Korea | Iraq | USA

Kim Jong-un has committed to denuclearisation, says South Korea (Guardian)

South Korea’s foreign minister has said that North Korea’s leader has “given his word” that he is committed to denuclearization, a prime condition for a potential summit with President Donald Trump in May…
South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha said Seoul has asked the North “to indicate in clear terms the commitment to denuclearization” and she says Kim’s “conveyed that commitment.”

Medea Benjamin, Nicolas J. S. Davies: The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion (CounterPunch)

March 19 marks 15 years since the U.S.-U.K invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the American people have no idea of the enormity of the calamity the invasion unleashed. The US military has refused to keep a tally of Iraqi deaths. General Tommy Franks, the man in charge of the initial invasion, bluntly told reporters, “We don’t do body counts.” One survey found that most Americans thought Iraqi deaths were in the tens of thousands. But our calculations, using the best information available, show a catastrophic estimate of 2.4 million Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion.

Masha Gessen: The Fundamental Uncertainty of Mueller’s Russia Indictments (New Yorker)

On Friday, the special counsel Robert Mueller filed an indictment of thirteen Russians, for meddling with the 2016 election. Over the long weekend, four ways of interpreting the document solidified. The White House focussed on a statement by the deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who said the indictment contains no allegation that any American knowingly colluded with the Russian effort. President Trump tweeted, “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow.” Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice-president for ads, took to Twitter to assert that the primary purpose of Russian meddling was to “divide America,” not to influence the election. Meanwhile, most of the legacy media interpreted the indictment as a major blow to Trump, who, they write, can no longer dismiss the allegations of Russian meddling as a hoax. Here is the bad news: all of this is true at the same time.
It is true that the indictment tells us nothing about connections between the Russian efforts and the Trump campaign, and the Trump victory. It is also true that Moscow is laughing, at least in part because the Kremlin had no grand plan to elect Trump.

Wikileaks | Israel | Syria

A travesty of justice in the 51st state of Amerikkka:
Owen Bowcott, Ewen MacAskill: Sweden tried to drop Assange extradition in 2013, CPS emails show (Guardian)

Swedish prosecutors attempted to drop extradition proceedings against Julian Assange as early as 2013, according to a confidential exchange of emails with the Crown Prosecution Service seen by the Guardian.
The sequence of messages also appears to challenge statements by the CPS that the case was not live at the time emails were deleted by prosecutors, according to supporters of the WikiLeaks founder…
The newly-released emails show that the Swedish authorities were eager to give up the case four years before they formally abandoned proceedings in 2017 and that the CPS dissuaded them from doing so…
The CPS lawyer handling the case, who has since retired, commented on an article which suggested that Sweden could drop the case in August 2012. He wrote: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”.

Jonathan Cook: The UK’s Hidden Hand in Julian Assange’s Detention (CounterPunch)

It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary. In fact, they depended on a legal charade.
Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case…
In fact, Assange should have walked free years ago if this was really about an investigation – a sham one at that – into an alleged sexual assault in Sweden. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the US, where he could be locked away for good. That was why UN experts argued two years ago that he was being “arbitrarily detained” – for political crimes – not unlike the situation of dissidents in other parts of the world that win the support of western liberals and leftists…
Now the UK (read US) authorities have a new, even less credible pretext for continuing to hold Assange: because he “skipped bail”. Apparently the price he should pay for this relatively minor infraction is more than five years of confinement…
One has to wonder at what point will most people realise that this is – and always was – political persecution masquerading as law enforcement.

Nadia Khomami: Julian Assange asks UK court to drop arrest warrant (Guardian)

Though Swedish prosecutors have dropped the investigation against him, Assange will be arrested if he leaves the building in Knightsbridge for breaching his former bail conditions in the UK.

Nadia Khomami: Judge refuses to withdraw Julian Assange arrest warrant (Guardian)

Handing down her judgment at Westminster magistrates court, the senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot said she was not persuaded by the argument from Assange’s legal team that it was not in the public interest to pursue him for skipping bail.
She said: “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years…
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said before Tuesday’s hearing that the US government had made clear its intention to bring a prosecution against WikiLeaks.
“The UK FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] refuses to confirm or deny whether there is an extradition request for Mr Assange,” she said. “In our recent FoI challenge against the CPS […] the CPS refused to disclose certain material because it would ‘tip off’ Mr Assange about a possible US extradition request. It is time to acknowledge what the real issue is and has always been in this case: the risk of extradition to the US.”

Haggai Matar: A downed F-16 and an Iranian drone: The other side always started it (+972)

According to the Israeli narrative, the timeline of violence that resulted in Syria shooting down an Israeli fighter jet began just a few hours earlier. But Israel has been bombing inside Syria for months.

Joshua Leifer: Not just Ahed: Israel holding 300 Palestinian minors in prison (+972)

While the case of Ahed Tamimi has garnered international media attention, the Israeli military prison system’s treatment of Ahed and her mother is not unique. Israel Prison Service (IPS) statistics published by Israeli anti-occupation organization B’Tselem earlier in January reveal that Israel is holding over 300 Palestinian minors in prison. Over 180 of those minors are being held in detention until the end of legal proceedings, without having been convicted, like Tamimi.
According to IPS data handed over to B’Tselem, as of the end of November 2017 there were 5,881 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, of whom 1,775 were being detained until the conclusion of legal proceedings. Over 400 were administrative detainees, including three women and two minors (aged 16 and 18). Administrative detention is a measure Israel uses to detain Palestinians (and some Jews) indefinitely without charge or trial. It is meant to be adopted rarely and with moderation. In practice, however, Israel uses administrative detention as a first, not last, resort.
In total, 2,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails without having been convicted of any crime.

Ayelet Shaked: Israel must safeguard Jewish majority (AlJazeera)

Israel must safeguard a Jewish majority even at the expense of human rights, the country’s justice minister has said in a speech defending a bill that would legally define Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people” for the first time.
Ayelet Shaked said on Monday that Israel must maintain both a Jewish majority and democracy, but stressed that keeping the state’s Jewish character may come “at the price” of human rights violations…
The bill states that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”.
It also demotes Arabic from an official language to a language with “special status”, even though it is the mother tongue of approximately 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of the state.

Africa | Israel

Patrick Bond: New Evidence of Africa’s Systematic Looting, From an Increasingly Schizophrenic World Bank (CounterPunch)

A brand new World Bank report, The Changing Wealth of Nations 2018, offers evidence of how much poorer Africa is becoming thanks to rampant minerals, oil and gas extraction. Yet Bank policies and practices remain oriented to enforcing foreign loan repayments and transnational corporate (TNC) profit repatriation, thus maintaining the looting.
Central to its “natural capital accounting,” the Bank uses an “Adjusted Net Savings” (ANS) measure for changes in economic, ecological and educational wealth…
In its latest world survey (with 1990-2015 data), the Bank concludes that Sub-Saharan Africa loses roughly $100 billion of ANS annually because it is “the only region with periods of negative levels – averaging negative 3 percent of GNI over the past decade – suggesting that its development policies are not yet sufficiently promoting sustainable economic growth… Clearly, natural resource depletion is one of the key drivers of negative ANS in the region.”

Robert Mackey: Palestinian Legislators Bundled Out of Israeli Parliament for Protesting Mike Pence (Intercept)

More than a dozen Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, were ejected from the chamber for protesting a speech by Vice President Mike Pence on Monday.
The legislators, who represent Palestinians living inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, stood at the start of Pence’s address and held up signs with the slogan “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” over an image of a mosque and a church in the city. The placards signaled dissent from the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there next year, despite international consensus that the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 was illegal…
The spectacle struck the visiting American correspondent Andrea Mitchell as out of tune with Israel’s boast about being the region’s only true democracy. “Can you imagine,” she wrote on Twitter, “Capitol Police dragging members of the Congressional Black Caucus off the House floor?

Odeh Bisharat: With Pence Visiting, It Took 10 Seconds and the Knesset Was Empty of Arabs (Haaretz)

Even the Israeli president tossed statesmanship aside and enthusiastically applauded the disgraceful scene… MK Dov Henin, noting the significance of the brutal event, wrote on Twitter: “The removal of an entire faction from a Knesset session is an unprecedented move. Apparently they want to show what democracy really looks like in Israel.” Aside from Henin, not a single Jewish MK was willing to identify with the Arab MKs and say – I cast my lot with you, my Arab brothers.

Glenn Greenwald: In a Major Free Speech Victory, a Federal Court Strikes Down a Law that Punishes Supporters of Israel Boycott (Intercept)


Gavan McCormack: North Korea and a Rules-Based Order for the Indo-Pacific, East Asia, and the World (Japan Focus)

Two main sets of proposals now rest on global tables: that by the US and its allies, notably Japan and Australia, demanding North Korean submission as precondition for any negotiation, and the call for freeze and negotiations, such as proposed by China and Russia and supported by other states such as Germany and France and by prominent US figures such as former Defense Secretary William Perry.
As China’s Foreign Minister put it in May 2017, the latter proposal entails

“that, as a first step, the DPRK suspend its missile and nuclear activities in exchange for a halting of large-scale US-ROK military exercises. This ‘double suspension’ approach can help us break out of the security dilemma and bring the parties back to the table.”

North Korea for at least the past several decades has sought talks on resolving its highly abnormal situation. What it wants, according to Jimmy Carter, ex-president and presidential envoy who negotiated a way through the crisis of 1994, is a peace treaty with the United States and an end to economic sanctions…
The stance of the US and its allies in threatening, denouncing, and refusing to negotiate is patently illegal and criminal…
In a remarkable 6-7 September 2017 meeting that passed almost unnoticed in the Western and Japanese media, the two Koreas (South and North), Japan, Russia and China met at Vladivostok under the auspices of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), a relatively new (established in 2015) Russian initiative to promote the development of its Eastern zone. The five states (absent only the United States) of the Beijing Six Party Conference proceeded in low key, consensual mode, to endorse (or in the case of North Korea at least “not oppose”) what has been called the Putin plan. It dealt essentially with economic cooperation, railways and pipelines, but its implications are far from mundane.
The Vladivostok parties looked to open multiple lines of cooperation and communication across North Korea, extending Siberian oil and gas pipelines to the two Koreas and Japan and opening railways and ports linking them across Siberia to China, the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. South Korea’s President Moon projected his understanding of this within the frame of what he called “Northeast Asia-plus,” which involved construction of “nine bridges of cooperation” (gas, railroads, ports, electricity, a northern sea route, shipbuilding, jobs, agriculture, and fisheries), embedding the Korean peninsula in the frame of the Russian and Chinese-led BRICS, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Shanghai Cooperation Organiziation (SCO) organizations, extending and consolidating those vast, China- and Russia-centred geo-political and economic groupings.

Joseph Essertier: North Korea: The Deafening Silence around the Moon-Putin Plan (CounterPunch)

As the world hurtles ever closer to war in Asia, there is an Alice-in-Wonderland media narrative that has North Korea as the aggressor that must be controlled and punished at all costs. And in the face of that narrative, the deafening silence of intellectuals is starting to bear a remarkable resemblance to appeasement…
One could be forgiven for not having heard of it since it disrupts the standard “North-Korea-Problem” narrative, but there is a realistic solution to the crisis that liberal and progressive appeasers are keeping silent about. This is the Moon-Putin Plan unveiled in September in Vladivostok. President Moon outlined it as nine “bridges” of cooperation linking South Korea to Russia via North Korea—“gas, railroads, ports, electricity, a northern sea route, shipbuilding, jobs, agriculture, and fisheries.” Siberian oil and gas pipelines would be extended to Korea, both North and South, as well as to Japan. Both Koreas would be linked up with the vast rail networks of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, including high-speed rail, and the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes the Trans-Siberian Railway. In the words of Gavan McCormack, “North Korea would accept the security guarantee of the five (Japan included), refrain from any further nuclear or missile testing, shelve (‘freeze’) its existing programs and gain its longed for ‘normalization’ in the form of incorporation in regional groupings, the lifting of sanctions and normalized relations with its neighbour states, without surrender.” This Moon-Putin Plan has the potential to satisfy all the states involved, possibly even the US. One would think, “Done deal. Problem solved.” Yet mainstream journalists in Japan and English-speaking countries have largely ignored it, and even very few non-mainstream journalists have covered it.

Bruce Cumings, Nermeen Shaykh, Amy Goodman: North and South Korean Leaders Agree to Direct Negotiations as Trump Provokes Kim Jong-un on Twitter (Democracy Now)

[T]he tone of Kim Jong-un’s statement … was very conciliatory toward the South and was followed up by a high official who was even more conciliatory, talking about North Korea’s hopes for the South Korean Winter Olympics going well. And, of course, Kim Jong-un offered to send a delegation to the Olympics…
And secondly, he said something that North Korean officials have been saying for the last six months without a lot of attention. And that is words to the effect that their nuclear program is nearly completed, which would mean they don’t have to test so much…
[T]he Trump administration was very opposed to President Moon Jae-in of South Korea’s proposals for talks… [T]he Trump administration position is that there can be no talks until North Korea commits to denuclearization…
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Tuesday …: “We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea. We consider this to be a very reckless regime. We don’t think we need a Band-Aid, and we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture. We think that we need to have them stop nuclear weapons, and they need to stop it now. So, North Korea can talk with anyone they want, but the U.S. is not going to recognize it or acknowledge it, until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have.”

Wada Haruki: The US-North Korean Crisis and Japan’s Responsibility (Japan Focus)
Andrew Salmon: South, North Korea to talk after military drills postponed (Asia Times)

North Korea has agreed to South Korea’s proposal for “high-level” inter-Korean talks at the truce village of Panmunjeom next Tuesday, Jan. 9, as a series of rapid rapprochement moves ahead of the Winter Olympics gain momentum.
The North Korean acceptance was delivered early Friday, the morning after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump agreed, during a late-night (Korea-time) phone call Thursday to suspend military exercises during the Winter Olympics, set for Pyeonchang, South Korea, in February.

Andrew Salmon: North Korea offers ‘gift’ as inter-Korean talks start in DMZ (Asia Times)

The discussions are the first high-level negotiations between the Koreas since 2015, and the first of South Korea’s Moon Jae-in administration, which took power in May 2017.
The talks follow North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s customary New Year’s message, during which he said that his state would “mass-produce” nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, but also offered a surprise olive branch – suggesting immediate inter-Korean talks, and wishing the South a successful Olympics.

Iran | Honduras | South Africa | USA

Patrick Cockburn: What’s Driving Iran’s Protests? (CounterPunch)

Iran is seeing its most widespread protest demonstrations since 2009. They are still gaining momentum and some 15 people are reported to have been killed, though the circumstances in which they died remains unclear. The motive for the protests is primarily economic, but many slogans are political and some directly attack clerical rule in Iran which was introduced with the overthrow of the Shah in 1979.

Vijay Prashad: What the Protests in Iran Are Really About (AlterNet)

Trump and Netanyahu are trying to take credit, but this movement is all about the people…
This is unlike the Green Movement of 2009, when Tehran’s reform-minded citizens came onto the streets angry with what they saw as a stolen election. It is unlike the student uprisings of 1999, again centered in Tehran, when students protested over the closure of the reform newspaper Salam.
Those were protests of a rising middle-class, throttled by social sanctions and by political limitations. Their protests culminated in the election of President Hassan Rouhani, who is the current standard bearer of their hopes…
The current wave of protests is characterized not so much by a desire for an expanded political system, the terms of previous ‘reform’ protests. This is an upsurge against the privations in Iran – unemployment, deprivation and hopelessness. The sharpness of the slogans – even against the Supreme Leader of the country – indicates the level of anger at the failure of the Islamic Republic to deliver the basic needs of a growing and youthful population…
[I]n the city of Mashhad, where the protests began, the Astan-e Quds Razavi, Iran’s largest endowment, a foundation that controls a shrine in the city, owns 43% of the land in the city and has an income near $150 million per year. In the 2017 presidential election, Ibrahim Raisi, the candidate of the Supreme Leader Khamenei and head of Astan-e Quds Razavi, openly said that Khamenei had allowed the endowment not to pay taxes. This rattled a population that saw these institutions as sponges on a state that had turned its back on ordinary Iranians…
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets. But tens of thousands more followed to defend the Islamic Republic. These are tense times for Iran. It is clear that the government is going to have to accede to the pressure from this working-class uprising. It is not enough to describe the protestors as foreign agents. Even if Trump and Netanyahu, the monarchists and the Mujahideen Khalq try to take credit for the uprising, they are not in charge. The well of Iranian patriotism is deep. The Iranians will not take their orders from the White House. But neither will they sit quietly as their lives fall apart before their eyes.

Murtaza Hussein: Protests in Iran took many by surprise — but not Iranian labor activists (Intercept)
Brandon Turbeville: What Is Happening in Iran? Is Another “Color Revolution” Underway? (GlobalResearch)
Reza Fiyouzat: Iran and the Left: a Dissenting View (CounterPunch)

Allan Nairn: U.S. spent weeks pressuring Honduras opposition to end protests against election fraud (Intecept)

[T]he U.S. congratulated Juan Orlando Hernández on what it said was his re-election as president of Honduras. The U.S. State Department’s congratulations to Hernández came a month into a standoff between the government and the opposition over the vote tally, and five days after the Honduran electoral commission, which is controlled by Hernández-installed allies, declared him the winner.
The State Department message came amid continuing vote-fraud allegations by the opposition, journalists, and foreign observers. The Organization of American States had announced on December 17 that the purported victory was “impossible” to verify, and called for a new, clean election.

Amy Goodman, Allan Nairn: United States Tries—But Fails—to Stop to Stop Hondurans from Protesting Election Fraud (Democracy Now)
Danielle Marie Mackey: The election fraud in Honduras follows decades of corruption funded by the U.S. war on drugs (Intercept)

Irvin Jim: NUMSA New Year Statement: A clarion call to build a Revolutionary Workers Party! (Dawn)

The recent leadership changes that have resulted in the Deputy President of the country Cyril Ramaphosa ascending to the presidency of the ANC is not a reason to celebrate, particularly for the working class. NUMSA refused to endorse one faction of the ANC over another. We have always known that regardless of who emerged the winner, the governing party will continue to pursue backward, right wing, neo-liberal macro-economic policies which are hurtful to the working class and the poor.
For the last two decades, the ANC government has waged an all-out assault on the African working class in order to defend White Monopoly Capital… These policies have resulted in massive job losses and long-term mass unemployment. They have created a society of extreme inequality. The majority suffer as they did under Apartheid, living crammed together with cockroaches and rats in townships and shacks, without sanitation, water and electricity.
NUMSA shares SAFTU’s view that “Cyril Ramaphosa is a deeply compromised capitalist billionaire, with hands stained with the blood of the 34 victims of Marikana who were shot in cold blood by the state to shield White Monopoly capital in general and Lonmin in particular”.

Philip Bump: There’s still little evidence that Russia’s 2016 social media efforts did much of anything (Washington Post)

[W]hat we actually know about the Russian activity on Facebook and Twitter: It was often modest, heavily dissociated from the campaign itself and minute in the context of election social media efforts…
A little-noticed statement from Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, detailed how unsophisticated the Russian ad targeting actually was in the context of the election. Among the points he made:

  • Maryland was targeted by nearly five times as many ads as was Wisconsin (262 to 55).
  • Thirty-five of the 55 ads targeting Wisconsin ran during the primary.
  • More ads targeted DC than Pennsylvania.
  • A total of $1,979 was spent in Wisconsin — $1,925 of it in the primary.
  • The spending in Michigan and Pennsylvania were $823 and $300, respectively.
  • More of the geographically targeted ads ran in 2015 than in 2016…

Just before Election Day in 2016, Twitter announced 1 billion tweets had been sent from August 2015 through that point. Even assuming all 202,000 of those tweets from the Russian accounts were in that period, it means they constituted 0.02 percent of the election-related tweets…
As it stands, the public evidence doesn’t support the idea that the Russians executed a savvy electoral strategy on social media to ensure Trump’s victory. In fact, it seems less the case that they did so now than seemed might be possible back in July.

Rober Harris: The Real Problem With US Elections Isn’t Russia (CounterPunch)

It’s over a year since the presidential elections. Yet some folks seem ever more obsessed about possible Russian influence; what with revelations of Moscow gold spent on Facebook ads for clickbait showing adorable puppies and the outing of alleged Kremlin operative Jill Stein. With the hindsight of history, we can now look back at what some Democrats have called the crime of the century and see how it could have been averted.
What a crime it was! After all, the US is the one that is supposed to have a monopoly on “democracy promotion” in other countries. Our government most recently endorsed the fraudulent re-election of the incumbent in Honduras, who was a product of a coup backed by the Obama administration. And let us not forget Bill Clinton’s well timed loan to good ole Boris Yeltsin in Russia. The WTO should fine Russia for unfair practices and infringement on the US concession…
[T]he most outstanding fact of that election and of elections in the US in general is that close to half of the adult population doesn’t vote. Only 55% of the electorate cast ballots in the hotly contested 2016 presidential race, and that was considered a great achievement. Compared to other developed nations, the US is among the ones with the lowest voter turnouts…and for good reasons besides the unpalatability of the proffered candidates…
What if everyone voted? The answer is that our politics would look very different than what we have now. For this deep reason, the two-party duopoly wants to keep voter participation low for fear the populace would make the wrong choices.

Glenn Greenwald: Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments (Intercept)

Catalonia | China | USA

Thomas S. Harrington: Big Media on Last Thursday’s Vote in Catalonia: “Never Mind” (CounterPunch)

[T]he Spanish government repeatedly issued threats of violence against the Catalanists in the lead up to their Declaration of Independence on October 27th. And since their coup against that legally-elected government, effected during the first week of November, central government officials have crowed unabashedly about the positive effects of their campaign of violence and intimidation[.]
An example of the first case mentioned came on October 7th when Pablo Casado, an official spokesman for the ruling Popular Party, obliquely threatened Catalan president Puigdemont with death by evoking how the last Catalan president to declare independence from Spain, Lluis Companys, was shot by a Francoist firing squad.
An example of the second case came on December 16th when Soraya Saenz de Santamaría, the Vice President of the current Spanish government (and widely acknowledged to be the brain of the cabinet) bragged, complete with repugnant Clintonian body language, about having “decapitated” and “liquidated” Catalan nationalism through the forceful takedown of the Catalan government.
Not to be outdone, the putatively leftist former Spanish Socialist cabinet member and candidate for Prime Minister, José Borrell, spoke on the same day about the need to “disinfect” Catalonia and its media of their independentists…
1) If the majority of Catalans are … unionists, why was this faction unable to come anywhere close to a majority in the 2015 plebiscitary elections?
2) If the majority of Catalans are, as you repeatedly claim, unionists, what could you possibly have to fear with letting the October 1st referendum go ahead unimpeded? …
Despite all the central government’s attempts to rig them in favor of the unionist parties, the independentists in fact added to the number of seats they control in the Catalan parliament, thus holding on to the absolute majority they had before the central state’s armed coup against them.

Pepe Escobar: China plans to break petrodollar stranglehold (Asia Times)

Petrodollars have dominated the global energy markets for more than 40 years. But now, China is looking to change that by replacing the word dollars for yuan.
Nations, of course, have tried this before since the system was set up by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in tandem with the House of Saud back in 1974
Vast populations across the Middle East and Northern Africa quickly felt the consequences when Iraq’s Saddam Hussein decided to sell oil in euros. Then there was Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi’s pan-African gold dinar blueprint, which failed to create a splash in an oil barrel.
Fast forward 25 years and China is making a move to break the United States petrodollar stranglehold. The plan is to set up oil-futures trading in the yuan, which will be fully convertible into gold on the Shanghai and Hong Kong foreign exchange markets.

Statement on Visit to the USA, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner)

  • By most indicators, the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined.
  • US health care expenditures per capita are double the OECD average and much higher than in all other countries. But there are many fewer doctors and hospital beds per person than the OECD average.
  • US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.
  • Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the U.S. and its peer countries continues to grow.
  • U.S. inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries
  • Neglected tropical diseases, including Zika, are increasingly common in the USA. It has been estimated that 12 million Americans live with a neglected parasitic infection. A 2017 report documents the prevalence of hookworm in Lowndes County, Alabama.
  • The US has the highest prevalence of obesity in the developed world.
  • In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.
  • America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, ahead of Turkmenistan, El Salvador, Cuba, Thailand and the Russian Federation. Its rate is nearly 5 times the OECD average.
  • The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.
  • The Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty ranks the most well-off countries in terms of labor markets, poverty, safety net, wealth inequality, and economic mobility. The US comes in last of the top 10 most well-off countries, and 18th amongst the top 21.
  • In the OECD the US ranks 35th out of 37 in terms of poverty and inequality.
  • According to the World Income Inequality Database, the US has the highest Gini rate (measuring inequality) of all Western Countries
  • The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality characterizes the US as “a clear and constant outlier in the child poverty league.” US child poverty rates are the highest amongst the six richest countries – Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Norway.
  • About 55.7% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. In the OECD, the U.S. placed 28th in voter turnout, compared with an OECD average of 75%. Registered voters represent a much smaller share of potential voters in the U.S. than just about any other OECD country. Only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population (and 70% of voting-age citizens) was registered in 2016, compared with 91% in Canada (2015) and the UK (2016), 96% in Sweden (2014), and nearly 99% in Japan (2014).

Ed Pilkington: A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America (Guardian)

The UN’s Philip Alston is an expert on deprivation – and he wants to know why 41m Americans are living in poverty…
Of those, nine million have zero cash income – they do not receive a cent in sustenance…
Black people are 13% of the US population, but 23% of those officially in poverty and 39% of the homeless.
[Puerto Rico] has twice the proportion of people in poverty (44%) than the lowliest US state, including Alabama (19%). And that was before the hurricane, which some estimates suggest has pushed the poverty rate up to 60%.

And yet the Democracts have other problems:

Nicholas Fandos: Senate Investigators Scrutinize Another Presidential Candidate: Jill Stein (New York Times)
Danielle Ryan: McCarthy-style targeting of Jill Stein proves Democrats have truly lost the plot (RT)
Socialist Equality Party: Democratic Party witch-hunters target Green Party candidate Jill Stein (WSWS)

Catalonia | Jerusalem | Myanmar | Zimbabwe

The post-fascist government in Madrid dissolved the Catalan parliament and jailed Catalan leaders, a speaker of the ruling conservative party suggested that the Catalan president Puigdemont could or should be executed, but once again, the people of Catalonia voted for independence. Maybe the regime will now ban the pro-independence parties and dissolve the parliament once more, jail some more people, ban the parties who got an absolute majority?

Sam Jones, Stephen Burgen: Catalan pro-independence parties keep their majority in snap poll (Guardian)

Catalan pro-independence parties have held their absolute majority in snap regional elections, dealing a severe blow to the Spanish government, which had called the polls in the hope of heading off the secessionist push.
The deposed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, described the result as a “a slap to the face” to the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.
The three separatist parties won a total of 70 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament even though the centre-right, pro-unionist Citizens party was the single biggest winner, taking 37 seats.
Between them, the three parties will have enough seats to reassemble the parliamentary majority that put them into office after the 2015 elections if they can agree a new coalition…
Spain’s ruling People’s party … won three seats – eight fewer than in 2015…
Thursday’s snap election was called by the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, in October after he used article 155 of the constitution to take control of Catalonia and sack its government over its unilateral referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.
The vote, which pitted secessionists against unionists, attracted a record turnout of more than 80%, dispelling fears that holding the election on a weekday rather than the usual Sunday would hit turnout.
Puigdemont had been campaigning from Belgium after fleeing to Brussels on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial in Spain over possible charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
His former vice-president, Oriol Junqeras, leader of the ERC, is in prison along with two prominent pro-independence leaders.

Resultats 21-D (El punt avui)
Catalonia election: full results (Guardian)

On Thursday night pro-independence parties secured a renewed majority in the Catalan parliament. Although the pro-union centre-right Citizens were the largest party, the result is a blow to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s hopes of defusing the constitutional crisis in Catalonia.
In 2015, ERC ran as part of the Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) coalition. This time they ran on their own ticket, led by Oriol Junqueras, the sacked deputy president who is currently in prison; the remainder of the coalition campaigned as Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), led by Carles Puigdemont, the sacked president who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

Peter Beaumont: US outnumbered 14 to 1 as it vetoes UN vote on status of Jerusalem (Guardian)

A UN security council resolution calling for the withdrawal of Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been backed by every council member except the US, which used its veto.
The unanimity of the rest of the council was a stark rebuke to the Trump administration over its unilateral move earlier this month, which upended decades of international consensus…
The resolution was denounced in furious language by the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who described it as “an insult” that would not be forgotten. “The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” she said.

Peter Beaumont: US will ‘take names of those who vote to reject Jerusalem recognition’ (Guardian)

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has warned UN members she will be “taking names” of countries that vote to reject Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In a letter seen by the Guardian, Haley told countries – including European delegations – that she will report back to the US president with the names of those who support a draft resolution rejecting the US move at the UN general assembly on Thursday, adding that Trump took the issue personally.

Peter Beaumont: UN votes resoundingly to reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital (Guardian)

The United Nations general assembly has delivered a stinging rebuke to Donald Trump, voting by a huge majority to reject his unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The vote came after a redoubling of threats by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, who said that Washington would remember which countries “disrespected” America by voting against it…
But only nine states – including the United States and Israel –voted against the resolution. The other countries which supported Washington were Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.

Karen McVeigh: ‘A travesty’: Trump censured over UN Jerusalem vote comments (Guardian)

Donald Trump’s threat to withhold US aid from countries voting in favour of a UN general assembly resolution rejecting his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been described as a “travesty” by experts.
On Thursday, an emergency session of the UN general assembly voted 128-9 against Trump’s declaration, pronouncing it “null and void”. There were a total of 35 abstentions.

Patrick Wintour: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/21/trumps-bullying-and-bluster-on-jerusalem-

is-bad-news-for-the-un”>Trump’s bullying and bluster on Jerusalem is bad news for the UN (Guardian)
“Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures and different dreams not just coexist but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect,” Donald Trump said in his first speech to the UN general assembly, in September, drawing sighs of relief.
Three months later, those same diverse nations were warned by the US president’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, that she would take their names if they failed at the UN to support the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognise the city as the capital of Israel. The era of mutual respect was short-lived.

David Scott Mathieson: Suu Kyi takes a populist, paranoid turn (Asia Times)

Myanmar’s increasingly internationally maligned de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi signaled a neo-populist turn in her speech on Monday to the Asia Europe Foreign Ministers (ASEM) meeting held at Naypyitaw…
Without mentioning the exodus of over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine state since the August 25 attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Front (ARSA) sparked a harsh security force response, Suu Kyi conflated illegal migration with terrorism, a core justification of the military’s abusive treatment of the minority.

Yash Tandon: Robert Mugabe: A political epitaph (Pambazuka)

He is an emblematic, historical figure. He is a giant, whose boot steps inaugurated a revolutionary era in the early years – boots that, sadly, became too heavy for him, and too painful for the ordinary people for whose liberation he had fought.

David Seddon: Zimbabwe: Popular protest, social movements and class struggle (Pambazuka)

The ordinary people of Zimbabwe, who have experienced decades of repression and hardship, are rejoicing and are optimistic following the dramatic removal of Robert Mugabe from power. But very soon there will be a renewed struggle for the future of Zimbabwe. And the outlook remains very uncertain.

Cameron Doudu: Oh Comrade Bob, did it have to come to this? (Pambazuka)

As Frantz Fanon had prophesied, President Mugabe was impelled by his associates to become chairman of the business entity known as Zimbabwe. There were super-shareholders in that enterprise. In-fighting between the various groups with bank notes hidden in their revolutionary berets led to disillusionment and even rebellion.

Theogene Rudasingwa: Mugabe fall an indictment of Africa’s ruling elite (Pambazuka)

Robert Mugabe belongs to the generation of Africans who fought for Africa’s self-determination only to finally succumb to the selfish pursuit of power that has left a country with tremendous opportunity on its knees.But he is not the only big man who has betrayed the aspirations of African peoples for authentic peace, prosperity, unity and healing.

Grant Newsham: Coup in Zimbabwe: A win-win for China – for now (Asia Times)

Did Beijing give the go-ahead to remove Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe? Nobody is saying. But it is suspicious that Zimbabwe’s army chief General Chiwenga visited China a few days before he moved against Mugabe. Presumably, nobody in Beijing told him ‘no.’
China has huge investments in Zimbabwe – including tobacco, diamonds, and power generation – and is by far the country’s largest benefactor.

Saudi Arabia | Zimbabwe | Iraq

Federico Pieraccini: Saudi-Israeli Friendship Is Driving the Rest of the Middle East Together (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Through its top official, Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia continues a wave of internal arrests, having seized nearly $800 billion in assets and bank accounts. A few days later, MBS attempted to demonstrate his authority by summoning Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Saudi Arabia, where he was forced to resign on Saudi state TV. Trump tweeted support for Bin Salman’s accusations against Iran and Hezbollah, and the future Saudi king even obtained Israel’s secret support. Iran, meanwhile, denies any involvement in Lebanon’s domestic affairs or involvement with the ballistic missile launched by Houthi rebels towards Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport a few days ago. Meanwhile, Trump, Putin and Xi met recently and seem to have decided the fate of the region in an exercise of realism and pragmatism.

Gregory Elich: What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe? (CounterPunch)

Long-roiling factional conflict within Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF political party exploded last week in a military coup that quickly seized control of the government and state media. The coup was led by Commander of Zimbabwe Defense Forces Constantino Chiwenga, who is closely aligned with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Emboldened by President Robert Mugabe’s declining mental sharpness and physical health in recent years, Mnangagwa actively maneuvered to ensure that he would succeed the president. Mnangagwa served as one of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents. From that position, he and his supporters, known as Team Lacoste, became embroiled in a bitter struggle with younger party members who coalesced around Secretary of Women’s Affairs Grace Mugabe, wife of the president, and whose group was known as Generation 40, or G40…
Western officials are keen to see the transitional government adopt economic policies to their liking. “It’s a transition to a new era for Zimbabwe; that’s really what we’re hoping for,” acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto said. [xxxiv] A European Union spokesperson announced that the EU is “committed to support Zimbabwe in the preparation of credible elections and the delivery of political and economic reforms.” … It can be expected that it will not be long before Western economic advisors are paying visits to the transitional government, urging it to enact reforms to liberalize the economy to suit Western investors.

Patrick Bond: Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms (CounterPunch)

Mnangagwa is widely mistrusted due to his responsibility for (and refusal to acknowledge) 1982-85 “Gukhurahundi” massacres of more than 20,000 people in the country’s western provinces (mostly members of the minority Ndebele ethnic group, whose handful of armed dissidents he termed “cockroaches” needing a dose of military “DDT”); his subversion of the 2008 presidential election which Mugabe initially lost; his subsequent heading of the Joint Operations Committee secretly running the country, sabotaging democratic initiatives; as well as for his close proximity – as then Defence Minister – to widespread diamond looting from 2008-16…
Mnangagwa is not only being toasted in Beijing, but also by Tory geopolitical opportunists in London. Although many Britons object, their ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing has for three years attempted to “rebuild bridges and ensure that re-engagement succeeds to facilitate Mnangagwa’s rise to power” with a reported “$2 billion economic bail-out.”

Julia Lynne Walker: Military is complicit in Mugabe misrule (Pambazuka/AFP)

The Global Pan African Movement condemns the military intervention in Zimbabwe in no uncertain terms. The generals of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have been part of the repressive government. The huge problems of Zimbabwe cannot be resolved by the same soldiers who have been partners with Mugabe in the past 37 years.

Andre Damon: US brands RT a “foreign agent:” A chilling move against free speech (WSWS)

On Thursday, RT America, the US-based subsidiary of RT (formerly known as Russia Today), announced that it would, under pressure from the United States government, register as a “foreign agent” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The Justice Department’s demand that RT register as a “foreign agent” is aimed at delegitimizing RT as a news source, intimidating its journalists and guests, and setting the precedent for taking similar actions against other news outlets.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: After the liberation of Mosul, an orgy of killing (Guardian)

In the dying days of the battle of Mosul, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad followed Iraqi soldiers during the last push against Isis. But following their victory, a new wave of savagery was unleashed…
One of the factors that had aided Isis’s takeover of Mosul was the conduct of the Iraqi army and security forces stationed in the city, who behaved like sectarian occupation forces, mistreating and detaining the population at will…
On 9 July, … the defeat of Isis was declared in Mosul …
Pockets of Isis fighters continued to resist for another week, but gradually the fighting died down, and a day came in Mosul when, for the first time in many years, machine-guns, car bombs and jet fighters went silent. Then the orgy of killing started.
Night after night, in ruined houses, makeshift cells and the dark streets of Mosul, those identified as members of Isis were tortured and executed. Jubilant Iraqi soldiers filmed themselves beating and shooting prisoners.


President Aoun calls Saudi detention of Hariri ‘aggression against Lebanon (Press TV)

Lebanese President Michel Aoun says Saudi Arabia is holding Prime Minister Saad Hariri, calling the detention as an act of aggression against his country and a violation of international human rights regulations.
“Nothing justifies Hariri’s lack of return for 12 days. We therefore consider him detained. This is a violation of the Vienna agreements and human rights law,” Aoun said at a meeting with Lebanese journalists and media executives…
Hariri announced his surprise resignation in Riyadh on November 4, shortly after traveling to Saudi Arabia. The televised announcement saw him reading out from a statement.
Lebanese government officials and senior sources close to Hariri believe that Riyadh forced him to step down and placed him under effective house arrest since he touched down in Saudi Arabia on November 3, a day before he announced his shock resignation…
Observers say even if he returned to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia could still hold his family “hostage.”
Hariri had taken to Twitter on Tuesday, saying he is “well” and will return to Lebanon “within days,” but that his family will stay in Saudi Arabia.

Ishaan Tharoor: Lebanon’s crisis sets the stage for a Middle East calamity (Washington Post)
Theodore Karasik, Giorgio Cafiero: Saudi–Iranian Rivalry in Lebanon (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

The resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on November 4—announced from Saudi Arabia, which built on his statements by accusing Lebanon of waging war against it and calling on its citizens to leave the Mediterranean country—has heightened justifiable concerns that the crisis could escalate into a new Middle Eastern war. Hariri’s resignation signals Riyadh’s increased efforts to counter Hezbollah and turn more Lebanese against the Iran-backed group, which entered into an uneasy coalition with Hariri and President Michel Aoun in October 2016 to end a two-year standoff that had left Lebanon’s presidential post vacant. As Iran has consolidated gains in Iraq and Syria—recently underscored by the joint Syrian Arab Army and Hezbollah victory over the Islamic State in Deir Ezzor—and Saudi Arabia is caught in a costly quagmire in Yemen, Riyadh has chosen to pursue a confrontation with Tehran by targeting Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Robert Malley: The Middle East Is Nearing an Explosion (Atlantic)

First, Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s prime minister, announced his resignation… Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto leader, had reason to want it to happen. Saudi-Iranian tensions are rising and bin Salman is determined to depict Tehran as the source of all regional evils. For Hariri to preside over a government that includes Hezbollah fundamentally undercut that core message: It meant allowing one of Riyadh’s closest allies to cooperate with Tehran’s most loyal partner. Hariri as prime minister created the impression that coexistence with Hezbollah and by extension with Iran was possible; his departure is designed to erase any doubt…
Act two was news that Saudi Arabia had intercepted a missile launched from Yemen and purportedly aimed at Riyadh’s airport. This was not the first missile that the Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group enjoying Iranian and Hezbollah support, had fired at its northern neighbor, but its timing and unprecedented range could make it one of the more consequential. The extent of outside backing to the Houthis is a matter of some debate, though neither U.S. nor Saudi officials harbor any doubt that the dramatic progress in the rebel movement’s ballistic missile program could not have occurred without its two benefactors’ considerable training and help. Like Hariri in his act of self-immolation, Saudi officials quickly and publicly drew a direct line connecting the strike to Iran and Hezbollah; it was, they proclaimed, an act of war for which they held both responsible and to which they would respond.
Act three was the massive Saudi purge in which over 10 princes and dozens of businessmen and senior officials were put under house arrest. This was bin Salman cleaning house, eliminating any potential competing military, political, economic, or media-related source of power…
All three developments point in a similar direction: that of an increasingly emboldened and single-minded Saudi leadership eager to work with the U.S. to counter an Iranian threat whose scale it believes was made all the starker by the day’s Yemen-related events.

Robert Fisk: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri accepts exile in France as Saudi Arabia no longer feels like a home away from home (Independent)

Marcus Barnett: Sabotaging Apartheid: An Interview with Ronnie Kasrils (Jacobin / Black Agenda Report)

Even among Communists, there was the view that the first objective should be political power, and once you achieve that you could change things. But we in the SACP completely underestimated the power of capital, especially the extent to which it could seduce national liberation movements. We got into what I call a Faustian pact with big business from Mandela onwards. We said, “If we get political power, we will give concessions on the economic side.” Those concessions were much too great.
And this was the beginning of the problem. Even with all the goodwill and intention of Mandela and Mbeki as leaders — people who are not as corrupt as Jacob Zuma — it created a stepping stone for the craven, profit-seeking rentiers and the comprador-bourgeoisie to come to the fore and establish systems of patronage. That has allowed the South African revolution to veer completely off course.

Ofer Aderet: Israeli Prime Minister After Six-Day War: ‘We’ll Deprive Gaza of Water, and the Arabs Will Leave’ (Haaretz via Google News and in Google cache)

“Empty” the Gaza Strip, “thin out” the Galilee, rewrite textbooks and censor political cartoons in Haaretz: These are among the proposals discussed by cabinet ministers after the Six-Day War that will be available to the public in a major release of declassified government documents by the Israel State Archives …
Eshkol expressed the hope that, “precisely because of the suffocation and imprisonment there, maybe the Arabs will move from the Gaza Strip,” adding there were ways to remove those who remained. “Perhaps if we don’t give them enough water they won’t have a choice, because the orchards will yellow and wither,” he said in this context. Another “solution,” he said, could be another war. “Perhaps we can expect another war and then this problem will be solved. But that’s a type of ‘luxury,’ an unexpected solution.”
“We are interested in emptying out Gaza first,” Eshkol summed up. To which Labor Minister Yigal Allon suggested “thinning the Galilee of Arabs,” while Religious Affairs Minister Zerah Warhaftig said, “We must increase [the number of] Jews and take all possible measures to reduce the number of Arabs.” …

Venezuela | Lebanon | USA

Lucas Koerner: Chavistas Take 17 of 23 States in Venezuelan Regional Elections as Opposition Cries Fraud (Venezuelanalysis)

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela won 54 percent of the total vote, marking a significant recovery since the ruling party’s landslide defeat in 2015 parliamentary elections when it garnered only 43.7 percent of the vote.

After Socialists Win 17 of 23 States, US Claims Venezuela Elections Not ‘Free and Fair’ (teleSUR)

David Hearst: Things that go bump in the night in Riyadh (Middle East Eye)

Saturday night was a busy one for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The kingdom’s 32-year old heir to the throne excelled himself. He surpassed the high levels of chaos and human misery he had already achieved as the defence minister who launched the air campaign on Yemen.
First up was the sudden resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri after just one year in office. Hariri made his announcement from Riyadh, which is a curious place to resign the premiership of Lebanon. His speech was hardline anti-Hezbollah and anti-Iran, setting a tone not heard from him in years.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that when he left Lebanon, Hariri had no intention of resigning, that he himself did not know that he would resign and that this resignation had been forced on him by the Saudis.

Adam Garrie: In Stunning Reversal, Saudi Arabia Orders Arrest Of Syrian Opposition Leaders (MPN News)

As part of the wide-scale political purges conducted by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Riyadh has ordered the arrest of Ahmed al-Jarba and Riad Hijab, two formerly Saudi backed proxies, vying to take control of Syria and establish a Takfiri state.
While Ahmed al-Jarba and Riad Hijab never had meaningful support in Syria, Saudi had consistently backed them and their colleagues in an effort to destabilize the secular Ba’athist Arab Republic.

Ajamu Baraka: Race, Repression and Russiagate: Defending Radical Black Self-Determination (CounterPunch)

It is absurd and an insult to argue that Russian propaganda efforts “deepen political and racial tensions in the United States,” as proposed by Julia Ioffe in a recent article in the Atlantic.
But the linking of the legitimate struggle of African/Black people in the United States against systemic oppression with “foreign” influences has been a recurrent feature of the ideological and military containment strategy of the U.S. state ever since the Soviet Union emerged as an international competitor to the four hundred-year-old colonial/capitalist Pan-European project.

Wilfred Burchett: Who Filled the Graves Of Huế? (CounterPunch)

Both Ken Burns and Anthony Bourdain have recently recycled the myth of National Liberation Front massacres in Huế during the Vietnam War. The real story, however, was quite different, as revealed at the time by one of the great correspondents of the era Wilfred Burchett…
The recent attempt to equate the Sơn Mỹ (Mỹ Lai) massacre and scores of other similar atrocities with the so-called “Vietcong massacre at Huế” is a vain attempt to cover up what have been genocidal methods by the United States in South Vietnam since the war started.

Gary Rivlin, Michael Hudson: Government by Goldman (Intercept)

Goldman Sachs had been a favorite cudgel for candidate Trump — the symbol of a government that favors Wall Street over its citizenry. Trump proclaimed that Hillary Clinton was in the firm’s pockets, as was Ted Cruz. It was Goldman Sachs that Trump singled out when he railed against a system rigged in favor of the global elite — one that “robbed our working class, stripped our country of wealth, and put money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” …
With [Gary] Cohn’s appointment [as director of the president’s National Economic Council], Trump now had three Goldman Sachs alums in top positions inside his administration: Steve Bannon, who was a vice president at Goldman when he left the firm in 1990, as chief strategist, and Steve Mnuchin, who had spent 17 years at Goldman, as Treasury secretary. And there were more to come. A few weeks later, another Goldman partner, Dina Powell, joined the White House as a senior counselor for economic initiatives. Goldman was a longtime client of Jay Clayton, Trump’s choice to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission; Clayton had represented Goldman after the 2008 financial crisis, and his wife Gretchen worked there as a wealth management adviser. And there was the brief, colorful tenure of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director: Scaramucci had been a vice president at Goldman Sachs before leaving to co-found his own investment company…
Prior administrations often had one or two people from Goldman serving in top positions. George W. Bush at one point had three. At its peak, the Trump administration effectively had six. [Clinton had Robert Rubin, Obama had Gary Gensler, …]

Donna Brazile: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC (Politico)
George Ochenski: Hillary Clinton and the DNC: The Fish Rots From the Head (CounterPunch)

Citizens have been swamped by the tidal wave of corruption associated with or emanating from the Trump campaign and presidency, but late last week brought affirmation of a long-held belief that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee rigged the primary campaign against populist Bernie Sanders. The revelations emanated from none other than Donna Brazile, the woman who sat in as the DNC’s chair after Debbie Wasserman Schultz was deposed for exactly the corruption Brazile now exposes. As the old saying goes, “the fish rots from the head” — and there’s a tremendous stench coming from the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign that undeniably smells of rot.

Aidan O’Brien: Ever Hear of a Place Called Azawad? How About Timbuktu? (CounterPunch)

It may not be the heart of Africa but it is the key to Africa. Forget about “Niger” and think of Azawad. Think of the bigger and older picture: a region that encompasses northern Mali, southern Algeria, southern Libya, western Niger and northern Burkina Faso.
It’s here – Azawad – where the four US Green Berets were recently killed. And it’s here where the French Foreign Legion has positioned itself in the latest scramble for Africa. The cover story is the “War on Terror”. But don’t be fooled: “white guy rule” has returned to the Sahara.
Timbuktu is the capital of Azawad. The Tuareg are it’s people. And the “white guy” the invader. Located in the center of the Sahara – all roads pass through Azawad. It’s the bridge between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. And so it’s a geopolitical prize that’s attracting every born again Western thug.

Hannah Beech: U.S. Stood By as Indonesia Killed a Half-Million People, Papers Show (New York Times)

It was an anti-Communist blood bath of at least half a million Indonesians. And American officials watched it happen without raising any public objections, at times even applauding the forces behind the killing, according to newly declassified State Department files that show diplomats meticulously documenting the purge in 1965-66.

Vincent Bevings: What the United States Did in Indonesia (Atlantic)

As the documents show, U.S. officials knew most of his victims were entirely innocent. U.S. embassy officials even received updates on the executions and offered help to suppress media coverage…
[A] major problem with framing the events of 1965 is that it’s often claimed the United States simply “stood by,” as the bloodbath occurred, which is incorrect. “It’s easy for American commentators to fall into that approach, but the U.S. was part and parcel of the operation, strategizing with the Indonesian army and encouraging them to go after the PKI.” …
In 1965, when General Suharto blamed the military purge on a PKI coup plot, the CIA supplied communications equipment to help him spread his false reports before moving into power and overseeing the industrial-scale slaughter, as previously released government documents showed…
It has long been known that the United States provided Suharto with active support: In 1990, a U.S. embassy staff member admitted he handed over a list of communists to the Indonesian military as the terror was underway. “It really was a big help to the army,” Robert J. Martens, a former member of the embassy’s political section, told The Washington Post. “They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad.”
Much of the American press at the time did not take a radically different view. In a June 1966 column in The New York Times, entitled “A Gleam of Light in Asia,” James Reston wrote that “The savage transformation of Indonesia from a pro-Chinese policy under Sukarno to a defiantly anti-communist policy under General Suharto is the most important of these [hopeful] developments. Washington is being careful not to claim any credit … but this does not mean Washington had nothing to do with it.”

Bethan McKernan: Five children who got longer sentences for throwing stones than Israeli soldier who shot incapacitated Palestinian dead (Independent)