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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.

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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.

Read More

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:

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

 

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 that that are outside of the IMF and that represent an alternative to neoliberalism because it emphasizes on countries’ sovereignty, countries’ independence, their economic development, education, healthcare, basically the same things that you see in Venezuela, you know. It’s basically what you’re seeing in Nicaragua and this is very much an ALBA trend is like the investment in the public sector and the people and when President Bolanos said no to that, President Chavez turned to the Daniel Ortega who was not the president at the time but was the leader of the FSLN and Ortega said,absolutely and so the party took ALBA money and started implementing a lot of programs to eradicate hunger, to invest in cooperatives and like a lot of the food sovereignty programs that are now implemented by the government were implemented by the Sandinistas as a party while they were not in power. And so when the Sandinistas took over back in 2007, now these became government policies and so what we saw was that we went from about 50% of Nicaraguans having access to electricity because that had been privatized, now we have like about 95% of Nicaraguans have access to energy, to electricity and a big chunk of that is actually renewable clean energy. The roads, of course because the neoliberal model does not want the infrastructure of a poor country to be built. All they need is to go in and go out with the wealth, you know, take out the natural resources. The roads were rebuilt, infrastructure upgrades like never before. Schools, hospitals clinics, parks for the poor, sports stadiums and things like that. We produce about 90% of our food. So, you know, that’s a huge advantage, you know, when you’re being sanctioned. Like in the case of Venezuela that relies largely on imports for a lot of their basic needs, in Nicaragua, we have 90% of our food and that wasn’t the case during the 16 years of neoliberalism where we basically became a market for transnational companies and you know mono crops and things like that were basically predominant. Whereas now we have a very, a diversified agricultural industry that’s driven by small family farms, cooperatives, micro businesses, you know, this is like basically like the heart of the popular economy in Nicaragua is like the micro lending and like the support that’s provided from the government to basically like the poor.
MF: Same thing with like the tourist industry. It’s not these big Mega Resort kind of things.
CM: Exactly. Yeah, and so like there’s a lot of programs like that that have allowed the country to develop economically infrastructurally. In terms of education, education is subsidized. Children receive a food bonus, you know when they go to school, so there’s an incentive for parents to send their kids to school because they’re able to eat when they go to school.
MF: There’s one school district in the US that’s trying to kick students out of school if their parents don’t pay for their lunch or they’re not allowed to go on field trips if their parents owe anything.
CM: Or in some cases are being denied lunch because they don’t have money or because they have a debt. In Nicaragua, like all of that changed, you know, with the return of the Sandinistas. The mortality rates, you know, dropped significantly, poverty was reduced by two-thirds and extreme poverty went from like 14 percent to 6 percent. The roads were rebuilt and new roads were created, bridges and things like that, which have allowed these people who are organized through cooperatives and were receiving all this land and farm animals and seeds and technical support to basically have a business that they can conduct trade and commerce with other towns. And so there’s regional commerce, and there is internal commerce and there’s regional commerce, that has allowed a lot of Nicaraguans to be able to you know have a life with dignity. There are housing programs, you know, that are helping a lot of people who have always lived in shanty homes and things like that. There are you know, like the the participation of women is top in the world, you know, even the World Economic Forum has placed Nicaragua as the closest country to achieve gender neutrality up there with Iceland and France and other countries like that. So like the benefits are incredible and in my opinion, that’s one of the reasons why the US has to go after Nicaragua because it’s a terrible example. Nicaragua at the same time it’s one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. So if you’re a slightly wealthier country and you look to Nicaragua and see how they’re able to rebuild their infrastructure and feed everyone and you know educate everyone with so little why should they adhere to neoliberal policies? So it’s a terrible example for neoliberalism. So in a way it is an existential threat to a highly unjust economic model, they don’t want people to learn about that, they don’t want people to get any funny ideas about sovereignty or you know, developing your own economy, healthcare, education, all those things. I mean we could talk all day about the the benefits and like the achievements but I think that they represent an existential threat to neoliberalism, which already is on the ropes, you know, as we are seeing in the uprisings to neoliberal reforms everywhere in the world.
MF: So just quickly if you could comment about the NICA Act, what that is and what impact you think that might have on Nicaragua?
CM: Right. So the NICA Act had been championed by former Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and you know, like her company of extreme right-wing Republican legislators, but had not gained any traction because of the stability that was obvious in Nicaragua and the peace and the progress that was incredibly evident and it wasn’t until they were able to create this image of repression and genocide that she was able basically to convince the US Congress that you know, Nicaragua had to be punished. The NICA Act really it’s a political tool to get Nicaragua to become more neoliberal and what it does is that it prevents the IMF and World Bank and other transnational neoliberal financial entities from providing loans to Nicaragua unless they are for public sector investments, which is the vast majority of the investment. The government investment is mostly education, infrastructure. So in theory, it shouldn’t really, you know have such a huge impact because of the level of public investment of the government, but it’s definitely, it’s not an honorable act. You know, it’s not an act that is going to be applied to the T, but it’s just a means to enforce, you know, a policy and because Nicaragua has diversified its economy and its food production, it’s not as severe as in the case of say Venezuela that relies so much on, you know other countries’ imports, you know to basically meet basic necessities and then also because Nicaragua is a non-aligned nation, it has been receiving loans and investments, you know from other countries that don’t necessarily obey the United States, you know, like China, Russia, Taiwan, India and other countries that have been dealing with the Sandinistas that have not stopped doing so, so it won’t crush Nicaragua. And then the other thing that I like to point out is that countries like Honduras and El Salvador and Argentina and Chile, they’re not punished. You know, there’s no Chile Act or Honduras Act and yet the vast majority of the investment basically goes right back into transnationals or the security apparatus to basically crush dissent to neoliberal reforms and land grabbing and you know, the privatizing of natural resources and things like that. So it’s not like these investments were going to go to the Nicaraguan people in the first place. Right, I think that more damaging than the NICA Act would be if Nicaragua became a 100% neoliberal country. That would be like the real tragedy there and it’s not to downplay also the importance of the NICA Act. Obviously we don’t want the NICA Act. The NICA Act is bad for Nicaragua, but all things considered, I think that we have a government that’s committed to the well-being and the development of the Nicaraguan people, especially the poor and the power dynamics are changing on a global scale. The United States does not have the same power that it had before economically, politically and China just opened its markets, you know for public investment and Russia has been saying, you know, like the dollars are being used as a political, economic weapon of war basically and you know, like there are major emerging powers that are basically saying, you know, we really don’t want to adhere to this economic world order that’s very belligerent and that’s very unfair, you know that has basically destroyed, you know, not only our economies but our sovereignty.
MF: So just in closing for folks that are listening, what’s a good way for them to get information about what’s actually happening in Nicaragua when they you know, because we know that the US is in this for the long haul but 2018 is not the end of their efforts to overthrow this, how can people get information when things happen?
CM: Right. Well, I mean, I think Popular Resistance, actually, it’s a great source. It’s true. And then also I think it’s important for people to look at other regime change operations that are happening elsewhere in the world because it’s very similar to what’s happening in Nicaragua. So your reporting on Venezuela, your reporting on Hong Kong, when people are able to understand that, they can understand what’s going on in Nicaragua. I think the Grayzone is also another great source of information and analysis and you know firsthand also because they actually go to Nicaragua and other Latin American countries.
MF: And Latin American publications?
CM: Well, Telesur is also a really good source of information, RT, you know, all the networks that are demonized, you know by mainstream news media in the US are actually rather objective in their coverage of the Nicaraguan situation. I think Nica Notes as well, Nicanotes.com and there’s Tortilla con Sal.
MF: And then you have a book or you’re part of a book…
CM: The reader, we have a reader. Yes, that they can find that also on AFGJ. The Nicaraguan reader is in both English and Spanish. There is also a critique of Amnesty International’s report on Nicaragua and how biased and politically driven it is. The Nicaraguan Reader goes into the history of US Nicaragua relations and intervention. Well, I mean, I think that’s a pretty good start.
MF: Yeah. Yeah. No, that’s great. Well, thank you so much for taking time with us.
CM: Thank you so much for bringing attention to Nicaragua.

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Understanding Trump’s ‘Withdrawal’ From Syria And Advocating For Peace In The Middle East

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

President Trump recently announced he was withdrawing US troops from northeastern Syria where they had fought and imprisoned ISIS members with the Kurds. This move gave the green light for Turkey to invade and try to push the Kurds out ostensibly to replace them with the three million Syrian refugees from the western region currently living in Turkey. Democrats and Republicans are criticizing Trump for withdrawing and abandoning the Kurds. This has created a dilemma for peace activists – should the troops stay or go? We speak with Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace who has spent time in the Middle East, most recently in Syria, to clarify what is going on and how best to advocate for peace in the region.

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TRANSCRIPTION:

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 or you can find us at PopularResistance.org and while you’re there, check out the Popular Resistance store where you’ll find Clearing the FOG t-shirts, bumper stickers, tote bags, and water bottles. Today we interviewed Ajamu Baraka.

KZ: Ajamu Baraka talks to us about Syria, a country he’s looked at very closely, he’s visited and knows a great deal about. Hopefully he’ll bring some clarity to a complicated situation.

MF: That’s right. He’s the national coordinator for Black Alliance for Peace. And he has a very good political analysis. I think we clear some confusion that people have about what’s going on in Syria and the Middle East. So we urge you to stick around for that interview. But before we get to that, why don’t we talk about some things that are in the news. The Chicago teachers strike is now in its third day.

KZ: Amazing. They are really out there again. The Chicago teachers, you remember, were one of the early unions to strike that started a whole wave of strikes that went across the country. This strike is interesting because it’s really very community-based. It’s not just about teachers and schools. This is about housing for people. They really are maybe setting a standard that other unions will follow.

MF: Absolutely. In fact, they were the ones that struck went on strike in 2012. They’re concerned because the conditions that they were fighting for back then have not improved and they call what they’re doing – it’s much more than just improving classroom sizes and teacher salaries and things like that – it’s what they call Bargaining for the Common Good and they’re demanding affordable housing, sanctuary schools. They have put forward something called the Reimagine Chicago Budget Proposal, which would directly tax the wealthy and corporations and then use that money for school improvements. They say this is necessary to counter decades of disinvestment, particularly in black and brown communities. And the strike is involving 25,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union plus 7,500 support staff. They are also fighting for improvements for the support staff in the schools.

KZ: And everything that they’re arguing for, the same arguments could be made in every city across the country because there has been disinvestment in our urban areas, especially in black and brown communities. In Chicago, it is a particularly interesting time because Rahm Emmanuel, a neoliberal Democrat and on conservative spectrum of the corporate Democratic Party, is finally out of office and has been replaced. So there’s a real chance for some movement in a positive direction.

MF: Yeah, the new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, campaigned on a progressive platform. But the Chicago teachers are concerned that she’s not coming through with those campaign promises. The Chicago teachers have gotten the support of the community. So they’ve had very impressive marches and actions – thousands of people coming out. they’re prepared to strike until they win.

KZ: And just like in 2012, the Chicago teachers, maybe the cutting edge and leading the way for many other unions to step forward and uplift their communities. If this strike goes well, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened. It’s important to remember this strike is happening in the context of two years in a row of record numbers of workers on strike in the United States. It’s a growing movement. People are upset and angry about the wealth divide, their low salaries, their poor treatment and the mistreatment of their communities. So unions are organizing and stepping up and fighting for everybody.

MF: Right and the teachers have been of course at the forefront of a lot of those strikes. The General Motors United Auto Workers have been on strike.

KZ: For quite a while and they seem like they have reached a tentative agreement. Workers have not yet voted on it. It’s not been presented to them completely yet. So we don’t know if this could be resolved but this is one more example of an era of workers stepping out and saying no to unfair treatment.

MF: Right. And of course, that’s necessary if they want to make gains in the workplace. Let’s talk about some things that are going on around the world because it really does feel like there is global protest against corruption, capitalism, neoliberalism and a lack of democracy. And then there’s also some protests that are portraying themselves as these entities. Let’s start first with that first one, which is Hong Kong. This past week, the US House of Congress passed a resolution, “the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.”

KZ: This is basically the Hong Kong Intervention Act. It is basically the Chinese intervention act. What the act requires is for the United States government to monitor Hong Kong, monitor China’s relationship with Hong Kong, monitor whether the Basic Law is being followed and if there are problems in those areas from the US perspective, then the US will sanction China and Hong Kong. So this is a Hong Kong intervention act that really sets the foundation for escalating the conflict between the US and China, which I think will be the relationship that defines this century.

MF: It would also allow the US Congress to decide whether it will trade with Hong Kong. There are currently 85,000 people from the United States living in Hong Kong and there are 1,400 US businesses in Hong Kong that could be impacted if the United States decides to take actions against Hong Kong. But I think the biggest way to look at this is, one, in the bigger picture of the US National Security strategy that’s targeting China and this is a big piece of that strategy to be able to criticize China and continue to build anti-china sentiment, which has existed in the United States for a long time and certainly among the Hong Kong protesters. There is a lot of anti-mainland China racism going on.

KZ: Yeah, I mean just because you see that in the protesters does not mean that’s the view of the Hong Kong community. If you look at polls of people in Hong Kong, they want to remain part of China. The one nation two systems policy is working for the vast majority of people in Hong Kong. That’s not their problem. Their problem really is housing, wealth divide, poverty, low wages – issues that really China has nothing to do with. That’s controlled by the Hong Kong government, which is semi-independent, semi-autonomous. It’s a semi-independent region in fact and so the anti-China sentiment is something the US is feeding, something that some mass media moguls in Hong Kong are feeding because of their previous issues with China. Just because people are protesting for it does not mean that’s the view of the Hong Kong residents.

MF: Well, I think it’s interesting that Congress is housed, of course, in Washington DC. Washington DC is a part of the country that doesn’t have democracy. It doesn’t have representation in Congress. It has one Congress member who’s not allowed to vote. There have been for decades efforts by people within Washington DC to become a state so that they would have rights. The license plates say “taxation without representation”. Imagine if China, you know, passed the Washington DC Human Rights and Democracy Act and used it to decide whether it would you know work with the United States based on whether there was democracy in Washington DC.

KZ: Or would sanction people in the United States, the DC government or the federal government, if they didn’t. And it wouldn’t just be the lack of the vote they would look at. They’d look at mass incarceration, look at racist police practices,

MF: Gentrification.

KZ: Economic inequality. That means so many things you can point to in Washington DC that are human rights violations that if a foreign country wanted to have a human rights act and sanction the US for its violation of international human rights standards, there certainly would be reason to do so. So, this is just an intervention. That’s inappropriate. Also, what’s important about this, itis something that part of the Hong Kong protest movement was demanding. Not all Hongkongers are demanding this but there is a portion of the protesters that are funded by National Endowment for Democracy, a US agency, which gets its money from the State Department, that were advocating this Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. So they were working with Marco Rubio and other right-wing legislators to push this act. This is an anti-China act. This is part of the conflict between the US and China and this conflict, which is the two biggest economies in the world, is one that’s going to engulf not just places like Hong Kong. You can see Taiwan. You can see Vietnam. You can see Japan, the Philippines, all the Asia-Pacific, the China Sea, all these areas being brought into this conflict. This is a major conflict that we should be taming down. I find it shameful that we define our national security strategy as great power conflict. The real way to achieve National Security’s not through great power conflict. It is through great power diplomacy. If China, Russia, US, Iran and other large countries work together, they could solve issues like climate change. They could solve issues like global poverty. There’s no reason to define this as conflict. It’s a misdirection right from the definition of our national security strategy.

MF: And of course, just like many of the countries that we target, we would have a lot to learn from them if we actually cooperated with them instead. The Chinese government has taken tremendous strides towards reducing poverty in a country of three billion people, reducing homelessness, making sure people have jobs. Of course, it’s not perfect. Of course, there are criticisms of it. But if you look at the direction it’s going, it’s the opposite of the direction that the United States is going where we have so many homeless, so many people in poverty. And I just want to remind people of a general rule: whatever a bill in Congress is called, it’s usually the opposite of that.

KZ: Like the Patriot Act.

MF: Like the Affordable Care Act

KZ: I just would also say that your point about we could learn from these countries is so important. The United States has very serious flaws. I think most people in the United States are aware of it. Our democracy doesn’t really represent people’s interests or represents a small percentage of the population that funds the two corporate parties. Our economy is unfair, the wealth divide is extreme, poverty is constantly growing, the housing crisis. You see homeless in every city in the United States. We could learn a great deal and instead we put up this blockade. We call Maduro a dictator when in fact he’s in a much more democratic country than ours is. And we could learn a lot about democracy.

MF: Venezuela has built almost 3 million units of social housing for a country of 32 million people. In the United States, we have a total of 1.2 million units, less than half of what Venezuela has, and we have ten times the population.

KZ: Ten times the population. Those three million units are for about one-third of the population of Venezuela. Can you imagine if one-third of the population in the United States had access to social housing? There wouldn’t be a housing crisis. And so yeah, we could learn a lot from Venezuela. We could learn a lot from China. China has a very interesting approach to dealing with problems. They take a kind of scientific approach. A lot of their legislators and officials are scientists and researchers and they are doing all sorts of programs across the country in their urban areas on dealing with poverty, on transportation, on housing, and seeing what works and then when something works they share it and they build on it. We could learn so much from that kind of approach.

MF: Right. Let’s talk about some other areas that have protest going on. Of course last week, we talked about Ecuador, but now in Latin America following the protests in Ecuador, Chile is really in revolt.

KZ: It really is in revolt and it starts out with a transit fare increase. But if you look at what the protesters are saying, there are a whole series of problems in Chile. It’s all the problems that we see in every neoliberal capitalist economy of inequality, housing, poverty, unfair wages. All these issues are in Chile as well. Chile is reacting with using their military against the protesters.

MF: That’s right. President Piñera has called a state of emergency. The military is out in the streets. Protesters are being arrested, injured but that’s not stopping them. In fact, so it started with this metro fare increase and students came out massively to protest that, going across the turnstiles and into the Metro without paying and that seemed to really strike a chord with people. Many more started coming out into the streets. And as you said, their demands are much more than just the metro fare, which in fact the government took that increase away, but people are really upset and have been doing things like actually setting fires. So the energy building, El Enel, their tower office building was lit on fire, buses and Metro stations have been lit on fire as well as a newspaper, El Mercurio, which was known to be supportive of the Pinochet dictatorship, was also set on fire. They are really calling out neoliberalism

KZ:  It is interesting both in Ecuador and in Chile, how the government reacted with violence. Militarized police, military, actual military itself, teargas, all sorts of aggressive efforts and we don’t hear anything in the US media criticizing those actions by those neoliberal US allies. But when you see that in Hong Kong, you see police were actually restrained in comparison, I mean, they still make mistakes but in comparison to these neoliberal governments, we hear constant criticism and then the same with France with the yellow vest movement. Macron’s been extremely aggressive and we don’t hear criticism of Macron’s use of the police. So there’s a lot of hypocrisy and how US media covers these protests around the world.

MF: Right. Well, human rights only matter if it’s a country that we’re targeting, is a focus of US imperialism, it seems.

KZ: Well, in fact, that’s what was explained to Donald Trump when he was not understanding how human rights fit into US foreign policy, the State Department explained to him – don’t worry about human rights. We only use it against the countries that we oppose. And so it’s a tool for US domination. It’s not a tool for really putting in place people-centered human rights.

MF: And let’s look at some other Latin American countries in the news. Tony Hernandez, the President of Honduras’ brother, was found guilty in a Manhattan court last week of US drug trafficking charges.

KZ: And he’s facing many years in jail, decades in jail, probably most of the rest of his life in jail, and his brother was implicated. during that trial

MF: That’s right. He hasn’t been charged yet, but there was testimony during the trial that there were members of the drug cartels who were paying bribes to his brother Juan Orlando Hernandez. Tony Hernandez is going to be sentenced on January 17th. No charges have been drawn against the President yet. But he is of course very unpopular in Honduras. He was the President installed by a US coup and there have been a lot of protests against him and also a lot of repression of those protesters in Honduras.

KZ: There have been protests in Honduras ever since the last election, which everyone pretty much recognized was a fraudulent election, pretty overtly fraudulent. It was amazing they got away with it. And there been escalating protests in recent months and with this conviction of his brother, there were more escalations of protest. So things are really – the effort to remove Hernandez from office is increasing. The effort to call for new elections is increasing and these drug charges are just the next step. If the US wants to get rid of him, now they have a tool they can get rid of Hernandez and if they want to control him, now they have a tool – We can put you in jail for life if you don’t behave.

MF: It was like the US has been controlling him all along. But yes, now they have a stronger tool. And there were protesters in New York last week outside of the courthouse where the hearing was going on with big signs that said “Fuera JOH.” That’s what they call Juan Orlando Hernandez, JOH, they call them “JOH” and fuera means get out. Let’s also talk about Bolivia. They had their presidential election yesterday, October 20th, and the result is still not completely clear.

KZ: It seems like there’ll be a runoff election in December. In Bolivia, you need to win by over 40% but also over 10% of the next candidate. And while Morales has got over forty percent, he didn’t get more than 10% over the second candidate. The second candidate, Carlos Mesa, was a previous president who didn’t finish out his term in office because – he was the president in fact right before Morales won election for the first time and the interesting thing about this previous president is that he didn’t finish his term in office because of mass protests against him because of neoliberal policies, especially around the privatization of gas and giving favored contracts to US companies. People demanded nationalization of the gas industry in Bolivia. That’s something that Morales promised and in fact, actually put in place and so he was forced from office. Morales was part of those protests and then Morales won the election and has been in office ever since. And it’s a controversial term for Morales. He’s going into his fourth term, which exceeds the limit allowed by Bolivian law, but the court said that this law was put in place after he was in office and so he has the right to continue to run for a fourth term.

MF: Right. So they’re still waiting for the final votes to be counted. A lot of the rural votes still need to come in so it hasn’t been declared yet. But as you said, with Morales at 45% and Carlos Mesa at 38% with about ninety percent of votes counted, it looks like there will be a runoff election in December. Now the United States-backed groups, it looks like, were causing some mischief leading up to the election. There was some violence against Morales’ political party and perhaps some intimidation. The United States does not want Morales to win a fourth term in office.

KZ: And there are threats that if he does win a fourth term, there will be an attempted coup against him. The real challenge, saying this is undermined democracy, he is a dictator, the usual kind of arguments we hear when the US wants to go after someone who is challenging the neoliberal approach to governance.

MF: Speaking of challenging Washington, let’s talk about Julian Assange. He had his extradition hearing in London today. There was a very large turnout of supporters as he was brought in and as he left, he was able to see the supporters out there advocating on his behalf and saying to stop the extradition. He needs to be freed from jail.

KZ: He needs to be freed from jail. And this extradition is a going to be a slow process, even though the judge did not allow it to be delayed. It’s still going to be a slow process. It is a multi-year effort to extradite Assange and bring him to the United States to stand trial, which will probably be a very unfair trial in Alexandria, Virginia. The rocket docket known for its handling of National Security cases almost always getting a conviction. I can’t recall an acquittal in the rocket docket in a national security case. I’d be shocked if you had a fair trial. So this extradition fight is critical for Assange’s future.

MF: Yes, and his mother tweeted out her concern as Assange was in the courthouse and asked to say his name, he had difficulty doing that and said that he was having trouble thinking. There are a lot of people that have big concerns about Julian Assange’s health. And of course, he was supposed to be released in September. That was when he could have been released for his bail bond violation, but the judge decided not to release him and people are concerned that the strategy is to let his health fail in jail and that he might die there.

KZ: Assange has challenged the system, not just the US Empire, the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the Guantanamo Bay prison, the treatment of the State Department controlled by corporate interests, but he’s challenged governments around the world, many of them allied with the United States including the United Kingdom. And so he’s offended a lot of the power structure and he’s done incredible work as a publisher and editor putting out material that no other publication would put out and really setting the agenda of coverage of war crimes and misbehavior by the United States in other countries. So he’s offended a lot of people, people who have the power are now out to punish him for doing so.

MF: Right, but he also, materials that Wikileaks published were used by major publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post so really they’re in the same boat as Julian Assange is. And I don’t think they’re speaking out enough and recognizing that this use of the Espionage Act against a publisher like Julian Assange really puts all publishers and journalists at risk.

KZ: It’s the first time the Espionage Act has been used against a publisher. So it’s a major step in the wrong direction and it does put everybody in the media at risk, but the corporate media is afraid of Julian Assange because Julius Assange has created a new form of media that goes around the corporate media, a people’s media that allows for people to anonymously create news by providing documents to WikiLeaks or something like Wikileaks and that means that a reporter is not needed. That means that the New York Times doesn’t get the scoop. That means that the people get the scoop and it doesn’t get manipulated by a New York Times or the Guardian, which you know publications that used Assange’s work, but which are also very much in bed with the National Security State of both the UK and the United States.

MF: That’s right, and we should mention that we because we were out recently as part of Cindy Sheehan’s Rage Against the War Machine, we were protesting at the Washington Post. We were a calling out the owner Jeff Bezos who gets multi-hundred million dollar yearly contracts for cloud service for the CIA but now it looks like he might also have a huge contract with the Pentagon.

KZ: A multi-billion dollar contract. Amazon will become the largest defense contractor in the United States and that means a lot, we’re talking about a ten billion dollar contract for cloud services for the Pentagon. So it will become the Pentagon post working with the CIA as well. And certainly not the people’s post.

MF: Let’s talk about just a couple of more areas that are in revolt right now. In Lebanon, what started out as a protest against a new tax for using the WhatsApp app on people’s phones brought people out and has turned into a much larger demonstration against really the whole conditions in Lebanon. It has one of the highest debts of all countries and they’re complaining about corruption and austerity there. And now they’ve been in protest for four days, massive amounts of people coming out in the streets.

KZ: And some people are already resigning from the government as a result of the pressure from the protesters but they’re not giving up. Again, it’s very much like the situation in Chile, a small issue there, it was transi, this one,it’s a tax on using Whatsapp, a small issue opens up a much larger issue. People who are feeling abused on many levels by governments that don’t represent them, but put the interests of the wealthiest ahead of the people.

MF: The president there is, prime minister, sorry, Hariri is calling for the Congress to meet today put together a new budget. People are saying they don’t want any more taxes, they need the austerity measures to be ended. They need investment in education and health care and much more. So we’ll see what happens with that. Massive protests continue in Catalonia, a region of Spain, following last a week ago actually from today when the judges sentenced nine members of the government to prison for 9 to 13 years for helping to organize a referendum, an independence referendum in 2017.

KZ: So let’s just stop and think about it, these political leaders who were elected organize a referendum that the people pass by a supermajority large margin and then they get punished for putting forward a referendum the people support and talking about a 13-year sentence and every day since that sentence, now, there have been protests. The end is not in sight. People want their leaders released and resentenced. They want to continue to move toward independence and Spain is not listening. Spain is trying to making an example of these political leaders. It’s having the reverse effect. It’s backfiring against Spain. It’s actually increasing the support for the independence movement. It’s a mistaken approach to try to abuse your power in such a way, punishing people for putting forward a referendum that the people support.

MF: People are protesting. There’s a major general strike. Factories are closed. Students are walking out of school. Over the weekend there were over half a million people that marched in Barcelona and then sitting peacefully in in the city streets and they’re saying that they’re going to continue protesting. It’s continuing to go on.

KZ: These are really mass protests. You see the videos of these protests and they are gigantic. They are stopping the country from working and that kind of protest, at a certain point the government cannot withstand any longer. I suspect in the end if they keep this up, they will win some victory for their political leaders.

MF: Right and part of the reason they were protesting is because over the past two years since the referendum, they don’t feel like Spain has taken any concrete measures to engage in dialogue with them about what it is that they want for their region of the country. Before we go into our interview with Ajamu Baraka, let’s talk a little bit about the newsletter that we wrote this week in Popular Resistance. The title was “US Out of Syria and the Middle East.”

KZ: Well, one of those serious problems with the way this is being debated in the United States is, there is such opposition to Trump moving the troops out of the Kurdish region, that it’s making Trump look like he’s actually a peacenik when he’s really not removing the troops from Syria or the Middle East. He’s removing troops from that part of Syria to another part of Syria where the oil is and also moving troops into Iraq on the border with Syria where they could continue to attack in Syria, and he’s added troops to Saudi Arabia. He’s added 14,000 troops to the Middle East. This is not a peace president, this is someone who recognizes that this Kurdish area, defending this Kurdish area against Turkey is something the United States is not capable of doing and we need to get, our newsletter’s point was, we’ve done tremendous damage in that region of the world, the Middle East, the so-called Middle East since 2001 damage in country after country. Mass migrant problems. Mass deaths. Mass destruction and chaos. It’s time for the US to get out of the Middle East. We are just doing negative, having negative effects there, nothing positive for our country. It’s costing us trillions of dollars, thousands of lives have been lost of US soldiers. It’s undermining the US’ respect in the world. We need to get out and focus on the United States.

MF: Right, and in that newsletter we go through a history of the US’ involvement in Syria with lots of links there for people to read as well as a section on the Kurds, their history as well as what’s going on with the Kurds and Rojava. So I encourage people to check that out at PopularResistance.org and you can sign up for our newsletter when you’re there. You can also sign up for the daily digest. If you do that, every morning, you’ll get a summary in your email of all the articles that we posted the day before, usually around a dozen or so articles that we post every day. So that will keep you up-to-date on what’s happening in resistance in the United States and around the world.

KZ: I’m glad we talked about Rojava in this newsletter because that’s one of the most interesting developments in the world as far as grassroots democracy goes. They have developed a system of governance and economy that really rejects the capitalist model and representative democracy and instead moved toward direct democracy where people’s assemblies are the foundation of how decisions are made, where cooperatives where people own their means of production own the workplace are the method of the economy to build on. So that’s a very grassroots beginning – cooperatives and assemblies, then they go to district assemblies and regional assemblies. They call it a people’s rule without a government. It’s based on the model of the Zapatistas, based on the work of anarchist Murray Bookchin and it’s really something we all should support and learn from and it’s not up to us what works out between Syria and the Kurds but we hope that the Syrians and Kurds can negotiate some kind of autonomous region, semi-autonomous region, that allows this experiment to continue.

MF: Yes. It’s also very tolerant, people of all ethnicities because of course, there are Kurds, there’s Persians, there’s Arabs…

KZ: and others

MF: and others in the region and you know,it’s a very diverse region and this is a society that’s modeling how all these different ethnicities can live together. It’s also a very feminist society, a lot of women in leadership positions. So this is something that could be a blueprint for a future because if you look at a lot of these struggles around the world, it is a struggle for people to want to be involved be able to have input into the decisions that affect their lives as part of what the Yellow Vests in France are calling for, more direct democracy. It’s part of what the whole Extinction Rebellion is calling for – one of their demands. You know they have a demand that the government recognize there’s a climate emergency, but they also have a demand that the people have an input into how that emergency is addressed.

KZ: That’s right. I think, so it’s amazing to have a governance system that’s anti-hierarchical, and anti-patriarchy, anti-capitalist and very much pro-people power and is involving people at every level in decision-making, moving away from representative democracy, which is not working well. Representative democracy across the world was a nice 1700s or 1800s  era experiment but now we see the flaws of it, the corruption of it. And so moving toward more of a direct democracy approach and you can see that the Rojava experience is affecting people in Latin America and other continents because everyone can learn from this and they’ll adapt it to their own culture and their own environment, but there are lessons to be learned from this and it seems to be working well. And they defended themselves incredibly against ISIS. They allied with the United States, which some say was a mistake, but really they didn’t have much choice and ever since the US left, they’ve escalated their relationship with Syria with Damascus. They’re now working with Damascus to repel the Turks and Russia is backing that up. And so it looks like Rojava is going to survive and that Syria and the Kurds will negotiate some kind of relationship for the future.

MF: Well, that’s the hopeful outcome. But let’s get to our interview with Ajamu Baraka where we get deeper into these issues and he really provides some guidance for what people in the US peace movement need to be advocating for. So we’ll take a short musical break and we’ll be right back.

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 Ajamu Baraka. He is currently the national organizer and national spokesperson for the Black Alliance For Peace. Thank you for taking time to join us, Ajamu.

AB: Always my pleasure. Thank you.

KZ: All right. Well, we’re going to talk about Syria and there’s a lot going on with Syria right now. There’s a great political debate in Washington DC where everybody seems to be against Donald Trump, except for Ron Paul, everyone’s against Donald Trump’s desire to get US troops out of Northeast Syria. And in Syria itself, the Turkish incursion into the Kurdish area. Lots of violence. Lots of confusion. Got to figure this out. Can you kind of give us a sense of how you see the Syria situation right now?

AB: Well, I think you hit on the right term. It can be very confusing because it’s very complex. This latest incursion or invasion if you will by Turkey, it took place and it’s taking place in a context related to the general war in that country and informed by the shifting and complicated relationships between a number of states –  Russia. Of course, Iran, and of course Syria, the Turks the US,  Isreal and of course the Kurdish independent forces. So it’s a very very complex situation. So, you know, but what appears to be quite obvious to me is that with the long-awaited incursion or invasion by Turkey to try to create a so-called buffer zone in Northern Syria, that there was a general agreement, it appears, at least between Turkey and the US and maybe even the Russians that was going to allow this to happen, very similar to what happened when the Turks invaded Afrin some months ago or a year or so ago. There was a general agreement that resulted in the Russians basically letting the Turks know that there was going to be no response in terms of air protection from Russia, which gave them a free hand to go in and take province back and to allow the forces to engage in what was characterized as ethnic cleansing of the Kurds. And so this situation now that the Turks have been advocating for for quite some time is connected to that invasion. It is their attempt to try to reconfigure facts on the ground to push back the Kurds but also to engage in their own brand of taking territory to dismember and to weaken Damascus. So it is a very fluid and complicated situation that requires more than just a sort of a pedestrian understanding of that part of the world and Syria specifically.

MF: And of course, this isn’t the first time that this kind of situation has happened. Brian Terrell of Voices for Creative Nonviolence has an excellent article writing about in the 1990s and early 2000s when the US was inhabiting a base in Turkey. Sometimes they said it was Turkey’s base and sometimes they said it was the US base and they were supposed to be there to defend a no-fly zone in that region. But he reports that when it came to Turkey wanting to go in and bomb the Kurds in that region, the US would just completely stand down. The Kurds have a long history of defending their right to self-determination. Can you talk a little bit about the situation that they’re in right now allying with the US, now starting to talk with Syria. Can you comment on that?

AB: I can but let me first comment again on the context. I mean because we are talking about a global context and a regional context. You know, the late Samir Amin said, I think he was correct, that the US, EU, what we call the axis of domination were not going to allow for any independent states to be able to assert their independence and to resist the global hegemony of the US and that policy was reflected in US policy, primarily the full-spectrum dominance approach. They said that they were not going to allow any regional power to emerge to challenge US hegemony. What this meant was that any state and any region was going to be in the crosshairs of US aggression if they appear to be attempting to be independent and also to expand their influence in the region. So for the so-called Middle East or Western Asia, that became Iraq and when they destroyed Iraq, it shifted power to Iran and they quickly realized that they had made a mistake. And that now they had to deal with Iran and the consequence of that was also noticing that they had to disrupt the so-called axis of resistance that included also Syria. So this is the context within that part of the world and here we look at the Kurds. The Kurds who have been involved in a war of national liberation against Turkey and for their attempts to try to carve out some degree of autonomy and Iraq and even in Syria, they found themselves often at the receiving end of state aggression. When the US moved into the region more aggressively and specifically into Syria, it provided an opportunity for the Kurds in Syria to, well I wouldn’t even say opportunity, the reality of that invasion of Syria put the Kurds into a very difficult position. They had carved out some degree of autonomy with Damascus. Damascus was providing some degree of protection if you will while at the same time agreeing with the Turks to contain Kurdish nationalism, but when the jihadist forces begin to invade Syria, it required that the Syrian government had to consolidate its military forces, which meant they had to pull back the military forces and they pulled away from Northeast Syria where the Kurds were located. They provided some degree of arms to the Kurds, but everyone understood that the Kurds were targeted for genocide and that basically they were on their own and so they appeared to have made what some people argue was a practical decision to align themselves temporarily with the US in order to have the means to in fact protect themselves. This is where it gets really complicated. And you know, we talked about trying to avoid the weeds but you know, we know that there are some many left forces in the US that see the Kurds only in terms of some divisive force aligned with the US and Israel to dismember Syria, but it’s important to point out that in all of these years of conflict, the Kurds continued their relationship with the central government of Syria. In fact, and they have not engaged in military operations against the Damascus government. We know that the Syrian forces attacked the Kurds in 2016, but you know, there was no retaliation if you will so, you know, the principles of self-determination on the part of oppressed people come into play, you know, that people see the Kurds as an occupation force that they are attempting to engage in ethnic cleansing with Arabs, but many of the Arabs that have been complaining about the Kurds were also communities that were in alignment with some of the jihadist forces. So it becomes a very very complicated situation. Now, this agreement between the US and the Turks for the US to withdraw their forces to allow the Turks to move in, you know, it created a situation again where the Kurds had to make a decision because again, they were being targeted for elimination and it forced them into an accelerated negotiation with Damascus in order to make sure that they were not going to be militarily wiped out.

KZ: Wow. So one part of the Kurdish region, Rojava, the three cantons of Rojava about the size of Connecticut, that has gotten a lot of attention as a kind of an experiment in local democracy and municipalization, Bookchin-style, socialism. Do you know much about Rojava and what’s your impression of whether that’s a model that needs to be protected or supported or in solidarity by people from around the world?

AB: Well, you know, Kevin, it is already a model that many people are studying very closely. Many people support it and it has some real potential in terms of how one can reorganize society in such a way where political power really is being exercised from the bottom up, where you can incorporate various communities and peoples into one political project. And so we’ve seen that that is in fact happening in that part of Syria. But again, there is those broader questions of what does all of this mean in terms of the relationship of that project to the broader Syrian State. Should the Syrians allow for that to continue? What should be the relationship of those parts of the region that have an Arab majority? Well, for the Kurds and for the project itself, there are cantons there that are a majority Arab. It’s important for people to understand that this is a political project and that the idea of it being a ethnic project, you know, it’s questionable. There are some things that people have talked about and looked at that can be suggestive of some type of ethnic project. But many people argue that if you look at how things are organized, how things are organized politically, how the various groups are relating to one another, that the ethnic character of this is subordinate to its political objective. So, you know, it’s something to take a look at very closely but its ability to survive is really dependent on what is resolved with this current invasion by Turkey and the new configuration of relations between itself and Damascus.

MF: Right. So much to digest here. Let’s pull back briefly to the United States. Donald Trump announced he was removing troops, turns out it’s a very small amount of troops and they’re not actually leaving Syria so much as moving to another area. He’s also shifting more troops into Saudi Arabia. We understand that this year an additional I think 14 or 16,000 troops were sent to the region of the Middle East. We have the Democrats all up in arms that Trump has announced that he’s removing some troops. What should be..

KZ: And Republicans up in arms. It’s bipartisan attacks.

MF: Yeah, that’s true. I think people are confused about the politics of this from the US standpoint. What do you recommend for folks in the United States that are trying to look at this and what should they be advocating for?

AB: I think that we have to suggest to them that they have to remain consistent in terms of advocating for solutions to Syria to be arrived at by Syrians themselves. The idea that the US should not move out of Syria to end its illegal occupation because of the situation with Kurds is one of which we have to be very very careful with. On one hand, of course, we know that real live human beings are going to suffer and are suffering as a consequence of allowing for the Turks to invade that territory, but on the other hand, we have to point out the fact that it was the decision by the Trump Administration to give the green light to the Turks to move into this country. But even more, we have to remind everyone that this whole situation we will not even be talking about if the US had not engaged in quote-unquote regime change politics and war in Syria. So it says that we’ve got to be consistent. That we should demand that the US, in fact ,pull out its troops. That the United Nations can play a role in terms of working with the Syrian government to come to a decision on how that process in Northeast Syria is going to be resolved so that there’s no additional suffering and death from this incursion or this invasion. So, you know, we have to advocate that there has to be a peaceful solution to this and that parties need to adhere to the international law, that all parties not invited into the region or into the state by the internationally-recognized government of Syria should depart and in fact the Russians for example have indicated that if they were invited to leave by Syria, they, in fact, would do that. So this notion of US exceptionalism, lawlessness has to be combated because if it is allowed to continue with Syria then we’re going to see a continuation of this argument for humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect to be used as a weapon to give cover to the US imperialist adventures. We’ve got to stop. This process is very destructive not only to the people who are in the crosshairs of US imperialism, but it’s destructive to US society also who are being manipulated into supporting the permanent war agenda of the ruling class. And the result of this in terms of the general morality, we find in the US.

KZ: You know, it’s interesting how in the last presidential debate of the Democrats, Tulsi Gabbard described Syria as a regime change war, a pretty apt description, and Pete Buttigieg took the other side arguing that the US should stay and not abandon the Kurds, keep our forces there, otherwise we’re unreliable allies. It is interesting to see that debate unfold that kind of plays out in your answer there. Now Pepe Escobar had a really interesting article where he described the US defeat in Syria as the biggest CIA failure since Vietnam, that it’s a geopolitical game changer. Syria’s regaining Northeast Syria, Russia’s continuing to play a role as Syria’s protector, Turkey’s getting its buffer zone. The US is being pushed out and the Kurds are pretty much losing their hope for a homeland, although maybe something can be worked out as we talked about earlier. How do you see this as a geopolitical game-changer or as a defeat for the US, biggest since Vietnam?

AB: Well, I would question whether or not this is the biggest defeat for the US since Vietnam. I would think that the biggest defeat took place in Iraq, but you know that’s something that could be debated. I would also question…

KZ: So many defeats of the US to choose from. It’s pretty pitiful. Afghanistan was a big defeat.

AB: Yes. It’s really, you know, and I would say that the and I hate putting it in these kinds of broad geopolitical terms in terms of these very states, but from the point of view of the Russians, it’s sort of a win-win. You see, I don’t think that there’s going to be a buffer zone in Northern Syria. I think that the Turks made a severe miscalculation in moving into Northern Syria because I think it played right into what the Russians saw as the only viable solution to Syria, which was to regain and re-establish the territorial integrity of the state by Damascus and that that was not going to happen very easily with an armed Kurdish movement and that with the invasion of Northern Syria and the degrading of the Kurdish military capacity by being abandoned by the US, it had the effect of accelerating the stalled negotiations between the Kurds and Damascus so that now we have a new configuration with the Syrian Arab Army fighting alongside the Kurdish military forces to try to repel components of the invasion. And with now the Syrian State regaining control or in the process of regaining control of that part of their state. The real losers are the Turks, who going to be pushed back, and the US. Now the question you raised earlier about the so-called withdrawal of US forces, you know, they’ve been redeployed and it’s interesting to note that even though Trump claimed that they’re going to be withdrawing forces, it appears that elements of a deep state seem to be dragging their feet on that process. In fact, the Secretary of Defense said that there was no plan to withdraw troops from Syria. In fact, it seems like they have redeployed most of the troops to the Deir ezZor area to you know, protect the oil fields and to continue to act as a blocker for the so-called Tehran to Beirut land corridor. So, you know, it seems like there’s some powerful elements in the US state that are resisting the demands or the orders from the Commander in Chief to in fact pullback US forces, so it’s a very very interesting process to watch to see this struggle even within the context of the US State around the policies in Syria.

KZ: So our movement for peace will need to be advocating for US out of Syria, if not the whole Middle East. The one thing I wanted to comment on with you, your response there on Turkey. I think Turkey is paying a big political price for this. They’ve been criticized pretty roundly and I agree that it seems like they’re being pushed back by Russia and Syria. Pushback is maybe the wrong word. Maybe they’re agreeing to withdraw as Russia urges them and what’s going to happen though, they may not have a buffer zone but they will have the Syrian government with Russia backing it up keeping Kurds from going into Turkey. So they’ll get their protection, but it may not be a buffer zone.

AB: Well, yeah that remains to be seen and yeah, we got to be very careful about the role of the Russians for the Russians are not going to have any kind of direct military confrontation with Turkey and it is even questionable to what extent the Syrians are going to be engaging directly with those Turkish forces even though there’s some engagement. Everybody’s trying to avoid this escalating out of complete control and that’s what makes it so incredibly dangerous. But again, I think that what appears to be the real winners will be the Syrian State. I do believe that there’s going to be an agreement to allow for some degree of at minimum re-establishing the autonomy of the Kurds. The Kurds would probably end up having to disarm because the state is not going to allow an armed force within these territories, but whatever the final agreements will be, it will be among Syrians themselves. And I think that is a good thing. For the peace movement, again, we have to be consistent. We’ve got to call for a peaceful resolution in Syria. We have to call for adherence to international law and we have to continue to call for a role, an effective role, by the United Nations and remind people of the United Nations Charter, that this is the only established entity even with all of its flaws and contradictions that we have in place that is committed to trying to maintain international peace. And that we’ve got to demand that these various states adhere to the Charter that they are in fact a part of and that’s important because there seems to be a real commitment on the part of these states to jettison international law and to ignore the United Nations. If that is allowed to continue, it will only be to the detriment of the smaller and weaker states on the planet. So you’ve got to advocate for those elements and we’ve got to begin to move toward a real understanding that even our pro-peace position, while they are morally sound ,we’ve got to understand that if we don’t take a more resolute anti-imperialist position then in some ways we are continuing to fail the peoples of the global South who will continue to find themselves in the crosshairs of Western aggression because it is imperialism that is driving these wars. It is the reluctance, as I said at the top of this interview, on the part of the western states, the US and Western Europe, to allow states to really develop along independent lines. And so their commitment to maintaining capitalist domination and imperialist control is pushing a logic of aggression and war and we’ve got to recognize that and be in a place to resist it.

MF: Absolutely. Those are excellent points and you know, we’ve talked about this before, I know Kevin and I have talked about it, how the US Empire is fading, global power is shifting. The US is no longer the dominant force in the world and as part of that period, that transition, what typically happens is that a country starts to engage in these projects that fail and we’re seeing this over and over again with the United States and Afghanistan not having control there, you know the failure in Syria and in Iraq, the most recent coup attempt by the United States in Iraq that was discovered and failed. It’s really time for the US to pull out. And of course, when you talk about violators of the United Nations Charter, the United States is probably one of the biggest violators of that UN Charter. Can we talk a little bit about how power is shifting in the Middle East? The United States has been waging its maximum pressure against Iran and Iran has been able to resist that and it seems like that, the failures of the US and Iran’s strengths, are starting to create some shifts in power where even Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are starting to negotiate with Iran as a significant power in that region.

AB: I think it’s quite clear that US policies that resulted in weakening of the US’s ability to influence events in that part of the world. And that’s why it is a very dangerous situation because the US is still relying on military force to try to compensate for the loss of its political influence. For example, we see that the US is now shifting forces or more forces into Saudi Arabia. This is happening. Even though they understand that this is a change in policy that is going to continue to give support to those jihadist right-wing Islamic elements that see the US involved in a crusader a mission to take over their most holy sites. And remember it was the stationing of US equipment and forces in Saudi Arabia that helped to spark the Al Qaeda resistance against the US. But they are shifting these forces, Margaret and Kevin, because of their loss of influence and the fragile nature of the regime in Saudi Arabia. So, you know, they are trying to bring some degree of coherence to a incoherent policy in which they are systematically being jettisoned from the region, but they’re not going to leave quietly. That’s where we come in. We’ve got to demand that there are peaceful solutions to these various conflicts. We have to demand that the Saudis cease their illegal and immoral war in Yemen, and we have to demand that the US stop providing support to that illegal war in Yemen. And we have to again remind people of the absolute necessity for supporting national sovereignty and supporting the resolution of these ongoing conflicts in places like Afghanistan and to support sovereignty in Iran, in Iraq. So we have a lot of work to do in that part of the world as we do in other parts of the world, especially now that the US has a moving toward using economic sanctions and economic seizures as part of the strategy of destabilization.

KZ: Let’s finish up with some comments regarding your recent trip to Damascus. You were there for a labor conference. Whenever we travel, we’ve traveled with you before as well, whenever we travel outside the US we always are starkly reminded about how many lies we are told in the United States. So what was your impression of Syria going there and did you get a sense from people in Syria where they see their government going now?

AB: I got a sense that the Syrians have gone through a very traumatic experience and they feel that they have come out of the side of it a much stronger people and much stronger nation. I was struck by the level of regard that the people have for their military forces. I had a chance to also talk with people who are in Lebanon who predicted the intensification of the situation there in Lebanon with the people rising up and demanding some real fundamental changes in that country. There’s optimism. There may be a real possibility of peace in the region. That’s what makes this think this invasion by Turkey so much more criminal because it appears that one of the objectives of the invasion was to keep the conflict going. It wasn’t just to establish a buffer zone and to forcefully insert Arabs into Northeast Syria who aren’t from that part of Syria, but it was also to liberate if you will the prisoners and their families under guard there in north, these ISIS prisoners, in order to make sure that they’re still a military capability, an open one on the part of ISIS. So it is to keep the conflict going on. It is to try to manage the chaos of that kind of conflict. And that’s what makes it so incredibly criminal. Hopefully, this is going to be beaten back. The evidence suggests that it’s already happening. But again, these policies are allowed to occur because in the US and in the west, there’s not sufficient pressure being put on these states by the public to put a brake on these imperialist misadventures and that is a real failure on our part.

MF: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us and clarify some of this and I think that our listeners have gotten their direction. We need to be calling for the United States to get out of that region. We need to call for a peaceful solution, for respect for the self-determination of all peoples and that countries respect the international law. So thank you so much for taking time with us.

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. He is currently the national organizer and national spokesperson for The Black Alliance for Peace.

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).

As a co-convener with Jaribu Hill of the Mississippi Worker Center for Human Rights, Baraka played an instrumental role in developing the series of bi-annual Southern Human Rights Organizers’ conferences (SHROC) that began in 1996. These gatherings represented some of the first post-Cold War human rights training opportunities for grassroots activists in the country.

Baraka played an important role in bringing a human rights perspective to the preparatory meetings for the World Conference on Racism (WCAR) that took place in Geneva and in Santiago, Chile as part of the Latin American Preparatory process, as well as the actual conference that he attended as a delegate in Durban, South Africa in 2001.

Ajamu Baraka was the Founding Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) from July 2004 until June 2011. The USHRN was the first domestic human rights formation in the United States explicitly committed to the application of international human rights standards to the U.S. Under Baraka, the Network grew from a core membership of 60 organizations to more than 300 U.S.-based member organizations and 1,500 individual members who worked on the full spectrum of human rights concerns in the U.S. During Baraka’s tenure, the Network initiated the Katrina Campaign on Internal Displacement, after Baraka was the first to formally identify the victims of Hurricane Katrina as internally displaced people (IDPs).

Also while at the Network, Baraka ensured that the Network spearheaded efforts to raise human rights abuses taking place in the U.S. with United Nations human rights processes and structures, including the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Human Rights Council, through its Universal Periodic Review process. By coordinating the production of non-governmental reports on human rights and organizing activist delegations to UN sites in Geneva and New York, the Network gave voice to victims of human rights abuses and provided opportunities for activists to engage in direct advocacy. These efforts resulted in specific criticisms of the U.S. human rights record and recommendations for corrective actions.

Prior to leading the USHRN, Baraka served in various leadership capacities with Amnesty International USA (AIUSA).  As AIUSA’s Southern Regional Director, he played a key role in developing the organization’s 1998 campaign to expose human rights violations in the U.S. Baraka also directed Amnesty’s National Program to Abolish the Death Penalty, during which time he was involved in most of the major death penalty cases in the U.S.

In 1998, Baraka was one of 300 human rights defenders from around the world who were brought together at the first International Summit of Human Rights Defenders commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In 2001, Baraka received the “Abolitionist of the Year” award from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. The following year, Baraka received the “Human Rights Guardian” award from the National Center for Human Rights Education.

Baraka has also served on the boards of various national and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International (USA), the Center for Constitutional Rights, Africa Action, and the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights.

Baraka has taught political science at various universities and has been a guest lecturer at academic institutions in the U.S. and abroad. A commentator on a number of criminal justice and international human rights issues, Baraka has appeared on and been covered in a wide-range of print, broadcast, and digital media outlets such as CNN, BBC, the Tavis Smiley Show, Telemundo,  ABC’s World News Tonight, Black Commentator, Russia Today, the Washington Post and the New York Times.  He is also a contributing writer for various publications including Black Commentator, Commondreams, Pambazaka, and Dissident Voice.

He is currently an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and a writer for Counterpunch.

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Ecuadorians Protest Neo-liberal Austerity And Win

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

President Lenin Moreno restored neo-liberalism to Ecuador, accepting a $4.2 billion dollar loan from the US-dominated International Monetary Fund that required measures call ‘structural adjustments’. These included putting austerity in place in order to repay the loan. When Moreno announced Decree 883, or “The [Austerity] Package,” on October 4, the country erupted in a general strike with mass protests in many cities. Moreno imposed a national emergency, fled to the coast and sent police and troops to repress the protests. At least ten people died and thousands were injured. We speak with Wellington Echegaray, an Ecuadorian living in the United States, about the protests and about the history of political instability and difficult living conditions that led to this uprising.

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Guest:

Wellington Echegaray is from Ecuador and lives in New York City. He is active with Accion Revolucion and the Free Jorge Glas movement. He is also a member of the IBEW union.

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Court Decision On Net Neutrality Opens Doors To Next Steps

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

In 2015, under great pressure from a broad media justice movement, the FCC passed Net Neutrality policies that guaranteed the universal right to go where users want to go on the Internet. In 2017, the Trump FCC under Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai moved quickly to repeal Net Neutrality. The movement responded with several tactics to win Net Neutrality back. One of those was a challenge in court, Mozilla v FCC. Last week, the court finally announced its decision. We speak with Craig Aaron of Free Press about that decision. While the court did not restore Net Neutrality, it did open the doors for the movement to use other tactics to achieve a free Internet. Aaron describes what those are and the bigger picture of an Internet for everyone.

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Subscribe to Clearing the FOG on Patreon and receive our bonus show, Thinking it Through, plus Clearing the FOG totes, water bottles and T shirts. Visit Patreon.com/ClearingtheFOG.

And visit the new Popular Resistance Podcast Network at www.PopularResistance.org/prpn/

Guest:

Craig Aaron has led Free Press and Free Press Action Fund since 2011. For more than a decade, he has been a leader in major campaigns to safeguard Net Neutrality, stop media consolidation, oppose unchecked surveillance, defend public media and sustain quality journalism. He works in Washington and speaks often to the press and the public on media and technology issues. He has written for The Daily Beast, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Hill, MSNBC, Politico, The Progressive, The Seattle Times, Slate and many other outlets. Craig was a 2018–19 yearlong fellow at the Rockwood Leadership Institute and sits on the advisory board of the Media, Inequality and Change Center. Before joining Free Press, he was an investigative reporter for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch and the managing editor of In These Times magazine. He is the editor of two books, Appeal to Reason: 25 Years of In These Times and Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

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The United States’ Declining Power Was On Display At United Nations Session

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

As the United Nations wraps up its General Assembly session, we speak with Bahman Azad, a professor who heads the United States Peace Council, about the unprecedented steps the Trump administration took to restrict visiting diplomats and heads of state from attending or from speaking outside the UN during their stay. We discuss the current state of the world, the harmful impacts of US imperialism, and powerful global institutions such as the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. As the world shifts to one where there are many dominating countries, how will that impact US foreign policy and our chances of creating a more peaceful, just and livable future? We also discuss ‘Ukrainegate’ in-depth and other current events.

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Subscribe to Clearing the FOG on Patreon and receive our bonus show, Thinking it Through, plus Clearing the FOG totes, water bottles and T shirts. Visit Patreon.com/ClearingtheFOG.

And visit the new Popular Resistance Podcast Network at www.PopularResistance.org/prpn/

Guest:

Bahman Azad is an Iranian-American peace and justice activist living in the United States. He has a Master’s degree in Economics and a Ph.D. in Sociology from American universities. He served in the Iranian Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant between 1971 and 1973.

He is a former acting director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University. He is currently a Professor of Economics and Sociology at Berkeley College in New Jersey.

Azad has been active in the peace and justice movement since his arrival in the United States in 1973, first as a student activist against the previous regime in Iran and then as a member of the National Board of the U.S. Peace Council. He joined Veterans for Peace in the early 1990s at the invitation of his close friend and then VFP President, David Cline. He is currently serving as the Chair of VFP’s Iran Working Group, Organizational Secretary of the U.S. Peace Council, Co-Chair of Iran Pledge of Resistance, and an NGO representative of the World Peace Council at the United Nations. He is also the co-founder of the Campaign in Solidarity with the Iranian People’s Green Movement, an international campaign in support of the Iranian people’s democratic rights.

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Former Customs And Border Protection Agent Blows The Whistle On Culture of Corruption

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

Customs and Border Protection is in the news with the recent article in the New York Times on the lowered morale among CBP officers. Much of it stems from public opposition to the detention and separation of families and mistreatment of adults and children, whether it be crowded cells with unsanitary conditions and inadequate food or sexual and physical abuse of children and deaths. Immigrant detention is being compared to concentration camps. We speak with Jenn Budd, a former CBP officer turned whistleblower, who speaks about the reality of CBP from the inadequate training to the compromising and corruption of officers, from the misogyny to the racism and what happens to officers who speak out. Budd describes the dysfunctional culture of the CBP in detail and shares her wisdom on whether or not CBP should continue to exist.

Listen here:

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Subscribe to Clearing the FOG on Patreon and receive our bonus show, Thinking it Through, plus Clearing the FOG totes, water bottles and T shirts. Visit Patreon.com/ClearingtheFOG.

And visit the new Popular Resistance Podcast Network at www.PopularResistance.org/prpn/

Guest:

Jenn Budd was with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection from 1995 to 2001 as a senior patrol officer. Based in Campo, California, Budd was tasked with patrolling the border and assisting in the deportation of immigrants. She ultimately left because of what she described as a culture of sexual harassment against women and corruption. She is now blowing the whistle on serious problems within the agency and calling for the current head, Carla Provost, to resign.

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US Veterans Held In Ireland For Protesting US’ Violations of Neutrality

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

Ireland has been a neutral nation since the 1930s, meaning it doesn’t join military alliances and under numerous treaties is not supposed to assist other countries in military endeavors. However, the United States regularly violates Irish neutrality by flying troops, weapons and military supplies through Shannon Airport. We speak with Tarak Kauff, Ken Mayers and Ellen Davidson, all members of Veterans for Peace, about an action Tarak and Ken took in March to protest the US’ violations. They were arrested and held in jail for 12 days for a minor offense and since then have had their passports seized and are not allowed to leave Ireland. It could be many years before they face trial. Listen to their story and what their current walk across Ireland to raise awareness of Ireland’s participation in wars.

Listen here:

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

 

Subscribe to Clearing the FOG on Patreon and receive our bonus show, Thinking it Through, plus Clearing the FOG totes, water bottles and T shirts. Visit Patreon.com/ClearingtheFOG.

And visit the new Popular Resistance Podcast Network at www.PopularResistance.org/prpn/

Guests:

Ken Mayers: Since he resigned his commission as a U.S. Marine Corp Captain in 1966 Ken Mayers has unabashedly worked as a peace activist.  18 members of Mayers German Jewish family died during the WWII Holocaust.  “The lesson I took from that,” he said “is no one should ever be oppressed.” He believes that working together we can build a world beyond war.  Ken Mayers says that apart from family, his social activism is the most inherently satisfying part of his life….”going to the streets to support causes I believe in is where it’s at.”  He can be seen on the corner of Cerrillos and St Francis with other peace activists waving banners calling for the end of war.  He has repeatedly demonstrated at the School of the Americas to keep that in public view. In 2002 Ken was the founding president of the Santa Fe Chapter for Veterans for Peace. He feels their mission to abolish war as an instrument of national policy is crucial if we are to survive as a species.  In 2012, Ken along with 18 of his Veterans for Peace colleagues were arrested at the NYC Vietnam Memorial while reading names of the fallen. The Vets used the case to push back what they saw as increasing police and judicial encroachment on First Amendment rights to assembly and free speech in public spaces. Ken has been arrested nearly 20 times while working for peace. 

Ken has promoted a variety of causes, including a freeze and cutback in worldwide nuclear weapons, an end to sexual assault on female soldiers, and providing jobs for former soldiers. As a global peace promoter, Ken has been active in overseas missions to break Israel’s 2011 blockade of Gaza and to protest it’s tear-gas bombing of the Palestinian village of Bi’lin. 

His professional life focuses on administration, consulting, communications systems and helping large organizations function better.  These skills have served him well as his role as a peace activist.  He has that kind of leadership style that isn’t flashy–it’s just steady and organized and persistent.  He is a networker and with his diplomatic manner, hears others positions and respects their approach even if it is in disagreement with his. 

Ken is well informed in economics, politics, justice, international relations, veterans and military history and practices. He brings experts to our community; Israeli and Palestinian speakers, foreign policy experts, and many others. Believing  that any action legal or not, needs an educational component  he speaks at churches, schools, in the courtroom, and is equally effective through his press work. 

It is his deep knowledge of the threats to peace, linked with a sense that continuing to fight for peace in whatever way we can is worth it.  Ken is a wonderful antidote to despair. He is a superior world citizen.

Tarak Kauff is a longtime antiwar and social justice activist. From the Vietnam War to today’s occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, he has consistently opposed U.S. wars and occupations. He served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper from 1959 to 1962 and is a member of Veterans for Peace. He is a founder and editor of the bimonthly Woodstock International and the quarterly War Crimes Times progressive newspapers and plays a leading role in VFP&r’s Direct Action Group, organizing veteran-led civil resistance to war at the White House on December 16, 2010, and March 19, 2011. He also led two actions at the National Archives in which a small group of vets spent several days displaying banners drawing attention to violations of the U.S. Constitution, which they are sworn to protect. A strong supporter of self-determination for the Palestinian people. He is a member of the Hudson Valley’s Middle East Crisis Response and took part in the 2009-10 Gaza Freedom March in Cairo.

Ellen Davidson is a longtime activist journalist and photographer. She began her career working with the Guardian Independent Radical Newsweekly in the 80s. She currently works with The Indypendent in New York City and with Veterans For Peace. She has co-organized VFP delegations to Ferguson, Mo.; Standing Rock, N.D.; Jeju, South Korea; Palestine; Okinawa; and Ireland, and she is currently an editor for two VFP quarterly publications, Peace in Our Times and Peace and Planet News. You can see her photography at stopthesewars.org/ellen-davidson.

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A Frontline View Of The Palestinian Great March Of Return

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

On March 30 2018, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip started a weekly peaceful protest they call “The Great March of Return.” The purpose was to go to the wall separating them from their previous homes and demonstrate their desire to return. The response by the state of Israel has been violent and intense, killing 210 demonstrators and wounding more than 7,400. Although they were blocked from entering Gaza, Abby Martin and Mike Prysner of Empire Files were able to obtain high-quality video footage of the frontlines and interviews of people involved in the weekly actions. We speak with Abby Martin about their new documentary, “Gaza Fights for Freedom,” and the severe conditions under which Palestinians live. Martin and Prysner show the reality that is not portrayed in most media today.

 

Listen here:

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Subscribe to Clearing the FOG on Patreon and receive our bonus show, Thinking it Through, plus Clearing the FOG totes, water bottles and T shirts. Visit Patreon.com/ClearingtheFOG.

And visit the new Popular Resistance Podcast Network at www.PopularResistance.org/prpn/

Guest:

Abby Martin is a journalist and producer from Northern California. In 2009, Martin helped found the citizen journalism website Media Roots. She co-hosts the Media Roots Radio podcast with her brother, Robbie Martin. She is on the board of directors for the Media Freedom Foundation, which manages Project Censored. Martin was the host of Breaking the Set on RT until she left in 2015 to launch the investigative documentary and interview series The Empire Files, originally hosted by Telesur. She produced the new documentary, “Gaza Fights for Freedom” with Mike Prysner.

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New Jersey Tried To Hide The Fact That Newark Is Another Flint

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

Residents of Newark New Jersey learned last year that their water was poisoned with high levels of lead, something the government failed to inform them about even though it knew about it in June 2017. When people learned of the problem, the government first denied it and then tried to blame homeowners and downplayed the severity of the impacts. Then, the city offered half-hearted solutions. We speak with Anthony Diaz, a long time organizer in Newark, who co-founded the Newark Water Coalition. They recently had a successful direct action and won an important victory, but there is still more to do. Diaz explains what is going on and offers advice for others who may face similar struggles.

 

Listen here:

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

Subscribe to Clearing the FOG on Patreon and receive our bonus show, Thinking it Through, plus Clearing the FOG totes, water bottles and T shirts. Visit Patreon.com/ClearingtheFOG.

And visit the new Popular Resistance Podcast Network at www.PopularResistance.org/prpn/

Guest:

Anthony Diaz is co-founder of the Newark Water Coalition. Diaz traces his activist roots back to his teenage years, when he started Science Park High School’s first student union in the University Heights section of Newark. Later, he became involved with Newark’s Black Lives Matter movement and joined a group of other young progressives who called themselves “A Movement of the People.”

In 2018 Diaz ran his first public campaign for city council, representing Newark’s Central Ward. He didn’t win his election bid, but he has remained a dedicated community advocate. With the support of just a few other residents, he founded the Newark Water Coalition in 2018 as a means of raising public awareness about the city’s water crisis and putting pressure on local officials.

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