Category Archives: Saudi Arabia

Yemen: A Torrent of Suffering in a Time of Siege

When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”  When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable, the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

— Bertolt Brecht, “When evil-doing comes like falling rain” [Wenn die Untat kommt, wie der Regen fällt] (1935), trans. John Willett in Poems, 1913-1956, p. 247

 In war-torn Yemen, the crimes pile up. Children who bear no responsibility for governance or warfare endure the punishment. In 2018, UNICEF said the war made Yemen a living hell for children. By the year’s end, Save the Children reported 85,000 children under age five had already died from starvation since the war escalated in 2015. By the end of 2020, it is expected that 23,500 children with severe acute malnutrition will be at immediate risk of death.

Cataclysmic conditions afflict Yemen as people try to cope with rampant diseases, the spread of COVID-19, flooding, literal swarms of locusts, rising displacement, destroyed infrastructure and a collapsed economy. Yet war rages, bombs continue to fall, and desperation fuels more crimes.

The highest-paying jobs available to many Yemeni men and boys require a willingness to kill and maim one another, by joining militias or armed groups which seemingly never run out of weapons. Nor does the Saudi-Led Coalition  which kills and maims civilians; instead, it deters relief shipments and destroys crucial infrastructure with weapons it imports from Western countries.

The aerial attacks displace traumatized survivors into swelling, often lethal, refugee camps. Amid the wreckage of factories, fisheries, roads, sewage and sanitation facilities, schools and hospitals, Yemenis search in vain for employment and, increasingly, for food and water. The Saudi-Led-Coalition’s blockade, also enabled by Western training and weapons, makes it impossible for Yemenis to restore a functioning economy.

Even foreign aid can become punitive. In March, 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) decided to suspend most aid for Yemenis living in areas controlled by the Houthis.

Scott Paul, who leads Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy advocacy, strongly criticized this callous decision to compound the misery imposed on vulnerable people in Yemen. “In future years,” he wrote, “scholars will study USAID’s suspension as a paradigmatic example of a donor’s exploitation and misuse of humanitarian principles.”

As the evil-doing in Yemen comes “like falling rain,” so do the cries of “Stop!” from millions of people all over the world. Here’s some of what’s been happening:

  • U.S. legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to block the sale of billions of dollars in weapons and maintenance to Saudi Arabia and its allies. But President Trump vetoed the bill in 2019.
  • Canada’s legislators declared a moratorium on weapon sales to the Saudis. But the Canadian government has resumed selling weapons to the Saudis, claiming the moratorium only pertained to the creation of new contracts, not existing ones.
  • The United Kingdom suspended military sales to Saudi Arabia because of human rights violations, but the UK’s international trade secretary nevertheless resumed weapon sales saying the 516 charges of Saudi human rights violations are all isolated incidents and don’t present a pattern of abuse.
  • French NGOs and human rights advocates urged their government to scale back on weapon sales to the Saudi-Led coalition, but reports on 2019 weapon sales revealed the French government sold 1.4 billion Euros worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
  • British campaigners opposing weapon transfers to the Saudi-Led Coalition have exposed how the British Navy gave the Saudi Navy training in tactics essential to the devastating Yemen blockade.
  • In Canada, Spain, France and Italy, laborers opposed to the ongoing war refused to load weapons onto ships sailing to Saudi Arabia. Rights groups track the passage of trains and ships carrying these weapons.

On top of all this, reports produced by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the International Commission of the Red Cross repeatedly expose the Saudi-Led Coalition’s human rights violations.

Yet this international outcry clamoring for an end to the war is still being drowned out by the voices of military contractors with well-paid lobbyists plying powerful elites in Western governments. Their concern is simply for the profits to be reaped and the competitive sales to be scored.

In 2019 Lockheed Martin’s total sales reached nearly 60 billion dollars, the best year on record for the world’s largest “defense” contractor. Before stepping down as CEO, Marillyn Hewson predicted demand from the Pentagon and U.S. allies would generate an uptake between $6.2 billion and $6.4 billion in net earnings for the company in 2020 sales.

Hewson’s words, spoken calmly, drown out the cries of Yemeni children whose bodies were torn apart by just one of Lockheed Martin’s bombs.

In August of 2018, bombs manufactured by Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin fell on Yemen like summer rain. On August 9, 2018, a missile blasted a school bus in Yemen, killing forty children and injuring many others.

Photos showed badly injured children still carrying UNICEF blue backpacks, given to them that morning as gifts. Other photos showed surviving children helping prepare graves for their schoolmates. One  photo showed a piece of the bomb protruding from the wreckage with the number MK82 clearly stamped on it. That number on the shrapnel helped identify Lockheed Martin as the manufacturer.

The psychological damage being inflicted on these children is incalculable. “My son is really hurt from the inside,” said a parent whose child was severely wounded by the bombing. “We try to talk to him to feel better and we can’t stop ourselves from crying.”

The cries against war in Yemen also fall like rain and whatever thunder accompanies the rain is distant, summer thunder. Yet, if we cooperate with war-making elites, the most horrible storms will be unleashed. We must learn — and quickly — to make a torrent of our mingled cries and, as the prophet Amos demanded, ‘let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Some of the 40 blue backpacks worn in a protest in New York city against the war in Yemen. Each backpack was accompanied by a sign with the name and age of a child killed on a school bus in Dahyan, northern Yemen, on August 9, 2018, in a Saudi/UAE airstrike. (Photo: CODEPINK)

A version of this article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine.

U.S.-Backed Saudi Bombing in Yemen Continues as Coronavirus Spreads

As the coronavirus spreads in Yemen, where the population already devastated by the world’s worst humanitarian crisis faces growing hunger and aid shortages, the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition continues to drop bombs in the country. We speak to Yemeni scholar Shireen Al-Adeimi, who calls the ongoing crisis “Trump’s war.” “We’re seeing death rates that are just astronomical,” Al-Adeimi says. “The war continues, the bombing continues, the blockade is still enforced.”

Our Disaster

An entire generation of Yemeni children has suffered the traumas of war, many of them orphaned, maimed, malnourished, or displaced. The United Nations reports a death toll of 100,000 people in that nation’s ongoing war, with an additional 131,000 people dying from hunger, disease, and a lack of medical care. A report from Save the Children, issued in November 2018, estimated at least 85,000 children had died from extreme hunger since the war began in 2015.

Since then, 3.65 million people have been internally displaced and the worst cholera outbreak ever recorded has infected 2.26 million and cost nearly 4,000 lives. Attacks on hospitals and clinics have led to the closure of more than half of Yemen’s prewar facilities.

“Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian disaster,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs wrote on April 23. “Nearly 80 percent of the population requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection. Ten million people are a step away from famine, and seven million people are malnourished.”

The war has had a horrific impact on all Yemeni civilians, but it has compounded vulnerability to violence for women and girls. A recent AP report described a network of secret detention centers where security forces have severely abused women they’ve targeted as dissenters. In the Sanaa governorate alone, an estimated 200 to 350 women and girls are being held, according to multiple human rights groups. A U.N. panel of experts accused Sultan Zabin, the head of the Sanaa criminal investigative division, of running an undisclosed detention site where women have been raped and tortured.

World health experts regard Yemen as a potential hot spot for the coronavirus and have worked frantically to prepare for its arrival.

“Five years of fighting have degraded the health infrastructure, exhausted people’s immune systems, and increased acute vulnerabilities,” the United Nations said in mid-April. As a result, warned Mark Lowcock, the U.N.’s top aid official, “COVID-19 in Yemen could spread faster, more widely, and with deadlier consequences than in many other countries.”

When Lowcock made this statement, Yemen had recorded just one confirmed case of COVID-19 and no deaths. As of May 31, Yemen had 337 confirmed cases and 89 deaths. On May 30, The Lancet quoted Altaf Musani, the World Health Organization’s representative in Yemen:

Based on recently applied models for the context in Yemen, we are estimating in a worst-case scenario with no mitigation measures 28 million people infected, at least 65,000 deaths, and around 494,000 hospitalisations. It is a deeply alarming situation, highly catastrophic if people do not make serious behavioural changes [and] if we do not make some course corrections.

The policies of the United States are deeply implicated in Yemen’s suffering, through the sale of billions of dollars in munitions to Saudi Arabia and other countries that have intervened in the civil war.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged the United Nations to reduce the aid it delivers to areas controlled by the Houthis.  A New York Times report quoted an unnamed diplomat as saying that Pompeo, at a 2019 conference in Warsaw, said the coalition forces should kick the stuffing out of the Houthis, although Pompeo, according to the unnamed diplomat, “used an earthier noun than stuffing.”

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia led a military coalition of nine Arab states to intervene in a conflict raging in Yemen. The coalition said it was acting to restore Yemen’s ousted president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, to power.

But professor Shireen Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni who teaches at Michigan State University, contends the coalition’s real motive was to gain control of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a maritime “chokepoint” through which millions of barrels of crude oil flow each day.

The Saudi warmakers anticipated a brief war, dubbing it “Operation Decisive Storm,” and expecting to quickly overwhelm the rebellious fighters, called the Houthis. They believed the rebels would be no match for the combined military strength of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the seven other Arab countries in the coalition, who were collectively backed by the United States and the United Kingdom.

But the war dragged on for months, turning into a stalemate, with disastrous consequences for Yemeni civilians. The Saudis asked the United States for massive increases in the supply of weapons. By the end of 2015, Human Rights Watch documented the U.S. had sold Saudi Arabia 600 Patriot Missiles, a million rounds of ammunition, $7.8 billion in various weaponry, four Lockheed Littoral Combat Ships, and 10,000 advanced air-to-surface missiles, including laser-guided bombs and “bunker busting” bombs.

The Obama Administration, notes Al-Adeimi, sold Saudi Arabia $115 billion of weapons and provided additional support in the form of targeting assistance, training, and maintenance of aircraft and vehicles. The Trump Administration has continued to support Saudi Arabia, including its 2017 pledge to sell $350 billion in weapons to the repressive regime over a ten-year period. President Donald Trump cited this lucrative package in declining to take action against Saudi Arabia for murdering Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The United States has also provided cover for Saudi Arabia in the U.N. Security Council, which passed a resolution in April 2015 that demanded an end to Yemeni violence but made no mention of the Saudi-led intervention.

Al-Adeimi understands the difficult position the United Nations is in, since it depends heavily on donations from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. But she is dismayed by what she calls its “all-siding” the war — addressing the conflict as though it were between evenly matched opponents.

“One hundred thousand Yemenis have been killed,” Al-Adeimi says. “The Yemenis don’t have even one plane, much less fighter jets and warships!”

On March 27, the Trump Administration suspended aid to Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, where 70 percent of Yemen’s population live. It accuses the Houthis of obstructing aid deliveries. Meanwhile, the Saudis are enforcing a blockade on all of Yemen’s land, sea, and airports, forcing its population into dependence on relief organizations.

Aisha Jumaan, a Yemeni who works as an epidemiologist in Washington State, says the effect of these aid cuts was immediate. She worries that Yemen may be manipulated by donors who can threaten to withhold desperately needed food, medicine, water, and fuel.

Jumaan and her organization, the Yemen Relief & Reconstruction Foundation, along with Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the Yemeni Alliance Committee, are urging the United States to reconsider its aid suspension, to give Yemen all possible resources to prevent and respond to COVID-19.

In May 2017, the Saudi-led coalition’s war against Yemen had clearly gone on longer than predicted. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared on national television and asked the Saudis to be patient. He said having a dialogue with the rebels was not possible, so the coalition was waiting them out, adding “Time is in our favor.”

Three years later, the war is still dragging on, and the flow of weapons from the United States continues unabated. Even now, in a shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, Lockheed Martin has a multibillion-dollar contract to build four Littoral Combat Ships, which will be delivered to Saudi Arabia.

In 2019, the investigative website Bellingcat reported that eleven individual U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have each exported more than $100 million worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Altogether, the United States provided up to $6.8 billion in weapons including bombs, rocket launchers, and machine guns through March 2019.

Some of these weapons may be linked to war crimes. Identifying marks on U.S. bombs used in the 2018 Dahyan bus bombing, which killed forty children and eleven adults, linked back to a Lockheed Martin plant in Pennsylvania.

On a monthly basis, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned shipping company, Bahri, sends cargo ships to Wilmington, North Carolina, the Port of Baltimore and other U.S. ports, to collect bombs, grenades, cartridges, and defense-related aircraft. The United States also supplies weapons to Bahrain and other countries actively participating in the Saudi-led war against Yemen.

On April 8, the Saudi-led coalition declared a unilateral two-week ceasefire, expressing concern about the spread of COVID-19. But within days, the Houthis were battling groups loyal to the coalition, which retaliated with dozens of air strikes. The Houthis had already issued their own proposal for ending the war and insisted that no durable peace could be achieved without the withdrawal of foreign troops and a termination of the blockade.

When the two-week ceasefire expired, a spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition announced a month-long extension. Yet there were numerous reports of continued coalition air strikes. The Saudis may want to extricate themselves from the war, but so far they haven’t stopped the bludgeoning air strikes or lifted the blockade.

• A version of this article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine

Sanaa, Yemen. 30 April 2020. A health worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant on the hands of people at a market in the old city of Sanaa, amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).  Photo Credit: Hani Al-Ansi/dpa/Alamy Live News.

Who Are the Secret Puppet-Masters Behind Trump’s War on Iran?

On May 6th, President Trump vetoed a war powers bill specifying that he must ask Congress for authorization to use military force against Iran. Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of deadly sanctions and threats of war against Iran has seen no let-up, even as the U.S., Iran and the whole world desperately need to set aside our conflicts to face down the common danger of the Covid-19 pandemic.

So what is it about Iran that makes it such a target of hostility for Trump and the neocons? There are many repressive regimes in the world, and many of them are close U.S. allies, so this policy is clearly not based on an objective assessment that Iran is more repressive than Egypt, Saudi Arabia or other monarchies in the Persian Gulf.

The Trump administration claims that its “maximum pressure” sanctions and threats of war against Iran are based on the danger that Iran will develop nuclear weapons. But after decades of inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and despite the U.S.’s politicization of the IAEA, the Agency has repeatedly confirmed that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.

If Iran ever did any preliminary research on nuclear weapons, it was probably during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, when the U.S. and its allies helped Iraq to make and use chemical weapons that killed up to 100,000 Iranians. A 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, the IAEA’s 2015 “Final Assessment on Past and Present Outstanding Issues” and decades of IAEA inspections have examined and resolved every scrap of false evidence of a nuclear weapons program presented or fabricated by the CIA and its allies.

If, despite all the evidence, U.S. policymakers still fear that Iran could develop nuclear weapons, then adhering to the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA), keeping Iran inside the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and ensuring ongoing access by IAEA inspectors would provide greater security than abandoning the deal.

As with Bush’s false WMD claims about Iraq in 2003, Trump’s real goal is not nuclear non-proliferation but regime change. After 40 years of failed sanctions and hostility, Trump and a cabal of U.S. warhawks still cling to the vain hope that a tanking economy and widespread suffering in Iran will lead to a popular uprising or make it vulnerable to another U.S.-backed coup or invasion.

United Against a Nuclear Iran and the Counter Extremism Project

One of the key organizations promoting and pushing hostility towards Iran is a shadowy group called United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI). Founded in 2008, it was expanded and reorganized in 2014 under the umbrella of the Counter Extremism Project United (CEPU) to broaden its attacks on Iran and divert U.S. policymakers’ attention away from the role of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other U.S. allies in spreading violence, extremism and chaos in the greater Middle East.

UANI acts as a private enforcer of U.S. sanctions by keeping a “business registry” of hundreds of companies all over the world—from Adidas to Zurich Financial Services—that trade with or are considering trading with Iran. UANI hounds these companies by naming and shaming them, issuing reports for the media, and urging the Office of Foreign Assets Control to impose fines and sanctions. It also keeps a checklist of companies that have signed a declaration certifying they do not conduct business in or with Iran.

Proving how little they care about the Iranian people, UANI even targets pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical-device corporations—including Bayer, Merck, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Abbott Laboratories—that have been granted special U.S. humanitarian aid licenses.

Where does UANI get its funds? 

UANI was founded by three former U.S. officials, Dennis Ross, Richard Holbrooke and Mark Wallace. In 2013, it still had a modest budget of $1.7 million, nearly 80% coming from two Jewish-American billionaires with strong ties to Israel and the Republican Party: $843,000 from precious metals investor Thomas Kaplan and $500,000 from casino owner Sheldon Adelson. Wallace and other UANI staff have also worked for Kaplan’s investment firms, and he remains a key funder and advocate for UANI and its affiliated groups.

In 2014, UANI split into two entities: the original UANI and the Green Light Project, which does business as the Counter Extremism Project. Both entities are under the umbrella of and funded by a third, Counter Extremism Project United (CEPU). This permits the organization to brand its fundraising as being for the Counter Extremism Project, even though it still regrants a third of its funds to UANI.

CEO Mark Wallace, Executive Director David Ibsen and other staff work for all three groups in their shared offices in Grand Central Tower in New York. In 2018, Wallace drew a combined salary of $750,000 from all three entities, while Ibsen’s combined salary was $512,126.

In recent years, the revenues for the umbrella group, CEPU, have mushroomed, reaching $22 million in 2017. CEPU is secretive about the sources of this money. But investigative journalist Eli Clifton, who started looking into UANI in 2014 when it was sued for defamation by a Greek ship owner it accused of violating sanctions on Iran, has found evidence suggesting financial ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

That is certainly what hacked emails between CEPU staff, an Emirati official and a Saudi lobbyist imply. In September 2014, CEPU’s president Frances Townsend emailed the UAE Ambassador to the U.S. to solicit the UAE’s support and propose that it host and fund a CEPU forum in Abu Dhabi.

Four months later, Townsend emailed again to thank him, writing, “And many thanks for your and Richard Mintz’ (UAE lobbyist) ongoing support of the CEP effort!” UANI fundraiser Thomas Kaplan has formed a close relationship with Emirati ruler Bin Zayed, and visited the UAE at least 24 times. In 2019, he gushed to an interviewer that the UAE and its despotic rulers “are my closest partners in more parts of my life than anyone else other than my wife.”

Another email from Saudi lobbyist and former Senator Norm Coleman to the Emirati Ambassador about CEPU’s tax status implied that the Saudis and Emiratis were both involved in its funding, which would mean that CEPU may be violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act by failing to register as a Saudi or Emirati agent in the U.S.

Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy has documented the dangerously unaccountable and covert expansion of the influence of foreign governments and military-industrial interests over U.S. foreign policy in recent years, in which registered lobbyists are only the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to foreign influence. Eli Clifton calls UANI, “a fantastic case study and maybe a microcosm of the ways in which American foreign policy is actually influenced and implemented.”

CEPU and UANI’s staff and advisory boards are stocked with Republicans, neoconservatives and war hawks, many of whom earn lavish salaries and consulting fees. In the two years before President Trump appointed John Bolton as his National Security Advisor, CEPU paid Bolton $240,000 in consulting fees. Bolton, who openly advocates war with Iran, was instrumental in getting the Trump administration to withdraw from the nuclear deal.

UANI also enlists Democrats to try to give the group broader, bipartisan credibility. The chair of UANI’s board is former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, who was known as the most pro-Zionist member of the Senate. A more moderate Democrat on UANI’s board is former New Mexico governor and UN ambassador Bill Richardson.

Norman Roule, a CIA veteran who was the National Intelligence Manager for Iran throughout the Obama administration was paid $366,000 in consulting fees by CEPU in 2018. Soon after the brutal Saudi assassination of journalist Jamal Khassoghi, Roule and UANI fundraiser Thomas Kaplan met with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, and Roule then played a leading role in articles and on the talk-show circuit whitewashing Bin Salman’s repression and talking up his superficial “reforms” of Saudi society.

More recently, amid a growing outcry from Congress, the UN and the European Union to ease U.S. sanctions on Iran during the pandemic, UANI chairman Joe Lieberman, CEPU president Frances Townsend and CEO Mark Wallace signed a letter to Trump that falsely claimed, “U.S. sanctions neither prevent nor target the supply of food, medicine or medical devices to Iran,” and begged him not to relax his murderous sanctions because of COVID-19. This was too much for Norman Roule, who tossed out his UANI script and told the Nation, “the international community should do everything it can to enable the Iranian people to obtain access to medical supplies and equipment.”

Two Israeli shell companies to whom CEPU and UANI have paid millions of dollars in “consulting fees” raise even more troubling questions. CEPU has paid over $500,000 to Darlink, located near Tel Aviv, while UANI paid at least $1.5 million to Grove Business Consulting in Hod Hasharon, about 10% of its revenues from 2016 to 2018. Neither firm seems to really exist, but Grove’s address on UANI’s IRS filings appears in the Panama Papers as that of Dr. Gideon Ginossar, an officer of an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands that defaulted on its creditors in 2010.

Selling a Corrupted Picture to U.S. Policymakers

UANI’s parent group, Counter Extremism Project United, presents itself as dedicated to countering all forms of extremism. But in practice, it is predictably selective in its targets, demonizing Iran and its allies while turning a blind eye to other countries with more credible links to extremism and terrorism.

UANI supports accusations by Trump and U.S. war hawks that Iran is “the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism,” based mainly on its support for the Lebanese Shiite political party Hezbollah, whose militia defends southern Lebanon against Israel and fights in Syria as an ally of the government.

But Iran placed UANI on its own list of terrorist groups in 2019 after Mark Wallace and UANI hosted a meeting at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York that was mainly attended by supporters of the Mujahedin-e-Kalqh (MEK). The MEK is a group that the U.S. government itself listed as a terrorist organization until 2012 and which is still committed to the violent overthrow of the government in Iran – preferably by persuading the U.S. and its allies to do it for them. UANI tried to distance itself from the meeting after the fact, but the published program listed UANI as the event organizer.

On the other hand, there are two countries where CEPU and UANI seem strangely unable to find any links to extremism or terrorism at all, and they are the very countries that appear to be funding their operations, lavish salaries and shadowy “consulting fees”: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Many Americans are still demanding a public investigation into Saudi Arabia’s role in the crimes of September 11th. In a court case against Saudi Arabia brought by 9/11 victims’ families, the FBI recently revealed that a Saudi Embassy official, Mussaed Ahmed al-Jarrah, provided crucial support to two of the hijackers. Brett Eagleson, a spokesman for the families whose father was killed on September 11th, told Yahoo News, “(This) demonstrates there was a hierarchy of command that’s coming from the Saudi Embassy to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs [in Los Angeles] to the hijackers.”

The global spread of the Wahhabi version of Islam that unleashed and fueled Al Qaeda, ISIS and other violent Muslim extremist groups has been driven primarily by Saudi Arabia, which has built and funded Wahhabi schools and mosques all over the world. That includes the King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles that the two 9/11 hijackers attended.

It is also well documented that Saudi Arabia has been the largest funder and arms supplier for the Al Qaeda-led forces that have destroyed Syria since 2011, including CIA-brokered shipments of thousands of tons of weapons from Benghazi in Libya and at least eight countries in Eastern Europe. The UAE also supplied arms funding to Al Qaeda-allied rebels in Syria between 2012 and 2016, and the Saudi and UAE roles have now been reversed in Libya, where the UAE is the main supplier of thousands of tons of weapons to General Haftar’s rebel forces. In Yemen, both the Saudis and Emiratis have committed war crimes. The Saudi and Emirati air forces have bombed schools, clinics, weddings and school buses, while the Emiratis tortured detainees in 18 secret prisons in Yemen.

But United Against a Nuclear Iran and Counter Extremism Project have redacted all of this from the one-sided worldview they offer to U.S. policymakers and the American corporate media. While they demonize Iran, Qatar, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood as extremists and terrorists, they depict Saudi Arabia and the UAE exclusively as victims of terrorism and allies in U.S.-led “counterterrorism” campaigns, never as sponsors of extremism and terrorism or perpetrators of war crimes.

The message of these groups dedicated to “countering extremism” is clear and none too subtle: Saudi Arabia and the UAE are always U.S. allies and victims of extremism, never a problem or a source of danger, violence or chaos. The country we should all be worrying about is – you guessed it – Iran. You couldn’t pay for propaganda like this! But on the other hand, if you’re Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates and you have greedy, corrupt Americans knocking on your door eager to sell their loyalty, maybe you can.

The War in Yemen is a Crime Against Humanity and Islam

The proxy war that Saudi Arabia and Iran have been waging in Yemen for the past five years goes beyond the pale of human capacity for extreme cruelty and ruthlessness, and against the spirit and the letter of the Quran. Ironically, whereas Saudi Arabia has many reasons to end the war, which prompted its decision to declare a unilateral ceasefire, Islam’s forbidding of the killing of innocent people was never considered a reason to halt the fighting. The Saudis continued to engage in a merciless war against Iran-backed Houthis, which left Yemen lying in ruin while inflicting unfathomable pain and suffering on millions of innocent men, women, and children. For Saudi Arabia, which leads the Sunni Muslim world, to descend to this level of brutality is a gross violation of Islam and constitutes crimes against humanity.

The war in Yemen has thus far caused more than 100,000 deaths, and out of a population of 30 million, 20 million are in desperate need of food, medicine, and a steady supply of clean drinking water, caused by the more than 6,000 coalition bombing raids that targeted civilian infrastructure. Over two million children are severely malnourished; half of them are infected with cholera and many will perish as there is little or no chance of receiving medical treatment.

The question is why a country so deeply religious and proud of being the birth place of Islam, where Sharia is the law of the land, a country which has assumed the leadership role of Sunni Muslims worldwide, waited five years to declare a ceasefire in an effort to end the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Sadly, it is clear that the Saudis are much more concerned with everything except the teachings of the Quran. This includes: a) Saudi Arabia’s limited military capabilities; b) tremendous strains the war is putting on the economy; c) the growing lack of financial resources resulting from the plunging price of oil, which is preventing diversification of the economy; d) the significant advances of the Houthis in key provinces in central Yemen; e) the growing international censure against the Saudis; and finally, f) the realization that the war is unwinnable, and that securing the border and distancing the Houthis from Iran assumed priority. Islam’s teachings and moral obligations were simply not a part of the equation.

Surah 4:93 warns us “…whoever kills a believer intentionally – his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment.” Ignoring a core tenet of the Quran is not merely blasphemy but is an outright defiance of religion itself, which the Saudis have flagrantly violated and use as a tool to cover their crimes against humanity.

Instead of taking the lead and mitigating all civil wars in Muslim-majority countries (including Afghanistan, Turkey, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen, which represent 61% of all civil wars currently taking place globally) and stop the killing of Muslims by Muslims, Saudi Arabia was leading the foray. It has wantonly and persistently waged a merciless war in conjunction with the US and Britain, who in particular are providing the killing machines that allow the Saudis to slaughter tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians.

Moreover, rather than facilitating the delivery of food and medicine to the multitude of beleaguered Yemenis who are on the verge of dying from starvation and decease, the Saudis violated another Quranic instruction to aid those who are in need (Surah 9:60, “…for the poor and for the needy”). Surah 41:7 states “Those who do not give Zakah, and in the Hereafter they are disbelievers.”

Yemen, which is already facing the worst humanitarian disaster in the world, has now recorded its first confirmed case of coronavirus. Save the Children says the country has only about 700 intensive care unit beds, including 60 for children, and only 500 ventilators for a population of 30 million. To be sure, after five years of devastating war, the country will be unable to cope if the virus spreads. The result would certainly be catastrophic.

For the Saudis however, the coronavirus pandemic was a blessing in disguise, as it gave the government the excuse to declare a unilateral ceasefire and create the condition where all parties to the conflict, including the Houthis, who developed their own peace plan, could agree on a ceasefire, without losing face. The Saudis became deeply alarmed about the potential spread of the virus in Yemen, with which it shares a 1,100-mile-long border. Millions of Yemenis live in overcrowded and unhygienic areas, which can infect hundreds of thousands in Saudi Arabia – already engulfed by the virus. Seeking a peace agreement with the Houthis became the only viable option to spare Saudi lives and resources.

Now that the Kingdom decided on a ceasefire, it must stop short of nothing to permanently end the war. First, it must extend the ceasefire beyond the two weeks it has initially offered, and then negotiate with the Houthis in earnest to reach a peace accord that all parties to the conflict, including Iran (which is also eager to cut its losses), will embrace.

It is time for the Saudi Arabia, the custodian of Sunni Islam, to stop making a mockery of the religion of the state, at the core of which is humanity, compassion, and caring, and uphold the moral values which are the fundamental tenets of Islam.

9/11 Truth: Under Lockdown for Nearly Two Decades

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

— H.L. Mencken, In Defense of Women, 1918

As the global pandemic grips world attention, completely unnoticed by mainstream media was the release of a final report of an academic study pertaining to another previously calamitous event of international significance. On March 25th, the conclusion of a four year investigation by researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was published which determined that the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 on September 11th, 2001 was not caused by fire. The peer-reviewed inquiry was funded by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, a nonprofit organization composed of more than 3,000 building architects and engineers who are a signatory to the group’s formal appeal calling for a new investigation into the three — not two — WTC skyscrapers destroyed on 9/11. The researchers infer that the collapse of Building 7 was actually the result of a controlled demolition:

The principal conclusion of our study is that fire did not cause the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11, contrary to the conclusions of NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and private engineering firms that studied the collapse. The secondary conclusion of our study is that the collapse of WTC 7 was a global failure involving the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.

With or without a pandemic, it is likely corporate media would have ignored the study anyway, just as they have anything that contradicts the official story of 9/11. However, it is notable that many have drawn parallels between the COVID-19 outbreak and the 9/11 attacks based on the widespread changes to daily life as a result of the crisis going forward. Already there is talk of nationwide lockdowns as a “new normal” with many rightly expressing concerns over civil liberties, press freedoms, the surveillance state, and other issues just as there were following 9/11. By the same measure, a false dichotomy is being established by political gatekeepers in order to silence those who dare challenge the official account as to how the coronavirus began. It is a stigmatization that is all too familiar to those who have never believed the conventional narrative that 19 Arab hijackers loyal to Osama bin Laden armed only with box-cutters were solely responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that fateful day.

There is a common misconception that to believe in so-called “conspiracy theories” is to somehow lose sight of the bigger picture or systemic problems. Behind this phenomenon is a mistakenly presumed conflict between understanding the broader, overarching system versus the sinister motives of those in power who administer it — when they are inextricably linked. Political scientist Michael Parenti, who drew the ire of many of his fellow left-wing colleagues for his work on the Kennedy assassination, refers to it in his lecture “Understanding Deep Politics” as a perceived incompatibility between “the structural and the functional.” The anti-conspiracists wrongly assume that the more impersonal or wider the lens, the more profound an analysis. By this logic, the elite are absolved of conscious intent and deliberate pursuit of nefarious self-interest, as if everything is done by incidental chance or out of incompetence. Not to say efficacy applies without exception, but it has become a required gesture to disassociate oneself from “conspiracies” to maintain credibility — ironically even by those who are often the target of such smears themselves.

This applies not only to mainstream media and academics, but even leading progressive figures who have a mechanical, unthinking resistance to assigning intent or recognizing the existence of hidden agendas. As a result, it disappears the class interests of the ruling elite and ultimately assists them in providing cover for their crimes. With the exception of the Kennedy assassination — coincidentally the subject of a new epic chart-topping song by Bob Dylan — nowhere has there been more hostility to ‘conspiracism’ than regarding the events of 9/11. Just as they assailed Parenti, David Talbot and others for challenging the Warren Commission’s ‘lone gunman’ theory, leading figures on the left such as Noam Chomsky and the late Alexander Cockburn railed against the 9/11 Truth movement and today it is often wrongly equated with right-wing politics, an unlikely trajectory given it occurred under an arch-conservative administration but an inevitable result of the pseudo-left’s aversion to “conspiracies.” If polls are any indication, the average American certainly disagrees with such elitist misleaders as to the believability of the sham 9/11 Commission findings, yet another example of how out-of-touch the faux-left is with ordinary people.

A more recent example was an article by left-wing journalist Ben Norton proclaiming that to call 9/11 a false flag or an “inside job” is “fundamentally a right-wing conspiracy”, in complete disregard of the many dedicated truther activists on the left since its inception. Norton insists the 9/11 attacks were simply “blowback”, or an unintended consequence of previous U.S. foreign policy support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets during the 1980s which later gave birth to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Norton argues “Al-Qaeda’s unofficial strategic alliance with the US eventually broke down” resulting in 9/11 as retaliation, completely overlooking that Washington was still supporting jihadist factions during the 1990s in Bosnia (two of which would be alleged 9/11 hijackers) and Kosovo in the Yugoslav wars against Serbia, even while the U.S. was ostensibly pursuing bin Laden for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000.

A 1997 Congressional document by the Republican Policy Committee (RPC) throws light on how Washington never discontinued its practice in Afghanistan of using jihadist proxies to achieve its foreign policy goals in the Balkans. Although it was a partisan GOP attack meant to discredit then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, nevertheless the memo accurately presents how the U.S. had “turned Bosnia into a Militant Islamic Base”:

In short, the Clinton administration’s policy of facilitating the delivery of arms to the Bosnian Muslims made it the de facto partner of an international network of governments and organizations pursuing their own agenda in Bosnia: the promotion of Islamic revolution in Europe. That network not only involves Iran but Brunei, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan (a key ally of Iran), and Turkey, together with front groups supposedly pursuing humanitarian and cultural activities. For example, one such group about which details have come to light is the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), a Sudan-based, phoney humanitarian organization which has been a major link in the arms pipeline to Bosnia. TWRA is believed to be connected with such fixtures of the Islamic terror network as Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (the convicted mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) and Osama Bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi émigré believed to bankroll numerous militant groups…

It was also in Bosnia where a raid was conducted in 2002 by local police at the Sarajevo branch of a Saudi-based purported charitable organization, Benevolence International Foundation, which was discovered to be a front for Al-Qaeda. Seized on the premises was a document, dubbed the “Golden Chain“, which listed the major financial sponsors of the terrorist organization to be numerous Saudi business and government figures, including some of Osama bin Laden’s own brothers. By the 9/11 Commission Report’s own admission, this same fake Islamic charity “supported the Bosnian Muslims in their conflict with Serbia” at the same time as the CIA.

It cannot go without mentioning that the common link between Al-Qaeda and subsequent extremist groups like ISIS/Daesh and Boko Haram is the doctrine of Wahhabism, the puritanical sect of Sunni Islam practiced in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and founded in the 18th century by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the religious leader who formed an alliance with the founder of the first Saudi state, Muhammad bin Saud, whose descendants make up the House of Saud royal family. The ultra-orthodox teachings of Wahhabism were initially rejected in the Middle East but reestablished by British colonialism which aligned with the Saud family in order to use their intolerant strain of Islam to undermine the Ottoman empire in a divide-and-conquer strategy. In a speech to the House of Commons in 1921, Winston Churchill admitted the Saudis to be “intolerant, well-armed and bloodthirsty.”

This did not stop the British from supporting the House of Saud so long as it was in the interest of Western imperialism, an unholy alliance which continues to this day. However, U.S.-Saudi relations did come under scrutiny when the infamous 28 redacted pages of the December 2002 report of the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001” conducted by the Senate and House Select Committees on Intelligence were finally disclosed in 2016. The section revealed not only the numerous U.S. intelligence failures in the lead-up to the attacks but the long suspected culpability of Saudi Arabia, whose nationals were not the focus of counterterrorism because of Riyadh’s status as a U.S. ally. The declassified pages show that some of the hijackers, 15 of them Saudi citizens, received financial and logistical support from individuals linked to the Saudi government, which FBI sources believed at least two of which to be Saudi intelligence officers. One of those Saudi agents received large payments from Princess Haifa, the wife of Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a stipend from the latter’s bank account which inevitably went from the go-betweens to the sleeper cell.

A key member of the House of Saud and then-Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar has such a long and close relationship to the Bush family he was given the nickname “Bandar Bush.” For obvious reasons, when the congressional joint inquiry report was first published in 2003, the 28-page portion on the Saudi ties to the attacks was completely censored at the insistence of the Bush administration. Yet the Bush family’s connection to the Gulf state kingdom is not limited to the ruling monarchy but includes one of the petrodollar theocracy’s other wealthiest families— the bin Laden family itself. While Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 mostly whitewashed the real conspiracy of 9/11it did reveal that numerous unquestioned members of the bin Laden family were given special treatment and suspiciously evacuated on secret flights out of the U.S. shortly after the attacks in coordination with the Saudi government.

The Bush-bin Laden connection goes all the way back to the beginning of George W. Bush’s business career prior to his political involvement in 1976 with the founding of an oil drilling company, Arbusto Energy, whose earliest investors included a Texas businessman and fellow reservist in the Texas Air National Guard, James R. Bath, who oddly enough was the American liaison for Salem bin Laden, Osama’s half brother. To put it differently, the bin Laden family and its construction fortune helped finance Bush’s start in the oil industry, a relationship that would continue through the 1990s with Harken Energy, later the recipient of an offshore oil contract in Iraq’s reconstruction alongside Dick Cheney’s Halliburton. The Bush dynasty’s financial ties to both the Saudi royals and bin Laden family went on as co-investors in the Carlyle Group private equity firm where the elder Bush’s previous government service contacts were exploited for financial gain. In fact, on the morning of 9/11, Bush Sr. just happened to be attending a Carlyle business conference where another bin Laden sibling was the guest of honor in what we are supposed to believe is another astounding coincidence. Just days later, Shafiq bin Laden would be spirited off on a chartered flight back to Saudi Arabia in an exodus overseen by Prince Bandar himself.

Osama bin Laden himself also got an evacuation of sorts when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. It was legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh who first reported that bin Laden and thousands of other Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters were suspiciously allowed to escape to Pakistan in an evacuation dubbed the ‘airlift of evil.’ This was corroborated in a leaked 2009 Hillary Clinton State Department email published by WikiLeaks regarding a Senate report on the Battle of Tora Bora and bin Laden’s escape where Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal is shown discussing the controversial airlift as having been requested by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney — but don’t dare call it a conspiracy:

Gary Berntsen, the head of the CIA armed operation in eastern Afghanistan, is a major source for the report. I am in contact with him and have heard his entire story at length, key parts of which are not in his book, Jawbreaker, or in the Senate report. In particular, the story of the Kunduz airlift of the bulk of key AQ and Taliban leaders, at the request of Musharaff and per order Cheney/Rumsfeld, is absent.

 Could it have anything to do with just a few years earlier the Taliban visiting Texas when Bush was Governor to discuss with the Unocal Corporation the construction of a gas pipeline through Afghanistan into Pakistan? It is also well known that the Pakistani government and its Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) had supported the Taliban for decades and during the 1980s had been the CIA’s main conduit for supplying arms to the Afghan mujahideen, including bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Maktab al-Khidamat, the organizational precursor to Al-Qaeda. As shown in the documentary 9/11: Press for Truth, little in their relations changed in the years between the Afghan-Soviet war and 9/11, as ISI director Mahmud Ahmed was reportedly busted wiring $100,000 to alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta not long before the WTC attacks. Throughout 2001 both before and after 9/11, General Ahmed had repeatedly visited the U.S. and met with top Pentagon and Bush administration officials, including CIA Director George Tenet, making Prince Bandar not the only figure to have been caught financing the operation and where a direct line can be drawn between the White House and the hijackers.

While Bandar has thus far eluded justice, one year after the release of the 28 pages a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the families of the victims against the government of Saudi Arabia which presented new evidence that two years prior to the attacks in 1999, the Saudi Embassy paid for the flights of two Saudi agents living undercover in the U.S. to fly from Phoenix to Washington “in a dry run for the 9/11 attacks” where they attempted to breach the cockpit and test flight security. This means the Saudi government was likely involved in planning the attacks from the very beginning, in addition to providing the subsidies and patsy hijacker personnel for the smokescreen of blaming Al-Qaeda and making bin Laden the fall guy, whose links to 9/11 are tenuous at best. After all, the “confession” from supposed planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was extracted only after his being water-boarded 183 times while bin Laden himself initially denied any role in the attacks before questionable videos were released of his admittance.

The Saudi nationals who participated in the hijacking rehearsal were posing as students. However, the Sunni dictatorship was not the only country conducting a mass espionage operation in the U.S. prior to 9/11 under such a front. In the first half of 2001, several U.S. federal law enforcement agencies documented more than 130 different instances of young Israelis impersonating “art students” while aggressively trying to penetrate the security of various government and military facilities as part of a Mossad spy ring. Several of the Israelis were found to be living in locations within the near vicinity of the hijackers as if they were eavesdropping on them. The discovery of the Israeli operation raised many questions, namely whether Mossad had advanced knowledge or involvement in 9/11. Ironically, Fox News of all places was one of the few outlets to cover the story in a four-part series which never re-aired and was eventually scrubbed from the network website.

The Israeli “art student” mystery never gained traction in the rest of the media, much like another suspicious case in the “Dancing Israelis”, a smaller group of Mossad spies posing as furnishing movers who were arrested in New Jersey on the morning of 9/11 taking celebratory pictures with the twin towers burning in the background of the Manhattan skyline. The five men were not only physically present at the waterfront prior to the first plane impact but found with thousands of dollars in cash, box-cutters, fake passports, and Arab clothing after they were reported for suspicious behavior and intercepted at the Lincoln tunnel heading into Manhattan. Initially misreported as Arabs by the media, the men were connected to Mossad by an FBI database and held for five months before their deportation to Israel while the owner of the front moving company fled to Jerusalem before further questioning. It should be noted that if Israel were to have participated in a ‘false flag’ attack on the U.S., it would not have been the first time. During the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israeli Air Force and Navy launched an unprovoked attack on the USS Liberty, a U.S. Navy spy ship that was surveilling the Arab-Israeli conflict from international waters in the Mediterranean, an “accidental” assault which killed 34 Americans in an attempt to blame Egypt and provoke U.S. intervention.

If Israel turned out to be co-conspirators with the Saudis, it too is not as unlikely a scenario as it may seem. Wrongly assumed to be sworn enemies, it is an open secret that the two British-created states have maintained a historical covert alliance since the end of World War I when the first monarch of the modern Saudi state, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, defeated his rival the Sharif of Mecca who opposed the Balfour Declaration. Authored by British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour and presented to Zionist leader Baron Rothschild, the 1917 letter guaranteed a Jewish homeland in Palestine by colonization with European Jews. Once Sharif was out of  the way, the Zionist movement had the green light to move forward with its colonial project. Although Ibn Saud publicly opposed Zionism, behind the scenes he negotiated with them through an intermediary in his advisor, British agent St. John Philby, who proposed a £20 million compensation to the Saudi king for delivering Palestine to the Jews.

Ibn Saud communicated his willingness to compromise in a 1940 letter from Philby to Chaim Weizmann, the president of the World Zionist Organization and later the first Israeli president. However, Philby himself was an anti-Zionist and sabotaged the plan by leaking it to other Arab leaders who voiced their vehement opposition and it was only after this exposure that the Saudi king claimed to have turned down the bribe, something the Zionists would only solicit if they thought he would accept. Ever since, the ideologies of Saudi Wahhabism and Israeli Zionism have been center to the West’s destabilization of the Middle East which contrary to misperceptions was not uniquely plagued by conflict historically more than the Occident until the West nurtured Salafism and Zionism. Predictably, discussing either the Saudi or Israeli role in 9/11 has been strictly forbidden in corporate media, since both are among Washington’s geo-strategic allies and each hold immense lobbying power over large media institutions.

Less than five months after 9/11, Bush notoriously declared the nations of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as comprising an “axis of evil” in his 2002 state of the union address. In reality, the phrase is better suited to describe the tripartite of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the U.S. government itself who are likely the real trio of conspirators behind 9/11. The infamous choice of words were attributed to neoconservative pundit and Bush speechwriter, David Frum, who claimed to have taken inspiration from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “a date that will live infamy” speech given the day after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. It was a continuation of a theme present in the manifesto of the neoconservative cabal authored one year prior to 9/11 — “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) think tank, whose members included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush. The strategic military blueprint called for a massive increase in U.S. defense spending in order to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars” before ominously predicting:

The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a New Pearl Harbor.

Ten members of PNAC would be subsequently appointed to positions in the Bush White House where their vision of a “new Pearl Harbor” conveniently materialized. Then again, there is plenty of evidence that Pearl Harbor itself was a ‘false flag’, or that U.S. intelligence and President Franklin D. Roosevelt had foreknowledge of an impending Japanese attack on the naval base in Oahu, Hawaii, on December 7th, 1941. As pointed out by the film Loose Change, it is probable that Roosevelt allowed it to happen on purpose in order to win public support for a U.S. entry into the European theatre of World War II, a move opposed by a majority of Americans prior to the ‘surprise’ Japanese attack. Given what is known about Pearl Harbor and the abandoned Operation Northwoods, which proposed both fabricating and committing terrorist attacks on civilian aircraft to be pinned on Fidel Castro in order to justify a U.S. invasion of Cuba in 1962, there are no grounds to assume that such false flag operations were ever phased out of military procedure before 9/11 or since.

Loose Change also made a useful historical analogy between 9/11 and the Reichstag fire, the 1933 arson attack on the German parliament building that occurred a month after Adolf Hitler was inaugurated as Chancellor and pinned on a 24-year old half-blind Dutch communist named Marinus van der Lubbe. While there is no denying the incident was used as a pretext by the Nazi regime to consolidate power and suspend law and order, there is still a heated debate between historians as to whether van der Lubbe was the real culprit. However, it was coincidentally in 2001 when a group of historians uncovered evidence that a Nazi stormtrooper who died under mysterious circumstances in 1933 had previously confessed to prosecutors that members of Hitler’s Storm Detachment had set fire to the edifice under orders from paramilitary leader Karl Ernst, lending credence to the widely held suspicion that it was a Nazi-engineered ‘false flag’ all along.

Most Americans are unaware that a similar coup d’etat nearly took place during the same year in the United States in an attempt to remove President Franklin D. Roosevelt and install an authoritarian government modeled on Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as part of a scheme hatched by an inner circle of right-wing bankers otherwise known as the the ‘Business Plot.’ It was a conspiracy that only became public after it was heroically thwarted by a whistleblower, a decorated Marine Corps veteran turned anti-imperialist, Major General Smedley Butler, after he was recruited to form the junta. Incredibly, one of the prominent business figures implicated in the putsch was none other than future Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush, George H.W. Bush’s father and George W. Bush’s grandfather, who at the time was the director and shareholder of a bank owned by German industrialist and prominent Nazi financier Fritz Thyssen seized by the U.S. government under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

After his transformation, in 1935 Smedley Butler famously penned War is a Racket and there is perhaps no better phrase that would sum up the so-called ‘War on Terror’ today. Not only did the American Reichstag fire of 9/11 trigger a domestic police state transformation that overrode the U.S. constitution in an American equivalent of the 1933 Enabling Act and the Heimatschutz (“homeland protection”) defense forces with the passing of the USA-Patriot Act and founding of the Department of Homeland Security, but it fulfilled the prophecy of political scientist Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations in a face-off between Islam and Christianity abroad. The prediction that religion and culture would be the primary source of geopolitical conflict in the post-Cold War world was an apocalyptic paradigm envisioned by right-wing orientalist philosophers like Huntington and Bernard Lewis which the PNAC neocon ideologues put into practice. Today, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis appears likely to have similar broad and long-term political, social and economic consequences and those who have doubts about the official explanation for the pandemic can hardly be blamed for their distrust given this history unless the lessons of 9/11 have gone unlearned.

Trudeau okays more arms sales to Saudi Arabia

As Canadians focus on the coronavirus pandemic the Trudeau government announced it was lifting its suspension of arms export permits to Saudi Arabia. It has also renegotiated the government’s $14 billion armoured vehicle deal with the belligerent, repressive, monarchy.

This is not surprising. The government set the stage for this decision when with its September review that found no evidence linking Canadian military exports to human rights violations committed by the Saudis. The Global Affairs review claimed there was no “credible” link between arms exports to the Saudis and human rights abuses even though the April 2016 memo to foreign minister Stéphane Dion originally approving the armoured vehicle export permits claimed they would assist Riyadh in “countering instability in Yemen.” The five year old Saudi led war against Yemen has left 100,000 dead. Throughout their time in office the Liberals have largely ignored Saudi violence in Yemen.

Despite a great deal of public attention devoted to a diplomatic spat after Riyadh withdrew its ambassador over an innocuous tweet from the Canadian Embassy in August 2018, the Liberals have sought to mend relations and continue business as usual. In December 2018 HMCS Regina assumed command of a 33-nation Combined Maritime Forces naval coalition patrolling the region from Saudi Arabia. Last September foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “Saudi Arabia is an important partner for Canada and we continue to work with Saudi Arabia on a number of different issues at a number of different levels.” For its part, the Canadian Embassy’s website continues to claim, “the Saudi government plays an important role in promoting regional peace and stability.”

According to an access to information request by PhD researcher Anthony Fenton, Freeland phoned new Saudi foreign minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf in January 2019. In briefing notes for the (unannounced) discussion Freeland was encouraged to tell her counterpart (under the headline “points to register” regarding Yemen): “Appreciate the hard work and heavy lifting by the Saudis and encourage ongoing efforts in this regard.”

After Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s (MBS) thugs killed and dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, Trudeau treaded carefully regarding the murder. Ten days after the Canadian Press reported, “the prime minister said only that Canada has ‘serious issues’ with reports the Washington Post columnist was killed by Saudi Arabian operatives inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey.” Six weeks later the Liberals sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals over the issue but none of them were in positions of significant authority.

Foreign minister Freeland looked the other way when Saudi student Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi fled Canada last year — presumably with help from the embassy — to avoid sexual assault charges in Cape Breton. While Freeland told reporters that Global Affairs was investigating the matter, Halifax Chronicle Herald journalist Aaron Beswick’s Access to Information request suggested they didn’t even bother contacting the Saudi embassy concerning the matter.

In April 2019 the Saudis beheaded 37 mostly minority Shiites. Ottawa waited 48 hours — after many other countries criticized the mass execution — to release a “muted” statement. The Trudeau government stayed mum on the Saudi’s effort to derail pro-democracy demonstrations in Sudan and Algeria in 2018/19 as well as Riyadh’s funding for Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s bid to seize Tripoli by force.

While they implemented a freeze on new export permit approvals, shipments of Canadian weaponry continued. The year 2018 set a record for Canadian rifle and armoured vehicle sales to the Saudis. Over $17 million in rifles were exported to the kingdom in 2018 and a similar amount in 2019. Canada exported $2 billion worth of “tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles” to the Saudis in 2019. In February Canada exported $155.5 million worth of “Tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles” to Saudi Arabia.

The Global Affairs review that claimed there was no “credible” link between Canadian weapons exports to the Saudis and human rights abuses noted there were 48 arms export permit applications awaiting government approval.

As Fenton has documented in detail, armoured vehicles made by Canadian company Streit Group in the UAE have repeatedly been videoed in Yemen. Equipment from three other Canadian armoured vehicle makers — Terradyne, IAG Guardian and General Dynamics — was found with Saudi-backed forces in Yemen. Fenton has shown many examples of the Saudi-led coalition using Canadian-made rifles as well.

The Trudeau government arming the monarchy’s military while saying little about its brutal war in Yemen should be understood for what it was: War profiteering and enabling of massive human rights abuses.

Vigil for Peace in Yemen, a New Norm

For the past three years, several dozen New Yorkers have gathered each Saturday at Union Square, at 11:00 a.m. to vigil for peace in Yemen.

Now, however, due to the coronavirus, the vigil for peace is radically altered. Last week, in recognition of the city’s coming shelter in place program, participants were asked to hold individual vigils at their respective homes on the subsequent Saturday mornings. Normally, during the public vigils, one or more participants would provide updates on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the ongoing war, and U.S. complicity. As COVID-19 threatens to engulf war-torn Yemen, it is even more critical to raise awareness of how the war debilitates the country.

If the vigil for peace were to gather in Union Square this Saturday, activists most certainly would draw attention to how Turkish officials  indicted 20 Saudi nationals for the murder of the dissident writer, Jamal Khashoggi. Turkey’s investigation of the murder and dismemberment of Mr. Khashoggi indicts 18 people for committing the murder and names two officials for incitement to murder. One of them, General Ahmad Al-Asiri, a close associate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was deputy chief of intelligence when Mr. Khashoggi was murdered.

Numerous news reports over the past five years establish a pattern of Mr. Al-Asiri responding to inquiries about Saudi-led coalition military attacks against Yemen civilians with misleading statements, outright denials and attempted cover-ups.

For example, On August 30th, 2015, according to Human Rights Watch, a Saudi coalition led airstrike attacked the Al-Sham Water Bottling Factory in the outskirts of Abs, in northern Yemen. The strike destroyed the factory and killed 14 workers, including three boys, and wounded 11 more.

Later on August 30, after the airstrike, Gen. Al-Asiri told Reuters that the plant was not a bottling factory, but rather a place where Houthis made explosive devices. However, all of the individuals Human Rights Watch interviewed concurred:

…that plant was being used to bottle water and was not used for any military purposes… A group of international journalists traveled to the site of the blast two days after it was hit and reported that they could not find evidence of any military targets in the area. They said that they carefully examined the site, and took photos and videos of piles of scorched plastic bottles melted together from the heat of the explosion. They could not find any evidence that the factory was being used for military purposes.

Meanwhile, Yemenis were desperately trying to contend with rising cases of cholera caused by shortages of clean water.

In October, 2015, when eyewitnesses declared a hospital in northern Yemen run by Doctors Without Borders was destroyed by Saudi-led coalition warplanes, Gen. Al-Asiri told Reuters coalition jets had been in action over Saada governorate but had not hit the hospital.

On August 15, 2016,  a Saudi-led bombing campaign again targeted a hospital in northern Yemen supported by Doctors Without Borders. 19 people were killed.

The Abs hospital was bombed two days after Saudi airstrikes attacked a school in northern Yemen, killing ten students and wounding dozens more.

Yet Saudi officials continued to insist they struck military targets only. Commenting on the August 13 school attack, Gen. Al-Asiri said the dead children were evidence the Houthis were recruiting children as guards and fighters.

“We would have hoped,” General Al-Asiri said, that Doctors Without Borders “would take measures to stop the recruitment of children to fight in wars instead of crying over them in the media.”

In one of the deadliest attacks of the war, on October 8, 2016, the Saudi-led military coalition’s fighter jets repeatedly bombed a hall filled with mourners during a funeral for an official in the capital city of Sana. At least 140 people were killed and 550 more were wounded.

General Al-Asiri, still a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, suggested there were other causes for the blast and later reported the coalition had not carried out any strikes near the hall. But outraged U.N. officials, backed up by videos on social media, insisted that airstrikes had massacred the mourners.

The United States has steadily sided with Saudi Arabia, including supplying it with weapons, training its armed forces and covering for it in the U.N. Security Council. But “Defense One,” a U.S. news agency intending to provide news and analysis for national security leaders and stakeholders, recently issued a stinging rebuke to the Kingdom’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. They denounced the “humanitarian abomination ushered by Riyadh’s war in Yemen,” and called his leadership “as destabilizing to the Middle East as its Iranian rival.” Defense One urged Washington to discontinue enabling “Riyadh’s most reckless behavior.”

Turkey’s indictment of 20 Saudi nationals for murder and their insistence that Mr. Al-Asiri bears responsibility may help move the court of public opinion to resist all support for the Kingdom’s ongoing war in Yemen.

Particularly now, with intense focus on U.S. health care, it’s timely to recognize that in the past five years U.S. supported Gulf Coalition airstrikes bombed Yemen’s health care facilities 83 times. As parents here care for children during school closures, they should be reminded that since December 13, 2018, eight Yemeni children have been killed or injured every single day. Most of the children killed were playing outdoors with their friends or were on their way to or from school. According to the Yemen Data Project, more than 18,400 civilians have been killed or injured by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies since the initial  bombing campaign in 2015.

U.S. national security leaders and stakeholders in war, as they shelter in place, have an extraordinary opportunity to set a new norm and link with the vigil for Peace in Yemen, virtually. And, some may even join Yale students on April 9, from sunrise to sunset, in their National Fast for Peace in Yemen. They invite us to pledge support for Doctors Without Borders and other relief groups in Yemen.

Activists practice “physical distancing” at a Saturday morning vigil for Peace in Yemen, Union Square, NYC (Photo Credit: Bill Ofenloch)

Saudi’s Brave Women Pull Back the Curtain on Crown Prince MBS

This week, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia’s 34-year-old de facto ruler, was on a tear. He arrested members of his own royal family and initiated an oil price war with Russia that has sent the price of oil—and the world’s stock markets—plummeting. Behind the headlines, however, another critical event will take place in Saudi Arabia starting March 18: women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who was arrested almost two years ago for advocating the right to drive, is due in court. The diabolical MBS wants the world to believe he is the Arab world’s liberal reformer and took credit for eventually granting women the right to drive, but he is also the one who had al-Hathloul and nine other women thrown in prison, charging them as foreign agents and spies. The imprisonment of these peaceful women activists exposes the brutal nature of MBS’s regime and the duplicity of the Western democracies that continue to support him.

Loujain al-Hathloul gained notoriety in 2013 for campaigning against the driving ban when she posted videos of herself driving as an act of civil disobedience. She was first arrested in December 2014 when she attempted to drive from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia and spent 73 days in prison at that time. Al-Hathloul has also been an outspoken advocate for an end to the male guardianship system that treats women as no more than children throughout their entire lives.

On May 15, 2018, a group of armed men from the state security agency raided Loujain’s family’s house and arrested her. For the first three months of her detention, she was held incommunicado with no access to her family or a lawyer. According to the communication she was later able to have with her family, during those three months, she was beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed, and threatened with rape and murder.

Loujain languished in a Saudi prison for almost a year before the public prosecutor’s office finally announced that it had concluded its investigation and alleged that Loujain was involved in activities that “aim to undermine the Kingdom’s security, stability, and national unity.” She was accused of contacting “enemy groups”—a reference to cooperation with the United Nations and human rights groups such as Amnesty International.

Loujain’s initial hearing was in March 2019, but she was not allowed access to a lawyer or to hear the charges prior to the hearing. Her family members were permitted to attend, but the court was closed to both diplomats and journalists.

According to her family, in August 2019, Al-Hathloul was offered her freedom in exchange for denying, on video, that she was subjected to torture. She refused. For her incredible bravery and determination to fight for women’s rights, eight members of US Congress have nominated Al-Hathloul for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The case of Al-Hathloul and the other women’s rights activists on trial in Saudi Arabia is a tremendous embarrassment for MBS, who has been putting an enormous effort into convincing his Western allies that he is a reformer and that Saudi Arabia is becoming more liberal. But behind the facade of new musical concerts and theme parks, the Crown Prince has overseen a vast crackdown on all forms of opposition and dissent. In November 2018, the CIA concluded that MBS was the one who ordered the gruesome assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. MBS is also responsible for dragging Saudi Arabia into an internal conflict in Yemen, where constant Saudi bombings have decimated what was already a poor country.

The fact that MBS lifted the driving ban and simultaneously put in prison those who had campaigned and suffered for such reforms makes clear his actual motive: to silence dissent and prevent these women’s voices from being heard. Loujain’s sister Lina al-Hathloul says that the regime arrested these women’s rights activists “so that they make the [Saudi] people understand that change only comes top down. And the people should not even try to make the changes.” This sentiment was echoed by Suzanne Nossel, the head of PEN America.“These gutsy women have challenged one of the world’s most notoriously misogynist governments, inspiring the world with their demand to drive, to govern their own lives, and to liberate all Saudi women from a form of medieval bondage that has no place in the 21st century,” she said.

“The very existence of this sham trial pulls the veil off of the authorities’ so-called push for reforms in the Kingdom,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director. “How can they initiate change in the country when the very women who fought for these reforms are still being punished for it?”

The bogus trial against Loujan al-Hathloul taking place this week should compel governments around the world to put more pressure on the Saudis and demand Al Houthloul’s immediate and unconditional release. Her imprisonment — as well as MBS’s arrest of royal family members and Saudi’s brutal war in Yemen — should be particularly embarrassing to the world community in light of the G20 meeting scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia in November. How can the world’s leaders pretend that it is acceptable to meet in a country that imprisons and tortures peaceful women activists and bombs civilians in Yemen? It isn’t.

A Difficult Peace

Nearly a thousand of us were gathered in Chicago beneath the alarming edifice of Chicago’s “Trump Tower.” Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani had been brutally murdered the day before in Iraq, with several of his associates; and the welcome surprise of Iran’s relatively measured response was yet a few days off.  A region-wide conflagration seemed just on the verge of engulfing perhaps millions of lives, and consuming, as well, much of the species’ remaining time and attention needed to face our direst threats: with the new war we could fear continued paralysis in the face of an unfolding climate collapse, a terrifying new Cold War (now with hypersonic missiles), and a global far-right resurgence driven by shocking inequality and violence.

I’d been to Iran a year before with Voices’ Sarah Ball on a CODEPINK delegation and, addressing the crowd, I thought of how little attention Trump’s worst crimes, his war crimes, now receive from his critics in both parties.  I wondered aloud if the right-wing trend that had made Trump commander-in-chief was not, as is often argued, a backlash by the poorest Americans against the same kind of contemptuous disregard that American power also shows for the dignity and safety of the people of Iran.

Tragically, in its “forever wars” the United States consistently denounces authoritarianism and religiosity among the world’s poorest, but only as an excuse to violently drive the people of those countries even further from security, democracy, and peace. The U.S. condemns the global poor it claims so ardently to wish to protect, too frequently as a shallow pretext for military and economic subjugation.  Americans, correct to denounce Iran’s theocratic regime, ignore what Iranians are quick to recognize, that Iran’s worst enemy remains not its own government, but that of the United States.

On our first day in Tehran, reformist foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with us and quipped that Iran veers rightwards whenever the war-hawk John Bolton is anywhere near the levers of U.S. power.  Today the White House would seem to have moved to the right of its stance under Bolton, while Trump’s enemies in both parties alarmingly hail Bolton as an ally in their quest to encircle Russia — Iran’s largest ally.  Predictably, if tragically, this past Friday, religious hardliners swept Iran’s parliamentary elections, with help from a Tehran regime secure as never before in the knowledge that, with U.S. hardliners rampant, Iranians have nowhere else to turn.  Iran’s brave dissidents generally rush to reject all expressions of support from U.S. leaders, hastening to agree on one point only with the many Iranians who support the theocracy: that the United States (along with its Saudi and Israeli cats paws) remains the worst threat which Iranians must face.

There is no reason for U.S. voters to suppose that their government’s hostility towards Iran is aimed at realizing anyone’s human rights.  Staunch U.S. support for the brutal Saudi dictatorship puts the lie to any such claim. Iran’s military support for its regional allies is massively dwarfed in destructive impact by the Saudi role, directly and through proxies, in bloodily destabilizing the region.  The U.S.’ own 2003 invasion of Iraq remains the century’s worst human rights violation (if the Saudis’ U.S.-backed, famine-assisted war in Yemen doesn’t catch it up).  An untold number of Iranians facing dire economic hardship were recently gunned down protesting the greed (perhaps more than the strict religion) of Iran’s clerical oligarchs; but the U.S. had, through its crushing sanctions, imposed this hardship deliberately and with the stated intent of callously forcing Iranians to topple the regime for them.

The idea that a U.S.-driven regime change, either through sanctions or through war, might somehow democratize Iran is popular in the U.S., but it’s a prospect for which few Iranians would ever want to vote.  Social scientists place Iran among Earth’s most nationalistic countries, with many in Iran acutely aware of the U.S.-driven coup which crushed Iran’s stubborn bid for secular democracy in 1953. The Islamism which revolutionary Iran adopted in 1979 was widely considered an anti-colonialist necessity, a “return to ourselves” required to resist further U.S. cooptation and violence. Today, Iranians well note that U.S. leaders’ regime-change plans tend to involve installing, as Iran’s ‘democratic’ rulers, Iran’s most feared terror group, the “Mojahedin-e Khalq”. In 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, the cult-like “MEK” actually invaded Iran, on Iraq’s behalf, from Iraqi soil, and with air cover from Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.  Outside Tehran I visited the chief graveyard of that war, resting place for hundreds of thousands.  It’s an odd definition of “democracy” under which we hope to impose, through war, the would-be leaders Iranians fear most.

US Den of Espionage Museum, Tehran

We gathered at a terrible moment this winter beneath the unsightly bulk of Chicago’s Trump Tower, but far more ominous threats loom on our horizon, whether a U.S. war on Iran can be averted or not.  Our forever wars, nightmarish enough in themselves, should terrify us for the truly existential crises they prevent us from addressing.  Trump’s worst crimes are his war crimes, and both of the U.S.’ political parties seem focused on urging Trump towards more war, not less. No mere election but a grassroots movement of never-before-witnessed scope would seem needed to turn our government, in this late hour, away from empire and towards the goal of human survival. But to succeed, that movement will need to involve and empower the bases of both parties, including many of Trump’s voters who it would seem easier to simply dismiss and denounce.

When the U.S. settles for condemning Iran, it drives Iran and the world even further towards dictatorship and annihilatory violence. The most urgent threats facing our species aren’t enemies, like a country or a political party, that we can simply defeat, at however unacceptable a cost, but existential deadlines implicit in our nation’s own wealth and frightened arrogance, deadlines we can’t meet without our “enemies'” freely offered assistance. The path we must follow within the U.S. seems also to be the sole survivable path the U.S. has left that it can follow abroad – to somehow redress those of our neighbors’ real grievances to which their undeniable failings should never have blinded us; to build a movement for species survival which no-one will join if we won’t share our wealth and our power; and to empower those who, like Iran, we’re most inclined to condemn – in the desperate hope of forging a difficult peace.