Mint Press News

Facebook Bans Political Artist for Provocative MAGA-Hats-as-Klan-Hoods Sculpture

Facebook has a longstanding tradition of stifling dissenting and alternative voices, including those of journalists. Now, artists’ careers are being hurt by the strongarm of the social media behemoth.

Earlier this month, artist Kate Kretz — who employs a multitude of techniques, including silverpoint, wood burning, drawing, painting, embroidery and sculpture — had her account disabled for posting images of her latest work.

The offending image was of her recent piece, entitled “Hate Hat,” which resembles the hoods made infamous by the Ku Klux Klan. It’s red and made out of “Make America Great Again” hats (knockoffs, she insists), and features the slogan above the eyes. The provocative display is a clear dig at President Donald Trump, meant to highlight his bigotry.

Artist @kkretz4art had her account disabled for posting pictures of her artwork on the platform, which she used to network & promote her work. Though it follows a longstanding trend of censorship, it's just the beginning of the blowback creators will face without alternatives pic.twitter.com/n0VTZ5EG24

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) May 29, 2019

Kretz’s work wasn’t always political, she says. It wasn’t until eight years ago, when she had a child, that she began to think about the world her daughter would grow up in. She writes:

My practice is now devoted to calling out injustices against disparate parts of our community, investigating overlaps to suggest that, although the victims may change, the perpetrators are often the same. I have named the ongoing series ‘#bullyculture,’ because I believe that the U.S. cultivates aggression and entitlement in a myriad of ways, both overt and subtle.”

 

Privatizing the public square

The implications of Kretz’s ban from Facebook are many. The First Amendment protects freedom of expression in public. But Facebook and other social media companies have formed monopolies over the world’s most traveled avenues for dialogue. Indeed, the public square has become privatized, and there is little recourse for those silenced as a result.

Kretz’s article on the removal of her Facebook page is worth reading in its entirety: she hits on many issues relating not just to the tech giant but also to the precarious position of artists under capitalism. “All but the top one percent of artists are struggling,” she writes, continuing:

Social media has been a tremendous help in this area: I can create a new work, post it, get instant feedback, and often, within a few weeks or months, get offers to exhibit it. While a few hundred to a few thousand people might see my art ‘in real life’ during the course of an exhibition, a strong, well-photographed image placed on social media can reach ten times as many eyes through multiple ‘shares.’”

An image Kretz altered for Facebook after her first one was removed.

The ease of using Facebook to promote her work has allowed her to balance her passion with a teaching job and mothering of a child. Beyond now losing the ability to share her work, she has also been robbed of an extensive network of supporters she had cultivated over the years. She writes:

My Facebook archive, more extensive than a scrapbook, contains a decade of my artistic creations, exhibitions, reviews, and people’s responses to them, as well as articles and references that have fueled the content of my work, and the shared work of artists I admire. A third of my career history is now owned by someone else and is being withheld from me, the content provider. I feel invisible, like I have been ‘disappeared’ in some nightmarish dystopian novel.”

Regarding the idea of appealing her ban, she notes, “Facebook is an impenetrable fortress, completely disempowering to any user who feels they have been wronged.”

 

Workarounds to Kafkaesque censorship

Despite the blow to her business, Kretz argues that the real issue is “much bigger” and highlights how Facebook’s community standards have been weaponized against well-meaning people. She notes that a “Dyke March” was canceled on the platform because the term was considered a slur.

There is also the instance of a Facebook event page to coordinate a counter-protest to a demonstration of white supremacists in Washington, celebrating the anniversary of activist Heather Hyer’s murder by neo-Nazi James Fields. The page was shut down days before the event because of supposed Russian infiltration.

For her part, Kretz urges her readers not to self-censor in the face of a Kafkaesque censorship regime. “Instead, find creative workarounds for sharing it.”

For this reason, MintPress News is active on Minds.com, an open-source social-media platform “for internet freedom.”

Feature photo | Artist Kate Kretz’s Hate Hat. Photo | Gregory Staley

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.

The post Facebook Bans Political Artist for Provocative MAGA-Hats-as-Klan-Hoods Sculpture appeared first on MintPress News.

Bolton Alleges Iran Maritime Sabotage But Evidence Points Elsewhere

ABU DHABI, U.A.E. — On Wednesday, National Security Advisor John Bolton told a group of reporters in Abu Dhabi that “naval mines almost certainly from Iran” had been used to conduct the alleged “sabotage” attack on four commercial vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates’ port of Fujairah earlier this month. “There is no doubt in anybody’s mind in Washington who is responsible for this and I think it’s important that the leadership in Iran know that we know,” Bolton continued, providing no evidence for his claim.

Bolton is currently in Abu Dhabi ahead of an “emergency” summit scheduled for Thursday in Saudi Arabia, where top U.S. and allied Arab officials will “discuss the implications of the tanker attacks, and drone strikes two days later, on oil pumping stations in the kingdom.”

The murkiness that still surrounds what caused this tanker “sabotage,” as well as the very limited extent of the alleged damage, suggests that this poorly executed incident either did not go as planned or that it was a freak accident that has now been manipulated for weeks by the U.S. and its regional allies for political gain. However, Iran is far from being the clear culprit, especially given that three foreign militaries — including the U.S. Navy — concluded a mine warfare naval drill just weeks before the “sabotage” incident occurred.

MintPress previously reported on the tanker “sabotage” attacks soon after they occurred and noted that neither the UAE or the Saudis had cast blame for the incident on any country and that the damage caused was relatively minor with no casualties. In fact, the incident was so minor that the local government of Fujairah had initially denied that any “sabotage” had taken place and maintained that its port facilities were operating normally.

Only the U.S. had cast blame prior to Bolton’s statements, with the “initial assessment” of a group of U.S. military investigators rapidly concluding that Iran or “proxies sympathetic to or working for Iran” had used explosives to damage the four commercial vessels. Public evidence to support that claim has been minimal and, at times, counter to the official narrative. For instance, one of the Saudi vessels allegedly targeted, Al Marzoqah, was seen floating without any visible damage in post-attack footage taken by Sky News, even though the Saudis had claimed that the vessel had sustained “significant damage.” One U.S. official told the Associated Press that each of the four ships had sustained a 5- to 10-foot hole near or just below the water line, but only one such hole has been observed in just one of the targeted ships.

Iran has consistently denied any involvement in the incident, with Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi warning against a “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” and “adventurism by foreigners.”

However, Bolton’s Wednesday statement echoes other recent statements made by U.S. officials that sea mines — either floating mines or limpet mines, which attach magnetically to the targeted ship’s hull — were likely responsible for the relatively minor hull damage allegedly experienced by the four ships. Top U.S. military officials — such as Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff — have attributed the mines to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the Trump administration designated a terrorist organization in early April. Yet, recent events in the Persian Gulf suggest that the sea mines likely responsible for the attack may not have been of Iranian origin.

 

Why it’s unlikely to be Iran

Before delving into the definite possibility that the mines in question were not of Iranian origin at all, it is worth considering that even if the mine(s) that were allegedly used in the tanker “sabotage” were Iranian, they had not been planted recently by Iranian forces.

First, in the event that these were floating mines, the preparation made for the deployment of mines is often detected well before the mines are even seabound. Placing mines at sea is a massive logistical undertaking involving multiple steps that allow adversaries to detect and disrupt their deployment well in advance.

A US Navy boarding party inspects mines aboard an Iranian ship in the Persian Gulf in 1987. Mark Duncan | AP

As Bob O’Donnell, a retired Navy Captain and veteran minesweeper, told Breaking Defense in 2015, the first step involves removing mines from storage facilities, given that “countries will have their mines in ammo dumps somewhere, [but] without any sensors in them. The first step is they take them out of the dumps and take them someplace where they put the sensors in.” As Breaking Defense noted, “the more mines they move, the more people and trucks they need, which makes it more likely someone will let something slip or that U.S. spy satellites will notice suspicious activity.” Then, the mines must be placed in the water, which is usually performed by ships, or aircraft or submarines in the case of specialized mines.

Given this, the lack of satellite images, which would have shown Iran’s military engaged in these types of activities that precede mine deployment, is telling. This is because Iran’s military and its movements are under heavy scrutiny from foreign governments and satellite images of alleged Iranian military or nuclear assets have frequently accompanied official narratives that push for more aggressive policies towards Iran.

For instance, satellite images that purported to show Iran’s “land bridge” from Tehran to the Mediterranean were recently released by a private Israeli company and satellite images of Iran’s nuclear facilities have often accompanied past media reports claiming that such sites have been the site of increased activity or accidents. Furthermore, a considerable part of the basis for the alleged Iranian “threat” to U.S. troops in the region, which has been the foundation for the recent rise in tensions, has also been based on satellite imagery. Those images claimed to show Iran moving missiles onto boats within their own territory. If private companies, the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence often use satellite imagery to back up their claims regarding Iran — particularly its use of military assets — the fact that such images are not present to back these claims of mine deployment is telling.

In addition, a significant portion of the mines in the Persian Gulf that are of Iranian origin are holdovers from conflicts of decades past, such as the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. During that period, Iran mined large swathes of the Persian Gulf and, in April 1988, an American ship — the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts — struck an Iranian sea mine, creating a 15-foot hole in the ship’s hull and nearly sinking it. Notably, this mine — which was considered unsophisticated at the time of that conflict — caused damage much more significant than caused by the mines believed to have been involved in the recent sabotage incident. Furthermore, Iran is unlikely to have sought to lay new mines given that the U.S. has previously warned that attempts to deploy mines in the area would prompt a military response.

This context leaves the following possibility for Iranian involvement in laying the mines: that Iran used small, unmarked boats to covertly lay a small number of mines (between one and four) to target a handful of commercial vessels near the Strait of Hormuz. This claim of “unmarked boats” has been made by several U.S. officials in recent weeks and is notable for the fact that the use of “unmarked boats” in no way insinuates Iranian culpability. In fact, the use of such boats makes it plausible that anyone could have laid the mines. This may explain why claims have also been made that the party responsible was an alleged proxy “either sympathetic to or working for” Iran.

Yet, even then, Iran has little or nothing to gain from this “sabotage” event, especially considering the logistical undertaking it would require to lay just a handful of mines in a busy commercial shipping zone without causing major damage. The only actual consequence of this event — following the U.S. designation of the IRGC, and following Bolton’s subsequent press release that laid a clear foundation for provoking war with Iran — is an increase of U.S. troops in the region and a further increase in the tensions that have caused considerable damage to the Iranian economy and arguably weakened the political standing of the “moderates” who currently govern Iran.

 

Artemis Trident

Given the increasingly slim evidence for Iran’s involvement in the sabotage, the mines in question could have come from another country’s military. Though such claims would normally be highly speculative, that fact that the Persian Gulf was the site of a major foreign military mine warfare drill just a few weeks before the attack lends credibility to such a possibility.

On April 15, just a week after the U.S. labeled Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist organization, Bolton received intelligence on the “credible threat” by Iran from his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben Shabbat, when the two met in Washington to discuss their “shared commitment to countering Iranian malign activity & other destabilizing actors in the Middle East & around the world.” That same day, thousands of miles away in the Persian Gulf, a major naval drill known as “Artemis Trident” began among the navies of the U.S., the U.K. and France. The focus of that large naval drill, which ended on April 18, was sea mine warfare in the Persian Gulf.

An Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician is hoisted onto a helicopter after performing mine response procedures during Artemis Trident/ Photo | Dvids

“Laying [mines] poses a risk to naval ships as well as merchant shipping vessels,” the U.S. Fifth Fleet said in an announcement, which continued:

As mines threaten maritime traffic indiscriminately, the U.S., France, and United Kingdom are dedicated to conducting tactical training to counter the risk of mines in order to support the continued free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation in this critical region.”

Though the militaries involved described the drill as purely defensive in nature, the U.S. contingent included Naval Task Force 52, which — according to the U.S. Navy — “plans and executes mine warfare operations in support of U.S. 5th Fleet operational objectives.” In the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Fifth Fleet has bases both in Bahrain — where Artemis Trident took place — and in Fujairah, where the now infamous “sabotage” incident took place just a few weeks later.

Not long after the U.S., the U.K. and France had concluded Artemis Trident, the U.S. Maritime Administration — a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation — stated that “Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait or the Persian Gulf.” This warning came just days before the “sabotage” incident and just a few weeks after the U.S/U.K./France drill aimed at protecting “merchant shipping vessels” from mines had concluded.

As MintPress previously reported, the U.S. Department of Transportation is currently headed by Elaine Chao, a known Iran-hawk who was paid $50,000 for a five-minute speech to the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), known to actively seek regime change for Iran. Other top U.S. officials, such as Bolton, have also been paid hefty sums for appearances and speeches at MEK events, where they have openly advocated for the overthrow of the Iranian government.

The naval exercise was one of the first major naval exercises of the Fifth Fleet to take place after the sudden, mysterious death of the fleet’s commander, Admiral Scott Stearney, last December. Stearney was found dead in his home in Bahrain and the death has been labeled an “apparent suicide” and is still being jointly investigated by the Navy and Bahrain, with no new conclusions nearly six months after the fact. Stearney was known for opposing a major escalation with Iran even though he was routinely critical of what he called Iran’s “destabilizing” role in the region.

The presence of foreign, particularly U.S., mine-laying ships and divers in the region close to the same time frame as the “sabotage” incident makes it a definite possibility that the mines in question could have been American, British or French — not Iranian — in origin. In that case, the mines either could have been accidentally left over from that drill or intentionally set after the fact, given that the hardware and specialized naval vessels used in deploying mines were all present at the time of the “sabotage” incident.

While the evidence for this is circumstantial, it is worth pointing out that the same evidence being used to link Iran to the same mines is just as circumstantial and arguably less convincing, given the lack of any benefit derived from this “sabotage” attack from the Iranian point of view.

 

A poor man’s Gulf of Tonkin?

While it is far from certain where these mines originated or who placed them, it is clear that there is hardly any substantial evidence — based on what is publicly available — that would link the mines directly to Iran or an “Iran-backed proxy.” The small scale of the attack, the alleged use of “unmarked boats,” the timing, and the lack of any strategic or tactical benefit from the attack make the Iranian government and its military an unlikely culprit.

The fact that so much attention is being given to an incident that sunk no ship and caused no injuries or fatalities should make it clear to any thinking person that the fixation on the tanker sabotage is not driven by any real threat and is merely a pretext for Iran hawks in the U.S. and the region to ratchet up tensions — something like a poor man’s Gulf of Tonkin.

Bolton’s statements assigning direct blame for the incident — and the related and equally minor incident of a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline by Yemen’s resistance movement — to Iran a day prior to the Saudi-hosted “emergency” summit on this incident are clearly meant as a signal to governments in the area. Though Bolton claimed that his public statement was directed at the “leadership in Iran,” more likely targets were the governments of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other attendees of the summit who have still failed to follow the U.S.’ lead in blaming Iran for the incident.

It seems more than likely that a major effort will be made on Thursday to develop a consensus blaming Iran for these and potential future incidents in the region, as Bolton and his allies make the case for an even more aggressive Iran policy. Indeed, Bolton noted Wednesday that the goal of the upcoming summit was “to make it clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kind of activities risk a very strong response from the Americans.”

Feature photo | Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 2nd Class Michael Peterson swims toward an MH-60S Sea Hawk Helicopter after performing mine response procedures in the Arabian Gulf during Artemis Trident 19, April 9, 2019. Samantha P. Montenegro | Dvids

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

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Trump Pardoning War Criminals, Prosecuting Whistleblowers

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has already made clear his soft spot for war criminals, having brought one – Elliot Abrams – into his administration. Then, earlier this month, Trump pardoned Army First Lieutenant Michael Behenna. Now, reports indicate Trump is just getting started.

And while Trump appears to be making moves to pardon more war criminals, those who have exposed war crimes, including whistleblower Chelsea Manning and journalist Julian Assange, are charged with contempt of court and espionage.

Lieutenant Behenna was sentenced to 15 years behind bars in 2009 for shooting a man to death who had been stripped naked and interrogated in connection with a roadside bomb.

The American Civil Liberties Union wrote:

This pardon is a presidential endorsement of a murder that violated the military’s own code of justice.

Military leaders, including Trump as commander-in-chief, should prevent war crimes — not endorse or excuse them.”

 

More pardons on tap

Undeterred by such sharp rebukes, Trump is reportedly preparing to pardon a handful of other war criminals. That’s according to two U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the New York Times.

Among those slated for pardon is Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL accused of stabbing a “defenseless” and wounded teenager receiving medical treatment. He and his platoon then took photos of themselves standing over the corpse. Gallagher is also accused by fellow SEAL snipers of shooting a teenage girl wearing a flower-print hijab from a sniper’s nest while she was walking with her friends. They also say he shot an unarmed old man.

Gallagher is set to stand trial “in the coming weeks.”

In honor of his past service to our Country, Navy Seal #EddieGallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court. Process should move quickly! @foxandfriends @RepRalphNorman

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2019

The New York Times’ sources say that Trump put in expedited requests for the “paperwork needed to pardon the troops” around Memorial Day.

An Army Green Beret — Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, who has yet to face trial over the killing of an unarmed Afghan man in 2010 — is also reportedly being floated for a pardon, as are a group of Marines who urinated on the corpse of a dead Taliban fighter and then posted a video of it to YouTube.

A private security contractor with Blackwater who was found guilty of shooting “dozens of unarmed Iraqis” may also be pardoned.

Gerry Condon, president of Veterans for Peace, told MintPress News:

This sends absolutely the wrong message to the troops — it invites them to become cold-blooded murderers.”

“We are not talking about a confusing combat situation here — this is not the ‘fog of war.’ We are talking about the pre-meditated stabbing murder of an unarmed prisoner and the sniper rifle murders of random civilians.”

Delivering pardons to these men sends a clear message that American soldiers are above the law, experts argue. “It raises the prospect in the minds of the troops that says, ‘Whatever we do, if we can get the folks back home behind us, maybe we can get let off,” retired military judge Gary Solis told the Times.

 

Justice upside down

Trump’s not-so-subtle wink to troops wondering what they may be able to get away with comes alongside his crackdown on those who would — or have — exposed such crimes. Chelsea Manning blew the whistle on the U.S. military’s extrajudicial killings by leaking drone footage of pilots gunning down civilians and journalists in the infamous “Collateral Murder” video. Meanwhile, Julian Assange, who published the video, is charged with 17 counts of espionage by the United States in a case that could ultimately see him put to death.

One wonders the substantive difference between the potential execution of Assange and the executions for which Trump plans to dole out pardons.

Condon added:

What is the message to the soldiers and to the world if blatant war criminals are pardoned, while Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange are severely persecuted for exposing war crimes?”

Condon said that Manning and Assange should be pardoned, but cautioned that “pardoning” denotes a crime and said they committed none. “They should have their charges dismissed and be let go.”

Feature photo | Donald Trump greets to U.S. servicemen aboard the USS Wasp at the U.S. Navy’s Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, May 28, 2019. Eugene Hoshiko | AP

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.

The post Trump Pardoning War Criminals, Prosecuting Whistleblowers appeared first on MintPress News.

Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ Could Pave Way for Palestinian Unity

Palestinian groups, Fatah, Hamas and others should not confine themselves to simply rejecting the Trump Administration’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’. Instead, they should use their resistance to the new American-Israeli plot as an opportunity to unify their ranks.

Leaked details of the ‘Deal of the Century’ confirm Palestinians’ worst fears: the ‘Deal’ is but a complete American acquiescence to the right-wing mentality that has ruled Israel for over a decade.

According to the Israeli daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, a demilitarized state, ‘New Palestine’ will be established on territorial fragments of the West Bank, as all illegal Jewish settlements would permanently become part of Israel. If Palestinians refuse to accept Washington’s diktats, according to the report, they will be punished through financial and political isolation.

This is certainly not an American peace overture, but an egregious act of bullying. However, it is hardly a deviation from previous rounds of ‘peace-making,’ where Washington always took Israel’s side, blamed Palestinians and failed to hold Israel to account. Washington has never refrained from supporting Israeli wars against Palestinians or even conditioned its ever-generous aid packages on the dismantling of the illegal Jewish settlements.

The only difference between the US ‘peace process’ of the past and today’s ‘Deal of the Century’ is in the style and tactics as opposed to the substance and details.

Undoubtedly, the ‘Deal’, championed by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, will fail. Not only will it not deliver peace – this is not the intention – but it is most likely to be rejected by Israel. The formation of Israel’s new government under Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership is centered round far-right and religious parties. It is no longer politically correct in the new Israeli lexicon to even discuss the possibility of a Palestinian state, let alone agree to one.

Netanyahu, however, is likely to wait for Palestinians to reject the deal, as they certainly should. Then, with the help of pro-Israel mainstream western media, a new discourse will evolve, blaming Palestinians for missing yet another opportunity for peace, while absolving Israel from any wrongdoing. This pattern is familiar, highlighted most starkly in Bill Clinton’s Camp David II in 2000 and George W. Bush’s Road Map for Peace in 2003.

In 2000, the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, rejected then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak’s ‘generous offer’, an entirely manufactured political hoax that, to this day, defines official and academic understanding of what had transpired in the secret talks then.

All Palestinians must reject the ‘Deal of the Century’, or any deal that is born out of a political discourse which is not centered on Palestinian rights as enshrined in international law, a political frame of reference that is agreed upon by every country in the world, save the US and Israel. Decades of fraudulent American ‘peace making’ prove that Washington will never fulfil its self-designated title as an ‘honest peacemaker.’

However, rejection per se, while going back to business as usual, is inadequate. While the Palestinian people are united behind the need to resist the Israeli Occupation, challenge Israeli apartheid and employ international pressure until Israel finally relents, Palestinian factions are driven by other selfish priorities. Each faction seems to rotate within the political sphere of foreign influence, whether Arab or international.

For example, Fatah, which is credited for ‘igniting the spark of the Palestinian revolution’ in 1965, has been largely consumed with the trappings of false power while dominating the Palestinian Authority, which itself operates within the space allocated to it by the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank.

Hamas, which began as an organic movement in Palestine, is forced to play regional politics in its desperation for any political validation in order to escape the suffocating siege of Gaza.

Whenever both parties verge on forming a united leadership in the hope of resurrecting the largely defunct Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), their benefactors manipulate the money and politics, thus resuming disunity and discord.

The ‘Deal of the Century’, however, offers both groups an opportunity, as they are united in rejecting the deal and equally perceive any Palestinian engagement with it as an act of treason.

More importantly, the steps taken by Washington to isolate the PA through denying Palestinians urgently needed funds, revoking the PLO’s diplomatic status in Washington and shunning the PA as a political ally  provide the opportunity to open the necessary political dialogue that could finally accomplish a serious Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

Israel, too, by withholding tax money collected on behalf of the PA, has lost its last pressure card against Mahmoud Abbas and his government in Ramallah.

At this point, there is little else that the US and Israel could do to exert more pressure on the Palestinians.

But this political space available for Palestinians to create a new political reality will be brief. The moment the ‘Deal of the Century’ is discarded as another failed American scheme to force a Palestinian surrender, the political cards, regionally and internationally, will be mixed again, beyond the ability of Palestinian factions to control their outcome.

Therefore, it is critical that Palestinian groups at home and in the diaspora push for Palestinian dialogue, not simply for the sake of forming a unity government in Ramallah, but to revitalize the PLO as a truly representative and democratic body that includes all Palestinian political currents and communities.

It is only through the resurrection of the PLO that Palestinians could finally return to their original mission of devising a national liberation strategy that is not manipulated by money and not subjected to regional politicking.

If history is any indication, the ‘Deal of the Century’ is another sinister American attempt to manage the situation in Palestine in order to assert political dominance in the region. This ‘Deal’ is essential for American reputation, especially among its disgruntled regional allies who feel abandoned by the progressive American military and political retreat from the region.

This latest charade does not have to be at the expense of Palestinians, and Palestinian groups should recognize and grasp this unique opportunity. The ‘Deal of the Century’ will fail, but efforts to achieve Palestinian unity could finally succeed.

Feature photo | Jared Kushner looks out from back stage before President Donald Trump arrives to speak to a rally at Show Me Center, in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Nov. 5, 2018. Carolyn Kaster | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter, and is a former Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB. 

The post Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ Could Pave Way for Palestinian Unity appeared first on MintPress News.

Andre Vltchek: It Is Indifference of the Israelis That Is Killing People

In the past, whenever I went to (or more precisely, ‘through’) Israel, it was for some antagonistic purpose: to write about the brutal suppression of the intifada in Gaza or Hebron, to comment on the insanity of the land grab around Bethlehem, or to report from the eerie and de-populated Golan Heights, which Israel occupies against all international rules and the UN resolutions. You name it and I worked there: Shifa Hospital or Rafah Camp in Gaza, ‘Golans’, border with Jordan, Bethlehem.

I used to arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, sleep one night in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Haifa, meet my contacts (my left-wing friends), hastily, and in the morning, dash towards the ‘front’, or towards one of the ‘fronts’ that the so-called ‘Jewish State’ sustains for decades at its ‘peripheries’.

But this time I decided to do exactly the opposite.

As it became evident that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lost all his restraint and shame, as it has got clear that the United States will take full advantage of his madness, and as I was convinced that Europe, as well as most of the Arab countries, will do absolutely nothing to defend Palestine, Syria or Iran, being ‘in the neighborhood’ (Egypt), I bought my tickets to Tel Aviv, for just a 48 hour ‘visit’ and for one simple purpose: to observe Israeli citizens, talk to them, and to try to figure out how and what they think and want; how they see the world, and particularly how they perceive the region where they live, fight and kill.

And so, I flew to Israel, from Cairo via Amman. Once there, for two days I commuted between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in a brand new, fast and elegant double-decker train. I talked to many people, provoking them to describe the conditions in which they have been existing; to describe their political system and the apartheid which most of them keep upholding through (as they constantly point out – ‘democratic’) elections.

Of course, the more ‘democratic’ Israel really is, the more shameful the state into which it reduces the Palestinians, other Arabs and in fact, the entire region. Israeli citizens are continuously voting in the governments that are locking millions inside the camps. They are electing those who are igniting wars and military conflicts in various countries of the Middle East.

Naturally, if you live in Beirut or Aleppo, it is easy to imagine that all this horror is happening because the Israeli citizens are simply ‘evil’; in fact, a bunch of blood-thirsty Rottweilers who have been let off the leash by their North American masters.

But when one interacts with Israelis, he or she quickly realizes that, bizarrely, this is not the case.

Many Israelis appear to be slightly confused, shy, and introverted.

They are ‘into themselves’. It appears that they ‘don’t give a damn about the world around them’.

The most shocking thing is not their brutality, but their detachment, indifference and selfishness.

But all of this is not ‘because most of them are Jews’, but because they are Europeans.

In fact, very little is known about the fact that most of the non-European Jews living in Israel (those originally from Morocco, Yemen, Ethiopia and elsewhere) are treated like second-class citizens, or even worse.

Israel is a European ‘outpost’ in the Middle East. The mindset of most of its inhabitants is predominantly European. Talk to people in Tel Aviv, Haifa, even Beersheba as well as in the non-religious parts of the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and you will most likely come to the same conclusion.

The ‘political awareness’ of the white, European Israeli Jews, is precisely on the same level as that of the Europeans, meaning near zero.

The U.K. may have more military bases and outposts abroad than any other country on earth. The British military is involved in several ‘projects’ – military occupations and attempts to overthrow foreign governments. These ‘projects’ are killing millions of innocent people, annually. But go to Tate Modern or the Covent Garden Opera House, or just to one of those countless funky nightclubs in London, and try to engage people in conversations about their nation’s murderous legacy. They will laugh at you, or confront you, or simply would not understand what are you talking about, and why.

Do the same in France, and most likely, the results would be identical. France is involved in the neo-colonialist projects in Africa, and millions of ‘lower humans’ are being ruined in the process. But how many French people know, and if they do, how many of them care, let alone try to stop it. Look at the Yellow Vests: how many of them are demanding justice for the French neo-colonies?

The mindset of Israelis is very similar.

Young Israelis play classical music at the Jaffa gate in Jerusalem. Photo | Andre Vltchek

Take Tel Aviv – the biggest city in Israel: it is one of the richest places on earth, with infrastructure better than that in North America or the United Kingdom, with cultural institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, a masterpiece built by the architect Preston Scott Cohen. The green areas of Tel Aviv, public spaces, all this could rank it as one of the most livable cities on earth.

But for whom? At what price to the enslaved, exiled and exploited people of the region?

Does it sound familiar? Like all those museums, cathedrals, parks, public hospitals, universities that Europe constructed on the bones, on the corpses and misery of the Congolese, Indonesian, Indian and other people. All for the benefit of the Europeans, but paid for by the slave labor of “The Others”, as well as by the looted resources of “The Others”.

Talk about all of this in Madrid, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Lisbon or London. The chances are, you will not be understood. Chances are, you will get confronted: thrown out of cab or a pub, insulted, or even physically attacked (it happened to me in London, for instance).

Talk about it in Haifa or Tel Aviv, and the outcome would be similar; a bit milder (in Israel there is a greater number of self-critical people than in Europe), but those who may disagree with you could be extremely unpleasant, and sometimes even violent.

And then, when all the other arguments are exhausted, the Holocaust would almost certainly be mentioned.

And Holocaust is one word that is, when pronounced, simply supposed to end all arguments and criticism of Israel. It is like a password, to shut everyone up.

The Holocaust is then connected to the exodus of the Jews from Europe to the Middle East, after the end of the WWII. “Millions of Jews were killed, therefore they had full right to move, or to be moved, to the Middle East”, the argument goes.

It is bizarre, and powerful proof of how intellectually obedient and ‘shy’ the Western, as well as the Israeli public, has become.

Mentioning the Holocaust should not be ‘the end’: this is precisely where the discussion should begin!

The Holocaust was committed by the Europeans (Germans, but also by several of its allies) against the Jews, the Roma and Communists. Millions of people died atrocious, unimaginably terrible deaths.

And then?

In a typically cynical and sinister British colonialist way, the perpetrators got rewarded, and then new victims created.

Germany got fully rebuilt, while Palestinians (un-people in the British minds), were singled out as those who were supposed to pay for the European crimes.

Why not award the Jews with the entire Bavaria? That’s where Hitler came from. That’s where his early supporters were living. This is where some terrible killings were perpetrated.

Bavaria, Germany, Central Europe, is where millions of Jews felt at home before the Nazi madness began. For example, the greatest writer of the 20th Century – Franz Kafka: he often described himself as a Czech, of Jewish origin, who wrote in the German language.

Before they realized the gravity and monstrosity of the situation, most of the Jews in Germany simply felt ‘betrayed’. As far as they were concerned, they were Europeans, not any less than that perverted freak Adolf Hitler, or his beer-guzzling buddies.

So, why not Bavaria, as compensation? Why Palestine?

The unpronounced truth has been: because the UK and US wanted that mighty Middle Eastern outpost and because they wanted a powerful, industrialized Germany again, precisely where it was before and during the war.

Because the Allies knew: in terrible pain, full of outrage, the European Jews would come to Palestine and almost in unison declare: “Never Again!” “We will fight for our survival right now and right here!”

The sad reality was, however, that it was not Arabs, not Palestinians, who burnt the Jewish people in the concentration camps. The Arabs were actually fellow victims, suffering from different horrors – the horrors of European colonialism.

Instead of uniting the two groups of people, two victims, against European racism, colonialism and imperialism, the Brits and others succeeded in ‘dividing and ruling’ them; a horrid imperialist tactic they have been using all over the world, for the long centuries.

Of course, after the horrors of WWII, many Jews went to the Middle East as Communists or anarchists. They wanted to build a new world. They wanted to turn deserts into gardens and to live in harmony with the Palestinians and other Arabs, in a wonderful and tolerant state. This dream never came through. Communism in Israel was defeated, and so was internationalism.

Militarism, nationalism and religious extremism (conservative religious parties in Israel are always a political minority, but no government, it appears, can be formed, without taking them into a coalition).

Then came the tsunami of the anti-Communist Soviet Jews, (and those who claimed to be Jews, but often weren’t). Accepting them was clearly a political decision of the Israeli elites – they moved Israel towards the right, and ‘rejuvenated’ “the Israeli struggle for ‘exclusive Jewish rights’, and against the rights of the Arab population. Cynical; tremendously cynical, but it all worked perfectly well – for the nationalists and the conservatives.

For the Palestinians, it was yet another disaster; the end of all hopes.

Like in Europe and North America, the Israeli political landscape has become fully re-defined: extreme right, right, and center-right. The left – Communists, internationalists and real socialists – can only be found in a few avant-garde theatres and at the ‘margins of society’.

So, back to Israeli life. Its Human Development Index (HDI) is the 22nd highest in the world, above that of France, South Korea and Italy. Not bad, is it?

The question is again – for whom?

The interesting thing was that whenever I tried to discuss Palestine, Golan Heights, Syria, Iran, I encountered no anger. Do the white, European Israelis really hate Palestinians, Arabs, Iranians? My conclusion is: no, they don’t! They don’t, because these people do not exist. You cannot hate what doesn’t exist, can you?

The bombing of Syrians, shooting at Palestinians – it all has become like a video game. Nothing personal – something that ‘has to be done’ in order to preserve the privileged status of European Jews. The same as building the settlements.

You know, when I was there, Tel Aviv was obsessed with new electric pushbikes. Bicycle lanes were full of them. Who gives a damn about the Palestinians?

The museums were packed, people waiting in lines for hours for the latest exhibitions. Concerts everywhere. The best stuff. Syria? Screw Syria! Falafel fusion has reached new heights, in countless cafes. Classical musicians were practicing, in front of the public, on grand pianos, at the new train station in Jerusalem; a station so deep that one could have no doubt – it is a posh, high tech nuclear shelter.

An Israeli museum showcases fine art depicting Israeli soldiers. Photo | Andre Vltchek

Another, even newer station will soon be called “Donald Trump”, as a big thank you for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

In Israel, hardly anyone practices religion, yet on Shabbat, the entire country comes to a standstill. And that is just a few hours after those countless pubs, bars and clubs were regurgitating drunkards, until the wee hours.

Iran? Israeli politicians are professionals. They know what the West wants. And they go out of their way to please. Same as the Saudis, great allies of Washington, and secret cohorts of Israel.

After one day, everything began to feel extremely familiar. I couldn’t help it: I felt that I was in Europe. The same cynicism, opportunism, indifference.

“As long as we live well, we will do anything to keep it like that! If millions ‘elsewhere’ have to die for our wellbeing, who cares? Let them die!”

Opera performances, top-notch public transportation (German), luxury cars (mostly German), and classical music (a big chunk of it, German again). Top European brands at local luxury boutiques. Cute pet dogs in public parks.

 

Non-European Jews are good for cleaning latrines

Seriously, have you heard about a Moroccan or Yemeni Jew commanding a battalion, giving orders to open fire on Palestinian women and children? Then ask a question: is it really about ‘Jewishness’ or about European colonialist legacy?

Actually… Really familiar, isn’t it? The only difference between the UK or France and Israel, is that the distance between London, Paris and the devastated neo-colonies can be counted by thousands of kilometers. From Tel Aviv to the ruined lives of the Palestinian people, it is often just a few minutes’ drive.

Before the Holocaust in Europe, Germans perpetrated their very first holocaust in their colony – in Southwest Africa, what is now called Namibia. They murdered over 85% of the native people there, including the Herero tribe. Almost no one knows about it. I went there to investigate, wrote and published reports.

German doctors like Mengele, those who tortured and experimented on Jews in the concentration camps during WWII, were trained by the doctors who previously murdered and beastly tortured African people.

An Ethiopian-Israeli reservist – who is she ready to defend? Photo | Andre Vltchek

‘Holocaust-deniers’ hate this information. It totally contradicts their ‘discoveries’ that ‘the Holocaust did not happen’, or that “humiliated Germany, after the unjust peace after WWI, just went ‘overboard’.” No, Germany had proven that it could easily exterminate almost an entire population. But African people do not matter to the Europeans, do they? Holocaust is only what occurred on the European continent (although Gypsies/Roma somehow do not qualify as victims, either. In Czech Republic, extermination camps for Roma have been converted to pig farms, with no monuments). They – non-European victims – do not matter to most of the Israelis, either.

When the Holocaust in Europe began, most of the Jews could not believe that their good neighbors – Germans – could commit such barbarity. They did not know their own history, obviously. Germany and other European countries have been committing holocausts all over the world; on all continents. For centuries. The victims, however, were not white, and so they did not qualify as fellow victims.

After WWII was over, and after (mainly) the Soviet Union defeated the German Nazis, many Jews who survived, went to Palestine. As we mentioned before, the murderers were never really punished. Those who had to pay for the German slaughterhouses were the innocent Palestinians.

But who were those Jews who arrived first? Most of them were those who at the beginning of WWII ‘could not believe that Germans were “capable of committing such crimes”. Let’s face it; they were Europeans, maybe more European than the French, Italians, Dutch, Czechs or even the Germans.

Like Kissinger, who ended up in the United States, instead of Israel. His “Jewish blood” is totally irrelevant. What matters is his “culture”. And his culture is that of a European colonialist, imperialist bigot!

The suffering apart, European Jews were earlier, before WWII, educated in Europe. Their cultural references were those of the Europeans. Most of them saw Arabs with the same eyes as the Europeans observed Arabs in the late 1940’s. Should I say more?

And now, 64 years after the fall of the Reichstag, Israel is an inseparable part of the “Western civilization”. Which means; it is obsessed with its complex of superiority. It is fully convinced, fanatically, that the only truth is the European and North American truth. It would not hesitate to sacrifice millions of non-Western/non-Jewish lives, for the advancement of their own cause. Justice exists only for the white Jews, as well as for the Europeans, and North Americans.

Israel is not a ‘fascist country’. But it is an apartheid state, the same as the West, which treats the entire planet in an apartheid-style manner. It is what it is. Apartheid is used in order to guarantee a great life for its own people, and to hell with the rest.

Israel is fully integrated into the horrible imperialist adventures of the West, all over the Middle East, in Africa and Kashmir, in the Philippines and many other parts of the world.

And, like in the West, its people know nothing, want to know nothing, care about nothing except themselves.

Vacation in Australia, Thailand or Mexico? It can be discussed for long hours. That matters. But not the lives of conquered and colonized people.

I did not like what I saw and heard in Israel. As I do not like what I see and hear in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Paris or Madrid.

The same self-righteousness, hypocrisy, arrogance and brutality:

You do it our way, or we will break your legs. We can bomb your cities, steal your land, but you shoot back at us, and we will bomb you back to the Stone Age. Why? Because, we simple can, because, we are part of that omnipotent Western world. Because you know what we can do if you start defending yourself! Because you are scared, frightened into submission. And above all: because our people are only ones who matter.”

Yes, this is the way the colonies were controlled, first by the Europeans and then by the United States. Israel learned; it learned quickly. From the victims, people can swiftly convert themselves into victimizers.

The Laws of any country are clear on this: Just because many of your family members and relatives were brutally murdered, does not give you any right to start beating, robbing and killing totally different groups of people.

Just because you were a victim of racism, does not justify your colonialist behavior towards others.

Yes, as always, I was impressed by Israel’s infrastructure, but not by whom it serves. South Africa, during apartheid, built some of the greatest highways in the world. For the whites. Others were forced to live in the gutter. Israel does the same.

To make it worse, Israel’s Prime Minister is behaving like a war criminal. And he has been re-elected by his own people as a reward.

I believe in collective guilt. The indifference of people, who tolerate theft and murder committed on their behalf, becomes terrible crime itself.

For long awful centuries, Jews were tortured, humiliated and killed by the racist fanatic Europeans. Now, instead of joining internationalist, progressive forces, Israeli Jews of European origin, have changed their identity, and firmly joined the ranks of the imperialist oppressors. They joined their former torturers.

Now they are committing crimes against humanity not because they are Jews, but because they are Europeans.

Feature photo | Patrons traverse the walkways of the Modern Art Museum in Tel Aviv. Photo | Andre Vltchek

This article was first published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook, it was republished with special permission from the author.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Four of his latest books are China and Ecological Civilization with John B. Cobb, Jr., Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter. His Patreon

The post Andre Vltchek: It Is Indifference of the Israelis That Is Killing People appeared first on MintPress News.

The American People Are the True Victims of Our Latest Coup

There’s an office that you go to to overthrow a government. CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou stands in front of a packed house in the Chavez Room at the Venezuelan Embassy. A mural of Hugo Chavez looks on from the back wall. Bookcases stand empty, a fitting sign of the bumbling idiocy of empire. The lobby has been converted into a makeshift gallery: images of Maduro and Chavez flank the unused metal detector and security desk. Two dry-erase boards announce to passersby in English and Spanish that “This Embassy Belongs to the Elected Government of Venezuela.” Desks and offices look sparse; a few forgotten papers and pens radiate the eerie feeling of a forced eviction.

Still, no one could say that the embassy is quiet or empty of life. Dozens of people have been filing into the Chavez room several times a week to listen to presentations, music, poetry, comedy and discussions. The administrative work of diplomacy may have tapered and paused following the April 9 OAS announcement that ordered Venezuelan diplomats to vacate the embassy. But in its place, activists manifested an epicenter for cultural and creative peace work that operated with powerful shows of intersectionality and collaboration for almost three weeks.

Up until the arrival of the violent pro-coup protesters on April 30, embassy protectors maintained a full schedule of events that sought not only to highlight the important work of embassy protection but also to connect struggles, build solidarity, educate and engage. And even when pro-coup thugs attacked anti-war activists in front of a flaccid Secret Service, protectors held strong and amplified our messages — focusing not just on what we stand against, but on what we stand for.

After all, no movement can exist in negative space alone. While we are vehemently against imperialism, white supremacy and war, we are unequivocally for autonomy, peace, self-determination, solidarity, creativity, culture and collaboration. We are for justice — and truth. Progress and human rights. Love. In short, all of the things that imperialism, fascism and empire can neither cultivate nor understand.

 

U.S. gov’t provides a vivid reminder of why we were there

Far from breaking the spirit of protectors, the violent escalation by the State Department and pro-coup thugs only served as a vivid reminder of these ideals, and why this work is so vital. Further bolstered by international shows of solidarity and three failed coup attempts by the chosen U.S. puppet Juan Guaido, protectors held space in the embassy for 37 days before being arrested during an illegal raid on May 16.

In a video statement on May 8, embassy protector Kevin Zeese speaks from a dark room explaining that the authorities had just illegally cut power to the embassy. He speaks calmly and with resolve. “We expected this. We were prepared for it. We’re not leaving.” He also takes the opportunity to draw clear parallels between U.S. empire’s tactics in Venezuela and at the embassy. “It’s ironic that the United States government attacked Venezuela’s electric grid and now they’re attacking the embassy of Venezuela’s electricity.”

 
Soon there would be no water coming out of the taps either. Even before the shutoffs, law enforcement was blocking the delivery of food and allowing pro-coup protesters to break into the building and violently attack peace activists. This coordinated assault on human rights, international and domestic law was, as CODEPINK co-founder and embassy protector Medea Benjamin put it, “a microcosm of what is taking place in Venezuela as the U.S. continues to try and orchestrate a coup.”

This microcosm was indeed a pointed display of U.S. imperial tactics. Still, one need not stand directly in the path of U.S. empire to get a taste of its tactics. If you’re reading this and live in the U.S., you’ve already experienced some of the same tactics that our government employs elsewhere.

 

A visit to the coup office

Yes, there really is an office you go to for overthrowing a government. According to Kiriakou — who blew the whistle on the CIA torture program, precipitating his incarceration as the only person ever to have been jailed for the CIA torture program — there’s a twisted yet efficient bureaucracy when it comes to undertaking coups. You go to this aforementioned office, tell the people there which government you want to overthrow and they write up a plan. That plan then gets passed on to the Justice Department to make sure it’s legal. Of course it isn’t, but that’s what legal gymnastics are for. The OLC — Office of Legal Counsel — warps the law in order to bolster the CIA’s plan. From there, it goes straight to the National Security Council.

As Kiriakou notes, “It’s highly classified so don’t bother writing your congressman — he’s gonna think you’re a nut.” So, in this case, the Justice Department’s legal structure of the CIA’s plan to overthrow Venezuela landed on National Security Advisor John Bolton’s desk with a prompt: The CIA wants to overthrow the Venezuelan government. We think it’s legal for these reasons. What do you think? As subsequent events would prove, Bolton was into it. And his enthusiasm reeked with historical morbidity.

The objective of embassy protection was never to sit quietly inside and sulk. Education, engagement and amplification demand consistent work in systemic analysis, tying the past to the present, connecting the “us” and “them.” Outside of the cultural and progressive events, protectors made sure to artfully display messages of anti-imperialism, peace and solidarity. The outside of the embassy was decorated with a host of banners and signs, from the bold, large and colorful to the hand-written informational.

Members of the Embassy Protection Collective hang a banner outside the shuttered Venezuelan Embassy, April 24, 2019, in Washington. Patrick Semansky | AP

To the side of the front doors, an imperialist checklist stands, calling out the powers-that-be while appealing to Georgetown’s busy streets. A quick but
damning read, the list is essentially an inventory of the tried and true tactics of U.S. empire — the bureaucratic how-tos laid out by that secret CIA office:

  1. “Make the Economy Scream” — a direct quote from Richard Nixon in 1972 as he directed the CIA to destabilize and take control of Chile, fearing the democratically elected and loved Salvador Allende. Some 47 years later, outside the Venezuelan embassy, number one has been checked off.
  2. “Finance the Opposition” — Check.
  3. “Assassinate the President.”
  4. “Sabotage the Peace Process” — Check.
  5. “Call Leader a Dictator” — Check.
  6. “Interfere with Election” — Check.
  7. “Install Puppet Government.”
  8. “Attack Infrastructure” — Check.
  9. “Exploit Human Needs” — Check.
  10. “?”

It’s eerie and shocking to think that our own government’s outline may not look terribly different from this placard. From Iran to Honduras to Cuba to Argentina to Libya and then some, the tactics have been much the same, as have the results. All told, millions have died, suffered, been forcibly displaced. A recent report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that more than 40,000 Venezuelans have died between 2017 and 2018 owing to so-called sanctions (more rightfully known as economic warfare). Communities, cultures and entire ecosystems have been destroyed — sanitized and utilized in the name of profit and global hegemony.

 

Bloody and broken mirrors

We are certainly not immune to the crusades of our government. Just like any children of empire throughout history, we suffer under the weight of a bloated military that demands constant upkeep and growth; a paradigm that requires blind patriotic obedience or else a tolerance for the pain of daring to dissent. As environments choke, infrastructures crumble and social programs dwindle, the fruits of our labor go to ever-expanding war. Truly, we quite seriously now have our sights set on a space force.

Deeper still, the very core of our society is hardened and violent from a country built and sustained on imperialist warring. This white supremacist domination that pedestals corporate profits over the well-being of human beings is not just an export. It is fostered and refined here at home. What happens in war never stays there — our streets are bloody and broken mirrors to the horrors we manifest worldwide.

Consider that first tactic: make the economy scream. Let’s be honest, it’s been screaming for a while. With each passing day, the screams grow louder and more frantic. Even JP Morgan has rung the warning bell for the next big recession, and all signs point to it being far worse than the one in 2008. Since then, we have continued to deregulate Wall Street, bolstered corporate welfare, cut taxes for the richest of the rich while crippling programs and initiatives that would boost the economy for all. There wasn’t any “recovery” for those of us on Main Street who not only paid for the bailouts but paid again to bolster the richest of the rich after the fact.

Paper airplanes made out complaint letters denouncing bank bailouts lie on the ground after protesters threw them towards a Bank of America building, Oct. 28, 2011, in New York. John Minchillo | AP

According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook from 2018, $30 Trillion has gone to the richest 10 percent of Americans since the 2008 recession. It comes as no surprise then that the richest three people in the U.S. (again, white men) own more wealth than the poorest 50 percent of Americans. Indeed, we have wider disparities between rich and poor than does any other major developed nation. As activist comedian Lee Camp says in his stand-up:

You want to know how our economy is set up? Picture Chris Christie riding on the shoulders of Natalie Portman. That’s how it’s set up… and it doesn’t last long.”

Unlike our lopsided economy, something that seems to last longer than radioactive waste is our hankering for a good scary McCarthyist story. Our latest recycling of the big bad Russian trope comes of course via the claim that they ruined our pristine elections. There’s no shortage of evidence to show that they didn’t, and I won’t dive into that here. My interest in this article is more on how we rig our own elections.

 

Wonder what the U.S. would look like with free and fair elections

Our elections are so egregiously corrupt, one could write a book (and several have) on just a few of the ways we interfere with our own elections. For instance, Interstate Crosscheck was initially put forward as a way to stop voter fraud — people voting more than once — something that probably doesn’t happen. Voter turnout in this country is so embarrassingly low, it’d be hard enough to argue that someone is attempting to vote once. The idea that anyone would attempt to vote more than once is just laughably absurd. However, this joke not only made it to the floor of one state legislature — it made it to more than half of all state legislatures and passed.

Twenty-eight states implemented Interstate Crosscheck, which essentially acts as a voter-of-color purging program. Investigative reporter Greg Palast wrote in a 2016 Rolling Stone article: “The Crosscheck list disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters.” The system is supposed to match first, last, and middle names and social security numbers to ensure that it doesn’t kick people off who just share a first and last name. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t match middle names or social security numbers.

According to data, it hones in on names that are typical of Hispanic, black and Asian-American constituents and highlights them as potential suspects for voter fraud, striking them off the voter rolls if they fail to respond to a nondescript postcard sent to the address on file. Of course, if you don’t get the postcard because you’re housing insecure, busy, or suspicious of random postcards, that’s on you. Before the 2016 presidential election, 1.1 million voters were purged from the rolls using Interstate Crosscheck, more than enough to flip several battleground states.

Meanwhile, for those who do manage to stay on the voter rolls, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to vote, that your vote will count, that it’ll count in full or that it’ll go to the candidate you actually chose. We have what’s called black box voting in this country — a system where, as voting expert Bev Harris puts it, “the mechanisms for recording and/or tabulating the vote are hidden from the voter, and/or the mechanism lacks a tangible record of the votes cast.”

Related | Microsoft’s ElectionGuard a Trojan Horse for a Military-Industrial Takeover of US Elections

Private companies build voting machines using proprietary code, not open to the public, that can be hacked in less than a minute by anyone with a simple tool and access to a memory card. Note: not Russians sitting in St. Petersburg posting cartoons of Bernie in a banana hammock on Facebook and boosting them for less than $3. Meanwhile, what folks have been able to glean from the mysterious black box voting machines hardly suggests an even playing field. The election watch group aptly named Black Box Voting released a report in May of 2016 following an in-depth review of the GEMS election management system, responsible for counting 25 percent of all votes in the country. They found evidence of fractional voting, a practice that “removes the principle of ‘one person-one vote’ to allow some votes to be counted as less than one or more than one.” Of course, thanks to proprietary code, you won’t see evidence of the fractional voting in the final result.

Gerrymandering, provisional ballots that aren’t counted, lack of access to early voting, and closing polling places without notice are some of the other ways in which we grossly rig our own elections. And that’s just a few of the pages from the playbook. If we broaden the scope to look at how third parties are blocked from the ballot to the debate stage, the Electoral College, superdelegates, closed primaries and more, the landscape of our electoral system begins to resemble the methodically chaotic bureaucracy we’ve employed in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, Argentina, Chile and more.

 

Mourners at our own funeral?

Moving down the imperialist checklist, the idea of targeting our infrastructure seems redundant, much like making the economy scream. More than 50,000 bridges in the United States are “structurally deficient.” Flint still doesn’t have clean water thanks to a total breakdown not only of the pipes but more so of the will to address the problem of poisoned water. A USA Today report from 2016 shows excess levels of lead in almost 2,000 water systems across all 50 states, affecting millions of people. Outside of lead, there’s a 1 in 4 chance that your tap water is unsafe owing to lack of proper contaminant monitoring, and some 63 million people have been exposed to unsafe drinking water in the past decade. Roads, rail and airports are also crumbling or embarrassingly past their upgrade dates. Overall, in 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers rated U.S. infrastructure a D+. Sounds like the economy can add a new voice to the screaming choir.

Corporations have been glad to step in on this American catastrophe and exploit the need for basics such as water, shelter, food and income. Take for instance Nestle bottling water less than two hours away from Flint only to sell it back to the impoverished community dying of thirst. The rise of the gig economy has given companies new ways to exploit workers on a contractual basis, promising little to no benefits or minimum wage standards. The privatization of water systems, public transportation and schools further highlight the bottom-line interest of commodifying not only our bodies but our minds. In short, the growing oppression under late-stage capitalism is really quite lucrative for some. And as long as corporate media is there to wrap our slow dive in trendy language, there’s hope that we’ll sink quietly, that this slow and streamlined coup will continue to go unnoticed.

Unfortunately, whether we recognize it or not, the coup has been underway for quite some time. It has a Gap-ad type sheen, but the very same greedy faces that now drool over Venezuela’s vast oil stores have been making bank and protecting their thrones here at home for decades. That streamlined chaos is the very cornerstone of our system — the motor of our capitalist empire.

With this consideration, it feels all the more vital that we connect struggles across borders. An empire cares little for the borders of sovereign nations in its crosshairs. We should likewise ignore the false demarcations between “us” and “them” as we recognize the parallels in our respective struggles for justice, autonomy and self-determination. We have more in common with the Venezuelan people than we do with our own government. From this understanding, we can build real solidarity and defy the coups against us and our counterparts around the globe.

Feature photo | A demonstrator protests a Pennsylvania law that doesn’t limit how much in gifts state lawmakers may accept from people seeking to influence them, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., May 6, 2019. Matt Rourke | AP

Eleanor Goldfield is a creative activist, journalist, and poet. She is the founder and host of the show, “Act Out!,” which airs on Free Speech TV on Dish Network, DirecTV, ROKU, Amazon Fire and others. Her latest book, “Paradigm Lost,” blends radical verse with art from 15 dissident artists.

The post The American People Are the True Victims of Our Latest Coup appeared first on MintPress News.

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