March 26th, 2019 - by David Swanson / Let's Try Democracy
25, 2019) — Back before Donald Trump was inaugurated, I wrote an article called “Fantasies About
Russia Could Doom Opposition to Trump.” Perhaps it is less quixotic, or perhaps
it is more, to hope that, after more than two years of being barraged with those fantasies, but
with their main focus having publicly flopped, more
people will now be open to trying something else. That pre-inauguration article
should be impeached on Day 1, but the same Democrats who found the one nominee
who could lose to Trump will find the one argument for impeachment that can
explode in their own faces. . . . Meanwhile, we have a man planning to be
president later this month whose business dealings clearly violate the U.S.
Constitution in terms of not only foreign but also domestic corruption. . . .
that, Trump is becoming president after election-day intimidation, the
partisan-based removal of voters from the rolls, and opposition to attempting
to count paper ballots where they existed. He’s arriving with the stated
policies of unconstitutionally discriminating against Muslims, murdering
families, stealing oil, torturing, and proliferating nuclear weapons.
other words, Donald Trump will be from Day 1 an impeachable president, and
Democrats will have already spent months building their campaign around the one
thing that won’t work.
what will happen after all their hearings and press conferences, when their
supporters find out that they aren’t even accusing Vladimir Putin of hacking
into election machines, that in fact they are accusing unknown individuals of
hacking into Democrats’ emails, and that they are then vaguely speculating that
those individuals could have been sources for WikiLeaks, thereby informing the
U.S. public of what was quite obvious and ought to have been widely reported
for the good of the U.S. government, namely that the DNC rigged its primary.
the time the Democrats beat themselves to the floor with this charade, more
facts will likely have come out regarding WikiLeaks’ actual source(s), and more
hostility will likely have been stirred up with Russia. The war hawks have
already got Trump talking up nuclear escalation.”
inauguration day, RootsAction.org (which I work for) and Free Speech for People
launched a petition to impeach Trump for his blatant violation of the foreign
and domestic emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution, which forbid any
appearance or possibility of financial conflicts of interest. Very quickly,
over a million people added their support. This past January, Congresswoman
Rashida Tlaib (Dem., Mich.) cosigned an article with Free Speech for
People’s John Bonifaz that read:
already have overwhelming evidence that the president has committed impeachable
offenses, including, just to name a few: obstructing justice; violating the
emoluments clause; abusing the pardon power; directing or seeking to direct law
enforcement to prosecute political adversaries for improper purposes;
advocating illegal violence and undermining equal protection of the laws;
ordering the cruel and unconstitutional imprisonment of children and their
families at the southern border; and conspiring to illegally influence the 2016
election through a series of hush money payments.
the president was directly involved in a conspiracy with the Russian government
to interfere with the 2016 election remains the subject of Special Counsel
Robert Mueller’s investigation. But we do not need to wait on the outcome
of that criminal investigation before moving forward. . . .”
asked Tlaib what she thought the top grounds for impeachment were, and she
named “three key areas where we already know the President has committed
impeachable offenses: the Emoluments Clause (Trump Hotel), campaign finance
violations (Cohen), and obstruction of justice (Firing Comey).”
has publicly committed to introducing articles of impeachment. But her position
is extremely rare. Most members of Congress who have spoken of impeachment at
all, and most media outlets, have for over two years insisted that Trump should
be impeached if and only if the Mueller report proves that Trump worked with
the Russian government to steal the 2016 election.
of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler has called talk of impeachment
“premature” and dependent on Russiagate,
despite also admitting that Trump’s payoffs to
silence mistresses are impeachable offenses, despite having proposed to “censure and condemn”
Trump after Charlottesville, and despite having pursued the emoluments topic, on
which many have argued that an overabundance of
evidence is already public.
of the House Nancy Pelosi has told the Washington
she is opposed to impeaching Trump because doing so would be “divisive,” and
because the United States is “great” and not in any “perilous state,” but would
be if Trump had a second term.
the most damaging words to our democracy during the Trump era,” RootsAction.org
co-founder Jeff Cohen tells me, “have been these six words: ‘Let’s wait for the
strategy of the Democratic leadership — and the obsessive Mueller coverage in
allied outlets like MSNBC and CNN — has dangerously narrowed public attention to
the not-yet-proven charge of Russian collusion, while normalizing and
marginalizing other more provable and impeachable Trump affronts to our
for example, if even one-tenth of the attention lavished on Russiagate had been
focused instead on Trump’s ongoing business corruption and his refusal to
divest in the face of the Constitution’s requirement that a president not
financially benefit from his office.
the public can readily understand greed and self-interest, exit polls in
November showed few voters were moved by the Russia collusion issue. The
‘waiting for Mueller’ strategy has made little sense politically, or
Constitutionally — and has pushed other Trump offenses to the impeachment
sidelines: Muslim ban, racist incitement, infringements on the press,
politicizing prosecutions, etc.”
of the more curious aspects in the long-awaited collapse of the Mueller effort
to prove that Trump and Russia stole or tried to steal an election is that most
voices in the corporate media have spoken for years both of the need to
investigate that possibility and of the supposedly already established fact.
Ilhan Omar on Saturday March 23rd sent out an email reading:
“There is overwhelming
evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to help his presidential
campaign win in 2016. Robert Mueller has been working to investigate the
collusion and now that his report has been finalized, it must be made public to
the American people. Mueller’s report on Russian interference in our 2016
election and its findings impact the very foundation of our democracy. Our
elections are supposed to be by the people, for the people — with zero
interference from foreign powers.”
evidence is so overwhelming that it is never actually cited, and more of it is
opinion has moved toward the more-evidence-is-needed view. Support for Trump’s
impeachment reached half the country and
three-quarters of Democrats last summer, topping his approval rating, and
topping where it was prior to Congressional action for Richard Nixon, and of
course for Bill Clinton (whose impeachment was never popular), and almost
reaching where it was for George W. Bush.
support has fallen with the fizzling out of
the Mueller investigation, and with Pelosi’s statements opposing impeachment.
Sadly and predictably, the new Cold War has not seen a similar reduction.
Military spending is soaring, and the head of NATO has been invited to speak to
a joint session of Congress on April 3rd.
has produced 18 draft articles of
impeachment, but they have thus far been drowned out by Russiagate. Has the
focus on a non-Congressional investigation of Russia/WikiLeaks-related charges
been helpful or harmful? I’ve found very few eager to answer that question.
don’t have anything to add to this story,” Congresswoman Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez’s communications person told me in a comment typical of a number
of Congressmembers. Journalist and author of The Genius of
John Nichols told me, “Every investigation has value. But I believe the most
important investigations focus on Trump’s obstruction of justice as president,
and on his glaring disregard for the emoluments clause. The president’s
financial deeds and misdeeds have, to my mind, always been the richest vein for
and radio host Glen Ford told me, “The ‘investigations’ — if the term is even
applicable — have proven that Donald Trump is a sleazy businessman who cares
nothing for the law and surrounds himself with hustlers of his own low moral
and ethical standards. Capitalism has gotten another black eye, which is good.
after more than two years of trying, the probes have utterly failed to prove
the ‘predicate’ offense, that ‘Russians’ hacked the DNC emails and gave them to
Wikileaks. We must all now conclude that the charge is false — which is cause
to open a new investigation into the collusion between the Democratic Party,
the CIA, and the FBI, and various other actors to foment war hysteria against
nuclear-armed Russia and political mayhem at home under false and criminally
contrived pretexts. I think this qualifies as a crime against peace, under
the desire to investigate those who instigated Russiagate, and the need to
address numerous other crises, the movement for Trump’s impeachment is also now
up against the marathon election season — which, along with unverifiable vote
counting, gerrymandering, the electoral college, a system of legalized bribery,
biased debates, corrupt media, registration and ID hurdles, the stripping of names
from rolls, and open intimidation, is an actual flaw in past U.S. elections.
that weren’t enough, impeachment must overcome the dread of Mike Pence. Author
and professor Noam Chomsky tells me, “The top ground for getting rid of Trump
is that he is carrying out policies designed to undermine the prospects for
organized human life in the near future, and is doing so consciously — he
understands the effects of global warming very well, as he and his
administration have demonstrated. Whether this is grounds for impeachment can
be argued, but it would do no good, because it would bring in Pence who is as
bad or maybe even worse, because unlike Trump he is a ‘true believer,’ and if
God tells him to proceed to destroy, so be it.”
it do no good? As opponents of impeachment are also very fond of pointing out,
winning a conviction in the Senate would require a major transformation of U.S.
politics — the sort of transformation that televised impeachment hearings
could bring about, the sort of transformation that could leave a President
Pence weaker than a President Gerald Ford and wary of facing his own
rather than highlighting the existing facts, or producing new ones, such as
Trump’s tax returns, Committee Chairs are complaining that Trump is refusing
their requests for documents. An impeachment inquiry would produce those
documents or new articles of impeachment for each subpoena not complied with.
asked Congresswoman Tlaib if she expects the White House will comply with
Congressional subpoenas if the President believes he will not be impeached. She
replied: “They have not yet.”
is also the option of impeaching Pence first. Early in the
Bush-Cheney era, I met with several Congress Members and impeachment activists
to brainstorm. Congresswoman Maxine Waters proposed impeaching Dick Cheney
first. The idea was generally welcomed. But Congresswoman Barbara Lee stopped
everyone by insisting that Congressman John Conyers would need to approve. Conyers
followed the wishes of Pelosi, who has consistently opposed impeachment for
Bush, Cheney, Kavanaugh, and Trump.
Dennis Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against both Bush and
Cheney, including 35 articles against Bush that I had led a team of experts in
drafting. But much of the Democratic Caucus and Judiciary Chair Conyers refused
if the House had impeached Bush or Cheney, and the Senate failed to convict? We
can’t answer that with certainty, but we do know what the failure to impeach
them led to, what the failure to impeach Reagan for Iran-Contra led to, and
what failure to impeach Trump is likely to lead to.
Nichols thinks we should consult a better understanding of history. “We have
never removed a president at the conclusion of an impeachment process,” he
tells me. “We have had a president resign when faced with the prospect of
removal. And the simple threat of hearings — usually coming in the context of a
broader outcry — has caused presidents to alter policies and, I believe,
rethink prospective reelection runs.
any measure, hearings, in and of themselves, have the potential to constrain
and conclude a lawless presidency. More importantly, hearings set a standard
for when and how future presidents can be called to account. Hearings are, to
my mind, essential to addressing the high crimes and misdemeanors of the
sitting president AND to setting the standards that might prevent future
presidents from committing high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Tlaib told me that she doubted an impeachment effort would lead to Trump
complying with the law, including the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, but
that, “as important is putting any future CEO who wants to become president of
the United States on notice that he/she won’t get away with direct conflicts of
interests and violations to Constitutional clauses without Congress
investigating and holding all those involved accountable.”
March 26th, 2019 - by Marko Marjanović / Russia Insider
How would the
US react if Russian bombers flew that close to Washington or NY?
— NATO claims its rotation of fighter squadrons is a “policing mission”, i.e.,
it’s a defensive mission against the barbarian Russians who need policing. So
then what is flying bombers, which are inherently an offensive weapon?
Particularly the lumbering, eight-engine B-52 which is of little to no value in
tactical roles against a heavily armed opponent such as Russia, but can deliver
cruise missiles and nuclear bombs to level cities and bases.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said earlier
on Thursday that it had scrambled two Sukhoi SU-27 fighter jets to intercept a
U.S. B-52 strategic bomber which radar systems indicated was flying toward
Russia’s borders, albeit at a considerable distance.
The ministry said the fighter jets had
returned to base after the B-52 changed course and headed in the opposite
direction. It did not say when the incident occurred.
The U.S. embassy in Poland said
that B-52 bombers had flown to
Lithuania and Poland on Wednesday to conduct interoperability
training with NATO forces.
It said the planes, which were
temporarily based in Britain, had carried out simulated bombing runs.
out of forward locations enables collective defense capabilities …
needed to deter adversaries and assure our allies and partners,” it said in a
Russian media reported that a B-52
bomber was spotted close to the border with Russia’s European exclave of
Kaliningrad and the Leningrad
region on Monday. At one
point, the RBC news portal reported, the U.S. plane, which had flown from
less than 200 km (124 miles) from St Petersburg..
B-52s have an enormous range (14,000 km) and
air-refueling capability. Even if a war broke out with Russia (and didn’t go
nuclear in an instant) they would not operate from forward bases in Poland and
Lithuania where they could be overrun by Russian ranks and destroyed on the
ground by Russian land-to-land missiles.
They would operate from Britain, and fire off their
cruise missiles from when they were still over Denmark. Taking them to Eastern
Europen airfields and then paying a visit to Saint Petersburg serves no other
purpose than to intentionally stir things up and hope for a Russian reaction so
that NATO can continue to scare the continent about a supposed Russian menace.
(March 25, 2019) — A missile-defense test
involving two launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base
occurred Monday amid an unusual veil of secrecy.
approximately 10:30 a.m., two weapons blasted off from underground silos
on North Base, leaving parallel contrails visible in the skies above Santa
and Missile Defense Agency representatives
remained mum about the upcoming test, although these missile-defense
launches have been announced ahead of time for decades.
test reportedly involved the Ground-based Midcourse Defense segment, which is
designed to defend against a limited long-range missile attack.
addition to hosting most of the previous flight tests, Vandenberg is home
to four GMD interceptors with 40 others positioned at Fort Greely, Alaska.
11:10 a.m., a Vandenberg Public Affairs representative confirmed a missile test
occurred but remained tight-lipped about details and said the Defense Department would release information
secrecy surrounding the test hearkens back to the Cold War when Vandenberg
launches occurred without official advanced notice. While the
military kept the U.S. residents in the dark, the U.S. notified
international governments so they did not mistake a rocket launch or missile
test for an attack.
details were not immediately available.
March 26th, 2019 - by Max Blumenthal / Graystone & Consortium News
(March 12, 2019) — A September 2010 memo by a US-funded
soft power organization that helped train Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó
and his allies identifies the potential collapse of the country’s electrical
sector as “a watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of
galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to
memo has special relevance today as Guaidó moves to exploit nationwide
blackouts caused by a major failure at the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant at
Guri dam—a crisis that Venezuela’s government blames on US sabotage.
was authored by Srdja Popovic of the Center for
Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), a Belgrade-based “democracy
promotion” organization funded by the US that has trained thousands of
US-aligned youth activists in countries where the West seeks regime change.
group reportedly hosted Guaidó and the key leaders of his Popular Will party
for a series of training sessions, fashioning them into a “Generation 2007”
determined to foment resistance to then-President Hugo Chavez and sabotage his
plans to implement “21st century socialism” in Venezuela.
the 2010 memo, published by WikiLeaks, CANVAS’s Popovic declared, “A key to
Chavez’s current weakness is the decline in the electricity sector.”
Popovic explicitly identified the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant as a
friction point, emphasizing that “water levels at the Guri dam are dropping,
and Chavez has been unable to reduce consumption sufficiently to compensate for
the deteriorating industry.”
Speculating on a“grave possibility that some 70 percent of the country’s electricity grid could go dark as soon as April 2010,” the CANVAS leader stated that “an opposition group would be best served to take advantage of the situation and spin it against Chavez and towards their needs.”
forward to March 2019, and the scenario outlined by Popovic is playing out
almost exactly as he had imagined.
March 7, just days after Guaidó return from Colombia, where he participated in
the failed and demonstrably violent Feb. 23 attempt
to ram a shipment of US aid across the Venezuelan border, the Simon Bolivar
Hydroelectric Plant experienced a major and still unexplained collapse.
later, electricity remains sporadic across the country. Meanwhile, Guaidó has
done everything he can “to take advantage of the situation and spin it”
against President Nicolas Maduro—just as his allies were urged to do over eight
years before by CANVAS.
Vows ‘Period of Suffering’
has placed the blame squarely on Washington, accusing it of sabotage through a
cyber-attack on its electrical infrastructure. Key players in the US-directed
coup attempt have done little to dispel the accusation.
a tweet on March 8, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo framed the electricity
outage as a pivotal stage in US plans for regime change:
noon on March 7, during a hearing on Venezuela at the Senate Foreign Relations
Subcommittee, Sen. Marco Rubio explicitly called for
the US to stir “widespread unrest,” declaring that it “needs to happen” in
order to achieve regime change.
is going to enter a period of suffering no nation in our hemisphere has
confronted in modern history,” Rubio proclaimed.
5:18 p.m., a clearly excited Rubio took to Twitter to announce the blackout
and claim that “backup generators have failed.” It was unclear how Rubio
had obtained such specific information so soon after the outage occurred.
According to Jorge Rodriguez, the communications
minister of Venezuela, local authorities did not know if backup generators had
failed at the time of Rubio’s tweet.
in Caracas, Guaidó immediately set out to exploit the situation, just as his
CANVAS trainers had advised over eight years before. Taking to Twitter just
over an hour after Rubio, Guaidó declared, “the light will return
when the usurpation [of Maduro] ends.” Like Pompeo, the self-declared
president framed the blackouts as part of a regime change strategy, not an
accident or error.
days later, Guaidó was at the center of an opposition rally he convened in
affluent eastern Caracas, bellowing into a megaphone:
187 when the time comes. We need to be in the streets, mobilized. It depends on
us, not on anybody else.”
Article 187 establishes the right of the National Assembly“to authorize the use of Venezuelan military missions abroad or foreign in the country.”
his mention of the constitutional article, Guaidó’s supporters responded, “Intervention! Intervention!”
Dan Cohen and I reported here at the Grayzone, Guaidó’s rise to
prominence—and the coup plot that he has been appointed to oversee—is the
product of a decade-long project overseen by the Belgrade-based CANVAS outfit.
is a spinoff of Otpor, a Serbian protest group founded by Srdja Popovic in 1998 at the
University of Belgrade. Otpor, which means “resistance” in Serbian, was the
student group that worked alongside US soft power organizations to mobilize the
protests that eventually toppled the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
has been funded largely through the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA
cut-out that functions as the US government’s main arm of promoting regime
change. According to leaked internal emails from Stratfor, an intelligence
firm known as the “shadow CIA,” CANVAS “may have also received
CIA funding and training during the 1999/2000 anti-Milosevic struggle.”
A leaked email from a Stratfor staffer noted that after they ousted Milosevic,“the kids who ran OTPOR grew up, got suits and designed CANVAS… or in other words an ‘export-a-revolution’ group that sowed the seeds for a NUMBER of color revolutions. They are still hooked into US funding and basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that US does not like ;).”
subsequently revealed that CANVAS “turned its attention to Venezuela” in 2005,
after training opposition movements that led pro-NATO regime change operations
across Eastern Europe.
September 2010, as Venezuela headed for a parliamentary election, CANVAS
produced a series of memos outlining the plans they had hatched with “non-formal
actors” like Guaidó and his cadre of student activists to bring down
Chavez. “This is the first opportunity for the opposition to get back into a
position of power,” Popovic wrote at the time.
his memo on electricity outages, Popovic highlighted the importance of the
Venezuelan military in achieving regime change.
with the military could be critical because in such a situation of massive
public unrest and rejection of the presidency,” the CANVAS founder wrote,
“malcontent sectors of the military will likely decide to intervene, but only
if they believe they have sufficient support.”
the scenario Popovic envisioned failed to materialize in 2010, it perfectly
describes the situation gripping Venezuela today as an opposition leader
cultivated by CANVAS seeks to spin the crisis against Maduro while calling on
the military to break ranks.
the Grayzone exposed the deep ties between CANVAS and Guaidó’s
Popular Will party, Popovic has attempted to publicly distance himself from
his record of training Venezuela’s opposition.
however, Popovic’s 2010 memo on exploiting electricity outages reads like a
blueprint for the strategy that Guaidó and his patrons in Washington have
actively implemented. Whether or not the blackout is the result of external
sabotage, it represents the “watershed event” that CANVAS has prepared
its Venezuelan cadres for.
an award-winning journalist and the author of books including
best-selling “Republican Gomorrah,” “Goliath,” “The Fifty One Day War” and “The Management of Savagery,” which
will be published in March 2019 by Verso. He has also produced numerous print
articles for an array of publications, many video reports and several
documentaries including “Killing Gaza” and “Je Ne Suis
Pas Charlie.” Blumenthal founded the Grayzone Project in 2015 to
shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its
dangerous domestic repercussions.
In an excerpt from his new book Hate Inc., Matt Taibbi
looks back at how the media built new lies to cover their early ones
(March 22, 2019) —Sixteen years ago this
week, the United States invaded Iraq. We went in on an unconvincing excuse,
articulated by George W. Bushin a speech days before invasion:
gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime
continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.
This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq’s
neighbors and against Iraq’s people.”
To the lie
about the possession of WMDs, Bush added a few more: that Hussein “trained and
harbored terrorists, including operatives of al-Qaeda.” Moreover, left
unchecked, those Saddam-supplied terrorists could “kill hundreds of thousands
of innocent people in our country.”
media appropriately caught a huge chunk of the blame. But a public that had
been fooled once was not prepared for the multiple rounds of post-invasion
deceptions that followed, issued by many of the same pols and press actors.
These were designed to rewrite history in real time, creating new legends that
have now lasted 16 years.
had enormous utility to the working press, whose gargantuan errors have been
re-cast as honest mistakes of judgment. A lot of the people who made those
mistakes are still occupying prominent positions, their credibility undamaged
thanks to a new legend best articulated by New Yorkereditor David Remnick, who later scoffed, “Nobody got that story completely right.”
Nobody except the record number of people who
marched against the war on February 15, 2003 — conservative estimates placed it between six and ten million worldwide (I marched in D.C.). Every one of those people
was way ahead of Remnick.
marching because they disbelieved the WMD claims. Most marched because they saw
the WMD issue as irrelevant at best, an insultingly thin excuse for a wrong war
that had some other, darker, still-unreleased explanation.
forthcoming book Hate Inc.(which I’ve been publishing in
serial form here), I’ve been looking at the major media
deceptions of this century. WMD became the archetype of a modern propaganda
campaign, a key component of which is the rewarding of the people who sell the
accomplished after Iraq via a series of deceptions tweaked over and over, myths
piled atop myths. In order, the biggest surviving Iraq lies:
Only a Small Portion of the Industry Screwed Up
popular imagination, the case for war was driven by a bunch of Republicans and one over-caffeinated New York Timesreporter named Judith Miller.
Even the attempts to make comprehensive lists of Iraq cheerleaders post-invasion inevitably focus on
usual suspects like Fleischer, current Trump official John Bolton,
neoconservatives like Max Boot, David Frum, and Bill Kristol, and winger goons
like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. But we expect the worst from
forgotten this was actually a business-wide consensus, which included the
enthusiastic participation of a blue-state intelligentsia. The New Yorkerof Remnick, who himself wrote a
piece called “Making the Case,” was a source of many of the most ferocious
pro-invasion pieces, including a pairwritten by current Atlanticeditor Jeffrey Goldberg, one of
a number of WMD hawks who failed up after the war case fell apart. Other
prominent Democrat voices like Ezra Klein, Jonathan Chait, and
even quasi-skeptic Nick Kristof (who denounced war critics for calling Bush a liar) were on
board, as a Full Metal Jacketcharacter put it, “for the big win.”
The Washington Postand New York Timeswere key editorial-page drivers
of the conflict; MSNBC unhired Phil Donahue and Jesse Ventura over their war
skepticism; CNN flooded the airwaves with generals and ex-Pentagon stoolies,
and broadcast outlets ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS stacked the deck even worse: In a
two-week period before the invasion, the networks had just one American guest out of 267 who questioned the war, according to
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
Exactly one major news organization refused to pick up pom-poms, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain.
All the other major outlets, whether they ostensibly catered to Republican or
Democratic audiences, sold the war lie. The bipartisan nature of the deception
has been obscured in history by a second legend:
The War Was about WMDs
know, from leaks like Britain’s Downing Street memos and the U.K.’s later Chilcot report, that
the WMD issue was a concoction, designed for the narrow purpose of giving Tony
Blair political cover to support Bush’s real reason for war, “regime change.”
Few in the
media noticed at the time that key neoconservatives close to the Bush
administration like Kristol and Robert Kagan (who are still more than welcome
on cable today), had been articulating a goofball global domination plan called
in public dating back to the mid- and late-1990s.
was, now that the Soviets were gone, the U.S. should be more aggressive, not
less. We should bail on the “peace dividend” Bill Clinton touted in the early
nineties. We should also, neoconservatives said, resist the nationalist version
of the “peace dividend,” the urge to concentrate “energies at home” in policies
like Pat Buchanan’s “America First” plan.
should secure a “preponderance of influence” over all countries, having a plan
for “change of regime” for anycountry not under our control,
from Cuba to Iran to China.
justify this dressed-up version of “pre-emptive war”? We know from Bush
speechwriter David Frum’s bootlicking account of having served that
administration, The Right Man, that the “Axis of
Evil” concept was something Frum found flipping through history books about
World War II.
came up with the idea that America’s enemies were so crazy with hatred for us,
they couldn’t be trusted to behave rationally even if threatened with
annihilation. “If deterrence worked,” he noted, “there would never be a Pearl
was fine with regime change, but felt he couldn’t sell the concept politically.
In 2009 he admitted this and said he’d have “deployed” different arguments without WMD if he had it to do over.
From the Chilcot inquiry we know his foreign policy advisor David Manning had
dinner with Condoleezza Rice in March of 2002, and afterward wrote a damning
memo to Blair.
that you would not budge in your support for regime change,” he wrote. “But you
had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very
cooked up the idea of invading Iraq as a response to longstanding violations of
a UN inspections regime, a reason that they hoped would provide Blair with the
fig leaf of UN Security Council approval.
British intelligence officials like Sir John Scarlett worried the public would
not buy a case for war against Iraq because Iraq wasn’t “exceptional”
even compared to other states like Libya, Iran, and North Korea.
all the marchers were right to ask all those obvious questions about the war
from the start.
Why were we
invading a country with no connection to 9/11? If this had something to do with
supporting terrorists, why were we invading a state ruled by a secular Baathist
dictator, a type hated by religious extremists like bin Laden almost as much as
the United States is hated? If rogue states with weapons were the problem, why
Iraq and not Iran, Libya, or especially North Korea? If WMD were the issue, why
not wait until inspections were finished?
ordinary people, without intelligence sources or experiences traveling in the
Middle East or access to satellite photos, identified the key questions long
before we went to war. One of the most damning revelations of the Chilcot
report is that British officials were extremely worried the case was so thin,
journalists would see right through it.
assistant to Blair spokesman Alistair Campbell named Phillip Bassett wrote on September 11, 2002: “Think we’re in
trouble with this.” Foreign Office communications chief John Williams suggested
he and his colleagues target “people, as opposed to journalists,” because the
latter would surely see “There is no ‘killer fact… that proves Saddam must be
taken on now.”
They had it
backwards. Large portions of the public were skeptical from the start.
reporters were dumb enough, or dishonest enough, to eat the bait about WMDs.
Moreover, American reporters on their own volition rallied to the idea that
Saddam was a Hitler-Satan whose “exceptional” evil needed immediate
“Saddam Hussein is a figure of singular repugnance, and singular danger… No one
else comes close… to matching his extraordinary and variegated record of
malevolence…” Chait: “He’s in league with a Stalin in terms of internal
repression.” Remnick said he was a “modern Nebuchadnezzar II” who’d vowed to
“vanquish the United States, and rule over a united Arab world.”
that wasn’t the worst issue:
The Deception Wasn’t about WMDs or Iraq, but about Domestic Attitudes
invaded, and the WMD hunt turned out to be a crock, nearly all of our
professional chin-scratchers found ways to address their errors. Most followed a script: I
was young (Ezra Klein literally said, “I was young”), I believed the intel, and
on the narrow point of WMDs being in Iraq, I screwed up.
back the rest of the propaganda, which is why even as the case for invading
Iraq fell apart, our presence in the Mideast expanded. While Judith Miller
became a national punchline, the “continuing exertion of American influence”
became conventional wisdom.
budgets exploded. NATO expanded. The concept of a “peace dividend” faded to the point where few
remember it ever
existed. We now maintain a vast global archipelago of secret prisons, routinely
cross borders in violation of international law using drones, and today have
military bases in80 countries, to
support active combat operations in at least seven nations (most Americans
don’t even know which ones).
episode is remembered as a grotesque journalistic failure, one that led to
disastrous war that spawned ISIS. But none of the press actors who sold the
invasion seem sorry about the revolutionary new policies that error willed into
being. They are specifically not regretful about helping create a
continually-expanding Fortress America with bases everywhere that topples
regimes left and right, with or without congressional or UN approval.
sorry about Iraq, maybe, but as Chait later said, “Libya
was not Iraq.” This he said to “liberal anti-interventionists,” in explaining
why “I have not embraced their worldview.”
successfully “contained” the much more powerful Soviet Union for ages, to say
nothing of smaller, weaker countries subject to flyover regimes like Iraq. To
start the war, Americans had to be talked out of the idea that these policies
were still viable.
end, people like Remnick told us “a return to a hollow pursuit of containment
will be the most dangerous option of all.” Fred Hiatt’s Washington Posteditorial page warned “not
poking the hornet’s nest” was a “strategy of accommodation, half-measures and
mostly laugh about serial word-strangler columnist Thomas Friedman of the Times,but he was a key voice. His
infamous “Chicken a l’Iraq”
editorial insisted America couldn’t risk containment and had to be willing to
be as unpredictable as rogue enemies – that in a game of realpolitikchicken, we had to throw out
our steering wheel and be “ready to invade Iraq tomorrow, alone.”
rule of modern commercial media is you’re allowed to screw up, in concert.
There’s no risk in being wrong within a prevailing narrative. That’s why the
chief offenders kept perches or failed up. The job isn’t about getting facts
right, it’s about getting narratives right, and being willing to eat errors
discovered in service of pushing the right subtext.
self-audit after Iraq led the media business to mangle of a series of
subsequent stories. From the still-misreported financial crisis of 2008 to the
failure to take the rise of Donald Trump as an electoral phenomenon seriously
to the increasingly sloppy coverage of our hyper-aggressive foreign policies,
we’ve gotten very loose with facts and data, knowing there’s no downside to
certain kinds of misses.
non-profit called Reprieve years ago even discovered journalists were routinely
repeating government assertions that certain terror suspects had been killed in
drone strikes, failing to notice the same suspects had been reported
killed years before or
in different countries, sometimes not even twice but three or four times.
particularly bad when it comes to regime-change stories, and have seen this
news organizations, including the New York Times,reported forces loyal to
Venezuela’s Maduro (our latest regime change target) burned food aid sent by
Western humanitarian convoys. It turned out the opposition burned the cargo.
A CNN reporter said it was a “classic case of how misinformation
spreads… from an unconfirmed rumor… to the mass media,” failing to realize the
screwup started when a CNN crew claimed they saw the burning episode.
in the wake of the WMD affair assumed the safety-in-numbers instincts of herd
animals: like wildebeest, the instant 51% of the pack decides to run in a
direction, they all run that way, even if it means bounding off a factual
cliff. That the landscape is currently split into two different sets of
wildebeest is not much of a comfort. Reporting these days is more a matter of
manufactured, behind-the-scenes consensus building than an individuated process
of following facts wherever they lead, no matter how inconvenient.
this story did to our collective reputations is still poorly understood in the
business. In fact, “Why do they hate us?”
stories are one of an increasing number of feature ideas we routinely botch.
We’ll never get rid of the scarlet letter from those years until we face how
bad it was, and it was so much worse than we’re admitting, even now.
Whenever officials in Washington, D.C. set out to overthrow a foreign government, mainstream US media outlets are there to give a helping hand. All pretense of fairness and balance disappear in favor of outrageous distortion. For the most recent example, let’s look at Venezuela.
Both high-level Republicans and Democrats have decided it’s time for Venezuela, with the world’s largest oil reserves, to rejoin the US sphere of influence. Hawks may call for direct military intervention while doves seek punishing sanctions, but all agree that the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro has got to go.
Mainstream media took a particularly rightward turn in January after Juan Guaidó anointed himself as Venezuela’s president, with the blessings from the administration of President Donald Trump. Guaidó is president of the opposition-dominated National Assembly and had never even run for president. A January opinion poll showed he was unknown to 81 percent of the people. He represented an unstable alliance of opposition parties. As I’ve written before, lack of legality didn’t stop the United States and its allies from declaring Guaidó president and pretending he ran an actual government.
As if responding to a bat signal in the skies above Gotham City, the mainstream media rushed to back the Trump team’s policies. The administration, which has proven incompetent and dangerous on other issues, was suddenly a reliable source of information on Venezuela. Statements from the administration and Venezuelan opposition leaders were uncritically reproduced, no matter how untethered to reality. Allow me to offer some examples.
In February, Guaidó announced plans to deliver international aid to starving Venezuelans by mobilizing massive demonstrations at the Venezuela-Colombia border, hoping a significant number of military officers would defect. The plan was obviously flawed because military leaders continued to back Maduro. Sure enough, the aid convoy didn’t get through, and military officers didn’t defect.
Many media outlets reported that Maduro’s security forces burned an aid truck as it attempted to enter Venezuela. In reality, aerial and other photos reported in real time by the leftist website Venezuela Analysis indicated that the fire was started by an anti-government protester. Weeks later, The New York Times got around to reporting that Maduro’s forces didn’t start the fire.
Another example of bias: The Times and other US media focused exclusively on the US aid, ignoring that donated by Russia and Cuba without incident.
In mid-March, Venezuela’s electric grid went out nationwide, causing huge economic dislocation and dozens of deaths. President Maduro said a US cyber attack caused the shutdown. CBS News reported this claim, but gave it no credence, dutifully saying US officials “dismissed the Venezuelan government’s accusation as absurd and an attempt to divert attention from its own chronic failings.”
The Maduro government has yet to provide proof of its assertion. But as a commentary in Forbes showed, the United States could well have launched such an attack. Remember, the US and Israel initially denied creating the Stuxnet virus that disabled Iranian nuclear facilities.
I’ve been a foreign correspondent for forty years and have reported from Venezuela since 1994. I’ve met many journalists in the mainstream media, from The New York Times to CNN and NPR. None see themselves as government mouthpieces, and in private, many will criticize Trump. So why the distorted coverage?
Mainstream reporters and editors take their cues from Washington, DC Since bipartisan leaders see Venezuela as beyond the pale, so do the media. They see Maduro as “hard left,” similar to the leaders of Cuba or the old USSR. As a result, they accept US government assertions pretty much without question. They often make no effort to get Maduro’s side, or even to find academics or former government officials who can balance a story with a pro-Maduro views.
In one particularly egregious article, theThe New York Times Washington, DC, bureau recently quoted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at length about how Russia and Cuba are “propping up Venezuela,” an absurd claim given Cuba’s own economic problems and Russia’s distance. The article contained one perfunctory paragraph with the Venezuelan government viewpoint.
Reporters know there are few consequences for misreporting about Maduro and his allies, but that the roof caves in if they report negatively about the opposition.
In 2017, I filed a series of stories on Venezuela for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s daily website. While reporting government-sponsored brutality, I also noted that the opposition engaged in violent tactics against the police. I wrote that the momentum was shifting away from the antigovernment demonstrators. I came under vicious attack online in a clear effort to discredit not only the articles but me as a reporter.
To their credit, CBC editors defended my reporting. A few weeks later, the opposition demonstrations petered out as the country prepared to vote for a Constituent Assembly.
A Positive Exception
Of course, the mainstream media is not monolithic. Knight-Ridder, now owned by McClatchy, accurately reported that weapons of mass destruction didn’t exist in Iraq during the run up to the 2003 war.
McClatchy reporters have now uncovered covert US arms shipments from Miami to Venezuela. Their article explored possible links between the charter airline carrying the weapons and the CIA’s program in the 2000s of kidnapping and taking civilians to black sites. I hope other reporters follow up—but am not holding my breath.
The government of Venezuela certainly deserves a lot of criticism. Inflation is skyrocketing. Venezuelans face shortages of food and medicine. Unemployment is increasing as work places shut down because of the crisis. But that doesn’t justify US efforts to overthrow Maduro and install an opposition leader.
Reese Erlich’s nationally distributed column, Foreign Correspondent, appears regularly in The Progressive. His book, The Iran Agenda Today: The Real Story from Inside Iran and What’s Wrong with US Policy – is now available. Follow him onTwitter, @ReeseErlich; friend him onFacebook; and visit hiswebpage.
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Water Day study highlights lethal nature of unsafe sanitation and hygiene for
children, especially under-fives
(March 24, 2019) — Children
under five who live in conflict zones are 20 times more likely to die from
diarrhoeal diseases linked to unsafe water than from direct violence as a
result of war, Unicef has found.
Analysing mortality data from 16 countries beset by long-term
conflict – including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen – the UN children’s
agency also found that unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene kills nearly three
times more children under 15 than war.
Unicef’s executive director, Henrietta Fore, said the findings,
published in a report published on Friday to mark World Water Day,
underline the need for access to safe water and sanitation to be treated as a
human right rather than a privilege.
“Deliberate attacks on water and sanitation are attacks on
vulnerable children,” said Fore.
“The reality is that there are more children who die from lack of
access to safe water than by bullets. Water is a basic right. It is a necessity
The report compared World Health Organization data on “collective
violence” and “diarrhoeal disease” from 2014 to 2016 in Afghanistan, Burkina
Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Diarrhoeal disease linked to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene
kills an average of 72,000 children under five each year, while direct violence
from war kills an average of 3,400, according to the report.
Diarrhoea killed more children under five in each of the 16
countries analysed bar Libya and Syria, the report found. Under-15s were more
likely to die from diseases related to unsafe water everywhere but Libya, Iraq
“Human beings can run away or take shelter from bullets or bombs,
but they will run towards and seek out water at any cost,” said Omar El Hattab,
Unicef’s regional chief of water, environment and sanitation for the Middle
East and North Africa.
“Unfortunately, unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene reaches every
household, and will still be demanded by people – if people are thirsty, they
will drink any kind of water. In Yemen, a child dies every 10 minutes from
preventable causes, and many of those causes – malnutrition, cholera, diarrhoea
– are related to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.”
Lack of access to adequate water and sanitation adversely affects
girls more than boys, making them vulnerable to sexual violence as they collect
water or use latrines, said the report.
Yet the changing nature of conflict means that water, sanitation
and hygiene systems are often targeted as a means of attacking civilians, which
is in breach of the Geneva convention, said Sian White, of the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“Hospitals and water and sanitation infrastructure used to be ‘off
limits’, with warring parties respecting their value to human life, but recent
experience indicates that this is no longer the case,” said White.
“Perpetrators of conflict are increasingly viewing water and
sanitation systems as an asset of war that can be harnessed to gain power and
destroyed to inflict harm on civilians.”
The bombing of a water production plant in Hodeida last July
deprived more than 1 million people of drinking water, said El Hattab. Fighting
in Syria has also resulted in key water, sanitation and electricity systems
being repeatedly damaged since conflict broke out in 2011, with deliberate
shutdowns affecting as many as 2 million people at a time, said the report.
“Water, sanitation and hygiene services should never be
interrupted or politicised: access to safe water is a human right, not a
privilege,” said El Hattab.
“Indiscriminate attacks on water and sanitation services must be
stopped, and personnel for power supply, and water and sanitation workers
should be allowed to access facilities for repairs and maintenance irrespective
of where those facilities exist.”
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March 25th, 2019 - by Rebecca Solnit / Guardian UK
the urgency of climate action is the understanding that everything is
connected; behind white supremacy is an ideology of separation.
(March 24, 2019) — As
the news of the Christchurch mosque massacre broke and I scoured the news, I
came across a map showing that the Friday morning climate strike in
Christchurch was close to the bloodbath. I felt terrible for the young people
who showed up with hope and idealism, wondered whether the killer or killers
chose this particular day to undermine the impact of this global climate
action. It was a shocking pairing and also a perfectly coherent one, a clash of
opposing ideologies. Behind the urgency of climate action is the understanding
that everything is connected; behind white supremacy is an ideology of separation.
Of separation as the idea that human beings are divided into
races, and those in one race have nothing in common with those in others. Of
separation as the idea that though white people have overrun the globe,
nonwhite people should stay out of Europe, North America, and now even New
Zealand and Australia, two places where white settlers came
relatively recently to already inhabited places – as a fantasy of resegregating
Of a lot of ideas and ideals of masculinity taken to a monstrous
extreme – as ideas of disconnection, of taking matters into your own hands, of
feeling no empathy and exhibiting no kindness, of asserting yourself as having
the right to dominate others even unto death. And of course, of guns as the
symbols and instruments of this self-definition.
Climate change is based on science. But if
you delve into it deeply enough it is a kind of mysticism without
mystification, a recognition of the beautiful interconnection of all life and
the systems – weather, water, soil, seasons, ocean pH – on which that life
depends. It acknowledges that everything is connected, that to dig up the
carbon that plants so helpfully sequestered in the ground over eons and burn it
so that returns to the sky as carbon dioxide changes the climate, and that this
changed climate isn’t just warmer, it’s more chaotic, in ways that break these
elegant patterns and relationships. That chaos is a kind of violence – the
violence of hurricanes, wildfires, new temperature extremes, broken weather
patterns, droughts, extinctions, famines. Which is why climate action has been
and must be nonviolent. It is a movement to protect life.
That includes human life whether it’s the people of Central
America impacted by failed harvests or of the Gulf Coast by hurricanes or the
Arctic and their traditional relationships to seals, caribou and other species
in crisis from climate change or the people of California, like the 82 killed
in the inferno that in one day destroyed the town of Paradise last year. And it
includes all life, because human beings are not separate from the fate of
insects, of birds, of the life in the sea, of the forests that sequester
carbon, of the diseases that will thrive on a warmer planet. I know a lot of
climate activists, and I know what motivates them: it’s love. For the whole
planet, for the most vulnerable people on it, for the idea of a livable future.
It’s no accident that climate denial is integral to rightwing
thinking, that Republicans in the US have been freaking out about the Green New
Deal, that maximizing fossil fuel development and profit seems to be a
cornerstone of their libertarian-capitalist ideology. To acknowledge that
everything is connected is to acknowledge that our actions have consequences
and therefore responsibilities they are unwilling to shoulder. Also that the
solutions to climate change require cooperative work at all levels from local
energy transition to national policies that stop subsidizing fossil fuels to
international agreements to set emissions goals.
In contrast, so much of rightwing ideology now is about a
libertarian machismo in the “I can do anything I want” vein. It’s the pro-gun
myth that we can each protect ourselves with a weapon when in reality we’re all
safer with them out of our societies. It’s the idea that we can deregulate the
hell out of everything and everyone can just look out for themselves whether
it’s food safety or infrastructure safety or air and water quality.
To kill someone, you have to feel separate from them, and some
violence – lynching, rape – ritualizes this separateness. Violence too comes
out of a sort of entitlement: I have the right to hurt you, to determine your
fate, to end your life. I am more important than you. It seems like, among
other things a miserable mindset, one that aggrandizes your ego but withers
To oppose it means in part standing up for those under attack –
black churchgoers in Charleston, Jews in Pittsburgh, Muslims in Christchurch,
among them. But it also means being the opposite of their ideals and their
actions. It means generosity, respect, inclusion, nonviolence.
I asked Hoda Baraka, who is both Muslim and 350.org’s global
communications director, how it all looked to her in the wake of the climate
strike and the massacre, and she said “In a world being driven by fear, we are
constantly being pitted against the very things that make this world livable.
Whether it’s people being pitted against each other, even though
there is no life without human connection, love and empathy. Or fear pitting us
against the very planet that sustains us, even though there is no life on a
dead planet. This is why fighting against climate change is the equivalent of
fighting against hatred. A world that thrives is one where both people and
planet are seen for their inextricable value and connectedness.”
Our work as climate activists arises from the recognition that
acts have consequences, and consequences come with responsibilities, and we are
responsible for the fate of this earth, for all living things now and in the
future we are choosing with our actions– or inactions – in the present. But
also from the recognition that ecological connectedness contains a deep beauty
tantamount to love. Our goal as climate activists is to protect life. Those
children and youth standing up for the future in Christchurch and in more than
1,700 other cities around the world were already the answer we needed.
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March 25th, 2019 - by Intel Brief / The Soufan Center
Bottom Line Up Front
There are possible links between the recent New Zealand mosque shooter and a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist white supremacist paramilitary organization called the Azov Battalion.
The Azov Battalion is emerging as a critical node in the transnational right-wing violent extremist (RWE) movement.
Recruits from the U.S., Norway, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Sweden, and Australia, among others, have reportedly traveled to train with the Azov Battalion.
The global nature of these groups is just one of several similarities between RWEs and Salafi-jihadists.
(March 22, 2019) — In the wake of the New Zealand mosque
attacks, links have emerged between the shooter, Brent Tarrant, and a Ukrainian
ultra-nationalist, white supremacist paramilitary organization called the Azov
Battalion. Tarrant’s manifesto
alleges that he visited the country during his many travels abroad, and the
flak jacket that Tarrant wore during the assault featured a symbol commonly used by the
Tarrant’s transnational ties go beyond Ukraine, however.
Tarrant claimed that he was in touch with Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian
terrorist, and he took trips throughout Europe, including the Balkans, visiting
sites that symbolized historical battles between Christians and Muslims. During
the video of his attack he could be heard listening to a song that glorified Bosnian-Serb
war criminal Radovan Karadzic, and his gun featured racial messages and names
of white supremacists from around the world.
The Azov Battalion is emerging as a critical node in the
transnational right-wing violent extremist (RWE) network. This group maintains
its own ‘Western Outreach Office’ to help recruit and attract foreign fighters
that travel to train and connect with people from like-minded violent
organizations from across the globe. Operatives from the outreach office travel
around Europe to promote the organization and proselytize its mission of white
In July 2018, German-language fliers were distributed
among the visitors at a right-wing rock festival in Thuringia, inviting them to
be part of the Azov battalion: ‘join the ranks of the best’ to ‘save Europe
from extinction.’ It has also established youth camps, sporting recreation
centers, lecture halls, and far-right education programs, including some that
teach children as young as 9 years old military tactics and far-right
ideology. This aggressive approach to networking serves one of the Azov
Battalion’s overarching objectives to transform areas under its control in
Ukraine into the primary hub for transnational white supremacy.
Too often, the focus on foreign fighters has been relegated
to Sunni jihadists, but in a globalized world, the foreign fighter phenomenon
has deep roots across ideologies, from foreign fighters assisting the Kurds in
Iraq and Syria, to Shi’a militants traveling from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq,
and Lebanon to join with Iranian-backed foreign fighter networks operating in
It is now evident that RWE networks are also highly active
in recruiting fighters worldwide to its cause, with the Azov Battalion and
other ultra-nationalist organizations playing a significant role in the globalization of RWE violence. Indeed,
the Azov Battalion is forging links with RWE groups, hosting visits from
ultra-nationalist organizations such as members of the Rise Above Movement
(R.A.M.) from the U.S. and the British National Action from the U.K., among
other white supremacists from around the world.
In the United States, several R.A.M. members (all American
citizens) who spent time in Ukraine training with the Azov Battalion were
recently indicted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) for their
role in violently attacking counter-protestors during the ‘Unite the Right’
rally in Charlottesville, VA in August 2017.
Ironically, there are similarities in ideology, strategy and
recruitment tactics between Salafi-Jihadist organizations, such as
al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State, and RWE groups. Both types of violent
groups seek to implement their own versions of what they consider to be a
‘pure’ society. There are striking resemblances between al-Qaeda’s Maktab
al-Khidamat (MAK) and the Azov Battalion’s ‘Western Outreach Office,’ both of
which had the responsibility for promoting the cause and helping recruits reach
the battlefield. Just as Afghanistan served as a sanctuary for jihadist
organizations like Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
in the 1980s, so too are parts of Ukraine becoming a safe haven for an array of
right-wing violent extremist groups to congregate, train, and radicalize.
And just like the path of jihadist groups, the goal of many
of these members is to return to their countries of origin (or third-party
countries) to wreak havoc and use acts of violence as a means to recruit new
members to their cause. Unlike jihadis who are attempting to strike Western
targets, though, radicalized white supremacists have the added advantage of being
able to blend in seamlessly in the West, just as Tarrant was able to do.
The Christchurch shooter was not simply a lone actor, but
the product of a broader network of right-wing violent extremists. If the
evidence ultimately proves that Tarrant went to Ukraine to train with
like-minded individuals, then the attack in New Zealand was possibly the first
example of an act of terrorism committed by a white supremacist foreign
fighter. And unless the international community recognizes the danger posed by
these transnational networks, the New Zealand attack is unlikely to be the last.
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(March 22, 2019)
— War isn’t just a waste of resources that could be
used to tackle climate change, but is itself a significant cause of
environmental harm, argues Elaine Graham-Leigh
War is not often
mentioned in mainstream discussions about the causes of climate change. The
1992 Kyoto Protocol indeed explicitly excluded greenhouse gas emissions from
military action from its emissions targets. This automatic exclusion was
removed in the 2015 Paris Agreement, but it is still not mandatory for
signatory countries to track and reduce their military carbon emissions.
The enormous cost of
the military machine in both the US and the UK gives the lie to claims that
dealing with climate change would be unaffordable for Western governments. When
proposers of a Green New Deal in US are told that ‘there’s no money to pay for it’, it’s natural
to look to the $716bn of US military spending as a potential source of those
elusive funds. Similarly, in the UK, we should not forget that a government
which apparently can’t find money for the NHS, public services or green
infrastructure can find £205bn for renewing Trident.
The connections between
war and climate change however go further than simple competition for
government funding. War isn’t just a waste of resources that could be used to
tackle climate change, but is itself a significant cause of environmental harm.
The armed forces have considerable carbon footprints. This is most true of the
US military, but the UK armed forces will have similar practices, albeit on a
The US military admits
to getting through 395,000 barrels of oil every day, including jet fuel
consumption which makes it the single largest consumer in the world. This is an
astonishing figure which is nevertheless likely to be a considerable
underestimate. Once all the oil use from military contractors, weapons
manufacturing and all those secret bases and operations that get missed out of
the official figures are factored in, the real daily usage is likely to be
closer to a million barrels. As even supporters of the
military admit, ‘vast swathes of our military are big carbon emitters – tanks,
jeeps, Humvees, jet planes’, as Steven Groves from the Heritage Foundation put it in 2015.
To put the figures into perspective, US military personnel on active service
make up around 0.0002% of the world’s population, but are part of a military
system which generates around 5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Much of these emissions
are from the military infrastructure that the US maintains around the world.
The environmental cost of war itself is considerably higher. It has been
estimated that the Iraq war between 2003 and 2007 accounted for 141 million
metric tonnes of CO2, more than 60% of all the countries in the world.
damage caused by war is not limited, of course, to climate change. The effects
of nuclear bombing and nuclear testing, the use of Agent Orange, depleted
uranium and other toxic chemicals, as well as land mines and unexploded
ordinance lingering in conflict zones long after the war has moved on, have
earned the US military a deserved reputation as ‘the greatest single assault on
the environment.’ It has been estimated that 20% of all environmental
degradation around the world is due to military and related activities, much of
which of course has involved the US and the UK.
The US military is
particularly secretive about its energy requirements. Journalists have
commented that it is easier to get casualty figures out of the Department of
Defense than it is to get statistics on military oil use. US military behaviour
tells us however that there is an absolute commitment to continue to get
through oil at the current, astonishing rate, even when there might be good,
military reasons for reducing it. When the US Defense Science Board reported in
2001 that the military would need either to develop more oil efficient weapons
or better support systems to be able to keep themselves supplied, ‘the generals
seem to have chosen a third option: capturing access to more oil’ (Ian
Angus, Facing the Anthropocene,
(Monthly Review Press 2016), p.161). This indicates the fundamental truth about
the military and climate change: that the modern way of war emerged from and is
only possible with profligate use of fossil fuel.
The rapid rise in
greenhouse gas emissions that created the current climate crisis began in
around 1950; in other words, in the period immediately following the Second
World War. This is not a coincidence. Oil had been important in the First World
War, but controlling access to oil supplies was crucial in the Second. The
Allies would not have won had they not been able to cut off German access to
oil and to maintain it for themselves. The lesson for the US in particular
after the war was that continuing access to and monopolisation of the world’s
oil was essential if it was to be the world’s superpower. This made oil a central
military priority, and also cemented the dominant position of the
petroleum/automotive sector in the US. These were preconditions for a system
dependent on greenhouse gas emitting technologies for military and domestic
production; the source of the climate change we are facing now.
The last seventy years
have been seventy years of imperialist wars and seventy years of climate
change. These are not unrelated unfortunate facts, but a demonstration of how
greenhouse gas emissions and environmental destruction are inescapably part of
We can have wars for
oil, or we can have a moderate climate and an inhabitable planet. It is
increasingly clear that we cannot have both.
Elaine has been an environmental campaigner for more than a
decade, focusing on issues of climate change and social justice. She speaks and
writes widely on green issues and is a member of Counterfire. Her book, A
Diet of Austerity: Class, Food and Climate Change, will be published in April 2015 by Zero Books.]
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UN Special Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas criticized the human rights
commissioner’s past reports on Venezuela, calling them “unprofessional” and
politicized, denouncing an “ocean of lies”
(March 20, 2019) — A former United Nations human rights
expert and top legal scholar has harshly criticized the international body’s
reporting on Venezuela, calling it “unprofessional,” politicized, and unfairly
slanted in favor of the country’s right-wing opposition.
“We are swimming in an ocean of lies,”
explained Alfred de Zayas. “When I went to Venezuela, I expected to find a
“I was predetermined to find
a humanitarian crisis,” he continued. “I walked the streets, I spoke to people
of all kinds, and that was not the case.
“That means I had been manipulated. I had been
lied to. And I resent that.”
De Zayas previously served as UN independent
expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order. A
renowned legal scholar, he spent decades working as a senior lawyer for the UN
High Commissioner for Human Rights and is today a professor of international
law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations.
Alfred de Zayas was the first UN expert to
visit Venezuela in 21 years. He traveled to the South American nation for an
investigation from November 26 to December 5, 2017, during his time as a
After his trip, de Zayas produced a
detailed report on Venezuela (PDF), which details how economic warfare and
sanctions led by the United States government have devastated Venezuela and drastically hurt
its civilian population. De Zayas presented this report to the UN Human Rights
Council in September 2018, but it was ignored.
In his time in Venezuela, De Zayas met with a
wide variety of groups, including opposition leaders, NGOs, and Fedecámaras,
the opposition-dominated chamber of commerce; as well as government officials.
He said that he faced harsh personal attacks from the Venezuelan opposition
while inside the country.
On the “Propaganda vs. Reality” side event at the UN
this March, De Zayas insisted that the leftist government of President Nicolás
Maduro had demonstrated a clear willingness to negotiate when engaged in good
At the end of his trip, de Zayas recalled that
he handed Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza a six-page memo with several
demands that the government promptly obliged.
De Zayas said he requested the release of 23
people, and the Venezuelan government went above and beyond, releasing 80. He
also requested increased Venezuelan collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), and Caracas agreed.
De Zayas said he also called on Arreaza to
negotiate the release of the German journalist Billy Six, who had worked
closely with the opposition and was accused by Caracas of being a spy. After
two months, the Venezuelan government agreed to release Six and returned him to
“If you have good faith, if you want to
mediate, if you want to have dialogue, the government is willing to have
dialogue,” de Zayas said at the UN panel. “But if all you want to do is say,
‘Maduro is corrupt,’ and ‘Maduro is a criminal,’ then you are not likely to get
any cooperation from the government.”
Condemning regime change attempts, foreign
intervention, and sanctions, de Zayas instead called for the international
community to support the Montevideo mechanism, a dialogue process
proposed by the governments of Mexico and Uruguay in order to reach a peace
settlement between Venezuela’s government and US-backed opposition.
Past OHCHR Venezuela Reports ‘Unprofessional,’ Politicized
On the panel, Alfred de Zayas also criticized
previous reports on Venezuela by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights (OHCHR), which he said were “unprofessional” and politicized.
Two past OHCHR reports, conducted by former
High Commissioner Zeid Raad al-Hussein, “were simply unprofessional,” de Zayas
argued, “because they violated the most fundamental principle of methodology,
the principle Audiatur et altera pars — that you have to
listen to all sides, and you have to reflect the information that you get from
all sides, and not that you get from the political opposition.”
“Those two reports, unfortunately, are
political pamphlets,” de Zayas said. “And that is unworthy of the Office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights.”
In December 2018, De Zayas noted, the
Venezuelan government invited the UN’s new high commissioner for human rights,
Michelle Bachelet, to visit in order to investigate the human rights situation
in the country. Bachelet agreed to do so, and prepared a team.
De Zayas said Bachelet’s investigation must go
much deeper than the previous reports. “It is imperative not just simply to
say, ‘There is an economic crisis,’ we know that already; ‘there is hunger,’ we
know that already; ‘there are problems with distribution,’ we know that,” he
“What she has to find out is why. Which are
the causes of this so-called ‘humanitarian crisis,’” de Zayas continued.
“She has to go into the internal and external
economic war. Because it’s not just the sanctions; it’s not just the financial
blockade; it’s not just the induced inflation.”
If she investigates the effects of the US
government’s sanctions on Venezuela, de Zayas said, Bachelet and her team “will
realize the adverse impacts of the sanctions.”
“The credibility of the Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights depends on it,” cautioned de Zayas, who stressed
that he worked for decades as a senior lawyer for the UN body.
Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.
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