May 22nd, 2019 - by Mana Mostatabi / The National Iranian American Council
WASHINGTON, DC (May
21, 2019) — In light of President Trump and John Bolton’s dangerous escalations
against Iran and a forthcoming intelligence briefing on Capitol Hill this
afternoon, 62 organizations – including J Street, Indivisible, NIAC Action and
Win Without War – sent a letter calling on Congress to pass legislation to halt
a march to war with Iran.
groups, representing millions of Americans concerned about renewed threats of
war with Iran, signals a strong desire for Congress to step up and block Trump
from leading America into yet another war of choice.
Americans voted for a new Congress to act as a co-equal branch of government
that would finally serve as a check on this president and his reckless impulses,” said NIAC President Jamal Abdi. “Now
Trump and his National Security Advisor John Bolton are taking this country to
the brink of a completely avoidable military confrontation. It’s time for
Congress to turn its words into action by passing legislation to stop Trump and
Bolton from starting an illegal war.”
Trump’s chaos-first foreign policy centers around his penchant for turning
challenges into crises,” said Win
Without War Advocacy Director Erica Fein. “His Iran policy is no
different: President Obama took us off the path to war, but now Trump and
Bolton have put us back on it. It’s time for Congress to put the brakes on a
Trump-Bolton war with Iran.”
“If the Trump
administration were to launch a war of choice against Iran it would have devastating
consequences for the United States, Israel and the entire region,” warned J Street head of government affairs
Dylan Williams. “Congress must fulfill its constitutional
responsibility by making absolutely clear that the president is not authorized
to trigger a new conflagration in the Middle East.”
According to the letter, “As the drumbeat for war grows louder, Congress must fulfill its Constitutional duty and enact further constraints to unequivocally prevent the administration from launching an unauthorized war.” The letter concludes, “The American people do not want another disastrous war of choice in the Middle East. Congress has the chance to stop a war before it starts. Please take action before it is too late.”
To: Members of Congress
We write to request that
Congress take urgent action to halt a march to war with Iran.
The Trump administration,
spurred on by National Security Advisor John Bolton, has moved the U.S. into a
war posture. Over the last few weeks, Bolton pushed through unprecedented
sanctions and escalated the war of words intended to provoke retaliation from
the Iranians. Now, Bolton has used a routine carrier deployment to the Middle
East to threaten Iran with “unrelenting force” and has overseen the revision of
war plans that would send 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran takes his
Congress cannot be
complicit as the playbook for the 2003 invasion of Iraq is repeated before our
eyes. The administration has increasingly politicized intelligence on Iran’s
nuclear program, and falsely asserts ties between Iran and al-Qaeda.
Worryingly, the administration does not perceive that it is constrained by the
lack of Congressional authorization for war with Iran, and has even suggested
that the 2001 authorization to use military force could be twisted to green
light strikes against Iran.
As the drumbeat for war
grows louder, Congress must fulfill its Constitutional duty and enact further
constraints to unequivocally prevent the administration from launching an
unauthorized war. We urge you to pass legislation to bar funding for an
unauthorized war with Iran – The Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran
Act (S. 1039/H.R. 2354) – together with legislation that makes clear that no
existing statutory authorization, including the 2001 authorization for use of
military force, provides for war with Iran. Moreover, we urge all lawmakers to
issue statements making clear that no authorization for an Iran war exists, and
that if the Trump administration seeks war it must first come to Congress for
The American people do not
want another disastrous war of choice in the Middle East. Congress has the
chance to stop a war before it starts. Please take action before it is too
About Face: Veterans
Against the War
Americans for Peace Now
Beyond the Bomb
Brave New Films
Bulletin of the Atomic
Center for American
Center for International
Chino Cienega Foundation
Concerned Citizens for
Council for a Livable
Dallas Peace and Justice
Federation of American
Foreign Policy for America
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on
Global Ministries of the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Global Security Institute
Jewish Voice for Peace
Just Foreign Policy
Maryknoll Office for
Nuclear Age Peace
Nuclear Watch New Mexico
Oak Ridge Environmental
Palestine Action Committee
Pax Christi International
Peace Development Fund
Physicians for Social
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rachel Carson Council
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call
for Human Rights
The Peace Farm
Truman National Security
Union of Concerned
United Church of Christ,
Justice and Witness Ministries
United for Peace and
Veterans For Peace
Washington Against Nuclear
Western States Legal
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New
Action: The Pro-Peace Iranian-American Lobby
is the grassroots, civic action organization committed to advancing peace and
championing the priorities of the Iranian-American community. We are a
nonpartisan nonprofit and the 501(c)4 sister organization of the National Iranian American Council, which works
to strengthen the Iranian-American community and promote greater understanding
between the American and Iranian people.
works to maximize the political influence of Iranian Americans and the
pro-peace community to ensure we have a powerful voice on the issues that
matter to us most. We utilize three tools: direct lobbying efforts in
Washington, grassroots advocacy led by NIAC Action Chapters nationwide, and
organized engagement with political candidates by NIAC Action members.
Our goal is
to strengthen U.S. diplomacy with Iran to advance peace and human rights,
promote greater openings between the American and the Iranian people, protect
civil rights and opportunities for Iranian Americans at home, and support
candidates who represent our community’s values. We accomplish this mission by
leveraging the resources of the Iranian-American and pro-peace community, the
talent of our grassroots leaders, and the political expertise of our
Washington, D.C. staff.
To ensure our
community has a powerful voice in the political process, NIAC Action provides
its members with top caliber political resources and guidance, powerful
advocacy tools and civic trainings, and grassroots leadership development.
is supported by its members in the Iranian-American and pro-peace communities,
and by prominent U.S. foundations. We do not receive any funding from the
Iranian government or the United States government.
Discriminating against people on their ethnicity or country of origin is anathema to the ideals that make America great. NIAC Action works to fight back against such discrimination and ensure that the civil rights of Iranian Americans and Iranians in the U.S. are protected. NIAC Action is working to repeal a law barring Iranian dual nationals and travelers to Iran from participating in the Visa Waiver Program. This discriminatory law could provoke reciprocal restrictions that turn many Iranian-Americans into second-class citizens when traveling abroad.
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Sweden (May 21, 2019) – Amnesty International reported on March 11 that an
Iranian lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, has been sentenced to 38 years in jail and 148
lashes. She has dedicated her life to defending women accused of removing their
hijabs in public. The persecution of human rights dissidents in Iran appears to
be getting worse.
it harder to feel sorry for Iran, even if President Donald Trump is wielding
the heavy stick against it, and even though Trump has sabotaged the Agreement
to freeze Iran’s nuclear research and uranium enrichment carefully negotiated
by President Barack Obama’s team, the EU, Russia and China.
Realpolitik demands us to stand up for this Agreement but who can be happy
stepping into the ring to defend the honor of such a regime? Iran executes more
people each year than any other country bar China. If Iran wants more
enthusiastic outside help it must put its own house in order.
U.S. moving towards war since Iran, pushing back against American sanctions
which were supposed to have been removed in return for Iran’s agreement on
nuclear research restraint, has now suggested in might start this work again?
This seems to have maddened Trump. The White House keeps reiterating that Iran is secretly set on making a nuclear bomb, which will then be mounted on rockets that can threaten NATO and U.S. troops in Europe.
only a few in Europe who have ever believed this was the Iranian intention
before the Agreement and it certainly isn’t now. Apart from anything else, the
Iranians only have short-range rockets and the Iranians have no knowledge of
how to miniaturize a bomb (which they don’t have to practice with) to fit on
the head of a small rocket.
militancy on the issue seems to contradict his campaign promise not to involve
America in any more Asian wars, all of which have ended disastrously and
counterproductively – Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. In all of them he’s pushed
for reducing American troops. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for hard lobbying by
the Pentagon there would zero troops deployed.
in his mind seems to be a different case. The deployment of an aircraft carrier
in the Straits of Hormuz near to Iranian waters is a war threat. This is much more serious than the sanctions.
There’s no point in having it there unless he is prepared to use its firepower.
the U.S. would need far more than one aircraft carrier to overcome Iran’s
defense forces. It would mean using long-range bombers. Many of them are based
in British-controlled territory. But in 2012 on the last occasion the U.S.
thought about a war with Iran, at the time of President George W. Bush, the UK
government’s attorney general advised Prime Minister Tony Blair that a
preemptive military strike on Iran could violate international law. The
existence of this secret document suggests that the government believed then
that Iran didn’t meet the legal threshold for a “clear and present danger” that
would merit such an attack- and that was before the big power Agreement with
Guardian newspaper’s investigation which was reported on prominently in the
Washington Post concluded that the U.S. was asking for access to British
airbases that are strategically located on remote islands, but that the UK
refused to cooperate. London is unlikely to be helpful today when, like its
European partners, it seriously objects to Trump’s decision to abrogate the
Agreement with Iran.
One of the
strange footnotes in the run up to the Agreement was that for years the CIA in
its annual reviews said it found no proof that Iran was developing a bomb.
powerful religious leaders have all said loudly that to have a nuclear weapons
would go against the teaching of Mohammed. The Iranian public has heard this
message time and time again so they are unlikely to give their support to a
bomb-making effort now, but they will support the right to develop an
independent nuclear program to enable it to build civilian power stations. They
will support the right for Iran to be self-sufficient in energy in a world that
is hostile to it.
made enemies, especially Israel, whose hard line leader, Benjamin Netanyahu,
eggs Trump on. It’s true that Iran supports anti-Israeli militias and meddles
in other Middle Eastern countries, in particular Syria and Iraq. But Obama’s
plan was always to build on the Agreement and then, using the trust that that
would create, to go on and negotiate with Iran to be more responsible in its
got it all back to front.
situation escalates to the real danger zone the matter must be put before the
Security Council and with a unanimous vote the U.S. be told to stop its
confrontation and honor the Agreement.
(March 20, 2019) — The US is formally committed to dominating the
world by the year 2020. With President Trump’s new Space Directive-4, the
production of laser-armed fighter jets as possible precursors to space weapons,
and the possibility of nuclear warheads being put into orbit, the clock is
Back in 1997, the now-re-established US Space Command
announced its commitment to “full spectrum dominance.” The Vision for
2020 explains that “full spectrum dominance”
means military control over land, sea, air, and space (the so-called fourth
dimension of warfare) “to protect US interests and investment.” “Protect” means
guarantee operational freedom. “US interest and investment” means corporate
The glossy brochure explains that, in the past, the Army evolved to protect US settlers who stole land from Native Americans in the genocidal birth of the nation. Like the Vision for 2020, a report by the National Defense University acknowledges that by the 19th century, the Navy had evolved to protect the US’s newly-formulated “grand strategy.” In addition to supposedly protecting citizens and the constitution, “The overriding principle was, and remains, the protection of American territory … and our economic well-being.”
By the 20th century, the Air Force had been established, in the words of the Air Force Study Strategy Guide, to protect “vital interests,” including: “commerce; secure energy supplies; [and] freedom of action.” In the 21st Century, these pillars of power are bolstered by the Cyber Command and the coming Space Force.
The use of the Army, Navy, and Air Force—the three dimensions of power—means that the US is already close to achieving “full spectrum dominance.” Brown University’s Cost of War project documents current US military involvement in 80 countries—or 40% of the world’s nations. This includes 65 so-called counterterrorism training operations and 40 military bases (though others think the number of bases is much higher). By this measure, “full spectrum dominance” is nearly half way complete. But the map leaves out US and NATO bases, training programs, and operations in Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine.
As the US expands its space operations—the fourth dimension of
warfare—the race towards “full spectrum dominance” quickens. Space has long
been militarized in the sense that the US uses satellites to guide missiles and
aircraft. But the new doctrine seeks to weaponize space by, for instance,
blurring the boundaries between high-altitude military aircraft and space
itself. Today’s space power will be harnessed by the US to ensure dominance
over the satellite infrastructure that allows for the modern world of internet,
e-commerce, GPS, telecommunications, surveillance, and war-fighting.
Since the 1950s, the United Nations has introduced various treaties to prohibit the militarization and weaponization of space—the most famous being the Outer Space Treaty (1967). These treaties aim to preserve space as a commons for all humanity. The creation of the US Space Force is a blatant violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of those treaties.
In more recent decades, successive US governments have unilaterally rejected treaties to reinforce and expand the existing space-for-peace agreements. In 2002, the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972), allowing it to expand its long-range missile systems. In 2008, China and Russia submitted to the UN Conference on Disarmament the proposed Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects. This would have preserved the space-as-a-commons principle and answered US claims that “enemies” would use space as a battleground against US satellites.
But peace is not the goal. The goal is “full spectrum
dominance,” so the US rejected the offer. China and Russia introduced the
proposed the treaty again in 2014—and again the US rejected it. Earlier this
year, the US withdrew from the Intermediate-Range
Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Last month, President Trump sent an unclassified
memo on the new Space Directive-4 to the Vice President, Joint Chiefs of Staff,
NASA, and the Secretaries of Defense and State.
The document makes for chilling and vital reading. It recommends legislating for the training of US forces “to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in, space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces.” Crucially, this doctrine includes “peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict.” As well as integrating space forces with the intelligence community, the memo recommends establishing a Chief of Staff of the Space Force, who will to join the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The memo also says that US space operations will abide by “international law.” But given that the US has rejected anti-space weapons treaties, it is barely constrained by international law.
In late-2017, Space.com reported on a $26.3 million Department of Defense contract with Lockheed Martin to build lasers for fighter jets under the Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments program. The report says that the lasers will be ready by 2021. The article links to Doug Graham, the Vice President of Missile Systems and Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
In the original link Graham reveals that the Air Force laser “is an example of how Lockheed Martin is using a variety of innovative technologies to transform laser devices into integrated weapon systems.”
As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the British Ministry of
Defence (MoD) states in a projection out to the year
2050: “Economies are becoming increasingly dependent upon space-based systems …
By 2050, space-based weapon systems may also be deployed, which could include nuclear
weapons.” But this is extremely reckless. Discussing technologies, including
the artificial intelligence on which weapons systems are increasingly based,
another MoD projection warns of “the potential for
disastrous outcomes, planned and unplanned … Various doomsday scenarios arising
in relation to these and other areas of development present the possibility of
catastrophic impacts, ultimately including the end of the world, or at least of
“Full spectrum dominance” is not only a danger to the world, it
is a danger to US citizens who would also suffer the consequences, if and when
something goes wrong with their leaders’ complicated space weapons.
May 22nd, 2019 - by The Alliance for Global Justice
(May 21, 2019) — An important “Dear Colleague” letter is
circulating in the US Congress that solicits support for the peace accord. The
letter, authored by Rep. James McGovern, specifically mentions the points of
most concern. The Trump administration is leading attacks against components of
the peace agreement that deal with transitional justice, land reform, and
eradication of crops with illicit uses. This is taking place against a backdrop
of political violence that is claiming one victim every other day.
The McGovern letter addresses all these issues and should be
supported. Signatures are being collected through Wednesday, so there is still
time to contact your congressperson and demand they sign.
The other action we are soliciting is in solidarity with the
Wayuu Women’s Force (FMW, Fuerza de
Mujeres Wayuu). They are being threatened and followed by the Águilas Negras (Black Eagles) death
squad, and the Colombian government is not taking it seriously. AfGJ recently
met with members of Fuerza Mujeres Wayuu
and heard first-hand about the threats and harassment.
We also traveled to other areas of the Wayuu territory and
learned about a general atmosphere of intimidation and danger to the
communities. Support for the Wayuu Women’s Force is especially strategic: this
group of women go throughout the Wayuu territory to accompany people who are
being targeted for their activism. They defend the defenders. Thus, solidarity
with FMW is solidarity with the entire Wayuu nation.
(May 21, 2019) — I recently visited the Department of La Guajira
on behalf of the Alliance for Global Justice. I was with Raquel Mogollón who
works with the organization Camino Común.
While we were in La Guajira, we were asked to meet with members of the Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuú (FMW, Women’s
Wayuú Force) about death threats against the group, and the failure of the
government to take the situation seriously. They want to make known what they
are facing, and are looking for international declarations and other forms of
solidarity in support of their call for an investigation into the threats.
La Guajira is a desperately poor region that is the most
northern reach of mainland Colombia, a peninsula that reaches like a finger
into the Caribbean Sea, curling itself around the Gulf of Venezuela and sharing
a border with the Bolivarian Republic to its east. La Guajíra has
Colombia’s second largest indigenous population, primarily members of the Wayuu
nation. It is also a place plagued by extreme drought. That drought has been
greatly exacerbated by the Cerrajón and other coalmines and extractive
These companies contaminate and divert water from the region’s
rivers and streams, decimating local agriculture and negatively impacting the
ability of Wayuu and other communities to grow the food the need and to get
access to potable water. Since 2011, more than 6,100 mostly Wayuu children have
died from hunger and thirst.
is a tragic example of humanitarian disaster that the world prefers to ignore.
Rather, the focus is on next-door Venezuela in order to justify dreams of
intervention and overthrow of that country’s government. Since Colombia is
virtually a colony of the US Empire, addressing the crisis there would only
embarrass and be of no strategic value for oil wars and plans of world
Nevertheless, it is somewhat unfair to simply denounce the world’s ignorance about La Guajira. Community, indigenous, and ecological activists are actively discouraged from letting the world know what is happening, and from organizing and mobilizing to alleviate and end the humanitarian and ecological crisis. If the world understood the depth of suffering in La Guajira, it just might demand action.
action that were to address the situation would have to address the
unrestrained and devastating practices of the big mining corporations. That
prospect is sufficiently undesirable to the corporations involved, that the
most repressive threats and acts of violence are used to suppress the voices of
Wayuú activists who speak out in defense of the land, water, and people.
traveling in La Guajira, we heard of several such threats. We even had to help
one family leave their home and community because they were in grave danger and
the village they lived in was so isolated and vulnerable. This family was being
persecuted by likely members of the Colombian Armed Forces moonlighting as
plain clothes and hooded paramilitaries. They were targeted because of their
role as human and indigenous rights defenders in their community.
we heard about the threats against the Fuerza
de Mujeres Wayuú (FMW, Wayuú Women’s Force), we became especially
concerned. In the case of FMW, they are not only activists defending their
land, water, and culture – they defend the defenders.
their founding in 2007, the FMW’s mission has been to accompany Wayuú
communities that are being directly threatened and assaulted. Therefore, when
they are repressed, the repercussions have a ripple effect throughout the
territory. A threat against the FMW is truly a threat against all the Wayuú
people and everyone who speaks out for their interests.
Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuú
has recently been the target of several acts of intimidation by the Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles). These
include an April 30 2019 pamphlet threatening individual leaders as well as the
entire group, a recently deleted false Facebook profile attacking them, and the
repeated presence of unknown individuals observing and following them as they
move about trying to do their work.
spoke at some length with leaders and associates who asked not to be
identified. According to their spokesperson, while threats against the group
had gone down between 2015 and 2017, since the beginning of 2018, they have
become much more frequent. She told us that the government is not taking the
situation seriously and is not undertaking an investigation.
Attorney General’s office replied that the threats could “possibly” be real,
but could be coming from another organization other than the Águilas Negras, or that they threats may
not be sincere. They maintained an investigations was unwarranted.
The FMW was formed in 2007 as a coalition of
Wayuú organizations lead by women in support of indigenous and popular
movements opposing mining projects, engaging in water protection, and acting to
reclaim and rehabilitate lost territory. While various mining companies operate
nearby, the area is especially affected by the giant Cerrajón coal mine, one of
the world’s largest. Cerrajón is a joint project owned in equal shares by a
consortium of British, Australian, and South African based companies, namely
the BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Xstrata corporations.
Paramilitary death squads have a long history
in the region. In next door César, for instance, Alabama-based Drummond Coal was
known to have paid paramilitaries to protect their operations. Clearly, death
squads in the area serve to protect the interests of mining companies, big
landowners, and narco-traffickers.
While famine resulting from drought and
corporate irresponsibility is an acceptable situation, any real challenge to
the profits of these sectors is not.
Nevertheless, since 2007, the Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuú has done just
that: challenge the big industries and, more, provide protection and
accompaniment to other organizers.
Because of this powerful and dangerous work,
FMW was the first organization to receive protection from the Colombian
government via the National Protection Unit (UNP). The UNP is a system of
bodyguards and protection provided by the government, a system won through
Despite this protection, the Colombian State is not responding adequately to the threats against the FMW. Furthermore, the focus of the UNP, with its own stretched and limited resources, is on protection of a few individuals, but not an entire group. The spokesperson we spoke to insisted that their demand is not for more UNP, but for a real investigation to be launched against the Águilas Negras to bring them to justice.
She provided us a copy of the most recent
threat and, as one can imagine, it is chilling. It states: “It is the moment to
finish with all the so-called human rights defenders toads of La Guajira, we’re
going to dig under all these leaders of social organizations…. IF YOU DO NOT
BELIEVE IT WE HAVE THE NAMES OF EVERYONE AND THESE ARE NOT ALL….”
The death threat goes on to mention six
leaders, including two men who participate in and support FMW. (While FMW is
woman-led, and mostly women, it does include male supporters and accompaniers.)
One of them is the brother of an FMW member, Luís Socorra Pimienta, who was
killed by paramilitaries on July 28 2010.
The US-NATO Empire, with fawning allegiance
from the Colombian government, wants all eyes on Venezuela. Therefore, our
attention is diverted away from the crisis of famine and the threat of death
squads happening on the Colombia-side of the border in La Guajira.
Let’s take off the blinders. If we see the repression and poverty in La Guajira and in the Wayuú Nation, that could be the beginning of changing the ending of what is an otherwise tragic story.
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May 21st, 2019 - by Roots Action and World BEYOND War
What the US did to Iraq must not be done to Iran!
(May 20, 2019) — The danger has been dramatically escalated that the United States will launch yet another catastrophic war — this time against Iran. Such a war could come by a deliberate decision, or through a series of provocations, reprisals, and misunderstandings. The latter scenario has been made more likely through threats and the positioning of weapons and troops.
President Trump has called attacking Iraq “one of the worst decisions in the history of the country.”
A war on Iran would be a war on a large and well-armed nation. It would be a war very likely to bring in other nations on both sides. That sort of catastrophe would dwarf other recent disastrous wars.
If such a war happens and we survive it, apologies won’t do us much good. Years after the 2003 attack on Iraq, some (but not most) of the members of Congress and the media who voted for and promoted it apologized.
Some of the same officials and outlets have supported new and ongoing wars on Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. The disaster of a war on Iran could compel apologies, but what we need is instead not to do it.
is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich,
Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr.,
Laura Flanders, former US Senator James Abourezk, Frances Fox Piven, Lila
Garrett, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.
(May 15, 2019) — An Iraq-War redux is now in
full play, with leading roles played by some of the same protagonists —
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, for example,
who says he still thinks attacking Iraq was a good idea. Co-starring is
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The New York Times on Tuesday played its accustomed role in stoking the fires, front-paging a report that, at Bolton’s request, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has come up with an updated plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East, should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.
The Times headline writer, at least, thought it appropriate to point to echoes from the past: “White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War.”
By midday, Trump had denied the Timesreport,
branding it “fake news.” Keep them guessing, seems to be the name of the game.
Following the Iraq playbook, Bolton and Pompeo are conjuring up dubious intelligence from Israel to “justify” attacking — this time — Iran. (For belligerent Bolton, this was entirely predictable.) All this is clear.
What is not clear, to
Americans and foreigners alike, is why Trump would allow Bolton and Pompeo to
use the same specious charges — terrorism and nuclear weapons — to provoke war
with a country that poses just as much strategic threat to the US as Iraq did —
that is to say, none. The corporate media, with a two-decade memory-loss and a
distinct pro-Israel bias, offers little help toward understanding.B
Before discussing the main, but unspoken-in-polite-circles, impulse behind the present step-up in threats to Iran, let’s clear some underbrush by addressing the two limping-but-still-preferred, ostensible rationales, neither of which can bear close scrutiny:
No. 1: It isn’t because Iran is the world’s
leading sponsor of terrorism. We of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for
Sanity shot down that
canard a year and a half ago. In a Memorandum for President Trump, we said:
“The depiction of Iran as ‘the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism’ is not supported by the facts. While Iran is guilty of having used terrorism as a national policy tool in the past, the Iran of 2017 is not the Iran of 1981.
In the early days of the Islamic Republic, Iranian operatives routinely carried out car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations of dissidents and of American citizens. That has not been the case for many years.”
No. 2. It isn’t because Iran is building a
nuclear weapon. A November 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate concluded
unanimously that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and had
not resumed any such work. That judgment has been re-affirmed by the
Intelligence Community annually since then.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, imposed strict, new, verifiable restrictions on Iranian nuclear-related activities and was agreed to in July 2015 by Iran, the US, Russia, China, France, the U.K., Germany and the European Union.
Even the Trump administration has acknowledged
that Iran has been abiding by the agreement’s provisions. Nevertheless,
President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, four
weeks after John Bolton became his national security adviser.
‘We Prefer No Outcome’
Fair Warning: What
follows may come as a shock to those malnourished on the drivel in mainstream
media: The “WHY,” quite simply, is Israel. It is impossible to understand US
Middle East policy without realizing the overwhelming influence of Israel on it
and on opinion makers. (A personal experience drove home how strong the public
appetite is for the straight story, after I gave a half-hour video interview to
independent videographer Regis Tremblay three years ago. He titled it “The Inside
Scoop on the Middle East & Israel,” put it on YouTube and it got an unusually high
number of views.)
Syria is an illustrative case in point, since
Israel has always sought to secure its position in the Middle East by enlisting
US support to curb and dominate its neighbors. An episode I recounted in that
interview speaks volumes about Israeli objectives in the region as a whole, not
only in Syria. And it includes an uncommonly frank admission/exposition of
Israeli objectives straight from the mouths of senior Israeli officials. It is
the kind of case-study, empirical approach much to be preferred to indulging in
ponderous pronouncements or, worse still, so-called “intelligence assessments.”
It has long been clear that Israeli leaders have powerful incentives to get Washington more deeply engaged in yet another war in the area. This Israeli priority has become crystal clear in many ways. Reporter Jodi Rudoren, writing from Jerusalem, had an important article in The New York Times on Sept. 6, 2013, in which she addressed Israel’s motivation in a particularly candid way. Her article, titled “Israel Backs Limited Strike against Syria,” noted that the Israelis have argued, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome.
“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.
“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”
this is the way Israel’s current leaders look at the carnage in Syria, they
seem to believe that deeper US involvement, including military action, is
likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict especially
when Syrian government forces seem to be getting the upper hand. The longer
Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region,
the safer Israel calculates it will be.
fact that Syria’s main ally is Iran, with whom it has a mutual defense treaty,
also plays a role in Israeli calculations. And since Iranian military support
has not been enough to destroy those challenging Bashar al-Assad, Israel can
highlight that in an attempt to humiliate Iran as an ally.
Today the geography has shifted from Syria to Iran: What’s playing out in the Persian Gulf area is a function of the politically-dictated obsequiousness of American presidents to the policies and actions of Israel’s leaders.
This bipartisan phenomenon was obvious enough under recent presidents like Clinton and Obama; but under Bush II and Trump, it went on steroids, including a born-again, fundamentalist religious aspect.
need hardly mention the political power of the Israel lobby and the lucrative
campaign donations from the likes of Sheldon Adelson. Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu is riding high, at least for the now, Israeli influence is
particularly strong in the lead-up to US elections, and Trump has been
acquitted of colluding with Russia.
stars seem aligned for very strong “retaliatory strikes” for terrorist acts
blamed on Iran.
— er, I Mean Persian Gulf
Over the weekend, four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged near the Strait of Hormuz. Last evening TheWall Street Journal was the first to report an “initial US assessment” that Iran likely was behind the attacks, and quoted a “US official” to the effect that if confirmed, this would inflame military tensions in the Persian Gulf.
The attacks came as the US deploys an aircraft carrier, bombers and an antimissile battery to the Gulf — supposedly to deter what the Trump administration said is the possibility of Iranian aggression.
Tuesday, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, with whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting a
bloody war for the past four years, launched a drone attack on a Saudi
east-west pipeline that carries crude to the Red Sea. This is not the first
such attack; a Houthi spokesman said the attack was a response to Saudi
“aggression” and “genocide” in Yemen. The Saudis shut down the pipeline for
the dangers in and around the Strait of Hormuz increase apace with US-Iran
recriminations. This, too, is not new.
in the Strait was very much on Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike
Mullen’s mind as he prepared to retire on Sept. 30, 2011. Ten days before, he
told the Armed Force Press Service of his deep concern over the fact that the US
and Iran have had no formal communications since 1979:
“Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union. We are not talking to Iran. So we don’t understand each other. If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right, that there will be miscalculations.”
the potential for an incident has increased markedly. Adm. Mullen was primarily
concerned about the various sides — Iran, the US, Israel — making hurried
decisions with, you guessed it, “unintended consequences.”
Pompeo and Bolton on the loose, the world may be well advised to worry even
more about “intended consequences” from a false flag attack. The Israelis are
masters at this. The tactic has been in the US clandestine toolkit for a long
time, as well. In recent days, the Pentagon has reported tracking “anomalous
naval activity” in the Persian Gulf, including loading small sailing vessels
with missiles and other military hardware.
Down to the Sea in Boats
July 2008, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh
reported that Bush administration officials had held a meeting in the vice
president’s office in the wake of a January 2008 incident between Iranian
patrol boats and US warships in the Strait of Hormuz. The reported purpose of
the meeting was to discuss ways to provoke war with Iran.
“There were a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build in our shipyard four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.
“And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of, that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation.
“Silly? Maybe. But potentially very lethal. Because one of the things they learned in the [January 2008] incident was the American public, if you get the right incident, the American public will support bang-bang-kiss-kiss. Youknow, we’re into it.”
the (Propaganda) Battlefield
of Washington’s favorite ways to blacken Iran and its leaders is to blame it
for killing US troops in Iraq. Iran was accused, inter alia, of supplying the
most lethal improvised explosive devices, but sycophants like Gen. David
Petraeus wanted to score points by blaming the Iranians for still more actions.
April 25, 2008, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters
that Gen. David Petraeus would be giving a briefing “in the next couple of
weeks” that would provide detailed evidence of “just how far Iran is reaching
into Iraq to foment instability.”
staff alerted US media to a major news event in which captured Iranian arms in
Karbala, Iraq, would be displayed and then destroyed. But there was a small
problem. When American munitions experts went to Karbala to inspect the alleged
cache of Iranian weapons, they found nothing that could be credibly linked to
embarrassing episode went virtually unreported in Western media—like the
proverbial tree falling in the forest with no corporate media to hear it crash.
A fiasco is only a fiasco if folks find out about it. The Iraqis did announce
that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had formed his own Cabinet committee
to investigate US claims and attempt to “find tangible information and not
information based on speculation.”
his windsock full of neoconservative anti-Iran rhetoric, Petreaus, as CIA
director, nevertheless persisted — and came up with even more imaginative
allegations of Iranian perfidy. Think back, for example, to October 2011 and
the outlandish White House spy feature at the time: the
Iranian-American-used-car-salesman-Mexican-drug-cartel plot to
assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US And hold your nose.
recently, the Pentagon announced it
has upped its estimate of how many US troops Iran killed in Iraq between 2003
and 2011. The revised death tally would mean that Iran is responsible for 17
percent of all US troops killed in Iraq.
Will Restrain the ‘Crazies’?
stopped off in Brussels on Monday to discuss Iran with EU leaders, skipping
what would have been the first day of a two-day trip to Russia. Pompeo did not
speak to the news media in Brussels, but European foreign ministers said that
they had urged “restraint.”
British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt told reporters: “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended, really on either side.” British Army Major General Christopher Ghika was rebuked by US Central Command for saying Tuesday: “There has been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria.” Central Command spokesperson Captain Bill Urban said Ghika’s remarks “run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region.”
there is growing resentment at the many serious problems tied to Trump’s
pulling the US out of the Iran deal, and there is the EU’s growing pique at
heavyweights like Pompeo crashing their gatherings uninvited, I agree with Pepe
Escobar’s bottom line, that “it’s
politically naïve to believe the Europeans will suddenly grow a backbone.”
remains a fleeting hope that cooler heads in the US military might summon the
courage to talk some sense into Trump, in the process making it clear that they
will take orders from neither Pompeo nor from National Security Advisor John Bolton.
But the generals and admirals of today are far more likely in the end to salute
and “follow orders.”
is a somewhat less forlorn hope that Russia will give Pompeo a strong warning
in Sochi — a shot across the bow, so to speak. The last thing Russia, China,
Turkey and other countries want is an attack on Iran. Strategic realities have
greatly changed since the two wars on Iraq.
1992, still in the afterglow of Desert Storm (the first Gulf War), former Gen.
Wesley Clark asked then Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz
about major lessons to be drawn from the Desert Storm attack on Iraq in 1991.
Without hesitation, Wolfowitz answered, “We can do these things and the
Russians won’t stop us.” That was still true for
the second attack on Iraq in 2003.
much has changed since then: In 2014, the Russians stopped NATO expansion to
include Ukraine, after the Western-sponsored coup in Kiev; and in the years
that followed, Moscow thwarted attempts by the US, Israel, and others to oust
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
doubt Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to “stop us” before the
Bolton/Pompeo team finds an “Iranian” casus belli. Initial reporting from
Sochi, where Pompeo met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and
President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday indicates there was no meeting of the minds
on Iran. Both Pompeo and Lavrov described their talks as “frank” —
diplomat-speak for acrimonious.
was probably treated to much stronger warnings in private during the Sochi
talks with Lavrov and Putin. Either or both may even have put into play the
potent China card, now that Russia and China have a relationship just short of
a military alliance — a momentous alteration of what the Soviets used to call
the “correlation of forces.”
my mind’s eye, I can even see Putin warning, “If you attack Iran, you may wish
to be prepared for trouble elsewhere, including in the South China Sea.
Besides, the strategic balance is quite different from conditions existing each
time you attacked Iraq. We strongly advise you not to start hostilities with
Iran — under any pretext. If you do, we are ready this time.”
of course, Putin could also pick up the phone and simply call Trump.
is no guarantee, however, that tough talk from Russia could stick an iron rod
into the wheels of the juggernaut now rolling downhill to war on Iran. But,
failing that kind of strong intervention and disincentive, an attack on Iran
seems all but assured. Were we to be advising President Trump today, we VIPS
would not alter a word in the recommendation at the very end of the Memorandum
for President George W. Bush we sent him on the afternoon of Feb. 5, 2003, after
Colin Powell addressed the UN Security Council earlier that day:
one has a corner on the truth; nor do we harbor illusions that our analysis is
irrefutable or undeniable [as Powell had claimed his was]. But after watching
Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you
widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a
war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the
unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner city Washington. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and presidential briefer and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational
In Old Tweets,
Trump Warned a President Could Attack Iran in ‘Desperate’ Attempt to Win
Obama will attack Iran in the not too distant future because it will help him
win the election,” Trump tweeted on
November 14, 2011—a prediction he echoed nearly a dozen times between 2011 and 2012.
May 21st, 2019 - by Maj. Danny Sjursen, USA (ret.) / AntiWar.com
(May 21, 2019) — What if they called a war and no
one came? Well, now’s the time folks. The apparent march to war with Iran
represents a pivotal moment in the historical arc—the rise and fall—of our
republic come empire. This potential war is so unnecessary, so irrational, that
it borders on the absurd. Still, since the U.S. now fields a professional,
volunteer military, few citizens have “skin in the game.” As such, they could hardly
Unlike in past wars—think Vietnam—there is no longer a built
in, established antiwar movement. This is unfortunate, and, dangerous for a
democracy. See the US Government operates with near impunity in foreign
affairs, waging global war without the consent of the people and, essentially,
uninterested in what the people have to say at all. It should not be thus in a
healthy republic. People should not fear their government; governments should
fear their people.
So let me propose something seemingly ludicrous. It’s this: since Americans only trust the military among various branches of government, and since that military is both over adulated and ultimately responsible for waging these insane wars, it is within the military that active dissent must begin.
That’s right, to stop the war America needs clean-cut, seemingly conservative, all-American soldiers and officers to start refusing to fight. The people will back them; trust me. These guys are heroes after all, right? I mean few will pay attention to some aging hippie protester—even if he or she is correct—but even Republicans might tune in to here what a combat vet has to say.
Remember, we soldiers take an oath not to a particular
president or a certain government but to the Constitution. And that
constitution has been violated time and again for some 75 years as US
presidents play emperor and wage unilateral wars without the
required, and clearly stipulated, consent of Congress, I.e. the people’s
representatives. Thus, one could argue—and I’m doing just that—that a massive
military “sit-down-strike” of sorts would be both legal and moral.
Sure, its a long shot. But there is historical precedence
for dissent within the US military. It is an unknown but vibrant history worthy
of a brief recounting. Back in the mid-19th century, many US Army officers were
so appalled by the futility and brutality of the three American attempts to
subjugate the Seminole tribe in Florida that a staggering portion of the young subalterns simply
There was also dissent in the ranks during the Mexican-American War of conquest. Though they did their duty, many officers were appalled by the blatant aggression of their country. A young lieutenant—and future general / president—named US Grant stated that he knew “the struggle with my conscience during the Mexican War.
I have never altogether forgiven myself for going into that. I had very strong opinions on the subject. I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not moral courage enough to resign.” Its unlikely that very many Americans even know that prominent statesmen, too, have often been against wars.
The list goes on. During the Great Plains Indian Wars of the
1860s-90s, many US Army officers actually came to respect their native
adversaries, and in some cases protected the tribes from land hungry civilian
prospectors and settlers. Then during the Philippine-American War, many young
soldiers wrote letters back home—some of which were published in newspapers—expressing
their skeptical uncertainty and exposing various war crimes.
Few remember that during World War I tens of thousands of Americans simply refused to serve, even when drafted. Most were kept in military internment camps of sorts until the end of the war. Others sought to fight the draft by discouraging others not to enlist or to submit to conscription.
The former labor leader and Socialist Party presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, was even sentenced to eight years in federal prison simply for giving an antiwar speech outside of a recruiting station. At his sentencing he told the judge—in ever so Christlike language—that “while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
Finally, during the Vietnam War, many thousands of soldiers and veterans joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and became active and prominent staples in the massive antiwar movement. VVAW marched on Washington time and again.
At some marches, members threw away their medals, and some leaders even held “Winter Soldier” hearings to expose the war crimes they witnessed and participated in first hand. One particularly articulate young navy officer—future Secretary of State John Kerry—famously asked, during the hearings, “Who will be the last to die for a mistake?”
Perhaps we should be asking that question now!
Only today there are rather few veteran and active duty dissenters. As the military became more selective and professional it also became more culturally conservative. It turned out that President Nixon was right and that ending the draft took the wind out of the sails of the antiwar movement.
Still, we are still out there. I belong to a small but morally powerful organization called About Face: Veterans Against the War. It’s a budding movement, and lacks the numbers of its predecessor, but it is certainly modeled on VVAW. We need more members to join, more authentic, credible vets to speak out and tell this government, not in my name!
My point is this: it’s now the time for the dirty work of citizenship to begin. That means protests, marches, civil disobedience. This must happen in society at large but also as a microcosm in the US military. Generals must resign in protest and then speak out.
Soldiers should question their orders and ignore—as is legally justified—those that are immoral or unconstitutional. Service members ought to collectively refuse to fight unless Congress is consulted and actually declares war on Iran, or whichever Muslim country full of brown folks Washington takes to fighting next.
I never had that courage when I was a young man, even though
I knew what I was doing was ultimately wrong. So I hope there are braver souls
than me wearing the uniform today—those willing to redefine patriotism as dissent.
Danny Sjursen is a retired
US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com. His work has appeared in the LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The
Hill, Salon, Truthdig, Tom Dispatch,
among other publications. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in
Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He
is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of
the Surge. Follow him on Twitter
Copyright 2019 Danny Sjursen
accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational
May 21st, 2019 - by Damian Carrington / The Guardian
From now, house style guide recommends terms
such as ‘climate crisis’ and ‘global heating’
(May 17, 2019) — The
Guardian has updated its style guide to
introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing
of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or
breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the
original terms are not banned.
want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also
communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said the
editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example,
sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a
catastrophe for humanity.”
climate scientists and organisations from the UN to the Met Office are changing
their terminology, and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re
in,” she said.
United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, talked of the “climate crisis” in September, adding: “We face a
direct existential threat.” The climate scientist Prof Hans Joachim
Schellnhuber, a former adviser to Angela Merkel, the EU and the pope, also uses “climate crisis”.
scale of the climate and wildlife crises has been laid bare by two landmark
reports from the world’s scientists.
October, they said carbon emissions must halve by 2030 to avoid even greater risks of
drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
In May, global scientists said human society was in jeopardy from the
accelerating annihilation of wildlife and destruction of the ecosystems that support all life on Earth.
terms that have been updated, including the use of “wildlife” rather than
“biodiversity”, “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks” and “climate
science denier” rather than “climate sceptic”. In September, the BBC accepted it gets coverage of climate change “wrong too often” and told staff: “You do not need a
‘denier’ to balance the debate.”
in May, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has inspired school strikes
for climate around the globe, said: “It’s 2019. Can we all now call it what
it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological
breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?”
update to the Guardian’s style guide
follows the addition of the global carbon dioxide level to the Guardian’s daily weather pages. “Levels
of CO2 in
the atmosphere have risen so dramatically—including a measure of that in our daily
weather report is symbolic of what human activity is doing to our climate,”
said Viner in April. “People need reminding that
the climate crisis is no longer a future problem—we need to tackle it now, and
every day matters.”
As the Crisis Escalates…
… in our natural
world, we refuse to turn away from the climate catastrophe and species
extinction. For The Guardian, reporting
on the environment is a priority. We give reporting on climate, nature and
pollution the prominence it deserves, stories, which often go unreported by
others in the media.
At this pivotal time
for our species and our planet, we are determined to inform readers about
threats, consequences and solutions based on scientific facts, not political
prejudice or business interests. But we need your support to grow our coverage,
to travel to the remote frontlines of change and to cover vital conferences that
affect us all.
More people are
reading and supporting our independent, investigative reporting than ever
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The Guardian is editorially independent, meaning we set our own agenda. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion.
This is important as it enables us to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. It’s what makes us different to so many others in the media, at a time when factual, honest reporting is critical.
we receive from readers like you, big or small, goes directly into funding our
journalism. This support enables us to keep working as we do—but we must
maintain and build on it for every year to come.
May 21st, 2019 - by Tik Root / The Center for Public Integrity and PRI’s The World.
New York’s Suffolk County had a
trash problem. Facing brimming landfills and public pressure, legislators took
a first-in-the-nation step: They banned plastic bags. But what the county saw
as part of the solution, the plastics industry took as a threat.
“We had never
seen lobbyists like this before,” said Steven Englebright, the chief
sponsor of the bill. “The B.S. came in by the shovel-load.”
That was in 1988. Soon, Suffolk
County — on Long Island — inspired similar initiatives in municipalities across
the country. As one lawyer for the industry wrote in an internal memo from the
time: “Several years from now we may look back on 1988 as the opening round in
a solid waste/packaging war.”
A barge load of garbage from Long
Island, New York, traveled 6,000 miles in 1987 in a fruitless search for a dump
site. That same year, worried about a mounting trash crisis, a Long Island
county proposed the nation’s first plastic bag ban. (AP Photo/David Bookstaver)
The plastics industry — from the
chemical giants making the building blocks of plastic to companies using the
packaging to sell their products — has been waging that war for more than 30
years. It has pumped millions of dollars into pro-plastic marketing,
high-profile lawsuits and lobbyists who travel the country promising that
recycling, not bans, presents the best way forward. All this despite decades of
repeated warnings about weak recycling markets and plastic pollution
Today, about a dozen states restrict
local governments from regulating plastic items, while only two (with a third pending) have passed statewide
plastic-bag bans. And manufacturers are profiting from a plastics boom.
According to the research firm the Freedonia Group, by 2025, the plastic
packaging market will be worth roughly $365 billion.
“The industry has
kept us from confronting plastics for decades through corporate lobbying and
threats of litigation,” said Jennie Romer, a lawyer, longtime anti-plastics
activist and founder of the website PlasticBagLaws.org.
“Billions of single-use plastic items have made it into our environment because
“The industry has kept us from confronting plastics for decades through corporate lobbying and threats of litigation.”
uncollected plastics do not belong in the environment,” the Plastics Industry
Association, a key trade group, wrote in a statement after declining an
interview. “The problem is that waste management practices and infrastructure
did not keep pace with the changing economy.”
The group argued that plastics are
more environmentally friendly than alternatives — using fewer resources to
create, while also making end products lighter — and are crucial for global
“In many ways,
plastics have made the modern economy possible,” the statement reads. “Other
materials and processes transformed the world over the course of centuries or
millennia. Plastics did so in decades.”
Synthetic plastic first appeared in
the early 1900s as an alternative to materials such as
cork or paper. But World War II catalyzed plastic’s ascent. The
material worked its way into every facet of the military — including in the
cockpits and gunner noses of fighter planes. When soldiers returned home,
plastics came with them and quickly became a fixture of American life.
This wasn’t an accident. In 1937
— after a series of golf getaways — leading
manufacturers formed the Society of the Plastics Industry, now known as the
Plastics Industry Association. Its mission was to promote and protect plastics.
By the 1960s, the society was encountering early signs of what would become its
America’s trash had accumulated into
a crisis, and disposable plastics, even in much smaller amounts than the
country now uses, seemed to be making the problem worse. The first national
conference on packaging waste convened in 1969, with an attendance list that
included key manufacturers.
“This material is
practically indestructible,” griped Leonard Stefanelli, president of a
California salvage company. “Packaging is a particularly large contributor to
the problems of household refuse collection and street litter,” noted a New
York City sanitation official.
“This material is practically indestructible.”
— LEONARD STEFANELLI, PRESIDENT OF A CALIFORNIA SALVAGE COMPANY
As concerns about plastic grew
louder, the industry knew it had to offer municipal leaders something. It
turned to recycling. “No doubt about it, legislation [restricting plastics] is
the single most important reason why we are looking at recycling,” said Wayne Pearson, the then-executive
director of the Plastics Recycling Foundation, an initiative that 45 companies
such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi formed in the mid-1980s. The industry similarly
established the Council for Solid Waste Solutions to promote recycling programs
and infrastructure. Around the same time the society also pushed incineration, which releases air pollution, as
“really a form of recycling.”
In 1987, a top official with the
trade group, Roger Bernstein, brought the narrative to Suffolk County. Later,
in an interview with Susan Freinkel for her 2011 book Plastic: A Toxic
Love Story, Bernstein referred to recycling as a “guilt eraser.”
The recycling argument was often
persuasive. A 1989 Council for Solid Waste Solutions account of its efforts in
Iowa — which, like other internal documents in this story, were unearthed
through lawsuits and collected by Toxic Docs, a project based at Columbia
University and the City University of New York — noted that “outright bans on
polystyrene packaging were dropped with a promise of recycling by
Just this February, the
trash-handling firm Waste Management said in a government filing that manufacturers are
pressuring its recycling-collection programs to accept more types of plastic
“to alleviate public pressures to ban the sale of those materials.”
Industry recycling pledges have kept
coming despite decades of warnings — some of them internal — that this solution
was limited. “Currently, there is no market for recycled plastics,” read one
Society of the Plastics Industry document from 1972. “Recycling currently is
not feasible for most multi-material packages,” acknowledged another from 1987.
And as the recent Waste Management filing made clear, even now certain plastics
have “no viable end markets.”
Today, many U.S. cities don’t accept
plastic bags in their recycling stream because the thin sacks gum up sorting
machinery. Just 9 percent of all plastic waste in the U.S. was recycled in
2015, according to the latest federal estimate. That rate is almost
certainly lower now: Cities were relying heavily on China to take the plastic
they’d collected and finish the job, but last year the country all but stopped
accepting those imports.
Martin Bourque, executive director
of a nonprofit providing curbside recycling pickup in Berkeley, California,
said that instead of selling his customers’ plastic food containers he must pay
a U.S. facility $75 a ton to take them. Only half that material gets turned
into recycled content. The rest, he said, ends up in a landfill.
“The brands and
the manufacturers and the petrochemical industry all want us to believe it’s
recyclable,” said Bourque, with the Ecology Center. “But it’s not a problem
that we’re going to be able to recycle our way out of.”
PLASTIC BAGS BECOME A FLASHPOINT
When the recycling argument didn’t
work, the industry would often sue — as was the case in Suffolk County.
Although the ban passed in 1988, it spent years in the courts before its
opponents ultimately prevailed and the legislation was repealed.
The industry’s tactics in the 1980s
paid off in the 1990s, which — with a few exceptions, such as McDonald’s move away from polystyrene foam (aka Styrofoam)
— were a heyday for plastics. “There were no bans, essentially, in all that
time,” Bernstein told author Freinkel. “There were no products that were put
out of the marketplace.”
But concerns eventually resurfaced.
Plastic bags so badly clogged the drains of Mumbai, India, during flooding
that, in 2000, the city banned them. Facing
similar issues two years later, Bangladesh became the first country to do the
same. In 2007, San Francisco implemented America’s first bag ban, prompting
a new round of similar ordinances in U.S. cities.
“Legislation and regulation threaten to
fundamentally change our business model,” William Carteaux, the Society of the
Plastics Industry’s then-president, told a crowd of industry insiders in 2009.
“We can’t continue to fight back just at the reactive stage when things are
emotionally charged. We have to take the offensive.”
The industry spent millions of
dollars opposing bans in California alone. One of their primary lawyers in the
state, Stephen Joseph, was dubbed “Patron Saint of Plastic Bags” by Time magazine.
He called unwashed reusable bags a “health hazard” and suggested that bans
would mean more dog poop on streets. Ban advocates, he wrote in a 2010 court
filing, “have disseminated environmental myths, misinformation and
exaggerations to promote their goal.”
This time, though, lawsuits didn’t
work. California courts repeatedly rebuffed Joseph and the industry. In 2014,
lawmakers there passed the country’s first statewide ban on plastic bags.
“This bill is a
step in the right direction,” said then-Gov. Jerry Brown. “We’re the first to
ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”
The industry, though, was about to
add a new weapon to its arsenal.
Bisbee is a small town of about
5,000, tucked into the Arizona hills just shy of the Mexican border. Like many
places, it had a plastic bag problem. Empty grocery sacks would float down the
street and into the surrounding landscape. In response, the city council banned
them in 2012.
“There was a
dramatic change,” said Mayor David Smith. Soon after, he could drive miles
without seeing any littered bags.
The industry didn’t sue. It had a
In early 2013, the society joined
the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, which routinely works with
companies and conservative lawmakers to write and then promote legislation. One
strategy ALEC pursues is “preemption” bills, which, when passed at the state
level, prevent cities and other municipalities from regulating certain
activities — ranging from wages to pesticides.
The Plastics Industry Association
said it left ALEC in 2017 and was never involved in the model policy process,
which ALEC says is legislator-driven. Regardless, both organizations, along
with other supporters of plastic preemption legislation, argue that it heads
off a patchwork of local laws that could confuse and burden consumers and
businesses alike. Environmentalists say the effect has been chilling, stopping
new initiatives and reversing earlier wins.
In the fall of 2017, the Arizona attorney general ruled that
plastics bans like Bisbee’s violated Arizona’s new preemption regime. Smith
said his city faced a choice: Repeal its ban or lose all state funding.
“I called it
extortion,” Smith said, but he saw no way around it and the city rescinded its
ban. The windswept bags came back.
“We call them
desert flags,” he said, “because they hang on all the cactus.”
In 1971, biological oceanographer
Edward J. Carpenter was out in a remote region of the North Atlantic known as
the Sargasso Sea, sampling seaweed that was drifting on the ocean surface. To
his surprise, he kept pulling up tiny pieces of plastic. The same thing
happened on a separate trip along the New England coast.
“The plastic was
just everywhere,” he said. “So I tried to quantify it.”
Carpenter published his findings
in two 1972 articles in
the prestigious journal Science. They were among the first
studies of plastic pollution and came with an unmistakable warning. “Increasing
production of plastics, combined with present waste-disposal practices,” he
wrote, “will undoubtedly lead to increases in the concentration of these
This was just a few years after the
Society of the Plastics Industry commissioned a report that estimated the
amount of plastic waste would soon reach almost 11 billion pounds annually but
argued the problem was “minor” and that plastics “do not appear to have any
potential as land or water pollutants.” Carpenter’s research was an implicit
challenge to that notion.
Shortly after each of his articles
was published, he said, the society flew an industry scientist out to Woods
Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts to meet with his bosses and
question him. “It was obvious that they were pretty upset about it,” Carpenter
said. He found the visits “kind of intimidating.”
The Plastics Industry Association,
as the society rebranded itself in 2016, did not address questions about the
incident directly. “We can’t speak for anyone who’s no longer a part of our
organization, or no longer a part of the industry,” it said in a statement.
“But today we know that the plastics industry has nothing to hide.”
For decades, though, the industry
cast doubt on marine plastic problems or dodged responsibility. At the 1989
International Conference on Marine Debris (which the industry-funded Council
for Solid Waste Solutions co-sponsored), for instance, the society issued an
official statement claiming that most plastic
pollution was “beyond the ‘control’ of the plastics industry.” In 2008, Joseph,
the industry attorney, wrote in a court filing that “there is no evidence that
plastic bags are a continuing significant problem for marine animals or
Even the industry seems unable to
deny these plastics issues any longer. In January, a group that includes
petrochemical companies, plastics manufacturers and distributors formed
to End Plastic Waste and pledged $1.5 billion over five years
to help “make the dream of a world without plastic waste a reality.”
That funding represents a tiny
fraction of the more than $1 trillion that plastic packaging is expected to
bring in during that same period. Many of the alliance members are also
building new plastic plants — including one that would be the world’s largest
In a statement, the alliance said it
hopes its pledge will trigger more investments in waste management. “We
recognize this amount is not sufficient to achieve the goal of eliminating
plastic waste in the environment,” wrote a representative of the Alliance to
End Plastic Waste. “There is no single solution, and we don’t have all the
On its website, the
alliance adds, “Plastics have helped improve living standards,
hygiene and nutrition around the world. … We must maintain the critical
benefits that plastics bring to people and communities around the world.”
“We must maintain
the critical benefits that plastics bring to people and communities around the
ALLIANCE TO END PLASTIC WASTE: FOOT SOLDIERS AND FASHION SHOWS
As the executive director of the
industry-backed American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), Matt Seaholm is like
a first responder. When there’s new plastics legislation proposed, he’s there:
New Jersey in September, South Carolina in November, Memphis in January.
surprise when he flew down from Washington,” said Monique Michel, an attorney
with the Memphis City Council.
The APBA, which declined an
interview request for Seaholm, wrote in a statement, “Bans don’t work; they
punish people into using alternatives that are worse for the environment.”
The industry’s current foot
soldiering echoes its Suffolk County-era strategy. These days it includes
representatives from Novolex — one of the world’s largest plastic-bag
manufacturers — as well as local lobbyists that the industry hires for tens of
thousands of dollars per month.
When Charleston, South Carolina, was
considering a plastic bag ban in 2015 and 2016, the industry countered with
materials that ranged from a “myth vs. fact” sheet about recycling to academic
research. A slideshow from Clemson University, stating that plastic bags “are
not a significant litter problem,” drew from a 2014 study that concluded that bans “may
result in negative impact on the environment rather than positive.”
Buried deep in the report: Hilex
Poly Co., Novolex’s previous name, paid for the
research. The lead author, Robert Kimmel, is the director of
Clemson’s Center for Flexible Packaging, which receives
industry funding. He has appeared as an expert witness
for the industry. One of the main surveys in the study was conducted by Edelman
Berland, the research arm of a firm that also lobbies for the APBA.
“[Hilex Poly] did
not try to influence us or our conclusions in any way, shape, or form,” said
Kimmel. “Paper bags are not a good alternative to [plastic] grocery bags.”
A study by the British government,
for instance, found that a paper bag would have to be reused four times to have
the same “global warming potential” as a conventional plastic bag. A cotton bag
would have be to reused 131 times. And recent research found that when plastic
grocery bags were banned in California, people used more plastic sacks of other
types, reducing the plastics waste savings from 40 million pounds to 28
million. That study’s author, Rebecca Taylor, recommends fees over bans — and
that any fees extend to paper as well. (Many cities are already passing “second
generation” bag bills that also include a fee on paper.)
As this fight over plastics has
expanded to more places, the industry is also targeting new demographics with
The industry has also invested hundreds of millions of dollars into its
“Plastics Makes it Possible” campaign, which started on TV in the 1990s and is
now splashed across social media. The campaign has built a tiny house featuring plastics, gathered
endorsements from celebrities such as The Big Bang Theory actress
Kaley Cuoco — she hosted a plastic fashion show, saying,“Plastics
make you cuter” — and paid for posts on sites like BuzzFeed.
A “Plastics Makes it Possible”
commercial from the 1990s. Today, the campaign is splashed across social
To a large extent, the industry’s
lobbying, promotion and outreach is working — demand for plastics keeps rising.
But the perception of plastics is changing.
“The water bottle
has, in some way, become the mink coat or the pack of cigarettes,” said John
Caturano, senior sustainability manager for Nestlé Waters North America, at a
conference this March. (Nestlé has pledged to make all its packaging
“recyclable or reusable” by 2025.) “It’s socially not very acceptable to the
young folks, and that scares me.”
And, while state preemption laws
still far outnumber statewide bans, attempts to impose fees or other
limitations are mounting. Legislators in Hawaii and New Jersey, among other
places, are trying to expand their targets to include not only bags but
also straws and foam containers. Lawmakers in
several states are also trying “producer responsibility” bills, which are more broadly aimed at getting
companies, instead of consumers, to bear the costs of recycling.
Suffolk County, which never got to
impose its 1988 ban, implemented a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper bags in
January 2018. According to the county, businesses distributed 1.1 billion fewer bags during the first
year of the policy. In March, New York became the second state in the
country to enact a bag ban.
“It’s gratifying, but we still have so much more plastic going into the waste stream,” said Steven Englebright, the original sponsor of the Suffolk County bill and now a New York state assemblyman. Action, he said, could have been taken much earlier. “We really should not have had a 30-year delay.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes
May 20th, 2019 - by David Swanson / World BEYOND War
(May 2, 2019) — In a day and age when many of us are taught to
overcome prejudice and behave respectfully toward all, mainstream US media and
school texts still habitually portray US lives as the only lives that really
matter. A plane crash that kills dozens of human beings is reported, just like
a war, with the bulk of the coverage on the
handful of US lives lost.
A US military commander’s decision to bomb a village rather than subject his troops to ground combat is depicted as an act of enlightenment. The US Civil War is almost universally labeled the deadliest of all US wars, despite the fact that many US wars have killed many more human beings — including US human beings if Filipinos were US citizens during the Philippine-American war or World War II.
In an age when we are generally taught to solve our problems
nonviolently, the exception for the organized mass murder of war remains. But
wars are increasingly marketed, not as protection from the Adolf Hitler of the
Month (last month’s weapons customer), but as acts of philanthropy and
benevolence, preventing massacres by bombing cities, or delivering humanitarian
aid by bombing cities, or developing democracies by bombing cities.
So, why does the United States maintain troops in at least 175 countries, and roughly 1,000 major military bases in over 80 countries outside the United States and its colonies? This is a practice whose development depended on racism. When old-fashioned colonies became unnecessary for rubber, tin, and other materials that chemists could create, the exception of oil remained, and the desire to maintain troops near potential new wars (how ever progressively marketed) remained.
Now that it is clear to most of us that oil will render the Earth uninhabitable, that the United States can get its planes, ships, drones, and troops to any spot on earth rapidly without any nearby base, and that all human beings are equally capable of creating such splendorous monuments to self-government as the campaign ad, the gerrymandered district, and the unverifiable voting machine, it’s mostly the belief that non-US people don’t matter that remains.
There are profits to be made, and weapons-buying or oil-selling or labor-exploiting dictatorships to be propped up. There’s the inertia of the way things are. There’s the perverse drive to dominate the globe. But the marketing scheme for the global archipelago of bases comes down to the need to police people for their own good, even though they mostly believe it harms them.
The presence of not a single foreign US or NATO base has been approved by a public referendum. Numerous such bases have been voted down by public referenda (including one in February 2019 in Okinawa), not a single one of which has been honored by the US government. Many bases are the targets of massive nonviolent protests even before their construction, and for years or decades after.
Most bases are gated communities on steroids. The residents can come out, visit brothels, drink, crash their cars and sometimes airplanes, and commit crimes immune from local prosecution.
The bases can emit pollutants and poisons, render the local drinking water deadly, and answer to nobody in the nation being “served” by the base. Those who live outside the base, unless employed there, cannot come in to visit the Little America built inside the walls: the super markets, fast food restaurants, schools, gyms, hospitals, childcare centers, golf courses.
An empire of bases is an empire of very little land, but it is no more land that was “available” than the Americas were empty and awaiting European “discovery.” Countless villages and farms have been eradicated, populations evicted from islands, those islands bombed and poisoned into uninhabitablity.
This process describes significant portions of Hawaii, of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, Bikini Atoll, Enewetak Atoll, Lib Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Ebeye, Vieques, Culebra, Okinawa, Thule, Diego Garcia, and other locations most people in the United States have never heard of. South Korea has evicted large numbers of people from their homes to make way for US bases in recent years. Pagan Island is a new target for destruction.
While the rest of the world’s nations combined have a couple of dozen military bases outside their borders, and while the wealthier nations of the world are leaving the United States behind in health, happiness, life expectancy, education, and other measures of well-being, the United States goes right on building and maintaining more bases around the world at great expense (over $100 billion every year), and at great risk.
This has been true during every recent US presidency. President Donald Trump may yet get a big new base named for him in Poland, though it is in Asia and Africa that the heaviest base construction is underway.
Bases hold missiles as well as troops, and new bases in Romania
and elsewhere have contributed to the highest ever risk of nuclear apocalypse. Bases have generated, motivated,
and served as training grounds for terrorism, including such famous terrorist
attacks as those of 9-11, driven by opposition to bases in Saudi Arabia, and
groups like ISIS, organized in prison camps at US bases in Iraq.
An explicit purpose in launching and continuing many wars,
including those on Afghanistan and Iraq, is to establish bases. Bases are also
used as locations to torture people ostensibly outside the rule of any law.
When Congress Members suspect that US troops might someday leave Syria or South
Korea, they are quick to insist upon a permanent presence, though they are
somewhat mollified when White House officials suggest that any troops leaving
Syria will only make it as far as Iraq, from which they will be able to quickly
attack Iran as “needed.”
In 2007 localities in the Czech Republic held referenda that matched national opinion polls and demonstrations; their opposition moved their government to refuse to host a US base. Saudi Arabia closed its US bases in 2003 (later reopened), as did Uzbekistan in 2005, Kyrgyzstan in 2009. The US military decided it had done enough damage to Johnston/Kalama Atoll in 2004. In 2007, the President of Ecuador answered public demand, and exposed hypocrisy, by announcing the United States would need to host an Ecuadorean base or shut down its base in Ecuador.
There have been many incomplete victories. In Okinawa, when one base is blocked, another is proposed. But a broad and global movement is being built that is sharing strategies and providing assistance across borders.
At World BEYOND War we are putting a major focus on this effort, and have helped to start up a D.C. insider coalition called Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition, drawing heavily on the work of David Vine and his book Base Nation. We’ve also been part of launching a global activist coalition to educate and mobilize people for the closure of US and NATO military bases. This effort has produced a conference in Baltimore, Md., in January 2018, and one in Dublin, Ireland, in November 2018.
Some of the angles finding traction and being shared
around the world are environmental. US bases are poisoning ground water, not
just all over the United States,
where the Pentagon is seeking to legalize
such practices, but all over the world, where it needn’t bother. The reasons
the Pentagon needn’t bother legalizing destruction abroad ultimately depend on
the last remaining widely accepted bigotry in US culture, namely that against
every non-US culture.
As the anti-base movement grows, it must work with activists who oppose Western Empire without opposing violence. Spreading the skills of nonviolent activism will be crucial. It must also figure out how to work with that uniquely USian creation: libertarianism.
One way might be this: encourage pressure on Trump to continue demanding that nations occupied by (or “hosting”) US bases pay larger fees for the “service.” We can do this while encouraging governments around the world to respond with a polite “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”
At the same time, we cannot lose track of the new world that
would be made possible by moving resources away from the maintenance of bases,
and away from the even more costly wars they instigate. With this kind of
money, the United States could transform
both itself and global foreign aid.
is the Executive Director of World BEYOND War. Posted
in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial,
Breaking News: World BEYOND War Receives Award for its Work Educating for the Abolition of War
On May 15, World BEYOND War Education Director Tony Jenkins
received the Educators’ Challenge Award from the Global Challenges Foundation
in partnership with the London School of Economics (LES) Institute of Global
Affairs. An awards ceremony was held in London at LES where Tony presented on
our educational work to abolish all war.
Tony was among 10 finalists each of whom
received $5,000 awards. Tony also received the coveted $1,000 People’s Choice
Award as a result of public support of the promotional video of our entry. Tony
submitted our book, “A
Global Security System: An Alternative to War (AGSS)” as an educational
blueprint for ending all war through the development of a cooperative,
nonviolent system of global governance.
(May 19, 2019) — In what may constitute a mortal blow to
Colombia’s peace process, President Ivan Duque has defied the order by the
Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) to release Jesús Santrich, aka Seuxis
Hernández Solarte, from prison. Santrich is a negotiator and former insurgent
who helped craft the accord to end more than five decades of civil war.
The failure to recognize the court’s authority undermines a key
provision of the accord implemented in 2016: the establishment of a Special
Jurisdiction for Peace court to oversee truth and reconciliation processes, the
handling of criminal procedures, release of political prisoners and prisoners
of war, as well as extradition requests regarding ex-combatants.
The probable next step in this rapidly unfolding drama is the
extradition of Santrich to the United States, also in defiance of court orders.
At this moment, Santrich is being held in a Bogotá hospital, where he is in intensive care following varying and confusing reports as to his condition. According to Fundación Lazos de Dignidad (Links of Dignity Foundation), who form part of Santrich’s legal team, Santrich is receiving care for cardiac arrest.
Various other reports had circulated earlier claiming Santrich had attempted suicide. Still other sources said authorities had raided Santrich’s prison cell at least two times, injuring him.
The prospect that Santrich’s life could be in danger should not
be dismissed. Former insurgents have previously died under suspicious
circumstances while in state custody, including the recent mutilation and murder of ex
insurgent Dimar Torres by Colombian Armed Forces troops on April 22 2019 in Norte
On Friday, May 17 2019 the Colombian government appeared to be
complying with the order for Santrich to be released, taking him beyond the
gates of the prison in a wheelchair surrounded by prison agents. He was then
re-arrested moments later.
This liberation from prison was a cynical technicality in which
Santrich never left the custody of prison personnel. The re-arrest happened in
response to US government intervention, with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency)
providing allegedly new evidence linking Santrich to a narco-trafficking scheme.
The evidence was never submitted to the JEP for review.
The Duque administration has chosen to ignore Colombian laws and
legal judgments in deference to White House demands and interference. This
exposes to the world the degree to which Colombia under the Duque
administration has rejected all notions of national sovereignty, taking on a
colonial relationship where US interests outweigh the authority of Colombia’s
own laws, accords, and courts.
Santrich was one of the primary negotiators of the accord between
the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP), ending more than 52 years of war. He was
arrested on charges of narco-trafficking shortly before he was to take office
as a representative in the Colombian Congress of the new and legal FARC
(Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Commons) political party.
All the known evidence against him to date is based on the
testimony of paid informants and DEA agents who allege that Santrich joined
into a narcotrafficking enterprise with them after the peace accord went into
effect. A few audio and video recordings exist on which Santrich speaks, and
none make mention whatsoever of cocaine or any other illicit substance.
Much of the testimony against Santrich contradicts known facts,
for instance, reports of meetings Santrich could not possibly have attended
since he was verifiably in an altogether different part of Colombia at the
An article by the Colombian weekly
Semana corroborates that they, “never
specify if they are talking about illicit crops or productive crops….”
According to Santrich, during the few conversations he had with the set-up
team, he thought they were discussing an agricultural enterprise. This makes
sense given that FARC leaders were actively looking to develop employment and
business opportunities for ex-insurgents being reincorporated into civilian
Furthermore, there is no date on the video, and it is impossible
to know if the video was made before or after the peace accord went into
The DEA refused to hand over its evidence while the JEP was considering the extradition request. The JEP also noted many other irregularities by the DEA, including that it never sought nor received official permission from the Colombian government to operate within the country.
This circumvention of legal process was done in collaboration with former Attorney General Nestor Martínez who just resigned along with his Vice Attorney General amid corruption investigations and accusations of mishandling the Santrich case.
This extradition is a nefarious, concerted, and serious attack
on one of the core components of the peace accord. Agreement was reached for a
general amnesty for armed combatants on both sides of the conflict, with any
serious crimes against humanity or war crimes still prosecutable by the JEP.
The JEP was to have the last word on issues of extradition.
Under the accord, former combatants cannot be extradited for
alleged crimes committed during the civil war. This was necessary given the US
history of requesting the extradition of insurgents and ex-insurgents, even
through false charges with the effect of impeding and circumventing the peace
process. This history includes the extradition of Simón Trinidad, aka Ricardo
Palmera, who is held at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
Trinidad, like Jesús Santrich, was one of the FARC-EP’s peace
negotiators. He has been in isolation since 2006 under kidnapping charges with
no factual basis other than his membership in the FARC-EP. The US extradition
process would create a catastrophic loophole around Colombian laws and the
amnesty agreement. Extraditions have also been used against paramilitary
leaders to avoid public exposure of testimonies “sensitive” to both US and
Colombian national (and transnational corporate) interests.
The arrest of Santrich in defiance of the JEP is part of a larger effort by the Duque and Trump administrations to destroy the special court. Not only has the Trump administration requested this extradition after the practice had not been used for years, it has publicly declared its support for attempts to de-commission the JEP.
The Duque administration has twice tried to repeal legislation
establishing the JEP, and twice they have lost. During that process, then
US-Ambassador Michael McKinley made a special trip to lobby the Colombian
Congress against the JEP. Court cases at the highest levels have reaffirmed the
legal authority of the JEP.
The re-arrest of Santrich is a direct response to US pressure. It is also a response to pressure from Duque’s mentor, former president and current senator Álvaro Uribe. In either case, it is clear that Duque is not representing the Colombian voters, but is a puppet in the hands of other masters.
The morning before the re-arrest, Uribe, himself under various investigation[s] for his ties to paramilitary death squads, publicly announced that Santrich would not be released, but would be extradited to the US in outright defiance of the court’s decision.
Uribe speculated that this would be done via some kind of
national emergency declaration by President Duque. Uribe is known as the “father
of Colombia’s death squads” and was once actually listed as one of
Colombia’s top 100 narco-traffickers by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.
That, of course, was before he became a political power and the US government’s
“best friend” in Latin America.
The Trump-Uribe-Duque alliance wants to destroy the JEP and,
with it, the entire peace process. This is part of a three-pronged strategy.
The other components include attacks against agreements regarding agricultural
reform and substitution of crops with illicit uses; and encouragement of
military violence, and ignoring if not outright encouraging paramilitary
political violence, against rural, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian community
activists, peace process participants, and any political or social movement
leaders who defend these sectors.
Right now, the struggle to save the peace process in Colombia is
centered on the resistance to the re-arrest and possible extradition of Jesús
Santrich. We must demand his immediate liberty, that he be kept safe and sound
while in custody, and that he not be extradited to the United States.
As Santrich struggles for his life and freedom at the Méderi
hospital in Bogotá, we must struggle for the peace of Colombia. The personal
legal and medical condition of Jesús Santrich reflects the general health of
Colombia’s peace accord. One can only hope they both recover.
The alternative is permanent conflict and an erosion of any
notion of civil rights and independent justice, a situation that would have
repercussions throughout Colombia, the United States, and the entire
This is an international precedent being set by Empire and its
lackeys to jettison any and all notions of sovereignty and the rule of law.
Those who care about peace, justice, and liberation will understand the
importance of this crisis and step forward in resistance.
THE LETTER TO IVAN DUQUE
Please send the following email to
am writing to demand the immediate liberty for Seuxis Paucias Hernández
Solarte, aka Jesús Santrich, and that he not be extradited to the United
States.While he is incarcerated, I also demand that his safety be respected and
that he remain healthy and unharmed. Jesus Santrich deserves respect for his
role in negotiating Colombia’s peace accord, not repression by enemies of the
It is unbelievable that the Colombian government would obey the demands of the US government to jail Hernández Solarte instead of its own country’s laws and courts, which have ruled that he should be released. This constitutes a violation of the most basic concepts of sovereignty. There is no concrete evidcence against Hernández Solarte other than the testimony of paid informants and US DEA agents.
More, the DEA investigation did not even have the Colombian government’s position to operate in its territory. The JEP (Special Jurisdiction for Peace) has demanded the liberty of Hernández Solarte. Its authority has been confirmed by the national Congress and the Colombian justice system. Without credible evidence, the US government continues to request the extradition of Hernández Solarte.
If the Colombian government complies with these North American demands and ignores its own laws and institutions, that would be and assault against the democracy, sovereignty, and peace of Colombia. As an internationalist, I add my voice to all those who want peace for Colombia. I demand: Freedom for Jesús Santrich! No extradition!
I am writing to demand the immediate liberty for
Seuxis Paucias Hernández Solarte, aka Jesús Santrich, and that he not be
extradited to the United States.While he is incarcerated, I also demand that
his safety be respected and that he remain healthy and unharmed.
It is unbelievable that the Colombian government would obey the demands of the US government to jail Hernández Solarte instead of its own country’s laws and courts, which have ruled that he should be released. This constitutes a violation of the most basic concepts of sovereignty.
There is no concrete evidcence against Hernández Solarte other than the testimony of paid informants and US DEA agents. More, the DEA investigation did not even have the Colombian government’s position to operate in its territory. The JEP (Special Jurisdiction for Peace) has demanded the liberty of Hernández Solarte. Its authority has been confirmed by the national Congress and the Colombian justice system.
Without credible evidence, the US government continues to request the extradition of Hernández Solarte. If the Colombian government complies with these North American demands and ignores its own laws and institutions, that would be and assault against the democracy, sovereignty, and peace of Colombia.
As an internationalist, I add my voice to all those who want peace for Colombia. I demand: Freedom for Jesús Santrich! No extradition!