foreign affairs

Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).

US Votes Against UN Resolution Condemning Nazis, Labels It “Russian Disinformation”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/12/2020 - 4:00am in

The United States and Ukraine were the only two nations to vote against a United Nations resolution Wednesday on, “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” The resolution passed 130-2.

The resolution featured 70 fairly bland statements condemning the crimes of Adolf Hitler, while also expressing concern at the rise of contemporary Neo-Nazi groups.

“Neo-Nazism is more than just the glorification of a past movement, it is a contemporary phenomenon with strong vested interests in racial inequality and an investment in gaining broad support for its false claims of racial superiority,” the document warned, expressing its alarm that, in many parts of the world, it is on the rise. “Even where neo-Nazis or extremists do not formally participate in government, the presence therein of extreme right-wing ideologues can have the effect of injecting into governance and political discourse the same ideologies that make neo-Nazism and extremism so dangerous,” it added.

This is far from the first time the U.S. has voted against resolutions like this one. Indeed, every year since 2014, it has done so. In its justification for doing so, it labeled the resolution nothing more than a “thinly veiled attempt to legitimize longstanding Russian disinformation narratives smearing neighboring nations under the cynical guise of halting Nazi glorification.” The resolution does not, however, name any states, only speaking in generalities.

Russia was indeed one of 24 countries sponsoring the document this time around, a move the U.S. sees as an effort to use the U.N. to delegitimize the U.S.-sponsored government of Ukraine, as well as a number of pro-U.S., anti-Russia Baltic governments, all of which have ties to the modern far-right.

One of the many dirty secrets from the Second World War is that great numbers of Ukrainians and other ethnic nationalist groups in the USSR rose up to work with Nazi Germany in order to rid themselves of Moscow’s rule. Much of their work included rounding up millions of Jews, gypsies, leftists, homosexuals, and other groups, sending them to concentration camps. With the fall of the USSR in 1991, many of these groups came to the fore again, rewriting their own history to present themselves not as collaborators, but nationalist heroes, struggling under a dual occupation from Germany and Russia, rebranding themselves as respectable conservatives.

Perhaps the most prominent example of Neo-Nazi power is Ukraine, where the U.S. helped engineer an uprising that brought about a pro-Washington government. In 2015, that new government banned Soviet iconography, made sympathy for communism illegal, and began officially rehabilitating Neo-Nazi groups who participated in genocide in World War II, honoring their supposed sacrifice and patriotism.

While this could be seen as another example of Donald Trump refusing to condemn the far-right, it is highly doubtful that the incoming Biden administration would have voted any differently. Indeed, in 2014, Biden himself traveled to Ukraine to participate in the revolution, helping to unite the opposition to pro-Russian President Yanukovych, forcing him to flee the country.

Joe Biden | Ukrainian fascist

Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian fascist leader, Oleh Yaroslavovych Tyahnybok, in Kiev, Ukraine, April 22, 2014. Anastasia Sirotkina | Reuters

Displaying a level of interference in foreign politics even the most strident of Russiagate proponents could only dream of, Biden later boasted that he personally ordered Yanukovych to resign. Just months later, Biden’s son, Hunter, was placed onto the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, earning $50,000 per month, despite having no background in energy, nor any knowledge of the region or its languages.

Since Yanukovych’s overthrow, Ukraine’s government has been relentlessly pro-European; one reason, perhaps, why virtually every European nation (including Germany) decided to abstain from voting “yes” earlier this week.

While in Ukraine, the future President-elect of the United States also met publicly with neo-Nazi leader Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the Freedom Party, a man who had previously called for a war on the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia” and on the “Jewish oligarchs who control Ukraine.” While the Freedom Party holds limited political power, other ultranationalists have been appointed to key positions in the government, and the far-right wields considerable influence over the public discourse inside the country and is able to draw huge crowds to their rallies.

The U.S. government paid for the training of much of the new Ukrainian military, including the now semi-official Azov Batallion, a Nazi paramilitary group that uses iconography from the Waffen SS. In 2018, the FBI found that many of the leaders of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, had, in turn, been trained by Ukrainian neo-Nazis.

There appears to have been zero coverage of the vote in the mainstream corporate press, with no mention of the resolution in the New York Times, CNN, CNBC, Fox News, or MSNBC, and no relevant results on Google News either. Considering Biden’s questionable connections to the country, the less news about Ukraine, for him, the better.

Feature photo | Volunteers of the ultra far-right Azov Battalion at a rally marking Fatherland Defender Day in Kiev, Ukraine, Oct. 14, 2016. Efrem Lukatsky | AP

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post US Votes Against UN Resolution Condemning Nazis, Labels It “Russian Disinformation” appeared first on MintPress News.

Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck Endured a Nearly a Century of Struggle for His Beliefs

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 7:41am in

Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck was 10 years old in the spring of 1944 when the Nazis invaded Hungary. He spent many months hiding in a bunker in Pest, the eastern side of the Hungarian capital Budapest before he and his family were able to leave. With his mother gone, having been taken to Auschwitz and killed, he and what remained of his family, along with millions of refugees, traveled through Europe to find a home. In 1948 he traveled to Palestine where lived and studied in Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox community in Mea Shearim. He remained there until 1967 when he left Palestine never to return.

Among the expressions of solidarity posted on the various social media platforms during the November 2020 Palestine Solidarity Week was a photo of Rabbi Beck. Nearly 90 years old and having survived a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, he sat for a photo with a Palestinian flag behind him, and holding a sign that read, “All for Palestine.” One has to admit that his life and religious devotion make his commitment to the Palestinian struggle for liberation all the more remarkable.

 

Leaving Jerusalem

I met Rabbi Beck for the first time at his home in Monsey, New York. Rabbi Dovid Weiss, another well-known and respected anti-Zionist ultra-orthodox Rabbi and supporter of the Palestinian struggle took me to meet him. The family of Rabbi Weiss, also from Hungary, was murdered by Nazis. “My father was the youngest of ten and he managed to get out. But when he tried to return to help the others escape it was too late.”

I didn’t know who Rabbi Beck was at that point but I could see that he was a revered and greatly respected Rabbi.

I tried to understand what it was that made him decide to leave Jerusalem. He was, at the time, a young man with a large family and little means. He was living and studying at the heart of the ultra-orthodox world in the Holy Land, so I wondered what could possibly have made him want to leave.

Rabbi Beck speaks Yiddish and very little English, so Rabbi Weiss was kind enough to translate. Using hand gestures and even raising his otherwise very quiet voice, Rabbi Beck made it clear there were many reasons for him leaving Jerusalem and all of them had to do with Zionism. After the 1967 war, he and a group of devoted and promising young Rabbis realized that the state of Israel was no place for Jewish people.

He spoke in Yiddish gesturing with his hands pointing to his beard, payos, and religious clothing, and then Rabbi Weiss translated: “He did not want his beard and peyos and kaftan to crown the Zionist state.”

Rabbi Wiess and Beck edited

Rabbi Weiss (left) and Rabbi Beck. Photo | Miko Peled

While there were many reasons for his leaving, the final straw was the 1967 Israeli assault on neighboring Arab countries. He felt he had to leave no matter what. With four children and not a penny to his name, he somehow managed to make his way to the UK.

 

Heresy

Rabbi Beck became more and more animated as he explained to me through Rabbi Weiss that the very idea of the Zionist state is heresy. “He left pure and simple because of Zionism,” Rabbi Weiss explained, and other young notable Rabbis felt that the State was doing everything in its power to disrupt their Jewish way of life.

This seemingly frail, elder Rabbi passionately explained how Zionism and the State of Israel, “scorns and ridicules” the very tenets of the Jewish faith and represents “Kefira,” or heresy. He refused to crown this “facade of Judaism” with his presence and Jewish look and appearance.

 

“These are our guys”

A story that Rabbi Beck related to me and which I also heard from his son, Rabbi Elhonon Beck in London, involves an incident that took place while Rabbi Beck and many others were sitting in a bomb shelter in Jerusalem during the 1967 war. The neighborhood of Mea Shearim sits in an area that, until 1967, was right on the border between the State of Israel and Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem. During the war, heavy fighting took place in that area and the people huddled in the bomb shelter could hear the thundering sounds of shooting and explosions.

At one point, they heard warplanes flying overhead when a man walked into the shelter and, wanting to reassure the others, said, “don’t worry, these are ours.” That was something that Rabbi Beck and his fellow Rabbis could not stomach. That religious Jews would associate themselves with Israeli warplanes and refer to them as “ours.” The Zionist State and its army were anathema to them and it was at that moment that several of them decided it was time to leave the country. “They didn’t want their children growing up in that atmosphere where religious Jews felt an association with the Zionist army.”

One result of the Israeli propaganda campaign that followed the 1967 assault was that religious Jews began to believe that the Israeli victory was a miracle. Israel perpetuated the myth that it was faced with the overwhelming force of the Arab armies and was miraculously able to defeat them all. Rabbi Beck and the others in his group see this as heresy, “that a Zionist victory would be seen as a miracle.”

From the rooftop of their Yeshiva, called “Torah Veyir’a” – a famously anti-Zionist Yeshiva in Jerusalem, “you could see the Arab part of the Jerusalem,” which includes the Old City.” Before 1967 one could only look in that direction, but after the war, they were able to go there “and it gave a sense of false power,” which Rabbi Beck abhors. He did not want his children to grow up in an atmosphere that idolizes that kind of power.

 

A dangerous environment

“Was it dangerous for you to live there?” Rabbi Weiss asked.

“Have you seen their police hit people?” he snapped back.

Rabbi Beck was beaten and arrested by the Israeli police on many occasions during protests against the Zionist state, and while plastering anti-Zionist posters on walls. “The danger was never the Arabs, only the Zionists,” he added.

When the Israeli police enter ultra-orthodox neighborhoods, they do it in full force. Riot police in full gear and often riding specially bred horses, trample people with no regard to the lives or to the safety of the residents. The sights one sees during their marches and protests are harrowing. Only in Israel are religious Jews treated with such contempt and violence.

When I visited Rabbi Beck’s beis midrash (synagogue) in Monsey one Friday night, I saw dozens of religious Jews praying. It is a modest place, and on one of the walls, hangs a large poster denouncing Zionism and its anti-Jewish, heretic characteristics.

 

Supporting Palestine

This last expression of solidarity by Rabbi Beck was by no means his first. In 2018 I spoke at a rally in Brooklyn and saw him sitting there among other members of the community who came to express solidarity.

Rabbi Beck protest edited

Rabbi Beck (center left) and Rabbi Weiss (center right) with members of the ultra-orthodox community at a 2018 protest in Brooklyn. Photo | Miko Peled

Zionist propaganda regularly targets ultra-orthodox Jews who reject Zionism and Israel, creating the impression that they are irrelevant fanatics.

While their numbers may not seem significant their actions certainly are invaluable. When a member of this community pays their respects to a Palestinian family who lost a loved one to an Israeli soldier or shakes the hand of a Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike, or even a gesture as simple as an 87-year-old Rabbi holding a sign to express solidarity with Palestine, it goes a long way. It reminds all of us that in Palestine before the Zionist invasion, people lived side by side in peace, respecting one another. It shows us that there are common goals that unite us.

Hirsh Maher edited

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Hirsh visits Palestinian detainee and hunger striker Maher Al-Akhras in Jerusalem. Photo | Miko Peled

Feature photo | Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck joins activists marking Al Nakbah as they march across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City on May 15, 2016. Photo | Shutterstock

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck Endured a Nearly a Century of Struggle for His Beliefs appeared first on MintPress News.

2021’s Most Pressing Humanitarian Crises Are All Victims of US War, Regime Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 5:27am in

The International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) yearly report on the world’s most pressing humanitarian situations has just been published, with the three most disastrous cases — Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria — all the product of decades of interventionist U.S. foreign policy.

For the third year in a row, Yemen has topped the IRC list, the report estimating that 80% of the country’s 29 million citizens are in need of humanitarian assistance. “The world is facing unprecedented humanitarian emergencies—as well as a political crisis of inaction by world leaders,” they warn.

20.5 million people inside Yemen lack access to clean water and sanitation. This is in no small part due to the five-year-long Saudi-led coalition onslaught against the country, which has seen over 200 targeted attacks against medical or sanitation infrastructure — equivalent to one air raid every ten days. As a result, half of all health facilities are not functioning properly, and over half of the country’s children are permanently physically stunted due to malnutrition. The Yemeni rial has lost a quarter of its value this year, with food and fuel prices increasing amid shortages. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the crisis; one million pregnant women are also malnourished.

Despite the devastation, humanitarian support to the country has actually been decreasing, thanks to the work of the Trump administration. Throughout 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been successfully pressuring the United Nations and its donor nations to scale back aid to Yemen in an attempt to starve the Houthi Rebels into submission.

“A consequence of over five years of war and severe underfunding that has pushed the country to new lows in 2020,” the report notes, although it does not point any fingers at the United States. “Yemen faces a triple threat from conflict, hunger, and a collapsing international response,” said Abeer Fowzi, the IRC’s deputy nutrition coordinator.

At the end of 2020, malnutrition for children under 5 was the highest ever recorded, yet, in the face of an unprecedented threat, the world has turned its back on Yemen. Never before have Yemenis faced so little support from the international community – or so many simultaneous challenges.”

The other countries on the IRC’s top ten most concerning humanitarian situations included:

2. Afghanistan

3. Syria

4. The Democratic Republic of the Congo

5. Ethiopia

6. Burkina Faso

7. South Sudan

8. Nigeria

9. Venezuela

10. Mozambique

 

The common denominator

What is striking about the three most pressing cases is the role of the United States in worsening the problem. The U.S. invaded and occupied Afghanistan 19 years ago and continues to refuse to leave, flooding the country with arms and propping up its chosen political factions. Syria, meanwhile, is the site of a bitter international conflict confusingly labeled a civil war, where the great powers, including the U.S., vie for control of the Middle Eastern nation, fuelling continual violence that has led to a crisis of 5.6 million refugees and a further 6.7 million internally displaced people, according to the IRC report. While once a reasonably prosperous nation, today 90% of the population lives below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Venezuela has faced years of crippling American sanctions that one United Nations rapporteur compared to a medieval siege, estimating they had cost the lives of over 100,000 Venezuelans.

However, the obvious role that the U.S. government has played in destabilizing or destroying so many nations on the list is not remarked upon. Indeed, the words “United States” are not mentioned anywhere in the 59-page report. One potential reason could be that the IRC, headquartered in New York City, is substantially funded by the U.S. government through its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

While the U.S. has contributed over $2.5 billion in aid to Yemen, that number pales in comparison with weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, the chief driver of the violence in the country. American made bombs continue to be dropped by American made jets, maintained by American operatives, and flown by American trained pilots. And even as he leaves office, President Trump is making a point of showering the Saudis with gifts.

While the damage 2020 has done to the world cannot be undone, the IRC warned that 2021 could be just as important from a humanitarian point of view. “2020 will go down as one of the most turbulent years in history, but the next year will be remembered for how we either helped or turned away from those suffering the most,” they stated.

Feature photo | A Syrian boy selling snacks looks at a U.S. soldier standing guard in the so-called “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey, near Tal Abyad, Syria, Sept. 8, 2019. Maya Alleruzzo | AP

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post 2021’s Most Pressing Humanitarian Crises Are All Victims of US War, Regime Change appeared first on MintPress News.

When the People Rose: How the Intifada Changed the Political Discourse around Palestine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 2:37am in

December 8 came and went as if it was an ordinary day. For Palestinian political groups, it was another anniversary to be commemorated, however hastily. It was on this day, thirty-three years ago, that the First Palestinian Intifada (uprising) broke out, and there was nothing ordinary about this historic event.

Today, the uprising is merely viewed from a historic point of view, another opportunity to reflect and, perhaps, learn from a seemingly distant past. Whatever political context to the Intifada, it has evaporated over time.

The simple explanation of the Intifada goes as follows: Ordinary Palestinians at the time were fed up with the status quo and they wished to ‘shake off’ Israel’s military occupation and make their voices heard.

Expectedly, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) quickly moved in to harvest the fruit of the people’s sacrifices and translate them into tangible political gains, as if the traditional Palestinian leadership truly and democratically represented the will of the Palestinian people. The outcome was a sheer disaster, as the Intifada was used to resurrect the careers of some Palestinian ‘leaders’, who claimed to be mandated by the Palestinians to speak on their behalf, resulting in the Madrid Talks in 1991, the Oslo Accords in 1993 and all other ‘compromises’ ever since.

But there is more to the story.

Thousands of Palestinians, mostly youth, were killed by the Israeli army during the seven years of Intifada, where Israel treated non-violent protesters and rock-throwing children, who were demanding their freedom, as if enemy combatants. It was during these horrific years that such terms as ‘shoot to kill’ and ‘broken-bones policies’ and many more military stratagems were introduced to an already violent discourse.

In truth, however, the Intifada was not a mandate for Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas or any other Palestinian official or faction to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people, and was certainly not a people’s call on their leadership to offer unreciprocated political compromises.

To understand the meaning of the Intifada and its current relevance, it has to be viewed as an active political event, constantly generating new meanings, as opposed to a historical event of little relevance to today’s realities.

Historically, the Palestinian people have struggled with the issue of political representation. As early as the mid-20th century, various Arab regimes have claimed to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people, thus, inevitably using Palestine as an item in their own domestic and foreign policy agendas.

The use and misuse of Palestine as an item in some imagined collective Arab agenda came to a relative end after the humiliating defeat of several Arab armies in the 1967 war, known in Arabic as the ‘Naksa’, or the ‘Letdown’. The crisis of legitimacy was meant to be quickly resolved when the largest Palestinian political party, Fatah, took over the leadership of the PLO. The latter was then recognized in 1974 during the Arab Summit in Rabat, as the ‘sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people’.

The above statement alone was meant to be the formula that resolved the crisis of representation, therefore drowning out all other claims made by Arab governments. That strategy worked, but not for long. Despite Arafat’s and Fatah’s hegemony over the PLO, the latter did, in fact, enjoy a degree of legitimacy among Palestinians. At that time, Palestine was part and parcel of a global national liberation movement, and Arab governments, despite the deep wounds of war, were forced to accommodate the aspirations of the Arab people, keeping Palestine the focal issue among the Arab masses as well.

However, in the 1980s, things began changing rapidly. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 resulted in the forced exile of tens of thousands of Palestinian fighters, along with the leaderships of all Palestinian groups, leading to successive and bloody massacres targeting Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

The years that followed accentuated two grave realities. First, the Palestinian leadership shifted its focus from armed struggle to merely remaining relevant as a political actor. Now based in Tunis, Arafat, Abbas and others were issuing statements, sending all kinds of signals that they were ready to ‘compromise’ – as per the American definitions of this term. Second, Arab governments also moved on, as the growing marginalization of the Palestinian leadership was lessening the pressure of the Arab masses to act as a united front against Israeli military occupation and colonialism in Palestine.

It was at this precise moment in history that Palestinians rose and, indeed, it was a spontaneous movement that, at its beginning, involved none of the traditional Palestinian leadership, Arab regimes, or any of the familiar slogans. I was a teenager in a Gaza refugee camp when all of this took place, a true popular revolution being fashioned in a most organic and pure form. The use of a slingshot to counter Israeli military helicopters; the use of blankets to disable the chains of Israeli army tanks; the use of raw onions to assuage the pain of inhaling teargas; and, more importantly, the creation of language to respond to every violent strategy employed by the Israeli army, and to articulate the resistance of Palestinians on the ground in simple, yet profound slogans, written on the decaying walls of every Palestinian refugee camp, town or city.

While the Intifada did not attack the traditional leadership openly, it was clear that Palestinians were seeking alternative leadership. Grassroots local leadership swiftly sprang out from every neighborhood, every university and even in prison, and no amount of Israeli violence was able to thwart the natural formation of this leadership.

It was unmistakably clear that the Palestinian people had chosen a different path, one that did not go through any Arab capital – and certainly not through Tunis. Not that Palestinians at the time quit seeking solidarity from their Arab brethren, or the world at large. Instead, they sought solidarity that does not subtract the Palestinian people from their own quest for freedom and justice.

Years of relentless Israeli violence, coupled with the lack of a political strategy by the Palestinian leadership, sheer exhaustion, growing factionalism and extreme poverty brought the Intifada to an end.

Since then, even the achievements of the Intifada were tarnished, where the Palestinian leadership has used it to revive itself politically and financially, reaching the point of arguing that the dismal Oslo Accords and the futile peace process were, themselves, direct ‘achievements’ of the Intifada.

The true accomplishment of the Intifada is the fact that it almost entirely changed the nature of the political equation pertaining to Palestine, imposing the ‘Palestinian people’, not as a cliche used by the Palestinian leadership and Arab governments to secure for themselves a degree of political legitimacy, but as an actual political actor.

Thanks to the Intifada, the Palestinian people have demonstrated their own capacity at challenging Israel without having their own military, challenging the Palestinian leadership by organically generating their own leaders, confronting the Arabs and, in fact, the whole world, regarding their own moral and legal responsibilities towards Palestine and the Palestinian people.

Very few popular movements around the world, and throughout modern history, can be compared to the First Intifada, which remains as relevant today as it was when it began thirty-three years ago.

Feature photo | Musa Alsha’er

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post When the People Rose: How the Intifada Changed the Political Discourse around Palestine appeared first on MintPress News.

US Embassy Caught Scrubbing Tweets Urging Venezuelans Not To Vote

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 6:56am in

The United States embassy for Venezuela has been caught deleting tweets undermining the integrity of the December 6 National Assembly elections in the country and calling on Venezuelans not to participate in them.

“Tomorrow in Venezuela there will be no elections but rather a fraud carried out by the illegitimate Maduro regime. The world is watching. And Venezuelans are organizing to report it. Are you ready to defend democracy? I don’t vote on December 6,” one tweet read, linking to a website purporting to track election irregularities.

The concept of “defending democracy” has been one commonly employed by the opposition during their many coup attempts on the government, dating back to 2002.

The deletion was spotted by Adrienne Pine, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the American University in Washington D.C. and one of 300 foreign election observers who oversaw the contest earlier this month.

It is not clear why the U.S. embassy decided to go back and delete its posting history, especially as that continues to be the official line of the United States government. Accusing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of “brazenly rigging these elections,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the contest as “a political farce intended to look like legislative elections.” “The United States, along with numerous other democracies around the world, condemns this charade which failed to meet any minimum standard of credibility,” he added.

But the American position is disputed by the international observers, including Pine herself, who was impressed by the level of election security. “It was really amazing to see it firsthand. There are so many fail safe measures in the system to ensure that there can’t be fraud that I was just blown away,” she said on the latest edition of the MintCast, MintPress’ video podcast. “COVID security measures were completely integrated into the electoral process itself,” she added.

The Council of Latin American Electoral Experts, who also oversaw the vote, verified the results, noting the “increased citizen confidence in political organizations and candidates.” A number of former heads of state, including those of Ecuador, Spain, Honduras, and Bolivia also attested to the process’s veracity.

The election saw the ruling socialist coalition sweep up 253 of the 277 seats on offer in the National Assembly (comparable to the U.S. House of Representatives), amid a partial opposition boycott of the process encouraged by the U.S. government. Calling for mass abstention, many opposition parties essentially ensured that the government would win big, but were hoping to delegitimize the process altogether through a painfully low turnout. Turnout was 31 percent, low, but not low enough to prevent the socialists from declaring a decisive victory. Thus, without control of any branch of government, the opposition’s only hope of coming to power in the near future remains through directly ousting the current government.

The embassy, like the government in Washington, continues to support the self-declared president of Venezuela Juan Guaidó, despite his lack of office. Guaidó held his own “people’s vote” at the same time as the election, promoting voting in person, online, or by phone in his referendum. The U.S. endorsed the results, despite non-Venezuelans outside the country showing they could bypass safety features and vote online themselves.

Despite unwavering American support, others in the opposition, such as two-time opposition coalition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, are calling on the U.S. to rethink their backing of a figure with such low public support inside the country. “The new administration has to understand that this plan has run its course and it cannot keep the status quo: the [Guaido] ‘interim presidency,’” he told the BBC.

The embassy calls itself “virtual” because it is not physically located in Venezuela, but in neighboring Colombia, a close U.S.-ally. The U.S. had no ambassador to Venezuela from 2010 until November this year, and no representatives inside the country at all of late, amid worsening relations and multiple attempts to overthrow the Maduro administration led to the expulsion of U.S. diplomats. Last week, President Ivan Duque of Colombia admitted that he had a hand in helping opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, kept under house arrest for his role in a 2014 coup attempt, escape to Colombia. The U.S. also faced scrutiny after supporting the now-infamous “Bay of Piglets” attempt by ex-Green Berets to carry out an amphibious landing from Colombia and shoot their way into the presidential palace. If a low level mercenary invasion proved ineffectual, a few tweets will likely not work in removing Maduro from power.

Feature photo | Government supporters walk past a mural depicting the late president Hugo Chavez during a closing campaign rally for parliamentary elections, in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 3, 2020. Ariana Cubillos | AP

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post US Embassy Caught Scrubbing Tweets Urging Venezuelans Not To Vote appeared first on MintPress News.

Corporate Media Shills For Assassination Of Iranian Scientist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 6:29am in

The Trump administration committed another act of war against Iran, and like every U.S. war in the modern era, it began with a lie: that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. It’s a total falsehood we’ve heard get repeated again and again throughout mainstream media and from pundits who personally profit from U.S. aggression.

Jack Keane, who once proclaimed, “Iran with nuclear weapons and missiles that deliver them is absolutely a bonafide existential threat to Israel,” has a cozy relationship with the MEK, an Iranian exile cult that has assassinated Iranian scientists itself and who the U.S. government had listed as a terrorist group until recently. It’s no secret that the MEK pays U.S. officials to advocate on its behalf. Keane is the chairman of the Institute for the Study of War – a think tank funded by arms manufacturers like Raytheon and General Dynamics, which paid Keane more than $200,000 dollars in 2018 alone.

Then there’s the uber-hawkish human walrus John Bolton. Bolton was on the payroll of the MEK too, but CNN didn’t bother to mention that, nor that Bolton famously told a fawning audience at an MEK rally, “that’s why before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran. Thank you very much!”

 

Media shills

It’s not just right-wing fanatics paid by the MEK that are lying about Iranian weapons capabilities. It’s also respectable liberal media outlets.

Sonam Sheth, a political correspondent at Business Insider covering national security issues told MSNBC that, “it’s very unlikely that his [Mohsen Fakhrizadeh] assassination is going to impede Iran’s efforts to continue its producing nuclear weapons.”

ABC News also presented the allegation of an Iranian nuclear weapons program as an undisputed fact, describing Fakhrizadeh simply as, “The scientist believed to be the mastermind behind Iran’s covert nuclear weapons program.” “Believed to be” – what an interesting term. It was used over and over in coverage of the assassination of Fakhrizadeh. Who exactly is doing the believing here?

The New York Times described the operation as being carried out by “U.S. and Israeli intelligence,” which the so-called paper of record said, “are known for their upstanding behavior and honesty.”

 

A broken record

Remember when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swore that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons? “There is no question, whatsoever, that Saddam is seeking and is working, and is advancing towards the development of nuclear weapons. No question whatsoever,” he said in 2002 testimony to Congress.

Whatever happened to those anyway?

George Bush, too, proclaimed that “Those weapons of mass destruction gotta be somewhere.” At the very same hearing pushing for U.S. war on Iraq, he said “Iran was developing nuclear weapons too.”

Of course, all of these outlets conveniently ignore the statement from then-top intelligence official Dan Coats that “we do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.” Because that would undermine the drive to war.

But don’t worry. Biden isn’t like Trump. He’s one of the adults in the room. And he’s surrounded by seasoned diplomats who have made it clear they’ll return to the Iran deal that stupid Trump tore up, right? Wrong.

Biden’s secretary of state Tony Blinken said this, “If Iran returns to compliance with the nuclear agreement, we would do the same. But then we would use that as a platform to try to, working with our allies and partners, to try to strengthen and lengthen it.”

And then there’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan, who said Biden would return to the JCPOA (Iran deal)  if Iran “returns to compliance… and is prepared to advance good-faith negotiations on these follow-on agreements.”

So Biden’s Iran policy is basically just Trump lite. But that’s not terribly surprising when you examine his top foreign policy advisor’s record. Jake Sullivan is a favorite of the Foundation of Defense For Democracies, the neoconservative think tank funded by top Trump donor and ultra-zionist Sheldon Adelson which an Israeli official described as acting on its behalf. The FDD crafted Trump’s maximum pressure strategy to achieve regime change in Iran.

So even if Biden doesn’t go to war with Iran, he’s not projecting any desire for real diplomacy or de-escalation of hostilities. He hasn’t even said he’ll lift the crippling sanctions the Trump administration leveled. And what happens when the next administration decides it wants full-on war with Iran?

Just because Trump is out, don’t think for a second that the U.S. is going to fundamentally change. The U.S. is gearing up for war a catastrophic war on Iran, even if Biden doesn’t authorize he’s not going to prevent his successor from doing it.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera for MintPress News

Dan Cohen is a journalist and filmmaker. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. Dan is a correspondent at RT America and tweets at @DanCohen3000.

The post Corporate Media Shills For Assassination Of Iranian Scientist appeared first on MintPress News.

Netanyahu’s Days May Be Numbered, but a Cadre of Far-Right Fanatics Wait in the Wings

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 5:13am in

Israel is due to hold elections for the fourth time in just two years. The Israeli election commission has yet to announce the precise date, but it seems fairly certain that elections will take place in March of 2021, demonstrating once again that Israel is unstable and likely to become even more dangerous than it already is today.

All eyes are on Benjamin Netanyahu and how he might manage to remain in the Prime Minister’s seat. But all eyes should, in fact, be on two men that are far more dangerous than Netanyahu. They are the two standard-bearers of the Zionist religious right, Naftali Bennett and Bezalel Smotrich. These two men are the most radical, uncompromising, religious-nationalist radicals in Israeli politics today. They are ambitious and politically savvy, and if they get their way, then what the Russian Ambassador in Tel-Aviv said in an interview recently, that Israel is a destabilizing factor in the region, will soon be considered an understatement.

 

Gaining power

The religious Zionist movement has, until recently, been treated as a fringe group, but they have long been on the cutting edge of the Zionist project, and most post-1967 Zionist expansion can be credited to them. Their relentless activism and zealous belief that God is on their side have in many ways shaped the Zionist state. Netanyahu may be the only person capable of keeping them somewhat contained.

Over the past few decades, these religious fanatics managed to become the darlings of the Zionist mainstream. On the one hand, they seem friendly and generous in their desire to see all Jewish people thrive in their “ancestral homeland.” On the other, they are feared and despised. Either way, they have considerable political strength and influence and have reached a point where their agenda is no longer seen as fringe or radical. They are dedicated and effective in all areas where they serve. They perform well in both the military and civil service, and both have the capacity to reach the very top of the political pyramid.

 

Naftali Bennett

A piece in the Israeli daily Haaretz, comparing Netanyahu to Bennett, claims that “They both get their inspiration from the right-wing in the United States and in Israel, the Bible and Ayn Rand, and believe that the strong are right. But as a kippa-wearer and an entrepreneur who made a profitable exit, Bennett beats his rival hands down. Netanyahu might know how to quote the Bible and Ayn Rand, but Bennett fulfills them with his actions and his way of life.”

The piece goes on to say that “Bennett is undoubtedly the most impressive Israeli politician who has emerged over the past decade. Instead of the prime minister’s miserliness and glory-hounding, which has led him to indictment, Bennett is seen as go-getter without affectations who pays his way.”


Netanyahu, right, and Bennett pose for a photos with children in the Arab town of Tamra, Sept. 1, 2016. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

Indeed it seems that today many Israelis hang their hopes on “Hayamin Hahadash” party Chairman Naftali Bennett as their savior. In the opinion polls, where he has soared to 22 Knesset seats, he is seen as a leading candidate in the race to the premiership. This is unprecedented for someone who represents not just the radical right but the religious Zionist right.

While serving as defense minister, Bennett said, “the ICC comes from an antisemitic starting point, such that Israel will always lose because it is the Jewish State and Israel should not try to ingratiate itself to the court.”  Further, he is quoted as saying, “The Hague is the workshop of modern antisemitism.”

 

War criminal

Bennett has served as an officer in some of the IDF’s most murderous terror units and is known to defend IDF soldiers and commanders who commit war crimes. During Israel’s 1996 criminal excursion into southern Lebanon, Bennett commanded a reconnaissance unit and personally ordered an artillery attack on the UN compound in Qana village, where hundreds of Lebanese civilians had taken shelter. The attack caused the death of over 100 civilians who had fled there to take shelter.

Several decades later, when another war criminal, Ofer Vinter, a friend and comrade in arms of Bennett, commanded the notoriously murderous “Givati” Brigade that murdered countless civilians in the Gaza Strip, Bennett said Vinter and his soldiers deserve medals. Vinter, too, comes from the radical religious Zionist right and has since been promoted general. As for his own conduct, Bennett admitted publicly on Israeli television that “I killed many Arabs in my life, and I have no problem with that.”

 

Bezalel Smotrich

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, reported how Smotrich justifies his support for the segregation between Jews and non-Jews in Israeli maternity wards, “My Wife Wouldn’t Want to Give Birth Next to an Arab Woman,” Smotrich says. He continues that he “doesn’t want his wife lying next to a woman whose baby will murder his child in another 20 years.”

David Friedman Bezalel Smotrich

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right, speaks to Smotrich during a 2017 visit to an Israeli Yeshiva. Photo | US Embassy

Smotrich is one of the founders of the Regavim organization, known for its campaigns to terrorize Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank. In their well-funded campaigns, they claim Palestinians are “stealing Jewish land and water, taking over lands that are not theirs, and building illegally.” It’s a radical organization of right-wing religious Zionists who promote racism and violence.

Smotrich has been at the forefront of a relentless attack by the religious Zionist right against the Israeli High Court. Along with the rest of Israel’s religious right political block, he has been pushing for resources and support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and through his Regavim organization, actively terrorizing Palestinians throughout Palestine.

 

Three choices

“The Land of Israel was desolate and empty,” Smotrich stated, referring to Palestine as “Eretz Yisrael.”

We returned to this land after two thousand years and found sand and Malaria and we brought progress. We are very hospitable people, and the Arabs are welcome to remain here as our guests as long as they accept that this is a Jewish state. Any Arabs who have national aspirations can go somewhere else to other Arab countries.”

In a rare speech delivered in English, he added that “Only when they [the Palestinian people, MP] give up on their national aspirations here in the Land of Israel will there be a chance for peace.”

Smotrich claims that there are no Palestinian people and that the Arabs who reside in Israel have three choices. The first is to remain in the state of Israel as residents with no political rights. They may live here and enjoy the progress the Jews brought here to Israel’s otherwise desolate land, and they can enjoy the fruits of “our” labor. They may vote in local elections and have some control over their local government but not on a national level.

The second choice is to leave and live anywhere else, or as he calls it, “they can pick any Daesh or ISIS country that they want.” “All around you see wars and Arabs killing and eating each other alive, so they can go there if they want.”

The third option is that “we will see them through the sight of a gun.” If the Arabs decide to stay and fight, they will die.” Smotrich also considers this a choice that works.

Smotrich is careful not to discuss the issue of Jerusalem and the building of a so-called “Jewish Temple” to replace the 1,500-year-old Al-Aqsa Mosque, a mainstay of the religious Zionist right. While detailed plans are being made and millions of dollars invested to that end, all he says is that this will be done in accordance with the will of the Almighty.

Smotrich has referred to Arabs as uncivilized and barbaric and referred to himself as a “proud homophobe” and the Gay Pride Parade as a “parade of beasts.” He called the Palestinian Bedouin a demographic ticking time bomb and said something must be done about their fast growth as a community. He has no problem with Jewish people having large families, quite the opposite, that, he says, is a “blessing.”

 

The face of Israel

Tamar Zandberg, a member of Knesset from the left-leaning Zionist Meretz party, said that “the face of the generation is the face of Smotrich.” While speaking in the Knesset, she outlined policy after policy from the Smotrich playbook all of which have been adopted by the Israeli government.

While every democratic society has had to deal with its own right-wing fanatics, Israel has provided them with a platform, funding, and weapons of mass destruction. As the U.S. and Israel point to Iran as a potential nuclear threat, the real threat comes from Israel, where Bennett and Smotrich can get their hands on Israeli nukes.

Smotrich is admittedly one of the most serious, effective, and hard-working politicians in the Israeli Knesset and has managed to create an image of a caring politician, albeit with an extreme anti-Palestinian and anti-left agenda. Together with Bennett, who is more of a political heavyweight, they will either replace Netanyahu or be in positions to wield even more power.

Feature photo | Naftali Bennett, the charismatic new leader of Israel’s Jewish religious right, speaks in Ashdod. Ariel Schalit | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Netanyahu’s Days May Be Numbered, but a Cadre of Far-Right Fanatics Wait in the Wings appeared first on MintPress News.

John Pilger: The Most Lethal Virus Is Not COVID. It Is War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 2:33am in

Britain’s Armed Services Memorial is a silent, haunting place. Set in the rural beauty of Staffordshire, in an arboretum of some 30,000 trees and sweeping lawns, its Homeric figures celebrate determination and sacrifice.

The names of more than 16,000 British servicemen and women are listed. The literature says they “died in operational theatre or were targeted by terrorists.”

On the day I was there, a stonemason was adding new names to those who have died in some 50 operations across the world during what is known as “peacetime.” Malaya, Ireland, Kenya, Hong Kong, Libya, Iraq, Palestine, and many more, including secret operations, such as Indochina.

Not a year has passed since peace was declared in 1945 that Britain has not sent military forces to fight the wars of empire.

Not a year has passed when countries, mostly poor and riven by conflict, have not bought or have been “soft loaned” British arms to further the wars, or “interests,” of empire.

Empire? What empire? The investigative journalist Phil Miller recently revealed in Declassified that Boris Johnson’s Britain maintained 145 military sites – call them bases — in 42 countries. Johnson has boasted that Britain is to be “the foremost naval power in Europe.”

In the midst of the greatest health emergency in modern times, with more than 4 million surgical procedures delayed by the National Health Service, Johnson has announced a record increase of £16.5 billion in so-called defense spending – a figure that would restore the under-resourced NHS many times over.

But these billions are not for defense. Britain has no enemies other than those within who betray the trust of its ordinary people, its nurses, and doctors, its carers, elderly, homeless, and youth, as successive neo-liberal governments have done, Conservative and Labour.

Exploring the serenity of the National War Memorial, I soon realized there was not a single monument, or plinth, or plaque, or rosebush honoring the memory of Britain’s victims — the civilians in the “peacetime” operations commemorated here.

There is no remembrance of the Libyans killed when their country was wilfully destroyed by Prime Minister David Cameron and his collaborators in Paris and Washington.

There is no word of regret for the Serbian women and children killed by British bombs, dropped from a safe height on schools, factories, bridges, towns, on the orders of Tony Blair; or for the impoverished Yemeni children extinguished by Saudi pilots with their logistics and targets supplied by Britons in the air-conditioned safety of Riyadh; or for the Syrians starved by “sanctions.”

There is no monument to the Palestinian children murdered with the British elite’s enduring connivance, such as the recent campaign that destroyed a modest reform movement within the Labour Party with specious accusations of anti-Semitism.

Two weeks ago, Israel’s military chief of staff and Britain’s Chief of the Defence Staff signed an agreement to “formalize and enhance” military co-operation. This was not news. More British arms and logistical support will now flow to the lawless regime in Tel Aviv, whose snipers target children and psychopaths interrogate children in extreme isolation. (See the recent shocking report by Defense for Children, Isolated and Alone).

Perhaps the most striking omission at the Staffordshire war memorial is an acknowledgment of the million Iraqis whose lives and country were destroyed by the illegal invasion of Blair and Bush in 2003.

Iraqis pass by a British tank as they flee Basra, southern Iraq, as smoke looming over the city can be seen in the distance, March 29, 2003. (AP/Anja Niedringhaus)

Iraqis pass by a British tank as they flee Basra as smoke looms over the city in the distance, March 29, 2003. Anja Niedringhaus | AP

ORB, a member of the British Polling Council, put the figure at 1.2 million. In 2013, the ComRes organization asked a cross-section of the British public how many Iraqis had died in the invasion. A majority said fewer than 10,000.

The most refined propaganda on earth

How is such a lethal silence sustained in a sophisticated society? My answer is that propaganda is far more effective in societies that regard themselves as free than in dictatorships and autocracies. I include censorship by omission.

Our propaganda industries – both political and cultural, including most of the media – are the most powerful, ubiquitous, and refined on earth. Big lies can be repeated incessantly in comforting, credible BBC voices. Omissions are no problem.

A similar question relates to nuclear war, whose threat is “of no interest,” to quote Harold Pinter. Russia, a nuclear power, is encircled by the war-making group known as NATO, with British troops regularly “maneuvering” right up to the border where Hitler invaded.

The defamation of all things Russian, not least the historical truth that the Red Army largely won the Second World War, is percolated into public consciousness. The Russians are of “no interest,” except as demons.

China, also a nuclear power, is the brunt of unrelenting provocation, with American strategic bombers and drones constantly probing its territorial space and – hooray – HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s £3billion aircraft carrier, soon to sail 6,500 miles to enforce “freedom of navigation” within sight of the Chinese mainland.

Some 400 American bases encircle China, “rather like a noose,” a former Pentagon planner said to me. They extend all the way from Australia, through the Pacific to southern and northern Asia and across Eurasia.

In South Korea, a missile system known as Terminal High Altitude Air Defense, or THAAD, is aimed point-blank at China across the narrow East China Sea. Imagine Chinese missiles in Mexico or Canada or off the coast of California.

A few years after the invasion of Iraq, I made a film called “The War You Don’t See,” in which I asked leading American and British journalists as well as TV news executives – people I knew as colleagues — why and how Bush and Blair were allowed to get away with the great crime in Iraq, considering that the lies were not very clever.

 
Their response surprised me. Had “we,” they said – that is journalists and broadcasters, especially in the U.S. — challenged the claims of the White House and Downing Street, investigated and exposed the lies, instead of amplifying and echoing them, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 probably would not have happened. Countless people would be alive today. Four million refugees would not have fled. The grisly ISIS, a product of the Blair-Bush invasion, might not have been conceived.

David Rose, then with the London Observer, which supported the invasion, described “the pack of lies fed to me by a fairly sophisticated disinformation campaign.” Rageh Omah, then the BBC’s man in Iraq, told me, “We failed to press the most uncomfortable buttons hard enough.” Dan Rather, the CBS anchorman, agreed, as did many others.

I admired these journalists who broke the silence. But they are honorable exceptions. Today, the war drums have new and highly enthusiastic beaters in Britain, America, and the “West.”

Take your pick among the legion of Russia and China bashers and promoters of fiction such as Russiagate. My personal Oscar goes to Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald, whose unrelenting rousing drivel about the “existential threat” (of China-Russia, mostly China) was illustrated by a smiling Scott Morrison, the PR man who is Australia’s prime minister, dressed like Churchill, V for Victory sign and all. “Not since the 1930s ….” the pair of them intoned. Ad nauseum.

Covid has provided cover for this pandemic of propaganda. In July, Morrison took his cue from Trump and announced that Australia, which has no enemies, would spend A$270 billion on provoking one, including missiles that could reach China.

That China’s purchase of Australia’s minerals and agriculture effectively underwrote the Australian economy was “of no interest” to the government in Canberra.

The Australian media cheered almost as one, delivering a shower of abuse at China. Thousands of Chinese students, who had guaranteed the gross salaries of Australian vice-chancellors, were advised by their government to go elsewhere. Chinese-Australians were bad-mouthed and delivery men were assaulted. Colonial racism is never hard to revive.

Some years ago, I interviewed the former head of the CIA in Latin America, Duane Claridge. In a few refreshingly honest words, he summed up “Western” foreign policy as it is ordained and directed by Washington.

The super-power, he said, could do what it wanted where it wanted whenever its “strategic interests” dictated. His words were: “Get used to it, world.”

I have reported a number of wars. I have seen the remains of children and women and the elderly bombed and burned to death: their villages laid to waste, their petrified trees festooned with human parts. And much else.

Perhaps that is why I reserve a specific contempt for those who promote the crime of rapacious war, who beckon it with bad faith and profanities,  having never experienced it themselves. Their monopoly must be broken.

This is a version of an address John Pilger gave to a Stop the War fund-raiser, Artists Speak Out, in London.  

Feature photo | The British flag waves from an armored personnel carrier of the 7th Brigade Royal Scots as it advances along the Basra-Kuwait Highway near Kuwait City following the retreat of Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm. Photo | PHC Holmes – Released

John Pilger is an award-winning journalist. His articles appear worldwide in newspapers such as the Guardian, the Independent, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Mail & Guardian (South Africa), Aftonbladet (Sweden), Il Manifesto (Italy).

The post John Pilger: The Most Lethal Virus Is Not COVID. It Is War appeared first on MintPress News.

Podcast Panel: US Meddling In Venezuela Elections, Economic Warfare & COVID-19

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/12/2020 - 5:26am in

Welcome to MintCast — an interview series featuring dissenting voices the establishment would rather silence– I’m your host Mnar Muhawesh Adley.

President Nicolas Maduro is celebrating this week after a clear victory in the National Assembly elections that took place on December 6. Boosted by a partial opposition boycott, the ruling socialist coalition led by Maduro received over 69% of the votes cast and won a massive 253 of the 277 seats in the National Assembly, the only branch of government not under its control.

While the government is celebrating, the low turnout of 31% has many worried its support is decreasing, although the vote was held in the middle of a pandemic. The U.S. government, who has long considered Venezuela an official enemy, decried the process as fraudulent before it began, instructing opposition parties to boycott it and sanctioning those that disobeyed their orders.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to Twitter to call Venezuela’s elections illegitimate, describing Maduro as a dictator and strongman, despite the fact that it was overseen by 1,500 election observers and 300 representatives from 34 countries.

Joining MintCast are four guests who know the country well, Max Blumenthal, Anya Parampil, Adrienne Pine, and Alan MacLeod.

Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and author and editor of The Grayzone. He has been reporting from Venezuela this week and observed the elections himself. His latest book is “The Management of Savagery: How America’s National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump.” He is also the co-host of the Moderate Rebels podcast.

Parampil is a former producer and host at RT America’s “In Question.” She now hosts her own show, Red Lines, which you can find at The Grayzone and on YouTube.

Pine is an associate professor of anthropology at the American University in Washington DC. In 2019, she occupied the Venezuelan embassy in DC to prevent it from falling into the hands of U.S.-backed self-declared president Juan Guaidó. Along with Blumenthal and Parampil, Pine observed the recent elections close up, traveling to Venezuela to serve as an election observer.

Our third guest is MintPress’s own senior Staff Writer, Alan Macleod. Macleod is an expert on Western media coverage of South America. After completing his Ph.D. on the topic in 2017, he published five peer-reviewed articles on how media distorts the image of Venezuela. He is also the author of the book “Bad News from Venezuela: 20 years of fake news and misreporting.

This program is 100 percent listener supported! You can join the hundreds of financial sponsors who make this show possible by becoming a member on our Patreon page.

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud. Please leave us a review and share this segment.

Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups.

The post Podcast Panel: US Meddling In Venezuela Elections, Economic Warfare & COVID-19 appeared first on MintPress News.

Low Turnout, but Free, Elections in Venezuela Are a Blow To Regime Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 2:03am in

Venezuela held legislative elections on December 6 and, as has become the norm, the U.S. and sectors of the opposition that boycotted the election are claiming fraud without presenting evidence. The coalition of parties supporting President Maduro won 68% of the vote and a supermajority in the National Assembly. All the evidence suggests the elections were free and fair. However, turnout was only 31%, a participation rate that was hampered by a partial opposition boycott of the election.

This call to abstain was made by Juan Guaidó and his allies, but a different faction of the opposition participated fully. In the past three years, this faction of the opposition has taken a moderate stance that involves engaging in dialogue and participating in elections. The moderates accepted the election’s results, called for reflection and strongly criticized the call for a boycott.

The Trump administration spent the last several months attempting to sabotage Venezuela’s elections by characterizing them as a “sham” and sanctioning some of these moderates. Yet now that the vote took place, there is no evidence of irregularities. Claiming that elections are fraudulent before they’re even held – and insisting that fraud occurred in the face of overwhelming evidence against such a claim – is a specialty of the Trump administration.

The U.S. government repeatedly said that there were “no conditions” for free and fair elections, but the condition it sought to impose was the resignation of President Maduro. Unsurprisingly, the European Union, the Lima Group (an ad hoc set of Latin American countries pushing for regime change in Venezuela) and the corporate media followed the State Department’s lead, attempting to delegitimize what is likely one of the most fraud-proof electoral processes in the world. In contrast, observers on the ground, including the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts, underscored the election’s compliance with international standards.

 

A secure electoral system

Back in 2012, Jimmy Carter called Venezuela’s process “the best in the world.” It’s not hard to see why. Venezuela has electronic voting machines that print paper receipts. The machines are only unlocked when a voter’s identity is verified by digital fingerprint scan and a spot-check of their national identity card. After voting on the machine (a simple process that can take as little as ten seconds), it prints out a paper receipt so electors can verify that their vote was correctly recorded. The elector then places this receipt in a secure ballot box, and then signs and places a thumbprint on the voter roll.

 

Venezuela Electoral Council

A graphic from Venezuela’s National Electoral Council showing the voting process

After polls close, the digital vote count is compared to a random sampling of at least 54% of the ballot boxes (a figure that is higher than necessary to have a statistically significant result). It’s a system with multiple redundancies that is backed by 16 different audits that must be signed off on by representatives of political parties.

In these elections, 14,000 candidates from 107 parties (97 of which oppose the Maduro government) ran for 277 seats. The choices ran the ideological spectrum from communists and socialists to evangelicals, Christian conservatives and neoliberals. Opposition candidates got air time on state television stations and took part in several debates.

The elections were monitored by 300 international observers from 34 countries, as well as over 1,000 national observers from political parties and social organizations. Teri Mattson, who observed two previous elections in Venezuela, led a CODEPINK observation delegation and described this year’s elections as free and fair, and without fraud or tampering. “Voting is easy, fast and secure: an incentive for all voters while also preventing long lines due to cumbersome ballots and voter procedures such as those seen in the U.S.,” Mattson said.

 

Voter turnout

Of course, the low turnout is bound to raise eyebrows, yet it’s important to place it into context. One factor that depressed participation is a gasoline shortage induced by U.S. sanctions, which made it difficult for some voters to travel to polls. Migration is another factor that artificially reduced turnout. Only citizens who currently reside in the country can vote in legislative elections, but most who left in recent years still appear on voter rolls as living in Venezuela.

A further factor is the pandemic. Venezuela is doing significantly better than most countries in handling the coronavirus (3,694 cases per million population and 33 deaths per million population, versus 46,348 cases per million and 877 deaths per million in the U.S.). However, there’s still enough fear of the virus that it serves as a disincentive to voting.

International comparisons should also be taken into account when analyzing the turnout. For example, parliamentary elections were also held Sunday in Romania, which had similarly low voter turnout (33%). Other countries have also had poor participation this year, including legislative elections in Egypt (28% turnout), Mali (35%), Jamaica (38%) and Jordan (30%), as well as municipal elections in Costa Rica (38%). Additionally, U.S. midterm elections typically feature 40% voter turnout (it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, as virtually all eligible voters are registered in Venezuela, which is not the case in the U.S.). None of these elections are less legitimate for their low participation, and neither is Venezuela’s.

 

The failed strategy of boycotts

Clearly, a significant factor in reduced turnout was the extremist opposition’s call for a boycott. This tactic of boycotting elections has been used by the opposition in the past, including in the 2005 legislative elections, the 2017 national constituent assembly elections, the 2017 municipal elections (partial boycott) and the 2018 presidential elections (partial boycott).

However, at no point has boycotting elections helped them in any way. So why do the extremists keep engaging in a failed tactic? After all, the opposition routinely claims (again, offering no evidence) that 80% of the population disapproves of the Maduro administration; it doesn’t make sense to cede ground when there’s the possibility of winning.

One explanation is that they were afraid of losing. In the last elections that featured full participation, the 2017 gubernatorial elections, the opposition ended up losing in 19 of 23 states. It’s not clear that they would have won this time around, particularly as a significant percentage of their base has migrated in recent years. A loss would have destroyed once and for all the fiction of Juan Guaidó’s so-called interim president (his “claim” to the presidency is based on his being a legislator in the current National Assembly). Better to not run than run and lose.

Another explanation is that a boycott was part of the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign, which involves ongoing attempts to delegitimize Venezuela’s democratic credentials. This strategy was threatened when the moderate opposition engaged in dialogue and announced they were running in the elections. The Trump administration quickly denounced them as “complicit” with and “puppets” of the Maduro government, before sanctioning several of those leaders.

The U.S. got the European Union on board with this plan as well. In January, the EU sanctioned three moderate opposition figures for “acting against the National Assembly’s democratic functioning” after they were elected to leadership positions in the legislature, replacing Juan Guaidó and two of his allies.

More recently, the EU refused the calls from two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles to monitor the elections. Capriles said his participation was contingent upon EU monitoring, which didn’t occur because the EU claimed it did not have enough time to prepare a delegation. This was back in September, three months before the vote. After the elections, the EU had the gall to criticize the Venezuelan government for failing “to mobilize the Venezuelan people to participate.”

In practical terms, higher turnout may have opened the doors for negotiations between the U.S. and moderate opposition, but that possibility now seems less likely. Other than that, the low turnout is not going to have much impact on the ground in Venezuela.

The Maduro government will have a supermajority in the National Assembly for the next five years, which should help it develop measures to counter the economic sanctions. It’s in a stronger position now than it was prior to the elections. After four years of sanctions, sabotaged industries, attempted coups, an assassination by drone attempt, a mercenary incursion and paramilitary attacks, among others, Venezuela managed to survive the Trump administration’s maximum pressure. The elections were carried out in complete tranquility. That is quite an achievement and puts to rest the magical thinking of the Trump administration and extreme opposition, which have spent years saying that regime change is just around the corner.

Feature photo | A voter casts her ballot during elections to choose members of the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 6, 2020. Matias Delacroix | AP

Leonardo Flores is a Latin American policy expert and campaigner with CODEPINK.

The post Low Turnout, but Free, Elections in Venezuela Are a Blow To Regime Change appeared first on MintPress News.

Pages