Category Archives: Middle East

Western Imperialism Stokes Resistance

Tim Anderson’s Axis of Resistance: Towards an Independent Middle East takes on the leftist position of ‘a plague on all your houses’. Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, ‘the intellectual voice of the Syrian revolution’ (for westerners), presents a bleak portrait of “three monsters … treading on Syria’s corpse”: (1) the Assad regime and its allies, (2) DAESH/ISIS and the other jihadists, and (3) the West (the USA, UK, France, etc). This is the general view from outside the Syrian cauldron, but leads nowhere.

I remember the view from Cairo, where I was writing for Al-Ahram Weekly as the ‘Arab Spring’ exploded. The first few months of 2011 in Egypt saw the collapse of the pro-western dictator Hosni Mubarak, and a wave of uprisings in the region, including Syria. Would protestors succeed there too, I asked myself. But the Syrian army was not behind the protests, as was the case in Egypt, where the army was angered by Mubarak’s embarrassing attempt to promote his younger son1 as heir. There was no such split in Syria, despite resentment of the Alawite dominance and persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood.

I realized that any uprising was doomed, more so, since Assad was not Mubarak, and both domestically and internationally represented the broad interests of Syrians, seen by the West as the last of the Baath anti-imperialist socialists. Yes, quick to jail dissidents, but what else is new? If I were a Syrian eager for change, I would have bitten the bullet and done my best to calm the waters (and hopefully not have left a trail leading me to prison). There is no rose garden for anyone these days.

Erdogan vs Putin

Erdogan’s stab in Assad’s back was the final straw, revealing the metastasizing Syrian debacle as a western-Turkish effort, Turkey waiting for the chance to reassert its Ottoman muscles, with NATO hovering in the background. Anderson documents the gory details of what followed, where Putin shines as the knight in shining armour, also stabbed by Erdogan (shooting down Russian plane in 2015), but resolute enough to move forward, the goal to defeat ISIS and stabilize Syria, not letting it fall to the imperialists. Some key observations Anderson makes about Turkey2:

  • ‘Direct Russian air power engagement in Syria not only degraded DAESH and Jabhat al Nusra, it exposed Turkish President Erdogan’s backing for DAESH. In late 2015 Russia’s Defence Ministry presented photographic evidence of convoys of trucks stealing Syrian oil and taking it for sale in Turkey.’
  • Erdogan’s government had worked ‘hand in glove with ISIS’, in particular through Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency, to develop a relationship in which ‘both sides benefit.’
  • ‘Russia’s relations with Israel are a major difference, but that does not destroy the common interests that made Russia an ally of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah.
    *Having backed the al-Qaeda armies against Damascus, Erdoğan claimed the Syrian refugees were fleeing the ‘cruelty, oppression and violence’ of the Assad government (Daily Sabah 2018), as he pressured Europe with sustained political demands.
  • Over 2018-19 Erdoğan maintained this refugee threat in an attempt to stall off the looming Syrian-Iranian-Russian operation against his ‘jihadist’ proxies in Idlib. He was holding that province as a bargaining chip, using what had become a Turkish protectorate within Syria as a ‘security zone’. In April 2016 Syria’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ahmed Badreddin Hassoun, told this writer: ‘Tell [the Europeans] to stop the war on Syria. The refugees will stop within one day. Within one month they will return.’
  • All along, refugees have been returning, though what should be encouraged by the West (where refugees of all kinds are desperately fleeing), i.e., working with Assad to bring this about, was rejected. Instead, Assad was pilloried ceaselessly in western media, and the Syrian government suffered (still suffers!) under the US-Israel strategy of siege/ subversion of ‘enemies’. The West’s lust for regime change meant tragedy for countless millions of Syrians.

    US-Israeli strategy in the Middle East has always been to subjugate independent peoples and dominate the entire region. By this logic, resistance forces must be kept fragmented. Regardless of any specific pretext for each conflict, the wave of bloody aggression has a single aim: to secure privileged access to the region’s resources and so dictate terms of access to Russia, China and any other outside power.

    US-Israel is so confident of itself and its privilege to control the world, that anything that interferes with this is considered terrorism/evil/whatever. This is why Iran is so crucial in preventing US-Israel from succeeding. We are treated to ‘news’ couched in US-Israel doublespeak: a ‘shia crescent’ is haunting Europe, to paraphrase the opening words of the Communist Manifesto.

    Axis: Shia Arc or Band of Brothers?

    We are fed conspiracy stories about a subversive corridor for Iran to the Mediterranean, to threaten US-Israel. What Anderson calls ‘the axis of resistance’, which Lebanese analyst Marwa Osman argues ‘was pushed into existence by continuous western hegemony and has less to do with its religious identity and more to do with its principled independence, great capacity and independent political will.’

    It is amusing to note those who lauded Trump for assassinating Soleimani, the key figure in the defeat of ISIS in Iraq, revered at home, visiting neighbouring Iraq on official business, putting the US on an equally notorious par with Israel, which assassinates Palestinians, officials and non-officials, men, women, and children alike, on an almost daily basis. A House of Representatives War Powers non-binding resolution that was all theater and did nothing to limit the president’s unilateral ability to go to war with the Islamic Republic. It was non-binding, because the House knows ahead of time that Trump would veto anything binding if the Senate had the nerve to pass it.

    Various US politicians (Lindsey Graham first off the mark) lauded Trump, agreeing with him that Soleimani is a terrorist responsible for thousands of deaths of US citizens. No US politician questioned that narrative, just criticizing Trump for acting without notifying Congress. Italy’s Salvini and the US lobbyists for both sides in Libya, and ISIS, which issued a personal thanks to Trump. Boris Johnson (‘we will not lament his death’), a nod and wink at Trump.

    Johnson was right that ‘Soleimani posed a threat to all our interests.’ That makes him a bad guy, so we are fed by mainstream media, whose ‘actions led to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and western personnel.’ Note lumping ‘western personnel’ (i.e., US soldier-occupiers) with poor ‘innocent civilians’.

    No room for ‘deaths of thousands of unwanted occupiers who, we might remind BoJo, are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths of ‘innocent civilians’ and resistance fighters. The deaths of occupier soldiers are all accepted by international law, since they are aimed at liberating their countries from unwanted, illegal occupiers. (Same goes in Palestine.) Any US soldier in both Iraq and Syria is fair game for resistance fighters, as they are there as occupiers, where both governments demand their withdrawal.

    Anderson looks at the various wars which US-Israel wage, and at the axis of resistance (Shia or otherwise) coalescing to confront the aggressors. ‘The resistance in particular countries can and should be studied, but their integration into the regional resistance remains critical to their success.’ These forces include the Syrian regime, Hamas, Hezbollah, Yemenis, Iraq and Iran. At some point, Afghanistan should become part of this alliance.

    This new ‘arc’ will feature China in the background, after Iraqi Prime Minister Mahdi’s visit to China in November, where he signed a huge deal putting China in control of reconstruction. Trump et al were furious and threatened to destabilize Iraq. What happened? A few weeks later, riots broke out against the government and Iran. Trump insists on Iraq paying half of oil revenues to the US for assistance in reconstruction, i.e., in rebuilding what the US occupiers destroyed, or Iraq would face worse sanctions than Iran.

    When the Iraqi parliament called for the immediate departure of US troops last week, Alsumaria TV reported the warning by US State Department First Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hood that, “If we withdraw from Iraq, the investors will exit and ISIS will return.” What he openly threatens is that the US will cook up more action from ISIS, (remember, ISIS openly thanked Trump for assassinating Soleimani, the real brains behind the defeat of ISIS). When will Americans wake up to the reality that the US and Israel support ISIS, use ISIS, to further their own intrigues? Time to call the terrorists by their real name — US-Israel-ISIS?

    China is finally coming out of its hermetic shell. It is the world’s biggest ‘investor’, and will be happy to fill the ‘vacuum’ in Iraq. But it will be the axis of resistance, with Russia in the key position, that will fight US-Israel-ISIS. Cuba’s national hero Jose Marti said of the independent nations of Latin America in the late 19th century, facing both the Spanish and the rising North American empire: The trees must form ranks to keep the giant with seven-league boots from passing!

    Slings and arrows at resistance

    Anderson has faced the same barrage of attacks from the mainstream media that all critics of imperialism through the ages have had to bear.3 My own forging process as anti-imperialist was in Soviet days, when the same distorted, often lying propaganda was aimed there. It’s as if there is a propaganda machine perfected over the generations, which is merely tweaked to fit the latest enemy. Of course, neither the Soviet Union nor Syria, Libya, Iran, are/were paradises. But their essential worth as buttresses against lies and wars is dismissed, the narrative crafted to fit the imperialist agenda of divide-and-conquer.

    This century’s military, economic and propaganda wars against Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya and Syria have successfully conscripted western liberals, leftists, NGOs and of course the corporate and state media. Very few question the war narratives; and those who do are abused.

    The entire world is in thrall to US-Israel now. Iran, the only country standing up to this imperialist monster is abandoned by even anti-imperialist Russia and fairweather friend China. We are all imperialists’ is the new slogan etched in our minds as our unwanted credo in a world on the brink.

    As Anderson concludes, ‘support and respect is due to all independent peoples. It is not about whether we agree with everything they do. It is about respect for other peoples. Commitment to support their self-determination is our human responsibility.’

    1. Gamal (‘Jimmy’) and brother Alaa were jailed on embezzlement and then again in 2018 for stock market manipulation.
    2. Anderson, Axis, p 77, 213.
    3. He was suspended from his post at the University of Sydney in early December 2018 for ‘serious misconduct’ (showing students an image of a Nazi swastika superimposed over the Israeli flag) and subsequently terminated.

    The World Demands US Out Of The Middle East

    The world is saying no to war with Iran and US out of the Middle East. Hundreds of protests were held in the United States and around the world on Saturday with a unified voice of “No War.” These protests are in solidarity with massive protests in Iraq calling for the US to get out where it is now an occupying force as the government has asked it to leave.

    These protests and the uprising over the US remaining in Iraq are not being covered in the US corporate media. Millions of people participated in the memorials for General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes after the US assassinated them. Now, millions have protested the refusal of the US to leave Iraq. The Pentagon knows the reality is that US troops in Iraq are at increasing risk every day the US stays in that sovereign nation.

    The warnings have been sent. i24 News reports that up to five missiles struck near the US Embassy in Baghdad today. “Sunday’s attack was the second night in a row that the Green Zone was hit and the 15th time over the last two months that US installations have been targeted.”

    The Pentagon will need to tell President Trump that he has two choices to protect US troops. The first choice is to abide by the law and the demands of the Iraqi government by leaving Iraq. The second choice is to escalate and bring in tens of thousands of more troops as well as anti-missile systems. Iran showed the US that even when they warned them they would be attacking a base with several hours’ notice so personnel could leave, the US military was unable to stop the Iranian missiles. Iran has also shown that it can shoot down US drones over the Strait of Hormuz.

    The US needs to leave Iraq and the Middle East and stop threatening Iran or it risks spending hundreds of billions of dollars and risking the lives of US troops. All this for oil that President Trump says the US does not need. In this era when the fossil fuel economy must come to an end, it is time for the US to get out of the Middle East.

    Iraqi people gather in the capital Baghdad for a “million-strong” march to demand an end to the presence of US forces in their country (Press TV)

    Massive Protests in Iraq Demand the US Leave

    Telesur reports:

    According to estimates of the Iraqi police commander Jaafar Al-Batat, over 1 million people Thursday demanded the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq with a march in Baghdad, which was convened by cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr three weeks after the murder of Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani.

    The message of the protest was very clear from the signs and actions of the protesters.  Banners included “No, No to the U.S. and Yes to Iraqi sovereignty,” “The willingness of free nations is stronger than the U.S. aggression,” and “Global terrorism is made in the U.S.” Another sign sent a very clear message “To the Families of American soldiers Insist on the Withdrawal of Your Sons from Our Country, or Prepare their Coffins.” [Emphasis in Original] Protesters carried burned images of Donald Trump, others raised photos of the US president’s face crossed out with a red “X”. On the speaker’s stage, a large sign read, “Get Out America.”

    Shia Cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who helped organize the protest said, regarding the demand of the government that the US leave Iraq, “If the U.S. meets these demands, then it is not an aggressor country” but the US will become a “hostile country” if it fails to do so. Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the highest Shiite religious authority in Iraq said, “the need to respect the sovereignty of Iraq, the independence of its political decision, and its territorial unity.”

    The Prime Minister and the Parliament called for US troops to leave Iraq. In a telephone call, Prime Minister Abdel Mahdi told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to prepare to leave Iraq. Article 24 of the agreement between the US and Iraq regarding troops states that the “US recognizes the sovereign right of the government of Iraq to request the departure of the US forces from Iraq any time.”  Pompeo gave a foolish answer, turning the US into an occupying force by saying, “The US shall not withdraw from Iraq” but inconsistently said it “respects its sovereignty and decisions.” President Trump threatened Iraq saying he would impose “sanctions like they’ve never seen before” and “its Central Bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with $35 billion could be shut down.” US Ambassador to Iraq Mathew Tueller delivered to Iraqi officials a copy of all the possible US sanctions Iraq could face.

    Take Action: Join The International Days Of Action Against Sanctions And Economic War, March 13 – 15, 2020

    These responses led to mass protests. The threat to US troops is very real. Sources in Prime Minister Mahdi’s office said the US is “bringing war upon itself and transforming Iraq into a battlefield” if it fails to leave. He warns, “The US will be faced with strong and legitimate popular armed resistance.”

    The current conflict needs to be viewed in the context of Iraq being devastated by US actions. The Clinton administration sanctions killed 500,000 children, and the US invasion and occupation, which followed in 2003, resulted in the deaths of over one million Iraqis. More recently, the US tried to extort Iraq by demanding half its oil profits in exchange for damages the US war caused. When the Prime Minister turned to China for assistance instead, Trump threatened Iraq. The Iraqi people have had enough of US intervention. It is time for the United States to leave.

    No War With Iran, January 25, from East Bay DSA Twitter

    The World Joins Opposition To War With Iran, Calls For US Out of The Middle East

    On January 25, a Global Day of Protest was called in solidarity with the people of Iraq and Iran. There were protests in more than 210 cities in 22 countries. The protest was organized by numerous antiwar organizations including the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), the ANSWER Coalition, CODE PINK, Black Alliance for Peace, the International Action Center, Popular Resistance and many more.

    UNAC pointed out that Iran has been a victim of US aggression since the 1953 coup against the democratically-elected president Mohammed Mossadegh. This was followed by the brutal rule of the US-supported Shah of Iran until the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Sanctions were immediately imposed on Iran and from 1980-1988 the US fueled the Iran-Iraq war, which killed more than one million people. In 1988, the US shot down an Iranian civilian passenger plane, killing more than 290 Iranian civilians, for which the US has still not apologized for or explained. The US has imposed escalating crippling sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy and the lives of its citizens. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement has led to even more sanctions. Donald Trump’s order to assassinate General Soleimani was the culmination of his campaign of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic Republic of Iran supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

    Register now for the United National Antiwar Conference, “Rise Against Militarism, Racism and the Climate Crisis” in New York City from February 21 to 23.

    CODEPINK sent an open letter to the people of Iran expressing that the people of the United States are “horrified by the actions of our government to provoke a war…” and apologizing for the reckless actions of President Trump. They expressed opposition to the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement, the maximum-pressure campaign and the assassination of General Soleimani writing, “Poll after poll reveals that the American people do not want a war with Iran. We want to end the Middle East wars that the U.S. has engaged in for far too long.”

    This weekend’s massive protests were the second protests since the US reignited the risk of war in Iraq and war against Iran. One day after the January 3 assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the renewed antiwar movement called for protests and thousands of protesters rallied in more than 82 cities in 38 states involving tens of thousands of people.

    The world is saying, “US out of the Middle East and no war on Iran”, and governments are also siding with Iran to end US hegemony. There are many countries coming to the side of Iran, perhaps most important are the Chinese-Iranian economic agreements, which have undermined US sanctions and integrated Iran into a Chinese-led Eurasian Belt and Road Initiative. The US deems this an imminent threat. In 2016, Iranian President Hassan Rohani announced during a visit from China’s President Xi Jinping that Iran and China had created a $600 billion dollar, 25-year political and trade alliance.

    The military alliance developing between China, Russia, and Iran is another major threat to US domination. Iran, China, and Russia held joint naval drills in the Gulf of Oman, a “normal military exchange” that reflected the nations’ “will and capabilities to jointly maintain world peace and maritime security,” just days before the murder of Soleimani.

    China and Russia have been critical to multiple countries under economic attack and military threats by the United States. This includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and many others. A new balance of power is developing. The US peace movement needs to understand these realities and join a global movement against US imperialism.

    Join us at this important conference against US imperialism. The World Peace Council and the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases are organizing a 2-day international conference titled “Confronting Imperialism’s War Machine — The Global Struggle for Peace, Social Justice, National Sovereignty and the Environment,” on March 28-29, 2020, in Larnaca, Cyprus. Register here.

    Getting Out of the US War Quagmires in the Middle East

    The United States needs to reverse course after decades of mistakes, destruction, chaos and death in the Middle East. The US is not welcome in the region and will face increasing costs if it stays.

    Foreign Minister Javad Zarif sent a biting tweet to Donald Trump where he urged him to act on facts, not FOX news headlines and linked to an interview with Der Spiegel highlighting a small portion:

    DER SPIEGEL: Do you rule out the possibility of negotiations with the U.S. following Soleimani’s murder?

    Zarif: No, I never rule out the possibility that people will change their approach and recognize the realities. For us, it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the White House. What matters is how they behave. The Trump administration can correct its past, lift the sanctions and come back to the negotiating table. We’re still at the negotiating table. They’re the ones who left. The U.S. has inflicted great harm on the Iranian people. The day will come when they will have to compensate for that. We have a lot of patience.

    Conflict resolution expert Diane Perlman sees hope in the potential for ratcheting down conflicts between the US and Iran and Iraq. The proportional response by Iran for the assassination of General Soleimani, and the non-escalation by President Trump to that response are positive signs. Donald Trump has said the Middle East wars have cost trillions of dollars for no useful purpose. Iran does not want war. Iraq does not want its nation used as a battlefield. The US public and peace movement want our troops out. The nations of the world do not want another protracted Middle East war. She points out that de-escalation could “address different fundamental needs for each party.” The US leaving Iraq is a “potentially elegant solution” especially when the “unthinkable alternative” is escalation and more war.

    We must continue to demand that the US follow the rule of law, respect the sovereignty of other nations, end the illegal coercive economic measures and get our bases and troops out of other countries. We urge you to participate in the upcoming events such as the day of action against sanctions and the conferences in New York and Cyprus.

    In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding

    Billions of US tax-payers’ money will continue to be funneled into Israel in the next fiscal year, and for many years in the foreseeable future. Republican and Democratic Senators have recently achieved just that, passing a bill aimed at providing Israel with $3.3 billion in annual aid.

    The Bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Senator, Chris Coons and Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, passed on January 9, only one day after Iran struck US positions in Iraq. Enthusiasm to push the Bill forward was meant as an assurance to Tel Aviv from Washington, that the US is committed to Israel’s security and military superiority in the Middle East.

    Despite a palpable sense of war fatigue among all Americans, regardless of their political leaning, the US continues to sink deeper into Middle East conflicts simply because it is unable – or, perhaps, unwilling – to challenge Israel’s benefactors in all facets of the American government.

    The maxim “What’s good for Israel is good for America” continues to reign supreme among Washington’s political elites, despite the fact that such irrational thinking has wrought disasters on the Middle East region, and is finally forcing a hasty and humiliating American retreat.

    The latest aid package to Israel will officially put into law a “Memorandum of Understanding” that was reached between the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Barack Obama administration in 2016. Obama had then offered Israel the largest military aid package in US history.

    Senator Rubio explained the passing of the recent Bill in terms of the “unprecedented threats” that are supposedly faced by Israel.

    For his part, Senator Coons said that “the events of the past few days,” referring to the US-Iran escalation, were “a stark reminder of the importance of US assistance to Israel’s security.”

    Particularly odd in Coons’ statement is the fact that it was not Israel, but US positions in Iraq that were struck by Iranian missiles, themselves a response to the killing of Iranian military commander, Qassem Soleimani.

    Yet, the American funding of Israel’s military adventures continues unabated, despite the rapidly changing political reality in the Middle East, and the shifting American role in the region as well.

    This further confirms that the blind US support of Israel is not motivated by a centralized American strategy, one that aims at serving US interests. Instead, the unconditional – and, often, self-defeating – American funding of the Israeli war machine is largely linked to domestic US politics and, indeed, the unparalleled power wielded by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States.

    According to the public policy research institute of the United States Congress, Congressional Research Center (CRS), between 1946 and 2019 (including the requested funds for 2020) US aid to Israel has exceeded $142 billion.

    The vast majority of this funding – over $101 billion – went directly to the Israeli military budget, while over $34 billion and $7 billion were given to Israel in terms of economic aid and missile defense funding, respectively.

    It is becoming increasingly obvious that the US no longer possesses a well-defined and centralized strategy in the Middle East, with President Donald Trump changing American priorities from one speech to the next. However, one key phrase that seems consistent in whatever political agenda that is still championed by Washington in the region is “Israel’s security.”

    This precarious term seems to be linked to every American action pertaining to the Middle East, as it has for decades under every American administration, without exception. Wars were launched or funded in the name of Israel’s security; human rights were violated on a massive scale; the five-decade – and counting – military occupation of Palestine; the protracted siege on the impoverished Gaza Strip and much more, have all been carried out, defended and sustained in the name of “Israel’s security.”

    US aid to Israel continues, despite the fact that all American aid to the Palestinians has been cut off, including the $300 million of annual US funding to the UN agency responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. The latter, which has provided education, healthcare and shelter for millions of refugees throughout the years is now, bizarrely, seen by both Israel and the US as “an obstacle to peace.”

    Inexplicably, Israel receives roughly “one-third of the American foreign-aid budget, even though (it) comprises just .001 percent of the world’s population and already has one of the world’s higher per capita incomes,” wrote Professor Stephen Zunes in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

    This massive budget includes much more than the $3.3 billion of annual funding, but other amounts and perks rarely make headlines. Anywhere between $500 million to $800 million are given to Israel every year as part of a missile defense package; approximately, an additional $1 billion benefits Israel in the form of tax-deductible donations, while $500 billion are invested in Israeli bonds.

    Then there are the loan guarantees, where the US government assumes the responsibility for billions of dollars that Israel can access as a borrower from international creditors. If Israel defaults on its loans, it is the legal responsibility of the US government to offset the interests on the borrowed money.

    Starting in 1982, Israel has been receiving US aid as a lump sum, as opposed to scheduled payments as is the case with other countries. To satisfy its obligations to Israel, the US government borrows the money, thus left to pay interest on the loans. Meanwhile, “Israel even lends some of this money back through U.S. treasury bills and collects the additional interest,” Zunes wrote.

    US relations with Israel are not governed by the kind of political wisdom that is predicated on mutual benefit. But they are not entirely irrational either, as the American ruling classes have aligned their interests, their perception of the Middle East and their country’s role in that region with that of Israel, thanks to years of media and official indoctrination.

    Despite the fact that the US is retreating from the region, lacking strategy and future vision, US lawmakers are congratulating themselves on passing yet another generous aid package to Israel. They feel proud of their great feat, because, in their confused thinking, a ‘secured’ Israel is the only guarantor of US dominance in the Middle East, a theory that has been proven false, time and time again.

    Who is Archbishop Atallah Hanna, and why Israel hates him

    “They will run and not grow weary,” is a quote from the Bible (Isaiah, 40:41) that adorns the homepage of Kairos Palestine. This important document, which parallels a similar initiative emanating from South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle years, has come to represent the unified voice of the Palestinian Christian community everywhere. One of the main advocates of Kairos Palestine is Archbishop Atallah Hanna.

    Hanna has served as the Head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem since 2005. Since then, he has used his leadership position to advocate for Palestinian unity in all of its manifestations. Expectedly, Hanna has been on Israel’s radar for many years, as this kind of leadership is problematic from the viewpoint of a hegemonic political and military power that requires utter and absolute submission.

    So when Archbishop Hanna was hospitalized on December 18 as a result of what was reported to be Israeli “poisoning”, Palestinians were very concerned. A few days later, Hanna was found to be at a Jordanian hospital receiving urgent medical treatment for what was described, by Hanna himself, as “poisoning by chemical substance”. Whatever that substance may have been, it was reportedly discharged from an Israeli army gas canister, lobbed at Hanna’s Church in Jerusalem.

    “The Christians of Palestine are one family of Jordanians and Palestinians,” he told journalists from his hospital bed, where he also said that “Israeli occupation may have attempted to assassinate him or keep him sick all his life, indicating that the substance has very serious effects, especially on the nervous system”.

    Those familiar with Hanna’s discourse would know precisely what the rebellious Christian leader was aiming at when he spoke about the oneness of Palestinian Christians in Jordan and Palestine: unity which, sadly, has eluded Palestinians for a long time. Indeed, wherever the man may be, standing tall at a rally in Jerusalem in defence of Palestinian rights or from a hospital bed, he advocates unity among Palestinians and for the sake of Palestine.

    The Kairos document is itself an act of unity among Palestinian Christian churches and organizations. “This means for us, here and now, in this land in particular, that God created us not so that we might engage in strife and conflict but rather that we might come and know and love one another, and together build up the land in love and mutual respect,” the document, championed by Hanna and many others, states.

    Even before claiming his current leadership position, Hanna was a target of Israel. During the Second Intifada, the uprising of 2005, Hanna emerged on the scene as an advocate, not of Palestinian Christian rights but the rights of all Palestinians. He actively pursued the World Council of Churches to use its credibility and outreach to speak out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for an independent Palestinian state.

    In August 2002, Hanna was detained by the Israeli police in front of his home in Jerusalem’s Old City. On the orders of the Israeli Attorney General, he was charged with ‘suspicion of relations with terrorist organizations’, a concocted charge that allowed the Israeli government to confiscate the Palestinian leader’s Israeli and Vatican passports.

    Despite the fact that Palestinian Christians undergo the same experience of military occupation, oppression, and ethnic cleansing as their Muslim brethren, Israel has laboured to propagate an erroneous narrative that presents the “conflict” as one between Israel and Muslim fundamentalists. Hanna is particularly troubling for Israel because his political language demolishes Israeli hasbara at its very foundations.

    “We intend to conduct special prayers inside the Church of the Nativity for the sake of our martyrs,” he declared on October 10, 2001, when he joined Christian and Muslim leaders in their march from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, to challenge Israel’s targeting of Palestinian religious sites.

    In an interview with ‘Russia Today’ on January 30, 2015, Hanna refused to even concede the language battle to those who ignorantly – or purposely – ascribe Muslim terminology to terrorism. “Allahu Akbar” – God is great in Arabic – is as much Christian as it is a Muslim phrase, he argued.

    “We Christians also say Allahu Akbar. This is an expression of our understanding that the Creator is great. We don’t want this phrase to be related to terrorism and crimes,” he said.

    “We speak against using this phrase in this context. Those who do, they insult our religion and our religious values,” he added, again, thoughtfully linking all religious values through faith, not politics.

    “The city of Jerusalem is the city of the three Abrahamic religions,” Hanna recently said at Istanbul’s “First Global Conference on Israeli Apartheid”. Tirelessly and consistently, the Archbishop announced that “Christian and Muslim Palestinians living in Jerusalem suffer from the occupation, suffer from repression, tyranny, and oppression.”

    Although born in Ramah in Palestine’s upper Galilee region, Hanna’s true love was, and remains, Jerusalem. It was there that his spirituality deepened and his political ideas formulated. His advocacy for the Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian identity of the city stands at the core of all of his activities.

    “Everything Palestinian in Jerusalem is targeted by Israeli occupation,” Hanna said last January during a meeting with a Doctors without Borders delegation. “The Islamic and Christian holy sites and endowments are targeted in order to change our city, hide its identity and marginalize our Arabic and Palestinian existence,” the Archbishop lamented.

    In fact, Israel has been doing exactly that, efforts that have accelerated since Donald Trump’s advent to the White House, and the US’ subsequent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

    Archbishop Hanna is one of the strongest and most articulate Palestinian Christian voices in Jerusalem. His relentless work and leadership have irked Israeli authorities for many years. Now that Israel is finalizing its takeover of the illegally occupied city, Hanna, and like-minded Christian and Muslim leaders, are becoming more than mere irritants but real hurdles in the face of the Israeli military machine.

    I met Abouna – Father – Hanna at a California Conference a few years ago. I heard him speak, his thunderous voice is that of a proud Palestinian Arab. He urged unity, as he always does. I chatted with him later, in the hotel lobby, as he was ready to go out for a walk with his close friend, the Mufti of Jerusalem. He was gentle and polite, and extremely funny.

    As I watched them both walk outside, I felt hopeful that unity for the sake of Palestine is very much possible.

    Money, Power and Turf: Winning the Middle East Media War at Any Cost  

    It is hardly surprising to see Middle Eastern countries at the bottom of the World Press Freedom Index, as the worst violators of freedom of the press. But equally alarming is the complete polarization of public opinion as a result of self-serving media and, bankrolled by rich Arab countries, whose only goal is to serve their specific, often sinister, agendas.

    One does not need to highlight of how state-controlled media in the Middle East lacks the minimal required degree of partiality, let alone integrity. Only a deluded person would argue that governments that kill, torture and imprison journalists, intellectuals and social media activists have an iota of respect for the freedom of the press and expression – in fact, of any kind of freedom at all.

    Of the 180 countries classified by Reporters Without Borders’ annual report on press freedom, seven Middle Eastern countries are listed at the bottom 10% category of the world’s worst violators.

    In 2018, Israel, which often prides itself on being “the only democracy in the Middle East”, ranked 88th, a hardly shocking realization, considering its constant targeting, killing, wounding and arresting of Palestinian journalists. The Palestinian Authority achieved an even worse rank, at 137th place. It is telling that not a single Middle Eastern country has made it to the top 30% rank.

    In countries like Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, where independent monitoring of government behavior is almost entirely absent, hundreds of journalists simply disappear in the black hole of brutal prison systems – malnourished, medically neglected, and routinely tortured.

    In November, an independent panel of United Nations’ experts resolved that the death in jail of democratically-elected President of Egypt Mohammed Morsi was a “state-sanctioned arbitrary killing”. If this is the fate of an elected President, imagine the fate of ordinary journalists who dare criticize the Egyptian government for its systematic violence, corruption, and lack of transparency.

    However, we often place all of our focus on this sad state of affairs and neglect the bigger picture, the fact that honest, objective, and trust-worthy journalism in the Middle East is suffering a long, agonizing death. This is not only an outcome of government crackdowns on the media, but also of the well-financed propaganda empires that have recruited thousands of journalists in the region and beyond to fight an ugly, seemingly endless turf-war.

    However, it has not always been this way. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, a generation of capable and courageous Arab journalists rose from the ashes of that war. While Western journalists allowed themselves to be embedded among US soldiers, thus, entering Baghdad and other conquered Iraqi cities on the back of American tanks, Iraqi and Arab journalists were killed, imprisoned and tortured. Navigating the small margins of freedom available in their own countries, journalists in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere responded to the plight of Iraqis, writing openly against the US, Western designs in Iraq and the entire region.

    In the following years, a new breed of Arab journalists took their places in the trenches as citizen-journalists. They challenged us all, narrating stories that were never told and writing about issues that state-sanctioned media would never dare touch.

    All of this culminated in the brave display of unabashed reporting that first accompanied the revolts and upheaval in the Arab world, known as the “Arab Spring”. Whenever state media failed to report on the bloody crackdowns by government security forces, citizen-journalists stepped in, filling the gap and exposing the atrocities with the hope of holding the culprits to account.

    But that brief honeymoon quickly disintegrated, when counter-revolutionary forces managed to regain the initiative. Over the last eight years, Arab governments gradually understood the significance of the press and especially social media in mobilizing the public. The massive crackdown on these journalists has not ceased since. Thousands of journalists were imprisoned and tortured. Many disappeared, leaving no trails to inform their families on whether they are dead or alive.

    The ongoing onslaught was quickly joined by another form of media warfare. All state-run media throughout the Arab world were stuffed with loyalists. All opposition-run media were either shut down or faced numerous restrictions that made it nearly impossible for them to play a meaningful role in challenging their countries’ official discourses.

    As Gulf Arab countries descended into their own internal conflict, large sums of money were dedicated to expanding their political outreach and influence. Thousands of foreign journalists, with no cultural or political connection to the Middle East, were shipped in, to replace their Arab colleagues, and to participate, willingly or otherwise, in the dirty propaganda campaigns championed by one rich Arab countries or another. The boundaries of that war extended to the rest of the world where newspapers were acquired, websites set, and TV news stations established, all with only one goal in mind – countering the propaganda of the enemy and imposing their own.

    Sadly, many journalists willingly allowed themselves to participate in this shameful display, betraying the basic standards of good journalism, in fact, good moral judgement. Of course, there are those who refused to sell out despite the repercussions of their choice. The thousands of journalists who are currently held in Middle Eastern jails are testimony to the courage and bravery of our colleagues.

    But this is not the end of the story. Good journalism must not be allowed to die. We must fight back, in the name of Tareq Ayyoub who was killed by US forces in Iraq in 2003, and Yaser Murtaja who was killed by Israeli snipers in Gaza in 2018, and thousands like them, who are either dead or spending tortuous years in Arab or Israeli prisons.

    We cannot let fear control us or money compromise our values. Arab regimes have their own agenda – the need to survive at any cost. The Israeli government has its own agenda – silencing any Palestinian call for freedom. Rich Gulf States have their own agendas – defending their political, economic and strategic interests. But who will stand for the agenda of the people, for their freedom, human rights, and ultimate liberation? If it is not us, then who?

    Occupied Palestine: From BDS To ODS

    We spent the last week in Occupied Palestinian Territory, commonly referred to as Israel, where we traveled around the country to visit communities in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Bethlehem, the West Bank, the Nagab, and more.

    We call Israel Occupied Palestine because it is not just the West Bank and Gaza that are occupied, but all of historic Palestine, the entire Palestinian nation. Palestinian people do not have equal rights and their communities are constantly encroached upon by settlers pushing them into small, crowded areas. The mistreatment of Palestinians happens right before the eyes of the Israeli Jews. If they do not see it, it is either because they do not want to see it or because they are encouraged not to see it. Just as Jim Crow racism was evident to all in the southern states of the US, apartheid in Palestine is obvious.

    This visit deepened our support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement because we saw modern apartheid, Jim Crow-segregation laws, ongoing land theft, and ethnic cleansing. For example, we were in Jerusalem when a squadron of fighter jets flew over our heads to bomb the open-air prison of Gaza killing more than 30 people. The Israeli people, media and politicians applauded that, displaying a sickness that runs deep in this colonized land founded on theft, terrorism, and violence.

    To end the colonization, there is great hope of developing a movement for the creation of One Democratic State (ODS). This is being organized by a large group of Palestinians and Jews as the formation of two separate states is impossible. ODS envisions a universally equal and democratic nation where minority communities are protected and every person can vote. ODS is the first step to the decolonization and healing of Palestine.

    Aida Refugee Camp (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

    Correcting The Record

    Palestinians are disenfranchised:  Occupied Palestine is called a liberal democracy. In reality, while Palestinians are the majority, most of them can’t vote. Out of a total population of twelve million people, five million Jews can vote and five million Palestinians can’t. The remaining two million Palestinians who live in “The 48,” the land between the West Bank and Gaza, can vote but often boycott elections in protest. The dominant parties all support anti-Palestinian policies.

    Sign entering Area A, Israeli Citizens Forbidden.

    Palestine has hyper-segregation: Palestine can only be described as a modern apartheid state with updated Jim Crow laws. We drove on Jewish-only roads where the color of a person’s license plate determines if they can use the road. There are military checkpoints along these roads. Palestinians are often forced to take long detours to get around the segregated roads and walls. Many Jews never meet a Palestinian because their lives are so segregated.

    Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, Occupied Palestine was divided into Areas A, B and C. We visited Bethlehem, classified as Area A, where a sign upon entry warns it is against the law for Israeli-citizens to enter. In Area A, the Palestinian Authority (PA) serves as police and can arrest Israeli-Jews and turn them over to Israeli-police. In Area B, both the PA and Israeli-police have power. And, in Area C, the majority of the country, only the Israeli-police have authority.

    Land Theft Against Palestinians Continues: People are often told that no one lived here before 1948 when the occupation of the area by Jewish settlers began. This massive land theft continues today. Although the German Holocaust is used to justify this, the Zionist project began well before then.

    Jaffa, above, as depicted by Gutman, and, below, as the crowded Arab city that actually existed (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

    This false picture is depicted by the well-known Zionist artist Nahum Gutman. His famous painting of the major Arab city of Jaffa showed only sand dunes and a few buildings where hundreds of houses stood. Today Sir Charles Clore Park covers the remains of this section of the city. Similar tactics have hidden thousands of Palestinian villages that existed before “The Nakba” in 1948.

    Jaffa was an important Arab port city with a population of 90,000 before 1948 that served as an entry point into Jerusalem and beyond. The first Jewish neighborhoods were built there in the late 19th Century. Tel Aviv, the first Jewish-governed city, began in the early 20th century as a suburb of Jaffa. More than ninety-five percent of the population of Jaffa was expelled by Zionist militias in 1948 and beyond. The remaining residents were confined to an area under guard and forced to operate the port. Between 1947 and 1949, the Nakba terrorized Palestinians and forced 800,000 to flee their homes. The Absentee Property Law was used to seize the homes of those who fled.

    Zionist settlers continue encroaching on land in Palestinian neighborhoods. In the historic walled city of Old Jerusalem, they come up from underground tunnels to seize homes in the Palestinian quadrant and put them under armed guards. In Palestinian East Jerusalem, Zionists continue to confiscate houses and land, pushing Palestinians to the other side of the segregation wall where they are crowded into areas without city services. Similar forced urbanization and crowding is occurring throughout Palestine. Gaza is perhaps the most severe example of this. Over the last 50 years, the Israeli government has transferred between 600,000 and 750,000 settlers to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in at least 160 settlements and outposts.

    In the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza, this land annexation has made a two-state solution physically impossible. The combination of hundreds of thousands of settlers, Jewish-only roads plus the Expansion (or Annexation) Wall that divides Palestinian communities, and more than 200 checkpoints have severely restricted movement for Palestinians and seized 78% of their country.

    A banner hanging in Mea Shearim, a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem.

    Judaism is not Zionism: In the 1880s, Palestinian Jews amounted to three percent of the total population. They were apolitical and did not aspire to build a Jewish state. We met with Rabbi Meir Hirsch in the Mea Sharim neighborhood of Jerusalem. This tightly-knit ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood has signs posted on the walls that say: ‘A Jew Not a Zionist,’ ‘Zionism is Dying’ and ‘Arabs are Good.’

    Hirsch’s family came to Palestine 150 years ago from Russia. His people came to better worship God, not to take land from Palestinians. Hirsch told us about Jacob Israël de Haan, a Dutch Jew who worked to prevent the 1917 Balfour Declaration and almost succeeded. The Balfour Declaration, issued by the British government, announced support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. De Haan was assassinated in Jerusalem by the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah for his anti-Zionist political activities. His murder led to the Neturei Karta movement, which resists Zionism to this day.

    Hirsch views Zionism as contradictory to the Jewish religion. His community believes the Torah does not allow Jewish sovereignty of any kind over the Holy Land and those who want to live there must have the approval of the native Palestinian people. Hirsch says that ultra-Orthodox Jews “want to see the end of the Zionist tragedy and the restoration of peace to the Middle East.”  His views counter those who claim criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic as, he says, “Judaism and Zionism are as foreign to each other as day and night, good and evil.”

    Graffiti made by the graffiti artist Banksy is seen on Israel’s Separation Wall in Abu Dis on August 6, 2005. (Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)

    One Democratic State

    There is a positive path to resolving the conflict between Jews and Palestinians. The path comes from the movement for One Democratic State, which envisions a genuinely just and workable political agreement developed by Palestinians and Jews together.

    There has been a marked decline in support for a two-state solution. A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research from September 11-14, 2019 found only 42% of Palestinians now support the two-state solution. When President Netanyahu entered office a decade ago, that figure was 70%. Similarly, fewer than half of the Jews now support a two-state solution. Further, 63% of Palestinians believe a two-state solution is no longer practical or feasible due to the expansion of the settlements and 83% support the local and international boycott (BDS) movement against Israel.

    We met separately with two leaders of this campaign, Awad Abdelfattah, a founder of the Arab Balad Party, and Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian. Along with many others in the ODS campaign, they seek a multicultural and constitutional democracy in which all people enjoy a common citizenship, a common parliament, and equal civil rights, with constitutional protection granted to national, ethnic and religious views. ODS means equal rights for Palestinians and protection of the rights of Jews.

    Their vision includes making the Palestinian ‘right of return’ a reality. Palestinian homes and communities were demolished years ago. According to the Palestinian geographer Salman Abu-Sitta, 85% of Palestinian lands taken in 1948 are still available for resettlement. While more than 530 villages, towns, and urban areas were systematically demolished, their agricultural lands still exist. Other lands lie under public parks and forests. Refugees could actually return, if not to their former homes, at least to the parts of the country where they originated. Palestinian planners could design modern communities for refugees and their descendants in the areas they left with new communities and economic infrastructure that is integrated with other segments of the society. Land redistribution, financial compensation, and equal access to education, training and the economy would enable refugees, like other Palestinians, to achieve economic parity with Jews within a fairly short time.

    For Jews, their security will increase by providing constitutional protection of their collective rights. While structures of privilege and domination would be dismantled, the “collective rights” of groups to maintain their community in the framework of a multi-cultural democracy (e.g., communities of ethnic Russians, African asylum-seekers, foreign workers, anti-Zionist ultra-orthodox Jews, and others) give Jews the collective security they need.

    ODS views the establishment of a just and working state as requiring: decolonization, restoration, and reconciliation. Decolonization includes ending economic, cultural, political, and legal domination. This means building an egalitarian, inclusive and sustainable society that restores the rights, properties (actual or through compensation), identities and social position of those expelled, excluded and oppressed. This is followed by reconciliation to confront the still-open wounds of the Nakba and the Occupation, and the suffering they have caused.

    While the view may sound Utopian to some, in fact, it is the practical path out of the current disaster of Occupied Palestine. Palestine is already one nation. The issue is whether it will be a democratic state with equal rights for all citizens that dismantles the apartheid system or whether it will remain an undemocratic and unequal settler-colonial nation.

    We titled this article “BDS to ODS” because while this solution must come from the Palestinian people, along with Jews, people in the United States and throughout the world who support peace and justice have an important role to play through the growing BDS campaign to pressure Israel into accepting ODS. This struggle will be won through solidarity between popular movements inside and outside Occupied Palestine.

    We encourage you to visit Occupied Palestine to see and learn for yourself. If you visit Jerusalem, be sure to take the tour offered by Grassroots Jerusalem. They also offer a guide to Palestinian places to stay, shop and eat. Zochrot is an organization that also offers tours and resources about the Nakba. If you are interested in direct service, you can volunteer to assist with the olive harvest or volunteer in places such as the Aida Refugee Camp. They need all sorts of volunteers, especially those who can provide instruction to children in music and arts. Visit Volunteer Palestine to see the many opportunities available.

    The Empire, Trump and Intra-Ruling Class Conflict

    Over the past few months President Trump has unilaterally by Tweet and telephone begun to dismantle the U.S. military’s involvement in the Middle East. The irony is amazing, because in a general overarching narrative sense, this is what the marginalized antiwar movement has been trying to do for decades.1

    Prof. Harry Targ, in his important piece “United States foreign policy: yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” (MR online, October 23, 2919), reminds us of the factional dispute among U.S. foreign policy elites over how to maintain the U.S. empire. On the one hand are the neoliberal global capitalists who favor military intervention, covert operations, regime change, strengthening NATO, thrusting China into the enemy vacuum and re-igniting the Cold War with Russia. All of this is concealed behind lofty rhetoric about humanitarianism, protecting human rights, promoting democracy, fighting terrorism and American exceptionalism. Their mantra is Madeleine Albright’s description of the United States as the world’s “one indispensable nation.”

    On the other hand, as Targ explains, are the Trumpian, “America First” nationalist capitalists. This faction of the ruling class, while also supporting global dominance and a permanent war economy (military-related spending will consume 48 percent of the 2020 federal budget) favors trade restrictions, economic nationalism, building walls and anti-immigrant policies. Although Trump is inconsistent, bumbling and sometimes contradictory, he’s departed from the neocon’s agenda by making overtures to North Korea and Russia, voicing doubts about NATO as an expensive relic from the past that is being dangerously misused outside of Europe, not being afraid to speak bluntly to EU allies, frequently mentioning ending our “endless, ridiculous and costly wars,” asserting that the U.S. is badly overextended and saying “The job of our military is not to police the world.” I would add that Trump is also an “American exceptionalist” but ascribes a very different provincial meaning to the term, something closer to a crabbed provincialism, an insular “Shining City on a Hill,” surrounded by a moat.

    This is a high stakes intra-ruling class struggle and neither side cares a fig about what’s best  for the American people or those beyond our borders. At this point it’s impossible to know how it will play out but grasping the underlying dynamics explains much about current U.S. domestic and foreign policy. This understanding may, in turn, point toward how opponents of America’s oligarchic elites can most expeditiously use their time and energy.

    Foremost is the fact that Trump’s intra-elite enemies despise him not for being a neo-fascistic demagogue, a despicable human being devoid of a conscience, or for the brouhaha over Ukraine. Their animus is rooted in the conviction that Trump has been a foot dragging imperialist, an equivocal caretaker of empire, unreliable pull-the-trigger Commander-in-chief (e.g.Iran) and transparent truth-teller about the real motives behind U.S. foreign policy. These are his unforgivable sins and if he’s impeached or denied the Oval Office by some other means, they will be real reasons.

    One of Trump’s most traitorous acts is that he’s been consistent, at least rhetorically, in being opposed to U.S. troops being killed in “endless wars.” One need not agree with his reasons to find merit in this worthy objective. His motives probably include Nativism, racism, foreign investment stability, the wars causing more refugees to come here, his massive ego, appeals to his voting base, or simply because he believes both he and the “real America” would be better off. For him, the latter two are synonymous.

    For this treachery, those arrayed against Trump include at least, the Pentagon-CIA-armaments lobby, MSM editors like those at CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post, NSA, Zionist neocons, the DNC, establishment Democrats, some hawkish Republican senators, many lifestyle liberals still harboring a  sentimental faith in American goodness and even EU and NATO elites who’ve benefited from being faithful lackeys to Washington’s global imperialism.

    In a recent interview, Major Danny Sjursen, retired army officer and West Point instructor with tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, notes that “The last bipartisan issue in American politics today is warfare, forever warfare.” In terms of the military, that means “…even the hint of getting out of the establishment interventionist status quo is terrifying to these generals, terrifying to these former intelligence officers from the Obama administration who seem to live on MSNBC now.” Sjursen adds that many of these generals (like Mattis) have already found lucrative work with the military industrial complex.2

    In response to Trump’s announcement about removing some U.S. troops from the region, we find an op-ed in The New York Times by Admiral William McRaven where he states that Trump “should be out of office sooner than later. It’s time for a new person in the Oval Office, Republican, Democrat or Independent. The fate of the nation depends on it.”  The unmistakeable whiff of support for a soft coup is chilling.  If Trump can’t be contained, he must be deposed one way or another.

    And this is all entirely consistent with the fact that the national security state  was totally caught off guard by Trump’s victory in 2016. For them, Trump was a loose cannon, erratic and  ultra-confrontational, someone they couldn’t control. Their favored candidate was the ever reliable, Wall Street-friendly, war-mongering Hillary Clinton or even Jeb Bush.  Today, barring a totally chastised Trump, the favorites include a fading Biden, Pence, a reprise of Clinton or someone in her mold but without the baggage.

    For Trump’s establishment enemies, another closely related failing is his habit of blurting out inconvenient truths. I’m not the first person to say that Trump is the most honest president in my lifetime. Yes, he lies most of the time but as left analyst Paul Street puts it, “Trump is too clumsily and childishly brazen in laying bare the moral nothingness and selfishness of the real material-historical bourgeois society that lives beneath the veils of ‘Western civilization’ and ‘American democracy.’”3

    All his predecessors took pains or were coached to conceal their imperialist actions behind declarations of humanitarian interventionism but Trump has pulled the curtains back to reveal the ugly truths about U.S. foreign policy.  As such, the carefully calibrated propaganda fed to the public in endless reiterations over a lifetime is jeopardized whenever Trump utters a transparent truth. This is intolerable.

    Here are a few examples culled from speeches, interviews and press reports:

    + At a May 10, 2017 Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislayak, Trump said he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election because “We do the same thing in elections in other countries.” [White House officials were so alarmed they tried to limit access to the transcript].

    + When asked about whether Putin is a killer, Trump sarcastically asked whether “our country was so innocent?” and added, “Our country does plenty of killing.”

    + His reaction to Saudi Arabia’s murder of Khashoggi was that “they really messed up.”  [Translation: He/our government didn’t care about what happened except that the Saudis bungled the job. Uttering this inconvenient truth removed the usual fig leaf claim of moral outrage and checked off another box on the Trump-Must-Go list maintained by the globalists].

    + “The Kurds are no angels.” [This dried up all the crocodile tears being shed by both Dems and Republicans].

    +  On Libya: Asked about a role for the U.S. in Libya, Trump responded “I do not see a role in Libya. I think the United States has, right now, enough roles. We’re in a role everywhere.” He did say “I would just go in and take the oil,” and repeated this intention regarding Syria. [Once again Trump sabotaged  any pretense of righteous motives behind Washington’s foreign policy in the Middle East. To wit: It’s always been about blood for oil].

    + When firing John Bolton, his former national security advisor, Trump remarked “He made some very big mistakes. When he talked about the Libya model for Kim Jong Un, that was not a good statement to make. You just look at what happened with Gaddafi.”  [Here, Trump’s truth telling undermined the standard U.S. position by saying it makes perfect sense for other countries to obtain nukes if they wish to avoid being destroyed by us.]

    + “We’re in many, many countries. I do know the exact number of countries we have troops in but I’m embarrassed to say it because it’s so foolish. We’re in countries that don’t even like us… some people, whether it’s – – you call it the military-industrial complex or beyond that, they’d like me to stay…the want me to fight forever…That’s what they want to do, fight. A lot of companies want to to fight because they make their weapons based on fighting, not based on peace. And they take up a lot of people. I want to bring our soldiers back home.”

    + During a private military briefing, Trump stunned officials by scowling, “Seriously, who gives a shit about Afghanistan?”  And he continued, “So far we’ve in for $7 trillion, fellas. $7 trillion including Iraq. Worst decision ever…”

    +  On Ukraine: “The people of Crimea…would rather be with Russia than where they were.”

    +  On Syria, “Let someone else fight over this long blood stained sand.” And more broadly, he said “The same people that I watched and read—give me and the United States advice — were the people I’ve been watching and reading for many years. They are the ones who got us into the Middle East mess but never have the vision or courage to get us out. They just talk.”

    + Responding to South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham’s criticism:  “The people of South Carolina don’t want us to get into another war with Turkey, a NATO member, or with Syria. Let them fight their own wars.”

    + On Middle East wars: “All of those lives lost, the young men and women gravely wounded — so many —the Middle East is less safe, less stable, and less secure than before these conflicts began.”

    As noted earlier, the endgame is not in sight. Trump seems without a clear strategy for moving forward and from all reports he can’t depend on his current coterie of White House advisors to produce one. Further, he may lack the necessary political in-fight skills or tenacity to see it through. When some of his Republican “allies” savaged his announcement to withdraw troops from Syria, he backtracked and made some, at least cosmetic concessions. However, the fact that Trump’s  position remains popular with his voter base and especially with veterans of these wars will give pause to Republicans. If some finally join the Democrats in voting for impeachment over Ukraine-gate they may minimize re-election risks by hiding their real motives behind pious claims — as will most Democrats — about “protecting the constitution and the rule of law”.

    Now, lest I be misunderstood, nothing I’ve written here should be construed as support for Donald Trump or that I believe he’s antiwar. Trump is aberration only in that his brand of Western imperialism means that the victims remain foreigners while U.S. soldiers remain out of harm’s way.  He knows that boots on the ground can quickly descend into bodies in the ground and unlike his opponents, coffins returning to Dover Air Base are not worth risking his personal ambitions. This is clearly something to build upon. We don’t know if Trump views drones, cyber warfare and proxies as substitutes but his intra-elite opponents remain extremely dubious. In any event, that’s another dimension to expose and challenge.

    Finally, we know the ruling class in a capitalist democracy — an oxymoron — expends enormous time and resources to obtain a faux “consent of the governed” through misinformation conveyed via massive, lifelong ideological indoctrination. For them, citizen’s policing themselves is more efficient than coercion and precludes raising questions that might delegitimize the system.  Obviously force and fear are hardly unknown — witness the mass incarceration and police murder of black citizens — but one only has to look around to see how successful this method of control has been.

    Nevertheless, as social historian Margaret Jacoby wisely reminds us, “No institution is safe if people simply stop believing the assumptions that justify its existence.”4 Put another way, the system simply can’t accommodate certain “dangerous ideas.”
    Today, we see promising political fissures developing, especially within the rising generation, and it’s our responsibility to help deepen and widen these openings through whatever means at our disposal.

    1. John Grant, “Donald Trump and the New, New Order,” This Can’t Be Happening, October 30, 2019.
    2. Interview with Maj. Danny Djursen, “Conflict Between Trump and Military-Diplomatic Establishment Is Full of Hypocrisy,” The Real News Network, October 24, 2019.
    3. Paul Street,”All That is Holy is Profaned: Beyond Ruling Class Impeachment,“ Counterpunch, October 25, 2019.
    4. Margaret Jacoby, The Cultural Meaning of the Scientific Revolution (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987).

    Why Trump Is Facing Impeachment

    The United States has spent EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS fighting and policing in the Middle East. Thousands of our Great Soldiers have died or been badly wounded. Millions of people have died on the other side. GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE…..

    — Tweet, Donald J. Trump, October 9, 2019.

    Granted Trump may arguably be more corrupt than Biden. But that’s splitting hairs over which crook is more crooked. Bullying vassal states and “doing well by doing good” are indicators of finesse in Washington. Inside the beltway, corruption is not a liability for holding high political office, but a requirement. The key to membership in the power elite club is carrying water for the imperial state, and most club members must go through an elaborate vetting process to prove that they are reliable. Some such as Trump slip through.

    The sine qua non for membership in this exclusive club is to prove you’ll take a hit for the empire. When the results of the 2000 US presidential election were inconclusive, Al Gore took a fall rather than risk instability at the top: “(for) the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.” There are higher callings than merely winning the presidency for good servants of the empire.

    But would Trump have been so compliant? Maybe not. So, impeachment is in order to either chasten him to faithful obedience or get rid of him.

    The Not Thoroughly Vetted President

    The presidential primaries are an audition process to see who can best serve the ruling class while conning the public. If the presidential “debates” demonstrate anything, it is that all the contestants are aspiring reality TV stars. Trump was different only in that he had previous experience.

    Whenever one of the contestants shows vacillation on empire, they get slapped on the side of the head. Gabbard got summarily dismissed from the debates for her failure of faith in wars of imperial aggression as the highest expression of humanitarianism. Sanders had to grovel, calling the democratically elected president of Venezuela a “vicious tyrant.”

    And to qualify for the debates, a contestant must first prove that they are a “serious candidate.” In a “democracy” where bribing politicians is considered “free speech” and where corporations are afforded the constitutional rights of “persons,” the single overriding measure of seriousness is raising bundles of money from the rich. Of course, the rich did not become rich without expecting a return on their investments. Warren’s surge, as it was dutifully reported in the press, came when some of the big money began to shift from Biden to her.

    Trump on the other hand had his own billionaire’s booty to back him, plus a little help from his wealthy cohorts. As billionaire Ross Perot proved in 1992, if you are filthy rich, you can independently run for president. And, in his case, throw the election from Bush the Elder to Bill Clinton.

    To win a presidential election, however, you need more than deep pockets…you need a little help from your friends in getting a major party backing. Why a major party ballot line is so useful has constitutional antecedents.

    The revolution of 1776, the last revolution that the US elites liked that was not rigged by the CIA, gave us the Articles of Confederation as the ruling document for the new sovereign. By 1787 the US elites of the time, Hamilton and supporting cast, were chaffing under what they characterized as the “excesses of democracy.” A new constitution was drafted and approved with “checks and balances.” What needed to be checked and balanced? Democracy, the direct rule of the people, was what was checked in the new document, while slavery was reaffirmed under the highest law of the land.

    The new constitution gave us the Electoral College, whereby presidents are selected by “electors” rather than trusting the direct vote of the people and states can vote as a block. This allowed Trump to triumph even when his opponent received some 3 million more votes. Oddly, his Democratic Party opponents have since focused on alleged Russian interference through Facebook ads rather than the need to make the US Constitution an instrument for expression of the popular will.

    But we are getting ahead of the story, because Trump still had to become the front runner in a crowded Republican field before he could even take on the other party of capital. Here he had help from friends in unexpected quarters. The Republican establishment hated him, but Clinton and the so-called liberal media became Trump boosters. The corporate media gave the flamboyant Trump a bully platform because it was good for ratings.

    Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, as revealed in their leaked emails published by Wikileaks, pulled for Trump because they thought him an easier opponent than, say, the mainstream Republican heir-apparent Jeb Bush. There was precious little difference between the positions of Jeb and Hillary, though the popular images projected by the two major parties superficially diverged. The core of both parties greatly overlap, while the right fringe of the Republicans and the left fringe of the Democrats provide the contrasting colors but not the contending policy directions.

    The 2016 electoral contest was a spectacle of insurgencies. Initially, there was Sanders. That he was somehow considered an “outsider” is a symptom of just how terminally ingrown the US polity has become. How could someone who served years in the US Senate and caucused with the Democrats be an outsider? Sanders ran on two premises: supporting the Democratic Party and raising suppressed issues such as income inequality. He succeeded in the first and failed in the second.

    Meanwhile after 40 years of neoliberalism, CEO compensation has grown 940%  as compared to 12% for typical employees in the US.

    Trump in his way also pandered to the genuinely deteriorating condition of US workers. Both the Trump and the Sanders anti-establishment insurgencies, however, were contained within the two-party system and thus were structurally destined not to come to fruition. The establishment won’t come down by joining them.

    Unfaithful Servant of Imperialism

    Defying even the Las Vegas bookies’ predictions, Trump became the 45th President of the US. He had kvetched about the plight of US workers and made some noise about ending unending wars, but was he for real? After all, Obama had promised to get out of Gitmo and NAFTA, but ended up doing neither. Obama, the former critic of Bush’s Iraq war, continued Bush’s wars and started a handful of his own.

    Upon occupying the Oval Office, Trump not unexpectedly threw the working class under the bus with his tax cut for the rich and similar actions, which must have won him some brownie points from the owning class. But to date he has failed to start a new war. The last US president with a similar failing was the one-term Jimmy Carter. And now Trump is showing insufficient enthusiasm for continuing the war in Syria and possibly even a closet aversion to starting World War III with nuclear-armed Russia. These may be impeachable offenses in the estimation of parts of the ruling class.

    David R. Sanger, writing in the October 7 New York Times, represents “liberal” establishment views in support of US imperialism: “Mr. Trump’s sudden abandonment of the Kurds was another example of the independent, parallel foreign policy he has run from the White House, which has largely abandoned the elaborate systems created since President Harry Truman’s day to think ahead about the potential costs and benefits of presidential decisions.”

    There you have it. Trump is accused of having an “independent” foreign policy, emanating out of his office of all places, even though he is the elected President of the US and the one charged with executing foreign policy.

    Who is Trump “independent” from? It’s not the US citizenry according to the Times. As the article points out: “Mr. Trump sensed that many Americans share his view – and polls show he is right… Mr. Trump has correctly read the American people who, after Iraq and Afghanistan, also have a deep distaste for forever wars.”

    So, who might Trump have betrayed? According to the article, it’s “circumventing the American generals and diplomats who sing the praises of maintaining the traditional American forward presence around the world.” This is whom his alleged crime of independence is against. They fear Trump could “abandon” the post-war imperial consensus.

    Note that the Times, as reflective of current ruling class ideology, no longer bothers to justify the dictates of the world’s sole hegemon as a crusade against the current evil, be it communism or terrorism. Simply, the imperial state must be supported. Hence, Trump’s view that “acting as the world’s policeman was too expensive” or his tweet, “time for us to get out,” have become grounds for impeachment.

    The article favorably cites Republican majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell, who called on Trump “to exercise American leadership” by capitulating to the dictates of the imperial state, while contrasting it to that glory day “not even three months after his inauguration, [when] he ordered the first military strike of his presidency.”

    The Times article continues: “That system is badly broken today. Mr. Trump is so suspicious of the professional staff – many drawn from the State Department and the C.I.A. – and so dismissive of the ‘deep state’ foreign policy establishment, that he usually announces decisions first, and forces the staff to deal with them later.”

    “That system,” cited above, is the post-WWII permanent state. Trump is chastised in the Times for being “so dismissive of the ‘deep state’ foreign policy establishment.” Trump instead, according to the article, has the temerity to make his own decisions and then he expects the agencies of government to follow his instructions. For some, having the elected representative formulate policy and the unelected state apparatus follow it would be democratic. But not so for the cheerleaders of US imperialism.

    The Dark Knight Rises

    Trump’s habitual corruption and bullying has now been outed by a whistleblower. Unlike Ellsberg, Manning, and Snowden, who sought to correct US imperial policy, this whistleblower comes from the very gatekeeper of imperialism, the CIA. According to his lawyers, there is not a lone whistleblower but a whole cabal of well-placed spooks in the secret US security apparatus. The deep state (I would prefer the term “permanent” state) is more than a conspiracy theory.

    The impeachment imbroglio is bigger than Trump. That the outing of Trump was done by a current employee of a US agency shrouded in secrecy, who is unaccountable and unknown, should be a subject of enormous concern for all small-d democrats and not just anti-imperialists. The CIA has the means and mission to overthrow regimes, and now ours may be one of them, however undesirable the current president may be.

    We, the people, should take no solace that Trump, in his careening about, may stumble in the direction of anti-imperialism. Trump is just as much an imperialist as the rest. Only he is not as reliably consistent and that is what has gotten leading segments of the ruling class into a hissy fit. The ruling class is not always unified on policy. Here we are witness to an intra-class struggle. But we needn’t take sides, because the ruling class is always unified in serving their class interests, which are not ours.

    A policy conflict, some have speculated, is raging within the ruling class between Trump’s “isolationist” and a more “globalist” imperialism. Rest assured the ruling class has institutions to adjudicate these disputes such as the Council on Foreign Relations. For the neocons and the “liberal” right-to-protect “humanitarian imperialists,” Trump’s lurches in the direction of non-intervention and rapprochement are only venial sins. The mortal sin would be if the erratic Trump fails to listen to what the Times delicately calls the “professionals.”

    A corollary fear is if the “populist” (note how the ruling class thinks of this as a pejorative) Trump listens to the people’s desire for peace. Unlike the first fear, the latter is unwarranted. That is, unwarranted unless and until the people rebuild an independent peace movement to check the rising tide of US militarism.

    “Justice is Indivisible”: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call

    The death of Israa Ghrayeb has ignited furious reactions regarding the so-called ‘honor-killings’ in Palestine and throughout the Arab world.

    It also wrought confusion with respect to the jurisprudential foundation of such crimes, which are often committed in the name of protecting the honor of the family.

    Israa, a 21-year-old makeup artist from the town of Beit Sahour in the West Bank, was reportedly beaten to death by her own brother for ‘dishonoring’ the family. The tragic episode was ignited by a video posted on social media where Israa was seen spending time with her soon-to-be fiancé.

    While Palestinians and other Arab communities are genuinely angry regarding the violent mistreatment of women, others have found another platform to indict Islam and condemn Arab society. Predictably, the issue quickly and conveniently branched into the realms of politics, ideology and religion.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Lenient laws regarding ‘honor killing’ in the Middle East (and other parts of the world) do not originate from Islamic Sharia law, but from the so-called Napoleonic code of 1810, which largely tolerated “crimes of passion”. In countries like France and Italy, laws concerning ‘honor killing’ were not abrogated until 1975 and 1981, respectively.

    The exploitation of weaknesses in Arab and Muslim societies is an old and thriving business. Anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rhetoric has always been at the forefront of every military and political campaign by the West, from the early colonial era to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. For many years, elaborate discourses have aimed at justifying war and rationalizing intervention to distract from the real motives of economic exploitation and violence.

    “Mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes,” said former US President George W. Bush in January 2002, celebrating his country’s supposed ‘victory’ in Afghanistan. “Today, [Afghani] women are free.”

    Bush made that preposterous claim only weeks after his wife, Laura, supposedly the defender of women worldwide, declared in November 2001 that “the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women”.

    The fact that hundreds of thousands of girls and women were killed and millions of others were widowed or orphaned in America’s protracted ‘war on terror’ doesn’t seem to impede the fallacious logic in any way. The sad, but predictable, truth is that the rights and wellbeing of Afghani, Arab and Muslim women have sharply deteriorated as a result of US-western military interventions.

    But this is the crux of the problem. As intellectuals, educators and human rights activists, we often find ourselves trapped in a restricting paradigm. Aware of the real motives of western media and official propaganda, we engage in a battle of self-defense, desperately trying to shield our religions, countries and societies from ill-intentioned criticism. In the process of doing so, however, we often neglect to speak out on behalf of the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, the likes of Israa Ghrayeb and millions like her.

    We neglect our responsibility to stand up for the marginalized sectors of our society because we are afraid to be misunderstood, and for our words to be misinterpreted and misused by the rising far-right propagandists from the US to France, and from India to Brazil.

    But this is hardly fair to Israa and millions of other women. Palestinian and Arab women are suffering from dual injustices that men don’t experience. They are victims of war, political instability and economic marginalization, but are also victims of patriarchal societies and outdated laws.

    It is infuriating and inexcusable, for example, that Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza are coping with multilayered forms of violence, emanating both from the Israeli occupation and from their own family and society; the former justifying its violence in the name of ‘security’ and the latter in the name of ‘honor’ and tradition.

    But where is the honor in the fact that nearly 30 percent of all married women in the West Bank and 50 percent in Gaza “have been subjected to a form of violence within the household”? According to the United Nations group, UN Women, the majority of these women prefer to remain silent in the face of these abuses, most likely to protect their families and avoid further abuse.

    Palestinian and Arab women (and many men) are not just angry over ‘honor killings’ and the tolerant laws that make it possible for criminals to get away with their brutal deeds; they are also angry because the practice merely symbolizes a much wider phenomenon, where women are marginalized and victimized as a matter of course in all societal aspects.

    21 Palestinian women and girls have been killed in so-called honor killings in 2018, reports Amnesty International. This requires immediate attention and a complete overhaul of Palestinian laws that allow criminals to walk free after serving reduced prison sentences. But the fight should not end there. Palestinian women are more educated than men, yet enjoy far less work opportunities. Despite their crucial role in the resistance against Israeli occupation and apartheid, they are marginalized in politics and decision-making.

    Those who killed Israa and hundreds of women like her in the name of ‘honor’ should know that the agonizing screams of their sisters and daughters are no different from the cries of pain of Razan Al-Najjar, after she was shot and killed by Israeli snipers at Gaza’s March of Return; that the same pain endured by these women is the pain being felt every hour of every day by Israa Ja’abis and her sisters in Israeli prisons; that the abuse of women at the hands of their families is the same abuse they experience at Israeli military checkpoints and by unhinged Israeli Jewish settlers.

    ‘Justice is indivisible’, and it is time that we break our silence and respect this noble maxim. Speaking out against violence, discrimination and marginalization of women in our societies should be part and parcel of any genuine struggle against human rights abuses, regardless of the identity and motive of the abuser.

    Let the screams for help and pleas for mercy of Israa Ghrayeb be our guide as we fight against injustice in all of its forms and manifestations.

    The United States: A Nation on Suicide Watch

    The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required major shifts in national resources from civilian to military purposes and contributed to the growth of the budget deficit and public debt. Through FY 2018, the direct costs of the wars will have totaled more than $1.9 trillion, according to US Government figures. Pollution is a serious issue. The United States (US)  is a “large emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; deals with water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; has limited natural freshwater resources in much of the western part of the country that require careful management. Deforestation; mining; desertification; species conservation; and invasive species (the Hawaiian Islands are particularly vulnerable) are widespread. Long-term problems for the US include stagnation of wages for lower-income families, inadequate investment in deteriorating infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, energy shortages, and sizable current account and budget deficits.

    The onrush of technology has been a driving factor in the gradual development of a “two-tier” labor market in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. But the globalization of trade, and especially the rise of low-wage producers such as China, has put additional downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on the return to capital. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. Since 1996, dividends and capital gains have grown faster than wages or any other category of after-tax income…In December 2017, Congress passed and President Donald TRUMP signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which, among its various provisions, reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%; lowers the individual tax rate for those with the highest incomes from 39.6% to 37%, and by lesser percentages for those at lower income levels…The new taxes took effect on 1 January 2018; the tax cut for corporations are permanent, but those for individuals are scheduled to expire after 2025. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) under the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new law will reduce tax revenues and increase the federal deficit by about $1.45 trillion over the 2018-2027 period.

    Are those the words of some left wing liberal publication or fake news from the mainstream media or conspiracy tinfoil hats? No, they are excerpts from the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) 2019 World Factbook, an unflinching look at all the planet’s nations and their political systems, military expenditures, resources and internal and transnational troubles.

    We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

    Yes, indeed, the US has real problems, not imagined, as Republicans, Democrats and those with “Star Spangled Eyes” like to claim otherwise. “The US is the greatest country in history with the world’s most powerful military. God Bless America!” they shout out or proclaim after every speech.

    Perhaps at one point in history’s past the nation had a shot to be the greatest of all time, at least in this solar system. Maybe that could have come after WW II, or the end of the Vietnam War, or even the largely successful Civil Rights movement. But now the country and its people are delusional in thinking that “everything’s groovy”.

    What’s to worry about? Gas prices are low, the National Football League season is underway and the Major League Baseball playoffs are just around the corner. What fun to watch these sporting events as military aircraft fly overhead and 20-something millionaires run around the baseball diamond or up and down the football field in stadiums, by the way,  largely financed by the public. Who cares about lead infused water in Newark, New Jersey; Flint and Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?

    And what can be said about the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria? Where’s the victory to put in the US “Win” column? The American public has largely forgotten these tragic conflicts save those whose families have made a sacrifice. But sacrifice for what? Testing out new equipment, technology and war fighting doctrine? The War on Terror has siphoned off cash badly needed for US infrastructure repairs and has taken the lives of thousands of Americans.

    Yes, it is correct that there has been no repeat of the 911 attacks, but the US is dealing with its own home grown terrorist problem: active shooters. Is the US military going to start hunting them down here like they do Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East and Africa?

    Hell on Earth

    At any rate, the only maniacs who want US personnel to remain in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, three hell-holes created, in part, by the US, are zealous military leaders, defense contractors/suppliers, corrupt officials the US has propped up in the three countries, and black market operators eager to steal American weapons and sell them to the Taliban or groups like the Islamic State.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (the Baron Harkonenn of the US government) and his boss President Donald Trump who are eager for war with Iran (which borders Iraq and Afghanistan, among other nations). That push has already started with the US exiting from the nuclear accord with Iran (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in May 2018. The Trump administration has since unleashed punishing economic sanctions, and has adopted a blind-support policy for Israel and the bloodthirsty Saudis who would like nothing better than to have the US go to war with Iran. Yes, lets “do Iran” if not by direct military action then through subterfuge and dicey intelligence likely to be used to justify an ill-advised invasion.

    The attack-Iran crowd has been singing the same old tune for at least 40 years now and it should have long ago been dust-binned. But here we are, again, moving toward the precipice of conflict.

    According to the National Iranian American Council:

    The past 40 years in U.S.-Iran relations have been riddled with missed opportunities. While the Iranians and Clinton administration failed to initiate serious dialogue after Mohammad Khatami’s election, the George W. Bush administration pocketed Tehran’s assistance after the U.S.invasion of Afghanistan, put the country in its “axis of evil,” and ignored its offer for a grand bargain. Under the Trump administration, however, we are likely witnessing the greatest missed opportunity in four decades: a failure to capitalize on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the Iran nuclear deal.

    War planners in the US have already sorted through all the airstrike contingencies and have plans, classified, of course, for air/missile strikes. But you need not wait for the day when the aircraft and missiles take to the skies over Iran and the talking heads from left, right and center media rant and rave about a brand new war, or retired generals show up to blather about this and that weapon system. Prepare yourself now. Be an educated armchair warrior by reviewing Anthony Cordesman’sOptions in Dealing with Irans Nuclear Program. It addresses the use of conventional and nuclear weapons by the US and Israel.

    What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

    It is commonplace for Americans to lionize US military leaders and look to them as calming voices, counterweights to warmongering government officials and their advisors. Ironic, isn’t it? Can we look to our divine US military leaders to change the current thinking of the war hawks in the administration, congress and the think tanks that dot the Washington, DC Metro region?

    Nope.

    Consider this review by William Bacevich, a decorated combat veteran, of the newest US Central Command boss, Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie. McKenzie’s area of responsibility (AOR) includes Iran.

    General Kenneth McKenzie became the twenty-fourth commander of CENTCOM (more formally known as United States Central Command).  On May 8, at an event sponsored by the Institute for the Perpetuation of War and the Promotion of Regime Change, more formally known as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), he outlined his plans for building on the legacy of his 23 predecessors.  None of those predecessors, it should be acknowledged, succeeded in accomplishing his assigned mission. Nor, I’m willing to bet, will he.

    The essence of that mission, according to General McKenzie himself, is to promote stability. “A stable Middle East underpins a stable world,” he announced, and “our steady commitment to our allies and partners provides a force for stability.” As to how the region became unstable in the first place, he offers no opinion, leaving listeners with the impression that previous exertions by CENTCOM forces in invading, occupying, bombing, and otherwise spilling blood throughout his Area of Responsibility (AOR) had nothing to do with the absence of stability existing there today…This much seems clear: To listen to McKenzie, Iran is the ultimate source of all evil. To cite just one example, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the general charges that “at least 600 US personnel deaths in Iraq were the result of Iran-backed militants.” This was indeed nefarious, and one is hard-pressed to think of a comparable episode in recent military history, although US support for Saddam Hussein pursuant to his war of aggression against Iran might fill the bill.”

    Don’t Bogart that Joint, My Friend

    How are we faring in that other Long War, the War on Drugs?

    The Office of National Drug Control and Policy’s (ONDCP) 2019 National Drug Control Strategy document describes the massive US local, state, and federal machinery set up to defeat drug trafficking organizations from getting their products to US streets and into the bodies of American citizens.

    The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program provides assistance to law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. HIDTAs provide an umbrella to coordinate Federal, state, local, and tribal drug law enforcement agencies’ investigations, and act as neutral centers to manage, de-conflict, analyze, provide intelligence, and execute drug enforcement activities in their respective regions. With the recent inclusion of Alaska, the first new HIDTA in 17 years, the 29 regional HIDTAs now include designated areas in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The regional HIDTAs bring together more than 21,000 Federal, state, local, and tribal personnel from 500 agencies through 800 enforcement, intelligence, and training initiatives, all designed to disrupt illicit drug trafficking and dismantle criminal and drug trafficking organizations.

    The US military, of course, plays a key role in the US War on Drugs, supporting HIDTA’s among other activities. Take, for example, US Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) role in the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-South). A 2005 briefing by former US Coast Rear Admiral Jeffrey Hathaway shows that no less than 14 agencies worked, and likely still do, chasing down illicit drugs in the SOUTHCOM AOR. These include the National Security Agency; the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines; the US Coast Guard,  and the National Reconnaissance Office, among others. According to one of Hathaway’s slides, every step involved in JIATF-South operations from interdiction to prosecution leads to intelligence. That is an interesting point. So 14 years later and all the intelligence collected has led to what, exactly?

    Let’s revisit the CIA’s 2019 World Factbook for a read on how the War on Drugs effort is going. The US is the “world’s largest consumer of cocaine (shipped from Colombia through Mexico and the Caribbean), Colombian heroin, and Mexican heroin and marijuana; a major consumer of ecstasy and Mexican methamphetamine; a minor consumer of high-quality Southeast Asian heroin; an illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine. It is also a money-laundering center.”

    Great!

    This piece could go on and on citing data from a myriad of sources showing, among other things, the 500% growth rate of the US prison population, income inequality according to the Gini Coefficient which sees the US (41.5) right near Iran (40), or that one in six children in the US live in hunger. But, hey! The stock market is up, unemployment is down, and the dollar menu at McDonald’s is fabulous.

    The forever wars on Drugs and Terror, or the trumped up wars to come; income equality; homelessness; hunger, infrastructure collapse and the fracturing of US society into tribes is clearly a nationwide social, political and cultural sickness: perhaps mental illness. Even the Internet/World Wide Web, once viewed as a global unifying/liberating force for change/good has become what is termed the Splinternet, reflecting large in-group fanaticism, censorship and a polarization of political beliefs. It is now polluted with advertisements just as radio and television are.

    But there’s still time left on the clock to change the direction of the country. Who or what will do that and when it will happen I’m not sure. But I take heart in Robert F. Kennedy’s insight below that there are many who long to make “life worthwhile” for everyone in America, once again.

    For Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product…if we should judge the United States of America by that—counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

    Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.