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Four arrested for murder of Berta Cáceres in Honduras May 5, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Latin America, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Honduras, a third world poverty and corruption ridden country of less than ten million,  stands as a prototype of United States government foreign policy, one that is characterized by the primacy of corporate interests and their lapdog lackeys in government, in this case Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.  This is documented in the article that follows immediately after this account of the US backed, state sponsored assassination of human rights and environmental activist Berta Cáceres.

On Monday morning, the Honduran authorities arrested 4 men in relation to the murder of internationally renowned activist Berta Cáceres — 2 are retired or active members of the Honduran Armed Forces and 2 have ties to DESA, the company building the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project that Berta was campaigning against. With even the Honduran government investigators now admitting the assassins have ties to the Honduran Armed Forces, it is time once and for all for the United States to end financing and training of the Honduran security forces. Berta’s family and COPINH continue to call for the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to investigate the case. It is hard to believe that the Honduran government has the political will to investigate the higher-ups who may have helped plan or known about Berta’s murder; as Berta’s daughter Laura Zuniga Cáceres told The Guardian, “The Honduran state is too closely linked to the murder of my mother to carry out an independent investigation.”

Early on, there were clear signs that the Honduran authorities were manipulating the investigation and interrogating COPINH members. Even with an international outcry demanding investigation into the years of threats and persecution Berta suffered for her defense of the Gualcarque River, it took 11 days for the investigators to go to DESA’s installations. Even then, the investigation was declared secret and the lawyers for the family excluded. Berta’s daughters and COPINH members took the demand for justice internationally, speaking out in the US and Europe, calling for an end to US and European security aid to Honduras given Berta’s assassination and the ongoing persecution of social movements. Last week, the European Investment Bank canceled a $40 million loan to Honduras, citing Berta’s murder as the reason. Shortly thereafter, the Honduran government apprehend 4 men with ties to the military and DESA, admitting for the first time that Berta was assassinated for her activism.

Those arrested include Sergio Rodriguez, Environmental and Social Manager for DESA, who Berta denounced was threatening COPINH during a protest against the Agua Zarca project on February 20, as well as Geovanny Douglas Bustillo, retired Honduran leuitenent, who previously served as head of security for the Agua Zarca project. The other two arrested include Mariano Díaz Chávez, reported to be an active Major in the Honduran military, and Edilson Atilio Duarte Meza, reported as a retired captain in the Honduran Military. It seems doubtful they would have acted solely on their own.

Berta took on extremely powerful interests in Honduras and the persecution of her while she was alive was done with the knowledge of very powerful people, with the Public Ministry prosecuting Berta in 2013 and the Secretary of Security, trained at the School of the Americas (SOA) in Psychological Operations, failing to ensure her protection. Now we are asked to trust the same Public Ministry with the investigation into her death. Without transparency in the investigation and the Honduran government’s refusal to accept the offer of the IAHCR independent commission, one must ask if higher ups in the Honduran Armed Forces and government have been investigated in relation to Berta’s murder? Has David Castillo, head of DESA with a background in military intelligence for the Honduran Armed Forces, been investigated? Have the directors of DESA, including those who belong to the powerful Atala family, one of the families many believe was behind the 2009 military coup in Honduras, been investigated? Has Julian Pacheco, Secretary of Security, been investigated? Did the US Embassy or US military officials know of the plans to murder Berta?

Those may be very dangerous questions to ask. Honduran opposition journalist Felix Molina, well-known throughout the country for his resistance radio show that was one of the clearest voices against the military coup in Honduras for years, posted very similar questions on Monday after the arrests. Hours later there was an attempt to attack him but he got away, only to be shot four times in the legs Monday night. Luckily the bullets missed arteries and veins, and Felix is still alive, though in the hospital. Felix is renowned for his journalism and radio programs critical of the powers at be.

Whether or not all the intellectual authors of Berta’s murder are ever brought to justice, one thing is clear: the United States must stop financing and training the Honduran Armed Forces and other security forces. The US-trained and supported TIGRES, with the stated goal of addressing drug trafficking, have spent significant time stationed at DESA’s installations, guarding the Agua Zarca Project. Were any of the Honduran military (current or former) involved in Berta’s murder trained by the US? Has the United States ensured it does not fund the First Battalion of Engineers, which was stationed at DESA’s installations and murdered Indigenous leader Tomas Garcia in 2013? When will US funding, training, and equipping of the Honduran security forces end? How many more people have to die?

The United States is not the only one with responsibility for what is occurring in Honduras; earlier this month I accompanied Berta’s daughter Bertha Zuniga Cáceres, COPINH leader Asencion Martinez, and Rosalina Dominguez and Francisco Sanchez of the Rio Blanco Indigenous Council to call on the Dutch Development Bank FMO and the Finn Fund, both majority owned by the Dutch and Finnish governments respectively, to definitively cancel their financing of the Agua Zarca Project. FMO had seemingly ignored Berta’s first attempt to inform them of the violence and human rights violations surrounding the Agua Zarca Project before they finalized the loan. Now, these banks share responsibility for the violence in the zone.

Francisco and other COPINH members in Rio Blanco have also been threatened for their opposition to the Agua Zarca Project. As Rosalina stated, “we do not want any more deaths.” Yet, despite Monday’s arrests, the project continues forward and the banks have yet to definitively withdraw. The US keeps financing and training the Honduran security forces, all too many of whom are deployed in the zone. Even worse, the US increased the number of Honduran military trained at the SOA-WHINSEC this past year and is giving an extra $750 million to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, for the ill-named “Alliance for Prosperity,” known also as the Plan Colombia for Central America. This money only serves to further embolen the repressive Honduran regime.

How many more people have to die before the financing of repression is halted?

End US Military Training and Aid to Honduras

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THE BLOG

Hillary Clinton’s Link to a Nasty Piece of Work in Honduras

03/15/2016 12:37 pm ET | Updated Mar 15, 2016

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A critical difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is their position on whether children who fled violence in Central American countries, particularly Honduras, two years ago should be allowed to stay in the United States or be returned.

Sanders states unequivocally that they should be able to remain in the U.S.

Clinton disagrees. She would guarantee them “due process,” but nothing more.

In 2014, Clinton told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, “It may be safer [for the children to remain in the U.S.],” but “they should be sent back.”

 

By supporting the June 28, 2009 coup d’état in Honduras when she was secretary of state, Clinton helped create the dire conditions that caused many of these children to flee. And the assassination of legendary Honduran human rights leader Berta Cáceres earlier this month can be traced indirectly to Clinton’s policies.

 

During the Feb. 11 Democratic debate in Milwaukee, Clinton said that sending the children back would “send a message.” In answer to a question by debate moderator Judy Woodruff of PBS, she said, “Those children needed to be processed appropriately, but we also had to send a message to families and communities in Central America not to send their children on this dangerous journey in the hands of smugglers.”

 

Who are you sending a message to? These are children who are leaving countries and neighborhoods where their lives are at stake. That was the fact. I don’t think we use them to send a message. I think we welcome them into this country and do the best we can to help them get their lives together.

In the March 9 debate in Miami between the two Democratic candidates, Sanders accurately told moderator Jorge Ramos of Univision, “Honduras and that region of the world may be the most violent region in our hemisphere. Gang lords, vicious people torturing people, doing horrible things to families.” He added, “Children fled that part of the world to try, try, try, try, maybe, to meet up with their family members in this country, taking a route that was horrific, trying to start a new life.”

 

The violence in Honduras can be traced to a history of U.S. economic and political meddling, including Clinton’s support of the coup, according to American University professor Adrienne Pine, author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras.

 

Pine, who has worked for many years in Honduras, told Dennis Bernstein of KPFA radio in 2014 that the military forces that carried out the coup were trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the U.S. Army School of the Americas) in Fort Benning, Ga. Although the coup was supported by the United States, it was opposed by the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS). The U.N. and the OAS labeled President Manuel Zelaya’s ouster a military coup.

 

“Hillary Clinton was probably the most important actor in supporting the coup [against the democratically elected Zelaya] in Honduras,” Pine noted. It took the United States two months to even admit that Honduras had suffered a coup, and it never did admit it was a military coup. That is, most likely, because the Foreign Assistance Act prohibits the U.S. from aiding a country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

 

Although the U.S. government eventually cut nonhumanitarian aid to Honduras, the State Department under Clinton took pains to clarify that this was not an admission that a military coup had occurred.

 

“Hillary Clinton played a huge role in propping up the coup administration,” Pine said. “The State Department ensured the coup administration would remain in place through negotiations that they imposed, against the OAS’ wish, and through continuing to provide aid and continuing to recognize the coup administration.”

 

“And so if it weren’t for Hillary Clinton,” Pine added, “basically there wouldn’t be this refugee crisis from Honduras at the level that it is today. And Hondurans would be living a very different reality from the tragic one they are living right now.”

 

In her book Hard Choices, Clinton admitted she helped ensure that Zelaya would not be returned to the presidency. She wrote,

In the subsequent days [following the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.

When he was deposed, Zelaya was attempting to get a nonbinding resolution on the ballot asking voters whether they wished to reform the constitution. He supported a 60 percent hike in the minimum wage, “and this infuriated two U.S. companies, Chiquita Brands International (formerly United Fruit) and Dole Food Company,” said John Perkins, author of “The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” in an interview with the website Truthout. The big corporations feared that a rise in Honduras’ minimum wage could spread to other countries in Latin America.

 

Zelaya put in place several liberal policies, including free education and meals for children, subsidies to small farmers, lower interest rates and free electricity. “These policies paid off,” Perkins said. “Honduras enjoyed a nearly 10 percent decline in the poverty level. But these same policies were seen as a dire threat to the hegemony and bottom lines of global corporations and as a precedent that would alter policies throughout Latin America and much of the rest of the world. Corporate leaders demanded that the CIA take out this democratically elected president. It did.”

 

Less than a month after the coup, Hugo Llorens, former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, sent a cable to Clinton and other top U.S. officials. The subject line read: “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup.“ The cable said, “There is no doubt” that the coup was “illegal and unconstitutional.” Nevertheless, as noted above, Clinton’s objective was to “render the question of Zelaya moot.”

 

After the coup, there was a fraudulent election financed by the National Endowment for Democracy — notorious for meddling in Latin America — and the State Department. The election ushered in a repressive, militarized regime. Conditions deteriorated, leading to the exodus of thousands of Honduran children.

 

Since the coup, the Honduran government has carried out systematic repression against most sectors of society, including teachers, farmers, union leaders, gay people, peasant organizers, journalists and anyone who opposed the coup. Many were assassinated. Honduras’ homicide rate was already the highest in the world at the time of coup, and it soared between then and 2011. There is rampant corruption and drug-related gang violence.

Amid all this, the United States has added two military bases in Honduras — bringing the total to 14 — and increased its financing of the Honduran police and military.

 

Before the coup, Cáceres, a prize-winning activist, worked with indigenous groups on human rights and education issues with Zelaya’s support. In a 2014 interview, she cited Clinton’s role in the coup, saying, “The same Hillary Clinton, in her book Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the bad legacy of North American influence in our country.”

 

Cáceres added, “The return of Mel Zelaya to the presidency (that is, to his constitutionally elected position) was turned into a secondary concern. There were going to be elections. … We warned that this would be very dangerous. … The elections took place under intense militarism, and enormous fraud.”

 

Cáceres criticized the coup government for passing terrorist and intelligence laws that criminalized protest, labeling the actions “counterinsurgency” conducted in the interests of “international capital.”

 

Cáceres was killed March 3 by armed men who broke into her home. Her friend and compatriot, journalist Gustavo Castro Soto, wounded in the assault, is being held incommunicado by the government.

 

On Thursday, more than 200 human rights, faith-based, indigenous rights, environmental, labor and nongovernmental groups sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing “shock and deep sorrow regarding the murder of Honduran human rights and environmental defender Berta Cáceres … winner of the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize.” The groups urged Kerry to support an independent international investigation into her murder led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. They also urged the State Department “to suspend all assistance and training to Honduran security forces, with the exception of investigatory and forensic assistance to the police, so long as the murders of Berta Cáceres and scores of other Honduran activists remain in impunity.”

 

This article first appeared on Truthdig.

Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94 May 1, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Criminal Justice, History, Nuclear weapons/power, Religion, Uncategorized, Vietnam, War.
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Roger’s note: I just want to comment on the headline for this article.  The New York Times chooses to describe Berrigan as a Pacifist. The Times, along with the rest of the corporate media and political establishment, love the word Pacifist.  Resistance and Revolution not so much.  Howard Zinn famously said, when accused of disturbing the peace, that there is no peace, what he really was doing was disturbing the war.  The reference to his philosophy of non-violence is an attempt to sanitize his radical actions.  We need more Daniel Berrigans; may he rest in power.

By DANIEL LEWIS APRIL 30, 2016, New York Times

01berrigan-master768Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan gave an anti-war sermon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, 1972. Credit William E. Sauro/The New York Times

The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and poet whose defiant protests helped shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison, died on Saturday in the Bronx. He was 94.

His death, at Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University, was confirmed by the Rev. James Martin, editor at large at America magazine, a national Catholic magazine published by the Jesuits.

The United States was tearing itself apart over civil rights and the war in Southeast Asia when Father Berrigan emerged in the 1960s as an intellectual star of the Roman Catholic “new left,” articulating a view that racism and poverty, militarism and capitalist greed were interconnected pieces of the same big problem: an unjust society.

It was an essentially religious position, based on a stringent reading of the Scriptures that some called pure and others radical. But it would have explosive political consequences as Father Berrigan; his brother Philip, a Josephite priest; and their allies took their case to the streets with rising disregard for the law or their personal fortunes.

A defining point was the burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md., and the subsequent trial of the so-called Catonsville Nine, a sequence of events that inspired an escalation of protests across the country; there were marches, sit-ins, the public burning of draft cards and other acts of civil disobedience.

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Father Berrigan, right and his brother Philip Berrigan seized hundreds of draft records and set them on fire with homemade napalm in 1968. Credit United Press International

The catalyzing episode occurred on May 17, 1968, six weeks after the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the outbreak of new riots in dozens of cities. Nine Catholic activists, led by Daniel and Philip Berrigan, entered a Knights of Columbus building in Catonsville and went up to the second floor, where the local draft board had offices. In front of astonished clerks, they seized hundreds of draft records, carried them down to the parking lot and set them on fire with homemade napalm.

Some reporters had been told of the raid in advance. They were given a statement that said in part, “We destroy these draft records not only because they exploit our young men but because they represent misplaced power concentrated in the ruling class of America.” It added, “We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country’s crimes.”

In a year sick with images of destruction, from the Tet offensive in Vietnam to the murder of Dr. King, a scene was recorded that had been contrived to shock people to attention, and did so. When the police came, the trespassers were praying in the parking lot, led by two middle-aged men in clerical collars: the big, craggy Philip, a decorated hero of World War II, and the ascetic Daniel, waiting peacefully to be led into the van.
Protests and Arrests

In the years to come, well into his 80s, Daniel Berrigan was arrested time and again, for greater or lesser offenses: in 1980, for taking part in the Plowshares raid on a General Electric missile plant in King of Prussia, Pa., where the Berrigan brothers and others rained hammer blows on missile warheads; in 2006, for blocking the entrance to the Intrepid naval museum in Manhattan.

“The day after I’m embalmed,” he said in 2001, on his 80th birthday, “that’s when I’ll give it up.”

01BERRIGAN4-obit-blog427eFather Berrigan being handcuffed in 2001 after he and others blocked an entrance to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan. Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press

It was not for lack of other things to do. In his long career of writing and teaching at Fordham and other universities, Father Berrigan published a torrent of essays and broadsides and, on average, a book a year.

Among the more than 50 books were 15 volumes of poetry — the first of which, “Time Without Number,” won the prestigious Lamont Poetry Prize (now known as the James Laughlin Award), given by the Academy of American Poets, in 1957 — as well as autobiography, social criticism, commentaries on the Old Testament prophets and indictments of the established order, both secular and ecclesiastic.

While he was known for his wry wit, there was a darkness in much of what Father Berrigan wrote and said, the burden of which was that one had to keep trying to do the right thing regardless of the near certainty that it would make no difference. In the withering of the pacifist movement and the country’s general support for the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, he saw proof that it was folly to expect lasting results.

“This is the worst time of my long life,” he said in an interview with The Nation in 2008. “I have never had such meager expectations of the system.”

What made it bearable, he wrote elsewhere, was a disciplined, implicitly difficult belief in God as the key to sanity and survival.

Many books by and about Father Berrigan remain in print, and a collection of his work over half a century, “Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings,” was published in 2009.

He also had a way of popping up in the wider culture: as the “radical priest” in Paul Simon’s song “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”; as inspiration for the character Father Corrigan in Colum McCann’s 2009 novel, “Let the Great World Spin.” He even had a small movie role, appearing as a Jesuit priest in “The Mission” in 1989.

But his place in the public imagination was pretty much fixed at the time of the Catonsville raid, as the impish-looking half of the Berrigan brothers — traitors and anarchists in the minds of a great many Americans, exemplars to those who formed what some called the ultra-resistance.

After a trial that served as a platform for their antiwar message, the Berrigans were convicted of destroying government property and sentenced to three years each in the federal prison in Danbury, Conn. Having exhausted their appeals, they were to begin serving their terms on April 10, 1970.

01BERRIGAN3-obit-master675rFather Berrigan, right, and a defense lawyer, William M. Kunstler, center, after he was sentenced to three years in federal prison in Danbury, Conn. Credit Associated Press

Instead, they raised the stakes by going underground. The men who had been on the cover of Time were now on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most-wanted list. As Daniel explained in a letter to the French magazine Africasia, he was not buying the “mythology” fostered by American liberals that there was a “moral necessity of joining illegal action to legal consequences.” In any case, both brothers were tracked down and sent to prison.

Philip Berrigan had been the main force behind Catonsville, but it was mostly Daniel who mined the incident and its aftermath for literary meaning — a process already underway when the F.B.I. caught up with him on Block Island, off the Rhode Island coast, on Aug. 11, 1970. There was “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” a one-act play in free verse drawn directly from the court transcripts, and “Prison Poems,” written during his incarceration in Danbury.

01BERRIGAN-A1-sub-master180h
Father Berrigan served time for acts of civil disobedience.

In “My Father,” he wrote:

I sit here in the prison ward
nervously dickering with my ulcer
a half-tamed animal
raising hell in its living space

But in 500 lines the poem talks as well about the politics of resistance, memories of childhood terror and, most of all, the overbearing weight of his dead father:

I wonder if I ever loved him
if he ever loved us
if he ever loved me.

The father was Thomas William Berrigan, a man full of words and grievances who got by as a railroad engineer, labor union officer and farmer. He married Frida Fromhart and had six sons with her. Daniel, the fourth, was born on May 9, 1921, in Virginia, Minn.

When he was a young boy, the family moved to a farm near Syracuse to be close to his father’s family.

In his autobiography, “To Dwell in Peace,” Daniel Berrigan described his father as “an incendiary without a cause,” a subscriber to Catholic liberal periodicals and the frustrated writer of poems of no distinction.

“Early on,” he wrote, “we grew inured, as the price of survival, to violence as a norm of existence. I remember, my eyes open to the lives of neighbors, my astonishment at seeing that wives and husbands were not natural enemies.”
Battles With the Church

Born with weak ankles, Daniel could not walk until he was 4. His frailty spared him the heavy lifting demanded of his brothers; instead he helped his mother around the house. Thus he seemed to absorb not only his father’s sense of life’s unfairness but also an intimate knowledge of how a man’s rage can play out in the victimization of women.

At an early age, he wrote, he believed that the church condoned his father’s treatment of his mother. Yet he wanted to be a priest. After high school he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1946 from St. Andrew-on-Hudson, a Jesuit seminary in Hyde Park, N.Y., and a master’s from Woodstock College in Baltimore in 1952. He was ordained that year.

Sent for a year of study and ministerial work in France, he met some worker-priests who gave him “a practical vision of the Church as she should be,” he wrote. Afterward he spent three years at the Jesuits’ Brooklyn Preparatory School, teaching theology and French, while absorbing the poetry of Robert Frost, E. E. Cummings and the 19th-century Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins. His own early work often combined elements of nature with religious symbols.

But he was not to become a pastoral poet or live the retiring life he had imagined. His ideas were simply turning too hot, sometimes even for friends and mentors like Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and the Trappist intellectual Thomas Merton.

At Le Moyne College in Syracuse, where he was a popular professor of New Testament studies from 1957 to 1963, Father Berrigan formed friendships with his students that other faculty members disapproved of, inculcating in them his ideas about pacifism and civil rights. (One student, David Miller, became the first draft-card burner to be convicted under a 1965 law.)

Father Berrigan was effectively exiled in 1965, after angering the hawkish Cardinal Francis Spellman in New York. Besides Father Berrigan’s work in organizing antiwar groups like the interdenominational Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, there was the matter of the death of Roger La Porte, a young man with whom Father Berrigan said he was slightly acquainted. To protest American involvement in Southeast Asia, Mr. La Porte set himself on fire outside the United Nations building in November 1965.

Soon, according to Father Berrigan, “the most atrocious rumors were linking his death to his friendship with me.” He spoke at a service for Mr. La Porte, and soon thereafter the Jesuits, widely believed to have been pressured by Cardinal Spellman, sent him on a “fact finding” mission among poor workers in South America. An outcry from Catholic liberals brought him back after only three months, enough time for him to have been radicalized even further by the facts he had found.

For the Jesuits, Father Berrigan was both a magnet to bright young seminarians and a troublemaker who could not be kept in any one faculty job too long.

At one time or another he held faculty positions or ran programs at Union Seminary, Loyola University New Orleans, Columbia, Cornell and Yale. Eventually he settled into a long tenure at Fordham, the Jesuit university in the Bronx, where for a time he had the title of poet in residence.

Father Berrigan was released from the Danbury penitentiary in 1972; the Jesuits, alarmed at his failing health, managed to get him out early. He then resumed his travels.

After visiting the Middle East, he bluntly accused Israel of “militarism” and the “domestic repressions” of Palestinians. His remarks angered many American Jews. “Let us call this by its right name,” wrote Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, himself a contentious figure among religious scholars: “old-fashioned theological anti-Semitism.”

Nor was Father Berrigan universally admired by Catholics. Many faulted him for not singling out repressive Communist states in his diatribes against the world order, and later for not lending his voice to the outcry over sexual abuse by priests. There was also a sense that his notoriety was a distraction from the religious work that needed to be done.

Not the least of his long-running battles was with the church hierarchy. He was scathing about the shift to conservatism under Pope John Paul II and the “company men” he appointed to high positions.

Much of Father Berrigan’s later work was concentrated on helping AIDS patients in New York City. In 2012, he appeared in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to support the Occupy Wall Street protest.

He also devoted himself to writing biblical studies. He felt a special affinity for the Hebrew prophets, especially Jeremiah, who was chosen by God to warn of impending disaster and commanded to keep at it, even though no one would listen for 40 years.

A brother, Jerry, died in July at 95, and another brother, Philip, died in 2002 at 79.

Father Berrigan seemed to reach a poet’s awareness of his place in the scheme of things, and that of his brother Philip, who left the priesthood for a married life of service to the poor and spent a total of 11 years in prison for disturbing the peace in one way or another before his death. While they both still lived, Daniel Berrigan wrote:

My brother and I stand like the fences
of abandoned farms, changed times
too loosely webbed against
deicide homicide
A really powerful blow
would bring us down like scarecrows.
Nature, knowing this, finding us mildly useful
indulging also
her backhanded love of freakishness
allows us to stand.

Christopher Mele contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on May 1, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

Drilling Towards Disaster: Ecuador’s Aggressive Amazonian Oil Push April 11, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Energy, Environment, Latin America, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Like all so-called leftist governments, with virtually no exceptions (Chile under Allende, and we saw what happened there), as stewards of the capitalist state they supposedly rule, it becomes expedient if not necessary, to move to the right, which means to accommodate the basic needs of capital.  In the case of Correa’s Ecuador, the proposed destruction, ecological and cultural, of the rain-forest, is justified as an anti-poverty endeavor.  In the face of falling oil prices, it is virtually a suicidal move (for the country, if not for the ruling elite).  Exchanging US (IMF/World Bank) debt for Chinese debt will ensure the impoverization of the county in the long run.  This while contributing to global warming and the possible of genocide of the self-imposed isolated indigenous tribes in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

0406-drilling-towards-disaster-ecuadors-aggressive-amazonian-oil-push

Last week, the Ecuadorian government announced that it had begun constructing the first of a planned 276 wells, ten drilling platforms, and multiple related pipelines and production facilities in the ITT (Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini) oil field, known as Block 43, which overlaps Yasuní National Park in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Coupled with the recent signing of two new oil concessions on the southern border of Yasuní and plans to launch another oil lease auction for additional blocks in the country’s southern Amazon in late 2016, the slated drilling frenzy is part of a larger, aggressive move for new oil exploration as the country faces daunting oil-backed loan payments to China, its largest creditor.

Yasuní National Park is widely considered one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. It has more species per hectare of trees, shrubs, insects, birds, amphibians, and mammals than anywhere else in the world. It was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989, and it is home to the Tagaeri-Taromenane, Ecuador’s last indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation.

The controversial drilling plans were met with protest at the headquarters of state-run Petroamazonas’ Quito office, the company charged with developing the field. Ecuador averaged a spill per week between 2000 and 2010, which doesn’t bode well for drilling in a national park.

Despite touting the new perforation, the government is on the defensive, trying to downplay impact on the park. It points to the fact that the well site, Tiputini C, is technically outside of Yasuní’s limits. But, as the first wildcat well of hundreds planned, the government’s rhetoric is misleading at best.

Correa also boldly claimed that drilling in the adjacent Block 31 concession was not inside the boundary of Yasuní National Park, which was followed by a press conference from Environmental Minister Daniel Ortega who reiterated that claim. But activists are crying foul.

“The government is lying,” said Patricio Chavez, a member of Yasunídos, a national collective dedicated to defend Yasuní National Park. “They have no idea what they’re talking about. We’re not sure whether they make these statements because they honestly don’t know their own country or they’re trying to intentionally confuse people.”

In fact, Block 31 is in the heart of Yasuní National Park, with the two oil fields clearly in the middle of the block. The Ministry of Hydrocarbons’ own map shows a pipeline extending to the Apaika field – in the middle of the block and the heart of the park.

Conveniently for the government, though, both Block 31 and Block 43 are highly militarized and entrance by the public is forbidden. But satellite images and investigative undercover missions into the area not only show oil activity underway but also the construction of illegal roads in violation of the environmental license.

But don’t be fooled. In fact, there are currently eight oil blocks that overlap Yasuní National Park, which calls into question the relevance of its “national park” status with so much drilling either underway or planned.

“The park and its indigenous peoples are under siege,” said Leo Cerda, a Kichwa youth leader and Amazon Watch Field Coordinator. “If this is how a national park is treated, imagine what drilling in an ‘unprotected’ area looks like.”

Expanding drilling activity in the park has left the nomadic Tagaeri-Taromenane virtually surrounded. Recent conflicts between the two clans and their Waorani relatives has led to several killings and other inter-ethnic violence. While there are different theories as to the roots of the confrontations, dwindling territory, scarce resources, noise from oil activity, and encroachment by outsiders are all likely factors. Regardless, so much pressure on the park and its inhabitants is having predictable and tragic consequences.

The drilling plans have been a flashpoint since 2013 when President Rafael Correa pulled the plug on the Yasuní-ITT initiative, a proposal to permanently keep the ITT fields – an estimated 920 million barrels of oil – in the ground in exchange for international contributions equaling half of Ecuador’s forfeited revenue.

The initiative failed to attract funds, in part because Annex I countries were unwilling to contribute to an untested supply-side proposal to keep fossil fuels in the ground instead of more traditional demand-side regulations and carbon offsets. Essentially, northern countries – the most responsible for climate change – were unwilling to cough up cash to protect one of the world’s most important places if they weren’t going to get anything in exchange.

Scientists now agree that we need to keep at least 80 percent of all fossil fuels in the ground to avoid a catastrophic 1.5℃ rise in global temperature, so Ecuador’s proposal was apparently ahead of its time. The world dropped the ball, but the blame for the initiative’s stillbirth is shared.

The Correa administration mismanaged the initiative from the outset. It took several years to establish a trust fund where people and governments could contribute. But more detrimental was the administration’s simultaneous tender of multiple oil blocks in the country’s southern Amazon. Why pay to keep oil in the ground in one place if the host country government merely opens up new areas to compensate for lost revenue? Correa’s have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too politics were not very convincing to potential donors.

Public outrage and protest met Correa’s unilateral decision to scrap the initiative. A six-month national mobilization to force a ballot initiative on drilling plans garnered over 700,000 signatures, far more than the required 400,000. But almost half were nullified by Ecuador National Election Council in a process littered with secrecy and fraud.

“When the Yasuní-ITT initiative was launched, the idea was that leaving the oil in the ground would help address environmental and economic problems on the local, national, and global level,” said Esperanza Martinez, President of Ecuador’s Accion Ecologica and founder of the Oilwatch network. “The abandonment of the initiative has come with an aggressive push on Yasuní – on its borders to the north, south, east, and west. But the decision to drill now comes at a time when the world is talking about breaking free of fossil fuel dependence and agreeing on targets to avoid the rise of global temperature.”

Martinez continued, “It makes no sense to drill now – at great biological and cultural risk – when economically Ecuador is losing money with each barrel extracted. There is no justification that drilling in Yasuní is in the economic interest of the country.”

Indeed, it costs Ecuador $39 to produce a barrel of oil. But current market price for its two types of crude are in the low $30s, so Ecuador is losing money on each barrel being pulled from the ground. And when the aboveground ecosystem is one of the most important in the world and drilling activities threaten the ethnocide of isolated peoples, drilling at a loss is bewildering. Of course, there is no price per barrel that would justify drilling in such an environmentally pristine and culturally sensitive area with the extinction of a people at risk.

A major factor in Ecuador’s drive to expand drilling in Yasuní and beyond, despite the current oil market context of abundant and cheap oil, is the country’s outstanding debt to China. According to a Boston University/Inter-American Dialogue Database, Ecuador has obtained 11 loans, totalling about $15.2 billion, much of which must be paid back with petroleum.

But the move into Yasuní coincides with an equally aggressive push to open new areas south of Yasuní in a large, roadless pristine swath of forest that extends out to the Peruvian border.

Two blocks, 79 and 83, were recently concessioned, and drilling deals were signed with Andes Petroleum, a Chinese state-run firm. Faced with adamant opposition from both the Sápara and Kichwa peoples whose legally-titled territory overlaps these oil blocks, the government has sought to divide the indigenous communities.

Speaking at an Inter-American Human Rights Commission hearing on Monday, Franco Viteri, President of CONFENAIE (Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador), described efforts of the government to divide the legitimate indigenous organizations with the aim of circumventing resistance to resource extraction and advancing Andes Petroleum’s drilling plans.

“The objective of the government is to create acceptance – or the appearance of acceptance – of resource extraction. That’s what the government wants because we are resisting resource extraction projects like oil and mining throughout the Amazon region.”

Manari Ushigua, President of the Sápara federation, whose territory is almost totally engulfed by Blocks 79 and 83, also addressed the government’s intentions.

“The goal of the Ecuadorian government is to divide us and open our land to oil extraction. We live in peace, with the natural world, with our spirits. But our elders are few. We are on the verge of extinction.”

The government has also announced plans to launch a new oil licensing round in late 2016 which would sell off several other oil blocks in Ecuador’s southern Amazon. However, the last auction, known as the 11th Round, was a widely recognized failure. Offering thirteen blocks, the government only received four bids, two of those from the same company – Andes. Clearly, the Chinese state-run firm wants to make sure that its sole shareholder, the Chinese government, gets paid back for its generous lending to Ecuador. And because the payments are in oil, it explains why Ecuador is forced to expand drilling, even if it’s at a loss. China can then turn around and sell the barrels of oil in the open market for a substantial profit.

Ecuador’s new oil boom is ill-timed. While several years ago the country was the vanguard of what is now a worldwide movement to #keepitintheground, Correa’s “Drill, baby, drill!” policies place its frontier forests and indigenous peoples at great risk. As I’ve written before, Ecuador’s pipe dream of prosperity from perforating wells like ITT have failed to pan out, instead trapping the country in a downward spiral of debt, dependency, and environmental destruction.

However, the movement to #keepitintheground in Ecuador is growing. Ecuador’s 11th Oil Round failed mostly because communities on the ground vowed resistance and indigenous leaders traveled to every oil expo at which the government sought to sell its Amazon oil blocks to the highest bidders – including Quito, Houston, Paris, and Calgary – and let any interested company or investor know that their lands were not for sale. Indigenous peoples across Ecuador’s Amazon have again vowed to keep the companies out and they are asking for our solidarity. Let’s join them!

The 2016 Elections Reflect General Crisis of Imperialism April 8, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in 2016 election, bernie sanders, Democracy, donald trump, Imperialism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: This article is helpful in that it puts the Trump and Sanders campaigns in a broader context than the  totally corrupt two party system and the Hobson’s choice of picking the lesser of evils (which will probably end up being Hillary Clinton, who is Margaret Thatcher in sheep’s clothing).  That context being the virtually iron clad rule of capital (military industrial complex) over the political sphere in the United States.  What the article doesn’t do, despite use of the word “revolutionary,”  is pose a concrete alternative, which is the sixty four dollar question, abut which Karl Marx spent a lifetime of philosophical/political thought and action.  This is something that is necessary today for those who want genuine, not illusionary, change.

DUOPOLY

Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders represent no danger to U.S. imperialism, but “the two-party establishment has not been kind to the Trump and Sanders development because it reflects the general crisis in the system.” This election cycle has “opened up room for debate that didn’t previously exist in the Obama era. It is what principled forces of revolutionary struggle do with this room that matters.”

The 2016 Elections Reflect General Crisis of Imperialism

by Danny Haiphong, http://www.blackagendareport.com, April 5, 2016

“The forces of US capital neither want an unpredictable Commander in Chief nor one that will inspire masses of people to push for concrete demands.”

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are products of US imperialism’s post-Obama stupor. After eight years of bipartisan consensus on nearly every venture of imperialism, from privatization to endless war, Washington’s corporate duopoly finds itself in a delicate moment. Trump has split the Republican Party with his unorthodox combination of white supremacist vitriol and populist appeal. The Bernie Sanders campaign, on the other hand, has galvanized a large section of the Democratic Party base to support a New Deal politician. The two-party establishment has not been kind to the Trump and Sanders development because it reflects the general crisis in the system.

However, there should be no illusions about whether Trump or Sanders would alter the course of US imperialism. The answer is no. Both are running on establishment party tickets, which are fully indebted to US imperialism. War, privatization, and racist terrorism will exist and persist as long as the US is ruled by capital. However, the significance of Trump and Sanders cannot be ignored. Both present a potential nightmare for imperialism as discontent with the rule of capital reaches a high point.

The forces of US capital neither want an unpredictable Commander in Chief nor one that will inspire masses of people to push for concrete demands. Trump is the former and Sanders is the latter. Although the corporate media has given Trump the most attention of any candidate, the Republican Party establishment has revolted against him. Sanders has survived multiple attacks from the Democratic Party establishment, including the media. Trump and Sanders are not threats to the two-party duopoly in and of themselves. However, what their campaigns represent certainty is and the ruling class knows it.

“Masses of people are frustrated and are looking for an alternative.”

The Sanders and Trump phenomenon emerged from the internal revolt occurring in the respective bases of the Democratic and Republican Party. Young people across racial and gender lines favor Sanders while older Democrats favor Clinton. Donald Trump has become the most popular Republican Party candidate by attaching allegiance to white supremacy to real economic grievances. Since the Reagan era, the Republican Party has relied solely on appealing to racism for popular support. Over this same period, large sections of Republican Party supporters have lost significant economic ground to the forces of Wall Street.
Trump and Sanders have promised to reverse this trend in their own way. US capitalist society is crumbling and the 2016 elections reflect the growing cracks. Persistent joblessness, poverty, and debt have left workers disillusioned with the enormous profits raked in by lords of capital. US imperialism’s endless path of destruction all around the world no longer provides material benefit to any section of workers in the US. Mass surveillance, police brutality, and mass Black Incarceration have plummeted trust in the US state. Masses of people are frustrated and are looking for an alternative.

But workers and oppressed people remain stuck in the two-party corporate duopoly because the revolt of the 2016 elections has taken place within the establishment parties. However, in the coming months, the capitalist class will be forced to choose which candidate is best suited to run the Empire. This President will be tasked with managing the affairs of capital in a much more hostile political terrain. Trump and Sanders have energized a large section of the population around legitimate concerns about the various ills that stem from capitalist rule. However, the atmosphere of enthusiasm around this election should not replace a concrete analysis of where the left should go from here.

“US capitalist society is crumbling and the 2016 elections reflect the growing cracks.”

The left is visibly torn about this election cycle. Some have focused energy primarily on preventing a Trump victory while others have become enamored with Bernie Sanders.  Some believe that Hilary Clinton is the most dangerous candidate in the race while others think that Trump represents the rise of fascism in the US. The contradictions of this election cycle have opened up room for debate that didn’t previously exist in the Obama era. It is what principled forces of revolutionary struggle do with this room that matters.

The two-party corporate duopoly will always be a duopoly regardless of which candidates happen to speak to the issues afflicting the oppressed. The oppressed and working class inside the Empire has yet to grasp onto a political language and direction necessary to spur a mass movement. Even so, the US ruling class is genuinely concerned that this election cycle will inspire people to rebel against its two-party dictatorship of capital. The sooner this concern becomes a reality, the closer imperialism’s crisis comes to a revolutionary conclusion. The post-Obama hangover has the potential to be a violent one.

Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990@gmail.com.

Guatemala: charges of genocide and crimes against humanity January 15, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, Guatemala, Latin America, Torture, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: another contribution to my series entitled “Your Tax Dollars at Work.”

 

descarga  images

Last week, eighteen former military officials were arrested on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in one of the largest mass arrests of military officers Latin America has ever seen. Twelve of them were trained at the SOA. The arrests happened one week before the January 14th inauguration of newly elected President Jimmy Morales, of the National Convergence Front (FCN).

Morales, whose party has close ties to the military, faces pressure in the face of the current developments. Morales’ right hand man, Edgar Justino Ovalle Maldonado, who is also the FCN party co-founder, newly elected congressman, and retired colonel, is also facing similar charges, though he was not arrested because of his immunity as a congressman. Guatemala’s Attorney General, however, has requested the Supreme Court look at the case to strip him of his immunity. Ovalle Maldonado, who is also an SOA graduate, is linked to massacres and disappearances during the 1980’s.

The officers arrested last week are (see below for a list of notorious SOA graduates among those recently arrested):

  • Ismael Segura Abularach (SOA, 1976)
  • Pablo Roberto Saucedo Mérida (SOA, 1970)
  • César Augusto Ruiz Morales (SOA, 1970)
  • Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas (SOA, 1962 & 1970)
  • Colonel Fransisco Luis Gordillo Martínez (SOA, 1961)
  • Carlos Humberto López Rodríguez (SOA, 1970)
  • Edilberto Letona Linares (SOA; 1970)
  • José Antonio Vásquez García (SOA, 1970)
  • Manuel Benedicto Lucas García (SOA, 1965)
  • Carlos Augusto Garavito Morán (SOA, 1984)
  • Luis Alberto Paredes Nájera (SOA, 1960)
  • César Augusto Cabrera Mejía (SOA, 1967)
  • Juan Ovalle Salazar
  • Gustavo Alonzo Rosales García
  • Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas
  • Raul Dahesa Oliva
  • Edgar Rolando Hernández Méndez

The arrests are linked to two cases in particular, both of which have gone before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The first case concerns the operations that occurred at the military base in Cobán. In 2012, exhumations by forensic anthropologists led to the uncovering of at least 550 victims disappeared between 1981 and 1988. The second is for the disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, a 14-year-old boy disappeared by the G-2 military intelligence forces on October 6, 1981.

A pretrial held before a District Court this week in the case of the disappearance of Marco Antonio determined that four of the former military officers accused – three of whom are SOA graduates – will go to trial, facing charges of forced disappearance and crimes against humanity. The retired officers – Fransisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, Edilberto Letona Linares, Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas, and Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas – remain in custody pending ongoing investigations by the public prosecutors.

It remains to be seen if newly sworn-in Morales, whose party is backed by the darkest structures of the Guatemalan military, will allow for these cases to run their course. The struggle for justice in Guatemala is still as much a challenge today as it was in the past. Given the recent mass mobilizations that brought down the former President and SOA-graduate Otto Pérez Molina and his Vice-President Roxana Baldetti, Morales faces a citizenry that has lost much of the fear that created a culture of silence. In a recent National Catholic Reporter article, Fr. Roy Bourgeois stated that “there will never be any justice or reconciliation until there is accountability and the perpetrators start going to prison”. The people of Guatemala are hungry for justice, and they have memory on their side.

Lessons for the U.S.

History has shown us that we cannot count on the government to hold itself accountable. We know from experience that the power we need to makes the changes we so desperately need will come from us, the grassroots. Vice-President Biden, who attended President Morales’ inauguration, also had a meeting with the northern triangle Presidents yesterday regarding the ill-named Alliance for Prosperity, which supposedly addresses the root causes of migration. This conversation comes at the same time that ICE is carrying out raids and deporting Central American refugees that have fled US-sponsored state violence. Instead of actually addressing the root causes of migration by changing its destructive foreign policy in Central America, the U.S. continues to create the conditions that make people flee their home countries through violence and economic exploitation. This was the case during the dirty wars of the 1980’s, and unfortunately it is the case now.

There is no question that there was absolute complicity by the U.S. during the 36-year-long armed conflict that marked Guatemala for generations to come. For Guatemalans, this is a decades-long struggle to break down the wall of impunity and the culture of silence and fear, and the steps being taken by surivors to bring cases forward have been nothing short of brave and courageous. For the U.S., what has unraveled over the past few days serves as a sobering reminder that the U.S. fully backed – covertly, directly and indirectly – the Guatemalan military through training, funding, adivising and equipping. Bill Clinton’s “apology” was clearly not enough. As Guatemala continues to seek truth, justice and accountability, shouldn’t the U.S. think about doing the same, and holding it’s officials accountable?

SOA Watch maintains that in order for there to truly be justice, those responsible in the U.S. for the training and funding one of Latin America’s most brutal conflicts must be held to account in any and all courts applicable, whether they be domestic, regional or foreign. The U.S. doesn’t have to look to far to see that lessons on justice and accountability can be learned through what is happening throughout Latin America.


Notorious Grads

General Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas – 1988 SOA Hall of Fame graduate who attended the Command and General Staff College in 1970. As former head of intelligence, he was responsible for the assassinations that occurred under former dictator General Fernando Romeo Lucas García, also an SOA graduate. He later became Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces under President Vinicio Cerezo. In 2002, the U.S. revoked his visa due to suspected ties to human rights violations, narcotrafficking and organized crime.

Colonel Fransisco Luis Gordillo Martínez – Attended the Command and General Staff College, as well as Infantry and Weapons courses in 1961. Gordillo was part of the violent 1982 coup that brought SOA graduate and former dictator, General José Efraín Ríos Montt to power.

General Manuel Benedicto Lucas García – Head of the military under former dictator and brother, General Fernando Romeo Lucas García, he attended the Command and General Staff College in 1970, as well as the Combat Intelligence course in 1965. According to the Archdiocese truth commission report Guatemala, Nunca Más, he masterminded the creation of the Civil Defense Patrols (PACs).

Ismael Segura Abularach – Attended the Advanced Infantry Officer course in 1976, and was commander of the special forces that forced disappeared Maya guerrilla leader Efrain Bámaca to guide army patrols in their search for guerrilla arms caches.

Merchants of Death, or, your tax dollars at work December 28, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in armaments, Arms, Chemical Biological Weapons, Nuclear weapons/power, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: The cost of the US inspired wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan is in the trillions of dollars.  So-called “defense” spending amounts to around 60% of US government discretionary spending.  Instruments of death, that is, military weaponry, costs billions of dollars every year.  War profiteers delight in the fact that their “product” is designed to be destroyed and therefore perpetually replaced.  As you can see, the United States manufactures and exports more weaponry than the rest of the world combined.  What all these death dollars could support and jobs create in the areas of health, education. housing, nutrition, and the elimination of poverty worldwide is enough bring one to tears.

Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered In US War And Occupation Of Iraq 1,455,590

Number of U.S. Military PersonnelSacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In U.S. War And Occupation Of Iraq 4,801

Number Of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered In Afghanistan : 3,487

Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan
$1,659,692,160,956

U.S. Foreign Arms Deals Increased Nearly $10 Billion in 2014

Trump Is a Symptom Not the Disease December 16, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Right Wing, Trump, Uncategorized.
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racism

By Hamid Dabashi

December 11, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – “Al Jazeera” –  On the same day that the depth of Donald Trump’s racist bigotry hit a new low bycalling for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States, another news item emerged that was overshadowed by the circus surrounding Trump: Candice Miller, a US Congresswoman, introduced a bill, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015.

If passed, the bill will suddenly cast US citizens of Arab, Iranian, and Muslim descent as second-class citizens in their own country – a “legislation that will effectively create two classes of Americans – Americans with Middle Eastern or Muslim background, and Americans without that background”.

“If you thought Donald Trump’s divisive, bigoted and blatantly racist rhetoric was just a reflection of the silliness we always face during primary campaigns”, as one observer rightly put it, “think again”.

As world attention is focused on Trump’s racist theatrics, the House of Representatives has just passed the bill with an overwhelming vote of 407-19.

Nothing new

In a country where US-Israeli dual citizens go and as mercenary soldiers fight to steal more of Palestine, and their New York Times columnist father publicly brags about that fact, if an American of Iraqi, Syrian, Iranian, or Libyan origin as much as sets foot in his country of birth she or he is subject to systemic suspicion and discrimination.

These are not easy days for Muslims who live in the US and the horrid criminal acts in San Bernardino or Paris have very little to do with these developments.

They are just a subterfuge. People like Trump and his ilk did not have to wait for the San Bernardino or Paris attacks to occur for their hatred of Muslims or Arabs to surface. That surfacing is a sign of much deeper troubles.

Trump is a symptom not the disease. He is a decoy, a diversion so outrageous, so disgusting, that it overwhelms and hides the real disease.

Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the US, or his earlier remark to single out and profile Muslims, or his fellow Republican candidate Ben Carson stating point blank that no Muslim should ever become president, are only the most obnoxious versions of a much more deeply rooted bigotry and racism against Muslims that has been dominant in the US for a very long time, but particularly since 9/11.

If you are distracted by the noxious symptom of Trump you will forget that the democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton only a few weeks agoprided herself to have the entire Iranian people as her enemy.

Today leading American liberals such as Michael Tomasky, taking their cues from like-minded Islamophobes gathered under the banner of “New Atheists,” unabashedly expose their racism and single out Muslim Americans and order them to prove their peaceful citizenship in the US by declaring to Muslim Americans that “the rights you have as Americans have to be earned, fought for”. Why? By what authority? Who died and made Michael Tomasky the judge and the jury of Muslim Americans peaceful citizenship?

To me this fundamental abrogation of human decency is worse than Trump’s vulgarity. It is a fundamental democratic principal that a citizen is innocent unless proved guilty, that a citizen is entitled to his and her inalienable rights, and need not “earn” it or “fight for it”.

But who has heard of Tomasky, busy as people are denouncing Donald Trump – and yet to me the roots of Trump are precisely in the pretty liberalism of Tomasky and his ilk.

Historic challenge

The threat the Muslims face today in the US is not limited to fascist wannabes like Trump.

The challenge is much deeper and firmly rooted in the political culture of a country that began its history by the mass murder of Native Americans, continued by the systematic slavery of African Americans, and most recently with a stroke of a pen ordered the US population of Japanese descent incarcerated in concentration (internment) camps during World War II.

Today, US Muslims are in serious danger of the same interment camps to which Japanese Americans were subjected to under similar circumstances.

In every generation the task of fighting racism and bigotry shifts from one scapegoat minority to another.

Arabs, South Asians, Iranians are today in the noble company of Native Americans, African Americans, Latino/Latina Americans, Asian Americans, fighting racism and discrimination by one brand of white supremacists or another.

Today, Muslims around the world face not one, but two, dangerous fronts: One internal, the other external.

Internally we are being eaten alive by a gang of murderous mercenary cannibals who have stolen the most sacrosanct insignia of who we are and what we believe in and call themselves “Islamic” one thing or another.

There is no battle more urgent and more noble than this moral and intellectual struggle against the criminal thugs who call themselves the Taliban or al-Qaeda one day, or ISIL and Boko Haram another.

Equally urgent is the external terror visited upon us as we are subject to incessant demonization by the ferocious Islamophobia of the conservative and liberal brands, aided and abetted systematically and financially by Zionist propaganda machinery that wishes to silence the legitimate, non-violent, and dignified critics of their colonial project in Palestine (now best represented in the BDS movement) by frightening us into complacency.

It is not accidental that we learn that Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering the US “rests on research from the Center for Security Policy, a neo-con think-tank run by Frank Gaffney, who has a long history of pro-Israel advocacy and has been called ‘one of US’ most notorious Islamophobes: by the Southern Poverty Law Center”.

We will have to face these two fronts simultaneously, bravely, consistently and with quiet but determined dignity. Other Americans for generations have fought that battle and continue to do so.

It is now our turn to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. The historic task of defending the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights is now squarely on our shoulders too.

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

© 2015 Al-Jazeera English

The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History November 10, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Trade Agreements.
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Roger’s note: Here are two articles that lay out what is at stake with respect to the three so-called trade agreements (TTP, TTIP, TISA).  This is pretty frightening stuff.  Keep in mind that a central definition of fascism is when corporations and governments are indistinguishable.

By Chris Hedges

November 09, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – “Truthdig – The release Thursday of the 5,544-page text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade and investment agreement involving 12 countries comprising nearly 40 percent of global output—confirms what even its most apocalyptic critics feared.

“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C. “It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws.”

The TPP is part of a triad of trade agreements that includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA, by calling for the privatization of all public services, is a mortal threat to the viability of the U.S. Postal Service, public education and other government-run enterprises and utilities; together these operations make up 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The TTIP and TiSA are still in the negotiation phase. They will follow on the heels of the TPP and are likely to go before Congress in 2017.

These three agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.

The TPP removes legislative authority from Congress and the White House on a range of issues. Judicial power is often surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue. Workers, environmental and advocacy groups and labor unions are blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens are abolished.

The Sierra Club issued a statement after the release of the TPP text saying that the “deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the deal.”

If there is no sustained popular uprising to prevent the passage of the TPP in Congress this spring we will be shackled by corporate power. Wages will decline. Working conditions will deteriorate. Unemployment will rise. Our few remaining rights will be revoked. The assault on the ecosystem will be accelerated. Banks and global speculation will be beyond oversight or control. Food safety standards and regulations will be jettisoned. Public services ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to the post office and public education will be abolished or dramatically slashed and taken over by for-profit corporations. Prices for basic commodities, including pharmaceuticals, will skyrocket. Social assistance programs will be drastically scaled back or terminated. And countries that have public health care systems, such as Canada and Australia, that are in the agreement will probably see their public health systems collapse under corporate assault. Corporations will be empowered to hold a wide variety of patents, including over plants and animals, turning basic necessities and the natural world into marketable products. And, just to make sure corporations extract every pound of flesh, any public law interpreted by corporations as impeding projected profit, even a law designed to protect the environment or consumers, will be subject to challenge in an entity called the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) section. The ISDS, bolstered and expanded under the TPP, will see corporations paid massive sums in compensation from offending governments for impeding their “right” to further swell their bank accounts. Corporate profit effectively will replace the common good.

Given the bankruptcy of our political class—including amoral politicians such as Hillary Clinton, who is denouncing the TPP during the presidential campaign but whose unwavering service to corporate capitalism assures her fealty to her corporate backers—the trade agreement has a good chance of becoming law. And because the Obama administration won fast-track authority, a tactic designed by the Nixon administration to subvert democratic debate, President Obama will be able to sign the agreement before it goes to Congress.

The TPP, because of fast track, bypasses the normal legislative process of public discussion and consideration by congressional committees. The House and the Senate, which have to vote on the TPP bill within 90 days of when it is sent to Congress, are prohibited by the fast-track provision from adding floor amendments or holding more than 20 hours of floor debate. Congress cannot raise concerns about the effects of the TPP on the environment. It can only vote yes or no. It is powerless to modify or change one word.

There will be a mass mobilization Nov. 14 through 18 in Washington to begin the push to block the TPP. Rising up to stop the TPP is a far, far better investment of our time and energy than engaging in the empty political theater that passes for a presidential campaign.

“The TPP creates a web of corporate laws that will dominate the global economy,” attorney Kevin Zeese of the group Popular Resistance, which has mounted a long fight against the trade agreement, told me from Baltimore by telephone. “It is a global corporate coup d’état. Corporations will become more powerful than countries. Corporations will force democratic systems to serve their interests. Civil courts around the world will be replaced with corporate courts or so-called trade tribunals. This is a massive expansion that builds on the worst of NAFTA rather than what Barack Obama promised, which was to get rid of the worst aspects of NAFTA.”

The agreement is the product of six years of work by global capitalists from banks, insurance companies, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto and other corporations.

“It was written by them [the corporations], it is for them and it will serve them,” Zeese said of the TPP. “It will hurt domestic businesses and small businesses. The buy-American provisions will disappear. Local communities will not be allowed to build buy-local campaigns. The thrust of the agreement is the privatization and commodification of everything. The agreement has built within it a deep antipathy to state-supported or state-owned enterprises. It gives away what is left of our democracy to the World Trade Organization.”

The economist David Rosnick, in a report on the TPP by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), estimated that under the trade agreement only the top 10 percent of U.S. workers would see their wages increase. Rosnick wrote that the real wages of middle-income U.S. workers (from the 35th percentile to the 80th percentile) would decline under the TPP. NAFTA, contributing to a decline in manufacturing jobs (now only 9 percent of the economy), has forced workers into lower-paying service jobs and resulted in a decline in real wages of between 12 and 17 percent. The TPP would only accelerate this process, Rosnick concluded.

“This is a continuation of the global race to the bottom,” Dr. Margaret Flowers, also from Popular Resistance and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said from Baltimore in a telephone conversation with me. “Corporations are free to move to countries that have the lowest labor standards. This drives down high labor standards here. It means a decimation of industries and unions. It means an accelerated race to the bottom, which we must rise up to stop.”

“In Malaysia one-third of tech workers are essentially slaves,” Zeese said. “In Vietnam the minimum wage is 35 cents an hour. Once these countries are part of the trade agreement U.S. workers are put in a very difficult position.”

Fifty-one percent of working Americans now make less than $30,000 a year, a new study by the Social Security Administration reported. Forty percent are making less than $20,000 a year. The federal government considers a family of four living on an income of less than $24,250 to be in poverty.

“Half of American workers earn essentially the poverty level,” Zeese said. “This agreement only accelerates this trend. I don’t see how American workers are going to cope.”

The assault on the American workforce by NAFTA—which was established under the Clinton administration in 1994 and which at the time promised creation of 200,000 net jobs a year in the United States—has been devastating. NAFTA has led to a $181 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada and the loss of at least 1 million U.S. jobs, according to a report by Public Citizen. The flooding of the Mexican market with cheap corn by U.S. agro-businesses drove down the price of Mexican corn and saw 1 million to 3 million poor Mexican farmers go bankrupt and lose their small farms. Many of them crossed the border into the United States in a desperate effort to find work.

“Obama has misled the public throughout this process,” Dr. Flowers said. “He claimed that environmental groups were supportive of the agreement because it provided environmental protections, and this has now been proven false. He told us that it would create 650,000 jobs, and this has now been proven false. He calls this a 21st century trade agreement, but it actually rolls back progress made in Bush-era trade agreements. The most recent model of a 21st century trade agreement is the Korean free trade agreement. That was supposed to create 140,000 U.S. jobs. But what we saw within a couple years was a loss of about 70,000 jobs and a larger trade deficit with Korea. This agreement [the TPP] is sold to us with the same deceits that were used to sell us NAFTA and other trade agreements.”

The agreement, in essence, becomes global law. Any agreements over carbon emissions by countries made through the United Nations are effectively rendered null and void by the TPP.

“Trade agreements are binding,” Flowers said. “They supersede any of the nonbinding agreements made by the United Nations Climate Change Conference that might come out of Paris.”

There is more than enough evidence from past trade agreements to indicate where the TPP—often called “NAFTA on steroids”—will lead. It is part of the inexorable march by corporations to wrest from us the ability to use government to defend the public and to build social and political organizations that promote the common good. Our corporate masters seek to turn the natural world and human beings into malleable commodities that will be used and exploited until exhaustion or collapse. Trade agreements are the tools being used to achieve this subjugation. The only response left is open, sustained and defiant popular revolt.

Chris Hedges, previously spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

© 2015 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Re-enserfment of Western Peoples

By Paul Craig Roberts

November 09, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – The re-enserfment of Western peoples is taking place on several levels. One about which I have been writing for more than a decade comes from the offshoring of jobs. Americans, for example, have a shrinking participation in the production of the goods and services that are marketed to them.

On another level we are experiencing the financialization of the Western economy about which Michael Hudson is the leading expert (Killing The Host). Financialization is the process of removing any public presence in the economy and converting the economic surplus into interest payments to the financial sector.

These two developments deprive people of economic prospects. A third development deprives them of political rights. The Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Partnerships eliminate political sovereignty and turn governance over to global corporations.

These so called “trade partnerships” have nothing to do with trade. These agreements negotiated in secrecy grant immunity to corporations from the laws of the countries in which they do business. This is achieved by declaring any interference by existing and prospective laws and regulations on corporate profits as restraints on trade for which corporations can sue and fine “sovereign” governments. For example, the ban in France and other counries on GMO products would be negated by the Trans-Atlantic Partnership. Democracy is simply replaced by corporate rule.

I have been meaning to write about this at length. However, others, such as Chris Hedges, are doing a good job of explaining the power grab that eliminates representative government.

The corporations are buying power cheaply. They bought the entire US House of Representatives for just under $200 million. This is what the the corporations paid Congress to go along with “Fast Track,” which permits the corporations’ agent, the US Trade Representative, to negotiate in secret without congressional input or oversight.

In other words, a US corporate agent deals with corporate agents in the countries that will comprise the “partnership,” and this handful of well-bribed people draw up an agreement that supplants law with the interests of corporations. No one negotiating the partnership represents the peoples’ or public’s interests. The governments of the partnership countries get to vote the deal up or down, and they will be well paid to vote for the agreement.

Once these partnerships are in effect, government itself is privatized. There is no longer any point in legislatures, presidents, prime ministers, judges. Corporate tribunals decide law and court rulings.

It is likely that these “partnerships” will have unintended consequences. For example, Russia and China are not part of the arrangements, and neither are Iran, Brazil, India, and South Africa, although seperately the Indian government appears to have been purchased by American agribusiness and is in the process of destroying its self-sufficient food production system. These countries will be the repositories for national sovereignty and public control while freedom and democracy are extinguished in the West and the West’s Asian vassals.

Violent revolution throughout the West and the complete elimination of the One Percent is another possible outcome. Once, for example, the French people discover that they have lost all control over their diet to Monsanto and American agribusiness, the members of the French government that delivered France into dietary bondage to toxic foods are likely to be killed in the streets.

Events of this sort are possible throughout the West as peoples discover that they have lost all control over every aspect of their lives and that their only choice is revolution or death.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Neoconservative Threat To International Order:  Washington’s Perilous War For Hegemony, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.

Stand with Veterans For Peace on November 11 November 10, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: my annual November 11 “Glorify Way Day”contribution.

Over the last several years, Veterans For Peace chapters have taken the lead incelebrating Armistice Day on November 11.  We are reclaiming the original intention of that day – a worldwide call for peace that was spurred by universal revulsion at the huge slaughter of World War One.  In Canada and the United Kingdom, this day is known as Remembrance Day.

After World War II, the U.S. Congress decided to re-brand November 11 as Veterans Day.  Who could speak against that?  But honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war.  Armistice Day was flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism.

This November 11, it is as urgent as ever to ring the bells for peace.  Many Veterans For Peace chapters ring bells, and ask local churches to do the same, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, as was done at the end of World War One.

Visit the Armistice Day page for ways to get involved.

There are so many reasons we must press our government
to end reckless military interventions
that endanger the entire world.

  • In Syria, the U.S. has armed and supported rebelswho share its goal of overthrowing the Assad government. U.S. intervention in Syria has been a major factor in the ongoing tragedy that has made refugees of half of all Syrians, and has done irreparable destruction to the nation of Syria.  The U.S. government and military must end its support of the rebels and abandon its efforts at regime change.  It must join in sincere diplomatic efforts with the Syrian government and Syrian opposition forces, along with Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  All sides know that the solution to the Syrian war is political, not military.  It is time to stop the bloodshed and the exodus of refugees, and to start talks that respect the self-determination of the Syrian people.
  • In Afghanistan, the deliberate U.S. bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospitalwas followed by a weak apology from President Obama, and his announcement that he would break his promise to end that war, and keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond his presidency.  Fourteen years of deliberate and reckless killing of thousands of Afghanistan civilians has not brought Afghanistan peace or stability.

    All U.S. troops, planes, drones, contractors and NATO allies must leave Afghanistan.  Let the Afghan people find their own peace and determine their own future.

  • Don’t Tempt Nuclear War – End the U.S./NATO Confrontation with Russia.  With Russia and the U.S. bombing different rebel targets in Syria, and with the U.S. and NATO pressing Russia on its very borders, the threat of yet another World War looms.  The U.S. and Russia have thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at one another, with the capacity to kill many millions of people in each country.  Nuclear war between Russia and the United States, which was miraculously avoided during the tense standoff of the Cold War, has re-emerged as an all too real possibility.
  • In Ukraine, the U.S. poured in many millions of dollars to stir up opposition to the elected (if corrupt) government, even supporting fascist gangs who led a violent coup that brought a rightwing, western-friendly government to power. Russian speaking Ukrainians in the east were immediately targeted by fascist elements who took control of Ukrainian military and security forces.  The Russian speaking minority felt it necessary to organize armed self-defense. Russia facilitated a plebiscite in the Ukrainian province of Crimea, where Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet is based, leading to an overwhelming vote to rejoin the Russian federation.

    U.S. and NATO forces must pull back from Russia’s borders.  U.S. and NATO forces are stationed in Poland and the Baltic nations, encircling Russia on its own borders.  A coordinated international media campaign portrays Russian President Putin as the aggressor, while NATO carries out threatening war games and the U.S. beefs up its first strike nuclear capacity in Europe.

    NATO, originally organized to confront the Warsaw Pact forces of the Soviet Union, should be dismantled, instead of being used to intimidate Russia and morphing into an international intervention force serving the aims of those who believe in U.S. and Western global hegemony.

  • The U.S. should pull back from its so-called “Pivot to Asia,” where 60% of U.S. naval forces will be deployed, and where the U.S. is building regional military alliances to confront China.  In so doing, the U.S. has pressured the Japanese government to abandon its constitutional pledge not to deploy their military outside Japan’s borders, forced the South Korean government – against the will of its people – to build a naval base on Jeju Island, and continues to ignore the pleas of the Okinawan people to return a sense of sanity to their island by removing omnipresent military the U.S.
  • The United States, Russia and all nuclear powers must begin living up to their obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires them to negotiate in good faith to reduce and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons. The Marshall Islands is suing the U.S. and all nuclear powers because they are doing just the opposite.  The U.S. government recently announced a thirty year program, estimated to cost One Trillion Dollars, to “modernize” its nuclear arsenal.  In other words, the U.S. is building new generations of nuclear bombs and missiles.  This cannot stand.
  • U.S. drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond must end.
  • The U.S. must begin dismantling its 900 military bases around the world.
  • War Abroad Mirrors Racism and Violence at Home.  The militarization of U.S. foreign policy and use of violence and war around the world is mirrored here at home by racist police killings, and the militarization of law enforcement and schools, where military recruiters often have total access to students. Racism and xenophobia are used to dehumanize Muslims and others in order to justify killing them in war in their own countries.  We in Veterans For Peace realize this is the same hatred used here at home to justify killing black, brown, and poor people. It is the same fearmongering used to criminalize honest, hard-working people and tear immigrant families apart through deportation.

    This Armistice Day Veterans For Peace calls for justice and peace at home and abroad. We call for the end to racist policies, and for equality for all people.

  • Stop the War on Mother Earth.  Veterans For Peace also sees the links between war and the destruction of the natural environment upon which all living creatures depend.  Stubborn reliance on fossil fuels, and wars for control of them, are primary causes of the perilous climate change into which the world is descending. The ongoing nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan reminds us that nuclear power is neither green nor safe.  Shortsighted energy policies threaten to make entire regions of the planet uninhabitable, turning millions of people into climate refugees. New and dangerous wars for water, land and other precious resources are almost certain to follow.
  • Between nuclear war and climate disaster, we are facing the possibility of Hell on Earth, UNLESS we create a united worldwide movement for peace, justice, equality and sustainability.

For all of these reasons, stand with Veterans For Peace on Armistice Day, November 11, 2015

Remember to visit the Armistice Day page for ways to get involved!

Russia enters Syria war, exposing hypocrisy and contradictions of U.S. policy October 2, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Syria.
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Roger’s note: This article untangles the situation in Syria better than anything else I have read.  The Answer Coalition is almost always spot on.  That the US empire oriented foreign policy (US foreign policy = endless war), the chaos, the deaths, the infrastructure destruction, the refugees, etc., is indisputable.  Obama’s irrational and hypocritical stumbling makes it easy for Putin to look like a statesman.  I got a chuckle out of “expert” statements in the New York Times article to the effect that Putin can get away with anything in Russia because the media he controls will always report his narrative: as if the US mass media were independent of the party line!!!

And even if he is a hypocrite, Putin correctly unmasks the basic US objective of REGIME CHANGE, which not only is it in contravention of what is left of international standards, but is murderous and counterproductive.  One is reminded of what Netanyahu is doing to contribute to the ultimate destruction of Israel because of his imperial and racist obsessions.

By Brian Becker, ANSWER Coalition National Coordinator

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Russia’s direct military intervention into Syria has dramatically changed the dynamics of a war that has raged since 2011. The fighting during the last four years has torn this historic Arab country to shreds, made millions of Syrians into refugees, and left more than 200,000 people dead.

The stage has been set for a possible major military counteroffensive against arch-reactionary Islamic military organizations who have been gaining more and more territory.

After four years of fighting against these groups, the Syrian army has been forced into an ever smaller portion of western Syria. The Russian intervention is meant to bolster their effort, stop the retreat before the armies of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), Al-Qaeda and others, in preparation for a military counteroffensive.

The main force preventing Syria from being completely overrun by ISIS and Al-Qaeda has been the Syrian Arab Army, the national army of the country. Between 50,000 and 85,000 Syrian soldiers have been killed in this fight already. Syrian Kurdish forces under the leadership of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) have also been heroically battling against ISIS. The YPG had earlier fought against the Syrian army in an effort to create a Kurdish-ruled autonomous area in the northern part of Syria.

Now the Russian military has directly entered the battle on the side of the Syrian national army. Russia may directly give assistance to the Kurdish fighters as well. Russia’s intervention was formally requested by the sovereign Syrian government led by Bashar Al-Assad and thus conforms to international law.

The stated position of the Russian government is that a long-term solution to the Syrian crisis is through political change, based on dialogue between the Baathist government and some of the opposition but not ISIS or Al Qaeda, and the retention and defense of Syria’s core state institutions.

The Russia-Syria connection

Russia and before it the Soviet Union were historic allies of the secular Baathist government in Damascus, with deep military, social and economic ties to the country.

It is critically important that progressive forces abandon the false language and political characterizations being spoon-fed to the public by the pro-imperialist media.

Assad is characterized as a “dictator” who is “killing his own people.” That works for demonization purposes, but it cannot help anyone establish an informed position about the social and political character of the different forces in the Syrian war. When reading the Western news, one would think every death has been at the hands of the Syrian government. There has been almost no mention of the social base of support for the Syrian government, or the 50,000-80,000 Syrian soldiers who have died fighting sectarian armed groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda.

The Syrian Baathist government, like the Iraqi Baathist regime, banned sectarian-based religious parties. Saddam Hussein also banned the Communist Party while establishing a secular-based social democratic economic and social program. In Syria, the Baathists worked with some Syrian leftists and repressed others.

In 2011 and 2012, the Russian government hosted meetings in Moscow of Syrian opposition groups that stood politically against Assad and demanded far-reaching political reforms from the regime but rejected foreign intervention and armed struggle. Most of these opposition groups were secular.

U.S. policy and the rise of ISIS

The United States, France, Britain and their allies in Turkey and Saudi Arabia took a different path. The United States and its NATO and regional allies have funneled weapons and money to right-wing armed sectarian groups since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. This quickly morphed into the dominance among the armed opposition in Syria of the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and other groups.

In its reckless effort to smash the Assad government, as it did to Qaddafi’s in Libya, the Obama administration cared little about the political character of the “rebels.” In so doing, they created a monster they could not control.

Even as ISIS and Al-Qaeda grew stronger and grabbed more and more territory from the besieged Syrian army, the Obama administration aimed its fire at the Syrian government. The CIA kept coordinating massive weapons shipments from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar that allowed the armed opposition to get ever stronger. In August 2013, John Kerry and the Republicans in Congress demanded the bombing of the Syrian national army and government military assets, not ISIS or the armed opposition groups.

Then in June 2014, ISIS shocked the United States by defeating the Iraqi army and seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city, and much of Anbar province, and seemed to threaten U.S. assets in Iraq. In a panic, Obama suddenly changed course, sent thousands of U.S. military personnel back to Iraq and announced the open-ended bombing of ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq.

Obama announced the new military campaign against ISIS on September 10, 2014 but also reiterated that the United States would continue to work to topple the Assad government in Syria.

When he spoke to the people of the United States about the plan for “endless war” against IS in Iraq and Syria, Obama refused to tell the truth about the situation in the Middle East. He refused to acknowledge how his administration’s strategy for regime change in Libya and Syria, like George W. Bush’s earlier war in Iraq, were the fundamental factors that had led to the rise of ISIS and other extremist organizations in three out of the four most important secular states in the Arab world.

The feckless, reckless and shortsighted policy of the Obama administration in Syria and Libya was no less breathtaking in 2011 than had been Jimmy Carter’s and Ronald Reagan’s in Afghanistan in the 1980s when the CIA and Pentagon provided massive support to the “mujahadeen” fighters—among them Osama bin Laden—in a clandestine war against the socialist government that had taken power in Afghanistan. The U.S.-supported anti-communist guerrillas morphed later into Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Failed U.S. military efforts: ISIS has been winning

Not only did U.S. interventions open the political space for the rise of ISIS in Iraq, Libya and Syria, but Obama’s latest effort against ISIS has proven a miserable failure. If the goal was to “degrade and defeat ISIS” as promised, they have failed completely. ISIS is stronger. Tens of thousands of new fighters have joined ISIS in Syria during the past 12 months. Money and weapons kept pouring in. It is the Syrian army that lost ground, not ISIS.

Obama promised “no boots on the ground” in Syria. His even more right-wing and militaristic critics in Congress are also not calling for thousands of U.S. troops to go and do battle with ISIS. Public opinion in the United States will not allow another mass deployment of troops to fight and die in another Middle East war.

But from a military standpoint, the armies of ISIS and Al-Qaeda cannot be defeated by air assault. They can only be defeated by other forces on the ground.

When Russian President Putin spoke at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 28, he implicitly blamed the United States for creating the current crises in the Middle East by invading and destroying the secular government Iraq in 2003, militarily destroying the secular Libyan government in 2012 and fomenting civil war in Syria.

At the UN, Putin called for an international coalition to defeat ISIS, similar to the “anti-Hitler” coalition in World War that allied the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain during World War Two. He also emphasized the need to stand with the sovereign government in Syria battling ISIS, Al Qaeda and the other armed organizations.

The Obama administration immediately rejected this proposal because it included collaboration with the Syrian government. This is merely a demonstration of arrogance and hubris by representatives of the Empire. In their eyes, Assad was not supposed to survive after they declared that his government must fall. Since Obama, Kerry and Hillary Clinton declared “Assad must go,” they are now unwilling to accept responsibility for the “humiliation” of their “great power” that would be implied by entering into an open alliance with the same government they declared had “no future” in Syria.

Contradiction and hypocrisy

Obama’s secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, says that Russia’s efforts in Syria are “doomed to fail” because Russia believes the fight against ISIS and other terrorist forces requires support for the Assad government and the Syrian military.

But the logical contradiction lies not with the Russian position but with the one espoused by the White House. ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-led coalition, while they sometimes fight each other, are fighting the Syrian army. The only reason they have not seized the entire country is because of the battle waged by the Syrian army.

The United States says it wants to degrade and defeat ISIS, and is bombing some of the ISIS positions, but it won’t send U.S. troops to defeat ISIS. It won’t support the Syrian military that is actually fighting against ISIS and an array of other terrorist groups. In fact, the U.S. government is sending arms and weapons and paying the salaries of anti-Assad fighters who are then fighting alongside Al-Qaeda.

The U.S. position appears not just as a “logical contradiction” or hypocritical but downright nonsensical.

Just step back and look: Obama officials are condemning the Russian bombing because it has targeted Al-Qaeda. Russian aircraft are bombing positions of several armed opposition groups including the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, which the United States recognizes as responsible for hijacking and flying airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

The need to destroy Al-Qaeda has been the principal rationale used by the U.S. “war on terror” conducted for the past 14 years in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somali and elsewhere.

Thus, the irony is unmistakable when the Pentagon and U.S. media now denounces the Russian bombing of the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. And the irony goes deeper. The Russian bombing has also struck CIA-funded armed groups fighting alongside Al-Qaeda.

That’s right. U.S. taxpayers are paying for arms and training and salaries for armed combatants who are fighting with, and not against, Al-Qaeda. Apparently Al-Qaeda is okay as long as they kill Syrians and not Americans, and help the U.S. overthrow independent governments in the Middle East.

This seeming contradiction and weirdness in U.S. policy regarding Al-Qaeda is not exaggerated by those of us in the U.S. anti-war movement who successfully mobilized to stop Obama and Kerry’s projected bombing campaign against the Syrian army that was planned in August 2013 and was only narrowly averted when Obama stepped back from the precipice at the last moment.

This is from the Oct. 1, 2015, New York Times:

“The strikes on Thursday targeted the Army of Conquest, a coalition of insurgent groups that includes the Nusra Front, the hard-line Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and a range of less extreme Islamist groups—all of which are opposed to the Islamic State.

Often fighting alongside the Army of Conquest are relatively secular groups from what is left of the loose-knit Free Syrian Army, including some that have received United States training and advanced American-made antitank missiles. At least one C.I.A.-trained group was among the targets hit on Wednesday, which drew an angry response from Washington.”

John McCain himself confirmed strikes against “our Free Syrian Army or groups that have been armed and trained by the CIA, because we have communications with people there.”

Stop the U.S. campaign for regime change in Syria

The position of the Russian government is that the survival of the Syrian army is indispensable for a viable political solution to emerge that could end the war in Syria and prevent the country from being fragmented. That is precisely what happened in Libya and Iraq following the imperialist-led destruction of those two countries in 2003 and 2011, when the existing state structures were shattered.

Far from being a “logical contradiction,” this is fully rational. In his CBS interview with Charlie Rose on Sept. 24, Putin stated: “There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism. But at the same time, urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform. … ” As a rejoinder to U.S. policy makers who insisted that “Assad must go,” he told Charlie Rose, “It’s only the Syrian people who are entitled to decide who should govern their country and how.”

The Syrian war has entered a new stage. The stakes are high. Russia’s intervention constitutes a pledge that the entire country will not be overtaken by ISIS or Al-Qaeda.

The fact that Russia has entered the Syria fray through the creation in Baghdad of a new international center for military coordination against ISIS that includes Russia, Iran, Syria and the government of Iraq must be regarded as a historical irony of the first order. When Bush and Cheney ordered the criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003, the last thing they could have foreseen a decade later is a post-occupation Iraqi government providing a military headquarters in Iraq for Russia, Syria and Iran. The words “feckless,” “reckless” and “short-sighted” are not really adequate to capture the degree of incompetence of a foreign policy based ultimately on the arrogance of imperial power.

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