Thursday, July 24, 2014

How America’s Wild West Gun Policies are Fueling Central America’s Refugee Problem

How America’s Wild West Gun Policies are Fueling Central America’s Refugee Problem

By Moyers and Company

It’s been widely reported that loosely regulated gun sales in the US have fueled Mexico’s drug wars. A 2013 study by scholars at the University of San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute and the Igarape Institute — a Brazilian research center — found that 253,000 guns are smuggled into Mexico from the US each year, about 2.2 percent of total American gun sales.

Over the weekend, Alec McGillis reported for The New Republic that a similar dynamic is throwing fuel on the fire in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — the three countries that account for a spike in unaccompanied refugee children showing up at our Southern border.

MacGillis writes:

The surge of migrants coming to the U.S. from Central America is being fueled in part by the movement of guns heading in the other direction, from U.S. dealerships doing brisk business with the help of porous guns laws and a powerful gun lobby.

The role of gun trafficking has been oddly absent in the debate over the gang violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala that, coupled with economic despair, is driving the migrant wave from those three nations, the so-called Northern Triangle. It’s not as if we’re unwilling to consider any U.S. responsibility for the surge—there’s plenty of talk about the fact that several of the gangs terrorizing the Northern Triangle got their start in Los Angeles, and about the role that U.S. drug policy has played in fueling violence south of the border.

Getting less attention, though, has been the U.S. link to the actual weaponry being used in the killings and other crimes that make the three Central American nations among the most dangerous in the world. (Honduras has by far the highest homicide rate in the world; El Salvador and Guatemala are fourth and fifth.) According to data collected by the ATF, nearly half of the guns seized from criminals in El Salvador and submitted for tracing in the ATF’s online system last year originated in the U.S., versus 38 and 24 percent in Honduras and Guatemala, respectively. Many of those guns were imported through legal channels, either to government or law enforcement agencies in the three countries or to firearms dealers there. But a not-insignificant number of the U.S.-sourced guns—more than 20 percent in both Guatemala and Honduras—were traced to retail sales in the U.S. That is, they were sold by U.S. gun dealers and then transported south, typically hidden in vehicles headed across Mexico, though sometimes also stowed in checked airline luggage, air cargo, or even boat shipments. (Similar ratios were found in traces the ATF conducted in 2009 of 6,000 seized guns stored in a Guatemalan military bunker—40 percent of the guns came from the United States, and slightly less than half of those were found to have been legally imported, leaving hundreds that were apparently trafficked.) “It is a problem,” says Jose Miguel Cruz, an expert in Central American gang violence at Florida International University. “The problem is we don’t have any idea how many [of the trafficked guns] there are. It’s a big, dark area.”

This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Seven Arrested at Hancock Air Base

For Immediate Release
23 July 2014

Ed Kinane 315-478-4571 Upstate Drone Action
Ellen Grady 607-279-8303 Ithaca Catholic Worker
Brian Hynes 718-838-2636 NY Catholic Worker, Atlantic Life Community

2 min. video of action:

Seven Arrested at Hancock Air Base
Halt Drone War Crimes!

Order of Protection Delivered for the Children of the World

Syracuse July 23, 2014 Earlier today eight Atlantic Life Community activists joined with Upstate Drone Action at the main gate of Hancock Air Base, in Syracuse, New York. Hancock is the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York State Air National Guard. The 174th Attack Wing pilots weaponized MQ9 Reaper drones over Afghanistan – killing and terrorizing an uncountable number of civilians.

The eight delivered a People’s War Crimes Indictment to the Hancock chain of command by affixing it to the fence after being refused by the base personnel. Also delivered was an Order of Protection on behalf of the children of the world who are subject to U.S. drone surveillance and attack.

The eight issued a statement that began with a list of names of persons who have been killed by drone strikes; “Syed Wali Shah, 7 years old, killed by an American drone strike. Momina Bibi, mother and midwife, killed by an American drone strike. Tarik Aziz, 16, killed by an American drone strike… This Must Stop! We are a community of peacemakers who resist war, racism and greed. We stand … in solidarity with men, women and children being terrorized by US military aggression.”

The group blocked the entrance to the base and took up positions for vigil. Brian Hynes, NYC Catholic Worker, was allowed to vigil on the side of the main entrance, usually prohibited. Seven from the group – from Vermont, Maryland, New York City, and Ithaca were arrested.

The seven are being charged with Trespass. Two of the defendants, Clare Grady and Martha Hennessy were also charged with violation of an Order of Protection. Liz McAlister and Erica Brock were charged with Disorderly Conduct. Clare Grady and Martha Hennessy are being held on $10,000 bail. Felton Davis, Erica Brock, and Joan Pleune are all being held on $2,500 bail.

Three of the arrested are grandmothers. On July 10th, 2014, drone activist and grandmother, Mary Anne Grady Flores, was sentenced to one year in jail for violation of the same Order of Protection, taken out on behalf of the Colonel of the base. She is currently out on $5,000 bail pending appeal. A higher court has found the order to be invalid.

Bill Ofenloch NYC Catholic Worker 212- 369-1590
Liz McAlister Jonah House, MD 443-804-6938
Felton Davis NYC Catholic 212-777-9617
Martha Hennessy NYC Catholic and Vermont
802-263-5591; 212-777-9612
Clare Grady Ithaca Catholic Worker 607-273-6257
Joan Pleune Granny Peace Brigade
Erica Brock NYC Catholic Worker 213-247-9507

The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the is made up of antiwar organizations and formed around resistance to the MQ-9 Reaper Drone program at Hancock Field Air Force Base.

Baltimore Activist Alert - June 24 - Aug. 10, 2014

39] Support the ERA – July 24
40] Remember the Nigerian school girls – July 24
41] BDS talk – July 24
42] Baltimore supports the Palestinians – July 24
43] Howard County supports the Palestinians – July 24
44] New Story Leadership presentation – July 24
45] Dave Zirin at Red Emma’s – July 24
46] Vigil for peace at White House – July 25
47] Vigil for Justice in Palestine – July 25
48] Support the children – July 25
49] International Day of Quds – July 25
50] Silent peace vigil – July 25
51] Ballroom Dancing – July 25
52] Peace between North & South Korea – July 26
53] Olney Peace vigil – July 26
54] West Chester, PA demo – July 26
55] Silent peace vigil – July 26
56] Protest at proposed drone base – July 26
57] Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration – August 6 & 9
58] Save the date! - Aug. 10
59] Ronda Cooperstein on social media
60] Sign up with Washington Peace Center
61] Join Fund Our Communities
62] Donate books, videos, DVDs and records
63] Do you need any book shelves or file cabinets?
64] Join Global Zero campaign
65] War Is Not the Answer signs for sale
66] Join Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil
39] –Rally with Progressive Democrats of America, ERA legislation sponsors Reps. Jackie Speier and Carolyn Maloney, and other civil rights / equal rights activists on Thurs., July 24 from 9 to 10:30 AM in front of the Supreme Court, 1 First St. NE, WDC 20543. The closest Metro stops are Union Station (Red Line) and Capitol South (Blue/Orange Lines). The rally will support the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) legislation.

We're getting closer and closer to full legal and economic equality! PDA organizers and allies achieved historic breakthroughs in Illinois and Virginia, pushing for successful ERA ratification votes in one house of their state legislature. Illinois is poised to become the first state in decades to ratify the ERA, meaning only two more states would be needed for ratification! Today, women and girls--and in some circumstances men and boys--lack basic protections against discrimination on account of sex. Therefore, Progressive Democrats of America and coalition allies call upon the Congress of the United States to issue a Declaration of Equality by quickly passing Senate Joint Resolution 15 and House Joint Resolution 113 to remove the time limit for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and facilitate ratification by 3 additional states. We the women and men of America need the Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee equal protection under law and constitutional defense against discrimination on account of sex. Go to It states: Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

40] – Get over to the Nigerian Embassy, 3519 International Ct. NW on Thurs., July 24 at noon for a 100-day rally to honor the over 220 school girls who were kidnapped and are still being held by terrorists. Wear red and bring home-made signs if you can. Go to

41] –The 2005 call from Palestine Civil Society for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has gained unprecedented momentum within the international community in recent years. Since 2005, universities, academic groups, banks and faith based organizations have all joined the BDS movement. On Thurs., July 24 from 1to 2 PM at The Palestine Center, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW, Lena Ibrahim and Andrew Kadi will provide personal testimony why a grassroots BDS movement in solidarity with Palestinian Civil Society is a new means by which people can put pressure on the U.S., Israel, and the international community to achieve justice in Palestine. This comes in light of yet another failed state-sponsored peace process and escalation of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

This is the first installment of the Summer Intern Lecture Series, titled "Palestine Abroad: The Role of the International Community in the Palestinian Issue.” Call 202.338.1290.

42] –Support the Palestinians on Thurs., July 24 from 5:30 to 7 PM at 33rd and St. Paul St. The Israeli assault on Gaza has left more than 500 people dead. The killing is entering its third week, so come out to demonstrate to show Baltimore stands in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.

43] – Join the Committee for Palestinian Rights and be at a vigil to protest this atrocious war that has rapidly taken so many civilian lives. Meet at Broken Land Pkwy. and Little Patuxent Pkwy., on Thurs., July 24 at 5:30 PM. Bring signs and join Howard County Peace Action.

44] – On Thurs., July 24 from 6 to 8 PM at the Ritz Carlton, 1150 22nd St. NW, the New Story Leadership will present its class of 2014, featuring inspiring presentations from young leaders from Israel and Palestine who are living and working together this summer in Washington, D.C. Young voices throughout the world have decisively spoken up for change, demanding new leadership, greater freedom and the right to choose their own futures. Now the young generation in the Israeli - Palestinian conflict zone also wants to act for change, and to engage you in this new conversation by sharing their stories and their hopes for peace. These narratives demonstrate what this emerging generation of young leaders from the Middle East is doing about their future and the future of their region. There will be a reception afterwards. RSVP at

45] – On Thurs., July 24 at 7:30 PM @ Red Emma's Bookstore Cafe, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, Dave Zirin will present the theme of his book “Brazil's Dance with the Devil, The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Struggle for Democracy. The people of Brazil celebrated when it was announced that they were hosting the World Cup and Olympics. This caused large protests the country hadn't seen in decades. This book, relying on field work from the most dangerous corners of Rio to the halls of power in Washington, D.C. examines how sports and politics have collided in spectacular fashion. Call 443-602-7585. Go to

46] – On Fri., July 25 from noon to 1 PM, join the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in a vigil urging the powers that be to abolish war and torture, to disarm all weapons, to end indefinite detention, to close Guantanamo, to establish justice for all and help create the Beloved Community! The vigil takes place at the White House on Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Contact Art @ or at 202-360-6416.

47] – A vigil for Justice in Palestine/Israel takes place every Friday from noon to 1 PM at 19th & JFK Blvd., Philadelphia, across from Israeli Consulate. It is sponsored by Bubbies & Zaydes (Grandparents) for Peace in the Middle East. Email Go to

48] – On Fri., July 25at 3 PM, the presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will be meeting with President Obama and Vice-President Biden at the White House to discuss the dire situation facing refugee children. Join together to call on Obama to uphold and defend the legal rights of children, ensure that families can be reunited and protected here in the U.S., and to take responsibility for U.S. economic and military policies in Mexico and Central America that helped create this crisis.

Join the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, the Central American Resource Center, Sisters of Mercy-Institute Justice Team, School of the Americas Watch and other allies at the White House. Contact Alexis at 202-521-2510 ext. 205 or

49] – On International Day of Quds, people of conscience gather to express solidarity with all the oppressed human beings of the world, and particularly the innocent civilians of Palestine who are victimized by the oppressive and racist Zionist regime. All peace loving people are invited to voice their opposition to the unjust and illegal occupation of the great Al-Aqsa Mosque and the usurpation of the Holy Land by the Zionist regime. March from the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. at 3:15 PM on Fri, July 25. Proceed down Massachusetts Ave. to Dupont Circle where the rally will take place. Visit

50] – There is usually a silent peace vigil on Fridays, from 5 to 6 PM, outside the Cathedral of the Incarnation, University Parkway and St. Paul St. The July 25 vigil, sponsored by Homewood Friends and Stony Run Meetings, reminds us that War Is Not the Answer and that there is the need to stop torture.

51] – There is an opportunity to participate in ballroom dancing, usually every Friday of the month, in the JHU ROTC Bldg. at 8 PM. Turn south on San Martin Dr. from the intersection of Univ. Parkway and 39th St. Drive on campus by taking the third left turn. The next dance will be July 25. Call Dave Greene at 410-599-3725.

52] – At the Foundry, 16th and P Sts. NW on Sat., July 26 from 10 AM to 12:30 PM, Washington-area United Methodist churches, including several Korean-American congregations, will be uniting to sponsor a march and rally in Lafayette Square. Clergy leaders bringing this vigil together include Mark Harrison of the UMC Greater Board of Church & Society, Rev. We, representing the Korean congregations, and Rev Ben Roberts of Foundry UMC are among the clergy leaders of this vigil. The march will proceed from Foundry to Lafayette Square, at 10 AM, and the peace vigil will begin at 11 AM. The vigil will feature prayers for peace, cultural performances, and several speakers on the topic of Reconciliation between the Koreas. Contact Ann Wilcox at 202-441-3265 or at

53] – Friends House, 17715 Meeting House Rd., Sandy Spring, MD 20860, hosts a peace vigil every Saturday, 10:30 to 11:30 AM, on the corner of Rt. 108 and Georgia Ave. [Route 97] in Olney, MD. The next vigil is July 26. Call Chuck Harker at 301-570-7167.

54] – Each Saturday, 11 AM – 1 PM, Chester County Peace Movement holds a peace vigil in West Chester in front of the Chester County Courthouse, High & Market Sts. Go to Email

55] – There will be a peace vigil on the West Lawn of the Capitol at noon on Sat., July 26. Look for the blue banner with the message, "Seek Peace and Pursue It.--Psalms 34:14." The vigil lasts one hour and is silent except when one responds to the occasional questions. Go to or email

56] – Stand against U.S. military action in Iraq and the engulfing fires of war...the threat of air strikes and drone attacks commanded from the continental U.S. and sites like the one being established in Horsham, PA. Iraq is on the brink of drone strikes. Don't add fuel to the fires in Iraq! Stand against the drone war command center in Horsham as each day brings us closer to it being fully 'operational': remote controlled killing. Is this what we've become? NO! We can do better.

Demonstrate to Stop the Drone War Command Center at the Horsham Air Guard Station on Sat., July 26 from noon to 2 PM at Route 611/Easton Road and County Line Road, Horsham, PA. The vigil takes place on the last Saturday of the month. This month do a 'DIE-IN' (people fall to the ground and lie motionless) in symbolic witness, demonstrating the consequence of U.S. drone strikes and the worldwide whirlwind of violence and war. Bring a stuffed toy doll for a memorial to the innocents killed in Gaza, Iraq, drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. The U.S. Senate voted 100 - 0 to support Israel's invasion of Gaza - a week earlier the House of Representatives passed a similar resolution. Unconditional US support, and the U.S.'s $3 billion in military aid each year, makes Israel's attack on Gaza possible. Brandywine Peace Community can be reached at 610-544-1818 or

57] – For the 30th year, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration Committee will gather to remember the atomic bombings of Japan on August 6 & 9, 1945, which killed more than 200,000 people. Other organizations involved in this year’s commemorations are the Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee of Homewood and Stony Run Meetings, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Crabshell Alliance and the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore.

It is our duty to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again and that nuclear abolition becomes reality. Taking this to heart, members of the Transform Now Plowshares, Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, are in federal prisons serving long sentences for their May 2013 disarmament action at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Knoxville, TN.

On Wed., Aug. 6, gather at 33rd and N. Charles Streets from 5:30 to 6:30 PM to protest Johns Hopkins University’s weapons research, including a swarming drones contract, and call for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the closing of nuclear power plants. Then go to the Bufano Sculpture Garden on Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, where the Hibakusha, survivors of an atomic bomb explosion, will speak. The guests are Mr. Toshiyuki Mimaki, Hiroshima Hibakusha born March 15, 1942 and vice president of Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo, and Ms. Fumie Kakita, Nagasaki second-generation Hibakusha born October 12, 1953, who is the assistant secretary general of Nagasaki Council of A-bomb Sufferers. Then enjoy dinner at Niwana Restaurant, 3 East 33rd Street.

On Sat., Aug. 9, starting at 5 PM, there will be a potluck dinner at Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St. At 6:30 PM, the Baltimore Labor Chorus will perform. Then Meher Hans, a high student will explain her concern for the atomic bombings of Japan, and Tim Whitehouse, executive direct of the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, will discuss the activities of the local PSR chapter. Finally, participants will share through verse, poetry or song why s/he is moved to dissent against nuclear weapons and power and killer drone strikes.

On Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, we welcome performances by musicians and poets. Let us know if you will perform. Call Max at 410-366-1637 or email him at mobuszewski at

58] – SAVE THE DATE!!!!! Get over to "Family Fun" night to raise funds for Dr. Mutulu Skakur and the development of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to free our Political Prisoners/Prisoners of War. It will take place at Skateland North Point, 1113 Old North Point Rd., Baltimore 21222, on Sun., Aug. 10 from 4:30 to 7:30 PM. Admission is $10 which includes skate rental. Contact Abdul-Jabbar at 610.621.0699 (Maryland State Jericho). Go to

59] -- Ronda Cooperstein has taken to social media, and is recording her opinion pieces on You Tube. Check out her latest essay - THE WASHINGTON POST WITH TOAST:

60] -- The Washington Peace Center has a progressive calendar & activist alert! Consider signing up to receive its weekly email:

61] -- Fund Our Communities campaign is a grass roots movement to get support from local organizations and communities to work together with their local and state elected officials to pressure Congresspersons and senators to join with Congresspersons Barney Frank and Ron Paul, who have endorsed a 25% cut to the federal military budget. Bring home the savings to state and county governments to meet the local needs which are under tremendous budget pressures. Go to

62] -- If you would like to get rid of books, videos, DVDs or records, contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

63] -- Can you use any book shelves? Can you use any file cabinets? Contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

64] -- Join an extraordinary global campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons: A growing group of leaders around the world is calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons and a majority of the global public agrees. This is an historic window of opportunity. With momentum already building in favor of Zero, a major show of support from people around the world could tip the balance. When it comes to nuclear weapons, one is one too many.

65] -- WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER signs from Friends Committee on National Legislation are again for sale at $5. To purchase a sign, call Max at 410-366-1637.

66] – A Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil takes place every day in Lafayette Park, 1601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 24 hours a day, since June 3, 1981. Go to; call 202-682-4282.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better" - Daniel Berrigan

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

George Will's Column About the Supreme Court's Decision on Union Fees Misleads Readers

George Will's Column About the Supreme Court's Decision on Union Fees Misleads Readers

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 11:36 By Ann Hodges, Truthout | News Analysis

George Will (Photo: Scott Ableman / CC)

This story could not have been published without the support of readers like you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and fund more stories like it!

George Will's widely published early July column about the Supreme Court's decision allowing home care providers to avoid paying fees to the union chosen by a majority of their fellow workers is misleading at best. The column omits important facts and uses language that confuses the reader regarding others.

Contrary to Will's declaration that the workers were "herded into unions" by government "fiat," the Illinois law, initiated by gubernatorial executive order but subsequently enacted by the state legislature, merely allowed home care workers to unionize. A majority of the workers then voted to be represented by the Service Employees International Union. Like political voters who are represented by the winning candidate regardless of their personal vote, the plaintiff in the case, Harris, was bound by her fellow workers' majority vote for union representation. Under Illinois law, she was required to pay the cost of representation (though not required to join the union), just as those who vote against a winning political candidate must still pay taxes.

Will's column omitted the fact that the law requires the union to represent Harris even though she chooses not to join the union. The Supreme Court's decision identified improved conditions for the home care workers that include a substantial wage increase, a state funded health insurance plan, a training program, workplace safety measures, and a grievance procedure for employees. Harris, by law, benefited from each of these improvements negotiated by the union. The union could not legally negotiate improvements only for its members. Thus, the law required Harris to pay the union part of the cost of obtaining these benefits and administering the contract that contained them. Further, if Harris files a grievance under the contract, the union must provide her the same representation it offers union members. The Supreme Court's decision now allows Harris to take advantage of these benefits paid for by her fellow workers without contributing to them herself.

In praising the decision, Will referred to it as "campaign finance reform," suggesting that the union used Harris' fee payments for political purposes. That is quite clearly not the case. Harris' complaint challenged only the collection of fees for representation. The law already prohibited the union from using her fee payments for anything other than representation. Thus the case had absolutely nothing to do with campaign funds.

Will made some of these same errors in a column about the case written prior to the Supreme Court's decision. They were debunked at that time by Charlotte Garden, writing in The Huffington Post. Why persist with the same distorted arguments? Many readers have limited experience with unions. Thus, they may not be aware of the actual facts, or the nuances of the law and the decision. As a result, they may be persuaded by Will's arguments regardless of the inaccuracies.

There is a campaign by conservative groups to discredit and defund unions, which support, at least some of the time, progressive political candidates as well as the interests of workers, consumers and others with less power in our political system.

By portraying Harris as a woman caring for a disabled son being taken advantage of by a big union, Will's column supports this campaign. In reality, Harris and other workers received significant benefits as a result of unionization. While we can certainly sympathize with her difficult circumstances, her desire to avoid paying for the representation that gained her these benefits is not deserving of sympathy.
Harris is free to try to persuade her fellow workers to remove the union representative. The union can be voted out in the same way it was voted in by the workers. Harris is also free to communicate her personal views to the state that pays her wages, even if those views differ from those of the union. What she should not be permitted to do is to take the benefits of unionization without paying the cost. And that is what the Supreme Court's decision allows.

Requiring unions to represent all the workers while receiving payment only from some of them reduces unions' ability to engage in effective representation and limits their power. Further, it becomes more difficult to convince even committed workers to pay the union when others get the benefits for free. While the legal challenge to union fees is framed as a constitutional objection, it is hard to conclude that the ultimate goal is anything other than weakening unions.

Copyright, Truthout.

Ann Hodges is professor of law at the University of Richmond where she teaches and writes in the areas of labor and employment law. Prior to joining the faculty, she practiced labor and employment law in Chicago and worked for the National Labor Relations Board as a field examiner.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

US Provides Israel the Weapons Used on Gaza

US Provides Israel the Weapons Used on Gaza

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:12 By Ken Klippenstein and Paul Gottinger, Truthout | News Analysis

Israel Air Force (Photo: The Israel Project / Flickr)

Truthout can only survive through reader support - click here to make a tax-deductible donation and help publish journalism with real integrity and independence!

The United States exported to Israel a substantial amount of the same types of weapons Israel is using to kill Gazans, a new analysis of US Census Bureau export data reveals. For example, in 2013, the United States sent Israel at least $196 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters, a category that includes F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, both of which Israel is currently using to attack Gazan homes, offices and farmland. Between January and May 2014, the United States had already exported $92 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters.

The military airplanes and helicopters that the United States sent comprise the largest category, in dollar terms, of all weapons exports to Israel that are publicly available via the US Census Bureau (see charts).

The United States also sent Israel parts for armored fighting vehicles and ammunition cartridges. For example, between January and May 2014, the United States exported $39 million in parts of armored fighting vehicles, a category that includes M109 Doher Howitzers, which Israel has used against targets in Gaza. As for the ammunition cartridges, the United States shipped well over $9 million of these during the same time period.

Even as the US government claims to want to broker a ceasefire, it continues facilitating weapons exports to Israel. On July 14, the same day President Obama vowed that "We're going to continue to do everything we can to facilitate a return to the 2012 ceasefire," the State Department approved a possible $544 million sale of AIM-9x sidewinder missiles and associated support services to Israel. These missiles can be used by F-16s to hit ground targets.

Official US military aid to Israel stands at about $3 billion per year due to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package originally signed by former President George W. Bush and upheld under President Obama. This figure doesn't, however, include the $504 million in funding dedicated to missile defense.

Truthout asked Andrew Feinstein, former Member of Parliament in South Africa and currently an Open Society Institute fellow, to elaborate on the accuracy of official aid estimates. He replied:

In reality, published military aid figures tend to be significant understatements. "Official" military aid figures tend to be the obvious direct aid given for military purchases, which usually have to be purchased from the donor country. They tend to exclude various other forms of aid that are linked to defense, such as training; maintenance, repairs and spare parts funding; research and development support; weaponry for special actions; black ops payments (as used, for example, to arm the mujahedeen in Afghanistan for many years); internal security funding; and a range of unspecified funding from a variety of departments.

Israel is the only country allowed to use its US military aid to build its domestic military industry, a privilege that includes developing indigenous weapons systems based on US designs and using US grants to purchase materials, as well as research and development, from Israeli firms. Additional US funds are spent on joint military research and production. Israel also enjoys "fast-track" status for weapons sales, meaning it can make deals directly with manufacturers in the US without having to go through the Pentagon.

The billions of dollars in US military aid to Israel have bought a stunning array of US weapons and military hardware for the IDF, including 226 F-16 fighter jets, more than 700 M-60 tanks, 6,000 armored personnel carriers, scores of transport planes, attack helicopters and utility and training aircraft, not to mention innumerable bombs and tactical missiles of all kinds.
Israel has come under criticism for bombing medical facilities and news media buildings, and also for its failure to prevent civilian casualties. Truthout asked Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, what he thought an appropriate response from the international community might be. He replied:

[Israel] shows no sign of respecting the wishes of the international community at this time for an immediate ceasefire. So I think that the only way the world can show that it's at all serious about protecting vulnerable peoples - in this case the Palestinians - would be to impose an arms embargo.

Falk also pointed out that the US weapons exports to Israel violate the Arms Control Act of 1976. "There's no legal, political or moral argument that would uphold the claim that Israel is acting in legitimate self-defense," Falk said. "Gaza, from an international law point of view, is not a foreign state, but an occupied territory. It's not clear that you can exercise self-defense in relation to a territory that you are responsible for administering in accordance with international humanitarian law."

The United States also provides substantial weapons aid to Egypt's new military regime, led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has exacerbated the crisis in Gaza. Sisi, who rose to power after a military coup in July 2013, quickly oversaw the destruction of approximately 80 percent of tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt. These tunnels are an economic lifeline for Gazans, who rely on them for medicine, fuel, food and other necessities; furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of the Gazan government's revenue flows through these tunnels. The destruction of the tunnels is thought to be contributing to serious shortages of medical supplies and crucial medicines, since Israel's bombing of Gaza began on July 8. During Israel's 2012 offensive the tunnels served as an important way for medical supplies to be brought into Gaza.

"The Sisi government is determined to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood and they view Hamas as an extension of the Brotherhood," Falk said. "So [the Sisi government is] in a certain way on the same side as Israel on this particular confrontation."

Copyright, Truthout.

Paul Gottinger is a journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, whose work focuses on the Middle East. He can be reached via Twitter @paulgottinger or email:

Ken Klippenstein is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, whose work focuses on US foreign policy. He can be reached via Twitter @kenklippenstein or email:

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Iron Dome: the Public Relations Weapon

Published on Portside (

Iron Dome: the Public Relations Weapon

John Mecklin

Thursday, July 10, 2014
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

With the latest rounds of rocket fire from Hamas fighters in the Gaza strip, Israel's missile defense system, known as Iron Dome, is getting a lot of press again, much of it positive. As with much reporting on missile defense, however, the Iron Dome coverage has lacked context and misconstrued reality.

A CNN article [1], for example, carried the headline "How Iron Dome blocks rockets from Gaza, protects Israelis" and described a system that had knocked down 56 rockets fired out of Gaza at a string of Israeli cities. The article suggests that the system is accurate and used "only against rockets headed toward populated areas." It does not suggest that there is any question about the system's effectiveness.

The New York Times, noted for its authoritative reporting, wrote that the Israeli Army contended Iron Dome "intercepted about 27 percent of all the rockets fired between Monday night and midday Wednesday." But the Times did not indicate how many missiles had been targeted, leaving the efficiency of the Iron Dome system in this conflict unclear, even as the newspaper reported that "Israel has said that the system has a success rate of nearly 90 percent in intercepting the missiles it is meant to thwart." The Times also put a headline over its online story—"A Growing Arsenal of Homegrown Rockets Encounters Israel’s Iron Dome" [2]—that could be read as suggesting Israel's missile defense was, overall, as effective as its name implies.
And less rigorous news outlets were, of course, less rigorous in their analysis. The New York Post, for instance, reported that "Israel foiled Hamas terrorist attacks from the air and sea." [3]

Ted Postol, an MIT-based missile defense expert and frequent Bulletin contributor, provided a dose of context to the Iron Dome coverage [4] in a National Public Radio interview Wednesday. "We can tell, for sure, from video images and even photographs that the Iron Dome system is not working very well at all," Postol said. "It—my guess is maybe [it hits a targeted missile] 5 percent of the time—could be even lower. ... And when you look—what you can do in the daytime—you can see the smoky contrail of each Iron Dome interceptor, and you can see the Iron Domes trying to intercept the artillery rockets side on and from behind. In those geometries, the Iron Dome has no chance, for all practical purposes, of destroying the artillery rocket."
Regular readers of the Bulletin are well aware of the long history of inflated claims of missile defense efficiency.

Late in 2012, MIT researcher Subrata Ghoshroy brought some reality to hyperbolic claims about Iron Dome's performance in an earlier Israel-Hamas clash [5]: "Israel seems to have shared little information to date, and so there is no way for observers outside the Israeli defense forces to know how successful Iron Dome actually was."

More important, perhaps, Ghoshroy noted that appraisals of Iron Dome should not be misinterpreted as vindication of defense systems that aim to protect against sophisticated, long-range missiles of the type designed to carry nuclear weapons. His analysis is worth quoting at length: "First, let's debunk the myth that Iron Dome—even if as successful as advertised in the Gaza conflict—constitutes proof that missile defense, writ large, works. Terminology is important here. Iron Dome is primarily a rocket defense system, and rockets are fundamentally different from missiles. Rockets do not have a guidance system; missiles do. Rockets follow a trajectory that is determined by the position and angle of the launcher and the propellant. ... While destroying a rocket in this way is a great technical feat, it is not the `hit to kill' system on which the US missile defense effort has been premised, and the Iron Dome system is not intended to work against larger ballistic missiles."

(Many, many Bulletin articles--including a remarkable knockdown, written by Postol and Cornell University researcher George N. Lewis, of a 2012 National Academies missile defense assessment [6]—have chronicled the long, abysmal record and extraordinary cost of the United States' efforts to create a system that could shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles in mid-flight. Among other things, those articles have noted over time an enduring reality: Simple, cheap decoys and other countermeasures will likely be able to fool the tracking systems for the mid-flight missile defense platforms the United States has largely focused on developing.)

So if Iron Dome says little about the state of true missile defense, and if its effectiveness against short-range rockets is at best unclear and likely overstated, why does the system seem to take center stage whenever Hamas and Israel clash? The answer to that question seems to lie in the public relations arena.

As Postol noted in his public radio interview, Hamas rocket attacks are part of an "intended game." Hamas fires its relatively small, generally inaccurate, and largely ineffective rockets into Israel from Gaza, knowing from past experience that Israel's response will likely involve air strikes that will, despite the accuracy of Israel's high-tech weaponry, kill innocent civilians and, Hamas hopes, make Israel seem a callous oppressor in the eyes of the world.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government presents Iron Dome's performance as part of a sophisticated public relations effort that aims to persuade the broader public that Hamas is a heartless and calculating terrorist organization and Israel's defense forces are decent, determined, and effective. It's an effort that includes, for example, idfnadesk [7], the YouTube page for the Israel Defense Forces, which offers a video titled "Iron Dome Intercepts Rockets Over Ashdod," among many videos highlighting purported Hamas cruelty and Israeli "pinpoint" and "precision" weapons.

To the extent it fills news cycles with reports on Hamas rocket attacks and Iron Dome's supposed technologically advanced method of intercepting them, this PR effort also deflects attention from the human consequences of Israeli bombing strikes in Gaza.

Iron Dome is high-tech. So is the public relations campaign around it, a reality that more of the world news ecosystem could beneficially take note of.
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On Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 12:11 AM, Barbara Larcom wrote:

Sadly, I learned some new Spanish words today: the words for "mourning," "to fire a machine gun," "coffins." I regret to inform you what I have learned via a message from Leonardo Silva of Limay, followed by reading in El Nuevo Diario [national Nica newspaper], followed by a phone conversation with Olidia Corea and her son Edwin in Limay.

Leonardo's messages were as follows (his original Spanish is found at the very bottom of all this):

"Hello Barbara, there is mourning in Limay, two women dead. They fired machine guns at the buses when they were coming from the caravan of the celebration of July 19 [the 35th anniversary of the Sandinista Triumph over the dictator Somoza]. This was on the stretch of highway between Ciudad Dario and Sebaco." And: "There are four dead in total and 26 wounded."

Two buses were attacked. The first attack was on the Pan American highway, near Puertas Viejas, before the town of Sebaco where buses diverge toward either Esteli or Matagalpa. This bus, on which four people were killed, would have headed toward Esteli and later Limay. The second bus had gone to, and then through, the city of Matagalpa and was on a rural road near San Ramon. One person was killed on this second bus. The most gravely wounded people on both buses were transported to the hospital in Matagalpa, and other wounded were taken to the health center in Ciudad Dario.

Here is a link to an article in El Nuevo Diario (including a picture of one of the buses):

El Nuevo Diario also has a video for a police press conference, in which they announce that they are holding four suspects related to this case, and the investigation is ongoing.

The names of the two murdered women from Limay are not exactly the same in the article and the press conference, so I have listed the press-conference version of each in brackets. These are Vilma González Martínez [Vilma Gomez Benavides, age 48] and Lidia Esther Barrera Vásquez [Esther Lidia Gomez Barrera, age 28]. The two women were transported back to Limay today in coffins.

The other persons killed on the first bus are Germán Adrian Martínez Méndez, age 24, from Cusmapa (not far from Limay) and Yader Francisco Saenz Potoy, age 22, from San Ramon in the Matagalpa department. The person killed on the second bus is Yeltsin Talavera Galeano, age 20, also from San Ramon.

Olidia says the town of Limay is very torn up that these two women were killed; each left children behind. People are also afraid, rightly or wrongly, that this might be the beginning of another Contra war; in their anxiety, they are remembering the last one.

I haven't yet reached the other Limay committee members. I will try again tomorrow, and I'll let you know if I learn anything else of importance.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014 12:27 AM

Here's an update from Limay and Nicaragua generally. I spoke with Tranquilino Garmendia (coordinator of the Limay committee of Casa Baltimore/Limay) this evening.

The funeral and burial of the two Limay women was held this morning. The younger of the two, Esther Gómez Barrera, left a 3-year-old daughter behind; the family is very poor, but the government is reportedly stepping in to do something to help them. Tranquilino promised to let us know if there is a special need of the families which we might help with.

In the meantime, he thanked us for our solidarity and concern for the vulnerable in Nicaragua. He asked us to do whatever we can to promote peace. As he pointed out, and we already know in our hearts, violence begets violence. We need to stop the cycle in whatever ways are possible. There may be some US policies we can address in that regard!

He said people in Limay are feeling fearful, because they don't know what provoked this attack; but they are awaiting the results of the police investigation.

A reading of today's El Nuevo Diario newspaper online yielded additional news, detailed below. Here is a photo of the funeral procession in Limay: Those of you who have visited Limay may recognize the street headed toward the cemetery on the west side of town.

The newspaper reports that there was a huge mobilization of people attending the funeral from other towns in the area, including Esteli, Condega and Pueblo Nuevo. The FSLN political secretary for the Esteli department also attended, as did the mayor of Esteli, Francisco Valenzuela. Everyone was demanding that the police investigate and capture the assassins.

The older of the two women, Vilma Gómez Benavides, left behind a grown daughter who works for Enacal, the water and sewer agency, in Limay.

Many officials and church leaders across the country issued statements condemning the attack. These included President Daniel Ortega, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, and Monsignor Silvio Jose Baez of Managua. The Catholic church is asking local parishes across the country to hold special masses this Thursday for the victims. The US Embassy also issued a condemnation.

The army has intensified its patrolling of the northern part of Nicaragua, in coordination with Nicaraguan police; they have issued a statement of their determination to keep Nicaraguans safe.

Four suspects had been detained by the police in connection with the attacks. One of these, a youth, was released today. This young man is the nephew of two of the other men; the fourth is a neighbor. Their families went to Cenidh (human rights agency) today, emphatically stating that the suspects did not do this crime; the four men had reportedly attended the celebration in Managua and are ardent Sandinista supporters. A Cenidh spokesman conjectured that the other three men will also be released.

“Justice is what love looks like in public.” – Cornel West

hola barbara, hay luto en limay dos mujeres muertas, rafaguearon los buses cuando venían de la caravana de la celebración del 19, eso fue en el tramo de la carretera de Dario - sebaco
hay cuatro muertos por todo y 26 heridos

Baltimore Activist Alert - July 22 - 24, 2014

24] Support airport workers – July 22
25] U.S. Policy Today for Africa Tomorrow – July 22
26] Philadelphia Peace Vigil – July 22
27] No Drone Research at JHU – July 22
28] Banner making to prepare for Palestinian support demo – July 22 & 24
29] US Africa Network – July 22
30] Film “Bury the Hatchet” – July 22
31] Pray for Peace – July 22
32] Tipped workers need a living wage – July 23
33] No to Cove Point – July 23
34] "The Future of WMD in 2030" – July 23
35] Environmental scorecard – July 23
36] Film “Kids For Cash” – July 23
37] Join Project Bridge at Red Emma's – July 23
38] Occupy Congress over massacre of Gaza – July 24
24] – On Tues., July 22 at 11 AM, SUPPORT WORKERS AT THE BWI AIRPORT by gathering at the BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport Observation Gallery. UNITE/HERE will host a Community Forum on Worker Retention. The We Deserve Better Workers Assembly and Peoples Power Assembly will be mobilizing for this event. A group will leave at 10 AM sharp from 2101 N. Charles St. If you need transportation please call 410-218-4835 to reserve a seat. This will be an opportunity to hear firsthand from workers about the consequences of lack of job security at the state-owned airport and the dire need for a worker retention program that enables BWI food and retail workers to continue to support themselves and their families. The community forum will also feature an expert panel that will make recommendations about how job security can be improved at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and submit these recommendations to the Maryland Aviation Administration.

25] – On Tues., July 22 from 2 to 3:30 PM, hear about U.S. Policy Today for Africa Tomorrow: A Conversation with Ambassadors Carson, Lyman, and Moose at the U.S. Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Ave. NW, WDC 20037. RSVP at

Home to burgeoning economies and brutal civil conflicts - sometimes coexisting in the same country - Africa is increasingly prominent in the foreign policy agendas of world powers. In early August, President Obama will convene most of the heads of state of the 54 nations of Africa in Washington, D.C. for the first-ever summit between U.S. and African leaders. There will be no shortage of issues to discuss, from how to harness Africa's economic growth and lift large sections of its population out of poverty, to growing trade between the U.S. and Africa, to concerns about closing political space in some countries, among many other topics.

26] – Each Tuesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the Catholic Peace Fellowship-Philadelphia for peace in Afghanistan and Iraq gathers at the Suburban Station, 16th St. & JFK Blvd., at the entrance to Tracks 3 and 4 on the mezzanine. The next vigil is July 22. Call 215-426-0364.

27] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 33rd & North Charles Sts. Join this ongoing vigil on July 22 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Call Max at 410-366-1637.

28] – On Tues., July 22 at 6 PM, near Charles Village, there will be a banner making gathering to prepare for the Thursday demo to condemn the massacre ongoing in Gaza. Email for the address. Bring your paint, cardboard, spray paint and good ideas. On Thurs., July 24 from 5:30 to 7 PM, there will be a demo at 33rd & St. Paul St. with Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine.

29] – Get over to 1916 10th St. NW, WDC 20001 between U & T Sts. on Tues., July 22 from 6:30 to 9 PM and hang out with other lefties/progressives, learn about the US Africa Network, and support the launch of their Indiegogo campaign for a major event they're hosting in D.C. on August 4th. Food, drinks, and music will be provided. Are you interested in connecting with activists from Africa, learning from one another, and working together on shared struggles? That’s what the new US Africa Network is all about!

From 8 to 9 PM, there will be optional phone banking. On August 5 and 6, President Obama will host a summit for about 50 African heads of state to discuss trade, investment, security and democratic development. In response, the U.S. Africa Network and its partners are hosting an alternative forum on August 4 at Howard University to present progressive perspectives on issues impacting Africa and the United States, strengthen our relationships, and reach the media. The Empowered Africa Dialogue will bring together grassroots citizen-activists, scholars, progressive NGOs and community organizers from Africa and the United States. Contact

30] – At Bloombars, 3222 11th St. NW on Tues., July 22 from 7 to 9 PM, see the film “Bury the Hatchet” (2010, 86 min) by Aaron Walker, a documentary which portrays three Big Chiefs of the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans, who are descendants of runaway slaves taken in by Native Americans of the Louisiana bayous. The film presents a dynamic portrait of the unique and endangered culture of New Orleans they represent--as bearers of tradition, as artists and as musicians. Go to

The discussion will be lead by Khalil Shahyd, from New Orleans. He masked with the Northside Skull and Bone Gang for 5 years, participating in the Black "Mardi Gras" Indian traditions in New Orleans. He is currently a PhD candidate in Urban Political Ecology and a Program Manager in the Urban Solutions program with the Natural Resources Defense Council. The suggested donation is $10, which includes free organic popcorn. Proceeds will support BloomBars. Free organic popcorn. Following these Black Indian Chiefs of Mardi Gras, the audience will get to experience the vulnerability of the black community in New Orleans--from the destruction of middle class African-American neighborhoods to make way for an interstate highway, to the violence that once defined their culture, to police crackdowns, the reality of aging and death, and finally the absolute devastation of their community following Hurricane Katrina. Yet despite their setbacks, the Mardi Gras Indians display an overwhelming sense of determination and vitality in their dedication to their communities. BloomScreen Indie Film Night is a weekly series of independent and foreign films, accompanied by discussions with filmmakers, experts and other guests. Go to

31] – The Interfaith Peace Partners will meet to Pray for Peace at 7:30 PM on Tues., July 22 at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 8501 Lock Raven Blvd. in Towson at the corner of Lock Raven and Putty Hill Road. Email or call 410-321-0199.

32] – The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC) invite you to an important forum on tipped workers to be held Wed., July 23 on 9:15 to 11 AM at 1333 H St. NW, Suite 300, East Tower. There will be several speakers including EPI research associate Sylvia Allegretto and economic analyst David Cooper, authors of “Twenty-Three Years and Still Waiting for Change: Why It’s Time to Give Tipped Workers the Regular Minimum Wage.” See

33] – On Wed., July 23 at noon at mini-rally and press event, tell Gov. Martin O’Malley to do the right thing on Cove Point. The governor will be present at a meeting from 1 to 2 PM regarding one of the many permits Dominion needs before it can start construction on this fracked gas export facility. The state Board of Public Works, on which Gov. O’Malley sits, is considering a permit Dominion needs to build a new pier on the Patuxent River. This meeting will mark the first time that Governor O’Malley will be present at a public hearing on Cove Point.

Meet at Lawyer’s Mall, across from the State House in Annapolis, Bladen St. and College Ave. The hearing will be in the Governor's Reception Room in the State House, 100 State Circle. Stand with your Maryland neighbors living next to Cove Point by being present at this public meeting. At noon, Calvert citizens will be holding a press conference to call on Gov. O’Malley to order a minimum review of the human safety risks that this liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility will pose to nearby neighborhoods. See

In 2007, Gov. O’Malley testified in Congress against an LNG import facility proposed in Sparrow’s Point, Baltimore. He had this to say: The proposed LNG project at Sparrow's Point represents a threat to our homeland security, a threat to our environment and Chesapeake Bay and a threat to the families of eastern Baltimore County. Gov. O’Malley’s outcry was part of the reason that that dangerous and polluting facility has never been built. Yet, he’s been conspicuously silent on Dominion Resources’ proposed $3.8 billion fracked gas export facility at Cove Point -- despite massive regional grassroots pressure against the plant and despite even greater threats to nearby families and our environment.

34] – On Wed., July 24 from noon to 1:30 PM, John Caves and Seth Carus, National Defense University, will tackle "The Future of WMD in 2030" at the National Defense University, Lincoln Hall, Room 1119, Fort McNair, WDC. RSVP by email

35] – Join the Maryland League of Conservation Voters for the release of its 2014 Environmental Scorecard on Wed., July 23 from 5 to 7 PM at the Silver Spring Civic Center, 1 Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring 20910. For over 35 years, the non-partisan Maryland League of Conservation Voters has served as the independent political voice for the environment in Maryland. It advocates for sound conservation policies, promotes environmentally responsible candidates, and holds individual elected officials accountable through scorecards. RSVP at

36] – At the New Organizing Institute, 1133 19th St. NW, Suite 850, on Wed., July 23 at 6:30 PM see “Kids For Cash,” a documentary that examines the notorious judicial scandal that rocked the nation. Beyond the millions paid and high-stakes corruption, the film exposes a shocking secret. Starting in the wake of the shootings at Columbine, the people of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania celebrate a charismatic judge who is hell-bent on keeping kids in line, until one parent decides to question the motives behind his brand of justice. In the end, Judge Mark Ciavarella was accused of accepting money from Robert Mericle, builder of two private, for-profit juvenile facilities, in return for imposing harsh sentences on juveniles to increase the number of inmates in the detention centers. This real life thriller reveals the untold stories of the masterminds at the center of the scandal and the chilling aftermath of lives destroyed in the process. Contact Jessica Mitchell, NOI, at

37] – Join Project Bridge at Red Emma's Bookstore Cafe, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201for Baltimore's Science Café on Wed., July 23 at 7 PM. This month features Dr. Gul Dolen, assistant professor from Johns Hopkins University who will discuss the complex story of autism. Join the conversation about this disorder from the perspective of history, policy, and science. RSVP at Project Bridge is a student organization at Johns Hopkins aimed at connecting science with the community and foster public interest in science research. Call 443-602-7585. Go to

38] – On Thurs., July 24 from 9 AM to 5 PM, as the violence in Gaza continues to escalate, CODEPINK is calling for all to take part in an urgent national day of action. Please join anytime during the day in Congress to lobby representatives and senators to stop the bombing and advocate for the human rights of the Palestinians! This event is being done with the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and other organizations. ADC will hold a pre-meeting briefing in the Rayburn House Office Building Room 2456 at 9 AM and a debriefing at 4:30 PM. CODEPINK will also be working from the Rayburn Cafeteria between these briefing times.

Contact your legislators to request meetings for Thursday between 10 AM and 4 PM. Ask to meet with the legislative assistant or staffer who handles foreign affairs. Also consider going to offices of members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. RSVP to Tyra Walker at or at 917-208-0266.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, July 21, 2014

Saudi Arabia's Role in the Conflict Between Shia and Sunni

Published on Portside (

Saudi Arabia's Role in the Conflict Between Shia and Sunni

Patrick Cockburn

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world?

Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.

There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

Dearlove’s explosive revelation about the prediction of a day of reckoning for the Shia by Prince Bandar, and the former head of MI6′s view that Saudi Arabia is involved in the Isis-led Sunni rebellion, has attracted surprisingly little attention. Coverage of Dearlove’s speech focused instead on his main theme that the threat from Isis to the West is being exaggerated because, unlike Bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida, it is absorbed in a new conflict that “is essentially Muslim on Muslim”. Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.

The forecast by Prince Bandar, who was at the heart of Saudi security policy for more than three decades, that the 100 million Shia in the Middle East face disaster at the hands of the Sunni majority, will convince many Shia that they are the victims of a Saudi-led campaign to crush them. “The Shia in general are getting very frightened after what happened in northern Iraq,” said an Iraqi commentator, who did not want his name published. Shia see the threat as not only military but stemming from the expanded influence over mainstream Sunni Islam of Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia that condemns Shia and other Islamic sects as non-Muslim apostates and polytheists.

Dearlove says that he has no inside knowledge obtained since he retired as head of MI6 10 years ago to become Master of Pembroke College in Cambridge. But, drawing on past experience, he sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes.

• First, they are convinced that there “can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam’s holiest shrines”.
• But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be “deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom”.

Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.

The difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis can be overstated: when Bin Laden was killed by United States forces in 2011, al-Baghdadi released a statement eulogising him, and Isis pledged to launch 100 attacks in revenge for his death.

But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa’ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar’s approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.

He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence “literally shouting at me across his office: ’9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.’” In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.

Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia “militancy” is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.” She said that, in so far as Saudi Arabia did act against al-Qa’ida, it was as a domestic threat and not because of its activities abroad. This policy may now be changing with the dismissal of Prince Bandar as head of intelligence this year. But the change is very recent, still ambivalent and may be too late: it was only last week that a Saudi prince said he would no longer fund a satellite television station notorious for its anti-Shia bias based in Egypt.

The problem for the Saudis is that their attempts since Bandar lost his job to create an anti-Maliki and anti-Assad Sunni constituency which is simultaneously against al-Qa’ida and its clones have failed.

By seeking to weaken Maliki and Assad in the interest of a more moderate Sunni faction, Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, as happened previously in its Syrian capital Raqqa, potential critics and opponents are disarmed, forced to swear allegiance to the new caliphate and killed if they resist.

The West may have to pay a price for its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, which have always found Sunni jihadism more attractive than democracy. A striking example of double standards by the western powers was the Saudi-backed suppression of peaceful democratic protests by the Shia majority in Bahrain in March 2011. Some 1,500 Saudi troops were sent across the causeway to the island kingdom as the demonstrations were ended with great brutality and Shia mosques and shrines were destroyed.

An alibi used by the US and Britain is that the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family in Bahrain is pursuing dialogue and reform. But this excuse looked thin last week as Bahrain expelled a top US diplomat, the assistant secretary of state for human rights Tom Malinowksi, for meeting leaders of the main Shia opposition party al-Wifaq. Mr Malinowski tweeted that the Bahrain government’s action was “not about me but about undermining dialogue”.

Western powers and their regional allies have largely escaped criticism for their role in reigniting the war in Iraq.

Publicly and privately, they have blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for persecuting and marginalising the Sunni minority, so provoking them into supporting the Isis-led revolt. There is much truth in this, but it is by no means the whole story. Maliki did enough to enrage the Sunni, partly because he wanted to frighten Shia voters into supporting him in the 30 April election by claiming to be the Shia community’s protector against Sunni counter-revolution.

But for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. “I guess they just didn’t believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad,” said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.

Of course, US and British politicians and diplomats would argue that they were in no position to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. But this is misleading. By insisting that peace negotiations must be about the departure of Assad from power, something that was never going to happen since Assad held most of the cities in the country and his troops were advancing, the US and Britain made sure the war would continue.

The chief beneficiary is Isis which over the last two weeks has been mopping up the last opposition to its rule in eastern Syria. The Kurds in the north and the official al-Qa’ida representative, Jabhat al-Nusra, are faltering under the impact of Isis forces high in morale and using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army. It is also, without the rest of the world taking notice, taking over many of the Syrian oil wells that it did not already control.

Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control.

The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open. As Kurdish-held border crossings fall to Isis, Turkey will find it has a new neighbour of extraordinary violence, and one deeply ungrateful for past favours from the Turkish intelligence service.

As for Saudi Arabia, it may come to regret its support for the Sunni revolts in Syria and Iraq as jihadi social media begins to speak of the House of Saud as its next target. It is the unnamed head of Saudi General Intelligence quoted by Dearlove after 9/11 who is turning out to have analysed the potential threat to Saudi Arabia correctly and not Prince Bandar, which may explain why the latter was sacked earlier this year.

Nor is this the only point on which Prince Bandar was dangerously mistaken. The rise of Isis is bad news for the Shia of Iraq but it is worse news for the Sunni whose leadership has been ceded to a pathologically bloodthirsty and intolerant movement, a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, which has no aim but war without end.

The Sunni caliphate rules a large, impoverished and isolated area from which people are fleeing. Several million Sunni in and around Baghdad are vulnerable to attack and 255 Sunni prisoners have already been massacred. In the long term, Isis cannot win, but its mix of fanaticism and good organisation makes it difficult to dislodge.

“God help the Shia,” said Prince Bandar, but, partly thanks to him, the shattered Sunni communities of Iraq and Syria may need divine help even more than the Shia.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

FBI Entrapment Created 'Illusion' of Terrorist Plots: Report

Published on Monday, July 21, 2014 by Common Dreams

FBI Entrapment Created 'Illusion' of Terrorist Plots: Report

A close look at government counter-terrorism tactics reveals that many people convicted would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.
- Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

Federal officials and law enforcement agents are treating American Muslims like "terrorists-in-waiting," according to a new report released Monday by Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute.

The FBI, under pressure to appear effective and worthy of its $8.4-billion budget, has "targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism 'sting operations' based on religious and ethnic identity"; sent informants to mosques to "troll for leads"; and in some cases encouraged or even paid individuals to undertake terrorist acts, the report (pdf) reveals.

"The FBI's proclaimed success in convicting alleged terrorist conspirators has come with serious and unnecessary costs to the rights of many of those prosecuted and convicted, to their families and communities, to the public, and to the rule of law."

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

The study, entitled Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Prosecutions, examines 27 federal terrorism cases (of more than 500 since September 11, 2001) from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement, finding infractions at every turn.

By preying on vulnerable individuals, utilizing questionable legal tactics, and subjecting citizens to harsh and disproportionate confinement conditions, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI show disregard for civil rights and "may be creating terrorists out of law-abiding citizens," report co-author Tarek Z. Ismai writes at Just Security.

In fact, Illusions of Justice details how such practices are counterproductive, sowing seeds of mistrust within the American Muslim community:

The law enforcement practices described in this report have alienated the very communities the government relies on most to report possible terrorist threats and diverted resources from other, more effective ways, of responding to the threat of terrorism. Its proclaimed success in convicting alleged terrorist conspirators has come with serious and unnecessary costs to the rights of many of those prosecuted and convicted, to their families and communities, to the public, and to the rule of law.
This report is just one of several current examinations of the FBI's shady tactics.

On Sunday, Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit released a film and multimedia piece—called Informants —that details how undercover operatives (who are often not government agents but "criminal offenders attempting to avoid prison time through their cooperation with the government") regularly target innocent citizens and set about to ensnare them in conspiracies.

It's not just American Muslims who are targeted. In an Al Jazeera opinion piece published Monday, scholar and author Abdullah Al-Arian, of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar, declared:

Perhaps most the ways in which the FBI has exploited the endemic poverty and social problems from drug use to lack of education that are prevalent within some black communities across the US in order to construct the perception of a terrorist threat.

An HBO documentary premiering Monday night documents an illustrative case of exactly that, in which an FBI informant recruited four African-American Muslim men into a terrorist plot (presenting them with the idea, offering them a sizeable chunk of change, and supplying them with the weapons to carry it out). The men are now serving 25 years in prison.

In an interview with the ACLU's Blog of Rights, the director of The Newburgh Sting notes:

The FBI was able to entice four destitute African Americans with no particular prospects in life, with $250,000, to do some bad deeds. The FBI is trying to sell this as a terrorist case, when really all you’ve got is proof that you can wave money at people who are desperate and poor and get them to “commit crimes.”

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) "welcomes" the increased dialogue about post-9/11 counter-terrorism practices, said Haris Tarin, director of MPAC's Washington, D.C. office. With its Safe Spaces initiative, it is attempting to foster better communication between law enforcement officials and the American Muslims—something Tarin stressed will necessitate debate on Capitol Hill as well as on the community level.

As Tarin told Common Dreams, "You can't treat us as suspects and partners at the same time."
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Federal Court: No Execution Unless Arizona Reveals Drug Source

Kiefer writes: "The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Saturday that Arizona must divulge information about the drugs and executioners it will use to put a man to death Wednesday or the execution will not go forward."

A gurney used for executions. (photo: AP)

Federal Court: No Execution Unless Arizona Reveals Drug Source
By Michael Kiefer, Arizona Republic

20 July 14

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Saturday that Arizona must divulge information about the drugs and executioners it will use to put a man to death Wednesday or the execution will not go forward.

Joseph Wood, who killed his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, in Tucson in 1989, is scheduled to die July 23.

But his attorneys at the Federal Defender's Office in Phoenix filed suit claiming he had a First Amendment right to know who supplied the drugs that will be used to kill him and the qualifications of the executioners who will carry it out.

Two of the judges in a panel of three sided with Wood; the third dissented.

At issue is a new drug combination that Arizona has turned to because it cannot obtain the drugs it normally uses for executions. That combination, and one of the drugs in particular, a Valium relative called Midazolam, has caused apparent "flawed executions," as the court called them, in Ohio and Oklahoma.

The state argued that the information is protected by state law shielding the identity of executioners, and that there is no mandate to turn over all information held by the government.

A judge in the U.S. District Court in Phoenix agreed, prompting Wood's attorneys to take the case to 9th Circuit. It was argued in San Francisco on Friday and the 9th Circuit issued its opinion late Saturday afternoon.

The court said "... the State's argument ignores the ongoing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in this country, and the importance of providing specific and detailed information about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered."

The opinion mentioned problems over the past several years in obtaining lethal injection drugs. In 2010, The Arizona Republic reported that Arizona had sidestepped federal laws to obtain lethal injection drugs from overseas.

The U.S. District and Appeals Courts in Washington, D.C., ruled that the laws had been violated, but Arizona officials have steadfastly denied that the state violated them, placing responsibility on the federal agencies regulating the drugs.

The 9th Circuit took note.

"We, and the public, cannot meaningfully evaluate execution protocol cloaked in secrecy," the majority wrote. "It is in the public's interest that Wood's injunction be granted."

The Arizona Attorney General's Office, which represents the Department of Corrections in the matter, told The Republic that it will ask the court to reconsider the decision en banc, meaning that it wants a larger panel of judges to evaluate the question.
Wood's attorney, Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender's Office, said, "The court correctly recognized the importance of the information Mr. Wood seeks. There is a continuing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in the country, and the court said it's important that specific and detailed information be provided so the public can know about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered."

In its arguments, the state noted that public attention to the sources of the lethal injection drugs has already led to drug manufacturers refusing to sell to prisons for executions.

Judge Jay Bybee agreed in his dissent, saying, "...the disclosure of certain kinds of information also hobbles the state's ability to carry out its legitimate functions. When disclosure inhibits the effectiveness of the process at issue without producing substantial benefits, then public access to the information does not "play a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question."

But the majority issued a preliminary injunction that can be lifted by Wednesday if the state turns over the information. If not, the warrant for Wood's execution will expire by Thursday morning.

"We will be asking the full court to consider this opinion," said Assistant Arizona Attorney General Jeffrey Zick. "Judge Bybee's dissent correctly points out that there is no First Amendment violation here."

If the court refuses to do so, the state can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and whether Wood is executed Wednesday could go down to the last minute.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

The Human Price of Neocon Havoc

Parry writes: "Neocons are the 'masters of chaos' as they destabilize disfavored governments around the world."

Neocons - Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and Richard Perle. (photo: unknown)

The Human Price of Neocon Havoc
By Robert Parry, Consortium News
17 July 14

Whether the tragedy is four boys getting blown apart while playing on a beach in Gaza or nearly 300 killed from a suspected missile strike on a Malaysian Airliner over Ukraine or the thousands upon thousands of other innocent victims slaughtered in Iraq, Syria, Libya and other recent war zones, the underlying lesson is that the havoc encouraged by America’s neocons results in horrendous loss of human life.

While clearly other players share in this blame, including the soldiers on the ground and the politicians lacking the courage to compromise, the principal culprits in the bloodshed of the past dozen years have been the neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” allies who can’t seem to stop stirring up trouble in the name of “democracy” and “human rights.”
Rather than work out reasonable – albeit imperfect – compromises with various foreign leaders, the neocons and their liberal allies insist on ratcheting up demands to such unrealistic levels that conflict becomes inevitable and the outcomes are almost always catastrophic.

In Iraq in 2003, the neocons and many liberal fellow-travelers insisted that the only acceptable solution was the violent removal of Saddam Hussein through an unprovoked U.S. invasion. Though Hussein was ousted and hanged, the collateral damage included hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, including many children, along with the complete destabilization of the country.
In Syria and Libya, many of the same U.S. actors – although in this case led by the liberal “responsibility-to-protect” crowd – pushed for the overthrow of the existing governments, supposedly to save lives and spread democracy.

In Libya, the U.S.-led air war did cause Muammar Gaddafi to be overthrown and murdered but the ensuing chaos has led to many more deaths, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, plus the spread of Islamic militancy across the region.

In Syria, the U.S.-backed “regime change” bid failed to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad but the resulting chaos has left more than 100,000 people killed and has given rise to an ultra-violent jihadist group called the Islamic State, which first emerged from the U.S.-created war in Iraq and has now boomeranged back onto Iraq as the jihadists have seized major cities and spurred more sectarian killings.

But there may be a method to the apparent neocon madness. The neocons have always been committed to protecting Israel and enabling its oppression of Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza. Indeed, one can understand pretty much every confrontational policy pushed by the neocons as being designed to serve Israeli interests.

These “regime change” schemes can be directly traced to the work of prominent U.S. neocons on Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1996 campaign for Israeli prime minister. Rather than continuing inconclusive negotiations with the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s neocon advisers – including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Mevray Wurmser – advocated an aggressive new approach, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”

Essentially, the neocon thinking arose from Israeli frustration over negotiations with the Palestinians. The Israelis were angry at Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the militant group Hamas as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. So the “clean break” scratched negotiations and replaced talking with “regime change” in countries supporting those groups, whether Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Syria under the Assad dynasty or Iran, a leading benefactor of Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Two years later, in 1998, came the neocon Project for the New American Century’s call for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. PNAC was founded by neocon luminaries William Kristol and Robert Kagan. [See’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

Helpful Chaos

Though many of the neocon plans have not worked out as advertised – the promised “cakewalk” in Iraq turned into a bloody slog – the neocon strategy could still be labeled a success if the actual intent was to destabilize and weaken Middle Eastern countries that were perceived as threats to Israel.

Through that lens, it’s not entirely bad that old sectarian hatreds have been revived, pitting Sunni against Shiite and ripping apart societies such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. In the end, the regional chaos has helped Prime Minister Netanyahu starve the Palestinians of the financial support that they once had, supposedly making them more susceptible to whatever demands the Israelis choose to make. And it has given Netanyahu a freer hand to engage in periodic slaughters of Gazan militants, a process that Israelis call “mowing the grass.”

When the 1.7 million Palestinians packed into the Gaza Strip lash out at their Israeli oppressors – as they periodically do – the neocons who remain very influential in Official Washington are quick to dominate the U.S. media, justifying whatever levels of violence that Netanyahu chooses to inflict. But raining bombs down on this densely populated area is sure to kill many children and other innocents.

On Wednesday, the Israeli military targeted a shed on the beach in Gaza. According to reports, the first missile hit the shed and killed one small boy playing in the vicinity. When three other boys began running, the Israelis blew them away with a second rocket. New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks explained the events this way:

“A small shack atop a sea wall at the fishing port had been struck by an Israeli bomb or missile and was burning. A young boy emerged from the smoke, running toward the adjacent beach. I grabbed my cameras and was putting on body armor and a helmet when, about 30 seconds after the first blast, there was another. The boy I had seen running was now dead, lying motionless in the sand, along with three other boys who had been playing there.”

Presumably, the Israeli pilots or whoever targeted the missile deserve the immediate blame for this atrocity. But the far-worse criminals are the Israeli leaders who refuse to address the longstanding injustices inflicted on the Palestinian people. Also, sharing in this crime are the American neocons who justify whatever Israel does.

Similarly, it has been the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies who have been stoking the crisis in Ukraine in part out of a desire to drive a wedge between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has assisted Obama in defusing crises in Syria and Iran, two areas where the neocons hoped to engineer more “regime change.”

By last September, leading neocons, such as National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman, had identified Ukraine as the geopolitical instrument for punishing Putin. Gershman deemed Ukraine “the biggest prize” and hoped that grabbing it for the Western sphere of influence might undercut Putin at home as well.

Gershman’s NED funded scores of Ukrainian political and media organizations while Assistant Secretary of State Victorian Nuland estimated that the U.S. government had invested $5 billion in the cause of pulling Ukraine into the West. Nuland, a neocon holdover who had been a top adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, is the wife of PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan.

Nuland went so far as to show up at mass demonstrations in Kiev’s Maidan Square passing out cookies to the protesters, while neocon Sen. John McCain stood with the far-right Svoboda Party – under a banner honoring Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera – to urge on the protesters to challenge elected President Viktor Yanukovych. [See’s “What the Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]

Wreaking Havoc

The political crisis in Ukraine reached a boiling point Feb. 20-22 as the demonstrations turned increasingly violent and the death toll among police and protesters mounted. On Feb. 21, three European foreign ministers reached an agreement with Yanukovych in which he agreed to limit his powers and accept early elections to vote him out of office. He also pulled back the police, as Vice President Joe Biden had demanded.

At that point, however, well-trained neo-Nazi militias – organized in brigades of 100 – took the offensive, seizing government buildings and forcing Yanukovych’s officials to flee for their lives. Instead of trying to enforce the Feb. 21 agreement, which would have safeguarded Ukraine’s constitutional process, the U.S. State Department cheered the unlawful ouster of Yanukovych and quickly recognized the coup regime as “legitimate.”

The Feb. 22 coup set in motion a train of other events as “ethnically pure” Ukrainians in the west were pitted against ethnic Russians in the east and south. The crisis grew bloodier as the ethnic Russians resisted what they regarded as an illegitimate regime in Kiev.
Meanwhile, the U.S. mainstream press – always enthralled to the neocons – pushed a false narrative about Ukraine that put nearly all the blame on Putin, though he clearly was reacting to provocations instigated by the West, not the other way around.

Still, the neocons achieved one of their chief goals, alienating Obama from Putin and making the two leaders’ collaboration on Syria, Iran and other trouble spots more unlikely. In other words, the neocons have kept alive hope that those problems won’t be resolved through compromise, but rather might still lead to more warfare.
While some Machiavellians might admire this neocon “always-say-die” determination, the human consequences can be quite severe. For instance, the violence in eastern Ukraine may have led to the Thursday crash of a Malaysian Airliner flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with all 295 people onboard killed.

It was not immediately clear which side in the fighting – if any – was responsible for the suspected shoot-down of the plane. The various parties to the conflict all denied responsibility. But it would not be the first time that an international conflict has contributed to the destruction of a civilian airliner.

On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 people onboard, after apparently mistaking the airliner for a warplane.

While Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko was quick to call the crash “a terrorist act” – and implicitly blame the ethnic Russian rebels – the reality is almost assuredly that it was an accident (assuming that a missile did bring down the airliner). Presumably, the same is true about the Israeli twin missile strikes killing those four boys on a beach in Gaza. The Israeli military most likely misjudged their ages.

But the overriding lesson from these tragedies should be that the real villains are people who opt for chaos and war over progress and peace. And, in the case of the Middle East and Ukraine, the greatest purveyors of this unnecessary warfare are America’s neocons.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs