Saturday, August 06, 2016

Raising Ashkenazi: Israel's Stolen Babies

The Shocking Story of Israel’s Disappeared Babies

by Jonathan Cook  - Dissident Voice

August 5th, 2016

New information has come to light about thousands of mostly Yemeni children believed to have been abducted in the 1950s 


For nearly 40 years, everything about Gil Grunbaum’s life was a lie, including his name.

He was not, as he had always assumed, the only son of wealthy Holocaust survivors who owned a baby garments factory near Tel Aviv. Grunbaum had been stolen from his mother by doctors at a hospital in northern Israel in 1956, moments after she gave birth.

His biological parents – recent immigrants to Israel from Tunisia – were told their child had died during delivery. They were sent home without a death certificate and denied the chance to see their baby’s body or a grave.

Despite his darker looks, it never occurred to Grunbaum that the parents who raised him were not biologically related to him. Now aged 60, he says the discovery was “the most shocking moment imaginable. Everyone I loved – my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins – had been deceiving me for decades.”

And so had government officials.

“Even when I discovered by chance that I was adopted, the welfare services did everything they could to try to stop me finding my biological family,” Grunbaum told Al Jazeera.
“No one wanted me to know the truth.”

After a three-year search in the late 1990s, he finally learned his family’s name – Maimon – and tracked down his birth mother to the suburbs of Haifa in northern Israel. Some 41 years after they were separated, the two met for the first time, in an emotional reunion.

Despite his darker looks, it never occurred to Grunbaum that the
 parents who raised him were not biologically related to him. 
(Courtesy of Gil Grunbaum) 

Grunbaum’s story would be deeply disturbing if it was unique. But growing evidence suggests that there could be thousands of other children who were abducted in Israel’s first decade.

Last weekend, Tzachi Hanegbi, a government minister tasked with studying the disappearances, conceded that at least “hundreds” of children had been taken without their parents’ consent. It is the first time a government official has ever made such a public admission.

After weeks of re-examining evidence presented to a commission of inquiry in the late 1990s, Hanegbi told Israeli TV:

“They took the children and gave them away. I don’t know where.”

The Kedmi inquiry, which had issued its findings in 2001, found that as many as 5,000 children may have disappeared in the state’s first six years alone, although it examined only 1,000 of those cases. Jacob Kedmi, a former Supreme Court judge who died last month, concluded that in most cases, the children had died and been hurriedly buried.

Hanegbi’s admission appears to confirm allegations long made by the families – and supported by scholars and journalists – that the inquiry was little more than a whitewash by the Israeli establishment. Kedmi placed the hundreds of thousands of documents relating to testimonies and evidence under lock for 70 years. They will not be made publicly available until 2071.

The first consequence is likely to be mounting pressure on the government to open the state’s adoption files so that the true extent of the disappearances can be gauged and families reunited.

But Hanegbi’s otherwise evasive comments will do little to end suspicions that officials are still actively trying to avoid confronting the most contentious questions: Why were the infants taken from their families? Did hospitals and welfare organisations traffic children in Israel’s early years? And were state bodies complicit in the mass abductions?

When asked by Israeli TV programme Meet the Press whether government officials were involved, Hanegbi would say only: “We may never know.”

Crime against parents

His reluctance to be more forthcoming may be understandable. Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber, an Israel academic who has written a book on the disappearances titled Israeli Media and the Framing of Internal Conflict: The Yemenite Babies Affair, noted that the “forcible transfer” of children from one ethnic group to another satisfied the United Nations definition of “genocide”. The 1951 convention includes the crime of “complicity”.

“Ultimately, I don’t think it matters whether government officials actively planned what happened or they simply looked the other way while others carried out the kidnappings,” she told Al Jazeera.

“Either way, this was a crime perpetrated against thousands of parents who still don’t know the truth about their children’s fate.”

Almost all of the missing children were from Jewish families that had arrived from Arab countries shortly after Israel’s creation during the Nakba of 1948, when hundreds of thousands of native Palestinians were expelled from their homes.

The mystery has been dubbed the Yemenite Children Affair, because most of the children who disappeared were from Yemen. But there were also significant numbers from Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia and the Balkans.

No birth certificate

Grunbaum learned of his own place in this scandalous affair in 1994, the year before the Kedmi inquiry was launched. His wife had become suspicious that there were no photos of his birth or a birth certificate, and that he was much darker than his parents.

When she phoned state childcare services, a clerk broke Israel’s strict privacy laws by mistakenly revealing to her that Grunbaum had indeed been adopted. The couple was then hastily called to a meeting at the Tel Aviv office, where they were briefly allowed to view two pages from his file. No details of his biological family were provided.

“Even in my confused state, I could see there was something fishy. There was no signature on the adoption papers, either from my biological mother or from a judge,” Grunbaum said.
“I was in a state of shock for a long time afterwards. I stared at the TV all day long for four months, running my life through my head, looking for the clues I should have seen. I resigned from my job. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.”

Although childcare services had details of his biological family, they refused to help. It took three years of intensive searching – initiated by the recollections of neighbours of his parents at the time of his adoption – before he was sure he had identified the family.

“I went straight to the head of child services and told her their surname. I asked her if I was right – I didn’t need a reply,” Grunbaum said, noting the colour drained from the woman’s face as she realised he had found his biological family.

Grunbaum found himself living a double life, visiting his biological family 
while hiding the truth from his adoptive parents (Oren Ziv/Al Jazeera)

Grunbaum’s biological father had died a few years earlier, but he met his biological mother in a supervised visit in Haifa. It had taken her a month to recover sufficiently from hearing the news that her son was alive to agree to a meeting.

“She hugged me and we cried. I gave her an album of photos of my three children. She said with surprise, ‘I have a blond grandson!’”

Grunbaum then started a double life, visiting his biological mother and his five siblings while hiding the truth from his adoptive parents until their deaths a few years later. “I was afraid to confront them. They were elderly and in poor health. I think it would have destroyed them to realise I knew the truth.”

The irregularities in the adoption papers indicate that his parents were likely to have known their adopted child was procured without the biological mother’s consent. Grunbaum admits he was filled with confusion and anger at his parents for a long time. Shortly after he found out about the circumstances of his adoption, his parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

“They asked me to make a speech at the party, but I couldn’t. I was too frightened of what might come out of my mouth,” he said.

Israel’s darkest secret

Pressure on the Israeli government to provide answers in cases like Grunbaum’s has intensified in recent years, as social media has helped the affected families to understand how widespread the disappearances were.

In late June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by announcing a fresh examination of the evidence. In a video posted to his Facebook page, he promised to get to the bottom of the affair: “The subject of the Yemenite children is an open wound that continues to bleed for many families who don’t know what happened to the infants, to the children who disappeared.”

He appointed Hanegbi to re-examine the documents from three previous inquiries.

Yael Tzadok, an Israeli journalist who has spent 20 years investigating cases of children who disappeared, told Al Jazeera: “This is Israel’s darkest secret. Jews kidnapped other Jews, Jews who were coming to a state that had been created as a refuge in the immediate wake of the Holocaust. Bringing the truth into the daylight risks causing an earthquake.”

The families and their supporters believe the majority of the children are still alive, but only a minuscule number, like Grunbaum, know that they were stolen from their parents.

Even among those few, said Madmoni-Gerber, most are reluctant to go public, fearing that the truth will tear apart their families, who may have conspired in their abduction.

Prejudice against Yemenis

Israeli Jews who originate from Arab countries are known in Israel as Mizrahim, in contrast to those of European heritage, who are called Ashkenazim. Tzadok said the evidence suggested that most of the missing children – from Mizrahi families – were taken by hospital staff and sold or given away to European Jews, both in Israel and abroad.

“The evidence from that time, the 1950s, clearly shows government officials, judges, lawmakers and hospital staff speaking openly about the fact that the children were being abducted. The public may not have known, but the authorities certainly did,” Tzadok said.

Tzadok, who is active with Achim Vekayamim, a forum for the families of missing children, said deep prejudices among European Jews against the Mizrahim – and especially the Yemenites – had made the kidnappings possible.

“Mizrahi parents were seen as bad, primitive people who were a lost cause. The dominant view then was that, by placing the children with Ashkenazi families, they could be saved – unlike their parents. They would be re-educated and made into suitable material for the new Zionist state,” Tzadok said.
“The hospital staff and officials probably didn’t think they were doing something wrong. They thought it was their patriotic duty.”

Retarded or primitive?

Racism among European Jews towards Jews from Arab countries reached the very top of the government. Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, described the Mizrahim as “rabble” and a “generation of the desert”, concluding that they lacked “a trace of Jewish or human education”.

In the early 1950s, he warned:

“We do not want the Israelis to become Arabs. It is incumbent upon us to struggle against the spirit of the Levant, which corrupts individuals and societies.”

Recently unearthed documents also show vigorous debates within the Israeli army in the early 1950s about whether Mizrahi conscripts were mentally retarded, making them a hopeless cause, or simply primitive, a condition that could be changed.

In his book The Idea of Israel, historian Ilan Pappe observed that Israel’s Ashkenazi elite worked strenuously at “de-Arabising … Jews upon arrival” in Israel.

The establishment’s open disdain for the Mizrahim eventually led to political backlash, noted Pappe. In the late 1970s, after decades in opposition, the right-wing Likud party won power from Ben Gurion’s Labour party. Today, Likud is led by Netanyahu.

Trauma of Holocaust victims

Grunbaum said Israel’s European elite were also sympathetic to the plight of Holocaust survivors, like his adoptive parents, who had lost most or all of their family and struggled to have children of their own.

“My father had been in Auschwitz and my mother in Dachau. The survivors suffered from psychological and physical traumas that meant it was difficult or impossible for them to have children,” he said. “The view at that time was that the Yemenites had large families and could afford to lose one or two.”

The Kedmi inquiry heard such views expressed by medical staff who worked in hospitals suspected of abducting children. Sonia Milshtein, a former senior nurse, testified that Yemenite parents “were not interested in their children” and that they should have been happy that their “child got a good education”.

Sarah Pearl, head nurse at the Women’s International Zionist Organisation (WIZO), a charity that ran care homes from which children are alleged to have disappeared, told Israeli media that when she asked why the children’s parents never visited, she was told by the head administrator that they “have lots of kids, and lots of problems, so they don’t want their children”. 

Yemenite Jews are shown en route from Aden to Israel during 
Operation Magic Carpet circa 1950 (File photo)

Like many of those who have been campaigning for greater transparency, Madmoni-Gerber, an Israeli professor of communications now based in the United States, said her own family had been scarred by the Yemenite Children Affair.Her father and aunt were among 50,000 Yemenite Jews airlifted to Israel in 1949 and 1950 in a series of secret US and British flights known as Operation Magic Carpet. Like many other Mizrahim, they were temporarily sheltered in one of dozens of “absorption camps” across Israel.

Madmoni-Gerber’s aunt gave birth in an Israeli hospital in 1949.

“When it was time to go home, staff on the delivery ward asked her to leave her baby behind with them. She refused. When she arrived back at the camp, the child was snatched [by staff] out of her hands. She never saw her baby again.”

Hanegbi’s admission is certain to rock an Ashkenazi establishment that has long been in denial about the Yemenite Children Affair.

For instance, Yaron London, one of Israel’s best-known commentators, has called suggestions of kidnappings a “conspiracy theory”.

And Dov Levitan, a professor at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, who is a leading expert on Yemenite immigration to Israel, recently stated:

“I can’t put even one finger on a case in which I can say that there was an act of abduction or a criminal act.”

Conspiracy of silence

Shlomi Hatuka, a 38-year-old Yemenite poet and teacher who three years ago helped found Amram, an organisation campaigning on behalf of the families, said that continuing racism towards the Mizrahim had made possible a “conspiracy of silence” lasting more than six decades.

His activism began after his grandmother revealed to him 22 years ago that she had been asked by a nurse in the early 1950s to give up for adoption one of the twins she had just given birth to.

“The nurse said, ‘You have lots of children, why not let us take one of them?’” Hatuka told Al Jazeera.

“My grandmother refused. A couple of days later, the nurse told her her baby girl had died. She did not receive a death certificate and was not shown a grave.”

“My mother told me my grandmother talked about her kidnapped child until the day she died,” he added.

“She never got over it. At the time, none of us could really grasp what had happened to [the baby]. It was just too strange. It was impossible to believe.” 

“We have used social media and new technology to help bring more 
attention to the kidnappings”, said Shlomi Hatuka (Jonathan Cook/Al Jazeera)

Hatuka said the official re-examination of the files had been prompted by growing pressure from the Mizrahi community:

“We are the third generation, and we are better able to organise. We have used social media and new technology to help bring more attention to the kidnappings.”
Amram is demanding that the Israeli authorities open up adoption papers so that the children who were abducted can try to find their parents. 
“If Netanyahu really wants to help clarify what happened, this would be the easiest and quickest way to do it,” Hatuka said.

Currently, a 1960 Adoption Law makes it a criminal offence for an adopted child or their adoptive parents to publicly reveal that an adoption took place. Officials have claimed the restriction is needed to protect privacy, but there is mounting pressure to scrap it.

Amram has also established a database of missing children on its website. Hundreds more families have come forward with information of children who disappeared, including cases that have never been investigated. Hatuka believes that the total number of children who are missing could be as high as 8,000.

Documents locked away

Even based on the official figures, one in eight Yemenite infants under the age of four may have disappeared in the state’s first six years. Boaz Sangero, a law professor at a college near Tel Aviv, wrote in the Haaretz newspaper this month that the figure was “astonishing”, and demanded an urgent re-examination of the evidence.

The extent of the problem was further underscored last month when four legislators in the 120-seat Israeli parliament came forward to reveal that their own relatives had disappeared in the 1950s. Two were from Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Nurit Koren, whose cousin went missing, told the Jerusalem Post newspaper: “Everybody is coming and telling me it happened in their families too. The phone doesn’t stop ringing.”

Nava Boker said that her sister and brother were taken.

“I am afraid that the same people who planned and executed these crimes of ripping babies away from their mothers’ arms ensured their own safety and hid the documents.”

Boker and other activists have been infuriated by the Kedmi inquiry’s decision to place under lock hundreds of thousands of documents relating to its investigations until 2071.

Inquiry report ‘shameful’

There has also been widespread criticism of the way the inquiry was conducted. Tzadok called the panel’s report “shameful”, and accused it of ignoring the evidence of wrongdoing it unearthed.

Sangero noted that the commission employed only two investigators to look into the case files of some 1,000 missing children. In 69 cases, it said it could not determine the children’s fate.

The panel avoided using its subpoena powers, thereby allowing officials to refuse to testify, or agreed to let them give evidence behind closed doors. The inquiry also did not carry out DNA tests.

On many occasions, birth and burial records requested by the Kedmi inquiry either disappeared or were reported to have been destroyed by fires or floods. The inquiry, Sangero observed, did not investigate how so many files could have been lost.

The panel was equally trusting of a 1960 census that listed many of the supposedly dead children as having “left the country”. In addition, the inquiry failed to examine why many of the biological parents received military draft notices for their children on what would have been their 18th birthdays.

Tzadok noted that, in one of the most disturbing oversights, the inquiry failed to probe the disappearance of 40 infants after they were supposedly sent from an absorption camp to Jerusalem for immunisations.

Pieces of the puzzle

On its website, Amram has compiled damning testimonies presented to the three inquiries that suggest abductions of Mizrahi children were widespread and systematic, and might have amounted to trafficking. Such evidence appears to have swayed Hanegbi too.

He told Meet the Press: “I’m reading testimony of nurses, social workers and people who admitted the children to hospitals and a variety of people, each of whom saw a small piece of the puzzle.”

Ahuva Goldfarb, national supervisor of social services at that time, admitted to the Kedmi inquiry that children had been “unregistered” when sent out of the absorption camps, away from their parents.

He added: “It was systematic as could be.” The parents were told their child was “no longer alive”.

In a letter dated April 1950, a senior health ministry official, Dr M Lichtig, expressed concern to state hospitals that children were not being returned to their parents.

“There have been instances in which children were released from hospital and did not return to their parents. Apparently, they were found by people seeking to adopt,” he wrote in the letter. “The bereaved parents searched for their children … We must make every effort to ensure that such incidents do not repeat themselves.”

Hanna Gibori, head of adoption services in the country’s north at that time, testified: “Hospital physicians handed over babies for adoption straight out of the hospital, without the official adoption agencies being involved.”

As late as 1959, a Knesset member, Ben-Zion Harel, said a significant number of children were being placed for adoption at Israeli hospitals in “unacceptable ways”, bordering on “trafficking”.

‘Place order’ for children

All of this appears to have occurred with minimal or non-existent judicial oversight. In 1955, a high court judge, Shneur Cheshin, wrote in a decision: “To our embarrassment, fictitious adoption orders and custodial orders are issued weekly, indeed daily.”

Hospitals and government officials were able to take advantage of the absence throughout the 1950s of any adoption laws. Oversight was only tightened up in 1960, with the passage of the Adoption Law.

A nurse who had once worked at the Batar hospital in Haifa, where Grunbaum was born in 1956, admitted on an Israeli TV show that prospective parents would “place an order” for children with the hospital. Batar closed in 1976, but requests by the Kedmi inquiry to see its archives were met with claims that the documents were either lost or destroyed by fire.

Grunbaum’s story, though rare, is not unique. Investigations over the past two decades have unearthed a handful of similar cases.

After Amram launched its website, a friend of the family revealed to Hatuka that she had been in an institution where she believed Yemenite children like herself were trafficked.

Hatuka has been able to piece together the early life of the woman, who agreed to be identified by the pseudonym Shoshana. She and her twin brother were taken from their mother at birth and placed in a care home in Jerusalem run by WIZO.

WIZO, which still runs childcare services in Israel, is mentioned in several cases of missing children who were later found. In a statement to Al Jazeera, WIZO said that the process of admitting and releasing children from the institutions it ran was managed by authorised government authorities, noting:

“WIZO’s sole responsibility was to care for the health and wellbeing of the children. Throughout the years, WIZO has provided authorities, upon request, with all of the records and materials relevant to the children in its institutions. WIZO fully supports any investigation that could shed light on issues subject to public debate.” 

Israeli media coverage shows Tzila Levine being 
reunited with her biological mother, Margalit Umaysi in 1997 
(Courtesy of Amram)

At seven, Shoshana and her brother were moved to an ultra-Orthodox institution for parentless Yemenite children called Gur Aryeh, in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv. Shoshana told Hatuka that intermittently they would be gathered in a room and visitors, called “American aunts”, would inspect them. Children would regularly disappear.During her stay in Gur Aryeh, Shoshana was told that her biological mother had died five years after giving birth to her.

In the late 1990s, when the Kedmi inquiry was under way, a few Israeli journalists intensified their search for such children.

In the most famous case, widely reported in 1997, Tzila Levine was reunited with her biological mother after a 20-year search. DNA testing confirmed her blood ties to Margalit Umaysi, an immigrant from Yemen.

A doctor in Haifa had taken Levine from Umaysi shortly after her birth in 1949 and handed her to adoptive parents using forged papers. The adoption was approved by Moshe Landau, a judge who went on to serve in Israel’s Supreme Court.

”I feel that I’ve won a war – a lifelong war,” Levine told reporters at the time. 

Tziona Heiman, shown with her biological mother, 
was taken from a Jerusalem hospital as a baby 
(Courtesy of Amram)

The case of Tziona Heiman was exposed five years later by the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. After she confronted her Ashkenazi parents with suspicions that she was adopted, they admitted that she had been selected from a Jerusalem hospital.Their neighbour, Yigal Allon, a famous Israeli general, had – in their words – given them the girl as a “birthday present”. Heiman later found her biological parents.

Madmoni-Gerber also located an abducted child in 1994, when she was an Israeli journalist. Moshe Becher was taken from his Yemenite family in 1953 and placed in the care of WIZO. A Turkish couple were issued a forged birth certificate for him in 1956.

Like most, Becher was never shown his adoption file, and was unable to track down his biological parents. A letter from the welfare services stated simply:

“We have no clue as to your mother’s identity or whereabouts.”

Hatuka said Amram was now working to create a private DNA database abroad. It would allow both those who suspected they were kidnapped – including those now living in Europe or the US – and the parents of missing children to submit their DNA to see if matches could be made.

Grunbaum said the families’ campaign was not a quest for revenge against those behind the kidnappings.

“It is time for the country to be more open about its past,” he said.
“We need to drag these issues into the sunlight and see what really happened.”

• Article first published in Al Jazeera

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

Speech Free and Otherwise: Shutting Ears to Odious Ideas

Free Speech Not Present at Some Universities

by Walter Brasch

August 5, 2016

Like most Jews, Benjamin Aaron Shapiro, a respected journalist, is an advocate for social justice, following the Jewish concept of Tikun Olam, literally translated as “repair of the world.”

Unlike most American Jews, Shapiro is a conservative whose views of the nation are closer to those of Ted Cruz than of Bernie Sanders.

Shapiro is a summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, and an honors graduate from the Harvard University school of law.

He backs up his views and political philosophy with facts, historical allusions, and a strong interpretation of the Constitution. His conclusions and opinions, however, often go far outside what even the far-right believe.

He says “Sesame Street” and “M*A*S*H” are left-wing propaganda, and “Happy Days” has a theme of pacifism. He is a strong proponent of gun rights legislation and an opponent of the “Black Lives Matter” social movement. His speeches, syndicated newspaper column, and his radio commentaries sometimes lead to civil disorder, often begun by those who don’t share his ultra-conservative views.

One of Shapiro’s six books is Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth (2004), published shortly after he graduated from UCLA. What happened at a few universities affirms some of the argument in that book.

In February, the president of Cal State/Los Angeles cancelled a forthcoming speech by Shapiro after students claimed what he had to say would be “hate speech.” President William Covina said Shapiro could speak at a time when a suitable opponent was found; however, Shapiro pointed out that Cal State allowed liberal speakers without having a conservative respondent. Covino reversed his position three days before the speech.

On the day of the speech, several hundred students blocked the entrances of the Student Union Building, intimidating those who wanted to hear what Shapiro had to say, and blocking those inside the building from leaving. The Daily Caller, a conservative newspaper, reported there were several fights outside the building. Following the speech, students moved to the president’s office, held a sit-in, and demanded his resignation for allowing the speech. Cal State later charged Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), the sponsoring organization, $621.50 for additional security; it did not charge other organizations that brought speakers to the campus.

In April, Shapiro spoke at Penn State; several dozen protestors shouted, banged on the doors to Sparks Hall, and played pre-recorded music at a high volume, trying to disrupt Shapiro’s speech, according to The Daily Collegian. The title of his speech was “When Diversity Becomes a Problem: The Fascist Nature of Liberalism.”

Last week, DePaul University blocked an invitation by the YAF chapter to host Shapiro. Citing the Cal State and Penn State episodes, the 24,000 student Catholic university in Chicago, according to an official statement, “determined, after observing events which took place when Mr. Shapiro spoke elsewhere, that it was not in a position to provide the type of security that would be required to properly host this event at this time.” DePaul’s argument—one of safety—was a lame way to deflect criticism that it was blocking free speech. Certainly, a university with a large on-campus police force and a Campus Violence Prevention Plan and the ability to ask local community police for additional protection should not have been able to hide beneath the cloak that the words of one person threatened campus security.

In 1644, before the English parliament, poet John Milton boldly spoke out against censorship. “Let her [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?” Milton asked. It was a revolutionary concept in an empire that required printers to get a license and be subjected to the whims not only of a monarch but the government as well.

In the 18th century, Lord Blackstone, one of the kingdom’s most distinguished jurists, spoke against prior restraint of free speech and of the press. The views of Milton and Blackstone became a basis of The First Amendment, one of the most liberal parts of the U.S. Constitution. It was this amendment that assured freedom of the press, speech, and religion; that amendment allows people to peacefully assemble and, if they wish, to protest government actions; it gives the people the right to petition the government for a “redress of grievances.”

During the next two centuries, others cemented this belief into American law. In the mid-19th century, philosopher John Stuart Mill stated, “We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion, and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.” At the beginning of the 20th century, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that democracy is best served in “a marketplace of ideas.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, developed by the United Nations after World War II, declares

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion . . . [and] the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which implies the right . . . to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information regardless of frontiers, information and ideas through any media whatsoever.”

America’s First Amendment applies only to government interference, and not to the suppression of free speech in the private sector. But, every university should be a place where all views are heard, analyzed, and debated. Professors in several departments—including history, political science, criminal justice, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and journalism—could have had discussions about Shapiro’s speech and made it a “teachable moment” within the confines of their own discipline.

Instead of blocking opposing views, students should be aware that the solution to shutting down opposition beliefs is not by censorship or prior restraint, but in applying Milton’s belief that facts and civil discourse will allow truth to emerge.

Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist and professor emeritus of mass communications/journalism from Bloomsburg University, is a liberal Jew and an ACLU member and officer. For more than four decades, he has been an outspoken advocate in defending the First Amendment rights of all people, no matter what their political, religious, or philosophical views are. His current book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit. The book includes numerous examples of how local and state governments, working with the oil/gas exploration industry, have breached First Amendment rights.

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D., social issues journalist

latest books:

Fracking America (investigation)

Before the First Snow (historical fiction)

Exonerating "Hitler": Hague Tribunal Rules Milosevic not "Butcher of the Balkans" Afterall

Hague Tribunal Exonerates Slobodan Milosevic for Bosnia War Crimes Ten Years Too Late

by Andy Wilcoxson -

July 18, 2016

The UN war crimes tribunal has determined that the late Serbian president was not responsible for war crimes committed in Bosnia during the 1992-95 war. The judges determined that Slobodan Milosevic was not part of a "joint criminal enterprise" to victimize Bosnian Muslims and Croats. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has determined that the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was not responsible for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

In a stunning ruling, the trial chamber that convicted former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadzic of war crimes and sentenced him to 40 years in prison, unanimously concluded that Slobodan Milosevic was not part of a “joint criminal enterprise” to victimize Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian war.

The March 24th Karadzic judgment states that “the Chamber is not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milosevic agreed with the common plan” to permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb claimed territory.[1]

The Karadzic trial chamber found that “the relationship between Milosevic and the Accused had deteriorated beginning in 1992; by 1994, they no longer agreed on a course of action to be taken. Furthermore, beginning as early as March 1992, there was apparent discord between the Accused and Milosevic in meetings with international representatives, during which Milosevic and other Serbian leaders openly criticised Bosnian Serb leaders of committing ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ and the war for their own purposes.”[2]

The judges noted that Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic both favored the preservation of Yugoslavia and that Milosevic was initially supportive, but that their views diverged over time. The judgment states that “from 1990 and into mid-1991, the political objective of the Accused and the Bosnian Serb leadership was to preserve Yugoslavia and to prevent the separation or independence of BiH, which would result in a separation of Bosnian Serbs from Serbia; the Chamber notes that Slobodan Milosevic endorsed this objective and spoke against the independence of BiH.”[3]

The Chamber found that “the declaration of sovereignty by the SRBiH Assembly in the absence of the Bosnian Serb delegates on 15 October 1991, escalated the situation,”[4] but that Milosevic was not on board with the establishment of Republika Srpska in response. The judgment says that “Slobodan Milosevic was attempting to take a more cautious approach”[5]

The judgment states that in intercepted communications with Radovan Karadzic, “Milosevic questioned whether it was wise to use ‘an illegitimate act in response to another illegitimate act’ and questioned the legality of forming a Bosnian Serb Assembly.”[6] The judges also found that “Slobodan Milosevic expressed his reservations about how a Bosnian Serb Assembly could exclude the Muslims who were ‘for Yugoslavia’.”[7]

The judgment notes that in meetings with Serb and Bosnian Serb officials “Slobodan Milosevic stated that ‘[a]ll members of other nations and ethnicities must be protected’ and that ‘[t]he national interest of the Serbs is not discrimination’.”[8] Also that “Milosevic further declared that crime needed to be fought decisively.”[9]

The trial chamber notes that “In private meetings, Milosevic was extremely angry at the Bosnian Serb leadership for rejecting the Vance-Owen Plan and he cursed the Accused.”[10] They also found that “Milosevic tried to reason with the Bosnian Serbs saying that he understood their concerns, but that it was most important to end the war.”[11]

The judgment states that “Milosevic also questioned whether the world would accept that the Bosnian Serbs who represented only one third of the population of BiH would get more than 50% of the territory and he encouraged a political agreement.”[12]

At a meeting of the Supreme Defense Council the judgment says that “Milosevic told the Bosnian Serb leadership that they were not entitled to have more than half the territory in BiH, stating that: ‘there is no way that more than that could belong to us! Because, we represent one third of the population. […] We are not entitled to in excess of half of the territory – you must not snatch away something that belongs to someone else! […] How can you imagine two thirds of the population being crammed into 30% of the territory, while 50% is too little for you?! Is it humane, is it fair?!’”[13]

In other meetings with Serb and Bosnian Serb officials, the judgment notes that Milosevic “declared that the war must end and that the Bosnian Serbs’ biggest mistake was to want a complete defeat of the Bosnian Muslims.”[14] Because of the rift between Milosevic and the Bosnian-Serbs, the judges note that “the FRY reduced its support for the RS and encouraged the Bosnian Serbs to accept peace proposals.”[15]

The Tribunal’s determination that Slobodan Milosevic was not part of a joint criminal enterprise, and that on the contrary he “condemned ethnic cleansing”[16] is of tremendous significance because he got blamed for all of the bloodshed in Bosnia, and harsh economic sanctions were imposed on Serbia as a result. Wrongfully accusing Milosevic ranks right up there with invading Iraq only to find that there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction after all.

Slobodan Milosevic was vilified by the entire western press corps and virtually every politician in every NATO country. They called him “the Butcher of the Balkans.” They compared him to Hitler and accused him of genocide. They demonized him and made him out to be a bloodthirsty monster, and they used that false image to justify not only economic sanctions against Serbia, but also the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia and the Kosovo war.

Slobodan Milosevic had to spend the last five years of his life in prison defending himself and Serbia from bogus war crimes allegations over a war that they now admit he was trying to stop.

The most serious charges that Milosevic faced, including the charge of genocide, were all in relation to Bosnia. Now, ten years after his death, they admit that he wasn’t guilty after all – oops.

The ICTY did nothing to publicize the fact that they had cleared Milosevic of involvement in the joint criminal enterprise. They quietly buried that finding 1,303 pages into the 2,590 page Karadzic verdict knowing full well that most people would probably never bother to read it.

The presiding judge in the Radovan Karadzic trial, O-Gon Kwon of South Korea, was also one of the judges in the Slobodan Milosevic trial. Milosevic’s exoneration by the Karadzic trial chamber may be an indication of how the Milosevic chamber would have eventually ruled, at least on the Bosnia charges, if Milosevic had lived to see the conclusion of his own trial.

It’s worth recalling that Slobodan Milosevic died under a very suspicious set of circumstances. He died of a heart attack just two weeks after the Tribunal denied his request to undergo heart surgery in Russia.[17] He was found dead in his cell less than 72 hours after his attorney delivered a letter to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which he said that he feared he was being poisoned.[18]

The Tribunal’s official report on the inquiry into his death confirmed that, “Rifampicin had been found in a blood sample taken from Mr. Milosevic on 12 January 2006.” And that “Mr. Milosevic was not told of the results until 3 March 2006 because of the difficult legal position in which Dr. Falke (the Tribunal’s chief medical officer) found himself by virtue of the Dutch legal provisions concerning medical confidentiality.”[19]

The presence of Rifamicin (a non-prescribed drug) in Milosevic’s blood would have counteracted the high blood pressure medication he was taking and increased his risk of the heart attack that ultimately did kill him. The Tribunal’s admission that they knew about the Rifampicin for months, but didn’t tell Milosevic the results of his own blood test until just days before his death because of “Dutch legal provisions concerning medical confidentiality” is an incredibly lame and disingenuous excuse. There is no provision of Dutch law that prohibits a doctor from telling the patient the results of his own blood test -- that would be idiotic. On the contrary, concealing such information from the patient could be seen as malpractice.

This all gives rise to well-founded suspicion that powerful geopolitical interests would rather Milosevic die before the end of his trial than see him acquitted and have their vicious lies exposed. U.S. State Department cables leaked to Wikileaks confirm that The Tribunal did discuss Milosevic’s medical condition and his medical records with U.S. Embassy personnel in The Hague without his consent.[20] They clearly didn’t care about medical confidentiality laws when they were blabbing about his medical records to the American embassy.

It’s an unsatisfying outcome that Milosevic has been quietly vindicated for the most serious crimes that he was accused of some ten years after his death. At a minimum financial compensation should now be paid to his widow and his children, and reparations should be paid to Serbia by the western governments who sought to punish Serbia in order to hold Milosevic “accountable” for crimes that their own Tribunal now admits he wasn’t responsible for, and was in fact trying to stop.


[1] ICTY, Karadzic Judgment, 24 March 2016, Para. 3460
< >

[2] Ibid., Footnote 11027

[3] Ibid., Para. 3276

[4] Ibid., Para. 2709

[5] Ibid., Para. 2710

[6] Ibid., Para. 2685

[7] Ibid., Para. 2687

[8] Ibid., Para. 3288

[9] Ibid., Para. 3284

[10] Ibid., Para. 3289

[11] Ibid., Para. 3295

[12] Ibid., Para. 3290

[13] Ibid., Para. 3297

[14] Ibid., Para. 3293

[15] Ibid., Para. 3292

[16] Ibid., Para. 3280

[17] ICTY Case No. IT-02-54 Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milosevic, Decision on Assigned Counsel Request for Provisional Release, February 23, 2006

[18] Text of Slobodan Milosevic’s Letter to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
< >

[19] Judge Kevin Parker (Vice-President of the ICTY), Report to the President of the ICTY: Death of Slobodan Milosevic, May 2006; ¶ 31, 76
< >

[20] U.S. State Dept. Cable #03THEHAGUE2835_a, “ICTY: An Inside Look Into Milosevic’s Health and Support Network”
< >

Hiroshima's Reckoning

Hiroshima: the Crime That Keeps on Paying, But Beware the Reckoning

by Diana Johnstone - CounterPunch

August 5, 2016

On his visit to Hiroshima last May, Obama did not, as some had vainly hoped he might, apologize for the August 6, 1945 atomic bombing of the city. Instead he gave a high-sounding speech against war. He did this as he was waging ongoing drone war against defenseless enemies in faraway countries and approving plans to spend a trillion dollars upgrading the US nuclear arsenal.

An apology would have been as useless as his speech. Empty words don’t change anything. But here was one thing that Obama could have said that would have had a real impact: he could have told the truth.

He could have said:

“The atom bombs were not dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ‘to save lives by ending the war’. That was an official lie. The bombs were dropped to see how they worked and to show the world that the United States possessed unlimited destructive power.”

There was no chance that Obama would say that. Officially, the bombing “saved lives” and therefore, it was worth it. Like the Vietnamese villages we destroyed in order to save them, like the countless Iraqi children who died as a result of US sanctions, the hundreds of thousands of agonizing women and children in two Japanese cities remain on the debit side of the United States accounts with humanity, unpaid and unpunished.

“It Was Worth It”

The decision to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a political not a military decision. The targets were not military, the effects were not military. The attacks were carried out against the wishes of all major military leaders. Admiral William Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in his memoirs that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender…” General Eisenhower, General MacArthur, even General Hap Arnold, commander of the Air Force, were opposed. Japan was already devastated by fire bombing, facing mass hunger from the US naval blockade, demoralized by the surrender of its German ally, and fearful of an imminent Russian attack. In reality, the war was over. All top U.S. leaders knew that Japan was defeated and was seeking to surrender.

The decision to use the atom bombs was a purely political decision taken almost solely by two politicians alone: the poker-playing novice President and his mentor, Secretary of State James F. Byrnes.[1]

President Harry S. Truman was meeting with Churchill and Stalin in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam when secret news came that the New Mexico test of the atomic bomb was a success. Observers recall that Truman was “a changed man”, euphoric with the possession of such power. While more profound men shuddered at the implications of this destructive force, to Truman and his “conniving” Secretary of State, James Byrnes, the message was: “Now we can get away with everything.”

They proceeded to act on that assumption – first of all in their relations with Moscow.

In response to months of U.S. urging, Stalin promised to enter the Asian war three months after the defeat of Nazi Germany, which occurred in early May 1945. It was well known that the Japanese occupation forces in China and Manchuria could not resist the Red Army. It was understood that two things could bring about Japan’s immediate surrender: Russia’s entrance into the war and U.S. assurance that the royal family would not be treated as war criminals.

Both these things happened in the days right after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But they were overshadowed by the atom bomb.

And that was the point.

That way, the U.S. atom bombs got full credit for ending the war.

But that is not all.

The demonstrated possession of such a weapon gave Truman and Byrnes such a sense of power that they could abandon previous promises to the Russians and attempt to bully Moscow in Europe. In that sense, the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only gratuitously killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. They also started the Cold War.

Hiroshima and the Cold War

A most significant observation on the effects of the atomic bomb is attributed to General Dwight D. Eisenhower. As his son recounted, he was deeply depressed on learning at the last minute of plans to use the bomb. Shortly after Hiroshima, Eisenhower is reported to have said privately:

“Before the bomb was used, I would have said yes, I was sure we could keep the peace with Russia. Now, I don’t know. Until now I would have said that we three, Britain with her mighty fleet, America with the strongest air force, and Russia with the strongest land force on the continent, we three could have guaranteed the peace of the world for a long, long time to come. But now, I don’t know. People are frightened and disturbed all over. Everyone feels insecure again.”[2]

As supreme allied commander in Europe, Eisenhower had learned that it was possible to work with the Russians. US and USSR domestic economic and political systems were totally different, but on the world stage they could cooperate. As allies, the differences between them were mostly a matter of mistrust, matters that could be patched up.

The victorious Soviet Union was devastated from the war: cities in ruins, some twenty million dead. The Russians wanted help to rebuild. Previously, under Roosevelt, it had been agreed that the Soviet Union would get reparations from Germany, as well as credits from the United States. Suddenly, this was off the agenda. As news came in of the successful New Mexico test, Truman exclaimed: “This will keep the Russians straight.” Because they suddenly felt all-powerful, Truman and Byrnes decided to get tough with the Russians.

Stalin was told that Russia could take reparations only from the largely agricultural eastern part of Germany under Red Army occupation. This was the first step in the division of Germany, which Moscow actually opposed.

Since several of the Eastern European countries had been allied to Nazi Germany, and contained strong anti-Russian elements, Stalin’s only condition for those countries (then occupied by the Red Army) was that their governments should not be actively hostile to the USSR. For that, Moscow favored the formula “People’s Democracies” meaning coalitions excluding extreme right parties.

Feeling all-powerful, the United States sharpened its demands for “free elections” in hope of installing anti-communist governments. This backfired. Instead of giving in to the implicit atomic threat, the Soviet Union dug in its heels. Instead of loosening political control of Eastern Europe, Moscow imposed Communist Party regimes – and accelerated its own atomic bomb program. The nuclear arms race was on.

“Have Our Cake and Eat It”

John J. McCloy, labeled by his biographer Kai Bird as the informal “chairman of the U.S. establishment”, told Secretary of War Henry Stimson at the time that:

“I’ve been taking the position that we ought to have our cake and eat it too; that we ought to be free to operate under this regional arrangement in South America, at the same time intervene promptly in Europe; that we oughtn’t to give away either asset…”[3] Stimson replied, “I think so, decidedly.”

In short, the United States was to retain its sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere, claimed by the Monroe Doctrine, while depriving Russia of its own buffer zone.

It is necessary to recognize the sharp distinction between domestic policy and foreign policy. The nature of the Soviet internal regime may have been as bad as it is portrayed, but when it came to foreign policy, Stalin scrupulously respected deals made with the Western allies – abandoning, for instance, the Greek Communists as they were crushed by the Anglo-Americans after the war. It was the United States that reneged on the deals made at Yalta, which were then stigmatized as sellouts to “communist aggression”. Stalin had absolutely no desire to promote communist revolution in Western Europe, much less to invade those countries. In fact his failure to promote world revolution was precisely the basis of the campaign against “Stalinism” by Trotskyists – including Trotskyists whose devotion to world revolution has now shifted to promotion of US “regime change” wars.

There is a prevailing Western doctrine that dictatorships make war, and democracies make peace. There is no proof of that whatsoever. Dictatorships (think of Franco Spain) may be conservative and inward-looking. The major imperialist powers, Britain and France, were democracies. Democratic America is far from peaceful.

As the Soviet Union developed its own nuclear arsenal, the United States was unable to interfere effectively in Eastern Europe and fell back on lesser enemies, overthrowing governments in Iran and Guatemala, getting bogged down in Vietnam, on the theory that these were surrogates for the Soviet communist enemy. But now that the Soviet Union has collapsed, abandoning Russia’s buffer zone in Eastern Europe, there appears to be a resurge of the sort of confidence that overcame Truman: a euphoria of limitless power. Why else would the Pentagon undertake a trillion dollar program to renew America’s nuclear arsenal, while stationing troops and aggressive military equipment as close as possible to the Russian border?

In his 1974 book about his relations with his brother Dwight, The President Is Calling, Milton Eisenhower wrote: “Our employment of this new force at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a supreme provocation to other nations, especially the Soviet Union.” And he added, “Certainly what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki will forever be on the conscience of the American people.”

Alas, the evidence so far is all to the contrary. Concerned critics have been marginalized. Systematic official lies about the “necessity to save American lives” have left the collective American conscience perfectly clear, while the power of the Bomb has created a lasting sense of self-righteous “exceptionalism” in the nation’s leaders. We Americans alone can do what others cannot, because we are “free” and “democratic” and they – if we so decide – are not. Other countries, not being “democracies”, can be destroyed in order to liberate them. Or simply destroyed. This is the bottom line of the “exceptionalism” that substitutes in Washington for the “conscience of the American people” which was not aroused by Hiroshima, but asphyxiated.

The Moral Sleep

As a guest in Hiroshima, Obama pontificated skillfully:

“The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.”

Well yes, but no such moral revolution has taken place.

“…the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.”

“Change” is an Obama specialty. But he did nothing to change our nuclear arms policy, except to beef it up. No sign of a “moral imagination” imagining the devastation that this policy is leading us toward. No imaginative ideas to bring about nuclear disarmament. Just promises not to let the bad guys get a-hold of them. They belong to us.

“And since that fateful day,” Obama continued, “we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan have forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war.”

This is sinister. As a matter of fact, it was precisely through war that the U.S. forged this alliance and this friendship – which the United States is now trying to militarize in its “Asian pivot”. It means that we can wipe out two of a country’s cities with nuclear weapons and end up with “not only an alliance but a friendship”. So why stop now? Why not make more such “friends” in the same way, for instance in Iran, which Hillary Clinton has expressed willingness to “obliterate” if the circumstances are right.

“That is a future we can choose,” said Obama, “a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”

But so far, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are very far from marking the “start of our own moral awakening”. On the contrary. The illusion of possessing limitless power removed any need for critical self-examination, any need to make a real effort to understand others who are not like us and don’t want to be like us, but could share the planet peacefully if we would leave them alone.

Since we are all-powerful, we must be a force for good. In reality, we are neither. But we seem incapable of recognizing the limits of our “exceptionalism”.

The bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki plunged the United States leadership into a moral sleep from which it has yet to awaken.

[1] All of that is known to experts. The documentary proofs were all laid out by Gar Alperovitz in the 800 pages of his 1995 book, The Decision to Use the Atom Bomb. However, official lies outlive documented refutation.
[2] Alperovitz pp 352-3.
[3] Ibid p.254.


Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at
More articles by:Diana Johnstone

Queen of the Beastiary: Serpent-Weasel Marriage Makes a President for Financial Imperium

The Elective Affinities of Hillary Clinton

by Luciana Bohne - CounterPunch

August 5, 2016

God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. . . . He has made us adept in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples.”

— Senator Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana, during
the US annexation of the Philippines, 1898.

A grotesque power-fest at the Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia left me feeling about Hillary Clinton the way P. G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster felt about his Aunt Agatha—“the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth.” There is something disquieting and secretively lascivious about her open-mouthed cackle. She doesn’t so much laugh as lusts.

She reminded me, too, of the mythical basilisk in the bestiary at the convention—the queen among the serpents.

The basilisk of legend, wearing a king’s crown on his head, is only twelve-fingers long, but his venom withers all living plants in his wake. His gaze is enough to kill, according to Pliny the Elder.

Only the droppings of a weasel have the potent odor to kill him, but it didn’t work with this basilisk. Her weasel endorsed her, embraced her, kissed her. His odor and her venom neutralized each other and merged into the unity party of the Serpent and the Weasel.

Her party’s opponent is Charybdis, “a huge bladder of a creature whose face was all mouth and whose arms and legs were flippers” according to Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings (1957). As if that were not enough, this Charybdis is reputed to be the troll of a foreign monster, Mandrake, the Demon in the Kremlin. Neither the basilisk’s party nor Charybdis’ own party, a sort of mollusk like the Kraken, likes him. See here and here.

I’m raving, you say? This is the Age of Empire, and empire breeds monsters. We live with them now. Imperialism is our political and economic reality. Nothing material or substantial can be reformed within this colossal juggernaut. Yet, we continue to pretend that this has no bearing on our lives. In 2003 alone, the Iraq invasion cost $60 billion, three times the yearly budget for education, yet, we wonder why schools are starving for funds. When we clamor for reforms without mentioning imperialism, it is as if we were told we would be dead in three weeks and reacted by scheduling an appointment for a facelift.

A facelift is exactly what elections have produced in the last two decades. Bill Clinton’s Nero, saxophone in lieu of harp; George Bush’s Claudius, malapropisms for stutters; Obama’s Titus, fortunate son, charm and treachery—they are all faces of imperialism, exceptionalism, hegemony, capital penetration, globalization, neoliberal reconolization, “full spectrum dominance,” “rebalance.” They are the CEOs of international capitalism in the White House. Their charge is to do away with the sovereignty of nations, economically when possible, militarily when necessary. They destabilize and destroy whole countries through open, economic, proxy, or clandestine wars; they organize and train terrorist organizations; they foment regime change; they privatize the public wealth; they impose deadly economic reforms on countries they indebt in perpetuity; they launch economic sanctions, often in tandem or in the run-up to war. The goal they serve is the domination of the planet to extract resources, secure markets, and depress wages. In Haiti, workers are paid 62 cents per hour. Why would any sane investor hire an American worker for $7 per hour when a Haitian, whose dependent country has stripped him/her of all workers’ protection rights, works for pennies?

We are the Lotus Eaters, if we don’t know the cost and suffering of imperialism.

In this predatory process, the masters of the world—the economic elite—have amassed mountains of money over tree decades, and are desperate for “opportunities” for investment. They know that money must move, or it dies. At this stage of disinvestment in industrialization in the capitalist centers because of diminished returns, money becomes the chief export commodity. To secure astronomical returns, lands and resources that belong to other people must be seized and controlled. To achieve this goal, they need a strong, autocratic, and authoritarian state and an appointed dictator. An imperator, head of the army, whose rule is characterized by weak legislative and judicial branches.

Ruthless, ambitious, violent, and conniving, Hillary Clinton’s Roman imperial analog is Agrippina, Nero’s mother and Claudius’ niece and murderous wife. Her ferocious chemistry makes her kindred by choice to the ferocity of the empire. The two are bound by “elective affinities”– Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809) of Goethe’s third novel, which examines the possibility that human passions are ruled by chemical affinities , the preference of one substance for another. I am convinced that the imperial candidate with the most affinities with the ruling elite is Hillary Clinton. If Donald Trump is sincere in saying he wants peace with Russia, he would have to be a Titan to reverse a centenary robotic American foreign policy by 360 degrees. That would go against all the laws of political motion, including inertia, which were set down at the birth of the United States. The prize was always to be fabled Eurasia—“he who controls Eurasia controls the world,” wrote that other cobra-eyed basilisk, Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinsk, the veteran Zbiggus Dickus of foreign lunacy at the State Department and the NSA.

And so this woman, the Agrippina on the Potomac, will sit behind the “grand chessboard,” playing with human pawns. She will make a good empress, even though less than 40 percent of the country’s voters consider her “trustworthy.” But the people’s trust is irrelevant. They are themselves untrustworthy. Having come out from under the spell of “charming” Obama to realize that he was a magician’s trick, the people are spinning off center—the “extreme center,” as Tariq Ali wittily calls it. The people need whipping back into the herd. For that, a virago will do. She will ride rough-shod with Sin and Death, the moral allies of the empire, over hurdles of sovereignties and international law. She will further ravish the already enfeebled Constitution before eating it whole because the inevitable cost of an expansionist foreign policy is the loss of economic and political freedom at home.

They all trust her. She has affinities with them all.

The Financiers

The financial empire trusts Hillary Clinton. Top mega-financiers and hedge fund founders and managers who have contributed to her campaign since March 2015 include: George Soros, hedge-fund billionaire, $7 million; Haim Saban, Israeli hawk and entertainment mogul, $5 million; James Simon, founder, Renaissance Technologies, hedge fund billionaire and former code-breaker for the military, $ 3.5 million; Herbert Sandler, founder of Golden West Financial Corporation, the California savings and loan enterprise; Donald Sussman, hedge-fund manager, $2.5 million.

There was no way that the new world order of financial monopoly capitalism would consider for CEO of the neoliberal empire someone like Bernie Sanders, not because he was “progressive” but because he was “regressive,” and in their view no doubt an unrealistic fantasist. The idea of bringing back the New Deal, a liberal order they had been overthrowing since the 1980s, must have had them belly-laughing in private, but they saw no harm so long as the senator from Vermont fed the illusion in the people that capitalism could be reformed and become a good thing. Ditto for Donald Trump: his regression consists of offering the people another fantasy, a return to a long gone Fordist America, the industrial powerhouse of the planet, in which American workers were the “aristocrats” of labor. At one point in history, Detroit was the capital of this aristocracy, the best-paid white workers in the world. Thus, both candidates offer a spectacle to the voters of a quarrel with their respective parties, but not with their parties’ de-facto bi-partisan pursuit of economic world supremacy. All the same they were useful. They helped to deflect, diffuse, confuse, and veil that stark, existential reality that is the cause of our woes and those of the planet: American economic and military expansion—the weasel more so than Charybdis.

Hillary Clinton is not a retro-fantasist, apart from being a fantasist of the neoliberal order. Her fantasy is their fantasy. Thus they back her.

The Liberal Humanitarian Carnivores

The liberal humanitarians trust Hillary’s exemplary ability to sell a war crime as a service to humanity.

The modern idea of “humanitarian war” is as old as Columbus; as old as the conquistadores. White, civilized Europeans, arriving in the “New World,” killed “savages” in order to civilize whoever survived. And then worked them to death and took their lands. In that tradition, the modern liberal humanitarian must be a flesh-eater. “A liberal society cannot be defended by herbivores. We need carnivores to save us,” wrote Michael Ignatieff, former Professor of Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, in a New York Times magazine op-ed piece, May 2, 2004. There is no need to recite the litany of Hillary Clinton’s bloody deeds since 1990. Gary Leupp covers them comprehensively in a 2015 CounterPunch article but for carnivorism, who can forget her maenad-possessed laughter on watching the tearing apart of Qaddafi’s flesh on video—a scene reminiscent of Euripides’ tragedy, “The Bacchae”?

Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s disemboweled Yugoslavia on humanitarian grounds, after portraying it as the resurgence of the genocidal Third Reich and its president, Slobodan Milosevic, as the new Hitler. Milosevic, by the way, has just been exonerated of all crimes for which Clinton’s kangaroo International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia had formerly condemned him. In 2003, casting her vote for the invasion of Iraq, Hillary Clinton cited the persecution of Milosevic as the example to follow for removing Saddam Hussein. It’s worth listening to her self-assurance in demonizing a man she, and Bill Clinton’s administration, knew to be innocent of the charges—knew because they trumped them up:

We and our NATO allies did not depose Mr. Milosevic, who was responsible for more than a quarter of a million people being killed in the 1990s. Instead, by stopping his aggression in Bosnia and Kosovo, and keeping on the tough sanctions, we created the conditions in which his own people threw him out and led to his being in the dock being tried for war crimes as we speak.

But Bill Clinton didn’t just scrap Yugoslavia; he junked international law by removing from the Security Council the legal monopoly on authorizing war. He set a precedent in the Kosovo War by claiming Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which gives humanitarian intervention the pseudo-legal means to overthrow a sovereign state. The UN Charter specifically disallows humanitarian intervention for a very good reason: it was that responsibility Hitler’s rogue regime claimed for invading Poland—the protection of German minorities—to start WW II.

Never mind. The Kosovo precedent opened the gates to all the “humanitarian” wars that followed, including Hillary Clinton’s war on Libya in 2009, consistent with her approval of her husband’s intervention in Kosovo. During a meeting with Code Pink on 6 March 2003 at the US Capitol, defending her vote in favor of attacking Iraq, Senator Clinton applauded her husband’s war in Kosovo, claiming that he saved Kosovar Albanian from ethnic cleansing—a lie—while commending his initiative to go it alone, without the “international community’s” consent:

With respect to whose responsibility it is to disarm Saddam Hussein, I do not believe that given the attitudes of many people in the world community today that there would be a willingness to take on very difficult problems were it not for United States leadership. And I am talking specifically about what had to be done in Bosnia and Kosovo, where my husband could not get a Security Council resolution to save the Kosovar Albanians from ethnic cleansing. And we did it alone as the United States, and we had to do it alone. It would have been far preferable if the Russians and others had agreed to do it through the United Nations — they would not. I’m happy that, in the face of such horrible suffering, we did act.

She’s praising here her husband’s international crime, the interference with a country’s sovereignty for fictional humanitarian reasons. No, the goal of the war in Kosovo was not ethnic defense (Bill Clinton’s policy throughout the 90s in the former Yugoslavia was to foment and prey on ethnic anarchy) but the expansionist penetration of a foreign territory and the construction of one of the largest military bases in Europe, at Camp Bondsteel, costing the American people a good chunk of social services—possibly, his welfare “reform,” for example.

Liberal humanitarian warmongers peddle the ludicrous claim that “America is the essential country” (Madeleine Albright) for safeguarding liberal democracy throughout the world, sublimely indifferent to the evidence that the world can’t wait to get America’s essentialism off its back. Hillary Clinton’s belligerent foreign policy is notorious. She has promised to bomb Iran. She has managed and supervised the destruction of Libya. She has organized the coups in Paraguay and Honduras. Her neo-con team at the State Department funded and organized the coup in Ukraine, Nazified its political, military, and cultural life, triggering a civil war (while calling Putin “Hitler”).

There’s no reason to believe that her carnivorous humanitarian resources have been depleted since then. While Secretary of State for Obama, she authorized the sale of weapons to Qatar that she knew would go to the Libyan rebels to topple Qaddafi and then go to Syria to arm al Qaeda to overthrow Assad. She denied any involvement under oath. In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, her campaign foreign policy adviser, Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the Pentagon and CIA, said that she would work to get President Assad “out of there”:

A Clinton administration will not shrink from making clear to the world exactly what the Assad regime is. It is a murderous regime that violates human rights; that has violated international law; used chemical weapons against his own people; has killed hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of children.

If Assad is as guilty as she was sure at the time Milosevic was, we’re in for another international crime.

On Russia, the Council on Foreign Relations reports that she’s calling for strengthening NATO and “tougher measures against Putin to punish him for invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea as well as for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” “I remain convinced,” they quote her, “that we need a concerted effort to really up the cost on Russia and, in particular, on Putin.” She considers that Russia’s intervention in Syria creates “chaos”:

I think it’s important too that the United States make it very clear to Putin that it’s not acceptable for him to be in Syria creating more chaos, bombing people on behalf of Assad, and we can’t do that if we don’t take more of a leadership position, which is what I’m advocating.

Russia Today blames Clinton’s outrageous Russophobia —“Hillary Clinton is the Bachman Turner Overdrive of US politics”– on Obama’s mistake for allowing the Neo-con contingent to dominate the State Department:

Obama’s other mistake was to allow Hillary, as Secretary of State, to retain neocon holdovers from the Bush administration on her Eastern Europe team. Even more incredibly, Kerry then inherited them for the second term. “Obama allowed US officials on the ground (in Ukraine and elsewhere) to pursue a grossly irresponsible and provocative anti-Russian policy,” Anatol Lieven recently told the Valdai Club. “What on earth, one may ask, was Victoria Nuland, a neo-conservative State Department official married to the arch neocon Robert Kagan, doing in the Obama administration at all, given that her attitudes run clearly counter to his?”Lieven also pointed out that “figures like Nuland are still favored by Hillary Clinton (Kagan is now moving into her political camp) and much of the US foreign and security establishment; and that with regard to Russia, that establishment is still conditioned to pursue what are in effect Cold War attitudes.”

The Neo-Cons and “New” Imperialists

Hillary Clinton represents the personification of rehabilitated imperialism, the overarching geopolitical focus of American politics. That is why she will be the establishment’s choice—tested and proven. She will press hard against the political independence of Russia and the economic rise of China, a pressure that encapsulates American foreign policy in the foreseeable future.

Neo-con and neo-liberal promoters of the “new imperialism” are Western regime intellectuals and historians such as Max Boot, Niall Ferguson, and Michael Ignatieff.

As a result, by 2003, the year of the invasion of Iraq, media pundits were busy domesticating the word “empire.” American propaganda had proscribed the word for decades on account of there being only one empire, which was “evil”: the USSR. With the Soviet Union gone, America congratulated itself on being #1, the sole super-power, the essential country, and, the old standby, the exceptional country. None of these brands resonated with the force that the scope of conquering the world required. To make matters worse, critics of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, were floating the un-American term “imperialism.” Something had to be done. With the evil empire dead, the good empire could re-emerge. Max Boot, Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at Council on Foreign Relations, proposed “an American might to promote American ideals”–messianic political morality at the point of a gun. He explained,

In the early twentieth century, Americans talked of spreading Anglo-Saxon civilization and taking up the ‘white man’s burden’; today they talk of spreading democracy and defending human rights. Whatever you call it, this represents an idealistic impulse that has always been a big part in America’s impetus for going to war.

Soon after 9/11, 2001, Boot had already invoked this impetuous idealism to respond to the lament of suffering nations pining for the . . . return of a British-style imperial ministration.

Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.

And in 2002, Boot wrote, “Imperialism used to be the white man’s burden. This gave it a bad reputation. But imperialism doesn’t stop being necessary because it is politically incorrect” (New York Times Magazine, July 28, 2002). Neoconservative William Kristol, of The Weekly Standard, said more tersely on Fox television at the time, “if people want to say we’re an imperial power, fine.”

If there is a place on earth that is testy about Western imperialism, that place is China. If there is an American official who has sorely tested China’s anti-colonial sensibility, that person is Clinton. As First Lady, she rousingly declared that “women’s rights are human rights” in Beijing at the UN World Conference on Women in 1995. As Secretary of State, in 2011, she denounced China’s “deplorable” record of human rights in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic. Again in 2011, she proposed a US policy toward China as one “of advancing democracy and human rights” in a Foreign Policy article, titled “America’s Pacific Century.”

To Chinese officials’ ear this aggressive insistence on human rights sounded suspiciously like a systematic call for color revolution in China. Her hostile intent, had already become apparent in 2010. At the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi, she confirmed China’s suspicion that she advocated a US policy of containment by intervening in the territorial disputes of the South China Sea. Recommending a “rebalance” of power in the disputed areas, she asserted that the US had “a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea.”

China’s Foreign Minister at the time, Yang Jiechi, at first walked out of the meeting, only to return an hour later with the ominous reminder that “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.”

On the unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, a pact China correctly perceives as economic containment, she said in her debate with Bernie Sanders on 4 February 2016 that she now opposes it after having strenuously and enthusiastically supported it as Obama’s Secretary of State until 2012 and beyond. Her flip-flops on the TPP are well documented here.

These three affinities—with finance, war, and imperialism—make Hillary Clinton the perfect material for president of the financial-imperial White House. Picture her in jodhpurs and pith helmet astride the financial bull, taking on the “white woman’s burden,” and riding the humanitarian “savage wars for peace.” Stop worrying about Donald Trump “Charybdis” and learn to avoid where the Basilisk treads, which will be difficult. You can prepare by reviewing her record as “empire-slayer” here.

In choosing between presidential candidates today, it’s best to stick to Bertie Wooster’s advice about aunts:

“It is no use telling me there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.”
Luciana Bohne is co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at:
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