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Fifty Years Ago the United States Government Killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Review of The Plot to Kill King by William Pepper

By Edward Curtin | April 4, 2018

Very few Americans are aware of the truth behind the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Few books have been written about it, unlike other significant assassinations, especially JFK’s. For fifty years there has been a media blackout supported by government deception to hide the truth. And few people, in a massive act of self-deception, have chosen to question the absurd official explanation, choosing, rather, to embrace a mythic fabrication intended to sugarcoat the bitter fruit that has resulted from the murder of the one man capable of leading a mass movement for revolutionary change in the United States. Today we are eating the fruit of our denial.

In order to comprehend the significance of this extraordinary book, it is first necessary to dispel a widely accepted falsehood about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. William Pepper does that on the first page.

To understand his death, it is essential to realize that although he is popularly depicted and perceived as a civil rights leader, he was much more than that. A non-violent revolutionary, he personified the most powerful force for the long-overdue social, political, and economic reconstruction of the nation.

In other words, Martin Luther King was a transmitter of a non-violent spiritual and political energy so plenipotent that his very existence was a threat to an established order based on violence, racism, and economic exploitation. He was a very dangerous man.

Revolutionaries are, of course, anathema to the power elites who, with all their might, resist such rebels’ efforts to transform society. If they can’t buy them off, they knock them off. Fifty years after King’s assassination, the causes he fought for – civil rights, the end to U.S. wars of aggression, and economic justice for all – remain not only unfulfilled, but have worsened in so many respects. And King’s message has been enervated by the sly trick of giving him a national holiday and urging Americans to make it “a day of service.” Needless to say, such service does not include non-violent war resistance or protesting a decadent system of economic injustice.

Because MLK repeatedly called the United States the “greatest purveyor of violence on earth,” he was universally condemned by the mass media and government that later – once he was long and safely dead – praised him to the heavens. This has continued to the present day of historical amnesia.

But William Pepper resurrects the revolutionary MLK, and in doing so shows in striking detail why elements within the U.S. government executed him. After reading this book, no fair-minded reader can reach any other conclusion. The Plot to Kill King, the culminating volume of a trilogy that Pepper has written on the assassination, consists of slightly less text than supporting documentation in its appendices, which include numerous depositions and interviews that buttress Pepper’s thesis on the why and how of this horrible murder.  It demands a close reading that should put to rest any pseudo-debates about the essentials of the case.

Pepper, an attorney who represented the King family in the 1999 trial that found U.S. officials of the federal (in particular, the FBI and Army Intelligence), state, and local governments responsible for King’s assassination, has worked on the King case since 1977. He met MLK in 1967, after King had read his Ramparts’ magazine article, “The Children of Vietnam,” that exposed the hideous effects of U.S. napalm and white phosphorous bombing on young and old Vietnamese innocents. The text and photos of that article reduced King to tears and were instrumental in his increased opposition to the war against Vietnam as articulated in his dramatic Riverside Church speech (“Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”) on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before his execution in Memphis. That speech, in which King so powerfully and publicly linked the war with racism and economic exploitation, foretold his death at the hands of the perpetrators of those abominations.

Devastated by King’s death, and assuming the alleged assassin James Earl Ray was responsible, Pepper retreated from the fray until a 1977 conversation with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, King’s associate, who raised the specter of Ray’s innocence. After a five hour interrogation of the imprisoned Ray in 1978, Pepper was convinced that Ray did not shoot King and set out on a forty year quest to uncover the truth.

Before examining the essentials of Pepper’s discovery, it is important to point out that MLK, Jr., his father, Rev. M. L. King, Sr., and his maternal grandfather, Rev. A.D. Williams, all pastors of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, were spied on by Army Intelligence and the FBI since 1917. All were considered communist sympathizers and dangerous to the reigning hegemony because of their espousal of racial and economic equality. When MLK, Jr. forcefully denounced unjust and immoral war-making as well, and announced his Poor People’s Campaign and intent to lead a massive peaceful encampment of hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., he set off panic in the bowels of government spies and their masters.  Seventy-five years of spying on black religious leaders here found its ultimate “justification.” As Stokely Carmichael, co-chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, said to King in a conversation secretly recorded by Army Intelligence, “The man don’t care you call ghettos concentration camps, but when you tell him his war machine is nothing but hired killers, you got trouble.”

It is against this “trouble” that Pepper’s investigation must be set, as that “trouble” is also the background for the linked assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, and RFK. Understanding the forces behind the military, the spies, and the gunmen who, while operating in the shadows, are actually the second layer of the onion skin, is essential. The government and mainstream corporate media form the outer layer with their collusion in disinformation, lying, and truth suppression, but Pepper correctly identifies the core as follows.

Bombastic, chauvinistic, corporate propaganda aside, where the slaughter of innocents is, and always was, justified in the name of patriotism and national security, it has always and ever been about money. Corporate and financial leaders trusted with the keys to the Republic’s treasure moved from boardrooms to senior government positions and back again. Construction, oil and gas, defense industry, and pharmaceutical corporations, their bankers, brokers, and executives thrive in a war economy. Fortunes are made and dynasties created and perpetuated and a cooperating elite permeates an entire society and ultimately contaminates the world in its drive for national resources wherever they are …. Vietnam was his [King’s] Rubicon …. Here, as never before, would he seriously challenge the interests of the power elite.

MLK was assassinated on April 4, 1968 at 6:01 PM as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was shot in the lower right side of his face by one rifle bullet that shattered his jaw, damaged his upper spine, and came to rest below his left shoulder blade. The U.S. government claimed the assassin was a racist loner named James Earl Ray, who had escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary on April 23, 1967. Ray was alleged to have fired the fatal shot from a second-floor bathroom window of a rooming house above the rear of Jim’s Grill across the street. Running to his rented room, Ray allegedly gathered his belongings, including the rifle, in a bedspread-wrapped bundle, rushed out the front door onto the adjoining street, and in a panic dropped the bundle in the doorway of the Canipe Amusement Company a few doors down. He was then said to have jumped into his white Mustang and driven to Atlanta where he abandoned the car. From there he fled to Canada and then to England where he was eventually arrested at Heathrow Airport on June 8, 1968 and extradited to the U.S. The state claims that the money Ray needed to purchase the car and for all his travel was secured through various robberies and a bank heist. Ray’s alleged motive was racism and that he was a bitter and dangerous loner.

When Ray, under extraordinary pressure, coercion, and a payoff from his lawyer to take a plea, pleaded guilty (only a few days later to request a trial that was denied) and was sentenced to 99 years in prison, the case seemed to be closed, and was dismissed from public consciousness. Another hate-filled lone assassin, shades of Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan, had committed a despicable deed.

In the years leading up to Pepper’s 1978 involvement, only a few lonely voices expressed doubts about the government’s case – Harold Weisberg in 1971 and Mark Lane and Dick Gregory in 1977. The rest of the country put themselves and the case to sleep. They are still sleeping, but Pepper is trying with this last book to wake them up. Meanwhile, the disinformation specialists continue with their lies.

While a review is not the place to go into every detail of Pepper’s rebuttal of the government’s shabby claims, let me say at the outset that he emphatically does so, and adds in the process some tentative claims of which he is not certain but which, if true, are stunning.

As with the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother, Robert (two months after MLK), all evidence points to the construction of patsies to take the blame for government executions. Ray, Oswald, and Sirhan all bear striking resemblances in the ways they were chosen and moved as pawns over long periods of time into positions where their only reactions could be stunned surprise when they were accused of the murders.

It took Pepper many years to piece together the essential truths, once he and Abernathy interviewed Ray in prison in 1978. The first giveaway that something was seriously amiss came with the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations’ report on the King assassination. Led by Robert Blakey, suspect in his conduct of the other assassination inquiries, who had replaced Richard Sprague, who was deemed to be too independent, “this multi-million dollar investigation ignored or denied all evidence that raised the possibility that James Earl Ray was innocent,” and that government forces might be involved. Pepper lists over twenty such omissions that rival the absurdities of the magical thinking of the Warren Commission. The HSCA report became the template “for all subsequent disinformation in print and visual examinations of this case” for the past thirty-seven years.

Pepper’s decades-long investigation, not only refutes the government’s case against James Earl Ray, but definitively proves that King was killed by a government conspiracy led by the FBI, Army Intelligence, and Memphis Police, assisted by southern Mafia figures. He is right to assert that “we have probably acquired more detailed knowledge about this political assassination than we have ever had about any previous historical event.” This makes the silence around this case even more shocking. This shock is accentuated when one is reminded (or told for the first time) that in 1999 a Memphis jury, after a thirty day trial and over seventy witnesses, found the U.S. government guilty in the killing of MLK.  The King family had brought the suit and William Pepper represented them. They were grateful that the truth was confirmed, but saddened by the way the findings were buried once again by a media in cahoots with the government.

The civil trial was the King family’s last resort to get a public hearing to disclose the truth of the assassination. They and Pepper knew that Ray was an innocent pawn, but Ray had died in prison in 1998 after trying for thirty years to get a trial and prove his innocence (shades of Sirhan Sirhan who still languishes in prison). During all those years, Ray had maintained that he had been manipulated by a shadowy figure named Raul, who supplied him with money and his white Mustang and coordinated all his complicated travels, including having him buy a rifle and come to Jim’s Grill and the boarding house on the day of the assassination. The government has always denied that Raul existed.

Blocked at every turn by the authorities and unable to get Ray a trial, Pepper arranged an unscripted, mock TV trial that aired on April 4, 1993, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the assassination. Jurors were selected from a pool of U.S. citizens, a former U.S. Attorney and a federal judge served as prosecutor and judge, with Pepper serving as defense attorney. He presented extensive evidence clearly showing that authorities had withdrawn all security for King; that the state’s chief witness was falling down drunk; that the alleged bathroom sniper’s nest was empty right before the shot was fired; that three eyewitnesses, including the NY Times Earl Caldwell, said that the shot came from the bushes behind the rooming house; and that two eyewitnesses saw Ray drive away in his white Mustang before the shooting, etc. The prosecution’s feeble case was rejected by the jury that found Ray not guilty.

As with all Pepper’s work on the case (including book reviews), the mainstream media responded with silence. And though this was only a TV trial, increasing evidence emerged that the owner of Jim’s Grill, Loyd Jowers, was deeply involved in the assassination. Pepper dug deeper, and on December 16, 1993, Loyd Jowers appeared on ABC’s Primetime Live that aired nationwide. Pepper writes, “Loyd Jowers cleared James Earl Ray, saying that he did not shoot MLK but that he, Jowers, had hired a shooter after he was approached by Memphis produce man Frank Liberto and paid $1,000,000 to facilitate the assassination. He also said that he had been visited by a man names Raul who delivered a rifle and asked him to hold it until arrangements were finalized …. The morning after the Primetime Live broadcast there was no coverage of the previous night’s program, not even on ABC …. Here was a confession, on prime time television, to involvement in one of the most heinous crimes in the history of the Republic, and virtually no American mass-media coverage.”

In the twenty-five years since that confession, Pepper has worked tirelessly on the case and has uncovered a plethora of additional evidence that refutes the government’s claims and indicts it and the media for a continuing cover-up. The evidence he has gathered, detailed and documented in The Plot to Kill King, proves that Martin Luther King was killed by a conspiracy masterminded by the U.S. government. Much of his evidence was presented at the 1999 trial, while other was subsequently discovered.  Since the names and details involved make clear that, as with the murders of JFK and RFK, the conspiracy was very sophisticated with many moving parts organized at the highest level, I will just highlight a few of his findings in what follows. A reader should read the book to understand the full scope of the plot, its execution, and the cover-up.

  • Pepper refutes the government account and proves, through multiple witnesses, telephonic, and photographic evidence, that Raul existed; that his full name is Raul Coelho; and that he was James Earl Ray’s intelligence handler, who provided him with money and instructions from their first meeting in the Neptune Bar in Montreal, where Ray had fled in 1967 after his prison escape, until the day of the assassination. It was Raul who instructed Ray to return to the U.S. (an act that makes no sense for an escaped prisoner who had fled the country), gave him money for the white Mustang, helped him attain travel documents, and moved him around the country like a pawn on a chess board. The parallels to Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan are startling.
  • He presents the case of Donald Wilson, a former FBI agent working out of the Atlanta office in 1968, who went with a senior colleague to check out an abandoned white Mustang with Alabama plates (Ray’s car, to which Raul had a set of keys) and opened the passenger door to find that an envelope and some papers fell out onto the ground. Thinking he may have disturbed a crime scene, the nervous Wilson pocketed them. Later, when he read them, their explosive content intuitively told him that if he gave them to his superiors they would be destroyed. One piece was a torn out page from a 1963 Dallas telephone directory with the name Raul written at the top, and the letter “J” with a Dallas telephone number for a club run by Jack Ruby, Oswald’s killer. The page was for the letter H and had numerous phone numbers for H. L. Hunt, Dallas oil billionaire and a friend of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.  Both men hated MLK. The second sheet contained Raul’s name and a list of names and sums and dates for payment.  On the third sheet was written the telephone number and extension for the Atlanta FBI office. (Read Jim Douglass’s important interview with Donald Wilson in The Assassinations, p.479-491.)
  • Pepper interviewed four other witnesses who confirmed that they had seen Raul with Jack Ruby in Dallas in 1963 and that they were associated.
  • Pepper shows that the alias Ray was given and used from July 1967 until April 4, 1968 – Eric Galt – was the name of a Toronto operative of U.S. Army Intelligence, Eric St. Vincent Galt, who worked for Union Carbide with Top Secret clearance. The warehouse at the Canadian Union Carbide Plant in Toronto that Galt supervised “housed a top secret munitions project funded jointly by the CIA, the U.S. Naval Surface Weapons Center, and the Army Electronics Research and Development Command …. In August 1967, Galt met with Major Robert M. Collins, a top aide to the head of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group (MIG) Colonel John Downie.”  Downie selected four members for an Alpha 184 Sniper Unit that was sent to Memphis to back up the primary assassin of MLK.  Meanwhile, Ray, set up as the patsy, was able to move about freely since he was protected by the pseudonymous NSA clearance for Eric Galt.
  • To refute the government’s claim that Ray and his brother robbed the Alton, Illinois Bank to finance his travels and car purchase (therefore no Raul existed), Pepper “called the sheriff in Alton and the president of the bank; they gave the same statement. The Ray brothers had nothing to do with the robbery.  No one from the HSCA, the FBI, or The New York Times had sought their opinion.”  CNN later reiterated the media falsehood that became part of the official false story.
  • Pepper proves that the fatal shot came from the bushes behind Jim’s Grill and the rooming house, not from the bathroom window. He presents overwhelming evidence for this, showing that the government’s claim, based on the testimony on a severely drunk Charlie Stephens, was absurd.  His evidence includes the testimony of numerous eyewitnesses and that of Loyd Jowers, the owner of Jim’s Grill, who said he took the rifle from the shooter in the bushes and brought it into the bar where he hid it.  Thus, Ray was not the assassin.
  • He presents conclusive evidence that the bushes were cut down the morning after the assassination in an attempt to corrupt the crime scene. The order to do so came from Memphis Police Department Inspector Sam Evans to Maynard Stiles, a senior administrator of the Memphis Department of Public Works.
  • He shows how King’s room was moved from a safe interior room, 201, to balcony room, 306, on the upper floor; how King was conveniently positioned alone on the balcony by members of his own entourage for the easy mortal head shot from the bushes across the street. (Many people only remember the iconic photograph taken after-the-fact with Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, et al., standing over the fallen King and pointing across the street.)  Pepper implicates that Reverends Billy Kyles, Jesse Jackson, and, to a lesser extent, Ralph Abernathy were involved in these machinations.  He uncovers of the role of black military intelligence agent Marrell McCollough, attached to the 111th MIG, within the entourage.  McCollough can be seen kneeling over the fallen King, checking to see if he’s dead.
  • Pepper confirms that all of this, including the assassin in the bushes, was dutifully photographed by Army Intelligence agents situated on the nearby Fire House roof.
  • He presents evidence that all security for Dr. King was withdrawn from the area by the Memphis Police Department, including a special security unit of black officers, and four tactical police units. A black detective at the nearby fire station, Ed Redditt, was withdrawn from his post on the afternoon of April 4th, allegedly because of a death threat against him.  And the only two black firemen at Fire Station No.2 were transferred to another station.
  • He names and confirms the presence of Alpha 184 snipers at locations high above the Lorraine Motel balcony.
  • He explains the use of two white mustangs in the operation to frame Ray.
  • He proves that Ray had driven off before the shooting; that Loyd Jowers took the rifle from the shooter who was in the bushes; that the Memphis police were working in close collaboration with the FBI, Army Intelligence, and the “Dixie Mafia,” particularly local produce dealer Frank Liberto and his New Orleans associate Carlos Marcello; and that every aspect of the government’s case was filled with holes that any person familiar with the details and possessing elementary logical abilities could refute.
  • So importantly, Pepper shows how the mainstream media and government flacks have spent years covering up the truth of MLK’s murder through lies and disinformation, just as they have done with the Kennedy and Malcom X assassinations that are of a piece with this one.

But since this is a book review and not a book, I will stop listing Pepper’s very detailed and convincing findings. While he may not have answered every aspect of the case, and may be mistaken in some small details, he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt the basic fact that James Earl Ray did not kill Martin Luther King, but that this great and dangerous leader was killed by a conspiracy organized at the highest levels of government.

The Plot to Kill King will mesmerize any reader seeking the truth about MLK’s assassination. Even when Pepper, towards the end of the book, offers circumstantial and non-corroborated testimony from witnesses Ronnie Lee Adkins and Johnton Shelby, the reader can’t help but be intrigued and to consider their stories highly plausible given all that Pepper has proven. Adkins claims that his father, a friend of Clyde Tolson, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s deputy, and then he himself, were part of the plot to kill King. This involved politicians, the FBI, MPD, and mafia, including the aforementioned produce dealer Frank Liberto and others, making payoffs with FBI money to various people, including Jesse Jackson (whom Adkins, Jr. claims was a paid FBI informer) and working closely on the details of the assassination. Johton Shelby’s story as recounted in his deposition (2014) to Pepper (reproduced, together with Adkins’ (2009), as appendices in the book), is that his mother, who was working as an emergency room aide at St. Joseph’s Hospital when King was brought there, inadvertently witnessed men spitting on Dr. King as he lay in the emergency room and a doctor putting a pillow over his head and suffocating him to death. Pepper tends to accept these accounts, but says he isn’t completely convinced of all aspects of them. The reader is offered plenty of food for thought concerning these claims.

Besides clearly proving the government’s part in killing Martin Luther King, this book is very important for the way Pepper links the case to those of JFK and RFK, who was murdered two months after King. At the center of all these murders is a trinity of men who were devoted to ending the Vietnam War and all wars, restoring economic justice for all Americans, and eliminating racial inequality. That their goals were the same provides a motive for their murders by forces opposed to these lofty objectives. That their murders clearly involved highly sophisticated operations and cover-ups that could never have been pulled off by “crazed lone assassins” points to powerful forces with those means at their disposal. And when it comes to opportunity, when did the shadowy forces of the deep state ever lack for that?

The ramifications of the MLK assassination profoundly inform our current condition. For anyone who truly cares about peace, love, and justice, The Plot to Kill King is essential reading. William Pepper should be saluted.  He has carried on Martin King’s noble legacy.

This is an updated review first published on 28 November 2016 at Global Research.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

How the Ex-Spy Case is Transforming UK Media Into Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth’

Sputnik – April 5, 2018

The admission by scientists from the Porton Down defense lab that that they could not actually verify the source of the nerve agent used to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter has not stopped British media from blaming Russia for the affair, or calling on London to take an even tougher stance against the Russians.

Unnamed ‘security sources’ have told The Times that they may have pinpointed the location of the “covert Russian laboratory” which allegedly created the chemical agent used to poison the Skripals.

According to the newspaper, government ministers and security officials “were able to identify the source using scientific analysis and intelligence” soon after the attack. “We knew pretty much by the time of the first Cobra [the emergency coordination briefing] that it was overwhelmingly likely to come from Russia,” a Whitehall source said.

The Times’ source insisted that the security services have a “high degree of confidence” regarding the location where the chemical was produced, but admitted they were not 100% certain.

Screenshot of The Times’ story.

Not to be outdone, The Sun ran a similar story, claiming that a lab run by Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service in the Moscow district of Yasenevo was the “likely” creator of the poison. The tabloid paraphrased unnamed ‘security sources’, who told the newspaper that the Russian lab is “one of a handful of labs in the world that produces the nerve agent.”

Screengrab of The Sun article.

No Proof Needed

The pair of stories comes 48 hours after Porton Down Defense Science & Technology Laboratory chief Gary Aitkenhead’s admission that the military could not definitively conclude that the nerve agent believed used in the Skripal case was of Russian origin.

The new media efforts to implicate Russia, using unnamed sources and terms such as “likely” and “high degree of confidence” is reminiscent of the kind of language used by the British government in the days and weeks following the poisoning. However, following Tuesday’s revelation by Mr. Aitkenhead, the government and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in particular have been reeling from their attempts to definitively claim Russian involvement in the Skripal case.

Some outlets, including The Independent, decided to meet Aitkenhead’s revelations with a stiff upper lip, insisting that Russia’s efforts in the Skripal case, including its “ever more reasonable-sounding but insincere offers” to help in the investigation, don’t change “the overwhelming probability that the novichok nerve agent originated in Russia…” It is simply “inconceivable that anyone other than the Russians” could organize such a plot, according to the newspaper.

As for Russia’s demand that London actually prove its allegations, The Independent suggests that “a legal standard of proof is not required,” adding that the kind of proof asked for by Moscow is “impossible to achieve.” The paper even accuses Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and others of ‘buying into’ the arguments presented by the Russians.

The Independent’s ‘bold’ editorial amid the revelation that Porton Down scientists couldn’t prove the poison’s origin.

Ministry of Truth

Also, even as the case against Russia over the Salisbury poisoning slowly falls apart, some UK and other Western media continue an effort to further poison Russia-Western relations, insisting that Russia is surely responsible for the attack, and criticizing their governments for not being tough enough on Moscow.

Bloomberg, for example, has run an editorial arguing that while the recent expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats from dozens of Western countries is all well and good, “it’s too mild” to put real pressure on Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.Rather, the business news agency says, the West should band together to turn up the heat to “counter the domestic propaganda that Putin has used to increase his popularity and build anti-Western sentiment. Reaching out to Russians in big cities and neighboring countries, where dissent exists and could be encouraged, the US and its allies should make clear that the cause of their complaints is Putin and his helpers, not Russia at large.”

Screenshot of the Bloomberg piece.

Commenting on the Bloomberg piece, Rossiya Segodnya politics contributor Viktor Marakhovsky quipped that the logic of the story was just brilliant: “When Russia appeals to the citizens of Western countries with criticism toward their authorities, this is propaganda and an attempt to assert influence. But when it’s the other way around, this is a fight against internal propaganda and bringing the truth to Russia,” he wrote.

The Guardian issued its own editorial, recommending paying more attention to the ‘home front’ to arrange a nationwide informational manhunt of ‘Putin’s trolls’.

Complaining about The Guardian’s comments section being “infected” by “Russian trolls,” the editorial says that while not all offending accounts or hashtags may be Russian-made, “its sentiments chime sufficiently with the trolls’ aim for them to boost it.”

Screengrab of The Guardian editorial.

In other words, Marakhovsky commented, these non-Russian accounts are de facto “enemies because they think and write the wrong thing.” In this way, the journalist noted, the newspaper is effectively calling on Western media “to assume the functions of the Ministry of Truth – to identify both Russian trolls and those who have been infected by their propaganda… and explain to them why their views are wrong, because they happen to agree with the opinion of the Russian foe.”

Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were hospitalized in Salisbury, southern England on March 4 following a chemical attack thought to involve the A-234 nerve agent. Sergei remains in critical condition; his daughter has regained consciousness and is making a recovery. London almost immediately accused Moscow for the attack, and initiated a series of measures directed against Russia, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats. Many of the UK’s allies have followed suit. Moscow has rejected London’s accusations, saying claims of Russian involvement are entirely unsubstantiated.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Knobs and Knockers

By Craig Murray | April 5, 2018

What is left of the government’s definitive identification of Russia as the culprit in the Salisbury attack? It is a simple truth that Russia is not the only state that could have made the nerve agent: dozens of them could. It could also have been made by many non-state actors.

Motorola sales agent Gary Aitkenhead – inexplicably since January, Chief Executive of Porton Down chemical weapons establishment – said in his Sky interview that “probably” only a state actor could create the nerve agent. That is to admit the possibility that a non state actor could. David Collum, Professor of Organo-Chemistry at Cornell University, infinitely more qualified than a Motorola salesman, has stated that his senior students could do it. Professor Collum tweeted me this morning.

The key point in his tweet is, of course “if asked”. The state and corporate media has not asked Prof. Collum nor any of the Professors of Organic Chemistry in the UK. There simply is no basic investigative journalism happening around this case.

So given that the weapon itself is not firm evidence it was Russia that did it, what is Boris Johnson’s evidence? It turns out that the British government’s evidence is no more than the technique of smearing nerve agent on the door handle. All of the UK media have been briefed by “security sources” that the UK has a copy of a secret Russian assassin training manual detailing how to put nerve agent on door handles, and that given the nerve agent was found on the Skripals door handle, this is the clinching evidence which convinced NATO allies of Russia’s guilt.

As the Daily Mirror reported in direct quotes of the “security source”:

“It amounts to Russia’s tradecraft manual on applying poison to door handles. It’s the smoking gun. It is strong proof that in the last ten years Russia has researched methods to apply poisons, including by using door handles. The significant detail is that these were the facts that helped persuade allies it could only be Russia that did this.”

Precisely the same government briefing is published by the Daily Mail in a bigger splash here, and reflected in numerous other mainstream propaganda outlets.

Two questions arise. How credible is the British government’s possession of a Russian secret training manual for using novichok agents, and how credible is it that the Skripals were poisoned by their doorknob.

To take the second question first, I see major problems with the notion that the Skripals were poisoned by their doorknob.

The first is this. After what Dame Sally Davis, Chief Medical officer for England, called “rigorous scientific analysis” of the substance used on the Skripals, the government advised those who may have been in contact to wash their clothes and wipe surfaces with warm water and wet wipes. Suspect locations were hosed down by the fire brigade.

But if the substance was in a form that could be washed away, why was it placed on an external door knob? It was in point of fact raining heavily in Salisbury that day, and indeed had been for some time.

Can somebody explain to me the scenario in which two people both touch the exterior door handle in exiting and closing the door? And if it transferred from one to the other, why did it not also transfer to the doctor who gave extensive aid that brought her in close bodily contact, including with fluids?

The second problem is that the Novichok family of nerve agents are instant acting. There is no such thing as a delayed reaction nerve agent. Remember we have been specifically told by Theresa May that this nerve agent is up to ten times more powerful than VX, the Porton Down developed nerve agent that killed Kim’s brother in 15 minutes.

But if it was on the doorknob, the last contact they could possibly have had with the nerve agent was a full three hours before it took effect. Not only that, they were well enough to drive, to walk around a shopping centre, visit a pub, and then – and this is the truly unbelievable bit – their central nervous systems felt in such good fettle, and their digestive systems so in balance, they were able to sit down and eat a full restaurant meal. Only after all that were they – both at precisely the same time despite their substantially different weights – suddenly struck down by the nerve agent, which went from no effects at all, to deadly, on an alarm clock basis.

This narrative simply is not remotely credible. Nerve agents – above all “military grade nerve agents” – were designed as battlefield weapons. They do not leave opponents fighting fit for hours. There is no description in the scientific literature of a nerve agent having this extraordinary time bomb effect. Here another genuine Professor describes their fast action in Scientific American :

Unlike traditional poisons, nerve agents don’t need to be added to food and drink to be effective. They are quite volatile, colourless liquids (except VX, said to resemble engine oil). The concentration in the vapour at room temperature is lethal. The symptoms of poisoning come on quickly, and include chest tightening, difficulty in breathing, and very likely asphyxiation. Associated symptoms include vomiting and massive incontinence. Victims of the Tokyo subway attack were reported to be bringing up blood. Kim Jong-nam died in less than 20 minutes. Eventually, you die either through asphyxiation or cardiac arrest.

If the nerve agent was on the door handle and they touched it, the onset of these symptoms would have occurred before they reached the car. They would certainly have not felt like sitting down to a good lunch two hours later. And they would have been dead three weeks ago. We all pray that Sergei also recovers.

The second part of the extraordinarily happy coincidence of the nerve agent being on the door handle, and the British government having a Russian manual on applying nerve agent to door handles, is whether the manual is real. It strikes me this is improbable – it rings far too much of the kind of intel they had on Iraqi WMD. It also allegedly dates from the last ten years, so Putin’s Russia, not the period of chaos, and the FSB is a pretty tight organisation in this period. MI6 penetration is just not that good.

A key question is of course how long the UK has had this manual, and what was its provenance. Another key question is why Britain failed to produce it to the OPCW – and indeed why it does not publish it now, with any identifying marks of the particular copy excluded, given it has widely publicised its existence and possession of it. If Boris Johnson wants to be believed by us, publish the Russian manual.

We also have to consider whether the FSB really publishes its secret assassination techniques in a manual. I attended, as other senior FCO staff, a number of MI6 training courses. One on explosives handling was at Fort Monckton, not too far from Salisbury. One in a very nondescript London office block was on bugging techniques. I recall seeing rigs set up to drill minute holes in walls, turning very slowly indeed. Many hours to get through the wall but almost no noise or vibration. It was where I learnt the government can listen to you through activating the microphone in your mobile phone, even when your phone is switched off. I recall javelin like directional microphones suspended from ceilings to point at distant targets, and a listening device that worked through a beam of infra-red light, but the target could foil by closing the curtains.

The point is that there were of course no manuals for this stuff, no manuals for any other secret MI6 techniques, and these things are not lightly written down.

I would add to this explanation that I lost all faith in the police investigation when it was taken out of the hands of the local police force and given to the highly politicised Metropolitan Police anti-terror squad. I suspect the explanation of the remarkably convenient (but physically impossible) evidence of the door handle method that precisely fits the “Russian manual” may lie there.

These are some of the problems I have with the official account of events. Boris lied about the certainty of the provenance of the nerve agent, and his fall back evidence is at present highly unconvincing. None of which proves it was not the Russian state that was responsible. But there is no convincing proof that it was, and there are several other possibilities. Eventually the glaring problems with the official narrative might be resolved, but what is plain is that Johnson and May have been premature and grossly irresponsible.

I shall post this evening on Johnson’s final claim, that only the Russians had motive.

Update: I have just listened to the released alleged phone conversation between Yulia Skripal in Salisbury Hospital and her cousin Viktoria, which deepens the mystery further. I should say that in Russian the conversation sounds perfectly natural to me. My concern is after the 30 seconds mark where Viktoria tells Yulia she is applying for a British visa to come and see Yulia.

Yulia replies “nobody will give you a visa”. Viktoria then tells Yulia that if she is asked if she wants Viktoria to visit, she should say yes. Yulia’s reply to this is along the lines of “that will not happen in this situation”, meaning she would not be allowed by the British to see Viktoria. I apologise my Russian is very rusty for a Kremlinbot, and someone might give a better translation, but this key response from Yulia is missing from all the transcripts I have seen.

What is there about Yulia’s situation that makes her feel a meeting between her and her cousin will be prevented by the British government? And why would Yulia believe the British government will not give her cousin a visa in the circumstance of these extreme family illnesses?

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , | 1 Comment

What’s Wrong with Trump’s New National Security Advisor

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 05.04.2018

Beyond the general concerns regarding the nomination of John Bolton as National Security Advisor, there is also the specific issue of his impending access to the most highly classified intelligence information that the United States possesses.

There are a number of reasons why Bolton should be denied a clearance, including his well-known record of abusing subordinates at State Department and colleagues at the United Nations. Bolton also has a close personal relationship with Israel and its government that may have included divulging classified information. The Israeli connection is particularly sensitive because Bolton is beholden to casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has funded his activities since he left State Department in 2006. And Bolton knows how to return a favor, approving of Adelson’s suggestion to detonate a nuclear bomb in the Iranian desert, just to warn them what might be coming. Adelson, a major GOP donor, was displeased with Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, and to have been instrumental in their removal. Both men supported the nuclear agreement with Iran and both are now gone. McMaster was also targeted as “anti-Israeli” for having opposed moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Bolton’s regard for Israel has included unauthorized disclosure of classified information when he was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. He collaborated with the Israelis, often without the State Department being aware of what he was doing, to justify a US attack on Iran. The strategy to bring about a war included diplomatic pressure, crude propaganda, and the production of fabricated evidence by Mossad.

Bolton was technically under the supervision of Secretary of State Colin Powell, but he violated existing State Department regulations by taking a series of secret trips to Israel in 2003 and 2004. Thus, when Secretary of State Colin Powell was saying administration policy was not to attack Iran, Bolton was working with the Israelis to lay the groundwork for a new war. During a February 2003 visit, Bolton assured Israeli officials in private meetings that he had no doubt the United States would take down Saddam Hussein, before dealing with Iran and Syria.

During multiple trips to Israel, Bolton had unannounced meetings, including with the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, without the usual reporting cable to the Secretary of State. Those meetings clearly dealt with a joint strategy on how to bring about political conditions for an eventual US strike against the Iranians.

John Bolton, while serving as US ambassador to the United Nations, also went behind his boss’s back to supply Israel with crucial information on American plans at the U.N. so as to redirect US policy. Dan Gillerman, who served as Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. in 2006 when Bolton was US ambassador has described how “in more than one case, Ambassador Bolton called me and alerted me to the fact that his mission—the United States mission to the U.N.—was about to vote against Israel and asked that I alert the prime minister, who at that time was Ehud Olmert. In more than one case the prime minister called the president, who was then George W. Bush, and got him to overrule the State Department.”

Bolton would regularly reach out to the Israelis to subvert positions being supported by the US government, as in August 2006 when the U.N. Security Council was considering Resolution 1701, with the purpose of ending a month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Bolton warned the Israelis what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was planning to support the initiative. Gillerman reports that “In that case John Bolton got in touch with me at about 8 o’clock in the evening, which was 3 in the morning in Israel, calling to say ‘You have to call your prime minister and tell him that Condi Rice sold you out to the French.’”

Given what John Bolton did when last in office, he should never again be allowed to have access to classified information since he would clearly abuse that privilege to satisfy his own agenda. That President Trump will undoubtedly grant Bolton access to all sensitive information is discouraging, particularly as the new Advisor, supremely sure of himself and possessing a proclivity to do what he considers expedient without regard for consequences, cannot be relied to do the right thing when it comes to national security. He should never be granted a clearance to use top level intelligence and should never be placed in a position of authority that would permit him to do mischief. Unfortunately, urging President Trump to reverse the Bolton decision because of the grave damage it will inevitably do to the United States is not likely to be received favorably by the White House.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bolivia’s TIPNIS Dispute

Example of How Liberal-Left Alternative Media Becomes a Conveyor Belt for US Regime Change Propaganda

By Stansfield Smith | Dissident Voice | April 4, 2018

As has become a standard operating procedure, an array of Western environmental NGOs, advocates of indigenous rights and liberal-left alternative media cover up the US role in attempts to overturn the anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal governments of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia.

This NACLA article is a recent excellent example of many. Bolivia’s TIPNIS (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure) dispute arose over the Evo Morales government’s project to complete a road through the park, opposed by some indigenous and environmental groups.

As is NACLA modus operandi, the article says not one word about US and right-wing funding and coordination with the indigenous and environmental groups behind the TIPNIS anti-highway protests. (This does not delegitimize the protests, but it does deliberately mislead people about the issues involved).

In doing so, these kinds of articles cover up US interventionist regime change plans, be that their intention or not.

NACLA is not alone in what is in fact apologetics for US interventionism. Include the Guardian, UpsideDownWorld, Amazon Watch, so-called “Marxist” Jeffery Webber (and here), Jacobin, ROAR, Intercontinentalcry, Avaaz, In These Times, in a short list of examples. We can add to this simply by picking up any articles about the protests in Bolivia’s TIPNIS (or oil drilling in Ecuador’s Yasuni during Rafael Correa’s presidency) and see what they say about US funding of protests, if they even mention it.

This is not simply an oversight, it is a cover-up.

What this Liberal Left Media Covers Up

On the issue of the TIPNIS highway, we find on numerous liberal-left alternative media and environmental websites claiming to defend the indigenous concealing that:

(a) The leading indigenous group of the TIPNIS 2011-2012 protests was being funded by USAID. The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian East (CIDOB) had no qualms about working with USAID — it boasted on its website that it received training programs from USAID. CIDOB president Adolfo Chavez, thanked the “information and training acquired via different programs financed by external collaborators, in this case USAID”.

(b) The 2011 TIPNIS march was coordinated with the US Embassy, specifically Eliseo Abelo. His phone conversations with the march leaders – some even made right before the march set out — were intercepted by the Bolivian counter-espionage agency and made public.

(c) “The TIPNIS marchers were openly supported by right wing Santa Cruz agrobusiness interests and their main political representatives, the Santa Cruz governorship and Santa Cruz Civic Committee.In June 2011 indigenous deputies and right wing parties in the Santa Cruz departmental council formed an alliance against the MAS (Movement for Socialism, Evo Morales’s party). CIDOB then received a $3.5 million grant by the governorship for development projects in its communities.

Over a year after the TIPNIS protests, one of the protest leaders announced he was joining a right-wing, anti-Evo Morales political party.

(d) The protest leaders of the TIPNIS march supported REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). The Avaaz petition (below) criticizing Evo Morales for his claimed anti-environmental actions also covered this up. As far back as 2009 “CIDOB leaders were participating there in a USAID-promoted workshop to talk up the imperialist-sponsored REDD project they were pursuing together with USAID-funded NGOs.”

REDD was a Western “environmental” program seeking to privatize forests by converting them into “carbon offsets” that allow Western corporations to continue polluting. That REDD would give Western NGOs and these indigenous groups funds for monitoring forests in their areas.

(e)These liberal-left alternative media and environmental NGOs falsely presented the TIPNIS conflict as one between indigenous/environmentalist groups against the Evo Morales government (e.g. the TIPNIS highway was “a project universally[!] condemned by local indigenous tribes and urban populations alike”). Fred Fuentes pointed out that more than 350 Bolivian organizations, including indigenous organizations and communities, even within TIPNIS, supported the proposed highway.

CONISUR (Consejo de Indígenas del Sur), consisting of a number of indigenous and peasant communities within TIPNIS, backed by Bolivia’s three largest national indigenous campesino organizations, organized a march to support of the road. They argued that the highway is essential to integrating Bolivia’s Amazonia with the rest of the country, as well as providing local communities with access to basic services and markets.

The overwhelming majority of people in the West who know about the TIPNIS protests, or the Yasuni protests in Ecuador, where a similar division between indigenous groups took place, never learned either from the liberal-left media or the corporate media, that indigenous groups marched in support of the highway or in support of oil drilling.

Therefore, this liberal-left media is not actually defending “the indigenous.” They are choosing sides within indigenous ranks, choosing the side that is funded and influenced by the US government.

(f) The TIPNIS conflict is falsely presented as Evo Morales wanting to build a highway through the TIPNIS wilderness (“cutting it in half” as they dramatically claim). There are in fact two roads that exist there now, which will be paved and connected to each other. Nor was it wilderness: 20,000 settlers lived there by 2010.

(g) Anti-highway march leaders actually defended industrial-scale logging within TIPNIS. Two logging companies operated 70,000 hectares within the national park and have signed 20-year contracts with local communities.

(h) They often fail to note that the TIPNIS marchers, when they reached La Paz, sought to instigate violence, demanding Evo Morales removal. Their plot was blocked by mobilization of local indigenous supporters of Evo’s government.

If we do not read Fred Fuentes in Green Left Weekly, we don’t find most of this information. Now, it is true that some of the media articles did mention that there were also TIPNIS protests and marches demanding the highway be built. Some do mention USAID, but phrase it as “Evo Morales claimed that those protesting his highway received USAID funding.”

Avaaz Petition Attacking Evo Morales over TIPNIS

The TIPNIS campaign, which became a tool in the US regime change strategy, was taken up in a petition by Avaaz. It included 61 signing groups. Only two from Bolivia! US signers included Amazon Watch, Biofuelwatch, Democracy Center, Food and Water Watch, Global Exchange, NACLA, Rainforest Action Network.  Whether they knew it, whether they wanted to know it, they signed on to a false account of the TIPNIS conflict, placed the blame on the Bolivian government, target of US regime change, and hid the role of the US.

US collaborators in Bolivia and Ecuador are painted as defenders of free expression, defenders of nature, defenders of the indigenous. The US government’s “talking points” against the progressive ALBA bloc countries have worked their way into liberal-left alternative media, which echo the attacks on these governments by organizations there receiving US funds. That does not mean Amazon Watch, Upside Down World or NACLA are themselves funded by the US government – if it somehow exculpates them that they do this work for free. Even worse, much of this propaganda against Evo and Correa appears only in the liberal-left alternative press, what we consider our press.

The USAID budget for Latin America is said to be $750 million, but estimates show that the funding may total twice that. Maria Augusta Calle of Ecuador’s National Assembly, said in 2015 the US Congress allocated $2 billion to destabilize targeted Latin American countries.

This information, how much money it is, what organizations in the different countries receive it, how it is spent, ought to be a central focus of any liberal-left alternative media purporting to stand up for the oppressed peoples of the Americas.

Yet, as Fuentes points out:  “Overwhelmingly, solidarity activists uncritically supported the anti-highway march. Many argued that only social movements — not governments — can guarantee the success of [Bolivia’s] process of change…. with most articles written by solidarity activists, they] downplay the role of United States imperialism…. Others went further, denying any connection between the protesters and US imperialism.”

Why do they let themselves become conveyer belts for US regime change propaganda?

Why did this liberal-left media and NGOs let themselves become conveyor belts for US propaganda for regime change, legitimizing this US campaign to smear the Evo Morales government?

Some of it lies in the liberalish refusal to admit that all international issues can only be understood in the context of the role and the actions of the US Empire. As if conflicts related to countries the US deems hostile to its interests can be understood without taking the US role into account. Some liberal-left writers and groups do understand this, just as they do understand they may risk their positions and funding by looking too closely into it.

It seems easier to not see the role the Empire plays and simply present a liberal-left “critique” of the pluses and minuses of some progressive government targeted by the US. That is how these alternative media sources end up actually advocating for indigenous groups and environmental NGOs which are US and corporate funded. They even criticize countries for defending national sovereignty by shutting down these non-governmental organizations, what Bolivian Vice-President Linera exposes as “foreign government financed organizations” operating in their countries.

Some of it lies in the widely held anti-authoritarian feeling in the US that social movements “from below” are inherently good and that the government/the state is inherently bad. The reporting can be informative on social movements in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia where the people struggle against state repression. But when these social movements in Ecuador or Bolivia were able to win elections and gain hold of some real state power, reporting soon becomes hostile and misleading. “Support social movements when they struggle against governmental power; oppose them once they win government power,” they seem to say. Their reporting slides into disinformation, undermining our solidarity with other struggles, and covering up US regime change efforts. Upside Down World is an excellent example of this.

Some of it lies in what many who call themselves “left” still have not come to terms with: their own arrogant white attitude they share with Western colonizers and present day ruling elites: we know better than you what is good for you, we are the best interpreters and defenders of your socialism, your democracy, your human rights. They repeatedly critique real or imagined failures of progressive Third World governments – targets of the US.

Genuine solidarity with the peoples of the Third World means basing yourself in opposition to the Empire’s interference and exposing how it attempts to undermine movements seeking to break free from Western domination.

Some of it lies in deep-rooted white racist paternalism in their romanticizing the indigenous as some “noble savage” living at one with nature in some Garden of Eden. Providing these people with schools, health clinics, modern conveniences as we have, is somehow felt not to be in their best interests.

A serious analysis of a Third World country must begin with the role the West has played. To not point out imperialism’s historic and continuing exploitive role is simply dishonest, it is apologetics, it shows a basic lack of human feeling for the peoples of the Third World.

A function of corporate media is to conceal Western pillaging of Third World countries, to cheerlead efforts to restore neocolonial-neoliberal governments to power. However, for liberal-left media and organizations to do likewise, even if halfway, is nothing other than supporting imperialist interference.

Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity, is a long time Latin America solidarity activist, and presently puts out the AFGJ Venezuela Weekly. He is also the Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Democratic State: What’s Happening?

By Blake Alcott | Palestine Chronicle | April 5, 2018

One Democratic State (ODS) has the wind at its back. The last two years have seen a flurry of organizing for ODS, increasingly since December 2017 when the US/Israel axis rejected the central Palestinian demand for its capital, Jerusalem, thereby rendering the Palestinian ‘state’ of the two-state solution once and for all unacceptable.

But ODS is not a reaction to the infeasibility, impracticality, impossibility or ‘death’ of the two-state solution. First, ODS always said the two-state solution is primarily undesirable, whether it is feasible or not: it partitions the homeland, does not involve real sovereignty, and leaves the refugees and the Palestinians in Israel out in the cold.

Rather, ODS has always been based on first principles: The unity of Palestine, human rights, citizenship for all who live between the river and the sea and the absolute inalienability of the right of return as citizens and property restitution for the ethnically-cleansed Palestinians wherever they live.

Such a clear position, thwarted by the Zionism of the powers that be, was held by the Palestinian leadership from 1918 until 1948 in testimony before the King-Crane Commission in 1919, resolutions of the seven Palestine Arab Congresses between 1919 and 1928, petitions to the British Mandatory and League of Nations in the 1930s, positions at the St James Roundtable talks of 1939, at the Anglo-American Commission in 1946 and at the UN Special Committee on Palestine in 1947.

While the PLO Charters of 1964 and 1968 lack detail about the envisaged independent Palestinian state, until 1974 the Palestinian National Councils pursued one secular, democratic state in all of Palestine, supported by 99% of Palestinians. This leadership then over a period of fifteen years gradually abandoned ODS in favor of the Bantustan solution promised by the Oslo accords twenty years later.

That is, until the late 1980s the core of the two-state solution – accepting partition, accepting Jewish ethno-religious rights in Palestine, ditching the refugees – was never really worth talking about. The Galilee-based Abnaa al-Balad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine rejected the PLO change, keeping the ODS vision alive under severe repression by the Zionist entity. The revival of the ODS vision after the Oslo disaster was led by such as Edward Said, Ghada Karmi, Azmi Bishara and Tony Judt.

Between 2004 and 2007 the books appeared: Mazin Qumsiyeh’s Sharing the Land of Canaan, Virginia Tilley’s The One-State Solution, Ali Abunimah’s One Country, Ghada Karmi’s Married to Another Man. Conferences were held in Madrid, Southampton, Haifa, Boston, London, Stuttgart, Munich, Zürich, Dallas, Toronto. Articles were written, anthologies appeared: Jamil Hilal’s Where Now for Palestine?, Lowenstein & Moor’s After Zionism, Hani Faris’s The Failure of the Two-State Solution, as well as Ofra Yeshua-Lyth’s The Case for a Secular New Jerusalem.

As well as these authors, leaders like Omar Barghouti, George Bisharat, Susan Abulhawa, Ilan Pappe, Nur Masalha, Leila Farsakh, Haim Bresheeth, Annemarie Jacir, Joseph Massad, Salman Abu Sitta and Norton Mezvinsky all came out publicly for ODS. BADIL and academics such as Walid Khalidi, Victor Kattan, Rex Brynen, Naseer Aruri, Francis Boyle, Rosemary Sayigh and John Quigley worked ceaselessly for the right of return, which can happen only within the ODS framework.

Finally, organisation

The political party National Democratic Assembly (Tajammua, or Balad), currently part of the Joint List in the Knesset, has for the last twenty years advocated an Israel that is ‘the state of its citizens’, not of Jews only, while standing strongly by the right of return. Its program would render the areas occupied in 1948 truly democratic, but was less specific on re-unification of Palestine and the modalities of return. ODS – that is, bog-standard democratic ideology – was the reason for the effective exile of its then leader Azmi Bishara in 2007.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of course also implies ODS. If the three conditions stated in 2004 for calling off the boycott were fulfilled – sovereignty for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, absolute equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Return – you would have what might be called Two Democratic States. But if one adds the fourth BDS demand, that for Palestinian self-determination, which since Woodrow Wilson’s day adamantly included rejection of partition of the homeland, re-unification into a single state follows rigorously.

Three declarations similar to ODS but leaning somewhat towards the contrasting bi-national solution appeared in 2006-2007, written by Palestinians in Israel: The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel of the National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in Israel, The Democratic Constitution of Adalah, and The Haifa Declaration of Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for Applied Social Research.

The sites 1not2 and One Democracy, based in England, and One Democratic State, based in Texas (website presently hijacked), carried the torch internationally for some time. The latter group is led by Samir Abed Rabbo, author of the Munich Declaration of 2012 which unites three further groups formed in 2013: in May the Popular Movement for One Democratic State on the Land of Historic Palestine, also in May the Jaffa ODS group, and in July in England the group ODS in Palestine Ltd. The straightforward, one-page Munich Declaration builds upon and is consistent with several ODS declarations that went before, written by people named above.

Most of the fifty members of the Popular Movement for ODS live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also in Turkey, Switzerland, England and the US. It is registered as a Swiss Association at Handelsregisteramt Zürich, Nr. CHE-390-290.948. Its Board members include Radi Jarai, Imad Saed, Ibrahim Saad, Ghada Karmi, Munir Abbushi, Ilan Pappe, Sameer Sbaihat, Walid Abu Tayeh and myself.

Most of the thirty members of ODS in Palestine Ltd live in England, some remaining anonymous in order to avoid the wrath of the apartheid state. It is registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee, Nr. 08615817. It has organised talks on ODS by Ghada Karmi, Ilan Pappe, Karl Sabbagh, Salma Karmi, Awad Abdelfattah, Ruba Salih and Gideon Levy, made a large metal key of return which stands in front of St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, and seeks to complement the solidarity work being done on other fronts by focusing on the ODS solution.

Two further groups have emerged in 2016 and 2017. The One State Foundation is a non-membership group registered in Holland. Its three Board members are Hamada Jaber, Ofer Neiman and Angelique Eijpe, a Dutch diplomat. It laudably publishes in Arabic, English and Hebrew, and its Facebook page already has around 6,000 likes. Another group, organised primarily by Jeff Halper, is made up almost exclusively of Jewish Israelis and Palestinian citizens of Israel, and has been meeting in Haifa and Exeter. It leans somewhat towards the collective political rights of groups of citizens, defined on ethnic criteria, rather than the strictly individual-rights approach of ODS.

Other active individuals insist that the word ‘secular’ should appear in the name or title of an ODS movement or group, but it remains to be seen if they will become publicly visible as such a group.

Finally, some liberal Zionists as well as the group Independent Jewish Voices have put forth the idea of a true democracy for all now living between the river and the sea, but their position of compromise on right of return and retention of the Israeli Law of Return is incompatible with ODS.

Debates and Unity?

The right of return is the linchpin of the liberation of Palestine. This right means that any Palestinian wishing to return to places of origin (homes) in the territory now called Israel, from which they were displaced since 1948, could literally do so. Over 8 million Palestinians fit this description, and could join the almost 2 million Palestinians now living in the 48-occupied territory.

It also means that they all would be re-enfranchised as citizens of Palestine – whatever the formal structure of that state is, and whether or not they immigrated to Palestine. It also means full restitution of their property and compensation for losses incurred by dispossession and displacement since 1948. As in 1947, well over 90% of the land of historic Palestine would be under Palestinian private or municipal or waqf ownership.

While the right of return, respect for the human rights listed for instance in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and normal democratic rules of governance unify all of these groups and individuals, there are some areas of debate.

Most importantly, should ethnic or religious groups be explicitly granted political rights in Palestine? The century-old tradition of a state of its citizens, a continuation actually of the Ottoman regime from 1908 onwards, which included Muslims, Jews, Christians, Armenians, Druze, Europeans, and Circassians, was overturned by Britain with the words of Herbert Samuel and Winston Churchill in the White Paper of 1922, stating that “the Jewish people… is in Palestine as of right and not on the sufferance.”

That is, it is not some Jewish individuals, but all Jews anywhere, that have political rights in Palestine. The British had adopted this Zionist nation-state goal. Of course this notion, like the idea that Hindus or Druze or Roman Catholic Christians, say, have political claims to Palestine by virtue of their genes or religion, is not to be taken seriously.

The fear of many supporters of ODS, however, is that acknowledging any collective rights defined in terms of race or religion could open the door to some such bi-nationalism, the ideology that there are two (actually there are more) ethnically-defined ‘nations’ in historic Palestine with equal collective rights: the old, false picture of parity, two sides with equal ethical claims fighting for one state.

It is often overlooked that the collective claims of Palestinians are not defined racially, but rather multi-racially as the land’s indigenous people. Their claims are justifiable in terms of collective self-determination, but the collective is territorially and historically defined, not racially.

Of course it is possible that the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), one of the two large Palestinian political groups, is making political claims for Muslims which would trump those of non-Muslims. Its new Document released last May, after all, states that Palestine’s “frame of reference is Islam” and that it is “an Arab Islamic land”.

Hamas of course envisions a re-unified independent Palestine and supports right of return without any ifs and buts, but likely differs from ODS in regarding as “Palestinians” only “Arabs who lived in Palestine until 1947”, leaving the question of the citizenship of non-Arabs open. While ODS would treat all present Israeli Jews also as citizens, albeit comprising a minority, Hamas on this formulation would have to adopt a concept of ‘non-Palestinian citizen of Palestine’. Similarly, the Islamic Movement in Israel would have to square the circle of a state which is both democratic and either ‘Arab’ or ‘Islamic’.

Another debate is over the word ‘secular’, which in English means not atheism or state opposition to religion, but rather merely the separation of state and religion (and ethnicity). However, in Arabic and in the political history of Palestine and the wider Near East the term does apparently carry such connotations. Thus, the Munich Declaration in Articles 4 and 5 describes a secular state without using the word.

A final issue is the exact nature of the restitution of property. The wheel must not be re-invented, as precedents abound, not least pertaining to the property of Jews confiscated in the 1930 and 1940s in Europe. The view applied in those cases took property rights strictly, and in the case of Palestine would mean that once ownership reverts to Palestinians or a Palestinian political or religious institution, the restored owners would have the right to say what happens on that land and who lives and works there. That is what ownership normally means.

The contrasting view would abrogate this conception of property rights in order to assure that no Jewish individual – or, for that matter, no Palestinian resident on other Palestinians’ land – would be evicted; the search is for a politically necessary collective compromise in spite of the inalienability of property rights in international law. Here, it seems, the human rights of dispossessed Palestinians might have to be weighed against the humanitarian situation of people, descendants of recent immigrants, who were born into residency and life in Palestine.

ODS is a Positive Vision

Again, in portraying ODS we don’t have to even mention the two-state solution, or its demise, its impossibility or even its blatant violation of most of the rights of the vast majority of Palestinians. Whatever the ethics and practical politics of the two-state farce, they are a negative distraction and can be safely ignored.

What’s more, ODS can be argued for while avoiding any obsession with Israel, what it does, what it wants, who it is. The argument proceeds from Palestinian rights, period. Such focus on Israelis – on whether they will ‘accept’ ODS or not – is even a form of normalization. A shift from criticizing Israel to ignoring it might be salutory.

Anything other than the one undemocratic, apartheid state now existing, which bars 7 million Palestinians from entering Palestine, much less returning to it, must be achieved by extreme and manifold outside pressure on the Israeli state. While ODS wholeheartedly welcomes any Jewish Israeli, it tends to take a sober look at dialogue with Zionism, a dialogue that has been going on in vain for over 100 years – the more so as between 80 and 90% of Jewish Israelis hold firmly to Zionism.

Working on convincing Palestinians to stand behind ODS, on the other hand, holds promise – the more so as at least half of them are sympathetic to it. While visiting Lebanon last year I met no Palestinian who did not support ODS. Recent polls of only West Bank and Gaza Strip residents even show over 40% support, and since ODS is the only solution that does justice to the Palestinians in the diaspora, it is a safe assumption that ODS has an overwhelming majority when all Palestinians are asked.

Encouraging is the movement of Diaspora Palestinians which, as the Palestine Abroad Conference, co-chaired by Majed Al-Zeer of the Palestinian Return Centre, held a meeting attended by over 5,000 people in Istanbul in February 2017. While I know little about this group, its program is likely to be uncompromising on right of return and de-partition of the homeland.

Like other international supporters of all the rights of all Palestinians, I have had to pick and choose from among Palestinian positions. There is no unifying position. What’s more, there is no vision. Like other seemingly impossible yet ultimately successful quests – anti-slavery, say, or women’s suffrage, or anti-South African Apartheid or, indeed, Zionism – it seems to me the Palestinian cause needs a vision.

The two-state solution is anything but a vision. While no non-Palestinian should argue for one second with any Palestinian who has paid the dues, who believes that suffering has gone on long enough, and that one must take anything that would count as a Palestinian state in the homeland, we do have the option of respecting Palestinians who hold that two-state position but working with those Palestinians and Jewish Israelis who want democracy beyond ethnicity, religion and colonialism, and the return, as citizens, of all Palestinians.

– Blake Alcott is an ecological economist and the director of One Democratic State in Palestine (England) Limited. The author welcomes any information on ODS or bi-nationalism activity sent to

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

France Joins Syria Fight: Goals and Consequences

French Armed Forces, armed with FAMAS F1 assault rifles, participate in the Memorial Day ceremony at the LaFayette Escadrille Monument in Paris, France.
By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 05.04.2018

French President Emmanuel Macron kept his word. On April 1-2, French troops moved into northern Syria. This is the first time France deployed substantial forces there to turn Paris into a new actor actively involved in the war. The troops advanced toward Manbij and Remelin to join American allies and did it hastily.

The move was made at the time Ankara warned about the plans to control this territory with Russia, Turkey and Iran working together to define Syria’s future. It significantly changes the situation and makes one ask questions about the goals pursued by the US and France and the prospects for war and peace in the conflict-torn country. Summing up the recent events leads to the conclusion that the US and France have a hidden agenda to expand the conflict, wreak havoc and stymie the Russia-led peace efforts.

The news about French deployment came just before the April 4 Russia-Turkey-Iran summit in Ankara stated the goal to “speed up their efforts to ensure calm on the ground” in Syria. On April 3, US President Donald Trump said he would “decide very quickly” to remove forces from that country. The statement was made right after about 300 US Marines accompanied by armored vehicles and engineering equipment were moving toward Manbij as reinforcements to repel possible Turkish inroads. The construction of two bases in Syria’s northern Manbij region is underway.

The Marines have already launched daily patrols along the Sajur River, a tributary that feeds the Euphrates River from sources in Turkey, with observation posts built to monitor the area. This is unheard of – two leading states of the North Atlantic Alliance blocked the other NATO member’s land access to Manbij! On April 3, CNN reported that plans to send reinforcements have been discussed for several days before Trump’s remarks on leaving Syria soon.

The US also wasted no time to press Iraq into sending its 5th Army Division to Sinjar province and line the forces on the Iraqi-Syrian border to obstruct the possible advance of Turkish army from Syria into Iraq.

Obviously, the US is trying to partition Syria while creating a quasi-state on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and up to the Iraqi border. In Deir-ez-Zor, the US-led coalition resists the restoration of Syrian government institutions. It makes one think that the words about “leaving soon” may be nothing more than wishful thinking or an attempt to baffle those who are trying to predict further steps America will take.

The list of goals includes controlling the oil fields and chunks of the territory. Donald Trump wants Saudi Arabia to pay for US operations in Syria and it probably will. If the decision to leave were taken, he wouldn’t raise the question. According to the president, Saudi Arabia is interested in America staying in Syria.

That’s what the US “rocking from side to side” foreign policy is like. Rex Tillerson is fired to make the world know about it from tweets. The US wants to leave Syria but will stay if Saudi Arabia pays. Donald Trump invited the Russian leader to visit him in Washington against the background of Russia diplomats expelled and the consulate office in Seattle closed. Is it being short-sighted or far-sighted? Is this swinging back and forth a well-thought over policy or no policy at all? Is it done on purpose to keep everyone guessing with no predictions possible? You never know. Donald Trump once denounced Saudi Arabia as extremist and then sold a huge package of weapons while calling the kingdom a great friend and close ally against Iran.

The Syrian forces are preparing an offensive in the Daraa – Quneira – Suweida area in the south while denuding other fronts. The territory is huge and the terrain is hard to cross. There are at least 25 heights to fire at advancing forces from. The Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups are much more numerous than the ones being defeated in Eastern Ghuta. Their defenses are strong. Unlike in other places, the rebel forces can easily get logistical support from Jordan. That’s where the US and Saudi Arabia can contribute greatly. Israel has been involved in such activities since 2015. It took roughly six months to liberate Eastern Ghuta, with an active phase to dislodge rebel fighters launched in mid-March. It’s easy to surmise that it will take at least a year, may be much more, to liberate the area in question.

A conflict is easy to provoke. The operations of Syria’s government forces aimed at cutting off supplies coming from Jordan could be presented as an act of aggression against the Hashemite Kingdom. Chemical substances could be transported from Jordan to stage another provocation used as a pretext to attack Syria.

The operation could become a war of attrition to make Syria concentrate more and more of its forces in one place at the expense of other battlefields. They will be stuck there for a considerable period of time. That’s when the US-coalition will be in good position to attack anywhere it wants using the base of Al-Tanf as a springboard. Manbij as well as the Al-Tabka air base located to the south of Raqqa are perfect places for launching an offensive to drive Syria out from Aleppo. Then the country will plunge again into an “all-against-all” fight.

The efforts applied so far by Russia, Turkey and Syria will go down the drain. This time the US will not be alone to have substantial presence on the ground. It’s hard to imagine that the French forces arrived in Syria could be anything but the start of broader NATO presence with other members of the bloc to follow the French example. Russian military personnel and NATO soldiers will be looking at each other through the sights of guns. This scenario will be fraught with a great risk of international military conflict and a real tragedy for Syrian people but those who are provoking it don’t care.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

US govt spent $9mn on Soros-backed political campaign in Albania – documents

RT | April 5, 2018

Documents the State Department was forced to publish show that it spent almost $9 million on political reform in Albania coordinated with billionaire George Soros. The US government denies the expenditure was inappropriate.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) channeled funds into a ‘Justice for All’ campaign to reform the judicial system in Albania in 2016. The campaign was run by Soros’s East West Management Institute, according to the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch. The group obtained 32 pages of State Department documents in a legal battle, which concluded with the US government submitting to a Judicial Watch Information Act (FOIA) request in exchange for a dropped lawsuit.

“The Obama administration quietly spent at least $9 million in US taxpayers’ dollars in direct collusion with left-wing billionaire George Soros’s backing of a socialist government in Albania,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.

Soros is a billionaire and “shouldn’t be receiving taxpayer support to advance his radical left agenda to undermine freedom here at home and abroad,” Fitton added.

Following the report’s publication, a USAID official told Fox News that the agency did not provide grants to Soros’s Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Albania, which is technically true according to the Judicial Watch publication. Instead, the US embassy in Tirana and the OSF “each provided funding to a local organization to conduct a public opinion poll on attitudes towards the Judicial Reform effort,” a document from February 2017 said. The poll’s result sounded favorable for the judicial reform championed by the OSF and the Obama administration.

“For decades, there has been broad bipartisan agreement in Washington, DC, on the need to promote democracy and human rights abroad,” a spokesperson for OSF told Fox News in a statement, adding: “Of late there has been an unfortunate and misguided effort to politicize this process.”

Fitton and Judicial Watch were especially critical of US Ambassador to Albania Donald Lu, whom the group called in the statement “a holdover from the Obama administration” and an official with inappropriately close ties to Soros. The embassy in Tirana, they point out, frequently asks representatives of the OSF to “participate in technical reviews” of applications for funding USAID receives, according to a February 2017 memo.

Judicial Watch accuses Lu of interfering in Albanian politics by backing the country’s ruling Socialist Party at the expense of the opposition. The group said that in May 2017 Lu declared that the US would recognize the results of the Albanian general election even if the opposition refused to participate.

In March 2017, five Republican senators wrote to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking about claims that US taxpayer funds were spent on interfering in the internal politics of countries such as Albania, as well as neighboring Macedonia.

“This includes reports of diplomats playing political favorites, USAID funds supporting extreme and sometimes violent political activists, and the US government working to marginalize the moderates and conservatives in leadership roles,” Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) said at the time, adding that “this behavior is unacceptable and must be halted immediately.”

Judicial Watch has also made FOIA requests about the activities of Soros groups in Macedonia, Romania and Colombia.

Judicial reform in Albania remains a matter of controversy. In December last year, opposition parties in the national parliament tried to stop the appointment of an interim prosecutor general – with is part of Albania’s transition to the new system – by igniting smoke bombs in the chamber. The radical move was meant to express protest against what they called an unconstitutional move by the ruling party.

Last month, the political establishment in Washington was up in arms over the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the budget for “democracy promotion” activities abroad, specifically funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its partisan adjuncts, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).

Read more:

Establishment alarmed as Trump threatens to gut US ‘democracy promotion’ racket

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Political party asks Pakistan to cut ties with the US

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid | Asia Times | April 5, 2018

A political party with close links to a man designated a global terrorist and connected to a number of other groups in Pakistan classified as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the United States, has urged the government of Pakistan to sever ties with the US.

The Milli Muslim League (MML), a political party affiliated with terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed, a globally designated terrorist, made the plea to sever ties with Washington after the US moved to increase pressure on radical groups in Pakistan early this week.

The US designated two groups – the MML and Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK) – as Foreign Terrorist Organizations on Monday, claiming they were fronts for the LeT, which is banned in Pakistan.

The US move deals a blow to the political ambitions of Saeed, who launched a campaign earlier this year to contest the general elections in a bid to become prime minister.

“The US is clearly interfering in Pakistan’s internal matters and should stay away from local politics,” MML spokesman Tabish Qayyum told Asia Times. “This is a breach of our fundamental rights as citizens of Pakistan, where no proof exists against us or our leadership pertaining to their alleged involvement in terrorism.”

In the build-up to February’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris, Islamabad designated Saeed and his groups terrorists as part of the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance 2018. It amended the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, to include all United Nations-sanctioned terror groups, including those in Pakistan.

This meant that along with Saeed and his LeT, affiliated groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation were also designated terror groups in Pakistan. However the MML, which was founded in August last year and has sworn allegiance to Saeed as its “spiritual guide,” wasn’t named in the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance, or on the US list of “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”

The US State Department’s announcement on Monday night was the first instance of the MML being named as an international terror group.

“We are a separate entity from LeT and JuD, you can’t just lump us all together,”MML spokesman Qayyum told Asia Times. “This is clearly a case of Islamabad taking orders from Washington and curtailing the rights of its own citizens. We urge Pakistan to reconsider its ties with the US.”

Registering to run in election

Echoing Qayyum, MML’s Finance Secretary Ehsan Ullah told Asia Times that the US announcement was a setback for the party as it had been finalizing plans to legally register with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

“With the FATF announcement, and the government of Pakistan’s declaration against Hafiz Saeed, we had figured a legal way out to help us get registered with the ECP, complying with the financial scrutiny underlined by the FATF and also the legal requirements of the country,” he said.

“The US move is designed to damage our political growth, because we are a political threat for our rivals. If Pakistan had any self-respect it would sever ties with the US,” he added.

While the ECP registration remains pending because the Interior Ministry has underlined the MML’s links with LeT and Saeed, the JuD is confident the judiciary will help Saeed’s groups.

“The government is an American and Indian puppet, but the judiciary knows who is truly patriotic and who truly works for the interests of Pakistan,” JuD spokesman Nadeem Awan told Asia Times.

Last month the Lahore High Court extended its stay order against Saeed’s arrest as the government sought time to file replies and evidence. JuD insiders say the government cannot provide any evidence in court, which won’t stop questions being asked about the complicity of state institutions with Saeed and his groups.   

“Let’s not forget that we are only asking for Hafiz Saeed’s support just like the Pakistan Muslim LeagueNawaz (PML-N) has done in the past,” said Qayyum. “So it’s stark hypocrisy that the PML-N is asking for a ban on us, while they have used the same names to become the ruling party,” he said.

JuD spokesman Awam, meanwhile, says none of Saeed’s groups are involved in any suspicious activities.

“All state institutions know about our activities. We have never conducted any act that could be described as terrorism as per Pakistani laws and policies,” he said, adding that Saeed was the “voice of Pakistanis” and a “freedom fighter for Kashmir.”

“Now look at the bloodshed in Kashmir – do you think this government, that is an Indian stooge, can do anything about innocent Kashmiris dying under Indian occupation?” he asked. “Kashmir was declared as Pakistan’s jugular vein, and when it bleeds, the body can’t survive.”

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | Leave a comment

Trump challenges the Russian-Turkish-Iranian alliance

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | April 5, 2018

Three is company. But if the trilateral dialogue format in international diplomacy seldom produces concrete results, that is because it cannot be sequestered from external influences. Besides, the three participants are bound to have specific interests and priorities. The long-awaited Turkey-Russia-Iran trilateral summit in Ankara on April 4 has been no exception.

The summit didn’t end as a damp squib but its outcome has been measly. Three reasons can be attributed to this. First and foremost, the US President Donald Trump might have been responsible.

The Ankara summit’s main agenda was Syria, but Trump’s “very-soon” remark in Ohio last Thursday introduced a strategic ambiguity into the Syrian situation. And he deepened the ambiguity further on the eve of the summit by stating on Tuesday at a meeting at the White House that he wanted to immediately withdraw US forces from the war-torn country, arguing that the US had already won the battle against the Islamic State.

Trump said, “I want to get out — I want to bring our troops back home. It’s time. We were very successful against ISIS.” Trump literally barged into the Istanbul tent and hijacked the mind of the three presidents.

What is the Syria that Erdogan, Putin and Rouhani would discuss – a Syria with open-ended US military presence or a Syria denuded of the Americans? That is now the big question.

Pentagon and White House split on what to do?

Even then, it is very unclear whether Trump himself is free to make up his mind. A former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford framed the paradigm this way: “I have a feeling that there are divided counsels within the Pentagon, definitely in the White House (regarding US troop removal from Syria). Trump sincerely wants to get out since it’s what he campaigned on, but whether he’ll be allowed to by elements of the ‘deep state’ is the question.”

The good thing is that there could be elements within the Pentagon who too aren’t necessarily happy about an open-ended military presence in Syria without a clear-cut objective. The military mind cannot focus well when there are gnawing doubts.

Second, the disclosure (by the Kremlin first) that Trump has invited Putin to the White House has opened a vista of new possibilities. What if a joint Russian-American peace initiative in Syria gets revived? Trump now becomes a “stakeholder” in a Syrian settlement.

On the contrary, if the trilateral Russian-Turkish-Iranian dialogue on Syria (known as the Astana process) has gravitas today, it is mainly due to the Trump administration’s retrenchment from the Syrian peace process. The dalliance that the Obama administration (secretary of state John Kelly) kept going with the Kremlin (foreign minister Sergey Lavrov) has petered out and what remains today is the military-to-military “deconfliction” mechanism between the US and Russia to ensure that they don’t shoot at each other in Syria.

But, if Trump and Putin breathe new life into a Russian-American joint enterprise to choreograph a Syrian settlement, the Astana process gets relegated to the backburner. Participants at the Ankara summit agreed to hold the next meeting in Astana in mid-May, but much water might flow under the bridge by then.

Decision on Iran deal due by May 12

Third and finally, the fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) remains the “known unknown.” Trump is due to make a decision on the Iran nuclear deal by May 12. And the geopolitics of the Middle East could change dramatically, depending on what he decides to do – especially if Trump were to pull the US out of the JCPOA.

The conventional wisdom is that changes at the US State Department and the National Security Council presage a more hawkish US foreign policy toward Iran. But there are weighty arguments too as to why Trump may not sound the death knell of the JCPOA and opt instead to simply give the nuclear deal a fresh lease of life, as he has done twice already.

To be sure, depending on the state of play in US-Iranian relations, the geopolitics of the Middle East could change and Syria is the theatre where this could see visible impacts in the near-term. So it was notable that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani didn’t go for Trump’s jugular at the Ankara summit. Iran also refrained from pushing any fresh initiatives and seemed more or less happy with a passive role – biding its time and brooding, as it were.

Given the above, what did the summit actually achieve? For a start, trilateral dialogue is always primarily a statement. What emerges from yesterday’s summit on the Bosporus is that the western influence in Syria (and the Levant) is inexorably on the wane. The summit underscored that the three countries intend to reinforce their influence in Syria.

Having said that, while the summit flagged the intention of the three countries to deepen cooperation, they also have divergent goals. For instance, the Turkish priority was that Russia and Iran continued to acquiesce with its military operation. Erdogan stated at the joint press conference, “Turkey will not stop until all regions under PYD/PKK (Kurdish militia) control, including Manbij, are secured… Turkey values Russia and Iran’s solidarity with its Afrin operation, we will establish grounds for peace in Afrin.” Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin neither nodded agreement nor dissented.

The single most important outcome of the summit where all three countries have shared interest is in their forceful affirmation of the unity and territorial integrity of Syria and their rejection of “all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combatting terrorism.”

The bottom line is that Russia, Turkey and Iran have a strong convergence of interests in the termination of the US military presence in Syria. Paradoxically, here again the Trump factor comes in. Their brittle alliance faces an existential threat if Trump somehow realizes his dream of bringing the US troops in Syria back home “where they belong.”

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tycoon who pushed Magnitsky Act warns EU minister of ‘career ruining’ opposition to Russia-bashing

RT | April 4, 2018

Bill Browder, the financier convicted of tax fraud in Russia and the driving force behind the Magnitsky Act, has taken aim at the Dutch foreign minister, warning him that opposing sanctions against Russia is dangerous.

Foreign Minister Stef Blok should take note of what happened to his Canadian colleague, Stephane Dion, after he opposed the hard line on Russia, Browder tweeted on Tuesday. Blok had voiced opposition to an EU version of the Magnitsky Act, the 2012 US law blacklisting dealings with the Russian government and certain individuals, enacted over “human rights violations.”

Browder’s tweet was pointed out by the Russian embassy in Canada as an instance of foreign meddling.

After Dion expressed opposition to Canada’s adoption of the Magnitsky Act in 2016, Browder made it a “domestic political issue with [the] large Ukrainian diaspora in Canada.” In January 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replaced Dion with Chrystia Freeland, a Ukrainian-Canadian with a hardline position on Russia. Canada passed its own version of the anti-Russian law in October that year.

Browder followed up the threat to Blok by singling out two Dutch lawmakers, Pieter Omtzigt and Sjoerd Wiemer Sjoerdsma, for advancing the proposal in a 81-69 vote.

Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital, made billions from the 1990s chaos in Russia. He gave up his American citizenship in 1998 to avoid having to pay US taxes, and obtained British citizenship instead. The UK does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, which Browder found useful in 2005, when he was expelled by the Russian government.

Hermitage has been repeatedly investigated for tax fraud. When Sergey Magnitsky, a lawyer hired by Hermitage, was found dead in his Moscow prison cell in 2009, Browder embarked on a global crusade to demonize Russia as a murderous dictatorship.

This resulted in the 2012 passage of the Magnitsky Act, ostensibly enabling the US government to blacklist Russian officials “thought to be responsible” for Magnitsky’s death. In 2016, the law was expanded to have a global scope and blacklist any Russian officials for “corruption” or “human rights violations.” In practice, this has translated into things like stripping Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov of his Instagram account.

Both the original act and the 2016 expansion were championed by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), a well-known hardliner on Russia.

Browder is not content to stop there. He has called for using the EU-wide Magnitsky Act to bully the government of Hungary – or “government kleptocrats who are ruining democracy in that country,” as he described it – into submission to Brussels. He is also supporting the Democrats’ campaign to oust Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), accusing him of “selling out his integrity and US national security to the Russian FSB.”

Meanwhile, in Russia, a Moscow court convicted Browder of tax fraud in the amount of $79 million and sentenced him to nine years in a penal colony and a fine of 200,000 rubles ($3,470). The sentence was handed down in December 2017.

Blok became the Dutch foreign minister on March 5. His predecessor Halbe Zijlstra resigned in February, after admitting he lied about a 2006 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Zijlstra claimed that he had overheard Putin talk about plans for a “Greater Russia.”  It later emerged he was never at the meeting.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Newly Revealed Docs Shed Light on UK’s Intervention in Russia During WWI

Sputnik | April 4, 2018

British military intervention in Russia in 1918-1919 was unlawful and indefensible, British government papers held by the National Archives reveal. It turned Russian public attitudes towards Britain from friendly to hostile.

In March 1918 the Bolshevik government signed a peace treaty with Germany, as they had promised to the nation exhausted by four years of the devastating and senseless WWI. The Russian Revolution was triggered by the overwhelming public desire for peace. The war-weary Russian army simply could not carry on fighting. Britain and France immediately accused Russia of betraying the Allied cause and sent in their troops. In a show of “solidarity” reminiscent of today, a dozen Anglo-French allies took part in the armed intervention in Russia. The official excuse was to keep the Eastern front against Germany and protect the Russian war materiel from falling into German hands.

The map of foreign military intervention in Russia in 1918-1919.

In reality, the British, the French, the Americans, the Japanese and many others fought the locals, engaging in “frolics” and “high handed behaviour,” according to British government papers.

The legality of their action under international law was not considered until 1972 when the British government, locked in a dispute with Moscow over mutual debts, sought advice from a Foreign Office legal counselor, Eileen Denza. The advice was damning of London’s actions and was kept under wraps for a long time.

“In my own view there is no legal justification for any of the major incidents of intervention by British forces,” Ms. Denza wrote in her paper. “Nor have I formed an impression from … research from such original sources as Foreign Office archives and Cabinet documents that any consideration whatsoever was given at the time to the legal aspects of the matter by those in London, or by the army commanders while they were actually in Russia.”

© Photo: Crown copyright National Archives, UK
FCO Legal Councellor paper on legality of British intervention in Russia

Ms. Denza had explored possible avenues for defending the British intervention but failed to find any convincing arguments.

Argument 1. Certain incidents of intervention took place at the invitation of a Russian government which Britain then recognized as a de facto government.

This, Ms. Denza said, would cover the intervention in Estonia [which Britain helped break away from Russia — NG] but not any of the other occasions on which British troops landed in Russia. Britain did recognize the Russian Provisional government after the overthrow of the Tsar in March 1917, but after it was overthrown by the Bolsheviks in November Britain gave no indication that she continued to recognize it. Indeed, when its premier Kerensky visited Britain later he was treated as a refugee, and not as a prime minister of a government in exile or of a government which London continued to recognize de jure.

“We did business with the Bolsheviks,” Ms. Denza reminded the British government. “We kept consular relations until well after intervention had begun, and the Prime Minister’s envoy, Bruce Lockhart, was … accorded diplomatic privileges and immunities [which he abused — NG]”.

Initially Lockhart devoted a great deal of effort to securing a Bolshevik invitation to the Allies to intervene, but when he failed in this he advised the British government to intervene anyway. He started plotting for the overthrow of the Bolsheviks, and channeled his energy into persuading the reluctant US President Woodrow Wilson to support the British and Japanese intervention in the North and Far East of Russia.

Argument 2. The intervention was intended to protect British lives and property.

There was no British community in Russia to speak of.

“The question of defence of British property was never raised or put forward at any stage,” wrote the FCO legal counselor, “and it had always been clearly understood that it was intervention which led the Bolsheviks (who began by being friendly to Britain) to take much more extremist measures against property generally and to adopt the position that no compensation would ever be paid to the Allies in respect of their expropriated property, since it was the necessity caused by external pressures and Allied intervention which had made it necessary to seize foreign property on such a scale.”

Argument 3. The intervention was justifiable as an act of military necessity, or self-defense, in order to protect the Allied military position in the east after Russia’s withdrawal from the war following the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed with Germany in March 1918.

Britain at the time made a great deal in public that the motive for intervention was related entirely to the conduct of the war, and that there was no intention to intervene in the domestic affairs of Russia. However, once they arrived in Russia, the British and other Allied forces “did not limit their actions to cutting off supplies to the Germans,” wrote Ms. Denza. “They did not confine themselves to supporting factions which had clearly stated that once in power they would bring Russia back into the war.”

“In the main the commanders in the field seem to have gone off on frolics of their own with very little clear political coordination.” [Those “frolics” included bayoneting the locals to death, and forcing captured Russian gunners to turn their cannons on their compatriots, according to British commanders’ combat logs held by the National Archives — NG]

Excerpt from a British Dvina (North Russia) Force battle instructions issued on 5 August 1919

Report on British military operations in North Russia on September 7/8 1919

© Photo: Crown copyright National Archives UK
Excerpt from a British Dvina (North Russia) Force battle instructions issued on 5 August 1919

When large-scale intervention began in the summer of 1918 Britain withdrew its embryonic diplomatic and consular mission from Russia [thereby implying it was an invasion rather than intervention — NG].

Most important of all, Ms. Denza wrote, the intervention did not cease with the surrender of Germany in November 1918. Indeed the military justification for intervention, which could have existed during the many months when plans for intervention were being made and discussed “virtually ceased to exist very soon after our troops first went in [Russia — NG] in substantial numbers [shortly before Armistice — NG].”

Overall, the FCO legal counselor said, the British and Allied intervention in Russia painted “such a damning picture.”

“The immediate effect of the intervention was to prolong a bloody civil war,” wrote American historian James W Loewen, “thereby costing thousands of additional lives and wreaking enormous destruction on an already battered society.”

During the Anglo-Soviet debt negotiations in 1972-1973 this destruction was estimated to be between two and four billion pounds.

British government papers of the time record a flurry of Whitehall discussions on how to avoid admitting any liability for the damages caused by the unlawful intervention. As one note put it:

“I think it inevitable the Russians will raise the intervention claim in reaction to whatever HMG decides to do” [e.g., expropriate Russian gold held by Britain in payment for Russian debt — NG].

In this eventuality our aims should be:

(a)     To avoid admitting the unlawfulness of the intervention (this would be unacceptable)

(b)     To avoid discussing the lawfulness and morality of our part in the intervention (Mrs. Denza in her minute of 28 July has shown we could not win on this score); and hence

(c)     To minimize unfavourable press coverage.

© Photo: Crown copyright National Archives UK
FCO claims department note on avoiding liability for military intervention in Russia

Whatever the press coverage, the intervention did create very unfavorable attitudes towards Britain in Soviet Russia.

In 1921 a British Parliamentary Committee produced a report which included the following perceptive passage:

“There is evidence to show that, up to the time of military intervention the majority of the Russian intellectuals were well disposed towards the Allies, and more especially to Great Britain, but that later the attitude of the Russian people towards the Allies became characterised by indifference, distrust and antipathy.” [Report (Political and Economic) of the Committee to Collect Information on Russia; (Russia (No.1), 1921, Cmd. 1240]

American Historian William Henry Chamberlin, who was the Moscow correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor in the 1920-30s, wrote that the consequences of the intervention “were to poison East-West relations forever after, to contribute significantly to the origins of World War II and the later Cold War, and to fix patterns of suspicion and hatred on both sides which even today threaten worse catastrophes in time to come.”

God forbid his prophecy comes true…

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment