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A School for Spooks: The London University Department Churning Out NATO Spies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/04/2021 - 6:45am in

LONDON — Last week, MintPress exposed how the supposedly independent investigative collective Bellingcat is, in fact, funded by a CIA cutout organization and filled with former spies and state intelligence operatives. However, one part of the story that has remained untold until now is Bellingcat’s close ties to the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, an institution with deep links to the British security state and one that trains a large number of British, American and European agents and defense analysts.

 

A school for spooks

A prestigious university located in the heart of London, King’s College has, in its own words, “a number of contracts and agreements with various departments within government, including the Cabinet Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Ministry of Defence.” Some of those contracts are up to 10 years long. The university has so far refused to elaborate on the agreements, telling investigative news outlet Declassified UK that doing so could undermine U.K. security services.

A 2009 study published by the CIA spoke approvingly of how beneficial it can be to “use universities as a means of intelligence training,” noting that, “exposure to an academic environment, such as the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, can add several elements that may be harder to provide within the government system.” The paper, written by two King’s College staffers, is essentially a request to the agency to send more of its recruits there, and boasts about how the department’s staff have “extensive and well-rounded intelligence experience” and how their programs “offer a containing space in which analysts from every part of the community can explore with each other the interplay of ideas about their profession.”

In 2013, former CIA Director Leon Panetta took time out of his schedule as then-secretary of defense to visit the Department of War Studies, where he expressed his profound gratitude to the unit. “I deeply appreciate the work that you do to train and to educate our future national security leaders, many of whom are in this audience,” he said, before adding that it was those young leaders who must ensure that NATO had the creativity, innovation and the commitment to develop and share capabilities in order to meet future security threats, citing the need to expand into tech, surveillance and cyberwarfare.

CIA Kings College

Former CIA head Leon Panetta exits King’s College after giving a speech in 2013. Photo | DVIDS

It was this department that Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins joined in 2018 as visiting research associate, with Bellingcat maintaining a close relationship with it to this day.

After studying their writers’ backgrounds, MintPress can confirm that no fewer than six Bellingcat employees or contributors — including Cameron Colquhoun, Jacob Beeders, Lincoln Pigman, Aliaume Leroy, Christiaan Triebert and senior investigator Nick Waters — all pursued postgraduate studies within the department, the most popular being the “Conflict, Security and Development” degree overseen by Professor Mats Berdal.

For 13 years, Professor Berdal was employed by the Norwegian Defence University College, Norway’s version of West Point. Berdal is one of a host of King’s College War Studies academics who previously taught there, including one who continues to be an officer in the Norwegian Armed Forces, serving in multiple NATO conflicts in the Middle East.

While many in the West picture Norway as a peaceful, enlightened nation, the country is actually a key driving force within NATO; former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is the organization’s current secretary general. Sending troops and other assistance, it was the U.S.’ partner in attacks on Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. Norway has among the highest per capita military spending in Europe and is one of the minority of NATO members to exceed the defense spending benchmark of 2% of GDP.

 

A network of pro-war think tanks

Before joining King’s College, Professor Berdal was Director of Studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), one of the world’s most influential think tanks. Also situated in central London, the organization is directly funded by NATO and its member states, as well as by major weapons manufacturers such as Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing and Raytheon. In 2016, the IISS was the subject of a major scandal after it was found to have secretly accepted £25 million — around $34 million — from the government of Bahrain.

Founded in 1958, the IISS provided much of the intellectual basis behind the Cold War scaremongering around Soviet military capacity, thereby pushing NATO members to spend more on arms. On its advisory board are a former NATO secretary general, the former chief of defense intelligence for the Israeli Defense Forces, and, until recently, the CEO of Lockheed Martin. Today, the think tank is a major driver in the increasing hostility towards China, Russia and North Korea. A number of other current Department of War Studies academics have held positions at the IISS as well. Indeed, King’s College boasts that one of the “key benefits” of studying there is its “established links” with the IISS.

A second pro-war think tank with which King’s College prides itself on working closely is the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI). RUSI’s funding comes from many of the same sources as the IISS’s. Its senior vice president is retired American General David Petraeus and its chairman is Lord Hague, Britain’s secretary of state from 2010 to 2015.

A host of King’s College academics — including Jack Spence, Benedict Wilkinson, Brian Holden-Reid, Walter Ladwig, Thomas Maguire and Neil Melvin — have also held positions at RUSI. Perhaps the most notable King’s College-RUSI crossover is Professor Sir David Omand, who was formerly the think tank’s vice president, as well as the head of GCHQ, Britain’s version of the NSA.


Source | RUSI

Bellingcat writer Dan Kaszeta is an associate fellow at the organization. Bellingcat, RUSI and King’s College often cite each other in papers and reports, providing something of a united front on controversial issues of statecraft.

One man who links the IISS and RUSI together is Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, a key member of the Department of War Studies who went on to become King College’s vice principal. A powerful figure in British politics, Freedman contributed to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 1999 speech in which he established the Blair Doctrine, a maxim that NATO could and should militarily intervene anywhere in the world to stop human rights violations.

 

A rogues’ gallery

For an institution that prides itself on cultivating independent thought, there exists a remarkable overlap between the staff of the Department of War Studies and the innermost halls of power of the British state. Professor John Gearson, for example, was principal defence policy adviser to the Defense Select Committee at the House of Commons, a senior adviser to the Ministry of Defense, and taught terrorism and asymetric warfare to military officers at the U.K. Defense Academy.

Another professor, Michael Goodman, is a current British Army reservist and formerly the Official Historian of the Joint Intelligence Committee (a body that oversees Britain’s intelligence organizations).

Visiting professors include Paul Rimmer, who was deputy chief of defence intelligence until last year; Lord Robertson, who was secretary general of NATO at the time of the Afghanistan invasion; and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former minister of defense. The longtime cabinet member was the creator of the Rifkind Doctrine — the controversial British policy on nuclear weapons. Rifkind rejected the idea that the country should use atomic missiles only as a last resort after being attacked, insisting that he could also use them simply to “deliver an unmistakable message of Britain’s willingness to defend her vital interests.”

Vera Michlin-Shapir

King’s College visiting fellow Vera Michlin-Shapir moderates a panel in Tel Aviv on the future of post-war Syria. Photo | INSS

It is not just British officials who teach King’s College students, however. Christopher Kolenda, for instance, was commander of an 800-man strong U.S. task force in Afghanistan, where he “pioneered innovative approaches to counterinsurgency” according to his bio at the hawkish think tank the Center for New American Security (CNAS), where he is a senior fellow. CNAS recently released a report calling for more “innovative” use of what it called “coercive economic statecraft,” (i.e., sanctions) and continues to saber rattle against China and Russia.

Between 2009 and 2010, Kolenda was a strategic advisor to COMISAF, the Commander of International Security Assistance Force. In plain English, he provided some of the brains behind the occupation of Afghanistan. Before pursuing a role in academia, he was also a senior advisor to Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy and three 4-star generals. Flournoy was President Joe Biden’s first choice to run the Pentagon.

The department also contains a number of Israeli academics, including Vera Michlin-Shapir, a former official in her country’s National Security Council who worked in the prime minister’s office. Meanwhile Ofer Fridman served as an officer in the IDF between 1999 and 2011, during which time it was carrying out some of its worst war crimes against Palestine and Lebanon. After leaving the IDF, Fridman became an arms dealer, becoming the head of non-lethal weapons at LHB Ltd., which describes itself as “the leading company in Israel for security and defense advanced solutions.” In 2016, King’s College also hosted a lecture by the former head of Shin Bet, the Israeli secret police force.

The department has links to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well, with one senior research fellow, Nawaf Obaid, a former special advisor to the Saudi Ambassador in the U.K. and Ireland and a consultant at the Royal Court in Riyadh.

 

Weapons spending good, Russia bad.

While the department’s staff are concerning enough, much of King’s College academic output is even more troubling, and appears to be completely in line with that of NATO and weapons contractors. One study named “A benefit, not a burden: The security, economic and strategic value of Britain’s defence industry,” for instance, reads like a press release from Raytheon, extolling how many people the industry employs. The report claimed that remaining one of the world’s top arms manufacturers was crucial in “build[ing] a secure and resilient U.K. and to help shape a stable world.” “Without a vibrant and thriving domestic defence industrial base,” it warned, “there is a risk that the U.K. will jeopardise its freedom to act in an unstable, fast-changing world,” concluding that the government should protect or “ideally expand” its defense spending budget.

A report from last August also lobbied the government to invest in making the United Kingdom a “leading nation for space.” “Investment in space surveillance capacity is key to seizing the commercial and diplomatic opportunities offered by space while defending U.K. economic and security interests,” it concludes. Surprisingly, the report insists that it would take only a “modest investment” from the government to turn Great Britain into a leading force in a rapidly expanding market.

King’s College also published a study, titled “The future strategic direction of NATO,” advising that the organization “urgently needs a coherent policy on China” and that it must re-up its commitment to countering Russia. It recommends that the majority of member states increase their military budgets and that they must “share the burden of responsibility on nuclear weapons” by allowing the U.S. to store missiles inside their territories.

Meanwhile, their 2018 report “Weaponizing news: RT, Sputnik and targeted disinformation” analyzes Russian state-backed media outlets and accuses them of carrying out a campaign of “information-psychological warfare” over its coverage of contentious events such as the alleged Skripal poisoning and the wars in Ukraine and Syria. The report claims Russian media is turning news into a weapon by projecting an image of strength and stability while highlighting flaws in Western democracies. While praising the work of Bellingcat and disinfo outlet “Prop or Not,” it concludes by advising that the West must “use technical means to prevent propaganda.”

Thomas Rid King's College

King’s College professor Thomas Rid testifies before a Senate committee on Russian meddling. Photo | CSPAN

These technical solutions, we now know, have largely entailed NATO indirectly taking control of social media. In 2018, Facebook announced that NATO’s cutout organization, the Atlantic Council, was becoming its “eyes and ears,” giving it significant control over curating its news feed, supposedly in an attempt to limit disinformation. Yet many of the most lurid stories around RussiaGate were started by the Council itself, which pumped out report after report accusing virtually every political movement in Europe outside the establishment beltway as being the “Kremlin’s Trojan Horses.”

King’s College staff have also been crucial in propagating the idea of Russian interference in American politics, with Professor Thomas Rid testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the “dark art” of Russian meddling, and condemning WikiLeaks and alternative media journalists as unwitting agents of disinformation. Rid previously described 2016 as the “biggest election hack in U.S. history.”

Earlier this year, Facebook also hired former NATO press officer and Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Ben Nimmo as head of its intelligence team. Meanwhile Reddit appointed former Atlantic Council Deputy Director of Middle Eastern Strategy Jessica Ashooh as its head of policy. And Eliot Higgins, of course, was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council as well. In recent years, social media giants like Facebook and Google have radically altered their algorithms, demoting content from adversarial nations, but also attacking alternative media that challenge the power of NATO and the national security state.

Today, the Department of War Studies hosted an online seminar with two senior NATO officials who discussed what they saw as Russia and China’s increasingly aggressive actions, as well as new ways in which NATO can secure its control over the internet.

 

A military-academic-journalistic nexus

What is being described is a network of military, think-tank and media units all working towards furthering the goals of the national security state. Bellingcat regularly holds seminars and courses at King’s College, teaching the next generation of state officials how to use big-data and surveillance tools.

While King’s College provides an academic veneer for the national security state, Bellingcat provides a journalistic one. This cluster of think tanks, academic reports, and newsy investigative articles all cite one another as credible, independent sources when, in reality, they are all part of the same network furthering an agenda. It should be noted that this was an investigation into just one department in one school in one college of the University of London. The links to the highest levels of power were so profound and so manifold that it often seemed harder to find someone in the department who was not linked to military or intelligence communities. Thus, one could be forgiven for mistaking the Department of War Studies for a department of war mongers.

Feature photo | Photo by King’s College. Editing by MintPress News

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post A School for Spooks: The London University Department Churning Out NATO Spies appeared first on MintPress News.

The Eruption of the Refugee Crisis and the Global Push for Vaccine Passports

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/04/2021 - 6:08am in

SAINT VINCENT, GRENADINE ISLANDS — The controversy erupted on Twitter even as the 32,000-foot-high plume of smoke from Saint Vincent’s La Soufrière volcano was still rising in the sky. The firestorm on American social media platforms over reports that only those vaccinated against COVID-19 would be allowed to evacuate the eastern Caribbean island sheds light on the architects of the biosecurity state who have descended on Saint Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) to explore the limits of mandatory public health protocols in the midst of a natural disaster now projected to “last months.”

Global organizations, NGOs, and members of the scientific community are coordinating emergency response efforts in Saint Vincent. Power outages, no clean water, and continued volcanic eruptions have rendered parts of the island virtually uninhabitable, plunging Vincentians who have managed to escape into a condition of quasi-statelessness where notions of human rights and civil liberties become malleable.

“Refugees are in a position of complete vulnerability,” says Dr. Diego Garcia Ricci, from the Ibero-American University in Mexico City, speaking to MintPress. The constitutional law professor and data privacy expert addressed some of the issues surrounding the plight of refugees as biometric data like retinal scans, fingerprinting and even gender, become a pillar of identity documentation and incipient travel requirements in the wake of the pandemic. “While biometrics can be useful for identification purposes, mistakes do happen,” Garcia Ricci warns.

Most at risk from these mistakes, abuse and racial profiling arising out of biometric digital identity systems are those whose need for the ‘state’ is made indispensable by virtue of being rendered stateless. Free agents with no agency are prime targets for global entities like the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which claims to speak for close to 80 million forcibly displaced people.

Vincentians who are unable or refuse to leave the island are likely to be reclassified as “internally displaced persons” or IDPs, another kind of refugee as defined by the UNHCR. Such classifications are part of a vast structure of laws and guidelines enshrined in the archives of supranational state entities like the European Commission and the United Nations, based on the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which establishes international rules governing the treatment and rights of refugees, whose numbers have nearly doubled since 2012, ballooning from 45.2 million “displaced” to 79.5 million as of the last count.

UNHCR Refugee Data

Source | UNHCR

Economic sanctions, the war on terror, and other policies imposed by the very interests represented in New York and Brussels are causing a human tsunami emanating from places like Venezuela and Yemen, to name just two of the most salient examples. A natural disaster has conferred instant refugee status on the citizens of Saint Vincent, who join their number as the incipient biosecurity apparatus secures its grip on border control technology and as health-based digital identity systems can be glimpsed on the horizon.

 

A roadmap

In the spring of 2018, the European Commission (EC) revealed its intention to create a “vaccination card/passport” in a proposal titled “Strengthened Cooperation Against Vaccine-Preventable Diseases,” which touches on many of the topics making the rounds today, such as ways to address vaccine hesitancy and “the safety and potential side effects of different vaccines.”

A year later, the EC unveiled a “roadmap” that projected the “common EU vaccination card” to be fully implemented by 2021. As a result, the EU is right on schedule to become the first region of the world to adopt a full-fledged medical credentialing border policy for its 27 member states.

With the EU’s 27 member states launched on this trajectory, leading health credentialing developers like The Commons Project, Pathcheck and IBM’s Digital Health Pass have formed their own policy recommendation club, with the bioinformatics and life sciences industries finding a nexus under one roof created by the ID2020 Digital Identity Alliance called the Good Health Pass Collaborative (GHPC)

GHPC seeks to influence policy decisions around the technology’s implementation in border control situations specifically. While many of its members offer credentialing apps for uses outside of these scenarios, GHPC makes clear that its mission is exclusively to establish the correct border policy frameworks that will maximize the return for its “core partners” as they go about developing “an interoperable, trusted framework and ecosystem for the issuance, use, and management of COVID-19 test and vaccination credentials for international travel,” per the GHPC whitepaper.

Garcia Ricci describes the problem. “We don’t really know how they’re going to work,” he states, adding that as mechanisms to control border entry, “the policies regarding their use are still not very clear or defined. Every country is implementing its own policy.”

Dakota Gruener, GHPC executive director and executive officer for private sector engagement of Bill Gates’s GAVI (officially “Gavi – The Vaccine Alliance”), is tasked with making sure such policies bend to the will of the broader biosecurity state in order to overcome the risk of “fragmentation” and keep their options open while the smart infrastructure required to scale up is put in place.

Gruener even doesn’t rule out using paper in the meantime, insisting that “to be valuable to users, credentials need to be accepted at check-in, upon arrival by border control agencies, and more,” adding that eventually a “common governance framework” would solve the problems presented by the surfeit of vaccine credential apps and cards in development.

 

The Queen’s Subject

The eruption of La Soufrière (Sulphur) has provided a unique opportunity to push the envelope in matters of mandatory public health policy, which Saint Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had taken the initiative to begin implementing in March, ordering mandatory vaccinations for the island’s minibus operators and calling for teachers to get the jab in a radio interview the day before the volcanic disaster hit.

Mandatory vaccination protocols have now been extended for anyone wishing to leave the island, breaking with standard procedures that place the onus of status verification on the port of entry. Gonsalves issued the directive at a press conference the day before the eruption, calling for mandatory vaccinations for those living near the volcano. In February, Gonsalves signed emergency legislation authorizing the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine along with Pfizer’s, Johnson & Johnson’s, Moderna’s and three others.

The first shipment of vaccines arrived just two days before the volcanic eruption, courtesy of COVAX – a global consortium distributing vaccines throughout global south countries comprised of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI); Bill & Melinda Gates-funded GAVI; UNICEF; the World Health Organization (WHO); and its credit vehicle, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which operates a revolving fund comprised of more than 200 donor partners to purchase vaccines for COVAX.


WHO personell stationed on St. Vincent and the Grenadines pose next to one the first COVAX shipments to arrive on the islands. Photo | WHO

Some 24,000 doses of the highly problematic AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the Caribbean nation as part of a larger vaccine distribution operation in the region by COVAX, which commenced delivery of 728,000 doses to five countries in the region in March. The so-called “Oxford” vaccine has been discontinued in many countries due to serious blood clotting issues, which in some cases have led to death.

By virtue of their newfound refugee status, Vincentians are left with little protection against the emergency measures currently enforced by their prime minister, who is a subject of the Crown serving under the Queen’s representative, Governor-General Susan Dougan.

 

Fish in a barrel

The nexus between Big Pharma, Big Tech, and the national security state is revealed in the health-credentialing industry, where major players from each sector and their partners tackle the different tasks required to build the biosecurity state. Vaccinating even half of the 80 million forcibly displaced people protected under the UNHCR’s official charter, collecting their biometric data, and creating digital identity cards or apps to store and retrieve that data would be a significant step in that direction

The UNHCR has assumed the role of a diplomatic outreach operation on behalf of COVAX to persuade countries to include refugees in their national inoculation strategies. Serbia, Nepal and Rwanda are among the countries that have vaccinated asylum seekers and refugees as a result of UNHCR’s campaigns, which touts refugee vaccination against COVID-19 as “key” to ending the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman is building the largest biometric and biographical database of foreigners and citizens in the U.S., called the Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program, or BITMAP, as reported by MintPress in March. Operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 14 countries, including the three Central American countries whose drug war refugees are currently flooding the border, BITMAP is only one of several biometric capture operations targeting refugees.

“The extraction of any type of biometric data represents an intrusion into your privacy,” explains Garcia Ricci, adding that, though such intrusions are not necessarily prohibited, they must not be “arbitrary or illegal. In other words, there must be a legal basis for the collection of such data and that the legal basis itself be in pursuit of a legitimate purpose.”

It’s unclear if the purposes of the GHPC’s core partners, like Mastercard, fit this juridical framework. The credit card behemoth has been working with the UNHCR and tech companies, who are also part of GHPC, to test their novel biometric ID cards on refugee populations such as the Rohingya. Described as ID2020’s most ambitious project yet, GHPC is focused on “delivering a global, interoperable health pass system can only happen if we come together in a way that meets the needs of everyone involved,” asserts Ajay Bhalla, president of Cyber & Intelligence at Mastercard.

Ann Cavoukian, executive director of the Global Privacy & Security by Design Centre, poses as the organization’s watchdog but seems to have capitulated early to the idea of health passports, which she claims to personally oppose. However, “having acknowledged that they will be used,” as she told Biometric Update, Cavoukian concedes that “biometric technology seems likely to be a necessary component of Good Health Passes to bind the credential to the individual.”

‘Binding’ people to credentials can prove problematic. Garcia Ricci uncovers the principle of proportionality in the question of biometric data collection, citing fingerprints, which “are a biometric marker that has been used to identify people and can be said to exhibit an adequate level of proportionality,” in terms of invasiveness.

But what happens, he asks, “when the United States or any other country” crosses the line from ink on the fingers to DNA extraction? “That’s where the questions arise regarding legitimate purposes,” Garcia Ricci contends, “since DNA contains the most intimate information about a human being and can be used to derive many other kinds of information, such as a propensity for certain diseases or genetic defects.

“While biometrics can be useful for identification purposes,” he continues, “mistakes do happen and we must be vigilant to make sure that any errors that might lead to the misidentification of an individual through faulty biometric data are able to be corrected in the system.”

If the Global Privacy & Security by Design Centre is the designated protector of civil liberties and human rights at the dawn of vaccine passports, a closer look at the organization does not inspire much confidence. Sitting on its board of directors is none other than former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who is also on the advisory board of Carbyne – a cybersecurity “emergency management” company with ties to Israel’s notorious human rights-abusing Unit 8200. Carbyne also has direct business ties with Peter Thiel, who runs his own health data management and pre-crime analytics company called Palantir and has operated a joint research center with Carbyne in Israel since 2013.

Despite her questionable alliances, Cavoukian is confident that her “endorsement” of Global Health Pass and health credentialing, in general, will assuage the fears of privacy and data-integrity advocates. In March, the newly-formed non-profit “urged” the White House to “establish official guidance on the development and deployment of health passes” in a letter signed by its 80 signatories.

Refugees are the “first-to-market,” so to speak, for the digital identification cards with biometric features. But, as so-called vaccine passports and similar health data apps get closer to becoming a reality for regular, already-documented citizens, it should be clear to those willing to look beyond the façade of public health that the implementation of the biosecurity state is only part of a longer-term project intended to reshape the global economy to run on data.

 

Early warning

Vincentians were given relatively ample warning after scientists at the Seismic Research Center at the University of the West Indies (UWI-SRC) made a 3 a.m. phone call on April 8 to the prime minister’s office alerting officials to a pending volcanic event.

The island had been under an “Orange Level” alert since December 2020. The color-coded volcanic activity monitoring system is managed by the regional Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDMEA), headquartered in Barbados, with data provided by the UWI-SRC in coordination with the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).


Ash rises into the air as La Soufriere volcano erupts on St. Vincent, seen from Chateaubelair, April 9, 2021. Orvil Samuel | AP

NEMO came into existence in 2002, one year after USAID organized a workshop at the University of the West Indies (UWI) on Volcanic and Seismic Hazards in the Eastern Caribbean, which produced the “Volcanic Hazard Atlas,” designed “to provide an essential blueprint for planners and public officials with responsibility for managing the economic infrastructure of Eastern Caribbean islands.”

The original Early Warning System (EWS) project was funded by Brussels through the office of the General Directorate of Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid of the EU and its European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) financing vehicle. Original program partners in Saint Vincent included the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and The Red Cross.

 

The volcanologist

On April 7, the same day COVAX delivered the first batch of vaccines to Saint Vincent, an article appeared in the Hawaii Tribune Herald showcasing a “new” study to predict the impact of future volcanic eruptions. Led by Prof. Bruce F. Houghton from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the researchers posited that the damage caused by volcanic eruptions could be predicted “weeks” in advance through careful analysis of lava-flow geologic “signatures.”

Comparing census data to the median cost of land and household income among three areas located in Hawaii’s lava hazard zones, Houghton marries economic indicators to maps of geological disruptions caused by the Kilauea event of 2018 in order to produce what is, in essence, a financial projection tool masquerading as a scientific paper.

Houghton’s idea to mitigate damage from volcanic eruptions is to curb population growth in lava hazard zones. The Malthusian focus is striking and perhaps tacitly admitted by the author himself when he chose to include the words “social dilemma” as part of the study’s title.

While Houghton’s work shows that seismic traces and lava flows leave enough scorching data of its own behind to allow for a detailed analysis of the social and economic implications of a volcanic event, that information may or may not help to prevent any actual damage from a volcanic eruption. But it will suit just fine the needs of World Bank and IMF reps, who often carry studies like these in their leather briefcases when they pitch the latest debt-financing scheme to a “developing” country, like Saint Vincent.

 

The bankers

As the Covid crisis raged on in the summer of 2020, SVG Prime Minister Gonsalves was confronted over a Facebook post in which he stated quite clearly that he’d secured financing from the World Bank to build “a 140-bed modern acute referral hospital.” After denying he had ever made such a claim, political opponents tore into the man who has ruled Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for almost half of its independent existence.

“The World Bank advises that the funding they provided is only for the design,” Gonsalves countered his critics, asserting that the global financing organization “provided no funds for the construction of that hospital.” The issue remains in the hands of his finance minister, Camillo Gonsalves — also his son.

Gonsalves

SVG Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves arrives for a summit in Brussels aimed at relations with Europe. Francois Walschaerts | AP

It is a recurring game throughout Latin America and the Caribbean when international debt-peddling consortiums like the World Bank approach governments in the region to propose all kinds of infrastructure projects, which they offer to finance and then pay the foreign contractors to build while collecting interest and fees from the target country’s taxpayers in set-ups that allow creatures like Gonsalves to take all the credit.

Saint Vincent’s emergency warning system (EWS) was one of these types of projects brought to the shores of the “exotic” Caribbean island nation by large foreign agencies like the UNDP and the EC. The “Sulphur’s” first volcanic eruption since the year SVG ceased to be a Royal colony in 1979 provided a rare chance to put recent changes made to the EWS to the test.

New York, Brussels and NGOs proffered their advice on population crisis management and other SDG-based recommendations to upgrade the system after an 18-month-long reappraisal, carried out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and partners, in line with its Strategic Plan 2018-2021 to “help countries achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The resulting reports identified failures and suggested corrective action, as well as multiple changes and additions to the system itself. Some of the details are laid out in “Roadmap to Strengthening Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems for Saint Vincent & the Grenadines,” published in 2018. The report focuses heavily on gender-differentiated risk analysis and the creation of databases for this purpose.

Disaster simulations are also encouraged in the report and, despite a paltry budget allocation of $40,000 dollars, implementation of NEWS got going with workshops organized by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), to assure the incorporation of “gender considerations” into all aspects of the EWS, according to NEMO Director Michelle Forbes.

The question of where all this gender and any other such biometric data collected during the project is going and who will have access to those databases is not addressed directly in any of the materials examined by MintPress. Most countries have laws that govern who can access private data but, as Garcia Ricci explained:

Even within national data privacy laws, certain kinds of cooperation between countries is typically embedded in the legislation itself. This is what’s known as data transfer and obliges nation states to share the data with other countries in cases where it is deemed necessary.”

SVG’s current data privacy laws were fashioned by many of the same global organizations cited in the preceding paragraphs, organizing workshops and seminars that would eventually lead to the Harmonization of ICT Policies, Legislation and Regulatory Procedures in the Caribbean HIPCAR, governed by the Caribbean Community CARICOM and enforced through the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

UNDRR Caribbean Advisor Maria Kontro clarifies the use for all this data by framing it in her terms: “Every dollar invested in risk reduction and prevention can save anywhere up to 15 dollars in post-disaster recovery,” Kontro said during a consultation and training session for Gender and Vulnerable In Early Warning Systems in SVG back in 2019.

 

Black Caribs

Vincentians come from a long line of people forced to resettle, move and escape. Nearly seven-tenths of the island’s population are directly descended from West African slaves. Before their arrival, the native Ciboney, Arawak and Caribs spent generations fighting a protracted war against the Western European invaders and found common ground with self-liberated Africans.

Centuries later, Vincentians must call on the strength of their forcibly displaced and enslaved ancestors to endure another colonial assault on their freedom as they suddenly find themselves in a de facto testing ground for mandatory vaccination procedures, health status documentation, and pandemic evacuation protocols.

A UN spokesman has declared that the eruptive crisis will “last more than six months” and looks for it to extend to Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda. Most Vincentians are choosing to stick close to home and forgo the even more uncertain scenario of evacuation, that requires an injection that just might kill them anyway.

Either way, Vincentians are in the eye of the biosecurity storm that is traversing the world in search of easy data to plug into its burgeoning human capital market toys. Chances of escape from the encroaching health surveillance and data mining operations currently unfolding around the world are getting slimmer.

But — just like the Dutch slave ship that sank off the coast of Saint Vincent in 1635, freeing hundreds of Africans who swam ashore and made new families with the native Carib people — the fate of this new form of digital servitude is foreshadowed by the resilience of the Saint Vincentians.

“They said they want to stay at home,” Gonsalves told the BBC. “I have been around several of the camps and that’s the message.”

Feature photo | A healthcare worker helps an evacuee with his luggage as British, Canadian and U.S. tourists flee St. Vincent, April 16, 2021. Orvil Samuel | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post The Eruption of the Refugee Crisis and the Global Push for Vaccine Passports appeared first on MintPress News.

Just Like in the US, Policing in Israel is Rooted in Racist Violence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 5:09am in

HAIFA, ISRAEL — Israeli state violence manifests in several ways—police killings, home demolitions, displacement and detentions—but each is grounded in the same colonialist ideology spanning decades.

In the U.S., policing can be traced back to the nineteenth century slave patrols designed to control and suppress Black people. In Israel, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli security agency, Shin Bet, have roots in the Haganah, a Zionist militia group involved in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine (known as the Nakba) before Israel became a state.

The Haganah’s off-shoot organizations—Irgun and Lehi—committed atrocities like the Deir Yassin massacre. On April 9, 1948, these Zionist fighters stormed the village of Deir Yassin, “executed over 100 men, women and children, and then burned their dead bodies.”

Israeli history of the Haganah often tries to separate it from the right-wing Irgun and Lehi paramilitary organizations, but massacres were a core part of the Haganah’s strategy. During the Nakba, the Haganah carried out bombings, executions, and even castration.

Miko Peled, a human rights activist whose father served in the Israeli Army and was part of the Haganah, considers the Zionist group a terrorist organization.

“Their entire existence was to execute the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. So, there’s no way to execute ethnic cleansing other than [by] terrorizing the population,” Peled said, adding:

The Haganah became the Israeli Army after May of 1948, but in terms of their mode of operations and ideology, they were really just the same terrorist organization glorified now as an army.”

Haganah Israel

Zionist militia members walk in front of an Arab hotel bombed by Haganah in Jerusalem, May 6, 1948. Jim Pringle | AP

While the IDF originates from the Haganah, the Israel Police derives from the Palestine Police Force. Established by the British, the organization grew from a primarily Palestinian institution at its founding in 1920 to one mostly comprised of British and Jewish officers by 1948.

Specifically, the Jewish forces dominated the Notrim, a branch of the service defending Jewish settlements. The majority of its members were recruited from the Haganah. The Notrim became what is known today as the Israeli Military Police. Between 1947 and 1948, Palestinian police officers joined Arab forces defending Palestine, while Jewish police collaborated with Zionist militias.

Peled explained that these interconnections between the different police and military forces still exist:

The police, the military, and the Shabak [Shin Bet] all work together. A lot of officers retire from the military and go to the police or the Shabak. They were all raised on the same ideology and the mode of operation is Palestinian lives don’t matter.”

The violence and racist beliefs of slave patrols, the Haganah, and the Palestine Police Force can still be witnessed today in American policing and the Israeli Army.

 

The police brutality crisis in Israel-Palestine

On March 29, Munir Anabtawi’s mother called police to help subdue her mentally ill son, who had a knife, in their home in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood of Haifa. The police arrived but instead of diffusing the situation, an officer shot Anabtawi twice in the chest, killing him.

The incident sparked renewed concern over the Israel Police’s treatment of marginalized communities, specifically of Palestinians with and without Israeli citizenship.

Anabtawi, 33, was a Palestinian citizen of Israel. His killing is still under investigation, but the officer who fatally shot him is now back at work after Israel’s Ministry of Justice accepted his claim he shot in self-defense. According to the officer, Anabtawi tried to stab him. A knife was found at the scene.

Munir Anabtawi

Palestinians from the occupied city of Haifa protest following the murder of Munir Anabtawi, March, 30, 2021. Photo | Activestills

Both Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and the Commander-in-Chief of Police have come out in support of the officer.

Alber Nahas, the lawyer for the Anabtawi family, disputes the police’s self-defense reasoning. He argues the police are professionals and should know how to de-escalate a confrontation without killing an individual.

“They could have shot him in the legs, not the chest,” Nahas told MintPress.

The Israel Police placed a gag order on Anabtawi’s case to stop further reporting. Anabtawi’s family requested an autopsy be performed by their own representative. Yet Nahas said the autopsy’s results remain unknown as a result of the gag order.

A day after Anabtawi’s death, crowds waved Palestinian flags outside his family’s home in protest of the police killing.

In recent weeks, massive demonstrations have erupted across Palestinian communities inside Israel over police brutality against Palestinian citizens of Israel and law enforcement’s mishandling of violence stemming from organized crime.

Video footage from a February protest in Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel shows police officers using excessive force against participants. The severe use of tear gas and stun grenades by police resulted in a protester requiring head surgery.



In February, Ahmad Hejazi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a bystander, was fatally shot when police opened fire during a crime scene.

These actions have pushed human rights organizations such as Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) and Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament to charge that police officers view Palestinian citizens as enemies of the state.

“The killing of 33-year-old Munir Anabtawi is merely the continuation of the aggressive treatment practiced by the police toward Arab citizens,” Ayman Odeh — head of the Joint List, a coalition of Israel’s main Arab political parties — told the Times of Israel. “The police see Arab citizens as enemies, not equal citizens.”

According to the Mossawa Center, an advocacy organization for Palestinians in Israel, Israeli police have killed 62 Palestinian citizens of Israel, and 47 of those deaths can be attributed to racism. Suha Salman Mousa, Mossawa’s executive director, explained how this violence is rooted in racism.

Since 2000 we see that the chief of police, the police officers, and the whole system are dealing with Arab citizens of Israel in a different way. And this is part of the racism we suffer from. We suffer from racism in the form of police brutality, we suffer from racism in laws approved by the Knesset [Israeli parliament], and we suffer from racism with home demolitions. We suffer from racism in all aspects of life, and one of them is police brutality.”

 

Black Lives Matter, Palestinian Lives Matter

Last year, in the wake of the horrific police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Palestine-Israel was having its own Palestinian Lives Matter movement.

On May 30, 2020, Israeli border police fatally shot Iyad Hallak, a Palestinian man with autism, in Jerusalem. The reason for the deadly firing? Officers suspected Hallak was armed. It was revealed after his death that he wasn’t carrying a weapon.

Palestinians and Israeli activists made a connection between Floyd and Hallak’s deaths. Floyd’s face was painted on the Apartheid Wall, the barrier separating the West Bank and Israel. Activists demonstrating against Hallak’s killing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem held signs reading “Palestinian Lives Matter,” an obvious reference to the ongoing civil rights struggle in the U.S.

George Floyd mural

A mural depicting George Floyd on Israel’s apartheid wall in the Palestanian city of Bethlehem, April 9, 2021. Maya Alleruzzo | AP

Anabtawi’s killing brings back to mind Hallak’s. “[Anabtawi] could have been taken over without live fire, according to his sister,” Palestinian member of the Knesset Ahmad Tibi said. “The names Iyad Hallak and Mustafa Yunis Zel come up again. Very light hand on the trigger.”

Just as Black individuals are seen as suspects by American police, so are Palestinians by Israeli forces.

“Whenever the police see an Arab, he immediately becomes a target,” one of Hallak’s relatives, Hatem Awiwi, told Al-Monitor days after his death.

For Mousa, police violence in the U.S. and Israel-Palestine is the product of a shared pervasive issue: “If you compare it with Black Lives Matter and the police officers in the U.S., it’s racism. It’s almost the same.”

 

An American-Israeli police alliance

American police killed 1,127 people in 2020 — 28% of those killed were Black; the U.S. population is just over 12% Black.

On the other side of the world — in Palestine-Israel — the numbers tell a similar story. In 2019, 13 people are known to have been killed by the police, 11 of them were Palestinians and two others were of Ethiopian descent.

Despite the difference in statistics, an ongoing exchange of militant practices and abusive tactics entwines the two organizations together.

In 2002, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) launched a law enforcement exchange between Israeli and American police forces. Its success birthed an official exchange program between the allies, under which every year hundreds of American police officers travel to Israel for training with military and police personnel. Thousands more participate in conferences and workshops led by Israeli officials in the U.S.

According to a 2018 report by Researching the American-Israeli Alliance (RAIA), while the exchanges are touted as an opportunity for American police to partner with a foreign ally and gain invaluable counter-terrorism experience, they actually reinforce discriminatory practices embedded in law enforcement. Specifically, these exchanges enhance strategies of surveillance, racial profiling, and forceful suppression of protests among American police officers. RAIA wrote:

Upon their return, U.S. law enforcement delegates implement practices learned from Israel’s use of invasive surveillance, blatant racial profiling, and repressive force against dissent. Rather than promoting security for all, these programs facilitate an exchange of methods in state violence and control that endanger[s] us all.”

Overall, this “Israelization” of the U.S. police leads to increased militarization of an already heavily militarized police force.

In Israel, citizens are obliged to spend two years in the army. The Anabtawi family’s lawyer said he would like to believe police officers coming from the IDF understand the difference between a citizen and an enemy. Alber Nahas explained:

When you are with the army, you are fighting the enemy. If you are fighting the enemy, it’s easier to shoot, to kill the enemy, but the police should not look at the Arab people, the citizens inside the country, as enemies. So, the government should better educate the police so this doesn’t happen.

Because the statistics are saying to us that there are more Arabs who were killed by policemen than non-Arabs. And this shouldn’t be accepted as a human being.”

Feature photo | Haganah recruits march from a secret camp used by the organization beofre they are sent to the secure outlying Jewish colonies. Photo | AP

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post Just Like in the US, Policing in Israel is Rooted in Racist Violence appeared first on MintPress News.

NED-Funded Uyghur Separatist Network and CAIR Director Rally Around Cold War Propaganda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 4:37am in

WASHINGTON — On March 30, demonstrators gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington, calling on the U.S. Congress to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention and Human Rights Protection Acts.

This legislation would ban the import of products alleged to be made from forced labor in China. It also authorizes President Biden to sanction anyone believed to be responsible for labor trafficking.

Despite their tiny numbers, these protesters have a powerful force backing them: the U.S. government. Several of them are funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, an ostensible non-governmental organization that itself is funded by Congress. Over the last two decades, through the NED, the U.S. government has poured millions of dollars into a network of organizations advocating for a neo-Ottoman separatist state in China’s Xinjiang province, what they call East Turkestan.

Indeed, these Uyghur exiles pose as grassroots activists attempting to pressure the very same Congress that is funding their activities. Most prominent among them is Rushan Abbas.

 

Rushan Abbas’s resume

“The Chinese regime is waging war against humanity. Against the basic rights God has given to us and waging war against our ethnicity and religion,” Abbas told the crowd.

Her profile – now scrubbed from the internet – boasts of “extensive experience working with U.S. government agencies, including Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Justice, and various U.S. intelligence agencies.” Most famously, she worked as a translator for Uyghur detainees at the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Abbas also worked at Radio Free Asia – what The New York Times described as a “Worldwide Propaganda Network Built by the C.I.A.” Today, she heads the Campaign For Uyghurs, an organization funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

Also in attendance was Elfidar Iltebir, secretary of the Uyghur American Association. This is a subsidiary of the World Uyghur Congress, the main NED-funded organ of the separatist movement. The NED has granted millions of dollars to the World Uyghur Congress since its founding, and gave it the Democracy Award in 2019.

“As the world has witnessed in the last decade, Chinese communists, instead of respecting religious beliefs, and embracing democracy, [has] become more racist, fascist and tyrannical,” Iltebir said.

Days before the rally, Iltebir took part in a Uyghur caravan denouncing a “Stop Asian Hate” rally. Fellow caravan participants shouted obscenities at the protesters.

 

Unreliable narrators

The director of the Uyghur American Association is Kuzzat Altay. An investigation by Ajit Singh, published in The Grayzone, revealed that Altay and his brother Faruk have been trained by a former U.S. Army ranger as part of a Uyghur militia called Altay Defense.

Elfidar Iltebir’s sister is Elnigar Iltebir, who in 2019 was appointed to be the Trump administration’s director for China at the National Security Council.

I asked Abbas and Elfidar Iltebir about the allegations of a Uyghur genocide.

“More than three million Uyghurs are taken to concentration camps,” Abbas told me.

“So according to the State Department, two million — and the Pentagon, three million — Uyghurs. We believe it’s more than three million Uyghurs are in concentration camps in East Turkestan,” Iltebir said.

On Mike Pompeo’s last day heading Donald Trump’s state department, he published a report accusing China of genocide, claiming more than 1 million civilians are in concentration camps and likening them to the Nazi Holocaust.

Pompeo directly referenced Adrian Zenz, the evangelical Christian fundamentalist whose claims of forced sterilization and labor – the basis of the genocide label – have been discredited as the product of data abuse and outright fraud.

In May 2020, several months before Pompeo’s genocide claim, then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver suggested the number was much higher, though he offered no evidence.

“The detention camps, given what we understand to be the magnitude of the detention, at least a million but likely closer to three million citizens,” Schriver told reporters.

I asked how many people have died in the alleged concentration camps.

“It’s hard to tell because the numbers China gives are never trustworthy. So according to the camp survivor Mihrigul Tursun, when she was in the camp for three months, nine out of 60 detainees were dead,” Iltebir told me.

Mihrigul Tursun is a Uyghur whose claims have been central to the genocide narrative and who has been featured in the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy’s promotional videos.

She was the central witness in a Congressional Executive Committee on China hearing chaired by the neoconservative Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

The very same Marco Rubio who, in 2016, denounced then-president Obama’s visit to a mosque, accusing him of dividing and pitting people against each other.

At the hearing, Tursun claimed to have had her head shaved, been tortured and nearly killed in an electric chair, and witnessed deaths of fellow inmates.

Harrowing testimony, to be sure. But is it factual? Well, it’s hard to say. However, the Chinese state media outlet CGTN caught Tursun lying to CNN about the death of her son.

So the claim of Uyghurs being killed comes down to the testimony of one person whose own mother was revealed to be a liar. If Mihrigul Tursun is lying, it wouldn’t be the first time the U.S. government would have a sympathetic character give teary-eyed but false testimony in order to justify military aggression. That testimony, of course, turned out to be a lie cooked up by a member of congress and a PR firm.

Back at the rally, Rushan Abbas couldn’t cite any actual figures, but insisted Uyghurs are being killed en masse.

“We may not know that there’s going to be like tens of thousands of dead bodies somewhere or gas chambers, but everything that the Chinese government is doing in our homeland is exterminating the Uyghur people and killing the Uyghurs basically,” Abbas explained.

 

Crematoriums and credulity

Both Rushan Abbas and Elfidar Iltebir also claimed that China has constructed crematoriums next to concentration camps, evoking imagery of the Nazi Holocaust.

“Also China built crematoriums around the camps,” according to Iltebir.

“Crematoriums are built next to it, next to those concentration camps, for a culture that doesn’t practice cremation. Right there, that should give a warning signal.” Abbas alleged.

But unlike in the Nazi death camps, there’s no evidence of Chinese crematoriums. Instead, there are a handful of articles from the U.S. propaganda organ Radio Free Asia where Abbas used to work.

This Radio Free Asia article about crematoriums references claims to have aerial photos delivered by the Uyghur Transitional Justice Database, a Norway based organization that is also funded by the National Endowment For Democracy. Yet the supposed photos of the alleged crematoriums are not provided.

Instead, the article contains a blurry image of what it claims is an internment camp, provided by serial fabulist Adrian Zenz, and says “there might be a cremation site near the camps.”

uyghur internment camp

Source | Radio Free Asia

The Radio Free Asia article also references a previous article that alleges the regional government listed tenders for contractors to build nine quote “burial management centers” that include crematoria.

A native Mandarin speaker searched the website of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and found nothing corroborating this claim.

The same report claims the existence of a job posting listed on the Xinjiang official government website seeking 50 security personnel to work in a crematorium.

There is no link to the job posting, a screenshot of any kind of evidence or of this job posting; and, again, research by a native Mandarin speaker came up empty.

It is, however, true that the Chinese government mandates cremation. Except, this only applies to the ethnic Han majority. Ethnic minorities including Uyghurs are exempt.

This 2003 document explains the policy, citing respect for customs of ethnic minorities, and instead allows them land for cemeteries.

“Ethnic minorities which traditionally practice inhumation are exempt from the government requirement of cremation, and are allotted special land for cemeteries,” the document says.

In fact, the cover photo of the first Radio Free Asia article shows a newly constructed and weatherproof Uyghur cemetery in Xinjiang. The traditional form of dirt burials had left them vulnerable to the elements, as this CGTN report explains.

Those Radio Free Asia articles were authored by Uyghur exile Gulchehra Hoja. In 2019, Hoja and Tursun were photographed proudly shaking hands with former CIA director and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

 

Just lobby, like the Uyghurs

At the rally, I asked Elfidar Iltebir what she thought about the U.S. government’s treatment of Muslims.

“Do you think Mike Pompeo and Antony Blinken are good allies to Muslims,” I asked?

“I believe so. I believe so,” Iltebir told me. “They do have strong beliefs which we see, you know? And they do stand up for human rights. And I believe they are indeed from the heart, care about humanity.”

Iltebir assured me that despite the U.S.-sponsored catastrophes in Muslim-majority countries like Yemen, Syria, and Palestine, the U.S. is actually taking care of their rights and they should simply lobby congressional lawmakers like the Uyghurs have.

“I am sure the U.S. did enough for their rights. Because I’m in the Uyghur diaspora I read more about those, so I may not have enough information to make a comment on that. But I would recommend those from Yemen and others to get together and do advocacy work and inform the Congress, inform the Senate, inform the government officials about what is going on. And if they know enough, I think they will take an action,” she assured. So what I suggest is for other Muslim countries to keep doing the advocacy work, lobbying.”

“Same with the Palestinians, for example,” I asked.

“Yes, and reach out for help. Reach out for other groups too,” she continued.

“Would you call what’s happening to the Palestinians a genocide,” I asked.

“Umm, as I said, because I don’t have enough information like I don’t read, I’m not up to date with what’s going on, I’m not the right person to make that comment,” Iltebir told me.

 

A very selective concern

When I asked Rushan Abbas why the U.S. is supposedly interested in the rights of Uyghurs while committing atrocities in Muslim-majority countries, she assured me that the U.S. is taking steps to ensure their rights.

“Why does the U.S. care about human rights for the Uyghur people but not about the Yemeni people, not about Palestinians,” I asked.

“I’m sure that they have, you know, other projects funding and supporting to end those atrocities as well,” Abbas told me.

Abbas then warned that China is seeking to imprison the entire world in concentration camps:

Look at the Uyghur today and imagine the future of the free, democratic world. Because that’s what Chinese government wants. If they win over the Uyghurs or win over the people like criticizing the Western countries or this and that, and they let us concentrate on something else and get away with what they are doing, then the darkness of what the Uyghurs are facing will be the future of the entire world.”

Finally, Abbas lashed out at Daniel Dumbrill, a Canadian vlogger based in China whom she accuses of making money from the Chinese government.

“They are very actively using the social media, using those famous YouTubers to spread disinformation and false narratives,” she claimed.

“Who are these people?” I asked.

“This is a guy, Daniel Dumbrill, he is supposed to be Canadian, living in Shenzhen, making money from the Chinese government. He has a brewing company,” she explained.

“He’s paid by the Chinese government?” I responded.

Well he has a company in Shenzhen supported by the Chinese regime because the Chinese regime is always advertising his brewing company in state-owned media… He accuses me of being paid by the US government or CIA but I’m not going to do what he is doing because I don’t have evidence.”

But Rushan Abbas has long been on the payroll of the U.S. government and continues to be funded by the National Endowment For Democracy, a fact she didn’t deny when I had brought it up earlier in our interview.

“What do you say to criticism about the funding that you’ve gotten and still get from the U.S. government,” I asked her.

“Because the U.S. cares about the human rights for the Uyghur people,” Abbas told me.

While Abbas acknowledges that she doesn’t have evidence that Daniel Dumbrill is paid by the Chinese government, she insisted on portraying him as its beneficiary.

“One thing you should think,” she said, “if he can use Youtube and Twitter and social media, which none of the other people who are living in China can use, if he has a brewing company being supported and advertised by the Chinese regime, what do you say?”

I contacted Daniel Dumbrill, who denied Abbas’s allegations that the Chinese government affords him special internet privileges and that Chinese media runs advertisements for his business, explaining:

I don’t think Rushan truly believes that millions of people accessing social media from China don’t know how to use a VPN and their only option is to do favors for the Chinese government. As for her other claim, I actually made a special note that if any media outlet came to interview me about my politics or vlogging, that they not mention my business. I didn’t want to conflate the two. Ironically it’s my critics that speak about my business more than I do. And this is a really good opportunity. Ask Rushan to provide any evidence to this claim and you’ll find, like many of her other claims, there’s just nothing there to back it up because it’s simply not true.”

Indeed, I asked Abbas for evidence but she declined to provide it, saying she is “not interested in anything he had to say.”

 

CAIR weighs in

Yet it wasn’t only Uyghur separatist figures linked to intelligence agencies at the rally. Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), attended too.

“We ask the Biden administration to fulfill its promise to put human rights on the top of their agenda,” Awad told the small crowd.

While on one hand defending the civil rights of Muslim-Americans and refugees targeted by the U.S. government in the post 9/11 era, CAIR has also been a key proponent of destructive U.S. wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

In 2011, CAIR backed the Obama administration’s decision to launch a NATO regime-change war on Libya, which plunged the country into chaos and brought open-air slave markets back to the African continent. In 2015, CAIR supported the U.S. dirty war on Syria, calling for a no-fly zone – a euphemism for the U.S. to shoot down Syrian and Russian military aircraft.

CAIR has called on its membership to pressure Congress to pass the so-called Caesar Act, the most crippling sanctions on Syria to date. These sanctions have criminalized international aid, created severe energy shortages, and caused a devastating famine. According to Foreign Policy magazine, “it has brought starvation, darkness, plague, misery, robbery, kidnappings, and the destruction of a nation.”

Now, under the guise of humanitarianism, CAIR is throwing its weight behind the U.S.’s new cold war against China.

Dr. Talibi Shareef, the Imam and president of Washington’s historic Masjid Muhammad mosque, attended too.

“We are asking that America, its government, its president, its leaders, put pressure on China to treat every one of their citizens as the creation of the Almighty God the Creator,” he said, “as has been identified, in the precious document that established this country: this Declaration of Independence.”

Imam Shareef told me that Congress passing this legislation targeting China would be a sign of the U.S. living up to the ideals expressed in its founding documents, and he seemed to suggest the U.S. should take military action.

“So if the U.S., for example, recognizes this Uyghur genocide, and advances legislation to challenge it, you think that will be a sign that the U.S. is advancing towards a more harmonious, racially tolerant atmosphere?” I asked.

“Absolutely it would be a sign. And it’s really the least they should be able to do. I served in the military for over thirty years. So I know they have different instruments of power,” he assured me.

 

Pompeo finishes with a full-split

But the Uyghur genocide narrative was the project of former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, one of the most extreme Islamophobes in U.S. politics.

After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Pompeo remarked that “silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts.” Pompeo has accepted awards from the hate group ACT for America, whose founder Brigitte Gabriel said that an American Muslim  “cannot be a loyal citizen” and that Islam is the “real enemy.”

But for Imam Shareef, Pompeo’s last-day genocide designation wasn’t an attempt to irreversibly ramp up aggression with China, but a sign of genuine change of heart.

“Why do you think someone like Mike Pompeo, who is widely considered an Islamophobe, is so serious about this issue?” I asked.

“Well, I think some of that had to do with some sense of consciousness to speak the truth,” Imam Shareef told me, adding:

He was on his way out. He knew he was on his way out. Because we got to look at the whole time he was in in terms of how he addressed it. And this is a short period of time, and for him, I think in terms of consequences to him, were inconsequential for him to make that statement at that particular time even if it was going against the interests of the one that he was representing. That’s why I think he said it. But again, I do see him as one who represents that right extremist population. “

“So you think, just on this issue, kind of at the end he kinda came to his senses and said, ‘I’m gonna be in solidarity with these people?’” I asked.

“I do,” he affirmed. “I do.”

With little pushback, the Uyghur issue is the central component of a bipartisan push to weaken and divide China and is now at the top of Washington’s foreign policy agenda.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000.

The post NED-Funded Uyghur Separatist Network and CAIR Director Rally Around Cold War Propaganda appeared first on MintPress News.

The Hawks Who Want War With Iran Are Working Overtime

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 2:01am in

WASHINGTON (Jacobin) Just as talks between the United States and Iran were taking place last week in Vienna, a cyberattack was carried out on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. Reports are that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, was behind the attack that blacked out the facility just one day after Tehran launched new advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges, and as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was in Israel speaking about the United States’ “enduring and ironclad” commitment to the Jewish state.

This is the latest in a series of Israeli attacks on Iran designed to scuttle negotiations. Last summer, a number of explosions attributed to Israel broke out across Iran, including a fire at the Natanz site. These took place while US elections were in full swing and Biden was promising that if elected, he would return the United States to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) that Trump withdrew from in 2018. In November 2020, Israeli operatives assassinated Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear scientist in the city of Absard outside Tehran. Had Iran responded, the United States might have been dragged into an all-out war.

Israeli officials have also directly lobbied the US Congress to quash the deal. In 2015, Netanyahu traveled to Washington, DC in 2015 to address a joint session of Congress in an attempt to uncut Obama’s original negotiations. This time, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen will be traveling to Washington to meet with top White House and US intelligence officials, and he hopes with Biden directly, to convince the administration that Iran has been concealing details about its nuclear program and therefore can’t be trusted. This is indeed ironic coming from a country that, unlike Iran, actually has nuclear weapons and refuses to disclose any information about its program.

Like Israel, the powerful US lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is trying to convince Biden not to go back into the JCPOA. Last month, they organized bipartisan letters in the House and Senate, urging the Biden administration to insist on an expanded deal that included missiles, human rights, and Iran’s activities in the region. Since Tehran has been clear that an expanded or amended deal is a nonstarter, such “advice” was an attempt to quash talks.

The neoconservative think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), which worked inside the Trump administration during and after Trump pulled out of the JCPOA, has been relentlessly pushing for war with Iran. After the United States recklessly assassinated Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz gloated, tweeting that the death of Soleimani was “more consequential than the killing of [Osama] #BinLaden”; and on April 11, the same day as the Natanz blackout, former CIA officer and FDD fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht, speaking on CNN, voiced disappointment that Trump hadn’t taken the United States and Iran into an all-out war.

Another group against a deal with Iran is Christians United for Israel (CUFI), one of the most powerful pro-Israel voices in the United States. In March 2021, CUFI urged the Senate not to confirm Colin Kahl for a top policy position at the Pentagon, claiming, “Kahl is a serial Iran appeaser” who “helped advance the disastrous Iran nuclear accord.” In response to the blackout at Natanz, they cheered Netanyahu, tweeting “‘Battling Iran is a colossal mission,’ Netanyahu says following blackout at Iranian nuclear plant.”

The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, which the United States had previously designated as a terrorist organization and is known for assassinations and bombings it has carried out, is virulently opposed to US-Iran diplomacy. In March 2021, a number of US Senators attended a virtual event organized by the MEK-aligned Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) calling for continued US sanctions and “bringing down the regime.” Senator Bob Menendez, the powerful chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was among several Democrats in attendance.

The opponents of the Iran deal are trying to keep in place the draconian wall of sanctions that the Trump administration imposed precisely to make it more difficult for a future US administration to rejoin the JCPOA. But these sanctions are causing immense suffering for ordinary Iranians, including runaway inflation and skyrocketing food and medicine prices. According to the UN, they contributed to the government’s “inadequate and opaque” response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit Iran particularly hard.

While “successful” in inflicting harm on the Iranian people, the sanctions have failed to broaden the terms of the talks, led the nation to increase its uranium enrichment, negatively impacted the human rights situation, and put the United States and Iran on the brink of an all-out war on multiple occasions.

That’s why so many people in Iran, and those who care about them, have been encouraged by this new round of diplomatic engagement. But Israel, AIPAC, CUFI, FDD, MEK, Menendez, and the like are probably instead hoping that Iran carries out the revenge that Iranian officials have called for in response to the Natanz blackout. But as the saboteurs of diplomacy hope for a violent escalation, let’s keep in mind — and hope Iran agrees — that the best revenge would be a revived JCPOA.

Feature photo | Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, April 7, 2021. Heidi Levine | Pool via AP

Ariel Gold is the national codirector and senior Middle East policy analyst with CODEPINK for Peace.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The post The Hawks Who Want War With Iran Are Working Overtime appeared first on MintPress News.

From RussiaGate to UkraineGate: Route to Apocalypse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/04/2021 - 3:44am in

KIEV, UKRAINE — Within three months of the ascendancy of Joseph Biden to the presidency of the United States, the world teeters on the edge of nuclear war, whether by design or accident, as Russia reports that the U.S. is placing considerable pressure on Ukraine to attack the independent republics of the Donbass for which Russia provides logistical support. The U.S. European Command has raised its alert status to the highest level and warned of a “potential imminent crisis.”

Mounting tension is an entirely foreseeable outcome of the sludge-like flow over the past four years of Democratic Party fables about Russia, RussiaGate, Ukraine, and U.S. national security, on behalf of the Incubus, a sordid network of military, defense and surveillance industries, militarized academe and think tanks, and complicit Western mainstream media.

In his first phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, U.S. President Joseph Biden affirmed his country’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s allegedly ongoing aggression in the Donbass and Crimea. Biden’s defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, in a conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, added his assurances of U.S. support for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations (i.e., Ukraine’s ambition to acquire full membership in both NATO and the EU), which, if achieved, would add a further 1400 miles to the boundary between NATO and Russia and cement the encirclement of Russia.

In as many months as Biden has held the presidency the U.S. has shipped three consignments of arms to Ukraine, adding to the $2 billion of security assistance the U.S. has extended to Ukraine since 2014. The U.S. has deployed nuclear-capable B-1 bombers to Norway for the first time in NATO’s history. This year’s NATO war exercises include U.S.-led Rapid Trident and Sea Breeze, British-Ukrainian Cossack Mace and Warrior Watcher, Romanian-Ukrainian Riverine, and Polish-Ukrainian Three Swords and Silver Sabre.

A dangerous new joker in the pack is Turkey, relatively fresh from assisting Azerbaijan’s 2020 victory against Armenia in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, now participating in NATO-Ukrainian military exercises against Russia. This move threatens escalation of tensions between Moscow and Ankara in Turkey’s seeming bid with NATO to seal off the Black Sea from Russian presence, as part of which Ukraine hopes to establish two new military bases (with financial help from the U.K.), help steal the major Russian naval port of Sebastopol for Ukraine, and consolidate Turkish control over oil and gas deposits to which Turkey lays claim. Turkish frigates have joined U.S. and Ukrainian navies in the Black Sea since January.

 

The contribution of RussiaGate demonization

There were many solid grounds for an upswell of both establishment and public alarm as Donald Trump eked out electoral victory in 2016 and as he unfolded his agenda over the succeeding four years. His relations with Russia were not among them. Far more important and evidentiary was his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the threats of climate change. Not only did he repudiate evidence that climate change might well lead to the end of the human species within a generation or two, but he actively reversed weak countermeasures already in place. Worse, he malevolently sought to amplify the threat, among other things by boosting fossil fuel interests and doubling back on transition to lower fuel emissions from petroleum cars.

He exacerbated the shameless verticalization of wealth inequality in the U.S., obfuscating this with sordid appeals to racist and fascist instincts of his base in decayed, industrial wastelands vacated by a U.S.-globalized economy. Where capital accrues in private hands to a degree that it can compete against and corrupt the public sphere and — through disproportionate, anonymous advocacy, lobbying, campaign finance and bribery — undermine attempts to regulate corporate and plutocratic power, there is no meaningful democracy. Trump’s behavior towards the end of his period in office and apparent incitement of a violent coup d’etat, testify to an unhinged oligarchic impulse to narcissistic promotion of personal and class interest above all competing considerations, even above annihilation of the species.

As though none of these concerns provided sufficient political ammunition, the Democratic Party throughout much of Trump’s presidency allowed just one meme to drown out almost everything else: RussiaGate. Not only did this fable get little traction with the majority of people living in the real world, the RussiaGate narrative has proven to lie somewhere between disinformation and egregious hoax.

Trump Russia

A woman looks at front pages from around the nation on display at the Washington Newseum, March 23, 2019. Alex Brandon | AP

It was founded on at least three dubious chains of argument:

  1. A piece of opposition research cobbled together by a former MI6 agent and paid for by the Democratic Party (the “Steele dossier”);
  2. Perhaps the shallowest Intelligence Community Assessment ever published (the ICA of January 2016); this piece of theatre provided little to no actual evidence of significance, disavowed any claim to accuracy, but legitimized claims of a private contractor, CrowdStrike (hired by the DNC but with previous FBI links), for which the company later admitted it had no direct evidence, that DNC servers had been hacked by Russians;
  3. An FBI investigation, Crossfire Hurricane, that proceeded amidst increasing awareness of the problematic, deeply partisan character of the Steele dossier, which it deployed in the process of seeking FISA warrants to investigate a Trump adviser whom it knew to have been a CIA informant (information it tried to hide).

Did Trump and his campaign team have connections to Russians? Of course, some of them did. Yet a two-year-long investigation by a former FBI director, drawing on the assistance of over a dozen FBI agents, was unable to establish that there had been coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Its most significant indictments against Russians fell apart when challenged. Robert Mueller was barely able to establish obstruction because there had been no fundamental criminality whose investigation could be obstructed.

Those who received any punishment were charged with offenses that had little or nothing at all to do with the fundamental reason why the special counsel had been appointed. Donald Trump, in his campaign, had wisely recognized the advantages of building more positive relations between Russia and the U.S. (disincentivizing Sino-Russian bonding not the least of them). Under the cloud of RussiaGate suspicion fomented ceaselessly by the Democrats and their media allies, the only Russia-related measures that Trump took while in office undermined U.S.-Russia relations, recklessly plunging the world towards the nuclear abyss from a precipice admirably suited for none other than his successor, President Joe Biden.

 

The 2014 Ukraine coup

Trump had been roundly castigated, and impeached, for pressurizing a new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Trump’s likely rival, Joe Biden, for the 2020 election, in return for expediting U.S. arms support to Ukraine in its struggle against separatist republics of eastern Ukraine (the Donbass). Whatever its legality, Trump’s behavior certainly did not favor Russia. It could be argued that there was a stronger actual tie between Ukraine and President Biden than ever existed between former President Trump and Russia. Trump was unable even to interest Moscow or Russian President Vladimir Putin in a proposal for a Moscow Trump Tower. Biden left a much deeper impression on Ukraine.

In 2014 the Obama administration — in part through the offices of Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European affairs — supported a coup d’etat in Ukraine that, through persistent street demonstrations in which neo-Nazi militia played a key role, toppled Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych. Although labeled pro-Russian by Western mainstream media, Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions, advised in part by none other than key RussiaGate player Paul Manafort (later and for a brief period appointed chair of the Trump campaign in 2016), tilted towards acceptance of an agreement with the European Union that would have unquestionably cemented the EU as Ukraine’s major patron in rivalry with Russia.

Yanukovych fatefully switched direction from the EU in favor of Russia at the last moment (possibly because Russia was offering a more attractive, less patronizing, and ultimately less invasive deal), thus provoking the Maidan protests, U.S./EU (and Biden’s) egging them on, and Yanukovych’s departure. Protestors met with deadly resistance by State forces but there were also resistance snipers who shot protestors with a view to further inflaming international support in their favor.

In its initial deliberations, the emerging coup regime following the departure of Yanukovych expressed considerable hostility towards the influence of Russia, Russian language, Russian media, and Russian culture through many parts of southern and eastern Ukraine that were predominantly Russian speaking (just as Zelensky is doing once more in 2021). This would explain and possibly justify Russia’s concern for the welfare of the considerable population of Russian-speakers in Crimea, which had belonged to Russia (or the former Soviet Union) for over two hundred years and whose economy was built around Sebastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. That city has long been a major Russian naval center and one of Russia’s few major seaports, leased by Russia under treaty with Ukraine that allowed for the presence of several thousand Russian troops.

A threatening, anti-Russian government in Kiev guaranteed that Russia would protect its security interests and the interests of most of the Crimean population. This it did, but only after a referendum of the Crimean people and a subsequent formal request from Crimea to Russia that it be permitted to rejoin Russia. Reliable polls from both before and after the return of Crimea to Russia indicate consistently strong popular support for the measure in Crimea.

 

The Big Lie

Biden’s support for Ukraine’s membership in NATO contravened the firm promise given in 1990 to the last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, by James Baker, secretary of state to George H.W. Bush, that in return for Soviet conceding of the unification of Germany, NATO would never extend further east of the new European behemoth (RT, 2017). As vice-president, Biden had visited Ukraine six times in seven years. Biden had long advocated that Ukraine, along with other post-Soviet Russian states, become a member of NATO. Before any other consideration, this casts Biden’s relations with the current Ukraine regime in a very problematic light, a possibly deadly one for the future of the human species.

Explanation requires a revisit to the Obama administration and then-Vice President Biden’s support for the 2014 coup in Kiev and his later stern demands, delivered even in the Ukrainian Rada itself, that the succeeding coup regime of President Petro Poroshenko apply itself to anti-corruption efforts. These have been somewhat ineffective. In the absence of any very senior prosecutions, critics have suggested that the more important function of the West’s campaign against corruption in Ukraine has been to establish a network of new institutions — whose legitimacy derives from western pressure and which undermine the country’s existing, if ponderous legal system — while providing scope to local power holders in the corruption matrix for blackmail.

Victoria Nuland Ukraine

Obama staffer Victoria Nuland offers cookies to pro-EU protesters in Kiev, Dec. 11, 2013. Andrew Kravchenko | AP

Corruption and supposed efforts to reduce it have become a neoconservative weapon of choice with which to operate the controls on the funding sluice gates to acolytes of the U.S.-led international neoconservative empire. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was offered a lucrative position on the board of Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company controlled by an oligarch, almost certainly because of his father’s prominence. The oligarch in question was Mykola Zlochevsky, former minister of natural resources under the allegedly “pro-Russian” Yanukovych. Trump administration figures claimed that Joe Biden had pressed the post-coup government of President Poroshenko to sack its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to discourage him from investigating Burisma. Burisma had been under scrutiny for alleged improper acquisition of licenses (unrelated to Hunter Biden’s position on the board). Biden and a group of U.S. allies were said to have urged Shokin’s ouster in 2015, on the grounds that he was turning a blind eye to corruption. Shokin has claimed that his actions as general prosecutor did not suit Biden’s interests and that Biden was motivated by his son’s connection to Burisma.

 

Poroshenko and Zelensky

Ukraine’s two presidents since the 2014 coup, Petro Poroshenko (2014 to 2019) and Volodymyr Zelensky (2019 to the present), each started with strong support that quickly waned. The country has scarcely improved. Gross National Product peaked in December 2013; unemployment has increased from 7% to over 10%; Ukraine remains the second poorest country in Europe per capita.

Corruption, the supposed key force behind popular support for the elections of both Poroshenko and Zelensky, continues to be rampant. Kiev’s policies of stand-off with Russia have been dramatically counter-productive and have deprived Ukraine of Crimea and control of major industrial areas of the Donbass. Some 14,000 lives have been taken, 1.4 million people displaced, and 3.5 million remain in need of humanitarian assistance.

With Russia’s development of Nord Stream 2, bitterly contested by the U.S., Ukraine stands to lose $3 billion a year in transit fees that with more prudent negotiation it might have hoped to retain. Kiev administrations have been unwilling to progress the Minsk Protocol, agreed in 2015 to end the struggle in the Donbass and signed by Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Under the agreements, Ukraine was required to pardon the participants of the conflict, carry out local elections, and recognize a de facto autonomy of the region in the Constitution. Russia was obliged to return its equipment and mercenaries to Ukraine, ensure that local military formations laid down arms, and cede to Ukraine control over its border with Russia.

Ukraine has complained that, as warfare is ongoing, elections are hardly possible and that fair elections are not achievable before it secures control of the border. Russia insists that amnesty should be granted in advance of the elections and before Ukraine regains control of the border, while Ukraine considers that an amnesty can happen only after these events and after public discussion. The Kiev administration has been wedded to a highly centralized vision and finds the idea of greater regional autonomy repugnant. It claims that Russia supports greater autonomy because that gives it greater control over the Donbass. It would be truer to say that Ukraine is an ethnically riven polity in which the dominant ethnicity does not have sufficient political will to risk taking the only measures that can yield a lasting peace.

Ukraine Donetsk

Locals visit their homes to collect belongings after shelling near a frontline outside Donetsk, April 9, 2021. Photo | AP

Any indication that Poroshenko might move in the direction of Minsk provoked far-right paramilitary opposition. His successor, Zelensky, is a former comedian, a neoconservative cutout who achieved power on the basis not of actual policies but of the imaginary policies of his satirical show (aired on a channel owned by anti-Russian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky) — also the title of his political party, Servant of the People.

As Zelensky loses support (his party performed disastrously in local elections in November 2020 – it did not win a single mayoral race or even a majority in any regional parliament or city council), he has escalated action of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Donbass (despite some ministerial appointments that appear pro-Russian), in an apparent bid to establish greater political legitimacy for his party in western Ukraine but at the cost of a steeply rising number of weekly ceasefire violations. He has continued to collaborate in joint actions with NATO and allied forces in military exercises along the Russian border that appear designed to provoke Russia (whose 4,000 troops mustered there remain insufficient for invasion, given the estimated total number of 100,000 NATO and Ukrainian troops participating in exercises during 2021).

In recent months he has introduced measures to sanction pro-Russian opposition leaders, shut down pro-Russian media outlets owned by opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk, and restrict Russian language use, while he condemns opposition leaders who back a negotiated settlement with Moscow.

In March, Zelensky signed Presidential Decree No. 117/2021, declaring it was official Ukraine policy to take back Crimea. He approved plans to admit foreign troops for military exercises led by UN and NATO nations and asked NATO to monitor airspace across the border with Russia. His new military strategy emphasizes subjugation of Donetsk, Lugansk and Crimea. In 2020, NATO designated Ukraine an “Enhanced Opportunity Partner,” giving it the same status as Georgia, Sweden, Finland, Australia and Jordan (Ritter, 2020), to promote the “partnership interoperability” initiative, which in effect means that NATO extends greater trust to Ukraine to follow NATO’s orders and interests.

Actual full membership in NATO is unlikely, given European opposition to this, the rift between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea, the persistence of corruption, and Ukraine’s dispute with Hungary over curbs on minority rights. Yet the lure is sufficient for Zelensky to offer Ukraine to NATO as a suitable battleground for possible nuclear war. Understandably, this enthusiasm for NATO is not shared by most Ukrainians.

Zelensky may believe, in the face of European opposition, that playing footstool to NATO aggression will secure full membership in NATO for Ukraine and NATO intervention in the Donbass to secure victory for the Armed Forces of Ukraine — despite the fact that Ukraine’s rift with Russia would need first to be resolved before full membership is possible under the conditions that must be met for membership, and even though direct NATO intervention would be tantamount to a declaration of war that could turn nuclear at any point. There is no conceivable advantage to the Ukraine, the U.S. or Russia in this scenario. But mad pursuit of idiotic objectives is de rigueur machismo among adherents to neoconservative ideology at the service of corporate and plutocratic power, much as it is for the politics of resistance to meaningful solutions to climate change.

Feature photo | Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the war-hit Donbass region amid heightened tensions with Russia, April 9, 2021. UPPO via AP

Oliver Boyd-Barrett is Professor Emeritus at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, and at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is an expert on international media, news, and propaganda. His writings can be accessed by subscription at Substack.

The post From RussiaGate to UkraineGate: Route to Apocalypse appeared first on MintPress News.

Safely Past Another Election, Israel Turns Attention Back to De-Arabization of The Zionist State

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/04/2021 - 12:58am in

JERUSALEM — As these words are being typed, The Holy Month of Ramadan is about to begin and I want to begin by wishing my Muslim brothers and sisters, friends, and all Muslims around the world Ramadan Karim. I was born and raised in Jerusalem, which has been an Arab and Muslim city for over 1,500 years. The sight of this beautiful ancient city during Ramadan is unforgettable. The lights and decorations, the festivities, and the families enjoying all of this are heartwarming.

Sadly, since the Zionist invasion of Palestine 73 years ago, and particularly since the savage conquest of the Old City 54 years ago, this city has been under attack. The very essence of the city, its monuments and holy places, are constantly threatened by Zionist fanatics who want to see Al-Aqsa Mosque destroyed and replaced by what they refer to as a “Jewish Temple.” They make no secret of their intentions, as the entire world saw when the U.S. ambassador to Tel-Aviv, David Friedman, received as a gift a poster-size photo of the Haram El-Sharif in which Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock were replaced by another structure.

 

Israel votes to plough ahead

After holding four elections in two years, it is clear that for the foreseeable future Benjamin Netanyahu will continue to be Israel’s prime minister. He has won an overwhelming number of seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and it is obvious that, by and large, Israeli voters are happy to see him lead the Zionist State. His strategy of divide and rule has been very successful at fragmenting any opposition he may have had, and now we will see those who ran against him coming to him asking for a piece of the pie.

All of the religious parties and the religious-Zionist parties, as well as the parties associated with the right in general, are already in Netanyahu’s pocket. It is not unlikely that some of the “center” and “center left” parties that ran against Netanyahu will end up sitting in his coalition as well, and that gives him a comfortable majority.

All the reports that there is a logjam and that Netanyahu’s Likud Party may not be able to reach a majority coalition are mere reflections of negotiating positions. Most if not all of these positions will soften or disappear and a coalition government with Netanyau as prime minister will emerge.

 

Kahanists are here

When Israelis want to talk about extreme neo-fascist racists within Israeli politics they bring up the infamous racist Meir Kahana, who prescribed a fanatic Zionist-religious ideology and had a sizeable following among Israelis who settled in the West Bank. He was the founder of the notoriously violent, supremacist Jewish Defense League, or JDL.

Among the known members of the JDL are Keith Fuchs and Andy Green, who are implicated in the 1988 assassination of Palestinian Alex Odeh in California. Another known follower of the JDL and Kahana was Baruch Goldestein, who committed the massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old City of Hebron in 1994.

There are several members of the Knesset who are ideologically aligned with the Kahana brand of Jewish supremacy and in this last election at least one new one was added, attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir. Ben-Gvir is loud and proud of his reputation as a Kahana follower but ideologically he is really no different from other, less provocative Israeli politicians.

One of the names that comes to mind is Ben-Gvir’s political ally Bezalel Smotrich, who was a member of a previous Netanyahu government and a member of the inner security cabinet. Others include Rafi Peretz, who is the minister for Jerusalem affairs; Naftali Benet, who served as minister of education and even as minister of defense for a short while. However, the more worrisome issue is that Benjamin Netanyahu himself is aligned with the same racist, supremacist ideology that sees the elimination of Palestinians from Palestine as a goal.

 

The Joint List

Another accomplishment of Netanyahu’s fragmentation strategy is the demise of the Joint Arab List. The United Arab List, which is an Islamic party, left the Joint List and ran on its own, managing, contrary to most expectations, to get four seats in the Knesset. The Joint List, which had 15 seats in the previous election, got only six his time. The Islamic Party warmed up to Netanyahu and is apparently expecting some sort of political reward for leaving the Joint List.

It is hard to imagine that any Zionist politician would work with an Arab political party and any expectation that Netanyahu would reward them is plain ludicrous. One of the more ridiculous claims that has risen since the elections is that Mansour Abbas, who leads the Islamic United Arab Party, will somehow be part of a future coalition and even become “kingmaker.”

This claim shows a lack of understanding of Zionism in general and particularly of Israeli politics. The racist Zionist ideology runs like a thread through all of Israel’s Zionist political parties and it is thus impossible for any Palestinian to be part of an Israeli government.

 

The vision ahead

People very often ask what the Zionists see as the “end game.” What do Zionists envision as the future? Well, as James Baldwin might say, what they think or imagine we may never know, but we can certainly see what they do and how they act. We are also able to view their plans and hear what they say. Based on all of that, we know that the Zionist State intends to continue to destroy Palestine as we know it. They fully intend on de-Arabizing the country and erasing any remnants of its glorious Islamic history.

There are several declared members of the Knesset and even of the government who are openly in favor of the destruction of Al-Aqsa and the building of what they call a “Third Temple.” One can safely assume that most if not all members of the Israeli political spectrum would view the destruction of Al-Aqsa favorably. The difference would be how far would they go in actually acting on it. Regardless, there is an imminent danger to Jerusalem, to Palestine, and certainly to Palestinian people.

The Zionists openly say that they will allow Palestinians to choose whether they remain in “Israel” as residents without rights, leave, or fight and be killed by the Israeli forces — these same forces that have been killing them for more than seventy years.

Feature photo | A man feeds pigeons near the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, April. 11, 2021. Oded Balilty | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Safely Past Another Election, Israel Turns Attention Back to De-Arabization of The Zionist State appeared first on MintPress News.

How Bellingcat Launders National Security State Talking Points into the Press

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/04/2021 - 5:23am in

AMSTERDAM — Investigative site Bellingcat is the toast of the popular press. In the past month alone, it has been described as “an intelligence agency for the people” (ABC Australia), a “transparent” and “innovative” (New Yorker) “independent news collective,” “transforming investigative journalism” (Big Think), and an unequivocal “force for good” (South China Morning Post). Indeed, outside of a few alternative news sites, it is very hard to hear a negative word against Bellingcat, such is the gushing praise for the outlet founded in 2014.

This is troubling, because the evidence compiled in this investigation suggests Bellingcat is far from independent and neutral, as it is funded by Western governments, staffed with former military and state intelligence officers, repeats official narratives against enemy states, and serves as a key part in what could be called a “spook to Bellingcat to corporate media propaganda pipeline,” presenting Western government narratives as independent research.

 

Citizen journalism staffed with spies and soldiers

An alarming number of Bellingcat’s staff and contributors come from highly suspect backgrounds. Senior Investigator Nick Waters, for example, spent three years as an officer in the British Army, including a tour in Afghanistan, where he furthered the British state’s objectives in the region. Shortly after leaving the service, he was hired by Bellingcat to provide supposedly bias-free investigations into the Middle East.

Former contributor Cameron Colquhoun’s past is even more suspect. Colquhoun spent a decade in a senior position in GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA), where he ran cyber and Middle Eastern terror operations. The Scot specializes in Middle Eastern security and also holds a qualification from the U.S. State Department. None of this, however, is disclosed by Bellingcat, which merely describes him as the managing director of a private intelligence company that “conduct[s] ethical investigations” for clients around the world — thus depriving readers of key information they need to make informed judgments on what they are reading.

Bellingcat spooks

Bellingcat fails to inform its readers of even the most glaring conflicts of interest

There are plenty of former American spooks on Bellingcat’s roster as well. Former contributor Chris Biggers, who penned more than 60 articles for the site between 2014 and 2017, previously worked for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — a combat support unit that works under the Department of Defense and the broader Intelligence Community. Biggers is now the director of an intelligence company headquartered in Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington (close to other semi-private contractor groups like Booz Allen Hamilton), that boasts of having retired Army and Air Force generals on its board. Again, none of this is disclosed by Bellingcat, where Biggers’s bio states only that he is a “public and private sector consultant based in Washington, D.C.”

For six years, Dan Kaszeta was a U.S. Secret Service agent specializing in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and for six more he worked as program manager for the White House Military Office. At Bellingcat, he would provide some of the intellectual ammunition for Western accusations about chemical weapons use in Syria and Russia’s alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

Kaszeta is also a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank funded by a host of Western governments as well as weapons contractors such as Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Its president is a British field marshal (the highest attainable military rank) and its senior vice president is retired American General David Petraeus. Its chairman is Lord Hague, the U.K.’s secretary of state between 2010 and 2015.

Bellingcat Sergei Skripal

A Bellingcat article covering the alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a story covered heavily by the organization. Alexander Zemlianichenko | AP

All of this matters if a group is presenting itself as independent when, in reality, their views align almost perfectly with the governments funding them. But yet again, Bellingcat fails to follow basic journalism ethics and inform readers of these glaring conflict of interests, describing Kaszeta as merely the managing director of a security company and someone with 27 years of experience in security and antiterrorism. This means that unless readers are willing to do a research project they will be none the wiser.

Other Bellingcat contributors have similar pasts. Nour Bakr previously worked for the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office while Karl Morand proudly served two separate tours in Iraq with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division.

Government and intelligence officials are the opposite of journalists. The former exist to promote the interests of power (often against those of the public) while the latter are supposed to hold the powerful to account on behalf of the people. That is why it is so inappropriate that Bellingcat has had so many former spooks on their books. It could be said that ex-officials who have renounced their past or blown the whistle, such as Daniel Ellsberg or John Kiriakou, have utility as journalists. But those who have simply made the transition into media without any change in positions usually serve only the powerful.

 

Who pays the piper?

Just as startling as its spooky staff is Bellingcat’s source of funding. In 2016 its founder, Eliot Higgins, dismissed the idea that his organization got money from the U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as a ludicrous conspiracy theory. Yet, by the next year, he openly admitted the thing he had laughed off for so long was, in fact, true (Bellingcat’s latest available financial report confirms that they continue to receive financial assistance from the NED). As many MintPress readers will know, the NED was explicitly set up by the Reagan administration as a front for the CIA’s regime-change operations. “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” said the organization’s co-founder Allen Weinstein, proudly.

Higgins himself was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, NATO’s quasi-official think tank, from 2016 to 2019. The Atlantic Council’s board of directors is a who’s who of state power, from war planners like Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell to retired generals such as James “Mad Dog” Mattis and H.R. McMaster. It also features no fewer than seven former CIA directors. How Higgins could possibly see taking a paid position at an organization like this while he was still the face of a supposedly open and independent intelligence collective as being at all consistent is unclear.

Bellingcat Atlantic Council Bana Alabed

Bana Alabed, an outsoken anti-Assad child activist, promotes Bellingcat at an Atlantic Council event. Photo | Twitter

Other questionable sources of income include the Human Rights Foundation, an international organization set up by Venezuelan activist Thor Halvorssen Mendoza. Halvorssen is the son of a former government official accused of being a CIA informant and a gunrunner for the agency’s dirty wars in Central America in the 1980s and the cousin of convicted terrorist Leopoldo Lopez. Lopez in turn was a leader in a U.S.-backed coup in 2002 and a wave of political terror in 2014 that killed at least 43 people and caused an estimated $15 billion worth of property damage. A major figure on the right-wing of Venezuelan politics, Lopez told journalists that he wants the United States to formally rule the country once President Nicolas Maduro is overthrown. With the help of the Spanish government, Lopez escaped from jail and fled to Spain last year.

Imagine, for one second, the opposite scenario: an “independent” Russian investigative website staffed partially with ex-KGB officials, funded by the Kremlin, with most of their research focused on the nefarious deeds of the U.S., U.K. and NATO. Would anyone take it seriously? And yet Bellingcat is consistently presented in corporate media as a liberatory organization; the Information Age’s gift to the people.

 

The Bellingcat to journalism pipeline

The corporate press itself already has a disturbingly close relationship with the national security state, as does social media. In 2019, a senior Twitter executive was unmasked as an active duty officer in the British Army’s online psychological operations unit. Coming at a time when foreign interference in politics and society was the primary issue in U.S. politics, the story was, astoundingly, almost completely ignored in the mainstream press. Only one U.S. outlet of any note picked it up, and that journalist was forced out of the profession weeks later.

Increasingly, it seems, Bellingcat is serving as a training ground for those looking for a job in the West’s most prestigious media outlets. For instance, former Bellingcat contributor Brenna Smith — who was recently the subject of a media storm after she successfully pressured a number of online payment companies to stop allowing the crowdfunding of the Capitol Building insurrectionists — announced last month she would be leaving USA Today and joining The New York Times. There she will meet up with former Bellingcat senior investigator Christiaan Triebert, who joined the Times’ visual investigations team in 2019.

The Times, commonly thought of as the United States’ most influential media outlet, has also collaborated with Bellingcat writers for individual pieces before. In 2018, it commissioned Giancarlo Fiorella and Aliaume Leroy to publish an op-ed strongly insinuating that the Venezuelan state murdered Oscar Perez. After he stole a military helicopter and used it to bomb government buildings in downtown Caracas while trying to ignite a civil war, Perez became the darling of the Western press, being described as a “patriot” (The Guardian), a “rebel” (Miami Herald), an “action hero” (The Times of London), and a “liberator” (Task and Purpose).

Until 2020, Fiorella ran an opposition blog called “In Venezuela” despite living in Canada. Leroy is now a full-time producer and investigator for the U.K.-government network, the BBC.

 

Bad news from Bellingcat

What we are uncovering here is a network of military, state, think-tank and media units all working together, of which Bellingcat is a central fixture. This would be bad enough, but much of its own research is extremely poor. It strongly pushed the now increasingly discredited idea of a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, attacking the members of the OPCW who came forward to expose the coverup and making some bizarre claims along the way. For years, Higgins and other members of the Bellingcat team also signal-boosted a Twitter account purporting to be an ISIS official, only for an investigation to expose the account as belonging to a young Indian troll in Bangalore. A leaked U.K. Foreign Office document lamented that “Bellingcat was somewhat discredited, both by spreading disinformation itself, and by being willing to produce reports for anyone willing to pay.”

Ultimately, however, the organization still provides utility as an attack dog for the West, publishing research that the media can cite, supposedly as “independent,” rather than rely directly on intelligence officials, whose credibility with the public is automatically far lower.

Oliver Boyd-Barrett, professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University and an expert in the connections between the deep state and the fourth estate, told MintPress that “the role of Bellingcat is to provide spurious legitimacy to U.S./NATO pretexts for war and conflict.” In far more positive words, the CIA actually appears to agree with him.

“I don’t want to be too dramatic, but we love [Bellingcat],” said Marc Polymeropoulos, the agency’s former deputy chief of operations for Europe and Eurasia. “Whenever we had to talk to our liaison partners about it, instead of trying to have things cleared or worry about classification issues, you could just reference [Bellingcat’s] work.” Polymeropoulos recently attempted to blame his headache problems on a heretofore unknown Russian microwave weapon, a claim that remarkably became an international scandal. “The greatest value of Bellingcat is that we can then go to the Russians and say ‘there you go’ [when they ask for evidence],” added former CIA Chief of Station Daniel Hoffman.

Bellingcat certainly seems to pay particular attention to the crimes of official enemies. As investigative journalist Matt Kennard noted, it has only published five stories on the United Kingdom, 17 on Saudi Arabia, 19 on the U.S. (most of which are about foreign interference in American society or far-right/QAnon cults). Yet it has 144 on Russia and 244 under its Syria tag.

In his new book “We Are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People,” the outlet’s boss Higgins writes: “We have no agenda but we do have a credo: evidence exists and falsehoods exist, and people still care about the difference.” Yet exploring the backgrounds of its journalists and its sources of funding quickly reveals this to be a badly spun piece of PR.

Bellingcat looks far more like a bunch of spooks masquerading as citizen journalists than a people-centered organization taking on power and lies wherever it sees them. Unfortunately, with many of its proteges travelling through the pipeline into influential media outlets, it seems that there might be quite a few masquerading as reporters as well.

Feature photo | Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins talks to the press at College Green in London, October 9, 2018. David Mirzoeff | PA Wire | Alamy

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post How Bellingcat Launders National Security State Talking Points into the Press appeared first on MintPress News.

Biden’s Empty Gesture: Houthis No Longer “Terrorists” but Yemen’s Suffering Only Grows

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/04/2021 - 3:54am in

SAADA, YEMEN — In explaining a much-lauded move, President Joe Biden said that the reason the United States was removing Yemen’s Ansar Allah movement from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list was to avoid exacerbating the humanitarian situation in the war-torn country and to allow much-needed aid to reach local residents. Yet images of children with jutting ribs, swelling bellies, and loose skin that have come to symbolize the war for the past six years can still be found all over Yemen.

Four-year-old Gharam Sha’ib stands at a bed covered with blue sheets in Hayden Rural Hospital in the northern Governorate of Saada. She is bare-boned with haunting eyes wide open and the outlines of her ribs are clearly visible through her skin. The malnourished girl arrived at the hospital this week from the Al-Sumayk village in western Saada, an area far removed from the waves of famine that have washed over Yemen in the past six years.

Gharam’s mother, who was hiding a tired face and emaciated body in a voluminous black abaya robe and hijab, recounted her story to MintPress as her arm was wrapping around her daughter`s stick-thin body: “There is not enough food, no aid organization or person to help us. It was the 50,000 YR ($85 U.S.) fare we received that saved my child.”

The farmer’s wife struggles to feed her children amid the soaring prices of food, fuel and medicine. She said that her life has turned to hell since the beginning of the year. ”I am now in my thirties. I have never faced circumstances worse than now. What have we done to America and Saudi Arabia to deserve this! I ask God not to forgive whoever caused this,” she said, crying.

Gharam was lucky, as she was discovered by a health worker and then transported to the hospital at the administration’s expense with assistance from Doctors Without Borders. Salah Radwan, the director of the Health Bureau in Haydan, told MintPress that because of the blockade malnutrition is widespread in Saada. “There are hundreds of children in the district suffering from severe malnutrition, but unable to arrive at the hospital because of the high cost of transportation,” he said.

 

Even worse under Biden

Symptoms of severe acute malnutrition — the most extreme and dangerous form of under-nutrition — include jutting ribs and loose skin, with visible wasting of body tissue. Swelling in the ankles, feet and belly, as blood vessels leak fluid under the skin, are other symptoms. During the six years of war, thousands of Yemeni children have borne these symptoms. But since Biden promised to end the war on humanitarian grounds upon assuming power in January, painful scenes of thousands of children with symptoms of acute malnutrition have been recorded in new areas where no cases were previously recorded, and at a higher rate than even during the era of former President Donald Trump, according to Yemen’s local health sources.

Yemen Famine Biden

Four-year-old Gharam Sha`ib is examined at Hayden Rural Hospital in Saada. Ali Shurgbai | MintPress

The same source said, in a statement given to MintPress, that many districts in Saada, Amran, Hajjah, Hodeida, Aden and Lahj provinces saw record jumps in the number of malnourished children this year, with at least 100,000 cases of severe acute malnutrition in the first three months of the Biden presidency alone. That number represents a massive increase from the same period at the onset of the Trump presidency, when 5,000 cases were recorded. This is likely because the blockade has continued unabated, according to officials.

In fact, the average Yemenis daily caloric intake is only 800 calories. This is insufficient even for small children, leading to a slew of disorders related to malnutrition – scurvy, tuberculosis, dysentery, rickets, marasmus, as well as wasting and stunting across Yemen. Official statistics attribute nearly 70% of deaths in the country to starvation caused by the blockade. Famine also opens a new window to Covid-19, which is inevitably causing disproportionate suffering among those already weakened by malnutrition and related diseases.

The Ministry of Health in Sana’a said in March that “more than 2.6 million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, and other 500,000 children are threatened by severe malnutrition due to the blockade.” The ministry confirmed that the Saudi blockade has caused an increase in the death rate of children under five to 300 per day. While more than 8,000 women die from it annually, 1.8 million women suffer from malnutrition and another million from complications from the effects of the blockade.

 

No relief from blockade’s strangulation

In February, four United Nations agencies — including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO) — said that nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in Yemen are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021. Of these, 400,000 are expected to suffer from cases so severe that they could lead to death. The groups warned that these were among the highest levels of severe acute malnutrition recorded in Yemen since the escalation of conflict in 2015. “This is exactly what is going on thanks to the blockade supported by the Biden administration,” Dr. Ali Askar, the manager of Haydan rural hospital said in frustration.

In March 2015 when the war began, Saudi Arabia, supported by the United States, moved immediately to strangle the supply of raw materials and foodstuffs into Yemen. Now, armed with a list of 100 banned items, Saudi naval ships, supported by the U.S. Navy, are still patrolling the seas around Yemen, intercepting and detaining thousands of merchant ships carrying food, fuel, and fertilizer that are vital to agriculture, under the guise of halting arms smuggling into the country. On occasion the ships are released after months of detention, carrying damaged goods. The ongoing naval blockade shows no signs of easing, despite recent talk of the U.S. ending support for the war and with it the suffering of 30 million in the war-torn country.

The restrictions imposed on Yemen are not just targeting the sea; the country’s airspace is dominated by the Saudi-led Coalition, which is preventing thousands of sick Yemeni civilians from seeking urgent medical treatment outside of the country. Thousands of wounded patients have died prematurely because they were unable to travel abroad for treatment. Much of Yemen’s own medical equipment, including in major cities, is obsolete and urgently needs to be replaced. Moreover, the almost total blockade of commercial shipments of medicine through the airport, coupled with the restrictions on imports through the Hodeidah seaport, has caused prices to more than double, making essential medicines unaffordable for most of the population.

 

So why the blockade?

On Wednesday, hundreds of trade union workers took the street in front of UN headquarters to condemn the blockade, demanding that the United States and its allies lift the blockade imposed on Sana’a International Airport and allow ships carrying fuel to reach the country in accordance with international law.

“I need to travel abroad for treatment of my children,” Mutahir Ali Zamal, a Yemeni father of four who participated in the protest said. His children all suffer from xeroderma, a skin disease caused by a lack of proper hydration. Dr. Abdullah Thawabeh, the general director of the Cancer Hospital in Sana’a, said that the disease has led to skin cancer in the children due to the presence of chemicals found in internationally prohibited munitions.

Yemen Children Biden

Mutahir Ali Zamal’s sons suffer from xeroderma, a disease caused by a lack of clean water and made worse by the war. Ahmed AbdulKareem | MintPress

Months ago, Saudi warplanes dropped a U.S.-made bomb near their home in Kitaf, north of Saada, as the children were playing nearby. In the wake of the airstrike, large brownish spots with darker speckles began to appear on their faces, according to their father.

Dr. Thawabeh said the hospital can not deal with the case because it lacks the necessary medicine and equipment due to the blockade, adding that the children must be evacuated abroad immediately. “America said that it removed Houthis from its terrorist list for us. If that was true, why were food, fuel, and medicine not allowed to reach us?” he asked.

The CEO of Yemen Petroleum Company (YPC), Ammar Al-Adrai, told MintPress that at least 10 oil tankers have been detained. The tankers, Al-Adrai says, have been held despite being checked, cleared, and issued permits by both the Saudi-led Coalition and the United Nations. He confirmed that the vessels are loaded with oil derivatives needed to run generators at hospitals, water pumping stations, and sewage plants.

Feature photo | A malnourished child is seen at the malnutrition treating ward of Al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, on Nov. 24, 2020. Mohammed Mohammed | Xinhua via Alamy

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post Biden’s Empty Gesture: Houthis No Longer “Terrorists” but Yemen’s Suffering Only Grows appeared first on MintPress News.

Dead Generations

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/04/2021 - 3:42am in


What brought Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, Wai Yan Tun, and Thet Naing Win into the streets? To read most of the coverage of the coup, you’d think they’d found themselves on one side of an old story: liberal democracy imperiled by authoritarianism. Yet Myanmar’s working classes had seethed under the previous National League for Democracy (NLD) government’s concessions to global capital; during five years of NLD rule, strike wave after strike wave convulsed Yangon’s industrial zones. It would be a mistake to read today’s resistance simply as an attempt to restore bourgeois democracy. Even so, it was the old story my dad turned to, which says that time should flow easily beyond authoritarian pasts. As February turned into March, and March into April—and as blood began to run freely, far too freely, in the cities and towns of Myanmar—I found myself wondering about scars past and present, about how they form and how they are carried. I found myself wondering what the old story can accommodate, and what it cannot.

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