Don’t just let it slip beneath your nose. Go maskless. Face the day. The shopping and other errands may not get done, but you’ll achieve even more with your time. Take yourself and others out of the comfort zone just a bit. You just might save America.
Even as states loosen or lift their mask mandates, private companies are holding fast to them. This juke move is causing too many conservatives and libertarians on the right to falter. Whereas in the former case, imposing masks on people was a violation of their rights, dignity, and the fundamental norms of civilization, the latter is seen as merely the exercise of property rights.
These free-market fundamentalists excuse the face covering mandates when handed down from a corporate office, because it’s not a government one. This intellectual cowardice undermines the very first premise of the free market, the indispensable cohesion and trust that must exist within a social order.
It should be obvious how mass masking tears at the fabric of society, to say nothing of the psychological effects on future generations. There can be no compromise on this matter, but some businesses are trying to find one. They require employees to mask up while allowing customers to go mask-free, thus creating or exaggerating a class divide between lower wage workers and wealthier consumers that will not be good for anyone’s safety in the long run.
The mask mania is not going to go away on its own. Yes, there are anecdotally more folks defying the de facto oxygen rationing. The huddled masses yearning to breathe free are poking their noses out from under the muzzles. But this can’t be the standard symbol of protest forever.
Thankfully, some people are drawing a line in the sand like Terry White.
White, a 65-year-old woman, went maskless into a Galveston, Texas, Bank of America branch last week. She stood in line on her designated floor marker, exhibiting no symptoms of any kind, at least six feet apart from all others.
Her story ends with her becoming a tragic hero. That is the type that Aristotle described as someone who brings out our sense of pity for their blunder while also arousing fear in us that we too would suffer the same fate if we were in a similar place.
B. of A. ordered her to wear a mask or leave, then called the cops when she refused, even though she only wanted to close her account.
Bodycam footage, which has gone viral internationally, shows White mocking the police officer’s warning that she risked being arrested for not leaving the property. By the time the officer pulled out his handcuffs, she turned for the exits, but by the officer’s discretion, she was too late.
The officer shoved her to the ground, where he proceeded to break several bones in her foot and spill her personal belongings across the floor. Then customers mocked White, and none of them showed her any sympathy.
Why not just put on the dang mask? There are certainly many valid criticisms of this woman. That goes to the essence of being a tragic hero. But any conservative, libertarian, or other right-wing person who chooses denunciation over approbation is part of the problem in this country.
It’s time to face down the enforcers of these ridiculous rules. Patriots, get ready to leave your comfort zone and leave the mask at home in the trash. Hold your head high with pride in yourself and your country as you walk into that grocery store, bowling alley, bank, or restaurant.
Now, the point of this is not to be rude or invite physical conflict. Obviously. As the late Rep. John Lewis put it, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
It’s all about good trouble. And it’s actually not that big of a deal, especially after the first couple times. That’s why it’s useful to set aside at least a couple hours for this intention. Run your errands as you would. Give the hostess, doorman, greeter, or whomever your full attention when they ask, “Um, do you have a mask?”
“No,” is a good enough reply. Resist the urge to give a speech or an excuse like having a medical condition.
Read the rest of the article here.
For decades, America styled itself the “indispensable nation” that led the world & it’s now seeking to sustain that role by emphasizing a new Cold War-style battle against “authoritarianism.” But it's a dangerous fantasy.
It seems a week cannot go by without US Secretary of State Antony Blinken bringing up the specter of the “rules-based international order” as an excuse for meddling in the affairs of another state or region.
The most recent crisis revolves around allegations that China has dispatched a fleet of more than 200 ships, part of a so-called “maritime militia,” into waters of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines. China says that these vessels are simply fishing boats seeking shelter from a storm. The Philippines has responded by dispatching military ships and aircraft to investigate. Enter Antony Blinken, stage right:
“The United States stands with our ally, the Philippines, in the face of the PRC's maritime militia amassing at WhitsunReef,” Blinken tweeted. “We will always stand by our allies and stand up for the rules-based international order.”
Blinken’s message came a mere 18 hours after he tweeted about his meeting in Brussels with NATO. “Our alliances were created to defend shared values,” he wrote. “Renewing our commitment requires reaffirming those values and the foundation of international relations we vow to protect: a free and open rules-based order.”
Our rules, our order
What this actually means, of course, is that the order is rules-based so long as it is the nation called America that sets these rules and is accepted as the world’s undisputed leader.
Blinken’s fervent embrace of the “rules-based international order” puts action behind the words set forth in the recently published “Interim National Security Strategy Guidance,” a White House document which outlines President Joe Biden’s vision “for how America will engage with the world.”
While the specific term “rules-based international order” does not appear in the body of the document, the precepts it represents are spelled out in considerable detail, and conform with the five pillars of the “liberal international order” as set forth by the noted international relations scholars, Daniel Duedney and G. John Ikenberry, in their ground-breaking essay, “The nature and sources of liberal international order,” published by the Review of International Studies in 1999.
The origins of this “liberal international order” can be traced back to the end of the Second World War and the onset of a Cold War between Western liberal democracies, helmed by the United States, and the communist bloc nations, led by the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. The purpose of this order was simple – to maintain a balance of power between the US-led liberal democracies and their communist adversaries, and to maintain and sustain US hegemony over its liberal democratic allies. This was accomplished through five basic policy “pillars”: Security co-binding; the embrace of US hegemony; self-limitation on the part of US allies; the politicization of global economic institutions for the gain of liberal democracies; and Western “civil identity.”
All five are emphasized in Biden’s interim guidance, in which the president openly advocates for “a stable and open international system.” It notes that “the alliances, institutions, agreements, and norms underwriting the international order the United States helped to establish are being tested.”
The faltering empire’s flaws and inequities
Biden also observed that the restoration of this international order “rests on a core strategic proposition: The United States must renew its enduring advantages so that we can meet today’s challenges from a position of strength. We will build back better our economic foundations; reclaim our place in international institutions; lift up our values at home and speak out to defend them around the world; modernize our military capabilities, while leading first with diplomacy; and revitalize America’s unmatched network of alliances and partnerships.”
All five of Duedney’s and Ikenberry’s policy “pillars” can be found embedded in these – and other – statements contained in the guidance.
There is a defensive tone to Biden’s guidance, which notes that “rapid change and mounting crisis” have exposed “flaws and inequities” in the US-dominated international system which “have caused many around the world – including many Americans – to question its continued relevance.”
Here Biden runs into the fundamental problem of trying to justify and sustain a model of economic-based global hegemony which was founded at a time when the existence of a Western liberal democratic “order” could be justified as a counter to the Soviet-led communist bloc. The Cold War ended in 1990. The “international rules-based order” that was created at the behest of the US to prevail in this conflict continued, however. It seems that the US wasn’t simply satisfied with preventing the spread of communism; its raison d’être instead transitioned from being the leader of an alliance of liberal democracies, to being the global hegemon, using the very system devised to confront communism to instead install and sustain the US as the undisputed dominant power in the world.
This trend began in the immediate aftermath of the end of the Cold War, where the US had the opportunity to pass the baton of global leadership to the United Nations, an act that would have given legitimacy to the notion of an “international order.”
This, however, proved a bridge too far for the neo-liberal tendencies of the administration of President Bill Clinton, who continued the Cold War-era practice of using the UN as a vehicle to promote US policy prerogatives at the expense of the international “order.” Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright helped coin the term “indispensable nation” when defining America’s post-Cold War role in the world (it is notable that Blinken recently praised Albright in a tweet, noting that “her tenacity & effectiveness left the US stronger & more respected globally,” and adding “she’s a role model for me & so many of our diplomats.”)
The arrogance and hubris contained in any notion of a single nation being “indispensable” to the global order is mind-boggling and is reflective of a disconnect with both reality and history on the part of those embracing it.
The myth of indispensability
The unsustainability of the premise of American “indispensability” was demonstrated by both the events of September 11, 2001, and the inability of the US to deal with its aftermath. Had the US embraced and acted on President George H. W. Bush’s notion of a “new world order” in the aftermath of the Cold War, it would have found itself as a vital world leader working in concert with a global community of nations to confront the scourge of Islamic fundamentalist-based terrorism. But this was not to be.
Instead, the “indispensable nation” was exposed as a fraud, with many in the world recognizing the US not as a power worthy of emulation, but rather as the source of global angst. This rejection of America’s self-anointed role as global savior extended to many Americans too, who were tired of the costs associated with serving as the world’s police force.
Indeed, this exhaustion with global intervention, and the costs accrued, helped create the foundation of electoral support for Donald Trump’s rejection of the “rules-based international order” in favor of a more distinct “America first” approach to global governance. What gave Trump’s policy so much “punch” was the fact that not only did many American citizens reject the “rules-based international order,” but so did much of the rest of the world.
Repairing the damage done by four years of Trump has become the number one priority of the Biden administration. To do this, both Biden and Blinken recognize that they simply cannot return to the policy formulations that existed before Trump took office; that ship has sailed, and trying to sell the American people and the rest of the world on what many viewed as a failed policy construct (i.e., unilateral, uncontested American hegemony) was seen as an impossible task.
Instead, the Biden administration is seeking to reinvent the original premise of the “rules-based international order” by substituting Russian and Chinese “authoritarianism” in place of Soviet-led communism as a threat which liberal democracies around the world willingly and enthusiastically rally around the US to confront.
“Authoritarianism is on the global march,” Biden’s guidance observed, “and we must join with like minded allies and partners to revitalize democracy the world over. We will work alongside fellow democracies across the globe to deter and defend against aggression from hostile adversaries. We will stand with our allies and partners to combat new threats aimed at our democracies” and which “undermine the rules and values at the heart of an open and stable international system.”
Biden concluded his essay in dramatic fashion. “This moment is an inflection point,” he noted. “We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future direction of our world. No nation is better positioned to navigate this future than America. Doing so requires us to embrace and reclaim our enduring advantages, and to approach the world from a position of confidence and strength. If we do this, working with our democratic partners, we will meet every challenge and outpace every challenger. Together, we can and will build back better.”
No longer the world’s undisputed No.1
While postulated as a statement of American strength, Biden’s concluding remarks actually project not only the inherent insecurity of the US today, but also its root causes. The fact that the US needs to “reclaim our enduring advantages” implies that we lost them, and illustrates that these so-called advantages are not nearly as enduring as Biden would like to think. “Building back better” is an admission of weakness, a recognition that the notion of an “indispensable nation” is an artificial construct; most nations no longer accept America as the world leader.
The reality is that the US is one of the most powerful nations in the world. That position, however, is no longer uncontested; China has emerged as the equal of the US in many metrics used to measure global power and influence, and superior in some. Moreover, China operates effectively in a multi-polar global reality, recognizing that the era of the American singularity is over. Russia, India, Brazil, and the European collective all represent polar realities whose existence and influence exists independent of the US.
The US, however, cannot function in such a world. While there is a growing recognition among American politicians that the post-Cold War notion of the US being the sole-remaining superpower has run its course, the only alternative these politicians can offer is the attempt to return to a bi-polar world which has the US at the head of its liberal democratic “partners,” facing off against the forces of “authoritarianism.” This vision, however, is unrealistic, if for no other reason that the world no longer views Western liberal democracy as “good,” and authoritarianism as “evil.”
This reality is evident to much of the rest of the world. Why, then, would US policy makers embrace a formulation doomed to fail? The answer is simple – the US, as it exists today, needs the “rules-based international order” to remain relevant. Relevant, as used here, means globally dominant.
US politicians who operate on the national level cannot get elected on platforms that reject the “indispensable” role of the country, even if many Americans and most of the world have. US economic dominance is in large part sustained by the very systems that underpin the “rules-based international order” – the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. US geopolitical relevance is sustained by Cold War-era military alliances.
An unviable, unsustainable future
An American retreat from being the “indispensable” power, and a corresponding embrace of a leadership role based upon a more collegial notion of shared authorities, would not mean the physical demise of the US – the nation would continue to exist as a sovereign entity. But it would mean an end to the psychological reality of America as we know it today – a quasi-imperial power whose relevance is founded on compelled global hegemony. This model is no longer viable. The fact that the Biden administration has chosen to define its administration through an ardent embrace of this failed system is proof positive that the survival of post-Cold War America is existentially connected to its ability to function as the world’s “indispensable nation.”
American exceptionalism is a narcotic that fuels the country’s domestic politics more than global geo-political reality. The “rules-based international order” that underpins this fantasy is unsustainable in the modern era and makes the collapse of the “exceptional” United States inevitable.
Watching the Biden administration throw its weight behind a US-dominated “rules-based international order” is like watching the Titanic set sail; it is big, bold, and beautiful, and its fate pre-ordained.
Reprinted with permission from RT.
On December 5, 2020, New Orleans elected its first ever progressive District Attorney. Jason Williams, who was a criminal defense lawyer for over 20 years before being elected, replaced former DA Leon Cannizzaro, described by New Orleans papers as a traditional tough on crime prosecutor. An unprecedented coalition of grassroots justice organizations came together over a year before the election, as The Peoples DA Coalition, to help make it happen.
The Peoples DA Coalition, made up of over 30 local justice organizations, worked for over a year to “create a District Attorney’s office that is ethical, equitable, compassionate, and accountable to all of its constituents so that we may end the era of mass incarceration in New Orleans.”
Immediately upon taking office, New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams showed why he is on the way to becoming a progressive prosecutor. He established a vigorous civil rights unit to review questionable convictions, began to reduce the instances where the prosecution required cash bail, quit using Louisiana’s habitual offender law, mostly stopped prosecuting juveniles in adult court, dismissed hundreds of low level drug cases, and granted new trials to dozens of people convicted by non-unanimous juries. More changes are coming.
How did such a progressive candidate get elected in Louisiana, a deep south state which has for years been locking up more of its citizens than any other?
There were three keys to New Orleans electing its first progressive prosecutor. Two were traditional. The third was unprecedented. First, the winner of the race, Jason Williams, was an excellent campaigner and a well-known and respected candidate. But he faced challenges because he had run and lost before and he faces uncertainty because of outstanding federal criminal tax charges. Second, it helped that the incumbent retired at the last minute. But other incumbents have retired before and no reform prosecutor emerged. Third was the remarkable emergence of a vigorous nonpartisan grass roots coalition of dozens of organizations and scores of activists who identified the important issues, educated the community, and activated people to vote for big time reform in the criminal legal system.
The organization that led the New Orleans community nonpartisan efforts to elect a reform prosecutor is the Peoples DA Coalition. It brought a surge of grass roots organizing and energy for major reform into the criminal legal system in New Orleans in their focus on this election.
The idea started 14 months before the election. A few criminal justice advocates wondered if it just might be possible to create a broad-based community coalition to educate and activate voters to make the fall 2020 election for New Orleans District Attorney a referendum on dramatic changes in the criminal legal system? There had been some statewide progress on reform in the past few years, why not push for stronger reform locally? They quickly decided that no one organization could quarterback such an effort so they brought together a wide range of other organizations to dream and plan and work for real change.
The Peoples DA Coalition grew to include over 30 community organizations and hundreds of activists. Their shared goal was to elect a District Attorney who was serious about changing the criminal legal system and to be responsive to the people of New Orleans. The organizations involved included those led by formerly incarcerated residents, crime survivors, people who were wrongfully convicted, families with incarcerated loved ones, immigrant rights, and others focused on criminal justice reform in New Orleans.
Together these thirty plus organizations recognized the opportunity to create a new vision for the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office. They demanded “a reform Prosecutor who embraces fairer, safer, more effective approaches to criminal justice.”
The coalition refused to back or oppose any specific candidate. They were clear. Their goal was to listen to and organize with grassroots organizations and to bring about serious change in the way the criminal legal system worked in New Orleans. How? By educating the city-wide community and activating people to turn out and vote for serious reform in the race for prosecutor. Their plan was that whoever was elected was accountable to the people.
Former Criminal Court Judge Calvin Johnson was asked to lead the coalition. Judge Johnson is a highly regarded justice leader who served as a law professor, former chief judge of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court and after retiring from the bench, criminal justice coordinator for the City of New Orleans.
Judge Johnson has been aware of the need for dramatic changes in the criminal legal system for over 50 years. “In 1962, when I was just 14 years old, a young football player in my hometown of Plaquemine was accused and prosecuted for allegedly assaulting his white girlfriend. I remember sitting in the balcony of the courthouse and watching as this Black teenage boy was denied anything close to a fair trial. It was then that I realized how tragically flawed the system is. That moment sent me on my life’s journey toward advocating for a system that doesn’t punish people simply for being Black.”
Why did Judge Johnson agree to lead this specific effort? “As a former judge who has spent most of my adult life operating within the system, I can state unequivocally that the district attorney is the single most powerful person in the criminal justice system. If we are serious about fundamentally changing the trajectory of a system that over-polices, over-prosecutes and over-incarcerates, then we must elect a district attorney who is actually for reform.”
The Peoples DA Coalition established itself as a tax-deductible non-profit, said Johnson, and from the beginning did not endorse any candidate. It was able to raise some local and national funds from individuals and foundations to hire two staff. They asked Louisiana native Victoria Coy to come on as coordinator. Color of Change, a national racial justice advocacy organization, partnered to help on several levels including helping create the organization’s website, strategizing, and running the technology for online forums.
The hardest and most important early work of the coalition was hammering out a shared policy agenda that people could get behind. Creating a comprehensive policy platform which reflected the transformative vision of dozens of organizations was challenging. Over eight months of meetings, members organized themselves into twelve different working groups, each working on one criminal justice issue, developing detailed lists of concerns and demands for action.
During these months, the Peoples DA Coalition continued to grow and broaden. More organizations joined. Ministers joined. Lots of young people. Judge Johnson observed “It was exciting to see all these young committed smart people and be in the room working with them.”
Ultimately the Peoples DA Coalition agreed on a twelve part policy platform which included over 70 specific demands for reform. Every one of the candidates running to be elected DA would be asked for their positions on each. The community insisted that going forward the DA of New Orleans operate their office in dramatically new ways. For example, would the DA promise not to seek the death penalty? Would the DA dramatically reduce requests for cash bail and pretrial detention? Would the office use restorative justice processes where possible? Would the DA listen to, inform and communicate with survivors of crimes? Would the DA stop the school to prison pipeline by refusing to prosecute behavior which can be handled through the school system? Would the DA create an internal wrongful conviction review process? Would the DA train all prosecutors and staff on an ongoing basis about racial bias? And dozens more.
In the summer of 2020, five people were frequently mentioned as candidates. The incumbent DA Leon Cannizzaro, Jason Williams, and three former Judges Arthur Hunter, Keva Landrum, and Morris Reed.
As qualifying approached, the Peoples DA Coalition stayed nonpartisan. Even though some members of the coalition preferred one or more of the candidates, the coalition itself focused on issues and refused to get behind one candidate. The coalition had to do that, stressed Judge Johnson, because “regardless of who was elected, we wanted accountability. Whoever is elected, we will have accountability of the elected candidate to the people.”
On the last day to qualify for the election, the sitting District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro announced he was not going to run for reelection.
“We were surprised when the sitting DA dropped out, but we continued forward,” said Johnson.
On August 18, 2020, the Peoples DA Coalition publicly announced their detailed 70 part platform. “It’s time for us to have a prosecutor, a DA who recognizes that the purpose of the justice system is to make people better,” said Judge Johnson at the online unveiling of the platform. “To make our city better. To make the justice system better. That’s the prosecutor’s role. That’s the prosecutor’s job. And the People’s DA Coalition is going to hold the prosecutor to it.”
In September, the coalition held an online forum for the candidates to respond to the policy platform. Victoria Coy said 900 people attended. The candidates all pledged to “actively root out wrongful convictions, stop bringing criminal charges against sex workers, ditch the use of habitual offender laws and reserve jail before trial for the most serious offenses.”
The focus on reform of the system was not always viewed kindly. Rafael Goyeneche, a former prosecutor and the president of the Metropolitan Crime Coalition, a conservative tough on crime watchdog, when interviewed by Matt Sledge of Nola.com, “expressed some skepticism of all the “reform” talk. “‘Reform’ doesn’t necessarily mean better,” Goyeneche said. “The candidates need to realize that they’re no longer going to be criminal defense attorneys, their obligations are not going to be to the defendants but to the public, to the victims and citizens.”
In the weeks running up to the election, the coalition targeted precincts for education and outreach. Members knocked on doors, made thousands of calls and texted to get the word out about the importance of the election and the important issues in the DA race.
Political observers expected the reform vote to be split between Jason Williams and Judge Arthur Hunter, a retired progressive criminal court judge. The more traditional vote appeared to be going to retired Judge Keva Landrum who landed far more endorsements than any other candidate. Judge Morris Reed remained on the ballot but did not really campaign and was not expected to contend.
The election on November 3 ended up with former Judge Keva Landrum winning 35 percent of the vote and Jason Williams edging out Judge Hunter 29 to 28 percent.
Local media characterized the runoff as “a choice between a defense attorney who rarely fails to denounce what he sees as a racist criminal justice system and who also serves as at-large city councilman, and the more measured reforms touted by an experienced former prosecutor and judge.”
Landrum was seen by many as “the more moderate candidate” while Williams “cast himself as a progressive who has been fighting for a more just and humane criminal legal system for his entire career.”
In other media reports both candidates “talked about advancing reforms, but their positions and records reveal a divide in how they would likely approach being a DA. Williams has promised more of a clean break with the office’s punitive past and embraced the People’s DA platform enthusiastically.”
Members of the coalition continued to work hard to educate people about the candidates and work for voter participation. Pastor Gregory Manning, a member of the Peoples DA Coalition, strongly urged people to vote. ““We are at a crossroads in our community,” said Manning, a pastor in the Broadmoor neighborhood. “It cannot be simply that we continue to lock people up and allow the criminal justice system and the jail system and the bail bondsman to benefit financially off of the incarceration of our people, especially African American people, people of color.”
Ultimately, members of the Peoples DA Coalition made over 90,000 calls, knocked on hundreds of doors and sent thousands of texts to potential voters, according to Coy.
On December 5, 2020, Jason Williams won the race by a convincing margin, 58% to 42%.
The fact that Williams, the most progressive candidate, won came as a surprise to many. His fundraising trailed his opponent by over $150,000. He had many fewer endorsements from city power brokers. New Orleans had never elected a progressive prosecutor.
Since taking office, as noted above, District Attorney Williams has taken action. He has not opposed requests for new trials for those convicted in New Orleans by 10-2 jury verdicts. He has dismissed hundreds of minor drug and outdated cases. He has created a new Civil Rights Unit to investigate cold cases and reverse wrongful convictions. He has reversed the policy of the office and is not seeking life in prison for juveniles convicted of murder.
Despite the overwhelming mandate from the voters, traditionally conservative tough on crime critics like Rafael Goyeneche, who were not fans of reform plans before the election, are really worried now. “This is a grand experiment and only time will tell how this experiment plays out,” Goyeneche said. “I think that you are taking real risks with the public and public safety.”
The Peoples DA Coalition goal remains the same. “Our mission is to create a District Attorney’s office that is ethical, equitable, compassionate, and accountable to all of its constituents so that we may end the era of mass incarceration in New Orleans.” The focus should be on safety, not on jail and prison.
But even though the election is over, organizing for real and lasting change is not. The Peoples DA Coalition and Color of Change are following through on their promise to hold the winner of the race accountable.
On Thursday April 8, Color of Change and the Peoples DA Coalition have scheduled their first forum with District Attorney Jason Williams. They intend to discuss bail, pretrial detention, transparency, accountability and juvenile justice, just like they promised. Readers can register to join that discussion online.
While it is impossible to say exactly how much impact the Peoples DA Coalition had on the race, Judge Calvin Johnson summed it up. “I will be 74 shortly. To see where we are in terms of how this community thinks about justice and people? That was amazing.”
The post Peoples Coalition Helps Elect New Orleans Progressive Prosecutor first appeared on Dissident Voice.
In the past few months, Grayzone journalist Aaron Mate has interviewed two former ambassadors to Syria: former UK Ambassador Peter Ford and former US Ambassador Robert S. Ford.
The two ambassadors have a common surname but dramatically different perspectives. This article will compare the statements and viewpoints of the two diplomats.
UK Ambassador Peter Ford (PF)
Peter Ford trained as an Arabist and served in the British foreign service in numerous cities including Beirut, Riyadh, and Cairo. He was Ambassador to Bahrain from 1999 to 2003, then Syria from 2003 to 2006. From 2006 until 2014 he was a senior officer with the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.
The interview with UK Amb. Peter Ford (PF) shows why he is exceptional former diplomat. He analyzes and criticizes western aggression against Syria.
PF describes the current situation:
The Syrian government forces control about 70% of the country. There’s that pocket of jihadi fighters controlling Idlib province and a couple of patches of neighboring provinces, and then you’ve got the big—what I call the wild east of Syria—the big triangle of land up all the way along the thousand miles along the Turkish border and then down the Iraqi border, and that is effectively a US protectorate. There are US forces there being helped on the ground by basically Kurdish militia, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces.
PF describes the crushing economic sanctions:
It’s utterly shocking…The policy has been effective in the sense that Syrian people are suffering every day. There are long queues for bread, long queues for gasoline. The policy of sanctions and denial of assistance for reconstruction has been effective, but what kind of policy is it that tries to immiserate a whole country? It’s delusional because it’s not even going to work….
The experience of 10 years of this conflict is that the Syrian government is amazingly resilient. They’ve been on the ropes many times in this conflict and pulled through largely because they have the support of great swaths of the Syrian populace. Assad is not going to buckle under this new increased economic pressure. It is utterly delusional to believe that this cynical, callous policy could work.
PF analyzes the US troops in north eastern Syria.
By their mere presence, they’re preventing the advance of the Syrian government forces. The result is that the Syrian people are denied the great oil and grain wealth of that triangle, the territory. And, so the war over the last year has been more an economic war than a military war…
The troops are there basically as a tripwire, a deterrent, so that if the Syrian government forces advanced, they would trip over a few American soldiers and that would incur the massive intervention of the US Air Force. This is what it comes down to. They don’t even need big numbers of troops to create the tripwire.
Even so, it’s interesting that the architects of this policy in the permanent government of the US found it necessary to deceive the head of the executive, the President, keep him in the dark about the numbers…. So, the deceit that has gone on—on every level—is jaw-dropping to me as a former ambassador and an insider in the British system. I find it absolutely incredible.
PF describes what the war is and is NOT about.
US policy is NOT about installing in Syria a democratic government, because there is no prospect of that while the US is effectively supporting Islamist fanatics, and while it’s supporting elsewhere in the Middle East regimes like the feudal regime of Saudi Arabia. No, it’s not about democracy. It’s about helping Israel on the one hand and scoring points against Russia on the other. And when it comes down to it, that is what this whole war is really about, from the US standpoint.”
PF analyzes accusations Syrian government used chemical weapons.
The world has amnesia over Iraq, the non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the Colin Powell dossier proof presented to the UN. It’s like Groundhog Day when you hear the claims made about Assad, the use of chemical weapons.
In the first place, it would make no practical sense for Assad to use chemical weapons; it could only ever have been an own goal. If he wanted to invite heavy Western intervention, he would not have gone about it any other way. You’d have to be incredibly either twisted or delusional to believe that Assad could have been so stupid as to do the one thing—use chemical weapons—which would bring about, or possibly bring about, his obliteration.
I’m quite convinced this is an elaborate hoax. A series of hoaxes. It’s very revealing that not one of the alleged instances of use of chemical weapons was investigated on the ground by any UN or other international investigations, with the sole exception of Douma. And why Douma? Because that was a piece of territory that the government forces managed to recover immediately after the alleged incident, so that the US and its allies were unable to keep away the international investigators…. That ultimately is the purpose of the chemical weapon hoaxes—to justify the occupation of northeast Syria and the continuing cruel economic pressure.
PF comments on the senior staff from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons who say they did NOT find evidence of chemical weapons attack and their findings were changed by management.
These gentlemen [from OPCW] drafted a report stating that they found evidence that was consistent with staging of an incident, rather than an authentic incident. And ever since, they have been vilified, condemned, undermined. And the campaign against the truth goes on and on and on….
PF comments on the role of the “White Helmets”.
The White Helmets’ role is absolutely crucial, pivotal to the Western effort to undermine Syria through these accusations of use of chemical weapons. I think, basically, what happened is that Western governments realized that after the Iraq debacle, that if they were going to use claims about WMD, chemical weapons, whatever, again, they were going to have to produce some kind of smoking gun.
And this is the role of the White Helmets. They produced the phony pictures of phony incidents which constitute the smoking gun. And that is absolutely pivotal to the propaganda to justify the bombing and the relentless economic and military pressure on Syria…. Western governments [have] been funding the White Helmets to the tune of about $50 million a year. That’s peanuts compared to what they see as the advantages of bringing Syria to its knees.
PF predicts what may happen ahead.
I think things are likely to get worse, rather than better.
What we’ll probably see is simply a continuation of the status quo. The current policies will simply be extended… to prolong the conflict, to prevent Assad gaining military victory, the continuation of economic warfare to try to bring Assad to his knees and force him to sign a suicide note, which would be acceptance of elections on US terms. I’m sure these policies will be continued.
But there’s a question mark over whether policy might not become even more adventurous and interventionist with a beachhead of a few thousand soldiers already occupying part of Syria. I greatly fear that Biden might be tempted to increase those numbers, put some military pressure on the Syrian government forces, create more no-fly zones. Already, there’s effectively a no-fly zone over that big triangle of territory that’s occupied by the US forces and Kurdish allies. An attempt might be made to create the no-fly zone of Idlib, which would be ironic. It would mean that the US Air Force was the air wing of al-Qaeda…
I’m definitely not optimistic. And I fear things could get even worse.
US Ambassador Robert S. Ford (RSF)
Robert S. Ford was a U.S. diplomat in numerous cities including Algiers and Cairo. He was Deputy Chief of Mission in Bahrein from 2001 to 2004, then Political Counselor at the US Embassy in Baghdad from 2004 to 2006. As an Arabic speaker, he may have helped Ambassador John Negroponte launch the “El Salvador option” (death squads) in Iraq. Robert S. Ford was Ambassador to Syria from the end of 2010 until 2014 when the US terminated diplomatic relations with Syria. He has continued as an unofficial advisor on Syria policy.
In contrast with the Peter Ford interview, the interview with US Ambassador Robert S. Ford (RSF) is a case study in public relations. Interviewer Aaron Mate asks important questions but RSF deflects the questions, claims ignorance of new revelations, and repeats standard talking points on Syria.
RSF acknowledges there has been “mission creep” for US troops in Syria.
American troops were sent into Syria originally to fight ISIS. Now that that job is more-or-less finished, we have a sort of mission creep where now the American forces are there not to defeat ISIS—ISIS is already defeated… But now, so what are the Americans doing? Well, now they sort of changed the mission to putting pressure on Damascus, the Assad government, trying to get the Iranians out, trying to limit the Russian influence.
RSF implies the sanctions on Syria are just.
Sanctions is a different question, Aaron. I think a lot of it is emotional here in the United States. There’s a desperate desire for justice after all the war crimes committed in Syria. And I think getting rid of the sanctions is going to be a much harder battle to fight in the Congress. So, the sanctions have very strong approval in Congress…
RSF maintains the initial protests were “almost entirely peaceful”
In March and April, May into June, the protests were almost entirely peaceful. That’s not to say there was no violence. In the first protest, for example, in Daraa, in which we’re now coming up on the 10-year anniversary, yeah, the protesters did attack the telephone office [Syriatel] that’s owned by Bashar al-Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf. They did attack a court building…
[Fact check: RSF neglects to mention seven police were killed in the “almost entirely peaceful” Daraa protest.]
RSF acknowledges US allies were sending weapons early but claims the US began sending weapons in 2013.
Those countries [Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey] did send in weapons before the Americans…
I supported arming factions of the Free Syrian Army as early as the summer of 2012. And it took the president a year to get to a decision.
[Fact check: US Central Intelligence Agency was sending weapons from Benghazi Libya to Syria in October 2011.]
RSF compares the Free Syrian Army to the anti-Nazi resistance in WW2.
The United States never gave anti-tank weapons to al-Qaeda…. the number might be half a dozen.
I want you to think about this in historical context. Do you think when the Americans airdropped weapons into the French resistance against the Nazis in France, do you think the Nazis never got their hands on any of those air drops?…
The leakage to the al-Qaeda elements, there was a small amount of leakage, but much, much, much more of their weaponry came from the Assad government, either, because the Assad soldiers were corrupt, as we said, we talked at the start about corruption. They sold them, or in some cases, they surrendered, and with that, huge caches of weaponry made their way into al-Nusra hands. The amount of material that al-Nusra got from the United States wouldn’t have lasted them for a day of combat.
Fact check: This claim is preposterous. As reported by Janes Defense, the US supplied nearly one thousand TONS of weapons in December 2015, much of which ended up in Nusra (Al Qaeda) hands. Nusra obtained weapons when they over-ran Syrian military bases, but otherwise they were amply supplied with weapons by the Gulf monarchies, Israel, Turkey, the US and UK.
RSF claims the Syrian government has primary responsibility for the war and are the “bad guys”.
What I hope your listeners will take away from this is that it is not an equal combat on both sides; is not an equal responsibility on both sides. One side from the beginning was using torture and shooting at innocent people, thousands of arrests. And one side was trying peacefully, for a very large part, to bring about change. And, unfortunately, in this instance, the bad guys won.
Fact check: The campaign against Syria has been waged by a coalition of western powers, Turkey, Israel and the Gulf monarchies. About 121 thousand Syrians in the Syrian army and militias have died defending their country.
RSF claims that Syria is responsible for the war refugees and destabilizing its neighbors.
Even had Turkey, Qatar and the United States, Saudi Arabia, stayed out of it, there still would have been huge refugee flows trying to escape from those same brutal Syrian security forces, and they still would have flooded the borders of Lebanon and Jordan and of Turkey, which is itself destabilizing, particularly in Lebanon, but some places like Jordan, Turkey. Therefore, you can’t just say that all these other countries intervened in sovereign Syrian territory. The Syrian government itself was taking actions which were destabilizing to its neighbors.
Fact check: Most refugees fled when their neighborhoods were taken over by militants and became battle zones, NOT because they were afraid of Syrian security.
RSF criticizes Turkey but thinks Syrian government bears primary responsibility.
I’m never going to justify the Turks allowing Salafi jihadists to go into Syria. I think that I’ve already said that that was a bad mistake. And we criticized them at the time of playing with snakes. I’m never going to justify it. But I have to say, Aaron, that in the end, they came in response to what the Assad government was already doing. And so, the principal responsibility … do the Americans have a share of responsibility? Of course, we do. Yeah. It was our anti-tank missiles blowing up Syrian government tanks, and not just a few; I mean, hundreds of them.
I think we have to go back to where it started in 2011. And that’s with the Syrian government…
RSF says he is not aware of the huge scandal at the OPCW but believes Syria has used chemical weapons.
I’m not familiar with that controversy within the OPCW….
But I guess I would just say this, Aaron. There’s plenty of documentation by the UN’s joint investigative group with the OPCW that looked at incidents in Syria chemical weapons use, from 2013 onwards. They’ve issued several reports…. So, the 2018 incident, I don’t know about that report, but I have no doubt whatsoever that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on multiple instances, the same government that bombs hospitals, the same government that bombs bakeries, the same government that kills people in detention routinely. Look at the photos that were brought up by the military defector. You know, why would you think they wouldn’t use chemical weapons? Why would you think they would suddenly have moral scruples against these? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
RSF wants to increase humanitarian aid to Syria refugees.
Something the Americans could do that would be hugely helpful is to increase humanitarian aid to the Syrian refugees that number some five million, particularly in Lebanon, where their living circumstances are precarious, very precarious, but also in Jordan and Turkey… I’d like to spend less on the military operation and much more on humanitarian aid.
And then there is the issue of Northwest Syria, Idlib, where the UN is in charge of an operation getting humanitarian aid to some two million displaced Syrian civilians.
[Fact check and observation: Idlib province is dominated by Nusra (Al Qaeda). Robert Ford seems to want to perpetuate the AQ stronghold and refugee crisis by supplying aid to Idlib and foreign countries while preventing return of refugees and rebuilding war torn Syria.]
Both ambassadors speak Arabic and have intimate knowledge of Syria.
Robert S. Ford criticizes some past decisions and tactics, but not the assumptions or right of the US to violate the UN Charter and commit aggression against Syria.
Meanwhile, Peter Ford is doing his best to expose the reality of the situation, contrary to government and media bias and falsehoods. Like Daniel Ellsberg, Scott Ritter and Katharine Gun, he is using his special knowledge to publicly challenge the claims and assumptions of western policy. With Ellsberg it was about Vietnam. With Ritter and Gun, it was about Iraq. With Peter Ford, it is about Syria.
So, the New Normals are discussing the Unvaccinated Question. What is to be done with us? No, not those who haven’t been “vaccinated” yet. Us. The “Covidiots.” The “Covid deniers.” The “science deniers.” The “reality deniers.” Those who refuse to get “vaccinated,” ever.
There is no place for us in New Normal society. The New Normals know this and so do we. To them, we are a suspicious, alien tribe of people. We do not share their ideological beliefs. We do not perform their loyalty rituals, or we do so only grudgingly, because they force us to do so. We traffic in arcane “conspiracy theories,” like “pre-March-2020 science,” “natural herd immunity,” “population-adjusted death rates,” “Sweden,” “Florida,” and other heresies.
They do not trust us. We are strangers among them. They suspect we feel superior to them. They believe we are conspiring against them, that we want to deceive them, confuse them, cheat them, pervert their culture, abuse their children, contaminate their precious bodily fluids, and perpetrate God knows what other horrors.
So they are discussing the need to segregate us, how to segregate us, when to segregate us, in order to protect society from us. In their eyes, we are no more than criminals, or, worse, a plague, an infestation. In the words of someone (I can’t quite recall who), “getting rid of the Unvaccinated is not a question of ideology. It is a question of cleanliness,” or something like that. (I’ll have to hunt down and fact-check that quote. I might have taken it out of context.)
In Israel, Estonia, Denmark, Germany, the USA, and other New Normal countries, they have already begun the segregation process. In the UK, it’s just a matter of time. The WEF, WHO, EU, and other transnational entities are helping to streamline the new segregation system, which, according to the WEF, “will need to be harmonized by a normative body, such as the WHO, to ensure that is ethical.”
Here in Germany, the government is considering banning us from working outside our homes. We are already banned from flying on commercial airlines. (We can still use the trains, if we dress up like New Normals.) In the village of Potsdam, just down the road from Wannsee (which name you might recall from your 20th-Century history lessons), we are banned from entering shops and restaurants. (I’m not sure whether we can still use the sidewalks, or whether we have to walk in the gutters.) In Saxony, we are forbidden from attending schools. At the Berliner Ensemble (the theater founded by Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel, lifelong opponents of totalitarianism and fascism), we are banned from attending New Normal performances.
In the USA, we are being banned by universities. Our children are being banned from public schools. In New York, the new “Excelsior Pass” will allow New Normals to attend cultural and sports events (and patronize bars and restaurants, eventually) secure in the knowledge that the Unvaccinated have been prevented from entering or segregated in an “Unvaccinated Only” section. The pass system, designed by IBM, which, if history is any guide, is pretty good at designing such systems (OK, technically, it was Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft, IBM’s Nazi-Germany subsidiary), was launched this past weekend to considerable fanfare.
And this is only the very beginning.
Israel’s “Green Pass” is the model for the future, which makes sense, in a sick, fascistic kind of way. When you’re already an apartheid state, what’s a little more apartheid? Here’s a peek at what that looks like …
OK, I know what the New Normals are thinking. They’re thinking I’m “misleading” people again. That I’m exaggerating. That this isn’t really segregation, and certainly nothing like “medical apartheid.”
After all (as the New Normals will sternly remind me), no one is forcing us to get “vaccinated.” If we choose not to, or can’t for medical reasons, all we have to do is submit to a “test” — you know, the one where they ram that 9-inch swab up into your sinus cavities — within 24 hours before we want to go out to dinner, or attend the theater or a sports event, or visit a museum, or attend a university, or take our children to school or a playground, and our test results will serve as our “vaccine passports!” We just present them to the appropriate Covid Compliance Officer, and (assuming the results are negative, of course) we will be allowed to take part in New Normal society just as if we’d been “vaccinated.”
Either way, “vaccine” or “test,” the New Normal officials will be satisfied, because the tests and passes are really just stage props. The point is the display of mindless obedience. Even if you take the New Normals at their word, if you are under 65 and in relatively good health, getting “vaccinated” is more or less pointless, except as a public display of compliance and belief in the official Covid-19 narrative (the foundation stone of the New Normal ideology). Even the high priests of their “Science” confess that it doesn’t prevent you spreading the “plague.” And the PCR tests are virtually meaningless, as even the WHO finally admitted. (You can positive-PCR-test a pawpaw fruit … but you might want to be careful who you tell if you do that.)
In contrast to the “vaccine” and the “test” themselves, the forced choice between them is not at all meaningless. It is no accident that both alternatives involve the violation of our bodies, literally the penetration of our bodies. It doesn’t really matter what is in the “vaccines” or what “results” the “tests” produce. The ritual is a demonstration of power, the power of the New Normals (i.e., global capitalism’s new face) to control our bodies, to dominate them, to violate them, psychologically and physically.
Now, don’t get all excited, my “conspiracy theorist” friends. I haven’t gone full QAnon just yet. Bill Gates and Klaus Schwab are not sitting around together, sipping adrenochrome on George Soros’ yacht, dreaming up ways to rape people’s noses. This stuff is built into the structure of the system. It is a standard feature of totalitarian societies, cults, churches, self-help groups, and … well, human society, generally.
Being forced to repeat a physical action which only makes sense within a specific ideology reifies that ideology within us. There is nothing inherently diabolical about this. It is a basic socialization technology. It is how we socialize our children. It is why we conduct weddings, baptisms, and bar mitzvahs. It is how we turn young men and women into soldiers. It is how actors learn their blocking and their lines. It is why the Nazis held all those rallies. It is why our “democracies” hold elections. It is also basic ceremonial magic … but that’s a topic for a different column.
The issue, at the moment, is the Unvaccinated Question, and the public rituals that are being performed to make the New Normal ideology “reality,” and what to do about those of us who refuse to participate in those rituals, who refuse to forswear “old normal” reality and convert to New Normalism so that we can function in society without being segregated, criminalized, or “diagnosed” as “sociopathic” or otherwise psychiatrically disordered.
For us “conspiracy-theorizing reality deniers,” there is no getting around this dilemma. This isn’t Europe in the 1930s. There isn’t anywhere to emigrate to … OK, there is, temporarily, in some of the US states that have been staging rebellions, and other such “old normal” oases, but how long do you think that will last? They’re already rolling out the “mutant variants,” and God only knows what will happen when the long-term effects of the “vaccines” kick in.
No, for most of us denizens of the global capitalist empire, it looks like the New Normal is here to stay. So, unless we are prepared to become New Normals, we are going to have to stand and fight. It is going to get rather ugly, and personal, but there isn’t any way to avoid that. Given that many New Normals are our friends and colleagues, or even members of our families, it is tempting to believe that they will “come to their senses,” that “this is all just a hysterical overreaction,” and that “everything will go back to normal soon.”
This would be a monumental error on our parts … very possibly a fatal error.
Totalitarian movements, when they reach this stage, do not simply stop on their own. They continue to advance toward their full expressions, ultimately transforming entire societies into monstrous mirror-images of themselves, unless they are opposed by serious resistance. There is a window at the beginning when such resistance has a chance. That window is still open, but it is closing, fast. I can’t tell you how best to resist, but I can tell you it starts with seeing things clearly, and calling things, and people, exactly what they are.
Let’s not make the same mistake that other minorities have made throughout history when confronted with a new totalitarian ideology. See the New Normals for what they are, maybe not deep down in their hearts, but what they have collectively become a part of, because it is the movement that is in control now, not the rational individuals they used to be. Above all, recognize where this is headed, where totalitarian movements are always headed. (See. e.g., Milton Mayer’s They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45.)
No, the Unvaccinated are not the Jews and the New Normals are not flying big Swastika flags, but totalitarianism is totalitarianism, regardless of which Goebbelsian Big Lies, and ideology, and official enemies it is selling. The historical context and costumes change, but its ruthless trajectory remains the same.
Today, the New Normals are presenting us with a “choice,” (a) conform to their New Normal ideology or (b) social segregation. What do you imagine they have planned for us tomorrow?The post The “Unvaccinated” Question first appeared on Dissident Voice.
We live in a war-like society; one that supports, and is in league with, the world’s number one terrorist threat: the United States of America. Corporate media propaganda plays a key role in keeping things that way.
Ten years ago this month, the US, UK and France attacked oil-rich Libya under the fictitious cover of ‘humanitarian intervention’. The bombing was ‘justified’ by Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy by the supposed imminent massacre of civilians in Benghazi by forces under Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. As we have documented previously, the propaganda claims were fraudulent.
Libya, previously a wealthy state with free health care and education, was essentially destroyed. An estimated 600,000 Libyans were killed. Many more were displaced from their homes. In the barbarous conditions of the failed state, black people have been ethnically ‘cleansed’, lynched and auctioned off as slaves, illicit arms transfers and terrorism have become rife, and many Libyans have attempted to flee to better lives across the Mediterranean, thousands of them drowning en route.
As Jeremy Kuzmarov, managing editor of CovertAction Magazine and author of four books on US foreign policy, pointed out recently, the powerful Western perpetrators of this human calamity have never been brought to justice. He added:
In hindsight, it is clear that the U.S. was completing a 40-year regime change operation targeting Colonel Qaddafi for which media disinformation was pivotal.
It is important today as such to revisit the 2011 war so that U.S. citizens can learn from the history and not be duped again into supporting an intervention of this kind.
The Stunning Silences Over Syria And Venezuela
But, when it came to Syria several years later, media disinformation was once again pivotal in unleashing Western firepower. As we have described in numerous media alerts, the corporate media declared with instant unanimity and certainty that Syria’s President Bashar Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on 7 April, 2018. One week later, the US, UK and France attacked Syria in response to the unproven allegations. Since then, there has been a mounting deluge of evidence that the UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has perpetrated a massive cover-up to preserve the Western narrative that Assad gassed civilians in Douma.
Earlier this month, five former OPCW officials joined a group of prominent signatories to urge the UN chemical weapons watchdog to address the controversy. Aaron Maté, an independent journalist with The Grayzone website, has been following developments closely since the beginning (see his in-depth article, ‘Did Trump Bomb Syria on False Grounds?’).
He noted that:
Leaks from inside the OPCW show that key scientific findings that cast doubt on claims of Syrian government guilt were censored, and that the original investigators were removed from the probe. Since the cover-up became public, the OPCW has shunned accountability and publicly attacked the two whistleblowers who challenged it from inside.
In an interview, Maté pointed out the remarkable silence from the corporate media:
The western media, across the spectrum, has buried this story – which is pretty incredible. You have extraordinary allegations of a cover-up, you have whistleblowers; and not only…do you have allegations, you have documents – a trove of documents released by WikiLeaks.
We have observed a similar shameful silence in the UK, including BBC News; even after initial interest in the ‘important story’ had been expressed by Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent.
But Western violence against other nations, and the ‘justifications’ trotted out to defend ‘our’ crimes, or simply ignoring them, has become normalised in ‘mainstream’ journalism.
Consider the case of Venezuela, harbouring one of the largest oil reserves on the planet, and which, as a left-leaning democracy, has long been targeted by the US for regime change. This was seen very clearly when the late Hugo Chávez was the Venezuelan president – temporarily deposed in a failed US-supported coup in 2002, and who was often wrongly described by corporate media as a ‘dictator’ – and continues today under Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro.
As John McEvoy observed in a piece for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, a recent UN rebuke of crippling US and European sanctions on Venezuela has been met with ‘stunning silence’.
The report laid bare how a years-long campaign of economic warfare has asphyxiated Venezuela’s economy, crushing the government’s ability to provide basic services both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Alena Douhan, the UN special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, the Venezuelan government’s revenue was reported to have shrunk enormously, ‘with the country currently living on 1% of its pre-sanctions income,’ impeding ‘the ability of Venezuela to respond to the Covid-19 emergency.’
Douhan urged US and European governments:
to unfreeze assets of the Venezuela Central Bank to purchase medicine, vaccines, food, medical and other equipment.
The US-led campaign to overthrow the Venezuelan government, Douhan added, ‘violates the principle of sovereign equality of states and constitutes an intervention in domestic affairs of Venezuela that also affects its regional relations’.
Almost exactly two years ago, we noted in a media alert that the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, a respected think-tank, had published a study showing that US sanctions imposed on Venezuela in August 2017 had since caused around 40,000 deaths. With the exception of a single piece in the Independent, there was zero coverage in the national UK press, and no BBC News coverage at all, as far as we could ascertain.
By omitting the devastating impact of sanctions, corporate media attribute sole responsibility for economic and humanitarian conditions to the Venezuelan government, thereby using the misery provoked by sanctions to validate the infliction of even more misery.
Loath to abandon belief in the fundamentally benign nature of Western foreign policy, corporate scribes have typically presented the devastating effects of sanctions as a mere accusation of Nicolás Maduro.
This is a pattern of deception seen over and over again. For example, in 2002-2003, the ‘mainstream’ media repeatedly attributed claims that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein. Doing so buried the evidence-backed testimony of senior UN weapons inspectors concluding that Iraq had been ‘fundamentally disarmed’ of 90-95 per cent of its weapons of mass destruction by December 1998.1
McEvoy noted that the Guardian’s reporting of Venezuela sticks to the Washington script:
Often, they fail to mention sanctions at all. In June 2019, for instance, the Guardian’s Tom Phillips reported that “more than 4 million Venezuelans have now fled economic and humanitarian chaos,” citing would-be coup leader Juan Guaidó’s claim that the country’s economic collapse “was caused by the corruption of this regime,” without making any reference to Washington’s campaign of economic warfare.
Keeping with tradition, Douhan’s damning report has been met with stunning silence by establishment media outlets. Neither the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post nor BBC reported on Douhan’s findings.
Imagine if Russia had been responsible for imposing sanctions on another country, violating that country’s sovereignty, with tens of thousands dead and many more lives at risk in the months to come. Imagine, moreover, that Russia had been condemned in a hard-hitting UN report for engaging in economic warfare, described as ‘a violation of international law’ that was causing a serious ‘growth of malnourishment in the past 6 years with more than 2.5 million people being severely food insecure.’ Imagine that such a report pointed to the ‘devastating effect of unilateral sanctions on the broad scope of human rights, especially the right to food, right to health, right to life, right to education and right to development.’ The headlines and in-depth coverage in the West would be incessant. The Russian ambassador in London would be given a stern dressing-down by the UK Foreign Secretary. MPs would address Parliament, condemning Putin in the strongest possible terms. There would be global demands for the UN to intervene.
The ideological discipline required to ignore such crimes under Western policy is remarkable, but it is standard in the corporate media system. Propaganda by omission, routinely carried out by BBC News and the rest of the ‘mainstream’ news media, is a crucial tool enabling Washington and London to pursue their aims; whether that be ‘regime change’, exploitation of oil and other natural resources, and geopolitical domination.
‘Grand Wizards’ And Client Journalism
Occasionally, the strict enforcement of ideological purity imposed on corporate journalists is laid bare when they step out of line by the merest millimeter. Thus, for example, BBC television presenter Naga Munchetty had to issue an apology on Twitter for ‘liking’ tweets that mocked Tory government minister Robert Jenrick for appearing on a BBC Breakfast interview with a Union Jack prominently displayed behind him.
I “liked” tweets today that were offensive in nature about the use of the British flag as a backdrop in a government interview this morning. I have since removed these “likes”. This do [sic] not represent the views of me or the BBC. I apologise for any offence taken. Naga
This read like a statement that had been dictated from lofty levels within the BBC hierarchy. When you are a high-profile BBC figure, you are obliged to tweet out an apology for daring to question the trappings of ‘patriotism’. But when have BBC journalists ever apologised for catastrophically platforming government propaganda on Iraq, Libya, Syria, the NHS, ‘austerity’, militarism, the royal family? The list is endless.
On Twitter, tweets from the broadcaster RT are flagged with the warning, ‘Russia state-affiliated media.’ Rather than apologise for broadcasting Western propaganda, it is far more likely that a senior client journalist working for the UK state-affiliated media known as ‘BBC News’ will send out whitewashing tweets to minimise or deflect any challenges to the government. Take BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, a prime example of this key propaganda function. On the National Day of Reflection on 23 March, the anniversary of the start of the first UK Covid-19 lockdown, Boris Johnson had boasted during a private meeting of Tory MPs:
The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends.
There was a huge outcry on social media. Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor who has been outspoken in her criticism of the government during the pandemic, tweeted in response to Johnson’s crassly insensitive and smug comment:
But he’s wrong.
‘Human nature is bigger & better & bursting with more grace & decency than he’ll ever know.
Wise and compassionate words.
By contrast, Kuenssberg went into full damage-limitation mode, tweeting:
More on PM’s “greed” comments – one of those present says Johnson was having a crack at Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, who was gobbling a cheese + pickle sandwich while he was talking about the vaccine, “it was hardly Gordon Gekko”, “it was banter” directed at the Chief, it’s said
It is a fair point: probably not even Gordon Gekko would have joked about the virtue of capitalism and greed on a day when his very clear responsibility for the deaths of 149,000 people was at the forefront of many people’s minds.
Newspaper cartoonist Dave Brown depicted brilliantly what the day of reflection should have meant: Johnson reflected in the mirror as the Grim Reaper carrying a scythe with the number 149,000 engraved on it.
Kam Sandhu, head of advocacy at the independent think tank Autonomy, reminded her Twitter followers that, in 2019, Kuenssberg had brushed off the revelation that Brexiteer MPs visiting Chequers, the prime minister’s 16th century manor house, had called themselves “the Grand Wizards“. The BBC political editor had tweeted:
just catching up on timeline, for avoidance of doubt, couple of insiders told me using the nickname informally, no intended connection to anything else
Presumably the use of an infamous Ku Klux Klan term of white supremacy was to be considered mere ‘banter’. There are countless other examples of Kuenssberg deflecting criticism of Tories, while echoing and amplifying their propaganda. You may recall that she acted to defend the government when it belatedly went into the first lockdown one year ago. She misled the public, as Richard Horton, editor of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet noted last March:
Laura Kuenssberg says (BBC) that, “The science has changed.” This is not true. The science has been the same since January. What has changed is that govt advisors have at last understood what really took place in China and what is now taking place in Italy. It was there to see.
Her insidious role in endlessly propping up the government narrative on any given topic is a ‘courtesy’ conspicuous by its absence when it came to the ‘impartial’ BBC political editor’s reporting of Jeremy Corbyn and, in particular, the manufactured crisis of supposedly institutional antisemitism in the Labour party.
On 26 November 2019, just prior to the general election on 12 December, Kuenssberg tweeted about Tory-supporting chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ suggestion that Corbyn should be ‘considered unfit for office’, 23 times in 24 hours. This at a time when journalistic impartiality was obviously never more essential.
Kuenssberg is not an exception within BBC News, although given her very high-profile position, it is not always as blatant with other BBC journalists. Take BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale, for instance: another serial offender. An item that he presented on BBC News at Ten on 16 March added to the ever-rising steaming pile of ‘impartial’ journalism scaremongering about Official Enemies that must be countered by the peace-loving West.
In line with a new UK government report on ‘defence’, Landale depicted China and Russia as threats that required this country to ‘show Britain can project force overseas’. As part of the strategy, the new £6.1 billion aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will hold joint operations with allies in the Indo-Pacific later this year. ‘But will it be enough?’, intoned Landale, ‘impartially’ cheerleading the UK’s ‘projection of force’ across the globe.
Continuing his virtually government spokesperson role, Landale added:
And the cap on Britain’s stockpile of nuclear warheads will be lifted because of what the report says is “the evolving security environment”.
The likely increase in the UK’s nuclear weapons was just slipped out, almost as an after-thought. There was no mention that nuclear weapons are now prohibited under international law after the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was ratified earlier this year. The Treaty includes:
A comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. These include undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.
In July 2017, over 120 countries voted to adopt the Treaty. In October 2020, the 50th country ratified the Treaty which meant it became international law on 22 January, 2021. Where were the BBC News headlines?
As Double Down News observed:
Boris Johnson set to expand Nuclear Warheads by 40%
No money for Nurses but money for Armageddon.
But all this must have slipped Landale’s mind. Or perhaps there was no time to include information deemed unimportant by him or his editors. There was, however, ample room for a major item on that evening’s BBC News at Ten titled, “Duke leaves hospital“. This covered Prince Philip’s return to Buckingham Palace after one month in hospital for heart treatment. And why was this a major ‘news’ headline on the BBC? Because BBC News is staunchly royalist, fervently establishment and an upholder of the unjust UK class system.
All of this just goes to show that BBC News really is the world’s most refined state propaganda service. As BBC founder John Reith confided in his diary during the 1926 General Strike:
They [the government] know they can trust us not to be really impartial.2
The same holds true today.
In this era of Permanent War, potential nuclear Armageddon and climate breakdown, the enormous cost to victims of UK and Western state-corporate policy around the world is incalculable.
- Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, War On Iraq, Profile Books, 2002, p. 23.
- The Reith Diaries, edited by Charles Stewart, Collins, 1975; entry for 11 May, 1926.
As I traveled in Nicaragua on the recent Sanctions Kill delegation, one thing was clear: social transformation (revolution) requires both political power and participation by the people. Without political power, revolutionary programs will not have the material resources they require. Without the participation of the people, revolutionary programs, even with resources, cannot be put into practice and defended.
Right now, Nicaraguans have both and they are making great progress in building a new society or as it is often referred to in Latin America, ‘Buen Vivir,’ (the good life). They are demonstrating what we mean when we say “transforming society to put people and the planet over profits.” And this is one of the reasons why the United States is targeting Nicaragua through hybrid warfare including a misinformation campaign, direct interference in the politics of the country and economic attacks. It is clear the United States is already working to undermine the upcoming presidential election in Nicaragua scheduled for November 7, but that is a necessary topic for another day.
In this newsletter, I will focus on two aspects of the ongoing Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua: building power through organizing peasant workers and building a multicultural society that respects the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. Both contain lessons for activists in the United States.
In the last newsletter, I wrote a bit about the history of the popular struggle in Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America that has a low-density population of around six million people. Through a mass armed movement, Nicaraguans ousted the US Marines in the early twentieth century but that was followed by almost 50 years of the brutal dictatorship of the US-backed liberal party led by the Somoza family. Throughout that period, a minority of people (5%) owned most of the land (80%).
In 1979, the same year that the US-backed Shah of Iran was defeated, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which began in the 1960’s, overthrew the Somozas and was finally able to start putting its 13-point socialist program into practice. Although there were setbacks during the US-backed Contra War of the 1980s and the neoliberal period from 1990 to 2006, in the past 14 years, Nicaragua has made major achievements that other poor countries and many a rich country like the United States have not been able to make.
Their successes include access to free education from preschool through the university level for all people, universal healthcare, land ownership, a pension, the empowerment of women, youth, and marginalized populations and more. Nicaragua has a primarily popular economy composed of cooperatives and small farms and businesses. It has achieved food sovereignty with 90% of the food consumed being produced locally and a growing agricultural export market. It is building infrastructure, particularly roads, electricity, and potable water. Currently, over 98% of homes have electricity and 75% of that comes from renewable sources. Almost one-fourth of the energy produced is geothermal as Nicaragua is a land of volcanos. Learn more in this Clearing the FOG episode taped in Nicaragua.
It took many decades to create the conditions in which these achievements could be made. The struggle to put the Sandinista revolution into practice and to defend the gains continues. Both the FSLN and the Rural Workers Association (ATC) are integral parts of that struggle.
The Rural Workers Association officially began forty-three years ago this week, although the work to start organizing and unionizing peasant workers began in the early 1970’s at the same time that the FSLN was growing. In my interview with Fausto Torres, who has been with the ATC from early on and currently serves as the Secretary of International Relations, he explains that the ATC and FSLN were born out of the same struggle with the ATC being composed of workers and the FSLN providing a political platform rooted in worker empowerment. Both arms of the revolution complemented each other. For example, the ATC provided food and safe houses for FSLN fighters during the Contra War and many Sandinistas who defended the revolution during that time came from the ATC.
After the Somoza dictatorship was overthrown, it was the ATC that made the agrarian reform, which transferred land from large landowners to over 120,000 peasant families, a reality and helped to defend those land gains. The ATC provided literacy programs and helped new land owners learn to make their small farms productive. Some land owners formed cooperatives.
After the Contra War, the ATC facilitated a reconciliation process between people who fought on both sides. Today, Sandinistas and former Contras live and work side-by-side in many communities and belong to the same cooperatives. The ATC continues to organize rural workers and educate them about labor laws and it has special programs for youth and women.
The ATC has several schools. One of its newer ones is the Latin American Institute of Agroecology or IALA (based on the name in Spanish), which educates people from all over Latin America. IALA incorporates traditional knowledge and the latest science to create practices that are sustainable, address the climate crisis and serve the cultural needs of local communities. In line with the values of the ATC and FSLN, emphasis is placed on the inclusion and empowerment of youth and women to support the development of new leaders.
In the early 1990’s, the ATC globalized its peasant movement by founding La Via Campesina, a member organization that currently operates in the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania and represents over 200 million rural families who are working to build a democratic and non-exploitative society. In addition to peasant workers, La Via Campesina members include migrants, landless peasants, and human rights defenders. There are four major areas of work: land reform, food sovereignty, peasant culture and socializing common goods. As an organization, it operates through collective leadership and participatory democracy. La Via Campesina values gender equality, youth participation, diversity, discipline and international solidarity. It is anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-patriarchal.
La Via Campesina runs a number of campaigns. One of them targets transnational corporations, particularly those based in the United States, that are pushing the “Green Revolution,” which is trying to dominate land ownership, control food production and push a toxic and exploitative food system based on profits for a few. A recent success in that struggle was the passing of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas in late 2018 at the United Nations. It should not be a surprise that the United States and some European Union countries opposed it.
The ATC and La Via Campesina are building the local and global popular movement necessary to challenge corporate power and capitalism and create a world that can protect the rights of all people and mitigate the climate crisis. We activists in the US have much to learn from them.
Another accomplishment in Nicaragua is their ongoing work in the Autonomous Zone, composed of 47% of the nation’s land on the Northern and Southern Caribbean Coasts, to restore the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendants who have been discriminated against for a long time. It offers a model for the United States to consider.
This work is grounded in the Nicaraguan Constitution passed after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship that values a multi-ethnic society. Due to the Contra War and the neoliberal period that followed, most of the gains have been made in the last decade or so since Daniel Ortega was restored as the president. There was a ten year period of negotiations between the government and the autonomous communities that resulted in the titles of 33% of the national territory being granted to twenty three Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples who requested them.
Indigenous leaders decide what parts of the land are to be used for housing or agriculture and the regulations regarding whether or not non-Indigenous people could live there. For example, the capital of the Northern Caribbean Coast, Bilwi, is owned by the people in Karata and they receive taxes from the city, which was formerly called Puerto Cabezas.
In recent years, unprecedented amounts of money have been spent on building highways to connect the communities with each other and with markets for their goods. There was also a big expansion in health care facilities and infrastructure for electricity and water. Education is also a high priority. Schools are multilingual to include the maternal language as well as Spanish and English. The university system is dedicated to multiculturalism and “rescuing” traditional knowledge. Their development plan is based on human development rather than exploitation.
Some of the major industries in the region include mining, forestry and cattle. They are working on mining methods that reduce the environmental impact and pollution from it. For timber, the community has to approve any plans and it owns and benefits from the entire process. Similarly for cattle, the community decides who can have cattle farms. As the climate crisis expands the “dry zone” outside of the Autonomous Region, non-Indigenous cattle farmers have been looking for other areas to raise their herds and this has been used by the United States as a way to attack Nicaragua through a false tale of assaults on Indigenous communities, known as “the Conflict Beef” story. This is far from the reality, as John Perry explains.
Although there have been a few small victories recently in the United States of returning land to Native American tribes, we still have a long way to go. Nicaragua demonstrates a model that is indigenous-led with the state playing a supportive role. Imagine if land in the United States was returned to the Indigenous Peoples who would control what is done on the land, including who could live there. This would go a long way to reversing the centuries of oppression and stolen wealth and could finally end the era of settler colonialism.
There is a lot we can learn from Nicaraguan people about how to organize, resist and build a multicultural society based on participatory democracy, empowerment and healing the Earth. The Sanctions Kill delegation provided a glimpse into this powerful work but there is more to know about the specific programs and how they could be translated into our work here to hold our government accountable and transform our society.
One concept that arose during the delegation is that of “revolutionary discipline.” Revolutions don’t just happen. They are the fruit of dedication to education and struggle. We can each practice revolutionary discipline in our communities through political education, organizing, putting pressure on the government and building alternative programs. Through this work, we will build the mass movement necessary to succeed.
We must also work to protect Nicaragua and other revolutionary societies that are targeted by US foreign policy for daring to defend their self-determination and sovereignty. We witnessed the violence and destruction of the 2018 US-backed coup attempt. We already see the US laying the groundwork to interfere in the presidential election in Nicaragua this November. Let us also put revolutionary discipline into practice by not allowing ourselves to be fooled by false media narratives and by raising our voices against US interference.
The photo at the top of this newsletter was taken at the ATC School in Managua. It reads “Globalize the Struggle, Globalize the Hope.” This is our call to action so that we can build a world of Buen Vivir for everyone.The post Nicaragua: Building The Good Life (Buen Vivir) Through Popular Revolution first appeared on Dissident Voice.