Fear Spreads in Immigrant Communities

President Trump’s roundup of undocumented workers has spread fear though immigrant communities unsure what to expect as federal agents coordinate with local police to hunt people down, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

There is “widespread fear” in the undocumented community, says Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), whose work in the first two months of the Trump administration has focused on keeping people from panicking while informing them of their rights and how to defend themselves if U.S. immigration agents show up at their workplace or home or intercept them on their way to work or while taking their children to school.

Alvarado is often compared to Cesar Chavez in terms of his leadership and organizing power in the undocumented community. NDLON represents tens of thousands of day-laborers. I spoke to Alvarado on March 10.

Dennis Bernstein: Help us put a face on what it looks like now at ground level. What are the discussions like in the community? Give us a sense of how people are responding to this first salvo, or series of salvos from this anti-immigrant administration.

Pablo Alvarado: Yes, well, there is widespread fear. And, because of the aggressiveness nature of the Trump’s immigration policies, the bans, the executive decisions that he’s made. And the fact that ICE agents are going all over the country picking people up. They claim that they were going to go after people who have had previous criminal convictions, and violent criminals. That’s what they said, but it’s not true.

A lot of people who don’t have any convictions have been detained. And some people who have had previous convictions like DUIs, dating 15 – 20 years ago are coming back. These folks don’t represent a threat to public safety, but yet they’re being targeted. They are being separated from their loved ones.

DB: Just to keep the human face on it, in that regard. There was, in fact, a dad who was here 20 – 22 years who was taking, I guess, his kid… he had three or four kids, but he was taking his kid to school, he was separated from his kid, on the way to school?

PA: Correct. It’s one of the cases that our organization is assisting with. Romulo [Avelica-Gozalez] essentially was taking his kids to the school when he was actually followed by ICE agents. Who, by the way, were not wearing their uniform. Their jackets said that they were police. So, anyway, this type of situations is sending a wave of fear in our community. So, oftentimes, people see white vans driving in the neighborhoods and everyone freaks out. And they start posting on social media. “We saw ICE agents, the vans, ICE vans in such and such location.”

And all of us feel this widespread fear. And people are staying inside. So, the good thing is that a lot of allies, immigrants’ rights organizations, churches understand that there is this fear. So there is an effort to suppress that fear, and ensure that whatever notification goes out of ICE presence in the neighborhoods, that it’s real. That it’s not based on the fear.

So, there is no way, absolutely no way, that our community can defend without removing that fear. You cannot fight back when you’re fearful, or when you hate somebody, when you’re angry. So, our defense has to be very rational, and well thought out. And there is no way we can fight back effectively from a perspective of anger, hatred or fear. And that’s why it’s essential that we remove that fear.

DB: Alright, and last we spoke you were beginning to set up structures, networks that people could communicate across states, across the country. And so, really I guess, the way to counteract fear is with knowledge and with an approach that’s methodical. So, how is that going? How is the community organizing? How is that coming together? If it is.

PA: Yeah. Well, let me elaborate more about the fear, the strategy of fear. Because it’s important that Americans understand what this is about. So, it’s important to recognize this small segment of nativism, xenophobes, that are promoting this fear, and, who, by the way, are now in power. Who have the power of the federal government, at their hands. We’re talking about Steven Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Kris Kobach. These are the main advisors of President Trump. And these folks have been the leaders of these efforts to create that fear. Because they have never been interested in fixing the so-called broken immigration system. They’ve never been interested, in that.

What they want to do is bring down the non-white, foreign-born population. It’s been very clear. They know that realistically speaking, logistically speaking they cannot deport 11 – 12 million people. They’re not interested in that. What they want is they want to create so much misery that people will pack their bags, and leave on their own. This is the idea, attrition through enforcement strategy.

And they’ve never forgotten that strategy. And the main proponents of that strategy are now in power. So that’s what it comes from. And obviously creating that fear is not just directed towards immigrants.

So, obviously what they want is they want to create this state of fear so that people do not fight back for their rights, that we give up our rights. And we say “Okay, Mr. Trump we’re going to deport ourselves. Because the circumstances of living in the United States are unbearable. So I’m going to pack my bags and leave on my own.” This has always been their strategy. And that’s precisely what they want to create, the wave of fear through this new enforcement policies that Mr. Trump is implementing aggressively.

They also want to tell localities “If you support immigrants, if you have layers of protection for immigrants, we’re going to take away your funding.” That’s again playing with fear, creating fear. And now he’s telling significant segments of Americans who believe in his facts, his alternative facts, he’s telling them “You have to be fearful of the immigrants because they are dangerous, they are criminals.”

They have created an office, a special office now for victims of undocumented people that kill Americans. So, precisely with that purpose of sending, of creating that fear of immigrants. So, everything is about fear. This man… I mean that’s how fascism operates, creating that fear.

So, in order for us to fight back we need to remove that fear and we need to tap into the power that people have. Remember that immigrants… we are courageous people. We come from places where we have faced dictators, drug cartels, gang members, extreme poverty, political persecution. Then we cross borders, deserts, and some of us rode the train. We’ve crossed deserts, etc., etc. We’re powerful people. We need to tap into that sense of courage to overcome the fear. And the first step towards overcoming that fear is essentially knowing your rights and, more importantly, how to exercise those rights, in different scenarios. And this is precisely the first step that we are taking with the day labor community, and beyond.

We plan to visit – there are 700 day labor corners in this country – we are going to visit them all in the next four years. And everyone, every worker out there will have the information that they need to protect themselves. And the training that they need to talk to other day laborers and begin organizing themselves to defend each other. That’s the first step.

The second is that we’re looking for friends of the day laborers, so if there are some listeners who might live close to a day labor location and they want to volunteer, they want to monitor what happens in that corner and they want to come help day laborers understand, and know their rights, please get in touch with us. Because across the country we are going to be recruiting people that are going to be monitoring the activities that take place at that corner, including hate crimes and incidents. Including violations of wage and hours laws, like wage theft, injuries at the work place, including coming to the corner, or the center, and teaching people about their rights.

So if there are folks who are listening who live nearby a day labor corner, please call us. And we’ll train you on how to approach the workers and train them. We want to make sure that every corner across the country has the basic layers of community protection. There are so many friends of day laborers who will want to participate in these efforts.

DB: I just want you to say a little bit more about the infrastructure of NDLON so people understand what your work has been, since 2002 – 2003, when you became executive director. So, you said there are over 700 corners that you represent. And that’s the way in which you can create a network of pro-active, defense and fight back. Explain the infrastructure a little bit.

PA: Alright. Well, NDLON was established to address issues that workers face every single day when they look for work, either at day laborer corners or day laborer centers. And throughout our work, we believe that setting up places, that are safe and dignified for workers to get together and meet their employers, not only helps workers and employers and communities, but it improves public safety. It improves community relations, so that’s why we’ve built 70 day labor centers across the country. These are places that people go every single day to find a day of work. There is staff in those places, and essentially to make sure that the transactions between employer and worker are clear, and transparent. But there are only 70 of those job centers across the country.

More day laborers are in the streets. And, of course, when you are in the streets you are subjected to many indignities. And NDLON was built to address many of these indignities. But our infrastructure is not enough, because the need is big. That’s why we are recruiting volunteers to join our forces, to join our efforts, to make sure that people’s rights are respected.

So we do have a basic infrastructure, and we do have centers across the country. And these centers will be working together with whomever volunteers to make sure that day laborers are well protected. But, again, we’re also looking for resources.

For example, in order to bring the Know Your Rights training to every corner, we’re going to need a lot of printing and duplications. So, we’re going to be asking folks to donate to make sure that every single day laborer out there knows about his rights and how to exercise them. And at the very least, if there is a basic infrastructure, to at least for people to know what their rights are. So that campaign is on its way. So, if there are folks that want to participate, please get in touch with us.

DB: And, again, there’s some very interesting information coming out of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. You can go to their web site. I want to ask you, have you been in any way monitoring, or just noticing how to evaluate sort of the upsurge in the sense of white people now being freed by these white supremacists, these nationalists in power now, is there an upsurge? Are people being attacked more, being threatened more? How do you read that?

PA: There is. There is more… now that an employer who has stolen workers’ wages is a precedent, of course, you know, other employers who believe the same as Mr. Trump, are going to feel emboldened. And as a consequence are going to hire people and refuse to pay their wages. So there has been an increase in the number of people who are getting hired and not being paid for the work that they performed. So we have that. We have… there’s been a series of incidents of violence against day laborers.

I’ve seen it here in Los Angeles, in five places, of people being harassed, and chased. And one of the workers was actually beaten here in downtown Los Angeles. So, we’ve seen an increase on people passing by at day laborer corners and yelling racial epitaphs to the workers. So, yes, there is this increase and I only expect to see more, unfortunately.

The number of hate crimes in our country has increased, not just against Muslims, and against the Jewish community, but against Mexican and Central American immigrants. And I think the increase in the incidents, the hate crimes and incidents has been proportional to the attacks on Muslims and Jewish communities. And that is something that is happening nation-wide.

And, obviously, one of the things that… part of the campaign that we are implementing right now of adopting a corner and asking for volunteers… it’s insuring that every time someone goes by and screams a racial epitaph at workers, that’s a hate incident. These are not getting reported. and it’s important that we create a data base, and description of these kinds of incidents because unless people speak out, we won’t be able to show America its ugly side. Because people need to see … what’s happening. So part of what volunteers are going to be doing is training workers how to document these types of hate incidents. Where, and how to report them. That’s going to be part of this campaign.

DB: And, I know you’re very busy and you have to go soon. Just two more quick questions. It sort of looks like Trump’s jobs program is like… they are already hiring in Stars and Stripes and all these military magazines to come and get a good job working at the border. Trump has already referred… he was corrected by surrogates, but he’s already referred to what’s going on at the border, the hiring of 10 and then 5,000 more folks, as a military operation. Your thoughts about what’s happening on that front.

PA: Well, you know, people who believe that Trump’s promises, and the total campaign was just electoral politics and rhetoric were, essentially, wrong. Now, is not hypotheticals anymore. People are getting rounded up and ICE is being more aggressive.

ICE has always been a rogue agency, no oversight. They don’t have to follow the same rules of respecting the constitution that police officers are supposed to follow. And, essentially, there’s no oversight. At a given point, ICE even disobeyed the orders of President Obama when he told us “Hey, these are the priorities, that you may want to follow them”… as a matter of fact the ICE union, the border patrol union even filed a lawsuit against President Obama.

So, this is a rogue agency, that’s been beefed up. But it’s been strengthened and there is no doubt in my mind that when President Trump said “I will build a deportation force”… that that’s exactly what he plans to do, so, 5,000 original border patrol agents with no oversight. Imagine the kind of human rights’ crisis that’s going to be caused at the U.S./Mexico border. And internally they’re planning to hire 10,000 additional ICE agents. Meaning that more places… places where people gather would not be safe for migrants, across this country. So, his deportation force is being built up.

Now, in order for him to deport the 2 – 3 million people that he said that he would deport during the first years, he has to enlist local police. So the dilemma that is being presented here is not just for immigrants, it’s also for elected officials, who have to determine how far they’re going to go in terms of collaborating with ICE. And where they’re going to be complicit in the mass deportation policies of this administration. In the near future, our country will be viewing this moment as one of the most shameful period in the history of our country. And localities of police departments will have to give testimonies on which side they stood.

And I think that’s why there are so many elected leaders, both at the local and state level, who are taking a stronger stand against President Trump because they understand what is the right side of history, they understand that participating in this immigration force will be devastating not just to migrant families, but the people that they work for. And it will be devastating for the same concept of public safety. And that percent of people who fear police will not report crimes, when they are victims or witnesses. And this is only detrimental to communities, actually to public safety.

And I think like some police officers understand that. And this is a dilemma that this administration is putting every single police department and every single city council in this country. And local governments have to make the right choice. And they are. A significant number of them are saying “We’re not going to collaborate in the construction of this deportation force. We want to make sure that there’s a bright line between what we do and what the federal agents do.”

So, obviously, this militarization is not just detrimental to migrants, who are going to be persecuted even more, with more officers. But is detrimental to what localities can do, to protect everyone, every resident within their boundaries.

DB: And, just in the final minute that we have. The other side of that dad getting arrested on the way… after 22 years… taking his kids to school, is the family, the mom and her kids being placed in a private prison. There’s now a private prison boom, the private prison industry, they’re all getting ready for a siege in business.

PA: They’re salivating, right now, they’re salivating. They see Mr. Trump, that Mr. Trump is going to be kind of like the oppression that’s going to make their growth possible. And it’s grotesque, when private corporations make money out of the suffering of people. But it doesn’t suppress me because this has been the framework of our adversaries. This is the framework that Trump has brought into the debate.

In order to make America great you need to make some people suffer. And it’s idiotic, because you don’t have to make people suffer. In order to make America great you don’t have to divide people into good and bad immigrants. In order to make America great you don’t have to be a deportation force that is going to undermine what I believe is the heart of this country. Talking about fear… I think that President Trump is fearful of the courage that immigrants demonstrate, every single day.

I strongly believe that the president and his closest advisers are a bunch of scared people. They’re scared of the fact that whether they like it or not this is a country of migrants. And in every generation, migrants have been the beating heart of this country. Migrants live the idea of the American dream with more intensity than anybody else, precisely because of the circumstances of where they come from. And that is what Mr. Trump and his advisers are fearful of, that courage, and the ability to push forward in this country.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.




Embattled Trump Reneges on Health Vow

President Trump promised health insurance for all, but – now dependent on the political protection of House Speaker Paul Ryan – he is supporting a plan that will push millions outside the system, writes Michael Winship.

By Michael Winship

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump still insists he’s going to Make America Great Again! Mind you, it won’t be a healthy or vigorous America — in fact, it will be coughing and wheezing to the grave, but boy, will it be great!

If you ever needed further evidence that Trump doesn’t give a single good goddamn about the people who elected him, just look at his treacherous turnabout on health care. This Republican “repeal and replace” bill stinks on so many levels I’m tempted to say it should be taken far out to sea and dumped into the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench but I have too much regard for marine life, even the kind with the big googly eyes and the really scary teeth.

Remember that Trump was the carnival barker who declared during the campaign, “I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” And right before his inauguration he told The Washington Post, “We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

Then along comes the proposed Republican bill, which over a decade, according to the now-famous report from the Congressional Budget Office, would see 24 million fewer Americans with coverage, doubling the number of uninsured. Trump’s own supporters would take it on the chin for what he tweeted is “our wonderful new health care bill.”

According to John McCormick at Bloomberg News: “Counties that backed him would get less than a third of the relief that would go to counties where Hillary Clinton won. The two individual tax cuts contained in the Republican plan to replace Obamacare apply only to high-earning workers and investors, roughly those with incomes of at least $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples.”

And remember all that nonsense about Obamacare’s “death panels,” a falsehood so rotten to the core it was declared PolitiFact’s 2009 Lie of the Year? Well, this Republican bill actually would kill people. Those older would pay more than the young, it would strip Planned Parenthood of funding and Medicaid programs would be slashed. It would eliminate money for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides epidemiology, immunization and health-screening programs. And there would be no mandate that employers with 50 employees or more provide coverage.

Julia Belluz at Vox reports on:“[V]ery high-quality studies on the impacts of health insurance on mortality, which come to some pretty clear estimates. This research suggests that we would see more than 24,000 extra deaths per year in the US if 20 million people lost their coverage. Again, 20 million is less than the 24 million the CBO thinks will lose insurance by 2026. So the death toll from an Obamacare repeal and replacement could be even higher.”

Ignoring the Needy

Notice that Trump has barely lifted a finger to assist those who need genuine reform that would bring quality care to all, the kind of help he promised as a candidate. Instead, he has directed his energies at helping Speaker Paul Ryan win over right-wing House members by promising to make the bill even crueler to those who need health care the most.

Take a look at this statement issued by tea partier and Alabama Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt after meeting with Trump on Friday, a statement so mind-boggling it’s worth quoting in full:

“President Trump called me to the Oval Office this morning to discuss the American Healthcare Act, because of his understanding that I could not support the current language of the bill. I expressed to the president my concern around the treatment of older, poorer Americans in states like Alabama. I reminded him that he received overwhelming support from Alabama’s voters.

“The president listened to the fact that a 64-year-old person living near the poverty line was going to see their insurance premiums go up from $1,700 to $14,600 per year. The president looked me in the eye and said, ‘These are my people and I will not let them down. We will fix this for them.’

“I also asked the president point blank if this House bill was the one that he supported. He told me he supports it ‘1,000 percent.’ After receiving the president’s word that these concerns will be addressed, I changed my vote to yes.”

Can you believe it? Trump’s behind the bill 1,000 percent, the President claims, but don’t worry, we’ll fix it. It’s hard to decide which of the two men is behaving more hypocritically: Trump saying he won’t let the people down or Aderholt claiming to believe the President actually will keep his word. Each is endorsing a cutthroat scheme that will bring nothing but grief to the people but hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthy and vast profits to the insurance industry.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “The top 400 highest-income taxpayers — whose annual incomes average more than $300 million apiece — each would receive an average annual tax cut of about $7 million, we estimate from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data.”

Andy Slavitt, who was President Obama’s acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told The Washington Post, “This is a massive tax cut for unpopular industries and wealthy individuals. It is about cutting care for lower-income people, seniors, people with disabilities and kids to pay for the tax cut.”

This is, in the words of Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, “a dumpster fire of a bill that was written on the back of a napkin behind closed doors because Republicans know this is a disaster.” But thanks to ineptitude and an inchoate, ill-planned rush to pass the legislation, it looks as if the current Republican bill may be on its way to failure, if not in the House then in the Senate.

Lucky us — for now. But if the GOP and Trump White House do manage to force on us anything short of what’s really needed – single-payer, universal health care — we’re doomed to live in a nation the motto of which may no longer be “In God We Trust” but instead, “Die young and leave a good-looking corpse.”

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship. [This article first appeared at http://billmoyers.com/story/trump-gop-prescription-america-dont-get-sick/]




Letting Russia Be Russia

Political philosophers stressing Traditionalist values have influenced the thinking of Presidents Putin and Trump, but that may offer a path for Russia and the U.S. to coexist, explains ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

By Alastair Crooke

Many in the West have purported to find Candidate, and now President, Trump’s insistence that détente with Russia is a “good thing” to be troubling. Some suggest that the President’s insistence on this is somehow sinister – worse even than troubling. But perhaps Trump and his chief strategist Steve Bannon’s sense that détente may be possible is not so much “sinister,” but has more to do paradoxically with a particular coincidence – a confluence of intellectual thinking, a confluence that has been taking shape, almost unnoticed over recent years, but which nonetheless is becoming more significant, and which posits a profound foreign policy potential.

Much has been read (most of it hostile) into Steve Bannon’s comment, via the internet, at a 2014 Vatican conference, during which he said that many of Vladimir Putin’s views were underpinned by eurasianism: “He’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century, who are really the supporters of what’s called the Traditionalist Movement … We, the Judeo-Christian West,” continued Bannon, “really have to look at what [Putin]’s talking about as far as Traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism.”

Here lies one immediate problem. It is presumed in the Western media, that the unnamed Putin adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola is Professor Alexander Dugin. And here, precisely is the first difficulty: both philosophers have a rare quality of intellectual brilliance, a command of the literature that is encyclopedic, but they are radical – radical way beyond, and at odds with, today’s secular, and uniform tastes. Indeed, even today in Italy, it is best to read Julius Evola, a prolific Italian philosopher and writer, with some discretion, or at least to hold such a book within nondescript, concealing covers, if one is to avoid hostile glares, or even physical abuse.

And the second difficulty? Alexander Dugin has been described as Putin’s “Rasputin” – a “mad mystic.” And Julius Evola was charged in 1951, with others, with the crime of promoting the Fascist Party, and of promoting ideas proper to fascism. Both philosophers, in short, are controversial and have proved hugely vulnerable to sometimes quite wild misrepresentations. Evola was acquitted on both charges of promoting fascism (though he is popularly still viewed as linked to post-war Italian neo-fascism), and Dugin, from 1998 to 2003, was a geopolitics counselor of the Duma’s Chairman (Gennadiy Selezyov) – but was not adviser to Vladimir Putin.

In fact, as Professor Bertonneau has written: “Evola condemns with equal fervour Muscovite communism and American money-democracy, as representing, the both of them, the mechanization and dehumanization of life. Unlike the Marxists – and unlike the Fascists and National Socialists – Evola saw the only hope for Western Civilization as lying in a revival of what he liked to capitalize, on the one hand, as Tradition and, on the other, as transcendence [personal transformation]; he thus rejected all materialism and instrumentalism as crude reductions of reality for coarse minds and, so too, as symptoms of a prevailing and altogether repugnant decadence.”

Delicate Ground

So why raise these controversial figures? Particularly, as in raising them we tread delicate ground. Well, it is because of that interesting coincidence to which we earlier alluded. Here is one aspect, as Professor Dugin himself notes:

“Julius Evola’s works were discovered in the 1960s [in Russia] by the very esoteric group of anti-communist intellectual thinkers known as ‘the Dissidents of the Right’. They were a small circle of people who had conscientiously refused to participate in the ‘cultural life’ of the USSR, and who had instead chosen an underground existence for themselves. The disparity between the presented Soviet culture and the actual Soviet reality was almost entirely what made them seek out the fundamental principles that could explain the origins of that evil, absolutist idea. It was through their refusal of communism that they discovered certain works by anti-modernist and traditionalist authors: above all, the books by René Guénon, and by Julius Evola.”

And, in America: “Sometime around the year 2000, the work of Julius Evola reached [the American] public consciousness, and thanks to writers like Bill White, Radical Traditionalism entered the [American] right-wing lexicon. This is a philosophy more than a political view, but fits neatly into the New Right idea that culture must be the generative actor for change which will manifest in politics and other areas … It is concerned with two fronts: first, arresting the decline of the West by crushing the Left by any means necessary; and second, a zeal for restoring the greatness of Western Civilization at its height, and [even] surpassing it.”

And here lies the third “difficulty” (or perhaps not a difficulty, but its particular merit, in the eyes of many): in a secular, liberal age, Evola’s philosophy is anti-modernist, anti-secularist and anti-Liberal. It harks back to philosophia perennis, and in American terms, to Aldous Huxley’s definitions of Perennial Philosophy. (In France, the Nouvelle Droite has a different, but parallel, ontological basis, i.e. with such as Alain de Benoist). More confusingly, though it is called Traditionalism, it is really a traditionalism that has no defined tradition.

Of course, this is not to suggest that Julius Evola was the only writer in this radical traditionalist vein. There was René Guenon, Frithjof Schuon, and many others. But, as the New York Times acknowledges (in a typically hostile piece): “More important for the current American administration, Evola also caught on in the United States with leaders of the alt-right movement, which Mr. Bannon nurtured as the head of Breitbart News, and then helped harness for Mr. Trump. ‘Julius Evola is one of the most fascinating men of the 20th century’, said Richard Spencer, the white nationalist leader, who is a top figure in the alt-right movement.”

Just to be clear, that the widely-read Steve Bannon made mention of Evola does not, of course, make him an Evolista. And nor does Putin’s embrace of Eurasianism, make him a Duginista. “But,” as the Times quotes one specialist, “the fact that Bannon even knows Evola is significant.”

Radical Traditionalists  

In fact, what we seem to be witnessing is that just as the Russian philosopher, Dugin, draws on Radical Traditionalist thinking and then tries to apply it to the Russian situation, so too, the Alt-Right in the U.S. seems to be doing something similar: drawing on Evola and other Traditionalist sources, while distilling their ideas into an American cultural perspective (linking back to Huxley and Edmund Burke).

In this respect, Trump and Bannon may indeed find much in common with Mr. Putin (though it would be a mistake, I believe, to read the Russian President through the prism of Professor Dugin). Where there is common ground between the latter (Putin and Dugin) is the sense that the West has never made a satisfactory attempt to try to understand Russia as distinct, and of worth, in its own right.

So the West has always tried to change Russia into something that it isn’t – has always tried to make it more like the West: more liberal, more democratic, more “diversity”- orientated – always assuming that that’s how it somehow has to be, and is the best way for it to “be.” But Russia is a thousand-year civilization; it has its own religious sites and its own particular civilizational code. Russia’s leaders do not want to let the West dictate to it how to interpret Russia’s history, or its present – and, certainly not its future.

Dugin unquestionably does share Evola’s unyielding disdain for liberalism, liberal modernity and liberal democracy. And moreover, he also intensely dislikes how the West tries to force this liberalism upon others – in ugly ways – as an “universal value.” This attitude has led him to be cast as fiercely anti-American and a Russian imperialist to boot, who yearns to re-establish the Soviet Empire.

It is possibly Dugin’s polemical video In Trump We Trust  that contributed to the (unwarranted) U.S. inference that President Putin too, favored Trump in the U.S. Presidential election. To read Putin in this way, would be wrong. He likely does have empathy for the Traditionalist leaning toward differentiation (national as well as personal, in the Evola sense of becoming: of becoming oneself, of a return to origins). President Putin frequently makes this very point about Russia having its own essential essence and having, too, every right to that differentiation and cultural particular (as do other nation-states).

Evola does refer to Empire, but this has to be understood in a very different way from our contemporary understanding. And Dugin reflects this explicitly:

“One particular layer of Evola’s thoughts is felt by the Russians to be of imminent and extreme importance: his praise for the Imperial Ideal. Rome represents the focal point of Evola’s worldview. This sacred living power which had manifested itself all across the Empire was to Evola the very essence of the West’s traditional heritage … But a similar line of thought is seemingly naturally felt by the Russians, whose historical destiny has always been profoundly tied to that of Imperium … [that is to say], Moscow as the ‘Third Rome’: It should be noted that the ‘First Rome’ in this cyclic orthodox interpretation, was not Christian Rome, but rather Imperial Rome, because the Second Rome (or the ‘New Rome’) was Constantinople, the capital of the Christian Empire.

“Thus the idea of ‘Rome’ held by the Orthodox Russians corresponds to the understanding of … the inseparable ‘symphony’ between the spiritual authority and the temporal realm. For traditional orthodoxy, the catholic separation between the King and the Pope is simply unimaginable and close to blasphemy; and this very concept is actually called the ‘Latin heresy.’ Again, one can see the perfect convergence between Evola’s dogma and the commonplace mindset of Russian conservative thought.”

In his book on Evola, Paul Furlong describes it thus: “Evola sees nationalism as, in essence, the offspring of liberalism, modernity and bourgeois subversion, which announced the arrival of the fourth state that destroyed the traditional order of empire. Within the empire, nations find a just hierarchical order; [whereas] outside of it, they are mere tools of chauvinistic nationalisms, and of regimes interested only in material conquest in the name of contingent realities such as fatherlands.”

Misreading Philosophy

It is not hard to see how Dugin might be misread (and therefore perhaps project a false reading on to President Putin of Imperial revanchism rather than, as Dugin intends, of the hoped-for co-joining of the spiritual with the secular). This, despite President Putin having been at some pains to distance his own notion of eurasianism (communal psychology and a single geo-geographic and civilizational unity as a firm basis for state solidarity) from the more (literal) nationalist currents in Russia today.

The point here is that Dugin’s (and Evola’s) thinking is novel, and can give rise to wrong assumptions about what some Russian philosophers mean when they talk about “Empire” — a terminology which is translated in the West to imply Russia as being a potential “aggressor.”

But, if we turn to Steve Bannon and his 2010 film Generation Zero, which narrates America’s decline into crisis, it is not hard to detect some Evola resonances – albeit ones tailored to the distinct American cultural code:

Firstly, there is the idea of virile America (as it used to be) as the traditional, just, order of American society – a sort of “New Imperial Rome” perhaps, rather than a “New Jerusalem.”

Secondly, Bannon – like Evola – traces the beginning of the American slide towards decadence to the narcissistic, self-indulgent 1960s (to the Woodstock era, in Bannon’s narrative). Ditto for Europe, in Evola’s view.

Thirdly, Bannon – like Evola – disdains the undifferentiated, materialist and uniform bureaucratic modernity, to which this decadence has given rise. Evola admires ancient and historical societies for the virility of their structures – and not as tools of power (or of chauvinistic nationalism).

Fourthly, Bannon – like Evola – extols the symphony between the spiritual (Judeo Christian) and temporal authority.

Fifth, both see history as cyclical: the fourth turning in Bannon’s narrative versus the fourth stage in Evola’s.

Sixth, both believe that if you are a traditionalist, you must challenge “decadence” by all means.

I do not know whether Bannon or Trump have read Evola, but his sprit, and that of other Radical Traditionalists, has certainly permeated the thinking of the Alt-Right circles in which both men have been moving.

The important point here, is not to draw out all the parallels in order to assert a literary lineage. That does not matter. But rather, to point to something far more substantive: their foreign policy implications. The concinnity of thinking – albeit one refined through different cultural optics – is there.

Trump and Putin do indeed have something in common. If both parties – as it seems they do – concur that differentiated, individuated (but not individualist) states, are legitimate and appropriate to their separate and particular, cultural codes – what then, is there to fight about?

If America and the West now can disavow the need to remake Russia in the Western, diversity-centric, individualist, liberal-democratic image, and agree to accept Russia simply for what it, and its culture, “is,” then this would amount to a shift in Western policy of tectonic import. It would indeed be paradoxical if a figure, such as Evola, somehow might have contributed to such an event.

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.




Why Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ Lost in Court

By overtly targeting Muslims with a travel ban, President Trump put himself at odds with U.S. treaties and other legal agreements, ensuring his latest legal setback in federal court, writes legal scholar Marjorie Cohn for JURIST.

By Marjorie Cohn

After a federal district court judge and a unanimous three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Donald Trump’s Executive Order (EO) instituting a travel ban was likely illegal, the president suspended it and issued a new EO on March 6.

On March 15, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order in Hawaii v. Trump et al., halting the operation of the new EO nationwide. U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson found that plaintiffs met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim, that irreparable injury is likely if the requested relief is not issued, and that the balance of the equities and public interest counsel in favor of granting the requested relief.

When the case is heard on the merits, the legality of the new EO, which categorically suspends immigration from six Muslim majority countries to the United States, should be assessed in light of U.S. treaty and customary international law, according to an amicus brief filed in the case.

Eighty-one international law scholars, including this writer, and a dozen non-governmental organizations with expertise in civil rights law, immigration law or international human rights law (amici) argue in their amicus brief that the new EO threatens discrimination that would run afoul of two treaties. They are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

When the United States ratifies a treaty, it not only makes the U.S. a party to that treaty; it also becomes U.S. domestic law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says treaties “shall be the supreme law of the land.” Courts have a duty to restrain federal executive action that conflicts with a ratified treaty.

Customary international law develops from the general and consistent practice of states. It is part of federal common law and must be enforced in U.S. courts, whether or not its provisions are contained in a ratified treaty.

Under the Constitution’s Take Care Clause, the President must “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” This means Trump has a constitutional duty to comply with our legal obligations under both treaty and customary international law.

[T]he Immigration and Nationality Act and other statutes must be read in harmony with these international legal obligations pursuant to the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution and long established principles of statutory construction requiring acts of Congress to be interpreted in a manner consistent with international law, whenever such a construction is reasonably possible,” amici argue. “In this case, the international law obligations . . . reinforce interpretations of those statutes forbidding discrimination of the type threatened by Sections 2 and 11 of the EO.”

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The United States ratified the CCPR in 1992. Article 2 prohibits “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference” based on religion or national origin, which has “the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing,” according to the United Nation Human Rights Committee (HRC), the body charged with monitoring implementation of the CCPR.

Article 2 prohibits discrimination against the family as well as individuals. “The family is the natural and fundamental group of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State,” Article 23 says. The HRC has opined that states have an obligation to adopt appropriate measures “to ensure the unity or reunification of families, particularly when their members are separated for political, economic and similar reasons.”

Many immigrants and refugees flee their countries of origin and come to the United States to reunify with their families. The CCPR protects them against discrimination based on religion or national origin.

Amici state in their brief, “Restrictions on travel and entry caused by the EO that impose disparate and unreasonable burdens on the exercise of this right violate CCPR article 2.” According to the HRC, although the CCPR does not generally “recognize a right of aliens to enter or reside in the territory of a State party . . . , in certain circumstances an alien may enjoy the protection of the Covenant even in relation to entry or residence, for example, when considerations of non-discrimination, prohibition of inhuman treatment and respect for family life arise.”

Thus the non-discrimination mandates and protection of family life in the CCPR “should be considered by courts in interpreting government measures affecting family unification,” the brief says.

Article 26 prohibits religious and national origin discrimination and guarantees equal protection in any government measure. These provisions are not limited to individuals within the territory of the state party and subject to its jurisdiction. So immigrants need not be physically present in the United States to enjoy the protection of Article 26.

Moreover, the non-discrimination requirements enshrined in the CCPR also constitute customary international law. In 1948, the United States approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which is part of customary international law. The UDHR forbids discrimination based on religion or national origin, guarantees equal protection of the law, and protects family life against arbitrary interference.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

The United States ratified CERD in 1994. That treaty also prohibits discrimination based on religion or national origin. “Racial discrimination” includes any distinctions and restrictions based on national origin. Article 1 specifies that states can only adopt “nationality, citizenship or naturalization” policies that “do not discriminate against any particular nationality.”

Like the CCPR, CERD does not limit its non-discrimination provisions to citizens or resident noncitizens. “While CERD does not speak specifically to restrictions on entry of nonresident aliens,” the brief says, “the general language of CERD expresses a clear intention to eliminate discrimination based on race or national origin from all areas of government activity.”

In Article 4, CERD provides that states parties “[s]hall not permit public authorities or public institutions, national or local, to promote or incite racial discrimination.” This includes discrimination based on national origin. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the body of independent experts that monitor the implementation of CERD, interprets Article 4 as requiring states to forbid speech that stigmatizes or stereotypes noncitizens, immigrants, refugees and those seeking asylum.

International Law Should be Considered in Evaluating the EO

“Those international law principles require courts to reject any attempt by the President to define classes based on national origin or religion, and then to impose on those classes disparate treatment, except to the extent necessary to achieve a legitimate government purpose,” amici wrote.

Their brief continues, “The EO … makes an explicit distinction based on national origin that, unless necessary and narrowly tailored to achieve a legitimate government aim, would violate US obligations under international law.”

In effect, the EO makes a distinction based on religion. All six of the listed countries have majority Muslim populations. As the brief says, “the EO does not suspend immigration from any state with a non-Muslim majority.”

Amici also argue that international law is relevant to Section 11 of the EO, which requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to “collect and make publicly available” information relating to convictions of terrorism-related crimes, government charges of terrorism, and “gender-based violence against women” by foreign nationals. But the EO does not require publication of this information on U.S. citizens.

“By mandating that the Secretary publish pejorative information about noncitizens without comparable information about US citizens,” amici wrote, “Section 11 makes a suspect distinction based on national origin.”

Section 11 “may bear on the intent to discriminate, because the decision to publish derogatory information about noncitizens alone is stigmatizing, and appears to be motivated by a desire to characterize noncitizens as more prone to terrorism or gender-based violence than US citizens.” Moreover, “a measure designed to stigmatize noncitizens cannot be proportionate and thus violates article 26 of the CCPR and articles 2 and 4 of the CERD.”

Thus, amici “request that the Court consider US obligations under international law, which forms part of US law, in evaluating the legality of the EO.”

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website at http://marjoriecohn.com/ and follow her on Twitter @MarjorieCohn. [This article first appeared at the Jurist, JURIST http://www.jurist.org/forum/2017/03/marjorie-cohn-international-law.php]




Contrasting Tales of Two Besieged Cities

The U.S.-backed offensive to retake Iraq’s Mosul from the Islamic State is inflicting hardships on civilians, but the Western media treats this humanitarian crisis differently than the recent one in Aleppo, Syria, notes Steven Chovanec.

By Steven Chovanec

During the Syrian army’s offensive to retake the eastern part of Aleppo from the insurgent opposition, the Western media portrayed the assault as if Russia and Syria were carrying out a campaign primarily aimed at killing and harming civilians. The humanitarian crisis dominated headlines while key facts, such as Al Qaeda’s domination of the opposition forces and the way in which the militants had brutally conquered the city’s civilians, were marginalized or not reported at all.

A similar military offensive being carried out by the U.S. and its allies in the Iraqi city of Mosul reveals the hypocritical nature of Western news outlets, which portray their own countries’ actions as targeting only Islamic State terrorists and scrupulously avoiding harm to civilians.

There is no doubt that the siege in eastern Aleppo resulted in a humanitarian crisis for the civilian population trapped within the warzone. As the Washington Institute’s Fabrice Balanche described: “What the United Nations is describing [about] the humanitarian situation is correct: hospitals destroyed, people living in shelters, women and children trapped in the rubble, and so on.”

Yet in reality the destruction waged upon Aleppo was hardly different from what is now being done in Mosul as the U.S.-led coalition carries out a similar campaign of counterinsurgency and siege warfare.

Currently the Iraqi army, backed by U.S. airstrikes, is conducting a violent and brutal assault on the western parts of Mosul city in order to drive out the Islamic State. A whole population of civilians is trapped within an ongoing warzone and cut off from food supplies and basic necessities as the military offensive hits heavily populated areas killing civilians while destroying important infrastructure in the process, including hospitals.

Yet, while Western officials and media pundits vehemently condemned the Syrian assault on Aleppo, they are largely silent — or congratulatory and supportive — as the U.S. and its partners lay waste to the more heavily populated city of Mosul.

A senior Iraqi politician told veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn that “the Iraqi armed forces will eventually capture west Mosul … but the city itself will be destroyed in the fighting,” pointing to the massive destruction already inflicted upon eastern Mosul which was recently captured by the U.S.-backed forces.

So, even though the current U.S.-led siege has resulted in a larger humanitarian crisis in purely quantitative terms, the outcry over it is largely nonexistent. The trauma is reported on, but selectively, while the full extent of the civilian catastrophe is hidden from view.

For instance, The New York Times dedicated only two major stories to the offensive this month, yet flooded its pages with heartrending stories during the siege of Aleppo. In addition, coalition actions in Mosul that result in civilian casualties, like the destruction of hospital complexes, are depicted as justified or unintentional, compared to the portrayal of Syrian and Russian strikes in east Aleppo as intentional war crimes when similar complexes were hit or civilians killed.

Similarly, justifications for civilian suffering — scoffed at and ridiculed when made by Russia and Syria — are used without irony or shame to defend U.S. actions. Whereas the West’s media treated civilians in Aleppo as the targeted victims of the Russian-Syrian attacks, civilians in Mosul are described as “human shield” victims of Islamic State terrorists who also hoard food supplies and prevent civilians from escaping.

This is not to say that these accusations against the Islamic State are false, but similar Russian-Syrian claims against the Al Qaeda-dominated rebels in east Aleppo were brushed aside as lies and propaganda.

A Dire Situation

Without doubt, the conditions on the ground in ISIS-held western Mosul are dire. Aid groups warn that the situation has been deteriorating rapidly following a U.S.-backed coalition airstrike that destroyed the last remaining bridge leading out of the city, trapping the population and preventing supplies from entering. The coalition justified the attack as necessary to cut off ISIS from supply lines, but that also had drastic humanitarian implications.

“Humanitarian conditions in the west of the city are deteriorating after supply routes were cut off in November when the east of the city was recaptured,” Oxfam reported. “An estimated 750,000 people are trapped in western Mosul without any safe means of escape from the latest military offensive.”

The result is that “up to 750,000 people in western Mosul city are estimated to remain largely inaccessible to humanitarians,” the U.N. warned, while “serious concerns remain for the protection of civilians in the west of the city, where food, water, medicine and fuel are running low.”

Patrick Cockburn, one of the few honest Western journalists reporting on the region, noted that “already shelling and airstrikes are causing heavy casualties among families sheltering in cellars or beneath the stairs in their houses.”

Writing for Middle East Eye, Nafeez Ahmed quoted Ross Caputi, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War, describing “horror stories about civilian casualties coming out of Mosul. An aid worker friend of mine was trying to recruit volunteer doctors to work in a surgical unit in Erbil, where many of the more serious cases were being redirected. She told me that the situation is worse than it’s being portrayed in the media.”

Even more startling is evidence that the first week of March was characterized by a severe rise in civilian deaths as a result of U.S.-coalition actions, at the same time when major news outlets had drastically reduced coverage on the topic.

“The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State may have killed hundreds of civilians” in the first week of March alone, according to open source data compiled by Airwars, which estimates that “between 250 and 370 civilians have been killed” since March 1. Nafeez Ahmed explained this is “exponentially higher than the US count of just 21 civilian deaths from bombing since November 2016.”

Yet, instead of highlighting the humanitarian crisis and placing blame on U.S. and Iraqi forces for the misery, the Western media has portrayed the operation as assiduously avoiding harm to civilians. For example, the coalition strike severing the bridge was described as a victory against ISIS, while the humanitarian implications were downplayed or ignored.

One report described the destruction of the bridge as “a historic setback for the Islamic State as the terror group loses its grip on its Iraqi hub of Mosul,” with no mention of the harm to civilians. Another stated “American-led airstrikes damaged all five bridges last year in a bid to isolate the militants in Mosul.”

At least one of the ruined bridges was captured recently by Iraqi government forces. But U.S. Air Force Col. (and spokesman for the coalition) John Dorrian made it clear that bridges would be fully repaired “only after defeating ISIS,” choosing to intensify the humanitarian crisis by continuing a debilitating siege on the almost one million residents who are trapped.

Perhaps the destruction of bridges and siege warfare are warranted to isolate and defeat the Islamic State, yet when main news outlets deliberately hide the humanitarian implications of such actions and portray them merely as military victories without connection to the human suffering, they are engaged in manipulation of public perceptions which mobilizes support for state actions rather than objectively informing public opinion of the reality of the situation.

Stephen Gowanz summed up the nature of this media bias: “the United States and its allies have been practicing siege warfare in the Levant and beyond for years, and continue to do so. It’s just that US-led siege warfare has been concealed behind anodyne, even heroic, labels, while the siege warfare of countries Washington is hostile to, is abominated by Western state officials crying crocodile tears.”

Manufactured Consent

The reason for this hypocrisy is that the primary function of mass media in “free societies” is to serve as a system of propaganda. Under this “propaganda model” view of the media, one would expect Western coverage of the Mosul crisis to take for granted that the U.S. is carrying out its efforts in the service of benevolent ideals, with the goal of defending civilians from aggression and terrorism while making painstaking efforts to limit casualties.

On the other hand, in the Aleppo case, one would expect Western media to act in the opposite fashion, taking for granted that civilian lives are treated with contempt and that motives are inherently suspicious or malevolent, while context and rational understanding of actions are marginalized or disregarded altogether.

When comparing coverage of these two stories, we see that this is exactly what you find, namely indignation directed at “enemy” military operations over civilian suffering and sympathy for U.S. and allied military assaults with the civilian casualties downplayed or rationalized.

Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky explain in their extensive study on media propaganda, Manufacturing Consent, that “while this differential treatment occurs on a large scale, the media, intellectuals, and public are able to remain unconscious of the fact and maintain a high moral and self-righteous tone. This is evidence of an extremely effective propaganda system.”

The question is how does this occur when the news media is not openly controlled by a state bureaucracy as in a totalitarian system but nonetheless achieves similar outcomes. An institutional analysis reveals that there exist various factors inherit within the structure of the media which essentially serve as a filter which sifts out inconvenient facts while propagating other information that is in accordance with the interests of the institution.

The basic structure of Western media is that the outlets themselves are powerful corporations with a profit-making goal. The product that they are selling are audiences, mostly wealthier and privileged people, as consumers of advertisements paid for by other major corporations. Given this reality, it’s not surprising that the news product reflects a worldview that is in alignment with corporate interests and prejudices, such as the military defense contractors and the military itself whose ads line the pages of major Western journals and consume significant ad time on TV.

It is in the interests of these pro-military entities for audiences to get a positive image of the U.S. military while creating an adverse image for foreign villains who can be collectively despised. It’s also understood that American audiences want to feel good about what the U.S. military is doing abroad, rather than being challenged with unpleasant truths.

Herman and Chomsky explain that this phenomenon of slanted reporting “is normally not accomplished by crude intervention, but by the selection of right-thinking personnel and by the editors’ and working journalists’ internalization of priorities and definitions of news-worthiness that conform to the institutions policy.”

The result is an extremely skewed media picture, which is determined by which side of the geopolitical struggle certain actions occur. In the cases of Mosul and Aleppo, the similarities of the tragedies that have devastated the two cities serve to further highlight the very dissimilar way in which the two stories have been reported.

Steven Chovanec is an independent geopolitical analyst and writer based in Chicago, IL.  He has a bachelors in International Relations and Sociology at Roosevelt University and conducts independent, open-source research into geopolitics and social issues.  His writings can be found at undergroundreports.blogspot.com, find him on Twitter @stevechovanec.




The Kagans Are Back; Wars to Follow

Exclusive: The neocon royalty Kagans are counting on Democrats and liberals to be the foot soldiers in the new neocon campaign to push Republicans and President Trump into more “regime change” wars, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The Kagan family, America’s neoconservative aristocracy, has reemerged having recovered from the letdown over not gaining its expected influence from the election of Hillary Clinton and from its loss of official power at the start of the Trump presidency.

Back pontificating on prominent op-ed pages, the Family Kagan now is pushing for an expanded U.S. military invasion of Syria and baiting Republicans for not joining more enthusiastically in the anti-Russian witch hunt over Moscow’s alleged help in electing Donald Trump.

In a Washington Post op-ed on March 7, Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century and a key architect of the Iraq War, jabbed at Republicans for serving as “Russia’s accomplices after the fact” by not investigating more aggressively.

Then, Frederick Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project at the neocon American Enterprise Institute, and his wife, Kimberly Kagan, president of her own think tank, Institute for the Study of War, touted the idea of a bigger U.S. invasion of Syria in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on March 15.

Yet, as much standing as the Kagans retain in Official Washington’s world of think tanks and op-ed placements, they remain mostly outside the new Trump-era power centers looking in, although they seem to have detected a door being forced open.

Still, a year ago, their prospects looked much brighter. They could pick from a large field of neocon-oriented Republican presidential contenders or – like Robert Kagan – they could support the establishment Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, whose “liberal interventionism” matched closely with neoconservatism, differing only slightly in the rationalizations used for justifying wars and more wars.

There was also hope that a President Hillary Clinton would recognize how sympatico the liberal hawks and the neocons were by promoting Robert Kagan’s neocon wife, Victoria Nuland, from Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs to Secretary of State.

Then, there would have been a powerful momentum for both increasing the U.S. military intervention in Syria and escalating the New Cold War with Russia, putting “regime change” back on the agenda for those two countries. So, early last year, the possibilities seemed endless for the Family Kagan to flex their muscles and make lots of money.

A Family Business

As I noted two years ago in an article entitled “A Family Business of Perpetual War”: “Neoconservative pundit Robert Kagan and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, run a remarkable family business: she has sparked a hot war in Ukraine and helped launch Cold War II with Russia and he steps in to demand that Congress jack up military spending so America can meet these new security threats.

“This extraordinary husband-and-wife duo makes quite a one-two punch for the Military-Industrial Complex, an inside-outside team that creates the need for more military spending, applies political pressure to ensure higher appropriations, and watches as thankful weapons manufacturers lavish grants on like-minded hawkish Washington think tanks.

“Not only does the broader community of neoconservatives stand to benefit but so do other members of the Kagan clan, including Robert’s brother Frederick at the American Enterprise Institute and his wife Kimberly, who runs her own shop called the Institute for the Study of War.”

But things didn’t quite turn out as the Kagans had drawn them up. The neocon Republicans stumbled through the GOP primaries losing out to Donald Trump and then – after Hillary Clinton muscled aside Sen. Bernie Sanders to claim the Democratic nomination – she fumbled away the general election to Trump.

After his surprising victory, Trump – for all his many shortcomings – recognized that the neocons were not his friends and mostly left them out in the cold. Nuland not only lost her politically appointed job as Assistant Secretary but resigned from the Foreign Service, too.

With Trump in the White House, Official Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment was down but far from out. The neocons were tossed a lifeline by Democrats and liberals who detested Trump so much that they were happy to pick up Nuland’s fallen banner of the New Cold War with Russia. As part of a dubious scheme to drive Trump from office, Democrats and liberals hyped evidence-free allegations that Russia had colluded with Trump’s team to rig the U.S. election.

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman spoke for many of this group when he compared Russia’s alleged “meddling” to Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor and Al Qaeda’s 9/11 terror attacks.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, Friedman demanded that the Russia hacking allegations be treated as a casus belli: “That was a 9/11 scale event. They attacked the core of our democracy. That was a Pearl Harbor scale event.” Both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 led to wars.

So, with many liberals blinded by their hatred of Trump, the path was open for neocons to reassert themselves.

Baiting Republicans

Robert Kagan took to the high-profile op-ed page of The Washington Post to bait key Republicans, such as Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who was pictured above the Post article and its headline, “Running interference for Russia.”

Kagan wrote: “It would have been impossible to imagine a year ago that the Republican Party’s leaders would be effectively serving as enablers of Russian interference in this country’s political system. Yet, astonishingly, that is the role the Republican Party is playing.”

Kagan then reprised Official Washington’s groupthink that accepted without skepticism the claims from President Obama’s outgoing intelligence chiefs that Russia had “hacked” Democratic emails and released them via WikiLeaks to embarrass the Clinton campaign.

Though Obama’s intelligence officials offered no verifiable evidence to support the claims – and WikiLeaks denied getting the two batches of emails from the Russians – the allegations were widely accepted across Official Washington as grounds for discrediting Trump and possibly seeking his removal from office.

Ignoring the political conflict of interest for Obama’s appointees, Kagan judged that “given the significance of this particular finding [about Russian meddling], the evidence must be compelling” and justified “a serious, wide-ranging and open investigation.”

But Kagan also must have recognized the potential for the neocons to claw their way back to power behind the smokescreen of a New Cold War with Russia.

He declared: “The most important question concerns Russia’s ability to manipulate U.S. elections. That is not a political issue. It is a national security issue. If the Russian government did interfere in the United States’ electoral processes last year, then it has the capacity to do so in every election going forward. This is a powerful and dangerous weapon, more than warships or tanks or bombers.

“Neither Russia nor any potential adversary has the power to damage the U.S. political system with weapons of war. But by creating doubts about the validity, integrity and reliability of U.S. elections, it can shake that system to its foundations.”

A Different Reality

As alarmist as Kagan’s op-ed was, the reality was far different. Even if the Russians did hack the Democratic emails and somehow slipped the information to WikiLeaks – an unsubstantiated and disputed contention – those two rounds of email disclosures were not that significant to the election’s outcome.

Hillary Clinton blamed her surprise defeat on FBI Director James Comey briefly reopening the investigation into her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State.

Further, by all accounts, the WikiLeaks-released emails were real and revealed wrongdoing by leading Democrats, such as the Democratic National Committee’s tilting of the primaries against Sen. Bernie Sanders and in favor of Clinton. The emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta disclosed the contents of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street, which she was trying to hide from voters, as well as some pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

In other words, the WikiLeaks’ releases helped inform American voters about abuses to the U.S. democratic process. The emails were not “disinformation” or “fake news.” They were real news.

A similar disclosure occurred both before the election and this week when someone leaked details about Trump’s tax returns, which are protected by law. However, except for the Trump camp, almost no one thought that this illegal act of releasing a citizen’s tax returns was somehow a threat to American democracy.

The general feeling was that Americans have a right to know such details about someone seeking the White House. I agree, but doesn’t it equally follow that we had a right to know about the DNC abusing its power to grease the skids for Clinton’s nomination, about the contents of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street bankers, and about foreign governments seeking pay-to-play influence by contributing to the Clinton Foundation?

Yet, because Obama’s political appointees in the U.S. intelligence community “assess” that Russia was the source of the WikiLeaks emails, the assault on U.S. democracy is a reason for World War III.

More Loose Talk

But Kagan was not satisfied with unsubstantiated accusations regarding Russia undermining U.S. democracy. He asserted as “fact” – although again without presenting evidence – that Russia is “interfering in the coming elections in France and Germany, and it has already interfered in Italy’s recent referendum and in numerous other elections across Europe. Russia is deploying this weapon against as many democracies as it can to sap public confidence in democratic institutions.”

There’s been a lot of handwringing in Official Washington and across the Mainstream Media about the “post-truth” era, but these supposed avatars for truth are as guilty as anyone, acting as if constantly repeating a fact-free claim is the same as proving it.

But it’s clear what Kagan and other neocons have in mind, an escalation of hostilities with Russia and a substantial increase in spending on U.S. military hardware and on Western propaganda to “counter” what is deemed “Russian propaganda.”

Kagan recognizes that he already has many key Democrats and liberals on his side. So he is taking aim at Republicans to force them to join in the full-throated Russia-bashing, writing:

“But it is the Republicans who are covering up. The party’s current leader, the president, questions the intelligence community’s findings, motives and integrity. Republican leaders in Congress have opposed the creation of any special investigating committee, either inside or outside Congress. They have insisted that inquiries be conducted by the two intelligence committees.

“Yet the Republican chairman of the committee in the House has indicated that he sees no great urgency to the investigation and has even questioned the seriousness and validity of the accusations. The Republican chairman of the committee in the Senate has approached the task grudgingly.

“The result is that the investigations seem destined to move slowly, produce little information and provide even less to the public. It is hard not to conclude that this is precisely the intent of the Republican Party’s leadership, both in the White House and Congress. …

“When Republicans stand in the way of thorough, open and immediate investigations, they become Russia’s accomplices after the fact.”

Lying with the Neocons

Many Democrats and liberals may find it encouraging that a leading neocon who helped pave the road to war in Iraq is now by their side in running down Republicans for not enthusiastically joining the latest Russian witch hunt. But they also might pause to ask themselves how they let their hatred of Trump get them into an alliance with the neocons.

On Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, Robert Kagan’s brother Frederick and his wife Kimberly dropped the other shoe, laying out the neocons’ long-held dream of a full-scale U.S. invasion of Syria, a project that was put on hold in 2004 because of U.S. military reversals in Iraq.

But the neocons have long lusted for “regime change” in Syria and were not satisfied with Obama’s arming of anti-government rebels and the limited infiltration of U.S. Special Forces into northern Syria to assist in the retaking of the Islamic State’s “capital” of Raqqa.

In the Journal op-ed, Frederick and Kimberly Kagan call for opening a new military front in southeastern Syria:

“American military forces will be necessary. But the U.S. can recruit new Sunni Arab partners by fighting alongside them in their land. The goal in the beginning must be against ISIS because it controls the last areas in Syria where the U.S. can reasonably hope to find Sunni allies not yet under the influence of al Qaeda. But the aim after evicting ISIS must be to raise a Sunni Arab army that can ultimately defeat al Qaeda and help negotiate a settlement of the war.

“The U.S. will have to pressure the Assad regime, Iran and Russia to end the conflict on terms that the Sunni Arabs will accept. That will be easier to do with the independence and leverage of a secure base inside Syria. … President Trump should break through the flawed logic and poor planning that he inherited from his predecessor. He can transform this struggle, but only by transforming America’s approach to it.”

A New Scheme on Syria

In other words, the neocons are back to their clever word games and their strategic maneuverings to entice the U.S. military into a “regime change” project in Syria.

The neocons thought they had almost pulled off that goal by pinning a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, on the Syrian government and mousetrapping Obama into launching a major U.S. air assault on the Syrian military.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped in to arrange for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to surrender all his chemical weapons even as Assad continued to deny any role in the sarin attack.

Putin’s interference in thwarting the neocons’ dream of a Syrian “regime change” war moved Putin to the top of their enemies’ list. Soon key neocons, such as National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, were taking aim at Ukraine, which Gershman deemed “the biggest prize” and a steppingstone toward eventually ousting Putin in Moscow.

It fell to Assistant Secretary Victoria “Toria” Nuland to oversee the “regime change” in Ukraine. She was caught on an unsecured phone line in late January or early February 2014 discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt how “to glue” or “to midwife” a change in Ukraine’s elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Several weeks later, neo-Nazi and ultranationalist street fighters spearheaded a violent assault on government buildings forcing Yanukovych and other officials to flee for their lives, with the U.S. government quickly hailing the coup regime as “legitimate.”

But the Ukraine putsch led to the secession of Crimea and a bloody civil war in eastern Ukraine with ethnic Russians, events that the State Department and the mainstream Western media deemed “Russian aggression” or a “Russian invasion.”

So, by the last years of the Obama administration, the stage was set for the neocons and the Family Kagan to lead the next stage of the strategy of cornering Russia and instituting a “regime change” in Syria.

All that was needed was for Hillary Clinton to be elected president. But these best-laid plans surprisingly went astray. Despite his overall unfitness for the presidency, Trump defeated Clinton, a bitter disappointment for the neocons and their liberal interventionist sidekicks.

Yet, the so-called “#Resistance” to Trump’s presidency and President Obama’s unprecedented use of his intelligence agencies to paint Trump as a Russian “Manchurian candidate” gave new hope to the neocons and their agenda.

It has taken them a few months to reorganize and regroup but they now see hope in pressuring Trump so hard regarding Russia that he will have little choice but to buy into their belligerent schemes.

As often is the case, the Family Kagan has charted the course of action – batter Republicans into joining the all-out Russia-bashing and then persuade a softened Trump to launch a full-scale invasion of Syria. In this endeavor, the Kagans have Democrats and liberals as the foot soldiers.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).




Reasons for Rise in Anti-Semitism

Anti-Jewish vandals have defaced cemeteries and other Jewish targets, raising the question of whether anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Age of Trump, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

There is an upsurge in anti-Jewish hatred in America. It has manifested itself in criminal and violent acts and threats of still more violence. Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized, and Jewish educational and cultural institutions have received death threats.

The obvious increase in such incidents leaves no doubt about the existence of intense anti-Semitism, and about how it persists in the United States and not just elsewhere. This hatred and prejudice should be vigorously condemned. All Americans should realize that while Jewish citizens are those most directly vulnerable to harm, such hatred and prejudice offends American values that benefit everyone.

We must ask about the hatred: why? Not just why in general, but why now. The correlation that immediately comes to mind regarding the rise of this vile phenomenon is with the political rise of Donald Trump, through the time of his candidacy and campaign and now the opening weeks of his presidency. We must be careful with any correlation not to be hasty in attributing cause and effect.

In this case, we should be aware of two ways of looking at Trump regarding this entire issue. On one hand is his strategy of appealing to the prejudices of a white nationalism in which anti-Semitism is not far below the surface, and sometimes visible on the surface. Trump relies on, as his most influential adviser, Stephen Bannon, whose Breitbart News has provided a forum for anti-Semitic sentiment.

Another senior appointee in the Trump White House proudly wears a medal associated with the wartime Hungarian regime that collaborated with the Nazis. Trump himself has come close to denying that the cemetery attacks were a manifestation of anti-Semitism by suggesting that they were false flag operations.

On the other hand is the Donald Trump who talks about his Jewish son-in-law, his daughter who converted to Judaism, and the Jewish grandchildren they have given him. This Donald Trump also gets the endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said when visiting the White House last month, “There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump.”

One always needs to approach the subject of anti-Semitism gingerly. Let us approach it by disaggregating the two subjects the Prime Minister mentioned — a people and a state — and note how different folks have responded differently to the dichotomous Donald Trump described above. Some are sufficiently and appropriately offended by the anti-Semitic connections to condemn them, regardless of whatever else they may like about Trump and his policies.

The Anti-Defamation League, for example, has, to its credit, spoken out forcefully against the Bannon appointment. Some others, however, including some groups that might be expected to be especially disturbed by any indications of anti-Semitism, have given Trump a pass on the issue because they give overriding priority to Trump’s support of the Israeli government and its policies. They only seem to care about Trump being less on that government’s case about the occupation of Palestinian territories and the continuing Israeli colonization of the territories than the Obama administration was, and about how Trump has appointed a far-right ambassador to Israel who is in bed with the settlement movement and how Trump makes other supportive noises such as talk about moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Giving Trump a Pass

Netanyahu himself, during his recent visit, gave Trump a pass by not speaking out about the upsurge in anti-Semitism in the United States even after Trump, in his joint press conference with the prime minister, indecorously swatted aside a straightforward question from an Israeli journalist about the rash of incidents.

Still others recognize the dichotomy explicitly and express conflicted feelings. Samuel G. Freedman writes of an “anguishing reality” for “the vast majority of American Jews”: “To support Israel when it is cross-branded with Trump’s intolerance is to avert their eyes from a threat right here at home.”

Similar anguished dissonance about Trump coming to power is expressed by many observers in Israel. The conflicted feelings arise because a couple of false equations are being made by those having the feelings. One is to equate the well-being of Jewish people with the standing of a particular state. Even some movements within Judaism don’t agree with that, and the two subjects involved are in fact two different things.

Even more damaging and disorientating is to equate either the well-being of Jewish people, or the standing and strength of Israel, with the policies of the government that is currently in power in Israel and that is a coalition of right-wing parties that have dominated Israeli politics in recent years. There is no more validity to that equation than there would be in equating criticism of Trump and his policies with being anti-American, or being prejudiced against white Protestants or any other ethnic or religious identity associated with America. Although Netanyahu spoke of support for the “Jewish state,” he really meant support for “my government.”

What most obviously and saliently identifies that government, as distinct from other strands in Israeli politics, is what most identifies it in the eyes of the international community and accounts for nearly all the tensions with that community. This is the policy of holding on to territory conquered in war a half century ago that was long inhabited by another people, a people who have since been in a subjugated state and denied self-determination. The combination of colonization of the conquered territory through construction of settlements, and repression of Palestinian life through demolitions of homes and countless other measures, yields a combination of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. It is, in short, a major program of forceful discrimination against an entire people identified by their ethnic or religious identity.

Many of the official policies and practices in the territories exhibit an attitude toward the subjugated community that is one of disdain for people of that ethnicity and treatment of their lives as having much less value than those of the dominant ethnicity.

Unofficial actions, including violent actions, by members of the dominant ethnicity against the subjugated community embrace similar attitudes. The official policies and the vigilante activity both play upon and stoke broader attitudes of Jews toward Arabs that feature not just bias and disdain but hatred. Visceral hatred of Arabs has visibly risen among Jewish Israelis in recent times, coincident with the political rise of the right-wingers who now control the government.

Here is where we cannot only see that there is not really a tension in how to regard Donald Trump but also understand the basis of anti-Semitism in the United States and its recent surge. Any form of hateful prejudice says much more about the bigot than about the target of the prejudice. Through the centuries, Jews have disproportionately suffered as targets of hateful prejudice for reasons that can be analyzed in terms of such historical factors as demographic patterns, envy of success, and why certain stereotypes and scapegoats have been popular at certain times.

Much Broader Targets

But the drivers of this specific manifestation of prejudicial hatred are essentially the same as those that have driven other forms of it. In the United States, anti-Semitism is tapping some of the same roots of fear, resentment, and ignorance that also have underlain waves of prejudice against Irish-, Chinese-, Japanese-, and African-Americans.

The contemporary Trumpian version highlights Muslims and Mexicans, but that’s not because they both start with M or for any other reason that sets them apart from other groups that can be, or have been, targets of prejudice and hatred. They happen to be convenient targets because of perceived connections to certain other salient issues of the day, but the underlying attitudes can be directed just as easily at Jews or other targets defined in terms of religion or ethnicity.

The number of active hate groups in the United States has risen markedly since the beginning of the Twenty-first Century. The numbers dropped for a while during Barack Obama’s second term, but in the last two years the numbers have increased significantly again. Anti-Jewish incidents are part of an overall rise in prejudicial hatred. Anti-Jew has gone hand-in-hand with anti-black, anti-Muslim, and anti-whomever.

The coincidence of timing between this trend and the political phenomenon of Donald Trump is not merely coincidence. The political themes that Trump has ridden to the White House play directly upon, and stoke further, the sorts of prejudices that can take violent forms and that may be manifested in overturned gravestones in a cemetery.

This pattern parallels the pattern in Israel. The details about the target groups are different, or course, and for obvious reasons, Jews are not the prime target of those who support the people with political power (although it is easy to find anti-Jewish hatred among Palestinians). But the basic dynamics involving ignorance, fear, rhetoric, political power, and hateful prejudice are essentially the same.

We should have gotten a clue about this from the vocabulary used. Although the term anti-Semitism long ago became equated with anti-Jewish prejudice, Arabs are Semites, too. It is highly likely that those responsible for desecrating cemeteries and sending threatening message to Jewish institutions would not be nice to Arabs, either.

So there should be no conflicting feelings in thinking about Donald Trump in connection with these issues. His bromance with Netanyahu is one founded on a common approach to fear and prejudicial policies. The parallels between their policies, along with the foundations of fear and prejudice, extend even to wall-building. The shared political strategy of the two governments promotes the sort of bias and hatred that is bad for Jews, bad for Israel, and bad for the values of tolerance and fairness that the vast majority of American Jews embrace.

The false equations may have contributed to this problem from another angle. The alacrity with which some defenders of the rightist government of Israel whip out the anti-Semitism card as a response to criticism of that government’s policies not only represents a grossly inaccurate characterization of much criticism that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism and is offered in the best interests of Israel.

It also complicates efforts to counter real anti-Semitism. For one thing, it means taking our eyes off the ball that is the real thing while holding debates about the false version. For another, it cheapens the currency. If observers in the United States perceive that anti-Semitism is something that involves policy wonks arguing over what is going on in the West Bank, most observers are not apt to conclude that it is something worth spending their time and attention worrying about.

They should worry about it. It has been said, with good reason, that Jews are the canary in the coal mine as far as prejudice and sometimes lethal hatred are concerned, because they often have been the first to suffer from it. But if the cause of the suffering remains, others will suffer as well.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.) 




Greens’ Stein Faults Two-Party System

Some Democrats blame Jill Stein for “siphoning off” crucial votes from Hillary Clinton and thus helping to elect Donald Trump, but Stein insists that the two-party straitjacket is the real enemy of democracy, reports Dennis J Bernstein.
By Dennis J Bernstein

Former Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, remains undaunted in her belief that the only real and significant change in U.S. politics will come through a third party that can finally break the headlock that the Democrats and Republicans hold on the electoral system.

Stein, who has been running for state and federal office since her unsuccessful run for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002, has yet to win an election and received about 1.4 million votes (or about 1 percent of the total) in the presidential election of 2016.

I spoke with her on March 10 about what comes next for her and the Green Party, as well as her thoughts on the policies of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Dennis Bernstein: You are here in San Francisco, doing a bunch of things. But you’re going to be participating a little bit later in an action in support of Standing Rock and indigenous rights. And I want to ask you for your gut reaction to seeing that almost the first thing that Donald Trump did was go after the indigenous communities, and get those pipelines pumping heavy crude.

Jill Stein: It’s a sign of what we’re up against: this incredibly authoritarian, neo-fascist, anti-human rights predator, and who has pretended to be a friend of the working people, and who has really been revealed in all of his glory with his billionaire cabinet composed of people who are attacking the very cabinet departments that they are said to be head of. Who is enlarging the military, expediting the pipelines, expediting all sorts of destructive fossil fuel projects, attacking immigrants. It’s really reigning down on all sides.

The issue of indigenous rights, and pipelines and Standing Rock, brings so many of these issues together. With incredible courage, and vision, and passion, that so engaged the hearts and minds all across America, that we all saw that we are all Standing Rock. That this is where democracy… our rights to protest, indigenous rights, human rights, and our right to air, and water, and the climate that we can live in. They all converge.

And, it’s like the match here that lit the fire is just the passion of our indigenous brothers and sisters who are ready to stand up. Not just for them: they’re standing up for us all. And that passion is not going away. They may be evicted for now, but the fight is going on. It’s continuing in court. It’s continuing in the local struggles against, I guess, what’s called the Klamath River Pipeline [Pacific Connector Pipeline], and LNG [liquid natural gas] Pipeline, that’s going to go under the Klamath River, and put it at great risk.

The important thing here is that we’ve been successful in stopping fossil fuel projects over the past two years. That has really put the fear of God into this industry. They are in the process of becoming stranded assets. They’re trying to hurry up and get them built before they are no longer financially viable.

DB: The price is so low, they can’t even sell the stuff.

JS: And so, the important thing here is for us to just… to double down. And to be strengthened, to be encouraged, to get past their propaganda of powerlessness, and to know that we still have the numbers, in spite of the election of Donald Trump, which was an obvious distortion of the system.

But even more than that, it’s a system that’s become so toxic, so predominated by big money, corporate money, and corporate media, that it’s become unhinged. We have an unhinged, toxic political system. Donald Trump represents, really, the breakdown of this bi-partisan system that people have lost faith in.

Polls last year, well, early on in the election, showed 90% of Americans have lost confidence in our political institutions, in the bi-partisan system in Congress, the Executive, and the Judiciary. You can’t get more explicit than that, 90%.

At the other end, at the very end of the election, it was 80% of the people who described their feelings towards the election as one of disgust. And the American people are ready to move on. Had we… we were like one open debate from totally throwing out the bums, and moving forward to the future we deserve.

And everything that we’re hearing now, both in what the extraordinarily destructive actions of Donald Trump, but it’s like the neoliberal runway that he launched from, the deportation of three million immigrants, the meltdown of the climate, where the White House was signing an end to the export ban of fossil fuel. They were actually signing the dotted line to end that ban. In other words, to enable the export of fossil fuels again, while the Paris Accords were being signed. So, with one hand they’re claiming this great environmental world, with the other they’re just massively increasing.

So, the point here is we need to move forward. We need to break up with this abusive political relationship. We need to go forward with the future we deserve, because we’re out of time, and it’s on us. We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for. We have the power, people are standing up, joining in. Follow the example of Standing Rock. We can fix these problems.

DB: I love that poem by June Jordan, put to music by Sweet Honey in the Rock […] and I notice that that was sort of the anthem that played in the beginning of the Women’s March, in Washington, D.C. June Jordan is of this community, contributed to this show. So, we’re happy that she is still being evoked.

Well, let’s talk about what’s happening today. You have some expertise. We all saw the dangerous possibilities of the ObamaCare program. We’re seeing something else go on now. You have some knowledge here, you want to talk about this?

JS: Sure. So, ObamaCare was a very mixed bag. We should have had Medicare For All, a single-payer system. Healthcare is a human right. ObamaCare was basically RomneyCare, writ large. It was essentially a national roll out of what we did in Massachusetts, under Mitt Romney, who launched that RomneyCare movement in order to stop single-payer. That’s really where all of this originated, because single-payer was going like gangbusters in Massachusetts. We very nearly won a referendum that was only beat back by about two percentage points, having been outspent by 30 – 1 or 50 – 1, whatever it was, by the industry.

DB: It got really close.

JS: It was, and that’s why they came up with this diversionary measure. So, it expanded Medicaid, that was great. It did some other things, no pre-existing conditions, etc. It made care affordable for people who were poor.

But for working people it created this mandate. You shouldn’t be funding health care for some people on the backs of other people. We should be funding health care through the incredible abundance of this country. We are not a country of scarcity. We are not a country of austerity.

We are a country that is being bankrupted by a military budget that has just gone hog-wild, which Donald Trump wants to further expand. But it’s pretty toxic to start with. It’s over 50% of our discretionary dollars. It’s almost half of your income taxes going for what? For wars, and regime change that has created failed states, mass refugee migrations, and worse terrorist’s threats.

So, this doesn’t fix the problem. More of a catastrophic policy of militarism – we’re about to go into Syria now, with ground troops – that’s not going to make it better. This, again, is yet another reason why this is a Hail Mary moment [a desperate effort with little chance of success].

And it’s not only that our water is at risk, our climate is melting down, and in fact, that melt down is accelerating. An entire generation of young people are locked in debt, jobs are just not sustainable when average wages for workers are barely at the poverty level. We’re not going to get out of here alive.

DB: […] What do you think is going to happen here? What’s your best assessment of… we know where the Republicans are going with this. They’re hell-bent on passing this stuff. There’s going to be some resistance but essentially they’re going to be able to get whatever they want. What are the implications?

JS: Well, it’s not clear that they will. And back to the subject on the table about TrumpCare. There’s not agreement about this, at all. It may not pass either House. And Trump is not a uniter, in spite of what he says. It’s very clear he’s not a uniter. He doesn’t bring people together, doesn’t have, kind of, higher order passions and visions.

DB: I haven’t seen him smile once since he’s been elected.

JS: I know.

DB: You notice that? God, they’re disappointed they won.

JS: Not him, and not his wife either, who really looks miserable. The two of them on Election Day… [and] … on Inauguration Day it looked like they were at a funeral. They did not expect this. Now, he’s being progressively cornered. He’s had to lose some of his key advisors, he’s lost some key cabinet positions, his ratings continue to plummet. They were rock bottom to start with. He is a land mine of liabilities: legal, constitutional and ethical liabilities. There’s just case after case, lawsuits against him. His immigrant policy is about to be stopped again, for the second time. So, this is a guy who should not be in office. He’s being stopped.

I think it’s important for us to remember Richard Nixon, one of the most corrupt and authoritarian presidents in our history. What did we do under the rule of Richard Nixon? We brought the troops home from Vietnam. We established women’s right to choose, from a very conservative Supreme Court. We got the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, OSHA, protecting workers’ health and safety. How did we do that? We did it because we were out in the streets with a passion knowing that our lives were on the line, because our brothers were being sent to die, to Vietnam.

Well, guess what? Now, we’ve woken up to find our lives are on the line again, whether it’s from poverty and homelessness; a generation locked into unpayable student debt; from the expanding war which is blowing back at us with a vengeance; from the climate [warming] which is now accelerating, given the news last week that the meltdown of permafrost is well established, and is moving forward at horrific speed. And all the dire predictions from Jim Hansen, that we could see 10 or 20 feet of sea level rise, as soon as 2060. That’s not far away.

Well, guess what? Those predictions are coming far closer now, because those models did not include the impact of methane. We didn’t know when this was going to hit. The meltdown of the permafrost, for those who aren’t familiar, it’s basically frozen, organic debris, like dinosaur flesh, and plant matter, and stuff like that. It’s just…  the organic matter, the living creatures and plant life, of the ages, that’s been frozen. It’s becoming unfrozen. That means it turns into methane, which is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. This is a major accelerator of climate change.

So, it means that it’s time to stand up. It means that we are out of time. It means it’s time to take action, now. So, people are getting out, knowing that our lives are on the line, for all these issues. On account of immigrant deportations, and the attack on women, and all the rest.

DB: Let me just stop you there, because that’s the other issue I want to hit. I’m referring to it [the bulk-up of US Border and ICE agents] as Trump’s jobs program for ex-military. And I was joking when I said to the audience the other day that, I swear, I know I’m going to open Stars and Stripes, the U.S. Army newspaper, and see major ads.

So I got a call right after the show, from a listener who said, “Are you kidding me? Look at page 9, Stars and Stripes, huge, double page ads, $10,000 and $9,000, special courts and expanded private prisons.” This is really the cutting edge of, if you will, the new civil rights movement.

If we have a responsibility, it is in terms of the incredible attack on brown people in this country. Undocumented workers who do the hardest work, and, of course, the whole Middle East. Anything darker than John Wayne, and you’re in trouble. And we’re seeing Sikh, the other day, a Sikh man was assassinated, because he was like Osama Bin Laden, or something.

JS: Yes, you’re right. And this is where immigrant rights come together with unbridled militarism. Because this refugee crisis… it’s a refugee crisis, it’s not an immigration crisis, it’s a refugee crisis. We create that crisis through our military policies, not only in the Middle East, but also [by] overturning democracies: Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador. Where we, […] through our U.S. trained death squads, or through the outright overturning of democracies, we’ve created this culture of violence that forces people to flee over the border. So militarism, economic exploitation, and the role of NAFTA, which was awful for workers here, as well as farmers south of the border.

These are fixable problems. They can only be fixed together. To my mind, that’s what a political party is. A political party is a coalition that’s going to work together around an explicit agenda for people, planet and peace, over profit. The time has come. We have to stand up, like our lives depend on it, because they do.

And, now, this is sort of the silver lining behind this awful scary thunder cloud here that has just descended all over us: That our lives are on the line, so we gotta stand up and do it, in the way that we did under Richard Nixon. And then we impeached him. Trump’s days are numbered.

We just saw the president of South Korea impeached, today, upheld by the courts. Why did this happen? In part it was millions of people getting out into the street. It happened in Guatemala, two years ago. In East Germany, Chris Hedges tells the story, he was there as an investigative reporter. And the democracy advocates were meeting and saying “How are we going to get rid of this awful, authoritarian government?” And they said “Maybe in ten years.” The next week the wall came down, because people came out.

We’ve just… we’re at the breaking point, and we’re also at the wake up point, right now. And so, this is going to accelerate resistance. We’re not only creating sanctuary communities, but we’re actually now building sanctuary institutions, where people will be kept safe, where the ICE agents can’t even go. And, there are other plans that may be in the works with some indigenous tribes, and the role that they can play. Because they are essentially independent nations.

So, there are very exciting things here. In the same way that the Muslim community stood up for the Jewish community and raised money in the face of these anti-Semitic attacks, and all the bomb threats that are going on. We’re seeing these wonderful, just life-affirming, humanity-affirming alliances. And, as we wake up to the fact that our days are numbered right now, and that it is in our hands. It’s only us, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. The time has come, enough of the lesser evil. It’s time to stand up, and fight for the greater good.

And even this issue of spoiling elections, and splitting the votes. Well, hello, there’s a system called ranked-choice voting which Greens have been promoting forever. The state of Maine just passed it by voter referendum.

[California Governor] Jerry Brown just vetoed it [in California]. There was enabling legislation that was passed by the Legislature and Jerry Brown vetoed it because Democrats are at war with the liberation of our votes. They rely on extortion. They rely on intimidation, and fear, in order to hold people back. Why do they do that? Because they know that they can’t earn your vote.

Ranked-choice voting calls their bluff. It allows you to actually rank your choices. If your first choice loses, your vote is automatically reassigned to your second choice. That’s a win-win on our democracy. There are win-wins for every issue that faces us.

Right now we’re looking at a lose-lose [situation], with this corporate-sponsored duopoly. The Democrats might give us ten more years than the Republicans would, of survival, under Democratic policies. But it’s a sinking ship, with the duopoly. It’s time to get off the ship. Our lives depend on getting off that ship and launching the lifeboat. We’ve got it, let’s make it happen.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.

 




Testing the Principle of Free Speech

A surge in hateful speech toward minorities in the Age of Trump has been met by  a pushback from angry activists, sometimes trampling the vital principle of free and open debate, writes Michael Winship.

By Michael Winship

At the risk of sounding like a geezer complaining about “these kids today,” back in my college days, when it came to points of view we were unhesitatingly exposed to literature, teachers and on-campus speakers covering the ideological waterfront.

In one instance, the student body was addressed by civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory, radical Irish activist Bernadette Devlin and the conservative writer and critic Russell Kirk — all in the course of a week or so.

Such variety was a common occurrence, and freewheeling, open discussion was encouraged. We didn’t always like or agree with a lot of what we heard or read — from time to time there were vehement protests — but all of it was invaluable. None of us were harmed in the making of our education.

So I was appalled other day when I read about the attempt by Republican Arkansas legislator Kim Hendren to ban from that state’s public schools all books written by the great radical historian Howard Zinn, including his seminal A People’s History of the United States, a truthful, lacerating look at the heroes and villains of America — especially the oligarchs and kleptocrats who once again have their heels on the necks of the poor and middle class.

But I also was deeply troubled by the incident at Vermont’s Middlebury College on March 2, when controversial social scientist Charles Murray was invited by a conservative student group and attempted to speak on campus. Here’s what happened, according to the Associated Press:

“Hundreds of students chanted as Murray began to speak Thursday, forcing the college to move the lecture to an undisclosed location. Murray’s talk was live-streamed to the original venue, but protesters drowned it out. The topic, he said, was the divergence of the country’s culture into a new upper class separated from mainstream America.

“Afterward, a group of protesters surrounded Murray, professor Allison Stanger and college administrator Bill Burger as they were leaving, he said. The protesters became violent, with one pulling Stanger’s hair, twisting her neck, the college said.

“After Murray and the two Middlebury staff members got into a car to leave, protesters banged on the windows, climbed onto the hood and rocked the vehicle, the college and Murray said.”

Professor Stanger, by the way, went to the ER and was subsequently diagnosed with concussion. She’s a respected political scientist at Middlebury and a fellow at the progressive New America, and was there the other night because the conservative student group had asked her to provide a counterpoint to Murray’s speech, to interview him from the stage after his prepared remarks. She had prepared some tough, challenging questions.

Odious Opinions

Many of Charles Murray’s opinions are indeed odious and his research highly questionable, He was co-author of The Bell Curve, a notorious book that seemed to link race and IQ. He describes himself as a libertarian, but the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls him a white nationalist and reports:

“According to Murray, the relative differences between the white and black populations of the United States, as well as those between men and women, have nothing to do with discrimination or historical and structural disadvantages, but rather stem from genetic differences between the groups… Murray’s attempts to link social inequality to genes are based on the work of explicitly racist scientists.”

At the beginning of Murray’s attempt to speak at Middlebury, students turned their backs to him and chanted in protest. I probably would have done the same. But to not let him speak and to allow the protests to lead to violence is inexcusable.

I realize that this raises all sorts of questions about freedom of speech and academic liberty, the nature of dissent and when and if political violence is ever justified, but looking at what happened coolly — and admittedly, from a distance — it seems clear that this went far beyond the boundaries of civil discourse that especially today must be defended against the barbarians who already have run roughshod, pushing through the gates and seizing the reins of power and governance.

Professor Stanger said it best herself. She wrote:

“To people who wish to spin this story as one about what’s wrong with elite colleges and universities, you are mistaken. Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country, and on that, Charles Murray and I would agree. This was the saddest day of my life. We have got to do better by those who feel and are marginalized. Our 230-year constitutional democracy depends on it, especially when our current President is blind to the evils he has unleashed. We must all realize the precious inheritance we have as fellow Americans and defend the Constitution against all its enemies, both foreign and domestic. That is why I do not regret my involvement in the event with Dr. Murray.”

And then she quoted James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

I can be as guilty as the next person about tuning out and trying to ignore the voice of someone with whom I vehemently disagree. I know, too, that this indeed is a time to speak out against the ignorance and despotism sweeping our nation. Further, I realize that the religious, racial and homophobic hate crimes that have been on the upswing since Donald Trump’s candidacy and election — and increased in 2016 for the second year in a row according to the Southern Poverty Law Center — far exceed in numbers and intensity any violence or brutishness that has occurred on college campuses. No question that they’re more frightening and dangerous.

But, in the words of Andrew Sullivan, “Universities are the sanctuary cities of reason. If reason must be subordinate to ideology even there, our experiment in self-government is over.”

Two sides of the same coin: whether the Trump White House or those who would physically attack a college professor. Their unthinking, unyielding enslavement to a single viewpoint is fatal.

Ignorance begets ignorance and hate begets hate. And like a virus, each can infect without regard to race, gender, creed or political perspective. At a time when those in charge are fueling a pandemic of intolerance we must make sure not to succumb ourselves.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship. [This article originally appeared at http://billmoyers.com/story/free-speech-ends-ignorance-begins/]




America First or Saudi Arabia First?

Saudi Arabia is testing President Trump’s “America First” promise by demanding U.S. alignment with Saudi interests in the Mideast, a betrayal that Trump should reject, says 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser in a letter to the President.

By Kristen Breitweiser

Dear President Trump,

This week you are scheduled to meet with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. As a 9/11 widow who has fought for more than 15 years for truth, justice, accountability and transparency with regard to the murder of my husband, Ron, I have a considerable interest in your upcoming meeting with the Deputy Crown Prince.

First, foremost and for good reason, I fear that the Deputy Crown Prince will not be forthright with you about his Kingdom’s role in the 9/11 attacks and global terrorism.

Indeed, many in the Kingdom refuse to tell the truth about their continued, long-standing, and well-documented clandestine, logistical and financial support of radical Islamist terrorist groups that target and kill innocent Americans.

For example, last summer when the infamous 2002 Joint Inquiry of Congress’ “28 pages” were finally released, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir claimed that the Saudis were exonerated and that the matter surrounding the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks was “now finished.”

In reality, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its role in facilitating the 9/11 attacks is far from over. And, in truth, the “28 pages” – actually 29 pages of the 832-page report – prove to be quite illuminating, devastating and damning towards that end:

On page 415: “While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support and assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government.… [A]t least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.”

On page 417: One of the individuals identified in the pages as a financial supporter of two of the 9/11 hijackers, Osama Bassnan, later received a “significant amount of cash” from “a member of the Saudi Royal Family” during a 2002 trip to Houston.

On page 418: “Another Saudi national with close ties to the Saudi Royal Family, [deleted], is the subject of FBI counterterrorism investigations.”

On pages 418 and 419: Detained al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida had in his phone book the unlisted number for the security company that managed the Colorado residence of the then-Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

On page 421: “a [deleted], dated July 2, 2002, [indicates] ‘incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists inside the Saudi Government.’”

On page 426: Bassnan’s wife was receiving money “from Princess Haifa Bint Sultan,” the wife of the Saudi ambassador. (Her correct name is actually Princess Haifa bin Faisal.)

On page 436: The general counsel of the U.S. Treasury Department, David Aufhauser, testified that “offices [of the Saudi charity al-Haramain] have significant contacts with extremists, Islamic extremists.” CIA officials also testified “that they were making progress on their investigations of al-Haramain.… [T]he head of the central office is complicit in supporting terrorism, and it also raised questions about [then-Saudi Interior Minister] Prince Nayef.”

Holding the Saudis Accountable

Fortunately, as you know President Trump, JASTA (Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act) was enacted into law — overriding President Obama’s veto — on Sept. 28, 2016 and the 9/11 Families were given the right to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable in a court of law for its alleged role in the 9/11 attacks.

Thanks to discovery and subpoena power, the 9/11 families hope to unearth and reveal a panoply of compelling information surrounding the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks. Suffice it to say, we do not believe the Saudis should be considered an ally of America.

Unsurprisingly, the Saudis continue to wage war against the 9/11 Families and JASTA by paying millions to their 14 powerful, insider Washington DC lobbying firms, like the Podesta Group, to repeal JASTA and rob us of our day in court.

In addition, some of the Saudis’ key legislative supporters who threaten to repeal JASTA are Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain. Sadly, McCain and Graham choose to protect the Saudis rather than American victims of terrorism.

Quite horrifically, one of the Saudi lobbyists — Qorvis — was recently caught trying to dupe, manipulate, and pit U.S. veterans against the 9/11 families. According to media reports, Qorvis offered vets an all-expense-paid trip to Washington (staying at the Trump Hotel) to lobby against JASTA without telling the vets that it was Saudi money funding their trip. Given that many of these vets had joined the military in the wake of 9/11, the discovery that they were now being duped into “working” for the enemy they enlisted and risked their lives to fight against, was extremely upsetting. Pitting American veterans against American victims is the lowest of the low — yet, there seems to be no lengths that the Saudis will not go.

Which brings me to my last point — the Saudi Aramco IPO on Wall Street. Mr. President, my husband was burnt to death on September 11th. The remains I received included his two arms, a few fingers, and his wedding band.

Thousands of innocent people were brutally slaughtered and turned to ash in broad daylight on that horrific day, now more than 15 years ago. The notion that the Saudis — whom the 9/11 Families are currently trying to hold accountable in a court of law for their role in the murder of our loved ones — want to return to the scene of their own alleged crime to make billions of dollars is immoral and simply untenable.

As my fellow 9/11 widows and I have repeatedly said—not over our husbands’ dead bodies.

President Trump, you have structured your campaign and current policies around being for America First. The 9/11 Families certainly hope that you remain steadfast in your belief that Americans must be protected, supported, and heard, first and foremost above all others—particularly those like the Saudis who fund radical Islamic terrorists that target and kill Americans.

Kristen Breitweiser is a 9/11 widow and activist who – working with other 9/11 widows known collectively as the “Jersey Girls” – pressured the U.S. government to conduct a formal investigation into the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Follow Kristen Breitweiser on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kdbreitweiser. [This article originally appeared as a blog post at HuffingtonPost.]