Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Israel’s other “demographic threat”




Rod Such The Electronic Intifada 18 July 2017


The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others, Mya Guarnieri Jaradat, Pluto Press (2017)

Beginning with the first intifada in the 1980s and during the 1990s, Israel initiated a policy of replacing Palestinian day laborers from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip with migrant workers.

Nearly 50 percent of Israel’s construction workers were Palestinian at the time, and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza made up more than 40 percent of Israel’s agricultural workers. The 2000s also saw a dramatic increase in Eritrean and Sudanese refugees seeking asylum in Israel.

In The Unchosen, journalist Mya Guarnieri Jaradat examines Israel’s treatment of migrant workers and asylum seekers. Her findings lead her to the conclusion that Israel’s claims of being a democratic state are belied by its callous mistreatment of both groups.

She further concludes that this mistreatment mirrors Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinians and contradicts Israel’s claim that its policies towards Palestinians are based on “security concerns.”

She writes that the experiences of African refugees and migrant workers – many from the Philippines and Thailand – expose the fact that the Israeli government “considers all non-Jews to be a demographic threat.” As a result, the experiences of these new “Others” shed more light on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

“Just as Israel’s treatment of Palestinian citizens of the state calls into question its ability to be at once Jewish and democratic,” Jaradat notes, “so also does its handling of migrant workers and asylum seekers, exposing a fundamental contradiction in the phrase ‘Jewish and democratic.’”

A demographic threat
She first encountered this issue not as a journalist, but when she joined a “left-leaning volunteer program.” The book opens with her experience working with Filipino women in charge of “black market kindergartens” that are necessitated by the lack of daycare for the children of migrant workers.

Her writing is notable for its empathy, a trait clearly discernible in the extensive interviews she conducted with migrant workers and asylum seekers. An interview with Sunday Dieng, 26, an asylum seeker from Sudan, for example, reads as follows:

Dieng had been an orphan for more than half his life; for over a decade, he’d been unable to find a country to call home. We discussed the 14 months he spent in an Israeli jail. I asked him about the conditions. Did he get enough food?

He smiled. Later, I understood his reaction – my question was ridiculous. Prison isn’t about breaking the body. It’s about the spirit.

Insights such as these appear throughout the author’s narrative, along with detailed factual background that further illuminates the situation faced by migrant workers and asylum seekers.

Some of the stories shock the conscience, such as the Israeli farmer who failed to provide housing for his migrant Thai workers and instead dug holes in the ground for them to sleep in.

Until 2012, when Israel and Thailand signed a bilateral agreement, most Thai workers came to Israel heavily in debt to labor management agencies because they had to pay exorbitant fees just to find work – in some cases as much as $10,000.

Their debt bondage meant they were susceptible to super-exploitation, such as being paid less than the minimum wage in violation of Israeli law and having “service fees” deducted from their paychecks.

Even with the new bilateral agreement that resulted from pressure from labor rights groups, Jaradat found that while “this all looked good on paper … on the ground, little has changed for Thai workers.”

Israel’s restrictions on migrant workers reflect the government’s fear of them as a demographic threat, the author argues.

Israeli policy prevents migrant workers from bringing a member of their immediate family with them. Migrant workers are not allowed to have children or even romantic relationships. Until an Israeli high court ruling in 2011, infants as young as three months old could be separated from their mothers and deported.

African asylum seekers, who, at the peak, numbered as many as 60,000 in Israel at one time, faced infiltration laws originally used against Palestinian refugees. Refugees were not allowed to apply for asylum and were held in prisons and desert tent camps for terms that arbitrarily ranged from days to years.

Although Israel signed the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, in the more than 60 years since, it has granted refugee status to fewer than 200 people, according to the author.

A xenophobic society
The Unchosen is about much more than the heartbreaking accounts of migrant workers seeking a decent life and refugees escaping genocidal wars and brutal authoritarian regimes. It also documents the resistance waged by both migrant workers and asylum seekers and the gradual awakening of Jewish Israelis to the nature of their government.

For a small group of Israelis, the author notes, witnessing the treatment of Israel’s new “Others” “opened the door to questioning everything about Israel. For some, these issues became their ‘breaking point with Zionism,’” which she defines as a “state where Jews have the majority and hegemony.”

The author herself relates to this questioning. Working with leftist Israeli groups seeking to reform Israel’s treatment of migrant workers and refugees, she questioned why no one was making the connection with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

“Why weren’t we talking about the first expulsion” of the Palestinians in 1948, she asked herself. Why wasn’t the connection being made between night raids on migrant worker homes and night raids on Palestinian homes?

She approached the leader of a group called Israeli Children and got this reply: “I do see a connection … But I don’t want to talk about it. One of the big reasons this fight is succeeding is because we’re trying not to be political.”

Ultimately, however, the “fight” was not succeeding. As the years wore on, in the author’s view, Israeli society turned ever more right-wing and xenophobic.

In 2015, an Eritrean refugee was mistaken for a Palestinian assailant during an attack that killed one Israeli soldier and injured several bystanders. The Eritrean man, Haftom Zarhum, was shot by a security guard, and then a lynch mob kicked and spat on him, contributing to his death.

Jaradat was aware that every year her husband, a Palestinian from the West Bank, needed to apply for a permit just to live with her in Israel. She reached a final conclusion: she got out.

Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and is active with the Occupation-Free Portland campaign.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Venezuela: Time for left to take a stand


By Greg Wilpert

July 17, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from TeleSUR English — Venezuela is heading towards an increasingly dangerous situation, in which open civil war could become a real possibility. So far over 100 people have been killed as a result of street protests, most of these deaths are the fault of the protesters themselves (to the extent that we know the cause).

The possibility of civil war becomes more likely as long as the international media obscure who is responsible for the violence and the international left remains on the sidelines in this conflict and fails to show solidarity with the Bolivarian socialist movement in Venezuela.

If the international left receives its news about Venezuela primarily from the international media, it is understandable why it is being so quiet. After all, this mainstream media consistently fails to report who is instigating the violence in this conflict.

For example, a follower of CNN or the New York Times would not know that of the 103 who have been killed as a result of street protests, 27 were the direct or indirect result of the protesters themselves. Another 14 were the result of lootings; in one prominent case, because looters set fire to a store and ended up getting engulfed in the flames themselves. Fourteen deaths are attributable to the actions of state authorities (where in almost all cases those responsible have been charged), and 44 are still under investigation or in dispute. This is according to data from the office of the Attorney General, which itself has recently become pro-opposition.

Also unknown to most consumers of the international media would be that opposition protesters detonated a bomb in the heart of Caracas on July 11, wounding seven National Guard soldiers or that a building belonging to the Supreme Court was burnt by opposition protesters on June 12th or that opposition protesters attacked a maternity hospital on May 17.

In other words, it is possible that much of the international left has been misled about the violence in Venezuela; thinking that the government is the only one responsible, that President Nicolas Maduro has declared himself to be dictator for life (though he has actually confirmed that the presidential elections scheduled for late 2018 will proceed as planned), or that all dissent is punishable with prison (disputed by major opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez – who was partly responsible for the post-election violence in 2014 – recently being released from prison and placed under house arrest).

If this is the reason for the silence on Venezuela, then the left should be ashamed for not having read its own critiques of the mainstream media.

All of the foregoing does not contradict that there are plenty of places where one might criticize the Maduro Government for having made mistakes with regard to how it has handled the current situation, both economically and politically. However, criticisms – of which I have made several myself – do not justify taking either a neutral or pro-opposition stance in this momentous conflict. As South African anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Perhaps the Venezuelan case is also confusing to outsiders because President Maduro is in power and the opposition is not. It could thus be difficult to see the opposition as being an “oppressor.”

However, for an internationalist left, it should not be so confusing. After all, the opposition in Venezuela receives significant support not only from private businesses but also the U.S. Government, the international right and transnational capital.

Perhaps progressives feel that the Maduro Government has lost all democratic legitimacy and that this is why they cannot support it. According to the mainstream media coverage, Maduro canceled regional elections scheduled for December 2016, prevented the recall referendum from happening and neutralized the National Assembly.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these claims one by one.

First, regional elections (state governors and mayors) were indeed supposed to take place in late 2016, but the National Electoral Council (CNE) postponed them with the argument that political parties needed to re-register first. Leaving aside the validity of this argument, the CNE rescheduled the elections recently for December 2017. This postponement of a scheduled election is not unprecedented in Venezuela because it happened before, back in 2004, when local elections were postponed for a full year. Back then, at the height of President Hugo Chavez’s power; hardly anyone objected.

As for the recall referendum, it was well known that it would take approximately ten months to organize between its initiation and its culmination. However, the opposition initiated the process in April 2016, far too late for the referendum to take place in 2016 as they wanted. If it takes place in 2017, there would be no new presidential election – according to the constitution – and the vice-president would take over for the remainder of the term.

Finally, with regard to the disqualification of the National Assembly, this was another self-inflicted wound on the part of the opposition. That is, even though the opposition had won 109 out of 167 seats (65%) outright, they insisted on swearing in three opposition members whose election was in dispute because of fraud claims.

As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that until these three members are removed, most decisions of the national assembly would not be valid.

In other words, none of the arguments against the democratic legitimacy of the Maduro Government hold much water. Moreover, polls repeatedly indicate that even though Maduro is fairly unpopular, a majority of Venezuelans want him to finish his term in office, which expires in January 2019. As a matter of fact, Maduro’s popularity (24% in March, 2017) is not as low as several other conservative presidents in Latin America at the moment, such as that of Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto (17% in March, 2017), Brazil’s Michel Temer (7% in June, 2017) or Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos (14% in June, 2017).

Now that we have addressed the possible reasons the international left has been reluctant to show solidarity with the Maduro Government and the Bolivarian socialist movement, we need to examine what “neutrality” in this situation would end up meaning – in other words, what allowing the opposition to come to power via an illegal and violent transition would mean.

First and foremost, their coming to power will almost certainly mean that all Chavistas – whether they currently support President Maduro or not – will become targets for persecution. Although it was a long time ago, many Chavistas have not forgotten the “Caracazo” – when in February 1989, then-president Carlos Andres Perez meted out retaliation on poor neighborhoods for protesting against his government and wantonly killed somewhere between 400 and 1,000 people. More recently, during a short-lived coup against President Chávez in April 2002 the current opposition showed it was more than willing to unleash reprisals against Chavistas.

Most do not know this, but during the two-day coup over 60 Chavistas were killed in Venezuela – not including the 19 killed, on both sides of the political divide, in the lead-up to the coup. The post-election violence of April 2013 left 7 dead, and the Guarimbas of February to April 2014 left 43 dead. Although the death count in each of these cases represented a mix of opposition supporters, Chavistas and non-involved bystanders; the majority belonged to the Chavista side of the political divide.

Now, during the most recent wave of guarimbas, there have also been several incidents in which a Chavista, who was near an opposition protest, was chased and killed because protesters recognized them to be a Chavista in some way.

In other words, the danger that Chavistas will be generally persecuted if the opposition should take over the government is very real. Even though the opposition includes reasonable individuals who would not support such a persecution, the current leadership of the opposition has done nothing to rein in the fascist tendencies within its own ranks. If anything, they have encouraged these tendencies.

Second, even though the opposition has not published a concrete plan for what it intends to do once in government – which is also one of the reasons the opposition remains almost as unpopular as the government – individual statements by opposition leaders indicate that they would immediately proceed to implement a neoliberal economic program along the lines of President Michel Temer in Brazil or Mauricio Macri in Argentina. They might succeed in reducing inflation and shortages this way, but at the expense of eliminating subsidies and social programs for the poor across the board. Also, they would roll back all of the policies supporting communal councils and communes that have been a cornerstone of participatory democracy in the Bolivarian revolution.

So, instead of silence, neutrality or indecision from the international left in the current conflict in Venezuela, what is needed is active solidarity with the Bolivarian socialist movement. Such solidarity means vehemently opposing all efforts to overthrow the government of President Maduro during his current term in office. Aside from the patent illegality that overthrowing the Maduro Government would represent, it would also literally be a deadly blow to Venezuela’s socialist movement and to the legacy of President Chavez. The international left does not even need to take a position on whether the proposed constitutional assembly or negotiations with the opposition is the best way to resolve the current crisis. That is really up to Venezuelans to decide. Opposing intervention and disseminating information on what is actually happening in Venezuela, though, are the two things where non-Venezuelans can play a constructive role.

Gregory Wilpert is the author of Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chávez Government (Verso Books, 2007)

The Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse, and collapse it should

from Mondoweiss
Israel/Palestine Luke Peterson on July 17, 2017

The Palestinian Authority, a historically toothless government operating within the confines of Israeli control and authority in the entirety of historic Palestine, may not be long for the world. Created in conjunction with the absurd geographical and political prescriptions that comprise the Oslo Accords in 1993, the PA was meant to embody a political pivot for the PLO, the secular, nationalist movement seeking to liberate Palestinian communities from the yoke of Israeli domination by any means necessary, including through the use of public acts of political violence. From robust, international fighting force to civil and political authority, the PLO cum PA (and the majority party within it, Fatah) slowly came to be internationally recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. But over the last 25 years, the PA has grown fat from international donations and become complacent in its position of political dominance within the occupied Palestinian territory. It exists today largely for its own benefit and can be seen to be accomplishing little within its area of political influence other than extending its already unnaturally long life.

But change may well be in the air as regards the stultified and ineffective government. Public confidence in the integrity and efficacy of the Palestinian Authority amongst the Palestinians in the West Bank is at an all-time low and faith in the ability (or even desire) of PA officials to steer Palestine into an improved economic and political future is all but nonexistent. Years of bureaucratic bloat, nepotistic policy, and corruption have turned Palestinians against their elected leadership. Harsh crackdowns on free speech (to include the policing of social media sites), the enrichment of the elites at the expense of the public good, and complicity in Israeli occupation policies are to blame. As a result, references to “Palestinian Democracy” are laughed off by the public at large. The PA is understood to exist for its own benefit and longevity, having long ago abandoned true representation of the will of the Palestinian people either at home, in the highly fraught occupied territory, or on the international stage, as the condition of Palestine quietly slips in the ranking of global political priorities behind the crises in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

Today, the PA retains its legitimacy amongst 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians largely on the basis of its ability to fund its own bloated bureaucracy (responsible for employing large numbers of citizens in and around the cultural capital of the West Bank, Ramallah), to provide a bare minimum of health, education, and sanitation services to West Bankers and, perhaps most importantly, based upon its continued claim to represent the Palestinian people. But, 13 years after the suspicious death of the face of the Palestinian national movement, Yasser Arafat, the gloss has long since worn off of his octogenarian successor Mahmoud Abbas, and the tradition of political leadership and civil development in the face of Israeli occupation that Abbas was meant to embrace after Arafat’s passing now seems nearly completely defunct.

Public services continue to deteriorate to deplorable levels in the West Bank while the business portfolios of PA leadership continue to swell. All tobacco and alcohol sales in the West Bank are coordinated and distributed through businesses operated by PA officials including the cigarette monopoly managed by The Falcon Company, an outfit under the control of Mahmoud Abbas’ own sons, Yasser and Tareq. Indeed, the Abbas family is rumored to have a net worth totaling more than $100 million dollars including an unknown sum of misappropriated international donations originally intended for civil and/or social development within Palestinian communities. The Arabic term for this practice, fasaa’id, or “corruption” is on the tip of the tongue of most Palestinians you might speak to, provided of course you are not suspected of being an employee of the Palestinian security services.

As well, public schools in the West Bank now enroll only the poorest children in Palestine; virtually every family who can afford it sends their child to a private or parochial school, paying up to thousands in tuition annually to ensure a comprehensive arts and sciences education through the secondary level. Public hospitals and clinics are likewise openly lampooned by the public at large as dilapidated, outdated, and downright dangerous. Few in the West Bank will struggle to recount an anecdote about a surgery or procedure that went tragically wrong in the public health care system resulting in injury or death from otherwise completely curable maladies. Almost certainly, facilities are to blame. Private hospitals in the West Bank continue to run circles around the public options with many or most doctors and nurses in Palestinian communities spending time in both sectors of the health system. Highly educated and fantastically capable nurses and doctors perform admirably with adequate resources at their disposal. Without them, quite naturally, they do not.

Finally and most visibly, West Bank roads, fields, parks, and open spaces are in a deplorable state. Road construction within Palestine drags on interminably and cars age unnaturally quickly owed to the abuse they take on what might otherwise be serviceable roads and by-ways connecting Palestinian neighborhoods and towns. Rubbish litters the streets of many otherwise attractive and ancient communities. Historic buildings are neither serviced nor maintained. Rumor is that the nicest parks and cleanest streets are all in Ramallah and are maintained in exquisite condition everywhere where PA officials are likely to live or work. As with any number of other issues within the purview of the PA, the illusion of public service seems most important; the provision of actual aid to Palestine is secondary.


Palestinian police block protesters from marching toward the Palestinian Presidential compound the West Bank town of Ramallah, 02 October 2012, as they hold slogans against the Palestinian Authority security forces. Demonstrators protest calling for the end of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Rule, Oslo agreement, the security coordination with the Israelis and the end of the Political arrests. (Photo; Issam Rimawi/ APA Images)

More damning still, all of the above seems most directly to benefit Israel itself as the existence of a pliable and compromised Palestinian Authority allows Israeli designs on Judea and Samaria (in their terminology) to proceed unabated. The separation wall (now ubiquitous in and along the western corridor of the West Bank), continued resource and land confiscation, and increasingly fascistic designs for the growing Palestinian community in the West Bank are rarely contested by the Palestinian leadership. Instead so-called “security coordination” between Israeli and Palestinian governments and police forces is the order of the day resulting in Palestinian officials carrying out Israeli geographic and political designs in the occupied territory. An effective strategy to oppose these designs has not been implemented because such a strategy simply does not exist. In this complicity, the PA seems to have abandoned their people’s interest in favor of their own. Fifty years on from the beginning of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, it is apparently better to rule indefinitely in name only than to make an honest, legitimate attempt at representative government.

In an informal discussion with a group of Palestinian Scouts in the Bethlehem District this summer, this author asked the assembled young people, a group of about 30 intelligent and service-oriented students aged 12 to 18, who among them had confidence that the PA had their best interests at heart. Among the spate of laughter and eye rolls, I scanned the crowd for a single raised hand. There were none. When asked whether they thought their future would be better or worse than the present, none replied in the positive. Israel, the continuing pressure of occupation, and the ongoing American support for it were quickly provided as reasons why. In equal measure, the corruption, callousness, and self-interest of their own government were cited as well.

Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” If this is true, and history certainly bears it out to be so, the next Palestinian uprising (in as much as one can be anticipated), might well be directed at PA leadership rather than at the increasingly secure and robust Israeli military and administrative machine that controls the Palestinian territory. A new government in Palestine might well bring about the change within West Bank communities required to alter the bleak political trajectory of this national group. At the least, it might bring a wave of hope and confidence so badly needed amongst this youngest generation of Palestinians. Such a change might actually result in the raising of a few hands when next a group of young people are asked to evaluate the performance of their own leadership.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Betraying Progressives, DNC Platform Backs Fracking, TPP, and Israel Occupation


This is what you get with the corporate Democratic Party establishment-- R. Congress

Published on
Saturday, June 25, 2016
byCommon Dreams
Appointees by Clinton and Wasserman Schulz resoundingly reject numerous proposals put forth by Sanders surrogates
byLauren McCauley, staff writer


Members of the Democratic party Platform Committee, including (from left to right) American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, and Palestinian rights academic James Zogby. (Photo: DNCC)
Members of the Democratic party Platform Committee, including (from left to right) American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, and Palestinian rights academic James Zogby. (Photo: DNCC)
Despite its claims to want to unify voters ahead of November's election, the Democratic party appears to be pushing for an agenda that critics say ignores basic progressive policies, "staying true" to their Corporate donors above all else.

During a 9-hour meeting in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday, members of the DNC's platform drafting committee voted down a number of measures proposed by Bernie Sanders surrogates that would have come out against the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), fracking, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. At the same time, proposals to support a carbon tax, Single Payer healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation were also disregarded.

In a statement, Sanders said he was "disappointed and dismayed" that representatives of Hillary Clinton and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz rejected the proposal on trade put forth by Sanders appointee Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), despite the fact that the presumed nominee has herself come out against the 12-nation deal.

"Inexplicable" was how Sanders described the move, adding: "It is hard for me to understand why Secretary Clinton’s delegates won’t stand behind Secretary Clinton’s positions in the party’s platform."

The panel also rejected amendments suggested by 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, another Sanders pick, that would have imposed a carbon tax, declared a national moratorium on fracking as well as new fossil fuel drilling leases on federal lands and waters.

"This is not a political problem of the sort that we are used to dealing with," McKibben stated during the marathon debate. "Most political problems yield well to the formula that we’ve kept adopting on thing after thing—compromise, we’ll go halfway, we’ll get part of this done. That’s because most political problems are really between different groups of people. They’re between industry and environmentalists. That is not the case here."

"Former U.S. Representative Howard Berman, American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, Ohio State Representative Alicia Reece, former State Department official Wendy Sherman, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden all raised their hands to prevent a moratorium from becoming a part of the platform," noted Shadowproof's Kevin Gosztola.

According to Gosztola's reporting on the exchange, Dr. Cornel West lambasted the aforementioned panel members, particularly Browner, for "endorsing reform incrementalism" in the face of an urgent planetary crisis.

"When you’re on the edge of the abyss or when you’re on that stove, to use the language of Malcolm X, you don’t use the language of incrementalism. It hurts, and the species is hurting," West said.

Other progressive policies were adopted piecemeal, such as the $15 minimum wage, which the committee accepted but without the amendment put forth by Ellison that would have indexed the wage to inflation.

The panel did vote unanimously to back a proposal to abolish the death penalty and adopted language calling for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and enacting a modern-day Glass-Steagall Act—measures that Sanders said he was "pleased" about.

According to AP, the final discussion "centered on the Israel-Palestinian conflict."

"The committee defeated an amendment by Sanders supporter James Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with 'an end to occupation and illegal settlements' and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza," AP reports, measures which Zogby said Sanders helped craft.

Instead, AP reports, the adopted draft "advocates working toward a 'two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict' that guarantees Israel's security with recognized borders 'and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.'"

Citing these "moral failures" of the platform draft, West abstained during the final vote to send the document to review by the full Platform Committee next month in Orlando, Florida.

"If we can't say a word about TPP, if we can't talk about Medicare-for-All explicitly, if the greatest prophetic voice dealing with pending ecologically catastrophe can hardly win a vote, and if we can't even acknowledge occupation... it seems there is no way in good conscience I can say, 'Take it to the next stage,'" West declared before the assembly.

"I wasn't raised like that," he said. "I have to abstain. I have no other moral option, it would be a violation of my own limited sense of moral integrity and spiritual conscience," adding, "That's how I roll.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The New McCarthyism Is Destroying the Democratic Party

from Truthdig

Posted on Jul 15, 2017

By Glen Ford / Black Agenda Report


For more than a year now, the collective U.S. ruling class, with Democratic Party and corporate media operatives in the vanguard, has frozen the national political discourse in a McCarthyite time warp. A random visit to a July 26, 2016, issue of the New York Times reveals the same obsession as that which consumes the newspaper today: “Following the Links from Russian Hackers to the U.S. Election,” “Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked D.N.C.” A year later, the allegations persist, piled ever higher with innuendo and outright nonsense. However, proof of the predicate act—that Russia, not Wikileaks, penetrated the DNC—remains totally absent.

What is the purpose of this torture-by-media? Clearly, the Trump White House has been crippled by the tsunami that never ebbs, but the Democrats have not been strengthened in the process, and the corporate media’s standing among the public erodes by the day. A poll conducted last month showed majorities of voters want Congress to ease up on Russia investigations and get to work on healthcare, terrorism, national security, the economy and jobs. Almost three out of four respondents to the Harvard-Harris poll said lawmakers aren’t paying attention to the issues that are important to them—including 68 percent of Democrats. Sixty-two percent of voters say there is no hard evidence of White House “collusion” with Russia, and 64 percent think the investigations are hurting the country.

The non-stop vilification of Russia and Trump has seriously backfired on the corporate media. Another poll by Harvard-Harris, conducted back in May, showed that two out of three Americans believe the so-called “mainstream” press is full of “fake news”—including a majority of Democrats. The Russiagate blitzkrieg, designed to delegitimize Trump and demonize Vladimir Putin, has exacerbated an already existing crisis of legitimacy for the entire U.S. political system. “Every major institution from the presidency to the courts is now seen as operating in a partisan fashion in one direction or the other,” said poll co-director Mark Penn.


The only unequivocal winner is the bipartisan War Party, which has used the manufactured crisis to drench the nation in anti-Russian hysteria – worse than back in the bad old days of the Red Scares. By March, Black Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) was using much the same language as Dick Cheney to describe the Kremlin. “I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a form of war, a form of war on our fundamental democratic principles,” said the hopelessly brainwashed representative of the Black Misleadership Class. “Liberal” Democratic Maryland Rep. Ben Cardin called the nonexistent “attack” a “political Pearl Harbor.”
If the U.S. Congress actually took seriously its Constitutional powers to declare war, the human race would already have been exterminated.

So insane have the Democrats become, that we are probably better off with war powers effectively in the hands of Donald Trump, than with California’s Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress that voted against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She was in her “right mind” then, but no longer. Trump’s willingness to talk with the leader of Russia, in Hamburg, infuriated Rep. Lee, who tweeted: “Outraged by President Trump’s 2 hr meeting w/Putin, the man who orchestrated attacks on our democracy. Where do his loyalties lie?” A better question is: When and where did Lee join the War Party?

The dogs of war at U.S. intelligence agencies have led the charge against Trump since they encamped at Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters, last year. The spoiled oligarch was not trusted to maintain the momentum of the U.S. military offensive begun by Barack Obama in 2011, with the unprovoked war against Libya. The state of war must be preserved, whatever the cost to the empire’s domestic institutions. Skilled in the arts of regime change, the spooks joined with their longtime partners in corporate media propaganda, to foment a “color revolution” at home. Barbara Lee is a recent recruit.

Although the Democrats will ultimately harm themselves with the electorate by folding into the War Party, it suits the purposes of party leadership and the fat cats that finance them. The ruling class has nothing to offer the people except the total insecurity of gig-jobs and austerity. The Lords of Capital effectively shut the Democrats down decades ago. They can campaign as if there really is a clash of ideas about the organization of society, but they must propose nothing that fundamentally conflicts with the steady consolidation of wealth and power by the oligarchy (the American one, not the Russians). That goes for Bernie Sanders, too. Heard anything about single payer from him, lately?

The “all Russiagate, all the time” information regime—which also prepares the public for a wider war scenario – provides the illusion of motion that passes for “resistance” to the rule of the rich, as personified by Donald Trump. But there has been no Democratic program to reorder society for at least a generation. And now, under the New McCarthyism, the only politics that is allowed is war politics, consisting of denunciations of those who threaten “our fundamental democratic principles” – which need not be defined or even proven to exist.

That’s why it has been an empty year, albeit a very loud one. As Gil Scott-Heron sang in “Winter in America,” “Nobody’s fighting, ‘cause nobody knows what to save.”


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Move to the center! And then? Move to the center!


OpEdNews Op Eds 7/8/2017 at 04:42:32
Move to the center! And then? Move to the center!
By Tom Gallagher Follow Me on Twitter Message Tom Gallagher Permalink

opednews.com Headlined to H2 7/8/17
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Whatever else you might want to say about the corporate types who dominate the Democratic Party, you've got to give some of them an "A" for audacity. The latest to register for top scores are Mark Penn and Andrew Stein who have raised the cry, "Back to the Center, Democrats" in a New York Times op-ed piece.

Now, in case any of you have forgotten, Bernie Sanders did not actually win the Democratic nomination. It was the centrist Hillary Clinton who did; the Clinton who lost to the most unpopular major party presidential candidate since the start of polling on such things; the Clinton that the establishment Democrats stuck with despite virtually every poll saying that Sanders ran stronger against Donald Trump than she did.

Given that Penn's byline says that he "served as pollster and senior adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton from 1995 to 2008," you'd figure he might remember that, but apparently not. In fact, Hillary Clinton appears nowhere in the these two gentlemen's telling of the story of what has led to the decline of the Democratic Party in recent years.

They tell us that "Democrats lost over 1,000 legislative seats across the country and control of both houses of Congress during the Obama years." Why was that? Well, it appears that one of the problems is that "Candidates inspired by Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and a host of well-funded groups have embraced sharply leftist ideas." The fact is, of course, that any candidates inspired by the above mentioned Senators have attempted to stem the previous years' decline of the Democratic Party dominated by precisely the"centrist" views the authors are promoting.

Indeed, the political terrain these writers describe is barely recognizable even though they speak of events that occurred just last year. For instance, they decry the Democrats' "loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party's shift away from moderate positions on trade." From this, you'd never know that the presidential candidate whose name is apparently not to be mentioned is generally thought to have lost working class support to Trump precisely because of her "moderate," establishment, pro-NAFTA position on trade which these gentleman embrace.

They assert, reasonably enough, that in health care the Democrats "have a coherent message about protecting the working poor from losing coverage," and yet, just like the 2016 Democratic standard bearer, they have nothing to say about adopting a plan that would actually offer the type of universal coverage that every other industrialized country already has. And they argue that somehow the left is apparently responsible for the fact that "in special elections for Congress this year," Democrats "failed to take back any seats held by Republicans" -- even when the candidates were centrists like Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff, who also declined to support a single-payer, universal health insurance program.

It's a truism that the publication of op-ed pieces in newspapers like the New York Times has more to do with the details contained in the authors' bylines than in the quality of the ideas in the text above. Which makes one think that the editors involved might take a deeper look into the authors' bonafides. So far as Penn goes, the Times editors are probably not terribly off -- his resume also includes work for former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, the British equivalent of Bill Clinton, former right wing Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin, and a stint as a Microsoft executive -- pretty much what you might expect from a corporate Democrat arguing a "centrist" line. Stein's credentials seem a bit shakier, though. Identified as "a former Manhattan borough president and New York City Council president," he also once (unsuccessfully) sought the support of the Republican and Conservative Parties to challenge David Dinkins, a Democratic Mayor of New York City. Subsequently he pled guilty to lying about his involvement with Ken Starr, who did time for his role as a Ponzi scheme financial advisor to the stars.

Still, none of that would matter for much, if the authors had any kind of coherent message, but given that they are arguing a typical centrist corporate Democrat line while using a variety of pseudo-proletarian covers -- opposing "[i]dentity politics, class warfare and big government," that is never really a possibility. Perhaps they figure that this matters for little these days, given that the current state of White House politics is such that truth, honesty and consistency count for little. Let's hope that they are wrong. Certainly we Sanders Democrats, who supported a candidate who actually argued the pro-working class views which these confused-at-best writers claim to espouse, think that they are profoundly wrong.




Friday, July 7, 2017

Clinton lost because war-ravaged communities in PA, WI, and MI saw her as pro-war, study says

US Politics Philip Weiss on July 6, 2017



Last fall I winced whenever Hillary Clinton or her surrogates promised regime change in Syria. Don’t these people get it? Americans don’t want to be waging more wars in the Middle East.

Now an important new study has come out showing that Clinton paid for this arrogance: professors argue that Clinton lost the battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan in last year’s presidential election because they had some of the highest casualty rates during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and voters there saw Clinton as the pro-war candidate.

By contrast, her pro-war positions did not hurt her in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California, the study says; because those states were relatively unscathed by the Middle East wars.

The study is titled “Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House?” Authors Francis Shen, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, and Dougas Kriner, a political science professor at Boston University, strike a populist note:

With so much post-election analysis, it is surprising that no one has pointed to the possibility that inequalities in wartime sacrifice might have tipped the election. Put simply:
perhaps the small slice of America that is fighting and dying for the nation’s security is tired of its political leaders ignoring this disproportionate burden.

Their study argues that there is a direct relationship between those states that gained Republican votes from Romney’s defeat in 2012 to Trump’s win in 2016 and those states that have higher casualty rates in Middle East wars.

At Reason.com, Ed Krayewski summarizes the findings:

A new study attributes Donald Trump’s victory last year to communities hit hardest by military casualties and angry about being ignored. These voters, the authors suggest, saw Trump as an “opportunity to express that anger at both political parties.”

Krayewski summarizes the data behind the conclusion:

The study… found a “significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” The statistical model it used suggested that if Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had suffered “even a modestly lower casualty rate,” all three could have flipped to Hillary Clinton, making her the president. The study controlled for party identification, comparing Trump’s performance in the communities selected to Mitt Romney’s performance in 2012. It also controlled for other relevant factors, including median family income, college education, race, the percentage of a community that is rural, and even how many veterans there were.

“Even after including all of these demographic control variables, the relationship between a county’s casualty rate and Trump’s electoral performance remains positive and statistically significant,” the paper noted. “Trump significantly outperformed Romney in counties that shouldered a disproportionate share of the war burden in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
And here are the authors themselves on the moral hazard at work here. The people who decide are not suffering as much.

America has been at war continuously for over 15 years, but few Americans seem to notice. This is because the vast majority of citizens have no direct connection to those soldiers fighting, dying, and returning wounded from combat. Increasingly, a divide is emerging between communities whose young people are dying to defend the country, and those communities whose young people are not.

Here is another powerful excerpt from the paper:

Imagine a country continuously at war for nearly two decades. Imagine that the wars were supported by both Democratic and Republican presidents. Continue to imagine that the country fighting these wars relied only on a small group of citizens—a group so small that those who served in theater constituted less than 1 percent of the nation’s population, while those who died or were wounded in battle comprised far less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the nation’s population.

And finally, imagine that these soldiers, their families, friends, and neighbors felt that their sacrifice and needs had long been ignored by politicians in Washington. Would voters in these hard hit communities get angry? And would they seize an opportunity to express that anger at both political parties? We think the answer is yes.

Kriner and Shen point out that an antiwar groundswell rocked the U.S. political establishment 10 years before:

By 2006, the continuing deterioration of the situation in Iraq emboldened Democrats to promise to end the war in the Middle East. That year’s midterm elections returned Democrats to power in both chambers of Congress for the first time since before the 1994 Republican Revolution. Underlying this sweeping change was a further erosion in support for the GOP among the constituencies hardest hit by the war.

Their argument is obviously aimed at coastal elites, which have more power than rural communities over decision-making, but far less to lose. The authors are unsparing about the very different experience of war for different communities. :

When the United States goes to war, the sacrifice that war exacts in blood is far from uniformly distributed across the country. And in the Civil War, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, constituencies that have suffered the highest casualty rates have proven most likely to punish the ruling party at the polls.

In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, for example, seven states have suffered casualty rates of thirty or more deaths per million residents. By contrast, four states have suffered casualty rates of fifteen or fewer deaths per million. As a result, Americans living in these states have had different exposure to the war’s human costs through the experiences of their friends and neighbors and local media coverage.

The four states with the lowest rates are NY, NJ, CT and Utah. All but Utah voted Democratic. Overall, rural states have higher casualty rates, and the authors find pretty significant inverse correlations between state income and education medians and casualty rates. Though it must be noted that Vermont suffered the worst casualty rate– more than 41 deaths per million– and it is home to the most vociferous antiwar candidate, Bernie Sanders, but was also very safe for Clinton.

Here’s Krayewski’s summary again, emphasizing the policy takeaway from the study:

The president’s electoral fate in 2020 “may well rest on the administration’s approach to the human costs of war,” the paper suggests. “If Trump wants to maintain his connection to this part of his base, his foreign policy would do well to be highly sensitive to American combat casualties.” More broadly, the authors argue that “politicians from both parties would do well to more directly recognize and address the needs of those communities whose young women and men are making the ultimate sacrifice for the country.”

The most effective way of addressing their needs is to advance a foreign policy that does not see Washington as the world’s policeman, that treats U.S. military operations as a last resort, and that rethinks the foreign policy establishment’s expansive and often vague definition of national security interests.

Thanks to Todd Pierce.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

For the US and Its Allies, the Road to Tehran Runs Through Damascus and Southern Lebanon

from Counterpunch
JULY 5, 2017

by JOHN WIGHT

When Trump’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, asserts – as she did recently – that the US is sending “not only Assad” but also “Russia and Iran a message”, and that Washington is putting them “on notice,” she does so as the tribune of a rogue state.

Haley issued her ‘warning’ on the back of the dubious claim that Washington had intelligence confirming Syrian forces were preparing a chemical weapons attack. The claim and resulting threat revealed that the US continues to arrogate to itself the status of the world’s policeman, with the right to act as judge, jury, and – as the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have learned to their disastrous cost in recent years – executioner. It describes arrogance beyond measure, conforming to the worldview of an empire whose guiding mantra is “Rome has spoken; the matter is finished”.

The “matter” so far as Syria is concerned is regime change, which it becomes increasingly clear is Washington’s main objective going forward, using its military campaign against ISIS as a stalking horse to justify the build up of its military presence in the country with this in mind. Seen in this light, the recent spate of US attacks on Syrian forces on the ground and in the air take on an entirely different connotation – i.e. less to do with protecting US-backed ground forces, as claimed, and more to do with testing Russia’s response and resolve when it comes to supporting its Syrian ally.

In the immediate and short term the partition of Syria between east and west appears underway – at least if Washington has its way – evidenced in the recent visit to Syria by Brett McGurk of the US State Department. The stated purpose of his visit was to meet the “council planning to run Raqqa” after it is taken from ISIS. So here we have a US official visiting a sovereign state without the prior permission of said sovereign state’s legitimate government to discuss the administration of a part of its territory. This is imperialism by any other name, consonant with the actions of a country that is inebriated with that most potent of cocktails, unipolarity and might is right.

It is also no accident that the uptick in US military aggression in Syria – a country which, again, it is worth pointing out it has zero right to be in – has ensued in the wake of President Trump’s visit to the region in May, during which he enjoyed extensive talks with key US allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. As everybody knows, King Salman and Benjamin Netanyahu are leaders who go to bed at night and wake up in the morning dreaming of destroying Iran as a regional power, and with Trump likewise leaving no doubt of his administration’s enmity towards Iran, it doesn’t take a genius to discern the strategy that is now underway. It is a strategy which confirms that Riyadh’s recent and on-going aggression against Qatar was undertaken with Tehran rather than terrorism in mind, given the positive relations that Qatar has long enjoyed with Iran, while Israel’s continued air and missile strikes against targets in Syria only confirm that rather than ISIS or Nusra, for Tel Aviv the enemy is Assad and Hezbollah, both of whom are fighting ISIS and Nusra.

With the conflict in Syria entering its post-ISIS stage, the smoke has cleared to reveal that where Washington and its regional allies are concerned the road to Tehran runs through Damascus and southern Lebanon. Thus what we have in the region is the formation of two countervailing blocs – an axis of resistance and non-sectarianism comprising Syria, Hezbollah and Iran, which is supported by Russia, and an axis of regime change and sectarianism comprising Saudi Arabia and Israel, supported by the US. States such as Turkey and Egypt, meanwhile, have been oscillating between both blocs, though their ability to continue doing so as tensions deepen further is doubtful.

What should be borne in mind when surveying these events is the fact that Washington’s determination to destabilize Syria and overthrow its government has not arrived out of nowhere. As far back as 2006 the US Embassy in Damascus was preparing and distributing a memo outlining ways to “exploit” the supposed weaknesses of the Syrian government. Then, too, we have Washington’s part in funding, training, and arming rebel groups that have been fighting Syrian government forces at various points throughout the conflict. In so doing it has only succeeded in prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people and providing succour to ISIS, Nusra, and various other Salafi-jihadi groups.

An important factor arising from these developments is the need to abandon any hope in the prospect of a resetting of relations between Russia and the US with Trump at the helm. Rather than any kind of departure from the status quo, the current president is on course to achieving the onerous status of the status quo times ten where the assertion of US unipolarity is concerned. He is a man whose irrationality and caprice is only matched by his vanity and atrocious judgment. Whether the unleashing of illegal missile strikes based on unfounded allegations of chemical weapons attacks, or whether his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the world finds itself dealing with an administration whose every decision is worse than the one preceding it.

As the conflict in Syria continues, two of its participants find themselves with a serious decision to make. Firstly the Kurds of the YPG, who make up the bulk of the US-backed SDF ground forces currently engaged in an operation to take Raqqa, need to decide if they are willing to be used as a proxy in service to Washington’s wider strategic objectives vis-à-vis direct confrontation with the Syrian goverment and Iran in the months ahead. In this respect history confronts the Kurds and their supporters with the treachery that resides in Washington. In 1991 Bush Sr and his administration encouraged them to rise up against Saddam Hussein in Iraq at the end of the First Gulf War, only to abandon them to their fate in the event.

Secondly, and more crucially, Russia is being placed in an increasingly intolerable position by Washington and Israel with their increasing violation of Syrian sovereignty and attacks on pro-government forces. Up to this point Moscow has been a model of restraint in the face of what are repeated provocations. How long it can afford to exercise such restraint is questionable, however. The harm to Russia’s security and national interests if the Assad government is forced from power by the aforementioned axis of regime change is unthinkable. It is why Putin and Trump’s anticipated bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Germany next month carries with it even more importance than a meeting between the heads of the world’s two foremost nuclear powers normally would.

It bears emphasizing that the biggest danger the world faces today is not Salafi-jihadism or Islamist extremism. The biggest danger the world faces is the entity which gave birth to them – Western imperialism.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The American People Never Win--Here's Why


OpEdNews Op Eds 6/28/2017 at 13:35:06

By Arlen Grossman
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE NEVER WIN--HERE'S WHY


There's a reason most Americans don't get what they want.

Billionaires and Large Corporations own this country. Period.

They make the rules and reap the benefits. They control the politicians and thus the laws. What they want, they get.

Which is why even though Republicans number between one-quarter and one-third of the electorate, they control the presidency, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and most state governments.

Which is why polls show that even though most Americans want universal health care, more social security, stricter gun laws, stronger environmental laws, more spending on social services and less on the military, they never get them.

The majority of the American people also want debt-free college education for all students, a higher minimum wage, a massive infrastructure spending program, higher taxes on the wealthy, and fair trade that protects American workers and the environment. Those things don't happen because it doesn't matter what the people want.

George Carlin summed it up well: "The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything."

The rich and corporations have always had undue influence in our government. But it was the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that put the final nail on the coffin of American democracy. That ruling essentially allowed the rich to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. That made it easy to control politicians and buy elections, thus ensuring they get the laws that benefit them.

Our government is run by legalized bribery, and unless you are wealthy you are out of the game. Republicans especially, but Democrats too, play by these rules.

A 2014 study from Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite. The wealthy dictate national policy, while average Americans are essentially powerless. According to the report: "When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it."

Meanwhile, the rich keep getting richer, and consequently more powerful. According to The New York Times, the "richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent." UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez estimates that between 2009 and 2012, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of total income growth. This country has the highest wealth inequality among industrialized nations, higher than any time since 1928, the year before the Great Stock Market Crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

How can we change this? It won't be easy. When conditions get bad enough, and Americans take to the streets in massive numbers, when and if they vote in candidates who believe in grass roots democracy, only then can the system be changed and the views of average Americans matter. That is unlikely to happen anytime soon, because the billionaires and big corporations--who own most of the mass media--like the status quo.

It should be evident to all that America is an oligarchy, a country run by a small group of wealthy individuals. Those who pretend otherwise are not paying attention and deluding themselves. The future of our country, and the world, depends on our finding the path back to democracy. Unfortunately, the obstacles have never been greater.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hersh’s new Syria revelations buried from view

Jonathan Cook's blog
26 June 2017
(Updated below)

Veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the man who exposed the Mai Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and the US military’s abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2004, is probably the most influential journalist of the modern era, with the possible exception of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the pair who exposed Watergate.

For decades, Hersh has drawn on his extensive contacts within the US security establishment to bring us the story behind the official story, and to disclose facts that have often proved deeply discomfiting to those in power and exploded the self-serving, fairy-tale narratives the public were expected to passively accept as news. His stature among journalists was such that, in a sea of corporate media misinformation, he enjoyed a small island of freedom at the elite, and influential, outlet of the New Yorker.

Paradoxically, over the past decade, as social media has created a more democratic platform for information dissemination, the corporate media has grown ever more fearful of a truly independent figure like Hersh. The potential reach of his stories could now be enormously magnified by social media. As a result, he has been increasingly marginalised and his work denigrated. By denying him the credibility of a “respectable” mainstream platform, he can be dismissed for the first time in his career as a crank and charlatan. A purveyor of fake news.

Nonetheless, despite struggling to find an outlet for his recent work, he has continued to scrutinise western foreign policy, this time in relation to Syria. The official western narrative has painted a picture of a psychotic Syrian president, Bashar Assad, who is assumed to be so irrational and self-destructive he intermittently uses chemical weapons against his own people. He does so, not only for no obvious purpose but at moments when such attacks are likely to do his regime untold damage. Notably, two sarin gas attacks have supposedly occurred when Assad was making strong diplomatic or military headway, and when the Islamic extremists of Al-Qaeda and ISIS – his chief opponents – were on the back foot and in desperate need of outside intervention.

Dangerous monsters
Hersh’s investigations have not only undermined evidence-free claims being promoted in the west to destabilise Assad’s goverment but threatened a wider US policy seeking to “remake the Middle East”. His work has challenged a political and corporate media consensus that portrays Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Assad’s main ally against the extremist Islamic forces fighting in Syria, as another dangerous monster the West needs to bring into line.

For all these reasons, Hersh has found himself increasingly friendless. The New Yorker refused to publish his Syria investigations. Instead, he had to cross the Atlantic to find a home at the prestigious but far less prominent London Review of Books.

Back in 2013 his contacts within the security and intelligence establishments revealed that the assumption Assad had ordered the use of sarin gas in Ghouta, outside Damascus, failed to stand up to scrutiny. Even Barack Obama’s national intelligence director, James Clapper, was forced to admit privately that Assad’s guilt was “not a slam dunk”, even as the media widely portrayed it as precisely that. Hersh’s work helped stymie efforts at the time to promote a western military attack to bring down the Syrian government.

His latest investigation questions whether Assad was responsible for another alleged gas attack – this one at Khan Sheikhoun in April. Again a consensual western narrative was quickly constructed after social media showed dozens of Syrians dead, apparently following the dropping of a bomb by Syrian aircraft. For the first time in his presidency, Donald Trump received wall-to-wall praise for launching a military strike on Syria in response, even though, as Hersh documents, he had no evidence on which to base such an attack, one that gravely violated international law.

Hersh’s new investigation was paid for by the London Review of Books, which declined to publish it. This is almost as disturbing as the events in question.

What is emerging is a media blackout so strong that even the London Review of Books is running scared. Instead, Hersh’s story appeared yesterday in a German publication, Welt am Sonntag. Welt is an award-winning newspaper, no less serious than the New Yorker or the LRB. But significantly Hersh is being forced to publish ever further from the centres of power whose misinformation his investigations are challenging.

Imagine how effective Woodward and Bernstein would have been in bringing down Richard Nixon had they been able to publish their Watergate investigations only in the French media. That is the situation we have reached now with Hersh’s efforts to scrutinise the west’s self-serving claims about Syria.

US-Russian cooperation
As for the substance of Hersh’s investigation, he finds that Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base in April “despite having been warned by the US intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.”

In fact, Hersh reveals that, contrary to the popular narrative, the Syrian strike on a jihadist meeting place in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 was closely coordinated beforehand between Russian and US intelligence agencies. The US were well apprised of what would happen and tracked the events.

Hersh’s sources in the intelligence establishment point out that these close contacts occurred for two reasons. First, there is a process known as “deconfliction”, designed to avoid collisions or accidental encounters between the US, Syrian and Russian militaries, especially in the case of their supersonic jets. The Russians therefore supplied US intelligence with precise details of that day’s attack beforehand. But in this case, the coordination also occurred because the Russians wanted to warn the US to keep away a CIA asset, who had penetrated the jihadist group, from that day’s meeting.

“This was not a chemical weapons strike,” a senior adviser to the US intelligence community told Hersh. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon … would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear.”

According to US intelligence, Hersh reports, the Syrian air force was able to target the site using a large, conventional bomb supplied by the Russians. But if Assad did not use a chemical warhead, why did many people apparently die at Khan Sheikhoun from inhalation of toxic gas?

The US intelligence community, says Hersh, believes the bomb triggered secondary explosions in a storage depot in the building’s basement that included propane gas, fertilisers, insecticides as well as “rockets, weapons and ammunition, … [and] chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial”. These explosions created a toxic cloud that was trapped close to the ground by the dense early morning air.

Medecins Sans Frontieres found patients it treated “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” Sarin is odourless.

Hersh concludes that the

evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.
Political suicide
Hersh’s main intelligence source makes an important contextual point you won’t hear anywhere in the corporate media:

What doesn’t occur to most Americans is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar [Assad], the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?
When US national security officials planning Trump’s “retaliation” asked the CIA what they knew of events in Khan Sheikhoun, according to Hersh’s source, the CIA told them “there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian bombers had taken off] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.”

The source continues:

No one knew the provenance of the photographs [of the attack’s victims]. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a [toxic] cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.
Trump, under political pressure and highly emotional by nature, ignored the evidence. Hersh’s source says:

The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity. It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit’.
Although Republicans, Democrats and the entire media rallied to Trump’s side for the first time, those speaking to Hersh have apparently done so out of fear of what may happen next time.

The danger with Trump’s “retaliatory” strike, based on zero evidence of a chemical weapons attack, is that it could have killed Russian soldiers and dragged Putin into a highly dangerous confrontation with the US. Also, the intelligence community fears that the media have promoted a false narrative that suggests not only that a sarin attack took place, but paints Russia as a co-conspirator and implies that a UN team did not in fact oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile back in 2013-14. That would allow Assad’s opponents to claim in the future, at a convenient time, yet another unsubstantiated sarin gas attack by the Syrian government.

Hersh concludes with words from his source that should strike fear into us all:

The issue is, what if there’s another false-flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys [Islamist groups] are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.


UPDATE:
As was to be expected, there has been a backlash against Hersh’s investigation. If one thing is clear about the Khan Sheikhoun incident, it is that, in the absence of an independent investigation, there is still no decisive physical evidence to settle yet what happened one way or another. Therefore, our job as observers should be to keep a critical distance and weigh other relevant issues, such as context and probability.

So let us set aside for a moment the specifics of what happened on April 4 and concentrate instead on what Hersh’s critics must concede if they are to argue that Assad used sarin gas against the people of Khan Sheikhoun.

1. That Assad is so crazed and self-destructive – or at the very least so totally incapable of controlling his senior commanders, who must themselves be crazed and self-destructive – that he has on several occasions ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians. And he has chosen to do it at the worst possible moments for his own and his regime’s survival, and when such attacks were entirely unnecessary.

2. That Putin is equally deranged and so willing to risk an end-of-times conflagration with the US that he has on more than one occasion either sanctioned or turned a blind eye to the use of sarin by Assad’s regime. And he has done nothing to penalise Assad afterwards, when things went wrong.

3. That Hersh has decided to jettison all the investigatory skills he has amassed over many decades as a journalist to accept at face value any unsubstantiated rumours his long-established contacts in the security services have thrown his way. And he has done so without regard to the damage that will do to his reputation and his journalistic legacy.

4. That a significant number of US intelligence officials, those Hersh has known and worked with over a long period of time, have decided recently to spin an elaborate web of lies no one wants to print, either in the hope of damaging Hersh in some collective act of revenge against him, or in the hope of permanently discrediting their own intelligence services.

Critics do not simply have to believe one of these four points. They must maintain the absolute veracity of all four of them.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

RALPH NADER: THE DEMOCRATS ARE UNABLE TO DEFEND THE U.S. FROM THE “MOST VICIOUS” REPUBLICAN PARTY IN HISTORY

From The Intercept

Jon Schwarz

June 25 2017, 11:17 a.m.
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY is at its lowest ebb in the memory of everyone now alive. It’s lost the White House and both houses of Congress. On the state level it’s weaker than at any time since 1920. And so far in 2017 Democrats have gone 0 for 4 in special elections to replace Republican members of Congress who joined the Trump administration.

How did it come to this? One person the Democratic Party is not going to ask, but perhaps should, is legendary consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Nader, who’s now 83 and has been been based in Washington, D.C. for over fifty years, has had a front row seat to the Democrats’ slow collapse. After his bombshell exposé of the U.S. car industry, Unsafe at Any Speed, he and his organizations collaborated with congressional Democrats to pass a flurry of landmark laws protecting the environment, consumers and whistleblowers. Journalist William Greider described him as one of America’s three top models for small-d democratic activism, together with Saul Alinsky and Martin Luther King, Jr. Meanwhile, the 1971 “Powell Memo,” which laid the groundwork for the resurgence of the corporate right, named him as a key enemy of “the system,” calling him “the single most effective antagonist of American business.”

But of course Nader has been persona non grata with the Democratic Party since his 2000 Green Party candidacy for president. George W. Bush officially beat Al Gore in Florida by 537 votes, with the state’s electoral votes putting Bush in the White House even though he lost the national popular vote. (In reality, a comprehensive, little-noticed study released soon after 9/11 found that Gore would have won Florida if all disputed ballots had been recounted.)

Democrats excoriated Nader, who received over 97,000 votes in Florida, for handing the election to Bush. Since it’s impossible to rerun history, there’s no way to know whether Gore would have won without a Nader candidacy. He certainly might have, but it’s also possible that — since the Nader threat noticeably pushed Gore to take more popular, progressive positions — Gore would have performed even worse in a Nader-less election.

In any case, it’s now undeniable that the Democratic Party has significant problems that can’t be blamed on Ralph Nader in 2000. In a recent interview, Nader provided his deeply-informed, decades-long perspective on how U.S. politics got to this point:

JON SCHWARZ: I’m interested in the history of the Democrats caving, being more and more willing to do whatever the right wants, for the past 40 years. Take the recent stories about Jared Kushner. Whatever the ultimate underlying reality there, I think it’s fair to say that if a Democratic president had appointed their son-in-law to hold a position of tremendous power in the White House – if Hillary Clinton had appointed Chelsea’s husband Marc Mezvinsky – and stories had come out in the Washington Post and New York Times about him trying to set up a back channel with Russia, he would have been out the door before the day was over.

RALPH NADER: Do you want me to go through the history of the decline and decadence of the Democratic Party? I’m going to give you millstones around the Democratic Party neck that are milestones.

The first big one was in 1979. Tony Coelho, who was a congressman from California, and who ran the House Democratic Campaign treasure chest, convinced the Democrats that they should bid for corporate money, corporate PACs, that they could raise a lot of money. Why leave it up to Republicans and simply rely on the dwindling labor union base for money, when you had a huge honeypot in the corporate area?

And they did. And I could see the difference almost immediately. First of all, they lost the election to Reagan. And then they started getting weaker in the Congress. At that time, 1980, some of our big allies were defeated in the so-called Reagan landslide against Carter, we lost Senator [Gaylord] Nelson, Senator [Warren] Magnuson, Senator [Frank] Church. We had more trouble getting congressional hearings investigating corporate malfeasance by the Democrat [congressional committee] chairs. When the Democrats regained the White House [in 1992] you could see the difference in appointments to regulatory agencies, the difficulty in getting them to upgrade health and safety regulations.

The second millstone is that they didn’t know how to deal with Reagan. And the Republicans took note. That means a soft tone, smiling … You can say terrible things and do terrible things as long as you have [that] type of presentation.

[Democrats] were still thinking Republican conservatives were dull, stupid, and humorless. They didn’t adjust.

Ronald Reagan beat President Jimmy Carter handily on November 4. Reagan is shown holding a November 4th copy of The News World, predicting his landslide over Carter for the President of the United States. Ronald Reagan holds a Nov. 4, 1980 copy of The News World, predicting his landslide over Jimmy Carter for the President of the United States. Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
RN: Increasingly they began to judge their challenge to Republicans by how much money they raised. You talk to [Marcy] Kaptur from Cleveland, she says, we go into the Democratic caucus in the House, we go in talking money, we stay talking money, and we go out with our quotas for money. …

As a result they took the economic issues off the table that used to win again and again in the thirties and forties for the Democrats. The labor issues, the living wage issues, the health insurance issue, pension issues. And that of course was a huge bonanza for the Republican Party because the Republican Party could not contend on economic issues. They contended on racial issues, on bigotry issues, and that’s how they began to take control of the solid Democratic South after the civil rights laws were passed.

Raising money from Wall Street, from the drug companies, from health insurance companies, the energy companies, kept [Democrats] from their main contrasting advantage over the Republicans, which is, in FDR’s parlance, “The Democratic Party is the party of working families, Republicans are the party of the rich.” That flipped it completely and left the Democrats extremely vulnerable.

As a result they drew back geographically, to the east coast, west coast and so on.

And that created another millstone: You don’t run a 50-state [presidential] campaign. If you don’t run a 50-state campaign, number one you’re strengthening the opposing party in those states you’ve abandoned, so they can take those states for granted and concentrate on the states that are in the grey area. That was flub number one.

Flub number two is what Ben Barnes, the politically-savvy guy in Texas, told me. He said, when you don’t contest the presidential race in Texas, it rots the whole party down … all the way to mayors and city council. So it replicates this decadence and powerlessness for future years.

When they abandoned the red states, they abandoned five states in the Rocky Mountain area, and started out with a handicap of nine or ten senators.

You may remember from your history, the two senators from Montana were Democrats, Senator Church from Idaho was a Democrat, Senator Frank Moss, great consumer champion, Democrat from Utah. Now there’s almost nobody. The two senators from Wyoming are Republican, the two senators from Montana are Republican [John Tester, the senior Montana senator, is a Democrat], the two senators from Utah are Republican. I think the Democrats have one seat in Colorado. Then you get down to Arizona and that’s two Republicans.

So they never had a veto-proof majority even at their peak in the Senate. And of course later when they weren’t at their peak it cost them the Senate again and again. And now they’re in a huge hole, with the debacle in the Senate races in 2016, they’re facing three times as many Democrats up for reelection in 2018.

The [third] millstone is they decided to campaign by TV, with political consultants influencing them and getting their 15-20 percent cut. When you campaign by TV you campaign by slogans, you don’t campaign by policy.

Next millstone, the labor unions began getting weak, weak in numbers and weak in leadership. They began shelling out huge money to the Democrats for television. And as they became weaker they lost their grassroots mobilization on behalf of the Democrats.

The Democrats began the process of message preceding policy. No — policy precedes message. That means they kept saying how bad the Republicans are. They campaigned not by saying, look how good we are, we’re going to bring you full Medicare [for all], we’re going to crack down on corporate crime against workers and consumers and the environment, stealing, lying, cheating you. We’re going to get you a living wage. We’re going to get a lean defense, a better defense, and get some of this money and start rebuilding your schools and bridges and water and sewage systems and libraries and clinics.

Instead of saying that, they campaign by saying “Can you believe how bad the Republicans are?” Now once they say that, they trap their progressive wing, because their progressive wing is the only segment that’s going to change the party to be a more formidable opponent. Because they say to their progressive wing, “You’ve got nowhere to go, get off our back.”

And this went right into the scapegoating of the last twenty years. “Oh, it’s Nader, oh, it’s the Koch Brothers, oh, it’s the electoral college, oh, it’s misogyny, oh, it’s redneck deplorables.” They never look at themselves in the mirror.

RN: Republicans, when they lose they fight over ideas, however horrific they are. Tea Party ideas, libertarian ideas, staid Republican ideas. They fight. But the Democrats want uniformity, they want to shut people up. So they have the most deficient transition of all. They have the transition of Nancy Pelosi to Nancy Pelosi, four-time loser against the worst Republican Party in the Republican Party’s history.

If you put Republican politicians today before the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and “Mr. Conservative” Senator Robert Taft, they’d roll over in their grave. That’s how radically extremist, cruel, vicious, Wall Street, militarist the Republican Party is. Which means that the Democrats should have landslided them. Not just beaten them, landslided them in legislatures around the country, governorships, president and the Congress.

But no, it’s always the scapegoat. Maybe Jill Stein, the little Green Party, they took Pennsylvania and Michigan from Hillary the hawk.

JS: Democrats seem to have internalized the Republican perspective on everything involving the military.

RN: [Another] millstone is they could never contrast themselves with the Republicans on military foreign policy – because they were like them. They never question the military budget, they never question the militarized foreign policy, like Hillary the hawk on Libya, who scared the generals and ran over [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates who opposed her going to the White House to [push for] toppling the regime, metastasizing violence in seven or eight African countries to this day.

So they knocked out foreign and military policy, because they were getting money from Lockheed and Boeing and General Dynamics and Raytheon and so on. Even Elizabeth Warren when she had a chance started talking about maintaining those contracts with Raytheon. Here’s the left wing of the party talking about Raytheon, which is the biggest corporate welfare boondoggle east of the Pecos.

[Another] millstone is: Nobody gets fired. They have defeat after defeat, and they can’t replace their defeated compadres with new, vigorous, energetic people. Labor unions, the same thing. They [stay in positions] into their eighties no matter how screwed up the union is. You don’t get fired no matter how big the loss is, unlike in the business community, where you get fired.

The last millstone is, they make sure by harassing progressive third parties that the third party never pushes them. I’m an expert on that. They try to get them off the ballot. We had twenty-four lawsuits in twelve weeks in the summer of 2004 to get us off the ballots of dozens of states by the Democratic Party. Whereas if we got five percent, six percent of the vote they would be under great pressure to change their leadership and change their practice because there would be enough American voters who say to the Democrats, “We do have some place to go,” a viable third party. They harass them, they violate civil liberties, they use their Democrat-appointed judges to get bad decisions or harassing depositions. Before [third parties] finally clear the deck one way or the other it’s Labor Day and they’ve got an eight-week campaign.

There are some people who think the Democratic Party can be reformed from within by changing the personnel. I say good luck to that. What’s happened in the last twenty years? They’ve gotten more entrenched. Get rid of Pelosi, you get Steny Hoyer. You get rid of Harry Reid, you get [Charles] Schumer. Good luck.

Unfortunately, to put it in one phrase, the Democrats are unable to defend the United States of America from the most vicious, ignorant, corporate-indentured, militaristic, anti-union, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-posterity [Republican Party] in history.

End of lecture.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.


RELATED

Saturday, June 24, 2017

If You Embrace Assata, You Must Fight the Black Misleadership Class

from Black Agenda Report

Submitted by Glen Ford on Wed, 06/21/2017 - 15:02

Donald Trump’s lynch party seeking the extradition of Assata Shakur from Cuba includes every U.S. president -- most especially Barack Obama, who doubled the bounty on her head and demanded “that a home-grown Black revolutionary and escaped political prisoner be returned to captivity.” As for the Congressional Black Caucus, there is “no chance that the CBC as a body will protest either Trump’s persecution of Shakur or his general policy on Cuba.”

If You Embrace Assata, You Must Fight the Black Misleadership Class

“It is truly obscene to hear Donald Trump -- and Barack Obama -- speak of Cuban political prisoners when the U.S. still holds at least 15 former Panthers.”

Donald Trump’s vicious demonization of exiled Black Panther Assata Shakur, spat out in the course of his partial reversal of his predecessor’s “opening” to Cuba, shows once again that imperialism is a system, not a face or a political party –- and that the U.S. version of imperialism is inseparable from the white settler origins of the State.

Near the end of his presidency, Barack Obama sought to ease the terms of Washington’s half-century long, self-defeating blockade of the socialist island, while simultaneously increasing U.S. regime change efforts against Cuba’s ally, the socialist government of Venezuela. But it was Obama’s FBI that, three years ago, doubledthe state of New Jersey’s $1 million bounty on Shakur’s head -- an inducement to kidnap or assassination that Obama could have withdrawn with the stroke of a pen, but did not. Obama was prepared to adjust a policy that had resulted in the isolation of the U.S., rather than Cuba -- and which was opposed by major sectors of corporate America -- but would not yield an inch on Washington’s demand that a home-grown Black revolutionary and escaped political prisoner be returned to captivity.

“It was Obama’s FBI that, three years ago, doubled the state of New Jersey’s $1 million bounty on Shakur’s head.”

Assata represents the continuity of the centuries-long U.S. war against its Black population, a conflict that was taken to “a higher level,” as folks used to say, with the Black rebellions of the Sixties, the imposition of a mass Black incarceration regime, and the designation of the Black Panther Party as Public Enemy #1. Three generations and tens of millions of prisoners later, the Mass Black Incarceration State is more entrenched than ever; heavily armed, high tech-wired garrisons of cop-soldiers occupy cities that are rapidly ejecting their poor Black populations; and Assata Shakur is the only woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

She was placed there by the nation’s First Black President, with “not a peep” from “a single black mayor or member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Not Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, and certainly not the presidential lap dog Al Sharpton,” as BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon wrote, in 2013.

A year later, in June of 2014 -- just two months before Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson, Missouri, policeman -- four out of five Black Caucus members voted to continue massive transfers of Pentagon weapons and equipment to local police. As (white) Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, sponsor of the bill to outlaw the arms transfers, stated:

“These weapons are not being used to defeat terrorism on our streets. Where is the terrorism on our streets? Instead, these weapons are being used to arrest barbers and to terrorize the general population. In fact, one may venture to say that the weapons are often used by a majority to terrorize a minority.”

“Heavily armed, high tech-wired garrisons of cop-soldiers occupy cities that are rapidly ejecting their poor Black populations.”

Among the 80 percent of the Black Caucus that voted to continue the Pentagon-to-local-police arms pipeline, was Michael Brown’s “mis-representative” in Congress, William Lacy Clay.

A study conducted two years later, in 2016, revealed that Barack Obama had used the 1033 Pentagon transfers program to oversee “the biggest escalation in the history of the one-sided war against Black America." As we wrote:

“The value of military weapons, gear and equipment transferred to local cops did not exceed $34 million annually until 2010, the second year of the Obama administration, when it nearly tripled to more than $91 million. By 2014...Obama was sending three quarters of a billion dollars, more than $787 million a year, in battlefield weaponry to local police departments. In other words, President Obama oversaw a 24-fold (2,400%) increase in the militarization of local police between 2008 and 2014. Even with the scale-back announced in 2015, Obama still managed to transfer a $459 million arsenal to the cops -- 14 times as much weapons of terror and death than President Bush gifted to the local police at his high point year of 2008.”

By the numbers, Obama qualifies as “the biggest domestic war hawk in the history of the United States -- bigger than Bush, Clinton and all his predecessors since the genesis of the Black mass incarceration regime in the late Sixties.”

The 1033 program was enacted in 1997. A year later, the U.S. House unanimously passed a resolution requesting that Cuban leader Fidel Castro extradite Joanne Chesimard, aka Assata Shakur, to the United States. Two Black California congresswomen, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, claimed they voted for the resolution by mistake, not recognizing that Chesimard and Shakur were the same person. Waters then released a statement opposing the extradition:

“I support the right of all nations to grant political asylum to individuals fleeing political persecution. The United States grants political asylum to individuals from all over the world who successfully prove they are fleeing political persecution. Other sovereign nations have the same right, including the sovereign nation of Cuba....

“The second reason I oppose this measure, is because I respect the right of Assata Shakur to seek political asylum. Assata Shakur has maintained that she was persecuted as a result of her political beliefs and political affiliations. As a result, she left the United States and sought political asylum in Cuba, where she still resides.

“In a sad and shameful chapter of our history, during the 1960s and 1970s, many civil rights, Black Power and other politically active groups were secretly targeted by the FBI for prosecution based on their political beliefs.”

If Waters can break away from her 24-7 tirades against imaginary Russian subversion of U.S. “democracy,” she should compose a similar letter to Trump. But no such statement can yet be found on the Internet.

“Obama qualifies as ‘the biggest domestic war hawk in the history of the United States.’”

In December of 2014, attorney Martin Garbus told Democracy Now!host Amy Goodman that he was sure Shakur “will not be returned. Fidel Castro, when she came there, said that she would be allowed to stay in Cuba indefinitely. I had a meeting about a month ago with five congresspeople, including Representative Barbara Lee, and they were also absolutely clear that they would oppose any attempts on the United States to succeed that would get Assata Shakur back. So, to me, it’s absolutely clear she’s not coming back.”

We have yet to hear from the five Congressional Black Caucus members in the wake of Trump’s Miami announcement in Miami, and there is no chance that the CBC as a body will protest either Trump’s persecution of Shakur or his general policy on Cuba – despite their hatred of the Orange Menace in the White House. As a Caucus, they are easy to rile against phantom Russians, but worthless -- or worse -- when it comes to opposing U.S. wars at home and abroad. The Congressional Black Caucus voted overwhelmingly in favor of Bill Clinton’s 1994 anti-crime (pro-mass Black incarceration) bill, and all but a few CBC members supported the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act with its 100-to-1 penalties for crack cocaine.

The Black Misleadership Class has proven, over the 40 years of its political hegemony in Black America, that its loyalty is to the Democratic Party and its corporate sponsors, and to the imperial system.

Shakur was more likely to reach a sympathetic ear with the Pope, whom she wrote in 1998:

“To make a long story short, I was captured in New Jersey in 1973, after being shot with both arms held in the air, and then shot again from the back. I was left on the ground to die and when I did not, I was taken to a local hospital where I was threatened, beaten and tortured. In 1977 I was convicted in a trial that can only be described as a legal lynching.

“In 1979 I was able to escape with the aid of some of my fellow comrades. I saw this as a necessary step, not only because I was innocent of the charges against me, but because I knew that in the racist legal system in the United States I would receive no justice. I was also afraid that I would be murdered in prison. I later arrived in Cuba where I am currently living in exile as a political refugee.

“The New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement officials say they want to see me brought to ‘justice.’ But I would like to know what they mean by ‘justice.’ Is torture justice? I was kept in solitary confinement for more than two years, mostly in men’s prisons. Is that justice? My lawyers were threatened with imprisonment and imprisoned. Is that justice? I was tried by an all-white jury, without even the pretext of impartiality, and then sentenced to life in prison plus 33 years. Is that justice?”

“Release of political prisoners is not visibly a high priority, even among most grassroots Black formations.”

It is correct and commendable to point out the hypocrisy of the United States, which offers a bounty on Shakur while harboring scores of real terrorists that have committed ghastly crimes against Cuba as agents of the U.S. It is truly obscene to hear Donald Trump -- and Barack Obama -- speak of Cuban political prisoners when the U.S. still holds at least 15 former Panthers, including Shakur co-defendant Sundiata Acoli, now 80 years old. ( Sekou Odinga, who was charged with helping Shakur escape, spent 33 years in prison before his release in 2014.) Moreover, since the Mass Black Incarceration State was created to crush the Black Liberation Movement, it is a political weapon, conveying a political character to all of its Black prisoners. The Black Misleadership Class has been complicit in the rise of this Black Incarceration State, as recently explored in James Foreman Jr.’s book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.

Many in the broad Black Lives Matter movement express great love and admiration for Assata Shakur. Yet, release of political prisoners is not visibly a high priority, even among most grassroots Black formations -- which tends to indicate that most participants don’t anticipate that they might wind up becoming long term political prisoners, themselves.

The political activist’s only real defense lies with the people for whom she risks her life and freedom. In the end, it’s all on us.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

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