Friday, December 09, 2016

Living On: The Legacy of John Ono

Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On

by John W. Whitehead - CounterPunch


December 8, 2016

Militant nonviolent resistance works. Peaceful, prolonged protests work. Mass movements with huge numbers of participants work.

Yes, America, it is possible to use occupations and civil disobedience to oppose government policies, counter injustice and bring about change outside the confines of the ballot box. It has been done before. It is being done now. It can be done again. 
Photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly | CC BY 2.0


“You gotta remember, establishment, it’s just a name for evil. The monster doesn’t care whether it kills all the students or whether there’s a revolution. It’s not thinking logically, it’s out of control.”
—John Lennon (1969)


For example, in May of 1932, more than 43,000 people, dubbed the Bonus Army—World War I veterans and their families—marched on Washington. Out of work, destitute and with families to feed, more than 10,000 veterans set up tent cities in the nation’s capital and refused to leave until the government agreed to pay the bonuses they had been promised as a reward for their services.

The Senate voted against paying them immediately, but the protesters didn’t budge. Congress adjourned for the summer, and still the protesters remained encamped. Finally, on July 28, under orders from President Herbert Hoover, the military descended with tanks and cavalry and drove the protesters out, setting their makeshift camps on fire. Still, the protesters returned the following year, and eventually their efforts not only succeeded in securing payment of the bonuses but contributed to the passage of the G.I. Bill of Rights.

Similarly, the Civil Rights Movement mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to strike at the core of an unjust and discriminatory society. Likewise, while the 1960s anti-war movement began with a few thousand perceived radicals, it ended with hundreds of thousands of protesters, spanning all walks of life, demanding the end of American military aggression abroad.

Most recently, after months of protests over the construction of a pipeline that members of the Sioux tribe insisted would harm their water supply, the Army Corp of Engineers has agreed to look for an alternate route for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

This kind of “power to the people” activism—grassroots, populist and potent—is exactly the brand of civic engagement John Lennon advocated throughout his career as a musician and anti-war activist.

It’s been 36 years since Lennon was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet on December 8, 1980, but his legacy and the lessons he imparted in his music and his activism have not diminished over the years.

All of the many complaints we have about government today—surveillance, militarism, corruption, harassment, SWAT team raids, political persecution, spying, overcriminalization, etc.—were present in Lennon’s day and formed the basis of his call for social justice, peace and a populist revolution.

Little wonder, then, that the U.S. government saw him as enemy number one.

Because he never refrained from speaking truth to power, Lennon became a prime example of the lengths to which the U.S. government will go to persecute those who dare to challenge its authority.

Lennon was the subject of a four-year campaign of surveillance and harassment by the U.S. government (spearheaded by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover), an attempt by President Richard Nixon to have him “neutralized” and deported. As Adam Cohen of the New York Times points out, “The F.B.I.’s surveillance of Lennon is a reminder of how easily domestic spying can become unmoored from any legitimate law enforcement purpose. What is more surprising, and ultimately more unsettling, is the degree to which the surveillance turns out to have been intertwined with electoral politics.”

Years after Lennon’s assassination, it would be revealed that the FBI had collected 281 pages of surveillance files on him. As the New York Times notes, “Critics of today’s domestic surveillance object largely on privacy grounds. They have focused far less on how easily government surveillance can become an instrument for the people in power to try to hold on to power. ‘The U.S. vs. John Lennon’ … is the story not only of one man being harassed, but of a democracy being undermined.”

Such government-directed harassment was nothing new.

The FBI has had a long history of persecuting, prosecuting and generally harassing activists, politicians, and cultural figures, most notably among the latter such celebrated names as folk singer Pete Seeger, painter Pablo Picasso, comic actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, comedian Lenny Bruce and poet Allen Ginsberg. Among those most closely watched by the FBI was Martin Luther King Jr., a man labeled by the FBI as “the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.”

In Lennon’s case, the ex-Beatle had learned early on that rock music could serve a political end by proclaiming a radical message. More importantly, Lennon saw that his music could mobilize the public and help to bring about change.

For instance, in 1971 at a concert in Ann Arbor, Mich., Lennon took to the stage and in his usual confrontational style belted out “John Sinclair,” a song he had written about a man sentenced to 10 years in prison for possessing two marijuana cigarettes. Within days of Lennon’s call for action, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered Sinclair released.

While Lennon believed in the power of the people, he also understood the danger of a power-hungry government. “The trouble with government as it is, is that it doesn’t represent the people,” observed Lennon. “It controls them.”

By March 1971, when his “Power to the People” single was released, it was clear where Lennon stood. Having moved to New York City that same year, Lennon was ready to participate in political activism against the U. S. government, the “monster” that was financing the war in Vietnam.

The release of Lennon’s Sometime in New York City album, which contained a radical anti-government message in virtually every song and depicted President Richard Nixon and Chinese Chairman Mao Tse-tung dancing together nude on the cover, only fanned the flames of the conflict to come.

However, the official U.S. war against Lennon began in earnest in 1972 after rumors surfaced that Lennon planned to embark on a U.S. concert tour that would combine rock music with antiwar organizing and voter registration. Nixon, fearing Lennon’s influence on about 11 million new voters (1972 was the first year that 18-year-olds could vote), had the ex-Beatle served with deportation orders “in an effort to silence him as a voice of the peace movement.”

As Lennon’s FBI file shows, memos and reports about the FBI’s surveillance of the anti-war activist had been flying back and forth between Hoover, the Nixon White House, various senators, the FBI and the U.S. Immigration Office.

Nixon’s pursuit of Lennon was relentless and misplaced.

Despite the fact that Lennon was not plotting to bring down the Nixon Administration, as the government feared, the government persisted in its efforts to have him deported. Equally determined to resist, Lennon dug in and fought back. Every time he was ordered out of the country, his lawyers delayed the process by filing an appeal.

Finally, in 1976, Lennon won the battle to stay in the country and by 1980, he had re-emerged with a new album and plans to become politically active again. The old radical was back and ready to cause trouble.

Unfortunately, Lennon’s time as a troublemaker was short-lived.

Mark David Chapman was waiting in the shadows on Dec. 8, 1980, just as Lennon was returning to his New York apartment building.

As Lennon stepped outside the car to greet the fans congregating outside, Chapman, in an eerie echo of the FBI’s moniker for Lennon, called out, “Mr. Lennon!”

Lennon turned and was met with a barrage of gunfire as Chapman—dropping into a two-handed combat stance—emptied his .38-caliber pistol and pumped four hollow-point bullets into his back and left arm. Lennon stumbled, staggered forward and, with blood pouring from his mouth and chest, collapsed to the ground.

John Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Much like Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy and others who have died attempting to challenge the powers-that-be, Lennon had finally been “neutralized.”

Still, you can’t murder a movement with a bullet and a madman: Lennon’s legacy lives on in his words, his music and his efforts to speak truth to power.

As Yoko Ono shared in a 2014 letter to the parole board tasked with determining whether Chapman should be released: “A man of humble origin, [John Lennon] brought light and hope to the whole world with his words and music. He tried to be a good power for the world, and he was. He gave encouragement, inspiration and dreams to people regardless of their race, creed and gender.”

Lennon’s work to change the world for the better is far from done.

Peace remains out of reach. Activism and whistleblowers continue to be prosecuted for challenging the government’s authority. Militarism is on the rise, all the while the governmental war machine continues to wreak havoc on innocent lives.

For those of us who joined with John Lennon to imagine a world of peace, it’s getting harder to reconcile that dream with the reality of the American police state. And as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, those who do dare to speak up are labeled dissidents, troublemakers, terrorists, lunatics, or mentally ill and tagged for surveillance, censorship or, worse, involuntary detention.

As Lennon shared in a 1968 interview:

I think all our society is run by insane people for insane objectives… I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal means. If anybody can put on paper what our government and the American government and the Russian… Chinese… what they are actually trying to do, and what they think they’re doing, I’d be very pleased to know what they think they’re doing. I think they’re all insane. But I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”

So what’s the answer?

Lennon had a multitude of suggestions.

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”

“Produce your own dream. If you want to save Peru, go save Peru. It’s quite possible to do anything, but not to put it on the leaders….You have to do it yourself.”

“Peace is not something you wish for; It’s something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And something you give away.”

“If you want peace, you won’t get it with violence.”

“Say you want a revolution / We better get on right away / Well you get on your feet / And out on the street / Singing power to the people.”

And my favorite advice of all:

“All you need is love. Love is all you need.”
 
John W. Whitehead is the president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People.
More articles by:John W. Whitehead

Syria: Last Act of a Desperate President Opens Arms to Terrorists

New Obama Executive Action Opens Door to Unlimited Arms for Islamist Terrorists in Syria

by Patrick Henningsen - 21st Century Wire


December 8, 2016

As 21WIRE reported earlier this week, in a historic turning point in a five-year bloody conflict, the Syrian Arab Army liberated the Old City of Aleppo from the hands of occupying terrorists and armed militants. This joint victory by Syria and Russia has caused a panic in Washington, however, as well as in London, Paris, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – all of whom hoped they would eventually destroy the entire city of Aleppo, and win their proxy war in the process.

Prior to this week, the US-led ‘Coalition’ still believed that they could somehow force a Syria-Russia military pause, or UN-enforced ‘No Fly Zone’ – by continuing to back a militant opposition that has been occupying East Aleppo since 2012.

Their epic failure has prompted yet another highly dangerous and desperate move by a lame duck US President – signing a new order which could deliver unlimited arms and support to ‘moderate’ terrorists in Syria.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama issued a White House memorandum (see full text below) to both the US State and Defense departments which waives any arms export control restrictions on providing ‘military assistance’ to any and all ‘foreign forces’ in Syria, according to a White House press release issued today. Presumably, this includes not only guns and ammunition, but also lethal TOW Missiles and RPGs (and anti-aircraft units?) for tens of thousands of extremist foreign fighters and salafi terrorists currently operating inside Syria, as well as thousands of US-trained and equipped fighters waiting in camp in both Turkey and Jordan.

Not coincidentally, this comes on the same day the US Senate passed a defense bill by a majority vote of 92-7, which authorizes $611 billion in military spending through 2017.

This seemingly desperate move by Obama can only mean two things. Firstly, it demonstrates that the US and its allies are doggedly determined to prolong one of the bloodiest and dirtiest wars in recent history. Secondly, it signals a last-ditch act of desperation on the part of a President who will be viewed as a perennial loser in a failed proxy war that lasted over 5 years, costing tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives.

The executive action also gives additional weight to this week’s statement by US State Dept spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau who stated:

“Even if Aleppo falls, certainly the war is not over. But our position has not changed on that.”

Is the outgoing White House trying to plunge the next Administration into a deeper commitment to an unwinnable proxy war in the Middle East?

As far as diplomacy is concerned, the agenda couldn’t be clearer. This is an all-too-familiar pattern that we’ve become used to throughout Washington’s endless Syria debacle. While Kerry pretends to negotiate a diplomatic ceasefire or ‘peace deal’ over the table somewhere in Europe, operatives in Washington execute some irrational moves under the table specifically designed to sabotage any real bilateral agreement. Whether it’s an US air strike against Syrian Army, a fabricated chemical weapons claim against the Syrian armed forces, or a false flag attack on a UN Aid Convoy – the US seems to always pull a trick card when the promise of an agreement is near.

According to RT reports from today’s OECD talks in Hamburg, Germany, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hit back at a recent allegation made by US State Department spokesman Mark Toner who had accused Russia of not actually fighting Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Nusra) terrorists in Syria, but rather that Russia was instead attacking the US-backed “moderate opposition.” Lavrov replied simply by stating,

“As for Jabhat al-Nusra, the US is not only not touching it, but also tried to negotiate our agreements in a way which let al-Nusra remain unpunished.” 

He then explained that this group is listed by the UN as a designated terrorist organization, adding that, “surely, we cannot accept it.”

Washington’s ‘name game’ of refusing to call a terrorist a terrorist should be old hat by now. Back in September, Lavrov had managed to get US Secretary of State John Kerry to agree to target leading terrorist opposition force Al Nusra Front (al Qaeda in Syria, supported covertly by both the Saudi Arabia and the US/CIA), but this and other provisional ceasefire arrangements quickly collapsed after the US targeted and killed at least 70 Syrian Army soldiers – a brutal operation which allowed ISIS forces to advance towards the key city of Deir el-Zour. This prompted a rather embarrassing public tantrum by Washington’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power.

Once again, Washington drives another impossible wedge into delicate diplomatic negotiations…

Obama’s latest decree stipulates that new arms shipments and military provisions will fall under the banner of “fighting terrorism,” (see the official document below) when in reality, the stated US intention and policies regarding supplying weapons to “moderate opposition” Syria who have never actually fought ISIS. Instead, weapons are transferred to armed opposition paramilitaries (including listed Terrorist groups like Al Nusra Front and its numerous affiliates, and even into the hands of ISIS themselves). In reality, these US Coalition-supplied militants are really fighting against the Syrian Army – and not ISIS, and they do so with the expressed intention of overthrowing the Syrian Government led by President Bashar al-Assad. This same regime change is also the stated policy of the US and its allies, and yet Washington is still carrying on with its political charade regardless.

Here is the Presidential Memorandum posted on the White House website this afternoon:

Presidential Determination and Waiver — Pursuant to Section 2249a of Title 10, United States Code, and Sections 40 and 40A of the Arms Export Control Act to Support U.S. Special Operations to Combat Terrorism in Syria

December 8, 2016

Presidential Determination
No. 2017-05

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

SUBJECT: Presidential Determination and Waiver Pursuant to Section 2249a of Title 10, United States Code, and Sections 40 and 40A of the Arms Export Control Act to Support U.S. Special Operations to Combat Terrorism in Syria

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 2249a of title 10, United States Code, sections 40 and 40A of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) (22 U.S.C. 2780 and 2781), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, I hereby:
  • determine that the transaction, encompassing the provision of defense articles and services to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing U.S. military operations to counter terrorism in Syria, is essential to the national security interests of the United States;
  • waive the prohibitions in sections 40 and 40A of the AECA related to such a transaction;
  • delegate to the Secretary of State the responsibility under section 40(g)(2) of the AECA to consult with and submit reports to the Congress for proposed exports, 15 days prior to authorizing them to proceed, that are necessary for and within the scope of this waiver determination and the transaction referred to herein;
  • waive the prohibitions in section 2249a of title 10, United States Code, to the extent necessary to allow the Department of Defense to carry out such support; and
  • delegate to the Secretary of Defense the responsibility under section 2249a(b)(2) of title 10, United States Code, to notify the appropriate congressional committees at least 15 days before this waiver takes effect.

The Secretary of Defense is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA [signed]

***

During recent peace negotiations in Rome and Hamburg, Sergey Lavrov made it clear that past Washington attempts to deliberately obfuscate and confuse the issue would not work this time – which has no doubt infuriated Washington who has always reserved the right to pull a bait-and-switch, or simply lie its way through negotiations – either to buy time for terrorist ground forces, or simply to railroad any actual agreement before the signing stage. This was certainly the case over the weekend in Rome when, according to RT, Lavrov emphasised that, “John Kerry passed on to us proposals from Washington that are in line with the suggestions [on Syria] from Russia’s experts.” Then, like clockwork, Washington withdrew the proposal two days later.

Accustomed to US double-dealing over Syria, Lavrov seemed to take it stride, saying on Tuesday,

“They have withdrawn their document and have a new one. Our initial impression is that this new document backtracks, and is an attempt to buy time for the militants, allow them to catch their breath and resupply.”

Lavrov also chided the UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to “stop sabotaging” the Geneva Syria peace talks.

Meanwhile, terrorist-occupied East Aleppo was liberated by Government forces. That was Washington’s last card in Aleppo, and now it’s gone.

WESTERN DOUBLESPEAK: “Moderate Rebels” in Syria


Despite now Washington’s farcical legal evasion claiming how it is shipping arms into Syria in order to help the long-defunct, albeit aspirational construct, the ‘Free Syrian Army,’ in the supposed “fight against ISIS,” bureaucrats can no longer hide their true intentions. It should also be noted that by arming internationally recognized terrorists fighters – Washington and any other allies involved in these illicit operations – are in direct violation of United States Anti-Terrorism laws, as well as similar European and international laws. However, because this has been a bipartisan effort from the beginning, co-steered by key Republicans including John McCain, Ed Royce, and Mike Rogers – no such indictments may ever be brought against Washington’s criminal weapons traffickers.

If such a case were ever prosecuted, then every US politician involved in this operation, both Democrat and Republican as well as agency officials, could, in theory, be charged with providing material support and lethal aid to known terrorist entities. Perhaps for this reason, the US and its allies have avoided specifically naming Al Nusra Front and its terror affiliates in most of the language in their official pronouncements of ‘rebel’ support.

RT dispatches added the following statement on Wednesday from retired US Army Colonel Larry Wilkerson, who is urging Washington DC to end the spilling of blood in Syria, citing that all western attempts to oust Assad have failed:

“There is an old theory in international relations that some wars have to be won. Well, this is one that has been won and it has been won by Assad and his allies,” Wilkerson said. The official elaborated that the West should “recognize that to stop the killing, to stop the slaughter, to stop the bloodshed.”

“We need to bring some stability back to Syria,” Wilkerson concluded.

“Stability in this case is better than what we have right now. It would be the same in Libya. We opened Pandora’s box in Libya too and look what we have now.”

Since attempts to drive out the legitimate Syrian President have failed, the international community needs to “make accommodation with him [Assad]”

Only two days ago, on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, President Obama could be seen grandstanding, and boasting about all of his supposed ‘security’ achievements at a speech he gave at CENTCOM HQ at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.

“On January 20th, I will become the first president of the United States to serve two full terms during a time of war.” he said.

What Obama seems to forget is that all of his wars were done in absence of any real Article One Section 8 declaration of war by US Congress, only a vague, rubber-stamp “Authorization of Force” was applied, a lawyer’s end-run around the US Constitution. From Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Libya, to Syria, and Yemen (not to mention covert actions in the Ukraine) – all of these are undeclared wars of aggression, for which Germany was also implicated over its actions from 1939, which was also the basis for the draft text in the Nuremberg Principles.

The NYT adds: “He [Obama] defended an approach to fighting wars that did not bankrupt the Treasury or cause thousands of deaths. He noted, for instance, that he has spent $10 billion over the last two years fighting the Islamic State — the same amount of money President George W. Bush spent in just one month fighting the Iraq War.”

So right after he brags to a crowd of hapless US servicemen about how he defeated ISIS on the cheap, Obama signs a blank check to arm legions of murdering terrorists already running amok in Syria.

Is this the final act of a President who fears that his all-important legacy is slipping away in the waning weeks of his own eight year regime?

Obama’s legacy is written already, however. It’s one of overall cowardly leadership, punctuated by a feckless foreign policy littered with failure, and enabled through executive criminality and repeated lies – and underlined by a total disregard for international law.

This, from a man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize even before he served a day in office.

That is Obama’s legacy. 



SEE MORE ALEPPO UPDATES HERE.
READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

SUPPORT 21WIRE – SUBSCRIBE & BECOME A MEMBER@21WIRE.TV

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Remembering James Mattis: Mad Dogs and War Crimes in the First Person

James Mattis Is a War Criminal: I Experienced His Attack on Fallujah Firsthand

by Dahr Jamail - Truthout

 
December 6, 2016 

Retired marine General James Mattis, who retired from being the head of CENTCOM in 2013, has become known recently for his stance against what he calls "political Islam."

"Is political Islam in the best interest of the United States?" Mattis said at the far right-wing Heritage Foundation in 2015. 
"I suggest the answer is no, but we need to have the discussion. If we won't even ask the question, how do we even recognize which is our side in a fight?"

Another controversial aspect of his selection that much of the media is focusing on is the fact that in order to get the job, Mattis would need Congress to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law stating that it has to have been seven years since defense secretaries have been on active duty. Congress has only bypassed that law once in US history, and that occurred over 50 years ago.

More importantly, Mattis, known to some by the nickname of "Mad Dog," has shown a callous disregard for human life, particularly civilians, as evidenced by his behavior leading marines in Iraq, comments he made about enjoying fighting in Afghanistan because "it's fun to shoot some people. You know, it's a hell of a hoot," and myriad other problems.

Mattis' Role in the Haditha Massacre


While Mattis has ample military experience -- serving as NATO's supreme allied commander and with more than 40 years in the Marine Corps, his nickname seems apt.

He also said, when speaking to a group of soldiers about how to behave in Iraq during a 2003 speech, "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."

But more importantly, he is clearly responsible for carrying out and/or aiding and abetting in several war crimes.

In November 2005 US marines in Iraq committed a massacre of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians. The slaughtering of unarmed men, women, children and elderly people, shot multiple times at close range, was retribution for a roadside bomb attack on a convoy of marines. The war crimes were extremely well documented and the atrocity garnered international attention.

When it came time to bring the marines responsible for the massacre to justice, Mattis was the convening authority over the eight charged with crimes at Haditha.

Mattis went on to dismiss all of the charges leveled against the marines who had been accused of killing the civilians and of the eight originally charged, only one still faces possible prosecution, but one can guess how that will end up.

Mattis' Role in Fallujah


Mattis was the head of Camp Pendleton's 1st Marine Division in Iraq and played a lead role during both of the US sieges of Fallujah in 2004.

During the April 2004 siege, more than 700 civilians were killed by the US military, according to Iraqi doctors in the city whom I interviewed in the aftermath of that attack.

While reporting from inside Fallujah during that siege, I personally witnessed women, children, elderly people and ambulances being targeted by US snipers under Mattis' command. Needless to say, all of these are war crimes.

During the November siege of Fallujah later that same year, which I also covered first-hand, more than 5,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. Most were buried in mass graves in the aftermath of the siege.

Mosques were deliberately targeted by the US military, hospitals bombed, medical workers detained, ambulances shot at, cease-fires violated, media repressed, and the use of depleted uranium was widespread. All of these are, again, war crimes.

At that time I broke the story of the US military's use of white phosphorous, an incendiary weapon similar to napalm in its ability to burn all the way down to the bone. The use of white phosphorus was a violation of international law, given that it was unleashed in the city during a time when the Pentagon itself admitted to at least 50,000 civilians still being present.

More than 200,000 civilians were displaced from their homes during the November siege, and over 75 percent of the city was destroyed.

The horrific legacy of depleted uranium contamination continues, with stillbirths and birth defects still occurring at astronomical rates, creating a situation so extreme that some Iraqi doctors are calling it a genocide.

Life Under Attack by Mattis-Led Forces


In this moment, as we countenance Mattis' planned ascension as secretary of defense, I'd like to share an excerpt from my book Beyond the Green Zone. Taken from a chapter about the April 2004 US siege of Fallujah, this report offers a clear view of the war crimes over which Mattis presided, including the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians, widespread collective punishment and more:

***

We rolled toward the one small clinic where we were to deliver our medical supplies. The small clinic was managed by Maki al-Nazzal, who was hired just four days ago. He was not a doctor. The other makeshift clinic in Fallujah was in a mechanic's garage. He had barely slept in the past week, nor had any of the doctors at the small clinic.

Originally, the clinic had just three doctors, but since the US military bombed one of the hospitals and were currently sniping at people as they attempted to enter or exit the main hospital, effectively, there were only these two small clinics treating the entire city.

The boxes of medical supplies we brought into the clinic were torn open immediately by the desperate doctors. A woman entered, slapping her chest and face, and wailing as her husband carried in the dying body of her little boy. Blood was trickling off one of his arms, which dangled out of his father's arms. Thus began my witnessing of an endless stream of women and children who had been shot by the US soldiers and were now being raced into the dirty clinic, the cars speeding over the curb out front, and weeping family members carrying in their wounded. One 18-year-old girl had been shot through the neck. She was making breathy gurgling noises as the doctors frantically worked on her amid her muffled moaning. Flies dodged the working hands of doctors to return to the patches of her vomit that stained her black abaya.

Her younger brother, a small child of 10 with a gunshot wound in his head from a marine sniper, his eyes glazed and staring into space, continually vomited as the doctors raced to save his life while family members cried behind me. "The Americans cut our electricity days ago, so we cannot vacuum the vomit from his throat," a furious doctor tells me. They were both loaded into an ambulance and rushed toward Baghdad, only to die en route.

Another small child lay on a blood-spattered bed, also shot by a sniper. The boy's grandmother lay nearby, shot as she was attempting to carry children from their home and flee the city. She lay on a bed dying, still clutching a bloodied white surrender flag. Hundreds of families were trapped in their homes, terrorized by US snipers shooting from rooftops and the minarets of mosques whenever they saw someone move past a window.

Blood bags were being kept in a food refrigerator, warmed under running water before being given to patients. There were no anesthetics. The lights went out as the generator ran dry of fuel, so the doctors, who had been working for days on end, worked by light provided by men holding up cigarette lighters or flashlights as the sun set. Needless to say, there was no air-conditioning inside the steamy "clinic."

One victim of the US military aggression after another was brought into the clinic, nearly all of them women and children, carried by weeping family members. Those who had not been hit by bombs from warplanes had been shot by US snipers. The one functioning ambulance left at this clinic sat outside with bullet holes in the sides and a small group of shots right on the driver's side of the windshield. The driver, his head bandaged from being grazed by the bullet of a sniper, refused to go collect any more of the dead and wounded.

Standing near the ambulance in frustration, Maki told us, "They [US soldiers] shot the ambulance and they shot the driver after they checked his car, inspected his car, and knew that he was carrying nothing. Then they shot him. And then they shot the ambulance. And now I have no ambulance to evacuate more than 20 wounded people. I don't know who is doing this and why he is doing this. This is terrible. This has never happened before. And I don't know who to call because it seems that nobody is listening."

The stream of patients slowed to a sporadic influx as night fell. Maki sat with me as we shared cigarettes in a small office in the rear of the clinic. "For all my life, I believed in American democracy," he told me with an exhausted voice.

"For 47 years, I had accepted the illusion of Europe and the United States being good for the world, the carriers of democracy and freedom. Now I see that it took me 47 years to wake up to the horrible truth. They are not here to bring anything like democracy or freedom.
"Now I see it has all been lies. The Americans don't give a damn about democracy or human rights. They are worse than even Saddam." 

I asked him if he minded if I quoted him with his name. "What are they going to do to me that they haven't already done here," he said.

Another car skipped over the curb outside and a man who was burned from head to toe was carried in on a stretcher. He surely died shortly, as there was no way this clinic could treat massive burns. Maki, frustrated and in shock, said, "They say there is a cease-fire. They said 12 o'clock, so people went out to do some shopping. Everybody who went out was shot and this place was full, and half of them were dead."

More than 20 dead bodies had been brought to this clinic during the last 24 hours of the "cease-fire." Shortly after this, another car skidded to a stop, and a man hit with cluster bombs was unloaded. "The Americans have been using cluster bombs often here," Maki tells me somberly. "And of course they love their DU [depleted uranium]."

***

It is clear that Trump's secretary of defense selection of Mattis, an unprosecuted war criminal, is yet another egregious act against justice and the rule of international law.

Mattis was a high-level marine commander overseeing both sieges of Fallujah who then played an active role in making sure eight marines involved in a massacre walked away from any appropriate punishment.

These are just a few of his highlights from Iraq.

Imagine what he could do to the rest of the world.

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last 10 years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.
His third book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon.

Dahr Jamail is the author of the book, The End of Ice, forthcoming from The New Press. He lives and works in Washington State.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
 

First to Worst: How High Health Care Costs Kill Americans

Profits and Patients: High Health Costs Killing Americans

by Linn Washington Jr. - This Can't Be Happening


December 8, 2016

When she opened the letter and saw it was a $1,471 bill for her recent visit to a hospital emergency room – a visit that lasted around four hours from admission to discharge – she got sick.

That bill made her physically sick: triggering an intense headache, upsetting her stomach and leaving her with an overall queasy feeling. The $1,471 bill came weeks after she received a copy of the $14,000+ bill submitted to her medical insurance company by the hospital in New Jersey where that few hour ER visit occurred.

Her medical insurance covered that initial $14,000+ bill. But she was supposed to cough up the $1,471 herself.

That $1,471 bill also made her emotionally sick: a sickened anger that compounded her being sick-&-tired of being sick-&-tired about outrageous medical care costs that surgically dig deeper into her pocketbook above the money paid monthly for the medical insurance coverage through her spouse’s employer. By the way, that four-hour stay did not result in that hospital’s ER staff making a determination of the cause of her medical issue or offer a course of care.

These bills – for $14,000+ and $1,471, are more vivid examples of the acute toxicity in the veins of America’s health care system.


Systemic Pain


The United States has the world’s costliest health care system, where care costs vastly exceed comparable costs in other advanced nations like American allies Britain and France. However, that high cost does not produce high performance – a sickening outcome.

The performance of America’s health care system is alarmingly poor. America ranked a mere 37th among 191 countries rated by the World Health Organization. A stark indicator of poor performance from America’s high cost health care system is the chilling reality that America has the lowest life expectancy of thirteen high-income countries that include France and Britain.

For too many Americans, the health care system in their First World nation – a system that breams with extraordinary medical advancements – has a Third World character because high costs block access to needed care. Health care costs in America are so high that over a third of all Americans do not seek a doctor’s help when sick and do not fill prescriptions according to a report released in October 2015 by the Commonwealth Fund.

High medical care costs are the cause of over half of the personal bankruptcies in America. Most persons bankrupted had medical insurance. A January 2016 item on the American Journal of Medicine Blog noted how medical bankruptcies continue “even under” the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

What’s really ‘sick’ is that actions required to cure the many fundamental problems in America’s health system are treated as side issues in the bitter partisan wrangling around reform of the health care system. Too many elected officials, particularly conservatives, are more interested in preserving health care industry profits than providing affordable care for the voters who elected them.

That $1,471 bill she received was from a healthcare financial services company in a Ohio city located 425-miles west of the five-year-old hospital in an upscale South Jersey suburb outside Philadelphia where she sought ER treatment. She went to this hospital over thirty-miles from her Jersey home because the two hospitals nearest her home are not noted for quality care.

She sought an emergency room visit late on a Saturday afternoon because of severe pains in her chest that had persisted for days. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, the office of her regular doctor was closed. And since she was having those persistent chest pains prudence dictated medical attention sooner than later to avoid more serious medical complications – like a heart attack.

That $1,471 bill listed a $1,384 charge for “Emergency Dept Visit” and an $87 charge for an “Electrocardiogram Report.” Those charges raise the obvious question of why were those charges not included in that $14,000+ bill issued for the same Emergency Department visit. Is that $1,471 bill a surgical assault on her pocketbook by that hospital? It certainly is an insult.

During that four-hour hospital visit the majority of her ER time was spent in a curtained area, lying in a bed.

The ER doctor confided that he is required to order many tests for “defensive reasons.” The battery of tests she received that increased the cost of her ER visit were given primarily to decrease the possibility of malpractice lawsuits and/or fines from governmental regulators for not performing all that could be done…with ‘could be done’ being different from what ‘should be done.’

For example, she was given two blood tests, the second test administered despite the first test revealing no abnormalities. Since that second blood test merely repeated that first blood test, her insurance company refused to pay for the second test resulting in her receiving a $175 bill, a bill she paid.

And, oh, there was the $100 co-pay payment she had to cough up for the ER visit required by her medical insurance plan.

Although America’s health care system revolves around advanced science, particularly hi-tech machines, those medical marvels drive up the costs of health care according to repeated studies. She was given one hi-tech machine test that resulted in a $5,000+ charge and another hi-tech device test that produced a $2,000+ charge.

One critical escalator of health care costs, according to consistent studies, is the money spent on administration.

But, get this, despite that hospital charging $14,000+ for her ER visit that hospital failed to send records from that ER visit to her doctor as she requested.

During her ER admission, she provided the name, address and telephone number of her doctor yet the hospital did not send the records. The administration at the hospital that cost nearly half a billion dollars to build a few years ago failed to send a few sheets of paper to her doctor.

In fact, it was the ER admission’s staff that asked her where the hospital should send her records – not once but a couple of times. When she was informed that her doctor had not received the records (weeks after that ER visit) she called the hospital where a hospital employee haughtily told her she needed to fill out some forms to get the ER records sent to her doctor before that employee discourteously hung up the telephone.

When she discussed that sickening, expensive ER experience with her doctor, the doctor referenced a reality curtly dismissed by those hell-bent on killing Obamacare without having a lower cost replacement like the universal care that exists in other advanced nations.

Her doctor said that since high health care costs drive people away from needed medical treatment, within a decade, untreated illnesses would soar tremendously across America resulting in an even sicker society with even higher health care costs.

Uranium Speculators Aglow with Trump Nuclear Prospects

Trump Could Fuel a Nuclear Energy Boom in 2017

by James Stafford - Oilprice.com

December 8, 2016

With Trump at the helm, sentiment gives way to practicality in the energy industry. For the vast untapped potential of the nuclear energy industry and the uranium that feeds it, this could contribute to a market-disrupting revival that no longer bows to fear and the politics of economy.

While there have been some oversupply issues keeping uranium prices down, the bigger problem has been negative sentiment rather than real fundamentals, but the Trump presidency will see through that.

Trump’s take on nuclear energy is quite simple. As he noted after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan: “If a plane goes down, people keep flying. If you get into an auto crash, people keep driving.”

Now more than ever, demand for uranium appears to be assured. But more than that, it’s about to truly explode as a number of situations combine to form the new era of nuclear power.

“If you are going to acquire uranium assets, now is the right time,” IsoEnergy Ltd. CEO and President Craig Parry told Oilprice.com.

“If it’s not the bottom yet, you can certainly see it. And on that front we see the market at the early stage of what will become a roaring bull market.”

Parry might be onto something, and IsoEnergy is indeed in high acquisition mode, targeting the discovery and development of high-grade uranium deposits in and around the Athabasca Basin in Saskatchewan—home to some of the world’s biggest high-grade deposits.

Getting Ready for Uranium to Become an Irresistibly Hot Commodity


While Trump might inject a major boost of energy into the U.S. nuclear industry and the uranium market through deregulation, there are other factors coalescing around the world to make this a stellar new beginning for uranium and nuclear energy.

We’re already seeing the biggest uranium producers stocks reacting, including Cameco Corporation (NYSE:CCJ), AREVA (EPA:AREVA), BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), and Uranium One (TSE:UUU). Canadian Cameco’s stock was up 25 percent in November, and while the spot prices are low and set to rise, Parry points out that spot prices are all but irrelevant in this market, as almost all uranium is sold at long-term contract prices, which are presently coming in upwards of US$40 per pound, significantly higher than the current spot prices.

The outlook for uranium looks even more bullish when you consider that these contracts are now coming to a close, and uranium is poised to become a very hot commodity once again. Major American and European nuclear reactors are coming off supply in 2017 and 2018, and will be looking for long-term contracts once again.

The biggest uranium producer in the world, Canadian Cameco, said earlier this month that some 500 million pounds of uranium will be needed for nuclear reactors in the next ten years, and it hasn’t been contracted out yet. Buyers of this uranium will have to hit the market sooner rather than later.

Analysts at Cantor Fitzgerald recently predicted that there would be a “violent increase” in uranium prices at some point, theorizing that as much as 80 percent of the uranium market might be uncovered in terms of supply by 2025, and that demand would by then outstrip supply.

“The low-price environment has choked off exploration activity for uranium and we are at the point where there are not enough uranium projects in the pipeline that can adequately meet the coming demand,” the London Telegraph quoted Cantor as saying.

All of this coincides with a phenomenal number of new nuclear reactors being built, which will also enter the market at the same time.



(Click to enlarge)


The end result? We’re looking at the biggest deficit ever in the uranium market by 2018.

So we have over 20 Chinese nuclear reactors already under construction, plans from India to significantly increase its nuclear demand, and plans to restart over 20 Japanese reactors. These three things are major demand drivers that will wake the sleeping giant that is uranium.

And as demand soars, North America is sure to play a key role in the future of uranium supply.

In North America—and even from a global standpoint—there is no better place to explore for uranium than Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin, which is to uranium what Saudi Arabia is to oil.



(Click to enlarge)


Two of the largest producing uranium mines in the world—McArthur River and Cigar Lake--are in the Athabasca Basin. In and around this area, where Canada’s Cameco is the key player, junior IsoEnergy is focusing on new exploration and development at Thorburn Lake, Radio, North Thorburn and Madison.

Now that Trump is president-elect, the speculation is that Trump will make good on promises to reform the licensing and permitting processes for nuclear power plants. What this means is that we could be sitting right on the edge of a revolution in next generation nuclear technology.

This means a major push for next-generation nuclear projects such as PRISM, the brainchild of General Electric and Hitachi.

So not only does demand for uranium across the next two decades seem assured, it is poised to paint an attractively tight supply picture in the coming decades.

As the New Year is ushered in, falsely negative sentiment on uranium is likely to be ushered out the door and the real fundamentals will become more visible.

The bottom line is this: While uranium prices have been on a very long and gradual decline for some 13 years, analysts agree that they’ve reached their bottom and the climb back up is poised to be a lot faster than the decline.

Trump is all about harnessing untapped potential, and as atomic energy advocates are quick to point out: Nothing has more untapped potential on multiple fronts than nuclear energy, and right now is the time to buy into quality assets while uranium is at a multi-year low but at the early stage of a bull market.

A Man for No Seasons: Trump's Climate Change Denying EPA Head Nominee

Trump Picks Leading Climate Denier to Head EPA During Time of Climate Crisis

by TRNN


December 8, 2016

Donald Trump has just appointed Oklahoma Attorney-General Scott Pruitt as Head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt's past election campaigns were all funded by big oil giants such as ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and Alliance Coal -- that's just to mention a few. Bernie Sanders has said he opposed the "sad and dangerous move".

Joining us now to talk about this and what kind of climate disasters are upon us is Dahr Jamail. He is an award-winning journalist and author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, and his upcoming book, The End of Ice. It is forthcoming from The New Press. Thank you so much for joining us, Dahr.



This year is going to be the hottest on record - and Trump and 

his cabinet couldn't have come to power at a worse time

 

Dahr Jamail has written extensively about climate change as well as the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. He is the author of two books: Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq and The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Propaganda Or Not: How Government Gets Trapped by Its BS

How War Propaganda Keeps on Killing 

by Robert Parry - Consortium News


December 7, 2016

A key reason why American foreign debacles have been particularly destructive mostly to the countries attacked but also to the United States is that these interventions are always accompanied by major U.S. government investments in propaganda.

So, even when officials recognize a misjudgment has been made, the propaganda machinery continues to grind on to prevent a timely reversal.



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

In effect, Official Washington gets trapped by its own propaganda, which restricts the government’s ability to change direction even when the need for a shift becomes obvious.

After all, once a foreign leader is demonized, it’s hard for a U.S. official to explain that the leader may not be all that bad or is at least better than the likely alternative. So, it’s not just that officials start believing their own propaganda, it’s that the propaganda takes on a life of its own and keeps the failed policy churning forward.

It’s a bit like the old story of the chicken that continues to run around with its head cut off. In the case of the U.S. government, the pro-war or pro-intervention “group think” continues to run amok even after wiser policymakers recognize the imperative to change course.

The reason for that dilemma is that so much money gets spread around to pay for the propaganda and so many careers are tethered to the storyline that it’s easier to let thousands of U.S. soldiers and foreign citizens die than to admit that the policy was built on distortions, propaganda and lies. That would be bad for one’s career.

And, because of the lag time required for contracts to be issued and the money to flow into the propaganda shops, the public case for the policy can outlive the belief that the policy makes sense.

Need for Skeptics


Ideally, in a healthy democracy, skeptics both within the government and in the news media would play a key role in pointing out the flaws and weaknesses in the rationale for a conflict and would be rewarded for helping the leaders veer away from disaster. However, in the current U.S. establishment, such self-corrections don’t occur.

A current example of this phenomenon is the promotion of the New Cold War with Russia with almost no thoughtful debate about the reasons for this growing hostility or its possible results, which include potential thermonuclear war that could end life on the planet.

Instead of engaging in a thorough discussion, the U.S. government and mainstream media have simply flooded the policymaking process with propaganda, some of it so crude that it would have embarrassed Joe McCarthy and the Old Cold Warriors.

Everything that Russia does is put in the most negative light with no space allowed for a rational examination of facts and motivations – except at a few independent-minded Internet sites.

Yet, as part of the effort to marginalize dissent about the New Cold War, the U.S. government, some of its related “non-governmental organizations” and large technology companies are now pushing a censorship project designed to silence the few Internet sites that have refused to march in lockstep.

I suppose that if one considers the trillions of dollars in tax dollars that the Military Industrial Complex stands to get from the New Cold War, the propaganda investment in shutting up a few critics is well worth it.

Today, this extraordinary censorship operation is being carried out under the banner of fighting “fake news.” But many of the targeted Web sites, including Consortiumnews.com, have represented some of the most responsible journalism on the Internet.

At Consortiumnews, our stories are consistently well-reported and well-documented, but we do show skepticism toward propaganda from the U.S. government or anywhere else.

For instance, Consortiumnews not only challenged President George W. Bush’s WMD claims regarding Iraq in 2002-2003 but we have reported on the dispute within the U.S. intelligence community about claims made by President Barack Obama and his senior aides regarding the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria and the 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.

In those two latter cases, Official Washington exploited the incidents as propaganda weapons to justify an escalation of tensions against the Syrian and Russian governments, much as the earlier Iraqi WMD claims were used to rally the American people to invade Iraq.

However, if you question the Official Story about who was responsible for the sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, after President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and the mainstream media pronounced the Syrian government guilty, you are guilty of “fake news.”

Facts Don’t Matter


It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s been confirmed in a mainstream report by The Atlantic that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper advised President Obama that there was no “slam-dunk” evidence proving that the Syrian government was responsible. Nor does it matter that legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has reported that his intelligence sources say the more likely culprit was Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front with help from Turkish intelligence.

By straying from the mainstream “group think” that accuses Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of crossing Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons, you are opening yourself to retaliation as a “fake news” site.

Similarly, if you point out that the MH-17 investigation was put under the control of Ukraine’s unsavory SBU intelligence service, which not only has been accused by United Nations investigators of concealing torture but also has a mandate to protect Ukrainian government secrets, you also stand accused of disseminating “fake news.”

Apparently one of the factors that got Consortiumnews included on a new “black list” of some 200 Web sites was that I skeptically analyzed a report by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that while supposedly “Dutch-led” was really run by the SBU. I also noted that the JIT’s conclusion blaming Russia was marred by a selective reading of the SBU-supplied evidence and by an illogical narrative. But the mainstream U.S. media uncritically hailed the JIT report, so to point out its glaring flaws made us guilty of committing “fake news” or disseminating “Russian propaganda.”

The Iraq-WMD Case


Presumably, if the hysteria about “fake news” had been raging in 2002-2003, then those of us who expressed skepticism about Iraq hiding WMD would have been forced to carry a special marking declaring us to be “Saddam apologists.”

Back then, everyone who was “important” in Washington had no doubt about Iraq’s WMD. Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt repeatedly stated the “fact” of Iraq’s hidden WMD as flat fact and mocked anyone who doubted the “group think.”

Yet, even after the U.S. government acknowledged that the WMD allegations were a myth – a classic and bloody case of “fake news” – almost no one who had pushed the fabrication was punished.

So, the “fake news” stigma didn’t apply to Hiatt and other mainstream journalists who actually did produce “fake news,” even though it led to the deaths of 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. To this day, Hiatt remains the Post’s editorial-page editor continuing to enforce “conventional wisdoms” and to disparage those who deviate.

Another painful example of letting propaganda – rather than facts and reason – guide U.S. foreign policy was the Vietnam War, which claimed the lives of some 58,000 U.S. soldiers and millions of Vietnamese.

The Vietnam War raged on for years after Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and even President Lyndon Johnson recognized the need to end it. Part of that was Richard Nixon’s treachery in going behind Johnson’s back to sabotage peace talks in 1968, but the smearing of anti-war dissidents as pro-communist traitors locked many officials into support for the war well after its futility became obvious. The propaganda developed its own momentum that resulted in many unnecessary deaths.

A Special Marking


In the Internet era, there will now be new-age forms of censorship. Your Web site will be excluded from major search engines or electronically stamped with a warning about your unreliability.

Your guilt will be judged by a panel of mainstream media outlets, including some partially funded by the U.S. government, or maybe by some anonymous group of alleged experts.

With the tens of millions of dollars now sloshing around Official Washington to pay for propaganda, lots of entrepreneurs will be lining up at the trough to do their part. Congress just approved another $160 million to combat “Russian propaganda,” which will apparently include U.S. news sites that question the case for the New Cold War.

Even if a President Trump decides that these tensions with Russia are absurd and that the two countries can work together in the fight against terrorism and other international concerns, the financing of the New Cold War propaganda will continue.

The well-funded drumbeat of anti-Russian propaganda will seek to limit Trump’s decision-making. After all, this latest New Cold War cash cow can be milked for years to come and nothing – not even the survival of the human species – is more important than that.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
image_pdf

Rotten to the Core: Fatah and Palestine's Body Politic

Fatah, Hold Your Applause: Palestinian Body Politic Rotten to the Core

by Ramzy Baroud - ramzybaroud.net


December 7, 2016

In July 2003, the then Palestinian Authority Chairman, Yasser Arafat, described Mahmoud Abbas as a 'traitor' who "betrayed the interests of the Palestinian People."

Arafat loathed Abbas to the very end. This particular outburst was made during a meeting with the United Nations envoy, Terje Larsen. The meeting took place a few months after Arafat was coerced, by the US, Israel and other Western powers to appoint Abbas as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.

Historically, Abbas has been the least popular among Fatah leaders - the likes of Abu Jihad, Abu Iyad, and Arafat, himself. These popular leaders were mostly assassinated, sidelined or died under mysterious circumstances. Arafat is widely believed to have been poisoned by Israel with the help of Palestinians, and Abbas has recently alleged that he knows who killed Arafat.

Yet, despite his unpopularity, Abbas has remained in one top position or another. The power struggle between him and Arafat which culminated in 2003, until Arafat's death in November 2004, hardly helped Abbas' insipid reputation among Palestinians.

At times, it seemed that the less popular Abbas becomes, the greater his powers grew. He has just been re-elected as the head of his political party, Fatah, during their seventh congress held in Ramallah on November 29. At 81, he is the leader of Fatah, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and President of the Palestinian Authority.

However, his long-drawn-out speech of nearly three hours on November 30 brought nothing new; rehashed slogans, and subtle messages to the US and Israel that his 'revolution' shall remain subdued and non-violent. Considering this critical period in Palestine's history, Abbas' impractical rhetoric represents the depth of the crisis among Palestine's political elites. The numerous rounds of applause that Abbas' tedious, unimaginative speech received from the nearly 1,400 supporters who attended the conference is a reflection of the deep-seated political tribalism that now controls Fatah, the dominant PLO party and, arguably, the party that sparked the modern Palestinian revolution.

But today's party is a far cry from its original self.

Fatah's founders were young, vibrant, educated rebels. Their primary literature from 1959 spoke of their early influences, particularly the guerilla war of Algeria’s resistance against French colonialism.

"The guerrilla war on Algeria had a profound influence on us," wrote Abu Iyad.

"We were impressed by the Algerian nationalists' ability to form a solid front, wage war against an army a thousand times superior to their own, obtain many forms of aid from various Arab governments and, at the same time, avoid becoming dependent on any of them."

Certainly, some circumstances have inevitably changed, but many aspects of the conflict have remained the same: Israel's territorial war, unceasing colonial expansion, backed by the United States' unhinged imperialism.

Yet, Fatah has changed to the point that its founders would no longer recognize the current political structure from what they had created. The movement is now more keenly interested in consolidating the power of Abbas' allies than fighting Israel; top members are conspiring against each other, buying allegiances and ensuring whatever massive financial perks that resulted from Abbas' Oslo accords remain intact, even after the old leader retires.

Mohammed Dahlan's political clan was, of course, excluded from the conference. In fact, the reason the conference was held after all these years (seven years have separated it from the last one) is partly to ensure the new Fatah hierarchy is set up in such a way in order to prevent Dahlan's allies from staging a comeback.

The sad truth is that, regardless of who wins in the current power struggle, Fatah's descent is inexorable. Both Abbas and Dahlan are perceived as moderates by Israel, supported by the US, and extremely unpopular among most Palestinians.

According to a poll conducted in September 2015, the majority of Palestinians - 65% - want Abbas to resign. The same poll indicated that Dahlan was nowhere near popular (only 6% supported him) and Abbas' allies, Saeb Erekat and former prime minister, Salam Fayyad, received 4% and 3% of the vote respectively.

Indeed, there is a chasm between Palestinians and those who claim to represent them, and that rift is growing tremendously.

The Fatah conference political theater on November 29 seemed far removed from this reality. After Abbas - who was only elected to lead the Palestinian Authority once in 2005 for a period of 4 years - purged all of his opponents, he sought a new mandate from his supporters.

Predictably, "everyone voted yes," a spokesman for Fatah, Mahmoud Abu al-Hija told reporters.

When 'everyone' in Fatah's top political circle votes for Abbas, while the majority of Palestinians reject him, this leads one to conclude that Fatah is neither a fair representation of the Palestinian people, nor is it remotely close to the pulse of the Palestinian street.

Even if one is to ignore the 'yes-men' of Fatah, one cannot ignore the fact that the current fight among the Palestinian elites is almost entirely detached from the fight against Israel.

Palestinians are victims of daily violence: Jewish settlements are occupying Palestinian hills and are ever expanding, Israeli soldiers roam occupied Palestinian land, and Abbas, himself, is not allowed free movement without prior 'security coordination' with the Israeli army.

Moreover, Palestinians are divided among factions, regions and clans; political favoritism, financial corruption and straight-out treason are eating the Palestinian body politic like an incurable cancer. Talk of 'unity', 'reconciliation' and 'state building' are just that - words - while Palestinians suffer their bitter existence under the boots of soldiers, behind checkpoints, and under the quiet - but maddening - humming of military drones.

Still, the Fatah elites applauded Abbas nearly 300 times during his three hour speech. What are they applauding, exactly? What has been achieved? What vision did he put forth to end the Israeli occupation?

Much Palestinian land has been lost between Fatah’s sixth congress in 2009 and seventh congress. That is not an achievement but a cause for alarm.

The sad truth is, no self-respecting Palestinian should be applauding empty rhetoric; instead, the respected Fatah members should urgently rethink this destructive course altogether.

- Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

Anti-Semitism in Canada Today: Nazi Holocaust as Oppression Reinforcer

The Nazi Holocaust and Anti-Semitism in Canada Today

by Yves Engler  - Dissident Voice


December 5th, 2016

Is “remembering the Nazi Holocaust and where anti-Semitism can lead” a good thing? Unfortunately, thanks to people who constantly cite this horrible genocide in order to justify the illegal, immoral and anti-human behaviour of the Israeli state, one must answer, “it depends.”

Drawing attention to the Nazi Holocaust and anti-Semitism in Canada today often reinforces, rather than undermines, oppression and discrimination.

This perverse reality was on display at two recent events in Toronto.

At a semi-annual Ryerson Student Union meeting a Hillel member pushed a resolution calling on the union to promote Holocaust Education Week in conjunction with United Jewish Appeal-Toronto, which marked Israel’s 2014 slaughter in Gaza by adding $2.25 million to its annual aid to that wealthy country.

The motion stated, “this week is not in dedication to anti-Zionist propaganda” and called for the Week to “focu[s] solely on the education of the Holocaust and not on other genocides.”

Objecting to this brazen attempt to use the decimation of European Jewry to protect an aggressive, apartheid state many students left the meeting. When quorum was lost before the vote pro-Israel activists cried — wait for it — “anti-Semitism”. “Tonight I experienced true and evil anti-Semitism”, complained Tamar Lyons, vice president of communications for Students Supporting Israel at Ryerson University, in a racist social media post republished by B’nai B’rith. In it the StandWithUs Emerson Fellow, which trains university students to advance Israel’s interests, bemoaned how “a Muslim student ‘goy-splained’ me”.

After the meeting Lyons linked the purported anti-Jewish incident to the Ryerson Student Union endorsing the BDS movement two years earlier. She told the Canadian Jewish News it was “a direct result of [the] boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the anti-Israel sentiment that’s so prevalent on campus.”

Taking place on the eve of an Ontario legislature vote to condemn BDS activism, the national director of B’nai Brith jumped on the Ryerson affair. “What starts with BDS does not end with BDS,” said Amanda Hohmann. “More often than not, BDS is simply a gateway drug to more blatant forms of antisemitism.”

(Yup, take a toke of that leftist–internationalist ‘pressure Israel to follow international law’ bud and soon you’re longing for some Neo-Nazi ‘get-the-Jews’ smack.)

As B’nai B’rith hyped the Ryerson affair, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs pushed the Ontario legislature to pass a motion in support of the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and to reject “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.” Passed 49 to 5 (with 53 absent), motion sponsor Gila Martow told the legislature: “We would not be here supporting the Ku Klux Klan on our campuses, so why are we allowing [the] BDS movement and other anti-Jewish and anti-Israel organizations to have demonstrations and use our campuses, which are taxpayer-funded?”

In an interview with the Toronto Sun after the vote the Thornhill MPP described BDS as “psychological terrorism on the campuses … The motive behind BDS is to hurt the Jewish community by attacking Israel.”

The only MPP who spoke against the motion was the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh. But, even this defender of the right to criticize Israel spent much of his speech talking about how anti-Semitism “must be denounced.”

Notwithstanding the anti-Semitism hullabaloo, the BDS vote and Ryerson affair have little to do with combating anti-Jewishness. As is obvious to anybody who thinks about it for a second, comparing internationalist and social justice minded individuals to the KKK will elicit, not lessen, anti-Jewish animus. Similarly, labeling a nonviolent movement “psychological terrorism” and writing about “Muslim … goy-splaining” isn’t likely to endear Jewish groups to those concerned with Palestinian dispossession and building a just world.

The major Jewish organizations and trained Israeli nationalist activists scream “anti-Semitism” to protect Israel from censure, of course. But they also do so because few are willing to challenge them on it. As such, the “anti-Semitism” smears should be seen as a simple assertion of CIJA and B’nai B’rith’s political, economic and cultural clout.

Possibly the best placed of any in the world, the Toronto Jewish community faces almost no discernible economic, social or cultural discrimination. Describing it as “the envy of the UJA federation world”, Alan Dershowitz told its 2014 Toronto Major Gifts dinner: “You must never be ashamed to use your power and strength. Never be afraid that people will say, ‘You’re too strong and powerful.’ Jews need power and strength. Without this strength – economically, morally, militarily – we can’t have peace.”

But, UJA-Toronto, CIJA, B’nai B’rith, etc. aren’t seeking “peace”. Rather, they’re working to strengthen a Sparta-like, Jewish-supremacist state in the Middle East.

The Ryerson affair and vote at the provincial legislature reflect a Toronto Jewish establishment drunk with its power. But the sober reality of constantly justifying oppression by citing the Holocaust/anti-Semitism is that it undermines the power of that memory and is an insult to all those who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis.

Yves Engler is the author of Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
Read other articles by Yves.

As Hurricane Stricken Haiti Hastens to Famine, UN Admits 2010 Cholera Culpability

UN Admits Fault in Haiti's Cholera Outbreak as Country Faces Prospect of Famine

by TRNN



Haitians continue to endure the aftermath of the forgotten disaster 

of Hurricane Matthew, says lawyer Brian Concannon

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Insinuations But No Answers in Serial Vancouver Aquarium Whale Deaths

Vancouver Aquarium's Case for Captive Whales Flounders

by Jeff Mathews  - Pacific Free Press


December 6, 2016

Talk about a whale of a tale.

At least, that seems to be what Vancouver Aquarium's headline-grabbing suggestion that activists poisoned its whales was designed to have you do.

Unable to pinpoint a specific cause for the deaths of their last two remaining belugas, the aquarium was left to speculate.

And speculate they did, deftly pointing their finger at the critics of whale captivity that have been an ever-present thorn in their side.

Then, perhaps just to make it all seem a little more real, they stated that police had been contacted in the matter.

It was a possibility, the aquarium was keen to emphasize, that they weren't ruling out.

Except, there was never any evidence for it.

There have been over 40 whales and dolphins die at the aquarium over the years, not one of them caused by a murderous gang of animal lovers. No suspicious characters on their surveillance video. No traces of a toxin in their pools or in their dead whales. No evidence whatsoever to indicate foul play, say Vancouver Police.

With zero evidence of beluga-cide and several far more likely explanations, it is hard not to see this make-believe beluga murder mystery as nothing more than PR sleight-of-hand -- a purposeful misdirection, designed to deflect responsibility for the deaths of whales in their care and discredit their most vocal opponents.

To do so amid emotional pleas for time to grieve is cynical in the extreme.

Ask yourself: Are these the actions one expects from a world-class science-based conservation charity? Or are they the public relations tactics more typical of people with something to hide?

After all, it is increasingly difficult to reconcile the aquarium's carefully crafted public image as world-leaders in whale and dolphin care with their mounting death toll. Aurora and Qila are but the latest of five deaths in just the past two years.

Many of the 40+ whales that have died at Vancouver Aquarium reached only a fraction of the lifespan they are capable of in the wild. Captive-bred belugas - whales they say are 'ideally suited for captivity' - have fared the worst.

There have been five belugas born at the aquarium. Tuaq (the first captive-born beluga at the aquarium) died at age 6 months; Tuvaq, just before his third birthday; Tiqa a little past age 3; and Nala, barely a year. Qila was the only one to survive beyond age 3.

Is this what we get from world-class care?


Perhaps not. Compared to other marine parks, Vancouver Aquarium's record of young deaths of captive-born belugas is arguably worse than any other active facility in North America, including SeaWorld (see figure below).

One has to wonder whether the five belugas the aquarium has said it intends to import from its partners like SeaWorld would be better off staying where they are.

One might also be tempted to ask, given that they have such a hard time keeping these animals alive in captivity, how this practice helps the survival of wild beluga populations. Conservation is after all, one of the primary justifications given for keeping and breeding whales at many facilities, including SeaWorld.

There is little doubt that in 50 years, aquarium researchers have learned something new about belugas. It is often said, however, that research on whales in captivity mostly benefits whales in captivity.

Perhaps that is why, after five decades of research, results from the aquarium's captive research program have not saved, or even measurably improved the life of even a single wild beluga.

Beluga populations from Hudson's Bay to the St. Lawrence are, today, in worse shape than when their research program began.

What exactly makes the aquarium so confident that ten, twenty, thirty or even fifty more years will do the trick? History does not appear to be on their side.





Why then, the rush to spend $50 million dollars (much of it from taxpayers) on bigger tanks and import 5 new belugas to continue the same approach?

Researching whales confined to tanks is by no means the only way to study them. In fact, many argue there are far better, more humane ways to learn about wild whales.

There are also easier ways to help save whales, if that's what you do.

At this very moment, our beloved Southern resident killer whales - whales that often pass within metres of the aquarium's steps - are facing what may be their greatest existential threat ever.

Scientists have warned that the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline will likely mean the extinction of this unique population of orcas. If ever there were an emergency for a legitimate Vancouver-based marine conservation organization - especially one focused on whales -- this would be it. But Vancouver Aquarium has remained silent on the issue. They have no official position on the pipeline, nor on its grave consequences for our orcas.

Why in the world would Vancouver Aquarium choose to sit by and silently accept the likely extinction of our entire local subpopulation of orcas? The same group of whales, incidentally, upon which they built their international reputation.

I really can't say.

Taking a cue from Vancouver Aquarium leadership, however, it seems I am allowed to speculate. Although this list is not comprehensive and I have no direct evidence to support any of them, I have not ruled out the following possible reasons:

  • They are unwilling to speak out against an oil and gas industry that has helped fill their coffers for so many years.
  • They view the increased oil tanker traffic accompanying the pipeline as an opportunity to resume killer whale shows in Stanley Park (oil tankers + orcas = collisions = injured orcas = 'rescue' opportunities = orcas that can be taught tricks for food in Stanley Park)


What activists have been saying for years is true - science and conservation are secondary to selling tickets to whale shows.

You are free to come to your own conclusions, of course. Or, better still, ask them yourself.