ROBERT PARRY: More Second Amendment Madness

Robert Parry, founder of this site, exposed in this Jan. 2013 article the dangerous & false idea that the Constitution Framers wrote the 2nd Amendment so an armed population could fight the government the Framers had just created.

By Robert Parry
Special to Consortium News
Jan. 14, 21013
The Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus has sold millions of Americans on the dangerous and false notion that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution incorporated the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights so an armed population could fight the government that the Framers had just created.

As a result of that historical lie, many right-wingers today appear to be heeding a call to arms by buying up assault weapons at a frenetic pace. A “Gun Appreciation Day” is scheduled for the Saturday before Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural, which coincidentally falls on Martin Luther King Day. Thousands of gun owners are expected to turn out waving flags and brandishing rifles.

The organizer of that effort, right-wing activist Larry Ward, wrote that “the Obama administration has shown that it is more than willing to trample the Constitution to impose its dictates upon the American people.”

In recent weeks, this bogus narrative of the Framers seeking to encourage violence to subvert the peaceful and orderly process that they had painstakingly created in Philadelphia in 1787 also has been pushed by prominent right-wingers, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano

Napolitano declared: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”

The suggestion is that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) if he presses ahead seeking commonsense gun restrictions in the face of the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, and hundreds of other horrendous incidents of gun violence.

These “revolutionary” Americans have been persuaded that they are channeling the intent of the Framers who supposedly saw armed uprisings against the legally constituted U.S. government as an important element of “liberty.”

But that belief is not the historical reality. Indeed, the reality is almost the opposite. The Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e. to put down armed rebellions.

The Framers also made clear what they thought should happen to people who took up arms against the Republic. Article IV, Section 4 committed the federal government to protect each state from not only invasion but “domestic Violence,” and treason is defined in the Constitution as “levying war against” the United States as well as giving “Aid and Comfort” to the enemy (Article III, Section 3).

Second Amendment’s History

The historical context of the Second Amendment also belies today’s right-wing mythology. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, the young nation was experiencing violent unrest, such as the Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts. That armed uprising was testing the ability of the newly independent nation to establish order within the framework of a democratic Republic, a fairly untested idea at the time. European monarchies were predicting chaos and collapse for the United States.

Among the most concerned about that possibility was General George Washington, who had sacrificed greatly for the birth of the new nation. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 and their acceptance of American independence in 1783, Washington fretted over the inability of the states-rights-oriented Articles of Confederation, then governing the country, to deal with its economic and security challenges.

Washington grew disgusted with the Articles’ recognition of 13 “independent” and “sovereign” states and the correspondingly weak central government, called not even a government, but a “league of friendship.”

As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington had watched his soldiers suffer when various states reneged on their commitment to supply money and arms. After the war, Washington retired but stayed active in seeking reforms that would strengthen the central government’s ability to organize national commerce and to maintain order.

His fears deepened in 1786 when Daniel Shays, a former Continental Army captain, led an uprising of other veterans and farmers in western Massachusetts, taking up arms against the government for failing to address their economic grievances.

Washington received reports on the crisis from old Revolutionary War associates in Massachusetts, such as his longtime logistical chief, Gen. Henry Knox, and Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, who accepted the British surrender at Yorktown as Washington’s second in command. They kept Washington apprised of the disorder, which he feared might encourage renewed interference in American affairs by the British or other European powers.

On Oct. 22, 1786, in a letter seeking more information about the rebellion from a friend in Connecticut, Washington wrote: “I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.”

In another letter on Nov. 7, 1786, Washington questioned Gen. Lincoln about the unrest: “What is the cause of all these commotions? When and how will they end?” Washington was especially concerned about the possibility of a hidden British hand.

Lincoln responded: “Many of them [the rebels] appear to be absolutely so [mad] if an attempt to annihilate our present constitution and dissolve the present government can be considered as evidence of insanity.”

However, the U.S. government under the Articles of Confederation lacked the means to restore order. So wealthy Bostonians financed their own force under Gen. Lincoln to crush the uprising in February 1787. Afterwards, Washington remained concerned the rebellion might be a sign that European predictions about American chaos were coming true.

“If three years ago [at the end of the American Revolution] any person had told me that at this day, I should see such a formidable rebellion against the laws & constitutions of our own making as now appears I should have thought him a bedlamite a fit subject for a mad house,” Washington wrote to Knox on Feb. 3, 1787, adding that if the government “shrinks, or is unable to enforce its laws anarchy & confusion must prevail.”

Just weeks later, Washington’s alarm about Shays’ Rebellion was a key factor in his decision to take part in and preside over the Constitutional Convention, which was supposed to offer revisions to the Articles of Confederation but instead threw out the old structure entirely and replaced it with the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution shifted national sovereignty from the 13 states to “We the People” and dramatically enhanced the power of the central government.

The key point of the Constitution was to create a peaceful means for the United States to implement policies favored by the people but within a structure of checks and balances to prevent radical changes deemed too disruptive to the established order. For instance, the two-year terms of the House of Representatives were meant to reflect the popular will but the six-year terms of the Senate were designed to temper the passions of the moment (and senators were initially chosen by state legislatures, not the people).

Within this framework of a democratic Republic where peaceful change was possible though intentionally gradual the Framers criminalized taking up arms against the government. But it was the Constitution’s drastic expansion of federal power that prompted strong opposition from some Revolutionary War figures, such as Virginia’s Patrick Henry who spearheaded the Anti-Federalist movement.

Prospects for the Constitution’s ratification were in such doubt that its principal architect James Madison joined in a sales campaign known as the Federalist Papers in which he tried to play down how radical his changes actually were. To win over other skeptics, Madison agreed to support a Bill of Rights, which would be proposed as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was a mix of concessions, some substantive and some rhetorical, to both individual citizens and the states.

The Second Amendment was primarily a right granted to the states. It read: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Madison’s political maneuvering narrowly secured approval of the Constitution in key states, such as Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. The First Congress then approved the Bill of Rights, which was ratified in 1791. [For more details on the Constitution, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Behind the Second Amendment

As the preface to the Second Amendment makes clear, the concern was about enabling states to organize militias that could maintain “security,” which fit with the Constitution’s goal of “domestic Tranquility” within the framework of a Republic.

This concept was amplified by the actions of the Second Congress amid another uprising which erupted in 1791 in western Pennsylvania. This anti-tax revolt, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, prompted Congress in 1792 to expand on the idea of “a well-regulated militia” by passing the Militia Acts which required all military-age white males to obtain their own muskets and equipment for service in militias.

At the time, Madison was in the U.S. Congress and Washington was in the presidency with both supporting the new laws so the “original intent” of the Framers could not be easily misunderstood.

The right “to keep and bear arms” was always within the context of participating in militias or today the National Guard not as the right of individuals to possess devastating weapons that could be used to violently overthrow the U.S. government or to kill its officials. (The recognition of a collective rather than individual right was only reversed in 2008 when right-wing ideologues had gained control of the U.S. Supreme Court and then overturned longstanding legal precedents.)

But if there was any doubt about how the actual Framers saw the Second Amendment, it was answered in 1794 when President Washington led a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey rebels in Pennsylvania. The revolt soon collapsed; many leaders fled; and two participants were convicted of high treason and sentenced to hanging, though Washington later pardoned them.

Beyond this clear historical record that the Framers’ intent with the Second Amendment was to create security for the new Republic, not promote armed rebellions there is also the simple logic that the Framers represented the young nation’s aristocracy. Many, like Washington, owned vast tracts of land and favored domestic tranquility to promote economic development and growth.

So, it would be counterintuitive as well as anti-historical to believe that Madison and Washington wanted to arm the population so the discontented could resist the constitutionally elected government. In reality, the Framers wanted to arm the people at least the white males to repulse uprisings, whether economic clashes like Shays’ Rebellion, anti-tax protests like the Whiskey Rebellion, attacks by Native Americans or slave revolts.

Fabricated History

However, the Right has invested heavily over the last several decades in fabricating a different national narrative, one that ignores both logic and the historical record. In this right-wing fantasy, the Framers wanted everyone to have a gun so they could violently resist their own government.

To build that narrative, a few incendiary quotes are cherry-picked, taken out of context or invented. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik’s compilation of such apocryphal references.]

This “history” has then been amplified through the Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus Fox News, talk radio, the Internet and ideological publications to persuade millions of Americans that their possession of semi-automatic assault rifles and other powerful firearms is what the Framers intended, that today’s gun owners are fulfilling some centuries-old American duty.

It should be noted, too, that Thomas Jefferson, one of the most radical-sounding (though hypocritical) leaders of the Revolutionary War, was not a Framer of the Constitution. In 1787, when the document was written, he was the U.S. representative in France.

There is also the obvious point that the Framers’ idea of a weapon was a single-shot musket that required time-consuming reloading, not a powerful semi-automatic assault rifle that could fire up to 100 bullets in a matter of seconds without the necessity to reload.

However, people like Andrew Napolitano on the Right as well as some dreamy revolutionaries on the Left still suggest that the Framers enacted the Second Amendment so the firepower of people trying to overthrow the U.S. government and kill its agents would be equal to whatever weapons the government possessed.

This crazy notion would be laughable if its consequences were not so horrible. The human price for this phony concept of “liberty” and this bogus history is the horrendous death toll that gun violence inflicts on American society, including the recent slaughter of those children in Newtown.

Yet, instead of recognizing the actual history and accepting that the Constitution was an attempt by the Framers to create a democratic process for peaceful change, today’s advocates of a violent revolution whether from the Right or the Left feed the paranoia and the ignorance of their followers.

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. He founded Consortium News in 1995, considered the first online, independent news site.




Hijacking the Second Amendment

The gun lobby has hijacked the Second Amendment, which was intended for citizen militias to provide domestic “security” without a standing army. The amendment is a dangerous relic, never clearer than  after El Paso and Dayton, writes Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

The Second Amendment was written after a war in which a new nation without a standing army defeated the biggest standing army on the planet. To defend itself, the new country relied on citizens arming themselves in civilian militias.

Ever since Britain had permanently garrisoned troops in Massachusetts to put down the brewing rebellion in 1768, opposition to standing armies ran deep among Americans. The Revolution was nearly lost because the Continental Congress for years refused George Washington’s pleading for a standing army. Sam Adams, before he and his class of merchants had won, believed a permanent force was “forever dangerous to civil liberties.”

“Soldiers are apt to consider themselves as a body distinct from the rest of the citizens,” Adams said. “They have arms always in hand.” But, “the Militia is composed of free citizens. There is, therefore, no danger of their making use of their Power to the destruction of their own rights.”

Adams amended his position as the war dragged on, realizing the necessity of a trained, disciplined force in extreme circumstances. But once the war was over, he returned to his earlier position, saying a standing army was no longer needed.

Because of this distrust of standing armies the new republic wrote into its Constitution the Second Amendment, ensuring that citizens, and not a permanent state military, would bear arms to protect the land. However, the United States today has the largest standing armed forces ever assembled. The militias are now called the standing National Guard.

Thus, the rationale for the Second Amendment is completely lost in history. It has as much relevance and moral force today as Section 2 of Article 1 that permitted slavery. The Second Amendment means nothing unless we disband the National Guard and America’s armed forces.

It is a dangerous absurdity to think it can justify the sale and possession of handguns (and even more lethal firearms). The Framers would surely be horrified by the events last weekend in Dayton and El Paso and would wonder what had become of their republic. The Second Amendment must be repealed.

This article, originally published on Dec 17, 2012, has been updated to mention the latest massacres, illustrating that nothing has changed in seven years.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at  joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .




Beware Calls in US for Domestic ‘Terrorism’ Laws

Mass shootings by white supremacists should not be exploited to further militarize the police and lose more civil liberties, says Caitlin Johnstone.

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

Two mass shootings have rocked the United States in less than 24 hours, leaving dozens dead and many more wounded. The first in El Paso, Texas, was allegedly perpetrated by a white supremacist whose racist motives are outlined in a rambling “manifesto,” the second allegedly by a self-described “leftist” whose motives, like those of the 2017 Las Vegas shooter, are presently unknown. These incidents occurred a week after another mass shooting in Gilroy, California.

All the usual U.S. gun control debates have of course reignited, which is understandable. Alongside this debate, however, we are seeing another, far more pernicious agenda being raised that I would like to address here.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid, notorious liar and propagandist Malcolm Nance claimed that existing laws aren’t sufficient for prosecuting the El Paso shooter, because there are no laws designating his act of mass murder as “domestic terrorism.”

“I think that Congress needs to take up right away a series of domestic terrorism laws,” Nance said. “It’d be very simple: just match them to the words ‘international terrorism,’ so that a member of al-Qaeda and a member of a white nationalist terrorist cell or a militia that thinks they’re going to carry out international acts of terrorism are equal all the way around. Right now there are no laws called ‘domestic terrorism law.’ They can get you for firearms, they get you for hate crimes, but you are not treated as a terrorist. This act in El Paso was clearly by all definitions a terrorist attack in the United States, but of course by the nature of the person being white and American he can’t be treated like a member of ISIS or al-Qaeda. He can’t even be detained, he can only be treated as a murderer.”

(The accused, for the record, is in fact under arrest currently, and prosecutors say that they are treating it as a domestic terrorism case for which they are seeking the death penalty. This is in Texas; he’ll be dead before the next “Fast & Furious” movie. Nance’s notion that prosecutors’ hands are somehow tied here is silly.)

“But he’s a murderer with a political intent who is spreading an ideology,” Nance continued. “So Congress should take that up immediately. And let’s see if the White House won’t sign that legislation. That would be very revealing.”

In other words, shove the legislation through and call anyone who opposes it a Nazi lover. 

‘Islamic Terrorism’ Alarm 

Political commentary is flooded with the word “terrorism” today. People are demanding that the El Paso shooter in particular and white supremacists in general be labeled terrorists by the narrative-making commentariat, and you know what? I totally get it.

The push since 9/11 to tar Muslims as “terrorists” has been extremely obnoxious and fueled by hate and bigotry, so it makes sense for progressive-minded people to push for the egalitarian usage of that term. But before doing so, please reflect on what lessons we learned from the post-9/11 “Islamic terrorism” scare.

“Years of misguided alarmism over ‘Islamic terrorism’ resulted in the erosion of civil liberties, militarization of police, and a host of other bad outcomes. Applying the same alarmist logic to ‘white nationalist terrorism’ is likely to produce a host of similarly bad outcomes,” tweeted independent journalist Michael Tracey in response to the chatter.

“I am telling you now that the government will use the violence that Trump himself has rallied as an excuse for more militarization, more surveillance, more violations of civil liberties — and a lot of people are going to welcome these things because they are afraid,” tweeted Truthout‘s Kelly Hayes. “I’m not guessing or being creative here. This is about having a sense of history and a sense of how these systems function in the present. I would love to be wrong. I would celebrate being wrong. But I’m not.”

Indeed, it is an established fact that the U.S. will use the narrative about the need to fight terrorism to advance pre-existing agendas. The first draft of the massive USA Patriot Act was introduced a week after the 9/11 attacks, far too fast for anyone to have gathered the necessary information from all the relevant government bodies about what changes were necessary and typed out the hundreds of pages of the bill. Legislators later admitted that they didn’t even have time to read through the densely worded bill before passing it the next month, so to believe that it could have been written in a week would be childish.

In 2011 then-Congressman Ron Paul told Politico that “the Patriot Act was written many, many years before 9/11,” adding that the attacks simply provided “an opportunity for some people to do what they wanted to do.” Paul was serving in Congress when the Patriot Act was passed. The law has since been used to erode human rights at home and abroad by destroying Fourth Amendment protections and legalizing Orwellian surveillance, and it’s safe to assume that the opaque and unaccountable government agencies that were greatly empowered by it had already wanted this to happen.

I have no easy answers for America’s mass shooting epidemic, and as an Australian I see the gun control debate as outside my sovereign territory. I will simply suggest, as I so often do, that if Americans really want to address the problem then the best place to start is to do the first ever honest and in-depth study on the effects of domestic propaganda on the American mind, particularly war propaganda. There are only so many times a certain type of mind can be told violence-glorifying lies before it snaps; if anyone researches mass shootings in the light of the constant psychological abuse that Americans suffer at the hands of their mass media, I guarantee they’ll find a connection. Americans are the most propagandized people on earth because of their proximity to the most strategically crucial part of the empire; it’s not a coincidence that they’re also by far the most prone to mass shootings.

One thing I can tell you won’t fix your problems, America, and that’s listening to the propagandists who want you to hand over even more control to a government that has already begun floating high-altitude surveillance balloons over your country without your permission.

Don’t let them bully you with fear.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

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Bernie Sanders’ Economic Bill of Rights

Marjorie Cohn reports on a more complete U.S. definition of human rights that, as Sanders urges, picks up where FDR left off.

Sanders Calls for FDR’s Vision to be Fulfilled

By Marjorie Cohn
Truthout

Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a full-throated defense of democratic socialism in his June 12 speech at George Washington University. Sanders quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union address: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”

Sanders, like FDR, proposed an Economic Bill of Rights, including the rights to health care, affordable housing, education, a living wage and retirement.

“Economic rights are human rights,” Sanders declared. “That is what I mean by democratic socialism.”

Sanders cited figures of vast wealth disparity in the United States, where “the top one percent of people own more wealth than the bottom 92 percent.” He said there is higher income and wealth inequality today than at any time since the 1920s. And, Sanders stated, “Despite an explosion in technology and worker productivity, the average wage of the American worker in real dollars is no higher than it was 46 years ago and millions of people are forced to work two or three jobs just to survive.”

He also noted, “In America today, the very rich live on average 15 years longer than the poorest Americans.”

Economic Rights Are Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets forth two different categories of human rights: (1) civil and political rights, and (2) economic, social and cultural rights.

Civil and political rights comprise the rights to life, a fair trial and self-determination; freedom of speech, expression, assembly and religion; and freedom from torture, cruel treatment and arbitrary detention. Economic, social and cultural rights include the rights to health care, education and social security; the right to form and join unions and to strike; and the right to equal pay for equal work, unemployment insurance, paid maternity leave, and the prevention, treatment and control of diseases.

These two types of human rights are enshrined in two international treaties — the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The United States has ratified the ICCPR, but not the ICESCR. U.S. policy since the Reagan administration has been to define human rights only as civil and political rights, excluding economic, social and cultural rights from the realm of human rights.

The treaty involving economic, cultural and social rights — which has been ratified by 169 countries — guarantees the rights to work with favorable conditions, to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, to education, to housing, to an adequate standard of living, and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and cultural freedom. It protects the rights to form and join trade unions, social security and social insurance, equal rights for men and women, and protection and assistance to the family.

Cuba, which has a human rights record that is frequently criticized by the U.S., puts the United States to shame with its recognition of economic rights. Cubans enjoy universal health care; universal free education including higher education; the right to form and join unions; and government-subsidized abortion and family planning. Cuba has a higher life expectancy than the U.S., as well as a relatively small ecological footprint due to low energy consumption.

Democratic or Corporate Socialism

President Donald Trump and his fellow oligarchs oppose democratic socialism, Sanders said, but “they don’t really oppose all forms of socialism.” Indeed, “they absolutely love corporate socialism that enriches Trump and other billionaires.”

Sanders cited the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street in 2008 by the Treasury Department “after their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior created the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression — with millions of Americans losing their jobs, their homes and their life savings — Wall Street’s religious adherence to unfettered capitalism suddenly came to an end.”

He also mentioned tax breaks and loopholes for fossil fuel companies, pharmaceutical companies, Amazon, and the Trump family.

As Dr. Martin Luther King observed, the United States “has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.”

Winning Strategy

Sanders noted that FDR and his progressive coalition were successful, and their legacies continue to flourish in programs and protections like Social Security, regulation of Wall Street and unemployment compensation. He pointed out that Roosevelt aimed to go further.

“In 1944, FDR proposed an economic bill of rights but died a year later and was never able to fulfill that vision. Our job, 75 years later,” Sanders said, “is to complete what Roosevelt started.”

He then set forth his vision of a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights, which would recognize that all Americans should have:

  • The right to a decent job that pays a living wage
  • The right to quality health care
  • The right to a complete education
  • The right to affordable housing
  • The right to a clean environment
  • The right to a secure retirement

Sanders listed Democratic presidents vilified by the oligarchs of their time for their programs of alleged “socialism.” Lyndon Johnson was attacked for Medicare, Harry Truman’s proposed national health care program was dubbed “socialized medicine,” and Newt Gingrich called Bill Clinton’s health care plan “centralized bureaucratic socialism.”

Although none of the other leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates has embraced socialism, the party’s base has. Candidate John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado, was roundly booed at the California Democratic convention earlier this month when he said, “If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer.”

Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” argues, “Without a strong egalitarian-internationalist platform, it is difficult to unite low-education, low-income voters from all origins within the same coalition and to deliver a reduction in inequality.”

Keith A. Spencer, writing at Saloncites Piketty for the proposition that “nominating centrist Democrats who don’t speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting.”

Moreover, a 2018 Gallup poll determined that a majority of young Americans have a positive opinion of socialism. According to a recent Axios poll, 55 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 54 would prefer to live in a socialist country.

Sanders said the U.S. and the rest of the world face two different political paths. “On one hand,” he noted, “there is a growing movement towards oligarchy and authoritarianism in which a small number of incredibly wealthy and powerful billionaires own and control a significant part of the economy and exert enormous influence over the political life of our country. On the other hand, in opposition to oligarchy, there is a movement of working people and young people who, in ever increasing numbers, are fighting for justice.”

After his speech, Sanders told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, that real change is generated by mass movements. He cited the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay movement and the labor movement.

“It is time for the American people to stand up and fight for their right to freedom, human dignity and security,” Sanders affirmed. “This is the core of what my politics is all about.” He clarified, “The only way we achieve these goals is through a political revolution.”

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.”

This article is from Truthout and reprinted with permission.




‘No One is Above the Law’ (Except the U.S.A.)

Julian Assange’s Australian lawyer and a European human rights attorney argue that the conduct of the U.S. regarding the WikiLeaks publisher blatantly disregards numerous laws.

By Greg Barns and Lisanne Adam
Special to Consortium News

On 11 April 2019, UK Prime Minister Theresa May informed that nation’s Parliament about the arrest of Julian Assange and thanked the Ecuadorian government and Metropolitan Police for their actions and collaboration contributing to the WikiLeaks publisher’s arrest and subsequent detention. In her statement, May said: “This goes to show that, in the United Kingdom, no one is above the Law.” By making this statement, May was referring to Assange’s actions relating to breaching bail and his arrest that day by the UK authorities, after Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum claim.

However, May’s statement can be construed in a broader sense, in it that refers to the Law as a whole, including the fundamental rights that the UK must honor in accordance with international human rights standards. May’s statement is accurate and true, no government or person should be above these laws.

Keeping May’s statement in mind, think about the fact that in her own backyard, on May 20 we had the extraordinary spectacle of U.S. law enforcement agencies being invited by Ecuador to walk into its Embassy and steal Assange’s belongings. Four days later, the U.S. loaded up the indictment it had filed against Assange by adding seventeen additional U.S. charges including; espionage, criminal conspiracy and computer hacking.

It was to be expected that Assange’s prosecution, extradition requests and other legal matters would be extraordinary. However, the cavalier disregard by the U.S., aided and abetted by Ecuador and the UK in the past month, is setting a truly dangerous precedent.

Globally, there are fundamental rights, embedded in the 1945 United Nations Charter and the 1954 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and designed to protect individuals against mistreatment by governments and non-state actors. Fundamental rights are there to protect any individual irrespective of who they are, or where they are.

Careful consideration was given to the formulation of these fundamental rights in international treaties and, these days, these important rights have been enshrined in international and domestic legislation. The overarching and universal principle of fairness is what underpins respect for these rights. Hence, fundamental fairness has been enshrined in domestic-and international laws in the UK, the U.S. and other nations which purport to subscribe to the rule of Law.

Stripped of His Rights

But in Assange’s case, fairness is an endangered species if not, completely extinct.

The Ecuadorian government completely ignored Assange’s fundamental rights in facilitating the confiscation of Assange’s personal property. Personal property including confidential documents, his legal defense strategy, medical records and electronic equipment. Assange’s seized property was subsequently handed over to the U.S.

The disregard for fairness shown by the U.S. towards Assange means materials, unlawfully seized by prosecutors and law enforcement, will be used to inform the case against him. If Assange is extradited to the U.S. and faces a trial there, there will be no respect to procedural equality of arms as Assange will have no reasonable opportunity of presenting his case under conditions that do not disadvantage him as against other parties to the proceedings.

The shredding of fairness in Assange’s case must be resisted and stopped. If the UK decides to proceed with his extradition to the U.S., Assange faces life imprisonment based upon proceedings that have been tainted with fundamental breaches of fairness and prosecutorial misconduct. A fair trial in the U.S. is simply not possible.

Moreover, the conduct relating to the proceedings against Assange are anything but legal; it is a political witch-hunt without merit. The gathering of evidence in such an unlawful way indicates the desperation of the U.S. prosecutor to build a case against Assange. A case that has nothing to do with the Law, Assange is supposed to serve as an example; a precedent and a warning that no whistle-blower, organization or person should disclose information about U.S. intelligence, no matter how gruesome this information may be.

Worse still, the high human cost of this biased and tunnel vision persecution is ignored by the UK, the U.S. and let’s face it the country of which he is a citizen, Australia. Assange is suffering prolonged exposure to psychological torture and his condition is worsening by the day. Professor Nils Melzer, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, reported last week that Assange has no prospect of a fair trial in the U.S.

One can wonder, why do fundamental rights exist if we allow certain countries to ignore and breach them when it suits them? Theresa May was right: no one should be above the Law. Let’s be clear: ‘No one’ should include the U.S. ’ government.

Greg Barns is a barrister in Australia and Adviser to the Australian Assange campaign and Lisanne Adam is a consultant on EU human rights law based in Melbourne Australia.




After Assange’s Espionage Act Indictment, Police Move Against More Journalists for Publishing Classified Material

Less than two months after the arrest of journalist Julian Assange, and two weeks after his indictment under the Espionage Act, emboldened governments have sent the police after journalists who’ve challenged the state.  Joe Lauria reports.

By Joe Lauria
in Sydney, Australia

Special to Consortium News

Following the arrest and Espionage Act indictment of Julian Assange a number of police actions against journalists for publishing classified information and other journalistic activity  has heightened fears among mainstream journalists  that they could be next.  

Police in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday raided the offices of the taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, copying thousands of files related to a 2017 ABC broadcast that revealed allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.  

Three Australian Federal Police officers and three police technicians entered ABC’s Sydney headquarters with a search warrant that named two ABC investigative journalists and the network’s news director.  The police demanded to look through the journalists’ emails, ABC reported.

David Anderson, the ABC managing director, said it was “highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way”.

“This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and Defence matters,” he said. “The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest.”  John Lyons, ABC’s executive editor and head of investigative journalism, tweeted:

Lyons said the federal police were going through dozens of emails with the authority to delete or even change their content. Protagonist Winston Smith’s job in Orwell’s 1984 was to rewrite news archives.

“I recall writing ages ago about Australian legislation giving the Australian govt power to ‘add, alter or delete’ targeted material,” Australian psychologist and social critic Lissa Johnson told Consortium News. “The msm barely batted an eyelid at the time. Now that power is being wielded against the ABC.”

Gaven Morris, ABC’s news director, said: “Journalism is not a crime.”

“Our journalists do a really difficult job, I’m proud of what they do, they do it in the public’s interest,” he said. “I’d say to all the journalists at the ABC and all the journalists across Australia, don’t be afraid of the job you do.”

Marcus Strom, president of Australia’s journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, called the raid  “disturbing.”

“It should chill the public as well as journalists,” he said.”These raids are all about intimidating journalists and intimidating whistle blowers so that mistakes made by the Government, including potential crimes, by the military, remain covered up, remain secret, and don’t fall in to the public domain.”

Political Editor’s Home Raided

On Tuesday morning in an unrelated case, Canberra police entered the home of the political editor of the Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph “Journalist Annika Smethurst opened her front door to find seven AFP officers waiting for her. All because she dared to do her job and keep the nation informed on what its government was doing,” the Telegraph said in an editorial.

Ironically, the Smethhurst article in April 2018 that raised the ire of the government “revealed the departments of Defence and Home Affairs were considering new powers allowing Australians to be monitored for the first time,” The  Telegraph reported. “Her original article included images of top secret letters between Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo and Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty.”

French Journalists Arrested 

Assange was arrested in London on April 11. Police in Paris arrested two journalists who were covering Yellow Vest protests on April 20.  One of the journalists, Alexis Kraland, said he was taken into custody after refusing to be searched and to turn his camera over to police at Gare du Nord train station. The largest journalism union in France demanded an explanation from police.

SF Police Raid Journalists’ Home

And on May 10 in San Francisco, police using sledgehammers to break down the door, raided the home of Bryan Carmody, a freelance journalist, to get him, while handcuffed, to reveal the source who leaked him a police report into the sudden death of the city’s elected public defender. Police took away computers, cameras, mobile phones and notes.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said initially that Carmody had “crossed a line” with his report.  After a public outcry and demands that Scott resign, the police chief issued an apology.

Fears Justified

While there is no direct connection between Assange’s arrest and indictment for possessing and disseminating classified material and these subsequent police actions, a Western taboo on arresting or prosecuting the press for its work has clearly been weakened. One must ask why Australian police acted on a broadcast produced in 2017 and an article published in April only after Assange’s arrest and prosecution.

Within hours of Assange’s Espionage Act indictment on May 23, major publications and media figures, who have harshly treated Assange, began lining up in his defense out of self-interested concern that the government could apply the same prosecutions to them for also routinely publishing classified information.

Their fears are beginning to be realized.

 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

 




UN Torture Report: ‘Demonized’ Assange Has Faced ‘Psychological Torture’

The UN special rapporteur on torture has blasted four nations for imposing psychological torture on Julian Assange.

‘A Relentless and Unrestrained Campaign of
Public Mobbing, Intimidation and Defamation’

Warns of ‘Criminalization of Journalism’

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

The UN special rapporteur on torture has issued a stinging rebuke to the United States, Great Britain, Sweden and Ecuador for “deliberately” exposing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to years of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” which can only be described as “psychological torture.”

“In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law,” Nils Melzer said in a statement published on the UN High Commissioner for Human Right’s website on Friday. “The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”

“The evidence is overwhelming and clear,” Melzer  said. “Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.”

Melzer went on:

“In the course of the past nine years, Mr. Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination.”

Melzer visited Assange at Belmarsh prison in London on May 9 with two doctors, expert in recognizing potential torture victims, who examined the WikiLeaks founder. Melzer’s statement makes no mention of Assange having been hospitalized in the prison after he was unable to converse with his Swedish lawyer.

Melzer said: 

“It was obvious that Mr. Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years. Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”

Fears Possible Torture in U.S. 

The UN rapporteur said Assange’s human rights could be further threatened with extradition to the United States to face 18 charges, including 17 under the Espionage Act. 

“My most urgent concern is that, in the United States, Mr. Assange would be exposed to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Melzer.

He said he was “particularly alarmed” by the Espionage Act charges. “This may well result in a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, if further charges were to be added in the future,” said Melzer.

The rapporteur expressed deep concern that the Trump administration is criminalizing journalism.

“Since 2010, when Wikileaks started publishing evidence of war crimes and torture committed by US forces, we have seen a sustained and concerted effort by several States towards getting Mr. Assange extradited to the United States for prosecution, raising serious concern over the criminalisation of investigative journalism in violation of both the US Constitution and international human rights law,” the rapporteur said.

Herald Gets Confidential Report

The Sydney Morning Herald, quoting from the confidential report that Melzer sent to the British government on Monday as well as from an interview with the rapporteur, reported :

“[Assange] is really something I’ve never seen in 20 years,” Melzer said. “I’ve seen atrocities in war areas that were physically more horrible but I’ve never seen a single person pursued so relentlessly and with so little foundation.

“[When I saw him] I immediately compared him to some of the graver cases in interrogation prisons in terms of his psychological reaction patterns. That’s what alarmed me so much.” He said Assange’s treatment was “very close to the intentional, purposeful infliction of coercive measures to try to break him”.

He appeared “extremely agitated and preoccupied,” Melzer said. “He asked a lot of questions and he would jump around, he was so preoccupied with everything he can’t even compute my answers any more.

“There were episodes of this, then he was part of the conversation as normal, then again he would enter into this agitated state. I have seen with other victims of psychological torture that would happen.”

Melzer also blasted the government of Assange’s native Australia. He told the newspaper, “Australia is a glaring absence in this case. They’re just not around, as if Assange was not an Australian citizen. That is not the correct way of dealing with that.”

A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the Herald: “We reject any suggestion by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that the Australian Government is complicit in psychological torture or has shown a lack of consular support for Mr Assange.”

Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, condemned Melzer for his report. Hunt said it was “wrong” for the UN rapporteur to interfere with British justice by uttering “inflammatory accusations.” 

Melzer replied to Hunt:

 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

 

 




Scoundrels and Reparations

Even though it’s a clearcut matter of justice, reparations require black people to develop more of a consensus before any national discussion, writes Margaret Kimberly.

By Margaret Kimberly
Black Agenda Report

Reparations should not be a topic for national discussion until there is something akin to a consensus among black people about what to demand and how to do it.

There is no question that black Americans deserve redress for 300 years of chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, racist terrorism, mass incarceration and a plethora of discriminatory practices which were and are sanctioned by law. The idea of reparations is not new nor is the concept unique to the history of this country. The United Nations has established a “right to remedies and reparations for victims of gross violations of human rights law.”  Morality and international law are clearly on our side.

Black Americans do not dispute the rightness of this stance, but there has been insufficient debate about what reparations ought to mean. As a result, people with dubious motives have now seized the agenda. The American Descendants of Slaves (ADOS) movement has taken control of the discussion but from a decidedly right-wing perspective. They wrap themselves in the flag that symbolizes oppression, repeat nativist talking points, and eschew connections with African people in the rest of the world.

Serious Examination

It is not a good thing for reparations to be discussed in such a non-serious way. Black Agenda Report supports a serious examination of reparations which must have as its foundation the transformation of our system and our society. The harm done to black people is not in the distant past, but is ever present. Mass incarceration and displacement by gentrification are just two issues which are causing terrible harm to black people today. We should advocate for nothing less than an end to the system which has created so much damage.

Now presidential candidates are being asked if they do or do not support reparations. Those questions jump the gun and turn the issue into nonsensical blather because black people have not yet done the necessary debating and struggling within the group. Until that happens all talk of reparations will do more harm than good.

A sure sign of a failed discussion is the involvement of people with bad motives, people like Al Sharpton. The Democratic Party has made the two-faced traitor the go-to guy for presidential candidates. This status of faux king maker is proof that the Democratic Party has no respect for black people, the group they depend upon the most to win elections.

Sharpton’s recent National Action Network convention welcomed nearly all of the declared Democratic presidential candidates. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, John Hickenlooper and Andrew Yang all made the journey. They all pledged some degree of support for reparations, mostly in the form of supporting bill H.R. 40, which only commits to the creation of a commission that would study reparations.

At Best Irrelevant

Sharpton is at his best irrelevant and at his worst, a dangerous, double talking, double agent. In the 2004 presidential campaign he was funded and controlled by Roger Stone, the Republican dirty trickster and Trump crony. That wasn’t the last act of Sharpton treachery. He was also on Michael Bloomberg’s payroll when the billionaire served as mayor of New York City. In exchange for a $110,000 donation from a Bloomberg-controlled non-profit, Sharpton refrained from opposing the mayor’s effort to gain an additional four years in office by ending term limits. Sharpton also muted himself regarding Bloomberg’s notorious stop-and-frisk policy which resulted in a million police interactions for black and brown New Yorkers.

In any case, support for reparations is now meaningless. Even The New York Times right-wing columnist David Brooks claims to support reparations. If Sharpton and Brooks are on the same side of an issue we should all beware.

Al Sharpton knows a good thing when he sees one. He is window dressing and a scam artist. He may take money from Roger Stone, or promote charter schools with the likes of Newt Gingrich, and when the moment is right he’ll go through the motions of promoting reparations too.

Reparations should not be a topic for national discussion until there is something akin to a consensus among black people about what to demand and how to do it. The justness of the cause isn’t complicated but the how and the why certainly are.

We have already seen politicians like former congressman John Conyers propose legislation to study reparations until he was a committee chairman in the majority and had the power to move it. As often happens with Democrats he did nothing when he had the chance to back up what he claimed to want.

Now is the time for serious study among serious people and the wheel does not have to be reinvented. N’COBRA has already delved into the matter and declared that “reparations means full repair.” It is unlikely that those words mean anything to a scoundrel like Al Sharpton. He and his ilk must stay out unless or until they are invited to have a seat at the table.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at Freedomrider. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-mail at Margaret.Kimberley@BlackAgendaReport.com.




Is Leaked Document Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century?’

If genuine, the report published by an Israeli newspaper widely seen as Netanyahu’s mouthpiece offers a catastrophic vision of the Palestinians’ future, writes Jonathan Cook.

By Jonathan Cook
Jonathan-Cook.net

A report published this week by the Israel Hayom newspaper apparently leaking details of President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” reads like the kind of peace plan that might be put together by an estate agent or car salesman.

But while the authenticity of the document is unproven and indeed contested, there are serious grounds for believing it paves the direction of any future declaration by the Trump administration.

Not least, it is a synthesis of most of the Israeli right’s ambitions for the creation of a Greater Israel, with a few sops to the Palestinians — most of them related to partially relieving Israel’s economic strangulation of the Palestinian economy.

This is exactly what Jared Kushner told us the “deal of the century” would look like in his preview last month.

Also significant is the outlet that published the leak: Israel Hayom. The Israeli newspaper is owned by Sheldon Adelson, a U.S. casino billionaire who is one of the Republican Party’s chief donors and was a major contributor to Trump’s presidential election campaign funds.

Adelson is also a stalwart ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His newspaper has served as little more than a mouthpiece for Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist governments over the past decade.

Netanyahu Leak?

Adelson and Israel Hayom have ready access to key figures in both the U.S. and Israeli administrations. And it has been widely reported that little of significance gets into print there unless it has first been approved by Netanyahu or its overseas owner.

The newspaper questioned the authenticity and credibility of the document, which has spread across social media platforms, even suggesting “it is quite possible the document is fake” and that the Israeli foreign ministry was looking into it.

The White House had already indicated that, after long delays, it intended to finally unveil the “deal of the century” next month, after the holy Muslim month of Ramadan finishes.

An unnamed White House official told the paper the leak was “speculative” and “inaccurate” – the kind of lackluster denial that might equally mean the report is, in fact, largely accurate.

If the document is genuine, Netanyahu looks to be the most likely culprit behind the leak. He has overseen the foreign ministry for years and Israel Hayomis widely referred to by Israelis as “Bibiton,” or Bibi’s newspaper, employing the prime minister’s nickname.

Testing the Waters

The alleged document, as published in Israel Hayom, would be catastrophically bad for the Palestinians. Assuming Netanyahu approved the document’s leaking, his motives might not be too difficult to discern.

On one view, leaking it might be an effective way for Netanyahu and the Trump administration to test the waters, to fly a trial balloon to see whether they dare publish the document as it is, or need to make modifications.

But another possibility is that Netanyahu may have concluded that there could be an unwelcome price in publicly achieving most of what he is already gaining by stealth – a price he may prefer to avoid for the time being.

Is the leak designed to foment pre-emptive opposition to the plan, both from within Israel and from the Palestinians and the Arab world, in the hope of stymieing its release?

The hope may be that the leak, and the reaction it elicits, forces Trump’s Middle East team to postpone yet again the plan’s publication, or even foils its release entirely.

Nonetheless, whether or not the “deal of the century” is unveiled soon, the leaked document – if true – offers a plausible glimpse into the Trump administration’s thinking.

Given that Trump’s Middle East team appear to have begun implementing the plan over the past 18 months even without its publication — from moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to the recognition of Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights — the leak helps to shed light on how a U.S.-Israeli “resolution” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to unfold.

Annexing the West Bank

The proposed Palestinian entity would be named “New Palestine” — apparently taking a page out of the playbook of Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister who became the international community’s Middle East envoy from 2007 to 2015.

Back in the 1990s, Blair filleted his own political party, Labour, of its socialist heritage and then rebranded the resulting corporation-friendly party, a pale shadow of its former self, as “New Labour.”

The name “New Palestine” helpfully obscures the fact that this de-militarized entity would lack the features and powers normally associated with a state. According to the leak, New Palestine would exist on only a tiny fraction of historic Palestine.

All illegal settlements in the West Bank would be annexed to Israel — satisfying a pledge Netanyahu made shortly before last month’s general election. If the territory annexed includes most of Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank Israel was given temporary control over under the Oslo accords, and which the Israeli right urgently wants to annex, that would leave New Palestine nominally in charge of about 12 percent of historic Palestine.

Or put another way, the Trump administration appears to be ready to give its blessing to a Greater Israel comprising 88 percent of the land stolen from Palestinians over the past seven decades.

But it is far worse than that. New Palestine would exist as a series of discrete cantons, or Bantustans, surrounded by a sea of Israeli settlements — now to be declared part of Israel. The entity would be chopped and diced in a way that is true of no other state in the world.

New Palestine would have no army, just a lightly armed police force. It would be able to act only as a series of disconnected municipalities.

In fact, it is hard to imagine how “New Palestine” would fundamentally change the current, dismal reality for Palestinians. They would be able to move between these cantons only using lengthy detours, bypass roads and tunnels. Much like now.

Glorified Municipalities

The only silver lining offered in the alleged document is a proposed bribe from the U.S., Europe, other developed states, though mostly financed by the oil-rich Gulf states, to salve their consciences for defrauding the Palestinians of their land and sovereignty.

These states will provide $30 billion over five years to help New Palestine set up and run its glorified municipalities. If that sounds like a lot of money, remember it is $8 billion less than the decade-long aid the U.S. is currently giving Israel to buy arms and fighter jets.

What happens to New Palestine after that five-year period is unclear in the document. But given that the 12 percent of historic Palestine awarded to the Palestinians is the region’s most resource-poor territory — stripped by Israel of water sources, economic coherence, and key exploitable resources like the West Bank’s quarries — it is hard not to see the entity sinking rather swimming after the initial influx of money dries up.

Even if the international community agrees to stump up more money, New Palestine would be entirely aid dependent in perpetuity.

The U.S. and others would be able to turn on and off the spigot based on the Palestinians’ “good behavior” — just as occurs now.

Palestinians would live permanently in fear of the repercussions for criticizing their prison warders. In keeping with his vow to make Mexico pay for the wall to be built along the southern U.S. border, Trump apparently wants the Palestinian entity to pay Israel to provide it with military security. In other words, much of that $30 billion in aid to the Palestinians would probably end up in the Israeli military’s pockets.

Interestingly, the leaked report argues that oil-producing states, not the Palestinians, would be the “main beneficiaries” of the agreement. This hints at how the Trump deal is being sold to the Gulf states: as an opportunity for them to fully embrace Israel, its technology and military prowess, so that the Middle East can follow in the footsteps of Asia’s “tiger economies.”

Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is described as a “shared capital,” but the small print reads rather differently. Jerusalem would not be divided into a Palestinian east and an Israeli west, as most had envisaged. Instead, the city will be run by a unified Israeli-run municipality. Just as happens now.

The only meaningful concession to the Palestinians would be that Israelis would not be allowed to buy Palestinian homes, preventing — in theory, at least — a further takeover of East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers.

But given that in return Palestinians would not be allowed to buy Israeli homes, and that the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem already suffers massive housing shortages and that an Israeli municipality would have the power to decide where homes are built and for whom, it is easy to imagine that the current situation — of Israel exploiting planning controls to drive Palestinians out of Jerusalem — would simply continue.

Also, given that Palestinians in Jerusalem would be citizens of New Palestine, not Israel, those unable to find a home in Israeli-ruled Jerusalem would have no choice but to emigrate into the West Bank. That would be exactly the same form of bureaucratic ethnic cleansing that Palestinians in Jerusalem experience now.

Gaza Open to Sinai

Echoing recent comments from Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, the plan’s benefits for Palestinians all relate to potential economic dividends, not political ones.

Palestinians will be allowed to labor in Israel, as was the norm before Oslo — and presumably, as before, only in the most poorly paid and precarious jobs, on building sites and agricultural land.

A land corridor, doubtlessly overseen by Israeli military contractors the Palestinians must pay for, is supposed to connect Gaza to the West Bank. Confirming earlier reports of the Trump administration’s plans, Gaza would be opened up to the world, and an industrial zone and airport created in the neighboring territory of Sinai.

The land — its extent to be decided in negotiations — would be leased from Egypt.

Helpfully for Israel, as has previously been pointed out, such a move risks gradually encouraging Palestinians to view Sinai as the center of their lives rather than Gaza — another way to slowly ethnically cleanse them.

Meanwhile, the West Bank would be connected to Jordan by two border crossings — probably via land corridors through the Jordan Valley, which itself is to be annexed to Israel. Again, with Palestinians squeezed into disconnected cantons surrounded by Israeli territory, the assumption must be that over time many would seek a new life in Jordan.

Palestinian political prisoners would be released from Israeli jails to the authority of New Palestine over three years. But the plan says nothing about a right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees — descended from those who were expelled from their homes in the 1948 and 1967 wars.

Gun to Their Heads

Don Corleone-style, the Trump administrations appears ready to hold a gun to the head of the Palestinian leaderships to force them to sign up to the deal.

The U.S., the leaked report states, would cut off all money transfers to the Palestinians if they dissent, in an attempt to batter them into submission.

The alleged plan would demand that Hamas and Islamic Jihad disarm, handing their weapons over to Egypt. Should they reject the deal, the report says the U.S. would authorize Israel to “personally harm” the leadership — through extrajudicial assassinations that have long been a mainstay of Israeli policy towards the two groups.

Rather less credibly, the alleged document suggests that the White House is prepared to get tough with Israel too, cutting off U.S. aid if Israel fails to abide by the terms of the agreement.

Given that Israel has regularly broken the Oslo accords – and international law – without paying any serious penalty for doing so, it is easy to imagine that in practice the U.S. would find work-arounds to ensure Israel was not harmed for any violations of the deal.

U.S. Imprimatur

The alleged document has all the hallmarks of being the Trump plan, or at least a recent draft of it, because it sets out in black and white the reality Israel has been crafting for Palestinians over the past two decades.

It simply gives Israel’s mass theft of land and cantonization of the Palestinians an official U.S. imprimatur.

So, if it offers the Israeli right most of what it wants, what interest would Israel Hayom— Netanyahu’s mouthpiece — have in jeopardizing its success by leaking it?

A couple of reasons suggest themselves.

Israel is already achieving all these goals — stealing land, annexing the settlements, cementing its exclusive control over Jerusalem, putting pressure on the Palestinians to move off their land and into neighboring states — without formally declaring that this is its game plan.

It has been making great progress in all its aims without having to admit publicly that statehood for the Palestinians is an illusion. For Netanyahu, the question must be why go public with Israel’s over-arching vision when it can be achieved by stealth.

But even worse for Israel, once the Palestinians and the watching world understand that the current, catastrophic reality for Palestinians is as good as it is going to get, there is likely to be a backlash.

The Palestinian Authority could collapse, the Palestinian populace launch a new uprising, the so-called “Arab street” may be far less accepting of the plan than their rulers or Trump might hope, and solidarity activists in the West, including the boycott movement, would get a massive shot in the arm for their cause.

Equally, it would be impossible for Israel’s apologists to continue denying that Israel is carrying out what the late Israeli academic Baruch Kimmerling called “politicide” — the destruction of the Palestinians’ future, their right to self-determination and their integrity as a single people.

If this is Trump’s version of Middle East peace, he is playing a game of Russian roulette — and Netanyahu may be reluctant to let him pull the trigger.

Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth. He blogs at Jonathan Cook.net. 




‘Turnkey Tyranny’ on the Streets of Washington

We are at the point Edward Snowden described as “turnkey tyranny.”And on Wednesday night the key was turned a bit more dramatically. Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern

Gerry Condon, President of Veterans For Peace, was bloodied and “taken to ground,” on Wednesday night for trying to get food to people inside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington. The activists inside, some of whom have lived in the embassy for weeks with permission from the Venezuelan government, are protecting the premises from protestors who support the self-declared president Juan Guaido.  

With the acquiescence of Washington police and the Secret Service, the protestors have been able to block food from entering the embassy.  On Wednesday night electricity was cut to the building.  One activist tossing a loaf of bread to a window was arrested earlier this week for using a “missile.”  Now Condon has been manhandled and nabbed for throwing a cucumber.

We are at the point Edward Snowden described as “turnkey tyranny.” On Wednesday night the key was turned a bit more dramatically. Until now it has been an almost imperceptibly gradual process, like the proverbial frog in boiling water.

Photo and video of Condon’s arrest (story continues below):

Of course, this has happened before. I quoted these words in this article I wrote for Consortium News on December 27, 2007:

There are few things as odd as the calm, superior indifference with which I and those like me watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theater. … Perhaps the only comparably odd thing is the way that now, years later….”

The words are those of Sebastian Haffner (pen name for Raimund Pretzel), who as a young lawyer in Berlin during the 1930s experienced the Nazi takeover, and wrote a first-hand account. His children found the manuscript when he died in 1999 and published it the following year as “Geschichte eines Deutschen” (The Story of a German).

The book became an immediate bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages—in English as “Defying Hitler.”

I recently learned from his daughter Sarah, an artist in Berlin, that today is the 100th anniversary of Haffner’s birth. She had seen an earlier article in which I quoted her father and e-mailed to ask me to “write some more about the book and the comparison to Bush’s America. … This is almost unbelievable.”

More about Haffner below. Let’s set the stage first by recapping some of what has been going on here in the U.S. that may have resonance for readers familiar with the Nazi ascendancy, noting how “odd” it is that the frontal attack on our Constitutional rights is met with such “calm, superior indifference.”

After suppressing for two and a half years the explosive story of the Bush/Cheney surveillance of Americans in gross violation of the Fourth Amendment, top New York Times officials decided to let the rest of us in on the fact that the George W. Bush administration had been eavesdropping on American citizens without the court warrants required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. Not to mention the U.S. Constitution.

The Times had learned of this well before the election in 2004 and acquiesced to White House entreaties to suppress the damaging information.

In late fall 2005 when Times correspondent James Risen’s book, “State of War: the Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” revealing the warrantless eavesdropping was being printed, Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., recognized that he could procrastinate no longer.

It would simply be too embarrassing to have Risen’s book on the street, with Sulzberger and his associates pretending that this explosive eavesdropping story did not fit Adolph Ochs’s trademark criterion: All The News That’s Fit To Print.

(The Times’ own ombudsman, Public Editor Byron Calame, branded the newspaper’s explanation for the long delay in publishing this story “woefully inadequate.”)

When Sulzberger told his friends in the White House that he could no longer hold off on publishing in the newspaper, he was summoned to the Oval Office for a counseling session with the president on Dec. 5, 2005. Bush tried in vain to talk him out of putting the story in the Times.

The truth would out; part of it, at least.

Unnamed Program

What followed struck me as bizarre. The day after the Dec. 16 Times feature article exposing the Fourth-Amendment-trashing program, the president of the United States publicly admitted to a demonstrably impeachable offense.

Authorizing illegal electronic surveillance was a key provision of the second article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. On July 27, 1974, this and two other articles of impeachment were approved by bipartisan votes in the House Judiciary Committee.

Bush took a frontal approach, Far from expressing regret, he bragged about having authorized the surveillance “more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks,” and said he would continue to do so. The president also said:

Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it.”

On Dec. 19, 2005, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and then-NSA Director Michael Hayden held a press conference to answer questions about the as yet unnamed surveillance program.

Gonzales was asked why the White House decided to flout FISA rather than attempt to amend it, choosing instead a “backdoor approach.”  He answered:

We have had discussions with Congress…as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible.”

It Had to Do With Us

It was not difficult to infer that the surveillance program must have been of such scope and intrusiveness that, even amid highly stoked fear, it didn’t have a prayer for passage.

It turns out we didn’t know the half of it.

Bear in mind that when this illegal surveillance program began, it had nothing to do with terrorism, an issue that did not really appear on the new administration’s radar screen until a week before 9/11. … So this until-recently-unknown pre-9/11 facet of the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” was not related to Osama bin Laden or to whomever he and his associates might be speaking. It had to do with us.

We know that the Democrats briefed on the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, (the one with the longest tenure on the House Intelligence Committee), Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, and former and current chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, D-FL, and Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, respectively.

May one interpret their lack of public comment on the news that the snooping began well before 9/11 as a sign they were co-opted and then sworn to secrecy?

It is an important question. Were the appropriate leaders in Congress informed that within days of George W. Bush’s first inauguration the NSA electronic vacuum cleaner began to suck up information on you and me, despite the FISA law and the Fourth Amendment?

Are they all complicit? And are Democratic leaders about to cave in and grant retroactive immunity to those telecommunications corporations—AT&T and Verizon—which made millions by winking at the law and the Constitution?

(Qwest, to its credit, heeded the advice of its general counsel who said that what NSA wanted done was clearly illegal.)

What’s going on here? [December 2007] Have congressional leaders no sense for what is at stake?

Lately the adjective “spineless” has come into vogue in describing congressional Democrats—no offense to invertebrates.

Nazis and Their Enablers

You don’t have to be a Nazi. You can just be, well, a sheep.

In his journal, Sebastian Haffner decries what he calls the “sheepish submissiveness” with which the German people reacted to a 9/11-like event, the burning of the German Parliament (Reichstag) on Feb. 27, 1933.

Haffner finds it quite telling that none of his acquaintances “saw anything out of the ordinary in the fact that, from then on, one’s telephone would be tapped, one’s letters opened, and one’s desk might be broken into.”

But it is for the cowardly politicians that Haffner reserves his most vehement condemnation. Do you see any contemporary parallels here?

In the elections of March 4, 1933, shortly after the Reichstag fire, the Nazi party garnered only 44 percent of the vote. Only the “cowardly treachery” of the Social Democrats and other parties to whom 56 percent of the German people had entrusted their votes made it possible for the Nazis to seize full power. Haffner adds:

It is in the final analysis only that betrayal that explains the almost inexplicable fact that a great nation, which cannot have consisted entirely of cowards, fell into ignominy without a fight.”

The Social Democratic leaders betrayed their followers—“for the most part decent, unimportant individuals.” In May, the party leaders sang the Nazi anthem; in June the Social Democratic party was dissolved.

The middle-class Catholic party Zentrum folded in less than a month, and in the end supplied the votes necessary for the two-thirds majority that “legalized” Hitler’s dictatorship.

As for the right-wing conservatives and German nationalists: “Oh God,” writes Haffner, “what an infinitely dishonorable and cowardly spectacle their leaders made in 1933 and continued to make afterward. … They went along with everything: the terror, the persecution of Jews. … They were not even bothered when their own party was banned and their own members arrested.”

In sum: “There was not a single example of energetic defense, of courage or principle. There was only panic, flight, and desertion. In March 1933, millions were ready to fight the Nazis. Overnight they found themselves without leaders. … At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed. They yielded and capitulated, and suffered a nervous breakdown. … The result is today the nightmare of the rest of the world.”

This is what can happen when virtually all are intimidated.

Our Founding Fathers were not oblivious to this; thus, James Madison wrote:

I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. … The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”

We cannot say we weren’t warned.

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.