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Abraham Accord: Experts Warn Trump Peace Deal a Precursor to War with Iran

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/10/2020 - 5:26am in

On paper at least, last month’s U.S.-sponsored agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were all about peace. But behind the headlines, a darker, much more worrying picture of regional alliances, weapons deals, destabilization campaigns, and messianic prophecies emerge.

The Abraham Accord, as it is known, is likely to expand the power of Gulf dictatorships and increase the number of devastating high-tech weapons in the Middle East, fueling further instability and bloodshed, a welcome prospect for neoconservative hawks and religious zealots who see the deal as fulfilling ancient prophecies about the end of the world. Above all, the deal can be seen as an attempt to present a united front against Iran for any potential future war — a conflict that would likely make Iraq and Afghanistan look mild by comparison.

But across corporate media, the accord was almost universally hailed as a “peace deal” — and a potentially massive breakthrough. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board presented Trump as a master dealmaker, breaking the mold of “failed conventional wisdom” on the Middle East, and claiming that he deserved far more praise from the media for his breakthrough, suggesting he was not getting it because of their anti-Trump bias. Yet even MSNBC, not a network known for praising the president, found it difficult to find an angle that did not paint him as a great peacemaker. Trump has subsequently been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is among the favorites to win it, according to bookmakers.

 

Israel’s man

While it is Trump gaining the plaudits, in reality, the man organizing operations is his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner has spent his entire adult life organizing for zionist groups and making contacts with the Israeli right, his family’s charitable organization has donated thousands to the IDF and to illegal Jewish-only settlements. Kushner has been leaning heavily on Saudi Arabia to join the new alliance, promising them state of the art new weaponry and a host of economic benefits. A cult-like hero in much of Israel, he has time and again shown his disgust for Palestinian life, claiming they have “done nothing right in their sad, pathetic lives” and own a “perfect track record of missing opportunities,” presenting his so-called “Deal of the Century” was an opportunity for them to finally stop playing the victim. Many on the religious right in Israel talk of Kushner in almost reverential tones, seeing him as completing a divine mission.

Trump campaigned on a platform of “draining the swamp” — i.e. removing the corrupt warhawks from the White House. Yet he has surrounded himself with many of the Bush-era “crazies” and “even craziers,” including the likes of Michael Flynn and John Bolton, who was considered too much of a loose cannon for Bush to handle. Kushner has been “the neocons’ backdoor” back into the White House, where, not with their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has become the number one target.

The Abraham Accord appears to have been deeply unpopular with the people of the UAE and Bahrain, who risked serious consequences by protesting the decision on social media. Nevertheless, their governments justified it by claiming they had guaranteed that Israel would not annex the Jordan Valley as it announced it would in the summer. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later made clear that the plans were merely now “delayed” and that they remain on the table.

 

A strange “peace” deal

Yet a number of experts who spoke to MintPress questioned the entire framing of the Abraham Accord as a peace deal, claiming instead that this was far less about peace than about war, particularly with Iran.

Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of “Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: a Primer,” which is now in its seventh edition, said of the deal:

The notion that this was somehow a peace deal implies that somehow until this ‘fabulous deal’ Israel the UAE and Bahrain were somehow not at peace, but at war. And that is simply not true; they had very good ties, they had commercial, trade and security ties that go back decades in the case of the UAE. But they were always very quiet because the official position of the Arab League and the actual position of Arab populations across the region were strongly opposed to normalization with Israel as long as the oppression of the Palestinians continued.”

For such a “peace deal,” negotiations certainly seemed to revolve quite heavily around weapons transfers. Much of the accord focussed on American plans to sell the UAE and Bahrain high tech armaments, including the costly Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters, Boeing’s EA-18G Growler jets, and General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper drones, previously off-limits to anyone in the region except the Israelis. Thus, it is difficult to see how flooding the world’s most war-torn region with even more advanced weaponry, especially to nations currently involved in the bombing campaigns against Yemen, will secure peace.

“The UAE and Bahrain are key customers for the U.S. arms trade,” Bennis explained,

They are very eager to buy more. So they get brownie points from the Trump administration. They get promises of being able to buy more and better military gear, and Israel will get even more weapons to maintain its congressionally-guaranteed ‘qualitative military edge.’ They give up nothing because they already have these relations with Israel, who had already suspended its threatened annexation. It is now just a matter of making it public. So everybody gains except the Palestinians.”

Almost immediately after the accord was announced, the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, traveled to the UAE to meet with Emirati security officials to discuss “cooperation in the fields of security,” as well as regional issues, Al-Jazeera reported. Thus, as Greg Shupak of the University of Guelph, Ontario, and author of “The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel and the Media,” argued, “peace deal” is a misleading framing of what looks more like the beginnings of a military alliance. “In the language of countries with egregious human rights records like Israel and the UAE, ‘security’ is a euphemism for violent repression,” he added.

 

Iran in the crosshairs

From being a key ally of the United States under the Shah, since the 1979 revolution, Iran has become an obsession for planners in Washington. The U.S. is currently waging an all-out economic war against Tehran, hoping to foment an anti-government movement. U.S. sanctions have decimated the value of the Iranian rial and sent the prices of consumer goods soaring. Personal savings have been wiped out and lives have been stunted. Many have lost out on opportunities to study abroad or even get married due to economic pressure. More seriously, the U.S. has also made it extremely difficult to import life-saving medicines, leading to countless deaths.

“The sanctions deliberately target ordinary Iranians, women and children,” Seyed Mohammad Marandi, Professor of English Literature at the University of Tehran told MintPress. “They are designed to kill hospital patients and to create poverty. They have had partial success.”

Iran was one of the first countries to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, and the U.S. government worked hard to dissuade all nations from selling or even giving the Islamic Republic face masks, medicine, or other equipment. In the end, the World Health Organization stepped in and directly gave the Iranians what it could, a major reason the Trump administration has decided to leave the organization. In 2018, Bolton promised the Iranian exile group the Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK) that they would soon rule over Iran, essentially guaranteeing regime change for the country of 82 million people. In January of this year, Trump decided to assassinate public figure and statesman Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad while he was attending regional peace talks. Trump donors like Sheldon Adelson want the president to go further and drop a nuclear bomb on the country. Despite pulling out the nuclear deal itself, the Trump administration has recently used Iran’s non-compliance with the same treaty as a reason to trigger even harsher “snapback” sanctions against Tehran.

For Bennis, the Israel-UAE-Bahrain deal was less about peace, and more about setting up a united front in a possible coming war with the Iranians, noting that Trump’s central foreign policy goal for the Middle East is “to build up Israel as the centerpiece of an anti-Iran coalition. That has been underway for years now… what we have here is a consolidation of the U.S.-backed anti-Iran coalition across the region.”

While media aimed at a more mass market hid this fact, elite, insider journals were more frank. Foreign Policy, for example, wrote that the Abraham Accord has made Trump’s, “Maximum pressure’ policy of economic asphyxiation against Tehran more effective and painful than his predecessor’s sanctions campaign.”

Increased Arab collaboration with Israel and the United States has helped the latter obstruct clandestine financial channels and escape valves traditionally used by Iranian authorities and institutions to evade US sanctions.”

What are the consequences for Iran under this new partnership? Shupak warned that those wishing for peace in the region should treat the deal with suspicion, telling MintPress,

The UAE and Bahrain can now openly and comprehensively partner with Israel in the U.S.-led effort to destroy it. Because there is no longer a need to even pretend that Israel is not partners with the UAE and Bahrain, this alliance can work together in full support of one another. That means it’s now possible to have more effective enforcement of the already crushing economic blockade of Iran, collaborative efforts to carry out subversion inside Iran, more intimate sharing of intelligence and perhaps of weapons, as well as greater logistical support and possibly military coordination and integration if a full scale attack on Iran comes to pass.

 

Yemeni Onslaught

A tiny island of only 1.5 million people, Bahrain is nonetheless an important strategic state in the Middle East. The nation is home to the United States Fifth Fleet, its primary base for the entire West Asian-Middle East region. The base has proven vital over the decades as a launchpad for American invasions of neighboring states and continues to serve a role as a base of operations for the U.S.

Both Bahrain and the UAE are also partners in the Saudi-led coalition’s aggression in Yemen, not only attacking military targets but striking against medical and water facilities over 200 times since the war began in 2015. The United Nations has called the country “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” estimating that 14 million people — over half its population — are at risk of famine, and 20.5 million need help accessing drinkable water. The Abraham Accord is sure to increase the amount of high-tech weaponry available to both Bahrain and the UAE, which will immediately be used in their Yemen campaign.

The destabilization of the country has led the World Food Program to warn of a “famine of biblical proportions” if nothing is done about it. The UAE and Bahrain have continued to justify their involvement in the conflict on the basis of the Houthi militias’ alleged ties to Iran, claiming they need to support the legitimate government as a bulwark against Iranian domination of the region.

“The UAE is one of the central protagonists in the cataclysmic war of aggression against Yemen—alongside key partners such as Saudi Arabia, the U.S., U.K., and Canada—so there is a strong possibility that the UAE will unleash these killing machines on the impoverished Yemeni population that it has already done so much to devastate,” said Shupak. “Likewise, increased intelligence sharing between Israel and the UAE could entail Israel helping the UAE having more, and possibly more advanced, information that it can use to maim and kill Yemenis.”

 

Palestine: no justice. No peace

Notable by their absence at the negotiations was any Palestinian representation, and according to Shupak, the deal actually lifts international pressure on Israel with regards to Palestine, exactly the opposite of what the UAE and Bahrain have claimed.

What’s most significant for Palestinians about normalization is that it means Israel no longer has to face the political and economic costs of being boycotted by the UAE and Bahrain or any state that chooses to follow them: thus, a mechanism that could have helped play some part in ending Israeli colonialism is no longer available,” he told MintPress.

In fact, Israel did not formally relinquish its claim to the fertile Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, nor did any of its promises to moderate its behavior towards Palestine result in the cessation of bombing Gaza, which it continued to do throughout the talks, let alone lifting blockades against Palestinians or guaranteeing them the right of return to their homes.

Therefore, while some in the media try to spin the deal as a good thing for Palestinians, there will likely be no reduction, let alone an end to their suffering in the near future. This, for Bennis, was the fact that undermined the whole concept of a peace accord:

The definition of peace has to come back to what we learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, which is that peace is not just the absence of war but the presence of justice. If you are not going to at least talk about justice for the Palestinians then you’re not serious about peace.”

And so while New York Times columnists might describe the news as “a rare triumph in the Middle East,” the question remains, a triumph for whom? Perhaps for Washington war hawks, defense contractors, and undemocratic Middle Eastern rulers, but not for the people of the region. “[The accord] is very bleak if you care about human rights and anything remotely resembling justice,” Bennis added.

Feature photo | Members of the Iranian army take part in the annual Zolphaghar 99 military drill in the Gulf of Oman, September 10, 2020. Photo | WANA

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 Abraham Accord: Experts Warn Trump Peace Deal a Precursor to War with Iran appeared first on MintPress News.

Back to Normal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/09/2020 - 4:28pm in

One of the more persuasive arguments in favor of supporting Joe Biden is that things would go back to normal after Donald Trump leaves office. For those of us who remember what normal was, and is, that’s not necessarily appealing.

More Than Just Statistics: On the Future of the Palestinian Discourse 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 6:48am in

Palestine can never be truly understood through numbers, because numbers are dehumanizing, impersonal, and, when necessary, can also be contrived to mean something else entirely. Numbers are not meant to tell the story of the human condition, nor should they ever serve as a substitute for emotions.

Indeed, the stories of life, death – and everything in-between – cannot be truly and fully appreciated through charts, figures and numbers.  The latter, although useful for many purposes, is a mere numerical depository of data. Anguish, joy, aspirations, defiance, courage, loss, collective struggle, and so on, however, can only be genuinely expressed through the people who lived through these experiences.

Numbers, for example, tell us that over 2,200 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip between July 8 and August 27, 2014, over 500 of them being children. Over 17,000 homes were completely destroyed, and thousands of other buildings, including hospitals, schools and factories were either destroyed or severely damaged during the Israeli strikes.

This is all true, the kind of truth that is summarized into a neat infographic, updated occasionally, in case, inevitably, some of the critically wounded eventually lose their lives.

But a single chart, or a thousand, can never truly describe the actual terror felt by a million children who feared for their lives during those horrific days; or transport us to a bedroom where a family of ten huddled in the dark, praying for God’s mercy as the earth shook, concrete collapsed and glass shattered all around them; or convey the anguish of a mother holding the lifeless body of her child.

It is easy – and justifiable – to hold the media accountable for the dehumanization of the Palestinians or, sometimes, ignoring them altogether. However, if blame must be apportioned, then others too, including those who consider themselves ‘pro-Palestine’, must reconsider their own position. We are all, to an extent, collectively guilty of seeing Palestinians as sheer victims, hapless, passive, intellectually stunted and ill-fated people, desperate to be ‘saved.’

When numbers monopolize the limelight in a people’s narrative, they do more damage than merely reduce complex human beings to data; they erase the living, too. Regarding Palestine, Palestinians are rarely engaged as equals; they persist at the receiving end of charity, political expectations and unsolicited instructions on what to say and how to resist. They are often the fodder for political bargains by factions or governments but, rarely, the initiative takers and the shapers of their own political discourse.

Palestinians Statistics

A shopkeeper visits with a girl and her mother where he sells snacks in the Old City of Jerusalem, Aug. 10, 2020. Maya Alleruzzo | AP

The Palestinian political discourse has, for years, vacillated between one constructed around the subject of victimhood – which is often satisfied by numbers of dead and wounded – and another pertaining to the elusive Fatah-Hamas unity. The former only surfaces whenever Israel decides to bomb Gaza under any convenient pretext at the time, and the latter was a response to western accusations that Palestinian political elites are too fractured to constitute a potential ‘peace partner’ for Israeli rightwing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Many around the world can only understand – or relate to – Palestinians through their victimization or factional affiliation – which, themselves, carry subsidiary meanings relevant to ‘terrorism’, ‘radicalism’, among others.

The reality is, however, often different from reductionist political and media discourses. Palestinians are not just numbers. They are not spectators either, in a political game that insists on marginalizing them. Soon after the 2014 war, a group of Palestinian youth, together with supporters from around the world, launched an important initiative that aimed to liberate the Palestinian discourse, at least in Gaza, from the confines of numbers and other belittling interpretations.

‘We Are Not Numbers’ was launched in early 2015. The group’s ‘About Us’ page reads: “numbers don’t convey  … the daily personal struggles and triumphs, the tears and the laughter, the aspirations that are so universal that if it weren’t for the context, they would immediately resonate with virtually everyone.”

Recently, I spoke to several members of the group, including the Gaza Project Manager, Issam Adwan. It was, indeed, inspiring to hear young, articulate and profoundly resolute Palestinians speaking a language that transcends all the stereotypical discourses on Palestine. They were neither victims nor factional, and were hardly consumed by the pathological need to satisfy western demands and expectations.

“We have talents – we are writers, we are novelists, we are poets, and we have so much potential that the world knows little about,” Adwan told me.

Khalid Dader, one of the Organization’s nearly 60 active writers and bloggers in Gaza, contends with the designation that they are ‘storytellers.’ “We don’t tell stories, rather stories tell us  … stories make us,” he told me. For Dader, it is not about numbers or words, but the lives that are lived, and the legacies that often go untold.

Somaia Abu Nada wants the world to know her uncle, because “he was a person with a family and people who loved him.” He was killed in the 2008 Israeli war on Gaza, and his death has profoundly impacted his family and community. Over 1,300 people were also killed in that war. Each one of them was someone’s uncle, aunt, son, daughter, husband or wife. None of them was just a number.

“‘We Are Not Numbers’ made me realize how necessary our voices are,” Mohammed Rafik told me. This assertion cannot be overstated. So many speak on behalf of Palestinians but rarely do Palestinians speak for themselves. “These are unprecedented times of fear, when our land appears to be broken and sad,” Rafik said, “but we never abandon our sense of community.”

Adwan reminded us of Arundhati Roy’s famous quote, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

It was refreshing to talk to Palestinians who are taking the decisive step of declaring that they are not numbers, because it is only through this realization and resolve that Palestinian youth can challenge all of us and assert their own collective identity as a people.

Indeed, Palestinians do have a voice, and a strong, resonating one at that.

Feature photo | A Palestinian girl walks next to an apartment building destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Nov. 13, 2018. Khalil Hamra | AP

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, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post More Than Just Statistics: On the Future of the Palestinian Discourse  appeared first on MintPress News.

A Joe Biden Empathy Tour We Could All Get behind

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 21/09/2020 - 4:16pm in

Joe Biden scores big points for appearing to be empathetic with victims of tragedy. Considering all the tragic wars to which he contributed, perhaps he should go on an empathy tour of the over 1 million survivors of the people he helped kill in Iraq and Afghanistan.

2,000 Days Since It Began, the War in Yemen Is Poised To Turn Even More Deadly

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/09/2020 - 4:54am in

Another grim milestone has just passed in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia’s war against the poorest country in the Middle East reached its two-thousandth day. Ostensibly, the war was launched to restore President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to power after he was ousted following Houthi-led popular protests amid the Arab Spring.

Realistically, the war has become little more than a pretext to control Yemen’s strategic sites and natural wealth. Saudi Arabia and the UAE now occupy entire southern provinces from al-Mahara to the Bab al-Mandab Strait. Somehow, though, they have not yet allowed Haddi and his old guard to return.

 

Grim statistics

The numbers are astonishing. Since 2015, Saudi-led coalition warplanes have pounded the country with over 250,000 airstrikes. Seventy percent of those have hit civilian targets, killing more than 100,000 people since January 2016, according to a report by the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project (ACLED). Those numbers do not include those who have died in the humanitarian disasters caused by the war, particularly starvation and thousands of tons of weapons, most often supplied by the United States, have been dropped on hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, farms, factories, bridges, and power and water treatment plants.

Unexploded ordnances have been left scattered across populated areas, particularly in the urban areas of Sana’a, Sadaa, Hodeida, Hajjah, Marib, and al-Jawf, and have left the country one of the most heavily contaminated in the world.

As the war officially passes its two-thousandth day, the Eye of Humanity Center for Rights and Development, a Yemeni advocacy group, issued a report on where some of the estimated 600,000 bombs have landed. According to the non-governmental organization, those attacks have destroyed more than 21 economically-vital facilities like factories, food storage facilities, fishing boats, markets, and food, and fuel tankers and have damaged 9,000 pieces of critical infrastructure, including 15 airports, 16 seaports, 304 electrical stations, 2,098 tanks and water pumps, and 4,200 roads and bridges. At least 576,528 public service facilities, including more than 1,000 schools, 6,732 agricultural fields, and 1,375 mosques have been destroyed or damaged.

Yemen

A medic checks a malnourished newborn inside an incubator at Al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, June 27, 2020. Hani Mohammed | AP

The blockade and bombing of civilian infrastructure, particularly hospitals, have also crippled Yemen’s health system, leaving it unable to deal with even the basic public health needs. Eye of Humanity reports that the coalition has destroyed 389 hospitals and health centers while most of the country’s estimated 300 remaining facilities are either closed or barely functioning as COVID-19 spreads through the country like wildfire.

Household food insecurity now hovers at over 70 percent, with fifty percent of rural households and 20 percent of urban households now food insecure. Almost one-third of Yemenis do not have enough food to satisfy basic nutritional needs. Underweight and stunted children have become a regular sight, especially among holdouts in rural areas.

This is Yemen after 2,000 days of war. A dirty war and a brutal siege on a forgotten people subsisting in unlivable conditions. If one is able to dodge death from war, starvation, and COVID-19, they face unprecedented levels of disease. Yemen’s average life expectancy now hovers at around 66, one of the lowest in the world. The Saudi blockade has imposed tight control over all aspects of life, severely restricting not only the movement of aid and people but also of UN flights. Last week, both the Ministry of Transportation and the General Authority of Civil Aviation and Meteorology announced that Sana’a International Airport was no longer equipped to receive the official airplane of UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffith.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is still preventing fuel tankers from delivering much-needed fuel to Yemen’s hospitals, water pumps, bakeries, cleaning trucks, and gas stations, plunging it, particularly northern districts, into a fuel crisis. The blockade has not only forced thousands to wait for days in lines as far as the eye can see but has forced many facilities to shut down altogether. All while Saudi Arabia and its local militias plunder crude oil in Marib, Shabwah, and Hadramout.

 

After normalization, the UAE steps up attacks

For many Yemenis, there is little reason for optimism entering what feels like the third phase of the war against their country, as Israel ostensibly enters the fray. They believe that the situation will escalate as a result of normalization between the UAE and Israel, and indeed, Tel Aviv’s entrance into the already convoluted theater appears to have already opened the door for further escalation.

Since normalization, UAE warplanes have intensified airstrikes against populated areas throughout the country’s northern provinces. In Sana’a, approximately 20 aerial attacks hit densely populated neighborhoods and brazenly targeted the Sana’a Airport, a military engineering camp, and a poultry farm, among other targets.

UAE warplanes are believed by locals to be receiving logistical support by Israel, although no evidence has yet surfaced yet to substantiate those fears. In a stark departure from the UAE’s more conciliatory tone in Yemen over the past year, UAE aircraft have carried out more than 100 airstrikes since August 13, when Trump announced the normalization between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. They also pounded the oil-rich province of Marib, located east the country, where UAE jets dropped more than 300 bombs targeting transport trucks, fuel stations, homes, and farms. Advanced military sites belonging to the Ansar Allah-led were also targeted.

Reinforcing the heir of hopelessness is that the United States continues to neglect Yemen’s suffering, despite its designation by the United Nations calling as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Even with the 2020 election looming and President Donald Trump leaning heavily into his foreign policy accomplishments, the U.S. role in Yemen has been noticeably absent from the discussion. Biden has been no better, leaving little hope that the December elections could bring an end to the war.

 

Half-hearted attempts at peace

There are efforts underway to bring some semblance of peace to Yemen by parties in both Qatar and Oman. Secret negotiations have been held in Sana’a, but they seem aimed at stopping the Houthi advance in Marib and not the war in general.

In reality, international voices are loudest when the war begins to affect Saudi Arabia, as they were last September when Saudi oil facilities were attacked, or when a Houthi advance threatens the Saudi border as it did in August of 2019 when an operation captured 4,000 square kilometers of Saudi territory in Najran.

Qatari and Omani efforts are not the only ones on the ground. The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is leading other efforts aimed at stopping the Houthi advance in Marib. Griffiths said during a recent Security Council session that, “The situation in Marib is of concern. Military shifts in Marib have ripple effects on conflict dynamics. If Marib falls, it’d undermine prospects of convening an inclusive political process that brings about a transition based on partnership and plurality.”

Neither the efforts in Qatar nor those by the UN even purport to be focused on bringing an end to the war or mitigating the blockade, instead, they seem only concerned with assuring the Coalition retains its competitive advantage.

2,000 days of war, in fact, have proven an insufficient term to bring peace to the war-torn country. With the exception of a fragile ceasefire in Hodeida and a small number of prisoner releases, negotiations between the two sides, even on minor issues, often reach a dead end. Numerous negotiations between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia have failed, including UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland last year.

 

The Houthis grow stronger

When the war began over five years ago, Saudi leaders promised a decisive victory in a matter of weeks, one or two months at most. Yet the Houthis remain steadfast in their resistance and, in fact, have grown even more powerful leading to consternation in the Kingdom, with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz dismissing the leader of the Coalition forces Fahd bin Turki and a number of senior officers following a series of recent Saudi battlefield failures.

On Thursday, Houthi forces carried out drone strikes against the al-Abha Airport in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern province of Asir. The operation was the fifth against the airport and a sign that half of a decade of war has done little to bring security to the Kingdom.

In fact, the Houthis now seem intent on moving the frontline into Saudi Arabia and UAE territory and have even promised retaliatory action against Israel should they continue to escalate their involvement in the war. According to Houthi spokesman Mohammed AbdulSalam, “the Saudi-led war on Yemen the price the Arab nation is paying for taking a firm stance against Israel,”  adding “Israelis are involved in most of the conflicts plaguing the region, including the Riyadh-led aggression against Yemen.”

Feature photo | Tribesmen loyal to the Houthis hold their weapons as they ride in a vehicle during a gathering against the agreement to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, in Sanaa, Yemen, Aug. 22, 2020. Hani Mohammed | AP

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

The post 2,000 Days Since It Began, the War in Yemen Is Poised To Turn Even More Deadly appeared first on MintPress News.

Patton and Westy Meet in a Bar

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/09/2020 - 3:03am in

This post first appeared on TomDispatch. It’s only mid-afternoon and Army Lieutenant General Victor Constant has already had a bad day.1 Soon after he arrived at the office at 0700, the Chief2 had called. “Come see me. We need to talk.” The … Continue reading

The post Patton and Westy Meet in a Bar appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

High Crimes against Journalism and Decency: Jeffrey Goldberg’s Insane “Trump Called Troops Suckers” Piece Is a New Low

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/09/2020 - 12:00am in

9-11-97

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote an article for The Atlantic that could harm Donald Trump’s chance to win re-election. Setting aside the controversial content of the remarks attributed to the president, it is important to note that this is an atrocious example of journalism.

You could almost call it “fake news.”

And corporate media is taking it at face value.

You may think Trump is a turd—I do. You may want him to lose the election—I do. (I also want Biden to lose, but that’s another column.) You may believe that Trump probably said what Goldberg reports—I think there’s a good chance. But everyone who cares about journalism ought to be deeply disturbed by the nonexistent sourcing for this story and its widespread acceptance by media organizations that ought to know better.

It’s easy to see why Democratic-leaning media corporations jumped all over Goldberg’s piece: it hurts the president and it reinforces militarism. But they’re degrading journalistic standards to manipulate an election.

According to Goldberg, four anonymous sources told him that Trump called American marines who died in World War I “losers” and repeatedly questioned why anyone smart would join the military or be willing to risk their life by fighting in one of America’s wars.

Anonymous sources have their place. I have used them. But basing a news story entirely on accounts of people who are unwilling to go on the record is journalistically perilous and ethically dubious. There are exceptions, as when a Mafia source fears physical retribution.

There is no such claim here. Most media organizations’ ethical guidelines are clear: news without attribution is not news. It is gossip.

            The Los Angeles Times, a publication my readers know that I hold in low regard, nevertheless takes a stance against anonymous sources. “When we use anonymous sources, it should be to convey important information to our readers. We should not use such sources to publish material that is trivial, obvious or self-serving,” the paper’s ethical standards say. “An unnamed source should have a compelling reason for insisting on anonymity, such as fear of retaliation, and we should state those reasons when they are relevant to what we publish.”

            The Atlantic piece falls way short.

Likewise, writing that strips statements of necessary context is anti-ethical. Trump, writes Goldberg, “expressed contempt for the war record of the late Senator John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. ‘He’s not a war hero,’ Trump said in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. ‘I like people who weren’t captured.’” He goes on to note that Trump wanted to deny McCain the honor of lowering flags to half-mast after McCain died.

Goldberg frames Trump’s comments as part of a general bias against the military and portrays his attacks as unprovoked. Truth is, long before Trump made those comments he had been engaged in a well-documented, long-running feud with the Arizona senator. McCain based his political career on his military service and the five years he spent as a POW in Vietnam. McCain was Trump’s enemy, and there is considerable evidence that McCain—known for a sharp tongue—started the war of words. Trump gave back in kind.

“Nor did he set his campaign back by attacking the parents of Humayun Khan, an Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004,” Goldberg continues in another context-free passage. Khan’s father famously spoke against Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. “You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” Khan said. In Trumpian terms, Khan started it. But Goldberg’s omission makes it look like Trump attacked a fallen soldier out of the blue.

Goldberg does this a third time: “When lashing out at critics, Trump often reaches for illogical and corrosive insults, and members of the Bush family have publicly opposed him.” Both sides have insulted each other; as far as the record shows, Trump is usually running offense, not defense—but Goldberg falsely portrays the enmity as a one-way street.

One of the praiseworthy aspects of this president is his relatively restrained approach to military interventionism, coupled with his willingness to directly engage adversaries like North Korea and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the latter which recently signed a peace agreement with the United States. It is logical for Trump, who is skeptical of illegal wars of choice like Afghanistan and Iraq, to question why people would volunteer to fight and possibly die in such a pointless conflict. For Goldberg, militarism is a state religion. Questioning it is intolerable.

Goldberg’s piece, the tone of which reads like the pro-war hysteria following 9/11, reflects the aggressively militaristic neoliberalism of the Democratic Party in 2020.

Goldberg references Trump’s 2017 visit to Arlington cemetery with then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. “A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan … Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, ‘I don’t get it. What was in it for them?’ Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.”

            Joining the military, of course, is hardly a non-transactional decision. Soldiers get paid. They get medals. They get free college. They are revered and thanked for their service. Military service gives you a leg up when you run for political office.

Moreover, Trump’s question is one Americans should be asking more often. Why would a 29-year-old man volunteer to travel to Afghanistan in order to kill the locals? No one in that country threatened the United States. No one there did us any harm. Afghans don’t want us there. Why did Robert Kelly go?

Goldberg seems obsessed with Trump’s description of fallen soldiers as suckers. “His capacious definition of sucker includes those who lose their lives in service to their country, as well as those who are taken prisoner, or are wounded in battle,” Goldberg writes. But is he wrong?

            LBJ suckered us into Vietnam with the Tonkin Gulf incident, which historians of all stripes accept was a lie.

            George H.W. Bush suckered us into the first Gulf War with a tale of Iraqi soldiers rampaging through a Kuwaiti hospital and pulling babies out of incubators. Another lie.

            After 9/11 George W. Bush suckered us into Afghanistan by saying Osama bin Laden was there—he was not.

            Of course Bush lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. More suckering. (At the time, Goldberg spread the lie that Saddam Hussein was allied with his enemy Al Qaeda.)

            Assuming that anything in Goldberg’s piece was true, Trump was right.

(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.)

 

Trump and Biden: Equally Awful

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/09/2020 - 8:54am in

Trump, Biden in virtual tie in Texas in new poll - HoustonChronicle.com

Front and center in the raging debate among liberals and progressives over whether they should support Joe Biden or opt out of the two-party trap by voting third-party or not at all is the assumption that Biden would do less harm both to the world and to American leftism than Trump.

Even many hard-core Bernie-or-Busters accept the premise that Biden wouldn’t be as bad as Trump. They believe the additional damage that would result from a second Trump administration is an acceptable price for teaching the DNC a lesson and building a progressive movement.

But it’s not true that Biden wins the harm mitigation sweepstakes.

For every respect in which Biden would be better than Trump—or less awful—there is a compelling counterfactual that carries equal or greater weight.

If Trump wins, for example, we can count on his uniquely toxic combination of anti-science propaganda and organizational ineptitude to unnecessarily prolong and increase the body count of COVID-19. The WHO says that millions could die in the dreaded second wave; a disproportionately high number of those people could be Americans. Let’s guesstimate half a million dead here in the U.S.?

The net cost of Trump is equal to the total number of deaths here under his second term, minus the number that would occur under Biden. Since Biden can’t do anything about the pandemic until late January when he takes office and herd immunity appears to be closer than we previously believed, whether a ridiculously incompetent Trump or a refreshingly competent Biden is president after January probably doesn’t make a big difference. There’s a chance we have seen the worst of COVID-19. Still, it’s fair to say that thousands more Americans will succumb to the coronavirus under Trump and Biden.

On the other hand, Biden is likelier to start wars than Trump and Trump is likelier to end them. Biden voted to bomb Bosnia and invade Afghanistan. He was a big cheerleader and enabler for the Iraq war. Currently he’s threatening to start a hot war with Venezuela and new cold wars against China and Russia. He also promises to keep increasing the defense budget. Donald Trump was the first American president in decades to directly negotiate with the Taliban, with whom he signed a peace agreement to bring home all American troops from our longest war.

When we assess which candidate would do the most harm, even the breathtakingly disgusting body count from COVID-19 doesn’t come close to the over 1 million people who died in the Iraq war alone. Will Biden go to war against Iran? North Korea? Anything is possible. Biden’s record is clear; he is an extremely dangerous man. And even if you don’t care about all the brown people he would kill as president, remember 9/11. Our wars come to our shores sometimes.

Despite the usual election year hysteria, there is no daylight between Trump and Biden on most major issues. Neither old white man promises to restore the $600 a week supplemental unemployment insurance. Neither is in favor of the Green New Deal. Neither wants student loan forgiveness. Neither would sign Medicare For All. Both prioritize corporations over individual citizens. Neither would significantly liberalize immigration policy.

Even on the issue of the year, police violence, Trump and Biden are competing to see which one is more palatable to the Blue Lives Matter crowd. “You know me,” Biden assured the far right in a recent speech, referencing his authorship of the notorious mass incarceration crime bill and the USA-Patriot Act that destroyed fundamental privacy rights. “You know my heart, and you know my story, my family’s story. Ask yourself: Do I look to you like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” When someone tells you they are an authoritarian, believe them.

The real difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump has nothing to do with policy. No matter which evil man wins, we are in for a lousy four years.

This election comes down to personality. How do you like your monsters? Obnoxious and buffoonish? Or polite and affable? I prefer truth in advertising: Americans are up in arms about crappy American policies precisely because Donald Trump puts an appropriately nasty face on them.

(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.)

 

 

Decades of Land Grabs Betray Israel’s “Terror Balloon” Justification for Latest War on Gaza

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 2:15am in

Incendiary balloons, or as Israel calls them, “terror balloons,” have been part of the Gazan resistance toolkit since 2018, and a frequent sight in the skies in the last few weeks.

Palestinians fashion these “weapons of grass destruction” from everyday materials, tie them to gasoline-soaked rags or perhaps a homemade explosive, then ignite and release them when the wind is blowing to the east. Sometimes the contraptions land on Israeli farmland or forests and cause fires. Occasionally a balloon lands in a populated area.

The incendiary balloons have never killed or injured anyone; in the 19 years that rockets have been launched out of Gaza, about 30 Israelis have been killed – the last one was 15 months ago.


A so-called terror balloon carrying an incendiary device drifts across the Gaza border border, Aug. 24, 2020. Ariel Schalit | AP

Gaza’s resistance groups have also fired a handful of rockets in recent days. Yet these balloons and rockets have brought massive attacks by Israeli warplanes and tanks every night for the last two weeks and Israel’s propaganda industry is now setting up “terror balloons” as a rationale for another major incursion into Gaza.

But just like the last three major conflicts between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas leadership, Israel’s stated motive – to stop the projectiles – conceals its long-term ambition: more land with fewer Palestinians.

The Palestinians behind the balloons have a goal too. In the words of Ahmed Abu Artema, a writer who lives in Gaza and organizer of the Great March of Return,

These youths, crushed by the Israeli occupation and deprived of their fundamental rights, still feel the urge to scream at their jailers. They want to make noise so that they do not die in silence.”

 

Gaza’s grievances

Gaza has suffered under a punishing blockade since 2013 – a form of collective punishment, forbidden under international law. Peaceful protesters and resistance groups have been pressuring Israel to lift, or at least loosen the blockade, but with little success.

Israel has a long list of “prohibited” items that changes slightly from time to time, but not by much. It has included food items like flour, yeast, rice, salt, and sugar; sanitary items like soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, and diapers; school supplies like textbooks, writing paper, and pens; and other staples, including blankets, light bulbs, clothing, seeds, and fishing rods.

Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, is demanding that Israel relax the restrictions on imports, reinstate the twenty-nautical-mile fishing zone required by the Oslo Accords (Israel currently forbids any fishing off of Gaza’s coast), opening of the commercial crossing to let certain necessary, but banned goods in; and opening the pedestrian crossing to allow Gazan laborers to enter Israel.

Ultimately, Gazans are demanding the lifting of the entire blockade.

 

The Israeli response

Israel sees the balloons as another form of Palestinian terrorism and has responded with its usual harsh rhetoric and disproportionate military action.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frames the situation as an Iran problem – fueling his ongoing push to war with that country. “95% of these threats [to Israel] come from Iran,” he said, “I want to make clear to all of Iran’s proxies, including Gaza – there will be a heavy price to the balloon terror.”

In addition to nightly bombings, Israel has closed the single commercial border crossing where food and fuel enter the Gaza Strip; the enclave’s only power plant has consequently shut down, leaving the enclave’s two million residents with less than four hours of electricity a day. Israel has also halted all fishing in the Mediterranean Sea.


An explosion from an Israeli airstrike is seen in a heavily-populated residential neighborhood in Gaza City, Aug. 18, 2020. Adel Hana | AP

And Israeli leaders indicate a willingness to go to war if necessary, vowing violence “in multiples” of the last incursion – which, in 2014, killed 2,200 Palestinians and 83 Israelis.

Israel’s recent threats and attacks predate the use of so-called “terror balloons,” by Palestinian activists, suggesting the most recent bout of violence is not about rockets and balloons, but about land, preferably without people.

 

Gaza: total destruction

Israel may not have its sights set on annexing Gaza, but as Palestinian American attorney and activist Noura Erakat explained in a 2016 editorial for The Nation,

Israel does not have a Hamas problem; it does not have a Gaza problem; it has a Palestine problem.”

The airstrikes of the last two weeks are a familiar sight to Gazans. Israel has initiated three major wars on the Strip in the last twelve years, killing a total of about 4,000 Palestinians; less than 100 Israelis were killed during the same period.

During the 2014 conflict, the Obama administration authorized Israel to replenish its weapon supply from a stockpile the U.S. keeps in Israel – this in addition to the $3.8 billion in yearly military aid that the U.S. gives to the country.

The Electronic Intifada reported that, at a bare minimum, Israel used 39,000 tank shells, 34,000 artillery shells, and 4.8 million bullets against a virtually unarmed Gazan population of 1.8 million, packed into an area the size of Detroit.

By the end of the fifty-day war, almost half a million Gazans had been displaced, 20,000 homes and 250 schools destroyed or severely damaged, as well as infrastructure decimated.

That scale of destruction is what Netanyahu is now threatening to repeat.

 

Gaza: daily hardships

In between wars, Gazans face constant adversity at the hands of Israel. Children die alone when parents are not allowed to accompany them for cancer treatments; thousands live with permanent disabilities and amputations after being hit with sniper fire; hundreds of more families deal with death, and one million are on the edge of starvation and illness.

Over one-third of the agricultural land in Gaza has been appropriated by Israel as a “buffer zone.” Israel regularly sprays the area with herbicides to keep it clear – and the wind frequently carries the chemicals well beyond, poisoning Palestinian crops and bodies – and fundamental human rights.

Gaza is tiny and crowded – but much of the Palestinian West Bank is fertile, and Palestinian East Jerusalem real estate is priceless. Dispossession in these areas has taken many insidious, if slightly less aggressive, forms.

 

Historic land theft

The first and largest land theft occurred in 1948 when 78 percent of historic Palestine became the State of Israel. Israel’s military had an aggressive policy of depopulating Palestinian villages, evacuating and bulldozing over 500 of them, and rebuilding many as Jewish neighborhoods for the new state.

Neighborhoods in larger cities were also cleared of their Palestinian residents so that Jews could be moved in. 750,000 Palestinians became refugees and Israel coveted the property of those who remained. In the ensuing years, the new Israeli government crafted (illegal) “Land Laws” to gain control over much of it.

Most cunning perhaps was the Absentees Property Law, which permitted Israel to bar Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes, and then take over their property because it was vacant.

Gaza Israel

Palestinians stranded on the Egyptian side of the border shout across Israel’s buffer zone to family members in Gaza, April 25, 1982. Paola Crociani | AP

 

West Bank: land theft by settlement

In 1967, Israel occupied all of the Palestinian lands it had not won in 1948. One of its first orders of business was to begin constructing Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The illegal practice has continued unabated ever since, and Israel plans to annex the land it has appropriated over the years, adding another layer of illegality.

Settlement-building often begins when Israel earmarks a piece of land – often a large swath of farming or grazing land – as needed for “security purposes.” Palestinian inhabitants are evicted and an Israeli military outpost is established. Later, the area is repurposed as a civilian settlement (documents prove that at least in some cases, this was the plan all along).

Additional land is then appropriated for Jewish-only roads to the settlements (for example, Shufa) and checkpoints.

Elsewhere (as in Yatta or these twelve villages), land is poached by the Israeli military for “live-fire training.” In June, the Israeli military took over a large area of Palestinian farmland for this purpose and burned down 2,000 acres of crops.

Settlements now cover almost 10 percent of the land of the West Bank, about 125,000 acres. In between and around the settlements themselves, another 400,000 acres are classified as belonging to Israeli regional councils. All total, the Israeli settlement enterprise has confiscated approximately about 42 percent of the Palestinian West Bank and destroyed one million olive trees.

Extremist Israeli settlers are also well known for their share of this travesty, burning or chopping down entire olive groves – often in full view of and complicity with Israeli Defence Force soldiers. Just last weekend, several Palestinian communities were attacked by settlers, their olive trees destroyed and a mobile home erected on their land.

 

West Bank: land theft by Separation Wall

In 2000, again under the guise of “security,” Israel began another chapter of massive expropriation.

Palestinians, frustrated by the failure of the Oslo Accords to deliver on five years of promises for self-determination made in 1995 among other provocations, began an uprising that included suicide attacks.

Rather than addressing the issues, Israel began building a wall around the West Bank and East Jerusalem, purportedly to end the attacks. Suicide attacks indeed decreased, but not due to the wall. Thousands of Palestinians still enter Israel every month without permission because the wall is still not finished and has a number of gaps.

The route of the wall, which reaches deep inside Palestinian territory, has enabled a land grab of 191,000 acres – 13.5 percent of the West Bank, and some of its most fertile land.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice declared the wall illegal and demanded its removal, but Israel has continued to build.

ISRAEL separation barrier

Palestinian children play next to a section of the separation barrier in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. July 7, 2004. Muhammed Muheisen | AP

Thousands of Palestinian farmers have been separated from their farmland by the wall. For these, Israel has created a system designed to ultimately wrest their land too. Israeli bureaucracy regularly blocks them from tending their crops through an agricultural permit system choked with red tape. Family members, vehicles, and animals must all receive permission to accompany the landowner. Israel allows each farmer a certain number of entries based on the size of his plot and the type of crop – for example, forty trips per year for onions, fifty for figs. The number of workers allowed is based on the plot size and crop as well, an impediment to employment for desperate Palestinian laborers.

As a further complication, out of eighty-four gates in the wall, only a handful are open every day.

In a recent twist, Israel began forcing families to divide their land among the heirs when the father dies (a procedure that has a fee attached to it), instead of allowing them to care for the land collectively. But another law declares that plots under 400 square yards are too small to farm, and their owners may not get permits. Eventually, when Israel deems a piece of land “abandoned,” it is reverted to the state.

Scholars and human rights activists have compared Israel’s permit regime to South Africa’s pass laws – only “even more complex and ruthlessly enforced than the pass system of the apartheid regime.”

 

West Bank: “sacrifice zones” for sewage

In May, Israel announced plans for new waste management sites, at least one of which is slated for the West Bank to service the large Jewish-only settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. The waste plant would be located just a few hundred yards from several Palestinian herding communities.

Israel’s Environment Protection Minister has been busy this summer studying ways to begin incorporating the EU Commission’s new Circular Economy Action Plan, an effort that may highlight the little-known story of environmental injustice in the West Bank. It is a story of land and people at risk with no recourse under an occupying power.

Israeli regulations intentionally make it more cost effective to operate waste treatment facilities in the West Bank than inside Israel. Consequently, waste (including hazardous waste) from Israel and its settlements, is brought to about fifteen West Bank locations, called “sacrifice zones” because they are “irrevocably impaired by environmental damage or neglect.” One researcher summed up the situation thusly: “Israel has turned the West Bank into a garbage dump.”

Several waste treatment facilities operated inside the settlements but were closed due to complaints about the stench.

Israel’s actions contravene multiple international laws and are responsible for yet another land loss for Palestinians. Ast the Israeli human right group B’Tselem declared in a 2017 report:

The international principles on hazardous waste management are based on values of environmental justice, public consultation and transparency. An expression of basic human decency, they strive to codify the simple notion that military, political, or economic power disparities should not be abused by the powerful in order to dump their pollution and waste in their disempowered neighbors’ backyards.


Israeli army bulldozers demolish greenhouses and farming land belonging to Palestinian farmer Issa Zorob, May 21, 2004. Lefteris Pitarakis | AP

Israel’s dispossession machine is devious. Like the Separation Wall, it twists and winds, gobbling up whatever it wants and leaving a trail of adversity.

Palestinians can barely keep up with the financial and emotional burdens that the occupation heaps on them, as well as the dangers involved in the simple act of trying to make ends meet.

This intricately designed system of injustice – arguably worse than that of apartheid South Africa and condemned by nearly every other country in the world – is funded by American tax dollars.

Feature photo | A volunteer attempts to extinguish a fire started by a so-called “terror balloon” launched from the Gaza Strip, on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Gaza, Aug. 24, 2020. Ariel Schalit | AP

Kathryn Shihadah writes for MintPress News and If Americans Knew. She speaks regularly about the injustice and demonization Palestinians face at the hands of Israel with complicity from the United States, especially to Christian audiences. Kathryn has lived in the Middle East for ten years and has traveled extensively. She blogs at PalestineHome.org.

The post Decades of Land Grabs Betray Israel’s “Terror Balloon” Justification for Latest War on Gaza appeared first on MintPress News.

On Kautsky and the Origin of the United States of Europe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/08/2020 - 8:56pm in

Tags 

Marxism, War

Therefore there is today only one way: The union of the States of European civilisation in a confederation with a universal trade policy, a federal Parliament, a federal Government and a federal arm – the establishment of the United States of Europe.

This attained, something enormous would have been achieved. These United States would possess such overwhelming power that, without any war, they could compel all other nations, so far as these did not willingly do so, to join them, to disband their armies and give up their fleets. But with this would also disappear every necessity for the new United States themselves to be armed. They could then not merely give up all further armaments – the standing army, the warships for attack – the abandonment of which we to-day demand, but also every means of defence; even the citizen army itself would he longer be necessary.

Thereby would the era of eternal peace be securely founded, and unlimited economic means be set free – some 20 milliards it year in round figures for the whole world,

What rapid movement could this enormous sum by itself not give to social change, how painlessly might that change be thereby accomplished

But how is the constitution of the United States of Europe to be brought about?

....

Nevertheless the attempt to peacefully unite the States of Europe in a federal Commonwealth is by no means inconceivable. Its prospects are bound up with the prospects of the Revolution.

The Revolution in favour of peace may spring from two separate causes: one being the revolt against the intolerable burdens which have been imposed on the peoples by armaments; with the result that the peoples of Europe will have no other alternative than to drive to the devil all Governments which are imposing upon them new taxes simply in order to be able to continue indefinitely the development of armaments.

That it should come to this will be all the more likely in proportion as the armaments-folly takes on a more powerful form. But, really, it is so near that any Government which is most threatened by a revolution, which feels itself most threatened thereby, which, without prospects of escape, finds itself, as English people say, between the devil and the deep sea, would rather go down in the surging sea of war than give itself over to the devil of Revolution.

It would then forget, however, that it would not escape the devil by throwing itself into the sea; but that he would at once have it there completely. If the first possible cause of Revolution is the revolt against armaments, the second would be war itself.

The Revolution would follow upon war with unerring certainty; not as the product of a Social-Democratic plan, but from the foredoomed logic of the thing. Present-day statesmen count upon that outcome of war.

But whether the Revolution comes from armaments or from war, it will present an international phenomenon, and its first care will be to put an end for ever to the horrors of war. The Revolution will not, like our bourgeois pacifists, simperingly content itself with such petty palliative means as arbitration courts and armaments reduction, which at every moment may tweak down, but will strive to establish such conditions as will make a war thenceforth impossible. That it can only attain through the establishment of the United States of Europe. Governments which would, or could, set themselves in opposition would no longer exist.

Moreover, if the Revolution does not spring from the reaction against the burden of armaments, or against the horrors of war, but from some other ground, and it at the beginning it is not international but limited to a single State, it cannot in existing circumstances long remain so. It must spread over into other States, and it is inevitable that these then will combine. Together it is inevitable that these then will combine together in a close confederation which will exclude any possibility of war between themselves. The proletarian International will them have arrived at the reality of existence as a State. The United States of Europe and their final expansion into the United States of the Civilised World – that, and not the single nation is the stately foundation of the coming Socialist Society. What the cantons are for the Switzerland of today the present nations will be of the Socialist Commonwealth on the States of the future.--Karl Kautsky (1911), War and Peace

Earlier in the week, I noted that Kautsky's conception of the united states of Europe echoes, in some respects, Kant's Perpetual Peace. However, unlike Kant, who envisions multiple growing, regional defensive voluntary federations, Kautsky assumes that a United States of Europe's power is so overwhelming that, were it joined together, it can de facto enforce peace on the world and spend the peace dividend on prosperity. Despite the existence of mighty European empires and navies, it is to be doubted, with the benefit of hindsight, that this was an accurate understanding of the then existing balance of power (giving the growing industrial might of the USA and Japan, etc.).  

Kautsky thinks there are three routes to European peace: (i) a tax-revolt by citizens against the costs of armaments; (ii) a war so destructive that a socialist-cosmopolitan revolution would follow; (iii) a peace-time worker's revolution in a state that would be copied by others, and so usher in a cosmopolitan socialist federation.

As an aside, what's fascinating about this is the openness of the future in Kautsky's writings. At the time of this writing Kautsky is kind of the embodiment of orthodox marxism rejecting the accommodationist Bernstein (and others). While Kautsky does not seem to doubt the possibility of socialist revolution, he is not prophesying it either. He seems, in fact, more confident that once a revolution has been successful it will spread then that a revolution will be successful. 

More important, for Liberals interested in the retreat of liberal ideology after 1870 -- something lamented by then after the catastrophic first world war and at the height of the depression -- Kautsky offers a salutary reminder why this was so: imperialism was both profitable to many of liberalism's natural supporters and created the conditions for successful war-mongering among states. The Kantian (but not Smithian!) premise, that in a commercial society folk would be pacific gets fatally undermined.* It is to Kautsky's credit (this is the main message of the first two sections of the quoted essay) that he is willing to contemplate alliances with the weak, peace-wing of the bourgeoisie to forestall war. 

Chris Brooke, in comments on my previous post, noted that prior to decolonization most proposals for a federation of European States were, in effect, attempts at consolidating empire be it (to quote Lenin from 1915) "reactionary" -- with capitalism not overthrown -- or, as Kautsky hopes, "socialist." And, indeed, when the EU was founded, it still included non-trivial colonial empires (some of which a constitutive part of the EU). That the EU has survived shrinkage is conveniently forgotten by ardent federalists and Brexiteers alike.

That (iv) two catastrophic wars, hyperinflation, genocide, loss of empire and global hegemony, and, not least important, fear of soviet invasion did bring European political and financial elites voluntarily together around a European project was not foreseen by Marxists (although clearly Lenin does not rule out the possibility of a non-socialist Europe). [I am not ignoring the role of the US's efforts to nudge them into this!] It strikes me there are two, related important lessons here.

First, none of the Marxists believed in the strategic adaptability of European capitalism.+ All the Marxists believe in the inner contradictions of capitalism (with its rise of monopoly and surplus abroad) that create the conditions of war and revolution. They were not altogether wrong about this, but failed to foresee that in defeat, and when faced with possible revolution, European capitalism was more pragmatic than anybody ever imagined.+ In part, and here I echo Foucault, this is because Marxists have systematically underestimated (and ignored) the liberal art of government, which has a richer history than allowed.+ 

Second, one reason European capitalism could be pragmatic is because of the existence of a social democratic version of European federation. That this social democratic version has (inter alia) its roots in Kautsky, when he was still taken to be an orthodox marxist, is I think an important part of the story (something that had eluded me before). As is well known (I hope), Kautsky eventually preferred even imperfect democracy over dictatorship. And here he stands in for a world-historical possibility. For, when after WWII, European (liberal and christian democratic) elites moved to build European federation, social democrats, who had turned their back on the dictatorship of the proletariat and the permanent war-footing of Soviet experiment, were waiting for them. That is to say, they had followed Kautsky journey to the building blocks of a federated state, inspired by Kant and Adam Smith, Mazzini, (and going back to RousseauSpinoza, and More, with a joint trade policy and parliament. 

*In fairness, Kant recognized this was only so in limited circumstances (lack of national debt, buck-passing of costs, etc.).

+By contrast, writing a generation later, in the Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper notes that liberalism is at peace with many early socialist demands (banning of child labor, reducing work hours, etc.). Here Popper is de facto criticizing maximalist neoliberals as much as he is criticizing communists.

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