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How An African Cemetery Under A Parking Lot Galvanized A Community To Fight White Supremacy

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

The United States still has a long way to go to come to terms with its history of being founded on genocide and slavery. In recent years, we have heard about efforts to take down monuments to those who perpetrated these crimes. What we rarely hear are the stories of how that genocide and slavery have been covered up and how even today there are barriers to those who seek to expose them. One such effort is taking place right now in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo tells us the riveting story of her discovery of an African Cemetery under a parking lot. She has led a community effort to stop a building from being erected on the site, which has unearthed a horrific past experienced by former residents of that land and has become a struggle against gentrification and white supremacy.

Listen here:

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Guest:

Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo received her BA degree from Barnard College/Columbia University and her doctorate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dr. Coleman-Adebayo was a Senior Policy Analyst in the Office of the Administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency. She has held various academic positions as Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University – School of Foreign Studies and Visiting Scholar in the Department of African-American Studies at George Mason University.

On August 18, 2000, Dr. Coleman-Adebayo won an historic lawsuit against the EPA on the basis of race, sex, color discrimination, and a hostile work environment. She subsequently testified before Congress on two occa sions. As a result, the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act [No FEAR] was introduced by Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee ( D-TX) and Senator John Warner (R- VA). Along with the No FEAR Coalition, she ushered the No FEAR Bill through Congress. President George W. Bush signed the No FEAR Act into law. Thousands of federal workers and their families have directly benefited from this law. Read her full bio here.

TRANSCRIPT:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): and Kevin Zeese.

MF: And Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance dot-org. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at Popular Resistance dot-org and while you’re there check out our store where you’ll find Clearing the FOG gear like bumper stickers, t-shirts, water bottles and tote bags. So this week we interviewed. Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition.

KZ: We’ve worked with Marsha for years. She’s also an EPA whistleblower. She exposed mining pollution in South Africa during the Clinton Gore era and she’s been an activist ever since on whistleblower issues. Now this is a project dealing with an African American cemetery in Montgomery County that was paved over for developers and they’ve been fighting to correct that and memorialize the African town that was there.

MF: Yes, and this has opened the door, this campaign, to learning so much about what actually went on in Bethesda. It’s a really interesting story, what they’ve learned so far and why this is a crucial area that needs to be memorialized and they’re looking to put a museum there to educate people about what actually happened.

KZ: This is an amazing story. I hope people stick around to listen to this interview. I think you’ll be really astonished by what they learned and sadly this is very common throughout the southern part of the United States, the Confederacy.

MF: So we just got back from our speaking tour in Florida for our efforts to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC last spring. A great job that the organizers did down there organizing speaking events for us and helping us to raise money for our legal defense fund.

KZ: And that’s part of the beginning of an East Coast tour. We’ll be going to New Jersey, Pennsylvania to Philadelphia, to New York City to Connecticut. And then to Massachusetts. So check out and see what our schedule is so you can join and participate.

MF: And that website is Defend Embassy Protectors dot o– r– g. First I just want to quickly comment on the recent decision in Florida that’s going to impact formerly incarcerated and take away their voting rights.

KZ: Well, this is the result of a really massive public support for people who’ve been convicted of felonies getting their voting rights back and really overwhelming support. Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled government down there and the court down there are trying to really make that impossible to implement or difficult to implement.

MF: One of the things that they’re saying is that they can’t vote if they have any outstanding fees or fines.

KZ: Exactly and the court upheld that. The ACLU is describing it as a poll tax. Of course, the Florida Supreme Court doesn’t use that language. But essentially you got to pay these fees if you’re going to get your voting rights back. So it’s the equivalent of a poll tax which has been illegal for a long time thanks to US Supreme Court decisions. But this Florida Supreme Court decision upholds this legislative and gubernatorial action to make it difficult to implement this voting rights.

MF:  So the ACLU, which is involved in this in Florida, is going to keep fighting it. They say that it violates the Constitution. Let’s talk more about what’s happening in Venezuela. The news continues to come out  aoundJuan Guaido. So it’s interesting, we talked last week about the fact that he lost the presidency of the National Assembly. So he created his own fake National Assembly and went to El Nacional, the right-wing media outlet to hold his own quote unquote vote to elect himself as the president of the National Assembly. What’s so interesting about Venezuela is the whole situation with the National Assembly down there. It’s still a defunct body. All they really do in the National Assembly is talk about policies. They don’t have the authority or power to pass any legislation right now.

KZ: And it’s defunct because they are, the Supreme Court found election law violations that resulted in people being elected who may not have been elected if it hadn’t been for those violations. And therefore the Assembly need to correct that and they refused to do so. And so the assembly can’t act until those those seats are changed.

MF: Right. So now they kind of have these two assemblies, the one that’s actually officially recognized by the government and the new president of that is Luis Parra and they hold sessions where they debate issues and policies. And then they’re allowing Juan Guaido to go in there in the off hours to hold his own assembly with his own, I don’t know who these people are but…

KZ: His own supporters.

MF: Yeah, and they can have their little debates as well. But it’s interesting how Venezuela is taking this kind of conflict free approach to be like, okay, you want to have your own little fake assembly, you can go into the National Assembly and pretend to be the president.

KZ: Well they learned I think from the bizarre show that Guaido put on trying to climb the fence when he didn’t need to. He was actually allowed to go into the assembly by the authorities who were making sure people who are authorized go in. He was allowed to go in but he did this whole show of climbing the wall. So I guess the Maduro Administration and the National Assembly has decided just let him go in and talk. It makes no difference anyway, but Guaido is now being uncovered you know, it’s being uncovered that the US has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this coup and people want to know where the money went.

MF: The numbers have been totaled up and we have an article about this on Popular Resistance, but basically in 2019 alone, the opposition which Juan Guaido is part of, received three hundred and fifty million dollars. 286 million dollars came from our own US Agency on International Development, USAID. It’s usually supposed to be spent on you know aid.

KZ: Humanitarian aid, not coups.

MF: Right. But as Elliott Abrams said just a couple weeks ago, that money went towards media. So Guaido was actually paying media to cover him favorably. So much for a free press. And it also was being used for, on the National Assembly. So this whole like fake National Assembly thing we’re funding. He also got 20 million dollars from the Trump Administration. The USAID is saying that money went directly to Juan Guaido. Juan Guaido is saying he never got the money, it went to nonprofits.

KZ: There’s a lot of confusion about…

MF: And he has no idea where the money went he says.

KZ: There was a lot of confusion about where that money went to. USAID said some went to Juan Guaido, but they also said some was based on competitive contract bidding for NGOs and others and so it’s not all clear where this hundreds of millions of dollars went. And you know, it’s interesting. This is now coming out at a time when Guaido is violating the court order that says he can’t leave the country and going to Colombia in Bogota to meet with Mike Pompeo and other Latin American leaders. I wonder will Mike Pompeo ask him about where this money went? Will they discuss how these hundreds of millions of dollars were spent or they just will brush it under the rug? And then I saw also Guaido is planning a trip to Europe. This is all illegal. He’s not allowed to leave the country. He’s going out there around the world and lobbying. It’s amazing that he gets away with this and he may even come to the United States.

MF: Right. Well, he hasn’t been able to succeed in his coup attempts in Venezuela, so the only place he really can go and get any attention is outside of the country.

KZ: He can’t even draw a crowd in Venezuela.

MF: Yeah, a lot of the opposition is upset with him, especially because they want to know where the money went.

KZ: Well, that’s why he lost the presidency. The corruption around this money is open. People know about it. It is being investigated and that’s why a lot of the opposition has said we don’t want you as our president of the Assembly anymore.

MF: Let’s talk about Bolivia. As folks know, there’s been a coup there, a US-supported coup in Bolivia that happened after the elections last October. They’re going to be holding elections, presidential elections, a new election on May 3rd of this year. The MAS Party, Movement Towards Socialism Party, which is Evo Morales’s party, the former president who was re-elected last October, has now announced that they have two candidates, a president and vice presidential candidate for that election. The presidential candidate is Luis Arce. He’s the former economic minister that was a big part of Evo Morales’s economic plan for the country. And then the vice presidential candidate is the former foreign minister David Choquehuanca.

KZ: And they said, people who are looking at this are analyzing and saying this is an opportunity by the MAS Party to expand their base. The vice president comes from the indigenous community to solidify that base, which it was already where the MAS Party gets a lot of its political power. But having the former Finance Minister running as president is an outreach to the middle class and those who are wealthier in Bolivia. So it’s, they think this is a real opportunity to expand the base and perhaps win this election. Although we see so much going on down there to rig the election against the MAS Party. It’s gonna be very difficult for them to overcome the rigging that’s going on.

MF: The members of the MAS Party are still being persecuted by this coup government under Jeanine. Añez. Members of the MAS Party are being charged with all sorts of outrageous charges.

KZ: Doctors are being arrested and media people are being arrested. There’s real ongoing terrorism to try to frighten people and I’m sure on the day of the election, we will see troops and thugs outside of voting places, especially in indigenous communities.

MF:  Let’s talk about Iran, something we’ve been talking about quite frequently lately. Looks like the Iranian government may be filing charges against President Trump, the US military and the US government for war crimes in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

KZ: That would be a major step. And even though the US will not respect any decision from the ICC, it’s a very important process to go through. The ICC investigates this, puts out a report about it. It’s pretty obvious that the Trump Administration violated international law since there is no justification for the murder or the assassination of General Soleimani. It’s a very strong case the Iranians can put forward. I think it’s important for them to be held accountable. It’s good to see the rule of law being used rather than focusing on military force to respond to this attack.

MF: And of course, investigations are ongoing around the airliner, the Ukrainian airliner that was shot down in Iran a few hours after Iran launched missiles at the US bases in Iraq. And it’s reported that Iran is looking into whether there might have been a cyber attack against their radar system that would have led them to not be able to recognize that it was an airplane, a civilian airplane or that there may have been enemy infiltrators involved.

KZ: The Iranian air system had the ability to know that was a passenger plane, but the person who fired the missile said they lost communication. So investigation is needed to understand what really happened there. We definitely don’t know the full story yet.

MF: The US this past week just announced the new chief of the space operations for the new US Space Force is General John Jay Raymond.

KZ: So now the space force is taking shape. This is a very dangerous development to militarize outer space. It violates a treaty from back in the 1970s. The US is moving in this direction very quickly. Now that the Democrats and Republicans both agreed in the most recent NDAA to move the space force forward.

MF: So that was part of the National Defense Authorization Act and in the announcement of this new general, it was really interesting reading their rhetoric because they’re basically, the logic was that well, we don’t want to have any war in space but the best way to have peace in space is if we have a very strong military presence there. Does that sound familiar?

KZ: It’s the constant US excuse for escalation of the military budget, military weapons, troops around the world, bases around the world. We have to dominate and make it impossible for anyone to challenge our domination and controlling outer space is part of that process.

MF: Right. It’s peace through a strong military, I guess. That’s the, what we’ve all been indoctrinated in.

KZ: Nixon called it peace through strength.

MF: Right and this coming February is the expiration of the START Treaty. That’s the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that was started on February 5th in 2011. And this treaty, there’s a new report out saying that if it’s not renewed, this could really lead to even more of an arms race.

KZ: An escalation of the already existing arms race. We already see massive US spending on nuclear weapons. Now, we’re seeing the increased spending on outer space weapons. These are very expensive weapons systems that are going to lead to an arms race that we have never seen before, much bigger than we’ve seen in the past.

MF: Right and it could also lead to more escalation in space because one provision of the START Treaty is that countries are allowed to do inspections of other country’s weapons to know like what nuclear weapons and things they’re developing. Without the START Treaty, the countries won’t be able to have those on the ground weapons inspections. And so the speculation is that there will be a big escalation of surveillance in space so that they can try to watch what each other are doing.

KZ: We need to escalate in space because we are violating the treaties that allow for inspection on the ground. It’s a kind of a lose-lose proposition. We get out of the START Treaty so we can then use that excuse to get into outer space.

MF: Right but there is some good news. Cities in the United States are fighting back against this escalation towards nuclear war. There’s a campaign called Beyond the Brink. They now have more than 40 cities that have passed resolutions against the expansion of nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war. They have five provisions they are basically calling for that there should be no ability to do a first strike in the United States. So we shouldn’t be allowed to just launch a nuclear bomb at another country that hasn’t attacked us, kind of like killing a general of a country that we’re not at war with. They want to get away from the sole authority where one person, the president, can authorize a nuclear attack. They want to take our nuclear weapons off of hair-trigger alert. It’s very dangerous to have them so ready to be used. They want to stop the new upgrade and modernizations of our nuclear weapons, 1.5 trillion dollar upgrade and then work to eliminate nuclear weapons. Other organizations involved are Beyond the Bomb and ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

KZ: So if you’re not, if you city hasn’t passed a resolution yet, get involved with those organizations of Beyond the Brink and build this momentum for ending this nuclear arms race.

MF: Yeah. It’s really important. There’s lots of ways that people can get involved. We have an article about it on Popular Resistance. But if you look up Beyond the Brink, you’ll be able to find this. If our leaders launch a nuclear attack, it’s going to be us, the people in these cities especially close to sensitive areas that will be impacted by those decisions as well as what the impacts would be on the world of a nuclear winter. Many people in cities are also saying don’t invest in the military or militarization or policing, you need to start investing in our communities. And we talked about this last week with Jacqueline Luqman on Clearing the FOG.

KZ: That’s right. That new federal program from Donald Trump, Operation Relentless Pursuit, 71 million dollars plus a bunch of federal agencies getting involved with in seven cities to escalate law enforcement. This will lead to more mass arrests, more mass incarceration, but will not deal with the real issues that concern these urban areas that have been neglected really for generations.

MF: Yes, and people in Minneapolis are taking action to fight back against that disinvestment. They’ve recently have a campaign called Reclaim the Block. The city in their new budget is giving a hundred and ninety-three million dollars to the police department. That’s a third of the city budget and the people in Reclaim the Block are saying, look our biggest problems are things like homelessness, opioid addiction, mental health needs and all of these are made worse by police. The police are not the answer. And so they’re saying invest in programs instead that address these issues.

KZ: And that’s true in urban areas throughout the country. It’s certainly true in our city of Baltimore where we spend more on the police than we do on health and education combined and it’s true across the country. We have seen decades, really generations of neglect and rather than confronting that neglect, the approach is to militarize the police, make them into an occupying force and keep those neglected communities away from the communities that are invested in.

MF: Right and continue to oppress them. And so Reclaim the Block and others in Minneapolis came up with their own budget and how they would like money spent on programs to end homelessness, provide mental health services and do harm reduction, which we talked about quite a bit with Jacqueline last week.

KZ: Our newsletter on Popular Resistance this week focuses is on the militarization of the police and how that is the mirror of the militarization of US policy abroad. So both at home and abroad, we are being dominated by a militaristic approach and the result really is not good for those communities or for our nation.

MF: One of the recommendations is to legalize drugs because they don’t belong in the law enforcement arena. And Congress held a hearing on Wednesday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on cannabis policy for the new decade and looking at the ways that federal law is in conflict with what states are doing on these issues.

KZ: And that’s been an issue, you know, I’ve worked on for a long time, since 1980 when I was chief counsel and then director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and a co-founder of the Drug Policy Foundation. The good news is we’re finally making progress. Eleven states have adult legal use. More than three dozen have medical marijuana being legal. And we’re seeing harm reduction policies like needle exchange being put in place across the country. We need to do a lot more. There’s so many other choices beyond spending money on police, you know. Just, I’ll just mention one that has been tried in eight countries now, which is legal access to heroin or allowing heroin to be brought for public consumption before a healthcare worker. These programs in these eight countries have resulted in dramatic reductions in crime because people don’t need to steal to pay for their heroin. They don’t need to prostitute. They don’t need to commit other crimes including drug dealing to fund their heroin use. It results in less homelessness, results in people getting employment, rebuilding their relationships and results in less drug use as well. There’s a lot we could learn if we would open our eyes to real solutions, not doing the same thing over and over. We already have the largest prison population in the world, 25% of the world’s prisoners and we only have five percent of the world’s population. How many times do you have to repeat the same mistake over and over before you realize it’s a mistake?

MF: And The Sentencing Project does some really excellent work on the incarceration rates in the United States and how we compare around the world. And we are really at the top and you look at you know, people are always talking about oh China is such a repressive country, but then you look at the incarceration rates there compared to ours and there’s really, ours is multiple multiple times higher.

KZ: And it’s not just incarceration rates. It’s also police violence. You compare the United States as far as civilians being killed to other countries, we are so far ahead of any developed country in the world per on a per capita basis. I mean it’s just obscene. We have to really restructure our police and our law enforcement and our prison system and come up with health and social solutions to the problem of drug abuse. You can’t solve it with police.

MF: Another very important issue for the United States is women’s rights. And that took another step forward in the Virginia legislature recently voting to become the 38th state to support the Equal Rights Amendment. That was an amendment that was passed by Congress in 1972. But before it is ratified, it needs to have 2/3 of the states.

KZ: And that was it, that made it 2/3 finally and now there’ll be litigation about that because the Department of Justice says it’s too late. Traditionally, constitutional amendments don’t have a deadline. This one did and there’s litigation already being filed to challenge whether or not that can go forward.

MF: And now it’s interesting that the Trump administration like immediately after Virginia approves it, the Trump Administration says, oh no, it’s too late. Like what’s that all about?

KZ: Misogyny.

MF: Well, there you go. Okay, let’s talk about another study from the Center for Biological Diversity looking at the approval of pesticides. So from 2017 to 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency had a 94 percent approval rate for pesticides, 1190 new pesticides put out into the market and some of these are some of the worst most toxic pesticides.

KZ: We have been poisoning our food in this country for a very long time. Both political parties under presidents from Democrats and Republicans have put in place in the FDA people from Monsanto and other pesticide companies. And so we get a pesticide regulatory authority rather than a Food and Drug Administration actually protecting the public interest.

MF: That’s right and the Center for Biological Diversity points out that even people who buy organic foods are still impacted by these pesticides because there’s just no way to control it. They get into the soil. They get into the water and then that gets into the whole food system. And so organic producers are actually starting to look at a new label that would be a glyphosate free food, you know, showing that there are no glyphosate residues in the food that they produce.

KZ: It’s a very challenging thing for a farmer to meet because glyphosate is so widely used. Even Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has glyphosate in it.

MF: Cereals have it in them.

KZ: Cereals. It’s just it’s so widespread. We need to put in place the precautionary principle, which means that you don’t put something into the market like a pesticide until you prove it’s safe. Instead of the precautionary principle, we put in, we have the profit system, the profit principle. If it makes a profit, it gets approved.

MF: Right and then if it causes harm, you have to prove as the individual that you are harmed by it. And in fact, so for our listeners who may not know what glyphosate is that’s the chemical in Roundup, the weed killer, which is used very liberally in our society. It’s sprayed in playgrounds and parks and things like that and glyphosate is associated with cancer. There’s now thousands of cases against Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer, because of people who believe their cancers were caused by glyphosate.

KZ: And it creates this kind of bizarre spiral. You start using glyphosate and then what do they do, they put in genetically modified organisms so that they can spray glyphosate more. The GMO foods, the reason that you have GMO foods is an order to allow farmers to spray glyphosate to kill the weeds and so it just is an escalating spiral of even more dangerous pesticides replacing the ones that the GMOs, you know, protect against. It’s just like, it just gets worse and worse and we poison ourselves in this process.

MF: Right. So the seeds that are resistant to the glyphosate and then so they can spray the glyphosate and kill the weeds. Well now the weeds are becoming resistant to the glyphosate. So they have to use these new chemicals in place of that. Last week, we also talked about a victory in Union Hill, a historic black community in Southern Virginia that stopped a compressor station. a very dirty. This is something that’s used for gas pipelines to push the gas through the pipeline and they’re very toxic. But there’s another compressor station being put in in Weymouth, Massachusetts. This one is close to low-income communities that are already surrounded by other fossil fuel toxic facilities. And so protesters took it into their hands last week to block the construction by sitting in the road and preventing the concrete trucks from going through. Nine people were arrested in that action.

KZ: And there are constant actions against infrastructure for fossil fuels. One organization that we’re involved with is Beyond Extreme Energy. That’s a great place to go to learn about actions of many local groups around the country. This is one of the areas of real strength I think in the anti-climate movement, the anti-fracking movement, the anti-infrastructure movement. So there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of work being done.

MF: This particular compressor station is important because it would allow fracked gas to come from the Marcellus Shale, which is you know, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Ohio that whole area going up to Canada. So it’s really kind of a vital link that would allow that to happen if it’s built. And of course with the climate emergency going on, we need to be not building more fossil fuel infrastructure. And that’s what protesters in Portland are going to be telling the court why they took action last April against a company, Zenith Energy, which is a big storage fossil fuel storage facility in Portland that they say is responsible for worsening the climate crisis. So they’re going to use the necessity defense.

KZ: The necessity defense means that you’re breaking a law out of the necessity of preventing a greater harm. And their view is going to be supported by the science because the scientists said several years ago we need to stop building infrastructure for fossil fuels And unfortunately since that time under the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration, we’ve seen an escalation of infrastructure building. In fact Obama was so proud of that, he told Texas CEOs that he made the US number one in oil and gas and Trump now has taken credit for that as well.

MF: Let’s talk about housing for a moment because of course the United States has an affordable housing crisis. In Salt Lake City, there are over 2,000 people who are without homes. The city closed down one of the largest shelters last November, a shelter located in the central part of the city where it was easy for folks to get to it. It had eleven hundred beds. They’ve set up some smaller shelters outside of the city more difficult to get to that only provide 400 beds and so in protest, people set up an unsheltered solidarity camp that housed 80 people outside. That was set up on January 2nd. Police came in and raided it on January 5th.

KZ: The way we treat homeless across the country is really pretty despicable. The solution to the houseless, the homeless crisis is to make housing available. And we have a housing crisis in this country that affects not just the homeless, the houseless but also affects working-class, middle-class. People are struggling to keep in their homes.

MF: That’s right. Well, it’s interesting because we have a lot of empty homes in the United States. We have more empty homes in the United States than we have people without homes and what’s happening, it’s happening in our city and it’s happening in other cities as well, is that speculators buy up these vacant properties and then they basically sit on them until they can sell them for a higher price. So they were, they profit from keeping them vacant. And so women in, some moms in Oakland California said enough of this. They had actually even tried to buy a property. The owner wouldn’t allow them to buy it. They took over an abandoned property and started living in it. These are working moms with children and they needed a place to live. And the Oakland police came in riot gear and evicted them from that house. Let’s just end with one more report that I want to talk about, a new report done by PLOS Medicine. They looked at 22 studies of a single-payer health care system from, done by from conservative to progressive institutions, and they found that all of them showed that a national improved Medicare for all would save money. 19 of those 22 studies found that they would save money in the first year and all of them found that over 10 years, it would save money.

KZ: That’s what makes this whole improved Medicare-for-all debate so absurd. It’s always about how do we pay for it? Well, the answer is you pay for something that’s less expensive very easily. And so this will save money. This will reduce the amount of our overall economy, of our GDP that is spent on health care. We are the highest in the world right now as far as per capita spending goes and we have one of the least effective healthcare systems of developed countries. We don’t provide health care to all. We have 30,000 people a year who die just from not having insurance and more than a hundred thousand who would survive in a country like the UK or France where they have a more effective healthcare system based on Single Payer.

MF: So let’s get to our interview with Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo. We’ll take a short musical break and we’ll be right back.

MUSICAL BREAK

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers…

Kevin Zeese (KZ): And Kevin Zeese.

MF: And now let’s turn to our guest Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo. Marsha is an EPA whistleblower. She is an author and also a journalist who’s writing is found at the Black Agenda Report and she’s the president of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition. Thank you for taking time to join us Marsha.

Marsha Coleman Adebayo (MCA): Thank you for having me.

KZ: Marsha, you know, we work with you on lots of projects and this is such an important campaign you have been part of and helping to lead. Can you tell us how this began and what got you started?

MCA: Yes, I’d love to. It started about three years ago. I had just become director of the social justice ministries at my church, which is the Macedonia Baptist Church. It’s the only remaining black church in Bethesda, Maryland. There used to be just dozens of black churches, but through gentrification and just you know, criminal activity on the part of the county government and businesses, they were all wiped away. Only one church remained and that’s Macedonia Baptist Church. And so I was asked to go to a meeting at the Montgomery Planning Board and I didn’t really know what I was walking into to be very honest with you. And they started talking about a new sector plan that they were going to redevelop this area in Bethesda. And then they started, I think the director Gwen Wright made the comment, you know, there’s a rumor that there could be, a faint rumor I think she said, that there could be an old African American cemetery somewhere in the area, but don’t worry about it because you know, we’ve got historians here and all kinds of folks and they’ll look into it. So we don’t need for you people, meaning the community, to provide concern your little heads about it because we’ll take care of it. And there was a man sitting to my left. His name is Harvey Matthews. And he raised his hand and she called on him and he said this is not you know some idea or some, you know, faint you know notion that there could be a black cemetery. I used to play in that cemetery when I was a child. And at that point, it was the most amazing experience because you know as a social scientist, you know, you learn about oral history and about how important oral history is, but I had never seen oral history used as a tool like that before in a meeting that I was in where you know all the scientists and archaeologists sitting around the table just had to drop two pins in the face of that kind of truth. And so they really didn’t know how to respond to that except are you sure and he said I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. I used to play in that area because Bethesda was segregated and we didn’t have a lot of places where black kids can play and so we played among the tombstones in the cemetery. And at that point everything changed and the corporation, which was at that point Equity One, I mean I saw the guy become really flushed because I mean they spent like, you know tens of millions of dollars in this area. You had the county government that it also invested all this time and effort and money into this area and now it was all crumbling right before their faces. And at that point, they called an adjournment to the meeting and said, you know, we’ll meet in a couple of weeks. But then I started getting a flurry of phone calls saying well, you know, maybe he doesn’t quite remember. I mean they basically just tried to cover up and hide and lie their way out of this process and that’s when we realized okay we have really touched a third rail here.

MF: So let’s go back even a little further talk about the River Road African Community that existed in Bethesda before it started really getting built up with these high-rises and things in the 1950s.

MCA: Well, why don’t we go back further? Because that’s the problem with African American narrative or African American history. Our history does not start in the United States. Our history starts in West and Central Africa. And so whenever you’re sort of cornered into these little teeny holes of talking about, you know, our history starting in the United States, you sort of wiped out three or four thousand years even longer history before we got to River Road. So let’s start with the fact that the people who eventually come to River Road start in the African kingdoms of Kanem Bornu and the Ghana Kingdom and the Ashanti Kingdom and the Yuruba kingdom and that these were very advanced civilizations of higher learning you know where the Greeks were coming to West Africa to learn mathematics. Let’s talk about the University of Sankara, which you know, eventually became started being called at the colloquial level the University of Timbuktu where they were performing cataract surgery. Let’s talk about you know, the building blocks of agriculture and how to redesign waterways. All of these activities and these skills and these institutions of higher learning is the reason why Europeans went to West and Central Africa and decided to kidnap all of these people and to transfer all that knowledge so that if you look at what Europeans eventually called the transatlantic slave trade, which was in fact the largest transfer of intellectual knowledge that the world has ever seen. So basically the Europeans transferred all this agricultural and technological and science from West and Central Africa to the United States approximately, well, it lands in sort of in Jamestown is 400 years ago. But of course the Spanish had already colonized Florida by that time had already started kidnapping Africans and bringing them to that part of the country long before Jamestown. But Jamestown is particularly relevant to the River Road Community because it was in Jamestown where they were able to refine a variety of tobacco that was appealing to the European palette and 30 or 40 years after they had refined this variety of tobacco, we now get the first colonization of River Road. Of course that simultaneously wiping out Native American communities along River Road, and then basically stealing that land, committing genocide on the people and then you begin to get all of these what Europeans are of course call plantations, but of course from a bottom-up perspective the least important activity in that space was what they were planting. The Africans were being brought from Africa to be worked to death and they worked from the first glimmer of light in the morning until they couldn’t see anymore and they were literally worked to death. And so which is the reason why we no longer call these places plantations We now call them what they actually were, which is death camps. These were death camps for the Africans. And so we are now looking at about sixteen seventy when the first Africans arrived on River Road and we’ve been really homing in on one particular death camp and that’s the death camp owned by the Councilman brothers. And this particular death camp is particularly important to this community because it is actually where Macedonia Baptist Church still sits. Our church is located in what European historians call the slave quarters. And so we are going to celebrate our quote-unquote 100th year of corporate ownership of that land. But in fact Africans began to raise their hands begging God to deliver them from the torture that they were undergoing around maybe 1670. So that was the beginning of the community on River Road.

KZ: So much history is erased. You know…

MCA: So much history is erased and you wonder in whose interest. I mean, we’ve had to literally start from scratch because Montgomery County has been so actively trying to erase this incredible history that school children in Montgomery County should know like they know the Gettysburg Address, right and instead of embracing this history, understanding so that we can learn from this history, Montgomery County has actively been trying to cover it up, to deny it, to erase it and that’s just not going to happen, not as long as the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition is around. We are as much historians as we are activists at this point.

KZ: You’ve done incredible work, historic. I mean things like Truth and Reconciliation. And you can’t have reconciliation without truth and so when…

MCA:  Well, you can’t have reconciliation without justice. And the reason why they’re so concerned about this is because they’re concerned about the issue of reparations because you had as you said Margaret, you had a community of Africans who had somehow someway survived the torture of European barbarism that they, you know, euphemistically like to call slavery. It certainly was not any form of slavery we’ve ever seen that we can really sort of pin that term on what happened to Africans in this country. This is more barbarism than it was slavery. So you have this barbarism that’s going on. People are literally just being murdered and just raped and so you have this community that grows out of this barbarism. One of the things that we also found out was that as you know around 1807, there’s a blockade of bringing Africans from the continent into the United States because quite frankly it was competing with the internal market of breeding Africans in this country. I mean Europeans like to say, oh, we you know, we had some paying of conscience and we decided to end the slave trade. Oh that’s just complete and total nonsense. The reason why they ended bringing Africans into the United States was because it was interfering with their competition. People were already beginning to breed African women and so bringing in new Africans was literally in competition with the breeding industry that they had started in this country. And River Road was no different than that. Around 1807, the land begins, it is just exhausted because tobacco is really hard on the soil and the land on River Road was just not yielding the same amount of tobacco. It was, the soil was depleted. The question for the Councilman brothers as well as these other terrorists that were kidnapping Africans is that how we are going to compete with the rice growers and the sugar growers in the South? What industry can we invest our money in that will compete with these other businesses? And they also decide to go into breeding young African girls. And so from about 1807 until after 1864, which is when Maryland becomes independent, they turn the Councilman death camp into what we really hate to call it, but it was a targeted sexual assault area where African girls were being bought for at around 8 years old and then what they call primed, which means they were basically on the pedophile market until their menses started and then they were basically handed over to professional breeders. They had men who were professional breeders and they were literally starting to rape these little girls. The same thing happened with Thomas Jefferson. Of course, that’s the Thomas Jefferson story isn’t it that we don’t want to talk about, that he was a pedophile and that he was actually engaged in this activity. So it was happening in Monticello and it was also happening right here on River Road. And these were very sophisticated sexual breeding areas where they had you know, a doctor who went from one place to another. They had nurses. They had, you know midwives. They had the birthing areas. They had the raping areas. I mean, these are very sophisticated operations and the thought was that one African girl could exponentially produce about 75 people. So that if she had say 10 children in her lifetime and half are girls, then you could begin to breed those girls. You could start using them in the pedophile market as early as whenever but then later they would also be brought over to the breeding market, you know at around 10 or 12 years old. And the same thing with black boys. We don’t talk about how black boys were also used in the pedophile market as well as later in life. So when I say this community survived somehow all of this torture, that’s what I’m talking about. And then so after 1864, we get Africans leaving these death camps and beginning to build their homes and they’re trying to build some normalcy in the context of all the trauma on River Road. And what’s interesting is that three years after emancipation, so called emancipation, this one woman, I think her name was Mary Rivers, but I could have that wrong. She actually goes and she buys the land that we now call Moses African Cemetery. So why did she buy that land? She buys that land because she knows that her relatives are in that land. And instead of using the money for food or clothing, she actually buys the land. She becomes a member of what eventually becomes Macedonia Baptist Church and she’s funeralized in Macedonia Baptist Church, and then her body is actually taken and it’s actually buried in Moses African Cemetery. So the church’s roots go back so far with that land. And then after she purchased that land, a black benevolent society buys that land but names it Moses African Cemetery for the Sons and Daughters of Moses. And then, of course, they’re eventually run off of the land and then white developers basically steal the land from the black benevolent society and that is how we get to where we’re at today.

MF: Wow. So this is all history that you’ve learned through the course from that first meeting at the Planning Commission until now.

MCA:  Exactly.

MF: Can you talk about how you’ve been able to uncover this information for others who may have similar interests?

MCA: It’s not me. I mean, we are blessed with the most amazing historians and archivists, I think. People like Amy Riskin and Dr. Tim Willard and so many other people who have stepped forward. They’re so passionate about spending this history and they just have massive tools in which to do so. And so we’ve been just incredibly blessed to work with all these various people from our community who come forward to say I have a little bit I have a little piece of this history and can we stitch that together with what you know. And so we’ve been able to basically build a quilt now of the stitching together of what historians and archivists like that. Dr. Willard had been able. It was Dr. Willard Tim Willard, who is the I think the cochair of the Montgomery County Green Party who actually found the 1862 or 1863 US Census what they call the slave schedule for the US Census and that was how we were able to put together that we were looking at breeding camps because when you looked at the census report, it was all made up of young African girls and some African boys, but and maybe two or three African adults. So we knew that that was not a typical tobacco plantation because tobacco is really hard to grow and it you know takes a lot of skill and that’s a lot of back, so you’re not looking at seven or eight-year-old girls doing that kind of work and so we were able to begin to just stitch together the story from looking at those kinds of documents. And so we’ve just been incredibly blessed by having I think the most creative and most incredible historians and archivists work with us on this project.

KZ: Wow, what an amazing development and story and when I think about this, trying to hide this history in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. This should be really something that is a museum that displays…

MCA: Exactly and that’s what we’re fighting for. I know time is not, you know, we only have 30 minutes, but that’s what we’re fighting for. Can you imagine we’re fighting to bring a project to Bethesda that’s going to make Bethesda richer. I mean, it’s just incredible to think about this because once we are successful and we build a first-class museum and a first-class memorial to these women, to these little girls and boys who lived on River Road and built such a rich and powerful culture. Remember three years after emancipation, 70% of the Africans on River Road own land. I mean, that’s unbelievable. I mean when you think about how long it takes those of us in the 21st century to buy our first house, three years after the emancipation these Africans were owning land on River Road. They had started all kinds of businesses everything from midwifery to churches to their own little banking system their co-op system to farming lands and selling the skins and the meat from animals. I mean there was a very rich and prosperous community that was tucked away, but they supported each other and they loved each other and they had their outside, you know, relationships with white folks. But basically they huddled together to protect each other and support each other and that community existed until 1962 when the county in collusion with businesses decided that Africans no longer were welcomed on River Road and one by one they stole each house on River Road. They wiped out the black community here. 100% of every black home was taken away. And so if you’re in Bethesda, and you go to the Whole Foods Market on River Road, that was the home of Harvey Matthews’ family. And that land was sold in order to build this little shopping center for around I think 70 million dollars about 10 years ago, and that’s the kind of intergenerational wealth that black people do not enjoy in this country because if Harvey Matthews’ family had been able to hold onto that land, they would be millionaires now, but instead Harvey Matthews is struggling. His family is struggling while that land is now owned by Amazon.

MF: Can you describe for our listeners what happened to the Bethesda African Cemetery, what it looks like right now?

MCA: This is as I said, we had a king who visited us from Benin, Porto Novo and when we got to the area I said to him we were looking at a parking lot because as they were building the HOC building in the 1960s, they were building the basement and they of course came in contact with all of these remains and they decided to sort of push all these remains into a mass grave and then when the remains kept popping up during rainy season because it’s a very, it’s a downhill area, they decided to lock in the grave by pouring over the graves and making it into a parking lot. So first they filled in the graves by putting 30 feet of fill dirt on top of the remains and then they put basically a tarmac or they put an asphalt top on top of the grave. So right now if you go there what you’re going to see is a parking lot and that’s where our ancestors are located is, you know, it’s under a parking lot. We hosted a king from Benin from the kingdom of Porto Novo a couple of months ago. And when we got to that area, he was just, he became so overwhelmed knowing that his sisters and brothers and relatives were underneath this parking lot. And I said to everyone there that this is what contempt looks like. This is what contempt looks like.

MF: And can you describe what has been the reaction of the public in that area and how has Montgomery County responded now that you’ve uncovered all of this information?

MCA: Two separate reactions altogether. The public has been absolutely fabulous. We’ve had as you know, you were at the first demonstration that where we marched from you and Kevin from Macedonia over to the cemetery and we were in the infancy in terms of our knowledge of what was underneath the parking lot at that point. But as you could see that the community came out to support us. Everybody knows about the cemetery now because I think we’ve done a very effective public education program. And so the public has been fabulous. And of course no one supports desecration. I mean, it would be very difficult for people to actually say they support desecration of graves. So we don’t have a lot of people in the public saying, you know, we think the grave should be continued to be desecrated. On the other hand, the government has been just the exact opposite. The HOC has said they’re perfectly happy with the status quo being in place, that they have no plan, aims to develop the land. They have no plans to do anything. They just want the parking lot to stay as it is and they want people to continue to desecrate. That’s been their position. We’ve called for the executive director of HOC to be fired, but we can’t figure out who would fire him because the rules of engagement in the county is they have all these very, you know, weird accountability rules where nobody can quite figure out you know, what is the chain of command here and that’s because quite frankly, he really is beholden to the developer industrial complex. And that’s the reason why it’s so fuzzy in terms of how to get rid of him because the county has developed these kinds of very weird reporting rules. The county itself fought us tooth and nail for at least the first two years. I mean they were the ones who called the cemetery an alleged cemetery until we went through the Maryland Public Information Act and we actually found the documents with the county was actually holding meetings as early as 2015 to figure out what would happen if someone found out about this cemetery and how would they continue to sell this land if this if anyone ever found out about the cemetery. And so the county has been engaged in a protracted cover-up for a very long time to try to keep this information from the public and make sure that they could work with developers to develop this land. So what the social justice movement did because this is the most important part of what I’m going to say for the entire 30 minutes now is that when people organize it changes everything. It changes the dialogue. It changes the power structure. It changes who people talk to. It changes the entire dynamic of what happens in a political situation and that’s what happened in Bethesda, Maryland. We began to organize with all kinds of organizations from the Green Party to local black Baptist churches to local businesses to schools. And people began to understand how powerful they are. That’s very important. And of course what happened at that point is that the system reacts always in a very brutal and retaliatory way and I think people began to understand that our social justice movement was not just about Moses African Cemetery, it was about confronting white supremacy and all of its various tentacles throughout the county. And it was also about confronting the structure of white supremacy. And so this social movement has been important because it has really called into question the very core of how Montgomery County government works. That is why we are such a threat to Montgomery County right now.

KZ: It’s so true and if people want to get involved they should go to Bethesda African Cemetery dot-org, Bethesda African Cemetery dot org to get involved because you need support. You need people to know this. This is still an ongoing campaign. This has not been won and what’s important about it’s not just this one cemetery in Montgomery County. This is a history for the whole country.

MCA: Yeah, and it’s one of the reasons why we filed papers yesterday at the, with the state attorney’s office, McCarthy asking him now to file charges against the HOC on the basis of hate crimes because these are hate crimes and the only way you cannot see what’s happening with the Bethesda African Cemetery is if you don’t see those people underneath the cemetery as human. These are hate crimes. And so we’re now asking Montgomery County to step up to the plate and acknowledge finally that Africans are human. And that what happened on River Road were crimes against humanity and to also start filing a hate crime charges against all these corporations that are defiling the bodies and the memories because we’re fighting for memory here. We’re fighting for memory. Whose memory is important? Is it our memory or the corporate memory?

KZ: That’s right and black cemeteries across the South are threatened like this. Places where black people were sold in the United States are also being threatened with development. This is a history that we cannot hide. We need to bring it out in the open. We ned to understand it so we can come to terms with it. And then the restitution issue you as you mentioned plays right into that. Once people understand that this is what was going on, that young girls and boys were being sold into sexual abuse. It’s just, this is like we have to understand this about ourselves so we can come to terms with ourselves.

MF: And I just quickly want to add for our listeners that HOC is the Housing Opportunities Commission.

KZ:  Right, in Montgomery County.

MCA: Which is really just, it’s housing opportunities. That is such a beautiful name, but in fact, this is just a facade for developers to say that they’re engaged in building, you know low-income housing when in fact the majority of the housing that is really being built under this HOC, it’s really for market-rate residents in Montgomery County. And the average income in Montgomery County is a little bit less than $200,000 a year. This is by no means low income housing that they’re engaged in. This is market-based housing that they’re really and they’re using the veneer of low-income housing to do their dirty work.

MF: Can you quickly comment on other similar efforts that are going on around the United States? There have been actually some victories in other places, right?

MCA: In Chattanooga, Tennessee. They’re own HOC found out that there were remains under a building that they that, they actually had residents in this building. They have three buildings actually three buildings and they actually relocated it. They built a new complex and relocated three buildings of residents to a new place in order to preserve and protect the sacredness of this African burial ground. This is Chattanooga, Tennessee. When you think of Montgomery County and Chattanooga, you don’t think of Chattanooga as being more progressive than Montgomery County. And we have examples in Florida where corporations have found out that there were African burial grounds and have stepped forward to do the right thing. But in Montgomery County, we’re still fighting the Civil War here. But I just wanted your listeners to know also we have not won this battle. I mean, we’ve won a lot of victories. We forced two multinational corporations, billion-dollar corporations to stand down and sort of the back off but we have by no means won this battle. We’re still fighting Montgomery County and we’re still fighting the HOC and that land is still in the hands of enemies HOC and the county basically so we need everyone, we need all hands on deck and we need money. We need people who can march. We need people who can sing. There are all kinds of skills that have been brought into this social justice movement and we need every single skill out there right now. So we need the public to step forward.

KZ: We need people in our listening audience to go to Bethesda African Cemetery dot-org and learn about this issue. Write about this issue. Spread the word about this issue. We need people who really have an understanding of the history of slavery in this country, the history of white supremacy and abuse of black people of African descent need to speak about this and write about this. This is such an important history that you’ve uncovered. I remember the first event, you know, you mentioned we were at the first march, even then before all this history was uncovered, when at that point, it was a cemetery that had been turned into a parking lot. That was the story. Now, you know so much more. Even then you had a mass audience show up. It’s gotten bigger and stronger but it still has not defeated the developers that dominate Montgomery County.

MCA: They’re very powerful here. I mean because land in Montgomery County and Bethesda in particular is just every single inch is fought for and this is really flying in the face of the concept of private property versus sacred property. And so we’re having some really big discussions here in Montgomery County that go to the root of the beginning of American capitalism. And that’s what I mean by saying everybody brings something to this table. We have a cultural group that comes and they sing with us at every demonstration. They sing protest songs and songs of resistance. We have archivists. We have historians. We have people who are organizers. We have attorneys. Everyone has something to share, has something to provide to this movement because we are basically trying to break the spine of white supremacy. And so we need everyone to help us. This is a big job.

MF: Yes. Absolutely. And you’ve built such a beautiful community there Marsha. We have so much admiration for the work that you are doing and everyone there in Montgomery County. Thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today about this.

MCA: If I just have one more second. We’re going to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Macedonia Baptist Church on March 7th from six to ten o’clock, and we’d like to invite everyone in your listening public to please come out and join the celebration and we’re going to sing and we’re going to have a great time just celebrating the community on River Road. Thank you.

Read More

New Federal Police Surge Targets Poor And Black Communities

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

In December, the Department of Justice announced a new $71 million program, Operation Relentless Pursuit, that will increase policing and the involvement of federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency in seven cities, four of which are majority-black cities. Rather than addressing the root causes of crime, the program will result in greater repression and violence against these communities. We speak with Jacqueline Luqman about the program, what policies would be more effective and what people are doing to fight back. Kevin Zeese, who has worked for decades to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration, describes how similar programs have been tried in the past and have failed. We also provide current news and analysis.

Listen here:

Review us on iTunes! Click here … Then click on “View in iTunes … Then click “Ratings and Reviews.”

Guest:

Jacqueline Luqman is a host and producer for TRNN. With more than 20 years as an activist in Washington, DC, Jacqueline focuses on examining the impact of current events and politics on Black, POC, and other marginalized communities in the US and around the world, providing a specific race and class analysis at the root of these issues. She is co-host of By Any Means Necessary with Sean Blackmon on Sputnik Radio. And she is Editor-In-Chief and a co-host of the social media program Coffee, Current Events & Politics in Luqman Nation with her husband, and is active in the faith-focused progressive/left activist community.

Transcript:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): And Kevin Zeese.

MF: Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance dot o– r– g. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at Popular Resistance dot-org and while you’re there, check out the Popular Resistance store where you’ll find Clearing the FOG gear like t-shirts, bumper stickers, water bottles and tote bags. So today we interviewed Jacqueline Luqman. She’s a host of a number of different programs and also an activist in Washington, DC.

KZ: That’s right. We talked to her about this new program from the Department of Justice to escalate law enforcement in seven cities and it comes at a time when reports now indicate that for the last six years, each year the police have killed 1,000 civilians. And it comes at a time when consent decrees were entered into in various cities when Obama was president. A lot of those have now been not enforced by the Trump Administration. So the police are going to be allowed to continue their misbehavior and are getting more money for it. We’ve seen these things before. We talk with Jacquie about how in the past, these kinds of things lead to mass arrests and mass incarceration, particularly in black and brown communities.

MF: It’s very scary to be sending more militarized police into these poor communities. And as you mentioned the consent decree, Baltimore is one of the cities, those seven cities that is a target of Operation Relentless Pursuit. It’s a terrible name. And Baltimore has not dealt with the issue of police abuse in the city that that consent decree was worried about.

KZ: These always have terrible names. Under Clinton, it was “Weed and Seed,” like treating people as weeds. Weed them and then seed them. I was like Oh and it still goes on today. Weed and Seed’s never ended, all these programs just continue and they just cause more disruption in communities that need investment not militarized police,

MF: Right. So stick around with for that interview with Jacquie so you can learn more about this program and what’s being done about it. Let’s talk about a few things that are in the news before we get to that. There’s a new study out in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health that found that raising the minimum wage would have reduced suicides by the tens of thousands.

KZ: Well, this is one thing we, people have to understand about inequality. Inequality by itself is unfair, it’s not fair that three people have the wealth equal to half the population but inequality also has impacts. There’s interesting research that shows the ties, inequality being tied to homicides, suicides, to illnesses also and this is an example, this recent study is an example of how inequality, low wages is tied to suicide. You are talking about tens of thousands potentially less suicides.

MF: Right. They talked about if minimum wage has been raised by a dollar, there would have been 27 thousand fewer suicides. And if the minimum wage had been raised by two dollars then it would have been 57 thousand fewer suicides in the US.

KZ: And they were talking about the federal minimum wage, which is still $7.50. Increased wages mean people have less stress in life, means less suicides. You are talking about two dollars an hour leading to 57,000 less suicides a year.

MF:  So a new poll that was done by Reuters Ipsos found that 64% of people in the United States support taxing wealth. Over half of Republicans polled supported taxing the rich.

KZ: And taxing wealth means, you know, right now we get taxed for our work, people get taxed for their income. Wealth means taxing people’s profits from Wall Street. And so if your Wall Street wealth goes up, you get taxed on that wealth. Taxing wealth the same as work would be a tremendous solution toward reducing inequality or reducing deficits and being able to fund programs needed like housing and healthcare, education. We can fund these programs if we have fair taxes on the wealthy.

MF:  And as we all know and we’ve talked about before on this program, the wealthy are very good at actually not paying taxes and pay a lower tax rate than middle-income people. So we really do need to find a way to tax wealth and we’ve often talked about how in the middle of the 20th century, which was a time when there was the greatest equality, income equality, the tax rates were extremely high on the wealthy at that point 70%, 90%.

KZ:  That’s right. A 90% confiscatory tax for their extreme wealth. And this is the first year, by the way where the wealthy paid less than the working people on average. So this is major and this year also is a year when corporations, this is not first, will get away with either paying no taxes or are getting money back at tax time. So our tax system has been really screwed up since the Reagan Era. That was really when that began. It got worse under Bush. It’s gotten worse under Democrats as well. And it’s gotten worse, this Trump tax reform that really deformed the tax system to its worst state in our lifetime.

MF: The corporations love socialism when they’re the ones on the receiving end, when they get the tax breaks and the tax refunds and the subsidies. They think that’s just great but use that money for actual human needs they wouldn’t support that.

KZ: There is a lot of corporate socialism. That’s not a small number.

MF:  No, it’s billions of dollars. Another new study that came out from the Physicians for a National Health Program shows that if we had a National Improved Medicare for all system, we would reduce our bureaucratic paperwork spending by 600 billion dollars a year. Imagine how much health care, actual health care that could purchase instead of paperwork.

KZ: Well, that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and it’s a peer-reviewed, highly recognized  and respected publication. They said that 34% of the cost of health care in the United States is because of administrative costs. That’s a combination of two things. That’s the cost of the insurance industry, which is about 18 percent of that. And the rest is the bureaucracy created by the insurance industry – hospitals and doctors and other providers having to figure out whether something is covered, what insurance policies someone is on, getting reimbursed, getting paid by the insurance company. You know from your own practice when you practiced medicine for 17 years, you know what it’s like to deal with the insurance industry.

MF: It takes up so much of a health professional’s time dealing with trying to get approvals from these insurance companies that really their business model is to deny care. They make money when they deny payment for care and so health professionals are always fighting with them to say no you actually need to cover this care for our patients. A National Improved Medicare for all system would be very different. It would be one set of rules, one transparent set of rules. It would be a system actually designed to pay for care. So the complete opposite of what we have right now. And it would reduce, as you know, the bureaucracy significantly, not only getting rid of a lot of headaches for health professionals and patients, but freeing up more time for a direct relationship between health professionals and their patients.

KZ: And not having doctors controlled by the insurance industry. As a doctor, you are controlled, what you can do, by what the insurance says they will pay for and so the system is really backwards. We put the profit of the insurance industry, which is something we don’t even need. It’s kind of a go-between between the doctor and the patient.

MF: It’s more than a go-between, it’s a vampire. It’s not only not needed but it’s actually detrimental to our health care system and it’s robbing us of hundreds of billions. Talk about subsidies, through the Affordable Care Act, the US government is subsidizing health insurance companies, private health insurance companies, 300 billion dollars a year in subsidies that go directly to them. And then what do they do? They limit their network so people can’t find doctors. They put the cost of care off on to patients through co-pays and deductibles and then they deny coverage, you know payment for care. So this is what we’re subsidizing. It’s just enriching them.

KZ: This study and all the information you just provided really puts the lie to the claim of people like Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg who are funded by the insurance industry that we can’t afford a Medicare for all system. The reality is a Medicare for all system gets rid of that one third of the waste of administrative bureaucracy. And that’s why we can afford it. Whenever they say we can’t afford Medicare-for-all, you should ask them: what’s your system going to cost? Because every study shows the current system will be more expensive than Medicare for all, so Medicare will actually saves money. So this nonsense we can’t afford it is the opposite of the truth.

MF: The truth is we can’t afford not to do it. We have to go to a National Improved Medicare for all so we can not only control our health care spending but make sure that every person in the United States has access to the health care that they need when they need it without fear of financial ruin or going bankrupt as so, over five hundred thousand families do every year in the United States.

KZ:  This is an issue we’re going to win. Physicians for a National Health Program, which you are a board advisor to. PNHP dot org is a great place to go. We have a campaign called Health Over Profit for Everyone, health over profit dot-org. If you want to get involved in our campaign to bring National Improved Medicare to all the United States.

MF: Let’s talk about a new win against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The community of Union Hill, which was founded by freed slaves, won in a lawsuit against Dominion Energy who wanted to put in a compressor station. So for folks who may not be familiar with this, a pipeline has to have these compressor stations along the way that actually push the gas through and these compressor stations are very dirty, very polluting in the communities where they are. And so Union Hill, a majority black community, argued that they would be the ones that would be receiving that, you know having the ill health impacts because of this and they won in their day in court.

KZ: And it was a unanimous decision. And this is part of many struggles against a whole range of oil and gas infrastructure that was escalated under Obama and is being escalated further under Trump. A really good organization that kind of works on this issue that we’re part of Beyond Extreme Energy, we urge people to check out their website Beyond Extreme Energy dot org, really works with groups all over the country trying to stop these pipelines.

MF: Right. And this was the eighth court decision against Dominion Energy on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and there are more lawsuits coming. So really, congratulations to those of you fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. You’re doing excellent work and it’s having an impact. You brought up BXE, Beyond Extreme Energy, and Beyond Extreme Energy has had a big target of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which approves all of the oil and gas infrastructure in the United States. And in fact, it does approve them because that’s where it gets all its funding from is from the fees for the permits for these projects.

KZ: That’s right, the FERC does not get tax dollars. It gets paid for by the oil and gas industry, the application fees, the permits. That’s how they make their money. And so approving infrastructure means more money for FERC.

MF: And it’s a revolving door where people that work in the FERC come out of the industry and vice versa. But Beyond Extreme Energy has been targeting them now since 2014 in a very focused way and has actually been able to start making some changes there in terms of looking more at environmental impacts of projects, starting to consider the impact of these projects on climate change, but the Trump Administration is now working to undo all of that progress with their new proposal that would undermine NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, which turned 50 years old this month.

KZ: That’s right. NEPA requires Environmental Impact Statements for some projects, for most projects, and Environmental Assessments, a little bit less form of an EIS, for other projects and the Trump Administration is trying to say that these EIS’s, these environmental reviews don’t need to consider the cumulative impact of climate of the project. This was a big fight. You mentioned the FERC. This was exactly the fight that BXE was fighting and they were beginning to win, requiring these infrastructure projects to look at the climate impact, the cumulative climate impact of the project and Trump is trying to change that. Now I gotta say, NEPA is a great law, but it’s also a weak law because all you’re requiring people do is an EIS or environmental assessment. Once that’s done, they can rule, look at oh, yeah, we measured the environment now we’re going to go ahead with the project. Then you have a lawsuit: did they do the the environmental assessment right? And so you have a fight about it, but now it even this act which should be strengthened is actually getting weakened.

MF: Right and we know from our own experience in Maryland that that system with the FERC is not working. When Dominion Energy built a fracked gas export terminal, refinery and export terminal in Maryland, the first one on the east coast…

KZ: That’s right, in Cove Point, Maryland.

MF: They straight out lied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on their application. They left out 90% of the population. They didn’t show that actually they were building this facility in a densely-populated area that if there was any bad event at this refinery, which happens we’ve seen them all the time the explosions and fires, the refinery is on this peninsula meaning that hundreds of people would be trapped and wouldn’t be able able to evacuate without having to drive actually towards the facility.

KZ: They actually defined this as a rural area when it’s actually a pretty intensely-populated suburban area. Normally there’s a multi-mile buffer between these kinds of terminals and the community. In this case there is a two-lane rural small road that’s between the fracked gas export terminal and people living right across the street.

MF: I want to let folks know that this proposal is open for public comments right now and public comments do make a difference. And so we urge you to consider submitting a public comment against these changes to the NEPA rule.

KZ: Let me just say something about public comments and why they’re important. I mean, it’s, some people see it as just a kind of a bureaucratic step. But in fact in administrative proceedings, public comments are equivalent to the trial evidence because these kinds of decisions go to the DC Court of Appeals. They don’t take witnesses, but they look at the record and the record is the public comments. And so people write really smart detailed public comments that make a case. This becomes the record that the Court of Appeals reviews and so public comments are important. Quantity is important, but quality is also important. So if you are interested in this issue, make a public comments that can be used by the lawyers. This will be challenged.

MF: Let’s talk about what’s happening in Bolivia. The harsh right-wing coup president Jeanine Añez continues this brutal bloody crackdown on the people of Bolivia arresting media people and health professionals who are defying the government by providing services to people who have been injured in the protests. This violates international law, as a health professional you cannot deny care to someone even in a war health professionals are allowed to take care of whoever comes to them whichever side they’re on.

KZ: That’s exactly true. And this has to be looked at as part of the build-up to the May third election, intimidating the public by threatening, arresting, even torturing journalists, by arresting doctors. When it comes to this election, there’s going to be violence and they don’t want the people who oppose the coup government getting medical care. In fact, they kicked out the 700 Cuban doctors who are a backbone of the Bolivian health system. So this is part of the build-up to that May election. And so it really is an indication we’re not going to get a fair election in Bolivia.

MF: Well, they’ve shut down media outlets in Bolivia and the USAID sent a team to Bolivia to quote-unquote strengthen the elections what this means is exactly what you’re talking about. Most likely it won’t be a fair election something maybe like we’ve seen in Honduras. They’re trying to purge the rolls of indigenous voters. The indigenous community overwhelmingly supported Evo Morales, the first indigenous president, and they’re also and this is something that the USAID has done in other countries, they’re also trying to buy off the leaders of the MAS Party or Movement Towards Socialism Party.

KZ: Yes, when the USAID says they’re going to strengthen elections, it means the opposite. They’re going to rig the election and they’re being joined by the Organization of American States, which is also controlled by the United States and has been a very very major player in Honduras and other coup elections. These are all signs that this is going to be a rigged election. Now the opposition is divided. And so that’s a plus for the MAS Party, the Evo Morales’ party. But if you have a rigged election where they use terrorism and violence and restrict voter registration, stop media from covering it, don’t allow truly independent international observers to come in, then you can really create a fake democracy. And this election really is designed, is being designed by the coup plotters to put a false imprimatur of democracy on a coup government and that’s what this is really about. The international community needs to be aware of this. People need to be aware of it because it’s going to take mass attention to get a fair election in Bolivia.

MF: There’s going to need to be a lot of eyes down there to document what goes on. Another ominous sign is that the head of the electoral tribunal there, Salvador Romero, is actually connected to the US State Department and USAID.

KZ: You can look up on Wikileaks his name or look up Bolivia, you’ll find him reported working with the US government closely to undermine Evo Morales’ government in Bolivia.

MF: And the US was behind this coup in Bolivia. Just as we’ve been behind many coups. Let’s talk about Venezuela. Elliott Abrams admitted recently at a press conference that when he was asked well how much money is USAID spending in Venezuela and what are they spending it on? He said well, I don’t know the final final number. We know that it’s in the tens of millions, around 40 million or so dollars. He did say that it was being spent on media…

KZ: Also known as propaganda.

MF: Yes, and on the National Assembly. So we have to wonder…

KZ: Why are we giving humanitarian aid? Those wealthy National Assembly members need humanitarian aid?

MF: I think people need to stop for a second and think about that. Why is USAID purportedly an aid organization spending money on the National Assembly? Well, we know exactly why because the US was trying to make it so that Juan Guaido, the previous president of the National Assembly, won election again, even though the National Assembly traditionally has changed the head every year.

KZ: And he actually lost the election and it was essentially the Juan Guaido at his most tragic comedy lowest. He was allowed to come into the meeting but he decided not to. Instead he created a show of climbing the fence rather than going in the front door. He didn’t want to go in because he knew he didn’t have the votes. So he wanted to undermine the legitimacy of the National Assembly election.

MF: And Leonardo Flores has an excellent article originally posted in the Grayzone where he talks about kind of what went on there and how the opposition is divided into a moderate camp and an extreme right-wing camp and they…

KZ: Which camp is Juan Guaido part of?

MF: Juan Guaido is part of the extreme right-wing one. Actually he was leading the protests back in 2014 that were very violent and killed people for supporting the Bolivarian process. But he talked about how actually the moderates and extremists were at fisticuffs inside of the National Assembly. The moderates want dialogue. The extremists just want control. The moderates joined with the Chavista members of the National Assembly and voted in Luis Parra as the new president. The four people that were voted into these new positions, president, two vice presidents and a secretary, are all members of the opposition parties. But what did the US media say about the vote?

KZ: Maduro took over the assembly. They nominate leadership all from the opposition, but Maduro took it over.

MF: Right, just another example of the amazing lies that we hear about Venezuela. There were a hundred and fifty of the hundred and sixty five delegates present. They voted, eighty one of them voted for Luis Parra. Parra is calling for dialogue in the country and actually has been part of the national dialogues that went on through the fall and have actually started to bring stability to Venezuela. Things are improving. Their oil production is improving. The economy is improving and they’re now reaching 7 million families a month with the CLAP program, the food and household goods subsidized program.

KZ:  Just to add two final points of the Guaido tragic comedy, after he lost the election in the assembly then he went to an opposition right-wing journalist outlet and held another vote and claimed he won the National Assembly with a hundred votes at the right-wing media…

MF: At El Nacional, right.

KZ: At the right-wing media outlet but that didn’t fly very well with most people. So the next day, he got into the assembly, took the stage and took the oath of office.

MF: With like a few dozen, I think they were more media there than there were actually delegates.

KZ: More media then delegates. It was definitely not a quorum. So he swore himself in just like Guaido swore himself in as a president a year ago. He swore himself in and says he’s going to create an alternative assembly.

MF: He’s a fake president with a fake assembly and a fake Supreme Court that operates out of Miami.

KZ: This is such a comedy and yet the US media portrays it as if it’s real. People in the US media actually called it a coup against Guaido. It’s just like so obscene what we’re told in this country. You know, this is part of the fantasy and you know we’re being prosecuted in a federal court case for our protection of the Venezuelan Embassy

MF: In Washington DC.

KZ: And in that prosecution the government just submitted a motion to say what we can tell the jury. They don’t want the jury know Maduro’s president. They don’t want the jury to know that Guaido is illegitimate and not the president. They don’t want the jury to know that we were in the embassy with the permission of the elected government of Venezuela. You can find out more on Defend Embassy Protectors dot-org. Check it out.

MF: And we’re going on a speaking tour. Let’s talk about Iran. We talked about it a lot last week on our program but information continues to come to light. One of the most recent findings is that the assassination of Soleimani was actually ordered months ago.

KZ: President Trump approved the killing of General Soleimani in June. So this claim that there was an imminent threat and that’s why they assassinated him, the Secretary of Defense Esper said that he saw no evidence of what Trump claimed. He saw no evidence that four embassies were being threatened by Soleimani. That was Trump’s basis for the assassination of Soleimani.

MF: Last week President Trump made his speech about how the US would respond. Fortunately no military attacks, but the US is imposing more sanctions on Iran. But it was interesting how Trump said oh our sophisticated intelligence was able to detect this attack was coming hours in advance so that we could get our troops out of the way. In reality, it was Iran that alerted the US….

KZ: Gave them three hours warning before the attack so the US and Iraq could get people and troops out of the way of the response by Iran. And so this was really Iran protecting human lives, but letting the Trump Administration and the world know that it is capable of sending its ballistic missiles through any air defense the US may have and hitting their targets. One thing that President Trump said was that we don’t need to be in the Middle East anymore, we’re the number one oil and gas producer. That’s a very positive statement. And then for the Iraq Parliament to say US get out.

MF: And Iran is saying that one of their goals is to get the US out of the Middle East.

KZ: And so a lot of pressure and Trump could then live up to a campaign promise and say we’re leaving Iraq and if we leave Iraq you’re leaving Syria too because you need Iraq in order to have the troops in Syria. If that begins, it could be a very positive spiral of the US getting out of the Middle East, which is the number one demand of the peace movement United States.

MF: The base that Iran bombed in its attack was the base where that drone or helicopter came from that assassinated him. So that was you know, there was a direct connection there and even with notice, the United States wasn’t able to stop Iran’s missiles. So, so much for our superiority there. Now, a very sad thing that came out of that whole situation, a very tense time. People in Iran were expecting the US to retaliate against that attack. President Trump had threatened to hit 52 sites in Iran if Iran launched an attack and there was a mixup in communication and a civilian Ukrainian Airline was shot down by the Iranian military. A hundred and seventy-six people who were killed on that flight and Iran owned up to it, a very different response from how the United States acts.

KZ: During the George HW Bush Administration, the first Bush, an Iranian airliner was shot down by a US missile killing 290 people and still the US has not taking responsibility and George HW Bush said I will never apologize for the United States no matter what the facts are and the person who shot the missile was given an award.

MF: Another thing that we want to talk about quickly is we have an article on Popular Resistance, it was written by Federico Pieraccini in Strategic Culture looking at some statements that the Iraqi prime minister Abdul Mahdi made to the Iraqi Parliament about what was happening behind the scenes and how the United States told Iraq that they would only repair the infrastructure that we destroyed in the war if Iraq was willing to give 50% of their oil profits to the United States. Iraq said that wasn’t acceptable. They went to China to make a deal with the Chinese to do those infrastructure projects. Trump then pressured Abdul Mahdi to get out of that China deal or we’re going to make mass protests in your streets and what happens, mass protests. Trump also threatened Abdul Mahdi saying that we’ll have snipers killing you know protesters and state actors, something the US has done in other countries before to cause chaos and confusion. Then voila that starts to happen.

KZ: Well, it’s interesting that Trump would tell the Prime Minister that he would have mass protests in Iraq and have snipers. People were wondering when those Iraq protests were going on, were these real protests? What was really happening? Why are they targeting Iran? The protests really were strange and now we understand from the Prime Minister what really happened. It was a US-inspired protest in order to pressure the Prime Minister and the government of Iraq not to make a deal with the number-one competitor of the United States, China.

MF: and I think we have to look at the protests happening in Iran with a critical eye right now because there are protests, people are upset about the plane being shot down, rightly so, but the United States uses these kinds of opportunities to push things in a direction that the US wants it to go and so it’s weird that these vigils and protests against the shooting down of the plane are now, some of the social media is reporting that the people in the street want the shah to come back.

KZ: It’s like the Hong Kong protesters calling for British colonialism to come back. It’s so obviously a western-inspired message.

MF: That shah was backed by the US was brutal.

KZ: He was not very popular. There was a revolution against him, but there are issues in Iran. They have a very difficult economy. They’re under economic war. They have been since 1979.

MF: Let’s quickly add that our newsletter this week on Popular Resistance is about sanctions. If people want to check that out and learn about why these unilateral coercive measures are economic warfare that the United States is using are illegal and what we can do about them. There’s some days of action coming up. January 25th is an international day of action. No war on Iran. Stop the sanctions. US out of the Middle East. And then March 13th to 15th is another big day of action against these sanctions and unilateral coercive measures.

KZ: A lot to do. Lots of opportunities for impacting the direction of the country. So get involved.

MUSICAL BREAK

MF:  You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers.

KZ: And Kevin Zeese.

MF: And now we turn to our guest Jacqueline Luqman. Jacqueline is the editor-in-chief and co-host of Coffee, Current Events and Politics in Luqman Nation. She’s also a host and producer at the Real News Network and a longtime activist in Washington DC. Thank you for taking time to join us, Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Luqman (JL): Thank you all so much for having me.

KZ: This is an important topic. We really are pleased that you’ve been monitoring it and reporting on it already. Can you tell us what Operation Relentless Pursuit is?

JL: Operation Relentless Pursuit is this DOJ, Department of Justice, Federal Law Enforcement initiative that is supposed to be targeted at seven of the country’s quote-unquote most violent cities, the seven cities that are recording or going through levels of violent crime that are higher than the national average. At least that’s how the DOJ is describing it. Right now, they’re targeting this effort at Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee. And what they claim they are doing is to combine resources of the ATF, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Department, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, US Marshals to provide additional manpower and also seven million dollars to hire more officers at the local level for local law enforcement in these seven cities. So that’s what the Department of Justice under William Barr announced this operation as and it’s interesting that somewhere down in the weeds of this announcement, they announced that this will be just an initial effort. So if in their estimation whatever they do is successful and we don’t know how they intend to measure success, then they will, of course, expand this and unleash it on other cities in the country. And I think I need to just correct myself because I said seven million dollars, but it’s 71 million dollars in federal funding that is going to be shared amongst these seven cities for hiring new officers paying overtime and benefits and federally deputizing Task Force officers. It’s really kind of frightening.

MF: Yeah. It is really frightening and using this kind of military terminology as if the people they’re targeting are enemies and four out of the seven cities are majority-black cities so there’s probably going to be an element of focusing on poor and communities where there are people of color. What do you think about this whole kind of military approach to what the police are doing?

JL: Being someone who lived through the increase in police presence in predominantly black and predominantly poor neighborhoods that were hardest hit by the crack epidemic, I mean, it really terrifies me. It really scares me what is about to happen to the communities that are the targets of this effort. This is not going to be an effort where the federal government is going in to help anybody. The federal government is unleashing federal law enforcement agencies, expanding the reach of several federal agencies, merging them pretty much into one effort, providing material support to already problematic local law enforcement agencies in the these cities and just giving them more hardware, more money and more cover to ramp up abuse of an already abused and marginalized population of black, largely native and largely poor people. And we’ve seen what comes of this. We’ve seen that it just feeds into the surge in mass incarceration of those groups of people. It continues to perpetuate the destabilization of communities. It rips families apart. It criminalizes low-level nonviolent activity among people who are really just trying to survive in a society that’s already decided that it’s not going to invest any resources to provide jobs, decent housing, equitably funded and quality education, health care that people need including substance abuse and other community resources that people need and that this government full well knows are required to support a stable and thriving community. The government doesn’t want to provide funds for those things, but it can surge 71 million dollars to hire more cops and to pay overtime, you know, to basically to terrorize these communities because that’s what I’m very afraid is going to happen.

KZ: I’ve worked in this area of mass incarceration, racially unfair policing, the drug war since 1980 when I got out of law school and it has been a major focus – I’ve seen this happen over and over again. It’s an election-year gimmick really that you’ve seen in the Reagan Era, under the first Bush, under Clinton, this increased spending for increased enforcement leading to mass arrests, leading to mass incarceration, leading to dividing families in those communities that they target and live in. Coming at this from Baltimore, I know, you know Baltimore too because Real News who you are on is based here and looking at it from a Baltimore perspective, we have the East and West Baltimore neighborhoods, which we call the Black Butterfly neighborhoods, and these are neglected for multiple generations, neglected as far as good schools, jobs and…

MF: Shutting down recreation centers.

KZ: Basics Transportation, everything but they are militarized. I know you’re active with the Black Alliance for Peace and one of the concerns BAP puts out is essentially bringing militarization home. And so what you’re concerned about is proven by the history of these kinds of programs. If you were able to be in charge of how to confront these neighborhoods that have been neglected and the crime in those neighborhoods, what would be a more approach that you would recommend as opposed to this law enforcement approach?

JL: I mean the interesting thing about this whole issue of crime in these predominantly black neighborhoods is that unfortunately some people feel like they need more police because people are afraid, right, people are legitimately afraid from some of the criminal element in these neighborhoods. And I don’t want to dismiss the fact that yes, there is a problem with crime in some of these neighborhoods. But history itself shows us, like I said before, that we know what reduces crime. First, I would say that crime exists in every neighborhood. So if the federal government is going to surge resources to combat violent crime in most of these cities that are predominantly black, four out of the seven are predominantly black neighborhoods, then I would counter with okay, so where are the federal resources that are being surged to combat human trafficking of sex slaves that are being imported from places in Asia and Europe? There’s no massive rollout of a surge of law enforcement and resources to combat that. There is no surge against communities where white-collar crime, identity theft, you know insider trading but those crimes are not seen as you know dangerous to the fabric of society. But again history has shown us that decent-paying jobs that people can support their families on, quality housing, access to healthcare, quality education that prepares children to be able to participate in society so they can get a job, those things combat crime because why do people largely commit crime because they have to feed themselves and they can’t find a way, a legitimate way to make money. Crime is largely about commerce. It’s the black market commerce. And a lot of this crime is driven by illicit drug sales. So one of the things that I would absolutely do other than to provide the other things we talked about is to legalize a lot of the drugs that are sold on the street because if you take the criminal element out of the drug trade, then you reduce crime. Other cities are looking at taking that approach. If you look at Chicago and Illinois in general, they are pursuing a pretty robust effort to not only legalize marijuana, but also to ensure that the people who were previously criminalized through illegal marijuana sales are able to now benefit from the legal sale of marijuana by making sure that people in the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs are able to get licenses to open up their own dispensaries. So I mean there are some pretty common-sense responses. Provide people jobs. Stop taking people’s homes. Make sure that people have affordable places to live. Increase the number of actually truly affordable housing in areas, provide some type of tax benefit for working people so that they can keep their homes. Definitely invest in public schools. Provide resources and programs for kids and recreation centers. Restore the recreation centers that were closed especially in places, like Baltimore. Provide mental health, subsidized mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment for people who need it. Do those things, crime will go down. It’s been proven. And then also pursue legalization or at least the decriminalization of nonviolent drug offenses and expunge people’s records so that they can get jobs even if they have been convicted of a crime because we know in this society we continue to punish people who have been convicted of crimes even after they’ve served their sentence by punishing them because they have a criminal conviction on their record.

MF: Yeah. It’s all like such common sense, right? Provide, you know, opportunities for people and the basic things that they need and you’ll see a significant reduction in violent crime and property crime. Baltimore spends three times as much money on police as they do on the health department and twice as much as they spend on education. So it just shows you where the priorities are. I want to get into the, what you raised about drug legalization because I know that’s really important and I think Kevin can comment on that but before we get to that I just wanted to comment on, you know white-collar crime. You know, since the financial crash in 2008, nobody except a few low-level employees have been held accountable for that crash that devastated the economy and caused so many people to lose their homes, lose their pensions and their savings. If you look at the, you know, kind of structural policies that are discriminatory towards black and brown people and that are partly responsible for the wealth divide that we see, the severe wealth divide between white people and black and brown people, you know, you’ve got landlords that are, you know, just getting away with charging high amounts of money for apartments that they don’t maintain. Other kinds of fraud, you know that goes on and we don’t see the police prioritizing that right now.

KZ: Yeah, and you have the history of finance client crimes like in Baltimore redlining.

MF: Right, exactly.

KZ: That started in Baltimore. You know, keeping black people in certain communities and not letting them come in and then the police are used as a militarizes force to enforce those boundaries.

MF: Right, for our listeners just quickly, redlining as where the banks literally drew lines around certain neighborhoods and would not give mortgages to black people for certain neighborhoods in Baltimore City. So basically confining them as you said to this kind of hyper segregated areas.

JL: Yeah, I mean and it’s interesting that most of the people who live in the mostly poor neighborhoods in Baltimore and in other cities like that are renters. Right they are renting their homes from someone else and most of those landlords are largely absent. They don’t live in the city and it’s hard to find out who those property owners are but the property owner who’s an absent landlord and who’s usually a slumlord actually gets all these tax benefits and tax breaks that make them money, additional money on top of the rent that they make, from owning these properties, but the people who live in the properties who pay their rent every month who also usually have to pay utilities, they don’t get any kind of tax benefit or any other benefit other than they’re not homeless for paying their rent every month and that is incredibly unfair. And it is a system that outside of redlining also still benefits a particular class of people and who are largely non-black people in this country across this country. Baltimore is a particularly saturated example of that but so is Washington DC and a lot of cities that have a high concentration of poor and black people in this country. So there are some kinds of real estate and investment focused problems that are modern in nature that have happened since redlining has been committed that continue to exacerbate this problem where there is a small group of rich mostly white people who are benefiting from holding a bunch of largely poor black people hostage in these neighborhoods that they’re paying their rent to live in these places, but they’re getting no benefits from the rent they’re paying. They’re not getting any benefits from their taxes. They’re not getting any benefit from their money going into the public schools to provide a decent education for their kids. They’re not getting support from the police because the police see them as the enemy largely and they treat them that way so they don’t get a lot of respect from the police and they get no respect from the elected officials who may come around their neighborhoods every once in a while every 4 or 2 years to take pictures and to make some promises but no one ever goes after the people who are literally taking advantage of these people every month because they need a place to live. That’s another one of those issues that people don’t think about when they think about crime and white-collar crime and the crime that’s committed in these same neighborhoods that actually is a very large contributor to one of the problems that people in these neighborhoods face.

MF: Oh absolutely and I think a big part of the racial wealth divide is the difference in home ownership because for most people their homes are their major asset and that’s something that they build equity in and pass on to their children. And then that’s the huge source of wealth for the children.

KZ: And the crash under Bush and Obama, Obama’s response to the crash didn’t stop this massive transfer of wealth from poor mostly black and brown communities, people who lost their homes in foreclosure that instead they bailed out the banks who caused the problem and so it just keeps on repeating itself over and over again. I want to talk a little about the the drug war aspect to this. I just saw last week Atlanta announced its going to disband its Drug Squad and focus on real crimes, especially violent crimes. That’s a major change. I mean a number of cities you mentioned, Chicago, the San Francisco DA that was just elected, the district attorney out there has announced he’s going to be putting forward a very different program than when Kamala Harris was DA. And the Philadelphia DA has stopped arresting marijuana offenders as has New York, so there is a big transition. But Atlanta is saying we need to focus on violent crime and in Baltimore, you keep mentioning Baltimore, we’re down to a 30% solving murders, down to thirty percent. Nationwide, it’s 50%. Back in 1965, the clearance for homicides was 90%. Now today with all this new technology with cameras everywhere in these neighborhoods, you know, we’re down to 30 to 50% depending on the city in clearing murders. You know, a lot of that could be attributed to the drug war. And that’s why Atlanta’s decision is so interesting because the drug war essentially moves police to focus on the much easier enforcement of street drug sales and that usually means poor communities because in the wealthy communities the white students in white the communities do it in their college dorm, or they do it inside their homes. In the poorer communities, people do it on the street. And so it’s much easier for police to make those arrests. And it leads to police corruption. It leads to violations of people’s rights against search and seizure, use of informants. There’s so many aspects for you know of drug enforcement that really are undermining the quality of policing and are taking police resources. And while we’re not solving murders, rapes, robberies, burglaries, a low solution to all those crimes because police are not focused on them. What do you think about this idea from Atlanta to disband the drug unit?

JL: I think that is a critical step toward, you know, solving actual violent crimes. I mean drug use in this country, well drug use anywhere is not about criminality, drug use is not about criminality, drug sales really are not about criminality. People use and buy drugs, aside from recreationally, people who are addicted to drugs use drugs to escape a reality that they can’t deal with. Nobody wakes up and decides I’m going to be an addict or I’m going to be a drug dealer. That’s not how that works. Drug trafficking, drug sales, especially at the low level and I won’t even say trafficking, drug sales at the low street level is an act of economic desperation. And if you want to call it a crime, okay fine. It’s a crime of opportunity. It really is a crime of this is all I have left to do in order to make the money that I need to survive. So, I think police departments as much as they can really need to get out of the business of the war on drugs because as Atlanta I think obviously has seen it’s not a business that’s been good for them because it’s a business that never ends. And as the economy continues to go downhill regardless of what this administration says about having the lowest unemployment among African-Americans that we’ve ever seen, unemployment among black people is still twice as high as the national average and that is because there are no jobs in neighborhoods where poor black people live. That’s why poor black people exist. And that’s a manufactured condition. When you factor in the unemployment, the lack of job opportunities, the lack of infrastructure to get people to jobs that might exist somewhere not close to where they live, the lack of educational opportunities, the lack of healthcare, people are despondent and depressed and sometimes a substance to take someone out of their really difficult reality, is all that people have. That’s a societal and a mental health issue. That’s not a criminal issue. And I think some police departments are recognizing that and they are wisely focusing on dealing with actual crimes. The problem is that the societal and the mental health issue is still left unaddressed, but the police can’t do that. That’s not their job. And as much as I am for community control over the police rather than giving the police more responsibilities because I don’t want the police to be responsible for looking out for people’s mental health or societal issues. I do respect police departments that recognize what they can’t continue to do is punish and criminalize people for problems that are not actually criminal. So what now has to happen in places like Atlanta and other jurisdictions that hopefully follow their lead, is that the local and the state and the federal response has to be toward addressing the societal and the mental health issues because it was the government and elected officials and policy that created those issues that led to those societal problems. The issues that predominantly poor, black and native communities face, that was done to us. Those were not things that we did. So somebody needs to step in and address those issues and it’s not the cops.

KZ: And it’s been seen for so long, you go back to the Kerner Commission back in the 1960s yjat talked about the need for investment in inner-city neighborhoods. And it’s gotten worse rather than better. Rather than taking the advice of Kerner, we fought the Vietnam war and that absorbed the resources rather than putting money into our urban areas. On the drug issue, I think you’re making some great points and I just wanted to throw out to our listeners some ideas that cities should be considering. In addition to police not being able to solve the health and social problem of drug use, drug addiction and drug trafficking, those are economic and social issues, only law enforcement because they’re, we have chosen to use laws to combat a health and social issues. We need to put in place policies that confront the drug issue and a lot of the things that you talked about. But I’d also add some specifics on drug policy. Harm reduction, the goal of reducing harm from drug use, reducing overdose deaths, reducing the spread of disease. Programs like needle exchange, which have finally gotten more widespread in urban areas after many years of effort, programs like allow a public space where there’s a health professional observing people using their drugs to prevent overdose, to prevent spread of disease. We need to even start to go toward what’s known in Switzerland as heroin-assisted treatment. It started out as legal heroin. People who are addicted to heroin and who had failed on methadone, had failed on drug treatment, they wanted heroin. They were allowed to go to a government-controlled space, buy heroin at a legal price, which is about 10% of the illegal price, buy heroin, use it at the site and be put in touch with various counseling for education, housing, the social services, housing, jobs. I mean, you know, so it was a wraparound program and what they found that made it move from legal heroin to heroin-assisted treatment was not only was there a tremendous reduction in crime. I mean tremendous reduction in crime, tremendous reduction in prostitution, tremendous reduction in trafficking and dealing because many people who sell drugs do it to support their own drug use. If you can buy heroin at a legal price, you don’t have to sell and so that reduces trafficking, so all those positive. But the big surprise was about a year into the program the people who were part of this program got tired of using heroin and they wanted to stop using heroin. They had been able to put back their life together because they had gotten social services, education services, housing. They had rebuilt relationships with family and friends. Their lives were coming. They didn’t need the crutch of heroin anymore and heroin became a burden for them because they didn’t need to escape the pain of life. They were actually starting to fulfill their lives. And so people a year into the program who are getting legal heroin were choosing not to want it. So there’s a lot we could learn in addition to the police not solving the problem, there are health and social programs that can. So I just urge people to think about in addition to the police, we should talk about community control of police but in addition to policing the issue is what do you put in its place.

JL: Exactly, just last week, I think, I did an interview with Brandon Walker who is an organizer with Ujima People’s Progress Party, there in Baltimore, about the surge but we also talked about how Baltimore in particular is now one of the most surveilled cities in the United States with this pilot program that is going to have drones surveil the city in order to combat crime. So, you know, even this Federal initiative from the DOJ, it’s really not new because cities across the country have been trying these what they call innovative measures to combat crime and what they really end up doing is catching a lot of people in you know, low-level street drug sales and criminalizing people really because they are suffering because of the economic sanctions that have been placed on them and their communities by this government. So it is an ongoing battle for marginalized communities in this country to combat the marginalization that always finds a way to especially in this capitalist society, always finds a way to not just maintain itself the marginalization and the oppression but to kind of metastasize and grow into these different and new ways to continue to keep people who have already been pushed onto the margins in the margins. So issues that these communities are starting to take up like community control over the police are very important to people in these communities reconnecting with their revolutionary spirit, but also very important in them advocating for themselves against that system of oppression where people recognize that not only does the police department not serve them but is also the law enforcement arm of the oppressive system. So communities are now saying instead of this system imposing upon us who polices us we should control who is hired, fired and how discipline for offenses against the community are handled. Community members should control the police departments in our communities. That’s not something that the city council should do and it’s certainly not something that police unions and the police departments should be control over, the community should be control over who polices them and organizations like Ujima People’s Progress Party in Baltimore are focusing on that and other efforts as well as organizations like Black Alliance For Peace, nationally, I know Pan African Community Action is focusing on that here in DC and I bet you in every city that this Operation Relentless Pursuit is about to be unleashed in, I bet you every city has an organization like it that’s focusing on something like community control over the police. Nationally, there is the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repressionthat was just relaunched and control over the police is a focus of their national campaign. So this is a very important step in communities that have been marginalized through government policy and police abuse to advocate for control of one aspect of that equation that we are really starting to I shouldn’t say focus on because I believe it’s a refocus because this is something that black organizations and radical organizations have been demanding for decades. But it’s especially important now that we have another push from the federal government to reassert a military-like control of law enforcement in these communities.

KZ: I was at that conference you mentioned by the way. Community control of policing is an essential issue. I want people to understand this is not community policing. This is community control of policing. Chicago is the most advanced on this. We’ve covered this on Popular Resistance dot-org. You can read about it there. But there’s a detailed plan for this and Chicago is very advanced. There is an incredible movement that’s working for years out there and we can all learn from.

MF: So yeah, and I just have to say I agree so strongly well with everything that you’ve said Jacqueline, but when you were speaking about community control of police and you talked earlier about the stress that people go through and here in Baltimore, you know our police train with the Israeli Defense Forces. They use those techniques. They literally occupy neighborhoods. They have their police cars parked there with their lights flashing all the time watching people and I remember an evening we had in Palestine in the village of Nabi Saleh where we were talking with Palestinian activists there and they were talking about the whole idea of being a victim versus being someone who has agency, who takes action to change things and how you know, when you’re a victim you feel stressed by that, you feel like you have no control and that’s how you know, this occupation kind of makes people feel like you’re just being watched all the time, anything you do could be the wrong thing could lead to trouble but if you actually have control over that situation, if you have agency, that’s a huge stress reducer for people and that in itself would have positive impacts on health. It feels like so much what we’re doing in this country is counterproductive and I’m glad that you’re bringing some sanity to what we should be doing instead.

JL: Well, I appreciate that. I’m not sure if I’m bringing sanity to it, but I know that I am fascinated and honestly, I’m honored and just always in awe at the tireless work that a lot of people that I come in contact with are doing on so many different fronts because it does seem daunting. We have the same issues here in DC with the police. The Metropolitan Police Department is trained by the IDF also in Israel, and they do the same tactics. I will walk out of my house right now and go up the street and I guarantee you there are at least two police cars from two jurisdictions posted up on opposite corners of one street, and if I go to the other end of the street, it’ll be the same thing. So it’s against that backdrop that there are those of us in these communities who are so incredibly defiant because we know that we have to keep fighting on so many different fronts for a lot of our people who are just tired and beaten down, but we cannot give up. So I hope that the work that I do when to talk to people on the Real News or talk about these issues on By Any Means Necessary or you know on our own platform when I talk to you guys, I hope that when people hear it if they were tired, they’re at least encouraged to try one more time. If that’s what comes from anything I say and anything I do, then as far as I’m concerned I’ve won.

KZ: Exactly, so where can we? Obviously you can be heard on the Real News where you have a regular show. Where else can people catch your work?

JL: My husband and I have our platform on Facebook and YouTube. It’s Coffee, Current Events and Politics in Luqman Nation and we’re usually live every Sunday night at 7 p.m. And then I’m also on By Any Means Necessary on Sputnik Radio every weekday from 2 to 4 p.m. You can listen live to Sputnik Radio on the website SputnikNews.com, but you can also catch us live on Facebook at Sputnik on Facebook every day from 3:00 to 4:00. I’m also a member of Black Alliance For Peace, Pan-African Community Action and anywhere else that I can talk about these issues.

MF: Thank you so much for everything that you’re doing and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to us today.

JL: Thank you so much for having me.

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Our Responsibility As Citizens Of Empire

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

The United States reached a new height of recklessness on January 3 when the military assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes in Iraq, igniting major mobilizations throughout Iraq and Iran of mourning and rage. We spoke with Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace shortly after we learned of the murders. He describes what they mean, how to counter the militarists’ messages in support of war and next steps for the anti-war, anti-imperialist movement. We also bring you clips from the national day of action in the United States on January 4 when people took the streets in protest in more than 80 cities and 38 states. And we discuss what really happened at the Venezuelan National Assembly on Sunday.

Listen here:

Review us on iTunes! Click here … Then click on “View in iTunes … Then click “Ratings and Reviews.”

Guest:

Ajamu Baraka is a human rights defender whose experience spans four decades of domestic and international education and activism, Ajamu Baraka is a veteran grassroots organizer whose roots are in the Black Liberation Movement and anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity struggles.

Baraka is an internationally recognized leader of the emerging human rights movement in the U.S. and has been at the forefront of efforts to apply the international human rights framework to social justice advocacy in the U.S. for more than 25 years. As such, he has provided human rights trainings for grassroots activists across the country, briefings on human rights to the U.S. Congress, and appeared before and provided statements to various United Nations agencies, including the UN Human Rights Commission (precursor to the current UN Human Rights Council). He was the Green Party candidate for vice president in 2016. He is the national coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace.

Read his full bio here.

TRANSCRIPT IN PROGRESS:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers…

Kevin Zeese (KZ): and Kevin Zeese.

MF: And Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance dot o– r– g. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at Popular Resistance dot-org and while you’re there check out the Popular Resistance store where you’ll find Clearing the FOG bumper stickers, water bottles, tote bags and t-shirts. So today we interviewed Ajamu Baraka or actually we interviewed him a few days ago.

KZ: That’s right. And that’s important because we’ll be talking about what’s happened since the interview. Ajamu is a longtime ally and close friend of Popular Resistance. We work very closely with him on anti-imperialist issues, anti-war issues and on Black Liberation.

MF:  And so basically we interviewed Ajamu Baraka very shortly after we learned about the assassinations by the United States in Iraq of the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and the Iraqi Commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes. Our discussion with Ajamu is really about that initial reaction to what is going on and what it means for the peace movement. We’re going to mix things up a little bit by starting with that interview and then later in the show we’ll talk about what we’ve learned since then and what the peace movement did and what it’s going to be doing. But before we do that, let’s talk about Venezuela because there was a very interesting day in Venezuela on Sunday.

KZ:  That Venezuelan failed coup, failed, failed, failed. It was the sixth time or so. That failed coup is just getting more comical and the US political and media reaction is getting more and more disappointing.

MF: Ridiculous.

KZ: Ridiculous. People are being lied to so much about Venezuela. It’s just hard to imagine they can even see the truth.

MF: Well even it was difficult for us watching events unfold yesterday to figure out what actually happened. It took us about the whole day to figure that out. But basically according to the Venezuelan Constitution, every January 5th the National Assembly, sometimes they call it their Parliament, votes to elect a new president of that body. Juan Guido who was chosen, he’s a member of the Popular Will Party, last January declared himself the president of Venezuela and then was immediately recognized by the United States and its allies in right-wing countries in South America but Juan Guaido never actually took power. As you said, he kept trying coup after coup backed by the United States, backed with millions of dollars from the United States and still could never successfully conduct a coup.

KZ:  And those coups get actually weaker. Now, with this vote in the National Assembly, the opposition showed it is divided. 30 opposition party members voted against Guaido as the president of the National Assembly, so he can’t even win in the minority opposition in Venezuela politically. So he’s getting weaker and weaker. And it’s also important know that even when he was first chosen a year ago, he was not supposed to be the one in line. They put him in line because they thought he’d be a better face for the coup. He has a good-looking family. He’s young guy. So the coup plotters picked Guaido who comes from a tiny party from the second smallest state, who only got twenty percent of the vote when he ran for the legislature, came in second place, which is enough to get in. So he’s already a weak person. He’s getting weaker and weaker politically.

MF: It was interesting what happened yesterday because there was what the corporate media was saying and then this whole kind of social media very sophisticated social media operation that was going on giving out false information. So Juan Guaido knew that he didn’t have the votes to win the presidency in the National Assembly and actually technically there’s not supposed to be the same person. It’s supposed to be a different person every year but he kind of pushed through some new rule to change that. So he knew he didn’t have the votes. There were a few deputies that were not allowed to go in because they were convicted of crimes and there were alternatives that were supposed to be there in their place. And so he decided instead of going in to stay outside with the five deputies that were not allowed in.

KZ: And there’s video though, there’s video showing him coming to the entrance. They say come on in and he says no he’s staying out with the five who can’t come in.

MF: He said only if the others can come in.

KZ: And so he didn’t come in because he didn’t have the votes and he didn’t want to be in there and lose face inside the assembly.

MF: What was really funny and we learned that it sounds like this actually happened before the vote because some of the deputies involved in this kind of stunt that he did were present outside for the stunt and then they were also present inside before the vote. So it looks like maybe earlier in the morning, he did this thing where he tried to climb over the fence of the National Assembly to make it look like they’re keeping him out and he had to break in and of course the police were not letting him climb over the fence. They’re like pushing him back.

KZ: Use the entrance.

MF: But then they did this whole show where they made it look like oh the dictator Maduro is repressing us, but that was all a stunt.

KZ: And it’s gotten so much attention that video. It’s a beautifully choreographed play act.

MF: Yeah I think maybe his next gig could be in Hollywood.

KZ: And he did a good job faking like he was trying to get in when he could have walked through the entrance and but it got attention everywhere. All the networks carried it, social media carried it. It really looked like they were keeping him out and they were just keeping him from going over the fence while trying to invite him in through the door.

MF: And so then what Juan Guaido did next is he and his I don’t know, we don’t even know who went…

KZ: There’s no list.

MF: They went to the offices of El Nacional, which is a very right-wing media outlet in Venezuela and they held their own parliamentary session where they voted their own vote. Again we don’t know who voted or how many or anything.

KZ: They claimed it was a hundred sixty people and a hundred voted for Guaido. This makes no sense. Were all of Maduro’s party people there? Did they go to that El Nacional fake assembly?

MF: I don’t think so. So anyway, then he proclaims that oh we held our own extra special session of the parliament and voted again and this time, you know, we voted for me to be the person and then of course immediately the United States says yes Juan Guaido continues to be the president of the National Assembly.

KZ:  And some of the media outlets like Reuters were like congratulations to Juan Guaido for winning.

MF: The Hill. The Washington Post.

KZ: The Hill. I was going to say they all fell for this but it’s such an obvious lie, I don’t think they fell for it. They’re participating in the propaganda ploy.

MF: Exactly. This is all part of supporting the US’ imperial interests. And so the US imperial media outlets of course are going along with that story. So anyway, the summary is that there’s a new president of the National Assembly democratically-elected, Luis Parra, and then…

KZ: A former opposition party person.

MF: Yeah, and they voted, it’s four positions in all. They have two vice presidents. And then I think a secretary is the fourth one, so they have all new people in there, but now Juan Guaido is claiming that he’s had to set up his own alternative parliament, which he’s the president of and so he’s still the president of Venezuela. I mean, it’s just kind of like this very sad pathetic situation where he’s like no, no, but I really am the president of Venezuela.

KZ: I really am the President of the parliament. And I mean, it’s pathetic. It’s sad but it’s pathetic that the US government recognizes this puppet of theirs who’s lost and lost and lost and I mean he has no credibility and that means the US has no credibility.

MF: Right and he lost the support of his own opposition folks.

KZ: Unfortunately, I’m not sure the truth is going to help us in our Embassy Defenders case. If people want to find out about that go to Defend Embassy Protectors dot org, but we go to federal trial in February. And you know if Maduro was seen as the president in the US courts, we wouldn’t be facing charges. It’s only because the courts take this nonsense that Guaido is President and that’s the only reason why we’re facing any charges.

MF: Yeah again, it’s this whole like reality versus like what the government is saying. It makes you think that this government is really sometimes in this kind of make-believe world that doesn’t actually exist like oh hey, we can just go to Iraq and kill the general of Iran and bomb inside of Iraq, even though we’re not at war with either country.

KZ: And then we can say he was planning to attack the US citizens when in fact he was in Iraq on a peace mission, which we’ll talk about later.

MF:  Yeah, let’s get to our interview with Ajamu Baraka and then we’ll come back and talk more about this. And now we turn to our guest Ajamu Baraka. Ajamu is a long-time human rights defender focused on people-centered human rights. He was the former Green Party vice presidential candidate in 2016 and is currently the national coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace. Thank you for taking time to join us Ajamu.

Ajamu Baraka (AB): It’s my pleasure.

KZ: So we were going to start 2020 with a discussion of where we go from here in 2020, the new year and new decade, but with the decision by President Trump to assassinate Major General Soleimani in Iraq, the Iranian leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, that kind of changes the topic. So let’s start with that assassination ordered by Trump and carried out by the Pentagon in Iraq. What’s your reaction to that, what do you think it means?

AB: Well, it’s a very dangerous escalation that continues the rogue state activities of this administration and previous administrations. But this is particularly dangerous in that the consequences of it are unknown. It’s interesting to hear people praying this as something that will destabilize the so-called Middle East. Well, that process started with the invasion of Afghanistan and then the invasion of Iraq almost 20 years ago. So the so-called Middle East has been destabilized This situation with the assassination is an escalation in that now it will be another direct confrontation between two states. Since the invasions you had a series of proxy wars in the Middle East, but now there’s a real possibility of a direct confrontation between the US and Iran because this assassination cannot be seen in any other terms, but an act of war. So it is a very dangerous escalation that has both political implications for the Middle East but interestingly enough also political implications for the US domestic politics in that we have seen that as everyone’s waiting with bated breath for Congress to reconvene so that this impeachment spectacle could continue. Guess what the whole conversation is all about today and for the next few days.

MF: And let’s get a little bit into the context of who General Soleimani is because he is somebody who is very well respected and loved in Iran.

KZ: I think it was like an 80% approval rating.

MF: Yeah more than 80 percent approval rating. He is someone who has been working to defeat ISIS in the region and also working to build networks in that region of the Middle East and so he was a very important figure. Past presidents have actually talked about assassinating him – President Obama President Bush – but they felt that that was going too far. What do you think of Trump’s decision to do this in terms of you know, is this something that he did unilaterally do you think in the Pentagon was just following through or how do you think that that went down?

AB: I know that what is emerging is sort of a line that says that this is another example of the precipitous nature of Trump’s decision making but I don’t think that really was the case. The way I’m looking at what has unfolded over the last couple of weeks there in Iraq, I see this as a very cynical manipulation on the part of the US intelligence agencies along with Israel to create the pretext for a strike against Iran. The back and forth between the various proxy forces with the US strikes last week that really galvanized opposition to the US but also created the conditions for the US to claim an imminent threat and self-defense in order to strike at Soleimani. So while one can argue that the consequences are such that they can be seen as counterproductive to longer-term US interests, it appears that there was some degree of thinking that this was something that would be to the US’ strategic advantage. But what that really means in terms of how the US can remain in Iraq without another situation where they just decided to completely flaunt international law and decide that they’re going to remain in Iraq even after they are or they may be asked to leave that is something that could be one of the possible consequences of this strike. It makes no sense in terms of their longest strategic objectives making the strike at this time. So Soleimani was someone respected but we know that there is some powerful forces in the US state that have been advocating for a conflict between the US and Iran for quite some time. This move may be reflective of the ascendancy of that element in the foreign policy decision-making community.

KZ: It’s so hard to think about the US’ action and try to say give some kind of rationale for it. It really is a reckless action and it to me, it looks like the flailing of a failing Empire. The US lost in Syria to the Syrian government, the Russian government, the Iranian government. Interestingly, Trump said Iran never won a war, well they just won a war in Syria against the United States. The US is failing in Yemen with Saudi Arabia. The US is being pushed out of Iraq by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. It’s been unable to really confront Iran in any successful way despite its maximum pressure strategy. So it’s really a failing Empire and one of the strange comment I’ve seen in the New York Times and other outlets is how important it is to get rid of Soleimani. Iran is not a one-person government. Iran is a deep government and they’ve already replaced Soleimani. Also Soleimani, I don’t want to underestimate him, he’s like a combination of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of the CIA and a potential presidential candidate for the country. So he’s an important person but he is replaceable in their system and already has been replaced. This is not going to change that and so I have a hard time giving any sense to this. I don’t see it as a short-term benefit or long-term benefit for the United States and I think I see it as part of a downward spiral in a failed foreign policy.

AB: Well, I think that your comments are correct in terms of one way of looking at this is not the consequence of a US state that is riding high like it did 20 years ago in terms of unquestioned global hegemony, but a state that is, in fact, feeling the pressures of the emergence of other states, regional powers that have been actively challenging US hegemony. And so the response has been more dependence on the use of military force, jettisoning international law, using sanctions to try to maintain its economic dominance. So yeah all of these elements are interconnected and are reflective of a state in decline but a state with enormous capacity to inflict damage and suffering on millions of people. So it is those elements Kevin and Margaret, but there is some thinking involved in this. The objective is to try to maintain their control of that region. The issue is that in trying to realize those objectives, they are making some dangerous strategic choices that are counterproductive to their objectives. And this is one of those moves that can only enhance the power of Iran, which they claim to be opposed to. It has now a consolidated domestic opposition to the US in Iraq where just a few weeks ago there were significant fractures in the Iraqi culture as it relates to the Iraqi government. But now those forces have come together in a unified voice in demanding that the US be ejected from Iraq. So this to me is a continuation of the kinds of amateurism that we’ve seen emanating from the US’ foreign policy community for quite some time, engaging in actions that are objectively counterproductive. It appears to me, it’s my opinion that the last group of competent pro-imperialist decision-makers in the US state was under the first George Bush regime. Since then, the US has basically, their foreign policy community has been basically almost clueless in terms of how to take advantage of their newfound hegemony in the 1990s and how to maintain that hegemony in the 2000s.

MF: That incompetence really does reflect foreign policy for quite a long time and the Afghanistan Papers really bore that out showing how the Pentagon really didn’t know what it was doing, didn’t really have a plan, was misleading everybody about what was happening in Afghanistan. There was some as you said division with people in Iraq just wanting foreign influence out of their country completely whether it’s Iran or the United States, but now with this action, which blatantly violates the sovereignty of Iraq, I mean the whole justification the US was saying that a US contractor, an unnamed contractor, was killed. We don’t know any details of that. Well, if that’s the situation then that needs to be resolved through a process in Iraq not by just coming in and bombing, you know Iraqi military forces. So just as you said this shows a real degree of incompetence and disregard I think for the consequences or as you said, maybe those are the consequences the US is seeking out. What do you think about the fact that Iran and China and Russia just concluded military exercises? How do you think that this is going to impact the global power dynamics as events unfold over the next few days?

AB: I think that those maneuvers were great theater, but they have no major impact on what might unfold in any kind of military way in the so-called Middle East and in the Mediterranean. Neither the Russians nor the Chinese are going to allow themselves to be pulled into any kind of conflict between the US and Iran. So that was theater. I think the main objective for anti-war and anti-imperialist forces is for us to aggressively advocate for peaceful resolutions of these issues, for non-intervention, respect for international law and upholding human rights, including the right to self-determination and national sovereignty. That has to be our role and it has to be something that emanates from the bottom up and primarily in the imperialist countries both the US and throughout Western Europe. So very dangerous times and the only way in which we’re going to be able to put significant pressure on the US state’s warmongering is for it to be a public opposition. We cannot depend on any other state taking that kind of role because these states are cautious and they’re not going to jeopardize their national interests even though they may be seeing how reckless the US is and that ultimately they’re going to be forced to act. At this point, in my opinion, they are not going to jeopardize their national interests by being pulled into this conflict between the US and Iran and what they could do and should do is they should call for an emergency session of the UN Security Council because this is a threat to international peace. This scenario has to be addressed by the international community and the only body that can authoritatively comment on this is in fact, the Security Council.

KZ: Yeah, that’s one of the sad things about this world situation is that you talk about the rule of law is what should predominate, of course it should. And if we had a strong international law system, then people would be held accountable for these kinds of decisions, people like President Trump ordering this assassination and the people who carried out the order. Carrying out illegal orders is a crime as well. They should be all held accountable. They won’t be and Iran is now in a situation where if they don’t respond, that looks weak. If they do respond, it has to lead to escalation. I know the Iranian government is very cautious. They have lots of checks and balances in the government to figure these issues out but it’s hard to imagine them taking a step that’s not going to escalate. And so that puts the peace movement in the United States in a difficult position because you know we just went through this absurd impeachment process. We spent two years on Russia gate and now they just approved very quickly and quietly this massive record-setting military budget continuing the AUMF, giving permission for these kinds of actions in Middle East. I mean, we spent all this time on these partisan divides rather than focusing on the real issues. And so what does the peace movement do now, where should we put our emphasis to try to reduce the tensions in this situation?

AB: You know we have to be able to strategically recognize when we have opportunities to advance the peace agenda and I really believe that this is one of those historical moments. There is among the public, there is a growing weariness to the ongoing wars and the idea of another major escalation or another major war. The polls indicate that the public does not have the stomach for it. So there’s a real disconnect between the policymakers in the Congress and the public and we need to seize upon that. This should be the moment that we aggressively advocate for an expansion of the anti-war movement for advocating again for international law and for respect for human rights. These are some of the I think ideological agitation points that we need to aggressively raise. We need to put pressure on these politicians, in particular the ones who are running for the Democratic nomination, that they have a clear and definitive stance on where they are with US lawlessness and US imperialism. So the ideological struggle, in my opinion, is one in which there are some advantages that we could glean from this if we recognize that and begin to move aggressively toward exploiting these mistakes that the US state is making.

MF: Yeah, this is absolutely an opportunity. It’s interesting. Ting that the evening after the attack, on the assassination of General Solomon one of the most common searches online was the draft requirements or the draft age in the United States. People are obviously concerned about where this is going to go and already the US military is having trouble recruiting enough people to fight, you know to serve in the military or serve is a weird word and you know also the United States has recognized that we don’t have the resources to fight a great power conflict. So this is really an opportunity for us to say look, let’s look at the reality. You know that this approach of the United States has not served anyone’s interests. Well, except maybe the weapons industry and those who profited from it, but in terms of creating any kind of security or sustainability for the world, the US’ foreign policy has been really quite disastrous. And so this I think is the time to be telling Congress, we need to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. We need to create some real checks on the ability of the executive office to wage these conflicts. We need to demand respect for international law and I think that there is some real energy there as you said to start getting the peace movement mobilized and activated again. Can you tell us a little bit about Black Alliance For Peace for our listeners and what kinds of things Black Alliance For Peace is doing?

AB: Well, we are part of the anti-war movement, the anti-imperialist movement in the US and we are advocating that we take advantage of this moment. We are encouraging everyone to join the national mobilizations that are taking place this Saturday demanding that there’s no war with Iran and that all US troops should be taken out of Iraq. We say that all US troops should be taken out of the entire Middle East and that the region should be a region of peace, complete and total demilitarization. So, you know, we are pushing that notion. We are pushing the idea that we need to build the anti-war movement. We’re suggesting to elements in the anti-war movement that beyond this Saturday that we begin to push out the absolute necessity for the public to be organized into an anti-war bloc and that all of us should be pushing for people to join organizations. I’m suggesting that UNAC take the lead in that because it is the coalition that is the anti-war voice, the anti-imperialist voice and that we should be pushing for people to be organized because we can’t do it by ourselves. We can’t do it as individuals. So that is what the Black Alliance for Peace as part of the broader anti-war movement is doing. Specifically though, we are connecting up this increase, this uptick in militarism on the part of the US state with the increase or the surge that was announced by the Trump administration domestically. The Trump Administration said they wanted to have a surge to combat a so-called crime. And we know that what that really means is a surge that is targeting the black and brown working class and poor communities in the US and they announced the seven cities that they are for the first phase of their search cities included cities like Baltimore and Detroit and four of the seven cities have majority black populations. So we are connecting that to the ongoing and intensifying war against the black and brown communities by the US state. We are making those connections and we are also demanding the closure of AFRICOM and all of the US bases abroad. So all of this is in the context of what needs to be done in terms of building a more effective and visible anti-war movement. And we think that strategically this misstep by these amateurs in DC allows us to take full advantage of that by pushing the more definitive open clear anti-war position that I think will resonate with the population.

KZ: Well, you know, in fact Pew came out with a poll that said that veterans and the US public believe that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were a waste of resources and poor decisions. So the public is against us, that in fact President Trump got elected attacking these stupid Middle East War as he called them and how we were wasting trillions of dollars and getting nothing when he’s just taken a step that is going to escalate those stupid Middle East Wars. And you know, it’s interesting, so with that kind of public opinion, you also have at the same time, public opinion that talks about support for the Green New Deal and wanting to confront climate change and and take you know, all sorts of actions to move in that direction. Of course, a war economy is inconsistent with confronting climate change. So there seems a real opportunity in this next decade as US Empire is failing, a real opportunity for putting forward a totally different vision. I mean, I agree with everything you said. We work on those issues with you, AFRICOM, ending NATO bases, US out of the Middle East. We work on all those issues. I think we need to put forward a totally new vision of what a peace economy would look like, what the benefits of that would be to the people of the United States, how would it affect other issues like our urban areas, rather than investing in police investing in economic development and building those communities that have been neglected for decades, for generations. I know you mentioned Baltimore, that’s where we are, there’s been inadequate attention to the black and brown communities in Baltimore for generations. And so this is true across the country. I think it’s a real opportunity for major transformational change not just on ending this record military budget, but toward a really totally, a peace economy that invests in communities that have been neglected and puts in place a whole new energy system that is sustainable and clean.

AB: I think Kevin you are absolutely right. What you described though is the tasks and responsibilities for the movement. What we have to do is narrow those tasks and responsibilities down to clear and simple messages that correspond to where we see the consciousness of the people today and take full advantage of the strategic opportunity to talk about how the public’s resources are being squandered in support of the ruling class’ military agenda. It’s a desperate attempt to try to maintain this global hegemony to the detriment of the vast majority of the people in this country and globally. So, you know intensifying the understanding of the class war that these policies represent is really where we need to be focusing our attention. It’s a process. Right now we take advantage of the fact that people are concerned about a possible war and we connect that to this obscene budget that was passed by the US Congress. We connect that to the lack of opposition from Republicans and Democrats to the US war agenda, and we remind the people that the interests of the ruling class aren’t necessarily the same interests of the vast majority of working-class and poor people and middle class people here in this country.

MF: Right. And I think it’s going to be really important for us to, because we’re going to be hearing in the corporate media, we’re already hearing it, all sorts of messages and even from you know candidates that are running for president that oh General Soleimani was a dangerous man, and so it was good to kill him, but we don’t actually want to escalate a war with Iran. And so I think it’s going to be really critical for people in the United States to not fall for that kind of paradigm or construct or way of thinking because it’s not you know, we don’t want really anybody to be murdered especially in violation of international law, especially in violation of the sovereignty of a country. You know, if the if the US had a problem with what happened in Iraq, that’s something to be dealt with, you know with Iraq and with the Iraqis not unilaterally by the United States. So what is kind of your advice to our listeners in terms of what they’re going to be hearing and how they can best get information and respond to that?

AB: For the listeners of this program, we want them to be reminded not to fall for for the line that says that this individual deserved to be murdered and that the only issue to be considered is what the strategic consequences may be for this assassination. We have to support the idea that the planet has to be governed by some objective international rules, that the US has no moral or political or legal right to engage in this kind of conduct, that this assassination is in fact, an act of war just like the sanctions are acts of war and that they have real consequences not only for the individuals that are targeted but for masses of people in these various states and that if we’re going to have any kind of global governance that is based on justice and if there’s going to be any possibility for peace, we’ve got to reinvigorate a commitment to multilateralism and to international law and the standards and processes connected to that. We’ve got to oppose US unilateralism and rogue-statism if we’re going to avoid the possibility of a global conflict that could end life as we know it on this planet. That has to be our position. Don’tengage in any long-term conversation about the nature of this individual or even to the government in Iran. Our responsibilities as citizens of Empire is to oppose intervention and to oppose US militarism any place on this planet.

KZ: That’s the work that’s cut out for us and you know we’ll continue to be at Popular Resistance, we’ve been working in close contact with UNAC as well as Black Alliance for Peace and other peace groups.

MF: And UNAC is the United National Antiwar Coalition for our listeners.

KZ: That’s right, UNAC brings all of us together. And so I think you laid out the orders for the movement, working toward de-escalation immediately and in the long-term working toward a new kind of approach to foreign policy.

MF: Ajamu, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today. We urge our listeners to check out the Black Alliance for Peace and get involved.

AB: Thank you so much.

MF: All right before we start our next discussion and why don’t we take a short musical break and we’ll be right back.

MUSICAL BREAK

MF: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers.

KZ: And Kevin Zeese.

MF: And let’s follow up on the interview that we just heard. So you and Ajamu were talking about the United National Anti-war Coalition, which is kind of an umbrella group of peace organizations in the United States and UNAC, which we’re part of, has its major yearly conference coming up in February in New York City.

KZ: That’s right and we’ll be both participating in that as will Ajamu and many other leading peace activists. So the UNAC conference will be at the People’s Forum on February 21st and 22nd and 23rd. So please plan on coming. Check the UNAC website for more information. We’ll be publicizing it on Popular Resistance dot-org as well.

MF: Right. And that website is UNAC, U N A C, Peace dot-org. Let’s talk about what’s happened since the assassination of Soleimani and al-Muhandes. There was a huge reaction in Iran, in Iraq of just real horror that the United States and I think by other world leaders that the United States would go to this extreme step of violating the sovereignty of Iraq and killing a general of another country that we’re not even at war with.

KZ: Yeah and a general who was critical in defeating ISIS, defeating al-Nusra, which is another Islamic extremist, and even Al-Qaeda. So he’s been a major player in fighting terrorism in the Middle East. He even has partnered with the United States on some of those efforts and the alternative of course, in the alternative world of the US media and US politics, he’s an evil tyrant, “the most dangerous person in the world, most dangerous terrorist in the world.” I mean it’s just a nonsensical lie. This is guy is such a respected person in Iran. He has been for years fighting all of the major evils Iran has faced. It began when he volunteered in his 20s fighting the war between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Iran…

MF: Which was a US-backed effort to destabilize Iran after the revolution where the US pushed Iraq to attack and also provided intelligence and chemical weapons to Iraq.

KZ: That’s right. And he was a key, a young soldier in that war and he quickly rose in the ranks. And then since then he’s fought ISIS and he has fought the United States. I mean his major efforts in Syria were two things: one, stop ISIS and second, stop the US effort to remove the president of Syria. And he also brought Russia into that effort and so with Russia, Syria and Iran supporting the government, the United States was stopped, ISIS was stopped and Syria is on the road to recovery. The US is still there, unfortunately, trying to steal their oil but he was critical in that. So he’s fought US. He’s fought ISIS and he’s fought Saddam Hussein. That’s why he’s a hero.

MF: That’s probably also why the US is not a fan of his although as you said the US did work with him and he helped to train some of the popular mobilization units in Iraq that actually are the most effective fighting forces against ISIS in that region. The US-trained ones, unfortunately, we understand, have been used mostly to serve the US’ agenda and not necessarily always to fight ISIS.

KZ: And you can see, there’s actually evidence that the US was using ISIS for its own purposes in that war in Syria to try to topple President Assad.

MF: Well, that’s our MO is to try to create chaos. So the United States a few months ago declared that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Elite Quds Force of which Soleimani was the commander, was a terrorist group and this is kind of another tactic that the United States uses when it tries to demonize another entity, you know, it’ll call Venezuela a threat to national security, the Iranian military is a terrorist organization. And that’s what kind of the United States is trying to use to rationalize, you know why it was okay to assassinate General Soleimani.

KZ: So that’s an act of war to attack another country. And you’re attacking an official, a commander, a general of another country on foreign soil. That is an act of war. The only thing that justifies an act of war other than the UN Security Council giving you permission is if you are facing an imminent threat and the reality was now we know since this occurred we know that in fact Soleimani came to Baghdad to meet with their prime minister to discuss a peace effort between Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Iran.

MF: To defuse tension in the Middle East.

KZ: So he was actually doing the opposite of what the US claims. He was not an imminent threat and Donald Trump knew he was going to that meeting and still went ahead and killed him illegally, and now the reaction I mean you look at the incredible funeral processions in Iraq a million people in every city, in Iran millions of people.

MF: The biggest they’ve ever seen in Iran.

KZ: 15 million people in Tehran. This is the biggest funeral in the history of the world and it shows that he was loved by the people of Iran despite what the US tries to tell us through the corporate media. The facts are he was not an enemy of the people. He was loved by the people and you can see it in the outpouring from his death.

MF: I think we also have to question this whole narrative that the United States had that trying to blame the militias that Iran-supported for killing a US contractor in Iraq. And this was supposedly the US’ justification to then in Iraq bomb five different of the popular mobilization unit force’s, like training bases. What it’s looking like is that actually that never happened, if there even was a military contractor. We still don’t know who that contractor is, what their name is, what actually happened. But that it doesn’t sound like it had anything to do with the popular mobilization units or Soleimani, but that was used to kill 25 of the popular mobilization unit members wound 51 of them and then Iraqis in response to that stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad out of anger for this illegal action of bombing Iraq. It would be like if a contractor from China was here in the United States and got killed and China decided to come over and just bomb five of our military bases.

KZ: Well, yeah, I mean that contractor story has never been given any details and just makes no sense.

MF: As I guess one would expect, the Iraqi Parliament had an emergency session this past weekend and voted to expel the United States from Iraq. We understand that the US military or Pentagon is saying that they’re not planning to leave. And in fact, I think President Trump said that Iraq needs to pay the US money for the huge military, I mean the huge Embassy that the US has there in Iraq.

KZ: And he’s also a saying that if Iraq pushes the US out, there will be severe sanctions, more severe than what is already going on in Iran in trying to destroy that country. And it’s not surprising that the Iraqis are telling the US to leave. They were already angry. The Prime Minister criticized the attack that killed 25 Iraqi’s as part of their popular mobilization forces. They were already criticizing for that and then they went around and did the assassinations. It just, the outrage, the lack of respect for an independent sovereign nation is just incredible. So it’s not surprising that this has unified people in Iraq against the United States. The US is saying they’re not leaving so the US is now becoming another occupying country again.

MF: And then in Iran, not unexpected, the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement and now Iran is saying we’re done with it too. We now believe we have the right to do whatever we want. The US is out and now the US has taken this step and if we want to enrich uranium, we will. They’re saying they don’t have plans at this time to create nuclear weapons, but they want to keep that door open. They might need it with the US’ reckless actions.

KZ: This has turned into a lose-lose situation for the United States. The fear is this escalates. Iran has said, they said they will respond. We don’t know what that response will be. We are worried that it’ll be an escalation. Whatever the Iran does, the US will use it as an excuse to escalate. If it escalates, it becomes a tit-for-tat a quagmire that’s getting deeper and more difficult to get out of and more bloody. So that is the potential future that we’re hoping to avoid. It would be a disaster for Iraq, for Iran and the United States to have another trillion-dollar never-ending war.

MF: Right, in that whole region. But fortunately people in the United States mobilized very quickly. This was great to see that there had already been a call put out earlier last week for actions because of what was happening in Iraq…

KZ: Before the assassinations.

MF: Right, and then after the assassinations that just took off and there on Saturday where protests in 38 states at least over 80 cities…

KZ: 90.

MF: 90 cities.

KZ: There were protests in 90 cities in 38 States, and that was just on a few days organizing. Before the killing of Soleimani, we had about nine events planned but very quickly, it’s hard to keep up as people kept going. And so we need to keep building on that.

MF: Yes, absolutely. And it was and they were large. I mean in San Francisco and Boston and Los Angeles, New York, Washington, there were thousands of people out taking the streets. Lots of young people, lots of really strong and clear messages and we’ll play some clips from those in a little bit. But before we do that, let’s talk about what are some of the next steps that are coming up to try to stop the US from having more war on Iran.

KZ: Well an international day of action has been called for January 25th. That’s a Saturday. Popular Resistance has the call on its home page. Please check that out. Again it’s a large coalition of organizations coming together to do that. We hope with this amount of time we’ll be able to organize an even bigger anti-war event. This is a real opportunity for the anti-war movement to dominate the 2020 election cycle and make opposition to war a critical issue. It would be great potential because now even Democrats who got pretty quiet when Obama was making war but now that Trump is running for re-election, even Democrats will rejoin the anti-war movement.

MF: You mean the war party Democrats are opposing War. That’s great.

KZ: Well some of the war party Democrat, members of the Democratic party, I’m not sure that the war party leadership is there so it’s going to be a push to push both the Democrats and Republicans to not escalate this this catastrophe in the Middle East.

MF: Right and Congress returns to office in Washington DC on Tuesday, January 7th. And so also on Popular Resistance, we have a call-in tool. We’re urging people across the country to call their Members of Congress and tell them no war on Iran. No more sanctions. We need to stop the sanctions because that’s actually the way that we can get Iran to the negotiating table. Right now they’re saying we’re not talking to you, the United States at all. And with good reason. They can’t trust the United States. But if we showed good faith by stopping the sanctions against them, then we could pursue a peaceful resolution to this situation, which is I think what the people of Iran and the people of the United States want.

KZ: So go to that Popular Resistance dot org website and use that call-in tool. It’s one of the sliders on the top of the page. The call-in tool, you just put your address in they will call your senators and your member of the House Representatives. There’ll be talking points you can look at to consider what you’re going to say. We make it really easy for you. But we need to create a flood of phone calls into Congress to show there’s a strong anti-war viewpoint among the people of the United States.

MF: Right. And then the third demand I was going to say is the US out of Iraq. So yeah, so let’s start calling on Tuesday. Let’s keep calling throughout the week. It doesn’t hurt if you call your member of Congress more than once if you don’t get a response from them or the response you want, you can keep calling them, keep pushing them and don’t let them push back at you. Our demands are very clear: US stop the war with Iran, stop the sanctions, out of Iraq. They need to figure out how they do that. We make the demand for them to do that. So I guess what we’d like to do now is to play some clips from the protest in Washington DC on Saturday. Here’s a clip of you speaking and a clip of a message that we did as a group to the Iranian people.

Sean Blackmon, host of DC protest: So right about now, I’m going to bring up a seasoned peace activist, someone who was on the front lines during the Embassy effort. Some of you may remember not long ago when we were protecting the Venezuelan Embassy, which this government was trying to support a coup in the country on Venezuela that ultimately failed. So right now I am going to bring up Kevin Zeese from Popular Resistance.

KZ: Thank you all for being out here. Thanks to those who supported us as we face federal charges for protecting the Venezuelan Embassy. We really appreciate it. Our trial will be coming up in February. We have a number of Embassy Protectors here today and so thank you all for being part of that effort. It was a group effort. It was a collective. I want to thank Jane Fonda for uniting the peace movement with the climate movement. Uniting these movements will create transformational change, transformational change. This is the decade that we will face up to the climate, we will face up to the Pentagon. We will put in place a peace economy based on clean, renewable and sustainable energy. That is the future that we are developing. The reckless attack, the reckless assassination by Donald Trump against the commander of the Iranian forces is living in the past. That is a war for oil. We don’t need any wars for oil. That era is over. The era of United States causing chaos in the Middle East needs to end. Not only do we want to stop the war on Iran, we want the United States out of the Middle East. Since 2003, since the United States attacked and occupied Iraq, since then the US has destroyed Libya. Obama started the war in Syria, still going on. We have caused chaos throughout their region. Yemen is being slaughtered by the United States and Saudi Arabia and what we’re seeing now, we’re starting to come into focus on the reality, we are in a global world war right now. The Middle East is the battleground for that war, but that battleground will shift and expand. We see already the escalation between the US and North Korea. We see this last week in Venezuela, Brazil tried to attack Venezuela from the south. There were supposed to be simultaneous attacks from Colombia and from the Pacific, three attacks at the same time. Only one occurred and that was stopped by the Venezuelan government. So global war is with us. We already see Russia involved in the Middle East. We saw last week China and Russia joining with Iran to show the United States that there’s unity against US imperialism. We see the United States reaching out to Saudi Arabia and Israel to expand this regional war that’s escalating out of control. This already is a world war. We just haven’t faced it and during this world war, we see incredible weapons races between the US and Russia and China and other nations. The nuclear weapons race started under Obama with a trillion-dollar 10-year plan to improve and expand our nuclear capacity. It’s continuing expanding under Donald Trump, the nuclear weapons race. And now we see a space weapons race developing. That weapons race will make all the previous weapons contractors wealthier and the weapons race will be larger than we have ever seen in history when the outer space becomes the new battleground. So what we are here now in the beginning of 2020 is a critical year. It’s a critical year for us to show both parties that militarism and war are no longer supported by the people in the United States. Elizabeth Warren starts her comments on the illegal assassination by saying what a bad guy, he was he should have died, that’s unacceptable. Only Bernie Sanders said the right thing: the Iraq war was a mistake and he said that the assassination was a mistake and escalation is a mistake. That’s exactly right. Donald Trump ran on a campaign claiming the wars in the Middle East were a mistake. We’re wasting trillions of dollars. And here he is escalating those wars. We need to make it clear to those who support Donald Trump that he was a con man. That he lied to them. We know Hillary Clinton was a warmonger. We know that. But Donald Trump pretended to be opposed to Middle East wars and here he is violating international law and escalating those wars. So it’s time for us in 2020 to build a peace movement that cannot be ignored. This, you here today, you here today are on the cutting edge of that new movement. This movement can expand this year to tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands. This is just the beginning. Today more than 80 cities in 38 states are having protests to say no to the war in Iraq, to say US out of the Middle East. We are going to accomplish these objectives. We’re going to create a new world. The peace economy is our future. Thank you all for being here.

MF: Mic check.

Crowd: Mic check.

MF: Dear people of Iran.

Crowd: Dear people of Iran.

MF: We have a message for you (crowd repeats).

MF: We say no war (crowd repeats).

MF: We will fight to stop war (crowd repeats).

MF: We say US out of the Middle East (crowd repeats).

MF: And stop the sanctions now (crowd repeats).

MF: We love you (crowd repeats).

MF: We are in solidarity with you(crowd repeats).

MF: And we look for the day (crowd repeats).

MF: When we will travel (crowd repeats).

MF: Freely between our countries (crowd repeats).

MF: And share our knowledge (crowd repeats).

MF: And share our cultures (crowd repeats).

MF: And we will stand with you and fight for that (crowd repeats).

MF: Until we win (crowd repeats).

MF: We love you (crowd repeats).

MF: Thank you. This is another higher level of recklessness, assassinating an Iranian leader in the sovereign country of Iraq. We have to recognize that this machine is off tracks and it will not stop until we stop it so thank you for being out today. Let’s keep fighting.

Sean Blackmon: No justice. No peace. US out of the Middle East.

MF: So one of the reasons that I felt like it was really important to do that group message to the people of Iran is that we actually traveled to Iran last February and March and met with a lot of Iranians. We’ve continued to stay in touch with them and they’re saying right now that they’re extremely…

KZ: Petrified is the word one friend used. We were in Iran with a peace delegation. We met with a whole range of people. We were in fact met with people who are victims of the Iran-Iraq war, crippled from the chemical and other injuries. And we went to the grave sites for the people who died in that war. It was just an amazing experience.

MF: Amazing because it’s what was it about a million people that were killed in…

KZ: Every family was impacted.

MF: A huge Cemetery outside of Tehran and people have photographs on the tombstones of their loved ones. This is something that even though it ended in what 1988 people still have a memory of that war. That was an attack on Iran. Iran did not initiate that and it was brutal with chemical weapons that the United States gave to Iraq that were used against the Iranians, caused injuries that people continue to live with today.

KZ: And now because of the economic war, the economic sanctions, they can’t get the medicine to treat those injuries. I mean we felt a real obligation coming back from Iran to stand in solidarity with those people. That’s why people-to-people diplomacy so important.

MF: Well, it shows you that no matter where you go in the world people are basically pretty much the same. We have the same worries about our children, the same desires for a place to live and a job that we like and having some fun.

KZ: Remember that school we went to in the poor Community where a lot of the kids were migrants who had escaped the war in Afghanistan?

MF: Right? This was a school for street kids and the kids go to school part of the day so that they can go out and do their work. Unfortunately, there is extreme poverty there.

KZ: Which is essentially selling flowers in the street.

MF: What I really liked about that school is the way the program was designed to really give the children a sense of dignity, respect, ways that they can constructively express their feelings. It was a school that had an incredible number of staff because they really have a very intensive program to make sure that those kids are getting their needs met even though they’re living in such dire circumstances.

KZ:  And Tehran and other cities are beautiful cities, the mountains around Tehran. It’s just beautiful.

MF: It reminded me a little bit of Salt Lake City because it’s kind of surrounded by these snowy mountains.

KZ: And then to hear or read Trump in his tweets saying he’s going to bomb historical and cultural sites mean. I mean, what a savage.

MF: And not only is that a war crime, Iran has a history that goes back over 2,000 years. We visited Isfahan. We went to the Imam Square there, one of the largest squares in the world. It was built at the end of the 16th century and just these beautiful mosques, beautiful tile work.

KZ: Such history and they’ve you know, they were an empire before we were even thought of. This continent was indigenous people thousands of years ago and they were an empire then for a long time. So they’ve gone through the empire thing. They know what that’s like. So they and they seem really deep in their thinking as far as governments and government’s role are always lots of problems. I’m not whitewashing around Iran. There’s problems. They’re like in every country, but I think it’s important for us to stand up for the people of Iran there basically being attacked because they declared their independence from the United States in 1979. The US regime change in 1953 destroyed their early stages of democracy, then they’re stuck with the Shah for 20 years until 1979 and we immediately have sanctions in place. Then we have the Iraq-Iran war that the US encourages. Then we have more sanctions just because they are independent.

MF: Well, that’s a common theme with any country in the world that wants to be independent of the US. Let’s quickly mention. There was a leaked letter from that was signed by the general…

KZ: It’s too embarrassing.

MF: In charge of the Joint Task Force in Iraq that basically said we will leave Iraq because we respect your sovereignty and if you tell us to leave, we’ll leave and then what happened?

KZ: They said because of that vote we’re going, the United States and the forces will leave the country.

MF: But they said we respect your sovereignty.

KZ: We respect your sovereignty, and then what happens?

MF: Then Mark Esper says oh no, no, no, that was a poorly worded draft and that is poorly worded because we’re not actually leaving.

KZ: We’re actually increasing the troops they were saying to Iraq. So this is a serious problem. Please come to the next protests planned for January 25th.

MF: That call to action is just going out. So we’ll be listing it on Popular Resistance. And if you are planning an action, please get in touch with us at info at Popular Resistance dot-org so we can put yours down. That’s January 25th.

KZ: And also the UNAC conference, remind people of that one more time.

MF: Right. So I want to quickly mention the call-in day. Go to Popular Resistance and start calling this week to your members of Congress. And then the United National Anti-war Coalition Conference is at the People’s Forum in New York City. That’s February 21st to the 23rd. The theme is climate change, racism and militarism. We want to make the connections between all of these issues. There’s going to be excellent panels on that specific topic as well as on defending our movement, on sanctions, on organizing around elections.

KZ: And if those issues unite – racism, climate and anti-war – that will be the dominant political force in the United States. If we can unite those movements, that will be more powerful than either political party and will dominate the direction of the country. So we are trying to build that movement.

MF: Well, that’s all for today. Let’s go out with a song by Junkyard Empire. It’s called “We Want” because the people organized can build the kind of future we want.

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We’re Headed For An Uprising, But Are We Ready For It?

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

As 2019 comes to a close and we enter a new decade, we look back at the major events and issues that shaped the year with Chris Hedges. We discuss the rise of the Right, in part due to the weaknesses of the Left, what the Sanders campaign means for activism and achieving meaningful social change and whether or not the United States is ready for a massive uprising against neo-liberalism, as is happening around the world. The next decade will be a time when major crises such as the climate, wealth inequality and militarism are devastating. At some point, a spark will be lit in the US, but in the current environment, that is likely to result in greater movement to the right unless we prepare now to build power on the left.

Listen here:

Review us on iTunes! Click here … Then click on “View in iTunes … Then click “Ratings and Reviews.”

Guest:

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He writes a weekly column for the online magazine Truthdig out of Los Angeles and is host of the Emmy Award­–winning RT America show On Contact. Hedges, who holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard University, is the author of the bestsellers American Fascists, Days of Destruction­, Days of Revolt, and was a National Book Critics Circle finalist for War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University, and the University of Toronto. He currently teaches college credit courses in the New Jersey prison system.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers…

Kevin Zeese (KZ): and Kevin Zeese.

MF: And Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance dot-org. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at Popular Resistance dot o– r– g– and while you’re there, check out our store where you can find Clearing the FOG items like t-shirts, bumper stickers, tote bags and water bottles. So, today we interviewed Chris Hedges.

KZ: Chris has been a long-time advisor, since really before the Occupy Movement and consistently the popular resistance and he’s a great analyst on where we are as a movement and where we have to go and that’s what we are talking about today.

MF: One of the things I really appreciate about Chris is that he served as a foreign correspondent for over two decades in the Middle East and the Balkans. He was in Central America. He really saw resistance movements and well, you know when regimes rise and fall, so he gained a lot of first-hand experience that way and he shares some of that with us. Before we get into our interview with Chris, why don’t we talk about some things that are in the news? We’re coming to the end of 2019. Let’s first start out with a little look at the state of the economy. Bloomberg found that the richest 500 people in the world increased their wealth by 25% in 2019, up 1.2 trillion dollars. Eight out of 10 of the richest people in the world are in the United States. Jeff Bezos, who is the richest person in the world, lost nine billion, but is still the richest person in the world. That gives you a sense of how much wealth he actually has.

KZ: You know, wealth inequality and inequality generally has been a driving issue. In fact, that’s what started the Occupy Movement. Remember the 99% versus the 1%. But over the last decade that inequality has gotten worse rather than better despite people wanting to see change and amelioration of that problem. It just keeps getting worse. We have not built the power necessary to make the changes we need. If you look at the taxes in the last couple of years, you see with this Trump Republican deformed tax system, which is the worst tax system in our history, the wealthiest actually are paying less than working-class people and major corporations, the Fortune 500 companies, are not paying any taxes at all.

MF: The Economic Policy Institute did kind of a year-end review in charts and I just want to highlight some of the findings that they have in that article, which you can also find on Popular Resistance dot-org. Wage growth has gone down. If you compare 5 years at the end of the last century, 1994 to 1999 I think is what they looked at compared to the last five years here, we see significant depression in wage growth in the United States. If you look at black workers, they are more likely to be unemployed, underemployed and 39 percent of black workers who have college degrees are not working in the field where they studied. What’s concerning is that 63 percent of jobs in the United States actually don’t even require education.

KZ: Yeah, we’re seeing in this so-called booming economy actually a downward decline in the types of jobs that people have, which is one reason why wages are flat and that you mentioned the racial inequality issue when it comes to the wealth divide and income divides, it’s actually worse now than it was in 1979 and it was a crisis then. Really over the last 50 years since the Kerner Commission, in response to race-based protests that they called riots, urged major changes in the economy to uplift the black community. But instead the black divide with whites has gotten worse.

MF: Right and then if we look at unions, less than 12% of workers in the United States are represented by a union although more than 54 percent of workers would like to be in a union.

KZ: And we’re seeing a resurgence in union activity. The number of days on strike was a record-breaker this year. We are seeing much more activity and we’re seeing unions really reach out to the community. So it’s not just about the workers but about the communities they live in to try to uplift communities.

MF: Yeah. I think that’s one of the most exciting developments is this, you know broader agenda that the Chicago Teachers and others are promoting, not just looking after their own interests but as unions did in the beginning of last century, actually understanding that they need to more broadly represent the working class and the broad needs of the working class. The Next Systems Project highlighted some gains that have been made over the past year in economic alternatives. And so there are you know this kind of new economy that’s developing around the United States is something that exists all around the world. Three major areas that they highlighted: one of them was public banks looking at California, which passed a law to put forward a public bank and New Jersey where the governor signed an executive order to create an implementation board that will actually figure out how to do a state bank in New Jersey.

KZ: That California law is a major breakthrough and I hope other states follow suit. There has not been a public banking law enacted since 1920 until that California law. The California law is very interesting. We’ll have to do a show on it sometime because a detailed look at how that system operates will be very useful for people around the country in putting in place public banking laws in their states and in their cities.

MF: Right and there are other states that have been trying to do this as well. For our listeners who may not be familiar with a public bank, the state of North Dakota has had a public bank now for a hundred years and it basically takes all of their public dollars, puts it into this public bank, which is not tied to the Wall Street banks. It doesn’t have to pay those exorbitant fees to the Wall Street Banks and then the state can leverage that money for public projects, supporting community banks. Those community banks can support student loans at reduced rates, people to get housing mortgages the big banks don’t want to give and in times of crisis, they can leverage that money to deal with those crises like floods and droughts and things of that sort.

KZ: Right now cities and states give their money to Wall Street banks where the banks hold it, then they borrow from those banks at very high interest rates to pay for essential infrastructure and projects in their state. It’s an absurd system. It’s so important for states and cities to break their relationship with Wall Street banks, put in place public banks so they can use their money to build their own communities.

MF: Another major area of the new economy is worker ownership of businesses and a number of states have been investing in developing more cooperative businesses. In Massachusetts, they have a fund that helps people who are retiring from their businesses pass it on as a cooperative to the next owner. Similarly, they’re trying that in Colorado. And in Maine, they have a new law that will actually help to finance those transitions of businesses to become worker-owned cooperatives.

KZ: That transition process could be an excellent way to escalate the movement toward worker ownership of the businesses where they work and it’s such an important movement because not only does it empower workers, makes them into owners where they share in the profits, it actually produces better businesses. And so it’s a model that needs to be expanded. It’s been used in a variety of areas for many years. In fact, cooperatives have been with the United States for much more than a century and this is a real opportune time as businesses grow older, as owners of businesses get ready to retire. It’s a time to transition to their workers. Give their workers the power to build that business.

MF: Right. I want to correct myself. In Maine, the new governor has expressed support for having low-interest loans for businesses that transition. It has not actually become law yet. Another major area is community land trusts. Community land trusts take the land out of the market so that it’s not subject to the whims of the market and allows the prices to be more affordable and to be more stable. California has a law that gives a property tax exemption to land that’s in a community land trust and also New York City, the council voted to provide more support for the development of community land trusts in New York City, providing technical expertise and things of that sort. These are two areas that have very high housing prices and have kind of a housing crisis as a result. So this is a solution to start addressing that.

KZ: And it really is kind of a form of direct democracy, taking away the decisions from city councils and mayors where developers have so much power and putting it in the hands of communities where people who live in the community, businesses who operate in the community, nonprofits who are in the community can get together and form a trust that determines next steps for community development. So it really democratizes how your community develops. These are great techniques. These examples, cooperatives and land trusts are examples of the kind of a new economy you need to build to replace the economy that’s not really working for most people.

MF: Right. These are mechanisms that put control of the economy into the hands of the people, not in the control of the elites who exploit it for their own interests. I want to bring our listeners’ attention to an article that we posted on Popular Resistance by Nafeez Ahmed. It’s called “The Collapse of Civilization May Have Already Begun”. I think it’s really interesting because he points to the new report that’s being compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change and basically they’re predicting that we’re going to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius of temperature warming by 2030 and that we’re actually, if nothing is done to change things, we’re on track for seven degrees Celsius rise in temperature by the end of the century. We have to remember that as we have talked about earlier that carbon emissions have actually been rising in the world not going down.

KZ: Those are very big numbers. We’re talking about 7 degrees increase in temperature by the end of the century. That’s a massive increase. And it’s you know Nafeez’s report is consistent with what we’re hearing from scientists all over the world. Thousands of scientists have been calling for civil disobedience. They’ve been calling for emergency action calling a climate of urgency. They’ve been saying we’re reaching a tipping point that once we reach, we will not be a return from. Their calls for action are getting louder but we’re seeing misleadership. We just had the climate conference, which we discussed which was held in Spain, as a total failure in leadership. We’ve seen failure in leadership in the United States from both parties throughout this century and the proceeding century. Climate has not been dealt with even though people want it faced.

MF: One of the positive ideas that came out of Nafeez’s article is he talked to a lot of different scientists about the potential for a collapse of civilization something that people are concerned about and found that you know, there may be and there are actually some areas of the world where collapse is happening but that also there’s no model that says it’s imminent or its predetermined. That there’s actually a lot of things that can happen, you know, in the next years if we take action that could actually start to mitigate the climate crisis as well as there’s these groups now that are called deep adaptation groups that are talking about ways that they in their communities can take action to bring food stability and energy and the things that you would need if the climate crisis continues to worsen. And so I think these kinds of efforts will actually potentially give us the possibility of creating, you know, a real change, a real radical transformation of how we do things in a way that’s sustainable and could really mitigate the climate crisis.

KZ: You talk about the crisis of climate change and it’s really happening right now. Look at the fires in California. Look at the floods in the southeast, the droughts in the midwest. I mean and then and then Australia, the whole country is on fire. This is a crisis as we live it right now, but crisis is also leading to people finally talking about real solutions. Just last week Stanford researchers came up with Green New Deal plans for a hundred thirty countries so you could have a global Green New Deal. Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate who’s seeking the nomination from the Green Party, is putting forth an Ecosocialist Green New Deal that would transform our economy and put in place a Bill of Rights for workers and put in place a peacetime economy ending the militarization we deal with. So it’s forcing people to think about things and talk about things. So it’s unfortunate that it takes a crisis but it’s a crisis of capitalism and its really a challenge to capitalism to confront the climate crisis.

MF: I want to bring attention to a story that has not been getting a lot of attention in the mainstream media. Bill Binney, he’s a NSA, former NSA head and whistleblower, reported that when they looked into the Guccifer 2.0, the supposed hacked DNC emails, they found that actually there were these like, I think they call them like fingerprints, put in there that somebody was trying to make it look like it was coming from Russia, but it wasn’t actually coming from Russia. And he theorizes that the whole thing was actually coming from an arm of the US government like maybe the CIA or the NSA. So what he actually found is that the whole basis of the Mueller report is faulty making that entire report faulty.

KZ: Well, it’s interesting that the Mueller Report didn’t even deal with the issues that Binney raised and Binney is a top NSA tech person, former, retired, I mean he is really was top echelon and so for them to just ignore that. He had already put out reports that showed that due to the speed of how the material is transferred that it was not a hack, that it came from inside the DNC.

MF: Somebody had to physically put something into the computer and download it onto something.

KZ: Exactly and now he’s providing more evidence on that. This may be the key information that Mueller never even looked at. He never even examined the DNC computers. He relied on Crowdstrike, which has an anti-Russia bias, for their review rather than doing their own. And the NSA, FBI, CIA, they have top people in these areas. They could have done their own research. And for some reason, they just refuse to look at what Binney was putting forward and Binney is not someone they should be ignoring.

MF: And I think it’s important for our listeners to understand that Russiagate really was something that was, looks like it was designed to build animosity in the United States and suspicion of Russia as part of our whole national security strategy,  so-called security strategy of going after great powers like Russia and China. And I think that it’s a very dangerous thing. Russia has just recently declared that they have a new weapons system. These are hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles that can really evade anything that the United States has in terms of missile defense.

KZ: And Russia has invited US experts in to see these systems so they know that it’s real. They’ve actually been brought into Russia to see them already and he’s offered to show more systems. And they’re doing this not to scare the United States, not to heighten the weapons race, but in order to encourage dialogue on missile defense systems, on nuclear weapons, on outer space, to stop the increased spending on these weapons. And so Putin and Russia are putting this information forward in order to encourage treaties that will reduce the risk of war.

MF: That’s right. The START Treaty is up for renewal. But instead, what it looks like the United States is doing, is responding by well, okay, you’re going to create these weapons, well now we’re going to develop a space force so that we can stop your weapons from outer space. This is spinning into this very scary arms race. And I think it’s one that the United States is not going to be able to win. We have an article by Pepe Escobar, originally in Consortium News, where he reviews a book by a Russian military analyst who works in the United States, Andre Martyanov, and basically he says that the United States is generations behind Russia in terms of weapon development and that actually even top Pentagon officials have said that they have no existing way to counter weapons that Russia has and that their only way out is a nuclear deterrent.

KZ: Russia has accomplished this at 10% of the cost of US military spending. Russia has a small economy, really the size of Italy. For them to be able to compete with the US military as they are is because our Pentagon is so wasteful and bloated and corrupt. The weapons makers produce weapons that don’t work well, that are very overpriced. We have internal weapons contracting that results in corruption. It’s just an embarrassment the way that we spend this mass amounts on weapons and war and Russia spending 10% of what we, the US, has spent has actually outpaced us and really checkmated our entire weapon system.

MF: Well, our whole weapons industry is a for-profit industry. And so it’s basically always looking for the ways that it can make a profit, not necessarily do what’s best for the society. Not that I’m a fan of weapons at all. I don’t think that we should be investing a lot of money into instruments of destruction when we have so much need, human need and protection of the planet that we need to be investing in. But it just shows that it doesn’t make any sense as a model because not only do we end up with a system that’s not designed to protect us in the United States, but the weapons industry is always pushing for more wars, more insecurity, more opportunities to sell what they’re making.

KZ: And General Smedley Butler, who is the most decorated Marine in US history, famous for his “War is a Racket” speech, came after he left the military and became an anti-war activist, he advocated back in the 1930s in favor of nationalizing the weapons industry so it was not a for-profit industry. Taking the profit out of war is a critical step. If there’s any industry that should be nationalized and run by the government for the purpose of true defense, not offense as the US Pentagon direction goes but for true defense would be to nationalize the weapons industry, follow Smedley Butler’s advice of many decades ago.

MF: And I just want to mention, we talked about last week how the United States is going after Syria’s oil, sending more tanks and troops into the area where Syria has its oil. Syria has responded by saying that the US has no right to their oil and that the government is considering filing a case against the United States in the International Criminal Court.

KZ: Well, I love that they’re trying to put the rule of law in the place of the rule of war because the rule of law is what’s going to save us. And there’s no question the US needs to get out of Syria now. It does not need to wait for any other government to leave. Syria wants the US out. It’s time for the US to get out.

MF: I want to mention that the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has announced that they’ve decided to go ahead with another Freedom Flotilla in the summer of 2020. They have had 35 previous attempts to bring supplies into Gaza, to break through the blockade that the Israeli government is imposing around Gaza.

KZ:  That’s a fantastic action. It’s resulted in injury and death of people involved in it, very brave of them to go forward with that. The situation in Gaza, the largest open-air prison, is dire and this action is essential. I applaud them for it greatly.

MF: Yeah, there was another report that just came out about the Great March of Return protest that happen every Friday in Gaza and have been going on for almost two years now. The Israeli snipers are actually aiming at people’s eyes and so hundreds of people have had serious eye injuries as a result of this. And I was just thinking, you know with the blockade, it’s probably really hard for them even to get something basic like eye protection so they can continue to express their right of return in the nonviolent way that they’re doing it. Let’s talk about Lebanon, protests have been going on there, and they have now decided on a new prime minister, the acting president has chosen Hassan Diab to be the prime minister. He’s someone who has the support of Hezbollah, which is the second-largest party in Lebanon. And he now has the task of creating a cabinet. He is going to choose 20 ministers for that. He says they are all going to be independent. None of them will belong to any political party.

KZ: Well, that was a demand of the protesters. They didn’t want anyone from the political parties that are in power now to be in office, although Hezbollah was an exception to that, which is interesting. And it’s also interesting that the US’ main target in Lebanon was to get Hezbollah out of Lebanon and instead the prime minister who is coming in has the support of Hezbollah.

MF: So he still has a big task ahead. We’ll see how that goes. He is being protested. This past weekend, they had their 59th week of the Yellow Vest protest and the 24th day of the strikes. Those strikes continue. Transportation has been severely hampered and that has actually made it possible for more people to come out into the streets since they can’t go other places. They say they are getting on their bikes and they’re heading to the protests.

KZ: Well, general strikes are incredibly powerful. And if there is one tactic that the US needs to learn, it is how to conduct a general strike. And we’re going to have to have that power. And if we had an aggressive labor movement, workers movement, we’d be learning how to do general strikes because if we could stop the economy, or curtail it significantly for two hours, for a day, for a couple of days, it wiould show the government they need the people and better start listening to the people. Workers have power but we have to learn how to exercise it and this model in France is a great one to learn from.

MF: It is. This has really been now over a year of sustained protests there and they are growing in their support. Let’s talk about India. There are massive protests. They started there over a new law that discriminated against Muslims. It was a  citizenship law. And this has turned into a whole protest against the economic unfairness there under the Modi government, a right-wing government, and it’s mostly youth that are protesting, hundreds of thousands coming out to these protests.

KZ: Yeah, it’s interesting looking at the Modi government and the paramilitaries, these fascist paramilitaries that it works with. They are a frightening spectacle. Seeing videos of these paramilitary fascist groups marching that must be very intimidating. And so for people to come out and protest the way they are shows incredible bravery. And it shows how extreme Modi’s policies have gotten that people are taking to the streets despite that risk.

MF: Let’s do an update on Venezuela. On December 22nd, there was an attack against a military barrack in the southern part of the country, in the Bolivar region on the border with Brazil. The attackers tried to steal weapons. They were caught and are now being being I guess investigated and questioned. But this was another failed attempt coming from the border to try to cause disruption against the Maduro government.

KZ: It really is incredible how well the Venezuelan government is dealing with these attacks. I mean, they’ve uncovered multiple terrorist plots. They’ve learned to deal with the attacks on the electrical system and they now are dealing with these border issues. And they raised the potential of border issues in recent weeks so they knew that something was going on either on the Columbia or Brazil border. The US of course, both are right now US-allied governments. And so it’s really incredible to see how well Venezuela’s responding to a very difficult situation, both an economic war and the threat of militarism. And the economic war is starting to fail as Venezuela’s learning how to adapt to a resistance economy. And there’s projections that their economy will grow in the next year. So there’s some positive signs in the economy. We had some friends who just got back from Venezuela and they noticed a serious difference, a positive difference in the Venezuelan economy. This is pretty amazing with the intense US economic war. In fact didn’t they just have some successes in building more social housing?

MF: Right, we didn’t talk about that, but they have now built three million units of social housing in Venezuela and they have a population that’s a tenth of the population in the United States. In the US, we only have one point one million units of public housing. And you know, that’s why you don’t really find homeless people in Venezuela.

KZ: We have homeless in every city in this country. Our city of Baltimore is filled with homeless people and you make that point we have a population of 320 million and only one million public housing units. They have a population of 30 million and three million housing units. Three million housing units with four people in each house, that’s 12 million people having homes. And these are the poorest people. When we were in Venezuela, we could not find a homeless person. It shows that even in the midst of an economic war, they are prioritizing the poorest people in Venezuela first.

MF: As opposed to Juan Guaido who you know his people or whoever, the US, I know the US diplomats were helping with this when they were in Venezuela, trying to recruit military from the Venezuelan military to support a coup effort. And some of those soldiers who defected to support the coup and then came to the United States expecting to be treated as heroes actually are now in ICE detention centers and were basically abandoned by the Guaido people.

KZ: And the same thing happened with Venezuelan military who went to Colombia to support Guaido. They found themselves living under bridges. Thankfully very few military have taken that approach and the military, they remain loyal to the constitutional government. And that’s one reason why the coup has failed in Venezuela and why it seems to have succeeded so far in Bolivia.

MF: Right. I just want to mention that the next week is going to be a very important one in Venezuela because January 5th is when the National Assembly will choose their next head. Of course, the United States is hoping that they will continue to have Juan Guaido who was handpicked by the United States and who the United States has declared to be the president of Venezuela, although he’s not the president of Venezuela and doesn’t have any presidential powers. The US is saying that it will recognize the next head of the National Assembly as the quote-unquote president of Venezuela. And so this means well, so if the National Assembly chooses someone who’s not favorable to US views, what is the US going to do in that situation? Also, they have a new election coming up next year for the National Assembly and there’s no guarantee that Guaido’s people will have success in that. His party, the Popular Will Party, is only the sixth largest party in Venezuela.

KZ: And there are divisions among the opposition in Venezuela. Some are negotiating with the Maduro government over the next election and other issues while Guaido’s team of  coupmongers is resisting any negotiation with Maduro’s government. This election coming up for the National Assembly will be a very interesting one, I mean the one picking the president, because of those divisions. And people should understand that no matter who is elected as the president of the Assembly, under the Venezuelan Constitution, they have no right to be the interim president. You can only have an interim president from the National Assembly between the election and the inauguration of the president. That has long passed and if you ever have an interim president from the Assembly, they only have 30 days and then there is supposed to be an election. And you only have an interim president if the president who was elected is out of power because of illness or death or removed by the Supreme Court. So there’s no justification for the National Assembly president becoming the interim president. It’s just inconsistent with Venezuelan law.

MF: Right, but it’s what the US is doing because they tried a coup and it failed. So they’re just going and saying that okay, we’re picking the president anyway, and that’s who it is. Let’s talk about Bolivia. Some very serious things happening there. Of course, the MAS Party the Movement towards Socialism Party, which Evo Morales came from, members of that MAS Party are now being targeted in a very serious way by this new coup government, this very fascist right-wing coup government, which is charging them with treason and sedition. And now major members of the Morales government are in hiding in the Mexican embassy in La Paz Bolivia. And that Embassy is being surrounded by Bolivian security people who basically they have that Embassy under siege in violation of the Vienna convention.

KZ: It’s a repeat of what the Venezuelan coupmongers did to the Embassy in Washington DC when we were inside. We warned that the violation of the Vienna Convention would lead to other embassies being put under attack. When the US violated the Vienna Convention, it risked embassies around the world and we see it now happening in Bolivia. People should remember that, and we call them fascist literally because the leaders of these groups come from fascist organizations and Christian organizations in a country that is 65 to 70 percent made up of indigenous people. It’s a minority group that’s taken control and they were behaving this way before the Morales election. They were already attacking members of the MAS Party. They were already attacking buildings and setting them on fire. And so this has just continued and escalated. Since the coup began, it’s gotten worse and more violent and this is all a build-up to an election in March, which will select the next president. People are watching this very closely because we have a hard time believing that these coupmongers will allow a fair democratic election. We hope there are international election observers in Bolivia to monitor and report on what happens, but this violence leading up to the elections already is part of trying to prevent a real democratic election in Bolivia.

MF: Well, it seems like it’s already a military dictatorship. Members of the MAS Party had a large gathering, which we reported on, where they appointed Evo Morales as the leader for their campaign for the presidential campaign…

KZ:  He’ll be the campaign manager, not the candidate.

MF: Right exactly. They’re still choosing their candidate and they had planned another meeting coming up very soon on the border with Argentina because Evo is residing in Argentina. And in response to that, the new government, this coup government is putting patrols, military patrols, along the border to prevent MAS Party members from being able to go to Argentina to participate in that meeting. So, it’s already looking like there’s not going to be a possibility of a real democracy or you know a fair election in Bolivia. And then I just wanted to call out the region in Cochabamba. They were able to successfully push the police out of their region. There’s still a few military there but the military people are staying inside their bases. They’re not able to leave their bases. But it has become basically a self-governing region and coup-free region of Bolivia although they’re not certain how long they’ll be able to maintain that. They do anticipate that this coup government may retaliate in a violent way.

KZ: And this is a stronghold area for the Morales government. And so for them to kick the police out, the coup police out, and to take control is a major step forward but there is definitely some fears that there will be a retaliation by the coup government coming in and causing serious chaos, injuries and deaths to take back that area.

MF: Right, so a lot going on, a lot of lessons that we can learn from it and a lot of work that we have to do in the coming year. Why don’t we take a short musical break and we’ll come back with our interview with Chris Hedges.

MUSIC BREAK

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers

Kevin Zeese (KZ): and Kevin Zeese.

MF: And our guest today is Chris Hedges. He is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author. He was a foreign correspondent for two decades and now is the host of the show on RT America, “On Contact.” His most recent book is “America: The Farewell Tour.” Thank you for taking time to join us, Chris.

Chris Hedges (CH): Sure.

KZ: So it’s the end of the year and we’re looking backward a little bit and looking forward. Let’s start with a kind of review of 2019. So much happened. We want to get your sense of what were some of the events in 2019 that you know, you thought were of importance.

CH: I would say the two is the failure to address the climate emergency, which of course is seeing an acceleration of the deterioration and destruction of the ecosystem. I mean it’s quite dramatic and quite pronounced in California, Australia, even Venice was flooded. So that would be number one because even if we stopped all carbon emissions today, which you know, once again the ruling elites utterly betrayed us and failed us in Madrid, we’re still going to deal with catastrophic climate change. And then the other was the failure on the part of the Democratic Party to address the rupture of social bonds, deep social inequality that has torn apart the country and resulted in the election of Donald Trump. So, of course, we at the end of the year we’re after the complete failure of the Mueller report, which was hyped by all sorts of media organizations, not only Rachel Maddow and MSNBC but the New York Times, just proved to be a dud, we got this kind of mind-numbing spectacle of the impeachment, again with that kind of I find very cloying and repugnant moral posturing on the part of the Democratic Party. But of course what they did, it was selective. They charged Trump not with all of the and the most egregious impeachable offenses, constitutional violations that he carried out, but with the most trivial. That’s contempt for Congress and the attempt to get the Ukrainian President Zelensky to open an investigation of Biden and his son in exchange for about 400 million in US aid and allowiing Zelenski to visit the White House. If the Democratic Party, like the Republican Party, was committed to actually defending the Constitution, then they would have to go back and impeach Trump for a series of violations that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama routinely committed and they don’t want to do that. So when I hear them talking about the restoration of the rule of law and see that they ignored the most serious Constitutional violations, which have now been normalized by both parties, it’s an example of at best self-delusion and probably, you know, very cynical manipulation. I can run through a few. I mean Bush launches two illegal wars that are never declared by Congress as demanded by the Constitution. He places the entire US public under government surveillance that’s violating the Fourth Amendment. He authorizes torture and kidnapping of foreign nationals who are not even US citizens and holds them where again they’re tortured in black sites and offshore penal colonies around the world. Obama expands the illegal wars, which are now up to 11 if we count Yemen. Edward Snowden reveals that intelligence agencies are monitoring and spying on all of us, downloading all of our data and metrics into government computers where they’re stored for in perpetuity and nothing is done. Obama misuses the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force act to erase due process. That’s when he argues that the executive branch has the right to assassinate US citizens starting with a radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki and two weeks later his 16-year-old son, in essence serving as judge, jury and executioner. And then, of course, he signs into law section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, I sued him in federal court over that, overturns the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the use of military as a domestic police force. And then there are other again bipartisan constitutional violations, including violating treaty clauses that are supposed to be ratified by the Senate, violating the appointments clause where you again need Senate confirmation, the routine abuse of executive order. So, watching the impeachment process was a very depressing spectacle for me because it was about the pretense of the rule of law and again exposed the fact that the Democratic Party will refuse to be self-reflective, refuse to confront its complicity in the neoliberalism and deindustrialization and programs of austerity and massive expansion of our prison system and militarizing of our police and again, try and personalize all of our problems in the figure of Trump.

KZ: Yeah. The impeachment process really is an indictment of the system not just an impeachment of Trump because as you said there’s so many violations of law by Democratic officials that you could impeach… Like you said, Obama’s record is, just but you know, you can’t go after Trump for the Emoluments Clause where is profiting from being an office because Democrats are profiting from being in office. It’s so embarrassing.

MF: Exactly. What you’re saying is that the problems that exist are bipartisan problems and you know looking truthfully at what’s happening right now means that you would also have to dig up a lot of things that have happened, you know, over the course of the past years that the Democrats have been completely complicit in as well as what they’re doing right now. But you have written that the right-wing has kind of picked up this revolutionary rhetoric because people in the United States and around the world, they see the corruption of the elites. You know it was as you said the betrayal of the Democrats of their base that caused them to lose. So now this kind of right-wing, kind of fascists and scary right wing is rising. Do you see any possibility of the Left being able to pick up that need for revolutionary vision and plan.

CH: Well, I do see the need but I don’t see it happening and I think that is driven by fear, especially at every presidential election cycle, the left, the liberal class just crumbles. The attraction of Trump is that he rightly attacks the Deep State, which is real. But what is the Deep State? The Deep State is the generals, the war industry, the bankers, the lobbyists, the corporatists, the intelligence agencies, the government bureaucrats and technocrats who actually run both domestic and international policy. The fact is we don’t control our own economy. It’s controlled by Goldman Sachs and Citibank and JP Morgan Chase. And the Washington Post when it released the Afghanistan Papers recently, these were the roughly 2,000 or more than 2,000 pages of internal government documents about the war in Afghanistan, which they obtained through a three-year legal battle, it exposed exactly the bipartisan lies, fraud, deceit, corruption, waste and mismanagement during the 18-year conflict that was carried out by the ruling elites, by the Deep State, the Deep state that so many Trump supporters have been betrayed by and turned on with a vengeance. And Trump’s attraction is that he calls them out often in very vulgar and crude terms. And the Democratic Party is seeking and of course, they’re pushing Biden because he’s been anointed by the Democratic Party donor class, is seeking to perpetuate a system that at least half or more of the country wants to overthrow, wants to get rid of. And the Left has not embraced or I think finally understood that the whole ideology of the ruling elite – neoliberalism and imperialism, you know, the constant expansion of foreign wars – just doesn’t resonate anymore and they’re kind of trapped between you know, they’re bound to this ideology because the people funding the party recognize quite correctly and I would say even the figures like Pelosi and Schumer recognize that if they don’t have that kind of corporate money and corporate backing, they will lose power. And so they, you know, they’d rather take the whole system down, which is what they’re doing. So, yeah, I mean, this is the problem of the Left. I think it has misread power. I’m a strong supporter of Extinction Rebellion because I think they’ve correctly read power and that is that, and we can talk just about the climate and we can go back for the last four decades, carbon admissions have exponentially risen. You know, all of the attempts to work within the system, this is three fifty.org and others, has been an utter and complete failure. And the Left for some reason partly because we were so knocked off balance over the last few decades our organizations were either co-opted or destroyed is just not willing to face this reality.

KZ: You know, I’m seeing in the Left that we work with, this isn’t, which is not the Democratic Party, I think a lot of what you say is certainly true but the Democratic Party, which I guess in this continent in the corporate media, that’s the Left is kind of amusing, but the Left we work I see is much more strongly and clearly anti-imperialist, which is a kind of a phrase that disappeared for a while but seems to be coming back in peace movement circles and also anti-capitalist, which is also coming back in part because of climate but also because of the inequality that’s gotten so widespread. And we see around the world uprisings against neoliberal capitalism in Latin America and France. It’s just like such an uprising that has not really hit the United States since Occupy. It did hit during Occupy, but I think we’re due for another uplift on that. How do you see, putting aside the Democratic Party, how do you see the potential, is the left movement awakening to anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist kind of thinking?

CH: Yes. I think you’re right to point that out. But I don’t know that it’s organized. I don’t know that it has yet offered a strong alternative vision to the mainstream. Again, I think it’s often divided by identity politics without grasping always that for me the fundamental issue is class, that this is class warfare and as Warren Buffett has correctly said, his side is winning. So, I mean we also have to make it clear that they have not only marginalized us but cut down the spaces, the media, spaces by which we can communicate. That’s why I’m on RT. I mean what I do on RT, mostly I just interview authors. I mean that should be on a functioning public broadcasting system, but the public broadcasting system in particular, PBS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers. So the space by which we can communicate has been diminished quite remarkably because if you go back to the 70s, you could see Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, Angela Davis, all sorts of people who were not behold to institutions or to corporations offering a critique of power. I mean the last national show that we had that critiqued power is Bill Moyers show which of course is now off the air and in the end PBS wasn’t funding it. He funded it through a private foundation. So I think you’re right, Kevin. I think that all of those sentiments are on the rise, but it is yet to be translated into a political movement. And if there are uprisings without that kind of vision and focus, then the ruling elites can easily decapitate them.

MF: I agree with you. That leads right into the next question because you worked with us back when we were organizing the occupation in Washington DC, back, you know, throughout 2011 and that was a time of a lot of these kind of uprisings around the world. The Occupy Movement really took off in the United States. Now we’re seeing a real rise again around the world against the corruption and neoliberal capitalism. Do you think that that has the potential to come back to the United States in another wave and what do we need to do to be kind of prepared for that if it does?

CH: Well, I mean, I covered uprisings for 20 years as a foreign correspondent all around the globe, the Palestinian uprisings, most of the revolutions in Eastern Europe, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, the street demonstrations that brought down Slobodan Milosevic. And what’s fascinating is that what ignites it, no one can predict it. Even purported leaders of the opposition don’t know what pushes people over the edge, which is usually something very relatively in and of itself minor and even banal. But yes, you’re right, we’ve watched as neoliberalism or global capitalism is a global phenomenon, it has affected people in the same way.  One of the things we don’t hear about the protests in Hong Kong, which are I mean truly courageous, is that especially the young are without work and again that social inequality is very pronounced and I think that that economic tyranny lies at the root of the uprisings that we’ve seen not only in Hong Kong, but in India, Chile and France, in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, but it also lies at the root of the rise of these right-wing demagogues as we just saw in Britain with Boris Johnson, Narendra Modi in India, Trump in the United States. And so yes, I think that we’re not immune to this kind of social unrest and this kind of upheaval, especially as the forces that created it have no regulation and no restraint. Student debt, personal debt, national debt, we’re about to watch the Republican Party again take an axe and slash social services, food stamps. So these corporatists know only one word and that’s more and they won’t stop until there’s blowback. The problem is that if that, go back to the point we made before that if that blowback is just kind of a release in the streets of anger and frustration and rage, all legitimate, without an alternative vision and without alternative structures to begin to challenge power, then it can be crushed.

KZ: A lot of things I want to respond to in that, a couple of things. First off, you know, when we were involved in Occupy, it was a different phase of really the movement’s development. Now since Occupy that was kind of an eruption of anger, the 99% versus 1%. Now since Occupy, there has been a lot of work done by various groups on new economy ideas, whether it’s participatory budgeting or worker-owned businesses, cooperatives, a whole range of, public banks. Now we have California the first state to do a public bank since North Dakota in 1919-20. So we’re seeing some movement toward the beginning I think of a vision that you’re describing and I think that’s a potential positive. The other thing that’s a challenge in the United States is the electoral system because right now so many activists are getting pulled into the 2020 election particularly through the Sanders campaign and a little bit through the Warren campaign and somewhat in the Green efforts but those are so squashed in the United States that they are hardly visible. But people are getting pulled into this and essentially has, we see the election system as a kind of a mirage democracy. It’s you know, it’s molded, manipulated and in the end never quenches people’s needs. And Sanders is interesting because if he loses because of the Democratic primary violation that occurred, that could create an eruption itself. People get angry about that and there’s you can see the Democrats working very hard to defeat him. Or if he wins, then you get a situation where wow you have someone in office you can actually push to try to get things done. That can, may cause eruption. So, win or lose, it’s like the Sanders campaign can have that kind of an impact.

CH: Yeah, although I mean, I think you could make a strong case that the nomination was stolen from Sanders in 2016. You did have people walk out of the Democratic National Convention, but it didn’t have that impact. And the New York Times has run more than one story where they are interviewing anonymous Democratic Party donors who are already organizing to make sure neither Sanders or Warren and I don’t trust Warren too much, neither Sanders or Warren get the nomination. I find it, I mean it is that question is whether you can work from within. I have long argued that the Democratic Party is not salvageable. It’s not reformable. It is not in any sense a real political party in a sense that the base has any real say. You know maybe the Sanders campaign will prove me wrong. I hope they do prove me wrong, but I don’t think so. And if Sanders did get the nomination, these rich donors who find Trump an embarrassment and repugnant and vulgar and inept have made it clear they will support Trump. If Sanders had won in 2016, we would have had complete paralysis because Sanders would have never had the base within either the Republican or the Democratic Party to push through the kinds of reforms he says he wants to institute. So I just don’t think at this point our system of what Sheldon Wolin called “inverted totalitarianism” is reformable, is salvageable nor do I think that electoral politics are going to bring about the kinds of radical reforms, especially in terms of our addiction to fossil fuels, that are urgently needed.

KZ: Oh, I certainly agree on that point. The Democratic Party I don’t think are reformable. I just think the Sanders campaign is kind of sucking up a lot of energy for activists right now, but no matter how it turns out, it could be a tool for us to actually take off again with another phase of uprising.

MF: Yeah. Well, you’ve written that, you know, it doesn’t matter, Democrat or Republican, it’s global finance, you know, that’s really behind the scene running things and can’t really be controlled by the political systems that we have. I think looking around the world at the various uprisings that are happening, what’s happening in Chile is really interesting because that really was put out as kind of a model of neoliberalism working in Latin America. And while there have been, you know protests going on particularly by students over the years what’s happening right now is I think stronger than what anyone predicted and Piñera just announced that he will put forward in April discussions and planning to talk about developing a new constitution, which is one of the major demands of the protesters in Chile. What are your thoughts on kind of what’s happening down there?

CH: Well, I think both the examples of Chile, Hong Kong, Lebanon are important because these people have taken to the streets to put pressure on the ruling elites, which is what we have to do. Yeah, that Constitution was written as soon as Pinochet took power by the so-called Chicago School, the global corporatist and neo-liberal, you know, Milton Friedman-type economists on behalf of the world’s ruling elites. And the hands of any Chilean government have been effectively tied because of that Constitution. You know, there’s nothing at this point that has proved to be an impediment on the further concentration of wealth in the hands of this global oligarchic elite. I mean eight families now hold as much wealth as 50 percent of the world’s population. We’re certainly seeing during the Trump administration an acceleration of the demolition of government controls and regulations, the further privatizing of public lands, public services, the assault on labor unions, the ability of global speculators to use trillions of dollars lent to them of government money at virtually zero percent interest to do things like buy back their own stock to swell their own compensation packages. The corporations are back to doing exactly what they were doing before 2008 with the you know structured asset destruction through inflation, stripping assets through mergers and acquisitions, raising levels of debt incumbency, which has created this huge debt peonage on the public, all the corporate fraud. I mean, Jamie Dimon is been indicted along with JPMorgan Chase more than any other bank in American history for this kind of fraud. I mean really sleazy stuff like having veterans sign mortgage loans and then jacking those loans up to amounts that they can’t pay. And so, you know, we’ve created another bubble. The Ponzi schemes are back in business and that is going to in addition to creating the income inequality and the monopoly power, it is going to create another financial collapse. When it comes, I don’t know what will trigger it, but it’s not a sustainable system and what will happen then? Will they go back and demand more money, trillions of dollars from the US Treasury? How will people react? I mean certainly people will react with a kind of outrage and anger but we’re headed for I think an extremely difficult period especially because they have stripped us of all of our rights: privacy, due process, habeas corpus and then of course now under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, can deploy the military into the streets. And they’ll use everything in within their power. They will not shrink from using coercion and force to maintain control. And it could get pretty ugly. I mean, we have a thousand of our citizens right now are shot dead by police, almost all of them unarmed, almost all poor people of color in American cities. That’s one every eight hours.

KZ: It’s a terrible, I mean the violence of the government is getting more extreme. You know, one of the challenges I also see on the left is understanding what’s happening around the world. The United States is going, gotten more aggressive and somewhat more sophisticated in its regime-change campaigns. Poor Bolivia, you could just look at that example, but like poor Hong Kong. There’s so many reasons for people in Hong Kong to protest. It’s a neoliberal capitalist paradise, I mean where there’s almost no enforcement of business crimes or finance crimes and people have a very wide, high wealth divide and inequality, expensive housing, low paying jobs with no future. It’s just a really hard situation for the vast majority of people in Hong Kong so that it’s understandable that it’s a big uprising. But then it’s so interesting to see the National Endowment for Democracy’s role in Hong Kong. They are spending more than a million dollars a year. They have been funding anti-China movements in Hong Kong since before the turnover of Hong Kong to China back in the 1990’s. In 1996, 9195, they started funding, 1997 was a turnover. And it’s so interesting, you see these Hong Kong protests that as I said, very legitimate reasons to protest the system, turning into “Trump save us” or anti-China stuff, singing the Star-Spangled Banner or putting up the UK flag in the legislature, “bring us back to colonialism.” Some aspects of that protest are manipulated and often the main message, which is I think the main problem in Hong Kong, which is the neoliberal capitalist Disneyland they have, gets lost in this whole anti-China stuff, which is really the US target is great power conflict. And China is number one on the list with Russia following closely behind. So this confusion that the US creates, we saw it in Nicaragua. We see it in Venezuela with any NED-funded protest creates problems on the left.

CH: Right. But you know, it was Lord Salisbury who said there’s there are no permanent allies, there’s only permanent power. So if you look at the whole human rights drive going back to Charter 77 founded by Václav Havel in Czechoslovakia. He was a non-person within Czechoslovakia. The only way you could hear Václav Havel’s voice was over Voice of America. I knew Havel and Havel was not a supporter of US imperialism. He was a socialist. And so in repressive situations, we’ll often make alliances. I mean all the points you make Kevin are true. I’m not arguing them. But the idea that any resistance movement is somehow untainted is wrong. I mean the whole Cold War you saw the Soviet Union, which you know had a very deeply repressive, anti-democratic system, nevertheless backing revolutionary socialist governments, you know such as the Cuban government, which I would support. So I think you know in terms of foreign affairs, there often are contradictions, moral contradictions as you correctly pointed out, but I don’t think that invalidates the uprisings themselves.

MF: Finally, for our last question: what are your thoughts or what would be your advice to activists going forward? The 2020s is going to be a time when major crises are really culminating, the climate crisis, economic crisis, the militarism, the repression, what would be your advice to activists to where they should put their focus or things that they should be preparing for?

CH: Well, I think Extinction Rebellion, which is this radical climate group that just had organized thousands of people to shut down city centers in about 60 cities around the globe has got it, that it’s nonviolent occupation of bridges and roads and roundabouts to paralyze commerce and to begin to force the ruling elites to respond to the climate emergency. I mean Extinction Rebellion is quite clear that they’re not interested in reform. They’re interested in rebellion. They are interested in removing the ruling elites from power. They will do that by breaking the law and by going to jail. I mean over I think a thousand people were arrested in London. And that’s where we really have to go. We have to use our numbers to paralyze the system. That’s the only hope that we have. And I think that’s what we have been seeing in countries like Lebanon, Chile, Hong Kong. You know but I think that is especially if we talk about the climate emergency alone, that is the only mechanism left to save us.

KZ: Well, you know, that’s definitely the perspective of Popular Resistance, that we’ve been working toward. So we appreciate your analysis of that. And thanks for taking so much time to talk with us. I’m sure our listeners will appreciate it. You can read Chris on Truthdig and watch him on RT. So if you want more Chris Hedges, he’s out there and available.

CH: Thanks, Kevin. Thanks, Margaret.

Read More

Report On The United Nations Climate Meeting: Capitalism Can’t Solve The Climate Crisis

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

The United Nations Conference of Parties, COP25, climate meetings to continue working on the Paris Climate Agreement ended recently. They took place in Madrid Spain rather than Chile because of popular uprisings against neoliberalism in Chile. We speak with Anne Petermann of the Global Justice Ecology Project. Petermann has been attending the COP meetings since the early 2000s. Her organization chose to stay in Chile. We speak with her about what is going on there and about the COP meetings – whether they are effective or not – and what people need to be doing to deal with the climate crisis effectively. Petermann explains why many of the ‘solutions’ being put forward are false and harmful paths. We also provide current news and analysis.

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Guest:

Anne Petermann is the Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and Coordinator of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees. She became involved in environmental issues while in college, where she studied wildlife biology and fine art. On Columbus Day in 1992, Petermann was arrested for the first time at an action commemorating 500 years of genocide in the Americas.

She co-founded the Eastern North American Resource Center of the Native Forest Network in June 1993, acting as its Coordinator until 2003. In the summer of 1993 she participated in an expedition to James Bay, Quebec to document the Cree resistance to the plans of Hydro-Quebec to dam a series of rivers in Cree territory. (NFN played a key role in a Vermont campaign on the issue, including organizing an international day of action against Hydro-Quebec on their 50th anniversary in April 1994. These efforts contributed to Hydro-Quebec abandoning its plans to build new dams in Cree territory.)

Petermann also co-organized the First North American Temperate Forest Conference in November of 1993. This conference included over 500 forest activists from across North America as well as indigenous representatives from six nations. The conference was organized to build bridges between these communities of activists and encourage greater collaboration. Dr. David Suzuki and Winona LaDuke were the keynote speakers.

From 1994 to 1999, Petermann organized NFN’s annual Forest Activist Training Weeks in Vermont where dozens of activists were trained in skills ranging from working with the media to fundraising to orienteering.

In 1996-1997 Petermann coordinated NFN’s involvement in a statewide campaign to stop timber corporations Champion International and Boise Cascade from spraying toxic herbicides on their Vermont forest holdings. NFN’s participation in organizing direct actions and protests on the issue was instrumental in the state of Vermont passing a moratorium on the herbicide spraying in early 1997. Subsequent to this decision, Champion International and Boise Cascade both left the state and the moratorium became permanent.

In October 1999 Petermann co-organized actions at the ministerial meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas in Toronto, where she hung a 600 square foot banner against the FTAA on the Toronto Convention Center where the Ministers were meeting.

In January of 2000, Petermann was arrested at the NH Democratic Campaign headquarters of Al Gore during an action in support of the U’Wa people of Colombia whose land was under threat from Occidental Petroleum. The U’Wa had threatened mass suicide if Occidental drilled on their land. Al Gore’s father had served on the Board of Occidental Petroleum and Gore himself held large quantities of stock. This action was covered nationally and triggered other such actions across the country. Occidental did not drill on the U’Wa lands.

From May 2000 to May 2001 Anne won a scholarship from the New England Grassroots Environment Fund to take part in a year-long fundraising course called The Complete Fundraiser, held by the Institute for Conservation Leadership.

In June of 2000 Petermann helped launch the first campaign against genetically engineered trees with a press conference in Boston during protests countering the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual conference. The press conference was covered on the front page of the Washington Post.

In July 2001 Petermann co-organized the first ever protest against GE trees at an International Union of Forest Research Organizations “Tree Biotechnology” conference in Oregon. That same month she edited and co-wrote a major groundbreaking report on GE trees entitled, “From Native Forest to Franken-Trees, the Global Threat of Genetically Engineered Trees,” which was distributed to thousands of people.

In September of 2001 Petermann co-founded a new organization, Action for Social & Ecological Justice, which took over the role previously played by Native Forest Network Eastern North America, and which was founded in response to the broadening focus of the resource center to include more Latin American and social justice issues. She served as the organization’s Development Director, fundraising for the organization and producing its publications.

In September 2003, Petermann co-founded Global Justice Ecology Project. In November 2003, she participated in and documented the mobilization against the Free Trade Area of the Americas in Miami, which was brutally attacked by police. In 2004 she participated in and documented the protests at the Democratic National Convention in Boston and the Republican National Convention in New York City, as well as anti-war marches in Washington, DC. Her photo from a massive women’s march in DC was used for the cover of Z Magazine.

In January of 2004 Petermann co-founded the STOP GE Trees Campaign, helping pull together a meeting with numerous groups from across the country to take unified action to stop the commercialization of genetically engineered trees.

In April 2004 Petermann spoke on the dangers of GE trees at the UN Forum on Forests in Geneva, Switzerland. She has since spoken on GE trees at UN events including the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Cartege�a Protocol on Biosafety and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at locations around the world. In 2006 she helped organize an effort at the UN CBD Conference of the Parties in Curitiba, Brazil that won an historic decision on GE trees from the UN CBD that warned countries of the dangers of GE trees and urged them to use a precautionary approach. In 2008 at the CBD Conference in Bonn, that decision was strengthened after Petermann co-led a campaign that won support from every NGO and Indigenous Peoples’ Organization, plus the entire African delegation for a suspension of all plantings of genetically engineered trees.

In October 2004 Petermann traveled to Durban, South Africa where she co-founded The Durban Group for Climate Justice which denounces carbon trading as a false solution to global warming.

In 2004 Langelle and Petermann formed a partnership with the indigenous Mapuche group Konapewman in Temuco, Chile, to work jointly to stop the commercial development of GE trees in Chile.

Anne’s writing has been featured in Z Magazine, Earth Island Journal and Seedling, among numerous others. She has been interviewed for print, radio and television from the Le Monde, to The Washington Post to NPR stations in Maine, North Carolina and Georgia as well as hundreds of other media outlets.

She has also presented the dangers of GE trees at dozens of meetings, conferences and events across the US, including two industry conferences, the Landscapes, Genomics and Transgenic Conifers Conference at Duke University in November 2004 and the Sustainable Forest Management with Fast Growing Plantations conference which was sponsored by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, the US Forest Service and ArborGen in Charleston, SC in October 2006. She has also presented at meetings in Brazil organized by Brazilian networks including the MST (Landless Workers’ Movement) and Via Campesina.

In 2013 Petermann helped relaunch the Campaign to STOP GE Trees with a new steering committee consisting of leaders in the global forest protection, bioenergy, Indigenous rights and radical activism communities.

In 2000, Anne received the national Wild Nature award for environmental activist of the year.

In 2002, the Burlington, VT resource center was awarded the highest honor of the Green Mountain Fund for Popular Struggle.

Anne also sits on the Board of the Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series.

TRANSCRIPT:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers

Kevin Zeese (KZ): and Kevin Zeese.

MF: Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance dot o– r– g. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at Popular Resistance dot o– r– g– and while you’re there check out our store where you can find Clearing the FOG gear like t-shirts, bumper stickers, water bottles and tote bags. So today we interviewed Anne Petermann from the Global Justice Ecology Project.

KZ: We talked to her about the recent COP meeting and why we can’t really count on foreign UN meetings to solve this problem. It’s been a failure ever since it’s begun.

MF: She talks about the failures of this current climate conference of parties meeting in Madrid Spain as well as what the climate movement needs to be doing now in order to take real effective action to confront the climate crisis. One thing that we didn’t get to talk about in the interview, we touched on it at the end, was Anne’s work in GE trees or genetically engineered trees. And she reminded us that right now the US Department of Agriculture is considering releasing these American chestnut, genetically engineered trees into the wild and they haven’t been tested to determine what kinds of impacts they’re going to have on the soil, water or on other trees. So she’s is urging people to go to the stop GE trees dot org website and sign their petition there to tell the USDA it’s not a good idea to release these until you know what the impact is going to be. Alright, so before we get to that interview, why don’t we talk about a few things that are in the news. Of course, recently everybody has been talking a lot about impeachment. And of course, the vote was last week in the House to impeach Donald Trump. We wrote about that in our newsletter this week at Popular Resistance dot-org.

KZ: That’s right. The impeachment has passed the House. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, has decided not to send it to the Senate yet. She may change her mind when she gets back from their Christmas vacation, but she’s demanding that the Senate put together a real trial, not a kind of preordained acquittal conclusion that Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate, has said he’s going to do. But we find the impeachment really to be a disaster for both political parties and really fruitless waste of our time.

MF: I think that’s the biggest thing. I mean it’s a big distraction. It’s basically, you know the Democrats picked an issue that nobody cares about. I mean President Trump has done all kinds of awful things: racism, bigotry, targeting Muslims, dropping bombs and imposing unilateral coercive measures on other countries.

KZ: Climate denial.

MF: Yeah, there’s so many things that the Democrats could have gone after and they picked this kind of weird, well, it’s weird in some ways because one they pick something that nobody really cares about, I mean whether Ukraine investigated Joe Biden or not, whether you know the Trump Administration withheld military aid to the Ukraine when you know, most people don’t really want us to keep providing military aid and stoking conflict.

KZ: Well, that military aid is also for a conflict with Russia. So it’s basically Ukraine is serving as a proxy for the United States in a military conflict with Russia and Trump held up that funding and weaponry.

MF: I would have actually supported that.

KZ: Exactly. I think a lot of people would say, okay good decision, let’s not fund another war. But then, of course, this whole research into Joe Biden and the appointment of his son Hunter who had no expertise in oil and gas to be on the board of the largest private gas company and make millions of dollars in income from that appointment.

MF: That’s the weird thing about it. Why would the Democrats actually pick a topic that could shine a spotlight on them and the fact that under the Obama Biden presidency the United States orchestrated a coup, a very blatant coup in Ukraine that actually brought to power these right-wing Nazi fascists? There’s been incredible violence in Ukraine because of the US interference there.

KZ: And you’re right, it was a blatant coup. I mean it’s the most blatant coup in US history until the attempted coup in Venezuela by President Trump, and it was blatant and we really put our people in charge. In fact, the president, “OU,” our Ukraine Insider, they called him OU,  had been an informant for the CIA for six years. Yats, who was the Prime Minister, was mentioned on a telephone call between two State Department officials as the person who should be prime minister. The finance minister is a former State Department employee. And then, of course, the gas company got Biden’s son appointed, a John Kerry aid appointed, a CIA official appointed to help to run that company. And then Monsanto got control of their agriculture, which is the most precious sector of the economy for Ukraine. So it really was a blatant and aggressive coup that brought corruption to Ukraine, an already corrupt country. The US added to it. Should Trump investigate that corruption? In fact, there’s a law that, a treaty between the Ukraine and the United States, that requires investigation of corruption because the US is funding Ukraine and so that is part of the law. But now I’m not defending Trump here. Trump is a despicable character and going to Ukraine to seek information on Joe Biden, who right now is leading the Democratic primary, is a pretty despicable act. It’s an inappropriate use of a foreign power for electoral campaign in the United States. So, which side are we on? Are we on the side of the Trump going after Biden and using pressure to get dirt on a political competitor or are we on the side of the Democrats trying to hide Biden’s corruption? I’m not on either side.

MF: Right. I mean you didn’t mention the fact that Joe Biden intervened in getting a prosecutor fired in Ukraine because that prosecutor was investigating his son’s involvement on the board of the gas…

KZ: And bragged about it.

MF: Right. So there’s corruption on both sides. I would say the Democrats and the Republicans have committed crimes there. This is not unusual. But what we talked about in the newsletter, we kind of go through, is during this impeachment process there was all of these other issues going on where the Democrats basically showed they’re in lockstep with Trump. One was in the House voting to pass the renegotiated NAFTA, which is really just as we talked about last week, it’s pretty much similar to the old NAFTA.

KZ: That’s right, the USMCA, they call it now, the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, and it is built on NAFTA. Trump campaigned against NAFTA. This was really an opportunity for the Democrats to say he campaigned against NAFTA and now he’s continuing NAFTA under a different name. Actually they could have pointed out his falsehood. The problem is these Democrats favor corporate trade. They favor putting corporate profits ahead of people and planet and that’s what NAFTA does and that’s what this USMCA will continue to do.

MF: Another was the military budget that was passed through the National Defense Authorization Act. All but I think 28 or 48 members of Congress voted for it and this basically gave a record budget to the military, 738 billion dollars.

KZ:  There were a hundred eighty-eight Democrats who voted for that military budget in the House, 37 in the Senate. They could not have passed it without the Democrat’s support. And so this massive military budget that not only continues the Yemen War, which is despicable, it also created this new space force, which is going to become the most expensive arm of the military. It’s going to create a space arms race that will make the past arms races between the US and China and Russia and other countries look like nothing. It’s gonna be the most expensive arms race in the history of the planet. And then they also continued the nuclear proliferation, which began under Obama, a trillion-dollar 10-year upgrade of nuclear weapons, continued under Trump, it continues now, So we have an ongoing massive military budget, the largest since World War 2, and we have arms races both in space and nuclear. It’s just a despicable budget. And they did that at the same time they cut back food stamps for up to 700,000 people.

MF: I know. And of course NATO went on, Trump was terrible at NATO.

KZ: He was embarrassing to the country.

MF: He was mocked and this is something that you know, we agree that NATO, it’s a relic, it’s old-fashioned. It shouldn’t exist anymore. It’s actually a problem because it’s like a military coalition in search of a war.

KZ: That’s right.

MF: And then all the regime change operations continuing to go on. The United States is continuing to try to get Juan Guaido in power in Venezuela and failing, Maduro is still the president of Venezuela. And now the US, you know is, it was discovered that there was an effort to maybe attack a military barracks, you know by Guaido’s people as well as they’re trying to push the National Assembly in Venezuela to allow Guaido to continue to be the president of National Assembly in violation of their law.

KZ: And of course, Bolivia happened is still going on during this time period of this impeachment process. So this is, all these regime change efforts are on autopilot. Of course, these are bipartisan positions. It’s a bipartisan military budget. It’s a bipartisan corporate trade agreement. It’s bipartisan regime change and we also had the COP meeting, the climate meeting happening during this and it’s a bipartisan destruction of the COP meetings. Every president from Clinton-Gore up through Trump have been a negative influence on solving the climate problem internationally. They’ve been, the US has been holding back efforts to actually put in place limits on greenhouse gases.

MF: Right and we’ll get into that in more detail in our interview with Anne Peterman.

KZ: And that’s why we call this impeachment indicting both parties because it showed the complicity of the Democrats with all these terrible policies, policies that actually helped get Trump elected. You know, he ran against NAFTA, ran against the regime change, ran against military intervention, all these issues he used in his campaign, the Democrats did nothing. They were silent. Instead, they focused on impeachment, on Ukraine, on escalating the war in Ukraine. It was it’s an absurd decision. That’s why you see impeachment getting less popular, Donald Trump getting more popular and now Donald Trump winning in a head-to-head race with every leading Democrat running for the nomination.

MF: Another thing that actually Chris Hedges brought up in an article that he wrote last September is that the impeachment is backfiring as he predicted that it would because basically Trump now looks like those Democratic elites have gone after him and he’s the victim. And he can use this to really stir up his base and Hedges predicts, you know, because Trump’s base, some of them are very strong gun advocates, they’re armed. We’re seeing you know counties now developing these Second Amendment Sanctuary areas and creating militias. He has a real fear that because members of Congress on both sides are failing to address the real crises that people are facing in their lives, economic insecurity, lack of access to healthcare, low wages, that this is going to create some sort of a backlash, a right-wing backlash that Trump will stoke through his rhetoric.

KZ: Well, the good news on that is that the Senate is not going to convict Trump. So that the right-wing armed militias won’t have anything to fight about because the Senate will protect Trump and we’ll go on to the election and we’ll see how this plays out in the election. Right now, it’s hurting the Democrats not helping them.

MF: I still think that Trump will use it as an issue to stir up his base even if it doesn’t go through. Let’s talk about a report by the Coalition for a Prosperous America. There was recently a jobs report out saying that unemployment had reached its lowest level in 50 years, but what the Coalition for a Prosperous America found is that although the number of jobs may have increased, the quality of jobs has greatly decreased and wage growth has declined.

KZ: I think this is a really interesting way to look at the employment sector rather than just the level of unemployment, which we’ve discussed in other shows, those statistics have been doctored by multiple presidents and really are hard to get much meaning out of anymore but looking at the quality of work what you’ve seen in the last 20 years really since the passage of NAFTA is movement toward lower quality work, lower wages, part-time work, service economy, not manufacturing, not industry and the people are not making as much money. They’re not happy with their jobs. More people are just opting out of employment. And so they’re looking at the quality of employment not just the number of jobs. And the number of jobs is very deceptive because someone has a part-time job or someone is working outside of their profession in a service job or a menial job. That’s counted as still employed.

MF:  Right or even somebody who’s been looking for a job for you know, a long amount of time and finally gave up on looking now, they’re not counted.

KZ: They’re not counted as unemployed even though they are unemployed. And so those unemployment figures are really doctored. And so we need to find better measures of employment in this country and really right now people’s jobs are of lower quality, lower pay and income has really not been rising since the 70s.

MF: Right, and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy did another study looking at the Fortune 500 companies and how much they paid in taxes last year. So that was the first year that Trump’s tax cut went into effect. They found that the corporate tax rate from the tax cut went from 35 percent to 21 percent. But then when they looked at what those companies were actually paying, they pulled out 379 companies that made a profit so that they should be paying a tax. They found that those who paid a tax, the average was 11% not 21 percent as the law said and that ninety-one of those 379 paid zero taxes. Another 56 companies paid less than five percent in taxes. The ones that paid zero taxes are companies like Amazon, you know, Jeff Bezos, the richest person in like the world, IBM.

KZ: Well, this was a study of Fortune 500 companies. That’s the 500 largest corporations in the United States and they’re all even with low corporate tax rates they’re into corporate tax avoidance. And if you combine this study with earlier studies that looked at the tax rates for the wealthy, which are now lower than tax rates for the working class, you see that this Trump tax deform, and I use that word deform intentionally, has produced the worst tax structure really in US history. We’ve never had a tax record this unfair to workers and this favorable to the already wealthy. It’s become a real oligarchic tax system that favors the biggest companies in the world as well as the wealthiest top 10% of the country.

MF: It seems like we should have a tax strike until these corporations and wealthy pay their fair share. Another interesting article that we posted on Popular Resistance talks about how fracking companies in the United States and we’ve known for a long time that because of the drop in prices that they were really moving towards stranded assets, well now those companies that are in debt are going into bankruptcy and in that bankruptcy, they’re actually allowed to continue operating but they’re not having the money that they need on hand to clean up what they’re doing and so once again, you know these companies are shifting that clean up onto the public.

KZ: And fracking is a very environmentally damaging approach to getting gas and oil that we shouldn’t be getting. In this era of climate change, we need to be stopping all fracking. And you know, one of the big problems with fracking is wastewater and how to deal with this polluted wastewater. We were in West Virginia, we saw them using this wastewater on the streets when it was snowing as a way to burn off the snow and but that’s not a very wise move.

MF: Well, there was a study recently that showed that surprise surprise when you put wastewater on the roads it actually has a negative impact on the environment. But I wanted to mention that the other ways they’re dealing with the wastewater is injecting it back into the well sites, that’s actually been correlated with earthquakes and then the really scary part, they’re talking about in four states the EPA allowing them to dump that frack water into the regular waterways. And so the states that are being considered are Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

KZ: Yeah, that’s where these companies are lobbying most aggressively and so, you know, you have some states like New York and our state Maryland that have banned fracking but they still use fracked gas. They still have fracked gas infrastructure. And so while they’re not fracking themselves, they are part of the problem because they are encouraging fracking to continue. This is not an economically sensible approach to getting energy. It’s not an environmentally sensible approach for energy. We need to really shift, every penny wasted on fracking is wasting money that should be going into building clean sustainable energy systems. I’m talking about batteries, solar, wind, thermal, ocean wave technology. We got to be moving aggressively in that direction and stop any fossil fuel infrastructure or production.

MF: Right. And of course, we need to be decreasing our consumption and making things more energy-efficient and we’ll get into that with Anne as well, but this past week, it was a learned that the United States military, more military have deployed from Iraq into the oil fields of Syria. The Pentagon reported that there’s no foreseeable end to US troops being in Syria, that they’re there to make sure that there’s no more rise of ISIS and that this is actually an ideology that they’re fighting, sounds like the war on terror, something that can be in ongoing indefinitely. Also the Pentagon officials, Mark Esper said that they are also trying to draw down some of the forces to be able to deploy them if needed for a great power conflict. I think that’s scary too.

KZ: And what you can see going into Syria are convoys of weapons and even tanks. Trump talked about withdrawing but was stopped from doing that by both the Democrats and the Pentagon and the warhawks on the Republican side. Now, we’re still in Syria. He’s moved the troops from one part of Syria where they were working with the Kurds to another part where the oil fields are and he was pretty open. He wants to put Mobil and Chevron in charge of those oil fields to so-called protect them. I almost had to laugh when I say that and now we’re seeing troops going into that area, we’re talking about tanks going into that area. You know, some commentators said the reason there are tanks there is because they foresee real battles with the Syrian government or even with the Russian government.

MF: The Russian government said that the US going there is tantamount to stealing oil and the Pentagon officials said we have no knowledge of any stealing of oil. But they’re basically, the United States is preventing Syria from having access to that oil, something that Syria desperately needs in order to get revenue to rebuild after the devastation of the US war on Syria.

KZ: Yeah, it’s one of those things: We don’t know anyone stealing oil. They just use a different word. It’s not stealing, we’re just taking it and profiting from it. We’re not stealing it.

MF: So another interesting area right now is Korea. China and Russia are putting pressure on the United Nations to relieve the sanctions on North Korea. North Korea gave the United States until the end of this year to come up with some sorts of concessions as those talks stalled. Nothing has happened on that front, but what’s also interesting is that at the same time that it’s happening in North Korea, the United States and South Korea failed to reach an agreement on how much South Korea would pay the United States for having US troops there. They call this the protection service fee. The United States is asking South Korea to pay five billion dollars a year. Their entire military budget is forty-three billion and they offered last year to pay just under 1 billion.

KZ: And this protection racket of the United States is one that happens all over the world. The Trump Administration is increasing the cost of US bases on foreign soil to the countries where they are based everywhere and it’s interesting to see South Korea standing up to this. North Korea seems really tired of these photo ops that accomplished nothing with Trump. There’s been no review of economic sanctions. Both Russia and China have been urging the United States to relieve some of these economic sanctions against North Korea. So far the United States is refusing, but these talks, which started out with some potential hope, seem now to be stalled and maybe an escalation in the wrong direction with North Korea doing more tests and with the United States doing more of its military exercises. So we’re back to where we were before their first meeting and unless someone makes a move, and it’s going to require the United States to make a move to actually reduce the pressure, reduce the economic sanctions as Russia and China and the world are hoping.

MF: Right and North Korea has said that if the United States doesn’t come through with something, they’re going to be forced to find a different path. We don’t know what that path will be. Some good news out of the International Criminal Court this week, the lead prosecutor Fatou Bensouda completed the preliminary investigation on Palestine, found that all the criteria under the Rome Statute were met for opening an investigation of war crimes in Palestine. Those criteria were that yes war crimes are being committed in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, that there are potential cases as a result of these crimes that would be admissible to the court and that an investigation would actually serve the interest of justice or under the Rome Statute, they use negative language. It would not not serve the interest of justice. And so right now she said that she’s going to the preliminary board to ask for the scope, not to ask them for permission, that she believes that the criteria have been met for an investigation, but she wants before that begins for the scope to be clarified.

KZ: And what she’s looking for is to make sure they have jurisdiction over the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Palestinian areas of so-called Israel. And so she’s being cautious because the United States has been threatening, John Bolton threatened to impose sanctions against the International Criminal Court if they proceed with investigations of Israel or the United States, and so she’s being cautious and making sure she has jurisdiction and the support of the ICC to go forward. I thought this was actually pretty good news this decision. We filed with, on behalf of the Green Party United States with a group of people, in The Hague a letter laying out our concerns about Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, their violation of human rights, their land theft, their ethnic cleansing and so we’re very pleased to see that the preliminary investigation resulted in the need to go forward with a full investigation. We hope the jurisdiction becomes clear so it can go forward and Israel can be held accountable.

MF: Well, the United States has already gone after Fatou Bensouda limiting her travel to the United States and threatening sanctions against actual individuals in the International Criminal Court. Let’s talk about some of the strikes that have been going on. The strikes in France are continuing. They are causing real mayhem with the Christmas holidays, travel is disrupted, people are unable to get to their destinations for the holidays and so what did Macron do, the what is he a millionaire, billionaire? He’s a pretty wealthy banker. Basically he said well, I’m going to make a real sacrifice. I’m going to give up my pension after I leave the presidency. That doesn’t do anything for the workers who are losing their pensions.

KZ: The millionaire banker. He also asked for a Christmas break on the strikes. I hope the answer to that is fat chance. I mean, this is the time you have to strike is when you have the power, when people really need to get around, you need to disrupt business as usual at a critical time for this kind of strike to be effective.

MF: Speaking of the holidays. We should remember that Chelsea Manning is still in jail. She’s been in jail this time since May for refusing to testify before the secret grand jury to basically phish for more information to be used against Julian Assange. She’s potentially looking at 18 months and more than $500,000 in fines. She’s being charged a thousand dollars a day in fines to try to coerce her to testify.

KZ: And that 18 months does not mean only 18 months because that’s the length of the grand jury. If they reconstitute the grand jury, they can call her back. She can refuse to testify again and be put back in jail. So she is being incredibly brave. We have on Popular Resistance articles about Chelsea Manning including how you can write to her. It’d be great for people to send her a letter, applaud her actions. Let her know that people are concerned and care about what she’s facing.

MF: Right and go look at that article because there are specific instructions of what you can and cannot send, how it has to be, you know, has to be on a plain piece of paper and things like that. So make sure you get that information before you write to her. But she did say that the letters that she’s receiving make a really big difference. Let’s also talk about Assange. Last week he had two hearings. On Thursday, he had a preliminary hearing for his extradition hearing which will occur at the end of February.

KZ: And that was done by a video link. That extradition hearing in February they say that could be what 3 weeks long and there’s many reasons for Assange not to be extradited beyond the fact that he shouldn’t be being prosecuted. But there are many reasons that have come up during this process for him not to be extradited as well.

MF: Well, his lawyer was arguing that there is actually a treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom that says that there cannot be extraditions for political offenses. And so the lawyer was arguing that this is actually a political case. I mean, this is really absurd. This is the United States basically charging someone who is from another country doing journalism in another country, you know outside of the United States, like the whole world is just our jurisdiction. We can go after anybody anywhere?

KZ: Yeah and you know, it’s a real shame that Boris Johnson won the election because his conservative government will be very likely to support the extradition. Although in the past, even Margaret Thatcher opposed some extraditions. So it’s possible that could change. There are very good reasons for this and no matter what happens at the lower court level, there will be reviews to higher courts and many extraditions can take, these processes can take many years and they can result in reversals of the initial decision to allow extradition.

MF: But if Assange is required to stay in jail for a very long time, that’s also risky. His health is seriously declining. Doctors wrote a letter to the prison urging that he be moved urgently to a university facility where he can receive appropriate treatment. Last week another letter from over a hundred doctors, this time saying he needs to be moved to a university hospital in Australia where he can get proper treatment and another letter was sent to the Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison telling him that this you know Assange is an Australian citizen and he really needs to intervene and these kinds of I don’t know what you would call it these cases outside of you know, this is an Australian citizen being tried in the UK. He didn’t commit a crime there.

KZ: And that letter came from scores of academics, writers, journalists, lawyers, activists. In fact, both you and I signed that letter. And it was definitely an effort to try to get Australia to act on behalf of its citizen, Julian Assange. So it does seem to be that there is more momentum growing for people calling for Assange to be released.

MF: Right, but a big disappointment was that the Committee to Protect Journalists did not include Julian Assange this year. This is a group that’s based in New York City and they perpetuated two myths about Assange. One, they said well, we can’t consider him a journalist because he is sometimes the source.

KZ: What does that mean? That is so absurd. I mean if a journalist is interviewed they can no longer be protected. How many journalists are interviewed? That’s like an absurd position and how you cannot say he’s a journalist. He’s not only a journalist, he’s a publisher. He’s an editor who has published some of the most important news stories of this century. He may be the most important journalist of this century.

MF: And he’s received all kinds of journalism awards as well as being a member of journalistic associations. I think that they were trying to insinuate that he actually did the hacking himself to get the information, which is one of the things that he’s being charged with, which has not been proven.

KZ:  Well, if they think that then they are sadly mistaken. That’s not his role in this. What I really think it is is that this Society represents mainstream media outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post, which used Wikileaks material, but they represent them and Wikileaks was a challenge to those commercial media outlets because Wikileaks democratized the media. It made everybody potential media. It allowed anyone who works for a transnational corporation or for a government agency to become a source, an anonymous source, and gave them an avenue in which to get their news out. And that is something that threatens the corporate media and I think that’s really what this is about. Assange and Wikileaks are a threat to the corporate media and the corporate media,  we know, which we report on all the time, does not do a very job good job of reporting independent from the government.

MF:  Well, the corporate media feels like they have this control over information and Assange basically allowed people to have access to information without going through the gatekeeper of the corporate media, but the other myth that they are perpetuating is that they’re saying that he just dumped material out there in an irresponsible way. That’s also false. The material was verified. It was vetted. It was controlled in how it was released.

KZ: And it was edited. He did not release everything he got right because he did protect people who could be injured if material was released. So it’s just everything they’ve said was false. We put on on the article about this on Popular Resistance how you can contact them. I urge you to contact this committee so they can hear from people how angry we are at them not recognizing Assange.

MF: Right. So this is called the Committee to Protect Journalists and their email is info @ CP J dot o– r– g. Now there was a second hearing on Friday. Assange almost missed that hearing. In fact, he missed the first time, they didn’t get him there in time to the place where he has the telecommunications meeting. But this time he was meeting with a Spanish judge over a Spanish corporation that was spying on him when he was inside the Ecuadorian Embassy and providing that information to the CIA.

KZ: Yes. This was a prosecution against David Morales who’s in charge of UC Global. He’s a former Spanish military person. He actually flew to the United States twice a month with a hard disk to give to the United States government of the monitoring of Julian Assange and they put in very high-tech, very detailed sound and video equipment so they could monitor every move of Assange. Assange actually started to have his meetings in the women’s bathroom as a way to try to avoid being monitored. But the reason this is such a big issue and initially by the way, the UK government refused to cooperate with Spain. They were forced to change their minds. And the reason they were initially opposing is because this could actually help Julian Assange not be extradited. The fact that his human rights were being violated indicates, is one more indication that he will not get a fair trial in the United States. The US was part of this aggressive and abusive surveillance. And so this trial of David Morales could make a big difference in the extradition of Julian Assange.

MF: Well, that’s all the news for now. Let’s get to our interview with Anne Peterman. We will take a short musical break and then we’ll be right back.

MUSICAL BREAK

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers

KZ: and Kevin Zeese.

MF: And now we turn to our guest Anne Peterman. She’s the executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project and the coordinator of the campaign to stop GE or genetically engineered trees. Thank you for taking time to join us, Anne.

Anne Petermann (AP): Thank you so much for having me on.

KZ: So we’re going to focus on the recent COP meeting on the climate. But before we get to that I wanted to talk about Chile since you were just in Chile and you know that the original plan was to hold the COP meeting in Chile. Can you tell us what’s going on in Chile and why the meeting was moved?

AP: Sure. Yeah, we had originally planned to go down to Chile. We had a team from Global Justice Ecology Project and Biofuel Watch that had planned to go down to Chile when the UN climate COP was still planned to be held there and had been making plans since September and August to do that. And then all of a sudden in October there was this huge, you know, popular uprising throughout Chile, which started because they tried to raise the Metro fares and the students weren’t having it. And they you know shut down a bunch of the Metros and rose up all over the country. And then were joined by people who were just tired of being squeezed by the neoliberal model that you know was imposed upon Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship. And it grew and grew and finally, you know, Sebastian Piñera, who is the President of Chile was still planning on having the climate COP there until a month beforehand and finally had to stop and say sorry, you know, we can’t host COP here anymore because there’s just too much. The protests were going on all over the place. It was chaos. So you couldn’t get around in the traffic. The Metros were shut and in addition to that the country was coming under significant international heat because of the human rights abuses against the protesters, which included the main one that was being complained about in addition to you know, tortures and rapes, the main one that was being complained about was that the police were using these shotgun style weapons to shoot what they called rubber bullets, but were in fact rubber coated metal pellets into protesters faces and as a result as of last count it was over 300 people had either lost an eye or being blinded by this, you know, really cruel ways that the police were addressing the protesters. So because of the human rights abuses and because of the total chaos in the country Piñera said, you know we can’t do this here anymore. But fortunately for them their former colonial power Spain said, oh, well, that’s alright we’ll do it here and as a bonus, we’ll let you continue to be the president of the COP. So that’s what happened. But we decided to continue to go to Chile because of what was happening there and we felt that being there was much more important even from a climate perspective than being in Madrid where it was moved to.

MF: Right, and can you comment on what the reaction was from the people in Chile about moving the COP? Is climate a big issue in these protests as well?

AP: Climate is an issue sometimes in these protests. It’s more though about the underlying causes of climate change. The underlying causes of people’s misery, the underlying causes of the racism against the Mapuche and the theft of their land. People are really bringing these issues together, all of these different issues and looking at their root causes, which in Chile is this grand neoliberal experiment, which as I said was orchestrated by the United States through the overthrow of Salvador Allende on September 11th 1973. So that’s really what people were protesting about. It was more of the root causes, not the specific causes. Although there were protests that had particular themes. There was a climate change themed protest that was a part of the global climate day of action. There have been several that were against violence against women because of the abuse of women by the police and the military. So there are themes but most of them are about the bigger picture.

KZ: Chile is so interesting because it had been seen as this like stable capitalist Latin American country where there were no protests and everything was going smoothly it seemed and then this explosion. S we could talk a long time about Chile, but I think we should probably move on to the climate issue. You’ve been involved in the COP meetings for many years. In fact, I think you were banned from some of them for some of your previous protests. Tell us about the COP process generally first and then we’ll get into this specific meeting and the failures that occurred there.

AP: Yeah, we started going to the climate COPs as Global Justice Ecology Project in 2004. And then we quit after the climate COP in 2011 in Durban and as you mentioned I was banned from that COP for doing an unpermitted protest and in fact banned from all future COPs unless I apologize. Well, let’s just say I haven’t done that and I don’t plan to. So it was a good excuse to stop going to them because they’re nothing but a corporate trade show and they don’t listen to the civil society voices. They don’t listen to the indigenous peoples’ voices. They’re there just to do the bidding of industry. This has been true since day one since you know, Al Gore came in with the Kyoto Protocol and introduced the carbon market so that businesses would have a scapegoat, a way out from actually integrating climate action into their business models. And now we have REDD introduced in Bali in 2007 and on and on and on, all of these fake solutions. And this year in Madrid, they were supposed to formalize what’s called article 6 from the Paris agreement, which is really about grabbing all of those market-based false solutions and offsets, carbon offsets and biodiversity offsets, and really framing them into the future of carbon action quote unquote in a way that would make real action almost impossible so it wasn’t passed, it didn’t go through and that’s what many people are saying is a huge victory. Although the fact that they even, people even consider these climate COPs something legitimate, I think is quite a tragedy.

MF: Let’s go back to something you mentioned, which is REDD, because I think a lot of our listeners may not be familiar with what the REDD program is. On its surface, it probably sounds appealing to people. Can you explain what that is?

AP: Sure, REDD was formally introduced into the UN climate process or let’s say announced to the world in Bali in 2007 and what it stands for is reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, which as you said sounds well, of course, we want to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, but what it really means is let’s figure out a way to use the forests as offsets so that industries that are polluting, especially big fossil fuel companies, don’t have to stop polluting. So what ended up being the model is that a company, we like to use Chevron in California as an example because they’re actually doing this, can make a deal with Chiapas Mexico and say we will buy the rights to your Lacandon Jungle and to what carbon is being stored there by the trees and use that to offset quote-unquote the emissions from our smokestacks. And that does injustice on so many levels. It’s hard to say them all but I’ll just name the top ones. For one, it means that their company in Richmond California keeps polluting. It means the community that’s surrounded by this refinery continues to pollute that community. They continue to suffer the impacts of this. It also means on the other side that the indigenous communities in the Lacandon Jungle are forced to leave because of this deal, because you know, God forbid they should use a tree in the forest, it would alter how much carbon is stored in that forest. And so, you know, they have to go. So it’s a crazy scheme that is all about business as usual, has nothing to do with saving forests and has everything to do with more and more profit making from climate change.

KZ: And earlier you described how the UN COP meetings are putting forward and considering all these false solutions and many like REDD sound good from their label and that’s also preventing consideration of real solutions. Can you talk about that a little bit more?

AP: Sure. Yeah, it’s getting to the point where what our organization, what Global Justice Ecology Project’s position is that we actually, we have to change the system. We have to change the economic system. We have to change the political system because until we do that, there cannot be any real solution. And an example of that is the idea that we can electrify our energy and our transportation and that that will solve climate change. And again, it sounds great, you know, we can have solar powered lighting and we can have electric cars and all of that. The problem is and this is coming from Chile We saw this in many cases firsthand, if not secondhand from folks who had just been there. It means gigantic mines, it means huge copper mines. It means lithium mines in the Atacama Desert. It means Cobalt mines. It means all of these mines that are causing massive destruction, displacing people from their lands. Also that we can build more windmills and have more solar panels. There’s no way that we can replace the amount of fossil fuels we’re using now with electrical alternatives, be they windmills or solar panels, because of the amount of rare earth minerals that are required, because of the amount of copper that is required. Each wind turbine requires tons of copper that has to get mined from somewhere and it’s almost all being mined in the global South. So it’s really just transferring the kind of ecological destruction that powers this economy from one resource to a different resource, all of it being extracted from the global South.

MF: That’s a critical point and I want to get into that more. But before we do that, let’s talk just a little bit more about this current COP. One of the other major issues that was being raised there and has been raised at many of the COP meetings is the issue of countries who are not the big polluters and are poorer countries, but are really suffering the impacts on a bigger level of the climate crisis continuing to push for a funding mechanism so that they can mitigate the climate crisis and adapt to what’s happening to them in their communities. But you know, once again, it sounds like the wealthy countries intervened and prevented that from happening. Can you comment on that?

AP:  Sure, I mean, yeah that happens, that’s been happening for years and years, countries demanding some kind of reparations for the climate debt that have caused, well, you know all the resources being sucked out of their countries and then in return they’re getting the worst impacts of climate change and they’re the least prepared for it because you know, they haven’t had all of these this access to technologies and monies that developed countries have. And so demanding some kind of balance there, some kind of payments so that they can be prepared, so that they can have a way to address these catastrophes when they come on their doorstep. But you know again we live in an economically unjust world. We live in a world under neoliberalism, under corporate globalization. And that’s, you’re never going to get economic justice under neoliberalism. You’re just not going to get it so first we have to change the system and that is why I’m so excited about what’s happening in Chile. People are not talking about reforms. They’re not talking about let’s just tweak the way things have been done. They’re talking about we want a whole new constitution. We want a whole new system. We want total transformation. We do not want any more reforms or any more business as usual and I think that is an example to the world globally of what we need. My heart goes out to, every time there’s a terrible storm in a country that’s not prepared to deal with it. You know, it’s crushing to watch it happen, but they’re not going to get the money from the United States and Europe. It’s just not going to happen. There are going to just slam the door on that every year at every single COP where it’s brought up.

KZ: Climate justice, which is really the issue we’re talking about as far as rich countries paying for the damage they’re doing to poor countries. Climate justice is so tied to economic justice. You say that in Chile and other countries challenging the neoliberal capitalist model is what you are hopeful about. We are too. And you also say that you can’t solve the climate crisis in the current economic and political system. What kind of economic and political system do we need to see in order to really confront the climate crisis?

AP: Well, I think one that’s completely decentralized. I mean that seems to be what appears to me anyway to be the most potentially effective is one where people control their own destiny in their own bioregions with solutions that make ecological sense for them. And I think that’s what La Via Campesina, the global peasants’ movement, has talked about that there’s thousands of solutions out there and those thousands of solutions are found in small autonomous or semi-autonomous communities that actually have some control over how they live. And you know, the most intact ecosystems remaining on the planet are on those lands of people, indigenous people and other people who depend on those ecosystems and have been left alone enough to be able to keep them intact. And so I think that’s a huge lesson that people can have a sustainable way of living on this planet when they understand that their future existence and their livelihoods and their well-being are dependent on that planet and that planet being livable to put it crudely.

MF: So for people who are living in the Western World, the more richer countries, what would your recommendations be to those people in terms of where they should be focusing their activities right now?

AP: Well, I think it would be the bottom-up organizing. You know, it’s not going to be quick. I don’t know how it can be fast but it has to be relatively, we have to be pretty speedy about it. We need to do it thoughtfully but as quickly as possible, but not rush it. Let’s say it that way. We can’t just dwell on hoping that the powers that be will do this for us. We can’t hope that the next presidential candidate will have a plan to do this for us. That’s not going to work. You know, in the system that we live under the powers that are the corporations and the power elite, they’re going to be deciding things from their lofty chambers and they’re going to decide how things are done unless people get organized from the bottom up. And once we can get organized from the bottom up, once we make business as usual impossible, then we can start to see change happen. We can start to see people getting together and figuring out okay, we can’t have single-person cars. So what’s going to be the alternative to that? We can’t have everybody having this. We can’t have everybody having that. So, how are we going to do this differently? How are we going to cut our consumption levels by 90% What does that look like? How do we make that happen? How do we grow our food locally? How do we turn you know rooftops into gardens? How do we you know, it’s, every bioregion is going to have to do it differently. Every community is going to have to figure it out for themselves. But the key is that it’s got to come from the bottom and we can’t keep looking to politicians to solve the problem for us because they’re just not going to do it.

MF: And what are your thoughts in terms of the United States dropping out of the Paris agreement? This is the last year that the US is going to participate apparently in the COP process. Unless something changes before the next meeting, the US will be formally, you know, withdrawn by then. Do you think that will have any impact on what’s going on in terms of that process given it’s a faulty process to begin with but will that have an impact?

AP:  You know that’s a hard question. I don’t believe in the process at all. I think the entire thing is illegitimate and is distracting our attention away from things that really need to be done. I think the time suck and you know a magician’s wand that is not allowing us to think in different ways. I see so many civil society groups and other groups go there and you know beg for crumbs from this body that you know, rarely dispenses anything but more of the same and so the idea that the US wouldn’t be there. I mean, yes, the US has been a gigantic obstructionist throughout these climate COPs starting with Al Gore and Obama was just as bad and it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a Democrat or a Republican. So if the US walks away, will that make a difference? It’ll make the difference to those who believe in the process, to those who are involved in the process. Will it make a difference for the climate? I really don’t think so. I think nothing’s going to make a difference for the climate until people get away from the UN process and start thinking about this for themselves.

KZ: Yeah. Really the US is almost representative of transnational corporations that have offices and headquarters all over the world, particularly in Western countries. And so if the US leaves, there’ll be still the national corporations there representing their financial interests and you know, it may mean that the US isn’t the boogeyman but the transnational corporations will remain.

MF: Or Australia or Saudi Arabia or Brazil…

KZ: Or even China. I mean China has its challenges too with energy for sure. And so these, the COP process I’m not sure it’s savable. But let’s turn to another topic. The one that you really have a lot of focus on which is the issue of forests and trees a lot of people look to that as a positive solution. Well first off, stop the negative destroying forests but then the positive solution of planting trees and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Tell us about your forest work.

AP: Sure. Yeah, this was a major theme at this year’s COP and has been a theme in the year leading up to this year’s COP of how we can protect forests and plant trees to deal with the climate change problem and start to draw carbon out of the atmosphere even. It really depends on your definitions. Of course, saving the intact forests that still remain is critical whether they’re primary forest or second-growth forest, if they’re native forest whether they’re degraded or they’re very strong, they need to be protected. And if they’re degraded, they need to be restored and you know, that’s something that local people who understand the forest can take responsibility for and can take control of and I think that would be really great. But you have to also look at the issue of so-called reforestation and afforestation and sustainable forestry management, which are these terms that are thrown around that actually can be very destructive. The UN food and agriculture organization, which has the official definition of forest, has a very bad official definition. A forest is basically a piece of land that has 10% tree cover regardless of what those trees are if they’re native or exotic or invasive. They don’t care as long as it’s a span of land that has 10% tree cover then it’s a forest. So what that does is opens the door when you say reforestation or stainable forest management, it opens the door for industrial tree plantations and these industrial tree plantations in the world are almost always made of exotic species. So in Brazil, for example, it’s exotic Pine and Eucalyptus, in Chile it’s exotic Pine and Eucalyptus. In many countries, they have oil palm. It’s just a really dangerous thing because these tree plantations, while it doesn’t sound like they would be a big deal, can be a very big deal for the people who lived on the land where the tree plantations are grown. Under Pinochet, for example, getting back to the Chile theme, when Pinochet came into power, first he nationalized all of the land and then he gave it away to timber companies. So the Mapuche people lost enormous areas of their ancestral lands under Pinochet and they’re still trying to get them back and much of this land was put into exotic Pine and Eucalyptus plantations, which has meant that these communities that live in quite green lush areas have limited access to water anymore because the plantations drink up so much water that these communities that are surrounded by them literally have to truck in water to have water throughout the year. And that’s insane. They used to have access to water year-round. Now, they don’t because of the tree plantations. They’re all so inundated with toxic chemicals and in 2017 in Chile these eucalyptus and pine plantations caught fire and resulted in the worst wildfires in Chile’s history and they caught other natural forests on fire. They burned down communities. I mean, they’re really horrible these tree plantations. So we have to be very careful when we hear these claims that you know, we can plant billions or trillions of trees and start pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and reversing climate change. It’s just you know, it’s really, it’s a dangerous proposal, if we’re not clear in what we’re talking about with these trees, what kind of trees, where they’re going to be going. And in addition, we have to be very careful with how much land is that going to take. Who lives on that land now? Where are those people going to be forced to move? There was a report that came out and I can’t remember the name of the report. We call it the trillion tree proposal. It came out over the summer that was saying that you know, all we have to do is plant a trillion trees on something like 1.6 billion hectares of land to start drawing carbon out of the atmosphere and reversing climate change. Besides the fact that the science isn’t there and the numbers don’t make any sense, this promotion of these tree plantations all over the planet was really disconcerting and we wrote a report about that, which we have on our stop GE trees dot org site, which is called trees to solve the world’s problems. If people want more details, they can read that report about why planting trees is not a great way to deal with the climate problem.

MF: Right. It really distracts the real work. It makes people believe that oh, we can just go out and plant some trees or we can donate to these groups that are planting trees and then we don’t have to do anything else, problem solved. I agree it’s a big detriment. Now you were part of a big convergence that took place earlier this year and it was a forest convergence in the United States. Can you talk about what that was and what came out of it?

AP: Sure. Yeah, we, Global Justice Ecology Project, and Shawnee Forest Defense and Indigenous Environmental Network came together. We actually thought of the idea a couple of years ago and it took some time to get it rolling. You know, we’re all very busy organizations, but we did finally make it happen over Columbus Day, quote unquote Columbus Day weekend, Indigenous Peoples Day weekend in October and it was really excellent. So people who come to, especially forest activists in the United States, who came to it said it was one of the best ones they’ve been to, one of the best convergence/conferences that they’ve been to and there was a couple of reasons for that. One, we were very intentional in making it as diverse as possible. So we didn’t want it to just be a bunch of forest activists talking, we didn’t want it to just be climate activists talking. We wanted a broad diversity of organizations representing different issues. So there were a lot of Indigenous people represented there. We had Mike Africa from the MOVE family represented there, pipeline activists, climate change activists, forest protection activists of all stripes, small farmers. We just tried to make it really diverse and that paid off. People appreciated that. The other thing that we did that made it different was we made sure it wasn’t just talking heads. It wasn’t just people up there blah blah blah, you know you sit for a few days and listen to workshops and then you go home. These were intentionally designed as strategic action sessions. So we had a couple of panels just to kind of warm people up to the ideas and then people went off, broke off into groups to talk deeply about the issues that they were interested in. So there was one on false solutions to climate change and how to address them. That was one that I was part of. There was one about direct action. There was one about infrastructure projects including mega-dams, and then there was one about basically dealing with public lands, forests and public lands. So people in those different groups got to talk over the course of three days about how to strategically organize themselves to have better coalitions, better networking, better communications and more common goals, common objectives in their work and people were just, they were so happy to have that opportunity to get together nationally, which happens very very infrequently and talk strategy for that long, which almost never happens. You know strategy is one of those things that gets pushed off to the very end and maybe gets a couple of hours if you’re lucky and instead we framed this whole event around building strategies. So that was the idea was we would build, people would build new strategies, cutting-edge strategies, diverse strategies that would help us move past the point where we’ve been stuck in the United States for so long.

KZ: That sounds like a great event. You know, one other issue I just want to raise in our last point here about US progress is this Green New Deal issue. I mean, this is something the global greens started talking about in 2006. Howie Hawkins ran on it in 2010 for Governor of New York. Jill Stein ran on it twice. Finally, AOC picks it up and it becomes an issue that the Democratic party is talking about. We see the corporatists in the Democratic Party pushing back on it and trying to stop it. What do you think is the potential of actually a Green New Deal and of this political discussion?

AP: I think the idea was really good and that, you know, the idea of transforming things and coming up with a new way of addressing the problems that we’re facing and new ways of earning livings and so on was a really good one, but I think it’s completely been co-opted at this point. The UN was talking about a Green New Deal over in Madrid. Certainly, they weren’t talking about anything that you know Howie Hawkins and the Greens were talking about. So unfortunately too here in the US what was put forward politically was so unformed that I think it’s kind of… It’s hard to really get behind without knowing the details and I know a lot of people have been trying to get those details sorted out because you know saying that we need to have green jobs can mean a million different things if you don’t have the details nailed down. So, you know, it would be great if it was part of this systemic transformation thing. If it’s just going to stay in the world of Congress, you know, I’m not that hopeful because it’ll get watered down and bought out and you know sold down the river as we’ve seen so many good initiatives do but yeah, I mean I’m glad that people came up with the idea. I hope that there’s some way that people can salvage it from being totally stolen away from them, which is where I see it headed right now.

MF: Yeah, I agree. It’s going to be really critical that we define clearly what we mean by the Green New Deal. Well, thank you so much for taking time to talk with us today, Anne. Where can our listeners follow your work and support what you’re doing?

AP: Sure. Yeah, we have a website which is Global Justice Ecology dot-org. So yeah Global Justice and the word Ecology dot org, and otherwise if they’re just interested in the GE trees issue, they can go to stop GE trees dot-org.

KZ: Fantastic. Thanks a lot for taking the time today. We really appreciate it and hope to talk to you again soon.

AP: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I’m really really happy to have talked to you again.

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Corbyn’s Loss: What It Means for Sanders And Where The Left Goes From Here

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

On December 12, Jeremy Corbyn, head of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, suffered a great defeat as the conservative Boris Johnson became the new prime minister with a gain of 47 new seats. Labour lost 59 seats. After years of austerity, including cuts to the National Health Service, Corbyn offered a strong manifesto outlining his program for change. We speak with Dr. Leo Panitch, a professor who has studied the Labour Party and left politics since the 1970s. Panitch explains what happened in the UK election and what it potentially means for Senator Sanders’ run for president in the United States. He also speaks more broadly about what the left needs to do to build power to the point of having the capability of instituting a progressive platform.

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Guest:

Dr. Leo Panitch is Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University. Editor of The Socialist Register for 25 years, his many books include Working Class Politics in CrisisA Different Kind of StateThe End of Parliamentary Socialism, and American Empire and The Political Economy of Global Finance.

TRANSCRIPT:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Clearing the FOG is a project of popular resistance dot o– r– g. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at PopularResistance.org and while you’re there, check out the store where you’ll find Clearing the FOG t-shirts, bumper stickers, water bottles, and tote bags. So today we interviewed Leo Panitch. He’s a professor of political science and he’s been studying and following the Labour party and Left movements for a long time.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): It’s such an interesting election in the UK, both the impact on the Brexit issue, on the future of the Labour party, on whether Scotland will be independent, whether Ireland will become a united country. Lots of issues really in play in that last election.

MF: That’s right. And we talk about their implications for the upcoming presidential election in the United States as well as what the Left needs to be doing around the world. So stick around for that interview with Dr. Panitch. Let’s start out with some things that are in the news. This past weekend, there was the 12th annual meeting of the American Muslims for Palestine in Chicago. They’re pushing members of Congress to make Palestine a priority issue.

KZ: Palestine deserves to be a priority issue. It has a major impact on US foreign policy in the Middle East and around the world. Our relationship with Israel is critical, not just for people in Israel, not just for the Palestinians who are devastated by Israeli policy, but also for foreign policy of the United States.

MF: And they pointed to, you know, real concerns over the recent bombings in Gaza and now the United States designating that Israeli settlements are not illegal anymore. So this is really time to address the rights of Palestinian peoples and the US, as you said, is largely responsible for enabling Israel to do what they do. Another important conference that took place recently was the first Making and Unmaking Mass Incarceration at the University of Mississippi. This is a group that is starting to organize around prisoners rights to an education and the way that sometimes they’re able to start getting a college education while they’re in prison, but then once they get out, they’re not able to continue their studies because they’ve been in prison. And also starting to do real campus organizing across the country.

KZ: Well, with mass incarceration totaling more than a million people in the United States behind bars, five percent of the world’s population here, but 25% of the world’s prisoners, it creates all sorts of problems. We have a punitive mass incarceration system, not one that helps people develop, and so this issue they’re focusing on is one of many important issues that need to be focused on to deal with this incredible mess of mass incarceration.

MF: So if you’re interested in this issue, check out the Making and Unmaking Mass Incarceration project. Also, this past weekend was the end to the climate talks, the COP 25 talks in Madrid Spain. Those didn’t turn out so well.

KZ: They ended in complete and utter failure. They were supposed to put the details on the agreement from the Paris COP meeting. Of course, the United States is withdrawing from the Paris agreement and that causes some confusion but there was just an inability of countries to come together to really come up with real limits on climate pollution.

MF: Yes, but that was really the rich countries that were problematic and I saw a Finnish environmental, I’m not sure if he was a minister or what, on Twitter talking about that it was really the United States, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Australia that were leading, you know, the undermining of the COP conference. Many of the countries around the world were hoping that they would get dedicated funding from the wealthy countries to help them deal with the climate crisis. They’re anticipating increases of 300 to 700 billion dollars a year of expenses because of the climate crisis. That didn’t happen. Rich countries refused to increase funding.

KZ: And that funding is the essence of climate justice. Sometimes people confused. What is climate justice? Climate Justice is when the poorest countries in the world suffer the greatest consequences from the climate crisis and the wealthiest country that caused the greenhouse gas pollution, they are not suffering greatly as these poor countries and not providing the funds for these poorest countries. That’s the essence of what climate justice is.

MF: And there was a big push, as we’ve seen for many years at these COP meetings, for market solutions. Corporations looking for ways that they can profit off of the climate crisis. These solutions have not been proven to deal with the real crisis. And then also this is the United States last year of being a participant in the COP meetings. By the time of the meetings next year, unless something changes, the US will be fully withdrawn from the COP process. The United States had the nerve to be asking for a waiver so that it couldn’t be held accountable for its climate pollution.

KZ: Well, the US is certainly a climate criminal country and it’s not just been under Trump, it’s also been under President Obama. President Obama undermined both the Copenhagen and Paris agreements, not putting in place real limits on greenhouse gases and Trump, of course, has not only withdrawn from the climate accord, he’s also denied climate change is a problem. So now everything gets pushed to Boris Johnson in Glasgow next year at COP 26 and how will that go? You know, with Johnson is the host, we can’t expect much leadership from that part. And so it’s going to be a challenging to get things done in the next COP meeting.

MF: Well, there were lots of protests at this COP meeting, especially by indigenous and youth going into the COP meetings and doing sit-ins and really protesting the lack of action. They’re not giving up even though they’re preparing for next year. They’re going to keep pushing throughout the year for what’s necessary.

KZ: And that’s what has to happen, you know. The United States needs to lead on its own toward a clean energy economy and it’s going to take these kinds of protests. It’s going to take people pressuring all politicians across the board. It has to be made a priority issue and we can’t wait for the COP, international agreements to solve this problem. The US has to solve its own problems and become a leader. Right now, we’re an anchor. We are misleading on the world as opposed to leading the way we should be.

MF: Well, if we all do our work by the time of the COP 26 in Scotland, leaders will have no choice but to take real climate action. That’s our task for the next year. Let’s talk about the US Mexico Canada Agreement, the renegotiation of NAFTA or some people refer to it as NAFTA 2. Nancy Pelosi has finally gotten what she needs so that she can move ahead on this Trump-negotiated trade deal.

KZ: What did she need?

MF: Well, she needed approval from Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, and so he gave his blessing. That means that so-called Progressive Democrats now have cover from labor to vote for this agreement. It really, when you read Nancy Pelosi, a lot of it is about the elections, her thinking that this is going to help the Democrats in the election.

KZ: It’s a very interesting line of political thinking that people have lots of doubt with but the real problem is this is not really any different from the previous agreement. I mean, there are different industries that benefit, different industries that lose, but it’s basically NAFTA, same basic formula of corporate trade putting corporate profits before the people’s necessities and the needs of the climate. And it’s not a fundamental shift in any way, and even though Trump ran against NAFTA, this is just NAFTA 2. He’s helping different industries, but it’s basically the same framework as NAFTA and what TPP was going to be that President Obama was pushing.

MF: That’s right. Well, this is really what, you know, the hypocrisy of it is that you know, President Trump ran on a platform complaining about what these trade agreements had done to the industrial, you know, workers in the United States and promising to renegotiate a better deal for them. But this is not actually going to be a better deal. The Economic Policy Institute looked at it and although we haven’t actually seen the full text of it yet, they’re estimating a very small increase in jobs and a really negligible impact on the Gross Domestic Product. And we understand, and we’ll have to see once we are able to see the text, that they were putting in a lot of the language from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is language that’s going to protect patents of things like medications so that they’ll be more expensive, protecting the pharmaceutical company profits. It would be ways for polluting corporations to move to Mexico and continue to pollute. So I think a failure of the trade movement was thinking that they could get a deal that would actually, you know, be a step forward and instead of coming out strongly and saying this whole model is wrong and we need a different type of trade model.

KZ: And we tried to push that idea in our trade campaign Trade for People and Planet, which you can find on Popular Resistance dot org. We tried to push the idea but there was no traction in the trade movement for that. The groups also involved in trade just were going to push for a better deal. They thought that was the way to stop it or get something. And sadly I, two points: one is that Trumka’s approval of the deal came after Mexico supposedly agreed to inspections by the United States to ensure that labor standards are being met. The surprise was after Trumka gave his approval, Mexico said we never agreed to that and they’re pretty angry that that’s been written into the agreement unilaterally by the United States. And so I don’t know how that’s going to play out in the long run or in the short run even. The other thing is that the impeachment effort to remove Trump from office really seems to give cover to this corporate trade agreement. It allowed Nancy Pelosi, she felt she had a need to say we’re still doing work while we’re impeaching Trump. And so they need to pass this to show they were doing something and that they could still work with Trump while they were in trying to impeach him. This is a total corporate sellout. It’s a gift to Trump. I think he will benefit from this politically more than the Democrats will but that’s the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and this really failed impeachment process, which we could talk about some other time.

MF: So the USMCA, US Mexico Canada agreement, is supposed to be voted on before Christmas by the House and it will have to go to the Senate and then Trump will sign it after that. Let’s talk about another vote that happened, and this was a real victory for the people in the community of Burleigh County North Dakota. The County Council was moving to bar refugees from being able to come to Burleigh County and settle there. There was a very strong turnout of residents of that county, very strong push back against that and in the end, they voted 3-2 to allow 25 refugees in. This is, sadly, much lower than the hundreds who typically come there every year, but at least it prevented them from banning them outright.

KZ: Yeah, people stood up and said no and that’s a good thing and the refugee crisis right now is a record-setting refugee crisis with many reasons, a lot, coming from the United States: the Middle East Wars, especially the Syrian conflict that Obama escalated, and of course the Honduras coup that Obama completed has led to migration from Central America to the United States. And so while we’ve caused these mass migration problems, really a migration crisis, the US is restricting migration into the United States.

MF: Let’s give an update on our case, the Embassy Protection Collective. We were arrested with two other people in the Venezuelan Embassy this past May 16th after being in there for 37 days with the permission of the elected Venezuelan government protesting the US coup against Venezuela. We had our hearing, another hearing, on December 13th, and it was a big disappointment for us.

KZ: Four of us who are facing federal charges for interfering with the protective function of the State Department at the Embassy and these are federal charges. We face up to a hundred thousand dollars each in fines and a year in jail. You can read about it on Defend Embassy Protectors dot org. The hearing we had last week was about discovery where there were three areas that we were looking for documents on discovery. One was that we wanted to show that even though President Trump is saying Guaido is President, he knows that Maduro is President because they are negotiating with Maduro on multiple issues. One example is there is a US Embassy in Caracas and Switzerland is going to be the protecting power for the United States in that Embassy and an embassy in Washington DC, Turkey was going to be the protecting power for the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown in Washington DC and there were negotiations going on to make that happen.

MF: With the Maduro government.

KZ: Well they were not negotiating with Guaido. Guaido can’t authorize a protecting power. He has no authority. So Trump is saying one thing and that’s important in the case because the justification for entering the embassy in violation of the Vienna Convention, which does not allow the host country to enter foreign embassies, the justification was the fake Ambassador Carlos Vecchio, a former oil executive who’s wanted for serious crimes in Venezuela and fled that country but now is appointed a fake ambassador by the fake interim president Juan Guaido. Vecchio said to remove us. That was the justification. So it’s central to the whole case and central to our understanding why we were not violating the law. The second thing we wanted to show was that the US government knew that we were in the embassy legally. They knew we had the permission of the elected government of Venezuela and they had discussed how they could go in, what would happen if they violated the Vienna Convention. That was all discussed. The judge didn’t allow any of that to be shown. And the third thing was because interfering with protective functions of the State Department is the charge, we want to have documents showing that we actually cooperated with the police at key times when this coup mob outside was breaking down doors, breaking into the embassy through windows, breaking windows, damaging the outside of the building. We called on the police to protect the building. We worked with the police to get people who broke into the building out of the building. So she didn’t want any of that in as well. So the jury is not going to be allowed to hear those key areas of interest when we get to a jury trial, but we’re still fighting. To follow that, go to Defend Embassy Protectors dot-org. You can get involved, get informed and help us in this challenge to end this coup in Venezuela.

MF: Let’s do an update on Venezuela because some interesting developments there. One thing is that there are reports that Juan Guaido is not doing so well. He is the president of the National Assembly. His term is ending in January and the opposition has really divided and divided against him. They’re not supporting him.

KZ: Well, there are so many instances of corruption around him and incompetence and then he has recently appeared drunk, which is rather embarrassing. He’s a failed coup fake president, a failed puppet for the United States and the people who used to be his allies, other right-wing opposition lawmakers, are calling him on his corruption regarding being tied to drug traffickers, about money being misappropriated that was intended for humane purposes in Venezuela being used for parties and activities in Colombia by his allies.

MF:  Mismanaging an oil company and basically running that into the ground and now they’re concerned that the other oil companies including Citgo are similarly having problems.

KZ: He’s not even allowed to run for office again because he’s violated the law by taking foreign money while in the National Assembly. That’s not allowed in Venezuela. So he’s already been prohibited from running again. So, it’s going to be very interesting in January what happens. There’s a going to be a National Assembly election in 2020 and in January the assembly will pick its new president. So it’s gonna be very interesting to see how this develops but this is a failed coup. It fails and fails and fails over and over again.

MF: Well, you mentioned money. In fact, Grayzone Project revealed that USAID money is being used to actually pay Juan Guaido and his ambassadors and his staff, pay their salaries, their travel, their expenses. That’s our taxpayer money that should be going actually to provide humanitarian aid.

KZ: That was 40 million, 42 million dollars intended to go to Central America, people who are struggling, who needed humanitarian aid.

MF: Right and it’s going into the pockets of Juan Guaido and his folks. The Venezuelan government uncovered another plan by Juan Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez. They’re both part of the Popular Will party in Venezuela. They were going to bring in hundreds of guns from Colombia and overtake a military barracks.

KZ: And Leopoldo Lopez, for those don’t know, is a longtime US ally, educated in the United States. He was involved in the 2002 coup with Chavez, he was involved in the street barricades in the 2010s and he is now involved with Juan Guaido. And so this was another failed terrorist plan that was uncovered in time to stop it. There’s been multiple examples. In all these cases, the Venezuelan government presented documentation to show they were real, multiple examples of terrorist plans being hoisted on Venezuela by this opposition that’s failing and they have to do it because they can’t do anything else.

MF: They can’t win at the ballot box. They’re not able to unseat Maduro because he has strong support. Let’s talk about some positive developments in Venezuela. Russia came through with a huge delivery of insulin, something that Venezuela has struggled with being able to purchase medications because of the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States.

KZ:  And it’s important to know that Venezuela used to have one of the best pharmaceutical, the best pharmaceutical industry in Latin America. They had something like 40 pharmaceutical companies that were manufacturing medicines in Venezuela. The people of Venezuela had good access to medicine but because of the illegal unilateral coercive measures, these sanctions that we call them, that pharmaceutical has been destroyed and as a result, 40,000 people died in the last several years as a result of US sanctions.

MF: Right, that was just over a two-year period. Also the civilian militia in Venezuela is now up to three point three million people. These are people who are trained to defend their country. They are now being deployed to provide assistance in areas of the country that they need it, particularly in making sure that they’re producing and getting food to people because of the blockade.

KZ: And that 3.3 million armed and trained civilian militia is one of the reasons why the United States cannot invade militarily. Donald Trump has been talking about invading them since 2017 and they’ve been preparing and they’ve made it really impossible for the United States to go into Venezuela. It would be a very costly loss for the United States. It would be very destructive to Venezuela. It would cause a lot of problems in Colombia and Brazil, which already have very weak governments that are struggling against popular resistance. For them to get involved in a US war would be a major problem.

MF: It’s a big part of why Venezuela has succeeded and you know stopped all these efforts from the United States to intervene, unlike Bolivia where the United States assisted in a coup, a very violent coup to overthrow Evo Morales recently. But that’s not stopping the people in Bolivia from organizing to fight back.

KZ: In fact, it is doing the opposite. It’s getting them organized and unified to fight back.

MF: That’s right. They just held a conference, the Movement Towards Socialism or MAS Party, held its conference where they dedicated themselves to uniting not only as a party but also with social movements and other movements within the country. They’re preparing for elections that will be coming up early next year.

KZ: March.

MF: Right. And they chose Evo Morales to lead the campaign for those elections. They have several people as potential candidates to run for president. They’re still trying to figure out who that would be but you know, they are organizing and they’re meeting again in two weeks to keep organizing.

KZ: And Evo Morales participated in that convention. You look at the video of that convention, it was a big convention, very excited people, really organized and mobilized to take back their country. It’s very exciting to see that developing. It’s going to be a very tough, the election. How are they going to make sure that that election is a legitimate election? If it is, they will win.

MF: And by legitimate you mean by not having outside interference by like the United States or the opposition. Sometimes what we’ve seen is opposition threatening violence against people, preventing them from being able to vote. So there’ll have to be big eyes on that election to make sure that doesn’t happen.

KZ: Well you saw in Honduras when they had a re-election of their coup president. He lost in the election. The OAS initially said, wow, there’s some serious problems with this election. They waited two days and all of a sudden, the OAS was on the side of the coup president. So there are lots of ways to manipulate and steal elections. And they’re aware of this. They’re talking about how they are going to prevent the election from being stolen.

MF: Another thing they’re talking about is bringing the coup president Jeanine Añez to trial because she basically gave the police and military carte blanche to go out and be violent, to injure and murder people, and has been very repressive and so they want to hold her personally accountable for that.

KZ: And she’s one of the people seeking to run for the presidency. Among the other people running, there are major divisions. Luis Fernando Camacho is one of the people who wants to run, He’s a Christian fascist very allied with the United States. He was in the United States recently where he was protested very aggressively by our allies pointing out what he’s done in Bolivia. He evidently taped a conversation of another person running for president and released that and it was all about bribery and kickbacks and all sorts of corrupt issues. And that was all made public. So now the two of them are fighting. There’s major divisions among the opposition.

MF: So we’ll keep our eyes on that. Another thing that happened recently sadly, it was the vote on the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, now giving once again a huge amount of money to the Pentagon, 738 billion dollars. 180 Democrats voted in favor of that, only 48 members of Congress voted against it and we continue to increase our military spending at the same time that the Afghanistan Papers are coming out showing the mismanagement and corruption and how that money is literally going into the hands of enriching people and that people in charge don’t know what they’re doing.

KZ: And those Afghan Papers show that from the beginning of the Afghanistan War and throughout its existence, the military has had no confidence in winning that war, no confidence in how to fight it, no confidence in any strategy. I remember when you and I were outside the White House protesting and Obama was inside saying how great it was going, how we’re turning the corner and we were outside with a lot of veterans and other protesters calling for an end to the Afghan war. And there were more than a hundred people arrested at that protest.

MF: that was actually nine years ago this week, protesting that as he, like you said, was inside telling the press how great it was going. Either he knew that it was not going well or he was being misled because what the Afghan Papers show and they were interviews with 400 members of the military, USAID and others, where they all said, we would lie and say that what was happening was positive even though we knew it was not going well.

KZ: You were arrested at that protest.

MF: Along with over a hundred other people.

KZ: That’s right. I was the one outside taking care of the jail support.

MF: Thank you for doing that. That’s a key role. Let’s talk about what’s going on in Lebanon because we posted this week on Popular Resistance, and you can find the originals on Grayzone Project, a series of articles by Rania Khalek exposing the US’ role behind what’s happening with the protests in Lebanon and how the US through it’s agencies that we always talk about, National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, are turning the protests, these legitimate protests, into anti-government anti-Hezbollah protests.

KZ: And Rania is in Lebanon, so she’s reporting from Lebanon. A lot of the pictures in the article are pictures that she’s taken, videos that she’s taken. She reports on NED and its influence on the NGOs, the non-governmental organization sector, and how those are playing a role to shift the emphasis away from the legitimate issues the people of Lebanon have. There’s such a very corrupt, deep corruption, deep inequality, lack of public services, lack of electricity, lack of sanitation, all sorts of serious problems and the US is trying to manipulate those legitimate protests into being protests against Iran through Hezbollah. Hezbollah has the second largest Shia party in Lebanon. The US is trying to use these protests to really kick Hezbollah out of the Lebanese government.

MF: And of course, Lebanon has stood up to Israel and the United States wants a government in there that will be more friendly to Israel as well.

KZ: And having Iran in Lebanon is also not good for Israel. This also plays into the whole  US-Iran conflict because one of the fears of the United States in threatening Iran and militarily attacking Iran is Iran has connections all over the Middle East and could strike back in multiple places. Lebanon is one of those key areas.

MF: Let’s also talk about the Hong Kong protests. They’re escalating even more into becoming more terroristic. They’re finding IEDs. They’re finding weapons caches. They found thousands of homemade bombs, you know, petrol bombs at universities and how you know this is really a danger to the people in Hong Kong.

KZ: These started out as nonviolent protests, big mass marches protesting against the extradition law that was being proposed. We’ve talked about that before. We have a lot about that on the website. If you want to know more about that from Popular Resistance. This morphed into protests with a lot of pretty serious violence against passers-by, against police, against reporters, really serious violence.

MF: And very serious anti-China racism.

KZ: There are many legitimate issues in Hong Kong to protest. It’s a neoliberal capitalist nightmare for most people, a very big wealth divide, high levels of poverty, long hours of work, good reasons to protest. But the US has been trying to manipulate these protests into anti-China protests. Now China doesn’t really change the economy of Hong Kong. It can’t do so until 2047 when their agreement with the UK and the transition period ends. So this is really a Hong Kong economy run by the Hong Kong people and yet the US has manipulated this into an anti-China protest.

MF: Well, that feeds into our national security strategy of great power conflict. Let’s turn quickly to France. The Yellow Vest movement joined with the labor movement. They’re now in their 12th day of strikes. This has been about Macron’s pension proposal and as a result of these protests, the chief of the pensions resigned amidst a corruption where they discovered that he has not reported the equivalent of a hundred twenty thousand British pounds of overpayments.

KZ: Yeah. No, it’s a very serious general strike building on months and months of Yellow Vests protests with labor and the Yellow Vests uniting into this ongoing general strike that’s really shutting down a lot of transit through the country and having a big impact.

MF: Let’s get to our interview with Dr. Leo Panitch. We’ll take a short musical break and we’ll be right back.

MUSIC BREAK

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And we’re joined now by our guest, Professor Leo Panitch. He’s a professor emeritus at York University in Toronto where he taught political science since 1984 and is the Canada Research Chair on comparative political economy. He’s written nine books. He’s the co-editor of Socialist Register and he’ll have two new books coming out this year. One is an update of “The Socialist Challenge Today,” written with Sam Gindin on Haymarket Books and the other is “Searching for Socialism: The project of the labor new left from Benn to Corbyn.” Thank you for taking time to join us.

Leo Panitch (LP): Very happy to be here, Margaret.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): I really appreciate you joining us because you’ve been monitoring the UK election campaigns. You visited the UK during the campaigns and we’ve had this momentous result. Give us your review of what happened.

LP: Well, it confirmed what I felt in the pit of my stomach for most of this year. And especially since I went canvassing in old mining communities, ex-mining communities in Yorkshire in September and one could see that Corbyn and Corbyn’s led Labour party, who had done so well in the 2017 election, accepting the outcome of Brexit but saying we need a Labour government to negotiate a progressive rather than a reactionary one got pushed aside by those voices, most of them of the centrist liberal variety who really don’t believe in anything socially, but they believe vaguely in the Clintonesque Blair kind of way in global humane internationalism. They were determined to undo the referendum and as the poles shifted in 2018 as Mrs. May’s government found it difficult to come to an agreement, they started pushing for a second referendum, a people’s vote. It was led by the people around Tony Blair with tremendous funding from the city of London, which is your Wall Street, and the pressure on Corbyn from the majority of the Parliamentary leadership, that is of the MPS who had tried to unseat him within a year of him being elected. You may remember there was a coup against him, which didn’t succeed, the pressure became enormous on him to opt for a second referendum and one could feel in one’s bones that that would be giving the finger to those working-class constituencies and there were a hundred of them where Labour had MPS who had voted to leave, which was as in the midwest vote for Trump, a cry of despair in the face of three, four decades of neoliberalism, deindustrialization, neglect and the last 10 years after the crisis of a terrible austerity. Some of it was, of course, open to being directed against immigrants and I heard that when I was canvassing and some of it took a very Trumpist tone of the kind that we will “Make Great Britain Great Again.” Some of it involved the fact that people who otherwise would have been miners, especially men now in their 50s and 60s, went into the army when they couldn’t get jobs in industry and they therefore had a very skewed attitude to the conflict in Ireland where there had been of course great bloodbath on the border for so long. And Corbyn had, was one of the first to be insisting we need negotiations with Sinn Fein, with the Irish nationalists in the north, which is what major Tory prime minister and then Blair finally did 10-15 years after Corbyn was calling for it. But for that back then he was traduced as a terrorist supporter and a lot of people picked this up. So you got a combination, including the appalling and ridiculous anti-Semitism smear since Corbyn had put down ever since he was an MP some 8350 motions in Parliament defending Jewish communities against vandalism and attacks and anti-Semitism not only in Britain but in Iran and Russia and Turkey and France and so on. But that smear, which you know people up north don’t care about that much, but made him feel weird as far as they were concerned. All of that turned the tide against him. So from 2017, where he secured the largest increase in the vote of any party in Britain since 1945, what you got was this turnaround and it’s tragic. People voted against their own interests as they will discover, workers voted against their interests, as they did in the midwest in the United States in voting for Trump and Jewish people voted against their own interests because in the face of the far-right, which is indeed anti-semitic Neo-Nazi quasi-fascist etc., you could have no better defender than a Corbyn-led Labour party. But that is the irony of the media’s effect on politics and the effect of the liberal centrists within parties like the Labour party and the Democratic party.

KZ: Yeah. It’s so interesting looking at some of the exit polls. One that really struck me talked about how the primary reason that people did not vote for Labour was because of Corbyn.

LP: But I think that flies into the Brexit thing.

KZ: Right, and the second issue then was Brexit. And the third issue is a minor issue is economic policies.

LP: No, no the manifesto, which is the most radical and coherent Left-wing manifesto in the postwar world because it frames Labours, industrial strategy within the framework of a Green Industrial Revolution. So it’s even more coherent than the great Manifesto of 2017, which had a better title to it, was titled then “For the many, not the few,” all the polls showed every item in that work was popular including the nationalizations. Well over 50%, with less than 30% being opposed to them and the rest being undecided. The taxes on the wealthy, including all the way down to taxes on everyone earning over 80,000 pounds, which is about what just over a hundred thousand in US dollars, was very popular. The opposing of rent controls was very popular. The promise to have a housing program, which would be an eco-socialist one in terms of energy consumption that would provide a million jobs, it was enormously popular. No, in that sense what Corbyn has achieved since Johnson went running after him, you’d never know that his party was the party introduced austerity for a decade or that he had been part of as a young man the Thatcherite reaction. Yeah, he ran after Corbyn and saying we will enormously fund the NHS, we will stop the privatization of it. We will fund many more nurses and firemen etcetera. All of course, they had gotten rid of in the years of austerity. So his promises would just be to bring them back marginally to where they had been 10 years ago, but he went running after in policy terms all of this presenting himself as a one-nation conservative with the one-nation ideology coming from Disraeli in the 19th century who made an appeal to the male working class that had just gotten the vote calling them Angels in Marble. That is the workers who would vote Tory.

MF: Now you have argued that part of the conservatives reasoning for supporting Brexit or wanting to bring forth this proposal of Brexit was so that the UK could become more like a Singapore, so it wouldn’t be tied to the labor standards of the European Union. Corbyn kind of played himself as “I’m representing all people. We need to hear both sides and figure out what to do.” But to do many of the things that he’s talked about in his Manifesto, there needs to be some independence from the European Union for the UK. Do you think he wasn’t clear enough in taking a side on Brexit? Was that part of it?

LP:  Yes, I but I think that was largely a result of the xenophobic appeal of the original campaign during the time of the Referendum. The New Labour Left that Corbyn comes out of in the 1970s was critical of the European project even then, arguing that the Treaty of Rome back in 1958 had free capital movements in its DNA. That’s where they were heading and when Britain joined in 1971, Corbyn’s mentor, Tony Benn, opposed it and in the referendum of 1975, which Benn was the author of, the Labor New Left led by Benn and supported by Corbyn had opposed the European Union. They lost 66 to 33 with most of the Labour leadership, which was then in government, joining with the Tories in favor of the European Union. So there’s always been on the British left that Corbyn represents a high degree of understanding that the neoliberal nature of the European Union gets in the way of what you would need by way of capital controls and planning agreements and the control of investment to turn around a rampant global neoliberal capitalism. That said, Corbyn said back in 2012 when Cameron first decided he was going to get the UK independence party off his back by calling a referendum never expecting he’d lose, Corbyn said, “Look, we may need to support staying in Europe in the face of a reactionary campaign against immigrants” because Corbyn is fundamentally a anti-racist, the most decent of human rights politicians you could possibly find. When in the campaign itself as Labour leader during the referendum, he was traduced by the center-right of the party for not being enthusiastic enough because in the campaign meetings, he did hundred and thirty three of them, he said I would give Europe a seven out of ten and his position after the defeat in the referendum and this is how he won the 2017 election, didn’t win it, but how he increased Labour’s votes so enormously, to over 40%, was that we accept this vote. What we need now is a government led by the need to negotiate a progressive rather than a reactionary Brexit, one that will not be oriented to reducing labor standards. We would have a customs agreement. We would have the closest thing to a single market that would allow for some control over the movement of capital, the movement of labor. We would retain Europe’s labor standards, which are much higher of course than what Blair left the UK with. And we would retain the human rights standards of the European Court of Justice until we established higher standards than in Europe. The Tory’s strategy, and those people are now in Johnson’s cabinet, was ‘Singapore on the Sea,’ that is precisely to get out of Europe not only for xenophobic anti-immigrant reasons, which are the cynical ones, but for the economic strategy ones of getting a way out of the European labor standards, which are higher than in Britain because Europe didn’t have Thatcherism, because within Europe you have the strong Swedish and German labor movements, and that’s what they wanted to get rid of. It’ll be hard now for Johnson actually to do that by virtue of having one of these Labour heartlands, by virtue of having run a campaign of one nation, by virtue of having this very large majority which allows him, in fact, to do a very close deal with the European Union, which given that the degree of integration after 50 years of being part of it, with the city of London, as I said your Wall Street, being the center of the European bond market, all of the European bonds and the Euro itself are traded by the merchant banks in Britain, many of which are American. Johnson will now strike as close a deal as he’s able to. It’s possible tragically that the Europeans, if Johnson does go ahead and lower labor standards, will go along with that and led him to using that as a lever then to lower labor standards in France and in Germany. And as you see with Macron, he’s taking on a neoliberal reform against the demonstrations and general strike in France. He wants a pension reform of a neoliberal austerity kind. So there are reasons for the Europeans to actually want to give Johnson some rope in this respect because they may then follow him in this regard saying well, we need this to be competitive.

KZ: Yeah the EU, I mean, as it’s taken hold, it’s become more evidently a corporate kind of state, increased corporate power, but I imagine these bankers in Brussels and Berlin and Paris must be licking their chops at taking all that finance business from…

LP: Yeah, but they’re dreaming in technicolor. They wouldn’t have although obviously that was part of the scare campaign. The attractions of living in London, even for European bankers, are great compared to living in Frankfort. Secondly, with the American financial system being at the core of the global financial system, and London being its central satellite, that wasn’t going to be moved away very easily. So sure, in a very narrow sense, they might have hoped to pick up a little bit of business, but that wasn’t realistic. It really ever, I don’t think I, now even less so because Johnson will do the kind of deal with the EU. It may take a decade of negotiations, but the status quo will largely remain until then. He will do a deal with the EU that will protect financial flows moving easily across borders.

KZ: It will be interesting to see how that develops. You know, one of the things that really struck me about the election, was the Scottish and Irish vote. In those areas, you saw a move toward nationalism, especially in Scotland, also in Ireland and it’s so weird. It’s like this nationalistic view in the UK, a “we’re going to be UK and not EU” and then you have this nationalist view in Scotland and in Ireland, “we believe in nationalism too for ourselves.” And so it’s like this big breakup potential for Johnson. How do you see that playing out?

LP: Yeah, I mean this is one of the possible outcomes of this English nationalism that Brexit represented and the attempt to reassert a you know, some sort of Great Britain in the Imperial sense. I must say as a Canadian any politician like Reagan or Thatcher or Trump or Johnson who came to the Canadian people and said we were going to make Canada great again would be laughed off the stage, but in your imperial countries, that has a resonance and it had a resonance in that working class, which was formed in the late 19th, early 20th century. At the time when you know “The Sun never set on the British Empire.” The Scottish nationalism does reflect a anti-austerity orientation on the part of the Scottish National Party. It’s not only a matter of a certain degree of national identity, it;s explicitly anti-Thatcherite and that’s why it’s managed to win Labour votes so extensively because the Labour Party in Scotland was totally controlled by the Blairites, which totally bought into neoliberal globalization as we know, as Clinton did and they were all part of the team. So that’s where it comes from. It’s partly a rejection of the move to the right in Westminster. That’s not to say it doesn’t represent the genuine sense of identity. But that’s also true in Barcelona as well, in Spain, with the nationalist movement there. It reflects a social substance as well as an economic one. The Europeans don’t encourage that type of small nationalism. They don’t want to see the breakup of countries that are aligned to Europe. That said, if Britain leaves, they may be prepared as they stood up for Ireland in the negotiations with Mrs. May, they may be prepared if Britain leaves to countenance admitting an independent Scotland. So you can be sure that Johnson will do everything he can to thwart this but I have to tell you that the SNP is in for some trouble. There’s some trial about to take place of the former leader Salmond having attempted to rape a woman and there’s some evidence that the current leadership of the SNP tried to cover that up. So they may be not looking as rosy in the next election in Scotland. And if they aren’t, it’ll make it easier. On the other hand if Britain does leave in a way that, which I think is unlikely that gets in the way of the integration of Northern Ireland with the Irish economy, Republic of Ireland economy. Yes, it’s possible that we could finally see a united independent Ireland. We could if things work out differently than I’m suggesting see an independent Scotland. You’d be left with England and its little province of Wales where there’s a strong nationalist movement as well. So that would be a fine turnaround for the Tory Party, which was always the party of course of the United Kingdom above all but they could live being the party of a greater England if you like.

KZ: You know that SNP, Scottish National Party, supporting the early vote was in part because of that trial you mentioned coming up, you know, early next year.

MF: Yeah. I was thinking that actually Johnson being in charge of the UK would actually push the Scottish National Party to have more support because Scotland does see itself as being more progressive.

LP: All I say is that 53% of Scots did not vote for the SNP and they lost the last referendum. So she won but you know, she was running against Labour and she was running against the Tories and she was running against the Liberal Democrats. If you added those three together, those 53 percent of Scots voted for parties that aren’t in favor of Scottish independence. Part of the reaction of the northern working class in Britain, which was already seen in the 2015 election that Ed Miliband lost for Labour was that a Labour government would have to be dependent on the Scottish National Party and they responded in the kind of nationalism that the Tories and UKIP appealed to, voting for UKIP in 2015 and for Johnson this time partly by virtue of their antipathy to Scottish nationalism contrasting it with their English nationalism. That’s one of the ironies of this. And really the incompetence of British politicians in this respect has been stunning. Miliband being forced by the Blairites and Labour Party running with the Tories against the SNP in the Scottish referendum was a disaster. They should have been running independently saying we would have given the greatest autonomy to Scotland in a British Federation and a reconstituted bridge estate. But instead, they fell into running with the Tories funded entirely by the capitalist financiers, which even though they’re for that left edge, Miliband who is an ethical socialist and had rejected the war in Iraq and the inequality of global finance and so on, it left him holding an empty bag.

MF: So you’ve been studying and following Labour for a long time since you did your thesis at the London School of Economics.

LP: You’ve done your research.

MF: What do you see as, you know, where does Labour go from here?

LP: Well, where do we go on the Left? It’s the same question. It’s not just Labour. Labour is a party like the Democratic party. Well, except it is really more of a party. It actually has branches and constituency Labour Party’s and a certain class culture. The Democratic Party is an electoral machine every two or four years, but that said it’s really more a matter of where’s the Left because the vast majority of the leaders of the Labour party, the parliamentarians, the career politicians who come out of Oxbridge with relatively progressive liberal ideas and run for the Labour party. They are not socialists. They are not particularly on the Left. They are hostile to the kind of radical politics that Corbyn and Sanders represent and behind which they galvanized the remarkable anti-neoliberal and anti-war protest movements. At the Labour Party conference that I attended in September, young people, young delegates from the floor came to the mic and said, “We’re not for the 52%, we’re not for the 48 percent, we’re for the 99%” and they were picking up the slogan of Occupy. So the question is not about Labour. It’s where does the Left now go? That Left moved, that young Left moved from protest into politics. There is a very short bridge from Occupy to getting behind Sanders and getting behind Corbyn a year earlier. And I think they realize that you can protest until hell freezes over and you won’t change the world. You need to get into the state to change the world. So the question will be whether their class focus can become class-rooted and it’s evidence of how un-class rooted it was. How you could get 800 brilliantly committed and talented young people campaigning for a Asian woman who heads up a think tank called Class running in North London. You could get 800 canvassers while in a constituency in Yorkshire, you would get six canvassers because although Momentum tried to move some of these people around the country, these people aren’t class-rooted in that way. And the same is true of the DSA. I mean, there are people in the DSA who understand the real task is to be out there on picket lines, to do the kind of support that the DSA in East Oakland did with the Oakland teachers so that they were the ones running the school lunches so that black families did not have to take the kids across the picket line to access the lunch, etcetera. That is what is going to be required. I think it’s always naive to think that the immediate election and however much as one wanted Corbyn to succeed, one wants Sanders to succeed, that you know one’s not going to win on the basis of that election. What we’re in is a very long run, difficult shifting of the social forces in these societies, which have for so long been skewed and based on the defeat of the labor movement in the 1980s. And that had a lot to do of course with the defects of trade unionism, the extent to which it wasn’t engaged in political education of a kind that would have made it much more open to diversity, much less oriented to narrow economic self-protection in a consumerist sense rather than a collective-needs sense and so on. We’re in for a long struggle. So the question is what happens to that Left in the Labour Party and my feeling is, I mean in fact I know, they will now continue through Momentum and other similar organizations that have come out of it to try to do the kind of class rooting and political education that they haven’t had time to do and we’ll have to see because there’ll be a terrible reaction to the Labour Party now, which will blame this defeat on the platform having been too left-wing.

KZ: And that’s what we’re seeing actually in the United States, seeing Joe Biden and the centrist Democrats, of course, saying the lesson from Corbyn is we can’t elect a left-winger like Sanders and you’re already starting to see even, I’ve seen some tweets, these kinds of anti-Semitic memes coming out against Sanders. That works.

LP: Teah. You’ll get the same slanders and it’s very important that that be responded to with simply the evidence of the popularity of the policies and the very fact that the Tories were able to root themselves in working-class discontent. Whereas the Democratic party has lost all credibility in you know places in the midwest that voted unfailingly Democrat since the New Deal not least because they felt abandoned over NAFTA and there’s Trump coming along using the word working class and saying I’m going to undo NAFTA. Well, what do they expect? So the response to this needs to be on the contrary. The lesson one needs to learn is that the party needs to become led by Sanders and the DSA, class-focused rather than progressively liberal, which is nothing to be ashamed of, opposing the putting of immigrant children into cages of course, but it does need to become class-focused. It needs to be able to bridge that humanism with the real needs of people whose communities have been devastated.

KZ: And I see the Democrats doing kind of the opposite in many ways because two things that are really going on right now that play into this, one is passage of the new NAFTA, USMCA, it’s the same as the old NAFTA. The Democrats gave Trump that but it’s not going to help the working class and then you have the impeachment process, which is basically a thumb in the nose of people who voted for Trump, working-class voters who said we don’t like these elites in Washington and now these elites in Washington DC are doing a partisan impeachment based on a narrow issue, not dealing with working-class issues at all. And the result is going to be this thumbing their nose at the elites in Washington. Sanders has to be very careful how he plays on both those issues.

LP: Absolutely. That’s absolutely the case. I totally agree but I think that it’s not inevitable that the reading of Corbyn’s defeat will be of the kind that Buttigieg and Biden will want to do. I think that there’s every reason for being able to show that the policies were popular, to keep reminding people that on those policies Corbyn increased Labour’s votes in a way that no party had had since 1945, you know, trying to get at the smear and the weakness of the Labour Party’s response to that smear not least because so many of the centrist and right-wing Labour MP’s were happy to join in it in order to get rid of Corbyn since they are opposed to socialism, since they are opposed to democratic socialism. It’s not that they’re reactionary, it’s that they think that this is a dangerous chimera. They have the illusion that the center is holding, that one can go back to the Keynesian welfare state. They are the people who present themselves as the pragmatists. They are in fact the most unrealistic people. They simply don’t recognize the way in which capitalism has changed so that compromise is no longer possible.

MF: Finally, one question that I had wanted to ask you: your thoughts on –  the fact that we’re seeing these protests around the world. If you look at Lebanon, Latin America in particular, this real calling out of neoliberalism and austerity. Does that, what are your thoughts on that in terms of the trends globally?

LP: Well, it’s obviously very encouraging. It is not in fact new. Remember when Seattle happened, Seattle was 1999. In fact, there were already protests in India in 1995 and in France in 1995 against the free trade agreements and the move towards the WTO, the World Trade Organization. Remember the anti-war movements. Corbyn himself was chair of the greatest of those, the Stop the War Coalition in the UK, which really was the base of a lot of his candidacy, successful candidacy for the party leadership in 2015. So this isn’t new. It is of a thing with the G20 protest, with the Occupy Movement, with the Arab Spring and the terrible inequalities, exclusions, marginalizations, inevitable refugee effects that global neoliberalism will have, will keep on producing these types of protests but what we need to learn and it’s ironic that it was learned in Britain and the United States of all places, is that unless you can get into the state to change the world, all the protesting in the world is not going to change it. And Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg need to learn this as well. The disdain for party politics, which is understandable given what the Socialist and Communist and Democratic Parties in the United States became, of course, is understandable. There’s been this anarchist moment, if you like, amongst people who are organizing to change the world. What people who moved into the Labour party and the Democratic party and those who created the smaller parties, Podemos, Syriza in Greece, Die Linke in Germany, have understood is one needs permanent political organization of a kind that is prepared not only to put forward policies but is prepared to figure out how to implement them and that implementing is both about how to change the state once you get in to implement those policies, which I have to say I don’t think either Sanders or Warren are spending a lot of time doing. You’d have to change the very nature of the Treasury and Federal Reserve and not to mention even the Department of Energy in order to do those things but you’d also need to change the basis of support that you’re winning from people because people would have to realize as when you engage in a long strike that you are going to have to have sacrifices in order to win this struggle, you know. You don’t win a strike without having to tighten your belts. Well, you’re not going to be able to take on the powerful forces of capital reigned against what you want to do unless people realize that it’s for the transition period.  This is going to be economically costly. We’re going to have to learn how to shift our standard of living given the nature of the ecological crisis and the radical socialist policies needed to introduce the kind of planning that would overcome that. We’re going to have to learn how to shift from individual consumption of so many things that we now have into the meeting of collective needs through collective services from transit to food to certain aspects of housing. Now, that’s not to say that today’s left is going to do away with coffee shops and markets and etc. Of course not, but it is to say that we’re talking about changing our conception of our standard of living. So it’s a matter of both being able to change the state and being able, for people who are supporting this, to change themselves through the process. That’s when it gets serious and for that you do need political parties that look both ways, both to get into the state and that are engaged in the reforming of classes. That’s what parties do, they form people into classes, these parties on the left. And the new parties of the 21st century are going to have to be now that the working classes of old are so divided and transformed and unrecognizable, they’re going to have to be reformed in the 21st century by these new parties.

KZ: A lot of transition ahead. The hard part, your point about getting into state power, man, you look at the US political system. It is such a difficult solid two-party system of two corporate parties funded by Wall Street. It is just hard to imagine. But anyway.

LP: It’s hard. This can’t happen without both the Democratic and Labour party’s splitting. It matters less in the United States because there’s less of a party apparatus in fact. There is no funding machine. In the Labour party case, there actually is an organizational form, with real roots in communities and those branches of the party need to be turned into centers of community life. Those have to be built anew in the United States. They can be out of the worker’s action centers that have developed but it will involve at some point people whose project is fundamentally not to change the system, which is the majority of the current leadership of the Democratic Party and most of its elected officials at every level. Either those people will have to see the writing on the wall and join in the struggle or those people who are engaged in this struggle through the Democratic Party understandably will have to find ways of building new organizational forms. This isn’t new. I mean, I think if you look at the 19th century, the way in which people reorganized from the Chartists of the 1830s to the 1848 revolutions until you got the mass socialist parties of the 1890s and the mass strikes before World War One, people were transforming their organizational forms in order to get to that point. The 20th century then became one in which the parties that emerged before World War One and just after became the central forms of political representation vis a vis the state and organizing vis a vis the people through the 20th century, you know, our generation, my generation of the 60s already saw that those parties had run their historical course as agents of social change and we’ve been stumbling our way now for 50 years through woods trying to build new ones and that can be done through the old parties and through the building of new ones, but that’s what the agenda is for the 21st century.

MF: Leo. Thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today.

LP: Thanks. Happy to talk to you both. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s badly needed.

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Decolonization Requires Black, Brown And Indigenous Voices At The Forefront

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

Native Americans and allies recently commemorated the 50th Annual National Day of Mourning at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. Next year will be the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims landing as part of the European colonization of North America, which led to land theft and massacres of the Indigenous Peoples living there. We speak with Jean-Luc Pierite of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe who currently resides in Boston about the National Day of Mourning and some of the ways European colonization and the genocide that resulted from it are ongoing. Pierite describes efforts he is involved in such as community programs, reenactments, and legislation and the solidarity that is building worldwide. He emphasizes the necessity of oppressed peoples’ voices being at the center of the struggle to decolonize the United States and bring about reparations.

Listen here:

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Guest:

Jean-Luc Pierite – Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, Jean-Luc now resides in Jamaica Plain. Prior to his election to the Board of Directors, Jean-Luc was also elected to the Community Linguist seat of the Advisory Circle for CoLang for the period 2016-20. The Institute on Collaborative Language Research or “CoLang” is designed to provide an opportunity for community language activists and linguists to receive training in community-based language documentation and revitalization. Currently, Jean-Luc volunteers with his Tribe’s Language and Culture Revitalization Program which is a collaboration with Tulane University in New Orleans. This program is based on tradition passed from Jean-Luc’s great-grandfather Joseph Alcide Pierite, Sr., last traditional chief and medicine man of the Tunica-Biloxi. The Tribe is an amalgamation of members from the Central Louisiana communities of: Tunica, Biloxi-Choctaw, Ofo, and Avoyel.

Jean-Luc has a B.A. in Humanities with a co-major in Mass Communication and Japanese from Dillard University in New Orleans. He also earned an A.S. in Video Game Design from Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. Jean-Luc currently is the International Procurement and Logistics Manager for The Fab Foundation. The Fab Foundation was formed in 2009 to facilitate and support the growth of the international fab lab network as well as the development of regional capacity-building organizations. The Fab Foundation is a US non-profit 501(c) 3 organization that emerged from MIT’s Center for Bits & Atoms Fab Lab Program.

Websites mentioned in the program:

North American Indian Center of Boston

Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda

United American Indians of New England

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Margaret Flowers (MF): Today we interview Jean-Luc Pierite. He’s a member of the Tunica Biloxi tribe.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): Yes. He talks about the Day of Mourning, which some people call Thanksgiving, and he talks about the upcoming anniversary next year the pilgrims coming to Massachusetts.

MF: And that’s something that people can attend and support. Jean-Luc talks about a lot of the different ways that colonization continues and what they’re doing to try to change that, so stick around for that interview. Before we get to that, let’s talk about some things that are in the news. We just returned last night from a conference in Cleveland where labor unions and community members are coming together to create what they call Labor and Community for an Independent Party. This is an effort to create an independent party like we’ve seen with the teacher strikes that bring both workers and communities together to fight for common causes.

KZ: And their focus is on ending the two-party system, being an alternative to the corporate duopoly.

MF:  And one of the big tasks that they have is convincing labor unions to break with the Democratic party. That has really failed as a strategy for the labor movement to think that the Democratic party is going to represent them when it’s really a big capitalists party that represents the interests of its wealthy donors.

KZ: And this is an effort that builds on the effort to create the Labor party, which still exists, they’re active especially in South Carolina. At the conference, we talked about some of the issues that show bipartisan agreement. We talked about regime change and how both parties get behind US regime change efforts and never-ending wars and we also talked about the health care issue.

MF:  Medicare-for-all. That’s right. And we talked about immigration issues as well. One of the things I really like about the approach of Labor and Community for an Independent Party is that what they’re trying to do is form local community councils where people get together to talk about issues, make decisions about things that they need and then the leadership that comes out of that would have to represent the people in those community councils. So almost like what we see in Venezuela, really creating a participatory democracy and a structure that is accountable to the people that it represents, very different from what we have right now.

KZ: We have a so-called representative democracy that really does not represent the people. Studies show that the people’s views are very different than what the Congress and the president actually put in the law. If we had a representative democracy that represented the people’s views, you would see heavy high taxes on the wealthy. You would see a shrinking wealth divide, you would see well-funded medicare-for-all, free college education and the climate issue would be addressed and really never-ending wars wouldn’t be happening because people oppose these wars for a long time. So we have a representative democracy that represents the oligarchs, represents transnational corporations, does not represent the people.

MF: Yeah. I thought you were going to mention the study by Gilens and Page, which actually showed that in terms of policies passed by Congress – they looked at a 20-year period and found that the people’s support or opposition to those policies had no difference but the more that the wealthy interests were supportive of something the more likely it was to get passed and vice versa if they didn’t support it, not likely to get passed.

KZ: That is a very strong study. There are a number of studies that make that same point and starting a third party or a new party is not an easy thing. We have a system that’s designed to make that difficult. We’ve been very involved in independent parties and third parties. We see how tough it is. The two parties have set up tremendous barriers. Of course, the money in politics is the first gigantic barrier, especially when you have a lack of public funding, of public elections. We need to change that. And the problem with the just simple thing is ballot access. Now, this wasn’t a problem for most of US history. Now they have created tremendous hurdles for new parties to get, just to get on the ballot and then once you’re on the ballot to participate in the election. The media is very tied into the two parties. The debate systems exclude people beyond the two parties. The national debate commission’s controlled, it’s a corporation that is owned by the Democrats and Republicans, designed to keep third voices out. So, it’s a very big challenge and we hope we can unite people who are trying to do that, people on the left who are trying to challenge the two-party system because it’s going to take unity among the left if we are going to have a serious challenge to these two parties.

MF: Let’s talk about the election coming up this week in the United Kingdom Boris Johnson versus Jeremy Corbyn.

KZ: Well, they’re two of the candidates, the two leading candidates. There are other candidates running as well. They sure do present very different agendas. Boris Johnson basically has been running on a simple slogan “Get Brexit done.” And that’s pretty much it. He’s been exposed during the campaign of negotiating with Trump to undermine and privatize the National Health Service, which is very unpopular. Some documents were leaked that Jeremy Corbyn used…

MF: The National Health Service is not unpopular, the privatizing it is very unpopular.

KZ: Exactly. Corbyn has put out a very aggressive agenda. I mean, it’s not a perfect agenda. There’s things I disagree with it. But he’s put out a very aggressive agenda that would really focus on ending austerity, funding human needs. Health care would get a big boost, education, transit, internet. He has a major plan for high-speed internet for everybody. And so what’s interesting about the campaign is how it’s been unfolding. Johnson has been ahead from the beginning, had a start with a 13-point lead. That’s now down to single digits. It’s continually shrinking. They’ve had two debates and in each debate, Corbyn has shrunk the lead plus his campaign has shrunk the lead. At this point, it looks like Johnson is gonna win but we can’t predict it. But what’s really interesting is the incredible attack on Jeremy Corbyn, the character assassination against Corbyn has really been aggressive.

MF: What’s amazing to me is that people are falling for it. So, Jeremy Corbyn is a long-time anti-war activist. He’s been outspoken against wars, you know, supports Palestinian people’s rights, the end to the occupation of Palestine and so he’s been charged as being anti-Semitic because of that, something that doesn’t make any sense. It’s not anti-Semitic to criticize the Israeli State. Its anti-Semitic to be prejudiced against Jews. But this is a government we’re talking about. That’s stuck for some reason.

KZ: It stuck, and they keep hitting it over and over. The other thing that’s been really interesting, you mentioned he’s a longtime anti-war activist and he wants to break from being the lapdog of the United States. As a result, he’s getting a lot of attack from the US government, the US military, the Atlantic Council, which is a very pro-war, pro-militaristic.

MF: Wait, wait, is this a USAgate? Is the US interfering in the elections of the United Kingdom?

KZ: It is no doubt. One of the things they’re attacking him on through their various spokespeople is that the leaked documents on the NHS came from Russia. It’s just amazing the nonsense that you see out there. They’re trying to influence the election. The US through its various channels and they’re saying Russia is leaking documents to Jeremy Corbyn. So it’s just incredible falsehood based thing, but it just shows how threatening Corbyn is.

MF: [sarcastic] You know Russia is responsible for basically everything that goes wrong in the world, at least in the minds of the US media.

KZ: If Corbyn wins, they’ll definitely give credit to Russia.

MF: Well the UK has been a willing partner for the US and its international criminal escapades.

KZ: I think lapdog is a better word.

MF: Okay. There’s an excellent article in the Grayzone talking about the US intervention in the UK elections. And we have some very good news, which is that this past Friday December 6th, the US government dropped their simple assault charges against Max Blumenthal editor of The Grayzone Project and Ben Rubenstein, brother of Alex Rubenstein who is a journalist. Alex was an embedded journalist with us inside the embassy. Max and Ben helped to get food to us while we were in there, while these violent right-wing extremists were outside the Embassy in Washington DC preventing us from getting food. They were the ones assaulted. They get charged with assault. Fortunately, though, those charges have been dropped.

KZ: Yeah. What’s interesting, reading about the dropping of the charges is the rationale or the reason given. They lost key discovery information, tape recordings and documents about what happened the night that this is so-called assault occurred. They just can’t find them. They just disappeared.

MF: They’ve been able to give us like hundreds and hundreds of police body cameras and all sorts of information. They did a huge data dump on us for the discovery for our case for being arrested for being inside of the Venezuelan Embassy when the United States violated the Vienna Convention and came in and removed us, but suddenly they can’t find them. And as the lawyers pushed for them suddenly they said oops.

KZ: Yeah, so, you know what it seems really evident to me, if those documents were available they would exonerate Max and Ben. Great victory. Now, we have a court hearing coming up this Friday in our case and the key issue we’re fighting right now is over discovery. We’re trying to get documents from the government that talk about who’s really the President of Venezuela. You know Trump says that Guaido is president. But all of the actions of the Trump Administration show they know President Maduro remains the president.

MF: Well, they don’t just know it, they say it. Elliott Abrams has said over and over again things like the problem is Maduro is still in power. He’s still the president of Venezuela. Juan Guaido’s term doesn’t start until Maduro is out of power. They’ve been trying coups over and over again and then just this past week, having the meeting in Bogota Colombia to talk about the Rio treaty or the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, which we discussed last week with William Camacaro.

KZ: After that interview, we saw the results of that meeting and while they didn’t decide to invade Venezuela…

MF: Well, not yet.

KZ: I’m sure they are trying to lay that groundwork. They are continuing to increase sanctions, particularly against individuals like the Vice President, the Foreign Minister, the head of the National Constituent Assembly. They are making it impossible for them to travel to multiple countries in Latin America.

MF: We also have an excellent article on sanctions on PopularResistance dot-org right now written by Sara Flounders. What’s really interesting is that the United States and these are you know, we call them sanctions, but they’re not really sanctions, they are what are called unilateral coercive measures. These are measures imposed by the United States, there’s no legal process or anything really that’s gone through in many cases.

KZ:  They’re imposed for the purpose of changing the government.

MF: That’s why they’re called coercive but there are, the United States currently has more than 8,000 sanctions involving 39 countries and one-third of the world’s population.

KZ: And that’s why the sanctions approach of the Trump Administration is, in the end, going to have a backlash effect against the United States. You can already see it building. Countries are uniting to work around US sanctions to conduct trade deals without the US dollar and organizing themselves to hold the US accountable for these illegal unilateral coercive measures. And the sanctions and regime against Venezuela, the Center for Economic and Policy Research reported has killed 40,000 people in the last few years.

MF: That was just over a two-year period and that’s the thing about these unilateral coercive measures are economic war or economic terrorism is that they’re just as deadly as a, you know, military invasion, but they’re not visible like that. You don’t see the bombs being dropped. You don’t see the bodies, you know, injured, the social media of people being injured and killed.

KZ: People die slowly often because they can’t get essential medicine.

MF: So there is a campaign called Sanctions kill. We’re part of it. The website is sanctions kill dot o– r– g– and as part of this campaign to get the United States to stop using these illegal unilateral coercive measures, there’s going to be international days of action in March, March 13 to 15. So if you’re interested in that, go to sanctions kill dot o– r– g–. Let’s talk about our newsletter that we wrote this past weekend because the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO held their 70th Anniversary meeting in London this past week.

KZ: Yeah, it was an interesting meeting to watch because NATO is so divided right now.

MF: What is NATO for? Why do we still have NATO?

KZ: That’s a really good point. I mean NATO really no longer has a purpose. It’s obsolete. Donald Trump said that during his election but since becoming president he’s become a NATO cheerleader and has in fact, he’s raised a lot of money for NATO by putting pressure on European and Canadian governments to put more money into it. It’s really growing massively funding wise, but it has no real purpose.

MF: Well, that was the, what was amazing is that the increase in funding for NATO since 2016 is a hundred and thirty billion dollars which is multiple times more than Russia’s the entire military budget.

KZ: Just their increase is multiple times more. So it, NATO, has grown giganticly, but its purpose of defending the West against the Soviet Union hasn’t existed for decades.

MF: The Soviet Union hasn’t existed for decades.

KZ: That’s exactly right. So there’s really no purpose anymore and they were divided over many issues. Macron, the President of France, called NATO brain dead. And he pointed at Donald Trump as the reason why.

MF: His poor leadership they said.

KZ: And there was constant conflicts between Turkey and other NATO countries and Turkey which is a member of NATO, invaded Syria without really the permission of NATO and they attacked the Kurds who had been allied with NATO against Isis and the Syrian government. Defining the Kurds as terrorists, that was Turkey’s view, but the rest of NATO didn’t feel that way. Then you had that moment where multiple, Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau, Macron, Princess Anne and others were together in a circle making jokes about Donald Trump behind his back, laughing at him, mocking him.

MF: Well, he left the meeting early I think as part of, as a result. [cat meowing] I think Dr. Whiskers wants to comment on what we’re talking about.

KZ: Trump called Trudeau two-faced for that. And so when he was having an interview with Angela Merkel, press interview, he called Trudeau two-faced. So there are real conflicts going on between them all personally, but they did unite about their survival and to try to find ways to continue to justify their existence.

MF: Yeah, and that’s the scariest thing. I mean one thing that was positive is I think the Trump administration was trying to push Russia as the enemy and other countries in NATO said, you know, we might not all necessarily agree that Russia is an enemy. But I think what’s really scary is the Trump Administration trying to push NATO to be stronger against China.

KZ: Well, yes, and that was, you can see that before the event, the meeting happened, the head of NATO pushing for China being a target, talking about China’s becoming closer to us, how they’re very aggressive in their economic policies in Africa, the Middle East and even in Europe and that NATO has to do something to stop China. At the meeting, the most they could muster, they did put out a page and a half or so long declaration at the end. And on China, they said they saw challenges and opportunities. So they were playing both sides of that. But this is the first time that NATO has discussed China as a target. Now, of course, Russia has always been a target and in recent years, one of the big problems in NATO is it has been expanding Eastward since the Soviet Union fell despite promises by United States that NATO would not expand Eastward. NATO is trying to expand. They want to add Ukraine and Georgia. Along Russia’s border they’re putting military troops and bases and weapons, missiles.

MF: All kinds of military exercises.

KZ: And big military exercises practicing attacks on Russia. So that, you know, essentially what you see with that is NATO adopting the great power conflict National Security strategy of the United States. We adopted during the Trump era great-power conflict as the new National Security strategy replacing the war on terror. Obama helped to move it in that direction with the Asian Pivot and moving troops to Asia and along the border with Russia, but it became official in the Trump era as great power and looking at NATO. That’s the model, they’re defining, Russia and China as two key targets.

MF:  Well the United States has been very aggressive recently in terms of targeting China in a number of ways. Of course, the protest that the US is supporting in Hong Kong, the very anti-China, racist, violent protests going on there because the US does not want Hong Kong to reintegrate fully into China in 2047 as per the Basic Agreement made with the United Kingdom. And then going after China for their treatment of the Uyghurs. The Uyghurs are a Muslim group that has lived in that area of China Xinjiang for millennia. And there is a section of the Uyghurs that is actually being radicalized. We talked about this with Andre Vltchek who’s written about it. We have another article on Popular Resistance this week talking about that as well. China is trying to stop radicalization and turning the Uyghurs into terrorists by providing vocational training and other types of opportunities for them instead but the US goes after China condemning it for doing that and now Congress at least in the House has passed something called the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 that will allow the United States to sanction members of the Chinese government.

KZ:  And that comes on the heels of the Human Rights and Democracy Act for Hong Kong. Both these laws are basically excuses for the US to intervene into China on both the Uyghurs and on Hong Kong and to put in place sanctions. Now the Uyghurs have a portion of them are very violent. I mean, these are extremely violent terrorist acts going on in China and other places with the Uyghurs. If you really want to understand the Uyghurs, Vltchek’s article March of the Uyghurs will give you a real good insight because we get so much misinformation in the corporate media about that because I think…

MF: And the social media. There’s a strong social media presence.

KZ: Well, that’s one thing that the US regime change and great power conflict efforts has gotten much better at is social media and they very aggressively use Twitter and Facebook and get out memes and narratives that are supportive of anti-China great power conflict.

MF: I want to mention one other project that the United States is just starting out on targeting China and that’s this new Manhattan Project size project basically to create these communication nodes all throughout the Asian region of the world linking the US Navy and the US Air Force and it’s going to be this huge infrastructure build-out that they’re going to do so they can coordinate attacks on China. And so just think about this right now while we’re at home and we have generally compared to other countries not very good internet service and it’s very expensive, the US is spending tons of our tax dollars to build this communication network targetting China.

KZ: This is part of preparing for war with China. It’s not just the Air Force. It’s the Army and the Marines as well. They’re uniting all four of these together into a network and the’rey looking at China as a very big challenge to the military because it’s such a large country. They are trying to figure out how to go to all the different corners of China and be able to attack in a successful way. They see that as a big challenge and of course add to that the one other factor, which is outer space, the space force is being approved now by Congress, bipartisan. It’s been pushed since the Reagan Era and now Trump pushed it again and it is becoming a reality. By the way, that was one other thing that was talked about in NATO was support for outer space militarism. NATO is really playing the role of a junior partner with the United States on all these fronts of militarism. And so great power conflict, outer space, NATO’s right there and US is right now spending money planning aggressively for military attacks on China.

MF: Imagine if we put our money into actually supporting life. We could have a very secure world and society if we put as much energy and resources into providing people with the things they need as we do in finding ways to kill them.

KZ: And if we framed our relationship with China as not great power conflict, but how about great power cooperation? Think about what we could accomplish together if these countries worked together rather than saw themselves as competitors. There’s no need for the United States to be number one, a dominant military force in the world. The only rationale for that is…

MF: Because we’re exploiting other countries and they get angry at us.

KZ:  That’s right. The reason the United States is a wealthy country is because of imperialism. That’s a word you don’t hear in US media is imperialism. That’s not discussed. But that’s the reality of why the US is the largest economy on Earth. We benefited after World War II and were able to really conduct major imperialist efforts around the world and we want to continue that. That era is ending and the United States does not want to face that reality. And so the Pentagon is aggressively fighting. We’re seeing military budgets go up consistently. Now about 65% of discretionary spending of the federal government goes to the military. We’re expanding into outer space. NATO is continuously expanding. Militarism is on the rise on all fronts because US Empire is fading.

MF: Let’s talk about a few more stories. In France, the unions and yellow vest protesters are now into their fifth day of a major strike in France. Last Thursday they shut down 90% of the country’s transportation, airline flights are being cancelled and the unions are saying that this is definitely going to continue through Friday, maybe longer. They’re protesting cuts to their pensions.

KZ: Yes, general strikes are a very powerful tool. When the United States activists, when we wake up in this country and are able to pull off general strikes for an hour, for a half a day, for a full day, then we will see our power increased dramatically and I know there are various groups working on developing that ability and I think once we do develop that ability, I think you’ll see a very change in the balance of power in US Government.

MF: Two articles I wanted to touch on, on Popular Resistance. One wrote about media from Hong Kong who have been screaming and screaming about the violent Hong Kong police against the protesters when the reality is that the police are pretty mild in Hong Kong went to France to cover the general strike and got to see up close and personal what violent police actually look like. Sadly four of the six of them were injured. Two of them were injured by these sting grenades that actually on impact they open up and either put out shrapnel or these rubber bullet type things.

KZ: They were injured almost immediately. Yeah. They got to really see what aggressive militarized policing looks like. Of course in the United States, we don’t hear about what’s going on in France as far as the militarized police but we hear about it in Hong Kong. But what we don’t hear about in Hong Kong is the violence of the protesters because the protesters, the wing of protesters who are involved in the violence are funded by the National Endowment for democracy and are part of this anti-China campaign.

MF: Right, so FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, did a report looking at major media coverage of Hong Kong compared to other parts of the world where major protests are going on, Chile, Ecuador, and Haiti. Protests in Haiti have been going on almost as long as Hong Kong. In Chile, Ecuador, and Haiti, dozens of people have been killed. In Hong Kong, two people have died throughout these six months of protests. One young man fell from a building and died. There was a 70-year-old man who was hit by a brick by protesters and was killed. There were 737 stories related to Hong Kong and for Ecuador, Haiti, and Chile, the most they got was 36 stories. When you look at a particular period like the time when the protests in Chile were at their peak, still then you had multiple, 10-time difference in the coverage between Chile and Hong Kong and of course in Hong Kong, they referred to the protesters as pro-democracy. They don’t talk about the violence. They don’t talk about them provoking police responses, but the protesters in Chile were called rioters and looters and you know, we can explain why.

KZ: Oh, yes. Definitely. I mean, it’s the false narrative of US regime change in Latin America and their effort to force an independent Hong Kong and the media is a handmaiden of US regime change. They walk hand-in-hand with the military. We see that in Venezuela. You know, preparing for our hearing on Friday, I was looking at the history of our case and some of the reporting going on in Venezuela. You see the same kind of thing. I’m amazed when I hear Elliott Abrams, Michael Pence, formerly John Bolton, the things they say, it’s just incredible falsehoods. I mean, they’re not even close to truth. And so we’re having a really interesting fight, I mentioned earlier on this, discovery in this case. If you want to follow it by the way, Defend Embassy Protectors dot-org. If you want to know what’s going on in our case.

MF: I did want to mention the President of the International Federation of the Red Cross announced just today, basically condemned the politicization of humanitarian aid to Venezuela. So the Red Cross in Venezuela, which is working with the elected government of Venezuela to provide much-needed medicines to people, is severely underfunded and unable to get the resources that they need. They’ve only been able to reach about 50,000 people out of 650,000 people who need their assistance and the president of the IFRC basically says this is only because of the politics of it because it’s being used as a weapon to hurt Venezuelans and create a crisis in their country. And this is immoral.

KZ:  And that’s why Venezuela relies on countries like Russia and China and the Trump Administration criticizes Venezuela for being close to China, Russia, Cuba, and that’s why Venezuela relies on those countries because the traditional western sources of humanitarian relief or even just for basic medicine have been blocked by the US sanctions.

MF: Let’s remember that Julian Assange is still in jail, awaiting his hearing, his extradition hearing in February. Doctors wrote a letter to the jail demanding that he be transferred to a university hospital immediately because he is in very poor health. People are afraid he may die in jail and the jail has refused to answer that doctor’s letter.

KZ: And, of course, Chelsea Manning remains incarcerated just for not, for refusing to testify before a secret grand jury. She is opposed to the secret grand juries because they can be manipulated and she would testify in public but not in secret.

MF: And of course, she’s already testified and they’re just phishing and trying to get her to say something else that they can use against Assange. And we have to remember that the Conference of Parties 25, the COP 25 meetings are going on in Madrid Spain. Those will end this Friday. The attendees are trying to kind of finalize some of the rules for the Paris Agreement. They’re continuing to have disagreements. It’s looking like they may not be able to finalize those rules by the end of this session, simple things like for how many years do countries need to lower their emissions. Well to me, that’s a no brainer. It’s like forever, you know climate change is going to go on for thousands of years. So talking about a five or a ten year cap on when countries have to reduce their emissions is ridiculous.

KZ: The Paris agreement was inadequate itself because thanks to President Obama and Hillary Clinton, the US made sure that there were no enforceable standards pn GHG emissions. Emissions have been going up driven by the push for fracked gas as a so-called clean energy source, but of course methane which comes with fracked gas is a major GHG polluter.

MF: Especially in the short term. Lots of protests are going on in the COP meetings as well. Especially youth protesting what’s going on there. I have two more things I want to mention. One is people should be aware that there’s an organization called The Partnership for America’s Healthcare Future. It was created by corporations that profit from our current healthcare system. They are running anti medicare-for-all ads.

KZ: Spending millions of dollars. They sound like a nice group, Partnership for America’s Health Care Future. If you look behind it, it’s the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies and the for-profit hospitals and medical device makers.

MF: And let’s end on some good news. Kansas City has voted to provide free transit to everybody in the city. They are doing this for a number of reasons: One, it’s going to be what they anticipate a huge economic stimulus particularly for low-income people that are having to choose between buying transit or buying food or buying things that they need. It will also decrease the use of cars and that will help to reduce their emissions. And here’s one that New Yorkers oughta listen to, no more law enforcement for fare evasion. No more beating up people who evade fares or putting them into jail. This is in Kansas City, not New York.

KZ: New York will continue to beat up those who try to get in for free.

MF: But New Yorkers should be pushing for free transit as other cities around the country now that Kansas City is doing it, but let’s hope that other cities follow suit.

MUSICAL BREAK

MF: And now we turn to our guest. Jean-Luc Pierite. He is a member of the Tunica Biloxi tribe from Central, Louisiana. He now resides in Massachusetts in Boston where he is the president of the board of directors of the North American Indian Center of Boston. Thank you for taking time to join us today, Jean-Luc.

Jean-Luc Pierite (JLP): Thank you, Margaret. Thank you, Kevin.

MF: So let’s start out with kind of a broad question. One of the reasons we wanted to invite you onto the show is to talk about the National Day of Mourning and this year was the 50th commemoration of the landing of the pilgrims in Plymouth Rock and all the ramifications that have extended from that. Can you talk about the National Day of Mourning, kind of how it started and what it actually is?

JLP: Sure. Yes. This is the 50th National Day of Mourning. It started in 1970. Actually, we’re going into the 400th year since the landing of the Mayflower and in 1970, there was actually an original speech that was supposed to be delivered to the descendants of those original settlers by the Wampanoag tribal member, Frank Wamsutta James. And it spoke to sort of the resiliency of our native peoples. And from that idea, it was sort of like this milestone speech where basically, you know, Mr. James was saying that this was the beginning of American Indians and Wampanoag people, in particular, regaining their rightful place in this country. We can certainly talk about like what that means but for us specifically, it means that Indigenous peoples, American Indians, we have our own unique cultures. We have our own unique ways of knowing and we retain our self-determination and our sovereignty and so that sort of like existence as our form of resistance. A lot of those ideas came out of that National Day of Mourning and I want to indefinitely express my gratitude to United American Indians in New England for continuing that tradition, especially the co-leaders Mahtowin Munro, Moonanum James and Keisha James.

KZ: It’s a very important event and I’m sure next year will be really a milestone one since it’s the 400th anniversary. It’s very interesting this time period in activist circles around indigenous issues. There’s a lot more recognition of the true history of the colonizers coming into the United States, well coming into North America and there’s also a recognition of the importance of people following the lead of indigenous people. Can you talk a little bit about what you see from your perspective on that front?

JLP: Yes, and then and just to kind of set the scene of the National Day of Mourning at Plymouth. Once again, you know, we started off the day in prayer and ceremony bringing in our ancestors into the whole observance and then following that we had speeches from people from all sorts of different indigenous nations. Of course, we recognize that initial treaty by Massasoit in 1621 with the pilgrims to sort of formalize the government-to-government relationships, not between United States but we’re talking about like European settlers and Indigenous Nations that are here. And of course, we honor that we are on Wampanoag territory when we’re in Plymouth, but as far as the range of people that were speaking at National Day of Mourning, we had speakers from Peru, we had speakers from the Taino of Boriken and we had United Houma Nation of Louisiana. And we also had the North American Mega-dam Resistance Alliance, the first nations from Canada and each of these speeches spoke to both the extractive policies and natural disasters and infrastructure projects that are happening on our traditional indigenous territories without our free, prior and informed consent. And so this is the day not only to sort of like talk about and sort of like reconcile the true history with sort of a mythology that you know, the sort of like American nationalism is based upon. Not only is it about you know, confronting all of that but this is a time for indigenous peoples to actually speak about their own political will in terms of like what it means to confront climate change. So there’s a lot of issues that got brought to the forefront and we’re just basically speaking out on not only about colonialism, imperialism and we’re talking about economic warfare. We’re talking about corporations abusing sovereignty of Indigenous Nations all mixed into that one day. So it was a really really dense observance.

MF: There’s a lot to talk about. Why don’t we start out with kind of talking to our listeners who probably many of them celebrate Thanksgiving Day, the United States holiday, and I think that more and more it’s coming out about the actual mythology of that holiday and I think like we’ve seen such a strong movement to change Columbus Day to be Indigenous Peoples Day. I think more and more people are starting to recognize that the Thanksgiving holiday is not something that we should necessarily be celebrating. Can you talk a little bit about why you call this the National Day of Mourning? I know it’s a pretty basic question, but I think it’s something that people still need to hear the answer to.

JLP: Yes, and this is not to say that, you know having a feast day where the community comes together, expresses gratitude, enjoying family, I mean, this is something that goes back in our own traditions prior to contact with European settlers. We have specifically in my tribe back home in Louisiana, we have our Green Corn Festival in the middle of Summer where we honor our ancestors and so, you know, we definitely have the types of thematically, you know a Thanksgiving. In the past week, I’ve seen messaging coming out of the Hispanic Council saying oh by the way, you know, Spain also has an observance of Thanksgiving in St. Augustine, the so-called oldest city here in the United States, or what we now know as the United States. And of course, there’s the stories that come out of Jamestown with Pocahontas as well. But as far as like Plymouth and the pilgrims, part of that story, part of that narrative that I grew up with certainly in my personal experience, it was sort of that myth of the pilgrims coming over to the new world in search of a place for Religious Freedom and that sort of ties in sort of that story in with the founding principles of the United States. What really needs to be brought to the forefront when we’re talking about our nations, when we’re talking about our issues, even though religious freedom is sort of a founding principle here in the United States, citizenship wasn’t granted to our indigenous peoples until 1924. And the Indian Civil Rights Act wasn’t passed until the late 60s and it wasn’t until 1978 that the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed in the United States. So, you know, while there is certainly, there’s like a lot to be thankful for and of course we’re not strangers to expressing gratitude and the being one, you know and feasting together as a community. We definitely want to make sure that this is a day when we are able to speak about our own issues and speak to it from our perspective.

KZ: That’s such an important voice to hear and perspective to hear. You mentioned in your earlier question answers about the initial treaty between the Pilgrims and the indigenous tribes. Can you talk a little about what that treaty was and what happened to it?

JLP: Yes, so the Massasoit’s Treaty, it was basically like sort of an agreement between the two groups saying that whatever is you know, if there was any like need for protection for the pilgrims as a Wampanoag would grant it and if the Wampanoag needed protection from other tribes, as well as perhaps other settler groups that the pilgrims would provide that protection and then actually that original treaty, has come up most recently. So the Mashpee Wampanoag right now have a legal challenge to the trust status of their reservation land and that has caused a ruling by the Department of the Interior under the Trump Administration referring back to a Supreme Court ruling in 2009 called Carcieri versus Salazar, but basically any tribe that was recognized after 1934, they wouldn’t be able to use the VITA Trust process in order to regain their tribal lands, but most recently the Department of Interior with the Trump Administration sent out a ruling saying that the Department of Interior was not under the authority to take the Mashpee on Wampanoag reservation land into trust. And so basically this needed a sort of legislative remedy from Congress. So the Massachusetts delegation, both the representative side and the senate side entered bills into Congress and hopefully through these bills the trust status of the Mashpee Wampanoag reservation will be reaffirmed. So talking about that treaty and then talking about the pilgrims and talking about, you know, having that government-to-government relations, to having that basis and actually how does that play into sort of like solidarity both between the tribes that exist today in Mashpee, Massachusetts and the townspeople of Mashpee, the descendants of the pilgrims who have you know said, yes the Wampanoag have been here. This is their reservation land. This should be something that should be reaffirmed by Congress. So, you know, we’re talking about things that have happened 400 years ago but have real effects on what’s going on today.

MF: Many people living in the United States that are non-indigenous kind of look at the history of Native Americans as just that, something that happened in the past and we don’t talk about the fact that all those, all the ramifications of the settlers coming to the United States and the way that settlers treated Native Americans and took the land and took the resources, the massacres and how all of those types of that the same mentality, it continues up until today. It manifests itself in different ways, but it’s ongoing. It hasn’t ended and you know, something as simple as respecting people’s rights to the land that has been their land, right? It’s something that should be very basic. So in the National Day of Mourning, I know that there were a lot of different issues that were touched upon. Are there any particular issues that you would like to inform our listeners about?

JLP:  Yes, I think that it needs to be said more and more that our communities as indigenous peoples and we have different ways in which we are talking about government-to-government relationships, but we also have to be conscious of the different ways in which the United States government has regarded the Indigenous Nations. So there are you know, 570 tribes here within the United States that are federally-recognized but there are many more that are state-recognized or not recognized at all, but are still continuing to this day and being on especially the ones that are on the coast back home in Louisiana for me. I have my cousins at the Ile De Jean Charles band of Biloxi Chitimacha Choctaw, they’ve lost 98% of their land since 1955 and putting that story out there. And you know talking with the community actually was part of a summit at MIT in October with the tribe. We actually were seeing solidarity with our relations out in the Pacific Northwest. So as things are happening along the Gulf Coast are also happening, you know in the Pacific Northwest. I’m talking to you today from Boston and you know people here in Boston they can say, oh, you know, oh my goodness, you know, look at the Gulf Coast. Oh my goodness, look at the Pacific Northwest. You know, I’m glad that I don’t live in a place like that and it’s like what do you mean? We are all on the coast, you know, we are all by water and things that are happening to Indigenous Nations, that’s not something that’s happening to those people over there that are so unfortunate or so poor to just be living where they are. It can happen to any city that’s on the coast. We’re talking about places that are going to be underwater if we don’t act soon.

MF: Wasn’t it the Biloxi Chitimacha Choctaw who were the first group of people in the United States to actually receive money to move their entire place where they live?

JLP: Correct. It took them 13 years in order to get 42 million dollars from HUD. Now most recently, they actually walked away from that grant because there was some back and forth with the state of Louisiana. The state of Louisiana, as it was explained to me by Traditional Chief Albert Naquin, there was a scheme as far as like applying mortgages either to the land that they were going to move onto or the land that they were moving from. But basically, they did not see eye to eye as far as like the relocation process with the state of Louisiana. And this is a state-recognized tribe, you know they were indian enough in order to get the grant from HUD but once it got into the sort of the coffers of the state of Louisiana, then we get into this argument of like, well, you know now that the money’s here and now we kind of have the power of the purse so to speak, you know, and so it’s a game that’s being played and these are like whole communities. I mean the Ile de Jean Charles Biloxi Chitimacha are the world’s first climate change refugee community. So they deserve a lot more respect than what they’ve been given as of late.

KZ: Yeah, the climate crisis, putting in place infrastructure for fossil fuels, the taking of indigenous lands for those purposes, all that is one side of the story. But another side of the story, I also noticed in recent years, maybe just my own awareness or lack of awareness of previous times is a kind of a rising up of Indian culture, indigenous language, protection of sacred sites. Is that something you can talk about? Is that a new kind of or expansion of indigenous reality?

JLP: Yes. Yes. I mean when we talk about our issues and everything is so much interconnected talking about climate change. We’re also talking about the loss of indigenous languages. And once you lose a language, we’re talking about the disruption of transmission of ancestral knowledge, traditional ecological knowledge, ways in which people have been living on lands sustainably for millennia. So, you know language and culture, that perfect preservation, the revitalization of that, that plays into climate justice. Right now in Massachusetts, we’re working with the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda. This is a coalition of the North American Indian Center of Boston, United American Indians of New England, along with other different partner organizations, including Mass Peace Action. So we’re looking at about five different issues across a number of bills, one which is to establish Indigenous Peoples Day statewide here in Massachusetts. Another one is to take down native mascots in public schools. Another one is to change the Massachusetts state flag and seal, which currently shows a composite of a native figure and there’s a really ghoulish way in which that was devised. We’re also talking about protecting native heritage, specifically introducing state-level NAGPRA compliance. For public institutions who may not be receiving federal funds but receive some kind of public funding, we want to make sure that if there are sacred objects within those collections if those institutions move to the deacquisition those objects, those objects won’t end up in the auction houses. And finally, we’re also pushing for a commission on American Indian Alaska native education here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Currently, we are at 79 percent graduation rate for our youth. And our youth also face suicide rates two times that of their white peers. And so we’re trying to do everything that we can to keep our kids healthy, safe, make sure that they graduate from school, make sure they get four-year degrees, make sure they get full-time employment because all of these things lead to civic engagement and when we have more indigenous people getting involved with these systems, then we have much more of a voice when it comes to issues of like climate justice, economic justice, social justice.

MF: It’s a typical kind of when colonizers, or part of the process of colonization is to erase the colonized peoples’ culture and identity and so they lose that, so they no longer believe that they have something to fight for, you know, and to assimilate them into the colonizer’s way of being. I think that the work that you’re doing around language, the work around youth, that’s really critical and it’s been great to see the students up at Syracuse University who are fighting back against racist and hate incidents on their campus. And that includes not just black and brown people but Native American students at Syracuse have also been speaking out about you know, how they’ve been treated there and pushing to change the curriculum. So, I think this all comes together is really critical work for this moment.

JLP: Right. Solidarity is very important and one thing, you know, we were talking about how issues from centuries ago come up today and you know one story that I put out there that people don’t really realize is that up until 2005 it was illegal for American Indians to walk the streets of Boston unescorted. This was because there was a law that was on the books called the Boston Indian Imprisonment Act and this was a remnant of a war that was fought starting in 1675 called King Philip’s War. And so that law just stayed on the books and you know, despite all of our community members getting involved, pushing for, especially our elders, pushing to have this law taken off of the books that got us some progress, but what really brought it to reality was a conference of journalists of color that were supposed to come to Boston and when they found out that the Boston Indian imprisonment Act was still on the books. They said wait a minute, you know, we can’t have you know journalists of color coming to the city while this law is still on the books. We do have Native American journalists within our ranks, and if we pull our conference from your city, it’s going to be 45 million dollars of economic impact that Boston will miss out on and because of that, you know the city, the state complied and they said, okay we’ll go ahead and take this law off the books. Money is definitely a motivator but I would credit those journalists of color and the solidarity that we have between black and brown people. We need solidarity in order to advocate for our issues.

KZ: Solidarity. That’s a great solidarity story and I urge not only black and brown solidarity but white solidarity with the indigenous peoples as well. It’s so critical that we face up to the reality of our history. In fact, we cover whenever Thanksgiving or Columbus Day or other events occur on Popular Resistance, we always cover the true history of colonization and you know settler reality and the impact on indigenous peoples and it really struck me this year because we had just been in Palestine prior to Thanksgiving or the Day of Mourning and we drove through and visited many parts of Occupied Palestine seeing ethnic cleansing and seeing land theft and Jewish-only roads and areas where Israeli citizens are banned because the Palestinians control the areas. They are legally, you know, it’s against the law for Israeli citizens to go there. I mean it was just so in our face. We were shown maps of older than this country, villages that were destroyed when Israel was created and as well as seeing that it really reminded me of our own history and when we came back and moving toward Thanksgiving an Asian American ally of ours sent an article about, K J Noh sent an article about the history of Thanksgiving and it brought out a lot of the stories that you’re talking about and that we’ve covered before but it really struck me, the solidarity around the world. The indigenous struggle is not just a US struggle. It is a global struggle and what kind of relations do you see between indigenous peoples in the United States and people around the world?

JLP: Yeah. So, I mean that’s one of the sort of like the misconceptions is that when we talk about Indigenous, we’re not just talking about Indians here in the United States of America, we’re also talking about the Maori in New Zealand, the Sami in Norway and so what we have done at North American Indian Center in Boston, we’ve actually opened our doors, even though we have sort of an international scope because of the Jay Treaty we have First Nations that come from Canada and live and work in Boston. So we already have that type of international scope but we’re seeing our brothers and sisters from Central and South America in ICE detention who are not Spanish speakers, you know they’re speakers of Quechua and so it’s like what can we do to help our brothers and sisters in detention as they are. Or you know during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, we had delegations from Colombia, from New Zealand come to our center and they wanted to know exactly how we’re working with our local communities because even though we are different, we are similar because our nations are continuing despite the dominant nation-states that are imposed upon our traditional lands. So when we’re talking about nation-states, of course here, we’re talking about the United States and you know, what does that relation look like with the tribes that are still continuing to this day? We’re talking about New Zealand and what does that relationship look like with the Maori? And so forth and all of us are trying to figure out you know how to deal with all of these symptoms of suicide rates and addiction but the core of it is like what those relations look like, how those promises are being honored and how other entities like corporations and so forth are abusing our rights. And so we’re trying to get at some of those core issues. You brought up Palestine and I just wanted to just throw in there at the last public testimony hearing of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight here in Massachusetts, there was a bill heard on changing the state flag and seal, a commission to change the state flag and seal. Also during that hearing there was a bill being heard that was anti-BDS. And so we had people that were Palestinian, people that were allies and we each had our stickers and so some people had a Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda stickers along with you know, I want my right to boycott. And so seeing those people with both of those stickers on, you know on their chest like that, it was it was a really evocative image of like this is what solidarity looks like.

MF: That’s powerful. Yeah, and I just remember during the protest out at Standing Rock, the hundreds and hundreds of tribes that came together. I just had never witnessed anything like that before and that was incredibly powerful to see those connections being made.

JLP: Yeah. Yeah. And we just want to like throw out there, you know Standing Rock was not and is not the only front. We’re talking about the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana. We’re talking about Trans Pecos in Texas. We’re talking about the Sable Trail in Florida, but we’re also talking about the mega-dams in Canada. We’re talking about, you know, the burning of the forests in South America, we’re talking about a lot of things that are happening that are not in our control. So to speak like the control of indigenous peoples were talking about things that are happening that are being imposed upon us. So again, we’re not just talking about us being a factor of history, but actually colonialism. How is that actually ongoing? What does the warfare look like today? You know, what does it mean when our children are being separated from our families either in ICE detention centers or even in boarding schools? That’s still continuing to this day as well for our American Indian communities here in the United States.

MF: Even children being separated from their parents by Child Protective Services, you know that there are high rates of poverty and other social ills that come when you oppress a people and squeeze them into small areas. So yeah a lot of connections there.

KZ: I had one question. I look at the treatment of the indigenous peoples and the enslavement of African Americans forced here from Africa to be property of large landowners, I see those as kind of the twin founding evils and one reason we cover these issues on Popular Resistance and on this show is because I think the first step toward dealing with this is understanding reality. How do you see, I mean is there a potential for a Truth and Reconciliation process on indigenous issues in the United States and if that was something that enough political power developed to make happen, how could something like that work from indigenous perspective?

JLP: That is something that is starting now. North American Indian Center has partnered with the Upstander Project, which has produced a documentary “Dawn Land,” which focuses on the separation of Indian children going into boarding schools particularly in Maine and in Maine, there was a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was put together to address that issue. And so we do have a model for that here in the United States. I do want to kind of like build off of the idea of black and Indigenous solidarity in that sort of shared history because most recently, you know being from New Orleans, I went back home and I participated in the Dred Scott Reenactment of the 1811 German Coast Uprising and not only were there black slaves but there were Native American, American Indian slaves as well, indigenous peoples that were enslaved as well. And so all of us were walking in the path of our ancestors, all of us were chanting as people did during that Uprising, “Freedom or death,” “On to New Orleans,” “We’re going to end slavery.” We’re saying all of this 200 years after our ancestors marched in a landscape of plantations, but now that landscape, not only are the plantations still there, but there are strip malls and oil refineries. So when we’re saying, you know “Freedom or death,” when we’re saying, “Liberte” you know, we’re saying those things that our ancestors said but what are we really saying? And I think that that’s what that speaks to is the power of what does it mean when black and Indigenous people are able to tell our own stories and I think that that’s really, you know outside of having some sort of like official entity of the federal government or of state government. What is the real power of centering the voices of black and Indigenous people? And you know, how can everybody come together to actually, you know, get that voice out there? Change that narrative because right now we’re in a situation where American Indian genocide is an uncomfortable truth for people to grapple with, you know, in the establishment or talk about African-American reparations, that is also uncomfortable for people but the more that we talk about our own histories the more that the actual lineal descendants talk about that, the histories of their ancestors, the more we’ll be able to shift, you know, people’s comfort zone so that we can actually get to the truth of the matter.

MF: That’s fundamental and it’s that knowledge. We always talk about this, that it’s that knowledge and understanding, that awareness. That’s the first step to changing these wrongs that have been going on for such a long time. Jean-Luc thank you so much for the work that you’re doing and thank you for taking time to join us today on Clearing the FOG.

JLP: Thank you and for your listeners if they can go to NAICOB dot org or MA indigenous agenda dot-org they can find out more information about all the stuff that we talked about. Thank you.

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United States Takes Drastic Measures As It Loses Control Of Latin America

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

This week, Latin American countries allied with the United States are meeting in Colombia to invoke a post-World War II treaty, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, TIAR in Spanish, which would permit military intervention in Venezuela. This comes as the US-appointed coup-leader Juan Guaido faces the end of his term as president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and all efforts to install him as the president of Venezuela have failed. We speak with William Camacaro, a Venezuelan activist living in the United States, about the impact of TIAR and what people in the United States can do to stop US interference in Venezuela. We also discuss what is happening in the region as the United States loses control. Plus, we provide current news and analysis.

Listen here:

Review us on iTunes! Click here … Then click on “View in iTunes … Then click “Ratings and Reviews.”

 

Guest:

William Camacaro is a Venezuelan living in New York City who is a member of the Solidarity Committee with Venezuela – NYC. He is a long-time activist on food sovereignty and he leads trips to Venezuela to teach others about efforts to create food security.

TRANSCRIPT:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Clearing the FOG is a project of PopularResistance.org. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You’ll also find us on PopularResistance.org and while you’re there, check out the Clearing the FOG gear: tote bags, bumper stickers, water bottles and t-shirts. So today, we interviewed William Camacaro, a Venezuelan activist living in New York City.

Kevin Zeese (KZ):  We first met William in Venezuela. He coincidentally was there when we were on our peace delegation to the country and we got to understand his incredible solidarity work with Venezuela and he made a call to action this week because of the threat of military intervention in Venezuela. It’s been escalating lately. And so we talk with him in detail about that and about Bolivia, about Latin America about, you know, the US losing control of its domination of Latin America and Venezuela is part of that.

MF: And we also include what people in the United States need to be doing to counter this. But before we get into that interview, let’s go over some things that are in the news. This week is the beginning of the United Nations Conference of Parties 25th Annual Meeting. The COP 25 taking place in Madrid Spain. It was initially supposed to occur in Chile, but because of the protests there they decided to move it to Spain and interestingly, there was a report that just came out that the President of Chile is not going to be attending that COP meeting in Spain even though Chile is the leader of the meeting because a judge in Spain has said that if he comes into the country, he will be detained for human rights abuses related to the way that the Piñera government has responded to the protests in Chile.

KZ: So he’s not coming. That’s a very wise move on his part. Spain has been very good about using international human rights law to hold people accountable like him. You know the COP meeting is such an important meeting. It’s so disappointing these international meetings in the past, Copenhagen was derailed by Obama and Clinton, Paris put forward the best they could get but it was very weak and inadequate. And now of course Trump has withdrawn from that and on their agenda, they’re talking about corporate solutions. It seems like the UN and COP countries are not really facing the reality of the roots of climate change.

MF: That’s right. We wrote about this in our newsletter this week on Popular Resistance. But basically, the Paris agreement is getting very close to the time that it’s supposed to be implemented and the focus of this COP meeting is on those final rules. There were some disagreements last year over some major topics in those rules of implementing the Paris agreement. The major topic of conversation this year is going to be setting up a global carbon trading market, something that has existed since the Kyoto Protocol and has not actually worked. In fact, a report recently in California found that three years of carbon trading in California, the largest carbon trading program in the world, has actually resulted in an increase of greenhouse gas emissions by 3.5% because what actually happens is that companies are allowed to buy these carbon credits that allow them to continue to emit pollution.

KZ:  And some of those carbon credits are just fake. I mean, they’ll buy carbon credits by purchasing a company that’s out of business and not doing anything so it’s not polluting. So they can fake it and as a result in California, the largest cap and trade market, it’s failed and yet now they’re talking about that for a global solution when it’s a non-solution. They cannot face the reality that the problem is fossil fuel industry. The problem is capitalism, the problem is the consumption based society. We need dramatic changes globally particularly in the United States, which is the largest problem. I mean, I know that people like to point to China, which has, you know, almost two billion people compared to the US’ 320 million. So the real problem is the US and the US denialism, Australia’s denialism. These Western countries that have very high standards of living, very high per capita fossil fuel use. That’s the problem. There are other countries around the world that have very low fossil fuel use and actually need to increase their use in order just to lift them out of poverty. So it’s a very complicated problem. But the, you know, the one good news about Trump withdrawing may be without the US there, they’ll actually confront some of the issues that the US has prevented them from confronting like firm limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The US blocked that in Copenhagen, blocked that in Paris. Maybe with the US no longer involved, there’ll be an opportunity for the rest of the world to do a better job of coming up with an international agreement.

MF: Well, it’s really critical that this happens. Reports keep coming out showing how bad the situation is. Leading up to the COP meetings, 7 prominent scientist issued a letter basically saying that predictions that have existed actually underestimate the impacts of the climate crisis, that they’re finding not only is the climate crisis here, but major sectors of the world’s ecosystems are being impacted in such a way that they’re actually reinforcing each other and escalating the climate crisis. So according to the Paris treaty, in order to meet its goals, we need to be reducing overall carbon emissions by 7.6 percent each year even to meet their modest goals, which may not actually be sufficient, but instead of that global greenhouse gas emissions are rising. In the United States alone our gas consumption rose by 10 percent last year as these swings in temperature, very hot summers very cold winters, that’s causing a lot of people to need to use more climate control in their homes and their buildings. So we need to be aware of this in the United States. We are the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the third largest per capita emitter after Saudi Arabia and Australia, countries that have much smaller populations than we have here in the United States.

KZ:  Historically, we’re the largest and also we have to remember a lot of that greenhouse gas is coming from the Chinese because China is doing a lot of manufacturing for the United States. And so China is polluting because they have become the industry source for the US and much of the world. And so we need to face the reality ourselves. You know, it’s a bipartisan problem in the United States. We cannot forget President Obama going to Texas oil executives and bragging about how all the infrastructure for oil and gas and how he has made the US the largest exporter of oil and gas. Of course, we have President Trump who is openly saying there’s no climate crisis, it’s not human-caused, there’s nothing we should be doing about it. You know, the only person who’s put out a really honest science-based climate plan is the Green Party candidate or the person seeking the Green Party nomination, Howie Hawkins. I mean at HowieHawkins.us you can see a real eco-socialist Green New Deal. Sanders is probably the best as far as the Democrats go but a recent review of his proposal gave it a C+ and he’s the best of the Democrats and so we don’t really see US elections as confronting this issue. And so we have to find other ways to do it.

MF: That’s something that we write about in the newsletter, what people can do because there’s a lot of conversation about that going on right now, but people should know that this past weekend there were protests around the world leading up to the COP meeting calling for a climate emergency and climate action. In Germany alone, 630,000 people came out in 30 cities as well as protests all across the European Union and Asian countries. And of course Friday, many refer to it as Black Friday, when people do their holiday shopping, but many also see it as Buy Nothing Day and act to reduce our consumption and our carbon footprint. And there were also protests on Buy Nothing Day in Europe against Amazon, you know, a major corporation. It’s a huge market of selling products and also has terrible environmental practices. They throw away tons and tons of items that they don’t sell each year.

KZ: Amazon really exemplifies the consumer-based society that the US and Western Europe and more and more of the world is becoming and that’s really one of the root cause problems of the climate crisis is our consumerism. And you know, we also have to recognize that there are protests in the United States and those are also escalating. We’re seeing them regularly in Washington, DC and around the country and in New York and lots of activity. And you know in Spain they’re very worried about protests. They actually called up more than 5,000 police to confront the protesters who are coming in from all over the world to protest for real action on climate at the COP meetings.

MF: Right. And I forgot to mention that December 6th, this Friday, is going to be a major worldwide day of action, another Global Climate Strike. So people can find out what’s going on in your community. Groups like Friday for the Future, Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion are all involved in this Friday Global Climate Strike. Also resistance groups against Amazon in the United States are coming together through a new body called Athena and they’ve actually had some big wins in the United States, forcing Amazon to pay a $15 minimum wage, stopping the big warehouse in New York and also Amazon tried to buy a city council seat in Seattle and unseat the Socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant, and despite putting millions of dollars into that Amazon’s effort failed and Sawant was re-elected.

KZ: It was not just Sawant. They targeted other members and they lost all these elections. They could not buy them despite spending an incredible amount of money, Amazon failed in Seattle to take over the city council. So this coalition has come together in order to continue to fight Amazon, which is having not only an impact on climate but having tremendous negative impacts on downtown urban and small city areas across the country because they are putting mom and pop shops, independent businesses out of business because people just go on the web and order from Amazon and that’s also having a gigantic impact on the whole bookselling market. Booksellers are having a hard time competing with Amazon. So Bezos and Amazon are doing terrible damage. And of course, we can remember they do other damage because they have a very large contract with the CIA of hundreds of millions of dollars a year and Bezos owns the Washington Post, which is essentially a vehicle for neoliberal capitalism and US military and regime change actions around the world. So Bezos really is, in fact the only thing in politics he’s done is he got behind the whole effort to elect veterans and former intelligence officers in the 2018 election. A lot of the Blue Wave was more in that direction than the direction of AOC and a few other people who are progressive. It was really much more of a former veteran, former intelligence election that got covered up by the highlight of AOC and a few others.

MF: This past week also was the 50th Annual Day of Mourning at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered there to remember the landing of the pilgrims and the devastation that that brought to indigenous communities in that area. Next year is actually going to be the 400th anniversary of that Plymouth landing. And so the events next year in Plymouth will be really big. We encourage people to check that out. One of the organizations that is behind organizing that is the United Native Americans of New England, UNAINE.org.

KZ: And on Popular Resistance, we cover on every holiday including Thanksgiving and Columbus Day and others, Veterans Day. We make efforts to get the truth out about those holidays. And so if you ever are interested in learning about the history of Thanksgiving, how it’s so strange and so sad that the United States is basically celebrating the ethnic cleansing and land theft of tens of millions of indigenous people who lived here before the white colonizers from Europe came to this continent. We’ve turned that war crime, that crime against humanity into a national celebration and I think that’s something that we really need to reflect on and come to recognize the truth of and somehow reconcile with. We need a Truth and Reconciliation process to deal with the slaughter of the indigenous as well as the enslavement of people brought against their wishes to be property as slaves from Africa.

MF: And this past two weeks in Syracuse, there was a major action that went on. At Syracuse University, hundreds of students sat in at the Barnes Center over racist and hate incidents that have occurred on campus. This is not just things that happened in isolation this year. This has been an ongoing problem at Syracuse University as it likely is it many predominantly white universities around the country. Students are upset with the lack of response by the administration at Syracuse. They had a huge sit-in. They used the hashtag NotAgainSU. So you can follow them that way, it’s #NotAgainSU. Basically they have 19 demands that they gave to the head of the school. The head agreed to 16 of those. The students are continuing to push to make sure that all of those demands are met.

KZ: And graduates of Syracuse University have said this has been a long-time problem at the university. We have to give a lot of credit to these current activists who took this long-time problem and turned it into it not just an issue in Syracuse at the University, but in Syracuse and in New York and nationally. So it really shows that a small group of students who act strategically and are persistent can impact not only the university but also impact the national dialogue on racism.

MF: Let’s talk about an economist from UC Berkeley, Gabriel Zucman, who came out with some important information recently. He looked at the 400 wealthiest people in the United States and compared their income over the past 10 years from 2009 to 2019. He found that that income more than doubled. If you account inflation, it went up by a hundred and thirty-six percent and that their taxes over that period went down from 27% to 23. The warning is that nothing has changed compared to that trend over the past 10 years and that that trend is likely to continue unless something is done.

KZ: And this is a long-term problem. I mean wages have been stagnant for most workers since the 70s and the trickle-down economics where give money to the wealthy through tax breaks and subsidies for their corporations and that will then trickle-down supposedly to the working class and the poor has been in effect since the Reagan Era. It’s been heightened by Bill Clinton, by President Obama, by Republicans, Democrats alike. And so we have a real challenge to remake our economy and with a very likely recession coming in 2020. That’s kind of the predominant view of economists that 2020 will be a recession year. People don’t know when, will it be, early in the year, late in the year, how it will affect the election but that will be an event that will require people to really rise up and demand investment in the economy from the bottom up not from the trickle-down approach that’s been used for the last 40 years.

MF: Well, in fact rather than trickling down what exactly happened is it has been hoarded at the top. We’ve seen a very insane amount of wealth accumulation in the United States. We now have three people in the United States who have the same wealth as half of our population.

KZ: That’s why the wealth tax is so popular that Warren and Sanders, Hawkins and a handful of others are talking about taxing wealth finally, taxing not only wealth, but high incomes. Some are saying we shouldn’t even have billionaires, there should be an income cap and really a cap on wealth. What’s the purpose of having billionaires? Because it’s a hoarded wealth situation. When you put money into the pockets of the poor and working-class, they spend it and that creates a foundation for the economy where people can benefit but when a billionaire has money they sit on it and they pass it down to the next generation to keep the royalty of wealth continuing. Some are saying we have to take some more drastic measures not just wealth taxes, but income taxes that are very high on the high-income earners as well as a ban on billionaires.

MF: We have to recognize that those people who became wealthy didn’t become wealthy in isolation and they depended upon workers. Workers in the US are producing more and getting less of a share of what they produce. Let’s talk about another study. This one came out of the Oregon Health Sciences University and they were looking at the rise in drug prices for drugs that are used to treat multiple sclerosis. And so they interviewed numerous people in pharmaceutical corporations who are involved with pricing of drugs and they found that the increases in the prices of pharmaceuticals in the United States basically depend on whatever the market will allow them to charge. It has nothing to do with production costs. In fact, over time production costs generally go down, in other countries the cost of medications also go down over time, you know, along with that but what these pharmaceutical executives said is that unlike in other countries, in the United States, they’re allowed to charge as much as they can get away with and that’s why drugs are so unaffordable.

KZ: And that’s just one more indication of the pharmaceutical industry that is in crisis because it does not serve the public interest. The whole opiate epidemic comes from the profiteering, from selling very high-powered opiates and it really is an indication that this is an industry that probably has to be nationalized, that we have to take the profit motive out of pharmaceuticals. Like we have to take the profit motive out of healthcare. Already the taxpayer funds a large amount of the research in the pharmaceutical arena. We could probably do much better. In fact a lot of the research I think dollars are wasted because it’s not really producing new drugs just producing new forms of drugs to get them to the market and make more money. And so we’re doing a lot of disservice to people’s health, to the healthcare system, to our economy by allowing pharmaceuticals to be so corrupt.

MF: This is something that a national improved Medicare for all or national single-payer healthcare system could address. We do have a piece of legislation in the House, Pramila Jayapal introduced the Medicare For All Act. It’s about the best health care bill that we have out there in Congress right now. It is superior to Sanders bill and if people want to learn more about that, you can go to the website health over profit dot o– r– g– to learn more about that legislation. But under that piece of legislation, not only would it allow the United States government to negotiate for fair drug prices, but if they’re not able to get a pharmaceutical corporation to agree to fair prices, it gives the government the ability to take over that production of that drug so that it can be provided at a reasonable cost to people in the United States. Another interesting fact that came out recently, this was a study done by the Wall Street Journal, found that Google has a relationship with a private health network of 2,600 hospitals called Ascension where since 2018 Ascension has been providing people’s health information to Google, something called Project Nightingale, and it’s now being investigated as possibly being in violation of what’s called the HIPAA law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which limits what medical information can be shared without permission from the patient. This really argues again for a single-payer healthcare system because it’s this kind of privatization of healthcare that allows these types of agreements to happen against the will of the people who likely weren’t even informed that their health data was being shared with Google.

KZ: It comes down to profit-making and profiteering really by the healthcare industry, from the insurance companies, the for-profit hospitals, the pharmaceuticals. You know, these are all corporations that are not serving the public interest but serving the interests of their shareholders and their executives, serving the interests of profits and that’s why we called our campaign Health Over Profit for Everyone, health over profit dot-org because we think the foundational change that needs to happen in healthcare is to take the profit out of the system and make it a system that serves the public interest.

MF: There’s been so much attention paid to the potential Russian interference in the 2016 election, but a new study by researchers from the United States and Denmark looked at the Twitter use and how it was impacted by what’s called the Russian Internet Research Agency. So let’s basically back up. In 2016, there was a private company, the Internet Research Agency, in Russia that was putting out information through social media kind of clickbait type of information to try to get lots of people to interact with it to capture their data and then sell that to advertisers and that was what was being blamed as Russian interference in our election. So this study, which was called “Assessing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s Impact on Political Attitudes and Behavior of American Twitter Users” in late 2017 found that just as we see typically in the United States, they were really finding people who were already politically polarized and were not actually changing their opinions by putting out this information on Twitter. They were not actually sowing any kind of division or influencing how people thought about things. They were just reinforcing what they already believed.

KZ: Yes, it was really evident from the beginning that the Internet Research Agency was not part of the Russian government. It’s an independent corporation run by a guy who is a food distributor and restauranteur in Russia who learned how to develop internet lists and how he could profit from doing that. It was evident from the beginning of Russiagate, especially when Mueller focused on this Twitter and Facebook social media campaigns, that this was not about affecting the elections. Moon of Alabama has an excellent article that we republished on Popular Resistance that describes how the funding was spent. Most of it was spent after the election. The election funding was not spent on swing states. Some election funding supported Clinton. Some supported Trump. It was more focused on hot button issues. The goal as Moon of Alabama pointed out months ago and just reaffirms in this current, with this current study that the goal of that was not to affect the election, but to build a big database that this corporation could sell for profit and of course Mueller indicted them, but he knows that indictment will never go to trial because what foreign person would come to the United States to face a trial like that? So it’ll never go to trial. So we got Mueller’s indictment and no real analysis or no other side of the story because we essentially had only the prosecutor’s view, a prosecutor whose goal was really to show there was something in Russiagate when there really was not much there.

MF: Let’s talk about the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the so-called Human Rights and Democracy Act that was signed into law by President Trump. This is an act that actually allows the United States to do an annual review of Hong Kong and if the United States believes that China is living up to the Basic Agreement made between the United Kingdom and China when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997. This is seen as a real interference of the US government in the affairs of China and China responded this week saying that it would suspend US military port calls and that it would be sanctioning nonprofits that are operating inside Hong Kong. These are nonprofits that are either supporting the anti-China protests or have possibly been involved in helping to instigate them and support them. So these are groups like Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute.

KZ: Those last few from National Endowment for Democracy, and the Republican and Democratic institutions, which are wings of the NED, are regime change operations. They are there to build opposition in various countries to governments the United States doesn’t like. These protests in Hong Kong. You know, there’s a lot of good reasons for people to protest in Hong Kong. It’s a neoliberal extreme capitalist system and a government that represents those corporations more than it represents the people of Hong Kong and this is a government that China is not in control of but is controlled by Hong Kong and was put in place essentially by the UK when it was colonizing Hong Kong. A wing of those protests became very much used by the US to accomplish exactly this, to get this Hong Kong Act passed so the US can intrude into China’s affairs. The US sees the deadline coming for China to have complete control of Hong Kong in 2047. The US wants an independent Hong Kong. They want to be able to put their navy ships in that port. They want a military base because it’s right across the bay from China. The China-US conflict is what the US sees as defining the 21st century. China is the key country in the great power conflict of our national security strategy and the Hong Kong protests were manipulated. People carrying SOS, Donald Trump save us or the US flag or the UK flag, which colonized them for hundreds of years, a hundred and fifty years, in a brutal way. Carrying UK flags and singing the UK anthem and the Stars and Stripes, US national anthem. It was a very weird wing of the protest and they used violence, the violence in Hong Kong has been so amazing by the protesters. It’s incredible the Hong Kong police have been restrained as they are and it’s really incredible that China has not used its military or its police in Hong Kong, even though they have a battalion that is stationed in Hong Kong. They never left their barracks. The Hong Kong police have been restrained compared to the violence of the protesters, which has been extreme, really extreme.

MF: These so-called pro-democracy protesters have been attacking and even killing people in Hong Kong who disagree with them or appear to disagree with them.

KZ: Or just appear to be Chinese really, if they look like they’re from mainland China, they get attacked and beaten up by these protesters. It’s a very virulent anti-China protest by a minority of the protesters in Hong Kong and they’re starting to get pushback from the people of Hong Kong and they’re shrinking into the, you know, much smaller size than they were initially because of this violence.

MF: I’m sure people are getting tired of it. This has been going on since June of this year. Let’s quickly turn to Latin America before we do our interview with William Camacaro. Some news, this past weekend a delegation from Argentina traveled to Bolivia to interview people there and do a report on what’s actually happening. They did a preliminary report over the weekend. They found that there was in fact a coup. I don’t think that’s a big question, but they found that the de facto government has committed crimes against humanity. There have been murders, disappearances, rapes, incredible violence and injury against people, targeting of social justice movement organizers and members of the legislature who are from the Movement towards Socialism or MAS Party in Bolivia.

KZ: Bolivia announced that they’re going to have elections in March of next year. They have to first elect a national electoral commission and that’ll be done by the national legislature and it’s hard to imagine that these right-wing coup mongers are going to allow a truly fair election because if they do it’s hard to imagine them winning. The brutality they’ve shown has been reprehensible. I’m sure it has turned off people who were unsure about Evo Morales. 70% of the population is indigenous. So it’s hard to imagine a fair election that these right-wing coup mongers will win but I suspect we’ll see something like we saw in Honduras where the elections were a sham. And even when the coup president lost the election, a few days later he won it and so I expect we’ll see some serious problems in that Bolivian election. I hope people are very alert to it and watch for it. This is certainly not a story that’s ended. It’s a story that’s in the middle.

MF: And recently the United States took two more steps against Latin American countries. The Donald Trump Administration declared that Nicaragua is a national security threat and is getting ready to prepare new sanctions or new economic unilateral coercive measures against Nicaragua. This is something that the US can do because of the NICA Act that was passed in Congress. And we have to remember what happened to Venezuela in 2015 when Obama called it a national security threat. It really sent a message to investors, don’t invest in this country and caused some harm to the economy there.

KZ: Well, that was, Obama finding it a national security threat was the foundation for escalating the sanctions. The first sanctions were in 2004 by President Bush, very minor but they grew under Obama and with the national security threat language, they escalated and how you can call tiny Nicaragua, which is I think smaller than any state in the United States, how you can call Nicaragua a national security threat. It really shows the US is losing control over Latin America, an area it has dominated through the existence of the United States. They’re losing control, they’re desperate and they’re taking actions that just on their face are absurd.

MF: Right and let’s keep an eye on Mexico because the Trump Administration also designated the drug cartels down there as terrorists in order to justify potential US military intervention in Mexico. This would be unprecedented, at least on an overt scale and President AMLO of Mexico is saying that he’s concerned that there’s a right-wing coup being planned against him. Of course. he is the first somewhat leftist president to be elected in Mexico in some time.

KZ: It’s overt in recent year, I mean the reality is of course, we stole one-third of Mexico in the Mexican-American War and we occupied Mexico in the early part of this last century. So it’s currently, that would be unusual to have an open use of the military. I really hope it doesn’t happen. But as soon as AMLO was elected, people began to worry that we’d expect to see a color revolution or some kind of regime change effort because finally the conservatives were kicked out of office at not just the presidential level but also at the legislative level in landslides and so it’s an administration that the US would like to see changed.

MF: Well with that, let’s take a short musical break, and we’ll be right back with our interview with William Camacaro.

MUSICAL BREAK

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And now we turn to our guest William Camacaro. William is a Venezuelan activist living in New York City and he’s with the Solidarity Committee with Venezuela of New York City. Thank you for taking time to join us, William.

William Camacaro (WC): Thank you for having me.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): We really appreciate the work you do on Venezuela, the trips you make there, the solidarity is excellent and this week you put out an alert urging people United States to take action on Venezuela. Can you describe what you called for and why you took that action?

WC: Yes, I just sent out a large call. Colombia has convened for this coming December third a summit for the activation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, the TIAR, against the neighboring country Venezuela and the concept of the conflicting Latin American reality. This call constitutes a new danger to peace, democracy and the value of self-determination of the Venezuelan people. We need to know that through this treaty, they can take military aggression against Venezuela, which will only benefit the regional planning of the ruling oligarchies and the so-called countries from the Lima group, countries that we have been seeing in the last two months, for example, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Panama and Peru, all these countries have been facing a very terrible situation thanks to the neoliberal measures that they have been implemented in their countries. And the solutions to their problems, to their economic problems, and the repressive measures that have been taken to hundreds of people that have been in the streets protesting against neoliberalism. And on other hand, Venezuela has been punished because first by the Obama Administration, that was the first one to impose sanctions to Venezuela saying that Venezuela is an unusual and extraordinary threat to the security of the United States, and then the Trump Administration that has been imposing a series of sanctions against Venezuela. Venezuela has been under attack for already 20 year from the different USA administrations. And this treaty that is called by Colombian government that is also one of the strongest allies of the Trump administration in the region is trying to basically intervene militarily in the country because they have been for already two decades intervening in different ways economically. They have been organizing coups against Venezuela, sabotaging the economy, but the last resource that they have is the military. And that’s why the Trump administration and everybody in his cabinet, from Trump, from Pence, from a big number of members of the Republican party, they have been mentioning that the military option is on the table. Also, we need to think this coming month, in January, the so-called self-proclaimed Venezuelan president Juan Guaido, he’s the president of the National Assembly and he is ending his time in that position the first week of January. So it’s going to be very embarrassing for United States first of all to support someone as the Venezuelan president that he had not been elected by anyone. He has not been president of anyone in Venezuela, and now that the president that they appointed in Venezuela is not going to be even the president of the National Assembly. So it’s something that we have been thinking that that’s one of the reasons that we will start to see a lot of pressure in the coming days against the Venezuelan government.

MF: Right and our listeners should know that Juan Guido who proclaimed himself president of Venezuela this past January was handpicked by the United States. He went to George Washington University in Washington, DC and was trained by the United States and he wasn’t actually even up to be the president of the National Assembly and so now that position will end. Let’s talk a little bit about what the TIAR is. It’s also called the Rio treaty because it was formed in Rio de Janeiro in 1947 and it was kind of a post-world War II Treaty. Has it ever been used?

WC: Literally, it has never been used. The only time there has been several countries that was willing to use it was when the UK attacked Argentina. But we know the United States supported the United Kingdom in the war against the Argentinian people. So, after that the treaty has not been used at all. No one has evenwanted to call for the TIAR treaty because it’s obvious that the United States never had being willing to use it, especially to defend anyone from South America from another superpower.

KZ: It’s so interesting that the TIAR first was called by the United States. I believe it came out of the State Department that was urging the TIAR and now they’re talking about escalating with this upcoming meeting in Colombia.

MF: And it was voted in the Organization of American States.

KZ: That’s right, the Organization of American States, and it’s kind of like a junior NATO treaty. I mean it’s essentially a reciprocal defense agreement and it hasn’t been used. So this would be a really unique step. Now, why is it? I saw a really interesting article in Venezuelanalysis about a leaked conversation involving the Colombian ambassador to the United States and that article mentioned that the State Department supported the use of the Rio Treaty, the TIAR, and the White House didn’t. You know, I’m wondering if there’s some division in the Trump Administration. Perhaps the Pentagon. Do you have any insights into why there would be that kind divide in the Trump Administration?

WC: My opinion is they can militarily intervene in Venezuela. I don’t have doubt about it, but they have to pay the price and they don’t want to pay the big price they’d have to pay to intervene militarily. That’s why United States has been calling for other countries to intervene and to be in the front line in a war against Venezuela. Not only that, John Bolton, Pence, Marco Rubio, even Donald Trump. They have been calling the Venezuelan Army and asking them to do the right thing and the entire world will be happy and appreciate their work if they overthrow Maduro. So obviously, they don’t want a military confrontation because if you pay close attention to the last month of what has been happening in Venezuela, the United States has been trying to fly over the Venezuelan air space for more than a hundred fifty times and all the airplane has been stopped. For the first time, the United States is confronting a country that they cannot fly over the airspace of that country. What they did for example in Iraq, they declared a no-fly zone over. And this case Venezuela have declared a no-fly zone over Venezuela and they know that Venezuela has all these numbers of missiles from Russia and also from China, all this technology that’s coming from all those countries, even from Iran and they don’t want really to pay the price. They want other ones to do the dirty work that they don’t want to do because it will be completely ridiculous for entire planet to see the country that is spending more than 700 billion dollars on the military budget that it’s basically winning a war against a very small country in a very pathetic way.

MF: And of course, Venezuela, in addition to its military and police and the assistance that it’s gotten from other countries and weapons and anti-missile systems, also has a very strong civilian militia. Now President Maduro recently announced that he was putting his military on high alert at the Colombian border. Can you talk about why that’s happening?

WC: Yeah, this is happening because as we spoke in the beginning because Colombia is calling for this military treaty to be used against Venezuela. But also playing into the situation is that since the coup d’etat that happened in Bolivia. Maduro has been basically putting weapons in the militias and they are already using the militias in several places in the country, something that has not happened before and now it’s something that is getting normal. Yes, because we are getting into another period or another level of aggression because we know that this coming January it’s going to be tough because the United States they really want Juan Guaido to continue and be the president of the National Assembly but Juan Guaido has so many problems with his own people too, his credibility among his own people is very low and really no one want him and by law that position is rotated every year and they have been trying not only to have him for another year, but they have been putting a lot of money on the hand of Juan Guaido to try to buy all the votes this coming January to change the rule in the National Assembly.

KZ: You know, it’s so interesting what’s happening in Colombia at this time. I think in addition to the National Assembly in January no longer having Guaido as its president. You also have tremendous unrest in Colombia, I mean really massive protests against President Duque. His popularity is going way down. It’s against another you know anti neoliberal type protest. You have guerillas, the FARC wing of that, getting activated again. You had Colombia at the UN claiming that Venezuela was allowing these paramilitary groups to organize in Venezuela to attack Columbia, and he was shown, that was shown to be a lie, but he, the Colombian president made that claim up to the UN anyways. And there’s also a report earlier in the year of paramilitaries being ready to invade Venezuela, in fact the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, reportedly had a hundred troops ready to participate in that so there seems like…

MF: They were going to deploy from Colombia into Venezuela.

KZ: Exactly. They were going to deploy from Colombia into Venezuela. And it was I think the first time that Israel has sent troops abroad like that. So it was a really interesting step. So, there is a lot going on on that Venezuelan border. Can you talk a little about that border? What is it like as far as Venezuelans and Colombians crossing the border, as far as the potential for military conflict? What do you know about that border?

WC: My opinion is that, yes, there’s a very, it’s a high possibility of any conflict in that area. It’s not only paramilitaries from Colombia. But also there is a strong presence from regular groups from the United States, from Israel, that are operating in all that border with Venezuela with permission from the Colombian government. All these groups, they are trying to create a situation that justify any USA intervention in Venezuela, and also they are trying to create a similar situation that they created in Syria. When you have a terror group that have been financed by the United States getting into the country, taking over some of the resources of that country and sending in the international market or trying to divide the country in pieces because Colombia, people have to understand that Colombia doesn’t have enough oil. Colombia has oil for maybe five years. Six years and they have been putting its own oil, their own reserves. They have been selling their own reserves to United States and they just hope that they can get that oil back or some resources back when Maduro is overthrown. That’s basically what they are waiting for and they are getting desperate because what happened in the United States in its economic warfare against Venezuela. The first thing that United States tried to do is to go to other countries like Colombia, Ecuador and ask them to sell them more oil. In that way they didn’t have to get oil from Venezuela. So and now those countries like Colombia that they don’t have enough oil, they are very worried because in the next coming years if Maduro is not overthrown, will be facing a very big problem because they don’t have enough oil reserves. And obviously they are trying to create a justification to invade the country and to basically get the military, the USA military inside of the country. We are looking to all these huge demonstrations, protests in Colombia that are against the economic system because they have not been able to use anymore the war against the FARC, the guerrillas movement, as the excuse. They need to face the real problems that they have, the economic problems that they have caused by neoliberalism measures that they have been implemented for all those years. And we need to understand that we are living in another period of time when we see that all the Chilean protests in the streets and all that have been taking more almost two months now, we can see that neoliberalism has completely failed, that it’s a disaster. And Chile the only milestone, an entire country that Empire was showing us to say that you know, neoliberalism is working at least in one place and now we know that it’s not working anywhere. And that’s why we are looking all these demos and not only in Colombia but also in Ecuador and Chile and Peru. The entire continent is completely chaotic because thousands and thousands of people are getting to the streets to demonstrate against the economic measured are being imposed by the International Bank, the International Monetary Fund and by the United States.

MF: Right and this is exactly what the United States has been trying to prevent for all of these years, ever since Hugo Chavez was elected in Venezuela and put in place the Bolivarian Process using the Venezuelan resources to help the people. The United States has been targeting Venezuela, you know, the US’ recent support for the coup in Bolivia. I think is a measure, the US is trying to counter what’s happening, this fight against neoliberalism in South America. What do you think the coup in Bolivia, which sadly you know seems to be, unlike the one in Venezuela, the coup in Bolivia has so far been successful in taking Evo Morales out of power and putting in a very extreme right wing person in control. How has that success do you think impacted what the US is doing in Latin America?

WC: The coup against Evo Morales, a lot of people have been mentioning that it has something to do with the lithium, with all the natural resources that Bolivia has. I don’t doubt anything about it, but in the first place the coup d’etat against Evo Morales is because the Kirchners, Cristina Fernandez, Alberto Fernandez won the elections in Argentina and United State was looking at the possibility that the creation of the new bloc, leftist bloc in the region was coming soon and they need to intervene to make sure that we don’t have Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mexico imposing an agenda for the entire region. So, in the first place that they wanted to stop the creation of a new leftist bloc in the region and then of course the Bolivia has especially the lithium. I think that this is a horrible setback for the movement and the continent. It is something that we need to see how we can overcome this as soon as possible. The dictatorship implemented in Bolivia is completely I will say that it’s one of the most fundamentalist fascist and is connected with the richest people in Bolivia. Not only are rich people but people that even has been in Bolivia, maybe two generations no more than two generation people that were coming from Germany, from Croatia, from South Africa, the rich people that were connected to Neo-Nazi movement in their countries, with apartheid in South Africa. This is people that are very racist, people that hate the majority of the people of the Bolivian that are indigenous people, that are Aymara, that are Quechua, the Guaranis. There are different indigenous groups of people and they are in confrontation with the majority of the people in the country. And when you see what’s going on right now, not only that there is a hate against the majority of the people in Bolivia, but also that they are taking over the entire economy. We pay close attention for example to this new figure in the political spectrum in Bolivia, Luis Fernando Camacho. By the way, he have a meeting with Duque, the president of Colombia, just two months ago in Bogota. So something that also the presence of paramilitary groups that could be explained in that way, Colombia supporting his partner in Bolivia. But this guy Luis Fernando Camacho that is a businessman. He already is running five different ministries in Bolivia. He is already in charge of three different state-owned enterprises like for example the airline of Bolivia that now is run by his company called Amaszona, you have an airline company called Amaszona and the director of Amaszona airlines now is running Boliviana de Aviacion in Bolivia. So basically these people are going to privatize the state-owned companies and they are giving them to all these right-wing people whatever they want from the government and it’s horrible what is taking place right now in Bolivia because not only that it’s a hate, not only that it’s racist, and not only that it, I think the word is plutocrat, is that they are also attempting again the integration of the Latin America people against USA corporate interests in the region. So, it is a big setback for the movement in South America.

KZ: Yeah. It’s a major setback and you know, it’s so interesting that you point out that some of these right-wing Bolivians are just there for a couple generations, came from South Africa and fascist European backgrounds, and they certainly are behaving like fascists. Boy the violence is intense and the racism against the majority indigenous people, what 70 percent or so of the population, is just so outlandish and so overt and it’s really interesting you mentioned that Camacho of Bolivia met with the president of Colombia. When at the same time, Colombia and Bolivia are blaming Venezuela and Cuba for the unrest of the coup. It’s like it’s such an upside down Alice in Wonderland kind of reality. What’s your thoughts on these claims by the Bolivian right wing that Maduro is behind the protests against the coup?

WC: It’s completely laughable. You remember Lenin Moreno in Ecuador also was blaming Venezuela for what was happening in Ecuador. And the same thing happened in the beginning of the protests in Chile and also some key figures from the State Department, they have been blaming Venezuela for all the disasters that have been taking place in the entire continent. The reality is as we have been mentioning in your show is that all the neoliberalism measures that they have been taking in place for more than 30 years in the entire continent that is causing all this mobilization of people and people are more and more conscious about what neoliberalism is and how it’s affecting them in their life. So they really have been trying to stigmatize Venezuela and that’s what they tried with all these accusations against the Venezuelan government is completely ridiculous. If we look a little bit at what happened before the coup d’etat against Evo Morales, we will know that Ivanka Trump was visiting Jujuy. That is an area that is in the north side of Argentina very close to the border of Bolivia, just a month before the coup d’etat against Evo Morales. Ivanka Trump was, daughter of Donald Trump, was in Jujuy in company of the Vice Secretary of State John Sullivan and they deliver more than supposedly, they deliver more than four hundred million dollars to build some roads in the north of Argentina. But the reality is the part of the money went to the hands of right-wing people in Bolivia to finance not only the coup d’etat. You have to think this, they were able to mobilize thousands of people from Santa Cruz to La Paz to do all the disasters that they organized in Bolivia. There are images of these people flying on airplanes and celebrating how successful they were in La Paz and then so incredible to see it, Camacho on one of those airplanes celebrating with all these people that they took from Santa Cruz to La Paz to go to a Evo Morales’ house, destroy his house ,to terrorize several people from the MAS, from the Movimiento al Socialismo, to terrorize key people from the government and that’s important to know and the only thing is people need to know is that when Evo Morales resigned, he resigned because his brother was beaten by the military and he was naked on the street and he was completely in gasoline and they say hey, if you don’t resign your brother will be killed.

MF: And of course they are also set Evo Morales’ sister’s house on fire and were threatening members of the cabinet.

KZ: And that mayor who was in the street with her hair cut and the red poured, it was as if, they were really fascist in their approach.

MF: Right and we reported last week on this show that US Southern Command was in Argentina prior to the coup and that there were plans to have troops on the border between Argentina and Bolivia ready to go into Bolivia if necessary to support this coup effort. The United States is clearly involved in this coup.

KZ: Well Evo, Evo Morales has been such a vocal and clear critic of US domination of Latin America and the neoliberalism of capitalism. It’s a shame. I mean I thought he was in such a solid position. It’s amazing that he didn’t have control of his military. It was a shocking reality. He had kicked NED out. He kicked USAID out. Evo had done all that but his military.

WC: Yeah, it’s something that really surprised me because it’s completely naive to really run a country and have a confrontation with United States and don’t even have a group of people to protect yourself because Evo Morales didn’t have any military group created on him, on himself to protect his house or to protect his life. It’s a big, big mistake.

KZ: It’s so different from Venezuela you know where Chavez came from the military. They train the military on US imperialism. They built the civilian militia. That was a major, major difference between Venezuela and Bolivia.

MF: So, William, you put out this urgent alert. What do you want people in the United States to be doing?

WC: Yes. Basically, I think that is very important for people in the United States to call their congressman, call to the people in the Senate and Representative and tell them that they know that United States is looking for a military intervention in Venezuela, any military conflict with Venezuela, and that people completely disagree with the possibility of any military conflict with Venezuela. And also I think that it’s very important to mention that people also completely disagree with the sanctions that have been causing a lot of damage to the economy of Venezuela, but also the at the same time it’s killing people in the country, in Venezuela, and that’s the real humanitarian crisis. The humanitarian crisis that Venezuela is living or facing is caused by the United States government, by the State Department and by all the economic sanctions that have been imposed against the Venezuelan people just because the Venezuelan people decided to be free and decided to have their own country back.

KZ: Exactly right. You know, it’s so interesting that this humanitarian crisis that the US is causing, the US then blames it on Maduro’s policies, you know. Maduro really is fighting against an economic war and people in the United States are confused by that. They blame Maduro when the reality is the economic war against Venezuela is the real problem. Now, you’ve also done some work going to Venezuela for food sovereignty. Can you talk briefly about those trips?

WC: Yes, we have been organizing delegations around sovereignty because that’s one of the targets of the USA sanctions against the Venezuelan people. The Trump Administration has been targeting all the social programs that the government has been implementing to help people to have enough food on their plate. So they have been attacking the program that is called CLAP. That is a program that provides assistance and cheap food to people in the entire country and it’s also attacking other programs that are coming from the state that are related with this food. I think it’s important for us to see what the Venezuelan government is doing in terms of food sovereignty in the middle of this economic warfare on the country. And to see what alternative people are creating in this myth. I think that it’s very important also to see very close to the common Venezuelan and to see what they really think about what’s going on in the country.

MF: That’s critical I can say as someone who’s visited Venezuela, what we hear and see in the United States corporate media is really the complete opposite of the reality on the ground in Venezuela and the overwhelming support that exists there for the Bolivarian Process and rejection of these US coup attempts. I think it’s important for our listeners to know when you’re contacting your members of Congress that you know, not only is it critical that we shouldn’t be intervening militarily in a sovereign nation of Venezuela. We have no justification for that. We should not be imposing these unilateral coercive economic measures on them, they violate international law, but also that if the US were to intervene militarily, this would become a regional conflict in South America and it would also have the potential to escalate into a global conflict because Russia has a relationship with Venezuela as does China and those are two targets of our national security strategy.

WC: I think that it is very dangerous conflict because United States went to Iraq looking for some weapons of mass destruction that never appeared and they destroyed the country and also they did the same thing in Libya and Syria. When you think the most of the investments that were in Iraq, most of the money that was in Libya and Syria was coming from Russia, was coming from China and those countries lost billions of dollars in those wars that were organized by United States. Basically, the same thing is happening in Venezuela, and I really believe that Russia and China are taking a strong stand and deciding that United States and this time we’re not going to do the same thing and it’s a conflict that could really expand to a big level because what United States is fighting right now is the control of the hemisphere. United States has been losing power in the last years but especially in this administration because this administration have been confronting not only the enemies, like political economic enemies, Russia, China, but also their friends, allies, like Europeans, Germany, French, UK, also India, that have been creating a lot of problems for the United States and a potential to international conflict.

KZ: Yeah. I think that’s a really important point for our listeners to understand, for our listeners to convey to other networks of activists as well as to elected officials. This conflict in Venezuela because it’s a lynchpin for so many issues in Latin America that the US feels it’s losing control and they’re acting in ways that are desperate and dangerous. You have any final thoughts for our listeners?

WC: Basically, we deserve to have a planet without any conflict, not only people in South America but also people in United States and we deserve to have another kind of relationship especially when we are looking at all the threats that human being are facing right now, climate change. We have a food crisis an entire planet. We have a big threat that is the weapons of mass destruction all over the planet and issues that we can resolve if we have a political will. If we are fighting among us, we will not be able to resolve any of those problems.

MF: Those are very wise words to end on. Thank you so much for the work that you do William and thank you for taking time to speak with us today.

WC: Thank you very much, Kevin and Margaret.

Read More

If Americans Knew Tells The Truth About The Israeli State

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

As an independent journalist, Alison Weir went on her own to see what was happening during the Second Intifada (uprising) in Occupied Palestine. What she found was the complete opposite of what was being reported in the corporate media. Upon her return, she founded “If Americans Knew” and has been covering Occupied Palestine and the Israeli state in a fact-based way ever since. We speak with Weir about the extent of US support for the Israeli State, the most prominent misconceptions being pedaled in the United States and the reality Palestinians experience. She also describes how to reach people in the United States who are misinformed and what we can do to end the injustice.

Listen here:

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Guest:

Alison Weir:  In 2001, as the struggle between Palestinians and Israel heated up, Alison Weir left her job as editor of a weekly newspaper and traveled alone to the Palestinian territories. There, she made her way through the West Bank and Gaza, without a guide or a flak jacket, eager to learn what the conflict was all about.

She spoke with Palestinians and Israelis; interviewed mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, hospital workers, teachers. She rushed to the scenes of violence, notebook and camera in hand, and observed Middle East reality first-hand. And she was amazed by what she learned: That the truth of the conflict, on the ground, bore almost no resemblance to the stories told in US media.

Weir came home determined to change that. She began to speak and write on the topic and soon founded If Americans Knew, a nonprofit dedicated to accurately informing Americans. More recently, she also accepted a position as president of the Council for the National Interest. In addition to disseminating transparently sourced data, news, and analysis, If Americans Knew has completed seven in-depth statistical studies of US media coverage of Israel-Palestine.

Drawing on her background as both a civil rights activist and Peace Corps volunteer and the child of a military family, Weir has striven to provide a clear-sighted view of the issue that is free of partisan perspectives or preconceptions and that relies exclusively on facts-based analysis. She believes that open-minded examination of all available evidence, informed by universal principles of human rights, self-determination and justice for all people, is the only way to truly understand the conflict. Thus exposing the truth is, she believes, the best and only hope for justice and, therefore, peace for Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, and indeed the world.

Weir has spoken all over the United States, including two briefings on Capitol Hill, presentations at the National Press Club in Washington DC (broadcast nationally on C-Span), Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine (one also broadcaston C-Span), at World Affairs Councils, and at numerous universities including Harvard Law School, Columbia, Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, Georgetown, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Vassar, the Naval Postgraduate Institute, Purdue, Northwestern, and the University of Virginia. She has given papers at various international conferences, lectured in Ramallah and at the University of Qatar, presented at the Asia Media Summits in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, and given speaking tours in England, Wales, Iran and Qatar.

Weir has also written widely on Israel-Palestine, the US connection, and media coverage. Her first book, Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel, was published in February 2014 and has received high praise from both ends of the political spectrum. Her essays and articles have appeared in a number of books and magazines, among them The New Intifada (Verso), Censored 2005 (Seven Stories Press), Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Rienner), The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, San Francisco Bay View newspaper, CounterPunch, and The Link.

Weir has received various awards and in 2004 was inducted into honorary membership of Phi Alpha Literary Society, founded in 1845 at Illinois College. The award cited her as a “Courageous journalist-lecturer on behalf of human rights. The first woman to receive an honorary membership in Phi Alpha history.”

Note: Alison is NOT the British historian, who shares the same name.

TRANSCRIPT:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Clearing the FOG is a project of PopularResistance.org. So today we interviewed Alison Weir.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): Alison Weir has the fantastic website, If Americans Knew. It’s about Palestine, Israel and provides a lot of facts. It’s a website that’s very deep and it’s a place really to go to to get information and her story about how she got involved in this issue and what she’s doing to try to get the facts out, I think will be one that we can all learn from.

MF: This is an area where we need to clear a lot of fog. So stick around for that interview. But before we get to that, let’s talk about some things that are in the news. First off, last week over 15,000 Indiana teachers walked off of the job and went to the state capital to protest their low wages and attacks on the education system.

KZ: And this is part of a whole series of people striking or walking off the job, teachers who are across the country being fed up with the destruction of public education, the low pay for teachers, the lack of support for students. Teacher’s strikes are really exploding. They’ve been exploding for the last year. I think that this problem is not being solved. So they’ll probably continue to explode.

MF: It’s certainly not being solved under the current Department of Education. So it’s important in our communities that we support the teachers who are fighting back for better education for our children. Let’s also talk about a conference that you attended this past weekend in Chicago. It was the relaunch of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Can you talk about that?

KZ: Well, just to relate it to the first story, it was held in the Chicago Teachers Union building. A fantastic building. A big hall. About a thousand people participated in this conference. And it focused on number of different issues regarding racist police violence, both the police actually killing and being violemt across the country and what can be done about that. A major issue that they’re trying to push forward, which we should discuss, is community control of police. The other thing they focused heavily on was political prisoners. There are still many political prisoners in the United States. We don’t like to admit that in the US. We pretend that it doesn’t exist. But in fact, there are political prisoners and they’re really trying to rally people around to defend political prisoners. In fact, this organization first was developed in 1973 around the Angela Davis case. It was to Free Angela Davis, then became Free Angela Davis and all political prisoners and then became this Association and was just relaunched recently. A very inspiring conference. A great group of people, wide range of ages, wide variety of issues discussed, variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. It really was a unifying event.

MF: And if you want to learn more about the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, we did interview Frank Chapman who was one of the founders of it and has become the new executive director of the relaunched and NAARPR and so you’ll find that on our Clearing the FOG podcast page on PopularResistance.org.

KZ: One thing we focused on around this conference was the issue of community control of police. If you look at the Popular Resistance website our most recent newsletter goes into the history of police violence, the current levels of police violence. Everyone in the country now knows, police are killing black and brown people at incredible rates and what they put forward is a lot being done as far as body cams and efforts to increase prosecution, which is all good. What they are pushing for is something very different, which is to really change the power dynamic between people, communities, and police. They want to put people in communities in charge and so community control of policing essentially is a democratically elected council selected by the people of communities, given broad responsibilities, everything from choosing the police chief, firing police and getting police indicted in grand juries, training materials for police, how police are trained, subpoenaing police investigations and all sorts of powers for the community to get control of police. This is the structural change that will really transform policing. Police often use this slogan, “to protect and serve” but it seems more of a slogan than a reality for most people. In many communities, people fear the police and police have become militarized occupying forces. The idea here is to change that power dynamic by giving people power, people in a democratic way controlling the police. It would be transformational and would really be a step toward black liberation.

MF: Let’s talk next about Julian Assange. People are aware that he is imprisoned in London, in Belmarsh Prison, awaiting an extradition hearing in February of 2020. He could have been released back in September, but the judge has ruled not to allow him to be released. A couple of things that are significant, recently Sweden finally dropped their preliminary investigation against him for allegations of sexual misconduct. Can you talk about that?

KZ:  This is like about the third time they’ve dropped this investigation. It is very important, first off, Julian Assange was never charged with any crime in Sweden. It was a very strange situation where they were trying to bring him back from the UK for questioning, even though in many other cases Swedish prosecutors have done questioning of suspects and or witnesses by telephone, by Skype and other technology or by going to that country and interviewing the person. They wanted Assange to come back to Sweden because they wanted to lock him up as part of the effort to extradite him. Julian Assange knew that from the beginning. While he was in Sweden before he came to the UK, when he was in Sweden when this incident these incidents occurred, he actually was interviewed by the police. They thought no charges were warranted. Another prosecutor looked at the facts. No charges were warranted. They finally found a very politicized prosecutor who wanted to continue the investigation and she was the one who tried to question Assange after he went back to the UK, but now finally 10 years later now that Assange is safely in Belmarsh Prison for the potential extradition to the United States, they’ve come to the conclusion that they came to right from the beginning. The first prosecutor and the second prosecutor found what they finally found 10 years later. There’s no evidence that a sexual assault occurred and yet look at the character assassination that has occurred as a result of that. How many people believe that Assange raped someone in Sweden or was charged with a crime in Sweden, the sexual assault crime? That’s kind of the common viewpoint among many. They were very successful in their character assassination and that way undermining the support for Assange who really is a heroic publisher. An editor who’s published the most important stories of this century.

MF: We’ve talked about that before, how that is a common tactic that is used to go after people who are challenging the system and try to discredit them and to reduce public sympathy for them as a way to prevent people from rising up against the injustice that’s being perpetrated against people and I think we interviewed Bruce Levine a number of months ago about one of his books that talks specifically about throughout history how this tactic has been used. That’s good news for Assange that the investigation has finally been completely dropped but bad news is that his health continues to decline and just this week over 60 doctors from around the world, some of them from Australia where Julian Assange is a citizen, sent a letter to the Belmarsh Prison calling on him to be removed from the prison and placed into a university hospital because his health has deteriorated to such a significant degree that he needs really expert care and attention.

KZ: That’s one of the serious problems. One of the interesting things related to that is that the judge in the Assange case who has been ruling against him on bail, ruling against him on getting moved to a medical center, on issue after issue, even access to his attorneys, access to a computer. She has removed herself from the case because of a conflict of interest. Her husband and her son were involved in activities that would conflict with Julian Assange and his work and so maybe with that judge gone, we might get a more fair trial. She had picked by the way for the February extradition hearing a tiny courtroom where only a few citizens could attend and so it would get warped media coverage. There’ll only be a handful of media there. They’d be very carefully selected to give us the false story that the government wants us to hear. And so hopefully with this new judge, we have a chance of moving this issue and expanding Assange’s criminal defense and allowing greater awareness by the public of what’s really going on.

MF: Let’s turn to talking about some of the protests that are going on around the world. We’ve been covering much of the protests that have been happening in Latin America and just this past week Colombia joined those protests with a general strike that started last Thursday, the 21st of November.

KZ: Colombia is a very close US ally. They have a conservative government. They’ve had a conservative government now for a number of years. There’s been very high levels of assassinations of social movement leaders, union leaders, environmental activists and this uprising kind of is a surprise to people because it seemed like it was relatively stable compared to those other countries, but these protests are big and the government’s reacting very harshly.

MF: They are reacting harshly. Curfews have been put in place. There has been a deployment of thousands of military to join the police in suppressing these strikes and these actions. There have been raids into people’s homes in major cities such as Medellin, Bogota and Cali and the thought is that the people that are conducting these raids are people that have been hired by the state to harass social justice organizers. The strike was called initially in response to a package of measures President Duque was trying to put into place, economic measures that would have caused harm to the most vulnerable populations and workers and the strike was called because of that and then the groups decided to continue striking the next day, on Friday, and strikes are slated to continue through this week as well. There are a lot of reasons for people in Colombia to be upset, but I think one of them is the failure of the 2016 peace agreement. Since that was signed, 777 social leaders, this is in just a three-year period, 777 social leaders have been assassinated and a hundred and eighty-seven former guerillas.

KZ: It just shows that Colombia is a fragile neoliberal capitalist US ally and that’s kind of like very important. Remember when you hear the talk of Colombia and Brazil joining the United States to invade Venezuela. There is no way that, if Colombia were to invade Venezuela and be part of Yankee imperialism, their already fragile government would become even more fragile. This just shows this era of neoliberal capitalism and US domination is coming to an end even in countries where it seemed to be on top is has a strong undercurrent against it. A change is definitely in the air in Latin America.

MF: And I should mention that 69 percent of the Colombian population opposes the current president Ivan Duque, so we’ll see what happens in Colombia. Let’s talk about Chile where protests have been going on for some weeks now against their President Piñera.

KZ: Yeah, more than a month of protest now in Chile. Chile is another example of a country that seemed very stable. People are very surprised to see an uprising against the economic system, the neoliberal economic system, in Chile and the President reacted very quickly because he saw this uprising grow immense. There were more than a million people protesting at one point. He removed his entire cabinet. The protests continued. People are demanding a constitutional convention, a constituent assembly to write a new constitution. They’re demanding higher wages, more funding of social programs, ending of neoliberal policies and the protests continued. They just announced more protests this week. Monday and Tuesday national strikes. And the president is trying to play it both ways of while firing his cabinet and listening to the protesters a little bit, he’s also unleashing the military. Now interestingly, Chile’s Constitution doesn’t allow the military to be used in domestic affairs, but they have been used against these protests and he’s trying to now put in place a new law that allows the military to be used to protect public property and public necessities, whatever that means, and so there’s a real conflict rising. The President is feeling insecure and he’s starting to depend on the military even in violation of the Constitution. So a lot going on in Chile.

MF: Andre Vltchek. who we interviewed just a few weeks ago, is down in Chile and he’s covering it so you can check him out on social media and also check out PopularResistance.org where we continue to post articles on this. Let’s talk about what’s happening in Bolivia. Of course, in Bolivia, there was a presidential election October 20th. President Evo Morales was elected to a fourth term and immediately, well even prior to that election, there were rumors that a coup was going to be attempted, immediately after the election the Organization of American states called it fraudulent. Reports were done showing that it was a fair election, but the OAS continued to challenge it and violent right-wing protesters started to cause disruption. In response to that, many of the indigenous of Bolivia, it’s a majority indigenous country, came out into the streets and it’s been really just atrocious what the state now is doing to the people who are calling for their president Evo Morales who was forced to flee to Mexico to come back.

KZ: Brutal repression and such misinformation in the US media. Whenever you hear talk about Evo Morales leaving to go to Mexico, the US media always describes it as a questionable election or election that was in question, but the facts are the election was legitimate. He won by more than 10% of the vote, which meant in the first round that’s sufficient for him to be elected. That’s really what the facts were. There’s no basis for this nonsense about election fraud. What you’re seeing more and more in this Bolivia situation is real racism against the majority population. Estimates of the indigenous population, sixty to seventy percent of the population come from indigenous communities and yet you’re hearing this self-appointed interim president talking in racist ways. Evo Morales’ vice president Linera made it really clear that a lot of this is the view of the white Bolivians that Indians can’t rule, that they’re not capable of making judgments, that they shouldn’t be in government. And so Evo was the first indigenous president. He broke through a very major barrier. He was in power for almost 14 years, 13 years 9 months, made tremendous advancements and a lot of this is about what it’s always been about in Bolivia, natural resources. They had for a long time and still have very high gas resources. That was the focal point in the 80s and 90s when the US was trying to control Bolivia and finally Evo Morales broke through. Now, it’s focused on minerals and minerals that are needed for car batteries and for computer screens and modern electronics. Bolivia has tremendous resources in these areas and the US wants those resources for its economy, for its military and that’s really the root cause issue: who’s going to get the natural resources, Bolivia, the Bolivian people or Western governments especially the United States.

MF: And oligarchs. And so last week, one of the major unions or coalition of unions said to the government that if the self-appointed president, who is a minority senator who declared herself president, Anez, if she didn’t step down within 48 hours, they would start blocking roads. There was a major blockade around a gas plant near El Alto called Senkata and the law enforcement was sent in and started using live ammunition and murdered eight people. The next day there was a march coming to La Paz from El Alto carrying the dead bodies and that march itself was attacked by the police with tear gas.

KZ: That’s right. Coffins were attacked. I mean it, the violence by the coup government is intense and they’re trying to kick out the media. They’re trying to kick Telesur out. They want to do more violence and not be caught on camera or have it reported. There are independent media out there. Some of our allies are down there reporting on it. We’re trying to keep a handle on it and on Popular Resistance, covering Bolivia as best we can because we think it is a very important linchpin of Latin America. And it seems like they’re moving toward a new election. There’s talking about an election in the first two months of next year. The MAS Party, Evo Morales’ party has agreed with the coup mongers to allow an election without Evo Morales on the ballot. I saw an interview with Evo recently where he said he didn’t feel like he had to run. He wants peace in Bolivia and there are lots of good people. He’d be happy to be in Bolivia. He’d be happy to meet with the MAS Party to help them select a candidate. He wants to go back to Bolivia, but right now he’s being blocked and he’s being threatened with arrest if he does come back. So it’s a very in flux situation. The indigenous population is rising up and they have removed presidents before. They know how to do this. And so this is an unpredictable situation because we’re also seeing very aggressive action by the United States and its allies in the coup government, the interim government. That’s the coup supporters opposed to Evo Morales.

MF: That’s right. More information has come out about the US involvement in this coup, including working with Argentina and Southern Command, which is the US military command in Latin America, having troops on the Argentinian border, rapid response troops ready to go into Bolivia. So it does look that this is very much a US-tied coup and what we’re hearing in the US media is problematic. So I really encourage people to check out independent sources. Medea Benjamin from CODEPINK is down there covering it live as well as Wyatt Reed who publishes on GrayZone Project and Mintpress News. Let’s talk about Venezuela. Juan Guaido and the State Department, they just don’t give up. They tried again this past week to stage another coup attempt. This was more than a month of preparation for this mass mobilization that Juan Guaido was calling for and not very many people showed up. It’s interesting. They complained that they couldn’t go to the rally because of problems with the public transportation in Venezuela, but for some reason in Colombia when the buses and things weren’t working, hundreds of thousands of people managed to turn out so I don’t know. Is it just that people in the wealthy communities that are supporting Juan Guaido don’t know how to get anywhere? I don’t think they even take buses.

KZ: You know, even when we were in the Venezuelan Embassy, they were at about their third attempted coup. In fact, there was a chant about that.

MF: Yeah, or a song. I think it was “One Coup, Two Coup, Three Coup Fail.”

KZ: Yeah, I mean but now I’ve lost count of how many times now the US and Guaido have tried this coup effort in Venezuela. It never works. President Maduro has made some statements, pretty strong statements, about how inappropriate it is for the US to be trying to bribe people in the military to rise up against their government. The US keeps trying to do that. It keeps failing at doing that. The military is staying strong and you have to realize that Chavez came from the military. And so the Venezuelan military has been well educated, deeply educated about US imperialism and how to stand up against it and so they’re not going to succeed on that part. Guaido even when we were in Venezuela before going in the embassy, when we went to their largest most-watched television show, Guaido was a joke in Venezuela. People mocked him because he’s unable to even call a protest any longer and yet he keeps calling himself president. It’s just, it’s time for this mockery to end. It’s time for the US to realize they cannot conduct a successful coup in Venezuela. Maduro is the legitimate president. He won a legitimate election. More than several hundred election observers were there to monitor it, report on it, from around the world. They all came to the same conclusion: legitimate election. He is the President. Accept the will of the people. It’s time for the US to stop this coup effort.

MF: But but we’re bringing democracy to Venezuela through a coup.

KZ: You sound like Marco Rubio.

MF: One person brought up a very interesting point on social media, which is that Mike Pompeo and actually vice president Pence as well, were using their social media platforms to cheer on the coup attempt by Juan Guaido. That doesn’t quite seem appropriate for US government officials to be actually, I mean they do it all the time.

KZ: Well, what’s so weird about that is first off they said Guaido is the president but then they’re cheering on Guaido to conduct a coup. Well, which is it? Which is it? If he’s a president, he’s not conducting a coup. If he’s not the president. Well, he’s not the President. I mean so time to face that reality.

MF: Let’s talk about Ecuador because there were some massive protests there about a month or so ago and they have since been in discussion with the Moreno government. This was really something that was triggered after a package of reforms that were being pushed through by Moreno in order to accede to the demands of the International Monetary Fund for a loan that was given to Ecuador. Since then, there’s been a real attack on leaders of Rafael Correa’s party, Citizen Revolution. Four of them are in jail. Three are in hiding in the Mexican Embassy. As well as going after indigenous leaders who were also very much involved in calling those protests. And then in addition to that, President Moreno is continuing to try to push through a Reform Bill to get these measures for the International Monetary Fund. That was recently rejected by their legislature.

KZ: Just remember the last time a month or so ago, when there was an uprising in Ecuador, Moreno had to flee the capital, moved to a conservative coastal city. Not just in the city, but into the military base and he was hiding in the military base because the protests were so significant. He’s playing with fire here. He can arrest a few leaders, but there are hundreds of, thousands of people who are watching this in Ecuador and this will not end well for Moreno if he continues to ignore what the people are demanding. You know, he may kowtow to the IMF but the IMF does not control Ecuador, the people of Ecuador will control it and Moreno really needs to recognize, he needs to get off of the neoliberal capitalist side and get on the people’s side.

MF: Let’s talk about the Middle East because there’s also a lot going on there. We’ve talked about the protests in Lebanon previously, but also in Iran recently there were some protests after some gas prices were increased. These were peaceful protests. Families in Iran because of the unilateral coercive measures that the United States has imposed against Iran that have limited its ability to produce oil, Iran has put forward kind of a quota. Each family gets a certain amount of oil each month and then they wanted to impose an increased price for people that purchase gas beyond that quota. Something that actually in the past the International Monetary Fund had suggested as a way to get revenue because the gas prices are so low in Iran. Well, this led to some peaceful protests that were then infiltrated by violent elements. And Iran is blaming the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel for interfering in their protests.

KZ: This is all in the context of a longtime US economic war that began with unilateral coercive measures or sanctions back in 1979 after the Revolution and have continued. It looked like they had been resolved with the nuclear agreement, that the sanctions would start to be removed, but President Trump reversed that and has instead been tightening the screws. But the Iranian government is not going to give in and the Iranian people are not going to allow US imperialism to control their nation. And so a war with Iran is just unrealistic. We saw the war in Iraq was extremely expensive and a failed effort. Iran is bigger than Iraq, many times, six times bigger has a much larger population, a much more organized military and Iran has connections throughout the region that could cause damage to the US and its allies very quickly. A war in Iran is just not feasible. And so this ongoing economic regime change effort with the unilateral coercive measures to choke off the government is causing these kinds of problems in Iran, but it’s going to unify people around the Iranian government and help to build a resistance economy that stands against the United States.

MF: Right and Iran actually just reported that they’re producing 80% of their food now and this again is in response to the fact that they’ve had these economic coercive measures imposed on them for such a long time. Let’s quickly then go to talking about Israel. Our guest Alison Weir is going to be talking about this more in-depth. But this past week the Trump administration declared that they are no longer going to consider Israeli settlements on Palestinian land to be illegal.

KZ: And you know, of course, they’re illegal under international law. This is not really a decision for a US President to make but this is one more nail in the coffin of the two-state solution, it is just not practical on the ground. We were in Israel Palestine and we visited the West Bank. We visited Bethlehem. We visited Jerusalem. Palestinian areas. And we see the inability of a two-state solution to be put in place for practical reasons and people in Palestine, both Palestinians and Israeli Jews, have completely reversed themselves on the two-state solution. Recent polls show that over the last 10 years, it has dropped from 70 percent support for a two-state solution down to under 45 percent support. People see it’s not practical. So now we need a new solution. We’re hopeful about the new campaign that’s 2 years old for One Democratic State. We wrote about that in our newsletter a couple weeks ago. The newsletter is called, “Occupied Palestine: from BDS to ODS,” One Democratic State. Trump is just pushing that agenda further, faster by his illegal recognition of the settlements that are in Palestinian territories.

MF: Of course, the fear is that this will just give a green light for more settlements and so in the meantime, this is going to be a problem for Palestinians who are continuing to get squeezed into smaller and smaller areas of land. And of course that causes problems, social problems when you have overcrowding like that. The United Nations voted last week on eight resolutions that were condemning Israel for war crimes in Palestine, The issues included in those resolutions were refugees, the terrible living conditions, the situation in Gaza, which is frequently attacked by the Israeli Defense Forces as well as choked off from getting appropriate amounts of food and water and the ability to move freely, talked about the urgent need for assistance to Gazans and condemnation of the settlements and also the ongoing home demolitions in Occupied Palestine.

KZ: The crimes continue, the Israeli crimes continue and US political protection for Israel Palestine in the UN also continues as does the US funding of this apartheid state that functions based on Jim Crow laws.

MF: With that, why don’t we get to our interview with Alison Weir of If Americans Knew. We will take a short musical break and we’ll be right back.

MUSIC BREAK

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And we’re joined by our guest now Alison Weir. She is the founder of If Americans Knew and the president of the Council for National Interest. Thank you for taking time to join us, Alison.

Alison Weir (AW): Thank you for inviting me.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): Your website is one I’ve always looked at, a great source of information. So we’ll get into that a little bit but before we get into the site, why don’t you tell us about how you got involved in this issue.

AW: I’d be glad to. People always wonder that because I don’t happen to be Jewish or Arab or Muslim or Palestinian and really like most Americans 20 years ago, I knew very little about this issue. I had been active on some other issues, anti-war during the Vietnam war, civil rights, that type of thing but I had truthfully never focused on Israel-Palestine like many of us until the Second Intifada began in Fall of 2000. I’m sure you know intifada just means “Uprising,” a Palestinian Uprising. So when that began, in Fall of 2000, I just got curious about it. My background is journalism. At that time, I was the editor of a very small weekly newspaper in Northern California. So this wasn’t for my job. It was just my personal curiosity. So I started to follow the news coverage on this uprising and I quickly noticed that it was very one-sided, that we were hearing from and about Israelis in great detail, as I wanted, but then I noticed that we got very little information from and about Palestinians. So this was in the fairly early days of using the internet for research. But I decided to try this new tool and went on the internet and discovered a great deal of information from the region itself, from humanitarian agencies that were there, Israeli media in English, Palestinian media. And when I looked at that, I discovered that, this was in Fall of 2000, that Israeli forces were shooting Palestinians every day in large quantities, including many many children and I noticed that this reality was not being revealed or reported on the news sites that I usually looked at. The San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, especially NPR, seemed to be covering that up. So the more I looked into it, the more I felt this was a truly significant cover-up. I felt and I do feel now that this was the longest lasting and most enduring cover-up I had ever seen before and that it was occurring across the political spectrum, which I was not used to. So after a few months of looking into that, learning what was going on there in the region itself, how many children were being shot, how many were being shot in the head, etc. It’s all well documented. After a few months of that, I decided, it seemed so significant that I quit my job in Sausalito and I traveled as a freelance reporter throughout Gaza and the West Bank. When I came back, as you can imagine it was a very intense trip, I was not part of any delegation, there really weren’t any delegations at that time and it was before ISM, etc. So when I came back, I started the organization If Americans Knew. The goal has been to be very factual, to show the sources of our information. It’s very transparent and to just give all Americans without ideological slant the facts on Israel-Palestine and especially the American connection, especially the fact that we are in many ways responsible for what Israel does because our tax money goes to Israel. It’s now over 10 million dollars per day. We’ve given Israel far more than we’ve given anybody else. So most Americans I think are the way I was. I felt I really had no connection to this confusing issue on the other side of the world, but I learned I have a very direct connection to it and therefore it’s my responsibility to know about it and then to act in ways that I feel are morally required. In a nutshell, that’s how I ended up 20 years later still working on this issue.

MF: That was a very courageous thing to do and of course the US also provides cover for Israel in the United Nations as well or when the International Criminal Court wants to investigate Israel, but let’s go back to your trip. How were you received by Palestinians when you went there to cover the Intifada?

AW: Well, the interesting thing is again, the perception was and is that you will be in great danger from Palestinians. But what I discovered is it was the opposite. I was welcomed. I was invited to stay in people’s homes, which I often did. People were very excited to learn that an American journalist was there. I always told people I’m an American journalist. I’m here to see what’s going on and people would smile at me in places like Gaza where there were really very few Americans in Gaza at that time. I didn’t see any other journalists traveling around. Crowds of people would come up to me and they wanted to show me their bullet-riddled homes and show me what was happening to them. So I found it then and on my other trips there since, I have found people very welcoming, very friendly. Often they’re very aware of how much money the US gives to Israel. Even though most Americans don’t know that, it is known in the region. Despite their knowledge of that and despite their knowledge of how the US as you say has supported Israel in so many ways, they’re still very welcoming to Americans and very willing to not blame us for what our government is doing. So it’s really the opposite of what people have been led to believe it would be like.

KZ: What you just described is really very consistent with our experience. We were just in Occupied Palestine recently and what you described was very consistent with our experience as well. Your website focuses on correcting the misconceptions, If Americans Knew. What would you say would be some of the most important misconceptions that people in the United States have about the situation in Occupied Palestine?

AW: Thank you. That’s excellent because that’s at the heart of the problem because there are so many that it’s hard to make people realize it’s really as different as they expect. If there were only one or two, people can accept that. It’s harder for them to realize, wait almost everything I thought was true, you’re telling me is not really accurate. And that is what I am often telling them. So I guess one of the main things is, as I mentioned earlier, that we are directly related to the conflict, that we give Israel massive amounts of money. This is per capita on average seven thousand times more than we give other people and that’s fairly shocking to know that we don’t even know that fact, but it’s not shocking when you look at media coverage. They almost never tell us that. One of the other things is that many people are unaware that Israel was established in my lifetime, that when I was born there was no Israel. There was a region called Palestine that had been there called Palestine for really millennia, or many centuries. So many people, intelligent and knowledgeable people, are not aware even what Israel Palestine is about, that basically Israel was established through warfare. It was not established by the United Nations, another misconception, and I write about this in my book. It was established by a war of ethnic cleansing. That’s what we now term that type of war. It’s the title of an excellent book by an Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, so, I think the very foundation of Israel is very different than people realize. And that this was an intentional dispossession of the indigenous population. It began from the beginning of the establishment of the modern state of Israel and continues through today that constantly Israel is confiscating additional Palestinian land and taking it over for Jewish only settlements, as they’re called. People don’t know that. Many people are unaware that many Palestinians are Christians. You know, we should know that this is where Christianity began but we don’t know that because it’s rarely mentioned in the US media. I think the other thing that people are often unaware of these days is media coverage always focuses on rockets from Gaza. Every news report mentions rockets from Gaza. On our Facebook page, people always say, oh yeah, but what about those rockets? The fact is that I was there traveling around by myself as a reporter and before any rockets had been fired and I saw already at that time in early 2001 extreme devastation. I saw neighborhoods in Gaza that were bullet-riddled, that looked like the pictures you see of World War II ruins. In the West Bank too shelling was going on. This was before any rockets had been fired. So people think that Israel is defending itself from the rockets, but the rockets were actually resistance groups in Gaza trying to fight back with really very ineffectual rockets. In the whole time they’ve been used, which is well over a dozen years, really more than that. In that whole time, they’ve killed at most a few dozen Israelis. Meanwhile, Israeli forces have killed many thousands of Gazans. The only statistic we get in the typical news report is thousands of rockets have been fired from Gaza. They never tell that the total number of Israelis who have been killed is perhaps by now, maybe 50 perhaps not even that high and they never tell and during that time that these rockets have been fired and before they were fired, Israeli Forces we were killing tens of thousands of people in Gaza, well not, more like, you know, about 5,000 Gazans. So we hear about thousands of rockets. We don’t hear about that they killed 50 people and we don’t hear about the massive bombardment of Gaza that’s been going on for a very long time and that has killed thousands of Gazans. And of course, killed many people in the West Bank also.

MF: Yeah. In fact when we were there in, we were in Jerusalem, and we saw the fighter planes flying over Jerusalem on their way to bomb Gaza during our trip where over 30 people were killed, including a family that was killed in that bombing and it was interesting because you heard from the media in Israel that this was terrible, that the Palestinians were firing rockets at them and that 46 Israeli citizens had been injured. One of them had been hit by some shrapnel, 23 were injured when they were running to shelter and 22 had anxiety attacks. And then you compare that with, I read that tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes in that recent siege of Gaza.

KZ: And you know, these so-called rocket attacks, they’re like little pipsqueak rockets. I mean that we saw video on TV of a rocket hitting near a road. It hit, exploded and traffic continued. It didn’t have any impact, there’s just nothing. And these rockets are always a response. It wasn’t like these rockets were fired most recently for no reason. They were a response to an Israeli assassination in Gaza. And Gazan people are basically trapped in Gaza. How do they, how do they fight back against that? It really is a very defensive response, an exaggerated response. It’s really amazing that they use that as an excuse, but they do.

AW: That’s right. They get and they get away with it because if the media only tell about the response and don’t tell about what came before, the American population is completely misled. As you say, most of these are small homemade projectiles, but media will report them as missiles and people I think are imagining a Nike missile or something. That’s just not what’s going on. There have been studies of the chronology of the violence in the conflict. There was one excellent study by an MIT professor who looked at periods of calm, at pauses, at various truces through the years. And her study showed that it was something like 96% of the time in the shorter truces it was Israel that had first resumed violence against Palestinians and in the longer truces, it was 100% of the time that Israeli forces have resumed the violence. This is just not known to the American public because it’s a very filtered news coverage that people are getting. Your point of hearing jets and F-16s, I think now F-35s, flying over to bomb Gaza is very significant. People don’t know that here we have one of the most powerful militaries on the planet, largely due to our tax money and often US weaponry, fighting against the population that has no Air Force, has no Navy, has no aircraft, has no helicopter gunships. You know, the disparity is astounding and the media try to call it a war. A war is between two military forces. That’s not what we have when we look at Gaza and Israeli forces.

MF: Absolutely. It’s such an asymmetric situation. And the Palestinians have been forced from their homes, living in an apartheid state and have the right, I believe under international law, to defend themselves in that situation. But still the Palestinians that we met with while we were there, activists, said we are nonviolent, we believe in using non-violence and even talked about teaching their children not to hate other people, how giving in to that, it was destructive. It’s such a different picture. So one of the things that people push back in the United States is they say that there never really was a Palestine, that Palestinian nationality didn’t start until the 20th century. Can you comment a little bit on that? You said that Palestine has been around for thousands of years.

AW: Yes. This is one of the Israeli talking points that many people have fallen for. You know, you see this on Facebook and Twitter and various places. There is no such thing as Palestine. Palestine did not exist. It’s a nonsensical argument. It’s true, there was not a state of Palestine. There was not a state of Israel. There was a region called Palestine. You can look at old maps. Anybody who looks into this honestly to try to learn the facts can easily find the facts. Old maps show Palestine. It was a region back in biblical times. It was talked about in more recent times. It was talked about in more recent centuries. It was under the Ottoman Empire. It was what’s in the way we call multicultural. Around 1900, the population was about 80 percent Muslim, about 15 percent Christian and a little under five percent Jewish. So this was a region. It was not a nation-state, as we know nation-states came relatively late to the world. Germany wasn’t a nation-state for many years. The United States did not used to be a nation-state. So Palestine was a region. Palestinians have existed. There was a book that was published some years ago by an Israel partisan who went by the name Joan Peters. Katz is actually I think her last name, but she goes by Joan Peters, claiming the Palestinians did not exist, that they were just nomads that had come in because the Zionists’ wonderful entrepreneurial spirit that had created jobs for these nomads to come and join them. This is the thesis of her book called “From Time Immemorial.” Many people read it. It was praised by pretty much every book review in the United States. People like Barbara Tuchman, an Israel partisan, but known as a historian, praised it. It turned out to be a complete hoax.  Some very good historians and analysts including some Jewish Americans. What was, I can’t think of the name, various names, right now, but some people looked into the book and found out that these many footnotes were often fraudulent. They were actually coming from Zionist propaganda and that this was a hoax. In Israel itself it was exposed as non-factual. In Britain it was exposed as non-factual. In the United States it eventually was but I don’t think any of the people that gave it a positive review and that endorsed it then had the honesty or principle to retract their erroneous reviews. So many people, especially many Jewish Americans I’m finding, read that book and were taken in by it and then repeat the myth that there were no such thing as Palestinians. Even Golda Meir, the famous Israeli Prime Minister, said at one point that quote there were no Palestinians. That’s like Americans trying to say well there were no Native Americans here. Of course, there was.

KZ: The story about there was no Palestinians, and you go back and you can find maps, scores and scores and scores of maps that show Palestinian territories. I mean, it’s so obvious that this was a Palestinian area throughout history. It’s just, it’s such an obviously false story and yet it’s repeated. And that’s one of the things I find very, to go out about dealing with the question of Occupied Palestine because even in the country itself, Israeli Jews seem oblivious to the reality in their own country. Home demolitions and the settlers putting settlements on Palestinian communities and on Palestinian lands. We drove on Jewish-only roads. And you know, if I Google Jewish only roads, I find an article about Jewish only roads don’t exist. And the images of the beach near Tel Aviv showing rolling grassy hills and sand dunes and no villages and yet pictures of that same area show a large Arab city. One of the challenges I think we have in talking to people in the United States, and even in Israel, Occupied Palestine, is they don’t want to see reality. They can’t see reality. We can point it out so obviously. How do you communicate to people who just seem oblivious whether unintentionally or intentionally, they can’t see reality?

AW: That’s a good point. Certainly, Israelis have been brought up to be just the way you’re describing. Nurit Peled, an academic, has done excellent work showing that Israeli textbooks are very propagandistic in the way that they depict Palestinians. As you say, they’re not even called Palestinians. They call them Israeli Arabs. So this is deeply embedded in many portions of the Israeli population. Fortunately, as I’m sure you also saw, there are many people in Israel that are dissenting from that and they’re trying to reach their fellow Israelis. There are Israelis Against Torture and Israelis Against Home Demolition. There is a number of Israeli groups within the society. They’re are small fraction, but they’re doing really wonderful work in trying to expose what’s actually going on. There are some Israeli journalists, especially Gideon Levy, who write every week in the Israeli media about some of the latest atrocities being committed by Israel against Palestinians. I would love to reach everybody. I’d love to reach every Israeli. I’d love to reach every American who’s taken in by Israeli talking points, but what I focus on is the really fairly promising reality that about three-quarters of the American population despite the pro-Israel media coverage that we’ve been getting for decades and despite Hollywood, the large majority of Americans really does not have a strong view on this issue. And in general surveys will show that they say something like we shouldn’t take sides, which is sensible. If you don’t know much about an issue, you just don’t take sides. That sounds like a fairly wimpy approach to those of us who know what’s going on there, but what that would mean if you don’t take sides is we would stop giving Israel 10 million dollars per day, we would stop vetoing UN resolutions to protect Israel from world condemnation of its violence. So it’s actually quite a good stand if we did what the majority of Americans already say we should do. So I try to focus on giving the general public the facts on this issue and the importance of making their wishes known to their elected representatives that it’s time to stop this massive aid to Israel. It prevents peace. Israeli militarists think they have a blank check from the most powerful nation on the planet, which they do right now because most voters are not voting on it. So my view is we give the voters factual information on this. Show how extremely tragic the situation is because of what we’re funding and the fact that it hurts us as well and emphasize how important it is to tell our elected representatives that we want them to change these misguided destructive US policies of a blank check to Israel. It’s time for us to vote and to work on the issue of Israel Palestine. Not only because of what it’s doing to Palestinians, not only because of the, you know, what it then does to the US but because it has created even more. Our support of Israel has led to our wars in the region. It has led to much of the violence in the region that has since spilled over elsewhere. It’s the core issue of the Middle East and it’s the time for us to focus on it and to address it.

MF: We agree with you on that. I want to ask you about a topic that you’ve been writing about recently. And that is the criticism that people who question or criticize the Israeli state are anti-semitic. Can you talk about that?

AW: Yes, that’s used all the time and most of us are profoundly opposed to bigotry of all kinds. You know, we don’t want to be splattered with such mudslinging, we don’t want to be called anti-semitic. We don’t want to be anti-semitic and we’re not being anti-semitic when we speak out for justice as a principal, but that’s the attack that they try to use. A member of the Israeli Parliament some years ago on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now said and I’m paraphrasing but you can see this video. She said this is a trick. We always use it when somebody is critical of Israel, we call them anti-semitic and that is exactly what going on. Nobody should be anti-semitic. Nobody should be against any population, should be hostile and prejudiced against people. Bigotry is wrong. So that’s what they try to use. What’s gotten worse is that not only do they try to claim somebody’s anti-semitic when we’re talking about a nation-state and talking about injustice and trying to support principles of justice for all people. There is an effort and I’ve written about this quite a bit, there’s an effort to change the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticisms of Israel. This is extremely insidious. It’s been going on for a number of years. There’s a new formulation in which certain criticisms of Israel, factual statements about Israel, will now be defined as anti-Semitism. Therefore it will be defined as hate speech, etc. This effort was begun by an Israeli Minister named Natan Sharansky. It has now been embedded in the US State Department and it’s being embedded elsewhere around the world. We need to learn about that and we need to oppose it. We need to stick with the traditional definition of anti-Semitism and we should oppose all anti-Semitism just as we oppose all racism, but we should not allow that incorrect epithet to be used to silence us or to prevent us from working for justice and human rights for all people including Palestinians.

KZ: You know, it’s interesting. One of the people we visited with when we were recently in Occupied Palestine was Rabbi Hirsch who is with an ultra-orthodox Jew and he makes a very strong case that Zionism is inconsistent with Judaism, that it violates the Torah and that makes the state of Israel really under his religious analysis to be against Judaism. So that really turns on its head the whole accusation that criticizing Israel is anti-Semitism. We’re so glad there are many people now, a growing group of Jews in the United States who are getting active in the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. Jewish Voice for Peace. You know a number of Jewish groups who are actually beginning to criticize Zionism and Israel. So that also undermines that absurd claim. It’s really is an absurd claim that people who criticize Israel or Zionism are anti-Semitic. Of course, and they throw out self-hating Jew or something but it just shows the weakness of their arguments

AW: It does and I’m glad you brought that up because when Zionism, political Zionism, began with Theodore Herzl and some conferences in Switzerland in the late 1800s, the majority of Jews around the world did not join that movement. They said we’re Americans, we’re British etcetera. Even a Jewish population in Palestine was opposed to it, especially observant Jews were opposed to it and considered it a heretical move. And as you know, there are many Jews who for religious reasons opposed Zionism saying this is against the Bible. It’s against God’s will. So that’s also very disguised. That’s part of what people don’t know. And in my book, in the research I did, it was very interesting to see how Zionists were very upset that Jewish Americans were not embracing Zionism in the early years. In fact, for a number of decades and that there were groups such as the American Council on Judaism that actively and strenuously opposed Zionism.

MF: Finally, if you could talk a little bit about where can people find your book and what types of programs does If Americans Knew organize. How can people learn more about the work that you do?

AW: Well, the first thing would be to go to our website: If Americans Knew dot-org. From there, you will also go to our blog, Israel-Palestine News, it’s called the If Americans Knew blog and between those two resources, I believe there’s a lot of information that will be useful to people. My book is available on Amazon. The short title is “Against Our Better Judgment.” I’m excited to say it has over 500 reviews, most of them 5 stars. It’s a best-seller on Amazon. We’ve sold well over 30,000 copies. It can be read very quickly. It’s I think that’s one of the selling points and it’s thoroughly cited. It turned out that this is, I didn’t know until it was actually in hard copy, the book is half citations. So every statement in it, you can find the source for that statement. I hope people will read it. It contains a great deal of information that many people, even experts on the issue, did not know about before because when I started researching it I was starting from scratch so I read a huge number of books. On our website, we also give my upcoming speaking engagements. I don’t have any in this country right now, but I’m going to Europe in a few days to go to a conference there. I guess especially go to the website If Americans Knew.org. We’re also working to encourage people to join the effort to work within their congressional district to inform the people in your community about what’s going on. So if contact us, you can email us at contact at If America’s Knew dot org and help on getting this information off the internet and into the hands of people in your community. We also have a very active Facebook page, If Americans Knew Facebook page where we post things every day. I encourage people to go there and I especially encourage people to join our email list. We should not rely on Facebook for our communication that of course is a private company and they could turn it off whenever they want to so, please join our email list also.

KZ: I’ll just say that you haven’t visited If Americans Knew, it’s a very deep website. If you ever want to understand a particular aspect of Israel or Occupied Palestine, you’ll find a lot, a great starting point at least, a lot of the facts right there. If you’re ever writing about it, debating it, trying to understand and discuss it with others, it’s a very fact-based and deep web site that serves a very useful purpose for engaging on this issue. So people should check it out. And I thank you a great deal for making the effort to put that together over the years. It’s a really excellent job.

AW: Thank you. We’ve certainly tried and the websites been live, I think probably about 15 or 16 years. So there’s really a depth of content there. People keep searching. We’re trying to upgrade it to a more modern look but there’s so much content, we just haven’t been able to do that yet. So it’s an old-school look I’m told but the content is there for people to find and as I say, it’s all sourced. Anybody can claim anything. What we try to do is make sure that our material is factual and show people that that’s the case.

MF: Thank you again, Alison, and thank you for taking time to speak with us today.

AW: Thank you.

KZ: Thanks a lot.

Read More

Stopping The FBI From Spying On Social Movements

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a long history of monitoring, infiltrating and entrapping activists and social movements engaged in First Amendment activity. A new report by Rights and Dissent’s legal counsel Chip Gibbons details some of these activities over the past decade. The report covers FBI surveillance from Occupy to racial justice movements, and from those who work to abolish ICE to peace activists. We speak with Gibbons about the history of the FBI, why it is not structured to be held accountable and how it fits into the whole practice of state surveillance. We also discuss how the FBI interferes with protected First Amendment rights and what people can do to stop these repressive practices.

Listen here:

Review us on iTunes! Click here … Then click on “View in iTunes … Then click “Ratings and Reviews.”

Guest:

Chip Gibbons is an expert on US Constitutional law, a journalist, and a longtime activist. He joined Defending Rights & Dissent as a Legal Fellow in 2015, after having led a successful campaign to defeat a proposed unconstitutional anti-boycott bill in Maryland. Chip became our first ever fulltime Policy & Legislative Counsel in 2016. As Policy & Legislative Counsel, Chip has advised both state and federal lawmakers on the First Amendment implications of pending legislation. He’s also appeared appeared on Al Jazeera as an expert on U.S. Constitutional law.

As a journalist, Chip writes about civil liberties and social movements, both from a historical and a contemporary perspective. His work has been published in The Nation and Jacobin, and he contributed a chapter to The Henry Kissinger Files (forthcoming, Verso Books). Even before joining Defending Rights & Dissent staff, Chip was an early contributor to the Dissent NewsWire. He continues to bring his journalistic talents to Defending Rights & Dissent, where he has done first hand reporting on the unprecedented prosecution of Trump Inauguration protesters and was instrumental in drafting our groundbreaking, first of its kind report on ag-gag laws. He has a far-reaching breadth of knowledge, covering everything from the applicability of the unconstitutional conditions doctrine to state anti-boycotts laws to the history of FBI political surveillance.

Transcript:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Clearing the FOG is a project of PopularResistance.org. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Mixcloud and Google Play. You can also find us on PopularResistance.org, and while you’re there check out the store where you’ll find Clearing the Fog Gear such as t-shirts, water bottles, tote bags and bumper stickers. So this week we interviewed Chip Gibbons, a legal counsel with Defending Rights and Dissent, who just authored a report on FBI spying on social movements.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): Chip has been doing work on civil liberties and constitutional law for years. He’s a fantastic, knowledgeable guy on constitutional law. This report he just finished is a blockbuster.

MF:  So we go in-depth with Chip on the FBI spying on social movements over the past decade, what that looks like, the history of the FBI, why it’s not held accountable and what we can do to actually hold it accountable. So stick around for that interview, but first, let’s get into some things that are in the news. We just spent a week in the occupied Palestinian territories and just completed a newsletter on that.

KZ: Yeah. It was really eye-opening. I mean you read about so-called Israel, occupied Palestine, and the segregation, the Jim Crow laws, ethnic cleansing, and land theft but when you see it in reality, it’s so much worse. Anyone that doesn’t believe that Israel is an apartheid state is either fooled or lying to you. Anyone that doesn’t believe that Jim Crow laws are in control of Palestine because it’s so obvious. It happens in front of your face when you are there. We drove on Jewish-only roads. We went to towns where Israeli citizens, that’s what they’re called, are not allowed to go to those towns. It’s against the law for them to go to those Palestinian towns. It’s like going through the 1940s, 1950s south of the United States and seeing racism upfront and in your face and people there have to know what’s happening.

MF: I wanted to talk about some of the stories from our trip because we, you know, in the newsletter, we didn’t get to really go into depth on some of the stories from our trip. And when we were in East Jerusalem, which is a majority Palestinian part, and you can just see the difference between East and West Jerusalem. West has electric rail, commercial streets, beautiful sidewalks, landscaping, areas for music, lively restaurants and shops. East Jerusalem, and you see narrow roads without sidewalks. You see houses that are not in very good condition, no planning, very little in the way of public transportation and we drove down and you see Jewish settlements inside of East Jerusalem taking over that space. They’re intentionally not developing a lot of East Jerusalem because they want to take it over by Jewish settlers, but we drove on a road called Jericho Road. That was a major throughway from Jerusalem to the city of Jericho and they built the giant separation, expansion wall, annexation wall, whatever you want to call it. This giant concrete wall going right across that road with barbed wire. It’s completely choked off what was a major commercial hub for East Jerusalem. And so all these businesses that for decades had been thriving on that road had to shut down because there was no longer traffic going through.

KZ: That’s right. The road dead-ends where it used to continue on through Palestinian neighborhoods and communities and businesses and on to Jericho. You see in East Jerusalem these Palestinian neighborhoods where people have a very hard time getting permission to expand their house, buy a house, build a house and yet in the midst of these communities you have these settler communities. It’s not like a whole big settler community in the West Bank. This is in the city of Jerusalem, settler communities in Palestinian neighborhoods as they gradually encroach, use the housing laws to make it very hard for Palestinians to live there and build there and buy there but use the settler policies to make it easier for settlers to expand so they’re constantly encroaching, forcing families live together ,cousins live together because they can’t get housing, creating all sorts of stress that way. But what was really also striking, you go to in Jerusalem the walled City, the old city of Jerusalem, which is divided into quadrants. You see these Star of David Israeli flags hanging from windows in the Palestinian quadrant. We asked what happened was these settlers would go underground in the tunnels below the walled city of Jerusalem, go into these buildings and take them over. So even in the old city, they’re expanding the settlements there.

MF: What they do is they put a security door on the building and then they post Israeli Defense Force soldiers outside of it to protect it. So that was wild to see in the Palestinian quadrant in the old city, but I also, one of the things that I wasn’t as aware of was the whole Jewish National Fund, which was created in 1901 to quote-unquote Green the desert, Palestinian desert. They’re planting these pine trees, first off, which are not native to Palestine and which are actually destroying the soil of Palestine. But we went to the Nagab Desert and visited a place where there used to be a Palestinian village called Al Arraqib and this village has been destroyed 167 times. Even when they put up tents, bulldozers come and tear down the tents. Now, we talked to the few people that were staying there, all they have is a rug on the ground and some plastic chairs and they said almost daily law enforcement comes and takes their chairs, takes their stuff. What, all they have left literally in this village is a cemetery that was started in 1914. In the evening that we arrived, there had been a funeral for a resident of the village and there were hundreds of cars there at the cemetery. Of course, it was starting to get dark. They had to leave because there’s no village, there’s no lights, there’s no electricity or anything. But what they are doing is they’re planting these Jewish National Fund trees where that village was to cover it up and the people said every tree that’s planted is erasing one of us.

KZ: Well, that’s one of the techniques of occupied Palestine. There are hundreds and hundreds of villages that were destroyed. One of the tactics they use is to cover these villages with landscape. That could be a whole forest. So this Jewish National Fund is in the United States and Europe and Canada going to Temples asking for young kids to donate to and raise money to donate so we green the desert. What they’re really doing is they’re donating to cover up ethnic cleansing.

MF: And so there’s a lot of stories that we could tell from that visit. But I encourage people to check out our article because it gives you resources if you plan to visit so that you can also see the same realities that we saw, tours that you can take. But we met with leaders of this movement and why don’t you talk about what people in Palestine are talking about as a solution.

KZ: Well, that’s the good news. I mean there is the horrible apartheid, Jim Crow and racism and ethnic cleansing and land theft. All that’s going on. But the good news is there is a vision for a transformation to One Democratic State ODS, essentially BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions, leads to ODS. Now, we have an endpoint. This is about a two-year-old campaign. It is made up of Palestinians and Jews who want to see a constitutional government. Right now, there is no constitution in Israel because in a Constitution you have to define well, what is a Jewish State? What is a Jew? What are the rights of Palestinians? I mean you have to be explicit in a Constitution. So ODS wants to create One Democratic State where every person has a vote, where there are equal rights for all, where minority rights are protected, where there are Jewish or Russian or whatever, whatever group needs protection from the law, their rights are protected and it’s a constitutional government. So it’s a total transformation. And I think now we have a vision for an endpoint. What happens if there is success and what happens to the Jewish population, what happens to the Palestinian public. These people are thinking it through and I think our job as peace and justice advocates in the US and around the world is to stand with the people of Palestine in solidary seeking ODS, One Democratic State. And the other thing is, at the same time this is developing, coincident with that, I don’t think it’s a coincidence. It’s because of the same things, these various forces are making this reality. There is no longer a majority support for a two-state solution. We know that a two-state solution is physically impossible. Impossible because of the Jewish-only roads, the security checkpoints, the settlers, the land theft, all that’s made a two-state solution physically impossible. When Netanyahu came to power, 70 percent of the people of Palestine supported a two-state solution. I mean Jews and Palestinians. Now, it’s under 45 percent for both populations support a two-state solution. People realize it cannot be done. So there needs to be a new alternative. We need a solution and the solution is One Democratic State. It’s so obvious and so essentially look increased security. Jews and Palestinians and everybody else in the Palestinian State, it’ll bring more security to the region because of the impact of the current state of Palestine. The occupied Palestinian territories is really a tool of US militarism. And so this ODS goal point really, needs to be something we all unify behind and show solidarity with the Palestinian people.

MF: Also, we want to let people know that just recently eight organizations submitted a letter to the United Nations to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and it’s basically a report documenting the apartheid state in the occupied Palestinian territories. And this is in preparation for a United Nations review of the Israeli State coming in December of this year. But let’s turn to Bolivia. So much is happening in Bolivia. You were just watching a live stream from Medea Benjamin, who’s down there. Talk about what you saw.

KZ: What I saw was a military that used to work for the people, now being used against the people. You see a military state taking over from what used to be a civilian, a civil government that had lifted up millions of people in Bolivia. Incredible statistics on decreasing poverty, decreasing illiteracy, homelessness, increasing education, growing the economy. Morales had put together one of the most successful economies in Latin America, and now you have this right-wing government coming in to place. The woman who is leading the effort, Senator Anez, has never won more than 4% of the vote. She’s a right-wing evangelical extremist. She walked in with a gigantic Bible bringing the Bible and she said very prejudicial comments about the indigenous people of Bolivia who make up 70% of the population. The scene that Medea was showing was a practice by the military preparing for Anez to come out and make her first pomp and circumstance surrounded speech to the nation. And when you see that happening at the same time that you’re seeing videos of indigenous people and others coming to La Paz to take back power, to return Evo to the country and remove Anez from office. It’s quite a stark contrast, this militarism and this people power. The people of Bolivia have been very successful in the past taking out violent governments, taking out neoliberal governments. It’ll be a difficult fight but I would not bet against the people of Bolivia.

MF: So for our listeners who may not have been following that closely, Evo Morales, the president, was re-elected. There was no evidence of fraud in that election, but the Organization of American States questioned the legitimacy of that election. Morales was willing to go through a process of auditing that election to show that it was a fair election. And then the head of the military, General Williams Kaliman, who has been trained by the United States School of Americas. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s the body in the United States that trains assassins and coup leaders for Latin America. Kaliman, who went to Evo Morales and basically said, we think you should resign in the midst of very violent protests being perpetrated by this right-wing coup supporters and also attacking Evo Morales’s sister. Her house was burned down. Threatening the lives of members of his cabinet and their families. Evo Morales did leave the country, resigned in the midst of those threats, went to Mexico where he sought asylum and was accepted. We understand that General Kaliman then left the country of Bolivia within 72 hours of telling the president to step down to the United States where he was rewarded financially for doing that. This new quote-unquote government by this minority Senator, the major party and the major holder of the Senate is the MAS party, Movement Towards Socialism. They have 70% of the Senate but she stood up and said that she was the new leader anyway, even though she’s a minority. They’ve been giving all kinds of very serious and scary orders, basically giving the military the license to kill protesters. Now saying they’re setting up a system to arrest members of the parliament and senators of the MAS Party who are pushing back against this coup effort. They’ve sent the Cuban doctors back to Cuba and a lot of this has to do with, in addition to the United States not liking a country that actually shows an alternative, but Bolivia also has a fair amount of lithium.

KZ: And lithium is the key to the electronic future. It’s the key to electronic vehicles, electronic cars, batteries. Some reports say, it’s hard to believe this is true, that Bolivia has 70% of the lithium in the world. That’s an astounding figure. I’d really want to see that confirmed but they do have a significant gas production. In fact, in the past, the issue was gas and the United States gas companies would get special privileges and buy gas cheap and the profits didn’t go to the people and that’s what Evo came in, first 14 years ago, promising to nationalize the gas industry and he did so. And that was one reason why their economy has helped the masses rather than just help the transnational corporations. Now with lithium, he had also refused to make concessions to transnational corporations. About a week before the coup occurred, he had made some decisions on that that offended the transnational corporate community that was actually working with China for them to help to excavate the lithium and get a share of it. And that was going to be a real problem for the global economy from the perspective of the United States and Western Europe. And so that seems like that could be a key factor, but I think they’ve been trying to get control of Bolivia. They had control under the first George Bush era. They’ve lost control for Evo’s first election and multiple elections after that and so it’s not just about lithium, it’s about an independent sovereign Bolivia being a key part of left rising government forces in Latin America that are breaking their ties to the United States. So it’s also part of US Empire.

MF: And the indigenous people of Bolivia, which make up the majority of the country, which are the majority of the supporters of President Morales, he himself is the first indigenous president of Bolivia, have been mobilizing to fight back. I think over 20 people have been killed. Many have been injured and today they marched to the city of La Paz. They shut down a refinery there. The Coca Growers, which is a group Evo Morales came from, the Coca Growers have vowed that if the current coup leader does not step back in 48 hours that they will shut down the major highways until she does. So there is a lot of resistance trying to overcome the coup, trying to bring Morales back into power.

KZ:  It really is an amazing conflict that is already ongoing. It started before the election with the burning down of MAS Party headquarters by the right-wingers and continues to this day now with the military working with them, but they’re also seeing some breaks in that there’s some indications that members of the Security State are starting to begin to side with the indigenous people and those calling for an end of the coup. So there’s a little bit of a fissure there. We’ill see if that fissure turns into a fracture. If it does, that will be key I think for the Bolivian people regaining their democracy.

MF: Let’s talk about Julian Assange. I guess some good news this week, the judge who was going to be overseeing his extradition hearing, Lady Arbuthnot, is no longer, according to Assange’s lawyer Jen Robinson, is no longer in charge of his case. She had some major conflicts of interest. Her husband was a former Defense Minister. Her son is the vice president of a corporation that invests in cybersecurity, which is used by the US CIA and NSA.

KZ: Good news. I don’t know who’s going to take her place, but she was a terrible judge for Assange. She wouldn’t even consider bail after he served his time for the bail offense. She wouldn’t even let Assange’s defense argue that he should be released. She was very quick in all of her decisions against Assange. It was just amazing, the reports coming from her courtroom a very biased process. It looked like a kangaroo court very openly and she decided in fact of the actual extradition hearing, which is scheduled for next February, will be held in a very tiny courtroom with only a handful of spaces for citizens and media and would mean that there’d be four or five media covering this for the whole world and that would have just been a way to really shut the truth from coming out. So her leaving is a good sign. Who takes her place, would that judge reconsider some of these decisions, that remains to be seen, Assange has a strong legal team to fight for this but he is being mistreated. His life is in jeopardy. People need to organize to support Julian Assange. This is the free press trial of the 21st century. His case will define freedom of the press and our right to know for the 21st century. This is not just about Julian Assange. Although the injustice to him is extremely important, this is a much bigger issue that every media outlet, every person who consumes media should be on the side of Julian Assange insisting that we have a free press in the 21st century, insisting that the people have the right to know when their countries are committing war crimes. People have right to know when transnational corporations are controlling the State Department. That’s what Wikileaks produced, accurate and fact-based journalism, never been proven to be inaccurate, that showed widespread crimes in our US foreign policy and the foreign policy of US allies. He may be the most important publisher and editor of the century and he’s being treated with potentially a death sentence in prison while this extradition goes on is something we should all be revolting against.

MF: We published an article recently on Popular Resistance by someone who visited Julian Assange who was very concerned about the state of his health in prison and says that he really wants to hear from people. And so there is a website WriteJulian.com that gives you all the information that you need in order to write to Julian. Apparently he is receiving the letters and it’s very important to him. So please do that. People are also mobilizing around the world doing regular rallies and actions in support of him and just recently Wikileaks posted another very important revelation. A whistleblower from the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons came out exposing that the OPCW reports on the supposed chemical weapons used in Syria in Douma in 2018 were fraudulent.

KZ: This is a critical release that the OPCW was being manipulated to put out information that blamed Assad for chemical attacks. People might recall this was an issue that recurred over and over during the war in Syria and was an excuse used by Obama to escalate conflict in Syria, an excuse to attempt to remove President Assad from power. It never made much sense when you thought about it, it was always done at a time when Assad was winning a conflict in a region of Syria and then this chemical attack would occur and it would just be an excuse for the military from the United States and its allies to come into that area. Just, it never made any sense from a man on the ground factual perspective of the conflict. And now we see why. These were false allegations. The OPCW now is finally being exposed.

MF: So this episode that was reported on by the whistleblower from the OPCW was from 2018 under President Trump. We see that this continues, this falsification and attempts at trying to justify military intervention and aggression in Syria continues under the Trump Administration as well.

KZ: And once again, what we’re seeing with these leaks, this happens with leaks all the time, is that the leaks confirm what we already knew thanks to WikiLeaks. The reality of these fraudulent chemical attack claims is being made clear.

MF: More on Syria. The United States has moved troops to the northeastern region of Deir Ezzor where the oil is. We now see reports that the US military is bringing in construction materials. The thought is that the US is building military bases in that region. Talk about the oil in Deir Ezzor and why that’s important.

KZ: Well, it’s important for Syria right now because Syria has a multibillion-dollar challenge of rebuilding after years of war, incredible damage to major urban areas that need to be rebuilt. The oil is their major resource for funds. Now, it’s not a lot of oil from the perspective of the US, which is the largest oil producer in the world or from Russia, which has a large oil and gas industry or for the market. It’s not that big but for Syrians it’s big. The reality of this situation, the first coup by the CIA, attempted coup I should say because it failed, was in 1949 in Syria and ever since then there have been repeated efforts by almost every US president to take control of Syria. It is located in the key part of the world that links China and Asia to Europe. It’s a crossroads country and it’s geopolitically of great importance to US Imperialism and US Global Empire. And so the context is always important. Trump taking 1/3 the country and holding the oil, this is all part of a consistent deep US foreign policy plan. It’s failed and failed and failed. Syria has remained independent. I suspect that Trump will fail as well because the Syrian people and government are proud of being an independent sovereign nation.

MF: We talked last week with Andre Vltchek who spoke about the protests in Lebanon. There also have been protests in Iraq and now four days of protests in Iran. It’s interesting that these protests are all coming in countries that it would be advantageous to the US and its allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia to create chaos in these countries because power is shifting in the region. Iran has shown that it’s resisted the US maximum pressure campaign and countries like Saudi Arabia and other countries have started talking more with Iran and the US of course is losing influence in that region. And so there is suspicion, you know, while there are legitimate reasons to protest the governments in all of these countries, that it serves the US interests of destabilizing the region and hurting Iran. And just recently there were some new leaks about Iran. Comment on that.

KZ: These leaks are confusing. They are really leaks that are making all sorts of claims about Iran’s influence in Iraq and Iran’s foreign policy. They come at a time that are very advantageous to the United States. I think we need a leak of the source of these leaks because I’m very curious about where they’re coming from and how legitimate they are. The fact that the New York Times And The Intercept, which The Intercept has become questionable in some cases, unfortunately, because they do a lot of great work, just because it’s a leak doesn’t mean it’s accurate. And so I think it’s a lot of questionable issues: who benefits from these leaks? The United States. And so I think we need to get to the source of these leaks to understand really what’s going on here to get the full picture.

MUSIC BREAK

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And now we’re joined by our guest Chip Gibbons. Chip is the policy and legislative counsel for Defending Rights and Dissent. He is also a constitutional law expert and a journalist. Thank you for taking time to join us, Chip.

Chip Gibbons (CG): Thank you for having me.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): Great to have you on, Chip. Before we get into the report we’re going to talk about, which is a really interesting report about FBI surveillance on political movements and political organizations, let’s talk about something you and I are a part of, Popular Resistance and your organization were part of, along with about 80 organizations, and that was this effort to stifle protest in Washington DC by the Trump Administration. Can you give our listeners a little bit about that, an update?

CG:  Sure. Late last year, the National Park Services asked for comments on new proposed rules that would have severely curtailed the ability to protest on public lands. You know national parks. The ones that got the most attention were the so-called protest tax that would have allowed the National Park Service to charge protesters for the cost of policing or cleaning up demonstrations. There was also concern that they were going to eliminate the deemed granted rule, which is that if you don’t hear back from the National Park Service within a certain period of time when you apply for a permit, your permit request is deemed granted. A hundred and forty thousand people submitted comments about this proposal opposing it. A number of organizations, I think something like you said eighty civil society groups, including Popular Resistance, including Defending Rights and Dissent, including labor unions, civil rights groups, also submitted comments opposing it. And it was just announced this week that the Park Service was withdrawing the proposed rule change. So that’s a pretty big victory, you know, because at the end of the day, democracy is about more than just voting. It’s also about freedom of expression and assembly and that includes the right of people to come together in a common cause and without public forms like the park system that right doesn’t really exist. And as a result, the National Park System is not only a custodian of our parks, but they also play a crucial role in facilitating democracy. And I would note that under international law, the right of free expression is interpreted as recommending that governments only require notice, not permits, for political demonstrations because as the previous rapporteur for the UN on free speech and assembly said that a right is not a right if it has to be granted. And DC as a municipality uses notice as a system and that’s part of the reason why it can be sort of weird to organize a demonstration in DC because there’s one set of rules for city property and another for federal property and that can be very confusing but I will not get into that.

KZ: People should understand that if these proposed rules had been put in place, it would have totally changed protest in Washington DC on parkland, which is most of the federal land that we protest at, and so it really would have been a change in a big way for protests in Washington DC. It’s tremendous that it got stopped. You know I really think the number of organizations coming together made a tremendous difference in making this happen. We only pushed those comments for about 10 days and got a hundred forty thousand comments. It was pretty amazing.

MF: If we’d had more time…

CG: Yeah, they’ve really tried to sneak it through and they did not.

MF: No, it would have put a huge chilling effect on our ability to protest because we don’t have the funds that they would require for…

KZ: To pay to protest?

MF: Yes.

KZ: Pay-to-play democracy where you have to pay the legislator to play or now you can have a pay-to-protest, but it got beat back and I think it would have been a terrible 2020 election-year issue. If that had gone forward and if we had made the ruckus we had planned on making, on top of the comments and the lawsuits, and it just would’ve been a bad issue for Trump in 2020. It wouldn’t help him in his re-election. So a good decision.

CG: Yeah, the Trump Administration and the Republicans have in general been trying really hard to demonize protests and demonstrations as sort of a way to fire up their base. I believe for a while, the Republicans were using the hashtag jobs not mobs on social media and just really really really attempting to demonize any sort of grassroots movement. Anyhow, the Trump Administration started off with the Department of Justice trying to try a hundred some people arrested during the inauguration on felony rioting charges. So there’s a real narrative or an attempt at the moment to paint a narrative of protest as somehow dangerous and violent and therefore illegitimate.

MF: Right, and we could also talk about the laws that are being passed at the state level to criminalize protest. The decision in South Dakota to take back that law that they had that basically would have meant that if people were tweeting support or urging people to join a protest that they could be charged with inciting a riot. I think somewhat, what was, I can’t remember exactly what the term was, but it was something along those lines.

KZ: You know, all that is covered in really great detail on Chip’s organization’s website. They cover a lot of those state laws. So if you really want to know about that, that’s a place to go for it.

MF: So Chip, what we really wanted to talk to you about mostly was this new report that you authored for Defending Rights and Dissent. And if you could tell us, it’s about FBI monitoring of social movements. Can you tell us how you got this information about the FBI’s monitoring of social movements and tell us a little bit about that report?

CG: Well sure, the report’s called “Still Spying on Dissent: The enduring problem of FBI First Amendment abuse,” and what it focuses on is FBI surveillance or monitoring of social movements, protest, civil society activity since 2010. And where we got the information from is, it’s all information that was already in the public domain. So a number of journalists have filed FOIA requests. A number of activists have reported being visited at their homes by the FBI and a very interesting development when Walmart was brought before the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices, it was revealed in discovery that they contacted the FBI JTTF, Joint Terrorism Task Force, about occupy protesters. So this isn’t secret information. This is information that’s been in the public domain and you might ask well then what’s the point of the report? And the report’s point was to try to compile it all in one place because when these incidents do get traction in the media, you know, they’ll focus on them very narrowly. They’re like oh the FBI visited this Palestinian rights protester or oh new documents show the FBI infiltrated this environmental group and they’ll never sort of put them in the larger context of the problem of systemic political surveillance in the United States. And when you start to put all of the incidents we know about together in one place in detail, a different picture starts to emerge and that’s the picture of a systemic problem. And after doing that, the report steps back and puts it in the context of sort of the FBI’s history since 1908 of spying on dissent. The other thing is that this is the information we know exists. In a number of cases what we know exists actually raises further questions, which is why it would be very helpful for somebody with you know say subpoena power like Congress to actually step in and do their own investigation of this matter because a number of times when people receive FOIA documents, they’re redacted to the point of being unintelligible. We know that different people have filed FOIA requests about the same information and gotten different responses. There’s, I think, some evidence to suggest the FBI is wrongfully withholding information that they shouldn’t be when they’re subjected to FOIA requests. And when you hear stories about activists being visited at their homes, I mean the question is why, what investigation is that part of? So I think that it shows what we know and what we know is very disturbing and it’s cause for action and is cause for concern but also just as importantly in my mind shows what we don’t know and why it is that someone like Congress needs to make sure we know more.

MF: Right because of course the data that you have is just the data that was available from FOIAs that have been requested. So we don’t really know the extent of the FBI’s infiltration and monitoring of social movements.

KZ: But we do know it’s pretty widespread just from what we do know and you know your point about a congressional hearing would be an interesting one. I mean that has happened in the past with the Church Committee hearings, you know, really exposing widespread government surveillance and FBI surveillance. And do you think we’re really at that stage again where it’s so widespread that we really have to have a series of Congressional hearings focusing in on FBI surveillance of political activity in the United States?

CG: I absolutely do think so. I mean the Church Committee is the example that usually gets cited. The Church Committee was a select committee investigation into sort of bad acts by the intelligence community in general. It talks about assassinations. It talks about CIA tricks overseas, but the committee did also talk about the use of intelligence to infringe on people’s rights domestically. A lot of people don’t know this but the FBI is not only a law enforcement agency, it’s often an intelligence agency. So there is some information in it about FBI’s use of its domestic intelligence powers to violate American’s constitutional rights and I can talk about some of what they were doing. But in the late 80s, there was another investigation done by the Senate Intelligence Committee with some, I believe, input from the Senate Judiciary Committee into what the FBI was doing when they were spying on opponents of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy. It came out in the 1980s that the FBI had been spying on the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. There’s a number of ways this came to light. My favorite of which is that they didn’t pay their informant and he complained. I mean it wasn’t the only way this came to light, but that’s a particularly amusing anecdote and that the Senate had an investigation, not a hearing, but an actual investigation. They released a report. People at the time felt like it was a bit of a whitewash, but compared to the types of oversight we have of the FBI today, it certainly was an improvement. And then in 2006, it had come out that the Bush Administration was spying on a bunch of groups and that led Congress to ask the DOJ Inspector General to study the matter and they released their report of Bush-era FBI spying in September of 2010. That’s actually why we choose 2010 as our starting date because there’s been no real oversight since then and just four days after the report was released, the FBI was raiding the homes of anti-war and solidarity activists in the Midwest. The report covered the Bush era and it really showed how the FBI’s loose guidelines and a lot of people don’t know this but the FBI does not have a statutory charter. When the Bureau of Investigation was created in 1908, it was created while Congress was on recess and to this day it has no charter. After the Church Committee, there were some efforts to impose a charter on it, but Congress instead allowed the Attorney General to write guidelines in lieu of a Charter and as you can imagine conservative attorney general’s like those in the Reagan Administration and the Bush Administration rewrote the guidelines to be less restrictive and less protective of civil liberties. So since the time period covered in the OIG report, the FBI’s guidelines have actually gotten even looser. George Bush’s lame-duck attorney general Michael Mukasey, promulgated the current guidelines, which created a new category of investigations called assessments, which allows the FBI to investigate people using very intrusive techniques when there’s no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing or national security threat, just a quote-unquote authorized law enforcement purpose. And that’s the first time since the Church Committee where the FBI was allowed to investigate people absent facts that suggested they were engaged in either a national security threat or in criminal wrongdoing. The other types of investigations allowed in the guidelines are literally called predicated investigations and what that literally means is they have a factual predicate. So an assessment is an investigation without a factual predicate to suggest really any wrongdoing at all.

MF: So in the “land of the free” people can be investigated simply because of their political opinions, it sounds like. You mentioned that they use fairly intrusive techniques to surveil activists. Can you talk about what some of those are?

CG: Sure. I mean, I think the biggest problem is human intelligence or confidential informants. There’s a lot of focus contemporarily on sort of the high-tech surveillance that the NSA does or all these sorts of spy tools that local police departments are acquiring and that’s very scary. And I think just as analogous when people talk about the FBI of the pre-Church Committee era, there’s a lot of fixation on like illegal wiretaps and stuff like that. But most of the surveillance the FBI does is through human intelligence, that’s either an undercover officer or confidential informant. You can have the best encryption in the world, but if the person that you’re sending the message to is reporting everything back to the FBI, it’s not very helpful, which is not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned with bulk surveillance and all this technology that sucking up all our information. We should be terrified of it. But we also should not lose sight that the FBI is still using the tried and true old methods as well. And increasingly what we see is that these confidential informants go well beyond gathering information and they actively engage as agents provocateurs meaning that they come up with terror plots and they entice people into participating in them and the FBI turns around and arrests them and says, hey look at these big terror arrest we got and that actually, you know allows the FBI to sort of over-exaggerate the threat as well. Because if they say, you know, we’re arresting all these terrorists, you know that implies there’s some sort of further need for security. And if you look at the second executive order Donald Trump gave authorizing the Muslim ban. The first executive order the courts were like what is the reason for this like, where’s the purpose? So the second executive order that gave up of justification for it, and it was two terror plots supposedly involving refugees, but in both cases those plots were the product of FBI agents provocateurs. In one of the cases cited by Trump’s executive order, a judge actually found it to be an example of quote-unquote imperfect entrapment, which is different than perfect entrapment and that entrapment is an affirmative defense and bars your conviction. Whereas imperfect entrapment is just an argument for a lesser sentence but nonetheless a judge said this was imperfect entrapment and Trump then turned around and cited that as justification for a repressive policy.

MF: Wow. Yeah, so just creating work for yourself, creating justification for yourself. I just remember right after the Occupy Movement was winding down in 2012, there were a few cases of young men, relatively young men, who were vulnerable, poor, homeless or…

KZ: Addicted.

MF: Addicted, right, and they were kind of entrapped into making it look like they were going to commit violent acts.

KZ: Yeah, what was interesting about those cases in Occupy was that in the past it seemed like the FBI would go after leaders of movements. But in this Occupy case, they were going after the low-hanging fruit, people who were living in Occupy who had some kind of emotional or addiction problems or economic problems and they were preying on those people and then making headline cases out of it. Can you talk a little about, we’ll talk about number of different categories…

CG: Yeah, I believe the case you are referring to is the one of Occupy Cleveland where there was a number of young men sort of on the margins, and as you said, they had a number of issues and an FBI informant, you know, enticed them into participating in this plot to blow up a bridge on May Day, obviously, that’s horrible. You shouldn’t blow up civilian bridges. No one has to say that, but there was no such plot and the FBI announced the arrests right on the eve of Occupy Cleveland’s major May Day demonstration, which was supposed to have revived the movement in Cleveland, which had sort of gone into hibernation during the winter and so they had to cancel the march. I mean, they didn’t have to cancel it but given the negative publicity, they didn’t have much of a choice. So they completely decimated the resurrection of Occupy Cleveland by creating this fake terror plot and then being able to defame the movement.

KZ: So what kind of groups are targeted by the FBI? Can you give us a sense of the categories?

CG: Yeah. It’s the same groups the FBI has always targeted. It’s peace and solidarity groups. It’s environmental groups. It’s racial justice groups, economic justice groups. We know that the FBI has this ridiculous threat assessment called “black identity extremism”, which argues that perceptions of racism and police violence and social injustice in the African-American Community could lead to retaliatory lethal violence against police. So the argument is that if you’re rightfully angry or rightfully concerned about the racism you’ve been on the receiving end of, about the police brutality you’ve been on the receiving end of in our society and you want to speak out against that, that’s a precursor to violence. And that’s a really insidious logic because it treats not only First Amendment protected speech as a precursor to criminality but rightful and legitimate concern about injustice as a precursor to doing a criminal act.

KZ: That’s such circular reasoning. I mean police commit violations of people’s rights, especially racist violations. The community is aware of it. And because you are aware of it, that you’re a suspect for potential violence yourself and therefore under surveillance by the FBI. It’s like so circular.

CG: They use that logic repeatedly. There was a recent document that Yahoo! News got a hold of from an FBI office in Arizona where they mentioned that because of people being angry at children being put in concentration camps and the abuse of migrants that there could be, there’s an increased likelihood of armed confrontation between Anarchists and and the federal government. I mean, it’s just, it’s totally insidious. It just treats First Amendment protected speech as a reason to be suspicious of someone as willing to commit a crime and when you look at these investigations, I mean when they single out these groups often times the FBI and their own files admit that there’s no indication that anyone is planning on engaging in violence, but an unknown person at an unknown point in the future could.  So the FBI has very clearly embraced this logic that certain points of view are inherently suspicious and that they should be monitored and investigated.

MF: And one of the major groups that have been targeted by the FBI is the Muslim Community. Can you talk about that?

CG: Yeah. I mean, this is another really insidious thing that the FBI when it uses these confidential informants, it oftentimes sends them to the Muslim Community without any specific targets. There’s a very notorious case where the FBI engaged in something called Operation Flax where they sent an informant into a mosque in Orange County. The mosque actually reported the informant to the FBI because he was acting rather ridiculously and the informant came forward and said that he had asked the FBI, you know, who is my target and they said, oh the target will come to you. So what you’re talking about is a sort of dragnet suspicionless surveillance, and they asked this informant to infiltrate a Southern California mosque, gather personal information such as email addresses, cell phone numbers, political and religious views and he was even encouraged by the FBI to enter into sexual relations with Muslim women in order to gather intelligence and there’s an ongoing lawsuit about this surveillance. The FBI has tried to have it dismissed under the State Secrets Doctrine. It doesn’t look like they’re going to get away with that, but it’s still sort of highlights the problem of this suspicionless surveillance. Or another really infamous case of the Newburgh Four, I mean the informant goes into this mosque, he’s not targeting anyone in particular as far as we know. We have no idea why the FBI picked New York for this particular type of surveillance, and he eventually encounters the person he entices into this fake plot in a parking lot. So they’re just going into Muslim communities where no one is suspected of any crime and just surveilling them and then trying to invent crime. And what that says is that the FBI clearly views the Muslim community as a fifth column, which is why they are subjecting them to this awful suspicionless surveillance.

KZ: You know, it’s so interesting. And especially Robert Mueller was, in his era, this is before your report, but in his era as FBI director, he did a lot of that kind of activity in the Muslim Community. He also did a lot of infiltration of peace groups and yet people looked at Mueller as a great hero because he was investigating Trump for Russiagate. And so people on the left got, took this guy who was really an antihero and turned him into a hero and he turned out to produce a dud of a report on Trump. So we get confused very easily. So it’s good you have this kind of report out there.

CG: And I mean there’s an entire OIG report on Robert Mueller’s FBI counterterrorism investigation of domestic advocacy groups, like Greenpeace, like PETA, like the Catholic Workers. The last major attempt of oversight, which is a report released in 2010, but actually covers 2001 to 2006, coincides that time frame with Robert Mueller’s time at the FBI. And the FBI is engaged inpolitical surveillance. So, yeah, Robert Mueller is not a hero.

MF: And then we did an interview with Colleen Rowley who worked under Robert Mueller. I guess that was a couple of years ago.

KZ: She was very critical as well.

MF: Absolutely. So you are a constitutional law expert, Chip. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about the state of our constitutional freedoms in the United States right now? How would you assess our right to protest, right to free speech?

CG: I mean in terms of the FBI’s political surveillance, the courts have made it very difficult to challenge it at all. There’s a very important case in the 1970s where people who were protesting the Vietnam War in DC were spied on by the US Military and they tried to sue. It’s called Laird v. Tatum. They tried to sue the military for spying on them and the Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 decision refused to hear the case on the merits. Therefore never ruling whether or not they had a First Amendment complaint or not because you know in order to be able to have standing to sue you have to show that you suffered a harm and that the court can remedy that harm. And the Supreme Court reasoned that you know, the idea that if the military creates a dossier, a military that’s you know dropping napalm in Vietnam, creates a dossier on you with your picture and tracks you because of your First Amendment protected activity, that you might not want to engage in that activity, that’s a self subjective chill. You’re doing the harm to yourself. So it’s extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible. There are instances where people have gotten over that hurdle, but it’s extraordinarily difficult to challenge political surveillance in the courts. And what’s really needed is for Congress to act. And that there’s been over the years a number of fine pieces of legislation proposed to impose limits on the FBI. I think those limits should be part of an overarching charter. We’re talking stuff like forbidding the FBI from investigating First Amendment protected activity unless there are facts indicating a violation or likely violation of the federal criminal code and that they have to weigh the magnitude of the crime against the threat to free speech, which you know isn’t a terribly radical suggestion. It’s actually quite moderate, but, you know, just little things like that I think would be very helpful. I also think that you know, any sort of FBI charter needs to be judicially enforceable, meaning that if the FBI does break the charter and spies on you, you have a remedy in terms of both, you know declaratory and injunctive relief. So the courts can say this spying broke the charter and the FBI has to stop. I think those would be positive steps forward and I also really think Congress needs to just have an investigation into why the FBI is doing what it’s doing.

KZ: So much that could be done to protect the right to protest. And if you throw on top of what you’re talking about the attacks on journalism with Julian Assange, with Chelsea Manning, the attack on Max Blumenthal recently related to our living in the Venezuelan Embassy to protect it and uphold international law. I mean, there’s so many attacks on our freedoms. One thing I wanted to get your thoughts on is how early in a process do you think the FBI comes in? We noticed when we were at Occupy Wall Street, in fact, we were very open about planning Occupy Washington DC, we did all sorts of promotion of it. Occupy Wall Street was first announced by Adbusters in July as a suggested protest. Organizers start organizing in August. We noticed when they actually started in September on the first day at the back of Zuccotti Park, we happened to be leaving and we saw a police van, unmarked van, two people got out wearing jeans and hats and a backpack and looking like normal, you know, potential occupiers, but in the front were two uniformed cops. They went into Zuccotti Park right on the first day. How early do you think the FBI when they know a protest is coming gets into really looking into what’s and infiltrating and investigating the protesters?

CG: Well, with Occupy, we don’t have to speculate because we know from the documents that were released the FBI began monitoring Occupy Wall Street in August of 2011. That’s a month before the protests began. So before the very first protester ever set foot in Zuccotti Park, the FBI was on the case. I don’t know in every instance how with it the FBI is. The FBI is not always the most with it people when you look at some of these documents that they’ve released. But it’s not unlikely that you know before a protest or a movement happens for the FBI to start, you know, investigating or monitoring it. That’s clearly what happened in Occupy. I think there are other cases where they’re sort of late to the picture. There’s a very disturbing example that we talk about in this report that involves By Any means Necessary, which is a civil rights group, a racial justice group. They were doing a counter protest of the Traditionalist Workers Party, which is a right-wing, white supremacist, fascist and you know, the counter protesters, the racial justice protesters, were stabbed. They were attacked. And the FBI instead of investigating the fascists who committed a crime, they investigate By Any Means Necessary. And what’s very fascinating is that the FBI gets the name of the racist group wrong. They think it’s the Ku Klux Klan. So you get these FBI documents where the FBI says things like the Ku Klux Klan is a group that some people perceive as having a white supremacist agenda. So they end up investigating the civil rights group as part of a counter terrorism investigation and for possibly violating the civil rights of the Ku Klux Klan.

KZ: Wow crazy, it’s embarrassing.

CG: The Ku Klux Klan isn’t even the group. I’ve seen FBI documents where they’re you know describing the relationship between different activist groups, groups that I’m familiar with, and it’s like wow you guys really, you know on the one hand the degree of surveillance is so terrifying but on the other hand, it’s like you guys are also kind of really out of it.

MF: Yeah, we saw when we were at the embassy that they had a lot of their information wrong.

KZ: Oh, yeah, no question. You know it’s also interesting that the, it’s not just the FBI. That’s just one agency. You know, we have over 30 police agencies in Washington DC and in Occupy in New York, the New York City Police Department is the size of an army and there are all across the country, we’ve been increasing, the US has been increasing the number of police officers since the Clinton era. He added tens of thousands of, more than a hundred thousand police to the streets in his era.

MF: And creating these fusion centers.

KZ: That’s what I wanted to ask about. How does the FBI work with local and state law enforcement?

CG: Sure. So the FBI as a police force isn’t actually that large, I believe the NYPD has more police than there are FBI agents, at least that used to be the case, but what we increasingly see is that local police are working for the FBI in these so-called Joint Terrorism Task Force and in the Joint Terrorism Task Force, local law enforcement and in some cases other federal agents are assigned to them and they carry out their day to day missions as JTTF officers and they do this under the purview of the FBI and that in most cases they follow the FBI’s own guidelines. There’s been a lot of pushback against this recently because in a number of cases, states have laws on the books governing local police conduct and those laws are more stringent than the FBI’s own guidelines. So, in theory, the local police by following the FBI’s guidelines could be breaking state law. San Francisco rewrote their memorandum of understanding with the FBI mandating that local police have to follow local laws even when they’re acting as FBI joint terrorism task force agents. They then turned around and broke away from the Joint Terrorism Task Force completely. Portland also left that. And there’s been some controversy recently with some of these Federal task force, not just the Joint Terrorism Task Force, but some of the DEA ones, where they don’t allow their agents to wear body cameras. I believe this may have changed but they weren’t allowing the agents to wear body cameras. So in cities or states where it was the law that their police had to wear body cameras, they weren’t doing so when they were acting as Federal Task Force agents and local officials rightfully got upset by that. So more and more the FBI is turning local police into their foot soldiers.

KZ: You know, I don’t want listeners to get all insecure about this. There are ways to deal with informants, infiltrators and agents provocateurs. I mean, in fact on our Popular Resistance website, we have a class on how social transformation occurs. And it’s eight classes, at least one class is on these issues. And so there are ways for organizers to be aware of that and I think this report you did, Chip, is very helpful for people to know what kind of tactics they use, how widespread it is, what to expect, but beyond that there are other things people can do to build their movement in a way that handles this pretty well.

MF: So just finally, Chip, and I want to say we really appreciate the work that you do at Defending Rights and Dissent. It’s so critical for people like us that are involved in social movements. How can people who care about this issue get more involved? Is there anything that they can do concretely?

CG: Sure. So, we repeatedly called on Congress to investigate the FBI. We had a major campaign in 2016 where something like a hundred and thirty seven groups, including Popular Resistance, and 88,000 people signed our petition to ask the Senate and House Judiciary committees to hold hearings about FBI surveillance of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and by pipeline protesters. We are gearing up to relaunch that campaign in light of the report. If people want to read the report, it’s on our website at rights and dissent dot-org. It’s also at the URL rightsanddissent.org/FBI- spying/ And on that page, there is an action you can take, but in the coming weeks we’re going to be using this report as an organizing tool and trying to really build pressure around this issue of FBI political surveillance. And I, you know, on the one hand people in Congress who should know better have been embracing the FBI, this sort of foil to Trump the sort of we’re going to bring down Trump in a way that’s been very sort of unsettling but there has been increasing concern about the black identity extremism assessment and I believe Rashida Tlaib had a tweet about an Intercept article where our report was cited in it about sort of further revelations about FBI spying on black dissent where she expressed her concern. So I think trying to put the pressure on Congress to use this moment to try to look into what’s going on and actually come up with some tangible solutions. The first attempt to check the FBI political surveillance was in 1924. Harlan Fiske Stone read a report by the ACLU about the FBI doing political spying. He was so concerned by it, he made J Edgar Hoover meet with Roger Baldwin, the head of the FBI. Stone did not know that Hoover was spying on Roger Baldwin and the ACLU. You know and he put into place a regulation that the FBI had to stick to investigating violations of the criminal code and he asked Hoover, can you show us anywhere where it’s illegal to be a communist? Hoover found ways to get around that. The FBI’s very good at finding reasons to spy on people. But then in the 30s, there was a whole bunch of national executive orders from Roosevelt that gave the FBI very broad national security powers. So this isn’t a new issue but you know some of the ideas that have been proposed over the last almost 100 years are still very good ideas.

KZ: This is a big issue that needs constant attention because it doesn’t go away. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies. You know, we did a report on infiltration during Occupy and we looked at the history. Infiltration is a common tool in US law enforcement against political activities and you’re saying in this report, it’s continuing and so I really, we really appreciate you doing it. I think it’s so important for people to be aware of it and we urge our listeners now, you know about please join Chip in taking action to try to rein in the FBI.

MF: FBI. Thank you for joining us today, Chip.

CG: My pleasure.

Read More

A Deeper Look At Uprisings Around The World

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

Revolts are arising all around the world and it can be hard to keep track of them. We speak with Andre Vltchek, a photographer, writer and documentarian who travels all over to cover world events. He brings a deeper understanding of the conditions that have given rise to the protests, the historical context of those conditions and outside forces that may be influencing them. We discuss Lebanon, a very complex situation where basic social services have broken down but there are also western interests; Hong Kong, China, and the Uyghurs, which are completely propagandized in the United States; and Chile, where people are facing violent state repression and a deeply neoliberal government that has existed since the US-led coup by General Pinochet in 1973. Vltchek provides incredible insights and information.

Listen here:

Review us on iTunes! Click here … Then click on “View in iTunes … Then click “Ratings and Reviews.”

Guest:

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker, investigative journalist, poet, playwright, and photographer, Andre Vltchek is a revolutionary, internationalist and globetrotter who fights against Western Imperialism and the Western regime imposed on the world.

He covered dozens of war zones and conflicts from Iraq and Peru to Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Rwanda, Syria, DR Congo and Timor Leste.

His latest books are Revolutionary Optimism, Western NihilismThe Great October Socialist Revolution,  Exposing Lies of the Empire,  Fighting Against Western Imperialism and On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare with Noam Chomsky.

Aurora and Point of No Return are his major works of fiction, written in English. Nalezeny, is his novel written in Czech. Other works include a book of political non-fiction Western Terror: From Potosi to Baghdad and Indonesia: Archipelago of Fear, Exile (with Pramoedya Ananta Toer, and Rossie Indira), Oceania – Neocolonialism, Nukes & BonesThe World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance (co-written with Christopher Black and Peter Koenig), and Liberation Lit (edited with Tony Christini).

Plays: ‘Ghosts of Valparaiso’ and ‘Conversations with James’ is his book of plays/drama.

He is a member of Advisory Committee of the BRussells Tribunal.

Investigative work of Andre Vltchek appears in countless publications worldwide. Andre Vltchek has produced and directed several documentary films for left-wing South American television network teleSUR. They deal with diverse topics, from Turkey/Syria to Okinawa, Kenya, Egypt and Indonesia, but all of them are exposing effects of Western imperialism on the Planet.  His feature documentary film ‘Rwanda Gambit’ is being broadcasted by Press TV, and it aims at reversing official narrative on 1994 genocide, exposing the Rwandan and Ugandan plunder of DR Congo on behalf of Western imperialism. He produced the feature length documentary film about the Indonesian massacres in 1965 ‘Terlena – Breaking of The Nation‘, as well as the film about the brutal camp for Somali refugees, Dadaab in Kenya: ‘One Flew Over Dadaab’. His Japanese crew filmed his lengthy discussion with Noam Chomsky on the state of the world, which is presently being made into a film. He frequently speaks at revolutionary meetings, as well as at the principal universities worldwide. He presently lives in Asia and the Middle East. His website is: http://andrevltchek.weebly.com/

Transcript:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Our guest today is Andre Vltchek.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): And we should speak to him more often because he does incredible work covering global activities. Right now, he’s in Beirut. And so we talked to him about Lebanon, which is a complicated situation and a very interesting one. I think you’ll really enjoy his interview. He’s a very smart guy,

MF: But before we get to that, let’s get to some news. Right now, we’re coming to you from the capital of Palestine, Jerusalem. Today, we visited Jaffa.

KZ: Jaffa and Tel Aviv, and we got to see some truths and understand some things I don’t think even most people in Israel know because Israel leads a false life when it comes to the history of Palestinians. They don’t really admit what they did to the Palestinian people. They don’t admit forcing them out of their homeland and the ethnic cleansing or the apartheid. This isn’t even taught in the schools. So the people of Israel don’t even know their own history.

MF: Well and this is something that we talked about, which is not uncommon with settler colonial projects, that there is this illusion put forward that there was actually nobody there and that the previous population, society is really just wiped, erased from memory.

KZ: Doesn’t that sound like the indigenous American natives? There were millions living in North America before the colonists discovered it, the westward move by the United States across the country, Manifest Destiny, was taking over wilderness when in fact, it was destroying really sophisticated cities and towns and communities of millions of people.

MF: So let’s get into some of the news. And we wanted to let our listeners know that War Resisters International has a new booklet out on counter recruitment. You can find that at WRI-IRG.org and this is an important booklet for people who want to do counter recruiting efforts because it talks about around the world lots of different tactics that are being used to reach out to youth and let them know there are other opportunities rather than joining the military.

KZ: Yeah. Well, you know counter recruitment has been a longtime tactic of people opposed to militarism and the military’s longtime tactic has since the draft ended to have a poverty draft where people because of the unfair economy, the low incomes the poor jobs, there’s a economic draft and the new economic draft is over student debt.

MF: Yeah, it’s interesting that they’re finding that trying to sell the ideas of you’re fighting for your country, you’re fighting for freedom isn’t really working anymore. And so they’ve, the recruiters in the United States, have changed their tactics to being oh, well, if you don’t want to have student debt hanging over your head, join the military.

KZ: One of the interesting conversations I had today with a Palestinian, he mentioned that in Israel, there’s people who are required to serve in the military. We talked about the US not having that rule, we talked about how the US had a draft but it had a backfire and the backfire was that when they drafted people into the military to do wars that were really unconscionable, inhumane and violating international law, they found people in the military saying no, the generals realized they couldn’t control those who were drafted. The draft is really what helped to end the Vietnam War. It was the activities of troops who were drafted in Vietnam saying no their generals or going further and really revolting against their generals and officers that helped to end the war in Vietnam. And so the US ended the draft and has replaced it with the economic draft to keep the military going as well as lowering their standards, making it easier to pick people who really are not appropriate for the military to be trained to kill, carry weapons and commit war crimes around the world.

MF: And now President Trump offered recently to send US troops to Mexico to help fight the drug war down there. This happened after some drug cartels murdered some Mexican-US citizens who were driving in SUV’s, including six children and three women and so Trump said, well, we’ll send our troops down there to help you. The Mexican president AMLO declined Trump’s offer.

KZ: He did it really beautifully. We have an article about this on PopularResistance.org. If you just go to “Mexico” and “Popular Resistance” you’ll see the article. AMLO has said some really smart things about how war is just the wrong approach and if you’re required to create policy based on killing, that’s the wrong way to go about doing it. In fact, politics is the replacement for war, politics meaning democracy and negotiation, diplomacy, coming up with policies that actually work and the drug war, you know, with this Trump is going to the 2020 election with his tough-on-crime rhetoric just as the War on Drugs was created by President Nixon when he ran for president. That’s where the phrase War on Drugs came from. Ronald Reagan carried that on. Both Bushes. Bill Clinton carried that on. It’s only really been recently that we started to see a turn away from the War on Drugs. Everyone seems to recognize it’s failed. The more money, the more power given to police, the more ability of police to violate people’s civil liberties, more mass incarceration. All it resulted in was more failure. It didn’t solve the drug problem. And the bottom line is drugs should be considered a health issue, not a law enforcement issue. We make it a law enforcement issue by making it illegal and we’re using the wrong tool to solve a health problem and there are solutions. We’ve seen around the world and in the United States, when we take a public health approach or a harm reduction approach or even a regulatory approach, that we have a better chance at limiting the damage of drugs and controlling their use.

MF: Let’s talk about some other countries in Latin America. We’ve been talking about this the past few weeks because there’s so much going on there. Bolivia, the Radio Education Network of Bolivia exposed 16 leaked audio tapes from the opposition talking about their support for a coup to overthrow President Evo Morales. They mentioned US Congress members names, Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez and Ted Cruz.

KZ: Yeah. This has been obviously a coup attempt. It was going on before the election and heightened after the election. What heightened it was that on election day before the final count was done, before all the results were in, Morales was winning by nine points rather than the required 10 points. Ten was required in order to prevent a second round. When all the votes came in, he had more than a ten point lead over his nearest opponent. The reason for the delay was because the votes from the Andean region, the mountainous region in Bolivia, the indigenous region where Morales has his greatest support came in late. When they came in, Morales won with more than 10 points. Now the big development, which I’m kind of surprised by, is Morales has called for a new election. The OAS, which is not a trustworthy organization, it’s pretty much a US tool, came out with a report that they didn’t trust the results. Morales described it as more of a political report rather than a technical report, technical as far as disputing problems in the election. But he agreed that in order to kind of keep the peace and it had been getting very violent. The opposition was doing lots of fires, lots of abusive things. A mayor was captured by the opposition and they cut her hair off in public, was just like really, sounded like a scene on Game of Thrones. I’m surprised Morales gave in to that, but he has decided to call for a new election. He’s urging the opposition to respect that call. We’ll see if that works. I’m, my concern is when you give a violent coup attempt supported by the United States an inch, they will take a yard or a mile. And so I expect that this will be seen as a sign of weakness by them and they will escalate. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that and I’m pretty sure that Evo Morales has a much better understanding of Bolivia than I do and I hope that the opposition comes to its senses and really pursues the approach of democracy rather than of a coup.

MF: Some good news out of Brazil this past week, the former president Lula was freed from jail. There were also mass protests in Brazil against the current president Jair Bolsonaro, and those occurred in three dozen cities and a big part of the impetus for those protests was the murder of a councilwoman Marielle Franco in March of 2018. Protesters believe that that murder is tied to the President, that his neighbor, who’s being held as a suspect in that murder, may have been driven to do it by his ties to Bolsonaro.

KZ: Bolsonaro certainly hated her. First, she was gay and he hates gays. Second, she was a leftist and he hates leftist and she’s black and so, you know, it’s like the trifecta of reasons why Bolsonaro wanted to get rid of her, but I have, we don’t see any proof yet. So that is still being investigated. As to Lulu, I think it’s important to understand that he was not released because he was acquitted. His conviction was not yet reversed. That still is on the agenda for the Supreme Court to consider. The reason he was released was because of another decision that affected many prisoners. The decision was like a six to five vote, so it was a very close vote. The Court ruled that they reversed the decision that when you lose your first appeal you immediately go to jail. The court said you stay out of jail pending appeal. And so that meant that Lula who still has an appeal pending was released because of that change in the rule. Now under this decision, that does not mean Lula can run for office. He would not be able to run for office until 2025 unless his conviction is reversed. But Lula is already talking about running for president in 2022. He’s ready to compete with Bolsonaro in the next election and he’s already talking about that. But for him to be able to do that, the Supreme Court has to reverse that conviction and there’s lots of good reasons to do that reversal because of new information that has come out thanks to the incredible work of The Intercept getting the conversations between prosecutors and the judge showing that they were conspiring to make sure Lula got convicted. I think that there’s a good chance that that conviction will be reversed and we will see Lula running for president in 2022 to if not sooner. There’s also talk about Bolsonaro being impeached. So a lot is up in the air in  Brazil right now but a very positive change that Lula out of jail

MF: And Chile continues with three weeks of protests. We will go into this in more depth in our interview with Andre Vltchek but two pieces of news related to that: one is that the opposition, the people organizing the protests against the President Piñera are calling for a constituent referendum. They would like a new constitution. They’re also calling for the resignation of the government and new elections and they filed a lawsuit against the President for crimes against humanity. In these three weeks of protests, there have been 23 people who have been killed, many of them by police bullets, some of them in very brutal ways and put on displays as a message to their neighbors not to show their faces at the protest. There have been rapes and torture.

KZ: And is important to know the protesters have already won a great deal. The prime minister has fired his entire cabinet in order to try to save himself. He’s also reversed himself on the policies that started these protests, but that’s not stopping the protesters. They are calling for him to completely resign and for the renewal elections and a new constitutional assembly.

MF:  Let’s talk about Cuba. There was another vote in the United Nations. It happens every November. This is the 28th year and it’s a vote on ending the US embargo against Cuba. This year a hundred and eighty seven nations voted in support of the US ending that embargo. Three nations voted against it, not surprising, the United States and Israel and Brazil and then two countries abstained, also not surprising Colombia and Ukraine.

KZ: The sad thing about this is really two things from my perspective. One, it shows the US continues to act as if it’s above the law of the world and violate international law, put these economic sanctions unilaterally on a country to try to force them to change their government and their policies. That’s illegal under international law. Over and over again, the vast majority of the world has told the US to end this practice. The US has ignored them. The second sad thing it shows is the toothlessness of international law and until we strengthen international law and that probably means getting rid of the Security Council, which vetoes what the world really wants. This small number of nations, especially the permanent Security Council, this small number of nations is able to stop the world from going in the positive direction it should be going and stop the global community from holding the US accountable. Until we change that the UN will be toothless, powerless in the face of us violations of law.

MF: And then quickly, just to let our listeners know that protests continue in Haiti, now in their eighth week calling for the resignation of President Jovenal Moise

KZ: And this is one more example of a US coup. Moise really was not elected until Hillary Clinton contacted Haiti and made sure he was elected. He has been a corrupt and divisive leader and the people are not taking anymore and where this leads, we have to see but it’s been two months of protests that are really aggressive at key times. And so they are demanding he resign and a new government be put in place through an election. So we’ll see how that plays out.

MF: And last week, we interviewed Frank Chapman. We want to remind our listeners that on the weekend of November 22nd to 24th is the relaunching of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. That’s going to be taking place in Chicago, but there’s been some interesting actions this past week. One of them was a vote in Rochester New York, a public referendum that won with 76 percent of the vote to create a police accountability board.

KZ: Yeah, and that’s a very positive step. It just shows that many cities around the country are struggling with police violence and police killings, especially of black and brown people. It really seems rampant throughout most urban areas in the United States. It’s great that Rochester made that major step but the city that’s most far ahead really is Chicago and that’s due to the work of Chapman and his allies. In the article about the Rochester change, we have a note in the beginning of that also describes what Chicago is proposing, which is an elected council that will provide for community control of the police including hiring the police superintendent or the police chief as many cities call that position being able to indict police officials, fire police officials, how police officers are trained, all sorts of different aspects of policing where the community gets control and it’s become pretty evident as we’ve looked at this issue that community control of police and in black communities, that means black community control of police, that this is the transformational change that’s needed if we’re going to make the police system work, we have to change the system. The police need to serve and protect the people. Community control of police lets the police know that’s their job to serve and protect the people, otherwise the people can change the police.

MF: So this police accountability board in Rochester is not elected but the social organizations that pushed for it actually get to choose the nine-member board, which will be a paid board. So we’ll see how that works out. They have 90 days to get that board up and running. In New York City, there was a massive turnout this past week around the increasing police violence on the subways particularly against black and brown youth. This was spurred by three incidents in one week. And there were mass protests in both Brooklyn and Queens where these events took place.

KZ: This is happening at the same time the police are about to add more police to the metro system in New York. People are calling for getting the police out of our metro system and the police are doing the opposite and adding hundreds of police to the metro system.

MF: Right and the protesters were saying that fares should be free or significantly reduced because the prices are very high for especially poor people and the money that they’re paying is not being put in to build up the infrastructure. They’re saying that there’s lots of problems with the infrastructure of the subway in New York City and they are very opposed to putting that money into hiring more police officers. Let’s talk about South Carolina. Prisoners down there filed a petition with the United Nations this past week over the conditions that they’re experiencing in the prisons, in the level three prisons. They’re requesting humanitarian intervention. They’re saying that they’re being held in their cells 22 to 24 hours a day. That they’re dark. They have metal plates over the openings and that the food is very low quality. The guards are abusive and that really these are terrible conditions and they’re asking for United Nations intervention.

KZ: Many countries around the world have criticized the United States for our treatment of prisoners. This is really a blot on our society and it is a nationwide problem. We have five percent of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. We have more people in solitary confinement than most nations have total prisoners and we’ve seen over the last few years prison strikes where prisoners are making what look like very reasonable demands. Really the entire prison system deserves to be questioned. Many are calling for its abolition and putting in place alternatives to prison. I think that should be something we seriously discuss and debate because prisons are not working. They’re very expensive and they become a profit center for corporations and not just the private prison industry, but the telephone industry, the food industry, the clothing industry, prison slavery. There’s so many examples of how prisons have become a corporate profit center.

MF: That’s right. It’s interesting that you mention that these are a profit centers because activists in Boston and some other cities around the country have launched a divest from prisons campaign and they were out protesting this past week at investors. In Boston, they were particularly targeting Wyatt detention centers, a place where people are incarcerated while they’re seeking asylum. You can get more information about that using the hashtag free them all. It doesn’t make sense why people who are seeking asylum should be imprisoned and I think it’s important to recognize that there are models around the world for handling people when they commit crimes that are completely the opposite of what the United States does. In Finland, for example, they view that when somebody commits a crime, that the society has failed that person in some way and they have a responsibility to figure out what has happened in that person’s life and they take steps to remedy that.

KZ: Yeah, remedying it is much better than punishing people. The United States has taken the approach of the most expensive, least humane and least effective way to handle prisoners and when you combine that with the racism in the prison system, if you look at every step of a criminal process, whether it’s the police deciding whether to make an arrest or how to approach someone in the street or even how to police a street, whether it’s the prosecutors making decisions on what to charge somebody with, whether it’s the probation and pretrial officers and their recommendations or the judges’ decisions at sentencing, every step of the way, you see a racially unfair prison systems. On top of what we’ve already said about the problems in prisons, it also is very racist in the way it’s handled.

MF: Let’s turn to Julian Assange. Folks may know that he continues to be held in prison while he’s awaiting his extradition hearing. Hundreds of people came out last week on November 5th to protest at the United Kingdom home office and this included his father John Shipton, a number of celebrities and Assange’s health is really deteriorating. He’s now being held in solitary confinement and not being given access to his mail.

KZ: Every time we hear more about the treatment of Julian Assange, it is more disgraceful and disheartening. Julian Assange is an editor and publisher who did what every editor and publisher should have done, he revealed truthful information about US war crimes, about war crimes of other nations, about corporate control of the US state department, about corporate domination of trade agreements. These are issues that should be on the front page of every paper. In fact, some papers used Wikileaks information and then haven’t done much to defend Assange. There should be a massive response from all media in support of Assange. The fact that the US is threatening to use the Espionage Act against an editor and publisher is something that should be ringing alarm at every media outlet, any media source in the country and yet most of them are silent. We have a right to know when the US government violates the law. We have right to know when corporations dominate our foreign policy. This is information that should be available and because of the corporate control of our media by the US government, it’s not often available. Julian Assange broke through that and now he’s being punished for it in horrible ways.

MF: Let’s end with some good news. This past week the United Kingdom High Court found in favor of folks with Extinction Rebellion who were challenging a police blanket ban on protests in October. The court ruled that people had the right to protest and the 400 people who were arrested may be able to fight back against those arrests.

KZ: Yeah that kind of approach, of blocking all protests and making them illegal, certainly should be found by a court to be legal. It’s very interesting that in Venezuela, in Nicaragua and Bolivia and other countries under US attack for regime change where the US is working with protesters, none of those countries ban protests and yet our closest ally, the United Kingdom, is behaving this way. Another close ally, France, is handling the yellow vest protests with extreme violence. It’s so hypocritical the way the United States responds to various countries in the way, our allies respond to protest.

MF: Well, it’s pretty basic, I think that when there are protests that are in the United States’ security state interest, they are good. When there are protests and they can be used against the security state interest, those are bad.

KZ: Exactly, and the US doesn’t handle protests all that well either. We could learn a lot from countries that we see as our adversaries.

MUSIC BREAK

MF: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And now we’re joined by our guest Andre Vltchek. Andre is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker, investigative journalist, poet, playwright, and photographer who is a revolutionary internationalist and globetrotter who fights against Western imperialism, and the Western regime imposed on the world. He is currently in Beirut, Lebanon. Thank you for taking time to join us Andre.

Andre Vltchek (AV): Thank you.

KZ: So Andre, we really appreciate you coming on. I’ve appreciated your writing for a long time and what I really like about it is that you are often in the place where the actions are occurring and you bring clarity. There’s such confusion about US actions around the world about a lot of these revolts that are happening around the world. Is the US involved? What’s the real issues? And Lebanon is one of those confusing areas and you’re in Beirut now, can you tell us what is happening in Beirut, what is happening in Lebanon? What is this uprising about? Describe what you’re seeing.

AV: Well, actually, Beirut is one of the most complex revolts or rebellions, however to describe it. As you know, government of Lebanon, the prime minister of Lebanon resigned several days ago. Hariri, the prime minister. He believed that after his resignation things will calm down here, but obviously protesters want everybody out from all the elites that are governing the nation for many years in the case. They want them all out and they want to start from the beginning. That’s actually not such a bad demand, because if you see what is happening in Lebanon, the country is run by the very greedy, very ruthless and very brutal elites. A lot of income that Lebanon gets is from drug trafficking from Bekaa Valley. It is also from plundering West Africa and so on and so on and from the banking sector also. Lebanon is providing banking services to the entire Gulf and to the entire Middle East. So poor people, which is most likely still the majority in the country, I say most likely because statistics don’t exist here really, poor people get almost nothing from the drug trade. They get nothing from West Africa. They get nothing from banking and people had enough. The services in Lebanon collapsed. So there is no garbage collection, periodically electricity is collapsing. They had to bring Turkish power plants platforms that are docked at the shore, next to the shore of Lebanon. Lebanon is getting electricity even from war-torn Syria. Water is contaminated, water supplies, education is in a horrible state and so is medical care. So logically people had enough of this and they periodically protest. They protested in 2015 during the campaign, which was called “You Stink” and it was supposed to actually illustrate that the government and the elites, who are not cleaning the garbage, are actually the reason for the situation and they stink, not only the garbage stinks. So on one hand you would say, well this is great, people are in the streets. They are demanding the change of regime. They want some sort of Socialism or social reforms except that nobody is talking about socialism. Protesters are demanding the resignation of all political parties. Official political parties but they are not talking about any socialist or social revolution. And yesterday I actually went to one of the main sites of protests in front of the Grand Mosque. And what did I see? I saw a big fist, this big clenched fist, which is clearly a symbol of Otpor and Otpor together with CANVAS are two organizations that were used for all sorts of regime changes by the West. Otpor was used for example to overthrow the government of President Milosevic in Serbia and CANVAS and Otpor were also used during so-called Arab Spring in Egypt, where I made the big documentary film actually about so-called Arab Spring and so on. So suddenly, we see this situation when we don’t know what actually, who is behind these protests and I went to protesters, I talked to them and they had no idea what Otpor is. I said, “What about the clenched fist?” and they talked to organizers and they said well, let me talk to the designer. I don’t really know what this means. So I actually I think this is correct. I think most of the people who are on the streets, they really have no idea who is behind all this. They are just frustrated. They’re very angry about the situation and they want the new start but can they get a new start? That’s really, I don’t think they can at this stage in which things are.

MF: Thank you for that analysis. The timing of this is interesting because it’s the same time that there’s an uprising in Iraq and some are suggesting that perhaps, you know, stoking chaos in Lebanon and in Iraq, two allies of Iran, are part of the United States’ strategy of maximum pressure on Iran since the other tactics the United States has used have not succeeded. So course we have some suspicions and questions about whether there’s CANVAS and other interests helping to form this. At the same time, we were part of organizing the Occupy Movement in the United States in 2011, which was partly inspired by the Arab Spring and we used a fist in our symbols not because we had anything to do with Otpor or CANVAS but because to us, it was a symbol of resistance

KZ: But the Otpor fist is very specific.

MF: Right, it is, but we also didn’t have demands. People, it was kind of a stage of people really just of rising up and saying we’ve had enough and then since then there’s been a lot of work done to organize, create some networks and start to talk about the solutions that we want to have. Do you see? One thing that we saw in kind of CANVAS-trained protesters is that they tend to be very disciplined and they tend to be well supplied. Are you seeing any signs of that?

AV: Well, yes, but also they take many years to actually materialize. You know, that’s very interesting because nothing happens for a year two or three and then suddenly people go to the streets and they get extremely well organized and it appears that it happens from the blue, but it’s not. It’s actually, it was being prepared for many years. It’s very difficult to actually, you know yesterday I sent clips to Italian magazine, which is called L’Antidiplomatico, which is a left wing, big left-wing magazine in Italy and they actually said oh this fist, this is Otpor  and I wasn’t even thinking about it for the beginning and then I began investigating and there was a lot written about this in the past that there was actually the operation of CANVAS and Otpor began in 2005. In 2005, Lebanese, groups of Lebanese people insisted that Syrian Army, which was operating at the time in Lebanon leaves and then it was used in 2015 again, and so there is a very long history of these groups operating. You see, many Lebanese are, there is a huge actually division which is religious division in the country because of the Civil War in the past, but also because of the different political alliances, so certain groups are extremely closely connected to the West. You would hear Christians in Ashraf area neighborhood for example talking about the greatness of French occupation or French colonialism, and they want French back. Similar  to what we hear now in Hong Kong. They want Brits back. And then you have Sunni fraction you have you know, Hariri was a prime minister, he was a Sunni prime minister and so on. Then you have Hezbollah involved and it’s not that bizarrely that Hezbollah would be necessarily antagonistic to Hariri who was not only Sunni, but he was also, is double citizenship, so Lebanese and Saudi, they formed the coalition. So it’s a very complex political arrangement in Lebanon. So it’s very difficult to really untangle it and there it’s obviously the Christian groups here have extreme right wing. They have extreme right-wing members and they don’t hide it. They are very close to Europe. They’re very close to the West. They hate Shia even if they have a coalition with them. They hate Muslims. It’s a complicated situation here. So these groups definitely have connections to Otpor, to CANVAS and to the West, either France or the United States. So there is nothing black and white. I mean, the country is suffering from corruption, horrible corruption. The country is suffering from collapse of services, financial institutions. I mean many analysts believe that by February 2020 the entire economy may and actually will collapse. So there are so many elements involved in the in the situation, which exists right now in Lebanon.

KZ: Wow, what a very complicated situation. So how does Lebanon fit into this? I remember Harari being basically kidnapped and seemed like in Saudi Arabia and resigning while he was under their control, the government’s control not too long ago.

AV: Yes, yes, he actually ended up in Riyadh and he just most likely took some instructions from the Saudi government. So there’s a lot of speculations here, a lot of dark humor connected to the entire situation. I mean, who is he really? Is he Lebanese? Is he Saudi? He has two passports.

KZ:  Very interesting. So what is Lebanon’s position? So many global conflicts are intermingling in the Middle East and in Lebanon in particular. Did he have an antagonistic relationship with Saudi Arabia? Does he have an antagonistic relationship with Israel? And does he have a friendly relationship with Iran? I mean, so how does Lebanon fit into the mix of geopolitics? I know they have a lot of local issues.

AV:  It’s tremendously complicated because yes, there are many players from abroad so that’s clear like in Iraq to right now, but I was covering three months ago, I went to Israeli border between Lebanon and Israel, and I was filming, then photographing there.T here was a big problem like the Drone attacks coming from Israel. And we actually thought that there would be a full-scale war between two countries. They finally came to senses and they stopped but Israel is constantly pushing, constantly intimidating Lebanon. Hezbollah has been playing extremely important role in Lebanon because Lebanon social policy collapsed. There is nothing basically. If you are poor, you will get nothing. You may have Maseratis and Ferraris driving all over the country, they’re driving next to slums. But if you are poor and you get sick, the only organization that will help you is Hezbollah and Hezbollah is very respected here. It’s not, it’s respected by everybody, even by people who hate them because they A, they are ready to fight Israeli invasions, but B, they are also providing Social Services to people of any religious groups and it’s a very important. I know Hezbollah, of course, is allied with Iran. So Iran is here indirectly as well. And Saudis are here and through Hariri and through the Sunni fractions in the government. So it is at the crossroads. The France, of course, the old colonialist power, you know, Lebanon is trilingual right. Arab language, French and English. So France is the only francophone kind of to some extent country in the Middle East. So France is involved, financially it’s supporting certain groups and elites here. The United States, it’s not unusual to see US Air Force Hercules Landing at Rafiq Hariri International Airport. I have images of that also. It’s a, there are other players from all over the world involved here and of course Syria is next door and Syrian War and the influx of refugees, about 1.5 million at the peak, play a great role in complicating the situation socially but it’s not only Syrians, there are also Palestinian refugees. There are camps that exist here for decades. It’s a horrible situation for the Palestinians. They cannot work. They have only few manual works that they are allowed to perform. They are like sardines packed into the camps. There is a lot of violence and a lot of poverty in these camps. There are even Iraqi refugees. So Lebanon is probably the most complicated country to analyze historically and in present terms and you know, of course this was supposed to be the only Christian country in the Middle East that was given to them by the French and the situation totally changed now. There is more Muslims than Christians and nobody really knows how many of them are living because the census is blocked. They’re so scared to say how many Muslims, are many Shia, how many Sunni, how many Alawites, how many Christians are living here because they’re afraid that that would actually reignite the Civil War again. So there is no, there is no census. There are no statistics here.

MF: So it sounds like we’re going to have to kind of keep an eye on the protests. It’s still fairly early, just a few weeks.

KZ: Well if there comes in a crash in February, that’ll be a whole other round as well.

MF:  People are predicting, you know, other economies crashing around the world. It’s, we’re coming into an interesting period but let’s move to another area that you’ve been covering in person recently, which is Hong Kong. There has been a lot of confusion here in the United States about that, but it feels like things are a little bit more obvious in Hong Kong. Can you talk about what you’ve seen going on there?

AV: Oh, Hong Kong is very straightforward. Basically the group or very big group of very confused young people have been pledging allegiance to the old colonial master, which is United Kingdom, and to the United States and they went against their own country, which is China, and that rebellion is actually very ridiculous because China is doing so well economically and socially and China, mainland China is just across the line, that people in Hong Kong, young people began, to feel very frustrated with their old British capitalist system that cannot deliver with very high GDP and everything what communist China can deliver with much lower GDP. So basically Hong Kong is the most expensive city in the world or by all standards. I always joke, but it’s not a joke actually, the last time I was there, there was a parking lot next to me and they were charging 700 US dollars for a parking lot from Monday to Friday only for working hours to park your car and the incomes are not so high. I mean incomes, so  ok, incomes are first world, but maybe in the US terms $2,500 a month. So a person cannot really afford to live in an apartment that costs like now between 800,000 and 1,200,000 for like just a studio in a Hong Kong city. So they all live with the parents. They are frustrated. They have to take students loans and it’s all this old British colonial system. So logically because Hong Kong is under this agreement between UK and People’s Republic, you know one country two systems. So logically these young people should actually demand more Beijing but they are so brainwashed and they are so narcissistic that they actually are protesting against People’s Republic and they are demanding more capitalism and they are demanding more Western influence and you know, it was interesting because all this began with this extradition bill that Hong Kong Administration was trying to introduce and the bill was still the jurisdiction, which is British, doesn’t allow any extradition of the very very corrupt elites from Hong Kong to Mainland China, but also to Taiwan or to Macau or even to Europe or to the United States. So there was a big attempt to pass this extradition bill and the students said or young people said no, we don’t want it because it means that the human rights will be violated and these people will be extradited to China to Mainland China and there will be no fair trial and all this. So basically instead of doing something productive something that could improve their standards of living and give some meaning to their life. They’re fighting against China which mainland China which is getting so much ahead. You know, you could cross the, 20 years ago 15 years ago, even 10 years ago, you would cross the borderline between Hong Kong to Shenzhen or to Guangzhou and it would be day and night. You know, I mean China was still getting to its feet and all that. Hong Kong was so much richer. Now people from mainland China, they don’t even go for shopping to Hong Kong because they get many more better stores. And of course, they have all kind of better public stuff like public transportation, public parks, theaters, museums and all that so actually Hong Kong people were now complaining to me that Mainland Chinese don’t go there anymore. They said they treat us bad and they have better things and we do so now they go to Paris or they go to Bangkok at least or somewhere else. But these young people in Hong Kong they are so brainwashed and they’re so narcissistic that they really don’t understand or they don’t want to understand what is going on and they are, they want to feel exceptional. They want to feel, they miss this these days when they actually felt that the whole world was coming there and Chinese people from Mainland were just sighing in excitement just seeing the skyline. I mean, it’s a better skyline in, you know, Xi’an or in Guangzhou. You don’t have to even go to Shanghai or to Beijing these days. So this is it and the big brainwashing and also ignorance.

KZ: You’ve used the word brainwash multiple times and when you talk about Lebanon, you talk about how what a long-term effort it had been by CANVAS and others to build the opposition there. I mean Hong Kong has been a long-term effort to the US started investing through the National Endowment for Democracy from before the British transition and they’ve been investing massively and I’m sure a lot of investment is to brainwash these young people to be anti-China. And I saw some videos of schools in Hong Kong where they were training the kids on how to fight in an uprising. It was bizarre in a school to see that and this all ties into the what I think is going to define the 21st century, which is what the US calls great power conflict between us and China. And the Uyghurs, Muslims in China are part of this. How do you see all this fitting together? You’ve also written about them which I’d love to hear more about.

AV: I will tell you about this in a minute or two, but let me just conclude this part on Hong Kong. You know, these young people they talk about democracy, they talk about freedom, but I so I filmed and I witnessed when people in a shopping mall or on the street would raise the flag of their country, which is flag of the People’s Republic of China, these students, these young kids would attack them. They would beat them up. There was a case of the, when I was filming, that there was a case of a student teacher who raised the Chinese flag and his son was next to him and they began beating him and the you know, they began beating the teacher and he was still holding the flag and singing the national anthem and his son was like crying. It was so horrific, and this happens all the time. These people refuse to you know, they beat you up if you say something against them. I was filming them destroying the metro station and you know, I’m partially Chinese and Russian and all this, but I I could pass for a Brit when they look at me so they thought I’m you know, one of their beloved Brits so they would leave me alone  when I would be filming but if I would be filming and I would be looking as a, they just trashed Xinhua press agency from People’s Republic. So if I would look like Mainland Chinese, they would just beat me beat me up there. They would break my hands or something. So, this is their democracy. You know, this is their freedom as long as you agree with them, it’s fine but if you contradict them, forget it they would just, they would physically attack you and they claim, they actually criticized the Hong Kong police. My God, you know, what else I covered riots and I covered the uprisings and I covered Civil Wars all over the world, you know in places like Egypt or in places like Turkey or Peru or Paris. They use all kinds of stuff. You know, the tear gas they use against protesters is just totally vile and in many countries, they mix urine and excrement with the water that they use against the protesters. You know in Hong Kong they are using drinkable, potable water against them, you can drink that water. And the gas, it’s a joke. You don’t even have to cover the face. It’s so mild. I mean compared to any other place that I covered, this is just, this is nothing

MF: And how do you see this fit into the whole kind of US conflict with China? There’s a lot of racism against Chinese still here in the United States.

AV: A lot historically and presently it’s just unbelievable. You know, my best friend is a probably most famous Chinese concert pianist, Yuan Sheng. He’s teaching now at the Beijing Conservatory of Music. He used to teach at the Manhattan School of Music. He told me he used to cry every evening when he lived in the United States because of this absolutely incredible racism and attacks, totally unjust attacks against China. I really cannot believe it in the era of so-called political correctness would be right and how they describe China and they don’t let Chinese people really to explain their own country. You’re talking about the country with 6,000 years. It’s their country. I mean, they don’t even let them decide whether it is communist or not. It’s their choice to say what all, to define the relation. I mean how many times you if you go to China all Chinese television networks or newspapers they’re quoting westerners. They allow westerners to say, but if you go to book stores in China, it’s full of all kinds of books from the left to the right, to biographies of politicians or business people. You go in New York City or in LA, you go to the bookstore and all you can find are the books criticizing People’s Republic. You know, there is nothing that talks about this incredible model that they created and if you go to listen to talk shows in UK or US, you hardly hear Chinese people explaining their own country but its total arrogance and you mention Uyghurs before, you know, I just published eight thousand words huge essay about two months ago and I will convert it to a book, to a slim book. You know I did an investigation directly in Afghanistan in Syria around Idlib and of course in Turkey and Indonesia. So what I found out about these poor Uyghurs is they are being, you know described in the west, they are the most violent terrorists who in today’s Syrian conflict. They left China with the fake Turkish passports, or maybe not fake Turkish passport. They went through Jakarta. In Jakarta Turks confirmed their identity at the airport. They went to Istanbul. In Istanbul, they confiscated their passports and then they injected them to Syria and these people are basically now, as the conflict in Syria, as there is a possibility that it may end, they’re being shipped to Afghanistan and why again to be re-injected to both People’s Republic of China and also to the former Soviet republics and to Russia itself. And these people you know Afghanistan has a short border with People’s Republic and why they do it? Because BRI, Belt and Road initiative of President Xi the internationalist, big internationalist project. It’s actually going from the East Coast through Xi’an to Urumqi and it’s going to enter former stans, former Soviet republics and also Iran and Pakistan. Let’s see many many countries but it is all going through that area where the Uyghurs are coming from. So they are being trained they are being hardened to actually destroy this project and you know, I talked to commanders of Syrian Army at the border with Idlib and they were all horrified. I talked to victims, to people whom Uyghurs actually kicked out from their villages, you know, they said these people were on all kind of a combat drugs. They were absolutely out of their minds. They didn’t rape because they came with their women and children, but they were massacring people left and right. Torturing them and even the hardened Syrian commanders were absolutely terrified. They said we never saw anything like this in our life and you know, also the propaganda about how Chinese government is bad to them and all this. Two Ulama groups in Indonesia that I met. Two big Muslim organizations that are normally anti-Chinese. They actually were invited to come there and I talked to them and they both groups said look, no it’s not like that at all. They don’t ban Islam in China. They don’t do anything, they is, they have group, so they have these so-called camps for explaining to them what China is and you know, love your fatherland and your religion but love both. They go at night back home to sleep. So it’s again totally kidnapped narrative by the West.

MF: Right? So what I’m hearing is that there are Uyghurs living in China who are, China’s encouraging them to acclimate to China but there’s a subset of Uyghurs that are violent and are they being used by the West to promote Western interests?

AV:  Yes, they’re used, not only used, they are being actually trained. They’re trained in Turkey. They are trained in Indonesia and they’re trained in Syria. So the reason they are in Syria right now in Idlib area is not to fight only but to harden themselves so they can be injected back to China to intervene with this one belt one road or the BRI initiative, Belt and Road Initiative.

KZ: So explain who’s training them.

AV: Terrorists who are in Idlib, Al-Nusra, Isis, you know smaller groups are trained by the terrorists in Sulawesi in Indonesia. So it’s basically the process from there, being hardened and so they can be used against both China and Russia. Let’s say the former Soviet republics.

 KZ: Very dangerous. People need to read this essay. What’s your website and how people, how can people follow your work and read this essay?

AV: The problem is like the spelling of my name so you will have to probably put it on your site because they have to put my name Andre Vltchek dot weebly dot com. So that’s my big website. All the films and essays and books are, excerpts from my books, are there and the essay on the Uyghurs was published already long time ago, but it’s all over the world. You just put Uyghurs and you put my name and it’s going to pop up because usually I use the academy, Russian Academy of Sciences magazine, NEO, for launching my essays, and then it goes all over the world. Basically, it goes to Global Research and goes to 21st Century Wire even to some right-wing sites like Unz is publishing my stuff. so like 40, but the essay is called March of Uyghurs, like March of penguins. Do you remember this? So this is march of Uyghurs.

KZ:  We will publish the links to your site on the report on this interview and we’ll look for that and probably publish it as a series since it is so long. We’ll probably put it as a series on Popular Resistance as well. There’s so much misinformation on the Uyghurs that…

AV: Please feel free to do it. The only thing I request that you put my bio, which is under each essay with functioning links because that leads to my books. That’s how I can give my work mostly for free. That’s the only condition but it was a lot of work. You know, I worked in Afghanistan a lot and I connected the dots and it will be a book probably two to three months.

MF: And so where are you headed next?

AV:  I’m going to Paris tomorrow. I will be filming Yellow Vests only for a good measure and then I’m flying to Santiago. It’s my home, you know, I mean my second home. I used to live in Chile after the dictatorship collapsed. I was fighting against this horrible Nazi colonial dignidad where they used to torture people during the Pinochet regime and its, I’ll be shuttling between Asia and Latin America. Now I’m shuttling between Asia and the Middle East before it was Asia and Africa and now it will be between South America and Asia. I cannot live in the West. I used to live in New York for six years. I cannot live there anymore. I cannot live in Europe. It just gets so, it got so much, you know indoctrinated and somewhere else that where I would like it to be that I’m really moving now between Asia and Chile, but it will be between Asia and Latin America. So I’ll be reporting a lot from Venezuela, from Bolivia, from Argentina and from Chile of course,

KZ: There’s so much going on in Latin America that you could definitely write another book based on what’s going on there in Chile as well. So interesting, the uprising.

AV: Yes, it is very interesting. Chile’s actually totally different of all these uprisings. Chile is actually pure as far as I’m concerned. It’s a socialist uprising. It’s an attempt of people who finally woke up to bring the nation back where it was before 9/11 1973 when the US overthrew the democratically-elected socialist president Allende and imposed the fascist dictatorship of Pinochet. So in Chile, I strongly believe that we will be fighting for socialism, that in Chile we will try to bring the country back where it was supposed to be before one of the most horrible moments in the history of the 20th century, which was a coup of General Pinochet.

KZ: That was a violent and massacre uprising.

AV: You know, people don’t know but I’m Indonesianist and a lot of my work is actually connected to the 1965 coup of General Suharto. What people don’t know is in that coup about two to three million people were massacred, all the left-wing basically, and I call it intellectual Hiroshima. So in that coup actually gave birth to all these further coups that the West perpetrated, particularly in Chile in 1973. When Allende’s people before the coup were threatened by right wing, they said watch out the Jakarta is coming and they said to me, you know, we didn’t know what Jakarta is except that it was a capital of Indonesia, but it was actually the massacre that was replicated in Chile, the massacre that was performed in 1965 in Indonesia. And by the way for your listeners, I’m just finishing two hours enormous documentary film about Indonesia after 1965 until now and it’s called, The Downfall” and it’s probably the most powerful, I hope the most powerful, film made about Indonesia, which is the fourth most populous nation on Earth, but it’s totally underreported. So please I will be releasing it in about two months. So I hope your listeners will also be interested in that.

KZ: Fantastic.

MF: I’m sure they will. Well Andre, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us. Thank you for the amazing work that you do. It’s so critical for us to have your eyes out there explaining to us what’s going on because we don’t get that information.

KZ: Your eyes, your photos, your videos, your writing articles and books. It’s a great…

AV: I will be, I will be happy to share with you. Let’s stay in touch and let’s talk more and we can forge some long-term cooperation. I like talking to you very much.

KZ: Same with us.

MF: Yes. Thank you.

AV: Thank you.

Read More

Campaign For Community Control Of Police Goes National

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

From November 22 to 24, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, founded in 1973, will be relaunching itself in Chicago, IL. A major part of the conference will be focused on work to create community control of the police to end racist, violent and murderous police actions. We speak with Frank Chapman, who has been with the alliance from the start and who is involved in the work in Chicago to create a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). They have legislation in the city government. Chapman speaks about how they have made so much progress to this goal in Chicago, what potential it will unleash for transformative change and how it ties into the long struggle for black liberation and against fascism.

Listen here:

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Guest:

Frank Chapman was wrongfully convicted of murder and armed robbery in 1961 and sentenced to life and 50 years in the Missouri State Prison. His case was taken up by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR) in 1973, and in 1976 he was released. He had been incarcerated for 14 years. In 1983, he was elected executive director of NAARPR. He worked with Charlene Mitchell, who preceded him as executive director of NAARPR, on building an international campaign to free Rev. Ben Chavis and the Wilmington Ten, Joann Little, and others falsely accused and politically persecuted. He was a part of the international campaign to free Nelson Mandela. He has been a part of leading the struggle in Chicago for the past seven years to stop police crimes — especially murder, torture, beatings and racial profiling. He is presently co-chair and educational director of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

In addition to being a community organizer, Frank is also a published writer since 1971, when he first published “Pages from the Life of a Black Prisoner” in the Fall 1971 edition of Freedomways magazine. He became a contributing editor of Freedomways magazine in 1981-83.

Transcript:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret flowers.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): And Kevin Zeese

MF: Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance.org. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us on PopularResistance.org and while you’re there, visit the Popular Resistance store where you can order tote bags, water bottles, bumper stickers and t-shirts. So this week we interviewed Frank Chapman.

KZ: Chapman is a leading advocate for community control of police, which I think is the transformative change we need across the nation and really get control of the police in this country who are just running rampage in black and brown communities especially.

MF: So he talks about that campaign in Chicago, which has made tremendous progress, and he also talks about an upcoming conference that people won’t want to miss that relaunches the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Stick around for that interview. Before we turn to that, let’s talk about some things that are in the news. So the journalist and editor of The Grayzone Project, Max Blumenthal, was arrested at his home on October 25th.

KZ: This came out of the actions of the Embassy Protection Collective. Grayzone was covering that action with an embedded journalist Anya Parampil. Max was involved at the embassy and is accused falsely of a simple assault, the kind of case that normally gets dropped by prosecutors. His co-defendant is Ben Rubenstein whose brother Alex Rubinstein was also an embedded journalist. So this is all about punishment for daring to break the blockade of information about that Venezuelan effort as well as Grayzone’s other incredible work on a whole range of us regime change activities from Syria, where Max has incredible specialty, to Nicaragua where him and Anya went down to Nicaragua. They actually interviewed Daniel Ortega. And Venezuela and Iran, Hong Kong. They have just been exposing US Empire everywhere and I’m sure are a top target for the US. It’s just a part of the war on journalism as well.

MF: Well, I think what’s really sad is that mainstream journalists in the United States are completely silent on this. The advocates for press freedom are silent on this. This was a five, more than five month old warrant that had been issued during the embassy action and then had actually been rescinded. They don’t have any proof of the allegations but I think what’s really dangerous is that they told the police and listed in the warrant that Max was armed and dangerous, something that only a tiny minority of arrest warrants have on them. So for a journalist with no history of armed struggle who covered an action that had no arming of it, this gave the police the impression that they were dealing with an armed criminal when they came to his home. They surrounded his home, treated him very aggressively. It’s just lucky that Max was not hurt.

KZ: There’s absolutely no basis for the armed and dangerous nonsense that was in the warrant. They came to his house. They were pretty aggressive. They were threatening to break his door down if he didn’t open it up. He did open it up. A bunch of police came into his house. He was handcuffed. He was taken away in his pajamas. He was able to take the laces off his shoes because they would do that when they got to jail and then he luckily got a coat because it was freezing in jail. It’s very cold. He was first at a precinct and moved over to Central Booking, multiple cages. He was held in there very uncomfortable for 36 hours before he finally got to a magistrate and was released on personal recognizance. That was in the morning they came to his house. They could have gone to the magistrate that day and gotten an arraignment that day and he would been out that day but instead they punished him with 36 hours. And this very weak case that I’d be surprised if it goes to trial. If it does, I think the truth will come out and will be very embarrassing to the United States.

MF: And then denying Max a phone call. He wasn’t even allowed to inform his lawyer that he was in jail. So really it seems like it was something that was timed to punish Max. Of course, it came a few days after The Grayzone had published an expose showing that the USAID was not only paying the salaries of the coup supporters in Venezuela, so basically paying the salaries of people that are recognized by the US to be the government of Venezuela…

KZ: In order for them to conduct a coup rather than humanitarian assistance, like USAID should be used for.

MF: …and also covering their travel, their other expenses. So this is really unheard of. Grayzone exposed that as they have so many other things that the United States has been doing and I think this was an intimidation of him.

KZ: I’ll tell you this though, talking to Max and listening to him being interviewed. This is going to be the opposite of intimidation. It is going to energize him to be more aggressive. It has energized his awareness, which he already knew about but now experienced the racism in our criminal justice system, in our prisons. He got to see how people were treated in prison, experience it and you can understand that from your own knowledge and reading but experiencing it brings it to a new level. I can tell you I had when I was first arrested that was one of things that struck me in the face was wow, I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was this bad. I saw black people being incarcerated for minor crimes that whites would not even be arrested for, yet these people were being held often held overnight losing their jobs leaving their kids without being, someone to pick them up at school just creating all sorts of social strife and Max has seen that. And we’re talking to Max also about what he needs for his trial because we have that, we are lucky to have a defense committee for our embassy case. We’re facing federal charges and we have the Embassy Defense Collective, DefendEmbassyProtectors.org if you want to get aware of that case, if you want to get involved in that case. It’s a great site with all the information you need so you can talk about it and write about it. Not just our case but also Max and Ben’s case. We’ll see what they need for their defense and if necessary, we will help to form a defense committee for them as well.

MF: Out of that work that we’ve been doing this whole year around defending the embassy and opposing illegal actions by the United States like the unilateral coercive measures that people call sanctions and the embassy action led to the People’s Mobe that took place in New York City this past September during the United Nations General Assembly. We now have a new action that we’re taking and we encourage people to check out. There is a group of seventy-seven countries, they’re called the group of 77 plus China, and they are introducing a resolution to the United Nations. It’s called the Second Committee, Economic and Financial Committee. And this is a resolution basically calling on the United Nations to enforce its Charter and take action to stop these unilateral coercive measures, this economic war, these sanctions that the United States and its junior partners are using against, I think we see different variations of the number of countries, but at least 33 countries are being impacted.

KZ: I suspect a lot of that group of 77 countries are impacted by sanctions. If not, they’re impacted secondarily. If you dare to trade with Iran, then you’ll be punished for trading with them because they’re sanctioned. Because of the Iran sanctions, they are punished with secondary sanctions. This is a big impact issue, these State sanctions, which we call unilateral coercive measures because under international law those kinds of measures are illegal.

MF: So this is a sign-on letter that we’re encouraging individuals and organizations to sign onto. We will have a delegation present at that hearing in the United Nations General Assembly when they vote on this. The sign-on letter is going to be presented to them ahead of time. And we really hope that this resolution gets passed and not just passed but also acted upon.

KZ: And you can sign up by going to PopularResistance.org. It’s in the slider at the top of the page.

MF: Or you can go to Peoplesmobe.org, there and it’s right there on the homepage.

KZ:  So People’s Mobe, the people’s mobilization to stop the US war machine and save the planet.

MF: PeoplesMobe.org  and then also, if you are interested in this issue, we have another sign-on which is the Global Appeal for Peace. And this is organizing an international network to fight back against these illegal unilateral coercive measures and the impacts that they’re having on countries around the world. So that’s GlobalAppeal4Peace.net.

KZ: The sign-ons, these are parts of an ongoing campaign. These are tactics that fit into a larger campaign. We don’t expect the sign-on by itself to win it for us, but we expect these sign-ons to educate people and organize people, and when you sign on then you get to be part of the campaign and these campaigns can last multiple years. When we stopped the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the trade movement. That was a five to six year campaign. You started working on single-payer healthcare full-time in 2007, and we’re getting close to victory on that, on National Improved Medicare for All. Now, we have some short-term campaigns but this is a long-term one. This is essentially forming a network of people both in government and out of government who are going to stand against violations of international law, these unilateral coercive measures or state sanctions are violations of international law and that’s what we’re advocating for is ending that abuse by the United States and other nations.

MF: Well, the Global Appeal is really organizing civil society around this, but there is a governmental equivalent, which is the Non-aligned Movement, which is over a hundred and twenty countries who have already affirmed their opposition to unilateral coercive measures, their desire for peaceful methods of resolving conflicts, respect for self-determination and sovereignty and also taking real steps to address the climate crisis. So they are taking these actions. I think this resolution is part of that and they just met in Azerbaijan and I think we need to have a civil society component that complements that because this is necessary if we want to get to a world where, that’s peaceful, that people’s needs are met. This is an important…

KZ:  A world without war requires an alternative to conflict resolution, part of that alternative is building up international law. It’s also diplomacy, it’s negotiation. It’s really confronting conflict in more mature ways than wars.

MF: And it’s such an interesting time. You know, as US Empire is falling, we’ve talked about that so frequently on the show, but seeing the changes that are happening around the world. So just this past week in Germany, there was a group of legislators from the, a Democratic Socialist Party. It’s called Die Linke or The Left and they actually are calling for all 35,000 US troops to leave Germany.

KZ: When was the World War? And when did the Berlin Wall fall? I mean really the US troops in Germany are an anachronism, they’re an expense for both Germany and the United States. They’re unnecessary. It’s time not just to remove US troops from Germany, but it’s time to end NATO. NATO has become an offensive force. It’s used to put pressure on and threaten countries that the US is opposed to or in competition with. That’s why we keep expanding NATO along the Russian and Chinese borders. That’s why NATO is coming to Colombia and Brazil, next to Venezuela. They are an offensive force. When they can’t get the United Nations to authorize a war, they use the cover of NATO to say it’s a multinational effort. Even that’s illegal. NATO does not have the legal power to decide when to attack another country. So a NATO war is just as illegal as a unilateral war by the United States.

MF: The Germans cite some real serious concerns in that the United States is antagonizing Russia. And if there is a war between the United States and Russia, having US troops in Germany is going to put Germany in the crosshairs and there are nuclear weapons in Germany. So they’re saying for their own protection, they need the US to get out of there.

KZ: At a time when the US has changed its national security policy from the war on terror to great power conflict, that does put US allies especially a country where there are US military bases, at greater risk. Great power conflict with Russia, how has that evolved in the 21st century, great power conflict with China how has that evolved in the 21st century? Is the US laying the groundwork for military action and if they are that does put Germany, and other nations where US bases exist at risk.

MF: This is also an interesting time because we’re seeing so much pushback, primarily in the Latin American countries as we’ve talked about, against neoliberalism, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, of course, Venezuela, Nicaragua Cuba and Haiti. Protests continue in Haiti. Haiti is a country that has really been devastated by United States foreign and economic policies, of course also our kind of pushing who their president is Jovenal Moise but they’ve been undergoing very serious protests for the past seven weeks. It’s interesting the kind of parallels that there are between Haiti and what we see in other countries. So there, the social movements are talking about how the government wrote a letter to Mike Pompeo in the State Department of the United States asking for humanitarian assistance. Well the Haitians understand what it means when a government asked the United States for humanitarian assistance.

KZ: It means cover for bringing in military troops. And we saw that in Venezuela. We’ve seen that in other US regime change efforts. Humanitarian assistance is just a way for the US to get its foot further in the door and in Haiti, they’ve had their foot in the door for a long time. Ever since Haiti revolted successfully against slavery when France was colonizing the island, they have been under attack by US and Western countries. The US does not appreciate countries that declare their independence. So Haiti’s independence has been very costly ever since that time. Haiti has been under attack by the United States and Western Powers.

MF: Another tactic that they’re seeing is that there are these violent groups that are connected to the state that are creating chaos and havoc through violence and they, what their view is, is that they’re doing this because they’re trying to foment a civil war, which would be another justification for US military intervention. These are the same things that we’ve seen play out in Venezuela and other places. What’s exciting to see is that a coalition of 62 political parties and social movement groups have come together under what they’re calling the Patriotic Forum. They’re holding gatherings all around the country to talk about what it is that they want. The main demand of these protests has been for the president, Jovenal Moise, to resign.

KZ: And he wouldn’t be president if it hadn’t been for Hillary Clinton. He basically lost the election. Hillary Clinton said he had to win. He’s been a corrupt leader stealing the PetroCaribe dollars that Venezuela was providing and undermined the country. So it is time for him to go. The question is what will take his place.

MF: Let’s talk about our newsletter this week on Popular Resistance. We talked about National Improved Medicare for All. It’s interesting. As you mentioned, we’ve been advocating for this for a very long time and we’re actually seeing national consensus grow in support of it. We’re seeing candidates for political office. In 2018, a number of members of Congress ran on National Improved Medicare for All. We’re seeing of course Bernie Sanders including it in his platform in 2016. And now in 2020, in the presidential campaign, it’s a big topic of discussion, whether presidents are for it or against it, trying to sound like they are for it when they’re actually not for it.

KZ: No, it’s very complicated the way that the opposition is playing it. They recognize that Medicare for All is the popular solution. It has majority support among Republicans, Independents and especially among Democrats, among Democrats it’s a consensus issue. I don’t see a Democrat winning the nomination unless that candidate is for Medicare for All or fools people to pretend they’re for Medicare for all. The voters want Medicare for  All, they want a health system they can rely on. The first candidate to run on Medicare for All in this century was Ralph Nader in 2000 as a Green Party candidate. That helped to change the national discussion, put it on the agenda. The movement kept on growing after that. Sanders taking it up in 2016 certainly helped as well. Although we have some problems with Sanders, the Sanders-Warren Bill, some serious shortcomings in that bill that require a change for us to have a good system. But the issue is reaching a peak. I think we, our newsletter talks about essentially where we are as a movement when we go into this 2020 election year. We’ve come a long way. Remember in 2010 Margaret, you and I and six other allies were arrested protesting the ACA because they wouldn’t put Medicare for All on the table. They said it’s not on the table and here’s ten years later, it’s a centerpiece of the table in the 2020 election campaigns. We have come a long way in 10 years.

MF: We have and I think all the signs point to the potential of a victory on this but the opposition is investing a lot of money in front groups, in advertising, in misinformation campaigns…

KZ: Pete Buttigieg is the largest recipient of insurance money.

MF:  That’s right. And of course, he sounds like he’s talking for the healthcare industry. And so we have a lot of work to do. We need to be aware of the tactics that the opposition uses and be able to push back against those even you know, sometimes they use progressive sounding organizations, organizations that have a progressive veneer like the Urban Institute that just did another flawed report trying to make it look like National Improved Medicare for All would cost too much.

KZ: The Urban Institute has been mainly funded by government money and they are clearly an anti-Medicare for All group. Every report they put out has obvious flaws in it that bias it against Medicare for All and there are groups like that out there. But you’re right, we are facing a strong opposition. We’re going after some of the biggest industries in the country. The health care is 17 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States. It means a lot of people are making a lot of money off the present system. That’s why it’s so wasteful expensive and not good for people because it’s become, it’s a capitalist ripoff. We’re challenging that and that’s what’s beautiful about this issue. If we successfully win Medicare for All, we will have defeated the insurance industry. That is a centerpiece of US capitalism. We will weaken the pharmaceutical industry, another major part of the flawed capitalist healthcare system, and we’ll be reining in for-profit hospitals. These are big opponents, but if we successfully do that, it will show people we have the power to defeat corporate power. We have the power to put in place a policy that actually benefits the people and when they see it working, when people see that unity and solidarity, getting the policy you want actually results in better health care and it’ll be a fantastic improvement on poverty, personal expenditures, on debt, on all these issues would be such a positive that it will just propel more change,

MF: Right. It’ll really show people that we can take on these big fights and win them and I think that this is a critical time to do that. Health care is the number one priority of voters. You mentioned the power of the industry but on the opposite side of that, we have a country of 320 million people. We have 30 million people who have no health insurance at all. We have another at least twice that people who have health insurance, but it’s so crappy, they can’t afford to get health care when they need it, with people going bankrupt. Over 500,000 families every year going bankrupt because of medical illness and the industry’s overreach is becoming so obvious. Hospital ssuing poor people who can’t pay their bills, so so many examples.

KZ:  People having to go to social media fundraisers to pay for urgently need health care. It’s obscene. We have the resources. This country has to have people in that position. That’s where you have the Health Over Profit for Everone campaign, healthoverprofit.org, you can sign up and get involved and participate. We are going to win this in the early 2020s if we organize and mobilize people. This is a winnable and major potential transformation of not just health care, but the US economy.

MF: At the HOPE campaign website, educational and information tools for you. It’s got a news feed that is updated regularly and national organizing calls that people can join. Speaking of organizing, I wanted to give a shout out to the Forest and Climate Convergence that just took place. We posted a report about that on PopularResistance.org and it was a very strategic meeting where they had seven tracks taking on various issues and over 300 people from around the country that came to make plans to organize around those issues. They have videos up from it for people who weren’t able to attend check that out.

KZ: Eleanor Goldfield.

MF: Eleanor Goldfield attended.

KZ: Eleanor Goldfield works with us at Popular Resistance and does fantastic media work on her own as well. You know, this is a critical issue. If you’re going to fight climate change, you’ve got to fight climate or the oil and gas infrastructure that Obama really pushed forward aggressively needs to be stopped. There’s a good movement doing fantastic work challenging oil and gas pipelines, transfer stations, export terminals, fantastic work being done. So, it’s great that people are getting together to strategize. It is a critical moment in the climate change, climate crisis debate. We will really need to escalate those kinds of actions.

MF: We also need to be really serious about protecting our forests because there’s a lot of talk now around the country and around the world about that we’ll just plant more trees. Well, it’s not as simple as just planting more trees. What we really need are actual forests, healthy forests. And the healthiest forests are the ones that exist right now and pipelines and other infrastructure and development chop down a lot of these older growth forest that are so able to sequester carbon and you can’t really replace that by just planting a few trees in the short term. So I think this these two issues are intimately connected.

KZ: And it’s not just those two, climate change is in the headlines. Environmental degradation right now is at an extreme level from our agriculture, herbicides and pesticides, water pollution, air pollution…

MF: Radioactive waste.

KZ: Loss of whole species. I mean, we’re going through extreme time in our environment and so this convergence is very important as part of a very big puzzle of resistance against environmental destruction.

MF: Yeah, and just some quick news, people probably aware the Keystone Pipeline that so many people fought for so long because we know that all pipelines leak, it’s not a question of if they will it’s when they will we know…

KZ: know that what they’re carrying is going to cause a climate crisis.

MF: Right. Well, the Keystone Pipeline is actually carrying tar sands, the worst, from Canada, right and they just had a massive spill in North Dakota of 383,000 gallons into wetlands and so this is why we’re fighting this. It’s not just the carbon in the air, but it’s the damage that these pipelines do to the environment around them and many of them cross very large aquifers that provide clean water to lots of people. So that’s also concerning. Let’s talk about another issue that’s just starting to I think really get more attention and we don’t really know the answer on it, but this is the new 5G that is being proposed for cell phones.

KZ: Propose is putting it nicely. It’s being pushed through aggressively. We’re looking at 5G throughout the country and world, which will be a whole other level, the internet connection, there’s lots of promise for it that people put for as far as the economy and the new equipment, new ways of communication nut also new military equipment, which is a sad story. There’s also a lot of research that shows potential serious health and environmental problems.

MF: Right, there was an appeal, the International EMF Scientist Appeal signed by a few hundred scientists and doctors basically just saying that the research that we’re doing shows that there are some red flags here, some concerns about health impacts from 5G. They list things like the potential for cancer. They found an association between that and cancer in rats as well as neurological problems, cardiovascular problems and so they’re just saying before we move forward with this massive build-out, let’s just pause for a moment do some more research and really look at whether this is healthy before we start really pushing this out there.

KZ: It’s a very reasonable request. When you start to see red flags, the precautionary principle should apply. What that means is take precaution, do the research, show it’s safe and then move forward but if you’re starting to see signs of health and environmental consequences, you have to face up to those and deal with them before you have a health and environmental crises.

MF: And then just quickly, two last stories we want to talk about. We didn’t mention this last week. The General Motors workers, UAW, that were on strike, they did settle their strike after six weeks. There was a 57% vote, really mixed feelings on this but I think the workers felt like they got the most they could get. It does continue to maintain tiers of, you know, different levels for workers. They were really a big thing where they were fighting for was equality of workers. So they’re still going to be plant closings going on.

KZ: The autoworkers went into that strike really unprepared for a strike and I think they had to negotiate from a little bit of a position of weakness. So they didn’t get everything they wanted. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another strike in the not-too-distant future because these problems were not really resolved.

MF: Yeah, they were complaining that they didn’t really get the training and support that they needed to do an effective strike. So maybe that will be for the next one. But the Chicago Teachers, after more than two weeks of striking, which is longer than their strike in 2012, did finally settle on a contract again. They won some major things. There’s still some things they were hoping for that they didn’t win but they did get a promise of a nurse and social worker in every school within five years and an extra 35 million dollars each year to reduce classroom size, pay increases for the support staff …

KZ: And they are paid poverty wages. Yes, that was very critical.

MF: And during that mobilization, they got tremendous community support. Of course, they were also pushing for affordable housing. They were criticizing the amount of resources at the Chicago City puts into the police department and there’s still another fight that they’re going to be engaging in which is around the budget for the city. They’re calling and they’re working with other organizations as well calling for more taxes on the wealthy and corporations to fund things that they need.

KZ: And not giving up. They won a lot. Their strike was not just about themselves and the teacher’s aides and the schools, it was about their communities. It was really impressive demands they made that would energize the community because so many urban communities have been underfunded and neglected and these teachers are saying students are not being treated well at home because of the economic reality that the families in the communities face. They also cover immigration, they made schools into sanctuary schools and they’re doing training on how to deal with ICE agents. And so they are also confirming that and they’re bringing more teachers in the schools to teach English as a second language.

MF: Right and I think one of the most exciting things that came out of it is this national network of bargaining for the common good which is what the Chicago Teachers were trying to do. It was like it’s not just about us, we the teachers on the front line seeing these problems in our communities and really bargaining for everyone. And I think that that national network, I think it could inspire similar actions in other cities and certainly has raised awareness of what unions should be doing. We talk about this all the time, but workers really I think hurt themselves when they started narrowing their focus to just their interests and forgetting that actually it was the labor movement that brought us major social gains in the early 20th century.

KZ: The idea of fighting for the common good actually was first done by those Los Angeles teachers. It was Los Angeles teachers who were part of the wave of strikes. There were many teachers strikes in the last year that the Chicago teachers strike was one of the first of those too in that phase. Now they seem to be leaders and break ground for others to follow and I suspect this whole idea of striking for the common good is one that’s going to keep going because there’s such desperate need in the common good. We have since the Reagan Era we have had this trickle-down economics and that just has not worked.

MF: But it certainly worked for those at the top but it’s not trickling down.

KZ: It does not trickle down and wealth divides have gotten more extreme and people are getting more angry and communities are more neglected and there’s a housing crisis, the healthcare crisis, poverty crisis , wages are low. It means just many issues. So the common good is, it has lots of demands and so it’s great to see organized unions starting to stick up for the common good. It’ll make them stronger. It will make the community stronger.

MF: Let’s get to our interview with Frank Chapman, a lifelong organizer who is going to teach us how they made the gains that they have in Chicago around holding the police accountable. So we’ll take a short musical break and we’ll be right back with that interview.

MUSIC BREAK

MF: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And now we turn to our guest Frank Chapman. Frank is the co-chair and educational director of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Thank you for taking time to speak with us, Frank.

Frank Chapman (FC): Thank you for having me.

KZ: I’m really looking for this conversation. I first heard about community control of police from Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report years ago, and I’ve always been looking for someone to really put some deep thought into how that can work so and you guys have done that. So I want, we want, to get into that in a big way. Before we do that, let’s just get a sense of how you got into working on these issues and working with the alliance.

FC: Well, I came into the alliance at its inception in 1973. At the time, I was a political prisoner in the Missouri State Penitentiary. The alliance was responsible for me getting out, you know, and once I got out I immediately became involved in this organization. I went on to become the executive director of the organization in 1981. I got out in 1976. I’d done almost 15 years in prison and in 1981 I became an executive director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and then episodes, episodes, episodes. It came to pass that we sort of withered as a national organization during the late 80s and early 90s and we only had two branches left in the country by the end of the 90s. And that was the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression asked me to come and help them to not only rebuild the organization but to build a campaign around the wrongfully convicted and people who were being brutalized and murdered by the police here in this city. So I finally said yes and came. Around 2011 I was appointed by the chairperson here, Josephine Wyatt, as the educational director and the field organizer. And as a result of that, I began to work in the organization. In 2012, an incident occurred. A young woman by the name of Rekia Boyd, she was 21 years old, was shot in the head by a police officer of the CPD by the name of Dante Servant. She was shot in the head as a result of him claiming that she was making too much noise with a group of other young black people in the park across the street from his apartment. He came out and basically did a drive by. He drove by a small gathering of black folks and shot into the crowd and killed her, a bullet into her head and she died. A month later, we started this campaign for an all elected all civilian police accountability council because we felt like that was it, you know, it was now time to really begin to fight back and to try to push forth the notion and fight for its implementation that we need community control of the police. They were totally out of control and we needed to get them in control. So that’s how this campaign called CPAC began in 2012.

MF: And that was a really crucial time because it was just after the Occupy Movement, just after the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida by George Zimmerman, and it was really kind of a, I think, an awareness of people at that time. I remember lots of people marching for Trayvon and then attention being paid to you know, more and more of the police murders of black and brown people and a time when people were looking for more kind of control over things and more democratic systems. So that was really perfect timing for this type of a campaign.

FC: Yeah it was definitely that. Our first call that we put out for a people’s hearing on police crimes in Chicago had the picture Trayvon Martin on the front of it. So we were in tune with what was going on. A lot of us are seasoned, were and are, you know seasoned political activists and some of us are even revolutionaries, so we were very aware of what was going on, and we was looking at this resurgence of the youth movement at the time that it was happening. We made a very conscious effort to bring his organization about by linking it up to the emerging youth movement and also police crimes that were happening in that period.

KZ: Well you guys have done an amazing job of building a real grassroots movement with tens of thousands of people involved and impacting elections and changing the political discourse and the issues you’re dealing with are such long-term ones going back to the you know, Freddy Hampton’s killing, the 1968 police riot at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the torture, the black and brown crisis of policing

MF: It really has started from the inception of police.

KZ: Yes, it’s been there since the beginning of police. That’s right. The CPAC legislation, the Civilian Police Accountability Council, is really so interesting because it’s rooted in democratic control. I think that is like the critical, I can easily see as this goes forward they are pushing to have, we want appointed officials not democratically elected members of this council. Tell me about the democratic basis for CPAC.

FC: It is rooted in the struggle for Black Liberation in this country. That’s how I like to be with because it goes all the way back to the days of reconstruction or the period of reconstruction after the Civil War was concluded in 1865. In 1867, the radical Republicans took control of Congress and they went about the business of trying to politically implement what was in that period of time a revolution. America’s only had two revolutions. The one in 1776 and one in 1861. And I tend to believe that the one in 1861 was the most radical one because that is the one where billions of dollars in property was taken from the slave barons in the South. That’s what basically the Emancipation Proclamation and the abolition of slavery meant. It meant that these people were deprived of the use of human beings as property and they could no longer buy and sell them like you buy and sell cattle. That was a revolutionary development and to politically consolidate that there was an attempt at a radical reconstruction. Structure in South during the period 1867 to 1877. During that period black people were in power politically like they’ve never been since in this country and during that period of political empowerment where we had people at the local level, the state level and the federal level. We had black representation proportionate to our numbers in the population at that time. And during that period a lot of counties, a lot of townships and whatnot in the Deep South were under the control of black people believe it or not, you know. Go back and check your history books. Eric Foner just did an outstanding book on this in terms of dealing with reconstruction. WEB Dubois did the first great book on it back in the late thirties called Black Reconstruction. Anyway, during that period, we had community control of the police through the union leagues and through the black federal troops who was still in uniform and still in the Army, you know, still in the armed services. It was during that period in South Carolina, for example that the Ku Klux Klan was actually outlawed and denied any legal right to exist, it was during that period. So, it was during that period in which local sheriffs and constables and whatnot were black and they had the decisive and final voice in saying who policed their communities and how their communities were policed. It was during that period that the old slave patrols, the so called Paddy Wagons, were eliminated. It was during that period that these slave jails and whatnot, not only were the residents of those jails or inmates freed but a lot of those jails were burned down. So it was during that period where black people had taken a very firm position in determining their own political destiny with the help of some part of the federal government at that time. Of course, that period was overthrown by means of terror and counter-revolution and the Ku Klux Klan rose up again and lynchings began to take place in this country. It was a very bloody period that followed that from 1877 all the way up to the present. And so we say that the struggle for community control of police goes back to that point in history, you know. We say the struggle for community control of the police is a fundamental block, a building block, in the struggle for Black Liberation in our country because the police has been historically used to occupy and to terrorize our communities like the paramilitary force that it is. And until we can change that, it’s going to be very difficult for us to build our movement, to get rid of our oppression. And so we think that that is fundamental. The Black Panther Party was one of the first groups in our history to really recognize this connection, you know, where they said that, you know, the police occupation and the police tyranny was a block to us doing the sound firm movement for Black Liberation. So that’s how we see this. We see this as fundamentally related to our struggle for Black Liberation. And we also see this as fundamental to the struggle for democracy in the United States and North America because black people are not so much the pacesetters, although they are that too, but they are the principle force for democracy in this country because of our history going all the way back to 1619, because of our history, because of our enslavement, because of our being systematically denied citizenship and being oppressed from almost the time that we got here until today. So if you want to talk about the fight for democracy in the United States you can’t talk about this fight and exclude back people from it. In fact, we have to be in the leadership of that fight.

KZ: Wow, that’s a fantastic history. And you’re so right about the abolition of slavery being a revolution. I mean, it really turned the Constitution on its head. The Constitution protected slavery, protected these property rights for slaveholders.

MF: It was written by the property owners.

KZ: It was written by the slaveholders and I mean and so, you’re right, that was a critical. And I love that you think, that you recognize we are going back to that era, that Reconstruction Era because that’s exactly right. It is so transformational. If this becomes law it is the only way to get control of the police. Police body cams and occasional prosecutions usually without convictions, the Fraternal Order of Police protecting police crimes. That’s a system that can never protect black and brown communities. It really takes this transformation.

MF: Can you tell our listeners about the CPAC campaign and the way you got, I mean you’ve made a lot of progress, maybe you can tell our listeners about how that came about?

FC: Yeah. Well, you know, shortly after Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered in 69, our organization emerged in 1973 and we were very aware of what contributions Fred Hampton and Mark Clark and the Black Panther Party in general had made to this struggle for community control of the police. And it was our determination to continue to carry that struggle forward. We actually started contemplating and trying to develop a campaign around this issue back in 1973. It didn’t start really happening to us in terms of Freaks in the Streets and that sort of thing until the late 70s and the early 80s. In the 80s, we did call a couple of national forums. One was in Los Angeles on police crimes to try to galvanize around this, you know, galvanize some folks around this movement, but it didn’t take off. We were also preoccupied with a number of other things in that a lot of our comrades had been falsely imprisoned and so we were engaged in that struggle, engaged in the struggle to free Nelson Mandela, you know, a lot of the stuff was going on. So for one reason or another, we couldn’t really get the campaign moving. And then in 2012, we got it moving. In 2012 the campaign got moving because as you have pointed out earlier the conditions were right, you know it was time and we got it moving and what we did was what our movements have a history of doing. We did grassroots organizing. We said that what we’re going to do, we’re going to organize from the bottom up not from the top down. We’re not going to try to get the politicians to implement this, we were going to go to the people and tell the people this is a measure that we need and get the people to force the politicians to consider it and implement it. So that’s the tactic that we were using, that’s the strategy that we’re using. You know, we believe that in the absence of a mass movement to get this legislation passed, it wouldn’t get to first base.

MF: Right. And so you organized in the neighborhoods City Council members to…

KZ: Aldermans, they’re called.

MF: That’s right, to be able to elect people that supported this agenda. You were able to get tens of thousands of people in the Chicago area to sign on to this approach.

KZ: Describe for us what is actually in the draft legislation. You know, whenever I thought about this issue or talked to others about this issue, they’ve lack details. Your program has real details. Tell us how it works. How does the Civilian Police Accountability Council actually work? And what powers does it have?

FC: Well, the way how it actually works. Let’s lay down the fundamental principle first. It overall empowers our people to say who polices their communities and how their communities are policed as a basic democratic principle. Okay, having established that, we put the people who are elected to this Council in control of every aspect of policing. They write the manual, the training manual, they control the budget in terms of how the police are budgeted, you know, they are in control of every aspect of policing in terms of them having the final voice, you know. Through this process, we will be able to eliminate racial profiling, we’ll be able to take racist fascist-minded cops who currently patrol and police our communities, we’ll be able to take them out and replace them with people of our own choosing who come from the community that their policing. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have, why we can’t have the people who live in our communities also police our communities, you know. There’s no reason why we can’t have hiring and firing power over who the chief of police is, you know, or any other police officer. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have the power to bring police up on criminal charges when they commit crimes. We don’t have to wait on the prosecutor if the prosecutor is hesitant in doing this, then we have empowered the people through this legislation to take these cases directly to a Federal grand jury, because you know killing somebody under the cover of state law, denying them their most basic right to life is punishable under federal law. And so this goes back to the old black reconstruction statue. It’s still on the books so we can use those laws in a democratic way to enforce the will of the people. So this legislation lays all that out for us. How did we draft this legislation, how did we come about crafting it? Well, we used some of the past experiences like in Berkeley California where they had a police control board at one time under Mayor Gus Newport. We use some experiences in Detroit under Mayor Young how they eliminated the strike force in the police in Detroit and tried to establish some measure of community control. So we used some of the things that had already been tried, but most importantly what we did was we got together people in our community. We held hearings ourselves in our communities and asked the people, what do you want? How do we do this? You know and they contributed. And then we took some of our legal minds, some of them being former prosecutors like Larry Kent, a black lawyer but also a former prosecutor. We took some of our legal minds and put them to work on it, but giving the people the final say. If we didn’t like what was in there, we said no don’t put that in, put this in. And then finally we came up with CPAC, an all-elected, all Civilian Police Accountability Council. So it went through a democratic process.

KZ: Excellent. So, you say all elected? Will the elections be citywide elections or is it done by Alder.

FC: They would be citywide but they would be done in the police districts themselves. The people who live in that district, all the residents of the district, would have a vote in these elections and that would include people who are not yet citizens. As long as they are residents in that district, they would have a vote.

KZ: How big a council would it be? How many people?

FC: Well, we’re talking about, we got 50 wards and we have about 22 police districts. So what we did, at first we had 22 on the council, but you know that became a little awkward. So we decided to merge some of the police districts, you know, consistent with the demographics, you know. We merged black and brown districts with black and brown districts, you know, and reduced it down to 11, you know, and so we’re talking about an 11 member council, which would be over all of the police districts in the city of Chicago.

KZ: That’s fantastic. That makes so much sense. And what kind of pushback are you getting from the power structure, especially from the Fraternal Order of Police?

FC: The Fraternal Order of Police hates it. It’s a democratic idea. They can’t possibly, they can’t stand it. You know, it’s just the exact opposite to what they would like. You know what they would like us to continue with the police tyranny that they presently have in our communities. So this is the antithesis of that. They don’t like CPAC at all. Some of the members of the board of aldermen are being warmed over to our position. But first, we had eight members who signed on with us and then we only had one member Carlos Rosa, he’s a socialist, who was a very strong advocate and almost the only Middleton voice that we had in the city council. All of that changed in the last elections. The last elections, we had some 80 candidates who put CPAC into their platform and we had, after they got through weeding them out with the petition process and all that, we ended up with about 60 and after that we ended up with a number of them in runoffs and finally, we won 17 seats in the city council, pro-CPAC people, and four of them jumped ship. And so we had to go back into the streets. We had to go back into the communities and intensify our organizing. We had to put pressure on city council folks and what not. And then finally, we redid the bill to address some of the objections that was being raised, not so much by our opposition, but by people who were friendly to us to help strengthen the bill. So we did that and then by doing that we picked up six more alderpeople and now we have 19 in the city council. We have about 40 percent of the city council now.

MF: Wow, that’s great. So you need about what 13, 12 more to be veto-proof?

FC: We need 26 for a simple majority. And so, that’s seven more, you know, and then you know, if it gets vetoed, if the mayor threatens us with a veto, then we have to get I think up to 30 something, I think around 32 to override the veto but we’re heading in that direction. We’ve come from 8 to 19 within the last year, since February.

MF: Yeah, and then how has it impacted the discourse in Chicago on this issue?

FC: Well, we got the ruling class up here running scared. We got the people, the money bags who run this city, we got them running scared because they know that this is a development which could open up a lot of different doors. If we get community control of the police then the door for community control of public education, the door is open for being more emphatic about the role that banks play in our communities in terms of being redlined and discriminated, in terms of how they’re using it, developers and whatnot. It opens up a lot of different doors. People can start demanding community control and so they see this, they see this threat very clearly and so they are all 100% against us and they have a mayor by the name of a Lori Lightfoot who although she played the progressive tune when she was running for mayor, she is not progressive. They have her pushing their agenda and their agenda is to not let CPAC pass, not let it pass by putting in alternative legislation that looks Progressive, you know,

KZ: So typical when you get close to victory, that’s what the power structure does. They can’t say we’re against you and they put in fake, you know, bills that look like but are not really what you want. And so that to me that’s an expected reaction and that shows you’re getting close to victory. That’s a very positive development. You have to overcome her, but that’s what she did, she’s playing her role.

FC: Yeah. She’s definitely playing her role. She doesn’t have an overwhelming majority of the city council anymore. She doesn’t have that. That she had been a few months ago, but not now

KZ: Fantastic. I think you’re so right about this opening the door to other democratic control of public banks or municipal internet.

MF: Or I don’t know if you’re having the same issue in Chicago, but here in Baltimore our public housing is being privatized and we’re losing our public housing

FC: We have that issue, that is an inherent feature of capitalism at this stage and time. You know, we have that issue here. Yep. We have homeless children in school here. That was an issue with this latest teacher strike, you know, and by the way, the teachers are very staunch allies in the struggle for community control of the police because they want community control of education. So we’re on the same side.

KZ: When you mentioned your mayor, I was thinking the Chicago Teachers because that’s why they’re striking. She’s not living up to her…

FC: Absolutely.

MF: Right, so let’s turn to the conference that you’re holding November 22nd to the 24th in Chicago. It’s the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Can you talk about this conference and timing of it and what you hope to achieve from it?

FC: Absolutely. You know when our organization was formed in 1973, it’s hard to take people back to that period who didn’t really live in that period you know, I don’t know how old you are, but it’s difficult to conceptualize and imagine a lot of the things that happened. But let me just say this, when the Black Liberation movement reached its peak so to speak and it became very clear that this was a radical democratic movement trying to realize the gains that were made during the black reconstruction era. That’s what the Civil Rights Movement is all about. It was a revolution in itself in a way, you know, but of a democratic nature and the powers that be decided that they were not going to let this happen. And so what did they start doing? They started following in the footsteps of the racist fascists in the South very similar to what they did back in 1877 when they decided to overthrow black reconstruction. They started following in their footsteps. J. Edgar Hoover created a clandestine program to derail and destroy the Civil Rights Movement. It was illegal. It was called Cointelpro, and it was a counterintelligence program that involved both the CIA and the FBI. These people did everything. They did all kinds of dirt to derail our movement. They even had people murdered. They had people sent to jail. They did everything. We believe that they were also behind the assassination of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. We know that they were complicit in the assassination of Medgar Evers. We know that they were complicit in the assassination of Viola Liuzzo, you know, out of Detroit a white woman whose husband was an autoworker and who was in the Deep South helping to fight for voter’s rights for black people. So we know that they were involved in all these things because… how do we know? We got the records. Some people in the peace movement broke into an FBI office back in the 70s and got these records. And as a result of these records, we had what we called the Church Committee. Senator Frank Church did hearings with the Judiciary Committee and hundreds of thousands of pages, I mean literally, were collected concerning the operation of this program denying the rights of citizens to organize and protest were gathered up and as a result of that we began to see how vicious and how insidious the program, the cointelpro program, was and that it basically destroyed the Civil Rights Movement. That’s what it did. And it created an era of repression, an era of racist and political repression like we had never seen before unless you go back to 1877.  Now the alliance emerged in this period. They tried to frame up Angela Davis on trumped-up murder charges and send her to the gas chamber in California. Our community had already seen the murder of Negro residents. We’d already seen Malcolm X, all the people I just mentioned earlier. We already seen all this is going on so we decided not to let them murder her. We decided to take a stand and what a stand we took. You know immediately after she was arrested over 200 defense committees spontaneously emerged all over this country saying Free Angela Davis, Free Angela Davis and it was those over 200 communities that we organized into the United Committees to Free Angela Davis and Angela Davis said no it has to be United Committees to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners and with that began one of the most massive defense campaigns in the history of this country. We haven’t seen nothing like it before and ain’t seen nothing like it since. And we were able to Free Angela and we means not only the people in the United States, it means the people of the world because in 67 different countries we also had Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoner campaigns. So this was a tremendous people’s victory that we achieved. I believe it was in late 1971 and as a result of that Angela put a challenge to us. She said, okay, I’m free. You know, it’s been a tremendous victory, tremendous people’s victory, but what about all political prisoners? Didn’t we say Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners? And in response to that challenge, we formed the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. That is how we came into being and I’ve already very broadly described the conditions that agitated us into being. Now what has happened since it’s been 46 years. Has racist and political repression ended? No, it is still here. In fact in many ways it has intensified. You know, now they’re talking about black extremists. Now, they’re talking about putting people in cages on the border. Now, they’re talking about fusing ICE with local police and carrying out raids and what not against immigrant workers and people who’ve come to this country. So it’s worsened in many ways. We got a number of people out of prison. I got out of prison through the alliance, but there’s still a lot of people that are left in prison. Most of the Black Panther Party members who were put in prison back then if they’re not dead or they haven’t died in prison, they’re still there. Leonard Peltier who was put in prison back then, he’s still locked up, you know. So now we have work to do. Our work was interrupted and now with a new movement emerging with Black Lives Matter on the scene, BYP100, Black Youth Project 100, Assata’s Daughters and a number of other new formations that have taken place within the black community, and in the progressive community in general, we feel the time is right.

KZ: We agree. This is the moment that we are building, have been building toward for quite some time. People should know that there are in fact still political prisoners from that era serving time in jail. And of course, we have new political prisoners, Julian Assange Chelsea Manning.

FC: We also have something now that we didn’t have then if you don’t mind me saying, we have mass incarceration. We had incarceration then but we didn’t have mass incarceration in terms of the black and brown communities. We have mass incarceration and a lot of the people in Illinois and I’m sure throughout the country if we take a deeper look are in prison as a result of being tortured, tortured into making confessions for crimes that they did not commit. So we have a long list of wrongfully convicted people who we are also calling political prisoners today.

KZ: That’s so true and it’s not just torture which is the most horrendous aspect. But even the fact that people are facing these decade-long plus mandatory minimum sentences is an incredible threat to someone who’s innocent. If you’re innocent and you’re facing 20 years mandatory sentence and you get offered a plea bargain, you may plead guilty and serve five years or whatever. I mean just so there’s all sorts of ways that they abused this power and people should know that this is a national conference and this is a national problem. And Angela Davis by the way, who you mentioned, will be the keynote speaker at it. Anyone concerned about injustice, black and brown, the violence against black and brown communities by police, this is the conference you should be at because it is critical for this movement to really build and you have a fantastic grassroots movement in Chicago. We need to see these kinds of movements all across the country

FC: Well we intend is to make them happen all across the country. That’s the purpose of this conference. In fact, they are already happening,  you know. We don’t invent social reality, we use it. They are already happening. There’s pockets of resistance all throughout this country. So what we are trying to do with this national conference is to bring that together in a coordinated organized movement for systemic change, the systemic change that we’re talking about is putting the police under community control. If we want to stop the development of fascism in this country, that’s the way we do it.

MF: Yeah. No, that’s fundamental. So we’re running out of time. Do you have any final thoughts for our listeners?

KZ: What website should be the best ones to go to?

FC: They can go to this one, this website. Go to conference.NAARPR.org and all the information will be there about you know, the program of the conference, how to get registered and so forth. Right now we want to tell your listeners to go to that website and register. You are going to agree with the direction that we’re going in through the website. Register and help us build this movement.

MF: Yeah. I mean people that work on immigration issues. There’s so many issues that tie into this, militarization of police. And the conference is very affordable, 15 to 25 dollars to attend it.

KZ: So the website is NAARPR.org, you’ll see the conference. He’s in there and you can sign up for the conference and hopefully you can make it out to Chicago and participate in this historic event.

FC: Yeah, already we have over 300 people pre-registered. That’s as we speak and the numbers are going up. We’ve been registering on average about 10 people a day now and most of these people are young people. And so this is a this is also an opportunity. I’m 77 years old. So this is also an opportunity for those of us who have spent a lifetime in the movement to pass it on, not hold on but pass it on. You know, we’re not immortal, you know, the younger generation is going to see tomorrows we will never see and so we want to make sure that they don’t make the mistakes that we made because we already made those mistakes for them.

MF: Well, thank you for all that you’re doing Frank and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.

KZ: Now. Frank is a great Community organizer folks. So what you’re hearing is really how to organize your community this fundamental issue of democratizing the police and other aspects of our Lives is kind of central to the transformation we need. So we really appreciate your work. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and to our listeners.

FC: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Read More

Why Nicaragua Is Under Attack

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

Latin America is in a revolt against neoliberalism and the austerity measures that go with it. Ecuador and Chile have had mass protests in recent weeks. Bolivia re-elected President Morales, who has put anti-neoliberal policies in place in his previous three terms. Argentina defeated its neoliberal president, Macri, in the recent election and Hondurans are mobilizing to defeat their current president. We speak with Camilo Mejia about Nicaragua where the US had a failed coup attempt last year and is continuing to try to overthrow President Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista Movement. Mejia helps us recognize the similar tactics being used in each of these countries and describes the real economic alternative that Nicaragua offers to the world, an alternative the capitalists don’t want people to be aware of.

Listen here:

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Guest:

Camilo Mejia was born in 1975 in Managua, Nicaragua and eventually moved with his family to Costa Rica and then to the United States where he finished high school in New York City. Mejia never applied or received for US Citizenship. Nevertheless, he went to college at the University of Miami on a military-funded scholarship where he intended to major in psychology and Spanish. But, in the spring of 2003, before he was done with college, the military sent Mejia to Iraq where he spent five months in active combat (some of that time was spent in the Al Asad detention center where detainees were routinely tortured) and then he was moved to Jordan where he spent two more months. In late 2003, he came home to US on furlough and realized he could not go back. He filed for conscientious objector status and told the military he refused to go back to war.

In May of 2004 Mejia was convicted of desertion by the US Military, a charge which can be punishable by death, and sentenced to a year in jail. He served his time at Fort Sill military prison in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and was recognized during his incarceration by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience and was awarded the Courageous Resister Award by Refuse and Resist. He was released in February of 2005 and since that time has devoted his time to speaking out against the war in Iraq and encouraging others to understand that being a part of an immoral war was more cowardly than breaking the law: “I was a coward not for leaving the war but for being a part of it in the first place, “ he said. He has written a book called The Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sargeant Camilo Mejia published by The New Press in 2007 which details his experience. In August of 2007, Camilo Mejia became the chair of the board for the non-profit Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Mejia lives in Miami and spends a lot of time with his young daughter. He has completed his final semester at the University of Miami and received his Bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and Psychology. If given the opportunity he would like to become a US Citizen. In the meantime, he will continue to speak out against a war and a military policy that takes immigrants and poor people and obligates them to fight, even against their consciences, for the so-called American Dream. Mejia says that any of us can speak out, because being a hero does not take anything special, just the belief that one person, alone, can make a change: “Many have called me a coward, others have called me a hero. I believe I can be found somewhere in the middle. To those who have called me a hero, I say that I don’t believe in heroes, but I believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things”

Transcript:

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and
Kevin Zeese (KZ): Kevin Zeese.
MF: Clearing the FOG is a project of PopularResistance.org. You can subscribe to us on iTunes SoundCloud Stitcher Mixcloud and Google Play. You can also find us at PopularResistance.org and while you’re there, check out the store where you’ll find Clearing the FOG bumper stickers t-shirts tote bags and water bottles. So this week, actually, I interviewed Camilo Mejia because you were on tour in Illinois speaking about the Embassy Protection Collective defense committee.
KZ: That’s right. Looks like you did a great interview.
MF: Camilla Mejia is from Nicaragua. He’s a conscientious objector to the Iraq War in the United States who spent time in jail because of that but has been touring the country and really speaking out about what the US is trying to do in Nicaragua and there’s so many parallels between that and other regime change efforts, neoliberalism around the world that it’s important for us to be talking about that. But before we get to that interview, there’s a lot going on in the news. Let’s start out with the Kings Bay plowshares 7. We interviewed them back in April on Clearing the FOG. They were found guilty.
KZ: That’s right. They took a brave step and went into a nuclear weapons facility and were found guilty of violating that law. They’re facing up to 20 years in jail. Federal sentencing guidelines will be a key factor. There will not be a sentence for a couple of months, but there’ll be a pre-trial report, put forward federal sentencing guidelines, and we’ll see how this turns out. We’re hoping for as little as possible, preferably no sentence at all.
MF: That sentencing hearing is going to take place in January. We need to announce and we don’t have all the details yet on this, I don’t think, but the National Park Service because of public input decided not to go forward with their new rules to limit protest. Explain what that is.
KZ: The Park Service under President Trump put forward proposed new rules for limiting protest in Washington DC. They would have been dramatic changes in protesting around the White House, protesting really anywhere in the city that Park Service had impact on and that would have bled into other protests as well and very rapidly, thanks to the Partnership for Civil Justice, a big coalition came together and wrote comments and filed joint statements as well as individual statements opposing this proposed weakening of our rights to protest in Washington DC. I know we spent a lot of time on that. You can find on Popular Resistance our comments. I think it was well worth it. It seems like now the park service has decided not to go forward with this proposal and the right to protest continues to be protected in Washington DC.
MF: That’s right. I think knowing that the Partnership for Civil Justice has won some major victories around protests in Washington DC, seeing the size of the groups that came together and the fact that our arguments were so much in line with our first amendment rights and making the case that what they were offering was a real violation of our first amendment rights, I think all of that combined forced them to back down.
KZ: Solidarity works. Unity is power and you know even in this case, there was like the ACLU, which didn’t join the coalition and went the other kind of a different direction and we had some conflicts with them about that. They were going to allow some of these really absurd restrictions. But even with that, we still were able to win because we were unified, acting in solidarity and they knew from the people involved that we were serious about challenging any proposal to reduce our rights in Washington, DC.
MF: Another favorable court decision was in South Dakota where a law was put into place that would criminalize people who were supporting protests. Groups like the ACLU and Robins Kaplan Law Firm quickly sued the state over this law and they just reached a settlement.
KZ: Well, that was a law that was vague and would have been found unconstitutional. So I’m glad to see it is being restricted. It was really an overreach by the legislature to try to criminalize. You could tweet your support for a protest or a tweet urging someone to go to a protest and be guilty under the law the way it was written.
MF: There are a lot of states around the country that are putting laws in place to restrict protest. I think of Louisiana as one that has really criminalized protest and this just shows that you can win against these laws. I think it’s really important that people around the country mobilize to protect our first amendment rights. Let’s talk about some new findings around health care in the United States. One is a poll that was done by Emerson’s Polling and it found that 70% of people were opposed to employers being able to cancel their insurance and Matt Bruenig of People’s Policy Project writes that this really shows that people want stable insurance, something that only medicare-for-all can actually give them.
KZ: I think this whole ruse that people want to keep their private insurance is an insurance-created falsehood. People really just want access to healthcare and insurance is their vehicle for getting it now. So people say yeah, I want insurance but if they had an alternative that was full coverage paid for by a public insurance, improved Medicare, that would satisfy people even much more than the insurance. It would provide better coverage than even the best private insurance.
MF:  I think this is something that we need to remember when we’re talking about National improve Medicare for all. I mean we’ve talked about the fact that it’s cradle-to-grave. Once you have the national health insurance you have it for your entire life, but I think we should probably be speaking about that point more because there is fear out there. And then there was an interesting study that came out of UC Berkeley, Zaid Obermeyer was the lead researcher on this, and they found that there’s an algorithm that health insurance’s use when they’re evaluating people and they found that there was a racial bias inherent in this algorithm that was actually operating so that black people were getting less health care, even if they’re equivalent to white people. It was interesting that we need to be aware that technology can have inherent biases in it. And so the researchers have actually identified the bias. They were able to eliminate it and then they found much better rates of healthcare for blacks under that but there are other companies out there who may have similar biases.
KZ: The reason it creates biases is because humans create the algorithm and humans have biases that are reflected in the algorithm they create.
MF:  Right. So making sure that algorithms are equal is going to be an important point to remember as we move more and more towards using these types of tools. Let’s talk about the amazing strike going on in Chicago with the Chicago Teachers Union.
KZ: Chicago Teachers have been a leading union in so many ways. They really were the ones that started this whole new era of teacher strikes when they came out and they were the first to challenge charter schools. This current strike, they are actually building on the idea of not just striking about teacher’s wages and hours and working conditions, but striking about housing for the students who go to their schools, striking about immigration pressure on migrants who are going to their schools. So they’re focusing on how to uplift the community not just how to uplift their salaries and that thing is going because it’s going to become a model as well. I expect you’ll see more unions recognize that if they stand with the community, the community will stand with them,
MF: Right and that is happening and there are tens of thousands of teachers on strike. There are support staff for the school. I think 7500 support staff have joined them on strike. Some of them have set up programs for the children like a freedom school to go to while they’re on strike and they’re making some progress. Just this week Janice Jackson, who’s the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools…
KZ: Well, stop, the CEO of the schools? That is the first problem with the public school, that they have a CEO but go ahead. I’m sorry to interrupt.
MF: I agree with you. It’s using a market model for public education. But anyway, for all of the months that they’ve been trying to negotiate their contract, she finally agreed to sit down with the teachers. So that’s some progress.
KZ: And they have to make sure that the new mayor Lori Lightfoot actually follows through with the agreement because they’ve got to make it an enforceable agreement. The Chicago Teachers and their unions are very strong. They know what they want and they’re going to demand it and I think that the mayor and the CEO should recognize they’re going to have to give in to these strikers.
MF: Let’s talk about some international news. The Non-aligned Movement had its meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan. President Maduro of Venezuela will step down. He served three years as the leader of the Non-aligned Movement and he passed the baton to the head of Azerbaijan who will now take over. It was an interesting meeting because they really called out neoliberalism, the illegality of unilateral coercive measures and the fact that economic measures are economic war.
KZ: And this is the second time they’ve really focused on these illegal unilateral coercive measures. They did the same thing with the Caracas Declaration. That was this summer when the Non-aligned Movement met. The Non-aligned Movement is a very important force politically. It is a hundred and twenty countries covering 55 percent of the world’s population. Russia and China are observers, which makes it even larger. They are the alternative UN and they’re functioning in many ways that the UN can’t function. The UN is stuck with the Security Council, which the United States controls. The Non-aligned Movement is becoming a growing political force.
MF: Remember in September when the UN General Assembly was meeting in New York City another impediment from the US was not allowing certain members of international delegations into the country to participate in the United Nations. So yes, the Non-aligned Movement is a very important force and they recognize that and there’s a speech that the president of Cuba gave Miguel Diaz-Canal and we will probably post that on Popular Resistance soon because I really loved the ending of it was talking about how the Non-aligned Movement is dedicated to peace, to de-colonization, to everybody being able to have their basic needs met, you know economic equality and understanding their role as the majority of nations to come together and make sure that that happens.
KZ: Cuba’s voice is important as they were a founder of the Non-aligned Movement in the Castro era. So they continue to play an important role. I love the timing of this meeting, the same time we’re seeing all these revolts against neoliberalism. And so this is an opportunity for nations to be in coalition with social movements. And that’s another important aspect of the Non-aligned Movement, that they reflect the views of the popular movements.
MF: I think that’s something that Venezuela has really excelled at and they just held this past weekend, the first Congress of Communes, Social Movements and Popular Power where President Maduro announced that 80% of families in Venezuela participate in a commune and there are 48,000 community councils. Over 3000 of these communes. As part of those 48,000 community councils. 23,000 of them are in rural areas 22,000 are in urban areas and over 2,600 community councils are composed of indigenous families. They also have fifteen thousand registered cooperatives in Venezuela.
KZ: I think it’s important to understand for people these are basically, this is participatory direct democracy. In the end, Venezuela hopes to move toward this replacing representative democracy, a real people’s democracy where people make decisions. Community councils are a minimum of 200 families or households getting together and forming a council that’s recognized by the government. They make decisions for their community. Those councils are then linked together and form a community of the regional coalition of councils. And so this is a very hyper-democratic approach to people actually making decisions for their community and for their region. And as they develop this expertise, it’s going to expand and become even more important in Venezuela. We could learn so much if we weren’t busy calling Venezuela a dictatorship. We could really learn that they are a democracy that can improve our democracy. If we were willing to look at what they were doing.
MF: President Maduro announced that he’s dedicated to getting a hundred percent participation. So there’s a lot going on right now in Latin America to rise up against neoliberalism and austerity. We wrote two weeks ago about the pink tide returning to Latin America. There were a couple of very important elections this weekend. Let’s talk about what happened in Argentina first.
KZ: Argentina who kicked out the neoliberals and brought in the populists. And so it’s a major victory, a major turnaround to remove president Macri, and now to have incoming president Fernandez, it’s going to be a major transformation in that country.
MF: And Cristina Kirchner is serving as Alberto Fernandez’s vice president. She’s a former president of Argentina. They’ve been declared the winners.
KZ: Now that was a surprise to people. People before the first round of elections thought Macri would win re-election, but the first round showed he had very little support and this final round showed an easy victory really for removing him.
MF:  And then in Uruguay, they also had elections this weekend. Daniel Martinez running for Frente Amplio, which has been the party in power. The second place finisher was Louis Lacalle Pou, a right-wing party representative.
KZ: Yeah a couple of interesting things about the election. First off, the party’s been in power for 15 years. They’ve done major progressive actions over that time period. Now 15 years is a long time for one party being power, so the second round of elections will be difficult. They won the first round by 10 points, so they’re off to a good start but they have to get 50% and they’re not there yet. The other thing, there was a referendum on the ballot at the same time as this election. First off, they had 90 percent turnout and the referendum included allowing police raids at night, creating a National Guard and clamping down on migrant rights and that lost. So a positive election result. The second round will be difficult. But right now it’s within striking distance for the left-wing popular front to stay in power.
MF: Let’s give an update on some of the major protests that we’ve been talking about. Chile continues to be in protest. Talk about what happened on Friday.
KZ:  Chile had six percent of their population come out on Friday and shut down the capital and scared the president so much, he fired his entire cabinet in order to protect himself and said that he was hearing the people and was going to re-evaluate his policies. That’s hard to believe. He’s a neoliberal politician. His brother’s a big financier, so that it would be not just changing his policy but changing his stripes. I don’t think that animals change their stripes. And so I think the protests are gonna have to continue just like the Ecuador protests where there was success. I’m not sure that Lenin Moreno will change his stripes either. And so I expect we’re going to see these protests continuing.
MF: I think he probably didn’t like people comparing him to Pinochet who was a brutal dictator of Chile. So the people are not backing down. A hundred thousand people marched to the Congress on Sunday in protest as well as they’re continuing to call for ongoing protests throughout this week.
KZ: And that happened after he fired his whole cabinet. The protests continued after those actions were taken.
MF: Right. And then we talked about Ecuador a little bit, but I wanted to get to Bolivia because Evo Morales won the first round of elections, but the right-wing opposition supported by the United States is not accepting those results, protesting them and the OAS is calling the election fraudulent.
KZ: Bolivia has a very open and transparent electoral system. It’s very easy to do a recount. Bolivia has offered to the OAS to have them participate in an audit of the count. The protests have been violent burning of buildings, burning of facilities where ballots are being counted. It was an extreme reaction that was energized by the candidate who lost. He said go to the streets because they didn’t win at the polls. This is Evo Morales’s fourth term. He’ll go to 2025. His party, the movement for socialism, has been getting less support in the polls and they’re gonna have to do some regeneration in this last term of Evo Morales. They need to find a new leadership and new ideas to keep pushing forward because the right-wing the opposition is tired of being out of power. When a country is led by one party for as long as they have since Morales has been in, four terms, it’s very hard to to keep holding on to power so they will have to regenerate and recreate themselves if they want to continue being in power after this next term .
MF: And last week, we talked about the New York verdict against Antonio Hernandez, the brother of Juan Orlando Hernandez, the president of Honduras. Insight Crime wrote a good piece that we reposted on Popular Resistance talking about kind of what was discovered in that case, things like the extent of the drug trade in Honduras, the cooperation by police in that drug trade, the connections all the way up to the level of the president and how the United States has been supporting and training the police who are involved in this drug cartel as well as supporting presidents like Juan Orlando Hernandez and one before him that are involved in this drug trade.
KZ: I want to talk about Colombia for a second. Colombia didn’t have national elections, they had municipal elections and the good news was that in five major cities, the right-wing conservative party headed by Uribe, the former president, lost. This is bad news for Duque. This is bad news for Uribe. It is good news for a rising left and it’s hard to have a rising left in Colombia because Colombia has a habit of killing the leaders, the left leaders of social movements. leaders of unions, leaders environmental groups. So it’s a very difficult environment. But this last election was not a good one for the right-wing.
MF: And similarly in Honduras, the left parties are uniting led by the Libre party. They formed a coalition of united opposition. Ever since the coup in 2009 in Honduras, they’ve been trying to build a broad movement and unified movement against the coup president. Now, they formed an even bigger opposition, includes social movements, lots of different sectors of society including professionals and then also these left parties. They’re meeting. They’re talking about how they can get rid of Juan Orlando Hernandez.
KZ:  And of course the US government now has a finger on Hernandez. The president has been implicated through testimony. And so if he doesn’t behave, the US can indict him as well. And so that’s a problem for Hernandez on the US control side. The people also see all this and the people are getting more organized.
MF: And so with that why don’t we take a short musical break and then we’ll come back with the interview that Camilo and I did.

MUSIC BREAK.

MF: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG speaking the truth to expose the forces of greed. I’m Margaret Flowers. Our Guest today is Camilo Mejia. He is a Nicaraguan born in Managua and he served in the Iraq War and is a conscientious objector. He’s written the book “The road from Ar-Ramadi.” Thank you for joining us Camilo.
Camilo Mejia (CM): Thank you for having me on your show Margaret.
MF: So let’s start out. We want to talk about Nicaragua today and the State Department has declared Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela, what they call the “Troika of Tyranny” and have targeted them for regime change. Can you talk about that?
CM: Well, yeah, definitely. It’s not very different from the Axis of Evil that they talked about, you know, in the lead-up to the global war on terror. So people can maybe get an idea of where this is going in terms of foreign policy with regards to Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. Something we already are seeing increasingly with both Nicaragua and Venezuela and for many decades in the case of Cuba. I think it has to do with the fact that these three nations have been at least for the recent past but in the cases of Cuba, Nicaragua, also, have had a history of resistance against US policies and US intervention. I believe that as the hegemonic power of the US as the sole superpower in the world begins to dwindle, Latin America is a very strategic region for the United States to assert its power and Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba present an existential threat to that hegemony. So it is understandable that whenever there are good examples, you know that could persuade or motivate other nations to have more independent policies and to actually be sovereign, the United States is going to try to portray that as demonic or evil. So it’s very much in line with the history of the relationship between the United States and nations that do not adhere 100% to its policies.
MF: And of course, I think Trump was heard saying in regards to Venezuela, “We need to get those foreigners out of Venezuela” and not recognizing that the United States is a foreigner in Venezuela. Yeah. So yeah, just tells you when the US says “Troika of Tyranny” who our main targets are. So let’s talk a little bit about Nicaragua. I do want to get into some of the history. But recently there was kind of a very overt coup attempt against the President Daniel Ortega in 2018. Can you talk about that?
CM: Yeah. Definitely. It’s not very dissimilar from what is happening in the rest of Latin America with the exception that in Nicaragua, we don’t have a neoliberal government. And so as often happens, you know, the protests were sparked by some kind of IMF reform or some kind of IMF string attached to a loan or to a credit or something like that. In the case of Nicaragua, last year in April, the IMF tried to convince President Ortega to basically cancel a program, a reduced pension program, that benefited some 53,000 Nicaraguans that had not been been able to contribute enough into the retirement system because of the shattered economy as a result of the 80s war between the Sandinista government and the US-funded Contras. So the IMF tried to get the President to do away with that program and to increase retirement age from 60 to 65 and then double the amount of contributions that would make someone eligible for retirement in order to balance the books and to remain in good shape, you know credit-wise, to receive loans and credits and whatnot. And the Sandinista government rejected that and instead said that it would remove a ceiling cap on Nicaragua’s highest salaries so that the richest people would pay in accordance with their income and that there would be a transfer of the cash benefit of 5% into the healthcare benefit and that there would be an increase in contributions by workers of approximately 0.75% and employers would have to pay eventually 3.25% compared to what they’re contributing now. This of course infuriated the wealthy in Nicaragua who basically called for a protest the next day. It was a very small protest of mostly private university students that was met with resistance from Sandinista youth who showed up at their protest and acted really violently.
MF: Did anybody question why private university students were protesting a pension?
CM: No, absolutely not and and this is also a pretty clear indication that you know, there’s something really strange going on but if people have been following this type of regime change operation, it’s usually the same format, you know, where you have like a group of students, you know, protesting something that basically has absolutely no impact on their situation, their livelihoods or that they don’t even understand. You know Hong Kong is a perfect example of that but also Venezuela and some other regions of the world in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. But following that protest, a wave of social media reports of the Sandinista government murdering students and brutally repressing protesters basically started to bombard the Nicaraguan public and that basically snowballed into more and more protests and then a situation where people are being shot at, you know from both sides, that created a lot of confusion in terms of who was doing what. But the opposition media on the ground in Nicaragua, and then also global reach media, you know, the US and Europe, seemed to be prepared for that and basically to promote a narrative of basically the government being tyrannical and genocidal and just going out there and killing students. And so this situation basically devolved into a highly violent situation that was reported by not only media in Nicaragua and human rights organizations in Nicaragua and nonprofit organizations in Nicaragua and then also picked up by global reach human rights organizations and media and political groups that were basically in unison promoting the same narrative that the Sandinistas had gone crazy and had started killing everybody. And so at first people in Nicaragua, I believe, fell prey to this level of, it was actually really strong the level of propaganda that was taking place and I was one of the people who actually looked at this and said, whoa this is like really bad that this is happening and initially I supported people’s protests and marches and what not, not necessarily because I understood what was going on, but because it’s a matter of principle I’ve supported people’s right to protest and to march but then when I started hearing more and more about the massacres and 60 students have been killed and a hundred people have been murdered and massacred and whatnot, it seemed pretty unbelievable that a government that had been so progressive and that had done so much for the people would overnight turn evil and then start murdering, massacring people. So I began to pay closer attention and to request evidence of this massacre because one very curious thing about it is that it was all very social media driven with images and symbols and framed messages, SOS Nicaragua, very similar to what we have seen in Venezuela, very similar to what we have seen in the Ukraine, but there was no video evidence. There was no photographic evidence connecting the police or the Sandinistas to the killings. You would see people bleeding, you know people shot in the streets and then obviously like the same message being repeated over and over and over and over.
MF: Didn’t some videos come out actually showing students like practicing, acting like they were being terrorized and making cell phone calls. “Mom, mom.”
CM: Yeah, and so that was one of the first things that really got me to pay closer attention was when I watched one of those videos It was supposed to be a real-life situation, you know, it wasn’t a practice or a drill or anything like that, but it was students basically speaking directly to the international community and speaking directly to international press saying look we’re being massacred, we’re being killed and at the same time you could see in the background people walking around just milling around, you know, like nothing is happening at a time when supposedly they’re police officers outside murdering people with AK-47s and things like that. And having served in combat in Iraq, I can tell what a firefight does to people in an area. You don’t just mill around, you know, like nothing’s happening when there are people being murdered, you know, less than a block away on the other side of the building where you happen to be. There was also no blood anywhere. The people who were shot were not in shock. So it seemed like pretty fabricated. And so I began to pay closer attention and to do more research into who was actually putting out this information and it turns out that by and large was history repeating itself. The La Prensa newspaper, which had been an opposition newspaper that had been financed by the US back in the 80s to also portray the Sandinista government as evil was behind a lot of the reporting. Some of the same wealthy families, you know that were in charge of mainstream news media in Nicaragua, were also behind a lot of these reports and the human rights organizations as well were funded by the United States agencies like NED and USAID and at least one of them dated back to the 80s and it had been one of the original recipients of National Endowment for Democracy money, which was basically created by President Reagan at a time when he was portraying the Contras as the moral equivalent of the founding fathers in the US and one of those organizations that’s called the ANPDH, which stands for Nicaraguan Association Pro-human Rights, was created precisely to justify Contra atrocities to the world and try to portray the Contras as freedom fighters, which is again, like something that we see repeatedly, you know everywhere in the world where the United States is trying to overthrow a government.
MF: Right like the moderate rebels.
CM: Or the mujahideen or you know, it was basically the same entities of the past that were basically behind the protests and that were behind the messaging many of the if not all of the organizations, the grassroots organizations, that were on the ground that are very progressive sounding, you know student groups, pro-democracy groups, environmental groups, etc had also been funded and trained by the United States and if you actually identify some of the main leaders of the opposition and then you do a cross-check with the Embassy Cables, you see that a lot of them had been meeting with US diplomats and US representatives of NED and USAID for years to try to keep the Sandinistas from winning before 2006 and then to keep them from becoming re-elected, you know after that so you see a lot a very high level collusion, financing, training and you begin to understand that what happened in Nicaragua in April of last year, which which was basically presented to the world as this very naturally spontaneously occurring righteous popular uprising was in fact, you know something that had been funded and planned and basically perpetrated over a period of many years. You know, when you look at the training and you look at the financing, you look at all these meetings. Eventually what happened was that when the President rolled back the reforms four days into the protest, he called for a national dialogue and one of the first demands of the opposition was for the president to send the police back to their headquarters, which he did and two things happened. One was that the situation devolved into an absolute chaos situation of extreme violence and extreme, it was like a fascist state basically, and there was a lot of political persecution, people being killed, tortured either for being Sandinista or for not being with the opposition and the unfortunate result for the opposition was that the people of Nicaragua were able to see that the ones behind the violence were not the Sandinistas, that were not the police but they were the people in the opposition themselves, not the faces of the opposition but like criminal elements, you know, some people from gangs in other countries of Central America, organized crime, even cartel elements were involved in the opposition and they were the ones who were doing the persecution and the killings and the torture.
MF:  They were doing some pretty hideous things.
CM: Pretty horrible things. One of their main tactics was to basically erect barricades or Trancas is what they call them. They’re using basically the bricks that many of the roads are made with in a way that basically reminded people of the uprising against the Somoza dictatorship because like the regime change operation also, it’s very sophisticated and one of the things that they use is they try to erase the revolutionary legacy of the Sandinismo and one of the ways that they do that is by saying look we rose up against the dictatorship of Somoza and we erected barricades. Now, the people of Nicaragua are going to rise up against the Sandinista dictatorship. And so you started to hear a lot of the same battle cries, the same symbology with the Tranca, as you know, being erected these barricades. A child was killed and then he was also compared to a child who was killed, you know, during the dictatorship and so like you have like a lot of parallels in terms of the symbology and the messaging that was taking place. When people saw who was behind these Trancas and the police began to come out again, like some two or three months after the beginning of the violence, a lot of the people from the communities realized that these were not Sandinistas and a lot of people from the old militancy of the Sandinistas who were also people who understood what a dictatorship looked like and people who knew what living under Somoza was like began to work with younger generations to educate them as to why this is really not a popular uprising and like the difference between this and like the popular uprising led by the Sandinistas in the 60s and 70s prior to the overthrow. And then in about three months, I want to say that about 99% of the Trancas were dismantled and the Sandinistas began to reclaim the revolutionary legacy through marches, through commemoration of important dates leading up to the anniversary of the revolution on July 19th, which saw a massive show of force, you know from the Nicaraguan people in support of the revolution so you could say that the attempted coup was defeated. I believe that it was, but I don’t think it’s over. The international pressure continues to, just last week Amnesty International launched yet another campaign to basically demonize the Sandanista government. The NICA Act of course was passed and it’s in place right now. The Magnitsky Act also was passed targeting very significant people within the government you know to prevent loans and deals and treaties. And things like that. Economic war against Nicaragua basically, so like the international pressure continues. If you read mainstream news media from the US or the UK or you read the reports by Amnesty or the Organization of American States or the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN and you look at the way that they’re portraying Nicaragua where there’s a lot of stability and peace and you see how they’re turning a blind eye to other uprisings that have basically come out in rejection of neoliberal policies, you realize that there is a, in Ecuador or Chile in the case of Bolivia to try to get Mesa to basically beat Morales on a second round of elections. The war continues, economic war, PR War, political diplomatic war continues against Nicaragua and it will continuous as long as we don’t adhere to neoliberal policies, but the on-the-ground coup attempt has ended so far at least like in its first iteration. Something may be happening right now because a lot of the people who were in self-imposed exile have returned to the country and there’s another round of funding by USAID and NED and whatnot, which also has sort of backfired because it has led to a lot of stealing and a lot of infighting within the opposition because this is also very historic, you know, like the different factions of new money versus old money and church and NGOs and whatnot have always been at war with one another and so we’re seeing something like that. But it all seems to point to the possibility that they’re trying to organize themselves into a political party, into a coalition party, which is the way that they were able to beat the FSLN back in 1990.
MF: Well, so much to unpack there about that period in April of 2018 and then I hope we can talk about, you mentioned that it’s not a neoliberal government and I think we should definitely get into but there are a couple of things first. There was a report going ou by these human rights organizations saying that hundreds of people were killed. Can you talk about that?
CM: Yeah, definitel,y well death is actually a tool in these regime change wars. From the first day of the protest or maybe the second day, I want to say maybe April 18th or April 19th, they began to bombard people with social media reports of many students being killed that are at a march or protest. When you actually look at the people who were killed in reality, the vast majority of the people who were killed were not even opposition members, you know, but were, about a third of them were just innocent bystanders, you know apolitical people who happened to be on their way home from work or Sandinistas or police officers and then about a third of them are people from the opposition who were heavily armed and who were basically fighting the police when they began to dismantle the barricades. One thing that is very consistent, you know, when you look at this type of regime change operation, the way that it’s all reported always portrays the opposition as being peaceful and civil, victims of oppression, victims of repression, and it always silences the voices that are speaking with a different tune, you know that are basically promoting a different narrative and always hides the people who are killed on the other side and it always hides the fact that the police are also being killed because one of the main things that they want to basically get across is that the opposition is peaceful civil, it’s righteous, its pro-democracy. You hear it on NPR you hear it, you know Democracy Now, you know any time that you hear pro-democracy protesters basically means that you know, there is some kind of political interest behind them and financing and training and you know, like pretty standard messaging and symbology being used, you know to continue to promote that message that people on the other side don’t count or that they’re not being killed or there’s no political violence against the other side, but that it is all you know, peaceful uprisings, you know being like brutally crushed by the government.
MF: And some of those human rights organizations that were promoting this narrative that you know, the government was killing hundreds of people, they were relying on reports coming out of these NED-funded groups in Nicaragua. They weren’t actually doing the research themselves to look into it, is that correct?
CM: Right. So there’s an independent report of the deaths that was published and I can provide you with a link to that and it basically looks into every death reported by the human rights organizations on the ground in Nicaragua, which were then adopted by Amnesty and the UN without doing any fact-checking and when you look at the names and you do a cross-check with media reports in Nicaragua, including opposition media, you realize that a lot of the people that were basically added to the list of those who were killed in the context of the protest, one were not all opposition, two, included some people who were Sandinistas and three, included people who died of a heart attack or people who were run over by a car. So they grabbed everyone who was killed in any kind of situation and they basically inflated these reports. And this is something that anybody can check, you know by basically looking at the names and then looking at this report, which includes the methodology and includes the links, you know for people to go into the social media reports or newspaper reports or radio reports and things like that. And you start seeing that there’s an actual design play that is basically meant to convince people that you know, there are all these killings happening, you know that are the result of this horrible dictatorship taking place. There is a lot of evidence of killings and torture and things like that, but it’s on the Sandinista side, the Sandanistas have suffered. So like there are videos of Sandinistas youth being tortured by opposition members including a priest, you know who were 100% with the opposition. There are videos of Sandinistas being burned in the streets. There are videos of houses being burned, you know, there are documentary news reports that include interviews with the survivors of these acts of brutality. You actually see the person while they’re being tortured, while they’re in captivity. And then you see them basically talking to the camera, talking about the context, talking about, you know, providing dates, names and things like that completely ignored by the human rights organizations in Nicaragua, completely ignored by Amnesty or by the OAS and then when you look at their reporting, there is no context, no names, no evidence. Absolutely, nothing verifiable.
MF: And then another thing I think that was confusing for folks that were watching from the outside is that there is a proportion of former Sandinistas called the MRS that were also feeding the narrative of Ortega as a dictator and can you talk about who that group was?
CM: Yeah. So these were former Sandinistas, people who were part of the, what I would like to call the first phase of the Sandinista Revolution, which goes up until 1990 when the Sandinistas lost the election to a right-wing coalition supported by the US. It’s really important to stress the fact that the loss of the 1990 election was the result of a low-intensity guerrilla warfare against the Contras, you know, who were financed and trained by the US and an embargo, political isolation, PR campaign demonizing the Sandinistas. And actual direct threats by the US to the Nicaraguan people to say if you vote for the FSLN, the war will continue and things will only get worse for you. And so when the Sandinistas lost the election in 1990, it wasn’t just an election that was lost. The purpose of that was to basically erase Sandanismo as a political option and what happened was that a lot of the people who are part of the party and the people who are part of the government up until 199o wanted to shift their policies and wanted to shift the direction that the Sandanista Party was moving towards and wanted to make it more neoliberal friendly and you know more towards privatizing and you know cutting subsidies and whatnot and the side that stayed with Daniel Ortega was sort of like the more popular side and so the split was very much along class lines and a lot of the people who had been with the Sandinistas, you know, up until 1990 who tended to be wealthier and more educated, people who tended to be ambassadors and members of the National Assembly, deputies of the National Assembly, who are also the people who spoke various languages and who did a lot of the solidarity and international work, sort of gravitated towards this more neoliberal friendly posture. And when the Daniel Ortega section of the party said no, we’re going to continue with our program and Daniel Ortega will continue to be our candidate, they basically split and created their own party. And they took a lot of the National Assembly Deputy seats with them and yet another loss for the FSLN, the Sandanista Party, that nobody thought they would recover from and yet during the next election, I want to say 1995, the MRS, which stands for Movimiento Renovacion Sandanista, which is movement for the renovation of Sandinistasmo, only got about five percent of the vote. The Sandinista Front for National Liberation or FSLN realized that they retained their popular base of approximately forty percent of the popular vote, not enough to defeat the opposition but enough to remain a very strong political force in the country. And so the MRS became more isolated in terms of the popular base, but because they were gravitating more towards the neoliberal model and now many of them were also gravitating towards the nonprofit model and began to start their own nonprofits, you know, like very progressive sounding just like the National Endowment for Democracy. They lost completely their popular base. By the next election, they got less than two percent of the vote. They lost their legal status as a party and they began running with parties of the oligarchy and the bourgeoisie, which further isolated them politically from the original popular base of the Sandinistas. And those are the people who are now basically leading the charge against the Sandinista government and against the policies that have benefited the Nicaraguan people for the past now 12 years 12 13 years, you know since 2007. But however, they retain a lot of their political power internationally because they have the support of the US and because they are the heads of these organizations that are like pro-environment, feminist and they’re educated people and they were the ones who were like the lines of communication with other solidarity movements and internationalist movements and whatnot. And for a lot of people who were active with the Sandinista Revolution back in the 80s, who were connected to these former Sandinistas, the only thing that they hear is that these former guerrilla leaders and the former Ambassador, former National Assembly Deputy are all against the corrupt Sandinistas and corrupt Ortega and whatnot. It’s not hard to believe, you know, especially when you have like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch and all these other entities and the corporate media echoing everything and so it’s like this bombardment of manipulations and lies, you know about what’s really happening on the ground while ignoring completely the many achievements of the Revolution in areas of healthcare, education, infrastructure, mortality rates, you know infant and maternal, basically obtaining food sovereignty, you know, 90% of the food that we eat is produced locally in Nicaragua. And so like all these really amazing achievements that are completely silenced and erased in the narrative, you know that Ortega is corrupt, that he’s a tyrant and so this has created a lot of confusion among progressives in the US that the only reference that they have to the revolution are the people who are now against it.
MF: They’re speaking as if they represent all Nicaraguan people, but they’re actually a small minority of Nicaraguans and a higher class subset, similar to what we see with the Venezuelans here in the United States who say they are…
CM: Exactly. Yeah, very similar.
MF: representing all Venezuelans. You mentioned some of the changes, major changes that have been made in Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega and the Sandanista, I mean, he’s basically representing this huge movement, the Sandanista Movement. Can you talk a little bit more about that like, what were things like for people under the neoliberal government and how has that improved over the last 12 years?
CM: Sure. So a lot of the policies by the Sandinistas, you know from back in the 80s, which were poorly invested in because of the war that we were fighting against the US-funded Contras, but that nonetheless were amazing in nature like the land reform, literacy campaign, cooperatives, support for education, support for health care and things like that were completely rolled back when the UNO Coalition, the National Opposition Unity Party, basically led by the widow of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro who was a very well-known oligarchic leader against the Somoza regime, he was a journalist basically not in the same way that the Sandinistas were against Somoza necessarily because what they were upset about was that Somoza took too much of the wealth and left very little for the wealthy, for Nicaragua’s wealthy. Whereas the Sandinista Movement were actually also advocating for a shift in the distribution of wealth and the power dynamics and whatnot. But anyway, his widow basically became the face of this movement, this right-wing coalition and immediately when she took over the first order of business was to forgive the fine that was imposed on the US by the ICC, the International Criminal Court of 17 billion dollars in reparations, you know, because of the Contra war and sabotage that the CIA had carried out against Nicaraguan seaports and harbors. Following that you know, they undid the land reform, there were massive firings in the public sector, divestment in education, divestment in energy.
MF: It’s amazing. Did they think that they were going to just get away with that, people were not going to see what was happening?
CM: And we’re seeing, we’re basically seeing exactly that in Chile right now, you know like the huge success story that Chile has been for neoliberalism and we’re seeing it in Ecuador and you know, we saw it in Costa Rica last year. We’re seeing it in Honduras. But this was basically the reality for the next 16 years, you know from 1990 to 2006, when the FSLN was able to win the presidency once again and began to implement a lot of the same programs that had been implemented before as a government. Now prior to that, when President Chavez traveled to Nicaragua to meet with President Bolanos, one of these right-wing neoliberal governments, he offered President Bolanos to be a part of ALBA and President Bolanos said no, we’re not going to be a part of that. We are neoliberal. We’re obedient to the US, of course, he didn’t use those words, but that was…
MF: How would you describe Alba?
CM: It’s more about creating sort of like an economic alternative. And so ALBA was more about providing oil subsidies, loans and things like tha