Category Archives: U.S. Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Guns, Human Rights, Iran, Militarism, Military, Palestine, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S., U.S. Politics

Partisanship in the Extreme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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The Hypocrisy of Trump on Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Balkan Post.

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Filed under Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Political Musings, U.S. Politics

Pity the Democrats and Republicans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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

Trump’s Proposed ‘Deal of the Century’ Will Only Prolong Palestinian Suffering

United States President Donald Trump, who has no bigger fan than himself, is frequently heard to discuss ‘deals’. He states, and probably believes, that he is the best deal-maker of all time. His book, The Art of the Deal, further proclaims his alleged deal-making abilities.

However, when it comes to actual deals, the evidence to support his self-declared greatness simply doesn’t exist. He criticizes the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as the ‘worst deal’ of all time, despite the differing opinions of his military advisors, and all but one of the U.S.’s allies. His violation of that agreement, which also violated international law, is not any concern of his. He brags that he will make a better deal, although he has never explained why he thinks the Iranian government would trust the U.S. to keep any agreement now.

Since his successful campaign for the White House, he has said that he will make the ‘deal of the century’, ending the Palestine-Israel ‘conflict’. One views any such statements from Trump with suspicion, considering that some of his biggest campaign financiers are dedicated Zionists, and he has given responsibility for this ‘deal’ to his obnoxious and ill-qualified son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has investments in illegal Israeli settlements, and is a close friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

After teasing the world that he was working on such a deal, details have now been leaked. It seems, from this preliminary view, that Netanyahu himself could have devised the plan, since it gives Israel everything and Palestine nothing.

Before we look at some of the details, we’ll review a few provisions of international law as they relate directly to Israel and Palestine.

The international community recognizes Palestine’s and Israel’s borders as those that were established by the United Nations in 1947. The immorality, unfairness and criminality of the decision to partition Palestine will not be discussed here.
Citizens of the occupier’s country cannot be moved permanently into the occupied nation. Over 500,000 illegal settlers now live in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Netanyahu has stated that not one will ever be required to depart.
Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of Palestine. This was reiterated by an overwhelming vote of the U.N. General Assembly not three months ago.
The occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip, have all been declared illegal by international law.

Now, on to some of the details of Trump’s proposed ‘deal of the century’, and what it would mean for Palestine.

Palestine would be granted ‘limited’ sovereignty over about one-half of the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The rest would be under the control of Israel, which would result in maintaining the status quo. Under the dubious leadership of the traitor Mahmoud Abbas, Israel controls the entire West Bank with checkpoints, house raids, kidnapping and murder. Under Trump’s deal, nothing would change.
The Palestinian capital would be located in a suburb of Jerusalem, Abu Dis. Palestinians believe, and rightly so, that Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. There is no way this proposal will ever be acceptable to them.
Hamas would be required to disarm. The West Bank disarmed a decade ago, and that has resulted in untold suffering for the Palestinians, as they have been shot, arrested without charge, imprisoned for long periods of time, brutally harassed and oppressed in every way imaginable. They have seen their land stolen to make room for Israel-only residences and roads. Should Hamas disarm in the Gaza Strip, the result there would be the same.
There would be no contiguous nation of Palestine; the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be separated by Israel. As it is today, the ‘deal of the century’ would still prevent Palestinians in the West Bank from ever visiting family or friends in Gaza, and vice-versa.
To summarize, Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ would give Israel everything it wants, and Palestine nothing it wants. Palestine would be a separated nation, without the means to defend itself, and with only partial sovereignty. The annexation of the entire nation of Palestine, which has been slowly happening for decades, would be accelerated.

Since it is blatantly obvious that there is no possible way Palestine, even under the treasonous leadership of Abbas, would accept this agreement, why is it being made? There can only be one purpose for the introduction of such a one-sided deal, one that is consistent with U.S. policy towards Palestine for decades. Once this deal is officially offered and rejected, the U.S. and Israel will say that the Palestinian government and its people are not interested in peace, they only want the destruction of Israel, they aren’t willing to negotiate, etc., etc. The corporate-owned media will repeat these lies, and lies told often enough are often believed.

People around the world who support Palestine are faced with a challenging situation. International condemnation of Israel is ever-growing as its constant atrocities are brought to light. However, with some social media outlets, including Facebook, now censoring news of these atrocities, supporters of justice, human rights and international law must increase their efforts. Israel must not be allowed to continue its U.S.-financed oppression of the Palestinian people.

There is, however, real progress being made. Last week, a bill passed the Irish parliament’s upper house that would ban Israeli products produced in the occupied territories from being sold in Ireland. In the U.S., the General Convention of the Episcopal Church moved to divest from companies that are complicit in Israel violations of international law. Also in the U.S., a pro-Palestinian political newcomer, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez defeated an incumbent Israeli puppet in a primary election in a New York City district last month. Due to the fact that far more Democrats than Republicans are registered in that district, it is likely that Ocasio-Cortez will go to Congress in January.

Yet for all this, nothing has changed for the better for the Palestinians; if anything, conditions continue to deteriorate. Trump’s proposed ‘deal of the century’ will only prolong their suffering.

There is much work to be done, and those of us outside of Palestine who support international law, justice and human rights, must redouble our efforts.

Originally published by AHTribune.

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Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Palestine, U.S., U.S. Politics

Iran Hawks Take Aim at Iran’s Charitable Organizations

In May of this year, the United States violated an international agreement made with Russia, China, France, Germany, the European Union and Iran when it withdrew from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). The thrust of this agreement, which was certified by the United Nations, regulated Iran’s nuclear development program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions against that country.

The U.S. had included domestically that the president must certify to Congress every six months that Iran was in compliance, based on the findings of U.N. inspectors. During the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency, he advised Congress officially that Iran was in compliance.

During President Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency, he often maligned the JCPOA, calling it the ‘worst deal ever’ and vowing to withdraw from it. Despite the pleas of the other nations that are a party to the JCPOA, he finally did so, after certifying compliance during the first year of his administration.

It must be noted that Trump didn’t withdraw as a result of any violation of the terms by Iran; U.N. inspectors, and the other nations involved, all agree that Iran is in complete compliance. It is the U.S., not Iran, that has violated the terms of the agreement.

As a result, the U.S. is re-imposing the sanctions that were to have been lifted with the signing of the agreement. On June 6, 2018, a lengthy article by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on National Security, was released, entitled, Protecting America from a Bad Deal: Ending U.S. Participation in the Nuclear Agreement. In it, the writers describe how it was non-binding on the U.S., and ending it was necessary for U.S. national security.

These fictions, put into a slick presentation, do not change the fact that they are fictions. An international agreement entered into by the United States, as represented by the president, is binding. If this was a bad deal, it was only so for Iran, since the U.S. was not bound to remove the sanctions it issued, despite what the deal said. So while the other nations involved were honest and direct, the U.S., as is its custom, was not.

In proposing additional sanctions, this document once again singles out the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO). In establishing this organization, the Ayatollah said this: “I’m concerned about solving problems of the deprived classes of the society. For instance, solve problems of 1000 villages completely. How good would be if 1000 points of the country are solved or 1000 schools are built in the country; prepare this organization for this purpose.”

Well, is it any wonder that a society that has an ever-increasing poor population would resent another society that seeks to help the poor? By sanctioning the EIKO, the U.S. will only succeed in doing what it does best: hurting innocent people.

The rationale behind this seems to be that if things get bad enough in Iran due to U.S. sanctions, the people of Iran will rise up against their own government. This underestimates the Iranian people; again, such behavior is typical for U.S. government officials. It is, and will continue to be, clear to the people of Iran that it is not their government that is causing them problems; rather, it is the same government that supported the brutal regime of the Shah until a popular movement overthrew him.

One paragraph from the U.S. document mentioned above is instructive:

“Regular briefings by Treasury Department officials to review potential sanctions targets, including companies owned or controlled by the IRGC and Iran’s defense industry (which represent 20 percent of the total market capitalization of the Tehran Stock Exchange) and the supreme leader’s $200-billion business conglomerate, including EIKO and the bonyads (charitable trusts) where the mullahs store their money.”

Apparently, the U.S., which is so concerned about its national security that it spends more on its military than the next eight countries combined, and which is currently bombing seven countries, and attempting to destabilize at least three others, wants to deprive Iran, a country that hasn’t invaded another country since 1798 (yes that is 220 years ago), of its means of defense. The IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, is a highly-respected military organization responsible for, among other things, protecting the nation from outside forces.

Additionally, without any supporting evidence, the article states that Iran’s Supreme Leader has a “$200 billion dollar business conglomerate”, and states that the EIKO is part of it! The EIKO is an independent charitable organization.

Finally, in just this one short paragraph, the writers say that the mullahs store their money in charitable trusts. Would not these writers perhaps want to look a little closer to home, to see the way former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, use their ‘charitable organization’ for their own purposes?

A resent ‘tweet’ by one Mark Dubowitz reads the following:

Mark Dubowitz

@mdubowitz
It’s delusional to believe there’s legitimate business with regime & its instrumentalities including Iranian financial sector, other strategic sectors dominated by the IRGC, EIKO, foundations & other malign actors. CBI governor used his central bank to finance QF!

Mark Fitzpatrick

@FitzpatrickIISS
The effort is to erase the difference between legitimate and corrupt business links, and to make all business with #Iran illegal. Economic warfare, in other words. https://twitter.com/mdubowitz/status/1000058822768189443 …

But where is his evidence? Couldn’t one say, in reference to the U.S., that “it’s delusional to believe” there’s any legitimate reason for bombing seven countries, caging children, prevented Muslims from travelling to the U.S., and a myriad of other activities? Isn’t it ‘delusional’ to spend more on the military than that of the next eight countries combined? Is there a ‘legitimate’ reason to have nearly 1,000 military bases across the globe, including several surrounding Iran?

The U.S. will continue to malign Iran and its democratically-elected government, despite the fact that the U.S. is an oligarchy, so far removed from being a democracy that it’s farcical to refer to it as such. It will attempt to destabilize Iran through interference in its internal workings; fortunately, the IRGC is strong, and will defeat such attempts. The U.S. may even invade Iran at Israel’s insistence, regardless of the disaster that that would be for Israel, the U.S. and much of the world.

But for now, the mighty U.S., a world power with declining international influence, will attempt to strong-arm its allies to mirror its own actions, and violate the JCPOA. Thus far, those allies are not in agreement, and are encouraging continued and expanded trade with Iran. For the good of Iran and the world, it is hoped that they, and not the U.S., prevail.

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Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return

The United Nations has been busy attempting, with little efficacy, to address Israeli violence toward Palestine. On June 1, ten members of the Security Council voted in favor of a resolution that would have helped protect Palestinians from Israeli violence, and would have criticized that violence. Four members abstained, and the United States, of course, vetoed the resolution. Later that same day, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., the incompetent and clown-like Nikki Haley, introduced legislation that would have condemned Hamas for its purported violence. The only nation that voted to support that resolution was the United States; this may have been the first time in U.N. history that a resolution was introduced in the Security Council that gained only a single vote, and that by the nation that introduced it.

On the very day that the U.S. opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, in defiance of nearly the entire international community, Israel killed at least 60 unarmed Palestinian protestors. Haley has made a variety of statements concerning the protests, which are worth examining. We will look at just a few here.

“Those who suggest the violence has anything to do with the embassy in Jerusalem is sorely mistaken….”

Palestinians have been protesting at the border since March, demanding that they be granted the internationally-recognized right of return; this means that those Palestinians who were driven from their homes at any time since the Nakba (catastrophe; the expulsion of three-quarters of a million Palestinians and the slaughter of thousands more to establish the ‘nation’ of Israel) have the legal right to return to their homes, or be compensated for the loss if the homes are no longer standing. The protestors planned to culminate their protest on the day that the U.S. violated international law and opened its embassy in Jerusalem. On that day, Israelis killed dozens and dozens of unarmed protestors. The violence perpetrated by Israel upon defenseless Palestinians is very much connected with the embassy move. The source of that violence is Israel.

“…rather it comes from people who will not accept Israel in any part of Israel.”

One must ask if Haley has absolutely no concept of reality. Does she really believe this? Does she think that Palestinians are living in freedom and prosperity, but demonstrate against Israel because they “will not accept Israel in any part of Israel”? It isn’t even that Palestinians will not accept Israel in any part of Palestine. It is that Palestinians will not accept a brutal occupation; the continuing demolition of their homes and theft of their lands. They will not accept arrests and long detentions of men, women and children without charge. They will not accept being denied access to their own farmlands for planting and harvesting; they will not accept countless checkpoints, arbitrarily opened and closed by Israeli soldier-terrorists. They will not accept rationing their water, while Israel accesses Palestinian water sources to fill their swimming pools. They will not accept electricity for only a few hours a day, because Israel has bombed their power plants.

“They light kites to cause as much destruction as possible.”

If it were possible for anyone to take Haley seriously before, surely she is now dismissed universally as an ignorant buffoon. Palestinians are lighting fire to “kites to cause as much destruction as possible.” This is in response to Israeli sharpshooters, shooting medics who are clearly marked as such. Flaming kites are in response to drones, tear gas, sniper fire and all the violence that Israel seems to take such pleasure in raining down on the Palestinians. Does Haley believe that the sight of a burning kite causes mass terror among Israeli soldiers? Does she believe that the entire city of Tel Aviv is in grave dangers, because a kite that has been set on fire approaches, or even crosses, Israel’s border?

Does she not see that Palestinians might feel terror when, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers break into their homes at any hour of the day or night, ransack and loot them, and carry away all the males over the age of 12? Does she have no empathy or sympathy for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip whose homes are periodically bombed by Israel? Does she feel nothing for those who flee to clearly-marked United Nations refugee centers, only to be bombed there? Has she no compassion when Israeli soldiers attempt to arrest children under the age of ten?

Is she without any knowledge of international law, human rights, or even basic human decency?

The world has grown tired of all this, even if Israel and the U.S. seem to relish it. While the recent resolution passed by the General Assembly is non-binding, it does serve to further tarnish Israel’s already blackened reputation, and further isolate it, and the United States, on the world stage.

Sadly, however, the worldwide condemnation of Israel changes nothing on the ground for Palestinians. In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians still live in abject poverty; they are unable to export their goods, or import much needed building and medical supplies. They continue to be shot at, and sometimes killed, and have their boats ‘confiscated’ (read: stolen), by Israeli terrorists, when fishing well within the internationally-recognized Palestinians waters. In the West Bank, they still must deal with checkpoints, brutal and often fatal harassment by illegal Israeli settlers, and all the horror that accompanies the actions of the brutal Israeli apartheid regime.

Change will only come for the Palestinians when the world’s people finally say ‘Enough!’. When those in the U.S. defeat elected officials who are owned by Israeli lobbies, and when either one of the two major political parties supports the Palestinians, or another party grows in sufficient strength to effectively do so.

The U.S. and Israel are losing influence in the world; the actions of their two heads of state, the erratic and delusional U.S. President Donald Trump, and the violent and racist Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are accelerating this. Unfortunately, like a once-powerful animal that has been mortally wounded, their violence may increase in direct proportion to their waning influence. Cooler heads of state must work to prevent a worldwide catastrophe at the hands of these two rogue, violent regimes.

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Why Palestine is the Civil Rights Issue of our Time

In the last several days, Israeli barbarity against the Palestinians has been featured in the news like never before. The U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, in violation of international law, assisted in publicizing Israel’s crimes. It’s important to understand why this change in favor of Palestine is so important, not only for Palestinians, but for human rights and international law.

In 1948, the newly-minted United Nations gave over 50% of the nation of Palestine to establish Israel. Over 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes, with no decision in their own displacement, and no recompense. Thousands were killed.

Since that time, Israel has had no regard for Palestine’s borders, constantly stealing land, demolishing Palestinian homes, displacing more Palestinians, and building illegal settlements for Israelis. International law clearly states that an occupying power cannot move its citizens permanently onto the occupied territory. Yet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated clearly that not one of the over 500,000 illegal settlers will ever be removed.

In the West Bank, there are roads on which only Israelis can drive. If a newly-build Israeli road crosses one used by Palestinians, the Palestinians are not permitted to even cross it.

Palestinian farmers must obtain permission from Israel to farm their own lands. That permission is often only granted after a long waiting period, after the time for planting or harvesting has passed. When farmers are able to plant on time, their crops often rot in the fields, because Israel refuses permission to harvest them.

In Israel, there is one set of laws governing Israelis, and another governing Arabs. Penalties for crimes committed by Arabs are far more severe than those for the same crimes committed by Israelis. Palestinian children who are accused of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers can spend 15 years in prison. Israeli soldiers, filmed shooting unarmed Palestinian teens in the back, face no consequences whatever.

The West Bank is full of checkpoints, staffed by Israelis and arbitrarily opened and closed. These arbitrary openings and closings turn what should be a short commute to school or work into an hours-long ordeal. Women in labor have been blocked from crossing, resulting in dozens of babies being born at checkpoints, without medical assistance. Many babies requiring medical attention have died because Israeli soldiers refuse to allow their mothers to take them through a checkpoint to a medical facility.

Israel has a powerful military, provided by the United States. Palestine has no army, no navy and no air force. The media is quick to report any ‘rockets’ fired into Israel by Palestine. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and a strong supporter of Palestinian rights, describes those rockets as ‘enhanced fireworks’. Calling them rockets, he says, serves a purpose for both Palestine and Israel. For Palestinians, they at least feel that their government is doing something on their behalf (please remember that, according to international law, an occupied people has the right to resist the occupation in any way possible); for Israel, calling them ‘rockets’ conjures up a picture of deadly missiles raining down on defenseless people.

The facts, however, tell their own story. In the last 18 years, 242 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. During that same time, nearly 10,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis. These tolls include 134 Israeli children, and 2,167 Palestinian children.

Much criticism is directed toward Hamas, the democratically-elected government of the Gaza Strip. The United States has decreed this to be a terrorist organization. Yet after Hamas’ election, the government in the Gaza Strip worked to improve conditions there.

Hamas is criticized for not recognizing the existence of Israel. Yet Israel has been slowly destroying Palestine for decades. Hamas does not have the power to destroy Israel, yet by ‘appropriating’ more and more Palestinian land for Israeli-only housing, Israel is slowly destroying Palestine.

Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip since the election of Hamas. Shortly after Hamas’ electoral victory, an Israeli official describe Israel’s response: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” By restricting the amount of food that is able to be imported, and blocking Palestinian efforts to grow their own, Israel further oppresses the people of Palestine.

The Gaza Strip is blocked by air, sea and land, on all sides. Palestinians in Gaza wanting to visit friends or relatives in the West Bank, part of their own country, are not allowed to do so. Leaving the Strip for medical attention which isn’t available in Gaza, mainly due to Israeli restrictions on medical imports, is next to impossible.

These facts have been concealed by the U.S. and Israel for decades, partly due to the power of Israeli lobbies in the U.S. Yet as U.S. citizens learn the truth, sympathy for the Palestinians is growing. This is shown in a variety of ways. International condemnation of Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed Palestinians, even killing members of the press, is increasing. In the U.S. there is a sea change; not a single Democrat attended the recent opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Israel’s existence as a nation is an accepted reality, despite the fact that it is only 70 years old. Palestinians, whose country predates Biblical times, fight for that same recognition. Increasingly, the world is siding with Palestine, justice, international law and human rights.

Originally published by AHTribune.

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What’s Wrong With the United States?

Despite the myth perpetrated by United States spokespersons, the country is not, and never has been, a beacon of peace and freedom, the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’, or a democracy that is the envy of the word. It is, and always has been, a racist, imperialist society, an oligarchy and, as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.

Today it is living up to violent, bloody truths that comprise its existence. We will look at just a few of the circumstance today that embody that violence.

The U.S. has just violated an international treaty, by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement also signed by Russia, China, England, France, Germany, the European Union and Iran. The purpose of this agreement was to regulate Iran’s nuclear ambitions (such as they are), in return for the lifting of sanctions imposed upon that country. The JCPOA was signed by the U.S under President Barack Obama, but it was not an agreement between him and the other nations; it was a binding agreement under international law. By violating it, the U.S. has send a strong message to the world that its word cannot be relied upon; has betrayed some of the country’s closest and oldest allies, and may even sanction them if they continue to do business with Iran, which each of the other signatories says they will do, since Iran is and has been in complete compliance with the agreement.

Additionally, the U.S., which has been at war for 225 years of its 242 year history, and which is currently bombing seven countries and supporting terrorist groups in Syria, accuses Iran, which has not invaded another country since 1798, of being the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism. This is Orwellianism at its best.

The current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, previously oversaw the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S.’s major torture apparatus. His assistant, one Gina Haspel, who actually directed and oversaw the torture of political prisoners, and then destroyed the evidence, is just about to be confirmed by Congress to head the CIA. This tells volumes about Congress’s disregard for international law, civil rights and even common human decency.

Against the advice of nearly the entire international community, and again in violation of international law, President Donald Trump has established the U.S. embassy in Israel in Jerusalem. As this was planned, demonstrations were being held every Friday in Gaza, demanding the internationally-recognized right of return, on the border of Gaza and Israel, but on the Palestinian side. Hundreds of unarmed Palestinians have been killed by Israeli sniper fire; thousands more have been injured. Israel has dropped endless amounts of tear gas on peaceful demonstrators. Yet Trump has said nothing, and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the incompetent and clown-like Nikki Haley has blamed the Palestinians for the violence. To add to her endless stupidity, when the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N. began addressing that body, she walked out!

Let’s look at all this from an international perspective. Every other nation that is a party to the JCPOA attempted to convince Trump to maintain the agreement. The only two nations on the planet that praised his decision are Saudi Arabia and Israel, two nations with human rights records that are among the most dismal in the world. Hardly the company any respectable country would want to keep.

When the shocking information of Bush-era torture was first revealed, the world recoiled in horror. President George Bush’s Attorney General determined that what the rest of the world, and international law, defined as torture was not so if the U.S. did it. This was a crock that no other nation was willing to buy.

And let’s look at the situation in Palestine. Finally, nearly the entire international community has condemned Israeli violence in Gaza. The U.S. vetoed a resolution calling for an independent investigation of that violence. One must wonder why that is: if Israel did, in face, exercise the great restraint that Haley proclaims it did, and if Israel has nothing to hide, why not have an independent investigation? Wouldn’t such an investigation exonerate Israel, and immediately silence all its critics? Perhaps the U.S., an extremely violent society itself, knows, as well as the rest of the world, that Israel is in violation of countless international laws, and even the most cursory investigation would clearly reveal and officially determine what the world already knows.

Even in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Congress, there seems to be more than a little disquiet about Israel’s apartheid regime. As Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem, the ceremony was attended by a variety of U.S. members of Congress, yet not a single Democrat showed up. This is a seismic shift in Congress, and one that bodes well for Palestine.

While three, current atrocities that the U.S. is committing on the international stage have been discussed herein, they are not the only ones. Unarmed people of color continue to be gunned down in the streets by the racist police force, with nearly complete impunity. The U.S., with its increasing number of for-profit prisons, incarcerates its citizens at a higher rate than any other country on earth. Tax dollars feed the bloated military budget, as more and more people fall into poverty, where they find decreasing government services available to them. The government serves the needs of powerful lobbies over constituents. Political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, after studying thousands of policy decisions, said this: “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preference of the average American appears to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

This is the United States today. This is the much-touted ‘democracy’ of which its ignorant and uninformed citizens are so proud. This is the model to which, we are told, the whole world aspires.

Many lies are believed for years; the lies of the U.S. are finally being exposed, showing the nation for what it really is. As its power declines, it will go through a period where it is more dangerous than it has ever been, and this seems to be what the world is now experiencing. One hopes the trigger-happy, war-mongering U.S. doesn’t destroy the entire world as it quickly loses power, influence and international legitimacy.

Originally published by AHTribune.

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“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie

‘Damascus Time’ is an exceptional story that takes place in current, war-ravaged Syria. A humanitarian flight, taking besieged people from the city of Palmyra to Damascus, piloted by an Iranian father and son, is hijacked by ISIS prisoners on board. What follows is a tragic story, demonstrating the barbaric cruelty of ISIS, and that organization’s equally barbaric perversion of Islam.

Although there are terrifying scenes of the carnage of war sprinkled throughout the movie, they help to set the scene, but the story is far more than a war story; it has many levels that are extremely timely today. The sometimes complicated relationship between fathers and sons, the deeply-felt need to respond to the call of duty, and the concept of sacrificing for the greater good are all interwoven in this story.

The viewer sees the fanaticism of ISIS members, who believe they are sent by God to establish a society molded after their perverse interpretation of Islam. Their irrationality is on full display throughout much of the movie.

The fear that innocent people suffer in any war is realistically portrayed, far beyond the sanitized versions that are so often a product of Hollywood. Blood, violent death and desperation all bring the viewer into the reality of war, to the extent possible for someone not directly involved.

Above all, the heroism that is sometimes demonstrated when ordinary people answer the call to accomplish extraordinary things is a defining feature of this movie.

Evidence today is far more than sufficient to indicate that the United States has supported ISIS in various parts of the world. Its motivation in doing so seems to be ultimately to protect Israeli hegemony in the Middle East, which is currently threatened by Iran’s growing power and influence.

While any individual or small group may take any religion and twist its teaching to serve some perverse goal – witness how the Christian ‘right’ glorifies money and war, and condemns such ‘evils’ as health care  – without someone financing them, they will remain a small minority without power or influence. However, backed by the wealth of the U.S., any group can become powerful, as is witnessed by the Muhajadeen in Afghanistan and ISIS in Syria. Yet with the assistance of Iran and Russia, ISIS is losing ground in Syria, even as the U.S. bombs that nation for a suspected chemical weapons attack that was more likely done by U.S. – financed ISIS than the Syrian government.

‘Damascus Time’ shows what it is that the U.S. has wrought. Innocent men, women and children are suffering and dying because of the U.S.’s bizarre geopolitical goals, and there seems to be no end in sight to U.S. financing of such terrorism.

This viewer was quickly drawn in to the movie, caring about the main characters, wanting and hoping for the best for them. The rivalries between different factions of ISIS, and the unspeakable cruelty common to all of them, was brought home for him repeatedly throughout the move.

Yet it was the main character, the Iranian pilot, that drew him in most of all; a devoted husband and father-to-be, dedicated to his wife but also to assisting the suffering people in Syria, Ali could be the gentleman next door who finds himself in a unique but extremely risky position, unable to turn his back on people who needed him.

It is hoped that in the United States, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will recognize the astounding greatness of this movie, and give it its highest honor, the Academy Award for Best Picture.  That, of course, will depend on how the political wind is blowing when the nominees are selected, but this is a movie that will stay with this viewer for a long time. He hopes that it will be widely viewed, especially within the United States.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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