Mr. President, Leave Syria

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No one knows precisely what happened inside the White House that resulted in President Trump’s sudden about-face on Syria. One day he was planning to extricate American ground troops from Syria; then he wasn’t. Regardless, whoever is urging the president to leave a small contingent of 2,000 lightly armed soldiers and Marines in a remote corner of Syria is doing the president and the nation a grave disservice. 

President Ronald Reagan committed 2,400 Marines to Beirut, Lebanon as part of an international peacekeeping mission on the advice of his Secretary of State George Schultz. Then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger opposed the mission as open-ended and with no reasonable chance of success, but Reagan followed Schultz’s recommendation. 

As Weinberger warned, the small US military presence had no strategic impact on the escalating violence in Beirut. The Marines operated under ludicrous rules of engagement that prohibited them from firing their weapons unless they were taken under direct fire and, even then, only with a weapon similar to the one used against them. In short order, the escalating violence confined the lightly equipped Marine infantrymen to their compound.

At 6:20 a.m. on October 23, 1983 the mission changed. A suicide bomber drove a truck into the Marine compound and detonated a bomb producing a blast equal to 12,000 pounds of dynamite. The blast destroyed the building and killed 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers.

Weinberger was furious and frustrated. When Reagan called him to the White House, Weinberger summed up the position of the Marines to the president in very succinct terms: “They’re in a position of extraordinary danger. They have no mission. They have no capability of carrying out a mission, and they’re terribly vulnerable.” 

According to Weinberger, President Reagan said, “Yes, Cap. You were right. I was wrong. Now, we’ve got to get our men out of there.” Despite the usual push back with bluster and bravado—“Americans don’t cut and run,” and “Marines never quit”—from the usual suspects inside the Beltway who’ve never pulled a trigger in battle in their lives, Reagan withdrew the Marines. 

As the White House wrestles with the Washington Swamp — a growing group of interventionists inside and outside of the White House—President Trump should consider adopting one of two courses of action in Syria.

1) Transform the weak US military presence in Syria into a more capable and survivable force of at least 5,000 US troops including tanks, tracked armored fighting vehicles, self-propelled artillery and air defense forces. 

2) Withdraw the force of 2,000-plus light troops currently on the ground in Syria. 

Keep in mind, that option one is — at best — a stop-gap measure to protect American lives and nothing more. Short of a massive American military intervention on the scale of Desert Storm, Washington’s actions will make no impact on Syria. Nothing Washington does in Syria will change the reality that Israel is involved in a permanent state-of-undeclared-war with Iran, Iran’s proxies and, increasingly, Islamist Turkey. Moscow comprehends this reality and has acknowledged Israel’s National Security Interests. As a result, Moscow has both warned off Iran and stood aside while Israel has launched more than 200 strikes against Iranian targets in Syria over the last 18 months.

Moscow’s readiness to act decisively against Islamists of all strikes is a good thing, but given Turkey’s defection to the anti-Western/anti-Israeli camp, there will always be a stray Sunni Islamist element present in the region to justify prolonging American military engagement. But staying in the region to chase the residue of ISIS and al Qaeda is pointless. Turkey and the regional Arab states will allow the few surviving Islamist fighters to escape and disperse rather than let them be destroyed.

President Trump should follow his gut instinct and disengage American forces from Syria. President Putin promised to end the Syrian Civil War with the “total annihilation of terrorists in Syria.” President Trump should let him keep his promise. 

As President Reagan discovered the hard way in 1983, open-ended peacekeeping or peace enforcement missions are halfway houses that appeal to dithering politicians, but such policies do not ignite passion or commitment among Americans. American voters dislike imprecise and indefinite policies that put American lives at risk casually. According to the latest polls, 62 percent of Americans oppose military intervention in Syria.

After 1991, Washington was stupid and embraced the Neocons’ unipolar moment. As President Trump routinely reminds his supporters, the outcome was a series of strategic disasters for the American people. If the president’s four star generals have not figured it out, at least the American people have concluded that using American military power to breathe new life into the comatose body of the perpetually failed states that litter the Eastern hemisphere is a huge waste of time. 

Option two is the right course of action. It’s the option President Trump’s base voted for in 2016. 

Extricating American soldiers and Marines from volatile quagmires like Syria (and Afghanistan) will only intensify the president’s popular appeal in the midterms when his base must mobilize and vote to support for the America First agenda in Congress. 

Doug Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran, PhD and the author of five books. His latest is Margin of Victory from Naval Institute Press, 2016. 

Reprinted with author's permission from Breaking Defense.

Will London, Paris and Tel-Aviv be sanctioned by Moscow and Washington?, by Thierry Meyssan

The confrontation which recently occurred in Lattakia may result in a complete global redistribution of the cards. There are two reasons for this, the second of which is being hidden from the Western world. First of all, it cost the lives of 15 Russian soldiers; secondly, it not only implicates Israël, but also the United Kingdom and France. This is potentially the most dangerous crisis in more than 60 years. We now have to find out whether President Trump, currently in the middle of his election campaign, is capable of supporting his Russian counterpart, in order that the United States and Russia may sanction the colonial powers as they did in 1956, during the Suez crisis.

Does Canada Support an Invasion of Venezuela?

In their obsession for regime change, Ottawa is backing talk of an invasion of Venezuela. And the NDP is enabling Canada’s interventionist policy.

Last week 11 of the 14 member states of the anti-Venezuelan “Lima Group” backed a statement distancing the alliance from “any type of action or declaration that implies military intervention” after Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro stated: “As for military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option … diplomacy remains the first option but we can’t exclude any action.” Canada, Guyana and Colombia refused to criticize the head of the OAS’ musings about an invasion of Venezuela.

In recent weeks there has been growing tension on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Some believe Washington is pushing for a conflict via Colombia, which recently joined NATO.

Last summer Donald Trump threatened to invade Venezuela. “We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary,” the US President said.

Talk of an invasion encourages those seeking regime change. At the start of August drones armed with explosives flew toward Maduro during a military parade in what was probably an attempt to assassinate the Venezuelan president. Two weeks ago the New York Times reported that US officials recently met members of Venezuela’s military planning to oust Maduro. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for the military to oust Maduro in February and other leading Republican Party officials have made similar statements.

Alongside these aggressive measures, Canada has sought to weaken the Venezuelan government. Since last September Ottawa has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Venezuelan officials. In March the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned the economic sanctions the US, Canada and EU have adopted against Venezuela while Caracas called Canada’s move a “blatant violation of the most fundamental rules of International Law.”

Over the past year and a half Canadian officials have campaigned aggressively against the Venezuelan government. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has prodded Caribbean countries to join the Lima Group’s anti-Venezuela efforts and made frequent statements critical of Caracas’ democratic legitimacy and human rights record. In June Freeland told the OAS General Assembly, “we must act immediately on the situation in Venezuela to force the exit of the dictatorship.”

Ottawa has encouraged its diplomats to play up human rights violations and supported opposition groups inside Venezuela. A 27-page Global Affairs report uncovered by the Globe and Mail noted, “Canada should maintain the embassy’s prominent position as a champion of human-rights defenders.” Alluding to the hostility engendered by its interference in that country’s affairs, the partially redacted 2017 report recommended that Canadian officials also “develop and implement strategies to minimize the impact of attacks by the government in response to Canada’s human rights statements and activities.”

As part of its campaign against the elected government, Ottawa has amplified oppositional voices inside Venezuela. Over the past decade, for instance, the embassy has co-sponsored an annual Human Rights Award with the Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos whose director, Raúl Herrera, has repeatedly denounced the Venezuelan government. In July the recipient of the 2018 prize, Francisco Valencia, spoke in Ottawa and was profiled by the Globe and Mail. “Canada actually is, in my view, the country that denounced the most the violation of human rights in Venezuela … and was the most helpful with financing towards humanitarian issues,” explained Valencia, who also told that paper he was “the target of threats from the government.”

In another example of anti-government figures invited to Ottawa, the former mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, called for “humanitarian intervention” before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development last week. He said:

If the international community does not urgently activate the principle of humanitarian intervention for Venezuela — which developed the concept of the responsibility to protect — they will have to settle for sending Venezuelans a resolution of condolence with which we will not revive the thousands of human beings who will lose their lives in the middle of this genocide sponsored by Maduro.

In November Ledezma escaped house arrest and fled the country.

The NDP’s foreign critic has stayed quiet regarding the US/Canadian campaign against Venezuela’s elected government. I found no criticism by Hélène Laverdière of US/OAS leaders’ musing about invading or the August assassination attempt on Maduro. Nor did I find any disapproval from the NDP’s foreign critic of Canadian sanctions or Ottawa’s role in the Lima Group of anti-Venezuelan foreign ministers. Laverdière has also failed to challenge Canada’s expulsion of Venezuelan diplomats and role in directly financing an often-unsavoury Venezuelan opposition.

Worse still, Laverdière has openly supported asphyxiating the left-wing government through other means. The 15-year Foreign Affairs diplomat has repeatedly found cause to criticize Venezuela and has called on Ottawa to do more to undermine Maduro’s government.

Is Canadian political culture so deformed that no party represented in the House of Commons will oppose talk of invading Venezuela? If so, it’s not another country’s democracy that we should be concerned about.

Feeding Militarism: The US Imperial Consensus

The US military industrial complex reigns like a ravenous ruler in search of new funding prospects. It has done well this year, with the Trump administration pushing the sale that the imperium needs more ruddy cash and indulgent expenditure to cope with all manner of evils.  Empire must be without equal.

The dissenters to this program have been pitiably small, concentrated amongst such outliers as Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.  Those on the GOP side of the aisle have barely squeaked but relative to the Democrats, their sounds have been spectacularly noisy.  There is, in fact, something to be said that, in the boisterous era of Donald Trump, the Democrats have shown very little by way of bucking any trend whatever in the continuingly expansive program that is US military spending.

As Peter Beinart observed in February this year, the Democrats might be moving to the left on the domestic front (a murmuring more than a lurch, it must be said); in terms of a foreign or defence policy, nothing of note comes to mind.  Terrified of being left behind in the rat race of reaction, the Democrats have, for instance, done their bit to promise funding for the border wall with Mexico, albeit offering a lesser $1.6 billion in 2019 to the $5 billion demanded by Trump.

Beinart took note of the remarks of Nancy Pelosi, chipper in the run-up to the budget deal that dramatically increased US defence spending.  “In our negotiations,” she enthused to fellow House Democrats in an email, “Congressional Democrats have been fighting for increases in funding for defence.”

Defence, notably when aligned with imperial cravings, supplies its own logic.  The military industrial complex is an economy within, given the armouring rationales that make a reduction of spending heretical.  Firms and employees need to be supported; infrastructure maintained. Forget those other menial things: roads, public transport, train tracks, bridges and airports can be left to one side.  To reduce the amount would be tantamount to being treasonous, an anti-patriotic gesture.

“It’s not just a matter of buying fewer bombs,” suggests Brian Riedl of the conservatively inclined Manhattan Institute.  “The United States spends $100,000 per troop on compensation – such as salaries, housing, health care – which also contributes to our defence budget exceeding that of countries like China.”  As with such empires as Rome, the entire complex entails compensation, remuneration and nourishment for the industry of death and protection.

It became clear this month that, even with short-term spending bills, this rationale would repeat itself.  Last week, the Senate considered such a bill that further supplemented the earlier budget package that would not only fund the Labor, Education and Health and Human Services departments; it would also add further largesse to the Pentagon.  By a margin of 93-7, the package was passed and the Democrats found wanting, refusing to stage any protest that might result in an expiration of government funding come September 30.

Trump, in his amoral calculations, is all for such a disruptive measure, having expressed a desire both for and against a shutting down of the government in an effort to push funding towards his pet border security projects.  “Finish the Wall!” he has intoned between sessions of hectoring, directed both at the Democrats and the GOP.

The Democrats have been weak in conviction.  “This is necessary,” explained an unconvincing Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) of the Senate Appropriations Committee, “to ensure that we do not face a government shutdown in the event that we do not finish our work on other remaining bills.”

This supposedly necessitous state of affairs sees the Pentagon budget for 2019 receiving an outlay of $606.5 billion, an increase of $17 billion from 2018.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)’s words were those of the patriot turned fetishist.  “After subjecting America’s all-voluntary armed forces to years of belt tightening, this legislation will build on our recent progress in rebuilding the readiness of our military and investing more in the men and women who wear the uniform.”

As for what the appropriations will fund, 13 new Navy ships will be added to the inventory, including three DDG-51 guided missile destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines.  The air arm can look forward to 93 of the previously mocked (by no less or more a person than Trump) F-35 aircraft, 58 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 66 AH-64 Apache helicopters, 13 V-22 aircraft.  A further $1.5 billion will be set aside for upgrading 135 Abrams tanks.

In the tactics that ultimately saw a grand capitulation on the part of the Democrats, a policy obscenity manifested itself: to avoid squabbling over non-defence spending bills, the Senate agreed to pack the military budget bill along with that of full-year funding for the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Education. In wrapping these bills in the same ribbon, an abysmal reality surfaced: the military industrial complex finds a home in any legislative orientation, and will not be denied.

Putin-Nazi Paranoia

They’re out there. Trump-loving, Assad-apologist, Putin-Nazi sleeper agents, posing as regular normal Americans. They could be anyone. They could be your neighbors, the guys in the copy room, your Uber drivers, even some of your Twitter followers. They’re sitting there, right now, glued to their televisions, waiting for Jewish Nazi law clerks to perform a series of secret hand signs, blinks, hiccups, sneezes, coughs, and almost undetectable, low-frequency flatulence that will signal the launch of the “Attack on America.” It could come at any moment now.

Zina Bash is definitely one of them. Don’t let her Mexican-Jewish ancestry, or the fact that her grandparents were Holocaust survivors, fool you into thinking otherwise. She made that “OK” sign at the Kavanaugh hearings, which, all right, apparently wasn’t the cue for the millions of American Putin-Nazis to rip off their rubbery masks of normality and storm into the streets in their polo shirts singing Tomorrow Belongs to Me … but it was some kind of secret Nazi code.

Certainly, Alex Jones is one of them. Why else would patriotic global corporations like Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube suddenly ban him from all their platforms after allowing him to spew his bile there for years? It’s probably only a matter of time until Google’s “algorithms” unperson him entirely (at which point I’ll receive instructions to delete any reference to him in this essay, or risk being further deranked myself. I will, of course, comply immediately, as no one despises Alex Jones more than I, even though, oddly, I’ve never watched him. Thank God for that, as who knows how my mind could have been permanently warped by whatever Nazi content he’s been forcing less fortunate Americans to consume!)

And then, God help us, there’s Jeremy Corbyn and his genocidal communist Nazi Death Cult! If he isn’t one of them, no one is. If you haven’t been following the British media, the story is, basically, that Jeremy Corbyn is a terrorist-loving, anti-Semitic, conspiracy theorizing, racist traitor to everything the British ruling classes stand for, and has transformed the UK Labour Party into a homicidal mob of Jew-hating brownshirts. Gangs of slavering Corbyn-Nazis are roving the lanes of Kensington and Knightsbridge accusing Jews of lacking irony and saying mean things about the State of Israel. British Jews have been advised to flee the country or to shelter in place until the tabloids, The Guardian, the ruling classes, and Tony Blair can hound this Hitlerian devil out of office, which, the way things are going, should be any day now.

Meanwhile, the British soldier on under the imminent threat of Putin-Nazi Novichok perfume assassin hit squads, which Putin could send at any moment directly from Moscow to Gatwick Airport to incompetently attempt to murder their targets by spraying the deadliest nerve agent in existence onto the doorknobs of their suburban homes and then stroll around getting filmed by every CCTV camera in Britain. As far as I know, the British tabloids haven’t yet published surveillance photos of Corbyn welcoming the Skripal assassins at Gatwick with a wreath, or a bottle of Stolichnaya (and wearing his Russian-stooge hat, of course), but I won’t be terribly shocked when they do.

And the Putin-Nazis are not just on the march in the United States and Great Britain. They’re coming out of the woodwork in Europe! As I’m sure you’re aware, here in Germany, in a city called Chemnitz in the Free State of Saxony, which has never had any kind of Nazi problems (except for the fact that the entire region has been infested with neo-Nazis for decades and is generally known here as Neo-Nazi Central), thousands of just regular foreigner-hating “Volk” joined a few hundred neo-Nazis in marching around with German flags, barking xenophobic slogans, heiling Hitler, harassing assorted “non-German-looking” human beings, and various other forms of “protest.” Such unprecedented eruptions of Nazism occur on a regular basis in Saxony, albeit on a smaller scale, so it was rather awkward for the corporate media to link the events in Chemnitz to Trump, but nevertheless they managed to sneak a few references to his “emboldenment” in. The best they could do to tie in to Putin was to publish a lot of photos of skinheads hanging around that humongous statue of Marx in the center of Chemnitz’s central square, because, you know, Putin, Trump, Marx, Stalin, Assad, Saddam, Gaddafi … whoever, they’re all just different brands of Hitler!

Seriously, though, all comedy aside … I have to hand it to David Brock, or Jennifer Palmieri, or whoever it was that came up with the Putin-Nazi narrative. OK, granted, the Putin part hasn’t quite worked, except on die-hard Obama disciples, Hillary-worshippers, and other bull-goose loonies, but the Nazi stuff is going gangbusters … and not just with the liberal public (because that has always been an easy sell), but also with the more leftist left. It has taken a while, but we’ve arrived at the stage where even “hardcore anti-capitalist leftists” are dedicating most of their time and energy to calling Donald Trump a fascist, and likening him to Hitler, and so on, over and over, and over again, in increasingly exasperated tones. Why, in Marx’s name, these leftists want to know, won’t other leftists join the chorus of voices screaming, “TRUMP IS A FASCIST!” in all caps on a daily basis? How could these other leftists not see that this is not the time to attack the corporate media, the “intelligence community,” global corporations, or anyone other than DONALD TRUMP, who is LITERALLY ADOLF FUCKING HITLER?

Anthony DiMaggio’s recent essay in CounterPunch is a prime example of the effect the Putin-Nazi paranoia is having on leftists. According to DiMaggio, Donald Trump, by tweeting mean things about Attorney General Sessions and bombastically threatening The New York Times, is no longer just a normal fascist. He is now officially a “full-on fascist,” or a “real world fascist,” or a super duper fascist! DiMaggio doesn’t have any qualms about the deep state, or rather, the steady state, sabotaging an elected president (or at least pretending to be doing do so in print), because, well, you know, “the stakes are far higher” than mere democracy, what with Hitler in the White House. William Kristol would agree wholeheartedly.

But calling Trump a fascist again is just an overture for DiMaggio’s main theme, which is that it’s time to unite the left against the growing Putin-Nazi threat. See, the problem is not just the Putin-Nazis. It is also the fellow Putin-Nazi travellers, and the Assadists, and the Red-Brown infiltrators! Yes, you know who we are, do you not? Glenn Greenwald is our leader, naturally, but Caitlin Johnstone is second-in-command. We refer to her in our secret meetings as “Caity, Queen of the Putin-Nazis.” DiMaggio links to a helpful list of other traitorous Strasserist spies compiled by the crackpot Louis Proyect, folks like Norman Finkelstein, Mike Whitney, Diana Johnstone, Patrick Cockburn, Tom Engelhardt, and Michael Hudson, whose essays have been published in The Unz Review, which also publishes a lot of “alt-right,” racist, and anti-Semitic essays. (Full disclosure: Proyect contacted me, demanding to know how I can allow my work to appear on a Nazi website like Unz, but I ignored him, as I assumed he was just trolling me, again, but it appears he was fishing for incriminating comments for his groundbreaking piece of investigative journalism. In any event, I seem to have escaped inclusion on his Red-Brown blacklist. For the record, I’m with Norman Finkelstein. I don’t stop anyone from reposting my essays, no matter what I think of their other contributors. I wouldn’t even stop The New York Times from publishing my stuff, though, of course, they never would, and they publish actual mass murdering war criminals.)

Anyway, according to Anthony DiMaggio, “leftists who focus on the propagandistic nature of the corporate media, while shilling for the far right and failing to condemn right-wing fascism, provide comfort to the reactionary right’s efforts to suppress journalistic freedom.” Well, Jesus, I wouldn’t want to do anything like that. I hope DiMaggio will follow up with a breakdown of exactly how many times I need to call Donald Trump a fascist before I am allowed to criticize the propagandistic nature of the corporate media, or the global capitalist ruling classes, or any type of “full-on fascism” that doesn’t neatly fit into his simplistic category … like the type that seeks to impose a regime of anus-puckering ideological conformity on those it determines are members of its camp, and that gets off punishing deviations from its norms.

Look, the truth is, I don’t like Donald Trump. I haven’t liked him for about thirty years. I have no problem whatsoever with leftists like DiMaggio calling him names until they’re blue in the face if that makes them happy. What I do find troubling is the growing atmosphere of neo-McCarthyite paranoia which has been gradually spreading into leftist quarters, and the witch-hunting, and the Putin-Nazi-baiting, and the compiling and distributing of pseudo-blacklists, and the cheering on of global corporations as they ideologically sterilize the Internet. We get enough of that from the corporate media. So how about we lighten up on the paranoia, let the global capitalist ruling classes finish destroying Donald Trump, and maybe think about what the left has to offer as an alternative to the global-corporate, post-“fascist,” neo-feudal future. While it might not feel like it at the moment, it’s coming … we’ll be there before you know it.

Shutting Down Free Speech in America: Government and Lobbyists Work Together to Destroy the First Amendment

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During the past several years, there has been increased pressure coming from some in the federal government aided and abetted powerful advocacy groups in the private sector to police social and alternative media. It is a multi-pronged attack on the First Amendment which has already limited the types of information that Americans have access to, thereby narrowing policy options to suit those in power

The process has been ostensibly driven by concerns over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, but it is really about who controls and limits the public’s right to know what is going on out of sight in Washington and New York City, where politics and money come together. If one is interested in the free flow of information and viewpoints that comes with the alternative media, it certainly does not look that way. Robert Parry described it as a deliberate process of “demonizing and silencing dissent that questions mainstream narratives.”

Last October top executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter were summoned to Capitol Hill for a discussion of their role in what is alleged to be Russia’s influence on the presidential campaign and went back home contrite and promising to improve. They have indeed improved by punishing members whose views have been found to be unacceptable, blocking them and suspending their access to the sites. Meanwhile, the federal government for its part has attempted to silence independent non-US based voices by declaring Russian media outlets RT America and Sputnik to be “foreign agents,” requiring them to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA). It is an unprecedented action against a news agency and invites quid-pro-quo for US media operating overseas, leaving the American public more ignorant of world affairs than it already is.

Qatar based Al-Jazeera, which has been particularly targeted by Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as “a major exporter of hate against the Jewish people,” will also be required to register with FARA to comply with the new National Defense Authorization Act. Al-Jazeera, it should be noted, has employed undercover investigative journalism to expose the corruption of Britain’s government by Israeli supported Jewish groups. It’s similar series on the activity of Zionist lobbyists in America is on hold due to threats from Jewish organizations to severely punish the network if the documentary should ever be aired.

More recently Facebook has been active in removing accounts and advertising, much of it pro-Palestinian or otherwise critical of Israel, but also to include highly respectable Telesur’s “The Empire Files,” which looked at the consequences of US sanctions on Venezuela. Anything that criticizes the corporate worldview is fair game for censorship. American Herald Tribune, which is critical of US foreign policy in many areas, has recently had its Gmail shut down while Google also stopped servicing ads on its website. Its Facebook page was also closed, all done without any warning or explanation.

One of the organizations most interested in limiting conversations about what is going on in the world is the ADL which claims that it is “the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism and hate of all kinds,” though it clearly excludes incitement or even physical harm directed against Palestinian Arabs resentful of the Israeli occupation of their country. Its definition of “hatred” is really quite selective and is focused on anyone criticizing Israel or Jewish related issues. Its goal is to have any such speech or writing categorized as anti-Semitism and, eventually, to have “hate crime” legislation that criminalizes such expressions.

It is particularly ironic that Israel, which has now declared that it is in no way subject to international law, has itself proposed across the board censorship of the most prominent social media platforms on a global scale by creating an “international coalition that would make limiting criticism of Israel its primary objective.” It would operate through a “loose coalition…[that] would keep an eye on content and where it is being posted, and members of the coalition would work to demand that the platforms remove the content…in any of their countries at the request of members.”

More recently, Israel has been exposed by Wikileaks as hosting a conference describing how it now has a Command Center that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to scan the internet worldwide looking for “anti-Semitic” content. For Israel, anti-Semitic content means any criticism of its government or its behavior towards the Arabs. It reportedly pulls 200,000 posts a day and then reviews them using AI for content considered to be unacceptable. The roughly 10,000 posts determined to be anti-Semitic are then passed on to “intelligence and law enforcement agencies” in countries that have hate speech legislation for further action. The Israeli government also complains directly to the social media source to have the material taken down and works through Jewish organizations in cities and countries where there is considerable “anti-Semitic” activity to pressure governments to act even if there is no legal basis.

As most genuine independent journalism is currently limited to the alternative media, and that media lives on the internet, the ADL and those who are acting in collusion with the Israeli government are focusing on “cyberhate” as the problem and are working with major internet providers to voluntarily censor their product. On October 10th, 2017 the ADL issued a press release out of its New York City offices to explain just how far the censorship process has gone. The organization boasted of the fact that it was working with Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter “to engineer new solutions to stop cyberhate.” Apple is not identified by name in the press release but one should presume that it is also involved, as well as YouTube, which is owned by Google. When you consider that the associates in this venture with ADL are vast corporations that control huge slices of the communications industry, the consequences of some kind of corporate decision on what constitutes “hate” become clear. Combatting “cyberhate” will inevitably become across-the-board censorship for viewpoints that are considered to be unacceptable, including any criticism of Israel.

ADL will be the “convener” for the group, providing “insight on how hate and extremist content manifests – and constantly evolves-online.” Which means it will define the problem, which it calls the “spew[ing] of hateful ideologies” so the corporate world can take steps to block such material. And “the initiative will be managed by ADL’s Center for Technology and Society in Silicon Valley.”

Facebook already employs thousands of censors and there is literally no limit to how far those who want to restrict material that they consider offensive will go. To be sure, most groups who want to limit the flow of information do not have the clout or resources of ADL with its $64 million annual operating budget so its “cyberhate” campaign will no doubt serve as a model that others will then follow. For ADL, reducing criticism of Israel is a much-sought-after goal. For the rest of us, it is a trip into darkness.

Reprinted with permission from American Herald Tribune.

China’s ‘Digital Dictatorship’…And Ours

China's "social credit" system is widely viewed as a kind of "digital dictatorship," where not only does illegal or anti-social behavior result in lower scores and therefore less privileges, but political dissent also earns one lower "social credit" scores. While the anti-China crowd is busy pointing a finger at Beijing for such an authoritarian approach, a similar system is being put in place in the United States. How? Tune in to today's Liberty Report:

All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)

There is much good news in this world. But the U.S. mass media barely reports it.

Have you noticed? Syria is on the brink of defeating the U.S.-backed opposition forces now corralled into Idlib Province. The successes of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies have decisively stymied Washington’s 17-year-long year effort to dominate the Middle East through aggressive, illegal regime change operations justified by lies.

Meanwhile the Sadrists in Iraq in alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party are steering an independent national path that includes cordial ties and security cooperation with Iran, Syria and Russia. The Bush/Cheney dream (of securing Iraq as a U.S. and Israel ally) hasn’t materialized.

The Europeans, Chinese, Indians and Russians persist in expanding trade with Iran in defiance of arrogant U.S. threats. This too is good; an affirmation of international law in the face of U.S. violations. The very departure of the U.S. from the Iran deal, to say nothing of efforts to sabotage it through secondary sanctions, is illegal.

This too–have you noticed? A remarkable warming of relations between North and South Korea is underway! The North and South Korean heads of state have met three times in rapid succession and signed a host of significant agreements. This is an unqualified good, but the U.S. media pooh-poohs it, questioning whether any progress has really been made on denuclearization, wondering whether Trump sold out the store in Singapore. The desire to attack Trump trumps any natural inclination to share the joy of the Korean people at this dramatic relaxation of tensions. Instead of smiling about it, they glare, and express alarm that Trump might actually pull U.S. troops out of South Korea. Like that would be an irresponsible thing.

More good news: Sino-Russian relations are at an all-time high as reflected in the recent massive joint military operations in East Siberia and numerous trade agreements. Cooperation between the two nations through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Eurasian infrastructure projects bodes well for the global economy. (Chinese purchases of Russian jets and missiles has resulted in U.S. sanctions, in the context of the ongoing trade war. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov notes that this will simply lead to closer military cooperation between Russia and China, and further decline in the status of the dollar as default global currency.)

In July—surely you heard?—Japan suddenly signed with the European Union an economic partnership agreement establishing the largest trading bloc in the world. In effect, Japan has become the EU’s 29th member. This was after Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and initiated trade wars with practically everybody, including the Europeans and Japanese. Trump drove Japan into the arms of the Europeans; arguably a fine thing.

These are real news stories, perhaps deserving some attention.

But no. Our news anchors report on the Kavanaugh hearings, Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation, the Mueller probe, Stormy Daniels’ book describing Trump’s prepuce, Bob Woodward’s book describing White House chaos and Trump’s closest advisors’ contempt for him, Trump’s tweets versus his attorney general Jeff Sessions, Trump’s (scandalous!) declassification of Russia investigation documents, Trump’s trade wars, the U.S. mid-term elections, and new data about the Puerto Rico disaster (challenging Trump’s assessment). Hurricane Florence is covered extensively, with attention to Trump’s reaction; and “active shootings” are reported excitedly as they occur. Police murders and issues of sexual abuse are, of course, covered as breaking news.

Joe and Mika and Chris Cuomo spend much time interviewing the authors of newspaper articles or editorials and books critical of Trump (or promoting their own books). They devote extensive attention to historical analogies, citing the Anita Hill episode of 1991, comparing her to Ford and noting how Sen. Orrin Hatch who dismissed Hill’s claims now similarly rejects Ford’s. Shame!

The CNN and MSNBC anchors promote a sense of impending, inevitable doom for the administration. “The walls are closing in on the White House,” they say. Yes, the economy is doing well. (This is almost grudgingly conceded, and the fragility of the recovery stressed). But Trump’s supposed Russia ties (and possible vulnerability to blackmail); his confrontational attitude to U.S. allies; his ostensible instinctive sympathy for autocrats; his erratic statements and behavior; his irrational trade policies; his history of abusing women and supporting other men who’ve done so—all are supposed to lead to some proper closure to this sad administration.

And the Democrats will win the November elections. And then there will likely be impeachment proceedings. The tone is boldly contemptuous. The mainstream media aside from Fox has become a set of organs for Trump ridicule. “Senior correspondents” and miscellaneous talking heads sneer at Trump, laugh at him, roll their eyes. They daily call him a liar and list the latest official number of lies (as tabulated by the New York Times). It is a highly unusual situation. The world knows the U.S. media and the majority of the people truly despise Donald Trump and see him as a national embarrassment.

But in projecting that national shame the media downplays almost everything else. A few minutes are spent from time to time on Yemen, and how awful it is for the Saudis to bomb all those kids. But the Israeli attack on Syria the other day, that caused the Syrians to mistakenly shoot down a Russian jet killing 15, was ignored. European politics are generally ignored. The priorities of the CNN news editor are very different than those of their BBC or RT counterpart.

The big vast world out there is largely ignored, referenced when necessary to trash Trump but not validated as a thing-in-itself. If Trump is solipsistic, the U.S. news directorate is equally so. The American Exceptionalism which Barack Obama like presidents before him openly averred is the media’s unofficial ideology.

Top of the hour news, CNN, 11:00 a.m. EST, Sept. 20. Kate Bolduan starts with the Kavanaugh issue. Then the breaking Maryland mass shooting. Finally something on Korea!

But hm… The pundit Max Boot (Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations)  dismisses yesterday’s summit between Moon and Kim in Pyongyang while clueless Kate nods in agreement that a peace agreement between the U.S. and North Korea would be “dangerous” because it would mean U.S. military withdrawal of the peninsula. They chuckle together, “Oh Max,” she laughs. “You’ve been critical of Trump’s approach to North Korea. Do you see the point in another summit [between Kim and Trump]?” No, of course. Segment over.

Back to the active shooting in Maryland, after a commercial break, very briefly. Then more Kavanaugh. Then back to Baltimore. Three people dead. We’ll be right back. More on Puerto Rico now, emphasizing how Trump downplayed the death toll. An interview with the scholar who compiled the report. (Is this more urgent than covering today’s news from Yemen?) Trump all the time, all day long.

U.S. imperialism and its consequences? Why bother? The sponsors are tired of foreign wars, and it’s depressing to see reports that they’ve killed so many innocent people and created so many refugee crises and produced so many new terrorist groups and generated so much hatred and contempt for the U.S. in Europe and everywhere.

Better to spare the viewers exposure to all of that and instead focus on bringing down Trump and restoring normalcy to U.S. foreign policy. That at least seems to be the thinking.

Rocinha Favela and the Future of Urbanism

During a recent tour in Brazil, I visited the Rocinha Favela in Rio de Janeiro. Rocinha is the largest favela in Brazil and runs up a very steep hill near the centre of Rio. It is believed at least 70,000 people live in Rocinha (some estimates suggest more than double that number), living in houses made from concrete and brick. It is officially described as a neighbourhood and has very basic sanitation, plumbing and electricity. Rocinha also has shops, hairdressers, banks, art galleries and many other businesses. The word favela itself is derived from a skin-irritating plant of the spurge family: removing these plants to live in these areas was not easy so the people called the hills after the plant.

View of sea from top of Rocinha favela (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

History

The favelas go back to the late 1800s when soldiers, brought in for a local war, had no place to live and so settled in the hills. After the end of slavery and the growth of city life many people moved to the cities and the favelas spread. A later industrialisation drive in the 1940s brought many more people to the cities and the favelas expanded dramatically. In the 1970s there were public housing projects but these too disintegrated into new favelas. As the drugs trade increased in the 1980s so too did the growth of gangs and gang warfare. In Rocinha, like many slums, it also has an ongoing conflict between police and drug dealers.

Locals perform samba drumming, Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

UPP and BOPE

The state began a war on the drug gangs in 2008 with the Pacifying Police Units (UPP) moving in, usually after an initial operation by BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion) who scour the area for heavy weapons and drug caches. The main purpose of the UPP is to stop armed men from ruling the streets and end drug trafficking. However, there seems to be an uneasy peace between the UPP and the drug gangs. While walking through the narrow ‘streets’ of Rocinha, a man with a revolver pointed in the air walked through our group and twice we were asked to refrain from taking photographs as we walked past armed groups of men.

Cemented-over bullet holes, Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

Cinema

If you look at any listicle of Brazil’s best films you will probably see two films, Elite Squad (2007) and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010) contained within. These films follow the actions of a BOPE squad in a favelas and does so without pulling any punches. Different, conflicting elements of society are portrayed in both Elite Squad films. The BOPE and police are shown to have corrupt elements, ultimately manipulated by political figures. The middle class are shown in the discussions about the nature of power in university lectures (with particular emphasis on Michel Foucault) and the students are shown working in charitable organisations in the favelas with the nod from drug gang leaders. The main narrative of the films is the idea of corrupt police making financial deals with the drugs gangs – Elite Squad (2007), and changing to corrupt politicians making money by taxing the whole community after the drug gangs have been pushed out – Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010).

Overhanging wires on telegraph poles, Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

Tourism

The global success of these two films has probably been one of the factors in encouraging tourism in the favelas While the drug gangs generally do not appear to target tourists there have been incidents where tourists have been injured or killed by both the police and the drug gangs usually as the result of some accident or misunderstanding. In general, tourism, like in many other places, is a quick-fix solution for local businesses but does little in the way of any real social or economic development of the favela neighbourhoods.

Local store, Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

Whither the favelas?

While slums became common in Europe and the USA in the 19th and 20th centuries they are predominantly found in developing countries today. The Little Ireland slum in Manchester, for example, became a source for social scientist Friedrich Engels’ book titled The Condition of the Working Class in England published in Germany in 1845. According to the UN World Cities Report 2016: Urbanization and Development – Emerging Futures:

The percentage of slum dwellers in urban areas across all developing regions has reduced considerably since 1990, but the numbers have increased gradually since 2000 except for a steep rise of 72 million new slum dwellers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Also, according to one article on the world’s five biggest slums:

Around a quarter of the world’s urban population lives in slums. And this figure is rising fast. The number of slum dwellers in developing countries increased from 689 million in 1990 to 880 million in 2014, according to the United Nations World Cities Report 2016.

The biggest slums in the world today are: Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa (Population: 400,000); Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya (Population: 700,000); Dharavi, Mumbai, India (Population: 1 million); Ciudad Neza, Mexico City, Mexico (Population: 12 million); and Orangi Town, Karachi, Pakistan (Population: 2.4 million).

Favela mural, Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

Urbanisation and the flight from the land

The development of industrialised farming has been one of the major reasons for the the flight from the land.  There is also the perceived view that economic opportunities are greater in the cities. Governments invest less in rural communities because of lower population densities and this creates a vicious cycle. In Ireland today, for example, friends of mine in rural areas still can’t get broadband speeds fast enough to play video clips on their computers and in August the government announced the closure of over 160 post offices nationwide. Meanwhile the urbanisation of Dublin has extended into neighbouring counties while pubs and shops in the rural areas close due to a lack of footfall. While the pressure on Dublin has not produced slums it has created huge increases in rents and a growing homelessness problem.

So what can be done about slums? There appears to be three main approaches to the question of the future of slums around the world today: (1) Renovation: top-down and bottom-up approaches, (2) Demolition for rehousing and rebuilding, and (3) Demolition for parkland.

Local bakery, Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

Renovation: top-down and bottom-up approaches

Around the world slum upgrading has consisted of concrete paths, sanitation, safe drinking water, water drainage systems and public transport. The Brazilian state has done some top-down upgrading in the favelas, putting in basic sanitation and social services but much more needs to be done with masses of wires on telegraph poles and cabling bundled along the side of the paths. However, with the global neo-liberal move towards privatisation of public housing there doesn’t seem to be much hope for governments doing serious renovation of slums in the near future. More importantly, in my opinion, has been the bottom-up slum upgrading, for example, in Orangi Town, Karachi in Pakistan where the residents installed sewers in 90% of 8,000 streets and lanes, digging them by hand themselves. This kind of community spirit builds solidarity which is more important for the residents in the long run in their struggle against uncaring states:

In 1980, the development expert and entrepreneur, Akhtar Hameed Khan, observed how many communities were self-organising to fill the gap in services – from building homes and schools to water delivery – and launched the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP). Now globally renowned, the project has not only led the DIY sewerage projects which continue to expand to this day, but has built a network to manage a plethora of programmes that range from micro credit to water supply, to women’s savings schemes. OPP’s director Saleem Aleemuddin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that when activists began working in the area in 1980, the lack of sanitation was the most “obvious” and “problematic” area for residents. While it took the OPP around six months to convince local residents to invest and pay for the installation of the first sewerage line on their street, it was not long before people were taking their lead and organising themselves. “Since the government gets almost nothing in revenue from the slum, it therefore pays the least interest to its [slum] developments too,” Aleemuddin said. “In fact, people in the town now consider the streets as part of their homes because they have invested in them and that’s why they maintain and clean the sewers too.”

Favela houses, Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

Others argue that the slums should be seen as similar to the medieval towns and parts of cities preserved all over Europe:

The tight-knit structure of settlements built in the Middle Ages serves as an important lesson on making modern developments compact and keeping key services easily accessible to the people using them.

Thus, they argue, slums could be converted into a form of green, eco-friendly living areas such as Cambridge where people walk everywhere now instead of driving. However, it is more likely to become a form of gentrification as usually it is wealthier people who can afford to do the extensive and detailed building and repairs (not to mention the demands of state preservation policies in the case of medieval buildings).

Government plans for Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

Demolition for rehousing and rebuilding

The demolition of slums for rehousing projects does not have a great history. It tended to shift the social problems of the slums to other parts of the city. In Ireland in the 1960s, Dublin’s slums had reached a breaking point as urbanisation and the collapse of slum houses put pressure on the government to move people out to suburban Ballymun into high-rise 15-storey flat complexes. However, by the 1980s Ballymun was seen as a social sink and had to be regenerated itself in the 2000s and the blocks demolished. Also, this strategy can be a cynical ploy as the flats built on the sites of the former slums are sold as properties on high-value city-centre land

Local kindergarten, Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

Demolition for parkland

A prime example of a slum demolition is the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong which eventually became the Kowloon Walled City Park. What started off as a Chinese military fort in the 1800s became one of the most densely populated slums in the world. It was extended upwards in the 1960s to become a city of over 30,000 people in 300 buildings occupying little more than 7 acres (2.8 ha). The residents were compensated (with some being forcibly evicted) and demolition was concluded in 1994. Today it is a 31,000 m2 (330,000 sq ft) park which was completed in August 1995.

In Brazil, this is always a possible future for the favelas in Rio. Not many realise that the sculpture of Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado mountain is in the middle of the Tijuca Forest – a massive reclamation project of land which had suffered from erosion and deforestation caused by intensive farming of sugar and coffee in the nineteenth century. The whole area was replanted with plants and trees of the rainforest and is one of the biggest urban forests in the world today.

Cabling on streets, Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

Climate change and the future of urbanism

The future of slums around the world seems tied to a kind of trendy belief in the necessity of planning for an urban future. However, there are those that believe that an alternative to the constant growing urbanisation is to create a model that would attract a part of the urban population back to the rural environment. The potential for creating jobs in the agricultural sector in the future must be seen in the context of sustainable soil management and the difficulties that will be facing food production in future projected changes in temperature, ultraviolet radiation, soil moisture and pests which are expected to decrease food production.

Governments would be better off to develop projects to modernise the rural areas with the type of facilities and services that can be obtained in the cities to attract people back to the land. Collapses in various crops or crop destruction around the world due to unexpected frosts, drought, hurricanes, floods, etc can only be expected to increase, leading to food insecurity and the potential for global food price increases and food riots.

Malcolm X mural, Rocinha (Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin 2018)

The very existence of a slum shows a government’s inability or reluctance to deal with mass population shifts. It reveals a fundamental structural problem in democratic processes and redistribution of tax wealth. For a government to allow a section its own citizens to live a Hobbesian existence exposes the rhetoric of a government for all. How can this be changed and slum issues be resolved? As the Orangi Town example above shows, solidarity and activism can solve practical problems efficiently even if it is letting the government off the hook of responsibility. As has been seen in the past, the social contract only operates when both government and people keep their sides of the bargain. When, or if, it breaks down the anger constantly bubbling underneath can spill over. While revolutionary changes around the world in the past, in general, are often attributed to their great leaders, the fact is that it is usually down to the most expropriated and alienated people in society to get the great social change juggernaut moving in the first place.

• All images in this article are from the author.

New Tax Plan Makes It Easier to ‘Ed-exit’

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This week the House of Representatives will vote on a package of bills making the temporary tax cuts contained in last year’s tax reform bill permanent and making additional tax law changes. The bills will likely pass in the House, but will almost certainly be filibustered in the Senate if the Senate leadership tries to bring them to the floor.
 
The GOP tax plan does offset some of the damage caused by federal control of education by making it easier for parents to escape failing government schools or “edexit.” It accomplishes this by allowing money saved in a tax-free 529 education savings account to be used for homeschooling expenses.
 
This provision will help homeschooling families and inspire more families to consider homeschooling. Homeschooling parents must not only pay for all their children’s education expenses, they also must subsidize government schools via property taxes and other taxes. A commitment to homeschooling may also require a parent to limit or even forgo outside employment.
 
Despite the financial costs, more families are choosing to homeschool. This is due to increasing dissatisfaction with government schools, greater public acceptance of homeschooling, and the availability of quality online homeschooling curricula, such as my Ron Paul Curriculum.
 
My curriculum provides students with a well-rounded education including rigorous programs in history, mathematics, and the physical and natural sciences. The curriculum also provides instruction in personal finance. Students can develop superior oral and verbal communication skills via intensive writing and public speaking courses. Students also get the opportunity to create and run their own internet businesses.
 
The government and history sections emphasize Austrian economics, libertarian political theory, and the history of liberty. However, unlike government schools, my curriculum never puts ideological indoctrination ahead of education.
 
Unlike government schools, and even many private schools, my curriculum addresses the crucial role religion played in the development of Western civilization. However, the materials are drafted in such a way that parents of any or no religious belief can feel comfortable using the curriculum.
 
Interactive forums allow students to engage with and learn from each other. The forums ensure students are actively engaged in their education as well as give them an opportunity to interact with their peers outside of a formal setting.
 
The latest Republican tax plan has laudable features, such as allowing the use of tax-free education savings accounts for homeschooling. However, as long as Congress refuses to offset tax cuts with spending cuts, the benefits of tax cuts will be limited and short-lived. Therefore, while all lovers of liberty should support any and all tax cuts, we must work to pressure Congress to cut spending. Bringing the troops home and shutting down the Department of Education are two good places to start.
 
Parents interested in my homeschooling curriculum can find out more about it at ronpaulcurriculum.com.