Korea | Palestine | Syria

Justin McCurry: South Korea set to change policy on North as liberal wins election (Guardian)

Moon Jae-in, a left-leaning liberal who favours engagement with North Korea, has won South Korea’s presidential election, raising hopes of a potential rapprochement with Pyongyang.
The former human rights lawyer won 41.4% of the vote, according to an exit poll cited by the Yonhap news agency, placing him comfortably ahead of his nearest rivals, the centrist software entrepreneur Ahn Cheol-soo and the conservative hardliner Hong Joon-pyo, both of whom have conceded defeat…
Moon, a former student activist who was imprisoned in the 1970s for protesting against Park’s father, the former dictator Park Chung-hee, declared a decade of hardline policy towards Pyongyang a failure…
Moon’s other foreign policy priority will be to repair relations with China, which opposes the deployment in South Korea of a US missile defence system – known as Thaad – and says Seoul should stop joint military drills with the US to encourage Pyongyang to halt its nuclear programme.

Tim Shorrock: The United States Should Listen to South Korea—or It Will Reap the Whirlwind (Nation)

Recent US actions underscore a deep-seated problem: refusal to see South Korea as an independent nation with interests of its own.

Leo Chang: US Hegemony on Korean Peninsula Challenged (CounterPunch)

The North does not want war. Neither do South Korea and China. There will be a war only if US wants it…
The North’s goals are: 1) recognition of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a legitimate political entity and a nuclear state; 2) stopping the US conspiracy of regime change, biannual “decapitation” exercises along with South Korean military; 3) lifting sanctions; and 4) replacing the armistice of 1953 with a permanent peace treaty…
The red line for North Korea is: sovereignty and self-determination. And if it takes nuclear weapons to deter the great powers, so be it.

Christine Ahn: The High Costs of US Warmongering Against North Korea (Truthout)
Mehdi Hasan: Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason — They Remember the Korean War. (Intercept)
US right wing is foaming at the mouth over the election of Mun Chae-in in south Korea:
Ethan Epstein: Bad Moon Rising (Weekly Standard)

Moon has said he’s eager to travel to Pyongyang to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un —suggesting, at one point, he’d like to visit North Korea before the United States—and even re-open the Kaesong joint industrial complex, a ridiculous facility where South Korean companies employ North Korean laborers to build products. Kaesong was a financial boon to the North Korean regime, and was shuttered by President Park. But Moon wants to re-open the spigot, flooding Pyongyang with cash to fund its missile and nuclear programs, and keep the gulag humming.
All of this sets up something of a conflict between South Korea and its stalwart ally, the United States. The Trump administration is pressuring other countries to crack down on North Korea, just as South Korea has elected a president who wants to do just the opposite. And President Trump has not made many friends in Korea since his inauguration, particularly by suggesting that Seoul should foot the bill for THAAD, the U.S. missile defense system that was recently installed there. (Moon, for his part, has said he’d like to reevaluate THAAD’s deployment, perhaps a rare agreement he can find with Trump.)

Peace is war. More froth:
Todd Royal: The election of Moon Jae-in could mean war in Asia (Asia Times)
Bradley K. Martin: Moon’s right-hand man former friend to the North (Asia Times)

A Document of General Principles and Policies (Hamas)

Palestine is a land that was seized by a racist, anti-human and colonial Zionist project that was founded on a false promise (the Balfour Declaration), on recognition of a usurping entity and on imposing a fait accompli by force.

Hamas accepts Palestinian state with 1967 borders (AlJazeera)

Hamas has presented a new political document that accepts the formation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, without recognising the statehood of Israel, and says that the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one…
While Hamas’ 1988 founding charter called for the takeover of all of mandate Palestine, including present-day Israel, the new document says it will accept the 1967 borders as the basis for a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees to their homes…
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, after winning elections and forcefully pushing its Fatah rivals out. Since then, Gaza has suffered three major Israeli assaults, whick killed more than 3,500 Palestinians, and a crippling 10-year-long siege…
Israeli officials rejected the document before it was made official, calling it an attempt by Hamas to trick the world into believing it was becoming a more moderate group.

Rawan Damen: The Price of Oslo (AlJazeera)
Nathan Thrall: Israel-Palestine: the real reason there’s still no peace (Guardian)

The possibility of a lasting deal seems as far away as ever – and the history of failed negotiations suggests it’s largely because Israel prefers the status quo.

Evan Dyer: Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate escapes from Canada’s terror list (CBC)

The Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, currently calling itself Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has succeeded in getting itself off Canada’s list of designated terrorist entities following its latest identity shift.
That complicates the task of prosecuting Canadians who travel to join the group, send it money or propagandize on its behalf.
It also illustrates the pitfalls of Canada following the lead of the U.S. in designating terror groups…
The United States put the group on its terrorist list in 2012, as the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and Canada followed suit…
Al-Jawlani’s group remained loyal to the mother organization founded by bin Laden, and Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS have been at each other’s throats ever since. Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition focused its bombing on Islamic State, not al-Nusra…
[I]n January of this year, the group shifted again, nominally dissolving itself and joining with four other jihadi groups. It altered its name, changing the word “Jabhat” (Front) to “Hay’at” (Organization), and “Fateh” (Conquest) to “Tahrir” (Liberation).
And yet HTS has not been designated in the U.S. Canada, which usually follows the U.S. listing closely, has also not listed the group.
The change is significant, and the U.S. State Department confirmed to CBC News that HTS members are no longer considered terrorists…
The reasons for the reluctance to list the new al-Qaeda formation may have to do with one of its new members, the Nour ed-Dine Zenki Brigade, a jihadi group from the Aleppo governorate.
The Zenki Brigade was an early and prominent recipient of U.S. aid, weapons and training…
For the U.S. to designate HTS now would mean acknowledging that it supplied sophisticated weapons including TOW anti-tank missiles to “terrorists,” and draw attention to the fact that the U.S. continues to arm Islamist militias in Syria.

France | Syria | Indonesia | Israel/Palestine

Jack Rasmus: France Elects Its Banker (CounterPunch)

On May 7, 2016, France elected Emmanuel Macron, the former banker, as its next president. The voting result was 65% for Macron, a newcomer in the election cycle who didn’t even have a political party, but who did have the massive business backing and traditional political elites united behind him, providing unlimited media and financial assistance to his campaign.
Approximately 25% of all voters in France, the most in nearly fifty years (since 1969), abstained from voting, however. It is also estimated that 25% of Macron’s 65% vote margin were voters who voted ‘against Le Pen’ and the far right national front party, and did not vote ‘for’ Macron. How solid is Macron’s support, and whether the French people support what will be his continuation of European neoliberalism, remains to be seen…
Macron has promised to pick up the baton of ‘labor reform’ in France introduced by Socialist Party Holland. That means laws that will weaken unions, collective bargaining, allow firing of workers, eliminate strikes, cut social benefits, privatize the healthcare and education systems in France. So now the conflict in France moves from the electoral arena to the workplace.

‘Israeli strikes’ hit arms depot in Damascus (AlJazeera)

Arms depot near Damascus International airport goes up in flames after series of overnight strikes blamed on Israel…
In May 2013 Israel struck three areas in Damascus suburbs, allegedly to destroy Iranian rockets being delivered to Hezbollah. Damascus airport was also hit by Israel in May 2013.
The Syrian army said on January 13, 2016 that Israel had targeted the Mezze military airbase. Mezze airbase is just a few kilometers from the presidential palace.
Israel has in the past targeted Hezbollah positions inside Syria where Iranian backed groups are heavily involved in the fighting.

Jack Khoury, Gili Cohen: Syria Confirms Israeli Strike Hit Military Compound Near Damascus Airport (Haaretz)

Explosions hit in the area of Damascus International Airport in Syria early Thursday morning. Syria’s official news agency confirmed that Israel struck a military compound outside the capital’s airport…
Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz told Army Radio on Thursday morning that the attack in Syria was “entirely consistent with our policy to prevent the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah.” Katz however did not confirm Israel was behind it.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military, asked if Israel had been involved in carrying out air strikes targeting Damascus airport, said: “We can’t comment on such reports.”

Norman Solomon: Russia-Baiting Pushed Trump to Attack Syria—and Increases the Risk of Nuclear Annihilation (Monthly Review)

The anti-Russia bandwagon has gained so much momentum that a national frenzy is boosting the odds of unfathomable catastrophe.
Vast efforts to portray Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin’s flunky have given Trump huge incentives to prove otherwise. Last Thursday, he began the process in a big way by ordering a missile attack on Russia’s close ally Syria. In the aftermath of the attack, the cheerleading from U.S. mass media was close to unanimous, and the assault won lots of praise on Capitol Hill. Finally, the protracted and fervent depictions of Trump as a Kremlin tool were getting some tangible results.

Justin Podur: The Much-Maligned Views of Rania Khalek on Syria (Bullet)

I am not a fan of the Syrian government. I’m not out here to support the Syrian government.
What I oppose is the dismantling of the Syrian state which is what several powers have done in the past six years. I oppose that because we’ve seen what it looks like in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and I don’t want to see that happen to Syria.
I also oppose the current alternative to the Syrian government which is a patchwork of Salafi Jihadist groups that want to impose strict religious law, kill minorities, and stone women for adultery…
I would love to see a democratic Syria. I would love to see a Syria where parties other than the Ba’ath could flourish and run in elections. The fact now is that there’s a right-wing, far-right insurgency funded by some of the biggest powers in the world trying to destroy the country. Under current conditions it’s impossible for people to demand and get reforms.

Allan Nairn: Trump’s Indonesian Allies In Bed With ISIS-Backed Militia Seeking to Oust Elected President (Intercept)

An army front group linked to ISIS wants to oust Indonesia’s president — and prominent associates of President Donald Trump are supporting them.

Jack Khoury: Palestinian Hunger Strikers Seek World’s Intervention Three Weeks Into Strike (Haaretz via Google News)

Some 1,200 Palestinian prisoners ask World Health Organization to stop Israel from force-feeding them as international sympathy for the strike steadily grows

Israel Mulls Bringing in Foreign Doctors to Force-feed Palestinian Hunger Strikers (Haaretz)

The Israel Prisons Service is considering bringing foreign doctors to help force-feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners because the Israel Medical Association has refused to allow its members to participate in such actions, …

Gideon Levy: Doctors From India, Guards From Chechnya (Haaretz via Google News)

Not far from our home, hundreds of people are starving; thousands can’t sleep at night as they worry over their starving loved ones. They have no idea how they are doing; no one is allowed to visit them. For 21 days now, no food has passed their lips, only salt water.
The Israel Prison Service is abusing them. At first they took away the salt, then they isolated them, fined them and increased the weight of the already cruel load. The Israeli media hardly reports their strike. It knows the heart of its consumers: Most Israelis don’t care about the strike, while some are happy over it; let them die.
Soon they’ll start trying to force-feed them.

A Cornerstone of Apartheid (Haaretz Editorial)

The only explanation for why Israel is advancing this bill is the millions of Palestinians whom it keeps under its control in territories that it fantasizes about annexing. Because Israel is interested in applying its sovereignty to the land but isn’t interested in annexing the Palestinians who live there as equal citizens in a single state, it is forced to create the legal infrastructure for segregating Jews from Arabs and preserving the Jews’ legal supremacy. The nation-state law is the constitutional cornerstone for apartheid in the entire Land of Israel.

Jonathan Lis: Israeli Ministers Greenlight Nation-state Bill: Arabic Isn’t an Official State Language (Haaretz)

A cabinet committee on Sunday gave its support to a new version of the nation-state bill, which revokes Arabic’s “official language” status, holds that the State of Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people,” and that “the right to realize self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

Jack Khoury, Jonathan Lis: Israeli Opposition Slams Nation-state Bill as ‘Declaration of War Against Israel’s Arab’ (Haaretz)
B. Michael: The Legend of Israel’s Enlightened Declaration of Independence (Haaretz via Google News)
This Is How Israel Inflates Its Jewish Majority (Haaretz Editorial)

Israeli stats bureau’s annual population report is a ludicrous piece of propaganda that includes settlers but not all Palestinians under Israeli control.

Ofer Aderet, Barak Ravid: Netanyahu Cancels Meeting After German FM Refuses to Snub Israeli Leftist NGOs (Haaretz)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday after the latter refused Netanyahu's demand that he not meet with two leftwing NGOs, Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem.
According to Der Spiegel, the meeting was canceled by Netanyahu because the German minister wanted "to meet with critics of the Israeli government."

With Ultimatum to German FM, Netanyahu Gives World a Simple Choice (Haaretz)

The choice Netanyahu has given the world and above all Israelis is simple: maintaining control of the territories, probably through an apartheid regime, or accepting an Israel in its 1967 borders

Anshel Pfeffer: Netanyahu’s Spat With Germany Shows Israel Won’t Be Treated as a Regular Democracy (Haaretz via Google News)

Netanyahu’s anger is understandable. Rarely do foreign leaders meet with representatives of NGOs of functioning democracies, like the German FM did. But Israel is not regular

South Africa’s apartheid economy was based on indigenous cheap labour. Israel since Oslo has managed to replace cheap Palestinian labour with migrants from poor countries in Asia and Europe.
A Chinese Lesson (Haaretz)

“We’re eager to work with you” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the heads of Chinese corporations, during his visit to China last month. This week Netanyahu had an opportunity to demonstrate just how eager we are. On Sunday the cabinet formally yielded to a condition placed by China before signing an agreement on recruiting Chinese workers to Israel’s labor market. This condition stipulates that Chinese construction workers who come here to work will not be employed in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem. By ratifying this agreement the cabinet gave its de facto acquiescence to a boycott of the settlements…
Negotiations between Israel and China have been going on for two years, due to China’s insistence that these workers not be sent to settlements and due to Israel’s unwillingness to sign an agreement in which it expressly upholds a boycott of settlements…
Israel’s quiet and unreported surrender to the Chinese demand provides an important lesson: When our friends around the world insist on matching their actions with their declarations Israel adapts to the exigencies of reality.

Μάρτα Χάρνεκερ, Τάσος Τσακίρογλου: Ο κοινωνικός κατακερματισμός έχει διχάσει την εργατική τάξη (Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών)
Marta Harnecker, Tassos Tsakiroglou: ‘A New Revolutionary Subject’ (Monthly Review)

Ενα από τα πράγματα που έχουν όντως αλλάξει από την εποχή του Μαρξ μέχρι σήμερα είναι η κατάσταση της παγκόσμιας βιομηχανικής εργατικής τάξης και, κυρίως, στη Λατινική Αμερική.
Δεν έχουμε πια μεγάλη συγκέντρωση εργατών σε μεγάλες εργατικές γειτονιές.
Σε μεγάλο βαθμό αυτό οφείλεται στην εφαρμογή νεοφιλελεύθερων οικονομικών μέτρων, όπως οι επισφαλείς εργασιακές συνθήκες και οι υπεργολαβίες, αλλά και στη στρατηγική του κοινωνικού κατακερματισμού, ο οποίος έχει διχάσει εσωτερικά την εργατική τάξη.
One of the things that has really changed from Marx’s time to now is the situation of the industrial working class in the world, and in Latin America especially. We don’t find big concentrations of workers in big working-class neighborhoods. This is due in great measure to the implementation of neoliberal economic measures such as precarious labor conditions and subcontracting, and its strategy of social fragmentation that has divided the working class internally.

France | Syria | Myanmar

Mehdi Hasan: Marine Le Pen is what happens when you try to meet racism in the middle (Intercept)

The rise of Marine Le Pen in France is due to the failure of mainstream political parties to confront the racism of the National Front. Instead, they tried to co-opt it…
The conventional wisdom says that mainstream French politicians allowed the far right to win votes by letting them monopolize the issue of immigration. The reverse is, in fact, the case: Over the past four decades, both the center-right Republicans and center-left Socialists went out of their way to try and co-opt the xenophobic rhetoric and policies of the Le Pens, which only emboldened — and normalized — both father and daughter.

Patrick Wintour: Russian and western dispute over Syria chemical attack further muddies truth (Guardian)

An increasingly bitter dispute between Russia and the west over an inquiry into the recent chemical weapons attack that killed about 80 people in Syria has revealed the extent to which the two sides are unable to agree on basic facts – or even agree a process to ascertain the truth.
The row has also brought into questions of future international support for the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the internationally respected multilateral body responsible for overseeing control of chemical weapons…
At the meeting in the Hague the OPCW executive rejected a Russian-led plan for an OPCW investigation to be restarted, prompting Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to claim that the west was not interested in the truth of the incident – only in finding excuses to oust President Bashar al-Assad from power…
Lavrov again called for the OPCW to send its experts to Khan Sheikhoun and the Shayrat airfield to look into the alleged chemical incident.
The Russian move was rejected by 21 to 6 with 13 abstentions, …

Rick Sterling: How Media Bias Fuels Syrian Escalation (Consortium News)

The mainstream U.S. media now reports as “flat-fact” the Syrian government’s guilt in the April 4 chemical weapons incident, but the real facts are less clear and some point in the opposite direction.

Robert Parry: Did Al Qaeda Fool the White House Again? (Consortium News)

Despite evidence that Al Qaeda and its allies have staged fake chemical attacks in Syria before, Official Washington asserts with “high confidence” that it’s not being fooled again…
In Official Washington, words rarely mean what they say. For instance, if a U.S. government official voices “high confidence” in a supposed “intelligence assessment,” that usually means “we don’t have any real evidence, but we figure that if we say ‘high confidence’ enough then no one will dare challenge us.”

Philip Giraldi says IC-Military Doubt Assad Gas Narrative (Scott Horton)

Philip Giraldi, former CIA officer and Director of the Council for the National Interest, says that “military and intelligence personnel,” “intimately familiar” with the intelligence, say that the narrative that Assad or Russia did it is a “sham,” instead endorsing the Russian narrative that Assad’s forces had bombed a storage facility. Giraldi’s intelligence sources are “astonished” about the government and media narrative and are considering going public out of concern over the danger of worse war there. Giraldi also observes that the Assad regime had no motive to do such a thing at this time.

Theodore A. Postol: Assessment of White House Intelligence Report About Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria (Global Research)

The only undisputable facts stated in the White House report is the claim that a chemical attack using nerve agent occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria on that morning. Although the White House statement repeats this point in many places within its report, the report contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft. In fact, the report contains absolutely no evidence that would indicate who was the perpetrator of this atrocity…
The data cited by the White House is more consistent with the possibility that the munition was placed on the ground rather than dropped from a plane.

Theodore A. Postol: With Error Fixed, Evidence Against ‘Sarin Attack’ Remains Convincing (Truthdig)
James Carden: The Chemical-Weapons Attack In Syria: Is There a Place for Skepticism? (Nation)

The American media has excluded dissenting expert opinions in its rush to embrace Trump’s war on Syria…
Former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford told the BBC last week that he seriously doubted that Assad was the culprit. “Assad,” said Ford, “may be cruel, brutal but he’s not mad. It defies belief that he would bring this all on his head for no military advantage.” Ford said he believes the accusations against Syria are “simply not plausible.”
On April 11, the White House released a declassified four-page report meant to prove its case against Assad and serve as a belated justification for the Tomahawk attack on Syria’s Shayrat air base.
The report, which was authored not by US intelligence agencies but by the White House under the supervision of national-security adviser H.R. McMaster, says that “The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib Province on April 4, 2017.”…
Yet the administration’s report has come under withering scrutiny from Dr. Theodore Postol, a professor emeritus of science, technology, and national-security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who once served as a scientific adviser to the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon…
The Nation spoke to Postol over the weekend.
“What I think is now crystal clear,” he said, “is that the White House report was fabricated and it certainly did not follow the procedures it claimed to employ.”

False Flag Attack: Ex-CIA Officer Unravels Idlib Chemical Incident (Sputnik)

While US Defense Secretary James Mattis is pushing ahead with the claim that the Assad government still has chemical weapons, former CIA officer Robert David Steele told Radio Sputnik that the claim bears no relation to reality and added that evidence mounts that the Idlib incident was a false flag operation.

Patrick Martin: US claims of Syria nerve gas attack: The anatomy of a lie (World Socialist Web Site)

The claims by the US government that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun, in southern Idlib province on April 4, have been backed by a week of nonstop media propaganda, as well as uncritical support, across the official political spectrum, for the missile strike ordered by President Trump against a Syrian base.
The charges against the Syrian government are absurd and unbelievable. The campaign mounted by the Trump administration, the intelligence agencies, the Pentagon and the Democratic Party demonstrates complete contempt for the intelligence of the people, and a belief that they can lie with impunity, because nothing they say will be challenged by the servile American media.

Mehdi Hasan: Burmese Nobel Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi Has Turned Into an Apologist for Genocide Against Muslims (Intercept)

For the past year, Aung San Suu Kyi has been State Counselor, or de facto head of government, in Myanmar, where members of the Rohingya Muslim minority in the northern Rakhine state have been shot, stabbed, starved, robbed, raped and driven from their homes in the hundreds of thousands. In December, while the world focused on the fall of Aleppo, more than a dozen Nobel Laureates published an open letter warning of a tragedy in Rakhine “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”…
And the response of Aung San Suu Kyi? This once-proud campaigner against wartime rape and human rights abuses by the Burmese military has opted to borrow from the Donald Trump playbook of denial and deflection. Her office accused Rohingya women of fabricating stories of sexual violence and put the words “fake rape” — in the form of a banner headline, no less — on its official website. A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry — also controlled directly by Aung San Suu Kyi — dismissed “made-up stories, blown out of proportion.” In February, the State Counselor herself reportedly told the Archbishop of Yangon, Charles Bo, that the international community is exaggerating the Rohingya issue.

Korea

Mike Whitney: The Problem is Washington, Not North Korea (CounterPunch)

Washington has never made any effort to conceal its contempt for North Korea. In the 64 years since the war ended, the US has done everything in its power to punish, humiliate and inflict pain on the Communist country. Washington has subjected the DPRK to starvation, prevented its government from accessing foreign capital and markets, strangled its economy with crippling economic sanctions, and installed lethal missile systems and military bases on their doorstep.
Negotiations aren’t possible because Washington refuses to sit down with a country which it sees as its inferior. Instead, the US has strong-armed China to do its bidding by using their diplomats as interlocutors who are expected to convey Washington’s ultimatums as threateningly as possible. The hope, of course, is that Pyongyang will cave in to Uncle Sam’s bullying and do what they are told.
But the North has never succumbed to US intimidation and there’s no sign that it will. Instead, they have developed a small arsenal of nuclear weapons to defend themselves in the event that the US tries to assert its dominance by launching another war.
There’s no country in the world that needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea…
And let’s be honest, the only reason Kim Jong Un hasn’t joined Saddam and Gadhafi in the great hereafter, is because (a)– The North does not sit on an ocean of oil, and (b)– The North has the capacity to reduce Seoul, Okinawa and Tokyo into smoldering debris-fields.

Bruce Cumings: This Is What’s Really Behind North Korea’s Nuclear Provocations (Nation)

It’s easy to dismiss Kim Jong-un as a madman. But there’s a long history of US aggression against the North, which we forget at our peril…
North Korea is the only country in the world to have been systematically blackmailed by US nuclear weapons going back to the 1950s, when hundreds of nukes were installed in South Korea… Why on earth would Pyongyang not seek a nuclear deterrent? But this crucial background doesn’t enter mainstream American discourse. History doesn’t matter, until it does—when it rears up and smacks you in the face.

This article briefly recapitulates the history of Korea since 1945:
Paul Atwood: Why Does North Korea Want Nukes? (CounterPunch)

Why has this tiny nation of 24 million people invested so much of its limited resources in acquiring nuclear weapons? North Korea is universally condemned as a bizarre and failed state, its nuclear posture denounced as irrational.
Yet North Korea’s stance cannot be separated out from its turbulent history during the 20th Century, especially its four decade long occupation by Japan, the forced division of the Korean peninsula after World War II, and, of course, the subsequent utterly devastating war with the United States from 1950-1953 that ended in an armistice in which a technical state of war still exists.

Amy Goodman, Juan González, Bruce Cumings, Christine Hong: Advocates Urge Trump to De-escalate with North Korea, Not Ratchet Up Threats & Military Aggression (Democracy Now)

Christine Hong: You know, I think what we’re witness to is a kind of revisionism, both with Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Tillerson. They’ve made comments that Obama’s policy of strategic patience is a thing of the past. And I think that that fundamentally misconstrues what the nature of strategic patience was. You know, as you mentioned in your opening description, Obama waged a campaign of cyberwarfare against North Korea. And so, you know, far from being a kind of kinder, gentler or even softer policy toward North Korea, Obama’s policy toward North Korea was, in point of fact, one of warfare…
Bruce Cumings: … It’s not only that, but each crisis is treated as if it has really no background. The fact is that American nuclear intimidation of North Korea goes back to the Korean War. After the Korean War, in 1958, we installed hundreds of nuclear weapons in the south, the first country to bring nuclear weapons onto the peninsula. And North Korea has, essentially, since the late 1950s, had to find a way to deter the U.S. from using those weapons. For decades, they built underground. They have something like 15,000 underground facilities of a national security nature. But it was inevitable that when threatened with nuclear weapons—and Chris is right: President Obama threatened North Korea with nuclear weapons many times by sending B-2 bombers over the south, dropping dummy bombs on islands and so on. It was just inevitable that North Korea would seek a deterrent.

David E. Sanger, William J. Broad: A ‘Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion’ in North Korea / 朝鲜半岛上,一场慢镜头播放的古巴导弹危机 / En Corea del Norte se vive una crisis de los misiles como la de Cuba, pero en ‘cámara lenta’ (New York Times)

Syria

Spencer Ackerman, Ed Pilkington, Ben Jacobs, Julian Borger in Washington: Syria missile strikes: US launches first direct military action against Assad (Guardian)

The US military has launched a cruise missile attack on a Syrian airfield in response to Bashar al-Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons this week, marking the first time the US has become a direct combatant against the Syrian regime.
The US move drew an angry response from Russia, which described the strike as an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”…
Speaking during a trip to Uzbekistan, Sergei Lavrov said the strike was launched on an “absolutely made-up pretext”, adding: “It reminds me of the situation in 2003 when the United States and Britain, along with some of their allies, attacked Iraq.” …
Neither the US Congress nor the UN have authorized war against Assad. Mary Ellen O’Connell, an international law scholar at the University of Notre Dame, said Trump did not have a legal basis for military action.
“Under international law, he has zero right to attack Assad. It would be a reprisal attack. You won’t find any international law specialists who will find a legal right to carry out a reprisal,” O’Connell said…
Tillerson suggested “steps are under way” to rally an international coalition to remove Assad diplomatically, a position long thwarted by Moscow and Beijing.

Nadia Khomami, Jamie Grierson: US military strikes on Syria: what we know so far (Guardian)
Shaun Walker: Moscow: Syria airstrikes ‘significant blow to Russian-US relations’ (Guardian)

Vladimir Putin views the US missile strikes on Syria as “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law, and under a false pretext,” according to the Russian president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
“With this step Washington has struck a significant blow to Russian-American relations, which were already in a sorry state,” Peskov said on Friday.

Tareq Haddad: Before We Go to War With Syria, Inconvenient Truths Must be Confronted (CounterPunch)

One: In spite of the assertions of US officials, there is still no independently verified evidence to suggest President Bashar al-Assad’s troops were behind the suspected chemical weapon attack.
Two: Most evidence thus far has come from the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights – a network of opposition activists – and the White Helmets, founded by a former British Army officer. Both groups openly align with anti-Assad forces and are not impartial.
Three: One of the doctors who documented the alleged use of chemical weapons and appeared on television networks claiming sarin was used is Shajul Islam, 31, from east London. In 2013, he was arrested for the kidnapping of two Western journalists and was considered a “committed jihadist” by MI6 before being struck off the General Medical Council in 2016.
Four: Assad, who trained as an eye doctor in London, is said to be so daft that he authorised the attack days before a major peace conference in Geneva and after he has already vastly gained the upper hand against anti-government militants.
Five: Faced with US invasion in 2013 and when former President Barack Obama made his “red line” declaration, Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and destroyed its 1,300-ton stockpile of chemical weapons and so-called precursor chemicals that can be used to make weapons.
Six: Though Assad is still believed to have some access to chemical weapons, he is not the only actor in Syria to do so. Following the 2013 chemical weapon attack in eastern Ghouta, which was immediately blamed on Assad, it emerged that groups such as the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front were more likely to be the perpetrators.

Curtis F. J. Doebbler: Why the United States’ Use of Force Against Syria Violates International Law (CounterPunch)

The United States’ use of force against the sovereign state of Syria is a prima facie violation of international law. It is an act of aggression against an UN Member State in violation of the Charter of the United Nations.

Dave Lindorff: Yet Another President Commits the Ultimate War Crime of Launching a War of Aggression (CounterPunch)

The pretext for the US cruise missile blitz, an alleged attack on a rebel-held town called Khan Shiekhun in Idlib province, where some 70 people, including children, were reported to have died from illegal Sarin-gas bombs said to have been dropped by Syrian planes, has yet to be investigated by any independent observers…
All information about the attack has come from sources there, where no Western reporters or independent investigators are allowed, and from the so-called “White Helmets” — a supposedly humanitarian volunteer organization that calls for the overthrow of the Syrian government and that openly backs Al-Qaeda rebels…
[T]he appalling hypocrisy of the US here also needs to be called out. It was only a few weeks ago that US aircraft bombed two locations, one on a school in the town of Mansoura, in Raqqa Province, and one on a Mosque in the town of Al Jina in western Alleppo Province, killing over 79 civilians, including children. These were crimes equally obscene to the gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, but where is the public outrage in the US over what our own military has done?

Syria | Iraq | Rwanda

Matthew Allen: US Proxies Set Stage for Syria Balkanization (Russia Insider)

A leading Kurdish politician has confirmed that “the northern Syrian city of Raqqa is expected to join a decentralized system of government being set up by Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies once it is freed from Islamic State,” according to Reuters.
Saleh Muslim, the co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, made his comments on the same day that a U.S.-led operation near Raqqa blocked “any advance by Syrian government forces from the west”. In other words, the U.S. has reserved Raqqa for its proxies.

Simon Tisdall: The west condemned Russia’s bombs – now coalition attacks are killing civilians in Mosul (Guardian)

The leaders who denounced Putin for deadly airstrikes in Syria are not speaking out over the siege of the Iraqi city.
America and the UK condemned Russian airstrikes that killed or injured hundreds of civilians during last autumn’s siege of Aleppo, accusing Vladimir Putin of war crimes. The question now is whether the US, backed by British air power, is committing similar atrocities against civilians in Mosul.
[In Mosul,] misdirected US airstrikes caused a massive explosion that reportedly killed at least 150 civilians sheltering in a basement. The Americans say they were targeting Islamic State fighters. The Russians said much the same about Aleppo – that they were attacking jihadi terrorists. Many people, not least the relatives of the Mosul dead, will struggle to see the difference…
[T]he high death toll places the Mosul carnage, if confirmed, among the worst such incidents since the US invasion in 2003. It also serves to highlight a new pattern of behaviour by US forces since Donald Trump took office in January. Since then, the monthly total of recorded civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria has more than doubled, according to independent monitors.

Margaret Kimberley: Is Trump the DNC Hacker? (Black Agenda Report)

The Democratic Party is going all out with its charge of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. In doing so they achieve two very important goals. First, they distract their voters from asking why Hillary Clinton lost and why they are perennial losers at every level of government across the country. Secondly, they can wage war by other means as they attempt to exact regime change in Russia. That is the desired endgame as they attempt to crush the sovereignty and independence of that resource-rich nation which spans Eurasia.

Ann Garrison: Israel’s African Darling: Paul Kagame: An Interview with Robin Philpot (Black Agenda Report)

Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, who recently addressed AIPAC, in Washington DC, is Israel’s favorite African, a man the Zionists permit to use the term “genocide.” Both nations claim their wounds give them a special status in the world. “Rwanda and Uganda could be called mad dog states – they’re highly militarized, and they serve as sheriffs for the U.S. at the same time as they pursue their own interests.”

Korea | Palestine | USA

Mel Gurtov: Diplomatic Remedies for THAAD Madness: The US, China and the Two Koreas (Japan Focus)

The US decision, supported by the South Korean government, to deploy an antimissile system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) may be one of the most thoughtless strategic moves in a generation. The official US justification is that close-in defense against North Korean missiles is necessary to protect South Korea. But the deployment is having more than a few negative repercussions: an argument in China for increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile; an incentive in North Korea for continuing to develop its long-range missile capability; a deep fissure in China-South Korea relations; a roiling of South Korean politics at a time when its corrupt president has been impeached; and a new source of tension in already fraught Sino-US relations.

U.S. Deploys Missile System Amid Rising Tensions with N. Korea (Democracy Now)

Tensions are rising between the United States, North Korea and China, threatening to create the first significant national security crisis of the Trump presidency. This week, the United States began deploying a missile defense system to South Korea, sparking warnings from Chinese officials who say the U.S. is escalating a regional arms race. The U.S. says the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, known as THAAD, seeks to protect South Korea amid a series of recent missile tests launched by North Korea…
The deployment of the U.S. missile system is widely opposed by both South Koreans, who have been protesting against U.S. militarization, and by Chinese officials, who say the missile system actually aims to counter China’s military power in the region, not to contain North Korea.
Chinese officials are calling for both an end to North Korea’s nuclear program and an end to joint U.S. and South Korean military drills.

Bruce Cumings, Amy Goodman: North Korea Timed Recent Missile Test to Take Place During Trump-Abe Dinner (Democracy Now)

North Korea tested a ballistic missile last month, sparking widespread international condemnation. The test was a violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. North Korea claimed the test was a successful launch of an intermediate-range missile. The test came while Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the weekend at the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

Christine Ahn, Bruce Cumings, Amy Goodman: China Warns U.S. & North Korea Are Set for “Head-On” Collision Amid Rising Tensions & Provocations (Democracy Now)

The political upheaval in South Korea comes shortly after North Korea test-fired several ballistic missiles. In response, the Trump administration announced it would deploy a missile defense system to South Korea. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops, backed by warships and warplanes, are currently engaging in a massive military exercise. Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that the U.S. and North Korea are like two “accelerating trains coming toward each other.” He called on both sides to de-escalate tensions.

David E. Sanger, William J Broad: Trump Inherits a Secret Cyberwar Against North Korean Missiles (New York Times) / 트럼프가 물려받은 유산: 북한 미사일에 대응하는 비밀 사이버戰 / 特朗普接手的秘密计划:网络攻击破坏朝鲜导弹?

Three years ago, President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches in their opening seconds…
An examination of the Pentagon’s disruption effort, based on interviews with officials of the Obama and Trump administrations as well as a review of extensive but obscure public records, found that the United States still does not have the ability to effectively counter the North Korean nuclear and missile programs…
In two meetings of Mr. Trump’s national security deputies in the Situation Room, the most recent on Tuesday, all those options were discussed, along with the possibility of reintroducing nuclear weapons to South Korea as a dramatic warning…
The White House is also looking at pre-emptive military strike options, a senior Trump administration official said, …

Vijay Prashad: Crimes of apartheid (Hindu)

Apartheid is a powerful word, and the United Nations does not use it loosely. But now, in a report released on March 15 in Beirut, Lebanon, the UN has proclaimed that Israel ‘is guilty of the crime of apartheid’. This is a very significant judgment, one with important ramifications for the UN, for the International Court of Justice and for the international community…
Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship (ezrahut) do not have the right to nationality (le’um), which means that they can only access inferior social services, face restrictive zoning laws, and find themselves unable freely to buy land. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are reduced to the status of permanent residents, who have to constantly prove that they live in the city and that they do not have any political ambitions. Palestinians in the West Bank live ‘in ways consistent with apartheid’, write the authors of the UN report.

John Reynolds: Israel and the A-Word (CounterPunch)

The word resonated loud and clear from South Africa. Hendrik Verwoerd, widely described as a key architect of apartheid, was the far-right National Party’s propagandist, political strategist and, ultimately, party leader. In 1961, as South African Prime Minister, he noted that Israel was built on land taken ‘from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years.’ The point was to express his approval and to highlight Zionism’s common cause with the Afrikaner pioneers: ‘In that, I agree with them. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.’
Verwoerd was able to make this diagnosis without needing to live to see the brutality of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza after 1967. Israel’s apartheid foundations were laid in its dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948. They were reinforced by the immediate erection of colonial constitutional structures that cemented the exclusion of the colonised.
Since then, Israeli law and policy has only deepened the state apparatus of separation and segregation, discrimination and domination.

Oren Ziv: Israel releases 12-year-old Palestinian girl, highlighting dual legal systems (+792)

A Jewish child arrested for an identical crime in the same location would not have been sent to prison. Israeli authorities released the girl after the case got attention and a request from her parents.
Twelve-year-old Dima al-Wawi, the youngest Palestinian in Israeli prison, was released after two-and-a-half months on Sunday. Israeli authorities delivered her to the Jabara checkpoint in the West Bank in the early afternoon hours, where she was met by her parents and waiting journalists.

Eli Clifton: AIPAC gave $60K to architect of Trump’s Muslim ban (+972)

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been noticeably quiet about the Trump administration’s slowness to denounce the spike in anti-Semitic attacks and bomb threats, its nomination of an ambassador to Israel who described J Street as “worse than kapos,” and its ties to ethno-nationalists like White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior adviser Stephen Miller. But AIPAC has done more than just tolerate the U.S. tilt toward extreme and often xenophobic views. Newly released tax filings show that the country’s biggest pro-Israel group financially contributed to the Center for Security Policy, the think-tank that played a pivotal role in engineering the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a ban on Muslim immigration.

Tom Clifford: Playing with Fire in the South China Sea: the Voyage of the Izumi (CounterPunch)

An aircraft carrier that dare not be named one and a show of military force by a country in contravention of its own constitution herald the consequences of a decision taken some years ago signaling that post-war certainty is no longer such a sure thing.
The Izumo, a 250-meter-long “flat-topped destroyer’’, is being dispatched to the South China Sea by Japan in May in a show of force not seen since 1945.
Named after a cruiser that was sunk by the US in 1945, the warship is in reality an aircraft carrier by any other name. However, aircraft carriers imply a force projection well beyond Japan’s shores, therefore it must be called a destroyer or a helicopter carrier.
After stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the Izumo will then take part in the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and US naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July.

Israel/Palestine

Rick Gladstone: Tempest at U.N. Over Report Saying Israel Practices Apartheid (New York Times)

A United Nations commission said in a report on Wednesday that Israel practices apartheid against Palestinians, a politically explosive assertion that led to furious denunciations by Israel and the United States.
The secretary general of the United Nations quickly disassociated himself from the report, which seemed bound to aggravate the already tense relationship between the world body and the Trump administration.
It also could provide momentum to advocates of an international movement to boycott Israel. Just over a week ago, Israel’s Parliament passed a law barring entry to foreigners who have publicly supported that movement, known as B.D.S. — boycott, divestment and sanctions.
One of the authors of the report was Richard Falk, an American law professor and former United Nations human rights investigator…
An executive summary of the report on the United Nations commission’s website called it a study to examine, “based on key instruments of international law, whether Israel has established an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”
The report concluded that the answer was yes, based on what it called the fragmentation of the Palestinian population, Israeli restrictions on Palestinians’ movements and other limits imposed on Palestinians but not on Israelis.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, complimented the report’s authors and suggested that the criticism of their conclusions had been misguided.
“Rather than attacking the report, it would be best to reflect on the realities that the report addresses and how they can be remedied,” he said in a statement.
It appeared to be the first time in a United Nations report that the term apartheid had been used as a central description of Israeli policies toward Palestinians. But other critics of Israel at the United Nations have used the term. In 2007, for example, John Dugard, a South African law professor who was a United Nations human rights investigator, said Israeli laws and practices in the occupied territories “certainly resemble aspects of apartheid.”

Reuters: UN Agency Accuses Israel of Being an ‘Apartheid Regime’ (Haaretz)

A UN agency published a report on Wednesday accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people, and said it was the first time a UN body had clearly made the charge.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman likened the report, which was published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to Der Sturmer – a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic.

JTA: U.S. Urges U.N. to Withdraw Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid (Haaretz)
Rick Gladstone, Somini Sengupta: U.N. Diplomat Behind Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid Quits (New York Times)

The top official of a United Nations commission that published a report describing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as apartheid quit on Friday, saying the organization’s leader insisted that she withdraw it. The report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States.
The official, Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian diplomat who is executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, defended the report…
Without identifying Israel or its allies by name, Mr. Mansour said, “we reject the atmosphere of bullying and blackmail by some member states, particularly those that violate international law and U.N. resolutions every day.”

Uri Blau: Documents Reveal How Israel Made Amnesty’s Local Branch a Front for the Foreign Ministry in the 70s (Haaretz via Google News)

The Israeli government funded the establishment and activity of the Amnesty International branch in Israel in the 1960s and 70s. Official documents reveal that the chairman of the organization was in constant contact with the Foreign Ministry and received instructions from it.

Netherlands | February 1917 | Morocco | USA

Jon Henley: Dutch PM Mark Rutte sees off election threat of Geert Wilders (Guardian)

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has seen off a challenge from the anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders to claim a resounding victory in parliamentary elections widely seen as a test for resurgent nationalism before other key European polls.
With nearly 95% of votes counted and no further significant changes expected, Rutte’s centre-right, liberal VVD was assured of 33 MPs, by far the largest party in the 150-seat Dutch parliament, the national news agency ANP said.
Wilders’ Freedom party (PVV) looked certain to finish second, but a long way behind on 20 seats, just ahead of the Christian Democrat CDA and liberal-progressive D66, which both ended third with 19 seats.

Jon Henley: GreenLeft proves to be big winner in Dutch election (Guardian)

The big winner of Wednesday’s election – and now the largest party of the Dutch left for the first time – was GreenLeft, headed by 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, hailed by his enthusiastic supporters as the “Jessiah”…
[T]he party – formed 25 years ago by a merger of communists, pacifists, evangelicals and self-styled radicals – boosted its MPs from four to 14 after a storming campaign by [Jesse] Klaver.

Kevin Murphy: The Story of the February Revolution (Jacobin)

That the most important strike in world history started with women textile workers in Petrograd on International Women’s Day 1917 (February 23 in the old Julian calendar) was no coincidence. Working up to thirteen hours a day while their husbands and sons were at the front, these women were saddled with a life of singlehandedly supporting their families and waiting in line for hours in the subzero cold in hopes of getting bread… “No propaganda was necessary to incite these women to action.” …
By evening, the Vyborg side was controlled by the rebels. Demonstrators had sacked the police stations, captured revolvers and sabers from tsarist sentinels, and forced the police and gendarmes to flee…
The paradox of the February Revolution was that while it swept away tsarism, it replaced it with a government of unelected liberals who were horrified by the very revolution that had placed them in power.

Aidan O’Brien: The Empire’s Fifth Column in Africa: Morocco (CounmterPunch)

In 1984 Morocco turned it’s back on Africa because the Organisation of African Unity refused to support it’s 1975 conquest of Western Sahara. For the next few decades Morocco followed the example of apartheid Israel and looked only towards Europe and America. Morocco, for example, applied (and failed) to join the European Economic Community in 1987. While today (since 2008) it is considered an “advanced” EU neighbour. And militarily it became a NATO partner in 1994 and a major non-NATO US ally in 2004.
Morocco in other words did everything it could to be an honorary white man: it shamelessly raped part of Africa and looked down on the black man. And the white man rewarded it by investing in it.
A few weeks ago however (January 31, 2017) Morocco suddenly rejoined Africa. In Addis Ababa the African Union decided to accept Morocco as a member, even though Western Sahara remains in Moroccan hands. Why the sudden change of policy in Morocco and in the African Union? In a word: the killing of Muammar Gaddafi.
The present scramble for Africa is the overall reason. But Gaddafi was the last pan African barrier to Western imperialism 2.0 in Africa. His removal opened the floodgates to 21st century Western power in Africa. The French are now back in Mali. AFRICOM (the US military) is all over the place. And now Morocco wants to be African again.

Dave Lindorff: WikiLeaks’ Latest CIA Data Dump Undermines Case Against Russia Election Hack (CounterPunch)

The so-called Deep State and Democratic Party campaign to demonize Russia for allegedly “hacking the US election,” and delivering the country into the hands of Donald Trump suffered a huge and probably mortal blow this week with the release by WikiLeaks of over 7000 secret CIA documents disclosing secret CIA hacking technologies.
The case being made against Russia as being the source of leaked emails of the Democratic National Committee and of Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta — documents that proved that the DNC had been corrupting the primary process in favor of corporatist candidate Hillary Clinton and undermining the campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and that also revealed the embarrassing contents of Clinton’s highly paid secret speeches to a number of giant Wall Street banks — had always been tenuous, with no hard evidence ever presented. All the intelligence agencies would say was that they had a “high degree of certainty,” or “strong reason to believe” that the Russians were the source of the deeply damaging documents late in the campaign season.
Adding to doubts that Russia had actually hacked the DNC was WikiLeaks itself, which insisted that it had obtained the DNC and Podesta emails not from a hack of computers, but from an internal DNC staffer who actually pulled them off computers with a thumb drive and provided them to the organization — a person later identified as Seth Rich, who was mysteriously murdered on his way home from DNC headquarters in Washington, shot in the back at night in an unsolved case that the local police quickly labeled a “botched burglary,” although nothing was taken from his body by his assailant — not his wallet or watch even. (Wikileaks has offered a $20,000 reward for information that helps solve that uninvestigated case.)

Oliver Ortega: Before Trump, the Border Wall Was a Bipartisan Project (CounterPunch)

Rightwing fantasies of a southern border wall are not new. Nor are they limited to Republicans or Trump supporters.
When President Trump signed an executive order last week to complete a wall along the 2,000 mile border with Mexico, he was building on decades of bipartisan consensus among lawmakers.
In fact, Congress had already approved a border wall not too long ago. In 2006, legislators—including many Democrats—passed the Secure Fence Act, which called for 700 miles of double-fence construction along certain stretches of the border. Trump cited the Bush-era law in the first paragraph of the executive order he signed Wednesday as rationale for his executive authority to order a wall be built.
Many of the same democratic leaders now bemoaning Trump’s wall voted for one at the time— Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein.
Then-Senator Barack Obama, who as President would later deport a record-high 3 million people during his two terms, lauded the bill on the Senate floor, saying it would “help stem some of the tide of illegal immigration in this country.” …
Some on the left have taken the border with Mexico as a given. Rather than focusing on whether it should be a wall or a fence, its length or thickness, a more useful exercise would be to reframe the parameters of debate by asking whether there should be a border at all.

Melvin Goodman: Return of the Torturers: Back to the Crime Scenes of the Past (CounterPunch)

The Trump administration has signaled that it is willing to return to the heinous crimes of the past two decades, including torture and abuse, secret prisons, and extraordinary renditions. …
Perhaps if former president Barack Obama had sought accountability and responsibility for the crimes of torture, then we would not be witness to the return of war criminals to positions of responsibility.

USA | Russia | Israel/Palestine

Glenn Greenwald: Jeremy Corbyn Accused of Being Russian “Collaborator” for Questioning NATO Troop Build-Up on Border (Intercept)

The leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, called for a “de-escalation” of tensions between NATO and Russia, adding in a BBC interview on Thursday: “I want to see a de-militarization of the border between them.” Along with the U.S., the U.K. has been rapidly building up its military presence in the Baltic region, including in states that border Russia, and is now about to send another 800 troops to Estonia, 500 of which will be permanently based.
In response, Russia has moved its own troops within its country near those borders, causing serious military tensions to rise among multiple nuclear-armed powers. Throughout 2016, the Russian and U.S. militaries have engaged in increasingly provocative and aggressive maneuvers against one another. This week, the U.S. began deploying 4,000 troops to Poland, “the biggest deployment of U.S. troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War.”

Trump’s pick for CIA says he’s open to waterboarding (CNN)

President Donald Trump’s pick to run the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, has told Congress that he would consider bringing back waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation measures under certain circumstances.

Ankit Panda: Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State Nominee, Has a Dangerous Idea for the South China Sea (Diplomat)

Rex Tillerson, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, presented a proposal for what the United States should do in the South China Sea disputes on Wednesday that you don’t hear often — even among China hawks in the United States.
Speaking at a confirmation hearing the before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday evening, Tillerson remarked that China’s actions in the South China Sea — where it has most recently drawn attention for building seven militarized artificial islands in the Spratly Islands — were “akin to Russia’s taking [of] Crimea” from Ukraine…
Tillerson went further, and here he entered relatively uncharted territory: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

Tom Phillips: China hits back at US over South China Sea ‘takeover’ claims (Guardian)

China has warned the US to “speak and act cautiously” after the White House said it would act to foil Chinese attempts to “take over” the South China Sea, amid growing hints that Donald Trump’s administration intends to challenge Beijing over the strategic waterway.
At a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, the foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, urged Washington to tread carefully “to avoid harming the peace and stability of the South China Sea”.
Hua was responding to comments made by White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, the previous day.
Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Spicer vowed the US would “make sure that we protect our interests” in the resource-rich trade route, through which $4.5tn (£3.4tn) in trade passes each year.

Reuters: US ‘at very beginning’ of talks to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem (Guardian)

Washington’s embassy is in Tel Aviv, as are most foreign diplomatic posts. Israel calls Jerusalem its eternal capital, but Palestinians also lay claim to the city as part of an eventual Palestinian state. Both sides cite religious, historical and political claims.

Peter Beaumont: Israel announces 2,500 more West Bank settlement homes (Guardian)

Israel has approved a massive new building programme of Jewish settlement homes in the occupied Palestinian territories, following hard on the heels of the swearing-in of the US president, Donald Trump…
About 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war…
“We are building and we will continue to build,” Netanyahu wrote, in a brief Facebook post.

‘Not like Gitmo’: Israeli interrogators explain torture techniques to media (RT)

Israeli interrogators with experience in using ‘special means’ of interrogation, which involve inflicting physical pain on detainees, have described details of their methods to an Israeli newspaper…
[I]nterrogation using what Israel calls “special means” remains widespread. The UN Committee Against Torture last year cited continued complaints of torture by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) as well as Israel’s refusal to implement the convention on occupied Palestinian territories and reluctance to criminalize torture among its concerns.

Chaim Levinson: Torture, Israeli-style – as Described by the Interrogators Themselves (Haaretz via Google News)

For years, the Israeli establishment has tried to conceal what happens in interrogation rooms. When interrogators use torture – or “special means,” to use the establishment’s term – the concealment efforts are redoubled. Even when testimony of torture reaches the public, the system does everything it can to leave the interrogators’ role in darkness, including signing lenient plea bargains with suspects who were tortured to ensure that the conspiracy of silence remains unbroken.
People who have undergone interrogation have described various methods, from interrogators screaming in their ear, to blows, to being forced into painful positions for long periods. To date, however, all these descriptions have come from the complainants.
But recently, a conversation among interrogators in the presence of several witnesses provided a chance to hear from the interrogators themselves about the kinds of torture used in major cases, who approved it and what information it produced…
In 1999, the High Court of Justice outlawed torture, which had been permitted until then. But subsequent regulations issued by then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said interrogators who nevertheless used torture wouldn’t stand trial if they could demonstrate that it was “immediately necessary to save his own or another person’s life, freedom, person or property from a concrete danger of serious harm,” and that “there was no other way to do so.”…
After the High Court issued its ruling, the torture techniques in use were changed, and they were also used less often. But in recent years, that trend has started to reverse.

Israel Must Stop the Torture (Haaretz via Google News)

The admissions by Shin Bet investigators published in Haaretz Tuesday confirm the claims that have been heard for years about torture during interrogations.