How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries

In two years, the world has become accustomed to being shocked by the words and actions of United States President Donald Trump. In January of this year, he again showed his lack of diplomacy, tack and common decency, when he referred to many poorer countries as “sh*ithole countries”, asking, “Why do we want all these people from sh*thole countries coming here?” Former member of the House of Representatives Cynthia McKinney, in the new book she has edited, How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries, (Clarity Press) has gathered a collection of essays, including one of her own, that clearly shows that it is the U.S. that is largely responsible for the poverty and suffering in these very nations.

McKinney

The first series of essays describes U.S. foreign policy, and its true motives. In the essay, The End of Washington’s ‘Wars on the Cheap’, The Saker sums up U.S. foreign policy as follows: “Here’s the template for typical Empire action: find some weak country, subvert it, accuse it of human right violations, slap economic sanctions, trigger riots and intervene militarily in ‘defense’ of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘self-determination’ (or some other combo of equally pious and meaningless concepts).” The hypocrisy of such a policy is obvious. A weak and vulnerable nation is victimized by a far more powerful one. The U.S. has done this countless times in its history, and there appears to be no appetite in the government to change.

This introduction and explanation of U.S. foreign policy is followed by essays on some, but certainly not all, of the countries that have been victimized by the United States, usually following this template. As McKinney says in her essay, Somalia: Is Somalia the U.S. Template for All of Africa, “…while mouthing freedom, democracy, and liberty, the United States has denied these very aspirations to others, especially when it inconvenienced the US or its allies. In Mozambique and Angola, the US stood with Portugal until it was the Portuguese people, themselves, who threw off their government and voted in a socialist government that vowed to free Portugal of its colonies.”

In the essay, How the U.S. Perpetuates the Palestinian Tragedy’, Sami Al-Arian writes:

It might be understandable, if detestable, for Israel and its Zionist defenders to circulate false characterizations of history and myths to advance their political agenda. But it is incomprehensible, indeed reprehensible, for those who claim to advocate the rule of law, believe in the principle of self-determination, and call for freedom and justice to fall for this propaganda or to become its willing accomplices. In following much of American political leaders’ rhetoric or media coverage of the conflict, one is struck by the lack of historical context, the deliberate disregard of empirical facts, and the contempt for established legal constructs and precedents.”

The U.S. leads in these distortions, with its officials proclaiming, each time that Israel bombs Gaza, that “Israel has a right to defend itself”. There is hardly mention of the brutal, illegal occupation and blockade; never a discussion of the fact that Palestine has no army, navy or air force, and Israel’s military is one of the world’s most powerful thanks to the U.S. It is never stated that international law allows an occupied people to resist the occupation in any way possible, including armed struggle. The countless United Nations resolutions condemning Israeli actions in Palestine are ignored by U.S. officials.

Once again, U.S. hypocrisy is on very public display.

The third section of this informative book describes the United States’ mostly-successful efforts to camouflage its vile intentions and international crimes. Christopher Black, in his essay Western Imperialism and the Use of Propaganda”, clearly articulates how this is done:

The primary concern they [U.S. government officials] have, in order to preserve their control, is for the preservation of the new feudal mythology that they have created: that the world is a dangerous place, that they are the protectors, that the danger is omnipresent, eternal, and omnidirectional, comes from without, and comes from within. The mythology is constructed and presented through all media; journals, films, television, radio, music, advertising, books, the internet in all its variety. All available information systems are used to create and maintain scenarios and dramas to convince the people that they, the protectors, are the good and all others are the bad. We are bombarded with this message incessantly.”

Our memories are short, indeed, if we have forgotten both President George W. Bush and his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, telling the world from the United Nations the blatant lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, threatening civilization. We are not paying attention if we are unaware of the many innuendos given of the ‘dangers’ of all Muslims. Yes, the government fosters fear, proclaiming subtly and not so subtly that there is danger everywhere, and it is the role of the mighty United States to protect the world, whether or not such protection is wanted or needed.

Lastly, the U.S. Itself can be described as a ‘sh*thole’ country. Its many violations of international law, and crimes against humanity, are summarized by Richard Falk, in his essay The Sh*thole Phenomenon at Home and Abroad:

This kind of nationalist pride covered up and blindsided crimes of the greatest severity that were being committed from the time of the earliest settlements: genocide against native Americans, reliance on the barbarism of slavery to facilitate profitable cotton production and the supposedly genteel life style of the Southern plantations. This unflattering national picture should be enlarged to include the exploitation of the resources and good will of peoples throughout Latin America, who, once freed from Spanish colonial rule, quickly found themselves victimized by American gunboat diplomacy that paved the way for American investors or joined in crushing those bold and brave enough to engage in national resistance against the abuse of their homelands.”

The final essay is the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights on his Mission to the United States of America, authored by Philip Alston. While Trump decries “sh*thole” countries, the conditions that the U.S. put those countries in are not unknown in the U.S. A few facts from Alston’s report will suffice:

  • The U.S.’s “…immense wealth and expertise stand in shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live. About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. It has the highest youth poverty rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the highest infant mortality rates among comparable OECD States. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate, one of the lowest levels of voter registrations in among OECD countries and the highest obesity levels in the developed world.”
  • The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”
  • For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best, but the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”

The information in these essays is all rigorously documented with extensive footnotes. The writing is clear and the facts are presented in a concise manner that is highly beneficial for the average reader or academic.

For anyone who questions U.S. policies, at home or abroad, and who has perhaps become more aware of such issues since Trump’s election,

How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries is an indispensable read.

Originally published by Consortium News.

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Nicaragua: U.S. Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

A rather puzzling news item caught the eye of this writer today: “The US has imposed sanctions on Nicaragua’s Vice-President Rosario Murillo, the wife of President Daniel Ortega, accusing her of corruption and serious human rights abuses.”

As he read further, this puzzlement only increased: “On Tuesday, the US Treasury said it was using a new executive order issued by US President Donald Trump to punish Ms. Murillo, accusing her of undermining Nicaragua’s democracy.”

One of the crimes Murillo is purported to be guilty of is as follows: “She is believed to have held influence over a youth organization that the US says engaged in extra-judicial killings, torture and kidnapping.”

Let us all take a look at these brief statements, and see how many examples of hypocrisy can be found in them.

  • Murillo, the first lady of Nicaragua who rules the nation along with her husband, Daniel Ortega, is accused by the U.S. of ‘corruption’. President Trump, his son and daughter-in-law are believed to be benefiting financially by their positions in government, which, or course, is ‘corruption’ in the U.S. That this has not be seriously investigated is a mistake (to put it tactfully) that will no doubt be rectified in January, when the Democrats take control of the House, and will be looking for anything to discredit Trump. From all available evidence, such issues will not be difficult to find.
  • Murillo is also accused of ’serious human rights abuses’. Where do we start? In the U.S., white police officers shoot and kill unarmed teens and adults of African descent with nearly complete impunity. Tax laws in the U.S. hurt the poor, such that at least 40 million citizens, a third of them children, live in poverty. The U.S. supports the brutal regimes of Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which are guilty of the most heinous human-rights abuses, yet the U.S. says nary a word of objection.
  • The Nicaraguan first lady is accused of behaviors that are “undermining Nicaragua’s democracy”. Trump was installed as president, despite losing the popular vote by 3,000,000 votes; that doesn’t seem to be very supportive of democracy. The U.S. Congress is beholden not to its constituents, but to the wealthy lobby groups representing business and foreign governments, that finance its members’ campaigns. U.S. law allows unlimited financial donations to these campaigns from any business or industry.

Prior to Trump’s election, the Republican-controlled Congress blocked the Supreme Court nominee of President Barack Obama until after the election, with the hope (eventually fulfilled) of putting a more conservative justice on the Supreme Court. This left a vacancy on the court for nearly a full year. To this writer, that sounds more like political maneuvering than democracy.

  • An organization in Nicaragua over which the first lady has ‘influence’ has been involved, it is said, in “extra-judicial killings, torture and kidnapping”. At this point, this writer had to re-read the article, to assure that it was about Nicaragua, and not the United States. The U.S. is notorious for kidnapping suspected ‘terrorists’, transporting them to ‘rendition’ sites, where they are tortured, sometimes for years. At the Cuban-based U.S. torture chamber in Guantanamo, countless people have been held without charge, denied access to family or legal services, and tortured for years. The U.S. government doesn’t merely have ‘influence’ over these activities: it is completely responsible for them. The current director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is Gina Haspel, known in some circles as ‘Bloody Gina’, due to not only her instruction to other agents on how to torture, but her experience torturing prisoners herself. These violations of international law, human rights and common decency are part and parcel of U.S. governance.

The United States is currently sending massive amounts of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, while that nation continues to decimate Yemen; millions of people, mostly children, are starving to death because of this ongoing assault. The fact that Saudi Arabia recently bombed a school bus full of children, and murdered a prominent journalist, mean nothing to Trump and many of his GOP cohorts.

Additionally, the U.S. provides apartheid Israel with $4 billion annually, while its own infrastructure is crumbling, its schools are failing, and the citizens of Flint, Michigan do not have clean water.

The U.S. has supported terrorist organizations in Syria that seek to overthrow the legitimate government, and bombed Syria when the Syrian government was accused of using chemical weapons. Yet the U.S. government says nothing when Israel uses chemical weapons against the Palestinians. And after the bombing of Syria to ‘punish’ the Syrian government for using such weapons, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that there was no evidence to confirm that a chemical attack ever occurred..

The U.S.  violated international law by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that regulated Iran’s nuclear program, despite the fact that Iran was and always has been in complete compliance with the agreement. The U.S. has sanctioned Iran (again), and has threatened to sanction any nation that does business with Iran, including some of the U.S.’s oldest and closest allies. Only two nations supported the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA: Saudi Arabia and Israel.

One might ask why the U.S. government feels it is in any position to criticize Nicaragua, or any other nation, for any of its policies. The U.S. is and always has been very selective in how it supports human rights and international law. Why it has now chosen to focus on Nicaragua is anyone’s guess.

Slowly, around the world, other nations are gaining in economic and military strength, thus weakening the hegemony that the U.S. has long had on the planet. The Chinese economy will soon rival and overtake that of the U.S.; India is becoming a powerhouse as well. In the Middle East, despite U.S. efforts, Iranian influence is growing.

Once other nations equal or exceed the power of the United States on the world stage, the planet will become a more peaceful and just environment. One must be cautioned, however: a world power in decline is always dangerous, and the U.S. has been dangerous even when its power has been unrivaled. It is possible, even likely, that prior to more reasonable nations become world leaders, the U.S. will do significant damage around the globe. In the White House, there are no ‘adults’ in the room; there is little to prevent Trump’s worst urges from damaging or destroying the world.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections

Well, the mid-term elections are over, but the fallout from them, the constant verbal diarrhea from newscasters, pundits and other self-proclaimed experts, continues.

And what are they saying? For many of them on whatever passes for ‘leftist’ in the U.S. today (there is really no such thing in the two major parties or the so-called ‘mainstream’ news media), the glee is overwhelming. Democrats won control of the House and now, finally, we are told, much needed brakes will be applied to the speeding Donald Trump train wreck-in-the-making.

Ho hum. Is there really any cause for thinking people in the U.S., or anywhere in the world, for that matter, to suddenly think that the U.S. has begun to climb out of its long decline? Does any reasonable person actually think that Democrats controlling the House of Representatives will change anything?

Let’s look at some things that should change.

* War: the U.S. should stop bombing every nation it is now bombing; it should stop supporting Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people, and Saudi Arabia’s genocide of the Yemeni people. It should immediately withdraw from Afghanistan.

Is this going to happen, now that the Democrats control one house of Congress? Will any of them even speak about these issues? Why do that, when doing so might annoy powerful lobby groups?  Such actions would require knowledge, compassion, an understanding of history, a commitment to the people who they purport to represent. Does any of this sound like the characteristics of U.S. politicians? Hardly!

* Environment: With Trump having no problems whatsoever with polluted water and air, and allowing mining and logging to take place in national parks, it would seem that the Democrats could take aim at these issues. After all, it is their children who must breath this air and drink this water. Oh wait, in the exclusive enclaves in which the members of the oligarch reside, such mundane issues are of no concern. They don’t live near factories, spewing their poisons into the air. The water that they drink, and that fills their swimming pools, is always from the most pristine of sources. So what if their constituents don’t have these same advantages? They simply need to work harder, and then they, too, will be able to join the 1%. Of course, how one is going to work harder than some people in the middle- and poverty-classes currently work, with multiple jobs just to make ends meet, is never quite explained.

* International agreements. Trump has proudly disgraced the United States, and proven again (if any additional proof was necessary) that agreements entered into by the U.S. are meaningless. The Paris Climate Accord was the first that Trump violated. He followed that up with pulling out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and by reissuing sanctions against Iran, despite the fact that the entire international community recognizes that Iran has fully complied with the agreement. Even Saudi Arabia and Apartheid Israel, the only two countries on the planet that praised Trump’s decision, don’t deny that Iran is compliant. Perhaps the newly-empowered Democrats in the House might start by demanding that Trump honor this commitment. But no, Iran is the current bugaboo, so that isn’t going to happen, either. Please feel free to review the information stated above about knowledge and an understanding of history, and consider again how these traits are lacking in Congress.

* Taxes. During the first two years of Trumps increasingly disastrous administration, the U.S.’s upper crust, the members of the 1%, which includes the president himself, his wealthy supporters and most of the members of Congress, received a very generous tax cut. Prior to the mid-term elections, there was talk coming from the White House that such a cut for what’s left of the middle-class would be introduced ‘soon’. Of course, ‘soon’ is a relative word, which could mean anything from tomorrow to when hell freezes over. In this context, the latter meaning is the one we can all use.

Will the Democrats tackle this issue? Will they throw a bone to the people who actually vote for them? No, we must be very careful not to do anything that might cause the wealthy to feel some economic pinch; better to let the middle-class carry the burden. Once they are able to make huge donations to the campaign coffers of their own (or others; it hardly matters to whom the money goes, as long as some politician gets it), then, perhaps, they will receive some tax relief.

We must now ask: with the Democrats soon to control the House of Representatives, what, exactly, will they do? Well, they have made their plans clear. They will demand that Trump release his tax returns, something that weighs heavily, this writer is sure, on the minds of people attempting to make ends meet. They will investigate whether or not Trump broke the law by paying hush money to his erstwhile mistress, Stormy Daniels (among others). No doubt citizens across the U.S. have been busy writing their elected officials (this writer absolutely refuses to call them representatives), demanding to know the answer to this question, and telling them that, while they try not to go bankrupt paying for college education, their number one priority, the issue that Congress must tackle, before addressing the crumbling infrastructure, low-performing school, the opioid epidemic, or crippling taxes, is to determine where the funding came for Trump to silence that particular woman.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency pushed the U.S. through some strange portal, where the bizarre becomes the mundane, truth is fiction and the reality you see before you is denied. The country had long since been hovering at that portal, but Trump dove through it, taking Congress with him. A willing Democratic Party closed its eyes and took the plunge, too.

Within just a few short months, we must all endure the announcements of various Democrats that they have decided to take their level of ‘service’ to the nation to the next level, and seek the presidency in 2020. These dynamic agents of change (?) include former Vice President Joe Biden, an elderly white man who inspires absolutely no one, and none other than Hillary Clinton, she of the long and sullied resume and sufficient baggage to sink a freighter. Various other names are bandied about, and all of them are cut from the same mold: barely different from the Republicans, perhaps a tad PEP (Progressive Except for Palestine), but mostly male and entirely white.

And why should it be different? Those potential candidates live very well in their ivory towers, and the system is rigged so none of the little people can ever even dream of affording a political campaign.

And so the pattern continues: lots of talk, no action, and increasing suffering at home and abroad. Welcome to the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Candidates, Palestine and Pro-Israel Lobby Money

It is not unusual for this writer to receive solicitations for campaign contributions from Democratic candidates across the country. The fact that he lives in Canada, and is registered in Florida (his last U.S. place of residence), is of no concern to candidates with their hands out. When receiving such emails, or when hearing about other ‘progressive’ candidates, he checks online to learn if they are truly progressive, or are PEP  – Progressive Except for Palestine.

One such candidate, House member Krysten Sinema, was recently elected to represent Arizona in the Senate. In researching her background, this writer found a ‘position paper’ from 2009 that parrots many of the statements he’s heard from other PEP officials. We will look at a few of them in detail. While this ‘position paper’ is several years old, the candidate has worked hard since then to hone her racist, Zionist credentials.

As we look at these statements, let’s keep in the back of our minds that fact that, during the 2017 – 2018 elections cycle, Sinema received $233,667.00 in donations from pro-Israel lobbies. In the two years prior, her take was  a ‘mere’ $61,725.00.

  • “The United States and Israel have been allies for more than 60 years, and this relationship, born of common values, must continue to be strong. Our friendship is rooted in our mutual respect for democratic values, human rights and religious freedom.”

It is a marvel that any thinking person can speak these words, let alone believe them. Democracy, unlike what the U.S. government officials would have us all believe, is far more than periodic voting. But even by that superficial litmus test, both countries fail. In both Israel and the U.S., voter suppression works to maintain the status quo. In both countries, there is one ethnic group that is favored and privileged above all others. In the U.S., it is whites of European descent. In Israel, it is Zionist Jews. In the U.S., people of African descent are more likely to receive harsher prison sentences for the same crimes committed by their white peers; they are far more likely to be shot by white police officers. In Israel, people of Arab or African descent are brutally treated. Palestinians can be arrested without charge and held indefinitely with no access to lawyers, or even family. And like the U.S., in Israel, Palestinians or people of African descent receive far more severe penalties for crimes than their Jewish counterparts.

Israel is continually criticized by the international community for its human rights violations against Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The U.S. vetoes nearly all United Nations resolutions critical of Israel, while it finances its crimes.

The U.S. also supports Saudi Arabia, despite its atrocious human rights record.

Additionally, the U.S. tortures political prisoners at Guantanamo, and in ‘rendition’ sites around the world.

In the U.S., the favored religious status is Christian or Jewish; Muslims need not apply. Mosques surrounded by armed protesters during religious services barely register with the citizenry. One can only imagine how much blood would flow should armed Muslims ever surround a church or synagogue during worship services, and all of it would be from Muslim bodies.

Based on all this, Sinema may be right in saying the nations have shared values.

  • “While I had read about the conflict between Israel and Hamas, it was only in Sderot that I saw first hand the danger in which many Israelis live each day. I will never forget the bomb shelter that was built at the site of a children’s playground after children had been killed by Hamas rockets.”

Is Sinema totally unaware of the danger in which all Palestinians live each day? Is she unaware of the brutality of checkpoints in the West Bank, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip? Is she completely ignorant of the brutal harassment that occurs on a daily basis at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem? Is she blind to home demolitions, arrests without cause, assaults on and murders of unarmed men, women and children by IDF soldiers and illegal settlers? Does she not  know that since 2000, while 1,242 Israelis have been killed in conflicts with Palestinians, at least 9,510 Palestinians have been killed? Does she not know that this number includes 134 Israeli children and 2,167 Palestinian children? If she doesn’t know, she is too uninformed to be part of the U.S. Congress. If she does know, her racism makes her unfit for government ‘service’.

  • “I believe that Israel has the right to defend herself from her neighbors and from terrorist organizations.” One wonders if the illustrious Sinema also believes that a rapist has the right to defend himself when the woman he is raping fights back. The logic is the same in both situations. Israel brutally occupies Palestine, and according to international law, Palestine has the right to resist the occupation in any way possible. Israel doesn’t ‘defend’ itself from Palestine; it simply increases the brutality of the occupation.
  • “I also believe that the best path to long-term peace for Israel is a two-state solution – one a secure Jewish state of Israel and the other, an independent, demilitarized Palestine.”

Does she not believe in a secure Palestinian state? And why, oh why, would any country, especially one adjacent to a nation that has spent seventy years trying to destroy it, be ‘demilitarized’? Does not Palestine have a right to defend itself from its neighbors and from terrorist organizations, such as the IDF?

  • “…lasting peace will only emerge from direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves.” No, Ms. Sinema, this is not how “lasting peace” will emerge. If Israel is forced by the international community to adhere to international law, there will be peace. This means retreating to the pre-1967 borders, and ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

We will take a moment to state, once again, that negotiations can only be successful when each party wants something the other has, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Israel takes whatever it wants from Palestine with complete impunity. Why wouldn’t Israel say it’s willing to negotiate? It can ‘negotiate’ all it wants while it simply steals land from Palestine.

Sinema’s statement goes on, but time, along with this writer’s ability to read such garbage, are both limited. But it is clear that Sinema is reading a script from her pro-Israel owners.

She is certainly not the only one. While she ranks fourth in donations from pro-Israel lobbies during the 2017 – 2018 campaign season, Texas’s own PEP candidate, Beta O’Rourke, ranks number one, with a whopping $390,982.00.

There is a great hue and cry among the self-righteous Congressional hypocrites on both sides of the aisle that Russia, perhaps, attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election. Yet when pro-Israel lobbies spend millions and millions of dollars to elect candidates who will work for Israel’s best interest, these same people are silent. Prior to the 2016 Democratic convention, true progressives (the few that remain in the Democratic Party) attempted to remove the provision that the Democrats recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In its most un-Democratic way, the Party kept this provision, thus pleasing its Israeli owners.

Until any major party becomes truly progressive, this writer’s donations and votes will go to third-party candidates who believe in human rights and international law. He expects to be donating to, and voting for, third-party candidates for a long time to come.

Originally published by The Palestine News Network.

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The Hypocrisy of the United States, Cuba Edition

One can only marvel at the blatant, outrageous hypocrisy of the United States. This is on clear display in many areas: proclaiming support for self-determination while financing the oppression of the Palestinians; citing international law when it suits its needs, but violating international law, such as in the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and stating that ‘all men are created equal’, as U.S. police officers gun down unarmed people of African descent. Multiple examples abound.

The government’s officials do nothing to hide this hypocrisy; rather, they seem to seek opportunities to flaunt it.

The most recent opportunity came when the U.S. called a special meeting of the United Nations to spotlight, it said, Cuba’s political prisoners. According to the U.S., Cuba has imprisoned 130 political prisoners. The U.S. called this a “blatant affront” to basic democratic freedoms.

Over the course of several years, nearly 800 of the U.S.’s political prisoners have been jailed in the U.S.’s Cuban base, Guantanamo Bay. Currently, about 55 are housed there. These prisoners are often jailed for years, without charge or access to family or legal assistance, and are tortured.

One such shocking case was the incarceration and torture of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, arrested in Afghanistan at the age of 15 after having been badly injured by U.S. soldiers (please note that child soldiers cannot, according to international law, be arrested). After being tortured in Afghanistan, he spent 10 years in the U.S.’s Cuban-based torture chamber (yes, Canada was complicit in these crimes, and compensated Mr. Khadr with $10 million dollars, far less than he should have received).

We will look at a few of the statements the U.S. made prior to and after the U.N. meeting on Cuba. What was said during the meeting is hard to discern, since Cuban diplomats shouted over the U.S. speakers, disrupting them constantly.

The first quotation manifests in just thirty-two words the hypocrisy that is so emblematic of the United States.

  • “Holding the Cuban regime responsible for its human rights violations and supporting the Cuban people’s aspirations to live in freedom are key components of President Trump’s National Security Presidential Memorandum of 2017.”

Trump and the U.S. government are very selective in who they hold “responsible for its human rights violations”, and whose “aspirations to live in freedom” they support. Israel and Saudi Arabia are two of the planet’s most brutal violators of human rights, yet the U.S. supports them completely, with the U.S. providing more foreign aid to Israel than it gives to all other nations combined. The United Nations has issued more resolutions critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians than it has of any other nation, and that number would be higher if the U.S. didn’t generally veto them.

As this is being written, Palestinians demonstrating for the right of return, a right guaranteed under international law, are being slaughtered by Israel in the Gaza Strip. More Palestinians are losing their homes in the West Bank so that Israel can build illegal settlements on Palestinian land that only Israelis can live in. Yet the U.S. is proclaiming its support for the people of Cuba to “live in freedom”.

We should also point out the Cubans can leave Cuba at will; they can travel for business, pleasure, education or any other reason, with no restrictions by the government. Palestinians in the West Bank are forbidden by Israel from visiting the Gaza Strip, let alone leave the country altogether, and those in Gaza can’t visit the West Bank. Why doesn’t Trump’s ‘National Security Presidential Memorandum of 2017’ apply to the Palestinians?

  • A State Department statement regarding the Cuba-focused U.N. meeting proclaimed that the 130 political prisoners allegedly held by Cuba are “…”an explicit sign of the repressive nature of the regime and represent a blatant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States and many other democratic governments support.”

There are so many things in this statement that demonstrate U.S. hypocrisy. We will attempt to sort them all out.

If having 130 political prisoners is a sign of “the repressive nature” and a “blatant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States” supports, what, then, is the incarceration of 55 political prisoners of the U.S? Is 55 too low a number? Is it only when the number reaches, say, 130, that it is “…an explicit sign of the repressive nature of the regime and represent(s) a blatant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States and many other democratic governments support”?

And we must remember that that number, 55, is just those in Guantanamo. There are numerous other political prisoners in the U.S. Chelsea Manning, pardoned by President Barack Obama, was imprisoned for exposing U.S. crimes; she was sentenced to 35 years, and spent seven incarcerated, must of in solitary confinement. Edward Snowden fled the U.S. to avoid becoming a political prisoner. His ‘crime’, too, was exposing U.S. crimes.

And what about Mumia Abu Jamal? Convicted of the killing of a police officer in Philadelphia in 1981, a crime for which the evidence of his guilt is limited, at best, he has spent nearly 36 years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement.

And then there is Leonard Peltier, an activist in the American Indian Movement. Since its founding, the U.S. has had nothing but disdain for the ‘Indians’ (indigenous population of the U.S.), and silencing a ‘trouble-maker’ like Peltier, someone who actually advocated for the indigenous population, wasn’t hard to do. He was convicted of killing two FBI agents. During his appeal, the government admitted that it had no evidence connecting him with the crime. The FBI withheld evidence that would have exonerated him. He has been imprisoned for nearly 40 years.

The U.S. is never a fan of people advocating for social change, and will reach its deadly tentacles around the world to prevent any people’s movement from succeeding. Simon Trinidad, also known as Ricardo Palmera, is one such activist. He was a negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP). During a negotiation session in Ecuador, he was arrested, extradited to the U.S. and charged with drug trafficking. On his fourth trial (the government was unable to get a conviction on the first three), he was found guilty.

Several members of the Black Panther Party, arrested during the 1960s and 1070s, remain incarcerated in U.S. prisons. Their crime was attempting to obtain equal rights for U.S. citizens of African descent, another minority group which the U.S. government holds in contempt.

This is not an exhaustive list; these names, and the unnamed 55 in the Guantanamo Bay torture center, are just a few. The U.S. also uses infamous ‘rendition sites’; it kidnaps political opponents and sends them to different countries around the world to be tortured.

Certainly, there are countries with worse human rights records than the U.S. But there are many, many whose human rights practices are far superior. It is the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. to criticize any other nation for any alleged human rights violations, when it supports Israel and Saudi Arabia, and holds countless U.S. political prisoners in its own jail cells.

It is unlikely that this will change soon. Trump, through his own behaviors and statements, has made racism, misogyny and repression acceptable. Much of his base supports these ugly sentiments, and the Republican Party has accepted this as the new normal. Things on the Democratic Party side aren’t much better, when the government which purports to be a democracy is, in fact, an oligarchy.

It is important for people around the world to oppose the U.S. and support Palestine, Cuba, Iran and other nations victimized by the imperial United States.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Trump and Chaos

Once again, the political world is agog over new, ‘shocking’ revelations about the Donald Trump presidency. With excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book, ‘Fear: Trump in the White House’, being leaked, and an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times supporting some of the book’s major premises, there is, once again, talk of impeachment, this time focusing more on the mental state of the president.

This entire bruhaha brings up many questions, which this writer will attempt to answer.

  1. Is any of this new?

No. This is business as usual in the Trump White House. The chaos surrounding this administration is obvious to anyone who follows any news; even aficionados of FOX news must surely have gleaned that all is not well at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. With contradictory announcements, multiple bizarre tweets, top advisors arriving and departing with lightening speed, and trusted allies shunned, surely it’s clear to everyone that something is rotten in the state of D.C.

  1. Where is the Republican opposition?

Hiding under their desks, hoping the storm blows over while they still have their high-paying, low responsibility jobs. South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham has basically said ‘so what?’ to the NYT op-ed. House Speaker Paul Ryan declined to comment on the book, other than to say that he didn’t provide Woodward with any information; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel did the same.

Wouldn’t one think that, perhaps, the nation’s ‘leaders’ would show some concern about this? It isn’t as if there aren’t piles of public evidence that support the idea of major dysfunction in the White House. Like an ostrich when it senses danger, do they simply bury their empty heads in the ground, hoping it will all blow over?

We all know, of course, that politicians on both sides of the aisle will only take a ‘brave’ stand once they have measured the direction of the political winds, and consulted with the special interest groups which are their true constituency. With the GOP base still gaga over their racist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic president, they are grabbing onto his tattered coattails for all they’re worth.

  1. Was the NYT op-ed a real picture of reality?

In the ‘through-the-looking-glass’ world of U.S. politics and governance, it is never a good idea to seek reality. That anonymous writer praises some of Trump’s ‘accomplishments’. We will digress for just a moment to review them.

  1. “Effective deregulation”. What this actually means is that protections for the public against air and water pollution have been relaxed, resulting in increased profits for big corporations, and increased cancer and other diseases for the common man and woman (you know, those people like you and me who pay taxes and vote, for whatever that’s worth).
  2. “Historic tax reform”. One wonders how ‘historic’ this actually was, since during the administration of George W. Bush the rich also got a huge tax benefit. Again, for the common man and woman? Not so much.
  3. “A more robust military”. The U.S. spends more on the military than the next eight largest nations combined. The infrastructure is collapsing, public schools are in shambles, health care is beyond the reach of most citizens, and a university education leaves students with tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Was the military not sufficiently ‘robust’ under the presidency of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, when seven nations were being bombed, and troops were in Afghanistan and Iraq? Are not hundreds of military bases threatening the world, with hundreds of thousands of soldiers manning them, sufficiently ‘robust’?
  4. Is Trump going to purge the White House to remove the leakers?

Why not? Employment in the current administration is a revolving-door anyway, so why not simply increase the speed? According to preliminary reports, Trump has accepted the proclamation by Chief of Staff John Kelly, widely considered on of the ‘adults’ in the room (heaven help us), that he didn’t provide information to Woodward. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration of unbreached loyalty has also been accepted.

We will note, however, that what Trump accepts and believes today has no bearing on what he may accept or believe tomorrow; actually, we must look at the present minute, not the day, and consider the next one. So, Kelly and Pompeo are naïve indeed if they consider their positions in the administration safe. But if they are fired, just think of the books each will write.

  1. With the Republicans so cowed by Trump, will the Democrats unite to stop the madman president?

The chances of this happening, even should they gain majorities in the House and/or Senate with the November elections, are slim and none. Doing so would demonstrate courage and statesmanship, something that has been lacking on either side of the aisle since at least the presidential campaign of George McGovern (1972, just in case you were wondering). And that wasn’t a typical circumstance (please remember Lyndon Johnson, much as we’d all like to forget him).

  1. Lastly, are we actually doomed?

Probably. As much as this writer likes to consider himself an optimist, he doesn’t see any positive outcome from the current mess the U.S. has gotten itself into. Perhaps Trump will be removed from office; then the country and the world will be stuck with Mike Pence as president, someone less disturbed but certainly as dangerous as Trump. If Trump manages to muddle along and run for re-election in 2020, it’s highly possible that the Democrats, hardly the saviors of anything at all, will repeat their colossal mistake from 2016 and again nominate someone who has a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected. And with Donald Trump as the opponent, that should be difficult to do, although the Democrats managed it two years ago.

Yes, this writer will continue to vote for third-party candidates who have no chance of winning, because the Democrats and Republicans have arranged things so they maintain their stranglehold on public office. Yes, Democrats in the mold of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will continue to topple long-term, entrenched Democrats, but will be silenced or marginalized by the party’s power-brokers. And yes, the oligarchy that masquerades as a democracy, an illusion perpetrated by members of the oligarchy for their own benefit, and not believed much outside of U.S. borders, will continue to run the show.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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John McCain: A Hero? Let’s Take a Closer Look

One of the United State’s sacred cows has shed this mortal coil; we will not take the time to speculate on where his next stop might be. But we are all being bombarded with accolades on the legendary, although mythical, ‘greatness’ of the dearly departed Republican senator from Arizona, John McCain.

We will attempt here to take a more unbiased look at McCain, and see 1) where all this hero worship is coming from, and 2), why it is completely undeserved.

McCain seems to have acquired his legendary ‘greatness’ by being a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five years. His plane was shot down while he was dropping bombs on innocent farmers and their families, in a country that in no way threatened the mighty U.S., and where McCain and the other hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers that were sent to terrorize Vietnam never had any business being. One might say he was a victim of U.S. imperialism, but if so, he was a willing victim. But none of this denotes heroism.

Now let us look behind the myth, at the reality. There are a number of areas worth exploring, but time and space will limit us to just a few.

  • Civil Rights:
    • When Congress was voting to make the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, then member of the House of Representatives McCain joined 89 of his colleagues in opposing it. The bill passed by a vote of 338 to 90. When he was running for president in 2008, he stated that his position had ‘evolved’, and “We can be slow as well to give greatness its due….” But it does appear that he wasn’t slow to give political expediency its due.
    • In 2008, while the U.S. was being threatened with the possibility of a McCain presidency, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rates released its annual rating of all members of Congress. McCain scored 22%; his opponent, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, scored 100%.
  • Gay Rights:
    • The great hero opposed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, a highly-flawed law but better than what was previously codified.
    • He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was introduced to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
    • He opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, and supported an initiative in 2006 to ban same-sex marriage in Arizona (the ban failed).
  • Human Rights:
    • He supported Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, one of the world’s most notorious violators of human rights (at that time), having killed thousands of Chilean civilians and having incarcerated tens of thousands more, all for political reasons.
    • McCain was considered a ‘great friend’ of Israel, a nation that has violated the basic human rights of the Palestinians in the most unspeakable ways for decades. He was described the same way by officials of the Saudi Arabian government, another nation noted for it abominable human rights violations.
    • He opposed efforts to close the U.S.’s Cuban-based torture center, Guantanamo Bay, thereby endorsing the use of torture.
  • Ethics:
    • This man who is being lauded as a hero was a member of the Keating Five, a scandal in which five U.S. senators were accused of intervening on behalf of Charles Keating, Jr., who was the chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was under investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. When Lincoln collapsed, over 20,000 bond holders lost all or part of their life savings, and the collapse cost the U.S. government $3.4 billion. Keating’s prior political contributions to McCain totalled at least $112,000, not including elaborate trips for McCain and his family that Keating provided at his palatial estate in the Bahamas, flying them there in his private jet. Although McCain was not charged, he was criticized by the investigating committee for using ‘poor judgment’.
    • McCain supported the illegal sale of weapons to U.S.-funded and U.S.-trained terrorist groups seeking the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. The Iran-Contra scandal was a major blot (among others) on the administration of Ronald Reagan.
  • Hypocrisy
    • McCain once referred to the Confederate flag as ‘very offensive’, but later called it a ‘symbol of heritage’.
    • He called Jerry Falwell an ‘agent of intolerance’ in 2000, but gave the 2006 commencement address at Falwell’s Liberty University.
    • He first supported an immigration policy that included guest workers and amnesty, but later said that, if elected president, he’d call out the U.S. army to close off the Mexican border.
    • McCain moved from opposing President George Bush’s ‘temporary’ tax cuts for the rich to supporting making them permanent.

We could add McCain’s opposition to health care for all U.S. citizens, and his opposition to net neutrality and a federal minimum wage. And we have him to thank for propelling that national embarssment, Sarah Palin, onto the world stage.

This writer has commented previously on the U.S.’s very successful public relations operation, the one that proclaims the nation to be a beacon of peace and security, a bastion of human rights and the envy of the world. These fairy tales aren’t believed much outside of U.S. borders, but are swallowed, hook, line and sinker, within them. That PR expertise has worked overtime to portray a corrupt, opportunistic official with a history of serial murder and support for the war crimes of others as a ‘hero’.

A quick online search for a definition of ‘hero’ results in this: “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

How much courage does it take to fly over farm fields and drop bombs on defenseless people?

What achievements has McCain accomplished? He has helped prevent citizens from obtaining health care or marrying the person of their choice; he worked to slow the progress of civil rights for people of African descent; he supported nations guilty of the most heinous of war crimes; he enabled the torture of political prisoners.

What ‘noble qualities’ has he demonstrated? He treated himself and his family to lavish vacations in exchange for quashing a federal investigation of his benefactor. He traded in a faithful wife for a younger, more attractive version.

John McCain is dead; his family may have reason to grieve but, from this writer’s perspective, no one else does.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Partisanship in the Extreme

Is there some point in time when elected Republican officials will say ‘enough’? Is there any boundary that their beloved president, Donald Trump, can cross that will be the last straw on the back of the much-overburdened camel? Is there absolutely nothing he can say or do that will tarnish their willingness to look the other way?

This isn’t a new dilemma. During the campaign, Trump disparaged women, Mexicans, Muslims, gays, the poor, the handicapped and just about everyone who wasn’t white. Since his election, he hasn’t stopped, but has praised racists, filled his cabinet with the super-rich, several of whom have resigned in disgrace, and alienated many of the country’s oldest and strongest allies.

He has relaxed laws protecting waterways and air, weakened protection for sexual assault victims on campus, and proclaimed that a free press (not that the U.S. has one, but that’s a topic for another essay) is the enemy of the people.

Now, his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been convicted of eight felonies, and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, a man who once said he’d take a bullet for Trump, has confessed to eight of his own. This includes misuse of campaign funds to pay off women who ‘allegedly’ (Nod! Nod! Wink! Wink!) had affairs with Trump.

This is the man that most, but not all, Republican officials praise and defend.

Is that not bizarre? How would you react, if your next-door neighbor was a loud mouth, arrogant, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic misogynist? Would you be comfortable if convicted felons were visiting his home day and night? Would you not worry about your safety, let alone your peace of mind?

But for Republican senators and members of the House of Representatives, this is all just fine. A spokesperson for that most illustrious Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, said this: “We are aware of Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea to these serious charges. We will need more information than is currently available at this point.” It seems to this writer that there is certainly sufficient information to make a more definite statement than that.

Senator Lindsay Graham, R-SC, dropped this pearl of wisdom:  “The American legal system is working its will in both the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen cases”. This seems to be a strange choice of words; perhaps working its way, or working as it is meant to, but working its ‘will’ does put an odd connotation on it. But that is neither here nor there; the main point is that neither of these august politicians mentioned Trump.

Partisanship is a hallmark of U.S. governance. Often, when a major bill passes, it is said to be a ‘victory’ for the president, or the party that rammed it through. Never is it said to be a victory for the citizenry. When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was passed into law on March 23, 2010, it was pronounced a major victory for President Obama. There was little mention of how this was a victory for over 20 million U.S. citizens who were previously without health care.

The recent tax bill, a major giveaway to the rich, was viewed as a victory not only for Trump, but for Ryan also, since enactment of a tax law to screw the poor, squeeze the middle class and shower treasures on the rich was long a goal of his. It wasn’t proclaimed a stunning defeat for the common man and woman; the fact that a difficult bill passed, regardless of its merits (or lack thereof), was a great victory for the Republicans.

This is U.S. governance; not Monday Night Football. In the latter instance, it’s fine (although perhaps a tad bizarre) to pick a side, and cheer and shout at the television screen as one’s selected team gains yardage or makes a touchdown. Your side can be praised to the skies, while the opponent is vilified, because it doesn’t matter. At the end of the season, one team will win the Super Bowl, and the winning quarterback will make millions more than he’s already earned. Big deal.

But running a country is not playing a football game; there are serious consequences within the country, and around the world. One Party doesn’t ‘win’ as the other ‘loses’; they are, in theory, people voted into office to represent constituents with differing philosophies on how life should be. It is their responsibility to work together to reach compromise on many topics, and to unite to defend the ‘sacred’ Constitution. So when the Supreme Court says, for example, that marriage equality must be the law of the land, these politicians might say that they disagree with it, but must uphold it nonetheless.

Also, while football fans can criticize and disparage the fans of other teams, this is not an option for elected officials. Republicans and Democrats might respectfully disagree with each other; but name-calling and juvenile criticisms have no place in the White House or the hallowed halls of Congress.

We could take the time and space to list the many, many names Trump has called his opponents, but we will not; suffice it to say that saying other politicians have low IQs; calling former aides ‘dogs’, or referring to a U.S. senator as ‘Pocahontas’ are simply not acceptable.

Yet while Trump runs amok on the world stage, slowly descending into apparent madness, ‘tweeting’ his wrath on an almost-daily basis, his fawning minions in Congress either look the other way, or jump on his bandwagon, oblivious to the fact that the wheels are all loose and a major crash seems to be in the offing.

It is beyond terrifying to think that this is the most powerful country in the world, one whose power and influence are waning, making it all the more dangerous. While it is horrifying to think of what Trump has said and done to date, it is chilling to think that he acts with near impunity, and to imagine what Congress and the yes-men and women who surround him might allow, considering all they have condoned thus far.

Mid-term elections are a scant three months away, but they will be, as always, nearly meaningless. Democrats may win; they will verbally criticize Trump, but support every war, every tax bill and every sanction he proposes, all to the detriment of the U.S. and the world.

This is the much-vaunted ‘land of the free and home of the brave’; a more honest assessment would call it an oligarchy, the land for the rich and the home of the oppressor.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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The Hypocrisy of Trump on Iran

As United States President Donald Trump slowly descends into madness in front of the entire world, he seems determined to destroy Iran in the process. This would keep intact the U.S. government’s age-old policy of destroying countries that dare to defy it in any way, regardless of the toll in human suffering that that causes.

We’ll look at a few of the statements made by Trump and his various minions, and then compare them to that illusive concept that he seems to be completely unaware of: reality.

  • S. Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas ‘tweeted’ this: “The U.S. stands shoulder to shoulder with the courageous Iranian people protesting their corrupt regime.”

Apparently, according to the august Mr. Cotton, standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with people means issuing brutal sanctions that cause untold suffering.

Government officials say that sanctions are benign, that they only target the government.

However, the U.S. has been highly critical of an organization called ‘Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order’ (EIKO). When EIKO was established, the Ayatollah said this: “I’m concerned about solving problems of the deprived classes of the society. For instance, solve problems of 1000 villages completely. How good would be if 1000 points of the country are solved or 1000 schools are built in the country; prepare this organization for this purpose.” By targeting EIKO, the U.S. is intentionally targeting the innocent people of Iran.

In this regard, author David Swanson said this: “The U.S. does not present sanctions as tools of murder and cruelty, but that’s what they are. The Russian and Iranian people are already suffering under U.S. sanctions, the Iranians most severely. But both take pride in and find resolve in the struggle, just as do people under military attack.” Two points are worth considering here: 1) sanctions hurt the common man and woman more than they do any government, and 2) the Iranian people have a fierce pride in their nation, and will not succumb to U.S. blackmail.

And let’s pause for a moment and consider Cotton’s idea of Iran’s ‘corrupt’ regime. Was it not elected in free and democratic elections? Did the Iranian government not work smoothly with the previous U.S. administration, several other nations and the European Union to develop the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the U.S., under Trump, violated?

If Cotton wants to discuss ‘corrupt’ regimes, he’d be better served to start at home. Did not Trump assume office after losing the popular vote by 3,000,000 votes? Is not the Trump administration involved in numerous scandals reflecting the president’s own personal corruption, as well as that of several of his appointees? Has not the U.S. government supported terrorist groups in Syria? If Cotton believes that Iran is corrupt and the U.S. isn’t, he has an odd opinion of a ‘corrupt regime, indeed!

  • Trump himself seems to govern by ‘tweet’. On July 24, he ‘tweeted’ the following in response to a ‘tweet’ from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who, unlike Trump, was elected with the majority vote: “WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” (Please note that the upper-case letters are Trump’s, not this writer’s).

Trump is hardly one to be talking about ‘demented words of violence and death’. The U.S. is bombing several countries, continues its brutality in Afghanistan, and is threatening Iran.

And what was it that Rouhani said that was so terribly offensive? Exactly this: Americans “must understand that war with Iran is the mother of all wars and peace with Iran is the mother of all peace.” These words seem to invite the U.S. to make its own selection: start a deadly and devastating war with Iran, or reach out in peace for trade and mutual security. Trump, obviously, is far more interested in the former.

  • The U.S.’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, said this: “President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before.”

Let’s look at another country that does things ‘to the negative’ and suffers no consequences. Israel occupies the West Bank of Palestine in violation of international law; it blockades the Gaza Strip in violation of international law; it targets medics and members of the press, in violation of international law. During its periodic bombing campaigns in Gaza, it targets schools, places of worship, residential neighborhoods and United Nations refugee centers, all in violation of international law. It arrests and holds without charge men, women and children,  all in violation of international law. Why does Israel not “pay a price like few countries have ever before”? Instead, it gets more financial aid from the U.S. than all other nations combined. Could the vast amounts of money that pro-Israel lobbies contribute to U.S. government officials possibly be the cause of this?

And should we mention Saudi Arabia? Women are stoned for adultery, and public executions are common. Its human rights record is as bad as Israel’s, and it is run by a crown prince, rather than a democratically-elected leader, but the U.S. says nothing critical of it.

Additionally, the U.S. is backing the terrorist group, Mujahedeed-e-Khalq (MEK). This group is external to Iran, and its stated goal is the overthrow of the Iranian government. Perhaps Trump wants to replicate the ‘success’ of former U.S. President George W. Bush, who overthrew the stable government of Iraq, thus causing the deaths of at least a million people (some estimates are much higher), the displacement of at least two million more, and who never cared about the chaos he left behind that remains today. This is what Trump wants for Iran.

With the U.S. violating the internationally-accepted JCPOA, which was endorsed by the United Nations, the country has reimposed sanctions on Iran. Diplomatically, this is a problem for the other nations that are part of the JCPOA, since they all wish to remain in the agreement, but Trump has threatened them with sanctions if they continue to trade with Iran. In Iran, the sanctions damage the economy, which is Trump’s goal; he hopes, naively, that the Iranian people will blame their government, rather than the real culprit – the United States – for these problems.

What is behind Trump’s hostility to Iran? Prior to the signing of the JCPOA, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the U.S. Congress, urging that body to disapprove of the agreement. He is the leader of one of the only two countries on the planet that endorsed Trump’s violation of international law in his withdrawal from the JCPOA (Saudi Arabia was the other country that supported Trump’s decision). Trump has surrounded himself with Zionists: his incompetent and corrupt son-in-law, Jared Kushner; John Bolton, and his vice-president, Mike Pence, to name only a few. These are the people who are in Trump’s inner circle, and whose advice and counsel he seems to take at face value. These are the people who support the concept of Israel as a nation-state for the Jews, which by definition makes it apartheid. These are the people who disdain international law, and want to continue ‘negotiations’ that only buy time for Israel to steal more and more Palestinian land. And these are the people who want Israel to have complete hegemony in the Middle East; its main rival is Iran, so in their twisted, Zionist minds, Iran must be destroyed. The amount of suffering that would cause is never factored into their deadly equations.

With a president as unstable and erratic as Trump, it’s impossible to predict with any accuracy what he will do next. But hostility toward Iran is one thing if it is just words; any attack on that nation would cause more trouble and problems than Trump can possibly imagine. Iran is a powerful country in its own right, but is also allied with Russia, and any aggression towards Iran will bring the strength of the Russian military into play. This is the Pandora’s box that Trump is threatening to open.

Originally published by The Balkan Post.

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Pity the Democrats and Republicans

It is a rare occasion when one can only pity both the Republican and Democratic Parties. The GOP (Generally Opposed to Progress) has hitched its rather dilapidated wagon to a racist, sexist, narcissistic man-child of a star who has only the most tenuous grasp on reality. But it is not them we are here to discuss today. It is the Democrats, the Party that, had it been a person, would never have been voted most likely to succeed upon graduation from high school.

Currently, one would think that the Democrats would be poised for great success. Mid-term elections are approaching; the president, Donald Trump, has record-breaking low approval scores, and there is dissatisfaction with him from coast to coast. Now, one might think, is the time for the Democrats to clearly articulate their platform, allowing the populace to know exactly where the party stands, and what it will do to achieve its goals. This might include such popular items as sensible gun-control; recognition of Palestine’s human-rights struggles and Israel’s violations of international law; income equality, gender equality, and an end to institutionalized racism, among other things. These, according to public opinion polls, are topics that resonate with voters who mainly identify as Democratic.

But no! Horror of horrors! Best, according to the Party leaders, to lay low, and allow dissatisfaction with the Republicans to drive voters into the arms of the Democratic Party. Maintain the status quo, don’t rock the boat, steady as she goes, and adhere to every other tired out cliché that means don’t show any backbone. So what if voters enthusiastically evicted a ten-term, good-old-boy Congress member from New York, in favor of a socialist Democrat! Who cares that a large swath of the Party still feels the deep wounds of betrayal from the Party’s manipulation of delegates to give the 2016 presidential nomination to the candidate who is corporate America incarnate, Hillary Clinton, instead of the (somewhat) more progressive Bernie Sanders! The power brokers, such as they are, in the Democratic Party are not willing to surrender their positions, and are terrified to risk what they have by showing anything related to statesmanship. Those currently in power have been elected and re-elected despite their namby-pamby positions, or non-positions, on the current issues of the day. Why do anything differently now?

Well, we can answer that question, although the people who really need to hear the answer won’t bother to pay any attention. We’ll look at a few factors that one would think would cause the Party that claims to be progressive (you can stop laughing now) to take careful note.

  • Following a long series of mass shootings, high school students in Florida finally said ‘enough’. Several of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre travelled around the country, saying that if the current Congress won’t act, a new Congress must be installed. Millions of people in this age cohort will be eligible to vote for the first time in 2018. Study after study shows that they are overwhelmingly to the left of where the Democratic Party is today. They probably won’t stay home, but they may seek third-party candidates, so they can vote for someone they actually believe in, rather than the slightly lesser of two evils. But if Democrats renew calls for sensible gun control, including the banning of semi-automatic weapons, they may find these new voters flocking to the polls to vote for them.
  • Israeli government officials are having apoplexy over what they correctly see as an increasing disconnect between Jewish-Americans and the racist, apartheid Jewish state of Israel. In the aforementioned 14th Congressional district of New York, twenty-year incumbent Joe Crowley, financed in part by AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) went down to a crushing defeat at the hands of newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been highly critical of Israel. Might not some other candidates want to take a page from her playbook, and speak out for human rights and international law? Or are even those topics too controversial for Democrats to address?
  • Polls indicate that most voters aren’t thrilled with the newly-enacted tax reform (Surprise! Surprise!), which was an early Christmas present to the rich. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan showed how out-of-touch he was after the tax bill became law, when he ‘tweeted’ this: “A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week… she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for a year.” So while this secretary received a whopping $78.00 annual raise, the richest 1% of the nation’s population receive about 34% of the total benefits from the multi-billion dollar tax reform. A platform by the Democrats to really reform taxes would probably resonate, even with people who are $78.00 richer as a result of the GOP version.
  • Trump and Company are beating the war drums for ‘regime change’ of the democratically-elected government of Iran. Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) against the wishes and advice of nearly the entire international community, and his own military advisors. Wouldn’t a plank in the Democratic platform that says that Democrats will work to reinstate U.S. involvement in the JCPOA, and attempt to prevent chaos in yet another Middle Eastern country, possibly have wide appeal? Yes, U.S. citizens, inexplicably, seem to love their wars, but a new breed of voter is on the horizon, and will be pulling levers in voting booths in just three short months. They may be a bit less enthused about sending U.S. soldiers to die for Israel, whose influence was a main factor in Trump’s decision to abandon the JCPOA.
  • The Republicans have made good on their promise to deprive millions of people of health care. Democrats who will unflinchingly condemn those actions, and vow to reinstate the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), or something better, may find unexpected popularity.
  • Young people often graduate from universities and colleges in the U.S. with crippling debt. Even if the free tuition advocated by Ocasio-Cortez and others isn’t possible at present (it is, but this writer doesn’t see the Democratic Party ever going that far), couldn’t interest rates be lowered? Why is it necessary for lenders to make huge profits from the efforts of the next generation to become educated? And couldn’t there be some kind of debt forgiveness program? Even 25% would be a windfall to many people.

These are just a few of the many areas in which the Democrats could differentiate themselves from the Republicans. Will they do it? Will the Party unite, look at not only what the people want, but also what is morally right, and stand up for those principles? When pigs fly. Government officials today (this writer refuses to refer to them as ‘representatives’, since they represent only special interests and anything that will benefit them personally, and not the voting populace) are only concerned with keeping their high-paying jobs with almost unlimited benefits. The idea of public service, working for the greater good, or sacrificing for those who are less fortunate are alien concepts to them.

It is possible that the Democratic Party will take control of one or both houses of Congress as a result of the November elections. If that happens, not much will change. The NRA (National Rifle Association), AIPAC, various military lobbies and others will still be the ones actually in control. The U.S. voters will have participated once again in what government officials proudly and disingenuously point to as a hallmark of U.S. democracy, but what is in reality an exercise in futility. With each election, the names may change, but all the injustice, domestically and internationally, continues.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Palestine, Political Musings, U.S., U.S. Politics, Uncategorized