‘Journey for Justice’ Caravan Launches Cross-Country Trek

The Trump administration is dismantling Temporary Protected Status, a program that protects people from deportations to countries destabilized by war, civil conflict, or natural catastrophe. One group is fighting back.

By Dennis J Bernstein

The Trump Administration, with Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as its willing lightning rod, is in the process of dismantling key aspects of the United States political asylum program. To that end, the administration has begun to zero in on what is known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS was established by Congress in the Immigration Act of 1990. It’s a humanitarian program that mandates that the U.S. should suspend deportations to countries that have been destabilized by war, civil conflict, or natural catastrophe.

According to the National TPS Alliance, if the Trump administration manages to crush the program, over 450,000 people would face possible deportation, putting them in harm’s way, facing extreme violence and possible death.

In response, a national grassroots coalition of refugee and immigrants rights activists will caravan from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Those who are directly affected by Trump’s extreme anti-immigrant policy–the TPS recipients themselves–will lead the Journey for Justice Caravan.

The Caravan will travel across the country to visit over 50 cities in a span of 12-weeks, kicking off the campaign from Los Angeles on Friday, Aug. 17. The movement to save TPS has greatly expanded in recent days and weeks in response to the Trump administration’s hard-line decision to terminate the life-saving program as part of his ongoing and unrelenting attacks against immigrant communities from coast to coast.

The caravan will consist of over 50 TPS holders, from various countries that are currently designated TPS. “The goal of the caravan is to lift the collective voices against the termination of TPS,” according to a recent press release. “The cruel dehumanization of families at the southern border and against the criminalization of immigrants throughout the United States. For 12 weeks, TPS families will ride a bus across the country, and throughout the way, the justice riders will participate in vigils, community assemblies, know-your-rights sessions, forums, roundtable discussions, concerts, demonstrations, leadership-development activities and meetings with political candidates and elected officials.”

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network or NDLON is a key co-sponsor of the national action. NDLON is a coalition of worker-centered organizations across the country that defend day laborers from exploitation and extreme immigration enforcement, help people find jobs and recover wages, and train workers in health and safety.

I spoke with NDLON Executive Director Pablo Alvarado on Aug. 9 in Los Angeles about the reasons for the cross-country action to save TPS. Alvarado knows firsthand and up-close what violence looks like in El Salvador. Alvarado witnessed the death squad murder of his fifth grade teacher, before he fled the violence and the U.S.-funded military death squads that ruled El Salvador with a bloody iron fist. His own relatives in El Salvador continue to face death threats.

Dennis Bernstein: How would you assess the current administration’s policy toward immigrants and undocumented people from Central America?

Pablo Alvarado: This action on the part of the Trump administration is not just an act of cruelty but also of hatred, of bigotry. This president decided to terminate an incredible program that has facilitated the immigration of thousands and thousands of migrants. Today, 30 percent of these people own homes, over 90 percent have jobs. And yet, in an act of cruel racism, this administration has decided to get rid of this program. Their motivation is very clear: to reduce the number of non-white immigrants. They are scared of the changing demographics in our country. This is their way of slowing down the emergence of a new majority. They are no longer just going after undocumented people. They are taking away the papers of people with documents.

DB: You are from El Salvador yourself. Could you talk a little bit about the kinds of violence that people fled during this period of U.S.-supported death squads?

PA: It is important to note how many times the U.S. has intervened in Central America. The latest case is our recognition of a president in Honduras that 80 percent of the Honduran people don’t want. Honduras will continue to be in flames for months to come. Already, death squads are emerging, and activists have been disappeared and tortured. Children are being gassed while protesting. All of this will lead to even greater poverty and feed the cycle of migration. This is the same thing that the United States has done in El Salvador, in Nicaragua, and throughout the region. The widespread gang violence in El Salvador is something that was imported from Los Angeles.

I can tell you that my two brothers, who are teachers and make $450 a month, are being extorted by gang members. Temporary Protected Status was introduced following the great earthquake, but the reality is that El Salvador has not yet recovered from that natural disaster. The country is still in dire circumstances. There are many villages that subsist on the remittances of family members who are here in the United States. This action by the Trump administration is going to lead to an even larger humanitarian crisis.

DB: Do you see this as a form of ethnic cleansing?

PA: It is clearly an effort, as I said, to slow down the emergence of a new majority. This has always been the strategy of the people around Trump. They refer to it as attrition through enforcement. This involves making the lives of immigrants so miserable that they will want to pack their bags and leave on their own. Ending TPS is essentially a step in that direction. It is interesting, right-wing pundits say, that it is the Democrats who want to allow these immigrants to come because they want to turn them into Democratic voters. This is so ridiculous. These people are leaving their countries not to be able to vote here. They are fleeing violence and extreme poverty and persecution. Any country that respects human rights is going to want to provide safe haven to people fleeing such conditions.

DB: What kinds of actions are you planning to take now?

PA: We recently put together the National TPS Alliance, a coalition of about 50 committees of TPS recipients across the country who have come to Washington several times and are coming again in the first week of February. Prior to this recent decision, they were already doing lobbying work, trying to persuade politicians from both sides of the aisle of the seriousness of their plight. Out of those conversations, four legislative proposals have been introduced to provide a permanent solution for TPS holders. The administration may want to see TPS fade away in 18 months, but we are determined to make these proposals a reality.

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




Winning an Arms Race in Space Remains a Futile Fight

Donald Trump is not the first U.S. president to want to militarize life beyond Earth. But that is a bankrupt approach, believes Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall
Special to Consortium News

When Donald Trump declared it was time to Make America Great Again, he didn’t just mean here on Earth. As he directed the Pentagon in June to create a new branch of the armed services devoted just to space warfare, Trump declared, “It is not enough to have an American presence in space.We must have American dominance in space.”

Not waiting for an ambivalent Congress to act, the Defense Department reportedly plans in coming months to create a new U.S. Space Command, Space Operations Force, and Space Development Agency to manage everything from war-fighting in outer space to developing and launching military satellites.

A draft of a Pentagon planning document states that the capabilities unleashed by this new structure will help “deter, and if necessary degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy and manipulate adversary capabilities to protect U.S. interests, assets and way of life.”

Previous official critics of a new space service, including Trump’s own Air Force secretary, Heather Wilson, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, almost invariably raised only bureaucratic objections rather than deeper questions about the merits of turning space into a battlefield.

The Pentagon is complicated enough,” Wilson complained in 2017. Creation of a new space service, she said, “will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money.”

Even traditional Pentagon skeptics have adopted the same narrow focus, mainly questioning whether a new Space Force will best serve U.S. war-fighting needs or simply create more inter-service rivalries.

Supporters of a Space Force insist it will help attract resources to avitally important theater of operations. The United States military operates 159 satellites in orbit, and other government agencies maintain dozens more for communications, surveillance,and location services that have become essential to U.S. warfighting plans. These satellites help guide drone missiles, special operations units fighting in remote battlefields, and naval task forces operating across the globe.

If Russia and China succeed in developing more effective anti-satellite weapons, critics warn, they could threaten U.S. dominance in space. “We could be deaf, dumb and blind within seconds,” said Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. “Seldom has a great nation been so vulnerable.”

Missed Arms Control Opportunities

But escalating the militarization of space is the wrong way to protect these important assets. The narrow debate in the United States over the proposed Space Force almost entirely ignores the long history of squandered opportunities to stop such threats through arms control rather than an ever-more-expensive and unwinnable arms race.

U.S. defense planners, civilian as well as military, have long argued for investing whatever it takes to maintain America’s technological lead in space, just as for many years they argued for maintaining America’s lead in nuclear weapons.

In the 1960s, when it became apparent that no one could win a nuclear arms race, the United States signed two important treaties—the Partial Test Ban Treaty and the Outer Space Treaty—banning the placement of nuclear weapons in space. But every administration since then has opposed or sidelined further arms control in space, despite overwhelming global support for such agreements.

The 1978 United Nations General Assembly’s Special Session on Disarmament called for international negotiations “in accordance with the spirit” of the Outer Space Treaty to “prevent an arms race in outer space,” or PAROS.

Momentum built in the mid-1980s for a PAROS treaty, but the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations rejected any such multilateral deal.

With its large missile defense program and technical advantages inpotential space weaponry, the United States has consistently refused to negotiate PAROS,” observes the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative.

The George W. Bush administration militantly opposed such a treaty, and even canceled one of the landmarks of arms control, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Ttreaty.

The U.S. Air Force issued a strategic master plan in 2006 stating that “the ability to gain space superiority (the ability to exploit space while selectively disallowing it to adversaries) is critically important … an essential prerequisite in modern warfare.”

Meanwhile, China and Russia continued pressing for a weapons-free environment in space. In 2005, when Russia introduced a resolution calling for confidence-building measures in space, with overwhelming support in the U.N. General Assembly (see here and here), only the United States objected.

In February 2008, against U.S. objections, China and Russia introduced a Draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects.

Shooting Down a Satellite

A week later, the United States demonstrated its anti-satellite weapons capability by shooting down a failed spy satellite using a Navy missile, fired from the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific Ocean near HawaiiThe stated goal of Operation Burnt Frost, the code name of the mission, was to prevent the satellite from crashing and releasing toxic gas“This is all about trying to reduce the danger to human beings,” James Jeffrey, then-deputy national security adviser, said at the time. But China, which had conducted a similar demonstration in 2007 by destroying an old weather satellite, thought the U.S. action might have been done to show military might.

Although the Obama administration was far less hostile to arms control, it joined only Israel in abstaining from a U.N. General Assembly resolution in 2011 calling for the prevention of an arms race in space. In 2014, only Georgia and Ukraine joined the United States and Israel in opposing a Russian-drafted U.N. resolution on banning an arms race in space. The same dismal record has continued since then, year after year.

In the meantime, of course, both China and Russia have made technological strides in their ability to hit and destroy targets in space. Their continued support for arms control, however, suggests that they recognize the ultimate futility of fighting in that frontier.

As a recent article in Wired points out:

“A Russo-Sino-American space war could very well end with a crippled global economy, inoperable infrastructure, and a planet shrouded by the orbiting fragments of pulverized satellites—which, by the way, could hinder us all on Earth until we figured out a way of cleaning them up. In the aftermath of such a conflict, it might be years before we could restore new constellations of satellites to orbit. Preparing for orbital war has fast become a priority of the US military, but the more urgent priority is figuring out how to prevent it.”

Given these stakes, the ability of a future U.S. Space Force to pulverize more satellites than China or Russia could be considered a bug, not a feature. More to the point, the entire U.S. approach to space warfare is now suspect, if not bankrupt.

As retired Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wisely observed in 2016, “The days of ‘space dominance’are over, and we need to move from thinking of space as a military domain of offense and defense to a more complex environment that needs to be managed by a wide range of international players.”

He added, “This is the right time to reconsider our actions in space, as a new presidential administration takes over in January 2017.”

Who says irony is dead?

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international relations, national security and history. He currently is completing a new book on U.S. organized crime, big business and national politics in the early Cold War era.

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How Trump is Reshaping US Foreign Policy

Trump’s policies are shaping America’s relationship with the world in major ways even if those policies don’t exhibit a consistent strategy, observes Paul Pillar.

By Paul Pillar

The urge within the commentariat to describe every president’s foreign policy in terms of some clearly defined doctrine is as strong as ever, but Donald Trump presents would-be doctrine-definers with perhaps their toughest challenge yet.

This observation is not by itself a criticism of Trump’s policies. Doctrine is overrated. Given the complexities of America’s relationship with the world and the multiplicity of U.S. interests involved, any set of policies that fits neatly into a simply defined doctrine is apt to be too simple to uphold those interests effectively. But Trump’s policies are shaping America’s relationship with the world in major ways even if those policies don’t exhibit the sort of consistent strategy worthy of the lofty term “doctrine”.

One recent attempt to define a Trump Doctrine was reported by Jeffrey Goldberg, who quotes a “senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking” as saying that there definitely is a Trump Doctrine, which is, “We’re America, Bitch”. That remark has some validity in that it reflects an attitude that many of Trump’s policies have exhibited. The remark is a crude synonym for assertive nationalism, a label that clearly applies to much of what Trump has said and done and which analysts of an earlier administration applied in more genteel form to the likes of Richard Cheney.

But as a broad description of Trump’s overall approach to the world, the concept falls short in not only precision but also direction. How can it be reconciled with Trump’s campaign theme of getting out of the sorts of costly and bloody foreign engagements that people like Cheney got the United States into?

Another recent effort at doctrinal labeling comes from Robert Kagan, who defines Trump’s foreign policy as being a “rogue superpower,” an approach Kagan describes as a “third option” that contrasts with both internationalism and isolationism. This concept accurately captures much of what Trump’s policies have been about, particularly a disdain for international rules and order and even efforts to undermine or destroy the rules. Other parts of Kagan’s picture and his applying of labels, however, are off the mark. His description of Trump’s policies as “pure realism” should make true realists cringe.

Realism does not, as Kagan would have it, see international politics as nothing but a “struggle of all-against-all” in which allies and alliances are blithely blown off. The use of alliances, based on partially convergent interests, in balance-of-power politics is at the core of classical realism. And although the notion of all-against-all is found in much Trumpian rhetoric, it does not reflect the administration’s policy in the Middle East, with its rigid tying of the United States to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Kagan also states, “The United States’ adversaries will do well in this world, for Trump’s America does not want war.” If “Trump’s America” refers to major trends in American public opinion that helped to put Trump into office, that statement is true. But as with much else with the first year and a half of Trump’s administration, there are disconnects between domestically-directed rhetoric and outwardly-directed policy.

It is hard to square Kagan’s comment with Trump’s appointment of uber-hawk John Bolton as national security advisor, or with the extent to which the administration already has used military force in Syria and in the name of counterterrorism elsewhere.

Traits, Not Doctrine

Conspicuous and consistent traits of Trump’s foreign policy do not involve the sorts of objectives or principles that customarily merit the term “doctrine”. The traits have major effects and the effects sometimes fall into discernible patterns, but the effects are not objectives of a coherent strategy. The most conspicuous trait of Trump’s policies has been to do the opposite of, and to try to destroy, anything significant that his predecessor accomplished. This trait is at the center of much of what Kagan’s “rogue superpower” has done—specifically, the rejection of important agreements on the environment, trade, and weapons proliferation.

But anti-Obamaism is entirely negative; it says nothing about what kind of world the United States is for and wants to build. Depending on the specific issues involved, it can take Trump in different directions from just tearing down multilateral agreements.

Self-promotion as a supposedly master deal-maker is another major characteristic of Trump’s approach to foreign policy. It is another trait that does not make for consistently applied foreign policy principles that could plausibly be described as a doctrine. Any sense of order and consistency gets lost, as individual deals are separately hyped or castigated depending on who reached them. Hence Trump’s self-congratulation for nuclear diplomacy with North Korea that already compares unfavorably with previous diplomacy with Iran that Trump has vociferously condemned.

Hardly unique to Trump is the influence on policy of those who helped to elect the president. Even setting aside the still-under-investigation Russia dimension of this subject, such influence in Trump’s case has been readily apparent—especially when comparing Trump’s earlier rhetoric with his later positions on matters involving Israel and the Gulf Arabs.

Related to such campaign indebtedness is the priority that Trump continues to give to playing to his domestic base and seeking applause lines at home. This habit has had significant effects on U.S. foreign relations, but again the effects have had little or nothing to do with any coherent vision of America’s place in the world. The United States is embarking on a trade war with China and Europe less because a trade war had a prominent place in someone’s foreign policy doctrine than because of applause lines that get applause due in large part to domestic economic dislocations tinged with xenophobia.

(A constant theme of Trump’s going back decades is that other countries have been taking advantage of America.)

A current example of the same phenomenon is how the pressure the administration has been feeling over its handling of child immigrants along the southern U.S. border has further poisoned U.S. relations with European allies—which, in any coherent foreign policy doctrine, ought to be two entirely unrelated subjects. Part of Trump’s response to the pressure has been to expound ever more forcefully about the supposed evils of immigration. This response has included an outburst about Germany that not only was factually false regarding crime but constituted an extraordinary effort to undermine the incumbent government of an important U.S. ally in favor of some of the more extreme elements in that government’s domestic opposition.

Finally, there is the possible influence on foreign policy of the private financial interests of Trump and his family. This subject so far involves a murky and incomplete picture with mostly anecdotal reporting and with many questions still under investigation. But given that this U.S. presidency, more than any other in recent decades, has unabashedly co-mingled public interests with private ones, the subject cannot be ignored.

Resulting Patterns

The broader effects of all these aspects of Trump’s conduct of foreign policy do not represent objectives that flow from any foreign policy doctrine. Indeed, for the most part they are not even objectives. One such effect is a serious weakening of the North Atlantic alliance. Another is a reversal of any progress that the previous administration made (and it didn’t make much) in pivoting away from deep U.S. immersion in the conflicts of the Middle East. This pattern is illustrated by continued U.S. support for the highly destructive Saudi and Emirati intervention in Yemen, which recently expanded with an assault on the port of Hodeida.

The collective effect of the traits still leaves big uncertainties about some important questions, with different traits tugging in different directions. Prime among these is the future U.S. relationship with China—a clear vision of which ought to be part of any foreign policy doctrine worthy of the name. Trump’s initial steps regarding North Korea have been mostly to China’s liking and imply the forging of a cooperative relationship. But the trade war obviously points in the opposite direction.

One more generalization can be made about the overall effect that Trump’s approach probably will have on America’s place in the world and that involves a vocabulary often used in discussion of foreign policy doctrines. The United States will be more isolated than before.

Other states, whether friend or foe, will be less willing to bargain with the United States when it is governed by an administration that reneges on previous agreements and that, other governments believe, bargains in bad faith. Such mistrust impedes the reaching not only of the sort of multilateral agreements that Trump rejects but also the sort of bilateral agreements that he says he favors. To return to Kagan’s typology, Trump’s America is moving closer to isolationism—in diplomacy, if not in the use of military force—not because isolationism is part of any Trump Doctrine but because it is a byproduct of Trump’s way of doing business.

This article originally appeared in The National Interest.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World.




Trump’s Spaced-Out Space Force

While key members of his administration oppose him, Donald Trump seems intent on forging ahead with plans to create a sixth military branch–in outer space, as Renee Parsons reports. 

By Renee Parsons

At a recent meeting of the newly-revived National Space Council, President Donald Trump announced the Space Policy Directive: National Space Traffic Management (STM) Policy and ordered the Department of Defense to establish a Space Force as a sixth branch of the US military.

Creating a “separate but equal” Space Corps would need Congressional authorization, however, which could abort Trump’s lift off.

Members of Trump’s own cabinet, including the secretary of defense, are opposed to creating a new military branch, meaning the president’s plans could be left on the launching pad. 

The Directive suggests an overly-ambitious mission of broad, wide-ranging goals with no timeline or funding under the guise of a ‘space junk directive’ to clean up a “congested and contested” cosmos. That promises to keep the military industries happy while making space safe for the coming commercial space industry (CSI).

Specifically, the Directive provides a role for the Department of Defense “to protect and defend US space assets and interests.”  The Director of National Intelligence is supposed to provide a Space Situational Awareness (SSA) of “knowledge and characterization of space objects.” Expanding on the U.S. role in outer space, Trump could not be clearer about his intentions: “Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security. We must have American dominance in space.”

As the U.S. presumes to act on behalf of other countries on the planet and commercial space endeavors, the Directive proposes to establish operational criteria with the assumption that all players will accept such U.S. dominance. 

Opposition within the Trump Administration has been vocal, with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson suggesting that, “The Pentagon is complicated enough. This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money.”

In an October, 2017 letter on the National Defense Authorization Act 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis commented: “I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint war-fighting functions.”

In a second letter to Congress, Mattis reiterated, “I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations.”

Outer Space, Out of Mind

Despite Pentagon opposition, an administration witness told a recent House Armed Services subcommittee that “the President has prioritized space. He recognized the threats that have evolved and the pace at which they evolve.”

In March, the president endorsed a Space Force during a White House ceremony, saying, “We’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons,” suggesting that the true purpose of a Space Force may be more than the equivalent of a celestial traffic cop.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, there are 1,738 operational satellites with 803 US satellites in orbit (476 commercial, 150 government, 159 military and 18 civil). Russia has 142 operational satellites and China has 204. There are also 2,600 non-functional human-made satellites, most of which weigh less than 5 tons and fly in a low orbit specifically programmed to burn out and fall to earth after 25 years.

It is difficult to conjure up the effects of a “growing threat” from human-made orbital clutter and debris floating in the infinite vastness of outer space as significant enough to qualify as a national security risk. Nor would U.S. global dominance be required to sweep the cosmos clean of said debris. What could Trump be thinking in pushing this idea against the wishes of the top brass? Perhaps he is referring to something other than debris and clutter.

While outer space is a wide-open, limitless expanse that remains as clandestine as any black ops project, global citizens are familiar with the noteworthy increase of reported extra terrestrial activity across the planet. 

Especially intriguing are former astronauts who have commented on their experiences as well as members of the U.S. military who have described sightings that move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion or that hover with no apparent means of lift and can change direction or speed on a dime.

Revealed in December 2017, the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which prepared a 500-page document of worldwide UFO sightings, was Congressionally funded by former Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). In a CNN interview, retired AATIP director Luis Elizondo, who resigned in protest over “excessive secrecy” said, “My personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone.”

Two events that dared challenge the government’s decades of secrecy with open disclosure were two press conferences at the National Press Club in Washington featuring retired military personnel providing public comment on their direct experiences with an extra terrestrial world in their official capacity. The first press conference occurred on September, 10, 2001, one day before the 911 attacks and another on September 27, 2010Both press conferences were organized by Dr. Steven Greer of the Disclosure Project, who also produced the videos Sirius and Unacknowledged.

In responding to the Directive, Greer claimed he has been “talking about this for years and has spoken to multiple witnesses who said that at least since the 1960s the U.S. has had military assets in space. They (Trump administration) are acknowledging something that is already there. However, what is not being talked about, even now, is that those military assets are tracking and targeting ET craft.”

On the edge of human consciousness lies a more subtle, potentially less obvious presence than the usual political adversaries as the U.S. continues to lay specious claim to ownership of Outer Space. 

A version of this article was first published on Global Research

Renee Parsons served on the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and as president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist for Friends of the Earth and a staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31




Border Angels Fight Trump’s Borderland Brutality

As Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policy intensifies, an organization founded in 1986 has stepped up its efforts to help families under attack, as Dennis J. Bernstein explains.

By Dennis J Bernstein

America’s “National Pastime” used to be the heart of the matter for Enrique Morones. But in 1986, Morones turned his back on an impressive and lucrative career in Major League baseball, as the Vice President of Latino & International Marketing for the San Diego Padres, and became a “water carrier” on the desert. He soon founded the Border Angels, whose key purpose was the life and death delivery of water to those women and children and men who found themselves lost and stranded on the dessert, after fleeing their counties for a better safer life in El Norte.

Morones, the first person to gain dual United States and Mexican Citizenship, has since joined forces with the United Farm Workers, Ethel Kennedy (the widow of Robert Kennedy) and others to give voice and a human face to the struggle of undocumented people, now under extraordinary attack by a bluntly and actively anti-immigrant Trump administration.

In 2006, producers for the Flashpoints show traveled with Morones in a caravan that included thousands of activists, protesters and organizers across the entire country in the first “Marcha Migrante”, an action that inspired many spirited protests and demonstrations across the country, and in what came to be known as the “immigrant spring.”

I caught up with Morones in San Diego just after a protest at an ICE detention center, just a few blocks from the US/Mexico border, between San Diego and Tijuana. The prison itself is relatively new, built in the last five or ten years. It is a private prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest prison company in the world. They warehouse over a thousand detainees in their San Diego facility.

Dennis Bernstein: Greetings Enrique Morones. Enrique, I have just heard about a young father who committed suicide after his three-year old son was taken away. Do you want to give us your sense of what is going on and how you have been responding to this kind of brutality?

Enrique Morones: Sadly, the situation with Trump continues to get worse. While he spreads his message of hate– not only calling us rapists and criminals now, but animals–we see how law enforcement has been stepping up their attacks on migrants. I don’t know if you have seen the video which is making the rounds. Yesterday after the protests, the protesters were going to get something to eat and the border patrol surrounded them. They responded that they were not going to let themselves be harassed and eventually the border patrol left. It is important that we speak out, that we not be silent. We had the woman from Guatemala who was killed on the Texas border a couple of weeks ago, shot in the head. Of course, the border patrol is saying they had been aggressive–something which witnesses denied. Especially these attacks on children show the worst of the American spirit, since a society can be judged according to how it treats its children. To have these children separated from families, lost in the system, threatened to be separated if they are seeking asylum, is a total violation of human rights law. This past Saturday here in San Diego we held a mass entitled “Footprints of Tenderness” with US and Mexican Catholic and Episcopalian bishops. A caravan was launched from Friendship Park which will travel all the way to the tip of South America. It will take about a year. We want the faith community to be aware, the general public to be aware, the lawmakers to be aware. We know that Donald Trump is a lost cause, but there are people speaking out, like John McCain and some of the Democrats, and it is important that they all speak out. Because the whole world is watching and it is a shameful situation, what Trump and Sessions are doing. Racist members of law enforcement are feeling more empowered.

DB: Right now, the way I understand it, the US has a policy of systematically denying people’s right to apply for asylum by splitting families, by brutalizing them, by causing so much suffering that they turn back around. This is really one step further than Obama.

EM: This is twenty steps further than Obama. It is just totally inhumane. Not only are they separating those seeking asylum, they are threatening the ones who are thinking of coming to the border. These are families who are escaping very dangerous, violent situations in their home countries, mainly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, but other countries as well, including Mexico. They are working their way up to the border to turn themselves in for asylum, which is a universal human right. These people under Trump seem to think that if they threaten to separate the children they are not going to come. Do they really expect these people to stay at home and watch their children being executed in front of them? Of course not. They are going to be working their way up to the northern border, hoping that they are not going to be that family separated from their children. None of the 11,000 people who have died because of Operation Gatekeeper expected to die. People are leaving because they have to leave, not because they want to. The current policy is similar to what happened to slave families that were brought here, to what the Nazis did. I never thought that this country would be doing this in this day and age. We need to rise up in protest, demanding that the people held in detention be treated humanely.

DB: How has the work of the Border Angels evolved? Part of the work that you do is put water in the desert where you know people are coming through. People have actually been arrested for being water carriers. Is it still necessary to bring water to the desert? Is the border patrol still undermining that work?

EM: As you know, we started putting water in the desert along the San Diego/Tijuana border, in the Imperial Valley and in Arizona in 1994, when Operation Gatekeeper began. We had groups going out there three of four times a month, with thirty or forty volunteers. By November 2016 we had five hundred volunteers showing up, so we had to set the limit at 100-150 people. And yes, it is still necessary. In the past five years we have seen a dramatic reduction in people crossing, with the economy recovering somewhat in Mexico. Now the largest group is coming from Central America. They typically cross along the Texas border, which is 75% of the Mexico/US border. But some cross here, too, into California or Arizona. We are busier than ever because of the hate from Trump. Even though fewer people are coming, it is more dangerous than ever. Hate rhetoric leads to hate acts. We see more hate crimes being committed. We are right across the street from an elementary school where moms are sometimes scared to walk their kids to school. The racist minority in this country are feeling more empowered.

DB: People like my colleague Miguel Molina are beginning to talk about “concentration camps,” about suffering that harkens back to World War II.

EM: These facilities are sometimes called “ICE coolers.” They are not made for the detention of children or families. These predominantly women and children are not criminals. Of course, it is inhumane to treat anyone in this manner, even if they are criminals. They are arresting so many people, profiling people who haven’t done anything wrong, who are documented. Now they are going to be putting them in real prisons and separating them from their children. So it is an inhumane situation. It is very difficult to get into the detention facilities to view the conditions. Even a couple congresspeople were not able to get in. Here are the people who make the laws and it is very suspicious when they are prohibited from seeing how the laws are being carried out.

DB: What kinds of special actions are you planning? Are there workshops for people to learn how to protect themselves? Are support groups being organized? How are people rising up to meet this kind of repression?

EM: Throughout the state of California and in other areas, we have organized rapid response teams to alert people to ICE raids in their communities. This is what the mayor of Oakland did and we applaud her for that. We also hand out “know your rights” cards to people so people know that they have the right to remain silent, to have an attorney, to ask to speak to the consulate of their country. Oftentimes those rights aren’t being honored. When you see that something happens, say something. The badge doesn’t give you a special privilege to be racist and abuse people. Law enforcement is taking advantage of this ugly prevailing mood and it is not acceptable. We are telling people not to wait until ICE knocks on your door. Set up a system beforehand so that if you are going to be deported, your children can be turned over to a family member. Once you are in custody, it is too late to do that. You have to set that up beforehand. That is one reason why children are being lost in the system.

DB: Finally, if you suddenly found yourself nose-to-nose with Trump, what would you tell him?

EM: I don’t think I would be able to contain myself. I have spoken to presidents in the past, but I would never recognize Trump as my president. If I were invited to the White House, as I have been in the past, I would not go. I am all for dialogue when you are dealing with a sane person. I will go to Washington, as I have in the past, to protest, and I will meet with elected officials, but not with the likes of Trump or Mike Pence. Those people should be put in their place, behind bars and not in positions of great power.

Click here to listen to this interview.

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




Bolton Trying to Convince Trump to Topple Iran

John Bolton may have backed off wanting to bomb Iran, saying he’s not the one to decide, but he’s hardly given up trying to convince Trump to replace the regime in Tehran, as Gareth Porter explains.

By Gareth Porter

Now that the Trump administration has derailed the Iran nuclear deal, the old issue of regime change in Iran is back again. National Security Advisor John Bolton is obviously the chief regime-change advocate in the administration, and there is every reason to believe he has begun to push that policy with Donald Trump in his first month in the White House. 

Bolton was part of the powerful neoconservative faction of national security officials in the George W. Bush administration that had a plan for supporting regime change in Iran, not much different from the one Bolton is reportedly pushing now. But it was a crackbrained scheme that involved the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) exiled terrorist organisation that never had Bush’s support. 

Bolton may find history repeating itself, with Trump resisting his plan for regime change, just as Bush did in 2003. 

Trump Calls for Change

Trump has appeared to flirt with the idea of Iranian regime change in the past. During the December protests in Iran, he said on Twitter that it was time for a change, noting: “The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years.” 

Trump’s killing of the nuclear deal, however, stopped short of rhetoric signalling the aim of overthrowing the Islamic Republic. Instead, Trump suggested that “Iran’s leaders” are “going to want to make a new and lasting deal, one that benefits all of Iran and the Iranian people”. He added: “When they do, I am ready, willing and able.”

A few days after the Trump announcement, an unnamed National Security Council (NSC) official avoided any hint of regime change, telling the neoconservative Washington Free Beacon: “Our stated policy is to change the Iranian regime’s behaviour.”

Now, Bolton has issued an even more explicit denial, telling ABC

News: “That is not the policy of the administration. The policy of the administration is to make sure Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear action.”

And on CNN’s State of the Union, he said: “I’ve written and said a lot of things when I was a complete free agent. I certainly stand by what I said at the time, but those were my opinions then. The circumstance I’m in now is I’m the national security adviser to the president. I’m not the national security decision-maker.”

It’s not difficult to read between the lines: the implied message is that his views on regime change have not prevailed with Trump—so far. 

Bolton: Bomb Iran

Bolton has long been one of the most vocal supporters of such a policy, although he is better known as the primary advocate of bombing Iran. He has been one of the most enthusiastic clients among former U.S. officials who have associated themselves with MEK, which seeks to overthrow the Tehran regime with US backing.

Bolton has not only appeared at MEK rallies in Paris, along with other former U.S. officials on the take from the well-endowed paramilitary organisation. In July 2017, he declared that the Trump administration should adopt the goal of regime change in Iran, calling MEK a “viable” alternative to the regime. And his final line, delivered with his voice rising dramatically, noted that “before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran.”

It appears that Bolton was still pushing the idea within the administration earlier this month. The Washington Free Beacon reported on May 10 that a three-page paper outlining a regime-change strategy from a small far-right organisation called the Security Studies Group, with which Bolton is said to have close ties, was circulated among NSC officials. The quotes from the paper in the story make it clear that the strategy is based largely on seeking to exploit ethnic and religious conflicts in Iran. 

The paper reportedly makes the point that ethnic minorities – such as Kurds, Azeris, Ahwazi Arabs and Baloch – represent one-third of Iran’s population, and argues that the Iranian regime’s “oppression of its ethnic and religious minorities has created he conditions for an effective campaign to splinter the Iranian state into component parts”.

It adds: “U.S. support for their independence movements, both overt and covert, could force the regime to focus attention on them and limit its ability to conduct other malign activities.” 

Those minorities have all had organisations that have carried out violent actions, including bombings and assassinations against Iranian officials, over the past decade, and such a strategy would presumably involve supporting a step-up in such activities – in other words, U.S. support for terrorist activities against Iranian government targets.

‘No Good Terrorist’

But none of this is new. It was the official line of the powerful alliance between the neoconservatives and the Cheney-Rumsfeld axis within the Bush administration. By 2003, Douglas Feith, the uber-neoconservative former undersecretary of defense for policy, had developed a plan for giving MEK, whose army had been captured by U.S. troops in Iraq, a new name and using them for a covert paramilitary operation in Iran. 

Meanwhile, Iran was offering to provide names and other data on al-Qaeda officials it had captured in return for US information on MEK. When former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld sought to protect MEK from such a deal, Bush’s response was: “But we say there is no such thing as a good terrorist.” 

Despite the neocon fixation with supporting MEK, both the CIA and the Israelis have long regarded the idea that it could be an instrument for regime change in Iran as ridiculous. After the organization helped Saddam Hussein’s regime suppress Shia and Kurdish uprisings, it lost any semblance of legitimacy inside Iran. After it relocated to Iraq, moreover, it was transformed into an authoritarian cult.

The former Israeli ambassador to Iran, Uri Lubrani, who was given a free hand to organise a programme for destabilising Iran, recognised long ago, as he told two Israeli journalists, that MEK has no capacity to do anything inside the country. 

It was Lubrani who first advanced the argument that about a third of the total Iranian population were ethnic minorities, and that promoting their anti-Tehran activities could help to destabilise the government. Those groups have carried out terrorist bombings and other armed actions in various parts of Iran over the years, and it is well documented that Israel was supporting and advising the Baloch extremist organisation Jundallah on such operations. But the Israelis have used MEK mainly to put out disinformation on Iran’s nuclear programme.

The policy paper Bolton is reportedly pushing states explicitly that the regime change policy should include the use of military force against Iran if necessary. That was the premise of the Cheney-Bolton plan for regime change in Iran, as former vice president Dick Cheney’s Middle East adviser, David Wurmser, later revealed. And it is the game that Bolton, the enthusiast for bombing Iran, is apparently still playing. 

This article originally appeared on Middle East Eye.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.




Haspel Could Be Subject to Arrest Abroad Under Universal Jurisdiction

Gina Haspel is the new CIA Director after the Senate voted on Thursday 54-44 to confirm her, with six Democrats agreeing. In this interview, Francis Boyle explains why Haspel could be at risk of arrest on trips abroad.  

By Dennis J Bernstein

Francis Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He is the author of many books on International Law and an outspoken critic of US policy in the Middle East. Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order and the sequel, Destroying World Order. In the following interview with Pacifica Radio host Dennis J Bernstein, Boyle warns that, among other things, given her background as key implementer of the US torture program, Gina Haspel is vulnerable to be arrested for war crimes and crimes against humanity if she travels abroad.

Dennis Bernstein spoke with Francis Boyle on May 10th, 2018. [The transcript has been updated to reflect Haspel’s confirmation.] 

DB: [We now have a new ] a new CIA director who likes to get her hands dirty and participate directly in torture. She has also been actively involved in making sure nobody finds out that torture takes place.

FB: “Bloody” Gina Haspel is her nickname at the CIA. She was directly involved in the extraordinary rendition program, which is a euphemism for the enforced disappearance of human beings and their consequent torture. This was in the complaint I filed against Bush and company in 2010 with the International Criminal Court for this crime against humanity.

Last fall the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said she is going to open up an investigation into the entire CIA extraordinary rendition program for violating the Rome Statute. Although the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, these actions took place on the territorial sovereignty of Rome Statute states, and therefore the ICC does have jurisdiction. In my opinion, Gina Haspel is a presumptive war criminal and torturer. [We now] have a torturer and war criminal as head of the CIA.

As I have argued in anti-CIA cases here in the United States, the CIA is an organized criminal conspiracy like the SS and the Gestapo. We argued that successfully back in 1987 at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I was involved in large numbers of CIA protest cases back in the 1980’s because of what was going on in Central America, with 35,000 dead in Nicaragua, 75,000 dead in El Salvador, and perhaps a quarter of a million in Guatemala. Most of those killed were Mayan Indians, which meant outright genocide.

DB: Will it be difficult for our director of the CIA to travel abroad? Maybe she has to be covert forever.

FB: That is correct. Under international law today–following a terrible decision by the International Court of Justice–heads of state and foreign ministers have diplomatic immunity while there are in office. But that is not going to apply to the head of the CIA.

I have a whole dossier here against Bush, Jr. and the rest of them for the extraordinary rendition program. We scared him out of Switzerland over that. A Swiss prosecutor demanded that Bush be prosecuted if he showed up in Switzerland. I know that Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights also have extensive dossiers against high-level US officials involved in these torture programs, including Haspel. She would be a sitting duck for international human rights lawyers. The evidence is there.

We have a 600-page executive summary of the Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee’s report on the extent of torture and extraordinary disappearances by the CIA. This is an official US government document. She was not personally named in there, but she was a high-level official who was personally involved. She certainly supervised the operation in Thailand. Under international law, there is a command responsibility. She is denying that she herself physically tortured anyone, but she supervised others doing the torturing. Under international criminal law, she is accountable for the criminal behavior she oversaw.

DB: She admitted at the hearing that she had the tapes of these torture sessions but she considered it prudent to destroy them.

FB: The Senate Committee had just announced their investigation so her boss, Jose Rodriguez, ordered her to destroy the tapes. Arguably, this would be obstruction of justice. [We now have] a notorious international criminal heading up the CIA. In my opinion, any senator who vote[d] to confirm her [became] an accessory after the fact to her crimes: torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture.

DB: This is a very difficult time. We are all worried about our friend Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who was brutalized while protesting the Haspel nomination. Obviously, they are very serious about shutting up anyone protesting torture.

FB: Ray arguably has the defense of prevention of crimes under international law. I am not saying it would be a winner, because it is always tough going into a federal court and defending anyone protesting and resisting criminal behavior by the United States government.

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




Trump Disregards Caravan Asylum Seekers’ Legal Rights

As Central Americans fleeing oppression in their countries remain stalled in appalling conditions at the U.S. border, Donald Trump ramps up the xenophobic rhetoric, reports Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

The 300 asylum seekers who arrived at the U.S. border on April 29 after a month-long, 2,000-mile journey have another grueling struggle ahead of them, according to the immigration attorneys who are donating their time to represent them.

More than three-quarters of asylum claims from Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans between 2012 and 2017 were denied, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, and this year’s caravan of asylum seekers are facing a climate made even more hostile by the xenophobic Trump administration.

Once the asylum applicants—who traveled in a caravan to the Tijuana-San Ysidro border from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala—establish that they face a credible fear of persecution in their home countries, their ordeals are just beginning.

Colleen Flynn, an immigration attorney with the National Lawyers Guild’s Los Angeles chapter, said in an interview that because of retaliation by the Trump administration, even those who establish “credible fear” could face years of detention.

“Some will bond out, but many others will be unable to raise the money for high bonds,” Flynn said. “There is a possibility their kids will be taken away.”

In the face of these fears, Flynn said, the asylum seekers she met in Tijuana are “incredibly resilient, incredibly hopeful, really brave.”

Hundreds of supporters, many of whom had marched 150 miles from Los Angeles, gathered on the U.S. side of the border in solidarity with the asylum seekers. It was “a really moving sight to see people coming together at the border,” said Kath Rogers, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild’s Los Angeles chapter.

When the asylum seekers arrived at the border, however, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers informed them that the port of entry was “at capacity” and repeated that mantra throughout the day. When Gilbert Saucedo, an attorney, human rights advocate and co-president of the L.A. chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, asked the CBP officers, “‘Is that what you were told to say?’ they said ‘yes,’” Saucedo told me in an interview.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a group that has accompanied migrants and refugees on their journeys for 15 years, took issue with the officers, saying in a statement: “Customs and Border Protection is the largest law enforcement agency in the country, and is able to detain, transport and incarcerate thousands of people in a day, but is pretending that they don’t have the ‘capacity’ to accept 150 refugee parents and children whose arrival has been anticipated and communicated weeks in advance.”

The asylum seekers have a legal right to have their applications considered, and many of them have meritorious claims. Notwithstanding Trump’s bloviating, CBP officers began slowly processing the asylum requests. By the end of the fifth day, roughly half of the caravan asylum seekers had been taken to San Diego for processing.

Meanwhile, the remaining asylum seekers continue to wait. They are camping on the ground in unseasonably cool and drizzly weather. Mostly women and children, they are cold and hungry, despite some rations provided by their supporters.

“It just broke my heart to see them,” Saucedo said.

Flynn spoke of a group of women whose lives are endangered in their home countries because they are transgender. These women “really kept spirits up” among the asylum seekers, “singing, dancing, elevating the mood and keeping people’s hopes alive.”

Trump Tries to Keep Asylum Seekers Out

Donald Trump tweeted on April 23 that he ordered the Department of Homeland Security “not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country,” adding, “It is a disgrace.”

Unsurprisingly, Trump demonstrated no compassion for those who made the dangerous trip by bus, train and on foot to escape persecution in their home countries, referring to them as “this problem.” On April 3, he tweeted, “The big Caravan of People from Honduras … had better be stopped before it gets there.” The caravan asylum seekers were “openly defying our border,” Trump tweeted on April 30, and wrote in a fundraising email to his supporters on April 26, “We need a strong, impenetrable WALL that will end this problem once and for all.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, disagreed with Trump’s assessment.

“It’s overkill,” Thompson told HuffPost. “You would have expected [Trump] to have been briefed by intelligence officers exactly who was headed this way … We know who they are. We know where they are. And we even know why they’re coming. So to try to elevate this into some heightened sense of threat, it just didn’t measure up.”

Caravans of asylum seekers arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border annually. But this year, Trump began his Twitter and verbal assaults on the caravan before it reached Tijuana. “Are you watching that mess that’s going on right now with the caravan coming up?” he said at an April 29 rally in Michigan. “We have the worst laws anywhere in the world, we don’t have borders.”

Michael Knowles, president of the asylum officers union, told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “If they’re coming to seek asylum, they need to be given due process. We shouldn’t be impeded from doing our job, and those applicants should not be impeded from having their cases heard.”

Trump betrayed his ignorance of U.S. immigration law, tweeting, “These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!” In fact, the asylum seekers have nothing to do with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allowed immigrants brought to the U.S. as children relief from deportation before Trump sought to end the program.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as contemptuous of immigrants as his boss, called the caravan “a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system.” Sessions short-circuited immigration court policies, vacating a Board of Immigration Appeals decision that required immigration judges to provide asylum seekers with a full hearing. Now, thanks to Sessions, judges can deny applications without testimony from the asylum seeker.

The Legal Right to Apply for Asylum

The1951 Refugee Convention requires the United States to accept and consider asylum applications. Applicants must show they are unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

Once an applicant demonstrates a credible fear of persecution, which can be shown by evidence of past persecution, he or she must establish that fear stemmed from the applicant’s membership in a particular social group or political opinion. These are the two categories that cover most of the caravan asylum seekers, immigration attorney Helen Sklar, a member of the L.A. chapter executive board of the National Lawyers Guild, said in an interview.

“Membership in a particular social group” requires that members of the group share a “common, immutable” trait that is “so fundamental to the identity or conscience of the member that he or she should not be required to change it.”

The roughly 35 transgender women on the caravan will likely apply for asylum based on membership in the particular social group of being transgender, Sklar explained.

“Political opinion” is the category that applies to many of the asylum seekers, particularly those fleeing violence in Honduras. Most people in the caravan came from Honduras.

Sklar interviewed one asylum seeker who was subjected to persecution by the current Honduran regime because of her opposition to government policies. She reported being threatened and beaten at an anti-government demonstration.

U.S. policy, particularly during the Obama administration, helped create the conditions that caused the asylum seekers to undertake their long and perilous journey north. In 2009, the U.S. government supported a coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya and made life nearly unbearable for many Hondurans.

As Pamela Spees, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote:

Honduras has been declared the most dangerous country in the world for land rights and environmental activists… It’s not surprising then that the rising and pervasive violence and deep economic insecurity in Honduras and the region has resulted in unprecedented numbers of refugees and migrants fleeing to seek safety and security.

Sklar, who is one of about a dozen attorneys who have been helping the asylum seekers without remuneration, criticized the Trump administration for suggesting that the asylum seekers’ motives are not legitimate.

“Who would undertake such hardship without a compelling need to find safety?” Sklar asked.

Trump’s Racist, Nativist Immigration Policy

Trump’s verbal attacks on the asylum seekers did not occur in a vacuum. From instituting the Muslim Ban to attempting to end the DACA program, he has consistently appealed to his base by pursuing racist, nativist immigration policies.

Late last year, the Trump administration stopped accepting applications for a program that allowed people from Central America legally residing in the United States to bring their children here. As a result, 3,800 peopleprimarily children—who were being processed under that program are stranded in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Trump has also drastically reduced the admission of refugees into the U.S. and deployed National Guard troops to the border.

If he had his way, Trump would build a border wall and end the practice of family migration and the diversity visa lottery system. He would also halt the policy of releasing undocumented immigrants with notices to appear in court (a practice that he describes using the dehumanizing language of “catch and release”), opting instead to detain or deport them.

At his April 29 Michigan rally, Trump threatened to shut down the country if his wall did not get built.

“We need security. We need the wall … if we don’t get border security, we’ll have no choice. We’ll close down the country,” Trump declared.

Meanwhile, the asylum seekers brace for the next stage of their long struggle. “Our trip isn’t over,” 17-year-old Jose Coello from Honduras said as he walked into the United States from Tijuana on May 2. “This is just the next step.”

Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and an advisory board member of Veterans for Peace. The second, updated edition of her book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, was published in November. Visit her website: MarjorieCohn.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MarjorieCohn.




Syrian ‘Chemical Victims’ Suffered from Dust Inhalation, Reports Say

A report by the Independent’s veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk quotes doctors in Douma saying victims suffered from dust inhalation and that a member of the White Helmets caused panic by falsely shouting, “Gas!” in a triage center. The White Helmets were then bused out with other jihadists, as Caitlin Johnstone explains.

By Caitlin Johnstone

We are now being told (and I assure you I am not making this up) that if the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons doesn’t find evidence that the Syrian government conducted a chemical weapons attack in Douma last week, it’s because Russia hid the evidence.

“It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site,” reports U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Ward. “It is our concern that they may have tampered with it with the intent of thwarting the efforts of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission to conduct an effective investigation.”

I guess the idea is that this international top-level investigative team on which tremendous credibility has been placed by the western world can be thwarted by Russians showing up with a Hoover and spraying some Febreze in the air like a teenage stoner when mom comes home? I’m not sure, but given the immense dearth of evidence we’ve been seeing in support of the establishment Douma narrative and the mounting pile of evidence contradicting it, it sure does sound fishy.

Now that the jihadist-occupied suburb of Douma has been retaken by the Syrian government, western journalists have been allowed in to poke around and start asking questions, and so far it isn’t looking great for the propaganda machine.

Dust Not Gas

The Independent‘s Robert Fisk has published a report which affirms the story so many westerners have been dismissing as Kremlin propaganda for days now after interviewing a doctor from the hospital of the area where the Douma attack was supposed to have occurred. Dr Assim Rahaibani told Fisk that what was in actuality an outbreak of respiratory distress among occupants of a dusty oxygen-deprived tunnel was made to look like the aftereffects of a chemical weapons attack when a member of the White Helmets started shouting about a gas attack in front of a bunch of video cameras. Everyone panicked and started hosing themselves down, but in the video, according to Rahaibani, “what you see are people suffering from hypoxia—not gas poisoning.”

This report was independently backed up by a reporter from One America News Network named Pearson Sharp, who gave a detailed account of his interviews with officials, doctors, as well as many civilians on the street Sharp says he deliberately selected at random in order to avoid accusations of bias. Many people hadn’t even heard that a chemical weapons attack had taken place, and the ones who had said it was staged by Jaysh al-Islam. The staff at the hospital, including a medic-in-training who was an eyewitness to the incident, gave the same story as the account in Fisk’s report. (Fisk also reported that the White Helmets in Duma had joined jihadists on Syrian government buses on the way to Idlib province.)

Weakening Narrative

The increasing confidence with which these unapproved narratives are being voiced and the increasing discomfort being exhibited by empire loyalists like Ambassador Ward indicate a weakening narrative in the greater propaganda campaign against the Assad government and its allies, but don’t hold your breath for the part where Fox News and the BBC turn around and start asking critical questions of the governments that they are meant to be holding to account.

The journalists who have been advancing the establishment narrative on Syria aren’t about to start reporting that they’ve gotten the entire Syria story backward and have been promoting a version of events manufactured for the benefit of CIA-MI6-Mossad agendas. You’re not about to see CNN, who last year staged a fake scripted interview with a seven year-old Syrian girl to manufacture support for escalations against Assad, suddenly turn around and start asking if we’re being told the full story about what’s happening Syria.

Watch them closely. Watch how they steadfastly ignore the growing mountain of evidence and keep promoting the Syrian regime change agenda that the western empire has been working toward for decades. Watch them dismiss all evidence they can’t ignore as Kremlin propaganda and shift the narrative whenever things start to look bad for them. Those riding the crest of the wave of establishment media are too far gone into the blob to ever admit error and change. The least among us aren’t about to stop constructing a public reality tunnel which depicts them as heroes of truth, tear it all down, and start advancing a narrative which makes them look like fools at best and villains at worst. It will not happen.Luckily for us, it doesn’t need to. Internet censorship is still far from closing the door on our ability to network and share information, and we’ve been very effective at sowing skepticism among the masses. The war propagandists are not nearly as good at their jobs as they want to believe, and we can beat them.

Consent Required

They work so hard to manufacture support for war because they require that consent. If the oligarchs try to launch a war against a disobedient nation amidst very clear opposition from the public, they will shatter the illusion of freedom and democracy that their entire empire is built upon, and then they’re exposed. Corporatist oligarchy has succeeded in weaving its web of dominance because its oppression has thus far remained hidden and its depravity disguised as humanitarianism. They cannot expose themselves by transgressing a loud NO from the public or else the masses will realize that everything they used to believe about their country, their government and their world is a lie.

They won’t risk that. We can force them into retreating from open war by circulating facts and information and keeping a healthy level of skepticism circulating among the public. Watch them squirm, move goalposts and shift narratives, and point and yell about it whenever it happens. We can win the media war against the propagandists. We have truth on our side.

This article first appeared on Medium.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on Facebook, Twitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. This article was re-published with permission.




On the Gaza Protesters Murdered by Israeli Forces

An attack on protesting Palestinians on March 30 by the Israeli military left 18 dead and thousands injured and constitutes mass murder and a blatant war crime, argues Palestinian human rights attorney Diana Buttu in an interview with Dennis J. Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

The latest Israeli slaughter of Gazans falls into the category of shooting fish in a tank. Indeed, as tens of thousands of Gazans protested the longest occupation in modern history and demanded their historical Right to Return, last Friday, March 30, Israeli snipers raised their rifles repeatedly and, from behind a wide-buffer and an electrified fence, opened fire on the Palestinians.

The latest stats of killed and wounded from the so-called confrontation between Israeli sharp-shooters and Palestinians is at least 18 Palestinians killed and over 1,000 wounded. On the Israeli side, zero casualties. Zero!

Diana Buttu is a Palestinian/Canadian lawyer based in the Occupied West Bank of Palestine. She is a former Palestinian negotiator.  I spoke with her in Haifa on April 2nd, 2018.

Dennis Bernstein: Maybe you could begin with your best information in terms of what happened.

Diana Buttu: I can give you the rough numbers.  18 Palestinians are confirmed dead.  Others are in very critical condition and unable to get the medical attention they need.  Over [1,000] Palestinians were wounded.  They are unable to receive treatment both because of the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip and because of the lack of electricity.  Palestinian human rights organizations are calling for the wounded to receive treatment elsewhere, but so far the Israeli government has refused.

Dennis Bernstein: What do we know about how this unfolded?  I heard in an NPR report that this was not just a protest, that these were militants.

Diana Buttu: We know that the Israeli government announced days in advance that they were going to be positioning snipers along the border.  Now, there are multiple sets of borders in effect here. There is an electrified fence on the eastern and northern sides of the Gaza Strip.  A cement wall is on the southern border with Egypt. The water is blockaded by the Israeli navy on the western side.

In addition to those physical borders, the Israeli army has been enforcing what they call a buffer zone, which is about 1,000 feet away from the electrified fence.  We know that when Palestinians approached the buffer zone on the eastern side, the Israelis immediately started shooting Palestinian protesters.

From video footage we can see that people were shot in the back.  Others were shot for carrying tires or for simply walking into these areas.  These were individuals who posed no threat whatsoever. Even if they were attempting to cross the border, you don’t use live fire to kill people who are crossing a border.

And secondly, the point of this was to highlight the fact that Palestinians cannot return.  80% of the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip does not come from the Gaza Strip. They are actually refugees driven out by the Israelis.  While Israel keeps claiming that there were attempts to “infiltrate,” in any case this is not a proper response.

The fact that Israel was positioning snipers on the border indicates that they were ready, willing and able to shoot protesters in the back.  The head of the Israeli defense establishment has said that every one of these snipers should be commended.

Dennis Bernstein: How many Israeli soldiers were wounded and killed?

Diana Buttu: Zero.  Again, this was not a question of the protesters posing any danger to any individual.  It was the mere fact that Palestinians were out in protest.

I want to put this in its proper historical perspective.  The reason they were out on March 30 is because this day, in 1976, the Israelis did the exact same thing to Palestinians who were citizens of Israel.  At that time, Palestinians were protesting the confiscation of thousands of acres of Palestinian land by the Israeli government in order to make way for Jewish towns.

On that day in 1976 Israel shot and killed six unarmed Palestinian protesters.  Here we are forty years later, with people commemorating the killings, Israel does the exact same thing, this time killing three times that number.

Dennis Bernstein: The Israelis have declared that there will be no investigation.

Diana Buttu: Yes, and this is nothing new.  There has never been an investigation into the actions of the army.  After the massacre at Jenin in March of 2002, when 52 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army, the government would not allow an investigation and announced that everything had been justified.

I do not expect any justice coming from the Israeli military establishment.  Trump has made it very clear in the Security Council that there will never be any investigation of these 18 Palestinian deaths.

Dennis Bernstein: And this happens at a time when people in the Gaza Strip are suffering on many levels.  This protest took a lot of courage, given the fact that everyday life is a struggle. People often refer to the Gaza Strip as one of the largest open-air prisons in the world.

Diana Buttu: It has gone beyond that.  The analogy was perhaps true in 2005 but now it has gotten worse than that.  In prison at least you have electricity, you are still fed three times a day.  Israel is making sure that the Palestinians only get electricity two or three hours a day.  There is a waiting list of some 30,000 people who want to be able to leave, who have valid visas but are not allowed to leave.  Imports are curtailed by the Israelis.

You and I do not measure the quality of our lives by the amount of goods that we have.  We assess the quality of our lives by the things we are able to do and the time we are able to spend with friends and loved ones.  In the Gaza Strip, people are completely unable to visit one another.

I myself have not been able to enter the Gaza Strip since 2007, which means that I have left behind all of my friends.  And I am one of the lucky ones. My friends have been unable to leave or even think of leaving. Life for people in Gaza is completely miserable, with unfit drinking water, with an electricity infrastructure that is barely functioning, with a healthcare system that is on the verge of collapse, with malnutrition rates soaring, with unemployment rates through the roof.  It is little wonder that the UN has said that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.

Dennis Bernstein: How far away are you from these friends who you are not able to visit?

Diana Buttu: About fifty miles.  The only chance I have of seeing my friends is if they, by some miracle, are able to get a visa and exit and we meet in a third country.  The last time this happened was several years ago when we happened to meet in the United States.

Dennis Bernstein: So the idea of a two-state solution in this context is really a crazy thought.  A paper like The New York Times loves maps, but I have never seen a map of independent Palestine.  This is the nature of occupation, in the context, wouldn’t you say, of ethnic cleansing?

Diana Buttu: Absolutely.  The ethnic cleansing of Palestine has been the one common thread since 1948.  Politicians and diplomats have tried to mask it by calling for things like a two-state solution.

Part of the ethnic cleansing process is to get rid of Palestinians so that they don’t have to see them.  The tragedy is that no one is labeling it that. Instead they try to hide behind some diplomatic initiative or other.

Once we start looking at it as an ethnic cleansing process, we can move away from all these false attempts to come up with resolutions and put in place mechanisms to stop the process.

Dennis Bernstein: Where did the ammunition come from that was used to kill these 18 protesters and wounded some [1,000] more?

Diana Buttu: It’s a mix.  Mostly it is US weaponry.  The question is, why is the United States allowing its weaponry to be used on peaceful protesters?  Don’t we have legislation in place to prevent such human rights abuses from happening? But Israel gets to take a pass when it comes to the use of US weaponry.

My big fear is that these attacks on Gaza are like a live arms show.  We saw after the 2014 massacre in Gaza that arms sales actually went up in Israel.  This is why it is important to push for a complete arms embargo.

Dennis Bernstein: My understanding is that many Palestinians have vowed to continue to protest and resist.  Do you think there will be more live fire attacks?

Diana Buttu: There will definitely be more protests and Israel will definitely continue to kill Palestinians, because it can.  Because so far all we have seen is a green light. We have seen European states express how deeply concerned they are, but this concern doesn’t do anything for Palestinians.

There are plans to protest from Land Day, March 30, through May 15, the day that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is commemorated.  It is also the day that the US moves its embassy in violation of international law.

So we will see six weeks of protest taking place.  And I certainly expect that the Israeli military machine is going to continue to take Palestinian lives, because no one is stopping them.

Dennis Bernstein: Have any reporters been calling you from MSNBC or NPR to get your perspective?

Diana Buttu: For the most part, I think that the killing of Palestinians has become so commonplace that it is no longer news.  It seems that Trump’s tweets are of more importance than 18 lives taken away so quickly, 18 families affected, and their friends and others.

The day before the march, a young artist wrote in the sand on the beaches in Gaza “# I will return” in Arabic.  The next day he was one of those who lost their lives. The next day his friend wrote his name in the sand as a means of commemorating him.  These are people with real lives, with dreams, with fears, with families. Instead we are reduced to numbers, not nearly as important as the 140 characters that your president tweets out.

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