Lest We Forget: A Look Back at the 2016 Primaries

The World Today: False Choices – US Primaries 2016

Telesur (2016)

Film Review

This 2016 program was first broadcast the day after Super Tuesday, in which Bernie Sanders was the clear winner in three states. The documentary provides important perspective for the upcoming 2020 primares. In it, British historian and activist Tariq Ali interviews Liza Featherstone, author of False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Clinton. The latter is a collection of essays by left-leaning feminists.

Featherstone brands Clinton as an “elite” feminist – in contrast to “true” feminists, who are antiwar, anti-imperialist and and anti-racist. Featherstone also brands Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright as elite feminists, for publicly belittling young women for supporting Bernie Sanders. A massive backlash would force both women to apologize.

Both and Ali and Featherstone agree on Sanders and Trump being protest candidates against a corrupt political establishment. Neither can see much difference between Clinton and the Bushes, given they all support the same neoconservative wars of empire. Ali highlights Clinton’s deliberate vote seeking among moderate Republicans, abandoning working class voters (eventually labeling them “deplorables”) comprising the traditional Democratic Party base prior to 1980.

Ali also reminds us that Sanders is the first socialist US presidential candidate in over 100 years. He attributes the allure of socialism for US youth to post-Cold War childhood free of constant anti-communist propagandizing. He gives the example of the election of socialist Kshama Savant to the Seattle City Council in 2013 and 2015 (she was just re-elected in November 2019).

Both Ali and Featherstone correctly predict that Trump will win the Republican nomination. They erroneously predict Clinton winning the presidency.

 

The Price of Oslo: How the Oslo Accords Set the Palestinian Cause Back 20 Years

The Price of Oslo

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

The Price of Oslo is a two part documentary about the 1993 Oslo Accords, which according to many analysts, set the Palestinian cause back at least 20 years.

Episode 1 explores the background leading both Palestine and Israel to accept Norway as a “neutral” mediator. Israel welcomed the participation of Norway, as they replaced Iran as Israel’s primary oil supplier after the Shah was overthrown in 1977. In addition Norway’s ruling pro-Zionist Socialist Labor Party had extremely close ties with Israel’s ruling Socialist Labor Party.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) accepted Norway’s mediator role because of close personal ties they developed with Norwegian soldiers deployed as UN peacekeepers after Israel’s 1978 invasion of south Lebanon.*

Many Mideast analysts believe the PLO was on the verge of collapse in the late 1980s,  when Norway offered to set up a secret back channel for Arafat to participate in secret negotiations with the Israeli government.

The Norwegian government subsequently arranged for Palestinian and Israeli delegates to hold secret talks in Oslo and Israel under the auspices of FAFO, a Norwegian trade union think tank allegedly conducting “research” in Israel.


* The PLO was headquartered in Lebanese refugee camps prior to their expulsion from Lebanon in 1982.

Episode 2 describes how the secret FAFO negotiations took place in parallel with “official” Washington DC negotiations overseen by the Clinton administration. It also reveals how the entire Palestinian delegation disagreed with the concessions Arafat demanded they consent to. They most vehemently disagreed with Israel’s “deal breakers” that negotiations not include the status of Jerusalem, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, nor UN involvement in the ultimate peace settlement.

In the final Oslo Accords signed in August 1993, the Palestinians were granted limited autonomy (an elected Palestinian Authority) in areas of the occupied West Bank and Gaza that excluded “military zones” and Israeli settlements. In return, the Palestinians agreed to allow Israel to assume overall responsibility for “security,” to allow continued building of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine and to vigorously police “terrorist” activities carried on by anti-Israeli activists.

The only concession the PLO received was an agreement for the Israeli Defense Force to withdraw from Jericho and Gaza.**

Renowned Palestinian scholar and activist Edward Said was deeply shocked by the concessions Arafat agreed to, which he blamed on the “decay” of the PLO leadership. The Oslo Accord, according to Said, transformed the PLO from a “movement of national liberation to a municipality.” Owing to the extreme secrecy under which they occurred, Israel came out the clear winner of the Oslo negotiations. Had the Palestinian people known about the self-defeating concessions Arafat was making, they would never have allowed them to go forward.

With the Palestinian Authority brutally policing their own dissidents and activists to enforce “peace” in Israel/Palestine, the most important outcome for Israel was hundreds of millions in foreign investment.


*It would take the IDF until 2006 to withdraw from Gaza. (see The Back Story on Hamas)

 

Hidden History: Exposing the Roots of the Korean Conflict

Imposed Divide: Exposing the Roots of the Korean Conflict

RT (2018)

Film Review

This documentary dispels many myths promoted by Western media about the real purpose of US sanctions against North Korea. Predictably the real purpose of North Korean sanctions isn’t to end the North’s nuclear program but, as in Russia, Venezuela, Iraq, Syria etc., to cause sufficient civilian misery to bring about regime change – either through popular uprising or a military coup.

The film begins by describing Korea’s historical division along the 38th parallel. During World War II, the entire Korean peninsula was occupied by Japan. When the latter surrendered on August 14, 1945, Soviet troops accepted their surrender north of the parallel and US troops in the South.

While Soviet troops withdrew, US troops continued its occupation of South Korea,  installing a series of puppet dictators to brutally suppress any dissent through surveillance, arrest, torture and assassination. Under US pressure, in 1948 the UN issued a declaration of two separate states – the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north, and the capitalist Republic of Korea in the south.

In 1950, North Korea attempted to reunify Korea by invading and “liberating.” the south. They were welcomed and supported by resistance fighters opposed to US occupation. With the help of UN forces, by 1953 the Americans drove North Korean troops north of the 38th parallel. They abandoned their plan to invade the North when Communist Chinese troops entered the Korean War on the side of the North Vietnamese. Instead the US unleashed a massive carpet bombing campaign that destroyed all major North Korean towns and killed 20% of their population.

After a July 1953 truce restored the original North/South boundary, the US maintained a permanent military presence (ie occupation)* in South Korea. A growing number of South Korean civilians have joined the movement protesting continued US occupation. South Korea’s National Security Act, which criminalizes praise of North Korea, criticism of the US and all human rights campaigns and protests, is equally unpopular.

This documentary also explodes Western myths about the origin of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The latter was the North’s response to a 1958 US decision to install tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea. They were removed in 1991 as part of President Bush Senior’s decision to eliminate America’s total arsenal of short range nuclear weapons.

In 1994 President Clinton signed an agreement to build North Korea a light water nuclear reactor in return for their commitment to end their nuclear weapons program. His Republican congress refused to ratify the treaty.

 

 

Hidden History: How Bush Sr and Clinton Sabotaged the Reagan-Gorbachev Nuclear Disarmament Treaty

Gorbachev and the Opportunity for Peace Wasted

DW (2018)

Film Review

This is a fascinating documentary featuring a rare appearance by former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. It begins by examining a mutual disarmament treaty Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan negotiated in 1987. Reagan was clearly acting in opposition to the reigning military-industrial-complex, just as Trump is in his negotiations with North Korean president Kim Jong-un. This seems to be why Reagan waited to launch disarmament talks until he safely won re-election in 1984.

The arms reduction treaty had scarcely come into effect when Gorbachev’s Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring),, in concert with CIA meddling, triggered the rapid break-up of the Soviet block. By 1990, thanks to Gorbachev’s commitment to non-intervention in Soviet allies’ internal affairs, the Berlin wall had fallen and Communist governments had been overthrown in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania.

An August 1991 coup, led by (CIA-backed) hard line Communists, failed but significantly weakened the Soviet Union by strengthening the hand of CIA-backed (see US Agents Helped Yeltsin Break Coup) Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

Within months, Yeltsin conspired with the presidents of Kazakstan, Belarus and Ukraine to declare independence simultaneously with the Russian Federation. The move would lead to Gorbachev’s resignation in December 1991.

The EU, concerned about preserving the Reagan-Gorbachev arms reduction treaty, proposed a number of countermeasures to improve Russian economic stability. Among them were a proposal to integrate Russia into western Europe by admitting them to the G7 and the NATO missile defense strategy and granting them $30 billion in aid. All were vetoed by the Bush senior and his successor Bill Clinton in favor of NATO expansion.


*In his book Manifest Destiny, F William Engdahl talks about the Enterprise, a private intelligence/security network created by George H W Bush and run by Oliver North and Richard Secord. In addition to organizing illegal weapons sales to Iran (see Iran-Contra Affair), the Enterprise recruited corrupt KGB generals to help  bring down Gorbachev’s government. According to Engdahl, these generals and their young proteges would become Russia’s corrupt billionaire oligarchs. The Enterprise financed the KGB generals’ coup against Korbachev in 1991 and installed Boris Yeltsin as president. The latter allowed the oligarchs, with the help of George Soros, Jeffrey Sachs and other Harvard economists to loot Russia exactly as they had looted Poland. See Russia’s Criminal Oligarchy: The Role of Bush Senior and the CIA).

 

Revisiting NATO Atrocities in Yugoslavia

Why? Revisiting NATO Atrocities in Yugoslavia

RT (2014)

Film Review

This documentary is about the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. The nightly bombing went on for 78 days and killed 2,000 civilians, including 88 children. Most Americans are totally unaware of this shameful chapter in US history. Despite claims to the contrary NATO bombers clearly targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure, destroying more than 300 schools, factories and hospitals. Bill Clinton’s political justification for the bombing was “regime change,” ie the ouster of the “vicious dictator” Milosevic.

The film intersperses interviews with grieving survivors with bizarre clips from US mainstream media coverage.

Clinton’s bombing campaign on Yugoslavia constitutes a war crime as it was never approved by the UN Security Council. Russia and China both indicated they would veto a Security Council resolution – in retaliation NATO forces bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

Pipelinestan: The Taliban, Unocal and 9-11

Taliban Oil

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

Taliban Oil is a documentary about secret negotiations between Unocal and the Taliban to build a pipeline transporting natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India – via Afghanistan. It features interviews with the former president of Unocal (who entertained Taliban leaders in his home in Sugarland Texas), a female Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) operative who lost her security clearance for a report warning the Clinton administration for a against US collaboration with the Taliban.

This film contradicts the conventional wisdom that the US invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban refused to build the Unocal pipeline. Filmmakers maintain it was Unocal who canceled the pipeline project. Already by the late nineties, Afghanistan was suffering the ravages of a 20-years of civil war – the Taliban were extremely keen to use the $400 million/year transit fees for reconstruction. The Clinton administration was also heavily promoting the pipeline deal, arranging for Taliban leaders to meet with the State Department, CIA and NSA.

Unocal reportedly withdrew from the deal in 1998, after suicide bombers blew up US embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania. Clinton blamed the suicide bombing on Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden, who was operating jihadist training camps in Afghanistan.

In addition to attacking various training camps with cruise missiles, Clinton made 30 separate requests for the Taliban to extradite bin Laden to the US. Although supreme Taliban leader Mullah Omar opposed the training camps, bin Laden was a national hero for his role in expelling the Soviets. It would have brought great shame on the Taliban leadership to hand him over to the Americans. .

In 2001 George W Bush and Dick Cheney reiterated the requests for bin Laden’s extradition, while simultaneously making deals for their own petroleum companies to build the pipeline.

Rejecting the Taliban’s offer to expel bin Laden to a third country, in summer 2001 the Bush administration made plans to invade Afghanistan in mid-autumn. One source* quoted in the film states the jihadists were aware of the impending attack and decided to launch a preemptive strike on the Twin Towers.


*For documentation filmmakers provide an old YouTube clip from Adam Gaddan, the Jewish-born “American” al-Qaeda spokesperson. Gaddan has long been suspected of either Israeli or US intelligence links.

Al Jazeera Film Challenges Trump’s Election Win

Unfair Game

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

The them of this documentary is that Trump used unfair tactics to win the 2016 electoral college vote, despite losing the popular vote by 3 million.

Most of the the film focuses on the California subsidiary of Cambridge Analytica, which purchased personal data from Facebook, Google, Twitter and other Internet data harvesting firms. It then used sophisticated algorithms to individually target potential Trump supporters in swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

According to filmmakers, Cambridge Analytica compiled 4,000 data points regarding the personal lives of 23 million voters. They then used the data to generate paid “dark posts” on Facebook. Dark posts are the weird personal ads and messages that pop up briefly on your Facebook news feed and then disappear.

Although it was intriguing to learn how Cambridge Analytica massaged personal data to identify and influence potential Trump voters, I objected to the way the documentary blames the Trump campaign for introducing microtargeting (potential supporters) to US elections. It was actually the Obama campaign that pioneered microtargeting, which is largely credited for his ability to overcome Republican vote rigging and vote suppression efforts in 2008 and 2012.

When the Obama campaign engaged in microtargeting, they were widely hailed as ingenious public relations innovators. When the Trump campaign does it, he’s branded as a liar and a thief. While I have no love for Donald Trump, the clear bias in this film really irritates me. I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton, who inherited many of Obama’s campaign staffers, also used microtargeting in her campaign.

That being said, I found it significant that Cambridge Analytica was actually an offshoot of the British Strategic Communications Laboratory, which was widely used by NATO, NSA, the State Department and other deep state actors to influence US and global opinion and meddle in foreign elections. I was previously unaware that the California branch of Cambridge Analytica was headed by Trump’s campaign manager Steve Bannon and mainly funded by Trump’s biggest campaign donor, Robert Mercer.

The first 15 minutes of the documentary in which, “mainstream” corporate journalists decry the unregulated dissemination of “fake news” by “ultra right wing” online publications, is frankly embarrassing.It was the collective decision by so-called “mainstream” media to become a propaganda mouthpiece for the CIA, State Department and Pentagon that led Americans to look to the Internet for alternative sources of information.

The Ugly History of the White Rights Movement

The People Against America

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This documentary traces the rise of the “white rights” movement that elected Donald Trump. This movement, of mainly white blue collar males, promotes the distorted image of white people as a disenfranchised minority. According to the filmmakers, it has its roots in Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. By heavily emphasizing “states rights,” Goldwater successfully exploited the anxieties of Southerners over forced integration by the federal government. It would be the first time Southern states had voted Republican since the Civil War.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy

In 1968, the Nixon campaign built on Goldwater’s success by implementing a formal “southern strategy.” By reaching out to the “silent majority,” and emphasizing law and order in the face of race riots and anti-war protests, his campaign sought to win the votes of northern blue collar voters. In subsequent elections, Democratic Party strategists would seek to win back blue collar voters by recruiting two conservative governors to run for president (Carter and Clinton).

As the Watergate scandal undermined all Americans’ confidence in government, corporate oligarchs would build on growing anti-government sentiment by massively funding right wing think tanks, lobbying and conservative talk radio. This, in turn would lay the groundwork for Reagan’s 1980 massive deregulation and tax and public service cuts.

Corporate Giveaways By Clinton and Obama

When Clinton was elected in 1992, he quickly surpassed Reagan’s record of corporate giveaways, with his total deregulation of Wall Street, his Three Strikes and Omnibus Crime Bill (leading to mass incarceration of minorities) and his creation of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These free trade treaties resulted in the wholesale export of rust belt industries to Mexico and China, effectively ending any incentive for working class males to vote Democratic.

Obama, elected on the back of the 2008 financial collapse, would prove even more pro-corporate than Clinton or Bush. Instead of prosecuting the banks who caused the 2008 economic crash, he granted them massive bailouts, while ignoring the plight of millions of homeowners who lost their homes when these banks foreclosed on them. He also significantly increasing mass surveillance and aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers. He also effectively repealed posse comitatus* and habeus corpus.**

The Rise of Occupy and the Tea Party

Obama’s pro-corporate policies led to the rise of both left wing (Occupy Wall Street) and right wing (Tea Party) popular movements. The latter received major corporate backing (largely from the Koch brothers), enabling Tea Party Republicans to shift the blame for the loss of good paying industrial jobs from Wall Street to minorities, immigrants and women.

Is the US Moving to the Right?

For me, the highlight of the documentary is  commentary by former Black Panther Party president Elaine Brown, the only activist featured. Brown, who is highly critical of the left’s failure to acknowledge the problems of poor white people, is the only commentator to dispute that the US is “moving to the right.” She points out that prior Republican campaigns used coded language (such as “state rights,” “law and order”) to target racist fears of blue collar whites. Trump, in contrast, openly caters to these sentiments. Brown reports that some blacks welcome the end of political hypocrisy and greater openness about the pervasiveness of white racism.

She believes this new openness offers a good opportunity to build a genuine multiracial working class movement. She gives the example of successful collaboration in Chicago between black activists and the Young Patriots (a white separatist group) against corrupt landlords.


*The Posse Comitatus Act, enacted in 1878, prohibited the use of federal troops to enforce domestic policies within the US.

**The right of Habeus Corpus, guaranteed under Article I of the Constitution and the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, prevents government from illegal detaining US citizens without charging them.

 

Israel’s Secret 40-year War with Iran

The Secret with Iran: The 30-Year Covert Struggle for Control of a “Rogue” State

by Ronen Bergman

Translated by Ronnie Hope

Oneworld (2009)

Book Review

This is a very depressing book. The “secret war” referred to is the covert war Israeli intelligence has fought with Iran over the last [40] years. Most of The Secret War with Iran is an endless chronology of lawless tit-for-tat revenge killings, car bombings, kidnappings and extrajudicial assassinations Israeli intelligence and Hezbollah* impose on one another.

While most of the narrative seems historically accurate, the author’s clear pro-Zionist bias results in a number of troubling inconsistencies. Examples include persistent claims about Iran’s mythical nuclear weapons arsenal – despite verification by US intelligence (see Iran Doesn’t Have a Nuclear Weapons Program) that their nuclear weapons program ceased in 2003; a clear attempt to minimize the role of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine in generating and perpetuating Middle East violence; repeated claims that Iran (rather than Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the CIA) was the key player in the birth of Al Qaeda; and an erroneous assertion that Saddam Hussein expelled UN nuclear inspectors in 1998 (Bill Clinton had them recalled so he could bomb Iraq – see Clinton’s Worst Crimes).

Despite these weaknesses, the book provides valuable insight about the Israeli origin of Iran bashing recently taken up by Trump and the Republican Congress. The book also contains important historical background on Ruhollah Khomeini and the 1979 Iranian revolution to overthrow the ruthless CIA-backed Shah. Prior to reading this book, I was unaware of the role Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) played in training Iran’s Revolutionary Guards nor the role of Iran in training, arming and funding Hezbollah, the Shi’ite militia group operating on the Israeli border in southern Lebanon.

After 1948 when the new state of Israel forcibly evicted millions of Palestinians from their lands, a sizeable proportion fled to southern Lebanon where they’re housed in refuge camps to this day. It was these camps that gave rise to the PLO.

After their UN-mandated expulsion from Lebanon in 1987, many PLO fighter returned to Palestine – where they launched the first Intifada.


*Hezbollah is a Shi’ite Islamist political party and milita group based in Lebanon. They enjoy strong support from Lebanon’s civilian population owing to their programs offering health, education and social services the Lebanese government is too poor to provide.

More Babies Die in Cleveland than in North Korea, Sri Lanka, Albania and Guatemala

Behind America’s Infant Mortality Crisis

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

Since the mid-1990s, when Bill Clinton eliminated Aid For Dependent Children (AFDC), the US has enjoyed infant mortality rates among the highest in the world. Rust belt Midwestern cities lead the US in infant mortality. The loss of steel, auto and other manufacturing to third world sweatshops has virtually crushed many of these cities, leaving massive unemployment – particularly among African Americans.

Cleveland is the US city with the highest percentage of babies dying during the first year of life – with an infant mortality greater than third world countries like North Korea, Albania, Sri Lanka and Guatemala.

Trying to identify the cause of Cleveland’s skyrocketing infant mortality, filmmakers interview African American mothers and expectant mothers and neonatal specialists. The neonatologists identify prematurity as the number one cause of infant deaths. Factors that contribute to mothers delivering prematurely include homelessness and lack of access to healthy food (or money to pay for it) and prenatal care. Ohio is one of the states where Republican legislators declined federal funds to expand Medicaid (which pays for prenatal care) to the working poor.

The neonatologists also point out the false economy of this ideological stinginess. Ohio’s Medicaid program spends hundreds of millions of dollars trying to keep premature babies alive in state-of-the-art neonatal ICUs – it would cost taxpayers far less to prevent prematurity by ensuring expectant mothers have warm housing, healthy food and prenatal care.