Saturday, February 11, 2017

Lincoln the Loser: Taking Civil Rights Back to the Source

Blood Will Tell: Trump and Sessions Strike Historic Blow for Civil Rights

by Chris Floyd - CounterPunch

February 10, 2017

Washington  - President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order today overturning the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, saying former President Abraham Lincoln’s action had been “hugely unfair” to Southern property owners.

“Free enterprise more important than political correctness!” Mr. Trump tweeted immediately after signing the executive order.

“Beanpole Abe should know better! Sad!” 
Photo Ryan J. Reilly | CC BY 2.0

After Mr. Trump’s phone was gently prised from his hand by recently named Chief Operating Officer and Grand Vizier of the United States of America and All Its Dominions (Present and Future), Steve Bannon, the President read a prepared statement announcing the formation of a new Reparations Committee to “deal with the gross injustices arising from the abuse of federal power during the War for States’ Rights.”

Mr. Trump named Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Andersonville Sessions as chairman of the committee. Mr. Sessions, present at the signing, told reporters that the Justice Department will create a new Civil Rights Restoration Division, with a staff of more than 5,000, to “locate each and every descendant of those honest, law-abiding American citizens who had their property confiscated from them by an overweening government in Washington, and give them fair recompense for their tragic loss.”

The Trump Administration has set aside an initial $350 billion for the Reparations Fund although Mr. Sessions said the ultimate cost of the program could run as high as “a trillion or more” once estimates of the “projected post-war losses” are factored in.

“We’re talking about families whose property could have multiplied many times over, down through the generations, providing immense economic value — all of which was taken from them,” said Mr. Sessions, his voice shaking slightly with anger.

“We will now right this injustice whose pernicious effects have festered for far too long in American society.”

When asked how the reparation program would be funded, Mr. Trump suddenly shouted, “Mexicans!” But after a whispered word from Vizier Bannon, the President pointed to Attorney General Sessions. “This guy, him, the guy standing over there, white hair guy, he knows all about it,” said the president.

Mr. Sessions said the program would be funded by a special surtax on Americans of African descent. The Reparations Fund will be “a model of fairness and diversity,” Mr. Sessions added, due to a “weighted” gradation of the surtax.

“We recognize — indeed, we celebrate — the fact that, in the words of the Negro spiritual often sung by that great conservative leader, Martin Luther King, ‘we have overcome’ the racial barriers that once unjustly separated Americans,” said Mr. Sessions.

“We know there’s been a whole bunch of race-mixing going on out there in the woodpile over the years. We certainly don’t want anyone to pay more than their fair share, especially those who may have ancestors unrelated to property and its confiscation.”

Thus the amount of the surtax will be adjusted according to “the ratio of Negro blood to non-Negro blood” in the person’s genealogy, Mr. Sessions said. “If you’re half-black, then you’ll only pay half the surtax. If you’re a quarter black, then only a fourth, and so on down the line. It’s very fair, and it won’t pose an undue burden on anyone. Why, your octoroons probably won’t pay more than a few dollars a year!”

“That’s enough, General Beauregard,” the president said, rising.

“Hannity’s coming on. I just want to say that I’m very proud to fix this historic wrong by Mr. Lincoln, a great man to be sure but something of a loser nonetheless, who couldn’t even finish out his second term. I know people say he was the tallest president, but I’m actually much taller, believe me, even when he had that big hat on, OK? I have many African-American friends, many many African-American friends, who are black, and I’m a great friend to all the blacks, and I know they will join me in welcoming this amazing program that will do great things and is getting more and more recognition, I notice. Thank you.” 

Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at
More articles by:Chris Floyd

Who to Bill for Yemen's Destruction?

UN's $28 Bln Yemen Appeal? Send the Bill to Washington, London, Riyadh

by Finian Cunningham - Sputnik

February 10, 2017

The United Nations this week launched an emergency appeal to raise $2 billion in humanitarian aid for Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula country where war has raged for nearly two years. The UN says some 12 million people - half the population - are facing starvation unless the international community urgently comes to their aid.

UN officials are making dramatic statements urging nations around the world to dig deep and come up with the necessary funds.

Stephen O'Brien, head of UN relief operations, called for "immediate action."

Another official, Jan Egeland, put the dire situation like this:

"In Yemen, if the bombs don’t kill you, a slow and painful death by starvation is now an increasing threat."

These UN officials are the same shameless people who have been distorting the nature of the conflict in Syria. They are now doing the same in Yemen. Their so-called "humanitarian" appeals are carefully disguised distortion about who the real culprits and causes of the crisis are.

As in Syria, the violence and humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the result of external, criminal aggression against the country. In both cases it is the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia who are largely driving the war, either covertly as in Syria through sponsoring proxy terror groups, or openly in Yemen through the aerial bombardment of that country.

Since March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states have been bombing Yemen relentlessly on a daily basis. Ceasefires have been routinely broken and not even the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan has been spared from the Saudi bombs.

Before the war erupted, Yemen was already one of the poorest countries in the world.

Saudi Arabia is fully supported by the United States and Britain to carry out this aggression on Yemen. Washington and London sell to the Saudi regime the F-16 and Typhoon warplanes and the bombs that they drop. The munitions include internationally banned cluster bombs, as documented by various rights groups.

Just one measure of how much the US and Britain are making a financial killing from the Saudi aggression on Yemen is this: since March 2015, Britain alone has sold $4 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia.

This week, US president Donald Trump is reportedly lifting a temporary freeze on American weapons exports to Saudi Arabia that his predecessor Barack Obama latterly imposed. The Obama administration flogged a total of $115 billion in arms to Saudi over eight years. Due to pressure from humanitarian critics over Yemen, Obama moved to curtail future sales to the Saudis. Now Trump is going ahead to resume the deadly business.

It's not just military hardware that the Americans and British are supplying. They also provide the logistics and refueling of Saudi air operations over Yemen. In other words, the Saudis would not be able to drop one bomb were it not for their American and British handlers.

Mainstream Western media, like they also do in Syria, indulge in the official lies and distortions over Yemen. Britain's Independent tells its readers that Yemen "descended into full-scale civil war in March 2015." Like all Western news media, the Independent peddles claims by Washington, London and Riyadh that they are supporting the "internationally recognized government of Yemen".

The truth is that the Western and Saudi-backed puppet regime of Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi was kicked out by a popular uprising that was underway since 2011. The so-called "international recognized government" is more accurately described as a "Western-backed" corrupt cabal which is sheltered in luxury palaces while exiled to Saudi Arabia.

When Hadi and his cronies fled Yemen, his Saudi and Western patrons immediately began bombing the country in an attempt to reverse the popular uprising led by the Houthi rebels. (Western claims that the Houthis are Iranian proxies is another load of propaganda lies.)

No target in that forsaken country is off limits, in brazen violation of the Geneva Convention. Family homes, schools, hospitals, farms, markets and mosques have been blasted with American and British weapons. Over and over again. In many instances, whole families of parents and children have been obliterated in the raids.

Even funerals have been hit. Last October, some 140 people were killed when a mourning ceremony in the Yemeni capital Sanaa was bombed from the skies.

The total death toll is estimated at 10,000. That is most likely a flagrant underestimate to distract from the real carnage. Most of the dead are civilians, mostly from air strikes, according to the UN.

In addition to the merciless bombing, Yemen is blockaded by air and sea. That blockade is imposed by Saudi and American warships patrolling the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The UN even admits that the embargo on the entire country is restricting what little flow of aid is being sent. Shipping ports have also been bombed for despicable good measure.

The UN and the mainstream Western media are now calling upon people of the world to respond with an emergency relief effort to Yemen. They show videos of skeletal children so weak that they can hardly cry from the pain of starvation.

© Wikipedia/ Jialiang Gao

But what the so-called humanitarian agencies and mainstream Western media don't tell is that this abomination is being caused by American and British governments who are making billions of dollars from weaponizing a barbaric Saudi regime.

This is the same triumvirate of evil that weaponized head-chopping terrorist mercenaries to wage war on Syria for regime change over the past six years.

Only Russia's military intervention in Syria from the end of 2015 salvaged that country from the disaster that befell others like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and which is befalling Yemen, where the West pursues similar regime-change machinations.

And yet the mainstream Western media have the audacity to accuse Russia of "killing civilians in Syria."

This week, American media were full of unfounded claims about Russian President Vladimir Putin being a "killer". In the same week that news emerged of a US military raid ordered by Trump in Yemen that resulted in over 20 civilians being slaughtered.

The Western double-think and hypocrisy are stupendous.

What is happening in Yemen is heartrending beyond words. Children are dying from thirst, hunger and shrapnel wounds that go untreated. And still the Saudi, American and British bombs continue to rain down on them.

No doubt the $2 billion fund that the UN is appealing for on behalf of Yemen is a gross fraction of the actual damage to the people and their country. The real figure could be as high as $200 billion considering two years of wholesale destruction.

But that bill of damage should not be spread over the world for responsibility. It should be presented precisely to Washington, London and Riyadh for them to pay alone. And then after the financial reparations are made, the UN should stop sanitizing the criminals and facilitate an international court to prosecute American, British and Saudi leaders for war crimes.

Friday, February 10, 2017

House 'Resolution of Inquiry' Seen as First Steps to Trump Impeachment

The Long Road to Impeach Trump Just Got Shorter

by Norman Solomon - Truthdig

Feb 10, 2017

The momentum to impeach President Trump is accelerating.

On Thursday, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) filed a “resolution of inquiry” that amounts to the first legislative step toward impeachment.

A new poll shows that registered voters are evenly split, at 46-to-46 percent, on whether they “support” or “oppose” impeaching Trump. Just two weeks ago, the pro-impeachment figure was 35 percent. 
President Trump and Vice President Mike
Pence  (Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0

Since inauguration, more than 800,000 people have signed a petition in the first stage of the Impeach Donald Trump Campaign, which will soon involve grassroots organizing in congressional districts around the country.

Under the Trump presidency, defending a wide range of past gains is both necessary and insufficient. Fighting for impeachment is a way to go on the offensive, directly challenging the huge corruption that Trump has brought to the White House.

From the outset, President Trump has been violating two provisions of the U.S. Constitution—its foreign and domestic “emoluments” clauses. In a nutshell, both clauses forbid personally profiting from presidential service beyond receiving a government salary.

Some believe that the Republican-controlled Congress is incapable of impeaching Trump, but history tells us what’s possible when a president falls into wide disrepute. On July 27, 1974, seven GOP representatives on the 38-member House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach a fellow Republican, President Richard Nixon.

As for objections that impeaching and removing Trump from office would make Mike Pence the president, that concern is apt to bypass one set of key considerations after another. Along the way, in political terms, people need to think through the implications of the fact that Trump could only be removed from office with the help of many votes from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Even if every Democrat in the House voted in unison to impeach Trump, impeachment would only be possible if at least two-dozen Republican members of the House voted in favor. Likewise, a vote in the Senate (requiring two-thirds) to remove Trump from the presidency would only be successful if at least 19 Republican senators voted for conviction. Such events would badly splinter and damage the Republican Party—causing divisive bitterness, putting GOP leaders back on their heels and hobbling a Pence presidency.

Arguably most important of all, democracy requires that no one be above the law—a principle that’s most crucially applied to the holder of the most powerful office in the U.S. government. Extreme abuse of power from the top of the government must be seen and treated as intolerable.

The Constitution that Trump continues to flagrantly violate is supposed to be “the supreme law of the land.” To give Trump a pass would be to wink at his merger of vast personal wealth and corporate holdings with vast governmental power.

From the grassroots, it’s crucial for constituents to push back with determination. As the Impeach Donald Trump Now campaign’s website documents in detail, Trump’s personal riches are entangled with countless policy options for his administration. That precedent must be resisted and defeated.

So far, the Democratic Party’s leadership in Congress has shown scant interest in impeaching Trump. With escalating pressure from constituents, that may soon change.

Congressman Nadler’s unusual resolution of inquiry will be able to avoid some of the standard roadblocks in the House. As his website explains,

“A Resolution of Inquiry is a legislative tool that has privileged parliamentary status, meaning it can be brought to the floor if the relevant Committee hasn’t reported it within 14 legislative days, even if the Majority leadership has not scheduled it for a vote.”

Nadler has just put a big toe in the impeachment water. Yet no members of the House have taken the plunge to introduce an actual resolution for impeachment. They will have to be pushed.

Norman Solomon is national coordinator of the online activist group, which is co-sponsoring with Free Speech For People the grassroots impeachment campaign at

China, Gold, Oil, and the Death of the Petrodollar

The Death Of The Petrodollar, And What Comes After

by Grant Williams - Things That Make You Go Hmmm

via ZeroHedge

February 9. 2017

In December, Grant Williams, author of "Things That Make You Go Hmm..." offered the most comprehensive analysis yet of the rise and inevitable fall of the petrodollar (and implicitly US hegemony).

In the following presentation, from Mines & Money Conference in London in December 2016, Williams focuses on gold's performance in 2016, the reaction to Donald Trump's election and joins a series of dots that may lead to the end of the petrodollar system and a new place for gold in the global monetary system.

Grab a glass of wine - turn off Trump's twitter feed for 30 minutes and enjoy. Here is the full presentation - "Get It. Got It. Good"

Truth Hurts: Blunt Trump Revelation Leaves US Killer Elite Smarting

Trump blurts out the truth about US killings and the media goes wild

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

7 February 2017

The furor unleashed by the remarks of President Donald Trump in response to Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly’s calling Russian President Vladimir Putin “a killer” during an interview broadcast Sunday has continued to reverberate, drawing hypocritical condemnations from leading figures in both the Republican and Democratic parities.

In response to O’Reilly’s denunciation of Putin, Trump stated:

“There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

Trump went on to cite Iraq in support of his statement. O’Reilly’s face went slack. He clearly did not know what to say. The new leader of the “Free World” had wandered seriously off message.

As far as the capitalist politicians of both parties and the media are concerned, Trump committed an unpardonable offense: he—in this one instance, and for purely pragmatic reasons related to his immediate political needs—had said something true about US imperialism’s role in the world.

The official posture of outrage over Trump’s off-hand comment will have little effect on the broader public. Do the politicians and media really believe that the public is so naïve and its memory so short? The United States is a country where The Bourne Identity­ and its innumerable sequels--whose basic premise is that the US government is run by murderers--are among the most popular movies of the last twenty years.

This premise is well grounded in fact.

Over the past 70 years, presidents and other high government officials have been implicated in the authorization and implementation of countless atrocities. Many of these crimes have been substantiated in official government reports and congressional hearings.

In a review of Joshua Kurlantzick’s A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of the Military CIA, reviewer Scott Shane wrote in the February 3 edition of The New York Times :

“Speaking last September in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, Barack Obama mentioned a staggering fact: that the United States had between 1963 and 1974 dropped two million tons of bombs on the country, more than the total loosed on Germany and Japan together during World War II.
That made Laos, which is slightly smaller than Michigan, the most heavily bombed nation in history, the president said. More than four decades after the end of the war, unexploded ordnance is still killing and maiming Laotians, and Obama announced that he was doubling American funding to remove it.”

Calling attention to information in Kurlantzick’s book, Shane noted:

“In his first presidential term, Richard M. Nixon escalated the bombing from about 15 sorties per day to 300 per day. ‘How many did we kill in Laos?’ Nixon asked Henry Kissinger one day in a conversation caught on tape. Kissinger replied: ‘In the Laotian thing, we killed about 10, 15’--10,000 or 15,000 people, he meant. The eventual death toll would be 200,000.”

When it comes to killing, the US Government is without equal. In multiple wars of aggression, from Korea to Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the proxy war for regime-change in Syria, US imperialism has killed and maimed tens of millions.

The chief accusation being leveled against Trump--by both supposed liberals in the Democratic Party and right-wing Republicans--is that he implied a “moral equivalence” between Russia and the US. This was a phrase used during the Cold War to justify every crime committed by the US and its allies, from Latin America’s bloody dictatorships to the Apartheid regime in South Africa, on the grounds that there could be no “moral equivalence” between the leader of the “Free World” and the Soviet “Evil Empire.”

There is, in fact, no equivalence. When it comes to killing and global thuggery, Putin is a small fry compared to the leaders of the United States.

That the Democratic Party jumps on this reactionary bandwagon only proves that there is nothing progressive whatsoever in its purported opposition to Trump. This was exemplified Monday by the remarks of California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a supposed “left” Democrat and leading member of the Congressional Black Caucus, who suggested that Trump should be impeached for “wrapping his arms around Putin while Putin is continuing to advance into Korea [sic].”

Underlying the furor over Trump’s remarks are fierce divisions over US imperialist strategy and Washington’s preparations for war that have been brought into the open with the change of administrations.

These differences have been exacerbated by recent events in Syria. The Syrian government’s retaking in December of eastern Aleppo, the last urban stronghold of the US-backed “rebels,” represented a colossal setback for US policy in the Middle East.

There are bitter recriminations within the foreign policy establishment over the Obama administration’s backing off of its “red line” in 2013, when it nearly went to war over false charges of Syrian government use of chemical weapons. Within these circles, there are many who feel that a military intervention would have been better for US interests, no matter what new catastrophe it unleashed.

An article published in the Washington Post Monday, warning that the US faces “a far stronger Iran” after “years of turmoil in the Arab world,” spelled out the situation that Washington now confronts in stark terms:

“Iran and Russia together have fought to ensure the survival of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and they are now pursuing a peace settlement in alliance with Turkey that excludes a role for the United States. America has been left with few friends and little leverage, apart from the Kurds in the northeast of the country.

“Russia controls the skies over Syria, and Turkey wields influence over the rebels, but Iran holds sway on the ground ...”

Talk of “respecting” Putin, possible collaboration with Russia against ISIS in Syria, and an easing of sanctions is not, as the Democrats have suggested, evidence of some secret control exercised by the Kremlin over Trump. It is, rather, part of a definite strategy of peeling Russia off from Iran in order to pave the way for a new war in the Middle East, while sharply escalating provocations against China.

Citing unnamed administration officials, the Wall Street Journal spelled this policy out on Monday:

“The administration is exploring ways to break Russia’s military and diplomatic alliance with Iran... The emerging strategy seeks to reconcile President Donald Trump’s seemingly contradictory vows to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and to aggressively challenge the military presence of Iran.”

Trump’s chief White House strategist and adviser, Stephen Bannon, a student and admirer of Adolf Hitler, no doubt views the administration’s pivot toward Moscow through the historical prism of the Stalin-Hitler pact, which set the stage for the Second World War, a war that ultimately claimed 20 million Soviet lives.

Putin’s government is susceptible to such maneuvers. It shares all of the stupidity, backwardness and shortsightedness of the counterrevolutionary bureaucracy headed by Stalin. Putin sits atop a regime that represents a rapacious clique of oligarchs who enriched themselves through theft of state property and the extraction and sale of the resources of the former Soviet Union. They are anxious to see US sanctions lifted so that they can accelerate their accumulation of wealth at the expense of the Russian working class.

Within the US political establishment and Washington’s vast military and intelligence apparatus, there exists sharp opposition to Trump’s turn in foreign policy. Immense political, military and financial resources have been invested in the buildup against Russia, from the coup in Ukraine to the deployment of thousands of US and NATO troops on Russia’s western border. There are concerns within ruling circles that a shift in imperialist strategy is reckless and poses serious dangers.

While popular attention and outrage have been focused on Trump’s anti-democratic executive orders imposing a ban on Muslims and refugees, ordering a wall built on the southern border, and laying the groundwork for a mass dragnet against undocumented immigrant workers, within the ruling class a serious fight is being waged over global imperialist strategy.

This fight over policy is between two bands of cutthroats, each of which is committed to an escalation of US militarism to further the profit interests of the US-based banks and transnational corporations. Whichever one wins out, the threat of world war, rooted in the crisis of global capitalism, will only grow.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Risen: The Mighty and Vulnerable Earth


by DJ Sadhu

February 9, 2017

From the upcoming album ‘Beyond’

Forget Three Minutes to Midnight: Gaia's Methane Bomb

Looming climate catastrophe? A Rapidly Warming Arctic Could Loose a Methane Climate Bomb Could Mean Extinction in Nine Years

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

February 9, 2017

Reports from the Arctic are getting pretty grim. The latest, from a blog called Arctic News [1], warns that by 2026 -- that’s just nine years from now -- warming above the Arctic Circle could be so extreme that a massively disrupted and weakened jet stream could lead to global temperature rises so severe that a massive extinction event, including humans, could result.

Methane hydrate as a stable clathrate deep 
under the sea...but stable for how long?

This latest blog post, written by Arctic News editor Sam Carana, draws on research by a number of scientists (linked in his article), who report on various feedback loops that will result from a dramatically warmer north polar region. But the critical concern, he says, is methane already starting to be released in huge quantities from the shallow sea floor of the continental shelves north of Siberia and North America.

That methane, produced by bacteria acting on biological material that sinks to the sea floor, for the most part, is currently lying frozen in a form of ice that is naturally created over millions of years by a mixing of methane and water, called a methane hydrate. Methane hydrate is a type of molecular structure called a clathrate.

Clathrates are a kind of cage, in this case made of water ice, which traps another chemical, in this case methane. At normal temperatures, above the freezing temperature of water, these clathrates can only form under high pressures, such as a 500 meters or more under the ocean, and indeed such clathrates can be found under the sea floor even in places like the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, where the temperature is 8-10 degrees above freezing.

But in colder waters, they can exist and remain stable at much shallower levels, such as a in a few hundred feet of water off the coast of Alaska or Siberia.

The concern is that if the Arctic Ocean waters, particularly nearer to shore, were to warm even slightly, as they will do as the ice cap vanishes in summer and becomes much thinner in winter, at some point the clathrates there will suddenly dissolve releasing tens of thousands of gigatons of methane in huge bursts.

Already, scientists are reporting that portions of the ocean, as well as shallow lakes in the far north, look as though they are boiling, as released methane bubbles to the surface, sometimes in such concentrations that they can be lit on fire with a match as they surface.

As Carana writes:

“As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, it seems inevitable that more and more methane will rise from its seafloor and enter the atmosphere, at first strongly warming up the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean itself - thus causing further methane eruptions - and eventually warming up the atmosphere across the globe.”

That is scary enough, as a sufficient burst of methane, a global warming gas 86 times more powerful than CO2, could lead to a rapid rise in global temperatures by 3 degrees Celsius or more, enough to actually reverse the carbon cycle, so that plants would end up releasing more carbon into the atmosphere rather than absorbing it.

Is this scenario or a giant methane “burp” from the Arctic sea floor just a scare story? Not according to many scientists who study the earth’s long history of global warming periods and of evolution and periodic mass extinction events.

As Harold Wanless, a Professor of Geology and a specialist in sea level rise at the University of Miami explains, prior warming periods have often proceeded in dramatic pulses, not smoothly over drawn-out periods.

“We don’t know how this period of warming is going to develop,” he said.

“That’s the problem. The warming Arctic Ocean is just ice melting, but the melting permafrost in Siberia, and the methane hydrates under the shallow waters of the continental shelf can happen suddenly. Every model gets the trend, but they don’t give you the rate that it happens or when something sudden happens.”

Wanless, who has for some time been predicting ice melting rates and resulting sea level rises that are far in excess of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been predicting -- as much as 10 feet by 2050 and 15 or 20 feet by the end of this century, vs. just three feet for the IPCC -- says, “Scientists tend to be pretty conservative. We don’t like to scare people, and we don’t like to step out of our little predictable boxes. But I suspect the situation is going to spin out of hand pretty quickly.”

He says,

“If you look at the history of warming periods, things can move pretty fast, and when that happens that’s when you get extinction events.”

He adds, “I would not discount the possibility that it could happen in the next ten years.”

Making matters worse, Wanless adds, is the fact that a large enough methane eruption in the arctic, besides contributing to accelerated global warming, could also lead to a significant reduction of the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere (currently about 21%). This is because methane in the atmosphere breaks down fairly quickly, over the course of a decade or so, into water vapor and CO2, but in doing do, it requires oxygen atoms, which it would pull out of the atmosphere.
A methane hydrate deposit erupts suddenly 
from the sea floor off the northern coast of Norway

That reduction in oxygen would lead to reduced viability and growth rates of plants and animals, as well as to a significant reduction in crop productivity.

This dire trend [2] would be enhanced by a second threat to atmospheric oxygen, which is the oxygen-producing plankton in the ocean. If sea temperatures rise much, and increased acidification of the ocean continues apace as the oceans absorb more CO2, plankton, the earth’s main producers of new oxygen, could shut down that source of new free oxygen.

So there you have it my fellow humans: it’s at least possible that we could be looking at an epic extinction event, caused by ourselves, which could include exterminating our own species, or at least what we call “civilization,” in as little as nine years.

What is particularly galling, in thinking about this, is the prospect that eight of those last years might find us living in a country led by Donald Trump, a climate-change denier who seems hell-bent on promoting measures, like extracting more oil from the Canadian tar sands, the North Dakota Bakkan shale fields and the Arctic sea floor, as well as re-opening coal mines, that will just make such a dystopian future even more likely than it already is.

The only “bright side” to this picture is that it may not matter that much what Trump does, because we’ve already, during the last eight Obama years and the last eight Bush years before that, dithered away so much time that the carbon already in the atmosphere -- about 405 ppm -- has long since passed the 380 ppm level at which, during the last warming period of the earth, sea levels were 100 feet higher than they are today.

It is at this stage of the game either too late to stop, or we should be embarking on a global crash program to reduce carbon emissions the likes of which humanity has never known or contemplated.

Hard to imagine that happening though, particularly here in a country where half the people don’t even think climate change is happening, or if they do notice things getting warmer, think that’s just a peachy thing that will reduce their heating bills.

That is to say, we’re already past the point of no return and it’s just the lag being caused by the time it takes for ice sheets to melt and for the huge ocean heat sinks to warm in response to the higher carbon levels in the atmosphere that is saving us from facing this disaster right now.



Toronto Activists Welcome Conference of American Armies

Activists disrupt international military conference in downtown Toronto Hotel

by Mining Injustice Solidarity Network

February 9, 2017

Toronto - Over a dozen activists with banners and a sound system disrupted a special conference of the Conference of American Armies (CAA) this morning. The conference is a gathering of military leaders from North, Central and South America and is being held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto.

The meeting, which was hosted by the Canadian Army, explored "domestic operations" as its primary theme, alarming activists who associate the CAA with the repression of political activists and land defenders.

"The state, and the military backing it, come down with brutal force on Indigenous peoples asserting their responsibilities to protect the water, as has been so illustrated in the camps of Standing Rock with the involvement of the National Guard," explains Jaydene Lavallee, a Métis organizer present at the hotel action. "This conference on 'domestic operations' is about armies of colonial states mobilizing to better defend industry from Indigenous people and their allies."

From La Guajira, Colombia to Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, militaries engage in domestic conflicts over resource extraction. The CAA, which was created as part of a Cold War strategy to increase collaboration with militaries in Latin America, is no stranger military involvement in internal conflict. Even today, CAA liason officers are linked to the repression of civilians in their own countries who are engaged in land defence struggles or political activism.

"In 2009, Hudbay Minerals had support from the Guatemalan military, including the feared “Kaibil” special forces, to carry out repression against local Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities and make way for Hudbay’s mining operations," explains Grahame Russell of the NGO Rights Action.

"This includes the September 27, 2009 assassination of Adolfo Ich and shooting and paralyzing of German Chub."

Honduras-based coordinator of the Honduras Solidarity Network, Karen Spring, points out that current CAA liaison officers are linked to political repression in Honduras. Col. Gabriel Rixci Cárcamo Bonilla, CAA liaison officer for Honduras, was the commanding Colonel responsible for the Honduran Third Infantry Battalion in the northern town of Naco from 2013 to 2014. During that time, the Intelligence Troop and Special Security Response Groups, known as "TIGRES", and Honduran Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) both received training at Bonilla's base. Both units have been used extensively to repress Honduran social movements and struggles in defence of natural resources and territories.

According to Spring,

"the conference in Toronto and the presence of Honduran military on Canadian soil demonstrates Canada's clear foreign policy objectives of militarization and imperialism in complete disregard of basic human rights in Honduras. The Canadian government continues its support of the Honduran regime despite in-depth reports and documentation of extremely high levels of human rights violations, impunity and corruption."


Press contacts:

Jaydene Lavallee,
Sakura Saunders,
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network,

For information related to Honduras and Guatemala:

Grahame Russell, Rights Action

Karen Spring, Honduras Solidarity Network,


The Conference of American Armies (CAA) was created in 1960 by U.S. commander-in-chief of Southern Command, Major T.F. Bogart and played a large role in U.S Cold War strategy in the Americas. According to Long Island University professor and author of "Predatory States" J. Patrice McSherry, the CAA created communication systems for these armies to collaborate. This laid the groundwork for Operation Condor, which in turn led to the killing, torture, and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of people while supporting military governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Today, militaries across the Americas are active in campaigns of repression against civilians in their own countries who are engaged in land defence struggles or political activism.

Canadian Army press release about the Conference of American Armies (CAA)

Detailed backgrounders on military violence in Mexico, Honduras,Guatemala, and Colombia available upon request.

Say It Ain't So: Amnesty International Goes Hollywood with Syria 'Saydnaya' Report

Amnesty International Admits Syrian "Saydnaya" Report Fabricated Entirely in UK

by Tony Cartalucci - Land Destroyer

February 9, 2017

Amnesty International's 48 page report titled, "Syria: Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison, Syria," boasts bold claims, concluding:

...the Syrian authorities’ violations at Saydnaya amount to crimes against humanity. Amnesty International urgently calls for an independent and impartial investigation into crimes committed at Saydnaya. 

However, even at a cursory glance, before even reading the full body of the report, under a section titled, "Methodology," Amnesty International admits it has no physical evidence whatsoever to substantiate what are admittedly only the testimony of alleged inmates and former workers at the prison, as well as figures within Syria's opposition.

Image: What you are looking at is a 3D model fabricated entirely in the UK, based 
solely on satellite pictures and hearsay. Passed off as evidence this technique of "forensic
architecture" may soon become a new tool in the dissemination of war propaganda if it is not exposed.

Within the section titled, "Methodology," the report admits:

Despite repeated requests by Amnesty International for access to Syria, and specifically for access to detention facilities operated by the Syrian authorities, Amnesty International has been barred by the Syrian authorities from carrying out research in the country and consequently has not had access to areas controlled by the Syrian government since the crisis began in 2011. Other independent human rights monitoring groups have faced similar obstacles. 

In other words, Amnesty International had no access whatsoever to the prison, nor did any of the witnesses it allegedly interview provide relevant evidence taken from or near the prison.

The only photographs of the prison are taken from outer space via satellite imagery. The only other photos included in the report are of three men who allege they lost weight while imprisoned and a photo of one of eight alleged death certificates provided to family members of detainees who died at Saydnaya.

The alleged certificates admittedly reveal nothing regarding allegations of torture or execution.

Articles like, "Hearsay Extrapolated - Amnesty Claims Mass Executions In Syria, Provides Zero Proof," provide a detailed examination of Amnesty's "statistics," while articles like, "Amnesty International “Human Slaughterhouse” Report Lacks Evidence, Credibility, Reeks Of State Department Propaganda," cover the politically-motivated nature of both Amnesty International and the timing of the report's promotion across the Western media.

However, there is another aspect of the report that remains unexplored - the fact that Amnesty International itself has openly admitted that the summation of the report was fabricated in the United Kingdom at Amnesty International's office, using a process they call "forensic architecture," in which the lack of actual, physical, photographic, and video evidence, is replaced by 3D animations and sound effects created by designers hired by Amnesty International.

Amnesty Hired Special Effects Experts to Fabricate "Evidence"

In a video produced by Amnesty International accompanying their report, titled, "Inside Saydnaya: Syria's Torture Prison," the narrator admits in its opening seconds that Amnesty International possesses no actual evidence regarding the prison.

The video admits:

There are almost no pictures of its exterior [except satellite images] and none from inside. And what happens within its walls is cloaked in secrecy, until now. 

Viewers are initially led to believe evidence has emerged, exposing what took place within the prison's walls, but the narrator continues by explaining:

We've devised a unique way of revealing what life is like inside a torture prison. And we've done it by talking to people who were there and have survived its horrors...

...and using their recollections and the testimony of others, we've build an interactive 3D model which can take you for the first time inside Saydnaya. 

The narrator then explains:

In a unique collaboration, Amnesty International has teamed up with "Forensic Architecture" of Goldsmiths, University of London, to reconstruct both the sound and architecture of Saydnaya prison, and to do it using cutting-edge digital technology to create a model. 

In other words, the summation of Amnesty International's presentation was not accumulated from facts and evidence collected in Syria, but instead fabricated entirely in London using 3D models, animations, and audio software, based on the admittedly baseless accounts of alleged witnesses who claim to have been in or otherwise associated with the prison.

Eyal Weizman, director of "Forensic Architecture," would admit that "memory" alone was the basis of both his collaboration with Amnesty International, and thus, the basis for Amnesty's 48 page report:

Memory is the only resource within which we can start [to] reconstruct what has taken place. What does it feel like to be a prisoner in Saydnaya? 

Weizman's organization, "Forensic Architecture," on its own website, describes its activities:

Forensic Architecture is a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London. It includes a team of architects, scholars, filmmakers, designers, lawyers and scientists to undertake research that gathers and presents spatial analysis in legal and political forums.

We provide evidence for international prosecution teams, political organisations, NGOs, and the United Nations in various processes worldwide. Additionally, the agency undertakes historical and theoretical examinations of the history and present status of forensic practices in articulating notions of public truth. In other words, special effects experts and their tools - usually employed in the creation of fictional movies for the entertainment industry or for architectural firms to propose yet-to-exist projects - are now being employed to fabricate evidence in a political context when none in reality exists.

While the work of "Forensic Architecture" may be of interest to developing theories, it is by no means useful in providing actual evidence - evidence being understood as an actual available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid - not a fabricated body of supposed facts or information.

Image: Technology used for creating Hollywood dinosaurs and aliens, 
or an architectural proposal for a vacant lot, is now being used to 
fabricate evidence for politically motivated reports when no actual evidence exists. 

The work of "Forensic Architecture" and the witness accounts gathered by Amnesty International - all of which were admittedly gathered outside of Syria - would form the basis of an initial inquiry, not a final report nor the basis of a conclusion that human rights violations not only took place, but that they constituted crimes against humanity and demanded immediate international recourse.

Amnesty International's report lacked any actual evidence, with its presentation consisting instead of admittedly fabricated images, sounds, maps, and diagrams. Amnesty - lacking actual evidence - instead abused its reputation and the techniques of classical deception to target and manipulate audiences emotionally. What Amnesty International is engaged in is not "human rights advocacy," but rather politically-motivated war propaganda simply hiding behind such advocacy.

Exposing this technique of openly and shamelessly fabricating the summation of an internationally released report - promoted unquestioningly by prominent Western papers and media platforms, including the BBC, CNN, the Independent, and others - prevents Amnesty and other organizations like it from continuing to use the trappings of science and engineering as cover to deliver monstrous lies to the public.

Still Creepy After All These Years: Enemy of My Enemy My Enemy

Through the Looking Glass: How Can We Recognize Our Friends in the Mixed-Up World of Donald Trump?

by Rebecca Gordon - TomDispatch

February 9, 2017

You know you’re living in a looking-glass world when former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks out against one of Donald Trump’s executive orders. He’s a good example of how past adversaries of movements for peace and justice are lining up against our current adversary, the new president.

The United States, Cheney told radio host Hugh Hewitt, should not exclude people from our territory on the basis of religion. That was just a few days after Trump had signed an executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Such a move, said Cheney, “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”

In the same interview, Cheney revealed the origins of his personal affinity for Muslim refugees. His own ancestors, he said, arrived on this continent to escape religious persecution. 

“They were Puritans,” he explained, adding, “There wasn’t anybody here then when they came.” No one? It was a sparkling display of precisely the European-American solipsism that so deeply marked the Cheney years in power.

Refugees, he acknowledged, do represent “a serious problem.” To begin to solve it, however,

“You gotta go back and look at why they’re here. They’re here because of what’s happening in the Middle East.”

The refugees Cheney refers to aren’t “here,” of course, or what would be the point of Trump’s entrance ban? Otherwise, I’d have to agree with the former vice president: you do need to look at “what’s happening” but also -- something he didn’t mention -- what happened in the Middle East to explain their need for refuge.

Refugees from Iraq and Syria (among other places) have indeed lost their homes and homelands by the millions, in significant part because of the very invasions and occupations that Cheney and his president, George W. Bush, launched in the Greater Middle East, radically destabilizing that part of the world.

Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, The Enemies of Our Enemy Are Not Our Friends
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Just a modest reminder that we’re on a planet where supporting places like TomDispatch matters. In that context, let me point out that, for a donation of $100 ($125 if you live outside the United States), you can still get a signed, personalized copy of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, the latest book from today’s author, Rebecca Gordon. It seems like a particularly topical book since it’s already possible to start imagining the kinds of war crimes trials that might someday be appropriate for the crew now taking over the U.S. national security state. And speaking of imagining our future world, I want once again to urge all of you to pick up a copy of Splinterlands, John Feffer’s stunning dystopian novel about our fracturing world (and the latest entry in the Dispatch Books publication list). It’s a genuine must-read in the age of Trump and signed, personalized copies of it are similarly available at our donation page. Just go there and check it all out! Tom]

We’re in a strange new world -- of fantasists (see Kellyanne Conway’s terrorist “massacre” in Bowling Green, Kentucky), delusionaries (see Sean Spicer’s account of the “Iranians” who attacked an “American” naval vessel), and dreamers (if having a nightmare is your idea of dreaming). Only the other day, for instance, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump said definitively, “We're taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually. It's not going to happen anymore.” Honestly, you have to wonder what planet the former reality show host has been on these last decades.

And all of this has, in a couple of short weeks, started to change our world. Just ask Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former prime minister of Norway, who was stopped at Dulles International Airport on his way to that same prayer breakfast, held and questioned (even when it was clear that he had indeed been the prime minister of an allied country) because he had traveled to Iran three years earlier. Of course, looked at another way, he had also been the head of one of the many freeloading nations on the planet who, as President Trump now points out, have taken our country for a ride, so he undoubtedly got what he deserved. After all, in 2008, pressured by a “multi-departmental American lobbying effort,” Norway caved and agreed to buy the most expensive, cost-overrun-prone weapons system in history, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, rather than a perfectly reasonable Swedish plane. (If they hadn’t, it might have adversely affected sales to other U.S. allies ready to take us for a ride.) And nine years later, in 2017, despite endless delays and soaring costs, the Norwegians are still buying the planes -- 52 in all at an estimated price tag of $40 billion. What a crew of moochers!

Admittedly, it’s been a one-way planet for one hell of a long time, but Donald J. Trump is finally readying himself to reverse that and turn it into... well, possibly a hell on earth. At least, European leaders (Britain's excepted) seem to think so, as they find themselves packed into more or less the same unfriendly basket of deplorables as Iran. I had a friend years ago who told me that I’d know I was on a different planet when European powers -- Charles De Gaulle’s long-gone France aside -- started to say no to Washington. We may now officially be on that altered world, one where even Australia, America’s most faithful ally, might start uttering a no or two to a president who considers hanging up on its prime minister good form. (I assume by now that somewhere in the Forbidden City, the Chinese leadership is dancing in the streets, knowing that on Donald Trump’s planet their country is likely to look like the only reasonable imperial power around.)

These days, you may hear a similar chorus of "No's" coming out of the U.S. government where federal employees are beginning to form support groups and take courses “on workers’ rights and how they can express civil disobedience.” Consider this my way of saying that, in the Trump era, you’re going to have to buy a scorecard to figure out what “team” the various players on this increasingly confused world of ours belong to, creating endless complications for those of us already thinking about how to make it into the post-Trump years. Fortunately, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, author of American Nuremberg, has been thinking about friendship, alliances, and how to figure out who’s who in a world in which, even with that scorecard, it may be difficult to sort the players and the teams out. Tom

Through the Looking Glass: How Can We Recognize Our Friends in the Mixed-Up World of Donald Trump?

by Rebecca Gordon


The Enemy of My Enemy?

What should it mean for those of us hoping to resist the grim presidency of Donald Trump to find Dick Cheney, even momentarily and on a single issue, on our side? One thing it certainly can’t mean is that Cheney stands for the same “everything” that moved thousands of people to rush to U.S. airports, demanding the release of visitors, immigrants, and green card holders detained under Trump’s new order. Although in the Muslim refugees of today he may indeed recognize a reflection of his Puritan ancestors, Cheney’s disagreement with Donald Trump does not, in fact, make him a friend of the cause of compassion, justice, or the rule of law.

Few of us who spent eight years opposing Bush and Cheney or who remember their record of invasions, occupations, torture, black sites, and so much more are likely to imagine that his opposition to the ban on refugees makes him our friend. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t take some satisfaction from where he’s landed on this issue.

It’s been harder, however, for many of us to find clarity when it comes to certain of the other war hawks who, for their own reasons, don’t trust Trump.

It’s a trap most of us avoided last summer when 50 members of the national security establishment, including former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and one of George W. Bush’s CIA directors, Michael Hayden, wrote an open letter warning the world that Trump lacked “the character, values, and experience to be president.”

We recognized that the letter signers themselves lacked the “character, values, and experience” to comment. After all, in the Middle East and elsewhere, this bunch had helped to pave the way for Trump’s rise.

In recent months, as the Russian hacking scandal hit and Trump’s feud with the CIA gained ever more media attention, that Agency has proven another matter. Here is a real danger to avoid: in our efforts to delegitimize Donald Trump, it’s important not to inadvertently legitimize an outfit that most of us have long opposed for its vicious campaigns around the world. Just because Donald Trump all but called its operatives Nazis shouldn’t lead the rest of us to forget its long history of deceit or accept its pronouncements at face value because they happen to fit what we would like to believe.

When Barack Obama said that there was convincing evidence Russia had used its hacking efforts to throw the U.S. election to Trump, the president-elect not surprisingly labeled the claim “ridiculous.” But there’s also been a bit of sympathy for the CIA in some odd places. For example, long-time CIA critic and Hullabaloo founder Heather Digby Parton (generally known as “Digby”) wrote at Salon that the CIA “understandably” felt there was something “a tad unfair” about the Trump transition team calling the Agency “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” After all, they were under a lot of pressure from the White House back then. As Digby wrote, 

“It’s now known that Vice President Dick Cheney went out to [CIA headquarters in] Langley [Virginia] in order to personally twist arms and ‘stovepipe’ the intelligence report on Iraq.”

That’s certainly true, but it’s also true that the CIA director of that moment, George Tenet, assured President Bush that there was a “slam dunk case” that Saddam Hussein had such weaponry. The fact is that the CIA caved in to pressure from top administration officials for the intel they so desperately wanted for the invasion they already knew they were going to launch in Iraq. That is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the agency’s integrity or political independence. An "independent" CIA is bad enough, but the CIA’s vulnerability to political pressure from the White House is another reason we should be cautious about using Agency pronouncements as an instrument against Donald Trump. That's the slippery terrain we find ourselves on now.

Digby is certainly no admirer of the CIA, and her article wasn’t primarily focused on the quality of its intelligence under Bush, but on a far more recent turf war between the Agency and the FBI. She rightly calls out FBI Director James Comey for his 11th hour intervention in the election, the way he alerted Congress to the (vanishingly tiny) possibility that the hard drive on the computer that Anthony Weiner shared with his wife, Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, might have contained evidence of Clinton’s failure to protect State Department emails. Nevertheless, the reader is left to infer that -- at least when it comes to intelligence rather than clandestine operations -- the CIA’s pronouncements might prove a reliable instrument against Donald Trump, an urge that was relatively commonplace among opponents of the new president.

For example, the Atlantic, which has carried excellent reporting about CIA deceptions, published a piece by Kelly Magsamen, who served on the National Security Council (NSC) under both Bush and Obama, expressing alarm at Trump’s plan to exclude the CIA director from his version of the NSC. (In fact, the new president reversed himself on the matter almost immediately.)

It's not surprising that Magsamen would have this view. For those of us who would like to dismantle the entire national security edifice, however, it would be shortsighted indeed to attack Trump by shoring up the reputation of an agency -- the CIA -- that, as former counterintelligence officer John Kiriakou has suggested, the country and the world “do not need.” Kariakou, you may remember, was jailed for discussing the CIA’s torture program with a journalist.

Support for America’s spooks has continued to resound in odd places. For example, there’s been much outrage expressed at President Trump’s bizarre behavior on a visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. In a performance that was indeed shocking, he used the occasion to complain about the way the media underestimated the size of the crowd at his inauguration, after which he asserted that God had stopped the rain during his Inaugural Address.

What many commentators found far more bizarre and disturbing, however, was that Trump gave his performance in front of a memorial wall commemorating CIA agents who had died on the job. Writing for the not-exactly-right-wing Huffington Post, Neil McCarthy claimed that the wall honors “un-named heroes who have died in our service.” In a New Yorker article headlined “Trump’s Vainglorious Affront to the CIA,” former Washington Post diplomatic correspondent Robin Wright chided the new president for his lack of respect for the Agency’s martyrs. Trump, she suggested, should have followed the example of President Ronald Reagan, who on his first visit to the CIA told the assembled staff:

“The work you do each day is essential to the survival and to the spread of human freedom. You remain the eyes and ears of the free world. You are the ‘trip wire’ over which totalitarian rule must stumble in their quest for global domination...”

While I would never applaud anyone’s untimely, violent death, the fact that Donald Trump (despite his denials) has been feuding with the CIA shouldn’t erase that agency’s history or just what those agents died defending. Trump’s annoyance shouldn’t magically transform an agency responsible for decades of violent and bloody coups against democratic governments in places like Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, and Chile into an organization “essential to the survival and spread of human freedom.” Whatever pleasure we may take in Trump’s irritation, it doesn’t vindicate the murder of between 26,000 and 41,000 Vietnamese, many of then tortured to death, in the CIA’s notorious Phoenix program during the Vietnam War. It doesn’t erase the training in torture and repression its agents provided to dictatorships around the world. And it certainly doesn’t make the CIA’s use of terror and torture in its black sites as part of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” any less horrific or illegal.

Nor does the CIA’s future look much more promising than its past. When it comes to torture, its new head Mike Pompeo has clearly wanted to have it both ways. During his confirmation hearing, he proved unwilling to call waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation” methods torture, but did acknowledge that they are illegal under a 2015 law, which limits interrogation techniques to those described in the U.S. Army Field Manual.

There are two problems with reliance on that law. The present Field Manual contains a classified annex, which permits among other things repeated 12-hour bouts of sensory deprivation and solitary confinement for up to 30 days at a time. Both of these are forms of the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment prohibited by the U.N. Convention against Torture. In addition, the manual itself is up for revision in two years. A new version might provide very different guidance.

But it’s not clear that Pompeo is actually wedded to the manual anyway. As Human Rights Watch (HRW) points out, in his written testimony for his confirmation hearing he “indicated that he would consult with CIA staff to determine whether the application of the Army Field Manual was an ‘impediment’ to intelligence-gathering, and whether it needed to be rewritten.” Note as well that Gina Haspel, Pompeo’s newly appointed deputy director at the Agency, is notorious for her involvement in its black sites and torture practices in the Bush years (as well as the destruction of video tapes of waterboarding sessions -- evidence, that is, of those criminal activities).

Trump himself supports such torture practices. On January 25th, he told ABC News that he still clings to his belief that torture “works.” His evidence? The testimony of “people at the highest level of intelligence” who “as recently as twenty-four hours ago” told him that it works “absolutely.” It seems likely one of those “people” was Gina Haspel, who has a good reason to cling to that same belief.

In reporting ABC’s interview with Trump, CNN, like most mainstream media, allowed itself to be distracted by the question of whether or not torture is an effective way of getting information from someone. It isn’t, as the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in its landmark 2014 report. However, the question really shouldn’t be whether torture “works.” The question should be: Is it either moral or legal? And Donald Trump notwithstanding, the answer in both cases is no.

Pompeo is also a big fan of NSA-style mass surveillance and has called for the reinstatement of the NSA’s massive secret collection of telephone, Internet, and social media metadata.

The telephone data part of the program officially expired in November 2015 as a result of the USA Freedom Act, passed earlier that year. Under the new arrangement, metadata is held by the phone companies, rather than directly by the NSA, which now needs a FISA warrant to get access to those records. Internet and social media records are still directly available to the NSA, however.

But that’s not enough for Pompeo.

Human Rights Watch points to a 2016 Wall Street Journal op-ed, in which Pompeo urged Congress to “'pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata' -- that is, records of communications, such as their dates, parties, and durations -- 'and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database.'”

HRW observes that, in spite of “repeated written and oral questions in the context of the hearing, Pompeo remained vague on what he meant by the potentially expansive and discriminatory term ‘lifestyle information.’” As one devoted to the lesbian “lifestyle,” I don’t find this particularly encouraging.

Fortunately for those of us who hope to see the national security state dismantled someday, as recent events have indicated, that edifice and its friends in both parties are not a seamless whole. There are runs and tears throughout its fabric, and part of our job is to help open those gaps wider -- always keeping in mind that while politics may make strange bedfellows, there are some people you don’t ever want to sleep with. Even in the Trump era, the enemy of my enemy is not my friend, at least not when that enemy is the CIA.

Enemies of Enemies of Enemies

If the CIA is the enemy of my enemy, then Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia must be the enemy of the enemy of my enemy. Is it therefore my friend?

This is a complicated and delicate question. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just set its doomsday clock forward to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight, 30 seconds closer to catastrophe.

In the shadow of nuclear war, who wouldn’t be eager to see tensions between Russia and the United States defused? At the same time, I become uncomfortable when some of my colleagues on the left appear to believe that any adversary of U.S. hegemony may represent a potential ally for us.

For example, the Nation’s Stephen Cohen, whose many years of writing on the Soviet Union served as an important corrective to the official narrative of the time, characterizes those who today are wary of Putin as “enemies of détente.” He points to a New York Times editorial whose descriptions "of Putin’s leadership over the years" were "so distorted they seemed more like Saturday Night Live’s ongoing parodies" and calls out Times columnist Paul Krugman’s "neo-McCarthyite baiting" of Trump for his admiration of Putin.

I can agree with Cohen that Krugman goes over the top when he refers to the present administration as the “Putin-Trump regime.” But it’s a mistake to equate legitimate suspicion of Russia and Putin with the efforts of Senator Joe McCarthy to discredit the U.S. left (and liberals) during the Cold War. The Russian Federation is not the Soviet Union, and distrust of Vladimir Putin is not McCarthyism.

Cohen is certainly correct that Putin has good reason to be wary of what he calls "NATO’s highly provocative buildup on Russia’s Western border." But even if Russia quite rightly objects to the way NATO has moved east, it doesn’t prove that Putin’s government didn’t try to influence the U.S. election. Such things are hardly beyond the realm of possibility. After all, the United States has a long history of doing just that to countries around the world (as did the Soviet Union in its day).

That the Washington establishment opposes Russian challenges to the U.S. urge for global dominance doesn’t make Vladimir Putin any less an autocrat, or Russia under his rule any more a country to emulate. Indeed, on January 27th, the Russian parliament voted 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence. A week later, Putin signed the bill into law. Which way, I wonder, would Donald Trump go if similar legislation were on the table here?

What About Friends?

When the thieves who run our government fall out, we should be glad -- and find ways to drive the wedge deeper. When John McCain does something we approve of, like objecting to Trump’s executive order on immigration, we can agree with him, but notice as well that, in the next breath, he says he supports Trump’s “commitment to rebuilding our” (already vast and unprecedentedly powerful) military.

There’s a difference between people who find themselves sharing the same adversary and people who can be, to use an old-fashioned term, in solidarity with each other. Those of us who oppose U.S. military adventurism abroad and inequality, racism, and sexism at home need to remember who our friends are. The next few years must be a time of building broad coalitions and tightening the bonds among organizations and people who believe that, even now, a better world is still possible.

In the mixed-up looking-glass universe that is Trumplandia, we are going to need our friends more than ever. This is true domestically, which means, for instance, that tenants’ rights groups will need to keep jumping into struggles for immigrant rights (as is already happening in many places), and veterans’ organizations will need to keep on supporting fights to preserve Native land and water rights as in the struggle over the Dakota Access pipeline. It’s true on the international level, as well. We will need to build strong ties with people in Europe fighting the rise of the far right there, and to continue our solidarity with the victims of U.S. military actions around the world.

But it’s also true at the level of our individual lives. Now especially we need contact with the people we love to keep us strong and hopeful. Now is a good time to remind your friends that you love them, and that you will have their backs. It’s a time to march together, but also to eat together. To strategize and organize, but also to make each other laugh. It’s a time to remember who our adversaries are, but also to cherish our friends.

Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. Her previous books include Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States and Letters from Nicaragua.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, as well as Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Rebecca Gordon

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Intersecting Lines: Right-Wing Extremism and Canada's National Security Establishment

Right-Wing Extremism and Canadian National Security Policy Both Embrace the Image of the 'Muslim Threat'


February 7, 2017

Describing the Quebec mosque shooting as 'senseless' avoids the connection between extremist violence against Muslims and draconian national security policy, says Azeezah Kanji

Azeezah Kanji is a lawyer, author and director of programming at the Noor Cultural Centre, based in Toronto.