Chinese Hypothesis on US Military Biological Experiments

Washington admitted to running 336 biological laboratories in 30 countries around the world, including 26 in Ukraine. However, documents seized by the Russian military suggest that the United States actually signed contracts with 49 countries, far more than it has acknowledged. According to Washington, these contracts do not violate the 1975 Biological Weapons Convention, despite the fact that they were drawn up by a branch of the Pentagon, the Federal Defense Threat Reduction Agency (...)

Russia-Ukraine war: George Bush’s admission of his crimes in Iraq was no “gaffe”

It was apparently a “gaffe” of the kind we had forgotten since George W Bush stepped down from the US presidency in early 2009. During a speech in Dallas last week, he momentarily confused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s current war of aggression against Ukraine and his own war of aggression against Iraq in 2003.

Bush observed that a lack of checks and balances in Russia had allowed “one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq… I mean, Ukraine. Iraq too. Anyway… I’m 75.”

It sounded like another “Bushism” – a verbal slip-up – for which the 43rd president was famous. Just like the time he boasted that people “misunderestimated” him, or when he warned that America’s enemies “never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people – and neither do we”.

Maybe that explains why his audience laughed. Or maybe not, given how uncomfortable the laughter sounded.

Bush certainly wanted his mistake to be seen as yet another slip-up, which is why he hurriedly blamed it on his age. The senility defence doubtless sounds a lot more plausible at a time when the incumbent president, Joe Biden, regularly loses track of what he is saying and even where he is.

The western media, in so far as it has bothered to report Bush’s speech, has laughed along nervously too. It has milked the incident largely for comic effect: “Look, we can laugh at ourselves – unlike that narcissist Russian monster, Putin.”

The BBC accorded Bush’s comment status as a down-page brief news item. Those that gave it more attention preferred to term it a “gaffe” or an amusing “Freudian slip”.

‘Putin apologists’

But the focus on the humour of the moment is actually part of the media’s continuing war on our understanding of recent history. It is intended to deflect us, the audience, from thinking about the real significance of Bush’s “gaffe”.

The only reason the media is now so belatedly connecting – if very indirectly – “a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion” of Ukraine and what happened in Iraq is because of Bush’s mistake.

Had it not happened, the establishment media would have continued to ignore any such comparison. And those trying to raise it would continue to be dismissed as conspiracy theorists or as apologists for Putin.

The implication of what Bush said – even for those mockingly characterising it in Freudian terms – is that he and his co-conspirator, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, are war criminals and that they should be on trial at the Hague for invading and occupying Iraq.

Everything the current US administration is saying against Putin, and every punishment meted out on Russia and ordinary Russians, can be turned around and directed at the United States and Britain.

Should the US not be under severe economic sanctions from the “civilised world” for what it did to Iraq? Should its sportspeople not be banned from international events? Should its billionaires not be hunted down and stripped of their assets? And should the works of its long-dead writers, artists and composers not be shunned by polite society?

And yet, the western establishment media are proposing none of the above. They are not calling for Blair and Bush to be tried for war crimes. Meanwhile, they echo western leaders in labelling what Russia is doing in Ukraine as genocide and labelling Putin as an evil madman.

The western media are as uncomfortable taking Bush’s speech at face value as his audience was. And for good reason.

That is because the media are equally implicated in US and UK crimes in Iraq. They never seriously questioned the ludicrous “weapons of mass destruction” justification for the invasion. They never debated whether the “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign of Baghdad was genocidal.

And, of course, they never described either Bush or Blair as madmen and megalomaniacs and never accused them of waging a war of imperialism – or one for oil – in invading Iraq. In fact, both continue to be treated by the media as respected elder statesmen.

During Trump’s presidency, leading journalists waxed nostalgic for the days of Bush, apparently unconcerned that he had used his own presidency to launch a war of aggression – the “supreme international crime”.

And Blair continues to be sought out by the British and US media for his opinions on domestic and world affairs. He is even listened to deferentially when he opines on Ukraine.

Pre-emption excuse

But this is not simply about a failure to acknowledge the recent historical record. Bush’s invasion of Iraq is deeply tied to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. And for that reason, if no other, the western media ought to have been driving home from the outset the parallels between the two – as Bush has now done in error.

That would have provided the geopolitical context for understanding – without necessarily justifying – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s role in provoking it. Which is precisely why the media have worked so hard to ignore those parallels.

In invading Iraq, Bush and Blair created a precedent that powerful states could redefine their attack on another state as “pre-emptive” – as defensive rather than aggressive – and thereby justify the military invasion in violation of the laws of war.

Bush and Blair falsely claimed both that Iraq threatened the West with weapons of mass destruction and that its secular leader, Saddam Hussein, had cultivated ties with the extreme Islamists of al-Qaeda that carried out the 9/11 attacks on the US. These pretexts ranged from the entirely unsubstantiated to the downright preposterous.

Putin has argued – more plausibly – that Russia had to take pre-emptive action against covert efforts by a US-led Nato to expand its military sphere of influence right up to Russia’s borders. Russia feared that, left unchecked, the US and Nato were preparing to absorb Ukraine by stealth.

But how does that qualify Russia’s invasion as defensive? The Kremlin’s fears were chiefly twofold.

First, it could have paved the way for Nato stationing missiles minutes away from Moscow, eroding any principle of mutual deterrence.

And second, Nato’s incorporation of Ukraine would have drawn the western military alliance directly into Ukraine’s civil war in the eastern Donbass region. That is where Ukrainian forces, including neo-Nazi elements like the Azov Brigade, have been pitted in a bloody fight against ethnic Russian communities.

In this view, absent a Russian invasion, Nato could have become an active participant in propping up Ukrainian ultra-nationalists killing ethnic Russians – as the West is now effectively doing through its arming of Ukraine to the tune of more than $40bn.

Even if one discounts Russia’s concerns, Moscow clearly has a greater strategic interest invested in what its neighbour Ukraine is doing on their shared border than Washington ever had in Iraq, many thousands of miles away.

Proxy wars

Even more relevant, given the West’s failure to acknowledge, let alone address, Bush and Blair’s crimes committed in Iraq, is Russia’s suspicion that US foreign policy is unchanged two decades on. On what basis would Moscow believe that Washington is any less aggressive or power-hungry than it was when it launched its invasion of Iraq?

The western media continue to refer to the US attack on Iraq, and the subsequent bloody years of occupation, as variously a “mistake”, a “misadventure” and a “blunder”. But surely it does not look that way to Moscow, all the more so given that Washington followed its invasion of Iraq with a series of proxy wars against other Middle Eastern and North African states such as Libya, Syria and Yemen.

To Russia, the attack on Iraq looks more like a stepping stone in a continuum of wars the US has waged over decades for “full-spectrum dominance” and to eradicate competitors for control of the planet’s resources.

With that as the context, Moscow might have reasonably imagined that the US and its Nato allies were eager for yet another proxy war, this time using Ukraine as the battlefield. Recent comments from Biden administration officials, such as Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, noting that Washington’s tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Kyiv is intended to “weaken Russia”, can only accentuate such fears.

Back in March, Leon Panetta, a former US secretary of defence and the CIA director under Barack Obama, who is in a position to speak more freely than serving officials, observed that Washington was waging “a proxy war with Russia, whether we say so or not”.

He predicted where US policy would head next, noting that the aim would be “to provide as much military aid as necessary”. Diplomacy has been a glaringly low priority for Washington.

Barely concealed from public view is a desire in the US and its allies for another regime change operation – this time in Russia – rather than end the war and the suffering of Ukrainians.

Butcher versus blunderer

Last week, the New York Times very belatedly turned down the war rhetoric a notch and called on the Biden administration to advance negotiations. Even so, its assessment of where the blame lay for Ukraine’s destruction was unambiguous: “Mr Putin will go down in history as a butcher.”

But have Bush or Blair gone down in history as butchers? They most certainly haven’t. And the reason is that the western media have been complicit in rehabilitating their images, presenting them as statesmen who “blundered” – with the implication that good people blunder when they fail to take account of how entrenched the evil of everyone else in the world is.

A butcher versus a pair of blunderers.

This false distinction means western leaders and western publics continue to evade responsibility for western crimes in Iraq and elsewhere.

That was why in late February – in reference to Ukraine – a TV journalist could suggest to Condoleezza Rice, who was one of the architects of the illegal war of aggression on Iraq as Bush’s national security adviser: “When you invade a sovereign nation, that is a war crime.” The journalist apparently did not consider for a moment that it was not just Putin who was a war criminal but the very woman she was sitting opposite.

It was also why Rice could nod solemnly and agree with a straight face that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was “against every principle of international law and international order – and that’s why throwing the book at them [Russia] now in terms of economic sanctions and punishments is a part of it”.

But a West that has refused to come to terms with its role in committing the “supreme international crime” of invading Iraq, and has been supporting systematic crimes against the sovereignty of other states such as Yemen, Libya and Syria, cannot sit in judgment on Russia. And further, it should not be trying to take the high ground by meddling in the war in Ukraine.

If we took the implications of Bush’s comment seriously, rather than treating it as a “gaffe” and viewing the Iraq invasion as a “blunder”, we might be in a position to speak with moral authority instead of flaunting – once again – our hypocrisy.

First published in Middle East Eye

The post Russia-Ukraine war: George Bush’s admission of his crimes in Iraq was no “gaffe” first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Biden in Tokyo: Killing Strategic Ambiguity

Could it have been just another case of bumbling poor judgment, the mind softened as the mouth opened?  A question was put to US President Joe Biden, visiting Tokyo and standing beside Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida: “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons.  Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”  The answer: “Yes.  That’s a commitment we made.”

Biden was again flatly committing the US to a conflict over Taiwan should China deploy its forces.  He has done so on two previous occasions, showing either a degree of ignorance, or a willingness to throw caution to the wind.  The first took place during an interview with ABC News in August, when he equated Taiwan’s status to those of other allies such as South Korea.  The second, in a CNN town hall, took place in October, when he stated that the US had “a commitment to do that”.

In doing so a third time, he was helping no one in particular, and taking the hammer to the strategic ambiguity that has marked US-Taiwan policy for decades.  The only thing that could have been taken away from it is a reminder to Beijing that they are not facing a cautious superpower steered by a sage, but a government not unwilling to shed blood over Taiwan.

Biden has expressed this view before, and grates against a policy Washington has had for 43 years.  It is a policy characterised by two key understandings.  The first is the One China policy, which the Biden administration affirmed in Tokyo.  Beijing, accordingly, remains the sole legitimate authority representing China.

The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 is the other pillar that guides US policy towards Taiwan.  The Act declares it the policy of the United States “to preserve and promote extensive, close, and friendly commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan, as well as the people of the China mainland and all other people in the Western Pacific area.”

The Act facilitates the provision of arms to Taiwan “of a defensive character” and maintains “the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.”  It does not impose an obligation on the US to intervene militarily in the event of an attack, or to compel the use of forces in defence of the island.

The first pertinent question was whether an actual change had been heralded in Tokyo.  The National Review certainly thought so.  “Biden’s remarks signal a big shift in US foreign policy regarding Taiwan.”  The New York Times also suggested that, unlike his previous, seemingly incautious remarks on the subject, this could not be treated as a simple gaffe.  Sebastian Smith, White House correspondent for Agence France-Presse, thought that Biden’s response “really raised the adrenaline levels in that palace briefing room”.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was overjoyed, expressing “sincere welcome and gratitude to President Biden of the United States for reiterating its rock solid commitment to Taiwan.”

For his part, Biden was having a bit each way, suggesting that strategic ambiguity was still being retained in some modest form.  “We agree with the One China policy and all the attendant agreements we made.  But the idea that it can be taken by force, would just not be appropriate.”  His Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin was even more adamant that there had been no change to speak of on the part of the president.  “As the president said, our One China policy has not changed,” he stated at the Pentagon.  “He reiterated that policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.  He also highlighted our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself.  So, again, our policy has not changed.”

On being asked by a journalist what potential risks would rise as part of a US military defence of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was unwilling to elucidate.  A “variety of contingency plans” were held by the military applicable to the Pacific, Europe “and elsewhere”, all classified.  “And it would be very inappropriate for me on a microphone to discuss the risk associated with those plans relative to anything with respect to Taiwan or anywhere else in the Pacific.”  Reassuring.

As often tends to come to pass, when the potential for war lurks in cupboards and around corners, there are those less than unwilling to repel it.  The chance to exercise muscle, especially indulged vicariously, brings out the inner war monger.  Bret Stephens uses the New York Times to promote the popular view held by many in the US and amongst its allies that Biden was quite right not to stick to “diplomatic formulas of a now-dead status quo”.  President Xi Jinping, that sly devil, had “changed the rules of the game” by crushing protests in Hong Kong, repudiating the “one country, two systems” formula and blithely ignored the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on Chinese claims on the South China Sea.

Stephens sees opportunity in this statement from Biden, a thankful slaying of ambiguity.  For one, the US can sell more arms to Taiwan while incorporating Taipei into its broader strategic approach.  The administration should also convince Taipei to increase its “scandalously low” military budget.  Washington, for its part, can increase the small component of US Special Operations and Marine personnel already deployed to train local forces.  Biden’s stumble, in short, was a shift; and the shift moves one step closer to inciting war.

The post Biden in Tokyo: Killing Strategic Ambiguity first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Human Rights Activist Deported from Colombia in Run-up to High Stakes Election

While enroute to observe the presidential elections in Colombia, Teri Mattson was denied entry by Colombian authorities and had her passport seized. After arriving at 6:55 am on May 22, she was forced to spend the day and the night at the Bogotá Airport before being deported the following morning and flown out of the country.

Although Mattson resides in Mexico and first flown there, her tribulations did not end there. She was then held in Mexico without passport or phone while immigration waited for the first available flight to the US, because she is a US citizen. Only when Mattson exited the plane in the US were her phone and passport returned to her.

Colombian authorities falsely claimed that Mattson “represents a risk to the security of the State.” When contacted, the US embassy refused to aid her on the bogus grounds that they do not get involved when someone is accused of being a security risk.

There are serious security risk issues involving the presidential elections in Colombia, but Ms. Mattson was not one of them. The front runner in the election campaign is Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogotá. Petro was at one time a left guerilla, whose politics have now shifted more to the center.  His vice-presidential running mate is Afro-descendent environmentalist Francia Márquez.

Were the Petro/Márquez ticket to win on May 29, theirs would be the first administration on the left elected in Colombian history, which has gotten both the current right-wing Colombian government and Washington apprehensive. There are credible rumors that the election may be cancelled.

Both Petro and Márquez have already survived assassination attempts on the campaign trail. Breaking the constitutional requirement for neutrality by the armed forces, the commander of the Colombian army issued a direct attack against Petro. This prompted Medellín’s mayor to warn: “We are one step away from a coup.”

According to the Task Force on the Americas, Colombia has been turned into a regional US military and political proxy in their regime-change hybrid war against Venezuela. Petro has pledged to reopen relations with Venezuela and adhere to the terms of the peace agreement with the FARC if he becomes president and survives.

Given this background, Teri Mattson traveled to Colombia with a group of international trade unionists to observe the election. Colombia, incidentally, is the most dangerous place in the world to be a union activist.

Mattson was a fully accredited election observer invited to Colombia by the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. CPDH is a leading human rights group in Colombia founded in 1979.

Mattson had previously visited Colombia in 2021 on a delegation to investigate state violence against social movements. She has been an official accredited election observer to Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

Mattson is the host of the weekly podcast WTF is Going on in Latin America & the Caribbean. She is a Latin America organizer with Code Pink and on the board of the Task Force on the Americas.

The Task Force on the Americas, Code Pink, and COHA are among the organizations denouncing the deportation. The CPDH holds the Colombian government responsible for the “persecution and violation of Teri Mattson’s rights, and for the violation of democratic rights and the lack of democratic guarantees in the current elections.”

The post Human Rights Activist Deported from Colombia in Run-up to High Stakes Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Human Rights Activist Deported from Colombia in Run-up to High Stakes Election

While enroute to observe the presidential elections in Colombia, Teri Mattson was denied entry by Colombian authorities and had her passport seized. After arriving at 6:55 am on May 22, she was forced to spend the day and the night at the Bogotá Airport before being deported the following morning and flown out of the country.

Although Mattson resides in Mexico and first flown there, her tribulations did not end there. She was then held in Mexico without passport or phone while immigration waited for the first available flight to the US, because she is a US citizen. Only when Mattson exited the plane in the US were her phone and passport returned to her.

Colombian authorities falsely claimed that Mattson “represents a risk to the security of the State.” When contacted, the US embassy refused to aid her on the bogus grounds that they do not get involved when someone is accused of being a security risk.

There are serious security risk issues involving the presidential elections in Colombia, but Ms. Mattson was not one of them. The front runner in the election campaign is Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogotá. Petro was at one time a left guerilla, whose politics have now shifted more to the center.  His vice-presidential running mate is Afro-descendent environmentalist Francia Márquez.

Were the Petro/Márquez ticket to win on May 29, theirs would be the first administration on the left elected in Colombian history, which has gotten both the current right-wing Colombian government and Washington apprehensive. There are credible rumors that the election may be cancelled.

Both Petro and Márquez have already survived assassination attempts on the campaign trail. Breaking the constitutional requirement for neutrality by the armed forces, the commander of the Colombian army issued a direct attack against Petro. This prompted Medellín’s mayor to warn: “We are one step away from a coup.”

According to the Task Force on the Americas, Colombia has been turned into a regional US military and political proxy in their regime-change hybrid war against Venezuela. Petro has pledged to reopen relations with Venezuela and adhere to the terms of the peace agreement with the FARC if he becomes president and survives.

Given this background, Teri Mattson traveled to Colombia with a group of international trade unionists to observe the election. Colombia, incidentally, is the most dangerous place in the world to be a union activist.

Mattson was a fully accredited election observer invited to Colombia by the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. CPDH is a leading human rights group in Colombia founded in 1979.

Mattson had previously visited Colombia in 2021 on a delegation to investigate state violence against social movements. She has been an official accredited election observer to Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

Mattson is the host of the weekly podcast WTF is Going on in Latin America & the Caribbean. She is a Latin America organizer with Code Pink and on the board of the Task Force on the Americas.

The Task Force on the Americas, Code Pink, and COHA are among the organizations denouncing the deportation. The CPDH holds the Colombian government responsible for the “persecution and violation of Teri Mattson’s rights, and for the violation of democratic rights and the lack of democratic guarantees in the current elections.”

The post Human Rights Activist Deported from Colombia in Run-up to High Stakes Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The More Some Things Change, the More Others Stay the Same

The treatment to which Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee subjected Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing was atrocious. The first ever African-American woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court, Brown Jackson faced GOP senators who were unabashedly insolent. Collectively, they ran her through a proverbial right-wing mill that included condemnations of Critical Race Theory, distortions of certain anti-racist children’s books, and allegations that she is “soft on crime.” She was also questioned about the role that race plays in her position as a federal judge, something no white male would ever be asked.

Republican Senators spent the largest portion of their allotted time attacking Jackson’s sentencing record on child pornography convictions alleging that her leniency was outside the boundaries of conventional jurisprudence. By imputation at the very least, right-wingers hold that she fails to take “sex offenders who prey on children” seriously. This is the sordid stuff of QAnon, and Republicans are up to their necks in it. As for Brown Jackson, she made it clear in her testimony that she is not convinced about the efficacy of child pornography sentencing guidelines. In fact, most of the prosecutors arguing such cases in her court room share her uncertainty as do a majority of district judges throughout the country. In other words, Judge Brown Jackson is in line with her judicial colleagues.

As everyone, including Republican senators, knows, Judge Jackson’s extensive and diverse legal background makes her eminently qualified for the position to which she has been nominated. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer whose seat on the bench she will fill. She served as a federal district court judge, a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and currently serves as a federal appellate judge. Each of these positions required Senate approval. Her three previous confirmations were passed by way of “voice” votes which essentially meant that she faced no opposition and a bi-partisan “roll call” vote. Once seated on the Supreme Court Judge Jackson will become only the ninth justice to have worked as an attorney in private practice. Moreover, she will also be the first former public defender to sit on the highest court in the land.

Judge Jackson has written almost 600 opinions during her years on the federal bench and has had only a dozen of them overturned by appellate court review. Among the cases over which she presided were several involving Donald Trump while he was in the White House. In one instance, she rejected his claim to absolute executive immunity in ordering a top-level aide to defy a congressional subpoena. In another, Judge Jackson drew the ire of conservatives for deciding against the Trump Administration’s attempt to reduce collective bargaining protections for federal workers. She further antagonized the political right in an immigration opinion blocking a Trump policy intended to increase the number of asylum seekers who could face accelerated return to their place of origin. While her decisions in these cases lean to the left, her resume conveys an independent legal mind that may on occasion displease political progressives. For example, Brown Jackson presided over 22 cases in which Black plaintiffs sued their employers on grounds of racial discrimination. Of those, 22 were brought to the court by Black workers. In these cases, she found in favor of the companies 19 times.

As would be expected, liberals supported Brown Jackson’s selection and conservatives opposed it. In fact, the GOP began priming itself from the moment that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced that, if elected, he would fill a vacancy on the High Court with an African-American woman. Republicans responded that doing so would be tantamount to making an “affirmative action” appointment. Conservatives were conspicuously silent when both Reagan and Trump stated that they would nominate a woman to the bench. They were also quiet when Trump said that he would only consider choosing individuals committed to overturning Roe v Wade. Republican hypocrisy could not be clearer. The GOP seized upon Biden’s appointment of Brown Jackson because she is a Black woman.

Judge Jackson’s hearing played out like reality television. While it is common for senators on both sides of the aisle to perform for the cameras and their constituents back home, the behavior and comments of Republicans were especially ugly. They had indicated that they would be civil and respectful yet they proved to be neither. The so-called “culture warriors” simply could not help themselves. Following more than twenty hours of testimony, the committee members voted 11-11 along party lines. This necessitated that Democrats employ a “discharge motion” allowing them to send Judge Jackson’s nomination to the Senate floor without a committee report. The full body’s 53-47 vote to confirm included three Republicans. At long last, and more than fifty years after the first Black man rose to a seat on the Court, she will become its first African-American woman justice.

*****

By the time Thurgood Marshall appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1967 as a nominee to the United States Supreme Court, he had won 29 of the 32 cases that he argued before that imposing body. While Brown v Board of Education (1954) striking down segregation in public education is the most famous example, other historically significant instances include Smith v Allright (1944) which prohibited states from conducting “white only” primary elections, Shelley v Kraemer (1948) which overturned race-based housing compacts, and Sweatt v Painter (1950) which declared that racially segregated post-graduate college and university programs were unconstitutional.

After more than two decades as a pioneering civil rights attorney, Marshall was appointed to the federal bench in 1961 by President John Kennedy. This made him only the second African-American federal appellate jurist in American history. Despite the racism that he faced, Marshall was confirmed by the full Senate although not before his nomination was held up by Southern segregationists for many months. Four years later, President Lyndon Johnson picked Marshall to serve as the first Black Solicitor General of the United States. Responsible for litigating cases on behalf of the federal government, Marshall won 14 of the 19 cases that he brought before the High Court.

When an opening on the Supreme Court appeared in 1967, President Johnson nominated Marshall to fill the vacancy. He would face the same Southern segregationists who had tried to scuttle his previous judicial appointment six years earlier. Often returned to office without electoral opposition, incumbent Dixiecrats relied upon seniority status in the chamber to secure and hold onto powerful committee chair positions. Furthermore, their animosity for Marshall was deep-seeded because of the role he had played in Brown. If the segregationists were on the wrong side of history, they had no intention of simply walking away from the table.

James Eastland (D-MS) was the judiciary committee chair for Marshall’s appellate court appointment as well as for his Supreme Court nomination. Eastland, who served in that capacity for a longer period than any chairperson in history, ranked among the most racist of legislators. During the 1961 proceedings, however, he allegedly told Attorney General Robert Kennedy that he was willing to horse trade. If JFK would concede to Eastland a favored appointee, then he would give the president “his nigger.” Moreover, during Marshall’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings six years later, Eastland shamelessly had the nerve to ask if he was biased against white southerners.

Other notable instances of hostility towards Marshall during the hearings came from John McClellan (D-AK), Sam Ervin (D-NC), and Strom Thurmond (R-SC), the latter of whom had switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 1964. For his part, McClellan focused on increasing crime rates and social unrest. Attempting to incite the nominee, he called Marshall “soft on crime” which remains a commonly used and racially coded phrase to this day. The Arkansas senator then turned and hammered away at Miranda v Arizona (1966), asserting that the ruling was anti-law enforcement. Marshall refused, however, to engage this line of questioning, continually stating that he could not and would not speak about court cases and legal issues that were recently decided, currently in the docket pipeline, or might be conceivably argued before the court at a later date.

Then it was Ervin’s turn. From the North Carolinian’s perspective, the idea of “civil rights” was simply a way for the federal government to take from whites and give to Blacks. In other words, the federal government was overstepping its legitimate jurisdictional boundaries. Ervin championed the Senate filibuster as a means to derail 1960s civil rights legislation. In fact, he employed this procedural tactic more than any other senator in history. He finished his questioning with an example of what is now called “originalism.” Senator Ervin asked Marshall if he believed that the Supreme Court’s role was to establish the framers’ intentions. The nominee agreed so long as the Constitution was understood to be a “living document.”

Last but not least came Strom Thurmond. The South Carolina senator subjected Marshall to a series of arcane questions, more than sixty in all. Among other things, Thurmond asked the nominee if he knew who drafted the 13th Amendment. He also asked Marshall to name the members of the committee that formulated the 14th Amendment and he questioned whether the nominee could cite a legal basis for the Civil Rights Act of 1866. While Marshall answered some of Thurmond’s questions, he responded to a number of them with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” Thurmond’s obscure queries about the post-Civil War constitutional amendments were aimed at making Marshall appear uneducated. This display of bigotry carried over to debate on the Senate floor where Thurmond called Marshall “stupid.”

Notwithstanding Marshall’s experience, Supreme Court confirmation hearings were not always the nasty fisticuffs that they are today. The process was business like and procedures were routine. Few nominees appeared before the judiciary committee prior to the post-Brown era. In fact, regular hearings were themselves a product of this same period as Southern segregationists adopted a strategy of pressing nominees “up close and personal” on civil rights matters. Given that Marshall was the first African-American Supreme Court nominee in the nation’s history, it is not surprising that his confirmation process deviated from the norm. Prior to his nomination, for example, judiciary committee hearings generally lasted for a couple of days, several hours each day. In Marshall’s case, the committee met for five days, five hours each day, over a period of two weeks, the longest sessions up to that point in U.S. history.

While it was common practice for committee staff to prepare questions for a nominee, this typically generated only a relative few of them. However, thanks to Dixiecrats, Marshall faced hundreds of questions. Moreover, adding further insult to injury, Chairman Eastland held up the committee’s 11-5 recommendation to confirm for several weeks after the hearings were over. Comprising a “gang of four” Eastland, McClellan, Ervin, and Thurmond were joined in the nay column by George Smathers (D-FL). In the final analysis, Southern segregationists failed to mount a filibuster by two votes with twenty of them casting no vote at all. Eventually, Marshall was duly confirmed by a vote of 69-11 in the full Senate. Upon assuming his seat on the bench, he served for twenty-four years as an Associate Justice. Thurgood Marshall retired from the United States Supreme Court in 1991 and passed away two years later.

*****

Despite taking place more than five decades apart, the roads that Marshall and Brown Jackson took to the Supreme Court were similar. For one thing, both of their careers included representing criminal defendants, a rare attribute among Supreme Court justices. Secondly, racial animus was paramount in both confirmation hearings. On one hand, Marshall faced off against Southern segregationists who opposed civil rights and were Democrats in name only. On the other hand, Brown Jackson was confronted by right wing Republicans whose intent is to “roll back” gains made towards racial and gender equality. In a moment reminiscent of Marshall being quizzed about civil rights, Judge Brown Jackson was brazenly asked to define the word “woman” and was mocked when she said that she was a judge not a biologist.

Both nominees were eventually confirmed, but each had to contend with a race-baiting and demeaning state of affairs. Though clearly frustrated at times by the tenor of the proceedings, Judge Jackson kept her cool by relying upon an approach to answering questions that limits the scope of what nominees will and will not address. While a nominee’s refusal to engage certain lines of inquiry is commonplace today, Marshall employed this tactic at his 1967 hearing. In fact, he ranks among the least forthcoming of Supreme Court nominees as a result of his refusal to play the racist Q&A hand that he was dealt.

More than 90% of Supreme Court justices in American history have been white men. In contrast, there have been two Black male justices, four white women justices, and one Latina justice. Today, gender, ethnic, and racial diversity have come to be seen as integral to the mechanisms of the Court and with the addition of Brown Jackson, there will be four women sitting on the bench. However, the Court that Jackson Brown will serve on is far-removed from the one upon which Marshall sat. His ascension to the High Court kept alive a five-justice liberal majority that voted as a bloc almost all of the time. He was in a position to shape not only the Court’s agenda but its outcomes as well. However, the progressive wing with which Marshall was so strongly identified declined over time. The resulting shift in the balance of power means Justice Brown Jackson will begin her service on a Supreme Court comprised of a super-majority of six right-wing justices. Combined with her status as the most junior member of the Court, her ability to have an impact early on will be limited. Nevertheless, she is only fifty-one years of age and could conceivably serve on the Court for decades.

The post The More Some Things Change, the More Others Stay the Same first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The More Some Things Change, the More Others Stay the Same

The treatment to which Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee subjected Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing was atrocious. The first ever African-American woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court, Brown Jackson faced GOP senators who were unabashedly insolent. Collectively, they ran her through a proverbial right-wing mill that included condemnations of Critical Race Theory, distortions of certain anti-racist children’s books, and allegations that she is “soft on crime.” She was also questioned about the role that race plays in her position as a federal judge, something no white male would ever be asked.

Republican Senators spent the largest portion of their allotted time attacking Jackson’s sentencing record on child pornography convictions alleging that her leniency was outside the boundaries of conventional jurisprudence. By imputation at the very least, right-wingers hold that she fails to take “sex offenders who prey on children” seriously. This is the sordid stuff of QAnon, and Republicans are up to their necks in it. As for Brown Jackson, she made it clear in her testimony that she is not convinced about the efficacy of child pornography sentencing guidelines. In fact, most of the prosecutors arguing such cases in her court room share her uncertainty as do a majority of district judges throughout the country. In other words, Judge Brown Jackson is in line with her judicial colleagues.

As everyone, including Republican senators, knows, Judge Jackson’s extensive and diverse legal background makes her eminently qualified for the position to which she has been nominated. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer whose seat on the bench she will fill. She served as a federal district court judge, a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and currently serves as a federal appellate judge. Each of these positions required Senate approval. Her three previous confirmations were passed by way of “voice” votes which essentially meant that she faced no opposition and a bi-partisan “roll call” vote. Once seated on the Supreme Court Judge Jackson will become only the ninth justice to have worked as an attorney in private practice. Moreover, she will also be the first former public defender to sit on the highest court in the land.

Judge Jackson has written almost 600 opinions during her years on the federal bench and has had only a dozen of them overturned by appellate court review. Among the cases over which she presided were several involving Donald Trump while he was in the White House. In one instance, she rejected his claim to absolute executive immunity in ordering a top-level aide to defy a congressional subpoena. In another, Judge Jackson drew the ire of conservatives for deciding against the Trump Administration’s attempt to reduce collective bargaining protections for federal workers. She further antagonized the political right in an immigration opinion blocking a Trump policy intended to increase the number of asylum seekers who could face accelerated return to their place of origin. While her decisions in these cases lean to the left, her resume conveys an independent legal mind that may on occasion displease political progressives. For example, Brown Jackson presided over 22 cases in which Black plaintiffs sued their employers on grounds of racial discrimination. Of those, 22 were brought to the court by Black workers. In these cases, she found in favor of the companies 19 times.

As would be expected, liberals supported Brown Jackson’s selection and conservatives opposed it. In fact, the GOP began priming itself from the moment that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced that, if elected, he would fill a vacancy on the High Court with an African-American woman. Republicans responded that doing so would be tantamount to making an “affirmative action” appointment. Conservatives were conspicuously silent when both Reagan and Trump stated that they would nominate a woman to the bench. They were also quiet when Trump said that he would only consider choosing individuals committed to overturning Roe v Wade. Republican hypocrisy could not be clearer. The GOP seized upon Biden’s appointment of Brown Jackson because she is a Black woman.

Judge Jackson’s hearing played out like reality television. While it is common for senators on both sides of the aisle to perform for the cameras and their constituents back home, the behavior and comments of Republicans were especially ugly. They had indicated that they would be civil and respectful yet they proved to be neither. The so-called “culture warriors” simply could not help themselves. Following more than twenty hours of testimony, the committee members voted 11-11 along party lines. This necessitated that Democrats employ a “discharge motion” allowing them to send Judge Jackson’s nomination to the Senate floor without a committee report. The full body’s 53-47 vote to confirm included three Republicans. At long last, and more than fifty years after the first Black man rose to a seat on the Court, she will become its first African-American woman justice.

*****

By the time Thurgood Marshall appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1967 as a nominee to the United States Supreme Court, he had won 29 of the 32 cases that he argued before that imposing body. While Brown v Board of Education (1954) striking down segregation in public education is the most famous example, other historically significant instances include Smith v Allright (1944) which prohibited states from conducting “white only” primary elections, Shelley v Kraemer (1948) which overturned race-based housing compacts, and Sweatt v Painter (1950) which declared that racially segregated post-graduate college and university programs were unconstitutional.

After more than two decades as a pioneering civil rights attorney, Marshall was appointed to the federal bench in 1961 by President John Kennedy. This made him only the second African-American federal appellate jurist in American history. Despite the racism that he faced, Marshall was confirmed by the full Senate although not before his nomination was held up by Southern segregationists for many months. Four years later, President Lyndon Johnson picked Marshall to serve as the first Black Solicitor General of the United States. Responsible for litigating cases on behalf of the federal government, Marshall won 14 of the 19 cases that he brought before the High Court.

When an opening on the Supreme Court appeared in 1967, President Johnson nominated Marshall to fill the vacancy. He would face the same Southern segregationists who had tried to scuttle his previous judicial appointment six years earlier. Often returned to office without electoral opposition, incumbent Dixiecrats relied upon seniority status in the chamber to secure and hold onto powerful committee chair positions. Furthermore, their animosity for Marshall was deep-seeded because of the role he had played in Brown. If the segregationists were on the wrong side of history, they had no intention of simply walking away from the table.

James Eastland (D-MS) was the judiciary committee chair for Marshall’s appellate court appointment as well as for his Supreme Court nomination. Eastland, who served in that capacity for a longer period than any chairperson in history, ranked among the most racist of legislators. During the 1961 proceedings, however, he allegedly told Attorney General Robert Kennedy that he was willing to horse trade. If JFK would concede to Eastland a favored appointee, then he would give the president “his nigger.” Moreover, during Marshall’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings six years later, Eastland shamelessly had the nerve to ask if he was biased against white southerners.

Other notable instances of hostility towards Marshall during the hearings came from John McClellan (D-AK), Sam Ervin (D-NC), and Strom Thurmond (R-SC), the latter of whom had switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 1964. For his part, McClellan focused on increasing crime rates and social unrest. Attempting to incite the nominee, he called Marshall “soft on crime” which remains a commonly used and racially coded phrase to this day. The Arkansas senator then turned and hammered away at Miranda v Arizona (1966), asserting that the ruling was anti-law enforcement. Marshall refused, however, to engage this line of questioning, continually stating that he could not and would not speak about court cases and legal issues that were recently decided, currently in the docket pipeline, or might be conceivably argued before the court at a later date.

Then it was Ervin’s turn. From the North Carolinian’s perspective, the idea of “civil rights” was simply a way for the federal government to take from whites and give to Blacks. In other words, the federal government was overstepping its legitimate jurisdictional boundaries. Ervin championed the Senate filibuster as a means to derail 1960s civil rights legislation. In fact, he employed this procedural tactic more than any other senator in history. He finished his questioning with an example of what is now called “originalism.” Senator Ervin asked Marshall if he believed that the Supreme Court’s role was to establish the framers’ intentions. The nominee agreed so long as the Constitution was understood to be a “living document.”

Last but not least came Strom Thurmond. The South Carolina senator subjected Marshall to a series of arcane questions, more than sixty in all. Among other things, Thurmond asked the nominee if he knew who drafted the 13th Amendment. He also asked Marshall to name the members of the committee that formulated the 14th Amendment and he questioned whether the nominee could cite a legal basis for the Civil Rights Act of 1866. While Marshall answered some of Thurmond’s questions, he responded to a number of them with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” Thurmond’s obscure queries about the post-Civil War constitutional amendments were aimed at making Marshall appear uneducated. This display of bigotry carried over to debate on the Senate floor where Thurmond called Marshall “stupid.”

Notwithstanding Marshall’s experience, Supreme Court confirmation hearings were not always the nasty fisticuffs that they are today. The process was business like and procedures were routine. Few nominees appeared before the judiciary committee prior to the post-Brown era. In fact, regular hearings were themselves a product of this same period as Southern segregationists adopted a strategy of pressing nominees “up close and personal” on civil rights matters. Given that Marshall was the first African-American Supreme Court nominee in the nation’s history, it is not surprising that his confirmation process deviated from the norm. Prior to his nomination, for example, judiciary committee hearings generally lasted for a couple of days, several hours each day. In Marshall’s case, the committee met for five days, five hours each day, over a period of two weeks, the longest sessions up to that point in U.S. history.

While it was common practice for committee staff to prepare questions for a nominee, this typically generated only a relative few of them. However, thanks to Dixiecrats, Marshall faced hundreds of questions. Moreover, adding further insult to injury, Chairman Eastland held up the committee’s 11-5 recommendation to confirm for several weeks after the hearings were over. Comprising a “gang of four” Eastland, McClellan, Ervin, and Thurmond were joined in the nay column by George Smathers (D-FL). In the final analysis, Southern segregationists failed to mount a filibuster by two votes with twenty of them casting no vote at all. Eventually, Marshall was duly confirmed by a vote of 69-11 in the full Senate. Upon assuming his seat on the bench, he served for twenty-four years as an Associate Justice. Thurgood Marshall retired from the United States Supreme Court in 1991 and passed away two years later.

*****

Despite taking place more than five decades apart, the roads that Marshall and Brown Jackson took to the Supreme Court were similar. For one thing, both of their careers included representing criminal defendants, a rare attribute among Supreme Court justices. Secondly, racial animus was paramount in both confirmation hearings. On one hand, Marshall faced off against Southern segregationists who opposed civil rights and were Democrats in name only. On the other hand, Brown Jackson was confronted by right wing Republicans whose intent is to “roll back” gains made towards racial and gender equality. In a moment reminiscent of Marshall being quizzed about civil rights, Judge Brown Jackson was brazenly asked to define the word “woman” and was mocked when she said that she was a judge not a biologist.

Both nominees were eventually confirmed, but each had to contend with a race-baiting and demeaning state of affairs. Though clearly frustrated at times by the tenor of the proceedings, Judge Jackson kept her cool by relying upon an approach to answering questions that limits the scope of what nominees will and will not address. While a nominee’s refusal to engage certain lines of inquiry is commonplace today, Marshall employed this tactic at his 1967 hearing. In fact, he ranks among the least forthcoming of Supreme Court nominees as a result of his refusal to play the racist Q&A hand that he was dealt.

More than 90% of Supreme Court justices in American history have been white men. In contrast, there have been two Black male justices, four white women justices, and one Latina justice. Today, gender, ethnic, and racial diversity have come to be seen as integral to the mechanisms of the Court and with the addition of Brown Jackson, there will be four women sitting on the bench. However, the Court that Jackson Brown will serve on is far-removed from the one upon which Marshall sat. His ascension to the High Court kept alive a five-justice liberal majority that voted as a bloc almost all of the time. He was in a position to shape not only the Court’s agenda but its outcomes as well. However, the progressive wing with which Marshall was so strongly identified declined over time. The resulting shift in the balance of power means Justice Brown Jackson will begin her service on a Supreme Court comprised of a super-majority of six right-wing justices. Combined with her status as the most junior member of the Court, her ability to have an impact early on will be limited. Nevertheless, she is only fifty-one years of age and could conceivably serve on the Court for decades.

The post The More Some Things Change, the More Others Stay the Same first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US Armed Forces will have to pay with their blood: General Milley

Speaking to the new West Point graduating class on 21 May 2022, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley provided a new picture of the US armed forces. According to him, the military predominance of the United States is coming to an end. The US military is not prepared to deal with the new forms of warfare like those we see in Ukraine and are about to witness in Taiwan. There is an urgent need to adapt to new enemies in high-intensity wars. From now on, the bloodletting (...)

“House of Russian War Crimes” inaugurated at Davos

This year the Davos Forum is being held in May and no longer in winter. Russian citizens will be excluded regardless of their relationship with the authorities of their country. The House of Russia, which served to showcase this country and its culture, has been transformed into the “House of Russian War Crimes”. A photographic exhibition serves to denounce the “war of unprovoked aggression” (sic) on the part of the Russian Federation. It was inaugurated on video by Ukrainian President (...)

India: Birds Drop Out of the Sky, People Die

In case you have lingering doubts about the reality of human-caused global warming, hop on an airplane to parts of India or Pakistan and spend a few days. And, as long as you’re there, maybe be a good citizen and pick up a few of the dehydrated birds that drop out of the sky. Then, use the syringe you brought along to feed it some water before it dies in your hands.

And, maybe do the same for some of the people sprawled out on the roadside before they die right before your eyes. After all, people are already dying from the humid heat. Maybe you could help them survive and while at it maybe bring along that friend who’s a climate denier to assist in saving some lives. It’s good for their soul to open his or her eyes to reality.

According to a recent Business Insider article: “Birds Are Falling From the Sky in India as a Record Heatwave Dries up Water Sources”, May 14th, 2022. And, it’s not just a few random instances: “Vets in an animal hospital in Ahmedabad said they had treated thousands of birds in recent weeks.”.1

According to Yale Climate Connections: “The nearly ‘unsurvivable’ heat is increasingly as the result of human-caused climate change.”

Here’s a snippet from the Yale Climate Connections article entitled “India and Pakistan’s Brutal Heat Wave Poised to Resurge: Inferno-like temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius (122°F)”. The heat, when combined with high levels of humidity – especially near the coast and along the Indus River Valley – will produce dangerously high levels of heat stress that will approach or exceed the limit of survivability for people outdoors for an extended period.”

According to the prestigious UK Met Office: “The blistering heat wave in northwest India and Pakistan was made over 100 times more likely because of human-caused climate change.”2

The extraordinary blistering heat has prompted Umair Haque, a British economist (former blogger for the Harvard Business Review, but he attended University of Oxford, London Business School, and McGill University) to compose a special article about the scenario entitled: “The Age of Extinction Is Here — Some of Us Just Don’t Know It Yet”, published in Eudaimonia and Co, May 2022 in which he describes a world that has “already crossed the threshold of survivability.”

Umair has friends in the Indian Subcontinent. So, he hears first hand what’s happening without the filter of a news organization. Here’s one quote: “The heatwave there is pushing the boundaries of survivability. My other sister says that in the old, beautiful city of artists and poets, eagles are falling dead from the sky. They are just dropping dead and landing on houses, monuments, and shops. They can’t fly anymore.”

Here’s some more reporting directly from the streets, as related by Umair: “The streets, she says, are lined with dead things. Dogs. Cats. Cows. Animals of all kinds are just there, dead. They’ve perished in the killing heat. They can’t survive.”

People spend all day in canals and rivers and lakes. Some people in the streets are passed out and at the edge of a life or death scenario. He suggests the death count will not be known for some time and many probably won’t be counted.

Here’s an interesting take from Umair’s perspective: “You see, my Western friends read stories like this, and then they go back to obsessing over the Kardashians or Wonder Woman or Johnny Depp or Batman. They don’t understand yet. Because this is beyond the limits of what Homo sapiens can really comprehend, the Event. That world is coming for them, too.”

He claims: “We are at the threshold of the Cataclysm. Some of us are now crossing over to the other side, of a different planet, one that’s going to become unlivable. This isn’t ‘going to happen’ or ‘might happen,’ it is actually happening now.”

Here’s one more quote: “At 50 degrees, which is where the Subcontinent is now, life dies off. The birds fall from the sky. The streets become mass graves. People flee and try to just survive. Energy grids begin to break. Economies grind to a halt.”

Umair claims civilization collapses somewhere between 50 -60 degrees Celsius. “Nothing works after that point.” Animals die and systems shut down, economics crater, inflation skyrockets, people grow poorer, fascism erupts as a consequence. People become frightened and turn to fundamentalist religion or authoritarian rule to “give them answers.” The regular ole economics and politics don’t work any longer. Sound familiar?

Death by humid heat in India equates to the tolling of bells, slowly, repeatedly, as black pennants flutter along the distant horizon. Another one has died and another, and one more, and another and another, as the monotonous tolling becomes an atrocious irritation.

Postscript: It’s in every bird falling from the sky, every animal dropping dead from the heat, every democracy being shredded by lunatics, in all the deaths we will never count. Our systems — all of them — economic, social, political — are beginning to fail. (Umair Haque)

  1. Ibid.
  2. “Climate Change Has Made India’s Heat Wave 100 Times More Likely, UK Weather Service Says”, CNBC, May 18, 2022.
The post India: Birds Drop Out of the Sky, People Die first appeared on Dissident Voice.