Wednesday, March 22, 2017

American Made: Famine in Yemen

Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen 

by Kathy Kelly - CounterPunch


March 22, 2017

 
This week at the VCNV office in Chicago, my colleague Sabia Rigby prepared a presentation for a local high school. She’ll team up with a young friend of ours, himself a refugee from Iraq, to talk about refugee crises driven by war. Sabia recently returned from Kabul where she helped document the young Afghan Peace Volunteers’ efforts to help bring warmth, food and education to internally displaced families living in makeshift camps, having fled the Afghan War when it raged near their former homes.
Photo by Gerry and Bonni | CC BY 2.0 

Last year Sabia had been visiting with refugees in “the Calais Jungle,” who were fleeing the Middle East and several African countries for Britain. Thwarted from crossing the English Channel, a large mass of people were stopped in this refugee camp in Calais, France, from which French authorities eventually evacuated them, defying their careful solidarity and burning their camp to the ground.

As part of her high school talk, Sabia prepared a handout to show where refugees are the most welcomed. One detail astonished her.

In FY 2016, the U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees, but Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world took in 117,000 new refugees and migrants in 2016, and hosts more than 255,000 refugees from Somalia. Yemen is now beginning to host the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. What’s more, the country is regularly targeted by Saudi and U.S. airstrikes.

Since we are also planning a week of fast and action related to the tragic circumstances Yemen faces, we were astounded when we realized Yemen is a path of escape for Somalis fleeing the Horn of Africa, refugees of one conflict, stranded in their flight, and trapped in a country where deadly conflict is precipitating into deadlier famine.

After years of U.S. support for dictator Ali Adullah Saleh, civil war has wracked Yemen since 2014. Its neighbor Saudi Arabia, itself among the region’s cruelest dictatorships and a staunch U.S. ally, became nervous in 2015 about the outcome and, with support from nine regional allies, began subjecting the country to a punishing barrage of airstrikes, and also imposed a blockade that ended the inflow of food and supplies to Yemen through a major port. This was accomplished with massive, ongoing weapons shipments from the U.S., which has also waged independent airstrikes that have killed dozens of civilians, including women and children.

Pummeled by airstrikes and fighting, facing economic collapse and on the brink of famine, how could this tiny, impoverished country absorb thousands upon thousands of desperate migrants?

Yemen imports 90% of its food. Because of the blockade, food and fuel prices are rising and scarcity is at crisis levels.

UNICEF estimates that more than 460,000 children in Yemen face severe malnutrition, and 3.3 million children and pregnant or lactating women suffer acute malnutrition. More than 10,000 people have been killed, including 1,564 children, and millions have been displaced from their homes, but worse is the groundwork laid for the far greater devastation of famine. Iona Craig, in the IRIN publication, recently wrote:

In the middle of a vast expanse of grey scrubland, a rapidly growing population of more than 120 families huddle under parched trees. Escaping the latest wave of conflict on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, they walked two days to get to this camp southwest of Taiz city.

But on arrival, the scores of women and children found nothing. No support from aid agencies. No food. No water. No shelter. The elderly talk of eating the trees to survive, while children beg for water from local farmers. A mother cradles her clearly malnourished baby in her arms.

Now comes word that on March 16th, forty-two Somali people were killed in sustained gunfire from the air as they set forth in a boat attempting to flee Yemen.

“I took cover in the belly of the ship,” said Ibrahim Ali Zeyad, a Somali who survived the attack.

“People were falling left and right. Everyone kept screaming, ‘We are Somali! We are Somali!’”

But the shooting continued for what felt like half an hour.

The attack on Yemen traps both Yemenis and fleeing Somalis in the worst of four developing crises which collectively amount, one U.N. official warns, to the worst humanitarian crisis in the history of the U.N. As of this writing, no one has taken responsibility for the strike, but survivors say they were attacked by a helicopter gunship. The boat was carrying 140 people as it headed north off the coast of Yemen.

Meanwhile, US weapons makers, including General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, profit massively from weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. In December, 2017, Medea Benjamin wrote: “Despite the repressive nature of the Saudi regime, U.S. governments have not only supported the Saudis on the diplomatic front, but militarily. Under the Obama administration, this has translated into massive weapons sales of $115 billion.”

At this critical juncture, all member states of the UN must call for an end to the blockade and airstrikes, a silencing of all guns, and a negotiated settlement to the war in Yemen. The worst malefactors, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, must abandon cynical maneuvering against rivals like Iran, in the face of such an unspeakable human cost as Yemen is being made to pay.

U.S. people bear responsibility to demand a radical departure from U.S. policy which exacerbates the deadly tragedy faced by people living in Yemen.

Choosing a path of clear opposition to U.S. policies toward Yemen, U.S. citizens should demand elected representatives stop all drone attacks and military “special operations” within Yemen, end all U.S. weapon sales and military aid to Saudi Arabia, and provide compensation to those who suffered losses caused by U.S. attacks.

Our group of activists long functioned under the name “Voices in the Wilderness,” a campaign to defy U.S. economic warfare against Iraq, a form of war through imposition of economic sanctions which directly contributed to the deaths of over 500,000 children. Lost in a culture of hostile unreality and unbearable silence concerning economic warfare, we were evoking, perhaps unconsciously, the plight of refugees seeking survival. We didn’t succeed in lifting the brutal economic sanctions against Iraq, but we surely learned harsh realities about how callous and reckless U.S. policy makers could be.

We must ground ourselves in reality and in solidarity with the greater part of the world’s people. As our neighbors around the world flee in desperation across borders or within the confines of their own countries, we must continually educate ourselves about the reality of what our nation’s actions mean to the world’s poor. Building toward a time when our voices may unite and be heard, we must raise them now in crying out for the people of Yemen.
 
KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org
More articles by:Kathy Kelly

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Don't Cry for Crimea, Chrystia: Freeland's Disingenuous Narrative

'What About Crimea?' Is Latest Narrative by Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister

by Roger Annis - New Cold War


March 17, 2017
(updated March 18 in bolded text)

A news compilation on New Cold War.org on March 8, 2017 reported the controversy that has broken out in Canada surrounding the family history of Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. Her maternal grandfather edited two pro-German newspapers in Poland and Austria during World War Two. He and his family settled in Canada after the war.


Map of Crimea, dotted line is border with Ukraine

‘Yes, but what about Crimea?’ is Canadian foreign minister’s latest narrative for handling queries into her family history

The minister told a March 6 press conference in Ottawa that inquiries into her family history constitute a ‘Russia disinformation’ campaign directed at her and the Canadian government. The minister as well as sympathetic journalists state that the ‘disinformation’ has been aided and abetted by unnamed ‘pro-Russia’ websites.

The Globe and Mail has published an article on March 16, 2017 in which Minister Freeland hits back at critics questioning her responses to the family history. The article is titled ‘Freeland condemns Russian aggression in Crimea, prompting Kremlin counterattack’. It provides a long list of alleged human rights violations in Crimea as listed by the minister in a statement, whose date happens to coincide with the three-year anniversary of the referendum vote in Crimea on March 16, 2014 to secede from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation.

The referendum vote passed by a very high margin and subsequent polling has shown very high satisfaction rates with the decision among Crimeans of Russian and Ukrainian descent. Though little direct polling of Crimean Tatars has been conducted, one end-2014 poll found majority satisfaction among them.

A more recent survey among Crimean Tatars conducted by Russia’s Federal Agency for Nationalities during December 2016 and January 2017 showed that 61% of Tatars in Crimea don’t approve the policies of Kyiv and 71 per cent oppose the blockade of Crimea by Ukraine. Only 13 per cent support the government in Kyiv. Seventy five per cent of respondents reported being satisfied with their lives.

Globe reporter Robert Fife presents Minister Freeland’s latest list of rights violations in Crimea, writing:

Russian authorities have raided homes and mosques, exiled community leaders, banned rallies, and closed down Tatar media outlets as well as the informal Tatar legislature.

At least 15 Tatars and pro-Ukraine activists have been kidnapped or gone missing. One of them was found dead from possible torture and another allegedly hanged himself in a desolate barn.

Few of the accusations listed by the minister and the reporter can be verified because they are unsourced. But two accusations can be examined, and they are false.

In the case of “closed down media outlets”, the accusation is likely referring to the closure of the Tatar-language ATR television and radio network in April 2015. That was a political decision by the anti-Russia owner of the network. He chose not to renew his broadcast license and he then turned that into a ‘censorship’ scandal. That story is told in an article by this writer in my article dated April 7, 2015.

The other verifiable accusation concerns this claim by the Globe reporter: “An estimated 20,000 Tatars have left Crimea since Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula.”

In September 2015, Vice Prime Minister of the Republic of Crimea Ruslan Balbec released statistics about the departure and subsequent return to the Crimean Peninsula of the Crimean Tatar population. According to him, between 600 and 800 Crimean Tatars left Crimea after the 2014 decision to rejoin the Russian Federation. This included Crimean Tatar students at Ukrainian universities who wanted to finish their education programmes. By the spring of 2015, reported Balbec, about half of those who left had returned and more were on the way.

The figure of ‘20,000’ Tatar exiles in Ukraine was recently repeated by Mustafa Dzhemilev (weblink to Russian-language media report here). He is a Crimean Tatar and appointed member of the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv on the slate of President Petro Poroshenko’s political machine.[1] A much lower figure is cited by Eskender Bilyalov, a member of the Russian presidential council on inter-ethnic relations and head of the Crimean Tatar organization ‘Inkishaf’.

As reported in the Politnavigator.net on March 15, 2017, Bilyalov told the all-Russia, Tatar-language television channel Millet (launched in 2015, broadcasting to all of Russia from Crimea) that the figure of 20,000 Crimean Tatars leaving for Ukraine after the reunification of the peninsula with Russia is a lie. “When they say that some 20,000 Crimean Tatars left for Ukraine, they are manipulating facts. At most, 3,000 to 4,000 left, and half of those were students who had to finish their studies [in Ukrainian universities which they had entered prior to 2014].”


Balbec’s or Bilyalov’s statistics would not surprise anyone who, unlike the Globe and Mail, has traveled to Crimea and Ukraine since the 2014 decision and listened with an open mind to the views of people living there.

Ukraine-controlled Crimea was officially unilingual, even though the majority of the population of 2.3 million are of Russian language and origin while some 275,000 (12 per cent) are of Tatar language and origin. Today’s Republic of Crimea recognizes three official languages–Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar. The government provides resources for schools and social services in the official languages. In the days of Ukraine-controlled Crimea, the number of Ukrainian language schools could be counted on one hand, while Tatar language schooling was barely on the radar.

Soon after the reunification with Russia, the Russian government in the person of President Vladimir Putin issued a sweeping decree reaffirming and expanding the official apology issued in Soviet times for the World War Two-era deportation of Crimea Tatars. The 2014 decree reaffirmed the right of return of Crimean Tatars to their shared homeland. Putin announced at the time, “I have signed a decree to rehabilitate the Crimean Tatar population, the Armenian population, Germans, Greeks – all those who suffered (in Crimea) during Stalin’s repressions.”

The announcement was made to a meeting of Russia’s State Council and was shown live on state television. Putin called for measures to encourage the “national, cultural and spiritual renaissance” of the minority groups. The decree aims, “to restore historical justice and remove the consequences of the illegal deportation (of the groups) and the violations of their rights”.



Construction of bridge to Crimea as viewed from Russian mainland 
(Andrew Osborn, Reuters)

Ukraine’s economy collapsed following the February 2014 coup that overthrew the elected president Victor Yanukovych, so resources and employment prospects for newly settled people are few and far between.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes in eastern Ukraine by the civil war launched there by the Kyiv regime in 2014. Unlike those who relocated to Russia, most of those who relocated in Ukraine are living in harsh conditions, including facing social stigmas from sections of the Ukrainian population that want them to ‘go home’. In today’s ultra-nationalist Ukraine, people from the ethnically Russian east of the country are often not welcome. Derogatory terms such as ‘sovok’ (derived from the word ‘soviet’) are thrown at them.

All this is not to say that life in Crimea today is idyllic. The peninsula is blockaded by Ukraine (a fact entirely unmentioned by anti-Russia Western media reporting). To counter that, a road, rail and energy bridge from Russia to Crimea is being constructed across the Kerch Straight, but it will not be completed until early 2019. More importantly, harmful, are the Western economic sanctions directed against Crimea and its people. So there are shortages of goods, sometimes there are electricity cuts, and economic activity is hampered.

Tatars have complained that restoration of property rights and promised expansion of cultural and political rights are not happening fast enough. For example, when the scandal over the ATR network erupted in March-April 2015, the Tatar ‘Milli Firqa’ political organization reminded the Crimean government that soon after the referendum, it had urged the creation of a publicly-owned, Tatar-language media network. Milli Firqua said the ATR ‘scandal’ would be moot if the government had acted on its recommendation.

But on the positive side, tourism, for one, is recovering, including from tourists and other visitors from Ukraine. Many Ukrainian visitors are in Crimea to avoid Ukraine’s compulsory military conscription, which was re-introduced in 2014 by the post-coup governing regime.[2] The gains in tourism visits are welcome because the withdrawal of Western credit card companies in 2014 caused several years of hardship for the industry.

Compared to the economic and violent, war-wracked disaster that Ukraine has become, including the prominent role that extreme-right paramilitaries and political movements play in government decisions there (another fact scrubbed out of Western media reporting), life prospects in Crimea look quite good.

But don’t look in the Globe and Mail or in Minister Freeland’s press releases for that sort of news.

A resolution of the conflict over Crimea is available. It is called the United Nations Charter, article one of which, titled ‘Purpose and Principles’, reads, “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace…”

By any reasonable measure, the March 16, 2014 referendum vote in Crimea was an act of political self-determination, duly conducted by the constitutional government of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (as the peninsula was titled under Ukraine). The overwhelming vote in favour of reunification with Russia was entirely consistent with Crimea’s history and the Western world should respect the result.

As to the the civil war in eastern Ukraine, here, too, an easy remedy is available, in the form of the Minsk-2 ceasefire agreement (text here). What is galling about the fate of this agreement is that even though the governing regime in Kyiv signed onto it, even though the governments of France and Germany signed on as guarantors, and even though it was endorsed by no less than the UN Security Council (on Feb 17, 2015), Kyiv has flaunted the agreement with impunity. It has pummeled the autonomous republics of Donetsk and Lugansk with artillery and has constantly threatened to re-launch an invasion.

At the outset of the conflict, Kyiv cut social security payments–including the pensions that people had worked all their lives to earn–to residents of the areas of Donbass outside of its control and it has made travel difficult and dangerous across the conflict line of demarcation in Donetsk and Lugansk. Most recently, Kyiv has rendered official a transport blockade initially mounted by right-wing, Ukrainian paramilitaries. This is another sign of the inordinate influence of the right-wing extremists in Ukraine, yet Western media insists such influence is marginal.

Instead of counseling peace and reconciliation in Ukraine and peace with Crimea, successive Canadian governments have poured fuel onto the combustible mix that is Ukraine. Canadians should demand an end to Canada’s and NATO’s military intervention in Ukraine and eastern Europe. We should demand an end to provocative and inflammatory sanctions against Russia.

Wars in the Middle East; rising U.S. militarism directed against Russia, North Korea and China; the renewed U.S. nuclear arms race; global warming; threatened famine in Africa; rising social inequalities—this and more present the world with more than enough problems to solve without adding more.

Notes:

[1] Mustafa Dzhemilev has been a spokesman for nearly three decades of the Tatar Crimean Mejlis, a political advocacy project for Crimean Tatars that was launched in the early 1990s at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. By the time of the 2014 secession from Ukraine, the Mejlis role had been supplanted by newer and more representative Tatar organizations. The remnants of the Mejlis supported the transport and electricity blockade of Crimea that was mounted by Ukrainian extremists in the autumn of 2015 and then endorsed by the Kyiv regime. 

[2] An interesting article published on March 4, 2017 examines prospects for a tourism project that would showcase Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan (located some 500 km east of Moscow). The article also looks briefly at tourism prospects in Crimea. An article on April 29, 2016 reported on a conference in Crimea discussing tourism potential for the Russian republic.

Roger Annis is an editor at New Cold War.org. He can be reached at the website email address or at rogerannis@hotmail.com.
Related news:
Crimean Tatars call on UN General Assembly to recognize Crimea as part of Russia, published on TASS, Feb 9, 2017

Russian foreign minister invited those concerned about human rights in Crimea to visit the peninsula, TASS, Dec 6, 2016

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Dave Thomas, Tim Shorrock, Christina Nikolic March 22, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


March 22, 2017 


Almost as famous in Canada for the billions of government dollars cycled through its operations as it is for the seminal snow vehicle, the Ski-doo, Bombardier Inc. is currently earning international recognition too; though infamy might be the more accurate descriptor of reaction to the aerospace giant's involvement in the A1 rail project promising to dissect centuries-old villages, disrupting the lives and destroying the livelihoods of people who will likely never be allowed to use the high-speed double-decker train carriages rocketing through their communities.

What's worse though is, despite the A1's probable illegality under international law, Bombardier's participation in the project chugs along with the full support of the Canadian state.

Listen. Hear.

Dave Thomas is an associate professor in the department of politics and international relations at Mount Allison University on Mi’kmaq territory, whose teaching and research interests focus on the role Canadian actors abroad play in international political economy, and the study of critical pedagogy.

His recent article in Briarpatch Magazine, 'Bombardier and Israel: A corporation’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession' examines this country's part in the contentious AI High-Speed rail project cutting through Palestine's West Bank.

Dave Thomas in the first half.

And; in what may prove a preview of things to come on this side of the Pacific, last week South Korea's president was removed from office in a political influence corruption scandal, the investigation of which this week reached into the boardrooms of some the country's biggest companies.

Park Geun-hye, daughter of South Korea's assassinated former military dictator, Park Chung-hee was impeached in December, but until last week enjoyed presidential immunity. The case has ignited a furore in the South, even as tensions escalate between North Korea and the Combined Forces Command, currently holding the biggest ever of its annual Foal Eagle "war games" exercises.

Tim Shorrock is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, musician, and author of the book, 'Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.' His articles appear at his website, TimShorrock.com, and in the Washington Post. Tim grew up in Asia, and spent much of the 1980's in Japan, reporting on the financial intrigues of the then-biggest of the Asian Tiger economies.

Tim Shorrock in the second half.

And; passionate educator, horticultural innovator, and intrepid green business entrepreneur, Christina Nikolic will be here with the Left Coast News and Events update at the bottom of the hour. But first, Dave Thomas and "a [Canadian] corporation’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession."

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: https://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Bombardier Fast Tracking Palestinian Dispossession

Bombardier and Israel: A corporation’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession

by Dave Thomas - Briarpatch Magazine


February 13, 2017

In two small Palestinian villages in the West Bank – Beit Iksa and Beit Sourik – residents have struggled against Israeli occupation and annexation of their land for many years.


illustration Amanda Priebe


While the Israeli state has historically confiscated land around these villages to build illegal settlements and the separation wall, the most recent land seizures are for a different purpose – the construction of a high-speed rail line connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, promising to move travellers over the 56 kilometres between the cities in 28 minutes flat.

The route passes through the occupied West Bank in two places and crosses the Green Line – the demarcation line between Israel and its neighbours that was negotiated after the 1948 Arab–Israeli war and held until 1967.

The Beit Sourik Village Council emphatically states:

“We, the people of Beit Surik, do not want the train line to be built on our land. We see as fundamentally important that the people of the world support our right to decide on the use of our own land and help us change the route of this train line.” 

Despite these demands from Palestinians, the proposed train route has remained unchanged, and construction is proceeding as planned.

If you have not heard of these villages, or the A1 rail line in question, you are not alone. Mainstream media in Canada tends to mute dissenting Palestinian voices from villages like Beit Iksa and Beit Sourik, despite the gravity of the situation they face. But the decidedly Canadian connection to this case cannot be ignored. Within one of the most deeply contested geographic spaces on the planet, aerospace giant Bombardier, with the support of the Canadian state, is supplying Israel with the trains that will run on the high-speed line upon completion.

In the face of mounting evidence of the illegality of this project under international law, a long history of dispossession and colonialism for Palestinians, and the growing Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, Bombardier has established a long-term presence in Israel.

A leg up for Bombardier


Bombardier is one of the world’s largest global transportation companies, with revenues of $18.2 billion in the 2015 fiscal year. Headquartered in Montreal, and with shares traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Bombardier is a global giant in its two core business divisions: aerospace and rail transportation. It employs almost 71,000 people in more than 28 countries.

The Canadian state has played an important role in encouraging and supporting the success of Bombardier over the decades. Bombardier itself boasts that the government, through the Technology Partnerships Canada program, has invested $142 million in the company’s research and development. Export Development Canada (EDC), Canada’s export credit agency, has also invested heavily in Bombardier, helping it to secure lucrative contracts abroad and providing financing to foreign companies to purchase products and services from Bombardier. The Canada Account, which finances transactions that EDC deems too risky but are still considered to be in the national interest, has dispensed financing at least five times in the past 15 years to support the sale of Bombardier aircraft.

Canadians are also both helping to finance, and profiting from, the work of Bombardier. Many Canadians own Bombardier shares, either through private investments or managed pension funds. As of March 2016, the Canada Pension Plan owned $11 million in Bombardier shares.

Bombardier in Israel


Bombardier began its relationship with the Israeli state and Israel Railways Corporation Ltd. – the state-owned rail corporation that provides passenger and cargo transport – in the late 1990s. Shortly after the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1996, executives from Bombardier accompanied dozens of other corporate representatives, Canadian politicians, and Jewish lobby groups on a trade mission to Israel. A second trade mission organized by the Canadian government followed in February 1999, which included two senior sales executives from Bombardier.

The efforts of the Canadian state and Bombardier to enter the Israeli rail market began to bear fruit very quickly. In the summer of 1999, the company received its first contract with Israel Railways to deliver four double-deck train sets. In the intervening years, Bombardier emerged as a major supplier of double-decker coaches for the transit system in and around Tel Aviv. The company has secured several contracts with Israel Railways since 1999, including the most recent deal in 2015, worth $340 million, to supply 62 electric locomotives, with an option for another 32 locomotives in the future.

A1 and international law


Initially scheduled for completion by 2008, the A1 rail line is now planned to officially open in 2018. The train route crosses into the occupied territory of the West Bank in two spots: first, the path dips into the West Bank in order to create the most direct route between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and second, it crosses the Green Line to accommodate Israeli citizens who opposed its construction close to their homes. In total, the rail line runs for roughly six kilometres across the Green Line into occupied territory, though most Palestinians living in the occupied territories won’t be able to use the train given Palestinians’ restricted mobility rights in the areas at the ends of the line.

The fact that the train crosses into occupied territory raises significant legal concerns regarding the construction of the A1, most importantly regarding Israel’s commitments under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was adopted in 1949 and signed by 196 states. The convention outlines humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone, including the rights of people under occupation. Of these, the most relevant sections for this case are articles 47 and 53.

Article 47 notes that people under occupation cannot be deprived of their rights under the convention due to the annexation of land by the occupying power. Article 53 prohibits the destruction of property by the occupying power, “except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.” The annexation and subsequent destruction of land to build the A1 rail line in occupied territory arguably constitutes a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In addition to Israel’s responsibilities as an occupying power under the convention, the United Nations’ Charter, General Assembly Resolution 2625, Security Council Resolution 242, and the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s 2004 Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, all prohibit the acquisition of territory by force and uphold the self-determination of peoples. But the problem with international law is that it is rarely enforced against powerful actors, especially in this case, where the most powerful state in the world, the U.S., backs Israel.

It should be noted that the Israeli state takes the position that the rules and principles of the Fourth Geneva Convention, along with other aspects of international humanitarian law and human rights law, should not apply to the occupied Palestinian territories. This view is founded on the idea that the territories in question were not previously recognized as part of a sovereign state. This position was contested most clearly by the 2004 advisory opinion of the ICJ, when it ruled on the illegality of Israel’s separation wall.

A report written by a Palestinian organization, the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, summarizes the legal concerns with the rail line as follows:

“In blatant violation of its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, Israel as the occupying power has, without military necessity, expropriated privately owned Palestinian land with the aim of constructing permanent infrastructure, ostensibly to serve the needs of its own civilian population.”

The new A1 infrastructure is situated within historical and contemporary processes of dispossession in the region. After a long process of building the Zionist movement, the colonial project reached a critical point with what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba (“catastrophe”), when over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled from (or fled) the land in 1948–1949, during the formation of the Israeli state.

After the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel began its occupation of several other territories in the region, including the West Bank. Since then, the Israeli state has gradually expropriated an increasing amount of the West Bank land to build settlements, checkpoints, and the separation wall. Abu Shadi, the head of the local council of Beit Iksa, says,

“[T]he checkpoint, the fence, settlement expansion on our lands, settler attacks, soldiers in the valley. The train is just one part of it all.”

Although the total distance of the rail line running through occupied territory is minimal – roughly six kilometres – Palestinians in the area assert that it will cause damages and obstruct their self-determination. In a letter calling for international support and intervention in 2010, the Village Council of Beit Sourik argues,

“This train line would bring inconvenience and suffering to the village in terms of the lost land and in noise pollution, without any benefits, as the train is to connect areas that village residents, with West Bank ID cards, are not allowed to enter.” 

Beyond the immediate and direct consequences of the rail line for Palestinians in the region, there is an equally important matter of principle regarding the annexation of these small pieces of land. Each small incursion and seizure contributes to a much larger picture of dispossession.

Up against BDS


Bombardier is quick to dismiss any suggestion that its work in Israel is problematic. Asked by a reporter for Mamon, a sister publication of Ynetnews, about the significance of the railway going beyond the Green Line into occupied territory, Dr. Lutz Bertling, former head of Bombardier’s transportation division, replied,

“This is not a problem. What do we provide? Railway systems to all residents, no matter their nationality. There is no apartheid in Israel. Eventually, everyone stands to gain from a good and effective railway, in any area it passes through. As far as we’re concerned there is a green light to participate in all bids in Israel, even in upcoming bids over the Jerusalem light rail. It’s not in our DNA to deal with political issues.”

Bombardier elides any notion that its work in Israel might have political, legal, or ethical complications, but of course, its operations are political. In fact, it is firmly nested within the context of the growing BDS movement directed at the state of Israel. BDS, in its own words, “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.” The movement was launched in 2005 by roughly 170 Palestinian civil society organizations as a non-violent mechanism to put pressure on the state of Israel. It is a call for assistance from the international community to boycott Israel’s economic projects, and the academic, cultural, and sporting institutions that are complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights; to withdraw investments in Israeli companies and international companies involved in Israel; and to pressure all governments and international governance bodies to end governance, military, and trade co-operation with Israel until Israel complies with international law.

In 2010, the Palestinian BDS National Committee unequivocally stated that the A1 rail project violates international and human rights laws. It urged “private businesses to immediately withdraw from the project.” Activists in Germany and Italy picked up the call: the Italian coalition Stop That Train campaigned against the participation of their national firms that were involved with the project.

Although the Italian firm Pizzarotti has continued its work on the project, a subsidiary of German state-owned firm Deutsche Bahn withdrew from the A1 rail line in 2011. Former German transport minister Peter Ramsauer announced at the time, “this Israeli railway project which runs through occupied territory is problematic from a foreign policy standpoint and is potentially against international law.”

For its part, Bombardier is just now beginning to encounter civil society opposition in Canada to its participation in the A1 line. In late 2015, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) Canada, a national Jewish organization that calls on the Israeli government to comply with international law, posted a letter to Bombardier on its website publicly criticizing the company’s president for his blasé response. It read,

“I am disturbed to have read that Dr. Lutz Bertling of Bombardier stated that he has no problem with Israeli trains going beyond the Green Line, the internationally-recognized [sic] border of Israel.”

Fortunately for Bombardier, Canadian governments appear openly hostile to the BDS movement. In January 2015, John Baird, Conservative foreign affairs minister at the time, issued a press release after his meeting with his Israeli counterpart, which read:

“Canada will fight any efforts internationally to delegitimize the State of Israel, including the disturbing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.”

The Liberals do not appear to have altered the Canadian government’s position on BDS. In February 2016, almost all Liberal MPs voted in favour of a Conservative motion condemning the BDS movement against Israel.

Shared complicity and the way forward


The legal and ethical implications of Bombardier’s involvement in Palestinian territories extend beyond the scope of Bombardier itself, falling upon both the Canadian government and Canadian citizens at large. Global Affairs Canada’s position that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the occupied Palestinian territories is inconsistent with Bombardier’s work in supplying trains for the A1 high-speed line.

The various ways in which Canadians finance, and profit from, the activities of Bombardier overseas should provide reason for further scrutiny of this case.

In an interview with The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti noted,

“Many people are realizing that Israel is a regime of occupation, settler colonialism, and apartheid and are therefore taking action to hold it to account to international law. Israel is realizing that companies are abandoning their projects in Israel that violate international law, pension funds are doing the same, major artists are refusing to play Tel Aviv.”

As the BDS movement grows internationally, Canadians can and should play an important role in challenging the Canadian state and corporations like Bombardier. National organizations, such as Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, IJV Canada, and the Canadian BDS Coalition, along with many other, more localized movements across the country, are already mobilizing Canadians to join the BDS movement.

This activism is crucial in light of the Canadian government’s unwavering support for the Israeli state. According to Palestinian-Canadian activist and artist Rafeef Ziadah,

“Unlike the endless rounds of negotiations, BDS does not rely on the delusional belief in the goodwill of Western governments… As Israel’s actions continue unabated, the task of building a capacity for pressure is more urgent than ever.” 

The Bombardier case must be leveraged to interrogate the Canadian connections to this particular project, while also drawing our attention to what activists are doing to address the broader problems in the region.

Dave Thomas is an associate professor in the department of politics and international relations at Mount Allison University on Mi’kmaq territory. His teaching and research interests focus on the role of Canadian actors abroad, and on international political economy.

Coast to Coast to Coast Lies on Ukraine from Australian and Canadian

Russia Lie Detector Catches Australian Prime Minister, Canadian Foreign Minister - Which Country's Media Conceal the Lie Machine?

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears


March 20, 2017

MoscowOptimists believe that in time the truth always wins out.  Skeptics believe men and women are liars by nature, so machines are necessary to catch them out. Pessimists believe that by the time that happens  it will be too late to make a practical difference.

Politics, the pessimists add, is about gain, not about truth. So is journalism.

Here are two stories about the difference between Australia and Canada in the way in which lying by ministers of state has been caught out recently on the subject of the civil war in Ukraine.

Australia and Canada are former British colonies, whose head of state is still the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. They are also parliamentary democracies, and members of US treaty alliances which encourage them to fight in US wars in exchange for US protection if they are attacked. That’s the political practice, if not quite the truth.

The Australian story is of the way in which the government in Canberra conceals from voters the truth about an incident in Ukraine over which Australia’s prime minister planned to send troops to fight on the Russian border. The incident occurred on July 17, 2014. It was the destruction of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, and the deaths of all 298 people on board; 38 of them Australian. For details of the secret Australian plan to go to war, read this, first reported in July 2016.

Last week it was revealed in Canberra that the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister have acknowledged between themselves, and in an exchange of classified communications,  that the MH17 incident was not (repeat not) the Russian crime, or the crime of President Vladimir Putin, which it is Australian policy to declare in public – in the United Nations, in the local courts, and most often in the Australian media.  For details of the new story, click to read.

In other words, Attorney-General George Brandis (below, left) and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (lead image, left; below, right) are lying on a matter of life and death to their citizens, and of strategic security for their state.



The lie is being repeated by the Australian media.  They include not only the state and commercial mainstream media, the latter dominated by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. All the alternative media, social media, and universities, think-tanks and non-government organizations which supply them with newsfeed are doing the same. The blackout of the truth is so total in Australia, not a word that the blackout is in force has been reported either.

The only mainstream media report of the Australian government’s reaction to the MH17 incident, when it happened, was published  on September 19, 2014.   This was a story, leaked by insiders, of how none of the intelligence, military and political bureaucrats could agree with each on who should decide what to do.  That meant they couldn’t agree on whether, as then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott wanted and initially decided, a division of Australian troops should be sent to fight in Ukraine, alongside Dutch ground troops and NATO and US air support.

“There was no bureaucratic system for co-ordinating the response to such an emergency. The PM, his staff and ministers had to make decisions with little or no bureaucratic guidance.”

This leak, two months after the MH17 incident, came a month after the troop intervention plan had been kyboshed at NATO headquarters. The leak was a form of bureaucratic in-fighting after details of the secret war scheme had been discussed and stopped. The reporter, a well-known parliament lobby journalist named Laurie Oakes (right), hadn’t the faintest idea of the truth he was helping to conceal. Nor did Oakes prove curious in time.

The only report Brandis has made to parliament on the MH17 incident dates from October 2015.

Brandis had been attorney-general for just a month.  He was asked what the Australian Government assessment was of the MH17 incident following the release of the report by the Dutch Safety Board. (DSB).  Brandis’s answer was carefully worded. The DSB had carried out “a meticulous forensic investigation, and Australia has been closely involved in that investigation through the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The final report sets out compelling evidence indicating the type of missile and the launch site of the missile which brought down MH17. Its findings are based on a forensic technical analysis of all of the available evidence. It does not attribute responsibility for the incident.”


Brandis also acknowledged he and the Dutch were still working on the evidence. “The separate criminal investigation—as opposed to the forensic investigation I have just spoken of—is facilitated through the joint investigation team by a joint arrangement signed by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine… The investigation is being coordinated by the Dutch prosecution service. The focus of the joint investigation team [JIT] is to ensure that the investigation is thorough and robust. On 20 August I met with the Dutch Prosecutor General, Mr [Herman] Bolhaar [right], when he and officials from the Dutch police and prosecution office came to Canberra to discuss investigations with the government and the Australian Federal Police, and I took the opportunity to assure them of the Australian government’s full cooperation in the investigation.”

Brandis added an innuendo.

“We are deeply disappointed that Russia used its power as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to veto the draft resolution [on the establishment of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to prosecute crimes connected with the shooting down of MH17]. Those responsible for crimes connected with the shooting down of MH17 will not, however, be able to hide behind the Russian veto.” 

Brandis meant this to sound to parliament as if the Russian government was hiding its culpability in the MH17 incident.

The truth, revealed last week in Brandis’s papers, is that Brandis and Prime Minister Turnbull have been hiding what they, not Russian government officials, know about the incident. A source in Canberra close to these papers emerged following the release of this report last week.   The source identified himself as privy to the classified intelligence on MH17 in the days and weeks which followed the incident.  The source was also privy to the discussion in the National Security Committee of Cabinet (NSC), the topmost decision-making body in Australia for Ukraine and Russia.

According to the new disclosures, the Australian Government believed in 2014 — and Brandis and Turnbull believe still — that in the daylight hours before MH17 was shot down, Ukrainian Government military forces were using the overflight of civilian airlines in eastern Ukraine as shadow and shield for attacks against ground targets in the belief the separatist forces would not return fire for fear of hitting the civilian airliners.


 
Army Colonel-General Victor Muzhenko (left) has been Chief of the Ukrainian General Staff since July 3, 2014. Two weeks later he was in command when MH17 was shot down. The Ukrainian Air Force commander that day was Lieutenant-General Serhiy Drozdov (right), a career pilot of fighter-bombers. Drozdov was removed from his post after the incident, then reinstated  six months later.  No explanation for Drozdov’s removal has been published. He was formally appointed Air Force commander in July 2015.


The source has also revealed it was the Australian Government’s conclusion that the Kiev regime did not close the airspace in the Donbass region to civilian air traffic above the war zone because of  the operational advantage Malaysian Airlines transit gave to Ukrainian Air Force operations.  The Australian officials recognize this calculation to be a violation of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. The source is sure the intelligence leading to this finding was American, so the implication is that the US Government also shares the Australian finding – in secret.

The Australian officials concluded — the source has reported — that what had happened to MH17 was an unintentional accident on the part of those who fired the BUK missile. Without intention, there was no crime on the part of those on the ground, whoever they were — if they were the Novorussian separatists,  or  a regular Ukrainian Army missile battery,  or a unit of the irregular forces paid by Igor Kolomoisky and others.
On the other hand, the provable crime in the Australian intelligence papers was that of the Ukrainian government officials responsible for using MH17 as a human shield.  On July 17, 2014, the chain of Ukrainian command and legal responsibility started with Drozdov and Muzhenko; and above them, Defense Minister Colonel-General Valeriy Heletey (below, left).  Heletey was removed from office on October 14, three months after the MH17 incident, and sent to the State Security Service, a bodyguard unit. Above Heletey, there was President Petro Poroshenko (right).



The two parts to the Australian government truth – the accidental destruction of MH17, the intentional use of MH17 as a military shield — can be verified in Australian government papers. For more on human shielding in civil law, counter-targeting in military parlance, read this.  Not a word, however,  nor a suspicion has appeared in the Australian media so far.

Look carefully at the most recent report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in which Brandis and the Dutch Attorney-General and Chief Prosecutor, Herman Bolhaar, command their national representatives; for details of the September 28, 2016, release and press conference, read this.  Re-reading with hindsight, it can be seen that the Dutch are also concealing the human shield evidence.

At the end of last September this is how the JIT summed up its findings.

“The scenario that flight MH17 was shot down by a military aircraft was explored and discounted on the basis of radar data, witness testimonies and forensic research. The JIT has obtained sufficient radar data, both from Russia and Ukraine, which – when viewed in conjunction – provide a full picture of the airspace over eastern Ukraine. This shows that at the time of the crash, no other airplanes were in the vicinity that could have shot down flight MH17. The Russian Federation mentioned last week that they have found ‘new’ primary radar images. Based on those images the Russian Federation concludes also that there was no second airplane that could have shot down MH17.” 

Re-read the phrases: “no other airplanes in the vicinity that could have shot down MH17”;  “no second airplane that could have shot down MH17”.  This is a finding by the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Malaysia and the Ukraine. But it is ambiguous, blank, on the crucial point – were there Ukrainian Air Force planes in the air at the time armed with ground-attack weapons? Was an air-defence missile battery unit on the ground likely to suspect a bomb attack from the air during the last crucial minutes of MH17’s transit?

The more detail the JIT findings spell out,  the more obviously the JIT report avoids answering these questions. Instead, in its most exhaustive assessment of the evidence, the JIT avoids what the Australian Government already has concluded:

“In the investigation so far, we have come to the conclusion that we can also rule out the air-to-air scenario. What follows is the explanation about how we reached that conclusion. If flight MH17 would have been shot down by another airplane, this plane would have been shown on the radar images. There has been quite some discussion about the radar data. The JIT has acquired sufficient and crucial radar images. These images were made available to the JIT by both Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Recently, through intensive investigation, the JIT found another video file containing relevant primary radar data of the area which had been recorded by a mobile radar in Ukraine. At the time, this radar was used to test new software. Although it had a limited range, it still detected flight MH17 and this completes the image further.”

“As far as we are concerned, the discussion about the radar images can be concluded. Today we wish to emphasize that the material that we now have is more than sufficient to draw conclusions in the criminal investigation. For building up a solid criminal file, it will not be necessary to gather more evidentiary material. In addition to the radar images that we have, witnesses have been heard, such as the air traffic controllers who were working at that time; the JIT has an audio file of the conversations between the Ukrainian air traffic controllers and the airplanes that passed through the Ukrainian airspace on 17 July 2014, including flight MH17.”

“All these data together provide a sufficiently complete picture of the air traffic in the direct vicinity of flight MH17 and based on this picture the JIT concludes that there was no other aircraft flying in the vicinity of flight MH17 that could have shot it down. This conclusion in itself can already rule out that scenario. The Russian Federation mentioned last week that they have found ‘new’ primary radar images. Based on those images even the Russian Federation concludes that there was no second airplane that could have shot down MH17.”

Repetition of the same phrases doesn’t make a lie; it does contrive to camouflage the truth. That’s the truth the Australian government is holding in secret, and no public medium or press organ in the country will report.

The Canadian story of the lie of state about the Ukraine war is different in two ways. The first difference is that the liar, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, arranged with a reporter and the management of the Toronto Globe and Mail to plant the lie in a press conference. The second difference is that half the Canadian press, including a fraction of the mainstream media and most of the alt-media, not only didn’t believe Freeland’s lie. They have started investigating and publishing the truth.

For the story of Freeland’s campaign to defend her Ukraine policy, and for links to the mainstream media reporters defending her, click to open here.

The campaign started at a press conference called by Freeland on March 6,  in the lobby of the House of Commons in Ottawa.  The purpose of the presser was to explain the official extension for another two years of Canada’s Operation UNIFIER. That’s the code name for what the Defence Ministry in Ottawa calls   “military training and capacity-building assistance to Ukrainian Forces personnel in support of Ukraine’s efforts to maintain sovereignty, security, and stability.”

At the question-and-answer exchanges on March 6, Freeland did all the talking. The Globe and Mail report of what was said, written by Robert Fife, the newspaper’s Ottawa bureau chief,  ignored the defence minister entirely.


 

Above is a picture of the two ministers, as Freeland addresses a question from a reporter to her right, who is invisible to the camera.  Sajjan (circle-1) is on Freeland’s left, his mouth shut. At the rear of the picture, in the centre of the row of reporters, the only male among them is Fife (circle-2).  In front of Freeland, on the podium but screened from the reporters present, Freeland’s briefing book is visible (circle-3).  The camera has picked up several script lines which Freeland and her staff had decided in advance that she would answer when asked.

Below is the moment after Fife had asked Freeland his question, according to the newspaper version.  He is tilting his head leftwards, parallel with Freeland’s tilt,  and he has extended his arm with his recorder towards her as she answers. As she does so, Freeland looks directly at Fife. The state radio tape of what Freeland said can be listened to here  in the first 34 seconds.



Another version  from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reveals exactly what Fife asked Freeland:

“The Russians don’t like you. They’ve banned you from the country. Recently, there has been a series of articles about you and your maternal grandparents making accusations that he was a Nazi collaborator in pro-Russian websites. I’d like to get your view on do you see this as a disinformation campaign by the Russians to try to smear you and discredit you? Which they have to have a tendency to have done.”

This transcript, along with the Huffington Post Canada version,  reveal more than the state radio excerpt aired later. “Let me start, Rob,” Freeland began with a personal note, “by saying that I don’t think all Russians dislike me. I have many close and good Russian friends and I very much enjoyed living and working in Moscow as a foreign correspondent.”

At Fife’s prompting,  Freeland was avoiding the question. Instead, she started her claim that reports of her lying about her family and her policy in Ukraine are part of Russian efforts “to destabilize” the US and Canadian political systems. “I am confident”, Freeland declared, “in our country’s democracy, and I am confident that we can stand up to and see through those efforts.”

Freeland’s claim has triggered a great deal of standing up to and seeing through, though this was not quite the democracy she was confident Fife and the Globe and Mail would reflect. Instead, a succession of stories in the Canadian press has  intensified investigation of what Freeland’s family did during World War II; what Freeland has known about the war record; and what she, her family and their Ukrainian associates all stand for now, as the Canadians renew Operation UNIFIER and the Ukrainian civil war enters its third year.
The Canadian media investigations also reveal that it was Freeland herself who arranged for Fife to ask the question, for which her answer was already typed out in front of her.  Is it true that Fife and his newspaper agreed to play Freeland’s patsy?  Fife was asked by email:


CLICK TO ENLARGE

Fife and the Globe’s editor-in-chief David Walmsley aren’t able to black out reporting of what has happened. They are Canadian, not Australian.  But they refuse to answer questions about their role.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

NYTimes Sinks to Conspiracy Theories on Trump

NYT’s ‘Tinfoil Hat’ Conspiracy Theory

by Robert Parry - Consortium News


March 19, 2017

There are real reasons to worry about President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, including his casual belligerence toward Iran and North Korea and his failure to rethink U.S. alliances with Saudi Arabia and Israel, but The New York Times obsesses on Trump’s willingness to work with Russia.

On Saturday, the Times devoted most of its op-ed page to the Times’ favorite conspiracy theory, that Trump is Vladimir Putin’s “Manchurian candidate” though evidence continues to be lacking.
 
The op-ed package combined a “What to Ask About Russian Hacking” article by Louise Mensch, a former Conservative member of the British Parliament who now works for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, and a connect-the-dots graphic that when filled out shows the Kremlin sitting atop the White House.

But the featured article actually revealed how flimsy and wacky the Times’ conspiracy theory is.

Usually, an investigation doesn’t begin until there is specific evidence of a crime. For instance, the investigative articles that I have written over the years have always had information from insiders about how the misconduct had occurred before a single word was published.

In the early 1990s, for the investigation that I conducted for PBS “Frontline” into the so-called “October Surprise” case – whether Ronald Reagan’s campaign colluded with Iranians and others to sabotage President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free 52 American hostages in 1980 – we had some two dozen people providing information about those contacts from multiple perspectives – including from the U.S., Iran, Israel and Europe – before we aired the allegations.

We didn’t base our documentary on the suspicious circumstance that the Iranians held back the hostages until after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated President on Jan. 20, 1981, or on the point that Iran and the Republicans had motives to sandbag Carter. We didn’t casually throw out the names of a bunch of people who might have committed treason.

When we broadcast the documentary in April 1991, there was a strong evidentiary case of the Reagan’s campaign guilt – and even then we were highly circumspect in how we presented the story.

Ultimately, the 1980 “October Surprise” case came down to whether you believed the Republican denials or the two dozen or so witnesses who described how this operation was carried out with the help of the Israeli government, French intelligence, and former and current CIA officers – along with former CIA Director George H.W. Bush and future CIA Director William Casey.

In the end, Official Washington was never willing to accept that the beloved Ronald Reagan could have done something as dastardly as conspire with Iranians to delay the release of 52 American hostages. It didn’t matter what the evidence was or that Reagan quickly approved arms shipments to Iran via Israel in 1981, a prequel to the later Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal of 1985-86.

No Direct Evidence


By contrast, what the current “Russia Owns Trump” allegations are completely lacking is an insider who describes any nefarious collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to arrange the Kremlin’s help in defeating Hillary Clinton and electing Donald Trump.

What we do have is President Barack Obama’s outgoing intelligence chiefs putting out evidence-free “assessments” that Russia was responsible for the “hacking” and the publicizing of two batches of Democratic emails, one from the Democratic National Committee and one from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

The DNC emails revealed that top Democratic Party officials had violated their duty to remain neutral during the primaries and instead tilted the playing field in favor of Hillary Clinton and against Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Podesta emails exposed the contents of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street, which she was trying to hide from voters, as well as some pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

When published by WikiLeaks last year, the emails embarrassed the Clinton campaign but were not regarded as a major factor in her defeat, which she blamed primarily on FBI Director James Comey’s decision to briefly reopen the investigation into whether she endangered national security by using a private email server while Secretary of State.

However, amid the shock of Donald Trump’s election, Clinton supporters looked for reasons to block Trump’s inauguration or to set the stage for his impeachment. That was when Obama’s intelligence chiefs began circulating claims that Russia was behind the leaking of the Democratic emails as part of a scheme to put their favored candidate, Trump, in the White House.

The New York Times and other mainstream news outlets, which were strongly hostile to Trump, seized on the allegations, making them front-page news for the past several months despite the paucity of actual evidence that any collusion occurred or that the Russians were even the ones who obtained and distributed the emails.

WikiLeaks denied getting the material from the Russians, suggesting instead that two different American insiders were the sources.

A Witch Hunt?


How thin the Russia-Trump case is becomes evident in reading the Times’ op-ed by Louise Mensch. After introducing herself as someone who has “followed the Russian hacking story closely,” she lists 25 people by name, including various Trump advisers as well as Internet moguls Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel, who should be hauled before the House Intelligence Committee for interrogation along with unnamed executives of several corporations and banks.

“There are many more who need to be called but these would be a first step,” Mensch wrote. In reviewing the Mensch’s long article, it’s unclear if she’s proposing only a “fishing expedition” or would prefer a full-fledged “witch hunt.”

At one point earlier in this process, I wrote an article warning that the “investigation” could become something of a “did-you-talk-to-a-Russian” inquisition. Some readers probably felt I was going too far, but that now appears to be exactly what is happening.

Many of Mensch’s suggestions pertain to people associated with the Trump campaign who game speeches in Moscow or otherwise communicated with Russians. It appears any contact with a Russian, any discussion of disagreements between the U.S. and Russia, or any political comment that in any way echoes what some Russian may have said becomes “evidence” of collusion and treason.

The extremism of Mensch’s tendentious article is further illustrated by her suggestion that Trump should be impeached if there is any truth to his widely discredited tweet that Obama had ordered wiretaps on Trump Tower. She wrote:

“If … the president tweeted real news, he revealed the existence of intercepts that cover members of his team in a continuing investigation. That would be obstruction of justice, potentially an impeachable offense.”

Most of us who have reported on Trump’s bizarre “tapp” tweet have criticized him for making a serious charge without evidence (as well as his poor spelling), but Mensch seems to believe that the more serious offense would be if Trump somehow were telling the truth. She wants any truth-telling on this issue to be grounds for Trump’s impeachment, even though he may have been referring, in part, to her November article reporting on the FISA warrant that supposedly granted permission for members of Trump’s team to be put under electronic surveillance.

A Tinfoil Hat


To dramatize her arguments further, Mensch then demonstrates a thorough lack of knowledge about recent American history. She claims, “Never in American history has a president been suspected of collaborating with a hostile foreign power to win an election.”

Whatever you want to think about the 1980 October Surprise case – and there is substantial evidence that it was real – it definitely constituted an example in American history when a president was “suspected of collaborating with a hostile foreign power to win an election.”

Another case in 1968, which now even The New York Times grudgingly accepts, involved Richard Nixon colluding with the South Vietnamese government to torpedo President Lyndon Johnson’s Paris peace talks to assure Nixon’s election. Although South Vietnam was then an ally, the allegations about Nixon also included outreach to North Vietnam, although Hanoi ended up sending a delegation to Paris while Saigon did not.

Yet, what is perhaps most shocking about Mensch’s op-ed and its prominent placement by the Times is that the story has all the elements of a “tinfoil-hat” conspiracy. It’s the sort of wild-eyed smearing of American citizens that the Times would normally deride as an offensive fantasy that would be either ignored or mentioned only to mock the conspiracists.

But the Times is now so deep into its campaign to demonize Russia and to destroy Trump that all normal journalistic standards have long ago been tossed out the window.

While there are many valid reasons to protest Trump and his policies, this descent into a New McCarthyism is both grotesque (because it impugns the patriotism of Americans without evidence, only breathless questions) and dangerous (because it escalates the New Cold War with Russia, a confrontation that could stumble into a nuclear holocaust).

At such moments, supposedly serious newspapers like The New York Times should show extraordinary caution and care, not a reckless disregard for truth and fairness. But no one in Official Washington seems willing to play the role of attorney Joseph Welch when he finally stood up to Sen. Joe McCarthy with the famous question, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

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).