Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Modern Darker Age: Sunsetting the Stonehenge Free Festivals

Summer Solstice 2017: Reflections on Free Festivals and the Pagan Year 33 Years After the Last Stonehenge Festival

by Andy Worthington


21.6.17  

Back in 1983, as a 20-year old student, I had a life-changing experience when a friend of mine initiated a visit to the Stonehenge Free Festival, an anarchic experiment in leaderless living that occupied the fields opposite Stonehenge for the whole of June every year.

The festival had grown from a small occupation in 1974, and by 1984 (when I visited again) became a monster — one with a darkness that reflected the darkness that gripped the whole of the UK that year, as Margaret Thatcher crushed the miners and, metaphorically, razed the country to the ground like a medieval conqueror.

Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.
My books Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield are still in print, and please also feel free to check out the music of my band The Four Fathers.

I remember the 1983 festival with a great fondness — the elven people selling magic mushrooms from a barrel for next to nothing, the wailing of acid rock bands, the festivals’ thoroughfares, like ancient tracks of baked earth, where the cries of “acid, speed, hot knives” rang though the sultry air. Off the beaten track, travellers set up impromptu cafes beside their colourfully-painted trucks and coaches, unaware that, just two years later, on June 1, 1985, some of those same vehicles would be violently decommissioned at the Battle of the Beanfield, when Thatcher, following her destruction of Britain’s mining industry, set about destroying Britain’s traveller community, which, during her tenure as Prime Minister, had grown as unemployment mushroomed, and life on the road seemed to provide an appealing alternative.

A festival circuit, running from May to October, had grown up with this new movement, with Stonehenge at its centre. Michael Eavis’s Glastonbury Festival was also connected to it, as were numerous smaller festivals, as well as other events focused on environmental protest, especially against nuclear weapons and nuclear power. The travellers’ most prominent manifestation, the Peace Convoy, had visited Greenham Common, site of the famous women’s peace camp opposed to the establishment of US-owned and -controlled cruise missiles, in 1982, and in the summer of 1984 established a second peace camp at Molesworth in Cambridgeshire, the intended second cruise missile base after Greenham Common.

That camp was violently evicted in February 1985 by the largest peacetime mobilisation of troops in British history, and for the next four months the travellers were harried until the Beanfield, when 1,400 police from six counties and the MoD violently decommissioned the advance convoy of vehicles trying to make it to Stonehenge to set up what would have been the 12th Stonehenge Free Festival.

In the years that followed, the Thatcher government set up an military exclusion zone around Stonehenge every summer solstice that was maintained under John Major and Tony Blair, and at various times under Thatcher there were other episodes of state violence against travellers, some of whom sought shelter with Michael Eavis in Pilton. The differences between Stonehenge and Glastonbury were not immense back then, when the travelling festival community was at the heart of Britain’s nascent festival scene. Stonehenge may have been the wild younger sibling, but Glastonbury was pretty out of it as well.

Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine. Glastonbury Festival has become a corporate mega-city, with only traces remaining of its alternative heart, and Stonehenge, reopened to the public on the summer solstice in 2000, after the Law Lords ruled that the exclusion zone was illegal, has become a raucous one-night party for the youth of the West Country, attended by a smaller contingent of pagans and anarchists (which I visited every summer solstice from 2001 to 2005 with a variety of interesting companions). Last night, apparently, 13,000 people attended ‘Managed Open Access’ at the stones, witnessing a spectacular sunrise.

With supreme irony, the founders of the festival movement in the 1970s — some visionary, some hedonistic — created a concept that was so appealing that it has become a part of the fabric of Britain. Every summer, millions of people attend festivals, for the music, the hedonism, and, often, the establishment at some level of a tribal communality in contrast to the atomisation of our everyday civilian lives in cities and towns.

Of course, that transition from outsider status to establishment fixture has not happened without massive change that, at worst, means that the monster festival culture created in the last two decades only looks superficially like the offspring of the festival scene of the 70s and 80s when, in fact, it bears almost no resemblance to it.

This is certainly true in many profound ways. To begin with, those radicalised in the 1960s often brought with them a commitment to breaking down the structure of an oppressive society that, for example, saw them seeking to dispense with money. This was by no means always the case. Free festivals were often free at the point of entry only because of a lack of organisation, and many travellers worked hard to try to ensure that their efforts would generate a necessary income stream.

However, others were driven to try to tear down the materialistic culture — and their efforts were often inspiring. Bill ‘Ubi’ Dwyer, a renegade bureaucrat, set up the Windsor Free Festival in the Queen’s backyard in the summer of 1972, a provocative gesture against the monarchy and all it stood for, which returned in 1973 and 1974, when it was violently crushed. The Stonehenge festival was set up by another visionary, Wally Hope, who spread a quasi-communist sun-worshipping message, and intended his festival to colonise Salisbury Plain, and another sign of the intent to tear down materialism was through the free food kitchens that were part of the early festival culture. One favourite anecdote of mine concerns Sid Rawle, a key festival organiser, at the first Glastonbury Festival in 1971.

After a man turned up from Bath with a stall selling bacon, eggs and sausages, Sid apparently had a whip-round, sent someone off site to buy bacon, eggs and sausages, and then set up a free food kitchen next to him to drive him out of business.

Today, free food kitchens are only to be seen when the Hare Krishnas turn up at events, but whenever I see them their generosity cuts through the relentless materialistic fog that shrouds almost every aspect of our lives.

The festival culture of the 70s and 80s may not always have been intentionally free, but those who played a part in it and have now passed on would I think, be shocked if they were able to see what the culture has become in the last 20 years, as almost every aspect of our lives has become monetised. The giant capitalist machine that is modern society now defines almost everything by its perceived value, has encouraged us to see everything through a prism of money, used as the sole reference point of success or failure, and its stranglehold on our lives is such that we are encouraged to believe that our waking lives are nothing more than a succession of financial transactions. Repeat the mantra: “Breathe in. Breathe out. Buy something. Breathe in. Breathe out. Buy something.”

It generally costs hundreds and hundreds of pounds to attend a festival, as festival-goers are constantly required to drip-feed the capitalist machine in which most of of us are trapped, like hamsters in a wheel — well-branded wheels, no doubt, and well-designed, but hamster wheels nonetheless.

Back in the 70s and 80s, the free festivals’ advocates prevailed on artists to give something back for free to their fans during the festival season — and artists often took that stance themselves. Now everyone pays for everything endlessly — the hyped-up bands and solo artists endlessly treated as royalty or as exceptional creative geniuses, the endless food stalls, the endless booze, the endless craft stalls. We have, to some extent, created a modern-day fulfilment of Napoleon’s comment about Britain being a nation of shopkeepers, although now we are a nation of shopkeepers endlessly servicing itself, with most people trapped somewhere in this cycle while the rich and the super-rich float above it all, exploiting or having exploited others to such an extent that they alone have endless liquidity.

The festivals of the 70s and 80s were also more than capable of getting messy, but often there was an awareness that we should leave places as we found them. In this respect, modern festival culture is a disgrace, a shocking manifestation of our throwaway culture, as anyone seeing photos of the aftermath of a modern festival can see. Consumerist hedonism without a shred of responsibility dictates that tents should be abandoned along with the detritus of the corporate world — clothes, bottles, packaging, leftover food. Someone else will clean it up, and no one is encouraged to think about how we are turning the earth into a giant landfill site.

As well as losing the anti-materialist heart of the early festival culture, the modern festival scene also only tangentially connects to the paganism that also ran through the pioneering decades of the counter-culture, from the 60s to the 90s; primarily, it seems to me, though an embrace of the cycles of the seasons, and the festivals of the pagan year — the solstices on June and December 21, the equinoxes at a similar time in March and September , and between them the quarters days of a year that tends to be associated with the Celts, with festivals on the 1st days of February (Imbolc), May (Beltane, associated with May Day) August (Lughnasa) and November (Samhain, associated with Hallowe’en and All Saints’ Day).

After the travelling festival culture was crushed at the Beanfield, an unexpected new movement — the road protest movement — arose. Unable to travel freely, those drawn to the earth and her cycles seized on the Tories’ road expansion programme as a development to be resisted, and set up fixed camps in places threatened with destruction, living in trees, and, eventually, though many battles were lost, pushing road expansion down the government agenda.

With the tsunami of materialism that defines modern life, and the clampdown by the benefits system on the freedom of the unemployed to do what they want in exchange for living off a small provision of government money (which was how so many of us lived in the 80s, and is actually the heart of the basic universal income that is currently being widely discussed), it is unimaginable now that such a movement could take place, but back in the mid-90s it was part of a kind of a cultural civil war that also involved the hedonism of the rave scene, movements like Reclaim the Streets and, eventually, the anti-globalisation movement, which became a world movement and was only halted by the “war on terror” after 9/11, the clampdown on benefits, the elevation of greed as the driver of existence, and the fetishisation of products and services.

Throughout this period in the 90s, the pagan year became a anti-establishment statement, and although it has not gone away, my fear is that, as with so much else in modern life, the growing pagan movement in the UK that, of course, embraces it, is often doing so in a superficial manner, seduced by the outward appearances and the opportunities to buy into it through the usual avalanche of materialism and more of those same entrepreneurial service industries that accompany us almost everywhere we turn.

I don’t seek to blame anyone for getting caught up in the all-consuming materialistic world in which we find ourselves, but I do, on this summer solstice, as I look back on my past through what appears to be the wrong end of a telescope, urge anyone reading this to reflect on how the most important things in life — our love, our joy, our children, our creativity — are not actually part of the endlessly churning consumerist machine, and that, for us to have a future at all, and for us to tackle the endlessly growing gulf between the rich and the poor, we have to find ways to step off the treadmill, to get out of what used to be called the rat race, to find space, time and nature and to begin to create a culture more in tune with itself — with ourselves — and the natural world in which we are a part.

For my previous reflections on Stonehenge and the summer solstice from 2008 to 2015, see Stonehenge and the summer solstice: past and present, It’s 25 Years Since The Last Stonehenge Free Festival, Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2010: Remembering the Battle of the Beanfield, RIP Sid Rawle, Land Reformer, Free Festival Pioneer, Stonehenge Stalwart, Happy Summer Solstice to the Revellers at Stonehenge — Is it Really 27 Years Since the Last Free Festival?, Stonehenge and the Summer Solstice: On the 28th Anniversary of the Last Free Festival, Check Out “Festivals Britannia”, Memories of Youth and the Need for Dissent on the 29th Anniversary of the last Stonehenge Free Festival, 30 Years On from the Last Stonehenge Free Festival, Where is the Spirit of Dissent? and Stonehenge and the Summer Solstice, 30 Years After the Battle of the Beanfield.

For more on the Beanfield, see my 2009 article for the Guardian, Remember the Battle of the Beanfield, and my accompanying article, In the Guardian: Remembering the Battle of the Beanfield, which provides excerpts from The Battle of the Beanfield. Also see The Battle of the Beanfield 25th Anniversary: An Interview with Phil Shakesby, aka Phil the Beer, a prominent traveller who died six years ago, Remember the Battle of the Beanfield: It’s the 27th Anniversary Today of Thatcher’s Brutal Suppression of Traveller Society, Radio: On Eve of Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, Andy Worthington Discusses the Battle of the Beanfield and Dissent in the UK, It’s 28 Years Since Margaret Thatcher Crushed Travellers at the Battle of the Beanfield, Back in Print: The Battle of the Beanfield, Marking Margaret Thatcher’s Destruction of Britain’s Travellers, It’s 29 Years Since the Battle of the Beanfield, and the World Has Changed Immeasurably, It’s 30 Years Since Margaret Thatcher Trashed the Travellers’ Movement at the Battle of the Beanfield, It’s Now 31 Years Since the Battle of the Beanfield: Where is the Spirit of Dissent in the UK Today? and, most recently, Never Trust the Tories: It’s 32 Years Today Since the Intolerable Brutality of the Battle of the Beanfield.

Also see my article on Margaret Thatcher’s death, “Kindness is Better than Greed”: Photos, and a Response to Margaret Thatcher on the Day of Her Funeral.



Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp).

He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Staying Chrystia's Free Hand at Foreign Affairs

The Canadian Establishment and Prime Minister Trudeau Aim at Ousting Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears


June 21, 2017

Moscow - Since Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s version, expressed mortal surprise that his best friend Brutus would put in the knife, there have been no end of political surprises at whose hand turns out to be on the assassin’s knife.

In the case of the hit in January on then-Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, it is clear to the Canadian foreign policy establishment, members acknowledge, that it was Chrystia Freeland’s hand. Before, she was a junior trade minister; after, she took Dion’s portfolio as foreign minister.

Eight weeks later, it’s becoming clear to Canadian sources that the hand on the knife that is now sticking in Freeland is not the Russian one she is reporting to the Canadian press. That is sticking into her full frontally, and it is less than mortal. Her screams for help have brought a great many screamers to her side.

It’s the knife in Freeland’s back that is more lethal. That, it is now revealed in Ottawa, is coming from a quiet group of foreign policy advisors around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They aren’t motivated by revenge on Dion’s behalf as much as concern for their Canada — the policy-making and money-making apparatus on which their future livelihoods depend.

In that Canada they don’t want Freeland to remain foreign minister or become prime minister. For one thing, they say, she’s a liar and cannot be trusted by anyone.In December 2014, as he prepared his run at toppling Stephen Harper, then the Conservative Party Prime Minister, Trudeau assembled a council of advisors on foreign policy. Some were former military officers; some ex-diplomats; others were academics, think-tankers, lawyers. Some were what are known in the Berlin Chancellery, in the German language, as “shoes”. That’s individuals who are so far up the fundaments of their patrons, all you can see of them is their shoes.

Here is the original list of Trudeau’s advisors. Freeland wasn’t one of them. Ten months after Catherine McKenna’s (below, left) appointment to this council, when Trudeau defeated Harper in the election, she was promoted to the cabinet as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. She remains a backer of Freeland, and has been promoting her through media columns bylined by her husband, Scott Gilmore; he is a one-time Canadian government agent in the Indonesian war against East Timor.


Left: Minister McKenna with Prime Minister Trudeau; right, 
Ambassador Kinsman speaking for Trudeau.

Jeremy Kinsman (above, right) was the senior diplomat in the group; he has served as a counselor in the Canadian Embassy in Washington; then as ambassador in Moscow, Rome, London, and Brussels (European Union). Few Canadian foreign policy analysts are as acute as Kinsman at detecting political conspiracies aimed at Canada’s national interests from so many corners of the hostile world; nor at distinguishing the genuine conspiracies from the fakes.

Last week he said:

“If the unearthing of a conspiracy reveals evidence of one, it is great investigative stuff. But if it doesn’t convince, it remains a theory.” 

Last week too, Kinsman was keeping an open book on Freeland’s future. He acknowledged that she is now under attack.

“I’m not a hysteric about Russia’s alleged threat. But I think their [expletive deleted] has to be called out as vigorously as anybody else’s.”

Kinsman also acknowledges there is a higher goal than looking for evidence of conspiracy theories in the press, and that’s getting to the truth of what Freeland is doing with Canada’s foreign policy.  

“On a deeper and more important level [this] is an issue of vast importance today, the search for truth — which for many reasons is running into purpose-built obstacles in an increasingly adversarial political climate between Russia and other countries. The deteriorated climate especially affects comment and reporting these days between Ukraine and Russia and between the US and Russia. It is aggravated by kompromat operations being levelled with gathering animosity.”

Last week Kinsman was ready to give Freeland the benefit of the doubt. “I consider that the evidence is not supportive.”

This week Kinsman went public in Ottawa with more conviction. On the surface he and other sources from the Canadian foreign affairs ministry are charging someone with a mistake in ousting Dion, and then giving him a dual post that is unprecedented – ambassador to both the European Union and Germany at the same time. Read the report from The Hill Times, a management owned, small circulation publication for Ottawa insiders, which on March 15 published this account of the “really unnecessary mistake” Trudeau and Freeland have made.

The phrase and the judgement came from Kinsman to the Hill Times reporter. But Kinsman carefully avoided mentioning Freeland’s role in Dion’s ouster, and her role in consigning him to the empty space between Brussels and Berlin. “How can you have two ambassadors? You can’t,” Kinsman was quoted as adding.

One of his friends, a former ambassador, sought anonymity in order to say the Dion appointment was “foolish” and “bad judgement”. Whose bad judgement do these men mean? And is the bad judgement limited to jobs for the boy, or does it extend to policy for the country?

“Wacko” is the assessment of what is happening, as reported by The Hill Times from Ferry de Kerckhove (right), who has been a Canadian diplomat in Iran and NATO, as well as Canada’s ambassador to three of the most important Muslim states – Pakistan (1998-2001), Indonesia (2001-2003) and Egypt (2008-2011).

So far it isn’t clear whether wacko was the judgement of these veterans for the performance of the first foreign policy advisor Trudeau appointed to his inner office. That was Roland Paris, an academic hawk on war with Russia, whose engagement was announced in January 2016. Paris turned out to be a lightning rod; he lasted six months before he announced he was “honoured to have helped out. Now back to my day job.” Canadian media coverage of the judgement on Paris was limited to the remark in a Toronto newspaper that “Mr. Paris did not give a reason for leaving.”

Paris continues to tweet in support of Freeland, and for Canadian war against Russia.



To offset Paris’s excesses and replace a retiring Canadian spymaster turned national security advisor, Trudeau’s staff decided in May of last year to pick Daniel Jean, a foreign ministry veteran to be the new national security advisor. Daniel is still at his post, and has made almost no news. He appeared publicly after Freeland was sworn in, but only to explain what he and the rest of the Canadian government didn’t know about US President Donald Trump’s travel ban from Muslim countries.

According to more than one Canadian source, in putting wasps in the beehive Trudeau has created policy confusion and vulnerability for the policy-making regulars in the ministries and uniformed forces, as well as the veterans, establishment men, and power brokers like Kinsman. For them Freeland has been a rival they lacked the resources and the conviction to fight. They also calculated that for as long as Hillary Clinton looked likely to win the US presidential election, it was foolhardy for them to challenge Freeland directly. For details of the opportunity Freeland expected from Clinton last November, read this.

Then came the cold wind for Trudeau in January. A Toronto Star poll showed the worst numbers for Trudeau since his election day in October 2015. His approval rating was 48%, down 3 points from December 2016; down 10 points from November. His disapproval rating jumped over the same interval from 32% to 42%.

THE RISE AND FALL OF PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU’S POLITICAL RATINGS, DECEMBER 2016 TO MARCH 2017


KEY: red=approval, black=disapproval


Canadian politicians and analysts, as well as US observers south of the border, are asking whether Freeland is biding her time to challenge Trudeau for the prime ministry? The answer is in the political wind, Canadian sources say. They point to Wednesday’s opinion piece in the Toronto Star, the country’s largest circulation newspaper, in which national affairs columnist Thomas Walkom assesses which way the wind is blowing for Freeland.

Walkom (left) isn’t sure, so he reports that the Russian version of Freeland may be true, and Freeland’s version may be a lie.

“Not all news that seems to favour Russia is false. The world is a complicated place… Nothing illustrates this as neatly as the Freeland affair. The foreign affairs minister, a former journalist, is widely respected. She is smart and capable. 

By contrast, Putin is viewed as a villain controlling an army of evil minions. Anything that supports the villain by casting aspersions on this nice woman’s treasured grandfather couldn’t possibly be true. Except, of course, when it is. This time, the minions weren’t lying. That too can happen.”

In the British and American constitutional democracies the issue which obliges members of parliament and ministers to resign their office is an act of public turpitude, like lying. Canadian sources believe there is an active Ottawa faction which aims to oust Freeland for just that. For them, as well as for the personal advisors of Trudeau seeking to conserve his power against the dwindling polls, this is the value of the story of Freeland’s grandfather; his wartime involvement in the ethnic cleansing (mass murder) of Jews, Poles and Russians from the Ukraine; in Freeland’s involvement in the current war against the Russian-speakers of eastern Ukraine; and in her lying.

Freeland’s small lie about meeting President Vladimir Putin last November, and talking to him at length in Russian, attracted no attention when Freeland said it publicly last January. “I’ve spoken with the top guy in Russia quite recently,” Freeland claimed on Canadian state radio on January 13. “We spoke in Russian and we had quite a long conversation.” The Kremlin records no such conversation took place; a spokesman for the president added: “Vladimir Putin did not have a meeting with Freeland.” For more details, click to open.

The lie about Grandfather Michael Chomiak is much bigger. The telltale delay between Freeland’s appointment on January 10; first reports of her lying about Chomiak which started on January 19; and Freeland’s press conference statement on March 6 reflects an Ottawa operation to cut Freeland down. Freeland says the operation is a covert Russian one. “There were efforts on the Russian side,” she said in a scripted remark, “to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada,”

There are Canadians in a position to know who believe there is an operation against Freeland; that it started in Trudeau’s office; and that it is picking up momentum in the foreign policy establishment.

These sources believe Freeland got wind of the operation, and decided her best defence was a counterattack on Russia. If her defence fails, she goes. If she survives, her Ukrainian story will be a disqualification for higher office. Either way, Trudeau can calculate he wins.

Having It All in America: March of the Oligarchs

America’s Oligarchs Will Control 70% Of National Wealth by 2021

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News


June 20, 2017


A new study by the Boston Consulting Group has found that while wealth inequality is growing on a global scale, it has kicked into overdrive in the United States – where America’s 1% are expected to control 70 percent of the nation’s private wealth by the year 2021.

America’s oligarchs set to maintain grip on majority of country’s wealth, 
with a new study claiming they will control 70 percent of it by 2021. 
(AP/Vadim Ghirda)


America’s rich just won’t quit getting richer, according to a new study released in mid-June by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm. The study, which seeks to analyze the global wealth management industry, as well as the evolution of private wealth, uncovered some startling statistics that suggest that global financial inequality will grow significantly by the year 2021.

The firm found that the already massive gap between the world’s wealthy elite – the approximately 18 million households that hold at least than $1 million in assets – and everyone else is continuing to widen at a remarkable rate. The estimated 70 million people who make up these households were found to control 45 percent of the world’s $166.5 trillion in wealth. And in just four more years, it is estimated that they will control more than half of the world’s wealth, despite representing less than 1 percent of the world’s current population.

However, while rising inequality is a global phenomenon, it is especially pronounced in the United States. While wealth inequality in the U.S. is by no means an unknown phenomenon, the U.S. is significantly more unequal than most other countries, with the nation’s elite currently holding 63 percent of the private wealth. The U.S. elite’s share of national wealth is also growing much faster than the global average, with millionaires and billionaires expected to control an estimated 70 percent of the nation’s wealth by 2021.
 
The U.S.’ high wealth inequality largely owes to post-World War II government policies that have seen almost a quarter of all national income go to its wealthiest residents. Meanwhile, wages for the majority of Americans have remained stagnant for decades – in contrast to the richest Americans, their future economic outlook is incredibly bleak by comparison.

The U.S. is also home to more billionaires and millionaires than anywhere else in the world, which partly explains how U.S. policy has come to favor them over the years. According to Bloomberg, two out of five millionaires and billionaires live in the United States – and their ranks are growing.

While the world’s richest citizens may be pleased by the results of BCG’s recent study, there is plenty for them to be worried about if history is any indicator. Indeed, history shows that societies with drastic wealth inequality are much more unstable and more likely to experience drastic economic failure or outright societal collapse.

For instance, a 2014 study conducted by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center noted that over-consumption and wealth inequality have occurred in the collapse of every civilization over the last 5,000 years. That same study also warned that rising inequality could easily lead to an unsustainable use of resources and the “irreversible collapse” of global industrial civilization.

This warning seems particularly prescient, given that wealth inequality in the U.S. is well above that of past civilizations that eventually collapsed as a result of these factors. For example, at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire, the top 1 percent of the Roman elite controlled just 16 percent of the society’s wealth, a measly figure compared to the percentage commanded by the 1-percenters of the U.S.

While the BCG study paints a rosy picture for the world’s millionaires and billionaires, particularly in the United States, they should be gravely concerned that their growing accumulation of wealth could have drastic consequences – not just for those poorer than them, but for everyone.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress contributor who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, 21st Century Wire, and True Activist among others - she currently resides in Southern Chile.

Fact-Free, Truth-Free: Foreign Policy, Canadian Edition

Truth-free, Fact-free Foreign Policy

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice


June 16th, 2017

Lies, distortions and self-serving obfuscations are to be expected when political and business leaders discuss far away places.

In a recent Toronto Star column Rick Salutin observed that “foreign policy is a truth-free, fact-free zone. When leaders speak on domestic issues, citizens at least have points of reference to check them against. On foreign affairs they blather freely.”

Salutin vividly captures an important dynamic of political life. What do most Canadians know about our government’s actions in Afghanistan or Haiti? Most of us have never been to those countries and don’t know anyone living there, from there or even who’ve been there.

We are heavily dependent on media and politicians’ portrayals. But, as I detail in A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation, international correspondents generally take their cue from the foreign policy establishment or diplomats in the field.

Journalists are prepared to criticize governments and corporations to a certain extent on “domestic” issues, but the spirit of “challenging power” largely disappears regarding foreign policy. One reason is that nationalism remains an important media frame and the dominant media often promotes an “our team” worldview.

Another explanation is the web of state and corporate generated ideas institutes, which I review in A Propaganda System, that shape the international discussion. In a forthcoming second volume I look at the Canadian Left’s contribution to confusing the public about international policies.

The state/corporate nexus operates largely unchallenged in the Global South because there is little in terms of a countervailing force. Instead of criticizing the geo-strategic and corporate interests overwhelmingly driving foreign policy decisions, the social democratic NDP has often supported them and contributed to Canadians’ confusion about this country’s international affairs.

The NDP endorsed bombing Serbia and Libya and in recent years they’ve supported military spending, Western policy in the Ukraine and the dispossession of Palestinians. The NDP has largely aligned with the foreign policy establishment or those, as long time NDP MP Libby Davies put it, who believe a “Time Magazine version” of international affairs.

Closely tied to the NDP, labour unions’ relative indifference to challenging foreign policy is another reason why politicians can “blather freely” on international affairs. On many domestic issues organized labour represents a countervailing force to the corporate agenda or state policies. While dwarfed by corporate Canada, unions have significant capacities.

They generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual dues and fund or participate in a wide range of socially progressive initiatives such as the Canadian Health Coalition, Canadian Council for Refugees and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. But, unions rarely extend their broader (class) vision of society to international affairs. In fact, sometimes they endorse unjust international policies.

To the extent that politicians’ “blathering” is restrained it is largely by other countries. The recent political conflict in the Ukraine provides an example. Canadian politicians have aggressively promoted a simplistic, self-serving, narrative that has dominated the media-sphere. But, there is a source of power countering this perspective. Moscow financed/controlled media such as RT, Sputnik and others have offered a corrective to the Western line. A comparatively wealthy and powerful state, Russia’s diplomats have also publicly challenged the Canadian media’s one-sided portrayal.

An important, if rarely mentioned, rule of foreign policy is the more impoverished a nation, the greater the gap is likely to be between what Canadian officials say and do.

The primary explanation for the gap between what’s said and done is that power generally defines what is considered reality. So, the bigger the power imbalance between Canada and another country the greater Ottawa’s ability to distort their activities.

Haiti provides a stark example. In 2004 Ottawa helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government and then supported an installed regime that killed thousands. Officially, however, Ottawa was “helping” the beleaguered country as part of the “Friends of Haiti” group. And the bill for undermining Haitian democracy, including the salaries of top coup government officials and the training of repressive cops, was largely paid out of Canada’s “aid” to the country.

A stark power imbalance between Ottawa and Port-au-Prince helps explain the gulf between Canadian government claims and reality in Haiti. Describing the country at the time of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s ouster, former Globe and Mail foreign editor Paul Knox observed, “obviously, in the poorest country of the Americas, the government is going to have fewer resources at its disposal to mount a PR exercise or offensive if it feels itself besieged.”

With a $300 US million total budget for a country of eight million, the Haitian government had limited means to explain their perspective to the world either directly or through international journalists. On the other hand, the Washington-Paris-Ottawa coup triumvirate had great capacity to propagate their perspective (at the time the Canadian International Development Agency and Foreign Affairs each spent 10 times the entire Haitian budget and the Department of National Defence 60 times). The large Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince worked to influence Canadian reporters in the country and their efforts were supplanted by the Haiti desks at CIDA and Foreign Affairs as well as the two ministries’ communications departments and Canadian military officials.

While an imbalance in communications resources partly explains the coverage, there is also a powerful ideological component. The media’s biased coverage of Haiti cannot be divorced from ‘righteous Canada’ assumptions widely held among the intelligentsia. As quoted in an MA thesis titled “Covering the coup: Canadian news reporting, journalists, and sources in the 2004 Haiti crisis”, CBC reporter Neil McDonald told researcher Isabel McDonald the Canadian government was “one of the most authoritative sources on conflict resolution in the world.”

According to Isabel McDonald’s summary, the prominent correspondent also said, “it was crazy to imagine Canada would be involved in a coup” and that “Canadian values were incompatible with extreme inequality or race-based hegemony”, which Ottawa’s policies clearly exacerbated in Haiti. (Neil Macdonald also said his most trusted sources for background information in Haiti came from Canadian diplomatic circles, notably CIDA where his cousins worked.

The CBC reporter also said he consulted the Canadian ambassador in Port-au-Prince to determine the most credible human rights advocate in Haiti. Ambassador Kenneth Cook directed him to Pierre Espérance, a coup backer who fabricated a “massacre” used to justify imprisoning the constitutional prime minister and interior minister. When pressed for physical evidence Espérance actually said the 50 bodies “might have been eaten by wild dogs.”)

The Canadian Council on Africa provides another example of the rhetoric that results from vast power imbalances and paternalist assumptions. Run by Canadian corporations operating on the continent, the council said it “focuses on the future of the African economy and the positive role that Canada can play meeting some of the challenges in Africa.”

Similar to the Canadian Council on Africa, the Canadian American Business Council, Canada China Business Council and Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce also seek to advance members’ profit-making potential. But, the other lobby groups don’t claim humanitarian objectives. The primary difference between the Canadian Council on Africa and the other regional lobby organizations is the power imbalance between Canada/the West and African countries, as well as the anti-African paternalism that dominates Canadian political culture.

A group of Canadian corporations claiming their aim was to meet the social challenges of the US or UK would sound bizarre and if they said as much about China they would be considered seditious. (Ironically the US-, Britain- and China-focused lobby groups can better claim the aid mantle since foreign investment generally has greater social spinoffs in more independent/better regulated countries.)

But, paternalist assumptions are so strong — and Africans’ capacity to assert themselves within Canadian political culture so limited — that a lobby group largely representing corporations that displace impoverished communities to extract natural resources is, according to the Canadian Council on Africa’s previous mission statement, “committed to the economic development of a modern and competitive Africa.”

To counter the “fact-free zone” individuals need to educate themselves on international issues, by seeking alternative sources of information. More important, we should strengthen internationalist social movements and left media consciously seeking to restrict politicians’ ability to “blather freely”.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
Read other articles by Yves.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

America Getting the Fight It's Been Cruising For

Spoiling for a Wider War in Syria

by Robert Parry - Consortium News


June 20, 2017  


The U.S. mainstream media’s near universal demonization of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin – along with similar hatred directed toward Iran and Hezbollah – has put the world on a path toward World War III.

Ironically, the best hope for averting a dangerous escalation into a global conflict is to rely on Assad, Putin, Iran and Hezbollah to show restraint in the face of illegal military attacks by the United States and its Mideast allies inside Syria.


Iranian Rockets to Syria,
June 18, 2017

In other words, after the U.S. military has bombed Syrian government forces on their own territory and shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday – and after Israel has launched its own strikes inside Syria and after Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have financed and armed jihadists to overthrow Assad – it is now up to the Syrian government and its allies to turn the other cheek.

Of course, there is also a danger that comes from such self-control, in that it may encourage the aggressors to test the limits even further, seeing restraint as an acceptance of their impunity and a reason to ignore whatever warnings are issued and red lines drawn.

Indeed, if you follow The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other big U.S. news outlets, perhaps the most striking groupthink that they all share is that the U.S. government and its allies have the right to intervene militarily anywhere in the world. Their slogan could be summed up as: “International law – that’s for the other guy!”

In this upside-down world of American hegemony, Assad becomes the “aggressor” when he seeks to regain control of Syrian territory against armed insurgents, dominated by Al Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS), or when he protests the invasion of Syrian territory by foreign forces.

When Assad legally seeks help from Russia and Iran to defeat these foreign-armed and foreign-backed jihadists, the U.S. mainstream media and politicians treat his alliances as improper and troublemaking. Yet, the uninvited interventions into Syria by the United States and its various allies, including Turkey and Israel, are treated as normal and expected.

Demanding Escalation


The preponderance of U.S. media criticism about U.S. policy in Syria comes from neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who have favored a much more ambitious and vigorous “regime change” war, albeit cloaked in prettier phrases such as “safe zones” and “no-fly zones.”

So, you have Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal editorial, which praises Sunday’s U.S. shoot-down of a Syrian military plane because it allegedly was dropping bombs “near” one of the U.S.-backed rebel groups – though the Syrians say they were targeting an Islamic State position.

Although it was the U.S. that shot down the Syrian plane over Syria, the Journal’s editorial portrays the Russians and Syrians as the hotheads for denouncing the U.S. attack as a provocation and warning that similar air strikes will not be tolerated.

In response, the Journal’s neocon editors called for more U.S. military might hurled against Syria and Russia:

“The risk of escalation is real, but this isn’t a skirmish the U.S. can easily avoid. Mr. Assad and his allies in Moscow and Tehran know that ISIS’s days are numbered. They want to assert control over as much territory as possible in the interim, and that means crushing the SDF [the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces].

“The Russian threat on Monday to target with anti-aircraft missiles any U.S. aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria is part of the same intimidation strategy. Russia also suspended a hotline between the two armed forces designed to reduce the risk of a military mistake. Iran, which arms and assists Mr. Assad on the ground, vowed further Syrian regime attacks against SDF, all but daring U.S. planes to respond amid the Russian threat.
“The White House and Pentagon reacted with restraint on Monday, calling for a de-escalation and open lines of communication. But if Syria and its allies are determined to escalate, the U.S. will either have to back down or prepare a more concerted effort to protect its allies and now U.S. aircraft.

“This is a predicament President Obama put the U.S. in when his Syrian abdication created an opening for Vladimir Putin to intervene. Had the U.S. established a no-fly or other safe zone to protect refugees, the Kremlin might have been more cautious.”

As senior U.S. commanders have explained, however, the notion of a sweet-sounding “no-fly or other safe zone” would require a massive U.S. military campaign inside Syria that would devastate government forces and result in thousands of civilian deaths because many air defenses are located in urban areas. It also could lead to a victory for Al Qaeda and/or its spinoff, Islamic State, a grisly fate for most Syrians.

Propaganda Value


But the “safe zone” illusion has great propaganda value, essentially a new packaging for another “regime change” war, which the neocons lusted for in Syria as the follow-on to the Iraq invasion in 2003 but couldn’t achieve immediately because the Iraq War turned into a bloody disaster.


 
At start of U.S. 2003 Iraq invasion, President George W. Bush ordered
U.S. military conduct devastating “shock and awe”assault on Baghdad 


Instead, the neocons had to settle for a proxy war on Syria, funded and armed by the U.S. government and its regional allies, relying on violent jihadists to carry out the brunt of the fighting and killing. When Assad’s government reacted clumsily to this challenge, the U.S. mainstream media depicted Assad as the villain and the “rebels” as the heroes.

In 2012, the Defense Intelligence Agency, then under the direction of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, warned that the U.S. strategy would give rise to “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria.”

Flynn went further in a 2015 interview when he said the intelligence was “very clear” that the Obama administration made a “willful decision” to back these jihadists in league with Middle East allies. (Flynn briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser but was ousted amid the growing Russia-gate “scandal.”)

Only in 2014, when Islamic State militants began decapitating American hostages and capturing cities in Iraq, did the Obama administration reverse course and begin attacking ISIS while continuing to turn a blind-eye to the havoc caused by other rebel groups allied with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, including many outfits deemed “moderate” in the U.S. lexicon.

But the problem is that almost none of this history exists within the U.S. mainstream narrative, which – as the Journal’s neocon editors did on Tuesday – simply depicts Obama as weak and then baits President Trump to show more military muscle.

What U.S. National Interests?


The Journal editorial criticized Trump for having no strategy beyond eradicating ISIS and adding: “Now is the time for thinking through such a strategy because Syria, Russia and Iran know what they want. Mr. Assad wants to reassert control over all of Syria, not a country divided into Alawite, Sunni and Kurdish parts. Iran wants a Shiite arc of influence from Tehran to Beirut. Mr. Putin will settle for a Mediterranean port and a demonstration that Russia can be trusted to stand by its allies, while America is unreliable. None of this is in the U.S. national interests.”

But why isn’t this in U.S. national interests? What’s wrong with a unified secular Syria that can begin to rebuild its shattered infrastructure and repatriate refugees who have fled into Europe, destabilizing the Continent?

What’s the big problem with “a Shiite arc of influence”? The Shiites aren’t a threat to the United States or the West. The principal terror groups – Al Qaeda and ISIS – spring from the extremist Saudi version of Sunni Islam, known as Wahhabism. I realize that Israel and Saudi Arabia took aim at Syria in part to shatter “the Shiite arc,” but we have seen the horrific consequences of that strategy. How has the chaos that the Syrian war has unleashed benefited U.S. national interests?

And so what that Russia has a naval base on the Mediterranean Sea? That is no threat to the United States, either.

But what is the alternative prescription from the Journal’s neocon editors? The editorial concludes: “The alternative would be to demonstrate that Mr. Assad, Iran and Russia will pay a higher price for their ambitions. This means refusing to back down from defending U.S. allies on the ground and responding if Russia aircraft or missiles attempt to take down U.S. planes. Our guess is that Russia doesn’t want a military engagement with the U.S. any more than the U.S. wants one with Russia, but Russia will keep pressing for advantage unless President Trump shows more firmness than his predecessor.”

So, rather than allow the Syrian government to restore some form of order across Syria, the neocons want the Trump administration to continue violating international law, which forbids military invasions of sovereign countries, and keep the bloodshed flowing. Beyond that, the neocons want the U.S. military to play chicken with the other nuclear-armed superpower on the assumption that Russia will back down.

As usual, the neocon armchair warriors don’t reflect much on what could happen if U.S. warplanes attacking inside Syria are shot down. One supposes that would require President Trump to authorize a powerful counterstrike against Russian targets with the possibility of these escalations spinning out of control. But such craziness is where a steady diet of neocon/liberal-hawk propaganda has taken America.

We are ready to risk nuclear war and end all life on the planet, so Israel and Saudi Arabia can shatter a “Shiite arc of influence” and so American politicians don’t have to feel the rhetorical lash of the neocons and their liberal-hawk sidekicks.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).image_pdf

US Icing Out UN to Isolate Palestine Question

Netanyahu wants the UN out of the way to be able to achieve his objective 

 by Jonathan Cook 


14 June 2017

Israeli and US officials are in the process of jointly pre-empting Donald Trump’s supposed “ultimate deal” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They hope to demote the Palestinian issue to a footnote in international diplomacy.

The conspiracy – a real one – was much in evidence last week during a visit to the region by Nikki Haley, Washington’s envoy to the United Nations. Her escort was Danny Danon, her Israeli counterpart and a fervent opponent of Palestinian statehood.

Mr Danon makes Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu look moderate. He has backed Israel annexing the West Bank and ruling over Palestinians apatheid-style. Ms Haley appears unperturbed. During a meeting with Mr Netanyahu, she told him that the UN was “a bully to Israel”. She has warned the powerful Security Council to focus on Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah, instead of Israel.

To protect its tiny ally, Washington is threatening to cut billions in US funding to the world body, plunging it into crisis and jeopardising peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

On the way to Israel, Ms Haley stopped at the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, demanding it end its “pathological” opposition to Israel’s decades of occupation and human rights violations – or the US would pull out of the agency.

Washington has long pampered Israel, giving it millions of dollars each year to buy weapons to oppress Palestinians, and using its veto to block UN resolutions enforcing international law. Expert UN reports such as a recent one on Israel’s apartheid rule over Palestinians have been buried.

But worse is to come. Now the framework of international laws and institutions established after the Second World War is at risk of being dismembered.

That danger was highlighted on Sunday, when it emerged that Mr Netanyahu had urged Ms Haley to dismantle another UN agency much loathed by Israel. UNRWA cares for more than five million Palestinian refugees across the region.

Since the 1948 war, Israel has refused to allow these refugees to return to their lands, now in Israel, forcing them to live in miserable and overcrowded camps awaiting a peace deal that never arrives. These dispossessed Palestinians still depend on UNRWA for education, health care and social services.

UNRWA, Mr Netanyahu says, “perpetuates” rather than solves their problems. He prefers that they become the responsibility of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which looks after all other refugee populations.

His demand is a monumental U-turn, 70 years in the making. In fact, it was Israel that in 1948 insisted on a separate UN refugee agency for the Palestinians.

UNRWA was created to prevent the Palestinians falling under the charge of UNHCR’s forerunner, the International Refugee Organisation. Israel was afraid that the IRO, formed in the immediate wake of the Second World War, would give Palestinian refugees the same prominence as European Jews fleeing Nazi atrocities.

Israel did not want the two cases compared, especially as they were so intimately connected. It was the rise of Nazism that bolstered the Zionist case for a Jewish state in Palestine, and Jewish refugees who were settled on lands from which Palestinians had just been expelled by Israel.

Also, Israel was concerned that the IRO’s commitment to the principle of repatriation might force it to accept back the Palestinian refugees.

Israel’s hope then was precisely that UNRWA would not solve the Palestinian refugee problem; rather, it would resolve itself. The idea was encapsulated in a Zionist adage: “The old will die and the young forget.”

But millions of Palestinian descendants still clamour for a right of return. If they cannot forget, Mr Netanyahu prefers that the world forget them.

As bloody wars grip the Middle East, the best way to achieve that aim is to submerge the Palestinians among the world’s 65 million other refugees. Why worry about the Palestinian case when there are millions of Syrians newly displaced by war?

But UNRWA poses a challenge, because it is so deeply entrenched in the region and insists on a just solution for Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA’s huge staff includes 32,000 Palestinian administrators, teachers and doctors, many living in camps in the West Bank – Palestinian territory Mr Netanyahu and Mr Danon hunger for. The UN’s presence there is an impediment to annexation.

On Monday Mr Netanyahu announced his determination to block Europe from funding Israeli human rights organisations, the main watchdogs in the West Bank and a key data source for UN agencies. He now refuses to meet any world leader who talks to these rights groups.

With Mr Trump in the White House, a crisis-plagued Europe ever-more toothless and the Arab world in disarray, Mr Netanyahu wants to seize this chance to clear the UN out of the way too.

Global institutions such as the UN and the international law it upholds were created after the Second World War to protect the weakest and prevent a recurrence of the Holocaust’s horrors.

Today, Mr Netanyahu is prepared to risk it all, tearing down the post-war international order, if this act of colossal vandalism will finally rid him of the Palestinians.

Banning the Bombs

“Would you like a drink of water?” Please Ask a Yemeni Child

by Kathy Kelly - Dissident Voice


June 20th, 2017

This week, in New York City, representatives from more than100 countries will begin collaborating on an international treaty, first proposed in 2016, to ban nuclear weapons forever. It makes sense for every country in the world to seek a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons.

It would make even more sense to immediately deactivate all nuclear weapons. But, by boycotting and disparaging the process now underway, the U.S. and other nuclear armed nations have sent a chilling signal. They have no intention of giving up the power to explode, burn and annihilate planetary life.

“The United States is spending $1 trillion USD over the next thirty years to modernize its nuclear weapon arsenals and triple the killing power of these weapons,” says Ray Acheson, programme director at Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). 

Acheson also notes that the excessive spending for nuclear weapons contrasts with U.S. cuts to vital anti-poverty programs. On June 19th, more than a dozen people blocked the U.S. Mission to the UN entrance to protest Washington’s boycott of the negotiations. They were arrested for disorderly conduct, but I believe it’s incomparably more disorderly to plan for nuclear war.

During the past weekend, to support the negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons, WILPF called for “Women’s March to Ban the Bomb” actions in cities across the U.S. and around the world. Jane Addams, who helped found the League in 1919, was a Chicago woman who understood the crucial need to put an end to war, all war, and instead care for the neediest people. She dedicated herself to assuring that many new immigrants in her city were treated with respect, given assistance to meet basic needs and encouraged to live and work together, peaceably. Addams worked passionately to prevent nations from sleepwalking into the horrors of World War I, and she vigorously campaigned to stop the United States’ entry into it.

Upon return from visiting soldiers who had been maimed while fighting in the trenches of World War I, she spoke of how the young men couldn’t have carried on the war without mind-altering substances -sometimes absinthe, sometimes extra rations of rum. Families were sending laudanum and even heroin to the front lines in hampers. The soldiers couldn’t kill, she concluded, if left in their right minds.

The WILPF gatherings help us ask hard questions about our capacity to prepare for massive obliteration of entire cities, through nuclear weapon buildup, while failing to meet the needs of children, like those in Yemen, whose survival is jeopardized by war and indifference.

Can we persist in perfecting our nuclear arsenals, indifferent to millions of children at risk of starving to death or dying because they lack clean water — and because U.S. supported Saudi airstrikes decimate the infrastructure that might have supplied food and water –can we do so and claim to be in our right minds?

WILPF gathered us in Chicago where we took time to remember a remarkably brave former Chicagoan, Jean Gump, a mother of twelve whose altruism led her to help dismantle an intercontinental ballistic missile. On March 28, 1986, Jean and her companions in the Plowshares movement enacted the biblical call to turn swords into plowshares. Picture it in the words of Lila Sarick’s article, “The Crime of Ms. Jean Gump:”

The early morning sun was beginning to glow red over the horizon as a trio ran through the dew-soaked Missouri field.

Silently, a young, bearded man cut the chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, while his two companions, another man and a woman, hung banners beside the scarlet sign that warned them not to enter.

Beside the warning sign, the pair hung a photo collage of the woman’s 12 children and 2 grandchildren. Alongside it, they hung a pennant that bore the group’s logo: “Swords into plowshares — an act of healing.”

The trio then clambered through the hole in the fence and entered M-10, a Minuteman II missile site at Whiteman Air Force Base, Knob Noster, Missouri.

The missile site resembled an abandoned railway yard. Rust-colored tracks ended abruptly in the middle of the site. Tall signal arms and white concrete bunkers dotted the landscape.

Wordlessly, the three set to work. Ken Rippetoe, 23, swung a sledgehammer at the railway tracks, designed to launch a nuclear missile with the punch of one million tons of TNT.

Larry Morlan, 26, snipped the wires on the signal arms, which pointed blindly toward the sky.

And Jean Gump uncapped a baby bottle filled with the trio’s blood and poured it in the shape of a cross on the gleaming hatch from which a missile could emerge. Underneath, she painted the words “Disarm and live.”

For this action, Jean Gump was sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison. The following year, her husband, Joe Gump, performed a similar action, believing Jean was right about assuming personal responsibility to deactivate nuclear weapons. The couple galvanized a group of Midwesterners to form a 1988 campaign, the “Missouri Peace Planting,” which involved dozens of people climbing over barbed wire fences onto the grounds of nuclear weapon silos in Missouri, and planting corn on top of the missile silos.

I remember entering a nuclear weapon site in Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force Base, planting corn, and shortly thereafter finding myself kneeling in the grass, handcuffed, as a soldier stood behind me with his weapon pointed toward me. I lasted about two minutes in silence, and then started talking about why we did what we did and how we hoped the action would benefit children that he loved as well. And then I asked him, “Do you think the corn will grow?”

“I don’t know,” he responded, “but I sure hope so.” And then he asked me, “Ma’am, would you like a drink of water?” I nodded eagerly. “Ma’am,” said the soldier, “would you please tip your head back.” I did so, and he poured water down my throat. Recalling his kind offer to give me water jolts me into awareness about the relationship between the nuclear weapon below us, that day, and massive numbers of people, then and now, who acutely need clean water.

Imagine if his question, “Would you like a drink of water?” were asked, today, to people living in Yemen. Now, as the U.S. insists on having an exceptional right to dominate the planet, insists on being armed with enough explosive fire power to obliterate entire cities, suppose we were to ask people in Yemen, millions of whom now face cholera and starvation, if they would like a drink of clean, pure water?

Or, let’s bring the question closer to home and ask people in Flint, MI, whose water is contaminated, “Would you like clean, pure water?”

And as we grope for solutions to the signs of climate change, including severe droughts and the rush to privatize dwindling resources of potable water, imagine asking the children of future generations, “Would you like a drink of water?”

President Eisenhower was right to equate possession of nuclear weapons with commission of crime.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

It’s a big “ask”: get rid of nuclear weapons. Along with planning and joining protests, another way to remain awake and focused on preventing nuclear annihilation involves recognizing how interconnected we are with others, so much so that the suffering and death of another person diminishes our own lives.

This wakefulness entails abiding care for others. Jean Gump and Jane Addams practiced such care throughout most of their lives. We, likewise, can work toward justice for those who live in communities like Flint, MI; we can seek sane approaches to the climate crisis; and we can insist that those who are targets of war, like the cholera-ridden, desperately hungry children of Yemen, be spared from aerial terrorism and given full access to clean, life-saving waters.

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence. In Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. (In the late ‘80s she spent one year in prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites).
Read other articles by Kathy.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Yves Engler, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Christina Nikolic June 21, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


June 21, 2017

Welcome to the first day of Summer here in the green and pleasant climes of the western reaches of the country for now called Canada; where the people go about their business, never fearing the sudden eruption of distantly-fired Tomahawk missiles, helicopter-delivered barrel-bombs, gas rocket attacks, or rat-a-tat-tat of automatic gunfire.

Despite the placid demeanor of the place and people within though, it is not a perfect peace.

Listen. Hear.

Two weeks ago, Canadians were reminded of the true peril that lay just beneath the deceptively calm surface of our civic existence with the release of 2017's Defence Policy Review, a document my first guest describes as including:

"a significant increase in lethal fighter jets and secretive special forces, as well as enhancing offensive cyber-attack capabilities and purchasing armed drones."

Not to mention a massive minimum expenditure increase of more than $62 billion over the next twenty years.

Yves Engler is a Montréal-based activist, lecturer, and author whose book titles include: ‘The Ugly Canadian — Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy,’ ‘Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping — The Truth May Hurt,’ ‘The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy,’ ‘Canada in Africa — 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation,’ and his latest, ‘A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation.’ In a recent Rabble.ca article, Engler called for opposition to both the spirit and specifics of the so-called "Trudeau Doctrine" but is there anyone left around here to do so?

Yves Engler in the first half.

And; as the World, thanks to the muscular military mentality so elegantly elucidated by our princely PM's Foreign Affairs ministry, hurtles towards an Armageddon-like conflagration in the Middle East, there are still people imploring we clever hominids take heed the better angels of our nature and move the species clear, away from abyss' rim.

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh is founder of the Palestine Museum of Natural History, Director of the Center for Biodiversity and Sustainability at Bethlehem University, past chairman of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, and a tireless social justice campaigner whose main civic interests lie in media activism and public education. To that end, he has given hundreds of talks around the world, and is even now in the middle of a tour of the United States encompassing Colorado, New Mexico, Louisiana, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Texas, from where we'll reach him today. Mazin’s e-book on human rights activism, ‘Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle,’ is available from his website, Qumsiyeh.org.

Mazin Qumsiyeh talking to Americans in the second half.

And; horticultural guru and intrepid green entrepreneur, Christina Nikolic will join us at the bottom of the hour with the Left Coast Events update, bringing us up to speed with some of the good things planned in and around our town for the coming week. But first, Yves Engler and who's left to complain about Canadian militarism?

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: https://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Yelling "Fire" on a Crowded Theatre: Iran's Syria Rocket Attack

Dangerous Development: Iranian Missile Launch into Syria Against ISIS Puts US in Precarious Position

by Patrick Henningsen - 21st Century Wire


June 20, 2017

Yesterday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard announced that it had fired several missiles at ISIS positions in the Deir Az Zor province in Syria. The reason given for this unprecedented military strike was retaliation for a double terrorist attacks which struck Tehran two weeks ago. Readers should not underestimate the significance of this event.


BFFs? Trump and the Saudis, sword dancing
at the Arab Summit in Riyadh last month.

According to a statement issued by the news agency for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Sepahnews,

“Multiple medium-range missiles were fired from the Iranian provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdestan, and a large number of terrorists were killed and their weapons were destroyed.”

Regarding the alleged ISIS attack which killed 13 people and wounded 50 others, the Revolutionary Guard added, “The spilling of any pure blood will not go unanswered.”

Make no mistake about it – this was a major media event. It’s been 30 years since Iran has fired missiles at targets outside of its own borders.


The following image (above) was released in a media handout from Iranian news agency, Sepahnews, showing a missile launched by the Revolutionary Guards Corps in the west of Iran, targeting an ISIS position near the city of Deir Az Zor.

The IRGC has also warned that more missile strikes will follow should ISIS militants plot any future attacks on Iran. “If they carry out a specific action to violate our security, definitely there will be more launches, with intensified strength,” said General Ramazan Sharif of the IRGC (also cited by AP).

Fars News Agency added,

“The IRGC warns the Takfiri terrorists and their regional and trans-regional supporters that they would be engulfed by its revolutionary wrath and flames of the fire of its revenge in case they repeat any such devilish and dirty move in future.”

This latest move by Iran is worrying for a number of reasons. Justified or not, Iran’s launch from its western provinces, over Iraqi airspace and into Syria will most certainly heighten tensions in an already tense Syrian theatre. If the situation escalates, the question of who has the upper hand may not matter should the situation descend into all-out war involving the US.

Syria: A Crowded Theatre


Iran’s missile strike took place on Sunday June 18th, targeting an ISIS command center located near the embattled city of Deir Az Zor, a key choke point on the road to the ISIS-held city Raqqa in northeastern Syria. This area is currently a hive of international military activity featuring a host of players – the Syrian Army, Russia, Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah militia and opposing US, UK, Australia, France, Turkish and German forces positioned alongside numerous US-allied (and paid for) militias like the Kurdish SDF, YPG militias – all presumably camped in the region to “defeat ISIS.” Add to this the problem of US having repeatedly attacked Syrian military forces in a manner which has aided the strategic advances of ISIS.

Following from this point, it should be well-known by now, based on successive US aggressions inside Syria, that the Pentagon is probing both Syrian and Russian defenses, testing their level of patience, perhaps in the hope that either Syria or Russia might retaliate against US aircraft, or US support positions on the ground. In the event that the US loses a single aircraft, or loses one member of its combat team to hands of a Syrian or Russian military asset, then Washington will no doubt seize on this event as an “act of aggression,” initiate its media machine to begin consensus-building internationally, ramping-up military operations on par with Iraq in 2003.

This would be the excuse that the US-led Coalition has been needing in order to blow the Syrian theatre open into a wide regional or possibly, world-wide war.


The missile strike by Iran could be a mid-term game changer in the sense that it places Iran squarely into the frame of fighting international terrorism, and ISIS. Up until this point, parties in the US led by the Neoconservative right, the Trump White House, and the sister lobbies of Israel and Saudi Arabia – have tried hard to enforce a strict party line that Iran is somehow, “The number one state sponsor of terror on the planet,” despite the fact that no evidence is ever presented to back-up this sensational geopolitical plank.

One of the main beneficiaries of this talking point is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who gains on two fronts; the ‘Iranian terror’ line deflects from Saudi’s own sordid role in supporting and funding armed militants, terrorist groups (including active factions in Syria) and radical mosques worldwide.

This dovetails well with the Trump Administration’s current embrace of Saudi in the ‘War on Terror’ and the simultaneous casting-out of gulf state Qatar from the US-led Coalition’s inner circle in Middle East military and diplomatic affairs.

This week, Turkish troops were deployed to Qatar, in a show of support for the gulf state by Ankara. This is just another signal that the geopolitics of the region and around Syria, is getting more complicated by the day.

Iranian television featured images of the IRGC missiles being launched at night.

However, Washington and Riyadh’s efforts to bracket Qatar with ‘state sponsor of terror’ Iran will be even more difficult following the Tehran’s twin-terror attack and Sunday’s retaliatory missile strike.

For this reason, the IRGC believes that Saudi and the US are linked to the Tehran attacks. The FT explains:

However a statement from the Revolutionary Guards linked the “brutal attack” to Donald Trump’s visit last month to Riyadh, where the US president singled out Iran for fuelling “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror”.

“This terrorist act took place a week after a joint meeting between the US president and head of a reactionary regional country [Saudi Arabia] which has been a constant supporter of terrorism,” the statement said.
“The fact Isis claimed responsibility proves that they [Saudi Arabia] were involved in the brutal attack.”

Despite all of this, Trump has placed all his chips on Saudi Arabia as Washington’s only major Arab partner in the region. Does Washington really think Saudi is of high moral standing in the region? You can blame their decline in popularity for a number of reasons – supporting Wahhabi extremism, beheading Shia clerics, or Saudi’s ability to buy their seat at the head of the UN Human Rights Committee, or cynically acquiring the UN Womens Rights chair. Perhaps Washington is over-estimating Saudi Arabia’s position in the Middle East.

Tehran Attack: Who Did It?


Another interesting but under-reported component of this story has to do with the reason for Iran’s missile retaliation. Although ISIS apparently claimed credit for the Tehran attacks on June 6th, other evidence suggests that another well-known international terrorist entity might have been involved.

After events in Tehran, the US-backed regime change terrorist proxy, the MEK (Mojahedin-e Khalq) was named by senior Iranian politician Mr. Hamid-Reza Taraghi, as a partner in the terrorist attacks. This theory gains a bit more credence following a statement from former member of the MEK, Massoud Khodabandeh, who has stated that ISIS drew on MEK ‘expertise’ for the terror attacks on Tehran. Certainly, the MEK have been active in carrying out operations inside of Iran for decades now, while ISIS has not. Massoud's analysis of the attacks is stunning, and raises two essential points:

“The targets selected by ISIS were sites constantly targeted by the MEK. The Iranian Parliament and its members had always been primary targets for the MEK since the 1980s. The group had managed to assassinate several members of the Parliament and tried to plant a bomb there at one point. They were unsuccessful and some members were killed by security forces while other terrorist teams were arrested. Similarly, after Ayatollah Khomeini’s shrine was created, Massoud Rajavi, the late MEK leader, announced that “Khomeini’s grave must be exploded”. It became a mantra among MEK members which they would chant in indoctrination sessions. The MEK tried unsuccessfully to send terrorist teams there in 1991 and 2002.”
“While ISIS and the MEK have the same interests in attacking Iran, ISIS could have caused much greater anti-government fear and hatred among the civilian population in line with its regime change agenda if they had bombed a civilian target like transport infrastructure or a shopping mall. They could have done more damage by targeting the Revolutionary Guards whose forces are in Syria. Instead, the ISIS targets matched those which had been constantly under attack by the MEK for thirty years.”

The MEK factor is extremely worrying because it signals a new leg in Washington’s asymmetric war in the region. History shows us that when great powers sow this level of chaos, the chances for a multi-country conflagration becomes more likely.

Regardless of where blame is apportioned in this case, Iran seems to have accepted the claim by ISIS for these attacks on Iranian soil, effectively giving Tehran an internationally recognized green light to act unilaterally against ISIS assets inside Syria. For those who subscribe to the school of thought that implicates Saudi Arabia and the US for aiding and supporting ISIS covertly, then Iran has not only called their bluff, but co-opted their own ‘anti-ISIS’ narrative too.

Presently, Iran has military assets deployed in Syria at the invitation of the government in Damascus, so it’s certain that both Damascus and Moscow were aware of Iran’s missile strike in advance, but not the US – once again demonstrating that without significant ground assets deployed in the region the US cannot really control the situation around Raqqa. This means that Washington, no matter how hard its media machine can spin, are simply not able to dictate facts on the ground in Syria.

Clearly, Iran seized an advantage here, but how this plays out in terms of increased tensions with the US-led Coalition in Syria remains to be seen.

Timing is Everything


The most worrying aspect of this development is the timing. On the same day as Iran fired missiles into Deir Az Zor province in Syria, a US F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian SU-22 fighter jet near Raqqa. Washington claimed it as an act of ‘collective self-defense’ as the Syrian jet had dropped bombs “near US-backed forces.” As a result of this overt act of aggression by the US, the Russian Defense Ministry announced this morning that it is halting its “Deconfliction” cooperation with its US counterparts set out in their bilateral Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria.

Add to this the fact that each day the US continue to kill more Syrian civilians during their supposed ‘anti-ISIS’ strikes in Raqqa, and it’s not difficult to see that the US position is becoming increasingly isolated in the Middle Eastern theatre, leaving its only two remaining solid partners as a pair who themselves are now widely regarded as rogue states in the region: Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The scene has now been set for a wider war. All it will take is a small spark between the two major opposing geopolitical forces or their allies.

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Patrick Henningsen is an American-born writer and global affairs analyst and founder of independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire and host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR).

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