Posts Tagged ‘White House’

William Blum on the American Demonization of Iran

February 8, 2017

I bought a copy today of William Blum’s book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything (London: Zed Books 2013). Blum’s a long term, extremely vociferous and very knowledgeable critic of American foreign policy and its allies. He’s been protesting against the country’s assassinations, coups and manufactured wars and other interventions since the Vietnam War, and his website, the Anti-Empire Report, is highly recommended for telling you what the media is not reporting about the global actions of America and its allies.

The book’s chapters deal with:
US foreign policy vs. the world; Terrorism; Iraq; Afghanistan; Iran; George W. Bush; Condoleezza Rice; Human rights, civil liberties and torture; WikiLeaks; Conspiracies; Yugoslavia; Libya; Latin America; Cuba; The Cold War and anti-Communism; the 1960s; Ideology and society; Our precious environment; The problem with capitalism; The media; Barack Obama; Patriotism; Dissent and resistance in America; Religion, Laughing despite the Empire; But what can we do?

It’s a treasure trove of information showing just how unpleasant American foreign policy is, and how the military-industrial complex running it has not only bombed, murdered and exploited people all over the world, it also lies shamelessly and constantly to its own people as well as the world at large. Nearly every page has a telling fact that flips the conventional, establishment narrative right on its head.

The chapter on Iran is a case in point. Blum cites White House aides, journos and diplomats to show that Iran’s nuclear programme was never a threat, despite the hysterical table-thumping by the odious Tzipi Livni and the rest of the thugs now running Israel. Far from it. Over a decade ago, the Iranians were even responsible for negotiating some of the peace deals in Afghanistan, and even approached Bush through the Swiss ambassador for a deal to improve relations with America, in which they promised to give major concessions. Blum writes

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran made another approach to Washington, via the Swiss ambassador, who sent a fax to the State Department. The Washington Post described it as ‘a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.’ The Bush administration ‘belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax’. Richard Haass, head of policy planning at the State Department at the time and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian approach was swiftly rejected because in the administration ‘the bias was toward a policy of regime change.’

So there we have it. The Israelis know it, the Americans know it. Iran is not any kind of military threat. Before the invasion of Iraq I posed the question: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? he had no reason, and neither do the Iranians. (p. 105).

James Dobbins, Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference in which the parties in the Middle East negotiated the political settlement for Afghanistan, states that it was the Iranians who made sure that democracy and the war on terrorism were included in the Afghan constitution, not the Americans. (pp.104-5). Now that’s very, very definitely something I haven’t heard report on the Beeb. Have you?

But what struck me as urgently important this week was this passage

Not long ago, Iraq and Iran were regarded by USrael as the most significant threats to Israeli Middle East hegemony. thus was born the myth of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the United States proceeded to turn Iraq into a basket case. The left Iran, and thus was born the myth of the Iranian Nuclear Threat. As it began to sink in that Iran was not really that much of a nuclear threat, or that this ‘threat’ was becoming too difficult to sell to the rest of the world, USrael decided that, at a minimum, it wanted regime change. The next step may be to block Iran’s lifeline – oil sales using the Strait of Hormuz. Ergo the recent US and EU naval buildup near the Persian Gulf, an act of war trying to goad Iran into firing the first shot. If Iran tries to counter this blockade it could be the signal for another US Basket Case, the fourth in a decade, with the devastated people of Libya and Afghanistan, along with Iraq, currently enjoying America’s unique gift of freedom and democracy. (Pp. 98-9, my emphasis).

The Americans have been gearing up for a war with Iran for the past decade. But this week Donald Trump’s advisers were banging their shoes on the table for war. An American warship had been fired upon by the Yemeni Houthi rebels. The Houthis are Shi’a, and so backed by Iran. At the same time, the Iranians test fired a ballistic missile that flew 500 miles before crashing. This was, assures Drumpf, a preparation for nuclear missiles. The Orange Generalissimo and his courtiers therefore started talking about a possible attack on Iran.

I’ve blogged earlier this week about how a war with Iran would be disastrous. It also wouldn’t be to liberate the Iranian people from a deeply authoritarian and repressive regime. It would be just another attempt by US-Saudi oil multinationals to grab their oil, just as America and Britain organised a coup against Mossadeq when he nationalised Anglo-Persian Oil in the 1950s.

Iran’s not a threat, and the Iranians were responsible for establishing clauses mandating democracy and denouncing terrorism in the Afghan constitution. This is all about finding a pretext for a new pack of lies to justify yet the invasion and looting of yet another country.

American Psychiatrists Fear Trump Mentally Ill, Unsuited for Presidency

December 29, 2016

They aren’t the only one, and this is serious.

In this video from The Young Turks, The Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins reports that three professors of psychiatry, one from Harvard, the other two from the University of California San Francisco, have written a letter to Barack Obama requesting that he step in and force Trump to take a psychiatric examination. They are concerned that he suffers from psychological defects that render him not just unsuitable, but actually too dangerous to be given the job of president. They believe that Trump’s grandiosity, his impetuousness, the way he takes offence and responds aggressive at even the mildest criticism point to mental illness. He may just suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, perhaps something rather more serious than that, or perhaps even be a full-blown sociopath. Cousins states that it could just be affluenza. Trump comes from an extremely wealthy background, and has been given everything he wanted, including now the presidency. But it looks more serious than this.

This makes Trump extremely dangerous. He cannot be trusted with the nuclear codes, nor control of the drone programme, which he could use to strike down his opponents. Cousins states that the US constitution provides for presidents to be removed or impeached if they are unfit for their office. And mental illness would certainly come under those conditions disqualifying a president from taking office on fitness grounds. Cousins believes it is unfortunately too early at this stage to use this to prevent Trump gaining office. But he recommends that letter should be saved and stored, and that once Trump is in the White House, it should be taken out and acted upon.

Secular Talk: Bernie Sanders Proposes ‘Outsourcing Prevention Act’ to Make Trump Keep Election Promise

November 30, 2016

Here’s another great idea from Bernie Sanders, the self-declared ‘democratic Socialist’, who should definitely be the one to go to the White House next year, rather than Trump.

Remember how Trump was telling everyone at his rallies that if he got into power, he was going to stop the corporations outsourcing their jobs abroad to create more poverty and unemployment in America? Aside from the racism and the islamophobia, it was this promise which may have helped him gain the votes of middle class and blue collar workers, whose jobs are threatened by the neoliberal outsourcing policies championed by the establishment Republican and Hillary Clinton and her clique in the Democrats.

Now Bernie Sanders has come up with a proposal to try and keep Trump to his promise. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski discusses the report in the Huffington Post that Sanders has put forward the outlines of an ‘Outsourcing Prevention Act’. If this was passed, it would punish companies moving jobs out of America. Those corporations that did so would be banned from receiving federal tax breaks, grants or loans, and demand the repayment of any federal perks. The offending companies would also have to pay a tax equal to the amount they saved through the outsourcing, or 35 per cent of their profits, whichever is the greatest amount. The executives would also be banned from receiving bonuses, stock options or golden handshakes.

Kulinski makes it clear that Democrats and progressive should not be prepared to give an inch of cooperation to Trump when he trying to pass any of the massively unjust or racist measures he’s promised, such as deporting undocumented immigrants, registering Muslims and building that wall with Mexico. Kulinski recognises, however, that the latter is rapidly being played down, with Trump himself now claiming that it was mainly metaphorical. When Trump does propose something that will benefit all Americans, rather than just the corporate elite, or racist Whites, they should be prepared to work with him. This proposal is Bernie’s attempt to make sure Trump doesn’t go back on his promise, and actually does something positive for the American people.

We need something similar in this country. Executive pay has massively outstripped ordinary people’s wages and salaries, and companies are outsourcing jobs abroad, including elsewhere in the EU. It has been something of a local issue here in Bristol, where the local chocolate factory, Cadbury’s in Keynsham, a small town between Bath and Bristol, was closed down after it was taken over by Kraft foods. I’ve got a feeling the company then moved the jobs to a new factory in Poland.

I’m not sure how much chance Bernie’s proposal actually has of ever becoming reality. Trump is now very rapidly going back on all of his election promises, appointing Washington insiders and establishment bankers to important cabinet posts. These include some of the very people he personally attacked at his rallies. And even if it had his backing, neoliberal and corporate interests are now so entrenched in both sides of Congress that it would be bitterly attacked and voted down.

And you can imagine how the Conservatives and their paymasters in the CBI would scream and holler if Jeremy Corbyn promised anything similar in the Labour party. They’d almost certainly be joined by the Blairites. After all, Tony Blair said that his administration was ‘extremely relaxed’ about becoming rich, and did so much to promote businessmen to important and lucrative government posts. And vast numbers of MPs, possibility the majority, are managing directors or senior executives of companies, and therefore stand to benefit personally from government policies that boost business at the expense of domestic jobs.

We need to clean up parliament, and remove the corporate interests so that it starts to represent the British people as a whole, and not wealthy businessmen and women. And we do need to prevent further jobs being lost abroad, and punish the firms that make big profits from creating unemployment here in Britain.

The Young Turks on Bernie Sanders at the White House Urging Action against DAPL

November 28, 2016

Yesterday I posted a piece from The Young Turks’ reporter, Jordan Cheriton, interviewing Oscar Salazar, one of the water protectors demonstrating against the North Dakota pipeline. Mr Salazar is an immense fan of Bernie Sanders, and invited the self-declared ‘democratic Socialist’ politico to make a personal visit to Standing Rock. Bernie Sanders has been a vocal supporter of the water protectors for a long time, joining their struggle before most other big name supporters. He is also known for his own interest and support in Native American issues, in sharp contrast to the majority of American politicians. The media were surprised during his campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year when he took the time to talk to Native delegates to the Convention, and he has visited and spoken to Native Americans about the issues that matter to them on their reservations.

In this short clip from The Young Turks, Michael Shure, Jimmy Dore and Bill Mankiewicz discuss the speech Sanders made at the White House, urging Barack Obama step in and stop the pipeline, even if it means declaring the area a national monument. Every environmental study states that this is necessary. Shure states that he believes that Obama is not ignoring the protest simply to obey the wishes of powerful corporate donors. But he doesn’t know why he isn’t acting either. Jimmy Dore, who is also bitterly critical of Obama’s foreign policy stance and his legacy in continuing Bush’s wars and the expansion of the surveillance state, states that he doesn’t know either, particularly how Obama can sleep at night knowing that the pipeline, and very many other injustices, are going on. He also quotes a speech from Obama, in which he talked about restoring tribal self-determination, security and prosperity to Native Americans, and while they couldn’t erase the scourge of broken promises in the past, they could move together in creating a new chapter in their shared history. Dore concluded from this that Obama knows what to say, he just doesn’t know about putting it into practice. Both Dore and Mankiewicz state that he should do so now. Mankiewicz also states that he thinks that Obama called the army engineers, believing this was enough to sort the matter out, at least until it became someone else’s problem. It hasn’t, and the problem is escalating.

As Dore’s quote shows, people have long memories, and the part of the media that is actually serious about doing its job does hold politicians to the promises they make. And unfortunately for Obama, the demonstrators at Standing Rock are very well aware that the violation of the Sioux nation’s reservation for this pipeline fits in the with the long history of broken promises and the forcible seizure of tribal land. If the president ever was serious about this speech – if it was ever anything more than pretty words – then he should do something about it now, and stop the pipeline becoming yet another entry in that long list of broken promises.

Trump’s Islamophobia Empowering Hardline Muslim Radicals in ISIS, al-Qaeda and Iran

November 27, 2016

The I newspaper on Friday also ran a piece by Parisa Hafezi reporting that the Revolutionary Guards in Iran were delighted with Trump’s victory, as they saw his anti-Muslim stance as a means by which they could get back into power. The Revolutionary Guards are the elite, hardline branch of the Iranian army dedicated to preserving the regime. They’ve lost some of the power and influence in recent years through the election of more moderate mullahs to the presidency and Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with the regime. But now they hope to use Trump’s militant Islamophobia to win back influence as the protectors of Iranian Islam.

An anonymous senior official within the government stated “Trump and the Isis militants were gifts from God to the IRGC.”. And a former reformist official also said, “If Trump adopts a hostile policy towards Iran or scraps the deal, hardliners and particularly the IRGC will benefit from it”. (The hardline Revolutionary Guards can profit from Trump’s belligerence to Islam, p. 36).

And on Tuesday, 21st November, Patrick Cockburn put up a piece in Counterpunch, ‘Trump’s Team Will Start New Wars in the Middle East’, which reported that ISIS and al-Qaeda were similarly looking forward to Trump’s presidency because of the radicalisation his hatred of Muslims promised. Cockburn wrote:

Isis is under pressure in Mosul and Raqqa, but it is jubilant at the election of Donald Trump.

Abu Omar Khorasani, an Isis leader in Afghanistan, is quoted as saying that “our leaders were closely following the US election, but it was unexpected that the Americans would dig their own graves.” He added that what he termed Trump’s “hatred” towards Muslims would enable Isis to recruit thousands of fighters.

The Isis calculation is that, as happened after 9/11, the demonisation and collective punishment of Muslims will propel a proportion of the Islamic community into its ranks. Given that there are 1.6 billion Muslims – about 23 per cent of the world’s population – Isis and al-Qaeda-type organisations need to win the loyalty of only a small proportion of the Islamic community to remain a powerful force.

Blood-curdling proposals for the persecution of Muslims played a central role in Trump’s election campaign. At one moment, he promised to stop all Muslims from entering the US, though this was later changed to “extreme vetting”. The use of torture by water-boarding was approved and applauded, and Hillary Clinton was pilloried for not speaking of “radical Islamic terrorism”.

Trump and his aides may imagine that much of this can be discarded as the overblown rhetoric of the campaign, but Isis and al-Qaeda propagandists will make sure that Trump’s words are endlessly repeated with all their original venom intact.

Cockburn goes on to predict that Trump, whatever non-interventionist statements he made before the election, is almost certain to start new wars in the Middle East simply through the venomous hatred of Islam of some of the candidates for his cabinet posts. General Michael O’Flynn, who has reportedly been offered the post as National Security Adviser, has stated that ‘Fear of Muslims is rational’. And according to two journalists with The Daily Beast, one of Trump’s defence advisers is Clare Lopez, who wrote a book, See No Sharia, which claims that Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood have infiltrated the White House, the FBI, and the Departments of State, Justice, Defence and Homeland Security. And one of the other candidates Trump was considering declared that ‘Islam is a cancer’.

O’Flynn also runs a private intelligence organisation, which has amongst its clients the Turkish government, which would like to invade Iraq and Syria to sort out the Kurds there. Considering all these explosive and incendiary elements, it’s hard not to agree with Cockburn that, one way or another, Trump’s going to start more wars in the Middle East.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/11/21/trumps-team-will-start-new-wars-in-the-middle-east/

When will this hatred, mass murder and the destruction of whole nations, their history and cultural heritage, end?

The Pro-Slavery Origins of the Electoral College

November 24, 2016

The role of the electoral college in the election of Donald Trump has come under a lot of scrutiny and debate over the past few days. Killary won the popular vote by about 1/2 million or so more votes than the orange-tanned Nazi. But Trump was ahead in the electoral college, and so won the election. Many Americans now are discussing abolishing the electoral college as an anti-democratic institution.

They’re right. It is anti-democratic. It was meant to be from the very beginning. In this piece from Outdate Democracy, the American constitutional lawyer, Paul Finkelman, explains how the electoral college was deliberately invented by James Madison, in order to preserve the power of the slave states. The Founding Fathers discussed various methods by which the present could be elected, including restricting his election to the governors. This was rejected. Madison believed that the ‘fittest thing’ would be for American citizens to elect their president. But there was a problem, in that if this was based only on the numbers of White people, who were the only people who could vote, the south would be at a serious disadvantage. 30%-50% of the population of these states were slaves. The result was that these states had a smaller voting population than the north. As a result, the electoral college was devised, by which a slave was considered only 3/5 of a human being. This nevertheless gave these states the necessary numbers in their populations, to be able to send their own candidates to the White House. Finkelman shows that if the situation had not been invented, then possibly four of the first five presidents wouldn’t have been elected. He concludes that the electoral college is the last relic of slavery, and one that is now unnecessary, as all the residents in a state now have the right to vote.

It’s an interesting perspective on what is, to us Brits, a bizarre and very convoluted aspect of the system of American democracy. And I’ve no doubt it’s true. Along with footage of Dr Finkelman speaking, there’s also pictures of Blacks working in the fields, and on the auction block from the 19th century, and adverts for slaves, which make it very clear what a degrading and inhuman system the electoral college was intended to preserve.

Video of Richard Spencer’s Nazi Speech at Alt-Right Conference

November 22, 2016

This is a clip from The Atlantic, and it’s one of the most chilling portraits of a political meeting in a democratic country. I’ve already blogged about how Richard Spencer, the leader and self-declared father of the Alt-Right, made a Nazi speech at their conference this weekend, which was greeted with cries of ‘Hail Trump’ and the Nazi salute. This is a three minute clip from Spencer’s speech, which was a half hour long. And it’s frightening and disgraceful.

Spencer opens with the shout of ‘Hail Trump! Hail our people!’ He then goes to complain about how White people are exploited and marginalised in America today. He attacks the liberal media, which he calls by the term the Nazis coined, Lugenpresse – lying press, and particularly the liberal political commentator, John Oliver. He then describes how to be White is to be an inventor, conqueror, and explorer, makes comments about how Whites are ‘children of the sun’, claims that Whites don’t exploit anyone, and that Blacks and other ethnic minorities benefit from White rule. He states that until a generation ago, America was an ‘all White country’, and makes it clear that America is for Whites, founded by Whites for Whites.

His speech ends to applause, and a few more Nazi salutes and cries.

Nearly all of Spencer’s speech is rubbish. Yes, America was founded by White people for White people, and until a generation ago Whites were in the majority. This is rapidly changing due to non-White immigration and the higher birthrate among certain non-White communities. Whites certainly have explored, invented and conquered. But so have many other civilisations. If you want a corrective to his views, all you need to his crack open a book on the history of inventions to see just how many basic devices we take for granted were invented either by the Chinese, the Arabs, Persians or came from India. There are also a number of excellent books on Black inventors. One I’ve read, which I found in my local library, is Black Pioneers of Science and Invention. Among other fascinating pieces of information is the explanation of who the ‘McCoy’, in the phrase ‘It’s the real McCoy!’, was. Yes, he was a Black engineer working in the American navy, whose success at producing machines became proverbial.

And we Whites have exploited and marginalised non-Whites. All you need to do to read about this is look at any book on the history of slavery and the slave trade, and the exploitation of Black Americans under segregation and Jim Crow. And the continuing poverty and marginalisation of Black communities. even now, forty years after the Civil Rights movements. Ditto with Native Americans. I know much less about this, but here the classic text on the genocide of the Amerindians is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. And Whites still enjoy a privileged position in American society, although this is declining.

If this were any other Nazi gathering, it could be ignored. Whatever racism there is in American society, explicitly Nazi organisations are very definitely at the margins. They’re a menace, because they do attack and murder innocent people of colour and leftists and anti-racists. That shouldn’t be downplayed. But for many people they’re also so grotesque as to be also figures of ridicule. Think of all the jokes about the Klan and the way John Landis’ The Blues Brothers sent up the Nazi fringe as the American Socialist White People’s Party.

This is frightening, because through Steven Bannon, they’ve got in the White House and Donald Trump’s ear. Already the right-wing media and the blogosphere is out, trying to tell us that the attacks on Trump are all wrong, and that the liberal media are lying and that Trump and his supporters are merely the innocent victims of intolerant leftists. I admit, some of Trump supporters do seem to have been physically attacked simply for their views. That’s wrong, and I don’t condone it.

But this video shows how vile and dangerous the people Trump’s mixing with are. And they have to be stopped, before they don their jackboots are start hurting more innocents with their lies, violence and brutality.

just to take the taste of Spencer and his vile speech out of our metaphorical mouths, here’s the clip from the Blues Brothers where they drive the Nazis off the road.

Yoav Shamir on the Xenophobic Indoctrination of the Israelis

November 21, 2016

This is a short segment, fifteen minutes or so, from the full length film, Defamation, by the Israeli film-maker Yoav Shamir. Shamir’s argument in the film is that Israeli society and Jewish organisations abroad, like the Anti-Defamation League, deliberately obsess about anti-Semitism as a way of indoctrinating their people with xenophobic fears about everyone else. This is done in order to whip up support for the brutalisation and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians.

Shamir starts off by saying that he’s an Israeli, and has never encountered anti-Semitism. So he wants to investigate it. He talks to his grandmother about it, a woman who fled Russia. Her comments about anti-Semitism shock her grandson, as her remarks about those Jews, who remain in the native countries are exactly the same as the slurs anti-Semites make about the Jewish people in general. She states that she is the genuine Jew, the hardworking, decent Jew, while those who remain outside Israel are all crooks, exploiting the non-Jewish inhabitants through alcohol, gambling and so on.

He then goes to one of Israel’s leading newspapers, which has published many stories about anti-Semitism. He meets one of its leading journalists, an elderly man in his 80s and a veteran of Auschwitz, who still has the tattoos the Nazis placed on the arms of their Jewish victims. This man blandly tells him that anti-Semitism is rising in the world, and that Germany, France, Britain and America are all anti-Semitic. Britain, he declares, is anti-Semitic, as London has an anti-Semitic mayor. He also states that the newspaper is keen to play up anti-Semitic incidents, and downplay any decline in them. When Shamir asks why that is, he gets the bland answer that if there’s a rise in anti-Semitism, they sell more papers.

He then travels to America, where he meets Abe Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League at their headquarters. Foxman and his colleagues inform him that there has been a rise in anti-Semitism, and they’re pursuing several incidents at the moment. Later on, Shamir asks Foxman if there are any cases his team can follow as they’re investigated by Foxman and his people. Foxman agrees. When Shamir asks his staff what cases they’re pursuing at the moment, he’s told that they’re quite serious cases. However, most of them seem to be about people not being given time off work for the Jewish holidays, and an incident where someone overheard a cop making derogatory comments about the Jews on his walkie-talkie.

He then talks to Jewish high school students at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel. The students are shown looking at a model of the gas ovens at Auschwitz, and being taught about the horrific system under which the corpses of the victims had their gold teeth extracted, before being cremated. He then films a school teacher giving her class a prep talk for their forthcoming visit to Auschwitz. She touches on how this will prepare some of them for their military service. She also states quite explicitly that everyone hates the Jews. The Polish people, she says, hate the Jews. But they are not to worry, as they won’t meet them, and there will be two secret service agents with them.

When asked about their reactions to this xenophobic teaching, the kids state that it makes them feel special, to know that everyone in the world hates them.

This is a disturbing movie, and the repeated assertions that all non-Jews are anti-Semitic, blandly made as if they were a simple statement of fact, are nothing short of outrageous. If the shoe was on the other foot, and a non-Jewish politician stated that all Jews, or all Israelis, despised the gentiles, it would almost certainly be met with anger and condemnation from spokespeople for the Jewish community. And rightly so, as such claims are at the heart of the stupid and vicious conspiracy theories that claim that Jews exploit gentiles, or are engaged on a centuries-long project of global conquest, as outlined in the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But these statements are not challenged, despite the fact that they are for a very large part, manifestly untrue.

I’m not bothered about the comments from Shamir’s grandmother. She’s of a different generation, one that arose long before our modern sensibilities about race. She’s like the embarrassing older relatives many of us have, who go on about Blacks or Asians. Their attitudes are unpleasant, and dangerous in so far as the people who hold them tend to be the people voting for Nigel Farage and UKIP here in Britain. But it’s not at the same level as the official xenophobia and racism being spewed out by the newspapers and the Israeli school system.

I’m not complacent about anti-Semitism in the West. Racism is on the rise throughout Europe, partly as a reaction to the poverty inflicted on the mass of ordinary people across the continent through neoliberal economic policies, and a political class that seems intent only on its corporate enrichment. It’s also fed too from fears of Muslim terrorism and violence following 9/11, and the refugee crisis, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people flee north Africa and the Middle East for what they hope will be better lives in Europe. Racism was a powerful factor in getting Trump to the White House, where he’s appointed Steven Bannon, an anti-Semite, as his ‘head of strategy’. It’s a powerful force in elevating Marine Le Pen’s Front National to a position as a major political force in France, and the Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany. And there is a very nasty tradition of anti-Semitism in eastern Europe, which is getting stronger, with attacks on Gypsies and now Muslim immigrants.

But to claim that all non-Jews are anti-Semites is, quite simply, a ridiculous, outrageous lie. Let’s take some of the countries the various Israeli speakers in the movie claimed were anti-Semitic, beginning with Germany.

Yes, Germany was murderously anti-Semitic during the Third Reich. But apparently today the situation is the exact reverse. There are still Nazi thugs and hooligans, like the National Democrats and Schonhuber’s German Republican Party. But, probably in reaction to their anti-Semitic past, according to the BBC modern Germany is very pro-Jewish. So much so that Radio 4 a few months ago broadcast a documentary on how the country attracts many young Israelis to spend time there after they’ve done their national service. And a few weeks ago, the papers on this side of the North Sea reported that a sizable chunk of the British Jewish community had taken out German citizenship in opposition to Brexit. I’m not sure if the people, who did this will actually be moving to the Fatherland their grandparents and parents left. I think it’s like the various Brits, who took out Irish citizenship on the grounds that they had an Irish grandparent. They want the benefits of a connection to the EU through their ancestral homelands without actually moving there. But nevertheless, if Germany was the terrible, anti-Semitic monster that the Israeli bigots claim, somehow I don’t think the Jewish Brits now taking out German citizenship would want to do so.

Ditto with the Jews in France. Despite Marine Le Pen and her storm troopers, a poll of French people conducted after 9/11 found that 95 per cent of the population consider Jews French. Of course, this means that 5 per cent don’t, which is a problem. But the message there is that the overwhelming majority of French people aren’t anti-Semitic, at least in as much as they regard Jewish French people as their compatriots.

My guess is that the same is probably true of this country. I’m very much aware of the Nazi antics of the various NF/BNP splinter groups, such as the explicitly anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi National Action, whose leaders do believe in the obscene lies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They’re a pain and a menace. But they’re also miniscule, a mere handful of violent thugs. As for the mayor of London being anti-Semitic, excuse me, but ‘eh?’ If the film was made when Boris was mayor, this statement is wrong. Boris is, in my opinion, a vile individual, with racism one of his many unpleasant traits. But I’ve never heard him utter an anti-Semitic comment. All the racist remarks he’s made, or alleged to have made, seem to be about Blacks and Asians. If the remark is about Saddiq Khan, then again, I’ve never seen anything to indicate that he’s anti-Semitic. Unless, of course, this comes from the smear that somehow he supports Islamic terrorism. Which he doesn’t. He has associated himself, so I gather, with very conservative Muslim preachers, some of whom may hold anti-Semitic views. But this is speculation, and I’ve never heard or seen evidence that Khan himself is an anti-Semite.

As for America, the country is a staunch supporter of Israel, and very many of its favourite entertainers and celebrities are Jewish. Again, the Nazis, the Klan and the Alt-Right are out there, but the impression I’ve got is that, as a country, America has been very pro-Jewish. In fact amongst the American Conservatives, I’ve noticed that there is the perception that they believe that Europeans are all anti-Semites, and so view the rest of us on the other side of the Atlantic with suspicion.

The anti-Semitic incidents Shamir shows in this clip being discussed by the ADL are clearly in the movie because they are trivial. I don’t doubt that they’re annoying and distressing, to those to whom they occurred. I’m sympathetic to the frustrations and annoyance of the people, who couldn’t get time off to celebrate their religious holidays. With the rise of aggressive secularisation in Britain, it’s also happening to Christians over here. And I don’t like to hear people talking disparagingly about minorities. But these aren’t the same as assaults, and threats of physical violence. I am aware, though, that since Trump’s election Jewish businesses have been vandalised with Nazi slogans, including references to Kristallnacht, the infamous vandalism of Jewish shops and businesses by the Nazis.

But what is really chilling and outrageous is the way the Israeli education seems deliberately designed to reinforce these fears. It’s entire understandable and right that Israeli young people should visit Auschwitz, as an example of the massive campaign of extermination the Nazis initiated during the Holocaust. However, it is a chilling and vile smear that all of the Polish people are anti-Semites, and that these kids are to be kept away from them for their own protection. I’m very much aware that there is widespread anti-Semitism Poland, as there is in many other parts of eastern Europe. But I also know that the part of the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust also contains a list of the many righteous Polish gentiles, who risked life and limb to rescue and shelter their Jewish countrymen during the Nazi occupation of their country.

Part of the joy of travelling is that you meet the native peoples of the countries you visit. Not only does meeting and talking to them broaden your mind by exposing you to their culture and their frequently very different perspectives on events and issues, but they’ve also been an integral part in creating good international relations after the carnage of the Second World War. When I was studying German for my ‘A’ levels, one of the foreign excursions we were offered as an adjunct to the course, was to the Sonnenberg Conference in Hannover. This is an annual meeting of school students in Germany from across Europe. And I think it was set up, at least in part, to heal the divisions between Germany and the other peoples of Europe after the War. I didn’t go, but those who did really enjoyed it.

My old college, where I took my first degree, also offered an exchange with a Polish college. The students, who went on this also visited Auschwitz, naturally. But they also met and enjoyed the hospitality of their Polish friends and exchange partners. Those I talked to about this were really impressed at how hard Polish students worked, and the way they were able to achieve good grades and a thorough understanding of their subjects, despite serious shortages in the kind of equipment we take for granted over here, like stationary and pens.

I’ve no doubt whatsoever that meeting other people from all over the world broadens your outlook, and creates genuine international understanding. But these Israeli kids were denied that. They were to be kept separate, guarded, told to fear the Polish people around them. As for the two secret service agents with them, you wonder why they were there, and who they were protecting. It seemed to me that they were there not to safeguard the children from gentile attack or vilification, but to make sure they didn’t become too close to the Poles. The real danger there, according to the Israeli military and educational authorities, seemed to be that Israelis could become too friendly with the people they were intent to demonise as the terrible ‘Other’.

And this has created the fear that makes some Israelis see themselves as special. And this feeling that the world is against them has led to the Israeli authorities angrily denouncing any criticism of the barbarous treatment they mete out to the Palestinians as ‘anti-Semitic’. Because they’re taught by their school teachers and army instructors that everyone else is anti-Semitic, and so any criticism they make of Israel must come from this deep anti-Jewish racism, not because of a decent outrage against the persecution of one people by another.

Shamir’s film is also important for the perspective it gives on the anti-Semitism allegations in the Labour party. I’m sorry for bringing this up once again, now that so many of the people accused of anti-Semitism have been cleared, but Luke Akehurst and the Jewish Labour Movement are still around, and still likely to cause trouble. The people slandered as anti-Semites, in the vast majority of cases, were decent, non-racist and even actively anti-racist people, with proud personal histories of fighting against anti-Semitism. They were accused of anti-Semitism because they made the unforgiveable crime of speaking out against the persecution of the Palestinians, or trying to put the Holocaust into perspective of one of the very many genocides that have sullied human history.

The Israelis, and Zionists like Akehurst, need to demonise and vilify such people, in order to ward off the entirely justified criticisms of Israel and its own maltreatment of its indigenous people. They need to demonise the peoples of other countries, Jews as well as gentiles, as ‘anti-Semitic’, or, if they’re Jewish, ‘self-hating’, in order to create that sense of election that allows the butchers in the Israeli armed forces to kill and massacre without compunction.

This is a monstrous disgrace. There are very many Jews and Jewish organisations abroad and in Israel itself, which are committed to defending the Palestinians and trying to create a better, more just Israel and a free Palestine. They include not just secular Jews, but also deeply religious people versed in the Bible and the Torah. Those in Israel may be subject to horrendous persecution, simply for speaking out. I’ve mentioned before how Ilan Pappe, the Israeli historian, who writes extensively on the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, was forced out of his teaching post and then his homeland by the authorities.

This xenophobia needs to be challenged. It needs to be taken into account whenever the odious Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, starts ranting about anti-Semitism and lying about his political masters’ abuse of the indigenous Arab population. It needs to be brought up whenever the Israel lobby in the Labour party start lying and smearing decent people as anti-Semites. Racism everywhere needs to be fought. This includes not just the disgusting xenophobia of the Nazis, the Holocaust deniers, and racial populists like Trump and Farage. It also means the Israeli system, that fills its young people with unreasoning terror of other nations, in order to deform their personalities to get them to perpetuate the same horrors Jews have suffered on the Palestinians.

Hubert Humphrey on Civil Rights

November 18, 2016

I found this 1948 speech by Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, who was then a candidate for the senate and later became vice-president under Lyndon Johnson, defending Black Civil rights in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, ed. by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1998).

We are here as Democrats. But more important, as Americans – and I firmly believe that as men concerned with our country’s future, we must specify in our platform the guarantees which I have mentioned.

Yes, this is far more than a party matter. Every citizen has a stake in the emergence of the United States as the leader of the free world. That world is being challenged by the world of slavery. For us to play our part effectively, we must be in a morally sound position.

We cannot use a double standard for measuring our own and other people’s policies. Our demands for democratic practices in other lands will be no more effective than the guarantees of those practiced in our own country.

We are God-fearing men and women. We place our faith in the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.

I do not believe that there can be any compromise of the guarantees of civil rights which I have mentioned.

In spite of my desire for unanimous agreement on the platform, there are some matters which I think must be stated without qualification. There can be no hedging – no watering down.

There are those who say to you we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say we are 172 years late.

There are those who say this issue of civil rights is an infringement on states’ rights. The time has arrived for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.

People – human beings – this is the issue of the twentieth century. People – all kinds and all sorts of people – look to America for leadership, for help, for guidance.

My friends, my fellow Democrats, I ask you for a calm consideration of our historic opportunity. Let us forget the evil passions, the blindness of the past. In these times of world economic, political and spiritual, above all, spiritual-crisis, we cannot, we must not, turn from the path so plainly before us.

That path has already led us through many valleys of the shadow of death. Now is the time to recall those who were left on that path of American freedom.

For all of us her, for the millions who have sent us, for the whole 2 billion members of the human family, our land is now, more than ever, the last best hope on earth. I know that we can – I now that we shall – begin here the fuller and richer realization of that hope, that promise of a land where all men are free and equal, and each man uses his freedom and equality wisely and well. (pp. 205-6).

I thought Humphrey’s speech need restating after Donald Trump’s election victory and the very real danger he now poses to freedom and equality in America. Trump’s surrounded and supported by Fascists. He’s promoted a racist and anti-Semite, Steven Bannon, as his chief strategist in the White House and is now preparing to initiate legislation require Muslims to be registered, as if they were enemy aliens. All of them, even if they are innocent of anything even remotely anti- or un-American.

And where Trump leads, I fear Europe will follow. He has an ally in Nigel Farage, many members of whose party, UKIP, are venomously xenophobic and bitterly anti-Muslim. Then there’s the threat of Marine Le Pen and the Front National in France, and the Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany. Not to mention the waves of Fascist intolerance now spreading throughout eastern Europe, most notably in Hungary with Viktor Orban’s Fidesz Party.

The civil rights struggle in America was a profound inspiration and influence on Black people’s struggle for civil rights here in the UK. There is, or was, even a civil rights museum in Birmingham. That’s the Birmingham over here, not Birmingham, Alabama. Decent Europeans and Americans need to stand together against this new Fascist threat against freedom, equality, toleration, human dignity and everything liberals have campaigned for since the French Revolution.

Secular Talk: Clip of Maggie Thatcher Praising Mujahideen in 1981

September 14, 2016

This is another sharp reminder of how much of the present mess the world’s in can be directly traced back to the policies of Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Despite the fact that both are great, molten gods against whom no word must be spoken amongst Conservatives over here and Republicans in the US. Kyle Kulinski begins the segment by showing a clip of Maggie Thatcher praising the mujahideen in Afghanistan in 1981, calling them freedom fighters, stating that they have the support of everyone who believes in freedom back in Britain, and promising another £2 million. In case viewers get confused, and believes that this is part of the kind of conspiracies Alex Jones regularly screams about on Infowars, that it’s all some kind of establishment plot with the Devil and UFO aliens to destroy and enslave the world, Kulinski supplies some context. This was a time when the USSR had invaded Afghanistan, and working on the assumption that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, America, Britain and the west started funding the militant Islamists to fight a proxy war.

Kulinski uses the clip to make the point that just as that error of judgement had disastrous consequences for decades after, so we’re making the same mistakes now. America and the west are still supporting hardline, intolerant Islam in the form of Saudi Arabia and Erdogan’s Turkey. Saudi Arabia is vehemently intolerant, and is responsible for the spread of the brutal Islamist ideology. And the US and the west are also supporting the Islamists, in the form of the al-Nusrah Front, which is another branch of al-Qaeda, in Syria. Why? Because Assad is allied with Iran, the West’s enemy, and also the Russians, who, despite the Fall of Communism, are still our enemy.

We haven’t learned anything. Kulinski points this out as a rejoinder for those right-wingers, who rant about the ‘regressive left’. No, it’s not the Left, who are making the same mistakes.

He also produces a few more embarrassing photos. One shows Ronald Reagan meeting members of the Mujahideen in the White House. The other is a newspaper article from 1983 praising Osama bin Laden as a religious warrior ‘on the road to peace’.

Kulinski responds to his critics, who have accused him of ignoring Islam as the source of this violence, by stating that he is very much aware that extremist, fundamentalist Islam is part of the problem. However, there are ways to counteract it, without bombing anyone. Like freezing the Islamists’ bank accounts, and not selling them arms. He illustrates this point with a newspaper headline about 90 per cent of people killed by drones being the wrong people.

Everything Kulinski says in this video is absolutely correct. But he could also have gone further. Reagan and the rest of his gang of New Cold War thugs at the time were told what would happen by the Russians. The Russian ambassador actually told one of Reagan’s team responsible for arming and funding the mujahideen that after they’d finished with the Russians, they’d come for the Americans. The Soviet ambassador was exactly right. This is precisely what happened with the attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and the White House on 9/11. The Reagan’s hagiographers cannot say the old butcher wasn’t told.

And as Kulinski says, nothing’s changed in the meantime. The Tories are still following this murderous, stupid policy. The I newspaper today has reminded everyone that David Cameron is responsible for the current mess in Libya. But he was also one of those backing further airstrikes in Syria, though Private Eye has pointed out that he tended to send the planes in only at times when someone else, usually the Americans, had complained that Britain wasn’t doing enough.

And as Mike has pointed out in his critique of today’s report on Cameron’s legacy in Syria, that’s only one disaster for which he’s responsible. His whole administration was responsible for other persecution and suffering in Britain, amongst the poor, the disabled, the unemployed and the working class, who he has impoverished and exploited with welfare cuts and the imposition of highly exploitative working practices.

Which also follows a long Tory tradition, going all the way back to Maggie Thatcher and beyond.

It’s high time they were thrown out of power, and replaced with an administration genuinely determined to improve the lives of the unemployed, the sick and working people in Britain, and use peaceful means to stamp out the spread of murderous extremism abroad.