Category Archives: War Crimes

Death by a Thousand Trumps: The Logical End Point of Capitalism

The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly (and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered): Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?

— Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Ant-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1972

There is a fairly typical and recurrent notion among many Americans that Donald Trump and his administration is some sort of aberration. As if his brutal, venal, racist, and bullying nature is something new, or different from previous leaders. For those not inclined to look at the historical record; one only has to look beyond our borders to view the authoritarian personality type that Trump represents in power all over the world: Modi, Orban, Erdogan, Jinping, Duterte, and Bolsonaro being the most obvious comparisons.

Our president is not an exception but the logical culmination of a nation built on genocide, slavery, empire, and capitalism. His virulent nationalism, his racist and sexist attitudes, and unbelievably fragile ego are all undisputable proof that millions of people enjoy, tolerate, or acquiesce to his behavior. Liberal pieties and paeans towards restoring normalcy don’t move the needle for most center-left voters either, as it is at least tacitly/subconsciously understood that after Trump and Brexit there is no going back towards “liberal democratic” rule. A threshold has been crossed.

Trump and his billionaire cronies are simply doing what capitalists do best: doling out more death and destruction, which many US citizens are all too comfortable eliding; except for the understandable shock and anger over the most outrageous travesties, such as the burning of the Amazon or children in concentration camps on our southern border. Even then, there is no programmatic analysis of what caused the problem (capitalism and empire) and very little visionary leadership with any social power or pop-cultural relevancy to propose realistic solutions.

It’s crucial to look outside the borders of the US to see how capital really operates. Western multinationals pay foreign governments to murder, ethnically cleanse, pillage, rape, and despoil entire nations and natural habitats. US transnational corporations as well as federal funding for various authoritarian regimes (notably Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.) pay for their militaries, private security forces, death squads, proxy terrorists and spies, as well as corporate espionage.

For these reasons and many more it cannot be considered hyperbole to call the USA a fascist state. For those unconvinced, I suggest reading Umberto Eco’s 1995 essay  “Ur-Fascism” to understand why. Henry Giroux uses the term “neoliberal fascism” and his recent book American Nightmare, which I reviewed for New York Journal of Books, spells out in detail the deepening spirals of violence and ignorance American society is succumbing to.

The near total focus on purely domestic policies in mainstream media and by our politicians is excruciating, maddening, and cringe-inducing. The constant domestic policy myopia contradicts any statements that liberals and conservatives actually understand, or have genuine interest or empathy for foreign causes or solidarity with those in need around the globe.

One only has to find old news programs, for example, from the fifties through the eighties to remember that news media for all its flaws then was much more informed and nuanced about international relations compared to today. Dissidents, counterculture figures, communists, and radicals appeared regularly on TV talk shows and were generally encouraged or at least tolerated by liberal establishment journalists, whereas today there is a huge zero. Foreign wars and overseas events were covered more extensively.

There’s no doubt many liberals earnestly want Trump gone for his racist border policy and global warming denialism, among other issues. Yet, of course, much of the outrage revolves around the pseudo-moralizing, a way of saying: “He doesn’t represent us, the good-hearted progressive people in the USA.”

A petty, corrupt, racist, chauvinistic, violent grifter is exactly the type of person to represent the United States. It needs to be said, and repeated, over and over.

There are tens of millions of mini-Trumps all over the nation, exploiting, killing, jailing, and materially and mentally impoverishing working people. Here’s something to ponder. How many US citizens would support kicking out all undocumented immigrants in our country? Almost certainly the number is in the millions, if not tens of millions of people.

Where do US citizens think this is all leading towards? Have we not been locked in a death spiral, circling the drain for centuries, and have our leaders not plundered, murdered, enslaved, and ruthlessly exploited fellow humans, nature, and resources at a horrifying and increasing rate? Even further back, isn’t this where Western civilization has been headed towards for 6,000 years: a system based on brutal and authoritarian hierarchies propped up by organized religion, barbaric racism and tribalism, imperial delusions of grandeur, and myths about a world full of limitless resources?

Also, the ruling classes have been getting more ignorant, more venal, less philanthropic, and less empathetic. There are studies that can confirm this: for instance, through measuring emotional intelligence (EQ), it has been found that in corporate firms, positions above middle management show a dramatic drop in EQ. Of course, we know most CEOs and corporate owners are borderline if not full-blown psychopathic or sociopathic. The ownership of our nation are perfectly willing and able to exploit workers, cut benefits, destroy public programs, ignore the poor and minorities, and breed mass alienation at a level unseen since the Gilded Age.

There are about 585 billionaires in the US, about 175,000 people with over 25 million in total (0.05% of the population), 1.4 million individuals with wealth over 5 million (0.42% of the population), and it’s estimated there are about 12 million millionaires in the US (about 3.6% of the population). They are on the other side of a class divide that is widening more every year.

The 2016 election clearly showed white voters turned out in droves for Trump, but what mostly went unmentioned is that for all voters making over 50k a year, the edge also went to Trump, 49% to Clinton’s 47%. So much for the idea that those with wealth are part of a enlightened and tolerant “meritocracy” as our corporate overlords and their media puppets like to constantly remind us: rather, those with just a little bit of money, unconsciously or not, use their vote to crush the lower classes through Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy, tariffs and trade wars, etc.

Umberto Eco also points this out: he correctly demonstrates that one of the features of fascism is an “appeal to the frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups”. Erich Fromm also mentions this phenomenon at length in his classic Escape from Freedom.

The insatiable desires of the elites and the economic leverage the “Global North” holds further absolutely dirt-cheap prices for all manners of consumer goods, by externalizing the costs onto faraway nations, the environment, and the poor who inhabit nearby industrial or manufacturing sites, and other “sacrifice zones”.

This accounts for the burgeoning phenomena of the worker as an “independent contractor”, a model touted by Silicon Valley and venture capitalists. The new model is to cut as many benefits as possible and use low-wage service work or the threat of falling into this precariat as leverage to squeeze as much work and productivity as possible out of what remains of the middle class.

Small businesses which serviced the rich in previous eras are now forced to compete more fiercely or die, and thus compelled into deflationary business models with price wars, etc.; while the large-sector service corporations effectively have monopolies and can force workers to accept low pay due to the reserve army of labor.

Perhaps soon, the majority of the rich will be forced to acquiesce due to popular demand on issues such as free college or universal health care. Yet, they will never, ever choose voluntarily to surrender their basic model of economic power or to restructure corporate America. Freedom without economic equality is impossible. The majority of us are relegated to a form of serfdom, with no prospects for democracy in the economy and the workplace.

Another point worth mentioning is that reform is never going to happen in time through legislative and judicial means. The amount of hoops to jump through, in our constitution and in the legislature, to structurally change the system will take way too long, sap momentum, and destroy any movement based in electoral politics however good the intent.

Requiring any mass movement to follow every legalistic framework for change is just another form of elitism: forcing the multitude to advance at the glacial pace of the legal system is simply an authoritarian call for law and order to cement unjust property rights. Any form of reformist policies will be denied by appealing to the status quo of existing laws, and their deluded obsession with following corrupt legal procedures and bureaucratic red-tape written by corporations and lobbyists. Rather, citizen assemblies, general strikes, direct action, and public referenda should be used as much as possible to counter the dirty tricks of the elites.

The main strivings of the members of our government, Democrat or Republican, are for power, money, and fame: they are not any substantially or qualitatively different from Trump in this respect. Their warped, huge, and fragile egos have convinced themselves that they really are the right people for the job, regardless of their obvious corrupt nature, lack of knowledge, and moral failings. Rather than being devoted to public service, their actions imply that they view themselves as doing the public a favor by simply existing and choosing to run for office to provide us with an “enlightened” political class, rather than those scary “populists”.

There is an unacknowledged anti-democratic strain in US society which insists every public policy position must be run by an expert, a technocrat, despite all evidence suggesting these professional-managerial class types (personified by Obama, his reign marking the apotheosis, the high-water mark of meritocratic and liberal democratic ideology) are craven, corrupt sycophants beholden to the power elite.

Apparently there are about 5 million people in the US who hold clearance to view classified material. There are about 1.3 million military and about 700,000 police officers. So that’s 7 million right there which constitute the national security state. The 21st century Praetorian Guard, if you will. If you count the defense corporations, fossil fuel multinationals, and various conglomerates which profit off the destruction and exploitation of workers and the environment, and all the sub-contractors which rely on the largesse (trough) of defense, fossil fuel, and other anti-life industries, that’s a few more million easily.

What I’m getting at is dislodging Trump, or any figurehead president, is small potatoes, because there are at least 10-30 million Americans with a shitload of guns and money who do not want to see any — and I mean any — fundamental progressive changes. Without a mass base advocating for socialist and revolutionary democratic policies, there is nothing the ruling classes won’t do to protect their privileges.

Forget an imbecile like Trump. The power elite would rather re-animate the corpse of Genghis Khan than have Bernie Sanders or anyone left of him in charge. Believe that. They would rather use the power of capital flight and take their money to Swiss bank accounts or the Cayman Islands and bankrupt our entire country than see any socialist in power. Bank on it. Forget elections as the exclusive means towards dismantling the power structure. Only mass movements in the streets can fight the barbarism we are confronted with.

“Down with the Rebels against the Bill of Sale!”

One hundred years ago this fall, on the morning of October 7, 1919, a group of two hundred to three hundred armed Haitian rebels launched an attack on U.S. occupation forces in Port-au-Prince. Wielding “swords, machetes, and pikes,” these cacos (as they were called) entered the city with hopes of national liberation, driven to violence by a brutal, racist U.S. occupation.1 This occupation had subjected Haitians to the hated forced labor system of the corvée, seized control over Haitian finance, and rewritten the Haitian Constitution at gunpoint, enabling foreign companies to acquire land in the country. But though well-armed with grievances, the rebels were outgunned; American troops and their Haitian gendarmerie decimated them with rifles and automatic weapons. Rebel leader Charlemagne Peralte was able to escape (for the moment), but dozens of rebels were slaughtered, their base camp overrun, their one field canon seized.2

By November 1919, Peralte himself would be betrayed and assassinated, his lifeless body strung up and photographed by his killers as so-called proof that resistance was futile. The American occupiers deliberately spread the photo of Peralte’s corpse across Haiti, attempting to demoralize supporters of the uprising. But standing stripped to the waist, strapped to a door with his arms flung wide, the slain Peralte resembled nothing so much as a victim of crucifixion, martyred by the American Rome. The propaganda image boomeranged on its makers, creating an unintended consequence: Charlemagne Peralte became hailed as a national hero.3

As many as three thousand Haitian people would be killed in what has been called the Second Cacos War (1917–20). Yet despite such repression, Haitian resistance to the U.S. occupation would continue for the next decade among students, peasants, and workers alike, until the exit of U.S. troops in 1934. As Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat put it in a 2015 New Yorker article:

During the nineteen years of the U.S. occupation, fifteen thousand Haitians were killed. Any resistance to the centralized, U.S.-installed puppet governments was crushed, and a gendarmerie—a combination of army and police, modelled after an occupation force—was created to replace the Marines after they left. Although U.S. troops officially pulled out of Haiti in 1934, the United States exerted some control over Haiti’s finances until 1947.4

The distorting and oppressive impacts of the U.S. occupation have been felt in Haitian society ever since. As scholars such as Michel-Rolph Trouillot have long shown, the restructuring of the Haitian state during this period—from its financial institutions to its dreaded military police—created an enduring and corrupt governmental entity that answered less to the Haitian people than to local elites and foreign interests.5

The American occupation of Haiti (1915–34) had unintended consequence in the United States itself as well, where it spurred anti-imperialist consciousness and organizing. As Steve Striffler reviews in his critical history, Solidarity: Latin America and the U.S. Left in the Era of Human Rights, resistance in the 1920s was first centered in the African-American and Haitian émigré communities, with figures such as James Weldon Johnson of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) playing a critical role. The focus on U.S. abuses in Haiti encouraged greater internationalism within the existing “Negro” rights movement, while drawing together a broad anti-imperialist tendency that included magazines like the Nation as well as elements of the radical socialist/communist left. “Such efforts,” Striffler writes, “made the occupation increasingly unpopular in the United States by the mid-1920s, and created space for expanded opposition in Haiti,” ultimately making the formal military occupation untenable.6

One lasting legacy of this oppositional movement can be found in the work left behind by politically engaged authors, who, in their creative and critical writings of this period, foreground Haiti and the burning issues its history raises. Across the 1930s, U.S. radical writers looked to Haiti not just to dramatize Black victimization or American brutality, but for insight and inspiration that could empower progressive labor, antiracist and antifascist struggles in the United States and worldwide. As Benjamin Balthaser has shown in his recent book Anti-Imperialist Modernism, left-wing writings from the period of the U.S. occupation of Haiti often emphasized the historical, revolutionary agency of this long-oppressed people.7 Against the grain of dominant North American discourses that routinely depict the Haitian people as helpless victims, unruly mobs, postapocalyptic zombies, exotic-erotic tourist attractions, or raw human material ripe for exploitation, anti-imperialist literary representations of Haiti from the 1930s treat Haitians as potential revolutionary subjects. A now-well-known work such as C. L. R. James’s Black Jacobins (1938) was not alone in its insight, but rather emerged from the crucible of a broader radical movement that sought to put Haiti front and center—both as capitalist profit center and as site of revolutionary ferment.8

Among the all-but forgotten figures in this underappreciated anti-imperialist movement was the writer Guy Endore (1900–70). Turning to study the history of Haiti just as the formal U.S. military occupation was coming to its end in 1933–34, Endore was inspired to create one of the great neglected, anti-imperialist works in twentieth century U.S. literature, his historical novel of slavery and revolution, Babouk—a book that is still in print, thanks to Monthly Review Press. Born in Brooklyn, raised partly in Europe, partly in an Ohio orphanage, fluent in French as well as German from youth, Endore lacked a sense of a stable social position. He would state later that he had “never been able to discover exactly where I fit in…everything sort of cancels out in me. I’m neither European, nor American; neither Jew nor Christian; neither of the country nor the city; neither of this century nor the last; neither rich nor poor; and even in my studies, I was always divided, always torn between the sciences and the arts.”9 By the mid–1930s, Endore was, like many young writers of his generation, turning to the left. He would spend two decades as a committed member of the Communist Party (CPUSA)—finding there a kind of home for his homelessness. However, though his political awakening was shaped by the Great Depression and the rise of fascism, “it was when I studied that Haiti business,” Endore recalled, “that I really began to take a side and began to see that there were exploiters and exploited.”10 In Babouk, “my intention,” he wrote, “was to make the reader feel and smell and taste the crime of slavery, until he abominated it; and not only historical slavery, but all those too-numerous characteristics of it that have survived into our own day.”11

Such comments make clear that while eighteenth century Saint Domingue was Endore’s immediate focus, his aims extended beyond that singular situation. He sought to intervene not only in the historiography around Haiti, but also in contemporary 1930s struggles for social justice. To pursue this split purpose—addressing not just “historical slavery” but its present surviving aspects—Baboukdeploys a self-conscious narrative voice that frequently “interrupts” the action of past events to comment directly to the modern reader, drawing parallels to more contemporary injustices and pointing out the failures of traditional history or literature when it comes to representing such issues. While working closely from primary historical documents—thanks to his fluency in French—Endore crafted a meta-historical form that could simultaneously do justice to the historical reality of Haiti, while also allowing the fires of exploitation and revolution there to illuminate a broader contemporary web of capitalism, racism, and empire. Baboukthus deserves attention today not only as a historical document of the “Hands off Haiti” movement, but also as an exhortation and provocation to revolutionary thought and practice more generally.12

To be sure, this radical book emerged from an unlikely quarter.

Originally, Endore had been commissioned in 1933 by a commercial publisher to write a “Caribbean romance” set against the horrifying “backdrop of tom-toms.” Exoticizing travel narratives of Haitian “voodoo,” after all, had been in vogue since the U.S. occupation13 and Endore was at this time best-known as a horror writer, especially for his New York Times bestseller Werewolf of Paris (1933). But Endore’s research, which included an extended trip to Haiti, led him to produce a very different kind of book, one that not only brings the horrifying “backdrop” of Haiti into the foreground, but inverts the nature of the “horror” we encounter. The horror here is not on the side of “native savagery,” but of so-called civilization. From its first page to its last, Babouk confronts us with the callous strategies and often monstrous technologies of physical and ideological repression that were building blocks of colonization and slavery. Readers turning to Babouk for a glimpse of the “monstrous Other” then are likely to be surprised, for the book compels us to recognize how the true monstrosity afflicting Haiti were the products of capitalist “reason” in the service of profit and empire.

And so, sent to Haiti to write a romantic/horrific page-turner, Endore wrote instead a masterpiece to overthrow masters with, a horror tale in which the three-headed monster is capitalism, racism, and empire, and the heroes are slaves in revolt. His commissioned employer, Century Press, seeking a different kind of horror, refused to publish the book and other major commercial publishers followed suit. Clifton Fadiman, then editor at Simon and Schuster and lead book reviewer for the New Yorker, wrote Endore privately to compliment him, “Babouk is a powerful, moving piece of work,” but he added that “it won’t sell because it’s just too horrible. The reviews would warn people away from it. We would be afraid to handle it.”14

Fadiman was not far off in his commercial estimates—though considering his position of influence, his lament was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Brought out by the small radical press Vanguard, Endore soon found his novel denounced by the New York Times as an attempt to inspire a “race riot,” and criticized in the New Republic by reviewer Martha Gruening, who charged Endore with producing not a novel at all, but a mere “calendar of horrors.”15

Make no mistake: there is certainly plenty in Babouk that could be seen as “horrible,” beginning with the history itself—enslavement, resistance, and ruling-class repression. Moreover, the writing in the text often retains an element of the sensationalist horror style that put Endore on the map. The very first page of the book contains a detailed discussion of the “work” done by a “genius,” a so-called “nigger taster” whose trained tongue helps tell which of the enslaved are healthy enough to be purchased, and which not. (The slave traders after all, are interested in cheating one another as well, hiding the illness of their captives with perfumes and make-up and even fake teeth.) Later chapters detail grotesque diseases and conditions aboard the slave ship, the torture techniques used to punish rebel slaves, and even the brutal pike-impaling of a white infant at the height of the slave rebellion. The book at times seems to sarcastically revel in revealing the historical monstrosities that enslavers and colonizers devise to manage and rationalize their vicious regime. Endore’s wager seems to have been that his talent for the graphic and gothic could be leveraged to bring a broader popular readership to confront uncomfortable social and historical truths. He had clear political motivations for Babouk to be sure, but, as he put it, he also “wrote the book to sell.”16 In 1934, somehow, it had not seemed impossible for a book to be both an anticapitalist horror and a commercial hit. After all, hadn’t his 1933 horror novel Werewolf of Paris topped the charts, despite (or perhaps because of) its class-conscious account of the Paris Commune?17

But it would be a mistake to write off Endore’s vivid depictions of violence as mere sensationalism, or as a left-wing replication of the “exotic discourses” that predominated in U.S. depictions of Haiti at the time.18 Similarly, it would be a mistake to see Endore’s representation of the repressive effects of imperialism and slavery as a gratuitous objectification of black bodies, aimed at stirring the sentimental emotions of (predominantly white) readers. Rather, Endore’s goal in so vividly depicting historical horror is to bring to consciousness the ways that the most seemingly extreme and “monstrous” acts of the slave system—for instance, the public burning of slave rebels, the clipping of ears from runaways, elaborate regime of torture, and so on—were in fact “logical” and “rational” outgrowths of the capitalistic logic of profit-maximization and social control. At the same time, Endore draws out the ways that such extreme measures of repression testify to the pervasive resistance of the enslaved.

As an exploration of history, Babouk remains remarkable for the way it explores the dialectic of oppression and resistance, foregrounding how contradictions among the ruling classes themselves (such as the contradiction between maximizing short-term profit and sustaining long-term social control, or the contradiction between different blocs of rival property owners), open up space for resistance from below. Even such a totalitarian system as racialized chattel slavery had its cracks and weak links. At the same time, Endore zooms in on slave resistance in its own right, emphasizing the importance of cultural practices—and in particular practices of collective story-telling—as a crucial site of mass resistance and revolutionary preparation. Through the story-telling gifts of his titular character Babouk, Endore suggests the ways in which the verbal arts can be used strategically, raising the consciousness and sustaining the spirit of the oppressed, while puncturing the myths of racial or class superiority that seek to naturalize ruling power. Thus, at the same time as it confronts us with the stark limits of traditional Western historiography, Babouk—as imaginative fiction—explores the importance of creative culture for preparing the path to revolution. Babouk himself might be read as a figure for the radical artist that Endore may have aspired to become, working with complex inherited cultural materials—African trickster stories and European Bible tales alike—to forge unity among the oppressed and to clarify the need for a general revolt.

Thus, while Endore constantly exposes the “background” apparatus of exploitation, the main story of Babouk reimagines the leadup to the Haitian Revolution, through the coming-of-age story of an eponymous protagonist based loosely on the historical figure of Boukman Dutty. Remembered as a crucial catalyst of the early uprisings of 1791, known for his key role at the ceremony of Bois Caiman, Boukman’s early death left subsequent leadership to other, now better-known figures, such as Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. It also left Boukman himself something of a historical mystery, creating room for much subsequent historical debate, while providing Endore with the space for reimagining the unrecorded pre-history of the revolution.19

Endore presents Babouk as a field slave, emphasizing his talents as an unconventional, yet popular story teller. In stark contrast to those nationalist writers of the 1920s and ’30s who sought to champion Haiti in the face of imperialist degradation by celebrating its long line of strong black military men, from Toussaint and Dessalines to Henry Christophe, Endore chose instead to foreground a lowly field worker, whose only power among the Haitian masses comes through his well-chosen words. Though Toussaint and Dessalines are never mentioned by name in the book, Endore implies a sharp distinction between Babouk and those leaders who were “as astute as the whites” and would come to dominate the Haitian state after the revolution. Emphasizing the “gold bedizened uniforms” of leaders who seek to imitate their former masters, Endore reminds us that some of these figures were all too eager to compromise with colonial powers, some even proposing the reintroduction of slavery. “Babouk,” Endore writes, “had nothing to do with these.”20

Babouk thus attempts a tense balance: conjuring the emancipatory spirit of slave insurrection and emphasizing the revolutionary importance of storytelling, but without romanticizing the contradictory aftermath of a revolution that—despite its historic achievements—would leave in place new forms of egregious exploitation and inequality. Recalling Peralte’s attack on Port-au-Prince, Endore chooses to focus Babouk’s climax not on a heroic moment of victory, but on an insurgent attack that fails…but that (like this historical uprising led by Boukman in 1791) helps usher in a broader mass upsurge. As we finish Endore’s novel, we are still in 1791, the Haitian Revolution represented not as monumental accomplishment of the past, but as an insurgent necessity of the present. He leaves us looking at the burning sugar cane fields beyond the walls of the city; the horizon of emancipation remains a future to be fought for.

In this way, Endore distinguishes his narrative from accounts that portray the human aspirations of the Haitian Revolution as fulfilled with the achievement of national independence alone, as if the formal rejection of foreign rule had thereby ended economic exploitation and extreme social inequality in the formal colony.

In his critical report from Haiti in 1934, “Haiti and U.S.A. Occupation,” published concurrently with Babouk, Endore specifically targets the ruse of nationalism as a main danger to the cause of liberation. In this (nonfiction) piece, published in the antifascist magazine Fight, Endore offers a sharp class critique of Haitian nationalism (and the U.S. liberalism that embraces it), taking aim at the notion that rule by the local elite represents genuine progress as far as the working Haitian masses are concerned. This local elite is a class of exploiters, he underscores, just as much as U.S. financiers and occupiers, notwithstanding their claims to the contrary.

At the same time, Endore’s essay makes an effort to understand why well-intentioned liberal or African-American intellectual observers feel the impulse to rally to a nationalist defense of Haiti, as “the last refuge” of “Negro pride” in a world dominated by European colonialism. But to identify Haitian elite rule with a refuge from racism or class domination would be, Endore argues, not only “erroneous” but “vicious.” “A Negro bourgeoisie can and has in some places replaced a white bourgeoisie with no improvement in the lot of the majority,” as he points out. “Such are the fruits of Haitian nationalism acquired so painfully at the price of the lives of a hundred thousand Negroes.”21

Nor is Endore’s problem only with the particular nationalism of the Haitian elite. Rather, he generalizes the point, arguing that “national prejudice is only a different form of the class system by which the ruling class is assured of always having someone to remove its garbage or do its unskilled factory work, someone whom the ruling class will despise and keep in his ‘place.’” Whether in the United States or elsewhere, Endore writes, race prejudice is “fostered by capitalism to disrupt the strength of the proletariat by preventing the oppressed white worker from acting in concert with the Negroes.” (We can hypothesize that Babouk was aimed in part at helping those oppressed white workers to see why they should act in concert with their black brethren and reject the racist bait of their own ruling class.)

Endore closes his Fight article by asking readers to “strip the bright paint of patriotic idealism off the Haitian upper classes and reveal what is beneath,” while at the same time forging a Hands off Haiti movement that sides not with the “gros negre kulaks,” (that is, the wealthy Haitian landowners), but with the “cacos spirit” for the “realization of full social justice.” Clearly, Peralte’s Cacos insurgency of 1919 was not far from Endore’s mind as he attempted to articulate a class-conscious anti-imperialism.

While Endore abstains from commenting directly on the U.S. occupation in Baboukitself, there can be no doubt that what he learned from Haitians themselves had a major effect on his novel. For instance, during his trip to Haiti, Endore learned of how the U.S. military occupation facilitated massive land theft, turning literacy itself into a weapon against the Haitian masses. It was “easy” to steal local peasants’ land, Endore recalled:

You just go up to a man and you say, “Who owns this land?” He’ll say, “I do.” Then you go to the land records office and you record your name for that land, and then you go to him and you say, “I’ve got a record for this land. I own it. Where’s your record? Let’s see which one is the real one.” Of course, he hasn’t got a record.… If the man refused to leave [the land] the American would threaten him with a gun, and if he was halfway decent, he’d give him a job. So, in this way, a number of plantations were built up.22

Acutely conscious of the power of written “records” backed by guns, it is surely no coincidence that, near the climax of Babouk, as the Haitian masses set fire to the sugar fields outside the capital, Endore champions the insurgents, not merely as race rebels or as black workers, but as “rebels against the bill of sale.” Employing his ironic narrator to ventriloquize a self-righteous ruling class, he sarcastically declares:

Here is our bill of sale! Flag of the unmapped land that covers the earth!

Revolt against that if you dare and you will be broken on the wheel!…

Millionaires! you true internationalists who regiment your workers into countries, hoist aloft your flag: the bill of sale!

You wretches out in the burning plain before Le Cap, where is your bill of sale? What! Have you [slaves] taken your liberty and you have no bill of sale?

Then beat the general alarm!… Down with the rebels against the bill of sale!23

Reframing the historic slave revolt this way, Endore distills from the rebellion of 1791 a universal meaning that can resonate with readers in other places and times, beyond the immediate context of the fight to end chattel slavery or colonialism. To be sure, as is now widely known, generations of Haitians have been burdened with a massive and odious “bill of sale” forced on them by French gunboats and U.S. banks after 1804, as penance for its costly “theft” of property in flesh, (a debt the equivalent of $21 billion today).24  But Endore’s “bill of sale” frame resonates even more broadly, allowing us to see a kinship to other struggles as well, wherever the militant movement of the people come up against the sacred “property rights” of their would-be masters—whether that be in the form of an eviction blockade, a workplace occupation, or the expropriation of the expropriators of Marxist prophecy.

In such a way, Endore implies that the mass of humanity—across the illusory lines of race and nation—is still in a sense enslaved to the domination of “the bill of sale.” At the same time, he suggests that the kinds of brutal repression brought down on eighteenth century Haitian rebel slaves may lie in wait for all those who are serious about depriving the ruling class of their most precious property. Babouk thus asks readers to see in the revolt of Haitian slaves the vanguard of a more general and global revolution, while confronting us all with the sobering fact that, if the goal is revolution, grievances alone will not be enough.

The second to last chapter of the novel ends with a description of how Babouk’s body is decapitated, dismembered, and publicly displayed—not unlike Peralte’s own—as a warning to those who would challenge the masters’ power.But like the photo of the martyred Peralte, the displaying of Babouk’s corpse does more to incite rebellion than to quell it. In this way, Endore pays closing honor to the cacos martyrs whose brave attack on imperialist occupation—however ill-fated—nonetheless helped raise the consciousness of people who came after them, including North American writers such as himself. Perhaps Endore wagered that, like the death photos of Peralte, the depicted brutalities of his own book would help inspire new waves of revolt.

*****

Coming off Babouk, in 1935, Endore seemed to be full of the sense of radical possibility, publishing a vision for what he called a “new school of Marxian historical fiction,” whose principal aim would be “the revelation of the hidden but unending class struggle of the ages.” His enthusiasm for the work to be done is palpable as he lists what might have been his next series of books: “Gracchus [Babeuf], Spartacus, the Crusades, the Peasant Wars, colonial expansion—history is replete with magnificent untouched material that the old novelist bent on portraying love triumphant, picturesque adventures or some trivial plot, could not use.”25

But, sadly, Endore would not complete—indeed, would hardly even begin—the avowedly revolutionary literary project he outlined. Quickly, he fell from this vista of enthusiasm; Babouk sold only a few hundred copies, met mixed reviews, and soon went out of print. Even sympathetic comrades failed to grasp the richness of his radical work. African-American Marxist literary critic Eugene Gordon praised the book in The New Masses as the “best of its kind” and yet, notwithstanding Endore’s comments to the contrary, criticized Babouk as “too nationalistic,” suggesting that it implied a modern world driven by racial resentments, rather than the systemic forces of capitalism.26

Having his forgotten masterpiece fail to connect was a profoundly deflating experience. By 1941, while still publicly identifying as a communist, Endore wrote not to herald a new revolutionary genre, but to lament a radical conundrum:

The writer’s task is to amuse, to interpret, to exhort. It is my aim to do all three together, whenever possible.… The predicament of the writer is that the average person wishes to be amused and not instructed in his short leisure; he does not wish to be made aware of his misfortunes; he wants something to help him forget; while the upper classes threaten to tear the social structure down with them, if, by interpretation or exhortation, their privileges are attacked.27

Still later, Endore lamented: “I wrote [Babouk] to sell, but I misjudged the people, I misjudged the time, everything. So, I turned away from that kind of writing and worked on motion pictures.” (Soon after he would be blacklisted from Hollywood for his communist political affiliations.) Chastened by Babouk’s failure, Endore would later refer to himself as a “hack writer” who wrote only “for money to support myself and my family, and that’s it.” It is important to underscore that Endore would remain active for decades, as a writer of Hollywood screenplays and popular novels, and as a communist activist, authoring pamphlets against racism and teaching writing in CPUSA-run schools near Los Angeles. But the revolutionary fusion of literary and political intervention that Babouk represented was no longer on his agenda. Yet decades later Endore would still refer to Babouk as his “forgotten masterpiece.”16

But though it failed commercially in Endore’s own time, Babouk deserves renewed consideration in ours, from those interested in reimaginings of slavery and the Haitian Revolution, and more broadly. For by closely studying the particular history of Haiti, Endore presents us with broader insights about the ongoing class struggles that continue to drive world history, while offering a radical critique of the ways that inherited literature and dominant history tend to hide those struggles from view. At the same time, Endore points us towards the need for a different kind of historical imagining—and a different kind of story-telling—that might become a weapon in the revolutionary struggle. At one point, Endore apostrophizes his own main character, confronting the paradox of recovering voices of resistance that all too often have been lost to written history:

Babouk, we have gone beyond your century. Your voice is lost in the past. Your wavering voice is lost in the steaming field of Saint-Domingue. It is lost both in time and space. And yet it cannot be lost altogether, Babouk. It cannot die in a void. Oh, no. All the wavering voices of the complaining Negro, be they of the dead or of the living, of Africa or America, yet they will someday be woven into a great net and they will pull that deaf master out of his flowery garden and down into the muddy stinking field.28

If studying Haitian history helped inspire Endore to take the side of the exploited and oppressed, Babouk weaves together stories of struggle, arming readers for the battle to come. Whatever we ultimately make of the literary weapon he forged, Endore’s own story reminds us that, by confronting the horror and hope of history, it is possible for people (even from ostensibly privileged groups) to transform themselves and their work in solidarity with the oppressed.

And let us not forget, even in Endore’s own time, there were readers who were ready for Babouk. The glowing 1935 review for The Crisis, the journal of the NAACP, makes that very clear. “Here is a book that should be in the bookcase of every Negro family” as they wrote:

Devastating is the only word that describes adequately the irony running from its first page to the last. Speaking through Babouk and seeing through the slaves’ eyes, the author punctures all the cruelty, greed, pomp, and vainglory of whites with deadly rapier thrusts. There is scarcely a topic in this whole race problem which the author does not permit Babouk to address.… Babouk should be in your library.29

Thankfully today, Monthly Review Press continues to keep Babouk’s voice alive into the twenty-first century. In a world more than ever dominated by “the bill of sale,” and still shaped by the legacies of slavery, Endore’s “forgotten masterpiece” deserves a place on the radical bookshelf.

  1. Benjamin R. Beede, The War of 1898 and U.S. Interventions, 1898–1934: An Encyclopedia (New York: Routledge, 1994), 435.
  2. Ivan Musicant, The Banana Wars: A History of United States Military Intervention in Latin America from the Spanish-American War to the Invasion of Panama (New York: Macmillan, 1990), 215.
  3. The image of Peralte’s slain body can be found in “An Iconic Image of Haitian Liberty,” New Yorker, July 28, 2015.
  4. Edwidge Danticat, “The Long Legacy of Occupation in Haiti,” The New Yorker, July 28, 2015.
  5. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Haiti,State Against Nation: The Origin and Legacies of Duvalierism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1990).
  6. Steve Striffler, Solidarity: Latin American and the U.S. Left in the Era of Human Rights (London: Pluto, 2019), 62.
  7. Benjamin Balthaser, Anti-Imperialist Modernism: Race and Transnational Radical Culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2015).
  8. See Mary A. Renda, Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915–1940 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). Also see Paul Farmer , The Uses of Haiti (Monroe, ME: Common Courage, 1994).
  9. Reflections of Guy Endore: Oral History (Guy Endore Papers, University of California, Los Angeles, Special Collections Library, 1964).
  10. Reflections of Guy Endore, 133–34.
  11. New Republic, November 28, 1934, 283. For biographical and literary overviews of Guy Endore, see Alan Wald, “The Subaltern Speaks,” Monthly Review 43, no. 11 (April 1992); Robert Niemi, “Guy Endore,” in American Writers, vol. XVII, ed. Jay Parini. (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2008); Joseph G. Ramsey, “Guy Endore and the Ironies of Political Repression,” Minnesota Review 70 (2008): 141–51.
  12. Guy Endore, Babouk (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1991).
  13. See Renda, Taking Haiti.
  14. Clifton Fadiman, letter to Guy Endore, March 31, 1934 (Guy Endore Papers, University of California, Los Angeles).
  15. New Republic, October 17, 1934, 283.
  16. Reflections of Guy Endore.
  17. For a timely discussion of Werewolf of Paris, see Carl Grey Martin, “Guy Endore’s Dialectical Werewolf,” Le Monde Diplomatique, English ed., September 15, 2014.

  18. See, for instance, Mary Renda’s brief and rather dismissive discussion of Babouk in Taking Haiti.
  19. See Carolyn E. Fick, Making Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below(Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1990).
  20. Endore, Babouk, 168–69.
  21. Guy Endore, “Haiti and the USA Occupation,” Fight, January 1934, 13.
  22. Reflections of Guy Endore, 81.
  23. Endore, Babouk, 181.
  24. See for instance, Jérôme Duval, “Haiti: From Slavery to Debt,” Counterpunch, November 10, 2017.
  25. Guy Endore, “Review of Black Consul,” New Republic, 1935.
  26. Eugene Gordon, “Black and White Unite and Fight,” New Masses, October 1934, 24–25. Gordon’s concerns about Babouk have been echoed by later Marxist critics such as Barbara Foley, in her important study Radical Representations: Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929–1940(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993).
  27. Guy Endore. About the Author to Werewolf of Paris (New York: Pocketbooks, 1941), 324–25.
  28. Endore, Babouk. 97.
  29. R. W., “BABOUK, by Guy Endore, 297 pp.…,” The Crisis 41, no. 12(December 1934).

Israel has attacked Lebanon and Syria: So what?  

On August 25th, 2019, Israel attacked Lebanon. It has done it again.

Just as it attacked Syria, the same night.

RT reported the same day:

Israeli drone flights were “an open attack on Lebanese sovereignty” and an assault on UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Hariri said on Sunday, just hours after reports of two Israeli UAV incidents in Beirut.

Hariri called the drone incursion a “threat to regional stability and an attempt to increase tensions.”

He said there’s a heavy presence of planes in the airspace over Beirut and its suburbs, adding he will consult with Lebanese President Michel Aoun on what could be done to repel the “new aggression.””

So, what? Really, we have been ‘here’ before, on so many occasions.

PM Hariri is fuming, but he is one of the closest allies of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in the region. In fact, he is a Saudi citizen. Is he going to do anything, like getting into a war with Israel? Never.

Can he actually do anything?  No. Nothing, even if he would want to. The truth is that practically he can do absolutely nothing. Not he, nor Lebanon’s President Aoun, or even the Lebanese armed forces. Lebanon has no means with which to repel any Israeli attack. Absolutely no means! The country’s air force is pathetic, consisting of several flying toys, like modified Cessnas, old helicopters, and several A-29 Super Tucanos. That could hardly frighten some of the mightiest and well-trained squadrons in the world – those of the Jewish state.

The bitter and uncomfortable truth is, also, that Israel can basically do anything it desires, at least in this part of the world.

Just a few days ago, I dared to drive, again, from Beirut all the way down to Naqoura, and then, along the Blue Line (‘protected’ by the United Nations), east to Kfarkela.

Now, the repulsive Israeli wall which is scarring one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Middle East, has almost been completed, all along the border. One year ago, the Lebanese government protested, calling it almost an act of war. The Israelis did not care. As always, they did what they wanted. They came right towards the line, or more precisely, at least on several occasions, they crossed the line; and constructed their concrete monstrosity right in front of the eyes of the Lebanese soldiers and the UN personnel. “So, now, what are you going to do?” they were practically saying, without pronouncing it.

New Israeli Wall (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

Nobody has done anything in retaliation. Zero! Now UNIFIL Indonesian soldiers are taking selfies right in front of the Blue Line, leaning against their armored vehicles, while Hezbollah flags are waving only a few meters away from Israel. All this horror show is just some 10 kilometers from the Israeli occupied Syrian territory of the Golan Heights. You can see the Golan Heights easily from here. A few years ago I was there, in the Golan Heights; I ‘smuggled’ myself there, to write a damming report. I learned then, and I am getting more and more confirmation now: Israelis are really great experts at building the walls that are ruining and fragmenting the entire region!

But then and now, nothing that can stop them!

Whatever Israel bombs it gets away with it, no one dares to intervene.

Today as the Israel drones, full of explosives, flew into Lebanon, UN battle ships were docked in the harbor of Beirut. After an explosion rocked a Shi’a neighborhood, damaging the Hezbollah Media Center (which I visited some two years ago), the ships did not even change their position, let alone depart from the harbor in order to defend Lebanon!

So why are these ships there? No one knows. No one asks, obviously.

Here, it is always like that. I drive to a Hezbollah area. There is a private checkpoint. I photograph it. They stop me. A huge guy with a machinegun blocks my way. I jump out of the car, put my hands together: “Do you want to arrest me?” He gets insecure. I ignore him. I drive away. I am pissed off: why not better fight the Israelis and their constant invasions, with such a physique and weaponry?

A friend of mine, a top UN official from the Gulf who doesn’t want to be identified, just told me bitterly:

There is no condemnation: there is complete silence from the United Nations and from the West.

Hariri feels obliged to protest, as his nation was attacked. But is he really outraged? Hardly. He hates Syria, he hates Hezbollah.

Lebanon is only united by a few iconic dishes, culinary delights; not by politics.

Is the country ready to defend itself? Hardly. Those who have money are too busy racing their European cars, without mufflers, on potholed streets, or showing their legs in various five-star malls.

The poor people of Lebanon do not matter; they do not exist. Palestinians matter nothing, living and dying, cramped like sardines in repulsive camps with hardly any rights. This has been going on for long decades.

Many Lebanese Christians actually secretly cheer Israel. Or not so secretly… And they are so enamored with everything Western, that, as they told me on several occasions, they would love to be colonized by France, again.

Lebanon is so fragmented by race, religion, social status, that it cannot stand on its feet. Turkish powerplant platforms are providing energy. Infrastructure has collapsed. Filth is everywhere. Cynical corruption consumes everything. But exhibitionism and showing off never stop. Money is there only for hedonistic clubs and sojourns to Nice. Hezbollah is the only institution which cares about the welfare of all Lebanese people; the only force ready to defend the country against foreign interventions. Israel and the West know it. And they are doing all they can to destroy Hezbollah.

Lebanon has become a laughing stock in the region. Like this, it is very difficult to face one of the mightiest militaries on earth.

*****

Just a few hours before Lebanon was hit, Israel admitted that its air force hit the Shi’ite militia and Iranian targets in Syria. It declared that it took out “killer drones” prepped by the Quds Force to carry out attacks in Israeli territory.

Israel justifies everything by its ‘defense’. Any outrageous attack, any bombing, is always ‘preventive’. The world has become used to it, by now. The world is doing nothing to stop it.

People die. Many do; annually. So, ‘the Israeli citizens can be safe’. So the West and its allies can control the region, indefinitely.

On August 25th, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, described the ongoing situation in the Middle East as ‘very, very dangerous’:

U.S. tries to revive Daesh in Iraq… U.S. helicopters are rescuing Daesh in Afghanistan…

He spoke about the attack on Lebanon:

The drones that entered the suburbs at dawn are military aircraft. The first aircraft was a reconnaissance aircraft flying at low altitude to get an accurate picture of the target. We did not shoot down the plane, but some young men threw stones at it before it fell. What happened last night was a suicide drone attack on a target in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Netanyahu would be mistaken if he thinks that this issue can go unnoticed. Lebanon will face a very dangerous situation if this incident goes unaddressed. The dawn suicide attack is the first act of aggression since 14 August 2006. The Lebanese State’s condemnation of what happened and referral of the matter to the Security Council is good, but these steps do not prevent the course of action to be taken.  Since 2000, we have allowed Israeli drones for many reasons but no one moved.  Israeli drones entering Lebanon are no longer collecting information, but assassinations. From now on, we will face the Israeli drones when they enter the skies of Lebanon and we will work to bring them down.  I tell the Israelis that Netanyahu is running with your blood.

The West and its allies are escalating tensions all over the Middle East. Some say, “war is possible”. Others say “it is imminent”. But it is not just a possibility. There is a war. Everywhere. In Afghanistan and Syria, in Yemen and Iraq. Wherever you look! Even in Lebanon.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Sur Baher Home Demolitions illustrate a Vicious Spiral of Oppression in Palestine

Recent events have shone a spotlight not only on how Israel is intensifying its abuse of Palestinians under its rule, but the utterly depraved complicity of western governments in its actions.

The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House two-and-a-half years ago has emboldened Israel as never before, leaving it free to unleash new waves of brutality in the occupied territories.

Western states have not only turned a blind eye to these outrages, but are actively assisting in silencing anyone who dares to speak out.

It is rapidly creating a vicious spiral: the more Israel violates international law, the more the West represses criticism, the more Israel luxuriates in its impunity.

This shameless descent was starkly illustrated last week when hundreds of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, many of them masked, raided a neighbourhood of Sur Baher, on the edges of Jerusalem. Explosives and bulldozers destroyed dozens of homes, leaving many hundreds of Palestinians without a roof over their heads.

During the operation, extreme force was used against residents, as well as international volunteers there in the forlorn hope that their presence would deter violence. Videos showed the soldiers cheering and celebrating as they razed the neighbourhood.

House destructions have long been an ugly staple of Israel’s belligerent occupation, but there were grounds for extra alarm on this occasion.

Traditionally, demolitions occur on the two-thirds of the West Bank placed by the Oslo accords temporarily under Israeli control. That is bad enough: Israel should have handed over what is called “Area C” to the Palestinian Authority 20 years ago. Instead, it has hounded Palestinians off these areas to free them up for illegal Jewish settlement.

But the Sur Baher demolitions took place in “Area A”, land assigned by Oslo to the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting – as a prelude to Palestinian statehood. Israel is supposed to have zero planning or security jurisdiction there.

Palestinians rightly fear that Israel has established a dangerous precedent, further reversing the Oslo Accords, which can one day be used to justify driving many thousands more Palestinians off land under PA control.

Most western governments barely raised their voices. Even the United Nations offered a mealy-mouthed expression of “sadness” at what took place.

A few kilometres north, in Issawiya, another East Jerusalem suburb, Israeli soldiers have been terrorising 20,000 Palestinian residents for weeks. They have set up checkpoints, carried out dozens of random night-time arrests, imposed arbitrary fines and traffic tickets, and shot live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets into residential areas.

Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights group, calls Issawiya’s treatment a “perpetual state of collective punishment” – that is, a war crime.

Over in Gaza, not only are the 2 million inhabitants being slowly starved by Israel’s 12-year blockade, but a weekly shooting spree against Palestinians who protest at the fence imprisoning them has become so routine it barely attracts attention any more.

On Friday, Israeli snipers killed one protester and seriously injured 56, including 22 children.

That followed new revelations that Israeli’s policy of shooting unarmed protesters in the upper leg to injure them – another war crime – continued long after it became clear a significant proportion of Palestinians were dying from their wounds.

Belatedly – after more than 200 deaths and the severe disabling of many thousands of Palestinians – snipers have been advised to “ease up” by shooting protesters in the ankle.

B’Tselem, another Israeli rights organisation, called the army’s open-fire regulation a “criminal policy”, one that “consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans”.

Rather than end such criminal practices, Israel prefers to conceal them. It has effectively sealed Palestinian areas off to avoid scrutiny.

Omar Shakir, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, is facing imminent deportation, yet more evidence of Israel’s growing crackdown on the human rights community.

A report by the Palestinian Right to Enter campaign last week warned that Israel is systematically denying foreign nationals permits to live and work in the occupied territories, including areas supposedly under PA control.

That affects both foreign-born Palestinians, often those marrying local Palestinians, and internationals. According to recent reports, Israel is actively forcing out academics teaching at the West Bank’s leading university, Bir Zeit, in a severe blow to Palestinian academic freedom.

Palestinian journalists highlighting Israeli crimes are in Israel’s sights too. Last week, Israel stripped one – Mustafa Al Haruf – of his Jerusalem residency, tearing him from his wife and young child. Because it is illegal to leave someone stateless, Israel is now bullying Jordan to accept him.

Another exclusion policy – denying entry to Israel’s fiercest critics, those who back the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – is facing its first challenge.

Two US congresswomen who support BDS – Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank – have announced plans to visit.

Israeli officials have indicated they will exempt them both, apparently fearful of drawing wider attention to Israel’s draconian entry restrictions, which also cover the occupied territories.

Israel is probably being overly cautious. The BDS movement, which alone argues for the imposition of penalties on Israel until it halts its abuse of Palestinians, is being bludgeoned by western governments.

In the US and Europe, strong criticism of Israel, even from Jews – let alone demands for meaningful action – is being conflated with antisemitism. Much of this furore seems intended to ease the path towards silencing Israel’s critics.

More than two dozen US states, as well as the Senate, have passed laws – drafted by pro-Israel lobby groups – to limit the rights of the American public to support boycotts of Israel.

Anti-BDS legislation has also been passed by the German and French parliaments.

And last week the US House of Representatives joined them, overwhelmingly passing a resolution condemning the BDS movement. Only 17 legislators demurred.

It was a slap in the face to Ms Omar, who has been promoting a bill designed to uphold the First Amendment rights of boycott supporters.

It seems absurd that these curbs on free speech have emerged just as Israel makes clear it has no interest in peace, will never concede Palestinian statehood and is entrenching a permanent system of apartheid in the occupied territories.

But there should be no surprise. The clampdown is further evidence that western support for Israel is indeed based on shared values – those that treat the Palestinians as lesser beings, whose rights can be trampled at will.

The Ongoing Dread in Gaza: So Many Names, So Many Lives

I felt shaky and uneasy all day, preparing for this talk.

— Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian from the territory of Gaza

Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian now living in the United States, grew up Gaza. In Chicago last week, addressing activists committed to breaking the siege of Gaza,  he held up a stack of 31 papers. On each page were names of 1,254 Palestinians living in Gaza who had been killed in just one month of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” attacks five years ago.

“I felt shaky and uneasy all day preparing for this talk,” he told the group. He described his dismay when, looking through the list of names, he recognized one of a young man from his small town.

“He was always friendly to me,” Abusalim said. “I remember how he would greet me on the way to the mosque. His family and friends loved him, respected him.”

Abusalim recalled the intensity of losing loved ones and homes; of seeing livelihoods and infrastructure destroyed by aerial attacks; of being unable to protect the most vulnerable. He said it often takes ten years or more before Palestinian families traumatized by Israeli attacks can begin talking about what happened. Noting Israel’s major aerial attacks in 2009, 2013, and 2014, along with more recent attacks killing participants in the “Great March of Return,” he spoke of ongoing dread about what might befall Gaza’s children the next time an attack happens.

Eighty people gathered to hear Abusalim and Retired Colonel Ann Wright, of US Boat to Gaza, as they helped launch the “Free Gaza Chicago River Flotilla,” three days of action culminating on July 20 with a spirited demonstration by “kayactivists” and boaters, along with onshore protesters, calling for an end to the siege of Gaza. Wright resigned from her post as a U.S. diplomat when the United States launched the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq. Having participated in four previous internationals flotillas aiming to defy Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza’s shoreline, Wright is devoting her energies preparing for a fifth in 2020.

Another organizer and member of US Boat to Gaza, Elizabeth Murray, who like Wright formerly worked for the U.S. government, recalled being in a seminar sponsored by a prestigious think tank in Washington, D.C., when a panel member compared Israeli attacks against Palestinians with routine efforts to “mow the lawn.” She recounted hearing a light tittering as the D.C. audience members expressed amusement. But, Murray said, “Not a single person objected to the panelist’s remark.” This was in 2010, following Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,383 Palestinians, 333 of whom were children.

Abusalim’s colleague at the American Friends Service Committee, Jennifer Bing, had cautioned Chicago flotilla planners to carefully consider the tone of their actions. A colorful and lively event during a busy weekend morning along Chicago’s popular riverfront could be exciting and, yes, fun.

But Palestinians in Gaza cope with constant tension, she noted. Denied freedom of movement, they live in the world’s largest open-air prison, under conditions the United Nations has predicted will render their land uninhabitable by 2020. Households get four to six hours of electricity per day. According to UNICEF, “sewage treatment plants can’t operate fully and the equivalent of forty-three Olympic-sized swimming pools of raw or partly treated sewage is pumped into the sea every day.”

Facing cruel human rights violations on a daily basis, the organizers urge solidarity in the form of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. U.S. residents bear particular responsibility for Israel’s military attacks against civilians, they note, as the United States has supplied Israel with billions of dollars for military buildup.

U.S. companies profit hugely from selling weapons to Israel. For example, Boeing, with headquarters in Chicago, sells Israel Apache helicopters, Hellfire and Harpoon missiles, JDAM guiding systems and Small Diameter Bombs that deliver Dense Inert Metal Explosive munitions. All of these weapons have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas.

During the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, I was in Rafah, Gaza, listening to children explaining the difference between explosions caused by F-16 fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs and Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles.

Israel continues using those weapons, and Israeli purchases fatten Boeing’s financial portfolios.

At Boeing Company, Names of people killed in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge are read aloud; Elizabeth Murray sounds a gong after each name.  (Photo credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

On July 19, young Palestinians outside of the Israeli consulate read aloud the names of people who had, five years ago, been killed in Gaza. We listened solemnly and then proceeded to Boeing’s Chicago headquarters, again listening as youngsters read more names, punctuated by a solemn gong after each victim was remembered. Ultimately, 2,104 Palestinians, more than two-thirds of whom were civilians, including 495 children, were killed during the seven-week attack on the Gaza Strip in 2014.

Banner dropping over a bridge crossing the Chicago River: Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

During the Free Gaza Chicago River flotilla on July 20, Husam Marajda, from the Arab American Action Network, sat in a small boat next to his grandfather, who was visiting from Palestine. His chant, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” echoed from the water to the shore. Banners were dropped from bridges above, the largest reading, “Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians.”

Kayakers on the Chicago River display Free Gaza sign (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

Kayakers wore red T-shirts announcing the “Gaza Unlocked” campaign and managed to display flags, connected by string, spelling out “Free Gaza.” Passengers on other boats flashed encouraging peace signs and thumbs up signals. Those processing along the shore line, carrying banners and signs, walked the entirety of our planned route before a sergeant from the Chicago Police Department arrived to say we needed a permit.

We can’t permit ourselves to remain silent. Following the energetic flotilla activity, I sat with several friends in a quiet spot. “So many names,” said one friend, thinking of the list Abusalim had held up. “So many lives,” said another.

• A version of this article was published July 23rd, 2019 at The Progressive

The CIA is Global Capitalism’s Secret Gangster Army

Douglas Valentine is the author of the five works of non-fiction: The CIA as Organized Crime (2017), The Strength of the Pack (2009), The Strength of the Wolf (2004), The Phoenix Program (1990), and The Hotel Tacloban (1984); the novel TDY (2000); and a book of poems, A Crow’s Dream (2011). Also editor of the poetry anthology With Our Eyes Wide Open: Poems of the New American Century (2012).

To sum up The CIA as Organized Crime (review), outside of anti-imperial and/or socialist countries, Earth’s peoples live in a plasticine simulacrum of fake democracy and government/corporate controlled propaganda. The CIA has, since 1947, with almost limitless black funds from the sale of heroin, cocaine and weapons, effectively taken control of local, state and federal law and drug enforcement, judicial courts at all levels, the military, the White House, Congress, and executive departments, such as State, Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, etc., not to mention maintaining an Orwellian grip on all important global media, such as TV, newspapers, magazines, Hollywood and the Internet. It runs secret armies and parallel governments in most of the world’s non-socialist countries, bribing, corrupting, blackmailing, extorting, assassinating and sabotaging supposed allies into servile submission, while working tirelessly to destroy any country that is not a whore for Wall Street and global capitalism, especially if they have exploitable natural and human resources. Look no further than China, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere across the planet.

The War Hoax Redux

The Trump administration has a problem: How to start another war – this time with Iran – without having a justifiable reason for one.  No doubt members of Trump’s team, led by the war-thirsty and perdurable John Bolton, are working hard to solve this urgent problem.  If they can’t find a justification, they may have to create one.  Or perhaps they will find what they have already created.  Whatever the solution, Americans should feel confident that their leaders, together with their Israeli and Saudi bedfellows, are not sitting on their hands.  Crazy people do crazy things.

After the Gulf War in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it slowly became apparent what alternative media and war critics had insisted was the case before and during these wars: That the U.S. government had achieved a propaganda coup by tightly controlling the media access to the truth and by getting the mainstream media (MSM) to do their bidding.  This ex post facto revelation was, of course, not prime time or front page news, but was reported bit-by-bit by critics or was buried deep within the news reports.  While some of the truth arrived, it did so obliquely, and corporate media devotees went back to their gullible and comforting sleep.

Yet once again Americans are being played for fools by the government and MSM.  The open secret, the insider’s fact, is that the U.S. plans to attack Iran if they can seduce enough Americans that they are threatened.  The Trump people know this, the corporate media shills know it, for the Bush-Clinton-Obama scenario, written years ago, is to act as if it weren’t so, to act as if a peaceful solution were being seriously considered. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. all learned better.  The U.S. never seeks a peaceful solution.

As in 1991 and 2003, the MSM play along with Trump, who repeatedly says, or has his spokespeople say, that the decision hasn’t been made and that the U.S. wants peace. Within a few hours this is contradicted and confusion and uncertainty reign, as planned. Chaos is the name of the game. But everyone in the know knows the decision to attack has been made at some level, especially once the propaganda dummies are all in place.  But they pretend, while the media wait with baited breath as they anticipate their countdown to the dramatic moment when they report the incident that will “compel” the U.S. to attack.

The corporate media, however, always avoid the key question: How will the U.S. justify its fait accompli and what is its goal?  This question is too disturbing to broach, for it suggests that the fix is in, the show is rigged, something is rotten in the symbiotic relationship between a government intent on war and a media in that government’s service.

What could, in the eyes of the American people, justify a war against Iran, assuming the Trump administration even cares about justification?   Will Iran attack Israel?  No. Will Iran attack the United States?  No.  Of course, not, not least because it can’t, even if it wished to do so, which it clearly doesn’t.  Any such Iranian attack – absurd as such a suggestion is – would give the Trump administration ample justification for a war.

So what is the administration to do now that the news from so many quarters – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. – is so bad?  What, if they are intent on a war with Iran, are they going to do about the absence of a cause for war?  It seems that they are in a dilemma.

“Seem” is the key word.  Logically speaking, if there is a war plan, if there is a Bolton/Pompeo/Israeli scenario, then the gun on the wall in the first act of this deadly play, must go off in the final act, no matter how long it takes.  The audience is being primed by the administration and their media mouthpieces to expect a “smoking gun.”  But what might it be?

“Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” George W. Bush said at a staged pseudo-event on October 7, 2002 as he set Americans up for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.  It was all predictable,  blatant deception.  And the media played along with such an absurdity.  Iraq obviously had no nuclear weapons or the slightest capability to deliver even a firecracker on the U.S.

Now Iran is the Nuclear devil.  Now Iran must be stopped.  Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Iran has been and will be accused of developing nuclear weapons.  Saddam was said to have had them; Iran only developing them, yet both lies need no evidence, just rhetoric.

Nevertheless, it might be claimed that secret “evidence” must be withheld on “national security” grounds or for fear of endangering Iranian informers or their families.  Thus a preemptive attack could be justified on the grounds of preventing another “Ground Zero” (a misnomer when applied to the World Trade Center site, but conveniently evocative for stirring nuclear fears).

The American people, still severely shaken by the attacks of September 11, 2001, would surely be alarmed by such a “threat,” especially if it were linked to terrorism (on the high seas? In the air?), which has been the modus operandi of one administration after another.  Aren’t we at war with terror?    But it is a strategy – linking nuclear fears with terrorist fears – that the Trump administration may be hoping will cover its lack of evidence with emotional blackmail.  But it is a strategy that may not work, since, for some very odd reason, people may prefer facts to fictions.  I emphasize “may.”

Perhaps Trump’s neo-con henchmen’s  best option, therefore, is to promote or create a Tonkin Gulf incident, “unprovoked aggression against American forces,” as Lyndon Johnson put it when he lied to the world in order to get the war he wanted after JFK had been disposed of by the CIA.  It worked in 1964, so it might work again, especially with the help of our special “ally” in the region – Israel.  And today’s attackers won’t be aggressors, they will be terrorists, which seals the deal.  Bombs away!

It’s hard to say with certainty what justification the Trump war-crazies will settle on, but time is running out for them.  The news is bad from every corner, so something must be done.

Many years of secret American/Israeli planning for an attack upon Iran can’t be wasted.

The stage is set.  The charade continues.  The MSM keep preparing us for the “smoking gun.”  Something’s got to give, and propaganda geniuses are working overtime on delivering us an Oscar-winning justification.

Don’t buy it.

Especially since you’ve heard this before, and I’ve written it.  With a few minor changes and the substitution of Iran for Iraq, this column was published on the morning before George W’s infamous  (the 16 words about uranium from Niger) State of the Union Address on January 28, 2003,  fifty-one days before the invasion of Iraq, and one week before Colin Powell’s lies at the United Nations.

Shocked and surprised should be words eliminated from our vocabularies.

Buried In Broad Daylight: The “Free Press” And The Leaked OPCW Report On Douma

A defining feature of the propaganda system is that facts supporting the agenda of Western power are pushed to the forefront of the ‘mainstream’ media, while inconvenient facts are buried. A prime example is the shameful media silence in response to a devastating document leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed in a recent media alert. The document, an engineering assessment of two chlorine cylinders found at two separate locations after an attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018, casts serious doubt on the official narrative that Syrian government forces had dropped them from helicopters. The claim that Assad had used chemical weapons ‘against his own civilians’ was used by the US, UK and France to ‘justify’ missile strikes on ‘chemical weapons facilities’ on April 14, 2018.

One of the cylinders was found on top of a four-storey building with its front end lodged in a hole in the roof. The other cylinder was found lying on a bed in the top-floor room of an apartment with a crater-like opening in the roof. Engineering analysis – based on measurements, photographs and computer modelling – were conducted on the two cylinders and the scenes where they were found. The aim was to ‘evaluate the possible means by which these two cylinders arrived at their respective locations as observed.’ The leaked report, signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW engineer with many years’ experience, concluded:

In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft. [Our emphasis.]

But this dissenting engineering analysis was excluded from the final OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019.

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose main expertise is in ballistic missiles, gave an initial assessment of the leaked OPCW report on May 21, and agreed with its conclusion. He summarised:

Observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

In short:

Two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. [Our emphasis.]

On June 4, Postol released a more in-depth assessment which completely rejected the propaganda claim that the cylinders could only have been dropped from Syrian government helicopters. This strengthens the conclusion that the April 2018 Douma attacks were indeed staged, presumably by Syrian rebels attempting to provoke a Western military response against Assad (and perhaps even with Western connivance).

Postol noted the glaring discrepancies between the OPWC report that was submitted to the UN (minus the dissenting analysis of the leaked document) and the facts on the ground:

The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.

Postol expanded:

An important characteristic of concrete is that it is brittle. By definition, such a material is not flexible but will develop cracks and fail catastrophically when subjected to stresses that are sufficiently large. Concrete can be substantially strengthened [as in this case] by embedding reinforcing steel rebar or other strong but flexible materials within it. The rebar performs the function of maintaining the strength of the material when it is flexed rather than failing catastrophically as is the case with the surrounding brittle material.

He added:

A very important additional phenomenon associated with the impact of an object can be the creation of a hole due to a process that is generally referred to as “tunneling.” Because the breach created by the penetrating object results in the crushing and pushing of brittle concrete as the object moves forward, the diameter of the hole produced by the impact of the object will be very close to that of the penetrating object. This means that a hole created by a 40 cm diameter chlorine cylinder should be close to 40 cm in diameter…

But this was not the case:

The diameter of the hole is nearly twice that of the cylinder and the steel rebar that was supposed to stop the cylinder from penetrating through the roof is instead completely shattered and bent away from the forward direction by more than 60°… This photograph shows that the crater was produced by an explosion on the roof which had nothing to do with the impact of a chlorine cylinder. These discrepancies simply mean that the cylinder was placed on the roof after the hole was produced by the explosion of a mortar shell or artillery rocket.

Postol provided much more detail, but this was his summary:

There is absolutely no doubt that the OPCW finding that the chlorine cylinder found at what it identifies as Location 2 did not produce the hole in the roof that allegedly led to the killing of more than 30 people that the OPCW claims were trapped and poisoned in the building. The OPCW’s own science-based technical analysis does not come close to matching what was observed at Location 2.

The only possible conclusion is that ‘chemical weapons attacks’ at the two sites where the cylinders were found must have been staged.

Postol praised the high-quality analysis presented in the leaked OPCW document. But he was damning about senior OPCW management who had disregarded the dissenting engineering assessment and instead presented a deeply biased and misleading final report to the UN:

The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.

On June 3, Labour MP Chris Williamson submitted a parliamentary question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether he has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground, Williamson rightly pointed to the insidious part played by the ‘mainstream’ media:

The hysterical mainstream media at the time a year ago who seemed to be clamouring for military airstrikes have been incredibly silent about this [leaked OPCW report]. I remember having a very rough interview on Channel 4 about the whole issue. And yet they seem to, as far as I’m aware, have failed to follow up now with this quite damning revelation which has been brought to light by a whistle-blower.

He added:

What is very regrettable today is the tradition that we used to take for granted, that investigative journalists – serious journalists like John Pilger – seem to be sadly lacking these days.

Williamson also cited Robert Fisk – ‘a very unusual animal these days’ – who reported from Douma last April, after interviewing civilians in the vicinity of the alleged chemical weapon attacks. A senior Syrian doctor, Dr Assim Rahaibani, told him that the ‘gas’ video that had so horrified the world showed patients who had been overcome, not by gas, but by oxygen starvation:

I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati said earlier this year via Twitter that:

After almost six months of investigation, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged.

He subsequently set his Twitter status to ‘private’. Moreover, in a now deleted tweet, he stated two days after the Douma attack:

Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.

As far as we know, BBC News has never given proper coverage to the serious doubts surrounding the alleged ‘chemical weapons’ attack on Douma, other than to ascribe such doubts to Syrian and Russian government claims of ‘fabrication’. As we saw with Iraq and Saddam’s ‘denials of WMD’, a powerful propaganda technique to dismiss facts, evidence and truth is to make them come out the mouths of Official Enemies.

The BBC Goes Quiet

That the OPCW may be so compromised as to present a misleading report to the UN Security Council that could be used as post-facto ‘justification’ for a Western military attack is, to say the least, an extremely grave matter. Indeed, it casts doubt on the whole integrity of an important international organisation. Ted Postol said in an interview with Sharmini Piries of The Real News Network that he believes the official OPCW report into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017 – almost exactly one year before the Douma attack – may also have been ‘severely compromised’.

As Tim Hayward, a member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), the group of independent scholars and researchers that originally published the leaked OPWC document, noted:

While Western politicians and news media echo tropes about obstructive Russia & outlaw Syria, States of Non-Aligned Movement and China share their concerns about politicisation and polarising of OPCW.

Hayward added:

Suppressed OPCW document undermines the claimed justification for Western missile strikes on Syria in April 2018, and it reveals an organisation in need of radical reform.

Regardless of the findings of the official and leaked OPCW reports, the leaders of the US, UK and France, including Prime Minister Theresa May, were guilty of launching an unprovoked military attack on another country in violation of the UN Charter; the ‘supreme international crime’, in the words of the post-WW2 Nuremberg judgment. These are issues that would, in a sane media system, be extensively reported and debated.

However, as we wrote over three weeks ago in our earlier media alert, other than the small-circulation, left-wing Morning Star, the damning leaked document has been mentioned in just two articles in the national press: one by Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday and one in the Independent by Robert Fisk. Remarkably, but unsurprisingly, this remains the case at the time of writing. Nor is there a single mention of it anywhere on the BBC News website. Hitchens has also submitted questions direct to the OPCW which appear to have been ignored by the body.

Our repeated challenges to senior BBC journalists, including Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s head of news, have met with a stony silence, with one exception. Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, replied via Twitter on May 24:

Thanks for your message. I am in Geneva today, in Sarajevo and Riga last week, and heading to Gulf next week. It’s an important story. Will make sure programmes know about it. As you know, UK outlets focused on May & Brexit last few days. [Our emphasis.]

Let us set aside the implausible argument that ‘UK outlets focused on May & Brexit’ should preclude any coverage of a vital reappraisal of the West’s ‘justification’ of an attack on Syria; or the notion that senior editors at the BBC, with its vast monitoring resources, would have to be informed by Doucet of the leaked document. But, if we were to take Doucet’s words at face value, she would surely be happy to respond to our follow-up query, asking for an update. Seemingly not. She has now retreated behind the wider, blanketing BBC silence.

And yet, last week, evidence emerged that the BBC is well aware of the leaked document. In a live-streamed panel debate at the annual meeting of GLOBSEC, a global security thinktank, on June 6, the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner asked OPCW director-general Fernando Arias about the Independent report ‘by someone called Robert Fisk’. Was this an example of fake news? In his evasive reply, Arias stated that:

All the information given by any inspectors is considered but sometimes it is not fit to the conclusion. [Our emphasis.]

This remarkable admission that serious evidence and analysis were disregarded because it does ‘not fit the conclusion’ went unchallenged by the BBC’s Gardner and everyone else in the room. It echoed the infamous statement in the 2002 Downing Street memo on plans to invade Iraq that ‘the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.’ The focus of Arias’s concern was to defend the OPCW and to identify the whistle-blower, stating that:

‘”actions had to be taken” following the leak…” I stand by the impartial and professional conclusions” of the full OPCW report.’

On June 12, Peter Hitchens, mentioned earlier for his excellent reporting on Syria, challenged Gardner on whether he had reported his exchange with the OPCW director-general. Later that day, Hitchens tweeted:

BBC this afternoon stated that @FrankRGardner has *not* reported on the exchange, indeed BBC as a whole, despite vast resources paid for by licence holders, has yet to report at all on this major development.

The only response to the leaked OPCW report by a Guardian journalist so far appears to have been this remarkable outburst from George Monbiot on Twitter:

The Assad apologists are out in force again, and baying for blood. It’s chilling to see how they latch onto one person’s contentious account of a single atrocity, while ignoring the vast weight of evidence for chemical weapons use and conventional massacres by the govt. #Syria

Monbiot added:

They seek to exonerate one of the bloodiest mass murderers on the planet, denying his crimes and whitewashing his record. In doing so, they share some of the blame for his ongoing mass killing of Syrian people.

As we, and many other people, pointed out, this was an inexplicably irrational response to an obviously important, indisputably authentic, highly credible, leaked document that was not at all ‘one person’s… account’. The leaked material simply has to be taken seriously and investigated, not dismissed out of hand. We are, after all, talking about possible war crimes under Trump, the famously dangerous, fascist US President every liberal journalist is supposed to be determined to excoriate at every possible turn. Why should we not, then, describe Monbiot as a ‘Trump apologist’?

Last year, during an exchange about Syria, Hitchens told Monbiot what we had already concluded about him:

This is important. I have until now regarded you as a fundamentally decent and honest person (and defended you against those who have argued otherwise). But your behaviour in this matter is causing me to reconsider this opinion. Please argue honestly.

The near-total ‘mainstream’ media blanking of the leaked OPCW document is a genuinely disturbing sign of growing corporate media conformity and totalitarian-style mendacity. In the age of social media – with netizens repeatedly challenging the likes of the BBC’s Lyse Doucet and the Guardian‘s George Monbiot – the stonewalling, and the denial of newsworthiness, is happening in plain sight. Corporate journalists know that it is important, they know that we know that it is important, they know that we are asking why they are ignoring it, and they are ignoring us anyway, with the whole act of censorship swathed in silence. As the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said:

When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.

Facing the Facts: Israel Cannot Escape ICC Jurisdiction

The Chief Military Advocate General of the Israeli army, Sharon Afek, and the US Department of Defense General Counsel, Paul Ney, shared a platform at the ‘International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict’, which took place in Herzliya, Israel between May 28-30.

Their panel witnessed some of the most misconstrued interpretations of international law ever recorded. It was as if Afek and Ney were literally making up their own law on warfare and armed conflict, with no regard to what international law actually stipulates.

Unsurprisingly, both Afek and Ney agreed on many things, including that Israel and the US are blameless in all of their military conflicts, and that they will always be united against any attempt to hold them accountable for war crimes by the International Court of Justice (ICC).

Their tirade against the ICC mirrors that of their own leaders. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-ICC position is familiar, last April, US President Donald Trump virulently expressed his contempt for the global organization and everything it represents.

“Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response,” Trump said in a writing on April 12.

While Trump’s (and Netanyahu’s) divisive language is nothing new, Afek and Ney were entrusted with the difficult task of using legal language to explain their countries’ aversion for international law.

Prior to the Herzliya Conference, Afek addressed the Israel Bar Association convention in Eilat on May 26. Here, too, he made some ludicrous claims as he absolved, in advance, Israeli soldiers who kill Palestinians.

“A soldier who is in a life-threatening situation and acts to defend himself (or) others (he) is responsible for, is receiving and will continue receiving full back-up from the Israeli army,” he said.

The above assertion appears far more sinister once we remember Afek’s views on what constitutes a “life-threatening situation”, as he had articulated in Herzliya a few days later.

“Thousands of Gaza’s residents (try) to breach the border fence,” he said, with reference to the non-violent March of Return at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel.

The Gaza protesters “are led by a terrorist organization that deliberately uses civilians to carry out attacks,” Afek said.

Afek sees unarmed protests in Gaza as a form of terrorism, thus concurring with an earlier statement made by then-Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on April 8, 2018, when he declared that “there are no innocents in Gaza.”

Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy, however, is not confined to the Gaza Strip but is also implemented with the same degree of violent enthusiasm in the West Bank.

‘No attacker, male or female, should make it out of any attack alive,’ Lieberman said in 2015. His orders were followed implicitly, as hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Jerusalem for allegedly trying to attack Israeli occupation soldiers or armed illegal Jewish settlers.

Unlike democratic political systems everywhere, in Israel the occupation soldier becomes the interpreter and enforcer of the law.

Putting this policy into practice in Gaza is even more horrendous as unarmed protesters are often being killed by Israeli snipers from long distances. Even journalists and medics have not been spared the same tragic fate as the hundreds of civilians who were killed since the start of the protests in March 2018.

Last February, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza’s protests concluded that “it has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

In his attack on the ICC at the Herzliya Conference, Afek contended that “Israel is a law-abiding country, with an independent and strong judicial system, and there is no reason for its actions to be scrutinized by the ICC.”

The Israeli General goes on to reprimand the ICC by urging it to focus on “dealing with the main issues for which it was founded.”

Has Afek even read the Rome Statute? The first Article states that the ICC has the “power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute.”

Article 5 elaborates the nature of these serious crimes, which include: “(a) The crime of genocide; (b) Crimes against humanity; (c) War crimes; (d) The crime of aggression.”

Israel has been accused of at least two of these crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity – repeatedly, including in the February report by the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Afek may argue that none of this is relevant to Israel, for the latter is not “a party to the Rome Statute,” therefore, does not fall within ICC’s legal jurisdiction.

Wrong again.

Article 12 of the Rome Statute allows for ICC’s jurisdiction in two cases; first, if the State in which the alleged crime has occurred is itself a party of the Statute and, second, if the State where the crime has occurred agrees to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the court.

While it is true that Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, Palestine has, since 2015, agreed to submit itself to the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, in April 2015, the State of Palestine formally became a member of the ICC, thus giving the court jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in the Occupied Territories since June 13, 2014. These crimes include human rights violations carried out during the Israeli war on Gaza in July-August of the same year.

Afek’s skewed understanding of international law went unchallenged at the Herzliya Conference, as he was flanked by equally misguided interpreters of international law.

However, nothing proclaimed by Israel’s top military prosecutor or his government will alter the facts. Israeli war crimes must not go unpunished; Israel’s judicial system is untrustworthy and the ICC has the legal right and moral duty to carry out the will of the international community and hold to account those responsible for war crimes anywhere, including Israel.