Category Archives: US Hypocrisy

Can the “World’s Second Superpower” Rise From the Ashes of Twenty Years of War?

UK protest against iraq war February 15, 2003. (Credit: Stop the War Coalition)

February 15 marks the day, 17 years ago, when global demonstrations against the pending Iraq invasion were so massive that the New York Times called world public opinion “the second superpower.” But the U.S. ignored it and invaded Iraq anyway. So what has become of the momentous hopes of that day?

The U.S. military has not won a war since 1945, unless you count recovering the tiny colonial outposts of Grenada, Panama and Kuwait, but there is one threat it has consistently outmanoeuvred without firing more than a few deadly rifle shots and some tear gas. Ironically, this existential threat is the very one that could peacefully cut it down to size and take away its most dangerous and expensive weapons: its own peace-loving citizens.

During the Vietnam war, young Americans facing a life-and-death draft lottery built a powerful anti-war movement. President Nixon proposed ending the draft as a way to undermine the peace movement, since he believed that young people would stop protesting the war once they were no longer obligated to fight. In 1973, the draft was ended, leaving a volunteer army that insulated the vast majority of Americans from the deadly impact of America’s wars.

Despite the lack of a draft, a new anti-war movement—this time with global reach—sprung up in the period between the crimes of 9/11 and the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The February 15th, 2003, protests were the largest demonstrations in human history, uniting people around the world in opposition to the unthinkable prospect that the U.S. would actually launch its threatened “shock and awe” assault on Iraq. Some 30 million people in 800 cities took part on every continent, including Antarctica. This massive repudiation of war, memorialized in the documentary We Are Many, led New York Times journalist Patrick E. Tyler to comment that there were now two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.

The U.S. war machine demonstrated total disdain for its upstart rival, and unleashed an illegal war based on lies that has now raged on through many phases of violence and chaos for 17 years. With no end in sight to U.S. and allied wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Yemen and West Africa, and Trump’s escalating diplomatic and economic warfare against Iran, Venezuela and North Korea threatening to explode into new wars, where is the second superpower now, when we need it more than ever?

Since the U.S. assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani in Iraq on January 2nd, the peace movement has reemerged onto the streets, including people who marched in February 2003 and new activists too young to remember a time when the U.S. was not at war. There have been three separate days of protest, one on January 4th, another on the 9th and a global day of action on the 25th. The rallies took place in hundreds of cities, but they did not attract nearly the numbers who came out to protest the pending war with Iraq in 2003, or even those of the smaller rallies and vigils that continued as the Iraq war spiralled out of control until at least 2007.

Our failure to stop the U.S. war on Iraq in 2003 was deeply discouraging. But the number of people active in the U.S. anti-war movement shrank even more after the 2008 election of Barack Obama. Many people did not want to protest the nation’s first black president, and many, including the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, really believed he would be a “peace president.”

While Obama reluctantly honored Bush’s agreement with the Iraqi government to withdraw US troops from Iraq and he signed the Iran nuclear deal, he was far from a peace president. He oversaw a new doctrine of covert and proxy war that substantially reduced U.S. military casualties, but unleashed an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria that destroyed entire cities, a ten-fold increase in CIA drone strikes on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and bloody proxy wars in Libya and Syria that rage on today. In the end, Obama spent more on the military and dropped more bombs on more countries than Bush did. He also refused to hold Bush and his cronies responsible for their war crimes.

Obama’s wars were no more successful than Bush’s in restoring peace or stability to any of those countries or improving the lives of their people. But Obama’s “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war made the U.S. state of endless war much more politically sustainable. By reducing U.S. casualties and waging war with less fanfare, he moved America’s wars farther into the shadows and gave the American public an illusion of peace in the midst of endless war, effectively disarming and dividing the peace movement.

Obama’s secretive war policy was backed up by a vicious campaign against any brave whistleblowers who tried to drag it out into the light. Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Edward Snowden and now Julian Assange have been prosecuted and jailed under unprecedented new interpretations of the WWI-era Espionage Act.

With Donald Trump in the White House, we hear Republicans making the same excuses for Trump—who ran on an anti-war platform—that Democrats made for Obama. First, his supporters accept lip service about wanting to end wars and bring troops home as revealing what the president really wants to do, even as he keeps escalating the wars. Second, they ask us to be patient because, despite all the real world evidence, they are convinced he is working hard behind the scenes for peace. Third, in a final cop-out that undermines their other two arguments, they throw up their hands and say that he is “only” the president, and the Pentagon or “deep state” is too powerful for even him to tame.

Obama and Trump supporters alike have used this shaky tripod of political unaccountability to give the man behind the desk where the buck used to stop an entire deck of “get out of jail free” cards for endless war and war crimes.

Obama and Trump’s “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war has inoculated America’s wars and militarism against the virus of democracy, but new social movements have grown up to tackle problems closer to home. The financial crisis led to the rise of the Occupy Movement, and now the climate crisis and America’s entrenched race and immigration problems have all provoked new grassroots movements. Peace advocates have been encouraging these movements to join the call for major Pentagon cuts, insisting that the hundreds of billions saved could help fund everything from Medicare for All to the Green New Deal to free college tuition.

A few sectors of the peace movement have been showing how to use creative tactics and build diverse movements. The movement for Palestinians’ human and civil rights includes students, Muslim and Jewish groups, as well as black and indigenous groups fighting similar struggles here at home. Also inspirational are campaigns for peace on the Korean peninsula led by Korean Americans, such as Women Cross the DMZ, which has brought together women from North Korea, South Korea and the United States to show the Trump administration what real diplomacy looks like.

There have also been successful popular efforts pushing a reluctant Congress to take anti-war positions. For decades, Congress has been only too happy to leave warmaking to the president, abrogating its constitutional role as the only power authorized to declare war. Thanks to public pressure, there has been a remarkable shift. In 2019, both houses of Congress voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen, although President Trump vetoed both bills.

Now Congress is working on bills to explicitly prohibit an unauthorized war on Iran. These bills prove that public pressure can move Congress, including a Republican-dominated Senate, to reclaim its constitutional powers over war and peace from the executive branch.

Another bright light in Congress is the pioneering work of first-term Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who recently laid out a series of bills called Pathway to PEACE that challenge our militaristic foreign policy. While her bills will be hard to get passed in Congress, they lay out a marker for where we should be headed. Omar’s office, unlike many others in Congress, actually works directly with grassroots organizations that can push this vision forward.

The presidential election offers an opportunity to push the anti-war agenda. The most effective and committed anti-war champion in the race is Bernie Sanders. The popularity of his call for getting the U.S. out of its imperial interventions and his votes against 84% of military spending bills since 2013 are reflected not only in his poll numbers but also in the way other Democratic candidates are rushing to take similar positions. All now say the U.S. should rejoin the Iran nuclear deal; all have criticized the “bloated” Pentagon budget, despite regularly voting for it; and most have promised to bring U.S. troops home from the greater Middle East.

So, as we look to the future in this election year, what are our chances of reviving the world’s second superpower and ending America’s wars?

Absent a major new war, we are unlikely to see big demonstrations in the streets. But two decades of endless war have created a strong anti-war sentiment among the public.  A 2019 Pew Research Center poll found that 62 percent of Americans said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting and 59 percent said the same for the war in Afghanistan.

On Iran, a September 2019 University of Maryland poll showed that a mere one-fifth of Americans said the U.S. “should be prepared to go to war” to achieve its goals in Iran, while three-quarters said that U.S. goals do not warrant military intervention. Along with the Pentagon’s assessment of how disastrous a war with Iran would be, this public sentiment fueled global protests and condemnation that have temporarily forced Trump to dial down his military escalation and threats against Iran.

So, while our government’s war propaganda has convinced many Americans that we are powerless to stop its catastrophic wars, it has failed to convince most Americans that we are wrong to want to. As on other issues, activism has two main hurdles to overcome: first to convince people that something is wrong; and secondly to show them that, by working together to build a popular movement, we can do something about it.

The peace movement’s small victories demonstrate that we have more power to challenge U.S. militarism than most Americans realize. As more peace-loving people in the U.S. and across the world discover the power they really have, the second superpower we glimpsed briefly on February 15th, 2003 has the potential to rise stronger, more committed and more determined from the ashes of two decades of war.

A new president like Bernie Sanders in the White House would create a new opening for peace. But as on many domestic issues, that opening will only bear fruit and overcome the opposition of powerful vested interests if there is a mass movement behind it every step of the way. If there is a lesson for peace-loving Americans in the Obama and Trump presidencies, it is that we cannot just walk out of the voting booth and leave it to a champion in the White House to end our wars and bring us peace. In the final analysis, it really is up to us. Please join us.

Israel’s Palestinian Minority has Good Reason to Fear Trump’s Plan

The Trump administration’s decision to green-light Israel’s annexation of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank grabbed headlines last week. But US support for a related proposal – one equally cherished by Israel’s extreme right – was far less noticed.

Under the terms of the “Peace to Prosperity” document, the US could allow Israel to strip potentially hundreds of thousands of its own inhabitants of their citizenship in a so-called “populated land swap” with the settlements.

Those in danger of having their citizenship revoked are drawn from Israel’s large Palestinian minority – one in five of the country’s population.

These Palestinians are descended from families that managed to avoid the large-scale expulsions by the Israeli army in 1948 that led to the creation of a Jewish state on the ruins of the Palestinians’ homeland.

The plan would require minor modifications to borders recognised since Israel agreed to a ceasefire with its Arab neighbours in 1949.

The result would be to transfer a long, thin strip of land in Israel known as the “Triangle” into the West Bank – along with a dozen towns and villages densely populated with Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Unwelcome guests

Samer Atamni, director of the Jewish-Arab centre for peace at Givat Haviva, an institute promoting greater social integration in Israel, lives in Kafr Karia, one the towns likely to be moved under the plan.

“There’s been talk about this idea for a while but mostly from the extreme right. Now Trump has brought it out of the margins and into the mainstream,” he told Middle East Eye.

“The worry is that it will become the basis of any future political solution. It has been normalised.”

Yousef Jabareen, a member of the Israeli parliament from Umm al-Fahm, home to 50,000 Palestinians and the largest community targeted by the “land swap”, said the proposal was a dramatic step-up in a growing campaign to delegitimise the Palestinian minority.

“Even if the plan cannot be implemented yet, it presents us – the native people of the land – as unwelcome guests, as a fifth column, as the enemy,” he told MEE.

“And it will inflame the right-wing’s incitement, including from [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, that Palestinian members of the parliament are representatives for a terrorist population.”

‘Pieces on a chessboard’

Defenders of the plan have argued that it does not violate the rights of those affected because they would not be physically forced from their homes. Instead, their communities would be reassigned to a Palestinian state.

But forcible transfer of the kind suggested in the Trump plan – sometimes referred to as “static transfer” – is likely to constitute a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Atamni noted that families would be torn apart. Those inside the Triangle would be separated behind checkpoints and walls from family members living elsewhere in Israel. It would also cut many off from their places of work, schools and colleges, as well as their historic lands.

“We study and work in Israel. It is the only reality our community has known for decades,” he said.

“It confirms our worst fears that Israel does not take our rights as citizens seriously, that it thinks it can simply issue diktats, and play with our futures as if we are pieces on a chessboard.”

Worse on other side

Jabareen pointed out that residents of the Triangle had no reason to be reassured about their prospects from the Trump document.

“What state is it that we would be transferred to? From the Trump plan it is clear that there will be no Palestinian state, only a series of ghettoes, South African-style Bantustans. Under this plan, we would be placed under Israeli military rule, under occupation and apartheid.”

Baraa Mahamid, a 20-year-old activist with the Umm al-Fahm Youth Movement, agreed. He pointed out that many residents of the Triangle travelled into West Bank cities like Jenin, which is close by.

“We see the greater poverty there, the checkpoints, the walls, Israeli soldiers everywhere. There are many problems for us living here in Israel, but people are afraid their life would become much worse on the other side of the wall.”

Demographic timebomb

According to Israeli government sources quoted this week by the Haaretz daily, Netanyahu was the one who persuaded the Americans to include the transfer option.

He is reported to have been lobbying US officials to adopt the provision since work first began on Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” back in 2017.

It is the first time that an official US peace plan has included such a proposal or produced a map showing how such a territorial exchange would work on the ground.

For Netanyahu and many Israeli Jews, who see the country’s Palestinian citizens as a “demographic timebomb”, with high birth rates that might slowly erode the state’s decisive Jewish majority, the transfer plan is both a demographic and territorial win.

According to polls, about half of Israeli Jews support the expulsion of Palestinian citizens.

Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, which brings together the main Palestinian political factions, warned this week that the transfer of the Triangle was likely to be only the first stage in wider measures.

The Israeli right, he said, was “conveying a clear message to all of Israel’s Arab citizens: ‘You are not welcome here and your turn will come when the next plan is released’.”

Territorial gains

The transfer of the Triangle offers a twofold gain for the right.

First, it subtracts large numbers of Palestinians from Israel’s population without losing much territory, thereby strengthening Israel’s Jewish majority.

Second, it rationalises Israel’s “reciprocal” annexation of swaths of West Bank territory on which the Jewish settlements are built, thereby defeating any chance of creating a viable Palestinian state.

But critically for those who support annexation, it substantially increases Israel’s territorial area without risking a rise in Palestinian numbers.

According to figures published by Peace Now this week, some 380,000 Palestinians – 260,000 in the Triangle and a further 120,000 in East Jerusalem – would be “swapped out” to a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, some 330,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would need to be “swapped in” – that is, brought under Israeli rule as part of the annexations.

The overall gain would be official US recognition for the first time of territory housing 650,000 Jewish settlers as part of Israel.

“The demographic rationale behind this isn’t being hidden,” said Jabareen. “Israel loses lots of Palestinian citizens and gains lots of territory seized by Jewish settlers.”

Citizenship and loyalty

Schemes to transfer the Triangle have been floating around on the right for nearly two decades. It first came to prominence when a formal plan was published by Avigdor Lieberman, a settler who has served as defence and foreign minister under Netanyahu.

He has been keen to tie citizenship rights to “loyalty” to Israel as a Jewish state. In previous election campaigns, he has run under the slogan: “No loyalty, no citizenship.”

Transferring the Triangle has been seen by the right as a prelude to much wider revocations of citizenship for Palestinians, according to Jabareen.

In recent years more politicians on the right, including Netanyahu, have been explicit that Palestinian citizens are necessarily disloyal to a Jewish state because they hold on to their Palestinian identity.

‘Sword over our heads’

Such imputations of disloyalty were a mainstay of Netanyahu’s two election campaigns last year. He accused Israel’s Palestinian voters of wanting “to annihilate us all – women, children and men”.

He also sent his Likud party’s monitors into polling stations in Palestinian communities in Israel wearing body cameras, implying that Palestinian voters were defrauding the Jewish majority.

Jabareen noted: “In the parliament, members of the ruling coalition openly incite against us. Bezalel Smotrich [a settler leader, and currently the transport minister] says it proudly: ‘Accept your inferior status, or you will go to jail or be expelled.’ For them, the Triangle plan is a sword hanging over our heads.”

Palestinian identity

The assumption of disloyalty is implied in the wording of the Trump plan, which states that residents of the Triangle’s communities “largely self-identify as Palestinian”.

In fact, noted Atamni, the situation is far more complex. Surveys suggest that there is a complicated interplay between the minority’s Palestinian, Arab, Israeli and various religious identities.

“Yes, our national identity is Palestinian, but that doesn’t detract in any way from the fact that our civil identity is Israeli,” he said. “When we struggle in Israel it is for our civil rights, to end the discrimination we face from the state and receive equality as citizens.”

Nonetheless, the transfer proposal contained in Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” is in line with recent legislative moves by Israel that sanction the downgrading of the status of Palestinian citizens.

The most significant is the Nation-State Law, passed in 2018. It confers constitution-like status on Israel’s Jewishness, revokes Arabic as an official language, and makes a top priority of Judaisation – a policy of settling Jews into Palestinian areas inside Israel and the occupied territories.

“Over the last 10 years Israeli society has moved further right very quickly,” said Atamni. “The left in Israel has been a huge disappointment. Most have kept silent about the recent threats to our status.”

Political calculations

Jabareen observed that the ultra-nationalist bloc supporting Netanyahu had a pressing political need to delegitimise the standing of Palestinians as citizens, and especially as voters.

Netanyahu has been unable to form a government for the past year – and thereby avoid an impending corruption trial – because he has twice narrowly lost to an opposition bloc led by a former army general, Benny Gantz, of the Blue and White party.

The bloc under Gantz can only end the stalemate and win power itself if it allies with the Joint List, which represents Israel’s Palestinian minority. But Gantz has embraced the Trump plan, breaking any possible alliance with the Joint List.

If both Jewish blocs again fail to win a majority in the election on 2 March, the pressure will mount on Gantz to enter a rightwing unity government with Netanyahu, probably on Netanyahu’s terms.

Disillusionment from Palestinian voters and a drop in their turnout might also mean Netanyahu’s coalition can scrape over the electoral threshold and win back power.

Additionally, Netanyahu is trying to grow the right-wing bloc by urging his far-right coalition partners to form an electoral alliance with the Jewish Power party, heirs of the outlawed Kach movement. They demand the expulsion of Palestinians from a Greater Israel.

The US decision to support a platform that promotes the transfer of large numbers of Palestinian citizens against their will could help rehabilitate the image of the racists of Jewish Power, making them look more politically respectable.

Internment camps

Before Netanyahu began lobbying for a transfer of the Triangle in 2017, he had sought to persuade former President Obama’s officials of its benefits as early as 2014. According to the Maariv newspaper, Netanyahu argued that the move would reduce the Palestinian minority from a fifth of Israel’s population to 12 per cent.

At the same time, the Israeli foreign ministry produced a document analysing how a “population exchange” might be presented as in accordance with international law. It concluded that the measure would require that either the affected citizens supported the move or the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas backed it.

Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Palestinian citizens are opposed.

Aware of the minority’s hostility, the Netanyahu government staged a drill in 2010 in which Israeli security services trained for an uprising in response to transferring the Triangle. As part of the exercise, internment camps were established for protesters.

Mahamid, the youth activist from Umm al-Fahm, said the plan had at least made the reality of life for Palestinian citizens clearer.

“We were told our citizenship would protect us, that it would get us our rights if we were loyal. But it never did. And now that is being made explicit in the threat to expel us.”

• First published in Middle East Eye

Democrats impeach Trump for Withholding Arms to Neo-Nazis in Ukraine

On December 18th, Donald Trump became the third U.S. president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. The second to be indicted before completing a first term, the 45th commander-in-chief must now survive a Senate trial before seeking reelection later this year. As many nonpartisan analysts predicted, the charges appear to have only improved his chances with the electorate as his approval rating saw an uptick after the articles were approved on grounds of “obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.” After dragging the country through three years of Russiagate which never panned out, the Democrats appear to be scoring yet another own goal. Even a near brush with war against Iran does not seem to have impacted Trump’s favorability, which could have been seen as a reversal of his campaign pledges to end America’s forever wars that were arguably a significant factor in his unlikely victory.

It was Trump’s rhetoric as a peace candidate suggesting rapprochement with Russia which made him a target of the political establishment and intelligence community, who subsequently blamed his shocking win on still unproven allegations of election interference by the Kremlin. Since he took office, Trump has done nearly everything short of declaring war on Moscow to appease the bipartisan anti-Russia consensus in Washington but to no avail. One such step was the decision to provide military aid to Ukraine amid its ongoing war in the eastern Donbass region against Russian-speaking separatists, a move the Obama administration decided against because of Kiev’s rampant corruption. Trump’s predecessor tapped his Vice President, Joe Biden, to head up an anti-corruption drive in Ukraine who instead used the opportunity to personally enrich his family by landing his son, Hunter, a job on the executive board of the country’s largest private gas company, Burisma Holdings.

Biden led the U.S. role in the 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine which overthrew the democratically-elected government of Viktor Yanukovych after he turned down a European Union Association Agreement for an economic bail-out from Russia that was the flashpoint for the subsequent Donbass war. Contrary to the Trump-Russia ‘collusion’ narrative, one figure who tried to lobby Yanukovych into signing the pro-austerity treaty was none other than Paul Manafort, the future Trump campaign manager indicted during the Russia probe for failing to register as a foreign agent while consulting for the deposed Ukrainian president. Manafort’s influence went against Russian interests in favor of the EU and was years before Trump was ever a candidate, but this did not stop the Democrats from later misconstruing it as evidence he was a back channel to the Kremlin. Meanwhile, Biden’s hand in the junta was revealed in an infamous leaked phone call between Victoria Nuland, Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Geoffrey Pyatt, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.

Nuland, who is the wife of leading neoconservative figure Robert Kagan, also spilled the beans that the U.S. invested as much as $5 billion dollars on regime change in Kiev when we were led to believe the Maidan was a spontaneous, popular revolt. Shortly after the putsch, Hunter Biden joined the board of directors at Burisma despite having no experience in Ukraine or the energy sector. The embattled fracking company was founded by a notorious oligarch and corrupt minister from the Yanukovych era, Mykola Zlochevsky, yet who unlike the former did not have to flee to Russia and curiously escaped prosecution in a money laundering case under the new Western-friendly regime — did he obtain immunity with Hunter Biden’s appointment? When the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Viktor Shokin, reportedly began to investigate the energy firm, the elder Biden did not just blackmail the post-Maidan government of Petro Poroshenko into sacking him by threatening to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees but openly bragged about it on camera.

As a reward, Poroshenko — nicknamed the “Chocolate King” for his background as a business tycoon in the confectionary industry — was touted as a reformer by the Obama administration despite multiple Wikileaks diplomatic cables featuring U.S. officials describing him as a “disgraced oligarch” “tainted by credible corruption allegations” and “a deeply unpopular politician that has widespread support among party leaders due to his past financial/organizational roles.” Incredibly, Poroshenko would replace Shokin with a former Minister of Internal Affairs, Yuriy Lutsenko, who had previously been imprisoned for embezzlement and corruption himself. It is still a matter of debate whether the top prosecutor was even actually looking into the activities of Burisma, but what is not in dispute — except to corporate media — is the criminal nature of Biden’s conduct who clearly allowed his family to profiteer off U.S. meddling in the country. After he became a 2020 presidential candidate and frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, the subject of Biden’s past wrongdoing was broached by Trump last July during a phone call with current Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

The controversial exchange occurred just a day after former FBI director Robert Mueller delivered his anticlimactic testimony before congress where the lead investigator in the Russia investigation did not appear familiar with the details of his own inquiry. The call transcript shows that Trump asked the newly elected Zelensky if he would assist U.S. Attorney General William Barr in determining whether there was truth to the rumors that the infamous Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer server given by the FBI to CrowdStrike Holdings was located in Ukraine. CrowdStrike was one of the cybersecurity firms hired by the DNC which questionably determined it was Russian intelligence which perpetrated alleged cyber attacks during the 2016 election. In other words, Trump wanted to find out if it was actually Kiev which “meddled” and framed the Kremlin. While he did not offer Zelensky compensation, it is true Trump asked for the favor shortly after mentioning the javelin missiles being provided to Ukraine in the military assistance. However, Biden’s extortion and the firing of Shokin is only raised later in the conversation and whether or not either matter was contingent upon the military aid is dubious and implicit at best. At the time of the correspondence, Zelensky and his government were unaware that the nearly $400 million in aid had been withheld and did not learn of its freezing until a month later, making any alleged quid pro quo doubtful.

The ambiguity of the conversation has not prevented Democrats from surmising that the security aid was suspended on the condition that Zelensky cooperate with Trump’s requests. While the exploits were arguably unethical, for the content of the exchange to be considered sufficient grounds for impeachment would set a very low bar and virtually ensure any future president can be indicted on a technicality for politicized reasons. In the meantime, the focus has shifted to Trump’s firing of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, because if threatening to withhold foreign aid alone qualifies, Biden is not only guilty of the same crime but more explicitly. Forget that from a procedural standpoint, without the required constitutional majority in the GOP-controlled Senate, the chances of removing Trump are dead in the water anyway. This can only mean the trial is really meant to be a smokescreen for Biden’s own palm-greasing in Ukraine while legally requiring his biggest primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, to spend time away from the campaign trail in attendance.

Not only has the legitimate question of whether the former Vice President and his son should also be probed been dismissed by mainstream media as a “conspiracy theory,” but completely lost in the political theater of the proceedings is if Washington ought to be providing defense assistance and fueling a proxy war with Russia to begin with. The Russiagate hoax successfully transformed the entirety of the Democratic Party into new cold warriors and its Ukrainegate sequel has only continued that hawkish trajectory. To make matters worse, Western media coverage of the scandal has omitted that many of the militias fighting with the Ukrainian army in Donbass are far right, neo-Nazi groups previously instrumental in transforming the 2014 Maidan protests into violence. One of the three main political parties which formed the opposition to Yanukovych was the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party whose leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, personally met with Biden in 2014 despite having been barred from entering the U.S. for his anti-semitism just a year prior.

Svoboda and its militant offshoots like the Azov regiment fighting in Donbass are the self-proclaimed ideological progeny of the fascist collaborators led by the Ukrainian nationalist, Stepan Bandera, who sided with Nazi Germany during its invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. In the Cold War, the CIA provided covert assistance to the post-war remnants of Bandera’s faction as it waged a failed insurgency in the 1950s. In post-Soviet Ukraine, a disturbing campaign of historical revisionism has rewritten Bandera‘s fifth column as nationalist heroes who fought solely for Ukrainian independence. This is not reflected in the historical record which shows they not only participated in the Third Reich’s war crimes but shared their racist ideology, as admitted in the CIA’s own declassified documents:

Altogether, during the 5 weeks of its existence the Bandera “state” destroyed over 5,000 Ukrainians, 15,000 Jews, and several thousand Poles. The “Ukrainian State” of Stepan Bandera ended its short but ignominious existence in August 1941, when it was announced in Lvov that Western Ukraine had been incorporated as the “District of Galicia” in the “General Governorship” (occupied Poland). And then a “new order,” Hitler style began to be introduced in the Ukraine. This in short, the story of Bandera’s “one-day holiday,” which his followers, relying on people’s forgetfulness, now try to present as a glorious and heroic page in the history of the Ukrainian liberation movement. In reality, it would be best, especially for the supporters of a free Ukraine, to erase from the history of their .. movement this infamous Hitlerite, fascist episode, which brought nothing. but shame and sorrow to the Ukraine.

Despite provisions in the aid barring weapons from going to the Azov detachment, the U.S. military has continued to provide them with arms and training. We are already witnessing blowback for this decision in the case of Jarrett William Smith, an ex-Army soldier arrested by the FBI for planning to assassinate former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and plotting terrorist attacks against major news networks. Smith had made plans to travel to Ukraine to fight with the Azov battalion and had previously volunteered in the Donbass war in 2017 with another Ukrainian neo-fascist paramilitary, the Right Sector.  Smith reportedly sought help in making contact with Azov from another AWOL soldier, Craig Lang, currently under house arrest in Ukraine and wanted for extradition to the U.S. for killing a Florida couple. Lang, who is considered a hero in the country for serving as a private mercenary with Right Sector, also spent time with Georgian Legion, a unit formed by ethnic Georgians conscripted on the Ukrainian side in the War in Donbass whose members are believed to have perpetrated the ‘false flag’ sniper attacks on the Maidan that was blamed on the government of Yanukovych.

Coincidentally, just as Americans are following the impeachment, trending on the internet streaming service Netflix is a new documentary by a pair of Israeli filmmakers that touches upon U.S. harboring of a Ukrainian Nazi called The Devil Next Door. The series recaps the fascinating case of John Demjanjuk, a retired autoworker and Ukrainian-born immigrant living in Cleveland, Ohio, who is suddenly accused of being a notoriously sadistic Nazi guard at Treblinka concentration camp in eastern Poland during World War II known as “Ivan the Terrible” and is extradited to Israel in 1986 to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. After impassioned but inconsistent eyewitness testimony by camp survivors, he was mistakenly found guilty of being the mysterious guard by an Israeli court and sentenced to death until his conviction was overturned under appeal in 1993. Years later, Demjanjuk is identified as a different prison guard at another camp in Sobibor and re-convicted, this time more convincingly by a German court. He maintained until his death in 2012 that he was again a victim of mistaken identity and during the war was a POW himself after serving in the Red Army until his capture by the Germans who then “forced” him to work as a guard at Trawniki, but never Sobibor. However, newly discovered photos of Demjanjuk at the death camp were just released which contradict his denials and increase the likelihood he was a willing defector.

The documentary sheds light on how Demjanjuk was able to gain safe harbor in the U.S. because of amendments to the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 which restricted immigration of those persecuted by the Nazis while giving preferential treatment to Polish and Ukrainian nationals who hid under new aliases in refugee camps while fleeing the Soviets. U.S. immigration services were only able to detect the entry of formal members of the Nazi regime while their local collaborators like Demjanjuk often snuck through unnoticed. The show also speaks briefly of the U.S. embrace of many “former” Nazis such as Wernher von Braun and the thousands of other German scientists recruited in Operation Paperclip who were employed by the U.S. government during the Cold War in order to gain an advantage over Moscow in the space race. However, the series neglects to mention the CIA’s support for Stepan Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), much less their descendants in Kiev today who are renaming city streets after SS veterans and tearing down Soviet statues to replace them with effigies of fascist quislings. Unfortunately, it is unlikely viewers will make any connection between the show and the current political scandal gripping Washington.

Netflix did receive objections over The Devil Next Door from the Polish government and its right-wing populist Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, who accused the streaming giant of “rewriting history” in its production by using a map of the country’s post-1945 borders while implying that Poland shared culpability for Nazi war crimes that occurred in its territory. Much of western Ukraine became eastern Poland overnight with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the German occupation, one of the reasons why a native of northwestern Ukraine like Demjanjuk ended up in the neighboring country. Like the Banderites doctoring history in Kiev, Polish nationalists are seeking to revise the historical record of the many Poles who collaborated with the Germans in the slaughter of their fellow compatriots as well. This historical negationism continued in Poland’s recent row with Russia over the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in which Morawiecki despicably made a false equivalency between the USSR and Nazi Germany with a disturbing reinterpretation encouraged by the U.S. who seek to take credit for the Soviet accomplishment of freeing the concentration camp in 1945. Nothing is sacred to the Atlanticists who are willing to politicize anything in the name of their geostrategy of encircling Moscow and ultimate goal of conquering Eurasia.

That the Democrats are not impeaching Trump for an actual unconstitutional offense like the diverting of military funds to his border wall without congressional approval is revealing of its true motivations. Trump only crossed a line when he went after another member of the political establishment and fleetingly halted the U.S. war machine in its aggression toward Moscow. It is reminiscent of what some have argued were the real reasons for the impeachment of Richard Nixon that resulted from the Watergate scandal. Similarly, Nixon was forced to resign in 1974 after he targeted other members of the elite in the wire-tapping and break-in of the DNC headquarters, not his use of the CIA to violate its own charter for domestic espionage on American citizens active in the anti-war movement. Like Trump’s rhetoric toward Moscow, Nixon had also broken with foreign policy orthodoxies both in his unprecedented restoration of diplomacy with China and détente with the Soviet Union negotiating arms control.

The dangerous consequences of the campaign against Trump for deviating from the anti-Russia foreign policy dogma can be seen in the unparalleled recent NATO war games and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists pushing the hand of the Doomsday Clock forward to just 100 seconds to midnight, its closest ever approach which even exceeds that of the beginning of the Cold War in the early 1950s. Trump would never have armed Ukraine to begin with if not for the constant pressure of the Russia investigation and the need to not appear soft on Moscow. It is clear that the impeachment is nothing more than an inter-war between different factions of the elite and not only has it reduced the American people to onlookers, it may get us all killed in a nuclear holocaust in the process. For an excellent in-depth investigation of the roots of the crisis, Revealing Ukraine, the anticipated follow-up to the 2016 documentary Ukraine on Fire directed by Igor Lopatonok and produced by Oliver Stone, is highly recommended.

Crisis and Opportunity: The ‘Deal of the Century’ Challenge for Palestinians

After several postponements, US President, Donald Trump, has finally revealed the details of his Middle East plan, dubbed ‘Deal of the Century’, in a press conference in Washington on January 28.

Standing triumphantly beside Trump, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, must have surely understood that the timing of the announcement, only a few weeks before Israel’s third general elections in one year, was tailored especially to fit the embattled Israeli leader’s domestic agenda.

Consisting of 80 pages, 50 of which are entirely dedicated to the plan’s economic component, the document was a rehash of previous Israeli proposals that have been rejected by Palestinians and Arab governments for failing to meet the minimum standards of justice, equality and human rights.

Former Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, contended in an interview that the plan is not even American, but an Israeli one.

“What you heard last night from Trump is what I heard from Netanyahu and his negotiating team in 2011-2012,” Erekat said. “I can assure you that the US team did not make a single word or comma in this program. I have the protocols and I am willing to reveal to you what we have been offered. This is the plan of Netanyahu and the settler council.”

It was no surprise, then, to read the reaction of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, who assigned Trump’s plan to the “dustbin of history”.

As expected, Trump has granted Netanyahu everything that he and Israel ever wanted. The American vision for Middle East ‘peace’ does not demand the uprooting of a single illegal Jewish settlement and recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘undivided’ capital. It speaks of a conditioned and disfigured Palestinian state that can only be achieved based on vague expectations; it wholly rejects the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, and fails to mention the word ‘occupation’ even once.

Obviously, only Israel benefits from the US plan; the Zionist discourse, predicated on maximum territorial gains with minimal Palestinian presence, has finally prevailed. Every Israeli request has been met, to the last one. Meanwhile, Palestinians received nothing, aside from the promise of chasing another mirage of a Palestinian state that has no territorial continuity and no true sovereignty.

Palestinian concerns continue to be ignored, as Palestinian rights have been ignored for many years, even during the heyday of the ‘peace process’, in the early and mid-1990s. At the time, all fundamental issues had been relegated to the ‘final status negotiations’, which have never taken place.

The ‘Deal of the Century’ merely validated the status quo ante as envisioned and unilaterally carried out by Israel.

That said, Trump’s plan will fail to resolve the conflict. Worse, it will exacerbate it even further, for Israel now has a blank check to speed up its colonial venture, to entrench its military occupation and to further oppress Palestinians, who will certainly continue to resist.

As for the economic component of the plan, history has proven that there can be no economic prosperity under military occupation. Netanyahu, and others before him, tried such dubious methods, of ‘economic peace’ and such, and all have miserably failed.

Time and again, the UN has made it clear that it follows a different political trajectory than that followed by Washington, and that all US decisions regarding the status of Jerusalem, the illegal settlements and the Golan Heights, are null and void. Only international law matters, as none of Trump’s actions in recent years have succeeded in significantly altering Arab and international consensus on the rights of the Palestinians.

As for the status of – and Palestinian rights in their occupied city – East Jerusalem, rebranding a few neighborhoods – Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis – as al-Quds, or East Jerusalem, is an old Israeli plan that has already failed in the past. The late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, had enough political sagacity to reject it, and neither Abbas nor any other Palestinian official would dare compromise on the historic and legal Palestinian rights in the city.

The Palestinian leadership cannot be absolved from its responsibility towards the Palestinian people, and its unmitigated failure to develop a comprehensive national strategy.

Immediately after Trump announced his plan, Abbas called on all Palestinian factions, including his rivals in the Hamas movement, to unite and to develop a common strategy to counter the ‘Deal of the Century’.

Knowing that the US-Israeli plot was imminent, why did Abbas wait this long to call for a common strategy?

National unity among Palestinians should never be used as a bargaining chip as a scare tactic, or as a last resort option aimed at validating ineffectual Abbas in the eyes of his people.

The PA is now facing an existential crisis. Its very formation in 1994 was meant to marginalize the more democratically-encompassing Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

According to the new American diktats, the PA has already outlasted its usefulness.

As for Israel, the PA is only needed to maintain ‘security coordination’ with the Israeli army, which essentially means ensuring the safety of the illegal and armed Jewish settlers in occupied Palestine.

While unity among Palestinian parties is an overriding demand, Abbas’ PA cannot expect to maintain this ridiculous balancing act: expecting true and lasting national unity while still diligently serving the role expected of him by Israel and its allies.

While Trump’s sham ‘plan’ does not fundamentally alter US foreign policy in Israel and Palestine – as US bias towards Israel preceded Trump by decades – it has definitely ended the so-called ‘peace process’ charade, which divided the Palestinians into ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ camps.

Now, all Palestinians have become ‘extremists’ from Washington’s viewpoint, all equally shunned and marginalized.

Abbas would be terribly mistaken if he thinks that the old political discourse can be saved,  which was, oddly enough, written in Washington.

The problem with the Palestinian leadership is that, despite its frequent protestations and angry condemnations, it is yet to take independent initiatives or operate outside the American-Israeli paradigm.

And this is the Palestinian leadership’s greatest challenge at this stage. Will it move forward with a Palestinian-centric strategy or persist in the same place, regurgitating old language and reminiscing of the good old days?

The Trump Plan is Just a Cover for Israel’s Final Land Grab

The Trump “Vision for Peace” will never be implemented – and not because the Palestinians reject it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s enthusiastic public embrace of the plan belies the fact that the Israeli right detest it too.

The headlines are that, with US blessing, Israel’s dream is about to be realised: it will be able to annex its dozens of illegal settlements in the West Bank and the vast agricultural basin of the Jordan Valley. In return, the Palestinians can have a state on 15 per cent of their homeland.

But that is not the real aim of this obviously one-sided “peace” plan. Rather, it is intended as the prelude to something far worse for the Palestinians: the final eradication of the last traces of their political project for national liberation.

US President Donald Trump’s plan is neither a blueprint for peace nor a decree from the heart of the US empire. Rather it is a decoy, an enormous red herring created in Tel Aviv and then marketed by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Trump may think his vision could lead to a “realistic” two-state solution. Even many critics assume it envisions the establishment of a highly circumscribed, enfeebled Palestinian state. But for Israeli leaders it serves another purpose entirely: it provides diplomatic cover while they put the finishing touches to their version of a one-state solution inside Greater Israel.

Netanyhau has crafted a “deal of the century” designed to fail from the outset – and managed it through deeply partisan White House intermediaries like David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, and Kushner. For all of them, its purpose is to provide a fresh alibi for Israel and Washington to continue disappearing the Palestinians more than two decades after the illusions of the earlier Oslo Accords “peace” process can no longer be sustained.

Israeli bad faith

That this is intended as a grand deception should not surprise us. The current plan follows a tried and tested tradition of US-dominated “peacemaking” that has utterly failed to bring peace but has succeeded triumphantly in smothering and erasing historic Palestine, gradually transforming it into Greater Israel.

Trump’s deal is, in fact, the third major framework – after the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan and the Oslo accords initiated in 1993 – supposedly offering territorial partition between Israelis and Palestinians. The lesson of each has been that Israel and the US have returned after each inevitable and intended failure to offer the Palestinians even less of their homeland.

On each occasion, Israel (and before its creation, the Zionist leadership) has signed up to these peacemaking initiatives in bad faith, forcing Palestinians, as the weaker party, to reject them. And each time, that rejection has been weaponised by Israel – used as a pretext to steal more territory.

This plan is no different from the others. It is simply the latest iteration of a pattern of settler-colonial expansion sponsored by Western powers. But this time, if Israel succeeds, there will be nothing left of Palestine even to pretend to negotiate over.

UN partition rejected

The idea of division first took substantive form with the United Nations Partition Plan of late 1947. It proposed creating two states: a Jewish one on 55 percent of Palestine would supposedly serve as compensation for Europe’s recent genocide; and an Arab one, on the remaining 45 percent, would be for the native Palestinian population.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father, knew that the Palestinians were bound to reject a plan premised on their dispossession. That was the very reason he signed on. He hated the limitations imposed by the UN on his emerging Jewish state – he wanted all of Palestine – but was only too aware that Palestinians hated the partition proposal even more than he did. He knew his good faith would never be put to the test.

Under cover of the ensuing, year-long war, Ben-Gurion sent his troops way beyond the partition lines, seizing 78 percent of historic Palestine and transforming the area into a Jewish state. In 1967, his successors would grab the rest, as part of a surprise strike against Egypt and other Arab states. And so, the 53-year-long occupation was born.

Oslo’s separation logic

Just as now with the Trump plan, the Oslo process of the 1990s was not rooted in the idea of establishing a sovereign Palestinian state – only of pretending to offer one. In fact, statehood wasn’t mentioned in the Oslo accords, only implied by a series of intended Israeli withdrawals from the occupied territories over a five-year period that Israel reneged on.

Instead, Oslo was seen by the Israeli side, led then by Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, chiefly in terms of an “economic peace”. The new rallying cry of “separation” was intended to transform fragments of the occupied territories into free-trade zones to exploit a captive Palestinian labour force, and then to normalise relations with the Arab world.

Oslo’s only meaningful legacy – the Palestinian Authority, today led by Mahmoud Abbas – still clings to its primary role: as prison guard overseeing Palestinians’ confinement in ever-shrinking fragments of the occupied territories.

The Trump plan recognises that Oslo is now more an obstacle than a vehicle for further Palestinian dispossession. Israel has absolute control of East Jerusalem, the planned capital of a Palestinian state. The army and settlers have cemented Israeli rule over 62 percent of the West Bank – territory Oslo declared as Area C – that includes its best agricultural land, water sources and mineral wealth. Gaza, isolated from the rest of the occupied territories, is besieged.

The only thing left for Israel to do now is formalise that control and ensure it is irreversible. That requires making permanent the current apartheid system in the West Bank, which enforces one set of laws for Jewish settlers and another for Palestinians.

Palestinian obligations

Trump’s “Vision for Peace” is needed only because Oslo has outlived its usefulness. The Trump plan radically overhauls the Oslo process formula: instead of a supposed sharing of obligations – “land in return for peace” – those obligations are now imposed exclusively on the Palestinian side.

Under Oslo, Israel was supposed to withdraw from the occupied territories as a precondition for achieving Palestinian statehood and an end to hostilities. In reality, Israel did the exact opposite.

Under the Trump plan, Israel gets the land it wants immediately – by annexing its illegal settlements and the Jordan Valley – and it gets more land later, unless Palestinians agree to a long list of impossible preconditions.

Even then, Palestinians would only be entitled to a demilitarised, non-sovereign state on less than 15 percent of historic Palestine, amounting to a patchwork of enclaves connected by a warren of tunnels and bridges, surrounded by armed, fortress-like Israeli communities.

But even this vision of pseudo-Palestinian statehood will never come to fruition – something Netanyahu has made sure of. The Trump plan is a catalogue of the most unacceptable, humiliating concessions that could ever be demanded of the Palestinian people.

Impossible preconditions

It offers them a state that would be unlike any state ever envisaged. Not only would it have no army, but it would have to permanently accommodate a foreign army, the Israeli one. Palestine would have no control over its borders, and therefore its foreign relations and trade. It would be deprived of key resources, such as its offshore waters, which include large deposits of natural gas; its airspace; and its electromagnetic spectrum.

It would be deprived of its most fertile land, its quarries, its water sources, and access to the Dead Sea and its related mineral and cosmetics industries. As a result, the Palestinian economy would continue to be entirely aid dependent. Proposed industrial zones in the Negev, accessible only through Israeli territory, could be closed off by Israel at a whim.

East Jerusalem, including its holy sites and tourism industry, would be sealed off from the Palestinian state, which would have its capital instead outside the city, in Abu Dis. That village would be renamed Al-Quds, the Holy, although the deception would satisfy outsiders only, not Palestinians.

Intentionally lacking specifics for the time being, the Trump vision suggests Israel and Jordan would eventually share sovereignty over Jerusalem’s most important holy site, Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The US appears ready to let Israel forcibly divide the site so that Jewish extremists, who want to blow up the mosque and replace it with a temple, can pray there – in a repetition of what happened earlier to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

No legal redress

There would be no Palestinian right of return. Abbas would need to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, retrospectively sanctioning Palestinians’ dispossession and colonisation.

The Trump plan demands that the PA strip the families of political prisoners and martyrs killed by the Israeli army – the Palestinian equivalents of Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko – of their welfare payments.

In an interview with CNN this week, Kushner made clear quite how intentionally contradictory his demands of Palestinians are. Before it can be recognised as a state, the Palestinian Authority is expected to enforce the disarmament of the Palestinian factions, including its militant rival Hamas.

But it will have to do so while behaving like some kind of idealised Switzerland, according to Kushner, who insists that it uphold the most stringent democratic standards and absolute respect for human rights.

He indicated that the PA would fail such tests. It was, he said, a “police state” and “not exactly a thriving democracy”.

The Trump plan’s proposed democratic Palestine, it should be noted, would not be eligible to partake of international justice. Should Israel commit atrocities against Palestinians, the PA would have to forgo any appeals to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which adjudicates on war crimes.

And in a final proof of its determination to ensure Palestinians reject the deal, the Trump administration has dusted off a forcible transfer plan long promoted by the former far-right defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Israel could then redraw the borders to strip potentially hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Israel of their citizenship. Such a move would constitute a war crime.

Nightmare scenario

The Trump plan’s secret weapon is hidden in the “four-year clause”, as Kushner’s CNN interview makes explicit. He said: “If they [the PA] don’t think that they can uphold these standards, then I don’t think we can get Israel to take the risk to recognise them as a state, to allow them to take control of themselves, because the only thing more dangerous than what we have now is a failed state.”

Israel and the US know that not only will Abbas or his successor never consent to the White House’s nightmare scenario, but that they could never meet these preconditions even if they wished to. But if the Palestinians don’t concede everything demanded of them within four years, Israel will be free to start grabbing and annexing yet more Palestinian land.

And worse still, Israel, the US and Europe will seek to blame Palestinians for choosing apartheid over statehood. Apologists will say once again that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.

In other words, if Palestinians refuse to disappear themselves in line with the Trump vision, it will be assumed that they consent to Israel’s permanent apartheid rule. Palestinians will have forfeited their right to any kind of state on their historic homeland, ever.

That is the real Trump vision, designed in Israel and soon to be rolled out in Palestine.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Duh, Jared! Who built the PA as a Police State?

Maybe something good will come out of the Trump plan, after all. By pushing the Middle East peace process to its logical conclusion, Donald Trump has made crystal clear something that was supposed to have been obscured: that no US administration has ever really seen peace as the objective of its “peacemaking”.

The current White House is no exception – it has just been far more incompetent at concealing its joint strategy with the Israelis. But that is what happens when a glorified used-car salesman, Donald Trump, and his sidekick son-in-law, the schoolboy-cum-businessman Jared Kushner, try selling us the “deal of the century”. Neither, it seems, has the political or diplomatic guile normally associated with those who rise to high office in Washington.

During an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria this week, Kushner dismally failed to cloak the fact that his “peace” plan was designed with one goal only: to screw the Palestinians over.

The real aim is so transparent that even Zakaria couldn’t stop himself from pointing it out. In CNN’s words, he noted that “no Arab country currently satisfies the requirements Palestinians are being expected to meet in the next four years – including ensuring freedom of press, free and fair elections, respect for human rights for its citizens, and an independent judiciary.”

Trump’s senior adviser suddenly found himself confronted with the kind of deadly, unassailable logic usually overlooked in CNN coverage. Zakaria observed:

Isn’t this just a way of telling the Palestinians you’re never actually going to get a state because … if no Arab countries today [are] in a position that you are demanding of the Palestinians before they can be made a state, effectively, it’s a killer amendment?

Indeed it is.

In fact, the “Peace to Prosperity” document unveiled last week by the White House is no more than a list of impossible preconditions the Palestinians must meet to be allowed to sit down with the Israelis at the negotiating table. If they don’t do so within four years, and quickly reach a deal, the very last slivers of their historic homeland – the parts not already seized by Israel – can be grabbed too, with US blessing.

Preposterous conditions

Admittedly, all Middle East peace plans in living memory have foisted these kinds of prejudicial conditions on the Palestinians. But this time many of the preconditions are so patently preposterous – contradictory even – that the usually pliable corporate press corps are embarrassed to be seen ignoring the glaring inconsistencies.

The CNN exchange was so revealing in part because Kushner was triggered by Zakaria’s observation that the Palestinians had to become a model democracy – a kind of idealised Switzerland, while still under belligerent Israeli occupation – before they could be considered responsible enough for statehood.

How was that plausible, Zakaria hinted, when Saudi Arabia, despite its appalling  human rights abuses, nonetheless remains a close strategic US ally, and Saudi leaders continue to be intimates of the Trump business empire? No one in Washington is seriously contemplating removing US recognition of Saudi Arabia because it is a head-chopping, women-hating, journalist-killing religious fundamentalist state.

But Zakaria could have made an even more telling point – was he not answerable to CNN executives. There are also hardly any western states that would pass the democratic, human rights-respecting threshold set by the Trump plan for the Palestinians.

Think of Britain’s flouting last year of a ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the Chagos Islanders must be allowed to return home decades after the UK expelled them so the US could build a military base on their land. Or the Windrush scandal, when it was revealed that a UK government “hostile environment” policy was used to illegally deport British citizens to the Caribbean because of the colour of their skin.

Or what about the US evading due process by holding prisoners offshore at Guantanamo? Or its use of torture against Iraqi prisoners, or its reliance on extraordinary rendition, or its extrajudicial assassinations using drones overseas, including against its own citizens?

Or for that matter, its jailing and extortionate fining of whistleblower Chelsea Manning, despite the Obama administration granting her clemency. US officials want to force her to testify against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for his role in publishing leaks of US war crimes committed in Iraq, including the shocking Collateral Murder video.

And while we’re talking about Assange and about Iraq…

Would the records of either the US or UK stand up to scrutiny if they were subjected to the same standards now required of the Palestinian leadership.

Impertinent questions

But let’s fast forward to the heart of the matter. Angered by Zakaria’s impertinence at mildly questioning the logic of the Trump plan, Kushner let rip.

He called the Palestinian Authority a “police state” and one that is “not exactly a thriving democracy”. It would be impossible, he added, for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians until the Palestinians, not Israel’s occupying army, changed its ways. It was time for the Palestinians to prioritise human rights and democracy, while at the same time submitting completely to Israel’s belligerent, half-century occupation that violates their rights and undermines any claims Israel might have to being a democracy.

Kushner said:

If they [the Palestinians] don’t think that they can uphold these standards, then I don’t think we can get Israel to take the risk to recognize them as a state, to allow them to take control of themselves, because the only thing more dangerous than what we have now is a failed state.

Let’s take a moment to unpack that short statement to examine its many conceptual confusions.

First, there’s the very obvious point that “police states” and dictatorships are not “failed states”. Not by a long shot. In fact, police states and dictatorships are usually the very opposite of failed states. Iraq was an extremely able state under Saddam Hussein, in terms both of its ability to provide welfare and educational services and of its ruthless, brutal efficiency in crushing dissent.

Iraq only became a failed state when the US illegally invaded and executed Saddam, leaving a local leadership vacuum that sucked in an array of competing actors who quickly made Iraq ungovernable.

Oppressive by design

Second, as should hardly need pointing out, the PA can’t be a police state when it isn’t even a state. After all, that’s where the Palestinians are trying to get to, and Israel and the US are blocking the way. It is obviously something else. What that “something else” is brings us to the third point.

Kushner is right that the PA is increasingly authoritarian and uses its security forces in oppressive ways – because that’s exactly what it was set up to do by Israel and the US.

Palestinians had assumed that the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s would lead to the creation of a sovereign state at the completion of that five-year peace process. But that never happened. Denied statehood ever since, the PA now amounts to nothing more than a security contractor for the Israelis. Its unspoken job is to make the Palestinian people submit to their permanent occupation by Israel.

The self-defeating deal contained in Oslo’s “land for peace” formula was this: the PA would build Israeli trust by crushing all resistance to the occupation, and in return Israel would agree to hand over more territory and security powers to the PA.

Bound by its legal obligations, the PA had two possible paths ahead of it: either it would become a state under Israeli licence, or it would serve as a Vichy-like regime suppressing Palestinian aspirations for national liberation. Once the US and Israel made clear they would deny the Palestinians statehood at every turn, the PA’s fate was sealed.

Put another way, the point of Oslo from the point of view of the US and Israel was to make the PA an efficient, permanent police state-in-waiting, and one that lacked the tools to threaten Israel.

And that’s exactly what was engineered. Israel refused to let the Palestinians have a proper army in case, bidding to gain statehood, that army turned its firepower on Israel. Instead a US army general, Keith Dayton, was appointed to oversee the training of the Palestinian police forces – to help the PA better repress those Palestinians who tried to exercise their right in international law to resist Israel’s belligerent occupation.

Presumably, it is a sign of that US programme’s success that Kushner can now describe the PA as a police state.

Freudian slip

In his CNN interview, Kushner inadvertently highlighted the Catch-22 created for the Palestinians. The Trump “peace” process penalises the Palestinian leadership for their very success in achieving the targets laid out for them in the Oslo “peace” process.

Resist Israel’s efforts to deprive the Palestinians of statehood and the PA is classified as a terrorist entity and denied statehood. Submit to Israel’s dictates and oppress the Palestinian people to prevent them demanding statehood and the PA is classified as a police state and denied statehood. Either way, statehood is unattainable. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Kushner’s use of the term “failed state” is revealing too, in a Freudian slip kind of way. Israel doesn’t just want to steal some Palestinian land before it creates a small, impotent Palestinian state. Ultimately, what Israel envisions for the Palestinians is no statehood at all, not even of the compromised, collaborationist kind currently embodied by the PA.

An unabashed partisan

Kushner, however, has done us a favour inadvertently. He has given away the nature of the US bait-and-switch game towards the Palestinians. Unlike Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and Aaron David Miller – previous American Jewish diplomats overseeing US “peace efforts” – Kushner is not pretending to be an “honest broker”. He is transparently, unabashedly partisan.

In an earlier CNN interview, one last week with Christiane Amanpour, Kushner showed just how personal is his antipathy towards the Palestinians and their efforts to achieve even the most minimal kind of statehood in a tiny fraction of their historic homeland.

He sounded more like a jilted lover, or an irate spouse forced into couples therapy, than a diplomat in charge of a complex and incendiary peace process. He struggled to contain his bitterness as he extemporised a well-worn but demonstrably false Israeli talking-point that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.

He told Amanpour: “They’re going to screw up another opportunity, like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.”

The reality is that Kushner, like the real author of the Trump plan, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would prefer that the Palestinians had never existed. He would rather this endless peace charade could be discarded, freeing him to get on with enriching himself with his Saudi pals.

And if the Trump plan can be made to work, he and Netanyahu might finally get their way.

The United States of America’s Doll House: A Vast Tapestry of Lies and Illusions

This is an updated and revised version of the full cover-story that appeared in the important publication, garrison: The Journal of History and Deep Politics, Issue 003.  Issue 004 is due out this week and I urge readers to purchase it.  You will read articles there that you will find no place else, brilliant, eye-opening analyses of issues that the MSM will never touch.

*****

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

— Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, 2005

While truth-tellers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning sit inside jail cells and Edward Snowden lives in exile in Russia, the American people hole up in an illusionary dwelling constructed to reduce them to children afraid of the truth.  Or is it the dark?  This is not new; it has been so for a very long time, but it has become a more sophisticated haunted doll’s house, an electronic one with many bells and whistles and images that move faster than the eye can see. We now inhabit a digital technological nightmare controlled by government and corporate forces intent on dominating every aspect of people’s lives. This is true despite the valiant efforts of dissidents to use the technology for human liberation. The old wooden doll houses, where you needed small fingers to rearrange the furniture, now only need thumbs that can click you into your cell’s fantasy world.  So many dwell there in the fabricated reality otherwise known as propaganda.  The result is mass hallucination.

In a 1969 interview, Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans and the only person to ever bring to trial a case involving the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, said that as a result of the CIA’s murderous coup d’état on behalf of the military-industrial-financial-media-intelligence complex that rules the country to this day, the American people have been subjected to a fabricated reality that has rendered them a nation of passive Eichmanns, who sit in their living rooms, popping pills and watching television as their country’s military machine mows down people by the millions and the announcers tell them all the things they should be afraid of, such as bacteria on cutting boards and Russian spies infiltrating their hair salons.  Garrison said:

The creation of such inanities as acceptable reality and unacceptable reality is necessary for the self-preservation of the super-state against its greatest danger: understanding on the part of the people as to what is really happening.  All factors which contribute to its burgeoning power are exaggerated.  All factors which might reveal its corrosive effect on the nation are concealed.  The result is to place the populace in the position of persons living in a house whose windows no longer reveal the outside but on which murals have been painted.  Some of the murals are frightening and have the effect of reminding the occupants of the outside menaces against which the paternal war machine is protecting them.  Other murals are pleasant to remind them how nice things are inside the house.

But to live like this is to live in a doll’s house.  If life has one lesson to teach us, it is that to live in illusion is ultimately disastrous.

In the doll’s house into which America gradually has been converted, a great many of our basic assumptions are totally illusory.1

Fifty years have disappeared behind us since the eloquent and courageous Garrison (read On the Trail of the Assassins) metaphorically voiced the truth, despite the CIA’s persistent efforts to paint him as an unhinged lunatic through its media mouthpieces.  These days they would probably just lock him up or send him fleeing across borders, as with Assange, Manning, and Snowden.

It is stunning to take a cue from his comment regarding the JFK assassination, when he suggested that one reverse the lone assassin scenario and place it in the U.S.S.R.  No American could possibly believe a tale that a former Russian soldier, trained in English and having served at a top Soviet secret military base, who had defected to the U.S. and then returned home with the help of the K.G.B., could kill the Russian Premier with a defective and shoddy rifle and then be shot to death in police headquarters in Moscow by a K.G.B. connected hit man so there would be no trial and the K.G.B. would go scot free.  That would be a howler!  So too, of course, are the Warren Commission’s fictions about Oswald.

Snowden, Assange, and Manning

If we then update this mental exercise and imagine that Snowden, Assange, and Manning were all Russian, and that they released information about Russian war crimes, political corruption,  and a system of total electronic surveillance of the Russian population, and were then jailed or sent fleeing into exile as a result, who in the U.S., liberal, libertarian or conservative, would possibly believe the Russian government’s accusations that these three were criminals.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama, the transparency president, made sure to treat them as such, all the while parading as a “liberal” concerned for freedom of speech and the First Amendment.  He made sure that Snowden and Manning were charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, and that Assange was corralled via false Swedish sex charges so he had to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (a form of jail).  He brought Espionage Act prosecutions against eight people, more than all former presidents combined.   He hypocritically pardoned Manning on his way out the door as if this would polish his deluded liberal legacy after making her suffer terribly through seven years of imprisonment.  He set the stage for Trump to re-jail Manning to try to get this most courageous woman to testify against Assange, which she will not do, and for the collaborationist British government to jail Assange in preparation for his extradition to the United States and a show trial.  As for Snowden, he has been relegated to invisibility, good for news headlines once and for a movie, but now gone and forgotten.

Obama and Trump, arch political “enemies,” have made sure that those who reveal the sordid acts of the American murderous state are cruelly punished and silenced.  This is how the system works, and for most Americans, it is not happening.  It doesn’t matter.  They don’t care, just as they don’t care that Obama backed the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras that has resulted in so many deaths at the hands of U.S trained killers, and then Trump ranted about all these “non-white” people fleeing to the U.S. to escape a hell created by the U.S., as it has been doing throughout Latin America for so long.  Who does care about the truth?  Has anyone even noticed how the corporate media has disappeared the “news” of all those desperate people clamoring to enter the U.S.A. from Mexico?  One day they were there and in the headlines; the next day, gone.  It’s called news.

The Sleepwalkers

But even though a majority of Americans have never believed the government’s explanation for JFK’s murder, they nevertheless have insouciantly gone to sleep for half a century in the doll’s house of illusions as the killing and the lies of their own government have increased over the years and any semblance of a democratic and peaceful America has gone extinct. The fates of courageous whistle-blowers Assange, Manning, and Snowden don’t concern them. The fates of Hondurans don’t concern them.  The fates of Syrians don’t concern them. The fates of Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis, Palestinians don’t concern them. The fates of America’s victims all around the world don’t concern them.  Indifference reigns.

Obviously, if you are reading this, you are not one of the sleepwalkers and are awake to the parade of endless lies and illusions and do care. But you are in a minority.

That is not the case for most Americans.  When approximately 129 million people cast their votes for Donald Trump and HilIary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, you know idiocy reigns and nothing has been learned. Ditto for the votes for Obama, Bush, Clinton, et al.  You can keep counting back.  It is an ugly fact and sad to say.  Such a repetition compulsion is a sign of a deep sickness, and it will no doubt be repeated in the 2020 election.  The systemic illusion must be preserved at all costs and the warfare state supported in its killing.  It is the American way.

It is true that average Americans have not built the doll’s house; that is the handiwork of the vast interconnected and far-reaching propaganda arms of the U.S. government and their media accomplices.  But that does not render them innocent for accepting decades of fabricated reality for so-called peace of mind by believing that a totally corrupt system works.  The will to believe is very powerful, as is the propaganda.   The lesson that Garrison spoke of has been lost on far too many people, even on those who occasionally leave the doll house for a walk, but who only go slightly down the path for fear of seeing too much reality and connecting too many dots.  There is plain ignorance, then there is culpable ignorance, to which I shall return.

Denying Existential Freedom

One of the first things an authoritarian governing elite must do is to convince people that they are not free.  This has been going on for at least forty years, ever since the Church Committee’s revelations about the CIA in the mid-seventies, including its mind-control program, MKULTRA.  Everyone was appalled at the epiphany, so a different tactic was added.  Say those programs have been ended when, in fact, they were continued under other even deeper secret programs, and just have “experts” – social, psychological, and biological “scientists” – repeat ad infinitum that there is no longer any mind control since we now know there is no mind; it is an illusion, and it all comes down to the brain.  Biology is destiny, except in culturally diversionary ways in which freedom to choose is extolled – e.g. the latest fashions, gender identity, the best hair style, etc.  Create and lavishly fund programs for the study of the brain, while supporting and promoting a vast expansion of pharmaceutical drugs to control people.  Do this in the name of helping people with their emotional and behavioral problems that are rooted in their biology and are beyond their control.  And create criteria to convince people that they are sick and that their distress has nothing to do with the coup d’état that has rendered them “citizens” of a police state.

We have been interminably told that our lives revolve around our brains (our bodies) and that the answers to our problems lie with more brain research, drugs, genetic testing, etc. It is not coincidental that the U. S. government declared the 1990s the decade of brain research, followed up with 2000-2010 as the decade of the behavior project, and our present decade being devoted to mapping the brain and artificial intelligence, organized by the Office of Science and Technology Project and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). How convenient! George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, Trump — what a difference! But this is science and the welfare of the world.  Science for idiots.

Drip by drip, here and there, in the pattern of the best propaganda, as the French sociologist Jacques Ellul says – “for propaganda is not the touch of the magic wand. It is based on slow, constant impregnation. It creates conviction and compliance through imperceptible influences that are effective only by continuous repetition”2 – articles, books, media reports have reiterated that people are “determined” by biological, genetic, social, and psychological forces over which they have no control. To assert that people are free in the Sartrean sense (en soir, condemned to freedom, or free will) has come to be seen as the belief of a delusional fool living in the past, a bad philosopher, an anti-scientist, a poorly informed religionist, one nostalgic for existential cafes, Gauloises, and black berets.  One who doesn’t grasp the truth since he doesn’t read the New York Times or watch CBS television. One who believes in nutty conspiracy theories.

The conventional propaganda – I almost said wisdom – created through decades-long media and academic repetition, is that we are not free.

Let me repeat: we are not free.  We are not free.

Investigator reporter Jon Rappoport has consistently exposed the propaganda involved in the creation and expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) with its pseudo-scientific falsehoods and collusion between psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry. 3 As he correctly notes, the CIA’s MKULTRA mind-control program has morphed into modern psychiatry, both with the same objectives of disabling and controlling people by convincing them that they are not free and are in need of a chemical brain bath.

Can anyone with an awareness of this history doubt there is a hidden hand behind this development?  Once you have convinced people that they are not free in the most profound sense, the rest is child’s play.  Convinced that they are puppets, they become puppets to be willingly jerked around.

“He played with me just as I used to play with dolls,” says Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

Now who would want to get people to believe they were not free?  The answer is obvious given a minute of thought.  It is not just Nora’s husband Torvald.

Perfect examples of the persistence of the long-term, repetitive, impregnating propaganda appear in news headlines constantly.  Here is an egregious example concerning the little understood case of the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy.  On Friday, August 30, 2019, Sirhan, who has been in prison for fifty-two years for the murder of RFK that he did not commit, was stabbed by another prisoner.  A quick click through the MSM headlines reporting this showed the same words repeated by all the corporate media as they fulfilled their function as CIA stenographers. One example, from CBS News, will suffice: “Robert Kennedy assassin hospitalized after prison stabbing.” RFK assassin, RFK assassin, RFK assassin … all the media said the same thing, which they have been doing for fifty-two years. Their persistency endures despite all the facts that refute their disinformation and show that Senator Kennedy, who was on his way to becoming president, was murdered, like his brother John, by forces of the national security state.

 Sartre and Bad Faith

Lying and dissembling are ubiquitous.  Being deceived by the media liars is mirrored in people’s personal lives.  People lie and want to be deceived.  They choose to play dumb, to avoid a confrontation with truth.  They want to be nice (Latin, nescire, not to know, to be ignorant) and to be liked.  They want to tuck themselves into a safe social and cultural framework where they imagine they will be safe. They like the doll’s house. They choose to live in what Jean Paul Sartre called bad faith (mauvaise foi):  In Existential Psychoanalysis he put it thus:

In bad faith it is from myself that I am hiding the truth. But with this ‘lie’ to myself, the one to whom the lie is told and the one who lies are one and the same person, which means that I must know in my capacity as deceiver the truth which is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived.

Such bad faith allows people to fabricate a second act of bad faith: that they are not responsible for their ignorance of the truths behind the government’s and corporate media’s lies and propaganda, even as the shades of the prison house ominously close around us and the world edges toward global death that could arrive in an instant with nuclear war or limp along for years of increasing suffering.

Those of us who write about the U.S. led demented wars and provocations around the world and the complementary death of democracy at home are constantly flabbergasted and discouraged by the willed ignorance of so many Americans.  For while the mainstream media does the bidding of the power elite, there is ample alternative news and analyses available on the internet from fine journalists and writers committed to truth, not propaganda. There is actually far too much truth available, which poses another problem. But it doesn’t take a genius to learn how to research important issues and to learn how to distinguish between bogus and genuine information.  It takes a bit of effort, and, more importantly, the desire to compare multiple, opposing viewpoints and untangle the webs the Web weaves.  We are awash in information (and disinformation) and both good and bad reporting, but it is still available to the caring inquirer.

The problem is the will to know.  But why?  Why the refusal to investigate and question; why the indifference?  Stupidity?  Okay, there is that.  Ignorance?  That too.  Willful ignorance, ditto.  Laziness, indeed. Careerism and ideology?  For certain.  Upton Sinclair put it mildly when he said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on not understanding it.”  Difficult?  No, it’s almost impossible.

But then there are many very intelligent people who have nothing to lose and yet adamantly refuse to entertain alternative possibilities to the reigning orthodoxies that have them in their grip.  As do many others, I know many such people who will yes me to death and then never fully research issues.  They will remain in limbo or else wink to themselves that what may be true couldn’t be true.  They close down.  This is a great dilemma and frustration faced by those who seek to convince people to take an active part in understanding what is really going on in the world today, especially as the United States wages war across the globe, threatens Russia, China, and Iran, among many others, and expands and modernizes its nuclear weapons capabilities.

As for Assange, Manning, and Snowden, their plight matters not a whit.  In fact, they have been rendered invisible inside the doll’s house, except as the murals on the windows flash back their images as threats to the occupants, Russian monsters out to eat them up.  As the great poet Constantine Cavafy wrote long ago in his poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” and they never come: “Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?  Those people were a kind of solution.”  Then again, for people like U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, who knows the Russian barbarians have and will come again, life must be terrifying as he tries so manfully to bar the gates.  The Russians have been the American solution in this fairy tale for so long that it’s hard for many Americans to believe another story.

The Two-Headed Monster

On the one hand, there is the massive propaganda apparatus operated by American intelligence agencies in conjunction with their media partners.

On the other, there is the human predilection for untruth and illusions, the sad need to be comforted and to submit to greater “authority,” gratefully to accept the myths proffered by one’s masters.  This tendency applies not just to the common people, but even more so to the intellectual classes, who act as though they are immune.  Erich Fromm, writing about Germans and Hitler, but by extension people everywhere, termed this the need to “escape from freedom,” since freedom conjures up fears of vertiginous aloneness and the need to decide, which in turn evokes the fear of death.4   There are also many kinds of little deaths that precede the final one: social, career, money, familiar, etc., that are used to keep people in the doll’s house.

Fifty years ago, the CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” as a weapon to be used to dismiss the truths expressed by critics of its murder of President Kennedy, and those of Malcom X, MLK, and RFK.  All the media echoed the CIA line.  While they still use the term to dismiss and denounce, their control of the mainstream media is so complete today that every evil government action is immediately seconded, whether it be the lies about the attacks of September 11, 2001, the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iran, etc., the coups disguised as color revolutions in Ukraine, Venezuela, Bolivia, Hong Kong, the downing of the Malaysian jetliner there, drone murders, the Iranian “threat,” the looting of the American people by the elites, alleged sarin gas attacks in Syria, the anti-Russia bashing and the Russia-gate farce, the “criminals” Assange, Manning, Snowden – everything.  The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Fox News, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, etc. – all are stenographers for the deep state.

So much of the ongoing propaganda travels under the banner of “the war on terror,” which is, of course, an outgrowth of the attacks of September 11, 2001, appropriately named and constantly reinforced as 9/11 in a wonderful example of linguistic mind-control: a constant emergency reminder to engender anxiety, depression, panic, and confusion, four of the symptoms that lead the DSM “experts” and their followers to diagnose and drug individuals.  The term 9/11 was first used in the New York Times on September 12, 2001 by Bill Keller, the future Times’ editor and Iraq war cheerleader.  Just a fortuitous coincidence, of course.

Jacques Ellul on Propaganda

Jacques Ellul has argued convincingly that modern propaganda in a technological mass society is more complicated than the state and media lying and deceiving the population.  He argues that propaganda meets certain needs of modern people and therefore the process of deceit is reciprocal.  The modern person feels lost, powerless, and empty. Ellul says, “He realizes that he depends on decisions over which he has no control, and that realization drives him to despair.”  But he can’t live in despair; desires that life be meaningful; and wants to feel he lives in a world that makes sense.  He wants to participate and have opinions that suggest he grasps the flow of events.  He doesn’t so much want information, but value judgments and preconceived positions that provide him with a framework for living.  Ellul wrote the following in 1965 in his classic book Propaganda:

The majority prefers expressing stupidities to not expressing any opinion: this gives them the feeling of participation.  For they need simple thoughts, elementary explanations, a ‘key’ that will permit them to take a position, and even readymade opinions….The man who keeps himself informed needs a framework….the more complicated the problems are, the more simple the explanations must be; the more fragmented the canvas, the simpler the pattern; the more difficult the question, the more all-embracing the solution; the more menacing the reduction of his own worth, the greater the need for boosting his ego.  All this propaganda – and only propaganda – can give him.5

Another way of saying this is that people want to be provided with myths to direct them to the “truth.”  But such so-called truth has been preconceived within the overarching myth provided by propaganda, and while it satisfies people’s emotional need for coherence, it also allows them to think of themselves as free individuals arriving at their own conclusions, which is a basic function of good propaganda.  In today’s mass technological society, it is essential that people be convinced that they are free-thinking individuals acting in good faith.  Then they can feel good about themselves as they lie and act in bad faith.

Culpable Ignorance

It is widely accepted that political leaders and the mass media lie and dissemble regularly, which, of course, they do. That is their job in an oligarchy.  Today we are subjected to almost total, unrelenting media and government propaganda. Depending on their political leanings, people direct their anger toward politicians of parties they oppose and media they believe slant their coverage to favor the opposition.  Trump is a liar.  No, Obama is a liar.  And Hillary Clinton.  No, Fox News.  Ridiculous! – it’s CNN or NBC.  And so on and so forth in this theater of the absurd that plays out within a megaplex of mainstream media propaganda, where there are many shows but one producer, whose overall aim is to engineer the consent of all who enter, while setting the different audiences against each other.  It is a very successful charade that evokes name-calling from all quarters.

In other words, for many people their opponents lie, as do other people, but not them. This is as true in personal as well as public life.  Here the personal and the political converge, despite protestations to the contrary.  Dedication to truth is very rare.

But there is another issue with propaganda that complicates the picture further.  People of varying political persuasions can agree that propaganda is widespread.  Many people on the left, and some on the right, would agree with Lisa Pease’s statement in her book on the RFK assassination, A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, that “the way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time.”6  That is also what Garrison thought when he spoke of the doll’s house.

If that is so, then today’s propaganda is anchored in the events of the 1960s, specifically the infamous government assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and RFK, the truth of which the CIA has worked so hard to conceal. In the fifty or so years since, a vast amount of new information has made it explicitly clear that these murders were carried out by elements within the U.S. government, and were done so to silence the voices of four charismatic leaders who were opposed to the American war machine and the continuation of the Cold War. To turn away from this truth and to ignore its implications can only be described as an act of bad faith and culpable ignorance, or worse.  But that is exactly what many prominent leftists have done.  Then to compound the problem, they have done the same with the attacks of September 11, 2001.

One cannot help thinking of what the CIA official Cord Meyer called these people in the 1950s: “the compatible left.”  He felt that effective CIA propaganda, beside the need for fascist-minded types such as Allen Dulles and James Jesus Angleton, depended on “courting” leftists and liberals into its orbit. For so many of the compatible left, those making a lot of money posing as opponents of the ruling elites but often taking the money of the super-rich, the JFK assassination and the truth of September 11, 2001 are inconsequential, never to be broached, as if they never happened, except as the authorities say they did. By ignoring these most in-your-face events with their eyes wide shut, a coterie of influential leftists has done the work of Orwell’s crime-stop and has effectively succeeded in situating current events in an ahistorical and therefore misleading context that abets U.S. propaganda.  They truncate the full story to present a narrative that distorts the truth.

Without drawing a bold line connecting the dots from November 22, 1963 up to the present, a critique of the murderous forces ruling the United States is impossible.

Among the most notable of such failures are Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Howard Zinn, and Chris Hedges, men idolized by many liberals and leftists.  And there are many others who have been deeply influenced by Chomsky, Cockburn, and Zinn and follow in their footsteps.  Their motivations remain a mystery, but there is no doubt their refusals have contributed to the increased power of those who control the doll’s house.  To know better and do as they have is surely culpable ignorance.

From Bad to Worse

Ask yourself: Has the power of the oligarchic, permanent warfare state with its propaganda and spy networks, increased or decreased in the past half century?  Who is winning the battle, the people or the ruling elites?  The answer is obvious. It matters not at all whether the president has been Trump or Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, Barack Obama or George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter.  The power of the national security state has grown under them all and everyone is left to moan and groan and wonder why.  All the while the doll’s house has become more and more sophisticated and powerful with the growth of electronic media and cell phone usage.

The new Cold War now being waged against Russia and China is a bi-partisan affair, as is the confidence game played by the secret government intended to create a fractured consciousness in the population.  This fragmentation of consciousness prevents people from grasping the present from within because so many suffer from digital dementia as their attention hops from input to output in a never-ending flow of mediated, disembodied data. Trump and his followers on one side of the coin; liberal Democrats on the other. The latter, whose bibles are the New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, Democracy Now, The Guardian, etc. – can only see propaganda when they can attribute it to Trump or the Russians. The former see everything as a liberal conspiracy to take down Trump.  The liberals have embraced a new McCarthyism and allied themselves with the deep-state forces that they were once allegedly appalled by, including Republicans.  Their embrace of the formerly despised war-monger John Bolton in the impeachment trial of Trump is a laughable case in point, if it weren’t so depraved and slimy.  It surely isn’t the bloodthirsty policies of the Trump administration or his bloviating personality, for these liberals allied themselves with Obama’s anti-Russian rhetoric, his support for the U.S. orchestrated neo-fascist Ukrainian coup, his destruction of Libya, his wars of aggression across the Middle East, his war on terror, his trillion dollar nuclear weapons modernization, his enjoyment of drone killing, his support for the coup in Honduras, his embrace of the CIA and his CIA Director John Brennan, his prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc.  The same media that served the CIA so admirably over the decades became the liberals’ paragons of truth.  It’s enough to make your head spin, which is the point.  Spin left, spin right, spin all around, because we have possessed your mind in this spectacular image game where seeming antinomies are the constancy of the same through difference, all the presidents coined by the same manufacturer who knows that coin flipping serves to entertain the audience eager for hope and change.

This is how the political system works to prevent change.  It is why little has changed for the better over half a century and the American empire has expanded.  While it may be true that there are signs that this American hegemony is coming to an end (I am not convinced), I would not underestimate the power of the U.S. propaganda apparatus to keep people docile and deluded in the doll’s house, despite the valiant efforts of independent truth-tellers.

How, for example, is it possible for so many people to see such a stark difference between the despicable Trump and the pleasant Obama?  They are both puppets dancing to their masters’ tunes – the same masters.  They both front for the empire.

In his excellent book, Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State, Jeremy Kuzmarov assiduously documents Obama’s crimes, including his CIA background.7 As Glen Ford, of Black Agenda Report, says in the first sentence of his forward, “Barack Obama may go down in presidential history as the most effective-and deceptive-imperialist of them all.” Read the book if you want all the details.  They form an overwhelming indictment of the con artist and war criminal that is irrefutable.  But will those who worship at the altar of Barack Obama read it?  Of course not.  Just as those deluded ones who voted for the reality television flim-flam man Trump will ignore all the accumulating evidence that they’ve been had and are living under a president who is Obama’s disguised doppelganger, carrying out the orders of his national security state bosses. This, too, is well documented, and no doubt another writer will arise in the years to come to put it between a book’s covers.

Yet even Jeremy Kuzmarov fails to see the link between the JFK assassination and Obama’s shilling for the warfare state.  His few references to Kennedy are all negative, suggesting he either is unaware of what Kennedy was doing in the last year of his life and why he was murdered by the CIA, or something else.  He seems to follow Noam Chomsky, a Kennedy hater, in this regard.  I point out this slight flaw in an excellent book because it is symptomatic of certain people on the left who refuse to complete the circle.  If, as Kuzmarov, argues, Obama was CIA from the start and that explains his extraordinarily close relationship with the CIA’s John Brennan, an architect, among many things, of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, and that Obama told CIA Director Panetta that the CIA would “get everything it wanted,” and the CIA killed JFK, well, something’s amiss, an enormous gap in the analysis of our current condition.

The doll’s house is a mind game of extraordinary proportions, orchestrated by the perverted power elites that run the show and ably abetted by their partners in the corporate mass media, even some in the alternative press who mean well but are confused, or are disinformation agents in the business of sowing confusion together with their mainstream Operation Mockingbird partners.  It is a spectacle of open secrecy, in which the CIA has effectively suckered everyone into a game of to-and-fro in which only they win.

Our only hope for change is to try and educate as many people as possible about the linkages between  events that started with the CIA coup d’état in Dallas on November 22, 1963, continued through the killings of Malcolm X, MLK, RFK and on through so much else up to September 11, 2001, and have brought us to the deeply depressing situation we now find ourselves in where truthtellers like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden are criminalized, while the real perpetrators of terrible evils roam free.

Yes, we must educate but also agitate for the release of this courageous trio.  Their freedom is ours; their imprisonment is ours, whether we know it or not.  The walls are closing in.

Lisa Pease is so right:

The way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time, and too few recognize this.  We can’t fix a problem we can’t even acknowledge exists.

If we don’t follow her advice, we will be toyed with like dolls for a long time to come.  There will be no one else to blame.

  1. Interview with Jim Garrison, District Attorney of Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, May 27, 1969.
  2. Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Jacques Ellul, Vintage Books, 1973, pp. 17-18.
  3. Jon Rappoport, CIA mind control morphed into psychiatry?  July 11, 2017.
  4. Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm, Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1941.
  5. Ellul, op cit., p. 140.
  6. A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease, Feral House, 2018, pp.500-501.
  7. Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State, Jeremy Kuzmarov, Clarity Press, 2019.

Trump’s “Deal of the Century” Will Not Bring Peace: That was the Plan for the US and Israel

Much of Donald Trump’s long-trailed “deal of the century” came as no surprise. Over the past 18 months, Israeli officials had leaked many of its details.

The so-called Vision for Peace unveiled on Tuesday simply confirmed that the US government has publicly adopted the long-running consensus in Israel: that it is entitled to keep permanently the swaths of territory it seized illegally over the past half-century that deny the Palestinians any hope of a state.

The White House has discarded the traditional US pose as an “honest broker” between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinian leaders were not invited to the ceremony, and would not have come had they been. This was a deal designed in Tel Aviv more than in Washington – and its point was to ensure there would be no Palestinian partner.

Importantly for Israel, it will get Washington’s permission to annex all of its illegal settlements, now littered across the West Bank, as well as the vast agricultural basin of the Jordan Valley. Israel will continue to have military control over the entire West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his intention to bring just such an annexation plan before his cabinet as soon as possible. It will doubtless provide the central plank in his efforts to win a hotly contested general election due on March 2.

The Trump deal also approves Israel’s existing annexation of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians will be expected to pretend that a West Bank village outside the city is their capital of “Al Quds”. There are incendiary indications that Israel will be allowed to forcibly divide the Al Aqsa mosque compound to create a prayer space for extremist Jews, as has occurred in Hebron.

Further, the Trump administration appears to be considering giving a green light to the Israeli Right’s long-held hopes of redrawing the current borders in such a way as to transfer potentially hundreds of thousands of Palestinians currently living in Israel as citizens into the West Bank. That would almost certainly amount to a war crime.

The plan envisages no right of return, and it seems the Arab world will be expected to foot the bill for compensating millions of Palestinian refugees.

A US map handed out on Tuesday showed Palestinian enclaves connected by a warren of bridges and tunnels, including one between the West Bank and Gaza. The only leavening accorded to the Palestinians are US pledges to strengthen their economy. Given the Palestinians’ parlous finances after decades of resource theft by Israel, that is not much of a promise.

All of this has been dressed up as a “realistic two-state solution”, offering the Palestinians nearly 70 per cent of the occupied territories – which in turn comprise 22 per cent of their original homeland. Put another way, the Palestinians are being required to accept a state on 15 per cent of historic Palestine after Israel has seized all the best agricultural land and the water sources.

Like all one-time deals, this patchwork “state” – lacking an army, and where Israel controls its security, borders, coastal waters and airspace – has an expiry date. It needs to be accepted within four years. Otherwise, Israel will have a free hand to start plundering yet more Palestinian territory. But the truth is that neither Israel nor the US expects or wants the Palestinians to play ball.

That is why the plan includes – as well as annexation of the settlements – a host of unrealisable preconditions before what remains of Palestine can be recognised: the Palestinian factions must disarm, with Hamas dismantled; the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas must strip the families of political prisoners of their stipends; and the Palestinian territories must be reinvented as the Middle East’s Switzerland, a flourishing democracy and open society, all while under Israel’s boot.

Instead, the Trump plan kills the charade that the 26-year-old Oslo process aimed for anything other than Palestinian capitulation. It fully aligns the US with Israeli efforts – pursued by all its main political parties over many decades – to lay the groundwork for permanent apartheid in the occupied territories.

Trump invited both Netanyahu, Israel’s caretaker prime minister, and his chief political rival, former general Benny Gantz, for the launch. Both were keen to express their unbridled support.

Between them, they represent four-fifths of Israel’s parliament. The chief battleground in the March election will be which one can claim to be better placed to implement the plan and thereby deal a death blow to Palestinian dreams of statehood.

On the Israeli right, there were voices of dissent. Settler groups described the plan as “far from perfect” – a view almost certainly shared privately by Netanyahu. Israel’s extreme Right objects to any talk of Palestinian statehood, however illusory.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition will happily seize the goodies offered by the Trump administration. Meanwhile the plan’s inevitable rejection by the Palestinian leadership will serve down the road as justification for Israel to grab yet more land.

There are other, more immediate bonuses from the “deal of the century”.

By allowing Israel to keep its ill-gotten gains from its 1967 conquest of Palestinian territories, Washington has officially endorsed one of the modern era’s great colonial aggressions. The US administration has thereby declared open war on the already feeble constraints imposed by international law.

Trump benefits personally, too. This will provide a distraction from his impeachment hearings as well as offering a potent bribe to his Israel-obsessed evangelical base and major funders such as US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson in the run-up to a presidential election.

And the US president is coming to the aid of a useful political ally. Netanyahu hopes this boost from the White House will propel his ultra-nationalist coalition into power in March, and cow the Israeli courts as they weigh criminal charges against him.

How he plans to extract personal gains from the Trump plan were evident on Tuesday. He scolded Israel’s attorney-general over the filing of the corruption indictments, claiming a “historic moment” for the state of Israel was being endangered.

Meanwhile, Abbas greeted the plan with “a thousand nos”. Trump has left him completely exposed. Either the PA abandons its security contractor role on behalf of Israel and dissolves itself, or it carries on as before but now explicitly deprived of the illusion that statehood is being pursued.

Abbas will try to cling on, hoping that Trump is ousted in this year’s election and a new US administration reverts to the pretense of advancing the long-expired Oslo peace process. But if Trump wins, the PA’s difficulties will rapidly mount.

No one, least of all the Trump administration, believes that this plan will lead to peace. A more realistic concern is how quickly it will pave the way to greater bloodshed.

• First published in The National

The U.S. Is Recycling Its Big Lie About Iraq To Target Iran

Sixteen years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, most Americans understand that it was an illegal war based on lies about non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” But our government is now threatening to drag us into a war on Iran with a nearly identical “big lie” about a non-existent nuclear weapons program, based on politicized intelligence from the same CIA teams that wove a web of lies to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In 2002-3, U.S. officials and corporate media pundits repeated again and again that Iraq had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that posed a dire threat to the world. The CIA produced reams of false intelligence to support the march to war, and cherry-picked the most deceptively persuasive narratives for Secretary of State Colin Powell to present to the UN Security Council on February 5th, 2003. In December 2002, Alan Foley, the head of the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC), told his staff, “If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so.”

Paul Pillar, a CIA officer who was the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, helped to prepare a 25-page document that was passed off to members of Congress as a “summary” of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. But the document was written months before the NIE it claimed to summarize and contained fantastic claims that were nowhere to be found in the NIE, such as that the CIA knew of 550 specific sites in Iraq where chemical and biological weapons were stored. Most members read only this fake summary, not the real NIE, and blindly voted for war.  As Pillar later confessed to PBS’s Frontline, “The purpose was to strengthen the case for going to war with the American public. Is it proper for the intelligence community to publish papers for that purpose? I don’t think so, and I regret having had a role in it.”

WINPAC was set up in 2001 to replace the CIA’s Nonproliferation Center or NPC (1991-2001), where a staff of a hundred CIA analysts collected possible evidence of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons development to support U.S. information warfare, sanctions and ultimately regime change policies against Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and other U.S. enemies.

WINPAC uses the U.S.’s satellite, electronic surveillance and international spy networks to generate material to feed to UN agencies like UNSCOM, UNMOVIC, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who are charged with overseeing the non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The CIA’s material has kept these agencies’ inspectors and analysts busy with an endless stream of documents, satellite imagery and claims by exiles for almost 30 years. But since Iraq destroyed all its banned weapons in 1991, they have found no confirming evidence that either Iraq or Iran has taken steps to acquire nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

UNMOVIC and the IAEA told the UN Security Council in 2002-3 they could find no evidence to support U.S. allegations of illegal weapons development in Iraq. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei exposed the CIA’s Niger yellowcake document as a forgery in a matter of hours. ElBaradei’s commitment to the independence and impartiality of his agency won the respect of the world, and he and his agency were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

Apart from outright forgeries and deliberately fabricated evidence from exile groups like Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) and the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), most of the material the CIA and its allies have provided to UN agencies has involved dual-use technology, which could be used in banned weapons programs but also has alternative legitimate uses. A great deal of the IAEA’s work in Iran has been to verify that each of these items has, in fact, been used for peaceful purposes or conventional weapons development rather than in a nuclear weapons program. But as in Iraq, the accumulation of inconclusive, unsubstantiated evidence of a possible nuclear weapons program has served as a valuable political weapon to convince the media and the public that there must be something solid behind all the smoke and mirrors.

For instance, in 1990, the CIA began intercepting Telex messages from Sharif University in Tehran and Iran’s Physics Research Centre about orders for ring magnets, fluoride and fluoride-handling equipment, a balancing machine, a mass spectrometer and vacuum equipment, all of which can be used in uranium enrichment. For the next 17 years, the CIA’s NPC and WINPAC regarded these Telexes as some of their strongest evidence of a secret nuclear weapons program in Iran, and they were cited as such by senior U.S. officials. It was not until 2007-8 that the Iranian government finally tracked down all these items at Sharif University, and the IAEA inspectors were able to visit the university and confirm that they were being used for academic research and teaching, as Iran had told them.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the IAEA’s work in Iran continued, but every lead provided by the CIA and its allies proved to be either fabricated, innocent or inconclusive. In 2007, U.S. intelligence agencies published a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran in which they acknowledged that Iran had no active nuclear weapons program. The publication of the 2007 NIE was an important step in averting a U.S. war on Iran. As George W Bush wrote in his memoirs, “…after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”

But despite the lack of confirming evidence, the CIA refused to alter the “assessment” from its 2001 and 2005 NIEs that Iran probably did have a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003. This left the door open for the continued use of WMD allegations, inspections and sanctions as potent political weapons in the U.S.’s regime change policy toward Iran.

In 2007, UNMOVIC published a Compendium or final report on the lessons learned from the debacle in Iraq. One key lesson was that, “Complete independence is a prerequisite for a UN inspection agency,” so that the inspection process would not be used, “either to support other agendas or to keep the inspected party in a permanent state of weakness.” Another key lesson was that, “Proving the negative is a recipe for enduring difficulties and unending inspections.”

The 2005 Robb-Silberman Commission on the U.S. intelligence failure in Iraq reached very similar conclusions, such as that, “…analysts effectively shifted the burden of proof, requiring proof that Iraq did not have active WMD programs rather than requiring affirmative proof of their existence. While the U.S. policy position was that Iraq bore the responsibility to prove that it did not have banned weapons programs, the Intelligence Community’s burden of proof should have been more objective… By raising the evidentiary burden so high, analysts artificially skewed the analytical process toward confirmation of their original hypothesis – that Iraq had active WMD programs.”

In its work on Iran, the CIA has carried on the flawed analysis and processes identified by the UNMOVIC Compendium and the Robb-Silberman report on Iraq. The pressure to produce politicized intelligence that supports U.S. policy positions persists because that is the corrupt role that U.S. intelligence agencies play in U.S. policy, spying on other governments, staging coupsdestabilizing countries and producing politicized and fabricated intelligence to create pretexts for war.

A legitimate national intelligence agency would provide objective intelligence analysis that policy-makers could use as a basis for rational policy decisions. But, as the UNMOVIC Compendium implied, the U.S. government is unscrupulous in abusing the concept of intelligence and the authority of international institutions like the IAEA to “support other agendas,” notably its desire for regime change in countries around the world.

The U.S.’s “other agenda” on Iran gained a valuable ally when Mohamed ElBaradei retired from the IAEA in 2009, and was replaced by Yukiya Amano from Japan. A State Department cable from July 10th 2009 released by Wikileaks described Mr. Amano as a “strong partner” to the U.S. based on “the very high degree of convergence between his priorities and our own agenda at the IAEA.”  The memo suggested that the U.S. should try to “shape Amano’s thinking before his agenda collides with the IAEA Secretariat bureaucracy.” The  memo’s author was Geoffrey Pyatt, who later achieved international notoriety as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who was exposed on a leaked audio recording plotting the 2014 coup in Ukraine with Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

The Obama administration spent its first term pursuing a failed “dual-track” approach to Iran, in which its diplomacy was undermined by the greater priority it gave to its parallel track of escalating UN sanctions. When Brazil and Turkey presented Iran with the framework of a nuclear deal that the U.S. had proposed, Iran readily agreed to it. But the U.S. rejected what had begun as a U.S. proposal because, by that point, it would have undercut its efforts to persuade the UN Security Council to impose harsher sanctions on Iran.

As a senior State Department official told author Trita Parsi, the real problem was that the U.S. wouldn’t take “Yes” for an answer. It was only in Obama’s second term, after John Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, that the U.S. finally did take “Yes” for an answer, leading to the JCPOA between Iran, the U.S. and other major powers in 2015.  So it was not U.S.-backed sanctions that brought Iran to the table, but the failure of sanctions that brought the U.S. to the table.

Also in 2015, the IAEA completed its work on “Outstanding Issues” regarding Iran’s past nuclear-related activities. On each specific case of dual-use research or technology imports, the IAEA found no proof that they were related to nuclear weapons rather than conventional military or civilian uses. Under Amano’s leadership and U.S. pressure, the IAEA still “assessed” that “a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003,” but that ”these activities did not advance beyond feasibility studies and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities.”

The JCPOA has broad support in Washington, but the U.S. political debate over the JCPOA has essentially ignored the actual results of the IAEA’s work in Iran, the CIA’s distorting role in it and the extent to which the CIA has replicated the institutional biases, the reinforcing of preconceptions, the forgeries, the politicization and the corruption by “other agendas” that were supposed to be corrected to prevent any repetition of the WMD fiasco in Iraq.

Politicians who support the JCPOA now claim that it stopped Iran getting nuclear weapons, while those who oppose the JCPOA claim that it would allow Iran to acquire them. They are both wrong because, as the IAEA has concluded and even President Bush acknowledged, Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program. The worst that the IAEA can objectively say is that Iran may have done some basic nuclear weapons-related research some time before 2003 – but then again, maybe it didn’t.

Mohamed ElBaradei wrote in his memoir, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times, that, if Iran ever conducted even rudimentary nuclear weapons research, he was sure it was only during the Iran-Iraq War, which ended in 1988, when the U.S. and its allies helped Iraq to kill up to 100,000 Iranians with chemical weapons. If ElBaradei’s suspicions were correct, Iran’s dilemma since that time would have been that it could not admit to that work in the 1980s without facing even greater mistrust and hostility from the U.S. and its allies, and risking a similar fate to Iraq.

Regardless of uncertainties regarding Iran’s actions in the 1980s, the U.S.’s campaign against Iran has violated the most critical lessons U.S. and UN officials claimed to have learned from the fiasco over Iraq. The CIA has used its almost entirely baseless suspicions about nuclear weapons in Iran as pretexts to “support other agendas” and “keep the inspected party in a permanent state of weakness,” exactly as the UNMOVIC Compendium warned against ever again doing to another country.

In Iran as in Iraq, this has led to an illegal regime of brutal sanctions, under which thousands of children are dying from preventable diseases and malnutrition, and to threats of another illegal U.S. war that would engulf the Middle East and the world in even greater chaos than the one the CIA engineered against Iraq.

Reckless US Actions Fire Up The Antiwar Movement

The reckless and dangerous act of war committed by Donald Trump and the Pentagon in killing Major General Qasem Soleimani of Iran and the Iraqi leader of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, has brought the conflict in the Middle East (aka West Asia) to a new level. The conflagration of war is growing with the United States making this direct attack on a top Iranian official in violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

As expected, the corporate media and many politicians are spreading lies to justify the murders and further aggression towards Iran. It is important for us to understand the facts so we can respond to this misinformation and avoid being lied into yet another war.

Fortunately, there was a rapid response in the United States with actions in more than 82 cities in 38 states involving tens of thousands of people to protest more war on Iran. [See our message to Iran here.] It is imperative, and the ingredients are in place for it, that the antiwar movement grows exponentially very quickly and becomes a major force in 2020. The combination of opposition to never-ending, always-expanding wars, hatred of Donald Trump, the 2020 election year and pent up frustration over massive military spending can create a movement more dangerous to Trump than the toothless Democratic Party impeachment.

January 4 march in Washington, DC. Shawn Thew/EPA/EFE.

The Assassination of Soleimani was Based on Falsehoods

As expected, corporate media in the US is pushing lies to rationalize the crimes committed by the US. In reality, the justifications used by the US for the assassination were false. The primary claim used to justify the attack is that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks on US forces. In fact, Moon of Alabama reports that Soleimani was not planing any “imminent attacks” on the US or its interests in Iraq. In no way was Soleimani a legitimate target for a US attack.

Moon of Alabama writes:

The Quds force [which Soleimani led] is the external arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Soleimani was responsible for all relations between Iran and political and militant movements outside of Iran…. He was the man responsible for, and successful in, defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In 2015, Soleimani traveled to Moscow and convinced Russia to intervene in Syria. His support for the Houthi in Yemen enabled them to withstand the Saudi attackers.

In all these instances, Soleimani was standing up against US imperialism. These actions made him a target of the US military establishment and a hero in Iran and allied nations.

There have been vague claims that Soleimani killed a US contractor, but this is in doubt. As Scott Ritter writes:

There are several problems with this narrative, first and foremost being that the bases bombed were reportedly more than 500 kilometers removed from the military base where the civilian contractor had been killed. The Iraqi units housed at the bombed facilities, including Khaitab Hezbollah, were engaged, reportedly, in active combat operations against ISIS remnants operating in both Iraq and Syria. This calls into question whether they would be involved in an attack against an American target. In fact, given the recent resurgence of ISIS, it is entirely possible that ISIS was responsible for the attack on the U.S. base, creating a scenario where the U.S. served as the de facto air force for ISIS by striking Iraqi forces engaged in anti-ISIS combat operations.

Following the alleged killing of this unnamed US contractor, the US military bombed members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) killing dozens and wounding about 50 people. In response to this outrageous action – imagine a Chinese contractor being killed in the US and China responds by bombing our domestic military bases – Iraqis stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad. The assassination of Soleimani was apparently in response to the protests at the embassy.

Prior to these events, Iraqis had been protesting their government and were divided over the US and Iran’s involvement in the country. However, now the country is united against the United States and the Parliament voted to expel the US from the country. Before that vote, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told the Parliament he was scheduled to meet with Soleimani a day after his arrival to receive a letter from Iran in response to a de-escalation offer Saudi Arabia had made. The US assassinated Soleimani shortly after his arrival at the Baghdad civilian airport and before the letter could be delivered.

Iranians march in the southwestern city of Ahvaz to pay homage to top general Qassem Soleimani (Hossein Mersadi/fars news)

The Fallout

The United States has been waging a war of “maximum pressure” on Iran throughout the past year to no avail. Iran has been measured in its responses to the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, increased illegal unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions), threats of attack and false accusations against Iran. This assassination is a new level of criminality and recklessness. General Soleimani was loved and revered in Iran and throughout the region. Since his murder, Iranians and Iraqis have poured into the streets to mourn him and al-Muhandis and to call for action.

Iran has promised, “forceful revenge” but Iran is not seeking a war with the US. Unlike the US’ action, which doesn’t seem to be thought through, Iran will be deliberate to achieve strategic objectives. While rapid escalation is possible, more likely is a long-term careful response by Iran. An asymmetrical response, which is the strategy put in place by Soleimani, is the most likely. Iran’s control of the Strait of Hormuz, where one-third of the world’s oil passes, could choke the world’s oil supply resulting in increased prices that risk a recession in the US and globally. Already, oil prices are rising.

Iran can act diplomatically to further isolate the United States. Scott Ritter writes:

The diplomatic missions Suleimani may have been undertaking at the time of his death centered on gaining regional support for pressuring the United States to withdraw from both Syria and Iraq. Of the two, Iraq was, and is, the highest priority, if for no other reason that there can be no sustained US military presence in Syria without the existence of a major US military presence in Iraq.

The 16,000 people working at the massive US embassy in Baghdad could also be forced out of Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr has already said in a letter that Iraq should go further and shut down the US embassy. The State Department has ordered all US citizens to leave Iraq.

Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, Iran’s former defense minister and current military adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, says Iran is not seeking war with the United States and will only target military sites. There are also military targets in the region that could be attacked by Iranian allies including those of the US and its allies such as Israel.  General Gholamali Abuhamzeh, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said: “Some 35 US targets in the region, as well as Tel Aviv, are within our reach.”

An escalation of the situation could occur no matter what Iran does because of actions by the United States. Yesterday, President Trump was threatening to bomb 52 targets in Iran, including historic sites. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote in response that “Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME.” Zarif sent letters to both the UN Security Council and the UN to condemn the US’ actions. 

The US announced it is sending 3,500 more troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq, adding to the 5,000 already there, at the same time that the Iraqi Parliament, Premier, and Prime Minister have called for the US to leave Iraq. The US will either leave voluntarily or it will remain as an illegal occupying force. And Iran just announced that it is leaving the nuclear agreement. Although Iran has not stated an intention of building nuclear weapons, leaving the agreement opens that door.

US Out of Iraq

Iran’s first goal of removing the US from Iraq, Syria and the Middle East was advanced on Sunday when the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel the US military from the country. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi described the murders as “a political assassination” and urged “for the sake of our national sovereignty” that Iraq establish a timetable for the exit of US troops.

Shia PMU groups have already declared they will do whatever they can to evict the US military from Iraqi soil. The US killed their leaders and comrades so they will take action independent of Iran. Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric who commands millions of followers in Iraq, has given orders to reactivate his military to force the US out. Millions of people in Iraq joined processions remembering Soleimani and al-Muhandis. These Iraqis will be ready to take action to force the US to leave if the US does not abide by the Iraqi government’s request.

An unfortunate outcome of the US’ actions is that not only have very effective leaders in the fight against ISIS been killed, but the Iraqi PMU is now diverting its efforts away from stopping ISIS to focus on US troops. This is one more reason why the US needs to leave Iraq, and ideally the whole Middle East. US foreign policy over the past decades has brought instability to the region and made the world more insecure. It’s time for people in the United States to increase our calls for the US to get out of Iraq and the whole Middle East.

Anti-war activists march in Washington DC on Jan 4 in reaction to Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani and commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes.

Our Next Steps

The mobilizations across the country yesterday were large and energetic. Many youth and new faces showed up. The messages were clear about opposition to more war on Iran and sanctions, demanding the US get out of the Middle East and calling out the bipartisan war machine. The root causes of capitalism and imperialism were also condemned. In 2020, we can build a people’s peace movement that cannot be ignored.

Congress returns to Washington, DC on Tuesday. We need to send a clear message upon their return that there must not be any more aggression on Iran and that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force must be repealed immediately. Click here to call Congress. You can also call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. We need to pressure all members of Congress and candidates to speak out against the war on Iran.

We will also need to continue educating ourselves and members of our communities to counter the lies being told in the media. All wars are based on lies and we must be able to recognize them when we hear them. Sharing articles on social media, writing letters to the editor and holding teach-ins and public forums in your communities can counter the corporate media claims.

And we will need to continue to protest in the streets. There will be more calls for days of action, but you can also organize your own. Find a highly-trafficked location such as a transit center or a public square and hold regular vigils to show your opposition. Hold a protest at your member of Congress’ office. If you are more ambitious, you can organize disruptive actions. Have a sit-in at your local weapons producer’s office, for example.

These reckless actions by the US military create dangerous and uncertain times, but it is also an opportunity to demand significant changes to US foreign policy. The US is losing imperial power and cannot continue to be a bully that violates international law. It is time to transform from domination to being a cooperative member of the world community. It is time to put in place a peace economy that creates economic security at home and abroad. The US is a young nation that has much to learn from more mature civilizations like Iran if we can only stop misbehaving long enough to listen.