Saturday, July 23, 2016

America's Two Solitudes: Rejectionists and Elites Perched on a Powder Keg

Polarization and the Powder Keg

by James Petras  -  Information Clearing House


July 23, 2016

The constitutional order of the US, such as it exists, faces a profound crisis of legitimacy, rooted in the multi polarity of US society.

Image: FederalJack.com

The US is divided among (1) a deeply entrenched police – judicial – presidential state against civil society organized in community based Afro-American, Hispanic and disinherited workers; (2) a corrupt Federal police, Justice , State Department and Presidential Office against a constitutional legal system upheld by the vast majority of citizens; and (3) a rigged Presidential electoral system against the consent and approval of the majority of the electorate.

The divisions in US society go far beyond the ‘opinions’ expressed in polls and surveys.

The polarization has found expression in mass street protests, ‘rejectionist’ votes and violent assaults. Are they heading toward a national uprising? Public officials describe the situation as ‘a powder keg on the verge of exploding’.

The Bazaar of Crooked Faces


The ruling elites feign control of the polarization. President Obama engages in impotent rhetorical appeals that impress nobody.

Corruption, deception and betrayal in high places are so rampant that mutual impunity has become the badge of collegiality. The most active citizens deny the legitimacy of all politicians, dismissing them as ‘all corrupt’.

The electoral system is a gigantic bazaar of crooked smiles, raucous inanities and vacuous promises . . . broken before they’re spoken.

If the courts, electoral process and police state act as a triumvirate beyond the reach of the vast majority of American citizens, then the people will turn to other methods and voices to challenge and change this tyranny of the elite.

The Power Keg is within the US


The US public has suffered two decades of declining living standard and instability, while the elite accumulated an immense concentration of wealth, privilege and power. The passive wait and patience are ending – promises of a better future fall on stone deaf ears and smiling inanities are met with grim faces.

The first sign of ‘the powder keg’ started with a loud fire- cracker. The young and hopeful had turned to support an in-house ‘democratic socialist’ and out-house ‘nationalist patriot’. The ‘crackers’ snapped, crackled and died! Promising to bring his supporters into the Democratic corral, Sanders melted in the carnal embrace of the ‘queen of chaos’, the candidate of decades of deceit and deception. Meanwhile, Trump’s working class patriots were turning into doormen for the bankers, Bible thumpers and Republican hucksters.

The electoral charade has failed to dampen the powder keg. There are too many fires burning across the land and too many resolute arsonists lighting the fuse.

The False Prophets of Justice: Unmasked


Unlike the electoral ‘explosion’ sputtering amid the voters’ rancor, black and brown communities do not take marching orders from the political con artists, judges and police chiefs. They do not follow the false prophets of electoral politics. Growing numbers are taking to the streets to fight back.

For the past eight years, President Obama has devastated black neighborhoods and schools, unleashing highly militarized police state forces while praising the black political officials (the ‘mis-leaders’) and black police who participate in terrorizing black communities. It is no surprise that the heightened social polarization has spread and deepened in the black neighborhoods. We are taken back to the 1960’s and 70’s when racial violence emanating down from the Office of the President to the courts to the police provoked reciprocal violence from the bottom upward to the elite.

The Lit Fuse


The revolt begins with the Afro-Americans and will spread to the Latino-Americans and beyond among the downwardly mobile white workers. The growing white working class revolt against the kleptocrat Clinton Dynasty has spread to encompass the popular rebellion against ‘the burn’ of renegade fake socialist ‘Bernie’ and the rest of the billionaire owned political system. The political rebellion is taking part throughout the American heartland.

A majority of Americans are polarized because they are denied basic stability in their everyday lives. They look back at their lost living standards and look forward to a grim and unacceptable future – especially for their youth and children.

America’s rebellion has diverse detonators: the plutocratic economy, the kleptocratic electoral system and the dehumanizing militarized police state.

The kleptocratic electoral system has brought together the greatest number of hostile voices reaching across racial lines and penetrating deeply within class divides.

The police-race polarization is most immediate and explosive. It is most likely to result in direct action.

The downwardly mobile white working class is the largest rebellious group, but has been the slowest to develop a class-consciousness and organize. Nevertheless, they have the greatest potential to overturn the system.

The disenchanted electoral rebels (the Bernie-supporters) are numerous and quick to act, but they are also the most easily deceived by political charlatans and con-artists.

Conclusion


The confluence of militant blacks, activist voters and downwardly mobile whites is only at the beginning of the great uprising. As yet, they do not ‘see each other’ in life, work, neighborhood or language, even as they share a profound common hostility to the police state tasked with protecting the political-economic elite.

Under what circumstances can they come together? At present there is no organization capable of unifying these dynamic and critical forces.

Spontaneous groups have emerged but they are transient and ‘single issue’.

Community-based organizations have their limited strategic vision and remain rooted in localities.

Alternative political parties and personalities have promise but are engage in electoral politics divorced from direct action, whether it involves the police, the courts or the economic system.

A ‘charismatic leader’ could emerge and bridge the different constituencies – downwardly mobile workers, militant blacks and politically disenfranchised activists may merge at some point around such a leader. But unless ‘the leader’ is harnessed to a powerful organized movement and directed by activist communities the threat of betrayal remains a real possibility.

We live in a time when the existing system is rotten and collapsing and when mass disaffection is growing. However, this is also a period when the ‘alternatives’ appear remote and intangible.

What is abundantly clear is that mere collapse and decay will not by itself bring about a mass popular rebellion to build a just society.

James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York.

MH17 Deathploitation: Guardian's Harding Hardly Honest, Harrowingly Unethical in Doomed Jetliner Piece

“MH17 two years on:” Luke Harding’s cynical exploitation of one family’s pain

by Catte - OFFGuardian


July 14, 2016

If Luke Harding’s wild-eyed narcissism was less in tune with the current western agenda then his editors at the Guardian might be taking him aside and quietly suggesting counselling and medication. But things being as they are, his narratives of battling Demon Russia and its Empire of Evil tend to make the front page, however rabidly insane, libellously mendacious or simply cringeworthy they may be.

But yesterday the Guardian unleashed this:






Absorb the headline and the intent behind it. Something of a tour de force of moral bankruptcy even for the team that brought you the Polonium story. We don’t just get racism, warmongering and towering falsehoods here. No – we can also experience the exploitation of 20 year old Richard Mayne’s short life and tragic death and his family’s pain! So sit back and enjoy as Harding rushes in where the sane and ethical might fear to tread, boldly turning one family’s unspeakable tragedy into grist for his own Putin-hate mill.

You see, happily for Luke and the pro-war agenda, Richard was killed on board MH17, and his parents blame Vladimir Putin…

"Amid their grief, the Maynes came to a grim conclusion: Richard had been murdered. The man whom they believe murdered him is Vladimir Putin. It was Putin, they believe, who gave orders for the Russian military to cross the border, setting in train a series of consequences, including the shooting down of MH17 and 10,000 dead in the conflict."

Let’s be crystal clear at this point. No one can blame this family for their anger. They’re desperate and grief-stricken and need someone to be punished for the crime that took their son. The fact Putin is their target is an understandable human response, and no one could condemn them.

But even in a world of wall-to-wall media deception there’s something freshly disgusting in the way this piece weaves saccharine “sympathy” for the tragically bereaved into a simplistic narrative of polarity and hatred, likely to produce nothing but more death, and more grieving families like the Maynes.

Here are just a few examples, starting with the least egregious:

"In the previous week, the Russian defence ministry had provided the rebels with an array of heavy weaponry: tanks, artillery pieces and mortars. Plus undercover soldiers disguised as “volunteers”."

If Harding had prefaced this claim with “it’s rumoured” or “it has been claimed” he would be doing something closer to journalism. And if he also mentioned the counter-claims that NATO is supplying the Kiev government with weapons, or the evidence for NATO-backed mercenaries fighting for the Kiev government, or the claims of the Kiev government’s war crimes against its own people (including the use of white phosphorous, which is banned under UN rulings), there’d be something approaching balance here.

But of course none of this has any direct evidential bearing on the fate of MH17 anyway, since tanks, artillery pieces and mortars were not in any way involved in shooting down that plane. Harding is merely trying to evade the facts and plant a perception of guilt by associated ideas. But it gets a lot worse.

"The Buk arrived after Ukrainian war planes started bombing rebel positions and government troops were taking back territory. Suddenly, Ukrainian military aircraft were being blown from the sky."

Note how he completely elides the fact that a Dutch Intelligence report stated only the UAF had the operational capacity to shoot down a jet liner at 20,000+ feet, and the only Ukrainian planes “blown from the skies” were taken down at comparatively low altitudes by ManPads or “light” anti-aircraft guns not BUK. If his sentence ran something like: “unverified claims have been made that a BUK arrived some time before July 17, but the only planes known to have been downed by the rebels before or after this date were brought down using portable Manpads or light SAMs”, it would be broadly definable as honest.

And then we get this:

"Certainly, Russia has done everything it can to cover up the crime. The Kremlin used its UN security council veto to stop an international investigation similar to that carried out following the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing."

Getting into his stride, Luke abandons implications and guilt by juxtaposition in favour of his old standby – the outright lie. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how completely unfazed he is by the total absence of evidence anywhere that Russia covered up anything, or by the small detail that Russia did not veto an “international investigation”, at all but in fact supported UN Resolution 2166 that called for “efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines”. What does Luke think the Dutch Safety Board international investigation was if not – well, an international investigation? Is he not aware Russia supported it and supplied it with evidence?

We can be charitable and assume Harding means the proposal for a UN tribunal. Russia did veto that, it’s true, because – it argued – this was unprecedented and also premature to begin a second international investigation while the first was still underway. But this is not the same thing at all as vetoing an “international enquiry,” and Harding is surely aware of that. His narrative here amounts to a total reversal of known and established facts.

But he ain’t done yet…


"Last October, a Dutch safety board report confirmed that a Buk missile launched from rebel-controlled territory hit MH17…"

Is Luke trying to make us think the DSB directly blamed the “rebels” for shooting down MH17? Because to the unwary it might read as if that is what they did. But of course it isn’t, and Luke knows it. The DSB report concluded a BUK was probably responsible for the destruction of MH17 (though this is by no means conclusive), but it did not say which side had fired the missile because it could not pin down the probable launch area in a narrow enough corridor to make such a statement feasible. The claim of “rebel-conrolled territory” is word-fog designed to create the illusion of accusation where none exists.

"The Buk’s crew appear to have fired on MH17 by mistake. At 5.50pm Moscow time, their leader Igor Strelkov, a veteran Russian intelligence officer, tweeted that his men had shot down another Ukrainian transport – or “bird”, as he put it."

All we need to do is note the weasel-words “appear to.” Another Harding trademark. They translate as “I want you to believe it but I have no evidence whatsoever that anything even remotely resembling this actually happened”.

Admire also how he breezes right past the fact the DPR denied this tweet, and the account it emanated from, had anything to do with Strelkov at all:


Donetsk Republic tell me the Strelkov VK page @McFaul and others are citing is a fake made by fans. https://t.co/lrBzlTQRKj

— max seddon (@maxseddon) July 17, 2014

You don’t have to believe it, Luke, but you do have to report it, particularly when you are building your story around the need of a bereaved family for justice.

I could go on. I could talk about Harding’s complete elision of the numerous uncertainties and controversies still surrounding almost every aspect of the incident in favour of a groundless certitude. His refusal to acknowledge the fact there is still no agreement over what shot MH17 out of the sky, never mind who (was it a BUK, as the corporate media claim, not a BUK, an SU-25, definitely NOT an SU-25, or something else again? ). Or his absolute refusal to even acknowledge the fact the UAF is known to have had over 20 working BUK, while the rebels are only rumoured to have had one. Or the virtual impossibility of an untrained amateur crew being able to use one “acquired” BUK to take down anything. Or the Russian satellite data, all but ignored by western media, that seems to suggest very strange shenanigans immediately prior to the takedown of the plane. Or the numerous questions and accusation hanging over the DSB’s final report.

But you probably get the picture. The depth of the lie here and the fragility of their control over their own narrative is evidenced BTL. The comments were opened for less than three hours and at close the final page looked like this:






Other comments were simply airbrushed away in totality (we’ve all experienced that). One reader even tells us his account of 18 months standing was permanently disabled simply because he pointed out that Eliot Higgins’ work has been described as “propaganda.” Harding, of course, is known to fear the comments section and rumoured to police it ferociously, demanding the instant banning of anyone who critiques him.

But however much he silences his critics BTL, the question still remains – what is Harding doing here? And, even if we accept he’s too lost in his narcissistic persecution complex to understand concepts of right and wrong or truth and fiction, what is the Guardian’s excuse? The Mayne family, like so many others, are looking for answers and solutions, not lies and propaganda. They want to know who killed their son. Who really, actually killed their son. because it’s the only thing they can do for him any more; the only act of caring and protection left available to them. And for that they need and deserve more than being used as the unwitting attack dogs for undeclared and lunatic agendas. They deserve the respect of honesty and full and truthful disclosure.

If they’d been given that would they still be blaming Vladimir Putin? Or would their anger be directed against other – possibly more deserving – targets, such as the media that has lied and continues to lie in the service of obscuring truth and promoting war?

I can’t tell and wouldn’t presume to dictate. But if one of my children had died so abominably I hope I would find someone willing to help me find the culprits rather than use me as a poster child for their own personal hate campaign.

Children's Crusade: When It's OK to Kill Kids

Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children

by David Swanson - Let's Try Democracy


July 22, 2016

Is it really necessary for me to explain to you why it’s acceptable, necessary, and admirable for the United States and its minor allies to be blowing up houses, families, men, women, and children in Syria?

This latest story of blowing up 85 civilians in their homes has some people confused and concerned.

Let me help you out.


1. Somebody mistook them for ISIS fighters, determined that each of them was a continuing and imminent threat to the United States, verified a near zero possibility of any civilians being hurt in the process, and determined that some more bombing was just the way to advance a cease-fire in Syria. So this was not only an accident, but a series of unfortunate events, mistakes, and miscalculations of such proportions that they’re unlikely ever to all align again for at least a few days to come.

2. This isn’t actually news. That the United States is blowing up civilians by the hundreds in Syria has been endlessly reported and is really of no news value, which is why you don’t hear anybody at presidential conventions or on TV talking about it, and why you shouldn’t talk aboiut it either if you know what’s good for you.

3. Quite a lot of families actually got away without being blown up and are now refugees, which is truly the ideal thing to be in Syria, which is the most totally prepared place for more refugees in the history of the earth, or would be if liberal internationalist do-gooders would provide some aid and stop whining about all the bombs falling.

4. Who gets labeled a “civilian” is pretty arbitrary. The United States has killed thousands of people who clearly were not civilians, and who likely had no loved ones or anyone who would become enraged by their deaths. So why lump particular groups of families into the category of “civilian,” and why just assume that every 3-year-old is a civilian, and then turn around and complain with a straight face when the government labels every 18-year-old male a combatant?

5. Houses do not actually have feelings. Why be so bothered that people are blown up in their houses? I’ll let you in on a little secret: The word “battlefield” hasn’t meant anything that looks like a field for decades. They don’t even have fields in some of these countries that don’t know any better than to get themselves bombed over and over again. These wars are always in houses. Do you want the houses bombed or do you want the doors kicked in? Because when the Marines start kicking in doors and hauling people off to torture camps you whine about that too.

6. People who live in an ISIS territory are responsible for ISIS. Even those who didn’t vote in the most recent ISIS election have a responsibility to get themselves burned alive, and if not then they are responsible for the evil of ISIS and ought to be burned alive by Raytheon missiles which at least make somebody some money in the process for godsake. And if ISIS won’t let people flee its territory, but won’t burn them alive, then it’s time for the international community to step in with efficient burning-alive systems that meet international standards.

7. Donald Trump has sworn he would start killing families. If the U.S. government does not continue its centuries-old practice of killing families, Trump might gain support and endanger us all by creating the new policy of killing families.

8. When airplanes take off from Turkey to commit mass murder in Syria, it helps to bring Turkey back into the community of the rule of law and international respect for human rights, following the recent coup attempt. Keeping U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey serves a similar purpose.

9. Sometimes when you blow people up in their houses, their heads can remain on their bodies. When U.S.-armed moderates behead children, they’re doing it for the goal of moderating the moderation of moderate allies and allied moderates. But when the United States kills directly, it is important that there be a chance of some heads remaining on bodies.

10. Unlike every other country on earth, the United States is not a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, so, in the words of the great Thomas Friedman, suck on this.

This piece appeared at Dave’s blog, Let’s Try Democracy.
 
David Swanson wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org
His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition.
More articles by:David Swanson

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Bear? Making a Menace of Russia

Fake threats and engineered fears

by Mark Taliano - American Herald Tribune


July 16 ,2016

Recently, General Petr Pavel, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, admitted that,

"It is not the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against broad-scale Russian aggression, because such aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing."

Decoded, this means that intelligence reports indicate that Russia is not a threat to the West.

Since Russian aggression is not a threat, then increased NATO deployments to encircle Russia are a threat --- to Russia.

Decoded again: We are the bad guys, Russia is not.

But this hasn’t stopped Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, from confirming, according to CBC news, that

“Canada will send a battle group of soldiers to Latvia by early 2017 as part of a NATO plan to counter fears of Russian aggression in eastern Europe.”

So, Canada’s decision to provoke Russia is based on groundless fears.

Since reasonable foreign policy decisions are few and far between, Canadians might want to pay heed to a recent observation made by Paul Craig Roberts:


“ … only an absolute idiot could think that three or four thousand troops constitutes a defense against the Russian Army. In June 1941 Operation Barbarossa hit Russia with an invasion of four million troops, the majority German component of which were probably the most highly trained and disciplined troops in military history, excepting only the Spartans. By the time that the Americans and British got around to the Normandy invasion, the Russian Army had chewed up the Wehrmacht. There were only a few divisions at 40% strength to resist the Normandy invasion. By the time the Russian Army got to Berlin, the German resistance consisted of armed children.”

Decoded? We’re idiots.

Our now broad-based idiocy is based on the fact that we are being fed a constant diet of lies, and stories, and toxic myths.

The fake Russian threat is consistent with the fake terrorist threat. It is very well documented, with sustainable, Western-based evidence, for example, that NATO and its allies support terrorism. The terrorists currently invading Syria are Western proxies/”strategic assets”, employed to effect illegal regime change.

It is also well documented that the illegal Western sanctions besieging Syria are impacting the legitimate, secular, pluralist, democratic government of Syria, and liberated areas, not the foreign terrorist- plagued areas that are replenished from surrounding NATO countries, especially Turkey.

So, the “Russian threat” is fake; there never was a “Syria threat” (except that Syria insists on its sovereignty and territorial integrity); and the “terrorist threat” is a hoax, because we support the terrorists.

The “humanitarian bombing” strategy is also a hoax, because ISIS territory expands when the U.S illegally bombs Syria.

Basically, everything we’re hearing is fake. The government, and Soros et al.--funded “non- government organizations” (NGOs) are fake, not only because they aren’t “non-governmental”, but also because they’re embedded with the terrorist invaders.

The fakery of the news stories is doubly protected by laws embedded in the National Defense Authorization Act which blur the lines between reality and spectacle. The author writes,

“According to an amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House Bill H.R 5736 (now law), the federal government of the United States can now legally propagandize the domestic public.

Arguably, this makes staged theatrical presentations, featuring crisis-actors, and purporting to be ‘reality’, legal.

And, as if that isn’t enough, Don North writes in “US/NATO Embrace Psy-ops and Info-War” that,

“As reflected in a recent NATO conference in Latvia and in the Pentagon’s new ‘Law of War’ manual, the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’

We can also reasonably assume that much of the terrorism afflicting the West is also fake, in the sense that it is synthetic/false flag terrorism. This doesn’t mean that innocent people aren’t being killed --- thousands were murdered during the 911 false flag --- but it does mean that deep state operatives are likely orchestrating much of the domestic terrorism with a view to blaming “ISIS”, advancing imperial war plans, and institutionalizing domestic police state legislation that protects the neo-con war criminals responsible for the mass-murdering barbarity.

Seemingly, all of these “Gladio-style” crimes demonstrate the dirty hand of intelligence operatives – who should be the first suspects --- but rarely are.

All of this fakery provides cover for imperial conquest and the advancement of a predatory economic model called “neoliberalism”. The name itself is fraudulent, because it isn’t new, and it isn’t “liberal”. It’s a predatory economic model of bailed-out, deregulated, parasitical privatization schemes that preys on the commons, the people, and protects the transnational oligarch criminals who capture legislative bodies, and advance transnational corporate empowerment faux “deals” (deceptively labeled “free trade”).

Spectacle and deceit are everything, since democracy, justice for all, and freedom, are incompatible with this predatory system.

We are being trained and brainwashed to willingly accept, even embrace, our enslavement.

Syrians are at the forefront of those who are effectively opposing this globalized, unipolar model of enslavement, poverty, and barbarity. Those who are currently being demonized – Syria, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and their allies – are paying with their blood, but they are fighting for all of us, and for our freedoms.

As Canadians, we should be opposing our country’s foreign policy idiocy, and we should be supporting the heroics of Syria and its allies. Warmongers have successfully managed our perceptions to view Syria, Russia, and Iran etc. as “threats” or “enemies”, but beneath the lies and deceptions, evidence demonstrates that they are neither.

Mark Taliano is a retired, Canadian school teacher.
Read more Taliano articles.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Inside the Gates: Rise of the Drone Assassins

The Trojan Drone: An Illegal Military Strategy Disguised as Technological Advance

by Rebecca Gordon - TomDispatch



July 17, 2016   

Think of it as the Trojan Drone, the ultimate techno-weapon of American warfare in these years, a single remotely operated plane sent to take out a single key figure. It's a shiny video game for grown ups -- a Mortal Kombat or Call of Duty where the animated enemies bleed real blood.

Just like the giant wooden horse the Greeks convinced the Trojans to bring inside their gates, however, the drone carries something deadly in its belly: a new and illegal military strategy disguised as an impressive piece of technology.

The technical advances embodied in drone technology distract us from a more fundamental change in military strategy.

However it is achieved -- whether through conventional air strikes, cruise missiles fired from ships, or by drone -- the United States has now embraced extrajudicial executions on foreign soil.

Successive administrations have implemented this momentous change with little public discussion. And most of the discussion we’ve had has focused more on the new instrument (drone technology) than on its purpose (assassination). It’s a case of the means justifying the end. The drones work so well that it must be all right to kill people with them. 
Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, How Extrajudicial Executions Became "War" Policy in Washington

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: I think you're just great! What a response TD subscribers gave to my recent request for donations in a pitch letter themed for honesty. ("Rest assured, TomDispatch is not down to its last dollar; it’s not sinking in a sea of red ink. We’re not going to shut down if you don’t give us something. We’re okay.") It says something about who you are and what this site means to you (and warms my heart). Thanks to so many of you who decided to contribute, TD writers will all get paid a little more this year and I'll have some extra bucks for expenses of all sorts. It's a godsend and I can't thank you enough. If there were any of you who meant to give something and were distracted by life before you did, it's never too late. Just visit our donation page any time. Tom]

Strangely, amid the spike in racial tensions after the killing of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, and of five white police officers by a black sharpshooter in Dallas, one American reality has gone unmentioned. The U.S. has been fighting wars -- declared, half-declared, and undeclared -- for almost 15 years and, distant as they are, they’ve been coming home in all sorts of barely noted ways. In the years in which the U.S. has up-armored globally, the country has also seen an arms race developing on the domestic front. As vets have returned from their Iraq and Afghan tours of duty, striking numbers of them have gone into police work at a time when American weaponry, vehicles, and military equipment -- including, for instance, MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles) -- have poured off America’s distant battlefields and, via the Pentagon, into police departments nationwide. And while the police were militarizing, gun companies have been marketing battlefield-style assault rifles to Americans by the millions, at the very moment when it has become ever more possible for citizens to carry weapons of every sort in a concealed or open fashion in public.

The result in Dallas: Micah Johnson, a disturbed Army Reserves veteran, who spent a tour of duty in Afghanistan and practiced military tactics in his backyard, armed with an SKS semi-automatic assault rifle, wearing full body armor, and angry over police killings of black civilians, took out those five white officers. One of them was a Navy vet who had served three tours of duty in Iraq and another a former Marine who had trained local police for DynCorp, a private contractor, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, civilian protesters, also armed with assault rifles (quite legal in the streets of Dallas), scattered as the first shots rang out and were, in some cases, taken in by the police as suspects. And at least two unarmed protesters were wounded by Johnson. (Think of that, in his terms, as “collateral damage.”) In the end, he would be killed by a Remotec Andros F5 robot, built by weapons-maker Northrop Grumman, carrying a pound of C4 plastic explosive, and typical of robots that police departments now possess.

In other words, this incident was capped by the first use of deadly force by a drone in the United States. Consider that a war-comes-home upping of the ante. Already, reports the Defense One website, makers of military-grade robots -- a burgeoning field for the Pentagon -- are imagining other ways to employ such armed bots not only on our distant battlefields but at home in a future in which they will be “useful, cheap, and ubiquitous,” and capable of Tasing as well as killing.

Of course, among the many things that have also come home from the country’s wars, Predator and Reaper drones are now flying over “the homeland” on missions for the Pentagon, not to mention the FBI, the Border Patrol, and other domestic agencies. So the future stage is set. Once you’ve used any kind of drone in the U.S. to kill by remote control, it’s only logical -- given some future extreme situation -- to extend that use to the skies and so consider firing a missile at some U.S. target, as the CIA and the Air Force have been doing regularly for years in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. And of course, in our domestic arms race, with small drones commercially available to anyone and the first of them armed (no matter the rudimentary nature of that armament), it’s not hard to imagine a future Micah Johnson, white or black, using one of them sooner or later. After all, Johnson was already talking about planting “IEDs” (the term for insurgent roadside bombs in our war zones) and a flying IED is a relatively modest step from there.

So, welcome to the “home front,” folks. And speaking of drones, it’s worth giving a little thought to what might, in fact, still come home, to the sort of example that two administrations have set by turning the president into an assassin-in-chief and regularly creating law for themselves when it comes to the targeting of distant peoples. In that light, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon considers America’s Trojan Horse technology of death and just what it may someday smuggle into “the homeland.” Tom 


 

The Trojan Drone: An Illegal Military Strategy Disguised as Technological Advance

by Rebecca Gordon

 

The Rise of the Drones


The Bush administration launched the assassination program in October 2001 in Afghanistan, expanded it in 2002 to Yemen, and went from there. Under Obama, with an actual White House “kill list,” the use of drones has again expanded, this time nine-fold, with growing numbers of attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia, as well as in the Afghan, Iraqi, and Syrian war zones.

There’s an obvious appeal to a technology that allows pilots for the CIA, Joint Special Operations Command, or the Air Force to sit safely in front of video screens in Nevada or elsewhere in the U.S., while killing people half a world away. This is especially true for a president running a global war with a public that does not easily accept American casualties and a Congress that prefers not to be responsible for war and peace decision-making. Drone assassinations have allowed President Obama to spread the “war on terror” to ever more places (even as he quietly retired that phrase), without U.S. casualties or congressional oversight and approval.

One problem has, however, dogged the drone program from the beginning: just like conventional air strikes, remotely targeted missiles and bombs tend to kill the wrong people. Over the last seven years, the count of civilians killed by drones has been mounting. Actual figures are hard to come by, although a number of nongovernmental organizations and journalists have done a good job of collating information from a variety of sources and offering reasonable estimates.

Analysis from all these sources suggests that there are at least three reasons why civilians die in such attacks.

1. The intelligence information on the individual targeted is often wrong. He isn’t where they think he is, or he isn’t even who they think he is. For example, in 2014 a British human rights organization, Reprieve, compiled data on drone strikes that targeted specific individuals in Yemen and Pakistan. According to the Guardian, Reprieve’s work:
“indicates that even when operators target specific individuals -- the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls 'targeted killing' -- they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November [2014].”

Some of these men were reported in the media as killed multiple times. Even if they didn’t die in the first, second, and in some cases third attempts, other people certainly did. Reprieve also reports one particularly egregious case of mistaken identity:

“Someone with the same name as a terror suspect on the Obama administration’s ‘kill list’ was killed on the third attempt by U.S. drones. His brother was captured, interrogated, and encouraged to ‘tell the Americans what they want to hear’: that they had in fact killed the right person.”

2. There isn’t even a named target. The CIA has long based drone assassination targeting for many missions not on direct intelligence about a particular individual, but on what it calls the “signature” of possible terrorist activity (that is, the behavior or look of people below). Such “signature strikes” target unidentified individuals based on some suspicious activity, usually picked up through drone surveillance. Such a “signature” can be as ill defined as “a gathering of men, teenaged to middle-aged, traveling in convoys or carrying weapons” in countries where many men may be armed. Unfortunately, while such a gathering may indeed indicate some kind of military activity, it may also describe a rural wedding in, say, Yemen, involving driving in convoy from the groom’s town to the bride’s, accompanied sometimes by celebratory gunfire.

Not everyone in the government is convinced that signature strikes are a good idea. In 2012, the New York Times reported this joke at the State Department: “When the C.I.A. sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp.”

The fact that signature strikes continue to this day suggests that Secretary of State John Kerry was not entirely truthful when, in 2013, he said at a BBC forum: “The only people that we fire a drone at are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level after a great deal of vetting that takes a long period of time. We don’t just fire a drone at somebody and think they’re a terrorist.”

3. They were in the way, and so became “collateral damage.” This is the term military theorists regularly use to describe human beings or civilian infrastructure unavoidably destroyed in an attack on a legitimate military target. Of course, a drone operator’s understanding of the term “unavoidable” may be different from that of a woman who has just lost three of her four sons as they were returning home from shopping for supplies to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

In addition, drone strikes don’t just kill people, including women and children; they also destroy buildings and other property. For example, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says that, in Pakistan, more than 60% of all strikes target domestic buildings -- people’s houses. In other words, “collateral damage” often refers to the destruction of the homes of any survivors of a drone attack.

Not surprisingly, people don’t like living in terror of deadly missiles screaming out of a clear blue sky. Many observers have argued that terrorist organizations have used widespread fear and anger over drone attacks as a recruiting tool. Al-Qaeda and ISIS appear to offer Pakistanis, Yemenis, and others an alternative to simply waiting for an attack they can’t prevent. The CIA itself recognized the counterproductive potential of drone killings, which they call “HVT [High Value Target] operations.” A leaked July 2009 CIA report on “Best Practices in Counter-Insurgency” outlines the issues:

“Potential negative effects of HVT operations include increasing the level of insurgent support, causing a government to neglect other aspects of its counterinsurgency strategy, altering insurgent strategy or organization in ways that favor the insurgents, strengthening an armed group’s bond with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or deescalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”

So there are long-term strategic problems with targeted killings by drone. In addition, drones may help spread and intensify terror movements and insurgencies, rather than destroying them or their leaderships. Often, as Andrew Cockburn has made clear in his book Kill Chain, the successors to leaders assassinated by drone turn out to be younger, more effective, and more brutal.

There is, however, another problem with this sort of warfare. Such killings -- at least when they take place outside a declared war zone -- are almost certainly illegal; that is, they are murders, plain and simple.

Targeted Killing Is Murder


In my household we have a rule: we’re not allowed to kill something just because we’re afraid of it. This has saved the lives of countless spiders and other creatures sporting (in my view at least) too many legs.

Whatever your view on arachnids, should it really be permissible to kill people simply because we are afraid of them? After all, that’s what these drone assassinations are -- extrajudicial executions of people someone believes we should be afraid of. It is easier to see an illegal execution for what it is when the killer is not separated from the target by thousands of miles and a video screen. Drone technology is really a Trojan Horse, a distracting, glitzy means of smuggling an illegal and immoral tactic into the heart of U.S. foreign relations.

Not all killing is illegal, of course. There are situations in which both international and U.S. laws permit killing. One of these is self-defense; another is war. However, a “war” waged against a tactic (terrorism), or even more vaguely, against an emotion (terror) is only metaphorically a war. Under international law, real wars, in which it is legal to kill the enemy, involve sustained combat between organized military forces.

Outside of the fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now possibly Syria (where Congress has arguably never even declared war), the “war on terror” is not a war at all. It is instead a conflict with an ever-expanding list of targets, no defined geographical boundaries, and no foreseeable endpoint. It is a campaign against any conceivable potential U.S. enemy, fought in fits and starts in many countries on several continents. It involves ongoing covert operations largely hidden from everyone except its targets. As an undertaking, it lacks the regular, sustained conflict between armies that characterizes war in the legal sense. Such operations fit another category far better: assassination, illegal at least since President Jimmy Carter’s Executive Order 12036, which stated, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

Nor is the Middle East the only region where the United States is using targeted killing outside a shooting war. The U.S. military also deploys drones in parts of Africa. In fact, President Obama’s nominee to head U.S. Africa Command, Marine Lieutenant General Thomas Waldhauser, recently told Senator Lindsay Graham that he thinks he should be free to order drone killings on his own authority.

So much for war and “war.” What about self-defense? At every stage of the “war on terror,” Washington has claimed self-defense. That was the explanation for rounding up hundreds of Muslims living in the U.S. immediately after the attacks of 9/11, torturing some of them, and holding them incommunicado for months in a Brooklyn, New York, jail. It was the excuse offered for beginning torture programs in CIA “black sites” and at Guant√°namo. It was the reason the U.S. gave for invading Afghanistan, and later for invading Iraq -- before, as Bush administration representatives and the president himself kept saying, “the smoking gun” of Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction turned into “a mushroom cloud” over, presumably, some American city.

And self-defense has been the Justice Department’s rationale for targeted killing as well. In a November 2011 paper prepared by that department for the White House, its author (identity unknown) outlined the necessary conditions to make a targeted killing legal:

“(1) an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States;

(2) capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and

(3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

That would seem to rule out most U.S. targeted killings. Few of their targets were people on the verge of a violent attack on the United States or U.S. soldiers in the field. Ah, but in the through-the-looking-glass logic of the Obama Justice Department, “imminent” turns out not to mean “imminent” in the sense that something is about to happen. As that document explains: “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

It turns out that the threat from any “operational leader” is always imminent, because “with respect to al-Qaeda leaders who are continually planning attacks, the United States is likely to have only a limited window of opportunity within which to defend Americans.” In other words, once a person has been identified as an al-Qaeda or allied group “leader,” he is by definition “continually planning attacks,” always represents an imminent danger, and so is a legitimate target. Q.E.D.

In fact, few enough of these targeted killings, including the signature ones can be defended as instances of self-defense. We should call them what they really are: extrajudicial executions.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions has agreed with this view. In his 2013 report to the General Assembly, Christof Heyns noted that international human rights law guarantees a right to life. This right is enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and given legal force in, among other treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party. There certainly are legal limits to the right to life, including -- in countries that have the death penalty -- the state’s right to execute a person after a legitimate trial. To execute someone without a trial, however, is an “extrajudicial killing” and a human rights crime.

Obama “Comes Clean”


By the middle of President Obama’s second term in office, criticism of this extrajudicial killing program, and especially of the civilian deaths involved, had mushroomed. So, in May 2013, at least 11 years after the program was launched, the president announced a shift in drone strategy, telling an audience at the National Defense University that the U.S. would engage in “targeted killings” of al-Qaeda militants only when there was a “near-certainty” that no civilians would be injured. He added that he was planning to make the drone program more transparent than it had been and to transfer most of its operations from the CIA to the Pentagon.

In the two years since, little of this has happened. Although Obama has continued the job of personally approving drone targets, the CIA still runs much of the program.

On July 1st, he did finally take a step towards providing greater transparency. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a report stating that, outside of more conventional war zones like those in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, U.S. airstrikes have killed “64 to 116 civilian bystanders and about 2,500 members of terrorist groups.” These estimates are, in fact, quite a bit lower than those supplied by the various groups that track such killings. Note as well that, legally speaking, not only the “collateral damage” victims, but all those that Americans identified as “members of terrorist groups” died via illegal, extrajudicial executions.

The document fulfills one of the requirements of a newly issued executive order, which, among other things, requires the government to release a report by May 1st of each year containing “information about the number of strikes undertaken by the U.S. Government against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities [i.e., outside genuine war zones]” for the previous calendar year.

Attached to the executive order was a “fact sheet,” which noted that one goal of the new executive order is to “set standards for other nations to follow.” How happy would the United States really be if other nations decided that they had the right to kill anyone who scares them? How would the United States react if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decided to take out a U.S. general or two, on the grounds that, since the U.S. is supporting forces that seek to depose him, those generals are (as the Fact Sheet puts it) “targetable in the exercise of national self-defense”?

Some critics of the Obama drone program have welcomed the executive order, which does include a new emphasis on protecting civilians. But the larger effect of the order is to make the practice of illegal assassination a permanent feature of U.S. policy. It assumes that we can expect an annual murder toll announcement for years to come. No future is contemplated in which the United States will not be raining death from the sky on people who cannot defend themselves. The drones will continue to fly, but the Trojan Drone’s work is complete.

Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches philosophy at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of Mainstreaming Torture and most recently of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. She can be contacted at www.mainstreamingtorture.org.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 Rebecca Gordon

US-Led Airstrikes Kill as Many Civilians as Nice Attack--but Get No Front-Page Headlines in Major US Papers 

by FAIR

July 20, 2016

The Intercept (7/19/16) illustrated its article on a deadly airstrike in Syria with a photo of a victim receiving medical attention. (Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

A coalition airstrike reported on Tuesday that killed at least 85 civilians—one more than died in the Nice attack in France last week—wasn’t featured at all on the front pages of two of the top US national newspapers, the New York Times and LA Times, and only merited brief blurbs on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, with the actual stories buried on pages A-16 and A-15, respectively.

According to the London Telegraph (7/19/16), the airstrike killed “more than 85 civilians” after the “coalition mistook them for Islamic State fighters.” Eight families were represented among the dead, with victims “as young as three.” The Intercept (7/19/16) reported the death toll could end up being well over 100.

The Pentagon has not denied the reports, saying an investigation is underway, according to Stars and Stripes (7/19/16), a media outlet that operates inside the Department of Defense.

As many on Twitter pointed out, the number of dead was roughly equal to that of the recent Nice attack, yet the airstrike did not garner nearly as much media coverage, nor did news outlets convey an outpouring of grief:

US “accidentally” obliterated 85 civilians. Same number as killed in Nice but you won’t see wall-to-wall coverage https://t.co/eS8wEa14pQ

— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) July 20, 2016

By contrast, the Nice attack garnered multiple front-page stories in the New York Times and LA Times, as well as significantly more than 20-word blurbs in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

For those who see a “false equivalency,” there are two mitigating reasons for this glaring discrepancy: 1) The airstrike deaths were an “accident” and 2) Syria’s a war zone, where civilian deaths are to be expected. Neither of these retorts are satisfactory, and certainly not enough to justify a virtual front-page blackout.

On the issue of accidental deaths having less import than purposeful ones, this doesn’t explain why unintentional natural disaster deaths routinely receive splashing front-page coverage. Intent rarely affects coverage of these events; only death counts do. And this is granting the deaths were actually accidental, which we don’t know for sure at this time, or whether the US military was using tactics, like so-called “signature strikes,” that are known to greatly increase the chances of killing noncombatants.

As for the “war zone” factor, according to Airwars, a Western group that monitors civilian deaths at the hands of the US-led coalition, the total number of civilians deaths since the beginning of airstrikes in September 2014 has been 190. To increase this number by almost 50 percent in a matter of days would indeed be a radical departure from the normal course of events—rendering it more than newsworthy.

Indeed, all of the publications in question ran a story on the “dozens of deaths” at the hands of US-led airstrikes, so we know they deemed it notable. Just not notable enough, for whatever reason, to put in a prominent position for US audiences.

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org. 
Follow him on Twitter at @AdamJohnsonNYC.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Feeling the Deeper Burn: How Sanders (and Satan) Can Keep the Democratic Party's Soul

Why Bernie Needs To Take Satan’s Advice and Create An Un-Christian Coalition 

by Greg Palast with Dennis J Bernstein for Nation of Change


July 20, 2016

Bernie Sanders may have conceded the nomination, but he can still win control of the Democratic Party. By harnessing the power of his people, Bernie could ensure Hillary keeps the promises she made to him in exchange for his endorsement. And with 13 million supporters in his pocket, Bernie has the chance to create something far stronger than the Christian Coalition, which has shaped GOP policy for over two decades.

He could lead a mighty Un-Christian Coalition, if you will, that moving forward could force Hillary’s hand so she has little choice but to serve the people as opposed to her corporate paymasters. In this week’s Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Election Crimes Bulletin, Dennis J. Bernstein and Greg Palast explain how Bernie can take a tip from Satan’s playbook and seize this moment to create one hell of a powerful a movement!


TRANSCRIPT (Originally broadcast on July 13, 2016) 


Dennis J. Bernstein: Today we’ve seen Bernie came out strong in support of Hillary Clinton. Many people are troubled, some are supporting it, some aren’t. Let’s talk a little bit about what this moment means. Is this the end of a moment or the beginning of a movement?

Greg Palast: Well, that’s up to the people, and Senator Sanders. When you saw him on stage, he looked like those guys who are reading those confessions from a North Korean prison: “I am sorry… I have disgraced the party… and I will atone for my sins.” I know a lot of people in the Sanders crowd, and the Bernie or Bust people, good friends of mine, are crying about Bernie drinking the Kool-Aid for the Democratic Party, but that was foreordained, they weren’t going to let him win.

Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton, but he had something else on his side, which is not the people — remember he actually lost to Hillary Clinton in the primary by total number of votes — but he had the votes that counted. That is, he had the support of Robert Rubin, City Bank, Jamie Diamond...

DB: Don’t forget my friend Penny Pritzker…

Palast: Penny Pritzker, who is currently our unindicted Secretary of Commerce and billionaire banker of the Pritzker family. Obama had those three votes — and they’re the ones that counted! So it’s interesting, even though Hillary says, “Well, I deserve it because I have the most votes.” She deserved it in ’08 but she didn’t have the bankers’ vote. This time she does. But that’s not the issue, I want to talk to you about something that I think should comfort people…

I want to tell you about advice I got in a very similar situation from just about the most brilliant man I’ve ever met. Many of you know of him as Satan, and some of you know him as the Reverend Pat Robertson. I was investigating Pat Robertson for The Guardian newspaper, so I went in to meet him secretly wired. Robertson had run, just like Sanders, for president. And just like Sanders, did not get the nomination of his party, the Republican Party. That went to George Bush. So I asked the Reverend Pat Robertson, because he had said that God had told him to run for president, I said, “With a campaign manager like that, how could you have lost?” And Robertson said to me, “The Lord did not tell me to win the presidency. He told me to run.”

Now what that cryptic message meant (and it’s worth Bernie taking notes), as Robertson told me, he may have lost the presidency but his list of followers, 3 million people, became the Christian Coalition. So now is Bernie’s moment. I’m completely non-partisan, but when you change from partisan activity to a movement, then I can say something. This is Bernie’s chance to turn his political moment into a political movement, to create the un-Christian Coalition.

As Pat Robertson told me, nothing moves in the Republican party, you can’t get a nomination for dog catcher anywhere in America without the approval of the Christian Coalition. That later morphed into the other evangelical crew. And we know that you can’t win without them. Trump had to win them over… The Republican Party has now been seized by the Evangelical Christian Right.

So they have shown us, through satanic means, what we can do to create a movement to scare the hell out of the Democratic Party. Bernie has a lot more than 3 million followers. He’s bigger than the Christian Coalition. His Un-Christian coalition could shake up American politics, if he doesn’t do a Ralph Nader and run off… When Nader ran in 2000, I wasn’t disturbed that he may have taken enough votes to have elected George Bush. What disturbed me is that he didn’t fight for the black people whose votes weren’t counted. He ran away from creating a permanent movement…

Dennis, here’s a pop-quiz: What was the Democratic Party’s position in 2012 on the minimum wage?

DB: Uh, I don’t know.

Palast: Well, no one knows…

DB: And, no one really cared, right?

Palast: Nobody cared what the party platform is. So if you want the movement to die, spend all your bullets on changing the party platform. If you want your movement to thrive, it’s more than handing the activists over to Hillary to avoid a Trump presidency, it’s about keeping America sane.

For example, instead of arguing over whether there ought to be a vote on the TPP, Bernie’s Un-Christian coalition, 2 years from now, can tell President Clinton, “I hear you are now saying that the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal meets your standards and so you’re going to sign it. But it doesn’t meet our standards, so we’re going to take our 7 million members and we’re all going to de-register from the Democratic Party.” Now do you think that Hillary Clinton would continue on such a course? Basically, the Sanders’ people have the ability to veto all the major policies of the Democratic Party, to seize control and have ultimate power within the Democratic Party.

DB: You mentioned the evangelical movement and the role they have played in terms of the power of the new Right…

Palast: Well, one of the things that Sanders did is bring together disparate elements of the left, progressives, and young people. To let that dissipate would be the great crime. It’s even more important than electing Sanders as president. This could be a permanent movement. Now what does this have to do with our usual elections crimes report? This came to me because I was investigating Pat Robertson. And Pat Robertson had created a not-for-profit organization called The Christian Coalition. But because they were involved in politics, after 11 years and after my investigation, they withdrew their application for approval for not-for-profit status by the IRS. Basically Pat Robertson ran a long-term criminal enterprise.

But then, the Supreme Court de-criminalized this activity… Along with Citizens United was the Speech Now decision that said not only could corporations give money to campaigns, but so could not-for-profit organizations, social service charities. So the door is open for the Bernie campaign to become the Bernie movement, and for people to create a not-for-profit coalition for the public as opposed to corporate power, or for whatever purposes the evangelicals operate.

DB: To be clear, what you are saying is, a lot of the energy wasted inside these conventions trying to change the platform is really a bit of a distraction from the energy that can come out of all the platforms that people supported Bernie for at the grass roots level…

Palast: You don’t want to waste your bullet. This convention business is, after all, just a show. It’s theater. There’s no convention. There’s no discussion over whose going to get the nomination. That’s done. It’s a show. Trump has made it clear that he wants the Republican show to even be better, so he’s going to speak all night. It’s burlesque, it’s political striptease. America Has No Political Talent is the show. But if we want to go permanent, if we want to really change this nation, which is what the Sanders’ campaign claims to be about… If you want to have a true Medicare for all, possibility; Clinton has talked about opening up Medicare to people 50 and over, which would be tremendous, if she sticks to it. She’s talked about removing the caps so that rich people have to pay into the social security fund with no cap, which Sanders forced her to do. Sanders forced her to come out against the TPP. Sanders forced her to say she’d re-open NAFTA.

She’s not going to be held to these things when she’s president by looking at her old party platform — that’s a giggle! But she will be held accountable if there are 13 million people in a progressive organization, which Sanders would have to front, which would say, “We are going to withhold our support for the Democratic Party, money, people de-registering, we will have nothing to do with you. These are our demands and we’re holding you to these demands.”

________

Greg Palast new film on the theft of the 2016 election: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits, will be debuted at Net Roots Nation on July 16 in St. Louis.

Dennis J. Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints, syndicated on Pacifica Radio, and is the recipient of a 2015 Pillar Award for his work as a journalist whistle-blower. He is most recently the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.

Greg Palast has been called the “most important investigative reporter of our time — up there with Woodward and Bernstein” (The Guardian). Palast has broken front-page stories for BBC Television’s Newsnight, The Guardian, The Nation Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Harper's Magazine. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Bil-lionaires & Ballot Bandits, Armed Madhouse, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and the highly acclaimed Vultures’ Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC’s Newsnight Review. His books have been translated into two dozen languages.

* * * * * * *

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, which will be released as a feature documentary movie this fall. Get your name in the movie credits!

Subscribe to Palast's mailing list and Podcast to receive regular updates on this issue.

Visit the Palast Investigative Fund store or simply make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our work alive!

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GregPalast.com

Dennis J. Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints, syndicated on Pacifica Radio, and is the recipient of a 2015 Pillar Award for his work as a journalist whistleblower. He is most recently the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.

Nation of Change is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Nation of Change.

Trumpeting for Israel

Money Talks: Trump Does a U-Turn on Israel

by Jonathan Cook - CounterPunch


July 21, 2016

Nazareth  The grubby underside of US electoral politics is on show once again as the Democratic and Republican candidates prepare to fight it out for the presidency. And it doesn’t get seamier than the battle to prove how loyal each candidate is to Israel.

New depths are being plumbed this week at the Republican convention in Cleveland, as Donald Trump is crowned the party’s nominee.

His platform breaks with decades of United States policy to effectively deny the Palestinians any hope of statehood.

The question now is whether the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, who positions herself as Israel’s greatest ally, will try to outbid Trump in cravenly submitting to the Israeli right.

It all started so differently. Through much of the primary season, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had reason to be worried about Israel’s “special relationship” with the next occupant of the White House.

Early on, Trump promised to be “neutral” and expressed doubts about whether it made sense to hand Israel billions of dollars annually in military aid. He backed a two-state solution and refused to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On the Democrat side, Clinton was challenged by outsider Bernie Sanders, who urged “even-handedness” towards Israel and the Palestinians. He too objected to the huge sums of aid the US bestows on Israel.

Sanders exploited his massive support among Democrats to force Clinton to include well-known supporters of Palestinian rights on the committee that drafts the party’s platform.

But any hopes of an imminent change in US policy in the Middle East have been dashed.

Last week, as the draft Republic platform was leaked, Trump proudly tweeted that it was the “most pro-Israel of all time!” Avoiding any mention of a two-state solution, it states: “Support for Israel is an expression of Americanism. … We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier.”

The capitulation was so complete that even the Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based apologist group for Israel, called the platform “disappointing” and urged the Republican convention to “reconsider”. After all, even Netanyahu pays lip service to the need for a Palestinian state.

But Trump is not signaling caution. His new advisers on Israel, David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt, are fervent supporters of the settlements and annexation of Palestinian territory.

Trump’s running mate, announced at the weekend, is Indiana governor Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian and a stalwart of pro-Israel causes.

So why the dramatic turnaround?


Candidates for high office in the US need money – lots of it. Until now Trump has been chiefly relying on his own wealth. He has raised less than $70 million, a fifth of Clinton’s war-chest.

The Republican party’s most significant donor is Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate and close friend of Netanyahu. He has hinted that he will contribute more than $100 million to the Trump campaign if he likes what he sees.

Should Netanyahu offer implicit endorsement, as he did for Mitt Romney in the 2012 race, Christian Zionist preachers such as John Hagee will rally ten of millions of followers to Trump’s side too – and fill his coffers.

Similar indications that money is influencing policy are evident in the Democratic party.

Sanders funded his campaign through small donations, giving him the freedom to follow his conscience. Clinton, by contrast, has relied on mega-donors, including some, such as Haim Saban, who regard Israel as a key election issue.

That may explain why, despite the many concessions made to Sanders on the Democratic platform, Clinton’s team refused to budge on Israel issues. As a result, the draft platform fails to call for an end to the occupation or even mention the settlements.

According to The New York Times, Clinton’s advisers are vetting James Stavridis as a potential running mate. A former NATO commander, he is close to the Israeli defence establishment and known for his hawkish pro-Israel positions.

Clinton, meanwhile, has promised to use all her might to fight the growing boycott movement, which seeks to isolate Israel over its decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory.

The two candidates’ fierce commitment to Israel appears to fly in the face of wider public sentiment, especially among Democrats.

A recent Pew poll found 57 per cent of young, more liberal Democrats sympathised with the Palestinians rather than Israel. Support for hawkish Israeli positions is weakening among American Jews too, a key Democratic constituency. About 61 per cent believe Israel can live peacefully next to an independent Palestinian state.

The toxic influence of money in the US presidential elections can be felt in many areas of policy, both domestic and foreign.

But the divorce between the candidates’ fervour on Israel and the growing doubts of many of their supporters is particularly stark.

It should be dawning on US politicians that a real debate about the nation’s relationship with Israel cannot be deferred much longer. 

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
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