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When Withdrawing Troops is Worse Than Nuclear War

February 28th, 2019 - by Doug Bandow / The American Conservative

(February 28, 2019) — For years, most Asia analysts couldn’t imagine a more fearsome possibility than a nuclear North Korea. Presidents going back to George H.W. Bush have declared that Pyongyang must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons — to no avail.

Yet as Pyongyang tested intercontinental ballistic missiles, President Donald Trump came along and threatened “fire and fury” if the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) did not disarm. Presidential sidekick Senator Lindsey Graham dismissed fears of a US attack on the North, opining that any war would be “over there” rather than “over here.”

But then Trump showed a willingness to talk, ending what had seemed like a slide toward war. After the Singapore meeting, he declared, “I want to bring our soldiers back home.” For years before being elected, Trump had railed against the South Koreans as well as the Europeans for under-investing in their defense and unnecessarily relying upon America. He has since reiterated those criticisms as president.

These sentiments have horrified many of the same analysts demanding action to prevent a nuclear DPRK. Better, apparently, to remain in an entangling alliance that risks nuclear war than to end both the threat and the response taken to confront the threat. Better to leave US cities vulnerable to annihilation than to return the burden of defense to an allied country grown wealthy under American protection.

Members of the Korean policy community have decided that an even worse threat than nuclear war is the possibility of the president pulling troops out of South Korea and ending our alliance with Seoul. It is a case of extraordinary misplaced priorities.

The Korean saga began in 1945 with the defeat of Japan. The US became involved on the peninsula when Moscow agreed to create two separate occupation zones, which became two competing nations. In 1950, the North’s Kim Il-sung invaded South Korea, starting the Korean War. US and Chinese intervention followed, and the conflict did not end until 1953.

By then, the South had been ravaged by war, was politically unstable, and was headed by an aging and irascible authoritarian. Only continued American backing protected the ROK from falling to the well-armed North backed by China and the Soviet Union. An alliance appeared to be the only way to preserve an independent South.

That world disappeared long ago. Economic growth came to the South during the 1960s under the Park Chung-hee government. Democracy took longer, with the first free elections occurring in 1987. Today, South Korea has an economy 50 times the size of the North’s, along with twice the population, a vast technological edge, far greater international support, and a dominant industrial base. As for military power, the South’s is qualitatively superior. Only in raw numbers does North Korea lead.

Moreover, the Korean peninsula is no longer an important part of a larger global struggle involving America. The Soviet Union is gone, along with its alliance with Mao Tse-tung’s People’s Republic of China. Japan is strong and secure. There are no fears over American credibility and resulting implications for Europe’s defense.

Washington certainly does not want war in East Asia, but a conflict between the two Koreas would look a bit like war between India and Pakistan: a potential humanitarian horror sure to unsettle economic markets and political systems in the region, but with no direct impact on US security. The current confrontation is now someone else’s responsibility.

In short, the case for an American security guarantee and military presence has disappeared. Washington’s disengagement should not be precipitous, but it should have begun years ago, giving the ROK time to adjust its own security posture. If North Korea abandons its most powerful weapons and transforms its relationship with the South, the threat that has kept US forces in the peninsula will have disappeared. They should then come home as a matter of course — quickly and without reservation.

Better then for Washington to offer to withdraw US troops as part of a nuclear deal with the North. Their pullout could be phased in alongside North Korean compliance with the agreement. In this way, their departure, like their arrival, could be used to achieve a more lasting and stable peace.

Supporters of the alliance, who believe it is more important than ending the North Korean nuclear threat, typically point to other supposed benefits of America’s presence. The US garrison is seen as having a dual use, containing China as well as North Korea. While Washington is not so impolitic as to admit as much publicly, those who see China as a potential enemy view South Korea as a vantage point from which to hem it in.

However, in practice, forces stationed in the South would be of little use against Beijing. A ground war against China would be madness. Thus the army division would be of little value: the South would be a base for a military build-up to nowhere. And no South Korean government is likely to join America in a war against China for any purpose other than to defend their own nation. After all, China has a long memory and will always be there.

Another claimed benefit is regional stability, though exactly what that means is usually left unexplained. Who, other than Pyongyang, would do what to whom if an army division was not stationed in South Korea? Where does one imagine those troops being deployed for action? Conflict in Southeast Asia or an implosion in Indonesia? These are not fights in which American forces belong. What else? Even in the unlikely event that South Korea allows American intervention, it would surely pale in comparison to the value of eliminating North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

Finally, the US presence is defended as a symbolic affirmation of Washington’s commitment to the region. But it’s still stupid to treat as unchangeable a commitment made nearly seven decades ago in a very different security environment and world. Even dependent allies would understand a change implemented to denuclearize the peninsula.

Moreover, the primary signal of Washington’s commitment to Japan is the US troops stationed there, not in the South. Forces in Okinawa are seen as backing the Korean commitment, not forces in South Korea as backing the Japanese commitment.

Of course, it is possible that the North would not seek an American withdrawal. Irrespective of its public pronouncements, Pyongyang might see the US presence as a helpful constraint on Chinese influence after rapprochement with Washington, a bit like South Korea does.

After all, in this case, the distant power is less likely to have direct territorial ambitions than the closer one. Or the DPRK might see no reason to pay for a withdrawal with concessions, since it might assume that a peaceful resolution of the Korean conflict will lead the financially hobbled United States to pull back on its own. However, possible rejection is no reason not to make the offer.

Most Washington policymakers appear to believe that “what has ever been must ever be” when it comes to foreign policy. Even after the Second Coming, they will argue that American forces must remain stationed in South Korea. The president obviously thinks differently.

Trump should put his skepticism of the value of permanent US military deployments to good use. Offer a full withdrawal in exchange for denuclearization. It might turn out to be just the incentive necessary to turn North Korean promises into reality.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Tripwire: Korea and US Foreign Policy in a Changed Worldand co-author of The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea.

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Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

UN Warns Against Emerging Hypersonic Weapon Technologies

February 26th, 2019 - by J. Nastranis / InDepthNew

NEW YORK (February 26, 2019) — Emerging hypersonic weapon technologies present a challenge for the existing arms control and disarmament architecture at a time when it is already under strain. Because hypersonic weapons do not count towards the limits of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which is the key arms control agreement limiting the strategic delivery systems of the two major nuclear powers, Russia and the United States, warns a new study.

Nevertheless, several States are actively pursuing novel long-range manoeuvrable weapons, most significantly hypersonic boost-glide systems comprising ballistic missiles equipped with hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs).

HGVs are unpowered after separation and do not follow a ballistic flight path after the boost phase. They may have an enhanced ability to overcome missile defences due to both this manoeuvrability as well as their depressed trajectories relative to standard ballistic missiles, explains the study by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

New START provides for either party to raise the issue of new strategic offensive arms if they believe they are emerging, leaving open the possibility that the two parties could discuss and reach agreement on including HGVs in the Treaty’s scope.

“The prospects of this happening would not however appear to be very good in the current strategic environment,” says the study by John Borrie, Amy Dowler (UNODA) and Pavel Podvig (UNIDIR).

The study titled Hypersonic Weapons: A Challenge and Opportunity for Strategic Arms Control notes that the pursuit by several nuclear-armed States of novel long-range strike options has received little attention in multilateral disarmament discussions despite their potentially negative implications for security, arms control and disarmament.

This study aims to raise awareness of these implications and to consider possible ways to address them in a multilateral context. It includes overviews of: the current state of technology; possible implications for international peace and security; possible implications for existing and future arms control and disarmament efforts; and different approaches States may pursue to address these challenges.

Research into boost-glide technology dates back to the 1930s but accelerated in the early 2000s. Today, three nuclear- armed States — China, Russia and the United States — have active HGV acquisition programmes and have each undertaken several flight tests. These systems are expected to reach operational readiness within a decade in general, and as early as later in 2019 in one case, authors of the study caution.

In addition to these three States, it has been reported that Australia, France, India and Japan have conducted at least some investigation into hypersonic boost glide technology, although little information about these programmes is publicly available. At least one State is also actively investing in research on countermeasures for HGVs.

The United States has made explicit its intention to use boost-glide technology with conventional or kinetic (non-explosive) warheads. China and Russia have made no such statements, and it is plausible that they would deploy their boost-glide systems with nuclear warheads.

Against this backdrop, says the study, there is a clear arms race dynamic associated with the pursuit of HGVs. Relevant States appear to be at least in part motivated by the pursuit of this technology by rivals, as well as the pursuit or possession of other strategic technologies — in particular missile defences — in their own pursuit of HGVs. The burgeoning pursuit of counter HGV capabilities adds to this arms racing dynamic.

“Although the military utility of hypersonic boost-glide systems remains uncertain, there are scenarios in which they may offer useful new capabilities. These capabilities may not necessarily be strategic in nature but could nevertheless have strategic ramifications,” the study states.

Further: Ambiguity regarding the nature of an HGV’s warhead (nuclear or conventional), together with the possible ambiguity of an HGV’s intended target, means that the potential for misunderstanding is considerable, particularly given the high speeds and corresponding short decision-making and reaction times associated with HGV use.

In addition to the potential for misunderstanding, any use of a boost-glide system could be interpreted as signalling an imminent nuclear attack and thus be inherently escalatory, warns the study.

“It is possible that some States could amend doctrines to expand the conditions necessary for the use of nuclear weapons in response the deployment of hypersonic weapons. Postures might also be adapted, including by placing nuclear forces on higher alert levels.”

Regardless of whether these weapons prove to have a directly destabilizing effect, the development of hypersonic boost-glide systems is part of a broader contemporary trend toward the development of new strategic capabilities, including missile defences and related-space based infrastructure, that poses serious challenges for the maintenance of international peace and security.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

No Reply from US to Russia’s Proposal For Preventing Nuclear War, Says Moscow

February 22nd, 2019 - by TASS

MOSCOW (February 22, 2019) — The United States has left unanswered Russia’s proposal for reaffirming the commitment to efforts for preventing nuclear war, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in the wake of calls from the mayors of Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, addressed to Russia and the United States, for preventing the severing of the Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty.

“Washington is obviously not in the mood of having a meaningful and equitable discussion of the INF Treaty. Moreover, it shows no readiness in general for resuming a systematic bilateral dialogue on strategic issues and disarmament,” Zakharova said.

“Our proposal for joint reaffirmation of the commitment of Russia and the United States to efforts for preventing nuclear war has remained unanswered. Instead, the United States focused on attempts at excusing at any cost the obvious failures of its intelligence services, which provided either wrong or falsified information about the Russian missile (9M279 for the Iskander system — TASS).”

The United States is pushing ahead with intentional efforts to do away with this treaty.

“We are well aware of the public’s concern over the collapse of the INF Treaty, which is capable of dealing a hard blow on international security and global stability and drawing whole regions into a multilateral rams race. This will be fraught with faster erosion of the arms control architecture and negative effects for the future of nuclear disarmament and stability of nuclear non-proliferation,” Zakharova said.

“Russia has repeatedly urged the United States and its allies in Europe and Asia, who unconditionally support Washington’s destructive polices, to pay due attention to this. We’ve proposed practical solutions that would make it possible to lift mutual concerns, preserve the treaty and continue the dialogue on nuclear arms reduction. We have to state with deep regret that all of them have been left unnoticed.” 

“We have never withdrawn any of our proposals. All of them remain on the table. Russia has not abandoned what it proposed. It is to be hoped the United States will eventually become aware solutions through a dialogue will be more preferable and will realize the futility of attempts to attain military supremacy,” Zakharova said.

“We would like the mayors of the Japanese cities and their population to know this. Everything that we’ve done has remained unnoticed. No concrete action followed,” Zakharova said. At the same time she pointed to publications in some Japanese mass media the country’s leadership might nominate the US leadership for the peace award.

“It is not quite clear how this can be reconciled within one country and one political system,” she added.

INF Treaty Dispute

The INF Treaty was signed by the Soviet Union and the United States in Washington on December 8, 1987. It prohibited the creation, production and deployment of ground-based missiles having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The ban does not apply to sea-based cruise missiles, including US Tomahawks. The conclusion and step-by-step implementation of that treaty verified by mutual inspections contributed to easing tensions in Europe.

The United States for the first time accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty in July 2014. Washington has repeated the charges many times since. Moscow strongly disagreed and put forward its counterclaims over the United States’ non-compliance. 

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on December 4, 2018 said that Washington would terminate its observance of the INF Treaty if Russia in its opinion failed to come back into compliance. Russian President Vladimir Putin told the media the next day that the American side had not provided any proof of Moscow’s alleged violations of the treaty. Russia is against ruining this agreement but will be forced to react accordingly if the United States preferred to quit, Putin warned.

Putin to US: I’m Ready for Another Cuban Missile-style Crisis If You Want One

February 21st, 2019 - by Andrew Osborn / Reuters

MOSCOW (February 21, 2019) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is militarily ready for a Cuban Missile-style crisis if the United States wanted one and threatened to place hypersonic nuclear missiles on ships or submarines near US territorial waters. 

The Cuban Missile Crisis erupted in 1962 when Moscow responded to a US missile deployment in Turkey by sending ballistic missiles to Cuba, sparking a standoff that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. 

More than five decades on, tensions are rising again over Russian fears that the United States might deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe, as a landmark Cold War-era arms-control treaty unravels. 

Putin’s comments, made to Russian media late on Wednesday, follow his warning that Moscow will match any US move to deploy new missiles closer to Russia by stationing its own missiles closer to the United States or by deploying faster missiles or both. 

Putin detailed his warning for the first time, saying Russia could deploy hypersonic missiles on ships and submarines which could lurk outside US territorial waters if Washington now moved to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe. 

“(We’re talking about) naval delivery vehicles: submarines or surface ships. And we can put them, given the speed and range (of our missiles)… in neutral waters. Plus they are not stationary, they move and they will have to find them,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript. 

“You work it out: Mach nine (the speed of the missiles) and over 1,000 km (their range).” 

TREATY VIOLATIONS

The State Department dismissed Putin’s earlier warning as propaganda, saying it was designed to divert attention from what Washington alleges are Moscow’s violations of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. 

It referred queries about Putin’s latest remarks to the Pentagon, which did not immediately respond. 

The INF pact bans Russia and the United States from stationing short- and intermediate-range land-based missiles in Europe. Washington announced on Feb. 1 it will withdraw from the treaty in six months unless Moscow ends its alleged violations. 

Analyst Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association think tank said Putin may be seeking to signal that Russia can keep up with the United States, to distract from its internal problems or to deflect blame for the parlous state of the INF treaty. 

“He may also be trying to send the message that, look, neither side should want this world (of a new arms race) so we should sit down and resume discussions,” Reif said. 

Putin has said he does not want an arms race but would have no choice but to act if Washington deployed new missiles in Europe, some of which he says could strike Moscow within 10 to 12 minutes. 

The United States does not currently have ground-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles that it could place in Europe but could develop and deploy them if the INF treaty collapses. 

Putin said his naval response to such a move would mean Russia could strike the United States faster than US missiles deployed in Europe could hit Moscow because the flight time would be shorter. “It (the calculation) would not be in their favor, at least as things stand today. That’s for sure.” said Putin. 

Relations between Moscow and Washington were strained, he added, but the tensions were not comparable to those of the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

 “They (the tensions) are not a reason to ratchet up confrontation to the levels of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s. In any case that’s not what we want,” said Putin. “If someone wants that, well OK they are welcome. I have set out today what that would mean. Let them count (the missile flight times).” 

Separately, Washington said on Thursday that it was carrying out an observation flight over Russia under the Open Skies Treaty, the first one since 2017. 

In a statement, the Pentagon said an unarmed OC-135B aircraft was being used and Russia was aware of the flight. 

Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Gareth Jones, Bernadette Baum and James Dalgleish


Russian Media Lists Possible US Targets for Zircon Missiles in Case of Attack

Sputnik News

(February 24, 2019) — During his annual address to the Federal Assembly Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russian submarines will be heavily equipped with 3M22 Zircon (NATO reporting name SS-N-33) hypersonic missiles that will be used to strike enemy decision making centres in the event of aggression against Russia.

State TV channel Russia-1 has presented a list of five US decision-making centres that will become likely targets for Russia’s Zircon hypersonic missiles deployed on submarines if Washington decides to attack Moscow using its missile arsenal. According to the media outlet, the Pentagon will be one of the primary targets because it houses top military command centres, as well the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

The next target could be Camp David — the US president’s retreat, located around 100 kilometres from Washington. The place is equipped with a bunker and communications centre called Site R. Another possible target for Russian Zircons, according to the TV channel is Fort Ritchie, Maryland, which served as a support facility for Site R. It’s unclear why the channel included the base in its list, since it was officially closed in 1998.

Another target for Zircons named by the Russia-1 channel is McClellan Air Force Base, California, which officially ceased operating in 1995. The last target, named by the Russian media was Jim Creek Naval Radio Station responsible for maintaining communications with US submarines in a submerged state, using very low frequency radio transmissions.

Rear Adm. Vsevolod Khmyrov said on 21 February that a Russian submarine is capable of firing 40 Zircons at once to successfully hit US-based Armed Forces’ control centres operating the missile systems deployed in Europe in the event Washington uses them to attack Russia.

Moscow insists, that anti-missile defence system Aegis Ashore presents a threat to Russia’s security and violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.  

Aegis Ashore is based on the Aegis Mk-41 ship-based missile system, capable of firing Tomahawk missiles. Moscow says missile defences deployed in Romania and Poland are also capable of firing Tomahawks and thus violate the INF agreement. Washington denies Moscow’s accusations and claims Aegis Ashore doesn’t have such functionality.

3M22 Zircon (NATO reporting name SS-N-33) is a submarine-based hypersonic missile capable of striking targets both at sea and on the ground. The weapon was presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his annual address to the Federal Assembly, where he stressed the incredible speed at which the missile approaches its target — up to 9 Machs. Such speed will allow submarines, situated beyond the US maritime borders, to strike targets located 500 km deep into the territory within 5 minutes.

The Arms Trade Is Intensifying Under Trump

February 20th, 2019 - by Peter Castagno / Truthout
The revolving door between public officials and defense contractors has long distorted US foreign policy to serve war profiteers at the expense of the public interest and basic humanitarian norms. From US weaponry ending up in the hands of ISIS, to supplying arms fueling civil conflict and therefore contributing to the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, the lack of oversight on arms deals has enabled human rights atrocities.
The global arms trade is experiencing its greatest boom since the Cold War, fueled by horrific wars in the Middle East and revitalized power rivalries among China, Russia and the United States. In their most recent report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute revealed a 44 percent increase in arms sales from 2002 to 2017.

The United States is the world’s biggest arms exporter by far, holding 34 percent of total market share — a 58 percent lead on Russia, its closest competitor. From 2017 to 2018, US arms sales to foreign governments increased 33 percent, in part due to the Trump administration’s diminished legal restraints on supplying foreign militias.

“[T]he people that are making these deals for the government, they should never be allowed to go to work for these companies,” President Trump said during an interview with “Fox News Sunday” in December 2016. “You, know, they make a deal like that and then a year later, or two years later, or three years later you see them working for these big companies that made the deal.”

Before entering the White House, Trump asserted his belief in a “lifetime restriction” on top defense officials working for private defense contractors after their public service. Two years later, the Project on Government Oversight released a detailed analysis of the defense sector, revealing 645 instances of federal employees working for the 20 largest Pentagon contractors in fiscal year 2016, the latest year with complete data.

Of the 645 instances of former public servants transitioning to work for private defense corporations, 90 percent were hired to work as lobbyists, where they seek to influence public policy to benefit their private employers.

Trump Cabinet Conflicts
After the resignation of Gen. James Mattis, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahanfilled the post as interim head of the Defense Department. Before joining the Trump administration, Shanahan spent three decades working for Boeing — a blatant conflict of interest for the person responsible for overseeing federal contracts with private defense contractors.

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, called Shanahan “a living, breathing product of the military-industrial complex,” and asserted that “this revolving door keeps the national security elite very small, and very wealthy, and increasing its wealth as it goes up the chain.”
One egregious example of that revolving door is Heather Wilson, who has been secretary of the Air Force since 2017. In 2015, Lockheed Martin paid a $4.7 million settlement to the Department of Justice after the revelation it had used taxpayer funds to hire lobbyists for a $2.4 billion contract.
One of the lobbyists was former New Mexico Representative Wilson, ranked as one of the “most corrupt members of Congress” by the nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Wilson was later confirmed as Air Force secretary in the Senate by a 76-22 vote.
Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army, worked as vice president of government relations for Raytheon before joining the Trump administration in 2017. The Hill recognized Esper as one of Washington’s most powerful corporate lobbyists in 2015 and 2016, where he fought to influence acquisition policy and other areas of defense bills. Esper’s undersecretary, Ryan McCarthy, is a former Lockheed executive.

Armament Industry’s Influence on Foreign Policy
The Trump administration’s commitment to advancing arms sales is not only apparent in the legion of officials with severe conflicts of interests occupying the cabinet, but also through directives in official arms export policy.
The State Department’s updated Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) Policy Implementation Plan was released in November 2018 and detailed loosened restrictions on the sale of drones and other weapons, new financing options for countries who can’t afford US weaponry, and aims to put pressure on diplomats to put arms deals at the forefront of their mission.
Rachel Stohl, an arms trade expert with the Stimson Center, described the updated policy, saying, “If you read between the lines, it could be a green light for the US to sell more with less restraint.”
A glaring example of the arms industry’s influence on State Department policy is demonstrated by a September 20, 2018, report from The Wall Street Journal. According to the report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was convinced to continue support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen for the sake of a $2 billion arms deal with US-based defense contractor Raytheon. The State Department’s legislative affairs staff, who influenced Pompeo’s decision, is led by Assistant Secretary of State Charles Faulkner, a former Raytheon lobbyist.
Recent developments by the Trump administration have clarified the nature of the relationship between defense contractors and the federal government, but it would be erroneous to place the majority of the blame on him for the greater trend in global arms sales. Under President Barack Obama, arms exports doubled compared to President George W. Bush, reaching more than $200 billion in total approved deals (approved deals don’t represent actualized contracts, as deals can take years to be ordered and completed).
The rapid increase in exports was part of a broader strategy to replace US soldiers with surrogates in allied countries, as well as to placate allies in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — countries incensed by the administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Despite brokering more arms deals than any administration since World War II, President Obama did enforce holds on arms exports to some countries deemed guilty of human rights abuses, including Bahrain, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. All of these holds were lifted shortly after the Trump administration took power.
The Trump administration’s priorities on arms sales were further demonstrated after the CIA confirmed Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in ordering the savage execution of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. President Trump resisted calls to punish the Saudi prince on the grounds that punitive action would jeopardize lucrative arms deals with the kingdom. President Trump’s claims vastly overstated the amount of jobs and money to be lost if the US withdrew support for Saudi military adventurism.
Realigning US Priorities
Research from Brown University shows domestic investment in education and health care creates more than twice as many jobs as military spending. Trump’s argument that we have to provide Saudi Arabia or the UAE with bombs that land on school buseshospitals and weddings in order to preserve jobs is unconscionable and demonstrates a warped sense of priorities.
We don’t have to contribute to what a United Nations Children’s Fund official has labeled a “war on children” to maintain what accumulates to a total of less than 0.5 percent of U.S. jobs. We can invest in productive sectors of the economy like renewable energy and create jobs that truly serve our society.
A real debate on the arms trade is nearly absent from public conversation because the industry can only thrive in secrecy and duplicity. Consider former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s final move as a public official, in which he snuck a provision to curtail debate on Saudi support in Yemen into the US farm bill in December.
Fortunately, Ryan’s manipulative tactics would fail to prevent the House from finally passing a resolution to end US support for the war in Yemen on February 13. Trump has indicatedthe Yemen resolution will be his first veto, as it represents a major check to executive power and a direct rebuke to his arms export-based style of diplomacy.
After Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, defense companies enjoyed an immediate boost to their stock. This is because demand in the arms trade surges alongside geopolitical instability. Heightened volatility encourages higher arms sales, and the dissemination of weapons to despotic regimes increases volatility, creating a vicious cycle further entrenched by a revolving door of defense contractors who influence public policy to benefit private weapons manufacturers.
In his famous farewell speech, President Dwight Eisenhower warned the US public of this exact predicament, what he called the “military-industrial complex.” President Eisenhower’s warning remains prescient nearly 60 years later, as the failure to regulate the defense sector has led the US to arm its enemies, enable humanitarian crises and desecrate its values.
While the historic House resolution to end US support for the war in Yemen is proof we can take concrete action to confront the military industrial complex, greater public awareness is needed to transform US foreign policy in a profound manner. Just as President Eisenhower suggested, it is time for an alert and knowledgeable citizenry to challenge the reasoning behind the US’s endless wars and fight for a more peaceful future.

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.


Why Are Democrats Trying to Torpedo the Korea Peace Talks?

February 20th, 2019 - by Tim Shorrock / The Nation

(February 22, 2019) — South Koreans are learning the hard truths expressed in the protest music of Phil Ochs from the darkest days of the Cold War. “When it comes to times like Korea, there’s no one more red, white, and blue” than the American liberal, he sang in one of his most biting verses.

Decades later, with the two Koreas on the brink of ending a war that ripped their country apart and triggered the massive US military intervention of 1950, the liberals and Democrats who earned Ochs’s derision may be undermining the best chance for peace on the peninsula in a generation.

As US diplomats prepare for the second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un next week in Hanoi, senior Democrats in the House and Senate, joined by a few Republicans, have been sounding alarm bells, warning that South Korean President Moon Jae-in is moving too fast in reconciling with North Korea by seeking a premature lifting of sanctions on the nuclear-armed state.

They are also expressing strong reservations about the US and South Korean negotiations with Kim and warning Trump not to budge on his “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign until Kim has completely dismantled North Korea’s nuclear-weapons and missile program. Kim temporarily halted the program nearly 500 days ago by suspending all testing of his “nuclear force.” 

The congressional actions have been fueled by a steady stream of pessimistic and often misleading studies from Washington think tanks, eagerly embraced by US media hostile to the peace process, alleging that Kim is “playing” Trump and that both Moon and Trump may stop short of demanding North Korea’s immediate denuclearization by embracing a more incremental approach.

 In recent days, word has been circulating in Washington that Trump’s team in Hanoi, led by State Department special envoy Stephen Biegun, may loosen some US sanctions in return for North Korea’s closing down of its huge nuclear complex at Yongbyon, which South Korea’s Hankyoreh newspaper describes as “the center and symbol of North Korea’s nuclear development program.” 

Other reports claim that the two countries may set up liaison offices in their respective capitals as the bilateral talks move forward. Those attempts at a compromise, in turn, have set up an internecine battle inside the Trump administration, with hard-liners like John Bolton, who is visiting South Korea this weekend, trying to head off Biegun’s diplomacy.

But Trump is sticking to his guns. “I’m in no particular rush” as long as the North’s test suspension remains in place, Trump told reporters at the White House on February 19. That same day, President Moon told Trump in a 35-minute phone call that South Korea was ready to use economic incentives, including connecting inter-Korean roads and railroads and other projects, to “reduce the burden” on the United States in forging an agreement with North Korea. “Seoul is ready to reboot inter-Korean exchanges with an early resumption of joint economic projects,” a presidential official at the Blue House told reporters.

Top Democrats, however, oppose such moves. Last week, Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, joined Republican Ted Cruz in sending a strongly worded letter to Trump that directly attacked President Moon’s push for closer economic ties with North Korea. They urged the White House to rein in the US ally by committing “the full weight of the U.S. government to ensuring the integrity of the sanctions regime.”

Senator Menendez is also the author of a resolution, now under consideration in the Senate and House, promoting the trilateral military alliance between the United States, Japan, and South Korea, which is highly unpopular among Koreans.  

It comes as Tokyo and Seoul are locked in a bitter dispute over Japan’s use of “comfort women” as sex slaves during World War II and its refusal to provide restitution to thousands of Koreans forced to labor in Japanese mines and factories during that time. The resolution, which was introduced in the House by Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is widely seen in Seoul as a way to pressure President Moon to back off and settle the dispute.

The most dramatic moment of congressional impatience with South Korea came last week, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with a high-level delegation of South Korean lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties.

The group, which was led by Representative Moon Hee-sang, the speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly, came to Washington to seek support for the inter-Korean peace process started by President Moon during the “Olympic Truce” of January 2018. According to Korean reporters who were briefed on the meeting, the session was uncomfortable from the start and had to be extended “as the talks grew intense.”

Pelosi, citing her own visit to Pyongyang in 1997, reportedly told her visitors not to trust the North and asserted (apparently with prodding from Representative Na Kyung-won, the floor leader of the right-wing opposition Liberty Korea Party) that North Korea’s “real goal isn’t its own denuclearization but South Korea’s demilitarization.” At one point, Pelosi insisted that last June’s summit in Singapore — the first-ever meeting between a US president and a North Korean leader — was “nothing but show.”  

The implication was that the South Koreans, who have had extensive discussions on economic, political, and military issues with their Northern counterparts over the past year, are naive and don’t understand the threat to their own country. Representative Moon, in an interview with Fox 11 in Los Angeles, said he responded to Pelosi that the second summit in Hanoi “is of great importance to the Korean people and it will determine the fate of our country. That’s how important it is.”

The US congressional pressure on South Korea to end its dispute with Japan also contributed to the tension. The issue of Japan’s wartime crimes is particularly sensitive for Representative Moon, who recently suggested that the Japanese emperor apologize to his country for its war crimes against Koreans. Later, he called Japan a “brazen thief” for demanding that he retract his comments.

After hearing Pelosi express her concern about the dispute between South Korea and Japan, Speaker Moon told Korean reporters that the House speaker was essentially lobbying for Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party government in Tokyo. “I think Japan told her to have a word with [us] before the meeting, or in other words, scold us,” he said, according to the Joongang Daily. Pelosi’s press office did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment and clarification.

Still, Pelosi’s comments rattled many Koreans, who are hoping for a successful summit so they can proceed with their plans to eliminate tensions with the North. “Reconciliation and peace between North and South Korea is a gravely historic matter that should be for the Korean people to decide,” Simone Chun, a Korean scholar and activist who has spoken to congressional staffers about the peace process, told The Nation. “It cannot be allowed to be reduced to a bargaining chip in the struggle for one-upmanship between Republicans and Democrats.”

Chun was also critical of Representative Na of the Korean opposition party for raising fears during her visit to Washington about a North Korean nuclear attack and opposing an end-of-war declaration at the upcoming summit. “What Pelosi did was to legitimize the ultra-right-wing views expressed by Na,” she said.

Hwang Joon-bum, the Washington correspondent for Hankyoreh, South Korea’s largest progressive daily, wrote an op-ed about the House speaker’s remarks. “Pelosi is just one person who reflects the dominant viewpoint in the American political establishment, the mainstream media and think tanks,” he said. “There was never any chance” that the lawmakers’ tour “would reverse the deep-rooted distrust of North Korea and the antipathy to Trump both inside and outside of the US political establishment.”

The US critics, he added, “aren’t impressed by North Korea’s suspension of nuclear and missile testing since Nov. 2017, its willingness to demolish its Yongbyon nuclear facility and [Kim Jong-un’s] focus on an economic line.”

Daniel Jasper, the public-education-and-advocacy coordinator for Asia of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), said in an interview that he hoped Democrats would start seeing the Trump-Kim talks through Korean eyes.

“We are urging Democratic leadership to see the peace process for what it is — a Korean-led effort to end a 70-year-old war,” Jasper told The Nation. “Changing from the view that the current situation is a nuclear standoff to the view that this situation is the result of an un-ended war is essential to understanding what types of reciprocal actions are pragmatic and necessary, as well as why diplomacy is needed in the first place. We remain hopeful that the Democrats will rise above partisanship and political calculations to support the overall goal of peace.”

AFSC, which established its first operations in North Korea in 1980, works with four cooperative farms in the country to raise productivity and implement sustainable agricultural practices, Jasper said.

But the Menendez letter showed little appreciation for South Korea’s efforts to help the North improve its economy. Menendez and Cruz listed a series of South Korean actions they consider troublesome, including moves by Korean banks to “pursue investments and operations” in the North and the participation of “multiple business executives” in President Moon’s summit in Pyongyang last September to discuss reopening the Kaesong Industrial Zone just north of the DMZ and tours of Mount Kumgang, a tourist site beloved by South Koreans.

They also complained about President Moon’s recent calls to lift sanctions on the North “as soon as possible” and plans by both Koreas to break ground on a new cross-border rail project “within this year.” They added that North Korea’s “opacity” and its “well-documented efforts of evading sanctions” makes it impossible to ensure “that economic engagement with the North — regardless of intent to contribute to positive diplomatic progress on denuclearization — would not violate U.N. Security Council resolutions or be used for illicit activities prohibited by U.S. sanctions.”

Meanwhile, in another move that could constrain both South Korea and the United States in their negotiations with the North, Representative Tom Malinowski, a newly elected Democratic congressman from New Jersey, joined Republican Representative Mike Gallagher in introducing a bill that would restrict the US government and the Pentagon from reducing US troops in South Korea from their current level of about 28,000 to 22,000 or less unless the secretary of defense could assure Congress it would not have an “adverse” impact on US security. 

The bill, H.R. 889, states that a “withdrawal or significant reduction” of US forces, which could happen eventually if a peace deal is reached, “may risk upsetting the military balance” in the Asia region. It also uses language similar to the Menendez letter concerning the US alliance with Japan, saying that the trilateral ties between the United States, Japan, and South Korea “form the bedrock of regional stability.” 

Malinowski, a former director of Human Rights Watch, was the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor during the Obama administration. In 2017, he wrote an article for Politico titled “How to Take Down Kim Jong Un” that essentially called for a campaign that would “lead to the end” of the North Korean regime “and its reason to exist as a country.”

The Democratic Party’s current approach was established last June, one week before the Singapore summit, in a letter to Trump from Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and signed by Senators Menendez, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Sherrod Brown, Mark Warner, and Patrick Leahy. It laid out a series of demands, including North Korea’s “dismantlement and removal” of its chemical and biological weapons, which are not currently part of the talks, and urged the White House to “maintain a tough approach to China” throughout the peace process. The Schumer letter also rejected any incremental steps by the US government in its dealings with Kim.

 “Any deal that explicitly or implicitly gives North Korea sanctions relief for anything other than the verifiable performance of its obligations to dismantle its nuclear and missile arsenal is a bad deal,” the Democratic senators declared. 

Chun, the scholar-activist, said in a recent e-mail to peace activists that the Schumer letter “completely overlooked the recent progress toward peace evinced by the inter-Korean summit and the Panmunjom Declaration and discounted the overwhelming support for the peace process by Koreans. It also offers no alternative vision for peace on the Korean Peninsula and considers Korean interests only insofar as they serve the narrow political agenda of the Democratic Party.”

After the Schumer letter went out, according to activists who spend time on Capitol Hill, Representative Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders told their caucus “not to speak supportively” of the Singapore summit, which happened to coincide with a week of advocacy on Korea by peace groups. “Many of our folks lobbying on the Hill were stunned at how hostile many Dems were,” one activist told The Nation.

But now, with the Trump-Kim negotiations in full swing, a few Democrats are ready to take a new approach. A group of lawmakers from the Congressional Progressive Caucus plan to announce an action next week to express support for the Korea peace process and call on the United States to finally end the Korean War through a peace agreement. That would be most welcome, said Kevin Martin, president of Peace Action and national coordinator of the Korea Peace Network.

“Democrats should support diplomacy, and remember the most important president in this process is Moon Jae-in, not Donald Trump,” Martin said. “Moon’s persistent leadership toward reconciliation and diplomacy with North Korea represents the fervent desire of the Korean and Korean-American people for peace. Members of Congress from both parties should understand that and support it, skepticism about Trump and Kim notwithstanding.” 

Tim Shorrock is a Washington, DC–based journalist and the author ofSpies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.


Trump Deserves World Encouragement to End the Korean War

John Lewallen / Avoiding Nuclear War

President Trump deserves the enthusiastic support of everyone for his stated intention to declare an end to the Korean War at his Feb. 27 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. The raw fact is that two major nuclear-armed powers, the United States and North Korea, are at war, a relic of the Cold War with no basic conflict of interest between the two nations today.

This ongoing war in 2017 nearly led to a North Korean high-altitude nuclear explosion which could damage or destroy the electronic central nervous system of modern civilization worldwide, no matter where above the Earth the blast happens.

There are some presidential decisions which are essential for human survival no matter who is president, and ending the Korean War is one of them. North and South Korea are eager to end the war which began in 1950, and are opening many avenues of cooperation. We all became safer on June 12, 2018, when President Trump and Kim Jong-Un began talks based on their common interest in “peace and prosperity,” ending a  dangerous exchange of attack threats between the two nations.

The peace talks began after North Korea tested a powerful H-bomb underground on Sept.3, 2017, immediately announcing that it could now make a high-altitude nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. This was shortly followed by Kim Jong-Un’s threat to make the first high-altitude H-bomb explosion since the 1960s. Such a blast, if done in space above the Earth’s atmosphere, would destroy unprotected computer chips on Earth, in space, and in the atmosphere over a huge area with unpredictable worldwide consequences.

Today there is a “New Face of Nuclear War,” nuclear EMP warfare, which will be discussed for the first time ever in the United Nations at a workshop on April 29, 2019, to which I have been invited to make a presentation. I’ve been studying and writing about nuclear EMP for several years. I believe President Trump’s strategy of long-term peace talks with North Korea are saving us all from the very real risk of nuclear EMP war. 


Simply stated, the entire world civilization is now completely interconnected and dependent on a computerized electronic network, which is vulnerable to the EMP which would be generated by a high-altitude nuclear explosion of any size. A strong EMP explosion about 200 miles up could destroy electronic civilization nationwide below the blast, also destroying satellite electronics in line of sight, and “super-charging” the Van Allen Belt in space with damaging electrons which persist for years. It’s a suicidal and omnicidal use of nuclear bombs, threatening to destroy the electronics on which we all depend, without initially hurting anyone.

Fortunately, a dedicated group of nuclear weapons scientists acting as the Congressional EMP Commission <www.firstempcommission.org> have been studying and warning the nation about nuclear EMP for years. They were able to go directly to President Trump in 2017, cutting through the denial, disinformation, and coverup which still are confusing the public and preventing us from using all our powers and talents to deal with this basic danger.

 
With North Korea, Trump is doing the right thing, ending attack threats and stopping mock invasion “war games” on the Korean peninsula. Ending the Korean War is essential to achieve the U.S. goal of a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula. It may also save the world from the unimaginable catastrophe of nuclear EMP warfare. 

 
Tragically, the U.S. has been increasing nuclear threat confrontation against other nations, especially Russia and China, increasing the risk that the U.S. might suffer nuclear attack either by an accidental launch or a deliberate pre-emptive nuclear EMP strike by a nation fearing that a crippling U.S. first-strike against them is imminent. If Trump acts now to reduce nuclear threats against Russia and China, I really will sleep a lot easier, and President Trump truly will deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.  

US-Based Cargo Plane Caught Bringing Military Arms Into Venezuela

February 11th, 2019 - by admin

Tim Johnson / McClatchy DC & Beyza Binnur Donmez / Anadolu Agency – 2019-02-11 01:50:17

https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/latin-america/article225949200.html

US-Based Plane Caught Bringing Arms Into Venezuela
Tim Johnson / McClatchy DC

Venezuelan government officials display weapons they say were delivered by a cargo plane from Miami

CARACAS (February 9, 2019) — Venezuelan authorities say a US-owned air freight company delivered a crate of assault weapons earlier this week to the international airport in Valencia to be used in “terrorist actions” against the embattled government of Nicolas Maduro.

An air freight company, 21 Air LLC, based in Greensboro, N.C., operates the Boeing 767 aircraft that the Venezuelans allege was used in the arms transfer. The flight originated in Miami on February 3.

The Boeing 767 has made dozens of flights between Miami International Airport and destinations in Colombia and Venezuela since Jan. 11, a flight tracking service shows, often returning to Miami for only a few hours before flying again to South America.

The discovery of the weapons occurred Tuesday — two days after the flight landed briefly in Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city — as tax authorities and other inspectors conducted a routine inspection of cargo that came off the flight, according to a statement by the Carabobo state governor’s office.

A senior Venezuelan security official, Bolivarian National Guard Gen. Endes Palencia Ortiz, who is the nation’s vice minister of citizen security, said authorities found 19 assault weapons, 118 ammunition cartridges, and 90 military-grade radio antennas, among other items.

“This materiel was destined for criminal groups and terrorist actions in the country, financed by the fascist extreme right and the government of the United States,” Palencia Ortiz was quoted as saying.

The freight company, begun five years ago, operates two cargo planes, a Boeing 747 and a Boeing 767, according to the 21 Air website. The Boeing 767, a 32-year-old aircraft once flown by the now defunct Brazilian carrier Varig, carries the registration N-881-YV and is the aircraft that landed in Valencia on Feb. 3.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent through its website. The cellular phone of the company’s chief executive, Michael Mendez, had a recording Thursday afternoon that said it could not accept calls.

An Ottawa-based analyst of unusual ship and plane movements, Steffan Watkins, drew attention to the frequent flights of the 21 Air cargo plane in a series of tweets Thursday.

“All year, they were flying between Philadelphia and Miami and all over the place, but all continental US,” Watkins said in a telephone interview. “Then all of a sudden, in January, things changed.”

That’s when the cargo plane began flying to destinations in Colombia and Venezuela on a daily basis, and sometimes multiple times a day, Watkins said. The plane has made close to 40 round-trip flights from Miami International Airport to Caracas and Valencia in Venezuela, and Bogota and Medellin in Colombia since Jan. 11.

The most recent tracking of the aircraft showed it arrived from Medellin into Miami airport after midnight Thursday.

The air cargo company’s website says that the Boeing 767 has a payload capacity of 42 tons.

The aircraft in question has passed through many hands since Varig took delivery of it in 1987. In 2004, it was passed to GE Capital Aviation Services, a leasing company that is part of the General Electric conglomerate, according to an operator history on the planespotters.net website. Tampa Cargo, Avianca Cargo and Dynamic Airways later controlled the aircraft until 21 Air received it in 2014.

The provenance of the alleged weaponry was not apparent. And questions about who the arms shipment was destined for, if the Venezuelan version of events is true, only mounted. Delivery at a commercial airport would indicate that somebody with authority there would have had a hand.

Venezuelan authorities displayed the weaponry that they said was delivered by the 21 Air cargo plane on open-air tables draped in red cloth. Some of the rifles included stands for long-range targeting. The shipment included 15 AR-15 assault weapons, a Micro Draco semi-automatic pistol with a jumbo magazine, a Colt 7.62 rifle and two telescopic sights, the governor’s statement said.

Valencia was a former manufacturing and economic hub before the collapse of the nation’s economy.

Flight records from the tracking site flightradar24.com, monitored by Watkins, indicate that the 21 Air cargo plane flew at least four times to Valencia from Miami and another four times to Caracas from Miami since Jan. 11. In many cases, the flights would head on to Bogota or Medellin before returning to Miami.

If some US entity were attempting to provide arms to a Venezuelan resistance movement, it would be taking a familiar page from the history books.

The CIA operated a dummy airline, known as Air America, from the early 1950s until the mid 1970s for air operations in Southeast Asia, including air-dropping weapons to friendly forces.

More than a decade later, Sandinista soldiers shot down a cargo plane taking weapons to the US-backed contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government. A US Marine veteran, Eugene Hasenfus, survived the 1986 crash, and later told reporters that he was working for the CIA, paving the way for his release and return to the United States.

Curiously, one of the figures in the Reagan administration instrumental in delivering support to the contras, former assistant secretary of state Elliott Abrams, was named by President Donald Trump late last month as his special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela.


“Humanitarian Assistance”?
US Weapons Shipment Seized

High-caliber ammunition, rifles, rifle chargers,
and cellphones found at airport, says safety official

Beyza Binnur Donmez / Anadolu Agency

ANKARA, Turkey (February 6, 2019) — Amid fears of an incursion by US forces, a shipment of rifles, ammunition, and other military equipment from the US was seized at a Venezuelan airport, according to a state official writing on Twitter.

Endes Palencia, the deputy minister of prevention and public safety, late Tuesday posted pictures of high-caliber ammunition, 19 rifles, 118 rifle chargers, 90 radio antennas, and six cellphones shipped from Miami, Florida to Arturo Michelena International Airport in Valencia.

The ammunition was reportedly found in a storage yard of the airport and may have entered the country on Sunday aboard an Airbus N881YV.

Authorities said they will investigate to find those responsible “for financing terrorist groups that seek to undermine the peace of the people of Venezuela.”
Security has been tightened at ports, air terminals, customs and other areas of the country.

Since National Assembly leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president last month, tension has been high in Venezuela, with President Nicolas Maduro warning that countries siding with Guaido are attempting a coup.

The US has sided with Guaido, along with some 19 European countries.
Russia, China and Iran have also thrown their support behind Maduro, as has Turkey.
Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

A Terrifying Link: Climate Change and Mass Extinctions

February 11th, 2019 - by admin

David Derbyshire / The Observer – 2019-02-11 01:30:19

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/25/mass-mortality-events-animal-conservation-climate-change

Climate Change and Mass Extinctions
The terrifying phenomenon that is
pushing species towards extinction

David Derbyshire / The Observer

Dead saiga antelopes in a field in Kazakhstan. About 20,000 of the species were found dead in one week. Photograph: Reuters.

LONDON (March 21, 2018) — There was almost something biblical about the scene of devastation that lay before Richard Kock as he stood in the wilderness of the Kazakhstan steppe. Dotted across the grassy plain, as far as the eye could see, were the corpses of thousands upon thousands of saiga antelopes. All appeared to have fallen where they were feeding.

Some were mothers that had travelled to this remote wilderness for the annual calving season, while others were their offspring, just a few days old. Each had died in just a few hours from blood poisoning. In the 30C heat of a May day, the air around each of the rotting hulks was thick with flies.

The same grisly story has been replayed throughout Kazakhstan. In this springtime massacre, an estimated 200,000 critically endangered saiga — around 60% of the world’s population — died.

“All the carcasses in this one of many killing zones were spread evenly over 20 sq km,” says Kock, professor of wildlife health and emerging diseases at the Royal Veterinary College in London. “The pattern was strange. They were either grazing normally with their newborn calves or dying where they stood, as if a switch had been turned on. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

The saiga — whose migrations form one of the great wildlife spectacles — were victims of a mass mortality event (MME), a single, catastrophic incident that wipes out vast numbers of a species in a short period of time. MMEs are among the most extreme events of nature. They affect starfish, bats, coral reefs and sardines. They can push species to the brink of extinction, or throw a spanner into the complex web of life in an ecosystem. And according to some scientists, MMEs are on the rise and likely to become more common because of climate change.

Ochre sea stars. The species was among the worst hit by the mass mortality event that hit starfish on the Pacific coast of North America in 2013. Photograph: Paul Williams/BBC

The MME that has pushed the saiga closer to extinction struck in 2015. Kock was part of an international team studying the animals as they gathered for the calving season. For most of the year, saiga are on the move, able to avoid predatory wolves and human poachers by sprinting at more than 40mph, making them one of the fastest ungulates, or hoofed animals. But once a year, they put their migration on pause to calve in vast groups when the grass is at its lushest, before it is scorched by the sun.

In 2015, the main gathering in the Betpak-Dala region of central Kazakhstan, an area roughly the size of the British Isles, numbered 250,000. Nearby, other groups were thousands strong. Saiga are remarkable animals.

Their bulbous noses, which hang over their mouths, give these antelopes an almost comical appearance. The nose is flexible and can be inflated, helping them to breathe warm air in the freezing winters and filter air in the arid summers as they sprint with their heads down in a cloud of dust.

The species has been hit by mass die-offs before. In 1981, around 70,000 died suddenly in a few days, while in 1988 another 200,000 died. The creatures are also victims of poachers.

“In 2014, we believed there were about 250,000 adults and they produced a good number of calves — perhaps a couple of hundred thousand. It looked a viable population and we’d expected a population of a million soon. There was even talk of them coming off the critically endangered list,” Kock says.

But as the scientists watched a year later, the mothers fell sick and began to drop dead. “It wasn’t as if the disease started at one end and spread — there was no time for transmission of the pathogen from animal to animal. It was too quick,” he says. “Within two or three days, everything was dying. By the end of the week, every single one was dead.”

The scientists on the ground pinpointed blood poisoning as the cause, but were puzzled as to why whole herds were dying so quickly. After 32 postmortems, they concluded the culprit was the bacterium Pasteurella multocida, which they believe normally lives harmlessly in the tonsils of some, if not all, of the antelopes.

In a research paper published in January in Science Advances, Kock and colleagues contrasted the 2015 MME with the two from the 1980s. They concluded that a rise in temperature to 37C and an increase in humidity above 80% in the previous few days had stimulated the bacteria to pass into the bloodstream where it caused haemorrhagic septicaemia, or blood poisoning.

The weather link raises the spectre of climate change. Just as it is rarely wise to link a single extreme weather event — whether it’s the Australian heatwave, last summer’s Hurricane Harvey or this winter’s North American cold snap — to climate change, it is equally difficult to blame an MME on global warming. But what can be said with confidence is that the sorts of extreme weather events linked to MMEs — such as the temperature and humidity rise that nearly wiped out the saiga — will become more frequent.

Australians know all about extreme weather. While much of Europe and North America has endured a bitter start to the year, the Australian summer has been a scorcher. In January, temperatures in Sydney topped 47C, the city’s highest since 1939.

The toll on wildlife has been devastating. As the mercury rose, corpses of critically endangered flying foxes — or fruit bats — began to pile up under the trees in New South Wales. Horrified wildlife campaigners at one colony in Campbelltown, south of Sydney, discovered 400 dead bats. Some were still hanging from trees. Many were babies, abandoned by their parents in their own desperate search for shade.

Flying foxes are well adapted to normal Australian summers. But above 40C, they are unable to regulate their body temperature and can die from overheating. This year’s deaths were grim enough, but they were dwarfed by the MME of 2014, when at least 45,000 flying foxes were killed on one hot day in south-east Queensland. Some colonies had more dead bodies than living bats. Their corpses were piled thick on the ground as the three species there — the black, little red and grey-headed — were hit.

Events like the disaster that struck the flying foxes and saiga appear to be growing in number. The most thorough study of its kind published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2015 uncovered 727 accounts of MMEs involving 2,407 animal populations since 1940.

It found that not only are reports of MMEs on the increase — by about one event a year — but the number of animals killed in each event is on the rise for birds, fish and marine invertebrates.

Adam Siepielski, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Arkansas and a co-author of the paper, became fascinated by the phenomena after hearing a radio report of millions of sardines and anchovies dying.

“These reports of MMEs are probably underestimates in terms of occurrence and sheer magnitude,” he says. “There is additionally a challenge in trying to understand whether this increased occurrence is a real event, or whether there are more people observing these things and [they are] more likely to report them. We call this the epidemic of awareness.”

The study found that disease was the biggest factor in MMEs, playing a role in a quarter of them. Around 19% were directly linked to human behaviour such as pollution. Factors linked directly to climate — including extremes of hot and cold, oxygen stress and starvation — collectively contributed to about a quarter.

Untangling the causes — and working out the role of climate change in MMEs is difficult. “In many cases, there are multiple stressors — such as, in the case of the saiga, a low-lying bacterial infection, slightly higher humidity and higher temperatures,” says Siepielski.

Flying foxes — also known as fruit bats. In 2014, at least 45,000 of them died in one day from overheating in Queensland, Australia. Photograph: Reuters

“There are some mass mortality events linked directly to extreme heatwaves or cold snaps. In other cases there could be indirect changes, where shifts in temperature cause diseases to be more common and which lead to an MME.”

That kind of temperature-related outbreak is now thought to lie behind one of the biggest die-offs ever observed in the natural world, in which hundreds of millions of starfish off the west coast of America began to “melt” into white gloop.

More than 20 species of starfish along the coast from Mexico to Alaska were hit by the sea star wasting disease, a condition caused by a parvovirus — the group of viruses that cause gastrointestinal problems in animals.

The virus left the starfish vulnerable to bacterial infection. Within one or two weeks of infection, white cuts appeared on their bodies and the creatures became listless. Some ripped off their infected arms and tried to walk away. But for most, the disease was deadly.

Like the bacteria that triggered the MME in saiga, the virus appears to have been present in starfish for decades — if not longer. Samples stored in museums since the 1940s tested positive.

An MME can push a species closer to extinction. But it can also have knock-on effects elsewhere in the fragile food web. In tidal pools on the west coast, where once there was a healthy mix of species, mussels — food for starfish — are starting to dominate.

Off California, another source of starfish food, sea urchins, are also on the rise — causing a fall in the availability of kelp, the sea urchins’ main food source. That decline could hit species that depend on it for shelter, food and protection.

A paper published last year in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society concluded that the die-off was probably linked to warmer seas.

The team, led by Morgan Eisenlord at Cornell University, looked at the links between ocean temperatures and disease in the most common species on the west coast, the ochre sea star, as well as testing the effects of warmer water in the lab. Warmer than usual water didn’t just put the starfish under stress, it also made infectious agents more prevalent, they concluded.

Kock is confident that climate change will lead to more MMEs — pushing vulnerable species closer to extinction and altering the food web. He believes that conservationists should be on the lookout for other mortality events in species such as reindeer and elk.

“The tragedy is, we will probably see more events like the event that affected the saiga,” he says. “Evolution takes millions of years and if we have a shift in environmental conditions, everything that’s evolved in that particular environment is under different pressures. Microbes adapt and can respond to changes quickly, but mammals take hundreds of thousands of years or millions of years to adapt. That’s the real worry.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Plutocratic Policy, Not Truth, Comes With a Bodyguard of Lies

February 11th, 2019 - by admin

David Swanson / David Swanson.org & World BEYOND War – 2019-02-11 01:05:58

Plutocratic Policy, Not Truth, Comes With a Bodyguard of Lies

Plutocratic Policy, Not Truth,
Comes With a Bodyguard of Lies

David Swanson / David Swanson.org & World BEYOND War

(February 5, 2019) — At the recent World Economic Forum at Davos, a US panelist claimed that high taxes on the super-wealthy and economic growth had never coexisted in any country ever. The moderator and other panelists were ready to move on, but someone had made the mistake of allowing a guy on the panel who would blurt out the obvious, and he did so, pointing out that those two things had coexisted for decades in the United States up through the 1960s.

While a whole catalog of plutocratic lies has been fine-tuned for many years, very often no lies have been concocted to reply to someone shouting out the truth. Instead, the approach has been to simply not allow truthful voices on the stage.

That so many evil things have to be falsely presented as good and decent is some indication that many people are not so much cruel as gullible. That a word of truth can shake up a carefully constructed pretense is indication that many people are not so much gullible as using the wrong sources of news.

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis, which existed from 1937 to 1942 identified seven useful techniques for tricking people into doing what you want them to do:

1. Name-calling (an example would be “terrorist”)

2. Glittering generalities (if you say you’re spreading democracy and then explain that you’re using bombs, people will have already agreed with you before they hear about the bombs)

3. Transfer (if you tell people that God or their nation or science approves, they may want to as well)

4. Testimonial (putting a statement in the mouth of a respected authority)

5. Plain folks (think millionaire politicians chopping wood or calling their gargantuan house a “ranch”)

6. Card stacking (slanting the evidence)

7. Bandwagon (everyone else is doing it, don’t be left out)

When I wrote a book called War Is A Lie, I examined the following types of lies:

1. Wars are fought against evil.

2. Wars are fought in defense.

3. Wars are waged out of generosity.

4. Wars are unavoidable.

5. Warriors are heroes.

6. War makers have noble motives.

7. Wars are prolonged for the good of the soldiers.

8. Wars are fought on battlefields.

9. Wars are won by enlarging them.

10. War news comes from disinterested observers.

11. War brings security.

12. War is sustainable.

13. War can be both carefully planned for and avoided.

In his new book, Political Mind Games: How the 1% Manipulate Our Understanding of What’s Happening, What’s Right, and What’s Possible, Roy Eidelson examines the following types of lies:

1. Vulnerability: It’s a dangerous world; change is dangerous; it’s a false alarm; we’ll make you sorry

2. Injustice: We’re fighting injustice; no injustice here; change is unjust; we’re the victims

3. Distrust: They’re devious and dishonest; they’re different from us; they’re misguided and misinformed; trust us

4. Superiority: They’re losers; we’ve earned it; pursuing a higher purpose; they’re un-American

5. Helplessness: Change is impossible; we’ll all be helpless; don’t blame us; resistance is futile

Eidelson begins, rightly, with fear, which tends to turn off the thinking portion of the brain. People are manipulated into fearing less likely and less harmful dangers, while neglecting more likely and more harmful ones.

Eidelson uses examples and names names: Attorney General Jeff Sessions claiming marijuana will break up families, Senator Pat Roberts claiming that without warrantless spying you’d likely be killed, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen announcing that the greatest threat to “national security” is government debt, etc.

Eidelson cites Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz requiring his low-wage workers in Washington, D.C., to write “Come Together” on customers’ cups in support of cutting public spending on everything except wars.

We’ve been taught that Social Security is in financial trouble, that taxing the wealthy hurts the poor, that paying the poor more hurts the poor, that protecting our rights will get us killed, that protecting the planet for the future of life will result in foreign businesses “defeating” US ones, that lowering incarceration increases crime; that loose gun laws make us less likely to get shot; that countries with civilized healthcare systems have horrible healthcare (and death panels!), etc.

We’re supposed to believe all this crap, and much more like it cited by Eidelson. Or, even if we recognize it as destructive deceit, we’re supposed to respect it and treat a range of opinions in a balanced manner ranging from actually reasonable views over to somewhere at the far end of delusional incoherence.

The plutocratic palaver of, not just the nightly news, but of the entirety of US culture, also persuades people that injustices are about justice and vice versa, or that injustices are justified by a higher purpose, that victims are to be blamed, that predatory lenders but not their victims deserve sympathy, that warned-of disasters could not have been anticipated, and that the bearers of good ideas are devious and dangerous.

J. Edgar Hoover once held a press conference to announce that Martin Luther King Jr. was the most notorious liar in the country.

Eidelson’s mind games rely on such tactics as patriotism and racism. Racism is of course useful for war promotion, in the form of demonizing an “enemy,” but also for suppressing activism by dividing a population. Patriotism works beautifully to create opposition to anything labeled unpatriotic.

Eidelson concludes his book with an examination of techniques for persuading people they are helpless, such as claiming change is impossible, claiming a behavior is “human nature,” etc. This is absolutely critical, of course, to recognize and counter. I don’t think it helped that in his discussion of “resistance is futile,” as in his earlier section on “we’ll make you sorry,” Eidelson muddied his analysis by straying from lies people are told to actual impediments put in people’s way.

By providing bad educations and racist policing and low pay and a political system of legalized bribery, etc., the oligarchy places actual impediments in people’s way. These need to be overcome, but not in the same way in which lies about incarceration making us safe need to be overcome.

One way to begin to overcome some of the lies, as Eidelson notes, is to recognize our strength. Many progressive positions have majority support in the United States, despite all the lies, but that majority is made up of millions of people who each imagine they are part of some weird fringe minority.

Of course we also need to be prepared to spot lies. For that preparation, all tools of categorization and all relevant detailed facts are helpful.

Then we have to demonstrate to people that they are not helpless, including by taking on the ridiculous idea that all people can do is vote or whine. Most importantly, however, I think, is that we have to convince people to start getting their news from more reliable, more diverse, and more first-hand sources. The worst lies, never categorized, are lies of omission.

While I think Eidelson could have been more careful in defending the corporate media against Trump’s name-calling — particularly in a book that amounts to a devastating rejection of most of what the corporate media does, and while I wish every example of war lies didn’t have to come from Iraq (we’ve got so many wars and each one has been rolled in a coating of lies), I do think Political Mind Games is a book that everyone should either read or give to someone they know who’s living in a fantasy world of Muslim Honduran rapists and benevolent billionaires.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Swanson was awarded the 2018 Peace Prize by the US Peace Memorial Foundation.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Two Open Letters to the People of the United States

February 11th, 2019 - by admin

Nicolas Maduro / Global Research & Derechos.org and 20 Nongovernment Organizations – 2019-02-11 00:47:37

https://www.globalresearch.ca/author/nicolas-maduro

An Open Letter to the People of the United States from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
Nicolas Maduro / Global Research

CARACAS, Venezuela (February 9, 2019) — If I know anything, it is about people, such as you, I am a man of the people. I was born and raised in a poor neighborhood of Caracas. I forged myself in the heat of popular and union struggles in a Venezuela submerged in exclusion and inequality.

I am not a tycoon, I am a worker of reason and heart, today I have the great privilege of presiding over the new Venezuela, rooted in a model of inclusive development and social equality, which was forged by Commander Hugo Chavez since 1998 inspired by the Bolivarian legacy.

We live today a historical trance. There are days that will define the future of our countries between war and peace. Your national representatives of Washington want to bring to their borders the same hatred that they planted in Vietnam.

They want to invade and intervene in Venezuela — they say, as they said then — in the name of democracy and freedom. But it’s not like that. The history of the usurpation of power in Venezuela is as false as the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It is a false case, but it can have dramatic consequences for our entire region.

Venezuela is a country that, by virtue of its 1999 Constitution, has broadly expanded the participatory and protagonist democracy of the people, and that is unprecedented today, as one of the countries with the largest number of electoral processes in its last 20 years. You might not like our ideology, or our appearance, but we exist and we are millions.

I address these words to the people of the United States of America to warn of the gravity and danger that intend some sectors in the White House to invade Venezuela with unpredictable consequences for my country and for the entire American region.

President Donald Trump also intends to disturb noble dialogue initiatives promoted by Uruguay and Mexico with the support of CARICOM for a peaceful solution and dialogue in favour of Venezuela. We know that for the good of Venezuela we have to sit down and talk, because to refuse to dialogue is to choose strength as a way.

Keep in mind the words of John F. Kennedy: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate”. Are those who do not want to dialogue afraid of the truth?

The political intolerance towards the Venezuelan Bolivarian model and the desires for our immense oil resources, minerals and other great riches, has prompted an international coalition headed by the US government to commit the serious insanity of militarily attacking Venezuela under the false excuse of a non-existent humanitarian crisis.

The people of Venezuela have suffered painfully social wounds caused by a criminal commercial and financial blockade, which has been aggravated by the dispossession and robbery of our financial resources and assets in countries aligned with this demented onslaught.

And yet, thanks to a new system of social protection, of direct attention to the most vulnerable sectors, we proudly continue to be a country with high human development index and lower inequality in the Americas.

The American people must know that this complex multiform aggression is carried out with total impunity and in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which expressly outlaws the threat or use of force, among other principles and purposes for the sake of peace and the friendly relations between the Nations.

We want to continue being business partners of the people of the United States, as we have been throughout our history. Their politicians in Washington, on the other hand, are willing to send their sons and daughters to die in an absurd war, instead of respecting the sacred right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination and safeguarding their sovereignty.

Like you, people of the United States, we Venezuelans are patriots. And we shall defend our homeland with all the pieces of our soul. Today Venezuela is united in a single clamor: we demand the cessation of the aggression that seeks to suffocate our economy and socially suffocate our people, as well as the cessation of the serious and dangerous threats of military intervention against Venezuela.

We appeal to the good soul of the American society, victim of its own leaders, to join our call for peace, let us be all one people against warmongering and war.

Long live the peoples of America!

Nicolas Maduro is the eleceted President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Related News
Maduro to Americans: You Are Bigger than Trump, Don’t Let Him Start A ‘Vietnam’ War Against Venezuela


Open Letter from Peace and Non-violence Activists and Organizations
from Venezuela to Our Friends Throughout the World

Rafael Uzcategui / Derechos.org and 20 Nongovernment Organizations
Translated by Daniel Cooper Bermudez

CARACAS (February 10, 2019) — We, the organizations and people who defend human rights, activists and promoters of Non-Violence and Peace, conscientious objectors and anti-militarists, who take action in Venezuela, address this open letter to our friends throughout the world, sharing our opinion about the conflict which is currently unfolding in our country.

We know that the decrease in the causes of violence are intimately connected with the dignity of the lives of people. There cannot be conditions of dignity and peace if there is not a decrease in poverty, hunger, inequality, and improvements in the access to basic goods and services for the entire population, especially for the most vulnerable sectors.

Violence flourishes in societies without democratic guarantees for participation in free and fair elections to elect representatives and powers. There is no way to promote non-violence and peace if we ignore the causes of discrimination and inequality, which have forced millions of people to migrate.

To promote non-violence and peace we must advance in the elimination of the exercise of Power from the logic of authoritarianism, unequivocal and militaristic which poses relations between people from the perspective of enemies, friends, allies, and traitors which seek to eliminate — both symbolically and in reality — difference and liberty.

Venezuela has been experiencing an accelerated process of significant setbacks to our quality of life, making it harder to access the most basic things, which are necessary for subsistence, and deeply affecting the democratic system. Since 2015, after the election of the National Assembly, it was evident that the pro-government political sector had lost its majority, and elections began being manipulated to guarantee that Maduro’s party (PSUV) remained in power.

The government does not publish official data and disregards and criminalizes studies and testimonies which reflect a reality contrary to what is shown in the national media, which is fiercely monitored and censored. The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights of the United Nations reported that 3.5 million Venezuelans had been forced to migrate in the past years.

Venezuela suffers a Complex Humanitarian Emergency generated by political decisions, not by natural disasters or armed conflicts. The State is responsible for inflicting damage and has demonstrated that it has no will to repair the damages it has made.

In 2018, poverty rates reached approximately 48% of households, according to the three main universities of the country. Inflation reached 1,229,724% and, according to projections, could reach 10 million % in 2019. A single family needs 60 monthly minimum wages to acquire the basic goods and services necessary to survive.

In 2017, 64% of Venezuelans lost approximately 11 kilograms of weight and 33% of children between 0-2 years of age suffer delays in their process of growth and development. In a study conducted by Caritas, 53% of Venezuelan households has had to recur to survival strategies such as begging and searching for food in the trash.

In 2018, non-governmental organizations reported that 60% of the medical attention that existed in 2011 had disappeared and, according to official data, the maternal mortality rate increased by 66% and child mortality rate by 30%. Since 2017, more than 79,000 people with HIV stopped receiving anti-retroviral medicine. Venezuela has the highest growth rate of malaria cases in the world, adding 43% to the cases of malaria in Latin America. Just in 2018, the cases of malaria increased by 53%.

There is an alarming health crisis given the resurgence of eradicated diseases such as tuberculosis (10,952 cases), diphtheria (9,362 cases), and small pox, which has caused the death of at least 5,000 people. This resurgence has been caused by the lack of access to medicine and the lack of prevention and control programs.

The Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela reported that in 2018, the scarcity of medicine reached 85%. The deficit of beds available in hospitals reaches 64%, 79% of hospitals do not have running water, 53% of operating rooms have closed, and 95% of medicine, medical supplies, equipment, and pieces to repair broken down machines are imported.

In 2017, the Supreme Court of Justice tried to annul the National Assembly through a decree, which the Prosecutor General, Luisa Ortega DIaz, declared as a “rupture of the constitutional order.” Consequently, Venezuela has experienced the largest cycle of peaceful protests in contemporary Latin American history, along with Nicaragua.

Millions of people have taken to the streets asking for free and credible elections, the respect for the constitutional order, the separation of powers and the rule of law. The internal democratic means to change the situation have been blocked, the population engaged in marches, blocked streets, organized walks, petitions, artistic direct action, hunger strikes, referendums and dialogues.

The response has been the implementation of a repressive military plan called “Plan Zamora,” with the participation of security forces, the National Bolivarian Guard, and armed civilians. According to non-government organizations, there were 6,729 protests in 4 months across the country, 135 people murdered, more than 12 thousand people detained, 848 political prisoners, and over 230 victims of torture, cruel and unusual punishment, and millions in exile.

The result has been a systematic persecution against the political dissidence which has generated the opening of a preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Nicolas Maduro violated the Constitution by calling for a National Constituent Assembly, with supra-constitutional powers, declaring a state of emergency to govern without a balance of powers with the legislative body, with which he brought the date of the presidential elections forward, without the minimum conditions of fair elections for Venezuelans to choose a president freely.

This is how, in 2018, Maduro was re-elected for another 6-year term, in a political event that was not just, transparent, free, or credible, as evidenced by the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and 60 countries throughout the world, also denounced by the Venezuelan human rights movement.

During 2018, after the people’s struggle for the restitution of democracy was defeated, and with the worsening of the Complex Humanitarian Emergency, Venezuela had the largest index of forced migration which the region has witnessed.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, over 3 million Venezuelans have fled the country and, if the situation does not significantly change in 2019, this number could increase to 5 million people. The protests in Venezuela have not ceased.

In 2018, there were a total of 12,715 protests, which amount to 35 protests daily throughout the country, of which 89% were associated to social or labor demands, the provision of basic services, health and food-related. In this context, 14 people were murdered, 13 by fire arms.

In 2017, the Fuerza de Acciones Especiales (FAES) police force was created with the purpose of conducting a social cleansing campaign in the popular barrios, they also committed arbitrary detentions, forced entries, and extrajudicial executions. According to the human rights organization, Provea, FAES has murdered at least 205 people.

On January 10th, Nicolas Maduro proclaimed himself president for a second period, violating the national Constitution and installing a de facto government. The National Assembly, on January 23rd, being the only institution legitimately elected by popular vote, basing their mandate on the Constitution, declared that the Presidency had been usurped and thus assumed the powers of the executive body to create a transitional government which would permit free and credible elections in the short-term.

Since January 21st, a new cycle of mass protests began, with the popular sectors as their protagonist, as the neighbors of the barrio of Cotiza protested in the streets demanding an end to the usurpation of the Presidency after a nearby military garrison declared their non-recognition of Maduro as the president. The neighbors’ protest was repressed by security forces, led by FAES.

Between January 21st and February 4th 2019, a total of 35 people were murdered in protests, 9 were extrajudicially executed in cases of forced entry after the protests ended for the day. There have been 939 arrests, amongst them hundreds of women, 77 teenagers, and 7 indigenous people.

The political, humanitarian, and migratory crises in Venezuela are a problem for the region. Countries of various ideological positions have expressed their concern for years, and the current situation had become a crucial moment for the future of the country and the region.

The 13 countries most populated and most affected countries by the Venezuelan migratory phenomenon created a coalition called the Lima Group, who have recognized the National Assembly, recognized Juan Guiado as interim president, support the call for new elections, specifically through a peaceful transition without the use of force.

Additionally, 21 countries in the European Union have joined the call for free and credible elections, stopping the exercise of a de facto government by Nicolas Maduro, and the recognition of the rightful exercise of executive powers by the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido.

The European community has called on the creation of a commission to last for three months to create credible elections in Venezuela. Mexico and Uruguay have proposed a dialogue to create a peaceful exit to the crisis. Colombia and Brazil, countries which share borders with Venezuela, have been heavily affected by the border and migratory crises, and have supported the Lima Group’s resolutions, offering to assist with the provision of humanitarian assistance at the border.

The United States of America have taken the more belligerent posture amidst the crisis, creating pressure towards a transition as proposed by the Lima Group but, in the case of failure, considering every other option on the table, including a military option.

The declarations by the United States government have generated a comprehensible global reaction. Unfortunately, the reaction has not been to avoid a war due to the tragedy which that would represent for the Venezuelan people and the region, also supporting the peaceful exit of Maduro from power so that the Venezuelan people can freely express their will.

The reaction posed the conflict as one of Maduro and Venezuelan socialism versus Yankee imperialism. This reaction, by amplifying the Venezuelan government’s propaganda, commits a great act of injustice against the people who suffer amidst a complex humanitarian emergency, who cannot exercise their liberties, and of whom the majority want a political change.

If we want to talk about imperialism in Venezuela we must tell the whole truth. Our country continues being an exporter of petroleum, and the United States continues being a main commercial partner along with China and Russia, which has created significant deals between the Russian oil company Rosneft and the Venezuelan oil company Pdsva which are not public information.

Additionally, since 2016, Maduro released a presidential decree which allowed for large-scale mining in the Arco Minero del Orinoco, an area of 111,843.70 km2 — 12.2% of the Venezuelan territory and an area of land larger than Portugal — divided in four blocks for the extraction of gold, diamonds, coltan, and other minerals.

This is the area with the most drinking water in the country, it is indigenous lands, and there have been no environmental impact studies or prior, free, and informed consent to the projects, and the National Assembly has not approved the projects, a legal requirement per the national Constitution.

The land has been militarized with important negative consequences with the increase in mafia activity, slave-like conditions, sexual exploitation, environmental damage, a negative cultural on indigenous communities who have been transformed, along with campesinos, into miners, along with massacres and disappearances of miners.

The public complaints, the possibility of one of the worse ecocides in the region, and the violation of environmental and social rights have been silenced by activists throughout the world. Turkey, China, Canada, Russia and various other African countries are the most interested and active in the exploration and exploitation of mines in the Arco Minero.

We must add that Russia has become the great arms trafficker to Venezuela. Rosoboronexport, the large-scale Russian arms exporter, announced in 2018 that it would reactivate joint work with the Maduro government in the construction and opening of an Kalashnikov gun factory in 2019, which had been delayed for years due to corruption issues.

Starting in 2016, the Maduro government, became a military government with limited civilian support. Venezuelan military officials, committed to military sectarianism, without any form of public accountability, currently occupy the most important positions in the purchase, importation, and distribution of the markets tied to the complex humanitarian emergency, along with a significant number of Ministries, governor’s offices, state and private companies, banks, etc.

In an investigation conducted by Transparency Venezuela, in 2018, 12 ministries and 6 state governments were under the leadership of military officials. The national production and distribution of basic foods — those which are most scarce and which are most speculated upon in black markets — are in control by military officials: oil, rice, sugar, beef, coffee, black beans, personal hygiene products, pharmaceutical goods, diary, corn, corn flour, margarine, toilet paper, women’s hygiene products, diapers, pork, wheat, and soy.

Members of the Armed Forces coordinate the 9 main wholesale markets for the distribution of foods throughout the country, along with the management of airports and national ports.

There are military companies in the areas of banking, finance, agriculture, communications, oil, mining, education, health, life insurance, industry, construction, and contracting. The country is governed and at the mercy of the military, including their logic and permanent war propaganda.

Venezuela, for over two decades, has experienced the logic of war which has divided Venezuelans. This has been a process of polarization that has been in transformation with the passing of the years and which today places people at two extremes: those who defend democracy and those who seek to maintain power through authoritarian means: violating the Constitution and confiscating the autonomy of independent powers, manipulating elections so they do not truly represent the will of the people.

Defending a military dictatorship with a civilian head of state, similar to that of Alberto Fujimori’s in Peru, against the majority of the population who seek a peaceful solution in which the voice of the Venezuelan people can be expressed through free and credible elections, so we can choose our destiny.

Nicolas Maduro has blocked every peaceful means for the restitution of democracy, the constitutional order, and the gravely needed attention for the complex humanitarian emergency. It has ignored and criminalized critical voices, including those who identify with chavismo who publicly criticize Maduro’s exercise of power.

What is happening in Venezuela today is not a case of imperialism versus a legitimate government of a socialist cut. It is a constitutional and peaceful route which the people are choosing in order to have a return of democracy.

We do not want a forceful military intervention, we do not want more death or pain, we urge the entire world to not ignore the clamor of the Venezuelan people. We can stop a war, we can stop a military intervention, if everyone unites inside and outside of our borders, raising our voice with us, demanding that it is the people, through truly free and democratic elections, who sovereignly decide our destiny.

The Venezuelan conflict has two solutions: a peaceful one, returning to the constitutional order (which today is violated by a de facto government) through free and credible elections.

The second option is through force, whether through the action of the Venezuelan military against the governing elites or through an armed intervention by a foreign military. It depends on every single one of us and our actions to place enough pressure so that the solution we face is non-violent, and inclusive, with the democracy and justice, which the Venezuelan people and humanity itself deserves.

We want it to be our voices and aspirations, not arms, which finally decide the future and destiny of our country. But for that, we need your help.

Sincerely

Individuals:
Alba Purroy
Alejandro Alvarez Iragorry
Alexis Ramirez
Alfredo Infante
Angel Zambrano
Aura Scaramelli
Catalina Valera
Cristal Palacios
Cristobal Plaza
Daniel Arzola
Daniel Certain
Douglas Gomez
Erick Lairet
Euglis Palma
Feliciano Reyna
Gracia Salazar
Israel Valera Perez
Juan Carlos La Rosa
Katiuska Camargo
Lexys Rendon
María Eugenia Redondo
María Fernanda Abzueta
Norkys J. Salcedo
Rafael Uzcategui
Raul Hurtado
Robzayda Marcos Vera
Rodolfo Montes de Oca
Rolanda Larez
Santiago Zapata
Seymar Liscano
Susana Raffalli
William Requejo
Zoraida Pacheco

Organizations:
Accion Solidaria
Action for Solidarity
Asociacion Civil Oportunidad
Centro de Justicia y Paz – Cepaz
Clima21 – Ambiente y Derechos Humanos
CODHEZ: Comision para los Derechos Humanos del Estado Zulia
Conciencia Ciudadana A.C
Creemos Alianza Ciudadana
EXCUBITUS DHE
Instituto Mead de Venezuela A.C
Laboratorio Ciudadano de Noviolencia Activa
Laboratorio de Paz
LuchaNoViolentaEnVenezuela
Programa Venezolano de Educacion-Accion en Derechos Humanos (Provea)
Proyecta Ciudadanía A.C
Psiquearte
RedOrgBaguta
Revista SIC del Centro Gumilla
Union Vecinal para la Participacion Ciudadana A.C
Wainjirrawa

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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