Is the US controlling Israel or is Israel controlling the US? Tell us what you think.

Who is Pulling Trump’s Strings in the US???

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Who is pulling whose strings?  Obama or Netanyahu? Is the US controlling Israel or is Israel controlling the US? Tell us what you think.

How can we forget when Obama just started his first term in office in 2011, when he told the world he was going to take the Palestine borders back to 1967.

Israel has said endorsing the 1967 borders would prejudge negotiations. Obama also took pains to show respect for Israel’s views ahead of his meetings Friday with Netanyahu soon after.

Still, Mr. Obama’s tough stand could set the stage for a tense meeting Friday when Netanyahu goes to the White House.

In a statement following Mr. Obama’s remarks, Israeli Prime Minister rejected the president’s endorsement, and said a return to his country’s 1967 borders would spell disaster for the Jewish State.

Calling the 1967 lines “indefensible,” Netanyahu said such a withdrawal would jeopardize Israel’s security and leave major West Bank settlements outside Israeli borders.

Round one to Netanyahu, when Obama bows down to the wishes of Israel and one election promise out of the window.

Whatever Israel asks for Israel gets and we saw this in April 2014 when Obama signed away an additional $225 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

The U.S. has provided hundreds of millions of dollars for Iron Dome in the past. The new package is intended to replenish Israel’s capabilities.

beto_orourke

 

Congress approved the money last week before lawmakers left for their annual summer break. Obama signed the bill in the late afternoon in the Oval Office with a handful of photographers present.

Congressman O’Rourke was one of the few who voted against an aid package to Israel. Overwhelmed by the swift avalanche of Jewish criticism, the young man won’t ever make the same ‘mistake’ again.

It took only one wrong vote to teach a freshman Democrat from Texas how sensitive, and even wrathful, the Jewish community can be when it comes to Israel.

But the real story of what happened to Rep. Beto O’Rourke did not stop with the angry reaction he got when he cast one of only eight votes in Congress against special funding for Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system during the recent Gaza war.

It was almost a textbook case of how the establishment pro-Israel lobby works its magic — and a story not yet completed in early September, when The New Yorker magazine took note of what had happened to O’Rourke.

In an in-depth report on the work of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the large Washington-based lobby, during the Gaza war, New Yorker writer Connie Bruck recounted the blasts that rained down on the El Paso congressman following his vote.

The reactions, as Bruck reported, included a mass email blast labeling O’Rourke as “an anti-Israel congressman” and denouncing his vote as “shameful.” Critical local press coverage included a public comment by one of his own Jewish donors to the El Paso Times that in voting as he did, O’Rourke “chooses to side with the rocket launchers and terror tunnel builders” of Hamas.

But since then, behind the scenes, what has followed is a long process of mutual outreach and hours of hashing out differences, until the final act, which is now in the works: an El Al flight to Tel Aviv on the pro-Israel lobby’s dime.

“He’s a good guy, but he didn’t know how the Jewish community would react,” said Daniel Cheifec, executive director of the Jewish Federation of El Paso. “Now he knows that this community is not going to be very happy if he screws up again.”

O’Rourke, in fact, had no prior record of criticizing or voting against Israel. He did not even oppose more funding for the Iron Dome system. He only opposed rushing through the large appropriation with no debate as members of Congress were hurrying home for the summer recess when a more considered vote to boost the program was coming in October.

Israel, which receives more than $3.6 billion per year in various forms of aid from Washington, is already the single largest recipient of American largesse. But the August 1 House vote appropriating $225 million to Israel above and beyond its usual aid was meant to allow the Jewish state to restock on Iron Dome interceptors that had proved effective in countering Hamas rocket attacks into the country.

Congressional leaders squeezed the vote into the legislative schedule just as members were packing up to leave for their summer recess. The overwhelming support of 395 representatives with only eight voting against was not unusual for a pro-Israel piece of legislation, especially one that deals with military assistance at a time of war.

“I really don’t understand how he makes his decision,” Rabbi Stephen Leon of Congregation B’Nai Zion, a local synagogue, told the El Paso Times even before The New Yorker piece picked up on the pushback. “It’s a great, great disappointment to the Jewish community here. We had meetings with him prior, to talk to him about the importance of Israel, and the way he voted makes very little sense.”

El Paso, a city with a 70% Hispanic majority, has a relatively small Jewish community, estimated at 4,000, amid a population of some 862,000. But Jews are well represented on O’Rourke’s donor list, with local businessman Stephen L. Feinberg among the top contributors to his campaign.

O’Rourke, in a Facebook posting, tried to explain his vote. “I could not in good conscience vote for borrowing $225 million more to send to Israel, without debate and without discussion, in the midst of a war that has cost more than a thousand civilian lives already, too many of them children,” he wrote. He also stressed that with an aid package for Israel up for a vote in two months, he felt no need to rush more spending without adequate debate when Congress was all but empty.

To members of the Jewish community who later spoke with him, O’Rourke also explained that he was one of the last to vote in the roll call, at a point at which it was clear the bill was cruising toward passage. He consequently felt free to cast a vote on principle, knowing it would not impact the final outcome. O’Rourke believes that every appropriation should be properly debated.

Veteran Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia, who is known for refusing to vote along the lines of the pro-Israel lobby, tried to warn O’Rourke. “I tried to find him on the floor, but I couldn’t,” he told The New Yorker. “I’m afraid he may have a tough race in November.”

At O’Rourke’s office, emails flooded his inbox. The El Paso Jewish federation sent out an alert to members, urging them to take action. It contained O’Rourke’s contact information and a suggested sample letter. Another email, for which no one will now take responsibility, circulated among Jewish activists urging supporters not to re-elect him.

This threat is all but empty, since O’Rourke faces no real challenge in his strongly Democratic district.

Beto (short for Robert) O’Rourke, 41, is a fourth-generation El Paso native who started off his career in a teenage rock band. He studied at Columbia University and returned to his hometown, where he ran for city council before moving on to the national scene. His political focus has been on immigration and veteran affairs, two key issues for a border town that hosts a large army base. But he won more recognition for his call to legalize marijuana, an uncommon voice in the state of Texas. Foreign policy has never been a top priority.

Hours after the controversial vote, O’Rourke launched a damage-control campaign that proved to be effective. He reached out to Jewish donors and friends who were more than happy to start the healing process.

Politicians are meant to be representing the people who have elected them, but in the US it seems that this is not the case. Unless you vote on what Israel wants you to vote for, you get the wrath of the Jews and Israel on you.

HOPELESS HAWKS: U.S. Congress Cheers Netanyahu’s Hatred of Iran

Now we have just witnessed Benjamin Netanyahu addressing Congress in the style of a State of the Union speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won 41 rounds of applause as U.S. lawmakers eagerly enlisted in the Israeli-Saudi conflict against Iran and its allies – an enthusiasm that may well entangle the U.S. military in more wars in the Middle East.

Netanyahu declared:

“In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow. So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations. We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.”

Netanyahu’s reference to “Iran’s aggression” was curious since Iran has not invaded another country for centuries. In 1980, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – at the urging of Saudi Arabia – invaded Iran. During that bloody eight-year war, Israel – far from being an enemy of Iran – became Iran’s principal arms supplier. Israel drew in the Reagan administration, which approved some of the Israeli-brokered arms deals, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986.

In other words, Israel was aiding Iran after the Islamic Revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979 and during the time when Netanyahu blamed Iran for the attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and various acts of terrorism allegedly committed by Hezbollah, a Shiite militia in Lebanon. Israel only shifted toward hostility against Shiite-ruled Iran in the 1990s as Israel gradually developed a de facto alliance with Sunni-ruled and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which views Iran as its chief regional rival.

Netanyahu’s choice of Arab cities supposedly conquered by Iran was strange, too. Baghdad is the capital of Iraq where the U.S. military invaded in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated government — on Netanyahu’s recommendation. After the invasion, President George W. Bush installed a Shiite-dominated government. So, whatever influence Iran has in Baghdad is the result of a U.S. invasion that Netanyahu personally encouraged.

More recently, Iran has supported the embattled Iraqi government in its struggle against the murderous Islamic State militants who seized large swaths of Iraqi territory last summer. Indeed, Iraqi officials have credited Iran with playing a crucial role in blunting the Islamic State, the terrorists whom President Obama has identified as one of the top security threats facing the United States.

Netanyahu cited Damascus, too, where Iran has helped the Syrian government in its struggle against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. In other words, Iran is assisting the internationally recognized government of Syria hold off two major terrorist organizations. But Netanyahu portrays that as Iran “gobbling up” a nation.

The Israeli prime minister also mentioned Beirut, Lebanon, and Sanaa, Yemen, but those were rather bizarre references, too, since Lebanon is governed by a multi-ethnic arrangement that includes a number of religious and political factions. Hezbollah is one and it has close ties to Iran, but it is stretching the truth to say that Iran “dominates” Beirut or Lebanon.

Similarly, in Sanaa, the Houthis, a Shiite-related sect, have taken control of Yemen’s capital and have reportedly received some help from Iran, but the Houthis deny those reports and are clearly far from under Iranian control. The Houthis also have vowed to work with the Americans to carry on the fight against Yemen’s Al-Qaeda affiliate [AQAP].

Leading the Battle

Indeed, Iran and these various Shiite-linked movements have been among the most effective in battling Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, while Israel’s Saudi friends have been repeatedly linked to funding and supporting these Sunni terrorist organizations. In effect, what Netanyahu asked the Congress to do – and apparently successfully – was to join Saudi Arabia and Israel in identifying Iran, not Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, as America’s chief enemy in the Middle East.

That would put the U.S.-Iranian cooperation in combating Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in jeopardy. It could lead to victories by these Sunni terrorists in Syria and possibly even Iraq, a situation that almost surely would force the U.S. military to return in force to the region. No U.S. president could politically accept Damascus or Baghdad in the hands of openly terrorist organizations vowing to carry the fight to Europe and the United States.

Yet, that was the logic — or lack thereof — in Netanyahu’s appeal to Congress. As he put it, “when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.” He also argued that Iran was a greater threat than the Islamic State, a position that Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has expressed, too.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime [in Syria] as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in a 2013 interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran” – even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

In June 2014, then speaking as a former ambassador at an Aspen Institute conference, Oren expanded on his position, saying Israel would even prefer a victory by the brutal Islamic State over continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.

Netanyahu made a similar point: “The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.”

Of course, Iran has disavowed any interest in developing a nuclear bomb — and both the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities agree that Iran has not been working on a bomb. Further, the negotiated agreement between Iran and leading world powers would impose strict oversight on Iran’s civilian nuclear program, leaving little opportunity to cheat.

Instead, Netanyahu wants the United States to lead an aggressive campaign to further strangle Iran’s economy with the goal of forcing some future “regime change.” The principal beneficiary of that strategy would likely be Saudi Arabia, which has served as the proselytizing center for the reactionary Wahabbi version of Sunni Islam, which inspired Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

Elements of the Saudi royal family also have long been known to support Islamist militants, including forces associated with bin Laden. Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that convicted al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui identified leading members of the Saudi government as financiers of the terrorist network.

According to the story, Moussaoui said in a prison deposition that he was directed in 1998 or 1999 by Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan to create a digital database of the group’s donors and that the list included Prince Turki al-Faisal, then Saudi intelligence chief; Prince Bandar bin Sultan, longtime Saudi ambassador to the United States; Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, a prominent billionaire investor; and many leading clerics.

Moussaoui also said he discussed a plan to shoot down President George W. Bush’s Air Force One with a Stinger missile with a staff member at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, at a time when Bandar was the ambassador to the United States and considered so close to the Bush family that his nickname was “Bandar Bush.”

Moussaoui claimed, too, that he passed letters between Osama bin Laden and then Crown Prince Salman, who recently became king upon the death of his brother King Abdullah.

While the Saudi government denied Moussaoui’s accusations, Saudi and other Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms have been identified in recent years as financial backers of Sunni militants fighting in Syria to overthrow Assad’s largely secular regime, with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front the major rebel force benefiting from this support.

Shared Israeli Interests

The Israelis also have found themselves on the side of these Sunni militants in Syria because the Israelis share the Saudi view that Iran and the so-called “Shiite crescent” – reaching from Tehran to Beirut – is the greatest threat to their interests.

That attitude of favoring Sunni militants over Assad has taken a tactical form with Israeli forces launching attacks inside Syria that benefit Nusra Front. For instance, on Jan. 18, 2015, Israel attacked Lebanese-Iranian advisers assisting Assad’s government in Syria, killing several members of Hezbollah and an Iranian general. These military advisers were engaged in operations against Nusra Front.

Meanwhile, Israel has refrained from attacking Nusra militants who have seized Syrian territory near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. One source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria told me that Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces, who have even received medical treatment at Israeli hospitals.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have found themselves on the same side in other regional struggles, including support for the military’s ouster of the elected Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, but most importantly they have joined forces in their hostility toward Shiite-ruled Iran.

Now that all calls for the US to invade Syria fade away and the longer the war goes on, the more lies are surfacing and the call for war is getting more desperate. With Netanyahu calling for war in Iran and Syria and Obama reviving the Cold War with Russia.

Unless Europe wakes up to what Obama and Netanyahu are up to there are going to be more wars in Europe. When are the US taxpayers going revolt against their hard earned dollars going to Israel and wars. What is the point of having elected leaders, when they can only do what Israel tells them to.

Who is running the US and who is controlling your police? The biggest enemy of Obama isn’t Iran, it should be his own people, that he is continually lying to.

Netanyahu has just spoken to Congress, let’s see how long it takes for him to get exactly what he wants. WAR.

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What if the U.S. Invaded Syria and Nobody Noticed? The media should be covering this more

U.S. forces in Iraq, March 7

While everyone was paying attention to the latest crazy Trump story, United States Marines deployed to Syria.

Did you hear about that? If you didn’t, it’s not your fault. The news has been all Trump all the time.

  • He can read a speech!
  • He accused the former president of illegal wiretaps with no evidence!
  • Travel ban 2.0!
  • His Attorney General falsely denied contact with the Russians despite not being asked about it!
  • He pretended not to know his first National Security Adviser did work for Turkey!

But constant ridiculousness is the new normal, and it’s going to be that way for a while. The media needs adjust so it can do its job, drawing attention to important events. Not Trump said, not Trump tweeted, but thing happened.

On March 9, hundreds of Marines arrived in Syria to operate heavy artillery in support of local forces assaulting ISIS’ capital of Raqqa.

At some level, this isn’t a big deal. The Marines will fire from distance, which means they won’t be advancing into prepared defenses, booby traps, or ambushes. The risk they’ll sustain casualties is low.

And American forces were already there. Not these Marines, but others, performing a similar role in Iraq, helping the attack on Mosul. By the end of 2016, the mission Barack Obama sold with “no boots on the ground” involved about 5,000 American ground troops. Most advise Iraqi forces or guide U.S. airstrikes. But advising sometimes requires embedding with combat forces, and they’ve sustained casualties.

Source: United States Department of Defense

With the deployment to Syria, the American ground force engaging ISIS is now closer to 6,000. It’s part of the same fight, and they’re doing something Marines were already doing, just in a different location. It’s not a dramatic change.

But it’s not an insignificant change either, and we should be paying attention.

Many Americans fighting in Iraq and Syria are Special Operations Forces, which fall into a gray area between regular troops and clandestine operatives. Under the 1973 War Powers Act, which is still in force, military deployments require congressional authorization after 90 days. CIA operations do not.

A few days ago, the United States also deployed 100 Army Rangers to Manbij, a small Syrian city about 50 miles northeast of Aleppo and 25 miles south of the Turkish border. It’s more overt than most Special Operations missions, because their goal is to get between Syria (and their Russian backers), Turkey, and the American-supported force attacking Raqqa further east.

For better or worse, the United States has given the executive complete discretion about deploying Special Operations Forces. But the Marines are a branch of the regular military.

Additionally, while some Marines already operate in Iraq, the Iraqi government gave them permission. The Syrian government has not. Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, flush from his victory over non-ISIS rebels in Aleppo, called the American forces “invaders.”

The deployment is an escalation, another in a long line of escalations following the first deployments in mid-2014. The Obama administration claimed legal authority under the post-9/11 Authorization of Military Force (AUMF), because it applies to the people responsible for the September 11th attacks and “associated forces,” which arguably includes ISIS.

The Trump administration presumably claims the same authority. I have to say “presumably” because they haven’t discussed it with the American people.

Placing the current anti-ISIS campaign under the 2001 AUMF is a stretch. But Congress abdicated responsibility, refusing to pass new authorization. If they vote for a new AUMF and things go bad, it would be a political liability, like the vote to invade Iraq. But if they authorize it and it goes well, the president will get the credit, not individual members of Congress.

The result is repeated escalations without clear legal authority. Given the thousands of Americans already deployed in Iraq and Syria, the public probably does not have a problem adding 400 Marines and 100 Army Rangers per se. But polling shows Americans split on sending ground troops — which is why Obama repeatedly promised not to put boots on the ground.

Source: CNN/ORC

Those numbers are from late 2015, and they’re the most recent I could find (another indication Trump and the election sucked up all attention, to the detriment of important issues). Approval increased after the Paris attacks of November 13, 2015, but it’s unclear if it’s still above 50%.

Either way, it’s safe to assume the public has mixed feelings about sending ground troops to Syria, with many wary of further escalations. At the very least, Congress and the media need to lead a public discussion about what we’re willing to commit to this fight.

The Strategy Problem

Sending the Marines makes sense from a military perspective. Raqqa and Mosul are ISIS’ two main cities. Without them, its claim to an Islamic State collapses. American-backed Iraqi forces have already captured eastern Mosul and are currently assaulting the ISIS-held western part. However, the local forces set to attack Raqqa — a combination of Syrian Kurds and Arabs — are less capable than the Iraqi Armed Forces. To take the city, they’ll need American help.

But taking Raqqa is only the first step. As I previously wrote, the problem is holding it.

Support from local Sunni Arabs helps explain why ISIS successfully took so much territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014. Both Assad and former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki governed as Shia sectarians. (Assad is an Alawite, an offshoot of Shia Islam, and both governments are friendly with Iran). The Sunni Arabs situated between Damascus and Baghdad felt oppressed, and many accepted ISIS — which adheres to a fundamentalist version of Sunni Islam — as a less bad alternative.

If the post-ISIS government in Raqqa lacks popular support, it will foment another Sunni Arab insurgency. Someone has to hold the territory, and do it in a way that provides security without alienating the people.

There’s no indication Syrian Sunni Arabs have the capacity to control the city. And if the Kurds try to do it, Turkey might attack.

Assad believes the territory is rightfully his, and will probably try to take it. If he ends up controlling Raqqa, he’ll oppress local Sunnis, especially since he holds Syria’s Sunni majority responsible for the country’s civil war. Should Assad’s forces advance, would the Americans get in their way? That might require fighting the Syrian military, and risks war with Russia.

Alternatively, if the United States can manage this diplomatically, and keep Syria, Russia, and Turkey out of it, there won’t be anyone with the capacity to provide post-ISIS security. The U.S. would have to assist local forces, and train them so they can eventually handle it themselves.

That sounds an awful lot like the occupation of Iraq. The scale would be smaller, but it would still take a long commitment. American forces would sustain casualties, and the effort could still fail.

While the American people may be okay with this latest escalation, and don’t seem to mind the legal issues of doing so under a stretched 2001 AUMF, they probably oppose a long occupation.

This latest escalation could easily lead to another. And another. Vietnam began with advisers and repeatedly escalated, and while I doubt the fight against ISIS ends up anywhere near that big a commitment, the public should still be talking about it. President Trump has not discussed his intentions in Syria with the American people, and the media should be demanding answers.

Instead, everyone’s fixated on So You Think You Can President, the world’s biggest reality show, while the country heads down an uncertain path, with no end in sight.

The Deep State’s Hatred of Trump Is Not the Same as Yours

Posted on Mar 2, 2017

By Paul Street

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Last October, three weeks before the presidential election, I wrote an essay for left progressives titled “The Ruling Class’s Hatred of Trump is Different Than Yours.” People on the left, I noted, loathed the white-nationalist, quasi-fascist Donald Trump because of his sexism, racism, nativism, authoritarianism, militarism, “law and order” police-state-ism, anti-intellectualism, his regressive arch-plutocracy, fake populism, climate denialism and promise to “deregulate energy” and thereby escalate the petro-capitalist, greenhouse gassing-to-death of life on earth.

The establishment’s contempt for the orange-haired beast, I noted, was different. The nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire were perfectly willing to live with most, if not all, of what the left hated about Trump. After all, I reasoned, they’d been backing or tolerating most or all of those terrible things under presidents from both major United States parties for decades.

Trump, I wrote, faced ruling-class disdain because he was considered bad for transnational capital and the American empire. For the most part, the “deep state” masters who backed Hillary Clinton did not appreciate The Donald’s blustering promises to roll back the neoliberal “free trade” agenda in the name of the forgotten working class. The foreign policy and “national security” establishment especially hated his criticism of Washington’s long march toward war with Russia.

They did not relish the related threat Trump posed to Brand America. It is longstanding, bipartisan, U.S. ruling-class doctrine that this country is the world’s great beacon and agent of democracy, human rights, justice and freedom. American reality has never matched the doctrine, but smart rulers knew that it would be especially difficult to align those claims with a president like Trump.

As a presidential candidate, Trump openly exhibited racist, nativist, sexist, arch-authoritarian, police-state-ist, Islamophobic, pro-torture, and even neofascist sentiments and values. “If our system of government is an oligarchy with a façade of democratic and constitutional process,” the veteran congressional staffer Mike Lofgren wrote last summer in the preface to his book “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government,” “Trump would not only rip that façade away for the entire world to behold; he would take our system’s ugliest features and intensify them.” They also had policy differences with Trump’s “isolationist” and “anti-trade” rhetoric. That is why the nation’s economic and foreign-policy elites preferred Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio over Trump in the Republican primaries and Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Flash forward to the present. Horrified at the rise of an Insane Clown President who evokes chilling echoes of classic fascism, millions have taken to the streets. The issues that concern the swirling, record-setting crowds that have arisen from coast to coast are evident on their homemade signs.They include women’s and civil rights, climate change, social justice, racism, nativism, the police state, mass incarceration, plutocracy, authoritarianism, immigrant rights, low wages, economic inequality (the top tenth of the upper U.S. 1 percent now owns more wealth than the nation’s bottom 90 percent), hyper-militarism and the devaluation of science and education. The marches and protests are about the threats Trump poses to peace, social justice, the rule of law, livable ecology and democracy.

Meanwhile, the national corporate media and the U.S. intelligence community have been attacking Trump for a very different and strange reason. They have claimed, with no serious or credible evidence, that Trump is, for some bizarre reason, a tool of the Russian state. The charge is as wacky as anything Glenn Beck or, for that matter, Trump (former leader of the preposterous “birther movement”), used to say about President Obama. Citing vague and unsubstantiated CIA reports, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other forces in the establishment media want Americans to believe that, in Glenn Greenwald’s properly mocking words, “Donald Trump is some kind of an agent or a spy of Russia, or that he is being blackmailed by Russia and is going to pass secret information to the Kremlin and endanger American agents on purpose.”

Beneath the wild and unsubstantiated charge that Trump is some kind of Moscow-controlled Manchurian president is a determination to cripple and perhaps remove Trump because he wants to normalize U.S. relations with Russia. Why, you might ask, would smoothing things over between Washington and Moscow be a terrible thing? It wouldn’t be for everyday Americans who don’t want to see themselves, their children and their grandchildren blown up in a nuclear war over, say, Ukraine (where the Obama administration provocatively helped create a fascist, NATO-affiliated regime on Russia’s western border) or Crimea (where the vast majority of the population welcomed reversion to Russia).

The U.S. power elite—rooted in key deep-state institutions like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, The Washington Post and The New York Times—thinks differently. As Mike Whitney recently explained on Counterpunch, Trump’s failure to grasp the necessity of the New Cold War with Russia “threat[ens] … Washington’s broader imperial strategy to control China’s growth, topple Putin, spread military bases across Central Asia, implement trade agreements that maintain the dominant role of western-owned mega-corporations, and derail attempts by Russia and China to link the wealthy EU to Asia by expanding the web of pipeline corridors and high-speed rail that will draw the continents closer together creating the largest and most populous free trade zone the world has ever seen. … The economic integration of Asia and Europe must be blocked to preserve Washington’s hegemonic grip on world power.”

This is CFR-led, U.S. “Open Door” Imperialism 101.

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Don’t be fooled by how much CNN’s anchors enjoy broadcasting images of mass anti-Trump popular protests. The U.S. imperial, financial and corporate establishment doesn’t care about the plight of the Standing Rock water and climate protectors, livable ecology, Muslim communities, Latino immigrants, Black Lives Matter activists, poor blacks, civil liberties, the working class (white and nonwhite) or Trump’s recent, insane, budget-busting call for a 10 percent increase in the U.S. military budget.

The Trump presidency is a problem for the American establishment for some very different reasons. He’s a public relations and marketing disaster for Brand USA. How do you sell the United States as a great model and agent of freedom, democracy and cultural diversity when its visible state is captained by vicious, white-nationalist authoritarians like the Twitter-addicted “thin-skinned megalomaniac” Trump and his quasi-fascist “alt-right” Svengali, Steve Bannon?

Trump is seen by many American elites as too stupid, narcissistic and crude to head the world’s most powerful nation. It’s an understandable concern. As The New York Times noted, Trump “spent the first 48 hours of his presidency bickering about the size of the inauguration crowd.”

We’ve never heard a U.S. president say anything as dangerously idiotic as what Trump proclaimed to the nation’s governors on Monday while calling for an over-the-top and dead-in-the-water increase in the Pentagon budget. “We have to start winning wars again. … We never win,” said the new commander in chief, who stands atop a giant nuclear stockpile (the U.S. owns more than 5,100 nuclear warheads) with the capacity to blow the world up many times over. “When I was young, in high school and in college,” the Vietnam-era draft dodger added, “everybody used to say we never lost a war. America never lost. Now, we never win a war.”

Talking so flippantly and childishly about wars and the nation’s need to “win” them—this without even referring to any purportedly legitimate war aims in the nuclear era—is beyond the ruling-class pale. It’s not that the establishment is pacifist or squeamish about killing people. Far from it. The American empire’s body count runs into the many millions over the last half-century alone. But Trump’s juvenile language makes the U.S. look all too transparently like a recklessly daft rogue state, not the wise and “indispensable nation” it has long been purported to be.

Recall Trump’s talk to the CIA on his first full day in office. In a rambling speech broadcast on CNN and other cable news outlets, he complained like a petulant junior high student about the media’s supposed underestimation of the number of people at his inauguration. Then he told stone-faced senior intelligence officials that the U.S. might get another chance to go into Iraq and “get the oil.”

The world shuddered two weeks ago when a U.S. Army officer posed for a photograph with a wealthy patron at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort while carrying the “nuclear football”—the suitcase that carries the launch codes for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The new president is going to spend many of his presidential weekends at his opulent Mar-a-Lago resort, where the membership fee doubled to $200,000 after he was elected, and members now have new rules to follow.

George W. Bush also was over his head in the White House. Still, with his longstanding, ruling-class, establishment pedigree and his history as a graduate of Yale’s secret Skull and Bones society, he had the decency and, well, the class, to know his limits and place. He subjected himself to certain rules of conduct imposed by his vice president and other more competent and knowledgeable handlers.

The malignant narcissist and Twitter-addicted Trump is a different breed. He might be able to clean himself up enough to read a semicivilized and half-conciliatory speech to Congress (earning thereby a fantastic description as “presidential” from the noted sycophant Van Jones). Still, he seems unable to stop himself from doing and saying things that shred the veneer of a wise, far-seeing and benevolent American empire.

Then there’s been his related failure to grasp the necessity of focusing his dangerous imperial energies on Russia.

Has Trump and/or the people around him gotten the message on Russia? Perhaps. He agreed to get rid of his incompetent and insufficiently anti-Russian national security adviser, Michael Flynn, under establishment pressure. Flynn’s replacement is Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who views Russia as a “hostile revisionist power” that “annex(es) territory, intimidates our allies, develops nuclear weapons, and uses proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries.” Two weeks ago, the White House said Russia needs to return Crimea to Ukraine—a preposterous statement that may reflect a newfound willingness for play along with New Cold War rhetoric. In his first annual address to Congress on Tuesday, Trump signaled strong support for Russia’s great antagonist, NATO.

Still, don’t expect the Trump-as-a-tool-of-Russia talk to go away. It’s too irresistible for Democrats to drop. Besides working to delegitimize Trump (something Democrats hope to turn to their advantage in 2018 and 2020), the blame-the-Kremlin narrative helps New Cold Warriors atop both reigning parties keep the heat on Moscow. It helps them hedge in Trump’s lingering promise of rapprochement with Russia.

At the same time, the Russia card helps the corporatists atop the Democratic Party avoid responsibility for blowing the election. After defeating the progressive Democrat Bernie Sanders (who would have defeated Trump) in dubious ways, the neoliberal Democrats ran a hopelessly wooden, Wall Street-captive and corruption-tainted candidate (Hillary Clinton) who couldn’t mobilize enough working- and lower-class voters to defeat the hypernoxious and widely hated Trump. The “Moscow stole it” story line is a fancy version of “the dog ate my homework” for a dismal, dollar-drenched Democratic Party that abandoned the working class and the causes of peace, social justice and environmental sustainability long ago.

The moneyed masters in charge of the “inauthentic opposition” party (the late, left-liberal political scientist Sheldon Wolin’s all-too-accurate description of the Democrats nine years ago) would rather not take a long, hard and honest look at what that political organization has become. It does not want to concede anything to those who dream of turning it into an authentically progressive opposition party. The “Russia did it” imputation works for establishment Democrats hoping to stave off demands from more progressive and populist types (who recently came close to claiming the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee) in their own party. So much better to blame external others for the richly deserved near-collapse of their party at all levels.

The Russia card also has proved tempting to U.S. progressives who should and may know better. Their understandable passion for seeing Herr Trump humiliated and removed from office has led some of them down a disturbing path. As Gareth Porter has noted, “Many people who oppose Trump for other valid reasons have seized on the shaky Russian accusations because they represent the best possibility for ousting Trump from power.” It’s a big mistake. Porter reflects and warns:

But ignoring the motives and the dishonesty behind the campaign of leaks has far-reaching political implications. Not only does it help to establish a precedent for U.S. intelligence agencies to intervene in domestic politics, as happens in authoritarian regimes all over the world, it also strengthens the hand of the military and intelligence bureaucracies who are determined to maintain the New Cold War with Russia.

Those war bureaucracies view the conflict with Russia as key to the continuation of higher levels of military spending and the more aggressive NATO policy in Europe that has already generated a gusher of arms sales that benefits the Pentagon and its self-dealing officials.

Progressives in the anti-Trump movement are in danger of becoming an unwitting ally of those military and intelligence bureaucracies despite the fundamental conflict between their economic and political interests and the desires of people who care about peace, social justice and the environment.

Do serious progressives committed to democracy, peace and social justice really want to lie down in the same warmongering and pro-surveillance bed as the CIA and the Pentagon? Doing so is bad for their souls and moral integrity. It’s also bad for democracy and for peace to help empower and legitimize the imperial system’s unelected and infamously nefarious deep state “intelligence” bureaucracy, “maybe the only [Washington] faction worse than Donald Trump,” according to Greenwald. As Whitney wisely counsels, “Leftists should avoid the temptation of aligning themselves with groups and agencies that might help them achieve their short-term goal of removing Trump, but ultimately move them closer to a de facto 1984 lock-down police state. Misplaced support for the deep state Russophobes will only strengthen the national security state’s stranglehold on power. That’s not a path to victory, it’s a path to annihilation.”

Take to the streets (and highways, town plazas, fossil-fuel extraction sites, shop floors, assembly halls, airwaves and airports, etc.) against Trump, by all means. But also take to the streets against the grim neoliberal Democrats who opened the barn door for his dangerous presidency and against the unelected “deep state” interests working always to increase the ever-upward concentration of global capitalist wealth and power. We don’t want to bring Trump down just to help install an administration more properly suited to selling and otherwise advancing American empire, inequality and ecocide.

The United States has been losing the war in Afghanistan, Trump will continue to lose as well

Still No Victory in Sight

The United States has been losing the war in Afghanistan. Whether or not Trump delivers a “surge” of new troops there, he will continue to lose that war.

DVIDSHUB / Flickr

America’s war in Afghanistan is now in its sixteenth year, the longest foreign war in our history. The phrase “no end in sight” barely covers the situation.

Prospects of victory — if victory is defined as eliminating that country as a haven for Islamist terrorists while creating a representative government in Kabul — are arguably more tenuous today than at any point since the US military invaded in 2001 and routed the Taliban. Such “progress” has, over the years, invariably proven “fragile” and “reversible,” to use the weasel words of General David Petraeus who oversaw the Afghan “surge” of 2010-2011 under President Obama. To cite just one recent data point: the Taliban now controls 15 percent more territory than it did in 2015.

That statistic came up in recent Senate testimony by the US commanding general in Afghanistan, John “Mick” Nicholson Jr, who is (to give no-end-in-sight further context) the twelfth US commander since the war began. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he called for several thousand more US troops to break what he optimistically described as a “stalemate.” Those troops would, he added, serve mainly as advisers and trainers to Afghan forces, facilitating what he labeled “hold-fight-disrupt” operations.

As to how long they would be needed, the general was vague indeed. He spoke of the necessity of sustaining “an enduring counter-terrorism (CT) platform” in Afghanistan to bottle up terrorist forces, so they wouldn’t, as he put it, hit us in the “homeland.” Indeed, the US military considers what it has begun to speak of as a “generational” war in that country “successful” because no major attacks on the United States have had their roots in Afghanistan since September 11, 2001.

And that certainly qualifies as one of the stranger definitions of success in a perpetual war that lacks a sound strategy.

Of Stalemates and Petri Dishes

You know America is losing a war when its officials resort to bad metaphors to describe its progress and prospects.

A classic case was the infamous “light at the end of the tunnel” metaphor from the Vietnam War years. It implied that, although prospects might appear dark — that “tunnel” of war — progress was indeed being made and, in the distance, victory (that “light”) could be glimpsed. Contrast this with World War II, when progress was measured not by empty words (or misleading metrics like body counts or truck counts) but by land masses invaded and cities and islands wrested from the enemy. Normandy and Berlin, Iwo Jima and Okinawa are place names that still resonate with Allied heroism and sacrifice. That kind of progress could be seen on a map and was felt in the gut; metaphors were superfluous.

Afghanistan, US military theorists claim, is a different kind of war, a fourth-generation war fought in a “gray zone”; a mish-mash, that is, of low-intensity and asymmetric conflicts, involving non-state actors, worsened by the meddling of foreign powers like Pakistan, Iran, and Russia — all mentioned in General Nicholson’s testimony. (It goes without saying that the United States doesn’t see its military presence there as foreign.) A skeptic might be excused for concluding that, to the US military, fourth-generation warfare really means a conflict that will last four generations.

Long and losing wars seem to encourage face-saving analogies and butt-covering metaphors. For General Nicholson, Afghanistan is actually a “petri dish” that, as in a laboratory of terror, has cultivated no fewer than twenty “DNA strands” of terrorist bad guys joined by three violent extremist organizations — VEOs in military-speak. To prevent a “convergence” of all these strands and outfits and so, assumedly, the creation of a super terror bug of some sort, Nicholson suggested, America and its thirty-nine-member coalition in Afghanistan must stand tall and send in yet more troops.

As it turns out, our twelfth commanding general there isn’t the first to resort to biology and a “petri dish” to explain a war that just won’t end. In 2010, during the Afghan surge, General Stanley McChrystal referred to the community of Nawa in southern Afghanistan as his “number one petri dish.” As the Washington Post reported at the time, McChrystal “had hoped the antibodies generated there [during its pacification] could be harnessed and replicated [elsewhere in Afghanistan]. But that hasn’t yet happened.”

Nor has it happened in the intervening seven years. McChrystal’s petri dish experiment failed, yet his metaphor lives on, even if now used in a somewhat different way, with the entire country (including parts of Pakistan) serving as that “dish” and terrorists, not American troops and friendly Afghans, multiplying in it.

It may not be the most appetizing metaphor, but you can at least understand why American leaders might prefer it to the classic one applied to foreign attempts to pacify Afghanistan back in the ancient days of European colonial experiments: “graveyard of empires.”

To summarize Nicholson mixed-metaphorically: Afghanistan is a “petri dish” in which terrorist “strands” are “converging” to create a “stalemate” that is weakening America’s “enduring CT platform,” which could lead to terrorist attacks on the “homeland.” Let’s take that one apart, piece by piece. Is the Afghan War truly a stalemate, as in a game of chess? That hardly seems to fit a situation in which the end game is — as the Pentagon with its generational thinking and Nicholson with his request for more troops suggest — hardly in sight.

In fact, at a time when the Afghan government may control less than 60 percent of its territory and its security forces are taking staggering, possibly unsustainable casualties, other players, not the US-led coalition, seem to have the momentum.

What about that “enduring CT platform” — the presence, that is, of those US and NATO troops (together with private military contractors), all showing “resolute support” for the Afghan people so as to keep us safe at home? What if, in fact, their presence is perpetuating the very war they say they are seeking to end? Can Afghanistan of the present moment truly be described as an experiment in terrorist biology, and if so are US-led “kinetic” efforts to kill those strands of terror working instead to create an even nastier virus?

Above all, are such metaphors just a way of avoiding the absurdity of suggesting that a few thousand (or even a surge-worthy thirty thousand) more US troops could possibly turn a never-ending, losing war into a victorious one almost sixteen years later?

Grim Honesty Among the Ground-Pounders

For grim honesty, skip those metaphor-wielding commanding generals so deeply invested in a war that they can neither admit to losing nor contemplate leaving. Look instead to the ground-pounders, the plain-speaking corporals and captains who have met that war face to face, up close and personal.

Consider, for instance, a 2010 HBO documentary, The Battle for Marjah. Seven years ago, in a much larger military effort than the one presently being contemplated, US troops joined with Afghan forces to secure the town of Marjah in Helmand Province in the opium-growing heart of the country.

The documentary followed a US Marine unit, which fought valiantly to clear that town of the Taliban in accordance with the counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine then experiencing a revival under Petraeus and McChrystal. The goal was to rebuild its institutions and infrastructure so US troops could ultimately leave. As usual, the Marines kicked ass: they cleared the town. But the price of holding it proved dear, while efforts to build a local Afghan government to replace them failed. Today, as much as 80 percent of Helmand Province is under Taliban control.

The documentary’s harshest lessons come almost as visual asides. While Taliban insurgents fought with spirit, Afghan government forces, then as now, fought reluctantly. US troops had to force them to enter and clear buildings. In one case, a Marine takes a rifle away from an Afghan soldier because the latter keeps pointing the muzzle at “friendly” forces.

We witness Afghan troops holding a half-hearted ceremony to salute their government’s flag after Marjah is “liberated.” Meanwhile, the faces of ordinary Afghans alternate between beleaguered stoicism and thinly veiled hostility. Few appear to welcome their foreign liberators, whether US or Afghan. (The Afghan government units, hailing from the north, were ethnically different and spoke another language.) An Afghan shown working with the Marines was assassinated soon after the US withdrawal.

A tired Marine corporal put it all in perspective: for him, the Afghan War was a “mind-fuck.” At least he rotated out sooner or later. The Afghan people have had no such luck. To mix metaphors and wars, they were stuck in the big muddy of their “petri dish.”

Let’s turn to another ground-pounding Marine of more recent vintage, Captain Joshua Waddell. A decorated combat veteran of the war, he penned an article for this month’s Marine Corps Gazette in which he lambasts the US military for its “self-delusion.” He writes:

It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Objective analysis of the US military’s effectiveness in these wars can only conclude that we were unable to translate tactical victory into operational and strategic success.

Supporting Waddell’s “lost war” conclusion is General Nicholson’s own testimony, which cited the same old problems in the Afghan military: too many “ghost” (fake) soldiers — others, often commanders, pocket their salaries — indicating widespread and endemic corruption; unmotivated leadership, made worse by crippling shortages of skilled junior officers and noncommissioned officers; and too many unmanned Afghan checkpoints. (Those “ghost” soldiers, so good at funneling money to their creators, turn out to be bad indeed at securing checkpoints.)

Seeing Only What We Want to See

Given such a grim assessment, what difference, you might wonder, would just a few thousand more American troops make, when it comes to tipping the Afghan “stalemate” in Washington’s favor? In fact, General Nicholson’s humble request is undoubtedly only an opening wedge in the Trumpian door through which future, far higher troop requests are then likely to enter.

Asked by Senator Lindsey Graham whether he could do the job in Afghanistan with fifty thousand troops, which would quadruple coalition forces there, Nicholson answered with a “yes”; when asked about thirty thousand US and other NATO troops, he was less sure.

With that number of fifty thousand now out there in Washington, does anyone doubt that Nicholson or his successor(s) will sooner or later press the president to launch the next Afghan surge? How else to counter all those terrorist strands in that petri dish? (This, of course, represents déjà vu all over again, given the Obama surge that added thirty thousand troops to seventy thousand already in Afghanistan and yet failed to yield sustainable results.)

That a few thousand troops could somehow reverse the present situation and ensure progress toward victory is obviously a fantasy of the first order, one that barely papers over the reality of these last years: that Washington has been losing the war in Afghanistan and will continue to do so, no matter how it fiddles with troop levels.

Whether Soviet or American, whether touting communism or democracy, outside troops to Afghan eyes are certainly just that: outsiders, foreigners. They represent an invasive presence. For many Afghans, the “terrorist strands” in the petri dish are not only the Taliban or other Islamist sects; they are us. We are among those who must be avoided or placated in the struggle to stay alive — along with government forces, seen by some Afghans as collaborators to the occupiers (that’s us again). In short, we and our putative Afghan allies are in that same petri dish, thrashing about and causing harm, driving the very convergence of terrorist forces we say we are seeking to avoid.

All the metaphors and images do, however, suggest one thing — that Afghanistan isn’t real to American leaders, much as Vietnam wasn’t to an earlier generation of them. It’s not grasped as a sophisticated culture with a long and rich history. Those in charge see it and its people only through the reductive and distorting lens of their never-ending war and then reduce what little they see to terms that play well to politicians and the public back home.

Stalemate? We can break it. Platform? We can firm it up and launch attacks from it. Petri dish? We can contain it, then control it, and finally eradicate it with our lethal medicines. What they refuse to do, however, is widen that lens, deepen their vision, and see the Afghan people as a richly complex society that Washington will never (and should never try to) dominate and reshape into our image of a country.

The question now is what President Donald Trump will do. If past is prologue, he will end up approving Nicholson’s request, in part because his leading generals, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser HR McMaster, and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, are so psychically and professionally linked to the Afghan War. (Mattis oversaw that war while serving as head of US Central Command, McMaster held a command post in Kabul, and Kelly’s son was killed there while on patrol.)

Yet if Trump gives Nicholson the troops he wants — and then more of the same — he will merely be echoing the failed policies of his predecessors, while prolonging a war that will prove endless as long as foreign forces continue to meddle in Afghan affairs. His will then be a fate foretold in a war in which Washington’s greatest foe has always been self-deception.

First published at TomDispatch.

The U.S. Calculus for Sudan

“The Clinton U.S. Calculus for Sudan Intervention ratio: One American casualty is worth about 85,000 Rwandan dead.”

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By Eric Reeves

Quantifying Human Destruction and Suffering in Sudan: The grim calculus of international policies and politics

 

February 12, 2017 (SSNA) — Towards the end of her long chapter on the Rwanda genocide in “A Problem From Hell” (2002), Samantha Power renders a moment from this terrible international failure that has long haunted me. It is both unforgettable in its implications and points to far too much that is unforgivable. The moment occurred in late July 1994 as the U.S. under then-President Bill Clinton finally managed to step away from its absurd sophistries and the moral cowardice that had defined American policy during the horrific months of carnage, which were at this point essentially over. Prior to the deployment of 200 U.S. troops to protect the Kigali airport, the UN force commander of UNAMIR, Lt.-General Rómeo Dallaire, received a phone call:

A U.S. officer was wondering about precisely how many Rwandans had died. Dallaire was puzzled and asked why he wanted to know. “We are doing our calculations back here,” the U.S. officer said, “and one American casualty is worth about 85,000 Rwandan dead.” (page 381, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide)

I see no reason to doubt Dallaire’s recollection, offered less than eight years after the events of spring 1994—and certainly not having met with Dallaire and encountered the searing authority and detail of his soul-destroying memoire, Shake Hands with the Devil: Humanity’s Failure in Rwanda. Moreover, what struck me as such an obscene calculus on the part of the U.S. military in 1994 no longer seems so strange. Indeed, in one form or another, it governs current actions by the U.S. military—in all its dimensions and guises—every day. The assessment of civilian casualty risks in U.S. drone strikes on suspected terrorist locations is only one example. No, what seems strange to me now is that any U.S. military officer would venture to be so specific about a calculus that included such a ratio: “one American casualty is worth about 85,000 Rwandan dead.”

Perhaps the savage cynicism in such a calculus was simply too conspicuously in evidence. Certainly Susan Rice, then young in her government career, came to regret an equally cynical comment—recorded by Power in the same chapter, about actually “doing something,” even daring to use the word “genocide” (this in late April of 1994):

…Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC…stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] elections?” Lieutenant Colonel [Tony] Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. “We could believe that people would wonder that,” he says, “but not that they would actually voice it.” (page 359)

[Power’s paragraph concludes: “Rice does not recall the incident but concedes, ‘If I said it, it was completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant.’” – Yes…yes indeed…]What I attempt here is an overview analysis of the quantitative implications that follow from continuation of such a ghastly and cynical calculus in other forms, specifically the forms it takes in the Sudan policies of various international actors of consequence. For in fact, this cynicism lies behind the disingenuousness, mendacity, and deliberate ignorance of so much that defines the Sudan policies of Western nations, the UN, the African Union, the Arab League, and the Organization of Islamic Conference. It is finally the same cynicism as experienced by General Dallaire and given voice by Susan Rice.

The Savage Calculus at Work

The calculus I adumbrate is certainly not peculiarly American. European countries, particularly the UK and Germany, are desperate to stem the flow of African refugees to the European continent; and they have calculated that the benefits to stanching this flow justifies a policy of rapprochement with the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Khartoum. To be sure, European policy is also animated by commercial and other economic interests. Europe has never seen an obligation to impose economic sanctions on the Khartoum regime, even when in 2004 the Parliament of the European Union, almost unanimously, declared that the actions of that regime in Darfur were “tantamount to genocide.” Economic and commercial interests have long prevailed, despite unctuous public pronouncements of concern by various European leaders.

So conspicuous has the hypocrisy of Europe been that French banking giant BNP Paribas was emboldened, in the interest of huge profits, to abandon all concern for any atrocities committed by the Khartoum regime. In doing so it deliberately chose to violate U.S. financial sanctions on a massive scale—from within the U.S. itself. This led to the 2015 criminal conviction of BNP Paribas by the U.S. Justice Department—for violations so flagrant that the Deputy Attorney General described BNP Paribas as Khartoum’s “central banker” abroad, thereby insulating the regime from the most serious consequences of the most significant element of U.S. sanctions. There was no moral calculus at all—no regard whatsoever for the destructive consequences of providing “financial save haven” to a regime has engaged in brutal, finally genocidal counter-insurgency wars on Sudan’s peripheries since 1989. The details for the years 1997 – 2007 are outlined in extraordinary detail in a class action civil suit filed on behalf of Sudanese victims (in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Case 1:16-cv-03228-AJN; full text of the Complaint is available upon request).

The Sudanese Economy Without BNP Paribas as de facto Central Banker

The Sudan policies of most European governments are guided by the willfully ignorant and self-serving economic “calculation” that somehow the people of Sudan will be helped if a savagely repressive, self-enriching, and genocidal regime is preserved. The evidence to the contrary here is simply overwhelming and makes nonsense of any such calculation as it informs European policies, whatever fig-leaf of “country concern” is provided. The realities are that the regime continues to function conspicuously as an extremely powerful kleptocracy, with policies of self-enrichment that are now badly undermining the country’s economy (see http://sudanreeves.org/2015/12/09/7041/).

That economy is in an irreversible nose-dive, a collapse catalyzed by the desperately inadequate investment policies of the past decade and more, indeed since oil revenues began pouring into Khartoum in 1999. There has been no meaningful investment in agriculture; the sector that should be the backbone of the economy is collapsing, even the famous Gezira Scheme. At the same time, severe water shortages are constantly reported from around the country; these are but one reflection of the regime’s refusal to invest in infrastructure projects than benefit the general population of Sudan. The current, widespread outbreak of deadly cholera in Sudan can be traced directly to the failure to provide adequate supplies of clean water, especially in places like Port Sudan, where the minority Beja population is so numerous. Nor was any adequate refining capacity built during the years flush with petro-dollars; now Sudan is forced to import large quantities of refined petroleum products, including cooking fuel, prices for which have skyrocketed for a number of years.

In refusing to plan for the loss of oil revenues that came with the 2011 secession of South Sudan, Khartoum set in motion a series of cascading economic crises. Foremost among them was the sharp decline in the influx of hard currency. Without the foreign exchange currency (Forex) that had been generated by large oil exports, Khartoum has been unable to purchase sufficient quantities of critical items from abroad, including not only cooking fuel, but urgently needed medicines, and even wheat to make into flour for bread, the staple food for many. Bread prices have also seen an enormous spike, and there are severe shortages as well as long lines for purchase. Broader inflation is likely in the range of 50 percent, and perhaps higher.

There are no reliable inflation figures from either the regime or the IMF, the latter another corrupt actor in international policy views of Sudan. In an October 2013 “IMF News Release,” Edward Gemayel, the IMF’s Mission Chief for Sudan, declared that: “Sudan has a long track record of implementing sustainable economic policies” (http://www.4-traders.com/news/IMF-International-Monetary-Fund-Press-Release-Sudan-Meeting-of-the-Technical-Working-Group-on-E–17345158/). Preposterous and demonstrably false declarations such as this have served the Khartoum regime well for the past two decades. But economic realities are not hard to discern, despite the mendacity of men like Gemayel.

How, we must wonder, would Gemayel characterize the current military and security budget for the Khartoum regime as demonstrating “a long track record of implementing sustainable economic policies,” particularly in light of the allocation percentages and the final remark by President al-Bashir? —

Sudan allocates $1.8 billion for defense in 2017 | Sudan Tribune, December 23, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan has appropriated more than 29 billion pounds (SDG) (about $1.8 billion) to defense and security which represents the largest single spending item in the 2017 budget. According to Sudan’s 2017 budgetary estimates seen by Sudan Tribune, 5 billion pounds have been allocated to the sovereign sector while 2.3 billion was appropriated for agriculture and forests spending. Other budget spending items includes 1.9 billion for the economic sector, 5.5 million for culture and information, 5.3 million for health, 828 million for education, 1.7 billion for minerals and 1.7 billion for transport, roads and bridges.

It is noteworthy that the combined education and health spending represents about 3% of spending on defence and security.

The Sudanese army has been fighting Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan since 2011 and a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003. Sudan’s security apparatus has expanded vastly and military expenditure continued to rise as the government relies increasingly on militias such as the Popular Defense Forces (PDF) and the Rapid Support Forces (SRF) in military operations.

Last year, Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir said,

If 100% of the state’s budget was allocated to the army to secure the country, then that is still not enough.”

Given such budgetary priorities, it is hardly surprising that the value of the Sudanese Pound—the best barometer of the general availability of hard currency (inside and outside the Central Bank of Sudan)—has been declining precipitously for several years, reaching record low after record low—all thoroughly reported. Only cash infusions from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States keeps the economy from utter catastrophe. These infusions are seen as the necessary cost of preserving estrangement between Khartoum and Iran, formerly the regime’s “key strategic ally” (see leaked minutes from meeting of senior regime military and security officials, August 31, 2014http://sudanreeves.org/2014/10/22/new-and-exceedingly-accurate-translation-into-e/).

If Europe, the UN, the IMF and others would only look honestly at the economic policies of the NIF/NCP regime, going back to the military coup that brought it to power in 1989, they would of course see that whatever putative gains may be realized by normalizing relations with this junta, the policies of rapprochement only provide support for economic self-destruction destruction and ongoing genocidal tyranny. The regime feels emboldened because of the widespread, deliberate ignoring of news from Sudanese news sources, news that if taken seriously would interfere with the counter-productive international policies now firmly in place.

So spectacular is the ignorance required to justify European policy views, that it is finally not credible: what we are witnessing is not true ignorance (although there is plenty of this) but “ignorance by selectivity.” By picking and choosing which reports seem to justify current policies, the Europeans have effectively created their state of ignorance. The three major human rights reports on Sudan of the past two years by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have gained no real traction, despite the horrific atrocities documented on the basis of countless interviews conducted by researchers for these reports.

In the end the conclusion is inevitable: the European economic and refugee policies in place and being implemented are simply the European version of a statement made by the U.S. Special Envoy for the Sudan, Princeton Lyman, in December 2011:

“We [the Obama administration] do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (Interview with Asharq al-Awsat, December 3, 2011 | http://english.aawsat.com/2011/12/article55244147/asharq-al-awsat-talks-to-us-special-envoy-to-sudan-princeton-lyman)

The U.S. Calculus for Sudan

In the case of the U.S., at least since the terrorist attacks of September 11, Sudan policy has increasingly reflected a trade-off between, on the one hand, the putative value of Khartoum’s providing counter-terrorism intelligence and, on the other, the knowledge that in providing critical diplomatic cover for the survival of the NIF/NCP regime, the U.S. is complicit in the repression and atrocity crimes of that regime.

Certainly any survey of what has transpired between Lyman’s interview of December 2011 and the present, certainly in the way of political “reform,” makes clear how preposterous his assertion was. Also clear are the brutal consequences of his deliberately false suggestion about what the NIF/NCP regime is capable of. For of course Lyman was not so ignorant as to have believed that the regime could actually preside over “reform [of Sudan] via constitutional measures.” Rather, it was a statement made to preserve the status quo in relations between Khartoum and the Obama administration, which was continuing policies begun under the Bush administration and which have been consistently defined by demands from the U.S. intelligence community. Khartoum, as a senior regime official recently boasted, now is home to one of the largest and most important U.S. intelligence listening posts in the Middle East (see photo).

To put the matter in terms that would be familiar to General Dallaire, Lyman was implicitly declaring that such a trade-off was “worth it” in terms of American lives saved from potential terrorists threats, working on the problematic assumption that Khartoum could help us avert such threats. Lyman made this calculation on behalf of the Obama administration, knowing that he was speaking about a regime that would continue to impose catastrophic humanitarian embargoes on many hundreds of thousands of Sudanese civilians, embargoes that continue to this day; a regime that would mercilessly and continuously bomb civilians in various regions of the country; a regime that soon after Lyman’s statement would replace the Janjaweed of Darfur with the much better armed and organized militia force known as the Rapid Support Forces wreaking even more terrible havoc; and a regime that would be perfectly capable of using chemical weapons, as it did during the 2016 military campaign of extermination in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur:

(Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air: Sudanese Government Forces Ravage Jebel Marra, Darfur,” Amnesty International | 109 pages; released September 29, 2016).

And as for political “reform,” what we have seen in Sudan during the five intervening years is a dramatic growth in repression, increasing numbers of arrests and torturing of human rights advocates (singling our Darfuri students in the greater Khartoum area in particular), a severe curtailment of the press, the killing of civilians in September 2013 by security forces that had been issued “shoot to kill” orders—and a re-issuing of the threat to institute such orders by President Omar al-Bashir in December 2016.

Lyman and the Obama administration knew, could not possibly have been ignorant, of the implications of the deal that Lyman was announcing with his interview statement of December 2011. Khartoum, of course, readily accepted the deal—one that has progressed to the point where, in its closing days, the Obama administration decided to lift economic sanctions on Khartoum, a decision subject to review in July 2017 but which the ignorant and malignant Trump administration is hardly likely to reverse, should it even taken notice of the obligation of review—an increasingly unlikely prospect, given the chaos evident in every quarter of the new administration. Khartoum’s recent boast, reported by Sudan Tribune, January 31, 2017

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) office in Khartoum is the largest one in the Middle East, said the Sudanese intelligence General Hanafi Abdallah, to give an idea about the importance of intelligence cooperation between the two countries—

—even if somewhat hyperbolic, reflects confidence that the U.S. will not dare surrender the relatively recent activation of its Khartoum-based intelligence listening post.

In lifting sanctions on Khartoum, the Obama administration was so eager to justify its decision that it resorted to permitting outright falsehoods to be deployed. One apt response to the decision came from Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch, who called the decision simply “inexplicable”:

“There has been no progress on human rights. Sudan’s government has failed to make progress on core benchmarks, from its ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur and other conflict zones, to its extensive repression of independent voices, [Lefkow said].” (Reuters, Washington DC | January 13, 2017)

But most conspicuous among these falsehoods was the claim by Obama administration Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who declared in her final press interview that there had been a “sea change” of improvement in humanitarian access in Sudan. This is patently false, as the State Department has privately made clear. Conspicuously, there has been no public explanation—from any official of either the Obama or Trump administration—of how this claim comports with facts on the ground in Sudan. It is a falsehood that stands as the official view of the U.S. government.

Here we should note that this means a correction has not been offered by key former officials of the Obama administration, including Power herself and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who is a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and knows Sudan well—and knows that Power’s claim is deeply and consequentially false. Why hasn’t she spoken out to offer a correction? And why haven’t we heard from Gayle Smith, formerly a senior official for African Affairs in Obama’s National Security Council and who was Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development until January 20, a week after Power’s press interview? She knows perhaps better than anyone in the former Obama administration how false Power’s claim is: why has she said nothing? Why has she offered no correction?

This is hardly a small matter. Khartoum—which knows perfectly well that it has done nothing to earn the praise that it has been accorded (a “see change” in improved humanitarian access)—will prove only more intransigent in truly improving access for relief workers and supplies. Particularly hard hit will be the areas of the Nuba Mountains that remain, to this very day, under Khartoum’s savagely cruel humanitarian embargo. An experienced and highly knowledgeable humanitarian on the ground in the Nuba conveyed to me his reaction to Power’s “sea change” claim:

“…there’s been absolutely no change in humanitarian access [in the Nuba Mountains—suffering under Khartoum’s humanitarian embargo for over five and a half years]. Not a single grain of sorghum nor one tablet of medicine has entered Nuba from any of the usual humanitarian agencies.” (email from Dr. Tom Catena, the only surgeon operating in the Nuba Mountains; received January 17, 2017)

In an email received today (February 12, 2017) Dr. Catena offered a grim update on the consequences of the humanitarian embargo:

“The situation here is still the same.  Everyone had a poor harvest and is running short of food.  The food available in the market is unaffordable for all but a few people. It’s going to be a long year.”

As this communication makes clear, the consequences of Khartoum’s denial of humanitarian access may well be measured in thousands of lives lost, perhaps tens of thousands if we bear in mind the humanitarian embargo on large parts of Blue Nile and many locations in Darfur. A very recent “Flash Update” from the “South Kordofan/Blue Nile Coordinating Unit” (#14 | February 11, 2017) offers a very grim account that comports all too fully with Dr. Catena’s:

“Deteriorating Food Security Outlook Following Poor Harvest Assessment” 

The recently released Food Security Monitoring Unit (FSMU) report for the period of December 2016 describes a “bleak food security outlook” based on declining harvests compared to the same period last year. According to an early harvest assessment and a decrease in rainfall reported by FEWSNet*, there is a strong indication the region will experience a decline in food production in 2017. This will further increase strain on traditional coping methods and indicates an early onset to the annual lean season…

[Famine Early Warning Systems Network and the US Geological Survey release satellite data on regional evapotranspiration and deviation from historical norms. This measure, the Evapotranspiration Anomaly Index, is a reliable proxy indicator for rainfall. As facilities to directly measure rainfall throughout the area are not available this serves as the best measure for seasonal rains.]Presumably this, too, is all part of the Obama administration’s Sudan policy “calculus.” For if Khartoum believes that the Obama administration has in fact credited the regime with what it has not done, this powerfully diminishes the incentive for a supremely canny regime to meet the supposed “benchmark criterion” for keeping sanctions lifted (one of only two meaningful criteria in President Obama’s Executive Order lifting sanctions). Moreover, it seems extremely unlikely that the character of humanitarian access in Sudan will become an issue during the confused opening months of a Trump administration, an administration that seems incapable of appointing anyone to any position who will taken seriously this critical issue, with life and death implications for many hundreds of thousands of people.

The Ultimate Cynicism

The countries of the West—particularly in North America and Europe—like to think that they are morally superior to such ruthlessly and destructively self-interested actors as Russia and China—and increasingly the African Union, especially its Peace and Security Council. They like to think that the UN would function effectively but for the obstructionist roles of Russia and China on the UN Security Council. But Western “outrage” at the undeniable obstructionism on the part of Russia and China is largely belied when the same “outraged” countries engage in policies that in their way are all too similarly self-interested, offering Sudan only a veneer of moral concern.

The U.S. Criteria for Continuing with Lifting of Sanctions

Besides humanitarian access, the benchmarks for Khartoum to meet in maintaining a suspension of U.S. sanctions are three:

[1] No longer supporting the maniacal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has been reliably reported in the Kafia Kingi enclave—part of South Sudan but controlled militarily by Khartoum; for years Khartoum used the LRA as a fantastically brutal proxy in its war with the South and subsequently—this as a means of gaining leverage with Uganda; the LRA appears to be in its death throes in any event, and even if it were to attempt to reconstitute itself as a consequential threat in the region, it would take much more than six months to do.

[2] No longer interfering militarily in the affairs of South Sudan. Although such military support was to have ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of January 2005, until very recently Khartoum was assisting so-called “Other Armed Groups” (OAG) in South Sudan. This has been conspicuous and well-documented and includes assistance after January 2014 to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/In Opposition, one side in the extraordinarily destructive civil war that has wracked South Sudan for the past four years. Given the self-destruction South Sudan is inflicting upon itself, it costs Sudan very little to commit to “non-interference.”

[3] Ending violence in Darfur and the Two Areas (South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile). Aerial bombardment of civilians is highlighted as a form of violence that will be closely monitored; and there has been a very significant diminishment of this indiscriminate and particularly brutal form of counter-insurgency warfare over the past six months (although for a historical view of Khartoum’s bombing practices see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-Pv/). But ending violence is supposed to include a halting of new military offensives in the regions being monitored, and to understand what levels of violence persists requires taking reporting by Sudanese news organizations seriously, something that the Obama administration has seemed determined to avoid. And it requires taking seriously the September 29, 2016 report (see above) by Amnesty International, which records atrocity crimes that occurred during the 180-day “look back” period: this was the period of time supposedly monitored in making the decision to lift sanctions.

Looking Honestly at Khartoum

A subsequent and considerably more detailed compendium of recent violence will be forthcoming. What is offered here are simply some of the most striking recent examples, highlights, and reports on violence by Khartoum or its militia proxies, strongly suggesting that criterion [3] has already been consequentially violated, and that the Obama administration assessment excludes a tremendous amount of violence orchestrated or sanctioned by the Khartoum regime in the period July 2016 – January 2017 (the most recent example comes from February 2017).

APPENDIX: Comporting with “Criterion Three”?  A compendium of violence in Sudan committed or orchestrated by the Khartoum regime (2017 and later 2016)

[1] One especially valuable reporting resource on violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile is the Sudan Consortium (African and International Civil Society Action for Sudan), working with National Human Rights Monitors Organisation. Their most recent report (October/November 2016)—in the very middle of the Obama administration’s “look back” period in assessing Khartoum’s behavior—tells us the following:

During the months of October and November 2016, incidents of human rights violations in Southern Kordofan (SK) seemed to be on the rise following a lull in the fighting over the previous few months and the humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate. There were nine shelling incidents, generating 89 shells, one looting incident, one bombing incident and one abduction, with three people injured. The shelling incidents created a lot of fear among the population, discouraging some from going to the fields. Antonov planes have been seen circling several times in both SK and Blue Nile (BN) states but our monitors did not report any incidents in BN during the period.

All incidents mentioned in this report constitute a breach of the four-month unilateral ceasefire declared by the President of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, on 17 June 2016, and extended in October to the end of 2016.

SOUTHERN KORDOFAN

Um Dorein County

  • On 14 October 2016, at 8.00am, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) fired four shells on Alnugra village, Tangal Payam, and injured a four month old baby.
  • On 16 October 2016, at 1.00am, SAF fired three shells on Alnugra village, Tangal Payam, and damaged a farm belonging to a woman in the village. The same day at 3.00pm, SAF fired 27 shells on Umserndiba village, Tangal Payam, but no casualties were reported.

Delami County

  • On 5 October 2016, at 2.18pm, from Umhetan town, Umhetan Payam, SAF fired two shells into the area controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/AN). These were civilian settlements but no casualties were reported.
  • On 21 October 2016, at 4.13pm, the Popular Defence Forces (PDF) – a militia allied to the Sudan government – looted 180 cows from three families in Hadara village, Umhetan Payam.

Kadugli County

  • On 21 October 2016, at 8.00am, a 60 year old widow was shot and seriously wounded in the left thigh by the PDF while working on her farm.

The Sudan Consortium has been working with a group of trusted local Sudanese partners who have been monitoring human rights violations committed against the civilian population in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile since the current conflict began in 2011. We believe that the information provides strong evidence that civilians are being directly and deliberately targeted by the Sudanese government in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile as all the attacks referred to in this report were launched against areas that were clearly identifiable as civilian in character.

Um Dorein County

  • On 19 November 2016, at 8.00pm, SAF fired 23 shells on Alnugra village, Tangal Payam, but there were no casualties. The same day, at 8.00pm, SAF also fired five shells on Umserndiba village, Tangal Payam, but there were no casualties.
  • On 24 November 2016, at 12.00am, SAF fired four shells on Umserndiba village, Tangal Payam, and fired seven shells on Alnugra village, Tangal Payam, but there were no casualties in either incident.

Heiban County

  • On 17 November 2016, at 2.00pm, a man was abducted by the PDF while working on his farm in Tembera village, Kumbur Payam. There was no news of his whereabouts by the end of 2016.
  • On 23 November 2016, at 3.15pm, eight rockets were fired on Ardicanan village from Umbrabeta village where government troops are based. The rockets fell within 10 metres of Ardicanan Model Primary Schoolbut the pupils had already gone home for the day and none were injured. However, shrapnel from the rockets broke the hand of a civilian who was travelling to the village market. Additionally, three huts belonging to three families were completely burnt with all property inside.
  • On 24 November 2016, at 2.00pm, nine shells were fired from Umbrabeta village,Rashad Payam, to Nyakima village in Alazrag Payam but there were no casualties and nothing was damaged.
  • On 28 November 2016, at 2.13pm, two MiG jet fighters dropped two bombs on Lula village in Alazrag Payam but there were no casualties and nothing was destroyed. 

For video clip showing civilians under aerial attack in the Nuba Mountains, see: https://twitter.com/sudan_wa3ai/status/811520514141409280

[2] The previous report provides the context for assessing the charge by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) that Khartoum has engaged in major military operations in Blue Nile:

SPLM-N says Sudanese army attacking its position in Blue Nile | (Sudan Tribune) | January 9, 2017 (KHARTOUM)

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North Monday accused the Sudanese government forces of attacking its positions in the Blue Nile State. “Today 9th of Jan 2017 at 6:00 am, National congress party (NCP) forces and militias in Blue Nile region attacked SPLM/N controlled area of Arum,” said Arnu Nugultu Lodi, the SPLM-N spokesperson. “The fighting is continue up to the moment,” he added in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday evening.

Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front factions in the Two Areas and Darfur have announced unilateral cessation of hostilities. President Omer al-Bashir recently extended it for one month while the rebel factions said they are committed to the truce until the end of April. Arnu said this attack is a violation of the one-month ceasefire announced at the beginning of this year adding “the so-called ceasefire is media propaganda to mislead public opinion.”

The Sudanese Armed Forces spokesperson was not reachable for comment on this claim. Last November the SPLM-N said the army attacked its positions in the Blue Nile State, but the army didn’t comment on the claim.

Given the terrible record of lies—and denials of confirmed facts by spokesmen for the SAF—we hardly need wait for the inevitable and perfunctory denial. Moreover, other evidence and reports confirm the SPLM/A-N account.

Radio Dabanga, SPLM-N: ‘Sudan’s armed forces violate ceasefire in South Kordofan’ (November 27, 2016 | UM DORAIN

Radio Dabanga, SPLM-N: ‘Sudan soldiers repulsed from Blue Nile outpost’ | (January 17, 2017 | EL TADAMON

[3] Jonathan Loeb, the lead author and researcher for the September 29, 2016 Amnesty International report on Khartoum’s military offensive in the Jebel Marra region, speaks of a time-frame that extends well into the supposed “look back” period for the Obama administration’s assessment of Khartoum’s “improved behavior” (“Time to Get Serious About Civilian Protection in Darfur,” Inter Press Service, December 20, 2016):

The large-scale violence that occurred in Jebel Marra between January and September 2016 is the most recent example of the UNAMID’s egregious failure to report. Jebel Marra is a 5,000-square kilometre volcanic massif in the centre of Darfur, consisting of approximately 1,500 villages and hamlets. The area has been a stronghold for armed opposition groups throughout the conflict; in 2016, portions of Jebel Marra were the only significant territory in Darfur still held by an armed opposition movement. Access to Jebel Marra has been largely cut-off since 2009, when the Government of Sudan responded to the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir by expelling nearly all the aid agencies operating in the area. No journalist, human rights investigator, humanitarian actor or peacekeeper has been granted any meaningful access to the most conflict-affected parts of Jebel Marra for years.

Notionally, the “look back” period of assessing Khartoum’s military actions began in July 2016; but the lead researcher for Amnesty International’s report on the Jebel Marra offensive, which may well prove to be the final stage in the genocidal counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur, extends into September 2016. (See Radio Dabanga, February 6, 2017 for an account of the comprehensive success of the Jebel Marra campaign as perceived by the Rapid Support Forces.)

[4] In my assessment of “the Nertiti Massacre” (January 1, 2017), I argued that we could see in this brutal event the real meaning of al-Bashir’s declared “cease-fire”:

We learn today from a wide range of sources just how meaningful Omar al-Bashir’s declaration of a one-month extension of his nominal “cease-fire” really is (see Sudan Tribune, January 1, 2017 | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article61265/). Radio Dabanga, Sudan Tribune, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North, and the Darfur Union in the UK have all reported within the last 24 hours on the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) massacre of civilians in Nertiti, Central Darfur (formerly West Darfur). Figures for casualties vary but suggest that some 60 – 70 civilians were killed or wounded during the vicious SAF rampage (Darfur Union UK lists the names and ages of 11 people killed—five of them under the age of 17).  Notably, Radio Dabanga reports that the UN/African Union “hybrid” Mission in Darfur did not respond in any way to the massacre—the perfect image of impotence and indifference that now define UNAMID.

Distinguished Sudanese human rights expert Suliman Baldo offered a telling assessment of the same event (“Sudan’s armed forces stand above the law,” reported by Radio Dabanga, January 9, 2017 (El Geneina):

According to the Sudanese Minister of Defence, Awad Mohamed Ibn Auf, the recent army attack on the town of Nierteti should be considered as a criminal case. Analyst Dr Suleiman Baldo denies his claim. Last week, the Minister told reporters in Khartoum last week that the attack by the military on South Darfur’s Nierteti on 1 January should not be considered part of a government policy, but should be taken up as any other criminal case.

Dr Suleiman Baldo contradicted Ibn Auf’s words in an interview with Radio Dabanga to be broadcast today. The internationally acclaimed political analyst explained that the Defence Minister by calling the Nierteti incident a criminal case, “attempted to transfer the responsibility of the armed forces in their attack on civilians in Nierteti to the police.” He noted that the Sudanese armed forces have gained full impunity. “The military leaders have given their staff full mandate to attack civilians, especially the militias that operate under the command of the armed forces.”

By shifting responsibility from the military to the police, Khartoum hoped to diminish the significance of the Nertiti massacre in the Obama administration’s assessment of violence in Darfur. There is considerable evidence that the ruse was successful.

The epidemic of sexual violence, primarily rape, continues unchecked and is regularly reported by Radio Dabanga. Last year (January 2016), collating all incidents of sexual violence recorded by Radio Dabanga and other sources, I published a brief monograph on this terribly neglected reality and its many destructive consequences: “Continuing Mass Rape of Girls in Darfur: The most heinous crime generates no international outrage,” January 2016 http://wp.me/p45rOG-1QG/. In it, I mapped all the data contained in a lengthy spreadsheet. The mapping was for North Darfur, South Darfur, and West Darfur—and the maps if the were to reflect current realities would look much the same.

The key for interpreting the maps is as follows (click on maps to enlarge):

Dots of 50pt in size represent a single event: if in red, it represents the rape of a girl; if in orange, it represents the rape of a woman 18 – 25;

Dots of 100pt size represent 10 events: again, if in red, it represents the rape of ten girls; if in orange, it represents the rape of ten women 18 – 25;

Dots of 200pt size are found only in the map of North Darfur: if the large dot is grey, it represents the rape of 100 girls; if black, it represents the rape of 100 women 18 – 28;

[6] Examples of recent reports of rape in Darfur from Radio Dabanga:

[7] The UK Parliamentarian Baroness Caroline Cox recently (January 23, 2017) reported to Parliament and the UK government on her courageous assessment mission to the Nuba Mountains:

…I have just recently returned from the Nuba mountains… I saw there first-hand evidence of the Sudanese Government’s continuing destruction of homes and schools in military offensives and aerial bombardment of civilians who have been forced to live in caves with deadly snakes. I met a girl who had bitten by a cobra and a father whose five children had been burnt alive when a shell hit the cave in which they were sheltering. They have no healthcare, acute shortages of food and there has recently been a measles epidemic in which at least 20 children are known to have died.

Will Her Majesty’s Government urgently reconsider the obligation to provide cross-border aid to save the lives of these innocent civilians, as the people of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile cannot accept aid from the Khartoum Government, who are killing them?

Unsurprisingly, Baroness Cox received only a boilerplate response from the designated Foreign Office official.

[8] Irregular militia forces, countenanced and even supported by Khartoum, have frequently been the violent means for blocking humanitarian access, something that Radio Dabanga has reported frequently, as has Sudan Tribune. Particularly notable was the blockade of humanitarian access to Sortony IDP camp, to which many of those displaced from Jebel Marra fled.

The blockage, beginning last February, has had consequences that are now painfully obvious:

Darfur’s Jebel Marra hit by disease, displaced need winter aid | January 15, 2017 | JEBEL MARRA / KHARTOUM

People in Darfur’s Jebel Marra complain about the spread of a hitherto unknown fever. Jebel Marra displaced who fled the fighting in the region last year and are currently taking refuge in various locations in Central Darfur are in dire need of winter supplies.

Multiple sources reported to Radio Dabanga from Golo, Keranja, Ultra, Rokorwa, and Nierteti that dozens of children, women, and elderly people died of fever last week, the source of which has not yet been identified. The symptoms are high fever, severe headache, bleeding from the ears, nose, and mouth, and the loss of hair. The sources called on the health authorities and humanitarian organisations to visit these areas and investigate the cause of the fever and provide treatment to the patients.

Winter supplies

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan reported in its first weekly bulletin of this year that many displaced people from Jebel Marra who are currently taking refuge in various locations in Central Darfur need winter supplies. With temperatures dropping to 7-8 degrees Celsius or lower at night, many Jebel Marra displaced need appropriate shelter and winter household supplies -including blankets and warm clothes- as they left their homes with almost nothing, the bulletin reads.

The displaced people also said they need fuel for heating and cooking, as firewood collection outside camps in some areas poses protection risks.

Four children die during cold wave in Darfur | January 10, 2017 | DERIBAT

A cold wave has the western region of Sudan in its grip, resulting in the death of four children on Monday morning. Two weeks ago, malnourished children also succumbed to the cold. Speaking from Jebel Marra, a relative of one of the children reported that Dola, south of Deribat, has witnessed a severe cold wave these days. There is a shortage of food, blankets and warm shelter, amid the absence of health centres and medicines in the mountainous area, he said. The four children who died on Monday are Mohsen Hassan Ibrahim (1 year), Yagoub Adam Abdelkarim (3), Halima Ibrahim Adam (3) and Mariam Yousif Hamid (7).

Two weeks ago, three children died in Souni in East Jebel Marra. They were suffering from malnutrition and their health was worsened by the severe cold, a family member said.

To avoid the cold, Sheikhs in camps in East Jebel Marra then said that parent councils in most of the schools have delayed the start of school for pupils of basic schools for one hour in the morning. In addition, food security is proving even more critical in Jebel Marra than it is in the rest of Darfur, for one because farmers risk confrontations with gunmen who let their cattle graze on the fields. Aerial bombardments on villages and farmlands have forced many residents to flee to the camps for displaced people or take refuge in the mountains.

See also, Sudan Tribune| December 7, 2016 | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article61044

[9] More broadly, Khartoum refuses to rein in the various Arab militia forces that are continuing the work of violently expropriating farmland from African farmers. Not using the regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) or the heavily armed, primary militia force known as the Rapid Support Forces (and now under SAF command), allows Khartoum to deny that it is responsible for what continue to be extremely high levels of violence in various parts of Darfur. That denial seems to have figured heavily in the Obama administration’s assessment of violence in Darfur. Most violence is reported only by the easily ignored Radio Dabanga:

  • Attacks cause new displacement from Darfur’s Jebel Marra| Radio Dabanga, February 9, 2017 | SHANGIL TOBAYA

40 families representing a total of 530 people who have fled from Darfur’s East Jebel Marra arrived at camp Shaddad of Shangil Tobaya in North Darfur at the beginning of this week. A leader of the camp told Radio Dabanga that these families came to the camp on February 2. They were fleeing militia and herder attacks on Balidy Serif, Libi, and Swanee. The camp elder said that the new arrivals have not received any aid thus far. He said that a team from UNAMID visited the newly displaced on Tuesday, and “promised to notify the humanitarian organisations to provide them with aid.”

The residents of Tabit and its neighbouring villages in North Darfur complained of a continued siege by armed herders, which prevent them from going out to collect firewood and straw. The herders assert that the land is specified for their cattle to graze.

Callers who spoke to Radio Dabanga from Tabit expressed concern that the continuing siege and aggression by the armed herdsmen would lead to starvation, displacement, and death of livestock. They demand that the state Government and Tawila locality Commissioner intervene immediately to stop the abuses and violations by the militant herdsmen.

El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, witnessed fierce fighting on 5 January, when a group of 17 local paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces and the Border Guards attacked the home of a man accused of stealing livestock, and shot him dead. Five people who attempted to flee the shooting were killed as well. The police intervened but had to withdraw after one of them was injured.

A farmer was shot dead near Garsila in Central Darfur on Wednesday when he refused to leave his farm to its ‘liberators’. A witness told Radio Dabanga that three gunmen found Ibrahim El Sancjek tending his farm north of Garsila and ordered him to leave the farm immediately, “as the area is liberated and belongs to them.” When El Sancjek refused, they shot him dead. He said the incident coincided with a visit by state Governor Jaafar Abdelhakam to Garsila.

See my broad analysis of this phenomenon of violent expropriation of African farmlands by Arab militia groups: “Changing the Demography”:  Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur,  November 2014 – November 2015″ | December 1, 2015 |  http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P4

Eric Reeves is Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights.

NATO — PRIVATE CLUB OF WAR CRIMINALS WHO DESTROY HUMANITY

 

By: Adeyinka Makinde

Writer, independent thinker

 

What has happened is that NATO provides cover for these transgressions of the United States government’s policy. In other words, it absolutely legitimizes what effectively is NATO aggression. Moreover, what one needs to bear in mind and what one needs to be mindful about is the fact that in Western Europe you no longer have rulers with the independence of Charles de Gaulle.

It seems that Washington, and we can use Washington, America and NATO interchangeably because NATO is dominated by the United States. It is a command structure, which ultimately is based on American military power and American military precedence.  Everybody else is effectively a vassal. Or, if the word vassal is too hard, they are certainly juniors in rank to what the Americans do.

America has used NATO and it has used the European Union as the means, in which it can have these designs implemented. By designs, I mean the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya, the attempt to overthrow Assad in Syria. These are actually illegal. Russia and China were duped when they came to the UN position on Libya. Effectively, now we can see what it was.

It was right from the beginning a deceptive arrangement, based on overthrowing Gaddafi. On these occasions, they have been wholeheartedly supported by European leaders. During that campaign, Italian bases were used to bomb Libya and British Special Forces participated in training these Islamist rebels, who were eventually successful in overthrowing Gaddafi. French planes also were very instrumental in the bombing of Libya, the actual tracking down of Muammar Gaddafi and his lynching.

These are effectively war crimes. There are no two ways about it. Waging an aggressive war and assassinating foreign leaders. Therefore, this lack of spine in the European leadership is particularly regretful in the sense that the Americans are forcing them to do things against their interests.

We saw this after the coup in Kiev, which was sponsored by American intelligence, with the illegal overthrow of the legitimate government of Viktor Yanukovych. That was a situation in which the EU was complicit. In doing that, they have been forced by the United States to impose sanctions against Russia, which are against their economic interests.

So, absolutely, I would agree with that interpretation that NATO and the European Union don’t want Britain to break away from the EU. They have used that sufficient cover to give the validation of legality to what are illegal actions on the part of the United States and NATO.

 

Related Links:
Another NATO footprint in the Turkish coup


EMBRACING THE US-NATO WAR CRIMINALS WHO DESTROYED OUR COUNTRY

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Seventeen years have passed and many people have already forgotten that the U. S. and a number of other NATO countries collectively waged one of the most destructive wars on the European continent since the end of World War II–the modern aerial bombing campaign against the Serbian people. In the tradition of the New World Order, this “intervention” wasn’t called “war.” It was argued by various Western politicians and the corporate media that the bombing campaign was directed against the late Serbian President Milošević and his “propaganda machine.”[i] In fact, the NATO bombs loaded with depleted uranium[ii] were falling on bridges, maternity hospitals, private residences of ordinary people, a moving train, a Serbian TV station, the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, as well as water plants, schools, electrical power plants, and many other objects that were crucial for the society to function.

Even in 2016, there are still several ruined buildings in downtown Belgrade. These sites have not been cleaned up nor repaired. Medical doctors are finally speaking up and emphasizing that the skyrocketing rates of cancer and other deadly diseases will only continue to rise because it takes 10-15 years for the accumulated environmental toxicity to also build up in people’s bodies.[iii] In other words, more than two thousand five hundred killed[iv] and several thousand wounded people were only immediate victims of the NATO’s “humanitarian intervention.” This military action will continue to take its toll affecting multiple generations as time passes. It is worth mentioning that NATO forces also bombed bridges, refugee centers, busses, hospitals and other important objects in Kosovo–then Serbia’s autonomous province–and now self-proclaimed country. Kosovo was the territory that NATO allegedly wanted to protect in 1999. Soon after the military intervention, NATO seized control over the province, making it a de facto U. S. protectorate, even though it was legally a U. N. protectorate[v]. The United States created its largest military base in Europe and took control over Kosovo’s population and its natural resources.[vi]

One would think that under these circumstances, no Serbian government would be allowed to become too friendly with NATO and to de facto accept the loss of Kosovo—a significant part of its territory that is also considered its cultural cradle. The reality has proven otherwise. In spite of significant opposition expressed by a great majority of the Serbian population,[vii] several governments have actually approved NATO’s plans for controlling the Balkan Peninsula and hosted NATO summits and leaders. While the most recent poll conducted in April 2016 revealed that 71.6% of the survey respondents[viii] didn’t want Serbia to join NATO, these governments signed agreements that gave NATO full access to Serbia’s territory and a promise of so-called military partnership. Such uneven partnership that requires Serbia to commit to making immense changes in its socio-economic and political system, while hardly mentioning any NATO obligations, is in the tradition of a post-Orwellian world called “Partnership for Peace.”

In this article I provide a brief background on the impacts of the 1999 NATO bombing campaign that devastated the whole society, followed by a detailed analysis of recent agreements between Serbia and NATO. These recent agreements were also accompanied with a local Serbian law ratifying the 2015 agreement on “logistical support.” In the concluding remarks I include some reflections on future developments that could possibly lead to Serbia’s full membership in the North Atlantic organization.

Background: Effects of the 1999 NATO Aerial Bombardment

In the last report issued by the “Dr. Milan Jovanović Batut” Institute for Public Health, Serbian health professionals provided alarming data for the period ending in 2012. According to this report, in Central Serbia and the northern province of Vojvodina, cancer rates, including leukemia and lymphoma grew 80% following the NATO bombing[ix]. Professor Slobodan Čikarić, who is a medical doctor and the President of the Serbian Cancer Society, emphasized that Serbia had the highest cancer mortality rates in Europe. Even the Kosovo Public Health Institute registered a 57% increase in cancer rates for the years 2013 and 2014. [x]

Earlier reports were equally disturbing. Michel Chossudovsky wrote in the fall of 1999:

Amply documented, the radioactive fall-out causes cancer potentially affecting millions of people for generations to come. According to a recent scientific report, “the first signs of radiation on children including herpes on the mouth and skin rashes on the back and ankles” have been observed in Yugoslavia since the beginning of the bombings. [xi]

In 2005, it was reported that between 1999 and 2001, 140,000 people were suffering from cancer in Serbia. On average, 25,000 new cases were registered per year. This data was reported by the Serbian Public Health Ministry during a press conference. Some Serbian media and the general public started calling this phenomenon, a “cancer epidemic.” [xii]

A team of scientists from Serbia and the Serbian diaspora organized an international conference in 2001 in Belgrade to inform the international community about the horrible truth about health effects and environmental devastation that followed the NATO bombing. Professor Jasmina Vujić, who teaches at the U. C. Berkley Nuclear Science Department, was one of the primary organizers of this conference. Vujić published an article with Dragoljub Antic in the New Serbian Political Thought (NSPM) in 2015, and provided references to some attempts to decontaminate the environment[xiii].

Some media and research institutions informed the public that there had been a media blockade and that many politicians had remained silent about depleted uranium for a long time. Such media outlets recognized that NATO had unleashed a “silent killer, low level nuclear war waged on the Serbian population[xiv]. Their realization that everything becomes even more serious if depleted uranium enters the waterways and food chain is consistent with the depleted uranium science that examines various effects of depleted uranium[xv]. This kind of examination is included in the basic documents published by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency[xvi]. While there could be disagreements about the lifespan of depleted uranium and there are different opinions about the effectiveness of clean up technologies, it should be also noted that the Serbian government hasn’t invested in any consistent cleanup efforts. While some clean-up is mentioned in several sources[xvii], it is most likely that Serbia has not had enough funds, equipment, and trained personnel to invest in a consistent decontamination process.

NATO bombings specifically targeted civilian populations and objects. Michael Parenti documented multiple examples of NATO war crimes and comprehensively analyzed the underlining motives of U. S. and NATO decision makers.

Sometimes, the NATO attackers defended their atrocities by claiming that a civilian target was really a military one, as when NATO mouthpiece Jamie Shea unblushingly announced that the bombing of Surdulica hospital was deliberate because the hospital was really a military barracks. This was a blatant fabrication. [xviii]

Some people still remember the media campaign during the bombing. Those images traumatized the majority of the Serbian population and disturbed many around the world.

We have seen those endlessly repeated snippets of footage of bomb explosions lighting up the night sky over Belgrade. We’ve even seen pictures of that burned train at the Grdelica gorge where fifty five Serb passengers were blown to bits or burned alive and another sixteen wounded.[xix]

Gregory Elich documented multiple examples of devastation caused by the NATO bombing throughout Serbia. One of the most striking examples was the destruction of Niš–the third largest Serbian city that was shelled with cluster bombs on multiple occasions, including hospitals, private homes and the DIN cigarette factory which was bombed on four occasions. [xx]

According to experts, exposure to depleted uranium is more dangerous for young people whose bodies are developing, as organs and cells that reproduce faster become more sensitive to the effects of radiation. [xxi] Millions of people, animals and plants were exposed to depleted uranium. However, deadly diseases and environmental devastation were not the only effects of NATO’s “intervention.”

In addition to displacement and ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Roma, dissident Kosovars and others, NATO’s occupation of Kosovo and its subsequent secession from Serbia became a reality. There is no secret that human and organ trafficking[xxii], trafficking in narcotics[xxiii], Israeli-like strategies to expand settlements to include the lands previously belonging to Serbian residents, and general desperation of the entire population have become Kosovo’s unfortunate reality.[xxiv] Even in June of 1999, right after the NATO war was concluded, it was evident that very little would be improved in Kosovo. On the contrary, the situation became graver over the years.

Under NATO occupation, the rate of killing was about the same as before the bombings, thirty or so a week. The very level of killing that was detected as a human catastrophe and used to justify an eleven-week bombardment, continued after the bombardment. [xxv]

Here is how Diana Johnstone describes additional goals and effects of NATO’s war on Serbia:

In addition to “inflicting hardships in the daily lives of more Serbs”, bombing the country’s infrastructure also was seen as having a long-term political impact by destroying Serbia’s economic self-sufficiency. As an anonymous German official explained that the “kind of money that will be needed to rebuild bridges or even dredge the wrecks out of the Danube” was expected to provide “major leverage for Western countries.” The destroyed country would have to follow the dictates of the destroyers[xxvi].

The Serbia-NATO agreements analyzed in this article certainly resemble a situation in which the destroyed country has to follow the dictates of the destroyers. Johnstone added that:

In his first wartime interview, NATO’s air commander Lieutenant General Michael Short acknowledged that bombing was intended to cause distress among civilians. [xxvii]

In the passage included below Andrej Grubačiċ emphasized that NATO supervised the ethnic cleansing of Roma and Serbian population in Kosovo.

Before 1999 there was about 120,000 Roma in Kosovo. After the bombing in November of 1999, only 30,000[xxviii]. In March of 2000, former UN special investigator for the former Yugoslavia Jiri Dienstbier reported to the UN Commission on Human Rights that “330,000 Serbs, Roma, Montenegrins, Slavic Muslims, pro-Serb Albanians and Turks had been displaced in Kosovo.” [xxix]

Another immediate impact was that the bombing put approximately 500,000 people out of work[xxx]. Over the years Serbia’s rates of unemployment have remained among the highest in Europe. [xxxi]

A number of other prominent intellectuals also wrote about the NATO intervention and dismantling of Yugoslavia, providing data and theoretical frameworks to understand original goals and permanent consequences. Noam Chomsky often addressed multiple myths and ironies utilized by politicians and the media. Below is an example provided in one of his articles.

The sole purpose of the bombing was to demonstrate to Serbia and to the world NATO’s capacity to bomb, thus killing nearly 2,000 civilians, destroying much of Serbia’s infrastructure, prompting expulsion and flight of around a million Kosovars. The vast crimes took place after the bombing began: they were not a cause but a consequence. It requires considerable audacity, therefore, to take the crimes to provide retrospective justification for the actions that contributed to inciting them. [xxxii]

Tariq Ali said that the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was a war for U. S. hegemony in Europe. [xxxiii] This is consistent with conclusions that were eloquently articulated by Michael Parenti, Diana Johnstone, Michel Colon, Michel Chossudovsky, Andrej Grubačić, Gregory Elich, Sara Flounders, and others. In Johnstone’s words: “As a result of intervention in Yugoslavia it was concluded that “the presence of U. S. conventional and nuclear forces in Europe remains vital for the security of Europe.”[xxxiv]

NATO’s Continuous Dominance and Serbia – NATO Agreements

The U. S. and NATO leaders knew that they couldn’t expect complete acceptance by the Serbian population right after they inflicted so much devastation and suffering. Consequently, Serbian authorities had concealed their talks with NATO officials[xxxv] and had to wait until 2005 and 2006 to enter into specific agreements. Serbian President Boris Tadić and Foreign Minister Vuk Drašković signed agreements regarding the use of information and communication systems. Tadić’s government paved the road for future governments to give even more access to NATO leaders. Behind closed doors, Serbian politicians have discussed “modernization” of the Serbian military, acquisitions of NATO technology and future support of NATO missions. At the same time, Serbia’s parliamentary resolution of 2007, asserting military neutrality still remains in effect.[xxxvi]

On May 25, 2010, the Serbian Ministry of Defense signed an agreement with NATO in Edinburgh, accepting NATO’s codification system[xxxvii]. This agreement was ratified by the Serbian Law that confirmed the formation of the Serbian National Codification Bureau. The codification agreement ensured that the Serbian Ministry of Defense accepted standardization of data, rules and procedures, as outlined in the NATO Codification Brochure. This also means that there would be an exchange of commercial and state codes of so called type S, internal Serbian codification and advertisement of such data in the NATO Master Catalogue of References for Logistics. In other words, the NATO Automated Business System will be used as the main source for the official state (and military) documents. It is not explicitly stated, but by using the NATO technology and data systems, Serbia is adjusting to NATO’s standards and also making its systems open to the oversight of the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD). So this was the first step of opening the door to “collaboration” with NATO. The parties to this agreement–Serbian Ministry of Defense and CNAD–committed to resolving any possible disputes by themselves, without taking them to international courts or third parties. Anyone familiar with dispute resolution principles might wonder how this can work in practice, especially between parties with such power imbalance.

According to the Individual Partnership Action Plan that was signed by Serbia and NATO in December of 2014, this agreement was connected to Serbia’s request to join the European Union (E. U.). Even though this plan was supposed to be a military type of “partnership,” there were numerous non-military reforms and conditions outlined within it. Serbia committed to specific standards imposed by the E. U. and NATO regarding human rights, the rule of law, global security, terrorism, cybercrimes, restructuring its economy and media, in addition to boosting its military power, and “managing crises.”

In the introduction to this agreement it is highlighted that since 2006, when Serbia joined the so-called “Partnership for Peace,” this collaboration has been continually advanced and a work group was formed to coordinate all activities. Composition and roles of this work group were not specified in detail. However, it was emphasized that comprehensive social reforms were expected from Serbia. Serbia’s previous collaboration in the areas of diplomacy, security, destruction and storage of excess ammunition, and implementation of UN Resolution 1325 (on Women, Peace and Security) was acknowledged.

When it comes to economic reforms, it is expected from Serbia to continue and soon conclude the process of privatization and otherwise reform its economy in order to attract foreign capital. This was not specified in the agreement, but we know from multiple sources that the phrase “attracting foreign capital investments” means destruction of labor rights, as well as selling natural and human resources for bargain prices[xxxviii]. What was specified includes negotiations about Serbia’s membership in the World Trade Organization, and the expectation of Serbia’s greater participation in the E.U. and global markets. Serbia is expected to conclude negotiations, join the World Trade Organization and invite foreign investment. Tax reform is a part of this strategy to attract foreign capital by reducing taxes on foreign investments in Serbia. Completion of the privatization process is also a goal outlined in this agreement, implying that Serbia still has important resources that are not privatized. For example, there were recent attempts to privatize Serbian Telecom and remarkable displays of public resistance.

So called liberalization of financial services and domestic markets was also emphasized. At that time, the destiny of the South Stream pipeline was not known and Serbia’s possible participation in this project was mentioned, along with a diverse array of other possibilities to ensure “security” of energy resources.

By signing this agreement Serbia also accepted the responsibility and commitments to develop its military capabilities in order to make them available for possible participation in multinational operations overseen by the U.N. and E.U. Even though it was mentioned that Serbia could take advantage of the resources provided to all members through the Partnership for Peace, NATO’s obligations were not spelled out in the text of the agreement. However, Serbia committed to improve education, training and readiness of its military personnel. Furthermore, it was noted that Serbia was ready to improve its military equipment. Financial plans for this kind of modernization/improvement were not specified.

According to this agreement signed in 2014, Serbia also committed to conduct a media campaign to promote military reforms, including the extent and benefits of its collaboration with NATO within the Partnership for Peace framework. This comprehensive media strategy would include print and digital resources, and support given to academic, NGO, and research centers to organize round tables to promote NATO. The strategy would also encourage Serbian scientists, university professors and research institutions to collaborate with NATO and participate in joint projects. Support provided by NATO public diplomacy groups (it is not clear from the text of the agreement what these groups are and how they operate), other members of the Partnership for Peace, the taskforce for cooperation with NATO, as well as NATO’s Military Office located in Belgrade, was seen as crucial in the implementation of this strategy. It was not clearly defined why all of these resources were needed. However, knowing that less than 12% of Serbia’s population approves any kind of collaboration with NATO[xxxix], these clauses are better understood.

The section of this agreement that outlines specific individual actions also includes a timeframe for implementation. For example, continuation and further improvement of political dialogue with NATO was marked as “ongoing;” coordination and corresponding processes of “E.U. integration” as a “continuous process;” improvement of public opinion regarding global security and NATO as being “implemented in 2014,” etc. Another important goal outlined in the agreement was Serbia’s continued cooperation through the Serbian Mission at NATO. The so-called European integration processes were connected with Serbia joining an agreement for Stabilization and Association with the E. U. Negotiations about E. U. membership were connected with changing laws to correspond to the E. U. legal system, and to build positive relationships with neighbors, including Kosovo. Furthermore, this plan includes preparation and implementation of the National Program for Acceptance of E. U. Values and Traditions. These values and traditions are not listed in the agreement. Serbia committed to supporting various organizations for regional stability, the E. U. Strategic Partnership for the Danube River, and the continuation of negotiations with Priština regarding the Brussels’ Agreement, in collaboration with NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) in the context of U. N. Security Council Resolution 1244. Collaboration and work with the U. N., Organization for European Security and Cooperation—OEBS (Serbian acronym), and the European Council also became logical parts of this agreement, as Serbia has a long history of cooperation with these organizations.

When it comes to multiculturalism and human rights, Serbia committed to “anti-discriminatory practices,” inclusion of Roma, and to improve the social status of other marginalized groups. Serbia also has to reform its legal system according to an already accepted strategy for 2013-2018 and must harmonize its legal standards with international laws and the E. U.’s legal traditions. It is not specified what laws and legal traditions need to be incorporated.

In terms of international obligations and the “global fight against terrorism,” Serbia has special responsibilities to respond to the U. N. Security Council Resolution 1373, and to improve its readiness for this fight. By 2015 Serbia also needed to ratify an additional protocol to accompany its agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Training of personnel employed in the business and governmental sectors to improve their skills in the detection, control and prevention of controlled substances is yet another obligation that Serbia accepted by signing this agreement with NATO. Somewhat connected to that is the improved training regarding the transmission of sensitive information and protection of data from cyber-attacks.

Reforms of the military and intelligence agencies are also a demand put on Serbia. While it is stated that the Serbian Parliament has oversight role in this area, it is also emphasized that the members of Parliament needed to be trained in order to make informed decisions.

Military Aspects of the 2014 Agreement with NATO

It is stated in the agreement that, in order to expand its contributions to attaining global security, Serbia has to increase its participation in multinational military actions. Serbia should explore possibilities for participation in E. U. combat operations. This is an aspect of Serbia’s obligation to work closely with NATO’s Office in Belgrade in order to improve its military technology and defense system. In addition to Partnership for Peace, Serbia will also participate in NATO’s Building of Integrity program, particularly adapted for application in Southeast Europe.

Serbia’s obligations are numerous and include development of a NATO fund that will be given to the Serbian Ministry of Defense for the purposes of secure storage and demilitarization of excess ammunition. These weapons and ammunition need to be safely stored by using the full capacity of the Technical and Overhaul Center located in Kragujevac. Another important activity is the collaboration with OEBS and UNDP towards expanding capacity for management of conventional ammunition supplies.

Serbia also committed to continue to work on its own defense strategy, develop new military doctrines, create new laws and regulations, and implement the long term strategic plan developed by the Serbian Government in 2011. In order to participate in multinational military operations, Serbia is obligated to develop a national codification system that is compatible with NATO’s codification standards. This includes national laws in the area of defense, transportation of military personnel, equipment and weapons. Serbia has to work towards establishing new models of supporting its own troops once they are ready to participate in multinational military operations and also support the host country where these operations occur. In preparation for this kind of readiness, Serbia is obligated to develop new types of military education and training, in accordance with NATO and Boulogne standards. It also has to exchange information with partners about its military. Serbia’s military personnel will join trainings and multinational military exercises conducted by its partners. A regional center for the training of Serbian military was supposed to be open by the end of 2015 within the “South NATO Base.” It is unclear from this agreement if the base is located in Kosovo or elsewhere.

Modernization of Serbia’s military is already in progress, based on this agreement. This kind of modernization includes acquisition of more complex weaponry and military equipment, including drones, ground vehicles, airplanes, communications controls, and information technology. Serbia also has to complete reports on these acquisitions and negotiations with contractors. Serbia’s Military-Technological Institute is obligated to conduct research on the possibilities for better international cooperation, modernization of its own defense systems and connections with NATO. To that end Serbia will participate in numerous activities of the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) and coordinate its regulations with European regulations that control export of weapons.

Information Campaign

When the Serbian government signed the 2014 agreement with NATO’s Partnership for Peace, it also accepted an obligation to develop a public information strategy for collaboration with the Partnership for Peace in order to ensure public support. This public support should be displayed for both Serbia’s participation in NATO and Serbia’s own military force. Serbia is committed to participating in the NATO program called “Science for Peace and Security” and will inform the general public about it. For this purpose, informational events will be organized on a regular basis, and information will be posted on the Serbian Military Defense website. [xl] There will be a positive institutional atmosphere created for Serbia’s participation in this program by supporting development of infrastructure and tax-free acquisition of research technology. It is implicitly suggested that it is NATO’s obligation to provide tax-free scientific equipment and research technology.

Serbia also accepted the obligation to improve its relationships with other countries in the region. Some of these countries are partners or members of NATO. It is not specified what countries the agreement refers to. By the end of 2015, all documents and plans for emergency situations and crisis management were supposed to be completed and accepted by the Serbian government. Serbia also participated in regional multinational military training in 2014 and 2015, according to this Agreement.

Serbia’s Agreement with NATO Regarding Logistical Support

Serbia signed another agreement with NATO’s Support and Procurement Organization (NSPO) in the area of logistical support. This agreement was completed in Copenhagen in September, 2015. At the beginning of 2016 the Serbian Parliament passed a law that ensures implementation of this agreement.

In the preamble of the Agreement it is emphasized that as a participating member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace Serbia expressed interest in services provided by NSPO in order to establish cooperation in the areas of logistics, operations and systems support. It is also noted that Serbia signed an Agreement on the Security of Information and the Code of Conduct with NATO in 2008. In 2015, NATO consented to provide the Republic of Serbia with support services. These services include, but are not restricted to, supplies, maintenance, procurement of good and services, transportation, configuration control and technical assistance. The Government of Serbia will pay for the cost of these services provided by NSPO.

Article 4 of the Agreement also reads: “Under no circumstance shall this Agreement lead to any liabilities for NSPO or NSPA.” The Serbian Government waived all claims for injury, death or damages resulting in normal use or operation of materials and services. Shipments are insured by NSPO. In terms of security requirements any exchange of classified information must comply with requirements outlined in NATO’s Security Policy. Both parties committed to treat information belonging to the other Party as classified information and avoid disclosure, dissemination or transfer.

NSPO, its assets, income and other property are exempt from all taxes and other duties, customs and quantitative restrictions on imports and exports. NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) personnel shall be integrated with the personnel of NATO’s Military Liaison Office (MLO), located in Belgrade. It is not specified where exactly this Office is located in Belgrade. It would be enlightening to conduct a survey among Belgraders to discover how many of them are aware that this MLO exists. This agreement gives NSPA personnel and their vehicles the right to free passage and access throughout the Republic of Serbia. NSPA personnel is also exempt from taxation by Serbia on salaries received from NSPA, movable property, or any income received outside Serbia. NSPA is allowed to contract directly for acquisition of goods, services and construction within or outside Serbia and such contracts are also exempt from duties taxes or other charges.

This agreement also has a settlement of dispute clause. As was the case with previous agreements, this one also determines that any possible disputes should be settled between the two parties without recourse to any national or international court or tribunal, including third party mediation. In other words, if Serbia is not satisfied with implementation of any of the provisions of this agreement, it will have to rely on the much more powerful NATO to examine any sources of disagreements. Since the Serbian government accepted all provisions by signing the agreement it would be fair to conclude that those government and military representatives either believed that NATO dispute resolution teams would be truly impartial, or that it was highly unlikely that any disputes would arise in the future.

Serbia’s Future With NATO?

Many questions can be posed about Serbia’s collaboration with NATO and future developments in the entire region. While Serbian Prime Minister Vučić and President Nikoliċ both stated multiple times that Serbia had no plans to become a NATO member, it is reasonable to conclude that the country has, nevertheless, accepted many obligations that are typically expected from NATO countries.

While Serbia needs to remain neutral based on its own laws, it is difficult to understand the constitutionality of the Serbia – NATO agreements. Additionally, we can ask ourselves whether various sets of Serbian government and military leaders believed that by collaborating with NATO they had a greater chance to be accepted by the European Union. Perhaps they were also hoping that NATO countries would in return pay for at least some of the damage that resulted from the 1999 bombing campaign. Have they have also hoped that NATO would commit to decontaminate certain areas affected by depleted uranium? Or was it all about their own preservation of power and control? Some researchers and political scientists have testified that nothing positive has come forward as a result of Serbia’s cooperation with NATO. The Director of The Serbian Center for Geostrategic Studies, Dragana Trifković, expressed her views recently, highlighting that it wasn’t in Serbia’s best interest to collaborate with NATO, adding that this could even hurt its regional interests.[xli]

Serbia’s politicians often repeat that, in accordance with their country’s main values, they continue to promote military neutrality by working closely with both NATO and Russia. Yet, many have observed that such “neutrality” remains quite asymmetric. Sergej Belous noted that Serbia had only two military exercises with Russia in 2015, while twenty two were performed with NATO. At the same time, it signed only two military agreements with Russia and twenty four with NATO. For that reason he added that this neutrality is “quite lame.”[xlii] Reuters also published an article by Aleksandar Vasović on July 3, 2016 entitled With Russia as an ally, Serbia edges towards NATO. The Serbian news agencies Tanjug and B92 reported just recently that Russia expected Serbia’s support for its efforts in Aleppo[xliii].

Maria Zakharova, spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that it was a special humiliation to be dragged into NATO after fatal U. S. bombings. [xliv] The president of the Srebrenica Historical Project, Stephen Karganović had a similar idea and wrote about “Serbia’s march into NATO servitude.” He added that even though Serbia has laws on the books that prevent the government from joining any military block and require neutrality, government officials receive marching orders from their Western masters[xlv]. Tanjug reported on June 25, 2016 that Serbia already gave information about its security and military forces to NATO. This would be, indeed, consistent with the provisions of the above analyzed agreements to share data and relevant information. Regardless of different ways to approach this consistent cooperation with NATO, all of the agreements that Serbia signed with NATO can only be interpreted as heavily imbalanced, with one side—the Serbian side—accepting 90% of the obligations. It is often not clear what kinds of benefits stem from such agreements. In other words, it could be interpreted that Serbia accepted most obligations that stem from NATO membership, but since it is formally not a member, it cannot be given any rights exclusively given to members. At the same time, these deals seemprofitable for NATO because they provide a platform for tax-free sale of data collection systems, military technology, and much more. They also provide additional avenues for NATO to be present on the ground in Belgrade and entire country.

The Serbian population doesn’t have a favorable opinion about their country’s relationship with NATO—the organization that waged a full scale war against them only seventeen years ago. In March of this year, the people’s voices were the loudest, demanding a referendum about NATO membership. Some local alternative and foreign media reported that as many as 10,000 people protested in downtown Belgrade on March 24, 2016, the anniversary of the beginning of NATO bombing[xlvi]. In the late 1990s Sara Flounders expected that the angry demonstrations against NATO would spread across the region, but over the years they have remained for the most part relatively small and easy to contain[xlvii]. The Serbian population is still struggling with economic, health, and social devastation, which makes it difficult to uncover concealed information and find time to organize. Additionally, it remains to be seen if the information campaign aimed at improving the image of NATO will become effective in the near future. The upcoming months and years might become critically important for the future of Serbia and the entire region.

Notes

[i] The corporate media and politicians often used this phrase throughout the 1990s: before, during and after the NATO war against Serbia. See: Barry Lituchy. Media Deception and the Yugoslav Civil War. In: NATO in the Balkans. 1998. New York: International Action Center. p. 205; also, Inside Milosevic’s Propaganda Machine, July 4, 1999 TIME magazine. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,27726,00.html

[ii] The use of depleted uranium was confirmed by multiple sources including U. S. and NATO officials. See: http://educate-yourself.org/cn/depleteduraniumlegacyyugoslavia28aug13.shtml

http://www.globalresearch.ca/15-years-on-looking-back-at-natos-humanitarian-bombing-of-yugoslavia/5375577

Michele Chossudovsky. 2003. NATO’s War of Aggression Against Yugoslavia. ahttp://www.globalresearch.ca/natos-war-of-aggression-against-yugoslavia-2/5517027

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-u-s-nato-military-intervention-in-kosovo/1666

Shay Lafontaine. NATO and the Humanitarian Dismemberment of Yugoslavia. Counterpunch, May 17, 2016. http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/17/nato-the-humanitarian-dismemberment-of-yugoslavia/

Also see: Michael Parenti. 2000. The Rational Destruction of Yugoslavia. http://www.michaelparenti.org/yugoslavia.html

and Robert Fisk. 2000. Amnesty Internations: NATO Deliberately Attacked Civilians in Serbia. Independent, June 7, 2000. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/060700-02.htm

[iii] This article was based on the report published by the Serbian News Agency SRNA. http://www.blic.rs/vesti/drustvo/posledice-nato-bombi-srbija-je-prva-u-evropi-po-smrtnosti-od-tumora/1c0wce1

[iv] NATO casualties are documented by multiple sources and they differ substantially. According to the Serbian officials, they are still confirming the exact civilian deaths, but the numbers that they published in 2013 include 2,500 dead and 12,500 injured civilians along with 631 members of Serbian armed forces in addition to 28 missing.

http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/number-of-victims-of-nato-bombing-still-unknown

[vi] Check out 2 documentaries by Boris Malagurski: The Weight of Chains and The Weight of Chains 2. http://weightofchains.ca/

[vii] The majority of Serbian population opposes any collaboration with NATO, as well as E. U. membership http://inserbia.info/today/201604/serbs-want-russia-do-not-want-eu-and-nato-poll/

[ix] This article was based on the report published by the Serbian News Agency SRNA; http://www.blic.rs/vesti/drustvo/posledice-nato-bombi-srbija-je-prva-u-evropi-po-smrtnosti-od-tumora/1c0wce1

[x] This article was based on the report published by the Serbian News Agency SRNA; http://www.blic.rs/vesti/drustvo/posledice-nato-bombi-srbija-je-prva-u-evropi-po-smrtnosti-od-tumora/1c0wce1

[xi] Michel Chossudovsky. NATO’s War of Aggression in Yugoslavia: Who are the War Criminals? Global Research, March 21, 2006. (reprinted the 1999 article) p. 2 http://www.globalresearch.ca/nato-s-war-of-aggression-in-yugoslavia-who-are-the-war-criminals/2144

[xii] Posledice upotrebe municije sa osiromasenim uranijumom: epidemija kanceroznih oboljenja:

http://www.mycity-military.com/Opste-vojne-teme/Posledice-upotrebe-municije-sa-osiromasenim-uranijumom.html

[xiii] Jasmina Vujić and Dragoljub Antic. March 31, 2015. Ekološke i zdravstvene posledice NATO bombardovanja 1999, sa akcentom na osiromaseni uranijum. http://www.nspm.rs/srbija-i-nato/ekoloske-i-zdravstvene-posledice-nato-bombardovanja-1999-s-akcentom-na-osiromaseni-uranijum.html

[xv] Irving Wesley Hall. Depleted Uranium for Dummies. Global Research, April 17, 2006. http://www.globalresearch.ca/depleted-uranium-for-dummies/2269

[xvi] Depleted Uranium Technical Brief: EPA 402-R-06-011. December 2006 https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-05/documents/402-r-06-011.pdf

[xvii] Example: Jasmina Vujić and Dragoljub Antic. March 31, 2015. Ekoloske i zdravstvene posledice NATO bombardovanja 1999, sa akcentom na osiromaseni uranijum. http://www.nspm.rs/srbija-i-nato/ekoloske-i-zdravstvene-posledice-nato-bombardovanja-1999-s-akcentom-na-osiromaseni-uranijum.html, p.

[xviii] Michael Parenti. 2000. To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia. New York: Verso. p. 121

[xix] A. Cockburn and Jeffery St. Clair. 2004. Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia. New York: Verso. p. 17

[xx] Gregory Elich. 2015. No War Crimes Here. Counterpunch, April 22, 2015. http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/04/22/no-war-crimes-here/ and Gregory Elich. 2006. Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit. Llumina Press. Pp.

[xxi] Rade Biočanin and Mirsada Badić. The mystery of depleted uranium in NATO projectiles, p. 7 www.cqm.rs/2010/pdf/5/22.pdf

[xxii] Organ trafficking in Kosovo:

http://www.justiceinfo.net/en/tribunals/mixed-tribunals/2509-european-court-in-view-on-kosovo-organ-trafficking.html

http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/appeal-court-acquitted-two-in-medicus-case-03-03-2016

Clint Williamson, chief prosecutor of the Special Investigative Task Force (SITF), released a statement last year accusing KLA leaders of murdering a “handful” of people. The report follows the investigation of an earlier Council of Europe inquiry led by Dick Marty, a Swiss politician, in 2010. According to the investigation, senior officials led a “campaign of persecution” toward Serbs, Roma, other minority groups in Kosovo, as well as Albanians who either worked with Serbs or opposed the KLA.

Border kidnappings mentioned here: https://news.vice.com/article/kosovo-rejects-special-court-to-prosecute-organ-harvesting-and-other-alleged-war-crimes

[xxiv] Economic Desperation Forces Kosovars to Flee. Financial Times, March 26, 2015. https://www.ft.com/content/4a5b7426-d2cf-11e4-a792-00144feab7de

[xxv] Parenti, Ibid, p. 163

[xxvi] Diana Johnstone. 2002. Fools Crusade. Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions. NY: Monthly Review. P. 250

[xxvii] Ibid, p. 249

[xxviii] Andrej Grubaċić. 2010. Don’t Mourn, Balkanize! Oakland: PM Press. P. p. 146

[xxix] Ibid, p. 155

[xxx] Ibid, p. 38

[xxxii] Noam Chomsky. 2001. A Review of NATO’s War over Kosovo. Z Magazine, April-May, 2001 and Chomsky.info

[xxxiii] Gray Carter. 2014. Why did NATO bomb Serbia? There Must be Justice, May 30, 2014, p. 1

[xxxiv] Johnstone, Ibid., p. 266

[xxxv] Serbian authorities conceal agreements with NATO, Pravda.Ru, February 26, 2016, p. 2; http://www.pravdareport.com/news/world/europe/24-02-2016/133627-serbia-0/

[xxxvi]Ibid, p. 1; Resolution of the National Assembly on the protection of sovereignty, territorial integrity and constitutional order of the Republic of Serbia: http://www.parlament.gov.rs/Seventh_Sitting_of_the_Second_Regular_Session_of_the_National_Assembly_of_the_Republic_of_Serbia_in_2007.6537.537.html

[xxxvii] I received copies of all Serbia – NATO agreements analyzed in this article from a Serbian friend. I am not sure how easy or difficult it would be for “ordinary Serbian residents” to obtain any of these copies.

[xxxviii] Check out 2 documentaries by Boris Malagurski: The Weight of Chains and The Weight of Chains 2. http://weightofchains.ca/ in these two documentaries Malagurski interviewed numerous experts who provided data on the destruction of the Serbian economy and impacts on the working people and compared the case of Yugoslavia with examples from other countries.

[xl] However, at earlier this year, the public support for any collaboration with NATO stayed as low as 11%. http://inserbia.info/today/201604/serbs-want-russia-do-not-want-eu-and-nato-poll/

[xlii] Serbia’s Asymmetric Neutrality: Teetering Between NATO and Russia. Nyatider.nu https://www.nyatider.nu/serbias-asymmetric-neutrality-teetering-between-nato-and-russia/

[xliv] Rt.com news article about Serbia being dragged into NATO, February 22, 2016. https://www.rt.com/news/333218-serbia-joining-nato-humiliating/>

[xlv] Stephen Karganović. Serbia’s march into NATO servitude. The Saker, July 11, 2016. http://thesaker.is/serbias-march-into-nato-servitude/

[xlvii] Sara Flounders. 1998. NATO in the Balkans. New York: International Action Center. p. 9

By Milina Jovanović

04-09-2016

Israelis post anti-Arab racism online every 46 seconds, study finds

A new study shows that Israeli Jews publushed 675,000 racist posts on social media in 2016 — a dangerous increase from 2015, when only 280,000 such posts were published.

7amleh statistics

Every 46 seconds an Israeli Jew publishes a racist or inciting comment against Arabs on Facebook and other social networks, a new study finds. According to the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media (7amleh), which published its Index for Racism and Incitement on Social Media last week, 60,000 active Israeli social media users published at least one racist post against Arabs in 2016.

According to the study there were over 675,000 such posts in the previous year, published at a rate of one post every 46 seconds — a dangerous increase from 2015, when 280,000 racist and inciting posts were published.

7amleh’s study also focused on the correlation between remarks made by high-level government officials and the amount of inciting posts. One can see a clear increase in the number of racist posts against Arabs following every inciting remark by a member of the government.

The sharpest spikes in racist posts came following remarks by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against Arab citizens, following the fires that raged across Israel and the West Bank in November 2016, which leaders blamed on nationalistically-motivated arson. Miri Regev’s comments against Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar and poet Mahmoud Darwish also led to a higher volume of incitement on the internet.

Another sharp increase was felt throughout the trial of Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who was found guilty of killing an incapacitated Palestinian in Hebron early last year.

Haneen Zoabi is removed by Knesset security on February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

According to the study, the Israeli media serves as the main inspiration for racist posts against Arabs. Much of the hatred and incitement is directed at Palestinian politicians, who are frequently mentioned in both the media and who are incited against by Israeli politicians. MK Haneen Zoabi was the most frequent target of incitement and racism, with 60,000 posts directed at her. Ahmed Tibi was subjected to 40,000 posts, closely followed by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with 30,000 and Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh with 25,000.

7amleh published the following video:

Institutionalized racism works

7amleh’s report was a result of repeated accusations by Israeli politicians that Palestinians take part in incitement against Israeli Jews on social media. These accusations led to the arrests of Palestinian activists, often when they had committed no such crime. According to 7amleh, Israel is putting pressure on companies such as Facebook and Google to reveal data on its users so as to make it easier to track and arrest them.

According to human rights organizations, over 200 criminal cases have been opened against Palestinian activists who have been accused of incitement on the internet. On the other hand, only a few Israeli Jews have been arrested for anti-Arab incitement on social media.

7amleh’s study was conducted by Vigo, an Tel Aviv-based company that specializes in monitoring and studying social media outlets. The company used a search algorithm based on 100 names and key words used among Palestinians, crosschecking them with racist words or incitement to violence that often appears on social media in Israel.

This article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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