The Price that Julian Assange Pays

People who challenge power are often viewed by their supporters as more icons than human beings thus missing the personal costs of their actions, a reality that Julian Assange’s mother revealed to Randy Credico and Dennis J Bernstein.

By Randy Credico and Dennis J Bernstein

June 19 marked the fifth full year that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange spent at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he was given asylum against the threat of arrest from a Swedish prosecutor pursuing a sex-abuse investigation (since dropped) and possible extradition to the United States for a potential espionage charge related to publication of U.S. secrets.

To gain insights into what this long ordeal has meant to Assange, an Australian native, Randy Credico of WBAI’s “On the Fly” and Dennis Bernstein of “Flashpoints” on Pacifica Radio interviewed Assange’s mother, Christine Assange. The interview also explored the deep history that led her son to found Wikileaks and to challenge the enormous powers of the U.S. and British governments by exposing the truth about their dangerous, deadly and often illegal policies.

Randy Credico: I guess I should begin by asking, how long has it been since you’ve seen your son Julian?

Christine Assange: A number of years, but we communicate.

RC: Yes, you communicate, but it’s not the same, so far away. It must be difficult. I mean he’s not in prison, but it may as well be prison. I know for a mother to be separated from her son like this, it must be grueling, and a difficult row to hoe on a daily basis.

CA: It is. It’s very hard to put into words this experience that we’re going through over the last seven years. There have been periods where I’ve coped and periods where I haven’t. It tends to go up and down, as I guess Julian does as well. And it’s very hard to communicate with your son when you know that every phone call that you’re making, every text that you’re sending, is being listened to. Or even a letter that you write. You end up feeling that it’s almost useless trying to communicate anything real.

RC: That must really take its toll. So it will be five years [on June 19th]. Five years! Can you believe that he’s been there for five years at this point in time?

CA: No, the idea is horrifying to me actually. I mean we know that he’s been detained for seven years without charge, but five of those have been in the Ecuadorian Embassy [in London], and we thank the people of Ecuador for their protection.

But during those five years, Randy, the U.K. government and the Swedish government have refused all of Julian’s requests for the normal one hour a day of life-giving fresh air, exercise and sunshine. It’s a human right abuse of the grandest order.

Anyone who is involved with rights of refugees around the world should be highlighting his case. Here we are in the Western supposedly free world, interning someone without charge, and then denying them the rights that even people in Third World prisons get, including the right to have medical tests. He had a very bad shoulder with bad chronic pain for years, and they refused to allow him to have an MRI test.

Dennis Bernstein: Let me just ask you this question: do you remember the last time you were able to give your son a nice big hug?

CA: Yes, four years ago.

DB: Could you tell us what you remember about it?

CA: It’s hard keeping up with all the fighting, Dennis. It’s very hard to explain. But I got a big hug when I left. I was only there for a few weeks. I’ve actually got a few things here that I’ve got to look after. But probably the best time I remember him is the one with the picture you’ve got on your show, of me and him with his arm around me. That was when he’d just gotten out of prison, and I’d gone over there to campaign for him.

And we were out in the snow, at about 3 o’clock on the morning, outside of the place that he was staying. And that was with an Australian television crew and we were all Aussies together in that moment. And I was giving him a big hug, and they were cheering, and it was a really good moment. It all feels so far away, and so foreign for us all to be there together. And for me to hold Julian, with his countrymen around giving support, was a really good moment.

DB: And now that we’ve got Julian’s mom on the phone, could you talk a little bit about … the first clue that he was going to be perhaps an interesting person, a troublemaker, or somebody who was really interested in public affairs? How do you remember that beginning?

CA: Well I don’t think there was any one point at which it happened. Julian had always been an incredibly curious child, and always wanted to know why — wanted to know how things worked. And I actually encouraged that in him as a child. He would ask how something would work, and rather than say, this is how it works, I would ask him, how do you think it works?

And then we would explore theories at his age level about how something would work, and he was very turned on by all that. I also read him a lot of books. From the time he was a baby, he was read books every day, from fairy tales, to Greek legends, to the adventure heroic classics — Tarzan, for example, where good was trouncing evil, and there were heroic adventures.

The justice part of it was not to any form of ideology, it was just about showing empathy and fairness in everyday life. So I think all those things together — and he came from a creative background — all that enabled him to sort of explore justice, and the power to change.

Then he wanted to know how the world worked. He wanted to be a physicist because he wanted to get to the bottom of it. And he went to university for physics and was disappointed that most of the job opportunities involved working for the US government, developing weapons, etc., and so he wasn’t very happy with that.

And then the next thing I remember, we were having a discussion about the ills of the world and what could make a change in the world and I asked him, what do you think would lead to a change? And he said he thought there are two possibilities: one was a cataclysmic event that knocked some sense into people because they’d have to really look at their environment.

The other one was technology. And I think Wikileaks was the result of the technology that he saw would change the world.

DB: You said something very interesting: that it wasn’t about grand things, but about fairness in everyday life. Can you think of one of those everyday examples that sort of blossomed into the Julian Assange that we know in terms of his vision now for information?

CA: Well not anything specific in terms of day-to-day life, but just in general with people we were dealing with in the family or with neighbors: we wouldn’t walk past somebody who was lying in the street, for example. If there was someone lying in the street, whether they were drunk or if it was a drug overdose, or if they were sick — we would stop and ask them if they were alright. And Julian would continue that. We were in a situation where we were helping some people involved in a justice situation that had to do with the court system, and Julian was boots and all defending people.

But also when he was a young teenager, he was very into computers. So I bought him a computer, and he went exploring on it, and later on he joined up with some other young people. And there was not a lot available in terms of being challenging and adventuring in the suburbs, but these bright young friends of his were challenging themselves on computers, and one of the ways they were doing it was to what they called “look-see” hacking, which was where they’d break in and they’d look at things, they wouldn’t damage anything, but let people know their system was insecure.

Now, in the process of doing that, I remember during the Gulf War that he got in and had a look, and he told me, “There’s stuff going on here that’s not right, there are people doing things that are not right here, and we’re not being told about it — it’s not coming out in the media.”

And I think that also galvanized him into his concept of Wikileaks, which was basically a concept around really good media. And that is that the media hold the governments and the corporations through, basically the truth, responsible to the people.

RC: He has done an incredible job. We are much better off — we are more knowledgeable about our government’s evil actions around the world, and obviously he’s being penalized for that. First of all, he’s been vilified by these phony allegations. How did you react when these allegations came out of the Swedish government prosecutor’s office?

CA: Well I remember the time exactly. It was about 11 o’clock at night when I got a phone call, and the person didn’t even introduce themselves, they just said, “Mrs. Assange, how does it feel to have your son accused of a double rape?”

And straight from my solar plexus I just said, “He didn’t do it.” Because I know my son, and I know that Julian wouldn’t do it. But then I had to go through the whole process of investigating the case because, to defend him, I had to know exactly what was going on.

And so, like those who defended him with knowledge, we had to troll through all the documents, to find out the basis of the allegations, and then what we found was a complete and utter set up. And that was a horrifying feeling to find out that your son would actually be set up on something as serious as a rape allegation, purely because he published the truth about corrupt power.

DB: Where exactly are you right now?

CA: I’m in Australia.

DB: Oh, you’re in Australia! You’re very far away, but you’re very close to us here, and we’re really appreciating the kind of material that you’re sharing about Julian Assange on this, his fifth year of his being held captive, really you have to say by threats of the United States government, who has a special penchant for hurting whistleblowers.

I’m thinking of this carpenter — this illiterate carpenter — who actually fled from fascist Italy and ended up in fascist Argentina. And he used to spout these phrases, and one of the things he used to say is, “Truth has few friends, and those few are suicides” [Antonio Porchia]. Now that’s a very dark comment, but it does seem, if you think about Julian Assange or other great truth tellers, what was waiting for them was a jail cell, or a bullet. Your thoughts on that — that courage that it takes to go forward?

CA: Well the original truth teller was Jesus Christ, wasn’t he? He was throwing the money changers out of the temple. And now 2,000 years later we’ve got defense contractors, the oil industry and Wall Street. And he said, “And you shall know the truth and it shall set you free.”

And nothing has really changed since then. We still have corrupt power consolidating itself, and really destroying the world, and not working on the behalf of people. And it sort of brings me back to what we should be doing, as people. What should we do? Our leaders let us down again and again. They say they’re going to do something and when they get in power they’re either bad leaders who were leading us on, or they’re good leaders who are under pressure themselves. And they’re fighting each other and name-calling, but it’s still not working, is it?

So I see Wikileaks as a uniting point for everybody — from the Left and the Right and everything in between — uniting around the First Amendment, which is what you call it in America, or the free press around the world, to hold our leaders in the business world and in the government accountable through transparency and truth.

And good leaders are actually supported by Wikileaks because if they are indeed under pressure from the Deep State — for example, supposing we assume that Donald Trump is a good guy, and does want to, as he says, “drain the swamp”, which is the Deep State, then he’s going to need Wikileaks — not just during the campaign, when Wikileaks was wonderful and he loved Wikileaks, but even more so now, when the Deep State is going to try to prevent his campaign.

Now if he’s not in fact a good guy, but a bad guy all along, then of course he’s going to want to suppress Wikileaks. And our assessment of Donald Trump very much hinges on whether he is going to protect Wikileaks and Julian.

DB: We were just speaking with one of the attorneys, Jesselyn Radack, who has worked with Julian Assange, and we were talking about the message that might be being sent now by the very strong crackdown and arrest of the most recent whistleblower coming out of the National Security Agency [Reality Winner]. Does that give you pause or concern that Julian might have a tough row ahead?

CA: Oh, I’ve always known he’s going to have a tough row ahead, you only have to look at the way they’ve treated their own whistleblowers, as you said, in their own CIA and NSA. The Obama administration arrested and prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined, so things were certainly not looking good, even before this change of administration.

I’m not talking about Reality Winner. I’m not sure where she’s coming from but, even so, wherever she’s coming from, the protocol should still be the same. And I don’t know if that’s the case. If you are a whistleblower there should be protections for you and then it should be investigated and authenticated. And there should be a transparent legal process, and your rights should be protected during that time period. The reason I say I don’t know where she’s coming from, is because they’ve been talking about so-called leaks about Russians, and all the rest of it, and we know that they’ve been set up, that the Russians didn’t hack the DNC.

They’re going to say that there were leaks and they’re not leaks, but because we don’t know who, that’s the reason why we need to protect all whistleblowers, including her, and why it should go through due process, the same as for any other citizen.

DB: We know that Julian was pretty troubled by the way in which The Intercept blew their source in this context. He seems to have been a lot more careful in his work in terms of protecting sources. I’m wondering if you noted that.

CA: Oh, absolutely. I remember when Wikileaks was being set up, that Julian was saying to me,”We’re going to spend two years with the best minds in the world, to create an anonymous drop box, so that nobody can crack it, because we want to protect our sources. And we want people to feel so comfortable in leaking to us and not to feel frightened that they’re going to be revealed”. So he’s kept to that, even to the risk to his own life and liberty.

Wikileaks has never revealed a source — no source has been exposed by Wikileaks. Chelsea Manning exposed herself on the Internet. And very few other media have been willing to rise to that challenge. So it’s best to leak to Wikileaks if you’re going to leak. It’s a pity that she [Reality Winner] didn’t leak to Wikileaks.

RC: Yes. I must say, he really is a remarkable individual. I am not a techie, but he really knows all of this stuff really well, he’s brilliant, but he comes off so genuine. It’s really amazing to see him on all of these talk shows, on radio — how well he comes off. And he’s got a great sense of humor, he’s got an incredible education, he’s so well-spoken, so dignified when he’s on. Does that amaze you?

CA: Yes… well yes and no… because he’s grown up with me, and I’ve seen him, and he’s always been a refined person. He’s never been a crude person. He’s been an honest person and an empathetic person, and he’s always been very bright, so that he got to where he is on the world stage doesn’t surprise me.

Though of course in another way it does, and I’m in awe of him as well — not in any kind of demigod way, but just as a human being with such resilience and courage, and so strong in the truth. And taking the most incredible amount of attacks, not just from governments and corporations, and what they’re getting up to behind the scenes, but trolls.

I mean the thing that probably hurt me the most when watching him stand up for his work, was seeing other journalists, particularly UK journalists, trolling him on Wikileaks with the most vile, immature, picky, vicious comments. I couldn’t believe that this was coming out of the mouths of so-called journalists! And he’s resilient, and the ability to rise above it is quite awe-inspiring, isn’t it?

DB: And he continues on despite it all. He certainly has a resolve and a focus that borders on super-human. He has not been distracted from the work, in fact he has managed to expand it. It’s sort of a bit of a miracle.

CA: Well, Julian is very grounded. His convictions come out of critical analysis, they don’t come out of an easy path of jumping on some ideological bandwagon, so that when the going gets tough, he’s grounded in where he’s coming from. Because he drove himself, he’s not easily shaken by attacks, by ideological attacks, for example, or personal attacks. I think they’ve called him every “ist” there is –narcissist, racist, marxist, capitalist — and on and on it goes. But he knows that the reason he’s doing this is about media truth and justice, and government transparency, and he’s grounded in that reality, and that’s why he’s not so easily shaken.

RC: He is the most fearless individual. I mean he’s got the entire Intelligence Community, the Military Community [against him] — not just here in the U.S. but in Britain — even your own government.

What is your own government doing to protect one of their citizens? Under Prime Minister Turnbull?

CA: They’ve never done anything under any of them! The Labor government under Julia Gillard called what he did illegal and wanted to take his passport away, and she actually said she was quite happy to hand him over to the U.S. and change our extradition laws specifically to make it easier for him to be handed over.

Basically we don’t have a real government, we’ve got a puppet government — it’s just a U.S. puppet, and they’re constantly auditioning through the US Embassy for a place in the spotlight. Prime Minister Turnbull was an ex-Director of Goldman Sachs Australia. Not sure if you’re familiar with the term “government sets”? That’s where big US banks put their people in governments around the world.

So basically it would appear that in the Australian political landscape, if you want a promotion, you will swear on your credentials that you’re willing to tow the line on Assange.

DB: And finally, we’ve got Julian’s mom here, and I have to end this way — forgive me, Mom, but what are you most proud of in terms of your son? What part of his actions, his work, makes you the most proud as his mom?

CA: That he’s standing ethically in truth for justice, with courage. That he’s willing to risk his life and his liberty for his fellow man, basically. And that’s what he’s doing — he’s risking his health, his liberty and even his life, because we’ve heard all the horrible stuff coming out of various commentators: things like “We’re gonna shoot the son of a bitch” coming from Bob Beckel, a Democratic strategist.

And all the horrible things that Mike Pompeo said about him being a demon and “an unsafe intelligence actor.” And nonsense stuff about him being involved in child pornography from both sides, trying to set him up. I mean most people would have fallen over by now. But I think that because Julian is standing for something that’s good and right and correct, I think that’s where he derives his strength.

RC: He does have a lot of support, and I’ve been getting a lot of support from his supporters for this show, on Twitter and social media.

[…] What can people do? What do you recommend people do to help out Julian?

CA: […] Some of the American supporters have been very busy lately. They’ve organized the Boycott UK and it’s under the hashtag #BoycottUK and also the hashtag #FreeAssangeNOW .

This is a very good idea because we all know that money makes the world go round and in fact some are saying that a lot of the opposition to Julian is from greedy corporations because he exposes things like some of the reasons for war, and some of them profit from defense contracts. They also know that by reducing profits for major corporations, they will lean on government to change their policy. So boycotting big UK businesses until they free Julian — all big businesses that are operating in the UK.

Another California supporter …  has put up a campaign called “5 dollars for 5 years” and that is about how Julian spent five years in the Ecuadorian Embassy giving the truth, fighting for us, for our right to know. How about if we donate five dollars — a dollar for each year that he spent there? And that will go to top up the Julian Assange Defense fund which is at justice4assange.com. And you can donate your five dollars there.

Also on that site there’s a lot of information — it’s the best site in the world for finding out the facts about what’s been happening to Julian Assange for the last seven years. And let me tell you, it reads like The Bourne Conspiracy — what the government’s been up to to try to shut my son up is criminal and unbelievable.

So, just in America, just these last few weeks, American citizens have been standing up to fight.

But what you’re doing is also incredibly important, Randy. We find that when people are apprised of the facts about Wikileaks, and the facts about Julian, that most come onboard to support him, and some even come onboard as very active supporters. So it’s about getting out the facts, because there’s an awful lot of propaganda and lies. But once people know the facts they are supportive, so that’s also very important that people talk to each other about the facts, find out the facts. And there’s a very good FAQ at justice4assange.com.

So getting out the facts is really important, boycotting is very important, and funding Julian and funding Wikileaks is also important. We often feel very alone and powerless in the world at the moment, but we do have two things that we can still do.

One thing is where we spend our consumer dollar. It might only be five dollars, but if a million people donate five dollars, that’s really putting Julian and Wikileaks in a strong position to fight.

The other thing is the vote: keep your politician on speed dial and yank his or her chain every so often to remind them that we actually pay their wages, and we expect them to stand up for truth and government accountability, we expect them to not get in bed with corruption, and we are not impressed with them persecuting truth-telling media.

So there are just three things you can do straightaway. And of course you can always form your own Free Assange group — it can be a group of one or two or more. And this is what some ladies have done in America and around the world — nice people who have formed Free Assange groups. They are just ordinary people — they’re not actually highly political people, they’re often mothers who want to see the world protected for their children, and they often have no political experience, but a lot of heart and drive and creativity. And they often make the best advocates.

RC: Well, Ms. Christine Assange, I really appreciate you being part of this show. You are welcome back anytime. You are really doing an incredible job on behalf of your son, who is a hero. And I would like to give you the last word. If there’s something you want to convey to Julian and his supporters there in London, I’m going to give you the last word.

CA: Well, firstly, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to all the supporters around the world who have stood up and fought to protect and defend Wikileaks and Julian. Sometimes you’ve only done one action, sometimes you’ve done more — it doesn’t matter, you did something.

The people in London at the Ecuadorian Embassy have just been troopers. Both Ecuador and its embassy staff and the people of Ecuador and the people from the Julian Assange Defense Fund and Wise Up Action — those guys who stood outside that embassy, day-in, day-out — in the rain, hail, snow and sun — to support my son and protect him. And at one stage, when they tried to raid the embassy illegally and grab Julian, these people were his protectors. And I would encourage anybody who is visiting London anytime to drop into the embassy and stand outside the embassy and join these historic groups.

Show Julian that you care. Show the powers that be that the people care and they’re not going away. Wikileaks, after all, is supplied by the people, with information for the people, for their protection. It’s 100% funded by the people, and it’s defended and protected by the people, including our lawyers. This is a people’s publisher, and it just goes to show you what the people can achieve when they get together. Wikileaks is rocking the halls of power, and they’re terrified. And they have come back as bad as IS [Islamic State] terrorists against the truth, but the people are standing firm.

And to my son, I love you, I’m still here, I’m still fighting, I’m incredibly proud of your work. You’re a terrific human being, and we’re all standing here and we will keep fighting until we get you out of there.

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.




Business Group Fawns Over Trump

Many U.S. business groups groused about President Obama even as their companies thrived but are lavishing praise on President Trump despite doubts over his first four months, notes Barbara Koeppel.

By Barbara Koeppel

We’ve heard a lot about fake news. What about fake ads? Surely they deserve the “Pinocchio” reality check.

Let’s start with the April 29 full-page Washington Post ad run by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) applauding President Trump for his first 100 days. The organization hailed the trumpeter in chief for his accomplishments and hoped for more of the same.

“Thank you President Trump, for 100 days of progress,” the ad cheered. The problem is, most of the triumphs the ad touts are dubious. For example, it opens with a whopper. “You’ve promoted investment and created jobs.”

Well, yes and no. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 93,000 fewer new jobs were created from February to April 2017 (522,000), under the Trump reign, than over the same months in 2016 (615,000) under President Obama.

As for new investment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, gross private domestic investment in the first quarter of 2017 (adjusted for inflation and seasonal variations) was up 1.7 percent from the fourth quarter 2016 — not much to brag about.

Next, NAM’s ad gushed about the two pipelines (Dakota Access and Keystone XL) the President OK’d. While Trump claimed Keystone will create 28,000 jobs when completed, the State Department put the number a tad lower, at 35 or 50.

According to NAM, the job-creator-in-chief will rescue American manufacturers by reducing “the job-crushing regulatory burden,” “the red tape,” “the overreaching EPA and unfair labor regulations,” “the oppressive rules that obstructed energy development and prevented American independence.” And if that wasn’t enough, he’ll roll back “harmful Obamacare mandates.” Wow!

So, which manufacturers have suffered under such ruinous rules?

Not Emerson Electric Co., of which NAM’s chairman, David Farr, is CEO: In fact, its 2016 global sales were $14.5 billion. Boasting about its numbers, Emerson’s online blurbs claim it’s “one of a handful of companies with 60 consecutive years or more of increasing dividends to its shareholders.”

Not FLUOR Corp., of which NAM’s vice chair, David Seaton, is CEO: One of the world’s largest engineering corporations, FLUOR’s 2016 revenues rose to $19 billion, up from $18 billion in 2015.

Not the firms represented on NAM’s Executive Committee. For example, Pfizer earned $52.8 billion. Ingersoll Rand’s sales and revenues rose to $13.5 billion. Fresenius Medical Care Services 2016 revenues soared 7 percent over 2015, to $17.9 billion. And Cargill Inc.’s 2016 revenues were a whopping $107 billion.

Even ExxonMobil, whose 2016 earnings were down to $7.8 billion, reported this was due to “sharply lower commodity prices, upstream” — not ruthless regulations. We are relieved to note that with $7.8 billion in revenue, ExxonMobil is not yet out of business.

Interestingly, most of the rules or acts that NAM says Trump reversed are those which hadn’t yet taken effect (not “overturned” as the ad claims). But a few were already in motion and the Trump/congressional changes will be big. For example, this past February and March, Trump and Congress killed the 2016 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule that required firms applying for government contracts to report cases in which they violated federal laws in the past — say, on wages, safety, health, collective bargaining and civil rights.

According to Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, the rule was designed to ensure that workers are protected and that billions of dollars in federal contracts are no longer awarded to companies with a record of violations.

Trump also overturned a 2015 Environmental Protection Agency rule designed to stop firms from dumping toxic waste into waterways. While it will take some time for the new order to take effect, it’s official.

As a non-NAM member, it’s hard to see why polluting waterways is a plus, though industries have long resented any government intrusions. They might also be hit with the cleanup bill down the road — although to be fair, they might not, since the tab is often picked up by taxpayers. Score one for industry.

The ad ends with a rapturous crescendo: “And you’re just getting started. The 12 million men and women who make things in America stand with you to renew the American Spirit.” Good job, Donald!

Is it possible that even a few of those who “make things” will not cheer? If they don’t, NAM might suggest these employees — whose salaries, benefits, work conditions, health and quality of life will surely deteriorate — eat some American pie. (Cake, after all, is for the French.) Good job, NAM!

Barbara Koeppel is a freelance investigative reporter based in Washington, D.C. [This article first appeared at Truthdig at http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/fake_ads_in_the_time_of_trump_20170524 ]




Tillerson’s Bad Hand in Kremlin Showdown

President Trump’s hasty decision to attack Syria may have lightened political pressure at home but Russia’s retaliation – suspending a key “deconfliction agreement” – left Secretary of State Tillerson as supplicant at the Kremlin, reports Gilbert Doctorow.

By Gilbert Doctorow

The Russian media offered no complete account of what may have been accomplished during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s two-day visit to Russia, but there were hints of what the Russian negotiating position would have been behind closed doors and what may have justified Vladimir Putin making two hours available for Tillerson in what was otherwise a very busy day for the Russian President relating to domestic concerns.

Before Tillerson’s arrival Russian media reported widely on his failure the day before at the G7 meeting to win support for imposing more sanctions on Russia for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of the chemical weapons event in Idlib on April 4. That proposal was raised by U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and affirmed by Tillerson but rejected by all other G7 members. With that resounding defeat, Tillerson had no sticks from “the international community” to wield as an ultimatum against the Russians, telling them to get behind a U.S.-imposed “regime change” in Syria or suffer the consequences of further economic isolation from the West.

Tillerson also carried little in the way of carrots, given President Trump’s retreat on his campaign pledges to improve relations with Russia. Tillerson’s empty diplomatic bag was a topic discussed on Russian prime-time television the evening before his arrival. Senior Duma member and United Russia Party leader Vyacheslav Nikonov rhetorically demanded of Tillerson on the Evening with Vladimir Solovyov talk show: “So, make us an offer of what it means to go with America, what it brings us, and then we will consider it.”

In effect, Nikonov was calling the Trump administration’s bluff. He and the Russian elites understand perfectly that Donald Trump has no political capital to spend to get Congressional approval of normalized relations with Russia.

Just as the Tillerson-Putin meeting was taking place on Wednesday, another widely watched Russian talk show First Studio on the Pervy Kanal state channel opened with host Artyom Sheinin  posing a baiting question to the American journalist Michael Bohm, a frequent visitor to the program who is often used as a punching bag. Referring to Tillerson’s initial meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the doubt that Putin would grant Tillerson a meeting, Sheinin said, “I believe there is the practice in big corporations for a new visitor who has come to see the boss to first undergo a ‘screening interview.’ It looks as if Tillerson passed this screening process and so he was allowed in to speak to the boss. Do you think this was a positive thing?”

In other words, the Russians knew that Tillerson came with empty hands and that he was the suitor, not the one being wooed. Tillerson came to discuss reinstatement of the Memorandum of Understanding on Deconfliction in Syria because on the U.S. side there was great concern over Russia’s refusal now to speak at the regional level to U.S. military counterparts and avert clashes on the ground and in the air that could lead to escalation of confrontation and possibly to all-out-war. The Russian withdrawal from the deconfliction arrangement following the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian airfield on April 6 put the continuation of U.S.-led military operations against Islamic State militants inside Syria in danger.

On April 8, senior Pentagon officials were denying that the Russians had severed all military-to-military hot lines, but there was a cold sweat in Washington. The uncertainty over whether Syrian and Russian air defenses might take aim at NATO aircraft had already led the Belgians to publicly announce cessation of all their flights within the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition. Presumably other NATO members had come to the same conclusion.

Meanwhile, my information backchannels indicate that the Russians set down their preconditions for reinstatement of the deconfliction arrangements: no further U.S. air attacks on Syrian government positions. We may be sure that this was the major subject for discussion and possible agreement during Tillerson’s talks with Putin.

The result may be something similar to the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when the U.S. claimed victory publicly as the Soviets pulled their missiles out of Cuba, but privately the U.S. had granted what Moscow had wanted, the removal of U.S. missiles from Turkey. But Putin is no Nikita Khrushchev, who lost prestige among his Kremlin peers for striking the agreement with the Americans; Putin is likely to gain stature from such an arrangement.

The U.S. Media’s Take

Meanwhile, the mainstream U.S. media presented the Putin-Tillerson meeting in relatively neutral terms given the American press corps general hostility to all things Russian. The Washington Post did better than other media outlets, with Moscow Bureau Chief David Filipov and his colleague covering the State Department in Washington highlighting the undeniable fact that the parties were “sharply at odds” and noting:

“Russia made it clear it was unwilling to roll back its strategic alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The talks appeared unlikely to bring any significant breakthroughs after last week’s missile strike plunged U.S. relations to one of the lowest points since the Cold War. But despite the growing rifts, some general compromises were discussed.”

The areas of potential compromise were possible reinstatement of the information-sharing “deconfliction” Memorandum of Understanding with the United States that the Russians suspended immediately after the April 6 missile attack and creation of a U.S.-Russian working group to find ways to ease tensions between the two nuclear superpowers.

After that, the authors moved on to more trivial pursuits such as Donald Trump’s latest remarks about Assad being “an animal.” However, even amidst this swill there were a few points worthy of note because they gave expression to Russian policy positions at the talks: Russia’s refusal to accept ultimatums, such as Tillerson brought with him over choosing ties with the U.S. or Syria; Russia’s rejection of the allegations that Assad was behind the chemical attack in Idlib; Russia’s call for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate the use of chemical weapons there; and Putin’s likening the present situation to the one immediately preceding the U.S. invasion of Iraq. All of these important points are presented in the article at face value, alongside U.S., U.K. and other Western accusations directed against Russia

The New York Times coverage gave more attention to American action than to Russian reaction, as the opening of its cover headline for its several related articles indicates: “U.S. Pressures Russia …” The sub-article dealing with the Tillerson visit devotes more attention to what came before and after Putin’s meeting with Tillerson than to what they may have agreed on. The Times bureau chief David Sanger noted how Tillerson was held in suspense as his anticipated meeting with Putin was left in doubt until the last minute, what was described as a typical maneuver by the Russian president to keep his interlocutors off balance, a characterization which ignores the widely reported urgings of Russia’s talking heads before Tillerson’s arrival that their President not receive him because of the objectionable message on Syria that he had laid out on Monday at the meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Italy.

Indeed, the Times article said almost nothing about what may have justified the Putin meeting and what was agreed other than the working group to ease tensions, which Sanger correctly identifies as devoted to small and not the big divisive issues.

Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015




California Resists Trump on Immigration

President Trump’s crackdown on America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is raising alarm among that community but faces its stiffest resistance in California where leaders vow defiance, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

California Governor Jerry Brown departed in this year’s State of the State speech from the traditional practice of listing key issues and restating the panoply of the administration’s priorities for the coming year. Instead, Brown discussed the “broader context of our country and its challenges.”

Brown reminded President Trump of the importance of California’s economy in the scheme of things. “This is California,” said the Governor, “the sixth most powerful economy in the world. One out of every eight Americans lives right here and 27 percent – almost 11 million – were born in a foreign land. When California does well, America does well. And when California hurts, America hurts.”

Brown continued, “A few moments ago, I swore into office our new attorney general [Xavier Becerra]. Like so many others, he is the son of immigrants who saw California as a place where, through grit and determination, they could realize their dreams. And they are not alone, millions of Californians have come here from Mexico and a hundred other countries, making our state what it is today: vibrant, even turbulent, and a beacon of hope to the rest of the world.”

“So as we reflect on the state of our state,” Brown concluded, “let me be clear: we will defend everybody – every man, woman and child – who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state.”

There has been a flurry of activity in the California State legislature that echoes Brown’s defiant talk about holding the line against Trump on immigration. There are bills pending now that deal with immigration at all levels, from creating a special legal office to protect undocumented workers facing deportation to extending Sanctuary in California to cover the entire state. Most recently introduced is California Senate Bill SB-31, the California Religious Freedom Act.

The California Religious Freedom Act “would prohibit a state or local agency or a public employee, acting under color of law from providing or disclosing to the federal government personally identifiable information regarding a person’s religious beliefs or practices, national origin, or ethnicity for law enforcement or immigration purposes.”

The bill would also “prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from collecting personally identifiable information on the religious beliefs, practices, or affiliation of any individual, except as part of a targeted investigation, or where necessary to provide religious accommodations.”

I spoke with California State Senator Ricardo Lara, who introduced the bill and is concerned about the creation of a national registry or database “based solely on religious beliefs or affiliation.”

Dennis Bernstein: I want to begin with your … gut overview of what you see happening, the way these presidential directives are signed, the way this was rolled out. Give us a sense of what’s going on in your mind and how this reverberates in your community.

Ricardo Lara: Well, we’re very concerned that this president continues to vilify and seek to scapegoat various communities throughout our country, which only perpetuates his goal of dividing us as a nation. And so, as a California elected official, it’s important that not only do we demonstrate that we’re going to fight back, and we’re going to fight for the rights of all Americans, and Californians, but that we demonstrate that we’re better than that. That this is really not what America is about.

And so, it’s very troubling. It puts us in a defensive position here in California. But, we’re also going to continue to push on those progressive policies that have made California the fifth [correction: sixth] largest economy in the world.

DB: And California is definitely … on the front line, is setting the example, is really drawing the line, in terms of what people are willing to do. This is in the context of so many things going on in the public agencies, as sanctuary cities. You want to talk a little bit more about that kind of uprising of resistance?

RL: Absolutely. We have committed, in the state legislature, that we are going to do everything we can to fight these divisive policies, and we’re going to protect our sanctuary cities, and, in a sense, create the sanctuary state. That is the state of California.

So, the executive orders that have come down from the president are still going to need congressional action. So we have some time to kind of decipher what method we’re going to use to fight, either in the courts or in the legislature, through policy making. But right now these are his policy statements, and directives. We’re still going to have to wait for Congress to act on a majority of these things.

And so, for local elected officials, who are living in sanctuary cities, or have declared their cities sanctuary, we have some time to strategize. And so, again, he’s being bold in his policy directives. He’s again being bombastic about what he wants to do. And so, we want to, we’re taking a step back and looking at what our options are to defend ourselves.

DB: Well, as a way to get into what’s going on in terms of SB-31 here in California … are you getting reports, feedback from community, your supporters, the people who bring you to office, about an upsurge in attacks, if you will, in the age of Trump? Is there more going on? Is there more fear reverberating?

RL: Well, definitely, we’ve heard people express concern, and fear, in particular with our immigrant communities in my district, and throughout the state. And rightfully so, right? I mean, these are outright attacks on communities, and specific members of our communities, and so, rightfully, they are concerned.

And I think, for us, it’s important that not only we demonstrate that we support our immigrant communities, we support our diversity, but that we’re also demonstrating that we’re going to do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable communities which include our immigrants.

DB: Now, it is true that California has always been on the cutting edge of issues like this. And the human rights issues that have to do with, I guess, the people who do the hardest work, and get abused for it, still, in this country. And now, under Trump, in a more focused way. Now, you have been working on Senate Bill 31 which is one way of combating what we’ve been talking about. Could you lay out what exactly that is, and what you’re trying to legislate here?

RL: Absolutely. Currently we’ve heard the president talk about this creation of a Muslim database, right? And so, what we’re doing here in California, we’re preempting any state agency from collecting this data based on religious affiliation, and also insuring that a registry of this nature cannot be compiled using our state resources. So, it’s a way for us to not only prevent local and state agencies from disclosing this personal information, but clearly this is something that we have to lead.

There should be no lists of registries of individuals based on religion, ethnicity, or nation of origin. We know what happens when we start putting people on lists, separating them, and history tends to repeat itself. And it clearly… this president has no idea of just the connotation, of what he’s trying to do here, and what this is leading us towards.

And so, I think it’s important for California, again, to do that. And California is a place where we honor our diversity, and we honor, most importantly, our religious freedom. And so, this bill is important for us to not allow a California Muslim registry to happen, not now or ever.

DB: Now, we know that Kris Kobach, I believe he’s the Secretary of State of Kansas, is a key advisor to the Trump administration, and behind the scenes is trying to interweave a national registry, in terms of what you’re talking about. So, I imagine here is a chance for your bill, and for California, to be on the cutting edge, to set an example of what has to happen.

RL: Exactly. And given the fact that California has… we are the most diverse state with the most immigrant population. Securing our data, and ensuring that we protect people’s’ identity, here, would be a big… a large portion of that immigrant population that they’re trying to identify.

DB: And there … has been a formal registration or legislation created to enforce this kind of government policy. I guess it’s the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System. Is that … at the heart of the matter here?

RL: Yeah. It’s called NSEERS, and it was created after September 11th, and it clearly demonstrated, now which is currently defunct, it was used to target mostly Arab and Muslim men, across the nation. And the program… of course, is disproportionately focused on Arabs and Muslims.

And it caused really widespread fear within those communities. And it undermined the trust of law enforcement, and needlessly punished immigrants, regardless of whether or not they were suspected of any criminal activities. … My understanding is that list is no longer in place, and it really didn’t do anything to prevent any terrorists attacks… in the United States.

DB: But it caused a lot of suffering, I mean from the information, I guess, coming out of your office, they managed to register some 80,000 people, 13,000 people were placed in deportation proceedings based on technical visa violations. That sounds pretty cruel.

RL: Right. Absolutely. Not only is it cruel, it’s unjust and it’s anti-American.

DB: I guess there’s a great deal of fear at every level, particularly if you are undocumented, but even if you’re not, even if you’re just a brown person, there’s been an upsurge, there’s been a struggle going on. I’m wondering … what the chances are of this getting passed. And have you heard from the governor? Is there any feedback, any indication that this kind of important protection, legislation at the state level will get through, and will get support?

RL: Well, we’re early in the legislative process. And so it just cleared its first committee yesterday. We’ve received bipartisan support, some Republicans have indicated that they’re going to support the measure, and actually voted for it. So, again, we are looking to build a strong coalition that is going to help us move this policy forward, and hopefully getting it signed by the governor.

DB: And, finally, have you been meeting… are there discussions taking place now within the legislature in terms of how California is going to deal with… this is a more general question… how California is going to deal with these threats, and if Trump moves forward to cut off California, based on its strong support, its sanctuary cities, its decisions to support the immigrant population, to support all people of California. Are there plans? Is this a part of what’s going on now?

RL: Absolutely. There’s a couple strategies that we’re kinda talking about. One is to really secure the data that we have, of the programs where we currently are supporting our undocumented community. That’s first and foremost important.

Second is to ensure that we push back, through various levels, any efforts that are going to harm the economy of California because, quite frankly, why California matters to the rest of the state [nation] is that we’re a significant contributor to the federal government. And we’re also a significant part of the United States’ economy. So, by hurting California, and by creating economic instability here, you are actually harming a lot of these families in red states.

The fact is that, if you harm us economically and endanger our agricultural community… we feed 50% of the country. How is that going to impact some of the constituents across the country? And so, congressional members might feel that “Yes, we, California, we do things on our own”… but we’re inextricably linked with the economy of the United States. So, this form of potential domestic terrorism against us as Californians from the federal government is only going to hurt the country as a whole.

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.




Thanking Trump for Killing TPP?

Progressives have long called for the death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership but many are holding their applause now that President Trump was the one who killed it, observes anti-war activist John V. Walsh.

By John V. Walsh

President Trump wasted little time living up to his promise to drive a stake through the heart of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the economic piece of the “Pivot to Asia,” a provocative challenge to China that was vigorously promoted by neocons and liberal interventionists, as well as President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (until she turned against the deal during the campaign).

TPP was a trade agreement that linked 12 Pacific Rim nations but pointedly excluded China in an effort to isolate and weaken it. Thus in his first week in office Trump has made a substantive move away from confrontation with China – and the overall goal of U.S. global domination.

While you might expect that such a move would elicit support and congratulations from foes of war and empire, so far there has not been much of that.

While it’s true that Trump had attacked TPP during the campaign – so his move was expected – he might well have revived it if he wanted to please corporate America and the neocons. After all, Republicans hold majorities in the House and Senate – and there are many Democrats pining to please their corporate donors who have sought to resuscitate TPP. But Trump did not do this.

Trump’s first week in office also advanced his promised détente with Russia as Sen. Marco Rubio grudgingly announced he would vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as Trump’s Secretary of State, giving Tillerson the support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a party-line 11-10 vote.

Exxon-Mobil CEO Tillerson has had friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has a clear understanding of Russia. Because he has not joined in the recent Russia-bashing, Tillerson has been the target of the neocons who hoped to stop him.

Rubio tried to pressure him into declaring Putin a “war criminal” during the confirmation hearings, something that Tillerson refused to do. Like Trump, Tillerson does not seem like the kind of person who is easily pushed around.

The Hated TPP

Regarding TPP, it was opposed by many progressives and labor leaders for reasons other than a desire for peace. For many labor leaders, it was seen as one more trade deal that would encourage the export of American manufacturing jobs and thus depress domestic wages even more. Progressive activists saw it as an attack on democracy and sovereignty, written in secret and designed to give corporations and banks control over the terms of trade and laws of the land.

Democratic Party progressives opposed TPP vehemently, and so it would make sense for them to hail Trump’s action. But look at the comments at that bastion of conformist progressivism, the HuffPost, and you will find that many progressives have abruptly switched and are opposing Trump and even praising TPP.

Still, there are a few commenters at least honest enough to admit the hypocrisy behind the switch.

One HuffPost commenter wrote: “OK, when Bernie [Sanders] was talking about how bad the TPP was almost every comment here [on Huffington Post] was how they didn’t trust Hillary to get us out of the TPP. Now that Trump pulled us out, people are taking the opposite view. … At least admit that this is a good thing. Does it matter who stops TPP? 9 months ago we all agreed it was a bad thing.”

This stance is all too reminiscent of Democratic “progressives” who were out in force opposing the war on Iraq under George W. Bush but were nowhere to be seen when Barack Obama came into office and continued the war.

To his credit, Sen. Sanders announced his pleasure with Trump’s deep-sixing TPP, according to the Guardian, which reported: “Sanders praised Trump’s decision, saying TPP is ‘dead and gone’… ‘If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him.’”

Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, also praised the termination of TPP, but unlike Sanders he did not mention Trump by name, which is not surprising since most labor leaders did not back Sanders and instead threw their financial and political support behind Clinton, who only broke with TPP when she realized that it might cost her the Democratic nomination.

Sanders’s and Trumka’s objections to TPP are primarily economic, the concerns usually reported in the mainstream media. But the neocons and liberal hawks understood TPP’s imperial aspects, as explained by neocon Sen. John McCain.

As reported by the Guardian, “Senator John McCain criticized the move. ‘President Trump’s decision to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for the American economy and our strategic position in the Asia Pacific region,’ he said.” (Emphasis added)

In East Asia, TPP has been running into troubles as well, with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and possibly even South Korea moving toward closer ties with China and away from U.S.-promoted strife between China and its neighbors.

Trump’s position – and the recent actions of East Asian countries – may be manifestations of a less confrontational approach toward the world and a new balance of power taking shape. From that point of view, President Trump, by rejecting TPP, is simply moving to negotiate the best deal possible for the U.S. in this new developing global arrangement.

The question for liberals/progressives is will they reflexively oppose Trump on everything he does or will they support what is desirable and criticize what is not. That question will come to the fore soon if Trump and Tillerson manage to fashion Détente 2.0 with Russia.

The War Party, both its neocon and liberal interventionist wings, will fiercely oppose any reduction of tensions with Russia. When that happens, will liberals/progressives support Détente 2.0 – even though it comes from Donald Trump – or will they rally behind the neocons and liberal hawks in their desire for Cold War 2.0?

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com .




The Fake News About Fake News

The Washington Post’s McCarthyistic conspiracy theory implicating some 200 Web sites in an alleged Russian propaganda network continues to spread across mainstream media despite being debunked, as in Patrick Henningsen’s report.

By Patrick Henningsen

The mainstream media’s post-election hysteria has taken on new level of crazy. It seems that The Washington Post has gone off the deep end this past week, claiming that Russia is behind the “fake news” crisis which they claim helped propel an insurgent Donald Trump to victory on Nov. 8, and they are still standing by the official conspiracy theory that Russia has somehow hacked into the U.S. elections. Everything that’s wrong with the establishment media is contained within this incredible story…

The hacking claim is nothing new – backed by the White House and trumpeted by Hillary Clinton, the U.S. mainstream media has claimed that Russia has been hacking and manipulating our U.S. elections. The only problem is it never happened. What’s more disturbing though, is the complete collapse in journalistic standards at what used to be considered ‘America’s paper of record.’

It seems the The Post is playing a key role in waging a new McCarthy-style witch hunt targeting any independent websites which dare to challenge the prevailing anti-Russian party line currently dominating the mainstream political and media establishment – evident beyond any doubt after reading this latest feature in The Washington Post written by Craig Timberg entitled, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, Experts say.

“Experts say”? Make no mistake, this was a true-to-form propaganda piece by the Washington Post, and in itself could be classed as actual “fake news.”

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult to debunk this article. I take no pleasure in saying this, as The Post was once a newspaper I admired growing up, however, what’s going on right now with America’s mainstream media is nothing short of tragic. More than anything, the 2016 Election showed the world how biased, corrupt and broken America’s papers of record have become. Instead of emulating Woodward and Bernstein, it seems most of  the ‘journalists’ are channeling Stephen Glass instead. For those who don’t know already, Glass was one of Washington’s fake news pioneers of note, writing for the leftwing magazine, New RepublicGlass routinely madeup news stories which his journalism school-trained editors weren’t smart enough to pick up on.

It’s clear that the same partisan Clinton and Democratic Party supporters embedded in the media who were pushing anti-Russian talking points throughout the election cycle – are not giving up. As I pointed out in my pre-election piece entitled, “Hillary’s ‘Russian Hack’ Hoax: The Biggest Lie of this Election Season,” what was previously a stance reserved for right-wing neoconservative hawks and Cold War hold-outs has become the new standard for the establishment wing of the Democratic Party – which is the universal demonization of Russia, and the hitlerization of its current president, Vladimir Putin.

The mainstream media continues to lower the bar on what it claims is ‘journalism’.  Just when you thought you’ve seen the worst, unsourced, completely contrived “investigation,” the Washington Post, which used to be regarded as the paragon of American journalism, has produced a rant of an article that is written as if it were a student submission:

“The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.”

You have to feel bad for The Post’s Craig Timberg who seems to have drawn the short straw this week in the anti-Russia propaganda pool at the Post.  According to his biography at the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford, Timberg’s primary mission is, “studying potential revenue sources and business opportunities related to foreign news coverage, which he fears is under particular threat from digital disruption of the news industry.” The perfect man for the job.

His Thanksgiving Day exposé posits a unified theory of a Trump-Putin axis of evil – an all of the above, buckshot blog post pushed out by the Washington Post (amazing) where Timberg claims The Russians are not only behind the US establishment’s latest “fake news” hysteria, but also hacking both the DNC and the US elections, and carrying Donald Trump into the White House.

To support his case, Timberg claims that:

“Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House.”

So The Post claims that the Russians hacked the DNC and US elections systems, engineered Facebook’s ‘fake news’ crisis, which helped get Trump elected. In order to weave all three of these things together, Timberg had to rely on the mainstream media’s propaganda weapon of choice: anonymous sources. After that, it was just a case of plugging-in and hyperlinking to previous Washington Post headlines made to look as if these events actually happened, when no evidence exists to date that they ever did:

U.S. government officially accuses Russia of hacking campaign to interfere with elections”? (By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Oct 7, 2016)

This story was used to great effect by Hillary Clinton herself on national TV during the Presidential debates. The headline is written to give the false impression there was actual proof to back up such profound accusations, but when you actually read the article, there is nothing. It seems that in today’s Washington Post, what passes for evidence can be as little as the President accusing Russia of being involved.

The statement from the vaunted ‘intelligence community’ is about as vague as it gets, stating, “The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” said a joint statement from the two agencies. “… These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” No proof, no evidence, but… they are “confident”.  This must be the same sort of confidence these same intelligence agencies had when they briefed Colin Powell about Saddam Hussein’s mobile anthrax labs, aka The Winnebagos of Death. Sounds crazy, I know, but it was good enough for the mainstream media in 2002-2003, just like “we are confident” is good enough for the Washington Post today.

Russian hackers targeted Arizona election system” (By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Aug 29, 2016)

Despite the misleading headline, the article does not contain any evidence or anything remotely near ‘proof’ by any normal journalistic standards. But this is not normal journalism. After reading past the colorful headline in the Arizona Russian Hack story, it gets really vague, claiming the FBI’s theory that ‘Russia did it’ was, “credible” and significant, “an eight on a scale of one to 10.” It’s hard not to laugh when reading some of these mainstream stories. It gets better, saying that, “FBI investigators did not specify whether the hackers were criminals or employed by the Russian government. Bureau officials on Monday declined to comment…”  What else is this but Washington-based, politically motivated propaganda, designed to scapegoat Russia?

By definition, Timberg is using actual fake and misleading news articles (produced by his employer the Washington Post) in order to validate his own unified conspiracy theory. It’s hard to tell if Timberg himself is even aware of what he’s doing. If not, certainly an argument can be made for mainstream ‘journalists’ who are so ensconced in their own corporate bubble that they actually believe their own organization’s propaganda.

Despite the best efforts of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, the White House and mainstream media outlets like CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, the New York Times and countless other outlets, all of whom either endorsed Hillary Clinton or tailored their news coverage to favor her campaign – with many even colluding directly with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), there is zero evidence to validate the establishment’s epic Conspiracy Theory that the Kremlin master-minded the greatest election heist in modern times.

VIRTUAL WITCH HUNT: “PropOrNot.com”

Deep Throat: The Washington Post’s Secret ‘Source’

Timberg claims to have a mysterious deep throat ‘source’: “researchers” from a group called PropOrNot, a website which just sprung up on October 30, 2016, and who claims to have “proof” that ties together ‘Fake News’/‘Pro-Trump’ articles online – back to Russia. The only problem is, he can’t show us any of their research, nor can he tell us the name of the principal, allegedly because this person fears threats of retribution.  Timberg states, “The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers. When you hear things like this in the mainstream media, there is a high probability you are reading an actual government-sponsored propaganda piece.

More likely, the only fear PropOrNot’s authors have is of being held accountable for their own online smear and propaganda campaign.

PropOrNot’s web domain registration is also hidden behind “Domains By Proxy,” a company in Scottsdale Arizona.

Timberg’s ‘source’ is a nameless website, with no author names given, with links to “Boycott Russia Today,” and yet, PropOrNot claims to be “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds,” and Timberg says they plan to release their findings on Friday “showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”

“… (PropOrNot) planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns,” stated Timberg.

The much anticipated groundbreaking report arrived belatedly and can be found online here and in PDF here. On first glance, it’s much worse than we thought, but our analysis is still forthcoming.

Thus far the only ‘investigation’ PropOrNot has done was an article implicating the financial news site Zero Hedge posted on Oct 31st and can be found here – a unintelligible mix of websites, speculating that they are somehow linked and in league with the Kremlin. It claims its thesis is corroborated by other sites PropOrNot says are “our allies” – similar anti-Russia web sources including the EU Disinformation Review (a ‘campaign’ run by the EU’s East StratCom Task force), Polygraph Info (run by US gov’t-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America)Fake News Watch (home of an extensive virtual book burning list), Stop Fake (Ukraine based, Pro-Maidan), Russia Lies (run by Julia Davis, a “national security expert” behind the tabloid reports alleging foul play in celebrity Britney Murphy’s death), and of course no anti-Russian allied list would be complete without Bellingcat (by now a widely discredited, Atlantic Council/NATO-linked, anti-Russian, anti-Syrian, ‘open source investigation’ website, run by Elliot Higgins).

The timing of this anti-Russian campaign is no coincidence either. This week the EU passed a new anti-Russian resolution to ‘counter act’ supposed Russian propaganda:  ‘EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties’, with 179 voting against it and 208 abstaining.

PropOrNot’s “Executive Summary” (yes, we’re trying not to laugh, too) states:

Thus far we at PropOrNot have identified over 200 distinct websites which qualify as Russian propaganda outlets according to our criteria, and target audiences in the United States. We estimate the regular US audiences of these sites to number in the tens of millions. We are gathering data to measure that more precisely, but we are confidant that it includes at least 15 million Americans.”

The McCarthyite tone of their defamation is breathtaking, as the site claims they can spot Russian agents of influence online and collaborator websites through an endless list of ‘things to look out for’:

(…) 9. Refer their audiences to each other, via hyperlinks and other means, at disproportionately high rates;

  1. Are consistently visited by the same audiences, both directly and via search, demonstrating that those intra-network referrals build “brand loyalty” in their audiences over time;
  2. Are consistently visited by their audiences after searches for terms which congrue with the Russian propaganda “line”, and are unrelated to the purported focus of their branding; (…) 

I guess it never occurred to these geniuses that people might be loyal followers of well-established alternative websites like AntiWar.com, Counterpunch, Information Clearing House, OpEd NewsActivist Post, Global Research.ca, Oriental Review, Truth-Out, Truth DigZero Hedge, Consortium News (run by award-winning US journalist Robert Parry), Ron Paul Institute (former US Congressman) and Paul Craig Roberts (former Cabinet member under President Reagan), to name only a few off of PropOrNot’s massive list of alleged ‘Russian propaganda collaborators.’

This is basically an amateur attempt to reverse engineer a virtual conspiracy – spuriously connecting 200 popular alternative websites – with a theoretical Russian plot. 

It should be a cause for concern that The Washington Post is now promoting a ‘Blacklist’ in the spirit of Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare.

Michael Krieger, editor of Liberty BlitzKrieg, one the sites on PropOrNot’s “List” sums up the fundamental flaw in both Timberg and ProOrNot’s insular Washington DC-centric mainstream bubble thinking:

“What’s particularly interesting about this list, isn’t the fact that a bunch of anonymous whiners decided to demonize successful critics of insane, inhumane and ethically indefensible U.S. government policy, but rather the fact that the Washington Post decided to craft an entire article around such a laughably ridiculous list. This just further proves a point that is rapidly becoming common knowledge amongst U.S. citizens with more than a couple of brain cells to rub together. The mainstream media is the real “fake news.”

Krieger adds: “Unfortunately, this is apparently all we know so far about this shadowy organization, which is simply hilarious considering the group deems any alternative news source that does not agree with the U.S. government narrative to be either outright Russian propaganda, or “useful idiots.”

Krieger makes an indisputable point though, and one that’s also been made by numerous qualified pundits: by far the most prolific purveyor of real fake news and propaganda, especially over the last 30 years – is undoubtedly the US and UK media, and as we can all see – they haven’t slowed down.

The issue of confirmation bias in western media is chronic, but it’s also an institutional problem when you consider that many of these mainstream writers are submerged under their own layer of Western-generated American or British propaganda. As a result, they might be completely oblivious of the fact that John Kerry has been caught lying to the world at the UN about what Russia supposedly did in the Ukraine, Crimea, and Syria, or they might have missed UN Ambassador Samantha Power’s antics at the UN – an embarrassment to the US in front of a world audience, or Admiral John Kirby’s epic meltdown last week after he couldn’t defend his own lies to an RT reporter at the US State Department press briefing. On Syria in particular, US politicians have lied so much and so often, that most serious people around the world do not believe a word that comes out of this Administration’s mouth – and American and European bloggers most certainly have a right to point this out – not because it pleases Putin – but because they are disgusted with their own government’s poor (and highly illegal) conduct on the world stage, especially at this moment in Syria and Yemen. Evidently, none of this factors into the reports by Timberg and “PropOrNot.”

Maybe they didn’t get the memo either, about the fact that Assad did not “gas his own people” in East Ghouta in August 2013, or any other time that can be proven by his accusers.

Many in the US media are simply living inside of their own self-generated, self-reverential propaganda bubble.

Even more incredibly, PropOrNot then implores its visitors to only visit and get information from US government-funded news sources like NPR, state-owned media like the BBC, Murdoch-owned and financed outlets like the Wall Street Journal and VICE News, and corporate establishment media sources:

“We call on the American public to: Obtain news from actual reporters, who report to an editor and are professionally accountable for mistakes. We suggest NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington PostBuzzfeedVICE, etc, and especially your local papers and local TV news channels. Support them by subscribing, if you can!”

It’s pretty incredible to see The Washington Post basing a case on an anonymous website – one which is conducting a virtual witch hunt, clearly with malicious intent (to smear some 200 websites), as a primary journalistic source.

At this point, everyone should question the political motives of Washington Post staff writer Craig Timberg. It’s beyond outrageous even by today’s decrepit standards.

Judging by the looks of it, PropOrNot itself is a pretty good example of pure black propaganda.

Who is behind Timberg’s ‘source’ PropOrNot? Is it Timberg himself? Is it run by staff at The Washington Post? As it’s so secretive, you can’t rule that possibility out.

In true NeoMcCarthyite form, PropOrNot has also issued “The List” – a guide to alternative media websites which it accuses of “echo Russian propaganda.” As of today, amazingly, 21st Century Wire.com is not included on their virtual book burning list (but its likely to be after they read this article).

Strangely, there is no mention at all by Timberg about a report by BuzzFeed News which identified the primary source of the actual ‘fake news’ flooding Facebook – more than 150 pro-Trump websites being run from a single town, by a cohort of savvy teenagers in Veles, Macedonia – which is not Russia. Granted, Buzzfeed and The Guardian are both establishment media that sometimes produce their own propaganda. However, unless Timberg can refute either the Buzzfeed or The Guardian reports on this subject, or somehow tie his suspected battery of ‘Kremlin controlled’ hackers to Veles, then this entire unified conspiracy theory in D.O.A.

According to these investigations, the Veles crew are not ideologically motivated, but rather, driven by that old classic – money. They are raking it in with standard Google Ad Sense and other online traffic CPM advertising unit revenue, with incomes ranging from $5,000 to as high as $30,000 per month.  They’re not doing it for Mother Russia, but rather for Benjamin Franklin.

No Credibility

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for PropOrNot, on their front page they posted this:

UPDATE: We are publishing our Black Friday Report, adding FAQ entries, updating The List, and more! Please see our latest post for more information. Also, for a sense of what certain kinds of Russian trolls look and sound like in real life, check out this Samantha Bee segment, which cleverly interviews Russian social-media and comment-section propagandists:” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OauLuWXD_RI  [PropOrNot links to the Samantha Bee Show]

Aside from the fact that this secret Washington Post source would rely on the Samantha Bee Show for anything, the geniuses at PropOrNot seem to have missed the fact that the alleged Russian Trolls were acting for money – they convinced Bee they were a “the real deal” when she approached them via Twitter, where the hoaxer and his female associate were paid $10,000 for appearing on Bee’s “Full Frontal” show.

Bee may have just fell short of a Pulitzer for that one.

It’s certainly possible that Macedonia’s fake news bedroom empire is being managed by someone higher up the food chain than a cadre of eastern European gamers, but based on their ubiquitous references to breaking FOX News events and nuanced political and emotive button pushing from these faux news sites – it’s on the whole much more likely that any alleged ‘Pro-Trump’ hidden hand would be more likely directing their talking points from inside of the United States.

Timberg’s fake story in The Post was then echoed by Daniel Politi at the popular liberal website The Slate, under the heading,How Russian Propaganda Used Facebook to Spread Fake News During the Election,” in an attempt to give more credence to Timberg’s contrived thesis:

Politi says, “.. at least some of the false news that spread in the last few months of the campaign appears to have had much more serious geopolitical implications and was spread thanks to “a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign,” reports the Washington Post, which cites two recent expert reports on the issue.”

Again, “expert” claims. Just to remind readers, the first expert is an anonymous Russiaphobic website PropOrNot, while the other ‘expert’ writes for an anti-Russian blog and works for a neoconservative think tank (see Neocon below).

Less we forget, The Slate invented a fake story that went viral in October, one which was retweeted by Hillary Clinton herself. Apparently, Clinton’s campaign staff fed her planted online news story created by another on The Slate’s ‘journalists’ named Franklin Foer, complete with the comical clickbait headline, Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?

Here’s Hillary Clinton’s tweet of The Slate’s own ‘fake news’ story:

(View image on Twitter)

four-things

Follow Hillary Clinton

It’s time for Trump to answer serious questions about his ties to Russia.

http://slate.me/2dWggCd

John Roberts at Forbes explains how The Slate got caught passing off actual ‘fake news’ at the height of the election, “The bottom line is that Slate screwed up by publishing this in the first place, and by adding more kooky misinformation to an already addled election season. As for Foer, he says on Twitter a “follow up” piece is in the works.”

What’s the difference between The Slate’s fake news story and the Macedonian fake Trump stories on Facebook? There is no difference, other than the fact that Hillary Clinton ended up making a fool out of herself by tweeting out – and validating to her millions of followers – a completely make-up, fake news story by The Slate. 

So Craig Timberg and The Slate are guilty of doing exactly what Timberg and his deep throat ‘source’ PropOrNot are accusing Russia’s alleged clandestine Facebook and blogger network of doing – passing around and “echoing fake news.”

How these ‘journalists’ at The Washington Post and The Slate expect to be taken seriously after this is just beyond the pale.

Neocon Think Tanks and other ‘Experts’

Craig Timberg’s other supporting ‘evidence’ or opinion (it’s hard to tell the difference in the Washington Post these days) is being supplied by Clint Watts from the ubiquitously titled, Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), a Cold War era ‘think tank’ (not surprisingly, still stuck in the Cold War), no doubt with links to Washington’s intelligence establishment. If that think tank sounds familiar to any neocon fossil hunters, you’d know that FPRI is run by none other than John Lehman, one of the original signatories to the neoconservative doctrine of continuous war, Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and a foreign policy advisor to both John McCain and Mitt Romney – two virulent anti-Russian hawks. So it’s no surprise then that Timberg is referencing his ‘expert’ Watts, along with co-authors Andrew Weisburd and JM Berger, in an article from the website War On the Rocks, entitled:

Trolling For Trump: How Russia is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”  

This is coupled with a related story by Watts and Andrew Weisburd published at the very anti-Russian publication, the Daily Beast, entitled:

How Russia Dominates Your Twitter Feed to Promote Lies (And, Trump, Too) – “Fake news stories from Kremlin propagandists regularly become social media trends. Here’s how Moscow does it… and what it means for America’s election 2016.”

Impressive headline, if not a touch Click Bait-y. Once again, the familiar mainstream media pattern of misleading headlines inferring that the article contains actual evidence, and again, the evidence supplied by Watts is that ‘a lot of people think Russia did it,’ claiming that:

“And the evidence is compelling. A range of activities speaks to a Russian connection: the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials, hacks surrounding voter rolls and possibly election machines, Putin’s overt praise for Trump, and the curious Kremlin connections of Trump campaign operatives Paul Manafort and Carter Page.”

Very “compelling”? Essentially, the above are a series of familiar, albeit recycled, talking points that may as well have been beamed-in via John Podesta’s personal Blackberry. To Clinton supporters, those talking points sounded plausible a month ago, but even staunch Clintonites are fast abandoning the Russian conspiracy theories. For establishment supporters of Hillary Clinton, that translates as case closed. This is a perfect example of a propaganda bubble, or a self-feeding propaganda loop. Many have argued that it was this sort of delusional incestuous closed loop that inadvertently helped to get Donald Trump elected on Nov 8th.

Timberg’s source at War On the Rocks also claims that Putin has rebooted the old Soviet “Active Measures” information warfare program designed to “Undermine citizen confidence in democratic governance.” Their evidence: a 1992 document from the US Information Agency, of course, not anything from Russia itself. Again, we’ll have to accept the word of the “intelligence community,” because they talked about it back in 1992. The rest of the theory is comprised of a fill-in-the-blanks exercise plugging-in a little Alex Jones for good measure, and various other websites – into a highly creative infographic ‘proving’ the Russians are waging an ‘Active Measures on Steroid’ information warfare against the United States.

Here’s creative infographic from their website designed to stitch together Watts’s elaborate conspiracy theory:

russia-active-measures

Watts also claims that anyone in the West who supports Bashar al Assad in Syria is doing so at the behest of this ‘Russian Active Measures’ operation:

“When experts published content criticizing the Russian-supported Bashar al Assad regime, organized hordes of trolls would appear to attack the authors on Twitter and Facebook. Examining the troll social networks revealed dozens of accounts presenting themselves as attractive young women eager to talk politics with Americans, including some working in the national security sector. These “honeypot” social media accounts were linked to other accounts used by the Syrian Electronic Army hacker operation. All three elements were working together: the trolls to sow doubt, the honeypots to win trust, and the hackers (we believe) to exploit clicks on dubious links sent out by the first two.”

This is derivative theorizing that would make even Bellingcat wince. The use of the word “troll” as a generalized pejorative label is buttressed by an even more bias notion that no one in the west would ever be against regime change in Syria, unless they were convinced otherwise by attractive Russian online honeypots. This level of ‘research’ is beyond ridiculous, and yet, this is what passes for a ‘trusted source’ at the Washington Post today.

Political Bias: An Occupational Hazzard at The Washington Post

In a previous article, it’s just a little too obvious that Timberg can’t hold back his disappointment in Hillary Clinton’s defeat when you read his headline: Could better Internet security have prevented Trump’s shocking win?

“The election of Republican Donald Trump has stunned Silicon Valley, sparking renewed fears about how the federal government’s powerful surveillance machinery could undermine personal privacy — especially in the hands of a man with a history of threatening retaliation against those who challenge him,” claims Timberg.

The hysterical lamenting quickly turns to fear mongering:

“In Silicon Valley, many were dazed after Tuesday’s election. Some companies let their employees take the day off or wrote all-staff letters reminding their colleagues of their commitment to inclusive workplaces that protect women, immigrants and minorities. Techies, meanwhile, warned one another on Twitter to begin using privacy and encrypted tools.”

What is the difference between this politicized diatribe and the fake Macedonia posts on Facebook? There is no difference, they are doing the same thing. What is going on at The Washington Post? It looks like the organization abandoned any pretense of objective journalism.

Here you have a writer who is on staff at The Washington Post and a fellow at Stanford University’s John S. Knight School of Journalism – trying to posit a unified conspiracy theory that Russia steered the outcome of a US Presidential Election.

Timberg is just one of many examples of overtly politically bias writers in mainstream publications, specifically employed by The Washington Post, New York Times, ABC, CBS, CNN and others.  Many were caught working in collusion with the Hillary Clinton campaign, like The Post’s “star reporter” Juliet Eilperin who was revealed in an email to have offered John Podesta a “heads up” about a story she was about to publish, even going so far as to provide the Clinton campaign CEO with a brief pre-publication synopsis. Here are a few more famous “journalists” and their corrupted publications guilty of colluding with the Clinton Campaign:

clintonjournalists

Not surprisingly, Timberg then goes on to call the news output of RT (Russia Today) “propaganda,” and goes on to base his value judgment on a Rand Corporation report that describes Russian media as a “propaganda efforts a ‘firehose of falsehood’ because of their speed, power and relentlessness” — a report which also claims that Russia attacked neighboring Georgia in 2008, a common western meme, when in reality it was US-backed Georgian military forces that attacked South Ossetia – an obvious point which Timberg seems to have overlooked due to his own confirmation bias. Sadly, this is par for the course with most US media pundits, most of whom do not really care what actually happened, only what Washington’s party line is on events.

His source, War on the Rocks, continues pushing their conspiracy theory, stating, “But most observers are missing the point. Russia is helping Trump’s campaign, yes, but it is not doing so solely or even necessarily with the goal of placing him in the oval office. Rather, these efforts seek to produce a divided electorate and a president with no clear mandate to govern. The ultimate objective is to diminish and tarnish American democracy.”

I think America has managed to do a pretty good job of that by itself.

Decline of the US Mainstream Media

The loss of credibility is the least of The Post’s worries though.

The reality is that in an effort to recoup dwindling revenues needed to pay for its inflated salaries and non-investigative ‘investigations,’ The Washington Post themselves have had to resort to pushing daily some of the most gratuitous ‘click bait’ stories on the web. Here’s one of many daily low-brow items, this ‘Polar Bear Eats Dog‘ story is from Tuesday Nov 22nd.

If you follow the Post’s newsfeed, you will see endless articles like the polar bear story, most of which carry a deceptive headline that does not reflect the story in the article. That’s real Click Bait, and it’s now their bread and butter.

In an age of universal corruption in Washington and rampant collusion between political elites and the US corporate media, it’s much easier to scapegoat an existential enemy for every systemic and institutional crisis affecting America. Whole industries have been spun out of this old habit: the intelligence industry, the defense industry, and the new ‘security’ industry – collectively well over a trillion-dollar per year financial concern requires a boogyman in order to justify not only its existence, but also its corporate share prices, and financial growth projections. Now, there’s a real unified conspiracy theory for you! Maybe Craig Timberg should consider looking into that conspiracy, in the tradition of the former versions of Woodward and Bernstein.

Author Jay Dyer explained the current corporate media structure in America today in his article entitled, The Entire Mainstream Warmongering Media is Fake,” explaining, “Given the mainstream media is almost wholly owned by 6 conglomerates, we can begin to see how the coordination and control once considered a “conspiracy theory” is now made evident.

6_major_corporations_own_90_communications

2012 Ownership Chart (Image Source: Jays Analysis)

In 1983, there were 50 and now it is roughly six, with NewsCorp owning the largest papers on three continents. That these facts sound like a “conspiracy theory” can only be presumed from a position of ignorance, especially given the full coordination and deception regarding the Trump – Clinton election of 2016, from rigged polls to Wikileaks revelations of 60-plus top media operatives directly promoting Hillary.”

Dyer adds, “If the Trump phenomena showed anything, it showed the consensus reality the mainstream media attempted to create concerning Hillary’s certain victory, as well as the consensus reality erected for decades, is not omnipotent.”

In short, the entire US corporate media seems to function with a singular hive mind, aggressively promoting one war after the another, and elevating a new geopolitical foe every few years. This can be explained in part by the defense industry’s ownership of US mainstream outlets, and the hundreds of millions of dollars these Pentagon-linked companies pour into both TV, print and online ads – none of that explains how editors, writers and producers at these outlets can sit there and still claim they are still performing their duty as part of the Fourth Estate.

As it stands, mainstream journalism is truly dead in America.

On Oct 9, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it accurately:

“We have witnessed a fundamental change of circumstances when it comes to the aggressive Russophobia that now lies at the heart of U.S. policy towards Russia. It’s not just a rhetorical Russophobia, but aggressive steps that really hurt our national interests and pose a threat to our security.”

What Lavrov didn’t say is that it has now reached hysterical proportions in US mainstream media circles, where those who call themselves journalists are willing to present virtually anything and call it reporting, even if it’s pure hyperbole, so long as it fulfils the anti-Russian narrative.

Unfortunately, The Washington Post continues to be a big part of the problem.

Patrick Henningsen is the founder and managing editor of the independent news and media analysis website 21st Century Wire.com and host of the weekly SUNDAY WIRE radio show which broadcasts live weekly on the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR). [This article originally appeared at 21st Century Wire.com]




Debate over the Cleveland Indians’ Mascot

The U.S. government’s genocide against Native Americans has led many people to object to Indian nicknames and caricatures in sports, such as the grinning Chief Wahoo mascot of the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

With the Cleveland Indians in Major League Baseball’s World Series, attention is drawn again to the team’s smiling mascot, Chief Wahoo, who represents to many Native Americans a racist stereotype.

Indeed, a “real” Cleveland Indian — Jacqueline Keeler, a Navajo Yankton Dakota Sioux who was raised in Cleveland and is now a writer based in Portland, Oregon — has been fighting against Chief Wahoo and other sports mascots that are degrading toward Native Americans. She was interviewed regarding the image’s high profile during the series against the Chicago Cubs.

Dennis Bernstein: Why don’t you give us a little background on your family and growing up in Cleveland?

Jacqueline Keeler: Many people don’t know this, but Cleveland was the site of a relocation program that took places in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. It was part of a two-pronged program launched by the U.S. Congress to terminate tribes, and to relocate the populace, to relocate Native Americans, to urban centers. And it was a way to make us disappear, and also to gain access to our lands, and many tribes were terminated, and then they had their land sold. And, here in Oregon, many tribes were terminated and they got access to their timber stands.

[…] And so, my parents were relocated, they were on the relocation program into Cleveland and as young people. And within a decade of that program starting in Cleveland by the late 60’s [Cleveland] had a pretty substantial Native population for the first time since Native people were removed from Ohio, in the 1830’s, to Oklahoma.

DB: And so your parents met there?

JK: Uh-huh.

DB: And that was part of a relocation and termination policy?

JK: Yes, for tribes. And luckily that was defeated, and turned around. And my tribes were not terminated.

DB: What was the policy? Explain that policy.

JK: Well, the idea was that they would just finally get rid of tribes. Tribes are actually sovereign nations within the United States. And we’re pesky reminders that the United States is basically occupying our lands. And so they were just hoping to wave a wand and make us all go away. And then taking the relocation program was, for young people, from 18 to 35 years of age, and the idea was to basically de-populate our communities, and make us disappear in large cities.

And so these relocation programs were set up in Los Angeles, in Denver, in Cleveland, in Dallas, Texas. Within a short time there were about 20,000 young Native people in Cleveland. And what they did was, they began to organize. And one of the first things they began to organize against was Chief Wahoo. And so the earliest documented large scale protest against Chief Wahoo occurred in 1968.

DB: Okay, remind us who Chief Wahoo is, what he stands for, because everybody is not from Cleveland.

JK: Yeah. It’s a totally grotesque caricature of a Native person. Supposedly, it’s meant to honor a Cleveland baseball player who was Native American back in the early 20th century. It’s a really grotesque caricature.

My organization started the notyourmascot hashtag. We trended nationally. Pretty much the only Native hashtag that’s ever trended nationally. And I remember arguing with the Washington NFL fans, and having them say “Well, why? … [Y]our mascot, the Cleveland mascot, is way worse” in defending their own mascot.

Of course, for me the issue is mascotry, which is a word I invented. The problem is all the different sort of stereotypes that having a Native mascot promotes in the populace, and in the fans, and what it teaches people about Native people. That’s the problem. You have the red face, the acting out of “Native traditions and culture” and the entitlement it breeds, over our culture and identities.

So I remember growing up hearing stories about my parents talking about protesting against Chief Wahoo. We moved away when I was quite young so I didn’t have to live with Chief Wahoo. Although when I wrote the article for Salon, and went over the history of Native people in Cleveland, Salon titled the article “My Life as a Cleveland Indian.” I went back last year and I participated in the protests during the season opener, at Progressive Field, there in Cleveland. And I got to meet the Native community.

DB: And what was that like? Was that empowering? […]

JK: It was. I landed in Cleveland, and the airport is really small, and people were really friendly. And when I told them I was born there, everyone, even like Cleveland Indian fans that I was interviewing at the games, even though they were drunk, they were really touched that I came back. They actually asked me to move back. It’s the only place I’ve been, besides the reservation, where people have asked me to move back.

And I think that’s part of Cleveland’s story, the Ohio River Valley, was… you know the colonists… one of the reasons they launched the Revolutionary War was to gain access to the Ohio River Valley, which was denied to them by King George III because he/they had set that aside as Indian land. And after the Revolutionary War they throw the tribes out, when it comes down to everyone, the Shawnee.

And so, it’s just strange that after taking that land and basically committing genocide against the tribes in Ohio, Cleveland is really fearful that they might be abandoned by the United States. They look at Detroit, they can see Detroit from their backyard. They know that the U.S. abandons cities.

And so there are still stories partly tied into this idea of… that they are half what they were when my family lived there. They went from being the seventh largest city in the 1950’s to being the 48th or 49th, now. And it’s really shocking. And I really felt really welcomed when I was there. And so for them, their teams winning like this, the Cavs [Cavaliers] last year and now, the MLB in the baseball team, you want to cheer for them. But […] when it’s attached to this kind of racism it makes it very difficult.

DB: I want to ask you a little bit about the actual actions that are taking place [during the World Series]. You have an e-mail campaign. I imagine you couldn’t, it’s probably pretty hard to get tickets to the World Series, but are there any protests, in terms of the context of the World Series?

JK: Yeah, there are. There’s a really great local group there in Portland. I got to meet with them. They’re called the Committee for 500 Years, and they, actually, are part of… they grew out of the American Indian community in Cleveland, the real Cleveland American Indian community. They have been connecting protests for decades, of these games. And they are doing protests. They are protesting right now, as we speak. And they have a great presence there.

And it is sort of surprising because, you know, Cleveland has a really large black community. But when you go to the games, one of the things I noticed was that all the fans were white. Like, I didn’t see any people of color.

And when we protest at the Redskins game sometimes like 30% of the fans were African American, which is very difficult, because they would walk right by a whole flank of Native people protesting, and just not look us in the eye, or sometimes jeer at us. And you want solidarity. And it’s hard when people, the mascot, I often say that mascoting masks our identities. It dehumanizes us to our fellow Americans, and it’s not a great thing to teach the next generation.

I just saw an article where they are giving away Cleveland Indian onesies to newborns in hospitals around Cleveland. And it’s like they’re teaching them these stereotypes at birth.

DB: They’re teaching them the stereotypes at birth. You mean, these are like gifts? So we won the World Series so this is a special thing we’re doing?

JK: Well, yeah. They just showed a picture of all the newborns in their incubators and they’re all wearing onesies.

DB: Well that gets them early, huh?

JK: Yeah, and online we’re doing, my group, eradicating offensive Native mascotry. We’re doing a Twitter storm and we’re doing it all week, throughout the World Series. We’re just making sure that people get educated about the facts and the harm that mascotry does. There have been plenty of studies done that show that the teaching of stereotypes are primarily negative. The University of Buffalo came out with a study last year that found that they are negative and that they actually encourage other stereotypes about other groups, as well.

And then Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, she did studies at Stanford, where she found that Native youth that were exposed to mascots, Native mascots, had a loss of self-esteem, a measurable loss. She measured their self-esteem before and after, and Native youth who claimed to be okay with Native mascots actually suffered the steepest decline in self-esteem. And, it really indicates that a lot of coping mechanisms have to be employed, a lot of energy employed to make it okay.

And Native youths have the highest rates of suicide in the country, bar none. And they have a rate of about three times that of other peers. And Native young men actually have the highest rate. The rates are nine times that of other young American men. And, so, this is the most vulnerable group in America. And they really don’t need this kind of extra added…

DB: Alright, so […] there is an e-mail campaign?

JK: We have a Twitter storm that we’re doing […]. We’re actually doing notyourmascot and also dechief which is another hashtag that was started by Cleveland fans, where they would cut Chief Wahoo out of their apparel and gear and then post a picture of that online with the hashtag dechief.

DB: So, this is interesting. And are there any Native American players on these teams [the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs] playing [in the World Series]?

JK: I don’t know. I don’t think there are. In the early years of baseball there were a lot of pro Native players, in the early 20th century. My great-grandfather and his twin brother played pro baseball, as well. But I don’t know. I know that the Washington NFL team reportedly recruited a Native, a guy who’s of Native descent onto their team and everything. As a way to try to say that our criticism was unwarranted. But, yeah, I don’t know.

DB: And this is now a national struggle because this isn’t the only racist mascot stereotype that’s being perpetuated. This is a part of the professional leagues in the United States.

JK: Yeah, it has a huge reach. And, even at the college level and high school level, there are 2,000 high schools in this country that have Native American mascots. And if you were to scale that up for other ethnic groups like for Black Americans which have 10 times the population of Native Americans you would have 20,000 high schools with black mascots and it just gives you the idea of how overwhelming this is for Native people.

And to see it on T.V., to have stadiums with 90,000 people in them doing Hopi chants and acting out stereotypes, how isolating that is to Native people, who are really a minority amongst minorities in most communities. And about 80% of all Native people live off the reservation. So they don’t live in communities where they are part of any sort of majority at all, or a significant group. So they have to face this kind of ignorance alone. And, yeah, it has a huge impact.

DB: This is amazing. Because if you contrast this with what you also know a lot about, which is what’s going on in North Dakota… what’s happening in North Dakota is what the U.S. government didn’t want to happen and by various acts of genocide like the one we’re talking about tonight, subtle undermining of a culture, by the use of racist stereotypes. This is sort of an interesting parallel structure because you see the oppression here, but there’s a real movement being led by the Native peoples to stop the destruction of the planet.

JK: Exactly. I just got back from North Dakota. My dad’s tribe, the Yankton Sioux tribe, some of the sites there are Yankton or Ihanktowan sites, burial sites. That is part of our 1851 Treaty that we signed with the U.S. government and my dad’s tribe has a lawsuit right now with the Army Corps of Engineers, over what’s happening there at Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I think when you look at the parallels, basically what is happening, they try to disappear us, there are no tribe reservations in Ohio, and in North Dakota, most of its land that it’s claiming is private land is actually un-ceded treaty territory, which means that the U.S. government signs treaties with tribes. And these are not special little agreements, these are international legal agreements. And the Senate only ratifies treaties with other sovereign nations. So by ratifying treaties with us they recognize our status internationally as sovereign nations.

And so when the Oceti Sakowin, the great Sioux Nation, exerts its rights, it is actually in its legal rights to do so. And, similarly, there are large tracts of land across the United States that have never been actually legally ceded to the United States, they are held by force. The whole state of Nevada, the Shoshone tribe never ceded that. And, of course, the most famous case is the Black Hills which the great Sioux Nation never ceded that land either. And, actually, the Supreme Court agreed with us, in 1981, I think.

And so we actually have legal title to these places, and they’re being held. And you can see what’s happening in North Dakota. They’re being held by force. And that force is revealing itself. The United States is a colonial enterprise, whose goal is to profit off of our land. And their only purpose is to make a profit. And they’re not a real nation in the sense that we have a connection to the land.

When I woke up last Saturday at camp, they were playing John Trudeau, the Santee Dakota poet, poetry, having him read and he’s passed on, but they had a recording of him, and he was saying, “We are the people of the Earth. Who are you?” And I think that Native nations, our origin stories, always go back to some sort of meeting with a sacred being.

With the Lakota and Dakota people it is with the White Buffalo Calf Woman and they say that she actually appeared to us near the site of where the Dakota Access Pipeline is being laid. Right there, where the White Stone massacre happened. And so this is where we became a people, a nation—Dakota and these are the stories that tie us to the land.

And these are the stories they are trying to erase. And by making us American citizens and clouding our identity as citizens of our own nations, I think that’s all part of the story. And assuming our identity is, of course, the full circle of that.

In my mom’s culture, in Navajo culture, they have these things called skin walkers, they’re like witches, and they wear the skins of animals, and take on their appearance, and really I often feel like this whole thing of taking on our identity in this way through mascotry is a form of skin walking. And it’s a form of trophyism. You know, that they see us and they have a right to do what they want with our image, and our culture.

DB: And, what tribe did you say your dad was from?

JK: He is Yankton, it’s a Yankton Sioux tribe. In our language it would be Inhanktowan Dakota.

DB: And they’re suing the Army Corps of Engineers?

JK: Yes. They are. Their lawsuit hasn’t been heard yet, and then, of course, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is also suing. But they lost and they’re appealing, now. And the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe has enjoined that lawsuit as well.

DB: And this suit goes right against the Army Corps of Engineers which has been halted from action by the President, at this point.

JK: Yeah, they have….

DB: They have halted the company from going on public lands.

JK: Yeah, the federal… the waterways, the Missouri River is the federal waterway, so the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government has jurisdiction over it. However, most of the pipeline is on private land. In fact, they purchased the Cannonball Ranch, where they had, over Labor Day weekend, dug up recently identified burial sites and other archeological sites for the…

DB: The company bought the ranch?

JK: They bought it. Yes. Actually, they may have broke the law because North Dakota has a Depression Era law against corporate ownership of agricultural land, non-family owned corporations owning agricultural land in North Dakota. And they admit they broke the law, but they say they’re going to make it right later.

DB: So a private citizen sold to the company which proceeded to drill, and did?

JK: Yes.

[…]

JK: My family fought the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Yankton Sioux tribe played a major role in that. And so I talked to the folks, the white farmers that helped us, they band with us. My aunt helped form this alliance called the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, and I talked to them and they said that they’re hearing that…

DB: These are the farmers and the Native Americans [who] are working together to restrain the oil….

JK: Yes. We were really lucky to find landowners, white landowners, who were willing to stand with us, cause they take a huge risk. Because they face imminent domain threats. They could pay all these legal fees and still lose their land. And I heard that the Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas corporation that is behind Dakota Access Pipeline, is even more vicious and even worse than Trans-Canada was.

DB: Well, let me ask you, we just got a minute or two left, what are you asking people to do in terms of the stereotypes, in terms of the racist mascots? You talked about an action, I want to remind people what you’re up to and what you folks are trying to do here.

JK: We want the mascoting of Native people to stop. And to basically change the emphasis to real representations of Native people in the media, and in sports. And we would like for our real lives to be seen, and to be understood.

[…] You know, here in Portland, we have this Powell’s Bookstore that has thousands of books. But how many of those books actually feature Native protagonists? That’s the problem, there’s no balance. People often ask me “Well, what about the Vikings?” Well, the difference is that that’s not the only way you see a white man, as a Viking. If you never saw a white man as anything else than a Viking, and you never saw him on T.V., you never saw him save the world in a Hollywood film, you never saw him as President of the United States, then it would be a similar situation. The issue is the prevalence of mascotry and stereotypes, over real knowledge of Native people.

DB: I guess tonight you’ll be rooting for the people and the removal of that racist symbol, right? That will be a home run, for the home team, for you, huh?

JK: Well, I guess I’m rooting […] that we get a chance to use this time this week [during the World Series]  to really educate people, and to really get people to think about it. And to get Americans to understand, because obviously other Americans understand this, because you will notice that no other ethnic group is mascoted to the degree that Native people are.

DB: We’re going to have to leave it right there.

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.




The Democrats’ ‘Super-Delegate’ Mistake

Exclusive: Democratic “super-delegates” – hundreds of party insiders – tilted the presidential race to Hillary Clinton though not chosen by voters, an undemocratic idea that was never intended, says Spencer Oliver who was there at the creation.

By Spencer Oliver

The issue of the Democratic Party’s “super-delegates” threatens to divide the Democratic Party at the Philadelphia convention as Sen. Bernie Sanders argues that the automatic vote given these party leaders made the race undemocratic because they did not compete in the primaries and caucuses and broke heavily and early in favor of Hillary Clinton.

And Sanders has a point. I was there at the creation of this party feature and I can attest that the idea of “super-delegates” making up around 15 percent of the voting delegates – and thus holding a powerful influence over the selection process – was never what was intended.

The original thinking was that a relative handful of state party chairs who had to remain neutral while setting up the primaries and caucuses would still get to go to the conventions. However, the numbers of “super-delegates” kept expanding and expanding as other party leaders lobbied to be included among those not having to compete in the delegate-selection process.

The “super-delegate” system was born in the wake of Democratic Party efforts after the 1968 convention to make the presidential selection process more open and democratic. I was involved in the work of all the reform commissions as the administrative assistant to Democratic National Committee Chair in 1966, later as President of the National Young Democrats, and subsequently as the founding Executive Director of the Association of State Democratic Chairs.

Named for their various leaders, these reform efforts were called the Wagner, McGovern, Fraser, O’Hara and Sanford Commissions, which made their reform recommendations to the DNC. All were tasked with making our party more open, more transparent, more inclusive, more democratic, and ultimately more successful in attracting the broad support of America’s diverse population. In other words, the idea was to put more power in the hands of rank-and-file Democrats.

This represented a major reform from the 1960s when party bosses like Carmine DeSapio in New York, powerful Governors like David Lawrence in Pennsylvania and Mike DiSalle in Ohio, and legendary Mayors like Richard Daley in Chicago dominated the Democratic conventions and had an outsized role in picking the Democratic presidential nominee.

The reform commissions were a response to that unpopular and highly criticized system. The Mississippi Freedom Party at the Atlantic City convention in 1964 and the anti-war protesters in Chicago in 1968 made the reform inevitable and certainly necessary.

Reforms and Consequence

The reforms brought American citizens much more extensively into the process of choosing the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer. The reforms also required State Democratic Chairs to be neutral as they organized their states’ primary and caucus systems. However, that meant the state chairs could not be elected to attend the party conventions as delegates committed to one candidate or the other.

So, the State Democratic Chairs proposed the idea of so-called “super-delegates” in the early 1970s, arguing that they should be automatic delegates because the reforms called for by the Wagner Commission and the DNC would otherwise exclude them from participation in the conventions. The DNC bought that argument. After all, they would be a relatively small number of delegates.

But then the governors wanted the same privilege, followed by congressional leaders and then the DNC members themselves. This expanding group now constitutes nearly 30 percent of the 2,383 delegates needed for nomination, significantly diluting the strength of the pledged delegates elected in primaries and caucuses.

Along the way, the “super-delegates” seem to have forgotten why they are there — and how they got there — in the first place.

On Feb. 12, 2016, when DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was asked on CNN whether the existence of “super-delegates” might give the impression to regular voters that the process was rigged, she answered: “Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grass-roots activists. We … want to give every opportunity to grass-roots activists and diverse committed Democrats to be able to participate, attend and be a delegate at the convention. And so we separate out those unpledged delegates to make sure that there isn’t competition between them.”

But “super-delegates” really were an unintended outgrowth of the reform process and indeed fly in the face of the reform goals, which were to extend to the average voter the power to select the party’s nominee. By contrast, the “super-delegates” are given the power to vote for the nominee simply because they occupy – or in some cases occupied years ago – positions that entitle them to vote without having to earn that privilege by participating in the primaries or caucuses. Is this fair? Is this democratic?

What’s Good for Kazakhstan…

I am reminded of my past experience as secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s parliamentary assembly in organizing the election observation mission to the first elections in Kazakhstan in 1994 when we were trying to encourage the former Soviet republics to transition toward democracy.

The Kazakhs were trying to move in that direction, but they adopted an election law that allowed the President to appoint 25 percent of the parliament. For that reason, we declared that the election was clearly unfair. The Kazakhs were mortified and internationally embarrassed. They later changed the law and – although democracy has not yet blossomed in that part of the world – such non-electoral legislative appointments have disappeared throughout the area. Yet, a similar rule exists in the Democratic Party of the United States of America.

I am not arguing that our party leaders should not attend the Philadelphia convention. They should be on the floor, entitled to speak, to lobby, to advocate and to impart their wisdom and experience to their fellow delegates. They have certainly earned that right. But they should not have the right to vote for the Democratic Party’s choice for president and vice president.

That “super-delegates” would hold such power over the selection process was never the intent of the party’s reforms and indeed goes against the goals of those reforms, which have largely succeeded in drawing citizens more directly into the process while also broadening the Democratic Party’s tent to include minorities, women, unions, young people, LGBT – just about every component needed for electoral victory.

This divisive issue of “super-delegates” can be easily resolved. The party leaders, i.e., the “super-delegates” themselves and – most importantly – our members of Congress and governors, should make the “super-delegates” non-voting delegates, with all the convention privileges and honors they deserve, except the right to vote on the nomination. The DNC could even do this by meeting the day before the convention and amending the party’s rules to correct this democratic deficit in our system.

Spencer Oliver recently retired as Secretary General of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. He previously served for eight years as a senior official at the DNC. And for more than twenty years on Capitol Hill, concluding as Chief Counsel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.




S. Korean Villagers Sued for Anti-Base Protests

Village protesters have challenged South Korea’s construction of a new naval base on Jeju Island, known for its stunning Gureombi Rocks, but the navy is striking back with a punitive lawsuit designed to silence dissent, writes Ann Wright.

By Ann Wright

The South Korean Navy filed a civil lawsuit against 116 individual anti-base protesters and five groups including the Gangjeong Village Association demanding $3 million in compensation for alleged construction delays caused by protests over the past eight years.

In one of the longest, strongest protests against more military bases around the world, the villagers of Gangjeong, Jeju Island, South Korea, have achieved international recognition of their spiritual and corporal resistance and persistence in trying to preserve unique natural features of their community, the Gureombi Rocks.

Samsung, the primary contractor for the $1 billion project, precipitated the action by filing a lawsuit against the government for slowdown of work caused by the protests because Samsung’s profit margin was impacted by the protests.

Villagers are very angry about the lawsuit that if upheld would bankrupt everyone named. To show its displeasure to the Navy, the village moved its City Hall to a tent on the main road across from the entrance to the base. The Vice-Mayor holds city meetings in the tent and sleeps there.

Lawyers for the activists wrote that the navy’s lawsuit is “an unjustified declaration of war against the people. When the reckless development of the state and large construction companies threaten the right of citizens to a peaceful existence, the right of citizens to oppose this must be guaranteed as their natural and constitutional right since sovereignty rests with the people. To condemn this action as illegal is to delegitimize the foundation of democracy.”

100 Bows Morning Vigil

Every morning for the past eight years, at 7 a.m., rain, snow or good weather, Gangjeong Village activists reflect through 100 bows to the universe on their lives of activism for a peaceful world while confronting the war machine at one of its gates.

The thoughts represented in 100 bows span all religions and spiritual traditions.  A few of the thoughts include:

1. While holding in my heart that truth gives freedom to life I make my first bow.

7. As I hold in my heart that possessions create other possessions and wars only give birth to other wars and cannot solve problems I make my seventh bow.

12. As I hold in my heart that the way to life-peace is to accept the world’s pain as my own pain I make my twelfth bow.

55. As I resolve to let go of chauvinistic nationalism which makes other countries insecure, I make my fifty fifth bow.

56. As I resolve to let go of the superiority of my religion which makes other faiths insecure, I make my fifty sixth bow.

72. As I resolve to respect all lives without any prejudice and bias, I make seventy second bow.

77. As I remember that the beginning of violence starts from my opinionated ideas and hatred towards others because of differences, I make my seventy seventh bow.

100. As I pray that the light that I kindle leads all sentient beings to live in peace and happiness, I make my one hundredth bow.

One day I was at Gangjeong Village recently we endured a cold wind and rain for the noon time “Human Chain” at the entrance of the Naval Base at Gangjeong Village. The winds were fierce — the southern coast is known for its very strong winds and one of the reasons why many were perplexed that the naval base was proposed for an area of the island where high winds and high seas are most frequent around the island.

Other days I’ve been here, the weather was nice for the singing and dancing in the roadway, reminding the South Korean Navy that the opposition to the construction of the naval base has not ended, despite the construction being complete.

This great public spirit continues to challenge the navy base and militarism with the noon dance. For those who have visited Gangjeong, both events and the sounds remain with us — as we remember that each day dedicated activists in Gangjeong Village continue the struggle against militarism.

Finding Part of Gureombi Rock

While I was in Gangjeong Village, the South Korean Navy had “Navy Week on Jeju Island.”  Navy weeks are designed as a public relations event to get favorable public opinion.

Most activists would not have been allowed on the navy base even if they had wanted to go — which they did not want to do. I wanted to see where the massive amount of concrete poured into the area had gone — so I produced my passport and I and another recent arrival were passed onto the base. We saw Aegis missile destroyer ships, helicopters, landing craft and demonstrations of martial arts.

But the most important thing we saw was what we think is the only remaining part of Gureombi Rock. Behind the first building on the left side of the main road past the entrance gate, is a small lake with one side of what appears to be a very small piece of the Gureombi Rock. The other side of the lake is composed of rock fill, but the northern side seems to be original rock.

The coastline surrounding Gangjeong Village consisted of one contiguous volcanic rock called Gureombi which was a 1.2 kilometer-long rock formed by lava flowing into the sea and rocks rising from the seabed. The estuary informed in this area was Jeju Island’s only rocky wetland and acted as home to several endangered species and soft coral reefs.

In 1991, the Jeju Provincial government designated the coastline surrounding Gangjeong Village an Absolute Conservation Area (ACA). In 2002, the area where the naval base construction is currently ongoing was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Conservation Area.

In December 2009, Jeju Island Governor Kim Tae-hwan nullified the ACA designation to proceed with the naval base construction. The Jeju Branch of the Korean Federation of Environmental Movements have criticized the Navy’s Environmental Impact Assessment noting that several endangered species are absent from the report.

During its recent archeological excavation of the Gangjeong coastal area, the Jeju Cultural Heritage Research Institute discovered artifacts dating back to 4-2 B.C.E. inside the naval base construction zone. According to the director of the Korean Cultural Heritage Policy Research Institute only 10 – 20 percent of the site was dug up during construction violating the cultural properties protection law.

At a talk that I gave two days later, many from the village discussed how to ensure that the tiny portion of Gureombi Rock remains intact and continues its cultural and spiritual ties to Gangjeong Village.

I mentioned that in some military bases in the United States, there are plaques to remind us of those who lived there before the U.S. government took over their lands. And even in the family housing area on the naval base, there are two murals that represent the indigenous peoples.

We hope that some type of mural will be created on the naval base depicting the importance of Gureombi Rocks so that hopefully the remaining rocks will not be blown up or concreted over.

Peace Farming

How do anti-war, peace activists in Gangjeong village support themselves? Some work in the Peace Farm Cooperative. Customers buy produce online from the Peace Cooperative.

One rainy morning Joan of Ark took us to two peace cooperative farms. The first was in the protected, covered greenhouse where they grow corn and beans. I asked how big the greenhouse was and she said 800 pyeongs — apparently a word indicating how big a grave should be — the length of a person’s body. An interesting way of measuring!

Then we went out of the village to their second farm in a … cemetery — or actually next to a cemetery where they grow corn and peanuts. The grass in the cemetery is allowed to grow over the gravestones and once a year a family may come to clear out the area around the gravestone. After 30 years, the family may have the ashes removed to another place.

Currie, an activist from the U.S., mentioned that in the U.S., some people want to be buried in a natural area where grass and weeds are allowed to grow, not in a formal cemetery.

The St. Francis Peace Center in Gangjeong Village has a remarkable history. In the 1970s, Father Mun was jailed for his protests during the military dictatorship and 30 years later he was awarded compensation for wrongful arrest and years in jail. With the compensation money, he purchased land overlooking the pale where the naval base was to be constructed.

The Bishop of Jeju Island decided to help build a peace center on the land — and now a wonderful place for those working for peace and social justice is in Gangjeong Village. It is a beautiful building with a fourth floor viewing area so the eyes of the peace house can alert the community to what the war machine is doing.

Ann Wright is a 29 veteran of the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was a US diplomat for 16 years and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the US government in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She is the co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.




Parry to Appear Today on NPR’s ‘On Point’

Robert Parry will appear on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook on Monday, October 26, 2015 at 11:00 am for an hour-long discussion. Parry will explore the current situation of American journalism and what we’re not being told about the living history of our country.

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You can stream the show live online or find a radio station near you.

For more information about the appearance, click here.