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American Resistance To Empire

Timoshenko pushing for impeachment of incumbent Ukrainian president

Timoshenko pushing for impeachment of incumbent Ukrainian president

According to Article 111 of Ukraine’s Constitution, the Ukrainian president can be ousted from his post through an impeachment process in the event of committing high treason or another crime

Leader of Ukraine’s Batkivshchyna Party Yulia Timoshenko

© AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

KIEV, February 26. /TASS/. Leader of Ukraine’s Batkivshchyna Party and presidential contender Yulia Timoshenko has said that she had embarked on initiating impeachment proceedings against the country’s current President Pyotr Poroshenko.

“We declare that we are beginning impeachment proceedings against the president along with other factions that support us,” she said in the Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday.

Timoshenko added that journalists earlier published an investigation, which revealed the involvement of Poroshenko and his entourage in allegedly smuggling spare parts for the Ukrainian army from Russia at over-inflated prices.

“This is actually assisting the enemy and destroying the Ukrainian army. This is a cognizable case. We believe this falls under Section 111 of the Criminal Code (high treason),” she asserted.

According to Article 111 of Ukraine’s Constitution, the Ukrainian president can be ousted from his post through an impeachment process in the event of committing high treason or another crime. However, to do that, a special mechanism is required, which should be enshrined in a special impeachment law that Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) has been unable to pass since 1996.

Timoshenko earlier said that the law on the head of state’s impeachment would be approved if she became president.

 

Pakistan shoots down 2 Indian warplanes, parades captured pilot on video

5 million tons of smoke created by 100 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons

 

40 CRPF Men Killed In Worst Terror Attack On Forces In Kashmir, India Condemns Pakistan

Indian Air Forces Extracts Revenge Inside Pakistan, On Terrorist Group, Jaish-e-Mohammad

 

Pakistan shoots down 2 Indian warplanes, parades captured pilot on video

Tensions between two of the world’s nuclear powers were raised dramatically Wednesday after Pakistan’s air force said it shot down two Indian warplanes that crossed the disputed Kashmir border and captured each of the aircraft’s pilots.

Police officials in Indian-occupied Kashmir told Reuters two Indian pilots and a civilian on the ground died when the planes crashed. The officials did not confirm the planes were shot down by Pakistani forces.

One of the pilots, named as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was subsequently shown in a video. India’s government said it objected to “Pakistan’s vulgar display”.

He was seen in two videos, one where he appeared blindfolded and bloodied, and then a second one showing him in custody with the blindfold removed, appearing visibly more relaxed, even complimenting his captors on a “fantastic” cup of tea.

Raveesh Kumar, a spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, also claimed an Indian plane shot down a Pakistani fighter jet — although Pakistan denied any of its jets had been hit and photographic evidence had yet to emerge.

INDIA LAUNCHES AIRSTRIKE IN PAKISTAN-CONTROLLED KASHMIR TARGETING ‘TERROR CAMPS’

Pakistan's Inter Services Public Relations released this photo of the pilot after he was shot down

Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations released this photo of the pilot after he was shot down (ISPR)

The Pakistani official said one of the Indian planes crashed in the Pakistani part of Kashmir and the other went down in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor told the Associated Press one of the pilots was injured and was being treated in a military hospital. He did not elaborate on the pilot’s injuries. Ghafoor said the other pilot was in custody.

News sites out of Pakistan posted unconfirmed pictures and videos of one of the pilots who appeared blindfolded and with a bloody nose. Pakistan’s information ministry also tweeted out apparent footage of one of the downed Indian jets as well as a message congratulating the Pakistan Air Force.

An Indian army soldier walks past the wreckage of an Indian aircraft after it crashed in Budgam area, outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Feb.27, 2019. 

An Indian army soldier walks past the wreckage of an Indian aircraft after it crashed in Budgam area, outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Feb.27, 2019.  (AP)

A senior Indian police officer said earlier that an Indian Air Force plane crashed in the Indian-controlled sector of Kashmir. No information about injuries or deaths was immediately available.

INDIA WARNS OF ‘CRUSHING RESPONSE’ AFTER KASHMIR SUICIDE BOMB ATTACK

Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said later it closed its airspace to all commercial flights as tensions with India escalated.

Indian air force spokesman Anupam Banerjee in New Delhi told the Associated Press he had no information on Wednesday’s incident.

Tensions have been simmering between the two nuclear-powers after India launched an airstrike Tuesday following a suicide bombing that killed more than 40 soldiers in India’s section of the disputed territory of Kashmir earlier this month.Tensions have been simmering between the two nuclear-powers after India launched an airstrike Tuesday following a suicide bombing that killed more than 40 soldiers in India’s section of the disputed territory of Kashmir earlier this month. (AP)

In a televised address, Imran Khan, the Pakistani prime minister, warned against further escalation between the two countries.

“If we let it happen, it will remain neither in my nor [Indian prime minister] Narendra Modi’s control,” he said.

Referring to air strikes by Pakistan earlier Wednesday, he said Pakistan had been obliged to respond to Tuesday’s action by India.

Kashmiri villagers and Indian army soldiers gather near the wreckage of an Indian aircraft after it crashed in Budgam area, outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Feb.27.

Kashmiri villagers and Indian army soldiers gather near the wreckage of an Indian aircraft after it crashed in Budgam area, outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Feb.27. (AP)

“Our action is just to let them know that just like they intruded into our territory, we are also capable of going into their territory.”

Sushma Swaraj, the Indian foreign minister, said India “does not wish to see further escalation of the situation.”

Residents on both sides of the de-facto frontier, the so-called Line of Control, said there were exchanges of fire between the two sides through the night. In Pakistan’s part of Kashmir, hundreds of villagers have fled border towns.

Asian News International reported that commercial flights between Indian and Pakistani airspace are affected. Its report said Pakistan immediately stopped domestic and international flight operations from Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Sialkot and Islamabad airports.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano and The Associated Press contributed

Pharma execs offer Senate ideas to lower drug costs – except actually cutting prices

Pharma execs offer Senate ideas to lower drug costs – except actually cutting prices

  • Executives from seven pharmaceutical companies — AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer and Sanofi — are testifying before the Senate Finance Committee.
  • The pharma executives have a number of ideas to reduce drug prices for patients, except lowering list prices.
  • High drug prices has become a rare bipartisan issue, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demanding change.

Ken Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer of Merck & Co., left, speaks as Robert Bradway, president and chief executive officer of Amgen Inc., center, and Joaquin Duato, executive vice president and worldwide chairman of pharmaceuticals at Johnson & Johnson, listen during a news conference outside the White House following a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Ken Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer of Merck & Co., left, speaks as Robert Bradway, president and chief executive officer of Amgen Inc., center, and Joaquin Duato, executive vice president and worldwide chairman of pharmaceuticals at Johnson & Johnson, listen during a news conference outside the White House following a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.

Executives from seven drugmakers laid out their ideas for lowering drug prices to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. One idea was noticeably absent: lowering drug prices.

The companies — AbbVieAstraZenecaBristol-Myers SquibbJohnson & JohnsonMerckPfizer and Sanofi — threw their support behind a number of Trump administration proposals and pitched some of their own ideas in written testimony submitted ahead of the hearing. Executives championed the investments their companies make and the lives they save, while acknowledging patients cannot benefit if they can’t afford medication.

They criticized middlemen, including pharma’s favorite target, pharmacy benefit managers, for pocketing discounts instead of passing them along to patients. They suggested changes to Medicare, including capping the amount seniors would pay for on their own at the pharmacy counter every year.

But none of the seven drugmakers committed to, or even suggested, lowering the list prices of their drugs. Some referenced these prices as simply the price that’s advertised, not what consumers actually pay.

“We’ve all seen the finger pointing,” Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in his prepared remarks. “Every link in the supply chain has gotten skilled at that. But, like most Americans, I’m sick and tired of the blame game. It’s time for solutions.”

High drug costs have become a rare bipartisan issue with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demanding something be done. President Donald Trump has made lowering prices one of the key issues of his administration. Democrats are jockeying to prove they can lead reform.

Senators are expected to press executives during Tuesday’s hearing about recent drug price increases. AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot, Bristol-Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit Executive Vice President Jennifer Taubert, Merck CEO Ken Frazier, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt are scheduled to testify.

Executives threw their support around a Trump administration proposal that would pass an estimated $29 billion in rebates paid to pharmacy benefit managers to consumers. Drug manufacturers pay PBMs the rebates for getting their drugs covered by Medicare’s Part D prescription plan.

“Today’s current drug rebate system is good for two things: driving up both drug list prices and consumer out-of-pocket costs,” Pfizer’s Bourla said, according a transcript of his prepared remarks.

A day before the hearing, JC Scott, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the PBM lobbying group, said PBMs “are the primary advocate for consumers in the fight to lower prescription drug costs.”

The health insurance lobby on Monday blasted drugmakers, saying, “many drug treatments now come with six-figure price tags.”

“Drug prices are out of control, and drug manufacturers are working relentlessly to eliminate the mechanisms in our system that hold down costs for patients,” America’s Health Insurance Plans spokeswoman Kristine Grow said in an email. “The problem is the price.”

The pharmaceutical executives said they were not in favor of another Trump administration proposal that would permit Medicare to create a new payment model that would bring drug prices in line with what other nations pay. Drugmakers are not required to negotiate prices with the federal government like in other countries, and some believe that has led to “sky high” prices.

Indian Air Forces Extracts Revenge Inside Pakistan, On Terrorist Group, Jaish-e-Mohammad

[SEE: Pulwama Attack 2019, everything about J&K terror attack on CRPF by terrorist Adil Ahmed Dar, Jaish-e-Mohammad]

19 Minutes And 12 Jets. This Is How The IAF Carried Out A Strike On JeM While You Slept.

In the wee hours of Tuesday, India launched a direct air strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammed training camps across the LoC in an attempt to avenge the lives of the 44 soldiers that were lost in the Pulwama tragedy on 14th February.

Twelve Mirage 2000 jets containing 1000 kg of explosives struck the terror camps of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Toiba in Balakot, completely obliterating them.Overall, the strike lasted for 19 minutes.

The Strike

Balakot is located 24 Km North West of Muzaffarabad and it was here that the fighter jets struck. The air strike went on till 3.53 A.M. Now, one must realise that striking Balakot is both strategic and bold because not only did the IAF cross the LoC, it also crossed the borders of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or PoK.

The target was located inside Khyber Pakhtukhwa, and this is the first time after the 1971 war that the Indian Armed Forces attacked targets in Pakistan.

The Mode Of Operation

The surgical strike comes less than 2 weeks after the Pulwama tragedy, and it is clear that masterminds devised a clear cut strategy which would help them achieve the targets. For instance, early-warning system AWACS and Heron drones had been used. Even surveillance had been increased in the hours mounting to the attack.

This was done so as to track any movement by the Pakistani Air Force, which could stand as an obstacle to IAF’s mission.

How Did Pakistan React?

There have been reports which claimed that the Pakistani Defence did receive intelligence of the Indian Fighter Jets and may have even attempted to intercept them. However, these attempts resulted in failure.

A Pakistani Twitter user had tweeted a video, which stated that IAF had attempted to cross the LoC but failed:

Khalid khi@khalid_pk

Visuals of Pak Air Force in Action over and around Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir, and areas near LoC after failed attempt by Indian air force to intrude into Pak air space

The Aftermath Of The Strike

Soon after the strike, IAF confirmed and took responsibility for it. The Foreign Secretary’s office issued an official statement stating that IAF had received intelligence of JeM gearing up for more attacks in the future.

According to officials, at least 200 casualties have been reported. These casualties include JeM terrorists, senior commanders, trainers and jihadis.

After the strike, Pakistani F16s had also been ordered to retaliate, but the sheer size of the Indian troupe pushed them back and they were forced to scramble.

Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Army, tweeted saying that India had violated the terms of the LoC.

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor

@OfficialDGISPR

Indian aircrafts’ intrusion across LOC in Muzafarabad Sector within AJ&K was 3-4 miles.Under forced hasty withdrawal aircrafts released payload which had free fall in open area. No infrastructure got hit, no casualties. Technical details and other important information to follow.

By carrying out such an attack, India targeted the biggest training camp of the JeM. Updates are still pouring in, stay tuned.

‘Sick & twisted’–US Senator Rubio Tweets Are Terroristic Threats

‘Sick & twisted’: US Senator Rubio tweets picture of Gaddafi’s murder as a threat to Maduro

‘Sick & twisted’: US Senator Rubio tweets picture of Gaddafi’s murder as a threat to Maduro

US Senator Marco Rubio has posted a picture of the brutal murder of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a less-than-subtle threat to Venezuela’s Maduro. Twitter blasted Rubio as a manic warmonger… who has extremely poor taste.

The two pictures –one showing Gaddafi while still in power, the other showing the Libyan leader being tortured minutes before his brutal murder– were posted by Sen. Rubio (R-FL) on Twitter without any caption. Yet, given his open calls for an armed insurrection in the Latin American country to depose President Nicolas Maduro, the message was clear.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Iran says West turns Mideast into “powder keg” via arms sales

Iran says West turns Mideast into “powder keg” via arms sales

Israeli Arab youths clash with policemen at Kfar Kanna village in north Israel on Nov. 9, 2014. (Xinhua File photo)

TEHRAN, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday that the West has turned the Middle East into a “powder keg” through arms sales to the Arab countries in the region, Press TV reported.

Over the past year alone, the West sold weapons worth 100 billion U.S. dollars to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said Zarif.

“The weapons did not bring security to anyone,” he added.

The Iranian minister made the remarks in a foreign policy speech at the University of Tehran.

Since the United States withdrew from the 2015 landmark Iranian nuclear deal last May, Iran has been under unprecedented sanctions from Washington.

Iran has also repeatedly denied the West’s criticism of its alleged “interfering” policies in the region.

Skirmishes Broke Out On Venezuela’s Colombian and Brazilian Borders, But No Sign of US Forces

Venezuela Breaks Relations with Colombia as Guaido Tries to Force Aid In

Skirmishes broke out on the Colombian and Brazilian borders but efforts to bring in aid have so far been unsuccessful.

By Paul Dobson

Venezuelan soldiers patrol the Brazilian border that the Venezuelan government ordered closed on Friday (AP)

Venezuelan soldiers patrol the Brazilian border that the Venezuelan government ordered closed on Friday (AP)

Merida, February 23, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced that Venezuela is breaking diplomatic relations with neighbouring Colombia and gave Colombian diplomats 24 hours to leave the country.

“My patience has run out, we can’t keep allowing Colombian territory to be used for attacks against Venezuela,” he stated to the crowd. “You are the devil himself [Colombian President] Ivan Duque,” he added.

His comments came at a large anti-imperialist rally in Caracas held under the slogan ‘Hands off Venezuela.’

Tensions have reached new heights along the Venezuelan-Colombian border after self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido pledged that aid would enter the country on Saturday “no matter what.” The aid, which is being supplied by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and stockpiled in the Colombian border city of Cucuta, the Brazilian border city of Boa Vista, and on the Dutch Caribbean Island of Curacao, consists of basic food products such as lentils and flour, as well as basic personal hygiene products estimated to meet the needs of 5,000 people for roughly 10 days.

Caracas has denounced the move as a precursor for a US-led military intervention into the country and proceeded to shut down the borders with Dutch Caribbean Islands, Brazil and Colombia on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday respectively. This stance has been supported by both the Chinese and Russian governments, with Russian foreign office spokespersons telling reporters Friday that the “aid” scheme “resembled those in Iraq and Libya.” Moscow also accused Washington of arming the Venezuelan opposition.

Chavistas turned out in force in Caracas this Saturday (@Manueldelborneo / Twitter)
Chavistas turned out in force in Caracas this Saturday (@Manueldelborneo / Twitter)

During his speech at the end of the rally, Maduro declared that the “coup d’état” initiated by Juan Guaido 30 days ago had been “defeated” and told his followers that they are “on the right side of history” before challenging Guaido to compete in elections.

Maduro also promised to apply justice against anyone who violates Venezuelan law, citing a number of right-wing activists who led isolated incidents of violent protests at the Colombo-Venezuelan border towns of Urena and San Antonio in Táchira State Saturday. The violent protests set fire to a public bus and burnt tyres in the streets in an attempt to open the border crossing.

Finally, Maduro reiterated earlier reports that his team are coordinating US $2 billion worth of “technical humanitarian assistance” channeled through the United Nations, as well as receiving 7.5 tonnes of medicine from Russia.

“Of course there are problems in Venezuela,” he told the crowd, “But who is going to solve them? Mr Trump? Or the Venezuelans?”

Saturday’s pro-government mobilisation in Caracas was one of the largest pro-government rallies seen in recent weeks. There were also rallies of pro-government supporters on the Colombian-Venezuelan border during the day and opposition marches in Caracas and other cities.

Opposition marchers rally on the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas (@Segovia Bastidas / Twitter)
Opposition marchers rally on the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas (@Segovia Bastidas / Twitter)

 

Juan Guaido led efforts to force the entry of the so-called humanitarian aid at the Colombian border along with volunteers. They were – at the time of writing – unsuccessful.

International support from US-aligned governments was also prominent on the border, with Colombian President Ivan Duque and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera both present. US President Donald Trump and former Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton also backed Guaido’s efforts via Twitter.

The International Red Cross, however, voiced further criticism of the border actions taken by Guaido, this time denouncing the illegal use of its symbols by Guaido’s followers on both the Brazilian and Colombian borders. The Red Cross had previously joined the United Nations in describing the aid plan as “politicised.”

The opposition leader fled Venezuela to Colombia early Saturday through non-official border crossings, defying a travel ban applied against him two weeks ago by the Supreme Court.

The tense day saw a handful of skirmishes between right-wing activists left in Colombia after Friday’s “Live Aid” concert and the Venezuelan military. Despite the activists flanking the “aid” trucks as they approached the closed border in Simon Bolivar international bridge, the trucks were able to pass the checkpoints, as tear gas and rubber bullets were used to repel the opposition militants, with witnesses reporting the use of molotov cocktails and other weapons in attempts to try to force entry into Venezuela.

In the early afternoon, an aid truck attempting to cross the border in Urena was burnt mid-bridge some distance away from the Venezuelan border checkpoint, with the Venezuelan government and the opposition trading accusations concerning responsibility. No deaths were reported on the Colombian border, but a number of wounded are receiving medical attention.

A truck is set on fire on the international bridge connecting Venezuela and Colombia, as Guaido’s followers tried to storm their way into Venezuelan territory (Courtesy)

A truck is set on fire on the international bridge connecting Venezuela and Colombia, as Guaido’s followers tried to storm their way into Venezuelan territory (Courtesy)
Brazilian and Caribbean borders remain closed

At Venezuela’s southern Brazilian border and northern sea border in the Caribbean Sea, efforts at forcing the entrance of the “aid” were equally unsuccessful.

A tense standoff in Pacaraima on the Venezuelan-Brazilian border resulted in trucks coming from Boa Vista being blocked. The region had seen two deaths Friday when indigenous citizens apparently supporting the entry of the “aid” confronted a military convoy en route to the border, and there were unconfirmed reports of four more deaths in the sector Saturday.

In the Dutch overseas territory of Curacao, authorities did not allow the departure of the “aid”-carrying ships without Caracas’ assurances of the safe travel of the ships.

Military remains loyal

Attempts to bring in aid were accompanied by appeals for the Venezuelan armed forces to back Guaido’s efforts. In the early hours of Saturday, three rogue National Guardsmen drove two armoured cars into the barrier on the Venezuelan side of the Simon Bolivar bridge, before fleeing on foot to the Colombian side of the border, only to be joined by another soldier later on. A Venezuelan police officer and an Chilean photo-journalist were wounded in what eyewitnesses described as an deliberate effort to run down civilians near the barrier.

Unconfirmed claims later in the day from Colombian migration offices suggested that 23 Venezuelan soldiers had abandoned their posts during the day, but no more details have been made available.

Venezuelan authorities were quick to dismiss the incident involving the four soldiers as a staged media show by the opposition which looked to sow chaos on the closed border.

Mass Psychosis and the Church of Humanitarian Interventionism

American Flag
Zombie Politics. Illustration | Jared Rodriguez | Truthout | CC

Mass Psychosis and the Church of Humanitarian Interventionism

Like the proverbial general always fighting the last war, liberals remain trapped in the past, unable to adapt to rapidly unfolding kinetic developments. The problem is that not only is this general fighting the last war, but the general can no longer distinguish between right and left and has lost any semblance of a moral compass.

Like the proverbial general always fighting the last war, liberals remain trapped in the past, unable to adapt to rapidly unfolding kinetic developments. The problem is that not only is this general fighting the last war, this is a general that can no longer distinguish between right and left and has lost any semblance of a moral compass.

There’s a Hitler on The Danube

One could argue that the new Cold War began with Bill Clinton bringing Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into NATO. For Russians that were not yet alarmed by this perfidy, their red lines were irrefutably crossed with the NATO destruction of Yugoslavia and the bombing of Serbia, regarded by Russians as a brotherly nation. This constituted an illegal war of aggression, and was carried out without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council. Indeed, the NATO destruction of Yugoslavia initiated an unraveling of international law and marked an erosion in the equilibrium between the great powers.

As Noam Chomsky has noted, Yugoslavia was marked for destruction, because unlike the other formerly communist European countries they did not embrace privatization. The destruction of Yugoslavia was not only a violation of the UN Charter, but was also the first “humanitarian intervention” following the collapse of the USSR that liberals were duped into embracing. In an article on the RT website titled “15 years on: Looking back at NATO’s ‘humanitarian’ bombing of Yugoslavia,” the author writes, “NATO demonstrated in 1999 that it can do whatever it wants under the guise of ‘humanitarian intervention,’ ‘war on terror,’ or ‘preventive war’ – something that everyone has witnessed in subsequent years in different parts of the globe.”

While Milošević and the Serbs were marked for demonization due to their lack of enthusiasm for neoliberal “reforms,” Croatian secessionists (many of whom subscribed to a neo-Nazi and neo-Ustasha ideology), Muslim fundamentalists in Bosnia, and the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were supported by the West. Brigadier-General Pierre Marie Gallois of the French Army has condemned the NATO destruction of Yugoslavia, and has gone on record stating that the endless stories of Serb atrocities, such as mass rapes and the siege of Sarajevo were fabricated. Gallois also argues that the German elite sought revenge for the fierce Serb resistance during the two world wars, especially with regard to the Serb partisans that held up German divisions that were headed towards Leningrad and Moscow during Operation Barbarossa. While relentlessly demonized, the Serbs were in many ways the greatest victims of the NATO-orchestrated Balkan wars, as hundreds of thousands of Serbs were forcibly expelled from both Croatia and Kosovo while Serbia was turned into a free-fire zone by NATO for over seventy days. Washington took advantage of the conflict to solidify control over its European vassals.

During the aerial campaign, between ten and fifteen tons of depleted uranium were dropped on Serbia resulting in extremely high rates of cancer. The Independent coyly informed its readers that the forced expulsion of Serbs from Croatia, which they refer to as an “exodus” – is a great mystery – a “riddle.” The only “riddle” is how liberals can denounce genocide and speak ad nauseam about human rights while supporting neo-Nazi regimes, such as the Poroshenko government in Kiev and the Tudjman government in Croatia, which have perpetrated genocidal war crimes in broad daylight. The forced expulsion of Serbs from Croatia was eventually reported by The New York Times, but four years too late. Liberal-backed jihadists in Libya and Syria have likewise carried out one ethnic cleansing after another.

Endless calls by the mainstream press to stop the evil Serbs from establishing a “greater Serbia” were blatant propaganda, as there was no way that the hundreds of thousands of Serbs in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo could have “invaded” these territories, as they had already been living there for centuries. Indeed, this very scenario holds true for the ethnic Russians in the Donbass. Moreover, as the mass media was busy vilifying the Serbs, behind the scenes American diplomats had no illusions about who they were dealing with, referring to the Croatian nationalists as “our junkyard dogs.”

In an article titled “The Rational Destruction of Yugoslavia,” Michael Parenti writes:

Tudjman presided over the forced evacuation of over half a million Serbs from Croatia between 1991 and 1995, replete with rapes and summary executions. This included the 200,000 from Krajina in 1995, whose expulsion was facilitated by attacks from NATO war planes and missiles. Needless to say, U.S. leaders did nothing to stop and much to assist these atrocities, while the U.S. media looked the other way.

Kosovo was also prized by the Western elites because of its rich deposits of coal, lead, zinc, cadmium, gold and silver valued in the billions of dollars. The tragic balkanization of Yugoslavia, where brother was pitted against brother, brought about the destruction of a non-aligned country with a nationalized economy thereby bolstering the power of Western finance capital.  Of the NATO bombings, Parenti posits that, “To destroy publicly-run Yugoslav factories that produced auto parts, appliances, or fertilizer…is to enhance the investment value of western producers. And every television or radio station closed down by NATO troops or blown up by NATO bombs extends the monopolizing dominance of the western media cartels. The aerial destruction of Yugoslavia’s social capital served that purpose.”

Lamentably, all of this was drowned out by the mass media’s vilification of the Serbs. An article in The Guardian titled “Serbs enslaved Muslim women at rape camps” encapsulates perfectly how Western liberals were duped into embracing a war which was waged for no other reason than to fortify the power of US and NATO hegemony. This propaganda is particularly galling in light of the fact that women’s rights have been thrown back into the Stone Age precisely in the very countries which have come under attack by Washington and her proxies, such as Libya, jihadist-occupied Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

“Save Benghazi” and More Humanitarian Psychosis

Repeated calls by the presstitutes to “save Benghazi” sufficed to obtain liberal support for a war of aggression that has left Libya in such a state of anarchy and chaos, that Libyans who have been unable to flee the country are now trapped in a failed state where warring militias vie for power. In an article in Foreign Affairs titled “Obama’s Libya Debacle,” Alan J. Kuperman writes, “With Moscow’s acquiescence, the United Nations Security Council had approved the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya and other measures to protect civilians. But NATO exceeded that mandate to pursue regime change.”

Under Gaddafi Libyans enjoyed a high standard of living, and health care and education were free. Gaddafi’s desire to set up a gold-backed dinar put him in the crosshairs of the Western elites, as this would have liberated Africans from domination by the World Bank and the IMF through establishing a common gold-backed currency. Alas, this was lost on the human rights crusaders of the holier-than-thou faux left.

Libya, which formerly had the highest standard of living in Africa, has been annihilated as a nation state. Slave markets are a legacy of this great “humanitarian intervention,” as are pogroms carried out against black Africans, formerly given refuge by the Gaddafi regime. An article in The Telegraph, which appeared in March of 2011, titled “Libya crisis: Benghazi fights for its life as Gaddafi attacks,” was one of countless articles in the mainstream press that incited messianic liberals into supporting a war of aggression against a people that had become too independent.

Libya GNA

Smoke rises from a home destroyed by an airstrike as Libyan fighters from the U.N.-backed GNA advance into Sirte, Libya, October 14, 2016. Photo | Reuters

Once a country is marked for destruction by the Western elites no story is too outrageous, as evidenced by Susan Rice’s claim that Gaddafi supplied his troops with Viagra so that they could more effectively carry out mass rapes. This barbaric destruction of a sovereign state was summed up by liberal icon Hillary Clinton, who when asked about the brutal murder of Gaddafi, happily blurted out “We came! We saw! He died!

In what constituted the most genocidal invasion of a country following the end of the Vietnam War, Iraq was marked for annihilation after Saddam Hussein made the decision to sell oil in euros. In a rare moment of candor from a high priest of liberalism, Madeleine Albright, when asked about the half a million children that died due to the Clinton-backed sanctions, replied “We think the price is worth it.” This chilling remark underscores the fact that, contrary to liberal theology, the destruction of Iraq was perpetrated with equal fervor by both parties. Incredibly, even after spending trillions of dollars systematically destroying Iraqi social and political institutions, Washington failed to install a puppet government in Baghdad which has forged alliances with Tehran, Damascus, and Moscow.

Liberal saint Obama, in comparing the reunification of Crimea and Russia with the Iraq War, informs us that the “annexation of Crimea” – which was enthusiastically backed by the overwhelming majority of Crimeans – was worse than the invasion of Iraq, which resulted in a million deaths, destroyed a civilization and fueled the rise of ISIS.

As if her abysmal record makes her a Marxist scholar, Albright now warns Americans of the dangers of fascism, her implication of course being that the rise of Trump represents a threat to our democracy. Perhaps the Donald’s desire to pursue detente with Russia, and the fact that he has yet to start any new wars are what liberals are really upset about.

The Obama administration’s support for the Saudi war on Yemen is yet another impressive achievement for the liberal class, and has yielded such an earthly paradise that Yemenis have resorted to eating leaves to survive. For this extravaganza of mass murder the presstitutes didn’t even bother coming up with a fictitious narrative, allowing the salt of the earth to set aside their pom-poms for a while and take a nap.

Syria: Mass Murder in Paradise

Unsurprisingly, the mass media had no trouble duping imaginary leftists into believing that Syrians were being indiscriminately slaughtered by the Syrian Arab Army and the evil Russians. Unbeknownst to The Guardian and The New York Times, the US military presence in Syria is illegal, while Russian and Iranian military personnel are there at the invitation of the Syrian government. The Obama administration and its vassals are clearly responsible for the carnage in Syria, as they poured billions of dollars into backing the many jihadist groups. The mass media also hoodwinked liberals into thinking that the US military has been fighting ISIS, when they have used ISIS along with Al-Nusra Front and other illegal armed formations, as proxies with which to wage war on Syrian society. If Washington were battling the jihadists in Syria, why would they simultaneously be antagonists with the Syrian government and the Russians, who together saved Syria from being overrun by these very barbarians? Indeed, such questions have become a form of unmitigated heresy.

Articles such as “The Effects of Suspending American Aid to Moderate Syrian Opposition Groups,” by Hosam al-Jablawi, which appeared on The Atlantic Council’s website, seek to further the fallacy that the militants have been mostly democratic and secular. Washington and her vassals have poured enormous amounts of weaponry into the conflict zone, and Israeli weapons have been discovered in Syrian territories liberated from Daesh. That German machine guns from the Second World War have been discovered in some of these hideouts is symbolic of the true intentions of these murderous and sociopathic gangs.

The New York Post has referred to the jihadists in Syria as “freedom fighters.” While this may not be regarded as a “liberal” publication, an even more inane sentiment was expressed on Democracy Now, where Amy Goodman discussed the fighting in Eastern Ghouta with Rawya Rageh, Alia Malek, and Wendy Pearlman. Throughout the entire discussion of what can only be called an imaginary war, the fact that a large swath of Syria was taken over by jihadists, many of whom were not even Syrians but foreigners, is not even mentioned. In this cloud-cuckoo-land that passes for journalism the militants do not even exist. Assad and Putin are simply killing as many Syrians as possible, and doing so in an orgy of gratuitous savagery.

Members of al-Nusra Front gesture as they drive in a convoy touring villages in the southern countryside of Syria's Idlib province, Decembe, 2014. (Photo: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

Members of the al Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front gesture as they drive in a convoy touring villages in the southern countryside of Syria’s Idlib province, December, 2014. Khalil Ashawi | Reuters

An article in The Guardian titled “You’re on your own, US tells Syrian rebels, as Assad goes on offensive” is deliberately written with the intention of stirring up liberal outrage over “indifference in the face of genocide,” and seeks to evoke memories of the Holocaust, the appeasement of Hitler, and the defeat of the Republicans by the forces of Franco. Meanwhile, independent media is shunned by liberals, who dismiss efforts at real journalism and political analysis as “conspiracy theory.” Thankfully for the insane, there is no shortage of good reading material.

Moscow has repeatedly maintained that the Syrian Arab Army is no longer in possession of chemical weapons, and there is ample evidence that the chemical attacks in Syria are false flag operations carried out by the jihadists to justify NATO aerial attacks on the Syrian Arab Army and Syrian infrastructure. Clearly, these incidents make for great Hollywood and have been extremely effective in stirring up gullible liberals who proceed to bray, as if on cue, for another regime change.

Tied to the mass media’s obsession with accusing Assad of “gassing his own people” are the White Helmets, who have been funded by the West, and who are clearly allied with the jihadists. The White Helmets played a critical role in duping liberal fundamentalists into thinking that there was a democratic uprising in Syria, and that the West must intervene “to put an end to the suffering.” Time will tell if Washington truly ceases all military operations in this war-ravaged country.

Forgotten Killing Fields: Afghanistan and Ukraine

The invasion and military occupation of Afghanistan was sold as a war to free oppressed women. An article in The Independent by Jane Dalton titled “Afghanistan’s first female military pilot granted asylum in US after fleeing Taliban death threats,” is crude propaganda, yet very effective nevertheless. This is a great way to distract insouciant liberals from what Americans are more likely to do in their dealings with Afghans, which is to murder them, and then urinate over their dead bodies. What the mass media doesn’t like to talk about is how the rise of the Taliban is a direct result of Washington’s support for the mujahideen in their insurgency against the secular Afghan communist government in the 1980s. Washington is furious with the International Criminal Court over considering prosecution of American officials for war crimes in Afghanistan and has even threatened to arrest ICC judges in retaliation. Unbeknownst to these judges, Americans are God’s chosen people. Consequently, they are incapable of war crimes.

Samantha Power is a particularly pious priest in the Church of Humanitarian Interventionism. Power was a staunch advocate of military intervention in Libya, and used her influence to cover up the crimes of the US-Saudi genocidal assault on Yemen. She defended Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014, and yet was extremely critical of the “annexation of Crimea.” That the reunification of Crimea and Russia was in fact a legitimate humanitarian intervention is an irony that was undoubtedly lost on her. In a 2016 showdown with Vitaly Churkin at the UN Power accused Russia, Syria, and Iran of slaughtering civilians in Aleppo, when they were liberating the city from jihadists backed by Washington and her vassals. Power also spoke of the liberation of Aleppo as if the jihadists were Jews bravely defending themselves in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Syrian and Russian troops were fascists perpetrating brutal acts of collective punishment. Following this deranged rant, Churkin said, “The speech by the US representative is particularly strange to me; she gave her speech as if she was Mother Teresa herself. Please, remember which country you represent. Please, remember the track record of your country.”

The NATO-backed putsch in Kiev, supported wholeheartedly by the Obama administration, resulted in an unconstitutional seizure of power by the heirs of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, as well as a genocidal war waged against the ethnic Russians of the Donbass who have steadfastly refused to recognize the Banderite regime. In pitting neo-Nazis against neo-partisans, the restoration of Ukrainian nationalism has resurrected the demons of the past, as the bodies of slain Novorossiyan fighters are mingled with the bones of their heroic grandfathers.

israel's support for ukraine

A photo of the Azov Battalion – a regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine. Photo | Twitter

Despite blathering on about the Nazis for decades, liberals were fully complicit in bringing this odious regime to power, as they were easily hoodwinked into thinking that the coup was a grassroots democratic uprising, and that the armed formations battling the Ukrainian military in the Donbass were divisions from the Russian Armed Forces, when they are overwhelmingly comprised of locals from Donetsk and Lugansk.

Moreover, as the Western elites impose multiculturalism and identity politics at home, they are simultaneously fomenting the rise of neo-Nazism in Eastern Europe. This underscores the moral bankruptcy, duplicity, and schizophrenia of the liberal class and has trapped Europeans in an intellectual paralysis where they are being offered a choice between neo-Nazism or multiculturalism, both of which benefit the oligarchy. The Maidan coup, executed by pogromists, neo-Nazis, and Banderites has legitimized unconstitutional seizures of power and inspired those who would like to carry out a putsch of their own in Germany.

A Hitler on The Moskva River?

As Putin has noted, following the collapse of the USSR Washington and NATO have pursued a policy of unilateralism. These wars have not only been carried out in flagrant violation of the UN Charter that condemns wars of aggression, but have also contributed to the degradation of the rule of law within the West itself. Western stenographers like to complain about terrorism, but terrorists filled the vacuum following the destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and a large swath of jihadist-occupied Syria – “humanitarian interventions” – where liberal complicity is undeniable and irrefutable.

The Church of Humanitarian Interventionism is rooted in the myth that the invasion of Normandy brought about the defeat of fascism. While this is not to denigrate the contributions made by resistance groups in Western Europe or those who lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy, the fact is that the defeat of fascism was achieved by the Red Army and allied partisans who bore the brunt of the best German troops, together with the courage of the Russian people who suffered the loss of twenty-seven million of their countrymen. This much vaunted invasion was launched on June 6, 1944, and only after it was clear that the Nazis were going to lose the war.

The descent of liberals into a morass of madness and bestiality is intertwined with a gross naivete regarding the true intentions of publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Guardian which are leading their readers around like so many poodles. Sadly, most of these creatures will go to their graves never understanding the treachery of these periodicals that they have given their very souls to. Liberals have also decided that it is better to spend trillions of dollars on illegal wars of aggression while their sons and daughters have inadequate health insurance and wallow in dead-end jobs working for the minimum wage.

In a spectacular display of Russophobia and Apocalypticism, Nikki Haley, who could easily work for either party and not know the difference, recently wrote on her Twitter page that “Lying, cheating, and rogue behavior have become the new norm of the Russian culture.” Washington’s decision to make Putin their favorite new bogeyman undoubtedly helps justify the obscene budget of the military industrial complex. Let’s pray that the bells of humanitarian intervention don’t ring out in strident cacophony over the Kremlin, which would assuredly take us to a place from which there is no dawning, and the evanescing of the sun of mankind forever.

 

David Penner’s articles on politics and health care have appeared in Dissident Voice, CounterPunch, Russia Insider and KevinMD. Also a photographer and native New Yorker, he is the author of three books: Faces of The New Economy, Faces of Manhattan Island, and Manhattan Pairs. He can be reached at 321davidadam@gmail.com.

Source | The Saker

Mullah Brother (Baradar) Represents the Real Taliban In Doha Meeting

[Baradar’s parole from Pakistani prison and now his presence in Qatar is hard proof that Pakistan is pursuing this peace effort very seriously, and it is supporting the US position.  In all previous attempts to negotiate peace over the years, the US and Pakistan have interfered with the other side’s efforts (SEE:  Arresting Taliban To Cover America’s Ass).]

Taliban officials during peace talks in Moscow early this month.CreditPavel Golovkin/Associated Press

By Mujib Mashal

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban’s deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived in Qatar on Sunday, officials said, for what could be the highest-level negotiations yet between the insurgents and American diplomats on ending the long Afghan war.

The next round of talks, scheduled to begin on Monday in Doha, the Qatari capital, is expected to focus on the details of a framework deal that the two sides reached in principle last month. Under that framework, American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan in return for a Taliban guarantee that Afghan territory would never be used by terrorists.

The talks have so far excluded the Afghan government. American officials have said that any final agreement would require the insurgents to meet with Afghan officials and to declare a cease-fire to ease the burden of a war that is taking lives in record numbers.

Visiting Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad, the special envoy leading the American delegation, said he would be pushing the insurgents to agree to the steps with the Afghan side, a process complicated by deep divisions among the country’s government and the political elite.

Mullah Baradar’s travel to Doha from Pakistan, where he had been detained for years, was confirmed by a Western official who is closely following the peace developments but who requested anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

Sayid Akbar Agha, a former Taliban official who still has contacts with the group, also confirmed the move, saying, “Mullah Baradar reached Doha an hour ago, and he will take part in peace talks with Khalilzad.”

Kai Eide, a former United Nations envoy to Afghanistan who was involved in some of the earliest peace contacts with the Taliban, said Mullah Baradar’s arrival to join the Taliban’s negotiators based in Doha was an encouraging sign that the insurgency’s top leadership was directly engaging in talks.

“Baradar’s participation certainly means that the Doha team will become more of a decision-making body than before,” Mr. Eide said. “From my own experience 10 years ago, I believe that he was already, before his arrest, the most prominent Taliban leader in favor of finding a political settlement.”

Mullah Baradar, one of the Taliban’s founding leaders, was instrumental in their regrouping as a strong insurgency after the United States toppled their regime in 2001. Around eight years later, he made contacts with the Afghan government at the time, drawing the ire of the Pakistani military, which has been supporting the Taliban as a proxy force and giving its leadership sanctuary.

The mullah was arrested in a joint operation of Pakistani and American agents, at a time when the United States military was still pursuing a victory on the battlefield and had not embraced a political resolution to the war.

Mullah Baradar was released from Pakistani custody in October at the request of the American government, which hoped he could help end a war the Trump administration desperately wants behind it. But his delay in arriving in Doha repeatedly raised doubts about how free he actually was — with Afghan officials and some Taliban sources suggesting Pakistan was still closely watching him.

Mullah Baradar’s arrival for peace talks gives the Americans a senior interlocutor who can finalize a deal and then use his weight with the Taliban’s rank and file to put it in place. Even so, moving the peace talks to the next stage, with Afghan government involvement, still seems daunting.

The Taliban have refused to meet with the Afghan government, while President Ashraf Ghani has insisted that the peace talks will not go anywhere unless the insurgents formally sit with his administration.

A large group of Afghan politicians, led by former President Hamid Karzai, met with the Taliban in Moscow this month in what they hoped could be an icebreaker for broader talks between the groups. But officials in the Ghani government heavily criticized the move, saying it undermined the fragile Afghan state at a critical time.

The government and the opposition have also vehemently disagreed over the makeup of a negotiating team for when the Taliban do agree to formal talks with Afghan officials. Mr. Ghani’s choice — a group of negotiators that would include several government ministers and be led by his chief of staff — was denounced as unrepresentative by the opposition. Mr. Khalilzad, the American envoy, has also said the government would have to make its team inclusive for negotiations to move forward.

Mr. Ghani has called for a loya jirga, a grand consultative meeting of about 2,000 representatives from across Afghanistan, next month to define the parameters for talks with the Taliban. Officials hope the meeting could bridge the gap between the positions of the government and the opposition, building consensus for a united peace effort.

Mr. Eide, the former United Nations official, said Afghanistan’s political establishment needed to unite around the unique opening for peace, or the current momentum could collapse.

“If that happens, it may take a long time before another attempt could be made to find a political settlement,” Mr. Eide said.

Fahim Abed contributed reporting from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN UPDATE ON MY PREVIOUS GOOGLE MAP COLOMBIAN CENSORSHIP REPORTS

THE FOLLOWING IS AN UPDATE ON MY PREVIOUS GOOGLE MAP CENSORSHIP REPORTS…

“Google Map Censorship for American-Sponsored Guerrilla Training and Supply Bases”–Feb 17, 2011

[Checking back in to the Colombian Special Forces report, relating to ongoing aggression against Venezuela, I find that the previously blurred and censored spot reported below, has now been unobfuscated, and the entire area has been bulldozed clean… ]

[This censoring of one of my Google map placements is outdone by the following site that I located in Colombia, that of the Barrancon Special Forces Training Base, near Meta.  As you can see from the following series, the site was confirmed by Google map experts as the correct site, but, on zooming in, a white triangle appears and blots out the spot.]

[TODAY’S VIEW]

American Drive For World Dictatorship and Our Obligation To Resist

The Great Leap Backward: America’s Illegal Wars on the World

MAY 13, 2016

 

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Can we face it in this election season? America is a weapons factory, the White House a war room, and the president the manager of the neoliberal conspiracy to recolonize the planet. It exports war and mass poverty. On the economic front, usurious neoliberalism; on the military front, illegal wars. These are the trenches of America’s battle for world domination in the 21st century.

If not stopped, it will be a short century.

Since 1945, America’s Manifest Destiny, posing as the Free World’s Crusade against the Red Menace, has claimed 20 to 30 million lives worldwide and bombed one-third of the earth’s people. In the 19thcentury, America exterminated another kind of “red menace,” writing and shredding treaties, stealing lands, massacring, and herding Native populations into concentration camps (“Indian reservations”), in the name of civilizing the “savages.” By 1890, with the massacre of Lakota at Wounded Knee, the frontier land grab—internal imperialism– was over. There was a world to conquer, and America trained its exceptionally covetous eye on Cuba and the Philippines.

American external imperialism was born.

Then, something utterly dreadful happened in 1917—a successful social revolution in Russia, the second major after the French in 1789, to try to redistribute the wealth of the few to the advantage of the many. The rulers of the world—US, Britain, France and sundry acolytes—put aside their differences and united to stem the awful threat of popular democracy rising and spreading. They invaded Russia, fomented a civil war, funding and arming the counter-revolutionary forces, failed, and tried again in 1939. But Hitler’s war of extermination on the USSR ended in a spectacular victory for Moscow.

For a while, after 1945, the US had to behave as a civilized country, formally. It claimed that the USSR had a barbarian, all-conquering ideology, rooted in terror, disappearances, murder, and torture. By contrast, the US was the shining city on the hill, the beacon of hope for a “the free world.” Its shrine was the United Nations; its holy writ was international law; its first principle was the inviolability of the sovereignty of nations.

All this was rubbish, of course. It was an apartheid society. It nuked Japan not once but twice, deliberately selecting civilian targets. It shielded from justice top Nazi criminals to absorb them as partners in intelligence structures. It conducted virtual “show trials” against dissidents during the hysteria of the McCarthy congressional hearings, seeding the country with a harvest of fear. It waged a genocidal war on Vietnam to prevent independence and unification. It assassinated African independence leaders and bestowed fascist dictators on Latin America. It softly occupied Western Europe, tied it to itself through military “cooperation” in NATO, and it waged psy-op war on its opposition parties. Behind the civilized façade was a ruthless effort to take out the Soviet Union and crush self-determination in the colonial world.

By hook and by crook, the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and America went berserk with triumphalism. Now, at last, the conquest of the world, interrupted in 1917, could resume. The global frontier reopened and America’s identity would be regenerated through violence, which had delivered the American West to the European invaders in the 19th century. The benign mask dropped. Behind it came a rider on a pale horse. According to the ideologically exulted, history had ended, ideologies had died, and the messianic mission of the US to become the steward of God’s property on earth could be fulfilled.

The “civilizing mission” was afoot.

 

A cabal of neo-conservative policy wonks first sketched what I call the Great Leap Backward into lawlessness as a revival of the myth of the frontier in the 1990s. “The Plan for a New American Century” (PNAC) envisaged the 21st century as a unilateralist drive to entrench American values globally—what the PNAC ideologues call “freedom and democracy”—through preemptive wars and regime change. This frenzied delirium of US military domination turned into official foreign policy with the Bush Doctrine after 9/11, but it was the Clinton administration’s Doctrine of Humanitarian Warfare before 9/11, that shut the door on the prohibition of aggressive wars by the UN Charter, remaking the map of the world into a borderless American hunting reserve by removing the principle of sovereignty and replacing it with “right to protect” (R2P)—or humanitarian pretext for use of force.

Clinton’s doctrine was an act of supreme, even witty, exploitation of liberal principles and commitment to policies of human rights. It was how the liberal left was induced to embrace war and imperialism as the means of defending human rights. The Carnegie Endowment cooked up the doctrine in 1992. Its report, “Changing Our Ways: America’s Role in the New World,” urged “a new principle of international relations: the destruction or displacement of groups of people within states can justify international intervention.” The report recommended that the US use NATO as the enforcer. It must be noted, too, that the principle of “humanitarian war” has no authority in international law. The Charter of the United Nations sought to outlaw war by making it impossible for unilateral interventions in the business of sovereign states by self-appointed guardians of human rights. The reason behind the proscription was not heartlessness but the consciousness that WW II had been the result of serial violations of sovereignty by Germany, Italy, and Japan—by militarist imperialism, in other words.

The bell tolled for the UN and the old order in the 1999 Kosovo War. The bi-partisan effort to dismantle the architecture of the post war’s legal order played out there. With the Kosovo War, the Clinton administration launched the first humanitarian war and set the precedent for waging war without Security Council clearance of many to follow by both Republican and Democrat administrations. The Clintonites who used NATO to bomb Serbia to protect ethnic Albanians in Kosovo from non-existing Serbian genocide may or may not have appreciated the fact that Hitler had used the pretext of R2P—humanitarian intervention—to launch WW II by claiming to protect German minorities in Poland, but they certainly knew that the monopoly on use of force rested with the UN’s Security Council. This monopoly was secured after WW II precisely to prevent unilateral attacks on sovereign states through bogus claims of altruistic interventions, such as Hitler had championed and pursued. Ironically for critics of the Soviet leader, it was Stalin who insisted at the Yalta Conference that if the USSR were to join the United Nations a veto in the Security Council was a must to insure that any war would be a multilateral consensus and a multilateral action.

As the Clintonites understood, the postwar legal authority for peacekeeping and the prevention of war entrusted to the UN Security Council posed a colossal obstacle to the pursuit of American world domination. For the vision of PNAC and the Carnegie Endowment to become reality, the United Nations, the guarantor of sovereignty, had to go. In the run-up to the Kosovo War, the Clintonites fatally and deliberately destabilized the United Nations, substituting the uncooperative UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali with the subservient NATO shill, Kofi Annan. Annan obligingly opined that in the matter of war and peace, UN Security Council resolutions were not the only way to skin a country– especially one chosen by the US for remaking, partitioning, or regime changing, a cynic might add.

So now we live in a dangerous world. Once again, since the 1930s, the world is being stalked by an expansionist power answering to no law but its own unilateral, humanitarian vigilantism. The Kosovo precedent has spun out of control. Libya smolders in the ashes of NATO bombs, dropped to prevent “genocide”; Syria fights for survival under attack by genocidal terrorist groups, armed, trained and funded by genocide preventers grouped in the NATO alliance and the Gulf partners; Afghanistan languishes in a permanent state of war, present ten thousand American troops which bomb hospitals to promote human rights; in Iraq, the humanitarians are back, after twenty-five years of humanitarian failure. And in Ukraine, Nazi patriots are promoting American democratic and humanitarian values by shelling Donbass daily. I hesitate to mention Africa, where humanitarian Special Forces are watering the fields where terrorists sprout like mushrooms after rain—in Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya.

Then there is Yemen, perhaps the most callous, vicious, and careless humanitarian crime of a litany of crimes against humanity in the Middle East. The US government has recently admitted deploying troops to Yemen. The Pentagon claims that the deployment will assist Saudi Arabia (“the Arab coalition”) to fight al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula. Can a sentient being meet such a grotesque claim with anything but infernal laughter? Help Saudi Arabia to fight its own creature? Are we stupid yet?

$4 trillion dollars later, spent on the War-on-Terror/Humanitarian-R2P, the pattern of military destabilization of sovereign states proceeds apace, one recalcitrant, independent country at a time in the Middle East and North Africa. For the rest of the world, the surrender of sovereignty is sought by means of economic globalization through trade pacts—TTP, TTIP, etc.—that virtually abolish the constitution of states, including our own. Spearheading the economic effort to control the periphery and the entire world is the so-called “Washington Consensus.”

It hugs the market-fundamentalist idea that global neoliberalism and core finance capital’s economic control of the planet by means of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is the option to poverty and social chaos.

Neither military nor economic war on the sovereignty of nations has yielded anything close to a stable, prosperous, and peaceful world. It had delivered death, destruction, debt, market crises, tidal waves of refugees and displaced persons, and concentrated masses of wealth in a few but powerful hands. What the poet W.H. Auden called “the international wrong,” which he named “imperialism” in his poem “September 1, 1939,” is the crisis that stares out of the mirror of the past into our faces, and it bodes war, war, and more war, for that is where imperialism drives.

In this scenario, no potential presidential candidate—even establishment-party dissenter—who does not call for both the end of the bi-partisan “Washington Consensus” and the end of bipartisan militarist aggression can reverse the totality of the “international wrong” or stem the domestic descent into social brutalization. If none calls this foreign policy debacle “imperialism,” elections will be a sleepwalker’s exercise. Nothing will change. Except, almost certainly, for the worse.

More articles by:

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: lbohne@edinboro.edu

Trump Compounds His Surrender To Deep State, Doubles the Number of Troops For Sacrifice In Syria

[SEE: TRUMP HAS NO BALLS (or very tiny ones), He Submits To Humiliating Defeat In Syria]

[Not only is this one of Trump’s most blatant “flip flops”, it is a complete declaration of war upon Turkey and its forces fighting Kurdish terrorists in Syria.]

“The goal of the force would be to maintain a buffer between Turkey and US-allied Syrian opposition forces to ensure that neither side carries out attacks on the other.”

Trump agrees to keep about 400 US troops in Syria, official says

(CNN)President Donald Trump has agreed to keep about 400 US troops in Syria after the withdrawal of most US forces there this spring, a senior administration official said Friday.

Trump agreed on Thursday to keep about 200 US troops as part of planned multinational force that would maintain a safe zone in northeastern Syria, the official said. This force would be in addition to the 200 troops the US is planning to maintain after the withdrawal at its base in at-Tanf, Syria, the official said.
Trump on Friday denied that the decision represented a reversal of his previous position.
“I’m not reversing course. I have done something nobody else has been able to do,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
He continued, “At the same time, we can leave a small force, along with others in the force, whether it’s NATO troops or whoever it might be, so that it doesn’t start up again. And I’m OK. It’s a very small, tiny fraction of the people we have and a lot of people like that idea and I’m open to ideas.”
Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan refused to confirm Syria troop numbers Friday while addressing reporters at the Pentagon prior to a meeting with his Turkish counterpart.
“I’m not going to talk troop numbers or troop movements but I think we saw some good progress yesterday and today’s meeting really is about talking next steps,” Shanahan said.
The US and NATO allies are in the process of assembling what officials are calling a “monitoring and observer” force of roughly 800 to 1,500 troops to maintain a safe zone in northeastern Syria. The goal of the force would be to maintain a buffer between Turkey and US-allied Syrian opposition forces to ensure that neither side carries out attacks on the other.
A US defense official said the force would also have the aim of preventing an ISIS resurgence in northeast Syria though it is not clear whether they would be involved in training or advising local forces as part of this effort.
The US initially planned to only provide air support — not ground troops — to the observer force, but NATO allies objected and said they would not contribute troops toward such a mission without a US troop commitment, the official said.
It became clear to US officials on Monday that the observer force would never become a reality absent an American commitment of ground troops. After consulting with State and Defense Department officials, national security adviser John Bolton met with Trump on Thursday and convinced him to agree to commit “a couple hundred” troops, said a senior administration official, who briefed a small group of reporters on Friday on the plans on condition of anonymity.
The defense official confirmed that Bolton convinced Trump to extend a US presence on Thursday.

Ziad Takieddine, Sarkozy, Gaddafi and Assad–(unposted since January 2, 2014)

[Here is a report which failed to post…sorry.]

[We came close to hearing some actual news today (January 2, 2014), in the form of a Ya Libnan report on reputed Lebanese arms merchant, Ziad Takieddine, who was Sarkozy’s intermediary with both Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad.  He has been under French house arrest (of some sort) since he was stopped by London police and deported on March 5, 2011, carrying $1.5 million.  Later that day, a British SAS team (+MI6) was intercepted and deported from Benghazi (SEE:  Libya: SAS mission that began and ended in error ).]

Takieddine

Takieddine in September 2011, after Samise examination in the case of Karachi. (Photo Frederic Stucin)

“…privileged intermediary by Sarkozi in its relations with Gaddafi’s Libya.”

Ziad Takieddine refused entry to UK returned to France

ya libnan

A controversial fixer for arms deals linked to an alleged corruption scandal that engulfed Nicolas Sarkozy has been refused entry to Britain.

Ziad Takieddine, a Lebanese businessman who recently confessed to paying kick-backs to an aide of the former French President, was stopped at St Pancras station in central London on Tuesday afternoon.

The 63-year-old, who has also made extraordinary claims that the late Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi paid up to £40m towards Mr Sarkozy’s successful 2007 presidential election bid, was reportedly questioned by officers from the British Transport Police before being returned to France on the Eurostar.

French media reported the arms dealer, who was banned from leaving France pending the conclusion of several investigations into his affairs, was trying to visit his children in London for New Year’s Eve.

Mr Takieddine went through an acrimonious divorce from his British-born ex-wife, Nicola Johnson, 52, three years ago. One of their disputed assets was Warwick House, in Holland Park, west London, estimated to be worth more than £17m.

A British Transport Police spokesperson said the removal of Mr Takieddine occurred after an unspecified “allegation of fraud” was reported on Tuesday afternoon.

His fleeting appearance at St Pancras station may not be the first time Mr Takieddine has attempted to leave France in recent weeks. According to French media, he also tried to take a flight to Lebanon just before Christmas.

In June, Mr Takieddine told French investigators that he paid kick-backs on arms deals with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that helped fund the failed presidential campaign of Edouard Balladur in 1995. At the time, Mr Sarkozy was employed as Mr Balladur’s spokesman.

Mr Takieddine reportedly claimed one of Mr Sarkozy’s close aides, Thierry Gaubert, collected suitcases filled with banknotes during visits to Geneva in 1994. Mr Gaubert has denied he is directly connected after being placed under investigation in 2011. Mr Sarkozy is not directly implicated and has denied any role.

Mr Takieddine, a middle man in huge arms and petrol contracts between France and several Middle Eastern countries, has been a persistent thorn in the side of Mr Sarkozy.

A British Transport Police spokesperson said: “A 63-year-old man was stopped at St Pancras International station yesterday following an allegation of fraud.

“The man was escorted back to France by French border police via the Eurostar.”

Independent

Russian Press Reports US GOVT. Has Active Military Plans To Crash “Aide Convoy” Through Venezuelan Border, Tomorrow.

US Transferring Special Troops, Weapons Close to Venezuela – Moscow

“We have evidence that US companies and their NATO allies are working on the issue of acquiring a large batch of weapons and ammunition in an Eastern European country for their subsequent transfer to Venezuelan opposition forces”, she said during the briefing.

US-run border ‘provocation’ to topple Maduro set for February 23, Moscow warns

US-run border ‘provocation’ to topple Maduro set for February 23, Moscow warns
Moscow has warned that a “provocation” intended to topple Nicolas Maduro is set for this Saturday, which will involve a US-run aid convoy that could spark border clashes between government and opposition forces.

Crisis-plagued Venezuela is now on the brink of sliding into all-out turmoil, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Friday, warning that Saturday would be crucial for President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

A dangerous large-scale provocation is scheduled for February 23

The US-run “provocation” may take shape of an aid convoy crossing the Venezuelan border and provoking clashes between “supporters and opponents of the current government,” Zakharova explained.

ALSO ON RT.COMVenezuela closes border with Brazil, may do the same at Colombia border – Maduro

 

Such an incident could provide an opening for “a coercive action” to oust Maduro from power. The remark comes just days after the Venezuelan president closed the border with Brazil amid a row over humanitarian aid.

He indicated that he could also close the key border with Colombia to stop the opposition from using relief as an advantage to gain popular support. An aid convoy that tried to penetrate the border earlier on Friday was led by the self-proclaimed interim president, Juan Guaido.

Separately, the US is preparing a sizeable weapons shipment for the Venezuelan opposition, according to Zakharova. The armaments, likely to be purchased “in an eastern European country,” are large-caliber machine guns, grenade launchers, assault rifles and man-portable anti-aircraft rocket systems.

“The cargo is set to arrive in Venezuela in early March through a neighboring country on aircraft flown by an international shipping company,” she said.

As tensions mount in and around Venezuela, rival concerts will be held on both sides of a bridge linking Venezuela and Colombia later in the day. On the Colombian side, an event will be held to raise money for the Venezuelan opposition. At the same time, Maduro’s government will hold its own concert, dubbed ‘Hands Off Venezuela,’ just 300m away.

 

 

US Gov’t Document Confirms “Economic Warfare” Plan For Looting Venezuela

Internal US Gov’t Document Outlines Program of ‘Economic Warfare’ on Venezuela

An internal government document reveals tactics of “economic warfare” and “financial weapons” the US is using against Venezuela in the name of “furthering capitalism.”

By Ben Norton

Venezuela has suffered from an economic crisis in recent years, and while the US government and corporate media outlets have blamed this hardship solely on the ruling socialist party, internal US government documents acknowledge that Washington has been using what it clearly describes as “financial weapons” to wage “economic warfare” on the oil-rich South American nation.

The quiet admission confirms what Caracas’ government has said for years: The United States is waging an economic war on Venezuela, the country with the world’s largest oil reserves.

Crippling sanctions imposed by the Donald Trump administration have bled Venezuela of billions of dollars.

The first United Nations rapporteur to visit the nation in two decades, legal expert Alfred de Zayas, told The Independent that the devastating international sanctions on Venezuela are illegal and could potentially be a crime against humanity.

Professor Steve Ellner, a leading scholar of Venezuela’s politics who has lived and taught in the country for decades, explained in an interview on Moderate Rebels that the sanctions have economically isolated Caracas: “The fear of retaliation on the part of the Trump administration has pressured the world economic community to lay off the Venezuelan economy. This amounts practically to a blockade of Venezuela.”

In early 2019, the Trump administration dug the knife deeper. On January 23, the US government initiated a political coup in Venezuela by recognizing the unelected right-wing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as supposed “interim president.”

Guaidó, who was unknown to a staggering 81 percent of Venezuelans according to a January poll, has tried to usurp the legitimate government of President Nicolás Maduro, who was re-elected in a 2018 presidential election that was voluntarily boycotted by the US-backed opposition.

This ongoing coup attempt is the culmination of a two-decade long US destabilization campaign aimed at shattering Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. Caracas has long described this campaign as one of economic warfare. And internal US government documents show that’s exactly what it is.

US “financial weapons” and “economic warfare”

With the coup raging in Venezuela, WikiLeaks published an excerpt from what it described as the “US coup manual,” the Army Special Operations Forces Unconventional Warfare booklet (PDF).

WikiLeaks drew particular attention to a segment of the publication entitled “Financial Instrument of U.S. National Power and Unconventional Warfare.” This section outlines how the US government, in its own words, uses “financial weapons” to wage “economic warfare” against foreign governments that try to pursue an independent path.

What’s happening with Venezuela? @WikiLeaks‘ publication of US coup manual FM3-05.130, Unconventional Warfare [UW], provides insight

DOS=Department of State
IC=Intelligence Community
UWOA=UW operations area
ARSOF=US Army Special Operations Forceshttps://file.wikileaks.org/file/us-fm3-05-130.pdf 

In the unconventional warfare manual, Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) wrote that the US “can use financial power as a weapon in times of conflict up to and including large-scale general war.” And it noted that “manipulation of U.S. financial strength can leverage the policies and cooperation of state governments” — that is to say, force those governments to comply with US policy.

Institutions that help the US government accomplish this, ARSOF continued, are the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Examples of “financial weapons,” include “State manipulation of tax and interest rates” and pressure on financial institutions to restrict “loans, grants, or other financial assistance to foreign state and nonstate actors,” ARSOF stated.

“The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has a long history of conducting economic warfare valuable to any ARSOF UW campaign,” the manual concludes.

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is what oversees sanctions against countries like Venezuela. And on January 28, the day WikiLeaks tweeted the above excerpt, OFAC sanctioned Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA).

Targeting Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA

The goal of these latest US sanctions is clear: Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s treasury secretary and the former chief information officer of Goldman Sachs, indicated that Venezuela’s US-backed coup leader Juan Guaidó will use PDVSA and Venezuela’s US-based oil assets to bankroll his unelected parallel government.

OFAC, which ARSOF noted “has a long history of conducting economic warfare,” was careful to point out while it was sanctioning PDVSA that this state oil company is “a primary source of Venezuela’s income and foreign currency.”

As The Grayzone has reported, Guaidó immediately targeted PDVSA within hours of having declared himself “interim president” (with the Trump administration’s blessing). Guaidó and the US-backed right-wing opposition hope to restructure PDVSA and move toward privatization, rewriting Venezuela’s hydrocarbons laws and handing out contracts to allow multinational corporations access to the largest oil reserves on the planet. And Guaidó has sought financial assistance from the IMF, which ARSOF identified as a US ally in its economic warfare strategy.

The ARSOF Unconventional Warfare manual makes it clear that these policies are not just a peaceful pressure campaign; they are part of an explicit strategy of “unconventional warfare” aimed at Venezuela.

These words, straight from the mouth of the US government, confirm that sanctions and other punitive economic policies are not a mere prelude to war; they are a form of war.

The United States is not “considering” a war against Venezuela; the superpower has already been waging a war, for years, on this independent South American nation.

US sanctions “comparable with medieval sieges of towns”

This is precisely what led former UN rapporteur Alfred de Zayas to say, both in an interview with The Independent and in a report on Venezuela that he submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, that the United States, and allies like the European Union and Canada, have waged “economic warfare” on Venezuela.

De Zayas, a legal expert who teaches international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy, wrote, “Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns.” He added, “Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees.”

The first UN rapporteur to report from Venezuela in a shocking 21 years, de Zayas told The Independent, “When I come and I say the emigration is partly attributable to the economic war waged against Venezuela and is partly attributable to the sanctions, people don’t like to hear that. They just want the simple narrative that socialism failed and it failed the Venezuelan people.”

And the US has not been alone in its aggression. The Bank of England has likewise refused to let the sovereign government of Venezuela withdraw its £1.2 billion of gold reserves. Instead, a UK foreign office minister has sought to give that money to the Trump-appointed coup leader, Juan Guaidó.

Real US foreign policy goals

The ARSOF Unconventional Warfare manual provides further insight into what really motivates the United States to wage economic warfare in Venezuela and beyond.

The document outlines one of the key goals of US foreign policy:

Furthering free trade, unencumbered by tariffs, interdictions, and other economic barriers, and furthering capitalism to foster economic growth, improve living conditions, and promote the sale and mobility of U.S. products to international consumers.

ARSOF Unconventional Warfare US foreign policy
US foreign policy goals outlined in the ARSOF Unconventional Warfare manual

President Trump’s ultra-militaristic National Security Adviser John Bolton echoed these priorities in an interview with Fox Business. “We’re in conversation with major American companies now… I think we’re trying to get to the same end result here,” Bolton declared.

“It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebelspodcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

14-Year Old Memphis Boy builds working nuclear fusion reactor

Figuring it out: Tennessee teen successfully builds homemade nuclear fusion reactor on his own.

Teen builds working nuclear fusion reactor in Memphis home

The Memphis teen finished his reactor and achieved fusion at the age of 13. He’s regarded by experts as the youngest in America – maybe even the world – to accomplish it. Jackson built a steel machine made up of vacuums, pumps and chambers that is capable of smashing atoms together through force in a smoking hot plasma center that releases a burst of fusion energy. If you’ve ever wondered how the sun and other stars are powered, the process within Jackson’s nuclear fusion reactor is comparable.

Jackson Oswalt,14, shows off the sign on the door of his home laboratory warning of X-ray radiation.

Jackson Oswalt,14, shows off the sign on the door of his home laboratory warning of X-ray radiation. (Charles Watson/Fox News)

During his research, Jackson came across Taylor Wilson, who in 2008 at 14 years old garnered international recognition as the youngest person to achieve fusion after building a nuclear fusion reactor in his parents’ garage in Texarkana, Ark.

Jackson, like any 12-year-old would, thought he could at least try to beat the record set by Wilson. From there he got to work.

“The start of the process was just learning about what other people had done with their fusion reactors,” explained the mild-mannered teen. “After that, I assembled a list of parts I needed. [I] got those parts off eBay primarily and then often times the parts that I managed to scrounge off of eBay weren’t exactly what I needed. So, I’d have to modify them to be able to do what I needed to do for my project.”

Building the nuclear fusion reactor was no game for Jackson. He converted an old playroom in his Memphis home into a functioning lab. With the financial support of his parents – he spent between $8,000 and $10,000 over the course of a year collecting the parts he needed to build his nuclear fusion reactor – that was apparently the easy part.

The plasma core of Jackson Oswalt's nuclear fusion reactor glows purple as 50,000 volts of electricity warms it up.

The plasma core of Jackson Oswalt’s nuclear fusion reactor glows purple as 50,000 volts of electricity warms it up. (Charles Watson/Fox News)

Putting the fusion reactor together and testing to see if it worked was the real challenge. Since there isn’t exactly a manual on how to build something like that he relied on trial and error and the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, an online forum for amateur physicists, to ensure that he was taking the proper steps toward successfully building a fusion reactor and hopefully achieving fusion.

“After a while, it became pretty simple to realize how it all worked together, but at the start it was definitely figuring out one aspect of it, memorizing what that actually meant and then moving on to a different aspect of it,” Jackson said. “Eventually all those pieces of the puzzle came together to make a good project.”

Jackson’s father, Chris Oswalt, had no real understanding of what his son was working on. To make sure Jackson was safe he had experts speak to him about the dangers involved with working on a potentially deadly fusion reactor, like being exposed to high levels of radiation or being electrocuted by the 50,000 volts of electricity he uses to warm the fusion reactor’s plasma core.

Outside of his safety concerns, Chris Oswalt was astonished at what his son was attempting to do.

“Being a parent of someone that was as driven as he was for 12 months was really impressive to see. I mean it was everyday grinding; Everyday learning something different; everyday failing and watching him work through all those things,” he said.

Jackson Oswalt explains how his nuclear fusion reactor fuses atoms and detects neutrons to prove the occurrence of fusion. (Charles Watson/Fox News)

Jackson Oswalt explains how his nuclear fusion reactor fuses atoms and detects neutrons to prove the occurrence of fusion. (Charles Watson/Fox News)

Throughout the process, Jackson posted his results to the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium up until the point when he was able to achieve fusion on Jan. 19, 2018 — hours before his 13th birthday. In Jackson’s case that meant combining two atoms of deuterium gas in the fusion reactor’s plasma core which ejected a neutron into a device that slowed it down and detected nuclear fusion.

“You have to jump through the right hoops, and we have to believe you and see what you’ve done,” said Richard Hull, 72, a verifier with the research consortium and an administrator for its website Fusor.net.

Hull, a retired electronics engineer from Richmond, Va., verified both Jackson’s and Wilson’s results. He now regards Jackson as the youngest in America – possibly the world – to achieve fusion.

On a larger scale, scientists have yet to figure out how to produce a nuclear fusion reactor that, like the sun, is able to release more energy than it takes in to power things like homes and buildings.

“We are still far away from making a working nuclear fusion reactor to produce electricity so you can think about how challenging it is to make a fusion reactor,” said Dr. Jingbiao Cui, professor and chair of the Physics department at the University of Memphis.

With a young mind like Jackson interested in becoming a “nuclear engineer working on more projects like this,” scientists could work out the kinks of fusion reactors sooner rather than later.

 

Syrian Army Intercepts Huge Terrorist Arms Cache With US ARMY Missiles/Launchers

Militant groups fighting the Syrian government left many weapons caches behind as they were retreating from the Syrian army; these are now being discovered in sweeping operations being conducted by the authorities.

The Syrian army has discovered US and Israeli-made weapons left behind by terrorists in the region around Damascus, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.

Earlier in December, Syrian Security Forces discovered another big warehouse loaded with weapons left behind by terrorist groups in Daraa province in the south of the country. It contained numerous rifles, mortars, US-made Tao anti-tank missiles and recon drones.

COMMENTS:

Kenneth Hammond

“Alleged” weapons with Made in America and Made in Israel stamped on them are not alleged.
[It is not “alleged”, if the serial numbers shown on a number of canisters, ROCKET AND LAUNCHER 83 MILLIMETER: HEDP (BDM), M141 (NSN 1340-01-443-5477) , are confirmed US ARMY property on the ARMY PROPERTY website.]

 

Russian FM Lavrov Blames West’s “Geopolitical Engineering” As Root Cause of Mideast In Flames

RUSSIA BLAMES U.S. FOR TERRORISM AND WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST

West’s crusade to impose its models and values destabilized Middle East, says Lavrov

Russia’s top diplomat stressed that Moscow has been consistently calling for overcoming the region’s difficulties through political and diplomatic means

© Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. Western efforts to impose foreign models of development on Middle Eastern states have undermined the balance that had taken centuries to establish, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in his address to the participants of the Middle East conference of the Valdai International Discussion Club.

“The Middle East, which has been enduring a period of severe tests, still holds a central place on the global agenda. Both the future of the region’s governments, international security and stability hinge on how the situation will develop there,” Lavrov said in his address to the forum, read out by Russian Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

“The methods of geopolitical engineering, attempts at imposing foreign models of development and values on the people of the Middle East and North Africa, especially through the use of force, have led to the weakening or collapse of states and an unprecedented surge in international terrorism across a whole number of countries. In addition, (it) has led to a massive migration crisis, destablizing the ethno-confessional balance that had consolidated throughout the centuries,” Lavrov pointed out.

Russia’s top diplomat stressed that Moscow has been consistently calling for overcoming the region’s difficulties through political and diplomatic means and by fully complying with international law.

On Tuesday, Moscow ushered in the eighth Middle East conference of the Valdai International Discussion Club. During the two-day forum, the participants are expected to discuss the war on terror, rebuilding Syria, collective security in the Middle East and the future of global hydrocarbon markets.

 

FENTANYL MASCOT ON RAP VIDEO USED TO MAKE KILLER DRUG SEEM COOL

OPIOID COMPANY MADE RAP VIDEO WITH DANCING FENTANYL MASCOT TO INCREASE SALES

An opiod-making company has come under fire after a corporate music video used to increase sales of their drugs emerged.

The bizarre rap video came to light earlier this week during the trial of Insys Therapeutics Inc. founder John Kapoor and four other former executives of the Arizona company, who are charged with bribing doctors to prescribe patients their powerful and addictive opioids. All have denied wrongdoing.

According to the Associated Press, the music video—titled “Great by Choice”—features suited sales reps rapping to the tune of a song by artist A$AP Rocky. It was shown at a 2015 national sales meeting to encourage reps to pressure doctors to give their patients higher doses of the fentanyl painkillers Subsys.

Though approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use by cancer patients, prosecutors say many of those who received the drug did not have cancer.

In the video, reps rap about titration—increasing a patient’s prescription strength until it reaches the level required to block pain.

“I love titration, yeah, that’s not a problem. I got new patients and I got a lot of ’em,” the staff sing. “Build relationships that are healthy. Got more docs than Janelle’s got selfies.”

“What we built here can’t be debated. Shout to Kapoor for what he created,” the reps rap, referring to the founder of the company. “The competition just making noise. We’re making history because we’re great by choice.”

The rapping, dancing staff are also joined by a person dressed up as a bottle of fentanyl—the highly addictive painkiller which has become synonymous with America’s opioid crisis. The costume is marked with text reading 1,600 micrograms, which is the maximum dosage for the under-the-tongue spray.

At one point, the dancing fentanyl bottle then takes off the costume revealing the man inside—then-vice president of sales Alec Burlakoff, who pleaded guilty in November to racketeering conspiracy and is expected to testify against Kapoor during the trial.

The trial began last month and is expected to last several more weeks, the AP explained. One of the executives on trial is a former exotic dancer named Sunrise Lee who was hired as a regional sales manager despite having no experience in the pharmaceutical industry, according to prosecutors.

The executives are accused of fostering a culture of bribery and coercion to maximize the sales of their drugs. Last month, a former employee told jurors she watched Lee give a lapdance to a doctor in a Chicago nightclub to try and get him to write more prescriptions.

Kapoor’s attorney, Beth Wilkinson, has sought to push all criminal responsibility onto Burlakoff and former CEO Michael Babich, who pleaded guilty in January and is also testifying against the company’s founder. Wilkinson characterized both men as liars hoping to reduce their sentence by fingering Kapoor.

The case against Insys is one example of the government’s efforts to punish those believed to be behind the opioid crisis gripping the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control a record 72,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017, a rising trend driven by prescription opioids.

fentanyl opioid crisis company rap videoBags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, are displayed at the office of the New York Attorney General, September 23, 2016 in New York City.DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

Using humanitarian aid as a weapon in economic warfare is beyond criminal

Under Trump, the War On Terror Has Become the War For Greater Israel

 

[The inclusion of Netanyahu in this Anti-Iran conference is confirmation that the participants all support his project of “Greater Israel” (SEE: Yinon Plan).]

The US held a global summit to isolate Iran. America isolated itself instead.

Witness the Trump administration’s spectacular failure in Poland.

Top US leaders and other global officials at the Warsaw summit on Middle East security — which was mainly about thwarting Iran — on February 13, 2019.
 Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

US-led conference in Warsaw this week that was intended to isolate Iran has ended up isolating America instead — highlighting one of the central problems of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.

The two-day, hastily organized summit, which ended on Thursday, was billed as a Middle East security conference. But it was an open secret that the gathering of more than 60 countries was really about getting the world on board with America’s tough-on-Iran policy, even though the US denied that was the case.

This annoyed European allies, many of whom sent only low-level diplomatic staff — or not representation at all — to attend the meeting. The discord on the issue of Iran dates back most recently to last May, when the US withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and European allies like France and Britain agreed to remain in the accord.

Their reason was simple: Although Trump said Iran tried to obtain a nuclear bomb, European nations saw no indication that Tehran sought one. And even though US intelligence agenciesagreed with that assessment, Trump spurned the dealmakers by backing out of the landmark diplomatic pact, reimposing sanctions on Iran, and threatening to penalize anyone who imports its oil.

But then it got worse for the Trump administration. Europe worked out a method in January to bring in Iranian energy while avoiding American financial reprimands. That allowed Europe to keep the nuclear deal on life support while curbing the damage America’s sanctions could wreak on Iran’s economy.

Now that the Warsaw conference is over, it’s clear that the meeting has deepened the rift between Europe and America — all because of the Trump administration’s stubborn insistence on the fact that Iran is currently seeking a nuclear weapon. However, he is right to point out that Tehran is doing terrible things, such as propping up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, launching missiles, and supporting terrorists in the region.

The four mistakes of the US-led Warsaw conference

First, the meeting got off to a bad start.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, spoke Wednesday at a nearby rally organized by an anti-Iran group — which was once designed by the US as a terrorist organization — for which he’s been a long-time lobbyist.

“Everyone agrees that Iran is the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” Giuliani told USA Today on the sidelines of that meeting. “That has to tell you something: Iran is a country you can’t rely on, do business with, can’t trust.” While Giuliani’s comments didn’t happen at the Warsaw summit itself, it definitely tarnished the thin veneer that the US was in Warsaw to speak ill of Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk during the group photo at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East on February 14, 2019 in Warsaw, Poland.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk during the group photo at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East on February 14, 2019 in Warsaw, Poland.
 Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Second, attendance at the official Warsaw meeting was poor.

While invited by Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Iran, leaders of Germany, France, and the European Union — all members in the Iran nuclear deal — didn’t come (although UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt did attend). Meanwhile, other European and Arab nations sent low-level delegates to the sessions.

That left top American officials, like Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the lurch. Usually they would only attend events featuring their counterparts. But in this case, they flew all the way to Poland to hobnob with foreign leaders well below their stature.

Third, even high-level foreign officials who did attend made news for all the wrong reasons. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, blundered on Wednesday when his official Twitter account not only described the true purpose of the meeting, but also accidentally declared war on Iran.

“What is important about this meeting, and it is not in secret … is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran,” the tweet read.

The tweet was deleted an hour later, but the damage was done. Apparently it was a bad translation of the Hebrew word for war; Netanyahu meant “combating.” A new tweet using that word instead of “war” soon went up on the prime minister’s account — perhaps to make sure no one saw war in Warsaw.

And finally, Pence did himself no favors by using his speech to openly lambast America’s European friends.

“They call this scheme a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle,’’ Pence said on Thursday, referring to the mechanism Europe uses to still trade with Iran. “We call it an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU, and create still more distance between Europe and America.” His address amounted to a call for Europe to give up its plans to follow America’s instead.

But Pence’s demand was the ill-advised move.

Asking Europe to do something it clearly doesn’t want to do — like cut economic ties with Tehran and scuttle the Iran deal — will only damage fragile US-European relations. What’s more, it will make the Trump administration look weak, especially if those nations don’t listen to America.

“The US further widened the divide with its allies at a forum that could have been used to heal some of the wounds,” says Eric Brewer, an Iran expert at the Center for a New American Security think tank in Washington.

The embarrassment in Warsaw was unnecessary

It’d be one thing to do all this damage if Iran actually was pursuing a nuclear weapon in direct defiance of the nuclear deal. The problem is, even US spies say Iran is abiding by the accord — which means all of the self-inflicted pain in Warsaw was for nothing.

President Donald Trump withdraws the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump withdraws the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, in Washington, DC.
 Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Per a report issued by top US intelligence officials in late January, Iran’s “continued implementation” of the deal — even after Trump pulled the US out of it — “has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about one year.”

What’s more, the report warns that “Iranian officials have publicly threatened” to “resume nuclear activities that the [nuclear deal] limits — if Iran does not gain the tangible trade and investment benefits it expected from the deal.”

So not only has Trump’s pressure on Iran not accomplished what he wanted it to, his decision to pull out of the nuclear deal could actually push Iran to try to pursue a nuclear weapon.

The Warsaw conference was surely meant to help rectify that. It did anything but.

Trump and His Lawyer Back Anti-Iran Iranian Terrorists

Why Trump’s Hawks Back the MEK Terrorist Cult

[SEE: MUJAHID E-KHALQ, JUNDULLAH]

Iran’s Rouhani blames U.S., Israel for attack on elite Guards: TV
–27 Dead

US Spends $5.9 Trillion To Quadruple the Number of Sunni Islamist Terrorists Worldwide

Sunni Muslim extremist group Jaish al-Adl is seen as the incarnation of Jundallah, whose leader Abdolmalek Rigi was executed by Iran in 2010
Sunni Muslim extremist group Jaish al-Adl is seen as the incarnation of Jundallah, whose leader Abdolmalek Rigi was executed by Iran in 2010 (AFP Photo/)

Tehran (AFP) – A suicide attack that killed 27 troops in Iran’s restive southeast on Wednesday was claimed by Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni Muslim extremist group that only emerged seven years ago.

Jaish al-Adl — Army of Justice in Arabic — is seen as the incarnation of Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, which began a bloody rebellion against the Islamic republic in 2000.

For a decade, Jundallah waged a deadly insurgency on civilians and officials in the restive southeast.

Jundallah has been weakened since Iran executed its leader Abdolmalek Rigi in 2010 after capturing him in a dramatic operation.

Rigi had been on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan that year when Iranian fighter jets intercepted the airliner he was travelling on and forced it to land before arresting him.

Like its predecessor, Jaish al-Adl operates from bases in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan and neighbouring Pakistan, where it gets support from ethnic Baluch tribes.

Sistan-Baluchestan province is home to a large community of minority Sunni Muslims who complain of discrimination in Shiite-dominated Iran.

Jaish al-Adl was founded in 2012 by Salahuddin Farooqui, a militant known for his opposition to Iran’s support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war.

Since then it has claimed responsibility for dozens of deadly bombings, ambushes and other attacks on Iranian security forces in the restive region, as well as abductions.

Iran considers the organisation — which it calls Jaish al-Zolm (Army of Injustice in Arabic) — a terrorist group supported by the United States and Israel as well as regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Jaish al-Adl abducted 12 Iranian security personnel in October near the border with Pakistan, five of whom were later released and handed back to Iran by Islamabad.

In October 2013, 14 Iranian guards were killed in an ambush near the border with Pakistan that Jaish al-Adl said it carried out in response “to the crimes of the Revolutionary Guards in Syria”.

Iran in retaliation said it executed 16 “rebels” and that its forces later killed four Jaish al-Adl militants near the frontier town of Mirjaveh.

The following month, the public prosecutor for the city of Zabol, which lies near the Afghan border in Sistan-Baluchestan province, was gunned down in an assassination claimed by Jaish al-Adl.

In February 2014, five Iranian soldiers were abducted and taken across the border from Iran into Pakistan, straining tensions between the two neighbouring countries.

At the time, Tehran warned it could send troops on a cross-border raid to free them.

It also summoned Pakistan’s charge d’affaires to demand Islamabad “act firmly against the leaders and members of the terrorist group who have fled into Pakistan”.

Jaish al-Adl executed one of the troops in March, before the releasing the other four and handing them over to Iran, along with the body of the fifth soldier.

Trump’s Farce–Coalition of the Unwilling

Zionist Attack Dog Pence Pukes-Out Call For More War Crimes, Spreads Lies About Arab/Jew Unity

Coalition of the Unwilling

The U.S., not Iran, is the country that looks isolated and marginalized at this week’s conference in Warsaw.

By FRED KAPLAN

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence leaves after his speech during the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday.
Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a saying among lawyers: Don’t take a case to the Supreme Court unless you’re sure you’ll win. Diplomats follow a similar rule: Don’t call a large international summit unless it promotes your agenda. By that measure, the 60-nation summit in Warsaw, Poland, this week has been a disaster—another sign of the shallow thinking and clueless incompetence that has marked U.S. foreign policy since Donald Trump entered the White House.

The two-day event, co-sponsored by the U.S. and Polish governments, was originally intended to be a conference of the anti-Iran coalition. But when most of the European nations bowed out, the billing was changed to address Middle Eastern issues in general. Few were fooled; most Europeans, to the extent they attended at all, sent lower-level diplomats rather than heads of state or foreign ministers—a clear signal that they assumed no important decisions or remarks would be made.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the delegates that “regime change” was not U.S. policy toward Iran. But his assurances were drowned out by the appearance of Rudy Giuliani bellowing the contrary to a crowd of activists outside the meeting hall. (Giuliani stressed that he was representing Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, an anti-Iran militia, for which he has long lobbied, but he is, of course, also Trump’s personal lawyer, so if the administration were serious about messaging, he could have been blocked from attending.)

Then there was the video that national security adviser John Bolton released on Monday, in which he said, as if addressing Iranian leaders on the 40th anniversary of their revolution, “I don’t think you’ll have many more anniversaries to enjoy.”

If you’re wondering why much of the world views the United States as petty, arrogant, and spiteful, this can stand as Exhibit A.

The big rift over all this is that the other signatories to the Iran nuclear deal—which Trump abrogated last year—are still trying to make the accord work. These include Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union, as well as Russia and China. The deal, signed in 2015, required Iran to dismantle its nuclear program and open its facilities to outside inspectors; in exchange, the other powers would lift economic sanctions. Since those sanctions had been imposed as a penalty for Iran’s illegal nuclear activities, it seemed like a fair and reasonable trade. When Trump withdrew from the deal, he reimposed sanctions—and threatened to punish other countries that didn’t follow suit.

The EU is now trying to set up a financial mechanism that will allow countries to do business with Iran in some currency other than dollars. Vice President Mike Pence denounced this effort in Warsaw, calling it “an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU, and create still more distance between Europe and the United States.”

It was an absurd pronouncement, since Trump is the one responsible for this distance. It was Trump who abrogated a perfectly functioning deal, enshrined in a U.N. resolution, for no reason at all—except that he doesn’t like Iran, doesn’t like deals that he didn’t make, and especially doesn’t like deals made by Barack Obama. And then Trump further insisted that all the other nations on the planet should abide by his prejudices, threatening to punish them financially if they didn’t. If you’re wondering why much of the world—allies and adversaries alike—views the United States as petty, arrogant, and spiteful, this can stand as Exhibit A.

The Poles agreed to set up the tent for this circus because they desperately want a permanent U.S. military base in their country and are doing all they can to appease the American president, who doesn’t care much for NATO commitments, even offering to name the base “Fort Trump.” Even so, Poland’s consul general in New York, when asked on Tuesday whether Iran posed a threat to his country, skirted the question, saying, “Poland has never said Iran is a threat to Poland. Poland is engaged in a lot of multilateral efforts to bring about stability and peace in the Middle East and the world.”

Then, at the Warsaw conference on Thursday, Poland’s foreign minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, said he was “concerned about the possible results of Iran’s nuclear program as well as the unconstructive role of the country in the region.” His statement was still ambiguous (“possible results”?) but seemed sufficiently anti-Iranian to get back in Pence and Pompeo’s good graces.

The thing is, the American officials could be making a much more potent case against Iran’s bad behavior in the Middle East if they weren’t so obsessed with Obama’s triumph. By making the nuclear deal the center of their concern, and by demanding the EU’s obeisance to Trump’s view of that deal as the central test of trans-Atlantic relations, they are pushing away our long-standing allies—and, ironically, giving Iran a free pass. As long as Iran’s genuinely disturbing actions (supporting terrorism, building ballistic missiles, pursuing an expansionist policy) are coupled to the nuclear deal (which Tehran is fully obeying), other countries will resist U.S. policies on both.

Meanwhile, on other matters in the Middle East, Pence and Pompeo condemned Iran’s role in the war in Yemen, but said nothing about Saudi Arabia’s even deadlier assaults there—while, at the same time, back home, the House of Representatives voted to end U.S. support of the Saudi campaign.

Trump is building an alliance that includes only Israel and the Sunni Arab nations of the Middle East, especially the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates—in effect, taking one side of a regionwide sectarian war, against Iran and the Shiites—at the cost of alienating other nations, including the Europeans, whose cooperation we need not only in that conflict but on other issues of still greater importance to us. And he is doing so without the support of what has been, until now, a pliant Congress.

Does Trump plan to go to war against Iran? If so, it would be a stupid move: Iran has twice the population, and nearly four times the area, of Iraq, and while many its people, especially in the cities, detest the regime and admire much about the West, these loyalties would shift dramatically in the face of an outright invasion.

Pompeo has said Trump wants to pressure the Iranian leaders into renegotiating the nuclear deal, but this is naïve at best. President Hassan Rouhani already risked plenty by signing an accord with the West. If the promised economic benefits don’t materialize, he could be replaced, likely not by Western-leaning democrats but by hard-line mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard. Even if Rouhani did have a freer hand, why—given Trump’s capricious pullout from this deal—should any Iranian trust him to abide by some future deal?

The only real problems with the nuclear deal are what it doesn’t address: There’s an expiration date for some of its provisions; it places no restrictions on ballistic missiles. But these complaints are true of all arms accords. The appropriate way to deal with these sorts of issues is not to toss out the deal but to build on it.

This was how the nuclear arms treaties with the Soviet Union, and then Russia, evolved: from SALT to the Vladivostok Accords to SALT II to START to New START—each deal restricting, then reducing, an expanding category of weapons. Some criticized those treaties for not barring short-range nukes or for not requiring Moscow to renounce communism. In the end, the Soviet empire and its ideology unraveled anyway; the exposure to the West, and the fact that negotiations did evolve, might have had something to do with that. (By the same token, though in reverse, renewed U.S.-Russia tensions, spurred by Vladimir Putin and his nostalgia for empire, are now jeopardizing the arms accords.)

The Iran nuclear deal, and the opening of that country to the West, may, over time, spark a breakdown in Tehran. Or maybe it won’t, in which case, if Iran is to remain a hostile power, better that it not be bristling with nuclear-tipped missiles. That was the logic behind making the deal. Trump rejected the logic but has nothing to replace it. He is reveling in sheer anarchy. The nothingness of the Warsaw conference should tell him that he’s spinning his wheels—but he still thinks he’s a high-speed racer in command of the road. That’s the definition of delusion—and danger.

Zionist Attack Dog Pence Pukes-Out Call For More War Crimes, Spreads Lies About Arab/Jew Unity

Trump’s Iran summit shows just how far he is from the rest of the west

Saudis Tell Israelis: Don’t Believe Netanyahu!

“Ironically, at the very same time Prince Turki was claiming that Netanyahu’s portrayal of warming ties with the Arab world was a deception.”

Pence demands EU isolate Iran as Israelis, Arabs unite

Mike Pence
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

 

WARSAW: US Vice President Mike Pence demanded on Thursday (Feb 14) that Europeans drop a nuclear deal with Iran and join in seeking to cripple the regime, a cause that united Israel with longtime Arab rivals at a conference in Warsaw.

Major European powers sent low-level representation to the US-initiated meeting, suspicious of US President Donald Trump’s hawkish impulses and convinced the 2015 deal under which Iran drastically scaled back its nuclear programme is working.

“It’s an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and creates still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he said.

“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us,” he said.

The Warsaw conference is timed just as Iran’s clerical regime celebrates 40 years since the Islamic revolution ousted the pro-US shah.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, visiting the Russian resort of Sochi for a simultaneous summit called by Russian leader Vladimir Putin that also included Turkey, retorted: “We see what’s happening in Warsaw, it’s an empty result, nothing.”

Pence stopped just short of calling for regime change in Iran, which has been comparatively stable in recent years amid unrest throughout the Middle East.

Pence threatened further US sanctions as “the people of Iran take to the streets” and its “economy continues to plummet”.

He accused Iran of plotting a “new Holocaust” with its opposition to Israel and regional ambitions in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

“Freedom-loving nations must stand together and hold the Iranian regime accountable for the evil and violence it has inflicted on its people, on the region and the wider world,” Pence said.

EU REJECTS PRESSURE

Pence tacitly acknowledged that Iran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal but said the issue was the accord itself, brokered under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who did not go to bloc member Poland for the talks, said the Europeans shared many US concerns but disagreed on the accord.

“For us, the implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran is a matter of European security – to avoid that Iran can develop a nuclear weapon – and we see it is working,” she told reporters in Brussels shortly before Pence’s speech.

“For us it is a matter of priority to keep implementing it in full,” she said.

Poland – which is eager to please the United States amid fears of a resurgent Russia – said it also backed the nuclear deal but that it was important to seek common ground among allies.

“If we stand together and act in a united manner, we can come closer to resolving security problems in the Middle East,” Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said at the close of the conference.

Pence only briefly mentioned concerns with Iran’s Arab adversaries, saying the Trump administration would keep looking at Saudi Arabia’s killing of US-based dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi.

But Pence hailed the Arab front against Iran.

Top officials of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – none of whom recognise Israel – sat down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Warsaw starting with a dinner Wednesday at the Royal Castle.

Netanyahu called the talks a “historical turning point” and voiced hope they could lead to a greater normalisation of relations.

“An Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu told reporters as he arrived for Thursday’s main session at a football stadium.

Israel only has diplomatic relations with two Arab countries, neighbouring Egypt and Jordan.

US PROMOTES PEACE PLAN

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, made a rare public appearance to brief countries on plans for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians which he will present after Israel’s elections on Apr 9.

A senior European official who listened to the closed-door presentation was underwhelmed.

“Nothing new at all. It is obvious that everybody is now waiting for the outcome of Israeli elections,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Pence later told reporters the United States was making a “good faith effort” to reach the kind of deal “that has eluded the region and the world for generations”.

“While there will be compromise, the United States will never compromise on the safety and security of the state of Israel,” he said.

But the Palestinian Authority says it can no longer trust the United States as a broker after Trump in 2017 recognised Jerusalem – holy to the three major monotheistic religions – as Israel’s capital.

Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, wrote in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that the Warsaw meeting had “tried to normalise the Israeli occupation and the systematic denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination”.

 

Trump Minions Dispensing “Weasel Words” On Alleged Afghan Withdrawal

US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan
US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan

 

The United States will not unilaterally withdraw troops from Afghanistan without coordinating with its allies, acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan said on Thursday, following talks in Brussels with his NATO counterparts.

US troops make up around half of the 17,000-strong NATO contingent in Afghanistan under its Resolute Support mission, which aims to train and advise Afghan security forces and help create the basis for a lasting peace in the country after 18 years of conflict.

But at the same time, Washington is engaged in renewed efforts to negotiate a peace deal between the radical Taliban and the Afghan government, with a view to scale back the US military’s presence in the country.

There are fears within NATO that a US withdrawal could endanger the entire mission in Afghanistan, destabilizing the country and leading to setbacks in democracy and human rights.

‘There will be no unilateral troop reduction,’ Shanahan told journalists on Thursday, at the end of the two-day talks at which Afghanistan was one of the key agenda items.

‘That was one of the messages of the meeting today: We’ll be coordinated. We are together,’ he added, while noting that NATO was playing a ‘critical’ role in developing the Afghan security forces.

‘Our mission in Afghanistan remains a top priority,’ NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the 29 ministers earlier in the day. ‘We continue to support Afghan forces with training and with funding.’  ‘Of course the aim is not to stay there forever,’ he later noted. ‘The aim is to reach a political settlement which makes it possible also then, at the end, to reduce our presence.’  But any such decision would be taken together, ‘based on conditions determined together with the Afghans,’ the NATO chief stressed.

Resolute Support took over in 2015 from the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force, a combat mission deployed to help provide security and develop new Afghan forces after a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime from Kabul in 2001.

Anti-Iran War-Monger Conference Meets In Warsaw, Officially Promoting Another Illegal US War of Aggression


Participants, including Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, take part in a group photo prior to the dinner on the opening evening of the Ministerial to Promote Peace and Security in the Middle East on Wednesday in Warsaw. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday hailed as a historic breakthrough the presence of Israeli and Arab officials in the same room at a conference on Middle East security.

At the outset of talks in a sprawling sports stadium, Pompeo and Netanyahu both reflected on the significance of a Wednesday night dinner for representatives of more than 60 countries attending the conference, including Arab countries. Jordan and Egypt already have peace treaties with Israel. Several other Arab states, particularly those around the Persian Gulf, do not readily advertise to their citizens the friendly diplomacy that already exists with Israel.

Iran, which was not invited to the conference, where it will be the subject of much debate and disparagement, has changed that calculation.

“Yesterday was a historical turning point,” Netanyahu told reporters. “In a room of some 60 foreign ministers, the Israeli prime minister and foreign ministers of leading Arab countries stood together, and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against a common threat of the Iranian state.”

The Trump administration has sought with little success to rebut the perception that the conference is aimed at vilifying Iran, which this week marked the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed shah of Iran. U.S. officials have stressed that the session covers a range of topics, including the humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen. Netanyahu, however, has minced no words, telling reporters in Israel, “The focus of the conference is Iran.”

Pompeo said the two are intrinsically linked.

Standing next to Netanyahu, Pompeo said that “pushing back” against Iran is essential to tackling other problems in the region.

“You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran,” Pompeo said. “It’s just not possible.”

In his opening remarks, Pompeo listed a cross-section of issues that the administration usually accuses Iran of largely creating or at least heightening.

“We need action beyond today,” he said. “Syria. Yemen. Proliferation. The peace process. Terrorism. Iran. Cybersecurity. Humanitarian crises. None of the region’s challenges will solve themselves. We must work together for security in the region. No country can afford to remain on the sidelines.”

Pompeo has consistently made clear that all conversations about instability and threats in the Middle East end at Tehran’s doorstep.

“This gathering is certainly about Middle East peace and stability,” he told PBS NewsHour. “You can’t talk about that without talking about the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran, whether it’s Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis — I call them the three H’s — whether it’s their work against the Iraqi government, trying to harm the independence and sovereignty of Iraq, whether it’s what they’re doing in Syria today.”

Vice President Pence and Netanyahu also will meet on the sidelines of the session Thursday, and they plan to tour a memorial to the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

Major Arab states of the Persian Gulf are attending, and the Trump administration plans to highlight warming relations between some gulf states and Israel.

Ahead of the session, Trump administration officials said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be one topic, but not the focus. President Trump’s long-planned peace plan is expected within months, although it has been delayed repeatedly. Jared Kushner, Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, attended the session with Pence and was scheduled to give a talk on the “deal of a century” peace plan he has been working on for almost two years.

Even as the conference started, it remain somewhat cloaked in uncertainty. Officials have yet to release a full list of the countries sending representatives, and their ranks. Some key European countries said they were sending lower-level diplomats out of concern that the event would be used primarily to excoriate Iran.

Major European powers were not consulted before Pompeo announced the summit last month. The agenda was broadened after allies suggested that the Trump administration would end up showcasing division rather than unity over Iran, European and U.S. diplomats said. The United States and Poland shelved tentative plans to circulate an agreement that conference attendees would all sign, two diplomats said.

Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official involved with several conferences dedicated to the Middle East, said the Warsaw meeting is likely to be more show than substance.

“I don’t think you can bring 70 countries together with a loose set of objectives, called Middle East peace and security, and expect to have real concrete results achieved,” he said. “That does not mean that the show isn’t worth something. But the bigger stage creates a bigger chance you highlight not American power and strength but American indecision and fecklessness.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called the two-day meeting a “desperate anti-Iran circus” and has kept up a steady stream of tweets mocking it in English.

US Collapse–the Spectacle of Our Time

Statue of Liberty© AP Photo / Richard Drew

US Collapse – the Spectacle of Our Time

Finian Cunningham

May you live in interesting times, goes the Chinese proverb. Few can doubt that we are indeed living in such an interesting time. Big changes are afoot in the world, it seems.

None more so than the collapsing of the American Empire.

The US is going through an historic “correction” in the same way that the Soviet Union did some 30 years ago when the latter was confronted with the reality of its unsustainable political and economic system. (That’s not meant to imply, however, that socialism is unviable, because arguably the Soviet Union had fatally strayed from its genuine socialist project into something more akin to unwieldy state capitalism.)

READ MORE: Uncle Sam Rolls in His Grave: US Youth Favor Socialism Over Capitalism

In any case, all empires come to an end eventually. History is littered with the debris of countless empires. Why should the American Empire be any different? It’s not. Only arrogant “American exceptionalism” deludes itself from the reality.

The notable thing is just how in denial the political class and the US news media are about the unfolding American crisis.

This is partly where the whole “Russiagate” narrative comes into play. Blaming Russia for allegedly destabilizing US politics and society is a cover for denial over the internal rot facing the US.

Some may scoff at the very idea of an “American Empire”. That’s something Europeans did, not us, goes the apologist for US power. The quick retort to that view is to point out that the US has over 1,000 military bases in more than 100 countries around the world. If that is not a manifestation of empire then what is?For seven decades since the Second World War, “Pax Americana” was the grandiose name given to US imperial design for the global order. The period was far from peaceful as the vainglorious name suggests. Dozens of wars, proxy conflicts and violent subversions were carried by the US on every continent in order to maintain its empire. The so-called “global policeman” was more often a “global thug”.

That US empire is now teetering at the cusp of an emerging multipolar world order led by China, Russia and other rising powers.

When US leaders complain about China and Russia “reshaping the global order” to reflect their interests what the American leaders are tacitly admitting is the coming end of Washington’s presumed hegemony.

Rather than accepting the fate of demise, the US is aggressively resisting by denigrating China and Russia’s power as somehow illegitimate. It’s the classic denial reaction of a sore loser.

So, what are the telltale signs that the US is indeed undergoing a seminal “correction” — or collapse?

The heyday of American capitalism is well passed. The once awesome productive system is a skeleton of its former self. The rise of massive social poverty alongside obscene wealth among a tiny elite is a sure sign that the once mighty American economy is chronically moribund. The country’s soaring $20 trillion national debt is another symptom of chronic atrophy.

Recent self-congratulatory whooping by President Trump of “economic recovery” is like the joy felt from looking at a mirage. The roaring stock market is an elite phenomenon which can just as easily slump over night.What the champagne bubbles can’t disguise is the structural failing of US capitalism to reverse exploding inequality and endemic poverty across America. The national prowess of US capitalism has been superseded by global capitalism where American corporations among others scour the planet for cheap labor and tax havens. There is no going back to a supposed golden age, no matter how much Trump crows about “America First”.

The other side of the coin from historic US economic demise is the concomitant rise in its militarism as a way to compensate for its overall loss of power.

It is no coincidence that since the end of the Cold War following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, US military interventions around the world have erupted with increased frequency and duration. The US is in a veritable permanent state of war actively deploying its forces simultaneously in several countries, particularly in the oil-rich Middle East.

Washington of course gives itself a fig leaf cover by calling its surge in militarism a “war on terror” or “defending allies”. But, increasingly, US war conduct is seen for what it plainly is — violation of international law and the sovereignty of nations for the pursuit of American imperial interests.

In short, the US is patently lashing out as a rogue regime. There’s no disguising that fiendish fact.

READ MORE: US Coalition Should Stop ‘Occupation Attitude’ in Syria — Russian Envoy to UN

In addition to waging wars, bombing countries, sponsoring terrorist proxies and assassinating enemies at will with drones, Washington is increasingly threatening others with military aggression. In recent months, North Korea and Iran have been openly threatened based on spurious claims. Russia and China have also been explicitly warned of American aggression in several strategic documents published by the Trump administration.

The grounds for American belligerence are baseless. As noted, the real motive is to do with compensating for its own inherent political, economic and social crises. That then amounts to American leaders inciting conflicts and wars, which is in itself a grave violation of international law — a crime against peace, according to Nuremberg principles.

The American Empire is failing and flailing. This is the spectacle of our time. The Western mainstream news media are either blind, ignorant or complicit in denying the historic collapse. Such media are indulging reckless fantasies of the US political class to distract from the potential internal implosion. Casting around for scapegoats to “explain” the deep inherent problems, the political class are using Russia and alleged Russian “interference” as a pretext.

READ MORE: ‘Collapse’ but ‘Favorable Contact’: Kremlin Spokesman Talks US Relations

World history has reached a foreboding cross-roads due to the collapsing of the American Empire. Can we navigate a safe path forward avoiding catastrophic war that often accompanies the demise of empires?

A lot, it seems, depends on ordinary American people becoming politically organized to challenge their dysfunctional system run by and for the elites. If the American people cannot hold their elites to account and break their corrupt rule, overhauling it with something more equitable and democratic, then the world is in peril of being plunged into total war. We can only but wish our American brothers and sisters solidarity and success.

American Belligerence–The Imperium Has Been Scripted

Barack Obama’s speech to announce a strategy to destroy Islamic State had a familiar ring to it because it followed the script of the past half-century. EPA/Saul Loeb/pool 

A few years back, an honours student in linguistics at Macquarie University did a small study of American presidential oratory. The student chose four speeches, in which four different American presidents explained why they were taking America off to, or deeper into, “war”.

He started with Richard Nixon’s “Vietnamisation” speech in 1969 and ended with Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama’s “surge” speech 40 years later, in 2009. Along the way, he took a look at George H. W. Bush’s 1991 call to arms and George W. Bush’s rallying of the troops for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The research showed that across party lines and geopolitical eras, the abiding characteristic of American belligerence is how familiar the script is. It’s as familiar as re-runs of I love Lucy, as predictable as two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

The latest in this homogenised, off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all speechifying is Obama’s announcement of his “strategy” for “degrading and ultimately destroying” ISIL. On location from the Oval Office, Obama flapped his lips and said what presidents always say to justify just a bit more American killing.

President Barack Obama announces a strategy to ‘degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL’. 

If you wake up one day as a speechwriter for an American president, on the eve of a new act of American aggression, there’s a stock-standard set of memes perfect for the occasion.

First of all, mention that someone or other’s freedom is at stake. And that the foreign enemy is threatening not just his or their own people, but the peace of the region and the security of the world. And while the “domino theory” is out of fashion, you need to say something along the lines of “if we don’t fight them over there, we’ll have to fight them over here”.

Make sure you say how much America loves peace. Like really really totally loves it. Loves it so much America will even fight for peace.

Richard Nixon announces ‘a plan which will end the war and serve the cause of peace’ in 1969. 

Don’t worry if this means saying things Kafka would have baulked at. Nixon in 1969 said he could end the Vietnam war in one of two ways: by withdrawing American troops immediately, or by keeping them there. Then he explained how keeping American troops in Vietnam was obviously the better option for ending the war.

Make sure you say just how evil the enemy is. Mention that they don’t abide by national or international laws, something like: “In this conflict, America faces an enemy that has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality.” Mention that they kill people, including women and children. And it’s best if you can say they “slaughter” or “murder” them.

George W. Bush declares war on ‘an enemy that has no regard … for the rules of morality’ in 2003. 

Don’t hold back here. Make up stuff if you need to. Remember in Gulf War 1, we had Iraqi soldiers pulling premmie Kuwaiti babies out of incubators. And who could forget Saddam’s “human shredding machine”in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion? (Let’s not forget weapons of mass destruction too.)

You may even say that the latest mob are “unique” in their brutality, although Obama has just used this line. Next time round the enemy may have to be even more unique in their brutality.

This next bit sounds tricky, but I assure you it’s not: write the speech like America can defy Newton’s Third Law of Motion. Way, way back in 1687, Newton wrote that every action produced an equal and opposite reaction.

But American presidents are above that law. They know that whatever they do – invading countries with thousands of troops, dropping lots of nice big bombs, sending their ships to distant bays and ports – there’ll be no blowback. Things will turn out just the way they planned.

President Obama commits another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in the ‘surge’ speech of 2009. 

Don’t be afraid that some expert might go on the news and contradict the President’s strategy. The “military experts” are in fact the President’s chorus line, so up to their eyeballs in conflicts of interest that they couldn’t care less whether the “objectives” or the “strategy” even make sense.

And happily, even experienced public broadcast journalists just love a man in uniform. So, you don’t have to worry about what the latest round of “taking decisive action” could lead to.

But make sure you mention the consequences of “doing nothing”. In case you didn’t know, “doing nothing” here means not killing some people and not bombing stuff. Seeking alternatives to the use of military force comes under the heading of “doing nothing”, also called “standing idly by”, or occasionally “appeasement”.

George H.W. Bush explains why force is the only option against Iraq in 1991. 

Something like “we must weigh the cost of action, against the price of inaction” goes down very well.

If you’re in the midst of a war, or about to start one when the last one is hardly over, then don’t forget to mention the families who’ll “bear the heaviest burden of this decision”. You could mention that the President has, with a heavy heart, personally signed condolence letters to the family of “each American who gives their life in these wars”.

Finally, don’t forget the bit about how America is just really great, like really basically the greatest ever, and how on earth would the world get along if America sat on its hands?

President Bill Clinton launches missile strikes on Iraq in 1998. 

You could say something like “America has often made the difference between chaos and community, fear and hope”, or “this is American leadership at its best” or even: “It is our responsibility to preserve world peace because no one else can do it.”

And to round it off nicely, try this: “Our cause is just, our resolve unwavering.”

The ingredients for a great American call to arms, while not fresh, turn out a winning combination every time. Why do these presidents, Republican and Democrat, all sound the same? Because they’re just the sidekicks to America’s greatest ventriloquist: the military industrial complex.

And what about the prime ministers of the Land Down Under? Just the puppets of the ventiloquist’s dummy.

The road to peace runs through Tehran

The Iranian card could help India enhance its role in stabilising Afghanistan

Even if an American military pullout from Afghanistan is on the cards, the U.S. will want to leave behind a stable country. And any peace settlement in Afghanistan will stand a better chance of staying on the rails if it is supported by regional powers. In other words, ties between Afghanistan and its neighbours, including Iran, will impact the security of southern and western Asia. Like India, Russia, China and the U.S., Iran would want to see a steady hand at the helm in Afghanistan. While lacking military influence, India can build on its good ties with the U.S. and Iran to secure Afghanistan.

Iranian continuity

Iran is not a newcomer to regional diplomacy in Afghanistan. First and foremost, India should try to dissuade the U.S. from dealing with Iran, Russia and China as enemies. In fact, U.S. President Donald Trump’s perception of all three as foes is at odds with America’s earlier engagement with them to end its military campaign in Afghanistan. For instance, from 2014 to 2016, Washington and Moscow quietly arranged talks on the Afghan peace process. The meetings, known as the 6+1 group, included representatives from Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and the U.S. The 6+1 process assumed that each of these countries was essential to the achievement of a political settlement in Afghanistan. Moreover, last November, the U.S. and the Taliban joined for the first time the Russia-hosted conference in the hope of promoting a negotiated solution to achieve peace and national reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Regional powers could put their weight behind a negotiated settlement that will ensure Afghanistan’s stability. Iran, Russia and China — and the Central Asian states with which India and Afghanistan wish to cooperate in countering terrorism — fearf that continued instability in Afghanistan could spill over into their countries. India will also be adversely affected if negotiations break down. In that event, extremist exports from Pakistan to Afghanistan or India would probably increase.

It could be worthwhile for India to explore the Iranian diplomatic options to secure Afghanistan. On good terms with Tehran, New Delhi would gain by developing the Chabahar port in southern Iran. And looking beyond Chabahar, India, Iran and Russia were the founding countries of the International North-South Transport Corridor project — as long ago as 2002. The corridor is intended to increase connectivity between India, Iran, Russia, landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia — and Europe. It would also advance their trading interests.

India could remind Washington about the past coincidence of American and Iranian interests on Afghanistan. Together with the U.S. and India, Iran supported the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. In the international negotiations which followed in Bonn that year, Iran supported the installation of Hamid Karzai as President and favoured the exclusion of the Taliban from his government.

Admittedly, U.S.-Iran ties have often been fractious. As the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran after 2005, Iran saw the Taliban countering American influence on its borders and gave them arms. Iran continues to oppose the U.S.’s presence in Afghanistan, largely because it fears that American troops in Afghanistan could be used against it. To allay Iranian fears, Afghanistan recently said that it would not allow the U.S. to use its bases in the country to conduct any act of aggression against Iran.

Last December, Iran also held talks with the Taliban with the knowledge of the Afghan government. But it should assure Kabul of its good intentions. In recent months Afghan officials have accused Iran, which the U.S. says is trying to extend its influence in western Afghanistan, of providing the Taliban with money, weapons and explosives. Iran denies the charge.

The U.S. and Iran could be advised of the mutual, and regional, advantages of improving ties. Such advantages could range from stability in Afghanistan, and beyond, to increased trade prospects, especially in South and West Asia.

Win-win prospects

Iran could gain by strengthening trading ties with a secure Afghanistan. In 2017 it supplanted Pakistan as Afghanistan’s largest trading partner. At a time when Iran’s economy is weighed down by American sanctions, it would want to build up trade ties with neighbouring states.

The U.S. would also gain. After all, Iran is the geopolitical hub connecting South, Central and West Asia and the Caucasus. The Strait of Hormuz, that crucial conduit, links Iran westwards to the Persian Gulf and Europe, and eastwards to the Gulf of Oman, South and East Asia. Moreover, an improvement in U.S.-Iran relations would be welcomed by America’s European allies, who are opposed to Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Iran.

The U.S. should not lose the chance to act in concert with Iran to improve Afghanistan’s security. And, as the U.S. airs the idea of withdrawal from Afghanistan, now is the right time for India to act as the honest broker between them and to play a larger role in regional security. The status of India and Iran as regional powers as well as the stability of South, Central, and West Asia would simultaneously be enhanced. It is to be hoped that Mr. Trump’s display of America’s “superpower” in opposition to Iran — and Russia and China — will not block such an opportunity to stabilise Afghanistan.

Anita Inder Singh is Founding Professor, Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution in New Delhi

America’s Colombian Death Squads Still Active After All These Years

PLAN COLOMBIA

Plan Colombia not over

Colombia’s Recovery from American-Inspired Death Squads

Colombia/Us Tip-Toeing Past that Whole Death Squads Thing

All part of a plan? Study throws light on social leader killings in Colombia

 

‘The killing of civilian leaders is a tradition here. Something which in other countries would be considered a huge scandal is somehow normalised in Colombia,’ says author of report.

Social leader muders
July 2018: Colombians join a vigil for assassinated social leaders. 
Photo: Adrián Villa

The rate of murders of social leaders is peaking again, with the state seemingly unable – or uninterested – in stopping the gruesome toll. In the first four weeks of 2019 at least 20 leaders were killed.

The Colombian state has so far proven ineffective in bringing the perpetrators to justice. In fact, until recently public prosecutors refused to acknowledge any common pattern to these killings or links to decades-long struggles over land and resources, often between vulnerable rural communities and business interests with links to armed gangs.

A long-term monitor of the situation has been Bogotá-based human rights NGO Comisión Colombiana de Juristas. This month the CCJ publishes a report of its detailed investigation of 257 killings committed in the 18-month period to July 2018, which it says clearly shows a pattern to the killings, and suggests they are linked to a ‘paramilitary phenomenon’ to paralyse community activism.

The study was coordinated by the CCJ’s Camilo Bonilla, whom The Bogotá Post sat down with this week to ask about the groundbreaking report.

The BP: Hello Camilo, and thanks for talking to us. According to your study, what defines a ‘social leader’ in Colombia?

A social leader is someone recognised by his or her community as a coordinator, or supporter, of collective activities that improve lives within the community, or that constructs the social tissues that interconnect the community. These are persons whose activities are geared towards creating a more just and equal society, a more dignified one.

Often, they are living in poor rural or peri-urban conditions, and might hold an official position, such as leader or member of the local council Junta Accion Communal (JAC) or might simply be someone charismatic that the community recognises as a problem solver. Many come from indigenous and ethnic communities.

The BP: Can you explain to our readers, some of whom may be new to the country, why the situation is so alarming?

The killing of civilian leaders is a tradition here. Something which in other countries would be considered a huge scandal is somehow normalised in Colombia. These deaths have huge impact on communities and are currently a growing problem.

Related: WOLA: Peace, community killings and unlocking the JEP

The BP: The study you coordinated focuses on establishing patterns in these killings. Why is that important?

The state has tried hard to cover up the political nature of these crimes. Often the official investigators confuse the pattern by claiming that these killings are random and unconnected, then re-victimise the victim by spreading false stories that the person was ‘involved in the drug trade’, ‘in a crime of passion’ or somehow mixed up in criminal activity. Thus, the killing is written off as ‘just another murder’.

The state does this for a reason: declaring the killings as systematic would invite international scrutiny under an international legal framework of human rights.

The BP: The state prosecutor recently acknowledged some pattern to these killings: that many victims belonged to local community councils, such as JACs. Is this a step forward?

The recognition that many victims are from JACs should suggest a pattern and open doors and help international organisations to investigate. There should now be interest from the UN, the International Criminal Court, and some effort to brake the tendency.

The BP: What does your study show about these killings? What is it that these activists are doing that is putting them in danger – and who from?

Our investigations show a systematic and continued targeting of leaders designed to sow fear and break social systems. From examining cases we have discovered a common pattern of the killers – or the people behind them – doing their own meticulous research into communities to identify key leaders. These attacks are calculated and carefully planned.

Some leaders are involved in land restitution cases, trying to get their land back that was taken by force as part of the conflict. Others are prominent in human rights cases against state forces or trying to protect the environment from big business and megaprojects. Others have been members of political movements like the Marcha Patriotica.  The study also found that killings are higher in areas that voted ‘yes’ in the peace plebiscite in 2016.

But in some cases, leaders are simply organising and improving where they live, bringing dignity to poor areas. Their targeting suggests that community organisers are regarded as a threat by the economic, political or armed power-brokers in the regions, and actors linked to the powerful political families that dominate the Colombian business and state. This triggers a reaction in the form of threats and violence, often carried out by a third party.

The BP: To what degree is the state behind these killings?

It’s not a centralised plot, rather a paramilitary phenomenon involving individuals within power structures that link government, regional government, big business and sometimes criminal enterprises: which in reality are often the same group.

 The BPIt seems that many victims are killed by expert assassins, often on motorbikes. What does this tell us about the perpetrators?

The killings are often undertaken by sicarios, paid hitmen, or by organised armed groups, and these people are rarely captured. This in itself is a sign that the murders are systematic. But behind the actual killers are the intellectual authors, even less likely to be detected and, therefore, captured.

The BP: Are these cases properly investigated by state authorities?

No, because elements within the state structure are complicit in the crimes. Of the killings we studied, there was impunity in 95% of the cases. Witnesses are scared to come forward because they don’t always trust the investigators. In cases we reported members of the army were directly responsible for 11 killings, and the police in three.

The BP: What are the ways that the state could investigate more effectively (i.e. special task force, witness protection programs). Could this reduce the killings?

There are some good people on the ground, such as some workers of the Ombudsman’s Office, but their bosses are often politically appointed. And at the top level the country’s leaders are not condemning the killings. There is a lack of willpower all around.

The BP: Why does the phrase ‘social leader’ imply a connection or sympathy with left-wing causes and guerrilla groups for some Colombians?

Politicians and senior military frequently use language that stigmatizes social leaders and human rights defenders as undesirable. Army recruits are trained that social leaders, and even groups such as academics should be seen as ‘internal state enemies’, an indoctrination that opens the door to abuses.

Armed groups like the ELN and AGC also use the killings of social leaders as part of their own propaganda, in part to justify their own violent acts. And remember, the ELN are also killing social leaders.

The BP: What about the demobilised FARC – is there evidence that they are being targeted?

Our study did not include former FARC, but the UN has looked at this group as part of its monitoring of the peace process and yes, a similar pattern is emerging: some 90 ex-combatants of the FARC have been killed since the peace agreement was signed between the state and the former FARC-EP guerrillas.

The BP: The geographical areas of these killings seem to coincide with zones of high coca production. What is the link between coca cropping and the targeting of social leaders?

There is a vicious cycle of violence between cocaine production and conflict. The areas overlap and civil communities are often caught up in the violence. Often impunity is higher in these zones because corrupt elements of state forces can be partnering with criminal gangs.

The highly profitable cocaine trade also requires chaos and conflict as a smokescreen, and killing social leaders adds to that scenario. Creating conflict also ensures the continuity of Colombia’s large armed forces: maintain chaos then offer security and control.

The BP:  What changes do you hope the CCJ report will achieve?

To increase political willingness to recognise the phenomenon and take measures to change the trend. But this requires a major shift in policy, unlikely at present.

The BP: What can visitors to Colombia do?

Highlight the problem and help raise the issue with the public and politicians in their home countries. What could make changes here is international pressure, for example ensuring that trade agreements or financial aid to Colombia is tied to improvements on the ground, meaning more protection for vulnerable civilians. Sadly, these days, many countries are more interested in business deals than human rights.

Interview by Steve Hide

Readers can download the full Comisión Colombiana de Juristas report: ‘¿Cuáles son Las Patrones? Asesinatos de Líderes Sociales en el Post Acuerdo’.

Sometimes Our Secret Police State Raises Its Ugly Head For All To See

[Reminds me of my one and only pot bust, back in the early seventies…7 cruisers and more than a dozen armed thugs in the middle of the night…one of them even stuck a shotgun in my Dad’s gut.  For as long as I can remember, the secret Police State lurked just below the surface.]

It sounded like it came out of a movie plot.  In the early morning hours, federal agents stormed a home to make an arrest.  They had to be after some major drug lord or a sought-after terrorist. There were 29 agents all wearing military gear and carrying weapons.  High powered assault rifles were involved. Seventeen SUVs and two armored vehicles surrounded the home with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  It must be a really dangerous dude.

In a nearby canal, amphibious watercraft charged the home filled with more federal agents.  A helicopter hovered in the sky with long range weapons focused on the home. As agents approached the house with battering rams, they demanded that the accused immediately open the door and surrender.  The attack on Osama Bid Laden had fewer Navy Seals involved then the number of agents who were sent to arrest this dangerous villain. Was this the seizure of an anti-government leader in Venezuela? Had El Chapo escaped from prison and his capture was about to take place?  Had the feds found Bin Laden’s successor? CNN had been tipped off and broadcast the whole attack live. What was going on?

lt was none of these, but merely a longtime Trump friend Roger Stone.  He was being arrested for making false statements to a congressional committee.  And he was treated like a terrorist? Stone is an American citizen and has lived in south Florida for a number of years.  He does not have a current passport. He has known about this investigation for months, and his lawyers said he would be glad to self-surrender if he were charged with a crime. If Stone had documents to hide or destroy, he would have had plenty of time in the months preceding his arrest. He has never been accused of any crimes and has no violent history.

After his arrest, the judge let Stone out on his personal signature without having to put up any property or money.   It was obvious that Stone was no threat and should have been allowed to appear on his own. So what gives? Have we been turned into a jackboot democracy?

Here was Stone’s response.  “They could simply have called my lawyers and I would have turned my myself in. I’m 66 years old. I don’t own a firearm. I have no previous criminal record. My passport has expired. The special counsel’s office is well aware of the fact that I’m represented. I was frog-marched out the front door barefooted and shackled.  It’s an attempt to poison the jury pool. These are Gestapo tactics.”

Some in the press speculated that the special prosecutor and the FBI were sending a message. They sure were. It’s a message of terror, and fear that no citizen can trust their government. It’s a message that your government is not above using police state tactics, and that the justice system responds, not based on evidence, but based on threats. When thugs come into intimidate, it sends a message that you may not be living in a democracy anymore but a banana republic. It sends a message that no, you are no longer considered innocent until proven guilty in a system that operates in such a dictatorial fashion.

The story gets worse.  Stone’s indictment accuses him of making false statements to the House Intelligence Committee, but the testimony is classified so Stone is prohibited from seeing what he supposedly lied about. How is he supposed to defend himself if he cannot even read what he supposedly said?  What has happened to the supposed constitutional guarantee of being able to confront your accuser and challenging their evidence?

It matters not whether you are a liberal or a staunch conservative, this is not how justice is supposed to operate in America.  Many Americans will feel that if it is not happening to them then why should they care. But unfortunately, what happened to Roger Stone could happen to anyone.  Are we not a better country than this?

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.

US Nuclear-Capable Missiles In the Baltic, A Clear “Red Line” For Russia

Russia to do everything to prevent deployment of US missiles to Baltic States

Earlier, the adviser to the Russian Strategic Missile Force commander said that US intermediate-range ballistic missiles, should they be deployed to the Baltis, will be able to reach Moscow in 3-4 min

© AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MOSCOW, February 7. /TASS/. Russian diplomats and military will do everything possible to prevent the deployment of US missiles to the Baltic States, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said at a press conference on Thursday.

“I will make every possible effort to prevent it,” he said. “I am sure that everyone who is somehow involved in our foreign policy, defense and security activities will work as a team to prevent a situation that would mean everything that was a cornerstone of European security for decades has perished,” the senior Russian diplomat said.

Colonel General Viktor Yesin, an adviser to the Russian Strategic Missile Force commander and former Strategic Missile Force chief of staff, told TASS earlier that US intermediate-range ballistic missiles, should they be deployed to the Baltic countries, will be able to reach Moscow in three to four minutes. According to him, the time of arrival will depend on the type of missiles and their flight path. “The arrival time of Tomahawk missiles will be about an hour, while intermediate-range ballistic missiles will be able to reach Moscow in three to four minutes,” Yesin said.

INF Treaty issue

The INF Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the United States on December 8, 1987, took effect on June 1, 1988. It applied to deployed and non-deployed ground-based missiles of intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers). Washington on many occasions accused Russia of violating the Treaty but Moscow strongly dismissed all accusations and expressed grievances concerning Washington’s non-compliance.

On February 1, Trump and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the suspension of Washington’s obligations under the INF Treaty starting February 2. Washington is determined to withdraw from the Treaty in six months unless Russia returns to “real and verifiable” compliance.

On February 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow was also suspending the Treaty. He handed down instructions to refrain from initiating talks with Washington on the issue and stressed that the US needed to show readiness for an equal and substantive dialogue.

 

Russia to US: Destroy Tomahawk launchpads and attack drones to return to INF compliance

Russia to US: Destroy Tomahawk launchpads & attack drones to return to INF compliance

The US was in breach of the INF treaty for years, the Russia’s defense ministry told the summoned US diplomat, calling on the US to destroy cruise missile launchpads, target-missiles and attack drones to return to INF compliance.

The Ministry of Defense (MOD) summoned the US military attaché in Moscow on Wednesday to hand him the treaty-related memo.

The Russian side suggested that the Americans “return to strict compliance” with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty before it expires in six months.

ALSO ON RT.COMDC hawks, US defense giants race to score profits from INF demiseIn order to achieve this, the US must “destroy its Mk-41 universal launchers, designed for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles and target missiles,” which in fact have the same specifications as ground-based medium- and shorter-range ballistic missiles prohibited by the INF.

The American attack drones should also be disposed of because they fall under the definition of “land-based cruise missile” in accordance with the deal, the ministry added.

In early February, Washington unilaterally withdrew from the INF deal, which had been the cornerstone of European security since 1987. The US accused Russia of building prohibited missiles, but said that it may return to the accord if Moscow eliminates the ‘violation’ within the next 180 days.

ALSO ON RT.COMRussia must create land-based hypersonic missiles with 500km+ range by 2020 – MoDThe Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that it “categorically denies groundless claims of Russia violating its obligations under the treaty.”

“The US accusations are false,” Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the ministry’s spokesman, said.

Delusional “New Deal” Democrats and Their Total Lack of Math Skills

Authored by Michael Palicz via Americans for Tax Reform

This morning, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released an overview of her “Green New Deal” which threatens “a massive transformation of our society.”

Below are the details of the proposal:

  • Rebuild every single building in the U.S.

“Upgrade or replace every building in US for state-of-the-art energy efficiency.”

  • Will end all traditional forms of energy in the next ten years.

The Green New Deal is “a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War 2 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

  • Plans to ban nuclear energy within 10 years if possible.

“It’s unclear if we will be able to decommission every nuclear plant within 10 years, but the plan is to transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible.”

  • Build trains across oceans and end all air travel!

“Build out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary”.

  • Don’t invest in new technology of Carbon Capture and Storage, just plant trees instead!

“We believe the right way to capture carbon is to plant trees and restore our natural ecosystems. CCUS technology to date has not proven effective.”

  • Mandates all new jobs be unionized.

“Ensure that all GND jobs are union jobs that pay prevailing wages and hire local.”

  • May include a carbon tax.

“We’re not ruling a carbon tax out, but a carbon tax would be a tiny part of a Green New Deal.”

  • May include cap and trade.

“…Cap and trade may be a tiny part of the larger Green New Deal plan.”

  • How much will it cost?

No estimate of the total cost of implementing the Green New deal is offered by Ocasio-Cortez.

However, as Ocasio-Cortez admits, “even if every billionaire and company came together and were willing to pour all the resources at their disposal into this investment, the aggregate value of the investments they could make would not be sufficient.”

She does provide one estimate that the cost to “repair and upgrade infrastructure U.S. infrastructure” alone will cost “$4.6 trillion at minimum.”

  • How will it be paid for? Don’t worry about that.

Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t provide any insight into how the trillions of dollars in spending will be paid for other than claiming, “The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit”. But as Ocasio-Cortez says, “the question isn’t how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity”.

***

Below is the text of the proposed bill:

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/399131208/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=false&access_key=key-W8lm0WxQuCRgeadX37D4

… And here is the FAQ from Ocasio-Cortez’ office:https://www.scribd.com/embeds/399133062/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=false&access_key=key-XDbcMuau9jEkgzBDJn3Y

Will American Democracy Survive This Drive To Fascism?

Will our democracy survive this test?

Dave Waldrop, Webster, NC

To the Editor:

Safe roads. Safe airports. Safe air travel. Clean water. Clean air. Safe streets. Consumer protection. Safe waste management. Clean, affordable energy. Qualified medical care. Protection from objects flying through space. Safety regarding natural disasters. Military protection from attack. Free/affordable public education for all. Individual rights. Social Security. Medicare.

The above is a partial list of benefits of working together through taxation to provide for all American citizens. Some lament these as a form of socialism. Socialism is defined as: “any of various theories or systems of the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society or the community rather than by private individuals, with all members of society or the community sharing in the work and the products.” However, most Americans recognize that private enterprise is alive and well in America, co-existing harmoniously with “socialism” for the betterment of us all.

What is currently a threat to our democracy, however, is a form of fascism that is growing much like kudzu. Kudzu grows almost a foot per day in the southeastern United States. In its native Asian environment it hardly grows larger than a sweet potato plant. Fascism is defined as: “a system of government characterized by rigid one party dictatorship, forcible suppression of opposition, private economic enterprise under centralized government control, belligerent nationalism, racism, and militarism, etc.”

Most Americans have little awareness of a plot by wealthy, prominent Americans to render President Franklin D. Roosevelt helpless while secretly installing a fascist government in America during the early 1930s. For a clear picture of this sinister plot let me recommend a book written by Jules Archer entitled “The Plot to Seize the White House.” After you have studied Archer’s account of events ,decide whether you prefer a democracy with a pinch of socialism like we already have or a fascist regime run by the wealthy and privileged class of people who have been working systematically for years to quietly set up their regime. Fascism and democracy cannot co-exist.

You might want to ask yourself if you would be on the inside or the outside  of a fascist regime managed by the super- rich.

Will our democracy survive? Some say freedom is not free. We must pay for it partly by paying attention to the political moves being made around and to us every day by those who want even more money and more power than they currently possess.

NATO is a Danger, NOT a Guarantor of Peace

NATO: A criminal and a liar

NATO must be consigned to the rubbish heap of history

When Will the World Be Free of the NATO Beast?

NATO is a Danger, Not a Guarantor of Peace

Status quo supporters like the New York Times poke fun at Trump for questioning the alliance. But who’s the fool?

Donald Trump at NATO Summit, Brussels, in 2018 Gints Ivuskans/Shutterstock

The New York Times scored a serious scoop when it revealed on Monday that President Trump had questioned in governmental conversations—on more than one occasion, apparently—America’s membership in NATO. Unfortunately the paper then slipped into its typical mode of nostrum journalism. My Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “nostrum” as “quack medicine” entailing “exaggerated claims.” Here we had quack journalism executed in behalf of quack diplomacy.

The central exaggerated claim is contained in the first sentence, in which it is averred that NATO had “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is wrong, as can be seen through just a spare amount of history.

True, NATO saved Europe from the menace of Russian Bolshevism. But it did so not over 70 years but over 40 years—from 1949 to 1989. That’s when the Soviet Union had 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops poised on Western Europe’s doorstep, positioned for an invasion of Europe through the lowlands of Germany’s Fulda Gap.

How was this possible? It was possible because Joseph Stalin had pushed his armies farther and farther into the West as the German Wehrmacht collapsed at the end of World War II. In doing so, and in the process capturing nearly all of Eastern Europe, he ensured that the Soviets had no Western enemies within a thousand miles of Leningrad or within 1,200 miles of Moscow. This vast territory represented not only security for the Russian motherland (which enjoys no natural geographical barriers to deter invasion from the West) but also a potent staging area for an invasion of Western Europe.

The first deterrent against such an invasion, which Stalin would have promulgated had he thought he could get away with it, was America’s nuclear monopoly. By the time that was lost, NATO had emerged as a powerful and very necessary deterrent. The Soviets, concluding that the cost of an invasion was too high, defaulted to a strategy of undermining Western interests anywhere around the world where that was possible. The result was global tensions stirred up at various global trouble spots, most notably Korea and Vietnam.

But Europe was saved, and NATO was the key. It deserves our respect and even reverence for its profound success as a military alliance during a time of serious threat to the West.

But then the threat went away. Gone were the 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops. Gone was Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Indeed, gone, by 1991, was the Soviet Union itself, an artificial regime of brutal ideology superimposed upon the cultural entity of Mother Russia. It was a time for celebration.

But it was also a time to contemplate the precise nature of the change that had washed over the world and to ponder what that might mean for old institutions—including NATO, a defensive military alliance created to deter aggression from a menacing enemy to the east. Here’s where Western thinking went awry. Rather than accepting as a great benefit the favorable developments enhancing Western security—the Soviet military retreat, the territorial reversal, the Soviet demise—the West turned NATO into a territorial aggressor of its own, absorbing nations that had been part of the Soviet sphere of control and pushing right up to the Russian border. Now Leningrad (renamed St. Petersburg after the obliteration of the menace of Soviet communism) resides within a hundred miles of NATO military forces, while Moscow is merely 200 miles from Western troops.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has absorbed 13 nations, some on the Russian border, others bordering lands that had been part of Russia’s sphere of interest for centuries. This constitutes a policy of encirclement, which no nation can accept without protest or pushback. And if NATO were to absorb those lands of traditional Russian influence—particularly Ukraine and Georgia—that would constitute a major threat to Russian security, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to emphasize to Western leaders for years. 

So, no, NATO has not deterred Russian aggression for 70 years. It did so for 40 and has maintained a destabilizing posture toward Russia ever since. The problem here is the West’s inability to perceive how changed geopolitical circumstances might require a changed geopolitical strategy. The encirclement strategy has had plenty of critics—George Kennan before he died; academics John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Robert David English; former diplomat Jack Matlock; the editors of The Nation. But their voices have tended to get drowned out by the nostrum diplomacy and the nostrum journalism that supports it at every turn.

You can’t drown out Donald Trump because he’s president of the United States. And so he has to be traduced, ridiculed, dismissed, and marginalized. That’s what the Times story, by Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper, sought to do. Consider the lead, designed to emphasize just how outlandish Trump’s musings are before the reader even has a chance to absorb what he may have been thinking: “There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” Translation: “Take that, Mr. President! You’re an idiot.”

Henry Kissinger had something interesting to say about Trump in a recent interview with the Financial Times. “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history,” said the former secretary of state, “who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretenses.” One Western pretense about Russia, so ardently enforced by the likes of Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper (who, it may be safe to say, know less about world affairs and their history than Henry Kissinger), is that nothing really changed with the Soviet collapse and NATO had to turn aggressive in order to keep that menacing nation in its place.

Trump clearly doesn’t buy that pretense. He said during the campaign that NATO was obsolete. Then he backtracked, saying he only wanted other NATO members to pay their fair share of the cost of deterrence. He even confessed, after Hillary Clinton identified NATO as “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world,” that he only said NATO was obsolete because he didn’t know much about it. But he was learning—enough, it appears, to support as president Montenegro’s entry into NATO in 2017. Is Montenegro, with 5,332 square miles and some 620,000 citizens, really a crucial element in Europe’s desperate project to protect itself against Putin’s Russia?

We all know that Trump is a crude figure—not just in his disgusting discourse but in his fumbling efforts to execute political decisions. As a politician, he often seems like a doctor attempting to perform open-heart surgery while wearing mittens. His idle musings about leaving NATO are a case in point—an example of a politician who lacks the skill and finesse to nudge the country in necessary new directions.

But Kissinger has a point about the man. America and the world have changed, while the old ways of thinking have not kept pace. The pretenses of the old have blinded the status quo defenders into thinking nothing has changed. Trump, almost alone among contemporary American politicians, is asking questions to which the world needs new answers. NATO, in its current configuration and outlook, is a danger to peace, not a guarantor of it.

Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century.

Top Florida Republican Implicated In Trump’s Venezuela Oil Play

Sources in Venezuela report that PDVSA has entered into a service agreement with an American company, allegedly controlled by Harry Sargeant. While no formal announcement has been made, chavista source Aporrea informed on Thursday that PDVSA had penned 14 new deals to ramp up production by 1.025 MBD in 14 different fields, as previously announced by this site back in August. Aporrea added that [prominent Florida Republican] Harry Sargeant, described as an “influential businessman and friend of Donald Trump”, got a better deal: a 25-year service agreement with PDVSA, whereby production costs will be shared on a 50.1% – 49.9% basis. Chavista group “PLATAFORMA CIUDADANA EN DEFENSA DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN” is decrying Nicolas Maduro’s decision to grant PDVSA’s CEO Manuel Quevedo extraordinary powers to enter into such deals.

This site has seen some documents related to the service agreement referred above. The service agreement was initially signed by Manuel Quevedo -on behalf of PDVSA Petróleo S.A. (PPSA)- on 9 November, followed by an addendum on 15 November. An associated offtake deal was signed on 21 December by Jose Rojas Reyes, PPSA’s Commerce and Supply VP.

Ali Hasan Rahman, of Delaware-registered EREPLA Services LLC and EREPLA Trading LLC, is the countersignatory to service agreement, addendum, and offtake agreement. Hasan Rahman is referred elsewhere as an employee / associate of Sargeant’s Global Oil Management Group.

The offtake refers to crude production from Rosa Mediano and Tia Juana fields. EREPLA undertakes to increase production, and market output in cargoes between 240,000 and 1,000,000 barrels. The offtake agreement will have the same duration of the service agreement: 25 years, renewable for another 15 years.

Production costs will be offset from crude value at wellhead and subsequent marketing of such by EREPLA.

Any breach by PPSA to service agreement and offtake agreement terms, with respect to deliverables, obligations, corruption and bribes, subjects PPSA to further U.S. sanctions and OFAC’s licenses / licensees’ conditions, under addendum signed 15 November by Quevedo. None of the parties can renounce conditions imposed by U.S. sanctions and OFAC. Without OFAC’s express authorisation, and PPSA’s acceptance, EREPLA cannot cede / transfer any of its contractual obligations / rights.

The fact that such clauses were written into the contract shows how dire the situation at PDVSA is. While chavistas take such a clause as treason, reality is that none of the other 14 contractors mentioned would have submitted to the kind of scrutiny the U.S. Government and Treasury imposes on licensees doing business with sanctioned parties. Some of them in fact (Venezolana de Enfriadores C.A. – VENENCA below), are controlled by OFAC-designated kingpins like Samark Lopez. Can anyone imagine Lopez agreeing to be subject to U.S. sanctions and jurisdiction in his corrupt deals with Tareck el Aisami and PDVSA?

A 60-40 percent model was applied to all previous joint ventures between Chinese, Russian, Cuban, Brazilian, Spanish and American companies with PDVSA. This site is particularly keen on understanding: 1) how did Sargeant manage to get PPSA to surrender to OFAC’s close monitoring and observation; and 2) just how did he manage to get PDVSA to lower its participation in the service agreement to 50.1%. For that is a clear break from previous model, whereby PDVSA’s partners did all the heavy lifting and investment -as EREPLA agreed to- for a 40% share.

Requests for comment have been put to Sargeant, replies will be posted in this site if and when they arrive.

Another very interesting clause, establishes that buyer, i.e. EREPLA, undertakes to destine offtake crude to U.S., Europe and Asia, and China “but only by mutual agreement.” What this means is that U.S. Treasury is going to have detailed information, at the very least, on this bit of PDVSA’s oil exports. Even if EREPLA were to agree to PDVSA’s requests to send shipments to China, the U.S. government will know how much, when and where PDVSA gets paid for such deliveries.

It appears that systemic corruption in PDVSA just got that bit more difficult. Once full details of this new partnership are in the public domain, parties willing to invest in Venezuela will surely demand similar conditions. If U.S. Treasury starts monitoring operations of American businesses / businessmen in Venezuela that will bring more transparency. For now, that’s a good thing.

PDVSA's service agreement deals.

The US Pushes “Polyarchy”, A Type of Dictatorship, NOT DEMOCRACY

“When U.S. policy makers and transnational elites talk about democracy promotion, what they really mean is the promotion of polyarchy. This refers to a system in which a small group actually rules, and mass participation and decision-making are confined to choosing leaders in elections that are carefully managed by competing elites.”

Democracy or Polyarchy?

To favor democracy means to oppose U.S. foreign policy in the name of democracy. The issue is not whether democracy is desirable—it is—but whether the United States is fostering democratic relations when it claims to be promoting democracy.1

Historically, U.S. policy has been based on an outright suppression, often brutal, of democracy in Latin America and the Third World. Somoza, Trujillo, Pinochet, Papa and Baby Doc, the white minority regimes in Southern Africa, Mobutu, Suharto, Marcos, Chiang Kai-shek, Mubarak and Sadat, the House of Saud—all of these are potent symbols of the long history of U.S. and core-power promotion and defense of dictatorial and authoritarian arrangements throughout the Third World.

So what explains the turn in U.S. policy in the 1980s to an apparent support for democracy? Prior to the policy shift, mass movements for democratization had spread everywhere against these dictatorial and authoritarian arrangements, against local elite orders and against the global status quo. These movements sought an authentic and far-reaching democratization process. The prospect of the whole elite order crumbling—and with it, the larger global status quo—provoked fear among U.S. policy makers, their strategic thinkers and other global elites. Washington faced the challenges of restoring ideological hegemony and re-legitimizing U.S. foreign policy after Watergate, the Church Commission, the rise of a global human rights movement and the defeat in Indochina.

The 1979 overthrow of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua was one of several key turning points for the shift to “democracy promotion,” because it showed U.S. strategists that the old forms of control were no longer viable in a rapidly changing global order. They concluded that it would be necessary to intervene before elite orders themselves were overthrown by mass democratization movements. The challenge became how to manage political change in order to preempt more fundamental social change. U.S. policy makers developed new strategies, modalities and instruments of political intervention under the banner of promoting democracy. The new approach emphasized the penetration of civil society itself in order to secure social control and limit change from therein. In a nutshell, U.S. policy makers and their organic intellectuals became “good Gramscians”; that is, they came to understand that a real site of power is civil society itself.

Alongside the more traditional state-to-state relations, U.S. intervention would now bolster forces in civil society allied with the United States and identified with global capitalism. Electoral intervention would also play a key role, since elections, when properly managed from above and from below, are major devices for achieving hegemonic order. Theoretically speaking, the shift in U.S. policy that began in the 1980s from promoting dictatorship to promoting what it calls “democracy” represented a transition, in Gramscian terms, from transnational coercive domination to transnational consensual domination—or at least, consensus-seeking forms of domination.

The 1976 Trilateral Commission report, which warned that democracy had to be tamed lest it be wielded by popular classes against the status quo, and the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution were followed in 1981 by the National Security Council’s Project Democracy, designed to organize the shift in foreign policy, and in 1983 by the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its core groups. Another key turning point took place in the Philippines in 1985, when a mass insurrection threatened the Marcos dictatorship that had ruled with the support of the United States. The Reagan White House was in complete disarray for a few weeks—should it back Marcos as it had been doing or support some alternative? In the end, the nascent “democracy promotion” strategy won out, as Washington shifted support from Marcos to the elite opposition under the leadership of Corazón Aquino. The 1990 defeat of the Sandinistas through this new strategy of internal political and electoral intervention consolidated the strategic policy shift.

What is the united states actually promoting with this shift? Essentially contested concepts such as “democracy” and “freedom” are meaningless in and of themselves. There are competing and even antagonistic definitions of these concepts. They are always ideologically charged; whoever controls the definition controls the terms of the discourse and is able to set the framework in which people speak and even think. Far from mere semantics, the struggle over defining essentially contested concepts like democracy is a crucial dimension of power struggles among contending social forces.

When U.S. policy makers and transnational elites talk about democracy promotion, what they really mean is the promotion of polyarchy. This refers to a system in which a small group actually rules, and mass participation and decision-making are confined to choosing leaders in elections that are carefully managed by competing elites. In the age of globalization, polyarchy is generally a more reliable political system for containing and defusing mass pressure for popular social change. But it is not just a superior mechanism of stable domination; it is also a more propitious system for managing intra-elite conflict and competition, and for developing the political environment for globalized economic intercourse for which the old regimes were ill-suited.

This concept of polyarchy is an outgrowth of elitism theories that developed in the early 20th century to counter the classic definition of democracy as the power or rule (kratos) of the people (demos). It builds on earlier elitism theories that argued for an enlightened elite to rule on behalf of the ignorant and unpredictable masses. U.S. policy makers and their organic intellectuals in academia, in redefining democracy away from the power of the people and toward competition among elites, often cite (and simplify) Joseph Schumpeter’s classic 1942 study, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. Schumpeter argued for “another theory” of democracy as an institutional arrangement for elites to acquire power by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote. “Democracy,” he said, “means only that the people have the opportunity of accepting or refusing the men who are to rule them.”2

It is this conception that guides U.S. foreign policy under the banner of democracy promotion. Later, organic intellectuals refined this polyarchic conception within the mainstream of what came to be the democratization theory of the 1980s and the 1990s as an institutional definition in which democracy is simply limited to procedurally correct elections within a constitutional order. In this way, removed from the discourse and the agenda is the matter of who controls society’s material and cultural resources, how wealth and power are distributed locally and globally.

Central to democratization theory and to the U.S. policy of promoting polyarchy is an antinomy. First, its defenders separate the political system from the social order, and then they turn around and connect the two by claiming an affinity between democracy and free-market capitalism. In their landmark NED-funded Democracy in Developing Countries series, Diamond, Linz and Lipset are quite clear: “Democracy signifies a political system separate and apart from the economic and social system. Indeed, a distinctive aspect of our approach is to insist that the issue of so-called economic and social democracy be separated from the question of governmental structure.”3 Yet on the other hand, these self-same organic intellectuals and U.S. policy makers blatantly contradict themselves. They insist that polyarchy must go hand in hand with neoliberal global capitalism—hence the cliché “free-market democracy.” Numerous U.S. government pronouncements declare that promoting democracy and promoting neoliberalism are complementary, a singular process in U.S. foreign policy. In order to be democratic, one must identify with global capitalism. Normal society is capitalist society; any other vision is antidemocratic heresy.

Acknowledging the link between the socioeconomic system and the political system would bring the whole construct of polyarchy down like a house of cards. Under capitalist globalization of the past 30 years, the gap between the world’s wealthy minority and the poor majority has grown exponentially. Unprecedented worldwide concentrations of wealth and power have brought about a global socioeconomic dictatorship that is the antithesis of democracy. Ruling groups in the United States, for instance, have perfected the art of “the best elections money can buy”; of “one dollar, one vote”; of campaigns that are exercises not in political debate but in marketing, driven by those who have the resources to reach mass markets. The separation of the political and the socioeconomic is an illusion, since the concentration of economic resources leads to the concentration of political power. In a world of gated communities, of expanding police forces and prison systems, of armies and private security systems, of ultra-sophisticated surveillance systems—in short, in a global social apartheid—it becomes a crude ideological maneuver to claim that there is democracy simply because a country has elections and a constitution.

Beyond the international dictatorship of the G8 countries, other groups participate in the power structure of global capitalism, enjoying and defending the privileges the system brings. Each country has seen the rise of new transnationally oriented elites who have used control over local states to integrate their countries into the global economy. These local elites form an integral part of the chain of power in the global system. They control key levers that link the local and the national to the global, and it is precisely these new elite groups and their followers organized in political parties, business and civic organizations, the mass media and so on that are supported by U.S. political intervention programs conducted under the rubric of “promoting democracy.”

In this context, there are three groups of countries that have become targets of U.S. political intervention. The first is the U.S. “enemies list,” countries targeted for destabilization or “regime change.” In Latin America, this category has included Cuba, Venezuela under Chávez, Nicaragua under the Sandinistas and Haiti under Aristide. The criterion for regime change through “democracy promotion” is not whether democracy exists—by the strict standards of polyarchy, Venezuela is the most democratic country in the hemisphere—but Washington’s broader strategic concern with suppressing states that challenge the global capitalist order. These programs are called “bringing about a democratic transition.”

The second group consists of countries where popular classes and poor majorities threaten elite social orders. Countries in this group include Ecuador, with its powerful indigenous movement; Colombia, with its insurgency and popular movements; and El Salvador and Nicaragua, where the left remains influential. Programs aimed at these countries are called “supporting weak democracies.” The third group comprises countries where neoliberal elites are in power but are weak and need strengthening. Dominant elites here are not to be destabilized but regrouped and neoliberalized. These programs are called “strengthening existing democracies.”

In all three categories, U.S. polyarchy promotion programs relentlessly pursue two underlying objectives: first, to support those groups aligned with U.S. foreign policy and the transnational project of capitalist globalization; and second, to suppress popular groups advocating more thoroughgoing democratization or change in the socioeconomic system.

There are several tiers through which polyarchy promotion becomes operationalized. The first involves the highest levels of the U.S. state apparatus: the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA and certain other state branches. At this level the need to undertake political intervention in particular countries and regions is identified as one component of overall policy toward these countries and regions. In the second tier, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and several other branches of the State Department are allocated billions of dollars to be doled out, either directly or indirectly, to a series of ostensibly private U.S. organizations, as well as to the NED and its core groups, which are in reality closely tied to the policy-making establishment and aligned with U.S. foreign policy. The State Department exercises oversight authority over all “democracy enhancement” programs. The boards of directors of these U.S. governmental and quasigovernmental agencies include representatives of the highest levels of the U.S. foreign policy establishment and the transnational corporate world.

In the third tier, these U.S. agencies provide funding, guidance and political sponsorship to a host of organizations in the intervened country itself, including local political parties and coalitions, trade unions, business councils, media outlets, professional and civic associations, student and women’s groups, human rights groups and so on. These local groups brought into “democracy promotion” programs are held up in the public national spotlight as independent and nonpartisan, but in reality they become integral agents of the transnational agenda. This does not mean that these groups are mere dupes or have no autonomy. While this is occasionally the case, there is more often a transnational convergence of interests. Elites in Venezuela and their followers who have been receiving massive amounts of covert and overt U.S. funding and support, for instance, have an affinity of interests with the United States in overthrowing Chávez because those elites have been displaced from power. Indeed, it is vital that organizations and movements receiving U.S. support act autonomously; otherwise it defeats the whole purpose. U.S. political intervention supports select groups and amplifies their voice.

What Washington hopes to create through these programs are “agents of influence,” local leaders with a capacity for political and civic action, who can generate ideological conformity, promote the neoliberal outlook and advocate for policies that integrate the intervened country into global capitalism. These agents are further expected to compete with and eclipse more popular-oriented independent, progressive or radical groups and individuals who may have a distinct agenda for their country. Economic and political elites tied to the global capitalist order and the U.S. policy-making apparatus must come to power and must be defended in power. The goal is to ensure the preservation or reconstruction of the elite social order.

Polyarchy promotion is always only one component of overall U.S. foreign policy, part of broader strategies designed on a country-specific basis that may include the synchronizing of “democracy promotion” with diplomatic undertakings, military aggression, CIA propaganda and covert operations, and multilateral actions. Destabilization programs conducted as “democracy promotion” often involve coercive diplomacy and economic carrots and sticks, including sanctions and blackmail. Key here is the control that Washington is able to exercise over global financial resources and markets.

What moral authority does the United States have in claiming to promote democracy abroad? How would the U.S. government react if other countries undertook the types of intervention inside U.S. borders that Washington undertakes abroad? In the United States, it is a felony to accept foreign money for elections. What if the Venezuelan government, for example, sent millions of dollars and troops of advisers to the United States to organize a referendum to see if Bush should be recalled, as Washington did in Venezuela to recall Chávez? If activists in the United States were to receive millions of dollars from Cuba to oppose the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and if they met with the Cuban chargé d’affaires in Washington to plan such opposition, they would be branded as traitors, agents of a foreign government, or terrorists.4 We must question the asymmetry of global power relations, expose double standards and denounce the arrogance of power. Any talk of democracy must be based on a single, consistent set of principles.

William I. Robinson is professor of sociology, global and international studies and Latin American and Iberian studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara, and author, among other books, of Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, U.S. Intervention, and Hegemony (Cambridge University Press).

NOTES:

1. This essay is based on the opening keynote speech at the conference “In the Name of Democracy: US Electoral Intervention in the Americas,” April 7, 2006, Yale University. For an extended exposition on the themes in this essay and corroborating documentation, see Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy: U.S. Intervention, Globalization, and Hegemony (Cambridge University Press, 1996), and for an update to that work, see Robinson, “Promoting Polyarchy in Latin America: The Oxymoron of ‘Market Democracy,’” in Eric Hershberg and Fred Rosen, eds., Latin America After Neoliberalism: Turning the Tide? (The New Press, 2006), and Gindin and Robinson, “The Battle for Global Civil Society: An Interview with William I. Robinson,” June 13, 2005, available at http://inthenameofdemocracy.org/en/node/57 and at www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1477.

2. Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (New York: Harper and Row, 1942), p. 285.

3. See, e.g., Larry Diamond, Juan J. Linz, and Seymour Martin Lipset, Democracy in Developing Countries: Latin America (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1989), p. xvi.

4. U.S. Public Law 94-283, Section 441-E makes foreign funding for U.S. electoral campaigns punishable as a felony. Ironically, this and related laws in the United States prohibiting foreign in U.S. elections were revamped and strengthened in 1963 in response to interference in U.S. domestic politics by the Somoza regime. See William I. Robinson, A Faustian Bargain: U.S. Intervention in the Nicaraguan Elections and American Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era (Boulder: Westview, 1992), pp. 55-56, and endnote 41, p. 204. In addition, the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations stipulates that foreign representatives or diplomats “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state,” so that U.S. internal political intervention in Cuba in recent years, including meetings in Cuba between the U.S. charge d’affaires and Cuban opposition leaders, are a violation not just of Cuban laws and reciprocally of U.S. laws, but of international law.

Italy Vetoed EU Attack Upon Venezuelan Govt

Italy vetoed EU recognition of Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido – M5S source to RT

Venezuela. Vasapollo: “Thanks to the Cinque Stelle Movement that has decided to challenge the imperialist logic”.Criticism of the Democratic Party and the League

There is a blow clearly in progress. It did not start on January 24 but a day earlier. The coup began on Twitter when Mr. Pence, vice president of a country responsible for the deaths of 30 million people from 1945 until today, decided that the legitimate President of a country should no longer be so “; These are the words of Professor Luciano Vasapollo, professor of the “Sapienza” of the University of Rome, delegate of the Rector for International Relations with Latin America, who spoke about the Venezuelan crisis. Vasapollo explained that the coup has no legal basis: all the most important constitutionalists in Venezuela have explained how the opposition’s attempt to justify the usurpation of the President’s function as a vacuum of power does not enjoy legal reference. “President Nicolás Maduro Moros swore in front of the supreme constitutional power on January 10, as established by the Constitution in cases where, like the current one, the Parliament is in a situation of rebellion.” The Italian professor recalled that also the art. 233 of the Constitution, which the extreme rightist puts coup to support this coup, speaks of the permanent impediment of the president, not the vacuum of power: “The constitution strictly defines 5 cases of permanent impediment: resignation of the president, death, sentence of the Court Supreme declaring his dismissal, declaration of the Supreme Court declaring his physical or mental incapacity, the declaration of abandonment of office “.

Vasapollo also spoke about the moments when he was an international observer of the presidential elections, which confirmed the second term of President Maduro, and recalled that “I could see how dozens of opposition candidates, Henri Falcon and Bertucci, were there, how there were public debates among all of them. In the elections, absolutely free and transparent, millions of Venezuelans participated who also challenged the terrorism of the extreme right to go to vote, giving a lesson in democracy and civilization to the world. I saw him as a direct witness “; On that occasion Maduro triumphed with 68% of the votes. The university professor also stressed that the part of the right that did not want to participate in the elections chose to keep burning people in the streets just because they were blacks or Chavistas. “Then there is the singular case of Democratic Action of Ramion Allup, more moderate, who had initially granted his adhesion and then withdrew it by order of the United States. “Anticipated elections requested by the opposition itself, to which the part of the coup opposition could not participate by imposition of Washington.”

During the interview with the microphones of “L’Antidiplomatico” Vasapollo, a great connoisseur of this reality, counterattacked against Europe talking about criminal behavior related to the ultimatum of Spain, France and Germany addressed to the Maduro government: it is ” Governments that no longer represent their people, think about Macron, who want to grant the legitimate government of Venezuela 8 days to hold elections. What brutality, what arrogance, what sadness, to such an extent has servility come to the United States? On the contrary, Italy has taken a more dignified and courageous position. “ Vasapollo, referring to the position of the government chaired by Giuseppe Conte that has been divided, wanted to emphasize that the position of the Lega di Salvini is consistent with those on the right who decided to attack the sovereignty of Venezuela to reach the “humanitarian war” that serves the United States to plunder the country’s resources. “On the contrary, the 5 Stelle Movement, and I want to mention in particular the position of Alessandro Di Battista and Manlio Di Stefano in particular, has decided to openly challenge the imperialist logic and I would like to congratulate them publicly.” According to Vasapollo, the Italian government has once again shown its duplicity with Salvini, taking sides with the worst of coups and who is fueling the “humanitarian” war to steal Venezuelan oil.

“It is clear that it will be a tough battle, but thanks to the 5 Stelle Movement, we must recognize it, it is nevertheless a result because we already know that with a Renzi government or a Gentiloni government there would be the usual figure of the doormat with Italy accompanying this ultimatum madness” . The usual role that a government only made by the Lega would have done “. Continuing with his analysis, the professor also recalled that “in all this they have weighed the impressive demonstrations in which our organizations have demonstrated in 6 cities, with hundreds and hundreds of people, their support for the legitimate president Maduro. The opening of a mediation together with Uruguay and Mexico is an intelligent position that serves to avoid a butchery for which, on the other hand, they work from right to right: Fratelli d’Italia, Pd, Lega and Forza Italia “.

When asked about future scenarios, he also reiterated that Moscow, with the statements of Foreign Minister Lavrov, was clear: with Russia that made it clear that it was ready to use all available means to respect international law regarding the events of Venezuela. “We need to be clear about what can happen in Venezuela. Another criminal war of the United States would not be a regional conflict with Colombia, Brazil and other countries that would bear the consequences on their skin. It would not be just to bring the Middle East to Latin America. “ According to Vasapollo, there is a risk of a world war with Russia, China, India and other countries that would oppose US unilateralism. To conclude his speech, he stressed that “despite the pressure of the bishops in Venezuela, the Pope, who does not recognize the coup d’état but asks for peace and dialogue, is making an effort that an atheist Marxist like me can only emphasize with admiration and respect. The ultimatum launched by some European Union countries to the government of Venezuela is in the opposite direction to the appeal launched by the Pope because “it means accelerating the spiral of violence that led to the destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Libya and Syria.”

Dario Caputo

ARTICLE 233, VENEZUELAN CONSTITUTION

Article 233: The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.

When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.

When the President of the Republic becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the first four years of this constitutional term of office, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the Executive Vice-President shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.

In the cases describes above, the new President shall complete the current constitutional term of office. If the President becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the last two years of his constitutional term of office, the Executive Vice-President shall take over the Presidency of the Republic until such term is completed.

Warning From Davos…Our “Owners” and Their Depraved Plans

When Conspiracy Is The Only Explanation For Failed Neo-Liberal Dreams

It couldn’t possibly be that their Davos ideals were weak. Russia must be to blame.

Protesters gather around Los Angeles City Hall to protest President Trump in Nov. 2018. Karl Sonnenber/shutterstock

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald recently compiled a list of the top 10 “most embarrassing media failures on the Trump-Russia story.” All of them exhibit a common theme: Russian conspiracies are undermining American interests everywhere. Greenwald’s piece was followed by a bizarre New York Times storyfrom January 16 with the headline: “Trump and Putin: Five Meetings Infused With Mystery.” The story implied something sinister in undisclosed conversations between the two leaders while offering no evidence whatsoever.

What causes otherwise intelligent people to put their faith in conspiracy theories? A common explanation on the Right is that these conspiracies are cynically concocted to overthrow the Trump presidency. Another explanation points to declining standards of journalism, i.e., reporters being too incompetent to refute groundless claims. Both reasons have merit yet both fail to explain the peculiar estrangement from reality that a belief in baseless conspiracies represents.

In the early stages of the French Revolution, the Jacobins imagined that the beacon of a democratic France would shine across the world and tyrannical kings would topple before its luminescence. The Jacobin imagination was polluted by utopian idealism, the ideology that causes people to see the world how they wish it to be rather than how it is.

When the luminescence of France began to fade and the revolutionary army began to falter, the Jacobins felt there could only be one explanation: conspiracy. Only a deep-seated plot could be preventing France the Savior from vanquishing retrograde monarchs. From the beginning, the virtuous Jacobins saw themselves as fighting a conspiracy against the rights of humanity. Hence the Reign of Terror, with the guillotine deployed against priests and nobles who were seen as forming the core opposition to a better world.

Idealism and conspiracy theories are, it seems, opposite sides of the same coin. When the dream fails to materialize, its validity is not questioned; instead the search to find those who connived against it begins.

Like the Jacobins, the foreign policy establishment in the United States has for decades hitched its wagons to idealistic dreaming. The Romantic ideas of Hegel and Rousseau permeate their thinking. Consider the establishment’s obsequious reaction to Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis. Fukuyama presented himself as the all-seeing gnostic who had divined the direction of all human history. One does not need the acumen of an Aristotle to know that this was far from an original thesis. Fukuyama’s Hegelianism was both warmed over and unmoored from reality. And yet the foreign policy establishment swooned over him. The Bush 43 administration fell so hard for him that they tried to give history a little push by invading Iraq.

Or consider the globalist dreaming of the elites that Samuel P. Huntington labeled “Davos men.” In the Davos dream, culture, history, and religion are archaic relics of a world fading away. National borders are disappearing, and a new global order is emerging, led by secular multilateral institutions staffed by an all-knowing “cosmopolitan” elite.

The reality of a borderless world is global migration that threatens to extinguish much of Western civilization in a generation or two. With cultures clashing, nationalism on the march, and religious wars raging, the Davos men continue to worship their dream from the safety of their Gulfstream jets.

And to the Davos men, only a conspiracy can explain the election of Donald Trump. How else could such a regressive development have occurred when history is cascading toward open borders, democracy, and international institutions? How could an American president question the value of NATO and other alliances whose glorious mission is to midwife the end of history by democratizing everything from Lisbon to the Urals?

For those in a dream world, the only possible explanation for Trump is a conspiracy. His presidency was hatched by Vladimir Putin, the world leader with the strongest reasons for slowing the progressive march of history. Trump won the election because Putin has the powers of a Rasputin. He can thwart history by crossing his eyes, pulling secret levers, and deploying hackers.

But Trump and Putin will not be permitted to conspire against the dream. Their conspiracy must be destroyed, even at the risk of nuclear war. Special counsels must be created, eavesdropping must be expanded, foreign spies must be employed, and jackbooted agents must break down every door linked to this insidious conspiracy. The ruling elites are prepared to tear up the Constitution itself to save humanity from this diabolical cabal.

The resilience of the Russia conspiracy in the minds of our establishment should remind us that the primary obstacle to a sensible foreign policy is our ideologized culture, in which the Western outlook of common sense has been eroded by a Romantic utopian idealism. When people within reach of massive military power are this estranged from reality, the situation can only be described as frightening.

William S. Smith is research fellow at and managing director of the Center for the Study of Statesmanship at The Catholic University of America.

Purdue Pharma Pushed Oxycontin To Everyone Without Regard For Addiction and Imminent Deaths

Jewish Pharmaceutical Magnates Sackler Family First Pushed Oxycontin On the World, Then Plotted To Corner Anti-Opiate Drug Treatment Market

Consulting Firm, McKinsey, Pushed the Pushers To Push Oxycontin Harder

To sway doctors, Purdue Pharma turned up the pressure

Lawsuits filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and others say Purdue Pharma was brazen in efforts to manipulate physicians into prescribing OxyContin.

Associated Press/File
Lawsuits filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and others say Purdue Pharma was brazen in efforts to manipulate physicians into prescribing OxyContin.

Lawsuits by the Massachusetts attorney general and others have detailed Purdue Pharma’s brazen efforts to manipulate physicians into prescribing OxyContin and other potentially deadly opioids. Purdue sales reps made an astounding 150,000 visits to doctors and pharmacists in Massachusetts between 2007 and 2018. And boy, did they pay off: The AG claims the company raked in $500 million in revenue, after doctors here prescribed 70 million doses of its opioids.

But why did so many fall for Purdue’s pitch?

Some doctors were nakedly corrupt, testaments to the fact that a white coat is no guarantee of probity. The attorney general’s complaint includes examples of doctors who got tens of thousands in payments and gifts from Purdue, and who wrote blizzards of prescriptions that fed an epidemic of addictions and overdoses.

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But Purdue put the hard sell on decent health workers, too: doctors and others whose prescriptions also fueled the crisis.

“Most of the patients who went to the pill-mill doctors were already hooked because of prescriptions written by well-meaning doctors,” says Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a Brandeis University researcher and head of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.

And those professionals were distressingly easy to sway. It turns out, it doesn’t take much to persuade upstanding doctors to do what a sales rep wants: Even cheap meals — say, a lunch for $13 — can do the trick.

“The more meals they get, the more they ultimately prescribe,” said Dr. Scott Hadland, a pediatrician and addiction researcher at Boston Medical Center. His research shows that facetime is a crucial factor influencing doctors’ prescriptions. For most doctors, writing prescriptions to please a sales rep isn’t intentional, Hadland said. But physicians are persuaded by marketing, just like everybody else. Now, there’s a discomfiting thought.

And that marketing isn’t always as obvious as a hefty speaking fee or a free burrito. Purdue and other companies helped grow the market for their drugs not just through an army of sales reps, but also by changing the culture around pain: pushing the notion that there was a vast epidemic of untreated chronic pain and that opioids should be a first-line treatment rather than a last resort.

“They launched a brilliant, multifaceted campaign,” Kolodny said. “We were hearing these messages from eminent pain specialists, from our professional societies, from our state medical boards and trade associations.”

Drug companies poured hidden millions into patient advocacy and other groups pushing opioid-friendly messages. A US Senate report found that Purdue, Insys Therapeutics (currently the subject of a federal racketeering prosecution over its sales tactics), and three other opioid manufacturers contributed a whopping $10 million to these groups between 2012 and 2017.

All of this is not to say that opioids aren’t sometimes the best treatment for people in pain. But we’re in big trouble if the decisions of trained medical professionals can be swayed by corporate marketing departments.

Massachusetts has enacted legislation designed to monitor and slow the flow of opioid prescriptions. The CDC and the Massachusetts Medical Society have narrowed guidelines, too.

But the ugly ecosystem exposed by the Purdue case goes beyond opioids. Sales reps and stealth marketing influence doctors to write more prescriptions for other potentially dangerous drugs, too, like Ritalin or Klonopin. Or to prescribe a more expensive, name-brand drug over a generic one, raising costs for everyone.

It’s hard to legislate all of that away. Instead, we need better firewalls. It’s up to doctors to protect themselves — and their patients — from the dark arts practised by Purdue and other drug companies.

Most of our hospitals already limit contact between sales reps and doctors, and prohibit or monitor payments and gifts from drug companies. Family doctors, and those in small practices, must do the same, capping their interactions with sales reps to avoid being swayed by them.

The safe dose? Zero.

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.

US Foreign Policy Relies Upon Destabilization In Asia To “Shake” Russia

The US aggression against Venezuela as a diagnostic tool

The US aggression against Venezuela as a diagnostic tool

[This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

The Neocons never cease to amaze me and their latest stunt with Venezuela falls into this bizarre category of events which are both absolutely unthinkable and simultaneously absolutely predictable.  This apparent logical contradiction is the direct result of a worldview and mindset which is, I believe, unique to the Neocons: a mix of imperial hubris and infinite arrogance, a complete lack of decency, a total contempt for the rest of mankind, crass ignorance, a narcissist/sociopath’s inability to have any kind of empathy or imagine another guy’s reaction and, finally, last but most certainly not least, crass stupidity.  There is so much which can be said about the latest US aggression on Venezuela that entire books could be (and will be) written about this, but I want to begin by look at a few specific but nonetheless very symptomatic aspects:

“In your face” stupidity or bootcamp-like deliberate public humiliation?

Remember the almost universal reaction of horror when Bolton was appointed as National Security Advisor?  Well, apparently, either the Neocons completely missed that, which I doubt, or they did what they always do and decided to double-down by retrieving Elliott Abrams from storage and appointing him US Special Envoy to Venezuela.  I mean, yes, of course, the Neocons are stupid and sociopathic enough not to ever care about others, but in this case I think that we are dealing with a “Skripal tactic”: do something so ridiculously stupid and offensive that it places all your vassals before a stark choice: either submit and pretend like you did not notice or, alternatively, dare to say something and face with wrath of Uncle Shmuel (the Neocon’s version of Uncle Sam).  And it worked, in the name of “solidarity” or whatever else, the most faithful lackeys of the Empire immediate fell in line behind the latest US aggression against a sovereign nation in spite of the self-evident fact that this aggression violates every letter of the most sacred principles of international law.  This is exactly the same tactic as when they make you clean toilets with a toothbrush or do push-ups in the mud during basic training: not only to condition you to total obedience, but to make you publicly give up any semblance of dignity.

 

This is not just a case of history repeating itself like a farce, however.  It is hard to overstate how totally offensive a character like Elliott Abrams is for every Latin American who remembers the bloody US debacle in Nicaragua.  US vassals now have to give up any type of pretend-dignity in front of their own people and act as if Abrams was a respectable and sane human being.

I believe that this kind of “obedience conditioning by means of humiliation” is not just a case of the Neocons being idiots, but a deliberate tactic which will, of course, backfire and end up hurting US puppets worldwide (just like the pro-US Russian “liberal” opposition was eviscerated as a result of being associated by the Russian public opinion with the US policies against Russia, especially in the Ukraine).

Finally, these appointments also show that the senior-Neocons are frightened and paranoid as there are still plenty of very sharp junior-Neocon folks to chose from in the USA, yet they felt the need to get Abrams from conservation and place him in a key position in spite of the strong smell of naphthalene emanating from him.  This reminds me of the gerontocrats of the Soviet Politburo in the worst stagnation years who had to appoint the likes of Chernenko to top positions.

The one thing the Mr MAGA’s administration has in common with the late Brezhevian Politburo is its total inability to get anything done. My wife refers to the folks in the White House (since Dubya came to power) as the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight” and she is right (she always is!): they just can’t really get anything done anymore – all their half-assed pseudo-successes are inevitably followed by embarrassing failures.

As I wrote in my article “The good news about the Trump Presidency: stupid can be good!” these folks will only precipitate the collapse of the AngloZionist Empire, which is a very good thing.  The bad thing is, of course, that the Neocons are negating any chance for a gradual, phased, collapse and are, instead, creating a dynamic in which a sudden, catastrophic, collapse becomes much more likely.

Now we have all seen the latest antic from Bolton: showing up with a yellow pad with “5,000 troops to Colombia” written on it.  Again, this might be a case of Bolton being senile or not giving a damn, but I doubt it.  I think that this is just another oh-so-subtle way to threaten Venezuela with a US-led invasion.  And, really, why not?

If the Empire thinks it has the authority and power to decide who the President of Venezuela should be, it has to logically back up this stance with a threat, especially since there is no US authority, moral or otherwise, left.

The obvious question here is how this threat will be received in Venezuela and that largely depends on how credible that threat is.  Now, “5,000 troops” could mean anything, ranging from a infantry brigade combat team to the typical US mix of as many putatively “special” forces as possible (to make every service happy and give everybody a piece of the expected (but never achieved) “victory pie” – many careers in the US depend on that kind of stuff).  At this point in time, I rather not speculate and get technical about how such a force could be structured.  Let’s just assume that it will be an overall credible and well-packaged force and try to speculate how the Venezuelans could react to it.

The state of the Venezuelan military

Here I am particularly lucky as I have a close and trusted Latin American friend who is now a retired Lt-Colonel who spent many months in Venezuela working with the Venezuelan military in a capacity which I cannot disclose, but which gave him quasi-total access to every unit and military facility in the country and who, just a couple of years ago, shared with me his impression of the Venezuelan military.  Here is what he told me:

A military, any military, is always the product of the society which produces it and this is also true of Venezuela.  It would be silly to admit that the Venezuelan economy is a total mess while expecting the Venezuelan armed forces to be a shining example of professionalism, honesty and patriotism.  The sad reality is very different.

For one thing, much of the Venezuelan military is hopelessly corrupt, as is the rest of society.  In a country whose economy is imploding, this is hardly surprising.  Furthermore, for years both Chavez and Maduro have fought an uphill battle to remove as many potential traitors and class enemies (in a Marxist sense of the word) from the Venezuelan military and replace them with “socially close” (a Bolshevik concept) elements from the poorer sections of society.  Truth be told, this was a partially successful strategy as seen by the fact that during this latest coup attempt the Venezuelan military overwhelmingly supported the Venezuelan Constitution and the legitimacy of Maduro.  And yet that kind of loyalty often comes at the costs of professionalism and at the risk of corruption as seen by the case of the Venezuelan military attache to the USA who clearly was a US agent.  I am afraid that the current situation in Venezuela might be similar to what it was in Syria in the very early stages of the AngloZionist war against this country when scores of top officials of the Syrian government proved to be traitors and/or US agents.  In Syria the government eventually re-took control of the situation, but only with a great deal of help from Iran and Russia and after almost being toppled by the US-run Takfiri forces.

The good news here, according to my friend, is that the Venezuelan special forces (army special forces, jungle infantry troops, “Caribe” counter insurgency units, airborne units, etc) are in a much better shape and that they could form the core of a resistance force to the invasion, not unlike what the Republican Guard eventually did in Iraq.  But the biggest difference with Iraq is that in Venezuela the majority of the people are still backing Maduro and that any invasion force should expect to meet a lot of resistance of the type which the US encountered in Iraq after the invasion of the country.  Also, there was a fragile truce of sorts between Hugo Chavez and various Left-wing guerillas who agreed to stop their military operations, but who also kept all their weapons “just in case”.  This “case” has now happened and we can expect that any US invasion will trigger an immediate re-emergence of a Left-wing guerilla force which, combined with popular support and the key role of a core of patriotic Venezuelan special forces could form a very dangerous combination, especially in the mid to long term.

Keep in mind that corrupt officers don’t like combat and that while they might aid a US invasion force, they will only do so as long as things seem to go the easy way, but as soon as things go south (which is what always happens to US invasion forces) they will run as fast as they can.  So while the endemic corruption now will be a problem for the Maduro government, it will become a problem for the US as soon the legitimate government is toppled.

Comparisons are necessarily tricky and crude, but with this caveat in mind, don’t think “Syria” but rather think “Iraq” when considering the possible outcomes of a US invasion.

The state of the Venezuelan people

This is really crucial.  Hugo Chavez’ reforms alienated a lot of Venezuelans, especially those who made their fortunes by servicing US interests and who became your typical Latin American version of a comprador class.  Much of the middle-class also got hurt and are angry.  However, these same reforms also empowered huge numbers of destitute and poor Venezuelans who, for the first time, felt that the government stood for their interests and who remember what it was like to live in abject poverty under a US-backed regime.  These folks probably have no illusion about what the toppling of this government would mean for them and they are likely to fight hard, if not necessarily competently, to keep the little rights and means they acquired during the Chavez years.  There is even what is sometimes referred to “Chavistas without Chavez” which some describe as potential back-stabbing traitors while other see them as more pragmatic, less ideological, faction of Chavez supporters who decry Chavez’ mistakes but don’t want their country to turn into a Colombia-style US colony. Whatever may be the case, Hugo Chavez’ pro-popular policies left a very profound mark on the country and you can expect that a lot of Venezuelans will take up arms and resist any US/Colombian invasion.

Would *you* trust that face?

Here I think we can all express our heartfelt gratitude to Mr MAGA whose appointment of Elliott “Iran-Contra” Abrams has done more than any government sponsored propaganda to clearly and bluntly explain to the Venezuelan people who is doing what to them and why.

Seriously, Ron Paul or Tulsi Gabbard speaking of democracy is one thing, but having gangsters and psychopathic thugs like Pompeo, Bolton or Abrams in charge really sends a message and that message is that we are dealing with a banal case of highway robbery triggered by two very crude considerations:

  • First, to re-take control of Venezuela’s immense natural resources.
  • Second, to prove to the world that Uncle Shmuel can still, quote, “pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business“, unquote.

The obvious problem is that 1) nobody takes the US seriously because 2) the US has not been capable of defeating any country capable of resistance since many decades already.  The various US special forces, which would typically spearhead any invasion, have an especially appalling record of abject failures every time they stop posing for cameras and have to engage in real combat.  I assure you that nobody in the Venezuelan military cares about movies like “Rambo” or “Delta Force” while they carefully studied US FUBARs in Somalia, Grenada, Iran and elsewhere.  You can also bet that the Cubans, who have had many years of experience dealing with the (very competent) South African special forces in Angola and elsewhere will share their experience with their Venezuelan colleagues.

Last but not least, there are a lot of weapons in circulation in Venezuela and which the various popular militias and National Guard would be more than happy to further distribute to the local population if any invasion appears to be successful.

The State of the Empire and its puppet-President Macrobama

Well, here the famous “insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again expecting different results” is the best possible description of US actions.  Just look at this sequence:

President Macrobama?

Does all this not look boringly familiar?

Does this bizarre mix of Neocons, gerontocrats and deepstaters really, sincerely, believe that this time around they will “win” (however you define that)?!

More relevantly – has this recipe ever worked in the past?  I would say that if we accept, for argument’s sake, that the goal is to “restore democracy” then obviously “no”.  But if the goal is to wreck a country, then it has worked, quite a few times indeed.

Next, a few misplaced hopes

I am getting a lot of emails suggesting that Russia might do in Venezuela what she did in Syria.  Let me immediately tell you that this is not going to happen.  Yes, there are a lot of Russians in Venezuela, but the “Russians are not coming”. For one thing, I will never cease to repeat that the Russian intervention in Syria was a very small one, and that even if this small force proved formidable, it was really acting primarily as a force multiplier for the Iranians, Hezbollah and the Syrian government forces.  And yet, even the deployment of this very small force necessitated a huge logistics effort from Russia whose military (being a purely defensive one) is simply not structured for long-distance power projection.  Syria is about 1000km from Russia.  Venezuela is about 10 times (!) further.  Yes, I know,a few Tu-160 visited the country twice now and there are Russian advisors in the country and the Venezuelans have a few pretty good Russian weapons systems.  But here, again, this is a game of numbers.  Limited numbers of Russian-made combat aircraft (fixed and rotary wing), air defense missiles or even large numbers of advanced MANPADs or assault rifles won’t do the trick against a determined US-Colombian invasion.  Finally, there is no Venezuelan equivalent to Iran or Hezbollah (an outside ally and friend) which would be capable and willing to deploy real combat forces for actual, sustained combat against the invader.

Next comes terrain.  Yes, much of Venezuela is difficult to access, but not for jungle-experienced forces which both the US military and the Colombians have.  Furthermore, there is absolutely no need to invade the entire country to topple the legitimate government.  For that all you need is to control is a few key facilities in a few key locations and you are done.  For example, I don’t see the USAF or USN wasting any time in air-to-air combat against the (few) Venezuelan Sukhois – they will simply destroy them in their hangars along with their runways and air combat management radars and command posts.  So the terrain will not prevent the Empire of suppressing Venezuelan air defenses and as soon as this is done, you can expect the usual mix of bomb and missile strikes which will create chaos, wreck command and control capabilities and, basically, disorganize much of the military.  Finally, US forces in Colombia and USN ships off the Venezuelan coast will enjoy a safe harbor from which to launch as many strikes as they want.

Next, hopes that Russia and China will somehow resuscitate the Venezuelan economy are also ill-founded.  First, neither country is interested in pouring money into a bottomless pit.  It is one thing to sign contracts which are likely to eventually produce a return on investment and quite another to dump money into a bottomless pit (as the US and Europe have found out in the Ukraine).  Second, the Venezuelan economy is so deeply enmeshed in the US-UK run international financial system that neither China nor Russia can do anything about it.  That is not to say that US sanctions, subversion and sabotage did not play a major role in the collapse of the Venezuelan economy, they sure did, but it is equally true (at least to Russian specialists) that many of the Chavista reforms were botched, a lot of them were a case of too little too late, and that it will take years to refloat the Venezuelan economy.

Finally, we are comparing apples to oranges here: the task of the AngloZionists is to destroy the Venezuelan economy while the Chinese and Russian task would be, at least in theory, to rescue it.  Destroying is so much easier than building, that the entire comparison is logically flawed and fundamentally unfair.

I really mean no offense to the supporters of Hugo Chavez and his ideals (I very much include myself in this category) but anybody who has been to, or near, Venezuela will tell you that destitute Venezuelans are not only running out of the country in large numbers, but they also contribute to destabilize the neighboring states.  So we should have no Pollyannish notions about all the reports about the economic and social collapse in Venezuela as only “US propaganda”.  Sadly, much of it is true even if often exaggerated, lopsided and missing all the very real successes of the Chavez reforms, hence the continuous popular support, in spite of it all, the Maduro government continues to enjoy.  Still, the overall picture is very bleak and it will take Venezuela consistent and correct action to recover from the current plight.

So is there still hope?  Yes, absolutely!

I recently replied the following to a friend asking me about a possible Russian intervention in Venezuela “I place my own hopes not in the Venezuelan military, or in Chinese or Russian help, but on the amazing ability of the US Americans to f*** up.  At the end of the day, that is our biggest ally: the US stupidity, ignorance, arrogance and cowardice“.

Think of what currently passes as a “policy” of the USA in Venezuela as a diagnostic tool.

Not just to diagnose the moral degeneracy and mental pathology of the leaders of the AngloZionist Empire, but also to diagnose the very real state of despair and chaos of the Empire itself.  Under Obama, for all his faults and weaknesses, the US succeeded in subverting a list of crucial Latin American countries (like Brazil or Argentina) but now, with Mr MAGA, it can’t even do that.  The kind of antics we see from the Pompeo, Bolton & Abrams gang is amazing in its crudeness and, frankly, makes a supposed “indispensable nation” look absolutely ridiculous.  These losers already had to fold several times, in spite of equally hyperbolic threats delivered with maximal gravitas (think DPRK here), and yet they still think that crude bullying methods can yield success.  They can’t.  Immense firepower is not a substitute for brains.

In its short and blood-soaked history, the USA has pretty much always acted like some criminal enterprise run by brutal gangsters, but in the past some of these gangsters could be extremely well educated and intelligent (think James Baker here).  Today, their guns are still lying around (albeit in various states of disrepair), but they are wielded by ignorant retards.  Yes, ignorant retards with guns can be very dangerous, but they can never be effective!

Conclusion

Right now the US, backed by its various colonies and vassal states, appears to be ready to deliver a death blow to Venezuela and, truth be told, they might be able to do just that.  But, for whatever it is worth, my gut feeling is that they will fail again, even against the weakest countries of the Axis of Resistance.  That is not to say that Venezuela is not in a heap of critical problems.  But I believe that in spite of being in a critical condition, Venezuela will be able to bounce back, just like Syria did.  After all, the Syrian example proves that it *is* possible to resist a superior invading force while at the same time successfully engaging in critically needed reforms.  Yes, today’s Caracas is in very bad shape, but the city of Aleppo was in a much worse shape until it was liberated, and now quasi-normal life has returned to it (in sharp contrast to the US liberated devastated city of Raqqa which still lies in ruins).  Yankees (to use the usual Latin-American expression) are just like their Israeli overlords: they are capable of devastating violence but they have no staying power: if things don’t go their way fast, really fast, they run and barricade themselves somewhere faraway from danger.  In our case, they might even do what they did in Iraq and Afghanistan: build obscenely huge embassies, create a special zone around them, and sit tight while the country is engulfed in a bloody civil war.  This way, they can provide CNN & Co. with footage of a “peaceful neighborhood” while still claiming that the Stars and Stripes are still proudly flying high over the enemy’s capital and that “these colors don’t run”.  This would be a disastrous outcome for the Venezuelan nation and this is why we all have to try to prevent this, by speaking out before the US further wrecks yet another country.

Hopefully the memory of past completely failed, humiliating and bloody invasions will convince the right people at the Pentagon to do whatever it takes to prevent the US from launching yet another stupid and immoral war of choice on behalf of the Neocons.

The Saker

American efforts at regime change are bound to fail

American efforts at regime change are bound to fail

After Libya and Ukraine, it is Venezuela. US President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Venezuela’s National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate president follows a pattern in US foreign policy whereby leaders not readily pliable to American corporate interests get replaced in a popular “revolution” generously sponsored and minutely directed from Washington.

These regime-change efforts are sometimes disguised by a professed concern over the country’s lack of democracy or the mismanagement of its  economy, or allegedly rigged elections – in short, the plight of the locals. More recently, though, and thanks to the more frank and open style of Trump’s administration, America’s true motifs are coming into the open: it is all about money. That is, other nations’ money that American leaders want for their country’s corporate benefit.

Consulting Firm, McKinsey, Pushed the Pushers To Push Oxycontin Harder

Jewish Pharmaceutical Magnates Sackler Family First Pushed Oxycontin On the World, Then Plotted To Corner Anti-Opiate Drug Treatment Market

People who lost loved ones to opioid overdoses demonstrated outside Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Conn., last year.CreditCreditJessica Hill/Associated Press 

By Michael Forsythe and Walt Bogdanich

The world’s most prestigious management-consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, has been drawn into a national reckoning over who bears responsibility for the opioid crisis that has devastated families and communities across America.

In legal papers released in unredacted form on Thursday, the Massachusetts attorney general said McKinsey had helped the maker of OxyContin fan the flames of the opioid epidemic. McKinsey’s consultants, the attorney general revealed, had instructed the drug company, Purdue Pharma, on how to “turbocharge” sales of OxyContin, how to counter efforts by drug enforcement agents to reduce opioid use, and were part of a team that looked at how “to counter the emotional messages from mothers with teenagers that overdosed” on the drug.

The McKinsey disclosures are part of a lawsuit Massachusetts filed against Purdue Pharma, accusing the company of misleading doctors and patients about the safety of opioid use. Even when the company knew patients were addicted and dying, it still tried to boost sales of opioids, the lawsuit alleges, adding, “All the while, Purdue peddled falsehoods to keep patients away from safer alternatives.”

Purdue Pharma helped plant the seeds of the opioid epidemic through its aggressive marketing of OxyContin. More than 130 people die each day in the United States — 47,000 in 2017 — after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

As the death toll from opioid abuse has climbed, the cast of those who are alleged to have contributed to the crisis — manufacturers, distributors, doctors, pharmacists, hospitals and regulatory agencies — has grown. McKinsey is the newest and perhaps most surprising actor in this drama.

“From our initial review of the complaint, it appears that some of the references to McKinsey’s work lack context, including references to McKinsey that appear to be second- or third-hand,” McKinsey said in a statement, adding that it was continuing to review the document.

The suit, filed last year, names several Purdue executives and board members as well as members of the Sackler family, which controls the privately held company. McKinsey is mentioned 71 times in the 275-page complaint. The unredacted version was first reported by ProPublica and the medical news website Stat.

In 2009, McKinsey wrote a report for Purdue Pharma saying that new sales tactics would increase sales of OxyContin by $200 million to $400 million annually and “suggested sales ‘drivers’ based on the ideas that opioids reduce stress and make patients more optimistic and less isolated,” according to the lawsuit.

It was that year that Craig Landau, then Purdue’s chief medical officer and now its chief executive, had an email exchange that included a McKinsey consultant about how to counter mothers whose teenagers had overdosed on OxyContin. The solution: bring in patients to emphasize how the drug helps to relieve pain.

In 2013, amid the rapidly intensifying opioid crisis, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Justice Department reached a settlement with Walgreens, the second-biggest American pharmacy chain. Walgreens agreed to new procedures to crack down on illegal prescriptions. In a report to Purdue Pharma, McKinsey said that “deep examination of Purdue’s available pharmacy purchasing data shows that Walgreens has reduced its units by 18%.”

According to the lawsuit, McKinsey recommended that Purdue “lobby Walgreens’ leaders to loosen up.”

McKinsey also recommended that Purdue redirect its sales force to focus on doctors who were especially prolific prescribers of OxyContin, according to the suit. One slide made public by the attorney general’s office, attributed to McKinsey, focused on one doctor in the town of Wareham, Mass., who almost doubled his annual output of OxyContin prescriptions after a big increase in visits from Purdue sales representatives.

If doctors resisted, McKinsey recommended that Purdue employ “patient pushback,” getting patients to lobby for OxyContin, according to the suit.

In a statement, Purdue said that the Massachusetts attorney general’s office “offers little evidence to support its sweeping legal claims.” The company also said that the lawsuit mischaracterized McKinsey’s work with Purdue.

On a chat site where participants must have a McKinsey email address to register for the company’s discussion room, several expletive-laced expressions of outrage over the revelations of McKinsey’s work with Purdue were mixed with comments about the responsibility to serve the client’s bottom line within moral and ethical boundaries.

“Then, of course it’s ok to maximize shareholder value, seek profits!,” one person wrote. “But not at all costs, not at the cost of our moral values and our society’s well being.”

Another person’s post — like all 42 entries about Purdue and McKinsey posted by midday Friday, it was anonymous — reproduced a bullet point from McKinsey’s values statement stating that the company will “observe high ethical standards.”

In 2018, after it spent years advising Purdue Pharma on how to increase sales of OxyContin, McKinsey published a report titled: “Why we need bolder action to combat the opioid epidemic.”

Prince of Private War (Blackwater) Trains Armies of Terrorists and Murderers For Anybody, EVEN For China and UAE

Erik Prince ‘unaware’ of deal in region where up to a million Uighurs are reportedly held in detention camps

Erik Prince is the founder of Blackwater, whose mercenaries had a prominent and controversial role during the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A Hong Kong-listed security firm founded by Erik Prince has signed a preliminary deal with authorities in China to build a training centre in Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims have experienced a huge security crackdown.

Frontier Services Group, which specialises in providing security and logistics for businesses operating in risky regions, said it had signed a deal to run a training base in the city of Kashgar, according to a statement posted on its Chinese website.

The firm was founded by Erik Prince, a former US Navy Seal and the brother of the US education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

Prince was also the founder of the US military contractor Blackwater, whose mercenaries had a prominent and controversial role during Washington’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – including the 2007 killing of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians by Blackwater employees.

FSG, which has a Hong Kong headquarters, has built up a wealth of contracts both inside China and for Chinese companies operating overseas, particularly in Africa.

But its presence in Xinjiang is controversial because of the sweeping security crackdown Chinese authorities have launched in the restive far-western region, including reported mass incarcerations.

A spokesman said Prince – a minority shareholder and deputy chairman of FSG – was unaware of the deal, which was preliminary and would need to be signed off by all board members before final approval.

“He had no knowledge or involvement whatsoever with this preliminary memorandum regarding the company’s activity in Xinjiang,” the spokesman said.

Up to a million Uighurs and members of other mostly Muslim minority groups are held in extrajudicial detention in camps in Xinjiang, according to a group of experts cited by the United Nations.

Beijing says the facilities are benign “vocational education centres” to help people drawn to extremism to steer clear of terrorism, and allow them to be reintegrated into society.

Critics and ex-detainees say the facilities are little more than prisons.

The region is a major plank in Beijing’s massive “belt and road” global infrastructure push, acting as China’s western gateway to central Asia and beyond. Security companies have seen a boom in business as a result.

FSG’s original Chinese language statement on 22 January said one of its subsidiaries had signed a deal for a training centre with the Kashgar Caohu industrial park in southern Xinjiang.

The statement did not detail what kind of training would be provided and FSG did not respond to a request for further comment.

FSG’s website shows it has previously trained “overseas security specialists” for a host of Chinese companies. It has also helped train Chinese military and police.

Last month it announced it had obtained a security licence to operate in Cambodia where it will aim to provide “cash escort, airport security (and) VIP close protection”.

Trump Plan To Transfer Prescription Discounts/Kickbacks From Corporations To Patients, Dems/Big Pharm Raise Hell

Trump plan would channel prescription discounts to patients

ALEX BRANDON / AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration Thursday unveiled a plan to channel now-hidden prescription drug discounts directly to patients, saying that would eventually lower prices for consumers.

The proposed regulation from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar aims to eliminate behind-the-scenes rebates among drugmakers, middlemen and insurers and instead encourage that they be paid directly to consumers when they buy their medications.

The idea is to do away with a hidden cost seen as contributing to artificially high list prices for prescription drugs. The proposal was co-authored with the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office.

The proposal comes as President Donald Trump is under political pressure to deliver results on his repeated promises to slash prescription drug costs. Democrats in Congress want to empower Medicare to directly negotiate prices with drug companies, but Republicans prefer a market-based approach that keeps the government out of setting prices.

“Americans— particularly our seniors— pay more than they need to for their prescription drugs because of a hidden system of kickbacks to middlemen,” Azar said in a statement. “President Trump is proposing to end this era of backdoor deals in the drug industry, bring real transparency to drug markets, and deliver savings directly to patients when they walk into the pharmacy.”

Prices for brand-name drugs have continued to rise, although data shows the total number of price hikes this year is somewhat lower than at the same time in 2018, and the overall percentage increase isn’t as steep. Facing heavy criticism from Trump and Democrats, some drugmakers have pledged to take fewer or smaller increases as the industry tries to avoid government regulation.

Thursday’s proposal applies directly to Medicare prescription drug plans and Medicaid managed care plans, but administration officials say they believe the impact will eventually be broader.

HHS officials acknowledge that Medicare prescription premiums could go up by $3 to $5 as a result of the change, but said they expect greater savings for people purchasing medications. Those patients would see their copays and cost-sharing reduced when they go to fill a prescription.

On rebates, drugmakers have been supportive of the administration’s approach, but the industry vehemently disagrees with other Trump ideas, including an experiment using lower international prices to cut Medicare costs for some drugs.

Thursday’s complex proposal would work by doing away with an exemption from federal anti-kickback rules that currently allows drugmakers, insurers and middlemen called pharmacy benefit managers to negotiate rebates among themselves.

HHS says today’s hidden rebates can amount to 26 percent to 30 percent of a drug’s list price.

Azar contends that under the current system everybody but the patient benefits from high prices. A high list price makes room for bigger negotiated rebates for insurers and middlemen. And drugmakers then merely build that expectation into their prices.

By doing away with hidden rebates, Azar says he’s hoping to force the industry to lower its prices. Democrats, however, say pharmaceutical pricing is a like a black box, and there’s no guarantee prices reflect the actual costs of research, development and manufacturing.

Consumers are worried about prices for brand-name drugs, particularly new medications that promise breakthrough results. Generics account for nearly 90 percent of prescriptions filled, but brand-name drugs account for more than 70 percent of the spending.

Before joining the Trump administration, Azar was a top executive for drugmaker Eli Lilly. That led to criticism that he would be an industry pawn. But some of his actions — such as using international pricing for some Medicare drugs — have angered the industry.

Jewish Pharmaceutical Magnates Sackler Family First Pushed Oxycontin On the World, Then Plotted To Corner Anti-Opiate Drug Treatment Market

OxyContin Maker Explored Expansion Into “Attractive” Anti-Addiction Market

The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy

Colorado Sues Oxycontin Maker Who Patented a New Drug to Get People off Oxycontin…

Purdue Pharma lawsuit redactions apparently show company wanted to capitalize on opioid addiction treatment

A new report claims Purdue Pharma, the drug company accused of helping engineer and profit from the opioid epidemic, also considered expanding into addiction treatment. The ProPublica article is purportedly based on secret parts of a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts against Purdue and members of the Sackler family who own the company. The suit alleges Purdue deceptively sold OxyContin and downplayed its dangers. Purdue says it will continue to defend itself.

According to ProPublica, blacked out portions of the documents apparently show Purdue wanted to capitalize on addiction treatment. The article cites “internal correspondence” between Purdue Pharma executives discussing how the “sale” and treatment of opioid addiction are “naturally linked.” ProPublica goes on to report, “while OxyContin sales were declining, the internal team at Purdue touted the fact that the addiction treatment marketplace was expanding.”

ProPublica specifically names Kathe Sackler as being involved with a secretive project called “Project Tango,” which was allegedly meant to help Purdue break into the addiction treatment market.

The redacted documents also reportedly show that Richard Sackler “complained” over email that an OxyContin Google alert “was giving him too much information about the drug’s dangers.”

In an interview with CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the Sackler family doesn’t “want to accept blame for this.”

“They blame doctors, they blame prescribers and worst of all, they blame patients,” Healey said.

In a statement, Purdue Pharma called the release of the redacted information “part of a continuing effort to single out Purdue, blame it for the entire opioid crisis, and try the case in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system.”

According to a court order, the state has until midday Friday to release the redacted information. It is unclear who released it early.

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office told CBS News it did not release the redacted information and would not confirm the information in ProPublica’s article.