Category Archives: Barack Obama

Second Stage Terror Wars

We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.

– William Casey, CIA Director, February. 1981

It is well known that the endless U.S. war on terror was overtly launched following the mass murders of September 11, 2001 and the linked anthrax attacks.   The invasion of Afghanistan and the Patriot Act were immediately justified by those insider murders, and subsequently the wars against Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc.  So too the terrorizing of the American people with constant fear-mongering about imminent Islamic terrorist attacks from abroad that never came.

It is less well known that the executive director of the U.S. cover story – the fictional 9/11 Commission Report – was Philip Zelikow, who controlled and shaped the report from start to finish.

It is even less well known that Zelikow, a professor at the University of Virginia, was closely associated with Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Dickey Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Brent Scowcroft, et al. and had served in various key intelligence positions in both the George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations. In 2011 President Obama named him to his President’s Intelligence Advisory Board as befits bi-partisan elite rule and coverup compensation across political parties.

Perhaps it’s unknown or just forgotten that The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission repeatedly called for Zelikow’s removal, claiming that his appointment made a farce of the claim that the Commission was independent.

Zelikow said that for the Commission to consider alternative theories to the government’s claims about Osama bin Laden was akin to whacking moles.  This is the man, who at the request of his colleague Condoleezza Rice, became the primary author of (NSS 2002) The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, that declared that the U.S. would no longer abide by international law but was adopting a policy of preemptive war, as declared by George W. Bush at West Point in June 2002.  This was used as justification for the attack on Iraq in 2003 and was a rejection of the charter of the United Nations.

So, based on Zelikow’s work creating a magic mountain of deception while disregarding so-called molehills, we have had twenty years of American terror wars around the world in which U.S. forces have murdered millions of innocent people.  Wars that will be continuing for years to come despite rhetoric to the contrary.  The rhetoric is simply propaganda to cover up the increasingly technological and space-based nature of these wars and the use of mercenaries and special forces.

Simultaneously, in a quasi-volte-face, the Biden administration has directed its resources inward toward domestic “terrorists”: that is, anyone who disagrees with its policies.  This is especially aimed at those who question the COVID-19 story.

Now Zelikow has been named to head a COVID Commission Planning Group based at the University of Virginia that is said to prepare the way for a National COVID Commission.  The group is funded by the Schmidt Futures, the Skoll Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and Stand Together, with more expected to join in.  Zelikow, a member of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program Advisory Panel, will lead the group that will work in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Stand together indeed: Charles Koch, Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, the Rockefellers, et al. funders of disinterested truth.

So once again the fox is in the hen house.

If you wistfully think the corona crisis will soon come to an end, I suggest you alter your perspective.  Zelikow’s involvement, among other things, suggests we are in the second phase of a long war of terror waged with two weapons – military and medical – whose propaganda messaging is carried out by the corporate mainstream media in the pursuit of the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset. Part one has so far lasted twenty years; part two may last longer. You can be certain it won’t end soon and that the new terrorists are domestic dissidents.

Did anyone think the freedoms lost with The Patriot Act were coming back some day?  Does anyone think the freedoms lost with the corona virus propaganda are coming back?  Many people probably have no idea what freedoms they lost with the Patriot Act, and many don’t even care.

And today?  Lockdowns, mandatory mask wearing, travel restrictions, requirements to be guinea pigs for vaccines that are not vaccines, etc.?

Who remembers the Nuremberg Codes?

And they thought they were free, as Milton Mayer wrote about the Germans under Hitler.  Like frogs in a pot of cold water, we need to feel the temperature rising before it’s too late.  The dial is turned to high heat now.

But that was so long ago and far away, right?  Don’t exaggerate, you say.  Hitler and all that crap.

Are you thankful now that government spokespeople are blatantly saying that they will so kindly give us back some freedoms if we only do what they’re told and get “vaccinated” with an experimental biological agent, wear our masks, etc.? Hoi polloi are supposed to be grateful to their masters, who will grant some summer fun until they slam the door shut again.

Pfizer raked in $3.5 billion from vaccine sales in the first quarter of 2021, the first three months of the vaccine rollouts, and the company projects $26 billion for the year.  That’s one vaccine manufacturer.  Chump change?  Only a chump would not realize that Pfizer is the company that paid $2.3 billion in Federal criminal fines in 2009 – the largest ever paid by a drug company – for being a repeat offender in the marketing of 13 different drugs.

Meanwhile, the commission justifying the government’s claims about COVID-19 and injections (aka “vaccines”) will be hard at work writing their fictive report that will justify ex post facto the terrible damage that has occurred and that will continue to occur for many years.  Censorship and threats against dissidents will increase.  The disinformation that dominates the corporate mainstream media will of course continue, but this will be supplemented by alternative media that are already buckling under the pressure to conform.

The fact that there has been massive censorship of dissenting voices by Google/ YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc., and equally massive disinformation by commission and omission across media platforms, should make everyone ask why.  Why repress dissent?  The answer should be obvious but is not.

The fact that so many refuse to see the significance of this censorship clearly shows the hypnotic effects of a massive mind control operation.

Name calling and censorship are sufficient.  Perfectly healthy people have now become a danger to others.  So mask up, get your experimental shot, and shut up!

Your body is no longer inviolable.  You must submit to medical procedures on your body whether you want them or not.  Do not object or question. If you do, you will be punished and will become a pariah.  The authorities will call you crazy, deviant, selfish. They will take away your rights to travel and engage in normal activities, such as attend college, etc.

Please do not recall The Nuremberg Code.  Especially number 7: “Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability or death.” (my emphasis)

“Now is the time to just do what you are told,” as Anthony Fauci so benevolently declared.

I am not making a prediction.  The authorities have told us what’s coming. Pay attention.  Don’t be fooled.  It’s a game they have devised.  Keep people guessing.  On edge.  Relieved.  Tense.  Relaxed.  Shocked.  Confused.  That’s the game.  One day this, the next that.  You’re on, you’re off.  You’re in, you’re out.  We are allowing you this freedom, but be good children or we will have to retract it.  If you misbehave, you will get a time out.  Time to contemplate your sins.

If you once thought that COVID-19 would be a thing of the past by now, or ever, think again.  On May 3, 2021 The New York Times reported that the virus is here to stay.  This was again reported on May 10.  Hopes Fade for Global Herd Immunity.  You may recall that we were told such immunity would be achieved once enough people got the “vaccine” or enough people contracted the virus and developed antibodies.

On May 9, on ABC News, Dr. Fauci, when asked about indoor mask requirements being relaxed, said, “I think so, and I think you’re going to probably be seeing that as we go along, and as more people get vaccinated.”  Then he added: “We do need to start being more liberal, as we get more people vaccinated.”

But then, in what CNN reported as a Mother’s Day prediction, he pushed the date for “normality” out another year, saying, “I hope that [by] next Mother’s Day, we’re going to see a dramatic difference than what we’re seeing right now. I believe that we will be about as close to back to normal as we can.  We’ve got to make sure that we get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated. When that happens, the virus doesn’t really have any place to go. You’re not going to see a surge. You’re not going to see the kinds of numbers we see now.”

He said this with a straight face even though the experimental “vaccines,” by their makers own admissions, do not prevent the vaccinated from getting the virus or passing it on.  They allege it only mitigates the severity of the virus if you contract it.

Notice the language and the vaccination meme repeated three times: “We get more people vaccinated.” (my emphasis) Not that more people choose to get vaccinated, but “we get” them vaccinated.  Thank you, Big Daddy. And now we have another year to go until “we will be about as close to back to normal as we can.”  Interesting phrase: as we can.  It other words: we will never return to normality but will have to settle for the new normal that will involve fewer freedoms.  Life will be reset, a great reset.  Great for the few and terrible for the many.

Once two vaccines were enough; then, no, maybe one is sufficient; no, you will need annual or semi-annual booster shots to counteract the new strains that they say are coming.  It’s a never-ending story with never-ending new strains in a massive never-ending medical experiment.  The virus is changing so quickly and herd immunity is now a mystical idea, we are told, that it will never be achieved.  We will have to be eternally vigilant.

But wait.  Don’t despair.  It looks like restrictions are easing up for the coming summer in the northern hemisphere. Lockdowns will be loosened.  If you felt like a prisoner for the past year plus, now you will be paroled for a while. But don’t dispose of those masks just yet.  Fauci says that wearing masks could become seasonal following the pandemic because people have become accustomed to wearing them and that’s why the flu has disappeared. The masks didn’t prevent COVID-19 but eliminated the flu.  Are you laughing yet?

Censorship and lockdowns and masks and mandatory injections are like padded cells in a madhouse and hospital world where free-association doesn’t lead to repressed truths because free association isn’t allowed, neither in word nor deed.  Speaking freely and associating with others are too democratic. Yes, we thought we were free.  False consciousness is pandemic.  Exploitation is seen as benevolence. Silence reigns.  And the veiled glances signify the ongoing terror that has spread like a virus.

We are now in a long war with two faces.  As with the one justified by the mass murders of September 11, 2001, this viral one isn’t going away.

The question is: Do we have to wait twenty years to grasp the obvious and fight for our freedoms?

We can be assured that Zelikow and his many associates at Covid Collaborative, including General Stanley McChrystal, Robert Gates, Arnie Duncan, Deval Patrick, Tom Ridge, et al. – a whole host of Republicans and Democrats backed by great wealth and institutional support, will not be “whacking moles” in their search for truth.  Their agenda is quite different.

But then again, you may recall where they stood on the mass murders of September 11, 2001 and the endless wars that have followed.

The post Second Stage Terror Wars first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Arc of the Moral Universe?

On April 21, police in Elizabeth City, North Carolina executed Andrew Brown. According to a private autopsy, he was shot five times, including the “kill shot” to the back of his head whil;e his hands were on the steering wheel of his car. Seven officers equipped with body cameras were at the scene but only a 20-second snippet was provided to the family. Based on what we know so far, the official story has zero credibility.

This unfolding story, along with many others, prompts me to once again pause and think about the metaphor, “The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But Bends Toward Justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. frequently employed the above phrase as did Barack Obama. King was paraphrasing a portion of a sermon delivered by the abolitionist minister Theodore Parker who said in 1853 “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. … a long one. My eye reacts but little ways; I cannot calculate and complete the figure by experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”

Given this context, I think we can read the longer statement as more nuanced, more equivocal than the abbreviated more popular version. And here it’s worth remembering that Rev. Parker was a Transcendentalist who believed there was a natural morality in the universe that would eventually triumph. Because slavery was such a terrible evil, that would happen sooner rather than later and, if necessary, God himself, would intervene.

King’s version, with its historical determinism and preordained justice undoubtedly provides comfort to many people, including those harboring the belief in American exceptionalism, that we are on an odyssey of continual progress. Barack Obama liked King’s version so much that he had it woven into a rug in the Oval Office. Cynically, I suspect he did so because looking at it allowed him to abdicate responsibility for doing anything.

However, the unrelenting trajectory of racial animus and white supremacy, going back 250 years, suggests the statement is magical thinking and even dangerously naive. And to those lacking the certainty of religious belief, it’s even more problematic.

I want to think it’s possible that white people can be anti-racist, that racism is not an unchangeable character deficiency, that Americans can divest themselves of white supremacy. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I want to take issue with the Afro pessimistic claim that most white people (not only cops) see Blacks as not fully human subjects. I want to believe that UC-Irvine Prof. Frank Wilderson errors in positing a structure of anti-Black violence in this country that lies under the surface of leftist dreams of a universal humanity and intersectional solidarity.

I want to dismiss out of hand that whites are incapable of seeing that this country was built on genocide, stolen land, violence and Black slave labor. And along with activist Bette Lee, I want to think it’s possible that white Americans will eventually agree that “Only an honest reckoning with its history of settler colonialism and its toxic legacy of systemic racism, white supremacy and grinding poverty will lead to real social change and the transformation of America to where justice can prevail.” I want to think it’s possible that whites will grasp that this responsibility is entirely on us.

To this last point, the editors at Black Agenda report (April 21, 2021) remind us that “Black people cannot change white people’s warped perception of the world, although, Lord know, we’ve tried.” As such, housing and school segregation are more entrenched than ever; incarceration functions as a “Black-erasure machine;” White people continue to believe they are the “primary victims of racial discrimination;” and white supremacy is “impervious to any legal recourse.”

I think it’s important to see things as they really are before proceeding to respond. And that means that it will take more than reforms because, as the saying goes, “culture eats policy.” And that begs questions about the origins of our culture and who benefits from it?

Finally, given all of the above, there are days when it feels like our legacy of ghettoization, marginalization, the entire criminal justice system, mass incarceration, warrior cops, massive structural violence and rest means that pessimism and feelings of hopelessness can’t be dismissed. It remains an open question whether most white people are committed to lending their weight toward bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice. That said, in the spirit of Gramci’s pessimism of the intellect but optimism of the will, I’ll conclude with a quote from Edward Said: “Where cruelty and injustice are involved, hopelessness is submission, which I believe is immoral.” For me, assuming this responsibility is tantamount to saving our secular souls.

The post The Arc of the Moral Universe? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Denying the Demonic

In March of last year as the coronavirus panic was starting, I wrote a somewhat flippant article saying that the obsession with buying and hoarding toilet paper was the people’s vaccine.  My point was simple: excrement and death have long been associated in cultural history and in the Western imagination with the evil devil, Satan, the Lord of the underworld, the Trickster, the Grand Master who rules the pit of smelly death, the place below where bodies go.

The psychoanalytic literature is full of examples of death anxiety revealed in anal dreams of shit-filled overflowing toilets and people pissing in their pants.  Ernest Becker put it simply in The Denial of Death:

No mistake – the turd is mankind’s real threat because it reminds people of death.

The theological literature is also full of warnings about the devil’s wiles.  So too the Western classics from Aeschylus to Melville. The demonic has an ancient pedigree and has various names. Rational people tend to dismiss all this as superstitious nonsense.  This is hubris.  The Furies always exact their revenge when their existence is denied.  For they are part of ourselves, not alien beings, as the tragedy of human history has shown us time and again.

Since excremental visions and the fear of death haunt humans – the skull at the banquet as William James put it – the perfect symbol of protection is toilet paper that will keep you safe and clean and free of any reminder of the fear of death running through a panicked world.  It’s a magic trick, of course, an unconscious way of thinking you are protecting yourself; a form of self-hypnosis.

One year later, magical thinking has taken a different form and my earlier flippancy has turned darker. You can’t hoard today’s toilet paper but you can get them: RNA inoculations, misnamed vaccines. People are lined up for them now as they are being told incessantly to “get your shot.”  They are worse than toilet paper. At least toilet paper serves a practical function.  Real vaccines, as the word’s etymology – Latin, vaccinus, from cows, the cowpox virus vaccine first used by British physician Edward Jenner in 1800 to prevent smallpox – involve the use of a small amount of a virus.  The RNA inoculations are not vaccines.  To say they are is bullshit and has nothing to do with cows. To call them vaccines is linguistic mind control.

These experimental inoculations do not prevent the vaccinated from getting infected with the “virus” nor do they prevent transmission of the alleged virus. When they were approved recently by the FDA that was made clear.  The FDA issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for these inoculations only under the proviso that they may make an infection less severe.  Yet millions have obediently taken a shot that doesn’t do what they think it does.  What does that tell us?

Hundreds of millions of people have taken an injection that allows a bio-reactive “gene-therapy” molecule to be injected into their bodies because of fear, ignorance, and a refusal to consider that the people who are promoting this are evil and have ulterior motives.  Not that they mean well, but that they are evil and have evil intentions.  Does this sound too extreme?  Radically evil?  Come on!

So what drives the refusal to consider that demonic forces are at work with the corona crisis?

Why do the same people who get vaccinated believe that a PCR test that can’t, according to its inventor Kary Mullis, test for this so-called virus, believe in the fake numbers of positive “cases”?  Do these people even know if the virus has ever been isolated?

Such credulity is an act of faith, not science or confirmed fact.

Is it just the fear of death that drives such thinking?

Or is it something deeper than ignorance and propaganda that drives this incredulous belief?

If you want facts, I will not provide them here. Despite the good intentions of people who still think facts matter, I don’t think most people are persuaded by facts anymore. But such facts are readily available from excellent alternative media publications.  Global Research’s Michel Chossudovsky has released, free of charge, his comprehensive E-Book: The 2020-21 Worldwide Corona Crisis: Destroying Civil Society, Engineered Economic Depression, Global Coup D’Etat, and the “Great Reset.”  It’s a good place to start if facts and analysis are what you are after.  Or go to Robert Kennedy, Jr.’s Childrens Health Defense, Off-Guardian, Dissident Voice, Global Research, among numerous others.

Perhaps you think these sites are right-wing propaganda because many articles they publish can also be read or heard at some conservative media. If so, you need to start thinking rather than reacting. The entire mainstream political/media spectrum is right-wing, if you wish to use useless terms such as Left/Right.  I have spent my entire life being accused of being a left-wing nut, but now I am being told I am a right-wing nut even though my writing appears in many leftist publications. Perhaps my accusers don’t know which way the screw turns or the nut loosens.  Being uptight and frightened doesn’t help.

I am interested in asking why so many people can’t accept that radical evil is real.  Is that a right-wing question?  Of course not.  It’s a human question that has been asked down through the ages.

I do think we are today in the grip of radical evil, demonic forces. The refusal to see and accept this is not new.  As the eminent theologian, David Ray Griffin, has argued, the American Empire, with its quest for world domination and its long and ongoing slaughters at home and abroad, is clearly demonic; it is driven by the forces of death symbolized by Satan.

I have spent many years trying to understand why so many good people have refused to see and accept this and have needed to ply a middle course over many decades. The safe path. Believing in the benevolence of their rulers.  When I say radical evil, I mean it in the deepest spiritual sense.  A religious sense, if you prefer.  But by religious I don’t mean institutional religions since so many of the institutional religions are complicit in the evil.

It has long been easy for Americans to accept the demonic nature of foreign leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.  Easy, also, to accept the government’s attribution of such names as the “new Hitler” to any foreign leader it wishes to kill and overthrow.  But to consider their own political leaders as demonic is near impossible.

So let me begin with a few reminders.

The U.S. destruction of Iraq and the mass killings of Iraqis under George W. Bush beginning in 2003.  Many will say it was illegal, unjust, carried out under false pretenses, etc.  But who will say it was pure evil?

Who will say that Barack Obama’s annihilation of Libya was radical evil?

Who will say the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Tokyo and so many Japanese cities that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians was radical evil?

Who will say the U.S. war against Syria is demonic evil?

Who will say the killing of millions of Vietnamese was radical evil?

Who will say the insider attacks of September 11, 2001 were demonic evil?

Who will say slavery, the genocide of native people, the secret medical experiments on the vulnerable, the CIA mind control experiments, the coups engineered throughout the world resulting in the mass murder of millions – who will say these are evil in the deepest sense?

Who will say the U.S. security state’s assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, Jr., Robert Kennedy, Fred Hampton, et al. were radical evil?

Who will say the trillions spent on nuclear weapons and the willingness to use them to annihilate the human race is not the ultimate in radical evil?

This list could extend down the page endlessly.  Only someone devoid of all historical sense could conclude that the U.S. has not been in the grip of demonic forces for a long time.

If you can do addition, you will find the totals staggering.  They are overwhelming in their implications.

But to accept this history as radically evil in intent and not just in its consequences are two different things.  I think so many find it so hard to admit that their leaders have intentionally done and do demonic deeds for two reasons.  First, to do so implicates those who have supported these people or have not opposed them. It means they have accepted such radical evil and bear responsibility.  It elicits feelings of guilt. Secondly, to believe that one’s own leaders are evil is next to impossible for many to accept because it suggests that the rational façade of society is a cover for sinister forces and that they live in a society of lies so vast the best option is to make believe it just isn’t so.  Even when one can accept that evil deeds were committed in the past, even some perhaps intentionally, the tendency is to say “that was then, but things are different now.” Grasping the present when you are in it is not only difficult but often disturbing for it involves us.

So if I am correct and most Americans cannot accept that their leaders have intentionally done radically evil things, then it follows that to even consider questioning the intentions of the authorities regarding the current corona crisis needs to be self-censored.  Additionally, as we all know, the authorities have undertaken a vast censorship operation so people cannot hear dissenting voices of those who have now been officially branded as domestic terrorists. The self-censorship and the official work in tandem.

There is so much information available that shows that the authorities at the World Health Organization, the CDC, The World Economic Forum, Big Pharma, governments throughout the world, etc. have gamed this crisis beforehand, have manipulated the numbers, lied, have conducted a massive fear propaganda campaign via their media mouthpieces, have imposed cruel lockdowns that have further enriched the wealthiest and economically and psychologically devastated vast numbers, etc.  Little research is needed to see this, to understand that Big Pharma is, as Dr. Peter Gøtzsche documented eight years ago in Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, a world-wide criminal enterprise.  It takes but a few minutes to see that the pharmaceutical companies who have been given emergency authorization for these untested experimental non-vaccine “vaccines” have paid out billions of dollars to settle criminal and civil allegations.

It is an open secret that the WHO, the Gates Foundation, the WEF led by Klaus Schwab, and an interlocking international group of conspirators have plans for what they call The Great Reset, a strategy to use  the COVID-19 crisis to push their agenda to create a world of cyborgs living in cyberspace where artificial intelligence replaces people and human biology is wedded to technology under the control of the elites.  They have made it very clear that there are too many people on this planet and billions must die.  Details are readily available of this open conspiracy to create a transhuman world.

Is this not radical evil?  Demonic?

Let me end with an analogy.  There is another organized crime outfit that can only be called demonic – The Central Intelligence Agency.  One of its legendary officers was James Jesus Angleton, chief of Counterintelligence from 1954 until 1975.  He was a close associate of Allen Dulles, the longest serving director of the CIA.  Both men were deeply involved in many evil deeds, including bringing Nazi doctors and scientists into the U.S. to do the CIA’s dirty work, including mind control, bioweapons research, etc.  The stuff they did for Hitler.  As reported by David Talbot in The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, when the staunch Catholic Angleton was on his deathbed, he gave an interviews to visiting journalists, including Joseph Trento.  He confessed:

He had not been serving God, after all, when he followed Allen Dulles.  He had been on a satanic quest….’Fundamentally, the founding fathers of U.S. intelligence were liars,’ he told Trento in an emotionless voice.  ‘The better you lied and the more you betrayed, the more likely you would be promoted…. Outside this duplicity, the only thing they had in common was a desire for absolute power.  I did things that, looking back on my life, I regret.  But I was part of it and loved being in it.’  He invoked the names of the high eminences who had run the CIA in his day – Dulles, Helms, Wisner.  These men were ‘the grand masters,’ he said.  ‘If you were in a room with them, you were in a room full of people that you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell.’  Angleton took another slow sip from his steaming cup.  ‘I guess I will see them there soon.’

Until we recognize the demonic nature of the hell we are now in, we too will be lost.  We are fighting for our lives and the spiritual salvation of the world.  Do not succumb to the siren songs of these fathers of lies.

Resist.

The post Denying the Demonic first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ten Problems With Biden’s Foreign Policy and One Solution

The Biden presidency is still in its early days, but it’s not too early to point to areas in the foreign policy realm where we, as progressives, have been disappointed — or even infuriated.

There are one or two positive developments, such as the renewal of Obama’s New START Treaty with Russia and Secretary of State Blinken’s initiative for a UN-led peace process in Afghanistan, where the United States is finally turning to peace as a last resort, after 20 years lost in the graveyard of empires.

By and large, though, Biden’s foreign policy already seems stuck in the militarist quagmire of the past twenty years, a far cry from his campaign promise to reinvigorate diplomacy as the primary tool of U.S. foreign policy.

In this respect, Biden is following in the footsteps of Obama and Trump, who both promised fresh approaches to foreign policy but for the most part delivered more endless war.

By the end of his second term, Obama did have two significant diplomatic achievements with the signing of the Iran nuclear deal and normalization of relations with Cuba. So progressive Americans who voted for Biden had some grounds to hope that his experience as Obama’s vice-president would lead him to quickly restore and build on Obama’s achievements with Iran and Cuba as a foundation for the broader diplomacy he promised.

Instead, the Biden administration seems firmly entrenched behind the walls of hostility Trump built between America and our neighbors, from his renewed Cold War against China and Russia to his brutal sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and dozens of countries around the world, and there is still no word on cuts to a military budget that has grown by 15% since FY2015 (inflation-adjusted).

Despite endless Democratic condemnations of Trump, Biden’s foreign policy so far shows no substantive change from the policies of the past four years. Here are ten of the lowlights:

  1. Failing to quickly rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement. The Biden administration’s failure to immediately rejoin the JCPOA, as Bernie Sanders promised to do on his first day as president, has turned an easy win for Biden’s promised commitment to diplomacy into an entirely avoidable diplomatic crisis.

Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and imposition of brutal “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran were broadly condemned by Democrats and U.S. allies alike. But now Biden is making new demands on Iran to appease hawks who opposed the agreement all along, risking an outcome in which he will fail to reinstate the JCPOA and Trump’s policy will effectively become his policy. The Biden administration should re-enter the deal immediately, without preconditions.

  1. U.S. Bombing Wars Rage On – Now In Secret. Also following in Trump’s footsteps, Biden has escalated tensions with Iran and Iraq by attacking and killing Iranian-backed Iraqi forces who play a critical role in the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Biden’s February 25 U.S. airstrike predictably failed to end rocket attacks on deeply unpopular U.S. bases in Iraq, which the Iraqi National Assembly passed a resolution to close over a year ago.

The U.S. attack in Syria has been condemned as illegal by members of Biden’s own party, reinvigorating efforts to repeal the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force that presidents have misused for 20 years. Other airstrikes the Biden administration is conducting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are shrouded in secrecy, since it has not resumed publishing the monthly Airpower Summaries that every other administration has published since 2004, but which Trump discontinued a year ago.

  1. Refusing to hold MBS accountable for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khasssoghi. Human rights activists were grateful that President Biden released the intelligence report on the gruesome murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi that confirmed what we already knew: that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) approved the murder. Yet, when it came to holding MBS accountable, Biden choked.

At the very least, the administration should have imposed the same sanctions on MBS, including asset freezes and travel bans, that the U.S. imposed on lower-level figures involved in the murder. Instead, like Trump, Biden is wedded to the Saudi dictatorship and its diabolical Crown Prince.

  1. Clinging to Trump’s absurdist policy of recognizing Juan Guaidó as President of Venezuela. The Biden administration missed an opportunity to establish a new approach towards Venezuela when it decided to continue to recognize Juan Guaidó as “interim president”, ruled out talks with the Maduro government and appears to be freezing out the moderate opposition that participates in elections.

The administration also said it was in “no rush” to lift the Trump sanctions despite a recent study from the Government Accountability Office detailing their negative impact on the economy, and a scathing preliminary report by a UN Special Rapporteur, who noted their “devastating effect on the whole population of Venezuela.” The lack of dialogue with all political actors in Venezuela risks entrenching a policy of regime change and economic warfare for years to come, similar to the failed U.S. policy towards Cuba that has lasted for 60 years.

  1. Following Trump on Cuba instead of Obama. The Trump administration overturned all the progress towards normal relations achieved by President Obama, sanctioning Cuba’s tourism and energy industries, blocking coronavirus aid shipments, restricting remittances to family members, putting Cuba on a list of “state sponsors of terrorism,” and sabotaging Cuba’s international medical missions, which were a major source of revenue for its health system.

We expected Biden to immediately start unraveling Trump’s confrontational policies, but catering to Cuban exiles in Florida for domestic political gain apparently takes precedence over a humane and rational policy towards Cuba, for Biden as for Trump.

Biden should instead start working with the Cuban government to allow the return of diplomats to their respective embassies, lift all restrictions on remittances, make travel easier, and work with the Cuban health system in the fight against COVID-19, among other measures.

  1. Ramping up the Cold War with China. Biden seems committed to Trump’s self-defeating Cold War and arms race with China, talking tough and ratcheting up tensions that have led to racist hate crimes against East Asian people in the United States. But it is the United States that is militarily surrounding and threatening China, not the other way round. As former President Jimmy Carter patiently explained to Trump, while the United States has been at war for 20 years, China has instead invested in 21st century infrastructure and in its own people, lifting 800 million of them out of poverty.

The greatest danger of this moment in history, short of all-out nuclear war, is that this aggressive U.S. military posture not only justifies unlimited U.S. military budgets, but will gradually force China to convert its economic success into military power and follow the United States down the tragic path of military imperialism.

  1. Failing to lift painful, illegal sanctions during a pandemic. One of the legacies of the Trump administration is the devastating use of U.S. sanctions on countries around the world, including Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria. UN special rapporteurs have condemned them as crimes against humanity and compared them to medieval sieges. Since most of these sanctions were imposed by executive order, President Biden could easily lift them. Even before taking power, his team announced a thorough review, but, three months later, it has yet to make a move.

Unilateral sanctions that affect entire populations are an illegal form of coercion, like military intervention, coups and covert operations, that have no place in a legitimate foreign policy based on diplomacy, the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes. They are especially cruel and deadly during a pandemic and the Biden administration should take immediate action by lifting broad sectoral sanctions to ensure every country can adequately respond to the pandemic.

  1. Not doing enough to support peace and humanitarian aid for Yemen. Biden appeared to partially fulfill his promise to stop U.S. support for the war in Yemen when he announced that the U.S. would stop selling “offensive” weapons to the Saudis. But he has yet to explain what that means. Which weapons sales has he cancelled?

We think he should stop ALL weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, enforcing the Leahy Law that prohibits military assistance to forces that commit gross human rights violations, and the Arms Export Control Act, under which imported U.S. weapons may be used only for legitimate self defense. There should be no exceptions to these U.S. laws for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, Egypt or other U.S. allies around the world.

The U.S. should also accept its share of responsibility for what many have called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today, and provide Yemen with funding to feed its people, restore its health care system and rebuild its devastated country. A recent donor conference netted just $1.7 billion in pledges, less than half the $3.85 billion needed. Biden should restore and expand USAID funding and U.S. financial support to the UN, WHO and World Food Program relief operations in Yemen. He should also press the Saudis to reopen the air and seaports, and throw U.S. diplomatic weight behind the efforts of U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to negotiate a ceasefire.

  1. Failing to back President Moon Jae-in’s diplomacy with North Korea. Trump’s failure to provide sanctions relief and explicit security guarantees to North Korea doomed his diplomacy and became an obstacle to the diplomatic process under way between Korean presidents Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, who is himself the child of North Korean refugees. So far, Biden has continued this policy of Draconian sanctions and threats.

The Biden administration should revive the diplomatic process with confidence-building measures such as opening liaison offices, easing sanctions, facilitating reunions between Korean-American and North Korean families, permitting U.S. humanitarian organizations to resume their work when COVID conditions permit, and halting U.S.-South Korea military exercises and B-2 nuclear bomb flights.

Negotiations must involve concrete commitments to non-aggression from the U.S. side and a commitment to negotiating a peace agreement to formally end the Korean War. This would pave the way for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and the reconciliation that so many Koreans desire — and deserve.

  1. No initiative to reduce U.S. military spending. At the end of the Cold War, former senior Pentagon officials told the Senate Budget Committee that U.S. military spending could safely be cut by half over the next 10 years. That goal was never achieved, and instead of a post-Cold War “peace dividend,” the military-industrial complex exploited the crimes of September 11, 2001 to justify an extraordinary one-sided arms race. Between 2003 and 2011, the U.S. accounted for 45% of global military spending, far outstripping its own peak Cold War military spending.

Now the military-industrial complex is counting on Biden to escalate a renewed Cold War with Russia and China as the only plausible pretext for further record military budgets that are setting the stage for World War III.

Biden must dial back U.S. conflicts with China and Russia, and instead begin the critical task of moving money from the Pentagon to urgent domestic needs. He should start with at least the 10 percent cut that 93 Representatives and 23 Senators already voted for. In the longer term, Biden should look for deeper cuts in Pentagon spending, as in Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill to cut $350 billion per year from the U.S. military budget, to free up resources we sorely need to invest in health care, education, clean energy and modern infrastructure.

A Progressive Way Forward

These policies, common to Democratic and Republican administrations, not only inflict pain and suffering on millions of our neighbors in other countries, but also deliberately cause instability that can at any time escalate into war, plunge a formerly functioning state into chaos or spawn a secondary crisis whose human consequences will be even worse than the original one.

All these policies involve deliberate efforts to unilaterally impose the political will of U.S. leaders on other people and countries, by methods that consistently only cause more pain and suffering to the people they claim – or pretend – they want to help.

Biden should jettison the worst of Obama’s and Trump’s policies, and instead pick the best of them. Trump, recognizing the unpopular nature of U.S. military interventions, began the process of bringing U.S troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, which Biden should follow through on.

Obama’s diplomatic successes with Cuba, Iran and Russia demonstrated that negotiating with U.S. enemies to make peace, improve relations and make the world a safer place is a perfectly viable alternative to trying to force them to do what the United States wants by bombing, starving and besieging their people. This is, in fact, the core principle of the United Nations Charter, and it should be the core principle of Biden’s foreign policy

The post Ten Problems With Biden’s Foreign Policy and One Solution first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ten Problems With Biden’s Foreign Policy and One Solution

The Biden presidency is still in its early days, but it’s not too early to point to areas in the foreign policy realm where we, as progressives, have been disappointed — or even infuriated.

There are one or two positive developments, such as the renewal of Obama’s New START Treaty with Russia and Secretary of State Blinken’s initiative for a UN-led peace process in Afghanistan, where the United States is finally turning to peace as a last resort, after 20 years lost in the graveyard of empires.

By and large, though, Biden’s foreign policy already seems stuck in the militarist quagmire of the past twenty years, a far cry from his campaign promise to reinvigorate diplomacy as the primary tool of U.S. foreign policy.

In this respect, Biden is following in the footsteps of Obama and Trump, who both promised fresh approaches to foreign policy but for the most part delivered more endless war.

By the end of his second term, Obama did have two significant diplomatic achievements with the signing of the Iran nuclear deal and normalization of relations with Cuba. So progressive Americans who voted for Biden had some grounds to hope that his experience as Obama’s vice-president would lead him to quickly restore and build on Obama’s achievements with Iran and Cuba as a foundation for the broader diplomacy he promised.

Instead, the Biden administration seems firmly entrenched behind the walls of hostility Trump built between America and our neighbors, from his renewed Cold War against China and Russia to his brutal sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and dozens of countries around the world, and there is still no word on cuts to a military budget that has grown by 15% since FY2015 (inflation-adjusted).

Despite endless Democratic condemnations of Trump, Biden’s foreign policy so far shows no substantive change from the policies of the past four years. Here are ten of the lowlights:

  1. Failing to quickly rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement. The Biden administration’s failure to immediately rejoin the JCPOA, as Bernie Sanders promised to do on his first day as president, has turned an easy win for Biden’s promised commitment to diplomacy into an entirely avoidable diplomatic crisis.

Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and imposition of brutal “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran were broadly condemned by Democrats and U.S. allies alike. But now Biden is making new demands on Iran to appease hawks who opposed the agreement all along, risking an outcome in which he will fail to reinstate the JCPOA and Trump’s policy will effectively become his policy. The Biden administration should re-enter the deal immediately, without preconditions.

  1. U.S. Bombing Wars Rage On – Now In Secret. Also following in Trump’s footsteps, Biden has escalated tensions with Iran and Iraq by attacking and killing Iranian-backed Iraqi forces who play a critical role in the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Biden’s February 25 U.S. airstrike predictably failed to end rocket attacks on deeply unpopular U.S. bases in Iraq, which the Iraqi National Assembly passed a resolution to close over a year ago.

The U.S. attack in Syria has been condemned as illegal by members of Biden’s own party, reinvigorating efforts to repeal the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force that presidents have misused for 20 years. Other airstrikes the Biden administration is conducting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are shrouded in secrecy, since it has not resumed publishing the monthly Airpower Summaries that every other administration has published since 2004, but which Trump discontinued a year ago.

  1. Refusing to hold MBS accountable for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khasssoghi. Human rights activists were grateful that President Biden released the intelligence report on the gruesome murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi that confirmed what we already knew: that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) approved the murder. Yet, when it came to holding MBS accountable, Biden choked.

At the very least, the administration should have imposed the same sanctions on MBS, including asset freezes and travel bans, that the U.S. imposed on lower-level figures involved in the murder. Instead, like Trump, Biden is wedded to the Saudi dictatorship and its diabolical Crown Prince.

  1. Clinging to Trump’s absurdist policy of recognizing Juan Guaidó as President of Venezuela. The Biden administration missed an opportunity to establish a new approach towards Venezuela when it decided to continue to recognize Juan Guaidó as “interim president”, ruled out talks with the Maduro government and appears to be freezing out the moderate opposition that participates in elections.

The administration also said it was in “no rush” to lift the Trump sanctions despite a recent study from the Government Accountability Office detailing their negative impact on the economy, and a scathing preliminary report by a UN Special Rapporteur, who noted their “devastating effect on the whole population of Venezuela.” The lack of dialogue with all political actors in Venezuela risks entrenching a policy of regime change and economic warfare for years to come, similar to the failed U.S. policy towards Cuba that has lasted for 60 years.

  1. Following Trump on Cuba instead of Obama. The Trump administration overturned all the progress towards normal relations achieved by President Obama, sanctioning Cuba’s tourism and energy industries, blocking coronavirus aid shipments, restricting remittances to family members, putting Cuba on a list of “state sponsors of terrorism,” and sabotaging Cuba’s international medical missions, which were a major source of revenue for its health system.

We expected Biden to immediately start unraveling Trump’s confrontational policies, but catering to Cuban exiles in Florida for domestic political gain apparently takes precedence over a humane and rational policy towards Cuba, for Biden as for Trump.

Biden should instead start working with the Cuban government to allow the return of diplomats to their respective embassies, lift all restrictions on remittances, make travel easier, and work with the Cuban health system in the fight against COVID-19, among other measures.

  1. Ramping up the Cold War with China. Biden seems committed to Trump’s self-defeating Cold War and arms race with China, talking tough and ratcheting up tensions that have led to racist hate crimes against East Asian people in the United States. But it is the United States that is militarily surrounding and threatening China, not the other way round. As former President Jimmy Carter patiently explained to Trump, while the United States has been at war for 20 years, China has instead invested in 21st century infrastructure and in its own people, lifting 800 million of them out of poverty.

The greatest danger of this moment in history, short of all-out nuclear war, is that this aggressive U.S. military posture not only justifies unlimited U.S. military budgets, but will gradually force China to convert its economic success into military power and follow the United States down the tragic path of military imperialism.

  1. Failing to lift painful, illegal sanctions during a pandemic. One of the legacies of the Trump administration is the devastating use of U.S. sanctions on countries around the world, including Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria. UN special rapporteurs have condemned them as crimes against humanity and compared them to medieval sieges. Since most of these sanctions were imposed by executive order, President Biden could easily lift them. Even before taking power, his team announced a thorough review, but, three months later, it has yet to make a move.

Unilateral sanctions that affect entire populations are an illegal form of coercion, like military intervention, coups and covert operations, that have no place in a legitimate foreign policy based on diplomacy, the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes. They are especially cruel and deadly during a pandemic and the Biden administration should take immediate action by lifting broad sectoral sanctions to ensure every country can adequately respond to the pandemic.

  1. Not doing enough to support peace and humanitarian aid for Yemen. Biden appeared to partially fulfill his promise to stop U.S. support for the war in Yemen when he announced that the U.S. would stop selling “offensive” weapons to the Saudis. But he has yet to explain what that means. Which weapons sales has he cancelled?

We think he should stop ALL weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, enforcing the Leahy Law that prohibits military assistance to forces that commit gross human rights violations, and the Arms Export Control Act, under which imported U.S. weapons may be used only for legitimate self defense. There should be no exceptions to these U.S. laws for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, Egypt or other U.S. allies around the world.

The U.S. should also accept its share of responsibility for what many have called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today, and provide Yemen with funding to feed its people, restore its health care system and rebuild its devastated country. A recent donor conference netted just $1.7 billion in pledges, less than half the $3.85 billion needed. Biden should restore and expand USAID funding and U.S. financial support to the UN, WHO and World Food Program relief operations in Yemen. He should also press the Saudis to reopen the air and seaports, and throw U.S. diplomatic weight behind the efforts of U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to negotiate a ceasefire.

  1. Failing to back President Moon Jae-in’s diplomacy with North Korea. Trump’s failure to provide sanctions relief and explicit security guarantees to North Korea doomed his diplomacy and became an obstacle to the diplomatic process under way between Korean presidents Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, who is himself the child of North Korean refugees. So far, Biden has continued this policy of Draconian sanctions and threats.

The Biden administration should revive the diplomatic process with confidence-building measures such as opening liaison offices, easing sanctions, facilitating reunions between Korean-American and North Korean families, permitting U.S. humanitarian organizations to resume their work when COVID conditions permit, and halting U.S.-South Korea military exercises and B-2 nuclear bomb flights.

Negotiations must involve concrete commitments to non-aggression from the U.S. side and a commitment to negotiating a peace agreement to formally end the Korean War. This would pave the way for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and the reconciliation that so many Koreans desire — and deserve.

  1. No initiative to reduce U.S. military spending. At the end of the Cold War, former senior Pentagon officials told the Senate Budget Committee that U.S. military spending could safely be cut by half over the next 10 years. That goal was never achieved, and instead of a post-Cold War “peace dividend,” the military-industrial complex exploited the crimes of September 11, 2001 to justify an extraordinary one-sided arms race. Between 2003 and 2011, the U.S. accounted for 45% of global military spending, far outstripping its own peak Cold War military spending.

Now the military-industrial complex is counting on Biden to escalate a renewed Cold War with Russia and China as the only plausible pretext for further record military budgets that are setting the stage for World War III.

Biden must dial back U.S. conflicts with China and Russia, and instead begin the critical task of moving money from the Pentagon to urgent domestic needs. He should start with at least the 10 percent cut that 93 Representatives and 23 Senators already voted for. In the longer term, Biden should look for deeper cuts in Pentagon spending, as in Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill to cut $350 billion per year from the U.S. military budget, to free up resources we sorely need to invest in health care, education, clean energy and modern infrastructure.

A Progressive Way Forward

These policies, common to Democratic and Republican administrations, not only inflict pain and suffering on millions of our neighbors in other countries, but also deliberately cause instability that can at any time escalate into war, plunge a formerly functioning state into chaos or spawn a secondary crisis whose human consequences will be even worse than the original one.

All these policies involve deliberate efforts to unilaterally impose the political will of U.S. leaders on other people and countries, by methods that consistently only cause more pain and suffering to the people they claim – or pretend – they want to help.

Biden should jettison the worst of Obama’s and Trump’s policies, and instead pick the best of them. Trump, recognizing the unpopular nature of U.S. military interventions, began the process of bringing U.S troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, which Biden should follow through on.

Obama’s diplomatic successes with Cuba, Iran and Russia demonstrated that negotiating with U.S. enemies to make peace, improve relations and make the world a safer place is a perfectly viable alternative to trying to force them to do what the United States wants by bombing, starving and besieging their people. This is, in fact, the core principle of the United Nations Charter, and it should be the core principle of Biden’s foreign policy

The post Ten Problems With Biden’s Foreign Policy and One Solution first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Is This Who We Are?”: Gitmo is America’s Enduring Shame

“That’s certainly our goal and our intention.” This was the non-committal answer given by White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, when, on February 12, she was asked by a reporter whether the new Joe Biden Administration intends to shut down the notorious Guantánamo Bay Prison by the end of the president’s first term in office.

Psaki’s answer may have seemed reassuring, that the untold suffering experienced by hundreds of men in this American gulag – many of whom were surely innocent – would be finally coming to an end. However, considering the history of Guantánamo and the trail of broken promises by the Barack Obama Administration, the new administration’s pledge is hardly encouraging.

Compare the new language with that of Obama’s impassioned diatribes about humanity, justice and American values, which he utilized whenever he spoke of Guantánamo. “Gitmo has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law,” Obama said at a speech at the National Defense University in May 2013.

Enamored with his every word, Obama’s audience clapped with enthusiasm. When he delivered that particular speech, Obama was then serving his second term in office. He already had ample opportunity to shut down the prison which operated with no international monitoring and entirely outside the realms of international and US laws.

Obama is likely to be remembered for his words, not his actions. Not only did he fail to shut down the prison which was erected by his predecessor, George W. Bush, in 2002, but the Guantánamo industry continued to thrive during his terms. For example, in his speech, Obama made  reference to the high cost of “a hundred and fifty million dollars each year to imprison 166 people.” According to the New Yorker, reporting in 2016, Guantánamo’s budget had morphed to “$445 million last year,” when Obama was still in office.

Yet, as the budget grew by leaps and bounds, the number of Guantánamo prisoners dwindled. Currently, there are only 40 prisoners still residing in that massive edifice of metal, concrete and barbed wire located at the eastern tip of Cuba, built atop a piece of land ‘leased’ by the US in 1903.

It is easy to conclude that the US government keeps the prison open only to avoid international accountability and, arguably, to extract information by torture, an act that is inconsistent with American laws. But this cannot be it. On the one hand, the entire wars against Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal under international law. Such a fact hardly stopped the US and its allies from savagely invading, humiliating and torturing entire populations with no regard whatsoever to legal or moral arguments.

On the other hand, Guantánamo is merely one of many American-run prisons and detention centers throughout the world that operate with no manual of rules and according to the most ruthless tactics. The tragedy of Abu Ghraib, a US military detention center in Baghdad, only became famous when direct evidence of the degrading, and incredibly violent conduct that was taking place within its walls was produced and publicized.

In fact, many American officials and members of Congress at the time used the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004 as an opportunity to whitewash and rebrand American crimes elsewhere and to present the misconduct in this Iraqi prison as if an isolated incident involving “a few bad apples”.

The ‘few bad apples’ argument, made by G. W. Bush was, more or less, the same logic utilized by Obama when he championed the closure of Guantánamo. Indeed, both Presidents insisted that neither Abu Ghraib nor Guantánamo should be made out to represent what America is really all about.

“Is this who we are?” Obama animatedly and passionately asked, as he made a case in favor of the closure of Guantánamo, speaking as if a human rights advocate, not a Commander-in-Chief who had direct authority to shut down the entire facility. The truth is that the Abu Ghraib tortures were not ‘a few bad apples’ and Guantánamo is, indeed, a microcosm of exactly what the US is, or has become.

From Bagram, Afghanistan, to Abu Ghraib, Iraq, to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to the many ‘floating prisons’ –  news of which was leaked by US media in 2014 – the US government continues to make a mockery of international and humanitarian laws. Many American officials, who genuinely advocate the closure of Guantánamo, refuse to acknowledge that the prison is a symbol of their country’s intransigence and refuse to accept that, like any other country in the world, it is accountable to international law.

This lack of accountability has exceeded the US government’s insistence to ‘act alone’, as in to launch wars without international mandates. One US Administration after another has also made it clear that, under no circumstances, would they allow accused war criminals to be investigated, let alone stand trial, before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The message here is that even America’s ‘bad apples’ can potentially walk free, regardless of the heinousness of their crimes.

Just months after the Trump Administration imposed sanctions on ICC judges to punish them for the potential investigations of US crimes in Afghanistan, it freed the convicted criminals who carried out horrific crimes in Iraq. On December 22, Trump pardoned four American mercenaries who belonged to the private military firm, Blackwater. These convicted murderers were involved in the killing of 14 civilians, including two children, in Baghdad in 2007.

What became known as the ‘Nisour Square massacre’ was another example of whitewashing, as government officials and mainstream media, though expressing outrage at the unlawful killing, insisted that the massacre was an isolated episode. The fact that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly civilians, were killed as a result of the American invasion seems irrelevant in the country’s skewed logic in its never-ending ‘war on terror’.

Whether Biden fulfills his promise of shutting down Guantánamo or not, little will change if the US remains committed to its condescending attitude towards international law and to its undeserved view of itself as a country that exists above the universal rights of everyone else.

That said, Guantánamo, on its own, is a crime against humanity and there can never be any justification to rationalize why hundreds of people are held indefinitely, without trial, without due process, without international observers and without ever seeing their families and loved ones. The explanation often offered by the pro-Guantánamo pundits is that the prison inmates are dangerous men. If that was, indeed, the case, why were these supposed criminals not allowed to see their day in court?

According to a report by Amnesty International published in May 2020, of the 779 men who were taken to that facility, “only seven have been convicted.” Worse, five of them were convicted “as a result of pre-trial agreements under which they pleaded guilty, in return for the possibility of release from the base.” According to the rights group, such a trial by ‘military commission’ “did not meet fair trial standards”.

In other words, Guantánamo is – and has always been – a fraudulent operation with no real inclination to holding criminals and terrorists accountable and to preventing further crimes. Instead, Guantánamo is an industry, and a lucrative one. In many ways, it is similar to the American prison military complex, ironically dubbed the ‘criminal justice system.’  Referring to the unjust ‘justice system’, Human Rights Watch derided the US for having “the largest reported prison population in the world”.

“The (US) criminal justice system – from policing and prosecution, through to punishment – is plagued with injustices like racial disparities, excessively harsh sentencing and drug and immigration policies that improperly emphasize criminalization,” HRW stated on its website.

The above, too, can be considered an answer to Obama’s rhetorical question, “Is this who we are?”. Yes, Mr. Obama, in fact, this is precisely who you are.

While offering the world’s most miserable detention conditions to hundreds of potentially innocent men, Guantánamo also offers career opportunities, high military perks and honors, and a seemingly endless budget for a small army to guard only a few shackled, gaunt-looking men in a far-away land.

So, even if Biden is able to overcome pressure from the military, from the CIA and from Congress to shut Guantánamo down, justice will still be absent, not only because of the numerous lives that are forever shattered but because America still refuses to learn from its mistakes.

The post “Is This Who We Are?”: Gitmo is America’s Enduring Shame first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Biden Should Stop Payment on U.S. Funds to Sisi’s Egypt

Credit: CODEPINK

Under Donald Trump’s presidency, Egypt, as well as Saudi Arabia, Israel, the UAE, and other repressive regimes, had virtually free reign to commit unchecked human rights abuses without worry that they might be chastised or lose U.S. diplomatic and financial support. But when Joe Biden won the 2020 election, President Sisi of Egypt started to worry. That’s when he contracted lobbying powerhouse Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck for $65,000 a month.

The pro-Cairo lobby team includes a number of former politicians, including former Republican congressman Ed Royce, who chaired the influential Foreign Affairs Committee from 2013-2018. The most shocking PR agent for the Egyptian regime, however, is Nadeam Elshami, former chief of staff for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “It’s inconceivable that a man who spent his younger years in Egypt, comes from a Muslim family that supported the 2011 Arab Spring and was a key Democratic staffer in the U.S. Congress would end up lobbying for a regime that jails, tortures and murders tens of thousands of Egyptians,” says Mohamed Ismail of  Egyptians Abroad for Democracy Worldwide.

Brownstein boasts many accomplishments, including pushing Congress to obtain compensation on behalf of the hostages held in Iran in 1979, recovering artifacts plundered during the Armenian Genocide, securing compensation for housing developers who had to mitigate asbestos from former U.S. military sites, and securing increased funding for cancer research. Representing Egypt under President Sisi is unlikely to be something Browstein Hyatt Schreck will brag about.

In July 2013, Sisi seized control of Egypt in a military coup that removed Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader. The following month, on August 14, his military massacred approximately 1,000 civilians engaging in peaceful protest at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth called the Rabaa massacre, “one of the worst killing of demonstrators in a single day in recent history,” pointing out that the violence was “intentionally planned at the highest levels of Egyptian society.” Between July 2013 and May 2014, Egyptian authorities detained, charged, or sentenced over 40,000 people. Many of the detainees — demonstrators, dissenters, and journalists — were held without trial. Others were tried without due process and sentenced to death.

In 2015, President Sisi governed without an elected parliament, giving himself almost total impunity for the attacks he carried out against civil and political rights. Effectively, all of the human rights gains that had been achieved during the 2011 Arab Spring that ousted longtime Egyption ruler Hosni Mubarak were lost when Sisi took over. Sisi’s reign of power has continued in this fashion with Egyptians experiencing surging human rights abuses and a large-scale breakdown of civil society.

In April 2019, Sisi’s government passed constitutional amendments allowing the leader to remain in power until 2030. In the fall of 2019, Egyptian authorities launched their biggest crackdown since Sisi seized power in 2013. According to Amnesty International, over 2,300 people, including more than 111 children, were taken into custody in sweeping and targeted arrests of peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights attorneys, politicians, and political activists. On January 13, 2020, Egyptian-born American citizen Mustafa Kassem died following more than six years of incarceration in Egypt. Kassem had been arrested in August 2013 in Cairo on claims that he had participated in protests against Sisi’s military regime. He suffered from beatings and was held in pretrial detention for over five years before finally, without due process, receiving a sentence of 15 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already abysmal prison conditions in Egypt and Sisi’s government has used the crisis as pretext to even further silence critics and make use of pretrial detention without judicial review.

Egypt’s North Sinai, a sparsely populated area bordering Israel and the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, is a particularly egregious example of the country’s human rights abuses. Attacks by armed groups, including ISIS affiliates, on Egyptian government installations began to rise after the 2011 Arab Spring uprising but increased dramatically following Sisi’s 2013 coup. Instead of protecting Sinai residents in their fight against militants, the Egyption military has “shown utter contempt for residents’ lives, turning their daily life into a nonstop nightmare of abuses,” said Michael Page, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The Egyptian military in the Sinai has been engaging in torture, dissapearances (including of children as young as 12), mass arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, home demolitions, severe curfews resulting in food shortages, and air and ground attacks against civilians. According to Human Rights Watch, these actions amount to war crimes and, according to a 2020 report by the U.S. Department of State, Egypt has repeatedly refused U.S. requests to observe how its military equipment is being used in the Sinai.

The history of U.S. financial support for Egypt dates back to the 1978 Camp David Accords and 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, when the U.S. began to provide Egypt with aid in a 2:3 ratio in accordance with U.S. aid to Israel. According to the U.S. Department of State, since 1978, Egypt has received over $50 billion in military and $30 billion in economic assistance. Currently, the U.S. gives Egypt $1.3 billion per year ($3.56 million per day) in military aid, making Egypt the second largest recipient of U.S. military assistance after Israel.

This largesse flowed during the reign of Hosni Mubarak and continues today, despite Sisi’s massive human rights abuses. Following the horrific 2014 Rabaa Square massacre, President Obama halted the delivery of U.S. tanks, missiles, fighter jets, and attack helicopters to Egypt. However, by 2015, he relented and lifted the arms hold, citing the need “to address the shared challenges to U.S. and Egyptian interests in an unstable region.” President Trump famously referred to Sisi as his “favorite dictator,” and praised Sisi for doing a  “fantastic job.” In August of 2017 the Trump administration did cut $96 million and delayed $195 million in military assistance to Egypt over the country’s failure to reduce its human rights abuses, a new law Sisi approved to restrict the activities of nongovernmental organizations, and Egypt’s relationship with North Korea. But these actions were not as tough on Egypt as they appeared to be. According to The New York Times: “by pausing the provision of $195 million in military funding, the Trump administration saved the money from expiring entirely on Sept. 30. This way, Egypt could eventually get the money if its record on human rights improves.” Indeed, the funding was later released without any change in Egypt’s policies.

Some members of Congress have tried to take action. In October 2020, 56 representatives — 55 Democrats and one independent — released a letter urging Sisi to release prisoners “unjustly detained for exercising their fundamental human rights.” The call was echoed by over 220 European lawmakers. In 2014, Congress began implementing the Leahy Laws on a portion of aid money to Egypt. The law prevents U.S. security assistance to a foreign security force unit when there is credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

In December 2020, Congress made $75 million (a small portion of the total $1.3 billion) conditional on human rights improvements, without the U.S. State Department being able to waive the conditions by citing U.S. national security interests.

Unlike Trump, Joe Biden has been quite critical of Sisi. Commenting on the release of an Egypt-American medical student, then-candidate Biden wrote on Twitter: “Mohamed Amasha is finally at home, after 486 days in an Egyptian prison, for raising a protest banner. The arrest, torture, and exile of activists like Sarah Hegazy and Mohamed Soltan or threatening their families is unacceptable. No more blank cheques for Trump’s favorite dictator.”

Shortly after it became apparent that Biden had won the 2020 U.S. election, Egypt began releasing some political prisoners, including three directors of the well-respected Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights — Gasser Abdel-Razek, Kareem Ennarah and Mohamed Basheer. On February 6, 2021, they released Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, who had been in prison since December 2016 for  “publishing false information and belonging to a banned group.” After Hussein was arrested, Sisi banned Al Jazeera and other news outlets critical of his rule. Reporters Without Borders has called Egypt one of the world’s biggest and worst jailers of journalists.

Certainly President al-Sisi is afraid that his days of free rein to commit human rights abuses are over now that Trump is out of office. That’s why he is so desperate for the help of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to whitewash his image and keep U.S. military assistance flowing. But the Biden administration and Congress must not be swayed by Egypt’s release of a few select prisoners or the lobbying efforts of well-compensated Brownstein employees such as Pelosi’s former chief of staff Nadeam Elshami. They should put a “stop payment” on the U.S. taxpayer-funded check that has enabled Sisi to operate with impunity.

The post Biden Should Stop Payment on U.S. Funds to Sisi’s Egypt first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Capitol Assault was Symptomatic of Our Dysfunctional Two-Party Politics

Americans were shocked to witness the assault on the capitol building on January 6, the day Congress was scheduled to ratify the presidential election.  Washington DC and the nation’s state capitals remained on high alert through the inauguration as right wing groups promised more violent attacks.

It’s easy to trace the proximate cause of this assault, a president who has long cultivated the lie that the 2020 election was somehow stolen.  Prior to the capitol assault, he exhorted his “Save America” rally on the Mall to “stop the steal” and “fight much harder,” asserting “You have to show strength, you have to be strong.”

Much has been made of the fascist overtones of Trump’s efforts, but it is important to understand how we got to such a place.  It goes well past Trump to forty years of dysfunctional, neoliberal American politics, and beyond that to the racism deeply embedded in this nation’s history.  Both political parties share responsibility for our current condition.

Republicans

The Republican Party role is the most obvious.

In 1968, President Nixon rode a law and order campaign into the White House, appealing to a so-called “silent majority” frightened, if not alienated, by the images of antiwar protesters, inner-city “rioters,” and counterculture “freaks” during the 1960s.

The corporate mass media, of course, fed this dynamic by refusing to take seriously the actual claims of black, antiwar, New Left and feminist activists, instead, making sure the public saw the most inflammatory examples of their behaviors and appearances.  In mass mediaspeak, “radical” was used to describe militancy, whereas any system-challenging argument vanished from mainstream discourse – sound familiar?  That’s a story I have documented elsewhere.

Nixon’s racist “southern strategy” set in stone the future of the Republican Party, although it remained for Ronald Reagan to seal the deal.  Reagan’s rhetoric about basic “decency” and “family values,” effectively played on the feelings of those disaffected by the 60s.

Yet Reagan’s actual policies focused on eliminating ways the government addresses public needs, cutting taxes on the wealthy, rebuilding a huge military complex, regenerating an aggressive foreign policy, and deregulating the economy.

However, the people drawn to Reagan’s so-called “conservative” rhetoric and his tax-cut pitch – whether religious traditionalists, rural folks, or members of the white working class — actually lost more and more ground, economically, under Reagan’s and the Republicans’ neoliberalism.  They got symbolic gratification while their attention was diverted to the Democrats, liberals, and “Eastern elites” who allegedly caused their problems.

That’s the Republican path that leads directly to Trump and his True Believers.  It also echoes the post-Reconstruction Democrats’ austerity pitch that reinforced white supremacy in the South.

What, then, of the Democratic Party?

Democrats

Smarting from Reagan’s landslide victory in 1984, Democratic centrists – names like Dick Gephardt, Sam Nunn, and Bill Clinton — took steps to move the Party away from its more liberal wing, into the corporate-dependent center.  In its more liberal moments the Party voiced hopeful rhetoric about defending the rights of minorities, women, and LGBTQ people, defending the environment, etc.  The reality has consistently fallen far short of the rhetoric.

Indeed, the two “liberal” Democratic presidents of the neoliberal era – Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — were responsible for a host of repressive and “free market” (e.g., neoliberal) policies.  Clinton’s contributions are perhaps better known: the “end of welfare as we know it,” NAFTA, financial and telecommunications deregulation, and the 1994 Crime Bill that accelerated mass incarceration, among others.

Riding a campaign of “hope” and “change” into the White House, none of Obama’s “liberal” accomplishments – the Affordable Care Act, Supreme Court appointments, the negotiated settlement with Iran, and initial steps on climate — diverged from the neoliberal playbook.  At the same time, Obama pushed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other so-called ‘free trade” agreements, escalated both domestic surveillance and drone killings abroad, supported the anti-democratic coup in Honduras, and withdrew the public option for health insurance, among others.

The right-wing Republican attack machine kept its rank-and-file in line with attacks on Clinton’s “60s-style” licentiousness and Obama’s being of African descent.  For their part, the corporate media repeatedly turned the 60s era into a “good sixties” of a romanticized civil rights movement and a hopeful John Kennedy administration, and a “bad sixties” of violence and narcissistic rebelliousness  — the latter a useful hook for selling entertainment and commodities to younger generations.

Dysfunctional Neoliberal Politics

Republicans, in short, have been all about giveaways to the rich while manipulating the emotions of less well-off white Americans.  Democrats have ignored the latter populations, becoming increasingly dependent on corporate money while effectively manipulating the aspirations of marginalized communities.

In their more liberal moments, what Nancy Fraser has called “progressive neoliberalism,” Democrats embrace what is often called “identity politics” – race, gender, and sexuality in particular.  Republicans use Democrats’ rhetoric to cement the emotional attachment of their rank and file supporters.  As Republican “reactionary neoliberalism” becomes more and more outrageous, Democrats gain popular support.  The corporate center, with all its sanctimonious rhetoric, is reinforced when something like the Capitol assault occurs.

As Fraser has observed in The Old is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born, “To reinstate progressive neoliberalism [e.g., Joe Biden and the Democratic mainstream] … is to recreate –indeed to exacerbate—the very conditions that created Trump.  And that means preparing the ground for future Trumps –ever more vicious and dangerous.”

Thus the country remains stuck in a see-saw battle that utterly fails to address the deep crises we face.  Neither party speaks a word against a capitalist system that feeds inequality, threatens the planet’s ability to sustain life, and generates a foreign policy marked by militarism and war.  The “problem” is always the “other party.”  Such are the boundaries of what Noam Chomsky called “legitimate discourse.”

And neither party dares to confront class inequality.  Unlike identity concerns about white supremacy, hate speech, harassment and abuse, and the like – all profound problems — class analysis reveals the systemic forces that keep both parties’ rank-and-file in their place at the margins of American politics.

Ultimately, the only way out of this will occur when enough people become aware, not only of the seriousness of the crises facing us, but of the need to come together in a well-mobilized mass movement addressing systemic concerns.  We already can see where we’re heading if we don’t do this.

The post The Capitol Assault was Symptomatic of Our Dysfunctional Two-Party Politics first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Will to Believe: Americans and their Divine Masters

Ah, mon cher, for anyone who is alone, without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadful.  Hence one must choose a master, God being out of style.

– Albert Camus, The Fall, 1956

Propagandists are smart people. They begin their devious machinations with the premise that people need to believe in something rather than remaining suspended in doubt or forced to accept the existential courage of despair that leaves them temporarily lost and without answers or masters, suffering from free-floating anxiety.

Propagandists are like Mr. Death.  They know people are afraid of death and aloneness and so use that fear to manipulate them into believing their cover stories for comfort.

Propagandists are like the Candy Man, handing out fictive life savers to the shipwrecked desperadoes willing to grasp on to anything even if it has a big hole in its center.

Propagandists take this need for belief and use it to create different scenarios that they develop into full-scale social theater pieces that will give the public various options to believe, all of which are meant to satisfy the public’s yearning for something rather than nothing but which conceal the truth.

Facts don’t matter with these offerings since they are completely illusory narratives.

These staged plays usually contain their opposites; one can choose what has already been chosen for one, even seemingly contradictory scripts with opposing roles. Seemingly is the relevant word, for the opposites are not opposites but counterparts, flip sides of the same coin. But each choice is a choice of belief that satisfies the need to believe no matter how unbelievable. It’s the coin that’s counterfeit.

For the propagandists, facts are fictions used to entice the audience into double-binds so entrancing that there is no exit.  Or so they hope.

The French sociologist Jacques Ellul put it this way in his classic book Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes:

For no citizen will believe he is unable to have opinions.  Public opinion surveys always reveal that people have opinions even on the most complicated questions, except for a small minority (usually the most informed and those who have reflected most).  The majority prefers expressing stupidities to not expressing any opinion: this gives them the feeling of participation.  For they need simple thoughts, elementary explanations, a ‘key’ that will permit them to take a position, and even ready-made opinions.  As most people have the desire and at the same time the incapacity to participate [except to vote for and support  pre-selected candidates], they are ready to accept a propaganda that will permit them to participate, and which hides their incapacity beneath explanations, judgments, and news, enabling them to satisfy their desire without eliminating their incompetence…He realizes that he depends on decisions over which he has no control, and that realization drives him to despair.  Man cannot stay in this situation too long.  He needs an ideological veil to cover the harsh reality, some consolation, a raison d’être, a sense of values.  And only propaganda offers him a remedy for a basically intolerable situation.

Thus the need to choose a master, a prefabricated demigod. It is why the American presidents are presented and accepted by their followers as minor divinities. Yes, it is a civil religion, and yes, people will vehemently deny that they revere these figureheads.  But those denials ring false, as recent history and the pageantry associated with the installation of these demigods will attest.

Take the last three presidents, for example.

Barack Obama was considered by his followers and many others like a prayer come true, a black messiah come to redeem the country from its racist past and evil war-making deeds of his Muslim-hating, war-mongering predecessor George W. Bush.  That Obama then waged war on seven Muslim countries didn’t matter to his congregation. Not in the slightest. They revered him as strongly as they had denounced  Bush, the black-hatted white demon to their white-hatted black god,  for the western movie template underlies these political theater pieces. Obama was a dream come true and the dream factory went into overdrive. As the priestess Madonna prophesied with Like A Prayer in 1989:

Just like a dream
You are not what you seem
Just like a prayer, no choice
Your voice can take me there

Then the orange-halo-headed Trump was paraded in.  To his followers he was the savior who would re-redeem the country from the devilish divinity Obama, the false prophet.  He would drain the swamp. Desperate middle-Americans revered this NYC real-estate tycoon and reality TV star who for years was nothing but a running joke among those who actually knew who he was.  It didn’t matter to his congregation.  Not in the slightest. That he gave to the rich and screwed the middle-class and the poor, increased the military budget, waged secretive wars via drones and private mercenaries didn’t matter a bit.  He was a religious figure. To Hillary Clinton’s and Obama’s acolytes, he was Satan himself, and for four years the anti-pageant play was presented by the corporate mainstream media to exorbitant box office receipts and ratings. God and Satan fought in the ring for the ultimate fighting championship.

Now Joseph Biden – just as Ronald Reagan, another acting president, had the coffee brewing for “Morning in America” – is greeted by the same media filmmakers as the latest savior, an aging but still virile demi-god who will usher in “a new day” in America.  The pageantry surrounding his recent virtual inaugural, like all inaugurals, was a religious ceremony choreographed within an ironic circle of 20,000-armed palace guards and barbed wire fencing protecting the erection of the new king, one who, like Oedipus in Sophocles’ tragedy, is presented as the savior who will defeat the viral plague attacking the new Thebes.  Unlike Oedipus, however, one can be assured that Biden will not seek to discover the murderer of Laius  (JFK), the former king, whose assassination resulted in the plague devastating the country.  Oedipus’s search for the truth didn’t end well, and Biden’s long insider career bodes well for no truth-seeking.  And like his predecessors’ inaugural ceremonies, this one featured cultural idols such as Hunger Games Lady Gaga, Madonna 2.0, promoting herself as befits idols, and  Bruce Springsteen offering his evenings “small prayer for our country” – Land of Hopes and Dreams:

Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder’s rollin’ down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re goin’ now
But you know you won’t be back….

I said this train…
Dreams will not be thwarted
This train…
Faith will be rewarded

No, we won’t be back, unless you think Biden’s slogan – “Build Back Better” – which is also the slogan of the world’s rulings elites, means what it says.  Perhaps then your faith will be rewarded.

I’ll go with George Carlin when he said that to believe in the American Dream you have to be asleep.

My faith is that the corporate mass media hypnotists who work for the owners of the country will continue to pump out their religious spectacles and that the various congregations will support their masters as always. The will to believe runs very deep and hand-in-glove with the propaganda. Life’s hard and it’s tough to be without a master.  “Men don’t become slaves out of mere calculating self-interest,” writes Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death, “the slavishness is in the soul, as Gorky complained.”

Propagandists’ ability to mesmerize the faithful has increase exponentially as the technological life has increased and been promoted as de rigueur.  This on-line life is propagated as a new religion whose embrace is said to be inevitable and whose faith one must accept as the missionaries for its miraculous nature spread the word far and wide.

Propagandists are smart people.

They hate freedom.

The post The Will to Believe: Americans and their Divine Masters first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why Senators Must Reject Avril Haines for Intelligence

Credit: Columbia World Projects

Even before President-Elect Joe Biden sets foot in the White House, the Senate Intelligence Committee may start hearings on his nomination of Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence.

Barack Obama’s top lawyer on the National Security Council from 2010 to 2013 followed by CIA Deputy Director from 2013 to 2015, Haines is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. She is the affable assassin who, according to Newsweek, would be summoned in the middle of the night to decide if a citizen of any country, including our own, should be incinerated in a U.S. drone strike in a distant land in the greater Middle East. Haines also played a key role in covering up the U.S. torture program, known euphemistically as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which included repeated water boarding, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, dousing naked prisoners with ice cold water, and rectal rehydration.

For these reasons, among others, the activist groups CODEPINK, Progressive Democrats of America, World Beyond War and Roots Action have launched a campaign calling on the Senate to reject her confirmation.

These same groups ran successful campaigns to dissuade Biden from choosing two other warmongering candidates for critical foreign policy positions: China-hawk Michele Flournoy for Secretary of Defense and torture apologist Mike Morell for CIA Director. By hosting calling parties to Senators, launching petitions and publishing Open Letters from DNC delegates, feminists—including Alice Walker, Jane Fonda, and Gloria Steinem—and Guantanamo torture survivors, activists helped derail candidates who were once considered shoo-ins for Biden’s cabinet.

Now activists are challenging Avril Haines.

In 2015, when Haines was CIA Deputy Director, CIA agents illegally hackedthe computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee to thwart the Committee’s investigation into the spy agency’s detention and interrogation program. Haines overruled the CIA’s own Inspector General in failing to discipline the CIA agents who violated the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers. According to former CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, she not only shielded the hackers from accountability but even awarded them the Career Intelligence Medal.

And there’s more. When the exhaustive 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture was finally complete, after five years of investigation and research, Haines took charge of redacting it to deny the public’s right to know its full details, reducing the document to a 500-page, black-ink-smeared summary.

Page 45 of the redacted Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture.

This censorship went beyond merely “protecting sources and methods”; it avoided CIA embarrassment, while ensuring her own career advancement.

Moreover, Haines supported torture apologist Gina Haspel as Trump’s CIA Director. Haspel ran a secret black site prison in Thailand where torture was regularly inflicted. Haspel also drafted the memo ordering the destruction of almost 100 videotapes documenting CIA torture.

As David Segal of Demand Progress told CNN, “Haines has an unfortunate record of repeatedly covering up for torture and torturers. Her push for maximalist redactions of the torture report, her refusal to discipline the CIA personnel who hacked the Senate and her vociferous support for Gina Haspel — which was even touted by the Trump White House as Democrats stood in nearly unanimous opposition to the then-nominee to lead the CIA — should be interrogated during the confirmation process.”

This sentiment was echoed by Mark Udall, a Democratic senator on the intelligence committee when it finished the torture report. “If our country is going to turn the page on the dark chapter of our history that was the CIA’s torture program, we need to stop nominating and confirming individuals who led this terrible program and helped cover it up”

Another reason Haines’s nomination should be rejected is her support for the proliferation of killer drones. There has been a concerted effort by former Obama colleagues to paint Haines as a voice of restraint that tried to pro­tect­ civil­ians. But according to former CIA whistleblower Kiarikou, Haines regularly approved the drone bombings that killed not only suspected terrorists, but entire families, including children, who died as collateral damage.”It was Avril that decided whether it was legal to incinerate someone from the sky,” said Kiriakou.

When human rights groups denounced Obama’s rash use of extrajudicial killings, including the assumption that all military-age males in the strike zone were “enemy combatants” and therefore legitimate targets, Haines was enlisted to co-author a new “pres­i­den­tial pol­i­cy guid­ance” to tighten the regulations. But this new “guidance,” issued on May 22, 2013, continued to blur the line between civilians and combatants, nor­mal­izing tar­get­ed assas­si­na­tions and effectively repudiating the “presumption of innocence” that has been the bedrock principle of civilian law for over 800 years.

The drone playbook, “PROCEDURES FOR APPROVING DIRECT ACTION AGAINST TERRORIST TARGETS LOCATED OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES AND AREAS OF ACTIVE HOSTILITIES,” says on page 1 that any “direct action must be conducted lawfully and taken against lawful targets,” yet the guidelines never reference international or domestic laws that define when extrajudicial killings outside of an active war zone are permitted.

On page 4, the guidelines for drone strikes allow for lethal action against those who are not “high value targets,” without explaining the criteria the CIA would use to identify someone as an imminent threat to the security of the United States. On page 12, the co-authors, Haines among them, redacted the minimum profile requirements for an individual “nominated” for lethal action. The very term “nominated” suggests an effort to sugarcoat targeted assassination, as though the bombing target is recomended for a U.S. presidential cabinet position. [NOTE: You might (somewhat sarcastically) want to put “[sic]” after the first use of the word “nominated”]

Page 12 of Haines’s guidelines for extrajudicial killings. Required generic profile entries for individuals “nominated” for lethal action are redacted.

Moreover, the guidelines themselves were often totally disregarded. The policy states, for example, that the U.S. “prioritizes, as a matter of policy, the capture of terrorist suspects as a preferred option over lethal action” and that lethal action should be taken “only when capture of an individual is not feasible.” But the Obama administration did nothing of the sort. Under George Bush, at least 780 terrorist suspects were captured and thrown into the U.S.-run gulag in Guantanamo. Haines’s guidelines prohibit transfer to Guantanamo so, instead, suspects were simply incinerated.

The guidelines required “near certainty that non-combatants will not be killed or injured,” but this requirement was routinely violated, as documented by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Haines’s policy guidance also states that the U.S. would respect other states’ sovereignty, only undertaking lethal action when other governments “cannot or will not” address a threat to the U.S. This, too, became simply empty words on paper. The U.S. barely even consulted with the governments in whose territory it was dropping bombs and, in the case of Pakistan, openly defied the government. In December 2013, the National Assembly of Pakistan unanimously approved a resolution against U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, calling them a violation of “the charter of the United Nations, international laws and humanitarian norms” and Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated: “The use of drones is not only a continual violation of our territorial integrity but also detrimental to our resolve and efforts at eliminating terrorism from our country.” But the U.S. ignored the  pleas of Pakistan’s elected government.

The proliferation of drone killings under Obama, from Yemen to Somalia, also violated U.S. law, which gives Congress the sole authority to authorize military conflict. But Obama’s legal team, which included Haines, circumvented the law by insisting that these military interventions fell under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), the law Congress passed to target Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This specious argument provided fodder for the out-of-control misuse of that 2001 AUMF which, according to the Congressional Research Service, has been relied on to justify US. military action at least 41 times in 19 countries.

In addition, the guidelines don’t even require the CIA and other agencies participating in the drone program to notify the President, the Commander-in-Chief, as to who is to be killed in a drone strike, except when a targeted individual is a U.S. citizen or when the agencies in charge cannot agree on the target.

There are many other reasons to reject Haines. She advocates intensifying crippling economic sanctions on North Korea that undermine a negotiated peace, and “regime change”–hypothetically engineered by a U.S. ally–that could leave a collapsed North Korea vulnerable to terrorist theft of its nuclear material; she was a consultant at WestExec Advisors, a firm that exploits insider government connections to help companies secure plum Pentagon contracts; and she was a consultant with Palantir, a data-mining company that facilitated Trump’s mass deportations of immigrants.

But Haines’s record on torture and drones, alone, should be enough for  Senators to reject her nomination. The unassuming spy—who got her start at the White House as a legal adviser in the Bush State Department in 2003, the year the U.S. invaded Iraq—might look and sound more like your favorite college professor than someone who enabled murder by remote control or wielded a thick black pen to cover up CIA torture, but a clear examination of her past should convince the Senate that Haines is unfit for high office in an administration that promises to restore transparency, integrity, and respect for international law.

Tell your Senator: Vote NO on Haines.

The post Why Senators Must Reject Avril Haines for Intelligence first appeared on Dissident Voice.