Latest Event Updates
On The Monitor this week:
- Ali Al-Ahmed on the sentencing to death of a Palestinian poet by Saudi court
- Gareth Porter on the real reason Turkey shot down a Russian jet
More about this week’s guests:
Ali Al-Ahmed is director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, which just released a report on “The Saudi government school in Paris and the content of its schoolbooks that promote terrorism and hatred.”
Background: Reuters reports: “A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a Palestinian poet to death for apostasy, abandoning his Muslim faith, according to trial documents seen by Human Rights Watch, its Middle East researcher Adam Coogle said on Friday. Ashraf Fayadh was detained by the country’s religious police in 2013 in Abha, in southwest Saudi Arabia, and then rearrested and tried in early 2014. Middle East Eye reports: “The exact charges under which Fayadh was initially held were not made clear, although some have suggested that his arrest was linked to his publication of a video showing religious police in Abha beating a young man in public. … Saudi Arabia has put to death nearly 150 people so far this year, the highest figure in two decades. Most people are executed by beheading with a sword, a method Saudi authorities say is more humane than other alternatives.”
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian who specializes in U.S. national security policy. He is the author of several books, including Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, Porter just wrote the piece, “The real reason for Turkey’s shoot-down of the Russian jet,” for Middle East Eye. He has published investigative articles on , the Nation, the American Prospect, Truthout and The Raw Story. His blogs have been published on Huffington Post, Firedoglake, Counterpunch and many other websites. Porter was Saigon bureau chief of Dispatch News Service International in 1971 and later reported on trips to Southeast Asia for The Guardian, Asian Wall Street Journal and Pacific News Service. He is the author of four books on the Vietnam War and the political system of Vietnam. Historian Andrew Bacevich called his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War , published by University of California Press in 2005, without a doubt, the most important contribution to the history of U.S. national security policy to appear in the past decade. He has taught Southeast Asian politics and international studies at American University, City College of New York and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
- Is the intel on ISIS being skewed? What does that mean and how does it happen? We discuss the topic with Peter Van Buren
- What does the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia tell us about the gap between stated goals and actual policies? Beau Grosscup joins us to examine the topic.
Peter’s commentary has been featured in The New York Times, Reuters, Salon, NPR, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, The Nation, TomDispatch, Antiwar.com, American Conservative Magazine, Mother Jones, Michael Moore.com, Le Monde, Japan Times, Asia Times, The Guardian (UK), Daily Kos, Middle East Online, Guernica and others. He has appeared on the BBC World Service, NPR’s All Things Considered and Fresh Air, CurrentTV, HuffPo Live, RT, ITV, Britain’s Channel 4 Viewpoint, Dutch Television, CCTV, Voice of America, and more. His second book, Ghosts of Tom Joad, A Story of the #99Percent (2014) is fiction about the social and economic changes in America between WWII and the decline of the blue collar middle class in the 1980’s. You can read some of his recent work on The Nation website.
Beau Grosscup is author of several books on terrorism including The Newest Explosions of Terrorism and, most recently, Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment. He stresses two points:
“1. Who is funding ISIS: Saudis and other Sunni Gulf states — most of whom, Turkey included, are, other than Israel of course, the U.S. government’s best friends in the Middle East.
“2. The regime change demand for Syria is the same Neocon non-negotiable demand that got us in this place in Iraq and Libya.
“Thus, the best strategy — assuming U.S. wants to diminish the radical (Whabbi) Sunni threat — is to push hard on the Saudis; especially, to stop backing their Yemen War. Of course this could mean threatening a longstanding relationship. But U.S. needs to ask: What price peace? In Syria, U.S. and its allies should stop trying to dictate who rules Syria. The U.S. government has historically worked with the Assad family (same as with Gaddafi in Libya) — why all of a sudden did he have to go? ISIS can only be diminished if they are met with a united front in Syria and Iraq politically as local and international political unity is central to military unity.
Finally, U.S. citizens need to recognize how much the allegedly discredited Neocon strategy of divide and conquer and regime change that dominated Bush/Cheney continue to guide the Obama Administration and are likely to guide the next administration whether GOP or Democrat, especially if current front-runners hold. It is important to stop the failed Neocon stranglehold on U.S. (indeed Western) policy.”
For more background see:
On The Monitor this week we take an extended look at the background of the terror attacks in Paris. What are the historical connections are future implications? Our first interview is withJ. Michael Springman and our second is with Christian Parenti.
More about this week’s guests:
J. Michael Springmann was a career official with both the Commerce and State departments. He was economic/commercial officer in Stuttgart (1977–1980), a commercial attaché in New Delhi (1980–1982), a visa officer in Jeddah (1987–1989), a political/economic officer in Stuttgart (1989–1991), and, finally, an economic analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (1991). He recently published the book Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World.
Quote: “During the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.”
From the book description:
“Thousands of American soldiers and civil servants have lost their lives in the War on Terror. Innocent citizens of many nations, including Americans killed on 9/11, have also paid the ultimate price. While the US government claims to stand against terror, this same government refuses to acknowledge its role in creating what has become a deadly international quagmire. Visas for al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World sets the record straight by laying the blame on high-ranking US government officials.
During the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.
Christian Parenti is author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. He is a professor in the Global Liberal Studies Program at New York University
Quote: “The growing crisis of war and state breakdown in the Middle East is partially driven by climate change. We have to deal with climate change — that is, drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions — or face escalating chaos. Parenti is professor in the global liberal studies program at New York University. He has reported from conflict zones in the Middle East and studies the history of political violence. He said U.S. policies “have repeatedly created failed states” in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. “Trying to overthrow [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad is a very bad idea. Assad is admittedly a dictator who inherited a state from his father but he is doing more than anyone to fight ISIS. Seeking his violent overthrow, as has been U.S. policy, is to court further disaster and a wider swath of misery.”
“This situation then explodes as religious conflict, which is really the fusion of environmental crises with neoliberal economic policies. Of course, the violent spark to all of this is the fact that the entire region is flooded with weapons. Some of these weapons are from the Cold War, and some of those guns are from recent U.S. militarism in the region. There were a lot of vets of the anti-U.S. struggle in Iraq who are Syrian — Mujahideen veterans who went to Iraq and came back to Syria and started to fight. There were Syrians who were selling guns to Iraqi underground groups. These groups were buying their guns back, and re-importing them to Syria.”
On The Monitor this week:
- Mae Ngai on Immigration Reform – how it happened before and how it can happen again
- Paul Paz y Miño on Chevron’s RICO Case – the star witness admits to lying and the case collapses
More about this week’s guests:
Mae M. Ngai, Professor of History and Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies, is a U.S. legal and political historian interested in questions of immigration, citizenship, and nationalism. She is author of the award winning Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2004) and The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America (2010). Ngai has written on immigration history and policy for the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and the Boston Review. Before becoming a historian she was a labor-union organizer and educator in New York City, working for District 65-UAW and the Consortium for Worker Education. She is now working on Yellow and Gold: The Chinese Mining Diaspora, 1848-1908, a study of Chinese gold miners and racial politics in the nineteenth-century California, the Australian colony of Victoria, and the South African Transvaal.
The Nation recently published her piece: “This Is How Immigration Reform Happened 50 Years Ago. It Can Happen Again
“When Johnson signed the Hart-Celler Act, he hailed it as a milestone for civil rights — and, in many ways, it was. The signal achievement of the act was to abolish the noxious quota system, in effect since 1924, which numerically restricted immigration and allocated visas for permanent residents (green cards) according to national origin and race. The quota structure favored immigration from Northern and Western Europe, restricted it from Eastern and Southern Europe, and excluded Asians altogether. The 1965 immigration act got rid of this blatantly racist system and replaced it with one based on individual qualifications, giving preference to those with skills and those with family members in the United States. To further make the system fair, it set a uniform cap on all countries at 7 percent of the annual total.
Moreover, for all its liberal intentions, Hart-Celler was decidedly illiberal in crucial respects: It imposed numerical limits on the countries of the Western Hemisphere, which previously had no such quotas. At the same time, it subjected all countries to the same maximum limit of 20,000 new admissions a year (when Congress raised the overall ceiling by 40 percent in 1990, the country cap went up to just 26,500). Treating Mexico and India ‘equally’ with, say, New Zealand and Belgium reflected the civil-rights era’s emphasis on abstract, formal equality. However, it also guaranteed that a significant portion of Mexican immigration would be unauthorized, because ongoing labor-market demands far exceeded legal avenues for entry.”
Paul Paz y Miño is the Director of Outreach & Online Strategy at AmazonWatch. Paul joined Amazon Watch in 2007. He has an MA in International Affairs from George Washington University. Since 1995, he has volunteered as Colombia Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA and was the Guatemala/Chiapas Program Director at the Seva Foundation for seven years. Paul has lived in Chiapas, Mexico and Quito, Ecuador, promoting human rights and community development and working directly with indigenous communities. Paul is also an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and served on the board of Peace Brigades International USA. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulpaz
For details of the topic of this interview see Chevron’s Star Witness Admits to Lying in the Amazon Pollution Case:
“In March of last year, California-based oil giant Chevron hailed a sweeping victory in a two-decade long legal battle in the Ecuadorean Amazon. A New York federal judge, Lewis Kaplan, ruled that a $9.5 billion Lago Agrio judgment leveled against the company by the small Andean country’s highest court, was obtained by way of fraud and coercion.
In his decision, based on violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the judge found that the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Steven Donziger, committed mail fraud, engaged in coercion, and paid bribes in order to win judgment against Texaco, which Chevron brought in 2001.
The case largely hung on Chevron’s star witness, Alberto Guerra, a former Ecuadorean judge who has admitted to receiving substantial amounts of money and other benefits to cooperate with Chevron. In New York, Guerra testified that he had struck a deal between the plaintiffs and the presiding judge, Nicolas Zambrano: Guerra would ghostwrite the verdict, Zambrano would sign it, and the two would share an alleged $500,000 in kickbacks from the plaintiffs.”
On The Monitor this week:
- Matt Stannard on “postal banking” – what did Bernie Sanders propose and what does it mean?
- Scott Klinger on the CEO-worker retirement gap – CEOs retire with millions in retirement accounts, accounts many of their employees don’t have
More about this week’s guests:
Matt Stannard (@commonomicsUSA) is policy director at Commonomics USA He recently wrote “Postal Banks Are People’s Banks: 6 Things You Need To Know About Postal Banking,” which states: “It’s being called ‘Bernie’s Brilliant Idea,’ and Bernie Sanders’ embrace of postal banking is indeed brilliant, both in timing and substance. But while his insurgent presidential campaign may give a credible boost to USPS financial services, Sanders’ endorsement is far from sufficient. To make postal banking happen requires a broad, mass coalition willing to keep pushing the issue regardless of the outcome of the 2016 elections.
“The demand for postal banking incurs two advantages: It offers working people their own bank at a time when nearly 100 million Americans lack access to affordable financial services, but it also interrupts the relentless attack on the Post Office by conservatives and privatizers. The USPS doesn’t spend taxpayer money, and would run at a profit but for the poisonous provision of the Postal Enhancement and Accountability Act of 2006, which requires it to fund its pensions decades into the future. Postal banking, for extremely low fees and lending rates, would make the USPS financially solvent while providing a ‘public option’ for those unable or unwilling to utilize private banks or expensive alternative services.
“Nations all over the world have postal savings banks, and the United States had a successful postal bank from 1911 to 1967. At one time, as many as 10 percent of Americans used postal banks; unsurprisingly, it was lobbying from big banks that shut the program down by urging Congress to stop allowing postal banks to offer competitive interest rates. The emergence of postal banking as a 2016 electoral issue stems from a campaign that began early last year with a short, persuasive piece written by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who cited a report by the Postal Inspector General recommending that the USPS offer financial services — from check cashing and small loans to financial counseling and bill paying — as both a public service and business opportunity for the U.S. Post Office.”
He said today: “We examined the retirement assets of the Fortune 500 CEOs. … One CEO, David Novak from YUM Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC), has $234 million in his retirement account, yet hundreds of thousands of YUM’s low-wage restaurant workers have no retirement at all.
“All this happens when people are more reliant on Social Security than ever, and the government has just announced no cost-of-living increases for retirees next year. …
“The CEOs’ extraordinary nest eggs are not the result of extraordinary performance. They are the result of rules intentionally tipped to reward those already on the highest rungs of the ladder.”
The report revealed that “Fortune 500 CEOs have $3.2 billion in special tax-deferred compensation accounts that are exempt from the annual contribution limits imposed on ordinary 401(k)s. In 2014, these CEOs saved $78 million on their tax bills by putting $197 million more in these tax-deferred accounts than they could have if they were subject to the same rules as other workers. These special accounts grow tax-free until the executives retire and begin to withdraw the funds.
It also found that “the ten largest CEO retirement funds — all held by white males — add up to $1.4 billion, compared to $280 million for the 10 largest held by female CEOs, and $196 million for the 10 largest held by CEOs who are people of color. Among ordinary Americans, 62 percent of working age African-Americans and 69 percent of Latinos have no retirement savings, compared to just 37 percent of white workers.”
On The Monitor this week:
- Stephen Zunes on a multitude of Israel-Palestine issues, including Netenyahu’s latest statements, the House Foreign Affairs Committee claiming that Abbas was encouraging Palestinian attacks against Israelis, the positions of Hillary and Sanders on Israel, and the BDS campaign
- Diana Roark on information classification and the Benghazi “scandal” – what is the real scandal and what is at stake?
More about this week’s guests:
Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized as one the country’s leading scholars of U.S. Middle East policy and of strategic nonviolent action, Professor Zunes serves as a senior policy analyst for the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies, an associate editor of Peace Review, a contributing editor of Tikkun, and co-chair of the academic advisory committee for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.
He is the author of scores of articles for scholarly and general readership on Middle Eastern politics, U.S. foreign policy, international terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, strategic nonviolent action, and human rights. He is the principal editor of Nonviolent Social Movements (Blackwell Publishers, 1999), the author of the highly-acclaimed Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003) and co-author (with Jacob Mundy) of Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution (Syracuse University Press, 2010.)
Stephen writes about Middle East-related topics frequently. He has also been discussing Hillary in his writings for several years. Here is an article from 2007 – Hillary Clinton on International Law: When it comes to human rights around the world, Hillary Clinton is little more than Bush Lite.
Diana Roark retired in 2002 after 17 years on the professional staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and previously served on the National Security Council Staff, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and in the Intelligence section of the International division of the Department of Energy.
She just wrote the piece “Classified Politics: A System and a Clinton in Disrepute,” which states: “The system for classifying intelligence and other national security documents is broken in major respects. Increasingly, it is also manipulated to punish perceived critics or to protect agency reputations and high officials, both from adverse publicity and in the courts. Hillary Clinton’s use of a private rather than State Department email service illustrates many of these issues. Her experience stands in stark contrast to treatment of national security whistleblowers, as illustrated in particular by variance in NSA (National Security Agency) communications intelligence policies.”
On The Monitor this week:
- Follow up with Joe Lauria on Obama and Putin – this time with more Ukraine
- Junaid Ahmad on the continuing instability of Afghanistan and the ongoing U.S. presence there
More about this week’s guests:
Joe Lauria is an international affairs correspondent specializing in the United Nations, Lauria just wrote the piece “Obama’s Self-Deceit” for . Lauria writes: “There was stunned silence in the General Assembly Hall on Monday as U.S. President Barack Obama warned leaders against falling back to pre-United Nations days, in which strong nations imposed their will by force against the weak. There was apparent disbelief as he said it was Russia and China that wanted a ‘return to the rules that applied for most of human history and that pre-date this institution.’ …
“The silence in the chamber came because everything Obama ascribed to others perfectly describes U.S. behavior from the end of the Second World War until today. …
“Yet Obama on Monday was blaming Russia and China for the mess Washington has created, saying, ‘We see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law.’ Obama cited Russia’s ‘annexation’ of Crimea and ‘further aggression’ in Eastern Ukraine.“He didn’t mention the documented U.S. orchestrated coup against a democratically-elected president in Kiev, which eastern Ukrainians have resisted. …
“At heart is either Obama’s willful ignorance of Ukraine, a clumsy attempt at disinformation, or as Vladimir Putin suggested in his U.N. speech a half hour later, a big measure of self-deception.
“Obama said Ukrainians favor the West. That may be true of most western Ukrainians but not the whole country. Then, he said the U.S. has ‘few economic interests’ in Ukraine. That’s woefully ignorant or a blatant lie. Monsanto has a big interest. Then there’s Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and a John Kerry family friend joining the board of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s largest private gas producer, just after the coup.
“And the country’s finance minister is an American, Natalie Jaresko, who was given Ukrainian citizenship on the day she began the job. Why put an American government official in charge of the treasury of a foreign country? …
“On Syria, Obama (and his junior partners in Europe) insist that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office, as though that would make ISIS lay down its arms. …
“Putin argues that Assad’s military is the most effective ground force (along with the Kurds) against the monstrous group and that all nations who want ISIS defeated should work with Assad. …
“‘The Islamic State itself did not come out of nowhere,’ Putin told the Assembly. ‘It was initially developed as a weapon against undesirable secular regimes.’ …”
The AP reports: “The head of an international medical charity whose hospital in northern Afghanistan was destroyed in a U.S. airstrike says the ‘extensive, quite precise destruction’ of the bombing raid casts doubt on American military assertions that it was a mistake.”
Huffington Post reports: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Sunday that he supports President Barack Obama’s decision to keep troops in Afghanistan, prolonging the war beyond 2016. … Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton also said Friday that she thought Obama had made ‘the right decision.'”
Quote: “President Obama’s decision to rescind his earlier pronouncement of withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan must be interpreted as an admission to the great scandal of the ‘global war on terrorism’: Western violence has only increased violence and instability, not ended or reduced it. While he continues to ridiculously invoke the insignificant Al Qaeda threat as the main pretext for the ongoing U.S. presence in Afghanistan, President Obama is in fact deflecting attention attention from what’s really going on: multiplying Taliban and resistance factions emerging and militarily humiliating the puppet Afghan security forces, as well as the rapid and widespread rise of ISIS in the country. The U.S./NATO Occupation, now almost a decade and a half after the invasion of 2001, is directly responsible for creating the conditions that have produced these dangerous forces.
“While what’s really needed to solve Afghanistan’s problems and endemic violence are political negotiations involving all of the regional countries and the factions they support, Washington continues to prioritize its bitter rivalry with those countries — such as Iran, Russia, and China — and hence is only interested in continuing to project its arrogant power, regardless of the cost to the Afghan people.”