capitalist-generated cataclysmic climate collapse.

June 30, 2019

On the hottest day in French history the French police were dutifully teargassing and attacking peaceful protestors—Yellow Vests in Montpellier, Environmental Activists in Paris protesting capitalist-generated cataclysmic climate collapse.
As the contradictions between neo-liberal economics and human life become more visible, police repression is becoming the new normal.

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The Hottest Day in French History

June 30, 2019

WAR!!

June 27, 2019
Vijay Prashad

Independent Media Institute
Sanctions, the information war, and the American sabotage

In 1953, the U.S.—with the UK—overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq and over the course of the next two decades provided full support to the unpopular government of the shah of Iran., (Photo: Shutterstock)

 

U.S. President Donald Trump sat in the White House and contemplated a war against Iran. His army had been sending surveillance aircraft along the Iranian coastline, teasing Iranian radar, which tracked these manned and unmanned planes as they skirted the 12 nautical mile limit of Iranian sovereignty. Last week, the United States had two planes alongside Iran’s coast—an unmanned Global Hawk drone and a manned P-8 spy plane.

Iranian air command radioed the U.S. forces to say that both the drone and the spy plane had come inside Iranian territory. The P-8 shifted course to leave Iranian airspace, while the Global Hawk continued. Iranian officials say that it was because the Global Hawk remained in Iranian airspace that it was shot down last Thursday morning at 4 a.m.

Trump and his team threatened to retaliate. They wanted to shoot at Iranian radar and anti-aircraft facilities. At the 11th hour, Trump said, he decided not to fire at Iranian targets. The Pentagon had warned him that this would threaten U.S. troops in the area. It was to protect these troops that Trump did not launch a strike.

Sanctions

Trump might not have sent in a suite of missiles to hit Iran last week, but the United States has—of course—already opened up a certain kind of war against Iran. A few days before the drone was shot down, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council—Ali Shamkhani—gave a talk in Ufa, Russia, on security matters. In his talk, Shamkhani said that the United States had squashed the sovereignty of a number of countries. The U.S. Treasury Department, he said, had become a kind of financial CentCom (Central Command). Shamkhani said that the policies pursued by the United States should be considered to be “economic terrorism.”

Reliance upon the U.S. dollar and on U.S. financial systems means that most countries are unwilling to stand up against U.S. pressure.

U.S. unilateral sanctions are at the heart of this “economic terrorism.” The United States is able to use sanctions as an effective instrument against other countries because it has such enormous power over the world financial and monetary system. The U.S. dollar is the main reserve currency and the main currency of international trade. Reliance upon the U.S. dollar and on U.S. financial systems means that most countries are unwilling to stand up against U.S. pressure.

Sanctions have meant that Iran—reliant upon the export of oil and natural gas—has seen its external revenues collapse. The domination by the United States over the world financial system—including the international financial institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) has meant that Iran has not been able to raise credit on the international market. Difficulty in importing medicines and food has produced grave challenges for the Iranian people.

Hybrid War

Since the Western media continues to set the terms of international understanding, Washington’s interpretation of events around Iran predominates. Iran has never attacked the United States, but the U.S. has in fact intervened several times in Iran. In 1953, the U.S.—with the UK—overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq and over the course of the next two decades provided full support to the unpopular government of the shah of Iran. When the Gulf Arabs pushed Saddam Hussein to attack Iran in 1980, it was the U.S.—and Western Europe—that provided Iraq with arms and money for a bloody eight-year war. All of this context is lost to the Western media, which hyperventilate about fantasy stories such as Hezbollah in Venezuela or Iranian control over the Houthis. It is always Iran that is the aggressor, even when it has been Iran at the receiving end of U.S. aggression.

Iran is seen as the cause of the problem; the idea that Iran is a rogue or terrorist state is hard to shake off. This is part of the information war that Iran faces, unable—even with a sophisticated foreign minister (Javad Zarif)—to argue its case that it has not been belligerent, but it has been at the receiving end of threats and sanctions from Washington.

Between 2010 and 2012, four Iranian nuclear scientists were killed. These scientists—Masoud Alimohammadi, Darioush Rezaeinejad, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan and Majid Shahriari—were killed either by Israeli intelligence, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) or U.S. intelligence, or some combination of all of them. These scientists were killed inside Iran, in broad daylight. It sent a chill through the scientific community. A U.S. and Israeli created computer worm—Stuxnet—hit Iranian computer systems in 2010, creating damage to Iran’s computers that held part of its nuclear work. It was announced that more such attacks were possible. These took place before the nuclear deal was agreed upon in 2015. But the stench of such attacks remains.

Iran’s minister of information and communications technology—Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi—said that Iran has built a firewall that protects its facilities from any cyber-weapon thrown at it by the U.S. and Israel. This firewall is built by Iranian computer scientists.

It is this combination of attacks—the sanctions, the information war, the sabotage—that comprises the “hybrid war” against Iran (for more on the concept of “hybrid war,” see the dossier on Venezuela from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research). This hybrid war continues, with the threats of war as part of the arsenal wielded by Washington against Iran. Even Trump’s statement that he withdrew the order to bomb Iran just minutes before the attack began is part of this information war, this attempt to terrify Iranians into the belief that the U.S. is dangerous enough to drop bombs at any time. The hybrid war tightens the noose around Iran.

Group Against Sanctions

It is not easy to untangle the reliance of the world economy to the U.S. dollar and to U.S. financial systems. Even talk of multilateralism is premature. It is one thing to call for it and another to recognize that it will take at least a decade to create the institutions and instruments for multilateralism. Confidence in the Chinese yuan, for instance, will need to be built. So will confidence in alternative systems to transfer money and to reconcile trades. The European Union said openly that it wanted an alternative mechanism to pay Iran for oil, one that would not run through U.S. sanctions. But such an instrument could not be created. It will take time.

On the political plane, about 25 countries have come together to create a platform against sanctions.

Meanwhile, on the political plane, about 25 countries have come together to create a platform against sanctions. These countries, says Iran’s senior parliamentarian Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar, will stand together against the “inhumane” U.S. sanctions regime. It is not clear what this group will be able to do, but it is certainly the case that they will conduct a political campaign against the kind of harsh sanctions that are currently on Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran.

It is significant that China and Russia will be involved with this club. In Tehran, Russia’s Ambassador Levan Dzhagaryan said that China, Iran and Russia will form a trilateral group to fight against the U.S. unilateral war on Iran.

The group of 25 will struggle against sanctions and the group of three will try to prevent a U.S. war—but whether they can prevail is a serious question. The United States—under Trump—is utterly unreliable, its military arsenal ready to be unleashed, its hybrid war already unfurled. These are dangerous times.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.


AMERICAN CONCENTRATION CAMPS

June 26, 2019

By Robert C. Koehler

“These aren’t people. These are animals.”

These words alone set off the alarm — the fascism alarm, you might say. Donald Trump is by no means the sole source of America’s democracy nosedive, but he’s its current, deeply troubling manifestation.

Should I write this week about the wars he wants to wage or the refugee border cages he continues to fill? They’re all connected, by their domination and punishment mindset, their subservience to war profiteering and the geopolitics of empire, their ignorant certainty that American exceptionalism is the cornerstone of national security, their indifference to human suffering andneed.

“We were in American concentration camps. We were held under indefinite detention. We were without due process of law. We were charged without any evidence of being a threat to national security, that we were in an unassimilable race, that we would be a threat to the economy.”

The speaker is Satsuki Ina, a woman who spent part of her childhood at a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II and who, with fellow childhood internees, recently stood in protest at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, a U.S. military base slated to become a detention center for 1,400 immigrant children.

“We hear these exact words today regarding innocent people seeking asylum in this country,” she went on. “And unlike 1942, when America turned their back on us while we were disappearing from our homes, our schools, our farms and our jobs, we are here today to speak out, to protest the unjust incarceration of innocent people seeking refuge in this country. We stand with them, and we are saying, ‘Stop repeating history.’”

The only way to avoid repeating history is to face it squarely and atone for it. There’s a hell of a lot of history this country has not yet faced, but the Trump administration, with its blatant disregard for political correctness, is making it front-page news.

Indeed, you might say that Trump the blowhard is at best an amateur fascist, failing, as he so often does, to hide U.S. aggression behind established clichés. Thus, during the Obama administration, border internment wasn’t news at all, but Trump has managed to expose the hellish conditions and the ripped-apart families to the world.

Recently, for instance, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez generated some indignant outrage when she tweeted, referencing an article in Esquire, that the United States has created a system of concentration camps to detain the asylum seekers flooding into the country from Central America. That was too much for Liz Cheney, who counter-tweeted: “Please @AOC do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.”

But in point of fact, these are concentration camps. Historian Andrea Pitzer, quoted by Jack Holmes in the Esquire article that AOC cited, defines “a concentration camp system” simply and logically enough as “mass detention of civilians without trial.”

That doesn’t mean they’re the equivalent of Nazi death camps, but the term’s reverberations are legitimately troubling, because the process it defines is the same: dehumanizing a group of people based on race, religion, ethnicity or whatever (“These aren’t people. These are animals”); fomenting fear that their presence constitutes a “national emergency”; conducting mass roundups and detaining the arrestees indefinitely.

What could go wrong?

As Pitzer writes in her book, One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps: “There’s this crystallization that happens. The longer they’re there, the worse conditions get. That’s just a universal of camps.”

Some of these declining conditions were recently described on Democracy Now! by lawyer Warren Binford, who interviewed children at a detention facility in Clint, Texas: “(V)irtually no one is taking care of these children directly . . . they are locked up in these cells 24 hours a day. There are open toilets in many of these cells. There’s no soap, no way to wash their hands. . . . And many of them are being forced to sleep on concrete because of a shortage of beds and mats and sleeping space. Children described sleeping on concrete floors. They described sleeping on cement blocks.”

And, my God, when the children get sick, they’re placed in quarantine under conditions that are “just horrendous. These very sick children, with high fevers . . . being put on the floor, on mats, largely unsupervised, locked up together for days at a time.”

And Holmes points out: “Another issue is that these camp systems, no matter where they are in the world, tend to fall victim to expanding criteria. The longer they stay open, the more reasons a government finds to put people in them. That’s particularly true if a new regime takes control of an existing system, as the Trump administration did with ours.”

Thus, asylum seekers once had legal rights, but not anymore. As their numbers increased, due primarily to worsening conditions in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (countries the United States helped ravage politically), virtually all the refugees started getting treated as “illegals.” And, writes Holmes: “There is reason to believe the criteria will continue to expand.”

These are American concentration camps, not simply in the tradition of the Japanese-American internment camps or World War II, but in that other tradition as well, across the ocean. They’re not death camps, but they’re evolving, I fear, in much the same moral and political void.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

By Robert C. Koehler

“These aren’t people. These are animals.”

These words alone set off the alarm — the fascism alarm, you might say. Donald Trump is by no means the sole source of America’s democracy nosedive, but he’s its current, deeply troubling manifestation.

Should I write this week about the wars he wants to wage or the refugee border cages he continues to fill? They’re all connected, by their domination and punishment mindset, their subservience to war profiteering and the geopolitics of empire, their ignorant certainty that American exceptionalism is the cornerstone of national security, their indifference to human suffering andneed.

“We were in American concentration camps. We were held under indefinite detention. We were without due process of law. We were charged without any evidence of being a threat to national security, that we were in an unassimilable race, that we would be a threat to the economy.”

The speaker is Satsuki Ina, a woman who spent part of her childhood at a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II and who, with fellow childhood internees, recently stood in protest at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, a U.S. military base slated to become a detention center for 1,400 immigrant children.

“We hear these exact words today regarding innocent people seeking asylum in this country,” she went on. “And unlike 1942, when America turned their back on us while we were disappearing from our homes, our schools, our farms and our jobs, we are here today to speak out, to protest the unjust incarceration of innocent people seeking refuge in this country. We stand with them, and we are saying, ‘Stop repeating history.’”

The only way to avoid repeating history is to face it squarely and atone for it. There’s a hell of a lot of history this country has not yet faced, but the Trump administration, with its blatant disregard for political correctness, is making it front-page news.

Indeed, you might say that Trump the blowhard is at best an amateur fascist, failing, as he so often does, to hide U.S. aggression behind established clichés. Thus, during the Obama administration, border internment wasn’t news at all, but Trump has managed to expose the hellish conditions and the ripped-apart families to the world.

Recently, for instance, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez generated some indignant outrage when she tweeted, referencing an article in Esquire, that the United States has created a system of concentration camps to detain the asylum seekers flooding into the country from Central America. That was too much for Liz Cheney, who counter-tweeted: “Please @AOC do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.”

But in point of fact, these are concentration camps. Historian Andrea Pitzer, quoted by Jack Holmes in the Esquire article that AOC cited, defines “a concentration camp system” simply and logically enough as “mass detention of civilians without trial.”

That doesn’t mean they’re the equivalent of Nazi death camps, but the term’s reverberations are legitimately troubling, because the process it defines is the same: dehumanizing a group of people based on race, religion, ethnicity or whatever (“These aren’t people. These are animals”); fomenting fear that their presence constitutes a “national emergency”; conducting mass roundups and detaining the arrestees indefinitely.

What could go wrong?

As Pitzer writes in her book, One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps: “There’s this crystallization that happens. The longer they’re there, the worse conditions get. That’s just a universal of camps.”

Some of these declining conditions were recently described on Democracy Now! by lawyer Warren Binford, who interviewed children at a detention facility in Clint, Texas: “(V)irtually no one is taking care of these children directly . . . they are locked up in these cells 24 hours a day. There are open toilets in many of these cells. There’s no soap, no way to wash their hands. . . . And many of them are being forced to sleep on concrete because of a shortage of beds and mats and sleeping space. Children described sleeping on concrete floors. They described sleeping on cement blocks.”

And, my God, when the children get sick, they’re placed in quarantine under conditions that are “just horrendous. These very sick children, with high fevers . . . being put on the floor, on mats, largely unsupervised, locked up together for days at a time.”

And Holmes points out: “Another issue is that these camp systems, no matter where they are in the world, tend to fall victim to expanding criteria. The longer they stay open, the more reasons a government finds to put people in them. That’s particularly true if a new regime takes control of an existing system, as the Trump administration did with ours.”

Thus, asylum seekers once had legal rights, but not anymore. As their numbers increased, due primarily to worsening conditions in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (countries the United States helped ravage politically), virtually all the refugees started getting treated as “illegals.” And, writes Holmes: “There is reason to believe the criteria will continue to expand.”

These are American concentration camps, not simply in the tradition of the Japanese-American internment camps or World War II, but in that other tradition as well, across the ocean. They’re not death camps, but they’re evolving, I fear, in much the same moral and political void.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.


Slumlords Peace

June 25, 2019

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/slumlords-peace-190624192319778.html


END WAR!! Stop the Warmongers!

June 21, 2019
WAR BEGETS WAR . . . AND NOTHING ELSE

By Robert C. Koehler

Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran . . .

Thanks, John McCain! Let’s mix a little humor in with war. It’s so much easier to take when we do. By the way, have you noticed that we’re always on the verge of war?

“The bombing will be massive, but will be limited to a specific target.” So said a U.N. diplomat recently, according to the Jerusalem Post. Guess which country he was referring to.

An act of war is how we “send messages.” So the Trump hawks (this term may or may not include Donald himself) are thinking — if the paper’s sources have any credibility — of bombing an Iranian nuclear facility as an act of punishment because Iran “has announced that it intends to deviate from the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 and to enrich uranium at a higher level than the maximum it has committed to within the framework of the nuclear deal.”

This is all hush-hush, of course. War has to be planned in secret. The public’s role is definitely not to be part of the debate in the lead-up process or to question the facts that justify taking action. Its role is to cheer loudly when the hostilities begin, fervently hating the specified enemy and embracing the new war as a necessary, last-resort action to protect all that we hold dear.

Its role is definitely not to question war itself or to bring up the inevitability of unintended consequences, whether that be the death of babies or the poisoning of the environment. Its role is not to suggest that creating peace is essentially the opposite of waging war, or to cry out:

“War-making must be renounced. It is past time for the paradigm shift. We have one planet and we must see ourselves as one and we must take a stand.”

These are the words of Dud Hendrick of Veterans for Peace, and I pause here and let the words settle — in all their complexity — into the collective consciousness.

Perhaps what is most stunning about them is their complete absence from the corridors and smoke-filled rooms of American government. Instead, in virtually every story I read about one aspect or another of national security, what I hear is the echo of John McCain’s humorous chant. National security is always seen, in the corridors of power, as a matter of striking back against some enemy or other, an attitude that strikes me as both stupid and cowardly.

I’m not saying security — either national or personal — is in any way a simple concept, or that acknowledging “we are one planet” leads to some obvious course of action. Indeed, the opposite is the case. Striking back is the simple course of action, and jumping on its bandwagon requires ignoring the absolute certainty of unintended consequences that will result from a bombing campaign or an invasion or a cyberwar or the imposition of sanctions.

The absence of “we are one planet” voices at the highest levels of government guarantees that the government will pretty much always make simple, impulsive — wrong — decisions about national security. The absence of such voices in the mainstream media, at least in its geopolitical reportage, guarantees that there will be no long-term accountability for such decisions or any memory of the resulting consequences. Welcome to the 21st century: the century of endless war.

Thus:

“Over the past few months,” Politico reports, “senior Trump aides have made the case in public and private that the administration already has the legal authority to take military action against Iran, citing a law nearly two decades old that was originally intended to authorize the war in Afghanistan.”

The law in question is AUMF: the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed in 2001, in the wake of 9/11, which gave the Bush administration permission to go on a hunting spree for terrorists without the need for ongoing congressional approval. Critics at the time argued that this gave dangerous leeway to the executive branch to wage war whenever it felt like doing so, without any sort of accountability to the requirements of democracy — such as making a case that the war in question is necessary.

And so the Politico story quotes Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who, upon leaving a closed-door briefing in May held by acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, noted: “What I heard in there makes it clear that this administration feels that they do not have to come back and talk to Congress in regards to any action they do in Iran.”

Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran . . .

Or whatever.

As Medea Benjamin, and Nicolas J. S. Davies point out: “Whether in Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea or one of the 20 countries under the boot of U.S. sanctions, the Trump administration is using its economic weight to try to exact regime change or major policy changes in countries around the globe.”

And the New York Times informs us that the United States and Russia are currently fighting a “daily digital Cold War” — each country playing nasty little games with the other’s power grid. The Pentagon even has an arm called the United States Cyber Command, which “runs the military’s offensive and defensive operations in the online world” — and it’s getting more aggressive.

“But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.

“The commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, has been outspoken about the need to ‘defend forward’ deep in an adversary’s networks to demonstrate that the United States will respond to the barrage of online attacks aimed at it.”

Somehow the existence of this crazy game doesn’t make me feel safer. And the president, the story points out, doesn’t even know about it: “Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.”

The U.S. government, I fear, contains a terrible void where it ought to have sanity.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

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CHAOS, and house sale…

June 19, 2019
Bernardine and I have just finished moving from our home at 1329 E. 50th Street into an apartment. We left the house where we raised three wonderful kids, and where our parents spent the last years of their lives. It’s bitter sweet, of course—lots of memories, lots more to relish in the here and now, and much to look forward to. On Saturday June 22 (9-4) and Sunday June 23 (10-4) Candace organized a sale of everything we left behind: EGADS—there’s books, tables, cabinets, furniture, wall hangings, posters, art, and more. Come by if you like, and ask for Candace. (We will be out of town!!) Bill