Monday, March 27, 2017

The US-NATO Invasion of Libya Destroyed the Country Beyond All Recognition

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

The US-NATO Invasion of Libya Destroyed the Country Beyond All Recognition

By Vijay Prashad [1] / AlterNet [2]
March 22, 2017

   On Friday, March 17, hundreds of Libyans came into Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square. They wanted to make a simple statement: end the rule of militias. Since the NATO war of 2011, Libya has been ruled by a patchwork of rival heavily armed gangs that have sown terror in the population. Gunfights are common – as had been experienced these past ten days across Tripoli. The Rixos Hotel – which had served as the government’s building – faced heavy shelling, with tanks and snipers racing to destroy this beautiful city. Burning cars blocked roads, as children stayed home from school and shops were shuttered. The protesters came to say – enough. They wanted the fighting to end. It was inevitable that gunfire would scatter them into nearby buildings, Libyan flags fluttering above them in the breeze. These militias – now entrenched across the country – are not going to be easy to dismantle.

    Frustrated Libyans in Tripoli point across the country towards the eastern city of Benghazi and vest their hopes in General Khalifa Haftar. ‘He can save us’, said an old friend who has weathered the violence and chaos since NATO’s war of 2011. It meant little to this man that General Haftar had lived for twenty years in the shadow of the CIA’s offices in Virginia after he had defected from the Libyan Army. It meant even less that he had arrived in Benghazi during the early days of the 2011 war in Libya and that he had sought leadership of the rag-tag army – backed by NATO. My friend is an old socialist with fond memories of the high point of the Qaddafi era. Haftar, whom Qaddafi once called a ‘son’, had betrayed his leader in the aftermath of Libya’s defeat in the 1987 Toyota War against Chad and defected to the United States. But this meant nothing. Times are different now. Even Haftar, the leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), has come to promise hope against the archipelago of militias. Haftar hastily went on television right after the gunfire at Martyrs’ Square. ‘Your armed forces will not abandon you,’ he said ceremoniously, ‘and we will be by your side until Tripoli is returned to the homeland.’

     Over the past few years, Haftar – ensconced in Benghazi – has fashioned himself as a strongman, a military man with no patience for either the al-Qaeda linked Ansar al-Sharia or the Muslim Brotherhood. Ignored by the United States – his early patron – Haftar has turned to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia for support. There was room there for eager ears, since those powers are partial to Haftar’s self-image as the strongman. Haftar does not look back to the secular nationalism of Gamel Abdul Nasser for inspiration, but resembles the farcical patriotism of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Russia looks fondly on both these men – Haftar and Sisi – for both promise military-style stability that would crush any whiff of political Islam.

  But for all Haftar’s braggadocio, it is important to recognize that his LNA has had only mixed results in the battlefield. In May 2014, Haftar’s LNA opened up a war against the various extremist groups in Benghazi. The battle was called Operation Karama (Dignity), a sly allusion to the early days of the ‘Arab Spring’ when dignity was the cry on the lips of the protestors. But Operation Karama, despite the LNA’s superior firepower (including Egyptian and Emirati fighter jets) has not been able to trounce the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi (whose main component is the al-Qaeda backed Ansar al-Sharia). The day after last Friday’s fracas in Tripoli, the LNA was able finally to oust the Shura Council fighters from the southwest of Benghazi. The Shura Council’s fighters still hold key northern parts of the city – namely the areas of al-Sabri and Souq al-Hout – not far from Benghazi’s port. It will not be easy for the LNA to remove the Shura Council from these congested areas without a great many civilian casualties.

   Not far from Benghazi, along Libya’s coastline, a battle has raged over the oil installations that are key to the wealth of this oil-rich country. Over the past few years, thousands of fighters in the Petroleum Facilities Guard have held the oil terminals in Ras Lanuf, Sidra and Zueitina. They were led by Ibrahim Jadran, a former car thief who has now styled himself as a leader of the secessionist movement for eastern Libyan (called Cyrenaica after its old Roman name). But Jadran’s aims are more prosaic. He has tried to sell the oil by himself, and has run afoul of the United States and of the UN-recognized government that sits in Tripoli. Haftar’s LNA pushed Jadran’s forces out of these key positions in September last year. It was this thrust along the coastline that earned Haftar’s LNA a great deal of respect in the country, and much delight in Cairo and in Abu Dhabi.
Saudi Arabia arrived on the scene to block the ambitions of Haftar and his backers. The Kingdom had its own proxies, mainly refracted through the repellent Grand Mufti of Tripoli, Sadeq al-Ghariani. It was the Saudi-backed groups that created the Benghazi Defense Brigade militia in June of 2016 – an extremist group set up to fight Haftar’s LNA and provide space for the Kingdom to assert itself in Libya’s dangerous battlefields. ISIS fighters, expelled from the city of Sirte, are now fighting alongside the Shura Council in their northern redoubts of Benghazi, while Shura Council fighters have joined the Benghazi Defense Brigade and some militias from the western town of Misrata – both groups in and outside Benghazi battling Haftar’s LNA. These Brigades have taken refuge in the district of Jufra, south of the oil installations, lashed by dust storms that pay no heed to the petroleum beneath the desert. Saudi Arabia’s proxies have blocked the LNA advance to the southern city of Sabha and provided problems in the oil areas. For ten days in March, the Benghazi Defense Brigades seized the oil installations from Haftar. But Haftar’s forces – strengthened by air cover – took them back on March 13. Little gain for Saudi Arabia in this feint. But this battle is far from over.
Enter the Russians.

   Haftar dashed off to see the Russians about weaponry and assistance. He has fair-weather friends amongst the Europeans. Occasionally the Italians have provided Haftar with intelligence, but their allegiance remains with the UN-backed government that appears more and more like a shadow of its expectations. The Russians were pleased to receive Haftar aboard their aircraft carrier – Admiral Kuznetsov – in January. From the ship, Haftar spoke to the Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu. Haftar had been in Moscow last November, when it was reported that he had discussed arms deals. It was during the conversation with Shoygu that Haftar was able to get Russian confirmation for a $2 billion arms deal. These weapons will give the LNA much greater firepower than possessed by the Shura Council, the Benghazi Defense Brigades and other militia groups.

    Russia has said repeatedly that it wants to see a ‘strong power’ emerge in Libya. This has been taken to mean that they would like to see Haftar establish a Sisi-type state in the country. Last December, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said, ‘We believe that the Libyans have to find a compromise on Haftar’s participation in the new Libyan leadership.’ At that time the UN’s envoy to Libya – Martin Kobler – called upon UN member states not to ‘strike separate deals with parts of the Libyan political establishment behind the back of other influential players.’ Everyone knew that Kobler meant the Russians and Haftar. But by February Kobler was singing a different tune. ‘The single most important topic is the construction of a Libyan united army with a clear chain of command, where General Haftar must have a role,’ he told Reuters. It appears that Haftar has now arrived.

   Strikingly, reports now come that the Russians have deployed forces into Egypt – with bases established in Sidi Barrani (about 60 miles from the Egyptian-Libyan border) and Marsa Matruh – both fabled sites of battles between the Allies and the Axis during World War II. The Egyptians have, of course, officially denied the Russian presence, but well-informed people say that it is likely to be true. Last October, Russian and Egyptian forces began to conduct joint military exercises, and Russian military officials have indicated that they would like to have access to a base in Egypt. This suggests that it might not be impossible that Russian forces are inside Egypt, ready to assist Hafter if the need arises.

    A dent in Haftar’s fortunes came this week when video was released of LNA fighters exhuming the bodies of their adversaries from the Benghazi Defense Brigades. These gory videos show the LNA fighters mutilating the bodies not only of fighters, but also of civilians. Denunciations by the LNA hierarchy could not erase the images of brutality. Hard to position oneself as the savior of the nation if this is the caliber of the soldiers.
The UN’s Martin Kobler warned of a ‘dangerous escalation’ in Libya. That phrase sounds shopworn. It has been used so often. There is no end to the war. Like a moving kaleidoscope the fighters change sides. Their loyalties are hard to read. It is even harder to understand the suffering of the people. At NATO headquarters they still smirk about their successful war in Libya. It is a war that broke this country.

   Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of 18 books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press, 2012), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013) and The Death of a Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016). His columns appear at AlterNet every Wednesday.
        [4]


Links:


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"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, March 26, 2017

May Day meeting/Lessons from the Nuclear Freeze

Friends,

Make May Day Resist Trump Day.  There is a Roll up Your Sleeves Organizing Meeting on Mon., Mar.27 at 7 PM @ 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21218. Call 443-221-3775.  Go to www.PeoplesPowerAssemblies.org.

Kagiso, Max

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)

Lessons from the Nuclear Freeze


Andrew Lanham

Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Boston Review
https://portside.org/sites/default/files/styles/medium/public/field/image/nuclearfreeze3.jpeg?itok=dR128DHX

   In the run up to the 1976 presidential election, Ronald Reagan was struggling. He lost the first six primaries to Gerald Ford. Then he discovered that stoking people’s fears about the Soviet Union could win voters. He began making demonstrably false claims that America was falling behind in the nuclear arms race and that the Panama Canal Treaty then being negotiated would let communist forces encircle America. He soon started winning—in North Carolina, Texas, Indiana, Georgia—with the promise that he would save the country from its supposed downward spiral. Although he ultimately lost the nomination to Ford, who in turn lost the general election to Jimmy Carter, Reagan’s discovery set the course for his successful 1980 campaign. As William F. Buckley, Jr., observed, Reagan’s rhetoric and defense policy proposals hit on the fact that Americans were “tired of being pushed around.”

   Once in office, his administration’s pronouncements about nuclear war flew fast and thick. Secretary of State Alexander Haig said that America had plans, if necessary, to fire a “nuclear warning shot” in Europe. National Security Council member Richard Pipes claimed that there was a 40 percent chance of nuclear war. FEMA director Louis Giuffrida declared in an interview on ABC that while “nuke war” would be “a terrible mess,” it “wouldn’t be unmanageable.” In an October 1981 press conference, Reagan opined that it would be possible to use tactical nuclear weapons on specific battlefields without leading to an all-out nuclear war between the superpowers.

A big-tent coalition can change policy and win congressional elections, if not national ones.

  It was significant, then, when two years later his language of war had evolved dramatically. On October 10, 1983, Reagan watched an advance copy of the ABC made-for-TV movie The Day After, which depicts a global nuclear war as seen by a family living in Lawrence, Kansas. The film was “very effective and left me greatly depressed,” Reagan wrote in his diary. “We have to do all we can to have a deterrent and see there is never a nuclear war.” By 1984 Reagan’s policy focus had shifted from preparing to win a nuclear war to trying to deter one. In his State of the Union address that year, he declared that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” His moderation on nuclear weapons and support for arms control in his second term arguably helped end the Cold War.
What happened? Voters wanted a president with a muscular foreign policy, but they did not want nuclear war. That shared desire allowed the Nuclear Freeze Movement, a grassroots protest against Reagan’s defense policies, to organize a broad, nonpartisan coalition around a single cause and bend Reagan toward arms control. Although the movement had mixed results in terms of direct legislative victories, its success at mobilizing the electorate to sway the course of a populist administration is a cause for optimism in the Trump era. The movement showed that a big-tent coalition, mobilized around highly visible and aggressive executive decisions, can change policy and win congressional elections, if not necessarily national ones.

• • •

   In truth Reagan’s nuclear policy differed little from his predecessor’s, but his nuclear rhetoric broke sharply with U.S. precedents. Jimmy Carter had signed the 1980 Presidential Directive 59, which reaffirmed the longstanding doctrine that tactical nuclear weapons might be deployed on the battlefield in a so-called “limited” nuclear war. Carter also pushed forward the development of MX multiple-warhead ballistic missiles and increased defense spending by 5 percent above inflation. Reagan’s plans were essentially the same. The left-leaning magazine The Nation, in an editorial four days after Reagan’s inauguration evocatively titled “Protest and Survive,” opined that “on the war–peace issue” there “was little to choose from” between Reagan and Carter. But The Nation also declared that Reagan’s “record, his pronouncements, his program, his advisers and his instincts” made nuclear war more likely. Reagan’s advisers included members of the radically hawkish Team B, who had helped spread false claims of Soviet military superiority in the late 1970s, including the fantasy that the Soviets were close to deploying laser weapons.

   Reagan also followed through on his campaign promise to massively boost defense spending. He had guaranteed a 7 percent increase his first year in office, and he continued to expand defense funding by similar amounts in subsequent years. In 1985 the defense budget was twice the level it had been when Carter left office. The added spending (by a supposed fiscal conservative) nearly quadrupled the federal budget deficit.

Reagan's militarism inadvertently created breathing room for his political opponents.

     Reagan’s enormous defense spending during the 1982 recession, combined with his frank and frequent talk of nuclear war, sparked a backlash; his militarism appealed to some voters but inadvertently created breathing room for his political opponents. Protests against Reagan’s foreign policy and defense budget soon coalesced in the Nuclear Freeze Movement, launched by the arms control researcher Randall Forsberg, which demanded a halt to nuclear proliferation.
This movement, of course, did not coalesce from thin air. Much of the initial energy of the Nuclear Freeze Movement was drawn from the longstanding antinuclear movement in America. Antinuclear advocacy had begun shortly after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when Albert Einstein started agitating against the weapons he had helped develop, and it continued in the work of such prominent figures as W. E. B. Du Bois, Linus Pauling, Ava Helen Pauling, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the leaders of the 1960s student movement. Those prominent voices were matched by action in the street (and the sea), from marches of Women Strike for Peace to swimmers trying to block Polaris missile-equipped submarines. After the Vietnam War, though, the peace and antinuclear movements largely dissipated. They had no spectacular cause around which to rally public support. Reagan’s nuclear provocations provided one.

   Forsberg proposed the nuclear freeze in December 1979 at a meeting of Mobilization for Survival, an antinuclear group backed by peace organizations, including the American Friends Service Committee, Clergy and Laity Concerned, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Forsberg’s plan was enthusiastically received. In 1980 she published a manifesto, “Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race,” and began building support from other peace and antinuclear groups. Support also came from Europe, where, in 1980, widespread protests erupted in London, Paris, Rome, and Amsterdam against the deployment of American missiles. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published a special issue about the European protests in 1980 to try to inspire a similar American disarmament movement, and The Nation’s 1981 “Protest and Survive” issue reprinted essays from British historian E. P. Thompson’s 1980 collection of the same name.
To coordinate the various organizations involved in the freeze, movement leaders founded an umbrella group called the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. Randy Kehler, a draft and war-tax resister who helped inspire Daniel Ellsberg to release the Pentagon Papers that revealed the lies behind Vietnam, was chosen to lead the coordinating group. Though Kehler was a veteran of the activist left, the organization he was in charge of was deliberately located in St. Louis to give the movement a Middle America feel. The freeze movement emerged from the left, but it sought to use a simple message—a bilateral freeze on nuclear proliferation—to appeal across the political spectrum. After building its coalition of leftist domestic and international organizations, the movement aimed to broaden its support across partisan divides and to educate mainstream Americans about the nuclear threat with the goal of impacting the midterm congressional elections in 1982 and the presidential election in 1984.

   In 1982 activists across the country, coordinated by Kehler and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, started gathering signatures in support of a freeze on nuclear weapons testing, production, and deployment. They got nuclear freeze referenda placed on ballots in hundreds of towns and cities. Eight state legislatures, from Maine to Iowa to Oregon, passed freeze resolutions, and freeze referenda were passed by popular vote in nine states. Senators Edward Kennedy and Mark Hatfield proposed a federal freeze resolution. And polls showed widespread public support: in 1982, 38 percent of Americans did not trust Reagan to make the right decisions on nuclear policy, while 71–83 percent favored the nuclear freeze. A remarkable 45 percent said they supported even a unilateral freeze.

   Reagan’s militaristic temperament swept liberals, centrists, and even some conservatives into the Nuclear Freeze Movement. It brought together mainstream Democrats and Republicans with radical pacifists, retired admirals, generals, and CIA directors, veteran 1960s antiwar and antinuclear activists, atomic scientists, socialists, Hollywood celebrities, labor unions, big-business Democrats, feminist organizations, Christian groups (especially Catholics), balanced-budget hawks, and big-government progressives who wanted to redirect defense funding toward the welfare programs Reagan had slashed. Reagan denounced the movement as a Soviet plot, and a number of state and municipal bureaus of investigation infiltrated antinuclear groups to keep tabs on their politics. But while the Soviets did try to infiltrate freeze groups, the CIA and FBI found that they had failed to influence the freeze. As the Washington Post reported, “Although testimony showed the Soviets spent vast amounts of time and money on forged documents, planted agents and other active measures to try to influence events, . . . the FBI had testified that the efforts ‘have had, at best, minimal impact on U.S. decision makers.’” In other words, the overwhelming majority of protesters were ordinary Americans who simply hated the prospect of nuclear war.

    The movement’s biggest display of strength was a march in New York City on June 12, 1982, that drew a million protesters; it was one of the largest public demonstrations in American history. Freeze organizations also built political action committees and lobbying apparatuses, which donated increasingly large sums to congressional campaigns across the 1980s. Public pressure toward arms control and against increased defense spending, crystalized by the freeze movement, helped Democrats add twenty-six seats to their House majority in the 1982 midterm elections. A freeze resolution was then passed in the House in 1983. Reagan, of course, won reelection in a landslide in 1984, and freeze activists saw his victory as a rebuke of their movement. Forsberg wrote that the election “left us reeling.” The movement never fully recovered. But the millions of dollars donated by freeze-based groups moved the House toward arms control and helped Democrats regain the Senate in 1986, the first time they had held the chamber since 1980.

https://portside.org/sites/default/files/images/nukefreeze32517.jpeg
Nuclear freeze campaigners in California,image courtesy of FoundSF

If Reagan had previously shown a cavalier willingness to launch a nuclear war, he now spoke of avoiding war and emphasized peace.

  Despite these victories, the movement’s outcome was ambiguous. Democratic and Republican politicians quickly coopted the language of freeze, turning grassroots protests in the street into backroom dealing in the Capitol. Unlike the protesters, the politicians were much more likely to compromise on the specifics of a freeze. The House resolution, for instance, contained numerous amendments meant to weaken the freeze, including a deadline for arms control negotiation with the Soviet Union after which, if negotiations had not been successful, the freeze would expire. Similarly freeze supporters in the House were still willing to back missile programs such as the MX (though they traded that support for Reagan’s agreement with arms control). And the freeze coalition itself soon splintered as pacifists, socialists, mainstream liberals, and conservative defense hawks all demanded different degrees of arms control, disarmament, and defense budget reductions.

   Reagan himself managed to coopt the freeze movement’s rhetoric and thereby defused public protests. At the height of the freeze movement in 1982 and 1983, Reagan and his allies had cast it as a danger to national security and even as Soviet-inspired sedition—the same charge that had been leveled at antinuclear activists since Du Bois faced McCarthy-style blacklisting in 1951 [1]. But Reagan soon recognized the public energy behind arms control and shifted his rhetoric and principal policy aims toward deterrence—though he still deployed MX missiles while negotiating the START II treaty that eventually banned such multiple-warhead weapons.

   The centerpiece of Reagan’s shift toward deterrence was his infamous Strategic Defense Initiative—also known as Star Wars—which was announced in March 1983. Leftist activists were appalled by the Star Wars proposal. (And the computer-generated graphics Reagan used to illustrate it do look absurd today. How did we believe we were going to use lasers to shoot down nuclear missiles when even our CGI capability was so limited?) But in some ways Star Wars marked an important drawdown in Cold War tensions, a change in posture from offense to defense.

   It was also a victory for the Nuclear Freeze Movement. If Reagan had previously shown a cavalier willingness to launch a nuclear war, he now spoke of avoiding war and emphasized peace. Where before his administration had said that nuclear war was “manageable,” in his 1984 State of the Union address, Reagan reached out to the “people of the Soviet Union” to say: “Americans are people of peace. If your government wants peace, there will be peace. We can come together in faith and friendship to build a safer and far better world for our children.” Even if he did not act like it (see: Iran–Contra), he sounded like those left-wing peaceniks. Protesters had tempered Reagan’s militarism, and the defense budget would shrink every year after 1985.

  Moreover the pressure toward arms control in the Democratic House and Senate, combined with Reagan’s new rhetoric, created space for d├ętente with Mikhail Gorbachev, who became general secretary of the USSR’s communist party in 1985. As Gorbachev and Reagan worked together on arms control, it gave Gorbachev room to maneuver domestically in Russia as well, since American missiles were less of a looming threat than they had been when Alexander Haig was talking about nuclear warning shots. With reduced foreign policy pressures, Gorbachev propelled political reform in the Soviet Union and across the Eastern Bloc. Those reforms eventually broke up the USSR and began what now looks like an interwar period in the 1990s.
• • •

   Much as Reagan’s militarism became a rallying point for the opposition in the 1980s, Trump’s belligerent foreign policy and his hyperbolic threats to use military force, both domestically and abroad, may be one of the most efficacious targets for resisting his agenda. Like Reagan, Trump campaigned on fear tactics, calling Democrats soft on terrorism and stoking anxieties about what he pointedly labelled “radical Islamic terrorism.” His executive order blocking immigration from seven (now six) Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East represents a shift in the ongoing War on Terror toward a war against Islam itself. The backlash against Trump’s ban has already shown the power of what citizen protest can do.
The protesters who swarmed to airports across the country to decry the ban were, implicitly and explicitly, rejecting Trump’s expanded war footing. The protesters not only asserted an alternative vision of American identity that is fundamentally open to immigration, they also asserted a vision of American foreign policy in which Islam does not represent a monolithic enemy in a grand clash of civilizations. The airport protests were a kind of foreign policy debate carried out in the streets.

When it came to Trump’s ban, grassroots protest politics drove formal political decision making in Washington.

   This groundswell of protest directly changed the behavior of elected officials, from Democratic senators who reevaluated their legislative strategy to Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who released a statement blasting Trump’s executive order—even to Trump himself, who at least partially reorganized White House decision making to avoid similar fiascos in the future. When it came to Trump’s ban, much as in the case of the nuclear freeze, grassroots protest politics drove formal political decision making in Washington.
One lesson of the Nuclear Freeze Movement is that when a right-wing populist wins the presidency by promising a tough attitude, the easiest way to fight back is not by picking away at the details of all his policies, but by clearly articulating a few basic ways in which his policies threaten people’s well-being. The airport protests did just that. The idea of immigrants, including elderly grandparents, being forcibly detained on U.S. soil spectacularly made visible the militarism, authoritarianism, and white nationalism of Trump’s worldview. That spectacle generated an effective protest movement in response. The political opposition to Trump would do well to continue using such symbols that easily sum up the many issues on which he sits far outside the public consensus.

  For example, Trump wants to massively boost defense spending while slashing healthcare, a pairing that makes visible his lack of actual concern for the working class. Similarly, Trump’s immigration ban, his calls for nuclear proliferation, and his desire to renew torture capture his casual relationship with violence and the ways in which his policies will destabilize international relations, making Americans complicit in forms of brutality that they do not on the whole support. By pointing to these real human costs of Trump’s tough talk, progressives can bring into focus the wider dangers of Trump’s worldview and articulate their own alternative vision of a government that aids the forgotten and oppressed. The Nuclear Freeze Movement, Randall Forsberg reflected in the Boston Review[2] years later, succeeded in the 1980s because there was a clear and present danger of mass violence. Public support for arms control waned in the 1990s because the collapse of the Soviet Union removed that danger. Trump’s America First foreign policy once again offers a clear threat of massive state violence across a range of interlinked issues that can and should generate a strong opposition coalition.

   Coalitional politics can be tricky. The Nuclear Freeze Movement had limited legislative success partly because it attempted to be thoroughly bipartisan—Senator Hatfield, for instance, who co-sponsored the freeze resolution, was a Republican. This meant that freeze groups did not coalesce behind a Democratic bloc that would vote broadly against Reagan’s agenda. On the other hand, Walter Mondale, who ran against Reagan in 1984, supported the freeze but differed only somewhat from Reagan’s overall defense policies, as Carter had in 1980. For leaders of the nuclear freeze, Mondale was their fourth choice among candidates in the Democratic primary. Today, though, the extreme partisan polarization in America means that the anti-Trump opposition can both build bipartisan support against the violence and the global chaos of his America First foreign policy and still present a strong progressive alternative to Trumpism in the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential contest.

   A debate over America’s identity and direction is taking place right now through participatory democracy in the streets. If the progressive opposition to Trump can maintain its grassroots energy, hold its leaders in Congress accountable to their base, and build bipartisan support on key foreign policy issues such as the immigration ban, torture, and nuclear nonproliferation, this citizen movement can shape policy and win elections. Reflecting on her decades of antinuclear activism, Forsberg wrote in 2002 [3] that getting citizens involved in national security decisions is “an incredibly difficult undertaking.” “Yet,” she concluded, “democratic control in this area is essential to the full development and flowering of democratic institutions, and equally essential to the safety and well-being of ordinary citizens here and throughout the world.” The widespread rejection of Trumpism by citizens across the country, who are demanding accountability and change, is an important step in reenergizing and expanding American democracy. The fight, as Forsberg put it, will be long and incredibly difficult. But if the past is any guide, these everyday activists from all walks of life can win.


Links:

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"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


Nunes Shows Why He's Incapable of Running an Investigation


House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Nunes Shows Why He's Incapable of Running an Investigation

By Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post
23 March 17


   The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday accused U.S. spy agencies of abusing their surveillance powers by gathering and sharing information about President Trump and his transition team, an unproven charge that was quickly embraced by the White House but threatened to derail the committee’s investigation of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia.

   Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, said he was alarmed after seeing intelligence reports disseminated after the Nov. 8 election that made references to U.S. citizens affiliated with Trump, and possibly the president-elect himself. He appeared to be referring to relatively routine cases of surveillance on foreign individuals in which they communicated with or mentioned Americans. …

   But Nunes’s refusal to disclose how he had obtained the documents and his unusual handling of the material — which he withheld from other committee members even while rushing to present it to the White House — were interpreted by some as a sign that his discovery was engineered to help the White House.

   This is truly unprecedented behavior for the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, especially since he never shared the information or even consulted with the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff (Calif.). Considering the breach of comity, Schiff was remarkably restrained in a written statement. He took Nunes to task for this “profound irregularity.” He continued, “I have expressed my grave concerns with the Chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way.” Moreover, Schiff made clear that contrary to Nunes’s hysteria over unmasked individuals (Americans picked up in surveillance whose names were used), most of the names in the intercept were masked (e.g. “Person #1”), although Nunes could figure out by context who the individuals were.

     Later in a news conference, Schiff said, “The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct, which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or if he’s going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because he cannot do both.” Schiff added, “Unfortunately, I think the actions of today throw great doubt into the ability of both the chairman and the committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted.” In an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Schiff dropped his own hints, saying the case of collusion was more than circumstantial. He did not elaborate.

    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, charged into the fray on Wednesday. He told reporters, “Representative Nunes’s statements would appear to be revealing classified information and that obviously would be a very serious concern.” The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), spoke for many when he said he wanted to find out “what the heck” was going on. On Wednesday evening, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) declared, “No longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone, and I don’t say that lightly.”

    For starters, we need to know whether Nunes disclosed any classified materials by running to the cameras and by discussing the matter with anyone at the White House who might not have a sufficient security clearance. We also need to know whether his sharing information with the administration interfered with the investigation in any manner. If so, there are legal, ethical and political implications. At the very least, Nunes has demonstrated that he is not so much conducting an oversight process as running interference for the administration. His actions should be disqualifying.

   President Barack Obama’s Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller seemed flabbergasted. “I can’t imagine what he was thinking — why entirely throw your own credibility away for something that doesn’t even give Trump what he needs?” He explained, “It gives [Trump] a Breitbart headline that he was vindicated, but no one else thinks that. It’s baffling.”

   Democrats certainly would be entitled to declare the whole thing a charade and refuse to participate in Nunes’s compromised investigation. Let the Senate committee, which for now appears serious, to do its work. In reality, Nunes only damaged his own credibility and that of his fellow Republicans who obsessed in FBI Director James B. Comey’s hearing over the leaks, not the potential that Trump colluded with a foreign adversary.

   Evan McMullin, who had previously criticized Republicans’ conduct, put out his own statement on Wednesday. “Republican leaders have a choice: protect the Republic, or protect Donald Trump. Today, Chairman Nunes chose to cover for Trump in a politically motivated effort to distract attention from increasing revelations of Trump’s ties to the Kremlin,” he said. “He broke trust with fellow members of the House Intelligence Committee and with Americans depending on him to get the truth. We can no longer trust Nunes to put America’s best interests above those of Donald Trump.” McMullin renewed his call for a bipartisan select committee to investigate.

    To outside observers, this seemed a clumsy and transparent attempt to divert attention from Comey’s devastating testimony earlier in the week; an Associated Press story confirming that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to ‘greatly benefit the Putin Government’ “; his team’s failure to properly vet former national security adviser Michael Flynn; Trump’s rotten poll numbers; and the president’s difficulty in finding enough House Republicans to support his signature issue — repealing and replacing Obamacare. Moreover, CNN dropped another bombshell Wednesday night: “The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.” One can see why the White House might be desperate to divert attention. Such an effort would be futile, of course. Evidence of collusion would put the Trump presidency on life support.

    The scenery around Trump is peeling, and the performances are less convincing with each passing day. Trump’s own histrionics seem more desperate than ever. The audience (the electorate) no longer is willing to suspend disbelief. The question is whether Trump’s longtime fans will drift away and his run will be cut short.

C 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/


"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

Saving Obamacare Is Not Enough—We Need Medicare for All

Saving Obamacare Is Not Enough—We Need Medicare for All
Friday, March 24, 2017
The terms of the health-care debate must be shifted.

http://www.commondreams.org/sites/default/files/styles/cd_large_social/public/views-article/medicare_for_all_now.jpg?itok=_AFbRodK
People protest on March 21, 2017 against the congressional Republicans’ plan to remake Medicaid.
(Photo: Erik McGregor / Sipa via AP Images)

    The health-care debate in America is essentially an argument over what kind of private insurance market people should have access to: President Obama’s, where the insurance companies made out like bandits, or President Trump’s, where insurance companies will make out like bandits.
Let’s change the debate by making it between for-profit insurance vs. not-for-profit health care. That’s what I and Congressmen John Conyers and Jim McDermott sought to do in 2003 when we wrote and introduced Medicare for All, HR 676, in the House of Representatives.

   Six years ago, I was the last Democrat hold-out on “Obamacare.” My constituents desperately needed coverage for pre-existing conditions and for their adult children. I reluctantly voted for it to prove that some reform was possible, not because it was an acceptable end-point.

   It still left out millions and left consumers at the mercy of insurance companies. And everyone knows insurance companies make money by providing as little health care as possible.
Here is what the for-profit insurance system brings:
·         Rising premiums and co-pays.
·         Diminishing coverage.
·         More government subsidy of private insurers.
·         Rising costs for prescription drugs.
·         More people going bankrupt because of hospital bills.
·         More people losing their homes because of hospital bills.
More seniors forced into poverty, losing everything they worked for their entire lives.
This is not about Democrats vs. Republicans, liberals vs. conservatives, left vs. right. This is about life vs. death.

  This is about whether we, as Americans, can recognize a common interest in using the vast resources of our nation to insure the health of our people.

   Heath spending approaches nearly 18 percent of the $20 trillion GDP. Nearly a trillion dollars of that amount goes for corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing, and the cost of paperwork.

   If we took all the money that people and the government are presently paying into the for-profit system and applied it to care for people in a not-for-profit system, we could provide for basic health care for all Americans, including prescription drugs, vision care, dental care, mental-health care, and long-term care.

   That is what HR 676, Medicare for All, was all about.

  Medicare for All is an idea whose time has come. Let’s make all Americans healthy and wealthy. Let’s lift up all of our families, save our homes, and help our businesses and industries. Let’s join every other industrialized nation in the world and offer health care to all of our people.

   The terms of the debate in Washington must be shifted. We must not be stuck between competing for-profit health-insurance schemes. Let’s renew the debate: Medicare for All or profit for a few.

© 2017 The Nation

Dennis Kucinich is former US Congressman and two-time presidential candidate from Ohio who served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at KucinichAction. Follow him on Twitter: @Dennis_Kucinich

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"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


What U.S. Poultry Producers Do Not Want You to Know About Bird Flu

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

What U.S. Poultry Producers Do Not Want You to Know About Bird Flu

By Martha Rosenberg [1] / AlterNet [2]
March 24, 2017
1

  Once again, bird flu is back in the U.S. From 2014 through mid-2015, 48 million chickens and turkeys were killed in the U.S. to prevent the disease’s spread and protect famer’s profits.

   Factory farmers routinely fight to keep images of how poultry are raised out of public view, so consumers do not lose their appetites and will continue eating their products. Industrial farmers also fight hard to keep images of how chickens and turkeys are “euthanized” out of the public view.

   It is easy to see why. To prevent the spread of bird flu, healthy, floor-reared turkeys and broiler chickens are herded into an enclosed area where they were administered propylene glycol foam to suffocate them. Michael Blackwell, chief veterinary officer at The Humane Society of the United States, likens [3] death by foam to “cuffing a person’s mouth and nose, during which time you are very much aware that your breathing has been precluded.”

    "Ventilation shutdown” is also used to kill healthy birds and prevent the spread of the flu. It raises the barn temperature to at least 104F for a minimum of three hours killing the entire flock—a method so extreme that even factory farmers admit it is cruel. During the 2015 outbreak, “Round the clock incinerators and crews in hazmat suits,” were required for the bird depopulation reported Fortune—a sequence likely to occur again.

    Factory farmers like to blame bird flu on “migratory birds,” denying that high-volume production methods allow the spread of the disease. But the fact is, factory farms house 300,000 or more egg layers in one barn versus only tens of thousands of birds in “broiler barns” which is why the flu spreads so quickly among egg-laying hens.
Moreover, we the taxpayers compensate factory farmers for their self-induced losses and appalling farm practices.

   "The poultry industry appreciates the fact that the USDA helps protect the health of the nation's livestock and poultry by responding to major animal disease events such as this," said a letter from the National Association Egg Farmers to Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics during the previous bird flu outbreak. But please "provide indemnification for the whole flock and not just the surviving," the letter asks.

    The only interaction most people have with poultry production is the prices they pay at the grocery store. When prices are low, people do not think twice. When prices jump—as they likely will with the new bird flu outbreak—few realize the higher prices are a direct result of the conditions that make low prices possible because they invite disease.

   If an egg carton said, “30,000 hens were suffocated with propylene glycol foam to keep this low price,” would people buy the eggs? Would anyone buy a Thanksgiving turkey whose label said, “thousands of healthy turkeys were smothered to keep this low price?”
In addition to hiding the round-the-clock suffocation of birds to prevent bird flu’s spread, factory farmers assure the public that bird flu is not a threat to humans so people should keep eating their products. Sadly, their claim is not totally [4] true.

     During a bird flu outbreak, the unethical and deceptive practices of poultry producers are in full view. Yet, it is not hard to find healthy, protein-packed alternatives to factory farm-produced poultry products. By doing so, the U.S. public sends a strong message to poultry producers.

    Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter and the author of "Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health [5] (Random House)."

        [7]


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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"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