Friday, 31 January 2020

The far-right Bolsonaro movement wants us dead. But we will not give up

Demagogues rely on fear to consolidate power. But courage is contagious – that’s why we must join hands and fight back

Substantial media coverage over the last year, within Brazil and internationally, has been devoted to threats and attacks we each received, separately and together, due to our work – David’s as a congressman and Glenn’s as a journalist. These incidents have been depicted, rightfully so, as reflective of the increasingly violent and anti-democratic climate prevailing in Brazil as a result of the far-right, authoritarian, dictatorship-supporting movement of President Jair Bolsonaro, which consolidated substantial power in the election held at the end of 2018.

There was much discussion when David entered congress in early 2019 after the only other openly LGBTQ+ congress member, Jean Wyllys, fled his seat and the country in fear of his life. As a longtime LGBTQ+ celebrity and sole LGBTQ+ member of congress, Wyllys had endured constant death threats and even bullying from fellow members of congress. His multiple fights with Bolsonaro and his sons made him a particular object of contempt by that movement. That they now occupied full-scale power made his remaining in Brazil untenable.

That Wyllys was replaced by another LGBTQ+ congress member provoked a contentious exchange between David and Bolsonaro that went viral on Twitter. David’s substantially increased visibility as the new LGBTQ+ member of congress provoked countless and highly detailed death threats from the Bolsonaro movement toward our family. That David, in 2016, had become the first-ever elected LGBTQ+ member of the Rio city council already had made him a target of much animus in a city dominated by paramilitary gangs and rightwing evangelical groups.

But his new status as the only openly LGBTQ+ member of the lower house of the federal congress made him a prime target of the vitriolic anti-LGBTQ+ Bolsonaro movement. That primal animus was enhanced by the fact that our public 15-year marriage and our two children serve as a living refutation of the false and toxic depiction of LGBTQ+ life as barren, unhappy, sickly and solitary, an anti-LGBTQ+ demonization campaign that is central to the Bolsonaro movement’s political identity.

A massive new wave of media coverage about our family was triggered when Glenn and the Intercept began their series of explosive exposés last June about rampant corruption at the highest levels of the Bolsonaro government, provoking a wave of violent threats, official acts of reprisal and a powerful fake news machine erected by the Bolsonaro movement against their enemies. All of those seemingly endless multipronged attacks culminated last week in criminal charges brought against Glenn by a far-right prosecutor that have been widely condemned domestically and internationally as legally frivolous and a blatant assault on a free press.

But the sense of danger and political violence in our lives, and for many others in Brazil, began almost two years ago. On 14 March 2018, Marielle Franco – the LGBTQ+, black, favela-raised city councilwoman from Rio de Janeiro – was gunned down while riding in her car on the streets of Rio at roughly 9pm in a brutal political assassination. Franco was one of our family’s best friends as well as a rising political star, a vessel of hope to so many people marginalized for decades and who had no voice. The loss was a major trauma, still unhealed, for both the country and for our lives.

Franco was a member of David’s party, the leftwing Socialism and Liberty party (PSOL). David – also black, LGBTQ+ and raised in a violent favela as an orphan – was as unlikely as Franco to occupy political power in a country long plagued by severe inequality, racial inequities and discrimination of all types. Because they shared the same causes of combating lethal police violence and inequality, they sat next to one another in the city council chamber. Her politically motivated murder at the age of 37 brought political violence into our lives as a lurking, terrorizing reality which has only intensified since then.

More from Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda (Grauniad).

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Exceptionally Bad: architect of US torture program remains unrepentant

A PSYCHOLOGIST WHO helped to design and execute the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” testified in open court for the first time on Tuesday in connection with the trial of five men accused of planning the 9/11 attacks.

“I suspected from the beginning that I would end up here,” James Mitchell told a Guantánamo Bay courtroom. Dressed in a charcoal suit and bright red tie, Mitchell stated that although he could have testified over a video link, he had chosen to come in person. “I did it for the victims and families,” he told James G. Connell III, an attorney for Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the accused plotters. “Not for you.”

[...]

The torture techniques, approved by the George W. Bush administration, were used by the CIA as part of the rendition, detention, and interrogation program from 2002 to 2008. These methods, including waterboarding, were designed to “condition” prisoners to provide information to interrogators and debriefers.

The CIA renounced the harsh interrogation techniques in 2009, and the Senate’s torture report later found that the program was a violation of U.S. and international law that failed to generate usable information for counterterrorism operations.

[...]

Mitchell and Jessen ran a contracting company that provided interrogators and security personnel to the CIA program at a cost of $81 million over several years. During that time, the psychologists personally conducted interrogations, trained interrogators, participated in debriefings, and observed interrogations.

In 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the pair in federal court in Spokane, Washington, on behalf of two former detainees, as well as the family of another prisoner who died in custody at a black site. The two psychologists provided testimony in that case, which was settled out of court in 2017. The terms of the settlement remain confidential. In a joint statement released by the parties, Mitchell and Jessen acknowledged “that they worked with the CIA to develop a program … that contemplated the use of specific coercive methods to interrogate certain detainees,” but asserted that the abuses occurred without their knowledge or involvement and that as a result, they were not responsible.

[...]

Mitchell proved an antagonistic witness. He confirmed that his book had undergone an intensive pre-publication review by the CIA and the Department of Defense, and said that prior to the new restrictions, no one had suggested that he had disclosed classified information. The book has sold 40,000 to 50,000 copies, Mitchell estimated.

When asked what his reaction would be to the claim that the information in his book could harm national security, he responded, “My reaction would be: Buy the publication rights and take it off the market.”

@ TI.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

WHY OPPOSING JULIAN ASSANGE’S EXTRADITION TO THE U.S. MATTERS FOR EUROPEAN DEMOCRACY

“Organisations like WikiLeaks have laid bare countless state secrets, revealing the often grubby workings of power”. (Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General, Council of Europe, November 2016)[1]

The Trump Administration has confirmed that the US government has charged WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange and that it seeks his extradition from the UK.[2] In the US, he faces life in prison. The US actions are a serious threat to European freedom of expression, media and sovereignty.

  • The United Nations has repeatedly called for Assange to walk free.
  • Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other leading human rights organisations have released statements categorically opposing Assange’s extradition.
  • The city of Geneva recently passed a resolution calling for Assange to be granted asylum.

    Parliamentary Members of the Council of Europe should:

  • Oppose Assange’s extradition to the US.
  • Ensure that the Council of Europe raises this case in its procedures and champions the issue in its work on media freedom
  • Press the UK government to find the solution to this issue which is available (see below)

    The extradition of Julian Assange raises a number of fundamental issues for European democracy.

    First, European states have clear obligations under international law to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Assange’s asylum status requires that he not be transferred to the persecuting state (i.e., the country that he was given asylum in relation to, the US).

    Second, the extradition of Julian Assange is for publishing and confronts fundamental issues concerning media freedom:

  • The extradition by the Trump Administration of a publisher in Europe for the “crime” of publishing truthful information, would set a very dangerous precedent for the extra-territorialisation of state secrecy laws and interference in the right to publish and media freedom in Europe.
  • It cannot be the case that the Trump Administration be permitted to dictate what can and cannot be published in Europe.
  • An extradition would post an invitation to other states to follow suit, severely threatening the ability of journalists, publishers and human rights organisations to safely reveal information about serious international issues.

    The Council of Europe strongly advocates for freedom of expression and freedom of the media: It states: “The right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media as protected by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights are pillars of democratic security in Europe. The Council of Europe promotes an enabling environment for freedom of expression, underpinned by legal guarantees for independence and diversity of media and safety of journalists and other media actors”.[3]

    Council of Europe.

  • Saturday, 25 January 2020

    Baghdad million-man march: 'Big Satan Go Home!'

    People from all over Iraq have descended upon its capital Baghdad, heeding the call from influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for a “million man march” calling for an end to the nearly 17 year-long U.S. occupation of the country. Images from the event show seas of peaceful crowds walking together through the city center. Sayed Sadiq al-Hashemi, the director of the Iraqi Center for Studies, estimated that more than 2.5 million took part in the demonstrations. While there are many divisions in Iraqi society, marchers hope to send a united message against American imperialism.

    “Pompeo keeps going on about respecting Iraqi sovereignty. Well Iraqis want you out of their country,” said Lebanese-American journalist Rania Khalek, adding that the recent U.S. assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has seriously backfired, leading to a huge show of anti-American sentiment. She also took aim at the media coverage; “Whenever a couple hundred people protest against Iran, it trends on twitter. Yet when hundreds of thousands in Iraq protest against the US? No trending,” she said.

    When Americans claimed to be a 'force for good in the region', there wasn't a dry eye in the house!

    MintPressNews.

    Friday, 24 January 2020

    Diplomatic Immunity does not equal Diplomatic Impunity

    British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been ridiculed on social media for a weak response to Washington rejecting the extradition request for Anne Sacoolas, a US agent’s spouse charged with teenager Harry Dunn’s death.

    Dunn was killed in a head-on crash with a car in August last year near to RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, England. Sacoolas, the driver of the vehicle, claimed diplomatic immunity and returned to the US. Her husband is thought to be a US intelligence officer.

    Following the US administration’s decision, Raab took to Twitter on Friday to reveal that he had been in contact with the US ambassador to “express the [UK] Govt’s disappointment,” adding that they were “now urgently considering our options.”

    Dominic Raab (Twitter)
    I have just called the US Ambassador to express the Govt’s disappointment about the US extradition decision on Harry Dunn’s case. We feel this amounts to a denial of justice, and that Anne Sacoolas should return to the UK. We are now urgently considering our options.

    Raab’s response has been widely criticized by people who suggested that the US was making the UK look like “amateurs.” Others claimed that this seemingly timid reaction from the UK was a sign of things to come in regards to relations with Donald Trump’s administration. “So much for the special relationship, Mr Raab,” one tweet read.

    Ricky Gervais (Twitter)
    Other than going to kidnap her in a SAS style raid - what are your options? If the USA say no - then surely that's a final decision? So much for a 'special relationship', Mr Raab.

    One person scoffed: “I’m sure that tutting will have him [the US ambassador] quaking in his boots.” While another sarcastically joked that Raab should “Maybe light a cigarette? It’s what I used to do after getting f****d over.”

    In December, the Crown Prosecution Service charged Sacoolas, 42, with causing Dunn’s death by dangerous driving. Lawyers representing the Dunn family said it is the first time in the 100-year history of the extradition treaty that such a request has been turned down by the US.

    Source.

    Lindsey Graham: the BIG Flip Flop

    Lindsey Graham is the Most Shameless Man in American Politics

    Thursday, 23 January 2020

    The Truth About the Trump Economy

    By Joseph E. Stiglitz

    It is becoming conventional wisdom that US President Donald Trump will be tough to beat in November, because, whatever reservations about him voters may have, he has been good for the American economy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    January 18, 2020 "Information Clearing House" - As the world’s business elites trek to Davos for their annual gathering, people should be asking a simple question: Have they overcome their infatuation with US President Donald Trump?

    Two years ago, a few rare corporate leaders were concerned about climate change, or upset at Trump’s misogyny and bigotry. Most, however, were celebrating the president’s tax cuts for billionaires and corporations and looking forward to his efforts to deregulate the economy. That would allow businesses to pollute the air more, get more Americans hooked on opioids, entice more children to eat their diabetes-inducing foods, and engage in the sort of financial shenanigans that brought on the 2008 crisis.

    Today, many corporate bosses are still talking about the continued GDP growth and record stock prices. But neither GDP nor the Dow is a good measure of economic performance. Neither tells us what’s happening to ordinary citizens’ living standards or anything about sustainability. In fact, US economic performance over the past four years is Exhibit A in the indictment against relying on these indicators.

    To get a good reading on a country’s economic health, start by looking at the health of its citizens. If they are happy and prosperous, they will be healthy and live longer. Among developed countries, America sits at the bottom in this regard. US life expectancy, already relatively low, fell in each of the first two years of Trump’s presidency, and in 2017, midlife mortality reached its highest rate since World War II. This is not a surprise, because no president has worked harder to make sure that more Americans lack health insurance. Millions have lost their coverage, and the uninsured rate has risen, in just two years, from 10.9% to 13.7%.

    One reason for declining life expectancy in America is what Anne Case and Nobel laureate economist Angus Deaton call deaths of despair, caused by alcohol, drug overdoses, and suicide. In 2017 (the most recent year for which good data are available), such deaths stood at almost four times their 1999 level.

    The only time I have seen anything like these declines in health – outside of war or epidemics – was when I was chief economist of the World Bank and found out that mortality and morbidity data confirmed what our economic indicators suggested about the dismal state of the post-Soviet Russian economy.

    Trump may be a good president for the top 1% – and especially for the top 0.1% – but he has not been good for everyone else. If fully implemented, the 2017 tax cut will result in tax increases for most households in the second, third, and fourth income quintiles.

    Given tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the ultrarich and corporations, it should come as no surprise that there was no significant change in the median US household’s disposable income between 2017 and 2018 (again, the most recent year with good data). The lion’s share of the increase in GDP is also going to those at the top. Real median weekly earnings are just 2.6% above their level when Trump took office. And these increases have not offset long periods of wage stagnation. For example, the median wage of a full-time male worker (and those with full-time jobs are the lucky ones) is still more than 3% below what it was 40 years ago. Nor has there been much progress on reducing racial disparities: in the third quarter of 2019, median weekly earnings for black men working full-time were less than three-quarters the level for white men.

    Making matters worse, the growth that has occurred is not environmentally sustainable – and even less so thanks to the Trump administration’s gutting of regulations that have passed stringent cost-benefit analyses. The air will be less breathable, the water less drinkable, and the planet more subject to climate change. In fact, losses related to climate change have already reached new highs in the US, which has suffered more property damage than any other country – reaching some 1.5% of GDP in 2017.

    The tax cuts were supposed to spur a new wave of investment. Instead, they triggered an all-time record binge of share buybacks – some $800 billion in 2018 – by some of America’s most profitable companies, and led to record peacetime deficits (almost $1 trillion in fiscal 2019) in a country supposedly near full employment. And even with weak investment, the US had to borrow massively abroad: the most recent data show foreign borrowing at nearly $500 billion a year, with an increase of more than 10% in America’s net indebtedness position in one year alone.

    Likewise, Trump’s trade wars, for all their sound and fury, have not reduced the US trade deficit, which was one-quarter higher in 2018 than it was in 2016. The 2018 goods deficit was the largest on record. Even the deficit in trade with China was up almost a quarter from 2016. The US did get a new North American trade agreement, without the investment agreement provisions that the Business Roundtable wanted, without the provisions raising drug prices that the pharmaceutical companies wanted, and with better labor and environmental provisions. Trump, a self-proclaimed master deal maker, lost on almost every front in his negotiations with congressional Democrats, resulting in a slightly improved trade arrangement.

    And despite Trump’s vaunted promises to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, the increase in manufacturing employment is still lower than it was under his predecessor, Barack Obama, once the post-2008 recovery set in, and is still markedly below its pre-crisis level. Even the unemployment rate, at a 50-year low, masks economic fragility. The employment rate for working-age males and females, while rising, has increased less than during the Obama recovery, and is still significantly below that of other developed countries. The pace of job creation is also markedly slower than it was under Obama.

    Again, the low employment rate is not a surprise, not least because unhealthy people can’t work. Moreover, those on disability benefits, in prison – the US incarceration rate has increased more than sixfold since 1970, with some two million people currently behind bars – or so discouraged that they are not actively seeking jobs are not counted as “unemployed.” But, of course, they are not employed. Nor is it a surprise that a country that doesn’t provide affordable childcare or guarantee family leave would have lower female employment – adjusted for population, more than ten percentage points lower – than other developed countries.

    Even judging by GDP, the Trump economy falls short. Last quarter’s growth was just 2.1%, far less than the 4%, 5%, or even 6% Trump promised to deliver, and even less than the 2.4% average of Obama’s second term. That is a remarkably poor performance considering the stimulus provided by the $1 trillion deficit and ultra-low interest rates. This is not an accident, or just a matter of bad luck: Trump’s brand is uncertainty, volatility, and prevarication, whereas trust, stability, and confidence are essential for growth. So is equality, according to the International Monetary Fund.

    So, Trump deserves failing grades not just on essential tasks like upholding democracy and preserving our planet. He should not get a pass on the economy, either.

    Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is University Professor at Columbia University and Chief Economist at the Roosevelt Institute. His most recent book is People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent.

    Source.

    Tuesday, 21 January 2020

    BREAKING! Glenn Greenwald charged with 'Cybercrimes' in Bolsonaro's Brazil!

    [...]

    And, indeed, today it was announced that Greenwald has been charged with "cybercrimes" for his reporting on leaked documents regarding the current Justice Minister, Sergio Moro, who was the federal judge who oversaw the trial of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Many in Brazil, including Greenwald, have argued that the corruption trial and jailing of Lula was a corrupt show trial designed to get Lula out of office and prevent his re-election in 2018 (when Bolsonaro was elected). The leaked documents showed that Moro, while presiding over the trial, worked closely with prosecutors and helped them strategize.

    Since then, there has been speculation that the government was trying to build a case against Greenwald. In July, Greenwald was called before a Congressional committee in which he was directly told he should be jailed. Back in August, the Brazilian Supreme Court actually put a stop to an attempt to investigate Greenwald, after Bolsonaro himself called for Greenwald to be jailed.

    However, that appears not to have actually stopped the government's attempts to find some reason to throw Greenwald in jail. The charges against Greenwald argue that he wasn't just reporting on the leaked documents, but that he was part of a "criminal organization" and worked with people to hack into the phones of officials in order to access the documents:

    Citing intercepted messages between Mr. Greenwald and the hackers, prosecutors say the journalist played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.”
    For instance, prosecutors contend that Mr. Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives that had already been shared with The Intercept Brasil, in order to cover their tracks.
    Prosecutors also say that Mr. Greenwald was communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram, a messaging app.

    Full story.

    Saturday, 18 January 2020

    Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire?

    Many here suspect that the upcoming UK break with the EU will mean an inevitable further alignment with Washington.

    Want a free trade deal with the US? Then align with Washington not Brussels on foreign policy, former Trump aide tells BoJo

    A former aide to US President Donald Trump, Richard Goldberg [a Jewish Ziombie], has warned British PM Boris Johnson that if the UK wants a free trade agreement with the US, then he’ll need to follow Washington and not Brussels on foreign policy.

    In an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday, Iran hawk Richard Goldberg – who recently stepped down from his role on the National Security Council following his part in ramping up US tensions with Tehran – ostensibly issued Johnson a veiled threat.

    Goldberg suggested that Johnson think long and hard about the UK’s position on the Iran nuclear deal and foreign policy more generally. He insisted that in post-Brexit Britain, it’s “less important what Brussels thinks and far more important what Washington thinks.”

    It’s absolutely in his interest and the people of Britain’s interest to join with President Trump and the United States, to realign your foreign policy away from Brussels, and to join the maximum pressure campaign to keep us all safe.
    Goldberg’s comments have been widely panned on social media, with many interpreting his words as an ultimatum, rather than a “choice” being presented to PM Johnson. Green MP Caroline Lucas claimed that it was “clear” that if the UK is to secure a trade deal with the US then “we’d have to follow Trump’s dangerous foreign policies.”
    Caroline Lucas (Twitter)
    We've not even left the EU yet and it's already clear that if we want a US trade deal, the US administration will try to force us to accept their food standards & drug prices, and we'd have to follow Trump's dangerous foreign policies

    Others online insisted Trump’s former aide was in reality proposing that the UK becomes “a US vassal state & to fall in line on Iran, Israel” and the Middle East. While another angrily tweeted: “So much for Take Back Control.”

    Susannah Tarbush (Twitter)
    Richard Goldberg goes from White House's Iran director to Freedom Foundation & draws a clear link between Johnson's falling in behind Trump policy, and a UK-US trade deal after Brexit. UK clearly expected to be a US vassal state & to fall in line on Iran, Israel, M East.

    On Tuesday, Johnson signaled that he was falling in line behind the US president and would seek to tear up the current Iran deal and replace it with a ‘Trump deal’. “Let’s work together to replace the JCPOA and get the ‘Trump deal’ instead,” Johnson told BBC Breakfast.

    Source.

    Poland wanted to ‘erect magnificent monument’ to honor Hitler’s plan to send Jews to Africa – Putin cites WWII archives

    Some nations in Europe that colluded with Adolf Hitler and applauded his anti-Semitic crusade, now demolish Soviet war memorials and seek to equate the USSR with Nazi Germany, the Russian president noted, during a formal speech.

    Vladimir Putin recalled the vicious developments that preceded the Second World War, in an address to the Defense Ministry board on Tuesday, telling his audience there was one particular fact in the archive files that touched him the most. Back in 1938, Adolf Hitler hosted the Polish Ambassador to Germany Jozef Lipski and shared with him a plan to send European Jews to Africa where they would surely perish, Putin said.

    “The Ambassador in Poland replied, and then wrote it down in his cable to the Polish Foreign Minister: ‘I told Hitler that, if he does, we will erect a magnificent monument to him in Warsaw’,” the President quoted from the archive data, before turning somewhat emotional.

    He was a bastard, an anti-Semitic pig, there’s no other way of saying it. He fully agreed with Hitler in his anti-Semitic sentiments and, moreover, promised him he’d erect a monument in Warsaw to his abuse of the Jewish people.

    Putin’s words were aimed at a bizarre resolution by the European Parliament, which claimed that the 1939 non-aggression treaty between the USSR and Nazi Germany – known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by the names of Soviet and German Foreign Ministers – had “paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War.”

    But to Putin, signing a pact with Hitler was choosing between bad and worse, namely, the Soviet Union having less time to prepare for the German offensive. Meanwhile, other European nations did not behave any better, he reminded.

    Starting from 1938, when Hitler lodged his claims to a part of Czechoslovakia, Great Britain and France surrendered their ally, although [Prague] had a mutual assistance agreement with France, and provided Hitler with the opportunity to seize [the German-inhabited regions of the country].

    A year later, the Third Reich invaded Poland, the Eastern European country that had actually “colluded” with Hitler before the war, as historical records tell.

    “It is these people who negotiated with Hitler back in the day, it is this sort of people that demolish monuments commemorating Red Army soldiers, who liberated European countries and peoples from the Nazis,” the President concluded. “They are their followers.”

    Source.

    Friday, 17 January 2020

    Prejudice and Pride in Hungary: Inside the Far Right

    What is driving Hungary's youth towards violent far-right movements?

    Video via Al Jazeera.

    Hungary was the first country to close its borders when around one million refugees arrived on European soil in 2015. The country's far-right Fidesz party swiftly positioned itself as the self-proclaimed defender of "Christian Europe" under the leadership of anti-immigrant nationalist leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Following a global trend, growing numbers of Hungary's youth are joining far-right wing and neo-Nazi movements, such as the Highwaymen's Army (Betyarsereg), to fight for a way of life they believe is under threat.

    If you want to learn what the world might look like very soon, regard Hungary. And Hungary's an extreme of the predicament the whole world is going through. Gaspar Tamas, philosopher and political scientist

    The Highwaymen are affiliated with the country's far-right political movement, Force and Determination, and believe in racially-justified violence. They went to 'help' the military forces at the country's southern borders when migrants passed through Hungary on the Balkan route in 2015. And some of their members are currently on trial for intimidating Roma.

    "We never prepare for a fight, we are ready for a fight," says Adam, a 27-year-old who joined the Highwaymen in 2016. "I like being a member of the Highwaymen's Army because it means togetherness ... In order to apply, you obviously have to be Hungarian, and white. Jews should avoid us. They're not only not allowed to join, but if he asked to join the Highwaymen's Army I would smack him in the face."

    Political analyst Bulscu Hunyadi believes that "most of these youngsters do not join far-right organisations because they are obsessed with the ideology, because they are neo-Nazis per se. Most of the time they join these organisations because they want to join a community, they want to belong to a group of people. And step by step, of course, they start believing in this ideology."

    Botond, an 18-year-old high school graduate with ambitions to forge a career in Hungary's far-right politics, is still looking for a movement to join and is determined to defend Hungary against liberalism and multiculturalism.

    "I feel like I have to fight, fight for my country ... There is a war against the white race. Nowadays, you can say whatever you want except if you are heterosexual, if you are white and if you are a Christian," says Botond, who goes on regular vigilante patrols in the city in search of what he calls "degenerates".

    However, this perceived threat is a "myth ... because nobody is threatening Hungary, we don't have immigrants at all, zero immigration, but this is the one political topic everybody's discussing," explains Gaspar Tamas, a philosopher and political scientist.

    "If you want to learn what the world might look like very soon, regard Hungary. And Hungary's an extreme of the predicament the whole world is going through."

    Thursday, 16 January 2020

    Trump 2016: fast forwarding to 2020

    [...]

    Trump begins his re-election bid with roughly 90 percent support from the Republican base (despite his demagoguery, lies, and serial failures), and that blind fealty cannot be underestimated. As the Texas Observer piece presciently warned us, Trump reigns supreme over a kingdom of the “happily stupid” – a sizeable slice of the citizenry that chooses to indulge its basest instincts and most irrational fears. Key excerpts:

    “Thing is, the support of Trump in Texas — and I speak specifically of my region, East Texas — goes beyond the smart and the not so smart, the educated and the uneducated. It is more a result of what I like to call the happily stupid; the ones who hold stupid views by choice, not due to lack of intelligence, but due to a kind of tribalism. Facts that interfere with their version of the world are there to be ignored…Trump has provided a dark, dank hole into which these folks can dump whatever it is they’re mad about…
    “Most of what Trump is selling shouldn’t convince a distracted 12-year-old, and certainly it’s hard to see how a conniving real estate tycoon represents the average person, but those are the people he has made the greatest inroads with…Trump could have unhealthy relations with a dying donkey on the White House lawn and they would see it as him being refreshingly politically incorrect, and isn’t there a chance that donkey could have illegally crossed the border from Mexico and got what it deserved?
    “They have decided to hear what they want to hear and dismiss the rest. But this isn’t as new as some suggest. What appeals to the Trump supporter is what has long appealed to the Republican party. Before, it was thinly concealed, like a cheap coat of whitewash over bathroom graffiti. No longer. Now we know for certain what’s written on the wall, and what has been going on in the basement. Trump is the Frankenstein monster Republicans have been tinkering with all these years, and now It’s Alive! and running amok…
    “It’s a jungle out there. At least, to hear the Republicans tell it. But what it’s really about, in earthier conservative circles, is a chance for people to feel important, to think they are standing on the lines of freedom, fighting back the zombie hordes. What drives these folks is fear; but for many, it’s a delicious fear…
    “Fear sells, and it stimulates. Trump and his cronies constantly tell us, without actual facts, how bad crime is and how evil all foreigners are…and you better build that bunker and stock up, because if you don’t, all you’ll have for protection from the certain rise of crazed liberals is harsh language. This is a world so many conservative Republicans feel they can control. A frightened world. A world where the happily stupid, bless their little hearts, can thrive within their own fear-based mythology.”

    Those words were written in 2016. They could’ve been written now.

    Tuesday, 14 January 2020

    The Luntz report: Secretly Spinning Israel's War Crimes

    "I have a good friend who says, ‘You sing a lot about the past; you can’t live in the past, you know.’ I say to him, I can go outside and pick up a rock that’s older than the oldest song you know, and bring it back in here and drop it on your foot. The past didn’t go anywhere, did it? It’s right here, right now." –

    ‘Utah’ Phillips, American folk singer/poet, (1935-2008)

    For the 1.8 million Palestinians forcibly confined to that sliver of land called the Gaza Strip – barely 20 percent of their original homeland until 1948 – the distinction between ‘present’ and ‘past’ is simply that, sixty-six years on, bare existence itself has become a never-ending nightmare.

    To put the ‘problem’ in perspective, Israel was ‘born’ in 1948 by the ethnic cleansing of over 750,000 Palestinians, forcibly driven out – and into refugee camps – from their original homes in what was then Palestine. Initially, Israel occupied far more than 50% of their land.

    On Israel’s subsequent 1967 Six-Day War Encyclopaedia Britannica notes: "In response to the apparent mobilization of its Arab neighbours, early on the morning of June 5, Israel staged a sudden preemptive air assault and destroyed Egypt’s air force on the ground; later that day, it incapacitated a great deal of the Jordanian and Syrian air power as well. Without cover from the air, the Arab armies were left vulnerable to attack, and, as a result, the Israeli victory on the ground was also overwhelming. By the time the United Nations cease-fire came into effect on June 10, Israeli units had driven Syrian forces back from the Golan Heights, taken control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and driven, Jordanian forces from the West Bank. Notably, the Israelis were left in sole control of [the Holy City of] Jerusalem. The warfare resulted in the creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees and brought more than one million Palestinians in the occupied territories under Israeli rule."

    Since then, through continuing Israeli expansion of illegal settlements, Palestinians have now been squeezed into less than 20% of their own land, and even that extent is constantly shrinking.

    Robert Fisk, award-winning author of The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East, writing for London’s Independent on July 10 noted that the conflict always was, and is, about land. "The Israelis of Sederot are coming under rocket fire from the Palestinians of Gaza and now the Palestinians are getting their comeuppance. Sure.

    "But wait, how come all those Palestinians are crammed into Gaza in the first place?" asked Fisk, and provided the answer. "Well, their families once lived, didn’t they, in what is now called Israel? And got chucked out – or fled for their lives – when the Israeli state was created (in 1948)."

    Fisk explained that the people who lived in Sederot in early 1948 were not Israelis, but Palestinian Arabs. "Their village was called Huj. Nor were they enemies of Israel. Two years earlier, these same Arabs had actually hidden Jewish Haganah fighters from the British Army. But when the Israeli army turned up at Huj on 31 May 1948, they expelled all the Arab villagers – to the Gaza Strip! Refugees, they became. David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) called it an "unjust and unjustified action". Too bad. The Palestinians of Huj were never allowed back."

    And today, well over 6,000 descendants of the Palestinians from Huj – now Sederot – live in the squalor of Gaza, among the ‘terrorists’ Israel is claiming to destroy and who are shooting at what was Huj," wrote Fisk, and added: "Interesting story."

    Patrick Cockburn, writing in Counter Punch magazine, chose to focus on the marked ‘enhancement’ in recent years of the PR skills of Israeli spokesmen, and especially "the slick and less aggressive manner" of Mark Regev, the official Israeli Government spokesman.

    The reason for this noticeable improvement in PR skills: the playbook they’re using is a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe. Written by the expert Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago by a group called The Israel Project for use by those "who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel". The Luntz report was written in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and January 2009, when 1,387 Palestinians and nine Israelis were killed.

    Wrote Cockburn: "Every one of the 112 pages in the booklet is marked ‘not for distribution or publication’ and it is easy to see why. The Luntz report, officially entitled The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary, was leaked almost immediately to Newsweek Online, but its true importance has seldom been appreciated. It should be required reading for everybody, especially journalists, interested in any aspect of Israeli policy because of its ‘dos and don’ts’ for Israeli spokesmen."

    The booklet is full of meaty advice about how Israelis should shape their answers for different audiences. For example, "Americans agree that Israel ‘has a right to defensible borders’. But it does you no good to define exactly what those borders should be. Avoid talking about borders in terms of pre- or post-1967; it only serves to remind Americans of Israel’s military history. For instance, support for Israel’s right to defensible borders drops from a heady 89 per cent to under 60 per cent when you talk about it in terms of 1967."

    How about the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled or fled in 1948 and in the following years, and who are not allowed to go back to their homes? Here Dr Luntz has subtle advice for spokesmen, saying that "the right of return is a tough issue for Israelis to communicate effectively because much of Israeli language sounds like the ‘separate but equal’ words of the 1950s segregationists and the 1980s advocates of Apartheid. The fact is, Americans don’t like, don’t believe and don’t accept the concept of ‘separate but equal’. So call it a ‘demand’, because Americans don’t like people who make demands. "Then say ‘Palestinians aren’t content with their own state. Now they’re demanding territory inside Israel’. Other suggestions: say that the right of return might become part of a final settlement "at some point in the future". [It’s the ultimate ‘never-never’ plan!]

    Much of Dr Luntz’s advice is about the tone and presentation of the Israeli case. He says it is absolutely crucial to exude empathy for Palestinians: "Persuadables [sic] won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show empathy for BOTH sides!" This may explain why a number of Israeli spokesman are almost lachrymose about the plight of Palestinians being pounded by Israeli bombs and shells.

    In one sentence in bold type, underlined and with capitalisation, Dr Luntz says that Israeli spokesmen or political leaders "MUST NEVER, EVER JUSTIFY THE DELIBERATE SLAUGHTER OF INNOCENT WOMEN AND CHILDREN" and they must aggressively challenge those who accuse Israel of such a crime. [Israeli spokesmen struggled to be true to this prescription when 16 Palestinians were killed in a UN shelter in Gaza on Thursday, July 24.]

    Dr Luntz cites as an example of an ‘effective Israeli sound bite’ one which reads: "I particularly want to reach out to Palestinian mothers who have lost their children. No parent should have to bury their child.

    Ah a truly heartfelt effort at ‘softening,’ genocide — after the event of course.

    Selvam Canagaratna.

    Monday, 13 January 2020

    Madcap Empire tells Iran to behave like a "normal country"!

    Despite soaring tensions, the US is open to talk with Tehran, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said. But there's a catch: such discussion should revolve around “a series of steps” that would make Iran “a more normal country.”
    “We're willing to sit down and discuss without precondition a new way forward, a series of steps by which Iran becomes a more normal country,” Esper said on Sunday, speaking on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’.

    Pfwoar! It's the way you tell'em Mark!!!

    Meanwhile, straight faces were kept at 'Face the Nation', purveyors of Empire's 'news'.

    RT.usa.

    War Profiteering in the era of Trump


    (Otherwords.org) – Surging stock prices for military contractors gave several CEOs an early payday after Trump’s Iran aggression.

    The prospect of war with Iran is terrifying.

    Experts predict as many as a million people could die if the current tensions lead to a full-blown war. Millions more would become refugees across the Middle East, while working families across the U.S. would bear the brunt of our casualties.

    But there is one set of people who stand to benefit from the escalation of the conflict: CEOs of major U.S. military contractors.

    This was evident in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. assassination of a top Iranian military official on January 2. As soon as the news reached financial markets, these companies’ share prices spiked.

    Wall Street traders know that a war with Iran would mean more lucrative contracts for U.S. weapons makers. Since top executives get much of their compensation in the form of stock, they benefit personally when the value of their company’s stock goes up.

    I took a look at the stock holdings of the CEOs at the top five Pentagon contractors (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman).

    Using the most recent available data, I calculated that these five executives held company stock worth approximately $319 million just before the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani. By the stock market’s closing bell the following day, the value of their combined shares had increased to $326 million.

    War profiteering is nothing new. Back in 2006, during the height of the Iraq War, I analyzed CEO pay at the 34 corporations that were the top military contractors at that time. I found that their pay had jumped considerably after the September 11 attacks.

    Informed Comment (Juan Cole).

    Sunday, 12 January 2020

    Empire Mightily Disappointed with “highly inappropriate” Behaviour of Vassal State!

    Washington has rebuked the UK for its extradition request for the wife of an American diplomat over her role in a fatal car crash which killed a British teenager. She has refused to return to the country to face charges. Home Secretary Priti Patel filed a formal extradition request on Friday for Anne Sacoolas, who struck 19-year-old Harry Dunn with her car last August while driving on the wrong side of the road near a joint US-UK military base in Northamptonshire. Dunn, who was riding a motorbike, did not survive.

    “The Home Office has sent an extradition request to the United States for Anne Sacoolas on charges of causing death by dangerous driving,” the Home Office said in a statement. “This is now a decision for the US authorities.”

    The authorities in question wasted little time in voicing disapproval to the request, with the US State Department calling it “highly inappropriate” and stating that it would “establish an extraordinarily troubling precedent.”

    Soon after the crash, Sacoolas was granted diplomatic immunity and allowed to leave the country, but some UK officials have questioned the move, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab opening a probe into the matter last Fall, arguing the immunity rules in place were not “right.”

    While British prosecutors charged Sacoolas for reckless driving in December, she has so far refused to “return voluntarily” to face the music, with Sacoolas’ lawyer saying she would not risk jail time in the UK for a “terrible but unintentional accident.” The US State Department, meanwhile, said it was “disappointed” by the decision to bring charges, insisting Sacoolas’ diplomatic status should insulate her from all legal consequences.

    [...]

    RT.uk.

    America Could Look Like Hungary if Trump Is Re-Elected

    Now that we’ve entered an election year, there is a lot of speculation about what America could look like if Donald Trump gets another term, by hook or by crook. As Trump uses a crisis he created in the Middle East to distract us from impeachment, increases his chances of reelection, and boosts the fortunes of his buddies in the Military-Industrial Complex, it’s important to understand how other demagogic leaders consolidate their power.

    Steve Bannon has said that Hungary’s strongman prime minister Viktor Orbán was “Trump before Trump.”

    In August of 1989, my best friend Jerry Schneiderman and I spent the better part of a week sitting in outdoor cafes on the Buda side of the Danube River, eating extraordinary (and cheap!) food, staying in a grand old hotel, and generally exploring Budapest.

    Two months earlier, there had been massive pro-democracy demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people, demanding that the Soviet Union let Hungary go. The summer we were there, over a quarter-million showed up in Heroes’ Square for the reinterment of the body of Imre Nagy, a hero of the ill-fated 1956 rebellion against the USSR. The final speaker was 26-year-old Viktor Orbán, a rising politician who would soon be a member of Parliament. To an explosion of enthusiastic cheers, Orbán defied the Soviets (the only speaker to overtly do so) and openly called for “the swift withdrawal of Russian troops.”

    Nine months later, in March of 1990, Hungary held its first real elections since 1945; in 1999, it joined NATO; and in 2004, it became a member of the European Union.

    For 20 years, Hungary was a functioning democracy; today, it’s a corrupt oligarchy.

    In nine short years since he was elected in 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, now fabulously wealthy by Hungarian standards and an oligarch himself, succeeded in transforming his nation’s government from a functioning European democracy into an autocratic and oligarchic regime of single-party rule.

    Orbán took over the Fidesz Party, once a conventional “conservative” political party, with the theme of restoring “Christian” purity and making “Hungary great again.” His rallies regularly draw tens of thousands.

    He campaigned on building a wall across the entirety of Hungary’s southern border, a promise he has largely kept.

    He altered the nation’s Constitution to do what we’d call gerrymandering and voter suppression, ensuring that his party, Fidesz, would win more than two-thirds of the votes in pretty much every federal election well into the future.

    He’s now packed the courts so thoroughly that legal challenges against him and his party go nowhere.

    His party has rewritten grade school textbooks to say that refugees entering the country are a threat because “it can be problematic for different cultures to coexist.” Using this logic, he has locked up refugee children in cages.

    When the Hungarian Helsinki Committee said “the indefinite detention of many vulnerable migrants, including families with small children, is cruel and inhuman,” Orbán said the influx of Syrian refugees seeking asylum “poses a security risk and endangers the continent’s Christian culture and identity.” He added, “Immigration brings increased crime, especially crimes against women, and lets in the virus of terrorism.”

    Five years and one week before American Nazis rallied in Charlottesville and murdered Heather Heyer, a group of some 700 right-wing “patriots” held a torchlight parade that ended in front of the homes of Hungary’s largest minority group, chanting “We will set your homes on fire!” Orbán’s police watched without intervening. In 2013, Zsolt Bayer, one of the founders of Orbán’s party, had called the Roma “animals… unfit to live among people.” Orbán refused to condemn him or the anti-Roma violence.

    Orbán has handed government contracts to his favored few, elevating an entire new class of pro-Orbán businesspeople who are in the process of cementing control of the nation’s economy, as those who opposed him have lost their businesses, been forced to sell their companies, and often fled the country.

    Virtually the entire nation’s press is now in the hands of oligarchs and corporations loyal to him, with talk radio and television across the country singing his praises daily. Billboards and social media proclaim his patriotism. His media allies are now reaching out to purchase media across the rest of Europe to spread his right-wing message.

    Last year he began dismantling the Hungarian Science Academy, replacing or simply firing scientists who acknowledge climate change, which he has called “left-wing trickery made up by Barack Obama.”

    The world, in particular the EU, has watched this nine-year political nightmare with increasing alarm, and even the EU’s 2015 and 2018 attempts to essentially impeach Orbán have backfired, increasing his two reelection margins as his handmaids in the media proclaim him a victim of a European “deep state” and meddling foreigners, particularly George Soros (who, ironically, once paid for a young Orbán to study in Britain).

    While he blasts Soros and his own country’s Jewish leaders with anti-Semitic tropes, he was feted by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who called him “a true friend of Israel.” Orbán replied, “A Hungarian patriot and a Jewish Israeli patriot will always find something in common.”

    In May, the same month Rudy Giuliani said he had a former Ukrainian prosecutor willing to testify that Joe Biden was corrupt, Donald Trump invited Orbán to the White House for a state visit; Orbán has been one of Trump’s two primary sources of information about how Ukraine opposed or tried to sabotage the U.S. president.

    In a rally three months before his White House meeting, Orbán said that countries that accept refugees are producing “mixed-race nations.”

    Orbán is now back in Hungary, ruthlessly using his own nation’s diplomatic and criminal justice systems to aid foreign criminal oligarchs, having hired his own local versions of Bill Barr and Mike Pompeo.

    Before you say, “It can’t happen here,” you may want to make a trip to Budapest.

    Thom Hartmann.

    Saturday, 11 January 2020

    Fifty Great United States Lies

      1. We Live in a Democracy.
    This core myth cries out for demolition with special urgency at present thanks to constant media and political class repetition of the claim that Russia “undermined our democracy” during the 2016 presidential election. I have written at length against this claim so many times that it has become difficult to do so again without excessive self-repetition. Here are just three among a large number of reports and commentaries in which I have carefully explained why the U.S. is a corporate and imperial plutocracy and even an oligarchy, not a democracy:
    “Time Is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy From the American Oligarchy?” CounterPunch, March 21, 2018
    “American Money, Not Russia, Put Trump in the White House: Reflections on a Recent Report,” CounterPunch, March 30, 2018
    “Who Will Protect U.S. Election Integrity From American Oligarchs?” Truthdig, April 18, 2018
    “Putin’s War on America Is Nothing Compared With America’s War on Democracy,” Truthdig, July 22, 2018
    Also see my book “They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy” (2014).
      2. Capitalism is About Democracy.
    No, it isn’t—and one need not be an anti-capitalist “radical” like myself to know better. My old copy of Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary defines capitalism as “the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution … are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions: it has been generally characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth and, [in] its latter phase, by the growth of great corporations, increased government controls, etc.”
    There’s nothing—nada, zero, zip—about popular self-rule (democracy) in that definition. And there shouldn’t be. “Democracy and capitalism have very different beliefs about the proper distribution of power,” liberal economist Lester Thurow noted in the mid-1990s: “One [democracy] believes in a completely equal distribution of political power, ‘one man, one vote,’ while the other [capitalism] believes that it is the duty of the economically fit to drive the unfit out of business and into extinction. … To put it in its starkest form, capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery. Democracy is not.” More than being compatible with slavery and incompatible with democracy, U.S. capitalism arose largely on the basis of black slavery in the cotton-growing states (as historian Edward Baptist has shown in his prize-winning study “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism”) and is, in fact, quite militantly opposed to democracy.
    “We must make our choice,” onetime Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis is reputed to have said or written: “We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” This statement was unintentionally but fundamentally anti-capitalist. Consistent with the dictionary definition presented above, the brilliant French economist Thomas Piketty has shown that capitalism has always been inexorably pulled toward the concentration of wealth into ever fewer hands.
      3. Capitalism is About the Free Market.
    Nope, it’s about the rich seizing control of the state and using it to make themselves richer and to thereby—since wealth is power and pull—deepen their grip on politics and policy. The profits system is so dependent on, and enmeshed with, governmental protection, subsidy and giveaways that one might even question the accuracy of calling it capitalism. (For elaboration, please see my recent Truthdig essay “Our ‘Rentier Capitalism’ Is One More Nail in Earth’s Coffin”). It is at the very least state capitalism, and always has been. A truly “free market,” that is fully laissez-faire capitalism, has never actually existed. At the same time, state-capitalist market forces in all forms, including their most government-free ones, have always brought widely different levels of freedom and un-freedom (including even literal slavery) for people depending on what class they belong to and how many resources they bring to influence and profit from market processes.
      4. Big Business and its Political Agents are Freedom-Loving Libertarians Who Hate “Big Government.
    False. They only hate big government that’s not under their control and doesn’t serve their interests. The contemporary capitalist elite and its many agents and servants hate only what the left French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called “the left hand of the state”—the parts of the public sector that serve the social and democratic needs of the non-affluent majority. They want to starve and crush those branches of government that reflect past popular victories in struggles for social justice and democracy. But the portions of the state that serve the opulent minority and dole out punishment for the poor are not the subject of their ire. The regressive and repressive “right hand of the state,” comprising the big sections of “big government” that distribute wealth upward and attack those who resist empire and inequality, is not its enemy. It grows in accordance with the slashing of left-handed social protections, as the increased insecurity that results drives ever more disadvantaged people into the clutches of the military and the criminal injustice system.
      5. The United States is a Great Land of Liberty.
    Really? It depends on what part of the class-race structure you inhabit. With a massive and highly militarized police and prosecutorial state that has used the so-called war on drugs and related cooked crime crazes as pretexts for racially hyper-disparate mass arrest and imprisonment, the U.S. is home to the highest rate of mass incarceration in the world (and in world history). Social movements are regularly infiltrated, surveilled and crushed by the high-tech U.S. police state.
    Hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens depend on employers not just for their incomes but also for their and their families’ health insurance, something that militates strongly against their willingness to speak freely within or beyond the workplace.
    Americans suffer the longest working hours in the “developed” (rich nation) world; they spend inordinate and crippling amounts of time under the despotic supervision of bosses and lack the time and energy and information to participate meaningfully in the nation’s supposed “democracy.”
    Freedom to do what one wants with one’s life depends on the possession of money and wealth, which is more unevenly distributed and harshly concentrated in the U.S. than in any other wealthy capitalist nation. Liberty is certainly enjoyed in great proportions by the top 10th of the upper U.S. 1 percent, which owns as much wealth as the nation’s bottom 90 percent. Liberty is far less prevalent among the 57 percent of Americans who, as CNBC reported last fall, have less than $1,000 in savings; 39 percent have no savings at all. Last January, the same network reported that more than a third (36 percent) of Americans would have to go into debt to pay for a major unexpected expense like a trip to the hospital or a car repair.
    Wall Street chieftains who threw millions of Americans out of work and destroyed billions of dollars in savings through their reckless and often criminal practices have escaped prosecution while the nation’s jails and prisons are loaded with disproportionately black, Latino and poor people serving long terms for comparative small-time drug offenses. In a report titled “The Price of Justice,” The Nation reported last year that “roughly 500,000 people are in jails across the country simply because they are poor”—that is, because they can’t make bail payments or pay fines and/or court fees.
    In the words of the title of one report on the poverty and bail jail problem, “Freedom Isn’t Free.”
      6. The United States is a Great Monument to Classlessness.
    No, it isn’t. The U.S. is a great monument to savage class inequality, marked by an extreme concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands (Louis Brandeis’ death knell for democracy) and the lowest rates of upward mobility from the lower and working classes into the middle and upper classes in the “advanced” world. Three absurdly wealthy Americans (Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates) now possess among them as much wealth as the poorest half of the United States. As one of those three, Buffett, noted 12 years ago: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” As wealth and income congeal ever upward in New Gilded Age America, even the professional middle class now experiences ubiquitous “precariousness,” lost security and status, and downward mobility. As the cultural theorist Lynn Parramore writes in a recent review of journalist Alissa Quart’s new book, “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America”:
    Today, with their incomes flat or falling, [young middle-class] Americans scramble to maintain a semblance of what their parents enjoyed. They are moving from being dominant to being dominated. From acting to acted upon. Trained to be educators, lawyers, librarians, and accountants, they do work they can’t stand to support families they rarely see. … Their new reality: You will not do as well as your parents. Life is a struggle to keep up. Even if you achieve something, you will live in fear of losing it. America is not your land: it belongs to the ultra-rich. …
    They are somebodies turning into nobodies … the Chicago adjunct professor with the disabled child who makes less than $24,000 a year; and the California business reporter who once focused on the financial hardships of others and now faces unemployment herself. … Uber-driving teachers and law school grads reviewing documents for $20 an hour—or less. Ivy Leaguers who live on food stamps. … Their labor has sputtered into sporadic contingency: they make do with short-term contracts or shift work. … Once upon a time, only the working poor took second jobs to stay afloat. Now the Middle Precariat has joined them. … Deep down, they know that they probably can’t pass down the cultural and social class they once took for granted.
    It sounds like something out of, well, Marx.
      7. Hard work and individual brilliance is the key to individual wealth and the lack of such work and brains is the source of individual poverty.
    Nonsense. In the U.S. as across the capitalist world, private oligarchic fortunes rest on the parasitic collection of multiple forms of rent obtained through the ownership of multiple forms of inherited property and the wildly inordinate influence that the wealthy Few exercise over the oxymoronically named “capitalist democracies.” The preponderant majority of the wealth “earned” (appropriated) by the ever more obscenely opulent is produced by countless less privileged others and by a set of societal and institutional arrangements designed to serve those fortunate enough to be born into affluence. (See the brilliant left geographer Richard A. Walker’s masterful discussion of the real source of Silicon Valley’s spectacular profits in his recent book “Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area.”) Millions of Americans work absurdly long, smart and hard hours for an ever-shrinking share of total income and wealth and face economic precarity for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their own personal effort and smarts. Rising labor productivity has not remotely been matched by rising wages or benefits in a globalized labor market structured by and for the employer class.
      8. Growth is Good.
    U.S. and Western state capitalist ideology has long proclaimed that growth—not redistribution and sociopolitical democratization—is the solution to poverty and joblessness. But contemporary capitalist expansion is largely predicated on low wages, weak benefits, a fading left-handed social welfare state, generalized precarity for the Many, and relentless destruction of the earth on which we all depend. Economic growth under the heedless, commons-plundering command of the unelected dictatorship of capital is now clearly environmentally exterminist—a grave threat to livable ecology. There are no jobs, no economy, on a dead planet, and there’s no Planet B.
      9. We Have an “Independent” and “Mainstream” Media.
    False. We have neither. For elaboration (I am running of word count), please see my 2015 ZNet essay “On the Nature and Mission of U.S. Corporate Mass Media.”
      10. The U.S. is a Force for Good and Peace in the World
    It is no such thing. For some ugly details (word count again, dear reader), please see my recent Truthdig essays “The World Will Not Mourn the Decline of U.S. Hegemony” and “The Chomsky Challenge for Americans.”
      11. Buying Stuff Makes People Happy.
      12. We Get Meaningful Input on Policy Through Voting.
      13. There is No Alternative to Neoliberalism/Capitalism and Underlying Social Structures are Beyond Our Sphere of Influence.
      14. The Police Serve and Protect Us.
      15. U.S. Troops Have “Died for Our Freedom.”
      16. “They Hate Us for Our Freedom;”
      17. Socialism is an Authoritarian and Even Totalitarian Nightmare.
      18. The Soviet Union and Empire was Marxist Socialism and Communism in Action.
      19. Blacks Have Achieved Parity with Whites
      20. Racism is No Longer a Serious Barrier to Black Advancement and Equality
      21. Immigration is Bad for America.
      22. The United States’ Latest Designated Global Bad Guy is a New “Hitler.”
      23. Recurrent “Weapons of Mass Destruction” Deceptions.
      24. Our Greatest Enemies are External to the U.S.
      25. The Rich are Heavily Taxed.
      26. Environmentalism is a Job-Killer
      27. Social Welfare and Economic Regulation Stultify Economies.
      28. Deficits Must be Slashed.
      29. We Have an Independent Judiciary.
      30. The Two Reigning U.S. Political Parties Adequately Capture the Spectrum of U.S. Public Opinion.
      31. Contemporary Oligarchy and Plutocracy is Contrary to the Democratic Intent and Spirit of the U.S. Founders and Their U.S. Constitution
      32. The “Intelligence Community” Protects We the People.
      33. Soviet Russia Was the Main Aggressor in the Cold War and Putin’s Russia is the Main Aggressor in Cold War II.
      34. Only Paid Labor Deserves to be Called Work.
      35. Doing Paid Work Makes People More Stable and Virtuous.
      36. American Entertainment Media is Just About Entertainment.
      37. There’s a War on Drugs.
      38. The So-Called War on Drugs is About Drugs.
      39. Increased Wealth for the Few Trickles Down to the Rest.
      40. The U.S. Has Done Nothing to Cause Immigrant Flight to the U.S. and Owes Nothing to Central American Migrants on its Southern Border.
      41. Two-Plus Centuries of Arch-Racist Hyper-Exploitative Black Chattel Slavery Hold No Relevance to Contemporary Black American Experience and U.S. Racial Disparity.
      42. White America Owes Blacks Nothing in the Way of Reparations for Slavery – or for the Jim Crow Era or Mass Ghettoization or Racist Mass Incarceration and Felony Marking or for Any Other of the Multiple Forms of Institutional and Societal Racism That Persist in U.S. Life.
      43. The Racist Terror and Apartheid State of Israel Deserves Our Respect and Support.
      44. We Can Have a Decent, Just, and Democratic Society While Dedicating Vast Portions of Government Expenditure to the Maintenance of a Giant Military State and Global Empire.
      45. Our Relevant Reference Group of Belonging is “Fellow U.S. Americans,” not “Fellow Human Beings,” and not “Fellow Sentient Beings.”
      46. Nature is a Great Windfall for Us to Subdue and Exploit
      47. Human Nature is Egoistic, Competitive, Individualistic, and Selfish.
      48. Concern for Others, Social Justice, and Livable Ecology is Dysfunctional, “Radical,” and Unnatural.
      49. Everyone Else in the World Wants to Live Like U.S.-Americans.
      50. Human Beings are Superior to Other Animals and Life Forms.

    Paul Street @ TruthDig.

    Friday, 10 January 2020

    The Story of Kalief Browder

    Netflix’s Kalief Browder documentary: a harrowing, galvanising insight into the injustices of the US prison system

    The Jay Z-produced series shines a light on the case of Browder, a young black boy from the Bronx, who was wrongly imprisoned and suffered extreme abuse behind bars

    Philando Castile. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Freddie Gray. Trayvon Martin. It’s a familiar, grim roll call: black men (and boys; Trayvon was 17, Tamir 12) unjustly killed by US police officers – and then forsaken again when their killers went unpunished.

    It’s impossible not to think about these names as you watch Time: the Kalief Browder Story, a six-part documentary series now on Netflix about one young man’s nightmarish experience of the US penal system – and not just because the documentary itself spells out the link, including footage of several of these killings.

    The series – backed by Jay Z and co-created by Nick Sandow, who plays Joe Caputo in Orange is the New Black – shines a light on the many insidious ways its deeply sympathetic subject, Kalief Browder, was failed, and eviscerates the myth of justice for all.

    Kalief was born in 1993, in the Bronx, New York. The youngest of seven siblings, he was adopted by Venida Browder, a foster carer. He grew up, we learn, to be a good friend, a good brother, talkative, fun, curious. But at 16, in May 2010, he was arrested for stealing a backpack and taken to Rikers Island jail. He was innocent, but it didn’t matter; it was three years before he was free again.

    The documentary steadily unravels the string of errors that led to Kalief’s extended incarceration: police improperly recorded his arrest, and the victim’s statement; they failed to investigate possible CCTV of the incident; prosecutors failed to disclose that they lost contact with the victim, whose testimony was their only evidence; several judges allowed delays to continue even as it became clear the prosecution had no case.

    The most striking aspect of Kalief’s story, though, is not a failure, but a moral triumph. Though he was repeatedly offered a plea deal – by pleading guilty he could have been out within months – he refused every time, insisting on his innocence, and that his case be heard. It was, says one contributor, “the perfect stance”.

    And he stuck to it, even as he was repeatedly attacked by other inmates, even as prison officers deprived him of food, even as they, too, beat him. We know this because we see footage from the jail’s surveillance cameras – it is that flagrant.

    The UN considers more than 14 consecutive days in solitary confinement torture; Kalief endured more than two years of it, mostly while still a minor. Several times he attempted suicide. Finally, in May 2013, he was released, after prosecutors admitted that they couldn’t mount a case. Yes, an innocent man was free – but this cannot be called justice.

    The documentary deliberately creates an uneven, fractured sense of Kalief’s life after Rikers; though the timeline is roughly chronological, clips from a post-prison TV interview are cut throughout the episodes, while more troubling material – photos of Kalief’s bloodied face, audio of 911 phone calls – appears briefly, as if to recreate Kalief’s own disordered mind. But these threatening flashes also constantly undermine the tantalising idea that he might be able to recover, to start again.

    Back in the Bronx, we learn, Kalief struggled. Cruelly, he endured more violence, was shot and later stabbed; he became psychotic and intensely paranoid. Though the series shows he had many champions – his heroic mother Venida, his dogged lawyer Paul Prestia, the staff at Bronx Community College, talk show host Rosie O’Donnell – it wasn’t enough. Another arrest after being caught up in a fight, and the prospect of returning to court, was too much. On 6 June 2015, at the age of 22, Kalief killed himself.

    Inevitably, Time: the Kalief Browder Story is not easy to watch – especially the last episode, after the revelation of his death, which follows his mother’s determination to get official recognition and compensation for what her son suffered, despite her own worsening health. It is an intimate, hugely moving look at a family grieving a loss that is beyond understanding, against all reason.

    The final scenes are an unapologetic, confronting call to arms: one after the other, writers, academics, lawyers and activists tell us how flawed the system is, how skewed – but also that Kalief’s story has opened up an opportunity. Some have already taken it: last year, President Obama banned the solitary confinement of juveniles, citing Kalief’s case; New York mayor Bill de Blasio announced in June that he intends to close Rikers Island.

    But if Time has any one message, it’s that the tragedy of Kalief Browder isn’t confined to one jail cell on Rikers; it is not just about what is happening to young black men from the Bronx – it’s much, much bigger than that. News clips of a spectral Donald Trump juxtaposed with crying Hillary Clinton supporters and Barack Obama waving goodbye from the door of Air Force One make a clear, tacit statement: your voice matters.

    The last few minutes are the series’ most powerful, reminding us that though there is some consolation in the fact that Kalief’s suffering, ignored for so long, is being witnessed, there’s more to do. Now you have witnessed, it seems to say, it’s time for you to act, to speak up.

    Take the contribution of Jeff Robinson, of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is startling, unflinching. “There are many people who say that the picture of Emmett Till [who was lynched] in 1955 is what sparked the civil rights movement,” he says, as we see two images of the 14-year-old: on the left, bright, smiling; on the right, dead, disfigured. Then Kalief’s face fills the screen, solemn, eyes big. “Well,” says Robinson, “take a good look at Kalief Browder.” And we do. Radiotimes.

    Thursday, 9 January 2020

    Mike "Potato head" Pompeo: Psychopath

    During an interview with BBC Persia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States will starve millions of Iranians to death if the country’s leadership doesn’t bend to its will.

    Pompeo said Iran’s “leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.”

    This is siege warfare. It is illegal under the Geneva Conventions, in particular the protocol relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Article 53: Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited).

    But then neocons don’t do international law.

    John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser and a neocon’s neocon, recently said the US will “use any means necessary” to push back against the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its commitment to punish war crimes. Bolton warned the US will sanction and arrest individuals investigating war crimes and the torture of detainees, the latter conducted by “patriots,” according to Bolton. He added that frustrating prosecution of war crimes “remains one of my proudest achievements.”

    Global Research.


    It’s Impossible to Overstate How Terrible Mike Pompeo Is

    When the director of the CIA, an unelected public servant, publicly demonizes a publisher such as WikiLeaks as a “fraud,” “coward” and “enemy,” it puts all journalists on notice, or should. Pompeo’s next talking point, unsupported by fact, that WikiLeaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” is a dagger aimed at Americans’ constitutional right to receive honest information about their government. This accusation mirrors attempts throughout history by bureaucrats seeking, and failing, to criminalize speech that reveals their own failings…

    Words matter, and I assume that Pompeo meant his when he said, “Julian Assange has no First Amendment freedoms. He’s sitting in an embassy in London. He’s not a U.S. citizen.” As a legal matter, this statement is simply false. It underscores just how dangerous it is for an unelected official whose agency’s work is rooted in lying and misdirection to be the sole arbiter of the truth and the interpreter of the Constitution.

    – From Julian Assange’s Washington Post opinion piece: The CIA Director Is Waging War on Truth-Tellers like WikiLeaks

    What’s most unique about Mike Pompeo isn’t the fact he’s a terrible human being, it’s the fact he’s so transparent and shameless about it. This became crystal clear last April when I read the transcript of a speech he gave at UAE-funded think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

    I covered Pompeo’s commentary in detail in the piece, The American Empire Under Donald Trump Has Become Increasingly Desperate, Dangerous & Insecure, but let’s revisit in case some of you missed it the first time around.

    First, he falsely characterized Wikileaks as a hostile non-state intelligence agency (despite lauding it during the election), and then used this false categorization to launch an attack on the First Amendment.

    So we face a crucial question: What can we do about this? What can and should CIA, the United States, and our allies do about the unprecedented challenge posed by these hostile non-state intelligence agencies?
    While there is no quick fix—no foolproof cure—there are steps that we can take to undercut the danger. First, it is high time we called out those who grant a platform to these leakers and so-called transparency activists. We know the danger that Assange and his not-so-merry band of brothers pose to democracies around the world. Ignorance or misplaced idealism is no longer an acceptable excuse for lionizing these demons.
    Third, we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now…
    Julian Assange and his kind are not the slightest bit interested in improving civil liberties or enhancing personal freedom. They have pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice. They may have believed that, but they are wrong.

    Pompeo went even further in the Q&A stating:

    A little less Constitutional law and a lot more of a philosophical understanding. Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges. He is not a U.S. citizen. What I was speaking to is an understanding that these are not reporters doing good work to try to keep the American Government on us. These are actively recruiting agents to steal American secrets with the sole intent of destroying the American way of life.
    That is fundamentally different than a First Amendment activity as I understand them. This is what I was getting to. We have had administrations before that have been too squeamish about going after these people, after some concept of this right to publish.

    Glenn Greenwald responded to this assertion with the following:

    Pompeo’s remarks deserve far greater scrutiny than this. To begin with, the notion that WikiLeaks has no free press rights because Assange is a foreigner is both wrong and dangerous. When I worked at the Guardian, my editors were all non-Americans. Would it therefore have been constitutionally permissible for the U.S. Government to shut down that paper and imprison its editors on the ground that they enjoy no constitutional protections? Obviously not. Moreover, what rational person would possibly be comfortable with having this determination – who is and is not a “real journalist” – made by the CIA?

    Meanwhile, Pompeo spent a lot of his speech demonizing Julian Assange as someone who cozies up to dictators, saying stuff like the following.

    We know this because Assange and his ilk make common cause with dictators today. Yes, they try unsuccessfully to cloak themselves and their actions in the language of liberty and privacy; in reality, however, they champion nothing but their own celebrity. Their currency is clickbait; their moral compass, nonexistent. Their mission: personal self-aggrandizement through the destruction of Western values.

    It’s takes some nerve for Pompeo to say that considering the following, via Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept:

    So how could Mike Pompeo – fresh off embracing and honoring Saudi tyrants, standing in a building funded by the world’s most repressive regimes, headed by an agency that for decades supported despots and death squads – possibly maintain a straight face as he accuses others of “making common cause with dictators”? How does this oozing, glaring, obvious act of projection not immediately trigger fits of scornful laughter from U.S. journalists and policy makers?
    The reason is because this is a central and long-standing propaganda tactic of the U.S. Government, aided by a media that largely ignores it. They predicate their foreign policy and projection of power on hugging, supporting and propping up the world’s worst tyrants, all while heralding themselves as defenders of freedom and democracy and castigating their enemies as the real supporters of dictators.
    Try to find mainstream media accounts in the U.S. of Pompeo’s trip to Riyadh and bestowing a top CIA honor on a Saudi despot. It’s easy to find accounts of this episode in international outlets, but very difficult to find ones from CNN or the Washington Post. Or try to find instances where mainstream media figures point out what should be the unbearable irony of listening to the same U.S. Government officials accuse others of supporting dictators while nobody does more to prop up tyrants than themselves.
    This is the dictatorship-embracing reality of the U.S. Government that remains largely hidden from its population. That’s why Donald Trump’s CIA Director – of all people – can stand in a dictator-funded think tank in the middle of Washington, having just recovered from his jet lag in flying to pay homage to Saudi tyrants, and vilify WikiLeaks and “its ilk” of “making common cause with dictators” – all without the U.S. media taking note of the intense inanity of it.

    If that’s not enough for you, on a separate occasion Pompeo called Edward Snowden a traitor who should be brought back to the U.S. and executed.

    That’s your new Secretary of State, America.

    Unfortunately, it gets worse. Much worse. For all his flaws, Rex Tillerson had a surprisingly sane take on the Middle East, at least relatively. He was known for being against the idiotic Saudi-UAE attempt blockade of Qatar, as well as in favor of keeping the Iran deal active. Pompeo shares no such sentiments.

    As CNBC reported:

    Pompeo, named as his pick for secretary of state by Trump on Tuesday shortly after he announced Tillerson’s departure on Twitter, has taken a notoriously tough stance on Iran in the past in his erstwhile role as director of the CIA.
    Not only has Pompeo likened Iran to the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group, calling the country a “thuggish police state” in a speech in October, he has also promised to constrain Iran’s investment environment and “roll back” its 2015 nuclear deal.

    “Thuggish police state.” Similar to Saudi Arabia then, which Pompeo had no problem bestowing with a CIA medal last year.

    But there’s more…

    In November 2016, when Pompeo was appointed to lead the CIA, he warned that Tehran is “intent of destroying America” and called the nuclear deal “disastrous.” He added that he was looking forward to “rolling back” the agreement.
    Differences of opinion over how Iran should be treated are said to be the source of discord between Trump and Tillerson, whose firing followed a clash over the nuclear deal, the president said Tuesday.
    “If you look at the Iran deal I think it’s terrible and I guess he thought it was OK … We weren’t really thinking the same,” Trump said in a statement outside the White House. He said he and Tillerson got on “quite well” but had “different mindsets.”
    Iran has been increasingly marginalized during the Trump administration, which has sided with Saudi Arabia in the regional battle for influence in the Middle East.’

    Here’s the bottom line. As I outlined multiple times last year, Trump is determined to have a war with Iran and Rex Tillerson was standing in the way. Putting unhinged war hawk Pompeo in place as Secretary of State is simply Trump getting his ducks in a row ahead of confrontation. Watch as the sales pitch for another war in the Middle East picks up considerably in the months ahead.

    I believe this forthcoming war against Iran will have almost no international support. Probably just autocratic regimes in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as Israel and possibly the UK depending on who’s Prime Minister when it gets going. The rest of the world will be against it, which will lead to spectacular failure.

    It’s become increasingly clear that a huge military error, such as a new major confrontation in the Middle East is what will spell the end of the U.S. empire. Such a confrontation is now increasingly likely with Tillerson out of the picture

    Oh, and the person Trump picked to head the CIA to replace Pompeo is Gina Haspel, a 33-year CIA careerist who ran a torture black site in Thailand.

    Donny boy sure has a strange way of “draining the swamp.”

    libertyblitzkrieg.


    Pompous Mikey is also that most despicable of Zionists: an American Christian Zionist:

    Mike Pompeo is a self-professed Christian of the Zionist strain. The Christian Zionists believe Christ will return and establish the Kingdom of God, and this will only be possible after Israel declares a state on stolen land gained through violence and ethnic cleansing.
    Israel’s daily demonstrated racism and violence gets a free pass because the Christian Zionists in America believe any criticism of the Jewish state is criticism of God. Instead of citing Jesus, they turn back to the Old Testament and the blessing of Isaac in Genesis—“Those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed.”
    The Palestinians are cursed for the sin of having lived on the land for centuries. Iran is cursed because it dares defend itself against US-Israeli sabotage, assassination, and terrorism. Lebanon is cursed because it is home to Hezbollah, the Lebanese political party that began as organized resistance to Israeli invasions. Syria is cursed because it defends its national sovereignty and decries the Israeli theft of its Golan Heights.
    For Christian Zionists like Mike Pompeo, the New Testament is something that either must be ignored—or selectively read and interpreted—and Christ’s promise of world peace must be shelved until the work of killing Palestinians, Syrians, and Iranians is complete. Mike isn’t a normal Christian, he’s a Judaic-Christian, a Christian neocon.
    “Christians are not political Zionists,” writes Tom Usher. “Real Christians can’t stand the political Zionism of Herzl and Jabotinsky and the various terrorists who brought this anti-Jacob state called Israel into being.”

    Source.

    Wednesday, 8 January 2020

    Same Neocon Lies, New Target

    Lawrence Wilkerson on Trump's Iran aggression: same neocon lies, new target

    Tuesday, 7 January 2020

    Blood and Oil (documentary)

    Excerpt:

    KLARE: In the Persian Gulf, the Nixon Doctrine was focused specifically on Iran where the United States embraced the autocratic Shah of Iran to be our surrogate or proxy. And it was the Shah who was chosen to protect U.S. interest in the Gulf area.

    NIXON: And now we come again to Tehran. And we see the progress that has occurred in those 19 years, under the enlightened leadership of Your Majesty.

    KLARE: And we provided billions and billions of dollars to the Shah and to Iranian forces to protect the oil. And this surrogate strategy worked fine, until the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979. (Chanting)

    NEWS ANCHOR: Suddenly Iran is no longer one of this country’s strongest and most dependable allies in the strategic Persian Gulf area.

    KLARE: The autocratic Shah was replaced by the Ayatollah Khomeini who adopted an anti-American stance. This produced tremendous panic in Washington because there were no proxies left to defend the oil.

    NEWS REPORTER: Mr. President, the Persian Gulf is one of the great mineral treasures of the whole world. Most of Japan’s oil and an awful lot of Europe’s oil passes through there. The Shah really was the policeman of the Gulf and kept the oil flowing. Now the new civilian government says its not going to be the policeman of the Gulf anymore. What’s going to happen to this terribly, terribly important part of the world if there is no policeman?

    KLARE: And so it was decided that the United States would have to take up this role itself and not rely any longer on surrogates to protect American interests in the Persian Gulf region.

    JIMMY CARTER: Let our position be absolutely clear. An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America. (Applause) And such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary including military force.

    KLARE: This was a radical step because for the first time it said explicitly that the protection of Middle Eastern Oil was a vital national security interest of the United States. Now the problem is at the time, the United States didn’t have any forces that were specifically earmarked for operations in the Persian Gulf area. And so Carter created the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force to act as an interim force.

    CARTER: In the past, we have not had an adequate military presence in that region. Now we have two major carrier task forces. We have access to facilities in five different areas of that region and we’ve made it clear, that working with our allies and others, that we are prepared to address any foreseeable eventuality, which might interrupt commerce with that crucial area of the world. This I believe has ensured that our interests will be protected in the Persian Gulf region as we’ve done in the Middle East and throughout the world.

    KLARE: And this became the nucleus for the Central Command.

    CENTCOM

    REAGAN: I am not frightened by what lies ahead. And I don’t believe the American people are frightened by what lies ahead.

    KLARE: President Carter lost the election in 1980 and Ronald Reagan stepped in. And despite all of his criticism of Carter, Reagan took the initiatives of the Carter Doctrine and beefed them up even further.

    REAGAN: Deterrence means simply this: making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States or our allies, or our vital interests, concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won’t attack.

    KLARE: And among his first actions was to take the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force and make it even bigger, and it was he who converted it into the Central Command in 1983. The Central Command is a very recent addition to the roster of America’s unified commands. We’ve long had a European Command, a Pacific Command, a Southern Command in Latin America, but there was none in the Middle East, and this is where most of the world’s remaining oil is located. And so President Reagan created the Central Command to exercise control over American forces in that Middle part of the world.

    REAGAN: As long as Saudi Arabia and the OPEC nations there in the East, and Saudi Arabia is the most important, provide the bulk of the energy that is needed to turn the wheels of industry in the Western world, there is no way that we can stand by and see that taken over by anyone who would shut off that oil.

    KLARE: The original function of the Central Command, very clearly elaborated by the Reagan administration was primarily to protect the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to the United States and markets around the world. That’s always been its primary focus. This is the period of the Iran-Iraq war, which broke out in 1980 and intensified in 1986 and 1987 when the Iranians started attacking Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. What Reagan did is say, ‘Okay, let us stick American flags on the stern of Kuwaiti oil tankers, which means it’s legitimate to protect them by the American Navy.’ And that’s exactly what happened.

    NEWS REPORTER: After months of policy confusion and political debate, the U.S. Navy is poised today just outside the Persian Gulf to escort the first two Kuwaiti tankers past Iranian guns. The five warships to be used in the first leg have a mix of almost every weapon in the Navy’s arsenal.

    KLARE: It was a clear use of military force, explicitly to protect the flow of oil. There was no other motive for this. There was no freedom at stake, no democracy at stake, no terrorism at stake. It was simply to keep the oil lanes open.

    REAGAN: We remain deeply committed to supporting the self-defense of our friends in the Gulf, and to ensuring the free flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

    KLARE: This has always been the primary function of the Central Command - to protect the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to the United States and its allies.

    NEWS ANCHOR: We have some drama unfolding in the Middle East to report to you tonight. Diplomats in Kuwait are now saying that Iraqi troops have now crossed the border into Kuwait.

    KLARE: When Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, the first President Bush gave the Carter Doctrine its most extreme, most substantial implementation.

    GEORGE H.W. BUSH: And it is about our own national security interests and ensuring the peace and stability of the entire world.

    KLARE: When President Bush met with his advisors in Camp David on August 3rd and 4th the fear was that Saddam Hussein was within striking range of Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. And this created a panic situation in Washington.

    H.W. BUSH: This will not stand. This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait. KLARE: And President Bush concluded at that moment that we had to act militarily.

    H.W. BUSH: We have sent forces to defend Saudi Arabia. The integrity of Saudi Arabia, its freedom, are very, very important to the United States.

    KLARE: What’s so interesting here is how clear it was, in August and September 1990, that oil was the trigger for U.S. intervention in the First Persian Gulf War.

    H.W. BUSH: Our jobs, our way of life, our own freedom, and the freedom of friendly countries around the world would all suffer if control of the world’s great oil reserves fell into the hands of that one man, Saddam Hussein.

    KLARE: But this aroused protests around the country, and polling data show that the public was firmly opposed to a war in the Middle East for oil. So over the course of the next few months, Bush changed his tack.

    H.W. BUSH: Some people never get the word- the fight isn’t about oil.

    KLARE: And he stopped talking about oil.

    H.W. BUSH: I’m deeply concerned about Saddam’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein systematically raped, pillaged and plundered a tiny nation.