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US Inmates Strike to End ‘Prison Industrial Slave Complex’

Sputnik – August 22, 2018

Prisoners in 17 US states are striking on Tuesday, August 21, on the anniversary of the death of Black Panther prison organizer George Jackson. Inmates are engaging in work stoppages and hunger strikes, among other methods, in a bid to push for better conditions, more rights and an end to prison slavery.

The strike will continue until September 9, the anniversary of the 1971 uprising at Attica Correctional Facility in New York.

A prisoner who helped organize the strike told Sputnik News in April that they’re looking to dismantle the “prison industrial slave complex.” He is incarcerated at Lee Correctional Facility in South Carolina, which saw the deadliest event in US prison history in the past 25 years on April 15. Seven people were killed and more than 20 were injured during the revolt. The strike is meant to protest that violence, as well as poor living conditions in US prisons and the practice of slave labor there.

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery — at least that’s what most Americans think. In reality, it forbade “slavery [and] involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime.”

That means that in effect, slavery is an ongoing phenomenon in America. Prisoners make all kinds of goods, typically for a rate spanning between zero and a few dollars a day. License plates, textiles, Starbucks coffee cups and many consumer products of are made, at a subsidized rate, often for large corporations, by prisoners. California’s detained workforce has more than 2,000 inmates battling wildfires, including almost 60 minors. They’re making $3 a day as they risk their lives, yet are also forbidden from joining fire departments after their release.

Karen Smith of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a group formed in 2014 “as a result of the prison organizing that’s been going on since 2010,” by formerly incarcerated members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union, spoke with Sputnik News on the eve of the strike.

“It became apparent to the IWW that this struggle that incarcerated, working-class brothers and sisters were engaged in was our struggle, and needed a cohesive group to address its needs and to organize alongside them,” she said.

Groups including IWOC, the Free Alabama Movement, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and Fire Inside have been working with prisoners to organize the strike, which forced all 11 prisons run by the New Mexico Department of Corrections into lockdown Tuesday afternoon.

At the Hyde Correctional Institution in North Carolina, three prisoners were designated as strike organizers and are “facing threats of administrative repression,” IWOC said in a statement.

“Retaliation comes in the form of physical abuse, restricted movement, getting sentenced to solitary confinement — getting your status changed; here in Florida it’s called ‘closed management,” Smith told Sputnik. “Many people who were at the forefront of the prisoner resistance movement here in Florida were labelled a ‘security threat group’ and placed in closed management,” she said before the strike.

“Some of them have been set up with knives and cellphones placed in their belongings, or near them in their dorm, and now are placed in closed management for a year and a half, meaning solitary confinement. Restricted commissary. Phone calls, maybe once a week. They only get to shower at very limited times. And they get taken out one hour a day, if that even happens. I get tons of reports that that doesn’t happen. Or, they go to a slightly larger cage, or a small yard, for an hour before they get put back into confinement. People have lost their visitation [rights]; I’ve lost my visitation rights. People’s personal property is taken, which is, you know, huge when all you have is the photos of your family — the case that you might be in the middle of working on, which so many incarcerated people are — fighting for the freedom.”

Prisoners have 10 demands in 2018. The first and foremost is an improvement to conditions in prisons so that they “recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women. “Prisoners are tired of the conditions that are breeding violence. Prisoners are tired of the conditions that are breeding hopelessness, and at the end of the day we feel this system, it needs to be changed,” the prisoner at Lee told Sputnik News.

He began by noting the “restrictions” placed on prisoners and the “collective punishment” prison officials hand down over individual infractions. He bemoaned that prisoners are “being warehoused” with “no movement.”

“All they see of their former lives,” Smith said, “is the sky.”

“To get outside and to have sunshine and fresh air, that is a minimal human right,” she said. “And movement already being restricted to a dorm, or a nine by seven cell, for a year and a half, that does immeasurable damage to a person. It also feeds into the dehumanization that the system relies on: breaking people down, separating them from each other, isolating them. People who are already marginalized, already isolated in a lot of ways.”

When it comes to criminals, “it’s easy to sweep their needs aside.”

Americans consider them “less than, this sort of subhuman status that criminals have in our society. The fact that there’s so many of them, people with felony convictions, I think now it can’t be ignored. This label, ‘criminal,’ has been used to oppress and exploit people since the dawn of this country and before that, definitely since the end of slavery in our country,” Smith told Sputnik News.

The strike also calls for the rescinding of three pieces of legislation passed in the 1980s and 1990s that prisoners say rob them of proper channels to address their grievances and prohibit them from ever receiving rehabilitation and parole, thereby making them “sentenced to death by incarceration.” The inmate Sputnik News spoke with said that part of what’s causing tensions in prisons is people being handed “forever sentences” over petty offenses.

Another listed demand calls for an end to “racial overcharging, over-sentencing and parole denials,” noting that black people convicted of crimes against white victims are particularly targeted this way, especially “in southern states.” Other demands call for more rehabilitation services and voting rights.

“Work stoppages are just one of the forms of direct action that prisoners engage in; the others being boycotts, sit-ins, hunger strikes. I think work strikes — it’s a commodity that incarcerated people have access to. They’re forced to work. So it’s a leverage. The prison system relies on them for it to run,” Smith said.

“One of the things we decided, is that part of this is to be work stoppages. What we know is that we have to figure out how to economically impact the system; we’ve got to that point,” the incarcerated man said.

Prisoners are refusing to make telephone calls, which come at huge financial costs, and foregoing use of the commissary, which helps them eat enough food in the face of small portions served by the cafeteria. Prisoners complain of being extorted by commissary prices. According to prison reporter Brian Sonenstein of Shadowproof, a can of soup can cost more than $15.

“We feel that economic boycott, which is why we call for boycott as well through our strike, is more than enough and sufficient to make a serious statement. Usually during the month of August prisoners in certain states and counties already start boycotting anyways; it’s just not publicized a lot,” the prisoner at Lee said. “A lot of prisoners are refusing the little luxuries that we usually have here. We start to forsake those things. So this is one reason we definitely wanted to do it, because we feel like it’s the next right step to take, the next right step to get prisons into the mindframe of stop spending, stop letting these people exploit our families, our friends and even ourselves. Stop exploiting us, because our money, our family, is what keeps the system going. It’s all based on dollars. Everything at the end of the day is based on money. I wish I could say it was based on restorative justice, but it’s not. It’s based on money.”

He added that boycotts “build up the collective struggle.”

The uprising at Lee, the inmate there told Sputnik News, came after 10 days of things reaching a boiling point. “Bad food, bad attitudes from the officers, bad attitudes from the occupants, no movement. They’re constantly taking from us, constantly locking us down — these are the things that began to fill the atmosphere,” he said.

According to the inmate, the violence broke out after guards set up a “gladiator match” between inmates. Guards “watched the bodies pile up” from behind a fence, he said. As he understands it, it’s “policy” in South Carolina.

Similar reports from Oklahoma of guards setting up a “gladiator school” have also surfaced recently, Sputnik News reported.

“With the gang situation, in Florida, we see them shipping people to camps in order to stir conflict to ‘take care’ of people,” Smith told Sputnik News.

Traci Fant of the prison advocacy group Freedom Fighters Upstate South Carolina told local media that since the uprising, inmates at Lee “can’t urinate or defecate in the toilet, because they have to drink the toilet water.” One video posted to Facebook by the group shows inmates inside Lee complaining of the smell of urine and feces, and trash cluttering the hallways.

“At Florida State prison, which is right up the road where our death row is housed, prisoners in several wings in the confinement dorms, which are two-man cells, their toilets are controlled by a flush button that is on the wall at the end of their unit, which the officer has control of, and they use it as a punishment,” Smith said. “They will not flush the toilets, and people are sitting their own feces and urine with hundred-degree temperatures in Florida for days.”

In May, South Carolina officials responded to the uprising by instituting a drone surveillance system. The drones, equipped with night vision and heat-sensing capabilities, add to the already expensive security infrastructure, which includes two guard towers — constructed in part by inmates — at a cost of $237,000. It’s difficult to understand why the drones are viewed as necessary at Lee, as the prison already had a $2.2 million camera system, also with night vision and heat sensing tech, that covers the entire prison.

“The response to that tragedy that left seven dead and so many injured was to ramp up technology to interrupt cell phone signals,” Smith said. “That’s their response to that tragedy; that’s what they see as wrong with that situation: not the deaths, not the violence. That’s status quo in the prison system. It’s the fact that word got out about it.”

​Smith noted the discrepancy in spending further: “You can’t get food that is decent or even unspoiled, yet they have those rods for prisoners to walk around that will go off if there’s a cellphone within distance. Major technology that’s interrupting communication [is paid for], yet aspirin is their entire healthcare system at most.”

She called on people to support the strike by spreading the word and contacting prison officials to complain. Currently, IWOC is holding call-in campaigns to do just that. “We need to change our culture,” she said, “Here in Florida, we have a whole unique beast that we’re fighting, where prison guards are actual Ku Klux Klan members, and it’s not criminal for guards to boil people alive — those are what our headlines look like down here.”

“Without outside support, the inside movement dies,” she said. “They don’t have a chance, because nobody is paying attention, and if we don’t take it upon ourselves to pay attention and to contribute to the narrative — and the narrative is being shaped solely by prison administrators, and the people who profit off of prisoners. That narrative has been sold to use for decades, and it’s time that we take it over and have it represent the actual needs of the people.”

The strike follows a long line of similar protests in prisons. In January and February, prisoners in Florida went on strike in a move called Operation PUSH. In 2016, prisoners went on strike in 24 states on September 9.

“The prison resistance movement has been around forever; since — I always like to say — since the Africans came off the slave boats here, the prison resistance movement has been around. It only solidified with the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the prisoner at Lee said. “There has been a fighting element in the prisons ever since then. There’s been strikes and boycotts.”

“We all consider it part of a budding movement that’s continuing on until — in my viewpoint, we’re looking for abolition at the end of the day,” he said. “Prisoners are tired of the conditions that are breeding violence. Prisoners are tired of the conditions that are breeding hopelessness, and at the end of the day, we feel this system, it need to be changed.”

August 21, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , | 2 Comments

‘Wow effect’: Microsoft’s claims on alleged Russian hacking are a political stunt – Moscow

RT | August 21, 2018

Microsoft’s claims that Moscow-backed hackers are attacking US websites is simply a case of the tech giant joining the Washington-led ‘witch hunt’ on Russia, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The company’s claims that the hacking group Fancy Bears is linked to the Russian government and is creating a number of “spear-phishing” websites lacks any substance as the company has offered no evidence to support this allegation, the Russian ministry said in a statement. Instead, Microsoft’s words were “clearly aimed at having a maximum political and public wow effect,” it added.

So-called “spear-phishing” sites are designed to mimic the pages of the US political institutions and think tanks, in an attempt to gather information from those who visit them.

The ministry denied Russia’s involvement in any hacking attacks on the US soil, including those which are allegedly aimed at disrupting any elections and the US congressional midterm vote in particular. “We do not know what Microsoft is even talking about,” the statement reads.

The tech giant’s move is apparently nothing but a “display of loyalty” to the US establishment, the ministry said, expressing regret that a major company, which has operated on the Russian market for years, eventually decided to “join the witch hunt,” which has “gripped Washington.”

The ministry went on to say that the reason US officials are unwilling to present any evidence of “Russian electronic interference” into American politics is simply because “this evidence does not and could not possibly exist.”

At the same time, the foreign ministry once again said that Moscow is ready to establish a bilateral working group on cybersecurity with the US to resolve any emerging issues in a timely and professional manner. Such proposals have been repeatedly made by Russia earlier but the US has been reluctant to support this initiative so far.

On Monday, Microsoft said in its blog post that it managed to thwart a number of hacking attempts by “a group known variously as Strontium, Fancy Bear and APT28”, which has been “widely associated” with Russia. It admitted, however, that it has “no evidence” that the domains were used in any successful attacks — and no evidence “to indicate the identity of the ultimate targets.”

In response, the Russian president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denounced the tech giant’s claims as “groundless”. He added that the Russian government does not know what kind of hackers Microsoft were referring to, and that there was “no basis” for the accusations.

A number of experts, whom RT reached out to, also questioned Microsoft’s ability to effectively establish the identity of the alleged hackers. They described the company’s statement as a “faith-based attribution.”

August 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments

Battlefield America: The Ongoing War on the American People

By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute | August 21, 2018

Police in a small Georgia town tasered a 5-foot-2, 87-year-old woman who was using a kitchen knife to cut dandelions for use in a recipe. Police claim they had no choice but to taser the old woman, who does not speak English but was smiling at police to indicate she was friendly, because she failed to comply with orders to put down the knife.

In Alabama, police first tasered then shot and killed an unarmed man who refused to show his driver’s license after attempting to turn in a stray dog he’d found to the local dog shelter. The man’s girlfriend and their three children, all under the age of 10, witnessed the shooting.

In New York, Customs and Border Protection officers have come under fire for subjecting female travelers (including minors) to random body searches that include strip searches while menstruating, genital probing, and forced pelvic exams, X-rays and intravenous drugs at area hospitals.

These are not isolated incidents.

These cases are legion.

This is what a state of undeclared martial law looks like, when you can be arrested, tasered, shot, brutalized and in some cases killed merely for not complying with a government agent’s order or not complying fast enough.

This isn’t just happening in crime-ridden inner cities.

It’s happening all across the country.

America has been locked down.

This is what it’s like to be a citizen of the American police state.

This is what it’s like to be an enemy combatant in your own country.

This is what it feels like to be a conquered people.

This is what it feels like to be an occupied nation.

This is what it feels like to live in fear of armed men crashing through your door in the middle of the night, or to be accused of doing something you never even knew was a crime, or to be watched all the time, your movements tracked, your motives questioned.

This is what it feels like to have your homeland transformed into a battlefield.

“We the people” have now come full circle, from being held captive by the British police state to being held captive by the American police state.

Where we went wrong was in allowing ourselves to become enthralled with and then held hostage by a military empire in bondage to a corporate state (the very definition of fascism).

Unfortunately, we now find ourselves scrambling for a foothold as our once rock-solid constitutional foundation crumbles beneath us. And no longer can we rely on the president, Congress, the courts, or the police to protect us from wrongdoing.

Indeed, the president, Congress, the courts, and the police have come to embody all that is wrong with America.

Certainly, the Constitution’s safeguards against police abuse means nothing when government agents can crash through your door, terrorize your children, shoot your dogs, and jail you on any number of trumped of charges, and you have little say in the matter.

There is no end to the government’s unmitigated gall in riding roughshod over the rights of the citizenry, whether in matters of excessive police powers, militarized police, domestic training drills, SWAT team raids, surveillance, property rights, overcriminalization, roadside strip searches, profit-driven fines and prison sentences, etc.

The president can now direct the military to detain, arrest and secretly execute American citizens. These are the powers of an imperial dictator, not an elected official bound by the rule of law. This mantle is worn by whomever occupies the Oval Office now and in the future.

A representative government means nothing when the average citizen has little to no access to their elected officials, while corporate lobbyists enjoy a revolving door relationship with everyone from the President on down. Indeed, while members of Congress hardly work for the taxpayer, they work hard at being wooed by corporations, which spend more to lobby our elected representatives than we spend on their collective salaries.

As for the courts, they have long since ceased being courts of justice. Instead, they have become courts of order, largely marching in lockstep with the government’s dictates, all the while helping to increase the largesse of government coffers. It’s called for-profit justice, and it runs the gamut of all manner of financial incentives in which the courts become cash cows for communities looking to make an extra buck.

As for the rest—the schools, the churches, private businesses, service providers, nonprofits and your fellow citizens—many are also marching in lockstep with the police state.

This is what is commonly referred to as community policing.

After all, the police can’t be everywhere. So how do you police a nation when your population outnumbers your army of soldiers? How do you carry out surveillance on a nation when there aren’t enough cameras, let alone viewers, to monitor every square inch of the country 24/7? How do you not only track but analyze the transactions, interactions and movements of every person within the United States?

The answer is simpler than it seems: You persuade the citizenry to be your eyes and ears.

It’s a brilliant ploy, with the added bonus that while the citizenry remains focused on and distrustful of each other, they’re incapable of focusing on more definable threats that fall closer to home—namely, the government and its militarized police.

Now it may be that we have nothing to worry about.

Perhaps the government really does have our best interests at heart.

Perhaps covert domestic military training drills really are just benign exercises to make sure our military is prepared for any contingency.

Then again, while I don’t believe in worrying over nothing, there can be no denying that we’re being accustomed to life in a military state.

The malls may be open for business, the baseball stadiums may be packed, and the news anchors may be twittering nonsense about the latest celebrity foofa, but those are just distractions from what is really taking place: the transformation of America into a war zone.

As I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if it looks like a battlefield (armored tanks on the streets, militarized police in metro stations, surveillance cameras everywhere), sounds like a battlefield (SWAT team raids nightly, sound cannons to break up large assemblies of citizens), and acts like a battlefield (police shooting first and asking questions later, intimidation tactics, and involuntary detentions), it’s a battlefield.

August 21, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , | 3 Comments

Which War for Mesopotamia? Iraq Must Choose Between Iran and the US

By Elijah J. Magnier | American Herald Tribune | August 21, 2018

In the coming month, following Eid al-Adha (August 21st), Iraq will be on the horns of a dilemma. The Federal Court has confirmed the results of the manual recount of the May parliamentary elections with insignificant changes to the previously announced results. After the holiday the Iraqi coalition that can assemble more than 165 parliamentary seats will have to choose the new ruler of the country. Whoever is selected as Prime Minister, whether he is pro-US, pro-Iran or even a neutral personality, will not save Iraq from serious consequences and difficult years ahead. If the new government implements the sanctions on Iran announced by interim PM Abadi, internal unrest and insecurity can be expected in the country.  Many Iraqis, including some armed groups, will refuse what is perceived as US interference, and US forces themselves will likely come under fire. If the sanctions are not implemented, Iraq will face serious US sanctions in turn, international companies will pull out, and the return of the terrorist group ISIS (ISIL, Daesh) cannot be excluded. Any decision will certainly have a major effect on the economy of Mesopotamia, and perhaps even on its security.

The Iraqi government is normally formed following an agreement between one or more groups with the largest number of MPs, with several Iraqi parties (Shia, Sunni, Kurds and other minorities) holding a smaller representation in the Parliament joining in. The largest coalition is then eligible to select the future Prime Minister within one month of forming a governing coalition. Members of the coalition decide amongst themselves the distribution of power and posts including not only that of Prime Minister, but also Speaker, President and all the other key positions (Vice-Presidents, vice ministers, and the various ministerial positions in the government).

The latest formation to be officially announced is the coalition of Sayroon (Moqtada al-Sadr), al-Nasr (Haidar Abadi), al-Hikma (Ammar al-Hakim) and al-Wataniya (Saleh al—Mutkaq). These groups are still far from reaching the number of MPs necessary to form a government. And this means Iraq risks waiting for several months before seeing a new Prime Minister take power.

The Iraq-Iran borders run for 1,458 km from Shatt al-Arab in the Persian Gulf to Kuh e-Dalanper. Long borders and the large commercial and trade exchange between the two countries (over $12 billion per year) impose a special strategic relationship between Tehran and Baghdad. Moreover, the volume of religious tourism (for pilgrims visiting Imam Reda in Iran and many other shrines of prophets and Imams in Iraq) imposes itself on the countries’ leaders despite political differences. Although the majority in Iraq and Iran are Shia, religious ties do not inhibit the political independence of Iraqi Shia, who are Arabs; their patriotic interests prevail over any shared religious identity.

The Marjaiya in Najaf, led by the highest religious authority in Mesopotamia (and the whole of the Shia world), the Iranian national Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali al-Sistani, does not tolerate Iranian interference in Iraqi politics. Some analysts attribute this refusal to differences between the rival theological schools of Najaf (Iraq) and Qom (Iran), but other factors are more important, notably the Marjaiya’s desire for independence and Iran’s heavy hand in dealing with Iraqis. The Marjaiya in Iraq stood firm against Iran’s choice of Prime Minister in 2014, refusing to renew Nuri al-Maliki’s tenure, although the constitution gave him the legal right to become the leader of Iraq since he sat at the head of the largest Parliamentary coalition.

Al-Maliki was called by some “the Shia dictator of Iraq;” he refused to share strategic decision-making with his government and the parties who had helped him remain in power, as had been agreed before his second nomination by all Shia groups. Al-Malki was wrongly accused of being responsible for the emergence of ISIS and its occupation of a third of Iraq in 2014. In fact, neighbouring countries Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and also the leader of Kurdistan Masood Barzani who called ISIS a “Sunni revolution,” supported the group with the aim of partitioning Iraq into three states. In 2014, the US decided to watch ISIS expand and was very slow to intervene in support of the government of Baghdad, unlike Iran who offered arms and advisors to both Baghdad and Kurdistan. The US intervened only when ISIS didn’t stop at the limits of Kurdistan and headed for the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

I was in Baghdad and Najaf at the time when the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani tried hard to impose first al-Maliki and then the ex-Premier Ibrahim al-Jaafari, but without success. It was not a religious but a political conflict, in which Sayyed Sistani stood firm in opposing Iranian efforts to decide the leadership of the country.

Iraq finds itself in a bind due to the US sanctions on Iran. Any Prime Minister who accepts the unilateral sanctions on Iran will be vilified as an American puppet and will face opposition from both pro- and anti-Iran forces and political groups in Mesopotamia. In fact, the US’s unwise political move of announcing that it is staying in the country “as long as needed,” despite the request of Baghdad that it reduces the number of its 5000 servicemen in the country, is a direct challenge to all Iraqis. It is interpreted by the people in the street I spoke to, and by decision-makers in both Baghdad and Najaf, as an expression of the US will to impose a Prime Minister by force, notably Haidar Abadi.

Iraq finds itself in a bind due to the US sanctions on Iran. Any Prime Minister who accepts the unilateral sanctions on Iran will be vilified as an American puppet and will face opposition from both pro- and anti-Iran forces and political groups in Mesopotamia.

The Iranian leadership needs to sit still, watching from afar the Iraqi internal reaction to the US decision to impose Abadi for a second term before reacting through its domestic allies.

Sources in the Iraqi government say “the Prime Minister ad interim tried to convince political leaders to accept the presence of the US forces in Iraq till an undisclosed date.” Iraqis understand this to mean that there is an agreement between Abadi – eager to stay in power for the second term – and the US – eager to see Abadi remain in power to stand against Iran – that US forces will stay in Iraq even if ISIS no longer controls any city or village in Iraq (vestiges of ISIS remain as insurgents, and outlaws in hiding.)

Both Abadi and the US forces seem unaware of the presence of a strong popular movement among the population. These forces fought against ISIS for over four years and are ready to fight a long insurgency war against the US forces in Iraq, without even asking for Iran’s support, help or guidance. There are many groups who fought against ISIS and among the ranks of the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) but returned to their own parties once the war ended and refused to be integrated within the Ministries of Defence or Interior.

The wrong-headed US policy (and not only in Iraq) is even calling for a coalition between Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr and Haidar Abadi to form a coalition with the largest number of MPs, sufficient to select a new Prime Minister. Some analysts go even further, asking Washington to invite Moqtada al-Sadr to the White House to keep Iraq away from Iran. They seem not to realize that Sayyed Moqtada will be at the head of the first group called upon to fight the US forces in Iraq if these decide to stay longer in Mesopotamia and to impose a leader of Iraq. Moreover, Abadi is incapable of controlling Moqtada who did not hesitate to send his horde to the “Green Zone”, invading various ministries to “pull Abadi’s ears” and call him back in line. Moreover, Moqtada locked the Vice Speaker, a member of the al-Sadr group, and other members of his inner circle in a lavatory at al-Hannnah (Moqtada’s HQ) in Najaf for two days.

Sources within Sayyed Moqtada’s inner circle told me:

“Sayyed Moqtada rejects the implementation of any sanctions against Iran agreed by Abadi and will not accept a new Prime Minister riding into the green zone on a US tank”.

Other forces in Iraq are said to be “watching closely the US forces movement in all the military bases in Iraq”. “If they have bad intentions (to stay in the country) we shall intervene to convince these forces to leave”, said a high-ranking Iraqi source within the popular armed forces-who fought against ISIS over most of the Iraqi territory.

No Iraqi official has explained to the people the advantages and disadvantages of implementing the US unilateral sanctions on Iran. No one has explained what are the risks, what would be the reaction to the US steps and what would be Plan B, if any. Who would compensate the enormous damage to Iraq’s economy that will follow, whether sanctions are accepted or rejected? Iraqis have suffered for more than 11 years of US sanctions during Saddam Hussein’s era and may not be willing to go through this again. But it is their choice, not that of a single person, Abadi–who in fact did not win a majority during the parliamentary election in any Iraqi province.

In Iraq, there is no political consensus over strategic decisions: the unilateral decision on Iran sanctions taken by interim Prime Minister Haidar Abadi needs parliamentary approval so that the representative of the Iraqi people can assume responsibility for taking the country into an unknown future. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has rejected Abadi’s unilateral decision, and so did most Iraqi political groups with Ministers in the government. The Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, Abadi’s Da’wa party, and many others rejected the Prime Minister’s action against Iran and in favor of the US. Many said overtly that “Iraq will certainly not be part of the US plan to hit Iran.”

The Shia groups are not in harmony – many reject Abadi for a second term. Nor are the Sunni groups agreed on a new Speaker (Anbar Governor Mohammad al-Halbusi versus the vice President Usama al-Nujeifi). The Kurds are waiting to see who will form the largest coalition before joining in and imposing their conditions because they will be the ones who tip the political balance for or against Abadi.

The bras de fer between Iran and the US is playing out over the entire Middle East and particularly in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. Today, the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the US Special Presidential envoy Brett MacGurk are both visiting all Iraqi officials and heads of groups to attempt to influence the Iraqi decisions. It is crucial for both Iran and the US to see a Premier on their side and both seem indifferent to the consequences for the Iraqis of the choice of one side or the other.

It is not so much a question of having a leader with vision but a leader ready to assume almost impossible responsibilities. A choice of wars is knocking at the door of Mesopotamia: another war in Iraq (against the US forces) or an economic war (against Iran.)

Senior Political Risk Analyst, Elijah J. Magnier, is a veteran war correspondent with over 35 years’ experience covering Europe, Africa & the Middle East.

August 21, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Treasury Unloads On Moscow: Washington Freezes Russian Assets In The US Worth Hundreds Of Millions

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 08/21/2018

Just hours after Microsoft said it had thwarted Russian intelligence attempts to hack two conservative think tanks and government sites used by Congressional staff, on Tuesday, the United States imposed new sanctions on two Russians and one Russian and one Slovakian firm under a U.S. program targeting malicious cyber-related activities.

In a statement on its website, the U.S. Treasury said the sanctioned firms – Saint Petersburg-based Vela-Marine Ltd and Slovakia-based Lacno S.R.O. – and the two individuals were linked to Divetechnoservices, a previously sanctioned entity.

Separately, speaking before the Senate Banking Committee, Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury’s top terror and financial intelligence official said that “the breadth and brazenness of Russia’s malign conduct demands a firm and vigorous response.”

Mandelker touted that the net worth of Oleg Deripaska had dropped by about 50%, and the share price of EN+ fell to $5.40 from $12.20 since the latest round of sanctions against Russia were imposed; she also noted that the net worth of Viktor Vekselberg fell by an estimated $3BN due to American penalties.

Mandelker also said that Russian-owned assets in the United States worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been frozen as part of Washington’s sanctions against Moscow, and told lawmakers that the US will not hesitate to bring economic pain to Russia if its conducts does not change.

“The actions of the US Treasury have had significant consequences for the financial interests of individuals and businesses that were affected, including the blocking of hundreds of millions of dollars of Russian assets in the United States,” Mandelker said. Her statement can be found here.

The Trump administration has sanctioned 217 Russian-related individuals and entities, including oil company Surgutneftegaz and power company EuroSibEnergo, since January 2017. Targets include heads of major state-owned banks and energy firms, and some of President Putin’s closest associates.

“As companies across the globe work to distance themselves from sanctioned Russian persons, our actions are imposing an unprecedented level of financial pressure on those supporting the Kremlin’s malign agenda and on key sectors of the Russian economy,” Mandelker said in the prepared remarks.

Finally, in Trump’s determination to show how “tough” he is on Russia, the U.S. also sanctioned owners of six Russian ships over claims they are helping transfer refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels, as tensions with both Moscow and Pyongyang intensify, Bloomberg reported.

The ships – and two Vladivostok-based shipping companies – violated U.S. and United Nations sanctions on North Korea, the Treasury Department said Tuesday in announcing the sanctions on its website. The U.S. is aiming to keep pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to denuclearize.

“Consequences for violating these sanctions will remain in place until we have achieved the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

In a separate announcement on Tuesday, Treasury also sanctioned two Russian individuals and two entities it said were making attempts to get around existing U.S. sanctions.

“The Treasury Department is disrupting Russian efforts to circumvent our sanctions,” said Mnuchin. “Today’s action against these deceptive actors is critical to ensure that the public is aware of the tactics undertaken by designated parties and that these actors remain blocked from the U.S. financial system.”

August 21, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

The 10 Main Holes in the Official Narrative on the Salisbury Poisonings: #2 – The Intent

By Rob Slane | The Blog Mire | August 21, 2018

In the first piece in this series exposing the holes in the official narrative of the Salisbury poisonings, I looked at Theresa May’s claim of what she said was “the motive” behind the incident. In this piece I want to move on to what she called “the intent”.

Once again, I turn to the statement she gave to the House of Commons on 26th March, as it essentially sets out sets out the Government case for what happened in Salisbury on 4th March:

“In conclusion, as I have set out, no other country has a combination of the capability, the intent and the motive to carry out such an act.”

What is meant by intent? Here is a definition from the online Legal Dictionary:

“A determination to perform a particular act or to act in a particular manner for a specific reason; an aim or design; a resolution to use a certain means to reach an end.”

Intent is not action. Nor is it motive. Rather, it is the purpose of using deliberate means to bring about a particular result. A prerequisite of showing that a person or a group of people had intent to commit a particular crime, is therefore to show that they did actually commit the crime for which you are alleging they had intent.

Say I were to claim that Brian drove his car into Bob, and that he did so with deliberate intent. If I have shown that Brian did actually drive his car into Bob, then I have the right to build a case that he did so with intent. But what if I have not actually shown that Brian drove his car into Bob? Quite simply, my statement of Brian’s intent is at best nonsense, at worst slander.

To accuse someone of doing something with intent is not therefore something which can be done blithely; rather, it is something which requires, in the first place, hard evidence to show that the person actually carried out the action. According to Mrs May, this is just what she did, since she began her speech by emphatically stating who was guilty of the poisoning:

“Three weeks ago, the Russian Federation was responsible for an attempted murder here in our country.”

And after setting out her “evidence”, such as it was, she stated that:

“In conclusion, as I have set out, no other country has a combination of the capability, the intent and the motive to carry out such an act.”

But what actually was the evidence she presented? Here it is, in all its entirety:

“Mr Speaker, we are quite clear that Russia was responsible for this act. As I set out for the House in my statements earlier this month, our world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down positively identified the chemical used for this act as a Novichok – a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by the Soviet Union.

We know that Russia has a record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations – and that it views some former intelligence officers as legitimate targets for these assassinations.

And we have information indicating that within the last decade, Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents probably for assassination – and as part of this programme has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks.”

How much of this constitutes evidence of the guilt of the Russian Government in the Salisbury poisonings? None whatsoever. I will look in more depth at her first piece of evidence in a subsequent article, suffice it to say here that it has been amply demonstrated in many places that:

a) The fact that the Soviet Union, which was dissolved on 26th December 1991, was attempting to develop a certain type of nerve agent says nothing about where the substance used in Salisbury came from or who made it.

b) Numerous other countries have the knowledge and the capacity to create the substance mentioned, and many have in fact done just this.

As for her other two claims, they are just that: claims. Nothing more, nothing less. They in no way constitute evidence of culpability in the Salisbury case, and certainly no court of law would accept them as such. Rather, they are simply general assertions masquerading as evidence, made in the hope that nobody would notice that this is what they are. Apparently it had exactly this effect on the lawmakers in the House she was addressing, since none of them bothered to question her about it.

What Mrs May therefore did in this statement, was to invert the legal process. Rather than proving the case that the Russian Government was behind the Salisbury poisonings, then alleging intent on this basis, she instead alleged responsibility using a series of very general claims, none of which had any specific connection to the Salisbury case, and then used this unproven guilt to allege intent. They were responsible, therefore they had intent. They had intent, therefore they were responsible. All made without any actual evidence of responsibility for the Salisbury incident, and all done without any actual evidence of intent for the Salisbury incident.

I’m almost tempted to say that she used circular reasoning, but this would be an insult to circles, which are beautiful, smooth, symmetrical shapes, as indeed it would be an insult to reasoning. It’s more like a blob. Blobby, messy, meaningless unreason, which apparently none of our nation’s MPs was able or willing to spot and hold her to account for.

There is one more thing. Two days after her statement, the Metropolitan Police Force released an update on the investigation, in which they said the following:

“This is one of the largest and most complex investigations undertaken by British counter terrorism policing and we thank the public for their continued support.

As a result of detailed forensic and scientific examination, detectives believe the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent at their home address. Specialists have identified the highest concentration of the nerve agent, to-date, as being on the front door of the address.

The Wiltshire Police support to the Counter Terrorism Policing Network investigation remains ongoing and is likely to do so for a number of months. It is an extremely challenging investigation and police and partners continue to manage a number of unique and difficult issues. We thank the public for their continued support.”

Three brief observations. Firstly, the investigation was extremely complex and likely to last a long time, indicating that guilt, let alone intent, cannot possibly have been established at that time. Secondly, investigators had only just begun to establish the place of the poisoning (“detectives believe…”), again indicating that guilt, let alone intent, cannot possibly have been established at that time. Yet in spite of this, Theresa May apparently already knew what happened, and had established responsibility, motive and intent. In which case, why bother wasting all that police time, effort and resources on investigating the incident. They could have saved a bob or two of taxpayers money by just asking Theresa the Seer.

August 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Will the Real John Brennan Please Stand Up?

When will he answer for his war crimes?

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • August 21, 2018

The battle between many former intelligence chiefs and the White House is becoming a gift that keeps on giving to the mass media, which is characteristically deeply immersed in Trump derangement syndrome in attacking the president for his having stripped former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance. One of the most ludicrous claims, cited in the Washington Post on Sunday, was that the Trump move was intended to “stifle free speech.” While I am quite prepared to believe a lot of things about the serial maladroit moves and explanations coming out of the White House, how one equates removing Brennan’s security clearance to compromising his ability to speak freely escapes me. Indeed, Brennan has been speaking out with his usual vitriol nearly everywhere in the media ever since he lost the clearance, rather suggesting that his loss has given him a platform which has actually served to enhance his ability to speak his mind. He should thank Donald Trump for that.

Indeed, Brennan’s retaining a Top Secret code word clearance had nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with enhancing his market value for those poor sods who actually pay him to mouth off as an “expert” on television and in the newspapers. Are you listening New York Times and NBC? Brennan’s clearance did not mean that he had any real insight into current intelligence on anything, having lost that access when he left his job with the government. It only meant that he could sound authoritative and well informed by relying on his former status, enabling him to con you media folks out of your money on a recurrent basis.

It has sometimes been suggested that free speech is best exercised when it is somehow connected to the brain’s prefrontal lobes, enabling some thought process before the words come out of the mouth. It might be argued that Brennan has been remarkably deficient in that area, which is possibly why he looks so angry in all his photographs. Even John Brennan’s supporters are shy about defending the former CIA Director’s more extravagant claims. James Clapper, the ex-Director of National Intelligence, has described Brennan’s comments as “overheated.”

The John Brennan backstory is important. In 2016 he was Barack Obama’s CIA Director and also simultaneously working quite hard to help Hillary Clinton become president, which some might regard at a minimum as a conflict of interest. After Clinton lost, he continued his attacks on Trump. He apparently played a part in the notoriously salacious Steele dossier, which was surfaced in January just before the inauguration. The dossier included unverifiable information and was maliciously promoted by Brennan and others in the intelligence and law enforcement community. And even after Trump assumed office, Brennan continued to prove to be unrelenting.

In May 2017, Brennan testified before Congress that during the 2016 campaign he had “… encountered and [was] aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals. It raised questions in my mind whether or not Russia was able to gain the co-operation of those individuals.” Politico was also in on the chase and picked up on Brennan’s bombshell in an article entitled Brennan: Russia may have successfully recruited Trump campaign aides.

What Brennan did not describe, because it was “classified,” was how he developed the information regarding the Trump campaign in the first place. We know from Politico and other sources that it derived from foreign intelligence services, including the British, Dutch and Estonians, and there has to be a strong suspicion that the forwarding of at least some of that information might have been sought or possibly inspired by Brennan unofficially in the first place. But whatever the provenance of the intelligence, it is clear that Brennan then used that information to request an FBI investigation into a possible Russian operation directed against potential key advisers if Trump were to somehow get nominated and elected, which admittedly was a long shot at the time. That is how Russiagate began.

Since that time, Brennan has tweeted President Donald Trump, asserting that “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.” He has attacked the president for congratulating President Vladimir Putin over his victory in Russian national elections. He said that the U.S. President is “wholly in the pocket of Putin,” definitely “afraid of the president of Russia” and that the Kremlin “may have something on him personally. The fact that he has had this fawning attitude toward Mr. Putin … continues to say to me that he does have something to fear and something very serious to fear.” And he then administered what might be considered the coup de main, saying that the president should be impeached for “treasonous” behavior after Trump stood next to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at a news conference in Finland and cast doubt on the conclusion of the intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s decision to pull Brennan’s clearance attracted an immediate tweeted response from the ex-CIA Director: “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out.” He also added, in a New York Times op-ed, that “Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion [with Russia] are, in a word, hogwash,” though he provided no evidence to support his claim and failed to explain how exactly one washes a hog. There has subsequently been an avalanche of suitably angry Brennan appearances all over the Sunday talk shows, a development that will undoubtedly continue for the immediate future.

The claim that Trump is a Russian agent is not a new one, having also been made repeatedly by Brennan CIA associate the grim and inscrutable Michael Morell, who flaunts his insider expertise both at The Times and on CBS. Regarding both gentlemen, one might note that it is an easy mark to allege something sensational that you don’t have to prove, but the claim nevertheless constitutes a very serious assertion of criminal behavior that might well meet the Constitutional standard for treason, which comes with a death penalty. It is notable that in spite of the gravity of the charge, Brennan and Morell have been either unable or unwilling to substantiate it in any detail. Even a usually tone-deaf Congress has noted that there is a problem with Brennan’s credibility on the issue, not to mention his integrity. Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has observed that,

“Director Brennan’s recent statements purport to know as fact that the Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power. If Director Brennan’s statement is based on intelligence he received while still leading the CIA, why didn’t he include it in the Intelligence Community Assessment released in 2017? If his statement is based on intelligence he has seen since leaving office, it constitutes an intelligence breach. If he has some other personal knowledge of or evidence of collusion, it should be disclosed to the Special Counsel, not The New York Times.”

This behavior by Brennan is no surprise to those who know him and have worked with him. An ambitious crawler with a checkered history, he was strongly disliked by his peers at CIA, largely because of his lack of any sense of restraint and his reputation for over-the-top vindictiveness. He notoriously flunked out of spy training at the Agency, forcing him to instead become an analyst, so he went after the Clandestine Service in his reorganization of CIA after he became Director.

John Brennan has always been a failure as an intelligence officer even as he successfully climbed the promotion ladder. He was the CIA’s Chief of Station (COS) in Saudi Arabia when the Khobar Towers were bombed, killing 19 Americans, a disaster which he incorrectly blamed on the Iranians. He was deputy executive director on 9/11 and was complicit in that intelligence failure. He subsequently served as CIA chief of staff when his boss George Tenet concocted phony stories about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He also approved of the Agency torture and rendition programs and was complicit in the destruction of Libya as well as the attempt to do the same to Syria.

Barack Obama wanted Brennan to be his CIA Director but his record with the Agency torture and rendition programs made approval by the Senate problematical. Instead, he became the president’s homeland security advisor and deputy national security advisor for counterterrorism, where he did even more damage, expanding the parameters of the death by drone operations and sitting down with the POTUS for the Tuesday morning counterterrorism sessions spent refining the kill list of American citizens.

After Obama was re-elected in 2012, he was able to overcome objections and appoint Brennan CIA Director. Conniving as ever, Brennan then ordered the Agency to read the communications of the congressional committee then engaged in investigating CIA torture, the very program that he had been complicit in. Brennan then denied to Congress under oath that any such intramural spying had occurred, afterwards apologizing when the truth came out. Moon of Alabama characterizes him as “… always ruthless, incompetent and dishonest.”

So the real John Brennan emerges as an unlikely standard bearer for the First Amendment. He has an awful lot of baggage and is far from the innocent victim of a madman Trump that is being portrayed in much of the media. Indeed, he should be answerable for torture, renditions, extrajudicial killing of foreigners and targeted murder of American citizens. Those constitute war crimes and in the not too distant past Japanese and German officers were hung for such behavior. One has to hope that Brennan’s day of judgment will eventually come and he will have to pay for his multiple crimes against humanity.

August 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Western media frames jihadist-controlled Idlib as peaceful enclave under assault by Assad

RT | August 21, 2018

Western media reports denouncing the Syrian Army’s offensive to retake Idlib conveniently fail to mention that the area is controlled by warring jihadist groups that were designated as terrorists by the US State Department.

Idlib province – located in northwest Syria – is the last major jihadist stronghold in the country, but you would never know it if you got your news exclusively from CNN.

As RT’s Ilya Petrenko explains, some Western media reports have attempted to portray Idlib as a peaceful enclave under assault by the Syrian Army – while omitting the fact that the region is ruled by extremist groups such as Tahrir al-Sham (better known as Al-Nusra, or Al-Qaeda in Syria), Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, and Nour al-Din al-Zenki. These groups have been accused of, among other crimes, beheading children, abductions, torture, and attacks on journalists and aid workers. Jayash al-Islam even once paraded caged hostages through neighborhoods that it once controlled – in hopes of using the civilians as human shields.

Several of the groups currently holed up in Idlib were even placed on the US terrorist list by then-Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Western media tactic of painting a jihadist stronghold as a bastion of legitimate resistance under siege by Assad was similarly deployed during the campaign to liberate East Aleppo, with breathless reports about bombed civilians, carefully ignoring the fact that designated terrorist groups – not “moderate rebels” – controlled the city.

And as the Syrian Army advances on Idlib, the media is once again starting to howl. Sky News even boasted of having “exclusive access to Idlib province,” describing the region as “the final rebel-held area of the country.”

However, it appears that the narrative is already starting to crumble. The disclosure sparked considerable pushback on social media, with some commenters openly speculating about how Sky News was granted “exclusive access” to an area controlled by warring jihadist groups.

In another setback to the “besieged moderate rebel” narrative, the UK is cutting its funding for rebel groups in Syria, with The Times of London noting that the decision was made in light of the fact that the war was coming to an end and remaining rebel areas had “fallen into the grip of jihadists.”

August 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Video | , | Leave a comment