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Dissident Voice

Dissident Voice
30 Sep 2022 | 10:02 am

Opportunistic Interests: The US-Pacific Island Declaration


If ever there was a blatant statement of realpolitik masquerading as friendliness, the latest US-Pacific Island declaration must count as one of them.  The Biden administration has been busy of late, wooing Pacific Island states in an effort to discourage increasingly sharp tilt towards China.  It has been spurred on, in no small way, by Beijing's failure in May to forge a trade and security pact with Pacific Island countries.

In July, Vice President Kamala Harris was given the task of spreading the good word to those attending the Pacific Islands Forum that the US "is a proud Pacific nation and has an enduring commitment to the Pacific Islands, which is why President Joe Biden and I seek to strengthen our partnership with you."

Harris also acknowledged the Pacific Islands had not been in Washington's diplomatic radar in recent years.  They had not received deserving "attention and support".  This, she promised, would change.  As a start, embassies would be established in Tonga and Kiribati.  A United States Envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum would be appointed.  USAID would also expand its operations and re-establish a regional mission in Suva, Fiji.

This month, the focus has been on the push for a broader declaration designed to rope in the sceptics.  President Biden, in his address to leaders at the State Department ahead of the White House dinner, extravagantly declared that, "The security of America and, quite frankly, the world, depends on your security – and the security of the Pacific Islands."

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, in remarks made before a September 29 meeting with the leaders of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated State of Micronesia and Republic of Palau, spoke of "the incredible breath and depth of the relationship and partnership we have."

The previous day, at a working lunch with US-Pacific Island Country Leaders, Blinken also spoke of "a shared history, value and enduring people-to-people ties."  As part of a group, the United States would discuss with Pacific Island states "the challenges that we face, exchange ideas and perspectives, and chart a way forward to deliver on the issues that matter most to our people."

As has become customary in the Blinkenesque argot, one takes the management waffle with the occasional candid remark.  China, the obvious target in this latest push for deeper regional engagement by Washington, is not mentioned once.  The threats of climate change, the role of viruses, transnational criminal organisations, corruption and human trafficking are.

But the shadow of Beijing is discernible in remarks that the grouping will be able to preserve "a free and open Indo-Pacific where every nation – no matter how big, no matter how small – has the right to choose its own path."

The declaration itself makes eleven points.  Among them is the resolve to strengthen the partnership to enable "individuals to reach their potential" and foster conditions where "the environment can thrive, and democracy will be able to flourish."  Greater US involvement in terms of diplomatic presence and "development cooperation" is envisaged.  Other bread and butter points include responding to the climate crisis, advancing sustainable development and economic growth, and improving responses to disasters.

The standout provision is the seventh, where the nature of US power is camouflaged behind the promise of keeping the "Blue Pacific Continent" free of war and conflict.  "We will oppose all efforts to undermine the territorial integrity and sovereignty of any country, large or small.  We condemn all wars of aggression, including Russia's brutal war against Ukraine."  This is very much the sentiment of a policing authority, a watchful armed guard.

Such a sentiment also finds voice in a White House release, which explicitly states Washington's determination to maintain a firm hand in the Pacific.  "The United States recognizes that geography links the Pacific's future to our own: US prosperity and security depend on the Pacific region remaining free and open."

Some of the Pacific Island states have expressed their pleasure at the whole circus, with Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa openly contrasting Washington's approach with that of Beijing's in May.  "We've been insisting that if partners wish to talk to us, collectively, then they need to do it through the modalities of the Pacific [Islands] Forum."  China, in proposing something similar along the lines of the declaration, had not done so.

While approving in her remarks about the general nature of the agreement, the Samoan leader was also explicit in what it did not promote.  Maintaining regional peace and security was an important goal but should not come at the cost of an increased US military presence.  "We wouldn't like to encourage that in any way."  This may prove to be wishful thinking, given Washington's ambitions as expressed in the AUKUS security pact.

The other good reason for the attraction among certain Pacific Island states is the cash that is predicted to follow.  An amount somewhere in the order of US$860 million in expanded aid programs is expected in addition to the US$1.5 billion provided in the last decade.

The Solomon Islands, which has proven to be more friendly than most towards Beijing, is a case in point, and will receive additional aid to improve its tourism industry.  This is despite having shown reluctance to signing the declaration in the first place.  But if the conduct of the Sogavare government is anything to go by, the more cunning Pacific Island leaders will be happy to take whatever they can get their hands on from both Beijing and Washington. That would certainly make things open if agitating.

The post Opportunistic Interests: The US-Pacific Island Declaration first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
30 Sep 2022 | 12:55 am

The Attack on the Russian Pipelines Are Ultimately a Sign of Weakness


Earlier this week an incident occurred that represents a new and alarming threat to peace in the world. I am referring of course to the attack upon two Russian pipelines that occurred in the Baltic Sea. The pipelines, named Nord Stream I and II were designed to bring Russian gas to the European market. Nord Stream II was currently inoperable, its German recipient having made the decision (or was it made for them?) to not accept the gas that it bought.

There has been intense speculation online about who was responsible for what can only be described as a terrorist attack. The names of countries most frequently mentioned in this context are Russia, Poland, Ukraine and the United States. Russia can be ruled out, notwithstanding the somewhat desperate attempts of some media outlets to point the finger at them. Russia has absolutely no motive to cause the damage. If they wished to deny gas to Europe, all they had to do was turn the switch to "off" for that to be achieved.

Ukraine can be ruled out because it lacks the means to achieve this act of sabotage.

The operation was actually quite complex, obviously involving the use of ships in the vicinity to carry the saboteurs. It is extremely doubtful if the Ukrainians have the technical expertise to carry out the operation, much less able to put the naval vehicles in the vicinity to carry out that operation

Poland has both the manpower and the motivation to carry out the attack.  It is extremely doubtful, however, whether they have the political will to carry out such an attack, at least on their own. That leaves the Americans and here much evidence can be mustered on behalf of their being the culprit.

Let us examine that option in terms of the three classic elements used in determining potential culpability: means, motive and opportunity. Means is hardly an issue. The Americans have plenty of people trained specifically in this type of warfare. It would be a simple matter from their perspective to put together a team able to conduct such an operation.

Let's look at motive. Here there is no shortage of evidence. In February of this year the United States president, Joe Biden, issued a specific threat against Russia should they ever develop the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline and use it to supply gas to Germany. The pipeline was certainly developed and had it not been for the Germans' capitulation to United States pressure it would have been supplying gas to Germany months ago.

Did the United States fear that Germany would recover its nerve and agree to the pipeline becoming operational, despite the United States pressure? That was certainly a possibility. Although it has not been reported in the western media, there has, in fact, been massive protests in Germany in recent weeks. The deprivation of gas to Germany has not only seen the Germans facing the prospect of a very cold winter but more importantly there has been a large-scale closure of German businesses, and with it a loss of jobs, as firms have reacted to the rapidly diminishing supply of gas that is essential to keep the factories operating. That unrest was placing growing pressure on the German government, some resiling from their earlier reluctance to resist United States pressure was a growing possibility.

That leaves the United States as a prime candidate for being responsible for the sabotage. It marks a wholly new level of irresponsibility by the Americans. Not only have they been prepared to see the collapse of Europe's strongest economy, it marks a degree of carelessness and indifference to political responses not witnessed in living memory by the United States political class.

Why have they been prepared to adopt such an extreme and risky policy? To answer that question, one has to look wider than Europe. The last several years have seen the steady rise of the Chinese to the point where they are now, in parity progression terms, the world's strongest economy. The rise in Chinese economic power has been matched by the progressive outgunning of the Americans in a range of social and economic issues. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, including the development of a range of economic groupings that have proved enormously attractive to an ever-growing number of countries in the world. This includes the Belt and Road Initiative which now has more than 145 members, or three quarters of all countries in the world.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is another grouping which currently welcomed Iran as its eighth full member, but has also attracted membership bids from a number of other countries, including, of particular significance, Turkey, which remains for the time being at least, still a member of NATO for whom moves by the SCO remain anathema to them.

The BRICS is a further grouping that has also shown recent signs of expanding its membership from the current five members, drawn from the world's great continents. None of these developments have been well received by the Americans who see their previous hegemony around the world progressively declining in both power and influence.

It is not a position the Americans accept with any equanimity. The attack upon Russian infrastructure may be interpreted as a desperate attempt to recover its initial primacy. It demonstrates, however, that it is losing the ability to influence the rest of the world.  The desperate attempt by a fading empire to regain its military relevance. The world has had enough of United States bullying and the attack on Nord Stream 1 and 2 will be interpreted in that light.  That they should choose to demonstrate that fading relevance by an attack on a major civilian target will properly be interpreted as a sign of weakness.  The attack on Nord Stream 1 and 2 may be seen by many as just enough to tip the remaining doubters from one camp to another.

The post The Attack on the Russian Pipelines Are Ultimately a Sign of Weakness first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
29 Sep 2022 | 8:40 pm

Anti-Assimilationist Manifesto: The Movers and the Stayers of Europe


1—Stayers and movers

In the media and politics, we hear constantly about the problem of assimilation. How will "migrants" assimilate to our culture? How do we encourage people who have moved here to adapt to our way of life? How do we encourage "refugees" to become part of the local culture?

One problem with these anxieties is that they presume there is a unified identity within certain borders. If we wonder how migrants will adapt to German culture, we presume that "German culture" is a real referent, that there is something that unifies the eighty-three million people in Germany.

But culture is the intersection of many different forms of social meaning, including religion, race, language or dialect, gender, sexuality, profession, class, life experience, trauma, sports interests, hobbies, skills, and addictions. These social codes create an overlapping network of meanings that cannot be reduced to a single "culture". So which one should newcomers adapt to?

By presuming a single unifying culture, we also assume that something unifies everyone who moves to a particular place. The words "immigrant" and "native" or "local" help to produce this confusion, as they assign an absolute identity to movement.

But what do these words really say about people? "Immigrants" are people who move to a place where they were not before, and "emigrants" leave the place they have lived in, while the "native population" or "local citizens" stay in place. So, rather than these ideological and tainted words, we propose a much more neutral distinction: movers and stayers. Those who move are called movers, those who stay are called stayers.

In European languages other than English, this distinction also works. For example:

Spanish: instead of inmigrante and el pueblo, movedores and quedadores.

Italian: instead of immigrata/o and cittadina/o, spostatore/i and rimanetore/i

Swedish: instead of invandrare and lokalbefolkningen, flyttare and stännare.

2—Social life

The terms stayers and movers help us to understand that these are not permanent conditions of people's identities, but things that people do, and have always done.

People have always moved, always packed up their things and tried to find a better life. In Europe, until the early twentieth century there was no such thing as immigration law or border restrictions. People moved wherever they could find work and a way to live, which was necessary to both the movers and the stayers, since the movers needed jobs and housing, and the stayers needed employees, colleagues, residents, and houses to be built.

Since then, however, we have begun to believe the fantasy that there is a pure population to protect and a completely different population arriving. Included in that fantasy are other fantasies: that the stayers have always been here and been unaffected by movement; that borders and cultural identities are permanent and unchanging; that a "local culture" is developed by the people already inside it rather than the people moving into it; that there are such things as "bad" and "good" movers and that the stayers have to discern between these two groups.

Many of the movers to Europe, moreover, are not moving away from conditions that they created. Their need to move away was created by European movers. Since the fifteenth century, Europeans have moved through colonization, extracting value from other places, and leaving them not only without the value they produce, but also dependent on the system of value-production which is called capitalism.

In one sense, the terms stayers and movers take away the different types of agency involved in moving between places. People going on holiday, people fleeing war and persecution, people seeking what they consider a better life, people taking a temporary job position, people travelling for travelling's sake—all of them are movers in various ways.

Having a single term for all the people who move in these different ways risks simplifying the different ways that stayers have to adapt to each of these situations. Of course, backpackers and refugees are not the same kind of mover. However, having different terms for each kind of movement creates different legal frameworks for each, and once someone (and their particular form of movement) is recognized in the law, their movement becomes a condition that defines them. "Refugee" becomes the ontological ground of the person in movement.

Denise Ferreira da Silva speaks about the law as the collective agency given the specific task of reducing complexity. The law necessarily universalizes, creating a simple symbolic order in which one stimulus always equals one decision. In the history of European colonialism, for example, the social wound of enslavement is imposed on African people, and that wound becomes a symbol of enslavement: being black means being exchangeable as a commodity. The wound appears as skin colour, and by the law it is assigned the symbolic order of race. The law then responds to racial difference, repeating the scene of enslavement constantly by affirming the symbolic code of black equals slave.

Developing the thinking of Hortense Spillers and Saidiya Hartman, Ferreira da Silva maintains that what happens simultaneously, alongside this legal reduction, is the social life of those people who are reduced to simplified symbols by the law. Those people sustain ways of surviving despite the law.

It is this capacity to produce social ways of being despite the appropriation of social meaning by the law that makes the lives of movers so important to everyone, whether stayers or movers. It is also what makes legal recognition undesirable, since legal recognition only means that movers can represent themselves within the reductive framework of the law.

That is why, despite its problems and its own reductionism, we propose only two terms to encapsulate every form of movement: movers and stayers. With these terms, the law will not be able to distinguish forms of movement, and so the regulating power of the state will not be able to reduce the complexity of movement's meaning and the survival of ways of life that it maintains.

3—Integration

In liberal politics, what is pursued is not usually assimilation but rather integration. Integration allows the private maintenance of a mover-culture, while publicly becoming part of the stayer-culture, whereas assimilation assumes a loss of mover-culture.

Integrated Muslims in Europe are those who go to the pub but drink a soft drink. Integrated refugees are those who never mention their new country's historical, economic, and political involvement in the war they fled. To be an integrated mover is to exist on the borderline between performances of home: allowing enough remnants of a mover-culture that stayers remember they are different, but not so many remnants that stayers have to change.

One of us set up a Bangladeshi restaurant, but no one came for dinner. They changed the sign to "Indian" restaurant, and it was full. The performance of movers' home is allowed as long as it is the expected performance prescribed by the stayers.

In this example, two problems occur simultaneously in the minds of stayers: they presume that all movers are absolutely different to the stayers, and that all movers are absolutely alike.

Firstly, the logic of integration believes in the same definition of culture as assimilation: that there are coherent unifying identities among groups of people which are exclusive to that group, distinguishing all its members from the members of another group. It presumes that a neat separation exists between Muslim and Christian cultures, and that this separation can be maintained.

Secondly, it similarly assumes that cultures are not formed necessarily through the nonexistence of the boundaries between them. The many ways of being Muslim are constructed in response and interplay with the many ways of being Christian, and vice versa.

What is misunderstood by integrationist stayers is that "home" is not the demarcation of a boundary. Home is not the walls and closures of the architecture that surrounds you. That is the definition of the house, of the nation, or archetypally in Ancient Roman law—of the city as distinct from the forest.

"Home" is quite the opposite. It is the relations that form on the boundary between "mine" and "yours". It is the place that is always given meaning by the presence of an other. It is the site that is always given away, so given away that all it reveals is the impossibility of giving it away: there was never anything to give away, because all it ever meant was this shared moment at the boundary of possession.

My home means my four siblings sharing a tiny space and passing food to each other. My home means the smell of burning oil before the eggs are fried. My home means the tears and laughter of my nieces and nephews. My home means the slight burn of the rug as we kneel for morning prayers. My home means the friends who always know where to find me, where the spare key is hidden, where to stay when they need a place to stay.

4—Fantasies of similitude

There is a profound illusion in European societies that stayers are unified in their similitude and movers are unified in their difference. This illusion produces the discourse of assimilation, setting up a whole national infrastructure to turn movers into convincing performers of the stayers' identity. In Sweden, a huge amount of money and effort is put into the SFI school system, which stands for Svenskundervisning för invandrare, meaning Swedish language teaching for immigrants.

"Immigrants" ("invandrare" in Swedish), including refugees, have to attend these schools full-time in order to learn Swedish. The problem, however, is that speaking the language is not equivalent to being part of the culture. Swedes are infamously reserved. At the end of one of these year-long SFI language courses, one of us was told by the Swedish teacher (who was a mover, too): "Well done, you have now learnt a language that you will never be able to practice because Swedes will never speak to you."

It does not matter if you learn the language because the fantasy that there is a unifying Swedishness and a unifying foreignness is stronger than the performance of words. Assimilation is a scam.

Even if there was such a thing as a meaningful cultural similarity that connected all the stayers of a particular place, and a meaningful cultural difference that connected all the movers arriving there, the notion that this divide could be transcended is illusory, since the very idea of that difference is rooted in the notion of independent cultures. If cultures develop independently of each other, and what produces a strong culture is its separation from the influence of movers, then adaption within a single generation is a fantasy. The idea of assimilation is impossible even from within the logic of assimilation.

5—Education programme

What if assimilation is all a misunderstanding? What if there was never any identity to protect? What if the fault lay with the stayers who presume that there is anything to adapt to?

Fred Moten says that sympathy is normally understood as the ability to see someone else reflected in ourselves. To feel sympathy, I have to see myself in the other and the other in me. Which means that to feel sympathy I first have to separate myself from the other. I have to establish an absolute difference between us, in order to then imagine a closing of that difference in our mutual reflection.

But this presumes that there is a border to suffering, that my pain is separated from the world, and that nothing connects my sadness with everyone else's. It presumes that my suffering is fundamentally disconnected from yours.

What we should realize instead, Moten says, is that sympathy is the sharing of a general pain. Sympathy is the understanding that there is no unifying self to protect, that I am not a singular being who can be closed off from the general feeling of the world. I am the unique performance of a particular response to general conditions. I am one example of how to bear and live with a general pain.

When we feel sympathy, the boundary that we are crossing is this: from the fantasy of our individual separation to the awareness of our sharing of a general pain.

This general pain is displayed in the movers by the fact of having moved. That movement is their sharing of a general pain. In the place they move to, the sharing of a general pain must be opened by the stayers, since, by having stayed, they have not yet shared that general pain of movement.

How do the stayers share a general pain with the movers? What we propose is the inverse of the Swedish SFI system. Instead of Svenskundervisning för invandrare (Swedish language teaching for immigrants), we propose MO.LE.S: Mover Learning for Stayers.

These MOLES will be schools where stayers can learn about movers and exchange experiences. The teachers of these schools will be movers, and the students will be stayers. However, not all movers have to teach at these schools. It is open to those who want to take on the job, which will be paid at the rate of the national living wage. No mover is obliged to take on the responsibility of teaching the stayers about movement.

What will be taught and learnt in the MOLES is not the illusion of a permanent condition. The mover-teachers will not be mover-teachers forever, and if the stayers decide to move then they stop being stayers. What will be worked on, instead, is the possibility of performance. The movers and stayers will together develop an understanding of each other's way of making social meaning.

Through this MOLES system, many social changes will result. 1. The stayers' way of making meaning will change, constantly developing a new kind of stayer-society. 2. The movers will become stayers as they stay in that place, working as mover-teachers until they consider themselves stayers, or until they move again. 3. The legal framework that responds differently to different kinds of movers will be unable to keep certain movers in prisons (in the UK euphemistically called "detention centres", making it sound more like a short stay during a school break), or force certain movers to the place they moved from, or reward certain movers with tax cuts or access to properties and passports.

6—Whose work is this?

This manifesto is written as a provocation to elicit questioning of received ideas around assimilation and integration. What we do not have—what is both not yet developed and not desirable—is a set of policies that proposes precise legal action. What we propose is the destruction of the logic of policy. We propose a mode of questioning that never ends, that is always pursuing contradiction and incommensurability, not looking for universalizable laws that withdraw people's ability to plan and form meaningful social lives by asserting sovereign authority.

In order to achieve constant questioning, we have to also question ourselves. One question we ask ourselves in response to the Anti-Assimilationist Manifesto is: whose work is it to educate the stayers? The movers have already had to move, and then, rather than getting settled and making the conditions for a changed life, they are obliged to teach stayers about the numerous practices of movers. But is it the duty of the movers to undertake this work?

7—Manifesto

As anti-assimilationists, we call for the replacement of the discourse of "immigration" with the terms movers and stayers.

As anti-assimilationists, we call for the abolition of schools and learning centres that attempt to subsume the practices of movers into the illusory culture of the stayers.

As anti-assimilationists, we call for the creation of schools for Mover Learning for Stayers, where movers teach stayers how to adapt to the many ways of making social meaning that movers bring to the places where they move.

As anti-assimilationists, we call for the end to the legal distinction between forms of movement that reduce movers to permanent conditions, calculating their punishment or reward for moving based on these ideological presumptions.

The post Anti-Assimilationist Manifesto: The Movers and the Stayers of Europe first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
29 Sep 2022 | 8:27 pm

US Hybrid War against Venezuela Goes to Court


Ambassador Alex Saab, a victim of the US economic war to achieve regime change in Venezuela, has been under arrest for over two years. This article recounts the developments in the diplomat's court case. Saab is fighting against his illegal detention and extradition before the 8th District Court in Miami.

As Venezuela's special envoy and a deputy ambassador to the African Union, Saab has diplomatic immunity from arrest and detention under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Although a party to the convention, the US has flouted this principle of international law.

Judicial overreach on political grounds

Alex Saab was targeted by the US because of his role in helping circumvent their sanctions imposed on Venezuela. These measures, a form of collective punishment, are intended to make conditions so onerous that the people would renounce their elected government. Such unilateral coercive measures constitute hybrid warfare and are illegal under international law.

Ambassador Saab was on a humanitarian mission from Caracas to Tehran to procure food, fuel, and medicine in legal international trade but in contravention of the illegitimate US sanctions. When his plane made a fuel stop in Cabo Verde on June 12, 2020, he was seized and imprisoned at Washington's behest.

He was tortured and held in solitary confinement until December 2020. Then he was released to strict house arrest but without visits from his wife and children and without necessary medical care.

Although the regional Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) Court of Justice and the UN Human Rights Committee ordered his release, Saab was held captive. The $200,000 award in damages by the ECOWAS court was unpaid.

According to distinguished Nigerian human rights lawyer Femi Falana, the arrest and detention of Alex Saab in Cabo Verde is an example of  "extraterritorial politically motivated judicial overreach" and a "twenty-first-century form of colonialism."

On October 17, 2021, the opposition party won the national election in Cabo Verde on a platform which included freeing Alex Saab. However, the day before, the long arm of Washington "justice" had simply seized the Venezuelan diplomat, dressed him in an orange jumpsuit, and deposited him in a US prison.

The US has no extradition treaty with Cabo Verde and no notice of his extradition was given to Saab's family or lawyers. Nor had Saab's legal recourse in Cabo Verdean courts been completely exhausted. His extradition was an illegal fait accompli.

Money laundering charges dropped by US

The original charges against Mr. Saab related to money laundering in Venezuela with Venezuela as the alleged victim. Even if charges related to defrauding the Venezuelan government were justifiable, they should be laid in Venezuela and not in the US, which is attempting to starve Venezuela into submission.

Then on November 1, 2021, after what amounted to a judicial kidnapping to the US, Washington dropped all money laundering charges against Saab leaving the single charge of conspiracy to launder money.

An exhaustive three-year investigation of money laundering changes by Swiss courts, where the activity was allegedly perpetrated, had found no evidence to support the US's claim.

Conveniently for the prosecution, the remaining charge of "conspiracy" is quite easy to prove since it only requires proof of an agreement without the objective being realized. Fighting vague conspiracy charges is a nightmare for defense lawyers. The charge is often called "the darling of the prosecutor's nursery."

The labyrinth of the US "justice" system

Ambassador Saab is presently detained in a federal facility in Florida. He has been unable to have family visits because they have no guarantee of safe passage. His prison conditions are difficult with insufficient food and in a dangerous environment without medical care for his cancer and other ailments.

During his unlawful detention in Cabo Verde, counsel for Alex Saab challenged the US extradition proceedings with a "motion to vacate" based on his status as a diplomat.

That motion was first refused in a US "lower" trial court and then appealed "up" to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. His appeal challenging the charges based on diplomatic status was then sent right back "down" in June 2022 from the appellate court to the trial court.

In anticipation of his December 12 hearing, Saab filed preliminary motions for disclosure of evidentiary materials with a view to filing a motion to quash the indictment based on his diplomatic status. If diplomatic immunity is recognized, Saab should be released. If not, there will be the trial for conspiracy to launder money in Venezuela.

Saab's motion to compel disclosure of discovery materials

Exculpatory material could be held by the US, which would prove Saab's status as a diplomat. Under what are known as the Brady rules, the prosecution must provide all evidence available and under its control, which might help in his defense.

Accordingly, Saab requested all information material to his defense held by the US government regarding diplomatic status, including evidence on:

  • His service as Venezuelan special envoy or other diplomatic roles.
  • Whether any other country, or international or supranational organization, considered him to be a Venezuelan special envoy or any other diplomatic role.
  • His role in Venezuela's state-to-state activities with Iran and the purpose of his travel to or from Iran.
  • The flight, diversion, or detention of the plane on which he was travelling, which landed in Cabo Verde.
  • Knowledge by US government personnel of his diplomatic status, appointment as a special envoy, or activities taken on behalf of Venezuela.
  • Documents found on his person or plane, following his detention and arrest in Cabo Verde, and any information relating to such documents.

Saab asked the court to order the disclosure of information held by the US departments of Defense, Justice, State, and Treasury, the Office of International Affairs, the National Security Division, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Customs and Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the US Coast Guard.

Saab's counsel anticipates that all these agencies would have information regarding his diplomatic status. Comprehensive disclosure could lead to recognition of full immunity.

US government tries to prevent disclosure of discovery materials

The US government prosecutor made a series of somewhat specious arguments asking the judge to reject the Brady motion, dismissing the motion as a simple "fishing expedition" with no merit. In short, this was a legal tactic by the government to hide the truth.

The US prosecutor argued that the requests to review documents outside of the prosecution team's immediate control should be denied, even if they were held by a government agency and even if they supported Saab's claim to diplomatic status. The prosecutor contended that only material under the prosecutor's direct control and related to the investigation can be disclosed; other material held by other branches of the government cannot be sought and disclosed under Brady.

This would mean, if the US government has definitive proof of Saab's status or recognition thereof in agencies out of the control of the prosecutor, Saab cannot obtain such information under the Brady rule.

Saab's defense argued that he requires disclosure of information from all branches of the US government. This is because the entire US government is engaged with his extradition and prosecution. The prosecution, for instance, even asked to allow someone from the National Security Division to attend the hearing, although they were not previously part of the prosecution team.

Saab's diplomatic immunity argued

The following describes the prosecution's arguments followed by those of the defense. This is based on the respective court statements filed by the two sides and particularly on the transcript of the September 13th hearing.

The prosecution argued that the issue of ignoring diplomatic immunity had been settled in Cabo Verde when it granted extradition. The US court should not depart from precedent and second-guess the legitimacy of a foreign country's decision to extradite an individual. Such an approach would be contrary to the act-of-state doctrine with respect to Cabo Verde.

Saab's defense countered that no authority requires deference to Cabo Verde's decision to allow the extradition. Cabo Verde law applies in Cabo Verde and not in the US.

The prosecution maintained that Saab has never been entitled to immunity under either the Diplomatic Relations Act or the International Organizations Immunities Act because he had never been notified to the US State Department as a member of any foreign mission in the US, including Venezuela's bilateral mission and delegation to the African Union.

Saab's defense disputed that, regardless, Saab was traveling from Venezuela to Iran and at no point transited the US. He had "transit immunity."

The prosecution contended that US law (US v. Alvarez-Machain, 1992) allows prosecution even if the accused were wrongly sent to the US. Even forcible abduction does not prevent trial in the US for violations of US laws.

Saab's defense stated that this is a baseless excuse which would allow US agents to kidnap a person in any country and try that person for crimes under US law.

Central to the US government's case is the self-serving notion that, since Washington does not recognize the Maduro government, no Venezuelan diplomatic nominate enjoys immunity. In other words, the imperial power arrogates to itself the authority to determine whom other countries may appoint as their diplomatic representatives.

Saab's defense noted that it is an undisputed fact that Venezuela, the sending state, and Iran, the receiving state, not only recognize each other's government, they recognize that Saab is a special envoy.

In that context, to accord him diplomatic immunity is independent upon the US's position as to which government of Venezuela they recognize. To hold otherwise would completely distort and rob of any meaning both the US obligations and the Vienna Convention and the Diplomatic Relations Act. Failure to do so would be devastating to the diplomatic world and international relations.

Court's current ruling

Arguments in Mr. Saab's defense were presented to the court on September 13. On September 15, Judge Scola ruled partially in favour of Mr. Saab, granting him circumscribed access to discovery materials. Disclosure under Brady would include materials under the control of the prosecution: DEA, FBI, and ICE.

Excluded from Brady disclosure are materials held by the Department of State, the Office of International Affairs, the National Security Division, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Defense, and the US Coast Guard. The judge held that none of these entities were involved in the investigation leading to his indictment, so these entities need not be searched for proof of diplomatic status.

The US court's narrow interpretation of the Brady obligations risks causing a major injustice. If, in its many international relations and contacts, the US has evidence of Saab's status, the US can hide this if this evidence is outside the scope of the criminal investigation against him.

This would even be possible if the US had recognized his status as a diplomat in some special context outside the investigation of the alleged conspiracy to launder money. This denial of justice could be likened to a form of judicial lynching.

Trial for December 12 and a proposed non-judicial solution

Saab's diplomatic immunity will be argued in Southern District Court on December 12. For now, Ambassador Alex Saab is still unjustly detained pending trial.

We believe, Mr. Saab must be recognized as a diplomat and trial should be terminated. There is a non-judicial means to revolve this. The Biden administration can engage in a prisoner exchange that would unite Mr. Saab and also US citizens imprisoned in Venezuela with their families. Venezuela is willing and the US should do the same.

The post US Hybrid War against Venezuela Goes to Court first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
29 Sep 2022 | 6:57 pm

Fake Reporting on Blown-up Pipelines and Russia’s “Annexation” of Donbass: Open Letter to the NYT


Dear Editor of the once-upon-a-time Famous-for-truth New York Times,

With headlines like this:

Sabotaged Pipelines and a Mystery.  Who did it?  (Was it Russia?)

even suggesting that Russia may have blown up its own pipeline, the NYT is killing its last vestige of credibility.

You know exactly this is a lie.

The only force that has a vital interest in doing so is the US/NATO conglomerate — to make sure there is no way Germany could change its mind and go back on its decision to let its people freeze to death this winter, and to economically destroy Germany, THE economic force and leader of Europe.

You, and your analysts know that.

Unfortunately, there is no common people's influence on our reporting. There are stronger forces that have bought into your mind-bending journalism.

Still, once a supporter of the NYT, I feel I want to tell you.

The same with this reporting:

Russian Proxies in Ukraine Push Moscow to Annex Occupied Regions

and

Vladimir Putin will sign agreements on Friday to take over four Ukrainian regions, the Kremlin said, after votes widely denounced as a sham

Here too, these are not "proxy" Russians who signed a "sham petition" to be annexed to Russia. You know it very well.

These are real Russians, living in the far Eastern part of Ukraine, the Donbass area, mostly who have been discriminated against ever since the US-instigated Maidan coup on 22 February 2014 when a neo-Nazi government was installed that let the Nazi Asov Battalions literally slaughter Ukraine's own people in Donbass — at least 14,000 were reported killed about half of them children — in the eight years since the "Victoria Nuland" ("Fuck Europe") coup.

We are talking about the same Asov Battalions that helped Hitler during WWII fight against the Soviet Union.

Already in 2014/2015 the Donbass districts wanted to join Russia. President Putin did not allow it because at that time he still believed in the Minsk Agreements, sponsored by France and Germany.

These agreements were principally meant to protect the Donbass people as well as to demilitarize – de-Nazify – Ukraine, and to keep NATO out of Ukraine. None of the conditions of the Minsk Agreements (September 2014 and April 2015) were ever adhered to.

If truth-seeking geopolitical analysts around the globe know the real background, you, Editor-in-chief of the NYT, and your journalists, know the real story too. Still, you report lies and half-truths to further influence and promote people's opinion against Russia.

The New York Times has become weaponized against Russia and China by your mere reporting.

Don't you think that this will eventually backfire?

The post Fake Reporting on Blown-up Pipelines and Russia's "Annexation" of Donbass: Open Letter to the NYT first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
29 Sep 2022 | 5:35 pm

Creating the Good Anthropocene: Towards a Socialist Future


Capitalism has always had a chorus of sirens that have striven to allure Homo sapiens from thinking they had any chance to escape its clutches. Margaret Thatcher proclaimed 'there is no alternative' in 1980. In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, Francis Fukuyama declared the 'End of History' in 1992. Given the fall of the Soviet Union, the decline and isolation of the Cuban economy, and the dominance of the 'Washington Consensus', the decade after the Cold War was one of capitalist triumphalism. It was during that time the Marxist literary critic Frederic Jameson famously wrote that 'it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.'

The late Mark Fisher described all this as 'capitalist realism' (the title of his 2008 book on the subject), 'the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible to even imagine a coherent alternative to it.' Central to capitalist realism is the idea that an economy based on planning and democracy is not viable, inevitably leading to endemic shortages, bureaucracy, and stagnant growth.

Such were the arguments put forward by Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises in his seminal 1920 essay titled 'Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth.' Mises asked how could planning boards know which products to produce, how much should be produced at a given time, which raw materials had to be used, and how much of them? Where should production be located and which production process is the most efficient? And how would all this information be gathered and calculated and then be retransmitted back to all the relevant actors throughout the economy? Mises' answer was that no human process could accomplish it. He argued it is simply beyond the capacity of any planning agency to accurately describe supply and demand across all economic sectors, therefore planners working with flawed data would regularly produce vast mismatches between what is demanded and what is supplied, resulting in inevitable shortages and the requisite barbarism.

Instead Mises argued the simple mechanism of prices floating in a market contain all the needed information. This argument was later taken up by Friedrich von Hayek. Hayek also viewed prices as information-gathering machines reflecting the discrete bits of knowledge scattered among executives, workers, and consumers. Prices, derived from the collective wisdom of the crowd, could coordinate information through a decentralized network Hayek called a 'spontaneous order', making planning unnecessary.

On the surface these arguments seem formidable and have been used against socialism for generations. Lenin himself acknowledged the difficulty of building a planned economy in revolutionary Russia in the aftermath of the destruction of World War I when he said to the Session of the all-Russia C.E.C. in 1918:

We know about socialism, but knowledge of organization on a scale of millions, knowledge of the organization and distribution of goods, etc.- this we do not have. The old Bolshevik leaders did not teach us this…And we say, let him be a thorough-paced rascal even, but if he has organized a trust, if he is a merchant who has dealt with the organization of production and distribution for millions and tens of millions, if he has acquired experience- we must learn from him.

But these arguments can certainly be dismantled. Consider first how much planning and public research is already happening in a modern economy.  For instance, in what has now long been an annual routine of anticipation and leaks in the business press, Apple again recently launched its latest version of the iPhone, iPhone 14 (and the pricier iPhone 14 Pro). The release of iPhone 13 last September brought back the long lines of loyal devotees to Apple stores all over the world after the pandemic paused the ritual. It was the iPhone first released in 2007 (followed by the iPad), that ultimately made Apple the first company in the world to reach a trillion dollars in market cap value on August 18, 2018- not to mention the first to reach $2 trillion (August 19, 2020) and $3 trillion (January 3, 2022). In the five year period following the 2007 launch, Apple's global net sales increased nearly 460 percent. It was the iPhone that more than anything made Steve Jobs a modern icon.

Beyond that, the iPhone (and smart phones generally) is often held up by defenders of the status quo as proof that the status quo is working just fine. After all, what better evidence of the power of capital than the fact that billions of humans now hold in the palm of their hands more than 100,000 the processing power and more than one million times the Random Access Memory than the computer that landed Apollo 11 on the moon in 1969? A few years ago the meme 'Capitalism Made Your iPhone' made the rounds on social media.

If that narrative sounds compelling, it is also quite incomplete. While Jobs and the product designers at Apple undoubtedly had a talent for synergy and design, the Bauhaus inspired minimalist look to the iPhone was always a large part of its brilliance, the actual technology inside the iPhone has its roots not in Apple labs but in publicly funded research. This includes touch-screen displays, GPS, the Internet, even Siri. The first workable prototype for the internet came in late 1960 with ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS got its start the same way a few years later.  Federal funding for computer science increased rapidly in the 1970s, reaching $250 million annually by 1975. The internet received another boost with the establishment of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, funded by the National Science Foundation in the 1980s (out of which emerged Mosaic which later became Netscape). The U.S. government was an early, sole consumer for processing units based on Integrated Circuits. It heavily subsidized the domestic semiconductor industry in late 1980s to the early 1990s through the SEMATECH program. Apple was able to ride this wave of massive state investments in the technologies that underpinned the iPhone.

It also has to be pointed out, as brilliantly described by Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski in their book The People's Republic of Wal-Mart, that large, successful enterprises, even while operating within a general market economy, do a great deal of large scale planning internally. Some of these companies have larger market caps than most countries' GDP. Apple and Amazon are worth more than 90 percent of the world's countries. In 1970 the GDP of the Soviet Union, the second largest economy in the world at the time, came in at around $433.4 billion. In 2021 Wal-Mart's revenue was $572.8 billion. These organizations eschew internal markets. The different departments, stores, and suppliers don't compete with each other. Everything is coordinated. To that extant one can say much of the global economy is already planned.

In fact, there is a recent example of a corporation that actually took markets seriously enough to attempt to incorporate them internally. In February 2013, Edward Lampert, founder of the hedge fund ESL Investments, took over as the CEO of Sears Holdings (the parent company of Kmart and Sears formed after the former bought the latter), one of Wal-Mart's main competitors. Sears goes back to 1892. Its catalog once revolutionized shopping for Americans, particularly the many back then who lived in rural areas. Lampert announced his intention to create markets within the company, breaking it up into 30, then later 40, autonomous units that would compete with each other. Each unit had their own president, board of directors, chief operating officer, and separately measured their own profit and losses. The idea being this would efficiently produce better data.

Instead it devolved to absurdity. Creating internal divisions blocked internal synergy. If a division needed help from the HR or IT departments, it had to write a formal request or use a contractor. In order to optimize profits at one division at the expense of others, infighting erupted over everything from floor shelving to advertising space on circulars. The results quickly spoke for themselves. A Bloomberg expose from 2013 described the gross spectacle of screw drivers being advertised next to lingerie. Little funding went to needed upgrades at stores, many of which became dilapidated. Sales dropped by $10 billion. By October 2018 Sears Holdings filed for bankruptcy and Lampert stepped down as CEO (though he remained chairman). While Sears was facing stagnation since the 1990s as online retail took off, it was an epic Randian failure that truly crashed it.

Compare all that to the fluidity of Amazon. Amazon is certainly a soul-sucking corporation that grinds workers to dust. Yet it has achieved logistical and operational genius. Consider that at any given moment Amazon has 600 million items up for sale, basically all available to be home delivered within two days from strategically placed distribution centers that more and more run on algorithms and robotics. Amazon uses search and point-of-sales data and search history to stock the centers. The result: Amazon receives about 115 orders, basically a full delivery truck worth, every second. That's 10 million fulfilled orders for a day. An estimated 60 percent of U.S. adults are Amazon Prime members.

In a November 2019 profile for The Atlantic of Amazon founder and then CEO Jeff Bezos, Franklin Foer had this astute observation:

Amazon, however, has acquired the God's-eye view of the economy that Hayek never imagined any single entity could hope to achieve. At any moment, its website has more than 600 million items for  sale and more than 3 million vendors selling them. With its history of past purchases, it has collected the world's most comprehensive catalog of consumer desire, which allows it to anticipate both individual and collective needs.  With its logistics business—and its growing network of trucks and planes— it has an understanding of the flow of goods around the world. In other words, if Marxist revolutionaries ever seized power in the United States, they could nationalize Amazon and call it a day.

This would definitely be quite a first step, but only a first step. Socialism focuses on social relations and workers democracy. Simply nationalizing Amazon wouldn't achieve it and, in fact, risks replacing the dictatorship of capital with another dictatorship. But the greater point holds. Such efficiency, flexible planning, and logistical power could be captured and used to create a just, egalitarian society. In a world full of crisscrossing cables, instant global communication, along with ever expanding AI, the arguments of Mises and Hayek truly lose their power. There are now many trillions of pieces worth of data that could be used to make non-market decisions about how to allocate the use of resources. 'Big Data' understandably has a bad name among many leftists; however, data is the lifeblood of any planned economy. Rather than being used for surveillance and targeted advertising, it can be used to determine and fulfill peoples' needs.

We have a rudimentary example of how this could work from Chile's socialist experiment in the early 1970s. By the end of 1971 the Allende government had nationalized more than 150 enterprises, including twelve of the twenty largest companies in the country. Recognizing the difficulty of reordering the economy in the face of fierce opposition and American sanctions, the government instituted Project Cybersyn. The aim, using the limited computing power that was available to Chile at the time (there was only one mainframe IBM 360/50 available for the project, it relied instead on a network of telex machines), to connect data from the factory floor and the State Development Corporation in order to enable quick decision-making in response to changing conditions. The system would provide daily access to production data and modeling tools the state could use to predict future economic behavior. A futuristic control room would facilitate communication and data analysis.

As described by Eden Medina in her book Cybernetic Revolutionaries, though primitive and ultimately not completed, the system did enable the government to overcome a general strike called by the opposition in October 1972. Shortages were quickly reported through the network allowing different enterprises shifted resources. Government data showed raw materials continued to flow to 95 percent of economically crucial enterprises and food supplies were maintained at 50 to 70 percent. Project Cybersyn didn't survive the Pinochet coup in 1973 so its full potential wasn't tapped, yet the promise remains. It is easy to imagine what can be planned with today's computing power and mountains of data.

Of course, it takes more than advanced computer modeling and AI to build socialism. It first takes the working class democratically controlling the means of production. This can ultimately only be won at the barricades. However, as examples from the technologies of the iPhone to Amazon to the COVID vaccines show, planning works. More and more we are moving toward Trotsky's vision of the future of human innovation spelled out in Literature and Revolution:

He will point out places for mountains and for passes. He will change the course of rivers and he will lay down rules for oceans. The idealist simpletons may say this is a bore, but that is why they are simpletons…. Most likely, thickets and forests and grouse and tigers will remain, but only where man commands them to remain.  And man will do it so well the tiger won't even notice the machine, or feel the change, but will live as he lived in primeval times.

While there is a wide range of opinions as to when its beginning should be marked, there is now an emerging consensus that the planet is indeed in a new period of geological history, the Anthropocene, one in which human civilization essentially creates its own environment. This concept no doubt causes many to tremble in fear but denial of our collective responsibility will not change it. The specter of global warming, possible future pandemics, and other environmental challenges are awesome, but so are the possibilities of maximizing human freedom, ending war and poverty, and probing deep space. We cannot trust the irrational, unplanned capitalist system with its destructive incentives to fulfill our potential. As the world is witnessing with the COVID pandemic and global food crisis, far from the picturesque visions of Mises and Hayek, a reliance of markets leads to inefficiency, hoarding, and reactionary nationalism. The only good Anthropocene is socialist.  Its vehicle is an empowered global working class. It still has a world to win.

Joseph Grosso is a writer and librarian in New York City and is the author of Emerald City: How Capital Transformed New York

The post Creating the Good Anthropocene: Towards a Socialist Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
29 Sep 2022 | 4:23 pm

Norman Solomon Interview


Events continue to unfold at a quickening pace. Facing an alarming escalation in tensions around the world, we asked Norman Solomon for his most current thoughts. We focus on the realities of the international power struggle unfolding in real time, specifically addressing the role of the U.S. in the tensions and its capacity to reduce them.

Norman Solomon is an American journalist, media critic, activist, and former U.S. congressional candidate. He is a long time associate of the media watch group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. In 1997 he founded the Institute for Public Accuracy which works to provide alternative sources for journalists, and serves as its executive director.  Solomon is co-founder and national director of RootsAction. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions, and is the author of a dozen books, including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2006) and Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (2007).

We are looking for paradigm-shift ideas for improving the prospects for peace. His responses below are exactly as he provided.

Here is what Norman had to say.

John Rachel: We hear a lot of terms and acronyms bandied about. 'Deep State' … 'MIC' … 'FIRE sector' … 'ruling elite' … 'oligarchy' … 'neocons'. Who actually defines and sets America's geopolitical priorities and determines our foreign policy? Not "officially".  Not constitutionally. But de facto.

Norman Solomon: Setting the boundaries of dominant discourse — with reiteration and omission — is crucial to guiding and determining U.S. foreign policy as well as discouraging the spread of dissent. The very notion that U.S. military spending is "defense" spending gets any discussion off to a badly distorted start. I wouldn't be against spending that is truly for defense, but right now only a small proportion of the Pentagon budget deserves to be in that category. The U.S. maintains about 750 military bases overseas and is currently engaged in military operations in 80 countries. As I put it in a recent article for Truthout, "Leaders of the U.S. government never tire of reasserting their commitment to human rights and democracy. At the same time, they insist that an inexhaustible supply of adversaries is bent on harming the United States, which must not run away from forceful engagement with the world. But the actual U.S. agenda is to run the world." It's an agenda propelled and implemented largely by corporate power, with tremendous profits being made — mostly by huge corporations; military contracting is a sacred cash cow for the oligarchy. The warfare state is a corporate state.

JR: We've had decades of international tensions. Recent developments have seen a sharp escalation in the potential for a major war. The U.S. apparently cannot be at peace. "Threats" against the homeland are allegedly increasing in number and severity. The trajectory of our relations with the rest of the world appears to be more confrontations, more enemies, more crises, more wars.

Is the world really that full of aggressors, bad actors, ruthless opponents? Or is there something in our own policies and attitudes toward other countries which put us at odds with them, thus making war inevitable and peace impossible?

NS: It's been said that the United States is in search of enemies, and certainly there's an unending supply — especially when trying to run the world as much as you can. Of course, the world is filled with many people and forces eager to concentrate undue power and oligarchic wealth in the hands of a few, and the United States is hardly responsible for that reality. That said, the U.S. government is the leading international lawbreaker and killer in this century — it's really not a debatable fact, it's a matter of looking at the numbers of deaths from the U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq alone. "Do as we say, not as we do" has never been a very convincing message. What the world needs is a single standard of human rights and international law. Hypocrisy in Washington does not justify Russia's murderous war on Ukraine, or vice versa.

JR: Our leaders relentlessly talk about our "national interests" and our "national security", warning that both are under constant assault. Yet, we spend more than the next nine countries combined on our military. Why does such colossal spending never seem to be enough?

NS: Well, like capitalism itself, militarism is insatiable. The results of the drive for profits, however momentarily satisfying they might be, are never enough. It's a kind of pathological gluttony. The greed for personal wealth and power is intertwined with similar institutional greed; when does a corporation say that the profits are too high or there's no need to try to increase them in the future? Never. Meanwhile, people all over the world on a massive scale are suffering and dying from preventable diseases, lack of healthcare, malnutrition or outright starvation, and an environmental crisis including a climate emergency that keeps getting worse.

JR: It's evident that you, and the many individuals who follow you and support your work, believe that America's direction in both the diplomatic sphere and in the current conflict zones represents exercise of government power gone awry. Can you paint for us in broad strokes the specific changes in our national priorities and policies you view as necessary for the U.S. to peacefully coexist with other nations, at the same time keeping us safe from malicious attacks on our security and rightful place in the world community?

NS: Collective security among nations is the only hope for international peace and stability in the best sense of the word. The economic, environmental and health crises afflicting humanity right now truly know no borders. The U.S. government should practice what it preaches and stop asserting with action the prerogative to keep crossing borders and killing people. While vastly boosting expenditures to meet human needs with a wide array of social programs, the United States could cut its military budget in half right away and be not only just as secure but also more so. A good example is the U.S. ICBM force of 400 nuclear missiles in underground silos, on hair-trigger alert all the time. As Daniel Ellsberg explained this year, "No other strategic weapons besides ground-based ICBMs challenge a national leader to decide, absurdly within minutes, whether 'to use them or lose them.' They should not exist…. No other specific, concrete American action would go so far immediately to reduce the real risk of a false alarm in a crisis causing the near-extinction of humanity."

JR: The general public, especially when it's aware of the self-sabotaging results of our current foreign policies and military posturing, clearly wants less war and militarism, preferring more peaceful alternatives on the world stage and greater concentration on solving the problems at home. As peace activists, we are thus more in line with the majority of citizens on issues of war and peace, than those currently in power.

What happens if we determine that those shaping current U.S. policy don't care what the citizenry thinks, are simply not listening to us? What if we conclude that our Congress, for example, is completely deaf to the voice of the people? What do we do? What are our options then? As a thought leader and advocate of comprehensive reform, what do you propose?

NS: Well, any thoughts that I or anyone else has, no matter how worthwhile, will be of limited value without the kind of grassroots organizing that can create meaningful change. Democracy has always been a combination of mirage and reality even in the best of times in the United States. Virtually every change for the better that we can be proud of in U.S. history came from the bottom up, not from the top down, of the existing power structures. The fight for democracy is never-ending. Joe Hill said, "Don't mourn, organize!" There's no better advice available in a few words. (I'm very glad to be working with colleagues at RootsAction, which now has 1.2 million online supporters, and I invite all readers to sign up for action alerts at RootsAction.org.) Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the imperative need for militant nonviolent action. Progressive social movements that organize effectively with such an approach have enormous potential to help create a truly better world.

The post Norman Solomon Interview first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
29 Sep 2022 | 3:34 pm

Federal Bureau of Intimidation


In so many of the little places of everyday life in which life is lived out, somehow democracy doesn't exist. And one of the creeping hands of totalitarianism running through the democracy is the Federal Bureau of Investigation… Because why does the FBI do all this? To scare the hell out of people… They work for the establishment and the corporations and the politicos to keep things as they are. And they want to frighten and chill the people who are trying to change things.

— Howard Zinn, historian

Discredit, disrupt, and destroy.

That is how the government plans to get rid of activists and dissidents who stand in its way.

This has always been the modus operandi of the FBI (more aptly referred to as the Federal Bureau of Intimidation): muzzle anti-government sentiment, harass activists, and terrorize Americans into compliance.

Indeed, the FBI has a long history of persecuting, prosecuting and generally harassing activists, politicians, and cultural figures.

Back in the 1950s and '60s, the FBI's targets were civil rights activists, those suspected of having Communist ties, and anti-war activists. In more recent decades, the FBI has expanded its reach to target so-called domestic extremists, environmental activists, and those who oppose the police state.

Back in 2019, President Trump promised to give the FBI "whatever they need" to investigate and disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism, without any apparent thought for the Constitution's prohibitions on such overreach.

That misguided pledge sheds a curious light on the FBI's latest nationwide spree of SWAT team raids, surveillance, disinformation campaigns, fear-mongering, paranoia, and strong-arm tactics.

For instance, just before dawn on Jan. 25, 2019, the FBI sent 29 heavily armed agents in 17 vehicles to carry out a SWAT-style raid on the Florida home of Roger Stone, one of President Trump's longtime supporters. Stone, charged with a political crime, was taken away in handcuffs.

In March 2021, under the pretext of carrying out an inventory of U.S. Private Vaults, FBI agents raided 1400 safe deposit boxes in Beverly Hills, seizing "more than $86 million in cash as well as gold, jewelry, and other valuables from property owners who were suspected of no crimes."

In April 2021, FBI agents raided Rudy Giuliani's home and office, seizing 18 electronic devices. More than a year later, Giuliani has yet to be charged with any crimes.

In June 2022, Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official under the Trump Administration, was led out of his home in pajamas while federal law enforcement officials raided his home.

In the summer of 2022, FBI agents wearing tactical gear including body armor, helmets and camouflage uniforms and carrying rifles raided multiple homes throughout Little Rock, Ark., including a judge's home.

In August 2022, more than a dozen FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago, the winter home of Donald Trump.

And in September 2022, 25 to 30 armed FBI agents raided the home of an anti-abortion activist, pointing guns at the family and terrorizing the man's wife and seven children.

Politics aside, the message is clear: this is how the government will deal with anyone who challenges its authority.

You're next.

Unfortunately, while these overreaching, heavy-handed lessons in how to rule by force have become standard operating procedure for a government that communicates with its citizenry primarily through the language of brutality, intimidation and fear, none of this is new.

The government has been playing these mind games for a long time.

As Betty Medsger, an investigative reporter for The Washington Post, noted in 1971, the FBI was engaged in practices that had never been reported, probably were unconstitutional, and were counter to the public's understanding of the agency's purpose.

The objective: target anti-government dissenters for wide-scale harassment, widespread surveillance and intimidation in order to enhance their paranoia and make them think there was an "FBI agent behind every mailbox."

Medsger, the recipient of stolen government files that provided a glimpse into the workings of the nation's most powerful law enforcement agency, would later learn that between 1956 and 1971, the FBI conducted an intensive domestic intelligence program, termed COINTELPRO, intended to neutralize domestic political dissidents.

The explicit objective, according to one FBI memo: "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" perceived threats to the government's power.

As Congressman Steve Cohen explains, "COINTELPRO was set up to surveil and disrupt groups and movements that the FBI found threatening… many groups, including anti-war, student, and environmental activists, and the New Left were harassed, infiltrated, falsely accused of criminal activity."

Sound familiar? The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Those targeted by the FBI under COINTELPRO for its intimidation, surveillance and smear campaigns included: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, the Black Panther Party, Billie Holiday, Emma Goldman, Aretha Franklin, Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, Felix Frankfurter, John Lennon, and hundreds more.

Among those most closely watched by the FBI was King, a man labeled by the FBI as "the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country." All told, the FBI collected 17,000 pages of materials on King.

With wiretaps and electronic bugs planted in his home and office, King was kept under constant surveillance by the FBI with the aim of "neutralizing" him. He even received blackmail letters written by FBI agents suggesting that he either commit suicide or the details of his private life would be revealed to the public. The FBI kept up its pursuit of King until he was felled by a hollow-point bullet to the head in 1968.

John Lennon, a vocal peace protester and anti-war activist, was another high-profile example of the lengths to which the Deep State will go to persecute those who dare to challenge its authority.

Lennon was singled out for daring to speak truth to power about the government's warmongering, his phone calls monitored and data files illegally collected on his activities and associations.

For a while, at least, Lennon became enemy number one in the eyes of the U.S. government.

Years after Lennon's assassination, it would be revealed that the FBI had collected 281 pages of files on him, including song lyrics.

J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI at the time, directed the agency to spy on the musician. There were also various written orders calling on government agents to frame Lennon for a drug bust. "The FBI's files on Lennon … read like the writings of a paranoid goody-two-shoes," observed reporter Jonathan Curiel.

As the New York Times notes, "Critics of today's domestic surveillance object largely on privacy grounds. They have focused far less on how easily government surveillance can become an instrument for the people in power to try to hold on to power. 'The U.S. vs. John Lennon' … is the story not only of one man being harassed, but of a democracy being undermined."

Indeed, all of the many complaints we have about government today—surveillance, militarism, corruption, harassment, SWAT team raids, political persecution, spying, overcriminalization, etc.—were present in Lennon's day and formed the basis of his call for social justice, peace and a populist revolution. As Adam Cohen of the New York Times points out, "The F.B.I.'s surveillance of Lennon is a reminder of how easily domestic spying can become unmoored from any legitimate law enforcement purpose. What is more surprising, and ultimately more unsettling, is the degree to which the surveillance turns out to have been intertwined with electoral politics."

The Church Committee, the Senate task force charged with investigating COINTELPRO abuses in 1975, echoed these concerns about the government's abuses:

"Too many people have been spied upon by too many Government agencies and too much information has been collected. The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power."

The report continued:

"Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed—including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths. Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of presidents and other high officials."

Fifty years later, we're still having this same debate about the perils of government overreach.

For too long now, the American people have allowed their personal prejudices and politics to cloud their judgment and render them incapable of seeing that the treatment being doled out by the government's lethal enforcers has remained consistent, no matter the threat.

The lesson to be learned is this: whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now, rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.

All of the excessive, abusive tactics employed by the government and its henchmen today will eventually be meted out on the general populace.

At that point, when you find yourself in the government's crosshairs, it will not matter whether your skin is black or yellow or brown or white; it will not matter whether you're an immigrant or a citizen; it will not matter whether you're rich or poor; it will not matter whether you're Republican or Democrat; and it certainly won't matter who you voted for in the last presidential election.

At that point—when you find yourself subjected to dehumanizing, demoralizing, thuggish behavior by government bureaucrats who are hyped up on the power of their badges and empowered to detain, search, interrogate, threaten and generally harass anyone they see fit—remember you were warned.

Frankly, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we are long past the point where we should be merely alarmed.

These are no longer experiments on our freedoms.

These are acts of aggression by a government that is no friend to freedom.

The post Federal Bureau of Intimidation first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
29 Sep 2022 | 9:13 am

I’ll Never Know What it is to be a Bat: I’m batty for bat week!


Lately, I've been thinking about bats. A few dozen have been flying around our Waldport, Oregon, Cyprus tree: California Myotis, Fringed Myotis, and the Big Brown Bat. Near White Salmon, WA, I have seen dozens of  Silver-Haired Bats, flying low to the ground on 20 acres we own.

Fringed myotis bat

This creature accounts for almost a third of all mammal species (more than 1,400). Bats are both talisman and a bright memory in these dark times.

Recall: Bats and the SARS-CoV2 used to be the talk of the town, beginning March 2020. More than 90 coronas have been found in bats. (The origins of SARS-CoV2 is even speculated recently by writer and thinker, Jeffrey Sachs as a lab origin virus.)

Background: I was in Vietnam years ago to help survey forest and jungle.

However, I've had bats in my life since age six months. In the Azores, there is one native bat. My sister and I lived with parents who worked at the Air Force base.  We were on the island for five years.

Bats roosted in the rafters of the garage where my father stored our 1957 Chevy.

I watched bats at dusk from my bedroom window.

Memoires listed: earthquakes, fish, amazing bread, melodic Portuguese language, mold, and bats.

Our nanny had a bent-over fisherman uncle  who let us play on his potato farm. In the evening, with the rice, tuna, warm bread and big glasses of Sangria for the adults and blood-red grape juice for the kids, we'd sit outside and watch a thousand bats echolocate above the forest.

One day Gloria's tio showed us a big green glass jar with a tin lid.

I saw a creature flapping around.  He showed me my first bat up close. I was three. I learned later, when I really got into bats, that species  Azores noctule (Nyctalus azoreum), the only endemic mammal on the island.

Another bat lives on the islands —  the greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) – but this species is not native, first arriving as a stowaway on cargo ships.

The Azores islands should be on your list for a winter getaway – SheKnows

For more than six decades, I've been fascinated with this species, Chiroptera, which means "hand-wing." Imagine the bones in a bat's wing working like those of the human arm and hand, but bat finger bones are super elongated and connected by a double membrane of skin to form "the wing."

Vietnam Cities

In the 1990s, I lived in bat caves with  British and Vietnamese scientists working on biological surveys, called transects.

We climbed limestone mountains, looking for caves. We worked near Laos.

The 23-year-old Scotsman who led the bat survey was dubbed  "wild man." I was 36 years old, and the rest of the team was much younger.

Except for Hanoi biologist, Dr. Viet (37).

I was in Vietnam the same age my cryptographer father was there as a Big Red One CW4. He was shot when the helicopter he was in came under fire. The pilot took one between the eyes. My old man's bullet ended up two inches from his heart.

He never liked talking about Vietnam. By the time I made it to Vietnam, he had been buried, the victim of a heart attack.

Collection of short fiction relives memories of Vietnam and its American war | Street Roots

I know he would have been blown away that his son was traveling in Vietnam with scientists. He listened to my stories of scuba diving in Mexico, Baja and Central America with a kind of awe.

He liked my yarns.

Fundraiser by Paul Haeder : New Short Story Collection

I ended up in places in Vietnam he never explored.  I hiked, rode in buses and boats, and then did the entire length of the country on a motorcycle. Dr. Viet was a guide for me, navigating me through the hundred plus Vietnamese words I knew.

Today, I am wrestling with fundamental questions as a writer and teacher. Working with words, concepts, spirituality, philosophy and aging, I know why people are seeking solitude and a reimagining of where they are going the rest of their lives.

Bats also bring me to philosophical reflection. I just finished a 1974 essay, "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" by Thomas Nagel. He's looking at perception, and how as a species, sight-abled humans have a lack of words and mental constructs getting a blind person to understand the color red.

The same goes for scientists attempting to know what it is "to be" and "to experience" like a bat.

If you have been with bats in caves like I have, you know they are alien forms.

Nagel: "But bat sonar, though clearly a form of perception, is not similar in its operation to any sense that we possess, and there is no reason to suppose that it is subjectively like anything we can experience or imagine. This appears to create difficulties for the notion of what it is like to be a bat."

The same could be said about people.  How impossible it is for me to know what it is to be a woman and to experience pregnancy and childbirth.  Conscious experience is "a widespread phenomenon."

Here I am, in a time of corona, lockdowns, mandates, vaccinations, thinking about bats. And the conscious experience. Yet I can't really be in the bat's world, or experience it. We can't know what it's like to be a 1,000 year old bristlecone pine. Or to be a European bee in a hive.

I'm reminding myself daily to follow this admonition:  "Before I judge a man, I need to walk a mile in his shoes." Or, before calling a bat "vermin," people need to image what it's like to fly using sonar flapping with hand-wings.

Fringed Myotis (Myotis thysanodes) | Encyclopedia of Puget Sound

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Aside Note:  Oct. 24-31 is Bat Week, an annual, international celebration of the role of bats in nature! If your thing isn't bats, many groups and organizations also recognize these for the month:  Adopt A Shelter Dog; Antidepressant Death; Breast Cancer Awareness; Celebrating The Bilingual Child; Down Syndrome; Dyslexia; Eat Better, Eat Together; Emotional Intelligence;  Global Diversity; Head Start Awareness; Health Literacy; Long-Term Care Planning!

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In Oregon, there are 15 bat species,  and eight of those are Oregon Conservation Strategy Species. Strategy Species are those having small or declining populations, are at-risk, and/or of management concern.

In sister state south, California, count that as 25 species of bats. Additionally, there are 45 species of bats in the United States and Canada. Of those California Dreaming animals, bats 24 of these are in Southern California, which has the largest and smallest known bats found in the United States.

Bats can can eat their weight in insects nightly. They are incredible pollinators. No, the cheetah isn't the fastest mammal. The Brazilian free-tailed bat can reach speeds up to 100 mph, making it by far the fastest mammal on Earth.

That flying fox (genus Pteropus) also called a fox bat, includes about 65 species mostly found on tropical islands from Madagascar to Australia and Indonesia and in mainland Asia. Most species are primarily nocturnal. Flying foxes are the largest bats, some attaining a wingspan of 1.5 metres (5 feet) with a head and body length of about 40 cm (16 inches).

I was under a papaya tree in Vietnam. It was dusk. I was in shorts and barefooted. I had just come down from an alpine forest area with our crew. Lots of cobras on the path heading back to camp. I had a huge bowl of super strong tea, sipping it while listening to the forest churn out amazing nighttime symphonies.

Civets, amphibians, gibbons, odd barking from the deer endemic to Vietnam. Insects. And the guys and gals around a smokey fire talking, and some zither music from a radio. I was the snake guy, and assisted with the bat studies. I had just caught a green viper and photographed it twenty different ways. The Vietnamese scientists wondered what sort of wild man I was as I jumped up and down limbs to wrestle these snakes, towel wrapped around wrist, another around my neck, ready to pin head down with my special short stick.

It was a long half a year, with lots of rain, mud, many river crossings (I was also one of the logistics guys, taking one of our three motorcycles into 26 river crossings to a village 10 miles down the mountain for tuna, cigs, beer and ramen, eggs, rice).

The tree seemed pretty shadowy, and when I leaned into it, as I was looking up for stars or a moon, there, those leaves just started trembling, and, poof, about 40 fruit bats lifted up, like something out of Hollywood, to make it simple. All over the space above my head. Scattered like frenzied folks.

One of those hundred moments in my life where my young verbiage, kick ass and bitchin', came back calling.

Brisbane braces for BAT SWARM as 250,000 flying foxes to converge on city | Daily Mail Online

I've written a lot about Vietnam, about the work, the ideas, about wounds of my father and friends and countrymen seemingly huge, but compared to the Vietnamese suffering, our are scratches. Trauma. Homeless veterans. Science and biology. Ecology. Travel. Photography. Deep trawling of people in Vietnam. Friendships. And, a short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam.

Here, Part 1, "Bat Caves and Vietnam – More than Just a War Log" 

& Part 2, "Deep Country, Bats, the Riot of Life in Viet Nam's Cities"

I want you to guard against those who demand that you die just to prove something. It is not that I advise you to respect your life more than anything else, but not to die uselessly for the need of others… for you still have many years ahead of you. Many years of joy and happiness to experience. Who else but you can experience your life?

― Bao Ninh, author of Sorrow of War

Bat Caves and Vietnam

It's a different world, now, and it was different leading up to the pre-Planned Pandemic, pre-Trump/Biden Lunacy, pre-cancelling everything contrary to dead-end narrative, pre-end of real journalism. Now, I find few who want to know about other people, about lives lived, about philosophies gained through reading, schooling, schools of hard knocks, and people hate nuance, and forget about engaging them in deep discussion about animals, really, species like bats, man, scary in the minds of clueless folk.

Things have changed since the infection of Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden . . . . The United $tates of America is the Empire of Lies, Empire of Chaos, Empire of Murder, hands down, and we don't need Pepe Escobar or John Pilger or others to tell us that. But the seed of this evil runs deep infecting everyday conversation.

I was with a guy who is helping me on house construction, and he has true Trump Derangement Syndrome, and alas, talking about DeSantis in derogatory ways, I told him I have Zero love of Pelosi or Desantis, et al. I let him know that I am hard left socialist, and definitely leaning toward communism. Ukraine, and, no, Biden is not a great guy or president. I told him that both parties are equally corrupt, and alas, this is a country of casino, predatory, shock doctrine, disaster, parasitic capitalism, with a big "C" for corrupt-criminal, abided by and promoted by both Republicans and Democrats. He told me that if I am communist, and love that so much, then I should move to Russia. Wow.

There's a 69 year old Democrat for you.

And again, in rural, Pacific beach Oregon, few want to know about anything other than their little world of self-imposed trauma, confirmation bias, and the black-white world of triple downing on the dumb-down Kool Aid mix.

Obama Derangement Syndrome and Trump Derangement Syndrome. Whew.

William Blum, U.S. Policy Critic Cited by bin Laden, Dies at 85 - The New York Times

I'm thinking about Rogue State, Blum's work, and how the U$A deems what or who is human, and now, in this up is down, war is peace, lies are truth world of the Mainstream Presstitutes, the lockstep of journalism almost everywhere never digging, or looking astray, and the deplatforming, gaslighting and criminalization of independent thinking. Sort of determining who shall live, and who shall  be exterminated.

The protagonist-narrator of Viet Thanh Nguyen's 2015 novel The Sympathizer has a thing for squid. (Think less calamari, more American Pie.) The bastard son of a Vietnamese maid and a French priest, he discovers at the age of thirteen that he has a peculiar fetish for masturbating into gutted squid, lovingly—albeit unwittingly—prepared by his mother for the night's meal. Unfortunately for him, squid are in short supply in working-class Saigon in the late nineteen-fifties, and so he is forced to wash the abused squid and return them to the kitchen to cover up his crime. Sitting down to dinner with his mother late one night, he tucks into one of those very same squid, stuffed and served with a side of ginger-lime sauce. "Some will undoubtedly find this episode obscene," he concedes. "Not I!" he declares. "Massacre is obscene. Torture is obscene. Three million dead is obscene. Masturbation, even with an admittedly nonconsensual squid? Not so much." He should know. By the time he is narrating the novel, he has lived through the Vietnam War as an undercover communist agent in South Vietnam, has sought asylum in America, and is now living as a refugee-cum-spy in Los Angeles.

The Sympathizer was published in 2015—three years after Kill Anything that Moves—but it could just as easily have been written as a prompt for historian turned investigative journalist Nick Turse. Indeed, Turse's central aim in Kill Anything that Moves is to expose the unparalleled obscenity of the Vietnam War: unparalleled both in terms of the devastating scale and variety of harm done and the diabolical levels of premeditation on the part of the U.S. military. Historians of the Vietnam War, as much as the American public, have traditionally remembered the massacre at Mỹ Lai—in which upwards of five hundred unarmed Vietnamese civilians were hacked, mowed down, and violated by the American military—as an outlier in an otherwise largely acceptable war (at least in terms of American actions). But as Vietnam veteran and whistleblower Ron Ridenhour explains, and Turse quotes approvingly, Mỹ Lai "was an operation, not an aberration." (source)

Bats as vermin, pests. Entire bat roosts murdered with one dynamite stick thrown into a cave. Double and triple taps. Splats. Bats emblematic of peoples the U$A deems as vermin, less than. Many of those splats are in the Global South, BIPOC!

Bioindicators. Bats. Truly:

The earth is now subject to climate change and habitat deterioration on unprecedented scales. Monitoring climate change and habitat loss alone is insufficient if we are to understand the effects of these factors on complex biological communities. It is therefore important to identify bioindicator taxa that show measurable responses to climate change and habitat loss and that reflect wider-scale impacts on the biota of interest. We argue that bats have enormous potential as bioindicators: they show taxonomic stability, trends in their populations can be monitored, short- and longterm effects on populations can be measured and they are distributed widely around the globe. Because insectivorous bats occupy high trophic levels, they are sensitive to accumulations of pesticides and other toxins, and changes in their abundance may reflect changes in populations of arthropod prey species. Bats provide several ecosystem services, and hence reflect the status of the plant populations on which they feed and pollinate as well as the productivity of insect communities. Bat populations are affected by a wide range of stressors that affect many other taxa. In particular, changes in bat numbers or activity can be related to climate change (including extremes of drought, heat, cold and precipitation, cyclones and sea level rise), deterioration of water quality, agricultural intensification, loss and fragmentation of forests, fatalities at wind turbines, disease, pesticide use and overhunting. There is an urgent need to implement a global network for monitoring bat populations so their role as bioindicators can be used to its full potential. (source)

And yet, most people are not batty about bats. Most people have their preconceptions, their biases, their outright misinformation about bats, and all those prejudices about bats vis-a-vis Hollydirt, Hollywood, sorry, and literature, and myth.

Can Copyright Infringement Kill a Vampire? | Britannica

Truly, we, the common socialists, the ones pushing for community-directed governance, who know k12 needs to be facilitated in the out of doors, with hands on earth, and deep learning with languages, music, poetry, biology/ecology, we are the solutions. All things can be solved with clean food, water, true art, loving hearth and home, and deep thinking. With intergenerational cohesion. I am just a guy who has studied agrarian-centered cultures, who has traveled far and wide, and who was immersed in six languages other than my primary language, English. Immersed in dozens of different cultures and perspectives. But we common socialists, us International Workers of World wobbly types, we are the bats, the indicator species, the splat. Not worthy of life.

American Socialist : Throughline : NPR

Debs, another leading person, who is considered splat, collateral damage. (source)

Expendable, sacrificial lambs. Bats.

Yet bats have defined me, as has all those dives around the world. As well as ground truthing in Guatemala or working as a newspaperman in Bisbee. All those thousands of college students I have worked with over five states. The work in prisons. A thousand published pieces, from newspapers, to magazines, journals, essay collections,  and more. My radio show: Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge.

And more, but I want to think like a bat, be a bat just for one night along the Laos border, skimming the sky for mosquitos, moths and flying walking sticks.

That would be a true transmogrification.

The post I'll Never Know What it is to be a Bat: I'm batty for bat week! first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
29 Sep 2022 | 3:32 am

From Nabulsi to Shtayyeh: Which Side is the PA On?


The arrest of a prominent Palestinian activist, Musab Shtayyeh, and another Palestinian activist, by Palestinian Authority police on September 20 was not the first time that the notorious PA's Preventive Security Service (PSS) has arrested a Palestinian who is wanted by Israel.

PSS is largely linked to the routine arrests and torture of anti-Israeli occupation activists. Several Palestinians have died in the past as a result of PSS violence, the latest being Nizar Banat who was tortured to death on June 24, 2021. The killing of Banat ignited a popular revolt against the PA throughout Palestine.

For years, various Palestinian and international human rights groups have criticized the PA's violent practices against dissenting Palestinian voices, quite often within the same human rights reports critical of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. The Hamas government in Gaza, too, has its fair share of blame.

In its January 2022 World Report, Human Rights Watch said that "the Palestinian Authority (PA) manages affairs in parts of the West Bank, where it systematically arrests arbitrarily and tortures dissidents." This was neither the first nor the last time that a human rights group made such an accusation.

The link between Israeli and Palestinian violence targeting political dissidents and activists is equally clear to most Palestinians.

Some Palestinians may have believed, at one point, that the PA's role is to serve as a transition between their national liberation project and full independence and sovereignty on the ground. Nearly thirty years after the formation of the PA, such a notion has proved to be wishful thinking. Not only did the PA fail at achieving the coveted Palestinian State, but it has morphed into a massively corrupt apparatus whose existence largely serves a small class of Palestinian politicians and business people – and, in the case of Palestine, it is always the same group.

PA corruption and subsequent violence aside, what continues to irk most Palestinians is that the PA, with time, became another manifestation of the Israeli occupation, curtailing Palestinian freedom of expression and carrying out arrests on behalf of the Israeli army. Sadly, many of those arrested by the Israeli military in the West Bank have experienced arrest by PA goons, too.

Scenes of violent riots in the city of Nablus following Shtayyeh's arrest were reminiscent of the riots against Israeli occupation forces in the northern West Bank city or elsewhere in occupied Palestine. Unlike previous confrontations between Palestinians and PA police – for example, following the killing of Banat – this time, the violence was widespread, and involved protesters from all Palestinian political groups, including the ruling Fatah faction.

Perhaps unaware of the massive collective psychological shift that took place in Palestine in recent years, the PA government was desperate to contain the violence.

Subsequently, a committee that represents united Palestinian factions in Nablus declared on September 21 that it has reached a 'truce' with PA security forces in the city. The committee, which includes prominent Palestinian figures, told the Associated Press and other media that the agreement restricts any future arrests of Palestinians in Nablus to the condition that the individual must be implicated in breaking Palestinian, not Israeli, law. That provision alone implies a tacit admission by the PA that the arrest of Shtayyeh and Ameed Tbaileh was motivated by an Israeli, not a Palestinian agenda.

But why would the PA quickly concede to pressure coming from the Palestinian street?

The answer lies in the changing political mood in Palestine.

First, it must be stated that resentment of the PA has been brewing for years. One opinion poll after another has indicated the low regard that most Palestinians have of their leadership, of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and particularly of the 'security coordination' with Israel.

Second, the torture and death of political dissident Banat, last year, has erased whatever patience Palestinians had towards their leadership, demonstrating to them that the PA is not an ally but a threat.

Third, the Unity Intifada of May 2021 has emboldened many segments of Palestinian society throughout occupied Palestine. For the first time in years, Palestinians have felt united around a single slogan and are no longer hostage to the geography of politics and factions. A new generation of young Palestinians has advanced the conversation beyond Abbas, the PA and their endless and ineffectual political rhetoric.

Fourth, armed struggle in the West Bank has been growing so rapidly that the Israeli army Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi, claimed on September 6 that, since March, around 1,500 Palestinians have been arrested in the West Bank and that, allegedly, hundreds of attacks against the Israeli military have been thwarted.

In fact, evidence of an armed Intifada is growing in the Jenin and Nablus regions. What is particularly interesting, and alarming, from the Israeli and PA viewpoint, about the nature of the budding armed struggle phenomenon, is that it is largely led by the military wing of the ruling Fatah party, in direct cooperation with Hamas and other Islamic and national military wings.

For example, on August 9, the Israeli army assassinated Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, a prominent Fatah military commander, along with two others. Not only, did the PA do little to stop the Israeli military machine from conducting more such assassinations, six weeks later, it arrested Shtayyeh, a close comrade of Nabulsi.

Interestingly, Shtayyeh is not a member of Fatah, but a commander within the Hamas military wing, Al-Qassam. Though Fatah and Hamas are meant to be intense political rivals, their political tussle seems to be of no relevance to military groups in the West Bank.

Unfortunately, more violence is likely to follow, for several reasons: Israel's determination to crush any armed Intifada in the West Bank before it is widespread across the occupied territories, the looming leadership transition within the PA due to Abbas's old age, and the growing unity among Palestinians around the issue of resistance.

While the Israeli response to all of this can easily be gleaned from its legacy of violence, the PA's future course of action will likely determine its relationship with Israel and its western supporters, on the one hand, and with the Palestinian people, on the other. Which side will the PA choose?

The post From Nabulsi to Shtayyeh: Which Side is the PA On? first appeared on Dissident Voice.
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