Category Archives: "Regime Change"

Empire Journalism: Venezuela, the US and John McCain

The US political commentator Michael Parenti once observed that:

Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for “objectivity”. Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.

Once you understand the truth of that remark, seeing the daily biases and distortions of the corporate media becomes obvious. Thus, there is plenty of space on the BBC News website, and plenty of time on the BBC’s airwaves, to discuss the Venezuela migrant crisis, hyper-inflation and food shortages. Rob Young, a BBC News business correspondent, wrote:

Venezuela, now in its fourth year of recession, has joined a sad list of other countries whose economies imploded as hyperinflation tore through them.

Young quoted a senior official of the International Monetary Fund:

The situation in Venezuela is similar to that in Germany in 1923 or Zimbabwe in the late 2000s.

A BBC News clip headlined, ‘Begging for food in Venezuela’, emphasised:

Food has become so scarce in Venezuela after the economy collapsed that people are getting desperate.

Likewise, there has been ample heart-wrenching coverage of Venezuelans fleeing to other countries. But you will struggle to find any substantive analysis of the severe US sanctions and long-standing threats to bring about a US-friendly government in Caracas, including an attempted coup in 2002 to remove Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s then president.

On August 19, BBC South America correspondent Katy Watson reported for BBC News at Ten:

President Nicolas Maduro is doing little to stop his country’s economic freefall. Last week, he announced plans to devalue the country’s currency; an attempt to rein in inflation that the International Monetary Fund says could hit one million per cent by the end of the year.

But there was next to no context. BBC viewers were led to believe that the blame for the crisis in Venezuela lay squarely at Maduro’s door.

By contrast, consider the analysis of Gabriel Hetland, an expert academic on Latin America. He stated that the Venezuelan government’s actions – and inactions – have made the crisis ‘far worse’. But crucially:

The government has not acted in a vacuum, but in a hostile domestic and international environment. The opposition has openly and repeatedly pushed for regime change by any means necessary.

On August 4, there was even an attempt to assassinate President Maduro, with responsibility claimed by a clandestine opposition group made up of members of the Venezuelan military.

Hetland continued:

The US government has not only cheered, and funded, these anti-democratic actions. By absurdly declaring that Venezuela is an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security and pressuring investors and bankers to steer clear of the Maduro administration, the White House has prevented Venezuela from obtaining much-needed foreign financing and investment.

The Morning Star’s Tim Young pointed out that:

Sanctions now form a key part of what is a strategic plan by the US to ruin the Venezuelan economy.

These US sanctions have even impacted Venezuela’s health programme, with the country’s vaccination schemes disrupted, dialysis supplies blocked and cancer drugs refused. Young added:

It is clear that the US sanctions — illegal under international law — are part of an overall strategy to bring about what the US calls “regime change.”

Its aim is to undermine and topple the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro and secure control of Venezuela’s vast oil reserves and other natural resources and wealth.

In a news report in the Independent last year, Andrew Buncombe quoted remarks by Mike Pompeo, then head of the CIA, suggesting that:

The agency is working to change the elected government of Venezuela and is collaborating with two countries [Mexico and Colombia] in the region to do so.

As Buncombe observed:

The US has a long and bloody history of meddling in Latin America’s affairs.

That is an accurate and truthful headline you are very unlikely to see on BBC News.

To realise how incomplete and distorted is BBC News coverage, you only have to listen to the superb independent journalist Abby Martin, who has risked her life to report what the corporate media is not telling you about Venezuela. It is little wonder that, as she discusses, her important news programme, ‘Empire Files‘, is currently off-air as a result of US sanctions against left-leaning TeleSUR, the Venezuela-based television network.

A report by media analyst Gregory Shupak for US-based media watchdog FAIR, notes the repeated usage of the word ‘regime’ to describe Venezuela by the US corporate media. As Shupak observes, a ‘regime’ is, by definition, a government that opposes the US empire. He goes on:

Interestingly, the US itself meets many of the criteria for being a “regime”: It can be seen as an oligarchy rather than a democracy, imprisons people at a higher rate than any other country, has grotesque levels of inequality and bombs another country every 12 minutes. Yet there’s no widespread tendency for the corporate media to describe the US state as a “regime.”

In short, if you rely on the corporate media, not least the BBC, for what’s going on in Venezuela, you will get the US-friendly version of events, downplaying or simply ignoring the crippling effects of US sanctions and threats.

On Venezuela, as with so many other issues, BBC News regularly violates its own stated ‘Editorial Values‘:

Accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right; when necessary, we will weigh relevant facts and information to get at the truth.

The notion that BBC News journalists perform a balancing act, sifting through ‘facts and information’ to present ‘the truth’ to the public is simply pure fiction, as the ample evidence presented in our forthcoming book, ‘Propaganda Blitz‘, makes clear.

‘A Human Landmark; an American Hero’

Consider coverage of the recent death of US politician John McCain. McCain was the Republican nominee in the 2008 US presidential election which he lost to Barack Obama. In 1967, during the Vietnam War, he was shot down while on a bombing mission over Hanoi and was seriously injured. Captured by the North Vietnamese, he was tortured during his incarceration, before being released in 1973. In later years, the media would call him a ‘war hero’ and depict him as a political ‘maverick’ in not always supporting Republican Party policy on certain issues.

Theresa May declared:

John McCain was a great statesman, who embodied the idea of service over self. It was an honour to call him a friend of the UK.

Con Coughlin, the Telegraph’s defence editor and chief foreign affairs columnist, echoed the mantra that McCain was a ‘war hero’.

In similar vein, ‘neutral’ and ‘impartial’ Nick Bryant, the BBC’s New York correspondent, intoned loftily on BBC News at Ten on August 27:

Washington without John McCain is a lesser place. He was a human landmark; an American hero whose broken body personified the Land of the Brave.

Senior reporters from Channel 4 News and ITV News added their own eulogies to warmonger McCain, dubbed ‘McNasty’ by people who had observed his ‘inexplicable angry outbursts’. C4 News political correspondent Michael Crick said via Twitter:

I’ll always be grateful to John McCain. When I was #C4News Washington Correspondent in the late ’80s, he was one of the few senators happy to do interviews with us, and always very friendly & accommodating.

Robert Moore, ITV News Washington Correspondent responded:

Agreed. And that continued almost until the end – for the foreign press, McCain was the single most accessible political figure in Washington. He always had time for an interview, and a joke – including teasing me for my choice of ties.

Other Twitter users put things in stark perspective:

My thoughts are entirely with his victims and their families.

And:

How hard did you grill him about the decisions he made that killed innocent civilians in hundreds of thousands?

It would be hard to find an exchange on Twitter that better exemplifies the divide between sycophantic journalists fawning before power, and members of the public refusing to whitewash a politician’s ugly record.

Patrick Martin, writing for the World Socialist Website, makes a vital point:

The overriding feature of McCain’s career […] was his reflexive hawkishness on foreign policy. He supported war after war, intervention after intervention, always promoting the use of force as the primary feature of American foreign policy, and always advocating the maximum allocation of resources to fuel the Pentagon.

Peace activist Medea Benjamin told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now! interview:

We had constantly been lobbying John McCain to not support all these wars. Amy, I think it’s so horrible to be calling somebody a war hero because he participated in the bombing of Vietnam. I just spent the last weekend with Veterans for Peace, people who are atoning for their sins in Vietnam by trying to stop new wars. John McCain hasn’t done that. With his life, what he did was support wars from not only Iraq, but also Libya.

Benjamin founded Code Pink: Women for Peace, a grassroots peace and justice movement that McCain once disparaged as “low-life scum“.

She continued:

He called John Kerry delusional for trying to make a nuclear deal with Iran, and threw his lot in with the MEK, the extremist group in Iran. He also was a good friend of Mohammad bin Salman and the Saudis. There was a gala for the Saudis in May when the crown prince was visiting, and they had a special award for John McCain. He supported the Saudi bombing in Yemen that has been so catastrophic. And I think we have to think that those who have participated in war are really heroes if they spend the rest of their lives trying to stop war, not like John McCain, who spent the rest of his life supporting war.

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, made clear his empathy for McCain for having suffered through brain cancer. But he castigated the corporate media phenomenon of ‘obit omit—obituaries that are flagrantly in conflict with the real historical record.’

He told Goodman:

We really have to fault the mass media of the United States, not just for the last few days, but the last decades, pretending that somehow, by implication, almost that John McCain was doing the people of North Vietnam a favor as he flew over them and dropped bombs. You would think, in the hagiography that we’ve been getting about his role in a squadron flying over North Vietnam, that he was dropping, you know, flowers or marshmallows or something. He was shot down during his 23rd mission dropping bombs on massive numbers of human beings, in a totally illegal and immoral war.

As Branko Marcetic noted in an accurate assessment of McCain’s political legacy:

John McCain’s greatest achievement was convincing the world through charming banter and occasional opposition to his party’s agenda that he was anything other than a reactionary, bloodthirsty war hawk.

In a recent article, Joe Emersberger, an insightful writer on foreign affairs, notes that corporate media coverage of both Venezuela and John McCain illustrates two main features:

  1. The uniformity of empire-friendly reporting across the corporate media.
  2. The complicity of major human rights groups in this empire-friendly ‘journalism’.

As an example:

Amnesty International has refused to oppose US economic sanctions on Venezuela, and has also refused to denounce flagrant efforts by US officials to incite a military coup.

Emersberger also points to a statement on John McCain’s death from Human Rights Watch:

Senator McCain was for decades a compassionate voice for US foreign and national security policy.

For anyone able to think critically and speak openly, such statements are risible. Brutal imperialism will continue for as long as empire-friendly journalism and tame public opposition exist.

‘Foreign specialists’ may stage chemical attack in Syria in 2 days to frame Assad: Russian MoD

FILE PHOTO White Helmets in Syria © Omar Haj Kadour / AFP

“Foreign specialists” have arrived in Syria and may stage a chemical attack using chlorine in “the next two days,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. This will be filmed for international media to frame Damascus forces.

Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the operation is planned to unfold in the village of Kafr Zita in Syria’s northwestern Hama Province in “the next two days.”

Terrorists readying chemical attack to frame Damascus & provide pretext for US strikes – Russian MoD

Konashenkov said that “English-speaking specialists” are already in place to use “poisonous agents.” While a group of residents from the north has been transported to Kafr Zita and is currently being prepared “to take part in the staging of the attack” and be filmed suffering from supposed “‘chemical munitions’ and ‘barrel bombs’ launched by the Syrian government forces.”

The groups of residents will be used to assist “fake rescuers from the White Helmets.” They will be filmed apparently suffering from the effects of chemical weapons and then be shown in “the Middle Eastern and English-language media.”

The defense ministry earlier warned that the US, UK, and France are preparing to use the planned attack as a pretext for airstrikes against Syria. The USS The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago.

On August 22, US National Security Adviser John Bolton stated that “if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov earlier warned that the US is not finished looking for pretexts for regime change in Damascus.

In April, the US, UK, and France unleashed a bombing campaign on Syria in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma, which the West blamed on Bashar Assad’s government. The operation started hours before a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach the city.

A Specter of Peace Is Haunting Nicaragua

After four months of violence, peace may be breaking out in Nicaragua, which has gotten those North American partisans opposed to Nicaraguan President Ortega worried. But they have one last hope.

The latest in a series of anti-Ortega articles in The Nation is entitled “An eternal night of persecution and death.” We are told: “Despite mass killings and newly authoritarian laws, a diverse opposition says the movement to oust Ortega is far from over.”

Although some analysts understand the relative calm that has befallen Nicaragua is mainly due to the failure of the opposition to sustain public support, this article maintains it is because it is “too dangerous for resistors to rally publicly.” The article is primarily based on an interview with an anonymous source “whose name has been altered for his safety.” Toward the end of the article, we find out that the anonymous source is “at a coffee shop in New York.” Ever vigilant, he has his back to the wall “facing out at the rest of the café.”

With the opposition in quiescence, The Nation is still hopeful for regime change. The anonymous source “laments” that “the only way Ortega would concede to that would be with US and international pressure.” The article concludes that “while the United States is not the perfect partner, options are limited.”

The article condemns Ortega, who “no longer represents the ideals of…anti-imperialism,” but does not extend that criticism to publications calling for the US to partner in regime change in Nicaragua.

Will Uncle Sam Come to the Rescue?

Academic Latin Americanist William I. Robinson, an opponent of Ortega, questions whether the US will oblige. He contends “Washington’s primary interest in Nicaragua is not getting rid of Ortega but in preserving the interests of transnational capital.”

Much of Robinson’s analysis is consistent with those who oppose US involvement in the recent violence in Nicaragua. Robinson agrees that the CIA surrogate, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), “funding started in the mid-1980s and has never ceased. It is not new to the Ortega-Murillo period.” However, Robinson’s assertion that the US funding has “not been aimed at overthrowing Ortega” is mistaken. The so-called “democracy promotion” dollars from the US went to the opposition who are intent on overthrowing Ortega.

Robinson agrees a viable left alternative within the opposition to Ortega is lacking: “These popular sectors from below have no project of their own to put forward as a viable alternative to replace the regime. This opens up the popular resistance to manipulation or cooptation by the third force.” This third force, Robinson explains “is the bourgeoisie, organized in the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), the oligarchic elite, transnational capital, and the United States.”

And Robinson agrees: “Finally, have right-wing forces taken advantage of the uprising to try to gain control over it? Absolutely. Have these forces deployed their own violence. Yes. Have they manipulated a disorganized and politically incoherent grassroots opposition to Ortega-Murillo? Yes.” To his rhetorical question “would the post-Ortega scenario (that) the Right seeks to achieve be ‘more, not less, neoliberal, repressive, and authoritarian’ than the regime?” Robinson answers “probably.”

The Threat of an Alternative to Empire

So what’s Robinson’s beef with what he characterizes as “the infantile manichean view of a significant portion of the US Left”?

Robinson is a major proponent of the view that US imperialism has been eclipsed by a “transnational capitalist class.” Robinson does allow that on a world scale Nicaragua weighs in as being more progressive: “Has the Ortega regime, with its assistancialism (sic), been anywhere near as ‘bad’ as these other neoliberal regimes? Certainly not.” But, less bad is not enough. The crux of his difference with the anti-imperialist left is that they uphold Nicaragua as worthy of defense, whereas in Robinson’s post-US imperialist world no nation passes his litmus test.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union and its allies, all countries are compelled to be integrated into the world capitalist market, including Nicaragua. This is well described by Robinson in his academic work.

But Robinson is less insightful regarding the coercive aspect of US relations with progressive countries such as Nicaragua and its allies in ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia. These countries and their leaders are very much in the crosshairs of US regime change efforts precisely because they represent some degree of a challenge to neoliberalism and because they are not compliant to every dictate of the empire.

Robinson may label this view as “manichean,” (i.e., seeing a binary world of good or evil), but it is a reality imposed by the US. George W. Bush, in his own eloquent way, summed up US strategy best: “You’re either with us or with the enemy.”

For Nicaragua, a tipping point between US cooperation and US coercion was the adoption of a trans-oceanic canal project with Chinese financing, which fundamentally challenged US geopolitical interests.

Nicaragua and its allies represent a breathing space in a world dominated by the US empire. The US government recognizes the alternative posed by Nicaragua as a threat and has targeted the Ortega government, even if some academics are less perceptive.

Fleeing Nicaragua

Meanwhile, the US has imposed sanctions against top Nicaraguan officials. USAID received an additional $1.5 million to promote “freedom and democracy” in Nicaragua. The NICA Act has passed the House by unanimous consent and is pending in the Senate. The NICA Act is designed to restrict international financing and thereby create misery among the Nicaraguan people to pressure the Ortega government. And the bulk of the US diplomatic corps has been withdrawn from Nicaragua.

The US State Department’s travel advisory warns that the remaining “US government personnel are prohibited…from entering…gentlemen’s clubs throughout the country due to crime.”

“Non-emergency government personnel” have been evacuated to go back home, presumably where gentlemen’s clubs are still safe.

 

Camilo Comes to San Francisco and Analyzes the Soft Coup Attempt in Nicaragua

Western media has described the unrest and violence in Nicaragua as a “campaign of terror” by government police and paramilitary. This has also been asserted by large non governmental organizations (NGOs). In May, for example, Amnesty International issued a report titled “Shoot to Kill: Nicaragua’s Strategy to Repress Protest”.

A Miami Herald op-ed summarized, “It’s not like there’s any confusion over who’s to blame for the recent killings amid Nicaragua’s political violence. Virtually all human rights groups agree that Ortega’s police-backed paramilitary goons are the culprits.”

Much less publicized, other analysts have challenged these assertions. They claim the situation is being distorted and the reality is very different. For example, Camilo Mejía wrote an open letter condemning the Amnesty report for being biased and actually contributing to the chaos and violence.

To learn more about the situation, Task Force on the Americas (TFA) invited Camilo Mejía to speak in the San Francisco Bay Area. TFA has a long history of work in Central and South America educating the public, lobbying around US foreign policy and leading delegations to see the reality in Central and South America.

Veterans for Peace (VFP) quickly agreed to co-sponsor events with Camilo in San Francisco and Oakland. Veterans for Peace also has a long history with Nicaragua. VFP was founded partially in response to US aggression in Central America. VFP members protested against US shipments to the Nicaraguan Contras. VFP member Brian Willson had both legs cut off when a train carrying weapons destined for Central America ran over him. The current VFP president, Gerry Condon, was at that protest and helped stop the blood gushing from Willson’s severed legs. Brian Willson lives in Nicaragua today.

Camilo Mejía was born in Nicaragua, the son of famous musician Carlos Mejía Godoy. His mother was a staunch Sandinista activist but separated from the father soon after his birth. She brought Camilo to the United States as a single mother in 1994, four years after the Sandinista electoral defeat. Living in Florida, Camilo struggled to make ends meet and joined the US Army to pay for college. Just a few months before completing his service, Camilo was ordered into the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After serving one tour of war duty, he refused to return and was imprisoned for 9 months.

Camilo was honored as a “Prisoner of Conscience” by Amnesty International. Thus Camilo’s criticism of the Amnesty report on Nicaragua has special significance. Camilo is Nicaraguan, a member of Veterans for Peace, and a hero to both VFP and Amnesty. He is also the author of the compelling autobiography Road from Ar Ramadi.

As news of Camilo’s upcoming visit to San Francisco was spread, we quickly started to feel a reaction. There is a large and diverse Nicaraguan exile community in San Francisco. While some support the Sandinista government, others are adamantly opposed and some even supported the Contras decades ago. Anti-Ortega Nicaraguan exiles in San Francisco began organizing a protest.

Camilo’s visit to speak on Nicaragua also prompted a reaction from some Americans who had once supported the Sandinistas but now support the opposition. They campaigned to have their viewpoint presented at our events. TFA and VFP organizers thought there was no need to include the opposition voice since their characterization of the conflict is widespread. However, Camilo wanted to be transparent and not exclude the opposition. He thought that if we allowed an opposition supporter to speak briefly, they were more likely to listen to his analysis and he could directly address their concerns.

At the San Francisco event, protesters arrived early in front of the War Memorial Veterans Building. When the event started, protesters flooded into the venue. As promised, an opposition supporter was invited to speak briefly.The audience of about 120 was split between those who wanted to hear Camilo and those who came to protest. Camilo’s talk was repeatedly interrupted and police arrived to prevent violence. Camilo asked what kind of “democracy” was this they claimed to want for Nicaragua when they would not listen or allow him to speak here in San Francisco?

Camilo showed two short video clips. The first video showed opposition activists torturing a Sandinista supporter under the oversight of a Catholic priest and the remains of a Sandinista burned alive.

A second video showed a statement from an American who has lived in Nicaragua for many years. He described how gangs had invaded his town, set up road blocks, intimidated and abused local civilians. He described the joy of the community when the roadblocks were removed and masked “protesters” departed.

The audience got increasingly disruptive during the question period. A prominent Nicaraguan opposition supporter came forward, offering to quiet the disrupters. After receiving the microphone from Camilo, she did the opposite. The disruptions escalated and the event had to be ended early. The protesters had completed their mission: they had prevented Camilo from being able to present his perspective.

Organizers from TFA and Veterans for Peace decided the Sunday event in Oakland needed to be handled differently. Members of Veterans for Peace, including chapter president Paul Cox and others, prevented the protesters from entering. Ultimately the venue was packed with interested listeners. The anti-Ortega crowd protested on the sidewalk and street but were not able to disrupt the event.

Camilo Mejía speaking in Oakland (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

With the loud opposition outside, Camilo was introduced by VFP President Gerry Condon. He gave a clear and concise history of key events in Nicaraguan political history including:

* Nicaragua was connected to the gold rush in California in the the mid 1800’s. That is when the idea of a trans-oceanic passage through Nicaragua was born.

* When Cesar Sandino launched guerrilla war in the 1920’s and 30’s there were two priorities: advancing the working class and anti-imperialism.

* The Frente Sandinista which carried out the 1979 revolution had nine commanders: three from each of three factions.

After the Sandinistas lost the 1990 election, splits emerged and ultimately Sergio Ramirez formed the Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS). The more affluent members plus intellectuals, writers, and musicians gravitated toward it. But though they were well connected to western solidarity activists, they had no popular platform nor base. They did poorly in elections and moved toward neoliberal policies and the NGO world.

* Since taking power in 2007, Daniel Ortega and Sandinistas have improved living conditions for the poor with free healthcare, free education and better economic policies. Nicaragua now supplies 80 – 90% of its own food needs.

* Up until April, Nicaragua was vastly safer than neighboring countries. Their “community policing” is considered a model.

* Support for Ortega and the Frente Sandinista has steadily increased. In 2006, they won 38% of the vote; in 2011, it increased to 62%; in 2016 support increased to 72% with 68% turnout.

* There has been much misinformation about the proposed changes in social security which sparked the protests in April. To stabilize the social security funding, the IMF wanted to implement an austerity plan which would have doubled the work requirements and raised the qualification age from 60 to 65. The Sandinista proposal was much more progressive, requiring wealthy individuals and businesses to pay much more with minor changes for others.

* The death count has been manipulated. Some deaths are counted twice; people who were said to be dead have turned up alive; dead Sandinista supporters have been counted as protesters. The first deaths on April 19 were one student, one police officer and one bystander killed by sniper fire. Camilo asks: Was this done by the government or by outside forces?

* The National Endowment for Democracy and other US agencies have trained students and others in using social media, video and symbols to stir up dissent and destabilize Nicaragua.

At the Oakland event, Camilo showed a torture video which demonstrates opposition violence. He also showed video of the huge July 19 celebration of the the revolution anniversary. His talk was followed by many questions including from opposition supporters.

At times during the event, there was tension and concern about violence from the protesters outside. Some Nicaraguan families were afraid for their safety. After the event, they had to be escorted with protection to their cars. The car of one Nicaraguan family was besieged by the anti-Ortega crowd. Camilo and his young daughter had to be quickly taken away amidst shouts and waving placards.

Ultimately Camilo’s visit accomplished the goal. Media interviews in Spanish and English reached many thousands.  In these and the public presentations, he brought information and analysis which has been largely censored or ignored in coverage of Nicaragua.

Camilo believes Nicaragua has temporarily defeated a “soft coup” attempt but the danger is not over. The opposition forces internally and internationally are still there.

Russiagate conceals Israeli Meddling and Coming War with Iran

Since taking office a year-and-a-half ago, the allegations of ‘collusion’ between U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign and the Russian government have buried nearly all other substantive issues in regards to his administration. This hasn’t been limited to marginalizing reportage of destructive domestic legislation or the escalation of endless war abroad. It has successfully diverted attention away from other foreign governments shaping U.S. policy and elections. The media has even downplayed Trump’s sycophantic behavior towards other heads of state in favor of their pathological obsession with his perceived obsequiousness toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is largely because “Russiagate” is not based on facts or evidence, but a psychological operation conducted by the intelligence community through mass media disseminating suggestive and pre-selected disinformation about Trump and Russia. Not only has it enabled the national security state and political establishment to neutralize the anti-Trump “resistance”, it has become a smokescreen for the ‘collusion’ between Trump and the state of Israel which continues to guide his decision making.

One month after his shocking victory and before his inauguration, one of the top members of Trump’s transition team, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, directly contacted members of the UN Security Council and urged them to block a draft resolution that condemned illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. General Flynn corresponded with diplomats from several foreign governments (including Russia) to learn their stance on the resolution and tried to persuade them to vote against it. Flynn would later plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his discussions with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. The Israeli government candidly admitted to seeking help from Trump’s transition team and it was his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who put Flynn up to the task. However, it is not unusual for foreign officials to communicate with an incoming administration and Flynn lobbied envoys from other nations in addition to Russia.

None of this prevented the media from neglecting the substance of Flynn’s guilty plea to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which is that he likely gave the FBI incomplete information about his communication with Kislyak only because the Trump campaign was already under inquiry for ties to the Kremlin. In a mindless frenzy, the media have presumed this correspondence between Flynn and a Russian official was evidence of a diabolical plot between Trump and the Kremlin that occurred during the election. The fact that the transition team did collude with Israel or the actual content of his talks with the Russian Ambassador was reduced to a footnote. It is not that the double-dealing between Israel and Trump has been unreported, but rather it is normalized and deemed completely acceptable because relations with Israel are unquestionable.

If there is a foreign country which routinely interferes in U.S. elections , it is the state of Israel through its immeasurably powerful lobbying groups. Its most influential organization is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is not forced to register as a foreign agent as its tentacles permeate into all aspects of the democratic process. AIPAC closely monitors American elections at every level, blackmailing the support of the entire U.S. congress to deliberately ignore Israel’s reckless violation of international law, its ever-expanding illegal occupation of Palestine, and war crimes in Gaza and Lebanon. For the same reason, the media continues to whitewash the IDF’s ongoing massacres on the Gaza strip, while the mantra of “Putin kills journalists!” is chanted as Israeli snipers murder Palestinian journalists on camera wearing “PRESS” across their chests. In turn, the Zionist lobby manipulates the bias of major news outlets and infiltrates the rosters of the Washington elite think tank community. Israel disrupts U.S. elections and impacts the media far and away more than any other country, but even mentioning this fact can relegate a journalist to marginal publications or risk being publicly smeared as an anti-Semite.

Recently, it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr. and Blackwater founder Erik Prince had met with an Israeli private intelligence firm called PSY-Group offering social media manipulation services in August 2016. Most of the mainstream media coverage minimized the significance that the firm is an Israel-based company, whose ominous motto is to “Shape Reality.” Instead, coverage of the Mueller probe has focused exclusively on the Russian-based Internet Research Agency indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” The premise that an internet marketing and clickbait scam company owned by a ex-hot dog salesman could have swayed the election of the most powerful country in human history simply by sharing memes and buying Facebook ads through phony social media accounts is beyond comprehension.

While blame for election interference has been squarely placed on Russia, Israel has managed to escape free from any scrutiny despite the disclosures about PSY-Group. Meanwhile the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, founded by Breitbart CEO/White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon and pro-Trump billionaire Robert Mercer, became the center of controversy when it was exposed for illegally mining the data of millions of Facebook users as it worked for the Trump and Brexit campaigns. Yet according to a whistleblower, the firm had also employed the Israeli private security firm Black Cube to hack an election in Nigeria. Black Cube is the same agency formed by ex-Mossad agents implicated in the Harvey Weinstein scandal that sparked the #MeToo movement. Why has this revelation has aroused little to no interest from the Mueller team or the media?

If an analysis were based on Trump’s actual policies, there would be no clearer front-runner for impact on his governance than Israel. It goes beyond his plans for a border wall being modeled after the West Bank and Egypt-Sinai barrier fences. As President, he has surpassed each of his predecessors in out-and-out support for the Jewish state and hostility towards the Palestinians. The controversial decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, approved by 90 out of 100 Senators, has irreparably damaged any remaining belief that the U.S. was ever a neutral peace broker in seventy years of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The move to recognize Jerusalem as the ‘undivided’ capital of Israel has been his most bipartisan measure — coastal elite liberals and the Bible Belt may like to appear worlds apart, but on fanatical support for Israel they too are ‘undivided.’ The Israel lobby has long held sway over both major parties and it was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who led the applause of Trump’s Jerusalem decision, the same fanatical Zionist who has sought to make boycotting of Israel a felony crime.

Israel has also determined much of Trump’s other foreign policy moves, especially those towards its sworn enemy — the Islamic Republic of Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adamantly opposed the nuclear deal framework even though spy cables revealed that his own intelligence agency contradicts his claims about their nuclear capabilities. The motive for Iran to agree to the nuclear deal was primarily to alleviate the damage done from decades of economic sanctions by the U.S. The crisis itself is engineered — in actuality Iran long ago ended its nuclear program but its wounded economy forced it into accepting the terms of the now abandoned Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As if this weren’t enough, a recently leaked clip of Benjamin Netanyahu bragging about convincing Trump to withdraw from the Iran deal was made public but was buried in the headlines during the Helsinki summit with Putin. This collusion didn’t bother Democrats one bit as both parties just unanimously approved a $38-billion aid package to Israel for the next ten years.

It was Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, who as Secretary of State delisted the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (People’s Mujahideen of Iran) from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations in 2012. The militant organization (abbreviated MEK, MKO or PMOI) is a cult-like group in exile which advocates the violent overthrow of the Iranian government and was officially designated a terror group for 15 years by the U.S. It was removed by the Obama administration after aggressive lobbying by its political wing based in France, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Two of Trump’s top associates — war hawk National Security Advisor John Bolton and his lawyer representing him in the Mueller probe, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — have repeatedly met with the MEK in recent years giving highly paid speeches at their events advocating regime change in Iran.

Founded in 1965, the MEK committed terrorist attacks throughout the Shah’s reign which killed thousands of Iranians and also included several plots that took the lives of U.S. personnel. The group today claims the attacks which killed Americans were committed by a breakaway Marxist faction of the group during a period when the Shah imprisoned its founder, Massoud Rajavi, but the evidence of its violent past (and present) is overwhelming. This is yet another instance of the U.S. re-branding terrorism when it suits its interests while simultaneously conducting a vaguely defined war against it. The decision to remove the group from the blacklist was a politicized move as the criminal activity of the MEK has never ceased. Another motive has been the group’s close ties with Israel, whose intelligence agency Mossad has trained MEK operatives in committing assassinations against Iranian nuclear scientists.

In 1979, the MEK participated in the Islamic Revolution which overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah. Persian royalty had been in power for more than 2,000 years, but the Pahlavi monarchy had been re-installed as a U.S. puppet following a CIA/MI6 coup d’etat in 1953 green-lighted by Winston Churchill and the Eisenhower administration. The illegal putsch ousted the first ever democratically-elected President of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, who had nationalized the Iranian oil industry and thrown out foreign oil companies like the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, later known as British Petroleum (BP), recently known for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Shah ruled brutally over Iran serving Western oil interests until the Islamic Revolution which was a huge loss for U.S. hegemony that it has sought to regain ever since. After the popular uprising, Ayatollah Khomeini consolidated power and pushed out the leftist participants, liberal elements and rival Islamists like the MEK. The group was then outlawed and went into exile after a failed insurrection.

During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein (then supported by the U.S.) allowed the MEK to operate in Iraq, providing weapons and funding to carry out terrorist attacks against Tehran. When the U.S. invaded Baghdad in 2003, the remaining MEK and its nearly 3,000 Iranian exiles were given protection status by the Bush administration in U.S. military facilities. Massoud Rajavi disappeared during the U.S. invasion and to this day his whereabouts are still unknown. His wife, Maryam Rajavi, has led the group since and continued the cult of personality that existed around her husband’s leadership, purging critics and assassinating defectors while rebranding the terror cult as a ‘pro-democracy’ organization. The new Iraqi government began to develop close relations with Iran during the period which saw the rise of ISIS and the MEK were suddenly no longer welcome. Iraqi security forces raided their base in Camp Ashraf killing dozens of MEK members, a sign of waning U.S. influence in post-Saddam Iraq. The Rajavi cult have since been evicted and relocated to Albania and NATO-occupied Kosovo where the group has strong Islamist supporters. In Albania’s capitol Tirana, the exiled opposition group is currently based in a compound known as ‘Ashraf 3’.

The group is also known by the CIA to have aligned itself with ISIS against the Iranian-backed government in Iraq that expelled them. ISIS and MEK even likely coordinated terrorist attacks in June 2017 in Iran just as the Trump administration increased the economic sanctions. In addition to Ashraf 3, the MEK is allegedly being trained at the NATO military base in Kosovo, Camp Bondsteel, possibly for a regime change operation in Iran. Concurrently, Trump is reported to be preparing to strike Tehran as early as this month according to the Australian Geo-Spatial Intelligence Organization, just as he tweeted threats at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The decision to use Kosovo as a base of operations for the MEK is consistent with the protectorate’s history — it was established after seceding from Serbia when the Clinton administration supported another de-listed Islamist terror group, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), in NATO’s bombing campaign against Belgrade in 1999.

Trump rhetorically has been a harsh critic of NATO and the media has used this as further ‘evidence’ of his secret allegiance to the Kremlin, but an examination of his actual courses of action show the contrary. NATO has already expanded to include Montenegro in its membership and Trump is sending arms to Ukraine in its war against pro-Russian separatists. The National Security Council added an additional $200 million worth in support immediately following the Helsinki summit in a move the Obama administration had opted against. Even a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a NATO-funded think tank, assessed that Trump has taken a very hard-line stance on Russia despite the photo opportunity with Putin. After all, the summit did not result in the lifting of sanctions or the recognition of Crimea as Russian territory as some predicted. Apart from his rhetoric, what policies has Trump enacted that appease Russian interests?

If his statements and policies diverge, what remains a mystery is the intention behind his dialogue with Russia. Many speculate it is an effort to realign Washington with Moscow to halt the ascent of China while driving a wedge between Iran and Russia. While Putin may have rebuilt the Russian economy, the claim that Moscow has become a rival ‘superpower’ is greatly exaggerated — Washington’s main geopolitical challenger is China. Obama’s “pivot to Asia” turned out to be a catastrophic failure, as did the attempt to oust Assad in Syria and desperation move to covertly back the failed Gülenist coup in Turkey. Regardless of whether Trump’s motive is to reset U.S. foreign policy or the unlikely possibility Putin would ever agree to an alliance against China, the imaginary Russian collusion narrative is subterfuge which benefits Israel. It is either inadvertently or purposefully concealing the principal guilty party in meddling in the U.S. election — Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel.

The 2016 election was a contest over how best to arrange the deck chairs of the Titanic — either way the empire has overplayed its hand and the ship was going down no matter the outcome. We are told that American voters, specifically the “white working class”, were too stupid to think for themselves. They did not follow orders from the “polls” predicting a 90% chance of a Clinton victory, which really were belittling instructions as to how to vote. We are led to believe they chose to elect a populist demagogue instead of Wall Street’s darling because they were brainwashed by ‘Russian interference’, not the collusion on the part of the DNC to rig the primaries in Clinton’s favor. Apparently, this same logic does not apply when Israel interrupts US elections — their interference doesn’t rob Americans of their agency in the voting process.

Israel is also directly supporting the ascendancy of the far right in the West that the same liberals have raised the alarm about while pointing the finger at Moscow. In the EU, Israel has close ties with Hungary’s anti-Semitic President Viktor Orban and the other nations of the Visegrád 4 Group in the grip of anti-immigrant hostility. It is even providing military aid to the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine fighting pro-Russian separatists. The links between the U.S. far right and Zionist organizations is also no secret, with Steve Bannon having spoken at ZOA galas despite being an alleged anti-Semite. Israel controversially just passed the “Jewish nation-state” law that mirrors Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Race laws, inscribing ethno-nationalism and the complete exclusion of Arabs into its very definition as a state. At the same time, the definition of anti-Semitism has been conflated into being synonymous with criticism of Israel, which is the exact sentiment that is causing the media to disregard Trump’s collusion with Netanyahu in favor of Russiagate. It is also the same schizophrenic logic that enables Israel to align itself with the far right.

If history is any indicator, when an empire is in decline it will seek out scapegoats to place blame for its downfall. It is no coincidence that while the far right expresses hostility towards immigration and the demise of the nation state by globalism, the political establishment is inculpating the rising power of Russia for the end of America’s full spectrum dominance. When all is said and done, the Democratic Party will only have itself to blame for its utterly failed strategy of atomizing the working class on cultural issues while neglecting to address the collapsing global economy. We can only hope that its defeat will open new political space for those who wish to confront it.

Military Parade Cancelled: How Does Peace Movement Build On This Victory?

People protest war at the Democratic National Convention 2016 (Photo by Brendan Smialowski for AFP-Getty Images)

This week, the Trump military parade, planned for November 10, was canceled for 2018. In February, a coalition of groups went public, announcing we would organize to stop the military parade and, if it went forward, to mobilize more people at the parade calling for peace and an end to war than supporting militarism. The coalition called for “ending the wars at home and abroad.”

The No Trump Military Parade coalition intended to show the world that the people of the United States do not support war. The coalition has been meeting regularly to build toward organized mass opposition to the proposed parade. People were working to make this protest a take-off for a renewed peace movement in a country exhausted by never-ending wars and massive military spending, but our first goal was to stop the parade from happening.

We say No to War sign seen at a 2007 anti-war protest (Photo by Thiago Santos on Flickr)

Momentum Builds For Mass Opposition To Trump Military Parade, As Costs Mount

The protest turned into a weekend of activities linked with the October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon. The Women’s March was planning to include a daily vigil at the Pentagon until the military parade protest weekend. The theme of the weekend was “Divest from War, Invest in Peace.” On Friday, November 9, we planned a nonviolent direct action training for those who could risk arrest to stop the parade. That evening, CODE PINK was organizing a peace concert, “Peace Rocks”, on the mall. And, throughout that weekend, we were going to participate in Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing, where we were going to create art for this Burning Man-like event to demonstrate the transformation of ending war and creating a peace economy.

On November 10, the day of the military parade, the ANSWER Coalition, part of the No Trump Military Parade coalition, had permits for both possible parade routes where peace advocates would hold a concentrated presence and rally alongside the parade. A work group was planning nonviolent direct actions, called “Rain on Trump’s Parade,” to stop the parade. On Sunday, November 11, a group of veterans and military family members were planning to lead a silent march through the war memorials on the mall to reclaim Armistice Day on its 100th anniversary.

The No Trump Military Parade was building momentum. On Tuesday, we published a letter signed by 187 organizations that called for the parade to be stopped. It read, in part, “We urge you now to do all in your power to stop the military parade on November 10. The vast majority of people in the US and around the world crave peace. If the parade goes forward, we will mobilize thousands of people on that day to protest it.” We sent copies of the release to the corporate and independent media and made sure the National Park Service, DC City Council, and Pentagon were aware of our planning.

On Thursday, the Pentagon leaked a new $92 million cost for the parade, more than six times the original estimate.  The cost included $13.5 million for DC police for crowd control and security. This alone was more than the initial $12 million cost estimate for the total parade. DC officials noted the parade would “breed protests and counter-protests, adding to city officials’ logistical headaches.”  Kellyanne Conway also took jabs at protesters when she discussed the cancellation of the parade on FOX and Friends.

Coalition members were quickly alerted to the new cost estimate and people went on social media spreading the word, expressing outrage and sharing our sign-on letter. That afternoon, the coalition issued a statement on the cost and the momentum building to oppose the parade, as by then, more than 200 organizations had signed on. That evening it was announced that the parade was postponed for 2018 and would be considered in 2019.

There was super-majority opposition to the military parade and it was becoming the national consensus of the country that there should not be a military parade. Army Times conducted a poll of its readers; 51,000 responded and 89 percent opposed the parade responding, “No, It’s a waste of money and troops are too busy.” A Quinnipiac University poll found 61 percent of voters disapprove of the military parade, while only 26 percent support the idea.

In addition to the financial cost, the Pentagon knew there was a political cost The cancellation is a victory for the No Trump Military Parade Coalition, but also a victory for the country – glorifying militarization was exactly the wrong direction for the country to be going.

Photo: Debra Sweet/flickr/cc

How Do We Build On This Success?

The question members of the coalition are asking themselves now is how to build on the success of stopping the Trump military parade. We started a new Popular Resistance Facebook Group where you can join a conversation about where we go from here. Coalition members are in ongoing dialogue about possible next steps. We share some of those ideas below and would appreciate hearing your views on them.  Some ideas:

  1. Continue with the plans for the weekend. The Reclaim Armistice Day silent march will still be held. This is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the end of World War One, which ended at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence was held at 11 am to remember the people who died in wars and reflect on the horror of war and the need to work for peace. It was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. The Reclaim Armistice Day march will begin at 11 am at the Washington Monument.
  2. Help build the Women’s March on the Pentagon. The march was called for by Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in the Iraq War, to put an antiwar agenda back on the table. The march is being held on the anniversary of the 1967 march on the Pentagon when 50,000 people marched in opposition to the Vietnam War.
  3. Make war, militarism, and military spending an issue in the 2018 election campaigns. People can ask all candidates about the never-ending wars and the record spending on the military budget, now approximately 60 percent of federal discretionary spending.
  4. Stop military escalation with Iran. This week Mike Pompeo announced the Iran Action Group, almost exactly on the anniversary of the CIA-led coup against Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. This is part of a broader escalation; e.g., the CIA created an “Iran Mission Center” in January. The Trump administration has been working to destabilize Iran, scapegoating Iran and to “foment unrest in Iran.” John Bolton was promising regime change in Iran before he became National Security Adviser. Trump violated the nuclear weapons treaty by withdrawing for no cause. This new effort will intensify efforts to foment unrest in Iran, the peace movement should work for de-escalation and normalization of relations with Iran to prevent another war-quagmire.
  5. End the longest war in US history, Afghanistan. The Trump administration has escalated US involvement in the war in Afghanistan. This 17-year war has been one of constant failure but now the US is losing badly to the Taliban which has taken over more than 50 percent of the country and can attack Afghan forces in the capital, Kabul. It’s time to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. Stop the US and Saudi Arabian slaughter and starvation of civilians in Yemen. The forced famine and cholera epidemic killed more than 50,000 children last year, a US-approved genocide. The silence in response to this unauthorized war needs to end. The recent bombing of a school bus of children with US weapons may help galvanize the public.
  7. End escalation of nuclear weapons, extend the nuclear weapons treaty and work to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The US has embarked on a massive upgrade of nuclear weapons, begun under President Obama and extended by Trump. A year ago, the UN announced the beginning of a process to ban nuclear weapons. The Trump-Putin meetings should continue, despite the Russiagate allegations, and include ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

These are just some of the conflicts deserving attention. There are, of course, more; e.g., cut the outrageous military budget, stop the militarization of space, end the war in Syria, remove troops and bases from Africa, negotiate peace with North Korea, create a detente with Russia, end support for Israeli apartheid, stop the economic wars and threats of militarism against Venezuela and Nicaragua, and deescalate-don’t arm Ukraine. While many groups have their own focus, what can a coalition campaign work together on?

New York City from SpringAction2018.org

Antiwar Autumn Continues

We have been calling this fall the Antiwar Autumn because there is so much going on. Even with the cancellation of the military parade, it is going to be a busy fall.

Some of the major activities that are already scheduled include:

The Veterans for Peace annual conference in Minnesota, August 22-26.

On August 25, the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism is holding a protest against war and police violence on the anniversary of the 1968 protest at the Democratic National Convention against the Vietnam War.

The World Beyond War #NoWar2018 conference in Toronto, Canada on September 21-22 on how to re-design systems to abolish the institution of war.

The October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon.

The effort to reclaim Armistice Day march on November 11.

The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases’ first international conference in Dublin, Ireland on November 16-18, 2018.

Beyond these activities, what can we do to build on the successful organizing around stopping the Trump military parade? We need to celebrate this victory and build on it.

We also want to highlight Class 7 of the Popular Resistance School on How Social Transformation Occurs, which focuses on the infiltration of political movements by the government, big business interests, and other opposition groups. We have written in the past about infiltration; i.e., Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Mis-Direct Are Widespread in Occupy and Infiltration of Political Movements is the Norm, Not the Exception in the United States. In this class, we broaden those discussions but also examine how to deal with infiltrators and informants.

Military Parade Cancelled: How Does Peace Movement Build On This Victory?

People protest war at the Democratic National Convention 2016 (Photo by Brendan Smialowski for AFP-Getty Images)

This week, the Trump military parade, planned for November 10, was canceled for 2018. In February, a coalition of groups went public, announcing we would organize to stop the military parade and, if it went forward, to mobilize more people at the parade calling for peace and an end to war than supporting militarism. The coalition called for “ending the wars at home and abroad.”

The No Trump Military Parade coalition intended to show the world that the people of the United States do not support war. The coalition has been meeting regularly to build toward organized mass opposition to the proposed parade. People were working to make this protest a take-off for a renewed peace movement in a country exhausted by never-ending wars and massive military spending, but our first goal was to stop the parade from happening.

We say No to War sign seen at a 2007 anti-war protest (Photo by Thiago Santos on Flickr)

Momentum Builds For Mass Opposition To Trump Military Parade, As Costs Mount

The protest turned into a weekend of activities linked with the October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon. The Women’s March was planning to include a daily vigil at the Pentagon until the military parade protest weekend. The theme of the weekend was “Divest from War, Invest in Peace.” On Friday, November 9, we planned a nonviolent direct action training for those who could risk arrest to stop the parade. That evening, CODE PINK was organizing a peace concert, “Peace Rocks”, on the mall. And, throughout that weekend, we were going to participate in Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing, where we were going to create art for this Burning Man-like event to demonstrate the transformation of ending war and creating a peace economy.

On November 10, the day of the military parade, the ANSWER Coalition, part of the No Trump Military Parade coalition, had permits for both possible parade routes where peace advocates would hold a concentrated presence and rally alongside the parade. A work group was planning nonviolent direct actions, called “Rain on Trump’s Parade,” to stop the parade. On Sunday, November 11, a group of veterans and military family members were planning to lead a silent march through the war memorials on the mall to reclaim Armistice Day on its 100th anniversary.

The No Trump Military Parade was building momentum. On Tuesday, we published a letter signed by 187 organizations that called for the parade to be stopped. It read, in part, “We urge you now to do all in your power to stop the military parade on November 10. The vast majority of people in the US and around the world crave peace. If the parade goes forward, we will mobilize thousands of people on that day to protest it.” We sent copies of the release to the corporate and independent media and made sure the National Park Service, DC City Council, and Pentagon were aware of our planning.

On Thursday, the Pentagon leaked a new $92 million cost for the parade, more than six times the original estimate.  The cost included $13.5 million for DC police for crowd control and security. This alone was more than the initial $12 million cost estimate for the total parade. DC officials noted the parade would “breed protests and counter-protests, adding to city officials’ logistical headaches.”  Kellyanne Conway also took jabs at protesters when she discussed the cancellation of the parade on FOX and Friends.

Coalition members were quickly alerted to the new cost estimate and people went on social media spreading the word, expressing outrage and sharing our sign-on letter. That afternoon, the coalition issued a statement on the cost and the momentum building to oppose the parade, as by then, more than 200 organizations had signed on. That evening it was announced that the parade was postponed for 2018 and would be considered in 2019.

There was super-majority opposition to the military parade and it was becoming the national consensus of the country that there should not be a military parade. Army Times conducted a poll of its readers; 51,000 responded and 89 percent opposed the parade responding, “No, It’s a waste of money and troops are too busy.” A Quinnipiac University poll found 61 percent of voters disapprove of the military parade, while only 26 percent support the idea.

In addition to the financial cost, the Pentagon knew there was a political cost The cancellation is a victory for the No Trump Military Parade Coalition, but also a victory for the country – glorifying militarization was exactly the wrong direction for the country to be going.

Photo: Debra Sweet/flickr/cc

How Do We Build On This Success?

The question members of the coalition are asking themselves now is how to build on the success of stopping the Trump military parade. We started a new Popular Resistance Facebook Group where you can join a conversation about where we go from here. Coalition members are in ongoing dialogue about possible next steps. We share some of those ideas below and would appreciate hearing your views on them.  Some ideas:

  1. Continue with the plans for the weekend. The Reclaim Armistice Day silent march will still be held. This is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the end of World War One, which ended at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence was held at 11 am to remember the people who died in wars and reflect on the horror of war and the need to work for peace. It was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. The Reclaim Armistice Day march will begin at 11 am at the Washington Monument.
  2. Help build the Women’s March on the Pentagon. The march was called for by Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in the Iraq War, to put an antiwar agenda back on the table. The march is being held on the anniversary of the 1967 march on the Pentagon when 50,000 people marched in opposition to the Vietnam War.
  3. Make war, militarism, and military spending an issue in the 2018 election campaigns. People can ask all candidates about the never-ending wars and the record spending on the military budget, now approximately 60 percent of federal discretionary spending.
  4. Stop military escalation with Iran. This week Mike Pompeo announced the Iran Action Group, almost exactly on the anniversary of the CIA-led coup against Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. This is part of a broader escalation; e.g., the CIA created an “Iran Mission Center” in January. The Trump administration has been working to destabilize Iran, scapegoating Iran and to “foment unrest in Iran.” John Bolton was promising regime change in Iran before he became National Security Adviser. Trump violated the nuclear weapons treaty by withdrawing for no cause. This new effort will intensify efforts to foment unrest in Iran, the peace movement should work for de-escalation and normalization of relations with Iran to prevent another war-quagmire.
  5. End the longest war in US history, Afghanistan. The Trump administration has escalated US involvement in the war in Afghanistan. This 17-year war has been one of constant failure but now the US is losing badly to the Taliban which has taken over more than 50 percent of the country and can attack Afghan forces in the capital, Kabul. It’s time to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. Stop the US and Saudi Arabian slaughter and starvation of civilians in Yemen. The forced famine and cholera epidemic killed more than 50,000 children last year, a US-approved genocide. The silence in response to this unauthorized war needs to end. The recent bombing of a school bus of children with US weapons may help galvanize the public.
  7. End escalation of nuclear weapons, extend the nuclear weapons treaty and work to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The US has embarked on a massive upgrade of nuclear weapons, begun under President Obama and extended by Trump. A year ago, the UN announced the beginning of a process to ban nuclear weapons. The Trump-Putin meetings should continue, despite the Russiagate allegations, and include ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

These are just some of the conflicts deserving attention. There are, of course, more; e.g., cut the outrageous military budget, stop the militarization of space, end the war in Syria, remove troops and bases from Africa, negotiate peace with North Korea, create a detente with Russia, end support for Israeli apartheid, stop the economic wars and threats of militarism against Venezuela and Nicaragua, and deescalate-don’t arm Ukraine. While many groups have their own focus, what can a coalition campaign work together on?

New York City from SpringAction2018.org

Antiwar Autumn Continues

We have been calling this fall the Antiwar Autumn because there is so much going on. Even with the cancellation of the military parade, it is going to be a busy fall.

Some of the major activities that are already scheduled include:

The Veterans for Peace annual conference in Minnesota, August 22-26.

On August 25, the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism is holding a protest against war and police violence on the anniversary of the 1968 protest at the Democratic National Convention against the Vietnam War.

The World Beyond War #NoWar2018 conference in Toronto, Canada on September 21-22 on how to re-design systems to abolish the institution of war.

The October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon.

The effort to reclaim Armistice Day march on November 11.

The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases’ first international conference in Dublin, Ireland on November 16-18, 2018.

Beyond these activities, what can we do to build on the successful organizing around stopping the Trump military parade? We need to celebrate this victory and build on it.

We also want to highlight Class 7 of the Popular Resistance School on How Social Transformation Occurs, which focuses on the infiltration of political movements by the government, big business interests, and other opposition groups. We have written in the past about infiltration; i.e., Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Mis-Direct Are Widespread in Occupy and Infiltration of Political Movements is the Norm, Not the Exception in the United States. In this class, we broaden those discussions but also examine how to deal with infiltrators and informants.

What Really Happens to Nicaragua, Venezuela and Ecuador

Stories about corruption and internal government-generated violence concerning most unaligned countries abound in the MSM. These lies fuel hatred. And the public at large start a malicious rumor circuit. Which, in turn, is taken over by the MSM, so that their lies are pushing in open doors. The war drums start beating. The populace wants foreign imposed order, they want blood and ‘regime change’. The consensus for war has once more worked. And the blood may flow. Instigated by outside forces, such as the NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and USAID, which train and fund nationals clandestinely in-and outside the country where eventually they have to operate. They are commandeered by Washington and other western powers and act so as to blame the “non-obedient” governments, whose regime must be changed. They constitute part of the Fifth Column.

A Fifth Column is a group of people who undermine the government of a country in support of the enemy. They can be both covert and open. The term Fifth Column originates from the Spanish Civil War, when in October 1936 nationalist rebel General Mola initiated the coup d’état against the legitimate Republican Government. This marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. General Mola besieged Madrid with four “columns” of troops and claimed he had a “Fifth Column”, hiding inside the city. The term was henceforth used for infiltrated enemies within a legitimate government. Mola, the mastermind behind the coup, died in a 1937 plane crash, and General Francisco Franco became Spain’s dictator for the next almost 40 years. He prevailed over the Republican resistance thanks to Hitler’s and Mussolini’s air support.

Now what’s the true story behind the violence-plagued Nicaragua and Venezuela, and the treacherous new Moreno government in Ecuador?

Take Nicaragua – it all started with the Board of Directors of the Nicaragua Social Security Institute (INSS) on 16 April 2018 approving an IMF-imposed social security reform, modified and then supported by President Ortega. The reform maintained social security at its current level, but would increase employer contributions by 3.5% to pension and health funds, while only slightly increasing worker contributions by 0.75% and shifting 5% of pensioners’ cash transfer into their healthcare fund. These reforms triggered the coup attempt initiated by the business lobby and backed by the Nicaraguan oligarchy.

Student protests were already ongoing in different university cities in connection with university elections. These protests were re-directed against the Ortega government with the help of US-funded NGOs and the Catholic Church, an ally of the wealthy in most of Latin America. Some of the students involved in ‘re-directing’ the protests were brought to the US for training by the Freedom House, a long-time associate of the CIA. USAID announced an additional US$ 1.5 million to build opposition to the Ortega Government. These funds along with financing from the NED will be channeled to NGOs to support anti-government protests. See here for more details.

Summarizing, in the course of the weeks following the coup, violence increased leaving a total of more than 300 dead by early August. Even though Ortega reversed the pension measures, unrests continued, now demanding the resignation of the President and Vice-President, his wife Rosario Murillo Zambrana. Daniel Ortega, a Sandinista and former guerilla leader, was first elected President in 1985. It is clear that the US and the dark forces behind the empire were preparing Fifth Column-type groups to intervene and take advantage of any social upheaval in the country to bring about regime change. What could have and would have been contained, continued as US-inspired violent protests eventually aiming at the overthrow of Ortega’s government. That would bring Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua – and Panama – in line with US policies. Will Washington succeed?

On Venezuela – In mid-June 2018, I was privileged to be invited to Caracas as one of several international economists to participate in a Presidential Economic Advisory Commission to discuss internal and external economic issues. Without going into details of the commission’s deliberations it is absolutely clear who is behind the food and medicine boycotts (empty supermarket shelves), and the induced internal violence. It is a carbon copy of what the CIA under Kissinger’s command did in Chile in 1973 which led to the murder of the legitimate and democratically elected President Allende and to the Pinochet military coup; except, Venezuela has 19 years of revolutionary experience, and built up some tough resistance.

To understand the context ‘Venezuela’, we may have to look a bit at the country’s history.

Before the fully democratically and internationally-observed election of Hugo Chavez in 1998, Venezuela was governed for at least 100 years by dictators and violent despots which were directed by and served only the United States. The country, extremely rich in natural resources, was exploited by the US and Venezuelan oligarchs to the point that the population of one of the richest Latin-American countries remained poor instead of improving its standard of living according to the country’s natural riches. The people were literally enslaved by Washington-controlled regimes.

A first coup attempt by Comandante Hugo Chavez in 1992 was oppressed by the Government of Carlos Andrés Pérez and Chavez was sent to prison along with his co-golpistas. After two years, he was freed by the Government of Rafael Caldera.

During Peréz’ first term in office (1974-1979) and his predecessors, Venezuela attained a high economic growth based almost exclusively on oil exports though, hardly anything of this growth stayed in the country and was distributed to the people. The situation was pretty much the same as it is in today’s Peru which before the 2008 crisis and shortly thereafter had phenomenal growth rates – between 5% and 8% – of which 80% went to 5% of the population, oligarchs and foreign investors, and 20% was to be distributed to 95% of the population and that on a very uneven keel. The result was and is a growing gap between rich and poor, increasing unemployment and delinquency.

Venezuela before Chavez lived practically on a monoculture economy based on petrol. There was no effort towards economic diversification. To the contrary, diversification could eventually help free Venezuela from the despot’s fangs, as the US was the key recipient of Venezuela’s petrol and other riches. Influenced by the 1989 Washington Consensus, Peréz made a drastic turn in his second mandate (1989-1993) towards neoliberal reforms; i.e., privatization of public services, restructuring the little social safety benefits laborers had achieved, and contracting debt by the IMF and the World Bank. He became a model child of neoliberalism to the detriment of Venezuelans. Resulting protests under Peréz’ successor, Rafael Caldera, became unmanageable. New elections were called and Hugo Chavez won in a first round with more than 56%. Despite an ugly Washington inspired coup attempt (“The Revolution will Not be Televised”, 2003 documentary about the attempted 2002 coup), Hugo Chavez stayed in power until his untimely death in 2013. Comandante Chavez and his Government reached spectacular social achievements for his country.

Washington will not let go easily, or at all, to re-conquer Venezuela into the new Monroe Doctrine; i.e., becoming re-integrated into Washington’s backyard. Imagine this oil-rich country, with the world’s largest hydrocarbon reserves, on the doorsteps of the United Sates’ key refineries in Texas, just about 3 to 4 days away for a tanker from Venezuela, as compared to 40 to 45 days from the Gulf, where the US currently gets about 60% of its petrol imports. An enormous difference in costs and risks; i.e., each shipment has to sail through the Iran-controlled Strait of Hormuz.

In addition, another socialist revolution as one of Washington’s southern neighbor – in addition to Cuba – is not convenient. Therefore, the US and her secret forces will do everything to bring about regime change, by constant economic aggressions, blockades, sanctions, boycotts of imports and their internal distribution as well as outright military threats. The recent assassination attempt of President Maduro falls into the same category.

And let’s not forget, Venezuela’s neighbor Colombia, fully under Washington’s control, has just recently become a NATO country. How absurd, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, stationed in a South American country. But then, NATO is also in Afghanistan, Syria, in the Balkans and wherever US-instigated conflicts need to be fought. Colombia and Venezuela share a border of some 2,200 km of which about 1,500 are difficult to control ‘porous’ jungle, from where clandestine as well as overt military infiltrations are relatively easy. They may also spread to other South American countries. It’s already happening into countries with open doors for US military, like Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Less than 5 years ago, 80% of Latin American populations lived under democratically elected, left-leaning governments. It took South America some 20-25 years to free themselves from the fangs of the Monroe Doctrine. Now in the course of a few years the trend has been reversed, through US intervention with election manipulations – Argentina, Ecuador, Chile – and parliamentary coups – Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay. Venezuela, together with Bolivia and Cuba, today is Latin America’s last holdout and hope.

Back to the present – Washington’s goal is “regime change” with the help of a strong Fifth Column, infiltrated in key financial institutions and all the support that comes with it, NED, CIA et al. However, President Maduro has a solid block of 6 million voters behind him, and is embarking with full integrity on a path of “Resistance Economy”. In fact, the recent introduction of the hydrocarbon-backed Petro, and the new just announced Petro-backed Bolivar, are first steps in the right direction; an attempt to de-dollarize Venezuela’s economy. Other measures, like massive efforts to become autonomous in food and industrial goods, à la Russia, rebuild the agricultural sector and industrial parks, are measures to regain economic sovereignty.

On Ecuador – President Rafael Correa has worked with Lenin Moreno, who was his Vice-President and close ally during many years. It is therefore a bit strange that Correa apparently did not know Moreno is a traitor, what he clearly has become soon after taking office. Correa’s internal support was still strong, despite his decline among indigenous people after his (US forced) Amazon petroleum concessions. Though incited by many of the people at large to change the Constitution and run for a third term, he was warned by Washington not to do so, and instead, to promote Moreno as his successor. Correa knows what such warnings mean. He was almost killed in a 2010 Washington inspired police coup, widely thought as being linked to his attempt to abandon the US dollar as the Ecuadorian currency and return to the Sucre; and Correa’s memory is still fresh enough to recall the ‘accidental airplane’ death of one of his predecessor’s, President Roldo, who changed the rules for (mostly US) hydrocarbon corporations in 1981.

What lays ahead for Ecuador does not look bright. Several IMF inspired reforms – yes, Ecuador returned to the IMF and World Bank – might reverse social gains achieved under the Correa Regime for the working and indigenous people. Also, a breach on free speech by Moreno is imminent: He announced already a while ago that Julian Assange’s (Wikileaks) days in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London are counted. If and when Assange has to leave the Embassy, he will likely be arrested by UK police and eventually handed over to the US where he may expect a very uncertain, but possibly violent future.

Peace Leader Speaks Against US-backed Regime Change in Nicaragua

August 3, 2018. San Francisco, CA. — Camilo Mejía prefaced his explanation of the seemingly inexplicable eruption of violence in his native Nicaragua with the admonition that no one should take his word, but should research the facts as he has.

Mejía spoke at an event co-sponsored by the Task Force on the Americas, a 32-year-old anti-imperialist human rights group with a long history of supporting the Nicaraguan Sandinistas against the US-backed Contra War. Gerry Condon, president of the other co-sponsor, Veterans for Peace, explained how the national organization was founded in 1985 by US veterans in response to the global nuclear arms race and US military interventions in Nicaragua and elsewhere.

Condon introduced fellow Veterans for Peace member Mejía, who is a celebrated Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. In 2003, after serving in the US military in Iraq and seeing the hypocrisy of the regime change effort, Mejía refused redeployment and has since been a prominent leader in the peace movement.

Mejía presented a history of US regime change operations engineered by the CIA and more recently by US government surrogates for the CIA such at the USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded by the USAID, NED, and kindred groups are among the leadership of those trying to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua.

Mejía drew attention to similar regime-change programs by the US in Venezuela, and the similarity of the media disinformation and violent guarimbas there to what is happening now in his home country.

Mejía showed well-authenticated video clips of Sandinistas in Nicaragua being tortured by opposition elements, demonstrating how sections of the opposition to the Ortega government have not only been violent but cruel. Particularly disturbing was footage of a Sandinista who had been assassinated and whose body was publicly burned in the street.

The Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), Mejía explained, split from the main party and took with it most of the English-speaking intellectuals who had close relations with North American solidarity activists. The MRS has never been a popular electoral force in Nicaragua, garnering only 1.3% of the vote at its peak, but has turned to the right and aligned with US-backed extra-parliamentary means of changing what both consider the authoritarian regime of President Ortega.

To promote dialogue among those who seek peace in Nicaragua, but differ on whether to support the extra-legal overthrow of the Ortega government, the event sponsors gave Amy Bank time to present the other side. Bank, a North American, had formerly supported the Sandinistas. She granted that the Ortega government had achieved considerable material gains toward eradicating poverty and uplifting social conditions but had turned authoritarian.

Meanwhile the advocates of regime change organized by the ad hoc Bay Area Autoconvocadxs held a well-attended and organized demonstration in front of the San Francisco Veterans Building, where the talk was being held. Mainly composed of expat Nicaraguans in a marriage of convenience between former supporters of the Sandinistas and the Contras, the prior mortal enemies were now united in their mutual loathing of the Ortega government.

The anti-Ortega demonstrators later filtered into the now standing-room-only lecture hall, periodically heckling Mejía. Scattered applause came from the opposition demonstrators at the mention of the US-backed Contras, showing the allegiance of some of them.

Calmly and graciously, Mejía welcomed the opposition elements and even allowed a senior woman who had been a Sandinista to take the microphone and make an impassioned appeal for regime change. But when the opposition elements became intolerantly disruptive to expression of views contrary to their own, Mejía admonished: “By your actions, you demonstrate what kind of democracy you stand for.”

Regime Change in Nicaragua

The US has targeted Nicaragua for regime change. Some former supporters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista party echo the US talking points: Ortega’s “entire government has been, in essence, neoliberal. Then it becomes authoritarian, repressive.”

One would think that a neoliberal regime, especially if it were authoritarian and repressive, would be just the ticket to curry favor with Washington.

Threat of a Good Example

In Noam Chomsky’s words, Nicaragua poses a threat of a good example to the US empire. Since Ortega’s return election victory in 2006, Nicaragua had achieved the following, according to NSCAG, despite being the second poorest country in the hemisphere:

  • Second highest economic growth rates and most stable economy in Central America.
  • Only country in the region producing 90% of the food it consumes.
  • Poverty and extreme poverty halved; country with the greatest reduction of extreme poverty.
  • Reaching the UN Millennium Development Goal of cutting malnutrition by half.
  • Free basic healthcare and education.
  • Illiteracy virtually eliminated, down from 36% in 2006.
  • Average economic growth of 5.2% for the past 5 years (IMF and the World Bank).
  • Safest country in Central America (UN Development Program) with one of the lowest crime rates in Latin America.
  • Highest level of gender equality in the Americas (World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2017).
  • Did not contribute to the migrant exodus to the US, unlike neighboring Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
  • Unlike its neighbors, kept out the drug cartels and pioneered community policing.

The World Bank, IMF, and EU countries have certified Nicaragua for its effective use of international loans and grants. Funds were spent for the purposes they were given, not siphoned off into corruption

Before April 18, Nicaragua was among the most peaceful and stable countries in the region. The otherwise inexplicable violence that has suddenly engulfed Nicaragua should be understood in the context of it being targeted by the US for regime change.

Nicaragua has provoked the ire of the US for the good things its done, not the bad.

Besides being a “threat” of a good example, Nicaragua is in the anti-imperialist ALBA alliance with Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, and others. The attack on Nicaragua is part of a larger strategy by the US to tear apart regional alliances of resistance to the empire.

Nicaragua regularly votes against the US in international forums such as challenging retrograde US policies on climate change. An inter-ocean canal through Nicaragua is being considered, which would contend with the Panama Canal. Russia and China invest in Nicaragua, competing with US capital.

The NICA Act, passed by the US House of Representatives and now before the Senate, would initiate economic warfare designed to attack living conditions in Nicaragua through economic sanctions, as well as intensify US intelligence intervention. The ultimate purpose is to depose the democratically-elected Ortega government.

Meanwhile, USAID announced an additional $1.5 million “to support freedom and democracy in Nicaragua” through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to overthrow the government and “make this truly a hemisphere of freedom.” That is, freedom for the US empire.

Alternatives to Ortega Would Be Worse

Those on the left who also call for Ortega’s removal need to accept responsibility for what comes after. Here the lesson of Libya is instructive, where the replacement of Colonel Gaddafi has resulted in a far worse situation for the Libyan people.

Any replacement of Ortega would be more, not less, neoliberal, oppressive, and authoritarian. When the Nicaraguan people, held hostage to the US-backed Contra war, first voted Ortega out of office in 1990, the incoming US-backed Violeta Chamorro government brought neoliberal structural adjustment and a moribund economy.

“Dictators don’t win fair elections by growing margins,” notes longtime solidarity activist Chuck Kaufman, citing Ortega’s 2006 comeback win with a 38% plurality, followed in 2011 with 63%, and 72.5% in 2016. The Organization of American States officially accompanied and certified the votes.

The dissident Sandinistas who splintered off from the official party after the party’s election defeat and formed the MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement) are not a progressive alternative. They are now comfortably ensconced in US-funded NGOs, regularly making junkets to Washington to pay homage to the likes of Representative Iliana Ros-Lehtinen and Senator Marco Rubio to lobby in favor of the NICA Act. Nor do they represent a popular force, garnering less than 2% in national elections.

When the MRS left the Sandinista party, they took with them almost all those who were better educated, came from more privileged backgrounds, and who spoke English. These formerly left dissidents, now turned to the right in their hatred of Ortega, have many ties with North American activists, which explains some of the confusion today over Nicaragua.

Most Progressive Country in Central America

The world, not just Ortega, has changed since the 1980s when the Soviet Union and its allies served as a counter-vailing force to US bullying. What was possible then is not the same in today’s more constrained international arena.

Nicaragua is the most progressive country in Central America with no close rival. There is a disconnect between urging Nicaraguans to replace Ortega with new elections and advocacy against US imperialist depredations. Unconstitutional elections in Nicaragua would further destabilize a profoundly destabilized situation. Given the unpopularity and disunity of the opposition and the unity and organizational strength of the Sandinistas, Ortega would likely win.

Most important, the key role of Northern American solidarity activists is to end US interference in Nicaragua so that the Nicaraguans can solve their own problems.

The right wing violence since April in Nicaragua should be understood as a coup attempt. A significant portion of the Nicaraguan people have rallied around their elected government as seen in the massive demonstrations commemorating the Sandinista revolution on July 19.

For now, the right wing tranques (blockades) have been dismantled and citizens can again freely circulate without being shaken down and threatened. In the aftermath, though, Nicaragua has suffered unacceptable human deaths, massive public property damage, and a wounded economy with the debilitating NICA Act threatening to pass the US Senate.