means what they have not been able to win at the ballot box, and how long they will have Washington's support for regime change in Venezuela.

[Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington DC. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy. He co-wrote Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border.]

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What's Really Happening in the Ukraine? Prof. Steven Cohen on Democracy Now!

US Eggs on Rightist Violent Street Demonstrations in Venezuela, Obama Seeks a Chile-style Result

In Venezuela, at least six people have died in recent days during a series of anti-government protests. The latest casualty was a local beauty queen who died of a gunshot wound. The protests come less than a year after the death of Hugo Chávez and present the biggest challenge to Venezuela’s new president, Nicolás Maduro. Earlier this week, right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to the National Guard after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest last week, accusing him of inciting deadly clashes. On Monday, Maduro ordered the expulsion of three U.S. consular officials while claiming the United States has sided with the opposition. Our guest, George Ciccariello-Maher, looks at the recent history of the U.S. role in Venezuela opposing both the Chávez and Maduro governments. He is author of "We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution" and teaches political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Venezuela, where at least six people have died in recent days during a series of anti-government protests. On Wednesday, a local beauty queen died of a gunshot wound. The protests come less than a year after the death of Hugo Chávez and present the biggest challenge to Venezuela’s new president, Nicolás Maduro. Earlier this week, right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to the National Guard after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of inciting deadly clashes. On Monday, Maduro ordered the expulsion of three U.S. consular officials while claiming the United States has sided with the opposition.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, to find out more, we go to Philadelphia to speak with George Ciccariello-Maher, author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution. He teaches political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, previously taught at the Venezuelan School of Planning in Caracas.

What is happening in Venezuela today?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Well, there’s a great deal happening, and I think you’ve got your finger on the fact that this is a crucial test for the Maduro government. And I think it’s our obligation to put it in its broad historical context to understand who’s acting. And I think there’s a tendency—there’s an unfortunate tendency, if you follow Twitter or if you’re on the Internet, that, you know, in this sort of post-Occupy moment and in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, every time we see—every time we see protesters in the streets, we start retweeting it, and we start to sort of, you know, feel sympathetic, without necessarily knowing what the back story is. And I think we’re obligated to do that here. And once we look into this back story, what we see is yet another attempt in a long string of attempts of the Venezuelan opposition to oust a democratically elected government, this time taking advantage of student mobilizations against—you know, ostensibly against insecurity and against economic difficulties to do that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, George Ciccariello, who is Leopoldo López? The Washington Post describes him as a 42-year-old, Harvard-educated, left-leaning moderate. What do you know about his history?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Left-leaning moderate would be quite a stretch. Leopoldo López represents the far right of the Venezuelan political spectrum. In terms of his personal and political history, here’s someone who was educated in the United States from prep school through graduate school at the Harvard Kennedy School. He’s descended from the first president of Venezuela, purportedly even from Simón Bolívar. In other words, he’s a representative of this traditional political class that was displaced when the Bolivarian revolution came to power.

In terms of his very specific political history, his first party that he came to power as a representative of, Primero Justicia, was formed through the—at the intersection of corruption and U.S. intervention—corruption by his mother purportedly funneling funds, you know, from Venezuela’s oil company into this new party and, on the other hand, funding from the NED, from USAID, from U.S. government institutions, to so-called civil society organizations. Now, after—as Chávez came to power, the traditional parties of Venezuela collapsed, and both the domestic opposition and the U.S. government needed to create some other vehicle through which to oppose the Chávez government, and this party that Leopoldo López came to power through is one of those—is one of those vehicles. So this is really where he’s coming from.

In this moment, though, even his former compatriot from that party, Henrique Capriles, who was the unified presidential candidate for the opposition in April, has realized that the line of taking street action in an attempt to oust a democratic government is simply not going to work. And Leopoldo López, as well as other far-right leaders like María Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma have really gone all-in with this attempt to oust the government.

AMY GOODMAN: So, shortly after Leopoldo López’s arrest, his opposition Popular Will party released a video of him speaking that was apparently filmed before he surrendered to Venezuelan government troops. This is part of what López said.

LEOPOLDO LÓPEZ: [translated] I would like to tell all Venezuelans that I do not regret what we have done thus far, like the call we put out for the protests, which is what we’ve been doing for some time. But on the 12th of February, on the Day of Youth, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Venezuela, not only in Caracas like in the past, but in all of Venezuela, in the cities and in the towns. There were 10 or 50 or a thousand or 10,000 or even 70,000, but the people came out. The people woke up. Venezuela today, more than ever, needs you, who are watching this, and that each one of us takes on the commitment to want change. But that commitment cannot be passive. That commitment has to be active.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Leopoldo López. Also, President Maduro has thrown out three consular officials, U.S. consular officials, saying they’re involved with supporting the opposition. Can you talk about this, George Ciccariello-Maher?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Sure. Well, the Obama government continues to fund this opposition even more openly than did the Bush—than did the Bush regime. If you look at the budget there, you know, Obama specifically requested funding for these Venezuelan opposition groups despite—you know, despite anti-democratic activity in the past, despite the fact that López and others were involved in signatories of the coup in 2002 and engaged in violent actions that they were brought up on charges for in 2002. And so, for López to come now and to claim that he’s an actor for democracy in the streets is really quite—you know, quite laughable. But what he is trying to do is to really seize control of this opposition away from the more moderate elements.

And there’s an interesting question here, namely the fact that the Venezuelan government, if we listen to the words of Leopoldo López’s wife, her recent statements—the Venezuelan government acted to protect the life of López, who was under certain threats, you know, threats to his life. And the Venezuelan government, if we look at the way that López was arrested, was very generous, and indeed much more generous than López has been in the past, during the coup, for example, when he led these sort of witch hunts for Chavista ministers who were brought out and beaten publicly on the way to being arrested. And you may wonder—López was allowed to speak the other day when he was arrested for several minutes on a megaphone by those—by the troops who were arresting him. And you may ask why—you know, why is the Maduro government being, in many ways, so gentle with this leader? And the reality is, they may prefer him as the leader of the opposition because he’s someone that simply can’t be elected president in Venezuela, because he really does represent that upper, upper crust of Venezuelan elites.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, the pictures that we’re getting in the commercial media here in the United States is of a Venezuela that is spiraling out of control with rising crime, with scarcities of food, with high inflation. What is your assessment of the actual situation in the country right now?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: To be perfectly clear, food scarcity has been a problem, and insecurity is a massive problem in Venezuela. And both of these are really deep and intractable problems that have—you know, that have some relationship to government, government failures to confront them in certain ways, but also to the action of various other actors. In the case of crime, the infiltration of mafias has been a powerful force in recent years. And in the case of scarcity, the role of private capitalists in withholding and hoarding goods, as well as currency speculation, has been a massively destructive force that really echoes the kind of Chile scenario of helping to destroy an economy as a preparation for the government being overthrown.

But the reality is, these do not—these two factors, which the students are claiming are driving these protests, are really—they don’t explain why these protests are emerging now. Why? Because crime is actually going down, as we speak, and because food scarcity is not nearly as bad as it was earlier in the year. Rather, what explains what’s going on now is that this is the moment in which—after December elections, in which the opposition fared very poorly, this is the moment in which the right wing of that opposition has said, "Enough. You know, once again, enough. We’re done with elections. We’re going to go to the streets, and we’re going to try to topple this government."

But, you know, in the meantime, the Venezuelan revolutionary movements, the popular organizations, that are, after all, the foundation of this government, this is never—this was never about Chávez, the individual. It is not about Maduro, the individual today. But it’s instead about millions and millions of Venezuelans who are building a better democracy, a deeper and more direct democracy, who are building social movements and organizations and workers’ councils and student councils and peasant councils, and as well as local communes. These people are continuing to struggle and are continuing to build. And while they’re certainly coming out to defend the Maduro government, they’re sort of focused on a much broader horizon. And this distraction, that’s largely confined to the wealthiest areas of Caracas, the sort of Beverly Hills of Caracas, is not going to sort of push them away from that task.

AMY GOODMAN: And the U.S. role?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: The U.S. continues to fund this opposition. I think we’ll probably find out afterward, as we usually do, to what degree the U.S.'s hand has been actually involved in these processes. But the reality is this is a—this is a miscalculation by the opposition. I think it's doubtful that the United States has told the opposition to take this tack, because it’s not a very strategic tack. But, you know, we know that this is an opposition that’s been in direct contact with the embassy, that it receives funding from the United States government. And so, this is—against the broad backdrop of U.S. intervention and the funding of the Venezuelan opposition, this is the action of an autonomous Venezuelan opposition that is going to, once again, it looks like, tear itself apart.

AMY GOODMAN: George Ciccariello-Maher, we want to thank you for being with us, author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution, teaches political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. .