Turkey’s Erdogan Clears Path to Dictatorship

The ouster of Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu marks another troubling milestone in President Erdogan’s consolidation of dictatorial power, a development that Alon Ben-Meir sees as further enflaming the region.

By Alon Ben-Meir

The forced resignation of Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggests only one thing — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is totally absorbed by his lust for power, will tolerate no one in his government to deviate from any of his political positions. Prime Minister Davutoglu was no exception.

Although the Turkish constitution grants the Prime Minister executive powers while leaving the role of the president largely ceremonial, this is not what Erdogan had in mind when he asked then-Foreign Minister Davutoglu to form a new government following the last election.

Erdogan’s ambition and aggressive drive to spread his Islamic agenda are what has determined every political move he made. Seeking to constitutionally transfer the executive authority of the country to the Presidency is the final step to legally consolidate his power, albeit he was already exercising such power throughout his tenure as Prime Minister for 11 years.

For more than 15 years, Davutoglu served Erdogan with the utmost loyalty — first as his top foreign policy adviser, then his Foreign Minister, and for the past two years as his hand-picked Prime Minister. Erdogan chose Davutoglu for this post precisely because he expected him to continue to be his “Yes man.”

Being that as Prime Minister, Davutoglu would assume leadership of the AK Party, Erdogan expected him to push for the transformation of the largely ceremonial Presidency into the most powerful executive position in Turkey, which Davutoglu pursued in a lukewarm manner as this would constitutionally diminish his own powers considerably.

Not surprisingly, once Erdogan assumed the Presidency, he continued to chair cabinet meetings and even established a shadow cabinet with a handful of trusted advisers. He pointedly sidelined Davutoglu, who quietly resented Erdogan’s usurpation of the role and responsibility of the prime minister as if nothing had changed.

The premiership became a ceremonial post and the ceremonial presidency became the all-powerful office without a formal constitutional amendment to legally grant him the absolute authority he is now exercising.

I have known Davutoglu from the time he was the chief adviser to Erdogan and I found him to be a man of integrity and vision, always a moderating force, and committed to making Turkey a stabilizing regional power and a significant player on the international scene. I had many opportunities to talk to Davutoglu face-to-face about Israeli-Turkish relations, as I was actively involved behind the scenes to mitigate their conflict in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident.

On another occasion, I arranged for Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations to take place with Turkish mediation, not only because of its proximity and (at that time) good relations with both Syria and Israel, but also because I felt that Davutoglu would be the ideal interlocutor.

Moreover, by playing such a role, Davutoglu was also very consistent with his commitment to realize his political philosophy of having “zero problems with neighbors,” which initially led to Turkey’s friendly and cooperative relations with most of its neighbors.

An Ambitious Kingpin

Erdogan’s ambition to become the kingpin of the region through his brazen political approach, however, did nothing but create problems with every neighboring country. A former top Turkish official told me that had Davutoglu been given the flexibility to carry out his foreign policy vision, Turkey’s regional standing would be completely different today.

During the past two years, however, several conflicts between the two began to surface. Whereas Davutoglu sought to renew the peace negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the search for a solution, Erdogan not only refused but vowed to wage war until the last PKK rebel is killed. In addition, although Davutoglu said nothing publicly about Erdogan’s systematic attack on the free press, the jailing of journalists, and human rights violations, he disagreed with these unlawful measures and failed in his efforts to quietly persuade his boss to ease the pressure on the press.

Erdogan’s insistence on silencing any criticism and the constant chipping away of what is left of Turkey’s democracy has basically sealed off (contrary to what is being said publicly) any prospect for Turkey to become an European Union member, which Davutoglu sought to realize with zeal.

On top of all that, Erdogan is now seeking to strip Kurdish lawmakers of their political immunity to make it possible to charge them with being aligned with the PKK who are fighting for semi-autonomous rule, to which Davutoglu surreptitiously objected. It is now being left to the next prime minister to engineer this unlawful scheme to meet Erdogan’s draconian will.

Finally, while Davutoglu was busy in his effort to achieve an agreement with the E.U. to take back illegal migrants in exchange for visa-free entry for Turkish nationals to the Schengen region, Erdogan publicly belittled Davutoglu’s efforts to deprive him of any political gains that he could derive from his success.

The leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, condemned the way Davutoglu was forced out, stating that “Davutoglu’s resignation should not be perceived as an integral party issue. All democracy supporters must resist this palace coup.”

Interestingly enough, in what was seen as a farewell speech to the parliament, Davutoglu stated that “No one has ever heard a word against our president from my mouth, my tongue, my mind — and no one will.”

To me and many other observers, Davutoglu’s words expressed the precise opposite of what he appeared to be saying: that Erdogan is beyond criticism. There was no better diplomatic way of putting it lest he be accused by Erdogan of treason, as customarily befalls anyone who opposes his political positions on any issue.

Due to the turmoil throughout the Middle East, the influx of millions of Syrian refugees and the battle against ISIS, Turkey’s role has become increasingly important. Although the United States and the E.U. have grown weary of Erdogan’s absurd conduct, they feel compelled to deal with him, however distasteful that might be. Leave it, of course, to Erdogan to drain every ounce of blood from Western powers to serve his personal agenda.

When the constitution is used as a tool for power grabbing, when conspiracy theories justify a cruel witch-hunt, when people are terrified to speak publicly about politics, when journalists are detained without trial, when the academic community is regularly attacked, when human rights are grossly violated, and when democratic principles are trampled upon, this is not a mere travesty for Turkey, it is a tragedy.

With the departure of Davuto?lu, and a rubber-stamp AK Party, Turkey has become a de facto dictatorship, and there is now no one to stand in Erdogan’s way. It is a sad day for the Turkish people, as the country is now governed by a ruthless dictator with no checks and balances, no accountability, and with no prospect of any change for the better as long as Erdogan remains in power.

The Turkish people should once again take to the streets but this time they should remain persistent until Erdogan relents or resigns. Otherwise, Turkey will continue to rapidly race toward an ever bleaker future where freedom will be a thing of the past and an authoritarian regime led by a ruthless leader sets in.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. alon@alonben-meir.com  Web: www.alonben-meir.com




Donald Trump’s Unsurprising Surprise

Exclusive: Donald Trump’s ascension to the Republican presidential nomination was predictable, paved by years of right-wing fear-mongering and dissemination of anti-knowledge, says former GOP congressional staffer Mike Lofgren.

By Mike Lofgren

A lot of pundits have egg on their faces. Nate Cohn recently issued a mea culpa in the New York Times confessing his underestimation of Donald Trump. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank has even had to make good on his bet that he would literally eat his words if the real estate mogul were nominated.

As late as September 2015, esteemed numbers whiz Nate Silver was telling us that Trump had a 5 percent chance of winning the Republican nomination. Déjà vu: as with the awful consequences of invading Iraq or selling no-documentation mortgages to indigent homebuyers, most of our designated experts didn’t see it coming.

My experience with GOP politics was a bit more up-close and personal than that of most pundits. For 28 years, I worked on Capitol Hill as a Republican staffer. The 2008 selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate was embarrassing enough to me, but once the congressional GOP appeared eager to drive the country into a debt default in 2011, I decided to leave and become a political independent.

By that point it seemed plausible to me that Trump – or someone similar – was likely if not inevitable. Although conservative ideologues denounce him for being doctrinally impure, he is the logical culmination of deeper psychological trends both in the party and the broader American culture that I have observed over the years.

Since the demise of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, the Conservative Media-Entertainment Complex – Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and all the rest – has poisoned the well of civic engagement with rancor, scapegoating and pessimism about the state of the nation. These self-styled super-patriots seem to get a thrill from talking down the country, and if you add up all the groups they condemn, their targets probably constitute a majority of the U.S. population.

This cultural pessimism was an ingredient in the makeup of fascist movements during the Twentieth Century: enemies are at our borders; the deadliest enemy is within; the nation will collapse if we don’t purge subversive elements.

As film maker Jen Senko has documented, a steady diet of Fox News alarmism can make viewers angry, paranoid and irrational. With that kind of conditioning, is it any wonder that many Republicans are susceptible to Trump’s description of the world’s foremost economic and military power – us – as “weak” and “pathetic?”

Deliberate Obstruction

A related cause of Trump’s rise is the GOP’s political strategy, which only deepens the pessimism that Republican media have fanned. Gridlock, filibusters, government shutdowns, playing chicken with the debt limit: they all reinforce the belief that the country is ungovernable.

A senior Republican Capitol Hill staffer once explained to me – approvingly – that it was a conscious strategy to create gridlock and lower the public approval of Congress. These alleged worshippers of the Constitution would cripple and discredit the branch of government that is the first and arguably premier institution listed in that document.

Republicans have attempted to repeal Obamacare 62 times, but for the last six years we have been waiting in vain for the Republican health care plan to replace it. When they do not have undisputed control of government (and we have seen the fiscal and human disasters unleashed when they have dominated Kansas, Louisiana, and Michigan), the GOP is determined to seize up the gears.

Abraham Lincoln’s accusation against the antebellum slavocracy applies: “Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government . . . You will rule or ruin in all events.”

If this is the new politics-as-usual, who can blame people for supporting an imperious outsider who promises to break the deadlock by knocking heads together? Trumpism was brewed in the kitchen of Mitch McConnell, the senator who vowed to derail Obama’s presidency.

I have written before about the GOP’s contribution to anti-knowledge in our society. As Nineteenth-Century humorist Josh Billings put it, “The trouble with people is not that they don’t know, but that they know so much that ain’t so.”

Despite three decades of evidence that tax cuts do not pay for themselves, Republican politicians hew to that line with dogmatic persistence. A couple of millennia of history ought to have taught us that invasions of the Middle East are not likely to go well, but the GOP was gung-ho about Iraq and questioned the patriotism of skeptics.

Many in the Republican base believe with a faith that transcends evidence that Obamacare authorizes death panels just as Obama himself is Kenyan born. Under those circumstances, why should it surprise us when Trump promises $12 trillion in tax cuts while eliminating the $19-trillion national debt in eight years, or claims that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination?

Anti-knowledge is virulent in the GOP, but it is a problem in the larger society as well. A study by the journal Science polled on public attitudes about evolution in the United States, 32 European countries, Turkey and Japan; the only country where acceptance of evolution was lower than in ours was Islamic Turkey. States like Louisiana mandate that public schools teach the bogus “controversy” about evolution.

This epistemic closure, whereby facts are a matter of political opinion, threatens not only the country’s future scientific preeminence, but our ability to have rational discussions about public policy. Trump’s rise is a fire bell in the night warning us of a dangerous cultural development.

Fear and Authoritarianism

For the past 15 years, the people who constitute our bipartisan elite consensus – politicians, generals, media personalities, think-tank experts – have been dinning into our heads the message that we must be very afraid of terrorism, despite the fact that we are more likely to die slipping in the bathtub than in a terrorist attack. It has worked.

Voters in the Republican primary in South Carolina, where Trump won in a walk, declared terrorism their foremost concern, eclipsing a low-wage economy, deteriorating living standards leading to an increase in the death rate of GOP voters’ core demographic, and the most expensive and least available health care in the developed world.

The fear that our elite consensus fostered has awakened the latent authoritarianism and paranoia that lurk in all too many ordinary people. This dynamic explains why Trump’s candidacy took off like a moon rocket in November and December of 2015, the period of the terrorist attack in Paris and the murders in San Bernardino.

Government officials and the media whipped up a mood in the country that approached hysteria; Trump deftly exploited it. By being the only politician brazen enough to openly advocate torture – not merely to gain information (a dubious claim), but to inflict pain for its own sake – he tapped into the revenge fantasies of millions of Americans who have been fed a steady diet of fear since 9/11.

We have deluded ourselves that the United States could be a “normal” country while waging a seemingly endless war on terror. We have likewise believed we could carry on with one of our political parties behaving like an apocalyptic cult, along with our public discourse being polluted by bogus “facts” amplified by ferociously partisan media.

Donald Trump is merely a symptom, not the cause, of these troubling cultural markers. His political ascent, then, is really no surprise, as I sensed when I said “goodbye to all that” on Capitol Hill five years ago.

Mike Lofgren is a former congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees. His latest book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, appeared in January 2016.




A Need to Rethink Mideast Wars

Congress continues to shirk its duty to consider a new authorization of force for U.S. military conflicts in the Mideast that are on shaky legal grounds and deserve a thorough rethinking, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

The request by a U.S. Army captain to a federal court for a declaratory judgment about his constitutional duties regarding going to war is the latest reminder of the unsatisfactory situation in which the United States is engaged in military operations in multiple overseas locales without any authorization other than a couple of outdated and obsolete Congressional resolutions whose relevance is questionable at best.

Of the many ways in which the U.S. Congress has fallen down on the job, this is one of the more important ones. There are several reasons that Congress should take up without further delay the question of an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). Getting out of the legal netherworld in which current U.S. military operations exist is one of those reasons.

Another reason is that Congress is, along with the Executive Branch, a co-equal policy-making arm of government. Important dimensions of war and peace should reflect the best judgment of the people’s representatives in Congress, rather than that branch being merely a kibitzer and critic of what the administration does.

It is bad enough that on countless domestic issues Congress has wavered between doing nothing and outright obstruction. It is worse still that it has not stepped up to the plate on something as consequential as the use of armed force.

Yet another reason is that a Congressional debate can be a vehicle for weighing and examining, publicly and thoroughly, the purported reasons for currently using U.S. military forces abroad, and for setting clear objectives and limits for any continued use. The idea is not only to get an authorizing resolution right, but to get the policy itself right.

A good debate would be an occasion for questioning what have become widely accepted but generally unexamined assumptions underlying much current policy involving military force. A Congressional debate can be such a vehicle, but it won’t necessarily be that, which is where the how as well as the why of Congressional consideration of the subject comes in.

The nation unfortunately has had experience in how not to do it. One such instance was the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of August 1964, which became used as an authorization for the entire Vietnam War. Congress approved the resolution by overwhelming majorities after just nine hours of debate, only a week after the naval incident that was the peg on which the resolution was hung. Extensive Congressional examination of the Vietnam situation, particularly by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by J. William Fulbright, would begin only after the United States was deeply mired in the war.

Just as bad was how Congress approached the resolution, enacted in October 2002, authorizing the offensive war in Iraq. This time there was no consideration at all of the resolution in committee — only a cursory floor debate. Republicans were mostly observing party loyalty to their president. Democrats were anxious to get the vote out of the way as quickly as possible to maximize the time between the vote and the elections in November. Political pusillanimity prevailed.

One of the few members to lament this shoddy and rushed performance of Congress’s duty was Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, who said on the Senate floor a few weeks before the invasion, “This chamber is for the most part ominously, dreadfully silent. You can hear a pin drop. Listen. You can hear a pin drop. There is no discussion. There is no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.”

A proper Congressional consideration today of an authorization for the use of military force would begin with extensive hearings by the foreign affairs and foreign relations committees of each chamber that would examine the most basic questions about U.S. interests and objectives in the countries concerned. Such an examination would subject to questioning from all sides every assumption about what difference the longevity of a particular regime, or the status of a particular group, does or does not make to U.S. interests.

There also would be hearings of the two armed services committees that would explore all relevant questions not only of the immediate effectiveness of different applications of military force but also of the different turns and scenarios to which any one application could lead.

This whole process, including floor debate, of considering a new AUMF could last many weeks. Congress should not rush and sacrifice thoroughness in doing so. The existing resolutions on which current military operations dubiously rest are more than a decade old, and some of the operations themselves have been going on for years.

It has now been over a year since the Obama administration sent to Congress a draft AUMF. That draft is fair game to be picked apart both by those who believe it goes too far and by those who think it is too restrictive. A thorough Congressional consideration of the subject ought to involve lots of picking apart of this document, and maybe even a wholesale substitution for all or parts of it.

At least the administration tried to get things started with a draft. The majority party in both houses of Congress has done nothing. Its members evidently do not want to take responsibility for the consequences of U.S. military operations. It is more comfortable to continue to carp and to criticize, even if much of the criticism is in the direction of wanting still more use of military force. Political pusillanimity still prevails.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)




Neocons and Neolibs: How Dead Ideas Kill

Exclusive: Hillary Clinton wants the American voters to be very afraid of Donald Trump, but there is reason to fear as well what a neoconservative/neoliberal Clinton presidency would mean for the world, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

For centuries hereditary monarchy was the dominant way to select national leaders, evolving into an intricate system that sustained itself through power and propaganda even as its ideological roots shriveled amid the Age of Reason. Yet, as monarchy became a dead idea, it still killed millions in its death throes.

Today, the dangerous “dead ideas” are neoconservatism and its close ally, neoliberalism. These are concepts that have organized American foreign policy and economics, respectively, over the past several decades – and they have failed miserably, at least from the perspective of average Americans and people of the nations on the receiving end of these ideologies.

Neither approach has benefited mankind; both have led to untold death and destruction; yet the twin “neos” have built such a powerful propaganda and political apparatus, especially in Official Washington, that they will surely continue to wreak havoc for years to come. They are zombie ideas and they kill.

Yet, the Democratic Party is poised to nominate an adherent to both “neos” in the person of Hillary Clinton. Rather than move forward from President Barack Obama’s unease with what he calls the Washington “playbook,” the Democrats are retreating into its perceived safety.

After all, the Washington Establishment remains enthralled to both “neos,” favoring the “regime change” interventionism of neoconservatism and the “free trade” globalism of neoliberalism. So, Clinton has emerged as the clear favorite of the elites, at least since the field of alternatives has narrowed to populist billionaire Donald Trump and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

Democratic Party insiders appear to be counting on the mainstream news media and prominent opinion-leaders to marginalize Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, and to finish off Sanders, who faces long odds against Clinton’s delegate lead for the Democratic nomination, especially among the party regulars known as “super-delegates.”

But the Democratic hierarchy is placing this bet on Clinton in a year when much of the American electorate has risen up against the twin “neos,” exhausted by the perpetual wars demanded by the neoconservatives and impoverished by the export of decent-paying manufacturing jobs driven by the neoliberals.

Though much of the popular resistance to the “neos” remains poorly defined in the minds of rebellious voters, the common denominator of the contrasting appeals of Trump and Sanders is that millions of Americans are rejecting the “neos” and repudiating the establishment institutions that insist on sustaining these ideologies.

The Pressing Question

Thus, the pressing question for Campaign 2016 is whether America will escape from the zombies of the twin “neos” or spend the next four years surrounded by these undead ideas as the world lurches closer to an existential crisis.

The main thing that the zombie “neos” have going for them is that the vast majority of Very Important People in Official Washington have embraced these concepts and have achieved money and fame as a result. These VIPs are no more likely to renounce their fat salaries and overblown influence than the favored courtiers of a King or Queen would side with the unwashed rabble.

The “neo” adherents are also very skilled at framing issues to their benefit, made easier by the fact that they face almost no opposition or resistance from the mainstream media or the major think tanks.

The neoconservatives have become Washington’s foreign policy establishment, driving the old-time “realists” who favored more judicious use of American power to the sidelines.

Meanwhile, the neoliberals dominate economic policy debates, treating the “markets” as some new-age god and “privatization” of public assets as scripture. They have pushed aside the old New Dealers who called for a robust government role to protect the people from the excesses of capitalism and to build public infrastructure to benefit the nation as a whole.

The absence of any strong resistance to the now dominant “neo” ideologies is why we saw the catastrophic “group think” over Iraq’s WMD in 2003 and why for many years no one of great significance dared question the benefits of “free trade.”

After all, both strategies benefited the elites. Neoconservative warmongering diverted trillions of dollars into the Military-Industrial Complex and neoliberal job outsourcing has made billions of dollars for individual corporate executives and stock investors on Wall Street.

Those interests have, in turn, kicked back a share of the proceeds to fund Washington think tanks, to finance news outlets, and to lavish campaign donations and speaking fees on friendly politicians. So, for the insiders, this game has been a case of win-win.

The Losers

Not so much for the “losers,” those average citizens who have seen the Great American Middle Class hollowed out over the past few decades, watched America’s public infrastructure decay, and worried about their sons and daughters being sent off to fight unnecessary, perpetual and futile wars.

But inundated with clever propaganda – and scrambling to make ends meet – most Americans see the reality as if through a glass darkly. Many of them, as Barack Obama indelicately said during the 2008 campaign, “cling to guns or religion.” They have little else – and many are killing themselves with opiates that dull their pain or with those guns that they see as their last link to “freedom.”

What is clear, however, is that large numbers don’t trust – and don’t want – Hillary Clinton, who had a net 24-point unfavorable rating in one recent poll. It turns out that another indelicate Obama comment from Campaign 2008 may not have been true, when he vouched that “you’re likable enough, Hillary.” For many Americans, that’s not the case (although Trump trumped Clinton with a 41-point net negative).

If the Democrats do nominate Hillary Clinton, they will be hoping that the neocon/neolib establishment can so demonize Donald Trump that a plurality of Americans will vote for the former Secretary of State out of abject fear over what crazy things the narcissistic billionaire might do in the White House.

Trump’s policy prescriptions have been all over the place – and it is hard to know what reflects his actual thinking (or his genuine ignorance) as opposed to what constitutes his skillful showmanship that made him the “survivor” in the real-life reality TV competition for the Republican nomination.

Does Trump really believe that global warming is a hoax or is he just pandering to the know-nothing element of the Republican Party? Does he actually consider Obama’s Iran nuclear deal to be a disaster or is he just playing to the hate-Obama crowd on the Right?

Opposing the ‘Neos’

But Trump is not a fan of the “neos.” He forthrightly takes on the neocons over the Iraq War and excoriates ex-Secretary of State Clinton for her key role in another “regime change” disaster in Libya. Further, Trump calls for cooperation with Russia and China rather than the neocon-preferred escalation of tensions.

In his April 27 foreign policy speech, Trump called for “a new foreign policy direction for our country – one that replaces randomness with purpose, ideology with strategy, and chaos with peace. …It’s time to invite new voices and new visions into the fold. …

“My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people, and American security, above all else. That will be the foundation of every decision that I will make. America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.”

Such comments – suggesting that “new voices” are needed and that “ideology” should be cast aside – were fighting words for the neocons, since it is their voices that have drowned out all others and their ideology that has dominated U.S. foreign policy in recent years.

To make matters worse, Trump outlined an “America First” strategy in contrast to neocon demands that the U.S. military be dispatched abroad to advance the interests of Israel and other “allies.” Trump is not interested in staging “regime changes” to eliminate leaders who are deemed troublesome to Israel.

The real estate tycoon also has made criticism of “free trade” deals a centerpiece of his campaign, arguing that those agreements have sold out American workers by forcing them to compete with foreign workers receiving a fraction of the pay.

Sen. Sanders has struck similar themes in his insurgent Democratic campaign, criticizing Hillary Clinton’s longtime support for “free trade” and her enthusiasm for “regime change” wars, such as those in Iraq and Libya.

Examining her long record in public life, there can be little doubt that Clinton is a neocon on foreign policy and a neolib on economic strategies. She stands firmly with the consensus of Official Washington’s establishment, which is why she has enjoyed its warm embrace.

She has followed Wall Street’s beloved neoliberal attitude toward “free trade,” which has been very good for multinational corporations as they shipped millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs to low-wage countries. (She has only cooled her ardor for trade deals to stanch the flow of Democratic voters to Bernie Sanders.)

Wars and More Wars

On foreign policy, Clinton has consistently supported neoconservative wars, although she might shy from the neocon label per se, preferring its less noxious synonym “liberal interventionist.”

But as arch-neocon Robert Kagan, who has recast himself as a “liberal interventionist,” told The New York Times in 2014, “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy. If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

Summing up the feeling of thinkers like Kagan, the Times reported that Clinton “remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes.”

In February 2016, distraught over the rise of Trump, Kagan, whose Project for the New American Century wrote the blueprint for George W. Bush’s Iraq War, openly threw his support to Clinton, announcing his decision in a Washington Post op-ed.

And Kagan is not mistaken when he views Hillary Clinton as a fellow-traveler. She has often marched in lock step with the neocons as they have implemented their aggressive “regime change” schemes against governments and political movements that don’t toe Washington’s line or that deviate from Israel’s goals in the Middle East.

She has backed coups, such as in Honduras (2009) and Ukraine (2014); invasions, such as Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011); and subversions such as Syria (from 2011 to the present) all with various degrees of disastrous results. [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Neocon” and “Would a Clinton Win Mean More Wars?”]

Seeking ‘Coercion’

A glimpse of what a Clinton-45 presidency might do could be seen in a recent Politico commentary by Dennis Ross, a former special adviser to Secretary of State Clinton now working at the staunchly pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In the article, Ross painted a surreal world in which the problems of the Middle East have been caused by President Obama’s hesitancy to engage militarily more aggressively across the region, not by the neocon-driven decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and the similar schemes to overthrow secular governments in Libya and Syria in 2011, leaving those two countries in ruin.

Channeling the desires of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ross called for the United States to yoke itself to the regional interests of Israel, Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in their rivalry against Shiite-led Iran.

Ross wrote: “Obama believes in the use of force only in circumstances where our security and homeland might be directly threatened. His mindset justifies pre-emptive action against terrorists and doing more to fight the Islamic State. But it frames U.S. interests and the use of force to support them in very narrow terms. …

“The Saudis acted in [invading] Yemen in no small part because they feared the United States would impose no limits on Iranian expansion in the area, and they felt the need to draw their own lines.”

To counter Obama’s hesitancy to apply military force, Ross calls for a reassertion of a muscular U.S. policy in the Middle East, much along the lines that the neocon establishment and Hillary Clinton also favor, including:

–Threatening Iran with “blunt, explicit language on employing force, not sanctions” if Iran deviates from the Obama-negotiated agreement to constrain its nuclear program (the bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran zombie lives!);

–“Contingency planning with GCC states and Israel … to generate specific options for countering Iran’s growing use of Shiite militias to undermine regimes in the region”;

–A readiness to arm Sunni tribes in Iraq if Iraq’s prime minister doesn’t;

–Establish “safe havens with no-fly zones” inside Syria if Russian President Vladimir Putin does not force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Employing the classic tough talk of the neocons, Ross concludes, “Putin and Middle Eastern leaders understand the logic of coercion. It is time for us to reapply it.”

One might note the many logical inconsistencies of Ross’s arguments, including his failure to note that much of Iran’s supposed meddling in the Middle East has involved aiding the Syrian and Iraqi governments in their battle against the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Or that Russia’s intervention in Syria also has been to support the internationally recognized government in its fight against Sunni extremists and terrorists.

But the significance of Ross’s prescription to “reapply” U.S. “coercion” across the region is that he is outlining what the world can expect from a Clinton-45 presidency.

Clinton made many of the same points in her speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and in debates with Bernie Sanders. If she stays on that track as president, there would be at least a partial U.S. military invasion of Syria, a very strong likelihood of war with Iran, and an escalation of tensions (and possible war) with nuclear-armed Russia.

The logic of how all that is supposed to improve matters is lost amid the classic neocon growling about showing toughness or reapplying “coercion.”

So, the Democratic Party seems to be betting that Hillary Clinton’s flood of ugly TV ads against Trump can frighten the American people enough to give the neocons and the neolibs one more lease on the White House – and four more years to wreak their zombie havoc on the world.

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).

 




Daniel Berrigan’s Enduring Fight for Peace

As Campaign 2016 almost ignores the vital issues of war and peace – despite the reality of perpetual war – Daniel Berrigan, one of America’s great voices for peace, has gone silent, writes Michael Winship.

By Michael Winship

May is historically a month for protests, and first, I’d like to protest the fact that Rev. Daniel Berrigan died last weekend, just a few days shy of what would have been his 95th birthday on May 9.

May, too, was the month in which this outspoken Jesuit poet and peace activist, with his fellow priest and brother Philip, and seven others, staged one of the most significant and symbolic protests against the horrors of Vietnam. On May 17, 1968, they walked into the office of a draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, removed the files of young men eligible for military duty, took them to a parking lot next door, doused them with homemade napalm and set the files ablaze.

“Our apologies, good friends,” Dan Berrigan said, “for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.”

The Catonsville Nine were tried and convicted for destroying government property. Rather than go to prison, three of them, including Dan and Phil Berrigan, went on the lam, but the brothers soon were caught (while underground, Dan had a habit — greatly vexing to J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI — of popping up in public to deliver sermons, then disappearing again). In August 1970, Dan began his three-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut.

So he wasn’t around to offer guidance the following year, in 1971, as many of the more militant in the anti-Vietnam war movement decided that in light of events like Catonsville the time had come to up the ante and move from largely peaceful mass demonstrations to more direct and sometimes even violent acts of civil disobedience.

This, too, was in May, 45 years ago this week, in fact, when thousands came from around the country and gathered in Washington under the slogan, “If the government is not going to stop the war, we will stop the government.”

The week before, perhaps as many as half a million had shown up for a Vietnam protest so mellow that many took advantage of a closed-off Pennsylvania Avenue to skateboard and sunbathe along the boulevard on a warm spring Saturday. But now, thousands gathered with the express purpose of physically blocking bridges, main arteries and traffic circles leading into the capital.

According to The New York Times, the Nixon White House responded with 12,000 federal troops, 5,100 local police and 1,500 National Guardsmen.

Police broke up an encampment at West Potomac Park, near the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, and protesters scattered, many of them to the Georgetown University campus, where I was a student. I still remember the helicopters buzzing overhead.

On Monday, May 3, the protesters regrouped and put into action their plan to shut the city down during the morning rush hour, using hit-and-run tactics and any large or small object that came to hand. The police and military pushed back hard.

I was a student reporter and my photographer John and I headed toward Key Bridge near the Georgetown campus. Forever in my memory is the sight of Rhode Island U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, standing on the steps of his townhouse in robe and pajamas, retrieving his daily copy of The Washington Post and looking completely befuddled by the flying debris and overturned cars around him.

Soon John and I were fleeing through streets and alleys with the demonstrators. We rounded the intersection of Prospect and 36th Streets and ran smack into a wall of tear gas, the worst I had ever experienced. We fell to the pavement, blinded, but soon were taken in hand by volunteer medics and led to a makeshift infirmary in the basement of a university building.

Once our eyes had been thoroughly flushed with water and we had a chance to rest a bit and catch our breath, we headed back to the streets and raced to the main campus where police on motor scooters, in total violation of an agreement with the university, fired grenade after grenade of tear gas at protesters and students alike.

Mass Arrests

Over the course of three days, some 12,000 protesters were taken into custody, the largest mass arrest in American history. There were so many the city’s jails couldn’t hold them all and most were taken to RFK Stadium. People from the neighborhood threw food and blankets over the security fence.

I wanted to report on what was happening at the stadium but figured the only way to do it was to get arrested myself. I went to a sit-in on the Capitol steps where police were dragging protesters into buses. Get close enough, I thought, and I was certain to be sucked into the vortex. Sure enough, an officer soon had his hand on my arm but just as he tightened his grip, a photographer I knew from the Post pulled my other arm in the opposite direction.

“He’s with me,” the photographer shouted and the cop actually let go. Thanks, I said to my friend, but inside I was screaming, “Stop helping me!”

I never did get into the stadium; ultimately, fewer than a hundred of the arrested were charged, everyone else was quickly released. The debate would continue over whether the violent confrontations were justified — on the face of it, the attempted shutdown was a failure — but in retrospect the government’s overreaction to the Mayday protests was a misstep, one more proof of a failed policy that was simply delaying the inevitable in Vietnam at the cost of thousands and thousands more lives.

Like the Berrigan brothers and their comrades at Catonsville, the attempt to obstruct the streets and bridges of Washington was an act of disobedience designed to throw a wrench in the works of the war machine.

The next year, Dan Berrigan was freed from Danbury after serving half his sentence. I interviewed a number of Jesuits for an article on Dan and Phil in Georgetown University’s alumni magazine, modeled on an extraordinary all-Berrigan issue of the Holy Cross Quarterly, then joined the staff of Democrat George McGovern’s quixotic, anti-war presidential campaign.

A few weeks after we had gone down to exhausted but noble defeat, I went to a lecture Dan Berrigan was giving at a downtown Washington church. I was nursing what I thought was just a very bad, long-lasting cold. We met afterwards and his greeting, characteristically to the point, was, “You look terrible. Go see a doctor.” Sound advice.

When I took off my shirt for the ER physician, revealing my fading McGovern tee shirt underneath, he said, “You’re the seventh McGovern guy I’ve had in here since the election.” Diagnosis: pneumonia.

Several years later, I had moved to New York. One Friday night, some friends showed up at my tiny apartment for a late dinner and with them was Dan Berrigan. He was in good form. Sufficient alcohol was consumed during the evening that unfortunately I recall little of what actually was said but I do remember Dan’s post-midnight recitation of another great Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins:

I say more: the just man justices;

Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;

Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —

Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

In the following years, I lost touch with him and apparently that was not uncommon. He took the advice of the great Catholic philosopher and author Thomas Merton and, in the words of Georgetown senior fellow Paul Elie, became “a figure of radical purity and apartness.”

The man once so visible, once so potent and public a symbol of dissidence, quietly continued to write and protest (and get arrested), as he kept his vows, studied and taught scripture and humbly ministered to those who needed his faith. The just man justiced and kept grace.

May is historically a month for protests. It’s the month of Chicago’s Haymarket bombing in 1886; of Paris in 1968, when students and workers almost brought down the government of Charles de Gaulle; of May 1970 and deaths at Kent State and Jackson State, the resulting student strike that closed colleges and universities across the country.

And now in yet another May of turmoil we protest the death of Dan Berrigan, mourn his passing but celebrate all that he did and said and wrote, while celebrating, too, all those like him who speak out and strive to make this country a land of peace and justice that’s honest and wise and decent and compassionate. You know, the things that truly make America great.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship. [This story originally appeared at http://billmoyers.com/story/may-protest-daniel-berrigan/]

 




A Longwinded and Winding Rhodes

Official Washington is abuzz about the boasts of President Obama’s foreign policy speechwriter Ben Rhodes regarding his selling the Iran nuclear deal, a new club being wielded by the bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran neocons, explains James W Carden.

By James W Carden

A recent New York Times Magazine profile of Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes has been the talk of the Beltway since it appeared last week. In some respects the piece is a wholly conventional piece of Beltway puffery: Rhodes is presented to readers as something of a “boy wonder,” a frustrated novelist called to higher duty after witnessing the collapse of the Twin Towers from the vantage point of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Rhodes, through the help of some well-connected family friends, quickly found his true calling: climbing the greasy pole of the Washington foreign policy establishment.

A staff job working for former Congressman Lee Hamilton at the Wilson Center in Washington, led to staff jobs drafting the findings of the Iraq Study Group and the 9/11 Commission. Before long, Rhodes, the former Rudy Giuliani campaign volunteer, was working side by side with presidential candidate Barack Obama as a foreign policy speechwriter. From there, Rhodes made his way to the National Security Council where he has remained since 2009.

In another New York Times piece on Rhodes, this one from 2013, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and NSC Senior Director Michael McFaul told the Times, “Ben always holds on to the pen … [and] because of his close personal relationship with the president, Ben can always make policy through the speeches and statements made by President Obama.”

In that same piece Rhodes was somewhat more circumspect, telling that Times that, “My main job, which has always been my job, is to be the person who represents the president’s view,” no easy feat when you consider that Mr. Obama, if Jeffrey Goldberg’s lengthy exit interview of the President in The Atlantic is to be believed, seems to hold a number of views which contradict his own policies.

Having allowed three years to pass without publishing a Ben Rhodes profile, the New York Times obviously felt it was once again time to bring readers up-to-speed on the doings of the talented Mr. Rhodes. This time the magazine contracted the job out to David Samuels, a longtime journalist who has seemingly profiled everyone from Yasir Arafat to Britney Spears and Kayne West.

Samuels’ piece contains a number of gems. Rhodes’ self-regard is put front and center. At one point the wunderkind tells Samuels: “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.” Oh, dear.

Targeting the Iran Deal

But where things get really interesting, and where most of the media attention has subsequently focused, is when Rhodes tells Samuels about his role in “selling” the Iran deal. According to Rhodes, the White House communications strategy was to invent a borderline fictitious narrative and sell it to gullible journalists who they knew they could count on to simply regurgitate the White House (read: Rhodes’s) message.

The task of selling the Iran deal to the press was rather easier than one might expect, since, according to the 38-year-old Rhodes, “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

The question now being asked around town is: what is it that Rhodes knows, exactly? What we know (or at any rate can safely surmise) is that the boy wonder of the NSC was unaware that his interlocutor, Samuels, was one of the Iran deal’s most outspoken (or unhinged) opponents, making the “rational” case for bombing Iran.

Per Samuels: “Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities is the surest way for Israel to restore the image of strength and unpredictability that made it valuable to the United States after 1967 while also eliminating Iran as a viable partner for America’s favor.” Uh-huh.

Samuels rather deviously used the Rhodes profile to grind that axe once more, and attempts to paint proponents of the Iran deal as dupes of the Rhodes spin machine. If Rhodes took a perhaps three-minute break from channeling the voice of the President, he might have been better prepared for Samuels, made less a fool of himself, and refrained from impugning the integrity of a very fine journalist like Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen.

Did Rhodes know what Samuels was up to or did he succumb to the all too common of Beltway delusion of believing in one’s own omniscience?

James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s eastwestaccord.com. He previously served as an advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department.  




Still at War with Iran-Nuke Deal

As neocons look forward to dominant roles in a Clinton-45 administration, they are continuing their attacks on the Iran nuclear deal, thus keeping hope alive to eventually bomb-bomb-bomb Iran, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar describes.

By Paul R. Pillar

The never-say-die efforts to kill the Iranian nuclear agreement have been taking some strange turns lately. Two in particular.

One is that some of the same opponents who, before the agreement was adopted, spent much energy berating the terms of the agreement are now focusing instead on criticizing certain actions by the U.S. administration toward Iran that the opponents assert are not among the terms of the agreement, and that the opponents say should not be taken for that very reason. The assertions are incorrect.

The issues at hand mostly concern the stickiness of the U.S. sanctions system and the persistence of fears among European banks and others about doing any business with Iran — even business that is permitted under the sanctions relief granted as part of the nuclear agreement. Efforts by U.S. officials to undo some of the stickiness are not beyond the obligations of the agreement; they are a necessary part of implementing terms that are an intrinsic and fundamental aspect of the bargain incorporated in the agreement.

Another, lesser, issue that has received comment concerns U.S. purchase of some of the heavy water that, under the agreement, Iran must remove from its stockpiles. Any such purchase is a direct facilitation of the carrying out by Iran of obligations that lessen its nuclear capabilities.

The opponents cannot have it both ways: first saying the terms were terrible and then saying what’s terrible is not to adhere strictly to the terms — or rather, to the opponents’ newest interpretation of the terms. If the agreement really says what the opponents now say it says, they should have been delighted with the document that emerged from the negotiations — one that, according to their interpretation, would have imposed all of the same limitations and scrutiny on Iran’s nuclear program that the actual accord does, but with almost no economic benefit accruing to Iran and even with the Iranians incurring additional economic loss in the form of expensively produced heavy water being poured down the sewer.

Another strange turn has come within the last week in the form of attention to a profile of presidential aide Ben Rhodes written by David Samuels and appearing in the New York Times Sunday magazine. If this piece was written to be exploitable by opponents of the nuclear agreement, that is not surprising given that the writer is a confirmed opponent himself. The picture that Samuels conveys is of Rhodes as a master manipulator of public perceptions who got the press that was covering the Iran negotiations to eat out of his hand in a way that conveyed false impressions of what the White House was up to.

Now, whatever one may think of Ben Rhodes, and even if one were to believe that the press covering U.S. foreign relations and security policy were as dumb and dependent as portrayed, there is no there there. There were no impressions, manipulated or otherwise, that ought to cause anyone any heartburn.

One of the supposed instances of manipulated and false impressions is that the administration contended it didn’t do anything on this issue until after Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran in September 2013 despite there having been some earlier secret U.S.-Iranian talks. In fact, the earlier talks have been well known for some time and had been reported long ago by that supposedly gullible press.

Moreover, it would have been surprising, and disappointing to anyone who would like the makers of U.S. foreign policy to be diligently looking ahead and considering all possibilities for advancing U.S. interests, if the administration had not tried to reconnoiter what the possibilities were for negotiating restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program.

And Rouhani’s election did make a significant difference, both in bringing into office on the Iranian side a team with the knowledge and commitment to reach such an agreement, and in rendering irrelevant on the American side the political difficulty of any major dealings with the loathsome Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. So where’s the deception, and what’s the problem?

The Samuels piece also suggests that the manipulator Rhodes got people to believe that the administration’s main purpose in negotiating the agreement was nuclear proliferation but that it really had other objectives in mind having to do with broader Middle Eastern matters. But the Obama administration wasn’t the one going out of its way to talk up an Iranian nuclear threat, even though other administrations have been known to talk up such threats to pursue other agendas. This time there was plenty of agitation from other sources about the danger of an Iranian nuke.

The agreement certainly needs to be assessed, pro or con, primarily in terms of nuclear nonproliferation, and it is in such terms that nonproliferation specialists have overwhelmingly endorsed the agreement. The agreement also needs to be assessed, pro or con, in terms of other effects it may have on regional politics and stability. And it was so assessed in the public debate; certainly the con side addressed it especially vigorously in such terms — you know, all that talk we heard about how Iran supposedly would be “emboldened” to do all sorts of “nefarious” things in the region. So where’s the deception, and how did it affect in any way the debate on the agreement?

The suggestion of duplicity with Ben Rhodes pulling strings from his West Wing office reminds one of those teasers for the eleven o’clock news that are phrased as a question: “Is there…[some shocking development, if it existed]?” only to find out, if one stays up and tunes in to the news broadcast, that the answer is: no, there isn’t.

Each of these strange turns in the tactics of the would-be agreement-killers is an additional example of what we saw so much of when debate on the agreement was most intensive last year: a grasping by the opposition for any straw to raise any kind of doubt about the agreement, however little sense the arguments made.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)




Unfair Attack on UK’s Labour Party

The British Labour Party is under attack for “anti-Semitism” because a few of its members have made remarks critical of Israel and Zionism, but this assault is an abuse of a very serious accusation, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

How do you misuse a racial prejudice? At first glance this ought to appear to be an absurd question. Racial prejudices already constitute the distortion of perception and emotion. Nevertheless, when a particular prejudice has a distinct pedigree and an age-old definition, and then is purposely exploited (particularly by those purporting to represent its victims) solely for political gain, the issue of misuse becomes anything but absurd.

The racial prejudice in question is anti-Semitism, one of the most devastating of bigotries and responsible for untold misery. It has always been defined as hatred of Jews as Jews. This hatred is underpinned by a vast number of historical myths and fantastic conspiracy theories, but at its core, what we have here is close to pure racism – a Jew is bad not because of what he or she has done, but because of some racial taint.

 

Now here is the complicated part. This age-old definition has been reformulated by an ideologically driven sub-set of Jewry – Zionists – for political purposes. The Zionists have declared that there is no difference between the State of Israel and the worldwide community of Jews and therefore, if you are opposed to Israel you are anti-Semitic.

This identification of Israel and the Jews en masse is historically, demographically and certainly religiously false. But no matter, the Zionists shout this redefinition loudly and endlessly. And, by backing their claim with political pressure and a lot of money, they have managed to get it accepted in some Western political circles. This, then, is what constitutes the misuse for political purposes of a dangerous racial prejudice.

 

Having laid this foundation, the Zionists are now using this bastardized concept of anti-Semitism as a weapon against those critical of not the Jews as a group, but the political state of Israel, its policies and behaviors, which are, themselves, racist and barbaric. Indeed, it is Israeli behavior, specifically toward the Palestinians, that has encouraged a revival of anti-Semitism after more than a half a century of quiescence – thus the very striking irony of the Zionist insistence that opposition to Israeli racist policies is itself a racial prejudice.

Attack on the British Labour Party

There are many examples of this Zionist perversion, but the latest one is a full-blown attack on those members of the British Labour Party who are critical of Israel yet not of Jews as such. Charley Allan, a columnist for the British paper Morning Star, has described the resulting atmosphere as a “witch hunt.” Below are two examples of isolated statements made by Labour Party members which have caused a purposefully exaggerated brouhaha over the issue of anti-Semitism.

In late April, it was revealed that Naseem Shah, the Labour MP for Bradford West, had posted on her Facebook account a map that showed Israel transferred to within the borders of the U.S. She labeled it as “a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Shah’s posting, which she sourced from the website of the Jewish-American scholar Norman Finkelstein, was made at the height of Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza and pre-dated her election to Parliament.

While the suggestion of the wholesale transference of Israel to the U.S. is but a fantasy, associating the U.S. and Israel certainly has an underlying logic. The United States is Israel’s major protector and financier. The U.S. Congress treats Israel as a privileged 51st state. And, most of those who emigrate from Israel go to the U.S.

Accusations that Shah’s post was an anti-Semitic attack on Jewry were belatedly raised, leading to her suspension from the Labour Party pending an investigation. She subsequently, and rather abjectly, apologized.

Nonetheless, the fact is that Ms. Shah’s display of the map was not anti-Semitic at all. It was not an attack on Jews as such, and there is no evidence that it was motivated by a hatred of Jews. What is really objectionable is the Zionist effort to perversely manipulate the post as if it really was anti-Semitism, in order to attack those opposed to their own racist political ideology.

The second example concerns the veteran Labour Party leader Ken Livingstone, who is also a former mayor of London. In late April, Livingstone stated on a British radio program that “Hitler was a Zionist” whose policy was that “the Jews should be moved to Israel.” Now this is certainly not a true statement.

What is true is that Hitler wanted the Jews out of Germany. Up until 1938 they could leave that country (albeit without any possessions) if they could find another country that would let them in (which wasn’t easy). During this time Hitler did not particularly care where the German Jews went, and most who did have the foresight to leave did not go to Palestine.

Though historically inaccurate, Livingstone’s statement was not anti-Semitic. Its principal subject was Hitler and the Zionist movement, and, again, there is no evidence that it was motivated by hatred of Jews. Nonetheless, for making his statement Livingstone has been accused of being anti-Semitic, and he too has been suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation.

It would seem that the present Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is running scared, tossing out members like Shah and Livingstone, rather than counterattacking against Zionist offensive with the truth – that the charge of anti-Semitism is being improperly exploited for political purposes.

Corbyn himself, who is of the left wing of the party, and has repeatedly expressed sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, is probably among the real targets of this campaign of intimidation. It seems that the right wing of the party has joined up with the British Zionists to run Corbyn out of office using, or rather misusing, the charge of anti-Semitism.

Despite what amounts to ever-present paranoia in some circles, there are no signs of a future Holocaust in the making. That does not mean that history holds no important lessons for the Jews. It certainly does.

The primary lesson is that the Jews, like other minority groups, need to protect their collective interests by maintaining strong support for universal civil and human rights, as well as the rule of law both domestically and internationally. However, there is another lesson the past, and specifically the Holocaust, ought to have taught us: that it is dangerously counterproductive to engage in a defense of group interests that involves the persecution of others.

To the extent that they have followed this path, the Zionists have failed to learn from history.

Therefore, it is not the Jews as a people who are remiss. It is only those who have abandoned the protections of civil and human rights and now flout international law in favor of a cruel nationalist policy. The Zionist claim that they have pursue this path to protect the Jewish people is highly suspect for, since its founding, Israel has always been the most dangerous place a Jew can reside.

We are led to the conclusion expressed by Professor Stephen Bronner in a deeply insightful work entitled The Bigot. “Disentangling genuine prejudice from a legitimate critique of Israeli territorial ambitions should be the aim of all progressive inquiry into the problem of anti-Jewish bigotry.”

That critique of Israel’s behavior is not only legitimate, but central to future peace in the Middle East.

Zionism is an ideology gone seriously astray. And the use of the charge of anti-Semitism as a weapon against its critics is a dangerous exploitation of that age-old bigotry as well as a betrayal of the lessons of history.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.




China Closes the Innovation Gap

While the U.S. expands spending on wars and “regime changes” – and slashes its budget for science and infrastructure – China is making different choices, now rapidly closing the gap on scientific innovation, writes John V. Walsh.

By John V. Walsh

The headline reads, “The Rapid Rise of a Research Nation: China’s economic boom is mirrored by its similarly meteoric rise in high quality science.” This was not a headline in People’s Daily or China Daily but in the most prestigious of Western scientific publications, Nature.

The 38 pages, which follow that headline in a special Supplement to the journal Nature, tell us that China is now second in the world in high quality science publications and growing fast. This certainly contradicts the Western, dare I say racist, stereotype of the hardworking, but unimaginative, Asian drudge, dutifully churning out mounds of low-quality work.

But how can we know that claim about China is true? Are we dealing here with release of data by the Chinese government, which, again according to Western stereotype, produces little but fabrications? (This writer has not found that to be the case, but there is merit in using sources that are immune to Western prejudices.)

Before considering the evidence for Nature’s claim of high quality Chinese science, we should ask of what significance is it to the layman? Just this, as the U.S. continues its belligerent “pivot to Asia,” which has been designed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and the foreign policy Elite to confront China, we should know what our leaders are getting us into.

Two pillars of a country’s power (supporting the hard, soft and military varieties) are its economy and its technology. Since late in 2014 China has been the world’s largest economy according to the International Monetary Fund, using the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) metric.  It continues to grow at about 7 percent – or “only” 7 percent as the Western media are fond of telling us although no Western nation comes near that rate of growth.

Now China appears to be on the cusp of becoming the world’s foremost Research and Development (R&D) engine. And that pushes the Chinese economy forward even more rapidly, for technology and science are the driving forces for modern economic development.

We would do well to remember that the last time that the U.S. confronted China directly in armed conflict was the Korean War. When the U.S., using the United Nations as cover, advanced all the way to the border with China, the Yalu river, China entered the war and the U.S. was driven back south to the 38th parallel. The result was restoration of the status quo ante bellum, with Korea divided in the way it remains to this day. At that time China was weak and backward; now it is strong and advanced.

Historical Domination

In a broader historical context, for the last 500 years the West has been in the dirty business of invading and colonizing the rest of the planet. This process continues today in the form of neocolonialism, most recently with U.S. wars, “regime change” ops and sanctions aimed at resisting nations.

In this entire 500-year period, the West has always enjoyed technological superiority in such encounters, and that has been one of the keys to its success at domination. Some would say that technology was the key to subjugation of the planet by the West.

We can envisage the Toledo steel armor and swords of the original conquistadores from 1492 onward to the titanic aircraft carriers of the U.S. lumbering around the South China Sea today. But the advance of science and technology in China means that this will not long remain the case. In fact that day may have passed already for all practical purposes.

So we would be well advised to know what sort of predicament our Elite are creating for us with their “pivot to Asia.”

Let us turn to the evidence. How do we know with a high level of confidence that China has succeeded so impressively in its science and technology? The information comes from Nature Index (NatureIndex.com), a product of the journal Nature. Perhaps relatively few laymen are aware of Nature, but virtually every working scientist regards it as one of the most outstanding of scientific publications, a reputation well deserved.

As but one example, the original paper by Watson and Crick on the double helical structure of DNA, along with the paper, by Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, providing the data that led to the Watson-Crick structure, appeared in Nature.

Nature is published by Elsevier, which has been around for a good long time. Elsevier, headquartered in the Netherlands at the time, published Galileo’s “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” smuggled out of Italy to escape Vatican suppression while Galileo was under house arrest. Descartes was also published by Elsevier. The list goes on over the centuries.

Measuring Progress

Now dear reader, you will have to bear with me for a few brief paragraphs to describe how NatureIndex makes the determination of quality in science. It is all spelled out in great detail at NatureIndex.com. NatureIndex is built on a database of all the original articles published in 68 of the highest quality scientific journals in the world listed here. The selection of those journals is done by a group of prominent active research scientists listed here. All the selected journals are based in the West as are all but a handful of the selecting scientists.

In a given year at the moment approximately 60,000 original articles appear in these journals. Each author of the 60,000 papers is given a score based on the number of these articles to which he or she has made a contribution. This number is called the Fractional Index (FC). For technical reasons the FC has to be weighted for certain disciplines giving rise to another number, the Weighted Fractional Index (WFC) for each scientist.

Add up the WFC’s for all the scientists in China appearing in the list of contributors in a given year and you have the WFC for the nation of China. The same can be done for any other country. It is as simple as that.

Basically the WFC is a metric for quality because the journals chosen to be part of the Index are those that publish the very best science as best as it can be determined at the moment. Publication of a paper in these journals is a highly competitive business, and every scientist wants to publish his or her best work in them.

The WFC is no bureaucratic or governmental measure. Each article that appears has been reviewed and accepted, usually by at least three scientists acting completely independently, and in fact not even knowing who their fellow reviewers of a given manuscript are. That means we have at least 180,000 independent reviews per year.

And then there are the many more articles rejected by these reviewing scientists. That means the WFC for the countries surveyed is determined by hundreds of thousands of independent reviews each year! They all act independently of one another. Adam Smith would love the model.

This author has been involved for a lifetime in such scientific reviews, as both reviewer and reviewed. The reviews are generally tough, honest and mostly fair. And in general the more prestigious the publication, the more demanding the review.

Again the bottom line is the WFC for each of the countries surveyed. The higher the WFC, the higher the quality of the country’s total output. For the 12 months of 2015 the U.S. had the number one WFC by far. But second was China. (The order of the top 20 is: U.S., China, Germany, UK, Japan, France, Canada, Switzerland, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Australia, India, Netherlands, Israel, Sweden, Singapore, Taiwan, Russia, Belgium.)

Nature magazine began analyzing China’s output in 2012 and it recently (December, 2015) published a hard copy Supplement summarizing the Index in which the WFC for China for the period 2012 to 2014 was assessed. There is much of interest in the 38 pages of this Supplement.   It contains evaluations of the science by region, institution (which includes both academia and corporations) and city. The awe of those who prepared the supplement for the advances in Chinese science is palpable in the Supplement.

Changing Places

For those interested in comparisons, as we should well be if we wish to know accurately our place in the world, the following paragraph from the NatureIndex Supplement is striking: “But what sets China apart is its WFC. While China’s contribution (to the global total) grew 37% from 2012 through 2014, the United States saw a 4% drop over the same period.”

That paragraph should be read and reread by those who would dismiss the development of China as “merely” quantitative or completely fake.

Moreover, the decline in the WFC of the U.S. comes as no surprise to researchers in the U.S., my colleagues, who have watched many laboratories close and talented investigators forced to quit as federal funding failed to keep pace with expenses. It is sad indeed to watch this tragedy unfold, with all the attendant waste of talent, training and education.

To return to the Nature Index Supplement for China for 2012-2014, here are excerpts from the opening section, which convey much of the magnitude and significance of China’s accomplishment:

“China has ambitious plans to source as much as 15% of its energy from renewable resources by 2020, at the same time its economy is expected to slow (to 6.8 -7.0 percent per year. JW). It also aspires to be the next space superpower while facing major health and environment challenges, such as an ageing population and water shortages. (China also has set as a goal the total elimination of poverty and the creation of a ‘moderately prosperous society’ by 2020. JW)

“The Chinese government knows that surmounting these challenges while achieving its goals can only be accomplished through science. Indeed, China is pegging its future prosperity on a knowledge-based economy, underpinned by research and innovation. For a country that invented paper, gunpowder and the compass, such lofty ambitions could be realized. This year (2015) pharmacologist Tu Youyou became the first Chinese researcher to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for helping to discover a new drug for malaria that has saved millions of lives.”

This should be quite enough to convince the reader of the extent, rapidity and quality of science in China. But is there corroborative data for the Nature Index study? Yes, from our own U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF released an assessment of China’s R&D in January 2016 entitled: “U.S. science and technology leadership increasingly challenged by advances in Asia: China is now the second largest performer of research and development.”

This assessment is drawn from Science and Engineering Indicators, 2016, which is in turn produced by the National Science Board (NSB) a leadership body of the NSF whose 25 members are presidential appointees. The assessment is worth reading in full, but the bottom line is the following:

“According to Indicators 2016, China is now the second-largest performer of R&D, accounting for 20 percent of global R&D as compared to the United States, which accounts for 27 percent.”

That means of course that China now produces almost three-fourths as much R&D as the U.S., if we are to believe the NSF’s figures, and China’s output is growing fast. Here are some other quotes from the NSF assessment:

“Between 2003 and 2013, China ramped up its R&D investments at an average of 19.5 percent annually, greatly exceeding that of the U.S. China made its increases despite the Great Recession. (This last indicates to this writer a deep commitment to R&D.)

“China has also made significant strides in S&E (Science and Engineering) education, which is critical to supporting R&D as well as knowledge and technology-intensive industries. China is the world’s number-one producer of undergraduates with degrees in science and engineering. These fields account for 49 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in China, compared to 33 percent of all bachelor’s degrees the U.S. awards.

“In 2012, students in China earned about 23 percent of the world’s 6 million first University degrees in S&E. Students in the European Union earned about 12 percent and those in the U.S. accounted for about 9 percent of these degrees. (Note that China is now producing more undergraduate degrees in S&E than the U.S. and the European Union combined, i.e., more than the entire “West.” jw)

“The number of S&E graduate degrees awarded in China is also increasing. However, the U.S. continues to award the largest number of S&E doctorates and remains the destination of choice for internationally mobile students.” (But with the enormous numbers of undergraduate S&E degrees awarded in China, it would seem to be only a matter of time before graduate degrees follow. jw)

U.S. Retrenchment

Now let us see what the NSF has to say about the growth rate of R&D in the U.S., something it knows probably better than anyone else. Again we quote:

“Federal investment in both academic and business sector R&D has declined in recent years, reflecting the effects of the end of the investments of ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), the advent of the Budget Control Act, and increased pressure on the discretionary portion of the federal budget.

“Since the Great Recession, substantial, real R&D growth annually — ahead of the pace of U.S. GDP — has not returned. Inflation-adjusted growth in total U.S. R&D averaged only 0.8 percent annually over the 2008-13 period, behind the 1.2 percent annual average for U.S. GDP.

” ‘Decreased federal investment is negatively impacting our nation’s research universities,’ said Kelvin Droegemeier, NSB vice chair and vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma. ‘Our universities conduct 51 percent of the nation’s basic research and train the next generation of STEM-capable workers. Federal support is essential to developing the new knowledge and human capital that allows the U.S. to innovate and be at the forefront of S&T.’”

I would pull from this quotation one phrase that is of special significance for the decline in federal funding for R&D, to wit “increased pressure on the discretionary portion of the federal budget.” Discretionary spending excludes earned benefits, principally Social Security and Medicare which are in the non-discretionary category.

Do I have to tell readers that the biggest portion of the federal discretionary budget is the Pentagon? According to OMB the military consumed 55 percent of the federal discretionary budget in 2015 whereas science got 3 percent!! “International Affairs” also received 3 percent. In other words, the U.S. is building -and using – vast amounts of instruments of destruction while China is building up its scientific and technical enterprise.

I have outlined the facts and evidence for China’s great leap forward in science and technology. In the light of China’s impressive record in both economic development and in R&D, should the U.S. not terminate its bellicose pivot to the Western Pacific and seek a peaceful win-win relationship with China?

The reality reviewed here suggests that confrontation with China belongs to the colonial and neocolonial past, which for China ended decisively in 1949. The U.S. establishment must recognize that reality or court disaster for America and the world.

Correction:  Nature is published by Nature Publishing Group, not Elsevier as stated.  The Nature Index data base, however, includes prominent journals published by Elsevier.  The essential point is that Nature is one of most prestigious publications in the world and many would rank it as number one.  Details on the rather complicated pyramid of publishing entities responsible for Nature nowadays can be found here.

John V. Walsh is a frequent contributor to CounterPunch.com, Antiwar.com, LewRockwell.com and DissidentVoice.org. He is a founding member of “Come Home America.” Until recently he was Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  He can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com.




Price for Witnessing Against War

Exclusive: The funeral for anti-war priest Daniel Berrigan was a reminder of humanity’s need to challenge immoral government actions and the price that one pays for doing so, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Fr. Daniel Berrigan’s funeral was being live-streamed Friday, as I started to write this, which seems only fitting. Dan’s witness and writing have been a constantly re-chargeable battery for my moral compass.

Live-streaming (arranged by America magazine) was the next-best thing to being at the funeral in person. And it brought back memories of getting shoe-horned into West Baltimore’s St. Peter Claver church in early December 2002 for an equally moving celebration of the life of Dan’s younger brother, Fr. Phil Berrigan.

Homilist Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., who has spent more than a decade in this or that prison for non-violent resistance to war began with some Berrigan-style Irish humor: “Let members of the FBI assigned here today validate that it is Daniel Berrigan’s funeral Mass of the Resurrection, so they can complete and perhaps close their files. ‘Death has no dominion!’ to quote Daniel’s friend William Stringfellow.”

Kelly then minced no words in calling out “appointed pastors who collude with structures of domination, blessing the bombs.”

Tears welled as I watched Catholic Worker friends drop a large banner with the words from Isaiah, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares. Nations shall make war no more,” a charge lived into by all three brothers Berrigan – Jerry, Dan, and Phil.

And I thought back on what I learned decades ago at retreats led by Dan on the prophets Isaiah and Amos.

During the eulogy, Liz McAlister, Phil’s widow, quoted from the “apology” Dan wrote for burning draft cards with home-made napalm in Catonsville, Maryland, in May 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War:

“Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house.”

Liz continued to read from the Statement of the Catonsville 9: “The suppression of truth stops here; this war stops here!” (emphasis added by Liz’s own prophetic voice.) Not stopping was the loud, un-church-like cheering that rattled the rafters.

So Liz added a vintage Berrigan admonition for those who “seek ways to exempt themselves from responsibility.” I had the feeling that the affirming crowd would still be making a din, had not Phil’s daughter Frida gently gestured: Please, let my mom finish.

Thanks to the live-streaming, I could discern many of my friends at the still functioning Dorothy Day Catholic Worker houses for men and women in the Bowery. The only folks missing were those doing the daily Martha-work of preparing food for the lunch line. Ringing in my ears was another charge, heard hundreds of times from my Irish grandmother: “Show me your company, and I’ll tell you who you are!”

As the daughter of the late Jerry Berrigan, eldest of the three brothers, added her words to the eulogy, I felt proud to be out on bail, awaiting trial with 11 others of the “Jerry Berrigan Memorial Anti-Drone Brigade” for shutting down the main entrance and exit to Hancock Air Force Base Brigade near Syracuse, New York, on the morning of Jan. 28, 2016. Jerry, who lived in Syracuse, was frequently arrested there for similar protests against drone killings.

‘Whatever His Views, He’s Harmless’

Following people like Dan, Phil, and Jerry can get you beaten up and thrown in jail, but the benefits are out of this world, so to speak. Watching Dan’s funeral, I found myself musing over the words chosen by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s confidant Sidney Blumenthal, reassuring Clinton that she had nothing to fear from the likes of me.

On Feb. 15, 2011, at George Washington University, Clinton had, with callous aplomb, completely ignored my getting assaulted by two security personnel as I silently stood directly in front of her with my back turned.

In a Feb. 18, 2011 email, Blumenthal explained: “Ray McGovern, a former CIA officer who gave the daily brief for President George H.W. Bush, is pretty well known in the intelligence community. He’s become a Christian antiwar leftist who goes around bearing witness. Whatever his views, he’s harmless.”

Harmless or not, I can see my grandmother smiling down at the company I now keep, and whispering in her thick Irish brogue, “If you were really harmless, Raymond, they would not be writing them email things about you.”

It was not so long ago that I moved in circles where the label “activist” was dismissed as misguided but, well, harmless. How fortunate, then, to learn of the definition given to activism by my co-passenger on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, poet Alice Walker: “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.”

I could not be more grateful at having fallen in, better late than never, with such companions. Dan’s funeral served as a reminder of how much my journey has changed – having witnessed power from the inside, and the consequences of challenging it from the outside.

On the Inside

During the first Ronald Reagan administration, it was my job to conduct early morning one-on-one briefings of the Secretary of Defense (Caspar Weinberger), Secretary of State (George Shultz), and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Gen. Jack Vessey) and also, depending on their schedules, Vice President George H. W. Bush, as well as a movable feast of Assistants to the President for National Security Affairs.

Another senior CIA officer and I took turns, each of us briefing every other day six days a week. As professional intelligence analysts, we conducted ourselves in a completely non-partisan way, and our services were appreciated. We relied largely on The President’s Daily Brief that we had helped prepare the day before, and we updated and supplemented the material in it, as needed.

Ronald Reagan was given these one-on-one briefings as soon as he became president-elect and put considerable value on them. Once in the White House, however, he ordered that, as a general rule, the early morning briefings be given to his most senior national security advisers whom he would normally ask to brief him directly several hours later.

When I took early retirement at age 50, I was fully aware that few others on “the outside” had the privilege of acquiring a first-hand feel for how intelligence could be used, and power abused.

At the time, however, I had no inkling that the creeping politicization and careerism fostered by senior CIA official Robert Gates on behalf of Reagan’s CIA Director William Casey would corrupt managers and analysts alike to the point they would let themselves be suborned into conjuring up the kind of faux intelligence that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney ordered up to “justify” war on Iraq.

‘Quid Est Veritas?’

What brought this to mind earlier this week was the tenth anniversary of an impromptu, four-minute debate that I had with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Atlanta on May 4, 2006.

It was not hard to prove him an inveterate liar about important matters like the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) he said were in Iraq – but weren’t; and the ties that existed between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein – but didn’t. But my Rumsfeld anniversary brought a painful reminder that things have hardly improved – and that no one has challenged former Secretary Clinton openly about her lies – about Syria and Libya, for example. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Need to Clear Up Clinton Questions.”]

The opportunities for such challenge have become fewer; the penalties harsher; the Fawning Corporate Media dumber and dumber.

The mini-debate with Rumsfeld in Atlanta depended largely on luck. Not only had I truth as my breastplate, so to speak, but the stars were nicely aligned. People like Rumsfeld, an accomplished Princeton debater (and, for that matter, Wellesley valedictorian Hillary Clinton), are required to keep careful track of their lies. Those not normally burdened with that extra chore – professional intelligence analysts, for example – enjoy a distinct advantage, even in times like these, when all too many Caesars keep asking “Quid est Veritas?” – “what is truth?” – a phrase attributed to Pontius Pilate during the trial of Jesus.

As it turned out, I had some success – momentarily, at least – exposing Rumsfeld, who had played fast and loose with the truth, while enjoying the “matinee-idol” label pinned on him by President George W. Bush during the initial weeks of “shock and awe.”

The abundance of evidence notwithstanding, my attempts to expose the lies of Hillary Clinton proved much more difficult (as I was wrestled away by security guards for turning my back on the Secretary of State), and I had zero success exposing Teflon-coated General (and former CIA Director) David Petraeus for the fraud he is (as I was arrested by New York City police at the entrance of a Petraeus speech). Worse still, the violence I encountered escalated with each nonviolent attempt.

With Rumsfeld, none of the media stenographers at Pentagon briefings ever looked up from their pads long enough to ask the Defense Secretary a direct question about his prevarications, so the Pentagon prima donna seemed a bit shocked by a factual question he could not spin.

So, Rumsfeld was not used to fielding “impertinent,” un-self-censored questions. Indeed, it may have seemed to some as though I were unfairly blindsiding the poor Secretary of Defense.

An Exchange with Power 

The setting for Rumsfeld’s talk was a little-known, defense-secretary-friendly-Southern-white-male-upper-crust “think tank.” There was no advance notice of Rumsfeld’s talk on its website, but some women friends from the World Can’t Wait figured out a way to get me a ticket (for $70!).

The impromptu debate went as follows:

RAY McGOVERN: And so, I would like to ask you to be up front with the American people. Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary and that has caused these kinds of casualties? Why?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I haven’t lied. I did not lie then. Colin Powell didn’t lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate, and he presented that to the United Nations. The President spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence people, and he went to the American people and made a presentation. I’m not in the intelligence business. They gave the world their honest opinion. It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.

RAY McGOVERN: You said you knew where they were?

DONALD RUMSFELD: I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were, and we were —

RAY McGOVERN: You said you knew where they were, “near Tikrit, near Baghdad, and northeast, south and west of there.” Those were your words.

DONALD RUMSFELD: My words — my words were — no, no, no, wait a minute! Let him stay one second. Just a second.

RAY McGOVERN: This is America, huh? Go ahead.

DONALD RUMSFELD: You’re getting plenty of play, sir.

RAY McGOVERN: I’d just like an honest answer.

DONALD RUMSFELD: I’m giving it to you.

RAY McGOVERN: We’re talking about lies and your allegation that there was bulletproof evidence of ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Was that a lie or were you misled?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the prewar period. That is a fact.

RAY McGOVERN: Zarqawi, he was in the north of Iraq, in a place where Saddam Hussein had no rule. That’s where he was.

DONALD RUMSFELD: He was also in Baghdad.

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, when he needed to go to the hospital. Come on, these people aren’t idiots. They know the story.

DONALD RUMSFELD: You are — let me give you an example. It’s easy for you to make a charge, but why do you think that the men and women in uniform every day, when they came out of Kuwait and went into Iraq, put on chemical weapon protective suits? Because they liked the style? They honestly believed that there were chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons on his own people previously. He had used them on his neighbor, the Iranians. And they believed he had those weapons. We believed he had those weapons.

RAY McGOVERN: That’s what we call a non-sequitur. It doesn’t matter what the troops believe. It matters what you believe.

MODERATOR: I think, Mr. Secretary, the debate is over. We have other questions, courtesy to the audience.

‘Let Him Stay’

Early in the exchange, the black-hatted point man from Rumsfeld’s SWAT Team (clearly seen in the video) put his elbow in my solar plexus as I was speaking and started to pry me from the microphone to which I was adhering like permanent glue.

However, after a glance in the direction of the TV cameras, Rumsfeld waved him off, with a “no, no, no, wait a minute! Let him stay one second. Just a second.” It was a snap decision to continue the debate, with Rumsfeld convinced he could put me in my place. After all, I had identified myself as a former CIA analyst, and Rumsfeld had had an easy time intimidating CIA directors George Tenet and Porter Goss, as well as those of my former colleagues badgered into dancing the Cheney/Rumsfeld fraudulent tango on Iraq.

The event also took place early enough that afternoon to make the evening news. Better still, the event was aired live on C-Span and CNN. All this together made it very difficult for TV producers, anchors and pundits to brush off my challenges to Rumsfeld as inconsequential. Besides, there was very little happening that was newsworthy on May 4, 2006, which put icing on the cake.

In any case, the tense scene of a citizen challenging the great and powerful Rumsfeld with real questions was so unusual that even the corporate media recognized it as “news” and gave it at least fleeting attention on the evening news shows.

But my unmasking of Rumsfeld’s Iraq War lies also created a highly unwelcome precedent that I would be made to pay for by soon being pigeonholed as a disgruntled stalker.

CNN anchor Paula Zahn’s first questions that evening were (1) “How long have you harbored this animus against Donald Rumsfeld?” and (2) why was I “following the Secretary of Defense all the way down to Atlanta?”

I explained that, in fact, I had gotten to Atlanta first – to receive, that same evening, the ACLU’s National Civil Liberties Award (won the previous year by Coretta Scott King).

I could not remember how long I had had “this animus” toward Rumsfeld. Were I quicker on my feet, I would have said something like — since his lies got thousands of human beings killed in an unnecessary war. But you don’t get a do-over.

After the Zahn interview, CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s first question, asked of me haltingly as I was exiting the auditorium, was much less hostile but, in its own way, far more revealing: “Weren’t you afraid?” he asked. Think about that for a while.

No Such Luck With Hillary

Five years later, with some slight hope for an encore during a possible Q & A – this time with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – I wangled a ticket to hear her speak at George Washington University on Feb. 15, 2011. After several minutes of fulsome praise from the university president and prolonged, standing, adulatory applause from the carefully chosen audience, before Clinton even uttered a word, I decided to remain standing in silence with my back to her.

Unlike Rumsfeld in 2006, Secretary of State Clinton was taking no chances. True, her speech focused on the need to respect dissent, but she was talking about the authorities in Iran, not in Washington. She missed not a syllable as she watched me brutalized directly in front of her and then dragged down the main aisle (with Clinton seeing-no-evil and nary a peep from the Hillary-friendly audience of by-standers/by-sitters).

Once outside the auditorium, a Clinton security-woman interrogated me at some length, after two sets of steel handcuffs were put on my wrists. I was then arrested and dumped into jail.

Perhaps Clinton thought her tacit condoning of this pre-emptive strike by her security folks would provide a useful deterrent to others who might choose nonviolent but highly visible ways to express dissent – or, God forbid, ask an impertinent question of the kind asked of Rumsfeld in Atlanta.

Unlike my encounter with Rumsfeld and even though multiple TV cameras caught the brutal way I was seized and thrown out directly in front of Hillary Clinton (“escorted out” is the gentle way Fox News put it), there was almost no further mention in mainstream media.

The Clinton incident happened at the same time of day as my mini-debate with Rumsfeld, so its absence from the evening news had nothing to do with the news cycle. Still, one would have thought the Kafkaesque nature of my brutalization at the very moment Clinton waxed eloquent about respecting dissent – in Iran – might have provided irresistible grist for a news story or commentary.

But in the five years that had passed since the Rumsfeld event in Atlanta, the media had grown five years-worth tamer. And, in contrast to Rumsfeld’s quick calculation as he looked at the cameras in the back, Clinton apparently believed she could count on the TV outlets and pundits NOT to give much coverage to the assault. In any case, she calculated correctly.

A number of Washington media stenographers were there, of course, as well as the cameras, but the evening TV producers and anchors chose the safer path. After all, no “sensible” commentator or outlet will gratuitously put out of joint the nose of a probable heiress to the presidency.

Less Tolerance of Dissent

If my understandable chagrin at the way Hillary Clinton ignored the assault right in front of her leaves me open to charges of having an “animus” toward Hillary Clinton, so be it. That is very small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.

My “animus” was substantive – her share of responsibility for all manner of death and destruction because of her vote for the Iraq War and the benighted escalation/surge in Afghanistan, for example. It would be only another couple of months after her GWU speech before she helped create equal tragedies in Libya and Syria.

I suppose I should thank my blessings in having avoided the far more brutal, fatal treatment accorded Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Although I had a ticket to hear David Petraeus speak at the 92nd Y in New York City on Oct. 30, 2014, I was barred from even entering, roughly treated, whisked away by NYPD cops already on the scene and jailed overnight in the infamous “The Tombs” beneath the Criminal Court in lower Manhattan.

Although my arrest occurred in the so-called “media capital of the world,” the incident was almost completely ignored at least in the mainstream media. [See Consortiumnnews.com’s, “When Silencing Dissent Isn’t News.”]

The trend seems to be more violence from the “organs of state security,” as they were known in Soviet parlance, and more silence in the mainstream media.

All the more need to follow the example of the Berrigans.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He served as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and CIA analyst for a total of 30 years and, after retiring, co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).