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[l] at 3/29/23 8:54am
Washington DC — (Scheerpost) — Donald Trump — facing four government-run investigations, three criminal and one civil, targeting himself and his business — is not being targeted because of his crimes. Nearly every serious crime he is accused of carrying out has been committed by his political rivals. He is being targeted because he is deemed dangerous for his willingness, at least rhetorically, to reject the Washington Consensus regarding neoliberal free-market and free-trade policies, as well as the idea that the U.S. should oversee a global empire. He has not only belittled the ruling ideology, but urged his supporters to attack the apparatus that maintains the duopoly by declaring the 2020 election illegitimate. The Donald Trump problem is the same as the Richard Nixon problem. When Nixon was forced to resign under the threat of impeachment, it wasn’t for his involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity, nor was it for his illegal use of the CIA and other federal agencies to spy upon, intimidate, harass and destroy radicals, dissidents and activists. Nixon was brought down because he targeted other members of the ruling political and economic establishment. Once Nixon, like Trump, attacked the centers of power, the media was unleashed to expose abuses and illegalities it had previously minimized or ignored. Members of Nixon’s re-election campaign illegally bugged the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office building. They were caught after they broke back into the offices to fix the listening devices. Nixon was implicated in both the pre-election illegality, including spying on political opponents, as well as attempting to use federal agencies to cover up the crime. His administration maintained an “enemies list” that included well known academics, actors, union leaders, journalists, businessmen and politicians. One 1971 internal White House memo entitled, “Dealing with our Political Enemies” — drafted by White House Counsel John Dean, whose job it was to advise the president on the law — described a project designed to “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.” Nixon’s conduct, and that of his closest aides, was clearly illegal and deserving of prosecution. There were 36 guilty verdicts or guilty pleas associated with the Watergate scandal two years after the break-in. But it was not the crimes Nixon committed abroad or against dissidents that secured his political execution but the crimes he carried out against the Democratic Party and its allies, including in the establishment press. “The political center was subjected to an attack with techniques that are usually reserved for those who depart from the norms of acceptable political belief,” Noam Chomsky wrote in The New York Review of Books in 1973, a year before Nixon’s resignation. As Edward Herman and Chomsky point out in their book, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media:” The answer is clear and concise: powerful groups are capable of defending themselves, not surprisingly; and by media standards, it is a scandal when their position and rights are threatened. By contrast, as long as illegalities and violations of democratic substance are confined to marginal groups or dissident victims of U.S. military attack, or result in a diffused cost imposed on the general population, media opposition is muted and absent altogether. This is why Nixon could go so far, lulled into a false sense of security precisely because the watchdog only barked when he began to threaten the privileged.” What led to the unraveling of Nixon’s government, and what lies at the core of the attacks against Trump, is the fact that, like Nixon, Trump’s targets included “the rich and respectable, spokesmen for official ideology, men who are expected to share power, to design social policy, and to mold popular opinion,” as Chomsky noted about Nixon at the time. “Such people are not fair game for persecution at the hands of the state.” This is not to minimize Trump’s crimes. Trump — nearly even in the polls with President Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential race — appears to have committed several misdemeanors and serious felonies. In November 2022, the Department of Justice appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Trump’s retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida and any potential criminal liability resulting from that act, as well as any unlawful interference with the transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election. Separately, a district attorney in Georgia is working with a special purpose grand jury in relation to Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election result. A key piece of evidence is the notorious phone call between Trump and Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, in which the president kept insisting he needed more votes to be found. Charges in this case could include conspiracy to commit election fraud, racketeering and pressuring and/or threatening public officials. The Manhattan district attorney has been investigating the $130,000 Trump used to pay off the porn star Stormy Daniels, with whom Trump allegedly had a sexual relationship. This payment was misreported in the Trump Organization’s records as a legal retainer in violatation of campaign finance laws. Finally, New York Attorney General Letitia James is bringing a civil lawsuit alleging the Trump Organization lied about its assets in order to secure bank loans. If the attorney general’s lawsuit is successful, Trump and other members of his family may be barred from doing business in New York, including buying property there for five years. Trump’s alleged offenses should be investigated. Though, the cases involving Daniels and the retention of classified documents seem relatively minor and similar to those committed by Trump’s political opponents. Last year, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the DNC agreed to pay a fine of $8,000 and $105,000 respectively, for mislabelling a $175,000 expenditure on opposition research, namely the long-discredited “Steele Dossier,” as “legal expenses.” The improper retention of classified documents has typically resulted in a slap on the wrist when other powerful politicians have been investigated. Clinton, for example, used private email servers instead of a government email account when she was secretary of state. The FBI concluded that she sent and received materials classified as top secret on her private server. Ultimately, FBI director James Comey declined to prosecute her. Trump’s former vice president Mike Pence and Biden also had classified documents at their homes, though we are told this may have been “inadvertent.” The discovery of these classified documents, rather than triggering outrage in most of the media, initiated a conversation about “overclassification.” Former CIA director David Petraeus was given two years probation and a $100,000 fine after he admitted to providing highly classified “black books” that contained handwritten classified notes about official meetings, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and the names of covert officers to his lover, Paula Broadwell, who was also writing a fawning biography of Petraeus. As was the case with Nixon, the most serious charges Trump may face involve his attack on the foundations of the two-party duopoly, especially undermining the peaceable transfer of power from one branch of the duopoly to the other. In Georgia, Trump could face very serious criminal charges with potentially lengthy sentences if convicted, likewise if the federal special prosecutor indicts Trump for unlawful interference in the 2020 election. We won’t know until any indictments are made public. Yet, the most egregious of Trump’s actions while in office either received minimal media coverage, were downplayed or lauded as acts carried out in defense of democracy and the U.S.-led international order. Why hasn’t Trump been criminally investigated for the act of war he committed against Iran and Iraq when he assassinated Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani and nine other people with a drone strike in Baghdad airport? Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the strike and told his parliament that Trump lied in order to get Soleimani exposed in Iraq as part of peace talks between Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution demanding that all foreign troops leave the country, which the U.S. government proceeded to reject. Why not prosecute or impeach Trump for pressuring his secretary of state to lie and say that Iran wasn’t complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal? Trump ultimately fired him and resumed unilateral, devastating and illegal sanctions against Iran, in violation of international law and quite possibly domestic U.S. law. Why wasn’t Trump impeached for his role in the ongoing attempts to engineer a coup and overthrow the democratically elected president of Venezuela? Trump declared a previously unknown right-wing politician — and would-be coup leader — Juan Guaido to be the true Venezuelan president and then illegally handed him control of the Latin American country’s U.S. bank accounts. The illegal U.S. sanctions that have facilitated this coup attempt have blocked food, medicine and other goods from entering the country and prevented the government from exploiting and exporting its own oil, devastating the economy. Over 40,000 people died between 2017 and 2019 due to the sanctions, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. That figure is certainly higher now. Nixon, like Trump, was not impeached for his worst crimes. He was never charged for directing the CIA to destroy the Chilean economy and back a far-right military coup that overthrew the democratically elected left-wing government of Salvador Allende. Nixon wasn’t brought to justice for his illegal, secret mass bombing campaigns in Cambodia and Laos that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, and his government’s role in the slaughter of Vietnamese people, resulting in at least 3.8 million killed according to a joint report from Harvard University and the University of Washington and even higher casualties according to investigative journalist Nick Turse. Nixon wasn’t held accountable for what then-President Lyndon Johnson privately blasted as “treason” when he discovered that the yet-to-be-elected Republican candidate for president, and his future National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, were deliberately and illegally sabotaging his peace negotiations in Vietnam, ultimately prolonging the war for another four years. Articles of impeachment against Nixon were passed by the House Judiciary Committee. Articles I and III focused on allegations related to Watergate and Nixon’s failure to deal properly with congressional investigations. Article II related to allegations of violations of citizens’ civil liberties and abuse of government power. But they became moot once Nixon resigned, and in the end the disgraced former president didn’t face charges related to Watergate. A month after Nixon left office, President Gerald Ford pardoned him for “all offenses against the United States” that he “committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.” This pardon cemented into place the imperial presidency. It entrenched the modern notion of “elite immunity,” as the constitutional lawyer and journalist Glenn Greenwald notes. Neither Republicans nor Democrats want to set a precedent that might hamstring the unchecked and unaccountable power of a future president. The most serious crimes are those that are normalized by the power elite, regardless of who initiated them. George W. Bush may have started the wars in the Middle East, but Barack Obama maintained and expanded them. Obama’s crowning achievement may have been the Iran nuclear deal, but Biden, his former vice president, hasn’t reversed Trump’s trashing of it, nor has he reversed the decision by Trump to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in violation of international law. Trump, like most of his opponents in the Republican and Democrat parties, serves the interests of the billionaire class. He, too, is hostile to the rights of workers. He, too, is an enemy of the press. He, too, backs the diversion of hundreds of billions of federal dollars to the war industry to maintain the empire. He, too, does not respect the rule of law. He, too, is personally and politically corrupt. But he is also impulsive, bigoted, inept and ignorant. His baseless conspiracy theories, vulgarity and absurd antics are an embarrassment to the established power elite in the two ruling parties. He is difficult, unlike Biden, to control. He has to go, not because he is a criminal, but because he is not trusted by the ruling crime syndicate to manage the firm. Feature photo | Illustration by Mr. Fish Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report. The post Chris Hedges: The Donald Trump Problem appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Insights, National, assets, bank loans, campaign finance laws, Chris Hedges, Donald Trump, New York attorney general, stormy daniels, Trump Organization]

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[l] at 3/28/23 8:13am
Roger Waters is facing pushback from Germany. City authorities have canceled his upcoming concert over claims the Pink Floyd frontman is anti-Semitic. Yet activists say his experience is not an isolated incident when it comes to support for Palestine. In February, Frankfurt’s City Council canceled Waters’s concert scheduled for May 28, stating in a press release that the musician “is considered one of the most widely spread anti-Semites in the world.” City officials cited Waters’ advocacy for a cultural boycott of Israel as one of the reasons for his alleged anti-Semitism. When reached for comment, Frankfurt City Council referred MintPress News to its aforementioned press release. Waters responded by pursuing legal action against the city for his event cancellation. “My lawyers are taking steps to ensure that my concerts in Munich and Frankfurt in May 2023 take place as contracted,” Waters said. Munich had filed a motion to cancel his upcoming concert but voted against the measure on March 22. In a statement to MintPress News, the city council said canceling Waters’ concert “would be illegal and would violate supreme court decisions.” A similar motion was tabled in Cologne. Waters also addressed the anti-Semitism allegations and his views on Israel. In a statement, Waters said: I want to state for the record and once and for all that I am not and never have been antisemitic and nothing that anyone can say or publish will alter that. My well-publicized views relate entirely to the policies and actions of the Israeli government and not with the peoples of Israel. In addition to Waters’ legal threats, more than 20,000 artists, writers, and public figures have signed a petition demanding Waters perform in Frankfurt. “The officials vilifying Waters are engaging in a dangerous campaign that purposely conflates criticism of Israel’s illegal and unjust policies with antisemitism,” the petition reads. “This conflation perpetuates the antisemitic trope which presents Jews as a monolith who blindly support Israel.”   Cracking down on BDS support in Germany Yet Waters is not alone in facing opposition from German authorities over his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a Palestinian-led movement advocating for a collective economic response against Israel. In fact, in recent years, a number of activists, scholars, and artists have been attacked in Germany for their criticism of Israel and support for BDS. In February, the “Structural Change of Property” Collaborative Research Center at the University of Jena told University of British Columbia Professor Brenna Bhandar that they did not want to hold her planned talk in April due to her support for BDS. She had been invited to participate in the institution’s Mercator fellowship. On March 8, the Israel-Palestine news website Mondoweiss published an open letter — signed by numerous scholars — against the center’s decision. “The retraction of the public component of the Mercator fellowship on the basis of Prof. Bhandar’s personal commitment to solidarity with a call from Palestinian civil society is a glaring and unjustified breach of principles of academic freedom,” the letter’s authors wrote. German-based activist group Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle East had their bank account closed in 2019 because the organization supports BDS. The group could have their account reopened if they were examined by an anti-Semitism expert to determine if they were indeed anti-Semitic, but Jewish Voice declined to engage in that activity. More recently, in the last year, Hamburg’s anti-Semitism commissioner, Stefan Hensel, began targeting artist Adam Broomberg for his BDS support. Adam Broomberg, left, and Hamburg’s anti-Semitism commissioner, Stefan Hensel, right The fresh wave of attacks against BDS supporters in Germany comes as a result of a parliamentary resolution passed in 2019 condemning BDS as anti-Semitic and cutting off funding to organizations that actively support the movement. The resolution was passed with the help of pro-Israel groups, according to an investigation by German newspaper Der Spiegel. The report suggests that local organizations like the Middle East Peace Forum and Werte Initiative (Values Initiative) worked with Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs to promote the resolution. The Strategic Affairs Ministry, however, denied the claims, telling Israeli newspaper Haaretz that they had “no connection to the German Parliament’s decision, which it views as a decision that is principled, ethical, and important.” Despite the resolution being non-binding, meaning it is merely an expression of opinion from Germany’s parliament, Wieland Hoban, chairman of Jewish Voice, said it has emboldened sects of German society to attack BDS and treat it as if it is illegal. Hoban described that the resolution has created a “culture of denunciation” in Germany and generated widespread paranoia in cultural institutions over losing funding for being associated with BDS supporters. After losing his mother in December, Broomberg came back to Berlin from South Africa to find an online smear campaign lodged at him by Hamburg’s anti-Semitism commissioner, Hensel. On social media and in newspapers, Hensel described Broomberg as someone who “repeatedly defames [Israel] as an apartheid state and advocates a boycott against Israel” and “does not shy away from legitimizing terror against Jews.” With these allegations, Broomberg said he was denied a teaching position, lost a €30,000 (around U.S. $32,000) grant, was pulled from an art show, and even received a death threat. “Essentially, I have been canceled in Germany,” Broomberg told MintPress News. “I am not eligible for grants. My work won’t be shown in public institutions.” However, Broomberg cautions treating Hensel as a lone actor in this anti-BDS war. Instead, he emphasizes Hensel is just a faction of the German state. “He is just representative of the German state’s strategy and attitude,” Broomberg said. Despite the slander, Broomberg declined to pursue legal action and is instead continuing to focus on his activism and work. “The reason why Hensel is attacking me is because of the work Im doing both on the ground here and around Palestine,” he said. “And what hes doing is diverting me away from that.” For Jewish Voice’s Hoban, the BDS resolution may have emboldened the Israel lobby in Germany, but it has also invigorated pro-Palestine activists. “On the one hand, it means that our opponents have a lot of power to silence us and to silence Palestinians. But at the same time, I feel that it creates an opportunity to draw attention to conflict,” Hoban told MintPress News. “So then not to be demoralized by some canceling, but to take that as something to talk about in order to make the case.” Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News. The post Roger Waters V. the Machine: Inside the Pink Floyd Frontmans Battle For Free Speech in Germany appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Inside Stories, Investigations, News, Top Story, antisemitism, BDS, Germany, Lawsuit, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters]

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[l] at 3/28/23 7:31am
The final exchange, caught on camera between visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian host and counterpart, Vladimir Putin, sums up the current geopolitical conflict, still in its nascent stages, between the United States and its Western allies on the one hand, and Russia, China and their allies, on the other. Xi was leaving the Kremlin following a three-day visit that can only be described as historic. “Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years, and we are driving this change together,” Xi said while clasping Putin’s hand. “I agree,” Putin replied while holding Xi’s arm. ‘Please take care, dear friend,” he added. In no time, social media exploded by sharing that scene repeatedly. Corporate western media analysts went into overdrive, trying to understand what these few words meant. “Is that part of the coming change that they will drive together?” Ian Williamson raised the question in the Spectator. Though he did not offer a straight answer, he alluded to one: “It is a chilling prospect for which the west needs to be prepared.” Xi’s statement was, of course, uttered by design. It means that the strong Chinese-Russian ties, and possible future unity, are not an outcome of immediate geopolitical interests resulting from the Ukraine war or a response to US provocations in Taiwan. Even before the Ukraine war commenced in February 2022, much evidence pointed to the fact that Russia and China’s goal was hardly temporary or impulsive. Indeed, it runs deep. The very language of multipolarity has defined both countries’ discourse for years, a discourse that was inspired mainly by the two countries’ displeasure with US militarism from the Middle East to Southeast Asia, their frustration with Washington’s bullying tactics whenever a disagreement arises, be it in trade or border demarcations; the punitive language; the constant threats; the military expansion of NATO and much more. One month before the war, I argued with my co-writer, Romana Rubeo, that Russia and China might be at the cusp of unity. That conclusion was drawn based on a simple discourse analysis of the official language emanating from both capitals and the actual deepening of relations. At the time, we wrote: Some kind of an alliance is already forming between China and Russia. The fact that the Chinese people are taking note of this and are supporting their government’s drive towards greater integration – political, economic and geostrategic – between Beijing and Moscow indicates that the informal and potentially formal alliance is a long-term strategy for both nations. Putin, right, and Jinping toast during their dinner in the Kremlin, Russia, March 21, 2023. Pavel Byrkin | Sputnik via AP Even then, like other analysts, we did not expect such a possibility to be realized so quickly. The Ukraine war, in itself, was not indicative that Moscow and Beijing would grow closer. Instead, Washington’s response, threatening and humiliating China, did most of the work. The visit by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in August 2022 was a diplomatic disaster. It left Beijing with no alternative but to escalate and strengthen its ties with Russia, with the hope that the latter would fortify its naval presence in the Sea of Japan. In fact, this was the case. But the “100 years” reference by Xi tells of a much bigger geopolitical story than any of us had expected. As Washington continues to pursue aggressive policies with US President Joe Biden prioritizing Russia and his Republican foes prioritizing China as the main enemy of the US the two Asian giants are now forced to merge into one unified political unit with a common political discourse. “We signed a statement on deepening the strategic partnership and bilateral ties which are entering a new era,” Xi said in his final statement. This ‘no-limits friendship’ is more possible now than ever, as neither country is constrained by ideological confines or competition. Moreover, they are both keen on ending the US global hegemony, not only in Asia and the Pacific but also in Africa, the Middle East and, eventually, worldwide. On the first day of Xi’s visit to Moscow, Russia’s President Putin issued a decree in which he wrote off debts of African countries worth more than $20 billion. Moreover, he promised that Russia is “ready to supply the whole volume sent during the past time to African countries particularly requiring it, from Russia free of charge ..,” should Moscow decide “not to extend the (grain) deal in sixty days.” Africa is a major ally in the upcoming global conflict for both countries. The Middle East, too, is vital. The latest agreement, which normalized ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, is earth-shattering, not only because it ends seven years of animosity and conflict but because the arbitrator was no other than China itself. Beijing is now a peace broker in the very Middle East, which was dominated by failed US diplomacy for decades. What this means for the Palestinians remains to be seen, as too many variables remain at work. But for these global shifts to serve Palestinian interests in any way, the current leadership, or a new leadership, would have to slowly break away from its reliance on western handouts and validation and, with the support of Arab and African allies, adopt a different political strategy. However, the US government continues to read the situation entirely within the Russia-Ukraine war context. For example, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded to Xi’s trip to Moscow by saying that “the world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war (in Ukraine) on its own terms.” It is rather strange but also telling that Washington, not Kyiv, made the outright rejection of the potential call for a ceasefire. Xi’s visit, however, is genuinely historical from a geopolitical sense. It is comparable in scope and possible consequences to former US President Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing, which contributed to the deterioration of ties between the Soviet Union and China under Chairman Mao Zedong. The improved relationship between China and the US back then helped Washington further extend its global dominance while putting the USSR on the defensive. The rest is history, one that was rife with geostrategic rivalry and divisions in Asia, thus, ultimately, the rise of the US as the uncontested power in that region. Then-Ambassador Nicholas Platt described Nixon’s visit to Beijing as “the week that changed the world.” Judging that statement from an American-centric view of the world, Platt was, in fact, correct in his assessment. The world, however, seems to be changing back. Though it took 51 years for that reversal to take place, the consequences are likely to be earth-shattering, to say the least. Regions that have long been dominated by the US and its western allies, like the Middle East and Africa, are processing these changes and potential opportunities. If this geopolitical shift continues, the world will, once again, find itself divided into camps. While it is too early to determine, with any degree of certainty, the winners and losers of this new configuration, it is almost certain that a US-western-dominated world is no longer possible. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out.’ His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Xi’s ‘Chilling’ Remarks: What the New Multipolar World Means for the Middle East and Africa appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, China, Hegemony, Middle East, Multipolar World, Russia, United States, Xi Jinping]

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[l] at 3/27/23 9:11am
In February, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published an extensive investigation into the spectacular collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’ (ANDSF), which the U.S. spent two decades and $90 billion building. In common with previous SIGAR reports, it offers a remarkably uncompromising, no-punches-pulled assessment, exposing corruption, incompetence, lies, and delusion every step of the way. At the report’s core is a highly detailed timeline of the ANDSF’s – and, therefore, the Afghan government’s – disintegration. That SIGAR was able to construct such a painstaking obituary is nothing short of miraculous, for the Special Inspector General was stonewalled and obstructed at every turn by the agencies it is officially charged with scrutinizing. The Pentagon and State Department rejected SIGAR’s jurisdiction over them, declined to review interim drafts of the report, denied access to their staff, and “mostly” refused to answer requests for information. “Very few” documents SIGAR asked for were turned over, and material disclosed “was often not materially relevant to our objectives.” In lieu of cooperation from the guilty parties, SIGAR conducted a panoply of probing interviews with U.S. and Afghan officials. While often unnamed, their admissions and analysis provide stunning insight into conversations, deliberations, and machinations hidden from public view at the time. Together, these accounts help explain how the ANDSF, much-vaunted by the White House until its demise, failed so spectacularly. It is a highly cinematic retelling that is part thriller, part farce. Take, for example, a former “senior Afghan national security official” recounting the morning of August 15, 2021, the day Kabul fell. As Americans rushed to depart the country, en route to a meeting with President Ashraf Ghani, he was told by the Presidential Protective Service chief that the Taliban, contrary to promises not to enter the city, had done so. In the president’s office, the pair scrambled to draft an official statement to be transmitted domestically and internationally on the group’s unwelcome arrival. A secretary was asked to request some green tea from catering, as was customary in such meetings: He went and brought the tray himself. Wait a minute, what happened to the server? He said, there’s no one left. People in our offices had abandoned and they had gone…[By around] 10 or 11, we no longer had a consolidated security force.” This mass walkout was evident in every state apparatus. The president contacted the head of the National Security Directorate, the Afghan government’s primary intelligence service, which was created in the early 2000s by the CIA, requesting he rally operatives “to keep order in Kabul.” The Directorate chief regretfully informed him that the formerly 500-strong force tasked with managing the city’s defense now numbered less than 20 people. Back at the President’s office, as word spread of police units all over the city summarily abandoning their posts en masse, the few in-house security officers who had come into work that day began shedding their official livery, which they’d pre-emptively donned over civilian clothes. By 11 am, all their uniforms were literally consigned to the garbage – and with that, the Afghan government ceased to exist.   “A Conspiracy Theory” This cataclysm came to pass first gradually, then rapidly. Despite the vast financial, material and practical assistance Washington provided to the ANDSF over the years, the force was throughout its life completely dependent on the U.S., not only for anti-Taliban military operations but to make sure the Kabul paid soldiers’ salaries. Its undoing was ensured in February 2020, when the Doha Agreement was reached by the Taliban and Trump administration, which set a blueprint for eventual American withdrawal. This concord immediately led to a drastic, total scaling back of Washington’s assistance, in particular airstrikes, which were fundamental to the ANDSF’s ability to stop the Taliban’s encroachment. The previous year, the U.S. had conducted 7,423 airstrikes on the force’s behalf, the most since 2009. Overnight, though, this ceased outright, leaving air defense the exclusive responsibility of the Afghan Air Force, as per the agreement. In practice, Kabul’s fighter fleet consisted of just two A-29s, aging propeller-toting Brazilian-made light aircraft designed to operate in low-threat environments. This also immediately crippled the ANDSF’s logistical capability. Weapons and supplies could not be ferried by ground quickly enough to meet operational demands, leading to the force lacking ammunition, food, water, and other vital resources necessary to sustain anti-Taliban military engagements. Muddying matters even further, the full terms of the Doha Agreement were seemingly kept confidential from local police, security forces, and even the government. A former Afghan army general quoted by SIGAR suggests U.S. forces on the ground were likewise “confused about what to engage and what not to,” and thus forced to coordinate with the Pentagon and State Department “on an hourly basis…to get clarification on what they could do.” A Taliban fighter holds an American-made M16 rifle in Kabul, December 12, 2021. Photo | Sipa via AP “They would see the Taliban attacking our checkpoints. They would have videos of the Taliban doing it. But they would say we are not able to engage because we have limitations,” he records. “The Taliban started moving around connecting their small pockets of fighting groups across the country, uniting them and making the fighting units bigger and bigger. The U.S. would watch but do nothing because of the Agreement.” Come May 2021, when the Taliban offensive began, demoralized, ill-equipped protective forces who, in some cases, hadn’t seen their families or been paid for over six months – offered little resistance. Some of them joined the Taliban, and others were bribed to give up their positions. The ease with which the group breezed through fortified territory gave rise to a “conspiracy theory” circulating through state institutions that “the Americans wanted the Taliban to come back to power,” according to a former government minister. The Taliban purportedly seized upon this development, publicizing they had “some kind of a secret deal with the Americans…under which certain districts or provinces would be surrendered to them” to facilitate ANDSF capitulations, according to an ex-Afghan national security official: [Defeat] was going to happen anyway, so why would they want to die… they used that tactic very well throughout the country, they used it with local commanders, leaders in their areas, parliamentarians.”   Same Old Story It is tantalizing indeed to consider whether, far from “conspiracy theory,” the Doha Agreement did indeed amount to the Taliban being given free rein to take back control of Afghanistan and the apparent surprise of U.S. officials at the pace of the government’s collapse was just for show. However, SIGAR outlines a total lack of professional oversight on the ANDSF’s development and capabilities, which “prevented a clear picture of reality on the ground” from emerging to any relevant party before it was too late. This was no accident, though; the Afghan government and military, their trainers and the Pentagon alike were all heavily incentivized to lie to one another, and political leaders in Washington, who were in turn motivated to mislead the public and justify the enormous investment. This deceit also conveniently obscured industrial-scale corruption and embezzlement within the ANDSF. As prior SIGAR reports also found, so much money and equipment were flowing into Afghanistan without any supervision whatsoever, and weaponry and other aid were misused, stolen or illegally sold off with ease by Afghans, U.S. personnel and Pentagon contractors. SIGAR ominously warns that a similar absence of accountability is evident in the “unprecedented” U.S. arms shipments to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022. “Diversion to illicit markets, misuse amongst groups fighting in Ukraine, or their acquisition by Russia or other non-state actors” are resultantly considered “likely unavoidable” consequences of this wellspring. Despite U.S. leaders promising a keen eye is being kept on the weapons shipments, SIGAR’s report makes clear these same officials did not even know what was being sent to Afghanistan. Is the same true for Kiev? In a perverse irony, some of the American military equipment rescued from capture by the Taliban has been dispatched to Ukraine – specifically, fighter jets that could not be used by the Afghan Air Force. For the most part, though, what ended up in Kabul is now in the hands of a formerly sworn enemy, with armored vehicles and military aircraft featuring prominently in the group’s propaganda and training videos. There are disturbing historical echoes in this. In the 1980s, the CIA and MI6 provided Afghanistan’s Mujahideen with 600 Blowpipe anti-aircraft missiles to take down Red Army jets and helicopters. Following the 2001 NATO invasion, these weapons were routinely found in Taliban and Al-Qaeda arms caches across the country. As late as 2010, Western media was reporting the shoulder-fired Blowpipes were a major threat to American operations there. In the present day, the U.S. has provided 1,400 MANPADS – another shoulder-fired missile – to Ukraine. The State Department believes these weapons “pose a serious threat to passenger air travel, the commercial aviation industry, and military aircraft around the world.” Since the 1970s, over 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS.   “Close Friends With Senators” One of the SIGAR report’s most striking sections documents the Afghan government’s failure to dedicate any time or resources at all to planning how the country’s assorted U.S.-created and sustained political, judicial, security and military institutions might operate post-withdrawal. Refusal might be more accurate – for as August 2021 approached, Ghani and his men remained implacably convinced the U.S. was not going anywhere and acted accordingly. The reasons for this catastrophic oversight were manifold. First and foremost, neither President Ghani nor his administration at any point considered the prospect of total U.S. withdrawal to be remotely credible or even possible. They reasoned that Washington had expended so much blood and treasure over so many years, and the country was so strategically significant it would never be fully jilted by its generous benefactor. In fact, they were certain the U.S. could not leave without the government’s express consent under the terms of the Bilateral Security Agreement inked in September 2014 by Kabul and Washington. It enshrined a permanent American troop presence in the country “until the end of 2024 and beyond” unless terminated by either side with two years’ notice. Taliban fighters patrol in front of a torn photo of Ashraf Ghani on the wall of a city hall, Aug. 21, 2021. Photo | Kyodo via AP As such, when U.S. officials began warning Afghan ministers the withdrawal would very much be total, they simply were not listened to. A State Department official despairingly recalls how Ghani interpreted his repeated cautions of what was to soon come as a mere diplomatic bluff intended to “shape his behavior.” Declaring Afghanistan to be “the most important piece of real estate in the world,” he asked the official airily, “how could you leave a territory as important geopolitically?” “That [sic] was some of the toughest conversations I had with the President of Afghanistan,” the State Department official lamented. “I tried to plead with him, saying I know he’s very well-connected but, in our system, the President ultimately decides, and he should take this seriously not to miscalculate.” A staggering blunder indeed, but in their defense, Ghani et al. were encouraged in their delusion by contradictory and conflicting messages, both private and public, from U.S. officials. “They refuted profusely any argument their negotiations with the Taliban and their subsequent deal…was essentially a guise to withdraw all of their troops,” a former Afghan national security advisor alleges, adding: We were constantly reassured the [U.S.] was committed to the partnership with the Afghan government. They insisted they wanted a peaceful Afghanistan in which the gains of the last 20 years would be preserved. They maintained this position until the very end.” Ghani’s close personal connections to the U.S. power elite also helped foster the sense he was a “made man” and wouldn’t be discarded by his fellow gangsters. Hekmat Karzai, former Afghan deputy foreign minister, records how the president “thought he knew Washington, though many of these senators were his close friends…he was able to address both houses of Congress, and he thought he had lobbyists in Washington that were pulling for him.”   “Slowly Cracking Apart” The SIGAR report offers no formal recommendations for the U.S. government. It is simply intended as a comprehensive postmortem to enhance public understanding of how unaccountably vast American taxpayer funds were spent on a nation-building project thousands of miles away from home, which ultimately failed miserably. Yet, the lessons for all U.S. allies, particularly those heavily dependent on Washington’s diplomatic, financial and military backing, could not be starker. SIGAR’s findings are particularly relevant to consider in the context of the Ukraine conflict, given there are increasingly unambiguous indications the day Kiev is thrown under a bus by its Western sponsors rapidly approaches. At the end of January, influential Pentagon-funded think tank RAND published a report, “Avoiding a Long War,” which concluded the risks and costs of keeping the conflict grinding on through endless weapons shipments and bottomless financial aid far outweighed any benefits to the U.S. It accordingly urged policymakers to immediately start laying foundations for a future “shift” in support for Ukraine, nudging Kiev to rein in its ambitions and rhetoric and initiate peace negotiations with Moscow. It may be no coincidence that in the RAND report’s wake, public pronouncements by U.S. officials are no longer tubthumping and bullish, and there has been a marked shift in media reporting on the conflict. Stories of Ukrainian battlefield success and heroism and Russian incompetence and embarrassment, a daily staple for much of 2022, have suddenly become rather scarce. In their place, numerous outlets have published detailed accounts of the bleak reality of the frontline, with poorly equipped, untrained Ukrainian conscripts forcibly marched into a relentless, highly lethal deluge of artillery fire while Russian forces steadily gain ground. Kiev’s personnel losses, a closely guarded state secret hitherto consistently downplayed by the media, are now widely acknowledged to be catastrophic and unsustainable. On March 12, Politico reported Washington’s unity with Ukraine was “slowly cracking apart,” and administration officials privately worry so much manpower and ammunition is being expended that no counteroffensive can ever be mounted. It was also claimed – contrary to Biden’s explicit pledge to support the proxy war “as long as it takes” – Kiev had been plainly informed that U.S. support would not continue “indefinitely at this level.” If true, there is no indication that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky received the memo. He recently hailed Kiev’s “invincibility” and dubbed 2023 “the year of victory.” His military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov has even suggested Ukrainians will be vacationing in Crimea this summer. Maintaining the morale of one’s citizens, soldiers and foreign backers during wartime is absolutely essential, and the former comedian has proven himself highly adept in this regard. Yet, the same U.S. figures who not long ago readily echoed and legitimized this optimism are now actively repudiating Zelensky’s swagger. On February 15, Secretary of State Antony Blinken gravely warned Ukraine that its dream of retaking Crimea was not only fantastical but even trying would inevitably lead to a severe counter-response from Moscow. This unprecedented intervention was in direct keeping with the RAND report’s contention that Kiev regaining territory from Russia was of “debatable” value to American interests, given “the risks of nuclear use or a Russia-NATO war would spike.” Ukrainian land being considered so expendable raises the obvious prospect Washington could compel Kiev to cede even more to Moscow in a peace deal. One cannot help but wonder if, behind closed doors, Zelensky is in the manner of Ghani, being warned that Washington’s total withdrawal from the proxy war impends, but these entreaties are similarly falling on deaf ears. If so, the Ukrainian president can be forgiven for similarly thinking the prospect to be inconceivable. Pan-Western public and political sympathy, fawning profiles in prominent newspapers and magazines, unrelenting positive media coverage, high-level visits to and from Washington, London and other centers of power, and ceaseless statements of solidarity from overseas would convince any leader they were eternally indispensable. But the U.S. abandoning Afghanistan entirely was likewise beyond belief to all concerned until it happened. It is easily forgotten that in June 2021, Ghani flew to Washington for a well-publicized personal summit with Biden as the Taliban simultaneously surged across the country, inexorably seizing district after district. Widely reported as a strong signal that the White House still steadfastly supported Kabul, a government spokesperson said the visit would “highlight the enduring partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan as the military drawdown continues.” Less than three months later, Ghani would unceremoniously flee Kabul for the United Arab Emirates, where he has languished in almost total obscurity ever since, completely forgotten by the Western media and forsaken by his former “friends.” The “most important piece of real estate in the world” likewise almost instantly vanished from headlines and mainstream political discourse following the Taliban’s takeover, never to return. This time round, U.S. investment is lower, the stakes far higher, and extrication considerably easier. And as the RAND report argued, the Ukraine conflict is taking up valuable time and energy of military chiefs, which could instead be more fruitfully devoted to planning a war with China, a horrific prospect now openly mooted in Washington. The only question is how many more Ukrainians will needlessly die before the forewarned “shift” in American policy comes to pass, and Beijing is in the firing line. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPresss News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg. The post Two Decades and $90 Billion US Dollars Later: Dissecting The Afghan Militarys Total Collapse appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Inside Stories, Insights, Investigations, Top Story, Afghanistan, ANDSF, Corruption, Pentagon contractors, report, SIGAR]

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[l] at 3/27/23 8:01am
The successful mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Israelis to stand up against the Netanyahu government is proof of one thing: Israelis do not want to end the oppression and killing of Palestinian people. Israeli society has never seen such ongoing massive anti-government protests. So it is clear that had Israelis wanted to, they could have mobilized around lifting the brutal and inhumane blockade Israel has imposed on Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, or the release of political prisoners or any of the myriad mechanisms Israel uses to oppress and terrorize Palestinians. However, rather than stand up against any of the sadistic measures their government takes against the Palestinians, Israelis who consider themselves liberal (or even progressive) seem quite content to let the torture of Palestinians go uninterrupted as long as their privileges are not compromised.   The army weighs in According to a report in The Times of Israel, as well as many other Israeli news outlets, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi has warned the Israeli government that the army is on the verge of reducing the scope of operations due to a large number of reservists refusing to report for duty in protest over their efforts to weaken Israel’s justice system. General Halevi emphasized that “the judicial overhaul is leading to deep and dangerous divisions within the military, as growing numbers of reservists warn they will not serve.” In addition to the relatively large numbers of reservists refusing to show up, IDF pilots (the most sacred and admired of all) have also spoken out on the issue. Israeli press reports indicate that “Roughly 200 Israeli Air Force reserve pilots reportedly notified their units that they would not be reporting for their weekly flying session.” This announcement has serious implications for the military because, without weekly training sessions, pilots cannot be certified to fly operational missions. The pilots’ announcement came following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that the government will disregard the calls to halt the reform and plans to move forward with its plan to overhaul the judiciary.   Netanyahu’s veiled threat Netanyahu’s response to the growing numbers of reservists refusing to show up for duty was to say that, “The phenomenon of soldiers and reservists refusing to obey orders as a protest move against the judicial overhaul plan could destroy the state.”  Furthermore, he added, “Surrendering to such a threat is an existential threat to the state of Israel.” According to The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu passed the buck, stating at the opening of a recent cabinet meeting that he wants the Army Chief of Staff and other heads of the security apparatus to fight this phenomenon. “I expect the Chief of General Staff and the heads of the security forces to fight firmly the [service] refusal [of reservist fighter pilots],” he said. He thus conveniently ignored the fact that these pilots are volunteers who give the Air Force one day of their working week, year after year.” This piece makes the pilots seem so selfless, when in fact, their entire career – glamorous as it seems in the eyes of Israelis – was built on killing people who have no way to defend themselves. And they love every minute of it. Still, when pilots speak, Israelis listen. Netanyahu then added a veiled threat; “The use of a refusal to obey orders as a political tool starts on the Left but can move to the Right.” In other words, the message that the prime minister is sending those who use the tool of refusal to serve in the military is that if and when the day comes when settlers need to be removed, or some other political decision is made that favors the Israeli “Left,” then the other side, the Israeli Right, will do the same. In Netanyahu’s cabinet, there is at least one member who not only promoted the refusal of the Right to obey orders but was caught with 185 gallons of gasoline, planning to bomb one of the country’s main highways. This is none other than the finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich.   Israeli soldiers and soldiers are happy to serve Still, what is clear from the message sent by these refusers is that they can mobilize and stand up to what they feel is wrong. In response to criticism, one pilot said he was, in fact, doing his duty by refusing to serve and participating in the protest to curb the judicial reform. So, clearly, one can claim that they see no reason to demand an end to the apartheid regime, no reason to demand an end to the bombing of Palestinians in Gaza, and no need to stop bombing targets in Syria. If they did see any of these issues as a problem, they could bring these criminal acts to a halt. But, sadly, they are happy to serve the brutal regime called Israel. Israelis on the street are calling for democracy. Privileged citizens of a nation that denied democracy to Palestinians are protesting for fear that their democracy is in danger. This is not a new phenomenon; we have seen this in the United States, in Australia, and other settler colonial states. Internationally, the Biden administration and the British prime minister have stated that they are concerned about the judicial reforms because they fear for Israeli democracy. The debate on this issue is expanding, and while their support for democracy is heartfelt, pretending that there is a democracy called Israel and that it is in danger only diminishes the chances of democracy becoming a reality in Palestine. We may expect that Netanyahu will find a way to appease the protesters. It is likely that a compromise is reached on the judicial reform, and the protests will quiet down until they are completely gone and Israelis all return to Netanyahu’s warm embrace. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books areThe Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. The post For Israelis, Ethnic Cleansing Palestinians is Fine, But Judicial Reform is a Red Line appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, News, Top Story, Benjamin Netanyahu, democracy, Israel, Judicial reform law, Palestanians, Protests]

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[l] at 3/24/23 7:36am
As part of the historic, Chinese-led Iran Saudi Arabia détente deal, multiple outlets have reported that Riyadh has agreed to stop funding or “tone down critical coverage of Iran” in Iran International, a high-profile English and Persian language outlet. Tehran accuses Iran International of supporting terrorism and engineering the 2022 anti-government protests. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, lauded the network as “a force to spread the truth and…the hope of freedom.” Many were angered at the news. “Press freedom matters. Its outrageous that Iran International is having their budget cut as a result of the Saudi-Iran normalization,” wrote Israeli-American journalist Emily Schrader. Press freedom matters. Its outrageous that @iranintl is having their budget cut as a result of the Saudi-Iran normalization. The fact IR would even make such a demand tells you everything you need to know about this terrorist Islamic Republic. #iranrevolution #pressfreedom pic.twitter.com/NqpNgbjtW4 — Emily Schrader אמילי שריידר امیلی شریدر (@emilykschrader) March 13, 2023 Yet this casual acceptance of the idea that Iran International is little more than a front for the Saudi monarchy will have been groundbreaking news to millions of Iranians who rely on the channel and believe it to be an independent, trustworthy organization. For their part, the outlet has strenuously challenged the notion. Speaking with MintPress, Adam Baillie, a producer and media liaison for Iran International, stated that they are “an entirely independent TV news channel with no state or political affiliation either within or outside Iran.” Baillie also pointed MintPress to a recent comment from a Saudi official stating that “we continue to assert that it is not a Saudi media outlet and has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia. It is a private investment.”   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by MintPress News (@mintpress)   Who is Iran International? While the exact source of its funding remains murky, Iran International clearly has some serious money behind it. Bursting onto the scene in 2017 and broadcasting from London, from day one it presented a highly-polished product to viewers. And reportedly offering salaries of double the going rate, it was able to poach many of the most famous and influential journalists in the field from its rivals, quickly building up a large audience. It did this all despite not running commercial advertising. By not doing so, the channel is leaving significant money on the table. According to a survey by Netherlands-based GAMAAN, it is the most watched and among the most influential networks inside the Islamic Republic, as well as within the Iranian diaspora, and is regularly cited by Western media, including the BBC, The Guardian, Fox News and CNN. Navid Zarrinnal, an Iranian Studies scholar from Stanford University, told MintPress that the network is near ubiquitous in some parts of Tehran, stating that, Being in Iran all the time, I see many families have a satellite dish. And Iran International is one of the main things they watch. A lot of people tune in because they see it as presenting the contrarian perspective to the state (which is actually the Western representation of Iran).”   Fanning the flames of protest While many Iranians insist Iran International is an unbiased source of information, even many Western outlets have dropped that pretense. For example, last week, The Economist – hardly a bastion of pro-Tehran sympathy – described Iran International as little more than an outlet dedicated to “air[ing] relentless criticism of the Iranian regime.” This criticism helped bring worldwide attention to the Islamic Republic in September after the death in custody of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini. Although demonstrations were originally peaceful, they were quickly overtaken by much more violent altercations, particularly in the northwestern Kurdish region, leaving hundreds dead. In the heat of the moment, Iran International was one of the primary sources of information for Iranians and foreigners alike, and the network consistently encouraged the world to believe police beat Amini to death. It regularly used the word “murder,” even in headlines, to describe her death. It also insinuated that the government was on its last legs, claiming that leaders were getting ready to flee to Venezuela. Baillie told MintPress that while Iran International had covered the protests closely, it did not pick a side, stating, We have not supported or promoted protests in Iran: we report news which, in the case of the current situation in Iran necessarily means covering a very wide range of events and the actors involved in them.” Seyed Mohammad Marandi, Professor of English Literature and Orientalism at the University of Tehran and an advisor to the Iranian nuclear negotiations team, disagreed, telling MintPress that, “Iran International is very well-funded… It promotes violence in Iran.” During the protests, he claimed, It and its guests called on people to attack and kill the police. It has said many times that murdering police officers is the morally correct thing to do. And [British media regulator] OFCOM, of course, does nothing about it. So that shows the hypocrisy of the British government.” Zarrinnal took a slightly different position, explaining that the station also played a role in setting the agenda for international media, thereby influencing the worldwide coverage of events, stating, What Iran International did many times was make a claim that was not substantiated; it was just an analyst who might say something. But they presented it as a factual claim. And then that claim gets cited in Western media, so it just got bigger and biggerSo it forms perceptions, not only in Iran, but also across the diaspora and internationally.” One example of this is the debunked story that the Iranian government had announced that it would publicly execute 15,000 protestors in an orgy of violence. Iranian lawmakers called on the judiciary to issue harsh sentences to the protestors. Iran International suggested that this meant the death sentence. From there, however, like a worldwide game of telephone, the story morphed into the viral hoax that the government had already sentenced thousands to death – a notion promoted by the likes of Newsweek, celebrities such as Sophie Turner and Viola Davis, and even Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau.   The Saudi Connection The Iranian government has long demonized Iran International as a Saudi mouthpiece. Yet there is evidence suggesting there could be some merit to the charge. In 2018, The Guardian published an investigation, purportedly based on interviews with the network’s staff, claiming that Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) himself is the driving force behind its rise and that a Saudi firm closely associated with the ruler injected a cool quarter-billion dollars into its set up. This money was kept secret, even from senior staff, many of whom were reportedly very unhappy with who was paying their generous salaries. “I was told that not even one Saudi rial is in the funding. If I knew it came from Saudi, I would not have joined the station,” one source told The Guardian, adding, “I can say that Iran International TV has turned into a platform … for ethnic partisanship and sectarianism.” The same source went on to allege that many at the network have figured out the truth but cannot resign for fear of incurring repayments on their contracts or because their visas to continue living in London are dependent on Iran International’s sponsorship. While Saudi money might be beyond the pale for some journalists, it is clear that top Iran International staff do not mind working for foreign, state-backed entities. News editor Shahed Alavi, for example, formerly worked for Voice of America, while presenter Niusha Saremi left a job at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to join the company’s ranks. Both Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty are funded by the U.S. national security state and are part of what The New York Times called a “worldwide propaganda network built by the CIA.” Iran International has also recruited heavily from the British state broadcaster, the BBC. In 2018, for instance, Sima Sabet left a longtime position as a presenter on the BBC World Service for a similar post at Iran International, while Nader Soltanpour quit BBC Persian to become the face of the new network. Just as with Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the BBC enjoys an intimate relationship with the British national security state.   Netanyahu’s Favorite Station The network airs a wide range of ideas and opinions, so much so that it could be said to be difficult to pin its ideology down. However, the one overarching and unmissable connecting theme of its coverage is hostility to the current political setup in Iran – one that has persisted since the revolution of 1979 that deposed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. It consistently highlights human rights problems in the country, especially those regarding the treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ communities. While Iran (like every country) does have issues with women’s rights, if it is truly being funded by Saudi Arabia, it is ironic that arguably the most oppressive government in modern history has suddenly found women’s and minority rights to be their cause célèbre. Undoubtedly, though, Iran International has raised the profile of Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah, frequently interviewing him and presenting him as the next ruler of Iran. Last year, for example, it claimed that Pahlavi is the most popular figure in the country and that the large majority of Iranians supported regime change. Thus, Iran International finds itself calling for more democracy in Iran while simultaneously promoting the monarchy. Pahlavi is far from the most controversial character it has promoted, however. The channel came in for widespread criticism for platforming the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), live broadcasting its rallies. The MEK is a Saudi-funded armed cult that has taken credit for a number of bombings and was previously designated a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union. Another brush with terrorism came in 2018, when those responsible for the Ahvaz Attack, which killed 25 people and injured dozens more, claimed responsibility for the event via Iran International. Not long afterward, the network interviewed a guest who praised the attack, describing those hit as legitimate targets. The United Nations Security Council labeled the mass shooting event as a “heinous and cowardly terrorist attack.” Yet while Iranian government-funded outlets like Press TV are banned in the West, British authorities cleared Iran International to keep broadcasting. Zarrinnal noted that, although Iranian media is far from exemplary, Iranians are actually exposed to a much wider range of opinions in media than in supposedly democratic countries. “What is interesting to me is that you have easy access to anti-government perspectives. So you can just buy a satellite, turn on the TV, and you have anti-revolution perspectives you can consume easily. But here in the U.S., because they control the means of media production and distribution, you don’t really have access to these alternative perspectives,” he said, noting the blacklisting of foreign media such as RT or Press TV. In addition to BBC Persian or Voice of America, Iranians can tune into the Saudi-funded MBC Persia network or read The Independent Persian, a Saudi-backed Persian-language outlet that shares the same branding as the British newspaper, The Independent, but is fully Saudi-operated. Arguably the most controversial character that Iran International has supported, however, is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an extended interview earlier this month, the network presented him as a voice for peace in the Middle East and a champion of the Iranian people, pitching him such softball questions as “what is your favorite Persian dish” and asking if he has many Iranian friends. As much as the network was pro-Netanyahu, the far-right prime minister was even more effusive in his praise of them. “Iran International has gone international; it has become a force to spread the truth and to spread the hope of freedom. And I encourage you to continue that, both inside Iran and outside,” Netanyahu said.   Propaganda Blitz While Saudi Arabia is doubtless trying to influence the Iranian public, those efforts pale into comparison with its attempts to co-opt Western media. In 2018, the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund injected $200 million into Penske media, owner of many influential titles such as Variety and Rolling Stone, and has been buying influence in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Vice Media, which brands itself as an edgy counterculture organization, has also signed a lucrative contract with Saudi Arabia, producing multiple documentaries touting the supposed social progress being made under the MBS dictatorship. The company has opened an office in Riyadh and organized a $20 million youth music festival in the kingdom, although it attempted to hide this fact by keeping its name off all contracts and asking employees to sign non-disclosure agreements. Before the deal, Vice’s presentation of the country had been relatively adversarial. But, as media critic Adam Johnson has detailed, its critical coverage of Saudi Arabia dropped to zero overnight after they signed the funding agreements. It is unlikely that this will change in the near future; earlier this year, Vice agreed to an extensive content production partnership with Saudi-owned MBC Group. Vice is far from the only big organization in bed with the Saudis, however. In 2018, American Media Inc., owners of titles such as Us Weekly, OK! and Men’s Journal, published a 97-page propaganda magazine extolling the virtues of the revolutionary visionary MBS and how he is transforming the country into a modern, 21st-century utopia. 200,000 copies were printed and distributed in stores across the country. Despite the fact that it carried zero advertising, American Media insisted that they received no Saudi money for doing so. Before publishing, however, they reached out to the Department of Justice to inquire whether they needed to register as an agent of a foreign power, undermining this claim. CNN has also published a great deal of suspiciously positive content about the repressive Middle Eastern state. In 2020, it claimed that “freedom was blossoming” across the nation and that Saudi Arabia had “changed beyond recognition” for the good. Other CNN articles describe it as a “tourist destination to watch” thanks to MBS’ “epic efforts.” CNN did not respond to a request for information about these articles and their relationship with the Gulf kingdom. The idea that Saudi Arabia has been transformed into an enlightened, progressive kingdom jars with reality. According to Human Rights Watch, the country is one of the most repressive and authoritarian in the world, where women are effectively the property of their male relatives and often need permission to work, travel or receive healthcare. Millions of immigrants are kept under slave-like conditions, and being gay is punishable by death. There is no freedom of religion. Children regularly receive corporal or even capital punishment; last week, a court upheld the decision to execute two young men for crimes committed while they were minors. Likewise, the Saudis have been very active in the United Kingdom, paying millions to high-priced British public relations firms to soften their image. What Reporters Without Borders have called “checkbook diplomacy” has extended into the U.K. parliament, with dozens of MPs receiving trips and other gifts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Tony Blair Institute, the pet project of the controversial former prime minister, has also received millions in funding from Riyadh. Saudi companies widely accused of being front groups for the government have bought major chunks (between 25% and 50%) of influential newspapers, The Independent and The Evening Standard. Other big British outlets, including The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Daily Telegraph, have taken Saudi money. Guardian readers, for example, have opened their newspapers to be greeted with large, half-page messages telling them that “He [MBS] is bringing change to Saudi Arabia” or that “He is empowering Saudi women.” One reason the media has done close to zero investigations into the British war on Yemen is because Saudi Arabia buys 40% of UK arms—and our esteemed press corps take their priorities direct from the state. Another is many outlets are directly funded by the Wahhabi dictatorship. pic.twitter.com/YqjwlpnEhr — Matt Kennard (@kennardmatt) March 8, 2023 In less than six years of operations, Iran International has managed to build up a significant national and global following. Yet it has done so with the help of a pliant British state and through enormous injections of highly suspicious money – cash which is roundly assumed to be linked to the Saudi monarchy. This does not mean that they receive orders on the content or editorial direction from anyone. But if it is the case that it is secretly funded by the Saudi state, it is hard to see it as anything other than an elaborate influence operation to promote regime change in Tehran. Yet if the recent thaw in relations between the two nations turns into something more substantive, Iran International’s future could be as murky as its sources of income. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post Iran International: Inside the “Saudi-Funded” Network Promoting Regime Change in Iran appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, News, Top Story, Iran, Iran International, Propaganda, Regime Change, Saudi Arabia]

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[l] at 3/23/23 8:57am
A recent talk in Paris by Israeli Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich raised eyebrows when he claimed that there are no Palestinian people. In fact, he said that he himself was a real Palestinian, which is a funny thing to say given that his surname, Smotrich, is the name of a town in Ukraine. Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel in the early 1970s, made a similar claim. It was reported in The Times of Israel that Smotrich stood behind a map of Greater Israel that includes modern-day Jordan. “At a memorial event for a Zionist activist, Smotrich said that the Palestinian people were ‘an invention’ from the last century and that there was no such thing as Palestinians because there’s no such thing as the Palestinian people,’” wrote The Times. Also, according to this report, the French government called his statement “infuriating and irresponsible.” In response to a question, French foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said, “We call on those who were called to senior positions in the Israeli government to show the appropriate respect, to treat others with respect, and to avoid any action or statement that contributes to an escalation in tensions.” One has to wonder if the French government would give such a lukewarm response had someone said that there was no such thing as Jewish people, particularly if the same person had also called for wiping out an entire Jewish town. A person such as that would likely not be permitted to enter France. The symbol printed on the colors of the Israeli flag and hanging from the lectern was that of what is known as “The Greater Israel,” or Israel on both banks of the River Jordan. This was the flag of the fascist elements within the early Zionist movement, the predecessor to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. Later on, it was used by various right-wing Israeli groups to demonstrate that the fight for both banks of the river had not ended. Smotrich, left, at a lectern emblazoned with the same greater Israel map that is seen on the flag of the Irgun terrorist group, right The part of the symbol which represents the eastern bank of the River Jordan is today, in fact, an independent state; it is the Kingdom of Jordan. There is no record of any official Israeli government member ever displaying this symbol, and particularly since Israel has diplomatic ties with the Kingdom of Jordan, displaying this when an Israeli state official is speaking is a direct threat to the existence of the Jordanian state.   The real issue While the statements by Smotrich and the symbol should be viewed as not only alarming but as a direct threat to Palestine and Jordan, the bigger issue is the event itself. This was a memorial to the recently deceased French Zionist leader Jacques Kupfer. Kupfer called for the annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and often referred to the former U.S. president as “Hussein” Obama. Already the World Likud movement co-chairman, in 2020, he also became head of the Department for Diaspora Affairs at the World Zionist Organization. A 2020 article in Haaretz lays out many of Kupfer’s most objectionable positions: He’s denounced Arab members of the Knesset as ‘terrorists’ and ‘enemies of the state.’ He denies the existence of a Palestinian people and has warned that ‘Palestinianism’ – that is, support for Palestinian rights – is a virus more dangerous than COVID-19. Addressing a demonstration this summer in support of Israeli annexation of the West Bank, he said he was ‘not sure we need so many Arabs in the Land of Israel.’” It was perfectly appropriate for a racist thug like Smotrich, albeit now a senior member of the government of Israel, to speak at a memorial for Kupfer, who called to extend Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and supported the racist, violent Jewish settler community in Hebron. The Haaretz piece also mentions that “Kupfer was the founder and director of a far-right organization called “Israel is Forever,” a group that targets the French-speaking Jewish community. Among the organizations key objectives is to, “assert our inalienable rights throughout the Land of Israel and campaign against any further partition plans for the benefit of a nonexistent people and a future terrorist state.” In the context of the event and the man who was being commemorated, the presence of Smotrich, the Arab-hating thug, was perfectly appropriate. His comments, too, were appropriate, considering he was commemorating another racist. Hypocrisy Allowing Smotrich to enter France and then to express shock as what he says is typical Western hypocrisy. Smotrich never hid or disguised his opinions or his violent tendencies, and neither his hate-filled opinions nor his violent past has stood in the way of his meteoric rise in Israeli politics. They did not stop the Israeli Bonds from allowing him to speak at their event in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, and they did not prevent the French government from allowing him to enter France. The same goes for Kupfer. He never hid his racism or his violent rhetoric, and in his case, too, this did not hinder his rise within the World Zionist Organization. There was no way that the comments expressed in this event were going to be anything but the vilest, racist and hate-filled imaginable.   How far and how long? The questions to be asked in regard to the latest Smotrich spewing of racist, hate-filled lies are “how long will he be permitted to continue before someone steps in to stop him?” and “will the international community step in once his hate-filled anti-Arab speech is transformed to policies?” Smotrich, like all racist zealots, means what he says and intends to do precisely what he says. When Benjamin Netanyahu gave Smotrich the high-level, sensitive portfolios of finance and special minister in the Ministry of Defense, he knew exactly who he was dealing with. There could be no mistake made as to what Smotrich and the other thugs who now hold high positions in the Israeli government intend to do. The other question that begs an answer is how will this affect the relationship between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. An official of the Israeli government has now made a clear threat to the very existence of a sovereign state with which it shares a border. Silence will only encourage Israel to do more than make statements. Feature photo | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich hold a news conference at the Prime Ministers office in Jerusalem Jan. 25, 2023. Ronen Zvulun | Pool via AP Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books areThe Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. The post The Glaring Hypocrisy Surrounding Bezel Smotrichs Genocidal Comments appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, News, Top Story, Bezalel Smotrich, Greater Israel, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Racism]

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[l] at 3/23/23 7:48am
The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the 50 billion dollar injection to Credit Suisse highlights the precarious state of the banking system. While the banks claim that they are too big to fail, the reality is that the people who suffer the most when banks collapse are ordinary Americans. The rich can protect themselves by moving their money into offshore accounts or investing in other assets. But the poor and working-class Americans who have their savings in these banks will lose everything if banks collapse. On this episode of Behind the Headlines, Lee Camp interviews James Fauntleroy, a regular contributor to the Revolutionary Blackout Network (RBN) show. Fauntleroy is known for his incisive commentary on politics and social issues and his analysis of the pressing issues affecting Americans today. In this interview, Fauntleroy shares his insights on the precarious state of the banking system, the need for regulatory reform, and the importance of being prepared for emergencies during a time of economic instability. His deep understanding of the issues and his unique perspective make this an interview not to be missed. The fractional reserve banking system is a significant contributor to the instability of the banking system. Under this system, banks are allowed to gamble with peoples money and make profits at their expense. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has made it easier for banks to engage in risky behavior, which increases the likelihood of a banking collapse. One alternative to the fractional reserve banking system is postal banking, where the post office also serves as a bank. Postal banking would eliminate the need for people to trust their money to banks that are only interested in making profits. People would have the security of knowing that their money is safe, and they would not have to worry about the banks gambling with their money. Right-wing media likes to paint Biden as a socialist, but this is far from the truth. Biden and the Democrats are as capitalist as the right wing, and they are not interested in nationalizing the financial system. The ruling elite has a vested interest in protecting the banks because they have their money invested in them. As long as the banks are making profits, the elite will continue to support them. Fauntleroy believes that the current banking collapse is just the beginning of something more catastrophic. He predicts that it will have a domino effect, leading to an economic crisis. The collapse of the housing market in 2008 is an example of how a banking collapse can trigger a broader economic meltdown. The consequences of an economic collapse are unimaginable, but they could include a breakdown of law and order, civil unrest, and even a revolution. The interview between Camp and Fauntleroy serves as a wake-up call to the American people. It highlights the dangers of the fractional reserve banking system and the need for regulatory reform. It also reminds us of the importance of being prepared for emergencies, especially during a time of economic instability. To prepare for the worst-case scenario, people need to take action now. They need to have emergency funds in physical cash, food, and other necessities. They should also consider investing in assets that are not tied to the banking system, such as gold or silver. Additionally, they should consider diversifying their investments and not relying solely on banks. The interview between Camp and Fauntleroy highlights the precarious state of the banking system and the need for regulatory reform. Watch it exclusively at MintPress News. Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years. The post The Banking Crisis, Housing Insecurity and Preparing for the Coming Economic Collapse With James Fauntleroy appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, National, News, Top Story, Credit Suisse, Economic Collapse, fractional reserve banking, james Fauntleroy, Lee Camp, recession, Silicon Valley Bank]

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[l] at 3/22/23 8:25am
The scene of Israeli Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, along with other Israeli delegates, being escorted out of the opening ceremony of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on February 18, was historical—in a few seconds, the very moment that was meant to crown twenty years of Israeli diplomacy on the African continent turned to represent Israel’s failure in Africa. תקרית דיפלומטית חמורה: חברי משלחת ישראל גורשו מאולם ועידת האיחוד האפריקני | צפו@BarakRavid pic.twitter.com/uNiffXhugf — וואלה! (@WallaNews) February 18, 2023 Unable to fathom the breakdown of its diplomatic and political efforts, Tel Aviv responded to Bar-Lis removal by waging a war of words against African countries, accusing them of spearheading a campaign to block Israels observer status. Referring to a “small number of extremist states like South Africa and Algeria,” a spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry alluded to a plot, supposedly hatched by Iran and carried out by African governments that are “driven by hate” for Israel. The undiplomatic nature of the Israeli foreign ministry language is a major shift compared to the upbeat, diplomatic rhetoric used by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visited Africa to speak at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia in 2017. “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” Netanyahu had said, adding, with a theatrical language and much emphasis on each syllable, “I believe in Africa.” Netanyahus reference to “coming back to Africa” was intended to underscore two points: One, the diplomatic and political return to Africa and, two, an imagined return to the continent as a representation of a shared historical experience. On the latter, Netanyahu had referenced some drummed-up, shared anti-colonial struggle between Israel and African countries. “Africa and Israel share a natural affinity,” Netanyahu claimed in his speech at the ECOWAS. “We have, in many ways, similar histories. Your nations toiled under foreign rule. You experienced horrific wars and slaughters. This is very much our history.” On the other hand, the diplomatic return is more real than imagined. But the diplomatic ties between Israel and many African countries, starting with Ghana in 1956, took place under unique historical circumstances, in which many African countries were still colonized, semi-independent or largely reliant on their former colonizers. For example, Ghana-Israel relations started when Ghana was still called Gold Coast. In fact, the diplomatic accords with Tel Aviv at the time only took place when the Gold Coast received official approval from Britain since the country was still a British colony.   A Failed campaign of Normalization Before 1973, Israel had full diplomatic ties with 33 African countries. Much of this changed, however, in October of the same year. When Arab countries fought a war against Israel’s colonial expansion, many African countries broke ties with Israel in favor of maintaining their truly historic, economic and spiritual ties with their Arab brethren. It was no wonder that it was the Organization of African Unity the precursor to the African Union that first identified Israel’s founding ideology, Zionism, as a form of racism in their 12th ordinary session held in Kampala in 1975. The so-called peace process and the signing of the Oslo Accords between Palestinian leaders and Israel expectedly weakened the stalwart African position towards Palestine, not out of enmity to the Palestinians but due to western pressure and the misconception that peace and justice had finally arrived in Occupied Palestine. It was against this very backdrop that Netanyahu visited Africa and began his campaign of normalization with many African countries. Israels motives in Africa are clear: economic profits and political dividends, particularly pro-Israeli votes at the UN. Years after Israels return to Africa, neither Africa benefited from the lofty promises made by Tel Aviv to revitalize local economies and to fight desertification, nor did Africa, as a bloc, significantly change its votes in favor of Palestinians rights at the UN.   Confusion, if not desperation, in Israeli diplomacy Still, for Netanyahu, the benefits outweigh the disappointments, especially as Tel Aviv fully understands that Africa, more than ever since the Berlin Conference in 1884, has, once more, become a major contested geopolitical space. Thats where the breakdown of Israels calculations happened, thus the humiliating episode in Addis Ababa. Following the removal of the Israeli delegates, Tel Aviv continued to make a case based on technical grounds: that the Israeli ambassador had the proper accreditations, that Israel was officially an observer member of the AU, and so on. Israels observer status has caused a rift among AU members. The approval was granted unilaterally by the Chair of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in July 2021. As the news spread about Mahamats personal decision, many countries protested, and the status was frozen, pending a decision based on a proper democratic process. Just two days after the Israeli delegation was removed from the Summit, the AU in fact, Mahamat himself announced to reporters on February 20 that the Israeli membership “status is suspended until such time as this committee can deliberate,” asserting that “we did not invite Israeli officials to our summit.” The Israeli response to all of this reflected a general sense of confusion, if not desperation, in Israeli diplomacy. African countries, however, followed the incident with a clear policy position, delineating that the decision to suspend Israeli membership was not a technical or procedural one. It was, in the words of Clayson Monyela, head of the public diplomacy in South Africa’s Department of International Relations, “an issue of principle.” Three weeks after the AU decision, the South African parliament voted in favor of a motion that downgrades the countrys embassy in Tel Aviv to a mere liaison office. That decision, too, was a matter of principle, namely as a “first step” that aims to pressure Israel “to comply with human rights, recognize the rights of the Palestinian people (and) their right to exist.” As geopolitical spaces open for countries in the Global South, due to changing global power dynamics, more countries are daring to challenge the hegemony of former colonial powers. Considering their history of valiant anti-colonial struggles, it is no surprise that African countries are leading this momentum toward national and regional independence. Ultimately, it took only six years for Africa to prove Netanyahu wrong that Israel “did not return to Africa.” However, it is true that Africa is returning to its anti-colonial roots. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out.’ His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth.’ Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Israels Humiliating Expulsion from AU Summit Exposes Its Failed Diplomacy in Africa appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, African countries, African history and anti-colonial struggle, African Union Summit, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's observer status, Israeli diplomacy, Israeli foreign ministry]

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[l] at 3/21/23 8:28am
As though someone was trying to prove me right, a few days after I published the article “By Recognizing Israel, Muslim Countries Are Betraying the Palestinian Cause,” I received a message from friends in Indonesia. The piece talks about the seemingly unstoppable movement within majority Muslim and Arab countries pushing towards normalizing relations with Israel. The message from my Indonesian friends mentioned that Indonesia will be hosting the Under-20 world football (soccer) championships this summer. The Israeli team qualified and will be participating, and as of the time these words are being written, the Indonesian government is permitting the Israeli team to enter the country and play. I was asked to send a video urging the Indonesian government to refrain from allowing the Israeli team to enter. The video has gone viral in Indonesia and has been shown on television and mentioned in the local press, adding to an ongoing campaign to ask the government to maintain the countrys long-standing stance against Zionism. Please Indonesia: say no to Israelifootball! Already some Arab and Muslim majority countries are opening up to Israel. This is a very dangerous phenomenon. This gives Israel permission to oppress Palestinians Palestinians cannot win this alone: they need our support! @PSSI pic.twitter.com/8sF0CtrRbI — Miko Peled (@mikopeled) March 12, 2023 Indonesia has never had diplomatic relations with Israel and maintains its position in support of the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom and against the apartheid regime. However, as I mentioned in the earlier article, there are forces within Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and the Arab countries who have not yet normalized relations with Israel to do so – and quickly. There can be no doubt that the United States is placing pressure on these governments to move in that direction, and there are benefits promised. This is particularly true with regard to Saudi Arabia, who, for now, chose to renew diplomatic ties with Iran and not Israel. When asked about this rather unexpected development, President Joe Biden demonstrated very obvious frustration. The Saudi government’s move has to be seen as a serious blow to Biden’s administration. In its desperate attempt to legitimize the apartheid regime in Palestine, the U.S. has clearly been delivered a severe blow. Talking of severe blows, the process by which governments of Muslim-majority countries normalize relations with apartheid Israel seriously harms the Palestinian cause. The purpose of this process is to strip Palestinians of all international support.  Every country in Asia, the Middle East and Africa that normalizes with Israel is a victory for apartheid.   A short memory In Africa, it seems that some governments have forgotten the role of Israel in oppressing African people and pillaging their resources. Accordion to a report in Al-Monitor, The president of Senegal, Macky Sall, who is also the current head of the African Union, said: Israel is part of the family of nations, so it has a role to play in Africa. In partnership. I must say that in several African countries, Israel is working in specific domains such as agriculture, security, defense and other sectors. Now, Israel should take part in this general effort for Africa, because it (Israel) is an important country.” Sall was in France for the annual Africa Forum organized by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. He expressed his hopes for continued Israel engagement in the continent. This statement on Israel’s role in Africa is very alarming in light of Sall’s role as chief of the African Union. Furthermore, he is president of Senegal, a majority Muslim country that, in 2017, renewed diplomatic relations with the Israeli apartheid regime. Israel has had a role in the theft of resources as well as in supporting the worst dictators African people had to endure. From the murder of Patrice Lumumba and the training of President Mobutu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the deep, close relations with apartheid South Africa, the country’s role in Africa must be condemned, and no Israeli official should ever be allowed to set foot on the continent. However, with pressure from the United States and bribes from Israel, the moral stance once held by African, Arab and Asian Muslim-majority countries has all but disappeared.   Football players shot by Israel A piece in The Nation magazine from 2014 describes the brutal attack by Israeli soldiers on two Palestinian soccer players as they returned home from practice.  Their names are Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17. The article goes on to say that, They were once soccer players in the West Bank. Now they are never going to play sports again. Jawhar and Adam were on their way home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium on January 31 when Israeli forces fired upon them as they approached a checkpoint. After being shot repeatedly, they were mauled by checkpoint dogs and then beaten. Ten bullets were put into Jawhar’s feet. Adam took one bullet in each foot. After being transferred from a hospital in Ramallah to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman, they received the news that soccer would no longer be a part of their futures.” The piece continues to say that a campaign to target and maim members of the Palestinian soccer team has been in place at that point for five years. Another investigation, this time in The Washington Post, talks about young Palestinians from the Gaza Strip whose legs had to be amputated as a result of Israeli sniper fire. Among others, it tells the story of Mohammad al-Ajouri, a teenage track star with ambitions to compete internationally. But, it notes, [L]ast month, while participating in a protest along Gaza’s border, he was struck by a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier. It penetrated his calf, shattering his leg before exiting the shin. Doctors tried to save the limb, but an infection soon spread. The leg had to be amputated. During the past month of demonstrations along the border between Gaza and Israel, at least 17 Palestinians have suffered gunshot wounds that ultimately cost them their legs, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.” In at least three cases, Israeli authorities rejected the transfer of wounded Gazan civilians to the West Bank, where they could have received treatment to save their limbs. Furthermore, the Washington Post report says that during the Great March of Return – the heroic attempt by the people of Gaza at unarmed demonstrations – over two thousand Palestinians had suffered leg injuries as a result of sniper fire. In April 2022, Inside World Football reported on the death of Mohammad Ali Ahmad AlGhneim, a 19-year-old Palestinian from Al-Khadr who “should have been playing for the Al-Khadr Club in the Palestinian 3rd division/South. Instead, his family, teammates and the Palestinian FA are burying another young talent.” Here, too, the report is clear that, The harassment of Palestinian footballers, the impounding of equipment, the refusal to allow players to travel through border crossings and the general violence that has seen players shot and killed, as well as stadiums damaged by Israeli shelling (the Israelis claim terrorists are using stadia to fire rockets into their territory) is well documented.” If indeed the Under-20 soccer team from Israel will be playing in Indonesia, the least that can be done is to invite the injured and amputee Palestinians to watch the games. Feature photo | Protesters march during a protest in Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 20, 2023, against the Israeli teams participation in the FIFA World Cup Under-20 in Indonesia. Achmad Ibrahim | AP Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books areThe Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. The post Indonesias Betrayal of Palestine: Hosting Israel in Under-20 World Cup appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, News, Top Story, Indonesia, Israel, normalization, Protests, U-20 World Cup]

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[l] at 3/21/23 8:02am
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left Tel Aviv for Rome on March 9, he was flown to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv by a helicopter because anti-government protesters blocked all the roads around it. Netanyahu’s visit was not met with much enthusiasm in Italy, either. Pro-Palestine activists in downtown Rome organized a sit-in under the slogan, ‘Nonsei il Benvenuto ‘You Are Not Welcome.’ An Italian translator, Olga Dalia Padoa, also refused to translate his speech at a Rome synagogue scheduled for March 9. Even Noemi Di Segni, President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, though unsurprisingly reiterating her love and support for Israel, expressed her concern for Israeli state institutions. Back in Tel Aviv, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed Netanyahu’s trip to Italy as “a wasteful and unnecessary weekend on the country’s dime.” But Netanyahu’s trip to Italy had other goals besides spending a weekend in Rome or distracting from the ongoing protests in Israel. In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, published on March 9, the Israeli prime minister explained the lofty objectives behind his trip to Italy. “I would like to see more economic cooperation,” he said. “We have natural gas: we have plenty of it, and I would like to talk about how to bring it to Italy to support its economic growth.” Recently, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has shuttled between several countries in search of lucrative gas contracts. Not only does Meloni want to secure her country’s need for energy following the Russia-Ukraine crisis, but she also wants Rome to be a central European hub for gas imports and exports. Israel knows this and is particularly wary that Italy’s major gas deals in Algeria on January 23 could undermine Israel’s economic and political position in Italy, as Algeria continues to serve as a bulwark of Palestinian solidarity throughout the Middle East and Africa. Netanyahu had other issues on his mind, aside from gas. “On the strategic front, we will discuss Iran. We must prevent it from going nuclear because its missiles could reach many countries, including Europe, and no one wants to be taken hostage by a fundamentalist regime with a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu said with the usual fear-mongering and stereotypical language about his enemies in the Middle East. Netanyahu has two main demands from Italy: not to vote against Israel at the United Nations and, more importantly, to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Though the international community recognizes East Jerusalem as an occupied Palestinian city, Netanyahu wants Rome to change its position, which is consistent with international law, based on the flimsy logic of the “strong and ancient tradition between Rome and Jerusalem.” Using the same logic, that of natural resources and arms exports in exchange for political allegiance to Israel at the UN, Netanyahu has achieved much success in normalizing ties between his country and many African nations. Now, he is applying the same modus operandi to Italy, a European power and the world’s ninth-largest economy. Whether this strategy is an outcome of the growing subservience of Europe to Washington and Tel Aviv, or Netanyahu’s failure to appreciate the changing geopolitical dynamics around the world, is a different matter. But what is clear is that Netanyahu has perceived Italy as a country in desperate need of Israeli help. During the meeting with Meloni, Netanyahu promised to make Italy a gas hub for Europe and help Rome solve its water issues. At the same time, Meloni, for her part, reiterated that “Israel is a fundamental partner in the Middle East and at a global level.” However, the most enthusiastic response to Netanyahu’s visit came from far-right Italian Minister of Infrastructure, Matteo Salvini, who strongly backed the Israeli call to recognize Jerusalem as its capital “in the name of peace, history and truth.” This response, although inconsistent with Italian foreign policy, was hardly surprising. The leader of the La Lega party has often been criticized for his racist language in the past. However, Salvini was ‘reformed’ in recent years, especially following a visit to Israel in 2018, where he declared his love for Israel and criticism of Palestinians. It was then that Salvini began rising in the mainstream, as opposed to Italian regional politics. But this is not Salvni’s position alone. The Italian government welcomed Netanyahu’s visit without making a single criticism of his far-right government’s extremist policies carried out in Occupied Palestine. While this position is in line with Italian foreign policy, it is hardly surprising from an ideological point of view. Although Italian politics, in the past, showed great solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation and right of self-determination thanks to the revolutionary forces that had a tremendous impact on shaping the Italian political discourse during World War II and the country’s subsequent liberation from fascism that position shifted throughout the years. As Italy’s politics reared towards the right, its foreign policy agenda in Palestine and Israel ultimately moved towards a pro-Israel stance. Those now perceived to be pro-Palestine in the Italian government are a few and are often branded as radical politicians. However, despite the official pro-Israel discourse in Italy, things for Netanyahu are not as easy as they may appear, especially when recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Indeed, Meloni did not express an outright commitment to the Israeli demand. To the contrary, in an interview with Reuters last August, even before becoming Italy’s prime minister, Meloni seemed cautious, merely stating that this is “a diplomatic matter and should be evaluated together with the foreign ministry.” There is a reason behind Meloni’s hesitation. Italy’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would place Rome outside the consensus of international law. In an open letter to Meloni, United Nations Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese reminded the Italian government that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would constitute a stark violation of international law. Italy’s foreign policy is also accountable to the collective policies of the European Union, of which Rome is an integral member. For example, the EU supports the UN’s position that East Jerusalem is an occupied Palestinian city and Israel’s annexation of the city in 1980 was illegal. Moreover, Italy’s recent landmark deal with Algeria’s state-owned gas company, Sonatrach, in January makes it particularly difficult for Rome to take an extreme position in support of Israel. The delicate geopolitical balances resulting from the gas crisis, a direct outcome of the Russia-Ukraine war, make any shifts in Italian foreign policy on Palestine and Israel akin to self-harm. For Italy, at least for now, Arab gas is far more important than anything Netanyahu could offer. The new Rome-Algiers deal would grant Italy 9bn cubic meters of gas, in addition to the gas supply already flowing through the TransMed pipeline, ‘BNE Intellinews’ reported. This vital infrastructure connects Algeria to Italy via Sicily, which, in turn, flows through pipelines under the Mediterranean Sea. “The expansion of these vital routes has already been planned, aiming to augment the current capacity of 33.5 bcm per year,” the business news website added. Although a far-right politician with no particular affinity or respect for established international norms, Meloni understands that economic interests trump ideology. “Today Algeria is our first gas supplier,” Meloni said in a press conference in Algiers after signing the agreement. She said the deal would supply the country with “an energy mix that could shield Italy from the ongoing energy crisis.” Such a fact would make it impossible for Italy to deviate, at least for now, from its current position regarding Jerusalem and the illegality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. However, while Israel would find it difficult to persuade Italy to change its position, Algeria, Tunisia and other Arab countries might finally find an opening to dissuade Italy from its blind support of Israel. Feature photo | A placard reading dictator is shown during a demonstration during the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome, Friday, March 10, 2023. Gregorio Borgia | AP Romana Rubeo is an Italian writer and the managing editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Her articles appeared in many online newspapers and academic journals. She holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and specializes in audio-visual and journalism translation. Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Cheap Algerian Gas vs Rightwing Ideology: Will Italy Change Its Position on Jerusalem? appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Benjamin Netanyahu, Economic Cooperation, foreign policy, Gas contracts, Italy, Jerusalem, Protests]

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[l] at 3/16/23 9:57am
Last month, a Palestinian rights group filed a federal complaint against George Washington University (GW), alleging the institution allows discrimination against Palestinians to persist unabated on campus. Palestine Legal filed a federal complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, demanding it investigates what the organization describes as a “years-long, hostile environment of anti-Palestinian racism.” The legal rights group is representing three students who say they have experienced anti-Palestinian discrimination from fellow classmates, professors, administrators, and GW Hillel, a Jewish campus organization. According to the complaint, George Washington University canceled a virtual processing space for Palestinian students after the university’s Hillel complained. The elimination of the processing space ultimately denied mental health services to Palestinian students. In one incident, a Palestinian student, who had been shot by an Israeli soldier while studying remotely from her home in the occupied West Bank, could not access trauma support services because the processing space was no longer available. “There is simply no justification for GW’s racist, bigoted treatment of Palestinians,” Radhika Sainath, Palestine Legal’s senior staff attorney, said. “Even if pro-Israel groups don’t like it and complain, the law is clear, Palestinian students are entitled to the same education and services as other students.” In a statement to MintPress News, George Washington University said it has not seen the complaint, adding that the “[u]niversity strongly condemns hatred, discrimination and bias in all forms, and we are committed to fostering an environment in which the entire community feels safe and free of harassment, hostility or marginalization.” In another instance, the complaint details how a student associated with the university’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a college activism organization, was falsely accused of vandalism by GW Hillel’s executive director, Adena Kirstein. GW Hillel head Adena Kirstein, left, dances at a 2022 Hillel event. The logo of AIPAC, the controversial pro-Israel lobby, is seen in the background The vandalism was actually committed by a white Jewish student from the university’s Jewish Voice for Peace chapter, a pro-Palestinian activist group, who, in the Jewish newspaper, The Forward, admitted to putting up posters outside Hillel before the SJP student was probed. While the SJP student was cleared of wrongdoing, the student learned GW’s Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, Caroline Laguerre-Brown, was the one who called the police and initiated the complaint process against SJP. “I was forced to go through these disciplinary hearings being singled out as an Arab student on campus, and racially profiled by police and the administration,” the student, who wished to remain anonymous, told MintPress News. George Washington University has recently been in the spotlight for cases of discrimination against Palestinians. After Dr. Lara Sheehi, a George Washington psychology professor, organized an optional brown bag lunch featuring Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a Hebrew University professor who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, several students used Sheehi’s next class to make anti-Palestinian statements. They said Shalhoub-Kevorkian “would dance on [the student’s] niece’s grave” and claimed that Palestinians killed by the Israeli army are terrorists. Now Sheehi, who was born in Lebanon, is facing an Office for Civil Rights complaint against her from the pro-Israel group, StandWithUs, accusing Sheehi of anti-Semitism and discriminating against Jewish and Israeli students. StandWithUs has a history of weaponizing anti-Semitism to silence criticism of Israel on college campuses. Following the complaint, George Washington University opened up another investigation into Sheehi.   Backed by the Israel Lobby The SJP student involved in Palestine Legal’s complaint explained that part of the problem is that, as student activists, they do not receive the same level of monetary support that other campus groups get. “We dont have that kind of institutional power on campus, and Zionists do,” the SJP student said. “The balance of power is fundamentally skewed against Palestinians and Arabs on campus.” The SJP student emphasizes that with more money comes greater lobbying capabilities. GW’s Hillel chapter recently finished rebuilding its center, which opened its doors in 2021. Designed to provide Hillel with larger accommodations on campus, the new four-story building cost $13.5 million to complete. The campus Hillel receives strong financial backing from the university and a number of foundations. In 2020, George Washington University awarded Hillel with a grant worth more than $2 million. GW Hillel also receives funding from the Maccabee Task Force (MTF) Foundation, which gave it nearly $130,000 in 2019, according to MTF’s most recent tax filing. Under the slogan combating “anti-Semitism on campus,” the foundation’s main goal is to tackle the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. MTF’s mission states: We maintain that BDS is an Antisemitic movement that crosses the line from legitimate criticism of Israel into the dangerous demonization of Israel and its supporters. We are determined to help students combat this hate by bringing them the strategies and resources they need to tell the truth about Israel. MTF was founded and largely funded by the pro-Israel billionaire the late Sheldon Adelson and is headed by David Brog, who previously worked as the executive director of Christians United for Israel, a pro-Israel organization. MTF has also funded other Israel lobby networks like pro-Israel newspaper, Algemeiner, the Israeli American Council, and Act.IL, a now-defunct Israeli propaganda app. The SJP student suggests that discrimination against Palestinians on campus is an institutional problem. “It’s deeply rooted in the administration and in GW as an institution because the national liberation of Palestinians is seen as a political threat to GW and to the powerful entities that fund and support the administration,” they said.   Not just George Washington University Palestine Legal responded to numerous cases of discrimination at George Washington University in the lead-up to its federal complaint against the university. “The way that the administration has dealt with Palestinian advocacy and Palestinians on campus has been deeply troubling,” Dylan Saba, a staff attorney at Palestine Legal, told MintPress News. “It has demonstrated, absolutely, a kind of broader anti-Palestinian climate.” Yet Saba cautioned labeling George Washington University as a unique case in the U.S. “We see these kinds of issues on campuses across the country.” he said. “The kinds of anti-Palestinian discrimination [and] suppression of political speech — we’re seeing that nationwide.” Reporting from Palestine Legal demonstrates a significant increase in suppression of pro-Palestinian activism on U.S. college campuses. In 2021, 58% of incidents Palestine Legal responded to targeted students and scholars on campus. This number jumped to 70% in 2022. Pro-Israel groups are the main drivers behind suppressing Palestinian advocacy at universities, often encouraging investigations into student conduct and manufacturing accusations of anti-Semitism. Despite posing a clear threat to academic freedom, school administrators continue yielding to the Israel lobby’s pressure in university life. “The GW administration just continues to prove time and time again that they will always align with the Zionist lobby,” the SJP student said. “GW continues to bend to the threats and interests of rightwing pro-Israel groups over protecting the free speech and political expression rights of students and community members.” Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News. The post Title VI Complaint Filed Against George Washington University Over “Hostile Environment of Anti-Palestinian Racism” appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Inside Stories, Investigations, National, News, Top Story, anti-Palestinian racism, Discrimination, federal complaint, George Washington University, Hillel, Israel Lobby, Palestine Legal, StandWithUs, Title VI]

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[l] at 3/16/23 8:02am
You already know things are not good for a lot of people in the United States. As of two months ago, 64% of the country said they’re living paycheck to paycheck. Even if we exclude the million or so homeless across the U.S., recent data shows that approximately 5.3 million households are behind on their home mortgage payments. Another report from 2018 showed that around 130 million people in the U.S. admitted an inability to pay for basic needs like food, health care, housing, or utilities. And those numbers are before the pandemic began, which is like saying it felt hot in here before a fire burned down the building. The fine citizens of our late-stage empire have resorted to drastic means to make ends meet. Can you guess what it is? No, it’s not sex trafficking, or black market organ deals, or selling fake nuclear material that you pass off as real on Etsy. It’s none of those. I mean, it is – it totally is – but that’s not what I’m talking about at the moment. No, I’m talking about blood. You have it, and corporate America wants to suck it. The U.S. supplies fully 70% of the world’s plasma — the liquid portion of your blood. That accounts for over 2.5% of all U.S. exports, according to a mid-2022 CNBC report.    Late Stage Capitalism All this time, I thought U.S. exports just consisted of missiles, Beyonce’s line of male bikinis, and pride in ignorance. But no, it’s also blood sucked from the poor. Blood now represents more of the U.S. export market than corn or soybeans. The number of collection centers in the U.S. has more than doubled since 2005. Selling your blood to try to survive in dystopia is a booming business! What says “well-functioning society” like scores of destitute struggling humans lining up outside vampire corporations aching to devour their internal juices? The colloids (blood plasma) market is set to see even more growth by 2029, according to a recent industry report. As with most businesses, it’s dominated by just a few rotund parasitic corporations. “Grifols, CSL Plasma, Takedas Biolife and Octapharma are huge players in the blood collection space, particularly plasma, and donors are compensated,” reported CNBC. Yes! Donors are compensated. Don’t worry; we pay them as we drain their life force. Much like in the black market organ trade, people are paid cold, hard cash that makes the transaction totally cool and not anything disgusting or predatory. Not at all. One of the reasons the U.S. represents over 70 percent of the market is that most countries have banned paying people for their blood. But the U.S. apparently has no such qualms. One of the many ethical issues with our all-American vampiric behavior is that – only a certain type of person tends to be willing to sell their internal fluids for roughly $30 a bottle. I’ll give you a hint – it’s not rich people. Rarely do you see Elon Musk or Hillary Clinton, or Patrick Mahomes stumbling into a blood bank to see if they can score a few bucks. No, it’s poor people. The blood banks are almost completely filled with very poor folks. And yes, part of that has to do with the economic conditions required for someone to take that step, but it also has to do with whom these corporations target. Watch the full, shocking episode right here at MintPress News. Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years. The post The United States Is Literally Sucking the Blood of the Poor appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, National, Top Story, blood banks, blood plasma, compensation, corporate greed, Economic Inequality, ethical issues, Health Care, Late Stage Capitalism, Poverty, U.S. exports]

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[l] at 3/16/23 7:34am
As hundreds of thousands throughout Israel joined anti-government protests, questions began to arise regarding how this movement would affect, or possibly merge, into the broader struggle against the Israeli military occupation and apartheid in Palestine. Pro-Palestine media outlets shared, with obvious excitement, news about statements made by Hollywood celebrities, like Mark Ruffalo, about the need to “sanction the new hard rightwing government of (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu.” Netanyahu, who sits at the heart of the current controversy and mass protests, struggled to find a single pilot for the flight carrying him to Rome on March 9 for a three-day visit with the Italian government. The reception for the Israeli leader in Italy was equally cold. Italian translator Olga Dalia Padoa reportedly refused to interpret Netanyahu’s speech, scheduled for March 9 at a Rome synagogue. One can appreciate the need to strategically use the upheaval against Netanyahu’s far-right government to expose Israel’s fraudulent claim to true democracy, supposedly ‘the only democracy in the Middle East.’ However, one has to be equally careful not to validate Israel’s inherently racist institutions that had existed for decades before Netanyahu arrived in power. The Israeli Prime Minister has been embroiled in corruption cases for years. Though he remained popular, Netanyahu lost his position at the helm of Israeli politics in June 2021 following three bitterly-contested elections. Yet, he returned on December 29, 2022, this time with even more corrupt even by Israel’s own definition characters such as Aryeh Deri, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the latter two currently serving as the ministers of finance and national security, respectively. Each one of these characters had a different reason for joining the coalition. For example, Smotrich and Ben Gvir’s agenda ranged from annexing illegal West Bank settlements to the deportation of Arab politicians considered ‘disloyal’ to the state. Netanyahu, though a rightwing ideologue, is more concerned with personal ambitions: maintaining power as long as possible while shielding himself and his family from legal problems. He simply wants to stay out of prison. To do so, he also needs to satisfy the dangerous demands of his allies, who have been given free rein to unleash army and settler violence against Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, as has been the case in Huwwara, Nablus, Jenin and elsewhere. But Netanyahu’s government, the most stable in years, has bigger goals than just “wiping out” Palestinian towns off the map. Instead, they want to alter the judicial system that would allow them to transform Israeli society. The reform would grant the government control over judicial appointments by limiting the Israeli Supreme Court’s power to exercise judicial review. The protests in Israel have very little to do with the Israeli occupation and apartheid and are hardly concerned with Palestinian rights. They are led by many former Israeli leaders, like former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, former minister Tzipi Livni and former prime minister and leader of the opposition Yair Lapid. During the Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid stint in power, between June 2021 and December 2022, hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the West Bank. UN Special Coordinator described 2022 for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, as the “deadliest” in the West  Bank since 2005. Illegal Jewish settlements expanded rapidly during that time, while Gaza was routinely bombed. Yet, the Bennett-Lapid government faced little backlash from Israeli society for its bloody and illegal actions in Palestine. The Israeli Supreme Court, which has approved most of the government actions in Occupied Palestine, also faced little or no protests for certifying apartheid and validating the supposed legality of the Jewish colonies, all illegal under international law. The stamp of approval by the Supreme Court was also granted when Israel passed the Nation-State Law, identifying itself exclusively as a Jewish state, thus casting off the entirety of the Arab Muslim and Christian population, which shares the same mass of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Rarely did the Israeli judicial system take the side of Palestinians, and when little ‘victories’ were recorded now and then, they hardly altered the overall reality. Though one can understand the desperation of those trying to fight against Israeli injustices using the country’s own ‘justice system,’ such language has contributed to the confusion regarding what Israel’s ongoing protests mean for Palestinians. This is not the first time Israelis have gone out on the streets in large numbers. In August 2011, Israel experienced what some called Israel’s own ‘Arab Spring.’ But that was also a class struggle within clearly defined ideological boundaries and political interests that rarely overlapped with a parallel battle for equality, justice and human rights. Dual socio-economic struggles exist in many societies worldwide, and conflating between them is not unprecedented. In the case of Israel, however, such confusion can be dangerous because the outcome of Israel’s protests, be it a success or failure, could spur unfounded optimism or demoralize those fighting for Palestinian freedom. Though stark violations of international law, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial executions and everyday violence against Palestinians mainly occur within Israel’s legal framework. These acts are fully sanctioned by Israeli courts, including the country’s Supreme Court. This means that, even if Netanyahu fails to hegemonize the judicial system, Palestinian civilians will continue to be tried in military courts, which will carry out the routine of approving home demolition, illegal land seizure and the construction of settlements. A proper engagement with the ongoing protests is to expose further how Tel Aviv utilizes the judicial system to maintain the illusion that Israel is a country of law and order and that all the actions and violence in Palestine, however bloody and destructive, are entirely justifiable according to the country’s legal framework. Yes, Israel should be sanctioned, not because of Netanyahu’s attempt at co-opting the judiciary, but because the apartheid and regime of military occupation constitute complete disregard and utter violation of international law. Whether Israelis like it or not, international law is the only law that matters to an occupied and oppressed nation. Feature photo | Israeli demonstrators take part in an anti-government protest in Tel Aviv, March 16, 2023. Ilia Yefimovich | C dpa via AP Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out.’ His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth.’ Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Israel Protests Should Not Be Confused With the Palestinian Struggle for Equality appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Anti-Corruption Court, anti-government protests, apartheid in Palestine, Israeli military occupation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu]

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[l] at 3/15/23 10:41am
Washington DC (Scheerpost) There are many ways for a state to project power and weaken adversaries, but proxy wars are one of the most cynical. Proxy wars devour the countries they purport to defend. They entice nations or insurgents to fight for geopolitical goals that are ultimately not in their interest. The war in Ukraine has little to do with Ukrainian freedom and a lot to do with degrading the Russian military and weakening Vladimir Putin’s grip on power. And when Ukraine looks headed for defeat, or the war reaches a stalemate, Ukraine will be sacrificed like many other states, in what one of the founding members of the CIA, Miles Copeland Jr., referred to as the “Game of Nations” and “the amorality of power politics.” I covered proxy wars in my two decades as a foreign correspondent, including in Central America where the U.S. armed the military regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala and Contra insurgents attempting to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. I reported on the insurgency in the Punjab, a proxy war fomented by Pakistan. I covered the Kurds in northern Iraq, backed and then betrayed more than once by Iran and Washington. During my time in the Middle East, Iraq provided weapons and support to the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) to destabilize Iran. Belgrade, when I was in the former Yugoslavia, thought by arming Bosnian and Croatian Serbs, it could absorb Bosnia and parts of Croatia into a greater Serbia. Proxy wars are notoriously hard to control, especially when the aspirations of those doing the fighting and those sending the weapons diverge. They also have a bad habit of luring sponsors of proxy wars, as happened to the U.S. in Vietnam and Israel in Lebanon, directly into the conflict. Proxy armies are given weaponry with little accountability, significant amounts of which end up on the black market or in the hands of warlords or terrorists. CBS News reported last year that around 30 percent of the weapons sent to Ukraine make it to the front lines, a report it chose to partially retract under heavy pressure from Kyiv and Washington. The widespread diversion of donated military and medical equipment to the black market in Ukraine was also documented by U.S. journalist Lindsey Snell. Weapons in war zones are lucrative commodities. There were always large quantities for sale in the wars I covered. Warlords, gangsters and thugs — Ukraine has long been considered one of the most corrupt countries in Europe — are transformed by sponsor states into heroic freedom fighters. Support for those fighting these proxy wars is a celebration of our supposed national virtue, especially seductive after two decades of military fiascos in the Middle East. Joe Biden, with dismal poll numbers, intends to run for a second term as a “wartime” president who stands with Ukraine, to which the U.S. has already committed $113 billion in military, economic and humanitarian assistance. When Russia invaded Ukraine “[t]he whole world faced a test for the ages,” Biden said after a lightning visit to Kyiv. “Europe was being tested. America was being tested. NATO was being tested. All democracies were being tested.” I heard similar sentiments expressed to justify other proxy wars. “They are our brothers, these freedom fighters, and we owe them our help,” Ronald Reagan said of the Contras, who pillaged, raped and slaughtered their way through Nicaragua. “They are the moral equal of our Founding Fathers and the brave men and women of the French Resistance,” Reagan added. “We cannot turn away from them, for the struggle here is not right versus left, it is right versus wrong.” “I want to hear him say we’re going to arm the Free Syrian Army,” John McCain said of President Donald Trump. “We’re going to dedicate ourselves to the removal of Bashar al-Assad. We’re going to have the Russians pay a price for their engagement. All players here are going to have to pay a penalty and the United States of America is going to be on the side of the people who fight for freedom.” Those feted as heroes of resistance, like President Volodymyr Zelensky or President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, are often problematic, especially as their egos and bank accounts inflate.  The flood of effusive encomiums directed towards proxies by their sponsors in public rarely matches what they say of them in private. At the Dayton peace talks, where the Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic sold out the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Croats, he said of his proxies: “[they] are not my friends. They are not my colleagues…They are shit.” “Dark money sloshed all around,” The Washington Post wrote after obtaining an internal report produced by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. “Afghanistan’s largest bank liquefied into a cesspool of fraud. Travelers lugged suitcases loaded with $1 million, or more, on flights leaving Kabul. Mansions known as ‘poppy palaces’ rose from the rubble to house opium kingpins. President Hamid Karzai won reelection after cronies stuffed thousands of ballot boxes. He later admitted the CIA had delivered bags of cash to his office for years, calling it ‘nothing unusual.’” “In public, as President Barack Obama escalated the war and Congress approved billions of additional dollars in support, the commander in chief and lawmakers promised to crack down on corruption and hold crooked Afghans accountable,” the paper reported. “In reality, U.S. officials backed off, looked away and let the thievery become more entrenched than ever, according to a trove of confidential government interviews obtained by The Washington Post.” Those lionized as the bulwark against barbarism when the arms are flowing to them, are forgotten once the conflicts end, as in Afghanistan and Iraq. The former proxy fighters must flee the country or suffer the vendettas of those they fought, as happened to the abandoned Hmong tribesmen in Laos and the South Vietnamese. The former sponsors, once lavish in military aid, ignore desperate pleas for economic and humanitarian assistance, as those displaced by war go hungry and die from lack of medical care. Afghanistan, for the second time around, is the poster child for this imperial callousness. The collapse of civil society spawns sectarian violence and extremism, much of it inimical to the interests of those who fomented the proxy wars. Israel’s proxy militias in Lebanon, along with its military intervention in 1978 and 1982, were designed to dislodge the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from the country. This objective was achieved. But the removal of the PLO from Lebanon gave rise to Hezbollah, a far more militant and effective adversary, along with Syrian domination of Lebanon. In September 1982, over three days, the Lebanese Kataeb Party, more commonly known as the Phalanges — backed by the Israeli military — massacred between 2,000 and 3,500 Palestinian refugees and Lebanese civilians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. It led to international condemnation and political unrest inside Israel. Critics called the protracted conflict “Lebanam,” conflating the words Vietnam and Lebanon. The Israeli film “Waltz with Bashir” documents the depravity and wanton killing of thousands of civilians by Israel and its proxies during the war in Lebanon. Proxy wars, as Chalmers Johnson pointed out, engender unintended blowback. The backing of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets, which included arming groups such as those led by Osama bin Laden, gave rise to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It also spread reactionary jihadism throughout the Muslim world, increased terrorist attacks against western targets which culminated in the attacks of 9/11 and fueled two decades of U.S.-led military fiascos in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Should Russia prevail in Ukraine, should Putin not be removed from power, the U.S. will have not only cemented into place a potent alliance between Russia and China, but ensured an antagonism with Russia that will come back to haunt us. The flood of billions of dollars of weapons into Ukraine, the use of U.S. intelligence to kill Russian generals and sink the battleship Moskva, the blowing up of the Nord Stream pipelines and the more than 2,500 U.S. sanctions targeting Russia, will not be forgotten by Moscow. “In a sense, blowback is simply another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows,” Johnson writes,“Although people usually know what they have sown, our national experience of blowback is seldom imagined in such terms because so much of what the managers of the American empire have sown has been kept secret.” Those supported in proxy wars, including the Ukrainians, often have little chance of victory. Sophisticated weapons such as the M1 Abrams tanks are largely useless if those operating them have not spent months and years being trained. Prior to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, the Soviet bloc provided Palestinian fighters with heavy weapons, including tanks, anti-aircraft missiles and artillery. The lack of training made those weapons ineffective against Israeli air power, artillery and mechanized units. The U.S. knows time is running out for Ukraine. It knows that high-tech weapons will not be mastered in time to blunt a sustained Russian offensive. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned in January that Ukraine has “a window of opportunity here, between now and the spring.” “That’s not a long time,” he added. Victory, however, is not the point. The point is maximum destruction. Even if Ukraine is forced in defeat to negotiate with Russia and concede territory for peace, as well as accept status as a neutral nation, Washington will have achieved its primary goal of weakening Russia’s military capacity and isolating Putin from Europe. Those who mount proxy wars are blinded by wishful illusions. There was little support for the Contras in Nicaragua or the MEK in Iran. The arming of so-called “moderate” rebels in Syria saw weapons flow into the hands of reactionary jihadists. The conclusion of proxy wars usually sees the nation or group fighting on behalf of the sponsor state betrayed. In 1972, the Nixon administration provided millions of dollars in weapons and ammunition to Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq to weaken the Iraqi government, which at the time was seen as too close to the Soviet Union. No one, least of all the U.S. and Iran, which delivered the weapons to Kurdish fighters, wanted the Kurds to create a state of their own. Iraq and Iran signed the 1975 Algiers Agreement in which the two countries settled disputes along their common border. The agreement also ended military support for the Kurds. The Iraqi military soon launched a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq. Thousands of Kurds, including women and children, were “disappeared” or killed. Kurdish villages were dynamited into rubble. The desperate plight of the Kurds was ignored, for, as Henry Kissinger said at the time, “covert action should not be confused with missionary work.” The Islamic government in Tehran resumed military aid to the Kurds during the war between Iran and Iraq from 1980 to 1988. On March 16, 1988, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein dropped mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin, tabun, and VX on the Kurdish town of Halabja. Some 5,000 people died within minutes and up to 10,000 were injured. The Reagan administration, which supported Iraq, minimized the war crimes committed against its former Kurdish allies. President Richard Nixon’s rapprochement towards China, in another example, included terminating covert assistance to Tibetan rebels. Betrayal is the closing act in nearly all proxy wars. The arming of Ukraine is not missionary work. It has nothing to do with liberty or freedom. It is about weakening Russia. Take Russia out of the equation and there would be little tangible support for Ukraine. There are other occupied peoples, including the Palestinians, who have suffered as brutally and far longer than Ukranians. But NATO is not arming Palestinians to fight against their Israeli occupiers or holding them up as heroic freedom fighters. Our love of freedom does not extend to Palestinians or the people of Yemen currently being bombed with British and American weapons, or the Kurds, Yazidis and Arabs resisting Turkey, a longtime NATO member, in its occupation and drone war throughout the north and east of Syria. Our love of freedom only extends to people who serve our “national interest.” There will come a time when the Ukrainians, like the Kurds, will become expendable. They will disappear, as many others before them have, from our national discourse and our consciousness. They will nurse for generations their betrayal and suffering. The American empire will move on to use others, perhaps the “heroic” people of Taiwan, to further its futile quest for global hegemony. China is the big prize for our Dr. Strangeloves. They will pile up even more corpses and flirt with nuclear war to curtail China’s growing economic and military power. This is an old and predictable game. It leaves in its wake nations in ruins and millions of people dead and displaced. It fuels the hubris and self-delusion of the mandarins in Washington who refuse to accept the emergence of a multipolar world. If left unchecked, this “game of nations” may get us all killed. Feature photo | Illustration by Mr. Fish Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report. The post Chris Hedges: Ukraines Death by Proxy appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, China, Chris Hedges, peace agreement, proxy war, Russia, Ukraine]

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[l] at 3/15/23 9:26am
If you have ever wondered, “where do America’s spies come from?” the answer is quite possibly the Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) at Georgetown University. It is only a modestly-seized institution, yet the school provides the backbone for the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, State Department, and other organs of the national security state. From overthrowing foreign governments and conducting worldwide psychological operations to overseeing drug and gun smuggling and a global torture network, the CIA is perhaps the world’s most controversial and dangerous organization. All of which begs the question, should an educational institution have any formal relationship with it, let alone such a storied school as Georgetown? Yet, with more than two dozen ex-CIA officials among its teaching staff, the school tailors its courses towards producing the next generation of analysts, assassins, coup-plotters and economic hitmen, fast-tracking graduates into the upper echelons of the national security state. The CIA has also quietly funded the SFS, as journalist Will Sommer revealed. The agency, based in Langley, VA, secretly donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the department’s work, despite Georgetown insisting on its website that this money came from anonymous donations from individuals.   Spy Factory Any number of “how to join the CIA” articles suggest studying at the School of Foreign Service, and the university itself leans into its reputation as a spy factory. “We have global thinkers in Georgetown… They are attractive to the intel community in both the public and private sectors,” Anne Steen, then-executive director of the SFS’ graduate career center, told CNBC in 2018, adding, “There are elements to intelligence that didn’t even exist ten years ago whether it is cyber or artificial intelligence, and our students are on the cutting edge.” There were 377 SFS graduates in academic year 2021, pursuing courses in security studies, foreign service, or a range of area-specific degrees, including Arab, Asian, Latin American or Eurasian and East European Studies. Perhaps the most CIA-specific degree on offer is security studies, with Georgetown itself claiming that “we offer a multidisciplinary master’s degree designed to prepare graduates for positions within the defense and security fields” and that the staff “recognize the benefit of having students who are currently working or interning in the security field.” In other words, CIA agents often go back to Georgetown to acquire skills that an academic environment can offer. According to Georgetown’s own reports, 47% of security studies graduates “quickly go into the public sector,” the lion’s share finding work in intelligence or the military. The CIA is the number one public employer of security studies grads, followed by the Department of Defense, Department of State, the Army and the Navy. The top private-sector employers are largely military contractors, including Booz Allen Hamilton, SAIC and Northrop Grumman. The report claims that those working in the world of intelligence and security consider a School of Foreign Service security studies degree to be a “must have” credential. A breakdown of the most common career paths of Georgetown Security Studies graduates. Source | Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service This Georgetown-to-Langley pipeline is so well-established that the university even published a guide to applying to the agency on its website, filled with useful lists of dos and donts. Meanwhile, the School of Foreign Service offers its students the opportunity to hold one-to-one meetings with CIA recruiters, although it notes that these interviews are reserved for students who are not already in contact with the agency themselves. Last month, the SFS invited current CIA Director William J. Burns to campus, where it presented him with the Trainor Award for Excellence in the Conduct of Diplomacy. Burns turned the event into a recruitment drive, stating in his speech: “Nothing has ever given me greater pride than to serve my country with honor. Its a lesson that Ive learned and relearned over the past four decades, and I hope all the students in this audience will explore its promise.” Burns’ words echoed those of his CIA predecessor Leon Panetta, who, in addition to being the agency’s chief, was also Secretary of Defense. During a speech at Georgetown, Panetta praised the institution’s “leadership in the study of global security.” As he explained, I have had a deep and abiding respect for Georgetown throughout the almost 40 to 50 years that Ive been involved in public service. And I have a deep respect for the generation of leaders that have gone forward from this campus to serve our nation.” Panetta added that, throughout his time in the national security state, he was surrounded by Georgetown graduates, describing them as: Talented, young individuals who have been at my side every day for the last four years, at both the CIA and the Pentagon, and I am deeply grateful for their work on behalf of me and on behalf of the nation. And Im deeply grateful to Georgetown for training such extraordinary public servants.” In addition to training spies, the SFS also produces many of the country’s top journalists, including alternative media host Saagar Enjeti. When Enjeti left his job as host of The Hill’s show, “Rising,” he was replaced by another SFS graduate, Emily Miller. Interestingly, Enjeti himself was a replacement for original host Buck Sexton, a former CIA analyst.   Spooks and students It is not just the students, however, that are associated with the Central Intelligence Agency. Studying the faculty, MintPress found at least 25 staff at the School of Foreign Service alone who once worked for or with the agency. There were many other former CIA agents in other departments, while other SFS staff also worked at different institutions within the national security state. Although the full extent of their activities remains classified and unknown to the public, many of these academics’ biographies hint at a dark past. For example, Michael Walker spent 29 years at the CIA before joining the SFS’ Center for Security Studies (CSS) as an adjunct professor, During the 1980s, Walker was stationed in Afghanistan, where he presumably played a role in Operation Cyclone, the CIA’s arming and training of Osama bin Laden and the Mujahideen to oppose the Soviet invasion. Bin Laden would later use his skills to attack the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Walker would later return to Afghanistan to help the CIA oversee the U.S. occupation of the country. He eventually became the CIA’s Near East and South Asia Director, putting him directly in charge of CIA operations across the region. Around six million people have been killed and between 37 and 59 million displaced as a result of American actions in the region in the past two decades. Another CSS academic with a similarly dark past is Douglas London. London enjoyed a 34-year stint at the CIA, where he worked as a senior operations officer, a chief of station, and the agency’s counterterrorism chief for South and Southwest Asia. During London’s time in that region, the CIA was involved in attacking Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria and the bombing of Pakistan and Yemen. Perhaps most infamously, however, it also oversaw the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, where CIA officers routinely tortured and raped victims, including children. Douglas London (left), now a Georgetown professor, was CIA Counterterrorism Chief during the infamous Abu Ghraib torture scandal, which saw CIA agents brutally torture captives in Iraq Manadel al-Jamadi was beaten and tortured to death inside the prison. His identity and fate were completely unknown until 2004 when images of grinning U.S. officials posed with their thumbs up beside his body. While there is no evidence that London was directly involved with Abu Ghraib, the fact that he was a CIA leader during the darkest days of the post-9/11 wars in the Middle East should be a black mark against him, not an asset that gets him a job at one of America’s most prestigious universities. Other CIA-linked academics at the School of Foreign Service include: • Paula Doyle. Currently an adjunct professor of practice at the SFS’ Center for Security Studies (CSS), in 2016, Doyle retired from an 18-year career at the agency, where she rose to become associate deputy director of operations. Between 2012 and 2014, she was deputy national counterintelligence executive and oversaw the U.S. response to the Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning leaks. • Burton Gerber. Another CSS professor, Gerber spent 39 years in the CIA. His work focussed on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He was the CIA chief of station in three former Warsaw Pact countries. • Scott Modell. In his 13-year career, which saw him become a senior officer in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, Modell specialized in Iran and Latin America, where he served multiple tours. After leaving the agency, he worked as a special advisor to U.S. Special Operation Command and as a fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a hawkish Washington think tank. An SFS graduate himself, since 2019, he has taught security studies at Georgetown. • Sue Terry. Another former CSIS fellow, Terry was a senior analyst for the CIA between 2001 and 2008, specializing in Korean issues. She later joined the National Security Council and was deputy national intelligence officer for East Asia and Oceania. Today, she teaches Asian Studies at the SFS. • Dennis Wilder. Wilder spent more than 30 years working in intelligence, the culmination of which came in 2015 when the CIA appointed him deputy assistant director for East Asia and the Pacific. A Georgetown graduate, he now teaches at the SFS. • David Robarge. Robarge joined the CIA in 1989 and became a political and leadership analyst on the Middle East. He was appointed chief historian of the agency in 2005. He is now an adjunct professor within the CSS. • Paul Pillar. Currently a non-resident senior fellow at the CSS, professor Pillar spent 28 years in the U.S. intelligence community, serving in a number of senior roles, including as the executive assistant to the CIA director William Webster. • Paul Miller. Not to be confused with Paul Pillar, Paul Miller is a Professor in the Practice of International Affairs at the SFS. A White House staffer under both the Bush and Obama administrations, he also worked for the National Security Council, as an intelligence analyst for the CIA and in military intelligence for the U.S. Army. • Joseph Gartin. After a long career, Gartin retired from the CIA in 2019, where he served as deputy associate director for talent and as chief learning officer. To this day, however, he is the managing editor of Studies in Intelligence, the CIA’s in-house journal. At Georgetown, he is a practitioner in residence of the university’s master of science in foreign service program. • Matthew Kroenig. Before joining academia, Kroenig held a wide range of senior positions in the U.S. national security state, including in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and at the CIA. In addition to being a professor in the SFS, he is a senior member of the Atlantic Council, a NATO think tank. • Anand Arun. With nearly two decades of experience in the field, Arun is a senior intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency and an adjunct assistant professor at the CSS. Between 2018 and 2020, he worked at CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, as the President’s Daily Briefer to the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. • Kenneth Pollack. Pollack began his career as a Persian Gulf military analyst at the CIA and was later Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs and Director for Persian Gulf Affairs. He currently teaches at the CSS. • Andrew Borene. In addition to being a CSS adjunct assistant professor, Borene is currently the associate vice president of research at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence University. His Georgetown biography notes that he worked as an advisor to leaders at the CIA. • Catherine Lotrionte. Lotrionte is the director of the Institute for Law, Science and Global Security and a visiting assistant professor of government and foreign service at Georgetown. Prior to that, she was Assistant General Counsel at the CIA’s Office of General Counsel and a counsel on the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board at the White House. • Laura Manning Johnson. Early in her national security career, Manning Johnson was a biological warfare analyst at the CIA. After 9/11, she was detailed to the White House as the first Director of Central Intelligence Representative to the Office of Homeland Security, as well as a member of Vice-President Dick Cheney’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Review. She is now an adjunct professor at the SFS. • John Gentry. Gentry teaches an undergraduate course at Georgetown on the U.S. intelligence community. He has extensive experience in the subject, having spent 12 years at the CIA working as an intelligence analyst. • Jonathan Massicot. In addition to his role at the CSS, Massicot is the senior political-military advisor on Russia for the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Between 2008 and 2021 worked as a senior analyst at the CIA. • Bruce Hoffman. A tenured professor at the SFS, Hoffman was scholar-in-residence for counterterrorism at the Central Intelligence Agency between 2004 and 2006 and also an advisor on counterterrorism to the Office of National Security Affairs. • Russell Rumbaugh. Rumbaugh left his position at the CSS in January to become Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller). Between 2004 and 2005, he was a military analyst at the CIA. • William Costanza. Now an adjunct assistant professor at the CSS, Costanza came to Georgetown after a 25-year career as a CIA case officer, where he specialized in targeting and intelligence collecting. • Candice Frost. Colonel Frost completed a war college fellowship at the CIA and then served as the Director of Foreign Intelligence for the Army G-2 at the Pentagon. She currently teaches at the CSS. • Richard Schroeder. After a long career as a CIA officer, Schroeder became an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown, teaching a number of graduate and undergraduate courses within the SFS. • Marie Harf. Harf began her career with the CIA in 2006, first serving as a Middle East analyst, then as the agency’s media spokesperson. Between 2013 and 2017, she worked as the State Department’s deputy media spokesperson. Today, she is the executive director of external relations and marketing for the SFS. The biographies of many of these individuals suggest that they were intimately involved in many of the CIA’s most infamous operations. Added to that, the sheer number of spies teaching at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service suggests that their role is to train, oversee and select the next generation of operatives, all done in the rarefied confines of an elite university campus.   A bloody history Although Georgetown presents the organization as a respectable group defending freedom and advancing liberty, since its founding in 1947, the CIA has repeatedly been implicated in many of the worst modern-era crimes against humanity. The agency has played a central role in countless U.S. attempts to overthrow foreign governments, many of them democratically elected ones. In Iran in 1953, the CIA successfully overthrew the secular reformist government of Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed the Shah as a dictator. Twenty years later, in Chile, it helped to overthrow the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende and shored up the brutal rule of fascist military dictator Augusto Pinochet. More recently, the organization has been implicated in numerous regime change attempts against the government of Venezuela. Maintaining America’s place as a global hegemon is no easy task and often relies on extreme cruelty. To this end, the CIA operates a worldwide network of “Black Sites” – prison camps where captives are tortured. Some of the agency’s torture techniques were directly copied from the Nazis, many of whom the CIA assisted in escaping punishment after the Second World War. Acting CIA Director William Burns speaks about threats from China at a Georgetown University event on Feb. 2, 2023. Photo | Kyodo via AP Gun- and drug-running are also key parts of the CIA’s repertoire. During the 1980s, the agency worked closely with its Pakistani counterpart, the ISI, to funnel $2 billion worth of arms and assistance to Afghan militants, including the now-infamous Osama bin Laden. The agency also sold weapons to Iran and used the proceeds to fund death squads in Nicaragua that would go on to carry out countless massacres against peasants, women, schoolchildren and other “soft targets.” The CIA allegedly helped fund this dirty war against the Nicaraguan people through the sale of crack cocaine in black neighborhoods across the United States, linking far-right paramilitary armies with U.S. drug kingpins like Rick Ross. In this light, then, some might see so many ex-CIA officials at Georgetown training the next generation in their craft as deeply problematic. Another key CIA role is to spread disinformation. Investigators in the 1970s found that over 400 American journalists were secretly either CIA agents or on its payroll, and the agency had secretly set up a wide array of magazines, newspapers and journals and published a huge number of books. This penetration of the media has likely only become more extensive in recent times. MintPress News investigations have found the presence of dozens of “former” CIA agents working in key positions in big tech companies such as Google and Facebook, effectively deciding what the entire world sees in its newsfeeds.   A longtime partnership The cozy relationship between Georgetown and the CIA is not a new phenomenon. In 1980, a student magazine, The Georgetown Voice, published an article discussing what it called a  “special relationship” and an “unholy alliance” between the university and the CIA. In the eyes of Father Richard McSorley, a Jesuit priest and professor of Peace Studies at Georgetown, this partnership was a “disgrace,” and it was “harmful for Georgetown University to have persons on campus who represent an organization guilty of severe violations of law, morality and human dignity.” McSorley wrote the CIA off as nothing more than a “club of assassins, saboteurs and coup directors.” Despite McSorley’s denunciations, the relationship persevered. A 1986 New York Times article noted that Georgetown was the number one school for agency recruits. Going even further back, President Nixon was known to grumble about his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger and his “Georgetown set.” Kissinger was a professor at the School of Foreign Service and filled the White House and the State Department with handpicked students he had taught. To this day, the national security state is filled with Georgetown graduates. This includes no less than five living former CIA directors, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, current Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, ex-White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and arch neoconservative war planner Frank Gaffney (although not all of them attended the SFS). In 2020, Politico reported that Georgetown was also the top feeder school to the State Department. If Georgetown is CIA-U, then it is perhaps unsurprising that In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capitalist wing, is full to the brim with its graduates as well. In-Q-Tel was set up to nurture and sponsor new hi-tech companies that will work with the CIA to provide them with cutting-edge technology. Searching through employment databases and social networks such as LinkedIn shows dozens of individuals who have gone through the Georgetown-to-CIA pipeline. These include Vishal Sandesara, In-Q-Tel VP of Operations, Deputy General Counsel Jeremy Joseph, Senior Partner Brian Smith, Vice President Russel Ross, and Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Matt Strottman. Washington, D.C., is full of spies; the D.C.-based International Spy Museum estimates that there are 10,000 in the city. Locals and tourists alike can even book a walking tour called “the spies of Georgetown,” led by a former CIA officer. Like so many before them, a good deal of these individuals will have started their professional careers at the School of Foreign Service. While some may balk at such a prestigious institution being used as a spy school, Georgetown has found a lucrative niche, and it is sticking to it. Georgetown University did not respond when asked to comment on this article. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post From Georgetown to Langley: The Controversial Connection Between a Prestigious University and the CIA appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Inside Stories, Investigations, National, News, Top Story, Center for Security Studies, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, funding, Georgetown University, Walsh School of Foreign Service]

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[l] at 3/14/23 10:13am
In the second week of March, thousands took to the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia, to vent their fiery indignation over a draft law requiring any NGO operating in the country that receives over 20% of its revenue from overseas to register as a “foreign agent.” Violently clashing with police, daubing anti-Russian graffiti on virtually every available vertical surface, chanting mutinous, belligerent slogans, and prominently displaying the flags of the European Union, Georgia, and Ukraine, these widely-reported scenes were complemented by a never-ending soundtrack of hostile commentary from E.U. and U.S. officials. Calling upon Georgian parliamentarians to “drop” the proposal, notorious war hawk and USAID chief Samantha Power inexplicably proclaimed that the new law “gravely threatens Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future and the ability of Georgians to fulfill their own economic, social, and other aspirations.” Georgia’s proposed foreign agent laws gravely threaten Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future and the ability of Georgians to fulfill their own economic, social, and other aspirations. I call upon the Georgian Parliament to drop these proposed laws. — Samantha Power (@PowerUSAID) March 2, 2023 U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price menacingly warned any Georgian MP who dared vote for the foreign agent law, they would be personally responsible “for potentially jeopardizing Tbilisi’s Euro-Atlantic future.” He went on to declare the legislation was “not consistent” with “the future [Georgians] have set out for themselves, and the future that we, as the U.S., are determined to continue to be a partner to help them achieve.” Washington vehemently opposing the foreign agent law is unsurprising. Thousands of organizations, including media outlets and rights groups in Georgia, have received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and U.S. Agency for International Development which Power now incidentally leads – over the past three decades. Any reform that would further expose this hardly hidden but little acknowledged or understood fact might raise difficult questions about the independence of these entities and the sinister purposes they serve evermore. That these organizations have a vested interest in keeping their U.S. financing under wraps was amply demonstrated by their pronounced presence at the forefront of the protests in Tbilisi. Many staffers at NED-funded NGOs also took to social media to shriek disapproval of the prospect of having to disclose their foreign funding – despite their employers in some cases already doing so voluntarily anyway. As luck would have it, right when the thousands gathered outside Tbilisi’s parliament building appeared on the verge of storming the building, the Georgian government scrapped the foreign agent law. What accounts for the protesters’ visceral aversion to having to openly admit their relationship with NED by law? The Endowment was founded in 1983, after U.S. intelligence agencies became embroiled in a number of embarrassing, highly public scandals. Then-Central Intelligence Agency chief William Casey was central to its creation. He wished to construct a public mechanism for funding opposition groups, media outlets and other anti-government agitants overseas that could be weaponized to destabilize and depose enemy governments, previously the CIA’s exclusive clandestine preserve. The NED represents a highly insidious, yet almost entirely overt, mechanism with which, at any time it wishes, the U.S. empire can bring foreign governments to heel, should they veer even slightly from a Washington-approved path in all matters domestic and foreign, and if necessary, overthrow them outright. Georgia’s 2003 “Rose Revolution” provides a practical, real-world demonstration of how. CIA Funds Graffiti Artists Upon launch, the NED quickly set about killing off Communism in Eastern Europe, supporting activist movements such as Poland’s Solidarity. Yugoslavia nonetheless remained stubbornly impervious to the agency’s meddling until the turn of the century. In December 2000, a Washington Post investigation spelled out in extraordinary detail how a seemingly spontaneous, grassroots rebellion that at long last ousted the country’s President Slobodan Milosevic two months earlier was, in fact, secretly funded and directed by the CIA front. U.S. advertising professionals who typically marketed chewing gum and soda pop were engaged to concoct catchy slogans, PR stunts, and other innovative communications approaches to undermine Milosevic. Extensive opinion polling and countless focus groups were conducted behind the scenes to road test and perfect campaign strategy in advance and real-time. Meanwhile, scores of parliamentary candidates and activists were covertly coached in the art of staying “on message” to field journalists’ questions and effectively rebut arguments of Milosevic supporters. Extensive training and support were also provided to the student activist collective Otpor (Serbian for “Resistance”). They learned how to organize strikes, communicate publicly via symbols, “overcome fear,” and undermine government authority through other disruptive, non-violent means. USAID provided 5,000 cans of spray paint for student activists to daub anti-Milosevic graffiti across the country, but Otpor also employed “a wide range of sophisticated public relations techniques, including polling, leafleting and paid advertising” on Washington’s dime. All their messaging was informed by U.S.-financed polling too, which meant “at every moment, we knew what to say to the people,” one of the group’s activists boasted. “Our idea was to use corporate branding in politics. The movement has to have a marketing department. We took Coca-Cola as our model,” an Otpor leader revealed in 2005. Posters of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic behind bars, titled When? and Peoples Movement Otpor in Belgrade, Serbia, March 30, 2001Darko Vojinovic | AP In all, tens of millions of dollars were both overtly and covertly committed to the anti-Milosevic push by the CIA, NED, USAID, and other U.S. government agencies, all in just a year. At the time, the population of what remained of Yugoslavia was roughly 10 million, meaning several dollars were, in effect, allocated for every citizen. Given the average monthly wage in the country was reportedly less than $30, this wellspring went very far indeed, and regime change foot soldiers were easily recruited. Proportionally and in reverse, it would amount to Belgrade spending billions to influence a U.S. election – not that that would’ve been remotely legal or tolerated by Washington, of course. Such was the surging success and mainstream visibility of Otpor; the group began developing a video game, A Force More Powerful. Players would learn how to oppose “dictators, military occupiers and corrupt rulers using methods that have succeeded in actual conflicts” via 12 separate scenarios “inspired by recent history.” Intended “for use by activists and leaders of nonviolent resistance and opposition movements,” it was hoped the media and public alike would more widely be educated in the art of revolution. Released in March 2006, over the intervening years, Otpor’s revolutionary blueprint was repeatedly exported the world over, courtesy of NED. The first stop on their international tour was Georgia. Enough is Enough… A veteran Soviet apparatchik and senior figure in Georgian politics for many decades, who had governed the country on and off since the early 1970s, Eduard Shevardnadze was a key reformist figure in Mikhail Gorbachev’s government. As Foreign Minister, he played a significant role in ending the Cold War. Among other things, he ended the war in Afghanistan, greenlit the reunification of Germany, withdrew the Red Army from Europe, and negotiated nuclear arms treaties with the U.S. In many ways, Shevardnadze was Washington’s choice for Georgian President, and his elevation to power in 1992 furthermore came against the backdrop of a bloody civil war, which pitted the newly-independent republic’s under-equipped army against bitterly determined Russian-backed breakaway movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This immediately put him at significant odds with the Kremlin, and relations between Moscow and Tbilisi remained generally poor under his rule. By contrast, he enjoyed an extremely warm relationship with Western governments. The large-scale privatization he oversaw enriched American and European oligarchs, while changes to the civil code in 1997 opened the door to the creation of thousands of foreign-funded NGOs. Very quickly, Tbilisi became among the largest beneficiaries of U.S. financial and military aid anywhere in the world. By the end of the decade, Shevardnadze had signed a strategic partnership with NATO and made clear his desire to join the EU. When George Soros visited Tbilisi to establish a local Open Society Foundation branch in 2000, he was welcomed as Shevardnadze’s personal guest. During his stay, he also met then-Georgian Justice Minister Mikheil Saakashvili, a graduate of elite U.S. universities – including Columbia, where he studied on a State Department-funded scholarship. Not long after, the young Saakashvili dramatically quit his post and founded a political party, National Movement, with Open Society support. Existing Soros funding to opposition media, including TV network Rustavi-2, also intensified, and so did these outlets’ critical output on Shevardnadze, which took the form of both satirical cartoons featuring a crooked animated president and intensive investigations into state corruption. In February 2003, Soros “began laying the brickwork for the toppling” of Georgia’s government decisively, according to The Toronto Globe and Mail. Georgian protesters wearing Saakashvili masks carry a US-dollar-laden coffin with a dummy of George Soros while holding Soros mock funeral, Tbilisi, Dec. 14, 2005. George Abdaladze | AP Georgian activist Giga Bokeria, founder of the NED and Open Society-backed Liberty Institute, was sent to meet with Otpor. Then, Otpor representatives were flown to Tbilisi, where they taught thousands how to peacefully overthrow Shevardnadze and form a revolutionary group of their own. Known as Kmara (Georgian for “Enough”), it borrowed heavily from Otpor’s branding and messaging. Sizable NED and Open Society funding flowed instantly. This cash injection helped Kmara develop a variety of campaign products and strategies in the lead-up to Georgia’s November 2003 elections. In the ten days before the vote, Rustavi-2 repeatedly broadcast Bringing Down a Dictator, a U.S. documentary on the overthrow of Milosevic. “Most important was the film,” a National Movement representative later remarked. “All the demonstrators knew the tactics of the revolution in Belgrade by heart because they showed the film Everyone knew what to do. This was a copy of that revolution, only louder.” The election was ostensibly won by a coalition of pro-Shevardnadze parties. Immediately – and according to some reports, before voting was even over – exit polling commissioned by the NED began to circulate, suggesting the official result was fraudulent and the opposition had, in fact, clearly won. Scores of anti-government activists from across the country duly descended upon Tbilisi’s parliament building, ferried on buses paid for by Kmara. Outside, loudspeakers and a cinema screen were erected to broadcast Rustavi-2, the most prominent disseminator of the NED counter-polling, and footage of the young protest leaders at work. Nationwide demonstrations, led by Kmara, raged for weeks, culminating on November 23, with activists storming parliament brandishing roses. The very next day, Shevardnadze resigned.   A ‘Terribly Disappointing’ Revolution Saakashvili became President in January 2004. Over the next decade, he further “liberalized” Georgia’s economy and sped up the privatization of remaining state industries, led wide-ranging anti-corruption efforts, and increased defense spending to a staggering 9.2% of GDP. U.S. officials, as well as groups such as Transparency International and the World Bank, hailed Saakashvili for making Georgia one of the easiest countries to do business and growing the economy by 70% from 2003 2013, a period in which per capita income roughly tripled. Yet, even the U.S. empires in-house journal Foreign Policy has conceded the results of the “Rose Revolution” were “terribly disappointing.” Far-reaching change “never really materialized,” and “elite corruption still continued apace.” By the time Saakashvili left office, poverty in Georgia had only marginally declined, and roughly a quarter of the population still lived below the absolute poverty rate. What’s more, the country was no less authoritarian nor more democratic. In fact, his rule was dictatorial in many ways that Shevardnadze’s was not. For example, he replaced “superpresidential” institutions with even more highly concentrated “hyperpresidential” mechanisms, granting him unilateral power in key areas. Using this authority, Saakashvili attempted to ban political parties opposed to his policy agenda, among many autocratic maneuvers. Obama speaks with Saakashvili, right, and British PM David Cameron at the NATO Summit in Chicago, May 21, 2012. Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP More gravely, questions abound also about his involvement in several suspicious deaths, such as Prime Minister Zarub Zhvania. He is known to have directed Georgia’s security service to assassinate rivals, such as oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili, and at his behest, prisons became politicized hotbeds of torture and rape. The country’s inmate population quadrupled during his tenure to 25,000, more per capita than any other European state. Despite Saakashvili’s best efforts to rig the October 2012 election (efforts that were actively assisted by NED), he lost power, and a coalition led by Georgian Dream has governed the country ever since. Domestic critics – including Endowment-funded Shame Network, which was among the vanguard of the recent uprising – and overseas supporters of Kiev accuse the party of being pro-Kremlin. In reality, though, the Georgian Dream has always struck a delicate balancing act between strengthening Western ties, pushing for E.U. and NATO membership, and maintaining civil coexistence with Moscow. This has become ever-harder to preserve in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Western pressure on Tbilisi to impose sanctions on its far larger, richer and more powerful neighbor – one of the country’s biggest trading partners by far – and to send arms to Kiev constantly mounting. The government has so far refrained from either, although strives to comply with U.S. and European sanctions regimes and has condemned the invasion at the U.N. In December 2022, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili claimed he had been repeatedly asked to open a “second front” since February 24 that year by Kiev, and his refusal was not warmly greeted. All-out conflict is, understandably, something Tbilisi wishes to avoid, not least due to the brutal routing it suffered in August 2008’s Russo-Georgian War, which began when Saakashvili, with U.S. encouragement, began striking civilian positions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Despite lasting just five days, as many as 200,000 were displaced, and hundreds were killed. One can only speculate whether Georgian Dream specifically pursued the foreign agent law in order to prevent the NED-sponsored installation of a government more amenable to opening a “second front” and imposing sanctions on Russia.   Dare Call It A Coup? To put it mildly, the fingerprints of the NED and USAID were plastered all over Ukraine’s February 2014 Maidan Coup. At every stage of the “revolution,” individuals and organizations funded by both entities featured prominently. Two years prior too, Oleh Rybachuk, who ran several USAID-funded opposition groups for years in the leadup to Maidan, made his insurrectionary intentions very clear, saying of the “Orange Revolution” in Kiev a decade prior, “we want to do that again, and we think we will.” In May 2014, George Soros told CNN his Open Society Foundation had “played an important role in events” relating to Maidan. . However, contemporary media reports on Maidan either ignored the unambiguous U.S. role in fomenting it or dismissed the proposition as Russian “disinformation” or conspiracy theory. Ever since the conflict in Ukraine began, Western journalists, have become even more aggressive in rejecting all suggestions the upheaval was anything other than an overwhelmingly – if not universally – popular public revolt. Mainstream reports boasting of Washington’s role in the overthrow of Milosevic, Shevardnadze et al. have apparently been memory holed. This mass amnesia may be attributable to an increasing level of hostility towards the NED and USAID the world over and moves by governments – particularly those with which Washington has a particular animosity – to restrict or outright ban them. The reality of their raison d’etre and modus operandi has resultantly not only become unsayable but must be vehemently denied by Western journalists. After all, admitting what enemy state leaders say is true is not done. Representatively, a July 2015 Guardian report on Moscow’s proscription of the NED under its foreign agent laws quite amazingly relied on a brief quote pulled from the organization’s own website to describe its operations. By contrast, in November 2004, the same outlet published an extensive account of how that year’s “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine was wholly orchestrated by the Endowment and USAID. In the modern day, allegations of foreign interference in politically-charged unrest overseas are almost invariably countered in the mainstream by appeals to protesters’ “agency” and “legitimate grievances.” In the context of the incendiary sequence that recently played out in Tbilisi, such entreaties ring entirely hollow. It is completely inconceivable such righteous concern over a comparatively trivial regulatory amendment, in direct keeping with the condemnations and pronouncements of U.S. officials, stirred organically. For now, though, the regime change coast is clear again, the protests seemingly a mere warning shot. That the government capitulated so readily surely reflects its cognizance of the dire risk of an outright revolution breaking out, courtesy of NED-sponsored assets on the ground, if its arm had not been twisted. While the empire has been placated, though, that threat has not gone anywhere. It will remain a daily, existential hazard as long as NED operates in Tbilisi. Feature photo | A man waves a Georgian national flag in front of a burning barricade as other protesters stand behind not far from the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, March 9, 2023. Zurab Tsertsvadze | AP Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPresss News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg. The post Dare Call It A Coup? CIA Front Threatens Color Revolution in Georgia appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Inside Stories, Investigations, Top Story, CIA, Color Revolution, coup, foreign agent law, George Soros, Georgia, NED, revolution, Russia, Ukraine]

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[l] at 3/14/23 7:48am
Today, Lee Camp, the host of “Behind the Headlines,” speaks with two journalists, Taya Graham and Stephen Janis, about their ongoing show, “The Police Accountability Report.” Running for four years, the show is focused on shining a light on police misdeeds. Although based in Baltimore, it covers law enforcement abuse across the country. The journalists, who between them have been covering the subject for two decades, share their experiences reporting on police brutality, corruption, and the need for police reform. Despite the lack of coverage in the corporate press, Taya notes that there is a whole subculture of “cop watchers” and auditors who film the police and test their first amendment rights in a public space. She grew up in Baltimore, a majority-black city, and was no stranger to police brutality. However, in her younger days, she assumed it was largely a local problem. Yet as they expanded their coverage, it became clear that this is a systemic issue across the entire United States. Stephen adds that police corruption is a reflection of the values of the community it serves. He believes that policing only reflects the people who have the power, money, and capital to impose it on underprivileged communities. He says that when they talk about police corruption, they are really talking about the corruption of inequality in a community desiring to police itself. Stephen believes that the underlying conditions in the community the police serve do not change, and that is why police brutality is prevalent across the country. The interview sheds light on the ongoing problem of police abuse and the need for police reform. Taya and Stephens show, “The Police Accountability Report,” is an important step towards taking law enforcement to task for their actions. The lack of interest from the likes of Fox News and CNN in truly scrutinizing the power of the police means Stephen and Taya’s work is all the more important. Watch the full interview exclusively at MintPress News. Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years. The post Police Accountability Reinventing Policing, with Stephen Janis and Taya Graham appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: National, Top Story, interview, Lee Camp, Police, Stephen Janis, Taya Graham, The Police Accountability Report]

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[l] at 3/13/23 8:31am
As is the case of long wars, the warring parties and their affiliated media in the Russia-Ukraine conflict have painted each other using uncompromising language, making it nearly impossible to offer an unbiased view of the ongoing tragedy that has killed, wounded and expelled millions. While it is understandable that wars of such horror and near complete disregard of the most basic human rights often heighten our sense of what we consider to be moral and just, parties involved and invested in such conflicts often manipulate morality for political and geopolitical reasons. This same logic is underway in Ukraine. Both sides are adamant that nothing less than a complete victory is acceptable. The Ukrainian view is fully supported by western countries in word and deed as in tens of billions of modern weapons that have done little, aside from worsening an already bloody conflict. The Russians hardly see their war in Ukraine as a war against Ukraine itself. In his speech delivered on the first anniversary of the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the war as an act of self-defense. “They are the ones who started this war, and we are using our forces to put a stop to it,” Putin said in a joint session of the Russian Parliament and Kremlin officials. Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have characterized the war using similar language. “We are fighting Russia,” Germanys Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. Though the statement was withdrawn later on, Baerbock was actually being truthful: NATO and Russia are, indeed, at war. The narratives of both sides, however, are so complex yet so polarized. To even attempt to offer a third view on the war, or even to approach the subject in a purely analytical manner immediately qualifies one to be ‘biased’. Each side believes that its version of the truth is moral, historically defensible and consistent with international law. As a result, many reasonable people find themselves retreating in silence. But is silence, in itself, an immoral position, especially during times of war and human suffering? It should be. In Islamic theology, it is accepted that “anyone who refrains himself from speaking the truth is a mute devil.” This maxim is shared by most modern philosophies and political ideologies. Among many such statements addressing the matter, one of the most powerful assertions by African-American leader and preacher Martin Luther King Jr. is, “The day we see truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.” Yet, there is no single truth on the Ukraine war that can remain fully truthful after being placed within a larger context. The war on Ukraine is indeed illegal, but the preceding civil war in Donbas and the violated Minsk agreements at the behest of Western powers as admitted by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel were also immoral and illegal. In fact, none of these acts can be analyzed accurately or understood fairly without considering the others. A year after the war, more fuel has been added to the fire, as if the main goal behind the war is prolonging it. Concurrently, very few proposals for peace talks have been advanced or considered. Even a proposal made by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, hardly a peacenik, was dismissed almost immediately by the pro-Ukraine camp. When the likes of Kissinger are accused of being compromisers, we can be certain that the political discourse on the war has reached a degree of extremism unprecedented in decades. Aside from the morality of speaking out against the continued war, or the immorality of silence, there is another matter deserving of our attention: The war is not only an internal dispute between Russia and its allies on the one hand and Ukraine and NATO on the other. It is affecting all of us. A comprehensive study conducted by researchers from the universities of Birmingham, Groningen and Maryland examined the possible effect of the war on household incomes in 116 different countries. The latest study created a model for the future based on what millions of people around the world, especially in the Global South, are already experiencing. It looks bleak. Just the fact that energy prices could force an individual household to spend anywhere between 2.7 to 4.8 percent more is enough to push 78 to 114 million people into extreme poverty. Since hundreds of millions already live in extreme poverty, a massive section of the human race will no longer be able to afford proper food, drinkable water, education, healthcare, or shelter. So, our silence on the inhumanity and futility of the war is not just immoral; in this case, it also constitutes a betrayal of the fate of hundreds of millions of people around the world. The war in Ukraine must end, even if one party is not fully and completely defeated, even if NATO’s geopolitical interests are not served, and even if not all of Russia’s goals, whatever they are, are achieved. The war should end because, regardless of the outcome, long-term instability in that region will not cease completely any time soon, and because millions of innocent people are suffering and will continue to suffer in Ukraine and around the world. And because only political compromises through peace negotiations can put an end to this horror. Practically, this means that Palestinians are left with no other option but to carry on with their resistance, indifferent and justifiably so to the UN and its ‘watered-down’ statements. Feature photo | MintPress News Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a widely published and translated author, an internationally syndicated columnist and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter (2015), and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB. Visit his website at  www.ramzybaroud.net. The post Even Kissinger Wants Compromise: How Ukraine Became a Winner-Take-All Proposition appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Henry Kissinger, NATO, peace agreement, Russia, Ukraine, War]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 3/13/23 8:31am
As is the case of long wars, the warring parties and their affiliated media in the Russia-Ukraine conflict have painted each other using uncompromising language, making it nearly impossible to offer an unbiased view of the ongoing tragedy that has killed, wounded and expelled millions. While it is understandable that wars of such horror and near complete disregard of the most basic human rights often heighten our sense of what we consider to be moral and just, parties involved and invested in such conflicts often manipulate morality for political and geopolitical reasons. This same logic is underway in Ukraine. Both sides are adamant that nothing less than a complete victory is acceptable. The Ukrainian view is fully supported by western countries in word and deed as in tens of billions of modern weapons that have done little, aside from worsening an already bloody conflict. The Russians hardly see their war in Ukraine as a war against Ukraine itself. In his speech delivered on the first anniversary of the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the war as an act of self-defense. “They are the ones who started this war, and we are using our forces to put a stop to it,” Putin said in a joint session of the Russian Parliament and Kremlin officials. Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have characterized the war using similar language. “We are fighting Russia,” Germanys Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. Though the statement was withdrawn later on, Baerbock was actually being truthful: NATO and Russia are, indeed, at war. The narratives of both sides, however, are so complex yet so polarized. To even attempt to offer a third view on the war, or even to approach the subject in a purely analytical manner immediately qualifies one to be ‘biased’. Each side believes that its version of the truth is moral, historically defensible and consistent with international law. As a result, many reasonable people find themselves retreating in silence. But is silence, in itself, an immoral position, especially during times of war and human suffering? It should be. In Islamic theology, it is accepted that “anyone who refrains himself from speaking the truth is a mute devil.” This maxim is shared by most modern philosophies and political ideologies. Among many such statements addressing the matter, one of the most powerful assertions by African-American leader and preacher Martin Luther King Jr. is, “The day we see truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.” Yet, there is no single truth on the Ukraine war that can remain fully truthful after being placed within a larger context. The war on Ukraine is indeed illegal, but the preceding civil war in Donbas and the violated Minsk agreements at the behest of Western powers as admitted by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel were also immoral and illegal. In fact, none of these acts can be analyzed accurately or understood fairly without considering the others. A year after the war, more fuel has been added to the fire, as if the main goal behind the war is prolonging it. Concurrently, very few proposals for peace talks have been advanced or considered. Even a proposal made by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, hardly a peacenik, was dismissed almost immediately by the pro-Ukraine camp. When the likes of Kissinger are accused of being compromisers, we can be certain that the political discourse on the war has reached a degree of extremism unprecedented in decades. Aside from the morality of speaking out against the continued war, or the immorality of silence, there is another matter deserving of our attention: The war is not only an internal dispute between Russia and its allies on the one hand and Ukraine and NATO on the other. It is affecting all of us. A comprehensive study conducted by researchers from the universities of Birmingham, Groningen and Maryland examined the possible effect of the war on household incomes in 116 different countries. The latest study created a model for the future based on what millions of people around the world, especially in the Global South, are already experiencing. It looks bleak. Just the fact that energy prices could force an individual household to spend anywhere between 2.7 to 4.8 percent more is enough to push 78 to 114 million people into extreme poverty. Since hundreds of millions already live in extreme poverty, a massive section of the human race will no longer be able to afford proper food, drinkable water, education, healthcare, or shelter. So, our silence on the inhumanity and futility of the war is not just immoral; in this case, it also constitutes a betrayal of the fate of hundreds of millions of people around the world. The war in Ukraine must end, even if one party is not fully and completely defeated, even if NATO’s geopolitical interests are not served, and even if not all of Russia’s goals, whatever they are, are achieved. The war should end because, regardless of the outcome, long-term instability in that region will not cease completely any time soon, and because millions of innocent people are suffering and will continue to suffer in Ukraine and around the world. And because only political compromises through peace negotiations can put an end to this horror. Practically, this means that Palestinians are left with no other option but to carry on with their resistance, indifferent and justifiably so to the UN and its ‘watered-down’ statements. Feature photo | MintPress News Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a widely published and translated author, an internationally syndicated columnist and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter (2015), and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB. Visit his website at  www.ramzybaroud.net. The post Even Kissinger Wants Compromise: How Ukraine Become a Winner-Take-All Proposition appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Henry Kissinger, NATO, peace agreement, Russia, Ukraine, War]

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[l] at 3/10/23 10:59am
I have known Julian Assange since I first interviewed him in London in 2010. I immediately liked his dry, dark sense of humour, often dispensed with an infectious giggle. He is a proud outsider: sharp and thoughtful. We have become friends, and I have sat in many courtrooms listening to the tribunes of the state try to silence him and his moral revolution in journalism. My own high point was when a judge in the Royal Courts of Justice leaned across his bench and growled at me: You are just a peripatetic Australian like Assange. My name was on a list of volunteers to stand bail for Julian, and this judge spotted me as the one who had reported his role in the notorious case of the expelled Chagos Islanders. Unintentionally, he delivered me a compliment. I saw Julian in Belmarsh not long ago. We talked about books and the oppressive idiocy of the prison: the happy-clappy slogans on the walls, the petty punishments; they still wont let him use the gym. He must exercise alone in a cage-like area where there is sign that warns about keeping off the grass. But there is no grass. We laughed; for a brief moment, some things didnt seem too bad. The laughter is a shield, of course. When the prison guards began to jangle their keys, as they like to do, indicating our time was up, he fell quiet. As I left the room he held his fist high and clenched as he always does. He is the embodiment of courage. Those who are the antithesis of Julian: in whom courage is unheard of, along with principle and honour, stand between him and freedom. I am not referring to the Mafia regime in Washington whose pursuit of a good man is meant as a warning to us all, but rather to those who still claim to run a just democracy in Australia. Anthony Albanese was mouthing his favourite platitude, enough is enough long before he was elected prime minister of Australia last year. He gave many of us precious hope, including Julians family. As prime minister he added weasel words about not sympathising with what Julian had done. Apparently we had to understand his need to cover his appropriated posteria in case Washington called him to order. We knew it would take exceptional political if not moral courage for Albanese to stand up in the Australian Parliament the same Parliament that will disport itself before Joe Biden in May and say: As prime minister, it is my governments responsibility to bring home an Australian citizen who is clearly the victim of a great, vindictive injustice: a man who has been persecuted for the kind of journalism that is a true public service, a man who has not lied, or deceived like so many of his counterfeit in the media, but has told people the truth about how the world is run. I call on the United States, a courageous and moral Prime Minister Albanese might say, to withdraw its extradition application: to end the malign farce that has stained Britains once admired courts of justice and to allow the release of Julian Assange unconditionally to his family. For Julian to remain in his cell at Belmarsh is an act of torture, as the United Nations Raporteur has called it. It is how a dictatorship behaves. Alas, my daydream about Australia doing right by Julian has reached its limits. The teasing of hope by Albanese is now close to a betrayal for which the historical memory will not forget him, and many will not forgive him. What, then, is he waiting for? Remember that Julian was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorean government in 2013 largely because his own government had abandoned him. That alone ought to bring shame on those responsible: namely the Labor government of Julia Gillard. So eager was Gillard to collude with the Americans in shutting down WikiLeaks for its truth telling that she wanted the Australian Federal Police to arrest Assange and take away his passport for what she called his illegal publishing. The AFP pointed out that they had no such powers: Assange had committed no crime. It is as if you can measure Australias extraordinary surrender of sovereignty by the way it treats Julian Assange. Gillards pantomime grovelling to both houses of the US Congress is  cringing theatre on YouTube. Australia, she repeated, was Americas great mate. Or was it little mate? Her foreign minister was Bob Carr, another Labor machine politician whom WikiLeaks exposed as an American informant, one of Washingtons useful boys in Australia. In his published diaries, Carr boasted knowing Henry Kissinger; indeed the Great Warmonger invited the foreign minister to go camping in the California woods, we learn. Australian governments have repeatedly claimed that Julian has received full consular support, which is his right. When his lawyer Gareth Peirce and I met the Australian consul general in London, Ken Pascoe, I asked him, What do you know of the Assange case. Just what I read in the papers, he replied with a laugh. Today, Prime Minister Albanese is preparing this country for a ridiculous American-led war with China. Billions of dollars are to be spent on a war machine of submarines, fighter jets and missiles that can reach China. Salivating war mongering by experts on the countrys oldest newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Melbourne Age is a national embarrassment, or ought to be. Australia is a country with no enemies and China is its biggest trading partner. This deranged servility to aggression is laid out in an extraordinary document called the US-Australia Force Posture Agreement. This states that American troops have exclusive control over the access to [and] use of armaments and material that can be used in Australia in an aggressive war. This almost certainly includes nuclear weapons. Albaneses foreign minister, Penny Wong, respects America on this, but clearly has no respect for Australians right to know. Such obsequiousness was always there not untypical of a settler nation that still has not made peace with the Indigenous origins and owners of where they live but now it is dangerous. China as the Yellow Peril fits Australias history of racism like a glove.  However, there is another enemy they dont talk about. It is us, the public. It is our right to know. And our right to say no. Since 2001, some 82 laws have been enacted in Australia to take away tenuous rights of expression and dissent and protect the cold war paranoia of an increasingly secret state, in which the head of the main intelligence agency, ASIO, lectures on the disciplines of Australian values. There are secret courts and secret evidence, and secret miscarriages of justice. Australia is said to be an inspiration for the master across the Pacific. Bernard Collaery, David McBride and Julian Assange deeply moral men who told the truth are the enemies and victims of this paranoia. They, not Edwardian soldiers who marched for the King, are our true national heroes. On Julian Assange, the Prime Minister has two faces. One face teases us with hope of his intervention with Biden that will lead to Julians freedom. The other face ingratiates itself with POTUS and allows the Americans to do what they want with its vassal: to lay down targets that could result in catastrophe for all of us. Will Albanese back Australia or Washington on Julian Assange? If he is sincere, as the more do-eyed Labor Party supporters say, what is he waiting for? If he fails to secure Julians release, Australia will cease to be sovereign. We will be little Americans. Official. This is not about the survival of a free press. There is no longer a free press. There are refuges in the samizdat, such as this site. The paramount issue is justice and our most precious human right: to be free. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News This is an abridged version of an address by John Pilger in Sydney on 10 March to mark the launch in Australia of Davide Dorminos sculpture of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, Figures of Courage. John Pilger has twice won Britain’s highest award for journalism and has been International Reporter of the Year, News Reporter of the Year and Descriptive Writer of the Year. He has made 61 documentary films and has won an Emmy, a BAFTA the Royal Television Society prize and the Sydney Peace Prize. His ‘Cambodia Year Zero’ is named as one of the ten most important films of the 20th century. This article is an edited version of an address to the Trondheim World Festival, Norway. He can be contacted at www.johnpilger.com The post John Pilger: The Betrayers of Julian Assange appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, News, Anthony Albanese, Australian Parliament, Belmarsh Prison, Bob Carr, Chelsea Manning, Davide Dormino, Edward Snowden, Features of Courage, Free Assange, Joe Biden, Julia Gillard, Julian Assange, Penny Wong, Sydney Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, Wikileaks]

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