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The Brink-a film review by Eve Mykytyn

Introduction by Gilad Atzmon

Steve Bannon is probably the most unpopular character as far as progressives and liberals are concerned. People who like to see themselves at the Left side of the political spectrum regard Bannon as a vile hateful character as well as a rabid antisemite. Yet, symptomatically or even tragically, those who detest Bannon shy away from tackling his populist mantra. This is rather concerning considering the fact that Bannon has proven to be a shrewd political tactician and even a kingmaker. It is probably Bannon who carries the prime responsibility for Trump’s successful presidential campaign. Those who are fearful of Bannon revert to name-calling: they slalom in between his ideas with the hope that no one notices. They do their best to avoid anything that may evoke thinking or resemble reasoning. It is not a secret that those who currently claim to advocate social justice are apparently too fearful to engage with substance but they fail to do so in the name of social justice.

In the following film review Eve Myktyn tells us about Alison Klayman’s The Brink. Mykytyn went to the film hoping to learn more about Bannon but it seems she left the cinema knowing more about Klayman’s phobia of the man. If those who call themselves progressives want to sustain relevance, sooner or later they will have to engage in a proper intellectual exchange as name calling, misquoting and crude editing tactics do not do justice to social justice.

A film review by Eve Mykytyn – April 04, 2019

Steve Bannon may well be, as he is often called,  the ‘architect of evil.’ But Alison Klayman’s mystifying documentary, The Brink, which sets out to “[use] Bannon’s own words and behaviors to reveal his hypocrisy and expose the danger he poses to liberal democracy” fails to show Bannon as hypocritical or dangerous.

The film begins with Bannon talking about a journey he made to World War II’s concentration camps. He notes that the Birkenau concentration camp was built using the finest of German engineering and wonders how ordinary Germans could get together and plan such a site. Perhaps Klayman felt that she couldn’t cut this otherwise disconnected scene because it showed Bannon to be an anti Semite, although he was simply musing about how a concentration camp came to be built. Is any question about any aspect of the Holocaust verboten? Apparently so, The Forward  interprets Bannon’s remarks as: “rhapsodiz[ing] about the precise engineering of one of the most evil thing humans have ever created, the Birkenau extermination camp.”

Instead, of engaging with Bannon’s avowedly nationalist politics, much of the film is devoted to a fly-on-the-wall view of Bannon’s daily routine. Bannon eats and drinks (a combination of Red Bull and a disgusting mess of green ‘diet’ juice), speaks at rallies, poses for photos, meets with nationalist leaders in Europe, touts his propaganda movie, and texts and talks endlessly on the phone: so much film time is devoted to the quotidian aspects of Bannon’s life that the shrewd and divisive political operative is reduced to boring.

Klayman attempts to score a point by asking Bannon where he is, so that she can report that he is on an airfield for private planes. Is Bannon’s not particularly luxurious private plane, filled with his allies and journalists really relevant to the larger debate?

The film follows Bannon to Toronto where he appears for a formal debate with David From on the proposition that the “future of western politics is populist, not liberal.” This is finally the real debate. Is it ‘country first’ or do we have a responsibility to all without regard to borders? The debate can be found here (the first 10 minutes of chatter can be skipped): the exchange between two articulate men whose views are antithetical to each other is well worth the time. Tellingly, The Brink does not show the debate, instead we see the effects that Bannon’s presence evokes. The protests outside the debate are portrayed as huge and scary, inside Bannon gently confronts hecklers, whose poor behavior he comically attributes to an ‘ex-wife.’ That’s it. The Brink apparently feels no need to counter Bannon’s views or even better, simply show From’s effective dissent.

When the film does allow Bannon to articulate his thesis, it is in a brief scene in which Bannon is speaking to a rally. In it, Bannon states that the benefits of citizenship should be distributed only to citizens, without regard to race, religion or sexual preference. This is the core of the populist nationalist movement that helped elect Donald Trump and has scored victories in Britain, France, Belgium and Sweden. Bannon’s current project is to knit together like-minded counter globalists from Europe and the United States.

The Brink’s opposition to nationalist populism is left to Guardian reporter Paul Lewis who accuses Bannon of using “anti-Semitic tropes,” then interrupts Bannon’s denial. Bannon insists that there’s nothing nefarious about using the term “globalist” or criticizing George Soros for the NGOs he funds. Vogue claims Bannon uses the term globalist “with a wink and a nod… as a stand-in for Jews.” Bannon’s movement is opposed to globalism. Is there a non anti Semitic way to oppose globalism?

Just  in case anyone failed to understand the intended message, the film ends with a stirring homage to the current crop of new representatives with the background picture of Washington, DC lit in rainbow hues. Apparently, a diverse group of new congressmen and women is a refutation of Bannon and what he stands for, too bad that The Brink fails to explain why that may be so.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Film Review, Video | | Leave a comment

Baseline of a Desecrated Land I: Food Supply

Part 1 of a 12 part series examining the ecological impacts of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

How Israel’s water and agricultural technologies don’t even work for Israel

By Dick Callahan | September 30, 2018

California I hear has a big water problem. We in Israel don’t have a water problem. We use technology to solve it…” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to California Governor Jerry Brown in March 2014.

“If you were planning to grow a new strain of tomato—don’t do it, because there is no water. Stop planting. Stop sowing new seedlings. There’s no water.” Giora Shacham, Chairman of the Israeli Water Authority, to Jewish farmers at a December, 27, 2017 Israeli agriculture conference.

Introduction

A new mythology has it that Israel can save American agriculture and cities from drought. To accept this is to ignore the wilderness instructor’s maxim: “In a survival situation the first thing you need is recognition.”

Our situation is that we in America have 324 million people and our country exports more food every year than any country in the history of the planet. Israel has eight and a half million people, exports almost no food, is entirely dependent on imported food, and every indicator is screaming that the Jewish state ecosystem is a dying patient on the gurney.

We will mostly bypass what suffering Israeli water colonization has caused Palestinians.  Instead, this piece looks at what fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly calls ‘Shifting Baselines,’ where some good thing is degraded over time and each successive generation adopts what is in front of them as their baseline reality. At some point an environment emerges that would terrify our ancestors. We Americans should look hard and honestly at Mother Earth groaning under Zionism in today’s Israel and ask, ‘Does America, or any country desiring a good future, want to follow that road?’

Before we start, it helps to know that Israel is 1,600 square miles smaller than the state of Vermont, the West Bank is smaller than St. Lawrence county in New York state, and the entire Gaza Strip is about the size of Bakersfield, California.

To evaluate Israeli land and water use technologies, these twelve recognitions might serve as jumping off points for discussion.

1) Israel cannot feed itself.
2) Israel pretends desalination impacts don’t exist.
3) Israel takes Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Jordanian water.
4) Israel’s one and only large, natural water body may be gone within twenty years.
5) Over half of the Jordan river valley’s biodiversity is already gone.
6) Israel and the Occupied Territories are awash in human sewage.
7) West Bank/Israeli streams and groundwater are over exploited and drying up so completely that centuries old trees in the nature reserves are dying of thirst.
8) Israel’s water, forestry, agricultural and military technologies have compromised agricultural land to the point where half of it is depleted and at risk, pesticide use is highest in the OECD, the land is absorbing more heat, and, in the long run, drip irrigation may do more harm than good.
9) Israel is the Flint, Michigan of the Middle East with a history of spectacular toxic spills, dumped military/industrial carcinogens, hundreds of contaminated wells, hundreds of millions of tons of contaminated ground water, millions of tons of oil stored right on the beach, massive unregulated hazardous waste sites built above aquifers, and the world’s oldest nuclear reactor, sitting 18 miles from the Syria-African fault line—with 1,537 documented defects in its aluminum core.
10) Wine, war, industrial tourism, and an unwinnable competition with the faster growing Arab population are the water marks on Israel’s self-portrait.
11) Israel is stuck with being the love-child of 1950’s American water engineers and 1800’s ‘make the desert bloom’ fundamentalism.
12) Israel is a cautionary tale.

Baseline Recognitions

Recognition I: Israel can’t feed itself

“Israel is almost completely dependent on imports to meet its grain and feed needs… Total grain, feedstuff and soybean supply will total about 5.06 million tons.” USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Report, Israel Grain and Feed Annual 02.18.2015 by Gilad Shachar & Orestes Vasquez

Humanity uses most of its fresh water to grow food. Current estimates for Israel’s total annual water consumption run between 2¼ and 2½ billion cubic meters per year. An item missing from that buoyant assessment is the fact that life in the Jewish state depends on importing four times as much, over ten billion metric tons, of virtual water every year via container ships. Virtual water is J.A. Allen’s elegant concept that, instead of trying to understand the value of agricultural commodities in terms of carrots, steaks, bushels of wheat, or how much money those bring in, we should view farm products as compact, transportable carriers embedded with all of the water it took to grow them.

If we include the embedded water footprint of millions of tons of grains/feed/soybeans (GFS) as well as meat, dairy, fruit and other commodities to the equation, Israel’s total annual water requirement quintuples.

The agricultural water footprint for a given commodity includes green water (rainfall that ends up in the root zone), blue water (irrigation from surface and ground water), and grey water (water it takes to dilute agricultural runoff). Below are water footprints of some mainstay Israeli food imports for Market Year 2016.

(commodity in 1,000’s metric tons-Mt) X (tons water to grow a ton)=Water footprint

Corn                     1,515                                                   1,222                                   1,851,330
Wheat                  1,758                                                   1,827                                  3,211,866
Barley                     376                                                   1,977                                      743,352
Soybean Meal       135                                                    2,145                                     289,575
Rice, milled           115                                                    2,172                                     249,780
Sorghum                 30                                                   3,048                                       91,440
Rye                             4                                                    1,544                                         6,176
Rape seed meal     140                                                   1,115                                      156,100
Sunflower meal     240                                                 3,366                                     807,840
oil, rape seed           44                                                  4,301                                      189,244
oil, soy bean           374                                                 4,190                                   1,567,060
sugar, centrifugal  518                                                    865                                      448,070

total                                                                                                                               9,611,833
sources: USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Database. and The Green, Blue and Grey Water Footprint of Crops and Derived Crop Products. UNESCO-IHE, Institute of water education, Volume 1: Main Report. Value of Water Research Report Series No. 47.

  • This 9,701,833 Mt water footprint of foodstuffs multiplied by 1,000 tons—because the commodities in the first column are in units of one thousand tons—gives 9,701,833,000 Mt of water.

Now add Israeli beef imports which average over 75,000 metric tons/year. This is in carcass weight equivalent (CWE) which means the cow after it has been gutted and skinned, with the head, tail, hooves removed. About 70 percent of the CWE is red meat. To find the amount of water in 75,000 Mt of red meat we multiply CWE by 0.7, which gives 52,500 Mt of meat. Global average to raise one Mt of red meat is 15,400 Mt of water. Multiplying 52,500 Mt of meat by the 15,400 Mt of water it took to grow them, we get 808,500,000 metric tons of water sent to Israel every year in the form of red meat. That by itself is a third above Israel’s entire annual desalination production.

Add other agricultural imports like 46,000 tons of various protein powders, soup stock, cheese, fresh fruits, 80 million eggs per year, etc and we’re looking at a total virtual reservoir of over 10.5 billion tons of water that Israel does not have to draw from its own resources.

How much is 10.5 billion metric tons of water?

*It’s enough to drain the Sea of Galilee dry more than 2½ times. (when the SoG is full—which it isn’t and hasn’t been for years.)

* It’s around 4 times larger than the entire annual national water consumption of Israel: the whole enchilada including domestic, industrial, meeting Israel’s agreements with Jordan and the Palestinians, etc.

* It’s enough to flood the entire Gaza Strip 28.8 meters (94.5 feet) deep. — [given that Gaza Strip is 365 square km and each square km = one million square meters] 10,500,000,000 cubic meters of water divided by 365,000,000 square meters] = 28.8 meters. 28.8 meters rounds to 94.5 feet.

*And it’s not enough. Israel’s population is growing at a rate of 1.58 percent per year. Grain imports are growing accordingly. By 2021 the country is predicted to require about 5.5 million tons of GFS alone. As the Mideast droughts continue import numbers will only increase.

The Food Security Index
At this juncture the alert Israel supporter might point with satisfaction to the Economist’s 2017 Global Food Security Index which placed Israel at 19th highest of 113 countries. Future factors, like global warming impacts, dropped Israel down to 24th place in the same report, but still, if the index is correct, either 19th or 24th would imply Israel is doing pretty well, wouldn’t it?

Or maybe not counting millions of Palestinians living there shifts the tally. A follow-up 2017 Economist report written with Italy’s Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, on the Food Security Index, gives an Israeli population of 8.5 million. That number implies Israeli Jewish colonists in the occupied territories (where Israel gets a third of its water and grows a lot of food) are included but the report doesn’t count 2.5 million food-insecure Palestinians who live on that same parcel of land, and also doesn’t include 2 million extremely food-insecure Palestinians in Gaza.

Alternatively, Israel’s place on the index may be artificially high because the index doesn’t adequately survey factors in the Jewish state like the scale of water pollution, erosion, and exhausted agricultural lands.
Then again, the list may just reflect the catastrophic condition of the rest of the world’s food supply. Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Hungary, Germany, Brazil and the United States supply most of Israel’s food imports. The index places four of these lower in food security than Israel, raising the question, ‘When your food security depends on distant places that are less food secure than you are, how secure is that?’

Israel’s food suppliers have weathered record breaking droughts on multiple years during the past decade. Their aquifers are dropping. Population stress, economic and political upheavals, and armed conflicts like those between Russia and Ukraine, can be expected to adversely impact grain production and distribution.

Another threat, peculiar to Israeli food security, is the growing worldwide boycott (BDS) of the country because of Israel’s 50+ years-long occupation of the Palestinian territories. If one or more of Israel’s food suppliers joins the boycott it will be a serious loss of calories with few, if any, other nations willing or able to take up the slack.

Before leaving this section, it’s fair to say that America imports agricultural products too, a lot of them, but according the USDA, they’re mostly from nearby Canada and Mexico, and mostly things we could get along without like coffee, spices, cut flowers, nursery stock, etc. rather than food we need to keep from starving.

Whatever happened to the early 1900’s Zionist agricultural model?
A good, simple measure of how well a country’s farming methods work is how well the farmers are doing. How many citizens work in agriculture? Do they earn a decent living? Are they viable? Are they happy with their choice of livelihood?

A hundred-twenty years ago when European Zionists began moving enmasse to Palestine to build their dream of a Jewish cooperative agricultural utopia, optimism was in the air. Most people, young to old, worked on the land. Their collaborative farms, kibbutsim and moshavim, were Jews-only community collectives. Other than the racist aspect it was a progressive experiment in many ways.

That social landscape has changed. In 2016 Yaron Solomon, Agricultural Union Settlement Department Director, pointed out that only 15,000 Israelis still live by farming and 20 percent of those are part-time.

That’s less than a third as many farmers as there were in the 1980’s. The average Israeli farmer now is 62-years-old. Young people are leaving the land for better prospects. Says Solomon, “While the Israeli government is crowing about Israeli farmers in order to attract foreign investment, so that doors will be opened to them overseas, in Israel they are being trampled. Israel is using agricultural knowledge to promote its diplomatic relations and foreign relations, but its policy in recent years has a price, and in the future, Israel will have nothing to offer the world… The Government’s policy is slowly eliminating the small growers, and when there is no renewal of fields, there is a shortage of produce and the land becomes arid.”

Israeli farmers hold lively (for farmers) protests where they do things like smash tomatoes on the road out in front of the Knesset (Israeli parliament). Or, a bunch of them drive tractors through the streets of Jerusalem. Or, they hold up traffic at intersections. Their main complaints are inevitably water costs and water allotments.

Israel depends on other countries to grow its food even on farms inside Israel

If most Israelis are getting out of farming, who is working the remaining farms? Heavy, dangerous agricultural grunt labor, like planting, weeding, spraying pesticides, herbicides (commonly with no protective gear), setting up irrigation equipment, harvesting, and loading trucks, is accomplished by some 25,000 ‘guest workers’ from Thailand, who come to Israel on five-year contracts.

They work through extreme summer heat—greenhouses can be over 120 degrees Fahrenheit—and winter cold, especially at night, which the Thais aren’t adapted to. One hundred twenty-two Thai workers died in the five years between 2008 and 2013. Of those, 22 died for unknown causes because no autopsy was done. Five committed suicide. Forty-three formerly healthy, young Thai males died from something Israelis call, “sudden nocturnal death syndrome.” During the same period only 32 Israeli occupation troops died in military conflicts. Chances of dying at work, then, were about four times higher for Thai farm workers than Israeli soldiers.

Noa Shuer from the worker’s rights group Kav LaOved, said her organization did a survey of 500 Thai workers. None of them was being paid minimum wage. Instead Thai workers are told to sign a time sheet they can’t read because it’s in Hebrew. Almost none of them get a copy. They work up to seventeen hours a day, seven days a week with four days a year off. Workers have to pay a fee, sometimes over $10,000, to brokers to work in Israel. Room, board, income taxes, and national health care fees come out of their wages. Living conditions are often squalid with workers being packed into former animal sheds or sheds where farmers keep pesticides and other chemicals.

Jewish farm owners have tremendous power over Thai workers because they know the workers have to pay back broker fees and don’t want to go home with no money. Someone who makes trouble, like asking to be paid what he or she is supposed to get, can be sent packing back to Thailand with no way to collect what they’re owed. Workers might be assigned other duties besides farming. There are many allegations of dangerous living situations and abuse, including sexual abuse. Some workers had no toilet and were told to use the field out back. In one case there was a single female living among forty male workers with a shared shower. Another woman was awarded $53,000 after she proved the farmer she worked for used her as a sex slave.

Clearly the Thais aren’t counted in the 15,000 Israeli farm workers statistic. Neither are thousands of Palestinian workers who, bereft of their own lands, are forced by economic necessity to work on farms in Israel and the occupied territories. The Palestinians also work under bad conditions for lower pay, plus they have to wait at Israeli checkpoints, both going to the fields and returning home, some rise at 3 in the morning to get in line. Palestinians working for Israelis are supposed to have Israeli-issued permits. Those without permits can be paid less money and they can’t complain because they’re working illegally and they might get carted off to jail. For the most part the Israeli government looks the other way.

Hydro diplomacy
Israel’s water technology media stream flows across the digital landscape like the Amazon River. Its headwaters are a combination of hyperbole, wishful thinking, and putting a new hat on old technologies. Headlines like, “… Israel overcomes an old foe, drought’, ‘Israeli innovation could feed the world…’ ‘12 top ways Israel feeds the world’ are the sort of nonsense Americans expected from the National Enquirer back in the 1970’s but people still buy it. So much so that it would be no surprise to read, “Israeli scientists invent fish that can breathe underwater.” or “Israeli scientists discover a plant that makes its own food from sunshine.” AIPAC leader, turned pro-Israel water author, Seth Siegel provides a simple explanation for the media stream. An interviewer asked Mr. Siegel,

Q: “Do you think Israel’s use of water saving technology can help its relationship to the outside world?”

Siegel replied: “Absolutely. I make that point in the book. There are countries that vote against Israel in the UN but when it comes to water, they invite Israel in. It is hydro-diplomacy.”

This is pretty much what the Agricultural Union’s Yaron Solomon quoted Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel saying, “Israeli agriculture is among the most advanced in the world, and we are taking steps to leverage this, both economically and politically…”

How realistic are claims that Israel has solved its water problems with technology? We need look no further than Israeli Agricultural Minister Uri Arial in December, 2017, when he called on the Israeli public to assemble at the Western Wall to PRAY FOR RAIN! Yes, as the fifth straight year of drought came knocking at the Damascus Gate, the country’s agricultural front-man was out there channeling Steve Martin in Leap of Faith. Nothing wrong with a good prayer, but ten thousand years of agriculture has shown we don’t want to bet the farm on it.

And yet here comes undaunted Israel with the audacity, the chutzpah, to claim that they can bail us out of water shortage at the very same time we are shipping them billions of tons of embedded water. American water infrastructure, especially in the West, is heavily subsidized by American taxpayers. The time approaches when we’ll have to evaluate the growing harm of sending Colorado River water, what’s left of the Ogallala Aquifer, and other precious dwindling water resources overseas.

Baseline 1 Selected Sources:

10.2018 Tony Allen. Bio. King’s College, London, website. Good thumbnail description of the virtual water concept and the good Professor, who was awarded the Stockholm World Water Prize (2008), the Florence Monito Water Prize (2013), and the Monaco Water Prize (2013).
03/05/2014 Netanyahu Offers to Help Brown Manage California Drought Bloomberg News by JonathanFerziger  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-03-05/netanyahu-offers-to-help-brown-manage-california-drought
02.18.2015 USDA Foreign Agricultural Service: Israel Grain and Feed Annual: Prepared by Gilad Shachar & Orestes Vasquez. Approved by Ron Verdonk, Minister-Counselor [From the Executive Summary: “Israel is almost completely dependent on imports to meet its grain and feed needs…Total grain, feedstuff and soybean supply will total about 5.06 million tons.”] *Note that Gilad Shachar did excellent work and his graphs and charts were clear and concise. After 2015 another author took over. [I found subsequent reports are not as clear or complete on imports and, in 2016, contain odd biblical references that I’ve never seen in technical writing.] As a work-around, you can access import/export data for most commodities from any country at USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s amazing database here: https://apps.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/app/index.html#/app/home There’s a row of blue bars across the screen. Choose ‘Custom Query’. There are four boxes on the new screen: Commodities, Attributes, Countries, Market Years. Click on the commodity you want to see in the first box, that brings up the Attributes menu in the next box over. Click on ‘Imports’, for Country click on ‘Israel, then select the year you want. Click the green Run Query button on lower right of screen. When you want to search for other commodities, there is a red Back to Query button to click on the upper right screen.
02.12.2016 Will beef export volume increase in 2016? Beef Magazine, by Joe Schuele,(75,000 tonnes beef.)
The National Water Carrier (Ha’ Movil Ha’ Artsi) Shmeil Kantor Formern Chief Engineer and Head of Planning Dep. Mekorot Water Co.
http://research.haifa.ac.il/~eshkol/kantorb.html
Also see: Fanak water: Israel Dr. Clive Lipchin, Director of Transboundry Water Management, Arava Institute for Environmental studies, Israel.
The Green, Blue and Grey Water Footprint of Crops and Derived Crop Products. UNESCO-IHE, Institute of water education, Volume 1: Main Report. Value of Water Research Report Series No. 47.wfn.project-platforms.com/Reports/Report47-WaterFootprintCrops-Vol1.pdf
2017 Global Security Index: Measuring food security and the impact of resource risk The Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Dupont. Countries lower on the list than Israel, that supply food to Israel: Hungary-30, Brazil-38, Russia-41, Ukraine-63.
2017 Fixing Food: The Mediterranean Region The Economist/Intelligence Unit with Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition.
11.20.2014 Exporter Guide USDA Foreign Agricultural Service—GAIN Report. Prepared by Gilad Shachar, Approved by Orestes Vasquez, Sr. Agricultural Attaché’. damage to Israeli crops from Protective Edge.
2015 data from USDA Economic Research Service Agricultural Trade page https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/agricultural-trade/
10.18.2012 Israel to label all egg imports Green Prophet: sustainable news from the Middle East Israel imports around 80 million eggs/year from Turkey.
12.24.2017 Israeli Agriculture Minister’s solution to drought: mass western wall prayers for rain. Haaretz by Zafrir Rinat.
01.21.2015 A raw deal: abuse of Thai workers in Israel’s agricultural sector. Human Rights Watch Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director Middle East and North Africa Division.
Israeli Casualties of War Wikipedia  is the source of 32 combat casualties.
11.22.2016 Israel’s farmers: an endangered species Globes: Israel’s Business Arena. by Yaron Solomon, Agricultural Union Settlement Department Director. Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel quote, “Israeli agriculture is among the most advanced in the world, and we are taking steps to leverage this, both economically and politically…”
08.12.2015 How Israel will save the world: (sic) an interview with Seth Siegel. Orthodox Union by OR staff. Hydro-diplomacy quote and assertions about drip irrigation.
01.19.2018 Dry, dry, again: After several wet years, big drought is back again in Israel Haaretz by Hagal Amit. This article has the Gioria Shacham quote about don’t grow new tomatoes.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 2 Comments

Candidate Pete Buttigieg: Israel’s Security Policy Offers “Important Lessons” for the US

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | April 4, 2019

WASHINGTON — Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, whose candidacy is currently being heavily promoted by corporate media, was one of the many 2020 contenders for the Democratic Party who declined to attend the recent annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in apparent response to calls from prominent “progressive” organizations to boycott the event and a growing shift among Democratic voters in favor of Palestinian rights.

However, despite his absence from the AIPAC conference, Buttigieg’s past public statements on the Israel/Palestine conflict echo those of pro-Israel stalwarts in the Democratic Party. Indeed, Buttigieg, in a trip to Israel last year that was funded by the pro-Israel lobby, praised Israel’s security response to protests by Palestinians on the Gaza-Israel border just four days after the slaughter of Gazan protesters by Israeli military snipers — repeating many of the same one-sided talking points about the conflict that define centrists in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Impressed by Israeli security policy

Last May, Buttigieg traveled to Israel as part of a trip for U.S. mayors organized by Project Interchange, an affiliate of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), one of the oldest and most influential Israel lobby organizations in the United States. The AJC regularly conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and has even accused progressive American Jews of anti-Semitism for their critiques of Israeli government policy.

Soon after the Israel lobby-sponsored trip, which the Times of Israel referred to as a “learning experience trip,” Buttigieg appeared on AJC’s Passport podcast, hosted by Seffi Kogen. Buttigieg, during the 22-minute discussion, stated that Israel’s security policy is “on the one hand very intentional, very serious and very effective when it comes to security and on the other hand not allowing concerns about security to dominate your consciousness.” He then added that his trip to Israel showed him that Israel’s security policy offers “a very important lesson that hopefully, Americans can look to [when] we think about how to navigate a world that unfortunately has become smaller and more dangerous for all of us.”

This statement is troubling for several reasons. First, it suggests that Israel’s security policy does not “dominate” Israeli political consciousness even though nearly every discriminatory policy targeting Palestinians — from the blockade of Gaza to the military occupation of the West Bank to the separation barrier — are all justified by the Israeli state’s claim that it is responding to “existential threats” relating to Israel’s security. Second, Buttigieg calls Israel’s draconian security policies “very effective,” yet does not mention their human costs, such as Israel’s regular imprisonment of Palestinians without charge or its arrest of children for allegedly “throwing stones.” Third, his claim that Israel’s security policy offers a “very important lesson” to the United States suggests that Israel’s apartheid, police-state security policies are a model for homeland security policy in the U.S., a suggestion that concerns the “progressive” voters to whom Buttigieg is currently attempting to appeal.

During the podcast, Buttigieg also claimed that support for Israel “is not a left vs. right issue — at least it shouldn’t be” and stated that “the security and intelligence cooperation [between the U.S. and Israel] is obviously vital, certainly something that is as important for American interests as much as Israeli interests.” This is a drastic over-simplification of the U.S.-Israel relationship and makes no mention of the fact that the U.S. now provides $3.8 billion to Israel annually as part of this “security and intelligence cooperation” and also ignores Israel’s documented espionage efforts targeting U.S. state secrets that have occurred under the guise of this “cooperation.” Notably, former U.S. intelligence officials have claimed that the CIA considers Israel “the Mideast’s biggest spy threat.”

Buttigieg also blamed Hamas, the Islamist group that won Gaza’s elections in 2007 and still governs the enclave, for the “misery” present in the strip. At no point does he mention the air, land and sea blockade — imposed by Israel and Egypt — as having a role in creating “misery” for Gazan residents. Particularly telling is the fact that he blamed Hamas for the situation in the Strip during the Great Return March, when Israeli forces massacred scores of unarmed protestors. Just days after Buttigieg’s visit to Israel and not long before his appearance on the AJC podcast, the IDF shot and killed 60 unarmed Gazans, among them seven minors and a paramedic. During his 22-minute discussion with AJC, Buttigieg never spoke of the Gaza protests directly.

A separate point Buttigieg made in the podcast is related to the exchange of fire between Syrian/Iranian forces and Israeli forces in the contested Golan Heights, which Israel annexed in 1981 but is internationally considered (aside from by the United States) as Syrian territory. In speaking of the attack by allegedly Iranian forces on the Golan Heights and the exchange of fire between Israel and Syria that followed, Buttigieg stated:

“It didn’t stop people from living their lives and I actually think there’s a lesson to be learned from that for America … to prevent terrorists from succeeding in their goal of becoming our top priority.”

It is notable that Buttigieg chose the word “terrorist” to describe the attack, given that it had been launched by a foreign government, not a terrorist group, and also given the fact that the area had long been overrun by actual terrorist groups that were supported by the state of Israel.

McKinsey and Israel

While Buttigieg’s admiration for Israeli security policy and support for continued U.S.-Israel “security and intelligence cooperation” may simply be an indication of his support for Democratic centrist policies, there may be other reasons for Buttigieg’s apparent support of Israel’s apartheid-like policies. For instance, Buttigieg’s past position as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. — recently called “the world’s most prestigious consulting firm” by the New York Times — may have also informed his views.

Buttigieg worked at McKinsey prior to enlisting in the military and jumpstarting his political career. Buttigieg has called his time at the firm his most “intellectually informing experience” and described it neutrally as simply “a place to learn.” Other previous McKinsey consultants have come away with a very different view of the controversial company, with one recently writing:

Working for all sides, McKinsey’s only allegiance is to capital. As capital’s most effective messenger, McKinsey has done direct harm to the world in ways that, thanks to its lack of final decision-making power, are hard to measure and, thanks to its intense secrecy, are hard to know.

The firm’s willingness to work with despotic governments and corrupt business empires is the logical conclusion of seeking profit at all costs. Its advocacy of the primacy of the market has made governments more like businesses and businesses more like vampires. By claiming that they solve the world’s hardest problems, McKinsey shrinks the solution space to only those that preserve the status quo.”

In addition to working with “despotic governments” like Saudi Arabia, McKinsey also regularly works for Israel’s government and military. For instance, McKinsey was given $27 million in 2011 to help “streamline” the Israeli military. McKinsey claimed that it had offered its services to Israel at a steep 36 percent discount. Then, a year later, McKinsey was tasked with reviewing Israel’s police force and determined that Israel did not have enough police patrolling its streets and “lagged” behind other countries in terms of police deployment. Furthermore, the company itself has a large presence in Israel, where it “works across all major sectors of Israel’s economy.”

Buttigieg’s connection to McKinsey, and his decidedly neutral view of the firm, have been largely glossed over in the coverage of his candidacy, despite the controversial nature of the company, which was recently revealed to have advised a leading pharmaceutical company on how to “turbocharge” the sales of opioids to Americans, despite the country’s severe opioid addiction and overdose crisis.

More “hope” and “change”

Buttigieg, like several other 2020 contenders for the Democratic nomination, has thus far built his campaign on platitudes and progressive “values” without providing policy plans that back them up. Indeed, Buttigieg is routinely evasive when pressed on any specific policies he champions. When recently asked to specify policies he supports by VICE, the former South Bend, Indiana mayor stated that “Right now I think we need to articulate the values, lay out our philosophical commitments and then develop policies off of that. And I’m working very hard not to put the cart before the horse.”

This same tactic, of promoting “values” and platitudes and failing to run on any policy, has become common in the 2020 field as other candidates who have received fawning media coverage — like Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke — have also built their campaign on platitudes and varying degrees of identity politics. It should come as no surprise, then, that Buttigieg has recently been compared to Barack Obama in several mainstream profiles. After all, Obama built much of his campaign on platitudes (i.e., “hope” and “change”) and vague policy positions as opposed to specific, detailed policy proposals.

Buttigieg’s decision to not promote any specific policy has allowed him to become a policy chameleon, and his stance on foreign policy, including Israel and Palestine, is no exception. As an example, Buttigieg has claimed that the Trump administration’s minimal efforts to reduce the number and intensity of “forever wars” has been “largely good,” even though he opposes Trump’s recent calls for a withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria. Yet the epitome of the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce “forever wars” has been its calls for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria.

Buttigieg’s evasiveness and contradictory statements on foreign policy are all the more telling because such evasiveness is not due to a lack of knowledge on the subject. Indeed, Buttigieg wrote his undergraduate thesis on U.S. foreign policy. This suggests that his evasiveness on these issues since becoming a candidate for the presidency is instead based on political expediency.

Buttigieg’s past comments on Israel and Syria are compounded by a recent statement he made via Twitter that reads: “I did not carry an assault weapon around a foreign country so I could come home and see them used to massacre my countrymen.” The tweet was heavily criticized by anti-war voices on social media for its implication that it is perfectly fine to carry assault weapons as part of an occupying force in a foreign country, but not OK to carry those assault weapons domestically.

This troubling double standard suggests that Buttigieg, despite being a veteran, supports U.S. military adventurism abroad. This is further supported by his past position at the Cohen Group, a consulting firm founded by former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, a “moderate Republican” who oversaw the U.S.’ role in the NATO bombing of Kosovo.

In a crowded 2020 field and with mainstream media heavily promoting his candidacy, it is essential that all Americans take the time to research the past statements and positions of a candidate like Buttigieg, as opposed to merely relying on media-generated hype and statements made only after the establishment of one’s candidacy. The U.S., a country undeniably at a crossroads, cannot afford any candidate who cloaks his or her actual opinions and policies in platitudes and evasive or even contradictory language. Thus, a candidate’s past and track record are increasingly important, yet overlooked, aspects in a 2020 race that will have important implications for the country moving forward.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Majority of Scottish Public Opinion Opposed to Nuclear Weapons on West Coast’

Sputnik – April 4, 2019

Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found that the storage of obsolete nuclear submarines has cost the UK taxpayer £500m because of “dismal” failings in the government’s nuclear-decommissioning program. Sputnik spoke about it to Arthur West, the Chair of Scotland’s CND.

Sputnik: Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found that the storage of obsolete nuclear submarines has cost the UK taxpayer £500m because of “dismal” failings in the government’s nuclear-decommissioning program. How significant are these findings?

Arthur West: The figures are remarkably high, unfortunately, it’s not that surprising given the Ministry of Defence’s track record. Certainly, it’s very worrying from a health and safety point of view, but it’s also very worrying about the east coast possibility getting out of hand in the future. So, there obviously has to be some action taken and taken pretty quickly.

Sputnik: What effect will this have on efforts for nuclear disarmament both in the public and political consciousness?

Arthur West: Yes, I think one of the main reasons for getting rid of nuclear weapons is not only the cost of maintaining but then the cost of disposing of them, the submarines and the nuclear waste material left over. So I do actually think this will emphasize to the public the cost and that I think might see most people questioning whether we actually need to renew the current range of nuclear weapons that we’ve got that the government seem intent on doing.

Sputnik: From a Scottish perspective the arguments are very different from the ones in England. Could we see a massive shift in public opinion going forwards across the whole of Britain rather than just say Scotland on the West Coast?

Arthur West: Yeah, I think that could be the case. Obviously, it’s very much an issue for ourselves because 25 miles down the road from our biggest city we have these nuclear weapons, these weapons of mass destruction, and it’s an astonishing and sad fact of life but that obviously helps to galvanize in the majority and the evidence is there. A majority of Scottish public opinion is opposed to these nuclear weapons. I think these revelations over the cost and the difficulties of disposing of the waste will bring further people to our position across the UK. It certainly encourages us to double our efforts to stop the replacement of the current nuclear weapons and get rid of them completely.

Read also:

UK Nuclear Submarine Almost Crashes Into Passenger Ferry in Irish Sea – Reports

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Gangster Economics Against Huawei & Nordstream 2

By Caleb Maupin – New Eastern Outlook – 04.04.2019

Many Americans base their entire view of the world, and their understanding of the relationship of the United States to other countries, on the contents of a college-level “Economics 101” course. They view the world market as a land of “free competition” in which different countries and international corporations “compete.” They then believe that consumers, communities and countries “vote with their dollars” rewarding the best products and services.

In this delusional fantasy, championed by figures like as George Soros and Anne-Marie Slaughter as an ideal “Open International Market,” the United States and western countries occupy their dominant position, simply because they are the best. The products and services offered by western financial institutions and international corporations are simply superior to those found anywhere else. This delusional fantasy goes on to present the western financial elite as somehow mentoring and assisting the world, by helping it “develop” and perhaps someday be more like the superior west.

The “Energy Dominance” Scheme

Those who argue that this western narrative is false have no greater confirmation than the recent actions of the US government. The response to Nordstream 2 pipeline and the recent crackdown on Huawei technologies confirms that the US government has no interest in free competition among international corporations.

Nordstream 2 is a natural gas pipeline that is currently under construction, scheduled to be completed later this year. It will enable Russia’s state-run energy corporations to sell natural gas to countries inside the European Union. The people in various EU countries favor the construction of Nordstream 2, because it will expand and ad greater convenience to their access of Russian natural gas.

However, in the United States, the Trump administration is joined by Democratic Party “resistance” leaders in demanding that the people of Germany and other European nations not purchase gas from Russia. They foolishly demand that the European community purchase gas from the United States, and import it across the Atlantic Ocean.

It is simple common sense to know that importing natural gas from across the planet will be far more expensive for central Europe than simply pumping it over the border from Russia. However, in a shrill atmosphere of hysteria, invoking all kinds of unrelated issues and allegations against the Russian government, the US political establishment is talking of sanctions and other means of coercing the European public into buying their gas.

While US leaders invoke human rights-based criticism of the Russian government, the hypocrisy is obvious. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a brutal autocracy that beheads and tortures, remains a top business partner of the United States in both the energy and weapons markets. The brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has not changed this relationship, which Trump openly defended on a purely financial basis.

The goal of making money for American energy corporations and weakening Russian energy corporations, their competitors, is not even carefully concealed. The White House openly speaks of “Energy Dominance” as the basis for its policy, and speaks of how protecting the profits US-based oil and gas firms is its blatant intention.

The Anti-China Smartphone War

Are the Germans, Belgians, and other European people’s not free to “vote with their dollars” and chose where to purchase their oil and gas? Apparently, the “open international system” is not so open when geopolitical rivals of Wall Street monopolists are involved.

The same rhetoric and methods are being used to try and strong arm countries around the world, and demand that they do not purchase Huawei telecommunications technology from China. Huawei is the largest telecommunications manufacturer in the world. It is an integral part of the market-socialist model developed by Deng Xiaoping and now adjusted and advanced by Xi Jinping.

Huawei phones have longer battery life, better cameras, and more durable, longer lasting hardware than American made phones. All across the world, in places like India, Latin America, and various African countries, the public has selected to buy these cheaper and higher quality phones. The profits of Apple have recently dropped as Huawei’s products have become the choice of more and more consumers around the globe and within China.

However, US leaders once again are demanding that people around the world do not “vote with their dollars” and pick the superior phone. If the free market logic were to apply, US leaders would simply urge American manufacturers to be more competitive. Instead, US leaders continue to demand that countries like Poland and Bulgaria stop doing business with Huawei technologies.

Within the United States, Americans have been prevented from “voting with their dollars” and purchasing the P20, a cutting edge new phone released by the Chinese manufacturer. A whole list of Chinese smartphones are now banned as a supposed national security risk.

US leaders allege that smartphones manufactured by Chinese corporations are a threat to national security because these entities have ties to the Chinese military and government. This claim is rather hypocritical as Apple, AT&T, Verizon, and other American telecommunications companies have not even bothered to conceal their relationship with the US intelligence agencies.

US phones are no  less a “military” or “intelligence” threat than Chinese phones are. To expect the Chinese Communist Party, which essentially created Huawei Technologies, to not maintain a relationship with this telecom giant is a ridicules demand.

Not Gentlemanly Business but Gangsterism

More than the “free competition” and “open international system” they advocate, American leaders, seem to be embracing the economic philosophy of Mafia gangsters. Much like criminals operating a protection racquet, US leaders claim that certain countries around the world are their “turf.” They demand that their competitors be locked out, and scramble to impose “consequences” on those who would get in their way.

US leaders are themselves discrediting the very ideology they have spread across the world. They are revealing that in truth, “free competition” is a delusion and that governments tend to rig things in favor of their wealthy paymasters and do their bidding. The mantra of “free competition” has been utilized to restrain developing countries and potential competitors, but US leaders are happy to disregard it and protect the global “turf” of the Wall Street and Silicon Valley monopolies.

The truth is that the richest of the rich in the United States did not acquire their wealth by mere personal sacrifice and brilliance, and the western world did not acquire its place in the world through gentlemanly business practices.

In the 21st Century, countries across the world have rejected these free market delusions and utilized their own governments to construct state-controlled economies to eliminate poverty and raise living standards. Huawei, like Russia’s Gazprom and Rosneft, are the result of economic innovations, in which post-Cold War governments took action to control the economy on behalf of the population.

Unlike so many of the working class people in western countries, the populations of Russia and China have not been left behind in the process of building up these super-corporations. As the two Eurasian superpowers emerged in the 20th century, not due to free markets, but due to socialist central planning, millions were lifted from poverty.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics | Leave a comment

US Ambassador to NATO: We Will Guarantee Passage of Ukrainian Warships Through Crimea Waters

If you want a war with Russia, that’s how you start one

By Marko Marjanović | Check Point Asia | April 4, 2019

The not-very-smart lady who last October put Russians “on notice” that US was looking at “taking out” Russian intermediate-range missiles in a pre-emptive strike, is at it again. This time she is promising NATO will guarantee Ukrainian Navy ships can pass through the Kerch Strait between mainland Russia and Crimea, which since 2014 Russia considers along with Crimea its own territory.

It is as much as saying NATO will guarantee Ukrainian army can return to Crimea. There isn’t any doubt either than Hutchinson is talking about Ukrainian warships (Russians do not interfere with the passage of merchant ships) seeing she says this is specifically in response to the November crisis where Russians prevented Ukrainian Navy vessels from making the passage:

“I think that we have been working on a package to present to the foreign ministers, and it is a package that beefs up the surveillance, both air surveillance as well as more of the NATO country ships going into the Black Sea to assure that there is safe passage from Ukrainian vessels through the Kerch Straits, the Sea of Azov,” she said.

The US representative commented that at present “more attention is needed to guarantee that these waters are liberated” and that the countries in the region are “free from Russian interference”.

Russia has been deploying defensive weapons in Crimea, but Crimea is part of Ukraine,” Hutchison remarked.

“It is very important that the inhabitants of Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Georgia feel at home in the Black Sea zone, both in the water and on land,” she said, adding that the package of measures is a response to November’s Kerch Strait incident.

It is unacceptable that Ukrainian sailors are being held in prison in Moscow. We must ensure that we have the ability to restrain Russia’s aggression,” she remarked.

The truth is that NATO can guarantee no such thing, if the Kiev government organizes another attempt to force the entry without filing a request with the Russians, the Russians will fire once again. But it is reckless to talk as if NATO intends to organize or back such an attempt.

The Russian reaction was sheer disbelief somebody could be so saying something so stupid and inflammatory:

“In a negative light,” he [Putin’s spokesman Peskov] said when asked how Kremlin viewed such statements. “We do not understand what that means.”

It is worrying that Americans have some many people in important positions who do not comprehend the consequences of what they are proposing.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 3 Comments

Russiagate ‘patient zero’ Papadopoulos expects Mueller probe fiasco to expose deep state conspiracy

RT | April 2, 2019

With the Mueller investigation over and the Russiagate DOA, George Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign energy adviser, told RT he hopes the truth about the alleged deep state conspiracy will soon come out.

Lamenting the “disinformation” encircling the Trump campaign and Russia over the past three years, Papadopoulos explains that the only reasons the Trump team ever wanted to work with Russia were to stabilize Syria and Ukraine – and “to assure that Russia and China do not align in this devastating geopolitical alliance which will probably have many unpredictable consequences for the US in Europe and in Asia.”

But they never even got a chance to make any Russian connections, Papadopoulos says, adding that he was contacted by Israeli, Australian, and American intelligence – all of whom were interested in his “high-level connections in the Middle East” – but no Russians.

“It goes to the core of how corrupt the Mueller investigation really was, into supposed Russian interference when no one on the Trump campaign and the transition team was even dealing with Russians,” Papadopoulos said. “I’ve never met a Russian… official in my entire life, and somehow I find myself in the middle of a fake Russian conspiracy!”

The Mueller investigation zeroed in on Papadopoulos’ contact with Joseph Mifsud and Alexander Downer, both of whom the media portrayed as “Russian intermediaries” but whom Papadopoulos believes were working with the FBI, “dropping information in my lap that I did not want regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails in the hands of the Russians.” Papadopoulos even went so far as to report Downer to the FBI “because I thought he was spying on me.”

“The truth is going to be out there” when Trump declassifies the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) documents, Papadopoulos predicts. “It’s probably going to show the Obama administration, with the aid of both the Australian government and the UK government, were coordinating and laying various traps for the Trump campaign to essentially undermine us and that’s what they did for the last two years.”

Papadopoulos, who calls himself “Patient Zero of the Russian conspiracy,” was the first Trump affiliate to be indicted under the Mueller investigation and served 14 days in prison for making false statements to the FBI.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

VIPS Urge Trump to Avoid War in Venezuela

Consortium News | April 4, 2019

VIPS warn that Trump’s policies regarding Venezuela appear to be on a slippery slope that could take us toward war in Venezuela and military confrontation with Russia.

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Avoiding War with Russia over Venezuela

Mr. President:

Your Administration’s policies regarding Venezuela appear to be on a slippery slope that could take us toward war in Venezuela and military confrontation with Russia. As former intelligence officers and other national security practitioners with many decades of experience, we urge you not to let yourself be egged on into taking potentially catastrophic military action in response to civil unrest in Venezuela or Russian activities in the Western Hemisphere. With the recent arrival of two transport aircraft and enduring political support for the government of Venezuela, the Russians are far from crossing any “red line” emanating from the 1823 Monroe Doctrine.

Unfulfilled Objectives in Venezuela

Inside Venezuela, U.S. actions have failed to do more than plunge the country into deeper crisis, cause greater human suffering, and increase the prospects of violence on a national scale. President Maduro’s mishandling of the economy and authoritarian reactions to provocations are impossible to defend, but they result in part from the fact that he has been under siege since he was first elected in 2013 and has faced sanctions aimed ultimately at removing him from office. In our view, the advice you’ve received from your top advisors – Florida Senator Marco Rubio, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Special Representative Elliott Abrams, and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo – was and apparently continues to be wrong.

  • Recognition of Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as “interim president” did not prompt the military to rise up against President Maduro. Neither did attacking the officer corps as merely corrupt opportunists and drug-traffickers enriched through loyalty to former President Chávez and Maduro, nor did repeatedly threatening them with harsher sanctions. Those actions reflected a fundamental misunderstanding about the Venezuelan military, which has never been free of corruption and political compromise but has also never been so totally isolated from the Venezuelan people that it hasn’t felt their suffering. U.S. policies incorrectly assumed that the officers – while probably fed up with Maduro’s shortcomings – would support Guaidó despite his faction’s commitment to dismantle Chavismo, which most officers believe brought historically necessary changes to the country, including enfranchisement of the poor.

Similarly, your Administration’s repeated hints at military intervention have been counterproductive to your regime-change objectives. Your policy and intelligence advisors were correct in interpreting the disparate polling data showing popular support for Guaidó as actually being support for the U.S. to extricate the country from its crisis – the National Assembly President was a political unknown until the United States and others recognized his claim to the Presidency – but your team showed a lack of understanding of Venezuelan nationalism. Venezuelans do not welcome the destruction that would be caused by U.S. military attack; they recall the death toll of Operation Just Cause, when the United States killed more than 3,000 Panamanians (by its own count) to remove one corrupt authoritarian, Manuel Noriega. Threats of invasion have pushed people to circle around Maduro, however reluctantly, not reject him.

  • Your Administration’s strategy of punishing the Venezuelan people, including apparently knocking out their electricity, seems based on the false assumption that humanitarian crisis will prompt a coup to remove Maduro. In fact, the U.S. sanctions have allowed Maduro to shift blame from his own failings to U.S. malice – and it has left Guaidó, whom your advisors portray as the moral equivalent of our Founders, looking like a sell-out to Yankee imperialists at the cost of the Venezuelan people’s health and welfare and magnified civil disorder.

Lost Opportunity for Diplomacy

Senator Rubio, Mr. Bolton, Mr. Abrams, and Mr. Pompeo have also squandered a formidable moment to build on common values with allies in Latin America and Europe. Even though most Latin Americans find your aides’ public assertion that the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well to be insulting, the right-leaning Presidents of most of South and Central America rallied with you to support Guaidó’s self-proclamation. But Guaidó’s lack of leadership – he appears totally scripted by U.S. Government agencies – his inflexibility on negotiations, his open call for U.S. military intervention, and your own Administration’s dangling threat of war are rapidly alienating all but the most subservient to U.S. policy dictates. Negotiation proposals, such as those being developed by the International Contact Group, are gaining momentum.

Internationalizing the Conflict

National Security Advisor Bolton and others have sought to internationalize the Venezuela issue since before Guaidó’s proclamation. Bolton’s reference to a “Troika of Tyranny” in November – which he called “a triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua” and “sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere” – was a veiled Cold War-era swipe at Russia and China. Mr. Bolton, Senator Rubio, and other advisors have made clear on numerous occasions that the overthrow of President Maduro would be just the first stage in efforts to eliminate the current governments of the “Troika” and “Communist influence” in the Western Hemisphere.

  • They have repeatedly asserted that Cuban advisors have been crucial to the Maduro government’s survival without providing evidence. Indeed, the reportedly “hundreds” of Venezuelan military defectors, including many managed by U.S. agencies, have not provided even credible hearsay evidence that Cubans are doing more than providing routine assistance. In addition, the threats coming out of Washington have preempted any willingness that Cuba might have had to contribute to a regional solution to the Venezuelan crisis as it has in similar situations, such as Colombia’s recent peace process, the Angola peace process in 1989-90, and the Central American negotiations in the early 1990s.

Provocative Rhetoric about Russia

Most dangerous, however, are aggressive statements about Russia’s engagement with Venezuela. Russian oil companies, particular Rosneft, have long been in Venezuela – bailing out the Venezuelan petroleum company (PDVSA) as its mismanagement and falling oil prices have caused production and revenues to plummet. Most long-term observers believe Rosneft’s decisions, including throwing good money after bad, have been motivated by business calculations, without a particularly ideological objective.

  • Your advisors’ rhetoric imposing an East-West spin on the issue presented President Putin and his advisors an opportunity to try to poke the United States in the eye – especially as Administration efforts to remove Maduro foundered and diplomatic support for Guaidó cracked. Maduro and Putin have not enjoyed particularly close personal relations in the past, and their shared strategic interests are few, but U.S. rhetoric and threats have given them common cause in tweaking us. A meeting in Rome between your special envoy, Elliot Abrams, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov achieved nothing amid further U.S. sanctions against Venezuela and continued threats that “all options” were on the table.

Publicly available information is insufficient for us to know exactly what was aboard the two Russian aircraft that landed at Maiquetía last week – two months after your Administration publicly proclaimed its intention to remove Maduro – but precedent suggests Moscow had two main objectives.

  • One, and probably primary, is to embarrass your Administration by defying your rhetoric, just to rub your nose in Moscow’s sovereign right to have the relations, including military liaison, with whomever it pleases. In this sense, Russian behavior resembles its intervention, at Bashar al-Assad’s request, in Syria. And it is not a far cry from Moscow’s reaction to the Western-supported coup in Kiev.
  • Another objective, if press speculation about the Russian advisors and equipment aboard the aircraft is correct, would be to shore up Venezuela’s ability to warn of and respond to a U.S. military strike. Your Administration has publicly asserted that the Russians are helping repair S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, which have a purely defensive purpose. There is no evidence, not even circumstantial, that Russia has any offensive objectives in this relationship.

The U.S. reaction has suggested a much greater chance of military confrontation. Mr. Bolton “strongly caution[ed] actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations.” Without defining what activities he would object to, Mr. Bolton said, “We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region.” Your Special Representative said the “Russian presence” is “extremely pernicious.” Your Secretary of State said, “Russia’s got to leave Venezuela.” You said, “Russia has to get out” and reiterated that “all options are open” – including presumably forcing the Russians out militarily. And we note that Russia has not closed its embassy in Caracas as your Administration has.

Avoiding the Slippery Slope

As intelligence officers and security experts, we have given many years to protecting our nation from a host of threats, including from the Soviet Union. We also believe, however, that picking fights. including ousting governments, blocking negotiated settlements, and threatening other countries’ sovereign decision to pursue activities that do not threaten our national security – is rarely the wise way to go.

We repeat that we are not defending Maduro and his record, while at the same time pointing out that many of his troubles have been exacerbated by U.S. policies and efforts to oust him. We believe that due process and practical, realistic policies better protect our national interests than threats and confrontational rhetoric. It strains credulity to believe that your advisors picked this fight with President Maduro without realizing that Venezuela would seek help fixing its defensive capabilities.

Moreover and very seriously, rhetoric challenging Russia could all too easily lead to a much more consequential confrontation.

  • Invoking the 1823 Monroe Doctrine is unhelpful. For Russia to provide assistance for purely defensive purposes to a country in which we seek to create regime change and threaten military attack would not be widely seen as violating the Monroe Doctrine or crossing a “red line.”
  • We realize that some in the media are trying to egg you on into taking forceful action, perhaps even of a military nature, to punish Russia in any case. We urge you not to fall into this trap. This is not 19th century Latin America, and it is a far cry from the Cuba missile crisis of 1962.
  • The best way to prevent dangerous miscalculation would be for you to speak directly with President Putin. Washington’s energies would be better spent clearing up differences, adjusting failed policies, and promoting a peaceful resolution in Venezuela.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Fulton Armstrong, former National Intelligence Officer for Latin America & former National Security Council Director for Inter-American Affairs (ret.)

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer & former Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (ret.)

Bogdan Dzakovic, Former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security, (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel,,former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

Larry Johnson, former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official, (ret.)

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, U.S. Army (ret.)

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Peter Van Buren,U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Sarah Wilton, Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve (ret.) and Defense Intelligence Agency (ret.)

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is made up of former intelligence officers, diplomats, military officers and congressional staffers. The organization, founded in 2002, was among the first critics of Washington’s justifications for launching a war against Iraq. VIPS advocates a US foreign and national security policy based on genuine national interests rather than contrived threats promoted for largely political reasons. An archive of VIPS memoranda is available at Consortiumnews.com.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

What Monroe Doctrine?

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 04.04.2019

Because there is a presidential election coming up next year, the Donald Trump Administration appears to be looking for a country that it can attack and destroy in order to prove its toughness and willingness to go all the way in support of alleged American interests. It is a version of the old neocon doctrine attributed to Michael Ledeen, the belief that every once in a while, it is necessary to pick out some crappy little country and throw it against the wall just to demonstrate that the United States means business.

“Meaning business” is a tactic whereby the adversary surrenders immediately in fear of the possible consequences, but there are a couple of problems with that thinking. The first is that an opponent who can resist will sometimes balk and create a continuing problem for the United States, which has a demonstrated inability to start and end wars in any coherent fashion.

This tendency to get caught in a quagmire in a situation that might have been resolved through diplomacy has been exacerbated by the current White House’s negotiating style, which is to both demand and expect submission on all points even before discussions begin. That was clearly the perception with North Korea, where National Security Advisor John Bolton insisted that Pyongyang had agreed to American demands over its nuclear program even though it hadn’t and would have been foolish to do so for fear of being treated down the road like Libya, which denuclearized but then was attacked and destroyed seven years later. The Bolton mis-perception, which was apparently bought into by Trump, led to a complete unraveling of what might actually have been accomplished if the negotiations had been serious and open to reasonable compromise right from the beginning.

Trump’s written demand that Kim Jong Un immediately hand over his nuclear weapons and all bomb making material was a non-starter based on White House misunderstandings rooted in its disdain for compromise. The summit meeting with Trump, held in Hanoi at the end of February, was abruptly canceled by Kim and Pyongyang subsequently accused Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of making “gangster-like” demands.

The second problem is that there are only a few actual casus belli situations under international law that permit a country to attack another preemptively, and they are usually limited to actual imminent threats. The current situation with Venezuela is similar to that with North Korea in that Washington is operating on the presumption that it has a right to intervene and bring about regime change, using military force if necessary, because of its presumed leadership role in global security, not because Caracas or even Pyongyang necessarily is threatening anyone. That presumption that American “exceptionalism” provides authorization to intervene in other countries using economic weapons backed up by a military option that is “on the table” is a viewpoint that is not accepted by the rest of the world.

In the case of Venezuela, where Trump has dangerously demanded that Russia withdraw the hundred or so advisors that it sent to help stabilize the country, the supposition that the United States has exclusive extra-territorial rights is largely based on nineteenth and early twentieth century unilaterally declared “doctrines.” The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 and the Roosevelt Corollary of 1904 de facto established the United States as the hegemon-presumptive for the entire Western Hemisphere, stretching from the Arctic Circle in the north to Patagonia in the south.

John Bolton has been the leader in promoting the Monroe Doctrine as justification for Washington’s interference in Venezuela’s politics, apparently only dimly aware that the Doctrine, which opposed any attempts by European powers to establish new colonies in the Western Hemisphere, was only in effect for twenty-two years when the United States itself annexed Texas and then went to war with Mexico in the following year. The Mexican war led to the annexation of territory that subsequently became the states of California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. In the same year, the United States threatened war with Britain over the Oregon Territory, eventually accepting a border settlement running along the 49th parallel.

Meanwhile the march westward across the plains continued, forcing the Indian tribes back into ever smaller spaces of open land. The US government in the nineteenth century recognized some Indian tribes as “nations” but it apparently did not believe that they enjoyed any explicit “Monroe Doctrine” rights to continue to exist outside reservations when confronted by the “manifest destiny” proponents who were hell bent on creating a United States that would run from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

The Roosevelt Corollary of 1904 amended the Monroe Doctrine, making it clear that the United States believed it had a right to interfere in any country in the western Hemisphere to maintain good order, which inevitably led to exploitation of Latin American nations by US business conglomerates that could count on a little help from US Marines if their trade agreements were threatened. In 1898, Washington became explicitly imperialist when it defeated Spain and acquired effective control over Cuba, a number of Caribbean Islands and the Philippines. This led to a series of more than thirty interventions by the US military in the Caribbean and Central America between 1898 and 1934. Other states in the region that were not directly controlled by Washington were frequently managed through arrangements with local autocrats, who were often themselves generals.

Make no mistake, citing the Monroe Doctrine is little more than a plausible excuse to get rid of the Venezuelan government, which is legitimate, like it or not. The recent electrical blackouts in the country are only the visible signs of an aggressive campaign to destroy the Venezuelan economy. The United States is engaging in economic warfare against Caracas, just as it is doing against Tehran, and it is past time that it should be challenged by the international community over its behavior. Guns may not be firing but covert cyberwarfare is total warfare nevertheless, intended to starve people and increase their suffering in order to bring about economic collapse and take down a government to change it into something more amenable to American interests.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey Says US Failed to Report True Content of Pompeo Talk

Al-Manar | April 4, 2019

Turkey on Thursday accused the US State Department of making false claims after a meeting between top US and Turkish diplomats to discuss tense ties between the NATO allies.

Washington and Ankara are at odds over issues including US support for a Syrian Kurdish militia and Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile system over US objections.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks on Wednesday during the Turkish official’s visit to Washington as part of 70th anniversary celebrations of the NATO alliance.

The US State Department said Pompeo had warned Ankara of “devastating consequences” if Turkey launches an offensive in Syria and urged the “swift resolution” of legal cases involving US citizens and US mission employees under investigation in Turkey.

Pompeo also pressed Cavusoglu about Turkey’s plans to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, which Washington has warned could put Ankara at risk of US sanctions, the State Department said in a statement.

But Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Thursday that the readout “not only fails to reflect the content of the meeting, but also contains matters that were not even raised during said meeting”.

It was not clear what “matters” Aksoy was referring to in his statement and foreign ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

Aksoy said similar problems had arisen after previous talks, and urged statements to be prepared with “greater care”.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment