Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Return of Gitmo

"Enemy Combatants" Again? Will Washington Never Learn?

by Karen J. Greenberg - TomDispatch


October 15, 2017

Eight years ago, when I wrote a book on the first days of Guantanamo, The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days, I assumed that Gitmo would prove a grim anomaly in our history. Today, it seems as if that “detention facility” will have a far longer life than I ever imagined and that it, and everything it represents, will become a true, if grim, legacy of twenty-first-century America.

It appears that we just can’t escape the perpetual pendulum of the never-ending war on terror as it invariably swings away from the rule of law and the protections of the Constitution.

Last month, worries that had initially surfaced during the presidential campaign of 2016 over Donald Trump’s statements about restoring torture and expanding Guantanamo’s population took on a new urgency. In mid-September, the administration acknowledged that it had captured an American in Syria.

Though no facts about the detained individual have been revealed, including his name or any allegations against him, the Pentagon did confirm that he has been classified as an “enemy combatant,” a vague and legally imprecise category. It was, however, one of the first building blocks that officials of George W. Bush’s administration used to establish the notoriously lawless policies of that era, including Guantanamo, the CIA’s “black sites,” and of course “enhanced interrogation techniques.“

Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, Gitmo's Living Legacy in the Trump Era

Karen Greenberg first arrived at TomDispatch in January 2005 in tandem with defense attorney Joshua Dratel. Their book The Torture Papers was just being published and they were asking questions. Thirty-seven of them, to be exact, all pointed, all uncomfortable, all directed at then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, all focused on the Bush administration’s torture policies and what, after a visit to Guantanamo in 2007, Greenberg would term “the jewel-in-the-crown of American offshore prisons or, to be Pentagon-accurate, 'detention facilities.'" Here were just four of those questions: “Do you fear review by the courts? Why do you dismiss the role of the courts and ordinary law enforcement in eliciting information from prisoners in the war on terror? Isn't it possible that the art of interrogation, practiced by law enforcement officers and professional lawyers, might, in fact, elicit more important and more accurate information in assessing the motives, networks, and plans of terrorists than, say, dogs at Guantanamo Bay or waterboarding in some CIA holding area? What exactly was it you felt it was so important to keep secret from the courts?”

Almost 13 years later, Guantanamo remains open. It is still officially a “detention facility,” not a “prison,” and those held within it still aren’t “prisoners” -- you weren’t even allowed to use that word there in 2007 -- but “enemy combatants,” a category the Bush administration believed put them beyond all legal norms, American or international. As Greenberg reports today, the Trump administration has just classified its first American prisoner off the battlefields of Syria as an “enemy combatant.” Gulp.

And sadly, you already know just where our president, who praised torture to the heavens during campaign 2016 (while threatening to “take out” the families of terrorists), is likely to go with this. It seems that we’re heading back to the future, back to what Greenberg, in another piece, written a mere two and a half years ago, called “the Age of Barbarism Lite.” Let her then bring you up to date, while the rest of us only hope that she won’t be back 13 years from now to tell us that the latest American president is once again stashing “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Tom
 

"Enemy Combatants" Again? Will Washington Never Learn?

by Karen J. Greenberg

Placing terrorism suspects apprehended while fighting abroad in American custody is hardly unprecedented. The U.S. government has periodically captured citizen and non-citizen members of ISIS, and fighters from the Somali terrorist organization al-Shabaab, as well as from al-Qaeda-linked groups. To those who have followed such matters, however, the Trump administration’s quick embrace of the term “enemy combatant” for the latest captive is an obvious red flag and so has elicited a chorus of concern from national security attorneys and experts, myself included. Our collective disquiet stems from grim memories of the extralegal terrorism policies the Bush administration institutionalized, especially the way the term “enemy combatant” helped free its officials and the presidency from many restraints, and from fears that those abandoned policies might have a second life in the Trump era.

Guantanamo’s Detainees


What, then, is an enemy combatant? After all, memories fade and the government hasn’t formally classified anyone in custody by that rubric since 2009. So here’s a brief reminder. The term first made its appearance in the early months after 9/11. At that time, then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo -- who gained infamy for redefining acts of torture as legal “techniques” in the interrogation of prisoners -- and others used “enemy combatant” to refer to those captured in what was then being called the Global War on Terror. Their fates, Yoo argued, lay outside the purview of either Congress or the courts. The president, and only the president, he claimed, had the power to decide what would happen to them.

“As the president possess[es] the Commander-in-Chief and Executive powers alone,” Yoo wrote at the time,
“Congress cannot constitutionally restrict or regulate the president's decision to commence hostilities or to direct the military, once engaged. This would include not just battlefield tactics, but also the disposition of captured enemy combatants.”

The category, as used then, was meant to be sui generis and to bear no relation to “unlawful” or “lawful” enemy combatants, both granted legal protections under international law. Above all, the Bush version of enemy-combatant status was meant to exempt Washington’s captives from any of the protections that would normally have been granted to prisoners of war.

In practice, this opened the way for that era’s offshore system of (in)justice at both the CIA’s black sites and the prison camp at Guantanamo, which was set up in Cuba in order to evade the reach of either Congress or the federal court system. The captives President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent there beginning in January 2002 fell into that category. In keeping with the mood of the moment in Washington, the U.S. military personnel who received them were carefully cautioned never to refer to them as “prisoners,” lest they then qualify for the legal protections guaranteed to prisoners of war. Within weeks, the population had grown to several hundred men, all labeled “alien enemy combatants,” all deemed by Yoo and his superiors to lie outside the laws of war as well as those of the United States, and even outside military regulations.

American citizens were excluded from detention there. Some were nonetheless labeled enemy combatants. One -- Jose Padilla -- was arrested in the United States. Another -- Yaser Hamdi -- was initially brought to Gitmo after being captured in Afghanistan, only to be flown in the middle of the night to the United States as administration officials hoped to escape public attention for their mistake.

Padilla had been born and raised in the United States; Hamdi had grown up in Saudi Arabia. To avoid the federal detention system, both would be held in a naval brig in South Carolina, deprived of access to lawyers, and detained without charge. For years, their lawyers tried to convince federal judges that keeping them in such circumstances was unconstitutional. Eventually, the Supreme Court weighed in, upholding Yoo’s position on their classification as enemy combatants, but allowing them lawyers who could challenge the grounds for and conditions of their detention.

Although the government defended the use of enemy combatant status for years, both Padilla and Hamdi were eventually -- after almost three years in Hamdi’s case, three and a half for Padilla -- turned over to federal law enforcement. Never charged with a crime, Hamdi would be returned to Saudi Arabia, where he promptly renounced his U.S. citizenship, as the terms of his release required. Padilla was eventually charged in federal court and ultimately sentenced to 21 years in prison.

By the time Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, both cases had been resolved, but that of another enemy combatant held in the United States, though not a citizen, was still pending. Ali Saleh al-Marri, a Qatari and a graduate student at Bradley University in Illinois, was taken from civilian custody and detained without charges for six years at the same naval base that had held Padilla and Hamdi. Within weeks of Obama’s inauguration, however, he would be released into federal civilian custody and charged. Meanwhile, in June 2009, for the first and only time, the Department of Justice suddenly transferred a Guantanamo prisoner, Ahmed Ghailani, to federal custody. A year later, he was tried and convicted in federal court for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The message seemed hopeful, and was followed by other potentially restorative gestures. On the day Obama entered the White House, for instance, he signed an executive order to close Guantanamo within the year. In March, he abandoned the use of the term enemy combatant for the detainees there. Aiming to release or try all who remained in that prison camp, he appointed a task force to come up with viable options for doing so.

In other words, as his presidency began, Obama seemed poised to restore rights guaranteed under the Constitution to all prisoners, including those in Guantanamo, when it came to detention and trial. The pendulum seemed potentially set to swing back toward the rule of law. In the years to come, there would, nonetheless, be many disappointments when it came to the rule of law, including the failure to close Guantanamo itself. There was, as well, the Obama administration’s 2011 reversal of its earlier decision to take the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators -- including the “mastermind” of those attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- into federal court rather than try them via a Gitmo military commission.

In reality, that administration would even end up preserving an aspect of the enemy-combatant apparatus. In 2011, before bringing Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali defendant, and in 2014 before bringing Abu Khattala, the alleged mastermind in the deaths of an American ambassador and others in Benghazi, Libya, to the United States and putting them in federal custody, and in 2016 before bringing two Americans found fighting in Syria court here, the Obama administration would carve out a period for military detention and interrogation prior to federal custody and prosecution.

In each case, the individuals were held in military custody and first interrogated there. Warsame, for instance, was kept aboard a U.S. Navy vessel for two months of questioning before being charged with, among other things, providing material support to the Somali militant group al-Shabaab and to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. (In December 2011, he would plead guilty in a federal court in New York City.) Khattala was held for 13 days. Once U.S. intelligence agents had the information they felt they needed, they turned the detainees over to those who would help prosecute them -- to the “clean team.”

Until the recent Trump administration designation, however, no one in the ensuing years would be newly labeled an enemy combatant and sent to the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility or held without charge on U.S. soil. In fact, a number of individuals who, in the Bush years, would undoubtedly have become detainees there landed in federal court instead, including bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, and Abu Hamza al-Masri, an al-Qaeda operative accused of trying to build a terrorist cell in the United States.

As a result, this fall there are a surprising number of terrorism trials taking place, including that of the alleged Benghazi mastermind, of the two Americans who were fighting alongside ISIS in Syria, and of U.S. citizen Muhanad Mahmoud al-Farekh, who was just found guilty in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, of conspiring to aid al-Qaeda and bomb a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.

In these years, the belief that terrorism suspects belong within the federal criminal justice system was reestablished. In addition, Obama appointed two consecutive special envoys to take charge of transferring detainees cleared for release from Guantanamo, which Congress refused to close. As a result, a total of 197 were released during the Obama years, leaving only 41 in indefinite detention as Trump came into office.

Meanwhile, during the tenures of Attorneys General General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, the federal courts would handle an increasingly wide array of terrorism cases, ranging from the Boston Marathon attack to the attempts of a woman in Colorado to travel abroad to marry an ISIS member and serve the caliphate. Taken together, these developments seemed to signify an end to the era of indefinite detention and of detention without charge. Or so we thought.

Back to the Future


Now, it seems, the term “enemy combatant” is back and who knows what’s about to come back with it? Was the Trump administration’s very use of that label meant to get our attention, to signal the potential Guantanamo-ish future to come, to quash any cautious hopes that the modest gains realized during the Obama years might actually last? Remember that, during the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump swore that he would add some “bad dudes” to Guantanamo and insisted that even American citizens could end up in that persistent symbol of American injustice.

In the meantime, in August it was revealed that the Pentagon was already requesting from Congress $500 million dollars to build new barracks for troops, a hospital, and a tent city for migrants at Gitmo. In other words, the United States now stands at a worrisome and yet familiar crossroads in its never-ending war on terror and the signs point to a possible revival of some of the worst policies of the national security state.

In reality, so many years later, enemy combatant status should be a nonstarter, a red flag of the first order, as should indefinite detention. In the past, such policies produced nothing but a costly quagmire, leaving George Bush to personally release more than 500 detainees, Barack Obama nearly 200, and the government to eventually take citizens declared to be enemy combatants out of military custody and transfer them to federal court. Meanwhile, the hapless military commissions tied directly to Gitmo that were to replace the federal court system have yet to even begin the trials of the alleged co-conspirators of 9/11, while such courts have already tried more than 500 terrorism defendants.

Is this really what the Trump years have in store for us? A return to a policy that never worked, that brought shame to this country, cost a fortune in the bargain (at the moment, nearly $11 million annually per Gitmo detainee), and undermined faith in the federal court system, even though those courts have proved so much more capable than the military commissions of dealing with terrorism cases?

For those of us who thought this country might have learned its lesson, the use of the term “enemy combatant” for new detainees and for an American citizen is more than a provocative gesture, it’s the latest attack on the rule of law. It represents a renewed attempt to dismantle yet another piece of the fabric of American democracy and to throw into doubt a founding faith in the importance of courts and the judicial system. It’s another reminder that the rise of the national security state continues to take place outside the bounds of what was once thought of as fundamental to the republic -- namely, institutions of justice. Suitably, then, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a habeas petition on October 5th challenging the detention of the newest enemy combatant, asserting, among other things, “John Doe’s” right to an attorney and calling for him to be transferred into civil custody and charged or released.

Though the future is so often a mystery, if the Trump administration goes down this same path again, it should be obvious from the last decade and a half just where it will lead: toward a renewed policy of legal exceptionalism in which the American scales of justice will once again be decisively tipped toward injustice.

Karen J. Greenberg, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School and author of The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days. Her most recent book is Rogue Justice: the Making of the Security State. Rohini Kurup, an intern at CNS, helped with the research for this article.
Copyright 2017 Karen J. Greenberg

Understanding Netanyahu's Pull on Trump

How Netanyahu Pulls Trump’s Strings

by Robert Parry - Consortium News


October 15, 2017

Special Report: It turns out that Hillary Clinton was partly correct: President Trump is a “puppet,” but his puppet master isn’t Russian President Putin but Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, reports Robert Parry.

In the final presidential debate of 2016, Hillary Clinton famously called Donald Trump the “puppet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But what’s increasingly clear is that Trump has a more typical puppet master for a U.S. politician – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

At the White House from left, U.S. President Donald Trump,
Melania Trump, Sara Netanyahu and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. 
AVI OHAYON/GPO/JINIPIX

Since Sept. 18, when the two men met in New York around the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu has been pulling Trump’s strings on almost every foreign policy issue. Arguably, the puppet/puppeteer relationship began much earlier, but I’ve been told that Trump bridled early on at Netanyahu’s control and even showed a few signs of rebellion.

For instance, Trump initially resisted Netanyahu’s demand for a deeper U.S. commitment in Syria by ordering the shutdown of the CIA operation supporting anti-government rebels, along with the Trump administration’s statement that U.S. policy no longer sought “regime change” in Damascus.

Immediately after that announcement, Netanyahu had some success in getting Trump to reverse direction and fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base on April 6. The attack followed what one intelligence source told me was a staged chemical weapons incident by Al Qaeda operatives in the rebel-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, possibly using sarin delivered via drone from a Saudi/Israeli special operations base in Jordan. Yet, although apparently duped by the subterfuge into the missile strike, Trump still balked at a complete reversal of his Syrian policy.

Then, in May, Trump picked Saudi Arabia and Israel as his first overseas trip as president – essentially following the advice of his son-in-law Jared Kushner – but I’m told he came away feeling somewhat humiliated by the over-the-top treatment that involved him getting pulled into a ceremonial sword dance in Saudi Arabia and facing condescension from Netanyahu.

So, over the summer, Trump listened to advice about a possible major overhaul of U.S. foreign policy that would have checked Israeli/Saudi regional ambitions, opened diplomatic doors to Iran, and addressed the Korean crisis by brokering negotiations between the North and the South over some form of loose confederation.

There was even the possibility of a Nixon-goes-to-China moment with tough-guy Trump meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the two countries restoring diplomatic ties, a process that could have given U.S. companies a better chance to compete in the Iranian market.

Those proposed moves had the advantage of reducing international tensions, saving the U.S. government money on future military adventures, and freeing U.S. corporations from the tangle of economic sanctions – exactly the “America First” strategy that Trump had promised his working-class base.

However, instead Netanyahu succeeded in pulling Trump’s strings during their conversations on Sept. 18 in New York, although exactly how is still a mystery to some people close to these developments. One source said the Kushner family real-estate company has exposure to substantial Israeli financing that could be yanked, although Jared Kushner’s financial disclosure form only lists a $5 million unsecured line of credit, held jointly with his father, from the Israel Discount Bank.

Trump also has major pro-Netanyahu donors to his political war chest and his legal defense fund who are strong advocates for war with Iran, including casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who has plowed $35 million into the pro-Trump Super PAC Future 45 and has publicly called for dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran as a negotiating tactic. So, Netanyahu had a number of potential strings to pull.

Going on Rants


Whatever the precise reasons, on Sept. 19, Trump turned his maiden speech to the U.N. General Assembly into a war-like rant, personally insulting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man,” threatening to “totally destroy” his nation of 25 million people, and parroting Netanyahu’s calls for another regime change project aimed at Iran.


President Trump speaking to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2017. (Screenshot from Whitehouse.gov)

Most diplomats in the audience sat in stunned silence as Trump threatened aggressive war from the podium of an organization created to prevent the scourge of war. The one notable exception was Netanyahu who enthusiastically applauded his success in jerking Trump into the neocon camp.

So, rather than shift U.S. policy away from confrontation, Trump jettisoned the diplomatic strategy although it already had dispatched intermediaries to make contacts with the Iranians and North Koreans. Instead, Trump opted for the classic neocon approach favored by Netanyahu, albeit with Trump dressing up his neocon surrender in some “America First” rhetoric.

The U.N. speech left some of the U.S. intermediaries scrambling to explain to their contacts in Iran and North Korea why Trump had repudiated the messages that they had been carrying. Privately, Trump explained to one that he just liked to “zigzag” and that the intended end point hadn’t change.

Some of these tensions surfaced in late September when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took the extraordinary step of announcing the behind-the-scenes contacts with North Korea during a state visit to China.

“We are probing, so stay tuned,” Tillerson said. “We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang — we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout.” Tillerson added, “We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang … We do talk to them. ,,, Directly. We have our own channels.”

In reaction to Tillerson’s efforts to salvage the backchannel initiatives, Trump showed that his obeisance to Netanyahu and the neocons outweighed loyalty to either his Secretary of State or the intermediaries who had ventured into dicey situations on Trump’s behalf.

In Twitter messages, Trump belittled the idea of a dialogue with North Korea, tweeting: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”

“Save your energy Rex,” Trump added, before slipping in another thinly veiled threat of a military strike: “we’ll do what has to be done!”

While on the surface, Trump’s repudiation of Tillerson might have been viewed as another “zigzag,” it is now clear that Trump’s “zigzag” explanation was just another lie. Rather than zigzagging, he is instead following a straight line marked out by Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, in Syria, Netanyahu seems to have won more concessions from Trump. The U.S. military appears to be helping the remnants of Islamist forces still fighting the government, according to Russian officials. Their accusation is that the U.S. is secretly aiding the Islamist terror groups with weapons, tactical advice and aerial reconnaissance.

In other words, Trump appears to be continuing U.S. military intervention in Syria – just as Netanyahu desires.

Falling in Line


Trump further showed that he is following Netanyahu’s marching orders with the extremist speech about Iran on Friday, essentially repeating all the Israeli propaganda lines against Iran and burning whatever bridges remained toward a meaningful diplomatic approach.


President George W. Bush announcing the start of his invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

Trump’s Iran speech was so ludicrous it almost defies serious analysis. It ranks with the reckless rhetoric of President George W. Bush when he pronounced an “axis of evil,” with the incongruous linking of Iraq and Iran (two bitter enemies) and North Korea accompanied by Bush’s bogus claims about Iraq’s WMD and Iraq’s alleged collaboration with Al Qaeda.

In Friday’s speech, which looked like the handiwork of John Bolton, one of Bush’s neocon advisers who was seen entering the White House last week, Trump repeated all the nonsense tying Iran to Al Qaeda, presumably thinking that the American people still don’t understand that Al Qaeda is a fanatical Sunni terror group that targets both the West and Shiites, the dominant Muslim faith in Iran, as heretics deserving death.

The inconvenient truth is that Al Qaeda has long been connected to Saudi Arabia, which has supported these fanatics since the 1980s when Saudi citizen Osama bin Laden was supported in his jihad against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, who were there trying to protect a secular regime.

Though officially the Saudi monarchy insists that it is opposed to Al Qaeda, Saudi intelligence has used Al Qaeda as essentially an unconventional fighting force deployed to destabilize and terrorize adversaries in the region and around the world. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Need to Hold Saudi Arabia Accountable.”]

As the Israelis have developed a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia in recent years, they also have expressed a preference for an Al Qaeda victory in Syria if necessary to destroy what Michael Oren, former Ambassador to the U.S. and now a deputy minister under Netanyahu, has described as the Shiite “strategic arc” running from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut.

One of the frequent Israeli complaints about Iran is that it has assisted the sovereign government of Syria in defeating Al Qaeda and its militant allies (as well as Al Qaeda’s spinoff Islamic State), which should tell you a lot about where Netanyahu’s loyalties lie.

A Compromised Media


Yet, as dishonest as Trump’s Iran speech was, the U.S. mainstream media won’t criticize it as harshly as it deserves because virtually all the important journalists and talking heads have swallowed Israel’s anti-Iran propaganda whole. They have frequently repeated the canard about Iran as “the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism” when that title clearly should go to the Saudis and the Qataris if not others.


The New York Times building in Manhattan. (Photo credit: Robert Parry)

The West’s major news outlets also have ingested all the sophisticated propaganda against the Assad government in Syria, particularly the claims about chemical weapons attacks while ignoring evidence that Al Qaeda’s operatives and their “civil defense” collaborators have staged attacks with the goal of provoking a direct U.S. military intervention. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A New Hole in Syria-Sarin Certainty.”]

In his Friday speech, Trump also touted one of the earliest canards about Iranian “terrorism,” the attack by Lebanese Shiite militants on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 killing 241 Americans.

When that attack happened, I was working at The Associated Press as an investigative reporter specializing in national security issues. While the precise Iranian role was not clear, what should have been obvious was that the attack was not “terrorism,” which is classically defined as violence toward civilians to achieve a political goal.

Not only were the Marines not civilians but the Reagan administration had made them belligerents in the Lebanese war by the decision to order the USS New Jersey to shell Muslim villages. Reagan’s National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, who often represented Israel’s interests inside the administration, was the spark plug for this mission creep, which killed Lebanese civilians and convinced Shiite militants that the United States had joined the war against them.

Shiite militants struck back, sending a suicide truck bomber through U.S. security positions, demolishing the high-rise Marine barracks in Beirut. Reagan soon repositioned the surviving U.S. forces offshore. At the AP, I unsuccessfully argued against calling the Beirut attack “terrorism,” a word that other news organizations also sloppily applied. But even senior Reagan officials recognized the truth.

“When the shells started falling on the Shiites, they assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides,” Gen. Colin Powell wrote in his memoir, My American Journey. In other words, Powell, who was then military adviser to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, recognized that the actions of the U.S. military had altered the status of the Marines in the eyes of the Shiites.

(Although this “terrorism” is always blamed on Hezbollah, the group did not officially come into existence until 1985 as a resistance movement against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon which did not end until 2000.)

Opposed to Putin


So, Trump is now on the path to wars with both North Korea and Iran, neither of which Russian President Putin favors. Putin, who played a key role in helping President Obama achieve the Iran-nuclear agreement, now sides with the Europeans in opposition to Trump’s decertification.


President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Putin also favors a prompt end to the Syrian conflict with the defeat of Al Qaeda and its allies, and he wants peaceful negotiations with North Korea over its desire for security against threatened American aggression. Trump is on the opposite side of all these Putin priorities.

In other words, not only does the Russia-gate hysteria have core evidentiary problems – both on the issues of “hacking” Democratic emails and claims about suspected “Russia-linked” entities paying for an infinitesimal number of ads on social media (including some about puppies and another promoting a critical documentary about Donald Trump’s golf course in Scotland) – but Trump is behaving in ways that are directly contrary to Putin’s desires and interests.

If indeed Clinton were right that Trump was Putin’s “puppet,” then he would have agreed to negotiations to address the North Korean crisis; would have accepted constructive diplomacy toward Iran; and would have ended all U.S. support for the Syrian militants and encouraged a quick end to the bloodletting.

Instead, Trump is moving in opposite directions, lining up with Netanyahu and the neocons, whom some European allies refer to as “America’s Israeli agents.” Although dressing up his capitulation to Netanyahu in tough-guy phrasing, Trump is doing what most U.S. politicians do – they grovel before Bibi Netanyahu.

And, if you have any doubts about that reality, you can watch how often both Republicans and Democrats jump to their feet when Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress, an honor that he has received three times, tying him with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Those moments of American humiliation – as almost all 535 members of Congress act like puppets on invisible strings – represent the actual subservience of the U.S. government to a foreign power. And that power is not Russia.

President Trump is just the latest American politician to have his strings yanked by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

Wrongful Rhetoric and the Courage to Stop a New Nuclear Arms Race

Wrongful Rhetoric and Trump’s Strategy on Iran

by Kathy Kelly - VCNV.org


October 14, 2017

Mordechai Vanunu was imprisoned in Israel for eighteen years because he blew the whistle on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program.

He felt he had “an obligation to tell the people of Israel what was going on behind their backs” at a supposed nuclear research facility which was actually producing plutonium for nuclear weapons.

His punishment for breaking the silence about Israel’s capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons included eleven years of solitary confinement.

Yesterday, reading about President Donald Trump’s new strategy on Iran, Vanunu’s long isolation and sacrificial commitment to truth-telling came to mind.

Donald Trump promised to “deny the Iranian regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.” But it is Israel, which possesses an estimated 80 nuclear warheads, with fissile material for up to 200, which poses the major nuclear threat in the region. And Israel is allied to the nation with the world's largest nuclear arsenal: the United States.

Israel doesn’t acknowledge its nuclear arsenal publicly, nor does Israel allow weapons inspectors into its nuclear weapons facilities. Along with India and Pakistan, Israel refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. And it has used conventional weapons in numerous destabilizing wars which include aerial bombing of Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank.

Vanunu, designated by Daniel Ellsberg as the “the pre-eminent hero of the nuclear era,” helped many people envision nations in the region making progress toward a nuclear weapons-free Middle East.

In fact, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jawad Zarif, spoke eloquently about just that possibility, in 2015, holding that “if the Vienna deal is to mean anything, the whole of the Middle East must rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.” “Iran,” he added, “is prepared to work with the international community to achieve these goals, knowing full well that, along the way, it will probably run into many hurdles raised by the skeptics of peace and diplomacy.”

Significantly, since the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” pact with Iran was concluded in 2015, the International Atomic Energy Association has steadily verified Iran’s compliance with inspections. Iran has accepted around-the-clock supervision by IAEA officials. What’s more, “Iran has gotten rid of all of its highly enriched uranium,” according to Jessica Matthews, writing for the New York Review of Books. Matthews continues:

It has also eliminated 98 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, leaving only three hundred kilograms, less than the amount needed to fuel one weapon if taken to high enrichment. The number of centrifuges maintained for uranium enrichment is down from 19,000 to 6,000. The rest have been dismantled and put into storage under tight international monitoring. Continuing enrichment is limited to 3.67 percent, the accepted level for reactor fuel. All enrichment has been shut down at the once-secret, fortified, underground facility at Fordow, south of Tehran. Iran has disabled and poured concrete into the core of its plutonium reactor—thus shutting down the plutonium as well as the uranium route to nuclear weapons. It has provided adequate answers to the IAEA’s long-standing list of questions regarding past weapons-related activities.

What do the Iranians think of the U.S. government? Ordinary Iranians might well think that whatever discontent they have with their own government the U.S. is their most implacable and most immediate enemy. Invective like Trump's recent words could be a precursor of disastrous invasion. Many Iranians remember the U.S.-backed coup that ended their democracy in 1953, and they remember the fierce U.S. support given to Saddam Hussein in the brutal eight years of the Iran-Iraq war.

Noam Chomsky rightly names the U.S. Shock and Awe attack against Iraq as the greatest destabilizing force at work in the Middle East.

“Thanks to that invasion,” writes Chomsky, “hundreds of thousands were killed and millions of refugees generated, barbarous acts of torture were committed — Iraqis have compared the destruction to the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century — leaving Iraq the unhappiest country in the world according to WIN/Gallup polls. Meanwhile, sectarian conflict was ignited, tearing the region to shreds and laying the basis for the creation of the monstrosity that is ISIS. And all of that is called ‘stabilization.’” 

Trump’s record of statements and of cabinet appointments suggests that regime change in Iran is a long-term goal. Despite massive involvement in funding and fomenting terrorism on the part of Saudi Arabia, Trump's evolving strategy for the Middle East strangely emphasizes Iranian impacts on the region, particularly regarding the conflict in Yemen.

Yemen is entering conflict-driven famine, with a correspondingly lethal cholera outbreak, making it the worst of the region's "Four Famines," now widely recognized as collectively the worst starvation crisis in the 72-year history of the United Nations.

“In Yemen,” says Trump, “the IRGC, (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp), has attempted to use the Houthis as puppets to hide Iran’s role in using sophisticated missiles and explosive boats to attack innocent civilians in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as to restrict freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.” 

It is Saudi Arabia and its UAE ally, with crucial U.S. backing, that have been intensely bombing Yemen since 2015 and maintaining a punishing Red Sea blockade against shipments often vital to famine relief.

“The Saudi-led coalition’s ships are preventing essential supplies from entering Yemen,” according to an October 11, 2017 Reuters report. 

The report goes on to assess the dire consequences, for Yemen, caused by blocking and delaying ships carrying food and medicine. It documents many cases in which vessels were thoroughly searched, certified not to be carrying weapons, and still not allowed to enter Yemen.

In a time when 20 million people face starvation, it’s particularly obscene for any country to pour resources into nuclear weaponry. Mordechai Vanunu took extraordinary risks and endured incredible suffering to rescue the human species from the foolhardiness of building and maintaining nuclear arsenals. I wonder if people worldwide can rise to a level of courage and seriousness needed to simply recognize, and then, where possible, act in response to the world’s real threats.

Within the U.S., can several decades of U.S. government bipartisan lying about Iran be overcome with saner, more humane narratives? Can the threat of U.S. invasion be lifted long enough to allow Iran's people a window for once again considering democratic reforms? Silence about these issues seems ominous. But silence can be broken.

We have Vanunu’s courageous example. Let's not waste the precious time we have in which to follow it. 

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, (www.vcnv.org), a campaign to end U.S. military and economic wars.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sky-High Stocks and Record Icebergs

Trillion-Ton Icebergs and Record Stock Prices

by Robert Hunziker - CounterPunch


October 13, 2017

The strange happenstance of record-breaking stock markets and record-breaking icebergs is something to behold and wonder, what the hell is going on in the world?


Photo by Christopher Michel | CC by 2.0 

Is there a relationship between high stock prices and crashing, splintering icebergs? Probably, yes.

In point of fact, as capitalism’s grand experiment of neoliberal tendencies (privatization/commoditization of everything in sight, let free markets reign supreme) progresses and registers enormous stock market profits, Antarctica splitters apart ever faster in lockstep. In bizarre fashion, high stocks equate to faster loss of major ice icons, the Arctic-to-Patagonia-to-Antarctica, a worldwide phenomena. Is the linkage mere coincidence?

In short, does unfettered capitalism bring forth trillion-ton icebergs?


The answer is Yes! Indubitably without a doubt, unfettered capitalism, colloquially known as neoliberalism, impacts tremendous losses of classical bodies of ice. Indeed, the connection is stronger than mere coincidence. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 2,000 when Dr. James Hanson testified before the Senate in 1988:

“Today Dr. James E. Hansen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told a Congressional committee that it was 99 percent certain that the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other artificial gases in the atmosphere.” (Source: Philip Shabecoff, Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate, The New York Times, June 24, 1988).

Today, with the DJIA up 10-fold at 22,000 global warming/ice loss tracks along with its own records. According to Earth Observatory, NASA: “How is Today’s Warming Different from the Past? In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed… roughly ten (10) times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.” Thus, the strangest of coincidences as both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and global warming are up 10-fold, although it took the climate more time. Still, hands down, it’s an all-time paleoclimate record for climate change. What used to happen in 5,000 years now only takes decades.

After all, the planet is handicapped, a big lumbering spinning terrestrial sphere that travels 584,000,000 miles per year around the Sun. Whereas, by way of comparison, high frequency algorithmic automated traders plop down residence within blocks of the New York Stock Exchange to gain an edge over other high-frequency traders, accounting for roughly 50% of all stock trading (absurdity upon absurdity w/o economic benefit) like rigged slot machines.

Forget stupid, useless, empty economic high-frequency trading, trillion-ton icebergs make stock trading look like kids’ stuff. According to scientists, the trillion-ton iceberg breakoff of July 12, 2017 from Larsen C Ice Shelf fundamentally changes the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula. National Geographic will redraw its Atlas.

But, behind the scenes there’s a festering problem: Ice shelves which extend over the water serve as giant buffers, holding back the flow of glaciers on land. For example, when Larsen B Ice Shelf 10,000 years old, oh, really, only 10,000 years old, splintered in 2002, the flow of glaciers on land behind the ice shelf headed for the sea, accelerating sharply. Additionally, Larsen A collapsed in 1995. Ipso facto, glaciers flow to sea and sea levels rise.

Researchers remain puzzled and deeply concerned by the speedy pace of big-time humongous icebergs, out of the ordinary and kinda spooky. Remarkably, Larsen C represents only one of three big whoppers to crash in little over a decade. Curiously, icebergs and stocks simultaneously break records like there’s no tomorrow, leading to the conclusion that if unfettered neoliberal capitalism remains the main game in town, there may not be many tomorrows, other than of the dystopian variety.

All of which begs the question of how the stock market setting new record highs relates to record-setting climate change/global warming and much-bigger-than-usual icebergs, aside from identical timelines, which is insanely coincidental.

The answer is simple enough: Record stock prices around the world reflect record world gross domestic product growing from $19T in 1988 to $75T today (it’s the Great Acceleration, in spades) which equates to lots and lots and lots of fossil fuel energy powering a 4-fold increase in economic activity, emitting greenhouse gases blanketing the atmosphere, retaining heat and ominously inclusive of the potently dangerous latency effect, meaning today’s CO2 will register as higher temps over the next decade.

The earth’s atmosphere like a home heating oven turned to 450 degrees does not immediately heat up to 450 degrees. It takes a while to creep up to 450. Likewise, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today take years upon years to achieve maximum temperature impact, resulting in unrecognized risks haunting society at large. For example, annual CO2 atmospheric ppm increased 50% over the past decade, locking in imbedded trouble over mucho years ahead.

According to Dr. James Hansen, America’s preeminent climate scientist: “One cannot recognize the imminent danger without understanding the science. It is not difficult science. The urgency of action arises from the slow response of the climate system to changes of atmospheric composition. This slow response means that there is more global warming “in the pipeline” without further increase of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Delayed warming is due mainly to the large thermal inertia of the ocean.” (Source: James Hansen, North Dakota Conviction Paper, October 11, 2017.)

“The delayed response is dangerous in one sense, because it allows greater climate change and consequences to build up before effects become large enough to awaken the public to danger,” Ibid.

Interestingly, when stocks swooned badly, crashed in 2007-08, greenhouse gas emissions slowed. Therefore, there is a distinct relationship between stocks and global warming, meaning bull markets reflect increased global warming whereas bear markets mean less growth of CO2, slower warming. But, on the other hand, nobody likes bear markets, recessions, especially depressions, narrowly missed only a few years ago if not for the Fed behaving like Pac-Man, scooping up debt securities nobody else would touch, by the trillions.

So then therefore, the big question is what to do to prevent Earth turning into another Venus, scorching hot temps 864 F degrees on average. After all, Whew! Most of Earth’s carbon is still in the ground or very tenuously under ice whereas Venus’s carbon is all in its atmosphere at 96%. That’s global warming on extra-strength steroids. Even Mercury with an average temperature of 332 F, and much closer (36M miles) to the Sun, is cooler than Venus (67M miles away). Mercury does not have a carbon-based atmosphere.

Assuming the neoliberal brand of capitalism remains the world dictate economic order, which is a sure-fire lock, the only plausible way (maybe?) out of a very big jam is to stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere by converting fossil fuel energy to renewables that do not emit greenhouse gases.

However, that only solves part of the problem, as Dr. James Hansen believes the only chance of avoiding some kind of catastrophic end game is geo-engineering removal of carbon from the atmosphere. But, within scientific circles geo-engineering is very controversial, big positives as well as possibly equally big, or even bigger, negatives. Who knows? Will it work at scale? What about unintended consequences?

But then again, reality today is the Trump administration re-emphasizing coal, crowning King Coal, ahem, which is the dirtiest and worst fossil fuel on the planet. “Clean coal” is the biggest oxymoronic exaggeration in the history of the English language, as Trump’s henchmen work towards dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan to goose up coal usage, proving beyond all doubt the hidden powers and dangers of pure idiocy at the control panels.

Trump’s agenda not only dismantles the establishment political order but along the way it speeds up humongous ice shelves crashing, thereby threatening his shoreline golf courses. And, he knows it!

Hark! Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland filed a sea wall permit to protect its golf course from “global warming and its effects.” Trump’s permit application specifically refers to global warming and its consequences, increased erosion due to rising sea levels as the chief justification for a permit to build a sea wall.

Hey World! When Trump’s golf courses are at stake, he’s suddenly hip to climate change/global warming. He morphs into an amateur atmospheric scientist that understands, in his own words, “global warming and its effects.” Assuming, of course, this article is not fake news. 

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at roberthunziker@icloud.com
More articles by: Robert Hunziker




Friday, October 13, 2017

Me and Steve Paddock

I went to School with the Vegas Shooter

by Greg Palast - Dissident Voice


October 13th, 2017  

When we were at Francis Polytechnic High in Sun Valley, Steve Paddock and I were required to take electrical shop class. At Poly and our junior high, we were required to take metal shop so we could work the drill presses at the GM plant. We took drafting. Drafting like in “blueprint drawing.”

Paddock. Palast. We sat next to each other at those drafting tables with our triangular rulers and #2 pencils so we could get jobs at Lockheed as draftsman drawing blueprints of fighter jets.

Mobile home on tracks, Sun Valley CA, birthplace
of the Vegas shooter. From the film The Best
Democracy Money Can Buy

Or do tool-and-dye cutting to make refrigerator handles at GM where they assembled Frigidaire refrigerators and Chevys.

But we weren’t going to fly the fighter jets. Somewhere at Phillips Andover Academy, a dumbbell with an oil well for a daddy was going to go to Yale and then fly our fighter jets over Texas. We weren’t going to go to Yale. We were going to go to Vietnam. Then, when we came back, if we still had two hands, we went to GM or Lockheed.

(It’s no coincidence that much of the student population at our school was Hispanic.)

But if you went to “Bevvie” – Beverly Hills High – or Hollywood High, you didn’t take metal shop. You took Advanced Placement French. You took Advanced Placement Calculus. We didn’t have Advanced Placement French. We didn’t have French anything. We weren’t Placed, and we didn’t Advance.

Steve was a math wizard. He should have gone to UCLA, to Stanford. But our classes didn’t qualify him for anything other than LA Valley College and Cal State Northridge. Any dumbbell could get in. And it was nearly free. That’s where Steve was expected to go, and he went with his big math-whiz brain.

And then Steve went to Lockheed, like we were supposed to. Until Lockheed shut down plants in 1988. Steve left, took the buy-out.

And after NAFTA, GM closed too.

Land of Opportunity? Well, tell me: who gets those opportunities?


Some of you can and some of you can’t imagine a life where you just weren’t give a fair chance. Where the smarter you are, the more painful it gets, because you have your face pressed against the window, watching THEM. THEY got the connections to Stanford. THEY get the gold mine. WE get the shaft.

This is where Paddock and Palast were bred: Sun Valley, the anus of Los Angeles. Literally. It’s where the sewerage plant is. It’s in a trench below the Hollywood Hills, where the smog settles into a kind of puke yellow soup. Here’s where LA dumps its urine and the losers they only remember when they need cheap labor and cheap soldiers when the gusanos don’t supply enough from Mexico.

I’ll take you to Sun Valley. It’s in my film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. In the movie, a kind of dream scene, the actress Shailene Woodley takes me back to my family’s old busted home in the weeds and then down San Fernando Road, near Steve’s place. Take a look, America. Along the tracks that once led in to the GM plant, you see a bunch of campers that the union men bought for vacations. Now they live in them.

No, Steve’s brain was too big to end up on the tracks. He lived in empty apartments in crappy buildings he bought, then in a barren tract house outside Reno. I laugh when they say he was “rich.” He wanted to be THEM, to have their stuff. He got close.

It’s reported that Steve was a “professional gambler.” That’s another laugh. He was addicted to numbing his big brain by sitting 14 hours a day in the dark in front of video poker machines. He was a loser. Have you ever met a gambler who said they were a Professional Loser?

It’s fair to ask me: Why didn’t I end up in a hotel room with a bump-stock AR-15 and 5,000 rounds of high velocity bullets?

Because I have a job, a career, an OBSESSION: to hunt down THEM, the daddy-pampered pricks who did this to us, the grinning billionaire jackals that make a profit off the slow decomposition of the lives I grew up with.

But I’m telling you, that I know it’s a very fine line, and lots of crazy luck, that divided my path from Paddock’s.

Dear Reader: The publication that pulled this story at the last moment was plain scared–that they’d be accused of approving murder.

Paddock slaughtered good people, coldly, with intense cruelty, destroying lives and hundreds of families forever. If you think I’m making up some excuse for him, then I give up.

But also this: The editor of the Beverly Hills-based publication, a Stanford grad, could not understand that, just like veterans of the Vietnam war who suffer from PTSD even today, so too, losers of the class war can be driven mad by a PTSD that lingers, that gnaws away, their whole lives.
What happens to a dream deferred? Does it …fester like a sore? Does it stink like rotten meat? Sag…like a heavy load?
Or does it explode?
— Langston Hughes

Steve, you created more horrors than your cornered life could ever justify.

But, I just have to tell you, Steve: I get it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"From Calm to Storm?"

Is Trump's "Friend" Kissinger Steering Him From Calm to Storm?

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News


October 12, 2017

Henry Kissinger, seemingly returned from oblivion, has been in the ear of “old friend” Trump since mid-primary season, just after Trump declared himself open to negotiation with North Korea. Since that moment, Trump’s stance and rhetoric have veered inexorably toward war.

President Donald Trump met with top defense officials Tuesday morning — including Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Joseph Dunford — in the White House Situation Room, to discuss potential options for responding to any North Korean “aggression” as well as how to prevent North Korea from threatening the United States with nuclear weapons.

The meeting, which was later confirmed by the State Department and a White House press release, came a day after Mattis instructed the U.S. Army to stand ready if North Korea diplomacy fails, and less than a week after Trump’s cryptic “calm before the storm” comments about a previous meeting with top military commanders.

Some have noted that the decision to have the meeting in the Situation Room, sometimes called the War Room, was significant, as it is often used to hold secure meetings regarding disasters, military conflicts, and other major crises both domestic and global.

While most reporting gave some context to Trump’s most recent meeting with top defense officials on tensions with Pyongyang, hardly any mentioned that the meeting had been immediately preceded by another. This meeting, also on the topic of North Korea, was held between the president and former Secretary of State and unindicted war criminal Henry Kissinger. 

In his post-meeting remarks, Trump praised Kissinger’s ‘immense talent.’ “Henry Kissinger has been a friend of mine,” he added.

“I’ve liked him. I’ve respected him. But we’ve been friends for a long time, long before my emergence into the world of politics, which has not been too long.” 

Kissinger is also a long-time advisor and confidante of Trump’s former rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday’s meeting was not the first occasion Trump has met with Kissinger since becoming a fixture in American politics. The pair’s first meeting after Trump’s rise to political prominence took place in May of 2016. That meeting occurred a day after then-candidate Trump said he would open dialogue with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un if elected President. Since that initial meeting, Kissinger and Trump met last November and have already met twice this year.

After their November meeting, Kissinger remarked that Trump would likely not be keeping all his campaign promises, as he was undergoing “the transition from being a campaigner to being a national strategist.” This apparently included his promise of opening dialogue with North Korea.

While often characterized by the mainstream press as a leading “statesman” and “diplomat,” Kissinger’s record shows he is anything but. While serving as Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, Kissinger oversaw a bloody coup in Chile, an illegal bombing campaign in Cambodia, and millions dead in Vietnam. 

Despite overseeing such actions, Kissinger ended up being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in the same year as the Chilean coup, for his role in bringing “peace” to Vietnam and ending the Vietnam war, though he had actually worked to extend it. The choice of Kissinger was so outrageous that several members of the Nobel committee resigned in protest. Kissinger is also credited with transforming U.S. foreign policy into one of perpetual, undeclared war – a policy that continues today and one that Trump has embraced since becoming President.

Given Trump’s bellicose rhetoric and threats towards North Korea – as well as his rejection of diplomacy in resolving the crisis despite both Pyongyang’s and his own State Department’s apparent willingness to attempt it – Kissinger’s timely guidance to the President during “the calm before the storm” should give the American public considerable cause for concern.

 

Watch | Henry Kissinger on his 2016 meeting with Donald Trump





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Why War? Five Reasons Trump Admin. Picking Iran Fight

5 Reasons Why Trump Is Moving Towards War With Iran

by Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council  - Huff Post


October 12, 2017

Trump’s confrontation with Iran is a war of choice, not a war of necessity.

Make no mistake: We do not have a crisis over the Iran nuclear deal. It is working and everyone from Secretary Mattis and Tillerson to the US and Israeli intelligence services to the International Atomic Energy Agency agree: Iran is adhering to the deal.

But Trump is about to take a working deal and turn it into a crisis ― an international crisis that very likely can lead to war.

May meeting between US president and
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

While the decertification of the Iran deal that Trump is scheduled to announce on Friday in and of itself doesn’t collapse the deal, it does trigger a process that increases the risk of war in the following five ways.

1. If the deal collapses, so does the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program


The nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) took two very bad scenarios of the table: It blocked all of Iran’s paths to a nuclear bomb and it prevented war with Iran. By killing the deal, Trump is putting both of those bad scenarios back on the table.

As I describe in my book Losing an Enemy - Obama, Iran and the triumph of Diplomacy, it was the very real danger of a military conflict that drove the Barack Obama administration to become so dedicated to find a diplomatic solution to this crisis. In January 2012, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated publicly that Iran’s breakout - the time it would take from making the decision to build the bomb to having the material for a bomb - was twelve months. In spite of massive sanctions on Iran aimed at both retarding the nuclear program and convincing the Iranians that the nuclear program was too costly to continue, the Iranians aggressively expanded their nuclear activities.

By January 2013, exactly a year later, a new sense of urgency dawned on the White House. Iran’s breakout time had shrunk from twelve months to a mere 8-12 weeks. If Iran decided to dash for a bomb, the United States might not have enough time to stop Tehran militarily. According to former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, Iran’s shrinking breakout time caused the U.S. to be “closer to war with the Islamic Republic than at any time since 1979.” Other countries realized the danger as well. “The actual threat of military action was almost felt as electricity in the air before a thunderstorm,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told me.

If nothing changed, President Obama concluded, the U.S. would soon face a binary option: Either go to war with Iran (due to pressure from Israel, Saudi Arabia and some elements inside the US) to stop its nuclear program or acquiesce to Iran’s nuclear fait accompli. The only way out of this lose-lose situation was a diplomatic solution. Three months later, the US and Iran held a pivotal secret meeting in Oman where the Obama administration managed to secure a diplomatic breakthrough that paved the way for the JCPOA.

The deal prevented war. Killing the deal prevents the peace. If Trump collapses the deal and the Iranians restart their program, the US will soon find itself facing the same dilemma that Obama did in 2013. The difference is that the President is now Donald Trump, a man who doesn’t even know how to spell diplomacy, let alone conduct it.

2. Trump is planning to take on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps


Decertification is only half the story. Trump also plans to significantly escalate tensions with Iran in the region, including taking a measure that both the Bush and Obama administrations rejected: Designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. Make no mistake, the IRGC is far from an army of saints. It is responsible for much of the repression against the population inside of Iran and it fought the U.S. military indirectly in Iraq through Shia militias. But it has also been one of the most critical fighting forces against ISIS.

In real terms, the designation does not add much to the pressure the U.S. already is or can impose on the IRGC. But it ratchets things up in a very dangerous way without any clear benefits to the United States. The drawbacks, however, are crystal clear. IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari issued a stern warning last week: “If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State [ISIS] all around the world.” If the IRGC acts on its warning and targets U.S. troops - and there are 10,000 such targets in Iraq - we will only be a few steps away from war.

3. Trump is escalating without having any exit ramps


Escalation is under all circumstances a dangerous game. But it is particularly dangerous when you do not have diplomatic channels that ensure that the other side reads your signals correctly and that provides mechanisms for de-escalation. Not having such exit-ramps is like driving a car without a brake. You can accelerate, you can crash, but you can’t brake.

Military commanders understand this. That’s what former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen warned about prior to the Obama administration investing in diplomacy. “We’ve not had a direct link of communication with Iran since 1979,” Mullen said. “And I think that has planted many seeds for miscalculation. When you miscalculate, you can escalate and misunderstand… We are not talking to Iran, so we don’t understand each other. If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right — that there will be miscalculation which would be extremely dangerous in that part of the world.”

Mullen issued this warning when Obama was president, a man often criticized for being too restrained and too unwilling to use military power. Imagine how nervous and worried Mullen must be today with Trump calling the shots in the situation room.

4. Some US allies want the US to fight their war with Iran


There is no secret that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been pushing the US for years to go to war with Iran. Israel in particular was not only making threats of preemptive military action itself, its ultimate aim was to convince the United States to conduct the attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities for Israel.

“The intention,” former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak admitted to the Israeli paper Ynet in July of this year, “was both to make the Americans increase sanctions and to carry out the operation.” 

While the Israeli security establishment today opposes killing the nuclear deal (Barak himself said as much in an interview with the New York Times this week), there are no indications that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has changed his mind on this matter. He has called on Trump to “fix or nix” the deal, though his criteria for how to fix the deal is so unrealistic it virtually ensures the deal will collapse - which in turn would put the US on a path to war with Iran.

The only person who arguably has a worse sense of judgement than Trump is Netanyahu. After all, this is what he told US lawmakers in 2002 as he lobbied them to invade Iraq: ”If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.”

5. Trump’s donors are obsessed with starting war with Iran


Some have suggested that Trump is pursuing the decertification of the Iran deal ― in spite of the near consensus advice of his top advisors to not go down this path - as a result of pressure from his base. But there is no evidence that his base cares much about this issue. Rather, as Eli Clifton meticulously had documented, the most dedicated force behind Trump’s obsession with killing the Iran deal is not his base, but a tiny group of top Republican donors. “A small number of his biggest campaign and legal defense donors have made extreme comments about Iran and, in at least one case, advocated for the use of a nuclear weapon against the Islamic Republic,” Clifton wrote last month.

The billionaire Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus, for instance, has given Trump $101,700 to help pay Trump and Donald Trump Jr.’s legal fees following the probe into Russian election interference. Hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer is another major donor to pro-war groups in Washington who Trump has relied upon for financial support. The most famous billionaire donor, of course, is Sheldon Adelson who has contributed $35 million to pro-Trump Super PAC Future 45. All of these donors have pushed for war with Iran, though only Adelson has gone as far as to suggest the US should strike Iran with nuclear weapons as a negotiating tactic.

Thus far, Trump has gone with the advice of these billionaires on Iran over that of his Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. None of the above five scenarios were realistic a few months ago. They have become plausible ― even likely ― because Trump has decided to make them so. Just like with George Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Trump’s confrontation with Iran is a war of choice, not a war of necessity.

Fish Farms out! Action Now! Premier Horgan! October 13 Manifestation

Fish Farms out! Action Now! Premier Horgan!

by Fish Farms Out Now!


October 12, 2017

"What was done to the buffalo to starve a people is now being done to us and our salmon"
- Tsastilqualus Umbas, from Yalis.

"We have no more fish, because of those fish farms"
- Musgamag'w Hereditary Chief He'mas Tłalalitła, Bill Wilson.


"We aren't interested in a prolonged discussion. We are interested in action." 

- Chief Bob Chamberlain, KHFN.

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch and do nothing.” 
- Albert Einstein


Please turn up and collectively confront one more manifestation of a long colonial legacy of environmental racism, threatening people and planet.

Exercise your civic duty to support indigenous frontline resistance to the daily accelerated threats to wild salmon from the ecological and human disaster of open-pen fish farming.

Join Fish Farms out Now!, an ad hoc group of settler and indigenous social and environmental justice and indigenous rights activists, Friday the 13th at noon for an emergency action at Premier John Horgan's constituency office in solidarity and support of the Namgis, Mamalilikala, Lowitsis, Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw, Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwamis and Gwawaenuk First Nations' on-going Marine Harvest fish farm occupations on Swanson and Midsummer island.

On October 10th, 40 hereditary leaders representing eight Kwakwakā'wakw nations hosted an historic, ceremonial event with Premier John Horgan and Ministers Lana Popham, Claire Trevena and Scott Fraser in their Big House in Alert Bay to bear truth, backed by science, of the devastating impacts of thirty years of open-pen fish farms placed along salmon migration routes, without consent, on the Indigenous culture and food fishery, which has suffered a tragic collapse from introduced European fish pathogens entering the marine environment from these feedlots.

The Chiefs and elders have sent a clear mandate to the Premier and his cabinet members: No more studies, reports or negotiations-- fish farms out of their territories now!

The Premier's response to his hosts and the emergency situation of "empty freezers" and to the 30 year efforts of the Namgis and Musgamagw peoples was once again a general promise to protect wild salmon without any action commitments or timelines or guarantees whatsoever to do what is within the Provincial Governments' power to remove the Marine Harvest fish farms at Midsummer and Swanson islands, a minimum show of good faith.

We will gather peacefully in honour of the Salmon Peoples to send a message to the Premier that he can do better and it is time for the government to distance itself from an industry that is destroying wild salmon populations, threatening the sacred food supply of the Salmon Peoples since time immemorial and damaging entire marine and forest ecosystems. It is time to match words with action and to recognize the sovereignty and jurisdiction of First Nations on their own unceded territories. It is time to implement the governments commitment to UNDRIP: No consent, no fish farms on stolen native lands!

This action will be taking place on the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish peoples, who have never given up their inherent rights to self-determination over their lands, territories and waters.

This action will keep in mind that the new NDP government has made promises to move these fish farms to closed containment on land and that we are hopeful and encouraging them to honour these promises within a meaningful timeline.

We are asking all involved to maintain an attitude of friendliness, respect and assertiveness. The action will include drumming, open mic, leafletting and art. Please bring placards, something to sit on ( if needed) and a bag lunch.

N.b. A diversity of roles can be involved on this action and people are welcome to be present as observers/ picketing and/or leafletting.

The #50 BUS from downtown Victoria will take you right to the action.

ROUTE INFORMATION:

https://bctransit.com/victoria/schedules-and-maps/route-overview?route=50