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Paul Craig Roberts: The Tariff Issue

Katehon - Mon, 2019-05-20 16:38

Wherever I look at US policy, foreign or domestic, I see only insanity, ignorance, and incompetence.

Take the issue of tariffs, which is Trump’s mistaken approach to bringing the jobs back home. The tariff “solution” overlooks that offshored US production counts as imports when US firms bring their goods into the US to be marketed.



E. Coachman: Masks reset: the US openly betray Europe

Katehon - Mon, 2019-05-20 16:29

The US Senate for the first time drafted a bill on direct sanctions against Europe. The reason is the refusal to comply with the requirement to cease participation in the construction of the Nord Stream-2 Russian gas pipeline. What are the chances of imposing these sanctions and how does Europe react to such insolence of Washington?



Gasanov Kamran: Is the US getting ready for a war with Iran?

Katehon - Mon, 2019-05-20 16:10

Recent events around Iran prove that Donald Trump was not joking when he threatened to punish the Islamic Republic.

At the meeting, the Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented a plan for sending 120,000 troops to the Gulf region. In addition to the carrier group, which has already moved to its shores. This is certainly not a half-million army - namely, so much is needed for the ground operation and the occupation of Iran - but still a decent armada.



The Yellow Vests of France: Six Months of Struggle

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-05-20 16:10

Photograph Source: Obier – CC BY-SA 4.0

I am writing you from Montpellier, France, where I am a participant-observer in the Yellow Vest movement, which is still going strong after six months, despite a dearth of information in the international media.

But why should you take the time to learn more about the Yellow Vests?  The answer is that France has for more than two centuries been the classic model for social innovation, and this unique, original social movement has enormous international significance. The Yellow Vests have already succeeded in shattering the capitalist myth of “representative democracy” in the age of neo-liberalism. Their uprising has unmasked the lies and violence of republican government, as well as the duplicity of representative institutions like political parties, bureaucratic unions and the mainstream media.

Moreover, the Yellow Vests represent the first time in history that a spontaneous, self-organized social movement has ever held out for half a year in spite of repression while retaining its autonomy, resisting cooptation, bureaucratization and sectarian splits. All the while, standing up to full-scale government repression and targeted propaganda, it poses a real, human alternative to the dehumanization of society under the rule of the capitalist “market.”

Six months ago on Nov. 17, 2018, Yellow Vests burst literally “out of nowhere,” with autonomous local units springing up all over France like mushrooms, demonstrating on traffic circles (roundabouts) and toll-gates, marching every Saturday in cities, including Paris. But unlike all previous revolts, it was not Paris-centered. The humid November soil from which these mushrooms sprouted was the near-universal frustration of French people at the abject failure of the CGT and other unions to effectively oppose Macron’s steam-roller imposition last Spring of his historic Thatcherite “reforms”: an inflexible neo-liberal program of cutting benefits, workplace rights, and privatizing or cutting public services, while eliminating the so-called Wealth Tax designed to benefit the poor.

The immediate cause of this spontaneous mass rising was to protest an unfair tax on fuel  (fiscal justice) but the Yellow Vests’ demands quickly expanded to include restoration of public services (transport, hospitals, schools); higher wages, retirement benefits, healthcare for the poor, peasant agriculture, media free of billionaire and government control, and, most remarkably, participatory democracy. Despite their disruptive tactics, the Yellow Vests were from the beginning wildly popular with average French people (73% approval), and they are still more popular than the Macron government after six months of exhausting, dangerous occupations of public space, violent weekly protests and slanderous propaganda against them.

Tired of being lied to, cheated, manipulated and despised, the Yellow Vests instinctively from the beginning rejected being instrumentalized by the corrupt  “representative” institutions of capitalist democracy – including political parties, union bureaucracies and the media (monopolized by billionaires and subsidized by the government). Jealous of their autonomy, a concept which radical intellectuals have been exploring for years, the Yellow Vest eschewed “leaders” and spokespeople even among their own ranks, and are even now very gradually learning to federate themselves and negotiate convergence with other social movements.

From the very beginning, the Yellow Vests’ basically non-violent unauthorized gatherings were met by massive police repression – teargas, flashballs, beatings, 10, 000 arrests, immediate drum-head trials, stiff sentences for minor infractions. The Macron government just passed a new “anti-vandalism” law making it virtually impossible to demonstrate legally. Macron’s orthodox neo-liberal French Republic has arguably become as repressive of domestic opposition as the right-wing “populist” regimes in Poland, Hungary, Turkey.

Macron’s violent repression of political opposition is responsible for at least two deaths, 23 demonstrators blinded in one eye, thousands seriously wounded. It has been condemned by the U.N. and European Union. But Macron has never acknowledged these injuries, which are rarely shown in the media. The TV news concentrates on sensational images of the violence (to property) of the Black Block vandals at the fringes of Yellow Vest demonstrations, never on the human victims of systematic government violence. A popular slogan proclaimed in Magic Marker on a demonstrator’s Yellow Vest reads: “Wake up! Turn off your TV! Join us!”

Since the Yellow Vests have no recognized spokespersons, government propaganda, abetted by the media, has had a free hand to dehumanize them to justify treating them inhumanly. Macron, from the height of his monarchical presidency, at first pretended to ignore their uprising, then attempted to buy them off with crumbs (a very few crumbs which were rejected) and then denounced them as “a hate-filled mob.” (N.B. In real life the Yellow Vests are largely low-income middle-aged folks with families from the provinces whose trade-mark is friendliness and improvised barbeques.) Yet for Macron and the media they constitute a hard-core conspiracy of “40,000 militants of the extreme right and the extreme left” often characterized as “anti-Semites,” who threaten the Republic.

Small wonder that, subjected to increasing violence and continuous slander, the numbers of Yellow Vests willing to go out into the streets to protest every week has diminished over 27 weeks.  But they are still out there and their favorite chant goes: “Here we are!  Here we are! What if Macron doesn’t like it? Here we are!” (On est là! Même si Macron ne veut pas, On est là!)

Fortunately, in the past few weeks the League for the Rights of Man and other such humanitarian groups have at last turned out to protest police brutality while committees of artists and academics have signed petitions in support of the Yellow Vests’ struggle for democratic rights, condemning the government and media. At the same time, Yellow Vests are more and more converging with Ecologists (“End of the Month/End of the World/Same Enemy/Same Struggle” ) and feminists (women play a big role in the movement).

Also with workers, many of them active as opponents of the bureaucracy in their unions. Red CGT stickers on Yellow Vests are now frequent sights at demos. Philippe Martinez, the General Secretary of the CGT, who has heretofore been sarcastic and negative about the Yellow Vests, has now been forced to admit that the cause of their rise was the failure of the unions, “a reflection of all the union deserts.” He was referring to “small and medium size businesses, retired people, poverty people, jobless people and lots of women” (the demographic of the Yellow Vests) that the unions have ignored.

The Yellow Vests are still here, in the fray, holding the breach open. The crisis in France is far from over. If and when the other oppressed and angry groups in France – the organized workers, ecologists, North African immigrants, students struggling against Macron’s educational “reforms”  – also turn off their TV’s and go down into the streets, things could change radically. The Yellow Vests’ avowed goal is to bring France to a grinding halt and impose change from below.

What if they succeed? We know what the “success” of structured parties like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain led to. Maybe a horizontal federation of autonomous base-groups attempting to re-invent democracy could do better.

P.S. Latest news: the CGT just held its convention and voted unanimously for “convergence” with the Yellow Vests, something our group in Montpellier has been working towards for months. Tomorrow, for the first time, we are meeting with the other Yellow Vest groups in our region. “On ne lâche rien!” (Nothing escapes us, we don’t give in).

Scheduled Maintenance Today (Monday May 20) at 12 noon GMT for 20 min

Vineyard of the Saker - Mon, 2019-05-20 16:07
The system down for 20 min today. A routine upgrade to the most current release of Debian will be applied. Regards Herb

Abortion: White Panic Over Demographic Dilution?

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-05-20 16:01


What is behind the bigotry masquerading as sanctimonious religiosity fervently opposed to abortion in the United States?

One motivation for US conservatives’ opposition to abortion – “a woman’s right to choose” – as stated by demographer Ben Wattenberg (in his increasingly neoconservative later years, after the 1970s), and cited by the wonderful educator, Jane Elliott (“White Fear”, in her anti-racism teachings, is that white supremacists’ great fear is over demographic dilution.

American conservatives’ opposition to abortion is not primarily concerned with preventing Blacks, Latinos, minorities and the poor from procreating too many — and “too costly” to the public purse — non-white babies, but in fact to prevent white women from producing too few white babies. 60% of the 1.6 million abortions annually in the United States are for white women.

The banning of abortion was exactly the policy of the Nazi regime in Germany, when bounties were paid for high fertility by acceptably white – “Aryan” – women. The fertility rate of Whites in Europe, in the U.S.A., in South Africa, and in Israel with its captive and concentration-encamped Palestine, is the lowest of all ethnicities/races. Generally speaking, the poorer and darker people are, and the closer to the equator they live or come from, the more children they are likely to have produced and/or have in their families. There is a worldwide darkening of the complexion of humanity underway.

Were there not immigration into the wealthy and comfortable Northern European nations, which we used to think of as “pure white,” they would be losing population in coming decades, if not already. There is a direct INVERSE correlation between an ethnic/racial segment of a national population having greater educational attainment and financial security with a higher standard of living (a higher level of their nation’s Human Development Index, as tallied by the U.N.), with respect to their fertility rate. That is why Whites have the lowest fertility rate as compared with darker and poorer people.

The education and emancipation of poor Third World women – teaching them to read, and giving them means of gaining independent income – are the best ways to reduce runaway fertility and stabilize “overpopulation.” Demographic economists calculate that a stabilized world population of 2 to 4 billion people could live with comfortable standards of living in a stable world economy of much greater equality, and which was in balance with Nature; at present there are over 7.7 billion people on our planet. (The idea of reducing world population by 50% or more in 3 to 4 generations, is contentious and involved, and reserved for another essay in the future — maybe.) 

So, Northern Europe, the U.S.A. and other wealthy White enclaves are seeing their share of the population drop, proportionally in their nations. This is due to higher competing fertility more so than by unregulated “invasive immigration” by non-whites and foreigners of different type from that of the nativists.

In one sense the Nazi policy was kinder than that of tight-fisted US conservatives today, in that the Nazis provided good maternal medical care nationally to their favored “Aryan” portion of the German population, from 1933 till the war destroyed domestic life in Germany, by 1945.

Jane Elliott’s basic point is that US white supremacist panic about demographic dilution is what lies behind American political anti-abortion. The pseudo-moralistic religiosity camouflage layered over this “pro-life movement” is just to hide its racist foundation. This religious put-on is easily revealed as a fraud by the complete lack of concern by “moral majority” and “tea party” type nativist-racists:

about childhood poverty and malnutrition, and the abandonment by government of poor children to abysmal “education;”

about white nativist enthusiasm for, instead of their repulsion at, the snuffing out of “precious life” by the brisk police execution of black, brown, mentally challenged, and alternatively sexual people disfavored by Bibleist Bigotry, and arbitrarily assigned as athwart the law; and also the favoring of the legalized lynching known as “capital punishment;”

and about hollow Christianity’s utter lack of concern for any real threats to women and girls by good-old-boy Roy Moore type child molesters, and other sexual harassers of women, like Donald Trump and many other men in power, especially if White (or on the Supreme Court) and “conservative.”

This White nativist Bible-thumping Christian (sic) fear of demographic dilution has two components:

1. “White Christians are now a minority of the U.S. population,” at 43%, and

2. Between 1950 and 1970, the fractional White population dropped from its highest proportion since 1700 (about 90%) to nearly 88%. The fractional Black population rose from 10% to 11%; and the fractional Hispanic population grew at an accelerating pace — more than doubling — from 2.1% to over 4.4%. During the 40 years between 1970 and 2010, the fractional White population dropped significantly from 88% to 72%. The fractional Black population rose modestly from 11% to 12.6%; and the fractional Hispanic population zoomed from 4.4% to 16.3% (almost quadrupling proportionately). In the year 2000, the fractional Black and fractional Hispanic populations were essentially equal (12.3% and 12.5%, respectively), and subsequently the fractional Hispanic population became larger, and continues growing faster.

The trends shown above are what fuel US white supremacy, both in sentiment and in political action. The growth of the US Hispanic population is driven overwhelmingly by a higher fertility rate, less so by immigration. White people, worldwide, are the richest “racial” population, and they have the lowest fertility rate (more money, less kids). “Darker” and poorer populations have higher fertility rates.

Trumpism (which includes anti-abortionism for white people too), the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the former apartheid by and for white South Africa were/are wars against demographic dilution, perpetrated by the wealthy white low ‘fertiles’ (WWLFs) against poor dark high ‘fertiles’, (PDHFs). These “heart of whiteness” wars against demographic dilution are also wars for exclusionary capital hoarding (“race capitalism”).

Also, these wars are the echoes of the slave-owning White fears of the 17th through 19th centuries (over slave revolts), and the fears by the European imperialism of the 18th through 20th centuries (enacted through colonial wars). There is tremendous resistance among the world’s people to tolerate each other and share the Earth, for doing so would tumble capitalism, authoritarianism, patriarchy and religion.

While there is certainly a strong component of a “war on women” in anti-abortionism, to cover for chauvinist male insecurity that seeks idiotic reassurance by possessing and dominating women, the deeper wellspring of American anti-abortionism is the White supremacist fear of demographic dilution.

From the Middle East to Northern Ireland, Western States are All Too Happy to Avoid Culpability for War Crimes

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:58


When is a war crime not a war crime? When it’s committed by us, of course.

But this truism is taking on a new and sinister meaning today – and not just because Trump and his crackpots may be planning another clutch of atrocities in the Middle East.

For there is now a dangerous slippage becoming apparent in which western states are more ready than ever to countenance military crimes against humanity, to accept them, approve of them and to expect us to connive at these gross and sickening breaches of international law.

I’m not just talking about the pathetic and grotesque behaviour of our latest minister of defence’s “amnesty on historical prosecutions” – which means we can murder Iraqis and Afghans and get away with it, but must be a bit more restrained in Northern Ireland. Not much more restrained, mind you, for just look at the snapping young Tory elites and the desiccated ex-generals who are yelping to extend this kill-by-permission to those who have killed British citizens in Belfast and Derry.

Not only is this an insult to the humanity of Irish men and women in Northern Ireland who happen to have British citizenship; it is also placing them in a limbo-world between brown-eyed Muslims in the Middle East who can be forgotten 10 years after they have been liquidated, and blue-eyed Brits, whose murder would have squads of policemen and anti-terror squads racing through the streets of the nation to hunt down and bring to justice their killers.

It’s not just a difference between the DNA of our victims, of course. It’s that word “historical”. For what Penny Mordaunt and her roughnecks are proposing is a statute of limitations on war crimes – something which thousands of ex-Nazis sought and prayed for after the Second World War.

No, British army soldiers are not Nazis, the US marines are not the Wehrmacht, the RAF and the USAF are not the Luftwaffe (although we might have to lay aside Hamburg and Dresden here). I am talking about parallels, not comparisons, about the sudden growth of a dangerous and warped mindset which proposes to exonerate murderers before they commit their crime.

But let’s move away from Britain’s tawdry struggle in the northeast of Ireland, albeit that many Brexiteers are quite prepared to return to it. Instead, let’s cross the Atlantic to the larger lunatic asylum in Washington where Trump has just awarded a full pardon to US army first lieutenant Michael Behenna.

He murdered an Iraqi man called Ali Mansur on 16 May 2008. Behenna was ordered to drive Mansur back to his home after he had been interrogated by US intelligence operatives about the killing of two American soldiers in a roadside bombing. They found no evidence of his guilt. But Behenna drove his prisoner into the desert, stripped him, interrogated him again at gunpoint and then shot him in the head and chest. The case was straightforward – or so you might think. Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

But then the US justice department reduced his sentence from 25 years to 15 years, and paroled him in 2014. Behenna was a model prisoner, admired by his friends in his native Oklahoma.

And just 10 days ago, Trump granted this army killer a full pardon. No surprise from Trump’s point of view, of course. He has said that “torture works” and believes that mass murder works too.

“You have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” the US president said in a 2015 interview. Behenna committed murder just over 10 years ago, so no protests from Mordaunt and her chums in London: his crime was committed just after her 10-year limitation on murder in the Muslim world would have expired.

Another American combat veteran from Iraq put the lie to this nonsense the day after war criminal Behenna was blessed with freedom by Trump. Waitman Wade Beorn was a cavalry officer who told his soldiers to treat Iraqi civilians as if they were neighbours rather than enemies. In a remarkable article in the Washington Post, Beorn wrote that the US commander-in-chief had preferred to overlook serious war crimes “in favour of a warped notion of patriotism and heroism”. Trump subscribed to the “bad things happen in war mentality”, which is odd for a man who avoided military service.

But Beorn is unique in that he has also written a book about the German army’s participation in the Holocaust. Even given the premeditated, racist and highly ideologically driven environment of the Wehrmacht, he concluded, “the culture of each unit and the institutional leadership most directly influenced whether war crimes were committed. Murderous leaders led murderous units.”

Beorn is not comparing the US military with the Wehrmacht. He talks – albeit a trifle mawkishly – about America’s “systems of military education that highlight our values and the law of armed conflict” and their “strong ethical foundation”.

But he does highlight Adolf Hitler’s infamous “Jurisdiction Order” of May 1941, just before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, which informed German troops that “for offences committed by members of the Wehrmacht and its employees against enemy civilians, prosecution is not compulsory, not even if the offence is at the same time a military crime or violation”.

As Beorn notes, “soldiers were literally told that they would not be tried for behaviour that would be a crime anywhere else in Europe”.

Which is – really – frighteningly close to our minister of defence’s theoretical proposals. Letting killers off the hook if they murder Afghans or Iraqis – although only after a decent interval – but not if they kill Brits, might have seemed rather familiar to Wehrmacht veterans. When a US president champions war criminals as brave patriots who are merely victims of political correctness, he “condones unethical and criminal behaviour,” Beorn writes. And there you have it. Suddenly, Bloody Sunday slides into view. And the 1971 Ballymurphy mass killing inquest in Belfast this week, which heard a former British soldier describe some of his Parachute Regiment comrades in truly fearful terms. He praised good and professional soldiers, but then added: “There were also psychopaths in there, there were people who were dangerous to have around.”

You bet there were. “Rogue soldiers were out of control, killing people on the street and knowing that they would be protected,” said witness M597 at the Belfast inquest – although just how “rogue” these soldiers were, after Bloody Sunday less than a year later, is debatable. But remember, Ballymurphy was 48 years ago, Bloody Sunday 47 years ago. This is the kind of thinking that is now getting lost among those British politicians who would wipe the slate clean.

Trump has publicly supported US major Matt Golsteyn, who is currently charged with premeditated murder in the shooting of an unarmed man and the burning of his body in Afghanistan in 2010. Trump has called him a “US military hero”.

Beorn has also taken up the case of Trump’s support for former Navy Seal Edward Gallagher, another alleged war criminal who, according to The New York Times, “shot a girl in a flower-print dress who was walking with other girls on the riverbank” of the Tigris in Mosul in 2017.

She fell to the ground clutching her stomach and was dragged away by the other women. Beorn recalls that in the same year – and we are now talking of less than two years ago – Gallagher allegedly killed a wounded teenager by stabbing him several times in the neck and once in the chest.

“Trump has tweeted that Gallagher would be given better conditions in confinement ‘in honour of his past service’,” Beorn wrote, “an honour many would say he threw away long ago.”

Well, thank God, you may say, for the Beorns of this world. But what of our meek acceptance of the official body counts of our armies and air forces in the Middle East? “Coalition” forces say that they conducted 34,464 strikes in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, unintentionally killing 1,257 civilians. But Amnesty International has investigated the civilian casualties of just one city – Raqqa in Syria – over a mere four-month period in 2017 alone, and come up with a civilian death toll of more than 1,600.

Far more disturbing – more fantastical, is perhaps the right word – is the Royal Air Force claim that it killed 1,019 “enemy fighters” in Iraq and Syria over four years. But only one civilian. Just one – only a single civilian – was killed among 1,020 deaths. These figures, which cover the period between September 2014 and January this year, were handed out by the British Ministry of Defence under a Freedom of Information request from the charity Action on Armed Violence. And all this was based, according to the MOD, on “the best available post-strike analysis”.

Almost as distressing as this palpably ridiculous figure was that the BBC reported this on 7 March as a straightforward news story, only qualifying its utterly incredible contents later in its story with the charity’s comment that this must be “a world record in modern conflict”.

The BBC’s defence correspondent then remarked that these were “extraordinarily precise figures” but that battlefield analysis is “not a precise science”. Which would mean – again at face value – that the RAF killed only one of the 1,257 civilians “unintentionally” killed in coalition air strikes in the same period.

I have to say that statistics of this kind are not just unbelievable, incredible and insulting to anyone who reads or studies them. They are obviously miraculous, nonsensical, irresponsible, preposterous, bizarre, weird, out-of-this-world, dreamlike and – for anyone who has covered wars for the past four decades – totally untrue. Anyone who actually believes this tiddlypush must also have a total conviction in the existence of Martians, Father Christmas or little green men at the bottom of the garden.

Yet the British Ministry of Defence got away with it. Killing civilians in air raids can be no less a crime than that of a soldier who individually murders civilians. And killing civilians “unintentionally” from the air – by planes or drones – does not let military forces claim innocence.

Amnesty’s investigation of the Raqqa attacks says that the real civilian death toll was not only shocking but totally unnecessary.

However, we have grown used to this. From the sky, from the street, in the desert, we kill and absolve ourselves.

No, “prosecution is not compulsory”. We can even call the killers heroes. These days we get away with murder – and we don’t even complain. We connive at it.

From the Gulf of Tonkin to the Persian Gulf

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:56

Photograph Source: U.S. Navy sailor aboard USS Maddox – Public Domain

Beijing.

The number of world wars should bury the argument that history does not repeat itself. But the detail is different, and the devil is in the detail.

Iran. Can warmongers again offer the arguments of weapons of mass destruction? No. The Iraq playbook can’t be repeated, but you don’t have to go too far back to find one that may suit.

Question. Where is Iran.

It’s in the Gulf.

OK, Gulf, well, we obviously can’t have Gulf War or justify intervention over the invasion of an emirate.

But we have had a Gulf before. True, different location, but it worked a treat. Dust down the Gulf of Tonkin scenario. The phantom attack on the USS Maddox in 1964 led to greater US military involvement in Vietnam.

A Great playbook from 1964. A US ship, a new Maddox, only this time hit by Iranian bullets from a speedboat. And it’s in the Gulf. The real Gulf.

National Security Adviser John Bolton announced on May 5 that the administration had ordered a carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf (short note on descriptions, it’s also called the Iranian Gulf or the Arabian Gulf, damn details). This was done on the basis of “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” of unspecified Iranian threats. Brilliant, nothing definite, nice and vague. Then, a week later four oil tankers (two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati) were damaged in an alleged “sabotage” attack. Again, few details have been released about the incident, which is said to have taken place early on May 12 within the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman, east of the key UAE oil terminal port in Fujairah, near the Straits of Hormuz

Global maritime news websites have questioned the details surrounding the incident. The influential Lloyds List Maritime Intelligence, for example, criticized the authorities for “scant” information.

Maritime security company Dryad Global in a note to clients said “Saudi reticence to report the incident accurately within their own media channels and the current failure to provide imagery evidence of the attack raises important questions as to the nature of the attack.

“It remains unlikely that the risk to safety of vessels and crew will increase significantly in the short term however delays to commercial operations and the potential for interactions with military/militia forces has increased,” the report added.

Candidate Trump vowed to slash American deployments in the Middle East and vowed to “bomb the hell out of ISIS” and “take the oil.” Trump has let it be known that he has told the Pentagon he does not want war with Iran but consistency of message is not one of his strong points.

A conflict with Iran would represent a greater military challenge than toppling the Taliban or Saddam. Iran has a recognized ability to attack US forces and their allies directly and through proxy forces throughout

the Middle East and perhaps well beyond.

The global economy would also feel the consequences. About 20 percent of the global oil supply passes through passes through the Straits of Hormuz.

And what exactly is under consideration? Bombing key targets in Iran, limiting civilian casualties? Or the overthrow of the regime? What would define the success of military intervention?

Again history can provide some answers. Iranians elected Mohammad Mossadeq in 1951 and he renationalised the country’s oil production, which had been under British control through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company – which later became British Petroleum or BP.

The CIA played a key role in the 1953 coup which ousted him and reinstated the Shah. He fled in 1979.

The reinstatement of a Shah-type figure would be impossible but US intervention in Iran? Why when you ask that question does the phrase “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’’ spring to mind?

 

Targeting Iran

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:56

Photograph Source: Tasnim News Agency – CC BY 4.0

A dangerous flashpoint has emerged in world politics at the moment. There is widespread fear that the United States and its allies might launch a military operation against Iran at any time. A US aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers are already deployed in the region. The alleged sabotage of four oil tankers, two of them Saudi, and the attack on a major oil pipeline are being linked in certain circles without an iota of evidence to Tehran. There is no need to repeat that scenarios of this sort are often manufactured to justify military aggression.

For more than a year now since unilaterally repudiating the 2015 Iran nuclear deal forged between Iran and six world powers, the US has not only re-imposed economic sanctions upon Iran but has also forced other states that trade with Iran to reduce drastically their interaction with Tehran. US targeting of Iran is a grave travesty of justice for the simple reason that the UN’s nuclear inspection agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has reiterated over and over again that Iran has complied with the nuclear deal. It should not therefore be punished with old or new sanctions.  This is also the position adopted by the other signatories to the deal, namely, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

But US president, Donald Trump is determined to act against Iran partly because of the growing influence of the Israeli government led by Benyamin Netanyahu and a segment of the Israeli lobby in the US upon his administration.  Though Israel has harbored deep distrust of the Iranian leadership since the 1979 Islamic Revolution because of the latter’s proven commitment to the Palestinian cause, it is only in recent years that it has begun to sense that a combination of three factors renders Iran and its people a formidable challenge to Israel’s goal of establishing its hegemonic power over West Asia. Iran’s oil and gas wealth has been reinforced by its scientific knowledge and capabilities underscored by a passionate devotion to the nation’s independence and sovereignty derived from both its historical experience and its attachment to a spiritual identity. Besides, the Iranian government is a staunch defender of the Syrian government which refuses to yield to Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, in itself a gross violation of international law.  Iran is also linked to the Hezbollah which has successfully resisted Israeli attempts to gain control over Lebanon, thus threatening the tiny nation’s   sovereignty.

There is also perhaps another reason why Israel and the US are hell-bent on targeting Iran at this juncture. Very soon, leaders of these two states will announce the so-called “deal of the century”, a farcical attempt to resolve the longstanding Israel-Palestine conflict. Because the deal from what little is known of it, is so palpably unjust to the Palestinian people, the Palestinians and the majority of the people of West Asia are expected to reject it outright. According to various sources, the deal condemns the Palestinians to perpetual apartheid. Iran and its allies can be expected to spearhead the opposition. It explains to some extent why Iran has to be hobbled immediately.

As an aside, it is ironical that Israel is showing such hostility to Iran when the Iranian Constitution not only recognizes the Jews as a minority but also provides the community with representation in its legislature. This is unique in West Asia. Israel’s failure to appreciate this is perhaps proof that its real commitment is not so much to the well-being of the Jews as the triumph of its Zionist ideology with its goal of expansionism and hegemony.

It is not simply because of Zionism or Israel that the US Administration is seeking to emasculate Iran. Weakening and destroying Iran is foremost on the agenda of another of Trump’s close allies in the region. The Saudi ruling elite also saw the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as a mortal threat to its position and power because it overthrew a feudal monarch, was opposed to US dominance of the region and sought inspiration in a vision of Islam rooted in human dignity and social justice.  As Iranian influence in West Asia expanded especially after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, the Saudi elite became even more apprehensive of Iran and wanted the US to curb Iran’s role in the region.  In this regard it is worth observing that if Iran has become more influential in the region in the last 15 years or so, it is not only because of the astuteness of the Iranian leadership but also because of the follies of the Saudi and US ruling elite. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein through an Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 for instance paved the way for the ascendancy of Shia politicians more inclined towards Iran.

How and why Saudi and Israeli elite interests and ambitions are intertwined in the US push against Iran is not highlighted in the media including the new media. Consequently, only a small fraction of the public understands the real causes for the escalation of tensions in West Asia centering on Iran. It is largely because the media conceals and camouflages the truth, that a lot of people see the victim as the perpetrator and the perpetrator as the liberator. Or as Malcolm X once put it, “If you are not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

The Violent History of the Venezuelan Opposition

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:55

The West alleges that the Venezuelan opposition is peaceful and democratic; however, their extensive history of right-wing violence proves otherwise.

The Venezuelan opposition is led by a predominately white bourgeoisie, the US state department and its allies. The US state department has provided at least $49 million since 2009 in aid for Venezuelan right-wing opposition forces who have sparked violent protests and murders of innocent civilians with the hopes of removing the democratically elected President Maduro. The US government has also provided $4.26 million for Venezuela through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2015 in order to fund organizations that engage in anti-government work.

Contrary to Western narratives, these anti-government protestors have a history of escalating to extreme forms of violence, such as their burning of Venezuelan youth Orlando Jose Figuera, who was stabbed and set on fire on May 20th, 2018. This occurred in the Altamira neighborhood of Caracas, one of the wealthiest regions of the capital, after the anti-government protestors suspected he was a Chavista because he was Black. 80% of his body suffered burns and stab wounds as a result and he unfortunately died from this hate crime. This heinous act even drew the attention of Ernesto Vega, Venezuela’s Minister of Communication and Information, who issued a statement on his Twitter account following the death of Figuera, his statement is, as quoted: “Orlando Figuera, stabbed and burned alive by minds diseased by the hate in Altamira on May 20, just died of cardiopulmonary arrest,” he also elaborated that international mainstream media has failed to expose the opposition for how violent it truly is in its protests as opposed to “peaceful.”

Mainstream media has also failed to expose the reactionary nature of prominent Venezuelan bourgeois opposition leaders such as Leopoldo Lopez, who are romanticized as heroes fallen victim to a brutal regime when the reality is quite the contrary.

Leopoldo Lopez is a main figure of the Venezuelan opposition who was placed under house arrest after 3 years in prison due to health concerns.

He was imprisoned at first due to his planning and promotion of violent protests to topple the democratically elected Maduro government, these protests resulted in 43 casualties. Lopez is a wealthy white Venezuelan elite man who is directly descended from 19th century bourgeois liberator Simon Bolivar and Venezuela’s first president Cristobal Mendoza. He culminated his education in prestigious institutions in the US such as the Hun School of Princeton, which he attended alongside Saudi princes and the children of US Presidents and well known CEOS.

He was then admitted to Kenyon College followed by Harvard John F Kennedy School of Government. Some investigators speculate that he initiated a relationship with the CIA while at Kenyon. Lopez founded the group Primero Justicia while in school in 1992, which grew into a significant political party in right-wing Venezuelan politics.

Prior to becoming involved again in Venezuelan politics after his return to the country in 1996, he became an analyst at the quasi-privatized Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) where he worked until 1999 and while he worked there, he and his mother illegally sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to Primero Justicia, which breaks Venezuela’s anti-corruption laws. This act was not revealed until 2007 when an investigation conducted demonstrated what Lopez had done and banned him from obtaining political office titles for years.

After culminating his job at PDVSA, he was elected mayor of the Chachao department of Caracas in 2000, which is one of the wealthiest provinces in Venezuela. In 2002, Lopez started to regularly visit the headquarters of International Republican Institute (IRI) in Washington DC and meet with officials from the Bush administration. The IRI makes up one third of the National Endowment for Democracy, which is a US government funded NGO that was chaired by John Mccain and that has played a role in numerous US-sanctioned regime changes.
Both the IRI and the National Democratic Institute have financed Lopez’s Primero Justicia party as well as his other party Voluntad Popular which he established in 2010.

During his term as mayor of Chachao, Lopez participated in the 2002 US coup attempt against democratically elected president Hugo Chavez. The key role Lopez played in this coup attempt was in the illegal sequestration of former Minister of the Interior and Justice Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, along with engaging in violent attacks aimed at the Cuban Embassy in Caracas, which him and other violent counterrevolutionaries cut off water and electricity to and smashed windows and vehicles.

In 2007, Chavez forgave Lopez for his participation in the coup and prohibited him from holding political office from 2008 to 2014. Lopez has then tried to disassociate himself from the 2002 coup attempt which was generally not well received by anyone including the Venezuelan opposition. In 2014 Lopez’s lawyers tried to deny his involvement in the coup, but this was not successful as there was video evidence of him kidnapping Chacin and that his father, Leopoldo Lopez Gil, was a business leader who suspended the Venezuelan constitution that was provided by the fickle coup government.

This legacy of right-wing violence has continued to this day. On March 10th, 2019, the New York Times reported that the USAID that the Venezuelan government, UN and Red Cross rejected that was believed to have been burned by the Maduro administration, was in fact burned by the right-wing guarimberos, who were recently caught on camera throwing a molotov cocktail at the USAID truck. Juan Guaido, the interim figure backed by the US, recorded himself in now deleted videos of himself participating in violent guarimba riots back in 2014.

As much as the west wants to paint Venezuelan opposition as peaceful heroes and Maduro as a villain that needs to be taken down, neither is the actual case and are indeed imperialist propaganda.

The Battle for Rights of Nature Heats Up in the Great Lakes

Naked Capitalism - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:55
Public interest lawyers strive to give legal teeth to a Lake Erie Bill of Rights, a ballot initiative passed by Ohio voters in February.

They’re Just About Ready to Destroy Roe v. Wade

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:51

Militarism, consumerism, and racism have drawn alongside, and even to, misogyny and anti-immigrant hate. The juggernaut of greed, power, and hate may be impossible to stop at this point in U.S. history.

Those of goodwill have been fighting the good fight against these regressive forces for decades. When the Vietnam War ended, only a brief hiatus of warmongering took place before the right was drawing up its vicious plans again.

Racism has never had a vacation in the U.S. Slavery led to Jim Crow, and that turned into mass incarceration and white supremacy.

Now, the landmark case from 1973, Roe v. Wade, is on the precipice, with the recently passed anti-abortion law in Alabama set to go into effect in six months. The Alabama law is only the latest in decades of attacks agains Roe. Challenges to that law that make it up to the U.S. Supreme Court may in fact close off a woman’s right to abortion guaranteed under Roe. States like New York, Massachusetts, and Maine, among others, have and will take strong action to protect a woman’s right to access abortion, but huge swaths of the U.S. exist as women’s health-care deserts, just as food deserts exist in many ghettoes.

The political and religious right have always targeted women. Trump’s grotesque misogyny is not some chimera. It has been a focused effort to harness the right, and particularly the religious right, to cast women’s lives into the realm of second-class citizenship. Women, in Trump’s universe, are there for sexual exploitation. When Trump the pariah could not get what he wanted with words, the record shows he would have his way with money and force. The latter is the typical pattern of a male-dominated repressive political and social universe.

Women’s organizations that support women’s health care and reproductive rights have long fought a rear-guard battle against misogyny. The right is well-funded and has led the repressive fight against women since Roe became U.S. law. Their shock troops are most apparent at women’s health clinics where those seeking routine health treatment experience the horrific screaming, taunting, and ranting of those who hear the supposed voice of God driving them on.

All of this is a sideshow of the wealthy and the few who couldn’t care less about those who need to access health care, which those on the right have always had as a given. The last vestiges of anything resembling fair access to health care are slipping away, as are other traditions of fair play and fair treatment. Federal funds aren’t available for abortion services and overseas agencies supported by U.S. funding can’t even mention the word abortion. It is no accident they have enacted so-called fetal heartbeat laws while the misogynist-in-chief sits in the White House. It’s all about control of women and their lives.

 

Private Equity is a Driving Force Behind Devious Surprise Billings

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:50

Surprise medical bills are in the news almost daily. Last Thursday, the White House called for legislation to protect patients from getting surprise doctor bills when they are rushed to the emergency room and receive care from doctors not covered by insurance at an in-network hospital.

The financial burden on patients can be substantial — these doctor charges can amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

What’s behind this explosion of outrageous charges and surprise medical bills? Physicians’ groups, it turns out, can opt out of a contract with insurers even if the hospital has such a contract. The doctors are then free to charge patients, who desperately need care, however much they want.

This has made physicians’ practices in specialties such as emergency care, neonatal intensive care and anesthesiology attractive takeover targets for private equity firms.

As health reporter Bob Herman observed, acquisition of these health services “exemplifies private equity firms’ appetite for buying health care providers that wield a lot of market power.”

Emergency rooms, neonatal intensive care units and anesthesiologists’ practices do not operate like an ordinary marketplace. Physicians’ practices in these specialties do not need to worry that they will lose patients because their prices are too high.

Patients can go to a hospital in their network, but if they have an emergency, have a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit or have surgery scheduled with an in-network surgeon, they are stuck with the out-of-network doctors the hospital has outsourced these services to.

This stands in stark contrast to other health-care providers, such as primary-care physicians, who will lose patients if they are not in insurers’ networks.

It’s not only patients that are victimized by unscrupulous physicians’ groups. These doctors’ groups are able to coerce health insurance companies into agreeing to pay them very high fees in order to have them in their networks.

They do this by threatening to charge high out-of-network bills to the insurers’ covered patients if they don’t go along with these demands. High payments to these unethical doctors raise hospitals’ costs and everyone’s insurance premiums.

That’s what happened when private equity-owned physician staffing firms took over hospital emergency rooms.

A 2018 study by Yale health economists looked at what happened when the two largest emergency room outsourcing companies — EmCare and TeamHealth — took over hospital ERs. They found:

“…that after EmCare took over the management of emergency services at hospitals with previously low out-of-network rates, they raised out-of-network rates by over 81 percentage points. In addition, the firm raised its charges by 96 percent relative to the charges billed by the physician groups they succeeded.”

TeamHealth used the threat of sending high out-of-network bills to the insurance company’s covered patients to gain high fees as in-network doctors. The researchers found:

“…in most instances, several months after going out-of-network, TeamHealth physicians rejoined the network and received in-network payment rates that were 68 percent higher than previous in-network rates.”

What the Yale study failed to note, however, is that EmCare has been in and out of PE hands since 2005 and is currently owned by KKR. Blackstone is the once and current owner of TeamHealth, having held it from 2005 to 2009 before buying it again in 2016.

Private equity has shaped how these companies do business. In the health-care settings where they operate, market forces do not constrain the raw pursuit of profit. People desperate for care are in no position to reject over-priced medical services or shop for in-network doctors.

Private equity firms are attracted by this opportunity to reap above-market returns for themselves and their investors.

Patients hate surprise medical bills, but they are very profitable for the private equity owners of companies like EmCare (now called Envision) and TeamHealth. Fixing this problem may be more difficult than the White House imagines.

This column first appeared on The Hill.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Katehon - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:50

Mike Pompeo's visit to Russia was more concise than originally planned. The US Secretary of State canceled a trip to Moscow, leaving only Sochi on his work schedule. Here he waited a difficult day. First, negotiations with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, which lasted more than three hours. And this is despite the fact that quite recently in Finnish Rovaniemi they have already met. True. then, on May 6, they managed to talk for only about an hour.



Michael Moulin: China hits US economy

Katehon - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:40

On May 13, the United States stock markets experienced a solid, juicy, synchronous fall. S & P 500 - 2.41%, Dow Jones - 2.44%, NASDAQ - 3.31%. To do this, it took exactly one statement from the government of China - on the introduction of duties on a whole range of American goods: 5 thousand items with a trade volume of $ 60 billion a year. For half of the products from the list, this increase is from 10% to 25%, for a thousand more - from 10% to 20%, for the rest - from zero or a symbolic percentage to 5 and 10%.



Bob Hawke: Misunderstood in Memoriam

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:39

What a cheeky way of going.  Death is rarely a matter of good timing but it can be part of a good career move or, as Robert J. Hawke’s passing might prove, the perfect conclusion to his political party’s attempt to reclaim office.  Having shuffled off his mortal coil a few days out of an Australian federal election, his Labor counterparts will hope so.

At a time when Australian politics suffers from dull atrophy and an entrenched dreariness, Hawke, virtue and vice, seems nostalgically stellar.  He cried on public occasions; he bellowed at his opponents with fury; and was fundamentally vulnerable to the usual failings: drink and women.  He wore his errors and his broken promises (with notable exceptions, particularly towards his treasurer and ultimate usurper, Paul Keating), lending himself to a whole assortment of descriptions.

Rather gratingly, the term larrikin is being used, or misused, in describing Australia’s twenty-third prime minister.  Originating in the Australia of the 19thand early 20thcentury, the word was hardly flattering, alluding to the hooliganism and violence of youths who came together in “pushes” and wrought mayhem upon the citizens of Melbourne and Sydney.  The taming, and domestication of the larrikin was an Australian historical achievement. Urbanised and turned to sporting mania, Australian society vanquished the larrikin, only to see the form re-appear in hologram form and shoddy cultural analysis.

Hawke was careful of his image, nursing and adjusting it for the negotiating muscle needed for the worker’s movement.  His stint at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar minted him as candidate for the political establishment, a Commonwealth man, if you will. Not that he would mention it. Stress was placed, instead, on the macho, the Herculean: Hawke could drink you under the table and down a yard glass in record time.  As he remembered, revealingly enough, in his autobiography, “The feat was to endear me to some of my fellow Australians more than anything else I ever achieved.”  In 1954, he made it into the Guinness Book of Records downing 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds.

He became an exaggeration of the common man with gifts, the everyday man with other worldly talents. But many of his instincts were standard political attributes: vanity, a lust for power, a desire for the top position.  As the Labor government of Gough Whitlam shuddered through its short burst of occupancy between 1972 and 1975, Hawke was having meetings with US embassy sources.

This was hardly accidental.  He smelled trouble, and wanted to put his oar in; with Whitlam’s days numbered, Hawke sowed the seeds of confidence: any future Labor leader, namely himself, would be more accommodating to Washington.  Embassy officials, and a few US intelligence personnel, had gotten edgy over Whitlam’s concerns with the US-Australian alliance in various respects.  Fears were floated that the leasing arrangements of the joint Pine Gap facility might not be renewed; the Nixon administration also pondered the prospect of downgrading its relationship with Canberra.  US embassy accounts, revealed through cables available via WikiLeaks, show Hawke, then the federal president of the ALP, keen to rubbish his doomed prime minister.

In a cable dated August 12, 1975, Hawke’s agitation is clear.  Whitlam had left the party in “bad financial shape”; credibility had been “eroded by ‘Whitlam stupidity’.” The prime minister was deluded, incapable of appreciating the imminent “parliamentary disaster” he and his party “surely faces at the next election”. Subsequent embassy cables noted the tense relations between the two men, with Whitlam seen as the dreamer before the apocalypse, and Hawke, the level headed realist in waiting.

When it became clear in the early 1980s that the Liberal Party’s Malcolm Fraser was winding down his government for the fall, Hawke saw his chance: the opposition Labor Party, nurtured by then leader Bill Hayden, would have to make way for him.  This was bruising to Hayden – Hawke had only been a member of Parliament for three years; Hayden was a tried, loyal veteran. It also showed the other side of Hawke avoided, and forgotten in the tear-watered eulogies: Hawke as brute and political slayer.  While Labor’s return to power in 1983 after being banished in the crushing election defeat of December 1975 was seen as a glowing achievement, a memorable remark by Hayden remains: even a drover’s dog could have won that election.

Yet for a person described by punters as “a voice for the working man”, Hawke saw Labor go along the way of its equivalents in other countries: embrace neo-liberal canons, the sawdust of micro-economic reform, and succumb to the temptations of privatisation.  Selling the public silver had one fundamental trickledown: governments at every level in Australia began doing it to balance the books and grab some ruddy cash.

The floating of the dollar, the cutting of tariffs, and the deregulation of the stodgy Australian banking system signalled the yielding of government responsibility to the irresponsibility of the corporate boardroom.  The commonweal would be tied to the corporation.  As this was happening, Hawke was attempting to boost the social welfare state, marked by universal health care, and encourage an accommodation between the interests of business and labour, in what became known formally as the Prices and Incomes Accord.  Consensus, not bludgeoning, was the solution.

With the body still warm, Australian politicians from across political affiliations have been reflecting.  “He was true to his beliefs in the Labor tradition and defined the politics of his generation and beyond,” claimed the conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison rather blandly.

Prime Ministerial aspirant Bill Shorten spoke of the saluting, by the labour movement, of “our greatest son”.  “The Australian people loved Bob because they knew Bob loved them.” But it was in Hawke’s collaborator, rival and foe Keating, that we get one of the better reflections of Hawke’s stewardship in political life.  The Hawke-Keating partnership of the 1980s is seen as one of farsightedness mixed with stab-in-the-dark modernisation.  Keating recounted “the rationale we employed in opening Australia to the world.”  Less than a larrikin, Hawke was an all-seeing politician and gifted performer, a ventriloquist of the Australian mood.  He could be consummately venal when he wanted to be and tenacious in what he thought was realism.  It came with its far-reaching consequences.

 

End of an era for ETA?: May Basque Peace Continue

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:38

May 16thwe had news of the arrest of Josu Ternera, a.k.a. Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea Bengoetxea, the former leader of Basque terrorist group, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna(ETA, Basque Homeland and Freedom) near Saint-Gervais-les-Bains in the French Alps. The operation was conducted by the Spanish Guardia Civil and the French General Directorate of Interior Security. As Ternera represents some of the ETA old guard, the news was welcome. Yet, some serious questions remain in the present. Where are the Basques and Spain in their peace process? Will further arrests of ETA commandos and ETA leadership ease enough tensions for the Spanish government to resume talks with the radical-Basque left (Batasuna)?

It has been eight years since ETA declared a permanent and verifiable ceasefire and last year, Ternera as spokesperson for the group, declared ETA’s final dissolution.In those past eight years, many Basques have waited for a peace process and negotiations with the Spanish government along the lines of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. Even so, successive Spanish governments during this time, both conservative and liberal, have not wanted to negotiate with Basque political parties who in the past supported violence against Spanish security forces, the military and police, as well as contra Spanish politicians.

Since ETA’s inception in 1959 it was responsible for 829 deaths. In its final years, the terrorist group especially targeted conservative Spanish-politicians from the Popular Party. Over its half-century history prior to conclusion, its paramilitary activities were responsible for numerous civilian deaths, military and police killings, criminal extortion, kidnappings, bombings, murders, and assassination-attempts. All of this violence was presumably done in the name of independence for creation of a separate Basque Country or Euskadi—the irredentist idea of political secession of the so-called seven Basque provinces fissuring from both Spain and France.

As a political-military movement, ETA did not arise in a vacuum. It came into being because of the Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco’s (1939-1975)policies of cultural oppression against Basques and Catalans. Franco and his regime tried earnestly to eradicate the ancient Basque-language (euskera) and Basque culture. Basque nationalism though began around the turn of the twentieth century through the writings of Basque politician, Sabino Arana Goiri. But it was not until the 1960s that Basques radicalized toward using violence, developing both a political platform and paramilitary strategies to counteract against the Francoist dictatorship, while also formulating separatist goals for the establishment of a Basque state.

When El Caudillo—Franco—died in 1975, and Spain transitioned to democracy, it should have signaled an end to ETA. However, ETA continued and carried on its warfare with the Spanish police and Spanish military, and later Basque police as well. Its political ideology became Marxist and its politics leftist, favoring environmentalism, feminism, and workers’ rights, though its violence relegated those positions to near-irrelevance. Its primary political rallies became those against the imprisonment and torture of its members and its political adherents. By 2009 polls of Basques showed a mere one percent unqualified support for ETA and a 64 percent total opposition.

When I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in the Spanish-Basque Country (1996-1997), ETA had changed military tactics toward assassinating politicians and not just members of the security forces. By 1997, when a young PP Town Councilman, Miguel Ángel Blanco was kidnapped and eventually murdered by ETA, it caused massive protests and unrest against “Basque Homeland and Freedom” throughout Spain with millions marching in favor of peace. Indeed, many believed it was time for the Spanish government to publicly support terrorist victims’ rights and to provide monetary support for victims’ families and even pay for bodyguards for threatened politicians.

It was clear then, ETA’s days were numbered. Most Spaniards saw ETA and the radical Basque-left as criminals and not as the revolutionaries the Basque-left considered themselves to be. Even the Mexican Zapatista EZLN leader, Subcomandante Marcos, questioned ETA’s Marxist aims and credentials compared to the poor Indians in Chiapas, Mexico.

In 2010 in Oslo, Norway, while I was working for the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), as a Senior Researcher, I had the opportunity for talks with some of the Batasunaleadership about possible ways forward toward a peace process. My role was altogether minor compared to others such as the South African lawyer and peace activist, Brian Currin–partially responsible for the creation of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission–and other notables as the Irish Sinn Féin leadership, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, as well as Nobel Laureates like Bishop Desmond Tutu and John Hume, among other peace dignitaries.

In March, 2010, I was one of the signatories of what became known as the “Brussels Declaration”, read out to European Union (EU) Parliament: We, the undersigned, welcome and commend the proposed steps and new public commitment of the Basque Pro-independence (AbertzaleLeft) to “exclusively political and democratic” means and a “total absence of violence” to attain its political goals. Fully carried out, this commitment can be a major step in ending the last remaining conflict in Europe. We note the expectation that the coming months may present a situation where the commitment to peaceful, democratic and nonviolent means becomes an irreversible reality. To that end, we appeal to ETA to support this commitment by declaring a permanent, fully verified ceasefire. Such a declaration appropriately responded to by [Spanish] Government would permit new political and democratic efforts to advance, differences to be resolved and lasting peace attained.

It was a welcome statement for a total commitment to peace—peace from years of Basque conflict and peace for all the Spanish people.

Now, eight years on from ETA’s formal declaration of a permanent ceasefire, I reflect upon the meaning of Josu Ternera’s arrest and what more can be done toward a Basque peace process. It is heartening that it was Ternera who made recorded statements of an official apology on behalf of ETA to the victims’ families.

In their own words, ETA declared in 2018: “We know we caused a lot of pain during the long period of armed struggle, including damage that can never be put right…We wish to show our respect for those who were killed or wounded by ETA and those who were affected by the conflict. We are truly sorry.” These are truly remarkable words from those formerly hell-bent on achieving Basque independence at all costs—including willingness to die and kill for a political cause.

Unfortunately, the Association of Victims from Terrorism (Asscociación de Víctimas del Terrorismo, AVT), and the other victims’ associations (el Colectivo de Víctimas del Terrorismo, COVITE, la Fundación Miguel Ángel Blancola Asscociación de Cuerpos y Fuerzas de Seguridad del EstadoVíctimas del Terrorismo),rejected the apology as a denial by ETA of its authentic responsibility for its use of violence.

As NYU Fellow Teresa Whitfield describes in her well-received 2014 book, Endgame for ETA:

Spanish intransigence may uphold Spanish ‘principles’, but it also helps ensure that Basque society will remain deeply polarised and significantly hostile to Spain and Madrid. Over many years, ETA had inflicted great suffering on its victims and damage to the Basque Country and Spain. The ending of its armed activities had been unanimously welcomed, and its dissolution would be too. Peace is not worth any price, but nor does it come free.

ETA did in fact announce its dissolution one year ago.

Still, there are deep wounds to heal from the Basque conflict.

In 1960, around the time ETA began as a political organization, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned some of his own words about “personal suffering” in his short essay, “Suffering and Faith.”He observed:

My personal trials have also taught me the value of unmerited suffering. Asmy sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways that I could respond to my situation: either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course. Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it a virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains. I have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive.

May there be healing and redemption from the Basque conflict.

E. Coachman: The Ban on Abortion Becomes Stress Test for American Society

Katehon - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:32

Americans like to repeat that the USA is the country of the most complete personal freedoms for citizens. It is this deeply liberal principle that underlies many of the actions of the leadership of this country for a little more than a couple of centuries of its existence - actions that are often completely incompatible with the concepts of honor, conscience and humanity.



John W. Whitehead: D Is for a Dictatorship Disguised as a Democracy

Katehon - Mon, 2019-05-20 15:05

What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of sound and fury, yet in the end, signifying nothing.



‘French prisons are overcrowded jihadist incubators’

Katehon - Mon, 2019-05-20 14:54

To combat prison overcrowding, the French government plans to create some 7 000 additional places by 2022. The rise in inmates has coincided with a surge in immigration.

The dire overpopulation of France’s penitentiary institutions has not really featured in the media. And it should have, according to Catholic daily La Croixon Tuesday, May 14.

The record number of detainees held in French jails has now reached new heights. There were 71 828 people in prison as of April 1. Last year, at the same time, they were 70 000.



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