Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Ex-Mossad Agents Harass US students, BDS Activists

Congress is failing to protect US citizens from espionage and threats aimed at intimidating supporters of Palestinian rights. (Joe Catron)

By Kristian Davis Bailey 
The Electronic Intifada  

March 9, 2019 - In September 2017, Palestine Legal attorneys received nearly 30 emails from students, teachers and even librarians who were justifiably concerned about an anonymous message they had received.

The emails contained threats from that recipients had been “marked” and “identified as a BDS promoter” and had a “limited window of opportunity to cease and desist or face the consequences of your actions in legal proceedings.”

The origin of the attack was a mystery.

Thanks to February exposés in The New Yorker, however, we now know the origin – Psy-Group, a defunct Israeli private intelligence firm.

Additionally, we have further confirmation that former Israeli intelligence agents were paid to spy on US students and activists engaged in BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – campaigns.

The organization responsible compiled dossiers on activists and published a Canary Mission-like blacklist site, as well as defamatory sites that attempted to discredit Muslim activists, among others.

The New Yorker first published an article by Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow on Psy-Group, which used former Israeli military, intelligence and governmental advisers to influence politics around the US.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Modest Proposal: Don’t Start a Nuclear War

By Olivia Alperstein

March 13, 2019 - In a matter of minutes, as easily as sending a tweet, a sitting U.S. president could decide to launch a nuclear attack, without anyone else’s approval or authorization. In a matter of minutes, millions of lives would be lost, and millions of futures halted permanently.

At my organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility, we believe that we must prevent what we can’t cure. And there’s no cure for a nuclear war.

No nation on earth, including the United States, would have an adequate emergency response in the event of a nuclear exchange. Most Americans don’t want us to ever engage in a nuclear war, and the vast majority of us certainly don’t want the United States to be the ones to start a nuclear war.

The United States, like every other nation, has a vested interest in avoiding a nuclear conflict.

Yet unlike other countries, we currently have no policy against starting a nuclear war — or what experts call a “No First Use” policy.

This opens the door to a possible preemptive nuclear strike. That weakens our national security, and it puts all our health and safety at risk — for a nuclear war no one (except maybe President Donald Trump and John Bolton) wants.

Luckily, some people in Congress are looking to change the reckless status quo. This year, Rep. Adam Smith and Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation that would establish a “No First Use” policy for nuclear weapons in the United States.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Trump’s Efforts to Oust Maduro Are Illegal and Will Kill More Venezuelans

Mark Weisbrot turns the table on "common sense" to analyze Venezuela in the international landscape.

By Mark Weisbrot
The Sacramento Bee

Jan 31 2019 - If Russia, China and North Korea decided to recognize Nancy Pelosi as the president of the United States, would Americans go along with that?

I mean, the ones who don't like Trump, think he is a real threat to the country, and even not a legitimately elected president? I don't think so. But Trump, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton all think that the United States should be able to choose a new president for Venezuela.

So does "ouster in chief" – as the New York Times recently described him – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). And this sordid bunch has just recruited Elliot Abrams, who many believe should have been convicted as a war criminal in the 1980s, to help make their dream come true.

How could this go wrong? Well we do have some 21st century experience with U.S.-sponsored "regime change" and it has ranged from murderous to horrific.

Iraq, Syria, Libya, Honduras – all have led to a lot of killing and suffering, mostly of civilians including children.

Many of the migrants fleeing Honduras in the caravans that Trump has recently demonized and manipulated politically were escaping from misery caused by the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup in that country.

Not to mention the much larger wave of migrants upending European politics, most of them escaping from the mess that the U.S. government created with its regime change wars in the Middle East.

We can put aside the fanciful notion that the Trump regime change operation in Venezuela has something to do with promoting democracy.

Trump is still good buddies with MBS in Saudi Arabia – that's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman or Mister Bone Saw, as he was called after his underlings killed and chopped up a Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident.

And the murderous Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, who has killed thousands in his own country; or Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras, who stole his re-election last year in broad daylight. And so on.

But President Nicolas Maduro has to go, they say. So Juan Guaido, a little-known Venezuelan congressman, anointed himself after a phone call from Mike Pence the night before.

What do the Trump administration and its allies want in Venezuela, besides the world's largest oil reserves for American oil companies?

Mostly they want power in the region, where just a few years ago left governments who were quite friendly with Venezuela presided over the majority of the region.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Green Future is One Without War

The Green New Deal Is Also a Peace Issue

By Robert Koehler

Jan 14, 2019 - Donald Trump and his base — the leftover scraps of Jim Crow, the broken shards of racist hatred that once were the American mainstream and made the country seem “great” to those who weren’t its victims — have, it appears, a crucial role to play in our future.

President Trump is the increasingly naked truth. He’s what we have wound up with: a raw, uncensored scapegoating and fear-mongering that’s too much for most of the American public. And thus the political center, the military-industrial-media consensus that has ruled the country for the past four and a half decades, pushing progressive values to the margins of American politics, is unraveling. Centrist compromise, which birthed the Trump presidency, can’t mask the truth anymore.

It’s time to evolve.

If we don’t, we’re stuck in the mire of racism, exploitation, empire and war. We’re stuck in the dead past, which has given us the current state of Planet Earth: a planet at war with itself in multiple ways. We’re stuck in a dead past and a dying future.

This is the context, I believe, in which we should evaluate the Green New Deal, which may well be the most brightly shining political ideal to emerge on the national horizon in my Boomer lifetime. Here’s how one of the Deal’s arch enemies, Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute, described it recently in the Washington Examiner:

“Make no mistake about it: This is one of the most dangerous and extreme proposals offered in modern U.S. history. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in the Soviet Union, not the United States. If we don’t stop the Green New Deal, our economy may not survive. This isn’t a battle we can afford to lose.”

So it must be good! If nothing else, it’s a piece of potential legislation with real traction that transcends Democratic centrism and timidity — its instinct to cave to well-funded right-wing criticism and avoid upsetting the military-industrial applecart — that became de rigueur party behavior since the defeat of George McGovern in 1972.

But the GND needs to go further than it does. Since it’s already being pilloried as the most radical piece of legislation in modern history, it might as well open itself up to become just that: the cornerstone of a truly sustainable national and global future. The Deal should take on militarism and war as well as climate change and poverty; they are all linked. Our near-trillion-dollar military budget, and the endless and needless wars it funds — not to mention the ongoing development of our nuclear arsenal — can’t be quietly, politely ignored as we envision a sane tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Peacemakers, Warmongers and Fence Sitters: Who Represents You

Yet as early voting gets under way across the country, Congressional campaigns have focused mainly on domestic issues and personality politics, with almost nothing to say about the war in Yemen or other critical questions of war, peace and record military spending. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

By Nicolas J. S. Davies 
Common Dreams 

Oct 23, 2018 - As a foreign policy crisis explodes over the apparent Saudi assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, the failure of the U.S. Congress to assert its constitutional war powers over three years of illegal U.S. military action in the war on Yemen and booming U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners is finally coming home to roost.

The UN already reported two years ago that a child was dying every 10 minutes in Yemen, wracked by the war and its consequences, including malnutrition, diphtheria, cholera and other preventable diseases.  Data already showed that more than a third of Saudi-led airstrikes were hitting schools, hospitals, markets, mosques and other civilian sites. But none of the dire warnings by UN agencies and NGOs could trigger the constitutionally required debate and decisive action by the U.S. Congress.  Even now the Trump administration is trying desperately to salvage its blood-soaked arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The elephant in the room that none of them want to discuss is that Congress keeps handing more than 60% of discretionary federal funds over to a military industrial complex whose recent wars have only succeeded in plunging half a dozen countries into intractable violence and chaos, leaving vital domestic priorities permanently underfunded.

Yet as early voting gets under way across the country, Congressional campaigns have focused mainly on domestic issues and personality politics, with almost nothing to say about the war in Yemen or other critical questions of war, peace and record military spending. The elephant in the room that none of them want to discuss is that Congress keeps handing more than 60% of discretionary federal funds over to a military industrial complex whose recent wars have only succeeded in plunging half a dozen countries into intractable violence and chaos, leaving vital domestic priorities permanently underfunded.

To fill this dangerous vacuum and help voters make critical decisions at the voting booth, the CODEPINK 2018 Peace Voter's Guide and Divestment Record has gathered data on arms industry campaign contributions from Open Secrets and the peace voting records of every Member of Congress from Peace Action, and published them all in one place for easy reference. 

We invite voters to check out the Peace Voter's Guide to see where your Senators and Representatives stand on critical issues of war and peace.  How much money have your representatives collected from the arms industry in this election cycle? How have they voted on critical bills and amendments for war, peace, weapons and military spending during their time in Congress?

You can use the Guide to compare your representatives with their colleagues. You can check out the differences between Democrats and Republicans, and see who are the real hawks and doves in each party.

Figures show that arms companies, including their PACS, have contributed about equally to Democrats and Republicans in the Senate in this election cycle, giving an average of over $180,000 to each Senator. In the House, however, they have given more to Republicans (an average of $46,000 each) than to Democrats ($31,000 each).

The Senators who are most indebted to the arms industry tend to be high-ranking members of committees key to Pentagon funding. In 2017-18, the senator receiving the most weapons industry contributions, $969,550, was Richard Shelby (R-AL). Shelby chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee, the committee that allocates funding for all federal agencies.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Americans Against War

Hero Image: Americans Against War

by Heath W. Carter
Education and Culture

I recently watched the second installment of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. If you saw the first, you won’t be surprised to hear that this latest edition is mostly fun and games, the kind of confection that one expects in a summer blockbuster.

But at least a few scenes struck me as deadly serious. The film features a number of pitched battles between the heroic Guardians and a fleet of spaceships belonging to the Sovereign, a highly advanced race of beings who, as it turns out, are scrupulous to a fault (and then some). Their skirmishes look and feel very Star Wars-esque until one realizes that only the Guardians have skin in the game. While the Sovereign are shooting to kill, they’re doing so remotely, from the comfortable confines of their planet. When one of their craft is gunned down, it’s merely “game over” for that particular pilot, who is then freed up to watch over the shoulder of another as he or she attempts to shoot the Guardians out of the sky. This would be just another playful twist if it were not so resonant with the real world.

In the first seven years of the Obama Administration, the US military initiated some 500 drone strikes outside areas of active hostilities.
In the first seven years of the Obama Administration, the US military initiated some 500 drone strikes outside areas of active hostilities—meaning this total does not even include strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria—that killed as many as 4,189 persons, several hundred of whom were non-combatants and at least seven of whom were American citizens (all of these numbers are disputed, with significant variance between official and non-governmental sources).

The technology bears names that admit no reticence about its death-dealing power. Predator drones, controlled in one moment by a “pilot” on the ground in Kandahar and in the next by one in Las Vegas, launch Hellfire missiles at unsuspecting enemies. A generation-old partnership between the American military and the commercial gaming industry has yielded one long-sought outcome: the ability to conduct war on a virtual basis.

Of course, we do still drop bombs the old-fashioned way sometimes. The world got a vivid reminder of this when in April the Pentagon authorized the first-ever use of the 10-ton GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) in Afghanistan. The $170,000 bomb is so large that it cannot fit onto a drone or even a fighter jet. It has to be dropped out of the back end of a cargo plane. The sheer size of the MOAB was enough to evoke some consternation on social media and its nickname, the “mother of all bombs,” caught even the attention of the Holy See. “I was ashamed when I heard the name,” Pope Francis remarked. “A mother gives life and this one gives death, and we call this device a mother. What is going on?”
War is . . . so interwoven into the fabric of contemporary life that civilians hardly notice it anymore.

War is going on. It is so interwoven into the fabric of contemporary life that civilians hardly notice it anymore. Sixteen years after 9/11, the United States remains embroiled in the longest war in its history in Afghanistan. This spring there are rumblings that the Trump administration is considering a new surge of American troops there. They would join the 200,000 U.S. soldiers already deployed abroad in some 170 countries. While the two major parties quibble on the finer points of military spending, the notion that the American war machine must remain the world’s mightiest is bipartisan orthodoxy. In 2015, the United States spent $596 billion dollars on its military, while the next seven biggest players—China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Britain, France, India, and Japan—spent a collective total of $567 billion. But even that is not enough for some. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of U.S. Military Strength lamented “defense spending far below requested levels,” deeming the army “weak” and the rest of the branches “marginal.”

“I am a Socialist, a labor unionist and a believer in the Prince of Peace first, and an American second.”

It hasn’t always been this way. Michael Kazin’s brilliant new book, War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914–1918, lends credence to the old saying, “the past is a foreign country.” It tells the remarkable story of how, one hundred years ago, a diverse coalition of Americans struggled to keep the nation out of the Great War.

Socialists and suffragists, white mainliners and black Pentecostals, northern Republicans and southern Democrats did not all agree about much, but together they powered a historic campaign for peace. Kazin uses the stories of four particularly influential characters—the socialist Morris Hillquit, the suffragist Crystal Eastman, House Majority Leader Claude Kitchin, and Republican Senator Robert La Follette—to open a window onto the life of this larger movement. Along the way, we encounter a variety of other activists too, including eminent personalities such as Jane Addams, William Jennings Bryan, and Henry Ford as well as lesser-known lights like Kate Richards O’Hare, who, at an emergency convention of the Socialist Party of America in March 1917, thundered, “I am a Socialist, a labor unionist and a believer in the Prince of Peace first, and an American second.”

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Trump’s General Just Announced a New Cold War. Who Will Stop It?

By Richard Escrow
Campaign for America' Future
Jan 26, 2018 - Defense Secretary James Mattis announced a dramatic shift in military policy last week, and it threatens to plunge the world into new forms of conflict.
The secretary, known as “Mad Dog” Mattis when he was a four-star Marine general, now commands the most powerful military force in human history. Mattis insists the nickname came from the press. That may be true, although generals are notoriously canny about their own publicity.
Whatever the nickname’s provenance, Mattis is not “mad.” He is, in fact, a rational and articulate spokesperson for the national security ideology that has dominated American political life since the end of World War II. That’s disturbing in a very different way.
Mattis, a clear-eyed cold warrior, has just announced the start of a new cold war.

Team Player

Mattis made his announcement in a speech to the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. Mattis began the speech by paying tribute to what his prepared remarks called the “character” of Paul Nitze, a noted Cold War hawk. Together with fellow cold warriors Richard Pipes and Paul Wolfowitz, Nitze created “Team B,” a private Cold War think tank whose sole purpose was to overrule the CIA’s more modest estimates of the Soviet military threat.
Nitze’s “background,” according to Mattis’ text, made the SAIS “a fitting place” to unveil the administration’s new national defense strategy.  That’s true, although perhaps not for the reasons Mattis may think.
Team B’s estimates were “grossly inaccurate,” as former Reagan defense official Lawrence Korb noted in a 2004 Los Angeles Times op-ed; even the CIA’s more modest estimates of Soviet power turned out to be overstated. Nevertheless, its findings were “widely leaked to the press” shortly before Jimmy Carter became president.
Team B’s backers got the military spending they wanted, with a buildup that began under Carter and accelerated under Ronald Reagan. Wolfowitz and his fellow neoconservatives eventually used equally spurious data to drum up support for the invasion of Iraq, with catastrophic consequences.
As president-elect, Donald Trump promised an end to “intervention and chaos” and insisted that “our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS.” With this speech, Trump’s administration has fallen even more in line with the bipartisan consensus of the last eighty years.

Axis of Adults

Not long ago, the generals on Donald Trump’s team were being lauded by pundits and politicians as the “adults in the room,” or the “axis of adults,” who would prevent him from doing anything reckless. The commentary on Trump’s three former generals – Mattis, John Kelly, and H.R. McMaster – bordered on the hagiographic at times.
“They are everything our commander-in-chief is not,” Daniel Kurtz-Phelan gushed in New York Magazine of Mattis and the other ex-generals on Trump’s team: “steady-handed, competent and decent professionals, truthful and generally cogent communicators.”
Kelly’s true colors became more apparent while he was Homeland Secretary, when he acted with surprising brutality against immigrants and their families and made wild and unfounded claims about a “nation under attack” from Islamic terrorism. (The 94 people killed in the US by terrorists since 9/11 is essentially equal to the daily death toll from gun violence.) Later, as White House Chief of Staff, Kelly distorted American history in order to make sympathetic comments about pro-slavery forces in the Civil War. One historian said his comments reflected “profound ignorance.”
The other designated “adult,” McMaster, is the National Security Advisor who once wrote a highly influential work on military ethics entitled “Dereliction of Duty.” But McMaster, who is notoriously hawkish on North Korea, has reportedly been relegated by Trump to the children’s table and is currently denying rumors of an imminent departure.

The Warrior Monk

That leaves Mattis. According to Kurtz-Phelan, Mattis was “known as both tough and cerebral, a ‘warrior monk’ who goes home to bachelor’s quarters to read history, he retired in 2013 after overseeing military operations in the Middle East as head of Central Command.”
To repeat: generals are notoriously canny about their own publicity
Mattis’ appointment as Defense Secretary was largely welcomed by Democrats in Washington. His nomination received 81 Senate votes, after Democrats expressed the hope that he would act as a check on Trump’s worst impulses, or serve as the “anti-Trump,” in the words of a Politico headline.