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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.

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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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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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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.

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:

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.

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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:

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:

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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Climate Activists Are Building Power, Declare We Have An Emergency

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

Wildfires are raging around the world, creating a negative feedback loop for the climate by releasing greenhouse gases and destroying the forests’ capacity to sequester carbon. The United States is on track to be the biggest producer of oil and gas in the 2020’s. According to Global Witness, seven of the top ten producers of new fossil fuels are states in the US, with Texas producing nearly four times more than Canada and almost ten times more than Russia. Democratic Party leadership is preventing a presidential debate on climate and is suppressing efforts to develop a Green New Deal. Scientists say that we don’t have any time left to take action on the climate. We should have made changes decades ago. In response, climate activism is escalating. We speak with Greg Schwedock of the Extinction Rebellion in New York City about actions being planned this fall and the current political environment.

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:

Gregory Schwedock is a climate activist and local organizer with the Extinction Rebellion in New York City. He worked for the Climate Mobilization and founded Meatlessly.org.

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Hong Kong Protests And The Shifting Global Power Dynamics

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

Protests have been escalating in Hong Kong this year with tens of thousands of people taking the streets and aggressive actions such as occupying the airport and attacking journalists. What started in April as opposition to an extradition law has erupted into a ‘pro-democracy’ and racist anti-China movement that is supported by the US corporate media and members of Congress. It has the markings of a color revolution. We speak with author and activist K. J. Noh about the protests – who is behind them and what they want – and about Hong Kong’s relationship to China. He describes the ways that China differs from traditional western politics and development. As China rises, it is critical to understand these differences and how they impact the shifting global power dynamics.

Listen here:

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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:

K. J. Noh is a peace activist and scholar on the geopolitics of the Asian continent who writes for Counterpunch and Dissident Voice. He is special correspondent for KPFA Flashpoints on the “Pivot to Asia,” the Koreas, and the Pacific.

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The Hawaiian Kingdom Still Reigns: Alleged Statehood Is Illegal

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

In a textbook United States regime change operation, wealthy businessmen manufactured a revolution in Hawai’i and executed a coup d’état in 1893. The Queen of the Hawai’ian Kingdom surrendered the administration of the country, but never its sovereignty. A Hawai’ian Kingdom government continues to operate to this day and is working to regain its sovereignty. We speak with Hawai’ian Kingdom Foreign Minister Leon Siu about the story of Hawai’i’s struggle for independence and the broken promises of the US government over the past century. This struggle is escalating through the current protests at Mauna Kea and has big plans in store this fall. We discuss where people in the US can learn more and how to support the Hawai’ian independence movement.

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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:

H.E. Leon Kaulahao Siu is the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Ke Aupuni Ko Hawaii Pae Aina — the Kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands
— and has served in that capacity since the year 2000. Mr. Siu has been involved since the mid 1990s with the reactivation of the lawful Hawaiian Kingdom as an independent nation-state. In 1997 he was appointed the Deputy the Minister of Foreign Affairs by the Privy Council of Ke Aupuni O Hawaii and became the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2000.

His duties are to revive, develop, nurture and advance diplomatic, trade and other forms of friendly relations with sovereign states and international bodies.

He was nominated in 2016 for the Nobel Peace Prize — the only Hawaiian to have had that distinction.

Mr. Siu participates in numerous international fora concerning human rights and the rights of original peoples and nations, particularly with regard to self-determination in governance, economic development, human rights, maintaining sovereign and cultural integrity, and so forth. He has advocated these matters before the UN Human Rights Committee, Human Rights Council, Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, World Intellectual Properties Organization, and others.

He has also led the reentry of the Hawaiian Islands into crucial discussions on global sustainability. He participated in the Marshall Islands conference on climate change at Columbia University, and attended and contributed to regional discussions on sustainable development in the Pacific conducted by the Melanesian Spearhead Group, the Pacific Islands Development Forum and the Pacific Islands Forum.

Minister Siu is the current chair of the Decolonization Alliance a coalition of original nations and supporting organizations working to improve the UN’s decolonization process in order to provide the opportunity for self-governance to original peoples and nations. Minister Siu was nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for his collaborative work in espousing the legal basis for independence for West Papua. He was also a recipient of the Decree of Consecration Diploma and Gold Medal UN Peacemaker Sergio Vieira de Mello award from the International Parliament in 2017. In 2015 he was awarded the Knights Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Kamehameha. Minister Siu is the co-author of the book, Modus Vivendi Situation of West Papua (2017) the seminal analysis of the West Papua situation under international law.

Mr. Siu attended the University of Hawaii, majoring in fine arts and minoring in history. He has an illustrious career as a musician, composer, recording artist and a pioneer producer of multi-arts, multi-media projects using cutting edge technology.

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