Category Archives: Militarism

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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Mattis, the U.S. and Iran: What Source Terrorism?

It would be foolish to start this article with a comment about the disarray, confusion, and stupidity, and response to it, that have marked the first few weeks of the new Trump Administration. Worldwide anti-Trump rallies, massive protests at airports, and blatant falsehoods issued from the president, his spokespeople and top advisors have become business as usual in a very short time. None of this is news to the reader.

And, on top of it all, come these pearls of wisdom from the United States Secretary of Defense, one James Mattis: “As far as Iran goes, this is the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”

There you are; a pronouncement by a representative of the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, accusing someone else of its own crimes.

Let us look at the evidence upon which the good Mr. Mattis might be drawing. Since World War II, the United States, that self-proclaimed beacon of peace and freedom, 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. And, let us not forget, that at the close of World War II, the U.S. became the only country in history to use nuclear weapons, selecting two cities with no discernible military presence to annihilate.

Iran, that reprehensible sponsor of state terror has, since World War II, invaded a total of zero (0) countries.

Are we, once again, being given ‘alternative facts’ by the U.S. government?

With the U.S. still rattling its saber and now aiming it at Iran, we must ask ourselves why this is. Well, during the administration of President Barack Obama, Iran struck a deal with the world that sanctions against it would be lifted, as long as it used its nuclear development program for peaceful purposes. As we all know, Israel is the only country in the Middle East allowed to have nuclear weapons. Yes, that makes sense; allow an apartheid regime, in violation of countless United Nations resolutions and international laws, a brutal, occupying nation, to have nuclear weapons, but don’t let its sworn enemy (Iran) have any reasonable means of defending itself. For years, Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu has been proclaiming to the adoring U.S. Congress that Iran is just months away from developing nuclear weapons. And when Mr. Netanyahu speaks, Congress listens. And why not? Between 2010 and 2016, pro-Israel lobbies contributed over $12 million dollars to the campaigns of U.S. senators, and between 2014 and 2016, they donated nearly $5 million dollars to members of the House of Representatives. What do justice, international law and human rights have to do with anything, when such sums are to be raised?

On February 1, Iran tested a new defensive missile, throwing the entire Trump Administration into a frantic tizzy.  Iran’s defence minister, Hossein Dehghan, denied that the test violated the agreement made during the Obama administration, stating that Iran’s missile tests don’t involve rockets with nuclear warheads. Said he: “The recent test was in line with our plans and we will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defence affairs”.

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn added to the very puzzling statement of Mr. Mattis, when he criticized the actions of Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, a country which the U.S. has been bombing for years. It would have been interesting, one imagines, for someone to have questioned Mr. Flynn about U.S.-backed rebels in Syria, who are guilty of atrocious crimes against civilians, but, apparently, as long as we can make up something to criticize about Iran, no journalist will look too closely at the U.S.’s own crimes.

So what are we to make of all this? There seem to be a few ‘takeaways’ worth noting.

  • The U.S., under Mr. Trump’s chaotic reign, will continue to wage war around the world.
  • Israel still calls the shots.
  • The concepts of ‘journalism’ and ‘integrity’ will continue to have little or no association.
  • ‘Newspeak’, so named by George Orwell in his once-again best-selling novel, 1984, will continue, but under the new name of ‘alternative facts’.

One would hope, in vain, that perhaps Mr. Trump’s intention to launch World War III would cause him at least to ignore domestic policy, and perhaps leave things alone at home. But no, he has not been idle on the homefront. His brand new Secretary of Education, one Betsy Devos, who donated tens of millions of dollars to his campaign, does not support public education.  His nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, finally, in January of this year, conceded that human activity plays ‘some’ role in climate change. The executive director of the Sierra Club, Michael Burne, said that appointing Mr. Pruitt to the EPA is “like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires”.  Mr. Trump has accused Judge James Robart, who overturned Mr. Trump’s travel ban, as inviting terrorists into the U.S., and referred to him as a ‘so-called’ judge, despite the fact that he was appointed by a Republican president, George Bush.

Since the primaries ended last year, resulting in the nominations of Donald Trump and former Senator Hillary Clinton, this writer has been in despair for the U.S. and the world. The candidates were far different, but each terrible in their own, unique ways. There were similarities, of course: both were wealthy, white, old and had very questionable backgrounds. Both grovelled at the repulsive Israeli altar. But from there, they each travelled down different roads, neither of which would be of any use to the 99%.

And now we see the damage that Mr. Trump is perpetrating upon the country and the rest of the world. One would like to see cooler heads prevail, but there are none in Washington, D.C. We can only hope that the damage caused by the Trump administration will not be too great to be reversed in four years.

 

 

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Advice for the Democrats, That They Won’t Take

Yes, impossible as it sounds, Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States. He of the multiple wives and revenge-fueled actions; misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic attitudes; an originator of the birther movement and xenophobe extraordinaire will soon inhabit the White House. That is a frightening thought, but add to that the fact that with both houses of Congress in Republican hands, there is no reasonable check on Mr. Trump’s impulses. And since many members of Congress disparaged, insulted and refused to support him during the campaign, they will be crawling on glass as penance as they approach him to regain favor, and will not want to thwart anything he may propose.

And what will this mean? Well, he has vowed to abolish the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, thus depriving at least 20 million people of basic health care. He said he will nullify the Iran nuclear deal, destroying the trust of European allies in the word of the U.S, and bringing the world closer to nuclear disaster. He will prevent any Muslims from entering the country, provide greater impunity (if that is even possible) to the nation’s racist police, put an end to same-sex marriage, and, in many ways, bring the nation back to the era of the 1950s. For those who don’t remember those days, segregation was the law of the land, a woman’s place was in the home, anyone suspected of any communist leanings was publicly persecuted, and the Cold War was in full swing. Ah, yes! The good old days!

Predictions of the demise of the Republican Party were certainly premature; it is now the Democrats who need to take a careful look in the mirror. The fact that they probably won’t is neither here nor there.  But, on the off chance that someone in the Party thinks doing so is a good idea, we will provide them with a bit of guidance, to send them on their way.

First, they might want to rethink this whole ‘super delegate’ thing. Yes, it seemed to them that Hillary Clinton somehow ‘deserved’ the nomination, and why let the people decide such a thing? What do they know? And while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders proved himself to be nothing more than a common politician, with no more integrity than that implies, this wasn’t necessarily common knowledge during the primary campaign. But, the Democratic Party, in a most undemocratic way, set about to torpedo his chances, and install Hillary Clinton as their chosen one.

We must ask: why did they think this was a good idea? What was it about Mrs. Clinton that made the powers-that-be in the Party think she was their savior? She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have enriched themselves through their ‘service’ to the nation. She carried along the campaign more baggage than a freight train. She was disliked and distrusted by large swaths of the population.  Yet this was the candidate who was going to break the glass ceiling, proving to all young girls that there were no gender-based limits. It would be she who would carry on President Obama’s legacy of healthcare for Americans, women’s’ rights, marriage equality, and other, less savory policies, like murder by drone, oppression of the Palestinians, etc., etc.

But. alas, the little people had other ideas about all this, and decided that a racist, misogynist, inexperienced blowhard was a better choice. We all know that, to hear the Democrats and their fawning minions tell it, the GOP is the Party of the rich, and the Democrats, of the working man and woman. Too bad those decision-makers have such an obstructed view from their ivory towers, and can’t quite see that, Republican or Democrat, they are different iterations of the same tired programs.

Second, the Democrats might try differentiating themselves from the Republicans in some significant ways. For example, both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and a variety of other candidates, bowed and scraped before their Israeli masters at the annual AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) convention in March; Mr. Sanders skipped that event, and instead sent a letter, criticizing Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. This did nothing to sink his candidacy; the internal workings of the Democratic Party did that to him. So, including as part of the platform, perhaps, some statement about making further financial assistance to Israel contingent upon that country adhering to international law and improving its dismal human rights record, might have been attractive to many voters. Mirroring the Republican policy doesn’t provide much choice.

Third, going back at least to the era of the 1960s and ‘70’s, as the Vietnam War raged, the Democratic Party eventually began to embrace the controversial concept of peace. Now, this, of course, was never fully adapted; who in their right mind wants peace over war? Whoever heard of such a thing? The U.S., we all know, must flex its military muscle almost constantly, in order to keep the arms manufacturers happy. But the idea of ending barbaric drone warfare, not interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and perhaps even dismantling some of the U.S’. nuclear arsenal might have had more appeal than the tired, pro-war policies of Hillary Clinton.

Following the defeat of the odious Mitt Romney by Mr. Obama in 2012, there was much talk about the need for the Republican Party to redefine itself, to, perhaps, even, become more inclusive. Nothing ever came of that high-sounding rhetoric, and remaining as it was seems now to have been a formula for success. So, perhaps the Democrats will do the same; look for someone to blame for this electoral disaster, talk about how to prevent it in the future, and then carry on with business as usual.

Politics in the U.S. isn’t about governing; it’s about keeping high-paying, low-responsibility jobs. After all, for most of us, there are a certain number of days required for us to attend our jobs; we may have a few weeks of paid vacation, but other than that, we are expected to be working. Not so for elected officials. Also, most of us have certain deliverables we need to produce: lesson plans, software programs, various products, etc. Again, elected officials have no such responsibilities. And if the wealthy individuals and organizations that donate to politicians’ election campaigns are happy, what else matters?

The next couple of months will prove interesting, and will provide us with a view of the next few years. From where this writer sits, it isn’t looking pretty. But the view of U.S. governance has never been very pleasant, since an oligarchy masquerading as a democracy can never conceal its true nature. And with the wild card called Donald Trump due to move into the White House, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Originally published by TheTruther.US.

 

 

 

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The Democrats’ Great Mistake

Donald Trump is president-elect. It is still difficult for this writer to string those words together. He watched the unfolding disaster on election night, knowing, when he sat down to his computer screen, that, regardless of who won, it would be a disaster. He had not, however, anticipated this particular one.

Democrat Hillary Clinton appears as of this writing to have won the popular vote, but Mr. Trump prevailed in the archaic, outdated and counterproductive electoral college. One hopes he doesn’t see his win as a mandate, but this is Donald Trump we are talking about, so we might as well forget that idea.

But how did this happen? How did an obnoxious, egotistical blowhard like Mr. Trump manage to be elected president of the United States? He discusses women in the most repulsive, derogatory manner. He has insulted Mexicans and wants to ban Muslims from entering the country. He has vowed to remove health care from at least 20 million U.S. citizens. He has wondered aloud why the country has nuclear weapons if it isn’t going to use them. The frightening list goes on.

Yet how this came to pass isn’t really a secret; self-deluding Democrats may wonder about it, but the evidence is clear: the Democratic Party offered a deeply flawed candidate.

Let’s go back even earlier than the primary season, to find the source of this crucial error. The Democrats created the ‘super delegate’ model, providing all Democratic members of Congress, party bigwigs and insiders with nominating votes that had no accountability to rank-and-file party members. As a result, Hillary Clinton entered the primary season with hundreds of pledged delegates. Then, regardless of the outcome in state primaries and caucuses, these delegates were not obligated to vote for the candidate who won; they were free to vote for anyone they chose, and nearly all of them were committed to Hillary Clinton.

This causes at least two problems: 1) a candidate who doesn’t have widespread support (Mrs. Clinton) can be nominated, and 2), if that happens, Democrats who voted for the opponent (Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders) for the nomination feel cheated, and, rather than falling into line like good little soldiers, seek out a third-party alternative, or just opt to stay home on election day.

Now, let’s look at the candidate herself. Hillary Clinton has a long and storied history in U.S. politics and governance. She was twice First Lady of Arkansas during her husband’s two, non-consecutive terms as governor there, and then was First Lady of the U.S. for eight years. She was twice elected to the senate, representing New York State, resigning midway through her second term to become Secretary of State, a role she held for four years.

Each of these roles deserve some consideration.

Following Governor Bill Clinton’s defeat for governor after his first term, it was Mrs. Clinton who engineered his comeback. This certainly indicates an ambitious and politically savvy woman, both traits needed for elective office. Yet during his time in office, it was more than subtly suggested that he directed lucrative government contracts to the law firm that employed her. There was never any proof; neither of them was charged with any wrongdoing, but this was just the first of the shadows of impropriety, bordering on illegality, that would haunt her through the 2016 election.

Additionally, during the time of Mr. Clinton’s tenure as governor, Mrs. Clinton invested the modest sum of $1,000.00 in cattle futures. At the end of ten months, when she decided to stop trading, without having any training or experience in this area, she had turned that amount into $100,000.00.

Now, that could be considered luck, or simply being a ‘quick study’. No one has ever accused Mrs. Clinton of being stupid.

At one period during this ten-month stretch of time, Mrs. Clinton was in debt for over $100,000 to a financial services firm. Typically, in such a circumstance, the financial services firm would require the investor to pay the funds, or offer some collateral against the debt. This, however, was not done in this case. What, one might have asked at the time, might the firm have received in return for its generosity towards the governor’s wife?  The shadow, therefore, lengthened.

As First Lady of the United States, she didn’t fulfill the traditional role. She was considered a close advisor for her husband, and was appointed by him to develop a healthcare plan. This also caused deep resentment against her; she had no official position in office, but was given a major responsibility.

During these years, she was accused of orchestrating the dismissal of the White House travel staff, so that her own friends and those of her husband could replace them. Although questioned, she was never charged, but the prosecutor said that, while many of her statements were ‘factually false’, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

In June of 1996, Mrs. Clinton was implicated in what became known as ‘Filegate’. Craig Livingstone, director of the White House’s Office of Personnel Security, had requested and received from the FBI information about a large number of individuals, mainly advisors from previous, Republican administrations. Mrs. Clinton was accused of requesting, or authorizing the request of, these files, for political purposes. She and the president were eventually exonerated.

During Mr. Clinton’s re-election campaign, Mrs. Clinton was implicated in a scheme to obtain donations to the Democratic National Committee from China, in violation of U.S. law.

In 1996, Mrs. Clinton became the first, and to date, only, First Lady to testify before a Federal grand jury. This was in the investigation into possible obstruction of justice at the White House regarding an inquiry into her former Arkansas law firm.

On the day before Mr. Clinton left office, he pardoned 450 people convicted of various crimes. Included in this number were two people who each paid Mrs. Clinton’s brother, Hugh Rodman, $200,000.00 to represent their cases for clemency. One can imagine that Mr. Rodman may have had an ‘in’ to the president, that not every lawyer had.

When Mrs. Clinton decided to run for senate from New York, she had to make a change in her life: she had to establish residency in a state in which she had never lived. Despite the fact that she was the first and, thus far, only First Lady to run for elective office after her husband’s term as president ended, being a senator from Arkansas, where she lived for many years, apparently was not as potent a springboard to her further ambitions as being senator from NY would be. So, she and Mr. Clinton bought a house in New York, she announced her candidacy, and won.

Before she threw her hat into the ring, the most likely person to run was Representative Nita Lowey. However, as soon as Mrs. Clinton expressed an interest in running, Ms. Lowey stepped aside. This brought about more than a little criticism; Ms. Lowey had been a member of the House for ten years, and Mrs. Clinton had held no elective office.

It is interesting to note Ms. Lowey’s sentiments during the most recent primary season. She, of course, was a ‘super-delegate’, who had pledged to vote to nominate Mrs. Clinton. When her spokesperson was asked if she would switch her vote, should Mr. Sanders win the NY primary, this was the response: “Absolutely not… Hillary Clinton is Congresswoman Lowey’s friend, colleague and her constituent, and she is behind her 100%.” This ‘loyalty’, which disregards the will of the people does nothing to endear Mrs. Clinton to the average voter.

When Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State, Mr. Clinton’s charitable foundation received millions of dollars in donations, not only from huge, multinational corporations, but also from foreign governments. The appearance of conflicts of interest in this situation is too strong to be overlooked.

More recently, her use of a private server for highly-confidential emails, and the resulting FBI investigations, further cast doubt on her integrity, and added to the general consensus that she sees herself above the law.

The millions of people who despise Mrs. Clinton will say that no one can be under so many different clouds of suspicion, and be completely innocent. Her countless fawning minions will say that, despite all attempts to besmirch her good name, she has never been charged with anything.

Let’s look now at some of her policies that may have been troubling for the U.S. voter.

It is said that Mrs. Clinton was the mastermind of the decision to overthrow the government of Libya, which has caused untold suffering in that nation. No one believes that Muammar Gaddafi was a choir boy, but the death toll since his overthrow far exceeds the numbers that died during his reign. And Mrs. Clinton’s flippant attitude about his death also repels many people.

After the September 11 attacks on the United States, Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq. This invasion killed at least a million people, sent millions more into refugee camps, spawned a civil war, and left Iraqis in dire situations.

She fully supports Israel, despite its ongoing violations of numerous international laws, and ignores the legitimate claims to basic human rights of the Palestinian people. She says nothing in opposition of the draconian, apartheid laws of Israel, or the brutal killings of unarmed, innocent, Palestinian men, women and children by Israeli soldiers and settlers. She is silent about the illegal Israeli settlements.

Mrs. Clinton supports the foreign fighters opposing the government of Syria. She has accused Russia of crimes in Syria, ignoring the greater crimes of the U.S. in that country. She says nothing about the barbaric human rights record of Saudi Arabia, with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations.

Now, there are many factors that impact the result of an election. The popularity of the incumbent; the state of the economy; the personality of the candidates, etc., all play into the decision-making process of the voters. This year, the Democrats offered a candidate:

  • Who is the quintessential Washington insider;
  • With a long history of activities that apparently were just short of illegal;
  • That had the demonstrated support of party bosses, but not of the rank-and-file voter;
  • Who supported a war that much of the world opposed, that was built on transparent lies, and
  • With a long record of supporting war.

This shouldn’t imply that the Republicans nominated an angel; seldom, if ever, has a more unsuitable candidate been elected president. But the voting public wasn’t interested in more Clinton: eight years of Bill, and Hillary being in the public eye for decades, was simply more than enough. She could not be seen as a ‘change agent’; no one perceives her as being able to ‘shake things up’.

Although Mr. Sanders showed his true colors when he gave Mrs. Clinton a glowing endorsement at the Democratic convention, after the nomination had been stolen from him, and after he’d said she was unfit to be president, he was by far the stronger candidate than she. But the strength of the ultimate U.S. ‘power couple’ far outweighed logical considerations. Mrs. Clinton had been waiting in the wings for years, the curtain was soon to rise, and she wasn’t going to miss her cue. She and the Democratic Party didn’t realize that the audience had already departed.

 

 

 

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Socialist Presidential Candidate Gloria La Riva: ‘We Live Under The Dictatorship Of Big Capital’

SAN FRANCISCO — The two major parties have nominated deeply unpopular candidates, and third-party candidates are drawing nearly unprecedented amounts of attention this election season.

Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who is running on the Libertarian ticket, and Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein are leading the pack of third-party candidates in the polls, but they’re certainly not the only alternative candidates to throw their hats in the ring.

Gloria La Riva, a labor, community, and anti-war activist based in San Francisco, is running for president under the Party for Socialism and Liberation. This isn’t her first bid for public office; she ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1983, finishing third overall, and she was the Peace & Freedom Party’s candidate for governor of California in the 1994 and 1998 elections.

She has also been a key organizer of many mass demonstrations opposing war and occupation in Central America, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and the former Yugoslavia, among many others.

In addition to her decades of work to defend Cuba’s sovereignty against U.S. oppression, including her support for the Cuban 5, she has traveled to Venezuela multiple times since Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1998, including a trip in 2014, three years after Chavez’s death.

Gloria La Riva meets with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Gloria La Riva meets with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

La Riva is also an accomplished filmmaker. In 1998, she produced and directed “Genocide by Sanctions: The Case of Iraq,” a short film documenting the effects of the U.S./NATO blockade on Iraq. She accompanied former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark to Yugoslavia at the height of the U.S./NATO bombing of that country the following year, which led her to produce the video “NATO Targets.”

Her work, however, doesn’t just look beyond U.S. borders. A long-time supporter of LGBT rights, she has alsoorganized support for the Black Firefighters Association in their struggle against racism and sexism in the San Francisco Fire Department in the 1980s. Following a disastrous citrus freeze in California that left tens of thousands of agricultural workers with no income, she initiated the Farmworkers Emergency Relief Committee in 1991. Within a week of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, La Riva traveled to New Orleans, documenting injustices she encountered in the short film “Heroes Not Looters.”

She traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, following the police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, and just last month she traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to show her support for the city’s residents as they protested systemic racism following the death of Alton Sterling, who was also killed by police. While filming a peaceful demonstration and police actions, La Riva was one of the hundreds of people arrested amid demonstrations in Baton Rouge.

Gloria La Riva, third party candidate, among 100 arrested in Baton Rouge police attack.

Gloria La Riva, third party candidate, among 100 arrested in Baton Rouge police attack.

She spoke to Robert Fantina about the two major parties and their candidates and her party’s foreign and domestic agendas.

 

MintPress News (MPN): How would you summarize the difference between the platform of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and those of the Republicans and Democrats?

Gloria La Riva (GLR): We couldn’t be more different!

Republican politicians continuously push legislation to attack women and immigrant’s rights. They are a right-wing conservative party; they were almost uniformly against marriage equality and were the ones behind the recent anti-trans laws in North Carolina.

The Democratic Party presents itself as a more liberal and friendly option for people, but it was the Democratic Party who put through free trade policies like NAFTA which destroyed thousands of jobs in the U.S. and ripped apart the Mexican economy, causing mass impoverishment there.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) stands for the things that people need. We would make jobs, free healthcare, free education and affordable housing constitutional rights.

But the fundamental difference is that the Republicans and Democrats are capitalist parties, and we are a socialist party. Capitalist parties are beholden to Wall Street and the monopoly banks and the giant multinational corporations who possess extreme wealth and influence. Our party is at its core diametrically different because we are a working class party, beholden only to the greater good of all workers and oppressed peoples here and around the world.

 

MPN: In your view, how has it come about that the two ‘major’ parties have nominated candidates that are so greatly disliked?

GLR: Donald Trump is using racist and sexist populist rhetoric to mobilize his base of support. He is taking advantage of the people who have suffered an economic downturn in recent years. In 2008 we suffered the biggest economic recession since the 1930s. The housing industry collapsed due to bank speculation and capitalist overproduction, causing millions to lose their jobs. The value of homes plummeted and many people were forced into homelessness. Today 93 percent of all U.S. counties have failed to fully recover from this crisis. Trump’s message to these people is misleading. He does not point out that it was the banks and Wall Street which caused this crisis.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was the Democratic Party machine’s solution to suppress the progressive Bernie Sanders movement. Millions of people voted for [Bernie] Sanders against Wall Street, but this goes against the core values of that party. Clinton was their only answer to the extreme right-wing threat, but Clinton is considered untrustworthy amongst the people. Her support for so many foreign wars, her close ties to Wall Street, her promoting of racist mass incarceration laws, and her general flip-flopping on issues throughout her career have made her extremely unpopular.

 

MPN: Do you see any advantages of Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, or vice versa?

GLR: The capitalist propaganda says that in an election, there is no alternative but to vote for the “lesser evil,” which in this election means Hillary Clinton. This line of thinking has never been more disastrous. As bad as Donald Trump is, Clinton is just as bad in different ways — in many cases, worse. It was under Clinton’s leadership that the United States sponsored a coup in Honduras, leading to the destabilization of that country and making it the murder capital of the world. When children fled repression for the U.S.A., it was Clinton and the Obama administration that turned them away, adding to a record 2.5 million undocumented people deported — the most in U.S. history. She boasts that she was responsible for the United States taking military action against Libya — another state destroyed and thousands of people killed. Clinton has called for direct bombing to eliminate the elected [Bashar] Assad government [in Syria].

Clinton and her appointees supported the right-wing coup in Ukraine and confrontation with Russia, with potentially lethal consequences for the world. It was Hillary Clinton, who as “First Lady,” called Black youth “super predators” and championed the 1994 crime bill which led to the massive expansion of the racist prison-industrial complex. Both Trump and Clinton represent the same capitalist 1%. We call for people not to vote for the “lesser evil,” but to join us and build an independent movement and workers party.

 

MPN: Can you summarize how you, as president, would adjust the United States’ foreign policy?

GLR: Our foreign policy would be one based on solidarity and respect for the peoples of the world and the planet’s sustainability. We would treat other countries like sister countries, not as competitors. We would shut down all U.S. military bases abroad and bring all the troops, planes, and ships home. U.S. foreign policy uses the pretext of national security to enforce the imperialist interests of the biggest banks and corporations. We would use the $1 trillion military budget instead to provide for people’s needs.

We would begin the immediate dismantling of nuclear weapons and stop U.S. aid to Israel, as just the first step in concretely supporting the Palestinian people’s fight for self-determination, including the right to return to their homeland. We would immediately end the criminal U.S. blockade of Cuba, return Guantánamo territory and return the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico to the Puerto Rican people, while also providing for cancellation of its debt and for reparations. We would immediately end all covert operations around the world, as well as those agencies responsible: the CIA, NSA, FBI, etc. We would stop immediately the U.S. attempts to isolate, destabilize, or destroy governments such as Syria, Russia, China, and would lift sanctions that are imposed on Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

 

MPN: What significant domestic policy changes would you make as president?

GLR: The capitalist politicians often lament that they are powerless to affect legislative or executive action that would benefit the people, but the reality is, their fundamental interest lies in promoting the corporations and banks. Even in the current political system, a president has a lot of power, the main one being to rally the masses to effect change — if he or she wanted to, but they don’t. My first act would be to pardon political prisoners Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Mutulu Shakur, Oscar López Rivera, Chelsea Manning, and so many others wrongly imprisoned, and to release hundreds of thousands of prisoners, victims of the system who need true rehabilitation, jobs, and assistance to become productive members of society.

I would decree an economic emergency and declare a nationwide moratorium on evictions, use those emergency powers to declare eminent domain over millions of empty housing units to provide immediate housing for all who need. Instead, these days we see whole neighborhoods bulldozed because too many homes were built to make a profit for developers. The DOJ would take on the bankers and use all the massive evidence of their illegal, profiteering acts to try them for crimes against the people. We would use the “bully pulpit” of the White House to speak the truth: that all the workers of this country, citizen, resident and immigrant, create all the wealth, not the owners of capital. We would use all means to reach the people of the United States to declare that free health care, free education at all levels, decent truly affordable housing, guaranteed incomes for the poor and seniors — all these and more should be constitutional rights, and that it is all entirely possible, if together we unite for these changes.

I would rally the people to fill the streets of Washington and surround Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, surround Wall Street, encircle the Pentagon, and refuse to leave until immediate measures are adopted to provide immediate relief for all.

That is only a start. But helping empower the people, exposing the crimes of capitalism, and providing a vision of what is possible when the people are in power, these are the most important steps. No politician can effect change alone; to say otherwise is a deception. That is why our campaign as revolutionary socialists also uses the electoral platform to explain that the people [who have] organized have always been the real agents of change.

How can a president and party, such as Obama and the Democrats, lament that they are unable to pass legislation to legalize immigrants, and then deport more than 2.5 million? We would halt all detentions, family separations and deportations. The failure of the Democrats to act when they had majority control of the House and Senate as well as the presidency, provided the groundwork for the rise of anti-immigrant actions nationally and statewide. As the daughter of a Mexican immigrant — my mother — I know too well the difficulties that our communities experience every day. My presidency would encourage the labor unions, immigrant, and community organizations to mobilize by the millions and call for nationwide strikes, much like [what] took place on May Day 2006, and show who has the real power: the workers, including the 11 million undocumented workers and 15 million permanent residents.

I would act to defend and empower the Native American communities against the rapacious oil and mining corporations, bringing the full weight of prosecution and preventive protection against corporate polluters, whether in the Gold King mine spill in the Animas and San Juan rivers, or by forcing the overturning of the Army Corp of Engineers’ approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a disastrous project for the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal communities. The bottom line is the need for full respect of Native sovereignty, including the restoration and return of many Native lands, a massive increase in funding for housing, healthcare, education, social services, infrastructure, and jobs.

We would vigorously oppose the attacks on unions’ collective bargaining and work for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act. We would fight for the immediate increase of the minimum wage to $20 an hour with annual cost of living increases. In most U.S. states, workers can be fired based on their sexual orientation. We would stop this state-sanctioned discriminatory practice, guarantee full rights for all LGBTQ people, and fight anti-LGBTQ violence.

Women still earn 22 percent less than men, and the gap is even more severe for black and Latina women. We would enforce full equality for women, close the wage gap, and end the gender division of labor. Women must have the fundamental right to choose and control their own bodies.

 

MPN: The Middle East is exploding, mainly because of U.S. interference. How would a La Riva presidency address this situation?

GLR: First of all, we would pull all of the tens of thousands of troops and planes and ships and military infrastructure out of the Middle East. We would cancel the $40 billion extra-aid package to Israel and use this money to pay reparations to all the victims of war in Iraq and Syria and Libya and in Iran. We would end all the covert operations in the Middle East and everywhere, lift the sanctions against Iran and all countries, overturn the sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba, and end all intervention. This is the only real road to peace.

 

MPN: Unarmed Blacks in the U.S. are routinely killed by the police, with nearly complete impunity. Why is this, and how would you address this problem?

GLR: First of all, we must hold all these murderous, racist cops accountable for their crimes. No politician, including President Obama or candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, dares speak out against the police. That is one of the biggest problems.

As president, I would direct the Department of Justice to prosecute police who gun the people down. It is an absolute outrage that politicians call for investigations instead of prosecution, and fail to act to protect black and brown youth and all working class people. I would use every power of the office to force prosecution, and immediately condemn the daily murders — almost three per day this year alone. I would demand the return of all military hardware, including tanks, from city departments.

I would order the DOJ and attorney general — a new AG who defends the people’s rights — to implement nationwide policy that prohibits the use of firearms against the population. The killers of Michael Brown, James Boyd, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Mario Woods, Andy López, and the more than 1,300 people killed by the police every year, must not be allowed to remain free. Look at Erick Gelhaus, who gunned down 13-year-old Andy López. He was just promoted to sergeant, his reward for murdering a young teen. We would abolish the so-called “Police Officers Bill of Rights,” which enshrines their impunity in law, implement true community control over police departments, including the power to prosecute.

But to truly end the epidemic of racist police violence we would have to fundamentally change the nature of the system and the police. We fight for a socialist revolution which would abolish the police force as we know it and create a whole new one to serve the people, not the rich and corporations.

 

MPN: U.S. banks operate above the law, to the detriment of millions of people. How would you, as president, address this problem?

GLR: We would seize the banks and jail Wall Street criminals. Power and wealth must be taken out of the hands of the super-rich. The banks’ vast wealth came from the people’s labor and the massive bank bailouts and other government subsidies. Capitalist banking is a form of organized crime, rewarding greed and fraud with obscene bonuses. These billionaires looted and destroyed the economy. It is time to seize their assets and use those resources in the interests of the vast majority. We would use the money seized to fund a massive overhaul and create job and other socially necessary programs across the country. We would nationalize all the economic resources in this country for the good of the all the people and the poor not just for a few rich people to exploit.

 

MPN: What do you see as the fundamental issue facing the United States today?

GLR: While we are constantly propagandized that we live in the “greatest democracy ever,” the reality is that we live under the dictatorship of big capital. Real power is in the hands of the banks, monopoly corporations, and the military-industrial complex. Fundamental change requires taking that power out of their hands and putting it in the hands of the people. That is why, while we fight for every reform that benefits the working class and the population as a whole, we know that what is ultimately needed is revolutionary change and the reorganization of the economy and society on a socialist basis.

Originally published in MintPressNews.

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The Time for Third Parties is Now!

The coronation of Hillary Clinton has now been completed. The farce of the primaries, in which millions of people voted for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, only to be told that they don’t know what’s best, and that the super-delegates would select the nominee, is behind us, and even Mr. Sanders has gotten into line like the good little corporate soldier that he is.  On opening night of the Democratic convention, he gave a shining endorsement of Mrs. Clinton, who stands for all the things that his ‘revolution’ seeks to destroy. But, what is any of that, when the need to keep a Democrat in the White House is so important, despite the fact that, in substance, there is little difference between the major policies of the two parties?

We keep hearing about the most ‘progressive’ Democratic platform in history, without any mention that it is completely non-binding, and is basically just the recycled blathering we’ve been hearing for months: more money for the military; more oppression of the Palestinians; less concern about the environment, etc. Oh yes, progressive indeed!

It is long past time for the United States to join the rest of the nations that purport to have some semblance of democracy (the fact that the U.S. simply doesn’t is a topic for another essay), and expand to more than two parties. The Libertarian Party traditionally wins the most votes, after the Republicans and Democrats. But with dozens of third parties fielding candidates for president, why on earth would any thinking person vote for either Mrs. Clinton, the epitome of elitism, corruption, arrogance and entitlement, or the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, a loud-mouthed windbag who appeals to the basest instincts of the most ignorant citizens? Why would anyone in the 99% vote for either of these charter members of the 1%?

Let’s look at just a few areas of concern:

+ Student debt: The average debt for a student who graduated in 2016 is $37,000. Seventy-one percent of students graduate with some debt, and the total student debt owed in the U.S. today exceeds $1 trillion. This cash cow for the government will continue under a Trump or Clinton presidency. However, the platform of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), headed this year by Gloria La Riva, calls for the cancelling of all student debt. The Green Party, with Jill Stein as its presidential nominee, also calls for abolishing student debt.

+ The Military: While at least a quarter of the children in the United States live in poverty, the government spends billions on the military. The PSL platform suggests redirecting that money “to provide for people’s needs here and around the world.” Hmm, what a novel idea! And from the Green Party: “cut military spending by at least 50%. “That amount of money over just a couple of years could wipe out poverty around the world.

+ Police Violence: Both the Green Party and the PSL support an end to the nearly absolute impunity that police officers have, regardless of their crimes.

+ Foreign Policy: Whenever politicians have an audience, if anything related to foreign policy arises, we hear about the great need to protect and defend Israel, a brutal, apartheid regime that has a powerful lobby in the U.S. The PSL’s 10-Point program clearly states the need to end all aid to that country.

+ Wall Street: Mrs. Clinton is the darling of the financial sector in the United States; its donations to her various campaigns total in the tens of millions; she received nearly $700,000 for three speeches to Goldman-Sachs. By endorsing her, Mr. Sanders has crawled into bed with them as well. Mr. Trump, like all good members of the 1%, also bows down at the Wall Street altar. The PSL considers capitalist banking “a form of organized crime, rewarding greed and fraud with obscene bonuses,” and calls for seizing these assets to be used for the good of the people. The Green Party seeks to break up the large banks. Both of these views are heretical to the two-headed Repubocratic Party.

 

This information provides the reader with a view of alternative candidates; in this case, two women of integrity and common sense. The platform of the Green Party, in the context of the Republicans and Democrats, is radical, but in terms of being reasonable, it is a moderate, workable plan.

The PSL, on the other hand, goes farther in demanding basic rights for all people, at home and abroad, in smashing the failed capitalistic model, and replacing it with one in which all people can prosper, possibly at different levels, but without the stark extremes that the U.S. now experiences, with the extremely, obscenely rich on one end, and the destitute poor on the other.

With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the current major-party candidates to inhabit the White House and wreak international havoc for the next four years, could there be any better time to elect a president who would change the fundamentally flawed paradigm that the U.S. has operated under for two centuries? Is this not the time for a real revolution, not the artificial rhetoric, the ‘meet-the-new- boss-same-as-the-old-boss’, pretty sounding but empty words of the likes of Bernie Sanders?

It is unlikely that a third-party candidate will be elected president this year, although with both candidates highly disliked, and new embarrassments being forever revealed, anything is possible. But even lacking that, when faced with two awful candidates, and one shrinks in horror to consider candidates more awful that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, voting for a candidate who cares about people makes perfect sense.

Although this writer’s ballot will probably not be counted (absentee ballots are only counted if the vote in the state in which they are cast is sufficiently close that such ballots could impact the outcome), he will vote for Ms. La Riva. Much as he likes and respects Dr. Stein and the platform of the Green Party, he supports greater change than even the substantial change that they offer. And while he encourages the reader to vote for Ms. La Riva, he implores everyone to find a third party candidate, and vote accordingly. A vote for either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton will only bring more suffering around the world, more poverty, and more riches into the foreign bank accounts of the already super-rich. Third-party votes represent the voices of those who oppose the continuation of the repressive status-quo. It is high time we make our voices heard.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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The First Amendment, BDS and Third Party Candidates

It seems sometimes that, like Alice, we have all tumbled down a rabbit hole and entered a bizarre new universe. However, Mr. Carroll could never have invented anything as peculiar as what is seen in United States politics and governance.

For reasons that only politicians and the lobbies who own them can completely understand, Israel, that brutal, apartheid nation, comes first and foremost in what passes for the minds of elected officials. It is reported that New Jersey is the latest in a string of states that is passing anti-BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) laws. This, of course, will require endless hours of effort by some unfortunate bureaucrat to compile lists of organizations that support the boycott of Israel. Was it so long ago that other bureaucrats compiled lists of Communist ‘sympathizers’? We all know how well that turned out.

But anyway, why should politicians who bask in the largess of Israeli lobbies care about the First Amendment? That old thing! Let’s take a look at what is says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The Supreme Court over the years has expanded this to include states; it isn’t just Congress that is so forbidden. In 1982, in the case of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) vs. Clairborne Hardware Co., the Court found that “the nonviolent elements of a boycott are entitled to the protection of the First Amendment”.

Now, what might the governing bodies of New Jersey, New York and nine other states that have passed anti-BDS legislation learn from this? The purpose of the BDS movement, as indicated on its webpage, is clear: in 2005, “Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognized in full compliance with international law”. It would appear that all of these actions fall into the ‘non-violent’ category that the Supreme Court says is protected by the First Amendment.

During the long, drawn out, bitter campaign for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations, which was only a forerunner to what promises to be an unparalleled circus of a campaign between Tweedle-Dum (Republican Donald Trump) and Tweedle-Dee (Democrat Hillary Clinton), most of the candidates from both parties made the obligatory visit to the AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) altar in Washington, D.C. in March of this year. There, they decried Palestinian resistance to the occupation, resistance that is sanctioned by the United Nations, and praised Israeli ‘restraint’, that only killed 500 innocent children in less than two months in the summer of 2014. They spoke of the strength of Israeli ‘democracy’, where there are separate laws for Jewish Israelis, and non-Jewish Israelis. They talked of Israel as the U.S.’s only ‘friend’ in the Middle East, a friendship that the U.S. purchases with more foreign aid than is given to all other countries combined. Such groveling by men and women who would ‘lead’ the United States is nothing less than repulsive to watch.

Fortunately, the U.S. voter isn’t limited to the two representatives of the Republicratic Party. Choices abound, although the corporate-owned media (fascism, anyone?) would have us all believe otherwise. The candidacy of Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) has been mentioned by this writer previously, but is worth noting again, as she is one of the third-party candidates who does not feel compelled to kiss the unholy ring of Israel.

A few phrases from the PSL webpage are telling:

* The “campaign stands in full solidarity with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign…”

* “The BDS movement demands that Israel: End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Wall; recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.  It fights for an end to Israeli apartheid.”

We learn from this some important differences between Ms. La Riva and Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. First, unlike her rivals, Ms. La Riva respects human rights. Second, she recognizes and respects international law. She understands the role of boycotting in bringing about change. Unlike the Republican and Democratic candidates, she recognizes apartheid when she sees it. Finally, she supports worldwide efforts to bring justice to the Palestinians, after decades of oppression.

But Ms. La Riva doesn’t stop there; she fully exposes the elephant (or perhaps, the donkey) in the room:

“Both of the presumptive major capitalist party candidates, Trump and Clinton, have expressed full support for Israel, outrageously painting Israel as ‘victim’ and the Palestinians as ‘aggressor,’ in keeping with the Israeli narrative that is constantly regurgitated by the corporate media here.”

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.” Ms. La Riva seems to recognize that odd fact, and is willing to do something about it.

It is unlikely that a third-party candidate will be victorious in the 2016 presidential election farce, where the major competitors are highly disliked by large swaths of the electorate, which will seek in vain to find the lesser of two evils. But this situation, where the 99% must choose between two members of the 1%, can begin to die this year, if increasing numbers of people decide to pull a lever for a candidate other than those of either the GOP or Democratic Party. If voters consider such things as human rights, international law, and justice, they will be unable to vote for Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. There are excellent alternatives, and Ms. La Riva is one of them.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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A Perfect Couple: Sanders and Clinton

Much to the surprise of absolutely no one but his most ardent fans, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has sold his soul and endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Only time will tell what he received in return: a position in a Clinton Cabinet, or perhaps a prestigious assignment in the senate. One hopes he held out for more than a meaningless plank in the Democratic Party platform which, when combined with all the other meaningless planks, makes for a meaningless platform. More on that later. But this is all business as usual when the kingmakers are hard at work, plying their craft.

There was talk in the last several days about overtures the Green Party had made to Mr. Sanders, with the gross exaggeration that likely Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had offered to step aside to enable him to head the ticket. Dr. Stein herself issued a clarification, saying that while the party had reached out to the senator, there were a variety of issues that would need to have been discussed if there was any partnership to be established. She also said that, unlike the Democratic Party, the delegates to the Green Party convention would determine the nominee; it wasn’t hers to give away.

Mr. Sanders’ statement endorsing his former opponent is puzzling indeed. The constraints of time and space prevent a thorough analysis, but we will look at a few key points, and attempt to make sense of them.

“Together, we have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution continues.”

I think not. Certainly, many people jumped on the Sanders bandwagon, hoping for such changes as a higher minimum wage and an end to astronomical student debt. But, while these are certainly desirable, they do not a revolution make. A good place to start a revolution might be to end war and international militarism, but the good senator had no intention of doing any such thing.

“Together, we continue the fight to create a government which represents all of us, and not just the one percent….”

Senator Sanders would have us believe that Mrs. Clinton, a woman with an estimated fortune of $45 million, is going to fight for the 99%. This is a woman who never met a corporate lobby she didn’t love. Perhaps Mr. Sanders thinks that his devoted followers will buy whatever it is he chooses to sell, so he decided to bring out the snake oil.

“It is easy to forget where we were seven and a half years ago when President Obama came into office. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, our economy was in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

Curiouser and Curiouser! Does Mr. Sanders forget that the woman whose praises he is now singing earned nearly $700,000 for three, yes three, speeches to Goldman Sachs? Does he expect anyone to believe that she will oppose corporate advantages in order to fight for the common worker? Favors, in the amount of fees and campaign donations, have been granted, and will certainly be called in during a Hillary Clinton administration.

Mrs. Clinton “…knows that it is absurd that middle-class Americans are paying an effective tax rate higher than hedge fund millionaires, and that there are corporations in this country making billions in profit while they pay no federal income taxes in a given year because of loopholes their lobbyists created.”

Please see comment, above.

During this puzzling speech, Mr. Sanders referred to the Democratic Platform, and said this: “… we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.” ‘Progressive’ is such an appealing term to pass around and make liberals feel good. And while this writer risks boring the reader with endless bullet points, he reviewed a draft of the platform, and would like to point out just two of the ‘progressive’ aspects of it:

“Democrats will also address the detrimental role Iran plays in the region and will robustly enforce and, if necessary, strengthen non-nuclear sanctions. Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. It violates the human rights of its population, denies the Holocaust, vows to eliminate Israel, and has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East.”

Iran is not the ‘leading state sponsor of terrorism; by any and all accounts, that dubious distinction belongs to the United States, which ‘has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East’.

“We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”

“Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

Now, this paragraph deserves our close attention, so the writer will dissect it, like a scientist in a lab.

“We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The U.S. has been unsuccessful in this endeavor or generations, and will continue to be as long as the government is bought and paid for by Israeli lobbies. And it is likely that the U.S. has no interest in ending this ‘conflict’.

“…negotiated directly by the parties…”

As this writer has pointed out previously,  negotiations can only take place between two parties, each of which has something the other wants, and that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Israel takes what it wants from Palestine with complete impunity. There can be no negotiations.

Additionally, does the Democratic Party have no respect for international law? Israel is in violation of that law by its illegal occupation of the West Bank, and blockade of Gaza. Why would anyone suggest negotiations?

Such negotiations are supposed to “…guarantee Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provide the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.” Shouldn’t any plan also guarantee Palestine’s future as a ‘secure and democratic state with recognized borders’?

“Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity”

Do not Palestinians deserve ‘security, recognition and a normal life free from terror and incitement’?

So much for Mr. Sanders’ ‘progressive’ platform.

Difficult as it is to say anything positive about the Republican Party, at least its voters thought ‘outside of the box’ this year. There was no decent candidate running, so rather than choosing some tired career politician, they selected a billionaire racist, homophobic, Islamophopic misogynist. The Democrats played by their rigged rulebook, and are about to nominate the quintessential Washington insider.

Is there a lesser evil between these two? Hardly! Each, in his or her own way, will cause untold suffering at home and abroad; do nothing to assist those who are struggling; enrich their friends and associates, and leave a trail of blood and carnage in their wake.

On July 12, this writer had the opportunity of interviewing Gloria La Riva, the presidential nominee of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. He strongly encourages the reader to review her policy recommendations, which, unlike the Democratic Party platform, are filled with practical, common sense solutions to the complex problems facing the country and the world.

Never has the time been better than now to vote third party.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Fighting Back in Dallas

This past week, the nation witnessed, not once, but twice, the apparently unjustified killing of two Black men by white police officers. This no longer shocks anyone; young, usually unarmed Black men serve as target practice for the mainly white police force, so the fact that two more officers were simply practicing their shooting skills is hardly even news.

Dont shoot

Then, on Friday, we all awoke to the national uproar over the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas. This writer heard some news about it when at the fitness center in the morning; forgetting to bring his mobile device, he had no music to listen to as he used the stepper, and watched that well-known entertainment station, CTV-News, report its version of the news.

One ‘expert’, the name of whom this writer didn’t notice, since said ‘expert’ was already speaking as this writer was setting the adjustments on the stepper he was to use, said mournfully that this shocking event had cast a pall over the entire country.

Now, this writer is sorry for any murder victim, whether that person has been killed by a drone strike in Yemen, a bomb in Syria, an Israeli terrorist in Palestine, a police officer in Baton Rouge or a sniper in Dallas. He feels for the grieving survivors, and sympathizes with their anger at the perpetrator. Yet he feels it is unfair, at the very least, and criminal at the very worst, to classify the killing of five police officers in Dallas as any more tragic than the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge or Philando Castile in Minneapolis. If a pall has been cast over the nation, it is the pall of blatant, unchecked racism.

And while there is nothing surprising about the constant murders of unarmed Black men by the police, there should be little surprise that, finally, people are fighting back. This does not excuse the murders of these officers, but one must consider that, sooner or later, with no recourse from the courts or the government, victimized people would, eventually, strike back.

After the shootings, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said this:”We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days. Please, we need your support to be able to protect you from men like these, who carried out this tragic, tragic event.” Well, who,one might reasonably ask, is going to protect members of the Black community from the police? When the police shoot unarmed Black men, internal investigations almost always find the killing justified. No wonder many police departments “don’t feel much support most days”.

As of this writing, a suspect in the Dallas shootings has been identified. Needless to say, he has also been killed. Micah Xavier Johnson is said to have acted alone, unlike the white police officers who routinely kill Black men; they usually have partners and extensive back up, as they approach and shoot their victims.

Had Mr. Johnson not been killed, he, unlike the murderers of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and the many others shot by police, would have felt the full effects of the law. Snipers, unlike police officers, cannot kill innocent people with complete impunity.

Let us return for a moment to this writer’s brief exposure to CTV-’News’. In the past, he has seen how the corporate-owned media tells the vapid-minded viewer what to think. For example, when four Israelis were killed in a Tel Aviv cafe, this event was widely broadcast. But when two unarmed Palestinian teenagers, observing but not participating in a demonstration against Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine, were shot by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces. Read: terrorists), in a crime taped by a security camera mounted outside a nearby store, there was no CTV ‘expert’ decrying this horrendous crime, no interviews with the survivors, and, therefore, no instructions to the viewers that they should be angry, sorrowful, etc. A teenage girl, intentionally hit and seriously injured by car driven by an illegal Israeli settler, and then shot by that settler, is not, in the minds of the corporations who own CTV, worthy of being reported. There is, in this view, no reason to shed any tears for her.

With a name like Micah Xavier Johnson, it will be difficult for the media to associate Mr. Johnson with Islam, to which it is almost mandatory for the corporate-owned shills that pass as news outlets to tie to any violent crime. We must all remember, when anyone proclaiming to be Muslim commits a crime, he is a radical jihadist, representative of the entire 1.8 billion people who are Muslims, and who, by definition, are all terrorists. If a Black man commits a crime, it is simply representative of the criminal element that is inherent in the race. If a white man commits a crime, he is mentally unstable, acting alone and, if not shot and killed by police, deserving of the best psychiatric help there is, so he can be rehabilitated, and live the productive, peaceful, law-abiding life typical of all whites.

When the funerals are held for these police officers, we will see thousands of other police officers in attendance. That the police forces in the United States are a ‘brotherhood’ bordering on a cult can hardly be disputed. One episode is telling:

This writer lived for many years in New Jersey. While there, a police officer’s estranged wife obtained a restraining order against her husband, due to domestic violence. He was forbidden from contacting her, or coming to her home. While this order was in effect, she began living with another man. One day, when she was at work, the police officer, her estranged husband, broke into her home. He found her boyfriend naked, sleeping in the bed. He confronted him and shot and killed him. He was subsequently arrested for murder.

As soon as he was arrested, several of his ‘fellow-officers’ mortgaged their homes to pay his bail. He was tried and acquitted of all charges.

Let’s remember that the officer was illegally in his estranged wife’s home. The man he shot had just awakened from sleep, and could hardly have been concealing a weapon; he was wearing nothing to conceal it with. Yet other police officers rushed to his defense, and maintained their belief that he was innocent, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Or perhaps the matter of innocence or guilt didn’t enter their minds: he was a police office, and therefore anything he did, even killing an unarmed, defenseless man, wasn’t wrong..

Mr. Eric Garner, mentioned above, begged for his life as police officers choked him to death. Mr. Brown’s bullet-riddled body lay in the street for hours, before police officers allowed him to be removed, so he could find some dignity in his brutal, untimely and unjustified death.

Numerous stories have been relayed about Black parents warning their teenage sons how to behave if confronted by a police officer, but such guidance is probably given in vain. Mr. Castile informed the police officers that he had a legally-obtained and registered gun in one pocket, and would retrieve his wallet from the other. That was insufficient to save his life.

Can anyone truly say and believe that racism is not rampant in the United States? Can they not say that separate laws exist, if not officially on the books, but certainly in practice, for people of color, and whites?

Violence is seldom justified (note that this writer will not say it’s never justified), but in the current situation, it should not be a surprise. In any racist oligarchy, where power is consolidated among the wealthy few, and the rest are second class citizens, with people of color being in the lowest tier of that lower category, the status quo cannot be expected to be maintained forever. Today’s violence in Dallas will be met with increased violence towards Blacks by the white establishment, which can only increase the cycle of violence. Where this will all end is anyone’s guess, but it will leave a trail of blood and sorrow in its wake.

Originally published by TheTruther.

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