Thursday, May 24, 2018

BC Supremes Squash Squamish on Kinder Morgan Non-Consultation Claim

Wilderness Committee supports Squamish Nation’s rights to protect their homeland

by Wilderness Committee


May 24, 2018

VANCOUVER - The Wilderness Committee is disappointed with the B.C. Supreme Court decision on Squamish vs British Columbia, over the Kinder Morgan pipeline, announced today.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled the provincial government’s consultation with the Squamish Nation before it issued permits for the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion was adequate. The judge pointed out the federal government has more jurisdiction and a greater responsibility to consult and that process is still under review at the Federal Court of Appeal.

“We look forward to the day Indigenous rights are fully recognized and protected in B.C. and Canada,” said Wilderness Committee Co-Executive Director Joe Foy.

“We are of course disappointed that today’s court ruling did not protect Squamish Nation’s right to protect their homeland from this dirty pipeline project. But we note that the fight to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline is far from over.”

The Squamish Nation is one of five nations awaiting the results of their challenge against Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in the Federal Court of Appeal, which is one of more than a dozen outstanding court cases pertaining to the pipeline expansion.

“The days of forcing megaprojects through without consent from Indigenous nations are over,” said Wilderness Committee Vancouver Island Campaigner Torrance Coste.

“There can be no reconciliation in this country until the right of consent is respected, and we stand in solidarity with the Squamish and other nations fighting for their territories and their rights to self-determination.”

–30–

For Immediate Release

For more information, please contact:

Joe Foy | Co-Executive Director
joe@wildernesscommittee.org

Torrance Coste | Vancouver Island Campaigner
torrance@wildernesscommittee.org

Related Campaign:
Stop Kinder Morgan's Tar Sands Pipeline

Democracy As Real As You Believe It

The Simulation of Democracy

by CJ Hopkins - CounterPunch 


May 23, 2018

One of the most complicated and frustrating aspects of operating a global capitalist empire is maintaining the fiction that it doesn’t exist. Virtually every action you take has to be carefully recontextualized or otherwise spun for public consumption.

Every time you want to bomb or invade some country to further your interests, you have to mount a whole PR campaign. You can’t even appoint a sadistic torture freak to run your own coup-fomenting agency, or shoot a few thousand unarmed people you’ve imprisoned in a de facto ghetto, without having to do a big song and dance about “defending democracy” and “democratic values.”

Naked despotism is so much simpler, not to mention more emotionally gratifying. Ruling an empire as a godlike dictator means never having to say you’re sorry. You can torture and kill anyone you want, and conquer and exploit whichever countries you want, without having to explain yourself to anyone.

Also, you get to have your humongous likeness muraled onto the walls of buildings, make people swear allegiance to you, and all that other cool dictator stuff.

Global capitalists do not have this luxury. Generating the simulation of democracy that most Western consumers desperately need in order to be able to pretend to believe that they are not just smoothly-functioning cogs in the machinery of a murderous global empire managed by a class of obscenely wealthy and powerful international elites to whom their lives mean exactly nothing, although extremely expensive and time-consuming, is essential to maintaining their monopoly on power. Having conditioned most Westerners into believing they are “free,” and not just glorified peasants with gadgets, the global capitalist ruling classes have no choice but to keep up this fiction. Without it, their empire would fall apart at the seams.

This is the devil’s bargain modern capitalism made back in the 18th Century. In order to wrest power from the feudal aristocracies that had dominated the West throughout the Middle Ages, the bourgeoisie needed to sell the concept of “democracy” to the unwashed masses, who they needed both to staff their factories and, in some cases, to fight revolutionary wars, or depose and publicly guillotine monarchs. All that gobbledegook about taxes, tariffs, and the unwieldy structure of the feudal system was not the easiest sell to the peasantry. “Liberty” and “equality” went over much better. So “democracy” became their rallying cry, and, eventually, the official narrative of capitalism. The global capitalist ruling classes have been stuck with “democracy” ever since, or, more accurately, with the simulation of democracy.

The purpose of this simulation of democracy is not to generate fake democracy and pass it off as real democracy. Its purpose is to generate the concept of democracy, the only form in which democracy exists. It does this by casting a magic spell (which I’ll do my best to demystify in a moment) that deceives us into perceiving the capitalist marketplace we Westerners inhabit, not as a market, but as a society. An essentially democratic society. Not a fully fledged democratic society, but a society progressing toward “democracy” … which it is, and simultaneously isn’t.

Obviously, life under global capitalism is more democratic than under feudal despotism, not to mention more comfortable and entertaining. Capitalism isn’t “evil” or “bad.” It’s a machine. Its fundamental function is to eliminate any and all despotic values and replace them with a single value, i.e., exchange value, determined by the market. This despotic-value-decoding machine is what freed us from the tyranny of kings and priests, which it did by subjecting us to the tyranny of capitalists and the meaningless value of the so-called free market, wherein everything is just another commodity … toothpaste, cell phones, healthcare, food, education, cosmetics, et cetera. Despite that, only an idiot would argue that capitalism is not preferable to despotism, or that it hasn’t increased our measure of freedom. So, yes, we have evolved toward democracy, if we’re comparing modern capitalism to medieval feudalism.

The problem is that capitalism is never going to lead to actual democracy (i.e., government by and for the people). This is never going to happen. In fact, capitalism has already reached the limits of the freedom it can safely offer us. This freedom grants us the ability to make an ever-expanding variety of choices … none of which have much to do with democracy. For example, Western consumers are free to work for whatever corporation they want, and to buy whatever products they want, and to assume as much debt as the market will allow to purchase a home wherever they want, and to worship whichever gods they want (as long as they conform their behavior to the values of capitalism and not their religion), and men can transform themselves into women, and white people can deem themselves African Americans, or Native Americans, or whatever they want, and anyone can mock or insult the President or the Queen of England on Facebook and Twitter, none of which freedoms were even imaginable, much less possible, under feudal despotism.

But this is as far as our “freedom” goes. The global capitalist ruling classes are never going to allow us to govern ourselves, not in any meaningful way. In fact, since the mid-1970s, they’ve been systematically dismantling the framework of social democracy throughout the West, and otherwise relentlessly privatizing everything. They’ve been doing this more slowly in Europe, where social democracy is more entrenched, but, make no mistake, American “society” is the model for our dystopian future. The ruling classes and their debt-enslaved servants, protected from the desperate masses by squads of hyper-militarized police, medicated in their sanitized enclaves, watching Westworld on Amazon Prime as their shares in private prisons rise and the forces of democracy defend their freedom by slaughtering men, women, and children in some faraway country they can’t find on a map, and would never visit on vacation anyway … this is where the USA already is, and where the rest of the West is headed.

Which is why it is absolutely crucial to maintain the simulation of democracy, and the fiction that we’re still living in a world where major geopolitical events are determined by sovereign nations and their leaders, rather than by global corporations and a class of supranational elites whose primary allegiance is to global capitalism, rather than to any specific nation, much less to the actual people who live there. The global capitalist ruling classes need the masses in the West to believe that they live in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and so on, and not in a global marketplace. Because, if it’s all one global marketplace, with one big global labor force (which global corporations can exploit with impunity), and if it’s one big global financial system (where the economies of supposed adversaries like China and the United States, or the European Union and Russia, are almost totally interdependent), then there is no United States of America, no United Kingdom, no France, no Germany … or not as we’re conditioned to perceive them. There is only the global capitalist empire, divided into “national” market territories, each performing slightly different administrative functions within the empire … and those territories that have not yet surrendered their sovereignty and been absorbed into it. I think you know which those territories are.

But getting back to the simulation of democracy (the purpose of which is to prevent us from perceiving the world as I just suggested above), how that works is, we are all conditioned to believe we are living in these imperfect democracies, which are inexorably evolving toward “real” democracy but just haven’t managed to get there quite yet.

“Real” being the key word here, because there is no such thing as real democracy. There never has been, except among relatively small and homogenous groups of people.

Like Baudrillard’s Disneyland, “Western democracy” is presented to us as “imperfect” or “unfinished” (in other words, as a replica of “real democracy”) in order to convince us that there exists such a thing as “real democracy,” which we will achieve … someday.

This is how simulations work. The replica does not exist to deceive us into believing it is the “real” thing. It exists to convince us that there is a “real” thing. In essence, it invokes the “real” thing by pretending to be a copy of it. Just as the images of God in church invoke the “god” of which they are copies (if only in the minds of the faithful), our imperfect replica of democracy invokes the concept of “real democracy” (which does not exist, and has never existed, beyond the level of tribes and bands).

This is, of course, ceremonial magic … but then so is everything else, really. Take out a twenty dollar bill, or a twenty Euro note, or your driver’s license. They are utterly valueless, except as symbols, but no less powerful for being just symbols. Or look at some supposedly solid object under an electron microscope. Try this with a tablespoon. As that bald kid in The Matrix put it, you will “realize that there is no spoon” … or, rather, that there is only the spoon we’ve created by believing that there is a spoon.

Look, I don’t mean to get all spooky. What that kid (among various others throughout history) was trying to get us to understand is that we create reality, collectively, with symbols … or we allow reality to be created for us. Our collective reality is also our religion, in that we live our lives and raise our children according to its precepts and values, regardless of whatever other rituals we may or may not engage in on the weekend. Western consumers, no matter whether nominally Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, or of any other faith, live their lives and raise their children according to the values and rules of capitalism. Capitalism is our religion. Like every religion, it has a cosmology.

In the cosmology of global capitalism, “democracy” is capitalist heaven. We hear it preached about throughout our lives, we’re surrounded by graven images of it, but we don’t get to see it until we’re dead. Attempting to storm its pearly gates, or to create the Kingdom of Democracy on Earth, is heresy, and is punishable by death. Denying its existence is blasphemy, for which the punishment is excommunication, and consignment to the City of Dis, where the lost souls shout back and forth at each other across the lower depths of the Internet, their infernal voices unheard by the faithful … but, hey, don’t take the word of an apostate like me. Go ahead, try it, and see what happens.

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.
More articles by: CJ Hopkins

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Apartheid Model Failing Israeli

Why the Emerging Apartheid State in Israel-Palestine is Not Sustainable 

by Jeff Warner/Victor Rothman - CounterPunch


May 24, 2018 
 
The powerful juxtaposition of the U.S. delegation in Jerusalem on May 14 opening up the new U.S. Embassy while Israeli snipers picked off and killed 61 Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza again brings the Israel-Palestinian crisis to everyone’s attention. To better understand these two connected events – totally at odds with each other – let’s assess the Israeli government’s long-term goals, Netanyahu’s tactics to reach these goals, and why these goals and tactics are built on an unsustainable house of cards.

Photo: Jordi Bernabeu Farrús | CC BY 2.0

The Strategic Goal: Permanent Occupation


According to many distinguished social scientists, such as Professors Ran Greenstein, Richard Falk, Virginia Tilly,Gershon Shafrir, Yoav Peled, and Andy Clarno, under Netanyahu’s leadership, the Israeli government is making its post-1967 occupations of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem permanent.

This means that Israel’s systematic construction of “facts on the ground” effectively precludes a two-state resolution of this conflict. It also results in the incremental creation of an apartheid state. While Israel still brands itself a democracy, it is actually an ethnocracy. Palestinians residing within its 1948-1967 borders are second-class citizens, while Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank live under various forms of military occupation. As for those in Gaza, these Palestinians are caged in by an indirect military occupation reinforced by a permanent siege.

Even some prominent Israeli politicians have come to the same apartheid conclusion, such as former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack. According to Barack, “As long as in the territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel, it is going to be either non-Jewish or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Israel’s Primary Tactics for Constructing an Apartheid State


+ Cultivating the United States government as its foremost foreign patron, increasingly eschewing Democrats, while aligning itself with the Trump wing of the Republican Party and Islamophobic Christian fundamentalists.

+ Relying on the intense lobbying by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, buttressed by the likes of gambling kingpin Sheldon Adelson and fawning son-in-law Jared Kushner.

+ Depending on the U.S. government to provide Israel with $4 billion in annual military aid, use its veto power at the UN Security Council to protect Israel from international sanctions, and allow $1 billion in IRS tax-exempt private philanthropy to back settlers.

+ Soliciting political support from xenophobic regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly Hungary, Poland, Georgia, and Russia.

+ Selling enormous quantities of weapons to two emerging superpowers, China and India.

+ Circumventing any direct negotiations with Palestinians, instead cultivating an inside-out strategy based on an anti-Iran alliance with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

+ Constructing Jewish-only neighborhoods, town, and cities, – euphemistically called settlements – in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

+ Moving Israeli Jews into these heavily fortified, totally segregated neighborhoods, town, and cities, now numbering about 600,000 people.

+ Erasing all former 1948-67 state boundaries, called the Green Line, from Israeli maps, media reports, and textbooks, while using the Biblical terms, Judea and Samaria, for these occupied Palestinian territories.

+ Building a network of restricted, Israeli-only highways to link these towns and cities to pre-1967 Israel.

+ Maintaining direct and indirect military occupation over these conquered territories.

+ Dividing Gaza from the West Bank by forming two rival Palestinian political authorities, one of which, the Palestinian Authority, has numerous police and intelligence agencies founded, funded, and trained by the United States.

+ Establishing an extensive public relations effort, dubbed hasbarah in Hebrew, to counter criticisms of Israel with labels of anti-Semitism and Jewish self-hatred. Through the Israeli government’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, it also brands opponents, even those who turn to Gandhian tactics, like Gazans, as terrorists.

+ Offering free political junkets to Israel for foreign reporters, public officials, and police chiefs.

+ Offering young adults from the Jewish diaspora free propaganda-filled trips to Israel through Birthright.

+ Lumping all Arab nations together, and then claiming they are universally anti-Israel, harboring deep and often hidden Jew-hatred – even though Egypt, Jordan, and the PLO have fully honored their official peace treaties with Israel.

+ Ignoring repeated peace proposals from the entire Arab world over the past 70 years, including the Saudi-initiated Arab Peace Initiative. This proposal is fully supported by the Arab League and non-Arab Muslim countries, including Iran. If Israel agreed to this initiative, the resulting treaties would grant it full diplomatic recognition in exchange for compliance with United Nations land-for-peace resolutions, 224 and 338.

+ Unleashing death squads, snipers, and heavily armed attacks, like Cast Lead, on Palestinians who oppose long-term Israeli military occupation.

+ Garnering strong support from the Israeli Jewish public through intense nationalism based on Biblical quotations, racism against Arabs, Islamophobia, xenophobia against Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, and a procession of alleged existential threats, such as Iran, Palestinian protests, and the non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)

Apartheid Built on a House of Cards


The most important questions going forward are:

How long can the Israeli government successfully exercise these tactics?

Can these tactics sustain a long-lived apartheid state?

Many obstacles lie in the way, and like a wooden block game, one or more of Israel’s tactics could crash to the ground, undermining the Israeli government’s efforts to maintain an apartheid state. The following scenarios make this clear:

The United States is a declining global power.


Its hegemonic role in the Middle East is continually slipping, while the Israeli government’s demands for U.S. support continue to grow. More specifically, Iran freed itself of U.S. domination nearly 40 years ago, while the U.S. government’s efforts to woo Syria’s Assad totally failed. Meanwhile, Turkey is withdrawing its ambassador from the United States and moving closer to Russia. As for Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan, U.S. efforts to topple their regimes resulted in weak or totally failed states with new, spreading Jihadist militias. Other authoritarian U.S. allies, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, present their own problems. Egypt has been unable to quell a long-term ISIS insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula. As for Saudi Arabia, it has successfully curried the Trump administration’s favor by buying billions of U.S. weapons, but it has not demonstrated any military capacity to use them, other than participating in deadly U.S.-managed bombing forays over nearby Yemen.

If or when a U.S. attack on Iran finally happens, it will trigger a predictable global economic crisis and long-term war of attrition radiating out from the Persian Gulf in all directions. These events could transform power relationships among the large powers competing for position in the Middle East, while also generating new political forces within each country, similar to the Arab Spring. As a result, the fragile alliances between the U.S. and its remaining client states could shatter. By castings it long-fate with the only global power willing to support permanent occupation and apartheid, Israeli will have painted itself into a political corner.

Loss of Fear.


During the Great March of Return, Palestinians in Gaza seem to have lost their fear of deadly Israeli military force. This is no different from parallel developments in other countries, where authoritarian regimes crumpled when oppressed groups no longer ran from their gunfire. This already happened in two other U.S.-supported regimes: South Africa and Iran. In the latter case the Shah’s forces slaughtered hundreds of protesters at Teheran’s Jaleh Square in 1978, but this only emboldened the regime’s opponents. Shortly afterward the Shah had to flee for his life. History suggests that Gazan-style protests, if repeated, will also work in the Palestinian’s favor. In this regard, Prof. Richard Falk points out that in most cases when a colonized people rose up, they eventually prevailed.

Indirect Military Occupation.


The Israeli strategy of contracting out its military occupation to the U.S.- and EU-subsidized Palestinian Authority (PA) could easily falter. The PA has little respect on the West Bank, and Republican lawmakers have further undermined its authority by slashing U.S. aid and reducing funding for the UN refugee agencies operating schools and clinics in the West Bank and Gaza.

Christian Fundamentalists.


The Israeli government’s tactic of securing the Trump Administration’s support for its long-term occupation faces many barriers. Donald Trump is only supported by a third of the U.S. population, and even less within the American Jewish community. More importantly, Trump and Netanyahu’s courting of Christian fundamentalists contains the seeds of its own self-destruction because it is anathema to most American Jews. While Evangelical fundamentalist interpretations of Biblical prophesy support Israeli domination over Palestinians, it also calls for the mass conversion of Jews to Christianity in order to vanquish the anti-Christ and usher in a messianic era. Could this bizarre and opportunistic relationship backfire because it drives a wedge between Israel and it mainstream supporters within American Jewry and the U.S. foreign policy establishment? Absolutely.

In Jerusalem the Trump administration brought this disconnect to the surface when it chose two Dallas-based mega-church ministers to present the embassy ceremony’s opening and closing prayers. John Hagge and Robert Jeffries are notorious for their anti-Jewish pronouncements, with Jeffries also frequently voicing his antipathy to Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, other non-Christian religions, and gays. According to Ha’Aretz columnist Chemi Shalev, this “Messianic U.S.-Israel axis showcased at the Jerusalem Embassy ceremony is a gut-punch for most American Jews.”

Changes in the Democratic Party.


Considering the Trump and Netanyahu administrations’ animosity to the Democratic Party, there is no guarantee that carte blanche U.S. government support for Israeli apartheid will continue unabated after the U.S. Presidential elections of 2020 or 2024. In fact, recent public opinion polls already reveal deep political cleavages among Democrats when asked about their support for the Israeli government’s policies. When Democrats eventually regain control of the White House and Congress, U.S. policies regarding Israel would be in flux and likely subject to major changes.

Alliance with Saudi Arabia.


Israeli’s new inside-out strategy of dodging Palestinian negotiators and instead wooing Saudi Arabia’s autocrats, as well as its Jihadist proxies in Syria, means that Israel offers aid to Al Nusra, an Al Qaeda offshoot. Considering the long antipathy of such zealous Muslim groups to Israel, allying with them because they are the enemies of Israel’s enemies – Hezbollah and Iran – is fraught with danger. If regime change succeeds in Syria, these Sunni religious extremists could become a Syrian ruling party whose hostility to Israel goes far beyond Shiite Iran’s verbosity.

Economic Inequality.


Israel suffers from extreme economic inequality compared to other industrialized countries, and it is getting worse. Anyone who has visited Israel recently has heard locals complain about outright poverty, low wages, and the high cost of living, especially housing. While the Israeli government has taken advantage of this situation by offering subsidized apartments to Jewish Israelis willing to live in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in the long run its key tools to placate the Israeli public’s economic plight are religion and exclusive nationalism. At some point, these ploys may not be sufficient to paper over Israel’s growing class divide.

Change Will Come Quickly


When, not if, this house of cards begins its collapse, change will quickly appear. Some liberal Israelis and diaspora Jews anticipate that this crisis will finally usher a two-state resolution of the conflict, especially if the U.S. is replaced by another hegemon, such as China or Russia. More progressive Israeli and Palestinian groups, such as the new One Democratic State movement, have come to a different conclusion. They argue that a two-state solution is no longer possible because of Israeli “facts on the ground.” For them the only option is transforming an apartheid state into a binational state, such as Belgium or Canada. This is in contrast to other one state advocacy groups, which propose a one-person / one-vote state to supplant Israel and it occupied Palestinian territories.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that assures these outcomes. Considering that the collapse of an apartheid state would coincide with regional or even global warfare, other scenarios, some worse and some better, could easily remake the entire Middle East, including Israel and Palestine.

Jeff Warner is the Action Coordinator of LA Jews for Peace.
Victor Rothman is a California-based policy analyst. Please send any comments or questions to info@lajewsforpeace.org.
 
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Yosemite John: Shooting Down Trump's Korea Summit

How John Bolton Sabotaged The North Korea Talks 

by Moon of Alabama


May 24, 2018

U.S. President Trump just canceled the planned summit with North Korea's chairman Kim Jong-Un. The two were supposed to meet on June 12 in Singapore.

In a letter to Kim Jong-un, released to the media, Trump accused North Korea of hostile statements which, according to him, make the summit impossible:

"Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long planned meeting."

Since the very first summit talk National Security Advisor John Bolton set impossibly high expectations for the results. Trump fell for it.

The various 'hostile statements' go back to remarks by Bolton who has for some time compared disarmament of North Korea to Libya. On April 29 Bolton again asserted that the 'complete de-nuclearization' of North Korea would follow the 'Libya model'. North Korea never really offered to 'de-nuclearize'. It rejects the 'Libya model' for two reasons:

  • When Libya made peace with the U.S. it was not a nuclear capable state which North Korea is. North Korea demands to be seen as equal to other nuclear armed states.
  • Libya's transfer of the little nuclear production equipment it had was followed a few years later by a full fledged war waged by France, the U.K. and the U.S. against Libya and its government under Muhammad Ghaddafi. The war destroyed the country. North Korea has no intent to allow a repeat of such treason.

North Korea pushed back against the Bolton statement. On May 16 the White House made amends by not endorsing what Bolton said:

"Referring to the Libya comparison, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that she hadn't "seen that as part of any discussions so I'm not aware that that's a model that we're using.

"I haven't seen that that's a specific thing. I know that that comment was made. There's not a cookie cutter model on how this would work."

But a day later Donald Trump was asked about the Libya comparison and he seemed to agree with it:

"The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy."

We called that the 'art of the mafia deal': "Sign here or we will kill you." Signing under threat is something North Korea will never do.

The U.S. media played down Trump's talk as somewhat off-the-cuff. North Korea did not react to it. The summit train was still on track.

But on May 21 Vice President Pence revived the issue in an interview with Fox News:

PENCE: We really hope that Kim Jong-un will seize the opportunity to dismantle his nuclear weapons program and do so by peaceable means. You know, there were some talk about the Libya model last week. And you know, as the president made clear, you know, this will only end like the Libya Model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn't make a deal.

MACCALLUM: Some people saw that as a threat.

PENCE: Well, I think it's more of a fact. President Trump made it clear the United States of America under his leadership is not going to tolerate the regime in North Korea possessing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that threaten the United States and our allies. We've made it clear that we are continuing to bring economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea that all options are on the table to achieve that end.

It was clear from the beginning that North Korea would not negotiate a complete de-nuclearization and would not talk while under such a threat. As the Washington Post noted: The more Pence and Trump say ‘Libya,’ the angrier North Korea gets.

The continuation of the Libya comparison was now a tactic to avoid the little prepared summit talks while blaming North Korea for the failure. The response from North Korea to Pence's remarks was quite salty but not overly hostile. Unlike Trump it did not threaten "total decimation":

"Choe Son Hui, the DPRK's vice foreign minister, said she would put forward a suggestion to DPRK top leader Kim Jong Un for reconsidering the DPRK-U.S. summit scheduled for June 12 if the United States continues with hostile remarks and actions, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
...
"Calling the remarks of Pence "ignorant and stupid," she said that Pence should seriously consider the "terrible consequences of his words" before making such remarks.

"We could surmise more than enough what a political dummy he is as he is trying to compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that has simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them," she said."

Trump's cancellation letter refers to that statement.

The cancellation comes hours after North Korea, in the presence of a dozen international journalists, blew up several tunnels it had used for nuclear tests. This was a confidence building measure even while it is of little practical value. North Korea is mountainous and has several more tunnels it can use for further nuclear tests.

I now expect another phase of huffing and puffing from both sides. The U.S. will do more fly-bys with nuclear capable bombers and push for more sanctions. North Korea will respond with more nuclear and missile tests.

Trump had expected a fast victory and probably even a total de-nuclearization of North Korea. He dreamed of a Nobel Peace Price. But North Korea had offered de-nuclearization only as a long term aspiration for the whole world. Giving up its nuclear capabilities would be suicidal as the U.S. will not honor any security guarantees it might give in exchange. Trump proved such when he canceled the JCPOA deal with Iran.

When the summit between North and South Korea took place on April 27, I had identified several potential spoilers for a disarmament and peace process. John Bolton was one of them. His introduction of the 'Libya model', which Trump and Pence who are both novices in international talks then took up, sabotaged the deal.

The largest known rare earth deposit of this world will continued to be out of Washington's reach.

Yulia's Story?

Yulia Skripal and the Salisbury WUT 

by Craig Murray


24 May, 2018
 
I was happy to see Yulia alive and looking reasonably well yesterday, if understandably stressed. Notably, and in sharp contrast to Litvinenko, she leveled no accusations at Russia or anybody else for her poisoning. In Russian she spoke quite naturally. Of the Russian Embassy she said very simply “I am not ready, I do not want their help”. Strangely this is again translated in the Reuters subtitles by the strangulated officialese of “I do not wish to avail myself of their services”, as originally stated in the unnatural Metropolitan Police statement issued on her behalf weeks ago.

“I do not wish to avail myself of their services” is simply not a translation of what she says in Russian and totally misses the “I am not ready” opening phrase of that sentence. My conclusion is that Yulia’s statement was written by a British official and then translated to Russian for her to speak, rather than the other way round. Also that rather than translate what she said in Russian themselves for the subtitles, Reuters have subtitled using a British government script they have been given.

It would of course have been much more convincing had Sergei also been present. Duress cannot be ruled out when he is held by the British authorities. I remain extremely suspicious that, at the very first chance she got in hospital, Yulia managed to get hold of a telephone (we don’t know how, it was not her own and she has not had access to one since) and phone her cousin Viktoria, yet since then the Skripals have made no attempt to contact their family in Russia. That includes no contact to Sergei’s aged mum, Yulia’s grandmother, who Viktoria cares for. Sergei normally calles his mother – who is 89 – regularly. This lack of contact is a worrying sign that the Skripals may be prevented from free communication to the outside world. Yulia’s controlled and scripted performance makes that more rather than less likely.

It is to me particularly concerning that Yulia does not seem to have social media access. The security services have the ability to give her internet risk free through impenetrable VPN. But they appear not to have done that.

We know a little more about the Salisbury attack now:

Nobody – not Porton Down, not the OPCW – has been able to state that the nerve agent found was of Russian manufacture, a fact which the MSM continues to disgracefully fudge with “developed in Russia” phrasing. As is now well known and was reported by Iran in scientific literature, Iran synthesised five novichoks recently. More importantly, the German spying agency BND obtained novichok in the 1990s and it was studied and synthesised in several NATO countries, almost certainly including the UK and USA.

In 1998, chemical formulae for novichok were introduced into the United States NIST National Institute of Standards and Technologies Mass Spectrometry Library database by U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Defense Command, but the entry was later deleted. In 2009 Hillary Clinton instructed US diplomats to feign ignorance of novichoks, as revealed by the last paragraph of this Wikileaks released diplomatic cable.

Most telling was the Sky News interview with the head of Porton Down. Interviewer Paul Kelso repeatedly pressed Aitkenhead directly on whether the novichok could have come from Porton Down. Aitkenhead replies “There is no way, anything like that could…leave these four walls. We deal with a number of toxic substances in the work that we do, we’ve got the highest levels of security and controls”. Asked again twice, he each times says the security is so tight “the substance” could not have come from Porton Down. What Aitkenhead does NOT say is “of course it could not have come from here, we have never made it”. Indeed Aitkenhead’s repeated assertion that the security would never have let it out, is tantamount to an admission Porton Down does produce novichok.

If somebody asked you whether the lion that savaged somebody came from your garden, would you reply “Don’t be stupid, I don’t have a lion in my garden” or would you say, repeatedly, “Of course not, I have a very strong lion cage?”. Here you can see Mr Aitkenhead explain repeatedly he has a big lion cage, from 2’25” in.



So the question of where the nerve agent was made remains unresolved. 


The MSM has continually attempted to lie about this and affirm that all novichok is Russian made. The worst of corporate and state journalism in the UK was exposed when they took the OPCW’s report that it confirmed the findings of Porton Down and presented that as confirming the Johnson/May assertion that it was Russia, whereas the findings of Porton Down were actually – as the Aitkenhead interview stated categorically – that they could not say where it was made.

The other relatively new development is the knowledge that Skripal had not retired but was active for MI6 on gigs briefing overseas intelligence agencies about Russia. This did not increase his threat to Russia, as he told everything he knows a decade ago. But it could provide an element of annoyance that would indeed increase Russian official desire to punish him further.

But the fact he was still very much active has a far greater significance. The government slapped a D(SMA) notice on the identity of Pablo Miller, Skripal’s former MI6 handler who lives close by in Salisbury and who worked for Christopher Steele’s Orbis Intelligence at the time that Orbis produced the extremely unreliable dossier on Trump/Russia. The fact that Skripal had not retired but was still briefing on Russia, to me raises to a near certainty the likelihood that Skripal worked with Miller on the Trump dossier.

I have to say that, as a former Ambassador in the former Soviet Union trained in intelligence analysis and familiar with MI6 intelligence out of Moscow, I agree with every word of this professional dissection of the Orbis Trump dossier by Paul Roderick Gregory, irrespective of Gregory’s politics. In particular this paragraph, which Gregory wrote more than a year before the Salisbury attack, certainly applies to much of the dossier.

"I have picked out just a few excerpts from the Orbis report. It was written, in my opinion, not by an ex British intelligence officer but by a Russian trained in the KGB tradition. It is full of names, dates, meetings, quarrels, and events that are hearsay (one an overheard conversation). It is a collection of “this important person” said this to “another important person.”
"There is no record; no informant is identified by name or by more than a generic title. The report appears to fail the veracity test in the one instance of a purported meeting in which names, dates, and location are provided. Some of the stories are so bizarre (the Rosneft bribe) that they fail the laugh test. Yet, there appears to be a desire on the part of some media and Trump opponents on both sides of the aisle to picture the Orbis report as genuine but unverifiable."

The Russian ex-intelligence officer who we know was in extremely close contact with Orbis at the time the report was written, was Sergei Skripal.

The Orbis report is mince. Skripal knew it was mince and how it was written. Skripal has a history of selling secrets to the highest bidder. The Trump camp has a lot of money. My opinion is that as the Mueller investigation stutters towards ignominious failure, Skripal became a loose end that Orbis/MI6/CIA/Clinton (take your pick) wanted tied off. That seems to me at least as likely as a Russian state assassination. To say Russia is the only possible suspect is nonsense.

The Incompetence Factor


The contradiction between the claim that the nerve agent was so pure it could only be manufactured by a state agent, and yet that it failed because it was administered in an amateur and incompetent fashion, does not bother the mainstream media. Boris Johnson claimed that the UK had evidence that Russia had a ten year programme of stockpiling secret novichok and he had a copy of a Russian assassination manual specifying administration by doorknob. Yet we are asked to believe that the Russians failed to notice that administration by doorknob does not actually work, especially in the rain. How two people both touched the doorknob in closing the door is also unexplained, as is how one policeman became poisoned by the doorknob but numerous others did not.

The explanations by establishment stooges of how this “ten times more powerful than VX” nerve agent only works very slowly, but then very quickly, if it touches the skin, and still does not actually kill you, have struck me as simply desperate. They make May’s ringing claims of a weapon of mass destruction being used on British soil appear somewhat unjustified. Weapon of Upset Tummy does not sound quite so exciting.

To paint a doorknob with something that if it touches you can kill you requires great care and much protective gear. That no strangely dressed individual has been identified by the investigation – which seems to be getting nowhere in identifying the culprit – is the key fact here. None of us know who did this. The finger-pointing at Russia by corporate and state interests seeking to stoke the Cold War is disgusting.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Getting Arrested Blocking Kinder Morgan

Why I got arrested for blocking Kinder Morgan

by Kyle Farquharson - Common Sense Canadian


May 23, 2018

This year, nearly 200 people — including federal parliamentarians Elizabeth May and Kennedy Stewart — have been arrested on Burnaby Mountain for civil disobedience actions against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Never having been arrested before, not even for a traffic infraction, I didn’t take my decision to join them lightly. On March 22 — World Water Day — I sat at the gate of Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby Mountain tank farm facility and got arrested.

Citizens preparing to get arrested outside Kinder
Morgan’s Burnaby tank farm (Photo: Alex Harris)

My motivations were both moral and practical. I know we need to address climate change and the degradation of our ecosystem to ensure our descendants and the most vulnerable members of the human family a viable future. I’ve concluded — reasonably, I think — that politicians and governments can’t be relied upon to deliver serious solutions absent public pressure to force their hand, including protest, public engagement, and, when appropriate, civil disobedience.

I blocked a gate at Kinder Morgan’s facility with the intention not of breaching a court order per se, but of causing delay and hindering the company’s efforts. A blockade has the advantages of being non-violent and effective at frustrating construction of fossil fuel infrastructure. Judging from its own admissions to investors and from its demand for strict police enforcement of an injunction it sought in order to deter such blockades, Kinder Morgan recognizes the effectiveness of the tactic too. At least we agree on something.

As a law-abiding citizen, both highly privileged and schooled in the importance of discipline, responsibility, and respect for institutions, I feel a strong temptation to outsource my conscience to the relevant authorities. That would certainly be more convenient for me. Yet I can’t avoid reckoning with an inconvenient truth: human history is full of abominations that were either legal or whose perpetrators have enjoyed impunity, some of which continue to the present day. On the other hand, we rightly celebrate cultural iconoclasts of the past who publicly defied unjust laws, at great personal risk. Lest we forget the hostility such individuals evoked at first from the powers that be.


NDP MP Kennedy Stewart and Green Party of Canada Leader 
Elizabeth May getting arrested on March 23 
(Photo: Alex Harris)

The charge I now face — criminal contempt of court — caught me and many of my comrades by surprise. On the day of my arrest, I had signed police documents agreeing to appear on a slightly less onerous charge of civil contempt. Several of my fellow defendants, including Stewart, have already pleaded guilty to criminal contempt. I’m not yet in a position to discuss my own legal strategy.

In Canada’s legacy media, the conflict surrounding the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is often framed as a jurisdictional dust-up, with the provincial government of British Columbia on one side, and the governments of Alberta and Canada on the other. But the reality is quite different, and much more interesting.

Leading up to last year’s provincial election, B.C.’s New Democrats and Greens campaigned on opposition to the planned pipeline expansion. That promise resonated with a plurality of British Columbians, particularly in and around Metro Vancouver — both the province’s major population centre and a region imperiled by the risk of either a diluted bitumen spill or mishap at Kinder Morgan’s petroleum tank farm.

The electoral contest became a focus of organizing efforts against the project. Friends and allies of mine dedicated countless hours to canvassing and making phone calls, trying to mobilize any undecided voters they could to adopt an ABC electoral strategy — that is, Anyone But (Christy) Clark, whose incumbent Liberal government had already approved Kinder Morgan. Given how close the election was, this campaign within a campaign likely played a role in the eventual outcome.

Recent pronouncements by B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman suggest that his government may be trying to wriggle out of the NDP’s campaign commitment. Nonetheless, three elected Greens hold the balance of power in the provincial legislature. NDP Premier John Horgan‘s hold on power depends on the support of a party that has been outspoken and consistent on this issue.

To characterize the B.C. government’s behaviour as the institutionalization of “environmental extremism” or disregard for the “rule of law” is a grave misrepresentation. By calling for things like more scientific study of the effects of diluted bitumen spilled in a marine environment, and requesting a court opinion on the extent of its authority to regulate the flow of this product through a pipeline, Horgan’s administration is proceeding in line with the law and Canada’s constitution. Its stance thus far is mainstream, moderate, and roughly consistent with the will of B.C.’s electorate as expressed in the most recent election.

But you wouldn’t know that if your sole source of information were the strident, incautious outbursts of its pro-pipeline detractors.

Journalist and social critic Chris Hedges observed in 2015 that we are all Greeks now. Confronted with an extraordinary, concerted campaign of economic sabotage, the leftist governing coalition Syriza caved in to the demands of international financiers, and Greeks who had voted resoundingly to reject austerity were subjected to it anyway.

I have the impression that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, and corporate news organizations hand-wringing over the B.C. government’s “obstructionism” would be more than content to see B.C. voters endure a similar repudiation of our democratic sovereignty. They appear dedicated to the idea that the interests of the investor class deserve precedence in the deliberations of all levels of government, democracies and tyrannies alike.

Their attitude calls to mind an irreverent observation by the anarchist Emma Goldman: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

We hear frequent mention in press and political circles about Canada’s “national interest”, with which our prime minister and his cabinet assure us the Kinder Morgan pipeline aligns. Yet this formulation seems a questionable basis for policy — not only dubious, but insular, nationalistic, narrow, and intensely short-sighted as well. Kinder Morgan is a transnational corporation representing the transnational ambitions of a transnational, moneyed elite. The ill effects of the intended pipeline — including spill risk to Americans in western Washington State, and intensified climate change — would cross borders too.


A tar sands plant in Fort McMurray, Alberta 
(photo: Kris Krüg)

In the words of renowned climatologist Dr. James Hansen, continued expansion of Canada’s tar sands enterprise would mean “game over” for the climate. Kinder Morgan’s pipeline would facilitate additional tar sands extraction and related CO2-emissions equivalent to 3 million gas-powered cars a year. This comes at a moment when we are already dangerously near a point where the rise in global average temperature could become irreversible.

All of this begs the question of whether it’s possible for an enterprise to serve Canada’s “national interest” while undermining the best interests of all humanity. If so, what does that say about Canada as a country?

Within the ranks of our critics are those determined to muddy the moral waters, labeling us hypocrites, extremists, or, more absurdly, “eco-terrorists”, and attributing our discontent to financing from foreign sources.

Yet there is only one atmosphere and climate system on earth, which means the entire global population has a material stake in Canada’s fossil fuel industry. Unsurprisingly, and by necessity, large organizations agitating for climate action tend to have an internationalist outlook, a global presence, and supporters and benefactors around the world. There is nothing unethical or illegitimate about that.

That said, make no mistake: the climate justice movement in B.C. and throughout Canada depends on the commitment of countless volunteers. I’m part of Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver, a grassroots coalition that includes many unpaid activists, including myself. Promoters of the “foreign funding” narrative strike me as desperate to poison the well, and impeach the integrity of people they know are motivated by moral conviction.

Of course, no opponents of this pipeline are fiercer in their determination and dedication than the First Nations peoples who are defying it in the courts, at the polls, and on the land.

Much of the second Kinder Morgan line would be built on land that First Nations have never ceded to the Crown. Plans for the original Trans Mountain line were approved in an era when the Indian Act afforded most First Nations people no right to vote and no right to retain counsel to defend their territorial rights. At a moment of great fanfare over reconciliation, Kinder Morgan’s beleaguered project embodies the legacy and continuity of Canadian settler colonialism.

Mike De Souza of the National Observer has uncovered evidence that the pipeline’s approval process was “rigged.” Among other things, this may amount to a violation of the federal government’s duty to consult meaningfully with Indigenous peoples on initiatives affecting their interests.

In fact, the conflict over Kinder Morgan could not be morally clearer. There is arguably no country in the world better positioned than Canada to effect a transition from fossil fuel dependency to emissions-free, renewable energy infrastructure. That means Canada has a moral responsibility. It’s long past time for our country to stop being complicit in climate change, as it drives droughts, floods, famines, super-storms, wildfires, armed conflicts, and refugee crises from which countless innocent people suffer and die.

There is also no credible business case for the Trans Mountain expansion. The economic rationale of an unjust discount from our inability to ship oil to Asia relies on unsound evidence. Mexican Maya crude, a comparable grade to western Canada’s diluted bitumen, has actually sold for an even lower price in Asia than in the U.S. Gulf Coast region.

The chief cause of the apparent discount is that diluted bitumen is costlier to refine and thus a less desirable product than lighter, purer grades of crude. Western Canadian producers can already ship product across the Pacific via the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline, yet they rarely do — presumably because demand for Canadian diluted bitumen in Asia is underwhelming.

What this pipeline is likelier to deliver is expansion of the tar sands, an increase in the total volume of Canadian diluted bitumen on world markets, and, at best, ephemeral benefits for a few at the expense of the many. But to end the fossil fuel industry’s vicious cycle, we’ll need to leave possibly lucrative deposits in the ground. Canada needs to accept this reality sooner rather than later.

The conflict over Kinder Morgan is so much more than a petty row among the governments in Ottawa, Edmonton, and Victoria. It’s a clash between corrosive greed and the voices of reason, between cynicism and idealism, between might and right. It’s also a litmus test of whether ordinary Canadians can successfully and non-violently defy the dictates of corporate power.

Trudeau and Notley have offered firm assurances that the pipeline will proceed, backed by billions of taxpayer dollars. And by endorsing Kinder Morgan’s narrative that the B.C. government is to blame for supposed delays in Trans Mountain’s construction, Trudeau has foolishly exposed Canada to potential liability under a NAFTA Chapter 11 tribunal.

The federal government has hinted at deploying the armed forces to shunt aside non-violent defenders of the land and force this pipeline through, on behalf of Kinder Morgan, with or without the consent of communities in its path. I’d suggest these fulminations ill befit a prime minister who not only proclaims himself a climate leader, but a feminist too.


More arrestees blocking the gate at Kinder Morgan’s tank farm 
(Photo: Alex Harris)

Though I recognize the formidability of the forces arrayed against us, the faith that reason, justice, and humanitarianism will prevail sustains me. I also believe history will be no kinder to those who would condemn us as scofflaws or worse, than to the apartheid sympathizers who denounced Nelson Mandela and his allies as “terrorists”.

On World Water Day, I sat shivering on the rain-soaked pavement in front of a Kinder Morgan facility and waited over an hour for the Burnaby RCMP to arrest me. The ensuing legal process has been an emotional roller coaster and I still don’t know what the future holds – for my case or the pipeline.

The one thing I do know is I made the right choice.

Kyle Farquharson is a writer, social critic, and activist based in Vancouver, Canada. He studied Humanities at the University of Victoria and completed a graduate degree in Journalism at the University of British Columbia. He is involved in the climate justice, feminist, and anti-war movements, and is a volunteer organizer with Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver.

Explaining Massacres: The Gaza Model

Propaganda 101: How To Defend A Massacre

by Nathan J. Robinson - Current Affairs


May 21, 2018
An introductory course in massaging your crimes and dehumanizing your enemies…
 
If you are a human being, as you probably are, you might think it would be difficult to explain away the massacre of several dozen people. And you might think that it would be difficult to get justifications for mass murder printed in one of the world’s leading newspapers. You would, however, be mistaken. Propaganda defending murder is both simple to produce and alarmingly common in major media outlets.

In order to understand how people can defend acts that should shock the conscience, today we’re going to examine and dissect a particularly galling example.

Last week, 60 Palestinians were killed, and 1700 wounded (including being permanently disabled) by the Israeli military during the Nakba protest, when Palestinians attempted to breach the fortified wall surrounding Gaza.

Much of the news coverage in the New York Times was already disturbingly one-sided, and the paper ran a front-page story on how Palestinians’ deaths made Israelis feel (they “hoped every bullet was justified”) while suggesting that Gazans exploit their own suffering for “political” ends (it’s a place “where private pain is often paraded for political causes”). But yesterday, the paper topped itself, running an op-ed from Jewish Journal editor Shmuel Rosner entitled “Israel Needs to Protect Its Borders. By Whatever Means Necessary.

Rosner fully justifies the massacre, with no apologies, regret, or second thoughts. He believes the killing of these Palestinians was correct, and that they deserved to die. Now you might, as I do, think this attitude is so self-evidently barbaric that even to debate it is to surrender a little bit of one’s humanity. But Rosner’s position is not a fringe one, and the good liberals at the New York Times consider it within the boundaries of reasonable discourse, so unfortunately we have not yet achieved the kind of world in which such thinking is “self-evidently” immoral. (This reflects very badly on all of us.) I’d like, then, to go through Rosner’s argument paragraph by paragraph, to show how he constructs his defense of murder, why it might be persuasive to people, and why it fails and should horrify everyone.

Let’s begin:


ROSNER: It is customary to adopt an apologetic tone when scores of people have been killed, as they were this week in Gaza. But I will avoid this sanctimonious instinct and declare coldly: Israel had a clear objective when it was shooting, sometimes to kill, well-organized “demonstrators” near the border. Israel was determined to prevent these people — some of whom are believed to have been armed, most apparently encouraged by their radical government — from crossing the fence separating Israel from Gaza. That objective was achieved.

A few notes about what Rosner does here.

First, he says that while it would be “customary” to sound apologetic about a massacre, he will avoid the “instinct” to be “sanctimonious” and admit that Israel had a “clear objective,” which it “achieved.” I put these words in quotes because each serves a particular function: “customary” makes it sound as if regret over deaths is mere arbitrary tradition rather than a humane reaction to suffering, “instinct” suggests that being saddened by suffering is irrational sentimentality, to be contrasted with cool reason. “Sanctimonious” suggests that feeling bad when your country murders people is mere self-interested virtue-signaling instead of the basic response of a moral human being. “Achieving objectives” is bureaucratic language, business language, a softer way to describe Israel’s actions that sounds rational (far more so than “shooting people through the neck,” which is what actually happened).

We see, then, that in propaganda, as many words as possible should be carefully shaded in order to leave the impression that one is simply being reasonable and cool-headed, as opposed to the touchy-feely saps who cry when they see people being shot.


Propaganda Suggestion #1: You are not ideological, you are just following Reason where it leads you. Those who disagree with you are soft, irrational, emotional, feminine.

Elsewhere, we see other manipulative rhetorical tactics: “demonstrators” in quotes, and phrases like “believed to have been armed” and “apparently encouraged by their radical government.” “Apparently” and “believed to” are good ways to avoid having to present actual evidence; it doesn’t matter whether something was true if it was “believed to have been true.” “Radical” is another good propaganda word: You don’t actually have to analyze whether the other party has sound claims under moral principle and international law. It’s enough to say that they are “radical.” It’s an empty term, though: Radical just means “far away from mainstream orthodoxy.” If mainstream orthodoxy turns out to be horrendous, the radicals are correct. (The Radical Republicans, for instance, were vindicated by history.)


Propaganda Suggestion #2: You are being undermined and assaulted by radicals. It is said that the radicals are violent. It is believed that they are deranged and must be stopped.

ROSNER: Of course, the death of humans is never a happy occasion. Still, I feel no need to engage in ingénue mourning. Guarding the border was more important than avoiding killing, and guarding the border is what Israel did successfully.

Ingénue”: grief is weakness, femininity, naïveté. Grief makes you a little French girl. 
Notice that the effects here are not achieved through arguments, but through subtle subconscious word association. Then, a false dichotomy: Either you believe in guarding the border, or you believe in “avoiding killing.” But there is no actual explanation of why those who crossed the border couldn’t have been arrested. 
Imagine if our own Border Patrol simply started shooting everyone in the head the moment they crossed into the United States. I dearly hope we would instantly recognize that “Well, guarding the border was more important than avoiding killing” would be no defense at all. In fact, Rosner’s op-ed is terrifying because the New York Times is presenting as reasonable an argument that, if accepted, could easily be used to justify the mass killing of undocumented people trying to cross into the United States. “Security” is so powerful and vague an idea that it can be used to justify absolutely anything.

ROSNER: Why so many thousands of Gazans decided to approach that fence, even though they were warned that such acts would be lethal, is beyond comprehension. Excuses and explanations are many: The event was declared a “march of return,” supposedly an attempt by Palestinian refugees to return to their places of origin within Israel; it was tied in many news reports to the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem; it was explained by referring to undesirable living conditions in Gaza and the lack of prospects for improvement; it was explained as related to intra-Palestinian political conflict and to the need of Hamas, the terrorist group that runs Gaza, to divert the attention from its many failures. All of those things may have some degree of validity, but they don’t explain why people joined these demonstrations.

Gazans’ actions are apparently “beyond comprehension.” This single phrase is worth dwelling on. One step in dehumanizing people is setting them beyond our capacity to empathize with, whether it’s “animal” gang members or those with a “disease of the Arab mind.” Once people are placed “beyond reason,” then violence against them is easier to justify, because it’s The Only Language They Can Possibly Understand. This is constantly happening with Palestinians and Arabs generally: They are treated as unfathomable and fanatical, irrational monomaniacs without human complexity. Notably, Rosner sees his lack of comprehension as a sign of Gazans’ failure to be comprehensible rather than his own failure to comprehend them. Usually, motives are not totally inscrutable when we exercise empathy, as everyone is human, but propaganda is constantly attempting to portray the Enemy as fundamentally different from us, unreasoning brutes and barbarians who do not have sophisticated reasons for what they do.

Propaganda Suggestion #3: The enemy is not reasonable like you. They cannot be understood, for their motives are not rational. They are dark, violent, terrifying, deranged, You only have two options: Kill or be killed. Any killing you do is therefore necessary by definition.

We can also note, in this paragraph, a bit of nakedly fallacious reasoning: 
From the fact that there were several causes of the Palestinian protests, Rosner concludes that they are inexplicable and that the proffered causes must be “excuses.” Then there’s his statement that none of the listed factors “explain why people joined these demonstrations.” 
Unlivable conditions in Gaza combined with the anniversary of Palestinians’ expulsion from their ancestral land certainly seems enough to me, but those things make Palestinians sound quite rational so naturally they can’t be accepted as explanations.

ROSNER: Obviously, the people of Gaza weren’t seriously thinking that Israel would give them a “right of return” if they only marched in numbers large enough. And they probably realized that United States [sic] would not rescind its decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem, either. And they knew that for the economic situation to improve something more systematic must take place than protests. So why did they march, and why were some of them killed? They marched because they are desperate and frustrated. Because living in Gaza is not much better than living in hell. They marched against Israel because they dislike Israel, and because they cannot march against anyone else. Israel puts Gaza under siege, bombs it occasionally, and is still remembered as an occupying power and as the country whose establishment made many Palestinians consider themselves refugees to this day. They marched to Israel because the alternative to marching against Israel would be to march against Hamas, a regime whose actions and policies make Gaza suffer. But if people had dared do that, their government would no doubt have killed scores of them without much hesitation.

One of the remarkable features of propaganda is that it often contains the seeds of its own refutation. 
In figuring out that someone is distorting the truth, sometimes you do not even need to have observed the truth with your own eyes, because they have inadvertently revealed it themselves. For example, in a new article on the Vietnam War, I quote extensively from a book defending the war in order to show why it was so immoral, because the book cites numerous examples of Americans committing atrocities (though the author then gives arguments for why these atrocities were justified and legal). 
Look at this remarkable sentence: 
“Israel puts Gaza under siege, bombs it occasionally, and is still remembered as an occupying power and as the country whose establishment made many Palestinians consider themselves refugees to this day.” 
Now, the phrasing here is contorted (“whose establishment made them consider themselves refugees” is a funny way of describing the mass expulsion of 700,000 people and “is still remembered as an occupying power” suggests the occupation is over when it isn’t). But a “siege,” well, that seems like a pretty good reason to be upset! Living in Gaza is not much better than living in hell and it’s under siege by Israel (which “bombs it occasionally”).

One important tool for figuring out how to apply moral principles consistently is imagining how arguments would sound in other analogous situations. 
I previously recommended examining the case of the Boston Massacre; another instance in which the protesters were violent against an occupying force but that violence in no way justified the killings that resulted. Another important point of comparison is the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, in which South African police opened fire on a crowd of anti-Apartheid demonstrators, killing 69 people. The crowd there was not entirely peaceful either. But the statement of a South African police commander is instructive
“the native mentality does not allow them to gather for a peaceful demonstration. For them to gather means violence.” 
We understand, or at least I hope we do, (1) that conditions of Apartheid meant that violence against the state was justified, (2) that small-scale violence by the occupied does not justify mass killing by the occupier (3) that the occupier is inherently in the wrong to begin with, and (4) that generalizations about the inherently violent native mentality are just prejudice, are not supported by evidence, and are used constantly every time one is looking for a reason to keep a group of the powerless and oppressed from storming the gates.

Propaganda Suggestion #4: The Enemy’s violence cannot possibly be a result of your actions. To suggest that you are responsible is to side with the Enemy. Violence directed against you is unjustified. Irrational. Terrorism. Violence directed against them is restrained. Proportionate. Unavoidable. Self-defense.

Reading history is useful for learning to recognize spurious arguments, because the same tactics are invoked by governments over and over. The Civil Rights Movement were constantly being called radicals and agitators. Putting “demonstrators” in quotes is a good way to delegitimize a protest without having to engage its arguments. Rosner says the Palestinians’ actions don’t make sense, since they must have known their demonstration was futile; “you must be irrational, since you can’t possibly win” is another time-honored method for trying to portray dissent as insane.

ROSNER: Israel has a soft belly. Unlike all the other regimes in the Middle East, it accepts basic Western values and thus tries to minimize casualties. It also has an impressive military power, so it’s easy to accuse it of “disproportional response.” And of course, it is the country that could lift the siege on Gaza.

Israel is just a big soft teddy. Here we see a classic technique for justifying crimes by governments: The difference between us and them is that we have values while they don’t. Current Affairs writer Daniel Walden has an article in our new issue on why the whole idea of “the West” and “Western values” is a fiction, which I won’t go into more detail about here. But as Norman Finkelstein has pointed out, even Henrich Himmler used the formulation we kill but we are sad about it and we do it only because we are so good and decent. Himmler said of extermination that “to have executed this ghastly charge and to have remained decent, it has earned us a glorious page in the annals of history. We have the moral right, we have the duty to our people to kill this people who would kill us. We have carried out this most difficult task out of love of our people and we have suffered no defect within us.” I say this not to make comparisons with Nazi actions, but to make a point about how Look-How-Much-We-Care political rhetoric can’t be trusted, because even people who do evil things will make noises designed to show that they are actually virtuous and decent.

Propaganda Suggestion #5: Tell people not to be ashamed of violence against the enemy. Shame is squeamishness, cowardice, betrayal.

The question of whether Israel “minimizes casualties” and engages in “disproportional response” is, of course, a factual one, rather than one that can be settled through arguments like “We have good Western values” and “our military is big so of course people accuse us of being disproportionate.” The first piece of evidence that Israel does not, in fact, attempt to “minimize casualties” is… all the casualties. That doesn’t settle the issue automatically, but for an incredibly thorough look at whether this is true, I strongly recommend Finkelstein’s new book on Gaza
Finkelstein goes through each of Israel’s major operations in Gaza, and examines whether the claim of casualty minimization actually holds up. This is important, because often the argumentation used to defend Israel is circular: Israel must have minimized casualties, because it has the most moral army in the world
Good people do not commit crimes, we are good, therefore we could not have committed a crime. 
The facts on the ground do not come into it; you don’t need the facts if you know already that good people would never do bad things. But Finkelstein quotes extensively from IDF soldiers who served during Operation Protective Edge and present eyewitness testimony that force was used indiscriminately in a way that was not designed to minimize casualties. (In fact, it’s strange that Rosner says Israel is concerned with minimizing casualties, given that he also insists Israel is more concerned with making sure no Gazan ever sets foot in Israel than with “avoiding killing.”) 
IDF veteran testimonies from Breaking the Silence reveal “yawning gaps between what the IDF and government spokespersons told the public about the combat scenarios, and the reality described by the soldiers that took part in the operation.” This may be hard to contemplate, if you’re convinced that the World’s Most Moral Army™ could not tell a lie. But you don’t have to think Israel is uniquely duplicitous and malevolent, it’s enough to simply accept I.F. Stone’s warning that all governments lie and Israel is likely to be just as flawed, callous, and unconscious of its own biases as every other powerful state in the history of human civilization.

Propaganda Suggestion #6: The difference between us and them is that we cry when we shoot. With us, killing is the exception, with them it is the rule. We have good civilized values and love life. They have barbaric values and love death.

ROSNER: Critics of Israel tend to mix two types of complaints about its actions in recent days. Why did Israel shoot, rather than use other means of preventing people from crossing the border? And why does Israel isolate Gaza, making its economic situation so dire and its population so desperate? These criticisms must be answered separately, as one — the shooting — is tactical, and the other, the isolation, is strategic.

Just one quick point here: “critics tend to mix.” Rosner could say “there are two main criticisms.” But “critics tend to mix” implies that the critics are confused. Rosner is not “responding to the two major arguments,” he is helping poor naïve, sentimental, baffled people understand reason. Phrases like this may seem trivial, but I want to convey just how important “framing” is (just as much as actual substantive argument) in propaganda. The arguments themselves are often weak, with critical points left unaddressed, but the arguments only do part of the work in persuading the audience. Subtly hinting that everyone who disagrees with you is a confused weepy twerp is equally crucial.

First, let’s begin with undisputed facts: The marches were at least partly orchestrated by Hamas. And according to Hamas, most demonstrators killed by Israel were members of the group. This was not a peaceful act of protest. This was a provocation by an organization known to engage in acts of terrorism. Thus, Israel had no choice but to treat it as an attempt not just to violate its territorial integrity but also to attack it.

Oh boy, look at this chain of reasoning, from “first” to “thus.” 
From the beginning, “undisputed,” so anyone who argues with anything in this paragraph is an irrational idiot who hates facts. Halfway through, though, we go from facts to inferences and speculation. 
The marches were partly organized by Hamas. Hamas is not peaceful. Therefore the marches were not peaceful and were a provocation. Therefore they were an attack. Therefore there was no choice but to behave as if the country was under attack. 
Slippages like this occur a lot in propaganda. You start with an uncontroversial-sounding statement like “Every country has the right to defend itself against violent attacks from outside,” but by giving particular words expansive definitions, you can defend something that is, if analyzed honestly, extremely controversial. 
If “the right to defend itself” means “use any amount of force it feels is necessary” and “violent attacks” mean “teenagers setting tires on fire” or “people cutting holes in a fence” then the concept of “national self-defense” comes to mean “the mass murder of people who have caused no actual injuries to anyone” without anybody noticing the drift.

Propaganda Suggestion #7: All you want is what any reasonable person would want. You just want to protect yourself. Is this so much to ask?

The facts on the ground disappear so easily. Once we have invoked the word “Hamas,” we need not inquire into how the deaths occurred, whether the rules of engagement were followed, what the 60 people were doing when they died, etc. We can draw inferences that the deaths were justified without knowing exactly what happened. Yet the closer we do get to the actual facts, the less comfortable these inferences seem. 
Sky News traveled to Gaza and reported that Israel claims the right to “shoot anyone approaching the border fence during the protests, having warned them with leaflets,” though its rules of engagement are secret. A former IDF sniper said that Israeli gunmen were “shooting at unarmed Palestinians when they are 300m away from the fence” and pronounced himself horrified. 
It’s not enough to simply prove that the dead were “Hamas”; Hamas is the majority government in Palestine and the fact that someone belongs to it does not grant license to murder them. If a person is in Hamas and is firing a gun at you then obviously you have the right of self-defense, but if a person is in Hamas and is walking too close to a wall you do not have the right to snipe them from afar. (However, the widely-repeated claim that 50 of the 62 dead were “Hamas” should be examined critically. Israel points to statements by Hamas itself boasting of the number of its members among the dead—the original quote from a Hamas official was “if 62 people were martyred, Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” The number appears to be speculative—“if”—and the official suggests that Hamas is not acting for self-interested reasons because it is sacrificing so much. It should be immediately obvious that both Israel and Hamas have an interest in insisting the dead were Hamas. Hamas wants to prove to the Palestinian people that it is making sacrifices on their behalf, and Israel wants to prove that the dead were terrorists. But the fact that neither is interested in finding out the truth does not make the convenient story the true one, and given its obvious self-interest, Hamas claiming the dead as its own is insufficient evidence.) 
 Bonus: Take our quiz— 

ROSNER: Israel had to take precautions against its soldiers and citizens being killed or kidnapped. It had to make sure that thousands of Palestinians did not force a total shutdown of southern Israel until all infiltrators were located and detained. Knowing Hamas and its tactics, Israel assumed — for good reason — that letting the marchers cross the fence and detaining them later would have had worse consequences: Hamas operatives masquerading as demonstrators would hurt Israelis.

Again, slippage: “take precautions” = shoot from afar, make no attempt to arrest. And again, it’s useful to consider a parallel. Imagine that Donald Trump’s border patrol massacre 62 people trying to cross the U.S. border from Mexico. Trump says 50 of the 62 were MS-13. MS-13 agrees. Asked why it was necessary to kill them all in cold blood, Trump says: The U.S. must take precautions, and make sure that an influx of violent infiltrators did not force us to totally shut down the southern half of the country. Knowing MS-13, we assumed that people would get hurt if they crossed. You can see here that none of this answers the actual question posed: “Why were they shot?” Another classic feature of propaganda: Claim that you were “forced” to do something, that you had no agency. Shutting down the entire Southern half of the country because a handful of 19-year-old Gazans wangled their way through a fence would be an insane overreaction, but Rosner suggests it’s what would have to happen.

Propaganda Suggestion #8: There is no alternative. What is the alternative? Can you think of one? No. Because there is none.

ROSNER: Of course, the question of Israel’s larger policy toward Gaza remains. But the answer is hardly a secret: Israel pulled out of Gaza more than a decade ago. All it wants from Gaza is peace and quiet. But what it gets from Gaza is different: It is an attempt by Hamas to build a base for violence against Israel. To prevent this, Gaza must be isolated until its leaders are replaced or until they realize that their war against Israel hurts the population they rule more than it hurts Israel. And yes, this means that people in Gaza suffer more than they should — not because of Israel, because of Hamas.

All Israel wants from Gaza is “peace and quiet” (and to “bomb it occasionally,” remember). Why won’t these rowdy, insane, violent Arabs just be quiet? Again, the answer is in the text itself:

Rosner says (1) that Israel pulled out of Gaza and left it to its own devices and (2) that Gaza is under “siege” and that Israel is trying to isolate the population so that it suffers to the point where it will oust its leaders.

Rosner knows full well that the United Nations still considers Gaza occupied, because of the degree of control Israel exercises over it. As the Israeli magazine +972 explains
“Israel controls life in the Gaza Strip in an astoundingly diverse array of ways. The Israeli Air Force controls the airspace over Gaza. Israel’s navy controls sea travel to and from the coastal strip. The Israeli army controls all of the currently accessible land crossings and decides who can travel through them. Israel’s army controls the only terminals for commercial imports and exports and it decides what goods, including food items, can be imported and exported through them. Israel controls Gaza’s population registry, and it even controls freedom of movement inside the Gaza Strip. In some cases the army even controls the right to protest inside Gaza.” 
Even David Cameron, who Haaretz called the most pro-Israel British prime minister ever, called Gaza an “open-air prison,” and if you are keeping people in a prison, it does not matter whether the guards are walking around inside or standing atop the walls. It is clear that Gaza is not being given autonomy, and in that situation one can ask whether “building a base for violence” might be justified. Certainly, if a neighboring country were controlling American airspace and putting us under siege in an attempt to force us to change our leadership, we would feel that violence was defensive rather than offensive.

ROSNER: It would be dishonest for me to pretend that the interests of Palestinians are at the top of the list of my priorities. I want what’s good for Israel and I expect my government to have similar priorities. Nevertheless, I believe Israel’s current policy toward Gaza ultimately benefits not only Israel but also the Palestinians.

Nationalism is an intoxicating drug. It allows us to say things that, from a neutral perspective, would sound morally horrifying, but which seem innocuous. Valuing the lives of your countrymen over others can seem natural and defensible. But the consequences of this thinking are horrific. In the Vietnam War, for instance, Americans valued American lives so much more than the lives of Vietnamese people that many felt almost any amount of Vietnamese deaths were justified if they prevented one American death. 
Because Americans care less about people in Mexico, we have paid zero attention even as our own country’s actions have contributed to horrific violence south of our border. Prioritizing your own nation’s self-interest is particularly damaging when your nation happens to already be comparatively wealthy and powerful.

Rosner’s thinking, which devalues the lives of people who are different from him, is a recipe for the casual infliction of suffering. We can see the fruits of this reasoning in Rosner’s defense of the massacre: Any amount of Palestinian death, however large, was justified to prevent any amount of risk to Israelis, however small.

Of course, it does not benefit the Palestinians who dream about “returning,” or in other words, about eliminating Israel. But it is the only way forward for those who have more realistic expectations. The people of Gaza are miserable. They deserve sympathy and pity. But looking for Israel to remedy their problems will only exacerbate their misery. Expecting Israel to solve their problem will only lead them to delay what they must do for themselves. 
There are two reasons for that. First, denying Hamas any achievement is the only way to ultimately persuade the Palestinians to abandon the futile battle for things they cannot get (“return,” control of Jerusalem, the elimination of Israel) and toward policies that will benefit their people. If Hamas is rewarded for organizing violent events, if the pressure on it is reduced because of the demonstrations, the result will be more demonstrations — and therefore more bloodshed, mostly Palestinian. 
Second, only an Israel that has the ability to feel secure about its borders could engage in any serious talks with the Palestinians. As Ehud Barak, a former prime minister and a critic of Israel’s current government, put it
“Those who believe in having separation from the Palestinians, getting into a peace agreement, having borders — you have to make clear that borders are respected.” 
The Jewish sages had a famous, if not necessarily pleasant, saying that went something like this: Those who are kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind. As harsh as this sounds amid the scenes from Gaza, as problematic as this seems to good-intentioned people whose instinct is to sympathize with the weaker side in every conflict, sometimes there is no better choice than being clear, than being firm, than drawing a line that cannot be crossed by those wanting to harm you. By fire, if necessary.

Remember that 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their land. The reason that people like Rosner say that the “right of return” means the “destruction of Israel” is that if Palestinians were allowed to return to the land their families were expelled from, their demographic numbers would prevent Israel from being able to maintain an ethnostate. It is again worth considering a parallel: In South Africa, we would give little credence to the argument “But allowing full integration would destroy the ethnostate.” As a practical matter, of course, the right of return is indeed almost certainly “futile.” But “Under no circumstances are we going to grant your demands” is not the same as “Your demands have no merit,” and note that Rosner evades the question of whether the Palestinians have a just claim and instead addresses whether they have a pragmatic one.

Propaganda Suggestion #9: We have tried everything. We have given everything we can give. Anything more would literally destroy us. Why do they insist on exploiting our generosity? What more could we possibly do?

Propaganda often conflates “can not” with “will not.” “Israel cannot solve this problem for you” is what is said; what is meant is “Israel refuses to solve this problem.” This is what corporations do all the time: “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m afraid we can’t do that, it’s our policy” just means “We have made a decision not to do that.” Propaganda shifts responsibility, not by providing compelling moral arguments, but merely by declaring over and over that the other party is the one getting in the way.

We have reached the end of Rosner’s defense of murder. It did not succeed in defending murder. We still don’t know why it’s alright to have snipers fire at an occupied people when they try to break out of their festering prison. We certainly know that Shmuel Rosner does not feel bad about it. We also know that “the Jewish sages” sound like their wisdom is overhyped; plenty of people are kind to the cruel and have never ended up being cruel to the kind, this ancient aphorism just sounds good but is actually stupid. But we have not heard any compelling arguments for why a country can lay siege to a million people, “bomb them occasionally,” and then kill them when they show up at the wall to throw rocks.


Propaganda Suggestion #10: The Enemy’s suffering is their fault. They made you hurt them. If they had not provoked you, you would not have had to kill them. In fact, the fact that they made you hurt them makes them even more monstrous.

I need to make a confession to you, though. Let me tell you the honest reason why I have spent so much time pedantically combing through an op-ed that plenty of people would just write off as “disgusting.” I did it because, for a moment, I almost found Rosner persuasive. Or at least, he nearly sounded reasonable; after all, his writing was clear, he had links to sources, he followed the conventions of a Sober-Minded New York Times Op-Ed. And that terrifies me. The truth is, propaganda is effective. The arguments don’t have to stand up to scrutiny; it works in part simply by repeating, over and over, “We are Good, the Evil wants to destroy us, there is no alternative there is no alternative there is no alternative.” Israel-Palestine is not one of the issues that occupies an especially significant part of my time, and ordinarily I would not feel the need to point out at length that yet another human government is abusing people and calling it justice. Rosner’s op-ed, though, gave me the chills. I saw a terrible future in it: If fascism ever comes back full-force, you will see all of these tactics hauled out to justify whatever bloodshed ensues. I don’t think that Mexican border example is too far away from reality. Donald Trump is already doing everything he can to brutalize and devalue immigrants, it’s not unrealistic to me to think that if things got worse, after a few years there could be killings. That’s why it’s so important to figure out how this stuff works, how language is used to present a picture of the world in which things that are horrific in reality become moral in the mind.

Nathan J. Robinson is the editor of Current Affairs.


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