News Releases

Is “Russiagate” the New Benghazi?

Share

SOPHIA McCLENNEN, sophia.mcclennen at gmail.com, @mcclennen65
McClennen just wrote the piece “The Russia election investigation is important — but it’s not everything” for Salon, which states: “Remember when the right couldn’t stop obsessing over Benghazi? The attack on the U.S. embassy on September 11, 2012, led to a right-wing witch hunt aimed at blaming President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for misrepresenting the attacks to the U.S. public and for missing signs that could have prevented it. The critical thing to remember is that shortly after the attacks, right-wing media covered Benghazi in a constant loop. As Stephen Colbert parodied it for ‘The Colbert Report’ in late November 2013, it was ‘Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.’ Well guess what? The right’s Benghazi is now the left’s Russia. …

“Let’s start by agreeing that we should figure out the scope and extent of Russian involvement and the degree to which the Trump team was involved. The problem, though, is that the obsession with Russia is keeping us from paying attention to the various sources of information-meddling that have nothing to do with Russia. …

“The obsession with Russian propaganda isn’t just an entertaining way for the U.S. public to revive Cold War logics; in the end, it is a disaster for our democracy. One of the biggest flaws to propaganda hype is that it gives the left a pass from taking seriously the policy flaws in the Hillary Clinton campaign. ..

“Even worse, the Russia propaganda story allows the DNC to avoid dealing with the reality that the 2016 elections revealed the truth that the party is an oligarchy populated by insiders, corporate capitalists, cronies and superdelegates.”

McClennen is professor of international affairs and comparative literature at the Pennsylvania State University. She is co-author of Is Satire Saving Our Nation? Mockery and American Politics and co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights.

Shooter Cruz, JROTC and the NRA

Share

PAT ELDER, pelder at studentprivacy.org, @studentprivacy
Author of the recently released book Military Recruiting in the United States, Elder is director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, an organization that confronts militarism in the schools.

He just wrote the piece “JROTC, Military Indoctrination and the Training of Mass Killers,” which states: “Nikolas Cruz, the south Florida shooter, was enrolled in the Army’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program as a 9th grader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Army taught Cruz to shoot lethal weapons at a very young and impressionable age.

“Few in America have connected the dots between military indoctrination and firearms instruction on the one hand, and the propensity for training mass killers, whether their crimes are committed as enlisted soldiers in atrocities overseas or in American high schools. …

“When Cruz was apprehended he was wearing his JROTC polo shirt, sending a message to the world of his affiliation with the military program. …

“JROTC programs in Florida and elsewhere were once plagued by low enrollment numbers which threatened to shut down the program. The military responded with a robust lobbying effort directed at states, aiming to allow students to satisfy normal, for-credit course requirements by taking the JROTC elective. Florida is most friendly to the military in this regard. The state allows students enrolled in JROTC to satisfy the curricular requirements of physical education, biology, physical science, art, and life management. JROTC is regarded as an Advanced Placement course. Students earn 6 Quality Points toward their weighted GPA.

“Many of these courses are taught by retired enlisted soldiers with no teaching credentials and little or no college education. Meanwhile, Broward schools require teachers to hold teacher certification and most must have a Master’s degree after a certain period of time.

“JROTC programs in U.S. schools are run by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. The school shooting programs are regulated by the Civilian Marksmanship Program, (CMP). The program was set up by Congress after the Spanish-American War to ensure that large numbers of Americans knew how shoot guns in the event of a war. The CMP is now a private entity with $160 million in assets. It sells discarded military rifles, pistols, and ammunition to the American public at the behest of Congress. The CMP downplays the health and safety concerns of the robust shooting program. …

    “Children participate in shooting programs at tournaments hosted by the CMP and supported by the NRA.”

The Associated Press reported over the weekend: “Florida shooting suspect was on school rifle team that got NRA grant.”

“13 Russian” Indictment

Share

PETER VAN BUREN, info at wemeantwell.com, @WeMeantWell
Available for a limited number of interviews, Peter Van Buren is a former State Department foreign service officer who spent time in Iraq. Now in Washington, he writes at his blog, We Meant Well. His first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.

He said today: “Just did a quick read of the ’13 Russian’ indictment. Missing are a) any connections between the 13 and the Russian government and/or Trump campaign; b) any discussion of the impact (if any) their social media efforts had. It describes them buying Facebook ads, but nothing about if it affected votes; c) no connection shown between any of this and DNC, Wikileaks, hacking of emails; d) no discussion of motive; e) assumption that anything anti-Clinton was defacto pro-Bernie and/or pro-Trump. And all indicted persons are Russians, and outside the U.S., so highly unlikely this is going anywhere further legally.

“Going forward with ’13 Russian’ story, keep your eye out for how quickly MSM morphs ’13 people who were Russian citizens did this’ into ‘The Russians did this.’ Also keep a look out for any information that suggests their efforts had any impact on outcome, or were just more spam.

“Two years ago, the New York Times did a feature story on the same ‘Internet Research Agency’ Mueller indicted today. The Times described the group as web trolls for hire. Unspecified in the indictment is who hired them, THE critical question if this is to matter.”

Peter Van Buren’s second book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, was published in 2014. His newest book, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, has just been published.

Background, from the Washington Post: “There’s still little evidence that Russia’s 2016 social media efforts did much of anything.”

From IPA executive director Norman Solomon: “Social Media Madness: The Russia Canard.”

IPA news release: “Dark Money, Not Russia, Best Explains Trump’s Win.”

A Disarming History of the Second Amendment

Share

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ, rdunbaro at pacbell.net, @rdunbaro

Dunbar-Ortiz is author of the recently released Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment. Last month, a talk about the book was carried by C-SPAN. Her previous books include An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

She recently wrote the piece “Inside the minds of American mass shooters” for the British Guardian, which states: “Gun-love can be akin to non-chemical addictions like gambling or hoarding, either of which can have devastating effects, mainly economic, but murder, suicide, accidental death, and mass shootings result only from guns. …

“There were 127 mass shootings with 874 victims in the United States between 1966 and 2016, an average of seven deaths in each. Nearly all of them were carried out by white men.”Only three of the 130 shooters were women. If domestic shootings are included — meaning a man shooting his partner, often including their children and other relatives — the number of mass shootings rises dramatically.”

She also recently wrote the pieces “United States Policing and ‘Gun Rights’ Began With Slave Patrols” for TruthOut and “Settler Colonialism and the Second Amendment,” for Monthly Review, which states: “The violent appropriation of Native land by white settlers was seen as an individual right in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, second only to freedom of speech. Male colonial settlers had long formed militias for the purpose of raiding and razing Indigenous communities and seizing their lands and resources, and the Native communities fought back. Virginia, the first colony, forbade any man to travel unless he was ‘well armed.’ A few years later, another law required men to take arms with them to work and to attend church or be fined.”

Are Mass Shootings in U.S. Blowback from its Perpetual Wars?

Share

Coleen Rowley — a former FBI special agent who exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures and was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002 — writes on Facebook: “It looks like this latest Florida school shooter besides having a number of psychological problems was in JROTC. Most reporters are not mentioning the connection between mass shooters and military training/service. Research shows a significant correlation. I’ve been saying for years now that the steep increase in mass shootings in the U.S. can be traced to blowback from the extreme ‘war is the answer’ militarism (all over social media, Hollywood, violent video games, etc.) used to sustain and promote U.S.-NATO-Israel’s perpetual war.”

Rowley criticized media coverage that “lauded the ‘great show of force’ (showing dozens of police running into the school when the shooter had already escaped). And again TV anchors asked the ridiculous question about ‘motive’ as if it’s a detective mystery when that term really has zero relevance to vulnerable people turning into senseless violent copycats just shooting up public places because they have come to think that’s the American way of solving problems and becoming heroes.”

See Rowley’s piece “Recipe Concocted for Perpetual War Is a Bitter One,” which states: “Given our somnolent acceptance of the notion that this unprecedented state of perpetual war is somehow protecting our safety, it’s ironic that military service is emerging as significantly correlated with, if not a cause of, America’s dramatic increase in mass shootings and other domestic terror-type killings.(PTSD-related murders overall also remain uncounted.) Researchers studying recent lists of mass shooters find veterans are over twice as likely to be mass shooters. Post-combat related ‘copycat’ homicidal violence might be a direct externality of training and then assigning young people to commit murder overseas.”PAT ELDER, [currently in Florida, five miles from Parkland, Florida], pelder at studentprivacy.org, @studentprivacy

Author of the recently released book Military Recruiting in the United States, Elder is director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, an organization that confronts militarism in the schools. He notes that the alleged shooter was “in the JROTC program as early as 9th grade. They practice shooting in the cafeteria. He was apprehended wearing his JROTC shirt.”

DAVID SWANSON, david at davidswanson.org, @davidcnswanson
Swanson just wrote the piece “Florida Shooter’s JROTC Took NRA Money, Excelled at Marksmanship.” He writes that “35 percent of U.S. mass shooters are military veterans, as compared with 14.76 percent in the general population for the same gender and age.”

Swanson is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War. He is a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

Feb. 15 at 15: Iraq Invasion Opposition and the “Second Super Power”

Share

Feb. 15, 2003, 15 years ago Thursday, saw massive protests around the world opposing the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq, which began on March 20.

MIKE ZMOLEK, mike.zmolek at gmail.com
Zmolek served as national coordinator for the National Network to End the War Against Iraq (NNEWAI) between 2001 and 2004. He now teaches history and international studies at the University of Iowa. He said today: “On February 15, 2003, an estimated 15 million people world-wide took to the streets to protest the impending U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, shattering any prior records for turnout at popular protests. There were massive protests in London, Madrid, New York, Barcelona, Rome, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Hong Kong and hundreds of other cities, leading the New York Times to call the anti-war movement the ‘second super power.’ [See news video clips and excerpt from documentary “February 15th, 2003: The Day the World Said No to War.”]

“The date had been set by the Stop the War Coalition in Britain, then chaired by Jeremy Corbyn — now leader of the Labor Party. I organized a reception for Corbyn in Washington, D.C. in January 2003 and played an instrumental role in persuading the then recently-formed United for Peace (and Justice) Coalition to organize U.S. participation in the Feb. 15 protests.

“It was not a done deal that the U.S. coalition would join in that day. Much of the leadership of the coalition actually opposed it, but ultimately, they saw the wisdom in following the UK’s lead.

“At the time, most of us knew the protests were coming too late to stop the invasion. Had we been able to galvanize such large protests say, six months earlier, we might well have halted the invasion, which destabilized Iraq and brought massive suffering and destruction to its people.

“Our grassroots coalition, NNEWAI, commemorated the date one year later by organizing vigils in 120 cities internationally, most in the U.S. The idea of building on the show of strength shown on Feb. 15, 2003 never caught on with major national peace groups, however, as they chose instead to organize mid-March events, on the anniversary of the invasion — meaning we were commemorating our inability to stop the invasion.

“Other protests held shortly before the elections in D.C while Bush was in office became largely an ‘anti-Bush’ thing. When Obama came into office, turnout for protests inside the U.S. decreased dramatically and the Obama administration was effectively able continue to prosecute these wars largely unopposed.

“In the age of Trump, we are back to a policy outlook which echos Mahmood Mamdani’s book title Good Muslims, Bad Muslims, where it is acceptable to support ‘our Muslims,’ whilst ‘bad Muslims’ are to be targeted. This reification of the Arab other-as-terrorist serves as a damper on critiques of the U.S.-led or sponsored wars in the Middle East. Showing solidarity with that region’s oppressed is generally framed by the media as showing sympathy for terrorism, so the left is largely mute when it comes to these wars, which have been a boon for military contractors but a disaster for the peoples Southwest Asia, while the right applauds them.

“With the rise of the menacing ISIS, which grew out of the destabilization of the region following the U.S. invasion, it was as if all past sins were forgiven. Even as Trump now seeks, once again, to put the U.S. on a path to ‘victory’ by escalating the violence, President Bush is seeking to rehabilitate himself by jumping on the anti-Trump / anti-Russia bandwagon led by the Democratic Party establishment.”

After the break-up of NNEWAI in late 2004, Zmolek assisted in the drafting of several congressional resolutions calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney for Representatives Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

Israel’s Attempts to Destabilize Syria

Share

Reuters reports this morning: “Israel will face ‘more surprises’ should it again attack Syrian territory, Damascus said on Tuesday, after Syria’s air defenses shot down an advanced Israeli warplane during the fiercest flare-up between the old foes in 36 years.”

JAFAR JAFARI, jijafari at yahoo.com
Jafari is with Al-Mayadeen, a Beirut-based pan-Arab news channel. He said today: “Israel has of course been trying to destabilize Syria for some time. Israel’s protests that its sovereignty is under attack are completely backwards. Israel regularly attacks Syria (and violates Lebanese airspace as well).

“As the blog Moon of Alabama recently noted: ‘This escalation comes after a series of recent provocations against the Russian forces in Syria, [Friday’s] U.S. attack on Syrian forces, last week’s Israeli threats against Lebanon and dozens of Israeli air attacks on alleged Hizbullah or Iranian installations in Syria.’

“Hizbullah seems to be succeeding in creating a united front against Israel in both Lebanon and Syria.

“This does seem to come at a bad time for Israel, with U.S. envoys in the region, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. One thing on his agenda: Getting Lebanon to accede to Israeli demands regarding oil drilling disputes off their coasts.

“One goal that Israel seems to be pursuing is to have al Nusra — the Syrian branch of al Qaeda — as a buffer proxy force inside Syria. This is similar to what Israel did in southern Lebanon with the South Lebanon Army.”

Al-Mayadeen was founded by Ghassan bin Jiddo, who gained much acclaim for his coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah war of 2006 and was host of “Open Dialogue” on Al-Jazeera. Jiddo resigned from Al-Jazeera in 2011, accusing it of betraying its journalistic mission after the Arab uprisings began.

See Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “The Israeli-ISIS Accommodation and Other Inconvenient Realities.”

Olympics: How NBC, Pence Get Korea Wrong

Share


CBS Marketwatch reports today: “NBC was forced to fire one of its Olympic analysts after he inexplicably said Koreans are grateful for Japan’s role in their economic development — while ignoring the one-time imperial power’s brutalization of the peninsula. The Peacock Network was left red-faced by weird comments of corporate bigwig Joshua Cooper Ramo, whom 30 Rock worked as a commentator for coverage of opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Pyeongchang on Friday.” See Twitter feed of D.C.-based Korea specialist @TimothyS, who has been critiquing NBC’s coverage, including the comments by Ramo, a Henry Kissinger protege.

CHRISTINE AHN, christineahn at mac.com, @christineahn
Founder of Women Cross DMZ, Ahn recently appeared on The Real News segment “Trump, Pence Rain on Koreas’ Olympic Unity Parade.” Last month, her group backed “inter-Korean dialogue and the Olympics truce.” Ahn just tweeted: “The U.S. can’t be ‘open to talks’ with North Korea while maintaining its hostile ‘Maximum Pressure’ policies of decapitation strikes, isolation and hurting innocent lives. Thank goodness for [President of South Korea] Moon’s charm offensive; it’s not the U.S., but South Korea, working Maximum Engagement.” Regarding the U.S. and Japan, she stated: “How ironic the two countries with large and heavy military footprints on Korean soil in the last century can’t even celebrate Korean unity.”

CHRISTINE HONG, cjhong at ucsc.edu, @kpolicyo
Hong is an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. She wrote the piece “The Long, Dirty History of U.S. Warmongering against North Korea” for The Progressive. She said today: “The Olympics have introduced welcome respite from the Trump administration’s reckless hurtling down the pathway of war against North Korea. Yet, through both words and deeds, including the deployment of nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers to Guam, this administration has signaled its desire to conduct a so-called limited strike against North Korea — an action that positions millions of South Koreans, supposedly a historical U.S. ally, as permissible collateral damage. Even as Trump in his recent State of the Union address has sought to take a page out of the George W. Bush interventionist human rights playbook by pointing to the suffering of ordinary citizens under ‘the cruel dictatorship in North Korea,’ the human rights issue that should concern us all right now is the prospect of aggressive war by the United States.”

Does Trump Decide on War?

Share

NBC News reports today: “Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is demanding the release of a secret memo outlining President Trump’s interpretation of his legal authority to wage war.

“Kaine, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, sent a letter Thursday night to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seeking a 7-page memo the administration has kept under wraps for months. …

“There is a new urgency to obtain the memo given increasing U.S. involvement in Syria and recent Trump administration rhetoric on North Korea. Shortly after the 2017 bombing raid [on Syria], several members of Congress called on Trump to justify it under U.S. and international law. Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. …

“‘The fact that there is a lengthy memo with a more detailed legal justification that has not been shared with Congress, or the American public, is unacceptable,’ Kaine said in the letter to Tillerson, obtained by NBC News.”

The Washington Post reports in “U.S. troops may be at risk of ‘mission creep’ after a deadly battle in the Syrian desert“: “The Syrian government accused the United States of ‘aggression’ in launching the strikes, which it said killed ‘scores’ of people. Russia denounced the U.S. presence in Syria as ‘illegal’ and accused the United States of seeking to seize Syria’s oil.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “There’s no ‘mission creep,’ it’s clear the U.S. government has been using ISIS as a pretext to illegally intervene in Syria. None of the stated rationales for U.S. military involvement — including the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force or alleged ‘self-defense’ or buttressing the 2002 authorization regarding Iraq — are remotely legally valid. Syria has a sovereign government, the U.S. government should get out. The AUMFs should be rescinded.

“This memo that Kaine refers to was likely written by these Federalist Society lawyers that Trump has surrounded himself with, just like George W. Bush did.”

In September 2001, Boyle warned on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release that the 2001 AUMF would be like the “Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which the Johnson administration used to provide dubious legal cover for massive escalation of the Vietnam War.”

Last year, after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. claimed that the authority to attack Syria stemmed from the 2001 AUMF, Boyle stated: “What the U.S. government is getting away with here is incredible. Gen. Dunford is citing the 2001 AUMF to go after Al Qaeda as justification to go after a secular government — Syria — that is actually fighting Al Qaeda, as well as ISIS.” See “Need to ‘Repeal the Perpetual Illegal Wars.’”

Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations (Duke University Press).

Military Parade — and Escalating Budget

Share

LINDSAY KOSHGARIAN, lkoshgarian at nationalpriorities.org, @natpriorities
Koshgarian is program director of the National Priorities Project, which just tweeted “Want to show ‘appreciation’ for troops? 1) Keep them out of pointless wars. 2) Invest in full pay & benefits. 3) Take better care of those who do return from war. And really, #1 is too often forgotten.”

Party leaders in the Senate say they have reached a budget agreement to increase military and domestic spending levels for two years.

Koshgarian said today: “Once again, Congress is selling the false story that we can finally be safe if only we hand over more money to the Pentagon. And once again, our health and future here at home comes in second, with an $80 billion discretionary increase for the Pentagon and nuclear weapons and a so-called ‘match’ of just $63 billion for everything else, ranging from the State Department to the National Institutes of Health, from public schools to Head Start. Adding insult to injury, the deal also includes an additional $71 billion for the Pentagon and nuclear weapons in a separate ‘war’ fund for which there is no equivalent in domestic spending. It’s time to stop short-changing our communities.”

She recently wrote the piece “Cut off the Pentagon Funds and Stop the March to War,” which states: “We spend more than the next eight countries combined. We spend nearly three times as much as China, nearly nine times as much as Russia, and North Korea and ISIS don’t even rate on this scale. U.S. military spending is higher than the entire GDP of Sweden. Our Pentagon is a country unto itself.”

During the campaign, candidate Trump stated: “We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems — our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had — we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.” See video.

 

Next Page »