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American Resistance To Empire

Wahhabism Confronted In Sri Lanka, Saudi Influence Curbed After Bombings

The Wahhabi Invasion Of Sri Lanka

KATTANKUDY, Sri Lanka (Reuters) – Sri Lanka is moving to curtail Saudi Arabian influence, after some politicians and Buddhist monks blamed the spread of the kingdom’s ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam for planting the seeds of militancy that culminated in deadly Easter bomb attacks.

On April 21, nine Sri Lankans blew themselves up in churches and luxury hotels, killing more than 250 people and shocking the country a decade after its civil war ended.

Sri Lanka has since arrested a Wahhabi scholar and is poised to take over a Saudi-funded school. The government also says it will monitor previously unchecked money flows from donors including prominent Saudi families to mosques on the Indian Ocean island.

“Nobody will be able to just make donations now,” said Muslim cabinet minister Kabir Hashim, who has urged Muslim communities to look at how radical ideas could have spread. He said the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs would oversee donations.

The outcry in Sri Lanka is the latest sign that Wahhabism, which critics deem a root cause of the jihadist threat, is under pressure internationally.

Jihadist organizations, including Islamic State – which claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings – follow an extreme interpretation of Islam’s Salafi branch, of which Wahhabism was the original strain.

Saudi Arabia rejects the idea that Wahhabism is problematic and defends its record by pointing to the detention of thousands of suspected militants. Riyadh in June sent back five Sri Lankans allegedly linked to the Easter attacks.

Saudi diplomats in Colombo have expressed “displeasure” over being targeted during a recent meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena, a Sri Lankan official told Reuters.

Sirisena’s office, as well as Saudi Arabia’s Colombo embassy and the kingdom’s communications office in Riyadh, did not respond to requests for comment on the backlash against Saudi influence.

MONKS’ INFLUENCE

That backlash has focused on one man in particular – Muhammad Hizbullah, a businessman and politician who was the governor of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province until he resigned in June following protests by hardline Buddhist monks.

The monks, who are influential on the island where 70 percent of the population are Buddhists, and some members of parliament say Hizbullah’s links to Riyadh contributed to the spread of militancy in his native Kattankudy, a Muslim-majority town.

Hizbullah’s family helped build Saudi-financed mosques and a Saudi-funded higher education institute, Batticaloa Campus, which has not opened yet, in the Eastern Province.

The mosque and school projects were led by the Hira Foundation, a non-profit owned by Hizbullah and his son Hiras.

Its financial statements show income of some $31,000 between 2014 and 2018, though Hizbullah told parliament Hira had received $2 million from foreign donors. He did not respond to a request from Reuters for further financial details.

In an interview with Reuters at his home in the capital, Colombo, Hizbullah, 56, said most funds come from the Juffalis, a leading Saudi merchant family. Reuters also found two wires from other Saudis but was not able to trace them. Hizbullah said they were pooled contributions from smaller donors.

The Sheikh Ali Abdullah Al Juffali Foundation Charity wired some $24.5 million (19.5 million pounds) to Batticaloa Campus between 2016 and 2017, bank statements and loan agreements seen by Reuters show.

Hizbullah warned the experience of the Juffalis, who he said have received hate mail, was spooking Saudi investors. He did not identify any investors.

Ongoing investigations have not shown that any Saudi money flowed to the plotters. And critics attribute moves against Saudi influence to burgeoning Islamophobia, including mob attacks on Muslim properties in May.

“Not a single Saudi institution, charity or individual gave even one rupee to terrorists,” Hizbullah said.

The charity did not respond to calls or messages seeking comment, and Reuters was unable to find alternative contact details for the Juffalis. The charity’s website lists the founders as Ali al-Juffali, a businessman and former member of the kingdom’s consultative assembly who died in 2015, and his four sons. The charity says its objectives include supporting orphans and activities that promote religious tolerance.

The Juffalis, who promised a total of $100 million to Batticaloa Campus, have halted loans over the school’s uncertain future, Hizbullah said. Construction of the sprawling campus, designed in Islamic architectural style, has been paused, he added.

Hira also connects mosques with donors.

The modest Siharam Mosque, for example, was rebuilt in 2015 thanks to some $56,000 from the Juffalis, according to a mosque plaque and its ex-president M.Y. Adam, who said Hira received a 10% commission. Hizbullah did not respond to questions about mosque funding.

SCAPEGOAT?

In the Reuters interview, Hizbullah also denied allegations made by some monks that he had links to the attacks, and no evidence has surfaced to support that claim.

His critics, however, point to a 2015 photograph that shows Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Zahran, who authorities say led the April suicide bombings and blew himself up at a Colombo hotel, grinning under his beard as he shakes Hizbullah’s hand.

Hizbullah said he was seeking support from Zahran, also a Kattankudy native, for a parliamentary election. Back then, Hizbullah stressed, Zahran was just a charismatic preacher who could deliver some 2,000 votes in the devout town of roughly 50,000.

His supporters – and even some opponents – say Hizbullah is a scapegoat. Ameer Ali Shihabdeen, an Eastern Province member of parliament from a rival party, said Hizbullah was being targeted despite a lack of evidence linking him to the attacks.

Wahhabism spread to Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province three decades ago, when the area was convulsed by conflict between mostly Hindu Tamil separatists and the Buddhist-dominated government, according to local religious leaders and politicians.

Muslim scholars received scholarships to study in Saudi Arabia, while impoverished farmers escaped clashes by becoming drivers or maids in the Middle East – often returning home with stricter Islamic practices, the sources said.

Saudi-funded mosques mushroomed. Women ditched their saris for all-enveloping black abayas. Some Sri Lankan Sufis, who follow a mystical form of Islam that Wahhabis consider heretical, said they began to be persecuted.

Hizbullah’s political career, which included stints in parliament, blossomed during this time. In Kattankudy, his name adorns schools, a public hall and roads.

Batticaloa Campus, the college funded by the Juffalis, initially planned to teach sharia, which some critics say limits women’s rights. Hizbullah said sharia only meant the academic subject of Islamic Studies, and that the discipline had been dropped from curriculum plans.

Students would pay half standard tuition fees, which Hizbullah said was partly why this long-neglected area welcomes Arab donors’ deep pockets.

A parliamentary committee last month called for authorities to take over Batticaloa Campus and compensate investors, citing incomplete documentation, possible violations of foreign exchange rules, and national security concerns.

No decision has been announced yet, but a presidential spokesman told Reuters that Sirisena, a Hizbullah ally who is on the back foot ahead of presidential elections this year, also favours a takeover.

WAHHABI SCHOLAR BEHIND BARS

Some Kattankudy Sufis link the advent of Wahhabism to the 1990 opening of the Saudi-financed Center for Islamic Guidance, which boasts a mosque, school, and library. Reuters was unable to trace Saudi donors, who had names common in the Middle East, thanked on a plaque at the centre.

The centre “brainwashed” youth and distributed flyers denouncing Sufism, according to H. M. Ameer, a community spokesman who said his house was destroyed during anti-Sufi unrest in 2004. Persecution intensified with the rise of Zahran, the suspected Easter bombings ringleader, whose followers attacked Sufis with swords in 2017, Ameer added.

Representatives of the centre did not respond to requests for comment about the Sufis’ allegations. They previously told Reuters the centre practiced “moderate Islam”.

The centre’s Riyadh-educated founder, Mohamed Aliyar, was arrested in May for allegedly funding Zahran.

The charge sheet, reviewed by Reuters, details his bank accounts but does not provide evidence of wrongdoing. A police spokesman did not respond to requests for details.

Aliyar’s lawyer Abdul Uwais said he was a victim of paranoia over Wahhabism.

Two sources from Kattankudy’s Muslim leadership said Zahran voraciously read Wahhabi texts from Aliyar’s centre, but that the men were not known to be close.

Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer and Omar Rajarathnam; Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in Riyadh, and Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal in Colombo; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Martin Howell and Alex Richardson

It’s Time to Declare Your Independence from Tyranny, America

It’s Time to Declare Your Independence from Tyranny, America

John Whitehead’s Commentary

John Whitehead

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”—Thomas Paine, December 1776

It’s time to declare your independence from tyranny, America.

For too long now, we have suffered the injustices of a government that has no regard for our rights or our humanity.

Too easily pacified and placated by the pomp and pageantry of manufactured spectacles (fireworks on the Fourth of July, military parades, ritualized elections, etc.) that are a poor substitute for a representative government that respects the rights of its people, the American people have opted, time and again, to overlook the government’s excesses, abuses and power grabs that fly in the face of every principle for which America’s founders risked their lives.

We have done this to ourselves.

Indeed, it is painfully fitting that mere days before the nation prepared to celebrate its freedoms on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the City Council for Charlottesville, Virginia—the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration—voted to do away with a holiday to honor Jefferson’s birthday, because Jefferson, like many of his contemporaries, owned slaves. City councilors have opted instead to celebrate “Liberation and Freedom Day” in honor of slaves who were emancipated after the Civil War.

This is what we have been reduced to: bureaucrats dithering over meaningless trivialities while the government goosesteps all over our freedoms.

Too often, we pay lip service to those freedoms, yet they did not come about by happenstance. They were hard won through sheer determination, suffering and sacrifice by thousands of patriotic Americans who not only believed in the cause of freedom but also had the intestinal fortitude to act on that belief. The success of the American revolution owes much to these men and women.

In standing up to the British Empire and speaking out against an oppressive regime, they exemplified courage in the face of what seemed like an overwhelming foe.

Indeed, imagine living in a country where armed soldiers crash through doors to arrest and imprison citizens merely for criticizing government officials.

Imagine that in this very same country, you’re watched all the time, and if you look even a little bit suspicious, the police stop and frisk you or pull you over to search you on the off chance you’re doing something illegal.

Keep in mind that if you have a firearm of any kind (or anything that resembled a firearm) while in this country, it may get you arrested and, in some circumstances, shot by police.

If you’re thinking this sounds like America today, you wouldn’t be far wrong.

However, the scenario described above took place more than 200 years ago, when American colonists suffered under Great Britain’s version of an early police state. It was only when the colonists finally got fed up with being silenced, censored, searched, frisked, threatened, and arrested that they finally revolted against the tyrant’s fetters.

No document better states their grievances than the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

A document seething with outrage over a government which had betrayed its citizens, the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, by 56 men who laid everything on the line, pledged it all—“our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”—because they believed in a radical idea: that all people are created to be free.

Labeled traitors, these men were charged with treason, a crime punishable by death. For some, their acts of rebellion would cost them their homes and their fortunes. For others, it would be the ultimate price—their lives.

Yet even knowing the heavy price they might have to pay, these men dared to speak up when silence could not be tolerated. Even after they had won their independence from Great Britain, these new Americans worked to ensure that the rights they had risked their lives to secure would remain secure for future generations.

The result: our Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Imagine the shock and outrage these 56 men would feel were they to discover that 243 years later, the government they had risked their lives to create has been transformed into a militaristic police state in which exercising one’s freedoms—at a minimum, merely questioning a government agent—is often viewed as a flagrant act of defiance.

In fact, had the Declaration of Independence been written today, it would have rendered its signers extremists or terrorists, resulting in them being placed on a government watch list, targeted for surveillance of their activities and correspondence, and potentially arrested, held indefinitely, stripped of their rights and labeled enemy combatants.

The danger is real.

We could certainly use some of that revolutionary outrage today.

Certainly, we would do well to reclaim the revolutionary spirit of our ancestors and remember what drove them to such drastic measures in the first place.

Then again, perhaps what we need to do is declare our independence from the tyranny of the American police state.

It’s not a radical idea.

It has been done before.

The Declaration of Independence speaks volumes about the abuses suffered by early Americans at the hands of the British police state.

Read the Declaration of Independence again, and ask yourself if the list of complaints tallied by Jefferson don’t bear a startling resemblance to the abuses “we the people” are suffering at the hands of the American police state.

If you find the purple prose used by the Founders hard to decipher, here’s my translation of what the Declaration of Independence would look and sound like if it were written in the modern vernacular:

There comes a time when a populace must stand united and say “enough is enough” to the government’s abuses, even if it means getting rid of the political parties in power.

Believing that “we the people” have a natural and divine right to direct our own lives, here are truths about the power of the people and how we arrived at the decision to sever our ties to the government:

All people are created equal.

All people possess certain innate rights that no government or agency or individual can take away from them. Among these are the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The government’s job is to protect the people’s innate rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The government’s power comes from the will of the people.

Whenever any government abuses its power, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish that government and replace it with a new government that will respect and protect the rights of the people.

It is not wise to get rid of a government for minor transgressions. In fact, as history has shown, people resist change and are inclined to suffer all manner of abuses to which they have become accustomed.

However, when the people have been subjected to repeated abuses and power grabs, carried out with the purpose of establishing a tyrannical government, people have a right and duty to do away with that tyrannical Government and to replace it with a new government that will protect and preserve their innate rights for their future wellbeing.

This is exactly the state of affairs we are under suffering under right now, which is why it is necessary that we change this imperial system of government.

The history of the present Imperial Government is a history of repeated abuses and power grabs, carried out with the intention of establishing absolute Tyranny over the country.

To prove this, consider the following:

The government has, through its own negligence and arrogance, refused to adopt urgent and necessary laws for the good of the people.

The government has threatened to hold up critical laws unless the people agree to relinquish their right to be fully represented in the Legislature.

In order to expand its power and bring about compliance with its dictates, the government has made it nearly impossible for the people to make their views and needs heard by their representatives.

The government has repeatedly suppressed protests arising in response to its actions.

The government has obstructed justice by refusing to appoint judges who respect the Constitution and has instead made the Courts march in lockstep with the government’s dictates.

The government has allowed its agents to harass the people, steal from them, jail them and even execute them.

The government has directed militarized government agents—a.k.a., a standing army—to police domestic affairs in peacetime.

The government has turned the country into a militarized police state.

The government has conspired to undermine the rule of law and the constitution in order to expand its own powers.

The government has allowed its militarized police to invade our homes and inflict violence on homeowners.

The government has failed to hold its agents accountable for wrongdoing and murder under the guise of “qualified immunity.”

The government has jeopardized our international trade agreements.

The government has overtaxed us without our permission.

The government has denied us due process and the right to a fair trial.

The government has engaged in extraordinary rendition.

The government has continued to expand its military empire in collusion with its corporate partners-in-crime and occupy foreign nations.

The government has eroded fundamental legal protections and destabilized the structure of government.

The government has not only declared its federal powers superior to those of the states but has also asserted its sovereign power over the rights of “we the people.”

The government has ceased to protect the people and instead waged domestic war against the people.

The government has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, and destroyed the lives of the people.

The government has employed private contractors and mercenaries to carry out acts of death, desolation and tyranny, totally unworthy of a civilized nation.

The government through its political propaganda has pitted its citizens against each other.

The government has stirred up civil unrest and laid the groundwork for martial law.

Repeatedly, we have asked the government to cease its abuses. Each time, the government has responded with more abuse.

An Imperial Ruler who acts like a tyrant is not fit to govern a free people.

We have repeatedly sounded the alarm to our fellow citizens about the government’s abuses. We have warned them about the government’s power grabs. We have appealed to their sense of justice. We have reminded them of our common bonds.

They have rejected our plea for justice and brotherhood. They are equally at fault for the injustices being carried out by the government.

Thus, for the reasons mentioned above, we the people of the united States of America declare ourselves free from the chains of an abusive government. Relying on God’s protection, we pledge to stand by this Declaration of Independence with our lives, our fortunes and our honor.

That was 243 years ago.

In the years since early Americans first declared and eventually won their independence from Great Britain, we—the descendants of those revolutionary patriots—have through our inaction and complacency somehow managed to work ourselves right back under the tyrant’s thumb.

Only this time, the tyrant is one of our own making: the American Police State.

The abuses meted out by an imperial government and endured by the American people have not ended. They have merely evolved.

“We the people” are still being robbed blind by a government of thieves.

We are still being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and monsters.

We are still being locked up by a government of greedy jailers.

We are still being spied on by a government of Peeping Toms.

We are still being ravaged by a government of ruffians, rapists and killers.

We are still being forced to surrender our freedoms—and those of our children—to a government of extortionists, money launderers and corporate pirates.

And we are still being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers: a standing army in the form of a militarized police.

Given the fact that we are a relatively young nation, it hasn’t taken very long for an authoritarian regime to creep into power.

Unfortunately, the bipartisan coup that laid siege to our nation did not happen overnight.

It snuck in under our radar, hiding behind the guise of national security, the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on immigration, political correctness, hate crimes and a host of other official-sounding programs aimed at expanding the government’s power at the expense of individual freedoms.

The building blocks for the bleak future we’re just now getting a foretaste of—police shootings of unarmed citizens, profit-driven prisons, weapons of compliance, a wall-to-wall surveillance state, pre-crime programs, a suspect society, school-to-prison pipelines, militarized police, overcriminalization, SWAT team raids, endless wars, etc.—were put in place by government officials we trusted to look out for our best interests and by American citizens who failed to heed James Madison’s warning to “take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.”

In so doing, we compromised our principles, negotiated away our rights, and allowed the rule of law to be rendered irrelevant.

There is no knowing how long it will take to undo the damage wrought by government corruption, corporate greed, militarization, and a nation of apathetic, gullible sheep.

The problems we are facing will not be fixed overnight: that is the grim reality with which we must contend.

Frankly, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we may see no relief from the police state in my lifetime or for several generations to come.

That does not mean we should give up or give in or tune out.

Remember, there is always a price to be paid for remaining silent in the face of injustice.

That price is tyranny.

As Edmund Burke, the eighteenth-century British statesman and author who supported the American colonists warned, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

WC: 2379

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

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John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

Syrian Ally Iran To Construct Railroad Line From Iran, To Iraq, To Latakia, Syria

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:00 A.M.) – Iran is preparing to begin construction on a large railway that links their capital city of Tehran to the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, the Director of Syrian Railways Najib Al-Fares said on Wednesday.

According to Fares, the new railway will promote regional trade between Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The new project is expected to be funded by the Iranian government, with support from both Syria and Iraq.

The Director of the Iraqi Railway Company, Jawad Kazim, said that Iraq had previously signed contracts to implement projects with Iranian companies, but most were delayed.

For Syria, the new railway system is expected to help ease their economic issues that have derived from the U.S.-led sanctions on the Levantine nation.

While this should be beneficial for all parties, this new railway system will face heavy criticism from the U.S. and its allies, most notably Israel.

Israel has paid close attention to the Iranian developments in Syria and has often acted when they suspect weapons are being transported across borders.

The U.S. likely opposes the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) control over the border city of Albukamal in Deir Ezzor because it allows Iran to build a land bridge along the international highway.

Soros and Koch Create Bipartisan Destabilization Effort, Under Pretext of Ending “Forever War”

In an astonishing turn, George Soros and Charles Koch team up to end US ‘forever war’ policy

George Soros (left) and Charles Koch are teaming up on the effort.
George Soros (left) and Charles Koch are teaming up on the effort.(ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE PHOTOS)

BESIDES BEING BILLIONAIRES and spending much of their fortunes to promote pet causes, the leftist financier George Soros and the right-wing Koch brothers have little in common. They could be seen as polar opposites. Soros is an old-fashioned New Deal liberal. The Koch brothers are fire-breathing right-wingers who dream of cutting taxes and dismantling government. Now they have found something to agree on: the United States must end its “forever war” and adopt an entirely new foreign policy.

In one of the most remarkable partnerships in modern American political history, Soros and Charles Koch, the more active of the two brothers, are joining to finance a new foreign-policy think tank in Washington. It will promote an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions, and bombing. This is a radical notion in Washington, where every major think tank promotes some variant of neocon militarism or liberal interventionism. Soros and Koch are uniting to revive the fading vision of a peaceable United States. The street cred they bring from both ends of the political spectrum — along with the money they are providing — will make this new think tank an off-pitch voice for statesmanship amid a Washington chorus that promotes brinksmanship.

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“This is big,” said Trita Parsi, former president of the National Iranian American Council and a co-founder of the new think tank. “It shows how important ending endless war is if they’re willing to put aside their differences and get together on this project. We are going to challenge the basis of American foreign policy in a way that has not been done in at least the last quarter-century.”

Since peaceful foreign policy was a founding principle of the United States, it’s appropriate that the name of this think tank harken back to history. It will be called the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, an homage to John Quincy Adams, who in a seminal speech on Independence Day in 1821 declared that the United States “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” The Quincy Institute will promote a foreign policy based on that live-and-let-live principle.

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The institute plans to open its doors in September and hold an official inauguration later in the autumn. Its founding donors — Soros’s Open Society Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation — have each contributed half a million dollars to fund its takeoff. A handful of individual donors have joined to add another $800,000. By next year the institute hopes to have a $3.5 million budget and a staff of policy experts who will churn out material for use in Congress and in public debates. Hiring is underway. Among Parsi’s co-founders are several well-known critics of American foreign policy, including Suzanne DiMaggio, who has spent decades promoting negotiated alternatives to conflict with China, Iran, and North Korea; the historian and essayist Stephen Wertheim; and the anti-militarist author and retired Army colonel Andrew Bacevich.

“The Quincy Institute will invite both progressives and anti-interventionist conservatives to consider a new, less militarized approach to policy,” Bacevich said, when asked why he signed up. “We oppose endless, counterproductive war. We want to restore the pursuit of peace to the nation’s foreign policy agenda.”

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In concrete terms, this means the Quincy Institute will likely advocate a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and Syria; a return to the nuclear deal with Iran; less confrontational approaches to Russia and China; an end to regime-change campaigns against Venezuela and Cuba; and sharp reductions in the defense budget.

It aims to issue four reports before the end of 2019: two offering alternative approaches to the Middle East and East Asia, one on “ending endless war,” and one called “democratizing foreign policy.” Its statement of principles asserts that the United States “should engage with the world, and the essence of engagement is peaceful cooperation among peoples. For this reason, the United States must cherish peace and pursue it through the vigorous practice of diplomacy . . . The use of armed force does not represent American engagement in the world. Force ends human life, destroying engagement irreparably. Any resort to force should occur only as a last resort and should remain infrequent. The military exists to defend the people and territory of the United States, not to act as a global police force.”

The depth of this heresy can only be appreciated by recognizing the meretricious power that nourishes Washington’s think-tank ecosystem. These “talk shops” employ experts who pop up to advise politicians, journalists, Congressional staff members, and the public. They write opinion columns and bloviate on news channels. In foreign policy, all major Washington think tanks promote interventionist dogma: the United States faces threats everywhere, it must therefore be present everywhere, and “present” includes maintaining more than 800 foreign military bases and spending trillions of dollars on endless confrontations with foreign countries. That, with some variation, is the ethos that moves conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation as well as liberal ones like the Center for American Progress and the Brookings Institution. Just as pernicious as their relentless support of the global-hegemony project is the corruption that lies behind it. Many Washington think tanks are supported by industries and foreign powers eager to inflate threats in order shape American law, policy, and public opinion. Their “experts” are often paid shills who cloak themselves in institutional respectability so they can masquerade as independent analysts.

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When foreign crises like the war in Yemen break out, critics of US policy emerge and are given space to air their views. These protests, however, are episodic. Little continuity ties one burst of outrage to the next. The Quincy Institute aims to offer a corps of experts in Washington who will promote a unified foreign-policy paradigm based on statecraft and cooperation. Its founders plan to become involved in grass-roots campaigns, especially in minority communities. They hope their specialists will eventually move on to populate Congressional staffs and the executive branch — as alumni of pro-intervention think tanks have been doing for decades.

“Some interesting currents are emerging in American politics and we want to capture this moment, but we’re in it for the long haul,” said Parsi. “We’ll be a failure if in 10 years we’re still criticizing. In 10 years, we want to be driving the bus.”

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Correction: An earlier version of this column said the Koch brothers are financing the Quincy Institute. Only one of the brothers, Charles, is backing the think tank.


Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

Saudi “Lady Liberty” and the Perverse Royal Image of America On Display In Jeddah

Statue of Liberty installed at Jeddah's Al Hamra Corniche in Saudi Arabia

SOURCE

SAUDI DICTATORSHIP ERECTING STATUE OF LIBERTY IS PERFECT SYMBOL OF TRUMP-MBS BROMANCE

You couldn’t think of many countries more incongruous with the word “freedom” than Saudi Arabia, but there she is—Lady Liberty herself, lifting her torch high above the kingdom’s port city of Jeddah. Only in the Trump era could such a potent symbol of freedom as the Statue of Liberty be hijacked by a dictatorship like Saudi Arabia.

For the millions of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island as they entered America over 100 years ago, the torch that Lady Liberty held up was a beacon of hope.

How then has she come to be used at a month-long festival in Jeddah, a port city in a country which could not be more undeserving of “The Lady in the Harbor”?

For, if you live in Saudi Arabia you have no hope if you are a woman, gay, in favor of free speech or democratic rule.

That the Statue of Liberty can be associated with such a place is an insult to those who cherish everything it represents: America the beacon of the world, America the melting pot of nations, America the land of the free.

But the fact that the Saudis feel emboldened enough to use her to claim some sort of solidarity with America is all down to Donald Trump.

When the rest of world recoiled in horror at the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the imprisonment of women rights activists, the execution of people for being gay or the bombing of school buses in Yemen, he was not swayed.

Despite the most heinous of crimes, Saudi Arabia was still a “great ally” and a great supporter of America, he would say.

As long as lucrative arms deals are providing jobs back home, the bromance will continue with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, of whom a UN report last month said there was ‘credible evidence’ he was involved in the killing of the Washington Post journalist, Khashoggi.

It’s not surprising that the Saudis carry on regardless.

However, if you accept that the Statue of Liberty represents the very best of America and her place in the world, then by extension you have to also accept that Donald Trump is an “un-American” President.

Lady Liberty and he just do not share the same values.

Thankfully, most American senators and congressmen still know what being a true American means, as they continue to pass laws saying the US should punish those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder and end its support for the Saudi war in Yemen.

According to the UN, by November 2018 nearly 7000 civilians had been killed there and 10,768 injured, most by Saudi Arabia-led air strikes, with 10 million more on the brink of famine.

But on Yemen, Trump exercised his veto and on Khashoggi he just chose to ignore the Magnitsky Act.

On migrants and the border wall, he tried to block a $4.5billion aid bill which included new standards for migrants in custody following reports that children were being kept in terrible conditions.

The problem is not that there aren’t any “American” politicians on Capitol Hill, it’s that there aren’t enough of them to override an ‘un-American’ presidential veto.

So, for now, we’re treated to the grotesque spectacle of the Statue of Liberty being wheeled out on the Jeddah Corniche as part of some tacky display of Americana, along with a Hollywood sign, a Welcome to Vegas sticker, an Uncle Sam hat and an Elvis Presley statue—all set to the Bruno Mars song, Uptown Funk.

The truth is that if Liberty were to suddenly get down off her pedestal and start reading the poem inscribed on it she would be arrested and thrown behind bars before she could say: “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The whole thing gets even more perverse when you consider that in New York the “Mother of Exiles” was welcoming poor and downtrodden immigrants, and today Saudi Arabia uses the hated kefala system of sponsored labor, described as modern-day slavery.

Take Nepalese workers, for example. In 2016 the country was responsible for the most Nepalese labor deaths from natural causes in the world, including 60% of traffic accidents, according to the International Labor Organisation.

Last year, Saudi Arabia cited a United Nations job application as evidence against the women’s rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, still behind bars for campaigning for women’s right to drive and an end to the male guardianship system.

Loujain also allegedly “confessed” to being in contact with human rights groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Since when did applying for a job at the UN and being in touch with human rights groups amount to a criminal offence?

Anthony Harwood is a former foreign editor of the Daily Mail and US Editor of the Daily Mirror

The US Has Blocked UN Resolution Naming Haftar Forces For War Crime of Bombing Refugee Center

Haftar forces admit to Libya migrant camp airstrike

Pro-Haftar forces claim Tripoli-based GNA “brought migrants to what was previously military brigade base, arms depot”

US prevents Security Council resolution condemning airstrike on migrants center in Libya

L that, if passed, would have condemned the airstrike and called for a ceasefire and a return to the political process, diplomatic sources reported.

US banks on Libya strongman Haftar, experts say

AFP  

Libyan Strongman Khalifa Haftar 

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar salutes during a military parade in Benghazi on May 7, 2018. PHOTO | ADDULLAH DOMA | AFP 

In Summary

  • United States blocked the UN Security Council from adopting a unanimous statement condemning an airstrike on a detention centre that killed dozens of migrants.
  • The US representatives at the UN gave no explanation for the Trump administration’s decision not to condemn the outrage.
  • After Haftar began to wage war on the country’s west, US President Donald Trump called him to praise his “significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources” and “shared vision”.
Dubai,

Washington’s refusal to condemn an airstrike on a detention centre that killed dozens of migrants blamed on Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar by his rivals shows tacit US support, experts say.

The decision could prove damaging for the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj — as well as for the UN’s influence and human rights in war-torn Libya.

Washington’s move “should not come as a surprise”, said James Dorsey, a researcher at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “It is a sign of US policy changing towards Libya.”

Following more than two hours of deliberations on Wednesday, the United States blocked the UN Security Council from adopting a unanimous statement condemning the incident.

Bodies were strewn on the floor of a hangar in Tripoli’s Tajoura suburb, mixed with the blood-soaked clothes of migrants following the strike condemned by UN chief Antonio Guterres as “horrendous”. At least 44 people were killed and more than 100 injured.

TURN A BLIND EYE

The US representatives at the UN gave no explanation for the Trump administration’s decision not to condemn the outrage.

The British-drafted text did not lay the blame with either side of the bitter conflict that has pitted Haftar’s eastern power-base against forces aligned with the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.

Instead it called for a ceasefire and a resumption of talks.

But Washington refused to give the final go-ahead for the text to be adopted, according to a European diplomatic source.

“This latest US stand is perfectly consistent with the policies of the past few years which have turned a blind eye to egregious human rights violations when committed by US allies,” said Karim Bitar, a senior fellow at the Paris-based IRIS think-tank.

“The Trump administration and its Gulf allies have fully embraced Haftar’s heavy-handed methods and authoritarian agenda.”

CONTACTS WITH HAFTAR

Mired in chaos since the 2011 toppling of Muammar Gadhafi, Libya is ruled by two rival factions — Sarraj’s GNA in the west, and Haftar’s in the east.

The UN has previously failed to agree a unified position after Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an assault on GNA-held Tripoli in April.

“The US have not withdrawn in any form or sense their recognition of — nor revoked their support to — the GNA, but de facto there has been contacts with Haftar at the highest level,” added Dorsey.

After Haftar began to wage war on the country’s west, US President Donald Trump called him to praise his “significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources” and “shared vision”.

“Haftar fulfils two criteria in the eyes of Washington. One, he is projecting himself against the Islamists. Two, he is backed by the US’s two closest allies in the region, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia,” said Dorsey.

LOBBYING
Haftar has also received more subtle support from Egypt and France — while even Russia has unusually sided with Washington and tilted towards him even as the GNA won backing from Turkey and Qatar.

“The last two months have witnessed a massive lobbying offensive in Washington with Haftar being represented by his own public relations firm backed by the extensive lobby apparatus of the UAE,” said Andreas Krieg, a lecturer at King’s College London.

“It looks as if the joint Haftar-UAE lobbying of Trump over the past months has been successful in convincing the White House that Haftar’s LNA might be a partner to work with — despite growing evidence of war crimes committed.”

Haftar, 75, has sought to present himself as Libya’s saviour while his rivals accuse him of once again seeking to subject Libya to a military dictatorship.
The US, which previously granted Haftar political asylum, knows him well.

Bitar, the IRIS analyst, summed up Washington’s position by recounting the apocryphal comments of former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt about Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza.

“He may be a son of a bitch,” the 32nd president reputedly said. “But he’s our son of a bitch.”