Category Archives: International Law

Free Alex Saab Delegation at the African Bar Association

An international Free Alex Saab delegation attended the October 3-7 annual meeting of the African Bar Association in Niamey, Niger. Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab has been under arrest in Cabo Verde since June 2020 by orders of the US and is fighting extradition to Miami. His “crime” is organizing humanitarian missions to procure food and medicine for Venezuela in violation of the illegal US blockade.

The Free Alex Saab delegation was composed of Canadian John Philpot, a lawyer specializing in international law, who represented the American Association of Jurists and regularly attends AFBAR conferences; Cabo Verdean-American Bishop Filipe Teixeira, who traveled to Cabo Verde in June in support of Mr. Saab; Venezuelan Laila Taj El Dine, a diplomat to the United Nations, lawyer, university professor, and international analyst; and Venezuelan Pedro Carvajalino, media specialist.

African Bar Association welcomes the international Free Alex Saab delegation

The Free Alex Saab delegation was well received by the conference, attended by many honored African leaders, including President of Niger Mohamed Bazoum along with the former presidents of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Some conferees were already familiar with the egregious US judicial over-reach, which resulted in Mr. Saab being seized from his airplane, when it made a fuel stop in Cabo Verde on its way from Caracas to Tehran.

The fifty-year-old African Bar Association (AFBAR) is as a professional body uniting individual lawyers and national legal associations in Africa. The association brings together the five African sub-regional associations spread over the continent. AFBAR seeks to foster policies to better the continent’s socio-economic and political development.

AFBAR President Hannibal Uwaifo delivered the opening address on respecting the Rule of Law in strong opposition to military coups. A theme running through the conference was the importance of resolving African problems in Africa free from western interference. For example, AFBAR will not support cooperation with the International Criminal Court investigation of the Nigerian military and Boko Haram unless the investigation includes how Boko Haram is financed.

One participant, a young lawyer, explained that independence requires full national economic and military control. In his opinion, with French and especially US military presence in many countries, politicians may take their orders from the outside powers.

Some African countries are independent such as Algeria, which rigorously controls its own borders and its economy without neo-colonial control. Evidently Cabo Verde, one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world, finds it difficult to resist US pressure regarding Mr. Saab.

Conference upholds ECOWAS Court decision to free Alex Saab

The regional Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) Court had ordered Cabo Verde to not only release but pay $200,000 in damages to Mr. Saab. That was on March 15, 2021, and Cabo Verde has still not complied with the court order. Nevertheless, Cabo Verde had signed and ratified the treaty creating the court, attended the hearings, is a full member of ECOWAS, and has at least one judge on the court.

As the AFBAR conference reaffirmed, it is the duty of the bar associations to advocate for the ECOWAS Court. The conference session on the ECOWAS Court explained clearly that it was not an appeal court, but an international court of primary jurisdiction created by treaty. The Saab delegation was afforded full status at the session, where delegates Felipe Teixeira and Laila El Dine spoke with AFBAR President Uwaifo in attendance.

Free Alex Saab press conference and Sanctions Kill report

The international Free Alex Saab Delegation held a press conference, presenting the case to local media for freeing the Venezuelan diplomat.

John Philpot presented and distributed copies of the “We don’t deserve this – the impact and consequences of US Sanctions” report, which addresses more broadly the unilateral coercive measures imposed on some three dozen countries – 15 of which are in Africa – comprising a third of humanity. Philpot, along with Rick Sterling and David Paul, authored the comprehensive report for the Sanctions Kill Coalition. A free PDF of the report is available online.

At a session on contemporary legal problems and the Rule of Law, Laila El Dine and John Philpot presented the Alex Saab case, raising issues which go to the substance of his illegal detention. AFBAR President Uwaifo once again spoke of the need to take positive action to ensure respect for March 15 ECOWAS Court decision.

John Philpot stressed that these critical cases can be won, citing the recent campaign release of Meng Wanzhou. She had been illegally detained by Canada for more than 1000 days on an attempt to extradite her concerning a transaction between a Chinese bank and Iran, allegedly in violation of US sanctions against Iran. US judicial overreach can threaten diplomats and businesspersons worldwide if this tendency is not terminated.

The closing session included resolutions followed by two press conferences, where the Free Alex Saab issue was further discussed and supported. The AFBAR press conferences, presided by Mr. Uwaifo, presented the Alex Saab defense issues including respect for the ECOWAS Court decision. International delegates El Dine, Philpot, and Teixeira spoke at the second press conference.

AFBAR has taken the issue of the ECOWAS Court seriously, although the vice president of the court lamented the lack of enforcement mechanisms. Proposals were offered such as imposing sanctions against Cabo Verde officials, which would be legally constructed as a function of the regional ECOWAS community and not illegally as with the unilateral US sanctions. Other measures considered were expelling Cabo Verde from the ECOWAS and special legal procedures. A committee was formed to take this issue on actively, presided by Chief Prosecutor of Liberia Sayma Syrenius Cephis.

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Britannia Turns Back The Boats

Pushing people back across borders; turning asylum seekers away from shores.  When such tactics were openly adopted and used with impunity by Australia’s navy and border force, it caused outrage and concern in the maritime community and pricked the interest of border protectionists the world over.

Disgust and outrage have, in time, been replaced by admiration at the sheer chutzpah of Australian governments such as Tony Abbott’s, who introduced a turn-back-the-boats policy as part of an electoral promise to better secure borders. This meant that vessels heading for Australia could be literally turned back towards Indonesia without a care in the world.  The drownings would not stop, nor would the danger to the passengers be alleviated; they would simply take place in international waters or the waters of another country.

Other countries duly followed.  Greece and Italy fashioned their own turn-back policies at sea.  The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants Felipe González Morales spoke despairingly in June this year that the practice should end.  “In the absence of an individualized assessment for each migrant concerned and other procedural safeguards,” he told the Human Rights Council, “pushbacks are a violation of the prohibition of collective expulsion and heighten the risk of further human rights violations, in particular refoulement.”

He also stated what all pupils of international human rights know: “States have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of everyone on their territory or within their jurisdiction or effective control, irrespective of migration status and without discrimination of any kind.”

The concept of control is important in matters of interception, rescue and forcible return.  As the European Court of Human Rights found in Hirsi Jamaa v Italy, which saw the forcible return by Italian authorities of migrants to Libya, the applicants remained under the “continuous and exclusive de jure and de facto control of the Italian authorities” during the course of their transfer, triggering the obligation to protect their human rights.  “Speculation as to the nature and purpose of the intervention of the Italian ships on the high seas would not lead the Court to any other conclusion.”

The International of the Law of the Sea 1982 outlines the obligation of every state’s vessels to “render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost”.  The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Research and Rescue affirm the obligation.

The LOSC also has a range of other relevant provisions on incursions of foreign vessels.  Innocent passage into the state’s territorial sea is permitted under Article 17; in cases where such passage is not innocent – for instance, the breach of domestic immigration laws – states may take measures to halt passage.  But under Article 18, a vessel, if deemed in distress, can also enter the territorial sea of the state in question even if migration laws have been breached.

Such thinking is bound to come across as soppily legal for the UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has been coming up with her own turn back the boats model.  This has formed part of an arsenal of hostile measures against migrants including the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill (Bill 14 of 2021-22), introduced on July 6.  Having gone through two readings of the House of Commons, it now rests with the Public Bill Committee, which is due to release a report on November 4.

In moving that the Bill be read a second time, Patel told Members that Britons had “had enough of open borders and uncontrolled immigration; enough of a failed asylum system that costs the taxpayer more than £1 billion a year; enough of dinghies arriving illegally on our shores, directed by organised gangs; enough of people drowning on these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys […].”

The Bill came into being despite warnings from various Australian lawyers, doctors and former civil servants that their country’s refugee model was hardly the sort of thing that should inspire imitations.  In the view of Australian Greens Senator Nick McKim and Benali Hamdache of the UK Green Party, the “New Plan for Immigration imports all the worst parts of the Australian government policy.”  This includes the possible establishment of offshore processing (read detention) centres to places ranging from Rwanda to the Isle of Man and the creation of a temporary protection scheme.

The Bill takes the battering ram to a range of maritime practices, proposing to criminalise the practice of offering voluntary assistance at sea by targeting “those assisting persons to arrive in the UK without a valid clearance”.  That good Samaritan service provided by such bodies as the Royal Lifeboat Institution, which has been accused of being a “migrant taxi service” by its detractors, promises to be roped in.

Last month, it was revealed that Patel was already busily urging the Border Force to get into the pushback business in ways that would pass muster under maritime law.  According to “sources” within the Home Office, as reported by The Guardian, Patel had effectively become “the first home secretary to establish a legal basis for the sea tactics, working with attorney general Michael Ellis and expert QCs”.

Pushing back boat arrivals is not only lacking in humanitarian spirit but filled with monstrous danger.  The Straits of Dover, for instance, is the busiest shipping route in the world. One suggestion moving its way through the ranks is the targeting of certain boats, keeping the issue of safety in mind.  Dinghies are unlikely to fall within the scope of expulsion, as tempting as these might be.  Larger, sturdier migrant vessels are likelier prospects.

France, being the country where most of the migrants depart from, has been particularly vocal on the issue.  Pierre-Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, has suggested that Patel’s policy “tears apart the UN Geneva conventions giving the right to everyone to apply to any country for asylum.”

Interior Minister Gérald Darminin also expressed his displeasure at the new approach, warning Patel that his country “will accept no practices contrary to the Law of the Sea, and no blackmail.”  Righteously, Darminin also claimed that “safeguarding human lives at sea takes priority over considerations of nationality, status and migratory policy”.  While this is very much in the spirit of protection, it is an attitude that is looking worn and tired.  Patel, for her part, hopes her cross Channel colleagues will see good sense and take up a promise of UK funding to prevent the migrant crossings taking place.  They may well do just that.

The post Britannia Turns Back The Boats first appeared on Dissident Voice.

New Report Exposes the US’ Brutal and Illegal Economic War

NOTE: In April of this year, my family had a medical emergency that required most of my time and attention. The result is that I am now the sole legal and physical guardian of two young children with significant needs. I hope to return to writing a regular newsletter now that they are in school. There is a lot going on and a lot to do. Solidarity, Margaret Flowers

This month, the Sanctions Kill coalition (Popular Resistance is a member) released its report: “The Impact and Consequences of US Sanctions.” The 35-page report was written in response to the Biden administration’s January call for a review of the US sanctions to determine if they ‘unduly hinder’ the ability of targeted nations to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, there is no word on whether that review has been conducted, but given that the State Department and Treasury are tasked with conducting it, the same institutions that impose sanctions, the Sanctions Kill coalition had no confidence their report would challenge the US’ current foreign policy path of escalating economic war on 39 countries, or a third of the world population.

The Sanctions Kill report found that sanctions, which are being increasingly imposed by the United States in lieu of or in addition to military aggression, cause tremendous suffering and death, violate international laws, harm US industries, place the US in a position of civil and criminal liability and are isolating the US from the community of nations. The corporate media are silent on these harmful effects and criticism of sanctions.

Venezuelan UN Ambassador Samuel Moncada described the impact of sanctions this week at The People’s Forum (view the event here):

Sanctions are killing us…. They are homicidal. One of the awful effects of sanctions as a weapon, because it’s a kind of war, is that you don’t feel it here. You don’t even realize that sanctions are acting abroad…. You don’t feel it in any way. But we feel them…. That’s why they are so insidious and dangerous. [The US] is waging economic war against millions of people.

The sanctions imposed by the United States include restrictions on financial transactions, trade and travel, blockades on foreign loans and aid and the seizure of assets. The Sanctions Kill report found these measures violate the human rights of people in affected countries because they block access to basic necessities such as food, medicines and fuel and they prevent maintenance of important infrastructure such as water services, power generation and transmission and transportation. The so-called humanitarian exceptions that are supposed to prevent sanctions from blocking food and medicine don’t work – banks won’t allow the sales and shipping companies won’t transport the goods.

Technically what the United States is doing are not sanctions but are unilateral coercive measures (UCMs), which violate international law because they operate outside the structure provided by the United Nations. Legal sanctions are used as a punishment after a legal process determines a country violated a law. Unilateral coercive measures are imposed by the US and its western imperialist allies based on lies and without due process in order to effect a desired political outcome, such as regime change or retaliation.

For example, following the failed US-backed coup attempt in 2018 against Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, the United States Congress passed the NICA Act, which began an economic war against socialist Nicaragua. With presidential elections being held this November, the United States has ramped up both a propaganda campaign against the popular Ortega, who is expected to win, and Congress is in the process of passing the RENACER Act, which will impose more UCMs against Nicaragua.

Here is what US activists are saying about the RENACER Act and what you can do to stop it. If you want to learn more, BreakThrough News recently interviewed Jill Clark-Gollub of Friends of Latin America about the RENACER Act.

The Sanctions Kill report also found that the US is imposing secondary sanctions on countries that do business with sanctioned countries, another violation of international law, and is using sanctions to target business people, such as Meng Wanzhou of Huawei, and diplomats, such as Alex Saab. Saab is being held in Cabo Verde where he stopped last year on his way to Iran to negotiate the purchase of food and medicines for Venezuela. The US is working to extradite him while international support for Saab, whose imprisonment violates the Vienna Convention, is growing. Clearing the FOG spoke earlier this year with Roger Harris of Task Force on the Americas after he traveled with a delegation to Cabo Verde to visit Alex Saab. Click here to take action.

In front of the United Nations after the People’s Mobe rally and march.  (September 2019. By Yuka Azuma)

Clearing the FOG spoke with two of the authors of the report, international lawyer John Philpot and Latin American solidarity activist David Paul. Philpot predicts a day of reckoning is coming for the United States because the UCMs violate multiple international laws, including the United Nations charter. They are a form of collective punishment, which is a crime against humanity.

As the United States’ status as a global hegemon declines, targeted countries are finding ways to work together to resist the brutal economic wars being waged by the US and build power. For years now, countries have worked on alternative financial instruments to bypass US sanctions in order to do business. One example is INSTEX, a trading mechanism developed by European nations and Iran.

One of the first major acts of defiance against US UCMs was in the spring of 2020 when Iran sent four tankers of oil and equipment to Venezuela despite a large US military presence in the surrounding waters. Recently, Iran defied US UCMs again when it sent a convoy of oil trucks through Syria to Lebanon, which is suffering greatly from an economic crisis and fuel shortage.

Cuba has been under a US economic blockade for more than 60 years but it continues to be a model of international solidarity, especially during the pandemic. Henry Reeves Medical Brigades have been sent to numerous countries to assist them in caring for COVID-19 patients. Now Cuba is in need of aid and Mexico is stepping up to provide it using its naval ships since commercial ships face many barriers due to the UCMs. People and organizations outside Cuba also worked to supply millions of syringes so Cubans can receive vaccinations against COVID-19.

Mexico was the host of the recent CELAC (the community of Caribbean and Latin American states) meetings where leaders openly criticized the Organization of American States as a tool of US imperialism and called for its reform or the creation of a new body. CELAC countries are working on ways to practice greater solidarity in the face of the pandemic, climate crisis and debt.

Similarly, the first African/CARICOM summit was held virtually earlier this month. A third of the countries being targeted by the US’ economic war are in Africa. In fact, almost all of the countries being sanctioned by the US are majority black or brown. Don Rojas covered the summit for Black Agenda Report, writing:

“The Summit was also a recognition of the political and economic imperative that the governments of Africa and the Caribbean must succeed in restructuring if our black and brown people and nations are ever going to assume their rightful place in the world.”

And this week, during the United Nations general assembly meetings, the foreign ministers of 18 countries met as the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations and released a statement pledging to work together. They wrote, “…we convey our support to nations and peoples subjected to unilateral and arbitrary approaches that violate both the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the basic norms of international law, and renew our call for the full respect to the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination, as well as the territorial integrity and political independence of all nations.”

By Medea Benjamin

Those of us who live in the United States and its allied imperialist nations that enable these serious violations of human rights and international law have a responsibility to act to stop the use of economic warfare through unilateral coercive economic measures. Global power is shifting and we face multiple worldwide crises. It is imperative that imperialist nations change their foreign policy from death and destruction to diplomacy, solidarity and cooperation.

An important step is education so people understand that UCMs are as lethal as bombs and that they affect the whole world, including people living in countries that wage economic war. The SanctionsKill.org website contains numerous resources to help with this including a toolkit that provides you with a power point and script so anyone can give a presentation on sanctions. The toolkit informs about what UCMs are and the specific harms they do.

You can also send the new Sanctions Kill report to your members of Congress and demand they end them now or publicize the report in any way you can – use social media, local or independent media outlets, your organization’s website, etc. We must break through the media blockade and demand the truth be told about the illegality of UCMs and their devastating impact on people in targeted countries. Write letters to the editor when you see articles about sanctions.

Take action to stop the RENACER Act and join the call to free Alex Saab. There are many solidarity organizations that are working to support people in countries attacked through economic measures. One example is the Saving Lives Campaign, a joint effort by people in the US and Canada to provide aid to Cuba.

Ending sanctions will save millions of lives and move us forward on the path toward a world of cooperation, peace and solidarity. Nations like the United States use sanctions because their deadly impacts are not as visible as dropping bombs. We must expose this brutal economic warfare and demand an end to it.

The post New Report Exposes the US’ Brutal and Illegal Economic War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Emperor’s New Rules

Credit:  pinterest.com

The world is reeling in horror at the latest Israeli massacre of hundreds of men, women and children in Gaza. Much of the world is also shocked by the role of the United States in this crisis, as it keeps providing Israel with weapons to kill Palestinian civilians, in violation of U.S. and international law, and has repeatedly blocked action by the UN Security Council to impose a ceasefire or hold Israel accountable for its war crimes.

In contrast to U.S. actions, in nearly every speech or interview, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken keeps promising to uphold and defend the “rules-based order.” But he has never clarified whether he means the universal rules of the United Nations Charter and international law, or some other set of rules he has yet to define. What rules could possibly legitimize the kind of destruction we just witnessed in Gaza, and who would want to live in a world ruled by them?

We have both spent many years protesting the violence and chaos the United States and its allies inflict on millions of people around the world by violating the UN Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force, and we have always insisted that the U.S. government should comply with the rules-based order of international law.

But even as the United States’ illegal wars and support for allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia have reduced cities to rubble and left country after country mired in intractable violence and chaos, U.S. leaders have refused to even acknowledge that aggressive and destructive U.S. and allied military operations violate the rules-based order of the United Nations Charter and international law.

President Trump was clear that he was not interested in following any “global rules,” only supporting U.S. national interests. His National Security Advisor John Bolton explicitly prohibited National Security Council staff attending the 2018 G20 Summit in Argentina from even uttering the words “rules-based order.”

So you might expect us to welcome Blinken’s stated commitment to the “rules-based order” as a long-overdue reversal in U.S. policy. But when it comes to a vital principle like this, it is actions that count, and the Biden administration has yet to take any decisive action to bring U.S. foreign policy into compliance with the UN Charter or international law.

For Secretary Blinken, the concept of a “rules-based order” seems to serve mainly as a cudgel with which to attack China and Russia. At a May 7 UN Security Council meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that instead of accepting the already existing rules of international law, the United States and its allies are trying to come up with “other rules developed in closed, non-inclusive formats, and then imposed on everyone else.”

The UN Charter and the rules of international law were developed in the 20th century precisely to codify the unwritten and endlessly contested rules of customary international law with explicit, written rules that would be binding on all nations.

The United States played a leading role in this legalist movement in international relations, from the Hague Peace Conferences at the turn of the 20th century to the signing of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco in 1945 and the revised Geneva Conventions in 1949, including the new Fourth Geneva Convention to protect civilians, like the countless numbers killed by American weapons in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Gaza.

As President Franklin Roosevelt described the plan for the United Nations to a joint session of Congress on his return from Yalta in 1945:

It ought to spell the end of the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries – and have always failed. We propose to substitute for all these a universal organization in which all peace-loving nations will finally have a chance to join. I am confident that the Congress and the American people will accept the results of this conference as the beginning of a permanent structure of peace.

But America’s post-Cold War triumphalism eroded U.S. leaders’ already half-hearted commitment to those rules. The neocons argued that they were no longer relevant and that the United States must be ready to impose order on the world by the unilateral threat and use of military force, exactly what the UN Charter prohibits. Madeleine Albright and other Democratic leaders embraced new doctrines of “humanitarian intervention” and a “responsibility to protect” to try to carve out politically persuasive exceptions to the explicit rules of the UN Charter.

America’s “endless wars,” its revived Cold War on Russia and China, its blank check for the Israeli occupation and the political obstacles to crafting a more peaceful and sustainable future are some of the fruits of these bipartisan efforts to challenge and weaken the rules-based order.

Today, far from being a leader of the international rules-based system, the United States is an outlier. It has failed to sign or ratify about fifty important and widely accepted multilateral treaties on everything from children’s rights to arms control. Its unilateral sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and other countries are themselves violations of international law, and the new Biden administration has shamefully failed to lift these illegal sanctions, ignoring UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ request to suspend such unilateral coercive measures during the pandemic.

So is Blinken’s “rules-based order” a recommitment to President Roosevelt’s “permanent structure of peace,” or is it, in fact, a renunciation of the United Nations Charter and its purpose, which is peace and security for all of humanity?

In the light of Biden’s first few months in power, it appears to be the latter. Instead of designing a foreign policy based on the principles and rules of the UN Charter and the goal of a peaceful world, Biden’s policy seems to start from the premises of a $753 billion U.S. military budget, 800 overseas military bases, endless U.S. and allied wars and massacres, and massive weapons sales to repressive regimes. Then it works backward to formulate a policy framework to somehow justify all that.

Once a “war on terror” that only fuels terrorism, violence and chaos was no longer politically viable, hawkish U.S. leaders—both Republicans and Democrats—seem to have concluded that a return to the Cold War was the only plausible way to perpetuate America’s militarist foreign policy and multi-trillion-dollar war machine.

But that raised a new set of contradictions. For 40 years, the Cold War was justified by the ideological struggle between the capitalist and communist economic systems. But the U.S.S.R. disintegrated and Russia is now a capitalist country. China is still governed by its Communist Party, but has a managed, mixed economy similar to that of Western Europe in the years after the Second World War – an efficient and dynamic economic system that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in both cases.

So how can these U.S. leaders justify their renewed Cold War? They have floated the notion of a struggle between “democracy and authoritarianism.” But the United States supports too many horrific dictatorships around the world, especially in the Middle East, to make that a convincing pretext for a Cold War against Russia and China.

A U.S. “global war on authoritarianism” would require confronting repressive U.S. allies like Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, not arming them to the teeth and shielding them from international accountability as the United States is doing.

So, just as American and British leaders settled on non-existent “WMD”s as the pretext they could all agree on to justify their war on Iraq, the U.S. and its allies have settled on defending a vague, undefined “rules-based order” as the justification for their revived Cold War on Russia and China.

But like the emperor’s new clothes in the fable and the WMDs in Iraq, the United States’ new rules don’t really exist. They are just its latest smokescreen for a foreign policy based on illegal threats and uses of force and a doctrine of “might makes right.”

We challenge President Biden and Secretary Blinken to prove us wrong by actually joining the rules-based order of the UN Charter and international law. That would require a genuine commitment to a very different and more peaceful future, with appropriate contrition and accountability for the United States’ and its allies’ systematic violations of the UN Charter and international law, and the countless violent deaths, ruined societies, and widespread chaos they have caused.

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US Trying to Extradite Venezuelan Diplomat for the “Crime” of Securing Food for the Hungry: The Case of Alex Saab v. The Empire

The case of Alex Saab raises dangerous precedents in terms of extraterritorial judicial abuse, violation of diplomatic status, and even the use of torture to extract false confessions. This is according to Montréal-based international human rights lawyer John Philpot. He spoke on May 19 at a webinar sponsored by the Alliance for Global Justice and other groups about this example of the long reach of the US empire enforcing its deadly sanctions on some one third of humanity.

US sanctions Venezuela for being sovereign

Stansfield Smith of Chicago ALBA Solidarity commented that the Saab case is part of a larger US effort to use “lawfare” to impose its illegal sanctions, which the United Nations condemns as “unilateral coercive measures.” The US employs sanctions to discipline countries that attempt to develop independent of its dominion.

The US is able to extend its imperial reach through its domination of the international financial system, which is US dollar denominated and meditated through the monetary exchange known as SWIFT. By controlling the international financial system, Smith explained, Washington can demand banks in foreign countries to accept US restrictions or face sanctions themselves.

Venezuela’s resistance to US interference, starting with Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution two decades ago, has been punished by the US with mounting sanctions so extreme that they now amount to an asphyxiating blockade, causing severe shortages of food and medicine. William Camacaro of the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle attested to the impact on the people of Venezuela. This US effort to achieve regime change is, in effect, collective punishment to coerce the Venezuelans to reject their elected government.

Even a report from the US government readily admits that “sanctions, particularly on the state oil company in 2019, likely contributed to the steeper decline of the Venezuelan economy.” This crippling blow to its oil industry has impacted Venezuela’s capability to generate electricity, conduct agriculture, and generate income from oil sales to fund social programs and import vital necessities, all of which have negatively impacted the lives of ordinary Venezuelans.

Once a leading oil exporter, Venezuela’s ability to import equipment components for its oil refineries and light oil to mix with its heavy crude has been cut off by the US, devastating its productive capacity. The US has even blocked international oil-for-food swaps by Venezuela.

US targets humanitarian mission

 Special envoy and ambassador to the African Union for Venezuela, Alex Saab, was on a humanitarian mission flying from Caracas to Iran to procure food and gasoline for the Venezuelan CLAP food assistance program. Saab was detained on a refueling stop in the African nation of Cabo Verde and has been held in custody ever since June 12, 2020.

Saab’s “crime,” according to the US government, which ordered the imprisonment, was money laundering. That is, Saab conducted perfectly legal international trade, but his circumventing the US sanctions – which are designed to prevent relief to the Venezuelans – is considered by Washington to be money laundering.

The Swiss government, after a two-year investigation into Saab’s transactions with Swiss banks, concluded on March 25 that there was no money laundering. The real reason Saab is being persecuted is because he is serving his country’s interest rather than that of the US. Saab was born in Colombia but now holds Venezuelan citizenship.

The US mandate for the arrest and extradition of Saab would be like Saudi Arabia demanding the arrest and extradition of a British citizen visiting Italy for wearing short-shorts. In essence, the US does not have legal jurisdiction over a Venezuelan in Cabo Verde on his way to Iran.

As Indhriana Parada wrote in the webinar chat: “Greetings from Venezuela. We support the release of Alex Saab. It is a totally political case, and we want him back. Alex Saab did not launder money. Alex Saab bought food and medicine for Venezuela.”

The legal fig leaf for what amounts to a kidnapping was an INTERPOL “red notice,” which was not issued until a day after Saab’s arrest and was subsequently dropped. Saab has specified, “they tortured me and pressured me to sign voluntary extradition declarations and bear false witness against my government.”

Saab’s distinguished African defense team

Saab’s attorney in Cabo Verde, Geraldo da Cruz Almeida, explained to the webinar the absurdity of the politically motivated legal case against his client. Alex Saab has violated neither Cabo Verdean nor Venezuelan law. Moreover, Saab’s diplomatic status should have given him immunity from arrest.

The US does not recognize Saab’s diplomatic status. But then again, Biden maintains the fiction that the self-appointed and Trump-anointed Juan Guaidó is president of Venezuela.

Femi Falana, former President of the West African Bar Association, spoke to the webinar from Nigeria. Attorney Falana represented Saab before the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court. On March 15, the court ordered Saab’s release and cancellation of the extradition.

Under US pressure, Cabo Verde continues to hold Saab. Attorney Falana has called on President Biden to respect the rule of law and human rights in Africa. Sara Flounders of the International Action Center pointed out that 15 of the 39 countries under the illegal US sanctions are African.

Ranking 175th and 185th among the countries of the world in terms of geographic area and economic size, respectively, resource poor, and dependent on tourism and remittances from abroad, the Republic of Cabo Verde is vulnerable to US strong-arm tactics. Shortly after Saab’s arrest, the US gifted $1.5 million to private sector entities in Cabo Verde on top of some $284 million total US aid in the last 20 years.

The US State Department describes Cabo Verde as “an important partner” where the “current administration has prioritized relations with the United States and Europe.” The US Bureau for International Narcotics Law Enforcement funds and supports activities in Cabo Verde, while the Boston Police Department works with Cabo Verde police.

Cabo Verde, it should be noted, is important in the history of African liberation. Marxist Amílcar Cabral led the liberation movement of Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde Islands and was assassinated in 1973, only months before independence was declared from Portugal.

Setting a precedent

Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese national doing business in Canada, is under arrest for “bank fraud” and is fighting extradition to the US. North Korean Mun Chol Myong has already been extradited to the US from Malaysia on similar charges to those used against Saab for doing business according to international law rather than abiding by the US’s illegal measures.

In short, Saab’s is not an isolated case of US misconduct around enforcing its illegal sanctions but an emerging pattern. Anyone of us working to get needed goods to a US-sanctioned country is at risk of the US pushing to get us arrested and jailed in some country we pass through, which is subservient to the US.

That the US can engineer the arrest of a diplomat – someone who has immunity by international law even in the time of war – is a dangerous precedent. That the arrest was extraterritorial is worse; and especially so because Saab is an ambassador to the African Union. This harkens back to the flagrantly illegal and inhumane US practice of extraordinary rendition, which was used to populate the Guantánamo torture chambers.

The award-winning movie The Mauritanian is about the true story of crusading lawyer Nancy Hollander, who successfully freed a tortured innocent man from the made-in-the-USA hell of Guantánamo. The Hollander character, played in the movie by Jodie Foster, says: “I am not just defending him, I am defending the rule of law.”

The real-life Nancy Hollander attended the webinar and announced she will help defend Saab if he is extradited to the US. A lawyer’s delegation to Cabo Verde in solidarity with Saab is being planned and a petition campaign on his behalf is underway. These efforts recognize that the defense of Alex Saab is a defense of the rule of international law against illegal US sanctions (#FREEAlexSaab).

The post US Trying to Extradite Venezuelan Diplomat for the “Crime” of Securing Food for the Hungry: The Case of Alex Saab v. The Empire first appeared on Dissident Voice.

W’s Chickens Coming Home to Roost, yet the Media Cocks Aren’t Crowing

Censorship comes in many forms. One of [them] is a colossal moral indifference to official crimes at the highest levels of our government.

— Ralph Nader, April 17, 2021, Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Disclaimer: This is not a traditional mainstream or even left-stream book review. However, Steven C. Markoff’s book does play as the impetus and linchpin to my essay, more of an analysis/reaction to his book.  I give The Case Against George W. Bush, high marks. Read Steve’s book. Press your respective legislators to push for an investigation of W.’s crimes. Markoff sets out in the book about how those crimes were committed. I reference those. He completes his case: The evidence is there to prosecute and find guilty the 43rd President of the USA, George W. Bush.

Nader’s Raiders of the Lost Warriors

I was hitting the old Ralph Nader podcast a week ago when I stumbled upon Steven C. Markoff’s book, The Case Against George W. Bush. Nader had Markoff on his podcast, and both talked about the crimes of W Bush, and even more pertinently, the lack of a criminal case against George W. Bush, as well as the crickets in the so-called liberal media (SCLM) as well in the left press concerning Steve’s book.

I quickly emailed Steve for a copy of his book to review, and he came back at me with a PDF of this book which, as I have stated, has been iced out of mainstream media: no interviews, no reviews let alone getting Steve into a room one-on-one, or onto a Zoom call with other guests to parse his well-researched, well-quoted book on the crimes of George W. Bush.

The Case Against George W. Bush by Steven C. Markoff, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

Of course, those crimes are more than crimes of omission, or crimes of secret rendition and torture sites, or the crimes of Abu Ghraib “prison” and Guantanamo. The crime was more than just all the lies about WMD’s and Saddam murdering babies. The big crime was Bush and his Regime of psychotic sociopaths of the neocon variety completely derailing valid, active and clear intelligence that Osama bin Laden was about to make a huge fiery asymmetrical splash on the world stage.

Markoff lays out the daily briefs, the back and forth communiqués, the speeches Bush and others on his team made which all provides evidence of what “we” know about Osama bin Laden. The entire gambit goes back to the Soviet Union’s role in Afghanistan, then with Carter, Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton and leading up to the ex-governor of Texas, W Bush.

Carter Doctrine 25 years before 9/11

Unfortunately, Jimmy Carter’s man  got the Soviet Union and then USA, all tangled up in Afghanistan.

The best way for us to understand Afghanistan is to look at the record of American involvement going back four decades and to look at the record requires a reexamination of President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. From the start, U.S. policy formation surrounding Afghanistan has lived in a realm of magical thinking that has produced nothing but a catastrophe of nightmarish proportions. Brzezinski impacted the future of American foreign policy by monopolizing the Carter administration in ways that few outside the White House understand. In his role as national security advisor he put himself in a position to control information into and out of the White House and when it came to Afghanistan – to use it for whatever purposes he saw fit.

“Brzezinski was an obsessive Russia-hater to the end. That led to the monumental failures of Carter’s term in office; the hatreds Brzezinski released had an impact which continues to be catastrophic for the rest of the world.” Helmer wrote in 2017, “To Brzezinski goes the credit for starting most of the ills – the organization, financing, and armament of the mujahedeen the Islamic fundamentalists who have metastasized – with US money and arms still – into Islamic terrorist armies operating far from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Brzezinski started them off.”

— ‘Magical Thinking’ has Always Guided the US Role in Afghanistan by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

The Clinton “team” briefed the incoming George W. Bush “team” before his January 2001 inauguration about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. For the younger Bush, he repudiated the evidence trail from so many intelligence sources. His eyes were on Operation Iraqi Freedom, but first called, O.I.L,  which was propagated by Jay Leno incessantly after it was blurted out from the source:

On the afternoon of March 24, 2003 days after the U.S launched missiles at Baghdad to start the illegal war, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer held a press briefing. After a few minutes, a couple of sentences into the briefing, he verbally stumbled on the name of Bush’s war, stating, “Operation Iraqi, uh, Liberation.”

Calling it “Operation Iraqi Freedom” officially is just more War is Peace, Lies are Truth bullshit. And that 2001 invasion of Afghanistan ― “Operation Enduring Freedom” – is yet more of the PT Barnum spin, all catalogued in the annals of United States Central Command and U.S. Army War College.

Trail of Tears, Trails of Evidence

Markoff’s book is a straightforward record of myriad published records – taped speeches, newspaper articles/Op-Eds, sections from books, redacted memos and top secret records. As a buttress to the asymmetrical history of what happened leading up to and during the September 11, 2001 attacks and subsequently all that went wrong in the Middle East, this upcoming 20th anniversary of 9/11, Markoff’s book should be required reading.

But reading isn’t enough for just consuming Markoff’s book, and reading it is not enough for those of us who have been fighting the wars, those in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as all the others. What we need is a truth and reconciliation hearing for all those murdered in the September 11 attacks (around 3,000) as well as the countless hundreds of thousands (several million some estimates determine up to today) killed when the USA bombed and razed Iraq.

The deep links between terror attacks and Southwest Florida - News - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Sarasota, FL

Remember that famous photo of Bush reading about a goat to kids in Florida:

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Bush was at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota County, Florida, reading “My Pet Goat.”

Oh, his dedication to inner-city first graders and listening to them recite the goat story is golden. Earlier, Bush had been on the way from his hotel to the school in his motorcade when it was reported to him a passenger jet had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. Old commander in Chief Bush believed the crash was an accident caused, perhaps, by pilot error.

That old goat, man, what a story, so much so that when Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, entered the classroom at 9:06 to tell this president a second airplane had struck the South Tower and that the nation was under attack, Bush stayed on his duff for seven more minutes, following along as the children finished reading the book.

“Class Goat”

Goat may be an old West Point term for the man/woman graduating last in his/her class, but one infamous George the Goat from the Army Academy is none other than George Armstrong Custer.

Unfortunately, the proverbial goat in America’s eyes is the million people murdered and millions more suffering because of the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Steve’s book lays out the three legal frameworks or cases for prosecuting Bush (and solely Bush, not Bush and Company LLC) for crimes against humanity (in Iraq and Afghanistan) and Bush’s own responsibility for those several thousand who died on that fateful day, September 11, 2001.

Mathematician Finally Solves Goat Problem: Here's the Answer

Here’s part of a blurb on the book’s web site, Rare Bird Lit:

Steven C. Markoff presents sourced evidence of three crimes committed by George W. Bush during his presidency: his failure to take warnings of coming terror attacks on our country seriously; taking the United States, by deception, into an unnecessary and disastrous 2003 war with Iraq; costing the lives of more than 4,000 Americans and 500,000 others; and breaking domestic and international laws by approving the torture as means to extract information. While Markoff lays out his case of the crimes, he leaves it up to the reader to decide the probable guilt of George W. Bush and his actions regarding the alleged crimes.

Casualties of War — Truth, Honor, Duty to Protect 

I had cut my teeth as a reporter in El Paso and elsewhere covering and following that other container ship of lies – Reagan’s crew of felons and thugs who philandered the American public with their special form of Murder Incorporated in Central America, and notably, Nicaragua. Or the illegal invasion of Panama under George H. W. Bush. Oh, those invasions, coups, clandestine bombings, proxy wars, incursions, secret operations, PsyOps.

I even ended up “down south,” in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua running into all sorts of odd fellows in the “drugs for guns” continuing criminal enterprise involving some of this country’s more nefarious “diplomats” and “generals” and CIA/NSA scum. Oh, those yellow belly Contras, murdering civilians and bombing schools and clinics for Reagan and Company. Those freedom fighters, AKA, the biggest lying cheats in recent times in Central America, Los Contras.

And the dead horse isn’t dead, and another author, like Markoff, just couldn’t buy the bs on those Contras:

Thus, in his 2012 book, The Manufacturing of a President, Wayne Madsen claims, based upon his numerous intelligence sources, that the CIA and Mossad have both been funding these rearmed Contras, and that they have been shipping these Contras arms over both the Honduran and Costa Rican borders.  He claims also that the Honduran government which came to power through the 2009 coup – a coup which the Obama Administration actively aided and abetted to unseat a leftist government which, by the way, happened to be friendly to Daniel Ortega – has been key to helping both support the Contras as well as to provide a staging ground for the covert operations to bring down the Sandinista government.  In other words, Honduras is playing the very same role it did in the 1980s, and the US-backed coup in 2009 – a mere 2 years after Ortega was elected – was crucial to this role.

Dan Kovalik

Of course, the Bush Family Legacy was also all written over that fiasco, and again, it was easy for me to continue my penchant for understanding how rotten the United States is as I am the son of a Vietnam War regular army veteran, who put in 31 years in uniform.

Lords of War, the Racket that is General Smedley Butler’s war warnings. Or Gary Webb, killing the messenger, the same CIA-infused Washington Post, New York Times and LA Times, to just name a few of the publications that corrupted the real work of Webb uncovering that entire drugs for guns Mafiosi.

Robert Parry, deceased now, but a journalist who started Consortium News in 1994, with Webb as one of his big stories on how bad the US government is, and how bad the mainstream media has become.

Here, Parry:

So what I was seeking by the mid-1990s was some solid ground in which to plant a flag for honest journalism, rather than constantly being forced into retreat, pulled by nervous editors and producers looking over their shoulders out of fear of right-wing retaliation. From solid ground, I thought, we could produce journalism that simply assessed the facts and made independent judgments regardless of who might be offended.

In 1995, it was my oldest son, Sam, who suggested the then-novel idea of “a Web site.” I didn’t fully understand what a Web site was and Sam was no techie but he demonstrated extraordinary patience in building our original Internet presence. (Back then, there were no templates; you had to start from scratch.) We married old-fashioned investigative reporting with the new technology of the Internet and began publishing groundbreaking investigative articles.

We followed evidence where it went, even when it flew in the face of the conventional wisdom, such as our work on the 1980 October Surprise issue of whether Reagan and Bush went behind President Jimmy Carter’s back during his Iran-hostage negotiations, much the way Nixon had in sabotaging Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968.

Not only did we present our own original work but we buttressed investigations by other serious journalists, such as Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News when, in 1996, he revived Ronald Reagan’s Contra-cocaine scandal. When the major newspapers set out to destroy Webb and discredit his revelations, Consortiumnews was one outlet that took on the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Yes, we were outgunned. Despite showing that Webb was not only right but actually understated the problem of Contra-cocaine trafficking, we still could not save Webb from having his career destroyed and then watching the big newspapers essentially high-five each other for having helped cover up a serious crime of state.

The Three Crimes of the POTUS #43 (Secret Service called him Trailblazer)

I am not going astray here, kind reader. What Steven talked a lot about on the Ralph Nader podcast was how that same media, the So-called Liberal Press, has virtually gone silent on his book, a type of passive censorship that can eat at the soul of any author.

In reality, the “case against Bush” is the case against mainstream media/press and their close ties to not just the chambers of power, but within their “embeddedness,” inside the ranks, as well as their allegiance to, and participation in, the national security state’s various bureaus of hit men and hit women.

When I finished the book, I offered the book to everybody that I had quoted, which was… around ninety authors. I offered it to Condoleezza Rice, I offered it to Dick Cheney, I offered it to the [George W.] Bush [Presidential] Library. I haven’t heard from one person about the book.

— Steven Markoff stated on Nader’s show.

Interestingly, Markoff incorporates Richard Clarke’s words as a preface to this book. Clarke actually strips culpability from Rumsfeld, Cheney, and others laying the blame on Bush personally. Here, early in Markoff’s book, Clarke puts it clearly in his mind.

While I may be considered by some to be prejudiced in my judgment, there are facts that any objective observer must accept.

• First, Bush ignored warnings about the serious threat from Al Qaeda prior to 9/11.
• Second, Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in violation of international law, when Iraq had been uninvolved in 9/11 and offered no imminent threat to the United States.
• Third, Bush authorized the use of torture and denied prisoners due process, both acts in violation of international law.

Note that in each case I say that Bush did these things, not the Bush administration. There is a revisionist school that seeks to place the blame on Bush’s vice president, Richard B. Cheney. While there can be little doubt that Cheney encouraged Bush to take many of these actions, it is not true that the president was merely a tool of a mendacious and scheming subordinate.

The evidence is now clear that Bush agreed with his vice president and knew full well what he was doing. He was an enthusiastic participant, a believer in the war on terror and the war on Iraq. It is true, however, that he did not master or manage the details of either war until the last few years of his eight-year presidency.

— Richard A. Clarke, in the Forward of Markoff’s book.

[In 1992, President George H. W. Bush appointed Richard A. Clarke to chair the Counterterrorism Security Group and to a seat on the United States National Security Council. President Bill Clinton retained Clarke and in 1998 promoted him to the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism. Under President George W. Bush, Clarke initially continued in the same position and later became the special advisor to the president on cyber security. He left his government position prior to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.]

Markoff uses Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, as a touchstone of sorts. That was in 2007.

Importantly, Clarke had the necessary government background, involvement, and position to know about what he wrote. When I finished Clarke’s book, I was shocked. Could Bush have really disregarded threats of bin Laden and Al-Qaeda prior to 9/11? If so, was there a compelling reason that Bush spent his political capital and energy going after Hussein? Could it be that George W. Bush’s Iraq War was about oil?

It occurred to me that while Clarke seemed knowledgeable about terrorists, 9/11, and the run up to our 2003 invasion of Iraq, he was just one person, and his knowledge was limited to what he had personally seen and learned.

I thought that if I combined details from Clarke’s book with related information from other diverse sources with inside or special knowledge of those times and places, that combined information could produce new and clearer insights about 9/11 and the Iraq War. I then set out to find what additional facts and information were available on those and related topics.

— Steven Markoff, The Case Against George W. Bush

Torture, Rendition, Yellow Cake, WMD’s

I remember protesting U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales June 27, 2007, in Spokane, when he showed up to talk about his department under Bush. Many of us were there to protest publicly Gonzales and the Bush administration, for many things, including that 2002 memo written by Gonzales that said Bush had the right to waive anti-torture laws and treaties that protect prisoners of war.

Oh, the long arm of the “law” that Wednesday afternoon took a good friend down to the ground, arborist Dan Treecraft. He did nothing wrong, but Dan along with another person, was arrested for public disturbance.

I was there with students of mine from two community colleges where I taught, and alas, even those two respective presidents and chairs of the department where I taught thought they had the right to tell a faculty member what he could and couldn’t do as part of a class assignment on “what it’s like to come out and protest a representative of your/our government who states torture is okay.”

Ironically, he was in Spokane to talk about “gang enforcement,” and Gonzales  wasn’t alluding to the biggest continuing criminal enterprise Gang called the United States of America.

Steve’s book is a guide, a probable pathway for lawmakers, voters, and others, including the Press, to ratchet up the attention on George W. Bush the War Criminal, and to put to rest the fawning and ameliorating reputation of Bush as The Painter (sic) Friend of Michelle Obama and Ellen.

The kicker in Markoff’s book, says it all, quite damningly, but the reality is that the War is a Racket machine is a very fine tuned complex – Big Business Complex: Burger King, et al; Home Depot, et al; Mercenaries ‘R Us, et al; paint, air conditioning, roads, drywall, vehicles, depleted uranium, fuel, water, food suppliers, et al; all those financial products, that medical complex et al; Big Ag, Big Oil, Big Chemical, Big Prison et al, all in the manner of the for-profit system that is subsidized – welfare-ized – by the US taxpayer. Insanity we have already seen in other wars, and that War on Vietnam, not enough lessons learned there? I’ve been up close and personal with that war, in Vietnam as a civilian, and as a son of a wounded regular Army officer, social worker for wounded veterans, homeless vets and their families, instructor of college writing for Vietnam veterans.

There is no urban legend attributed to those $200 hammers and $600 toilet seats and $2000 each bolts holding the shrouding of Patriot missiles. War is graft central, and how many millionaires and billionaires were created after World War I? Read General Butler’s, War is a Racket.

Evidence of Crimes as Eight Bullet Points

This shit is personal to me, as well, since I have had friends and students coming back from Bush’s wars, full of trauma, fucked up beyond repair, walking PTSD warriors with all that resentment, anger and physical outbursts, and nowhere to go. Here is Steve’s book, again, near the end:

Could the following quote from Payback, a book by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton, in part on the strategy of redirected aggression, explain Bush’s taking our country to war on his misleading and false premises?

“George W. Bush and his Administration were not stooges at all, but quite brilliant. They read the need of most Americans at the time: to hit someone, hard, so as to redirect their suffering and anger [from 9/11]. The evidence is overwhelming that for the Bush Administration’s ‘neocons,’ the September 11 attacks were not the reason for the Iraq War; rather, it was a convenient excuse for doing something upon which they had already decided. Their accomplishment—if such is the correct word—was identifying the post-9/11 mood of the American people, and manipulating this mood, brilliantly, toward war.”

It’s difficult to fathom the extent of the death and destruction caused by George W. Bush’s three crimes, but his legacy of death and destruction are of Olympic proportions.

  •  An estimated 2,977 people killed by the attacks on 9/11, and thousands more injured or incapacitated that day. In addition, hundreds if not thousands have died and will die early from the toxic air from the collapse of the Twin Towers and its aftermath.
  • By one count, there were 4,400 United States personnel killed and 30,000 wounded in the Iraq War as of August 31, 2010; tens of thousands more wounded physically and emotionally crippled by participating in that war; millions of Americans and their families destroyed, devastated, and/or traumatized by 9/11 and Bush’s 2003 Iraq War.
  •  As many as 650,000 deaths or more from Bush’s Iraq War, deaths that wouldn’t have occurred but for that war.
  •  Many of our civil rights, and the civil rights of others around the world, were curtailed due to the fear created by 9/11, a fear used by some as an opportunity to weaken our liberties.
  •  Three to seven trillion dollars in costs to our country from 9/11 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Those unnecessary trillions were and will be added to our national debt, a sum burdening our future, the future of our children, and perhaps of generations to come.
  •  Bush’s torture of prisoners puts American soldiers captured in future wars at greater risk of being tortured.
  •  The loss of America’s prestige and moral authority from Bush’s unnecessary Iraq War and torturing prisoners will hurt our country in the years ahead.
  •  Sixteen different US spy agencies on September 24, 2006, concluded that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq since March 2003 has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicals— effectively increasing the terror threat in the years after 9/11—and that the Bush administration tortured detainees and that torture wasn’t effective in securing intel otherwise unavailable.

Because America invaded a sovereign country without credible reason and tortured prisoners, how can we say without hypocrisy that other countries shouldn’t do the same to other nations or to us? What moral authority do we have to tell others it is wrong to torture?

— Steven Markoff, The Case Against George W. Bush

Pretty damning, and as I file this review/analysis/rant, that W is at it again, and his stupidity is the stunt, no, smart as a fox, or pet-painting war criminal?

George W Bush shakes hands with Condoleezza Rice in Washington DC on 5 January 2006.

In a People interview, the former president said he told his former secretary of state he had written for her. “She knows it,” said Bush, 74, “But she told me she would refuse to accept the office.”

Bush has been doing press to support the release of his book, Out of Many, One, which features his painted portraits of American immigrants and the stories of their lives.

He called current-day Republicans “isolationist, protectionist, and, to a certain extent, nativist.”

“Really what I should have said — there’s loud voices who are isolationists, protectionists and nativists, something, by the way, I talked about when I was president,” Bush said. “My concerns [are] about those -isms, but I painted with too broad a brush … because by saying what I said, it excluded a lot of Republicans who believe we can fix the problem.”

Shadow of War — Ghosts of the Dead

We’ll see if People magazine interviews Markoff, and gets a bit under the skin of his fine book, all 360 pages, with a decent bibliography and works cited section.

His conclusion:

Regardless of how I or others see what I submit are Bush’s criminal acts, some will continue to argue that while he wasn’t a perfect president, at least he rid the world of the tyrant, Hussein. Yes, he did, but for what reason, by what method, and at what cost?

In addition to the unnecessary deaths and wounding of thousands of brave Americans, hundreds of thousands of others died and were injured from Bush’s unnecessary Iraq invasion. The trillions of dollars Bush’s war has cost has and will continue to be added to our national debt. A debt saddling our future.

In conclusion, I believe the evidence in this book shows Bush’s three crimes were reckless, dishonest, and tragically unnecessary.

I rest my case.

— Steven Markoff, The Case Against George W. Bush

Of course, there are gross inaccuracies when it comes to US-induced casualties, and the first casualty of war is truth, for sure:

Of the countries where the U.S. and its allies have been waging war since 2001, Iraq is the only one where epidemiologists have actually conducted comprehensive mortality studies based on the best practices that they have developed in war zones such as Angola, Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda. In all these countries, as in Iraq, the results of comprehensive epidemiological studies revealed 5 to 20 times more deaths than previously published figures based on “passive” reporting by journalists, NGOs or governments.

Taking ORB’s estimate of 1.033 million killed by June 2007, then applying a variation of Just Foreign Policy’s methodology from July 2007 to the present using revised figures from Iraq Body Count, we estimate that 2.4 million Iraqis have been killed since 2003 as a result of our country’s illegal invasion, with a minimum of 1.5 million and a maximum of 3.4 million.

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies, March 19, 2018

main article image

[Civil protection rescue teams work on the debris of a destroyed house to recover the body of people killed in an airstrike during fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants on the western side of Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)]

For Markoff, it’s the lives that were destroyed by Bush. That is the echo in his words, and the ghosts of those murdered are the shadows between the lines in The Case Against George W. Bush. 

Roots of Zionism and U.S. Liberty to Iraq and Now Iran

Alas, I am ending this analysis/response to Markoff’s book, The Case Against George W. Bush, by slogging through another quagmire, and then some reference to books on just who was lobbying to attack Iraq. We have Markoff trying to open up a case against W. Bush, and his book is clear, focused, not one we’d expect in the pantheon of history books or investigative research/journalistic screeds.

Some writers, thinkers, educators and journalists (such as myself), however, were already looking into the scope of this terror campaign, the implications of US Patriot Act, the entire mess that is Israel’s murderous mucking about in the Middle East with Israel-Firster American corporate heads, administration wonks, politicians and more clandestine and nefarious actors behind the scenes, supreme puppet masters and Svengali types.

All those Israeli wars led to the destruction of Lebanon, Syria and the biggest obstacle at the time, Iraq.

And, here I go again, tangentially putting more fuel into the fires that immolated Iraq and which have blazed through the Middle East before and during and since W. Bush and his Klan invaded the Middle East.

Here, I reference a recent piece by Timothy Alexander Guzman who briefly alludes to the AIPAC/Israel/Israel-firster connection to the invasion(s) of Iraq in his piece, “The Prospect of a Major False-Flag Operation in the Middle-East Grows by the Day: Remembering June 8th, 1967 the Day Israel Attacked the USS Liberty: “It’s was all part of the long-term plan and Iraq was part of that plan, in fact, the most powerful lobby in Washington is AIPAC and the Bush neoconservatives including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol, Elliot Abrams and others who pushed Washington into a war with Iraq. According to John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee)  was a major supporter for the War on Iraq”:

AIPAC usually supports what Israel wants, and Israel certainly wanted the United States to invade Iraq. Nathan Guttman made this very connection in his reporting [in Haaretz, April 2003] on AIPAC’s annual conference in the spring of 2003, shortly after the war started: “AIPAC is wont to support whatever is good for Israel, and so long as Israel supports the war, so too do the thousands of the AIPAC lobbyists who convened in the American capital.” AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr’s statement to the New York Sun in January 2003 is even more revealing, as he acknowledged “‘quietly’ lobbying Congress to approve the use of force in Iraq” was one of “AIPAC’s successes over the past year.” And in a lengthy New Yorker profile of Steven J. Rosen, who was AIPAC’s policy director during the run-up to the Iraq war, Jeffrey Goldberg reported that “AIPAC lobbied Congress in favor of the Iraq war.”

— John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

 

Liberty Survivors Say US Still Downplays Israel's Attack on Ship | Military.com

[Oh, that anniversary, of the attack by Israel on the Liberty, June 8th (1967)]

I suppose this entire mess that Markoff catalogues in his book, as a triumvirate of crimes by George W. Bush, could for me, personally, be summed up, in my mind, with President George W. Bush, speaking at the annual AIPAC conference in May of 2004:

You’ve always understood and warned against the evil ambition of terrorism and their networks. In a dangerous new century, your work is more vital than ever.

Steven Markoff doesn’t go there, for sure, and that is what makes Markoff’s book unique, too:  a clean record of the mess and blunder and murderous trail George W. Bush left in his wake as leader of the so-called “free world.”

The post W’s Chickens Coming Home to Roost, yet the Media Cocks Aren’t Crowing first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Israel Rejects ICC Investigation: What Are the Possible Future Scenarios?

The Israeli government’s position regarding an impending investigation by the International Criminal Court of alleged war crimes committed in occupied Palestine has been finally declared by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It will be made clear that Israel is a country with rule of law that knows how to investigate itself,” Netanyahu said in a statement on April 8. Subsequently, Israel “completely rejects” any accusations that it has committed war crimes.

But it won’t be so easy for Tel Aviv this time around. True, Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute, according to which the ICC was established, but it can still be held accountable, because the State of Palestine is a member of the ICC.

Palestine joined the ICC in 2015, and the alleged war crimes, which are under investigation, have taken place on Palestinian soil. This grants the ICC direct jurisdiction, even if war crimes were committed by a non-ICC party. Still, accountability for these war crimes is not guaranteed. So, what are the possible future scenarios?

But first, some context …

‘Blatant Impunity’

On March 22, the Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, declared that “the time has come to stop Israel’s blatant impunity”. His remarks were included in a letter sent to the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and other top officials at the international body.

There is modest – albeit cautious – optimism among Palestinians that Israeli officials could potentially be held accountable for war crimes and other human rights violations in Palestine. The reason behind this optimism is a recent decision by ICC to pursue its investigation of alleged war crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Mansour’s letter was written with this context in mind. Other Palestinian officials, such as Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, are also pushing in this direction. He, too, wants to see an end to Israel’s lack of accountability.

Till Netanyahu’s official position, the Israeli response has been most predictable. On March 20, Israeli authorities decided to revoke Al-Maliki’s special travel permit in order to prevent him from pursuing Palestinian diplomacy that aims at ensuring the continuation of the ICC investigation. Al-Maliki had, in fact, just returned from a trip to The Hague, where the ICC is headquartered.

Furthermore, Israel is openly attempting to intimidate the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah to discontinue its cooperation with the ICC, as can be easily gleaned from the official Israeli discourse. “The Palestinian leadership has to understand there are consequences for their actions,” an Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post on March 21.

Despite years of legal haggling and intense pressure on the ICC’s outgoing Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to scrap the investigation altogether, the legal proceedings have carried on, unhindered. The pressure was displayed in various forms: direct defamation by Israel, as in accusing the ICC of anti-Semitism; unprecedented American sanctions on ICC officials and constant meddling and intervention, on Israel’s behalf, by member states that are part of the ICC, and who are described as amici curiae.

They did not succeed. On April 30, 2020, Bensouda consulted with the Court’s Pre-trial Chamber regarding whether the ICC had jurisdiction over the matter. Ten months later, the Chamber answered in the affirmative. Subsequently, the Prosecutor decided to formally open the investigation.

On March 9, a spokesman for the Court revealed that, in accordance with Article 18 in the Rome Statute, notification letters were sent by the Prosecutor’s office to ‘all parties concerned’, including the Israeli Government and the Palestinian leadership, notifying them of the war crimes probe and allowing them only one month to seek deferral of the investigation.

Expectedly, Israel remains defiant. However, unlike its obstinacy in response to previous international attempts at investigating war crimes allegations in Palestine, the Israeli response, this time, appears confused and uncertain. On the one hand, Israeli media revealed last July that Netanyahu’s government has prepared a long list of likely Israeli suspects, whose conduct can potentially be investigated by the ICC. Still, the official Israeli response can only be described as dismissive of the matter as being superfluous, insisting that Israel will not, in any way, cooperate with ICC investigators.

Though the Israeli government continues to maintain its official position that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Israel and occupied Palestine, top Israeli officials and diplomats are moving quickly to block what now seems to be an imminent probe. For example, Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, was on an official visit to Germany where he, on March 18, met with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, thanking him on behalf of Israel for opposing the ICC’s investigation of Israeli officials.

After lashing out at the Palestinian leadership for attempting to “legalize” the conflict, through an international investigation, Rivlin renewed Israel’s “trust that our European friends will stand by us in the important fight on the misuse of the International Criminal Court against our soldiers and civilians.”

Unlike previous attempts at investigating Israeli war crimes, for example, the Jenin massacre in the West Bank in 2002, and the various investigations of several Israeli wars on Gaza starting in 2008-09, the forthcoming ICC investigation is different. For one, the ICC investigation targets individuals, not states, and can issue arrest warrants, making it legally incumbent on all other ICC members to enforce the Court’s decisions.

Now that all attempts at dissuading the Court from pursuing the matter have failed, the question must be asked: What are the possible future scenarios?

The Next Step

In the case that the investigation carries on as planned, the Prosecutor’s next step would be to identify suspects and alleged perpetrators of war crimes. Dr. Triestino Mariniello, member of the legal team that represents the Gaza victims, told me that once these suspects have been determined, “the Prosecutor will ask the Pre-trial chamber to issue either arrest warrants or subpoena, at least in relation to the crimes already included in the investigation so far.”

These alleged war crimes already include Israel’s illegal Jewish settlements, the Israeli war on Gaza in 2014 and Israel’s targeting of unarmed civilian protesters during Gaza’s Great March of Return, starting in 2018.

Even more ideally, the Court could potentially widen the scope of the investigation, which is a major demand for the representatives of the Palestinian victims.

“We expect more crimes to be included: especially, apartheid as a crime against humanity and crimes against Palestinian prisoners by Israeli authorities, especially torture,” according to Dr. Mariniello.

In essence, this means that, even after the investigation is officially underway, the Palestine legal team can continue its advocacy to expand the scope of the investigation and to cover as much legal ground as possible.

‘Narrow Scope’ 

However, judging from previous historic experiences, ideal scenarios in cases where Israel was investigated for war crimes rarely transpired. A less than ideal scenario would be for the scope of the investigation to remain narrow.

In a recent interview with former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Occupied Palestinian Territories, Professor Richard Falk, he told me that even if the narrow scope remains in effect – thus reducing the chances of all victims seeing justice – the investigation is still a “breakthrough”.

The reason why the investigation may not be broadened has less to do with justice and much to do with politics. “The scope of the investigation is something that is ill-defined, so it is a matter of political discretion,” Professor Falk said.

In other words, “the Court takes a position that needs to be cautious about delimiting its jurisdiction and, therefore, it tries to narrow the scope of what it is prepared to investigate.”

Professor Falk does not agree with that view but, according to the seasoned international law expert, “it does represent the fact that the ICC, like the UN itself, is subject to immense geopolitical pressure.”

Still, “it’s a breakthrough even to consider the investigation, let alone the indictment and the prosecution of either Israelis or Americans that was put on the agenda of the ICC, which led to a pushback by these governments.”

Israel’s Missed Opportunity

While the two above scenarios are suitable for Palestinians, they are a non-starter as far as the Israeli government is concerned, as indicated in Netanyahu’s recent statement in which he rejected the investigation altogether. According to some pro-Israeli international law experts, Netanyahu’s decision would represent a missed opportunity.

Writing in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, international law expert Nick Kaufman had advises Israel to cooperate, only for the sake of obtaining a “deferral” from the Court and to use the ensuing delay for political maneuvering.

“It would be unfortunate for Israel to miss the opportunity of deferral which could provide the ideal excuse for reinitiating peace talks with the Palestinians,” he wrote, warning that “if Israel squanders such an opportunity it should come as no surprise if, at a later date, the Court will hint that the government has no one but itself to blame for the export of the judicial process to The Hague.”

There are other scenarios, such as even more intense pressures on the Court as a result of ongoing discussions between Israel and its benefactors, whether in Washington or among the amici curiae at the Court itself.

At the same time, while Palestinians remain cautious about the future of the investigation, hope is slowly rising that, this time around, things may be different and that Israeli war criminals will eventually be held accountable for their crimes. Time will tell.

  • Romana Rubeo contributed to this article
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“We did not know… that there is an international law”

In March 1991, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which had just imploded under a coalition led by Washington, began its descent into hell. It would remain for a long time under close surveillance and embargo. Meanwhile, between a mirage of “glasnost” and a wave of “perestroika,” Gorbachev’s USSR, floundering in dreams of the West, was soon to sink and fall apart. America already saw itself as “the most powerful Empire the earth has brought forth” and readied itself to make those who did not understand it pay dearly. After pretending to seek a peaceful outcome that would spare Iraq humiliation, Mitterrand’s France joined the anti-Saddam assault, gradually realizing how narrow its room for maneuver was vis-à-vis Baghdad. After a Gaullist backlash under Chirac, it would fire its last rounds in March 2003 with Villepin’s flamboyant but inconsequential speech to the Security Council, abandoning Iraq and continuing its slide towards Atlanticism.

It took thirty years for the mainstream of the nation of reason and human rights to deign to discover the gigantic lie that had obscured the destruction of Iraq and the excruciating torment inflicted on its people. The teary Colin Powell, famous for having sodomized the Security Council with his sinister vial, would wait long years to apologize vaguely on the pretext that he had been misinformed (sic). Some would emulate him later, many never. Faced with the scandal, many are now brandishing an easy excuse: “We did not know”, they say, thus shirking their responsibility. To admit that they knew would be to admit that they were guilty or accomplices. According to the long documentary devoted to Iraq recently on France 2, Chevènement admitted to knowing since August 4, 1990 France had given its consent to Washington to be at his side against Saddam: the diplomatic saga of which the French were proud was therefore only a decoy.

The overwhelming toll of the Iraqi tragedy has been passed over in silence, despite a number of courageous voices and initiatives that have attempted to unmask the American enterprise inspired by Judeo-Protestant Zionism: a dismantled and destroyed state, its army and its policedissolved, one of the most modern countries in the Arab world sent back fifty years by raids and the use of prohibited weapons, humiliated by an iniquitous “food for oil”. Without counting the pillage and torture, the prisons, the looting of the archaeological heritage. At the very least two million dead including 500,000 children, “the price of democracy” according to elder Albright … And the unspeakable George Dubya Bush asking the historical question: Why do they hate us so much?

The same exact scenario is happening again for Syria, which entered into its eleventh year of war in mid-March 2021. Except that the Syrian state, strong in its resilience and its alliances (Russia and Iran), has not been destroyed, even if the country is ravaged, its economy ruined and its people suffocated and starved by the embargo and the sanctions, with the end of its ordeal not in sight. Refusing to recognize its “unthinkable defeat” and “the unthinkable victory of Bashar al-Assad,” America has preferred, as Obama’s adviser Robert Malley blithely predicted in 2016, to move on to a second stage of aggression, the actual military war well and truly lost, giving way to an endless economic war, a “proxy” war with the support of the flag wavers of the western-oriented “international community.

As foreseen, the tenth mid-March “anniversary” of the start of events in Syria unleashed an unprecedented and at first glance incomprehensible hysteria in the dreary bog of the mainstream press, which puts politicians, the media, and those whose job is to think, in the same bed. The stupidity of this fit of furious madness testifies to the moral degeneration of the country of Descartes and of human rights, a kind of Covid of intelligence. These are simply the neoconservative French-style intellectuals who are mobilizing, chanting their string of pious lies and insanities, where pretty words jostle, like democracy, international law, human rights, justice, pluralism, political solution. Furious at their defeat, and having nothing plausible to claim or propose, like the moderate terrorists and the self-styled revolutionaries, they support, they condemn with an air of outraged virtue “the rogue state” in Syria, the “Bashar regime”, the “genocidal” gang, the “massacring tyrant”, perfectly illustrating this “zero degree of political thought” (and intelligence) that is neoconservatism – this Lady Emptyhead with whom they are infatuated. We even see the idea advanced that, in order to permanently defeat the Islamic State in Syria, it is necessary to “stabilize” the rebels, who have destroyed their country and licked themselves of the martyrdom of their compatriots.

What Iraq has undergone for thirty years, Syria is living for the eleventh consecutive year (more than the two world wars combined), a glittering silence and total denial perfecting the ordeal of a martyred people. If it continues to die slowly, it is not to “pay the price of a necessary democratization”, it is neither a “failed spring” nor a civil war, as one strives to say in the countries of the Axis of Good. Among the “experts” who pontificate, I dare to hope that there are no professors of international law, because they would surely know that, like Iraq in its time, Syria was and is still the victim of international aggression.

During the Nuremberg (and Tokyo) trials of 1946, this crime of aggression, based on the free and conscious will to threaten or break the peace, was classified as a “crime against peace” and qualified as an “international crime par excellence”, one of the major violations of international law alongside genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is inscribed by the Nuremberg Tribunal at the top of the list, along with the following formula: “To start a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime,” the only difference from other war crimes being that it contains within itself all the accumulated Evil of all the others. This is “the crime par excellence.”

Codified by the United Nations General Assembly, resolution 95/1946, it belongs to international criminal law and falls under the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in The Hague (with regard to the responsibility and criminalization of States). Assumed by the Treaty of Rome of July 1998, establishing the ICC, it also comes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (for the personal responsibility of state officials).

Will we have to meet in thirty years to “discover” the toll of the wars in Syria, whether military and visible or economic and invisible? When the hour arrives to be held accountable and to render justice, it will in any case be necessary to remind with pure honesty the hundred governments that are participating to this day in this naked aggression, of the gravity of their criminal enterprise. And we will first denounce the three Western countries, permanent members of the Security Council, who claim to uphold International Law and to be its guardians, while they are its top violators.

To enhance his peaceful retirement, Dubya Bush chose, it seems, to paint ridiculous little sheep, without ever being touched by the idea that he should have on his conscience millions of dead, wounded, crippled, handicapped children, not to mention the destruction of several countries. Others, like Blair or Obama, even derive an enviable income from the story of their exploits, by giving handsomely paid lectures, where their ravages and crimes are implicitly considered collateral effects of a pious work: no reference to the dead, to the destruction for which they are responsible, to the fate of ruined or dismembered States …

They are well dressed, well groomed, well fed, covered with diplomas, they pose as “masters of the world”: they speak the law, make the law, decide on the war, write the story of their exploits seen through a warped pair of spectacles. In short, Westerners or devotees of the West – “Occidentalists” – are the elites of the “civilized world”, the essence of the only humanity that matters to their unseeing eyes. They believe themselves to be invulnerable and untouchable. They have no remorse or shame. They are even proud of their actions, of their records, of their support for these terrorists, whether recycled or not, who “get the job done.” Their regrettable sin, which they cannot get rid of since they see it as the new version of the detestable and outmoded “white man’s burden”, is the mania for delivering moral lessons and deciding for others what countries “that do not belong to our world” must do, even if no one has asked them. Obviously, if there was still a hint of wisdom in the West, one would wonder how people whose sense of governance and international law is so erratic at home can decide the fate of their more or less distant neighbors.

All the more reason for political or military leaders, intellectuals and the media, who have decided, organized, supported or justified a crime (or many) of international aggression, to know that they are and will remain, whatever they do or do not do, responsible for the crime of international aggression, or for their support or complicity, and that they will be held to account, without statute of limitations . Justice has many flaws, but it is tenacious.

EnglishTranslation: Paul Larudee

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Propaganda By Omission: Libya, Syria, Venezuela And The UK

We live in a war-like society; one that supports, and is in league with, the world’s number one terrorist threat: the United States of America. Corporate media propaganda plays a key role in keeping things that way.

Ten years ago this month, the US, UK and France attacked oil-rich Libya under the fictitious cover of ‘humanitarian intervention’. The bombing was ‘justified’ by Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy by the supposed imminent massacre of civilians in Benghazi by forces under Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. As we have documented previously, the propaganda claims were fraudulent.

Libya, previously a wealthy state with free health care and education, was essentially destroyed. An estimated 600,000 Libyans were killed. Many more were displaced from their homes. In the barbarous conditions of the failed state, black people have been ethnically ‘cleansed’, lynched and auctioned off as slaves, illicit arms transfers and terrorism have become rife, and many Libyans have attempted to flee to better lives across the Mediterranean, thousands of them drowning en route.

As Jeremy Kuzmarov, managing editor of CovertAction Magazine and author of four books on US foreign policy, pointed out recently, the powerful Western perpetrators of this human calamity have never been brought to justice. He added:

In hindsight, it is clear that the U.S. was completing a 40-year regime change operation targeting Colonel Qaddafi for which media disinformation was pivotal.

It is important today as such to revisit the 2011 war so that U.S. citizens can learn from the history and not be duped again into supporting an intervention of this kind.

The Stunning Silences Over Syria And Venezuela

But, when it came to Syria several years later, media disinformation was once again pivotal in unleashing Western firepower. As we have described in numerous media alerts, the corporate media declared with instant unanimity and certainty that Syria’s President Bashar Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on 7 April, 2018. One week later, the US, UK and France attacked Syria in response to the unproven allegations. Since then, there has been a mounting deluge of evidence that the UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has perpetrated a massive cover-up to preserve the Western narrative that Assad gassed civilians in Douma.

Earlier this month, five former OPCW officials joined a group of prominent signatories to urge the UN chemical weapons watchdog to address the controversy. Aaron Maté, an independent journalist with The Grayzone website, has been following developments closely since the beginning (see his in-depth article, ‘Did Trump Bomb Syria on False Grounds?’).

He noted that:

Leaks from inside the OPCW show that key scientific findings that cast doubt on claims of Syrian government guilt were censored, and that the original investigators were removed from the probe. Since the cover-up became public, the OPCW has shunned accountability and publicly attacked the two whistleblowers who challenged it from inside.

In an interview, Maté pointed out the remarkable silence from the corporate media:

The western media, across the spectrum, has buried this story – which is pretty incredible. You have extraordinary allegations of a cover-up, you have whistleblowers; and not only…do you have allegations, you have documents – a trove of documents released by WikiLeaks.

We have observed a similar shameful silence in the UK, including BBC News; even after initial interest in the ‘important story’ had been expressed by Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent.

But Western violence against other nations, and the ‘justifications’ trotted out to defend ‘our’ crimes, or simply ignoring them, has become normalised in ‘mainstream’ journalism.

Consider the case of Venezuela, harbouring one of the largest oil reserves on the planet, and which, as a left-leaning democracy, has long been targeted by the US for regime change. This was seen very clearly when the late Hugo Chávez was the Venezuelan president – temporarily deposed in a failed US-supported coup in 2002, and who was often wrongly described by corporate media as a ‘dictator’ – and continues today under Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro.

As John McEvoy observed in a piece for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, a recent UN rebuke of crippling US and European sanctions on Venezuela has been met with ‘stunning silence’.

McEvoy wrote:

The report laid bare how a years-long campaign of economic warfare has asphyxiated Venezuela’s economy, crushing the government’s ability to provide basic services both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Alena Douhan, the UN special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, the Venezuelan government’s revenue was reported to have shrunk enormously, ‘with the country currently living on 1% of its pre-sanctions income,’ impeding ‘the ability of Venezuela to respond to the Covid-19 emergency.’

Douhan urged US and European governments:

to unfreeze assets of the Venezuela Central Bank to purchase medicine, vaccines, food, medical and other equipment.

The US-led campaign to overthrow the Venezuelan government, Douhan added, ‘violates the principle of sovereign equality of states and constitutes an intervention in domestic affairs of Venezuela that also affects its regional relations’.

Almost exactly two years ago, we noted in a media alert that the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, a respected think-tank, had published a study showing that US sanctions imposed on Venezuela in August 2017 had since caused around 40,000 deaths. With the exception of a single piece in the Independent, there was zero coverage in the national UK press, and no BBC News coverage at all, as far as we could ascertain.

McEvoy wrote:

By omitting the devastating impact of sanctions, corporate media attribute sole responsibility for economic and humanitarian conditions to the Venezuelan government, thereby using the misery provoked by sanctions to validate the infliction of even more misery.

He continued:

Loath to abandon belief in the fundamentally benign nature of Western foreign policy, corporate scribes have typically presented the devastating effects of sanctions as a mere accusation of Nicolás Maduro.

This is a pattern of deception seen over and over again. For example, in 2002-2003, the ‘mainstream’ media repeatedly attributed claims that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein. Doing so buried the evidence-backed testimony of senior UN weapons inspectors concluding that Iraq had been ‘fundamentally disarmed’ of 90-95 per cent of its weapons of mass destruction by December 1998.1

McEvoy noted that the Guardian’s reporting of Venezuela sticks to the Washington script:

Often, they fail to mention sanctions at all. In June 2019, for instance, the Guardian’s Tom Phillips reported that “more than 4 million Venezuelans have now fled economic and humanitarian chaos,” citing would-be coup leader Juan Guaidó’s claim that the country’s economic collapse “was caused by the corruption of this regime,” without making any reference to Washington’s campaign of economic warfare.

Keeping with tradition, Douhan’s damning report has been met with stunning silence by establishment media outlets. Neither the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post nor BBC reported on Douhan’s findings.

Imagine if Russia had been responsible for imposing sanctions on another country, violating that country’s sovereignty, with tens of thousands dead and many more lives at risk in the months to come. Imagine, moreover, that Russia had been condemned in a hard-hitting UN report for engaging in economic warfare, described as ‘a violation of international law’ that was causing a serious ‘growth of malnourishment in the past 6 years with more than 2.5 million people being severely food insecure.’ Imagine that such a report pointed to the ‘devastating effect of unilateral sanctions on the broad scope of human rights, especially the right to food, right to health, right to life, right to education and right to development.’ The headlines and in-depth coverage in the West would be incessant. The Russian ambassador in London would be given a stern dressing-down by the UK Foreign Secretary. MPs would address Parliament, condemning Putin in the strongest possible terms. There would be global demands for the UN to intervene.

The ideological discipline required to ignore such crimes under Western policy is remarkable, but it is standard in the corporate media system. Propaganda by omission, routinely carried out by BBC News and the rest of the ‘mainstream’ news media, is a crucial tool enabling Washington and London to pursue their aims; whether that be ‘regime change’, exploitation of oil and other natural resources, and geopolitical domination.

‘Grand Wizards’ And Client Journalism

Occasionally, the strict enforcement of ideological purity imposed on corporate journalists is laid bare when they step out of line by the merest millimeter. Thus, for example, BBC television presenter Naga Munchetty had to issue an apology on Twitter for ‘liking’ tweets that mocked Tory government minister Robert Jenrick for appearing on a BBC Breakfast interview with a Union Jack prominently displayed behind him.

She tweeted:

I “liked” tweets today that were offensive in nature about the use of the British flag as a backdrop in a government interview this morning. I have since removed these “likes”. This do [sic] not represent the views of me or the BBC. I apologise for any offence taken. Naga

This read like a statement that had been dictated from lofty levels within the BBC hierarchy. When you are a high-profile BBC figure, you are obliged to tweet out an apology for daring to question the trappings of ‘patriotism’. But when have BBC journalists ever apologised for catastrophically platforming government propaganda on Iraq, Libya, Syria, the NHS, ‘austerity’, militarism, the royal family? The list is endless.

On Twitter, tweets from the broadcaster RT are flagged with the warning, ‘Russia state-affiliated media.’ Rather than apologise for broadcasting Western propaganda, it is far more likely that a senior client journalist working for the UK state-affiliated media known as ‘BBC News’ will send out whitewashing tweets to minimise or deflect any challenges to the government. Take BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, a prime example of this key propaganda function. On the National Day of Reflection on 23 March, the anniversary of the start of the first UK Covid-19 lockdown, Boris Johnson had boasted during a private meeting of Tory MPs:

The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends.

There was a huge outcry on social media. Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor who has been outspoken in her criticism of the government during the pandemic, tweeted in response to Johnson’s crassly insensitive and smug comment:

But he’s wrong.

‘Human nature is bigger & better & bursting with more grace & decency than he’ll ever know.

Wise and compassionate words.

By contrast, Kuenssberg went into full damage-limitation mode, tweeting:

More on PM’s “greed” comments – one of those present says Johnson was having a crack at Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, who was gobbling a cheese + pickle sandwich while he was talking about the vaccine, “it was hardly Gordon Gekko”, “it was banter” directed at the Chief, it’s said

It is a fair point: probably not even Gordon Gekko would have joked about the virtue of capitalism and greed on a day when his very clear responsibility for the deaths of 149,000 people was at the forefront of many people’s minds.

Newspaper cartoonist Dave Brown depicted brilliantly what the day of reflection should have meant: Johnson reflected in the mirror as the Grim Reaper carrying a scythe with the number 149,000 engraved on it.

Kam Sandhu, head of advocacy at the independent think tank Autonomy, reminded her Twitter followers that, in 2019, Kuenssberg had brushed off the revelation that Brexiteer MPs visiting Chequers, the prime minister’s 16th century manor house, had called themselves  “the Grand Wizards“. The BBC political editor had tweeted:

just catching up on timeline, for avoidance of doubt, couple of insiders told me using the nickname informally, no intended connection to anything else

Presumably the use of an infamous Ku Klux Klan term of white supremacy was to be considered mere ‘banter’. There are countless other examples of Kuenssberg deflecting criticism of Tories, while echoing and amplifying their propaganda. You may recall that she acted to defend the government when it belatedly went into the first lockdown one year ago. She misled the public, as Richard Horton, editor of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet noted last March:

Laura Kuenssberg says (BBC) that, “The science has changed.” This is not true. The science has been the same since January. What has changed is that govt advisors have at last understood what really took place in China and what is now taking place in Italy. It was there to see.

Her insidious role in endlessly propping up the government narrative on any given topic is a ‘courtesy’ conspicuous by its absence when it came to the ‘impartial’ BBC political editor’s reporting of Jeremy Corbyn and, in particular, the manufactured crisis of supposedly institutional antisemitism in the Labour party.

On 26 November 2019, just prior to the general election on 12 December, Kuenssberg tweeted about Tory-supporting chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ suggestion that Corbyn should be ‘considered unfit for office’, 23 times in 24 hours. This at a time when journalistic impartiality was obviously never more essential.

Kuenssberg is not an exception within BBC News, although given her very high-profile position, it is not always as blatant with other BBC journalists. Take BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale, for instance: another serial offender. An item that he presented on BBC News at Ten on 16 March added to the ever-rising steaming pile of ‘impartial’ journalism scaremongering about Official Enemies that must be countered by the peace-loving West.

In line with a new UK government report on ‘defence’, Landale depicted China and Russia as threats that required this country to ‘show Britain can project force overseas’. As part of the strategy, the new £6.1 billion aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will hold joint operations with allies in the Indo-Pacific later this year. ‘But will it be enough?’, intoned Landale, ‘impartially’ cheerleading the UK’s ‘projection of force’ across the globe.

Continuing his virtually government spokesperson role, Landale added:

And the cap on Britain’s stockpile of nuclear warheads will be lifted because of what the report says is “the evolving security environment”.

The likely increase in the UK’s nuclear weapons was just slipped out, almost as an after-thought. There was no mention that nuclear weapons are now prohibited under international law after the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was ratified earlier this year. The Treaty includes:

A comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. These include undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

In July 2017, over 120 countries voted to adopt the Treaty. In October 2020, the 50th country ratified the Treaty which meant it became international law on 22 January, 2021. Where were the BBC News headlines?

As Double Down News observed:

Boris Johnson set to expand Nuclear Warheads by 40%

No money for Nurses but money for Armageddon.

But all this must have slipped Landale’s mind. Or perhaps there was no time to include information deemed unimportant by him or his editors. There was, however, ample room for a major item on that evening’s BBC News at Ten titled, “Duke leaves hospital“. This covered Prince Philip’s return to Buckingham Palace after one month in hospital for heart treatment. And why was this a major ‘news’ headline on the BBC? Because BBC News is staunchly royalist, fervently establishment and an upholder of the unjust UK class system.

All of this just goes to show that BBC News really is the world’s most refined state propaganda service. As BBC founder John Reith confided in his diary during the 1926 General Strike:

They [the government] know they can trust us not to be really impartial.2

The same holds true today.

In this era of Permanent War, potential nuclear Armageddon and climate breakdown, the enormous cost to victims of UK and Western state-corporate policy around the world is incalculable.

  1. Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, War On Iraq, Profile Books, 2002, p. 23.
  2. The Reith Diaries, edited by Charles Stewart, Collins, 1975; entry for 11 May, 1926.
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Covid-19 under Apartheid: How Israel Manipulates Suffering of Palestinians   

Israel’s decision to exclude Palestinians from its COVID-19 vaccination campaign may have surprised many. Even by Israel’s poor humanitarian standards, denying Palestinians access to life-saving medication seems extremely callous.

Amnesty International, among many organizations, condemned the Israeli government’s decision to bar Palestinians from receiving the vaccine. The rights group described the Israeli action as evidence of the “institutionalized discrimination that defines the Israeli government’s policy towards Palestinians.”

The Palestinian Authority was not expecting Israel to supply Palestinian hospitals with millions of vaccines as it hopes to receive two million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in February. Instead, the request made by PA official, Hussein al-Sheikh, Coordinator of Palestinian affairs with Israel, was a meager 10,000 doses to help protect Palestinian frontline workers. Still, the Israeli Health Ministry rejected the request.

According to the Palestinian news agency WAFA, 1,629 Palestinians died and a total of 160,043 were infected with the deadly COVID-19 disease as of January 4. While such dismal numbers can also be found in many parts of the world, the Palestinian coronavirus crisis is compounded by the fact that Palestinians live under an Israeli military occupation, a state of apartheid and, as in the case of Gaza, an unrelenting siege.

Worse still, starting early last year, the Israeli military conducted several operations in various parts of the occupied territories to crack down on Palestinian initiatives to provide free COVID-19 testing.  According to the Palestinian rights group, Al Haq, as early as March 2020, several field clinics were shut down and medical equipment confiscated in the Palestinian town of Khirbet Ibziq in the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank. This pattern was repeated in East Jerusalem, Hebron and elsewhere in the following months.

There is no legal or moral justification for Israel’s action. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 asserts that an Occupying Power has the “duty of ensuring and maintaining … the medical and hospital establishments and services” with “particular reference” on taking the “preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.”

Even the Oslo Accords, despite their failure to address many crucial topics pertaining to the freedom of the Palestinian people, oblige both sides “to cooperate in combating epidemics and to assist each other in times of emergency,” the New York Times reported.

Not all Israeli officials deny that Israel is legally compelled to provide Palestinians with the help required to contain the rapid spread of the pandemic. This admission, however, comes with conditions. Former Israeli Ambassador, Alan Baker, told NYT that, while international law does “place an obligation on Israel” to help in the provision of vaccines to Palestinians, Palestinians must first release several Israeli soldiers who were captured in Gaza during and after the 2014 war.

The irony in Baker’s logic is that Israel holds over 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, hundreds of whom are imprisoned without trial or due process.

The captured Israelis are held in Gaza as a bargaining chip, to be exchanged for the easing of Israel’s hermetic blockade on the densely populated Strip. One of the Palestinians’ main demands for the release of the soldiers is that Israel allows for the transfer of medical equipment and life-saving medication to the two million people of the Gaza Strip. International and Palestinian human rights groups have long reported on many unnecessary deaths among Palestinians in Gaza because Israel deliberately prevents Gazan hospitals from acquiring cancer medications.

Long before the onset of the coronavirus, Israel has weaponized medicine, and Gaza’s dilapidated health sector is a standing testimony to this injustice.

Perhaps, the overcrowded Israeli prisons remain the glaring testimony of Israel’s mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite repeated calls by the United Nations and, particularly, the World Health Organization, that states should take immediate measures to help ease the crisis in their prison systems, Israel has done little for Palestinian prisoners. Al Haq reported that Israel “has taken no adequate measures to improve provision of healthcare and hygiene for Palestinian prisoners” in line with the WHO “guidance for preventing COVID-19 outbreak in prisons.” The consequences were dire, as the spread of COVID among Palestinian prisoners continues to claim new victims at a much higher ratio compared with Israeli prisoners.

Israel’s intentional hampering of Palestinian efforts to fight COVID is consistent with a trajectory of racism, where colonized Palestinians are exploited for their land, water and cheap labor, while never factoring as a priority on Israel’s checklist, even during the time of a deadly pandemic.  Israel is an Occupying Power that refuses to acknowledge or respect any of its basic obligations as an Occupying Power under international law.

The Israeli attempt at manipulating Palestinian suffering as a result of the pandemic should also challenge our view of the fundamental relationship between Israel and the Palestinians. Frequently we speak of Israel’s apartheid in Palestine, often illustrating that assertion referring to giant walls, fences and military checkpoints that cage in Palestinian communities and segregate them from one another.

This, however, is merely the physical manifestation of Israeli colonialism and apartheid. In Israel, apartheid runs much deeper as it reaches almost every facet of society where Israeli Jews, including settlers, are treated as superior, while Palestinian Arabs, whether Christian or Muslims, are denied their most basic rights, including those guaranteed under international law.

While Israel’s behavior is not entirely surprising, it being consistent with the sordid reality of military occupation and institutional racism, it is also self-defeating. Despite the obvious imbalance in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, they are in constant contact, not as equals but as occupier and occupied. Since the coronavirus does not respect Israel’s matrix of control in Palestine, it will travel across all of the physical divides that Israel has created to ensure permanent oppression of Palestinians. Hence, there can be no containing of COVID-19 in Israel if it continues to spread among Palestinians.

Long after the deadly pandemic is contained, the tragedy of occupied Palestine will, sadly, continue unhindered, until the day that Israel is forced to end its military occupation of Palestine and the Palestinians.

The post Covid-19 under Apartheid: How Israel Manipulates Suffering of Palestinians    first appeared on Dissident Voice.