Omar Khadr, Canada and $10,000,000

The Canadian Government has awarded Omar Khadr, who spent ten years in the United States’ Cuban-based torture chamber, the sum of $10.5 million dollars. There is, among the right wing, a great hue and cry over this alleged ‘injustice’. After all, wasn’t Mr. Khadr fighting against a Canadian ally? Didn’t he confess to killing a U.S. soldier? Cue the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

 Although not often done in political climes, looking at the facts can be a very helpful exercise. So, we will look at a few.

1. Mr. Khadr was 15-years-old when he was badly injured by U.S. soldiers. According to international law (that old thing), a 15-year-old in any military is a child soldier, and cannot be charged with any crime. Once Mr. Khadr was injured, his injuries should have been treated immediately (they weren’t), and he should have then been returned to Canada.

2. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan. If any country invaded the U.S., those opposing the invasion would be seen as heroes. People in Afghanistan who were fighting the invading forces should be seen in that light.

3. Regarding ‘confessing’ to killing a U.S. soldier, after years of unspeakable torture, one will confess to anything. And what did Mr. Khadr experience in Guantanamo? The following is just some of what the U.S. did to him. Remember, too that he had two gunshot wounds in his chest, multiple broken bones, and shrapnel splattered all over his body, which cost him the sight in one eye. His torture began immediately he regained consciousness, about a week after he was injured, at the Bagram air base, where he was detained. He was:

  • Tied to a fence with his hands tied high above his head; due to his injuries, raising his hands at all was extremely painful;
  • Tied up with a bag secured tightly around his head, making breathing difficult, as attack dogs snarled and growled at him from inches away;
  • Forced, despite, or perhaps because of, his injuries, to pile heavy water bottles together. Once he finished the task, his torturers knocked over the pile, and forced him to re-pile them.

4. Mr. Khadr was then transferred to Guantanamo, where the torture continued. One example, the shocking ‘mop incident’, of what he experienced, will suffice. The ‘mop incident’ involves the guards pulling Mr. Khadr’s arms and legs behind into a  so-called ‘bow’ position, causing his limbs to strain painfully at their sockets. It is not unusual for victims to pass out from the pain this causes. Over a period of many hours, the guards contorted Mr. Khadr into different, painful positions. Eventually, he urinated himself. The guards then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body and began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. They swung him around, the urine and solvent washing up into his face, using him as a human mop. When they were done, they brought him back to his cell, but did not allow him a change of clothes for two days.

5. Who, exactly, was responsible for the death of the invading U.S. soldier is up for debate. There are strong indicators that the grenade that killed him was U.S. made. Was he killed by ‘friendly fire’, that bizarre euphemism meaning accidental killing of soldiers by their fellow-soldiers? Or is it possible that a 15-year-old boy had the presence of mind and the lightening reflexes, in the middle of a desperate battle, to grab a grenade thrown near him by the invading soldiers, and fling it back out at them? If that’s the case, self-preservation and self-defense seem to be valid reasons.

6. U.S. behavior during Mr. Khadr’s entire, illegal incarceration was condemned by the United Nations and the international community.

There has been some discussion that the widow of Christopher Speer, the soldier allegedly killed by Mr. Khadr, could possibly sue him for some of the money he has been awarded. This would certainly be an interesting precedent. Could the survivors of all people killed by U.S. soldiers then sue the soldiers for some compensation? The U.S. would be bankrupt in no time.

Also, Mr. Speer was not a child when he enlisted. He was not defending his homeland; he was invading someone else’s.  While one mourns any death, and feels sorry for the survivors, Mr. Speer voluntarily put himself in a life-threatening position, and paid with his life for that decision.

Mr. Khadr was a child, under the care of adults who were defending their homeland, in a situation not of his own making.

For the first time since he was injured, Mr. Khadr is finally experiencing justice. After a decade of torture at the hands of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’, abetted by his own country, Canada, he is finally getting some compensation. $10 million isn’t enough, but there simply isn’t enough money to compensate someone who has experienced such barbaric cruelty and unspeakable suffering. It is hoped that Mr. Khadr will be able to use this money to enable him to have a comfortable life, obtaining the counseling he certainly requires due to his victimization, working in his chosen career, and raising a family. This writer wishes him all the best.

Originally published by The American Herald Tribune.

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Double Standards in United States’ Human Rights Practices

Remarks delivered at the conference, ‘United States, Human Rights and Discourse of Domination’, held in Tehran, Iran on July 2.

 

When discussing human rights, it’s helpful to define exactly what is meant. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948.  Forty-eight countries, including the United States, ratified this declaration. It details fundamental human rights that are to be universally protected.

The document consists of thirty (30) articles, and is worth reading. For our purposes today, I will summarize just a few of the more common rights listed, and will address these and others during my presentation today.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone is entitled to:

  • Freedom and dignity
  • Life, liberty and security of person.

The following are prohibited.

  • Slavery in all forms.
  • Arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  • Arbitrary deprivation of one’s nationality
  • Arbitrary deprivation of one’s property.

The United States presents itself to the world as a beacon of liberty and a proponent of human rights around the world, ready and willing to stand up for and defend the downtrodden. Florida Senator Marco Rubio recently said that the world looks to the U.S. as an example of democracy. This myth is not believed outside of the United States’ borders, and decreasingly within. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights mentions the prohibition of ‘torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments’ and states that everyone is entitled to life.

In 2014, the U.S. government rightly condemned beheadings carried out by Daesh (aka ISIL, ISIS). In August of 2014, at least 22 people were executed in Saudi Arabia, and at least eight of them were beheaded. The following month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Saudi Arabia on an official visit; the U.S., of course, has full diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. The topic of beheadings was not known to have been mentioned during Mr. Kerry’s visit. Apparently, beheading is acceptable, depending on who is doing it.

Let’s remember that the United States has full diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. In a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton said that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban”.

Since I’ve mentioned ISIS, we’ll look at bit closer at that organization.

The following was reported by Global Research:

“In order to understand why the Islamic State has grown and flourished so quickly, one has to take a look at the organization’s American-backed roots. The 2003 American invasion and occupation of Iraq created the pre-conditions for radical Sunni groups, like ISIS, to take root. America, rather unwisely, destroyed Saddam Hussein’s secular state machinery and replaced it with a predominantly Shiite administration. The U.S. occupation caused vast unemployment in Sunni areas, by rejecting socialism and closing down factories in the naive hope that the magical hand of the free market would create jobs. Under the new U.S.-backed Shiite regime, working class Sunni’s lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Unlike the white Afrikaners in South Africa, who were allowed to keep their wealth after regime change, upper class Sunni’s were systematically dispossessed of their assets and lost their political influence. Rather than promoting religious integration and unity, American policy in Iraq exacerbated sectarian divisions and created a fertile breeding ground for Sunni discontent, from which Al Qaeda in Iraq took root.”

Author and Middle East expert Kevin Barrett told Press TV the following:

“It has been a standard part of American policy and it is not just al-Qaeda and Daesh. These are the biggest and most spectacular current manifestations of the United States long-standing policy of supporting terrorists but it goes way back to the era of the Cold War.”

He further stated that the United States created the Daesh terrorist group in order to implement its regime change policy in Syria, and to divide and conquer the Middle East by stirring up ethnic and sectarian tensions.

In a June, 2015 column in The Guardian, Associate Editor Seumas Milne said this:

“[T]he U.S. and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of ‘Islamic state’ — despite the ‘grave danger’ to Iraq’s unity — as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.”

Garikai Chengu, a researcher at Harvard University, suggested in September of 2014 that ISIS “is made-in-the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.”

Further information came from Vice-President Joe Biden. Speaking to students at Harvard University in October 2014, he said that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates “were determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war. What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world”. The vice-president dismissed the idea that any moderate Syrian groups could be fighting ISIS and Assad at the same time.

U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has focused in on the government’s funding of terrorists. “The CIA has also been funneling weapons and money through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others who provide direct and indirect support to groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.”

She went on to say this: “This madness must end. We must stop arming terrorists.”

In late 2015, Ms. Gabbard visited Syria. She said this:

As I visited with people from across the country, and heard heartbreaking stories of how this war has devastated their lives, I was asked, ‘Why is the United States and its allies helping al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups try to take over Syria? Syria did not attack the United States. Al-Qaeda did.’ I had no answer.”

Not all of ISIS’s weaponry was intentionally provided to it.

In Iraq, after the first phase of the U.S. war there, the U.S. left untold amounts of weaponry scattered about Iraq. As Iraq descended into the chaos and violence of civil war, that weaponry fell into the hands of anyone who wanted it.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Defense, which really has nothing to do with defense, issued a press release, saying this: “The three strikes destroyed three ISIL armed vehicles, an ISIL vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft artillery gun, an ISIL checkpoint and an IED emplacement.” Very impressive, one might think.

However, Alex Kane, writing in Alternet, presented a different view. He said:

 “What went unmentioned by the Pentagon is that those armed vehicles and artillery guns they bombed were likely paid for with American tax dollars. The arms ISIS possesses are another grim form of blowback from the American invasion of the country (Iraq) in 2003.

In the first 13 years of the U.S.s’ so-called ‘war on terror’, U.S. taxpayers spent close to $14  million dollars every hour. This is an astounding amount for a war wherein the ‘enemy’ is being financed by the U.S. and other countries with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations. Perhaps ‘victory’ isn’t the goal. The U.S. is the world’s largest supplier of weaponry, and with so many countries purchasing its goods, even to sell them to international terrorist groups, perhaps the U.S. isn’t interested in losing this lucrative market.

In March of 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported: “Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border.” Again, as long as U.S. arms manufacturers are happy, what else matters? So what if a third of Syrians have had to flee their homes? What difference do nearly half a million deaths of innocent people make? For the U.S., human rights must not stand in the way of profits.

That same year, foreign military sales rose to a record high of $46.6 billion.

It is no exaggeration to say that America’s Middle East policy revolves around two factors: oil and Israel. By invading Iraq, the U.S. was able to obtain the oil it covets.

But as the U.S. continues bombing Syria and supporting terrorist groups in that country, and sanctions or threatens to sanction Iran, we clearly see that it is doing so for Israel. The U.S. wants to prevent Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Palestine, from receiving support from Iran and Syria.  In the eyes of the U.S., only Israel can be a powerful force in the Middle East.

Another point in the Declaration of Human Rights is that ‘the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’.

Currently in the U.S., multiple investigations are ongoing to explore possible Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election of 2016. Arizona Senator John McCain said that such possible interference threatens the very essence of U.S. democracy. Former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said it’s almost unthinkable, when discussing reports about possible Russian interference in U.S. elections.

In typical U.S. style, interference in foreign elections is only acceptable when the U.S. does it. In 2006, when commenting on the election in the Gaza Strip that brought Hamas to power, Mrs. Clinton, then a U.S. senator, said this: “I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake — and if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.” So while Mrs. Clinton is now filled with great anger that Russia, perhaps, attempted to interfere in the U.S. election, she was certainly not above supporting the same behaviors, when she was a U.S. senator.

After Hamas was elected to govern the Gaza Strip in 2006, and President George Bush ordered a near-total ban on aid to Palestine, historian and political activist Noam Chomsky commented on this situation:

“You are not allowed to vote the wrong way in a free election. That’s our concept of democracy. Democracy is fine as long as you do what we [the United States] say, but not if you vote for someone we don’t like.”

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. This was, ostensibly, to rid that country of so-called weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein, then the leader of Iraq, had welcomed Hans Blix, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into Iraq to search peacefully for such weapons. Mr. Blix and his team were gaining unprecedented access to any area of the country they requested, and were finding nothing. Finally, before they had exhausted their search, U.S. President George Bush told Mr. Blix to remove his team from Iraq; his invasion as coming. Shortly thereafter, he began bombing Iraq. This resulted in the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure, the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and the displacement of millions more. The human rights of these innocent victims were not considered by the mighty United States. The fact that the Iraqi people have suffered, and continue to suffer, far more since the U.S. invasion then they did under the previous government, is not considered, as the U.S. looks for its next target.

In October of 2007, four years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and while that war was still raging, Turkey was having difficulties with Kurdish rebels on its border with Iraq. There were signs that the Turkish government was considering an attack against them in Iraq. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack made this statement at that time: “If they have a problem, they need to work together to resolve it and I am not sure that unilateral incursions are the way to go, the way to resolve the issue.” He further stated: “We have counseled both in public and private for many, many months the idea that it is important to work cooperatively to resolve this issue”.

If Mr. McCormack wasn’t sure that unilateral incursions were inappropriate, and that nations in conflict need to work cooperatively to resolve their issues, perhaps he could have so advised Mr. Bush.  However, such counsel would nullify that time-honored maxim: “It’s not wrong if the U.S. does it.” So while Turkey must not venture into Iraq to end Kurdish incursions into the country, the U.S. was then, and is now, free to attack any country it so chooses.

Perhaps we might benefit by looking at the by looking at how some words. During the height of the U.S. war against Iraq, the U.S. government officials and corporate-owned media called those Iraqis fighting the U.S. invasion ‘insurgents’. Somehow, in the view of the U.S., the invading soldiers were the ‘heroes’ and the people resisting them were the ‘terrorists’.

When a person or group commits an act of violence against the U.S., they are not seen as heroes, but as terrorists. The victims of those limited acts of violence are seen as heroes.

In 2015, the movie American Sniper was released in U.S. theatres to rave reviews and public acclaim. This was the story of Chris Kyle, a mass murderer, employed by the U.S., who was ‘credited’ with over 160 ‘confirmed kills’.

Imagine if Vietnam, or Palestine, or Iraq, or Yemen, or Syria, or any other country that the U.S. has oppressed or continues to oppress, were to release a movie praising and glorifying someone who killed 160 U.S. citizens, after the U.S. had bombed their country. Government officials would condemn the movie and the country; sanctions would be imposed; there would be universal condemnation throughout the U.S.

Again, in the view of the U.S., its own actions are never criminal, but those same actions, performed by other nations, are international crimes.

The United States government is currently considering declaring Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a ‘terrorist’ organization. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a powerful branch of the Iranian military, responsible for, among other things, protecting the nation in the event of an attack by the U.S. or Israel, the two nations most likely to attack Iran. Protecting the U.S. from attack is, ostensibly, the role of the U.S. military. However, unlike the U.S. military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps does not invade other nations. Its role is to protect the citizens of Iranian from enemies foreign and domestic. The role of the U.S. military, despite the lofty proclamations that country’s leaders may make, is to ensure the capitalist advantage of the U.S. around the world. This includes the overthrow of nations with governments considered too leftist, or those with natural resources (e.g. oil) that the U.S. wants to control. Based on this information, it certainly seems that it is not the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but the U.S. military that is, in fact, a terrorist organization.

Keeping in mind that ‘The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’, we will look at one example, among many, where, in the eyes of the U.S., political expediency trumped human rights.

In Chile, in 1970, Salvador Allende became the first Marxist democratically elected in a Latin American country.

Richard M. Nixon, a rabid anti-communist, was president at this time, and under his direction, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spent $3 million (over $19 million in today’s dollars) in anti-Allende propaganda during the campaign, and invested another $2.6 million (nearly $17 million in today’s dollars) into the campaign of Mr. Allende’s opponent. Please note again the U.S. anger about the possibility of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Once Mr. Allende was elected, the U.S. attempted to prevent him from coming to power.

Yet Mr. Allende became president and began implementing the socialist program he’d promised, including the nationalization of several industries, reforming education, and increasing land distribution that had begun under his predecessor.

But the U.S. could not countenance a Marxist as the president anywhere. The U.S. supported radical, right-wing groups and publications, and funded major workers’ strikes. All this eventually led to the overthrow of the government, and Mr. Allende was replaced by General Augusto Pinochet. With his ascent to power, democratic rule in Chile ended after 41 years, and tens of thousands of Pinochet’s opponents were kidnapped, tortured and murdered. But his rule, in the view of the United States, was preferable to that of Mr. Allende.

In transcribed correspondence between Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Mr. Nixon after the overthrow of the Allende government, we read the following:

“Nixon: Nothing new of any importance or is there?

Kissinger: Nothing of great consequence. The Chilean thing is getting consolidated and of course the newspapers are bleeding because a pro-Communist government has been overthrown.

Nixon: Isn’t that something. Isn’t that something.

Kissinger: I mean instead of celebrating – in the Eisenhower period we would be heros.

Nixon: We didn’t – as you know – our hand doesn’t show on this one though.

Kissinger: We didn’t do it. I mean we helped them. ______ created the conditions as great as possible.

Nixon: That is right. And that is the way it is going to be played.”

Millions of people in Chile were deprived of basic human rights for a period of decades, due to the deliberate actions of the United States.

The United States’ double standard on human rights is seen no more clearly, and is no more blatant, then in its dealings with Palestine and Israel.

In the U.S. there is a law referred to as the ‘Leahy law’, so named after its sponsor Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. The basic provision of this law is as follows: “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act [22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.] to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

We will look for a moment at the Human Rights Watch World Report for 2017, and its descriptions of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. This report states that, during 2016, Israel:

  • Enforced severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, to facilitate the transfer of Israeli civilians to the occupied West Bank, and to severely restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip.
  • Used lethal force against suspected attackers in more than 150 cases, including in circumstances that suggest excessive force and at times extrajudicial executions.
  • Killed at least 94 Palestinians and injured at least 3,203 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel as of October 31, including suspected assailants, protesters, and bystanders, according to the United Nations.
  • Destroyed homes and other property under discriminatory practices that severely restrict Palestinians’ access to construction permits and forcibly displaced, as of October 17, 1,283 Palestinian residents in West Bank areas under direct Israeli administrative control.
  • Maintained severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, exacerbated by Israel’s refusal to allow Gaza to operate an airport or seaport.
  • Continued the closure of the Gaza Strip, restricting movement of people and on outgoing goods, having severe consequences for the civilian population, separating families, restricting access to medical care and educational and economic opportunities, and perpetuating unemployment and poverty.
  • Restricted the delivery of construction materials to Gaza which, along with a lack of funding have impeded reconstruction of the 17,800 housing units severely damaged or destroyed during Israel’s 2014 military operation in Gaza. About 65,000 people who lost their homes remain displaced.
  • In the West Bank, as of October 31, Israeli security forces and settlers fatally shot at least 83 Palestinians and wounded at least 3,015, including passersby, demonstrators and those suspected of attacking Israelis, according to UN monitoring. In some cases, video footage and witness accounts strongly suggest that excessive force was used.

The many ways in which these barbaric practices violate the basic human rights of the Palestinians, as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are obvious.

Despite all this, the United States provides $4 billion annually to Israel. It also consistently uses its veto power on the United Nations Security Council to protect Israel from the international consequences of its cruel and illegal actions.

In 2014, as Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip, U.S. President Barack Obama said that attacks on Israel were ‘inexcusable’. And U.S. officials constantly say Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas’s rocket attacks.

Let’s talk for a minute about those ‘rockets’ fired by Hamas. Normal Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an ardent advocate for the rights of the Palestinians, calls these ‘rockets’ ‘enhanced fireworks’. They are nothing compared with the deadly, precise weaponry that the U.S. gives to Israel.

Yet these same officials ignore the fact that Israel is in violation of international law in countless ways: displacing Palestinians from their homes; moving its residents permanently onto occupied territory; having separate laws for Israelis and Arabs living in Israel; the existence of Israel-only roads; indefinite detention without charge; the occupation of the West Bank itself, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Additionally, they refuse to recognize the international law that states that an occupied people has the right to resist the occupation by whatever means are available.

Yet the U.S. condemns all Palestinian resistance. As Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi has said, “the Palestinians are the only people on earth required to guarantee the security of the occupier, while Israel is the only country that demands protection from its victims.”

So in saying that Israel can defend itself against Hamas rockets, but ignoring Palestinians rights to resisting the occupation, the double-standard on human rights is again evident. And it is also worth noting that during 50 days in 2014, Israel fired more rockets into the Gaza Strip, than Hamas had fired into Israel in the previous 14 years.

And can the U.S. reasonably question whether or not Israel is in violation of international law? Section 3 of the Leahy Law states the following:

“In furtherance of paragraphs (1) and (2), the President is directed to formulate and conduct international security assistance programs of the United States in a manner which will promote and advance human rights and avoid identification of the United States, through such programs, with governments which deny to their people internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international law or in contravention of the policy of the United States as expressed in this section or otherwise.”

There is one phrase in that paragraph that stand out: “avoid identification of the United States with governments which deny internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.’ The U.S. is closely identified with rogue, brutal, apartheid regime of Israel.

Let’s look at some of the things the U.S. chooses to overlook. In 2014, Israel bombed United Nations refugee centers in Gaza. It also targeted residences, mosques, press vehicles and hospitals. All these crimes are violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The U.S. may, somehow, be able to ignore many of these incidents, but the bombing of U.N. refugee  centers cannot be ignored; Israel was notified at least ten times that these centers were holding unarmed citizens. The U.S. offered some tepid criticism of Israel at that time, but didn’t reduce by one cent the billions of dollars it provides to that rogue nation.

The killing of four children playing on a Gaza beach was widely witnessed by the international press, but Israel ‘investigated’, and found the soldiers who shot those children were in no way culpable. So foreign aid from the U.S. to Israel continues to flow.

Let’s turn now to the United States’ foreign military bases.

The U.S. uses military bases around the world to control and dominate most of the planet. The United States has at least 800 military basis in 70 countries, housing hundreds of thousands of military personnel. This is far more than any other nation today or at any time in history. Of all the foreign military bases of all countries, about 95% of them are owned by the U.S.

Ostensibly, these bases exist to enable the U.S. to deploy thousands of soldiers anywhere in the world where they are ‘needed’, ‘needed’ being defined by U.S. corporate interests, of the interests of powerful lobby groups, such as AIPAC, although as activist David Swanson has said, with current technology, proximity isn’t important; soldiers and weapons can reach anywhere in the world just as quickly from the United States. These bases provide no benefit to the U.S. economy, or to the host country, whose citizens often resent the presence of a U.S. military base on land that could be used for farming, industry or housing. The advantages accrue only to certain contractors, and the politicians to whom they generously donate.

One foreign U.S. military installation is worth some discussion in this forum.

Guantanamo Bay is the Cuban location of one of the U.S.’s most barbaric and notorious torture chambers. The case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, is instructive.

Mr. Khadr was 15 years old when he was seriously injured in Afghanistan, and arrested by United States’ soldiers, and charged, on very flimsy evidence, with throwing a hand grenade that killed a U.S. soldier. It must be remembered that international law categorizes any ‘soldier’ under the age of 18 as a ‘child soldier’, who cannot be charged with a war-related crime. However, international law is not something that the mighty U.S. feels any obligation to follow.

When captured, Mr. Khadr sustained extremely serious injuries, including two gunshot wounds in his chest, multiple broken bones, and shrapnel splattered all over his body, costing him the sight in one eye. Yet his immediate medical treatment was lacking.

About a week after his capture, he regained consciousness and was detained at the Bagram air base. There, he was tortured. This torture included the following:

* Being tied to a fence with his hands tied high above his head; due to his injuries, raising his hands at all was extremely painful;

* Being tied up with a bag secured tightly around his head, making breathing difficult, as attack dogs snarled and growled at him from inches away;

* Having cold water thrown over him;

* Forcing him, despite, or perhaps because of, his injuries, to pile heavy water bottles together. Once he finished the task, his torturers knocked over the pile, and forced him to re-pile them. Please remember, he was 15 years old.

After this, he was transferred to Guantanamo, where the torture continued.

One such method is referred to as ‘the mop incident’. It is documented as follows:  Guards “pulled his arms and legs behind in a ‘bow’ position, until his limbs strained painfully at their sockets. This was known in the officially-sanctioned American torture guides as a ‘stress position,’ and victims often pass out from the pain. Over several hours, the guards contorted Mr. Khadr into different stress positions, each time shoving him into a painful position on the ground. Eventually, inevitably, he urinated himself. MPs returned, mocked him for a while and then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body. Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion was extremely painful. The MPs swung him around and around, the urine and solvent washing up into his face. The idea was to use him as a human mop. After this, the MPs uncuffed him and carried him back to his cell. He was not allowed a change of clothes for two days.”

He was only 15 years old; even one of the torturers at Bagram, Damien M. Corsetti, known as the ‘Monster’ and the ‘King of Torture’, later said this of Mr. Khadr. “He was a 15-year-old kid with three holes in his body, a bunch of shrapnel in his face. That was what I remember. How horrible this 15-year-old child looked.” Further, he described Mr. Khadr as an injured “child” detained in “one of the worst places on Earth.”

Yet the U.S. government saw him differently. Initial requests for information about Mr. Khadr’s incarceration, from the Director General of the Canadian Consular Affairs office, were ignored. In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powel, a representative of the Consular Affairs office asked if Mr. Khadr was being well-treated; if he would have proper legal representation; if his status as a minor, as covered by the international conventions dealing with youths, was recognized, and when Canadian officials would be able to meet with him. Mr. Powell’s response was that Mr. Khadr had killed a ‘fine young American’ and would be treated by what passes in the U.S. for a justice system. Apparently, Mr. Powell had determined that, without official charge or trial, Mr. Khadr was guilty, and the U.S. ‘justice system’ would now administer the penalty in one of its foreign torture chambers.

Mr. Khadr was held at Guantanamo for ten years, during which he sustained ongoing torture and eventually, under extreme duress, confessed to several crimes. His incarceration and treatment were widely condemned around the world and by the United Nations.

In 2012, he was transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of an eight-year sentence, and was released on bail in 2015. The Canadian government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, appealed this court decision. The appeal was dropped when the new government of Liberal Justin Trudeau came into power.

This is just one example of how the United States simply tramples the basic human rights of people it deems unworthy of them.

Domestically, the U.S. is no more straightforward or honest in its dealings with human rights than it is on the international stage.

Going back to 1999, Amadou Diallo, age 23, was shot 41 times in 1999, after reaching for his wallet to provide police officers with his identification. An investigation by the New York City police department after the death of Mr. Diallo found that the officers acted ‘within policy’.  Four officers were charged with second-degree murder and reckless endangerment, but all four were acquitted.

Since then, the murders of people of African descent by white police officers have become almost epidemic, with the offending officers seldom, if ever charged. And these shootings seem to be routine procedure.

The Black Lives Matter movement grew out of the almost weekly shootings of unarmed men, women and children of African descent, usually by white police officers, almost always with complete impunity. But the crimes of the police go beyond race, to an atmosphere of exemption from consequences for almost any crime.

Just last week, two police officers were acquitted of all charges in the deaths of two, Black men. This is not unusual; it is rare for a police officer to be charged in the death of a man or woman of African descent, and convictions almost never occur. The trial of a third officer ended in a mistrial, for the second time.

Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of killing Philando Castile, age 32, in Minnesota. Mr. Castile’s crime was having a bulb burned out in the taillight of his car. When stopped, he told the policeman that he was carrying a gun, for which he was licensed. It seems unlikely that someone intending to shoot a policeman would first announce that he was armed. Nevertheless, he was shot seven times, just moments after he was stopped by the police.

Also acquitted last week was Dominque Heagan-Brown, also an African-American, found not guilty in the death of Slyville Smith, age 23, in Wisconsin, despite a damning video taken by another office that the jury saw. In it, Heaggan-Brown shot Mr. Smith in the chest, after the victim had thrown his weapon over a fence, and had his hand raised. He was on the ground when he was fatally shot. Beyond racism, this indicates a separate set of rules for the U.S. police.

In Ohio, the trial of Officer Ray Tensing ended in a mistrial for the second time, in the killing of Samuel Dubose, who was stopped because his car lacked a front license plate. Things escalated quickly until the unarmed Mr. Dubose was shot in the head while still sitting in his car.

Michael Brown, age 18, was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, for allegedly robbing a convenience store, although he was unarmed. His body lay in the street for four hours, until police allowed it to be moved.

Eric Garner, 44-years old and the father of six children, was strangled by New York City police for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally.

Tamir Rice, age 12, was shot and killed for carrying a toy gun. Within two seconds of arriving on police arriving on the scene, the child had been shot in the chest, twice. There was no demand to drop the ‘gun’, just the shooting. The policeman who shot him was not charged with any crime.

In one incident that wasn’t fatal, 47-year-old Charles Kinsey, a social worker of African descent, was trying to bring a severely autistic man with whom he worked back into the residential facility. Police were called to the scene, and ordered Mr. Kinsey and his client to lie on the ground. Mr, Kinsey did so, although his client, sitting cross-legged and playing with a toy truck, refused. Mr. Kinsey addressed the police: “Sir, there is no need for firearms. I’m unarmed, he’s an autistic guy. He got a toy truck in his hand.”  One of the officers then fired three shots, hitting Mr. Kinsey in the leg. When Mr. Kinsey asked the officer why he had shot him, the officer responded “I don’t know.” He then handcuffed Mr. Kinsey, and rendered no first aid for 20 minutes. The officer, Jonathan Aledda, is on paid leave as this incident is investigated.

The belief has become common in the United States that if a man of African descent commits a crime, he is a thug, a criminal. If a Muslim man commits a crime, he is a terrorist. But if a man of European descent commits a crime, he is emotionally troubled, and requires assistance to help him regain his rightful place as a productive member of society.

In the U.S., over half a million people are homeless every day of the year, sleeping in shelters or on the street; of these, about 8% are veterans, men and women who have done the U.S. military’s dirty work around the world, and now, troubled by guilt resulting in substance abuse, domestic violence, inability to keep a job and other problems, the government simply dismisses them to live on the streets.

One of the basic human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a “Standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”.

The official poverty level in the U.S. is ridiculously low: for a family of four, a family income below $24,600 annually is considered ‘poverty’.  A report from the Economic Policy Institute from August of 2015 indicates the following:

“The basic family budget for a two-parent, two-child family ranges from $49,114 (Morristown, Tenn.) to $106,493 (Washington, D.C.). In the median family budget area for this family type, Des Moines, Iowa, a two-parent, two-child family needs $63,741 to secure an adequate but modest living standard. This is well above the 2014 poverty threshold of $24,008 for this family type.”

Based on this report, a more realistic poverty line would be $49,000.00.

Determining a poverty level of $24,600 may reduce the number of people that U.S. statistics say live in poverty, but it doesn’t hide the fact that millions more are actually living in poverty.

One of the many myths that the U.S. perpetuates about itself to its citizens is the concept of ‘U.S. exceptionalism’. This is the belief that the United States has a unique mission to order the world to its concept of freedom and democracy. It also includes a sense of superiority over all other nations.

In 2014, President Barack Obama said “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”

Some more quotes on this bizarre topic: Texas Senator Ted Cruz said this: “And it was American exceptionalism that stood up to the Soviet Union and freed hundreds of millions from behind the Iron Curtin.” He proved once again that he has no concept of history, as when, while bowing at the unholy AIPAC altar, he proclaimed that the nation of Palestine didn’t exist.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, when campaigning for the presidential nomination in 2015, made this peculiar statement: “We are the greatest nation in the history of all mankind. Never be afraid to teach that to your children…. Our kids need to know the truth — that they were born citizens of the single greatest nation in the history of all of mankind.”

When South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham was campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, a press release from his office said this: “Now he is ready to take those leadership skills to the White House, to restore faith in America’s exceptionalism, and our belief that the United States is still the leader… and best hope… for a free and safe world.”

This dangerous concept probably had its origins in an equally ugly and destructive concept, that of Manifest Destiny. . The term is believed to have been coined by John O’Sullivan, the cofounder and editor of The United States Magazine and Democratic Review in 1845.The term signified “…the mission of the United States ‘to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.’” Mr. O’Sullivan further told his readers: “Until every acre of the North American continent is occupied by citizens of the United States, the foundation of the future empire will not have been laid.” Manifest Destiny became a catchphrase for what many considered to be a divinely-authorized continental expansion.

It is easy to see how that sense of superiority that belief that the United States was destined by Deity to occupy the entire North American continent, would evolve into today’s idea of exceptionalism. And it must be remembered that the U.S. stole large parts of Mexico, and invaded Canada in 1812, with the hope of conquering it and making it part of the U.S.

So a nation whose citizens feel it is divinely authorized to control the entire planet will naturally have no allegiance to international law; such laws are for other countries, not the mighty United States.

This is the United States, that self-proclaimed beacon of peace and justice. This is international hypocrisy at its most blatant and deadly. People within the U.S. and without are working tirelessly to resolve these issues, but they are opposed by powerful interest groups. Yet such shocking cruelty and violations of international law and the human rights of millions of innocent people cannot continue forever. The end of the injustices perpetrated by the United States will be a welcome day around the world.

Originally published by The American Herald Tribune.

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Trump, Palestine and ‘The Deal’

On May 4, United States President Donald Trump said that the Palestine-Israel problem may not be as hard to resolve as people have thought. And, as the self-proclaimed ultimate deal-maker, he was confident he could resolve it.

Much as one hates to ever agree with the former reality-TV star who currently occupies the White House (and whose tenure may be considerably shorter than 4 years, if the chaos he engenders continues), but it is true: the resolution to the problem is clear. However, it isn’t whatever the delusional Mr. Trump may think it is. All it takes is adherence to the rule of international law.

In 1947, the newly-minted United Nations partitioned Palestine to establish Israel. This had been the plan of Zionists for at least fifty years, and the atrocities committed by Germany against the Jewish people motivated the U.N. to commit a major, ongoing atrocity against the Palestinians. The illegality and immorality of that action will not be addressed here. Suffice it to say that the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors were not keen on this plan, which displaced, in that and the next year, at least 750,000 Palestinians, and caused the deaths of at least 10,000. And the death toll has mounted drastically since then, along with the number of people brutally displaced from their homes and homeland.

So on this bloody ethnic cleansing, Israel was born.

Following the 1967 ‘war’, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and has done so ever since, this year marking the half-century point. Although it ostensibly left the Gaza Strip in 2005, it has blockaded it since, and the U.N. considers it still occupied.

Despite its key role in the monster it created, the U.N. has issued more resolutions condemning Israeli activity than it has against any other nation.

Currently, nearly 500,000 Israelis live illegally in the West Bank. Israel routinely demolishes Palestinian homes to make room for new buildings that only Israelis can inhabit. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in disdaining international law, has stated categorically that not one settler will ever be removed from the West Bank.

But the easy resolution Mr. Trump sees is not the one that actually exists. With his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move sure to bring more hostility toward the U.S. throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, international law does not seem to be anywhere on his radar. His request to Netanyahu to, perhaps, slow down on settlement building reinforces that idea. But, as the ‘ultimate deal-maker’, he is confident he can broker an agreement between the two sides.

Let’s look at a similar situation. A bank is robbed; the robber wore no mask, and made no attempt to conceal his identity as he brandished a gun, shot a few tellers, and emptied their drawers. He escaped in a police vehicle

The police are notified. They go to the robber’s house and ask him to please meet with the bank manager, to discuss how much of the money he stole, if any, could be returned to the bank. The murders of the tellers isn’t even mentioned.

The robber agrees; after all, what does he have to lose? As he sits down with the bank manager, word is received that an associate of the robber has robbed yet another bank. The bank manager leaves, seeing that the robber isn’t negotiating in good faith. The police ask the robber to please meet again, but to agree not to rob any more banks during the negotiation period. The robber refuses; he agrees only to negotiations with no pre-conditions. The police drive the robber back home.

Now, this scenario is, of course, ridiculous. When a bank is robbed, the perpetrator, if known, is arrested and the money, if found, is all returned to the bank. If anyone was killed during the robbery, the robber is also accused of murder, and tried for his or her crimes.

But in the lofty circles of international crime, such petty considerations as law, justice and fairness have no role. Israel takes what it wants from Palestine – land, natural resources, etc. – with complete impunity. Why should Israel negotiate, when in doing so, it may have to give up something? Without negotiating, it simply takes whatever it wants, and gives nothing in return.

So what if international law demands an end to both the blockade of the Gaza Strip and the occupation of the West Bank? So what if the land on which 500,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements belongs to the Palestinians from whom it was stolen? What is any of that, when the mighty U.S. finances Israeli crimes, spits on the United Nations, and holds international law in contempt? Israel and the United States are two of just a few nations that haven’t signed on to the International Criminal Court, and are, therefore, not under its jurisdiction. That makes perfect sense from their point of view: when guilty of crimes against humanity, why involve oneself in an international organization that may hold you accountable for such crimes?

So what is to be done? One looks to the U.S., that self-proclaimed beacon of freedom and democracy, in vain. With a government owned by powerful lobbies, with AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) among the most powerful, such trivialities as international law, human rights and basic human dignity have no place in the equation. Photo-ops with Netanyahu, as he accepts $4 billion annually from the U.S., are far more important that tens of thousands of homeless Palestinians, struggling to find clean water in the largest outdoor prison in the world. The monies that flow from various Israeli lobbies, AIPAC chief among them, cannot be jeopardized by such trivialities as human rights and international law. Between 2010 and 2016, those political contributions amounted to $20,193,517. When lobbies donate that much money on a consistent basis, one knows that they are getting what they paid for. And what they pay for has nothing to do with human rights.

The Trump White House is, by all accounts except his own, in total disarray, with morale low and confusion high. The current focus is on the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the now-former head of one branch of U.S. terrorism. Why he was dismissed from his job is in question; the reason seems to change from one presidential ‘tweet’ to the next. Not even his vice-president, the radical Christian-right Zionist Mike Pence, seems to have that particular story straight.

So it is unlikely that Mr. Trump will be brokering any new ‘deals’ between Palestine and its brutal occupier, Israel. What is required is a continuation of the growing people’s movement, informing the public of Israel atrocities by publicizing them on social media. Additionally, pressure must be put on elected officials (this writer does not refer to them as ‘representatives’, since that implies that they represent their constituents, not the multiple lobbies whose work they actually do) to demand that the U.S. adhere to its own laws, which prohibit financial aid to countries in violation of human rights. The continued boycott of Israel, through the ever-growing BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement, must increase.

Despite the continued Israeli barbarity against the Palestinians, all financed and supported by the U.S., Palestine will be free. That day cannot come soon enough for the suffering Palestinians.

Originally published by the American Herald Tribune.

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Qatar and Saudi Arabia: Trump Adds Fuel to the Fire     

As if there weren’t enough crises in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emeritus have broken diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar. This, they claim, is because of Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Iran. This action has been endorsed by United States President Donald Trump, who signaled his support in typical fashion, by  ‘Tweet’.

Perhaps we can look at the objections that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the U.S. have against Qatar.

  • Alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood. This organization dates back to 1928. “Founded by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood – or al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic – has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work.” It supports moving away from secularism, and following the teachings of the Quran. In recent years, the brotherhood has taken a far more activist role in politics, and, although denouncing violence, some offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood have been linked to various attacks.

One would not condemn Christianity, because some so-called Christian groups bomb abortion clinics.  The entire Jewish population should not be condemned because of Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. Yet is seems acceptable to condemn the Muslim Brotherhood for the actions of some violent wing of that organization.

  • Support for Hamas. The U.S. and several other countries have decreed Hamas to be a ‘terrorist’ organization. How the U.S. can so designate anyone, when its long history of terrorism is certainly the worst in world history, is a mystery to this writer. Hamas is the democratically-elected government of Palestine’s Gaza Strip. It is no wonder the people of Gaza elected Hamas over Fatah, the U.S. and Israel-supported puppet government of the West Bank. Hamas promised jobs, and real aid, promises it delivered on until blocked by Fatah ‘leader’ Mamoud Abbas. Saudi Arabia and the UAE claim that Qatar support for Hamas is one of the reasons for its current actions against Qatar. Apparently, supporting an organization that is duly elected, and seeks to genuinely work for the people who elected it, cannot be countenanced.
  • And last, but not least, we get to Qatar’s alleged support for Iran. In February, U.S. Secretary of Defense, one James Mattis, made this most puzzling statement: “As far as Iran goes, this is the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.” He said this, with a straight face, even as the country he represents was bombing six countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen). Iran, of course, is not bombing anyone. Is not dropping bombs on innocent people the greatest form of terrorism there is?

Well, let’s put that aside for a minute. The U.S. funds and trains terrorist groups in Syria, including the White Helmets. Is this not ‘state sponsored’ terrorism?

And we could look along the terrorism spectrum, with the U.S. being at the extreme end, with its constant bombing of countries, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and Iran being at the other end, basically attempting to serve its people and prepare to protect them from foreign invasion. What other nations may fall somewhere along that continuum? Well, Israel comes to mind as a nation close to the U.S. It brutally occupies Palestine, killing and terrorizing innocent Palestinian men, women and children with complete impunity. Its IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers (read: terrorists) are just as brutal when confronting Israelis who support Palestinian human rights. And every few years, Israel decides to ‘mow the lawn’, carpet-bombing the Gaza Strip, often referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison.

And where might Saudi Arabia fall on this continuum? It will be grouped with the U.S. and Israel, due at least to its bombing of Yemen.

And why is Iran at the other end of this spectrum? The last time Iran attacked a country was in 1798. Yes, that is not a typographical error; it was 219 years ago.

We will now take a moment to view Mr. Trump’s 140 character analysis of this situation. In his elegant, erudite manner, he wrote this: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” Well, there you are. Yet Mr. Trump is funding terrorist groups attempting to overthrow the government of Syria. Perhaps those ‘leaders’ should have been pointing to Mr. Trump.

And what is the source of all this? It was a speech that the Qatari ruler was said to have made that indicated support for Iran. U.S. news outlets now state that the report was false, and was planted by Russian intelligence.

During the Cold War, there was a Russian Communist believed to be hiding under every bed in the United States. Today, it seems, any diplomatic crisis can be tracked, at least by the U.S., to Russia. It isn’t surprising that U.S. intelligence would perceive this, since that is the way it operates, supporting rebel groups, planting false stories, and undermining governments, democratically-elected or not, which don’t meet some capitalist standard that the U.S. demands. And in the Middle East, any nation that opposes the sacred cow of Israel, as Iran does, must be thwarted.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Waleed al-Modallal, head of political science at the Islamic Unviersity of Gaza, commented on the currently controversy. “The pressure on Qatar is not to do with Hamas, but it’s the fact that it is a successful state that tries to engage in dialogue and it has been very successful in solving issues in the region.” Further, he said: “Qatar is a small country playing a big role in the region. That is what seems to have angered the bigger countries nearby.”

Yes, it seems that only the U.S. and Israel, aided and abetted by Saudi Arabia, can call the shots in the Middle East. Any other country trying to usurp that authority must pay a price.

What will come of this? Will a peaceful outcome be assured, due to the cool heads that prevail in the international arena today? Hardly! Although Israel isn’t directly, or at least publicly, involved, one can be sure that its Prime Murderer, Benjamin Netanyahu, is anxiously awaiting the raining down of U.S. bombs on Iran. And Mr. Trump is such a wild card, that what he’ll do next is anyone’s guess.

All this has little or nothing to do with anything Qatar’s leaders may or may not have said. As indicated by Mr. al-Modallal, It’s all jockeying for position in a roiling Middle East, where Iran remains a powerhouse, but Israel, aligned with Saudi Arabia, has nuclear weapons. With Zionists in control in the U.S., Iran must be ‘neutralized’, so Israel can remain supreme.

It is as obvious that Donald Trump is playing with matches while sitting on a powder keg, as it is that he is oblivious to that perilous fact. While no one can predict with accuracy what may occur, the outcome is sure to bring more suffering to millions of innocent people. For the U.S., that is business as usual.

Originally printed by the American Herald Tribune.

 

 

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Tulsi Gabbard: the New Democratic ‘Savior’

The grossly misnamed Democratic Party has a brand new savior. Yes, with former Senator Hillary Clinton having been vanquished, and her ardent cheerleader, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, being ‘old news’, one Tulsi Gabbard, Representative from the state of Hawaii, has ridden in on her white stallion to save the day.

Ms. Gabbard gained the attention of the Democrats when she dared criticize President Donald Trump’s bombing of Syria, saying that without hard evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was, indeed, responsible for the alleged chemical attack that killed several Syrian citizens, there should be no retaliation. It is puzzling that Ms. Gabbard seemed to be almost alone in this assertion, since it would seem to be common sense that before punishing anyone for anything, it should be known that that person was responsible for whatever deed is being punished for. And why U.S. government officials feel the need to punish any international entity for anything is a topic for a different essay.

But this position has launched Ms. Gabbard’s new career in what passes for the progressive wing of the party, as a leader in the Democratic Party, and a potential contender for the White House.

Sadly, like many Democrats, Ms. Gabbard is ‘PEP’: Progressive except for Palestine. She has said that she believes Palestine and Israel must negotiate the terms of peace, and supports an independent, demitiliarized Palestine. A few quotations from her official website are instructive:

“I know how important our enduring alliance with Israel is. My vote upholds my commitment to maintaining and strengthening this alliance, as well as my long-held position that the most viable path to peace between Israel and Palestine can be found through both sides negotiating a two-state solution.

“Ultimately, a negotiated solution must come from Israelis and Palestinians themselves, and can only happen when both parties are committed to peace, where they alone determine the terms of the settlement.  I co-sponsored H.Res.23 which reaffirms the U.S. commitment to Israel, and a negotiated settlement leading to a sustainable two-state solution that re-affirms Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state and establishes a demilitarized democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to support bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine in order to bring an end to this enduring conflict.”

As we dissect these few sentences, we must remember that between November, 2014 and November, 2016, the illustrious Ms. Gabbard received $21,975 from pro-Israeli lobbies. This is a mere pittance when compared to the contributions of some of her colleagues, with Illinois Representative Bradley Scott Schneider being the big winner, with a windfall of $300,932 during that same time period. But that grand prize is one that Ms. Gabbard, if she plays her Zionist cards right, can obtain, or even exceed.

+ “I know how important our enduring alliance with Israel is.” Ms. Gabbard may know it, but would someone, anyone, please enlighten this writer? Why should the U.S. have any alliance with an apartheid state, one that spits in its eye and then demands, and receives, billions of dollars in aid?

+ “…the most viable path to peace between Israel and Palestine can be found through both sides negotiating a two-state solution.” Again, this writer needs to be enlightened. If I am in ‘negotiations’ with another party, and I am able to take from that party whatever I want, whenever I want, and give nothing in return, what would be the advantage to me in negotiating? Oh, I might proclaim to whatever idiotic entity is encouraging negotiations that I am willing to sit down with the other party, without preconditions (meaning I can continue taking whatever I want as we ‘negotiate’), and then actually do so, but it will have no meaning. I will never honestly negotiate, since doing so won’t be in my best interest.

+ Gabbard reaffirms “Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state.” That is a two-pronged sword, and we will try to prevent being stabbed by either one.

Like most Democrats, Ms. Gabbard does not seem to understand the root words from which the term originates. Basically, it means ‘citizen rule’, and implies equality. In a democracy, there are not separate rules for different ethnic and religious groups, as there are in Israel. Yet she is willing to spout the happy mantras that have served the party for so long, despite the fact that they have long since their luster among the populace.

She further affirms Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Again, the meaning of that term is unclear. The only reasonable definition contradicts the idea of a democracy. If Israel is to be a Jewish state, than non-Jews living there will not have the same rights, as is true today.

The concept of a ‘Jewish, democratic state’ is a contradiction in terms. For generations, the U.S. was, in effect, a ‘White European, democratic state’, meaning that all laws favored the predominately white population, and everyone else was a second-class citizen. Democracy? This writer thinks not.

+ Gabbard further wants to “establish a demilitarized democratic Palestinian state”. How is it possible for anyone to utter those words with a straight face? Set aside for a moment the fact that an independent Palestine will have a mortal enemy at its border, one that has been actively working on its destruction for decades. Leave out for just a minute the fact that that enemy has an extremely powerful military, and is backed by the strongest and most violent nation on the planet. Even without those considerations, why should any country be prevented by any other country from having the means to defend its land and citizens?

All of this indicates that Ms. Gabbard is either ignorant of international law, or cares nothing for it. International law states clearly, and this has been reiterated by numerous United Nations resolutions, that the occupation of Palestine by Israel is illegal. This, apparently, means nothing to Ms. Gabbard.

It’s also worth noting, that the celebrated Representative from Hawaii also condemns the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement.

And this is the new savior; this is the ‘new breed’ of ‘progressive’ Democrat who will carry the mantle of the war-mongering former President Barack Obama; former standard-bearer, the war-mongering Hillary Clinton, and the rest of the war-mongering Democrats.

This is what ‘progressive’ has come to mean in Democratic Party circles. The party has long been nothing but a cosmetically-different version of the Republican Party, with opposition to Republican policies only on display when the GOP is in power; the same policies, with few exceptions, are promoted when the Democrats are in power, and one constant is the bowing at the Israeli altar and the accompanying complete disdain for the human rights struggles of the Palestinian people. And with that, of course, is an equal disregard for international law.

As long as the government and the corporate-owned media are able to maintain their stranglehold on what passes for the two-party system in the U.S., nothing will change. Politicians will do the bidding of the lobbies that support them, ignoring the will of the people. Suffering in the U.S. and globally will be ignored, as long as the U.S.’s elected officials are able to keep their low-challenging, high-paying jobs.

To say that a third party movement, a real one not beholden to any outside interests but with the good of the people in mind, is long overdue, is a classic understatement.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Trump, Salman and Netanyahu: The Match Made in Hell

As United States President Donald Trump struts his limited stuff across the international stage, his ‘accomplishments’ during this tour will benefit no one but the wealthy elites at home and abroad.

Let us look first at his time in Saudi Arabia, and what that means for the U.S. and the Middle East.

The reality-tv-star-turned-president signed a $100 million dollar weapons deal with the Saudi kingdom. If anyone in power in the U.S. would like to look closely at this, he/she would find that this deal is, in all likelihood, illegal. It seems that Mr. Trump and Congress should be reminded of the U.S. law referred to as the Leahy law; it is described thusly:

The “Leahy law vetting is a process through which the U.S. government vets U.S. assistance to foreign security forces, as well as Department of Defense training programs, to ensure that recipients have not committed gross human rights abuses.  When the vetting process uncovers credible evidence that an individual or unit has committed a gross violation of human rights, U.S. assistance is withheld, consistent with U.S. law and policy.  This obligation to vet foreign security forces can be found in section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA).”

So, based on Mr. Trump’s action, one would think that Saudi Arabia does not commit “gross human rights abuses”. A look at a report from Human Rights Watch about Saudi Arabia is instructive:

“Through 2016 the Saudi Arabia-led coalition continued an aerial campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included numerous unlawful airstrikes that killed and injured thousands of civilians. Saudi authorities also continued their arbitrary arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists continued to serve long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities continued to discriminate against women and religious minorities.”

Well, what’s a little crime against humanity when $100 million is on the table? And what a benefit to those holding stock in the so-called U.S. ‘defense’ industry! A report in Moneywatch from May 22 of this year is headlined: ‘U.S. Defense Stocks Jump on Saudi Arms Deal’. The article is very clear: “Investors hailed President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia by boosting the share prices of major U.S. defense contractors. Their stocks advanced on Monday in the wake of announcements of arms sales to the kingdom that could be worth $109 billion over the next decade, one of the largest-ever deals of its kind.”

The article continues with rather puzzling information: “The Saudi Arabian deal could lead to additional sales for both Israel and the Persian Gulf countries, all of which are concerned with Iran’s aggressive foreign policy and its support for terrorist groups in the region.”

Now, this simple statement requires further study. We will break it down to its component parts and attempt to make sense of it.

  • The deal could lead to additional sales for Israel.

Once again, perhaps we could consider the Leahy Law, referenced above, and see just what Human Rights Watch has to say about Israel: “Israel continued in 2016 to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, to facilitate the transfer of Israeli civilians to the occupied West Bank, and to severely restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip.” There is more, but for our purposes today, this will suffice.

  • Israel and surrounding countries, according to the Moneywatch article, “are concerned with Iran’s aggressive foreign policy and its support for terrorist groups in the region.”

If we are to talk about ‘aggressive foreign policy’, perhaps we should point out that the U.S. is currently bombing six countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Its minions are causing tremendous unrest and suffering in Venezuela. It might also be worth noting that, since World War II, the United States has either invaded or intentionally destabilized at least thirty-three (33) countries, including Angola, Argentina, Bosnia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tibet, Turkey and Vietnam. Some of these countries have been invaded by the U.S. more than once in that time. This doesn’t include Palestine, which the U.S. has only bombed by proxy, by giving Israel the weaponry and the permission (cover at the United Nations) to bomb that country.

We should also not forget that the U.S. is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons, bombing two, heavily-populated cities in Japan that had no military importance. Hundreds of thousands died, some instantly, and other later, as a result of the horrific injuries they suffered.

And as far as support for terrorist groups is concerned, the U.S. military can be seen as the biggest, most powerful and most dangerous terrorist group in the world. And there is ample evidence to suggest that the U.S. initiated ISIS, and supports groups that actually fight each other.

We would look at the list of countries that Iran has invaded since World War II, but there are none to see. So any ‘fear’ of Iran’s ‘aggressive foreign policy’ is being invented by the U.S. to sell weaponry, and to help Israel maintain military superiority in the Middle East.

 

We will now turn to Israel, and the president’s short visit there. Certainly, there can be no doubt that Mr. Trump is an adoring Zionist, willing to kiss the feet of Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu. He has proclaimed that he can make a ‘deal’, settling the ‘conflict’ between Israel and Palestine. He never refers to ‘occupation’, ‘human rights’ or ‘international law’ in the context of this ‘conflict’.

But, significantly, prior to his visit, he back-tracked on one of his main Zionist promises, the vow to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This may be because the only other nation on the planet that supports such a move is Israel, and it is vehemently opposed by everyone else. It appears that even the immature, narcissist Mr. Trump can be prevailed upon when the opposition is strong enough.

Nothing of any significance was done in Israel, either helpful or detrimental to Palestinians. What Mr. Trump may have said to the Israeli Prime Murderer, about compromising Israeli intelligence during his meetings with Russian diplomats, is unknown, although he has denied ever having done any such thing. The confusion by his staff over where the Western Wall is located, Israel or Palestine (it’s in Palestine), did not sit particularly well with his apartheid hosts. And his sunny optimism about brokering a deal was generally dismissed as the nonsense that it is.

If Mr. Trump has any thoughts in his rather limited brain, he must realize that the controversies he left behind in Washington, D.C. will still be there when he returns. He will dismiss them, no doubt, and talk about his successful visits to the Middle East and the Vatican (heaven only knows what he and the most progressive pope in centuries will have to talk about).

To summarize: one of the world’s most egregious  violators of human rights has struck an historic weapons deal with another one, the U.S.; no discussion of those human rights abuses is known to have occurred. Israel hosted the U.S. president, but nothing of substance, other than a strengthening of the ‘special relationship’ the U.S. has with that apartheid nation, was accomplished. And next stop is with a religious leader who has condemned war and capitalism, two of Mr. Trump’s disreputable gods.

Much as one would like to see Mr. Trump leave office, the thought of his vice-president, the Zionist, Christian-right conservative MikePence taking the reins, is, perhaps, even more frightening.

What happens next in foreign or domestic policy remains to be seen, but the indications are not favorable for any but the ruling elite.

Originally published in The American Herald Tribune.

 

 

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Israel will Continue Occupying Palestine, Trump Made Abbas Sure

On May 3, Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli-U.S. puppet who is the figurehead leader of the Palestinian Authority, met with his secondary puppet-master, U.S. President Donald Trump. What he promised in exchange for nothing is yet to be seen. At present he is working to undermine Hamas, the elected government of the Gaza Strip. He has refused to allow the construction of a desperately-needed power plant that even apartheid Israel approved, and is paying government employees in the Gaza Strip not to go to work, in an effort to cause dissatisfaction with Hamas. This is typical U.S. methodology: stir up trouble and discontent in the populace, and assist in the eventual overthrow of the government. The U.S. has done this successfully, with tragic consequences in terms of human life and violations of human rights, countless times.

One of the things Mr. Abbas seeks to accomplish is the disarmament of the Gaza Strip. The West Bank is basically without weapons, and the death toll of defenseless Palestinians there is constantly increasing. This isn’t surprising since it is occupied by the heavily-armed IDF (Israel Defense Forces) terrorists and settler-terrorists, who believe that Palestinians are not human, and should have no rights whatsoever. And this is the vision Mr. Abbas seems to have for the Gaza Strip.

Congress has also set its sights on Palestine, with pending legislation to deny, as usual, the $300 million that it annually budgets for that nation. Congress wants to assure that none of it goes to the families of Palestinians who kill Israelis.

Now, let’s look at this for just a moment. The U.S. gives Israel $4 billion a year, more than thirteen times the amount it budgets for, but usually doesn’t give, to Palestine.  And it is committed to that $4 billion for the next ten years. With much of it, Israel purchases, often from the U.S., the most advanced weaponry on the planet. It periodically tests that weaponry on Palestinians. And it doesn’t hesitate to use chemical weapons.

That money also goes to provide trucks which spray raw sewerage on homes and schools in the West Bank. It funds IDF terrorists breaking into the homes of Palestinians at all hours of the day and night, ransacking them and arresting any and all males over the age of 10.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham is a key sponsor of this bill. The good senator is silent about Israeli atrocities against Palestinians; he says nothing about the blatant, shocking and constant violations of the basic human rights of the Palestinians, and doesn’t seem to care at all about international law, which condemns the occupation, and recognizes Palestine’s and Israel’s borders as those that were mandated by the United Nations in 1948 (the legality of that action is a topic for another essay). One can’t help but wonder if Mr. Graham isn’t just a tad influenced by the $391,200.00 that pro-Israel lobbies contributed to his campaigns between 2010 and 2016. Could he be looking at the situation in Palestine through green-colored glasses?

When Israeli Sergeant Elor Azaria was convicted of murdering a wounded Palestinian, lying immobile on the ground, he received a sentence of 18 months. Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu said he supported a pardon for Mr. Azaria, and surveys indicated that two-thirds of Israelis agreed with him. Yet Palestinian teenagers convicted of throwing stones at IDF terrorists are often sentenced to 15 years in Israeli prisons. Mr. Graham has been silent about this travesty.

One would like to point out, not only to the head-in-the-sand senator from South Carolina, but to the rest of the U.S. so-called governing body, including the illustrious former reality television star who now occupies the White House, that Palestine is occupied by Israel, and according to international law, an occupied people has the right to resist the occupation in any way possible. While U.S. elected officials decry any Palestinian violence, they are silent about Israeli violence. Not satisfied with ignoring international law, and condemning violent measures to achieve justice, they also condemn peaceful ones, with their futile attempt to outlaw the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement.

And into all this comes Mr. Abbas, doing the bidding of his Israeli and U.S. masters, making his photo-op appearance at the White House, where he was lectured by President Donald Trump on the need for civility and, of course, negotiations.

This writer will once again point out the obvious: negotiations can only be successful when each party has something that the other wants, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Israel takes whatever it wants from Palestine – land, water, other natural resources – with complete impunity. How can ‘negotiations’ ever be successful when one party gets whatever it wants without them? Yet Congress, and countless presidents, have all encouraged this farce for decades.

Perhaps Mr. Abbas will meet with Vice President Mike Pence, a born-again Christian in the most evangelical of evangelic modes. There he will be lectured on the Christian Right’s bizarre interpretation of the Bible, and will be told that Israel is entitled to Palestine, because ‘God said so’.

This writer is a Christian, involved in the religion he joined decades ago as a young adult. He is well versed in the Bible. He recognizes that that sacred book is not meant to govern nations; if it were, atheists would be stoned along with adulterers (which would result in many vacancies in the halls of Congress, not to mention the White House), slavery would be legal, and all businesses would be closed on Sundays, so those who work in them would be spared execution.

So what will Mr. Abbas accomplish? The same thing he usually does, which is to further the occupation at the expense of the people he supposedly represents. And as he does so, Israel will steal more land, oppress and kill more Palestinians, and work to obliterate that beleaguered nation from existence. The world must not allow it to happen.

Originally published by the American Herald Tribune.

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Trump, Palestine and ‘The Deal’

On May 4, United States President Donald Trump said that the Palestine-Israel problem may not be as hard to resolve as people have thought. And, as the self-proclaimed ultimate deal-maker, he was confident he could resolve it.

Much as one hates to ever agree with the former reality-TV star who currently occupies the White House (and whose tenure may be considerably shorter than 4 years, if the chaos he engenders continues), but it is true: the resolution to the problem is clear. However, it isn’t whatever the delusional Mr. Trump may think it is. All it takes is adherence to the rule of international law.

In 1947, the newly-minted United Nations partitioned Palestine to establish Israel. This had been the plan of Zionists for at least fifty years, and the atrocities committed by Germany against the Jewish people motivated the U.N. to commit a major, ongoing atrocity against the Palestinians. The illegality and immorality of that action will not be addressed here. Suffice it to say that the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors were not keen on this plan, which displaced, in that and the next year, at least 750,000 Palestinians, and caused the deaths of at least 10,000. And the death toll has mounted drastically since then, along with the number of people brutally displaced from their homes and homeland.

So on this bloody ethnic cleansing, Israel was born.

Following the 1967 ‘war’, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and has done so ever since, this year marking the half-century point. Although it ostensibly left the Gaza Strip in 2005, it has blockaded it since, and the U.N. considers it still occupied.

Despite its key role in the monster it created, the U.N. has issued more resolutions condemning Israeli activity than it has against any other nation.

Currently, nearly 500,000 Israelis live illegally in the West Bank. Israel routinely demolishes Palestinian homes to make room for new buildings that only Israelis can inhabit. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in disdaining international law, has stated categorically that not one settler will ever be removed from the West Bank.

But the easy resolution Mr. Trump sees is not the one that actually exists. With his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move sure to bring more hostility toward the U.S. throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, international law does not seem to be anywhere on his radar. His request to Netanyahu to, perhaps, slow down on settlement building reinforces that idea. But, as the ‘ultimate deal-maker’, he is confident he can broker an agreement between the two sides.

Let’s look at a similar situation. A bank is robbed; the robber wore no mask, and made no attempt to conceal his identity as he brandished a gun, shot a few tellers, and emptied their drawers. He escaped in a police vehicle

The police are notified. They go to the robber’s house and ask him to please meet with the bank manager, to discuss how much of the money he stole, if any, could be returned to the bank. The murders of the tellers isn’t even mentioned.

The robber agrees; after all, what does he have to lose? As he sits down with the bank manager, word is received that an associate of the robber has robbed yet another bank. The bank manager leaves, seeing that the robber isn’t negotiating in good faith. The police ask the robber to please meet again, but to agree not to rob any more banks during the negotiation period. The robber refuses; he agrees only to negotiations with no pre-conditions. The police drive the robber back home.

Now, this scenario is, of course, ridiculous. When a bank is robbed, the perpetrator, if known, is arrested and the money, if found, is all returned to the bank. If anyone was killed during the robbery, the robber is also accused of murder, and tried for his or her crimes.

But in the lofty circles of international crime, such petty considerations as law, justice and fairness have no role. Israel takes what it wants from Palestine – land, natural resources, etc. – with complete impunity. Why should Israel negotiate, when in doing so, it may have to give up something? Without negotiating, it simply takes whatever it wants, and gives nothing in return.

So what if international law demands an end to both the blockade of the Gaza Strip and the occupation of the West Bank? So what if the land on which 500,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements belongs to the Palestinians from whom it was stolen? What is any of that, when the mighty U.S. finances Israeli crimes, spits on the United Nations, and holds international law in contempt? Israel and the United States are two of just a few nations that haven’t signed on to the International Criminal Court, and are, therefore, not under its jurisdiction. That makes perfect sense from their point of view: when guilty of crimes against humanity, why involve oneself in an international organization that may hold you accountable for such crimes?

So what is to be done? One looks to the U.S., that self-proclaimed beacon of freedom and democracy, in vain. With a government owned by powerful lobbies, with AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) among the most powerful, such trivialities as international law, human rights and basic human dignity have no place in the equation. Photo-ops with Netanyahu, as he accepts $4 billion annually from the U.S., are far more important that tens of thousands of homeless Palestinians, struggling to find clean water in the largest outdoor prison in the world. The monies that flow from various Israeli lobbies, AIPAC chief among them, cannot be jeopardized by such trivialities as human rights and international law. Between 2010 and 2016, those political contributions amounted to $20,193,517. When lobbies donate that much money on a consistent basis, one knows that they are getting what they paid for. And what they pay for has nothing to do with human rights.

The Trump White House is, by all accounts except his own, in total disarray, with morale low and confusion high. The current focus is on the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the now-former head of one branch of U.S. terrorism. Why he was dismissed from his job is in question; the reason seems to change from one presidential ‘tweet’ to the next. Not even his vice-president, the radical Christian-right Zionist Mike Pence, seems to have that particular story straight.

So it is unlikely that Mr. Trump will be brokering any new ‘deals’ between Palestine and its brutal occupier, Israel. What is required is a continuation of the growing people’s movement, informing the public of Israel atrocities by publicizing them on social media. Additionally, pressure must be put on elected officials (this writer does not refer to them as ‘representatives’, since that implies that they represent their constituents, not the multiple lobbies whose work they actually do) to demand that the U.S. adhere to its own laws, which prohibit financial aid to countries in violation of human rights. The continued boycott of Israel, through the ever-growing BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement, must increase.

Despite the continued Israeli barbarity against the Palestinians, all financed and supported by the U.S., Palestine will be free. That day cannot come soon enough for the suffering Palestinians.

Originally published by the American Herald Tribune.

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Trump, AIPAC and the United Nations

Since Donald Trump became president of the United States, it may be an exaggeration to say that all hell has broken loose, but, then again, it may not be. The dismal education system in the U.S. is at risk of deteriorating further, under the direction of a wealthy Trump donor who knows nothing about public education. Regulations protecting the environment are already being eliminated. The Republicans are desperately trying to deprive 21 million people of health care, thus fulfilling one of their more bizarre campaign promises. And white supremacy has become fashionable again, strutting its stuff after remaining mainly (although not entirely) closeted for decades.

Officially-sanctioned U.S. racism, however, isn’t limited to the boundaries of the country. No, under Mr. Trump, it is being enshrined in the United Nations.  The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, one Nikki Haley, blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to lead the U.N.’s Libya mission. In her elegant way, she explained the decision at the recent AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) convention: “So when they decided to try and put a Palestinian in one of the highest positions that had ever been given at the UN, we said no and we had him booted out.” She continued: “That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a nice man; that doesn’t mean he wasn’t good to America.” No, the fact that he was Palestinian disqualified him from that role, at least in the eyes of the august ambassador,.

Hot on the heels of that action, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded that a carefully documented report on Israeli apartheid be removed from the official U.N. website. This wasn’t, he hastened to say, due to any criticism of the content. No, it was because it had not gone through the proper channels before being posted.  Rima Khalaf, head of the U.N.’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), resigned rather than remove the document herself.

Now, when Mr. Guterres refers to the ‘proper channels’, he apparently means Israel and the U.S., both of which were greatly irritated that such a report could be issued by the United Nations. Never mind that it was factual; it criticized sacred Israel, so it must not be allowed to stand. Ms. Haley was not silent about this perceived outrage. She weighed in on this report, again delighting all and sundry with her polished prose: “And a ridiculous report, the Falk Report, came out. I don’t know who the guy is or what he’s about, but he’s got serious problems. Goes and compares Israel to an apartheid state. So the first thing we do is we call the secretary general and say, this is absolutely ridiculous.”

One might think it worthwhile for the ambassador to do a few things prior to letting loose with her verbal diarrhea.  First, she might find out who Mr. Falk is (a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University); she might learn just ‘what he’s about’ (he was the  United Nations Special Rapporteur  for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for six years; perhaps human rights is ‘what he’s about’), and finally, perhaps she might consider reading the report before calling the secretary general and saying ‘this is absolutely ridiculous’.

As Ms. Haley was waxing eloquent at the unholy AIPAC altar, various Congressional bodies and the FBI were busy investigating the Trump White House for ties to Russia, all of which are somehow associated with a belief that Russia attempted to unduly influence the U.S. election. Horrors! Can such a thing even be imagined? Historian and philosopher Noam Chomsky commented on this in an interview with Truthout. Said he: “Much of the world must be astonished — if they are not collapsing in laughter — while watching the performances in high places and in media concerning Russian efforts to influence an American election, a familiar US government specialty as far back as we choose to trace the practice. There is, however, merit in the claim that this case is different in character: By US standards, the Russian efforts are so meager as to barely elicit notice.” As Truthout said: “…the US has blatantly interfered in the elections of many other nations, with methods that include not only financial support to preferred parties and the circulation of propaganda, but also assassinations and overthrows of even democratically elected regimes.”

Russia does not have nearly the influence in the U.N. of those two rogue nations, the U.S. and Israel, both of which are guilty of unspeakable human rights violations at home and abroad. They actually wield sufficient influence with the U.N. to get things done their way. Actually, it is the U.S. influence on the U.N., and Israel’s on the U.S. And how does Israel manage to have so much sway in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Congress? Well, among U.S. elected pseudo-representatives, money talks, and Israeli lobbies are flush with it, which they are willing to dole out to any member or potential member of Congress who is willing to jump through whatever hoops it chooses to hold. And those hoops usually demand acquiescence to Israel’s brutal occupation and persecution of the Palestinians.

And how that cash does flow into the campaigns of U.S. ‘representatives’! Between November 29, 2010 and November 28, 2016, Israeli lobbies donated a whopping $14,283,115.00 to members of the U.S. Senate. In the two-year period of November 29, 2014 to November 28, 2016, members of the House of Representatives received $5,910,402.00 in the form of pro-Israeli-lobby largesse. Members of Congress have one priority, and one priority only: holding onto their jobs. Human rights? Who needs them! Integrity? What will that get you! Acting on the will of the people? What do they know! The amount of blood staining the money doesn’t matter, as long as the cash keeps flowing in.

At the very close of former President Barack Obama’s administration, the United Nations passed a resolution condemning the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Ms. Haley and Mr. Trump notwithstanding, revoking a U.N. resolution is next to impossible, especially when one considers that the representatives of the member states of the Security Council erupted in applause when the U.S. abstained from voting, rather than vetoing the resolution. They can all bow and scrape as much as they want to their Israeli masters. The U.S. was the last country to condemn South African apartheid, yet that was defeated; it may be the last to condemn Israeli apartheid, but that, too, will be defeated.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Distractions, Dysfunction and Donald Trump

The train wreck known as the Executive Branch of the United States government continues somehow, careening out of control towards the cliff. The cars are damaged, the passengers bruised, bloodied and terrified, but the engineer drives on, believing that all the problems thus far were caused by protesters, former President Barack Obama, ‘liberal’ courts, Muslims and the media.

But while President Donald Trump looks ahead, unconcerned about the collateral damage he leaves behind, the Republican-led Congress has been busy. Among their many activities has been the introduction of the following legislation:

  • Bill HR 861 to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. So what if someone wants clean water: it can be purchased. Clean air? Move to a wealthy neighborhood where there is no industry, and there you are: clean air! And why are all these regulations required anyway? Can’t huge, multinational corporations be trusted to protect the fragile environment, regardless of the expense? Doesn’t the good of the world, and the needs of future generations trump stakeholder demands for profits? Don’t pigs fly?
  • Bill HR 610 to basically abolish the Department of Education. Under the terms of this bill, the Department “…is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states”. There goes public education. But that isn’t all; those wily Congress members also included in this bill a provision to eliminate the requirement that national breakfast and lunch programs “…increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children’s nutritional needs within their caloric requirements”. Obesity is at epidemic levels in the U.S., and children’s obesity levels are increasing, but what the hey? Bring on the Big Macs for school lunches!
  • Bill HJR 69, to remove protections from some animals regarding hunting and trapping. Current law bans “…taking black or brown bear cubs or sows with cubs, taking brown bears over bait, taking bears using traps or snares, taking wolves or coyotes during denning season, and taking bears from an aircraft”. This bill would remove those protections.
  • Bill HR 785, to remove the right of unions to charge dues as a condition of employment. Unionized workers are powerful workers, and this just cannot be in the Republican Trump era.
  • Bill HR 354, which would defund Planned Parenthood. Now, let’s look at this one for a minute.

During a budget debate in 2011, Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) asserted that well over 90% of Planned Parenthood’s budget went to fund abortions.  As of January, 2016, abortions comprised about 3.4% of all of the organizations services, and this has remained fairly constant over the years. Of course, Mr. Kyle’s spokespeople explained his misstatement thusly:  they said that it was “not intended to be a factual statement.” In the parlance of 2017, one might call it an alternative fact.

That 3.4% represents a little over 300,000 abortions. The same report says that the total number of medical services provided by Planned Parenthood was nearly 9,500,000. So in the Republican’s great desire to end abortions, they will effectively also try to prevent over 9,000,000 medical services, such ‘trivial’ things related to women’s health as mammograms. Additionally, they will prevent women from being able to access contraception, thus increasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, and the number of abortions. But defunding Planned Parenthood plays well to the so-called Christian Right, which votes en masse for those who do its bidding.

  • Bill HR 808, which implements sanctions against Iran, which U.S. spokespeople call the greatest exporter of terrorism in the world. Again, we need to look at a few of those pesky things so often ignored in the nation’s capital, not only under Mr. Trump’s bizarre and chaotic administration, but in general under any president of either party: facts. The U.S. is by far the largest exporter of weaponry in the world. It is currently bombing at least five countries (Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen), and is at war in Afghanistan. It is supporting terrorist organizations with money and training in Syria. The U.S. has over 1,000 military bases or installations around the world, threatening the host countries and those that surround them.  It supports such violent and barbaric regimes as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Now, we will look at the list of countries Iran has invaded in the last several hundred years. Actually, we won’t, since there are none.

Based on this information, the writer asks the objective reader to decide for him or herself which of the two countries, the United States or Iran, should be considered the greatest exporter of terrorism in the world. He is confident he knows the answer.

But again, there must always be a big, bad, boogeyman for the U.S. to fight; you know, some nation that hates the U.S. because of its freedoms. And in the current climate, that boogeyman must be a predominantly Muslim country because, as we all know, all Muslims are terrorists. Well, perhaps we don’t all know that, but Mr. Trump and his adoring minions in Congress and across the U.S. certainly seem to believe it. They also believe that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, that evolution is a Satanic lie, and that universal health care is an evil beyond any ever experienced since the beginning of time. Except, of course, when they themselves need it.

So this is where the United States finds itself today, and it is certainly not a happy place. Mr. Trump’s electoral victory was fueled in part by the anti-Muslim, anti-gay, xenophobic right wing, and partly by those who despised his opponent, Hillary Clinton, so much, that they would have voted for Satan himself instead of her. And while those who adore him have not seen anything to dissuade that adulation (expect for some who are now faced with the real possibility of losing health care), those who saw him as the lesser of two evils are now having some second thoughts.

But it is too late for that. Mr. Trump and a Republican Congress have nothing to stop their train from barrelling down the track, annihilating all regulations designed to protect the health and safety of the citizenry. Certainly, one looks in vain (if one bothers to look at all) to any Democratic leadership to halt the looming disasters, because as appalled as they may appear to be, the illustrious Democrats generally cower, and allow the lobbyists to do their work. One must never annoy anyone who lines one’s pockets.

The Trump Administration is off to a very rocky start, and one is naïve indeed if one thinks things will improve anytime soon. One only hopes that the courts will prevent the most egregious of Mr. Trump’s policies. There seems to be nothing else to stop him.

Originally published by TheTruther.us.

 

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