News Release Archive - 2017

New Venezuela Sanctions: Trump Trying Regime Change?

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The Washington Post reports this afternoon: “Trump tightens Venezuela’s access to U.S. financial system.”

ALEXANDER MAIN, via Dan Beeton: beeton at cepr.net @ceprdc
Main is senior associate for International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He said today: “These new sanctions will further destabilize Venezuela by undermining efforts to alleviate widespread shortages of food and medicine, and by strengthening the hand of hardliners who oppose a negotiated solution to the country’s political crisis. Coupled with Trump’s outrageous threat of military action in Venezuela, these sanctions leave little doubt regarding the administration’s real objective in Venezuela: regime change. The sanctions are also further evidence that Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio and other rightwing hawks that see Latin America through a Cold War lens, are now guiding U.S. policy in the region. By choosing to deliberately exacerbate the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, Trump and Rubio are significantly increasing the risk of outright civil war, just as the region is beginning to recover from over 50 years of civil war in neighboring Colombia.”

Background: “Enough About Russia? U.S. Openly Interfering in Venezuela, Violating OAS Charter.”

Trump’s War Presidency: * Pakistan and Geopolitics * Ellsberg’s “Stalemate Machine”

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JUNAID AHMAD, junaidsahmad at gmail.com
Now in Pakistan, Ahmad just appeared on The Real News: “Is Trump Threatening Pakistan?” discussing Trump’s speech on Afghanistan and the geopolitics of the region.

Ahmed said: “This does nothing for the Afghan people. I think the only solution was something that has been explored over early this year. The Russians tried to get together the regional actors in the region because it must be a regional solution. Every regional power has a horse in this race, which makes this complicated and so unending. They knew that they have to have a regional solution. The Americans didn’t come and their response was to unleash the mother of all bombs in Afghanistan. That was their response to the type of diplomatic negotiations taking place between the regional powers.” See from April 14, 2017 in the major German news outlet DW: “U.S. skips out on Afghanistan-Taliban conference in Moscow.

Ahmad continued: “A very important point was in March 2015, when the Pakistani military, for the first time ever, had the courage to say no to the Saudis in being willing to, being willing to participate in their war against Yemen, which is an excellent decision they made to not participate in this murderous war. …

“These are interesting developments and I think that the Pentagon and the CIA realize this. This is why they’re kind of going all out in making India their frontline state. We have been now witnessing border skirmishes between India and China, which are also reaching some dangerous levels, over the past few months. … I’m half my time based in Malaysia and if you see it from there, where you have U.S. naval ships and military bases encircling China, you understand fully well why the relationship with India right now is so crucial in the geopolitics of the region and why they want India to play that role in Afghanistan. It’s the only kind of trusted ally. From China’s part, one thing people fail to realize. The most powerful ally that China probably has in the world, closest ally, is Pakistan. It’s a mutually dependent relationship.”

Ahmad is the director of Center for Global Dialogue and professor of Middle Eastern politics at the University of Lahore, Pakistan. He is also the Secretary-General of the International Movement for a Just World based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and a visiting fellow at the Berkeley Center for Islamophobia and Ethnic Studies Graduate Center. He recently wrote the piece “Coloniality and Liberal Angst in Pakistan.”

JONATHAN MARSHALL, jvmarsha1 at yahoo.com
Marshall is an award-winning journalist and author of five books on international affairs and national security. See his recent pieces at Consortium News.

He recently wrote the piece “The Goal of ‘Not Losing’ in Afghanistan” — which notes that in 2012, Trump said: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense!”

Marshall makes a parallel with U.S. government decision making about the Vietnam War: “As former Defense Department official and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg argued in a seminal 1971 essay, ‘The Quagmire Myth and the Stalemate Machine,’ U.S. leaders knew full well, every step of the way, that their successive escalations of that war would not bring victory. Instead, their goal was to prevent defeat — and with it, a repetition of the political traumas that followed the ‘loss of China’ and the rise of McCarthism in the early 1950s.

“‘If I tried to pull out completely now, we would have another Joe McCarthy red scare on our hands,’ President John F. Kennedy told Sen. Mike Mansfield in 1963. The assassination of Kennedy that November precluded any possibility that he would pull out after his reelection. Two days later, President Lyndon Johnson told a White House meeting, ‘I am not going to lose Vietnam. I am not going to be the president who saw Southeast Asia go the way China went.'”

Marshall also just wrote the piece “The New Trump: War President,” which notes: “One of Steve Bannon’s last declarations before being fired by the White House was that no ‘military option’ exists for dealing with North Korea, because of the extraordinary damage a war would cause.

“As I’ve discussed before, however, another influential Washington figure, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has lobbied Trump to order an all-out attack if Pyongyang continues testing missiles capable of reaching the United States — even if a war turns South Korea and Japan into wastelands.”

Marshall writes: “What the United States desperately needs now is a mass movement to resist not only racism and plutocracy at home, but endless militarism abroad.”

Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy: Only Good for the Arms Peddlers?

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MATTHEW HOH, [currently in D.C. area] matthew_hoh at riseup.net
In 2009, Hoh resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of the war there by the Obama administration. See 2009 Washington Post piece about Hoh: “U.S. official resigns over Afghan war.” He previously had been in Iraq with a State Department team and with the U.S. Marines. He is now a senior fellow with the Center for International Policy. Hoh was just on The Real News and appeared on “Democracy Now” Tuesday morning.

Hoh recently wrote the piece “Trump’s Turn To Lie About Afghanistan,” and said today: “Trump’s speech offered to accelerate the continued killing and suffering in Afghanistan, while barely giving mention to a negotiated resolution to the conflict and only offering the scarcest platitudes deemed necessary by the speechwriters and political consultants toward peace and diplomacy.

“Profits for military contractors, which he actually highlighted by touting the increased tens of billions of dollars in U.S. military spending, are ensured indefinitely, as President Trump relentlessly brought forth the 16-year-old demons of 9/11 throughout his speech and gave cause continuously to the tired and specious myth of the necessity of the terrorist safe haven and the requirement for the United States to occupy, garrison and subjugate Muslim nations.

“President Trump’s use of the term ‘strategically applied force’ must be remembered in relation to his promises to kill terrorists’ families, and that use of force is reminiscent of the form of punishment all empires have administered onto the borderlands and provinces that have rebelled throughout history. This should be seen in connection to and in understanding of the recent devastating campaigns by the Iraqi military against cities in Iraq such as Mosul, Fallujah and Tikirt and by the Saudis in Yemen to understand how the Afghan military will be reshaped and retrained. [See “Covering Up the Massacre of Mosul.”]

“President Trump’s words towards Pakistan were striking, his comments on nuclear weapons, which can be considered as a warning to the Pakistanis, particularly alarming and jarring. It is concerning how the Indians will take this speech, will they be emboldened by this show of U.S. support and resolve toward India and will dangerous circumstances between Pakistan and India, two countries that many experts believe most likely to engage in a nuclear conflict become even more dangerous?”

SCOTT HORTON, scott at antiwar.com, @scotthortonshow
Horton is the author of the new book Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, hosts Antiwar Radio, is managing director of the Libertarian Institute and opinion editor of Antiwar.com. He said today: “In Afghanistan, the U.S. has been attempting to foist a government and military backed by a coalition of minority groups from the north of the country onto the plurality Pashtun population. … President Trump himself has opposed the Afghan war for at least the last five years, and has shown that he knows that the pacification of these local tribal resistance fighters cannot be achieved.”

BRIAN TERRELL, brian at vcnv.org
Terrell is a co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence and is leaving for his fifth trip to Afghanistan on Sept. 13. He said today: “In October of 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney predicted that the so-called war on terror that had begun with the U.S. bombing and invasion of Afghanistan that month, ‘may never end. At least, not in our lifetime.’ Suggesting that this new war would ‘become a permanent part of the way we live,’ Cheney was not expressing a dystopian fear, but rather his hope for a cash cow that will never stop paying out. Over the 16 years since, it has seemed that this war has not been intended to be won or otherwise resolved in any way. At Camp David, President Trump was briefed on a new strategy to ‘protect America’s interests’ in the region. The interests and welfare of the Afghan people obviously was not a topic for discussion and whatever new strategy is devised by Trump and his generals, the near future does not bode well for anyone but the arms peddlers.” Terrell’s pieces include “Life Goes On Under the Helicopters and the Terrible Cost of Avoiding the Dangers of Kabul.”

SONALI KOLHATKAR, sonali at risingupwithsonali.com, @SonaliKolhatkar
Kolhatkar is director of Afghan Women’s Mission. She said today: “Donald Trump announced his plan to win the war in Afghanistan without actually laying out any specifics. Indeed he literally said he wouldn’t spell out troop increases (although reports suggest it will be as high as 4,000), or other strategies.'” Kolhatkar recently wrote the piece “Don’t Privatize the Afghan War — Just End It.”

Afghanistan and Korea: Exploding the Myths

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The New York Times reports: “Trump Settles on Afghan Strategy Expected to Raise Troop Levels.” Trump is scheduled to make a prime-time address on the Afghan war at 9 p.m. ET tonight.

MATTHEW HOH, [currently in D.C. area] matthew_hoh at riseup.net
Hoh just wrote the piece “Trump’s Turn To Lie About Afghanistan,” which states: “American politicians, pundits and generals will speak about ‘progress’ made by the 70,000 American troops put into Afghanistan by President Obama beginning in 2009, along with an additional 30,000 European troops and 100,000 private contractors. However, the hard and awful true reality is that the war in Afghanistan has only escalated since 2009, never stabilizing or de-escalating; the Taliban has increased in strength by tens of thousands, despite tens of thousands of casualties and prisoners; and American and Afghan casualties have continued to grow every year of the conflict, with U.S. casualties declining only when U.S. forces began to withdraw in mass numbers from parts of Afghanistan in 2011, while Afghan security forces and civilians have experienced record casualties every year since those numbers began to be kept by the UN.”

Matthew Hoh is a member of the advisory boards of Expose Facts, Veterans For Peace and World Beyond War. In 2009 he resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of the Afghan War by the Obama Administration. He previously had been in Iraq with a State Department team and with the U.S. Marines. He is a senior fellow with the Center for International Policy.

The U.S. government is launching “war games” targeting North Korea today. The New York Times reports: “Talk of ‘Preventive War’ Rises Over North Korea Issue.” RootsAction petition “Push back against Trump’s threats of nuclear war” has 13,000 signers.

CHRISTINE HONG, cjhong at ucsc.edu
Hong is an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. She said today: “Far from being an intractable foe, North Korea has repeatedly asked the United States to sign a peace treaty that would bring the unresolved Korean War to a long overdue end. It has also proposed that the United States cease its annual war games with South Korea. North Korea has cautioned the United States not to treat war as a game, especially in the form of the simulated invasion and occupation of North Korea, the ‘decapitation’ of its leadership, and rehearsals of a … nuclear strike — all of which pose an existential threat to North Korean society. In return, North Korea will cap its nuclear weapons testing. China and Russia have reiterated this proposal. The United States, however, maintains its war games with South Korea are simply business as usual and on August 21, plans to proceed with its annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian joint war exercises.”

HYUN LEE, [in NYC] zoominkorea at gmail.com
Managing editor of ZoominKorea, Lee said today: “North Korea legitimately withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Article X of the NPT says parties have the right to withdraw from the treaty if ‘extraordinary events have jeopardized their supreme interests.’ In 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States announced that it was retargeting some of its strategic nuclear weapons away from the former Soviet Union to North Korea. Then, it conducted military exercises near the North Korean border involving tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers as well as B-1B and B-52 bombers and naval vessels with cruise missiles. In 2002, George W. Bush listed North Korea among seven countries that are potential targets of U.S. … nuclear attack. North Korea determined that these constitute ‘extraordinary events that jeopardize its supreme interests’ and followed the proper procedure as outlined in the NPT to pull out of the treaty.

“The United States, on the contrary, is in violation of the NPT, which says parties to the treaty that have nuclear weapons should reduce their arsenal toward complete elimination. The United States spends billions of dollars each year to modernize its nuclear arsenals.

“Most importantly, North Korea has declared a ‘no first strike’ policy, meaning it will … only use them defensively. The United States, notably, does not have this policy.”

FOIA Finding Undermines McAuliffe’s Charlottesville Claim

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KEN KLIPPENSTEIN, kenneth.klippenstein at gmail.com, @kenklippenstein
Klippenstein is an independent journalist and just wrote the piece “Police Were Not Outgunned In Charlottesville, Documents Suggest,” which states: “After the ‘Unite the Right’ rally organized by white supremacists rocked Charlottesville, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe complained that the demonstrators ‘had better equipment’ than the state’s police forces.

“However, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) detail sophisticated, military-grade weapons Virginia police received from the Department of Defense (DOD) under its controversial 1033 program.

“Shadowproof obtained a DOD document under FOIA showing Virginia law enforcement were provided with ‘aircraft, tactical vehicles, weapons, night vision/optical devices, weapons surpressors, and other items.'”

Government Demands Details on All Visitors to Anti-Trump Website

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The Guardian reports — “U.S. government demands details on all visitors to anti-Trump protest website” that on July 17, the Department of Justice “served a website-hosting company, DreamHost, with a search warrant for every piece of information it possessed that was related to a website that was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration. The warrant covers the people who own and operate the site, but also seeks to get the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited it, as well as the date and time of their visit and information about what browser or operating system they used. …

“The website, www.disruptj20.org, was used to coordinate protests and civil disobedience on 20 January, when Trump was inaugurated.”

CHIP GIBBONS,  Chip at RightsAndDissent.org
Gibbons is policy and legislative counsel for Defending Rights & Dissent. He said today: “There is no legitimate law enforcement purpose for this warrant. We know very well that its real purpose is to chill speech, silence dissent, and make people afraid to speak out.”

ALFREDO LOPEZ, alfredo at mayfirst.org
Lopez is co-director of May First/People Link, which said in a statement: “While demands made on providers for user information have become common over the last few years, this one represents a new level of violation. … May First/People Link has resisted every legal request like this one since 2008 (see support.mayfirst.org/wiki/legal). We are glad to see Dreamhost fighting this one. And, we believe our entire movement should support that resistance and promote the resistance of any such order in the future.”

Trump, Iran: New Path to War?

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The Guardian reports: “Iran says it could quit nuclear deal if U.S. keeps adding sanctions.”

TRITA PARSI, tparsi at niacouncil.org, @tparsi
Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and author of Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy. He said: “It should now be clear that Donald Trump’s moves to violate and hold certification of the Iran nuclear deal in doubt are actively destabilizing the accord. Unfortunately, in response to Trump’s increasingly hostile rhetoric, as well as Congress’ moves to escalate sanctions, Iran is now warning that it has its own options to back out of the deal if the U.S. continues to undermine it. We reiterate our call for all parties to the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] to fully implement their obligations under the agreement.

“We have repeatedly warned that President Trump’s beating of the war drum with Iran, even if confined to rhetoric, in addition to new Congressional sanctions and zero diplomatic outreach, could only produce negative consequences. Iran’s parliament has now voted to increase spending on its ballistic missile program and the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] in direct response to new sanctions on the country.

“Unfortunately, elements in both the U.S. and Iran have pushed needlessly provocative steps designed to provoke a crisis and undermine the nuclear deal. In this instance, we have the President of the United States issuing counterfactual statements suggesting Iran is not complying with the nuclear accord and indicating the U.S. will blow up the deal. Meanwhile, JCPOA opponents in the U.S. rammed through new sanctions legislation despite warnings of how they would backfire. These sanctions have predictably empowered rather than marginalized the IRGC and hardliners in the country.

“Rouhani’s statement and the Iranian parliament’s vote do not come as a surprise. Iranian moderates put their political lives on the line by negotiating the nuclear accord, and Iranian hardliners now have a partner in the White House who is helping them sabotage moderate proponents of engagement. We warned that new Congressional sanctions would lead to Iran doubling down on its missile program and the Revolutionary Guard, empowering hardline elements while destabilizing the JCPOA. That’s exactly what has happened.

“This is precisely the response that hardliners in the U.S. hoped to receive from Iran in reaction to these recent provocations. Now the White House, hawkish lawmakers, and neoconservative ‘regime-change’ groups will seek to exploit this self-made crisis to push for retaliatory actions to unravel the accord and put the U.S. and Iran back on the path to war.”

NAFTA Renegotiation: Will Working People Continue to Get Shafted?

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MANUEL PÉREZ-ROCHA, manuel at ips-dc.org, @ManuelPerezIPS
Just back in Washington, D.C. from Mexico, Pérez-Rocha is associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. His articles include “NAFTA Pushes Many Mexicans to Migrate.” Today at 2:00 p.m. ET he is featured on a webinar on the NAFTA renegotiations.

He said today: “We cannot allow the trade policies that replace it to put the interests of multinational corporations first, as the renegotiation of NAFTA under a Trump administration teeming with corporate interests is positioned to do. Trump has promised that the NAFTA renegotiation will create jobs in the United States, but if corporate elites are allowed to dictate the renegotiation, Trump’s false economic populism will result in Americans facing job loss, wage stagnation, and eroding working conditions, especially for low-income workers and workers of color. We need an internationalist approach to trade that lifts up labor rights, environmental standards, and human rights for people in all of the nations involved in the agreement, and provides good jobs for workers in the U.S. Trump wants to allow corporations to pit U.S. workers against other working communities in a global race to the bottom.”

LORI WALLACH, via Ufuoma Otu, uotu at citizen.org, @PCGTW
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

She said today: “We are calling on the administration to negotiate a new NAFTA deal that we can support — a deal that not only stops NAFTA’s ongoing damage, but that creates American jobs and raises wages. Congressional Democrats, unions, environmental and consumer groups have long demanded a specific set of changes to NAFTA to end its job offshoring incentives that, ironically, are necessary to deliver on President Trump’s campaign pledges to make NAFTA ‘much better’ for working people. Unless NAFTA’s investor privileges and Buy American procurement waiver that promote job offshoring are eliminated and strong, enforceable labor and environmental standards and tighter rules of origin are added, a new deal will not be better for working people, much less deliver on Trump’s promises to bring down the NAFTA trade deficit or create more American manufacturing jobs.

“The corporate lobby and Republican congressional leaders oppose the changes to NAFTA necessary to stop job offshoring, create good jobs and raise wages. Instead, they seek to double down on the old trade model and revive the TPP by adding to NAFTA elements of the TPP deal that Trump opposed.

“With talks starting, the administration must decide between the corporate lobby and working people. The administration approach either will expand the old job-killing model as the corporate lobby demands or it will replace NAFTA with a deal that creates jobs and raises wages as the American people expect. …

“NAFTA must be renegotiated just to stop its ongoing damage. But depending on how the administration conducts these talks, NAFTA could get worse for working people in all three NAFTA countries. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross talks about ‘doing no harm’ by not changing terms businesses support and ‘modernizing NAFTA’ by using the TPP as a ‘starting point.’ This is an approach that not only would fail to meet President Trump’s campaign pledges, but that would face a dead end in Congress. …

“Last week, 100 corporations and lobby groups sent a letter demanding [that] corporate protections not only remain, but are expanded. Elimination of NAFTA’s investor privileges and ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement] is the red line demand of hundreds of small businesses, unions, environmental, consumer, faith and other groups. The administration must decide between the corporate lobby and American workers. …”

Misconceptions about Charlottesville

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JAMES LOEWEN, jloewen at uvm.edu
Loewen’s books include Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong, Lies My Teacher Told Me and Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. Earlier this year, he spoke at a symposium in Richmond on Confederate monuments and memorials, available on C-SPAN. See his piece in the Washington Post: “Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong.”

DAVID SWANSON, david@davidswanson.org, @davidcnswanson
Swanson’s books include Killing Is Not a Way of Life. He lives in Charlottesville and has written extensively about the Confederate and other memorials there.

He just wrote the piece “Top 10 Misconceptions About Charlottesville,” which states: “The racists who have begun coming to Charlottesville to campaign for governor, garner attention, threaten violence, engage in violence, and commit murder are almost all from outside Charlottesville, and extremely unwelcome here. Charlottesville is a slightly left-of-center, Democratic Party area. Most people don’t rally for good causes or against bad ones. Most people don’t want the Lee statue taken down. (Or at least they didn’t until it became a gathering point for neo-Confederates.) Most people want other memorials added to public space to diversify. And most people don’t want white supremacists coming to town with their hatred and their violence. …

“Charlottesville’s mayor voted against taking down the Lee statue, even if he now sounds on NBC News as if it had been his idea. …

“Tearing down statues is not opposing history. Charlottesville has three Confederate war statues, two (pro) genocide of the Native Americans statues, one World War I statue, one Vietnam War memorial, one statue of Thomas Jefferson (whose words and deeds, I’m sorry to say, agreed almost entirely with the latest racists), and one statue of Homer (poet of war). And that’s it. We have no memorials, whether monumental statuary or otherwise, to a single educator, artist, musician, athlete, author, or activist, nothing for Native American history, slavery, civil rights, women’s rights, or ANYTHING ELSE. Almost all of our history is missing. Putting up a giant statue for racism and war is not a step for history. Taking it down is not a blow to history. It could be a step forward, in fact. Even the renaming of Lee Park as Emancipation Park is educational. Creating a memorial to emancipation, and one to civil rights, and one to school integration, and one to peace would be more so.”

Korea Crisis

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TIM SHORROCK, timshorrock at gmail.com, @TimothyS
Shorrock is a Washington-based journalist who spent part of his youth in South Korea and has been writing about North and South Korea since the late 1970s. He just returned from a two-month stay in Gwangju, South Korea, where during the Korean presidential campaign he interviewed South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In. He writes about U.S.-Korea relations for The Nation and the Korea Center for Investigative Reporting.He was just interviewed by The Real News: “Has Trump Threatened Nuclear War on North Korea?

DAVID VINE, vine[at]american.edu
Vine is a professor at American University and author of the book Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World. He said today: “Guam is called the ‘tip of the spear’ which says a lot about its purpose.” Vine recently wrote the piece “Forty-Five Blows Against Democracy, How U.S. Military Bases Back Dictators, Autocrats, and Military Regimes.”