Aletho News


Hating on Trump

It could be about Israel

Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • March 8, 2016

Now we all know that many of those who are hating on Donald Trump are doing so because he is threatening the cozy-crony-politico-predatory-capitalist system that has made so many of them fat and rich. He is intending to break their rice bowls as the Chinese would put it or, in a more American vernacular, the gravy train might be ending. To be sure The Donald is warning that he will do just that, even if he will find in practice, if elected, that turning the ship of state around might well be a task beyond the ability of any aspirant to the presidency.

But while pure self-interest might well be driving many of the chattering nonentities that populate our congress and the senior political appointee ranks in government there is something nevertheless extraordinary in the level of venom and sheer hatred that is being spewed at random about a potential Trump administration. It is not uncommon to read or hear that Trump is seeking to overturn the Constitution of the United States and establish a dictatorship that will promote his allegedly warped views of what must be done to correct America’s domestic and foreign policies, suggesting that our form of government is so fragile that it can be subverted by one man.

The anger directed against Trump is unique, one might note, as it also includes demands to somehow overturn the popular will expressed in primaries and caucuses to obtain a candidate that is more in tune with what the Republican establishment is seeking to promote as the “national consensus.” That Trump is voicing an overwhelming American middle class perspective on the evils of mass illegal immigration matters not a whit to the Mandarins whose only concerns on that issue center on the availability of a supply of cheap labor to clean their McMansions and swimming pools.

The anti-Trump effort is being well funded, has included notable defections to the Democratic Party, has led to lists of Republican politicians who will not accept a Trump nomination or support a President Trump, and has even produced calls for a third party neo-Republican entity to run against him. Some other reactions are stupid, including Canadian neocon Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, calling for even more immigrants to the U.S., while talk radio extremist Glenn Beck has tweeted that if he had a knife and were able to get close to Trump he would have to keep on stabbing him.

To be sure, Trump has provided considerable fuel for the fire through his extraordinary ad libs about banning Muslims from the U.S., killing the families of terrorists and using torture. But mainstream politicians have already recommended and even done that much and more without the level of censure that Trump is receiving. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have engaged in widespread killing of civilians, torture and assassinating families of suspected militants, to include American citizens, without any of the invective being leveled at Trump.

Indeed, Trump would appear to have a more sensible foreign policy in mind, consisting of avoiding unnecessary wars and “regime changes,” honoring the multilateral negotiated agreement with Iran, engaging diplomatically even with heads of state that we consider to be adversaries and encouraging Russia to fight ISIS. His three current opponents have recommended “carpet bombing” areas controlled by ISIS, fusing Syrian sand into nuclear radiating glass, provoking wars with both Russia and China, arming Ukraine, punching Vladimir Putin in the nose and sending in thousands of American soldiers to the Middle East. They are not in the least bothered by fattening up the already fat national security state with trillions more dollars while domestic needs go unaddressed. So who is the crazy one?

But there is one significant difference between Trump and the “establishment,” be they Democrats or Republicans that has not been highlighted. I would suggest that quite a lot of the depth and intensity of what we are experiencing is actually about Israel. Trump is the first high level politician aspirant within living memory to challenge the notion that the United States must stand by Israel no matter what Israel does. Even while affirming his affection for Israel, he has said that Washington must be even handed in its efforts to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, implying that Tel Aviv might have to make concessions.

Trump has also added insult to injury by delinking himself from the blandishments of Jewish political mega-donors, who largely call the tune for many in the GOP and among the Democrats, by telling them he doesn’t need their money and can’t be bought. His comments have challenged conventional interest group politicking in American and have predictably produced a firestorm reaction in the usual circles. Robert Kagan announced that he would be supporting Hillary, who famously has declared that she would immediately call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon taking office as a first step in moving the relationship with Tel Aviv to “the next level.” It is to be presumed that Kagan and his fellow neocons will be experiencing a welcoming vibe from at least some of the Democrats as the neoconservatives have always been liberals at heart on nearly all issues except foreign policy, rooted by them in the “unshakable and bipartisan bond” with Israel.

It is my opinion that the “I” word should be banned from American political discourse. Ironically, many American Jews are themselves uneasy about the place occupied by Israel in ongoing political debates, recognizing that it is both unhealthy in a democracy and reflective only of the extreme views of the hardline members of their own diaspora community. It is also unpleasantly all about Jews and money since the Republicans and other mouthpieces now piling on Trump are motivated largely by their own sinecures and the Sheldon Adelson type donations that might be forthcoming to the politically savvy candidates who say the right things about the conflict in the Middle East.

Slate’s Isaac Chotiner has noted a particularly odd speech by Senator Marco Rubio in which he spoke of his single electoral triumph in Minnesota before immediately jumping to the issue of Israel, as if on cue or by rote. It is a tendency that is not unique to him. I read through the transcript of the GOP debate that preceded Rubio’s sole victory, which in part reflected a competition to see who could promise to do most for Israel. Senator Ted Cruz stated that he “would stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel… and the alliance with Israel.” Governor John Kasich declared that he’s “been a supporter of Israel – a strong supporter of Israel longer than anyone on this stage.” Senator Marco Rubio indicated that “I will be on Israel’s side every single day because they are the only pro-American, free enterprise democracy in the entire Middle East.” Ben Carson called Israel not only a strategic partner but also an element in America’s “Judeo Christian foundation” that can never be rejected.

Quite a few assertions about Israel made by politicians are, of course, nonsense. It is not in alliance with the United States and is not a democracy for starters, but the real question becomes why is Israel part of the debate at all? It is because of concerns that the deep pocketed donors like Sheldon Adelson will join his good friend Haim Saban in funding Hillary if candidates do not say what he expects to hear. Saban has referred to Trump as a “clown” and attacked him because he would be “dangerous for Israel.”

And then there is the recent attack of the Beltway Midgets, a “a strongly worded letter” orchestrated by Eliot Cohen, a former Condoleezza Rice State Department appointee whose attachment to Israel might well be regarded as demented, that attracted the signatures of more than one hundred self-described GOP foreign policy “leaders,” declaring that “We are unable to support a party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head.” Quite a few of the signatories are well known neocons, including Max Boot, Robert Zoellick, Michael Chertoff, Eric Edelman, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Daniel Pipes, Michael Rubin, Kori Schake, Randy Scheunemann, Gary Schmitt, Ray Takeyh and Philip Zelikow. Boot has vilified Trump as “emerging as the number one threat to American security.” All the signatories were passionate supporters of the Iraq War, which Trump has correctly disparaged as a catastrophic foreign policy failure, and all of them are describable as strong supporters of Israel.

The friends of Benjamin Netanyahu in the United States rightly fear that someday the American people and government will come to their senses and regard Israel as just another friendly foreign state, without any “special relationship” attached. To counter that possibility, the lashing out against any public figure who dares to criticize Israel is both immediate and visceral. Note, for example, the fate of former President Jimmy Carter who was virtually excommunicated by the Democratic Party after he condemned Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.

But what the neocon subset of Israel’s powerful lobby fears most is something quite different – becoming irrelevant. They have weathered being wrong about nearly everything but what they particularly fear is finding themselves without a major political party whose foreign policy they can manipulate because that would cut off their funding from defense contractors and pro-Israel zealots. They will have to give up the emoluments that they have accumulated since hijacking the GOP under Ronald Reagan. They might have to abandon their corner offices and secretaries and could even have to find real jobs. And what would the Sunday morning talk shows be like without the Cheshire cat grin of Bill Kristol?

The end of the hypocrisy driven neocon ascendancy in foreign policy will be welcomed by many. Dan McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute has described the Trump hating neocons as “… soft skinned and well-perfumed keyboard warriors who eagerly send America’s sons and daughters to be slaughtered in wars that achieve nothing but the ascendance of new ‘bad guys’ used to justify ever more wars. And all of it pays very nicely for them.” Exactly.

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Will the World Bank Stop Investing in Campesino Assassinations?

By Arthur Phillips | CEPR Americas Blog | March 8, 2013

On February 27, the office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) for the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) launched an audit of the lending arm’s $30 million investment in Tegucigalpa-based Corporación Dinant, which produces palm oil and food products. The audit comes in response to widespread claims of violence, intimidation, and illegal evictions carried out by Dinant’s private security guards in Honduras’ Bajo Aguán valley, the center of the country’s ongoing land struggle. In offering its resources and reputation to the company, the World Bank and its member countries are complicit in the deaths of countless innocent farmers.

The COA’s review began just two days after the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries urged the Honduran government “to properly investigate and prosecute crimes committed by private security guards and to ensure that victims receive effective remedies.” A delegation from the Working Group was in the country from February 18 to 22, when it met with government officials and representatives of civil society and the private sector, including security firms. The delegates voiced their particular concern about the “alleged involvement of private security companies hired by landowners in widespread human rights violations including killings, disappearances, forced evictions and sexual violence against representatives of peasant associations in the Bajo Aguán region.” Dinant is the largest single landholder in the region.

An appointed panel of unnamed experts is currently convened in Washington, D.C., to review both the IFC’s adherence to its social and environmental policies and the role Dinant has played in the abuses. Many human rights observers consider the company’s owner, Miguel Facussé, to be one of the country’s most powerful men and hold him responsible for the killings of dozens of campesinos.

The audit had been a long time coming. On November 19, 2010, the human rights organization Rights Action wrote a letter to the World Bank’s then-president Robert Zoellick demanding that the financial institution suspend its funding to Honduras. The group cited the “context of grave human rights abuses and lack of independence of the justice system” as grounds to withhold funding, and characterized support for Dinant as “a case of gross negligence of the World Bank’s human rights and due diligence obligations.” In the letter, Rights Action also noted that “at least 19 farmers in this region have been killed in the context of conflicts with biofuel industry interests.” (In a new report released two weeks ago, the same group declared that 88 farmers and their supporters have been killed in Bajo Aguán since January 2010, most of them in targeted assassinations.)

In the ensuing period, the office of the CAO maintained discussions with local civil society organizations and in April 2012, CAO Vice President Meg Taylor informed the IFC that her office was initiating an appraisal of the funding group’s investment in Dinant. That appraisal, having found sufficient grounds for further investigation, culminated this August in the decision to conduct the current audit.

A diverse group of international organizations, including Oxfam, Vía Campesina and the Latin American Working Group, welcomed CAO’s decision. In a co-signed letter, though, the groups expressed their firm demand that the IFC halt its financial cooperation with the palm oil company

until a) clear evidence is provided of significant progress in overcoming impunity of crimes and human rights abuses committed against organized peasants and their supporters in the Lower Aguán; and b) a comprehensive, just, peaceful and sustainable resolution is provided to the conflicts over land between the Corporación Dinant, the government of Honduras and the local peasant movements.

The panel is scheduled to conclude its audit on March 8.

On Friday, March 1, while the CAO panel gathered in Washington, journalist Carlos Augusto Lara Cruz was reportedly threatened by a Dinant employee while covering a confrontation between campesinos and a military unit. It must be noted that Honduran human rights defenders have consistently and credibly accused military and police units of collaborating with Dinant security guards in kidnapping, torturing, and murdering land rights activists.

One of the latest assassinations in the area took place on Thursday, February 21, when lawyer José Andrés Andrade Soto was shot dead in the town of Tocoa. Andrade Soto led the regional office of the National Agrarian Institute until former president Manuel Zelaya was deposed in the June 2009 coup. Today, farmer organizations continue to struggle for land titles that the Zelaya government granted to them shortly before it was overthrown.

As part of its Summary of Proposed Investment, written before the program’s approval in order to boost the institution’s transparency, the IFC described its cooperation with Dinant as an opportunity to help small farmers in Bajo Aguán. It also declared that there was no controversy regarding the land in question. “Land acquisition is on a willing buyer-willing seller basis, and there is no involuntary displacement of any people,” the report assured.

Since that report was published, scores of campesinos have been assassinated for efforts to re-appropriate their rightful land. The World Bank and its member countries bear some degree of responsibility for their deaths. No matter the outcome of the CAO audit, the IFC should apologize for the suffering in which it has been complicit and should immediately revoke its support for Facussé and Corporación Dinant.

March 8, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Will the World Bank Stop Investing in Campesino Assassinations?

An Englishman in Venezuela

By Paul Dobson | Morning Star | June 10, 2012

World Bank president Robert Zoellick said last week that the days of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were “numbered” economically and politically following a wave of nationalisations.

Zoellick spoke ominously of “an opportunity to make the western hemisphere the first democratic hemisphere” by exploiting Chavez’s hypothetical downfall to force “rapid policy changes” on other countries, naming Cuba and Nicaragua.

Without a trace of irony he talked of how the US could make Latin America “a place of democracy, development and dignity” rather than one of “coups, caudillos and cocaine.”

A bit rich from the country which organised the coups, bankrolled the caudillos and bought the cocaine for decades before the progressive movement spearheaded by Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution began to reshape the continent.

But Zoellick may be underestimating his target. The Bolivarian revolution has made tremendous gains for Venezuela’s democracy, development and dignity precisely by challenging the might of exploitative transnational companies. Here we can look at just one example – Venezuela v a British man nicknamed “Spam.”

Or to give him his full title, Samuel George Armstrong Vestey, third baron Vestey, lieutenant in the Scots Guards, peer, ex-chancellor and lord prior to the Order of St John of Jerusalem, deputy lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Master of the Horse of the Sovereign, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

He’s 27th in the Order of Preference for Gentlemen in the UK – a who’s who of the nobility – the ex-husband to Prince Harry’s godmother and owner of the 2,430-hectare Stowell Park estate in Gloucestershire. More importantly he’s the head of Vestey Group.

The group is a British foodstuff conglomerate founded in Liverpool in 1897, which made its fortune importing meat. It moved into Venezuela in 1903 and bought 11 ranches in prime-quality land (classified in the country as “A1,” the best possible for farming), setting up the Compania Inglesa subsidiary in the country which itself set up Agroflora, the cattle-ranching arm of the business.

The company did well, buying up land in a range of other countries from Australia to China and making vast profits for its owners William and Edmund Vestey. William managed to get ennobled as a baron despite opposition from King George V, who was irritated by his demand for tax-exempt status at the height of World War I.

When this demand was refused they went into tax exile in Argentina before setting up a dodgy if legal scheme involving a French trust fund that enabled them to evade almost all tax in Britain until the loophole was closed in 1991. A Sunday Times investigation once revealed that in 1978 the firm had managed to pay just £10 in tax on a profit of around £2.3 million.

They were at their height called “the richest dynasty in the land apart from the Windsors.” Biographer Philip Knightley wrote: “They did not live on the income, they did not live on the interest from their investments. They lived on the interest on the interest.”

Business and tax evasion went excellently for William’s successors until 2001, when the Chavez government passed a new land law allowing it to look into all landholdings of over 5,000 hectares and forcibly nationalise them with compensation if they were deemed inactive, idle or no project was presented for their development.

Spam had a problem – he owned over 420,000ha of land in Venezuela and over 130,000 head of cattle. Twelve of his ranches surpassed the 5,000ha mark. So he held a one-man protest outside Venezuela’s London embassy in February 2001.

Squatters began to settle on his lands and cultivate crops. Though they were making use of previously inactive land, there are reports of these landless farmers being shot at and even murdered by men allegedly paid off by Spam.

In 2005 things got even worse for the tycoon. The government sent troops into his Charcote ranch and confiscated 13,000 cattle. After coming to an agreement with the government Spam received the equivalent of £2.65m in local currency as compensation for two ranches he was forced to give up.

In 2008 there was controversy over the plight of 400 indigenous people who lived on his Morichito ranch. By the terms of the land contract they were literally owned by Spam.

In October 2010 he faced his biggest problem yet when Chavez declared: “All the lands of the so-called Compania Inglesa will be nationalised now. I don’t want to lose another day. Free the land, free the slave labour.”

That meant around 300,000ha of land, all his remaining ranches and 120,000 cattle.

The Central Bank immediately approved funds for buying up the ranches. Chavez pointed out: “We must recognise what is really private land, we’re not stealing it from anyone. Some companies like this insist we pay them in foreign money. No – we are in Venezuela.”

The ranches passed to the state and the jobs of the workers were guaranteed. Some land was distributed to those who lived or worked on it to set up co-operatives, some continues production under state administration and some areas are being restructured for crop rather than cattle-farming.

Spam said: “We have been in constructive discussions with the Venezuelan government for some time now and we continue in that vein in order to find a friendly agreement.”

These discussions went on for about a year. But in October 2011 talks fell apart over the payment issue and lands were ordered to be taken by force.

Spam was offered compensation in the overvalued local currency and no other, a total of 274m bolivars (£46m).

Poor Spam was left without a single ranch.

Many economists, landowners, cattle-ranchers and general bigwigs were up in arms over these land-grabs.

Many peasants, workers, patriots and general country folk supported them.

But the government pointed out that Spam’s deeds had not been in order – and that anyway if you went back far enough the land had been nicked off the people in the first place.

It also reminded us that 90 per cent of the meat produced on these ranches was to be sold in Britain. Venezuelan land, Venezuelan cattle, Venezuelan labour, but virtually no meat for Venezuela at a time when the country was importing 70 per cent of meat consumed.

That this was A1 fertile land – perfect for crop production, not cattle-ranching.

And finally that there were millions of Venezuelans without land, houses or businesses who could benefit from the lots of all three owned by the absentee landlord.

So 2011 was the year that concluded the story of Spam in Venezuela. But not to worry – the third baron Vestey’s colonial adventures continue in, among other places, Australia, Brazil and China.

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on An Englishman in Venezuela