Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Who Rules the World? How Concentration of Wealth and Political Power Undermines Global Democracy

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

TeleSur [1] / By Benjamin Dangl [2]

Who Rules the World? How Concentration of Wealth and Political Power Undermines Global Democracy
November 19, 2014 |

This article originally appeared at TeleSUR English [3].

With a $4 billion price tag, the recent US midterm election was the most expensive in the country’s history. For the first time in eight years, the Republicans gained complete control of Congress, as well as won victories in key Senate and gubernatorial races across the country.

With elections in the US, we are granted the illusion that voters generally have power over our elected leaders, the direction of the economy, and how to tackle climate change and other major issues. But where does the real power lie?

Wealth and political power are so dramatically concentrated in this country that elections have become a bitter farce. The recent midterm vote provides a great opportunity to reflect on the structural ways in which the system is rigged against the people.

The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case essentially enabled corporations and billionaires to be able buy US elections and politicians without government oversight. According to David Bossie, the plaintiff in the case and the president of the conservative Citizens United organization, the court ruling helped the Republicans win this year’s midterms.

The day after the election, Bossie said that Citizens United “leveled the playing field, and we’re very proud of the impact that had in last night’s election.” He said this corporate funding helped the republicans win, and created “a robust conversation, which is what a level playing field allows, really creates an opportunity for the American people to get information and make good decisions.”

Rather than creating a level playing field, Citizens United gives disproportionate power to corporations and elites to decide elections. Meanwhile, most voters are left disempowered on the sidelines, pawns in elections that are largely fueled by clandestine corporate money.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that among the world’s ten richest people [4] are the conservatives Charles and David Koch. The infamous Koch brothers are major funders of the Tea Party, and spent an estimated $290 million to aid in Republicans’ election in the recent mid-term, helping to put out some 44,000 political ads in an attempt to place the Senate back into Republican hands.

The Koch brothers’ reach is wide and disastrous; much of their wealth is from the oil industry, and they are fierce proponents of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. If the pipeline goes through, the brothers are set to profit an estimated $30 billion [5].

As a result of Citizens United, “this election is turning out to be kind of the Wild West,” political reporter Lee Fang told Democracy Now[6] during the recent election day. “Not only are campaign entities raising and spending unlimited amounts, much of it in secret, but we have no cop on the beat, we have no enforcement of election law…”

The impact of Citizens United corresponds to a widely-shared view that the US is indeed not a democracy. In fact, this perception was confirmed in a research study [7] released earlier this year by professors at Princeton and Northwestern University.

Their research found that the wealthy and business elites of the nation wield all of the power, leaving most people on the margins. The report explained, “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

This concentration of political power is reflective of the global concentration of wealth. The 85 richest people in the world now have the same wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest. That was one of the findings of a report [8] from UK-based Oxfam International, which also concluded that the wealthiest 1% of the global population owns roughly half of the world’s wealth. Inequality is rising most rapidly in the US, where the richest 1% have benefitted the most from economic growth since 2009. During that same period, the poorest 90% in the US became poorer.

"This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a significant threat to inclusive political and economic systems,” the Oxfam report stated.

Just as most of the world’s wealth is in the hands of a few people, according to a recent article in the academic journal Climatic Change[9], two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions were produced by just 90 companies, with Chevron, Exxon and BP leading the list as the biggest polluters. Half of these emissions were from the past 25 years.

"There are thousands of oil, gas and coal producers in the world," Richard Heede, the author of the journal article, told the Guardian [10]. "But the decision makers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two."

Confronting climate change requires a systemic transformation of how our economies are run and who runs them. Part of this radical change will involve disempowering the global 1% and the disaster-producing industries they profit from.

Across the US, we are living in a dream state; crisis is the new normal. In the face of global catastrophe, the leading political parties of the country typically offer more business as usual, meaning more corporate power to fuel democracy, more capitalism to fight inequality, more war to fight for peace, and more pollution to fight climate change.

We cannot depend on the 1% of the world to lead us away from disaster – they caused our global crises in the first place, continue to profit from them, and cannot bring about solutions from the top-down. It has to be the people’s movements leading the way from below, deconstructing capitalism and building a better world from the bottom-up.
[11]

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/who-rules-world-how-concentration-wealth-and-political-power-undermines-global-democracy

Links:
[1] http://www.telesurtv.net/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/benjamin-dangl
[3] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Who-Rules-the-World-20141119-0024.html
[4] http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/list/#tab:overall
[5] http://kochcash.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Embargo_Report.pdf
[6] http://www.democracynow.org/2014/11/4/the_priciest_midterms_ever_brought_to
[7] http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf
[8] http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/bp-working-for-few-political-capture-economic-inequality-200114-en.pdf
[9] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-013-0986-y
[10] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/20/90-companies-man-made-global-warming-emissions-climate-change
[11] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on Who Rules the World? How Concentration of Wealth and Political Power Undermines Global Democracy

Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/24/business/energy-environment/solar-and-wind-energy-start-to-win-on-price-vs-conventional-fuels.html?_r=0

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels

By DIANE CARDWELLNOV. 23, 2014

A wind farm in Weatherford, Okla. In a study, the cost of wind power came in as low as 1.4 cents a kilowatt-hour. Credit Paul Hellstern for The New York Times

For the solar and wind industries in the United States, it has been a long-held dream: to produce energy at a cost equal to conventional sources like coal and natural gas.

That day appears to be dawning.

The cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power plants has plummeted over the last five years, so much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas.

Utility executives say the trend has accelerated this year, with several companies signing contracts, known as power purchase agreements, for solar or wind at prices below that of natural gas, especially in the Great Plains and Southwest, where wind and sunlight are abundant.

Those prices were made possible by generous subsidies that could soon diminish or expire, but recent analyses show that even without those subsidies, alternative energies can often compete with traditional sources.
In Texas, Austin Energy signed a deal this spring for 20 years of output from a solar farm at less than 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. In September, the Grand River Dam Authority in Oklahoma announced its approval of a new agreement to buy power from a new wind farm expected to be completed next year. Grand River estimated the deal would save its customers roughly $50 million from the project.

And, also in Oklahoma, American Electric Power ended up tripling the amount of wind power it had originally sought after seeing how low the bids came in last year.

“Wind was on sale — it was a Blue Light Special,” said Jay Godfrey, managing director of renewable energy for the company. He noted that Oklahoma, unlike many states, did not require utilities to buy power from renewable sources.

“We were doing it because it made sense for our ratepayers,” he said.

According to a study by the investment banking firm Lazard, the cost of utility-scale solar energy is as low as 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour, and wind is as low as 1.4 cents. In comparison, natural gas comes at 6.1 cents a kilowatt-hour on the low end and coal at 6.6 cents. Without subsidies, the firm’s analysis shows, solar costs about 7.2 cents a kilowatt-hour at the low end, with wind at 3.7 cents.

“It is really quite notable, when compared to where we were just five years ago, to see the decline in the cost of these technologies,” said Jonathan Mir, a managing director at Lazard, which has been comparing the economics of power generation technologies since 2008.

Mr. Mir noted there were hidden costs that needed to be taken into account for both renewable energy and fossil fuels. Solar and wind farms, for example, produce power intermittently — when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing — and that requires utilities to have power available on call from other sources that can respond to fluctuations in demand. Alternately, conventional power sources produce pollution, like carbon emissions, which face increasing restrictions and costs.

But in a straight comparison of the costs of generating power, Mr. Mir said that the amount solar and wind developers needed to earn from each kilowatt-hour they sell from new projects was often “essentially competitive with what would otherwise be had from newly constructed conventional generation.”

Experts and executives caution that the low prices do not mean wind and solar farms can replace conventional power plants anytime soon.

“You can’t dispatch it when you want to,” said Khalil Shalabi, vice president for energy market operations and resource planning at Austin Energy, which is why the utility, like others, still sees value in combined-cycle gas plants, even though they may cost more. Nonetheless, he said, executives were surprised to see how far solar prices had fallen. “Renewables had two issues: One, they were too expensive, and they weren’t dispatchable. They’re not too expensive anymore.”

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the main trade group, the price of electricity sold to utilities under long-term contracts from large-scale solar projects has fallen by more than 70 percent since 2008, especially in the Southwest.

The average upfront price to install standard utility-scale projects dropped by more than a third since 2009, with higher levels of production.

The price drop extends to homeowners and small businesses as well; last year, the prices for residential and commercial projects fell by roughly 12 to 15 percent from the year before.

The wind industry largely tells the same story, with prices dropping by more than half in recent years. Emily Williams, manager of industry data and analytics at the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, said that in 2013 utilities signed “a record number of power purchase agreements and what ended up being historically low prices.”

Especially in the interior region of the country, from North Dakota down to Texas, where wind energy is particularly robust, utilities were able to lock in long contracts at 2.1 cents a kilowatt-hour, on average, she said. That is down from prices closer to 5 cents five years ago.

“We’re finding that in certain regions with certain wind projects that these are competing or coming in below the cost of even existing generation sources,” she said.

Both industries have managed to bring down costs through a combination of new technologies and approaches to financing and operations. Still, the industries are not ready to give up on their government supports just yet.
Already, solar executives are looking to extend a 30 percent federal tax credit that is set to fall to 10 percent at the end of 2016. Wind professionals are seeking renewal of a production tax credit that Congress has allowed to lapse and then reinstated several times over the last few decades.

Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, who for now leads the Finance Committee, held a hearing in September over the issue, hoping to push a process to make the tax treatment of all energy forms more consistent.
“Congress has developed a familiar pattern of passing temporary extensions of those incentives, shaking hands and heading home,” he said at the hearing. “But short-term extensions cannot put renewables on the same footing as the other energy sources in America’s competitive marketplace.”

Where that effort will go now is anybody’s guess, though, with Republicans in control of both houses starting in January.

A version of this article appears in print on November 24, 2014, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Renewable Energy Starts to Win on Price.

2014 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Jerusalem: The Unholiest City

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/27137-jerusalem-the-unholiest-city


Uri Avnery. (photo: Daniel Tchetchik/Haaretz)



By Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom
24 November 14

In its long and checkered history, Jerusalem has been occupied by dozens of conquerors.
Babylonians and Persians, Greeks and Romans, Mamluks and Turks, Britons and Jordanians – to mention just a few.
The latest occupier is Israel, which conquered and annexed Jerusalem in 1967.

(I could have written "East Jerusalem" – but all of historical Jerusalem is in today's East Jerusalem. All the other parts were built in the last 200 years by Zionist settlers, or are surrounding Arab villages which were arbitrarily joined to the huge area that is now called Jerusalem after its occupation.)

This week, Jerusalem was in flames - again. Two youngsters from Jabel Mukaber, one of the Arab villages annexed to Jerusalem, entered a synagogue in the west of the city during morning prayers and killed four devout Jews, before themselves being killed by police.

Jerusalem is called "the City of Peace". This is a linguistic mistake. True, in antiquity it was called Salem, which sounds like peace, but Salem was in fact the name of the local deity.

It is also a historical mistake. No city in the world has seen as many wars, massacres and as much bloodshed as this one.

All in the name of some God or other.

Jerusalem was annexed (or "liberated", or "unified") immediately after the Six-day War of 1967.
That war was Israel's greatest military triumph. It was also Israel's greatest disaster. The divine blessings of the incredible victory turned into divine punishments. Jerusalem was one of them.

The annexation was presented to us (I was a member of the Knesset at the time) as a unification of the city, which had been cruelly rent asunder in the Israeli-Palestinian war of 1948. Everybody cited the Biblical sentence: "Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together." This translation of Psalm 122 is rather odd. The Hebrew original says simply "a city that is joined together".

In fact, what happened in 1967 was anything but unification.

If the intent had really been unification, it would have looked very different.

Full Israeli citizenship would have been automatically conferred on all inhabitants. All the lost Arab properties in West Jerusalem, which had been expropriated in 1948, would have been restored to their rightful owners who had fled to East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem municipality would have been expanded to include Arabs from the East, even without a specific request. And so on.

The opposite happened. No property was restored, nor any compensation paid. The municipality remained exclusively Jewish.

Arab inhabitants were not accorded Israeli citizenship, but merely "permanent residence". This is a status that can be arbitrarily revoked at any moment – and indeed was revoked in many cases, compelling the victims to move out of the city. For appearance's sake, Arabs were allowed to apply for Israel citizenship. The authorities knew, of course, that only a handful would apply, since doing so would mean recognition of the occupation. For Palestinians, this would be paramount to treason. (And the few that did apply were generally refused.)

The municipality was not broadened. In theory, Arabs are entitled to vote in municipal elections, but only a handful do so, for the same reasons. In practice, East Jerusalem remains occupied territory.

The mayor, Teddy Kollek, was elected two years before the annexation. One of his first actions after it was to demolish the entire Mugrabi Quarter next to the Western Wall, leaving a large empty square resembling a parking lot. The inhabitants, all of them poor people, were evicted within hours.

But Kollek was a genius in public relations. He ostensibly established friendly relations with the Arab notables, introduced them to foreign visitors and created a general impression of peace and contentment. Kollek built more new Israeli neighborhoods on Arab land than any other person in the country. Yet this master-settler collected almost all the world's peace prizes, except the Nobel Prize. East Jerusalem remained quiet.

Only few knew of a secret directive from Kollek, instructing all municipal authorities to see to it that the Arab population – then 27% - did not rise above that level.

Kollek was ably supported by Moshe Dayan, then the Defense Minister. Dayan believed in keeping the Palestinians quiet by giving them all possible benefits, except freedom.

A few days after the occupation of East Jerusalem he removed the Israeli flag which had been planted by soldiers in front of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. Dayan also turned the de facto authority over the Mount over to the Muslim religious authorities.

Jews were allowed into the Temple compound only in small numbers and only as quiet visitors. They were forbidden to pray there, and forcibly removed if they moved their lips. They could, after all, pray to their heart's content at the adjoining Western Wall (which is a part of the compound's ancient outer wall).

The government was able to impose this decree because of a quaint religious fact: Orthodox Jews are forbidden by the rabbis to enter the Temple Mount altogether. According to a Biblical injunction, ordinary Jews are not allowed into the Holy of Holies, only the High Priest was allowed in. Since nobody today knows where exactly this place is located, pious Jews may not enter the entire compound.

As a result, the first few years of the occupation were a happy time for East Jerusalem. Jews and Arabs mingled freely. It was fashionable for Jews to shop in the colorful Arab market and dine in the "oriental" restaurants. I myself often stayed in Arab hotels and made quite a number of Arab friends.

This atmosphere changed gradually. The government and the municipality spent a lot of money to gentrify West Jerusalem, but Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem were neglected, and turned into slums. The local infrastructure and services degenerated. Almost no building permits were issued to Arabs, in order to compel the younger generation to move outside the city borders. Then the "Separation" Wall was built, preventing those outside from entering the city, cutting them off from their schools and jobs. Yet In spite of everything, the Arab population grew and reached 40%.

Political oppression grew. Under the Oslo agreements, Jerusalemite Arabs were allowed to vote for the Palestinian Authority. But then they were prevented from doing so, their representatives were arrested and expelled from the city. All Palestinian institutions were forcibly closed down, including the famous Orient House, where the much admired and beloved leader of the Jerusalem Arabs, the late Faisal al-Husseini, had his office.
Kollek was succeeded by Ehud Olmert and an Orthodox mayor who didn't give a damn for East Jerusalem, except the Temple Mount.

And then an additional disaster occurred. Secular Israelis are leaving Jerusalem, which is rapidly becoming an Orthodox bastion. In desperation they decided to oust the Orthodox mayor and elect a secular businessman. Unfortunately, he is a rabid ultra-nationalist.

Nir Barkat behaves like the mayor of West Jerusalem and the military governor of East Jerusalem. He treats his Palestinian subjects like enemies, who may be tolerated if they obey quietly, and brutally suppressed if they do not. Together with the decade-old neglect of the Arab neighborhoods, the accelerated pace of building new Jewish neighborhoods, the excessive police brutality (openly encouraged by the mayor), they are producing an explosive situation.

The total cutting-off of Jerusalem from the West Bank, its natural hinterland, worsens the situation even more. To this may be added the termination of the so-called peace process, since all Palestinians are convinced that East Jerusalem must be the capital of the future State of Palestine.

This situation needed only a spark to ignite the city. This was duly provided by the right-wing demagogues in the Knesset. Vying for attention and popularity, they started to visit the Temple Mount, one after the other, every time unleashing a storm. Added to the manifest desire of certain religious and right-wing fanatics to build the Third Temple in place of the holy al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock, this was enough to create the belief that the holy shrines were indeed in danger.

Then came the ghastly revenge-murder of an Arab boy who was abducted by Jews and burned alive with gasoline poured into his mouth.

Individual Muslim inhabitants of the city started to act. Disdaining organizations, almost without arms, they started a series of attacks that are now called "the intifada of individuals". Acting alone, or with a brother or cousin whom he trusts, an Arab takes a knife, or a pistol (if he can get one), or his car, or a tractor, and kills the nearest Israelis. He knows that he is going to die.

The two cousins who killed four Jews in a synagogue this week – and also an Arab Druze policeman – knew this. They also knew that their families were going to suffer, their home be demolished, their relatives arrested. They were not deflected. The mosques were more important.

Moreover, the day before, an Arab bus driver was found dead in his bus. According to the police, the autopsy proved that he committed suicide. An Arab pathologist concluded that he was murdered. No Arab believes the police – Arabs are convinced that the police always lie.

Immediately after the Synagogue killing, the Israeli choir of politicians and commentators went into action. They did so with an astonishing unanimity – ministers, Knesset members, ex-generals, journalists, all repeating with slight variations the same message. The reason for this is simple: every day the Prime Minister's office sends out a "page of messages", instructing all parts of the propaganda machine what to say.

This time the message was that Mahmoud Abbas was to blame for everything, a "terrorist in a suit", the leader whose incitement causes the new intifada. No matter that the chief of the Shin Bet testified on the very same day that Abbas has neither overt nor covert connections with the violence.

Binyamin Netanyahu faced the cameras and with a solemn face and lugubrious voice – he is a really good actor – repeated again what he has said many times before, every time pretending that this is new recipe: more police, harder punishments, demolition of homes, arrests and large fines for parents of 13-year old children who are caught throwing stones, and so on.

Every expert knows that the result of such measures will be the exact opposite. More Arabs will become incensed and attack Israeli men and women. Israelis, of course, will "take revenge" and "take the law into their own hands".

For both inhabitants and tourists, walking the streets of Jerusalem, the city which is "joined together", has become a risky adventure. Many stay at home.

The Unholy City is more divided than ever before.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - November 25 -26, 2014

22] Tunisia at a Crossroads: Between a Nascent Democracy and the Old Guard – Nov. 25
23] Emergency Mike Brown protest – Nov. 25
24] Philadelphia Peace Vigil – Nov. 25
25] No JHU Drone Research – Nov. 25
26] Film “Native American Veterans: Storytelling for Healing” – Nov. 25
27] Beehive Design Collective presents Mesoamérica Resiste – Nov. 25
28] Volunteer to review new inmate art – Nov. 26
--
22] – Tunisia at a Crossroads: Between a Nascent Democracy and the Old Guard takes place at Georgetown University, ACMCU, ICC #270, 3700 O St. NW, WDC on Tues., Nov. 25 at 12:30 PM. Join the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding for a briefing by Radwan A. Masmoudi, the Founder and President of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. RSVP http://www.eventbrite.com/e/tunisia-at-a-crossroads-between-a-nascent-democracy-and-the-old-guard-with-radwan-masmoudi-tickets-14450450687?utm_campaign=CSID+Event+-+Tunisia+at+a+Crossroads%3A+Between+a+Nascent+Democracy+and+the+Old+Guard+-+Tuesday%2C+November+25%2C+2014&utm_medium=email&utm_source=CSID+Event-Tunisia+at+a+Crossroads%3ABetween+a+Nascent+Democracy+and+the+Old+Guard.

23] – There is an Emergency Alert. On Tues., Nov. 25 at 4 PM at McKeldin Square, Light & Pratt Sts., call for Justice for Mike Brown & Stand with the People of Ferguson! Call 443-221-3775. Join a protest to demand an end to police terror from Ferguson to Baltimore. There will be a march following the rally. Speakers at the 4 PM rally will include a number of community, youth, and union activists. and the families of local victims of police killings - Tawanda Jones, sister of Tyrone West, and the families of Anthony Anderson Sr., George King and others. Go to www.RiseUpBaltimore.org.

24] – Each Tuesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the Catholic Peace Fellowship-Philadelphia for peace in Afghanistan and Iraq gathers at the Suburban Station, 16th St. & JFK Blvd., at the entrance to Tracks 3 and 4 on the mezzanine. The next vigil is Nov. 25. Call 215-426-0364.

25] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 33rd & North Charles Sts. Join this ongoing vigil on Nov. 25 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Call Max at 410-366-1637.

26] – On Tues., Nov. 25 from 7 to 9 PM at Bloombars, 3222 11th St. NW, WDC, join BloomBars as the group celebrates November as National American Indian Heritage Month, with the presentation of “Native American Veterans: Storytelling for Healing” (2009, 60 min), by the Administration for Native Americans. This engaging film features interviews with individual Native American veterans, from World War II, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The veterans share their personal stories about the issues they face today, as a result of their wartime experiences.

Afterwards, there will be a Q&A and audience discussion with Melissa H. Bisagni, Media Initiatives Program Manager with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), which is dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of Native Americans. The suggested donation is $10. Proceeds support BloomBars. Enjoy free organic popcorn. RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/308325539371335/?ref=6&ref_notif_type=plan_user_invited.

27] – On Tues., Nov. 25 at 7:30 PM @ Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, the Beehive Design Collective presents Mesoamérica Resiste. This is the Beehive Collective's most recently completed narrative poster, an epic project that took nine years to complete! This is the third and final installment in the Beehive’s trilogy on globalization in the Americas. The intricate, double-sided image documents resistance to the top-down development plans and mega-infrastructure projects that literally pave the way for resource extraction and free trade. While focusing on stories from Mexico and Central America, the Bees will weave a much larger narrative about ways people are fighting back against a global economy based on colonialism, land grabs, and exploitation, and building alternative economies, all over the globe – including connecting to ongoing struggles in North America. This graphics campaign also celebrates cultural and ecological diversity through a cast of characters that includes hundreds of endemic (and endangered) species of insects, animals, and plants. Call 443-602-7585. Go to http://www.redemmas.org.

28] – Get over to St. Mary's Court, 725 24th St. NW, WDC, on Wed., Nov. 26 from 7 to 8:30 PM and volunteer to review new inmate art and manuscripts and answer letters from prisons across the USA. Free parking, training, materials and refreshments will be provided. Email staff@safestreetsarts.org or call 202-393-1511.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/.

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

AFSC statement on lack of indictment in the Michael Brown killing

Mon, 24 Nov 2014 21:49:17 -0500 (EST)

http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50601/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1303492



Now that the grand jury has refused to indict police officer Darren Wilson who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, people across the country are justifiably seeking answers. The American Friends Service Committee also is seeking clarity in this case. We remain committed to addressing the issues of militarization of police, police accountability and systemic racism revealed by the killing and its aftermath. If we are to prevent future tragedies, people everywhere should join us in these efforts.

Those who pay the cost of these policies are disproportionally young people of color - and with alarming frequency that cost is death at the hands of police. Ominously, local police increasingly rely on militarized tactics and weapons not only to arrest but to contain people exercising their right to assemble and peacefully protest such tragedies as the Mike Brown killing.

Weeks before today's announcement, Missouri police and elected officials began stockpiling riot gear and "less lethal" weapons to respond to public protest. We urge protesters to resist provocations such as armored trucks, dogs, and blockades staffed by officers in military garb. We urge police officials to seek dialogue with those they swore to protect and serve, to find common ground and peaceful paths forward. Throughout our decades of work on social justice and human rights in the U.S. and around the world, we have witnessed the effectiveness of such dialogue and exchange programs.

We are proud of the young people with whom we work in Missouri, who are using peaceful means to work for fundamental change in systems that perpetuate racism and inequality. They deserve both applause and help for their leadership in healing and organizing their communities. We urge all people of good will to join us in supporting peace-building programs for these young people.

Starting just days after the shooting, AFSC has been helping youth process the killing of one of their peers through our two-year-old Peace Education Program working in Ferguson and St. Louis. We are standing with teachers and families, with the community organizations protesting, and with the family of Mike Brown.

Most of all we heed and support their vision of what democracy looks like: It looks like police accountability. It looks like equal access. It looks like an end to mass incarceration. It looks like the dismantling of the school-to-prison pipeline. It looks like the demilitarization of police.

As a Quaker organization that believes in the worth of every person, we call on people everywhere to join us in addressing the systemic and structural racism at the roots of Mike Brown's death - and that of so many others nationwide.

We need to challenge policies - at every level, from the school house to the State House, from Missouri to Washington DC - that disproportionately incarcerate people of color and boost profits for corporations running jails, prisons and immigration detention centers. We also must challenge media when they stigmatize youth of color instead of acknowledging their humanity.

Our nation will only prosper when we invest in all our children. Join us as we work to end militarized policing and the systemic racism that endangers youth of color and thus threatens our common future.
________________________________________
American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
AFSC.org

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

One of Largest Transfers of Public Wealth to Private Hands: Our Staggering War Economy

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

TomDispatch [1] / By Tom Engelhardt [2]

One of Largest Transfers of Public Wealth to Private Hands: Our Staggering War Economy

November 24, 2014 |

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here [3].

The money should stagger you. Journalist James Risen, author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War [4], a revelatory new book about the scammers, counterterrorism grifters, careerist bureaucrats, torture con artists, and on-the-make privatizers of our post-9/11 national security state, suggests [5] that the best figure for money spent on Washington’s war on terror, including the Iraq and Afghan wars, is four trillion dollars [6]. If you add in the bills still to come for the care of American soldiers damaged in that global war, the figure is undoubtedly significantly higher [7]. In the process, an array of warrior corporations [8] were mobilized to go into battle alongside the Pentagon and the country’s intelligence and homeland security outfits. This, in turn, transformed the global struggle into a highly privatized affair and resulted, as Risen vividly documents, in “one of the largest transfers of wealth from public to private hands in American history.” Halliburton offshoot KBR, for instance, took remarkable advantage of the opportunity and became “the largest single Pentagon contractor of the entire war,” more or less monopolizing the Iraq war zone from 2003 to 2011 and “receiving a combined total of $39.5 billion in contracts.”

So our four trillion dollar-plus investment gave rise to a crew of war profiteers that Risen dubs “the oligarchs of 9/11” and who are now wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. And how has it gone for the rest of us? If you remember, the goal of George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror (or, in one of the worst acronyms of the new century, GWOT) was initially to wipe out terror outfits across the planet. At the time, enemy number one, al-Qaeda, was the most modest of organizations with thousands of followers in Afghanistan and scattered groups of supporters elsewhere. Thirteen years and all those dollars later, Islamic jihadist outfits that qualify as al-Qaeda branches, wannabes, look-alikes, or offshoots have run rampant. Undoubtedly, far more foreign jihadis -- an estimated 15,000 [9] -- have traveled to Syria alone to fight for the Islamic State and its new “caliphate” than existed globally in 2001.

Some recent figures [10] from the Global Terrorism Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace give us a basis for thinking about what’s happened in these years. In 2013 alone, deaths related to “terrorism” -- that is, civil/sectarian conflict [11] in areas significantly destabilized directly or indirectly by U.S. military action (mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria) -- rose by a soaring 61%. The number of countries that saw more than 50 such fatalities (the U.S. not among them) expanded from 15 to 24 in the same period. So raise your glass to GWOT. If nothing else, it's managed to ensure its own profitable, privatized future for years to come.

But here's a question: After 13 years of the war on terror, with terror running rampant, isn’t a name change in order? A simple transformation of a single preposition would bring that name into greater sync with reality: the war for terror.

And here’s a seldom-mentioned guarantee that leaps directly from a post by TomDispatch regular [12] Andrew Bacevich, author most recently of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country [13]. Given Washington's bedrock assumptions about the Greater Middle East, we should have no problem kissing another four trillion taxpayer dollars goodbye in the years to come. Eight trillion? If that isn’t a record, what is? Some “USA! USA!” chants might be in order.
[14]

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/one-largest-transfers-public-wealth-private-hands-our-staggering-war-economy

Links:
[1] http://www.tomdispatch.com/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/tom-engelhardt
[3] http://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&id=1e41682ade
[4] http://www.amazon.com/dp/0544341414/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20
[5] http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/27425-james-risen-the-post-9-11-homeland-security-industrial-complex-profiteers-and-endless-war
[6] https://news.brown.edu/articles/2014/06/costsofwar
[7] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/study-iraq-afghan-war-costs-to-top-4-trillion/2013/03/28/b82a5dce-97ed-11e2-814b-063623d80a60_story.html
[8] http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175507/tom_engelhardt_remotely_piloted_war
[9] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/30/foreign-jihadist-iraq-syria-unprecedented-un-isis
[10] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/19/world/europe/deaths-linked-to-terrorism-are-up-60-percent-study-finds.html
[11] http://www.juancole.com/2014/11/americans-murdered-terrorism.html
[12] http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175764/andrew_bacevich_always_and_everywhere
[13] http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805082964/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20
[14] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on One of Largest Transfers of Public Wealth to Private Hands: Our Staggering War Economy

[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/james-risen-0

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, November 24, 2014

Israel and Mississippi: Racist Plans for 2nd Class Citizens and Religious Legislation

Israel and Mississippi: Racist Plans for 2nd Class Citizens and Religious Legislation

http://www.juancole.com/2014/11/mississippi-religious-legislation.html

Informed COMMENT

By Juan Cole | Nov. 24, 2014 |

By Juan Cole | —

The Guardian reports that “A controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character.

Opponents, including some cabinet ministers, said the new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist.

The bill, which is intended to become part of Israel’s basic laws, would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and delist Arabic as a second official language.”
Netanyahu’s measure is much worse than that of Mississippi fundamentalists who want to declare Mississippi a principally Christian state and want to celebrate the white-supremacist Confederacy as part of the state’s heritage.

I wrote earlier of this kind of development when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was planning it out:
“So either way Netanyahu defines Jewishness, it disenfranchises substantial numbers of self-identifying Israeli Jews. If it is a matter of maternal descent, it leaves 300,000 or so out in the cold. If it is a matter of belief and observance, it leaves nearly 2 million Israeli Jews out of the club.

In addition, of course, 1.7 million Israelis, about a fifth of the population, are Palestinian-Israelis, mostly Muslim but some Christians. They are, in other words, a somewhat greater proportion of the Israeli citizen population than Latinos are of the US population (Latinos are about 17% of Americans). If current demographic trends continue, Palestinian-Israelis could be as much as 1/3 of the population by 2030.
Saying Israel is a “Jewish” state in the sense of race would be analogous to insisting that the US is a “white” state and defining Latinos as “brown.”

And saying Israel is a Jewish state in the sense of observant believers would be like asserting that the United States is a Christian state even though about 22% of the population does not identify as Christian (roughly the same proportion as non-Jews in Israel). The point of the US first amendment is to forbid the state to to “establish” a religion, i.e. to recognize it as a state religion with privileges (the colonists had had bad experiences with Anglicanism in this regard). While we can’t stop other countries from establishing state religions, we Americans don’t approve of it and won’t give our blessing to it, as Netanyahu seems to want. In fact our annual State Department human rights report downgrades countries that don’t separate religion and state.

While some countries have a state or official religion, that is different from what Netanyahu is demanding. Argentina’s constitution says Roman Catholicism is the state religion. But Argentina is not a “Catholic state” either in the sense of being mainly for people of Catholic religious faith (only 20% of Argentines are observant) or for being for persons descended from traditionally Catholic populations. Indeed, Argentina has about half a million Muslims, who are not discriminated against in Argentine law the way Palestinian-Israelis are discriminated against (their villages not ‘recognized’) in Israel. Anyway, as I said, in the U.S. we don’t approve of that part of the Argentine constitution. If all Netanyahu wanted was that Judaism be the ‘state religion’ of Israel, that could surely be achieved by a simple vote of the Knesset. He wants something much more, something that requires that outsiders assent to it.

Netanyahu’s demand is either racist or fundamentalist and is objectionable from an American point of view on human rights grounds either way (and I’m not just talking about the human rights of Palestinian-Israelis).”
Elsewhere I pointed out that Israel is moving in the opposite direction from Morocco, Tunisia and other more successful Middle Eastern states, which have new constitutions affirming citizen equality and freedom of conscience and avoiding specifying Islamic law (sharia) as the main source for law, in the way this new Israeli measure specifies Jewish law (halakha) as the inspiration for Israeli legislation. Netanyahu’s Israel looks more and more like the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt of now-deposed President Muhammad Morsi.

“Netanyahu is also moving in the opposite direction from the more positive developments in the Middle East itself. Iraq’s old Baathist Arab nationalism (qawmiya) had racialized Arabness (which is really just a linguistic group) and had excluded the Kurds, who speak an Indo-European language, from full membership in the Iraqi nation. Interestingly, many Arabic-language news items on Netanyahus speech translate his use of “national” by the Arabic qawmiya, which has overtones of extremist nationalism of a racist sort. The new Iraqi constitution rejects that kind of racist nationalism. It recognizes Kurdish as a national official language (and Turkmen and Aramaic as provincial ones). Without denying the Arab or Muslim identity of the majority, it recognizes the right of the minorities to their own ethnic identities within the nation. It doesn’t say that Iraq is only a homeland for the Arab-Shiite majority.

And Morocco suffered deep political divisions between its Arab majority and Berber/ Amazigh minority in earlier decades. But its new constitution finally recognizes Berber/ Amazigh as an official language and celebrates Amazigh identity as one of the key heritages of all Moroccans, including Arabic speakers. The constitution does say that Islam is the religion of state, while guaranteeing freedom of belief and religion to the country’s Jews and adds:
… the Kingdom of Morocco intends to preserve, in its plenitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity, is forged by the melting together of its Arab-Islamic, Berber [amazigh] and Saharan-Hassanic components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences.”

So could we really expect Netanyahu to say that Judaism is the religion of the Israeli state and that:
… Israel intends to preserve, in its plenitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity is forged by the melting together of its Jewish and Palestinian components, nourished and enriched by its Hebraic, Arab and Mediterranean influences.”

No. Netanyahu is talking of an indivisible national identity, but its unity is achieved by exclusion, not by melting and inclusion. He does not celebrate Israel’s Arab heritage, but wants to exclude it from any claim on the national homeland, wants to make it lesser. (Arabic is an official language of Israel, but Netanyahu’s rejection of the idea of a binational state makes it clear he thinks it is very much a de facto and unfortunate component of Israel, not something to be celebrated).

Interestingly, the Israeli left has a different objection. They mind the idea of Israeliness, of the Israeli national identity (akin to the Moroccan national identity in the constitution, quoted above) being demoted in favor of a Jewish identity. Haaretz’s Hebrew edition wrote on May 5:

“Yesterday Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu explained why he is promoting a new Basic Law: ‘The Nation State of the Jewish People’: ‘Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people is not given sufficient expression in our Basic Laws, and this is what the proposed Basic Law is meant to do’… For 66 years now ‘Israeliness’ has attempted to gain recognition and win independence, and has been rejected repeatedly by the establishment. It has been described as the ‘slivers of people-hood’ whose existence has not been proven, while at the same time, no one seeks to enact a law that will define and protect it. Again and again it is forced to bow before its ‘big sister’, the Jewish state… The creation of Israeli literature, Israeli art, Israeli music, Israeli theatre, Israeli humour, Israeli politics, Israeli sports, an Israeli accent, Israeli grief – are these not enough to speak of an ‘Israeli people’…?” [From [Hebrew language] editorial of left-of-centre, independent broadsheet Ha’aretz]. – [Trans. via BBC Monitoring]

(c) 2014 All Rights Reserved

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tortured and Raped by Israel, Persecuted and Imprisoned by the United States

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)

Tortured and Raped by Israel, Persecuted and Imprisoned by the United States

http://truth-out.org/news/item/27590-tortured-and-raped-by-israel-persecuted-and-imprisoned-by-the-united-states#

Dahr Jamail

Saturday, November 22, 2014
Truthout

This story wasn’t published because of advertisers or corporate sponsors, but through support from Truthout readers. Click here to join the community that keeps us going! [1]

On November 10, leading Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh, 67, was jailed after being found "guilty" of immigration fraud.

The US government claims Odeh lied on an immigration application when she said she had never been arrested, convicted or imprisoned.

Odeh is accused of concealing that she was charged by the Israeli military with bombing a supermarket when she was 22.

The charge is based on a "confession" obtained by rape and torture at the hands of members of the Israeli military (IDF) more than 40 years ago. Odeh, who moved to the United States in 1995 and serves as the associate director of the Chicago Arab American Action Network [2] (AAAN), was alleged to have "confessed" to the bombing charges imposed by the Israeli military court.

"It was clearly not a fair trial," Odeh's lawyer Michael Deutsch, with the People's Law Office, in Chicago, told Truthout. "The entire defense was gutted by the court's rulings.

He [Judge Gershwin Drain] refused to allow her PTSD defense, would not let her expert testify, nor even allow the defendant in her own testimony to mention torture, or her innocence, or the lack of fairness of the Israeli military courts."
Truthout previously reported [3] how Odeh, along with 500 other Palestinians, was arrested at the age of 22 by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during a massive security sweep following the 1967 war and occupation of the West Bank.

At the time, as now, many Palestinians who were detained by the IDF were later charged with crimes they did not commit to justify their detention. Odeh was charged with bombing a supermarket. While in prison, she was tortured with electrical shock and raped with batons.

Odeh's father was tortured in front of her. IDF personnel even attempted to make her father rape her.

She was beaten regularly with metal rods, kicked, threatened, humiliated, denied medical care and access to a bathroom, and - almost needless to say - was denied access to legal resources. She was made to watch a Palestinian man literally tortured to death. She eventually signed a confession to stop IDF personnel from continuing to torture her father.

Deutsch believes that all of this, in addition to other information like the strength of the Israel lobby in the United States and the fact that Odeh is a prominent supporter of Palestinian liberation, was more than enough to make the case that the charges against Odeh were politically motivated.

Given what the Israeli military did to his client, Deutsch drew a stark analogy for Odeh's case.

"From 1969 to the present, the IDF tortures people, and we have plenty of evidence of this systematic torture," he said. "If you have Nazi courts, would they put in a conviction from a Nazi court in a US court?"

The defense filed a motion less than a week after the verdict and has asked the court to reconsider its ruling.

"Ms. Odeh is now languishing in a county jail hours away from her lawyers and her community," Deutsch said.

The trial and verdict represent a dangerous precedent being set for those working for justice for Palestine in the United States.

Covering for Israel

Deutsch was blunt about what he believes is happening with regards to the US judicial system.

"She is facing a US judicial system that seems committed to cover up the crimes of Israel and prevent the truth from being aired in a public trial," he said.

When asked what a just verdict might have looked like in Odeh's trial, Deutsch noted, "True justice would not have resulted in an indictment of a woman who has lived a peaceful and productive life for almost 20 years in the US who is doing extraordinary work with immigrant women in her community."

Deutsch told Truthout he believes Odeh's indictment is an attempt to "criminalize her." He noted that the organization that Odeh works for was targeted prior to the charges. "In 2010, the AAAN was investigated by the FBI, and the FBI wanted more information on Rasmea's background and sent a request to the Israeli government to pull her file."

Later that same year, the FBI raided the homes of various activists, including Hatem Abudayyeh, the executive director of AAAN. Following the raids, activists were called upon to testify during a grand jury.

"Everyone refused to testify at the grand jury, no indictments were made, and possessions seized during the home raids were returned to people," Deutsch said. "But it was during this that they learned of her history in the occupied territories."
Deutsch is well versed in cases like Odeh's, given that he was one of the lawyers for the Attica prisoners following the 1971 prison uprising and state massacre. He was also the legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City and has been with the People's Law Office since 1970.

Truthout was provided with a court affidavit for Odeh's US case, within which Mary Fabri, a licensed clinical psychologist who also worked as the senior director of Torture Treatment Services and International Training for the Kovler Center in Chicago, provided the details of Odeh's treatment at the hands of the IDF.

Fabri has diagnosed Odeh with PTSD and has provided expert opinion that Odeh has suppressed some of the memories of what happened to her at the hands of the IDF.
Deutsch also sees a legal problem with the US government's attempt to frame Odeh's conviction and persecution by an occupying force as evidence of illegal activity.
"That doesn't hold up to due process or the fundamentals of international law," he said. "These military courts the Israelis set up are illegal under international law; hence, no evidence from them should be used in this case."
Deutsch and others on Odeh's defense team say her indictment is part of a governmental effort to criminalize those working to educate people about what is really happening in the occupied territories.

"I've seen, in other cases I've worked on, a close collaboration between the US and Israeli Justice Departments, and I think the Israelis are more than happy to cooperate with that and condemn her and have her thrown out of the country," Deutsch said.

If Odeh's conviction stands, she automatically loses her citizenship and would be subject to deportation.

Given that the IDF just killed more than 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority of whom were civilians, the possible ramifications of deportation are, indeed, dire.

Pro-Israel Judge Steps Down, Replaced by Another?

The original judge for Odeh's case, US District Judge Paul Borman, was forced to recuse himself [4] from her trial after Deutsch and other attorneys accused him of having lifelong ties to the Israeli government.

Borman had angrily refused to recuse himself after initial objections to his participation revealed his close ties to Israel, but then it was also discovered that his family had financial ties to the supermarket Odeh was accused of bombing. Borman had also been honored with a civic award in part for his support of Israel, and his family had raised more than $3 million for a pro-Israel charity.

"She's maintained she was not involved," Deutsch said of the bombing. "Even though she and all the other Palestinians she was detained with said they'd been tortured and recused their confessions. So she's saying whatever she said [at the time of her detention] was a result of torture, and she was not involved [in the bombing]."

Abudayyeh, AAAN's executive director, told Truthout he felt vindicated by Borman's decision to recuse himself.

"It was all about his relationship to Israel," he said. "So for him to have said that he was offended for being attacked [for his pro-Israel bias] was absolutely disingenuous."

But with Judge Drain presiding over Odeh's case, the pro-Israel bias of the court did not appear to be alleviated.

Immediately after the verdict was read, Judge Drain said, "I don't normally comment on verdicts, but in this case I will: I think it's a fair and reasonable one based on the evidence that came in."
Of the judge's statement, Deutsch said he had never heard of a judge commenting on the verdict from a jury before, called it "gratuitous," and added, "That is not his job to do so, but it provides us a window into his whole thinking into this trial."

In addition to prohibiting major components of Odeh's defense, Judge Drain mandated that she be detained for five months while awaiting sentencing. He cited a supposed lack of ties to her community (despite the groundswell of support that has rallied behind her) and therefore a "risk of flight."

"This was in the face of tens of people from Chicago, who she has mentored and who love her, attending the trial in Detroit," Deutsch said. "Also, her whole struggle is to stay in Chicago and not to flee."

Institutional Oppression

Abudayyeh sees the indictment against Odeh as part of a broader attack against the Palestinian community in general.

"There is Islamaphobia, and it's moved from being a personal tool of oppression to structural and institutional," he explained. "Even non-prominent Muslims are being caught up in law enforcement entrapment on both coasts now. The majority of the prominent Muslims caught up in that net have in common that they are Palestinian organizers and are challenging US foreign policy as it relates to Palestine specifically."

Abudayyeh, the AAAN and other groups supporting Odeh believe her trial was in no way fair.

The AAAN released a statement [5] immediately after her conviction, and Abudayyeh told Truthout: "It wasn't fair because Rasmea was not able to offer the essence of her defense, that she was never guilty of the bombings in Jerusalem in 1969, and that she was tortured and raped into a forced confession by the Israelis at that time. If she was not guilty of the bombings, and if she did not accept the 'conviction,' then there was nothing false in her answers to the questions on the citizenship application."

Motions have been filed to reconsider Odeh's bond, as well as to set aside her conviction and allow for a new trial.

"In addition, it is highly prejudicial for the government to be allowed to enter into evidence that she was 'convicted' by Israel, without giving her the opportunity to enter into evidence that the 'conviction' was in an Israeli military court that does not offer even a modicum of due process to Palestinians and that it was based on a forced confession," Abudayyeh added. "The judge did not allow these aspects into her defense."

Similar to Deutsch, Abudayyeh believes another of the biggest impediments to Odeh getting a fair trial is that the government has been allowed to describe her as someone who was "convicted of multiple bombings in Israel that killed two people and injured many more."

"It is almost impossible to get a fair trial in this country if you are a Palestinian who is branded a 'terrorist,' and that is what happened here," Abudayyeh said. "We are hopeful that we will be able to talk about the torture, rape and forced confession in our appeal, because that is the only way that she can get a fair trial, if all the evidence about 1969 is allowed, and not just the Israeli/US prosecutors' version of it."

Odeh's trial could set a disconcerting and troublesome precedent if evidence from a military court in a foreign country is allowed to stand in a US court.

In the wake of the verdict, activists in Chicago and Oakland held rallies and conducted direct protest actions, demanding Odeh's immediate release.

Nora Barrows-Friedman, writing for Electronic Intifada, reported at the time: "In downtown Oakland today, activists chained themselves to the federal courthouse, condemning the trial as one that was politically motivated in an attempt by the US government to silence Palestine solidarity activism around the country. The five activists were arrested by local police just hours after their protest began."
Abudayyeh maintains that Odeh's trial is critically important and says the case must be won.

"We know historically in this country that every social justice movement that has been effective has come under attack by law enforcement, and we believe very strongly that this is what is happening to Palestinians here now," Abudayyeh said. "We are winning some battles now, and Palestinians around the world are winning this battle against Israel for the hearts and minds of the world, with theBoycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement [6]. So, this is how the US and Israel are reacting . . . they are attacking us by trying to criminalize us. So if they can take down a community icon like Rasmea, then they think they can criminalize the movement as a whole."

Odeh faces up to 10 years of imprisonment before being subject to deportation proceedings.

Deutsch told reporters just after the trial that he believes there are very strong points for appealing the conviction, which Odeh's attorneys will file after sentencing is concluded.

Abudayyeh believes that for justice to be truly served in Odeh's case, she would be released immediately pending sentencing, since she is neither a flight risk (her entire case was predicated on her demanding to be allowed to stay in the United States) nor a danger to society.

"Justice for Rasmea in the long term would be an acquittal on appeal, which is what we believe will happen if all the evidence of her torture, forced confession, PTSD, etc., comes before the court," he concluded. "Rasmea is a Palestinian icon who has dedicated 50 years of her life to social justice, and who has, in the past 10 years in Chicago, selflessly supported the empowerment of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and other oppressed communities here. She is the epitome of an immigrant who is serving the US and its residents, and must be acquitted of this unjust charge and conviction."
_______________________________
Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan [7], (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq [8], (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.
His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible [9], co-written with William Rivers Pitt [10], is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in Washington State.

Copyright, Truthout [11].

Source URL: https://portside.org/2014-11-24/tortured-and-raped-israel-persecuted-and-imprisoned-united-states

Links:
[1] http://truth-out.org/members/donate
[2] http://www.aaan.org
[3] http://truth-out.org/news/item/25910-tortured-and-raped-by-israel-persecuted-by-the-united-states
[4] http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/29216556-418/judge-reverses-course-recuses-self-from-trial-of-palestinian-immigrant.html
[5] http://uspcn.org/2014/11/10/without-a-full-and-fair-trial-rasmea-found-guilty/
[6] http://www.bdsmovement.net/
[7] http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1608460959?ie=UTF8&tag=dahjamsmiddis-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1608460959
[8] http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1931859612?ie=UTF8&tag=dahjamsmiddis-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1931859612
[9] http://www.amazon.com/Mass-Destruction-Iraq-Disintegration-Responsible-ebook/dp/B00ML3KAN6
[10] http://truth-out.org/news/item/24170-from-the-desk-of-william-rivers-pitt
[11] http://www.truth-out.org/

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Washington State to Sue U.S. Government Over Nuclear Cleanup

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)

Washington State to Sue U.S. Government Over Nuclear Cleanup

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/19/us-usa-washington-nuclear-idUSKCN0J32IR20141119

November 21, 2014

Victoria Cavaliere

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reuters

Washington state's attorney general said on Wednesday he intends to sue the U.S. government for not adequately protecting workers involved in the decades-long cleanup of a decommissioned nuclear site, saying dozens have been sickened by toxic vapors.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a World War Two-era nuclear weapons site in southeastern Washington, has 56 million gallons (211.98 million liters) of nuclear waste in 177 underground tanks, several with known leaks, according to federal officials.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which owns Hanford, is responsible for cleanup at the site, including the hiring of contractors and workers to extract the waste from tanks for safe disposal.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Wednesday the Department of Energy was not doing enough to protect tank workers with dozens reporting illnesses over the past two decades, including 44 over the past 12 months.

"Hanford workers face a very real and immediate health risk," Ferguson said during a conference call Wednesday. "I want these protections now and I want them for the duration," he said.

A study released last month by a panel of independent experts found strong evidence of a causal link between chemical vapors and adverse health effects in tank farm workers and also that the system for measuring such vapors was inadequate.
These health effects have ranged from nosebleeds, headaches, dizziness, nausea, burning skin and increased heart rate to reported long-term disabilities, including permanent loss of lung capacity, the report found.

"Despite the 20 years of study and multiple reports, there is no lasting solution and workers continue to get sick," Ferguson said.

In announcing the intent to file a lawsuit, the Department of Energy has 90 days to respond with a plan of action, he said.

The Department of Energy said on Wednesday it was formulating a response.

The agency on its website calls Hanford "the most challenging" nuclear cleanup site in the country, saying "considerable progress has been made."

Cleanup began in 1989 and is projected to cost almost $115 billion by century's end, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

The 586-square-mile (1,518-square-km) Hanford Nuclear Reservation was established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government program that developed the first atomic bombs.

Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Eric Walsh

Source URL: https://portside.org/2014-11-22/washington-state-sue-us-government-over-nuclear-cleanup

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Outpost That Doesn't Exist in the Country You Can't Locate

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/27114-focus-the-outpost-that-doesnt-exist-in-the-country-you

Brigadier General James Linder and other military officials at the closing ceremony for a US-led international training mission for African militaries. (photo: Reuters/Joe Penney)

The Outpost That Doesn't Exist in the Country You Can't Locate

By Nick Turse, TomDispatch
23 November 14

Admit it. You don’t know where Chad is. You know it’s in Africa, of course. But beyond that? Maybe with a map of the continent and by some process of elimination you could come close. But you’d probably pick Sudan or maybe the Central African Republic. Here’s a tip. In the future, choose that vast, arid swath of land just below Libya.
Who does know where Chad is? That answer is simpler: the U.S. military. Recent contracting documents indicate that it’s building something there. Not a huge facility, not a mini-American town, but a small camp.

That the U.S. military is expanding its efforts in Africa shouldn’t be a shock anymore. For years now, the Pentagon has been increasing its missions there and promoting a mini-basing boom that has left it with a growing collection of outposts sprouting across the northern tier of the continent. This string of camps is meant to do what more than a decade of counterterrorism efforts, including the training and equipping of local military forces and a variety of humanitarian hearts-and-minds missions, has failed to accomplish: transform the Trans-Sahara region in the northern and western parts of the continent into a bulwark of stability.

That the U.S. is doing more in Chad specifically isn’t particularly astonishing either. Earlier this year,TomDispatch and the Washington Post both reported on separate recent deployments of U.S. troops to that north-central African nation. Nor is it shocking that the new American compound is to be located near the capital, N’Djamena. The U.S. has previously employed N’Djamena as a hub for its air operations. What’s striking is the terminology used in the official documents. After years of adamant claims that the U.S. military has just one lonely base in all of Africa -- Camp Lemonnier in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti -- Army documents state that it will now have “base camp facilities” in Chad.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) still insists that there is no Chadian base, that the camp serves only as temporary lodgings to support a Special Operations training exercise to be held next year. It also refused to comment about another troop deployment to Chad uncovered by TomDispatch. When it comes to American military activities in Africa, much remains murky.

Nonetheless, one fact is crystal clear: the U.S. is ever more tied to Chad. This remains true despite a decade-long effort to train its military forces only to see them bolt from one mission in the face of casualties, leave another in a huff after gunning down unarmed civilians, and engage in human rights abuses at home with utter impunity. All of this suggests yet another potential source of blowback from America’s efforts in Africa which have backfired, gone bust, and sown strife from Libya to South Sudan, the Gulf Guinea to Mali, and beyond.

A Checkered History with Chad

Following 9/11, the U.S. launched a counterterrorism program, known as the Pan-Sahel Initiative, to bolster the militaries of Mali, Niger, Mauritania, and Chad. Three years later, in 2005, the program expanded to include Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia and was renamed the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP). The idea was to turn a huge swath of Africa into a terror-resistant bulwark of stability. Twelve years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, the region is anything but stable, which means that it fits perfectly, like a missing puzzle piece, with the rest of the under-the-radar U.S. “pivot” to that continent.
Coups by the U.S.-backed militaries of Mauritania in 2005 and again in 2008, Niger in 2010, and Mali in 2012, as well as a 2011 revolution that overthrew Tunisia’s U.S.-backed government (after the U.S.-supported army stood aside); the establishment of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2006; and the rise of Boko Haram from an obscure radical sect to a raging insurgent movement in northern Nigeria are only some of the most notable recent failures in TSCTP nations. Chad came close to making the list, too, but attempted military coups in 2006 and 2013 were thwarted, and in2008, the government, which had itself come to power in a 1990 coup, managed to hold off against a rebel assault on the capital.

Through it all, the U.S. has continued to mentor Chad’s military, and in return, that nation has lent its muscle to support Washington’s interests in the region. Chad, for instance, joined the 2013 U.S.-backed French military intervention to retake Mali after Islamists began routing the forces of the American-trained officer who had launched a coup that overthrew that country’s democratically elected government. According to military briefing slides obtained by TomDispatch, an Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) liaison team was deployed to Chad to aid operations in Mali and the U.S. also conducted pre-deployment training for its Chadian proxies. After initial success, the French effort became bogged down and has now become a seemingly interminable, smoldering counterinsurgency campaign. Chad, for its part, quickly withdrew its forces from the fight after sustaining modest casualties. “Chad's army has no ability to face the kind of guerrilla fighting that is emerging in northern Mali. Our soldiers are going to return to Chad,” said that country’s president, Idriss Deby.
Still, U.S. support continued.

In September of 2013, the U.S. military organized meetings with Chad’s senior-most military leaders, including Army chief General Brahim Seid Mahamat, Minister of Defense General Bénaïndo Tatola, and counterterror tsar Brigadier General Abderaman Youssouf Merry, to build solid relationships and support efforts at “countering violent extremist operations objectives and theater security cooperation programs.” This comes from a separate set of documents concerning “IO,” or Information Operations, obtained from the military through the Freedom of Information Act. French officials also attended these meetings and the agenda included the former colonial power’s support of “security cooperation with Chad in the areas of basic and officer training and staff procedures” as well as “French support [for] U.S. security cooperation efforts with the Chadian military.” Official briefing slides also mention ongoing “train and equip” activities with Chadian troops.

All of this followed on the heels of a murky coup plot by elements of the armed forces last May to which the Chadian military reacted with a crescendo of violence. According to a State Department report, Chad’s “security forces shot and killed unarmed civilians and arrested and detained members of parliament, military officers, former rebels, and others.”

After Chad reportedly helped overthrow the Central African Republic’s president in early 2013 and later aided in the 2014 ouster of the rebel leader who deposed him, it sent its forces into that civil-war-torn land as part of an African Union mission bolstered by U.S.-backed French troops. Soon, Chad’s peacekeeping forces were accused of stoking sectarian strife by supporting Muslim militias against Christian fighters. Then, on March 29th, a Chadian military convoy arrived in a crowded marketplace in the capital, Bangui. There, according to a United Nations report, the troops “reportedly opened fire on the population without any provocation. At the time, the market was full of people, including many girls and women buying and selling produce. As panic-stricken people fled in all directions, the soldiers allegedly continued firing indiscriminately.”

In all, 30 civilians were reportedly killed and more than 300 were wounded. Amid criticism, Chad angrily announced it was withdrawing its troops. “Despite the sacrifices we have made, Chad and Chadians have been targeted in a gratuitous and malicious campaign that blamed them for all the suffering” in the Central African Republic, declared Chad's foreign ministry.

In May, despite this, the U.S. sent 80 military personnel to Chad to operate drones and conduct surveillance in an effort to locate hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in neighboring Nigeria. “These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area,” President Obama toldCongress. The force, he said, will remain in Chad “until its support in resolving the kidnapping situation is no longer required.”

In July, AFRICOM admitted that it had reduced surveillance flights searching for the girls to focus on other missions. Now AFRICOM tells TomDispatch that, while “the U.S. continues to help Nigeria address the threat posed by Boko Haram, the previously announced ISR support deployment to Chad has departed.” Yet more than seven months after their abduction, the girls still have not been located, let alone rescued.

In June, according to the State Department, the deputy commander of U.S. Army Africa (USARAF), Brigadier General Kenneth H. Moore, Jr., visited Chad to “celebrat[e] the successful conclusion of a partnership between USARAF and the Chadian Armed Forces.” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus arrived in that landlocked country at the same time to meet with “top Chadian officials.” His visit, according to an embassy press release, “underscore[d] the importance of bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as military cooperation.” And that cooperation has been ample.

Earlier this year, Chadian troops joined those of the United States, Burkina Faso, Canada, France, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, the United Kingdom, and host nation Niger for three weeks of military drills as part of Flintlock 2014, an annual Special Ops counterterrorism exercise forTSCTP nations. At about the time Flintlock was concluding, soldiers from Chad, Cameroon, Burundi, Gabon, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, the Netherlands, and the United States took part in another annual training exercise, Central Accord 2014. The Army also sent medical personnel to mentor Chadian counterparts in “tactical combat casualty care,” while Marines and Navy personnel traveled to Chad to train that country’s militarized anti-poaching park rangers in small unit tactics and patrolling.

A separate contingent of Marines conducted military intelligence training with Chadian officers and non-commissioned officers. The scenario for the final exercise, also involving personnel from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mauritania, Senegal, and Tunisia, had a ripped-from-the-headlines quality: “preparing for an unconventional war against an insurgent threat in Mali.”

As for U.S. Army Africa, it sent trainers as part of a separate effort to provide Chadian troops with instruction on patrolling and fixed-site defense as well as live-fire training. “We are ready to begin training in Chad for about 1,300 soldiers -- an 850 man battalion, plus another 450 man battalion,”said Colonel John Ruffing, the Security Cooperation director of U.S. Army Africa, noting that the U.S. was working in tandem with a French private security firm.

In September, AFRICOM reaffirmed its close ties with Chad by renewing an Acquisition Cross Servicing Agreement, which allows both militaries to purchase from each other or trade for basic supplies. The open-ended pact, said Brigadier General James Vechery, AFRICOM’s director for logistics, “will continue to strengthen our bilateral cooperation on international security issues... as well as the interoperability of the armed forces of both nations.”

The Base That Wasn’t and the Deployment That Might Be

In the months since the Chadian armed forces’ massacre in Bangui, various U.S. military contract solicitations and related documents have pointed toward an even more substantive American presence in Chad. In late September, the Army put out a call for bids to sustain American personnel for six months at those “base camp facilities” located near N'Djamena. Supporting documents specifically mention 35 U.S. personnel and detail the services necessary to run an austere outpost: field sanitation, bulk water supply, sewage services, and trash removal. The materials indicate that “local security policy and procedures” are to be provided by the Chadian armed forces and allude to the use of more than one location, saying “none of the sites in Chad are considered U.S.-federally controlled facilities.” The documents state that such support for those facilities is to run until July 2015.

After AFRICOM failed to respond to repeated email requests for further information, I called up Chief of Media Operations Benjamin Benson and asked about the base camp. He was even more tight-lipped than usual. “I personally don’t know anything,” he told me. “That’s not saying AFRICOM doesn’t have any information on that.”

In follow-up emails, Benson eventually told me that the “base camp” is strictly a temporary facility to be used by U.S. forces only for the duration of the upcoming Flintlock 2015 exercise. He stated in no uncertain terms: “We are not establishing a base/forward presence/contingency location, building a U.S. facility, or stationing troops in Chad.”

Benson would not, however, let me speak with an expert on U.S. military activities in Chad. Nor would he confirm or deny the continued presence of the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance liaison team deployed to Chad in 2013 to support the French mission in Mali, first reported on by TomDispatch this March. “[W]e cannot discuss ISR activities or the locations and durations of operational deployments,” he wrote. If an ISR team is still present in Chad, this would represent a substantive long-term deployment despite the lack of a formal U.S. base.

The N’Djamena “base camp” is just one of a series of Chadian projects mentioned in recent contracting documents. An Army solicitation from September sought “building materials for use in Chad,” while supporting documents specifically mention an “operations center/multi-use facility.” That same month, the Army awarded a contract for the transport of equipment from Niamey, Niger, the home of another of the growing network of U.S. outposts in Africa, to N’Djamena. The Army also began seeking out contractors capable of supplying close to 600 bunk beds that could support an American-sized weight of 200 to 225 pounds for a facility “in and around the N'Djamena region.” And just last month, the military put out a call for a contractor to supply construction equipment -- a bulldozer, dump truck, excavator, and the like -- for a project in, you guessed it, N'Djamena.

This increased U.S. interest in Chad follows on the heels of a push by France, the nation’s former colonial overlord and America’s current premier proxy in Africa, to beef up its military footprint on the continent. In July, following U.S.-backed French military interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic, French President François Hollande announced a new mission, Operation Barkhane (a term for a crescent-shaped sand dune found in the Sahara). Its purpose: a long-term counterterrorism operation involving 3,000 French troops deployed to a special forces outpost in Burkina Faso and forward operating bases in Mali, Niger, and not surprisingly, Chad.

“There are plenty of threats in all directions,” Hollande told French soldiers in Chad, citing militants in Mali and Libya as well as Boko Haram in Nigeria. “Rather than having large bases that are difficult to manage in moments of crisis, we prefer installations that can be used quickly and efficiently.” Shortly afterward, President Obama approved millions in emergency military aid for French operations in Mali, Niger, and Chad, while the United Kingdom, another former colonial power in the region,dispatched combat aircraft to the French base in N'Djamena to contribute to the battle against Boko Haram.

From Setback to Blowback?

In recent years, the U.S. military has been involved in a continual process of expanding its presence in Africa. Out of public earshot, officials have talked about setting up a string of small bases across the northern tier of the continent. Indeed, over the last years, U.S. staging areas, mini-bases, and outposts have popped up in the contiguous nations of Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and, skipping Chad, in the Central African Republic, followed by South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. A staunch American ally with a frequent and perhaps enduring American troop presence, Chad seems like the natural spot for still another military compound -- the only missing link in a long chain of countries stretching from west to east, from one edge of the continent to the other -- even if AFRICOM continues to insist that there’s no American “base” in the works.

Even without a base, the United States has for more than a decade poured copious amounts of money, time, and effort into making Chad a stable regional counterterrorism partner, sending troops there, training and equipping its army, counseling its military leaders, providing tens of millions of dollars in aid, funding its military expeditions, supplying its army with equipment ranging from tents to trucks, donating additional equipment for its domestic security forces, providing a surveillance and security system for its border security agents, and looking the other way when its military employed child soldiers.

The results? A flight from the fight in Mali, a massacre in the Central African Republic, hundreds of schoolgirls still in the clutches of Boko Haram, and a U.S. alliance with a regime whose “most significant human rights problems,” according to the most recent country report by the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “were security force abuse, including torture; harsh prison conditions; and discrimination and violence against women and children,” not to mention the restriction of freedom of speech, press, assembly, and movement, as well as arbitrary arrest and detention, denial of fair public trial, executive influence on the judiciary, property seizures, child labor and forced labor (that also includes children), among other abuses. Amnesty International further found that human rights violations “are committed with almost total impunity by members of the Chadian military, the Presidential Guard, and the state intelligence bureau, the Agence Nationale de Securité.”

With Chad, the United States finds itself more deeply involved with yet another authoritarian government and another atrocity-prone proxy force. In this, it continues a long series of mistakes, missteps, and mishaps across Africa. These include an intervention in Libya that transformed the country from an autocracy into a near-failed state, training efforts that produced coup leaders in Maliand Burkina Faso, American nation-building that led to a failed state in South Sudan, anti-piracy measures that flopped in the Gulf of Guinea, the many fiascos of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, the training of an elite Congolese unit that committed mass rapes and other atrocities, problem-plagued humanitarian efforts in Djibouti and Ethiopia, and the steady rise of terror groups in U.S.-backed countries like Nigeria and Tunisia.

In other words, in its shadowy “pivot” to Africa, the U.S. military has compiled a record remarkably low on successes and high on blowback. Is it time to add Chad to this growing list?

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Do Wars Really Defend America's Freedom?

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)

Do Wars Really Defend America's Freedom?

http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/157574

Lawrence S. Wittner

Sunday, November 16, 2014
History News Network

U.S. politicians and pundits are fond of saying that America's wars have defended America's freedom. But the historical record doesn't bear out this contention. In fact, over the past century, U.S. wars have triggered major encroachments upon civil liberties.

Shortly after the United States entered World War I, seven states passed laws abridging freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In June 1917, they were joined by Congress, which passed the Espionage Act. This law granted the federal government the power to censor publications and ban them from the mail, and made the obstruction of the draft or of enlistment in the armed forces punishable by a hefty fine and up to 20 years' imprisonment. Thereafter, the U.S. government censored newspapers and magazines while conducting prosecutions of the war's critics, sending over 1,500 to prison with lengthy sentences. This included the prominent labor leader and Socialist Party presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs. Meanwhile, teachers were fired from the public schools and universities, elected state and federal legislators critical of the war were prevented from taking office, and religious pacifists who refused to carry weapons after they were drafted into the armed forces were forcibly clad in uniform, beaten, stabbed with bayonets, dragged by ropes around their necks, tortured, and killed. It was the worst outbreak of government repression in U.S. history, and sparked the formation of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although America's civil liberties record was much better during World War II, the nation's participation in that conflict did lead to serious infringements upon American freedoms. Probably the best-known was the federal government's incarceration of 110,000 people of Japanese heritage in internment camps. Two-thirds of them were U.S. citizens, most of whom had been born (and many of whose parents had been born) in the United States. In 1988, recognizing the blatant unconstitutionality of the wartime internment, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized for the action and paid reparations to the survivors and their families. But the war led to other violations of rights, as well, including the imprisonment of roughly 6,000 conscientious objectors and the confinement of some 12,000 others in Civilian Public Service camps. Congress also passed the Smith Act, which made the advocacy of the overthrow of the government a crime punishable by 20 years' imprisonment. As this legislation was used to prosecute and imprison members of groups that merely talked abstractly of revolution, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately narrowed its scope considerably.

The civil liberties situation worsened considerably with the advent of the Cold War. In Congress, the House Un-American Activities Committee gathered files on over a million Americans whose loyalty it questioned and held contentious hearings designed to expose alleged subversives. Jumping into the act, Senator Joseph McCarthy began reckless, demagogic accusations of Communism and treason, using his political power and, later, a Senate investigations subcommittee, to defame and intimidate. The president, for his part, established the Attorney General's List of "subversive" organizations, as well as a federal Loyalty Program, which dismissed thousands of U.S. public servants from their jobs. The compulsory signing of loyalty oaths became standard practice on the federal, state, and local level. By 1952, 30 states required some sort of loyalty oath for teachers. Although this effort to root out "un-Americans" never resulted in the discovery of a single spy or saboteur, it did play havoc with people's lives and cast a pall of fear over the nation.

When citizen activism bubbled up in the form of protest against the Vietnam War, the federal government responded with a stepped-up program of repression. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, had been expanding his agency's power ever since World War I, and swung into action with his COINTELPRO program. Designed to expose, disrupt, and neutralize the new wave of activism by any means necessary, COINTELPRO spread false, derogatory information about dissident leaders and organizations, created conflicts among their leaders and members, and resorted to burglary and violence. It targeted nearly all social change movements, including the peace movement, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, and the environmental movement. The FBI's files bulged with information on millions of Americans it viewed as national enemies or potential enemies, and it placed many of them under surveillance, including writers, teachers, activists, and U.S. senators Convinced that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a dangerous subversive, Hoover made numerous efforts to destroy him, including encouraging him to commit suicide.

Although revelations about the unsavory activities of U.S. intelligence agencies led to curbs on them in the 1970s, subsequent wars encouraged a new surge of police state measures. In 1981, the FBI opened an investigation of individuals and groups opposing President Reagan's military intervention in Central America. It utilized informers at political meetings, break-ins at churches, members' homes, and organizational offices, and surveillance of hundreds of peace demonstrations. Among the targeted groups were the National Council of Churches, the United Auto Workers, and the Maryknoll Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church. After the beginning of the Global War on Terror, the remaining checks on U.S. intelligence agencies were swept aside. The Patriot Act provided the government with sweeping power to spy on individuals, in some cases without any suspicion of wrongdoing, while the National Security Agency collected all Americans' phone and internet communications.
The problem here lies not in some unique flaw of the United States but, rather, in the fact that warfare is not conducive to freedom. Amid the heightened fear and inflamed nationalism that accompany war, governments and many of their citizens regard dissent as akin to treason. In these circumstances, "national security" usually trumps liberty. As the journalist Randolph Bourne remarked during World War I: "War is the health of the state." Americans who cherish freedom should keep this in mind.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner [1] is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, "What's Going On at UAardvark?" [2]

Thanks to the author for sending this to Portside.

Source URL: https://portside.org/2014-11-17/do-wars-really-defend-americas-freedom

Links:
[1] http://lawrenceswittner.com/
[2] http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Going-UAardvark-Lawrence-Wittner/dp/1614681457/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1367263138&sr=1-1&keywords=What%27s+Going+On+at+UAardvark%3F

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs