US Leaves UNHRC: Big Step to Isolation – By Arkady SAVITSKY (Strategic Culture Foundation)

US Leaves UNHRC: Big Step to Isolation
Arkady SAVITSKY | 21.06.2018 | WORLD / Americas

So, the US is leaving the 47-member Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made the announcement on June 19. The move followed criticism of the US immigration policy, especially the forced separation of alleged undocumented migrant parents from their children.

Formally, the reason is the bias against Israel, the failure to hold human rights abusers accountable and US calls for reforms remaining unheeded. Strange logic! Being a member, the US could protect its Middle East ally and attract world attention to violations of human rights. The premier intergovernmental human rights body may not be as effective as it could be but it is a platform to address the burning problems and a dialogue bridge.

The ambassador added that the council could be rejoined in the future if reforms were made. That’s the essence of Washington’s approach. Either the US has it its way or it quits, there is nothing in between: no compromise, no discussions, and no diplomacy. More and more often, the US demonstrates its “it’s my way or no way” approach to international problems.

The opposition to the withdrawal is strong, including US lawmakers and well-known NGOs, such as the Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Campaign, Save the Children, Freedom House and many others but their arguments have been ignored. Washington came under strong criticism internationally.

The pullout is a very decisive step conforming to the trend of the US stepping back from multilateral accords, international bodies and forums. Under the current administration, America has pulled out from the Paris climate accord, the UN educational, scientific and cultural organization (UNESCO) and the Iran nuclear deal. It also defied the world by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there. Its participation in UN activities has been curtailed recently. For instance, in January, the US announced the decision to cut funds for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. In March, Ambassador Haley said that UN peacekeeping operations will be axed. The idea to withdraw from the United Nations Organization has been reinvigorated recently in the US.

There are other reasons the US officials prefer not to mention. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is pressing ahead with the investigation of mistreatment of Iraqi detainees by British forces in 2003-2008. This is a warning for America. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was headed by the US without the approval by the UN Security Council. Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has mentioned alleged US violations to be investigated. She says the United States may have abused human rights in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The US strongly opposes the ICC, so it’s only natural for it to be against the UNHRC and the UN in general. Washington has not ratified various international human rights related agreements. The country still has death penalty. It has failed to cope with police brutality and is known to have the world’s largest prison population (about two million people).

In 2014, the UN Committee Against Torture released a report that deeply criticized the US for racial discrimination and other human rights abuses, including electronic surveillance, CIA interrogations, immigrant detentions, the failure to shut down the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay etc. In 2015, a UN report slammed America for being the only country in the world to imprison children for life without parole. According to the recent Human Rights Watch paper, the US moved backward on human rights at home and abroad last year.

On many occasions, the legality of using armed drones by the US military and the CIA has been questioned by the international community. Last December, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution calling on the US to reverse its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Washington threatened those who backed the document with retaliation. The US sanctions policy has been criticized by UN officials saying it constitutes the violation of human rights. Actually, Russia or any other country under sanctions could launch a complaint with the UN Human Rights committee in accordance with Article 41 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Nobody’s perfect. So is the UN. Still the organization remains a vital instrument of international governance. It has managed many conflicts preventing abuses and saving lives. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner as well as a half dozen core human rights treaties have played an important role to protect human rights. An extensive international criminal justice system exists under the UN auspices. The attempts to free America from the burden of international law and global commitments in a high-tech era are hardly implementable. With the UN jettisoned, the US would return to pre-Second World War isolationism but will it make it richer, stronger, or more influential? How does the concept of the whole world marching out of step benefit the United States?

True, the council has serious drawbacks but the US leaves for another reason. While lecturing others on human rights, values and freedom, the US is far from being lily-white but it wants no curbs on what it does and no criticism, objections and discussions. Looks like “America First” and “America Isolated” have a lot in common. 

Putin-Trump summit finally on the way? – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

Moscow hints that a summit in Vienna is under discussion as rumours of a July summit persist

US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
 

In the aftermath of the successful Kim-Trump summit in Singapore there is again speculation about the prospects of a possible summit meeting between the US and Russian Presidents, with Vienna the likely host city.

The clearest discussion of these rumours and of what such a summit might look like and what it might achieve has been provided by Dr. Gilbert Doctorow.

On the indications that a summit is in the air Dr. Doctorow has this to say

I say that a summit in the near future look likely, in part because that is suggested in several articles appearing recently in the Washington Post, in The Wall Street Journal, in The New Yorkermaking reference to unidentified contacts in the administration.  In part, I base it on less obvious clues that speak to the vestigial Kremlinologist in me. One is the repeat broadcast this morning on Vesti/Rossiya-1 of an interview with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz that took place just before Vladimir Putin’s state visit on 6 June. Vienna has been mentioned as a possible venue for any such summit, and the interview makes plain why the country would be so very suitable as the site of a summit – namely Kurz’s populist and Euro-skeptic policies that are so highly appreciated by both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

The Return of Henry Kissinger

Dr. Doctorow suggests that Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s former National Security Adviser who is now in Russia ostensibly to watch the World Cup, may be playing a crucial go-between role in setting up the summit.

One additional clue is that Henry Kissinger is said to be in Moscow right now, and Henry has been an adviser to Trump on policy to Russia ever since the 2016 campaign. He has been the voice urging an accommodation with Russia for a variety of geopolitical strategic reasons.

To which I would add that Henry Kissinger is not only known to be an adviser to Donald Trump; he is also known to have good contacts with senior officials in Moscow including Sergey Ivanov, Vladimir Putin’s former Chief of Staff, who continues to be a member of Russia’s Security Council (Russia’s top policy making body) and who has in the past spoken of Kissinger in effusive terms.

A get to know you summit; not a detailed negotiation

As to what a summit between Trump and Putin might look like, Dr. Doctorow suggests that the Kim-Trump summit may provide a possible precedent.

The Kim-Trump summit took place with only minimal preparation and produced only a bland one page statement of intent.  However it has nonetheless managed to transform the international atmosphere.  Dr. Doctorow suggests a Trump-Putin summit would be similar

All accounts of the President’s decision to seek a meeting with Putin in July indicate that he is doing this over the objections of every one of his advisers.  Put another way, he would not appear to have many resources at hand at the moment for a solid preparation of the planned summit.

Normally, the Russians would not accept a meeting at the top without such preparation. However, in light of what just happened in the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, which also had close to no preparation and ended in a one-page, 4-point statement of intentions which was swallowed by the American establishment and media upon Trump’s return home, the Kremlin may well have decided that this is the only way forward with an American President under siege from his own administration not to mention the federal bureaucracy.

I can envision a Letter of Intent signed by Trump and Putin in Vienna that has three points. Two are the points sketched above. The third could be a quite unexceptional statement on Ukraine that would conceal a significant change in US policy given in verbal assurances that would change the dynamics in US-Russian relations. Namely the sides could agree to take measures to ensure that both Kiev and the breakaway republics begin at once to honor the Minsk Accords.  Behind this anodyne formula would be a US commitment to force the hand of Poroshenko or to have him removed and replaced by someone who will do what is necessary to achieve a political settlement with Donbass. In return, the Russians would ensure quick deployment of a UN or other reputable peace keeping force in the Donbass at the lines of separation of forces and at the Russian Ukrainian border.

The Letter of Intent would be a start, would give a new direction to the bilateral relations and would open the way to creation of working groups and restoration of lines of communication that Barack Obama foolishly severed following the tainted advice of his Neocon staff at the State Department.

The other three items which Dr. Doctorow envisages might be in the summit communique other than Ukraine relate to arms control and Syria.

On the subject of Syria Dr. Doctorow envisages an agreement along these lines

There have been rumors that the United States is seeking a de facto if not de jure partition of Syria whereby its control over the Kurdish territory east of the Euphrates River is recognized by the Russians. The logic for this U.S. interest may well be related more to containing Iran than to depriving the Assad government of territory, population and hydrocarbon resources.  Figuratively the American zone would be a bulwark against Iranian infiltration of Syria and Iran’s enjoying unchallenged military access to the Israeli border.  Considering the obvious understandings between Netanyahu and Putin over Iranian operations on Syrian soil, it is quite possible that Russia would agree to the US proposal as part of a bigger negotiation over improving bilateral relations.

On the subject of arms control, Dr. Doctorow puts it this way

Restarting arms control negotiations should take in more than propping up existing agreements that are either coming to term or are being systematically violated (agreement on short to intermediate range missiles). From Trump’s remarks on the new arms race, it would be entirely logical for him now to accept Vladimir Putin’s invitation to discuss the new technology strategic weapons systems such as Russia is now rolling out, as well as cyber warfare. They would also reopen talks on the US missile defense installations on land in Poland and Romania and at sea off the Russian coasts which gave rise to Russia’s development of what are called invincible offensive systems in response.

Is any of this likely to be true?  Is a Trump-Putin summit of the sort envisaged by Dr. Doctorow really in the works?

Urgent need for a Trump-Putin summit

The first thing to say about such a summit is that it is sorely needed and that Trump and Putin should not be deterred from holding it simply because there has been only minimal preparation for it.

As a result of the phoney Russiagate scandal, whose absurdity grows by the day, we have a ridiculous situation where the two men who command the world’s two most powerful militaries can each meet one to one with every other world leader – including it turns out North Korea’s Kim Jong-un – but not apparently with each other.  The sooner this ridiculous and dangerous situation is ended the better.

Moreover, as Dr. Doctorow rightly says, such a summit meeting between Trump and Putin has a value that goes far beyond anything that the two men concretely agree with each other.

There mere fact that the leaders of the United States and Russia are finally talking to each other will transform the international atmosphere, and will hopefully bring to an end the climate of tension which has existed in the international system since the Western sponsored Maidan coup in Ukraine in February 2014.

As Dr. Doctorow also rightly says, it is actually better in this situation if Trump and Putin do not agree to anything specific with each other since in the present atmosphere anything they did agree with each other would almost certainly be misrepresented in the US by Donald Trump’s opponents as a betrayal.

Above all the subject of sanctions – as Dr. Doctorow rightly says – should certainly not be discussed, and no agreement to lift them should be reached.

Sanctions

However that does not mean that with respect to the sanctions a summit between the US and Russian Presidents would not be important.  The mere fact that the Presidents of the US and Russia were meeting would make the unrolling of further sanctions against Russia look increasingly unlikely.

Whilst the ugly blowback of the recent US sanctions against the Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska argues against further strong sanctions being imposed against Russia, such new sanctions as are from time to time announced do nonetheless have something of the quality of a sort of guerrilla campaign against Russia. For the Russians that is distracting, and as they focus increasingly on upgrading their economy they could well do without it.

Moreover a signal from the US – which a Trump-Putin summit would itself be – that further US sanctions against Russia are off the table would almost certainly be all the encouragement many international investors and businesspeople would need in order for them to start investing in Russia in a big way.

With Russian costs and assets now extremely cheap, and with the macroeconomic environment in Russia extremely stable and business friendly, the fear of further sanctions against Russia is now arguably the one thing which is discouraging international investors and businesspeople from piling into a Russia.  Here is how the Financial Times – normally a harsh critic of Russia – puts it

….the rouble has stabilised while investors have marked down the currencies of Argentina, Turkey, Brazil and other emerging market countries in the face of a resurgent dollar and rising Treasury yields. Because while they run large current account deficits, which need financing from capital flows, Russia runs a trade surplus.

Compared with other parts of emerging markets, “Russia is in a relatively comfortable position”, says Piotr Matys, EM strategist at Rabobank.

While a number of EM central banks have raised interest rates to counter the impact of the stronger dollar on their economies, the Central Bank of Russia is weighing a rate cut. And although investors have doubts about the credibility of some EM policymakers, they like CBR governor Elvira Nabiullina for bringing discipline and a consistent communication strategy to the central bank.

Inflation was raging at 15 per cent three years ago, but at 2.4 per cent is now below the CBR target of 4 per cent.

April’s sanctions prompted JPMorgan analysts to close long positions in the rouble, but they are now reintroducing them.

Nafez Zouk, macro strategist at Oxford Economics, says pressure on the rouble is “softening out given that the perception of geopolitical risks has faded”, and reckons the currency is undervalued on the basis of real exchange rate behaviour.

Russia may attract opprobrium on the world stage, but investors don’t mind holding their nose when opportunities arise.

Whilst a softening of the sanctions pressure will therefore almost certainly not be on the agenda of any summit between Trump and Putin, it would nonetheless be a consequence of it and would be an actual material benefit Russia would gain from a summit.

What of the US however, what might the US and Donald Trump gain from a summit with Vladimir Putin now?

Re-starting arms control

The answer to that has been provided by Dr. Gilbert Doctorow

Restarting arms control negotiations should take in more than propping up existing agreements that are either coming to term or are being systematically violated (agreement on short to intermediate range missiles). From Trump’s remarks on the new arms race, it would be entirely logical for him now to accept Vladimir Putin’s invitation to discuss the new technology strategic weapons systems such as Russia is now rolling out, as well as cyber warfare. They would also reopen talks on the US missile defense installations on land in Poland and Romania and at sea off the Russian coasts which gave rise to Russia’s development of what are called invincible offensive systems in response.

As my colleague Alex Christoforou and I have recently discussed in a video, Russia’s success in developing hypersonic missile technology has fundamentally changed the strategic military balance between the US and Russia.

Moreover this is happening at a time when the US’s Nuclear Posture Review was already making clear the US military’s growing dismay about the way the international military balance is shifting against the US.  Here is some of what I have previously said about the US Nuclear Posture Review in a previous article for The Duran

…..today – as was never the case during the Cold War – the aggregate economic, technological and especially industrial and raw material resources of Russia and China are greater than those of the US, calling into question the US’s long term ability to sustain an arms race which it insists on conducting simultaneously against both of them.

Already there is a marked build up of Russian conventional forces in eastern Europe, probably outmatching the size and power of the conventional forces the US currently has in Europe, whilst the Chinese aircraft carrier programme threatens US military dominance of the Pacific for the first time since the end of the Second World War.

At present the US still has the military forces to take on both the Russian army in Europe and the Chinese navy in the Pacific simultaneously.

However before long that will become impossible, at which point the US will find itself not only disastrously over-extended but facing a military commitments’ crisis….

The US Nuclear Posture Review is in fact a profoundly pessimistic document, more so than any other foreign policy or defence document the US government has published which I have read since the end of the Cold War.

Not only does it effectively admit what is now undeniable – that with the return of Great Power competition the ‘unipolar moment’ has passed – but it barely conceals its dismay that the US is once again locked into something which following the end of the Cold War it assumed it would never have to face again: a nuclear arms race…..

Indeed it is easy to see how the US’s overall military position is rapidly becoming worse than it was during the Cold War.

The Cold War was essentially a dual between two nuclear superpowers – the US and the USSR – which was fought out in a limited geographical area – north west Europe and the north Atlantic.

By contrast the challenges the US is now facing are becoming truly global: against Russia in Europe, against China in the Pacific, and potentially against North Korea and Iran in the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East.

Moreover, despite their differences there is a growing trend for three of these Powers – Russia, China and Iran – to work together with each other, with Russia and China de facto allies against the US, and Iran gradually becoming so.

It is only a question of time before the US finds that it does not have the conventional military forces to confront all these challenges simultaneously……

Dr. Doctorow claims that Henry Kissinger’s original reason for pressing Donald Trump to repair relations with Russia was precisely because of his alarm about the deterioration in the US’s global position caused by the US’s careless undoing of his 1970s diplomatic achievement of setting China and Russia off against each other

I have noted before that Kissinger’s advice to Trump during the electoral campaign to reach an accommodation with Moscow was aimed at decoupling the budding Russia-China strategic partnership that has undone all that Nixon and Kissinger achieved in the 1970s.  I have also noted that Putin rejected this conceptualization of the path to normalized relations with the US when Trump’s emissaries put it to him early in the spring of 2017. Putin is very loyal to his friends and would never turn on Chinese President Xi for the sake of an invitation to the White House. After that setback, Kissinger appeared to have disappeared from the Trump’s entourage.

In light of this the further deterioration of the US’s strategic military position highlighted by the Nuclear Posture Review and confirmed by the new generation of Russian hypersonic weapons unveiled in Putin’s March State of the Union Address  can only have given in Kissinger’s mind added urgency to the US’s need for a new arms limitation arrangement with Russia.

A ‘geostrategic ceasefire’?

This after all is the course I proposed in my discussion of the Nuclear Posture Review, and it is overwhelmingly likely that Kissinger – the nearest thing the US has to a foreign policy realist – shares it

In a rational world that ought to drive the US towards seeking some sort of rapprochement with either Russia or China or preferably with both of them.

Both countries are still overwhelmingly focused on their internal economic development, and for that reason they would probably be willing to come to some sort of ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ arrangement with the US if it were offered to them.

The brief detente era between the US and the USSR of the early 1970s offers a possible precedent, though given subsequent US behaviour the US now faces a massive trust deficit which it will struggle to overcome.

However that remains the rational approach for the US to be taking, and in my opinion if it took it, and committed itself to it seriously, it would probably despite all the trust issues achieve success given the overriding interest of both Russia and China in a peaceful and stable world situation at this time.  Certainly the view expressed in the Review that Russia and China are ‘revisionist’ powers is for the time being at least wrong.

If this is indeed the direction things are taking then it is completely unsurprising that Henry Kissinger – the individual most associated with the previous ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ between the US and Russia of the 1970s – is at the forefront negotiating it.

That ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ after all was also the product of an earlier US over-commitment crisis, with the US struggling to balance the competing demands of its strategic arms race with the USSR and the war in Vietnam.

Nixon and Kissinger responded to the 1970s US over-commitment crisis by coming to arms limitation agreements with the Soviets whilst simultaneously reaching out to China and scaling down the war in Vietnam.

It is just possible that Donald Trump on Kissinger’s advice is feeling his way to doing something similar now, and that some of his recent moves eg. the summit with Kim Jong-un and the talk of a summit with Putin now are the outward indications of it.

That would make sense of some of Donald Trump’s recent talk about Russia, which Dr. Doctorow describes in this way

Evidence of Kissinger’s return to favor came as recently as a week ago when Trump reportedly said behind closed doors at the G-7 meeting that Crimea is rightfully Russia’s.  That is half of the new equation for normalization of relations now being attributed to Kissinger by hearsay:  the other side of the equation being that in return Russia would withdraw its support to the rebellion in Donbass against the Ukrainian authorities.

Given the scale of the US’s pending over-commitment crisis, such a policy aiming at a ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ with Russia might just possibly if it was explained properly even in time gain a measure of support in Washington.  Here is what Dr. Doctorow has to say about that

Such a one-page Letter of Intent could be sold to a skeptical or even hostile Congress if arms control heads the list.  The Open Letter to Rex Tillerson by four US Senators, 3 Democrats and 1 Independent (Bernie Sanders) in early March urging immediate arms control talks showed that Vladimir Putin’s speech of 1 March on how Russia has restored full nuclear parity with the United States could break through the otherwise blind partisanship on Capitol Hill when questions of national survival are on the table. (See http://usforeignpolicy.blogs.lalibre.be/archive/2018/03/10/gang-of-four-senators-call-for-tillerson-to-enter-into-arms-1164058.html )

However it is important to stress that what looks to be on the agenda at least for the moment is a ‘geostrategic ceasefire’, not a full scale rapprochement between the US and Russia.

The US and Russia would remain adversaries.  However sanctions pressure on Russia would ease, attracting external investors to Russia, whilst the Russians would be given time and space to give all their attention to their economy without being distracted by the constant pressure on them of the US.  The US for its part would be under less pressure to engage in an arms race with Russia and China which it now lacks the resources to win.

Donald Trump himself has at times gone further and has spoken of actual friendship between the US and Russia.  That is not however on the agenda in the foreseeable future.

What are the prospects of success?

No retreat by Russia on Ukraine, Crimea or Donbass

Firstly Dr. Doctorow is certainly right when he says that any idea of Russia abandoning the two People’s Republics of the Donbass to their fate in return for a ‘geopolitical ceasefire’ with the US can be firmly ruled out

To abandon Donbass to the not so tender mercy of Ukrainian nationalists and revanchists would be political suicide for Putin given the strength of feeling on the subject among his supporters

I would add that the Russians have also categorically ruled out the possibility of a peacekeeping force being deployed to the Donbass to which Dr. Doctorow gives more credence.  Here is what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently had to say about that

The topic of the UN peacekeeping mission in Donbass was discussed at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Normandy Four participants [Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France], Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday.

“Yes, UN peacekeepers were discussed,” the Russian minister said. “The Russian position is crystal clear. We have a proposal introduced last September to the UN Security Council and aimed at providing UN security for observers working through OSCE,” Lavrov said.

At the same time, Ukraine continues insisting on the US variant of the UN mission in Donbass, which ruins Minsk Agreements completely, Lavrov noted.

“We explained that ideas put forward by US and Ukrainian representatives to convert this peacekeeping mission into a sort of military-political commandant’s headquarters to take control over the whole territory of proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Republics and which will decide on its own, who will be elected and in what way, completely ruins Minsk Agreements,” the Russian minister said.

“It seems to me that the French and the German understand our logic,” he added.

Given the total lack of trust the Russians have in any peacekeeping force proposed by Ukraine and the Western powers, and given that the supporters of this proposal for a peacekeeping force make no secret that it is their intention to use it as a means to return the Donbass to Kiev’s control, I do not see the Russians ever agreeing to it.

Conversely, I don’t see Trump – as Dr. Doctorow suggests – ever agreeing to Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s removal to please Putin and I don’t see Putin requesting it; nor do I see Trump agreeing to increase pressure on Ukraine in order to get Ukraine to implement the Minsk Process, and I don’t see Putin requesting it from him either.

I suspect that the most one can hope for coming out of a Trump-Putin summit on the subject of Ukraine would be a public recommitment by the US and Russia to the Minsk Process – as Dr. Doctorow suggests – together with a private understanding between Trump and Putin to put the issues of Crimea and Ukraine to one side.

Frankly I don’t think Trump cares about either Crimea or Ukraine, and I suspect that he would be only too happy to leave them to their own devices if he thought that that would be the way to get Putin to come to some sort of understanding with him each on issues like arms control which he really cares about.

As for Putin, I think that would be almost the optimal position for him, leaving Ukraine in effect adrift.

A winding down of the conflict in Syria

As for Syria, again I strongly doubt that the Russians would ever agree to even an informal partition of Syria along the lines Dr. Doctorow suggests.

Far more likely is that Putin will pass on to Trump assurances the Russians appear to have been given by the Iranian and Syrian leaders that the Iranian presence in Syria is connected to the ongoing conflict in Syria and will be significantly scaled down once the Syrian conflict ends.

Unlike Crimea and Ukraine Iran’s role in Syria is something Trump does care about, but again I suspect he would probably accept assurances of this sort given him by Putin if he were to see in them the way forward to an agreement with Putin on even more pressing issues such as arms control.

There is no longer any possibility of regime change in Syria.  From Donald Trump’s point of view an implicit assurance that after the Syrian government’s final victory the Iranian presence in Syria will be scaled down is probably a more attractive option than maintaining a US military presence in Syria indefinitely.

Russian media discusses the summit

The basis of an understanding between Trump and Putin is therefore there, and as Dr. Doctorow says there are now straws in the wind which suggest that the two men may be working towards a summit as they feel their way towards that understanding.

Indeed, even as I have been writing this article, Russia’s official TASS news agency has published a summary of an article in the Russian newspaper Kommersant which also discusses the rumours that a summit may be pending.

Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are reportedly gearing up for a summit in July. Numerous media leaks about the two leaders’ meeting, which is expected to be held in one of the European capitals, and information provided by Kommersant’s sources, indicate that preparations for it are underway. However, the paper’s interlocutors warned many White House officials are opposed to the idea, arguing that for Trump the proposed meeting will only make sense in the event of a breakthrough agreement on at least one of the key issues on the Russian-US agenda.

This has been confirmed by former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and currently Director of the Center for Political Studies Andrei Fyodorov who cited his own US diplomatic sources.

Unsurprisingly the Kommersant article identifies Donald Trump’s perennially hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton as the primary opponent of the idea for the summit.

However, interestingly enough, Bolton’s opposition to the summit appears to be based not on an objection to a summit with Putin in principle, but rather to his concern that it might be difficult to sell the idea of such a summit to an implacably hostile US political establishment now

“Among the opponents of the July summit plans is National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bolton known for his critical attitude towards Russia insists that for Donald Trump such a meeting would only make sense if he could take credit for it, similarly to the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore,” Fyodorov explained. “At the moment, the White House is not certain Trump could present his summit with Vladimir Putin to his opponents as a foreign policy victory in the run-up to the November elections to the US Congress. For example, an agreement to revive the nuclear disarmament negotiation process and maintain strategic stability could be such a victory.”

Having said this, If it is merely questions of presentation that are holding the summit back, then it is likely to happen sooner or later as Donald Trump’s political position in the US grows steadily stronger.  Another Russian analyst quoted by Kommersant explains it correctly in this way

According to Yuri Rogulev, Director of the Franklin Roosevelt US Policy Studies Center at Moscow State University, “Trump shows consistency in fulfilling his election pledges, although he is not ready yet to fully iron out relations with Russia.” “As the alleged ‘Russian meddling’ probe is running out of steam, Trump is trying to achieve a reset in relations with Moscow. His remarks about making Russia a member of the global powers’ club again and turning the G7 into G8 was yet another reminder,” the expert stressed.

A return to Trump’s original ideas about Russia?

Shortly before Donald Trump was inaugurated President of the United States, but after his election as President, he gave an interview to The Times of London in which he spelled out his foreign policy ideas.

In that article he first floated the idea of trading sanctions on Russia for an arms control agreement

They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia.  For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.

At the time this suggestion was made it provoked widespread dismay in Washington and amongst the US’s European allies as it was seen – correctly – as in effect throwing Ukraine under a bus.

However it appears to correspond with the direction in which Trump – possibly on Henry Kissinger’s advice – is currently travelling.

Whether Trump will be able to follow it, and what the ultimate destination will be if he does, remains to be seen.

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State Dept says US wants rapprochement with Russia – Trump-Putin meeting in the works – By Paul Antonopoulos Fort Russ News (SOTT)

Trump i Putin

© SPUTNIK/AFP/File Mikhail KLIMENTYEV

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that the US wants rapprochement with Russia.

“Overall, I can say that the United States government would certainly prefer to have a stronger relationship with the Russian government,” Nauert told reporters.

What’s more, on Friday, Trump said it is possible that he might meet with Russian President Putin this summer. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has confirmed this possibility.

On Monday, Russian congressman Konstantin Kosachev revealed to reporters that US Senators have requested a meeting with the Council of the Federation, Russia’s equivalent of the US Senate, and that such could be held in early July.

Since 2014, relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine. Washington imposed anti-Russian sanctions in response to Crimea’s reunification with Russia and alleged Russian involvement in the war in Donbass.

Russia has denied all these charges and has launched its own economic sanctions in retaliation.

Just recently, a new wave of sanctions followed Western allegations that Russia has been engaged in malicious cyber activity, which Moscow has called unfounded.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has remarked that the West could not possibly find a weaker argument, and that such unfounded allegations have been completely refuted.

Indeed, it is clear that Washington’s main gripe with Moscow is that Russia has successfully fended off aggressive NATO power projections against the Eurasian giant, particularly in South Ossetia, Ukraine and Syria. This is part of the larger context of Russia and China emerging as superpowers and championing a multipolar world which threatens to put an end to Washington’s unipolar dominance since the destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The US consistently refused to accept the reality of growing multipolarity until Donald Trump rose to power in Washington. As Fort Russ News has argued, Donald Trump represents an attempt at reforming the US’ geopolitics in the wake of its unipolar empire’s decline.

One aspect of Trump’s ambitious reform project has been rapprochement with Moscow in order to re-adjust the focus of US imperialism towards Iran, China, and Latin America. It is in this context that Washington’s latest diplomatic pronouncements on Russia should be seen. The same goes for Trump’s major claim on June 8th that the G7 should accept Crimea as Russian.

Trump’s overtures towards Russia have been persistently opposed and even sabotaged by the deep state of Washington’s establishment and Trump’s political opponents who have fanned a massive media campaign to allege that Trump is in office thanks to Russian interference in the American elections.

Whether Trump’s diplomats’ expressed desires to improve relations with Moscow will be translated into reality remains an open question. A Trump-Putin meeting this summer would be a serious step in this direction. We might just be seeing the rhetorical warm-up for such now.

Comment: Trump campaigned on better relations with Russia. If his track record is anything to go buy, we may just see it happen.

How the Last Superpower Was Unchained – By Tom ENGELHARDT – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

How the Last Superpower Was Unchained
EDITOR’S CHOICE | 18.06.2018

Tom ENGELHARDT

Think of it as the all-American version of the human comedy: a great power that eternally knows what the world needs and offers copious advice with a tone deafness that would be humorous, if it weren’t so grim.

If you look, you can find examples of this just about anywhere. Here, for instance, is a passage in The New York Times from a piece on the topsy-turvy Trumpian negotiations that preceded the Singapore summit. “The Americans and South Koreans,” wrote reporter Motoko Rich, “want to persuade the North that continuing to funnel most of the country’s resources into its military and nuclear programs shortchanges its citizens’ economic well-being. But the North does not see the two as mutually exclusive.”

Think about that for a moment. The US has, of course, embarked on a trillion-dollar-plus upgrade of its already massive nuclear arsenal (and that’s before the cost overruns even begin). Its Congress and president have for years proved eager to sink at least a trillion dollars annually into the budget of the national security state (a figure that’s still rising and outpaces by far that of any other power on the planet), while its own infrastructure sags and crumbles. And yet it finds the impoverished North Koreans puzzling when they, too, follow such an extreme path.

And when it comes to cluelessness, there’s another, far stranger path the United States has been following since at least the George W Bush moment that couldn’t be more consequential and yet somehow remains the least noticed of all. On this subject, Americans don’t have a clue. In fact, if you could put the United States on a psychiatrist’s couch, this might be the place to start.

America contained

In a way, it’s the oldest story on Earth: the rise and fall of empires. And note the plural there. It was never – not until recently at least – “empire,” always “empires.” Since the 15th century, when the fleets of the first European imperial powers broke into the larger world with subjugation in mind, it was invariably a contest of many. There were at least three or sometimes significantly more imperial powers rising and contesting for dominance or slowly falling from it.

This was, by definition, the history of great powers on this planet: the challenging rise, the challenged decline. Think of it for so many centuries as the essential narrative of history, the story of how it all happened until at least 1945, when just two “superpowers,” the United States and the Soviet Union, found themselves facing off on a global scale.

Of the two, the US was always stronger, more powerful, and far wealthier. It theoretically feared the Russian Bear, the Evil Empire, which it worked assiduously to “contain” behind that famed Iron Curtain and whose adherents in the US, always modest in number, were subjected to a mania of fear and suppression.

However, the truth – at least in retrospect – was that, in the Cold War years, the Soviets were actually doing Washington a strange, if unnoted, favor. Across much of the Eurasian continent, and other places from Cuba to the Middle East, Soviet power and the never-ending contest for influence and dominance that went with it always reminded American leaders that their own power had its limits.

This, as the 21st century should have (but hasn’t) made clear, was no small thing. It still seemed obvious then that American power could not be total. There were things it could not do, places it could not control, dreams its leaders simply couldn’t have. Though no one ever thought of it that way, from 1945 to 1991, the United States, like the Soviet Union, was, after a fashion, “contained.”

In those years, the Russians were, in essence, saving Washington from itself. Soviet power was a tangible reminder to American political and military leaders that certain areas of the planet remained no-go zones (except in what, in those years, were called “the shadows”).

The Soviet Union, in short, rescued Washington from both the fantasy and the hell of going it alone, even if Americans only grasped that reality at the most subliminal of levels.

That was the situation until December 1991 when, at the end of a centuries-long imperial race for power (and the never-ending arms race that went with it), there was just one gigantic power left standing on Planet Earth. It told you something about the thinking then that, when the Soviet Union imploded, the initial reaction in Washington wasn’t triumphalism (though that came soon enough) but utter shock, a disbelieving sense that something no one had expected, predicted, or even imagined had nonetheless happened. To that very moment, Washington had continued to plan for a two-superpower world until the end of time.

America uncontained

Soon enough, though, the Washington elite came to see what happened as, in the phrase of the moment, “the end of history.” Given the wreckage of the Soviet Union, it seemed that an ultimate victory had been won by the very country its politicians would soon come to call “the last superpower,” the “indispensable” nation, the “exceptional” state, a land great beyond imagining (until, at least, Donald Trump hit the campaign trail with a slogan that implied greatness wasn’t all-American any more).

In reality, there were a variety of paths open to the “last superpower” at that moment. There was even, however briefly, talk of a “peace dividend” – of the possibility that, in a world without contesting superpowers, taxpayer dollars might once again be invested not in the sinews of war-making but of peacemaking (particularly in infrastructure and the well-being of the country’s citizens).

Such talk, however, lasted only a year or two and always in a minor key before being relegated to Washington’s attic. Instead, with only a few rickety “rogue” states left to deal with – like… gulp … North Korea, Iraq and Iran – that money never actually headed home, and neither did the thinking that went with it.

Consider it the good fortune of the geopolitical dreamers soon to take the reins in Washington that the first Gulf War of 1990-1991, which ended less than a year before the Soviet Union collapsed, prepared the way for quite a different style of thinking. That instant victory led to a new kind of militarized dreaming in which a highly tech-savvy military, like the one that had driven Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in such short order, would be capable of doing anything on a planet without serious opposition.

And yet, from the beginning, there were signs suggesting a far grimmer future. To take but one infamous example, Americans still remember the Black Hawk Down moment of 1993 when the world’s greatest military fell victim to a Somali warlord and local militias and found itself incapable of imposing its will on one of the least impressive not-quite-states on the planet (a place still frustrating that military a quarter-century later).

In that post-1991 world, however, few in Washington even considered that the 20th century had loosed another phenomenon on the world, that of insurgent national liberation movements, generally leftist rebellions, across what had been the colonial world – the very world of competing empires now being tucked into the history books – and it hadn’t gone away. In the 21st century, such insurgent movements, now largely religious, or terror-based, or both, would turn out to offer a grim new version of containment to the last superpower.

Unchaining the indispensable nation

On September 11, 2001, a canny global jihadist by the name of Osama bin Laden sent his air force (four hijacked US passenger jets) and his precision weaponry (19 suicidal, mainly Saudi followers) against three iconic targets in the American pantheon: the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and undoubtedly the Capitol or the White House (neither of which was hit because one of those jets crashed in a field in Pennsylvania). In doing so, in a sense bin Laden not only loosed a literal hell on Earth, but unchained the last superpower.

William Shakespeare would have had a word for what followed: hubris. But give the top officials of the Bush administration (and the neocons who supported them) a break. There had never been a moment like it: a moment of one. A single great power left alone, triumphant, on planet Earth. Just one superpower – wealthy beyond compare, its increasingly high-tech military unmatched, its only true rival in a state of collapse – had now been challenged by a small jihadist group.

To president Bush, vice-president Dick Cheney, and the rest of their crew, it seemed like nothing short of a heaven-sent opportunity. As they came out of the shock of 9/11, of that “Pearl Harbor of the 21st century,” it was as if they had found a magic formula in the ruins of those iconic buildings for the ultimate control of the planet. As secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld would instruct an aide at the Pentagon that day, “Go massive. Sweep it up. Things related and not.”

Within days, things related and not were indeed being swept up. The country was almost instantly said to be “at war,” and soon that conflict even had a name, the Global War on Terror. Nor was that war to be against just al-Qaeda, or even one country, an Afghanistan largely ruled by the Taliban. More than 60 countries said to have “terror networks” of various sorts found themselves almost instantly in the administration’s potential gunsights. And that was just to be the beginning of it all.

In October 2001, the invasion of Afghanistan was launched. In the spring of 2003, the invasion of Iraq followed, and those were only the initial steps in what was increasingly envisioned as the imposition of a Pax Americana on the Greater Middle East.

There could be no doubt, for instance, that Iran and Syria, too, would soon go the way of Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush’s top officials had been nursing just such dreams since, in 1997, many of them formed a think-tank (the first ever to enter the White House) called the Project for the New American Century and began to write out what were then the fantasies of figures nowhere near power. By 2003, they were power itself and their dreams, if anything, had grown even more grandiose.

In addition to imagining a political Pax Republicana in the United States, they truly dreamed of a future planetary Pax Americana in which, for the first time in history, a single power would, in some fashion, control the whole works, the Earth itself.

And this wasn’t to be a passing matter either. The Bush administration’s “unilateralism” rested on a conviction that it could actually create a future in which no country or even bloc of countries would ever come close to matching or challenging US military power. The administration’s National Security Strategy of 2002 put the matter bluntly: The US was to “build and maintain” a military, in the phrase of the moment, “beyond challenge.”

They had little doubt that, in the face of the most technologically advanced, bulked-up, destructive force on Earth, hostile states would be “shocked and awed” by a simple demonstration of its power, while friendly ones would have little choice but to come to heel as well. After all, as Bush said at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in 2007, the US military was “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.”

Though there was much talk at the time about the “liberation” of Afghanistan and then Iraq, at least in their imaginations the true country being liberated was the planet’s lone superpower. Although the Bush administration was officially considered a “conservative” one, its key officials were geopolitical dreamers of the first order and their vision of the world was the very opposite of conservative. It harkened back to nothing and looked forward to everything.

It was radical in ways that should have, but didn’t, take the American public’s breath away; radical in ways that had never been seen before.

Shock and awe for the last superpower

Think of what those officials did in the post-9/11 moment as the ultimate act of greed. They tried to swallow a whole planet. They were determined to make it a planet of one in a way that had never before been seriously imagined.

It was, to say the least, a vision of madness. Even in a moment when it truly did seem – to them at least – that all constraints had been taken off, an administration of genuine conservatives might have hesitated. Its top officials might, at least, have approached the post-Soviet situation with a modicum of caution and modesty.

But not George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and pals. In the face of what seemed like the ultimate in possibilities they proved clueless when it came to the possibility that anything on Earth might have a shot at containing them.

Even among their critics, who could have imagined then that, more than 16 years later, having faced only lightly armed enemies of various sorts, still wealthy beyond compare, still with a military funded in a way the next seven countries couldn’t cumulatively match, the United States would have won literally nothing?

Who could have imagined that, unlike so many preceding imperial powers (including the US of the earlier Cold War era), it would have been able to establish control over nothing at all; that, instead, from Afghanistan to Syria, Iraq deep into Africa, it would find itself in a state of “infinite war” and utter frustration on a planet filled with ever more failed statesdestroyed citiesdisplaced people, and right-wing “populist” governments, including the one in Washington?

Who could have imagined that, with a peace dividend no longer faintly conceivable, this country would have found itself not just in decline, but – a new term is needed to catch the essence of this curious moment – in what might be called self-decline?

Yes, a new power, China, is finally rising – and doing so on a planet that seems itself to be going down. Here, then, is a conclusion that might be drawn from the quarter-century-plus in which America was both unchained and largely alone.

The Earth is admittedly a small orb in a vast universe, but the history of this century so far suggests one reality about which America’s rulers proved utterly clueless: After so many hundreds of years of imperial struggle, this planet still remains too big, too disparate, too ornery to be controlled by a single power. What the Bush administration did was simply take one gulp too many and the result has been a kind of national (and planetary) indigestion.

Despite what it looked like in Washington once upon a time, the disappearance of the Soviet Union proved to be no gift at all, but a disaster of the first order. It removed all sense of limits from America’s political class and led to a tale of greed on a planetary scale. In the process, it also set the US on a path to self-decline.

The history of greed in our time has yet to be written, but what a story it will someday make. In it, the greed of those geopolitical dreamers will intersect with the greed of an ever wealthier, ever more gilded 1%, of the billionaires who were preparing to swallow whole the political system of that last superpower and grab so much of the wealth of the planet, leaving so little for others.

Whether you’re talking about the urge to control the planet militarily or financially, what took place in these years could, in the end, result in ruin of a historic kind. To use a favored phrase from the Bush years, one of these days we Americans may be facing little short of “regime change” on a planetary scale. And what a piece of shock and awe that’s likely to prove to be.

All of us, of course, now live on the planet Bush’s boys tried to swallow whole. They left us in a world of infinite war, infinite harm, and in Donald Trump’s America where cluelessness has been raised to a new power.

atimes.com

Does the US provide military assistance to 73% of world’s dictatorships – truth or narrative? – By Rich Whitney – Truthout – (Sott)

US boots

© Sputnik News.com
US boots on the ground.

For decades, the American people have been repeatedly told by their government and corporate-run media that acts of war ordered by their president have been largely motivated by the need to counter acts of aggression or oppression by “evil dictators.” We were told we had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator. We had to bomb Libya because Muammar Gaddafi was an evil dictator, bent on unleashing a “bloodbath” on his own people. Today, of course, we are told that we should support insurgents in Syria because Bashar al-Assad is an evil dictator, and we must repeatedly rattle our sabers at North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin because they, too, are evil dictators.

This is part of the larger, usually unquestioned mainstream corporate media narrative that the US leads the “Western democracies” in a global struggle to combat terrorism and totalitarianism and promote democracy.

I set out to answer a simple question: Is it true? Does the US government actually oppose dictatorships and champion democracy around the world, as we are repeatedly told?

The truth is not easy to find, but federal sources do provide an answer: No. According to Freedom House‘s rating system of political rights around the world, there were 49 nations in the world, as of 2015, that can be fairly categorized as “dictatorships.” As of fiscal year 2015, the last year for which we have publicly available data, the federal government of the United States had been providing military assistance to 36 of them, courtesy of your tax dollars. The United States currently supports over 73 percent of the world’s dictatorships!

Most politically aware people know of some of the more highly publicized instances of this, such as the tens of billions of dollars’ worth of US military assistance provided to the beheading capital of the world, the misogynistic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and the repressive military dictatorship now in power in Egypt. But apologists for our nation’s imperialistic foreign policy may try to rationalize such support, arguing that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are exceptions to the rule. They may argue that our broader national interests in the Middle East require temporarily overlooking the oppressive nature of those particular states, in order to serve a broader, pro-democratic endgame.

Such hogwash could be critiqued on many counts, of course, beginning with its class-biased presumptions about what constitutes US “national interests.” But my survey of US support for dictatorships around the world demonstrates that our government’s support for Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not exceptions to the rule at all. They are the rule.

Sources and Methods

It was not easy to find out how many of the world’s dictatorships are being supported by the United States. No one else seems to be compiling or maintaining a list, so I had to go at it by myself. Here is how I came up with my answer.

Step 1: Determine how many of the world’s governments may be fairly characterized as dictatorships.

A commonly accepted definition of a “dictatorship” is a system of government in which one person or a small group possesses absolute state power, thereby directing all national policies and major acts – leaving the people powerless to alter those decisions or replace those in power by any method short of revolution or coup. I examined a number of websites and organizations that claimed to maintain lists of the world’s dictatorships, but most of them were either dated, listed only the world’s “worst dictators” or had similar limitations, and/or failed to describe their methodology. I ultimately was left with the annual Freedom in the World reports published by Freedom House as the best source for providing a comprehensive list.

This was not entirely satisfactory, as Freedom House has a decidedly pro-US-ruling-class bias. For example, it categorizes Russia as a dictatorship. In the introduction to its 2017 Freedom In the World report, it opines that

“Russia, in stunning displays of hubris and hostility, interfered in the political processes of the United States and other democracies, escalated its military support for the Assad dictatorship in Syria, and solidified its illegal occupation of Ukrainian territory.”

A more objective view would note that claims of interference in the US election by the Russian government have not been proven (unless one is inclined to take certain US intelligence agencies at their word); that Russia was asked by the UN-recognized Syrian government for assistance, in compliance with international law (unlike US acts of aggression and support for insurrection there); and would at least acknowledge that any Russian intervention in Ukraine occurred in the context of the United States’ brazen support for a coup in that nation.

Nonetheless, the Freedom House reports appear to be the best (if not the only) comprehensive gauge of political rights and freedoms covering every nation in the world. It utilizes a team of about 130 in-house and external analysts and expert advisers from the academic, think tank and human rights communities who purportedly use a broad range of sources, including news articles, academic analyses, reports from nongovernmental organizations and individual professional contacts. The analysts’ proposed scores are discussed and defended at annual review meetings, organized by region and attended by Freedom House staff and a panel of expert advisers. The final scores represent the consensus of the analysts, advisers and staff, and are intended to be comparable from year-to-year and across countries and regions. Freedom House concedes that, “although an element of subjectivity is unavoidable in such an enterprise, the ratings process emphasizes methodological consistency, intellectual rigor, and balanced and unbiased judgments.”

One can remain skeptical, but a key consideration is that Freedom House’s pronounced pro-US bias is actually a plus for purposes of this project. If its team of experts tilts toward a pro-US-government perspective, this means that it would indulge every presumption in favor of not categorizing nations supported by the United States as dictatorships. In other words, if even Freedom House categorizes a government backed by the United States as a dictatorship, one can be fairly confident that its assessment, in that instance, is accurate.

For purposes of the present assessment, I used Freedom House’s 2016 Freedom in the World report, even though its 2017 report is now available. I did so because the 2016 report reflects its assessment of political rights and civil liberties as they existed in 2015, which would roughly correspond with the military assistance and arms sales data that I had available for federal fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015) and calendar year 2015. (I will work on a new report when such data for fiscal year 2016 becomes available.)

Freedom House uses a scoring system to gauge a nation’s “political rights” and “civil liberties,” in order to rate each country as “free,” “partly free” or “not free,” with a range of scores for each category. It describes its scoring system as follows:

“A country or territory is assigned two ratings (7 to 1) – one for political rights and one for civil liberties – based on its total scores for the political rights and civil liberties questions. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the greatest degree of freedom and 7 the smallest degree of freedom, corresponds to a specific range of total scores.”

For purposes of deciding whether a nation could be categorized as a “dictatorship,” however, I focused only on the “political rights” scores, classifying nations with a political rights score of 6 or 7 as a dictatorship. This does not mean that civil liberties are unimportant, of course, but the objective here is to assess the degree of absolutism of the political leadership, not freedom of expression, press, etc. Of course, in the overwhelming majority of cases, nations with low political rights scores also have low civil liberties scores. However, a political rights score of 6 or 7 corresponds most closely with our definition of dictatorship, based on Freedom House’s characterization:

6 – Countries and territories with a rating of 6 have very restricted political rights. They are ruled by one-party or military dictatorships, religious hierarchies, or autocrats. They may allow a few political rights, such as some representation or autonomy for minority groups, and a few are traditional monarchies that tolerate political discussion and accept public petitions.

7 – Countries and territories with a rating of 7 have few or no political rights because of severe government oppression, sometimes in combination with civil war. They may also lack an authoritative and functioning central government and suffer from extreme violence or rule by regional warlords.

While it may be debatable whether it is appropriate to consider a country with no “functioning central government” as a dictatorship, I would submit that the label is appropriate if that nation is ruled de facto by warlords or rival armies or militias. In effect, that simply means that it is ruled by two or more dictators instead of one.

By Freedom House’s measure, then, there were 49 nation-states that could be fairly characterized as dictatorships in 2015, as follows:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Brunei, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Libya, Mauritania, Myanmar, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

It should be noted that Freedom House included in its ratings several other entities with a political rights score of 6 or 7 whose status as an independent state was itself disputed:

Crimea, the Gaza Strip, Pakistani Kashmir, South Ossetia, Tibet, Transnistria, the West Bank and Western Sahara.

My count of 49 dictatorships in the world in 2015 excludes these subordinated or disputed state territories.

Step 2: Determine which of the world’s dictatorships received US-funded military or weapons training, military arms financing or authorized sales of military weapons from the United States in 2015.

For this step, I relied on four sources, the first two of which took considerable digging to locate:

A. Foreign Military Training in Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016 Volume I and Volume II (Country Training Activities), US Department of Defense and US Department of State Joint Report to Congress.

This is the most recent annual report, required by section 656 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961, as amended (22 U.S.C. § 2416), and section 652 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L. 110-161), which requires

“a report on all military training provided to foreign military personnel by the Department of Defense and the Department of State during the previous fiscal year and all such training proposed for the current fiscal year,” excluding NATO countries, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

This report provides data on US expenditures for military training programs under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants, the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, the Section 2282 Global Train and Equip (GT&E) program, the Aviation Leadership Program to provide pilot training (ALP), and the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) drawdown program, which authorizes the president to direct the drawdown of defense articles, services and training if an “unforeseen emergency exists that requires immediate military assistance to a foreign country” that cannot be met by other means. Such expenditures are listed by recipient country, in some detail. For purposes of this study, I include expenditures under these programs as US-funded military training.

The report also provides data on US expenditures for narcotics and law enforcement, global peace operations, centers for security studies, drug interdiction and counter-drug activities, mine removal assistance, disaster response, non-lethal anti-terrorism training and other programs that I did not count as military assistance or training for purposes of this survey. It is certainly more than possible that US assistance under these programs could play a role in providing de facto military assistance to recipient countries, but I err on the side of caution.

The report describes the IMET program as including civilian participants, and including training on “elements of U.S. democracy such as the judicial system, legislative oversight, free speech, equality issues, and commitment to human rights.” One could conceivably criticize my inclusion of IMET training, therefore, on the ground that it actually trains foreign civilians and soldiers in democratic, anti-dictatorial values. However, the IMET program is presumably called “military” training and education for a reason. It trains students in “increased understanding of security issues and the means to address them,” and provides “training that augments the capabilities of participant nations’ military forces to support combined operations and interoperability with U.S. forces.” Accordingly, I think it is fair to count IMET as a form of military assistance, while acknowledging that it arguably might, at times, play a pro-democracy role.

B. US Department of State, “Congressional Budget Justification FOREIGN ASSISTANCE SUMMARY TABLES, Fiscal Year 2017.”

Table 3a of this publication provides the actual fiscal year allocations for foreign assistance programs, by country and by account, including the two programs that interest us here, Foreign Military Financing and IMET. In that regard, it is somewhat duplicative of the previous source, but I reviewed it as a check.

C. Department of Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Financial Policy And Analysis Business Operations, “Foreign Military Sales, Foreign Military Construction Sales And Other Security Cooperation Historical Facts As of September 30, 2015.”

This source provides the total dollar value of military articles and services sold to foreign governments for FY 2015, including the value of agreements for future deliveries and the value of actual deliveries, which I have provided in the table below. It also includes other data on foreign military financing (credit or grants) extended to foreign governments and provides yet another source on IMET training.

D. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),Transfer of major conventional weapons: sorted by recipient. Deals with deliveries or orders made for year range 2015 to 2016.”

SIPRI provides an interactive tool by which the user can generate a list of major weapons transfers by supplier, all or some recipients, and the year. Although it only counts “major” conventional weapons transfers, I reviewed it as an additional check on the accuracy of the chart. It essentially affirmed the accuracy of the DSCA report but there were some possible anomalies. For example, the DSCA reports only $8,000 worth of military sales to Uganda in FY 2015 but SIPRI reports the transfer of 10 RG-33 armored vehicles, two Cessna-208 Caravan light transport planes, and 15 Cougar armored vehicles in 2015. The discrepancy may be due to the three-month difference between fiscal year 2015 and calendar year 2105, different methods of dating the transfer, differences in valuation or some unknown factor.

Step 3: Generate the Chart

The first column in the chart below lists the 49 countries classified by Freedom House as dictatorial in nature.

The second column shows those nations that received some US military training in FY 2015, relying primarily on source B, but also checking source C.

The third column shows those nations that received an agreement for future military sales or transfers from the United States in FY 2015, with the dollar value of the military articles listed, based on source C, but also checking source D.

The fourth column shows those nations that received an actual delivery of military articles from the United States in FY 2015, with the dollar value of the military articles listed, based on source C, but also checking source D.

whitney chart
Whitney chart 2

© Rich Whitney

I plan on providing similar reports on US support for dictatorships around the world on an annual basis. I will begin work on a report covering Fiscal Year 2016 as soon as the relevant data becomes available.

Rich Whitney is an attorney, actor, radio commentator and disk jockey, Illinois Green Party activist and former Green Party candidate for governor.

Comment: Military sales of equipment and services represent a very lucrative business (see the chart for 2015 which represents ‘dictatorship’ remunerations only). Peace and minding US’ own business, in this sense, has no ‘value’.

Deal of the century? No peace in sight as Israel carries on lying, stealing and killing with US approval – By Jonathan Cook /Middle East Eye – (Sott)

trump protest palestine

© AFP
‘He will be given free rein to do what he likes,’ Israeli analysts tells MEE

There are mounting signals that Donald Trump’s much-delayed Middle East peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century” – is about to be unveiled.

Even though Trump’s officials have given away nothing publicly, the plan’s contours are already evident, according to analysts.

They note that Israel has already started implementing the deal – entrenching “apartheid” rule over Palestinians – while Washington has spent the past six months dragging its heels on publishing the document.

“Netanyahu has simply got on with deepening his hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and he knows the Americans aren’t going to stand in his way,” said Michel Warschawski, an Israeli analyst and head of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem.

“He will be given free rein to do what he likes, whether they publish the plan or, in the end, it never sees the light of day,” he told Middle East Eye.

Eran Etzion, a former Israeli foreign ministry official, agreed: “Israel has a much freer hand than it did in the past. It feels confident enough to continue its existing policies, knowing Trump won’t stand in the way.”

Netanyahu ‘the winner’

According to the latest reports, the Americans may present their plan within days, soon after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yossi Alpher, a former aide to Ehud Barak during his premiership in the late 90s, said it was clear Netanyahu was being “kept in the loop” by Trump officials. He told MEE: “He is being apprised of what is coming. There won’t be any surprises for him.”

Analysts are agreed that Netanyahu will emerge the winner from any Trump initiative.

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli politician who was a pivotal figure in the Oslo peace process of the early 90s, said Netanyahu would cynically manipulate the plan to his advantage.

“He knows the Palestinians will not accept the terms they are being offered,” he told MEE. “So he can appear reasonable and agree to it – even if there are things he is unhappy with – knowing that the Palestinians will reject it and then be blamed for its failure.”

Alpher agreed. “If the plan is rejected, Trump will say he did his best, he offered the parties the greatest deal ever, and that they must now be left to settle the issues on their own.”

He added that the only obstacle to Washington presenting the plan were fears about Abbas’s waning health. Trump’s team might then prefer to shelve it.

Even then, he said, Netanyahu would profit.

“He can then continue with what he’s been doing for the past 10 years. He will expand the settlements, and suppress the rights of Israelis who oppose him. He will move Israel towards a situation of apartheid.”

Fragments of land

In an early effort to win Trump’s favour, reported by MEE a year ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proposed a land swap ceding 6.5 percent of the occupied territories to Israel. That was more than three times what had been accepted by the Palestinians in previous peace talks.

But the Palestinians appear to have lost the battle and are now braced for the worst. Abbas has derided the plan as “the slap of the century”, and has said he will not commit “treason” by agreeing to it.

According to Palestinian officials, they are likely to be offered provisional borders over fragments of land comprising about half the occupied territories – or just 11 percent of what was recognised as Palestine under the British mandate.

The Palestinian areas would be demilitarised, and Israel would have control over the borders and airspace.

Israel and the Palestinians would then be left to “negotiate” over the status of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Trump likely to back Netanyahu to the hilt, according to the analysts.

It is widely assumed that the Americans have rejected any principle of a right of return for Palestinian refugees, either to Israel or to the areas of the occupied territories that Israel wins US approval to seize.

Gaza and Golan windfalls

The US embassy’s move to Jerusalem last month appears to signal that the Trump administration will recognise all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would deny Palestinians East Jerusalem, long assumed to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

And separate reports this month suggest that the announcement of the peace plan may be timed to coincide with new measures for Gaza and the Golan Heights. There have been rumours for several years that Washington and Israel have been pressuring Cairo to let Palestinians in Gaza settle in Sinai.

According to Israeli reports, Washington may be close to unveiling a scheme that would weaken the border between Gaza and Egypt, and allow Palestinians to work and maybe live in northern Sinai.

The aim would be to gradually shift responsibility for the enclave away from Israel on to Egypt and further undermine prospects for a Palestinian state in historic Palestine.

golan map

And in a separate move that would complete Netanyahu’s windfall, an Israeli government minister claimed late last month that the Trump administration may be ready to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

The Heights were seized by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed in violation of international law in 1981.

No longer ‘occupied’

A Jerusalem Post report last month suggested that the White House document would be unlikely to include a commitment to a “two-state solution”, reflecting previous comments from Trump.

That would free Israel’s hand to seize areas of the West Bank it has colonised with its ever-expanding settlements.

Noticeably, the latest annual report from the US State Department on the human rights situation by country, published in April, drops for the first time the term “occupied Palestinian territories”, implying that the Trump team no longer views much of the West Bank as under occupation.

Netanyahu told a recent meeting of his Likud faction: “Our successes are still to come. Our policies are not based on weakness. They are not based on concessions that will endanger us.”

So given Israel’s recent moves, what can we infer about the likely terms of Trump’s peace plan?

1. Gerrymandering Jerusalem

The most sensitive of the final-status issues is Jerusalem, which includes the incendiary Muslim holy site of al-Aqsa. Trump appears to have effectively recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by relocating the US embassy there last month.

The embassy move is likely to be interpreted by Netanyahu as a retroactive seal of approval from the US for a series of Israeli measures over recent months designed to engineer a Greater Jewish Jerusalem.

jerusalem map

The main thrust are two legislative proposals to gerrymander the city’s boundaries and its population to create an unassailable Jewish majority. Both have been put on hold by Netanyahu until the announcement of the peace plan.

The first – called the Greater Jerusalem Bill – is intended to annex several large Jewish settlements close by in the occupied West Bank to the Jerusalem municipality. Overnight that would transform some 150,000 West Bank settlers into Jerusalem residents, as well as effectively annexing their lands to Israel.

In a sign of the impatience of members of Netanyahu’s cabinet to press on with such a move, the bill is due to come up for consideration again on Sunday.

A separate bill would strip residency in the city from some 100,000 Palestinians who are on the “wrong side” of a wall Israel began building through Jerusalem 15 years ago. Those Palestinians will be all but barred from Jerusalem and assigned to a separate council.

In addition, Israel has intensified harsh measures against Palestinians still inside East Jerusalem, including night arrests, house demolitions, the closing down of businesses, the creation of “national parks” in Palestinian neighbourhoods, and the denial of basic services. The barely veiled aim is to encourage residents to relocate outside the wall.

Experts have noted too that Palestinian schools inside the wall are being pressured to adopt the Israeli curriculum to erode a Palestinian identity among pupils.

2. Abu Dis: a Palestinian capital?

With Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, Trump’s team is reported to be seeking a face-saving alternative location for a future Palestinian “capital” outside Jerusalem’s municipal borders.

According to rumours, they have selected the town of Abu Dis, 4km east of Jerusalem and cut off from the city by Israel’s wall more than a decade ago.

east jerusalem

The Abu Dis plan is not new. At the end of the 90s, the US administration of Bill Clinton proposed renaming Abu Dis “al-Quds” – Arabic for “the Holy”, the traditional name of Jerusalem because of its holy places. That was seen as a prelude to designating it the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Reports about the elevation of Abu Dis in the new peace plan have been circulating since late last year. In January, Abbas rejected the idea outright.

Only last month Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s centre-right Yesh Atid party, highlighted reports about the imminent change of Abu Dis’s status in comments directed at Netanyahu.

Abu Dis is a densely populated village home to 13,000 Palestinians. In practice, it is all but impossible to imagine how it could function meaningfully as the capital of a Palestinian state – something that makes it an attractive proposition for most of Netanyahu’s coalition.

Currently, most of Abu Dis’s lands are under Israeli control, and it is hemmed in by the wall and Jewish settlements, including the 40,000 inhabitants of Maale Adumim.

Palestinian protester

© Reuters
A Palestinian protester hits the Israeli separation barrier with a hammer in Abu Dis in October 2015

Several government ministers have made Israel’s annexation of Maale Adumim a priority. Netanyahu has delayed such a move, again citing the need to wait for the announcement of the Trump peace plan.

Beilin said it was mistakenly believed that he and Abbas agreed on Abu Dis as a Palestinian capital back in the 90s.

“It wasn’t credible as an idea then, and the map looks very different now,” he said. “The Palestinian capital has to be in East Jerusalem. Nothing else will work.”

3. Access to al-Aqsa

There has also been talk of a plan to create a narrow land corridor from Abu Dis to the al-Aqsa mosque, so Palestinians can reach it to pray.

However, Israel has been allowing ever larger numbers of settlers into al-Aqsa, which is reputedly built over two long-destroyed Jewish temples.

aqsa settlers

© AFP
Settlers accompanied by Israeli security guards pose for a photo during a visit to al-Aqsa

Meanwhile, Israel has been tightly restricting access to the site for most Palestinians. There have been long-standing Palestinian fears that Israel is seeking to engineer a situation where it can impose its sovereignty over the mosque.

David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel and a benefactor to the settlements, only heightened such fears last month when he was pictured apparently accepting a photo doctored by religious settlers that showed al-Aqsa mosque replaced by a new Jewish temple.

4. Jordan Valley

Under the Oslo accords, some 62 percent of the occupied West Bank was classified as Area C, under temporary Israeli control. It includes much of the Palestinians’ best agricultural land and would be the heartland of any future Palestinian state.

Israel never carried out the withdrawals from Area C intended in the Oslo process. Instead, it has been accelerating the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements there, and making life as hard as possible for Palestinians to force them into the confines of the more densely populated Areas A and B.

The Trump plan is reported to offer recognition of provisional Palestinian borders on about half of the West Bank – effectively awarding most of Area C to Israel. Much of that land will be in the Jordan Valley, the long spine of the West Bank that Israel has been colonising for decades.

Last December, as the Trump plan took shape, Israel announced a massive programme of settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley, designed to more than double the settler population there. Three new settlements will be the first to be built in the valley in nearly 30 years.

At the same time, Israel has lately been intensifying the harassment of the ever-shrinking Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley, as well as other parts of Area C.

In addition to denying Palestinians access to 85 percent of the Valley, Israel has declared military firing zones over nearly half of the area. That has justified the regular eviction of families on the pretext of ensuring their safety.

Israel has also been developing accelerated procedures to demolish Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley.

5. The rest of Area C

Israel has been speeding up efforts to expand the settlements in other parts of Area C. On 30 May, it announced nearly 2,000 new homes, the great majority of them in isolated settlements that it was previously assumed would be dismantled in any peace deal.

Additionally, Israel has been quietly preparing to “legalise” what are termed “outposts” – settlements, usually built on private Palestinian land, that violate a “no new settlements” agreement with the US dating from the 90s.

At the same time, Israel has been destroying Palestinian communities in Area C, especially those that stand in the way of efforts to create territorial continuity between large settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Late last month, France objected after Israel’s supreme court approved a plan to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, next to Maale Adumim. The families are supposed to be moved to a garbage dump in Abu Dis.

The French statement warned that Israeli actions were threatening “a zone of strategic importance to the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state”.

In its place, it was recently revealed, Israel is planning to build a new settlement neighbourhood called Nofei Bereishit.

In another sign of mounting international concern, some 70 Democratic members of the US Congress appealed last month to Netanyahu to stop the destruction of the Palestinian community of Sussiya, between the Gush Etzion settlements and Jerusalem.

US lawmakers expressed concern that the move was designed to “jeopardise the prospects for a two-state solution”.

6. Gaza and Sinai

It is becoming hard for the Trump administration and Israel to ignore the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza – one Israel helped to engineer with an 11-year blockade and intermittent military attacks. The United Nations warned some time ago that Gaza would soon be “uninhabitable”.

Seeking a solution, the White House hosted 19 countries at a meeting in March to consider the situation in Gaza. The PA boycotted the meeting.

gaza sinai

At the time, Arab media reported that the Trump peace plan might include a commitment from Egypt to free up northern Sinai for a future Palestinian state. According to a Hamas official, Cairo offered reassurances that it was opposed to “settling Palestinians in Sinai”.

But a report in Haaretz has revived concerns that the White House may try to achieve a similar end by other means, by launching a Gaza initiative to coincide with the peace plan.

The paper noted that the Trump team had picked up proposals from an Israeli general, Yoav Mordechai, who participated in the White House meeting in March.

A reported initial stage would see Palestinians from Gaza recruited to work on $1.5bn worth of long-term projects in northern Sinai, funded by the international community. The projects would include an industrial zone, a desalination plant and a power station.

Egyptian opposition to such an initiative is reported to be weakening, presumably in the face of strenuous pressure from Washington and Arab allies.

Palestinian protests

The Palestinians are doing their best to try to halt the peace plan in its tracks. They are currently boycotting the Trump administration to show their displeasure.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called last month on Arab states to recall their ambassadors from the United States in protest.

And an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has proposed that an international peacekeeping force, modelled those used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 90s, be deployed to protect Palestinians.

In another sign of anger at the Trump initiative, the Palestinians defied the US by submitting a referral for the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate Israel for war crimes last month.

Etzion, the former Israeli foreign ministry official, however, warned that a turning point could be on the horizon.

“A Palestinian implosion is coming and that could change the situation in unexpected ways,” he told MEE. “The question is which implosion comes first: the humanitarian catastrophe about to engulf Gaza, or the political vacuum created when Abbas leaves.”

Arab pressure

Nonetheless, the Palestinians are facing huge pressure to give in to the peace plan.

The Trump administration has already cut funding to the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, which cares for more than two million refugees in the occupied territories. It is also poised to pull more than $200m of funding to the Palestinian Authority this summer.

Trump has also sought to recruit the Arab states to lean on Abbas. According to reports, the Palestinian leader was presented with a 35-page document originating from the Americans when he visited Saudi Arabia last November, and told to accept it or resign.

In recent years the Saudis have increased their aid to the Palestinian Authority, giving them greater leverage over the Palestinian leader.

In exchange for the Arab states acceding to Trump’s plan, Washington appears to be rolling out a more draconian policy towards Iran to limit its influence in the region.

The Arab states understand that they need to first defuse the Palestinian issue before they can be seen to coordinate closely with Israel and the US in dealing with Tehran.

Beyond Racism, Immigrant Mass Detention Is All About Profit – By Gabriel – (MINT PRESS)

A mural at the Casa Padre migrant children’s shelter in Brownsville, Texas, with a quote – in English and Spanish – from Donald Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal. Source | Department of Health and Human Services

Trump’s “Make America Great” policies have resulted in misery for thousands of poor migrants, but the rise in human suffering has resulted in jackpot prizes for players at the New York Stock Exchange.

Trump’s “Make America Great” policies have resulted in misery for thousands of poor migrants, but the rise in human suffering has resulted in jackpot prizes for players at the New York Stock Exchange.

BELLINGHAM, WA – While Donald Trump’s stepped-up repression of unauthorized migrants has been touted as a “get tough” policy meant to stem a flood of “animals” affiliated with transnational criminal groups, his draconian policies remain unlikely to deter desperate asylum-seekers from seeking entry to the United States. Instead, family separations and arbitrary prosecution and incarcerations are upping the scale of trauma suffered by refugees while asylum claims and border-crossings continue to increase.

Trump’s “Make America Great” policies may have resulted in misery for thousands of poor migrants, yet the rise in human suffering has resulted in jackpot prizes for some players at the New York Stock Exchange.

For Tomás A. Madrigal, a food systems researcher at Community to Community Development in Bellingham, Washington, these inhumane policies are all about dollars and cents.

“Under the Trump Administration, there are no ifs, ands, or buts – this is a class war,” Madrigal told MintPress News.

New York Times Immigration

Just as White House policies on taxes, land-use, military expenditures and foreign trade have overwhelmingly favored the financial sector, the Trump-era immigration enforcement regime has directly translated into a huge boost in dividends for those invested in industries reliant on the exploitation of immigrants, and especially the commercial prison industry.

It’s the latest sequel in a franchise that began with the War on Drugs, continued with the War on Terror, and found renewed purpose with the rise of a new super-villain: the MS-13 “animals” from El Salvador, whose mantra – we’re told – is “kill, rape, control.”

The political economy of the U.S. immigrant enforcement regime shows how white nationalist or “nativist” populism, the criminalization of immigrants, the “swamp” of private interest lobbyists, the national security state, and neoliberalism – the corporate takeover of public services by monopolistic capital – have combined to fuel an expanding model of profit-driven trade based on mass punishment, mass confinement, and the exploitation of poor people.

“The tearing apart of families, we see as a terror tactic in a desperate attempt by the Trump administration to force down poverty wages for immigrants across multiple industries,” Madrigal said.

 

“Prison-Industrial Complex”: cliché buzzword or apt description?

While the term “prison-industrial complex” smacks of an activist catch-phrase or academic buzzword, the term is an accurate descriptor of the manner in which the growth of the U.S. prison population has multiplied, spawning lucrative public-private partnerships benefiting public officials and for-profit entities alike.

The prison-industrial complex is the natural byproduct of neoliberalism, which became the ruling doctrine of the West in the 1970s amid sharp crises in the capitalist world-system. Uninhibited capitalism or the “free market” was depicted as the purest form of liberty, resulting in monopoly enterprises and multinational corporations being given the freedom not only to stifle smaller companies but also to shatter unions, stifle workers’ wages, and destroy large swathes of the public sector.

By the late ‘70s, governments on the state and federal level coped with prison overcrowding caused by mass incarceration through legislation allowing private companies to contract with public prisons for the sake of cutting costs and tapping into incarcerated inmate labor.

As Cristoph Scherrer and Anil Shah noted in an article for The Bullet & Global Labour Forum published last April:

From there it was only a small step to propose using prisoners’ labor power as a source of income. The discourse on financing prisons and detainees moved from ‘public assistance’ to ‘self-financing’. Under neoliberalism, detention itself is becoming a self-inflicted penalty for which the prisoner and the prisoner’s relatives literally have to pay: processing charges for visits, rents for beds, and co-financing for medical care. In many cases, prisoners are released with bills for prison services of several thousand dollars.”

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch tours the prison factory at the Talladega Federal Correctional Institution in Talladega, Ala., Friday, April 29, 2016. Evan Vucci | AP

This has resulted, over the past decades, in the growth of a trend in profit accumulation where captive workforces face highly exploitative conditions where labor is deprived of the right to organize to better their conditions.

From Victoria’s Secret to Nintendo, Wisconsin cheese to Hawaiian papayas – as well as telecommunications and military industries – the prison economy has proven to be a boon to investors thanks to generous contracts from government and the extremely low cost of prison labor, which amounts to around $1 per hour for migrant detainees.

In the 2009 book The Prison-Industrial Complex & The Global Economy, authors Eve Goldberg and Linda Evans note:

For private business, prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation to pay … New leviathan prisons are being built with thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. … All at a fraction of the cost of ‘free labor’ … Even the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery, excludes prisoners from its protections.”

As was the case under slavery, for-profit prisons thrive on the capture of masses of people and their exploitation within the walls of the prison industry. For those immigrants who speak up against their mistreatment or who demand basic rights, the punishment is severe.

Madrigal sees a direct parallel to trends in the agricultural industry, where growers are increasingly relying on guestworkers – unfree laborers, primarily from rural and indigenous parts of Mexico, whose residence in the U.S. relies on the good graces of employers who are in regular contact with the Department of Homeland Security. Given the instantly revocable nature of guestworker visas, workers are effectively prevented from organizing, creating a coercive labor regime that has been compared to slavery.

“Slaving is a lucrative business and … the legalization of slavery is happening before our very eyes under the Trump administration,” Madrigal said.

“It is a bifurcated system that special interest groups seek to streamline and automate, with the support of both major parties domestically,” he added, describing these policies as a form of “Trumpian capitalism.”

 

Immigrants for Sale

U.S. private prisons are largely controlled by a handful of monopolistic firms or real estate investment trusts, with GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, CCA) standing at the helm of the industry. For-profit prison operators threw their weight behind Trump’s “law and order” campaign in 2016. Following his election victory, both GEO and CoreCivic continued pouring cash into his till and each gave $250,000 toward the inauguration celebrations.

The two companies enjoyed contracts with the federal government to build and operate detention facilities under Obama, yet the companies’ stock took a sharp hit in 2016 after the outgoing administration announced plans to scale back government reliance on private prisons. Washington had been plagued with public pressure over abuses at private prisons and migrant detention centers, and headlines covering hunger strikes, suicides, sexual abuse and pitiful medical care filled newspapers on an alarmingly regular basis.

A holding area for mostly Central American immigrant children at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Placement Center in Nogales, Ariz. July 17, 2014. Ross D. Franklin | AP

The private prison corporations’ investments in the Trump campaign were lucrative, to say the least. Upon coming to power, Trump swiftly followed through on his campaign promises to vastly boost ICE operations, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice quickly implementing a “zero-tolerance policy” requiring an increase in immigration and border agents along with a funding surge for detention facilities.

By late February, 2017 – scarcely a month after Trump’s inauguration ball – the prison companies’ stock prices rallied to previously unheard-of heights, nearly doubling in  market value. Their profitability has continued to rise as market speculation and new influxes of taxpayer dollars, driven by overcrowding resulting from the exponential boost in migrant incarceration, fuels profits extracted from largely Latin American refugees fleeing conditions primarily created by U.S. imperialist policies in their home regions.

“The new regime is expanding quickly and utilizing all the tools left behind by the Obama administration,” immigrant rights activist and undocumented Bellingham-based community leader Maru Mora-Villalpando told MintPress News.

“They have made it easier for jails and now prisons to start detaining immigrants, plus [they are] looking at expanding or creating new private detentions centers for adults and children,” she added.

Watch | Private Prisons Back Trump

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/YXIo0fVxd6E?rel=0&showinfo=0

 

Janus-Faced Obama or the “Deporter-In-Chief”

During the mid-2010s, crime rates in the U.S. had dropped as social movements clamored for criminal justice reforms and the reduction of the racialized, disproportionate mass incarceration of primarily black and brown poor people. Increasingly, voters in states like California passed laws reducing sentences and reversing draconian laws like the “Three-Strikes” law. As a result, black communities have seen a modest decline in imprisonment rates.

However, the restive unauthorized migrant population – estimated to number anywhere between 11-12 million – had largely grown quiet in their demands for full rights following a period of intense political activity and mass mobilization in 2006 to resist the Sensenbrenner Bill, which sought to criminalize migrants and seek their wholesale removal.

This was a community that was on the receiving end of what Professor William I. Robinson called an “undeclared war” – and offshoot of the post-9/11 “war on terror” which, in the name of national security and anti-terrorism, sought to clamp down on migrant rights and install a militarized regime of immigrant detention and deportation.

Largely Latino and overwhelmingly Mexican and Central American, the immigrant community was also the most lucrative motor force for the U.S. economy, be it in agriculture, the hospitality industry, food service, childcare, domestic labor, retail, manufacturing, and so on.

As Robinson noted:

The super-exploitation of an immigrant workforce would not be possible if that workforce had the same rights as citizens, if it did not face the insecurities and vulnerabilities of being undocumented or ‘illegal.’ Granting full citizenship rights to the tens of millions of immigrants in the United States would undermine the division of the United States – and by extension, the global – working class into immigrants and citizens. That division is a central component of the new class relations of global capitalism, predicated on a “flexible” mass of workers who can be hired and fired at will, are de-unionized, and face precarious work conditions, job instability, a rollback of benefits and downward pressure on wages.

Watch | Immigrants For Sale

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/qJ20tIYirKg?rel=0&showinfo=0

While Democrat politicians expressed sympathies for migrants with honeyed slogans like “No Human Being Is Illegal,” the Obama administration continued to fuel the ICE dragnet mass deportation apparatus. Contracts with private prison corporations were renewed while the administration issued forms of administrative relief like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.

Amid these contradictions, the administration of Obama – whom many began to describe as the “Deporter-In-Chief” – remained somewhat open to popular pressure.

“The main difference is that the Obama administration had shame, the Trump administration has no shame,” Madrigal said, noting that his group had some degree of success “speaking truth to power” and preventing local law enforcement from enforcing immigration law.

In Madrigal’s opinion, the “rule of law” as overseen by Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder at least allowed advocates the space to successfully fight for gains. He added:

If you pay close attention, the Trump administration are replacing rule of law with what they desperately plead is the ‘moral authority’ of nationalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. But their true moral authority is the death and premature death that they produce through war and incarceration.”

 

Enter the white supremacist “nativists”

When Trump unleashed his campaign on the U.S. through loud promises to “Build the Wall” and keep Mexican “rapists” out of the country, it became clear that he was aiming to win the votes of white nativists, whose ideological aims coincided with the interests for-profit prison operators.

Indeed, Trump began to repeat dubious talking points from Breitbart that originated in the Washington, D.C. offices of anti-immigrant groups affiliated with the no-holds-barred white racialist far-right.

Such groups – NumbersUSA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and think-tank offshoot the Center for Immigration Studies – were founded either directly or indirectly by white nationalist leader John Tanton.

Barbie Miller, left, yells as she joins demonstrators outside the Mexican Consulate, July 18, 2014, in Houston, Texas. David J. Phillip | AP

Since 1979, these groups – known as the Tanton network – began embedding themselves in the Republican Party through the use of savvy demagogic talking-points that radicalized discourse over immigration policy. The groups’ messaging simultaneously played on white American insecurities over falling standards of living and unemployment resulting from neoliberal policies, as well as dog-whistles that played on the time-honored U.S. tradition of scapegoating communities of color and recently-arrived immigrants from the Global South.

In 1993, the population control-obsessed Tanton argued that a “European-American majority” was needed “for European-American society and culture to persist.” In his essay “Alien Invasion,” Tanton further described migrants as a parasitic, amoeba-like entity “that reproduces rapidly and eats everything in sight.” By 1997, Tanton said that the urgent closure of the border was needed to prevent immigrants “defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.”

Without using old-school racist slurs – at least not publicly – Tanton was clearly positioning non-European “aliens” as a threat to Judeo-Christian civilization and white “natives” in the U.S. Tanton and his network of groups like FAIR issued constant bulletins and studies reinforcing his lurid, dehumanizing depictions of feces-flinging migrants laying waste to the U.S., a precursor to Trump’s description of “American Carnage,” where Central American MS-13 hoodlums and their non-criminal relatives or “animals” run rampant in the U.S.

By 2016, Tanton network white nationalists had metastasized across the G.O.P. and were especially well-represented in the Trump campaign. Officials like then-Senator and now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his close comrade Stephen Miller were among the most prominent FAIR affiliates in Trump’s team.

Sessions had successfully led fights against modest immigration reform attempts under the Bush and Obama administrations and was a fierce proponent of integrating the federal immigration enforcement apparatus with state and local law enforcement agencies. He also demanded an end to the “catch and release” policy of President Obama, which allowed unauthorized migrants apprehended by ICE to reside in the U.S. free of incarceration until they could have their day in immigration court.

Upon coming to power, Trump and Sessions unleashed the floodgates of the Tanton network upon his cabinet while undoing Obama administration controls on ICE. Formerly considered the lunatic – perhaps neo-fascist – fringe of the conservative movement, these white nationalists instead grew to dominate policy discussions inside the Republican Party and their implementation by the executive branch.

As recently as last month, Trump tapped Ronald Mortensen – a notorious anti-immigrant extremist and fellow from the Center for Immigration Studies – to head the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. Prior to being picked, Mortensen had accused undocumented migrants of “serious felonies that impact American men, women and children.”

Immigrant crime rate graphMortensen also claimed that “even the strongest supporters of illegal aliens acknowledge that 75 percent of illegal aliens routinely commit felonies” – a completely fabricated figure that flies in the face of reputable studies showing that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than U.S. citizens.

Under Sessions and his Tanton-affiliated colleagues, the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security have vastly expanded the mandate of federal immigration agents to clamp down on dissent, as Mora-Villalpando found out in May when she received a deportation order after a Washington Department of Licensing employee sent her information to ICE.  The targeting of Mora-Villalpando caused a huge national uproar that ultimately resulted in the resignation of the department’s head.

Mora-Villalpando told MintPress News:

DOJ’s role is critical is criminalizing our immigrant communities and making it easier for ICE to detain and excuse deportations. It’s a clear attack on anyone that is an immigrant with or without papers, anyone having to flee and migrate, and anyone that dare speak against these practices.”

The new policies have also chilled popular dissent in immigrant communities, yet Mora-Villalpando stresses that the resistance won’t end.

“While many are more scared than before, there are some that will continue speaking up and organizing,” she said.

 

“There is hope as long as we continue fighting”

Continuing, Mora-Villalpando observed that not only Trump officials but the rank-and-file of ICE and the DHS Customs and Border Protection agency are of like mind with the present administration, and can be expected to use their powers for the purpose of stifling immigrant rights advocate.

She commented:

ICE has become a full political repression machine, and it wasn’t that difficult since they are already an agency intended to destroy our communities. They, along with CBP, jumped on the political anti-immigrant racist xenophobic wagon since the electoral year in 2016 by endorsing trump during his campaign.”

“What they didn’t expect after they started targeting us for our political work was that the community would fight back,” she added.

Mora-Villalpando doesn’t think that minor reforms or protections such as DACA or a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform can come close to ending the increasing use of private prisons or suffering her community has undergone following the targeting of immigrants following September 11, 2001.

For that very reason, she and like-minded organizers aren’t soft-stepping around the issue but are aiming at the heart of state terror and the campaign of mass confinement aimed at millions of undocumented U.S. residents.

When asked about her demands, Mora-Villalpando cuts to the chase:

The demand is simple: abolish ICE.

By doing so, the entire machine will fall apart – the private sector that benefits off criminalization [and] even the non-profits that also live off immigrants’ misery.

The agency has only been around for 15 years. It’s time for them to be gone and all the millions and millions of dollars that have been used to exploit and oppress our communities should be invested in education, housing, and healthcare.”

Mora-Villalpando doesn’t see the demand as unrealistic, nor does she see the Trump administration as capable of stifling migrant communities’ aspiration for dignified and just treatment rather than an open-ended war against them.

There is hope, as long as we continue fighting. Regardless of the retaliation and intimidation tactics [the government] uses against us, we won’t give up.”

Top Photo | A mural at the Casa Padre migrant children’s shelter in Brownsville, Texas, with a quote – in English and Spanish – from Donald Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal. Source | Department of Health and Human Services

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

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Singer-songwriter Roger Waters calls for defence of Assange By WSWS

By our reporters
4 June 2018

The above message was displayed above the stage of musician Roger Waters’ “Us + Them 2018” concert in Berlin, Germany on June 2.

Roger Waters was part of the iconic rock band Pink Floyd from 1965 to 1985. For the past 33 years, he has continued a solo career, which has included staging the largest live concert event in history.

Throughout his long career, singer-songwriter Waters has spoken out publicly against war, oppression and injustice.

He emailed the World Socialist Web Site last month to convey his support for international action to defend Julian Assange.

What Trump’s Policy of Energy Dominance Means for the World -By Alastair CROOKE – (STRATEGIC CULTURE FOUNDATION)

What Trump’s Policy of Energy Dominance Means for the World

Two weeks ago, we wrote about how President Trump’s foreign policy somehow had ‘folded’ into ‘neo-Americanism’, and quoted US Foreign Affairs Professor, Russell-Mead, suggesting that Trump’s 8 May metamorphosis (the exit from JCPOA), represented something new, a step-change of direction (from his being principally a sharp Art of the Deal negotiator), toward – pace, Russell-Mead – “a neo-American era in world politics – rather than an [Obama-ist] post-American one”. “The administration wants to enlarge American power, rather than adjust to decline (as allegedly, Obama did). For now, at least, the Middle East is the centrepiece of this new assertiveness”, Russell-Mead opined, explaining that this new Trump impulse stems from: [Trump’s] instincts telling him that most Americans are anything but eager for a “post-American” world. Mr. Trump’s supporters don’t want long wars, but neither are they amenable to a stoic acceptance of national decline”.

There is something of a paradox here: Trump and his base deplore the cost and commitment of the huge American defence umbrella, spread across the globe by the globalists (sentiments aggravated by the supposed ingratitude of its beneficiaries) – yet the President wants to “enlarge American power, rather than adjust to decline”. That is, he wants more power, but less empire. How might he square this circle?

Well, a pointer arose almost a year earlier, when on 29 June 2017, the President used a quite unexpected word when speaking at an Energy Department event: Unleashing American Energy. Instead of talking about American energy independence, as might be expected, he heralded instead, a new era of American energy “dominance”.

In a speech “that sought to underscore a break with the policies of Barack Obama”, the FT notes, Mr Trump tied energy to his America First agenda…“The truth is we now have near limitless supplies of energy in our country,” Mr Trump said. “We are really in the driving seat, and you know what: we don’t want to let other countries take away our sovereignty, and tell us what to do, and how to do it. That’s not going to happen. With these incredible resources, my administration will seek not only the American energy independence that we’ve been looking for, for so long – but American energy dominance,” he said.

It seems, as Chris Cook explains, that Gary Cohn, then chief economic adviser to the President had a part in the genesis to this ambition. Cohn (then at Goldman Sachs), together with a colleague from Morgan Stanley, conceived of a plan in 2000 to take control of the global oil trading market through an electronic trading platform, based in New York. In brief, the big banks, attracted huge quantities of ‘managed money’ (from such as hedge funds), to the market, to bet on future prices (without their ever actually taking delivery of crude: trading ‘paper oil’, rather than physical oil). And, at the same time, these banks worked in collusion with the major oil producers (including later, Saudi Arabia) to pre-purchase physical oil in such a way that, by withholding, or releasing physical crude from, or onto the market, the big NY banks were able to ‘influence’ the prices (by creating a shortage, or a glut).

To give some idea of the capacity of these bankers to ‘influence’ price, by mid – 2008, it was estimated that some $260 billion of ‘managed’ (speculative) investment money was in play in energy markets, completely dwarfing the value of the oil actually coming out of the North Sea each month, at maybe $4 to $5 billion, at most. These ‘paper’ oil-option plays would therefore often trump the ‘fundamentals’ of real supply, and real end-user demand.

‘Step one’ for Cohn, was therefore, for the US to manage the trading market, both in price and access – with U.S. antagonists such as Iran or Russia, being able to access the market on inferior terms, if at all. The putative ‘step two’, has been to nurse US shale production, build new American LNG export terminals, and open America to further oil and gas exploration, whilst strong-arming everyone from Germany to South Korea and China, to buy American LNG exports. And ‘thirdly’, with Gulf oil exports already under the US umbrella, there were then, two major Middle East energy producers beyond the boundaries of cartel ‘influence’ (falling more into rival Russia’s strategic energy-producing ‘heartland’): Iran – which is now the subject of regime change–style, economic siege on its oil exports, and Iraq, which is subject of intense (soft) political pressures (such as threatening to sanction Iraq under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) to force its adherence to the western sphere.

What would this Trump notion of energy dominance mean in simple language? The US – were energy dominance to succeed – simply would control the tap to the economic development – or its lack thereof – for rivals China, and Asia. And the US could squeeze Russia’s revenues in this way, too. In short, the US could put a tourniquet on China’s and Russia’s economic development plans. Is this why JCPOA was revoked by President Trump?

Here then, is the squaring of that circle (more US power, yet less empire): Trump’s US aims for ‘domination’, not through the globalists’ permanent infrastructure of the US defence umbrella, but through the smart leveraging of the US dollar and financial clearing monopoly, by ring-fencing, and holding tight, US technology, and by dominating the energy market, which in turn represents the on/off valve to economic growth for US rivals. In this way, Trump can ‘bring the troops home’, and yet America keeps its hegemony. Military conflict becomes a last resort.

Senior advisor Peter Navarro said on NPR earlier this week that “we can stop them [the Chinese] from putting our high tech companies out of business” and “buying up our crown jewels of technology … Every time we innovate something new, China comes in and buys it, or steals it.” 

Is this then Trump’s plan: By market domination and trade war, to prolong America’s ‘superiority’ of technology, finance and energy – and not somehow be obliged to “adjust to decline”? And by acting in this way, curtail – or at least postpone – the emergence of rivals? Two questions in this context immediately present themselves: Is this formula the adoption of neo-conservatism, by the US Administration, which Trump’s own base so detests? And, secondly, can the approach work?

It is not neo-conservatism, perhaps – but rather a re-working of a theme. The American neo-conservatives largely wanted to take a hammer to the parts of the world they didn’t like; and to replace it with something they did. Trump’s method is more Machiavellian in character.

The roots to both of these currents of thought lie however – more than partly – with Carl Schmitt’s influence on American conservative thinking through his friend, Leo Strauss, at Chicago (whether not, Trump has ever read either man, the ideas still circulate in the US ether). Schmitt held that politics (in contrast to the liberal/ humanist vein) has nothing to do with making the world fairer, or more just – that is the work of moralists and theologians – politics for Schmitt, concerns power and political survival, and nothing more.

Liberals (and globalists), Schmitt suggested, are queasy at using power to crush alternative forces from emerging: their optimistic view of human nature leads them to believe in the possibility of mediation and compromise. The Schmittian optic, however dismissed derisively the liberal view, in favour of an emphasis on the role of power, pure and simple – based on a darker understanding of the true nature of ‘others’ and rivals. This point seems to go to the root of Trump’s thinking: Obama and the ‘liberals’ were ready to trade the ‘crown jewels’ of ‘Our Culture’ (financial, technological and energy expertise) through some multilateral ‘affirmative action’ that would help less developed states (such as rival China up the ladder). Perhaps such thoughts too, lay behind Trump’s withdrawal from the Climate Accord: Why help putative rivals, whist, at same time, imposing voluntary handicaps on one’s own Culture?

It is on this latter, quite narrow pivot (the imperative of keeping American power intact), that neo-cons and Trumpists, come together: And both also share in their disdain for utopian liberals who would fritter away the crown jewels of western Culture – for some or other humanitarian ideal – only to allow America’s determined rivals to rise up and overthrow America and its Culture (in this optic).

The common ground between both currents, is expressed with remarkable candour through Berlusconi’s comment that “we must be aware of the superiority of our [western] civilisation”. Steve Bannon says something very similar, though couched in the merits of preserving (a threatened) western Judeo-Christian culture.

This sense of Cultural advantage that must at all costs be recuperated and preserved perhaps goes some (but not all) way towards accounting for Trump’s ardent support for Israel: Speaking to Israel’s Channel Two, Richard Spencer, a prominent leader of the American Alt-Right (and one component to Trump’s base), highlighted the deeply felt the dispossession of white people, in their own country [the US]:

“… an Israeli citizen, someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogous feelings about whites. You could say that I am a white Zionist – in the sense that I care about my people, I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. – Just as you want a secure homeland in Israel.” 

So, can the attempt to leverage and weaponise the American élites’ Culture – through the dollar, and putative energy hegemony, and its hold over technology transfer – succeed in holding on to American ‘Culture’ (in the reductionist construct of Trump’s base)? This is the sixty-four thousand dollar question, as they say. It may just easily provoke an equally powerful reaction; and a lot can happen domestically in the US, between now, and the November, US mid-term, elections, which might either confirm the President in power – or undo him. It is difficult to hold to any analytic horizon beyond that. 

But a larger point is whilst Trump feels passionately about American Culture and hegemony; the leaders of the non-West today, feel just as passionately that it is time for ‘the American Century’ to yield place. Just as after WWII, former colonial states wanted independence – so, now, today’s leaders want an end to dollar monopoly, they want an opt-out from the global, US-led order and its so-called ‘international’ institutions; they want to ‘be’ in their own distinctive cultural way – and they want their sovereignties back. This is not just cultural and economic nationalism, it portends a significant inflection point – away from neo-liberal economics, from individualism and raw commercialism – towards a more rounded human experience.

The tide, in the wake of WWII, surely was irreversible then. I can even recall the former European colonialists subsequently bemoaning their forced withdrawal: “They’ll [the former colonies] regret it”, they confidently predicted. (No, they never did.) The tide today runs strongly too, and has spread, even, to Europe. Where – who knows – whether the Europeans will have the spine to push back against Trump’s financial and trade machinations: It will be an important litmus for what comes next.

But what is different now (from then), is that currency hegemony, technological prowess, and energy ‘domination’, are not, at all, assured to western possession. They are no longer theirs. They began their migration, some time ago.

James Corbett: Non-governmental organizations or NGOs are the Deep State’s geopolitical Trojan horses (VIDEO) – By James Corbett/The Corbett Report (SOTT)

NGOS Deep State

The Trojan horse was the earliest recorded military psyop. That psyop continues to be deployed on unsuspecting populations and it is just as useful as ever, but today’s tricksters have donned the mantle of philanthropy, and their Trojan horses are not wooden statues but non-governmental organizations offering “aid” to foreign nations. In today’s edition of The Corbett Report, we’ll learn about how NGOs are the deep state’s Trojan horses.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Troy, 12th century BC.

The Greeks’ decade-long siege of Troy is drawing to a close. The cunning Odysseus has hit upon a plan to subvert the Trojans’ defenses. The Greeks build a giant wooden horse and then pretend to sail away, leaving the horse at the gates of Troy as an apparent offering to the goddess Athena. The Trojans, believing the gift will make their city impregnable, take it within the city gates.

But it is a trick. Odysseus and his men are hidden inside the hollow horse and they emerge during the night to open the gates and let in the Greek army, who have returned to take the city. The Trojans don’t get a chance to learn from their mistake; the Greeks sack the city and massacre its inhabitants.

The Trojan horse was the earliest recorded military psyop. The lesson of the story, recorded in the counsel to “beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” is that we should not let down our defenses when an erstwhile enemy offers us aid. Today, that counsel is as useful as ever, but today’s tricksters have donned the mantle of philanthropy, and their Trojan horses are not wooden statues but non-governmental organizations offering “aid” to foreign nations.

The bitter truth is that in a surprising number of cases, NGOs are the Deep State’s Trojan Horses.

This is The Corbett Report.

In 2015, Kyrgyzstan made what might seem at first glance to be a surprising move: It canceled a cooperation treaty with the US that had been in place since 1993. The treaty granted tax breaks and customs privileges to organizations like the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and gave their workers diplomatic immunity in the country. All of that came to an end after the US granted a human rights award to Azimjon Askarov, an activist swept up and thrown in jail for life for “creating a threat to civil peace and stability in society” after the Uzbek riots in South Kyrgyzstan in 2010.

Reaction from the usual Western outlets was swift and predictable: Kyrgyzstan has lost its mind. Or, to be more precise: It’s all Putin’s fault. Somehow. But don’t worry, the US will continue aiding Kyrgyzstan anyway, whether they like it or not, because that’s just how they roll. Go, Team America!

But Kyrgyzstan is not the only country to crack down on “aid” from foreign NGOs. In the last few years a series of countries, including Russia, China and India, have passed laws placing stricter controls on the operations of these organizations within their borders.

MARGARET HOWELL: Russia is throwing the smackdown on poor little old NGOs, these charitable organizations that were set up. Their reasoning behind them? That they might be trying to take down the Kremlin.

The Kremlin is moving to ban the US-backed MacArthur Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute and ten of their foreign groups, calling them “unwelcome organizations” by law. They’re also mulling over something called a “patriotic stop list.” Anyone caught collaborating with these groups, they’re facing six years in prison.

SOURCE: Russia Bans Foreign NGO’s

ANCHOR: China has passed the country’s first law regulating overseas NGOs, or non-governmental organizations.

HAO YUNHONG (VOICEOVER): The Chinese government always welcomes foreign NGOs to come to China to expand cultural and charity activities, and your achievements are highly spoken of by the Chinese authorities. But there are a few illegal exceptions in which NGOs came to China to harm its national security.

ANCHOR: The law covers activities of NGOs founded outside the Chinese mainland. They must register with public security authorities and declare where their funding is coming from.

SOURCE: China adopts law regulating overseas NGOs

REPORTER: India has placed Ford Foundation on a watch list and ordered all funds from the US-based nonprofit organization to be routed to recipients only after the Home Ministry’s approval. Citing national security concerns, the Home Ministry has asked the Reserve Bank of India to ensure funds given by Ford Foundation to Indian recipients be brought to its notice and dispersed only after its clearance. The ministry said in its order that it wanted to ensure funds coming from Ford Foundation were utilized for bona fide welfare activities without compromising on concerns of national interest and security.

SOURCE: Ford Foundation on India government watch list


REPORTER: An Egyptian Court has convicted 43 Egyptian and 16 American NGO workers for working illegally in Egypt while encouraging unrest. The defendants, who were mostly absent from court, were sentenced to up to five years in jail. The verdict calls for the closing of US nonprofit groups such as the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, which back in 2012 Egypt accused of receiving illegal funding and operating without licenses.

SOURCE: Egyptian court sentences NGO workers including Americans to up to five years in prison

So what on earth is going on? Why are all of these countries kicking out all of these US-based non-governmental and quasi-governmental entities? Why would they be opposed to charity and aid?

The answer is not difficult to understand. These organizations are Trojan horses: designed to appear as gifts, but containing secret trap doors through which hidden forces can enter the country and covertly undermine the governments in question. This explanation only sounds outlandish to those who look no further than the organizations’ names and have no idea of their history of operations.

Take USAID, for example. Created in 1961 by executive order, it’s a US government agency that seeks “to end extreme poverty and to promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity.” So why did President Morales kick them out of Bolivia in 2013? Because he’s crazy and irrational? Or because USAID ran a program through its remarkably frankly-named Office of Transition Initiatives that provided $10.5 million of funding for “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” throughout the country, including in opposition stronghold areas? Was it paranoia on Morales’ part, or merely the recognition that mealy-mouthed rhetoric about “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” is a thinly veiled euphemism for “overthrowing the government,” exactly as leaked diplomatic documents proved was the case for USAID’s identically named program in Venezuela?

EVA GOLINGER: USAID was originally an agency created to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief to countries in need, and throughout the 1980s and the 1990s and more into the 21st century it’s evolved into a political arm and a funding branch of the US government for what they call “promoting democracy.” And it’s actually now a part of US counterinsurgency campaigns that involve the Pentagon [and] the State Department, in terms of diplomacy and obviously war activities. And USAID is the third agency involved in counterinsurgency, and their goal precisely is to provide what they called aid for promoting democracy or stabilizing or helping a country through some kind of political transition or economic transition.

In the case of Venezuela, Venezuela is a country that is oil wealthy so it’s never qualified for any kind of direct USAID help. Therefore, USAID has never had an office here officially, and they didn’t actually come the country and set up an office until 2002, right before the coup d’etat against President Chavez. And the documents-internal documents obtained under Freedom of Information Act-reveal that the sole intention of setting up the office here in Venezuela was to aid opposition forces to eventually ouster Chavez from power.

SOURCE: Is the US trying to “fix” Venezuela?

Should governments trust USAID after it was revealed that the agency secretly created its own social media network in Cuba for the express purpose of undermining the Castro government? Or when it was revealed that USAID had sent a team of agents to Cuba under the guise of “health and civic programs” to incite rebellion amongst youth, including creating a phony HIV-prevention workshop that the agency itself described as the “perfect excuse” to “identify potential social-change actors?” Or when it was revealed that the agency had attempted (and miserably failed) to infiltrate Cuba’s hip-hop scene “to break the information blockade” and spark a youth movement of “social change” in the country?

ANCHOR: A US agency infiltrated the Cuban hip-hop world in an attempt to launch a youth movement against the government there. The secret operation tried to use Cuban rappers to build a network of young people seeking social change. But the Cuban regime caught on and the operation failed. In the process the US Agency for International Development unintentionally compromised a vibrant music culture that produced hard-hitting grassroots criticism of the country. Several artists that the agency tried to promote ended up leaving Cuba or stopped performing after pressure from the government.

SOURCE: USAID Attempt to Co-opt Cuban Hip-Hop Scene Fails

In fact, USAID’s black ops programs for undermining foreign governments go all the way back to the founding of the agency itself. Some of the lowlights include USAID’s “Office of Public Safety” and its part in running a CIA front program for training foreign police in torture and terror tactics in Latin America; co-funding (with the CIA) the opium-smuggling Xieng Khouang Air Transport, a private airline for narcotics trafficker (and CIA point man in Laos) General Vang Pao; and co-funding opposition groups in Ukraine (prior to the 2014 coup) with Glenn Greenwald-backer Pierre Omidyar and, of course, George Soros.

FAREED ZAKARIA: George Soros, pleasure to have you on.

GEORGE SOROS: Same here.

ZAKARIA: First, on Ukraine: One of the things that many people recognize about you was that you-during the revolutions of 1989-funded a lot of dissident activity, civil society groups in Eastern Europe and Poland, the Czech Republic. Are you doing similar things in Ukraine?

SOROS: Well, I set up a foundation in Ukraine before Ukraine became independent of Russia, and the foundation has been functioning ever since and played an important part in events now.

SOURCE: George Soros admits playing an integral part in the Ukraine crisis

But this NGO/Trojan horse problem is by no means confined to USAID and its associated organizations. Take the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as another example.

The official story is that the NED was created in 1983 by an act of Congress in order to “encourage the establishment and growth of democratic development” in target countries around the world in line with US foreign policy goals.

The actual story is that the NED was created expressly as a front for funding CIA activities inside target countries, a fact that Allen Weinstein, one of the members of the study group that led to NED’s founding, openly bragged about in The Washington Post: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” he was quoted as saying. Even more blatant is an admission by then-Director of Central Intelligence William Casey, who wrote a memo to the White House advocating for the creation of NED but cautioning that “we here [at the CIA] should not get out front in the development of such an organization, nor do we wish to appear to be a sponsor or advocate.”

The NED’s participation in covert destabilization campaigns rivals that of USAID and, like USAID, involves too many operations to detail them all here. Lowlights include:

RON PAUL: What about Ukraine? I understand there are a few organizations that have been involved through this in Ukraine, trying to disturb that government. Of course, we have visited on this subject quite a bit, but I didn’t realize how much the NED is involved over there.

DANIEL MCADAMS: And this is a big issue, because I think the argument could definitely be made that NATO should have ended after the Cold War, but definitely the National Endowment for Democracy should have been ended after the Cold War. Instead, they say, like with every government program, “No, now’s the time we need more!”

But in Ukraine just this past year…Ah, this is an interesting article written by the president of the National Endowment for Democracy-he’s president for life-Carl Gershman. I know this might shock you, but he’s actually a Trotskyite. He was a founding member of a communist breakaway party, the Trotskyite Social Democrats USA. He wrote an editorial in The Washington Post [in] September of ’13, just before the events happened in Ukraine, and he wrote as the president of the National Endowment for Democracy. He said, “Ukraine is the biggest prize.” And he mentioned that “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents,” and “Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” So his real goal is regime change. He spelled it out just before all of these events took place.

SOURCE: National Endowment for Democracy? Hardly!

These types of Trojan horse operations have been used hundreds of times in the past, and there is no sign that the deep state is ready to abandon the trick now. Quite the opposite.

It worked during the “Arab Spring” when even The New York Times blithely admitted that the leaders of the protests had “received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House” and the State Department blithely admitted they had spent $50 million helping activists in the region network, communicate and organize with each other through Trojan horse NGOs like Movements.org.

The deception also worked in Syria, where leaked documents proved the US had been providing millions of dollars of support to opposition groups in the country since 2006 through a variety of Trojan horse NGOs like the Movement for Justice and Development.

And as we saw earlier this year in “The White Helmets Are A Propaganda Construct,” even first responder groups like the “Syria Civil Defense” (founded by an ex-British military intelligence officer) have been used as Trojan horses to spread propaganda and advance the agenda of the US and its allies in their quest to topple President Assad.

Let’s be clear: This is not to say that all NGOs are Trojan horses. It is not the case that every group or program that receives money from USAID or the National Endowment for Democracy or a similar organization is thereby automatically a deep state change agent. That is not how the Trojan horse technique works.

No, what makes these NGOs so effective as disguises for regime change operations is that much of the time, they are doing what they claim to be doing: providing aid, assistance and charity where it is needed. It is for this very reason that the US and its allies can so effectively smear NGO skeptics as crazy.

But consider this: In 1938, the US Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). With the notable exception of AIPAC, NGOs, lobby groups and individuals who are representing a foreign agent are required to register under the act and are subjected to greater scrutiny of financial records and other activities. The irony is that FARA is essentially the same type of legislation that has recently been passed in China, but when the Chinese do it, it’s craziness; when the US did it 70 years ago, it was just good common sense. Once again, the hypocrisy is evident for those who wish to see it.

If there is any good to come out of this, it is that the public is increasingly aware of these types of covert activities. Perhaps more to the point, victims of these operations are now more willing to stand up to the US (and suffer its potential diplomatic wrath) by scrutinizing, monitoring, watchlisting, regulating, or even kicking out these agents of chaos.

And now, just like the Trojans thousands of years ago, the world is learning the hard way that sometimes a “gift” is better left unopened.

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