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Disbelief as Trump Appoints Disgraced Iran-Contra Criminal Elliott Abrams as Iran Envoy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 3:17am in

The Trump administration has appointed disgraced neoconservative hawk Elliott Abrams to the new position of chief advisor on Iran after former insider Brian Hook handed in his resignation earlier this week. “Special Representative Hook has been my point person on Iran for over two years and he has achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday, “Following a transition period with Brian Hook, Elliott Abrams will assume the position of Special Representative for Iran, in addition to his responsibilities as Special Representative for Venezuela.”

Anger and disbelief appeared to be the chief emotions stirred by the decision. “Elliott Abrams appointment as Special Representative for Iran is as ludicrous as his failed career as Venezuela envoy,” reacted United Nations Special Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas. “Convicted war criminal Elliott Abrams gets to try and destroy Venezuela and Iran at the same time. He certainly does have a great track record in dealing with Iran and Latin America all at once,” wrote journalist Anya Parampil, referencing his participation in the Iran-Contra scandal. Activist group CODEPINK was equally condemnatory, claiming the appointment was “another low point for the Trump administration’s disastrous policy towards Iran.” “The dangerous conflict resulting from Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement will be exacerbated by a man committed to Washington’s failed policies of regime change, including in his present-day position as Trump’s representative for Venezuela,” they added. Even mainstream, corporate-funded outlets could not hide their skepticism at the decision. “Elliott Abrams, convicted of lying about Iran-Contra, named special representative for Iran,” read CBS News’ headline.

 

Killy Elliott

Abrams’ first day on the job in the Reagan administration as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs could hardly have been more conspicuous. The previous day, a U.S.-backed and trained death squad in El Salvador had conducted a massacre in the village of El Mozote, killing at least 800 people and raping girls as young as 10. Survivors testify that the soldiers threw a three-year-old boy in the air and impaled him on their bayonets. Abrams immediately led a cover-up, telling the Senate that eyewitness reports were “not credible” and the massacre was being “significantly misused as propaganda against their side. In total, around 75,000 people were killed in what is misleadingly described as a “civil war,” but was, in reality, a campaign of extermination directed at anyone who dissented against the U.S.-backed dictatorship. Abrams lauded what happened in El Salvador as a “fabulous achievement” for democracy. Investigative journalist Jon Schwarz described Abrams as “supporting Latin American democracy pretty much like [serial killer] Jeffrey Dahmer supported all the people that he brought to his apartment.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, right, poses with former Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 2, 2007. (AP/Charles Dharapak)

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, right, poses with Abrams in the Oval Office, May 2, 2007. Charles Dharapak | AP

Throughout the 1980s, Abrams was a chief architect of the genocides and dirty wars plaguing the region. In Guatemala, he pushed for arms sales to the dictatorship of General Efrain Rios Montt, claiming he had “brought considerable progress” to human rights in the region. “We think that kind of progress needs to be rewarded and encouraged,” he said. While General Rios Montt was later convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, Abrams faced no consequences for his role in the killing over 200,000 people, nor did he suffer serious repercussions for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair, where government organizations sold weapons to Iran in order to fund far-right death squads in Nicaragua. Abrams pled guilty to lying to Congress about the affair but was quickly pardoned by George H.W. Bush.

 

New regime change opportunities

“The failure of Trump’s obscure government hawk character, Elliott Abrams, was evident in the U.S. Senate today. His criminal record and his arrogant vision of the Cold War has caused him to crush the dignity and courage of a free people time and again,” wrote Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, on hearing the news about Abrams’ new position. Since January 2019, Abrams has been tasked with overthrowing the Venezuelan government, constantly encouraging the country to rise up, and placing crippling sanctions on others who trade with the Caribbean nation. Yesterday, he confirmed that he has been attempting to bribe military generals to rebel and overthrow the country’s elected leader.

The appointment of perhaps the most hardline neoconservative hawk to the new position of Special Representative for Iran is the latest in a long line of escalatory measures the Trump administration has taken. In the last two years, the president has abandoned the nuclear deal, greatly increased sanctions on the country, supported anti-government protests in Tehran, assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and prevented the importation of COVID-19 medicines and supplies. Given his record, it is doubtful whether many in Iran will be celebrating the return of Elliott Abrams.

Feature photo | Elliot Abrams, the U.S. special adviser for Venezuela and now Iran, listens to questions from reporters at the US embassy in Lisbon, April 9, 2019. Armando Franca | 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 Disbelief as Trump Appoints Disgraced Iran-Contra Criminal Elliott Abrams as Iran Envoy appeared first on MintPress News.

Trump Tells Florida Crowd “Something Will Happen in Venezuela” Soon

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 2:59am in

On a trip to COVID-19 riddled Florida this weekend, President Donald Trump not-so-cryptically revealed that he had something big planned for Venezuela during a meeting with leaders of the U.S. military’s Southern Command. “Something will happen with Venezuela. That’s all I can tell you,” he said, before adding that Washington would be “very much involved” in what he was referencing.

On Trump’s orders, Southern Command moved large numbers of forces to the region, ostensibly to conduct a counter-narcotics operation against Venezuela, which the U.S. has described as a “narco state,” with the DEA offering a $15 million bounty for President Maduro’s head. This, despite the fact the U.S. government’s own reports on drug smuggling barely even mention Venezuela and official summaries show that U.S.-allies Colombia and Ecuador are the sources of the vast majority of South American drugs that end up in the U.S. In May, Juan Guaidó, the Washington-backed self-declared president of Venezuela, green-lighted a coup attempt led by American ex-Green Berets that ended in total failure.

Despite privately writing him off as a spent force, the “Beto O’Rourke of Venezuela,” President Trump continued to publicly back Guaidó, telling a group of hardline Venezuelan and Cuban expats in Miami-Dade County this weekend that he still “stands with the righteous leader of Venezuela.” A recent poll found that only three percent of Venezuelans recognize Guaidó as legitimate, and over 80 percent of the country say the entire opposition movement has “no credibility” whatsoever.

This weekend, Trump’s Special Advisor on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams announced brand new sanctions not just on Venezuela, which is under a virtual total blockade, but on any company found to be helping the importation of goods to the country in any way. Abrams has managed to force London-based Lloyd’s Registrar to withdraw insurance and registration to ships the U.S. deems to be helping break the blockade, meaning they are unable to dock anywhere in the world. “It’s just not worth the hassle or the risk for [companies],” he gleefully told Reuters. “There are people who don’t cooperate…We’ll go after the ship, the ship owner, the ship captain.” U.S. citizens breaking the embargo already face 30 years in prison. Thus, Abrams appears to have dusted off his Nicaragua strategy from the 1980s, where the country was sanctioned and attacked so badly that they eventually gave in and accepted the U.S.-backed candidate Violetta Chamorro as president in 1990.

Washington’s power and influence have helped bring the Venezuelan economy to a standstill, with oil exports at their lowest in modern history. The sanctions regime was formally condemned by the United Nations; an American U.N. rapporteur visiting the country and estimating that over 100,000 people have been killed as a result, declaring the U.S. guilty of “crimes against humanity.” Sanctions are a bi-partisan endeavor, beginning under President Obama in 2015, who declared a “national emergency” due to the “unusual and extraordinary threat” Venezuela was posing to the United States.

Trump’s latest move to tighten the noose even further around the necks of Venezuelans appears to be at least partially motivated by his desire to shore up the vote of the large Latin American expat vote in Southern Florida, a state where polls show he is falling further behind Joe Biden. In the 2013 election, at least 92.5 percent of Venezuelans in Florida voted against Maduro and for the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski.

Biden has also taken a hard line on Venezuela and is attempting to out-hawk Trump on the issue. “It’s time for free and fair elections so that the Venezuelan people can turn the page on the corrupt and repressive Maduro regime,” he said, adding that, “Trump talks tough on Venezuela, but admires thugs and dictators like Nicolas Maduro. As President, I will stand with the Venezuelan people and for democracy.” Last month the largest Democratic Super PAC began running ads aimed at Latino Florida Latinos comparing Trump to Maduro, his predecessor Hugo Chavez, and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. A recent poll found that only 19 percent of Venezuelans had confidence that the situation would improve in the short term. The U.S.’ latest moves suggest they would be correct in their pessimism.

Feature photo | President Donald Trump speaks about the counternarcotics operations at U.S. Southern Command, July 10, 2020, in Doral, Fla. Evan Vucci | 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 Trump Tells Florida Crowd “Something Will Happen in Venezuela” Soon appeared first on MintPress News.

VenezolanosConBiden and MAGAzuela: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/07/2020 - 3:33am in

The Biden campaign held an online event on Wednesday, July 8 pitched as the former Vice President’s “vision for Venezuela and Venezuelans in the U.S.” Spoiler alert: his vision for Venezuela barely differs from President Trump. This event, which didn’t merit an appearance from Biden himself, was aimed at getting Venezuelan-Americans to volunteer for “Uncle Joe,” as Representative Darren Soto (D-Fl) called him. It was an hour and a half of shilling for votes and influence, and it demonstrated that when it comes to Venezuela, policies of regime change, sanctions and a refusal to engage in dialogue unite VenezolanosConBiden (the group hosting the event) with MAGAzuela (the term for Trump-supporting Venezuelans).

There are only two policy differences in the Biden and Trump approaches to Venezuela. One is about TPS, or temporary protected status, which is an immigration policy that allows people from ten specific countries affected by disasters to live and work in the U.S. Biden supports TPS for Venezuelans, while Trump allies have blocked it in the Senate and Trump himself ended the program and has refused to issue it for Venezuelans. According to one of Biden’s surrogates, there are 150 thousand Venezuelans in the U.S. who are either undocumented or are here on expired visas.

The other difference is the border wall, which is now being built in part using Venezuelan funds. The Trump administration has diverted $601 million dollars in assets stolen from the Venezuelan people to build the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. This money was previously held in the Treasury Department’s “forfeiture fund”, which is typically used to finance law enforcement operations. It is part of the estimated $24 billion that the U.S. and its allies have frozen and looted from Venezuela in their regime change efforts. Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed interim president, has yet to comment on how the Trump administration is using these Venezuelan funds, but his “ambassador”, Carlos Vecchio, admitted to working with the Justice Department to “establish a formal agreement … to define the percentage” of how much of the seized Venezuelan funds will go to the United States. According to Guaidó and his associates, it is “normal” for the Trump administration to take a cut.

TPS and the wall are the only two points on which Biden and Trump differ. Biden’s surrogates claim he will grant TPS to Venezuelans on Day One of his administration and Biden says he will stop financing the wall. These differences are minimal though, especially considering that Biden will continue the policies that have led millions of Venezuelans to flee in the first place and he has given every indication that more funds will be frozen.

Biden’s vision is more of the same magical thinking that the Trump administration has engaged in for years. His campaign says the sanctions will continue and actually intensify. A Biden administration would seek “a huge increase in aid”, not just for Venezuela but for Colombia and other countries with Venezuelan migrants. They would build an “international coalition” to rebuild Venezuela. They would persecute key supporters of the Venezuelan government, regardless of where they are in the world. According to Juan González, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Obama and current advisor to Biden on Latin America, they will give the government of President Nicolás Maduro one option: elections observed by a respected (and unnamed) multilateral institution and he must leave office.

Biden’s surrogates warn that Venezuela is a national security issue for the U.S., that the country has been infiltrated by terrorist groups and everything must be done to end Russian, Chinese, and Cuban influence. They responded to a question about the impact of sanctions by blaming the “humanitarian crisis” on chavismo. They say Biden will not negotiate with Maduro. The Biden campaign attacked Trump for suggesting he would meet with Maduro, forcing Trump to backtrack on the offer, and has been running ads in Miami accusing Trump of being soft on Maduro.

Biden’s policies are the same policies and exact rhetoric used by the Trump administration. Since 2017, the U.S. has imposed sanctions that have cost 100,000 Venezuelans their lives and led to economic losses of $130 billion. But according to Biden supporter Rep. Soto, “there hasn’t been enough of a crackdown” on the Maduro government. Trump has spent three years building an approximately 60-country anti-Maduro coalition and Secretary of State Pompeo has traveled the world seeking more aid allegedly for Venezuela, but that ends up in countries with Venezuelan migrants. They have sanctioned foreign companies doing business with Venezuela and sought to arrest Venezuelan businessmen overseas.

On the issue of military intervention, the Biden surrogates claimed Trump’s threats of a military option were empty and insisted other options must be explored and all other avenues of pressure exhausted (except, of course, dialogue) before considering military action. They did not say whether U.S. intervention should be “on the table”, and framed the discussion around the U.S. public’s alleged aversion to another war rather than on the catastrophic consequences this would have for the Venezuelan people, let alone the illegality of any sort of military intervention.

It is no secret that regime change in Venezuela is a bipartisan objective, and Trump’s tactic of pandering to right-wing Latinx extremists in Florida has led the Democrats to do the same. The Biden campaign strategy is clear: mimic the administration’s Venezuela policy while offering TPS to draw votes away from Trump. The surrogates also repeatedly insisted that Biden is not a socialist – apparently a common misconception among the MAGAzuela crowd.

It should be no surprise that this is all about Florida and the 2020 election. Trump not only won the state in 2016, but his allies took the governorship and a Senate seat in 2018, albeit by small margins. Republican governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott both accused their opponents of being socialists who are soft on Venezuela. The Biden camp is doing its utmost to prevent those types of attacks from sticking against their candidate.

There is no reason to believe that Biden will change course on Venezuela if elected. There are too many votes in Florida at stake, as well as donations to be had from wealthy Venezuelan ex-pats – who at this point are playing both sides and doing so very well. A Biden presidency, just like another four more years of Trump, looks to be disastrous for the Venezuelan people.

Feature photo | Joe Biden meets with Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro on the sidelines of the 2015 inauguration of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff at the Planalto Palace. Photo | AP

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

The post VenezolanosConBiden and MAGAzuela: Two Sides of the Same Coin appeared first on MintPress News.

Guaido Representative Threatens FBI Investigation Into Journalists Exposing Her Dealings

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 5:38am in

Vanessa Neumann, the U.K. ambassador of self-declared President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, claims that she is working closely with the FBI in an investigation exposing a “transnational criminal network” of journalists, including John McEvoy, Pablo Navarette, independent outlet Venezuelanalysis and former MintPress News contributor Camila Escalante.

From the Twitter account of her communications firm, Asymmetrica, Neumann said that the four sources were involved in a “criminal conspiracy” supporting Venezuelan vice-president Delcy Rodriguez. “There is a price on your head” she informed them, “welcome to the rule of law, guys.”

Neumann was tweeting from an organizational account because earlier she tweeted “death to Maduro!” from her personal account. After serious pushback online she claimed she had been hacked, she also claimed that “disseminating false information,” by which she appears to mean commenting on or retweeting her “death to Maduro” outburst, is a crime that the FBI is looking into.

MintPress spoke with McEvoy today, who seemed baffled by the affair, saying:

The accusations made against myself and other journalists by Asymmetrica, owned by Juan Guaidó’s UK representative Vanessa Neumann, are at once serious and laughable. Without basis, Neumann has accused various journalists of forming part of a ‘transnational crime network’ and ‘hacking’ her Twitter account, adding that there is a ‘price on your head’. This is no way for anybody, let alone a ‘diplomat’, to behave – and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should now seriously reconsider its recognition of her in the UK.”

Using documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, McEvoy, an investigative journalist, had recently revealed how Neumann was secretly meeting with the U.K. government to coordinate the overthrow of Maduro and discuss a “reconstruction” plan that promoted the interests of British corporations in a Guaidó-led Venezuela, adding fuel to speculation that this is an attempt to silence journalists.

 

Juan Guaidó’s tenuous claim to power

The United Kingdom is one of the key supporters of Guaidó, who proclaimed himself president of Venezuela in January 2019, despite never standing for the position. He maintains he is the legitimate head of state despite only 3 percent of the Venezuelan population recognizing him as such. In January, he parted ways with the ironically-named Popular Will party. Last week a U.K. court rejected President Maduro’s attempts to access his country’s $1 billion gold reserves held in the Bank of England on the grounds that Guaidó was the legitimate ruler of Venezuela, a decision compared to modern piracy by many. It was also revealed that Donald Trump used at least $601 million of confiscated Venezuelan money to build his border wall with Mexico.

There is bipartisan support for Guaidó in Washington as well. On July 3, Venezuela’s Independence Day, the State Department announced that it “remains committed to supporting Venezuela’s peaceful, democratic transition and free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections.” Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released an almost identical statement: “On this Venezuelan Independence Day, my thoughts are with Venezuelans who continue to work tirelessly for the cause of democracy. It’s time for free and fair elections so that the Venezuelan people can turn the page on the corrupt and repressive Maduro regime,” he wrote. Guaidó was a guest of honor at Trump’s State of the Union address in February, where he received a standing ovation from Democrats and Republicans alike. A May poll of Venezuelans found only 4.1 percent believed Guaidó was capable of governing the country.

The U.S. and U.K. have not managed to convince the international community to recognize Guaidó, nor to overthrow the Maduro administration, despite many attempts. The two countries have supported at least six separate coup attempts by Guaidó since January 2019, all of which have failed. In May, a group of mercenaries led by ex-Green Berets attempted an amphibious invasion of the country, intending to shoot their way to the presidential palace. However, the highly trained, well-armed fighters were immediately overpowered by a handful of disgruntled members of the House of Socialist Fishermen collective in the sleepy coastal village of Chuao, the event being christened the “Bay of Piglets” fiasco by the New Yorker. Leaked documents show that Guaidó had agreed that the mercenaries were allowed to kill anyone they pleased and that, after the coup, they were to become leaders in his private death squad, suppressing any dissent to his rule. In joining the coup, the mercenaries were attempting to collect a $15 million bounty the U.S. government had placed on Maduro’s head, the soldiers believing they had Washington’s approval to do so.

It is in this context that McEvoy found Neumann’s choice of words so distasteful. “To say that there is a ‘price on your head’ is especially sinister given the very real price that the U.S., in collaboration with the Venezuelan opposition, has put on the heads of Venezuelan officials,” he told MintPress. “It seems that no amount of scandals, crises, and violent acts can dissuade these organizations from associating with the Venezuelan opposition. The next time Neumann feels the urge to take to Twitter to attack U.K.- and Latin America-based journalists, I would advise her to refrain, and avoid embarrassing herself any further.”

Few people seem to believe Neumann. Indeed, her attacks have shocked and alienated even strong critics of the Maduro administration who applauded the U.S. sanctions. “Let me see if I understand. As part of a struggle against an undemocratic government that uses false accusations and judicial harassment against its opponents, Juan Guaidó’s ambassador to the U.K. Vanessa Neumann is not trying to weaponize the FBI to harass and intimidate her critics?” asked David Smilde of the Washington Office on Latin America. Seeing as her claims appear to be backfiring, perhaps the best course of action would be to claim her account was hacked again. It would be in keeping with the bluff-heavy Guaidó playbook.

Editor’s note | A previous version of this article stated that Juan Guaidó was expelled from the Popular Will party, the wording has been changed to reflect the fact that Guaidó resigned from the party. We regret the error.

Feature photo | Vanessa Neumann is pictured with disgraced Trump advisor John Bolton in Aug, 2019. Photo | @vanessaneumann

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 Guaido Representative Threatens FBI Investigation Into Journalists Exposing Her Dealings appeared first on MintPress News.

On Foreign Policy, Joe Biden is Worse Than Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 3:04am in

Joe Biden Addresses Iraq War Vote

            Trump is terrible. Biden is just as bad. In some ways the Democrat is worse.

            You shouldn’t vote for either one.

            Trump is erratic and unpredictable, which is dangerous. Even so, Biden is worse than Trump on international relations.

At the center of the president’s worldview is a deep, admirable and prescient skepticism about foreign interventionism. Trump began criticizing the Iraq War soon after it began, when the U.S. invasion was still popular. His critiques continued during the 2016 primaries—have you known of another Republican to campaign against militarism? As president-elect Trump told a room full of service members: “We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with.”

Trump signed the first peace agreement with the Taliban; he plans to bring home the last American troops in Afghanistan before Election Day—even sooner than required under the deal. He refuses to be goaded into a new Cold War against Russia, has met with the leader of North Korea and has offered direct talks with Iran—positions far to the left of hawkish pro-war Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Because most Americans are self-centered and unconcerned about brown people in other nations, it’s ridiculous yet necessary to remind you that the Afghans we bomb are real people like you and me, that Iraqis are scarred for life when their children are hobbled by American bullets, that Yemenis cry for their dead blown to bits by American missiles, that our insane decision to turn Libya from the most prosperous country in Africa into a failed state with 21st century slave auctions is an atrocity, that we have murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the last couple of decades for no reason that can be justified under common sense or international law.

The United States is the greatest exporter of death, oppression and exploitation on the planet. Every human being has the duty to oppose it. We who pour our taxes into the U.S. government have the biggest duty of all to fight the war machine. That begins with holding the murderers and their enablers accountable for their—there is no better word—evil.

Wars of choice are not horrors of happenstance, like a tornado. Political leaders vote to slaughter and maim men, women and children and ruin economies around the globe, leading to still more death. Some politicians are especially nefarious, convincing other politicians to vote for mass murder.

Politicians like Joe Biden.

Most recently, after Trump signaled his willingness to dump U.S.-backed rightist Juan Guaidó and meet with Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, a socialist, Biden called Maduro a “dictator” and pledged fealty to right-wing Venezuelan exiles in South Florida. It was the latest in a long line of foreign policy calls that we have come to expect from a right-wing Republican like George W. Bush—yet Biden plays a “Democrat” on TV.

“He’s registered some antiwar positions from time to time, as when he voted against the first Gulf War or opposed the funding of the Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s. But overall, he’s racked up a track record of supporting overseas adventures,” observed Branko Marcetic, writing for Jacobin.

Biden, notes Marcetic, pushed for “the 1999 bombing of Serbia, which actually dissolved the local pro-democracy movement and rallied popular support around the country’s dictator.” Biden voted for the U.S. wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. “I voted to go into Iraq, and I’d vote to do it again,” Biden said in August 2003. Now he defends himself by saying he was so stupid that he fell for Bush’s lies about WMDs.

Biden was the guy who convinced Obama to ramp up Bush’s drone assassination program, which kills 50 innocent bystanders for every 1 targeted “militant”—who often gets away and is rarely a threat to the United States, just to our authoritarian allies. Someday soon Biden’s drone killings abroad will be used to justify killing Americans here at home.

Elsewhere Marcetic writes: “When Reagan invaded Grenada in 1983, bombing a hospital in the process, Biden said he ‘did the right thing.’ When he bombed Libya three years later, killing 36 civilians and dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s 15-month-old daughter, Biden said, ‘There can be no question that Gaddafi has asked for and deserves a strong response like this.’ And when George H. W. Bush invaded Panama three years after that, an outrageous war to depose a leader who had been a CIA asset and that saw dead civilians ‘buried like dogs,’ as one witness put it, Biden called it ‘appropriate and necessary.’”

A vote for Biden isn’t just a vote against Trump. It’s a vote in favor of Biden’s vote to kill one million Iraqis. If we elect Joe Biden, we will send a message to the world: America hates you, we’re glad we killed all those people and we plan to kill more.

It will also send a message to Biden: Heckuva job, Joe!

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

A US Navy Destroyer Just Entered Venezuelan Waters. Is Trump Trying to Start a War?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/06/2020 - 5:43am in

Heightening already increased tensions with the country, a Navy destroyer, the USS Nitze, entered Venezuelan waters yesterday, conducting what the military is calling a “freedom of navigation operation” in the Caribbean. The Nitze, according to Southern Command’s official twitter account, was “contesting an excessive maritime claim by Venezuela. The U.S. Navy ship lawfully navigated an area the illegitimate Maduro regime falsely claims control over.” In addition to the Nitze, an American military Boeing RC-135W reconnaissance aircraft was also spotted in the area. In an official statement, Admiral Craig Faller, head of Southern Command, said that the move was carried out in order to increase regional peace and stability. “The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, preserving the rights, freedoms and lawful use of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations,” he added. 

The warship got to nearly 12 nautical miles from the coast where, last month, a botched invasion led by ex-Green Berets was foiled. The team hoped to shoot their way to the presidential palace, capture President Maduro, and replace him with U.S.-backed politician Juan Guaidó. Washington has been trying to overthrow the democratically elected government since the election of Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez in 1998. Former White House national security adviser John Bolton’s new book, “The Room Where it Happened,” alleges that Trump said it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela as the country was “really part of the United States,” but that he had lost patience with Guaidó, who has now tried to oust Maduro six times, each with U.S. backing, each with less success than the last one. After his failures, Bolton alleges, Trump labeled Guaidó the “Beto O’Rourke of Venezuela” for his vacuous weakness, comparing him to the “strong” Maduro. 

MintPress spoke with independent journalist and Navy veteran Ariel Fornari today, who said that the military currently lacks the strength to truly bully Venezuela, considering its overreach in the Pacific, attempting to confront China. “Southern Command’s purported ‘freedom of navigation’ operations inside Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone but outside its 12 nautical miles territorial limits, is another spurious show of force attempts by the U.S. meant more to show the flag as opposed to a strategic naval presence in the region,” he added, arguing that yesterday’s incident was more a symbolic “show of force” meant to “assuage the imperial designs within the Trump regime” rather than a substantive challenge to the Maduro government.

While the U.S. has supported an array of coup attempts over the past twenty years, it has never gone through with any invasions, despite Trump’s repeated insistence that a “military option” was on the table. This is primarily because, as Fornari explained, they have not been able to influence the country’s military leaders, who preside over well-equipped and loyal armed forces. Instead, Washington has attempted to strangle Venezuela through sanctions, which have devastated the economy, blocking off virtually all foreign trade, including in oil, its primary commodity. Only a handful of countries, including China, Cuba and Russia, have broken the unilateral embargo. This has led to crippling shortages of certain foods, medicines, and other essential products. An American Special Rapporteur to the UN, Alfred de Zayas, visited the country, comparing the sanctions to a medieval siege, declaring Trump guilty of crimes against humanity, and estimated that over 100,000 Venezuelans have died as a result. Jeb Sprague, Research Associate at the University of California, Riverside and author of Globalizing the Caribbean: Political Economy, Social Change, and the Transnational Capitalist Class, described the tactic as “death by 1000 cuts,” and a “new type of hybrid warfare.” The whole point of this, Sprague told MintPress, is to “create confusion, divisions, and chaos in Venezuela and generate an impossible situation where the government has shrinking options and can more easily make mistakes or be forced to react in a rushed manner.”

Washington has quietly been gearing up for the possibility of a full-scale invasion for over a decade. In 2008, the U.S. resurrected the Fourth Fleet, liquidated in 1950, specifically to deal with the wave of anti-imperialist governments in Latin America. The military has also dramatically increased its presence on Curaçao, an island just to the north of Venezuela, and in 2006 carried out a wargame there simulating an invasion of the country to capture a leader called “Hugo Le Grand.”

In 2018, Admiral James Stavridis, former head of Southern Command, wrote an article in Bloomberg celebrating Jair Bolsonaro’s dubious election victory in Brazil, commenting that, if they can only break Venezuela, the U.S. will have achieved a “clean sweep” in Latin America. Others, like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have argued that the U.S. must intervene in Venezuela “the way we did in Grenada,” in 1983 when marines invaded the island and overthrew the country’s anti-imperialist prime minister Maurice Bishop. 

While yesterday’s incident appears to have passed without escalation, sending even more warships to Venezuela’s borders is a clear provocation that could escalate into a hot war. Sprague noted that “There is a long history of this, of the Navy being used to pressure adversaries.” In 1898, the U.S. used the highly suspicious destruction of the U.S.S. Maine to intervene in the Spanish-American War, invading and occupying Cuba, while in 1964, it lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident to justify ramping up war with Vietnam. The USS Nitze is named after Paul Nitze, Deputy Secretary of Defense under Lyndon B. Johnson, responsible for planning and carrying out the Vietnam War, the casualties of which the Vietnamese government estimates at around 3.4 million. In 2016, the ship was involved in a similar incident off the coast of Iran, where it was chased away by four Iranian patrol craft. Fortunately, it appears that, as with Iran, this new incident has not escalated the conflict, no thanks to the U.S.

Feature photo | The “big eyes”? aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) catch the reflection of the USNS Joshua Humphreys. Naquon Kebe | DVIDS

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.

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Project Venezuela: Right-Wing Activists Push Wikipedia to Blacklist MintPress, other Alternative Media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/06/2020 - 5:07am in

Still unable to convince a sufficient number of their countryfolk to support them, the Venezuelan opposition has turned their efforts towards convincing an international audience – primarily Americans – to support their cause. Part of that is spending inordinate amounts of time online, arguing in English on social media, creating bot networks, and editing Wikipedia articles. Many Wikipedia articles on Venezuela are particularly biased towards the opposition, containing numerous inaccuracies, falsehoods and non-sequiturs.

Now, according to The Grayzone, a group of right-wing Venezuelans has managed to ban the use of a range of alternative media outlets that do not comport with their views. These include MintPress (already blackballed by Wikipedia), The Grayzone, and the much-lauded independent news site Venezuelanalysis, the most extensive English-language resource on the country available. One user in particular, ZiaLater, a member of a group called “Project Venezuela” who control and moderate content related to the country, was the catalyst for the banning of the sites taking an anti-imperialist stance. Some members of Project Venezuela spend long hours changing Venezuela-related pages so they are more critical of the government and sympathetic to the opposition.

 

Policing the narrative

Wikipedia suggests using corporate-funded mainstream sources who they feel are “generally reliable.” However, on Venezuela, these same outlets closely resemble and parrot U.S. regime change propaganda. For example, CNN, the BBC, and the Daily Telegraph all reported the blatant falsehood that the Venezuelan government burned aid trucks trying to enter the country last year. In reality, it was the opposition themselves that burned their own trucks, as immediately reported by The Grayzone, MintPress News, and other outlets who were actually there. Multiple well-circulated live streams also showed the event in real-time. However, that was all ignored. The New York Times, a site recommended by Wikipedia for citation, currently employs a journalist covering Venezuela who openly admitted to me on tape that he considers himself a “mercenary” and deliberately plants outrageously exaggerated stories into Western media to push his goals. Other journalists told me that their colleagues consider it their number one mission to overthrow the Maduro government.

In 2017, The Washington Post published an article openly calling for a violent coup in the country, and currently employs a Venezuelan journalist who resigned from The New York Times, saying, “Too much of my lifestyle is bound up with opposition activism” that he “can’t possibly be neutral.” Meanwhile, The Guardian described Oscar Perez, a local ex-soldier who hijacked a helicopter and used it to bomb parliament buildings as a “patriot,” and even pushing the debunked conspiracy theory that Perez was a “government plant.” They have not retracted it, nor apologized. This is just a minor sampling of the opposition propaganda disguised as objective reporting pumped out constantly by corporate media.

Bad News from Venezuela by Alan Macleod“The media coverage of Venezuela is about as terrible as for any country in the world, except possibly for Palestine. It is utterly biased, misleading and distorted,” said Dan Beeton, an economist and Latin America specialist from the Center for Economic Policy Research. “The gap between the image and the reality of Venezuela,” said professor William I. Robinson of the University of California, Santa Barbara, “is so enormous that it is unfathomable.”

In contrast, MintPress has a number of experienced contributors based in Latin America, including Camila Escalante and Ollie Vargas. I myself have published a Ph.D., book, and five peer-reviewed studies in academic journals on the country and find myself in the mainstream of academic thought. Yet the chasm between how specialists see the country and how it is reported in media is so large that we appear ultra-partisan in comparison to the corporate monolith.

 

A tool to propagate the biases of the ruling elite

While the popular view of Wikipedia is that it is a collective public undertaking that anyone and everyone can add to, in reality, the online encyclopedia has come to mirror the inequalities present in society. The more edits you do, the more power, prestige and influence you accrue, allowing individuals to wield unreasonable power over the world’s 13th most visited website. A class of powerful editors has emerged, who spend hours every day editing and changing content how they see fit. There are strong suspicions that governments and other wealthy organizations are paying people – or teams of people using the same account – to moderate the site full-time, and these power users openly advertise their services to corporations or other groups who want to sanitize or promote their image by changing their pages. Because these users have climbed the Wikipedia hierarchy, their edits become law and are very difficult to overrule.

The CIA has been exposed changing the pages of politically sensitive topics, such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, an FBI computer was spotted editing the entry on Guantanamo Bay, while the NYPD amended Eric Garner’s page and even tried to remove pages focussing on police brutality. Israeli groups are also active on the site, conducting an information war, trying to improve the country’s image. The Guardian revealed they even gave out awards and prizes like free balloon rides for those selected as the “best Zionist editor.”

Thus, the site has effectively been turned into “a tool to propagate the reigning ideology and biases of the ruling elites,” in the words of former New York Times journalist Chris Hedges. As Wikipedia has shown little interest in opposing the site being slowly taken over by organized groups, it is unlikely that the mass blacklisting will be overturned.

Feature photo | A demonstrator marches with a placard that reads: “Censorship” during a protest in Madrid. Andres Kudacki | 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.

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How Did Corporations Spread CSR from the US to the Rest of the World?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/05/2020 - 2:38am in

by Rami Kaplan & Daniel Kinderman* Why do firms adopt Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices? How does CSR spread across the globe? Our paper “The Business-Led Globalization of CSR” provides surprising answers to these most fundamental questions, based on the … Continue reading →

As US Reels From COVID-19, Trump Turns to Sanctions, War Making and Threats

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/05/2020 - 2:06am in

Presiding over by far the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world, the Trump administration is making it a key priority to escalate hostilities with its perceived international enemies. Last night President Trump suggested that he might “cut off” all trade with the People’s Republic of China. “Now, if you did, what would happen? You’d save $500 billion,” he told Fox Business, referring to the United States’ trade deficit with the Asian nation. Calling the action “drastic” would be an understatement; China is by far the U.S.’ largest trading partner, sending nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars of goods and services to America yearly, according to the government’s own figures. And while the U.S. would “save” hundreds of billions of dollars, it would also be completely without Chinese electronics, machinery, toys, textiles, plastics, and food, all of which would be nearly impossible to re-source, especially at such short notice. The president has already imposed sanctions on Beijing and is actively looking to extend them. 

Washington’s ire has not been focused on China alone, however. On Wednesday, the State Department released a list of states that it claims are not cooperating fully with U.S. efforts to rid the world of terror. All of the countries on the list – Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and Syria – are all currently facing U.S. sanctions, even during a pandemic. Most of them have also been the victims of massive U.S. terror campaigns. CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles, for example, blew up a Cuban airliner in 1976, while the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian passenger plane in 1989, killing all 290 civilians onboard. Cuba has also been the subject of countless acts of chemical and biological warfare by the superpower to its north. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has supported at least five coup attempts in the previous 18 months in Venezuela, and in January, Trump threatened to carry out a detailed plan of war crimes against Iran. 

The Trump administration has also used more covert means of regime change. Since 2016, the National Endowment for Democracy, the government’s regime change arm, has spent more than $30 million on activities in Mainland China and Hong Kong, while funding anti-government groups and organizations in North Korea doubled between 2018 and 2019. Among its strategies is to bankroll “news” or “human rights” organizations like the China Digital Times, Daily NK, and NK Watch which more established news organizations use as expert sources for stories on the countries. On Venezuela, the NED virtually never even discloses the organizations it is giving money to. 

Sanctions, of course, are an act of war in themselves. United Nations Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, himself an American, estimated that Trump’s Venezuela sanctions have killed over 100,000 people. “It’s quite clear that these sanctions actually amount to a crime against humanity under Article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court,” he said earlier today. Officially, humanitarian items like medicine are excluded, but in practice, this is not the case, making the humanitarian case for sanctioning America’s enemies a “bad joke” in the words of Phyllis Bennis, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. No country was willing to sell or even donate medical equipment to Iran to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic for fear of Trump reprisals, making the outbreak significantly worse. In the end, the World Health Organization stepped in to supply them, one reason Washington has pulled all funding from the group. 

Thus, the Trump administration has decisively chosen war over peace and conflict over cooperation. Yet it appears less able than ever to coerce the world into following its lead. Few countries have lined up behind Trump in demonizing the WHO. Indeed, German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass reconfirmed his country’s commitment to the organization, stating it is one of the best investments Germany makes. Watching the country’s inept response to the virus, the direct impression given is that this is the erratic flailing of a dying empire. “It is almost surreal,” said world-renowned linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky on watching Trump’s recent actions, “We have a freak show in Washington…the country is simply run by sociopaths,” he added. 

Feature photo | President Donald Trump meets with senior military leaders and members of his national security team in the Cabinet Room of the White House, May 9, 2020, in Washington. Patrick Semansky | 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 As US Reels From COVID-19, Trump Turns to Sanctions, War Making and Threats appeared first on MintPress News.

The Botched Infiltration of Venezuela Leaves Guaidó Tainted Beyond Repair

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/05/2020 - 1:28am in

The latest chapter in the ongoing effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government reads like a bad spy thriller: a group of mercenaries piloted speedboats from Colombia to Venezuela; half of them were killed or captured by Venezuelan security forces immediately upon landing, while the other half – apparently delayed by mechanical issues with their boat – surrendered to local police and militia the next day. Thirty-nine attackers have been captured so far, including two Americans, both former special forces soldiers. Their plan was to capture or kill high-value targets, including Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Instead, it failed miserably and raised more concerns about the leadership of opposition figure Juan Guaidó.

 

Guaidó’s Insidious Contract

Information about the attack continues to trickle out, yet there is overwhelming evidence of Guaidó’s involvement. According to multiple sources, Guaidó signed a $212 million contract with Jordan Goudreau, an ex-Green Beret, for Goudreau’s private security firm to overthrow President Maduro, although payments were never made. This corroborates an accusation made in late March by Clíver Alcalá, an opposition-aligned, retired Venezuelan general who surrendered to U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency custody after being indicted for drug trafficking. Copies of a general services agreement with the signatures of Guaidó and Goudreau have been leaked online, and the Washington Post reported news of a video call in which Guaidó says he is “about to sign” the contract. Furthermore, several of the Venezuelans who took part in the raid have links to Guaidó, including at least two who participated in the April 30, 2019 coup attempt.

The paramilitary force that would have resulted from the contract has been described as similar to the death squads that operated in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala in the ’80s. This is no exaggeration. The contract explicitly identifies colectivos as a military target, without ever defining the term. The nebulousness of this term suggests that anyone who runs afoul of the paramilitaries could be categorized as part of a colectivo.

Leopoldo López, the founder and leader of Guaidó’s party Voluntad Popular, recently wrote an opinion piece in El País, Spain’s most important newspaper, in which he implied that chavismo is a virus like Covid-19. It is not difficult to see how this sort of rhetoric influenced the contract. Page 11 of the contract’s attachment B authorizes the “on scene commander” of an operation to lethally target certain civil servants of institutions – including the Foreign Ministry, Planning Ministry and Youth Ministry – even in cases that could result in high collateral damage. The message is clear; anyone close to a chavista can be considered expendable.

 

The United States’ role

The Venezuelan government, which was apparently able to stop the raid after being tipped off by sources in Colombia, accused the United States of being involved. The Trump administration has denied any involvement, but there is good reason to suspect otherwise. Secretary of State Pompeo left open the possibility that the U.S. knew “who bankrolled” the operation while refusing to “share any more information about what we know took place.” Moreover, the Associated Press reported that the DEA had informed Homeland Security of Goudreau’s plans to smuggle weapons into Colombia. Goudreau met twice with Keith Schiller, a longtime bodyguard and advisor to President Trump, and worked security at a Trump campaign rally in 2018. In addition, the Wall Street Journal reported the  CIA was aware of the plan.

The plan involved kidnapping President Maduro, taking control of an airport, and flying him to the United States, ostensibly to collect on the $15 million bounty offered by the Department of Justice. Had the mercenaries been successful, it is hard to believe that the Trump administration, with the US Navy floating right outside Venezuela’s maritime border, would not have seized the opportunity to grab President Maduro.

Yet whether the United States government was involved in this particular raid, the Trump administration has been openly and directly supporting violent regime change in Venezuela since April 30, 2019. That is the date Guaidó launched his failed military uprising, in which he tried to take over a Caracas airbase. Had a few things gone differently that day, Venezuela would be in a civil war. Guaidó was responsible then and he is responsible now. Additionally, he was educated in Washington, he declared himself “president” because of Washington, he has bipartisan political support and he receives U.S. taxpayer money. Given Guaidó’s involvement, it is impossible for Washington to wash its hands of the plot. The Trump administration is responsible for giving him what little power he has, and therefore it is responsible for his actions.

 

A Growing Liability

Guaidó has denied knowledge of the affair, but he is proving to be a liability for the Trump administration. He has been photographed with members of a drug cartel who subsequently claimed Guaidó traded favors with them. His team embezzled funds raised from a “humanitarian aid” concert held in Colombia. He led a failed uprising in April 2019 that was ridiculed around the world, as it consisted of just a few dozen soldiers. He is using Venezuelan funds previously frozen in a Citibank account to pay his associates $5,000 a month while failing to deliver on promises to send Venezuelan doctors and nurses $100 for their efforts in fighting Covid-19. Now he faces credible accusations and evidence that he is involved in arms trafficking, financing a terror plot and planning a potential genocide in Venezuela.

The capture of two Americans may change the political landscape, as they are poised to become a point of contention between the Trump and Maduro administrations. Secretary Pompeo said the United States will “use every tool” to secure the release of the two Americans, but to date, there is one tool the Trump administration has never used with regards to Venezuela: dialogue. The best-case scenario is the handover of the pair to the United States as part of a deal to begin direct talks between the two governments. The worst-case scenario is that the Trump administration will perceive them as hostages and retaliate with military action.

Sensible politicians could use this event as a catalyst to spur talks within Venezuela and between Venezuela and the United States. The Puebla Group, a bloc of progressive Latin American politicians that includes ten former heads of state, has done just that, issuing a statement which warns that military action would lead to “geopolitical instability throughout Latin America” and calls for “democratic dialogue and a peaceful solution” to the conflict.

In the U.S., Democrats have been almost entirely silent on the matter, with the exception of a letter by Senators Chris Murphy, Tom Udall and Tim Kaine that questions the Trump administration’s tactics, but not its strategy or objectives. Unless Democrats begin to take advantage of the liability Guaidó represents and push back against Trump’s regime change efforts, there seems to be little hope of improving U.S. – Venezuela relations, regardless of who wins the presidency in November.

Feature photo | The townspeople of Chuao, Venezuela, being honored for their role in the capture of eight mercenaries.

Leonardo Flores is a Venezuelan American political analyst and works for peace group CODEPINK

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