Saturday, 27 October 2018

SYRIAN WAR REPORT – OCTOBER 26, 2018: US MILITARY PLANE OPERATED UAVS THAT ATTACKED RUSSIAN AIRBASE IN SYRIA

A US Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane operated 13 unmanned aerial vehicles that attacked Russia’s Hmeymim airbase in Syria on January 6, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Alexander Fomin said at a plenary session of the Beijing Xiangshan Forum on security on October 25.
“Thirteen UAVs moved according to common combat battle deployment, operated by a single crew. During all this time the American Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane patrolled the Mediterranean Sea area for eight hours,” Colonel General Alexander stated adding that when the UAVs faced Russian “electronic warfare screen, they moved away to some distance, received the corresponding orders and began to be operated out of space and receiving help in finding the so-called holes through which they started penetrating.”
Despite this, seven UAVs were downed, and control over six drones was gained through electronic warfare systems.
Colonel General Fomin also emphasized that it’s needed “to put an end to the provision of money, weapons, equipment and various substances to terrorists, including chemical ingredients used during the so-called chemical attacks that are later blamed on the Syrian government.” He noted that most of these tools and means were produced in foreign countries, particularly NATO member states.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman vowed that Israel “will not accept any restrictions” on Israeli freedom of operation in Syria. Liberman commented on the recent reports by Israeli media that Russia wants to reshape the format of the Moscow-Tel-Aviv contacts and demands Israel to provide earlier warning of strikes.
After the incident with the Russian IL-20 military plane in Syria, Moscow already noted that Israel ignores the existing hot-line agreement and provides a false and untimely info on its actions in the war-torn country. The Russian Defense Ministry openly pointed out that the IL-20 plane was downed by Syrian air defense fire because of “hostile actions” of Israel. In response, Russia supplied S-300 systems to the Syrian military.
This week Israel’s ImageSat International has released a group of satellite images alleging that the deployment site of the Syrian S-300 system is located near the village of Masyaf in the province of Hama.
The situation remains tense in the Idlib demilitarization zone where militant groups continue shelling targets in the government–held area. The situation is especially complicated in the countryside of Aleppo where the Syrian Army is even forced to carry out active retaliatory strikes.
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The Real Reason the Knives are Out for MBS

By Whitney Webb
Source
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — Amid a chorus of condemnation directed against his leadership following the slaying of controversial journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – popularly known by the moniker MBS – condemned Khashoggi’s murder in no uncertain terms on Wednesday, calling the deed a “heinous crime that cannot be justified” and promising “justice” for those who killed him. MBS’ statement came after dozens of media reports, the majority of which had cited anonymous sources from within the Turkish and U.S. governments, revealed the grisly details of the journalist’s final moments and the subsequent attempt by his killers to cover their tracks.
Yet, while MBS may expect the international calls for his ouster to lessen following his recent admission and apparent behind the scenes deal-making, he is likely mistaken. Indeed, much of the outrage directed at MBS for his alleged role in Khashoggi’s death has little to do with the murder itself, which is being used as a pretext to justify replacing MBS with a more “reliable” tyrant to serve as Saudi crown prince.
This is because the real reason the knives have come out for MBS is not a single extrajudicial killing – a practice the Saudis have long used with impunity – but instead the fact that, in the six weeks prior to Khashoggi’s sordid fate, MBS not only managed to anger the entire U.S. military-industrial complex, he also enraged the world’s most powerful financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs and CitiGroup.
In a recent report on the Khashoggi affair, MintPress detailed how MBS had endangered the $110 billion weapons deal with the United States that Trump has often touted as proof that he is creating jobs and is a proven “deal maker.” However, far from a signed contract, the “deal” was instead a collection of letters of interest and letters of intent. Over a year since the deal was first announced, it has since become clear that MBS no longer intends to purchase all $110 billion, as shown by his decision to let the deadline pass on the purchase of the $15 billion Lockheed Martin THAAD missile system. The Saudis let that deadline come and go on September 30, just two days before Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never came out.
However, it turns out that — a few weeks before the Lockheed deadline had come and gone — MBS had endangered another lucrative deal, one that was valued in the trillions and seems to have been a major factor in his rapid ascent to the powerful position of crown prince.

Who really crowned the prince?

Back in 2015, there were already concerns in international intelligence that an imminent power struggle in the Saudi royal family was brewing. Notably, concern within some intelligence communities regarding the likely rise of MBS was so high that Germany’s intelligence agency BND publicly released a memo slamming MBS as a destabilizing influence who was responsible for the new Saudi “impulsive policy of intervention.” It went on to warn that MBS, then head of the Saudi Defense Ministry and an economic council aimed at overhauling the country’s oil-dependent economy, was seeking to dramatically concentrate power in his hands. Doing so, the memo warned, “harbours a latent risk that in seeking to establish himself in the line of succession in his father’s lifetime, he may overreach.” The memo was right of course, but it largely fell on deaf ears.
Then, last June, MBS made his move and deposed his predecessor Mohammed bin Nayef after hours of interrogation, threats and alleged torture, becoming the new crown prince in the process. Bin Nayef – who has remained under house arrest for over two years — had been a close partner of the U.S. — particularly the CIA, which bestowed upon bin Nayef one of its most prestigious medals. As Federico Pieraccini recently noted at Strategic Culture, bin Nayef had long been the CIA’s “go-to man” in Saudi Arabia and had helped the CIA use the guise of “counterterrorism” to fund al Qaeda and other radical Wahhabi groups to wreak havoc on countries in the region, particularly Syria, that had become the targets of American empire.
Normally, the ouster of a Washington-allied Crown Prince close to the CIA would have dramatically shaken the Washington establishment. However, there was little public complaint from the American political elite over MBS’ dramatic rise to power. Instead, the U.S. clearly supported MBS’ new power, as demonstrated by the fact that President Donald Trump called MBS to “congratulate him on his recent elevation” the day he became Crown Prince, and the two subsequently pledged “close cooperation” in security and economics. Some analysts have since speculated that the U.S. government had actually helped facilitate MBS’ palace coup given that, just a few months prior, MBS – not bin Nayef — had met with Trump in Washington.
Others have suggested that powerful Western financial interests were behind MBS’ rise, given that the king’s son had announced his willingness to sell Saudi state assets to the highest bidder in a January 2016 interview with the Rothschild-owned Economista little more than six months before he became crown prince. The interview certainly made it clear to the international elite that MBS was willing to support neoliberal reforms that had been rejected by Saudi royals in the past. Indeed, wrapped within his economic reform program known as “Vision 2030,” MBS offered the Western elite something they had long coveted but had never been able to obtain. He agreed to privatize Saudi-state-held assets, including the biggest cash-cow of them all – Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Aramco.

MBS – the “reformer” who wasn’t

Though the media has long spun Vision 2030 as MBS’ “ambitious” plan to wean the Saudi economy off its dependency on oil, the plan itself is actually a free-for-all for private interests and involves the neoliberalization of Saudi state-owned assets. Among its pillars are the opening of Saudi financial markets to Wall Street and the privatization of essentially everything in the Gulf Kingdom, including healthcare and, of course, Aramco.
The fact that Vision 2030 was essentially a neoliberal wish-list should not come as a big surprise, however, given that it was based off a 2015 report authored by the McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the U.S.-based consulting firm McKinsey & Company — the “most prestigious” consulting firm in the world, known for its “neoliberal solutions to real-world problems”.
According to a report published last year in Foreign Policy, “McKinsey has cultivated a generation of young Arab princelings enamored with Western-style economic reforms, and with thoroughly mixed results.” However, this was especially true of Saudi Arabia, where MBS cultivated even closer ties with the firm and has relied on it, not just for the blueprint of Vision 2030 but also for choosing his new cabinet following his rise to the position of Crown Prince as well as a list of prominent Saudi dissidents who were later repressed.
In addition, McKinsey’s influence goes far beyond the firm itself, as its past employees or “alumni” go on to serve powerful positions in the corporate world or in government. Though the extent of McKinsey’s influence in helping MBS rise to become crown prince is unknown, it is certainly a possibility that the firm had used its influence to “grease the wheels” in order to give near-ultimate authority to one of these “young Arab princelings,” who would embrace neoliberal reforms that older generations would not.
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives for a press conference in Riyadh, on April 25, 2016. Photo | SPA
Vision 2030 certainly seemed to win MBS the affection of the international elite across the board — and it seemed that the new Crown Prince enjoyed the limelight, at least for a while. However, it seems reality began to set in for MBS, and he has consequently spent the past several months looking for a way to indefinitely delay the plan’s implementation.
This first became clear earlier this year following speculation in July that the Saudi Aramco Initial Public Offering (IPO) — i.e., the beginning of the partial privatization of the Saudi state oil company through the selling of shares — may not materialize after all. Then, it was announced in late August that the entire IPO would be shelved. Bloomberg called this “the most significant reversal in Prince Mohammed’s plans” and added:
Rather than marking a watershed in one of the most ambitious economic projects in history, it [the shelving of the Aramco IPO] now highlights the unpredictability of the country under a young leader who has centralized political power in his own hands since becoming de facto ruler a little over a year ago.”
As a result, what would have been the biggest IPO in history was called off overnight. The move was surely a disappointment to Trump, who had personally lobbied MBS to list Aramco on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), as doing so would have awarded the NYSE with the largest stock market listing ever. However, it was a much, much bigger disappointment for the behemoth financial institutions that had worked frantically to secure their roles in the deal — Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and CitiGroup, among others — as the shelving of the IPO meant that all their work on the deal would now go without compensation, as banks are typically only paid when such deals are finalized. In other words, MBS’ decision to put the IPO indefinitely on hold meant that the most powerful, politically-connected banks had essentially been forced to work for free.
It seems that MBS sensed the animosity he had caused in some of the world’s most powerful financial institutions, given that, just a few weeks later, he offered Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and CitiGroup a prominent role in Aramco’s new plans to buy a majority stake in the Saudi petrochemical company Saudi Basic Industries Corp (Sabic). As part of that deal, Aramco has considered selling bonds in what could become the largest sale of corporate debt ever. However that Aramco-Sabic deal, valued at $70 billion, is still significantly less than the $100 billion that the Aramco IPO was set to generate.
More importantly, the deal shows that MBS got cold feet in his privatization plans, as having a state-owned company (Aramco) buy a majority stake in a private Saudi company (Sabic) is the complete opposite of what MBS had promised in the months prior to his rise to become Saudi crown prince. Indeed, as Bloomberg noted at the time:
The [Aramco] bond sale would give Saudi Arabia some of the financial payoff of an IPO, though without having to share ownership with international investors — or revealing information the kingdom would rather keep private.”
Thus, it seems that it was the privatization of Aramco that had MBS spooked.
Far beyond the cancellation of the IPO itself — MBS has endangered other parts of the plan that these powerful financial interests had been counting on for well over a year. That includes Vision 2030’s plan to increase the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) — which is managed by a group of HSBC and Bank of America directors and a CitiGroup investment banking alumnus — from its current $230 billion in assets to a massive $2 trillion. The dramatic increase in the fund’s size would make the PIF the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. Without that injection of cash into the PIF from the Aramco IPO, media reports have warned of a “ripple effect” on the U.S. economy, including massive U.S. tech companies like Uber, given that the PIF has invested heavily in such companies.
Evidence has since emerged that MBS knows that these powerful banks are still angry despite his efforts to placate them. On October 5, just a few days after Khashoggi’s murder, MBS promised a new Aramco IPO within a few years, this time valued at $2 trillion. However, media reports on that announcement made it clear that Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup and the like weren’t convinced.
Indeed, with the entire privatization effort now in doubt, so too is the estimated $6 trillion in direct investments from powerful interests that had been planned to fund the privatization schemes that comprise the entirety of Vision 2030. That figure could certainly explain why so much pressure has been levied against MBS as of late over Khashoggi. Indeed, given that the Saudis had butchered another dissident writer in 1979 in their Lebanese consulate without the same outrage that has resulted from Khashoggi’s murder, it is safe to say that the establishment’s outrage over this latest extrajudicial killing is motivated less by “human rights” than by trillions of dollars of capital.

Trouble in neoliberal paradise

While it is impossible to know MBS’ exact reason for getting cold feet in his once-ambitious plans to privatize the kingdom, we can guess. Indeed, there is a reason that MBS’ elders in the Saudi Royal family have long rejected neoliberal reforms and the mass privatization of their economy.
A 2016 report from Foreign Policy succinctly states why past Saudi Royals have avoided “free-market reforms” as the older generations of the House of Saud “understand the fragility of a monarchy whose brittle pillars rest on the quiescence of conservative clerics and a merchant class hostile to the free-market reforms that will undercut their privileges.” However, far more Saudis than just the “merchant class” have grown accustomed to the largesse of the Saudi state, as the majority of Saudi citizens benefit from Saudi state spending in the form of fuel subsidies, loans, free land, and public-sector jobs, among other boons. Indeed, half of the entire Saudi population is currently on welfare — welfare that depends on the wealth of the Saudi state and its oil revenue — while two-thirds of Saudis work in the public sector.
Of course, sharing oil profits with robber barons — as would have been the case in the partial privatization of Saudi Aramco — would reduce the amount of money the Saudi government dedicates annually to welfare programs and public-sector jobs to a significant degree. Notably, Vision 2030 also included “austerity programs” as part of its implementation, including tax increases and a significant reduction in the fuel subsidies given to ordinary Saudis.
However, less than a week after a handful of those austerity measures were implemented earlier this year, the Saudi government quickly eased them by increasing state-job salaries and launching a new economic stimulus program, after a “very negative” public response. Despite the government’s efforts to assuage the anger that austerity had caused, it was not enough and the outcry continued, forcing the Saudi government to fire the country’s water minister to absorb some of the outrage. The fierce public response seems to have given MBS his first real inkling that his “ambitious reforms” to privatize Saudi Arabia would not be so easy to implement, no matter how hard he had worked to crush dissent.
Another indication of why MBS backed out of privatization plans can be seen in what happened to other countries when their young princes, championed as “ambitious reformers,” had drunk the “McKinsey Kool-Aid.” As Salem Saif wrote at Jacobin, many of the Arab countries that had previously followed McKinsey-drafted plans for neoliberalization subsequently “became epicenters of the Arab Spring. Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Yemen — each was convulsed by demonstrations, often animated by economic grievances.”
In contrast, Saudi Arabia, with its state-owned and state-managed assets, had remained largely immune to these economically-spurred uprisings throughout the Middle East.
However, earlier this year, MBS learned the hard way from the hostile reception to his privatization rollout that being the West’s neoliberal darling comes at a high price, one that could imperil not just his position as Crown Prince but the entire Saudi government.

The search begins for a new prince who will play along

As a consequence of the Khashoggi incident, there have been several reports from prominent publications claiming that efforts are now underway to replace MBS as crown prince. One such report in France’s Le Figaro has stated that MBS is set to be “gradually” replaced by his even younger brother Khalid bin Salman, who has most recently served as the Saudi Ambassador to Washington. This choice is significant, as it shows that the powers-that-be are seeking to replace MBS with another McKinsey-bent “young Arab princeling” instead of the former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef or another elder of the House of Saud who would oppose the privatization that MBS had promised but failed to deliver.
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Prince Khalid bin Salman attends a White House dinner, June 6, 2018, in Washington. Andrew Harnik | AP
In Washington Post op-ed, Khalid bin Salman’s support for the neoliberal Vision 2030 plan is clear, as he called it “a comprehensive plan for economic diversification as well as social and cultural reform” and echoed his older brother in stating that “our old course was not sustainable.” Beyond his stated views in support of current Saudi policy, including the genocidal war the Saudis are waging in Yemen, not much else is known about Khalid, who has little political experience given his young age and his time spent as a fighter pilot in the Royal Saudi Air Force. Yet, in his capacity as Saudi ambassador, Khalid bin Salman has met with powerful Congressmen from both parties, as well as Lockheed Martin executives, cultivating personal ties in the process.
However, the Khashoggi incident has brought new scrutiny to Khalid bin Salman, given that he had personally met Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Washington in early 2018, around the same time that Khashoggi was creating Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), his new “democracy promotion” group targeting the kingdom. According to friends of Khashoggi who spoke to NBC News, the meeting was casual and friendly and lasted about 30 minutes. The topics of the discussion of the meeting are still unknown.
Will MBS be replaced? It certainly remains to be seen, as strong public pressure and political threats may yet guide the crown prince back to the neoliberal fold. Yet, what is clear is that MBS’ rise to power was backed by the international elite and the Trump administration based on the promise of these neoliberal reforms and the mass sale of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia. However, in the months before Khashoggi’s disappearance, MBS gravely endangered both of these deals, angering those that had backed his consolidation of power. Such a cadre of powerful interests will not prove easy to placate.
While it may certainly seem ironic and perhaps amusing to some that a tyrant like MBS has come under such strong pressure from the international elite, there is reason for concern. Indeed, if Vision 2030 is fully implemented — whether by MBS or his successor — forcing neoliberalism on the Saudi population is likely to make the country very unstable, as nearly occurred when MBS tried to implement it early this year.
The intense pressure from global power players may cause MBS to value his staying in power above all else, potentially prompting him to enact domestically unpopular economic “reforms” despite the outcry that will inevitably result. If MBS’ past decisions are any indication, he would use force to crush any outcry. If this takes place, we can expect many more to suffer a fate similar to Khashoggi’s, as Saudi Arabia would become an even more inhospitable place for dissidents.

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Will Turkey Shield Saudi Crown Prince from Khashoggi’s Murder?

Khashoggi’s murder was indeed pre-meditated and botched-up. Did Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman send a package deal to President Erdogan to shield the Crown Prince from the Murder? We speak with Professor As`ad AbuKhalil

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RT: Netanyahu - Past and Future-

GA: A great RT documentary covering the past and present of the Israeli PM, his ideological commitment, the current police probe into the Netanyahu family’s activity and more..
Youtube: The four-term Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been in office on and off since 1996. But the veteran politician is at risk of losing his grip on power after a series of corruption cases he’s linked to came to light. RT America correspondent Anya Parampil tracks his career from an Israeli diplomat to the leader of the right-wing Likud party, as well as corruption scandals surrounding first family members.

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Sins without Recourse, Beast without Remorse

October 26, 2018
by Norman Ball for The Saker Blog
“[W]e, as serious people, cannot examine the concrete problems that are thrown when the Russian Federation is accused of all mortal sins without recourse to the processes (norms) created for similar cases,” –from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s October 18th interview with RT France.
Russia labors under a West-imposed Original Sin that can obtain dispensation only with the former’s existential cessation. The root of this Sin is the root itself. Russia is Russia, after all. That cannot be rectified.
In light of this dead-stop, what can only be called an apriori –and fatal– naivete pervades much of the prescriptive analysis we read every day. If Putin would only hop or jump or swagger or dance (it differs from one sage to the next) then, we are assured, the properly calibrated gesture would elicit a jackpot of redemptive good will. Godot would pop over the horizon. The crisis would defuse.
Alas, this is an all-too-human read which, while perhaps befitting of a bygone era, falls short of the present moment’s activated spiritual Principalities.
Speaking of Godot, from the same interview that prefaces this essay, Lavrov resigns himself to a “serious, professional and non-propagandistic” discussion at some later time when the current “outbreak of political rage” abates. Whether or not he believes a terrestrial conclusion will arrive in time, we cannot know. He’s a poet. Is he a Christian? Lavrov, ever the consummate diplomat, is nonetheless obliged to sound the proper notes.
It remained for his boss, on the same day, to access otherworldly coordinates with the most astonishing rhetoric (Radio Free Europe called it, “more biblical than technical”) at a Sochi forum:
Putin is making the remarkable admission that if no honorable approach for Russia remains for recovering a constructive relationship with the West (and since crawling along a contritious path is out of the question), Heaven (or Hell) beckons in the wings for all parties.
For such a circumspect statesman to openly confess to The City of Man’s limitations in world affairs, and allow that God may have to sort it out on the other side, well, that’s a foreboding milestone. One shudders at what information he’s privy to as to warrant such a fatalistic statement of principle. Has the geopolitical tether truly run out?
Archetypes are the prefatory hoops through which all actions spring. With understandable forbearance (some armchair warriors would say belatedness), Putin has finally seized his end of the archetype of the apocalypse. (The gauntlet’s been lying on the ground for some time now; see the late Edward Edinger’s 2002 book of the same name). Nor can an utterances of this sort be retracted by secular communique. There it sits, in the global square, a white-hot psychic ember that must now be contended with.
My fellow prognosticators, this is not our parents’ geopolitics.
Know thy enemy. The snake never alters its stripes, though the prevailing terrain can at times abet its pattern. Like a boa constrictor, the implacable machine (Sartre) always awaits relaxation in its prey as a prelude to further tightening. Demonic eschatology continually splits the distance until it capitulates spasmodically within the claustrophobic space of the capstone. The pyramid is a progressively constricting geometry. There is no placating it. The Beast is an insistent geometric construct.
So it’s a form of madness to continually bemoan the rude particulars of the Beast’s blueprint. Would you kick a car for not being an airplane? The implacability is born of usury, an arithmetic pyramid that must have everything for itself.  Debt-money, eternally ravenous, is cursed to roam the earth paying its keep every minute of every day.
Don’t blame the debt-masters. Pity them. They’re the Machine’s most abject slaves. Witness their propensity for throwing themselves off buildings as a measure of unquenchable Babelian despair:
Master, come to my assistance!
Wrong I was in calling
Spirits, I avow,
For I find them galling,
Cannot rule them now.
–from The Sorceror’s Apprentice, Johann Goethe (tr. Paul Dyrsen)
What Russians must do, and admittedly it’s a problem, is to get out the way of their own country or else prostate themselves atop it. Andrei Fursov outlines the elite’s long-term interest in ‘Northern Eurasia’ (what amounts to Russia), as a post-apocalyptic, resource-rich life raft; what MacKinder might have called, the Heartland of the Heartland.
Mephistopheles comes by way of Sergie ‘the Snake’ Kudrin and his borrowed, if not outright mutinous, prescription.  (Scott Humor translates here):
“Therefore, today Russia’s foreign policy should be subordinated to the reduction of tension in our relations with other countries, and, at least, to the preservation or reduction of the sanctions regime, not to the build-up. Today I would measure the effectiveness of our foreign policy on this indicator.”
Of course selective subordination (of the foreign policy portfolio only) is tantamount to total capitulation further along. Ruslan Ostashko asks the obvious question rhetorically of Kudrin: “What will prevent the West from reinstating these sanctions back, after we make all those changes?” Well yes, what precedent –and please venture beyond Gorbachev’s unilateral dumping of the Brezhnev Doctrine for examples if you must– would compel anyone to think reciprocal accommodations ever arrive?
Anthropomorphic daydreams can never take the measure of the Beast. Left to themselves, human beings rest, commiserate, empathize and trade amicably among themselves with an innate sense of proportionality and fairness. The trouble is Paul’s Principalities, good and evil, never leave us to ourselves. Moreover these forces are vaulting increasingly to the fore as even Putin’s off-world meanderings reveal.
Faustian bargains are the West’s own jealous poison, thank you very much Mr. Kudrin. As such, they’re forever withheld from authentic Russian ingestion. Find your own poison in your own time, we might say, one civilization to another. To jump the tracks for ours would be a form of neo-Petrinism (manifested, in the present era, by doting Atlanticists like, well, Kudrin. Oswald Spengler would recognize him as Petrinism’s “artificial product made of stubborn material”.)
Spengler, more poet than historian, offers the penetrating eye of the stranger. His prescience for the Russian destiny is paraphrased by Kerry Bolton here:
The Russian soul is not the same as the Western Faustian, as Spengler called it, the ‘Magian’ of the Arabian civilization, or the Classical of the Hellenes and Romans. The Western Culture that was imposed on Russia by Peter the Great, what Spengler called Petrinism, is a veneer…The Russian soul expresses its own type of infinity, albeit not that of the Westerner’s Faustian soul, which becomes enslaved by its own technics at the end of its life-cycle.”
Many of those ‘technics’ fall under what Spengler called “money-thinking”. At the twilight of its life-cycle the West threatens to withhold its toxicity from all those who don’t ‘play fair’, plying its financial sanctions like an overused tool-set: fractional reserve banking, impudent debt-money that arrives ex nihilo seeking its keep from God-knows-where, leverage that belabors ever-narrowing denominators of intrinsic value.
When the Beast cannot steal, its existing purloined cache is re-leveraged, pacing frenetically until it can steal again. Somewhere in the bowels of the NY Fed behind iron-clad doors, guarded by an ogre, sits a Leverage Machine, Chartered Accountant to the Beast. The lights are flashing red. How do we know this? Because the 24/7 Russian Demonization Campaign tells us so. The manically repetitive narrative is an audio loop cued to the red-lit console.
The West’s sanctions subtract from its own beleaguered base. The ‘cure’, ever more green-fields, serves only to postpone the patient’s demise. The demands are satanic and mutually self-negating:  If you don’t bleed like me, I promise I will kill you.
The various sanctions regimes harbor no rapprochements and coax no favored outcomes. They are nihilistic in spirit and anti-Christian by design. Spengler spoke of Russia’s peculiar historic mission. Could that mission be Armageddon itself?
The stakes, as we like to say, are incalculably high. The potential recoil, fatal. But then, People of the Book already know this.
Might the intelligence complex incite WW3 as a diversionary alternative to exposure and dismantlement? That’s a reasonable bet. After all, where on this planet today are rumors of wars not breaking out in earnest?
There’s a well-ensconced clique on the planet that views WW3 as the crucial next step. Putin seems to have joined them. In lieu of elaborate WMD contexts perpetrated on a sanguine populace, war planners might prefer a war that’s over almost before it starts. Inhuman velocity curtails the need for consensus-building.
NATO’s provocations are endless. However conventional force border-posturing is simply the aperitif. Nuclear escalation will occur with lightning speed.
In his grim but essential work, Eric Zuesse speaks to the current provocations in Ukraine and its Donbass region and the toss-up potential of a nuclear first strike being strategically ‘rationalized’ and perpetrated by either the Americans or the Russians. How perilous and frightening is that? Both sides are strategically obliged go nuclear first, although Putin seemed to remove a Russian first-strike from the table last week, a very noble and statesman-like assertion, to be sure. Who fully understands the dynamic between he and his Defense Minister? Sergei Shoigu might, on strictly military grounds, beg to differ.
Here’s Zuesse:
“Either way would likely produce from Russia a nuclear blitz-attack to eliminate as many of America’s retaliatory weapons as possible, so as to beat the US to the punch. In military terms, the side that suffers the less damage ‘wins’, even if it’s a nuclear war that destroys the planet. The side that would strike first in a nuclear war would almost certainly suffer the less damage, because most of the opponent’s retaliatory weaponry would be destroyed in that attack. Trump is playing nuclear “chicken” against Putin.”
Nuclear Primacy had been America’s post-MAD doctrine since 2006. (Here are the same two idiot-savants, Drs. Keir Lieber and Daryl Press, on paper, proving once and for all that intelligence is a circle.) The Russian nuclear detection system is horribly antiquated and, in an effort to tamp down the reigning madness, US officials are talking naval blockades and preemptive first strikes. Language is always the first bullet fired. America’s nuclear arsenal is to be upgraded over the next thirty years at an estimated cost of $1.2 trillion (October 2017 CBO report).
Paranoid much? You’d have to be a fool not to be. In fact you’d have to be an irreligious fool not to think thermonuclear exchange isn’t poised to occur in some demented parody of well-considered premeditation and forethought.
It’s the midnight after midnight and Doomsday’s tired of walking around the block. The Beast wants Russia either polishing boots in Basel or moving its Orthodox frontage to Mars. There is no middle ground. There is no dialectical accommodation. People are a temporary impediment to the wealth beneath their feet. Bankers eat birthrights for breakfast.
The inestimable trove of raw goodies under Eurasia must be secured or else the leverage-cubed that’s holding up the leverage-squared is going to collapse in a calamitous heap of non-real numbers and exhausted exponentiality.
Before he exited Stratfor, some say for a surfeit of candor, George Friedman laid out the last hundred-years of the game-plan. Mind you (and our German friends too), it’s nothing personal. It’s primordial, which is to say, quite equally of the future, an ‘interest’ that will not abate.
As Shiekh Iman Hosein insists, the repatriation of Crimea represents a huge and rare setback for the Beast’s cordon sanitaire strategy of containment (constriction?) Sixteenth-century Rabbi Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman (popularly known as the Vilna Gaon) acknowledged much the same:
“When you hear that the Russians have captured the city of Crimea, the ‘Times of the Messiah’ have started, that his steps are being heard”
There are not enough dimension frankly to deploy the appropriate chess game. But then we’re not in a chess game. We’re in an end-game. Finesse is an Enlightenment affectation. In a kingdom of hammers the adroit tactician is just another nail.
So enough please of rehabilitative measures, improved behaviors and well-considered countermeasures. No behavior under the sun will do until nuclear winter blots the sun from the sky. We’ve been staring down the barrel of Oppenheimer’s Shiva ever since some vanguard of Molochian butt-worshippers decided there’s life for them on the back-end of nihilistic cessation.
There is a war on against what Spengler termed, “the world-historical fact of Russia itself”. Putin seems finally to have risen to the existential occasion.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
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Who profits from the end of the mid-range nuclear treaty?

Donald Trump at a rally in Mesa, Ariz. (Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)
President Donald Trump is a threat to national security. His lies rev people up, inspiring hate. A slew of bombs have been discovered this week, targeting people and organizations Trump regularly vilifies: the Obamas, the Clintons, Congressmember Maxine Waters, CNN, ex-CIA chief John Brennan, former Attorney General Eric Holder and billionaire liberal philanthropist George Soros. While Trump fabricates national security concerns to foment fear, he ignores genuine threats.
Take the migrant caravan, for example. At a Houston rally on Sunday, Trump called it “an assault on our country.” Thousands of people making their way from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are fleeing violence, poverty and desperation, seeking refuge and asylum in the United States and Mexico. In a tweet on Monday, Trump claimed “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in.” When challenged by a reporter for evidence, he flippantly replied, “There’s no proof of anything.”
A real threat that knows no borders is climate change. Hurricane Michael roared across the warming waters of the Gulf of Mexico and tore into the Florida Panhandle two weeks ago. The town of Mexico Beach was practically wiped off the map.
Fifteen miles farther west along the coast is Tyndall Air Force Base, home of a fleet of 55 F-22 stealth fighters. Before Hurricane Michael leveled the base, at least 33 of these jets were flown to safety. But as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dave Philipps reported, at least 17 of the planes, costing $339 million each, were likely left behind and possibly destroyed. Climate scientists point out that while no individual storm can be blamed on climate change, global warming increases their frequency and intensity. Hurricane Michael was the first recorded Category 4 hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle, and was among the top three strongest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. While Pentagon reports identify climate change as a major threat to national security in the 21st century, Trump calls it a hoax perpetrated by China to hurt the U.S. economy.
“To abandon facts is to abandon freedom,” writes Yale historian Timothy Snyder in his book “On Tyranny.” In the past few weeks, nothing illustrated this better than the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi monarchy. On Oct. 2, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and never came out. The Saudi government lied, saying he had left soon after. Reports almost immediately surfaced that Saudi Arabia had dispatched a 15-man “kill team,” which tortured, killed and dismembered Khashoggi in the consulate. Rather than denounce the murder immediately, Trump declared he would await Saudi Arabia’s investigation of itself, but would not cut record weapons sales to the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is waging a war on Yemen, and its relentless, U.S.-backed bombing has driven at least half of the Yemeni population to the brink of famine. The United Nations has declared Yemen to be the greatest humanitarian catastrophe on the planet today.
In the midst of the Khashoggi horror, President Trump held a rally in Montana praising a congressmember who pleaded guilty to criminally assaulting a reporter. At the campaign event, Trump hailed Congressmember Greg Gianforte, saying, “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of … guy.” During his 2016 campaign, Gianforte body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.
To the shock of many, at another rally this week, Trump officially declared himself a nationalist — a label long associated with white supremacy and Nazism. “You know, they have a word — it’s sort of became old-fashioned — it’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, OK? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist.” Desperate for Republicans to maintain their control of Congress, Trump continues to unleash the dark, divisive and destructive forces of racism.
All of this has taken place in the month of October. Add one more dangerous move by Trump, just this week: On Saturday, he announced he is pulling the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. The INF banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges. Many fear this could stoke a new arms race with Russia, further destabilizing the world.
As Trump campaigns around the country, he gins up fears of foreign enemies attacking the United States. But he has shown again and again, through his words and deeds, that the greatest threat to U.S. national security is Trump himself.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,400 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan and David Goodman, of the New York Times best-seller “Democracy Now!: 20 Years Covering the Movements Changing America.”
(c) 2018 Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
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Amy Goodman is the co-founder, executive producer and host of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on more than 900 public broadcast stations in North America.…
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The Sinister Reason the U.S. Persists in Waging Losing Wars



Morning Calm Weekly Newspaper Installation Management Command / Flickr
As America enters the 18th year of its war in Afghanistan and its 16th in Iraq, the war on terror continues in Yemen, Syria, and parts of Africa, including Libya, Niger, and Somalia. Meanwhile, the Trump administration threatens yet more war, this time with Iran. (And given these last years, just how do you imagine that’s likely to turn out?) Honestly, isn’t it time Americans gave a little more thought to why their leaders persist in waging losing wars across significant parts of the planet?  So consider the rest of this piece my attempt to do just that.
Let’s face it: profits and power should be classified as perennial reasons why U.S. leaders persist in waging such conflicts. War may be a racket, as General Smedley Butler claimed long ago, but who cares these days since business is booming? And let’s add to such profits a few other all-American motivations. Start with the fact that, in some curious sense, war is in the American bloodstream. As former New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges once put it, “War is a force that gives us meaning.” Historically, we Americans are a violent people who have invested much in a self-image of toughness now being displayed across the “global battlespace.” (Hence all the talk in this country not about our soldiers but about our “warriors.”) As the bumper stickers I see regularly where I live say: “God, guns, & guts made America free.” To make the world freer, why not export all three?
Add in, as well, the issue of political credibility. No president wants to appear weak and in the United States of the last many decades, pulling back from a war has been the definition of weakness. No one — certainly not Donald Trump — wants to be known as the president who “lost” Afghanistan or Iraq. As was true of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the Vietnam years, so in this century fear of electoral defeat has helped prolong the country’s hopeless wars. Generals, too, have their own fears of defeat, fears that drive them to escalate conflicts (call it the urge to surge) and even to advocate for the use of nuclear weapons, as General William Westmoreland did in 1968 during the Vietnam War.
Washington’s own deeply embedded illusions and deceptions also serve to generate and perpetuate its wars. Lauding our troops as “freedom fighters” for peace and prosperity, presidents like George W. Bush have waged a set of brutal wars in the name of spreading democracy and a better way of life. The trouble is: incessant war doesn’t spread democracy — though in the twenty-first century we’ve learned that it does spread terror groups — it kills it. At the same time, our leaders, military and civilian, have given us a false picture of the nature of the wars they’re fighting. They continue to present the U.S. military and its vaunted “smart” weaponry as a precision surgical instrument capable of targeting and destroying the cancer of terrorism, especially of the radical Islamic variety. Despite the hoopla about them, however, those precision instruments of war turn out to be blunt indeed, leading to the widespread killing of innocents, the massive displacement of people across America’s war zones, and floods of refugees who have, in turn, helped spark the rise of the populist right in lands otherwise still at peace.
Lurking behind the incessant warfare of this century is another belief, particularly ascendant in the Trump White House: that big militaries and expensive weaponry represent “investments” in a better future — as if the Pentagon were the Bank of America or Wall Street. Steroidal military spending continues to be sold as a key to creating jobs and maintaining America’s competitive edge, as if war were America’s primary business. (And perhaps it is!)
Those who facilitate enormous military budgets and frequent conflicts abroad still earn special praise here. Consider, for example, Senator John McCain’s rapturous final sendoff, including the way arms maker Lockheed Martin lauded him as an American hero supposedly tough and demanding when it came to military contractors. (And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.)
Put all of this together and what you’re likely to come up with is the American version of George Orwell’s famed formulation in his novel 1984: “war is peace.”
The War the Pentagon Knew How to Win
Twenty years ago, when I was a major on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, a major concern was the possible corroding of civil-military relations — in particular, a growing gap between the military and the civilians who were supposed to control them. I’m a clipper of newspaper articles and I saved some from that long-gone era. “Sharp divergence found in views of military and civilians,” reported the New York Times in September 1999. “Civilians, military seen growing apart,” noted the Washington Post a month later. Such pieces were picking up on trends already noted by distinguished military commentators like Thomas Ricks and Richard Kohn. In July 1997, for instance, Ricks had written an influential Atlantic article, “The Widening Gap between the Military and Society.” In 1999, Kohn gave a lecture at the Air Force Academy titled “The Erosion of Civilian Control of the Military in the United States Today.”
A generation ago, such commentators worried that the all-volunteer military was becoming an increasingly conservative and partisan institution filled with generals and admirals contemptuous of civilians, notably then-President Bill Clinton. At the time, according to one study, 64% of military officers identified as Republicans, only 8% as Democrats and, when it came to the highest levels of command, that figure for Republicans was in the stratosphere, approaching 90%. Kohn quoted a West Point graduate as saying, “We’re in danger of developing our own in-house Soviet-style military, one in which if you’re not in ‘the party,’ you don’t get ahead.” In a similar fashion, 67% of military officers self-identified as politically conservative, only 4% as liberal.
In a 1998 article for the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, Ricks noted that “the ratio of conservatives to liberals in the military” had gone from “about 4 to 1 in 1976, which is about where I would expect a culturally conservative, hierarchical institution like the U.S. military to be, to 23 to 1 in 1996.” This “creeping politicization of the officer corps,” Ricks concluded, was creating a less professional military, one in the process of becoming “its own interest group.” That could lead, he cautioned, to an erosion of military effectiveness if officers were promoted based on their political leanings rather than their combat skills.
How has the civil-military relationship changed in the last two decades? Despite bending on social issues (gays in the military, women in more combat roles), today’s military is arguably neither more liberal nor less partisan than it was in the Clinton years. It certainly hasn’t returned to its citizen-soldier roots via a draft. Change, if it’s come, has been on the civilian side of the divide as Americans have grown both more militarized and more partisan (without any greater urge to sign up and serve). In this century, the civil-military divide of a generation ago has been bridged by endless celebrations of that military as “the best of us” (as Vice President Mike Pence recently put it).
Such expressions, now commonplace, of boundless faith in and thankfulness for the military are undoubtedly driven in part by guilt over neither serving, nor undoubtedly even truly caring. Typically, Pence didn’t serve and neither did Donald Trump (those pesky “heel spurs”). As retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich put it in 2007: “To assuage uneasy consciences, the many who do not serve [in the all-volunteer military] proclaim their high regard for the few who do. This has vaulted America’s fighting men and women to the top of the nation’s moral hierarchy. The character and charisma long ago associated with the pioneer or the small farmer — or carried in the 1960s by Dr. King and the civil-rights movement — has now come to rest upon the soldier.” This elevation of “our” troops as America’s moral heroes feeds a Pentagon imperative that seeks to isolate the military from criticism and its commanders from accountability for wars gone horribly wrong.
Paradoxically, Americans have become both too detached from their military and too deferential to it. We now love to applaud that military, which, the pollsters tell us, enjoys a significantly higher degree of trust and approval from the public than the presidency, Congress, the media, the Catholic church, or the Supreme Court. What that military needs, however, in this era of endless war is not loud cheers, but tough love.
As a retired military man, I do think our troops deserve a measure of esteem. There’s a selfless ethic to the military that should seem admirable in this age of selfies and selfishness. That said, the military does not deserve the deference of the present moment, nor the constant adulation it gets in endless ceremonies at any ballpark or sporting arena. Indeed, deference and adulation, the balm of military dictatorships, should be poison to the military of a democracy.
With U.S. forces endlessly fighting ill-begotten wars, whether in Vietnam in the 1960s or in Iraq and Afghanistan four decades later, it’s easy to lose sight of where the Pentagon continues to maintain a truly winning record: right here in the U.S.A. Today, whatever’s happening on the country’s distant battlefields, the idea that ever more inflated military spending is an investment in making America great again reigns supreme — as it has, with little interruption, since the 1980s and the era of President Ronald Reagan.
The military’s purpose should be, as Richard Kohn put it long ago, “to defend society, not to define it. The latter is militarism.” With that in mind, think of the way various retired military men lined up behind Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016, including a classically unhinged performance by retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (he of the “lock her up” chants) for Trump at the Republican convention and a shout-out of a speech by retired General John Allen for Clinton at the Democratic one. America’s presidential candidates, it seemed, needed to be anointed by retired generals, setting a dangerous precedent for future civil-military relations.
A Letter From My Senator
A few months back, I wrote a note to one of my senators to complain about America’s endless wars and received a signed reply via email. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that it was a canned response, but no less telling for that. My senator began by praising American troops as “tough, smart, and courageous, and they make huge sacrifices to keep our families safe. We owe them all a true debt of gratitude for their service.” OK, I got an instant warm and fuzzy feeling, but seeking applause wasn’t exactly the purpose of my note.
My senator then expressed support for counterterror operations, for, that is, “conducting limited, targeted operations designed to deter violent extremists that pose a credible threat to America’s national security, including al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), localized extremist groups, and homegrown terrorists.” My senator then added a caveat, suggesting that the military should obey “the law of armed conflict” and that the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that Congress hastily approved in the aftermath of 9/11 should not be interpreted as an “open-ended mandate” for perpetual war.
Finally, my senator voiced support for diplomacy as well as military action, writing, “I believe that our foreign policy should be smart, tough, and pragmatic, using every tool in the toolbox — including defense, diplomacy, and development — to advance U.S. security and economic interests around the world.” The conclusion: “robust” diplomacy must be combined with a “strong” military.
Now, can you guess the name and party affiliation of that senator? Could it have been Lindsey Graham or Jeff Flake, Republicans who favor a beyond-strong military and endlessly aggressive counterterror operations? Of course, from that little critical comment on the AUMF, you’ve probably already figured out that my senator is a Democrat. But did you guess that my military-praising, counterterror-waging representative was Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts?
Full disclosure: I like Warren and have made small contributions to her campaign. And her letter did stipulate that she believed “military action should always be a last resort.” Still, nowhere in it was there any critique of, or even passingly critical commentary about, the U.S. military, or the still-spreading war on terror, or the never-ending Afghan War, or the wastefulness of Pentagon spending, or the devastation wrought in these years by the last superpower on this planet. Everything was anodyne and safe — and this from a senator who’s been pilloried by the right as a flaming liberal and caricatured as yet another socialist out to destroy America.
I know what you’re thinking: What choice does Warren have but to play it safe? She can’t go on record criticizing the military. (She’s already gotten in enough trouble in my home state for daring to criticize the police.) If she doesn’t support a “strong” U.S. military presence globally, how could she remain a viable presidential candidate in 2020?
And I would agree with you, but with this little addendum: Isn’t that proof that the Pentagon has won its most important war, the one that captured — to steal a phrase from another losing war — the “hearts and minds” of America? In this country in 2018, as in 2017, 2016, and so on, the U.S. military and its leaders dictate what is acceptable for us to say and do when it comes to our prodigal pursuit of weapons and wars.
So, while it’s true that the military establishment failed to win those “hearts and minds” in Vietnam or more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, they sure as hell didn’t fail to win them here. In Homeland, U.S.A., in fact, victory has been achieved and, judging by the latest Pentagon budgets, it couldn’t be more overwhelming.
If you ask — and few Americans do these days — why this country’s losing wars persist, the answer should be, at least in part: because there’s no accountability. The losers in those wars have seized control of our national narrative. They now define how the military is seen (as an investment, a boon, a good and great thing); they now shape how we view our wars abroad (as regrettable perhaps, but necessary and also a sign of national toughness); they now assign all serious criticism of the Pentagon to what they might term the defeatist fringe.
In their hearts, America’s self-professed warriors know they’re right. But the wrongs they’ve committed, and continue to commit, in our name will not be truly righted until Americans begin to reject the madness of rampant militarism, bloated militaries, and endless wars.
William J. Astore / TomDispatch
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The Startling Rise of India’s #MeToo Movement



Activists shout slogans against Bollywood actor Nana Patekar during a protest in support of former actress Tanushree Dutta in Mumbai, India, on Oct.11. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP)
The world’s largest democracy is finally having its own #MeToo moment. Just about a year after the Harvey Weinstein revelations opened the floodgates of assault accusations in the United States, India has been rocked by scandal after scandal over the span of a few weeks, arising from accusations made by women of sexual assault and harassment that are finally being taken seriously. As here in the U.S., it remains to be seen if this is a movement or a moment (to borrow a phrase associated with Black Lives Matter).
For decades, Indian women have been protesting pervasive sexism, from street-level harassment, known by the inappropriate term “Eve-teasing,” and Bollywood’s “casting couch” to the two high-profile cases of brutal gang rapes that made international headlines in 2012 and 2018. But now, many women are feeling emboldened to come forward with their accounts of incidents that they have remained silent about for years. And some men are feeling the consequences of their actions in the form of public shaming and the loss of their jobs and positions—a similar phenomenon to what has unfolded in the U.S. over the past year.
The trend in India is so strong that last week the search engine Google released an interactive map of where the phrase “Me Too” was most searched for on the planet, and CBS reported that according to the map, “All of the top five cities trending for #MeToo searches were located in India, with the depiction of the country glowing brighter than any other location on the map.”
Shonali Bose is an award-winning filmmaker, director, screenwriter and producer whose work is driven by her fierce political activism. Her acclaimed movies “Amu” and “Margarita With A Straw” are both women-centered films that deal with trauma and joy. Her forthcoming release, “The Sky is Pink,” stars Priyanka Chopra, whom American audiences will recognize from her role on the television show “Quantico.”
In an interview from Mumbai, India, where she is now based, Bose shared with me her surprise at how quickly things have unfolded over the past several weeks. “This speaking out suddenly is brand new. This has never happened before,” she said.
Just as Bose was in talks with her colleagues about how to support women who have experienced sexual assault and harassment in the industry, several stories began to break. Along with several other high-profile women directors and actors, including Konkona Sen Sharma, Nandita Das, Zoya Akhtar and Kiran Rao, Bose signed onto a strongly worded statement pledging “complete solidarity with the women who have come forward with honest accounts of harassment and assault” and, importantly, promising “to not work with proven offenders.”
One of biggest scandals to emerge involves an incident that took place 10 years ago on the set of a Bollywood film. A young actress named Tanushree Dutta—new to the industry—spoke out about being molested on the set of a film by Nana Patekar, one of India’s most distinguished and celebrated actors—a man I remember watching onscreen as a child in many of India’s so-called “art films.” By Dutta’s account, Patekar took advantage of her on set, and when she refused to cooperate, he used his connections in a local fundamentalist political party to call an angry mob to intimidate her and physically attack her car as she tried to leave the set with her parents. The experience left her deeply traumatized and forced her out of the film industry—and even the country.
Dutta has spoken out about her experiences for years, and as recently as late September held a press conference, saying, “I had to walk away from the industry out of fear, trauma. I was afraid to come on a movie set.” After Patekar sent her a legal warning in early October against publicizing her experience, the story finally began making serious headlines and is being seen as part of the #MeToo narrative. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Dutta said, “It’s not as though I ever stopped talking about it; I’ve been repeating the same story since 2008. The only thing that’s changed is that people suddenly want to listen.”
Several women have also accused longtime “Indian Idol” music director and co-judge Anu Malik of sexual harassment. Malik’s case is particularly abhorrent in that he stands accused of preying on multiple teenage girls for years, using his power the way Weinstein did in the U.S. to make or break careers. In the wake of the revelations, Malik was forced out as “Indian Idol” judge—a position he held for more than a decade.
Another major scandal is the accusation against filmmaker Vikas Bahl by an unnamed female employee of his highly successful company, Phantom Films. Huffington Post India, which broke the story Oct. 6, reported: “Bahl, the woman crew member said, insisted on dropping her to her hotel room on the early hours of 5 May 2015 and pretended to pass out drunk on her bed, only to awaken soon after and masturbate on her.”
Ironically, Bahl is best known for directing “Queen,” a film with a strong female lead, focused on her journey toward independence from a man. Some months after the incident, the woman in question informed one of the other directors at Phantom, Anurag Kashyap, but he failed to take action. The company went on to achieve major successes, including making the series “Sacred Games” for Netflix. But since the story became public, Phantom films has abruptly dissolved, and Kashyap acknowledged that he “failed” the accuser.
India’s most popular comedy group, All India Bakchod (AIB), has also fallen off its pedestal in the era of #MeToo. With more than 3.4 million subscribers to its channel, AIB cut its teeth on digital platforms like YouTube, making edgy and comedic social satire that often questioned India’s sexist traditions. But in the wake of revelations that one of the group’s members did not act on information about a fellow comedian’s sexual harassment, and allegations that another of the group’s members harassed a woman, the group’s future is in jeopardy.
In its many years of tackling the scourge of street-level harassment and violent rapes that make the news, the Indian feminist movement had not fully confronted the hypocrisy of forward-thinking and supposedly progressive or feminist men who shape pop culture like Bahl, his colleagues at Phantom Films, AIB and others. But now the dam has burst, and the #MeToo stories have broken in India in the span of just a few days.
The accusations are not restricted to the entertainment industry. A prominent journalist-turned-lawmaker named MJ Akbar was forced to resign from his position last week as minister of state for external affairs after being accused by 16 different women of sexual harassment when he was a newspaper editor. Rahul Johri, the head of India’s powerful cricket board, has just been put on leave while an accusation made against him is being investigated, and so on.
Bose included a warning in her conversation, however. “You have to be very, very careful,” she said. “Let’s not minimize women who have actually survived assaults saying anything about anyone—because that really brings the whole movement down.” She cited some rumors against prominent men that were questionable and could undermine the movement for women’s rights. Given Indians’ tendency to veer toward extreme vengefulness against accused rapists—as the angry calls for the death penaltyhave shown—there is a lot at stake as the stories come tumbling out into the open, one after another.
Bose says India’s film industry must take some responsibility for the pervasiveness of sexual assault. Just as Hollywood movies normalized rape culture, Indian cinema is replete with titillating scenes that veer dangerously close to normalizing stalking, coercion and rape. “What we can do as filmmakers [is] … push back to our male counterparts, to our producers and say, ‘change the kind of content you finance,’ ” she told me. Bose has experienced firsthand the resistance from a male-dominated film industry intent on reproducing sexist stereotypes, saying, “It’s not that I have faced discrimination because I’m a woman. My stories have faced discrimination because they are women-led.”
India is brimming with women leaders who have led, and are leading, movements for gender equality, and not just in urban centers. Just as Tarana Burke is the unsung hero of the U.S. #MeToo movement, a women’s rights activist based in India’s rural northwest state of Rajasthan, Bhanwari Devi, has now been credited with being the mother of India’s #MeToo movement. And in the past week, Rehana Fathima, a young activist, has been spotlighted for leading the fight to allow women the right to enter a sacred temple in Kerala.
There are countless others like them in the world’s largest democracy, fighting for their right to be seen, heard and respected, and offering the strong possibility that India’s #MeToo chapter will be part of an ongoing movement.




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Sonali Kolhatkar is a columnist for Truthdig. She also is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV (Dish Network, DirecTV,…
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Is America ‘Civilized’? Not as Long as It Sanctions the Death Penalty



History repeats itself: The electric chair in Auburn State Prison, circa 1906. (Picryl)
There is no place in a civilized society for capital punishment. That’s why actual civilized societies around the world do not have, use or endorse capital punishment. Twenty U.S. states ban capital punishment, the latest being Washington, whose Supreme Court ruled Oct. 11 that the ultimate penalty was “invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.” A University of Washington study found that black defendants are about four times more likely to get the death penalty in Washington than white offenders. Racial disparity in sentencing is common throughout the criminal justice system nationwide.
People in the federal government and some U.S. states that endorse capital punishment, along with death penalty advocates, actually believe that they are civilized, even though they use an uncivilized method of murder. They have been historically fooled into believing that civilized people do not do uncivilized things to other people. However, no one should doubt that capital punishment and all of the mental, emotional, psychological and physical torture that is done to human beings using this form of killing is uncivilized.
Many people around the world and in this country are dumbfounded by the hypocrisy of this line of thinking, including me. In order to learn the true meaning of the word “civilized,” I had to go to my dictionary, because civilized people do not knowingly first torture and then murder their fellow man or woman; they just don’t. That’s uncivilized.
The death penalty by its very nature is meant to torture people, no matter what its form. This man-made evil, this torturous death, has everyone who is facing it, especially when they are strapped to a chair or a gurney, asking the same question that Jesus Christ asked when he was strapped and nailed to that cross: “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
How do I know? Because I asked God that same question when I was being mentally, emotionally and psychologically tortured in 2004 by the prison guard executioner at the prison where I have been detained, when the next step for me was the last step, the actual physical torture by lethal injection. When a human being is put through a sick state ritual of legal murder by the staff of a prison—that is truly uncivilized.
I speak from experience, from suffering years of post-traumatic stress disorder from that agonizing, near-death experience I went through and survived. So when I looked up the word “civilized” in my dictionary to find its true meaning, I was surprised to discover that it means a different thing than what those death penalty supporters mean when they call themselves civilized. The hypocrisy that those people live with and get away with is unbelievable.
“Civilized,” according to my dictionary, means: 1) to rise from a primitive state to an advanced and ordered stage of cultural development; 2) polite and well mannered; and 3) having or showing a taste for fine arts and gracious living.
Why am I not surprised to see that nowhere in the description of “civilized” are the words “capital punishment” or “death penalty”? “Torture” is not part of the definition either, yet those people who love the death penalty so much that they have done everything humanly possible to keep it in use call themselves civilized.
The truth, in fact, is that capital punishment, torture and all of these man-made evils represent the complete opposite of being civilized. I guess that’s why both Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, spoke out against the death penalty during their walk on earth.
King said: “I do not think that God approves of the death penalty for any crime, rape and murder included. Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology, and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.”
Coretta Scott King said: “An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder.”
Morality and being civilized go hand in hand, just as immorality and being uncivilized go hand in glove.
The United States of America keeps strange company when it comes to the death penalty. It is in league with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq as countries that execute the most prisoners. They say that this country is better or more enlightened or civilized than other countries that execute people—yet they all still have and use the death penalty.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 56 other countries still use the death penalty, including North Korea, Uganda, Botswana, Bangladesh, Somalia, Nigeria and Chad, to name a few (see the full list here).
The civilized countries that do not execute people number 141 and include Turkey, Croatia, Germany, France, Uzbekistan and Portugal.
This is an important point, because it truly speaks not only to the hypocrisy concerning the death penalty in this country, but also to how this hypocrisy is rationalized. I have learned that the three main ingredients that have made capital punishment a mainstay in this country are racism, fundamentalist religion and politics.
This is how certain racist, religious fundamentalists and political people, whether they are leaders or not, have fooled masses of people into believing in and supporting the death penalty. They use the victim factor—to support families of victims in seeking revenge against the accused and/or convicted. They don’t encourage the families to seek forgiveness or peace or anything of that nature. They fool them into believing that the only thing they need for closure is to torture and murder someone.
This line of argument has been preached to certain congregations and spoken to certain constituents throughout the history of this country. People have been fooled into believing and supporting a system that is against everything that humanity is about, and against everything for which their God stands.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. America, you have been fooled so many times that the shame is really on you! You don’t see that the death penalty is primitive, as in belonging to an early stage of human development.
One cannot call himself or herself civilized while practicing primitive behavior, and executing people, especially the innocent, is as primitive as one gets. Support for the death penalty within this country is lower now than it almost has ever been. I like to believe that’s because the truly civilized people in this country are standing up and speaking out against this horrific crime against humanity.
History doesn’t lie, nor does the truth. I believe that if Jesus Christ came back to this earth, as most death penalty-supporting Christians believe that he someday will, he would take those nails all over again after he saw what was being done to people in his name. He would die again to show people that in his dying, in his being tortured and murdered, no one else should have that happen to them.
When will the foolish, uncivilized death penalty advocates who say they believe in God start believing in what his crucifixion was really all about?




Kevin Cooper
Kevin Cooper is a death row inmate at California’s San Quentin Prison. In 1985, he was convicted of a 1983 quadruple murder and sentenced to death in a trial in which evidence that might have exonerated him…
Kevin Cooper
 

The Mainstream Media’s Disgraceful Saudi Revisionism



Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. (James N. Mattis / Flickr)
As FAIR has noted for years, one of the primary ideological functions of US corporate media is to maintain the mythology that the US is a noble protector of democracy and arbiter of human rights. When material facts—like wars of aggression, massive spying regimes, the funding and arming right-wing militias and the propping up of dictators—get in the way of this mythology the response by most pundits is to wave away these inconsistencies (FAIR.org2/1/09), ignore them altogether (FAIR.org8/31/18) or spin them as Things That Are Actually Good (FAIR.org5/31/18).
There is, however, another underappreciated trope used to prop up this mythology: that the US political class does bad things, not because bad things serve US imperial interests, but because they’re corrupted by sinister foreign actors.
As more information about Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s brazen murder at the hands of the Saudi government comes to light, some in the US press are positioning Saudi Arabia as having “corrupted” Washington—as Khashoggi’s own editor lamented on Twitter last week. It’s a reassuring narrative, and one that will likely grow increasingly popular in the coming weeks: The Saudis have “corrupted,” “played” or “captured” an otherwise benevolent, values-based US government.
While it’s refreshing that some are starting to challenge the United States’ grotesque alliance with the Saudi theocratic monarchy, it’s important to note that it’s not a product of a foreign boogeyman, but core to the US imperial project. Historically, the US hasn’t embraced despotic regimes despite their oppressive nature, but precisely because of it.
In a report on why Khashoggi’s killing was unlikely to fundamentally alter the US/Saudi relationship,  NBC News (10/17/18) casually threw out this highly contestable claim:
Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher with Human Rights Watch, said the longstanding economic and security ties with Saudi Arabia have forced the US to tolerate a lot of questionable Saudi behavior.
It’s difficult to tell if the words spoken are those of Coogle or NBC reporters Rachel Elbaum, Yuliya Talmazan and Dan De Luce, but the reader is left with the same net effect: Due to “economic and security ties” somehow outside of its control, the most powerful country in the history of the world is “forced” to “tolerate” what’s called “questionable” behavior—a phrase that sweeps together the wholesale destruction of Yemen, the beheading of dissidents, the disappearing of women drivers and the brutal murder of Khashoggi. (In the case of Yemen, to “tolerate” means, among many other forms of active support, providing targeting instructions for a vicious airstrike campaign.)
Can one imagine NBC News or a Human Rights Watch researcher ever saying, “The longstanding economic and security ties Russia has with Syria have forced Putin to tolerate a lot of questionable behavior from Assad”? It’s an agency-free, blameless construction, reserved only for the United States.  Similar to how the US never chooses to go to war, but is constantly “stumbling” into it (FAIR.org6/22/17), Washington always means well, but can’t help engaging in large-scale, highly sophisticated mechanized violence.
Vox’s Matt Yglesias (10/19/18) joined the revisionism, writing, “The realities of Cold War politics got us involved in deep, long-term cooperation with a Saudi state that is not otherwise a natural partner for the United States.” Never mind that the US/Saudi partnership predates the Cold War by about 15 years, the idea that dictators or sectarian regimes in the Middle East aren’t “natural partners of the United States”—especially during the Cold War—is a total fiction.
The trope of foreign corruption of the innocent empire, of course, predates Khashoggi’s death. Vox’s Max Fisher (3/21/16)  insisted in March 2016 that Saudi Arabia has “captured” Washington, and this was the reason “we” had strayed from “our values.”
The article treated the US/Saudi alliance as some kind of mystery, rather than the logical outgrowth of a cynical empire that is not motivated by human rights but uses them for branding. “America’s foreign policy establishment has aligned itself with an ultra-conservative dictatorship that often acts counter to US values,” Fisher insisted. What “values” are those? He never really explained, but went on:
What explains the Washington consensus in favor of Wahhabist autocrats who often act counter to American values and interests? Some in the Obama administration, based on what they told the Atlantic (and on my own conversations with administration officials), seem to believe the answer is money: that Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Arab states have purchased loyalty and influence.
Obama administration officials who back Saudi crimes and sell them billions in arms aren’t to blame; it’s some nebulous Saudi lobby, Obama administration officials insist, with money that somehow they are powerless to resist.
Clearly Saudi money—like pro-Israel money—has influence around the margins (or else, one assumes, they wouldn’t spend it), but the idea that the US wouldn’t be backing violent dictatorships if it wasn’t corrupted by some sinister foreign actor has no historical or empirical basis. US backing of Saudi Arabia predates its current public relations machine by decades, a machine that exists largely to influence the scope and depth of the US/Saudi alliance, not the fact of it.
Fisher even vaguely acknowledges this (“no one is ordered by foreign funders to express a certain viewpoint. Rather, they described a subtler role, in which money amplifies preexisting norms and habits that favor a pro-Saudi consensus”), but this undercuts his thesis entirely—that Saudi Arabia somehow undermines America’s “values” rather than manifests them. But Fisher doesn’t appear to earnestly be trying to understand the nature of this alliance; he appears to be tasked, instead, with ameliorating cognitive dissonance, with preserving US human rights mythology by treating it as a foreign-contrived anomaly, rather than a natural extension of a largely violent and arbitrary global empire. Then comes the kicker:
US still provides direct support for Saudi actions that undermine the regional stability America desires, for example by backing the Yemen war against Americans’ better judgment.
What Americans? Where? The Obama White House at the time, as Fisher notes in the next paragraph, backed the war entirely. So who are these mysterious Americans whose “judgment” is against the Yemen war? He never says. These good, wholesome Americans who believe in US “values” are somehow never in charge, but are nonetheless always being corrupted by dastardly foreign actors.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
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