News Releases

* Inspectors in Syria * Resisting Illegal Orders

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons “confirms that the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team is on its way to Syria and will start its work as of Saturday 14 April 2018.” See from Agence France-Presse: “OPCW experts to begin arriving in Syria: Syria’s UN envoy.”

The Local, one of the largest English-language Swedish media outlets reports: “Sweden drafts proposal to rid Syria of chemical weapons ‘once and for all.’

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter recently wrote about the OPCW inspectors in “Trump’s Rush to Judgment on Syria Chemical Attack” for The American Conservative.

GERRY CONDON, gerrycondon at veteransforpeace.org, @VFPNational
Condon is president of Veterans For Peace, which recently warned: “a U.S. attack on Syria could lead to a nuclear war. … Russia has said it will shoot down U.S. missiles, and attack the ‘platforms from which they are fired,’ i.e. U.S. ships.”

Said Condon: “Why the rush to war? … Why is the mass media cheerleading for war instead of asking hard questions? Why are Democratic and Republican politicians trying to out-do one another with calls for ever more massive attacks on Syria?

“There is no proof yet of a Syrian government gas attack, only a video made by a fundamentalist rebel group that wants more U.S. intervention. Even if the reports are true, a military response will only lead to more death and destruction, and dangerous escalations.

“We are talking about a direct confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers. Why would the U.S. risk nuclear war over dubious chemical weapons claims?

“Veterans have longer memories than the press and the politicians. We remember how we were lied into the Iraq War with false reports of ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ U.S. wars throughout the Middle East have caused millions of deaths and destroyed entire societies. Our soldiers and their families have also paid an extremely high price.”

“Veterans, GI’s and their families will not accept another war based on lies. We will be protesting in the streets, in the suites, at media outlets and at military bases.

“All military personnel, from low-ranking GI’s to the top generals and admirals, have an obligation to disobey illegal orders. Orders to carry out acts of war against a sovereign nation that is not threatening the U.S. are illegal orders.

“We swore an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Right now those enemies are those who would rush our country recklessly into another devastating war.”

Syria: UN Independent Expert Warns About Propaganda for War, Rush to Judgement

ALFRED DE ZAYAS, [in Geneva] alfreddezayas at gmail.com, @alfreddezayas
Alfred de Zayas is the UN Independent Expert (Special Rapporteur) on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order.

He said today that he “urges all parties to the Syrian conflict to pause for a moment and give reason and law a chance. An international investigation into all allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria (and elsewhere) must be conducted. Only a thorough professional investigation can establish the facts and the responsibilities, which may necessitate referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“A fundamental component of the rule of law is due process, which encompasses conventional and customary rules intended to prevent arbitrariness and consequent miscarriages of justice. No one is served by rushing to conclusions, least of all the war victims. What is important is to expedite humanitarian aid to civilians and to obtain a cease fire. Violating the fundamental rules of penal law, including the presumption of innocence, weakens the credibility and predictability of legal institutions and could constitute a grave threat to regional and international peace within the meaning of article 39 of the UN Charter, undermining a democratic and equitable international order.

“Sabre-rattling, war mongering and propaganda for war are incompatible with the UN Charter and with article 20, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. ‘We the peoples’ of this planet want peace, and that requires good will and perseverance in reaffirming the rule of law and the culture of dialogue and negotiation.

“Violating the prohibition of the use of force stipulated in article 2(4) of the UN Charter could entail not only the crime of aggression under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Law, but would almost certainly lead to crimes against humanity and war crimes. There must be no impunity for those who use chemical weapons and no impunity for those who commit crimes of aggression.” See his personal website.

Attacking Syria “Impeachable”

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 09: National Security Advisor John Bolton (R), listens to U.S. President Donald Trump as he speaks about the FBI raid at lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, while receiving a briefing from senior military leaders regarding Syria, in the Cabinet Room, on April 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. The FBI raided the office of Michael Cohen on Monday as part of the ongoing investigation into the president’s administration. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “Any U.S. attack targeting the Syrian government or its forces would clearly violate both U.S. and international law. When Obama was in a similar position in 2013, his advisor Ben Rhodes [see below] has since commented that they turned back largely because they were afraid of impeachment. That fear is well founded. While the prospect of impeaching Trump is thrown around frequently for partisan purposes, on this issue, the constitution is clear: Initiating a war or any such attack without authorization is clearly impeachable.

“Last year, at the National Press Club, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., claimed the authority to target the Syrian government stemmed from the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Gen. Dunford was totally incorrect. The AUMF passed after 9/11 has indeed been used to justify the bombing campaign purporting to target ISIS, but it cannot possibly be used to justify targeting the Syrian government.

“Excuses of ‘humanitarian intervention’ have no basis in international law and in these circumstances are transparently hollow. Israel apparently just attacked Syria (illegal) from Lebanese airspace (also illegal). Israel itself just openly admitted that it is killing Palestinian civilian protesters — part of a decades-long brazenly illegal policy. The U.S. representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, prevented even an inquiry by the UN into the matter. There’s no evidence of any humanitarian concern here, simply a search for pretexts to pursue geopolitical goals which may well include carving up Syria.”

Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press).

In 2017, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, and foreign policy speechwriter, told Politico that President Obama feared impeachment if he targeted the Syrian government:

Rhodes: “The only country in the world that was prepared to join us [in attacking the Assad government] was France. And we had no domestic legal basis. We actually had Congress warning us against taking action without congressional authorization, which we interpreted as the president could face impeachment.”

Politico: “Really? Was the prospect of impeachment actually a factor in your conversations?”

Rhodes: “That was a factor. Go back and read the letters from Boehner, letters from the Republican members of Congress. They laid down markers that this would not be constitutional.”

House Speaker John Boehner wrote to Obama in 2013: “It is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.”

Syria: “Propaganda Machine Goes into High Gear”

CHARLES GLASS, [currently in England], charlesglassbooks at gmail.com, @charlesmglass
Glass was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent and has written extensively on Syria, including covering the civil war on the ground. His books include Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring. A year ago, he wrote the piece “Think the War in Syria Is Winding Down? Think Again.” His most recent piece is “The Result of a Loyalist Victory in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta? More Violence.” See his website: CharlesGlass.net.

JAMES PAUL, [in NYC] james.paul.nyc at gmail.com
Author of Syria Unmasked and the recently released Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy and Power in the UN Security Council, Paul was executive director of Global Policy Forum, a think tank that monitors the UN, for nearly 20 years. He was also a longtime editor of the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World and executive director of the Middle East Research and Information Project.

Paul said today: “As the media celebrate the U.S. visit by Saudi prince Salman, author of the catastrophic bombing and starvation of Yemen, they castigate Syria’s president Bashar for a chemical weapons attack and denounce him once again as the nastiest dictator on earth. Washington, Israel and their Western allies are turning up the heat on Moscow, Tehran and Damascus. The battle over oil and Middle East hegemony continues. The propaganda machine goes into high gear, with John Bolton, Trump’s new national security advisor, bringing his own special poison to the table. A Russian-brokered peace deal appeared to be near just days ago, so something had to be done! The hawks are offering Western publics a stark ‘choice’ between two repulsive options: Bashar and his cronies or a U.S.-backed regime, imposed by force of arms. Or perhaps even a devastated no-go zone like Libya today where civil war goes on and on after the Western regime-change intervention. Who would know that a large and lively democratic movement exists in Syria, opposed to both these options and critical of the self-serving ‘great powers’ who have not hesitated to destroy Syria to achieve their geo-strategic aims. The Islamist ‘opposition’ backed by the Saudis and Washington is certainly not the answer to a democratic and peaceful future. No to all interventions!”

Israel Shooting Palestinian Protesters and the Gaza “Conspiracy of Silence”

BBC reports today: “Two Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during fresh protests on Gaza’s border with Israel, Palestinian health ministry officials say. … Protesters set ablaze tires, hoping smoke will obscure the vision of Israeli snipers.”

[See live video from Gaza and live coverage from the pan-Arab network Al-Mayadeen. Also see @accuracy Twitter list on Israel-Palestine.]

RAJI SOURANI, pchr at pchrgaza.org, @pchrgaza
Sourani is executive director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza. The group just released its annual report. Sourani was recently on the program “Democracy Now”: “Massacre in Gaza: Israeli Forces Open Fire on Palestinians, Killing 18, Wounding As Many As 1,700.” Sourani spoke of “Eleven years of criminal, illegal, inhuman siege, which suffocated Gaza socially and economically, and three wars, where Israel was targeting … Palestinian civilians and civilian targets. All this time, when Israel didn’t allow the rebuilding of Gaza, and denied us our basic rights, to the level that we are not able to treat our water or our sewage. … So, people [are protesting because they] wanted, after all this conspiracy of silence, after all this pain and suffering, to demonstrate for their dignity.”

NOOR HARAZEEN, updatefromgaza at gmail.com
Harazeen is a Palestinian journalist and a TV correspondent for CGTN and teleSUR.

SANDY TOLAN, sandytolan at gmail.com
Tolan is author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East and Children of the Stones. His pieces include “Witness to a Catastrophe” — largely about Palestinians in Gaza — for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

DIANA BUTTU, [in Haifa, Israel] dbuttu at gmail.com, @dianabuttu
Buttu is a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and former Palestinian negotiator. See her interview with host Dennis Bernstein on Monday about the protests last Friday on the program “Flashpoints.” She said: “From video footage we can see that people were shot in the back. Others were shot for carrying tires or for simply walking into these areas. These were individuals who posed no threat whatsoever. Even if they were attempting to cross the border, you don’t use live fire to kill people who are crossing a border.

“And secondly, the point of this was to highlight the fact that Palestinians cannot return. Eighty percent of the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip does not come from the Gaza Strip. They are actually refugees driven out by the Israelis. While Israel keeps claiming that there were attempts to ‘infiltrate,’ in any case, this is not a proper response.

“The fact that Israel was positioning snipers on the border indicates that they were ready, willing and able to shoot protesters in the back. The head of the Israeli defense establishment has said that every one of these snipers should be commended.”

The interview was just published by Consortium News. [There will be a memorial service for Consortium News founder Robert Parry in D.C. on April 14 and another in the Bay Area on May 19.]

Bolton: Trump’s Most “Dangerous” Move

Simon Kuper writes in the Financial Times piece “Don’t get distracted. John Bolton is a huge threat“:  “A warmonger is about to start work a few steps from Trump in a White House devoid of procedure.”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com, @raymcgovern
McGovern served as an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years. He helped prepare daily briefings for presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush. He just wrote the piece “Coming Attraction: Lunatic Loose in West Wing,” which states: “John Bolton’s March 22 appointment-by-tweet as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser has given ‘March Madness’ a new and ominous meaning. There is less than a week left to batten down the hatches before Bolton makes U.S. foreign policy worse than it already is.

“During a recent interview with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill (minutes 35 to 51) I mentioned that Bolton fits seamlessly into a group of take-no-prisoners zealots once widely known in Washington circles as ‘the crazies,’ and now more commonly referred to as ‘neocons.’

“Beginning in the 1970s, ‘the crazies’ sobriquet was applied to Cold Warriors hell bent on bashing Russians, Chinese, Arabs — anyone who challenged U.S. ‘exceptionalism’ (read hegemony). More to the point, I told Scahill that President (and former CIA Director) George H. W. Bush was among those using the term freely, since it seemed so apt. …

“John Bolton was Cheney’s ‘crazy’ at the State Department. Secretary Colin Powell was pretty much window dressing. He could be counted on not to complain loudly — much less quit — even if he strongly suspected he was being had. Powell had gotten to where he was by saluting sharply and doing what superiors told him to do. As secretary of state, Powell was not crazy — just craven. He enjoyed more credibility than the rest of the gang and rather than risk being ostracized like the rest of us, he sacrificed that credibility on the altar of the ‘supreme international crime.’

“In those days Bolton did not hesitate to run circles around — and bully — the secretary of state and many others. This must be considered a harbinger of things to come, starting on Monday, when the bully comes to the china shop in the West Wing. While longevity in office is not the hallmark of the Trump administration, even if Bolton’s tenure turns out to be short-lived, the crucial months immediately ahead will provide Bolton with ample opportunity to wreak the kind of havoc that ‘the crazies’ continue to see as enhancing U.S. — and not incidentally — Israeli influence in the Middle East. Bear in mind, Bolton still says the attack on Iraq was a good idea.”

McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. In January 2003, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and still serves on its Steering Group.

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and just wrote the piece “Trump Finds Fellow Bully in Bolton,” which states: “Nothing Donald Trump has done since his inauguration 14 months ago is more dangerous — to the United States, and indeed, to the world — than his selection of John Bolton for National Security Adviser. It is not surprising the president would feel most comfortable receiving advice from a fellow bully. …

“Bolton was such a lightning rod that in 2005, even the GOP-controlled Senate refused to confirm him as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. To avoid the need for Senate confirmation, George W. Bush named Bolton to the post in a recess appointment.

“But Bolton doesn’t just bully individuals. He pushed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, advocates military attacks on North Korea and Iran, favors Israel’s annexation of the Palestinian West Bank, and falsely claimed that Cuba had biological weapons.

“As undersecretary of state for Arms Control and International Security in the Bush administration, Bolton was instrumental in withdrawing the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which heightened the risk of nuclear war with Russia.

“Anthony J. Blinken, deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, wrote in The New York Times, ‘Mr. Bolton had a habit of twisting intelligence to back his bellicosity and sought to remove anyone who objected.'”

MLK: Radical Revolutionary

Some are noting that Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated 50 years ago Wednesday in Memphis, was there supporting striking sanitation workers. But this was just one manifestation of King’s radical challenge to what he called “the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.”

In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church in New York, given exactly a year before his death, King proclaimed: “There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. …”

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. … True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, ‘This is not just.’ It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, ‘This is not just.’ The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

“A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” See here for text and audio.

After King was attacked for his remarks at Riverside, including by media such as the New York Times and Time magazine, he spoke out even more passionately. From the pulpit of his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta later that month, on April 30, 1967, he would deliver the sermon “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam,” in which he rebuked the major media outlets: “There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward [segregationist Selma, Ala. sheriff] Jim Clark!’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!’ There is something wrong with that press!” See here for video and text. This speech would later win a Grammy.

In a 2010 special, “MLK: A Call to Conscience,” reporter Tavis Smiley noted that by the end of his life, as he was focusing on war and poverty as well as racism “King had almost three-quarters … of the American people turned against him, 55 percent of his own people [African Americans] turned against him.” Noted Smiley: “If you replace the words ‘Iraq’ for ‘Vietnam,’ ‘Afghanistan’ for ‘Vietnam,’ ‘Pakistan’ for ‘Vietnam,’ this speech is so relevant today.”

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at verizon.net, @graylanhagler
Hagler is senior pastor at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. and chairperson of Faith Strategies.

JARED BALL, imixwhatilike at gmail.com, @IMIXWHATILIKE
Ball is professor of communication studies, Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University and author of I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto and A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X.

Wave of Teachers’ Strikes: Kentucky and Oklahoma


MIKE ELK, mike.elk at gmail.com, @MikeElk
Currently in Oklahoma, Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report and just wrote the piece “Wave of teachers’ wildcat strikes spreads to Oklahoma and Kentucky” for the Guardian.

He writes: “On Friday, teachers in Kentucky went out on illegal wildcat strikes in more than 25 counties against the wishes of union leaders to protest against draconian changes to the state’s … pension plans. …

“While Oklahoma has the country’s lowest tax on oil and natural gas production, teachers’ salaries remain stubbornly low, at 49th in the nation.

“The strikers have been buoyed by a successful strike by their peers in West Virginia, their first statewide work stoppage since 1990, which ended with them winning a 5 percent pay rise and other concessions.”

TAMMY BERLIN, tammy.berlin at jcta.org
Berlin is vice president of the the Jefferson County Teachers Association in Kentucky. She said today: “We thought we killed this ‘reform’ bill twice and then they attached some of it to a sewage bill, appropriately enough. They passed it in record time from committee to both houses. That was done illegally, they didn’t have the required actuarial analysis — so there will be legal changes. Today is the last day of the session and they’re trying to pass a budget. We want them to fund education by closing loopholes. There’s a strong push to give money to charter schools even though they don’t have the funding for that. … We don’t want a regressive tax. Teachers will be meeting in Louisville beginning Wednesday.”

“Hawks and Liars” Flying High on Cable News

“Just as they did in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion” 15 years ago, media critic Jeff Cohen writes in an article widely published online this week, “MSNBC and CNN now serve up a steady parade of war-hawks, spies and liars, presenting them as credible and almost heroic as long as they criticize the despicable man in the White House.”

The article — “Why Are Progressives Cheering Cable News’ Parade of Hawks and Liars?” — challenges the credibility of news analysts and commentators who are nightly fixtures on cable news.

JEFF COHEN,  jcohen at ithaca.edu
Cohen is available for a limited number of interviews. He is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and the author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.” Cohen co-founded the online activism group RootsAction.org in 2011 and founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986.

“When it comes to Trump critics,” the article says, “CNN and MSNBC regularly serve up a basket of elite deplorables from the military/intelligence establishment—for example, the appalling ex-CIA Director John Brennan and horrific former acting CIA Director John McLaughlin. The hollowness of their Trump critique on ‘liberal cable news’ was on display last week when both men endorsed Trump’s choice for CIA chief, torture-overseer Gina Haspel.”

Cohen adds: “I’m worried about anti-Trump activists, even some quite progressive, who’ve come to see corporate news channels like CNN and MSNBC as their saviors. It’s a dangerous illusion.”

The piece contends: “Trump is doing enormous damage to our country and the world—but you won’t see most of it on MSNBC or any mainstream outlet that covers the Trump White House as a TV soap opera.”

And Cohen writes: “When you hear nightly on CNN and MSNBC about Putin’s ‘attack on our democracy,’ let’s not forget that—whatever impact Russia had on the 2016 election (evidence so far suggests it was small)—’our democracy’ has been under attack for decades by internal enemies: big money control of both major parties, corporate media dominance, Democratic subservience to Wall Street, Republican suppression of voters of color and youth, an archaic election system protected by both parties, etc.”

“Trump’s Choice of Bolton Satisfies His Biggest Donor”

ELI CLIFTON, [in NYC] eliclifton at gmail.com@EliClifton
JIM LOBE, jlobe at starpower.net@LobeLog
Clifton and Lobe just wrote the piece “Trump’s Choice of Bolton Satisfies His Biggest Donor,” which states: “Last August, shortly after John Kelly replaced Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff and Steve Bannon was fired as the president’s chief strategist, John Bolton complained that he could no longer get a meeting with Donald Trump.”Just three months later, however, on the eve of Trump’s belligerent address to the United Nations, Bolton was once again in direct contact with the president. How did this turnabout take place? The reconnection was reportedly arranged by none other than Sheldon Adelson, the Trump campaign’s biggest donor.

Politico reported that the most threatening line in Trump’s UN speech — that he would cancel Washington’s participation in the Iran nuclear deal if Congress and U.S. allies did not bend to his efforts to effectively renegotiate it — came directly from Bolton and wasn’t in the original … prepared by Trump’s staff. ‘The line was added to Trump’s speech after Bolton, despite Kelly’s recent edict [restricting Bolton’s access to Trump], reached the president by phone on Thursday afternoon from Las Vegas, where Bolton was visiting with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. Bolton urged Trump to include a line in his remarks noting that he reserved the right to scrap the agreement entirely, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.’

“Some analysts have suggested that Bolton, an anti-Iran uber-hawk, has the visit to Washington of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to thank for his imminent elevation. But Adelson, a huge supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, likely played a critical role in Bolton’s ascendancy.”

Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement. Clifton reports on money in politics and U.S. foreign policy. He previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.

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